Frank Turek’s Criminally Bad C.R.I.M.E.S. Argument: Fine Tuning

This is a continuation of a critique of Frank Turek’s arguments in favor of Christianity made during a recent debate. See the beginning of the discussion here.

Let’s conclude the critique of Turek’s first argument, Cosmos.

Fine tuning of the universe

Turek says that if the expansion rate from the Big Bang were different by 10–15, the universe would have either collapsed or never developed galaxies. What explains this fine tuning?

Good question. Why does the universe look fine tuned? This is a scientific question, not incontrovertible evidence of the hand of God. Replacing “Science doesn’t know” with “Well, if you don’t, I do—it was God” doesn’t help. Positing a god as the cause of the universe simply moves the question back one level: if we assume that a deity did it, where did it come from? We’ve resolved nothing. It is yet one more supernatural claim that science must push aside on its way to finding the truth.

And what is the universe fine tuned for? There is life on earth, a tiny speck in an inhospitable and inconceivably vast sea of space. Most of the mass in the universe isn’t ordinary matter, and almost all of that isn’t part of a habitable world. It’s hard to call the harsh wasteland that is the universe “tuned for life,” so why imagine that life was what it was fine tuned for? There are probably trillions of black holes in the universe—maybe it was fine tuned for them.

Turek argues that we have two possibilities: (1) that our universe just got really lucky with its constants or (2) a supernatural being created it. He concludes: (1) is really improbable, so therefore (2). But what is the probability of (2)?? How can we compare these two options when we haven’t even analyzed one of them? He doesn’t even acknowledge the problem.

Multiverse

Of course, the in-your-face response to the fine tuning argument accepts that the universe is finely tuned but argues for a multiverse—uncountably many universes with varying cosmic constants, of which ours is just one. A very unlikely universe tweaked just so will pop up eventually if you have enough of them. In fact, Alexander Vilenkin, the cosmologist that Turek praised earlier, makes clear his view on the multiverse question in an article titled, “The Case for Parallel Universes: Why the multiverse, crazy as it sounds, is a solid scientific idea.”

(Does Turek still want to cite Vilenkin as a reliable source?)

Just to hit this a little harder, Jerry Coyne wrote a post subtitled with the very question that I had been asking: “Is the multiverse a Hail Mary pass by godless physicists?” No, the multiverse is not just a “well, it’s possible” gambit that atheists admit they have no evidence for but which they toss out simply to interfere with apologists. He quotes physicist Sean Carroll, who makes clear that the multiverse is a prediction made by other well-accepted theories. It wasn’t pulled out of a hat; it is a consequence of accepted physics.

Cause and causelessness

Turek says, “If the universe had a beginning, it must’ve had a Beginner.” Does everything have a cause? When an electron comes out of a decaying nucleus or a photon comes out of an electron decaying to a lower energy level, what was the cause? Nothing. Quantum events (like the Big Bang presumably was) don’t necessarily need causes. “Everything has a cause” feels right, but common sense isn’t a reliable tool at the edge of science.

Turek has one final salvo for this argument: “Either no one created something out of nothing or someone created something out of nothing.” Huh? So we’ve already established that the universe came from nothing? That’s possible, but there is no consensus. Why imagine that nothing is more likely before the Big Bang than something?

Lacking evidence but not confidence, Turek picks the latter option, as if it makes more sense that someone created something out of nothing. But how does anyone make something out of nothing?

Turek falls back on an uncaused god, without evidence.

And even if we grant fine tuning, a supernatural agent creating the universe is just one of lots of explanations. Maybe our universe was created by powerful but limited aliens. We could be in the Matrix of a computer designed by an alien race. And so on. No need to imagine an unlimited god.

Unless there’s evidence, of course.

Continue with Part 3.

“In God We Trust.”
I don’t believe it would sound any better if it were true.
— Mark Twain

There’s a phrase we live by in America: “In God We Trust.”
It’s right there where Jesus would want it: on our money.
— Bill Maher

Photo credit: Lee Bennett

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    Whenever I run across the name Sean Carroll, I am always at pains to promote an appropriate distinction. Here the reference is to the physicist Sean M. Carroll of Caltech, but in other freethinking contexts you might very well encounter the equally eminent, articulate, and accomplished evolutionary biologist Sean B. Carroll of my own beloved University of Wisconsin at Madison.

    • ZenDruid

      M. is for multiverse and B. is for…umm…

      • Greg G.

        B is for Biology. Thanks for the mnemonic.

  • Makoto

    I always say that within our vast universe, even tiny chances happen quite often. That, and the mere fact that we’ve evolved to observe our circumstances just means that we won that cosmic lotto, not that this planet was set up for us (otherwise, how do you explain Australia, which seems to have evolved life to kill us humans in nearly any situation? That’s not exactly fine tuned down under!)

    • RichardSRussell

      Million-to-one coincidences happen 8 times a day in New York City.

  • Peter Callan

    Does anyone else think that theists are now at the point that overwhelming scientific evidence is forcing them to clutch at straws?

    • https://www.facebook.com/michael.carteron Michael

      That seems quite likely.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I used to think that I might’ve missed some good pro-Christian argument and that I needed to stay humble because, hey, who knows what I’ve missed?

      While I’m sure there are nuances that strengthen pro-Christian arguments that I’ll continue to uncover, it’s been years since I’ve learned anything fundamentally new or interesting from the Christian side. Have I just missed the good stuff? I doubt it.

      • ZenDruid

        I learned over the past couple months at an apologia blog, ‘Strange Notions’, that Catholics are not aware of all their equivocation, or even get the message when they’re called on it. That’s an interesting, if frustrating, fact.

        [slaps self…. of course you know about that piece of business]

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That is interesting and worth understanding further.

          I cross-posted at Strange Notions a while back (kudos to any Christian blog that wants to engage with non-Christians, even if they get the last word). There are just too many blogs happening for me to be aware of all the great ideas out there.

          :-(

        • ZenDruid

          They lost almost all of the atheists in the last 24 hours or so, because the mod thought one of our most articulate responders was ‘snarky’ and consequently banned him. I was banned the previous day, but everybody else re-enacted Exodus at the news.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ouch. The noble experiment has hit a speed bump.

          You do look rather Moses-like, assuming that’s you in the picture. I could imagine you at the head of the crowd, carrying your staff and leading the chosen out of the land of bondage.

        • ZenDruid

          Rats. I was hoping to impersonate Radagast the Brown with his Rhosgobel rabbits.;-)>

        • MichaelNewsham

          Not only that, but the level of original postings over there has deteriorated sharply- seems they ran through the cream rather quickly.

          Now, it’s basically Catholics talking to each other about how terrible atheist arguments are.

          Sad, because there were a lot of sharp atheists getting into interesting discussions.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Is there anything to their concerns? Were the atheists indeed getting out of control, or was the site using “bad behavior” as an excuse to make a nicer environment for Catholics?

        • ZenDruid

          A bit of both.. I think the A team was getting a bit boisterous, and we didn’t give the host team much slack. The central issue for us, imo, was the low quality of the articles.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I haven’t been there since a post of mine was republished there in May. The response was startlingly elementary (I dismantle it here). If that’s any indication for what passes for top-end scholarship, I see your point.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Bob, I wrote a blog post on the implosion at SN.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Very strange. I didn’t see that coming. I can see that imagining people would just play nice wouldn’t work to everyone’s satisfaction, but we stumble along at this blog fairly well. I imagine some Christians don’t feel comfortable because the comments lean atheistic, which is probably a new experience for many of them.

          Anyway, too bad about SN and thanks for the inside story.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          You are welcome.

      • Rick

        Have you read Steven Meyer’s new book, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design? It doesn’t appear the theists are anywhere close to being overwhelmed by science. Quite the contrary, in fact.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, I haven’t. I stay in touch with Disco Institute events, but there was no book launch event there. I’m not holding my breath on this book, however. I’m always wary of an agenda with critics from outside the domain of expertise.

          But I’m missing your point about theists being (or not being) overwhelmed by science. Could you explain?

        • Rick

          Not sure who you are addressing. My comment was pretty clear. Theists aren’t overwhelmed by the evidence (or lack of it) in science. The original comment was made by Peter Callan. Are you asking him or me for clarification?

          As the review reference by Rob above shows, a very narrowly educated paleontologist has disagreed with Meyer’s book. Fine. The paleontologist also points out that someone with a PhD like his is very narrowly focused and (what he doesn’t state) is also prone to miss the bigger picture. He misses it. Meyer gets it. We will have a difference of opinion on that, I’m sure.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m clearer now on your original point, thanks.

          a very narrowly educated paleontologist
          has disagreed with Meyer’s book

          As has the entire community of biologists.

          We will have a difference of opinion on
          that, I’m sure.

          I’m sure. I get my science from scientists.

        • Rick

          Chalk one up for snarky and arrogant on your side. I don’t see a need to respond to that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I was going for terse, but I see your point about it sounding a bit snarky. Respond or not as you choose, but Meyer’s commenting on biology when not a biologist–and then being taken seriously though he rejects the consensus view–is bizarre to the point of being surreal.

          You’d asked if I’d read the book, and here’s an update: if my schedule allows, I’ll be going to a Disco Institute book part for Meyer’s new book on Saturday. I won’t be reading it, though.

        • Rick

          No matter what qualifications an “expert” on your side of the debate has, he is considered qualified by your cheering section. No matter what qualifications a source cited on my side of the debate has, his qualifications are attacked. This is simply silly.

          A PhD is a PhD because he has subject matter expertise and because he/she has demonstrated the discipline needed to do quality research. A PhD like Meyer assessing the state of science in a particular area is valid because he knows how to do research and documents it. You can disagree with his research, but in effect, by your own rules, only Meyer and the paleontologist are qualified to answer each other’s arguments to the points raised. Raising them here in a vacuum without Meyer to respond is never going to be successful with the audience of cheerleaders you have assembled.

          That is why snarkiness is never as satisfying as discussing the merits, which you choose not to do. You’d rather hide behind the god of consensus you allege is always on the atheist side because science is by nature only the study of materialistic causes. Q.E.D. —you win.

          But we do have the ability to reason and discuss, not just to fall back on supposed experts who only know their narrow field. But for that reason, a generalist approach that assesses data across disciplines is sometimes more valuable than a specialist mired in the weeds. That is what Meyer is doing—surveying data across a spectrum of disciplines. And your refusal to read his book or others like it means you are criticizing without assessing the evidence you are belittling.

          There is such a think as common sense, but as many have pointed out, it is not commonly used.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No matter what qualifications an “expert” on your side of the debate has, he is considered qualified by your cheering section.

          The cheering section are those people who value science done correctly. The qualifications are a terminal degree in that field. Are you suggesting that this is controversial?

          No matter what qualifications a source cited on my side of the debate has, his qualifications are attacked.

          I rarely say, “But he’s not a biologist!” when the source is a biologist. Sometimes, sure, but not often.

          Stephen Meyer isn’t a biologist. I think my “But he’s not a biologist!” is accurate and relevant, since the topic here is biology.

          A PhD like Meyer assessing the state of science in a particular area is valid because he knows how to do research and documents it.

          What could Meyer possibly say about a field in which he’s not an expert that should cause either of us to reject the consensus in that field?

          by your own rules, only Meyer and the paleontologist are qualified to answer each other’s arguments to the points raised.

          The issue is Meyer vs. the consensus of the field of biology. If your point is that the paleontologist doesn’t trump the field of biology, I agree.

          Raising them here in a vacuum without Meyer to respond is never going to be successful with the audience of cheerleaders you have assembled.

          I’m not sure what your point is. If you’re saying that I will lampoon the ridiculousness of Meyer’s project—overturning evolution even though he’s not qualified to evaluate the evidence—and that some people here will think that’s hilarious, yeah.

          Or perhaps “audience” is all biologists. I don’t think they’ll be impressed with Meyer’s argument either.

          That is why snarkiness is never as satisfying as discussing the merits, which you choose not to do.

          In our many conversations, I keep coming back to Creationist or IDer vs. the consensus of an entire field of science. This defeats both your position and theirs. You don’t like that, but I don’t understand why you imagine that you’ve won somehow.

          You’d rather hide behind the god of consensus …

          Well, more celebrate, not hide behind.

          … you allege is always on the atheist side

          When have I made this argument? Maybe you’re thinking of someone else.

          But we do have the ability to reason and discuss, not just to fall back on supposed experts who only know their narrow field.

          You mean the narrow field of evolution? For the topic of evolution, who better to look to?

          But if you’re saying that we laymen can discuss the evidence, sure. And that can be educational for me. But you know the trump card that I will always play.

          And your refusal to read his book or others like it means you are criticizing without assessing the evidence you are belittling.

          I will belittle only to the extent that I understand the other guy’s argument. I don’t need to have read Meyer’s book to understand critics’ complaints about it. And I’ll be happy to accept Meyer’s thesis once the scientific community accepts it first. That’s fair, no?

        • WalterP

          Stephen Meyer isn’t a biologist. I think my “But he’s not a biologist!”
          is accurate and relevant, since the topic here is biology.

          What about dinosaur researchers doing social science? Does he get a free pass if we just really like his conclusions?

          What could Meyer possibly say about a field in which he’s not an expert that should cause either of us to reject the consensus in that field?

          Wow Bob you’re making my arguments for me, thanks.

        • Rob

          They just continue to show a complete lack of understanding of science. “Overwhelmed” is an understatement.

          http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2013/07/donald-prothero-reviews-darwins-doubt.html

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          That’s a nice review. The bizarre thing, which I continue to be unable to process, is Creationists who see their theories shot down by the people who understand this stuff, blithely blundering along, unconcerned.

        • Kodie

          Dogma, conspiracy, and indoctrination.

  • Marcion

    Has any apologist ever explained why god would prefer a universe with life to a universe without life? Or why he’d prefer an enduring universe over a universe that almost instantly collapses? That god wants a universe with specific properties seems pretty central to this argument, and I don’t see any reason to think that this is true.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Some thoughts came to mind in response to your comment.
      Imagine a universe without life. Suppose that was the only universe Mr. X the scientist knew about (kind of a contradiction, but forget that for now).

      Then he learned about our universe, which allows life. That would be an amazing revelation for him. Life can repurpose matter to make copies of itself without intelligence, like an acorn growing into a tree?? Who knew?

      Now imagine us discovering a universe that has something equally incredible. Imagine a step as big as the one for Mr. X. Of course, we can’t describe that now because this new universe would have properties that we can’t even imagine.

      We marvel at life because we’re alive. Who knows what stuff we don’t know about because it only exists with different physics?

  • John B Hodges

    The “fine tuning” argument depends on the judgement that the universe we observe is highly unlikely. This judgement is without basis. It is in fact a category mistake, applying a concept (probability) to a case where it simply does not apply. We only observe one universe. You cannot say ANYTHING about probability with a sample size of one.

    Contrary to the “fine tuners”, it is not miraculous that the universe we observe (from inside of it) is one that allows our existence. It would be miraculous if the universe we observe was one that did NOT allow our existence.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      None of the apologists understand the physics behind the argument. They cite impressive numbers that they didn’t work out themselves.

      Having seen so many examples of math or logic that crumbles under investigation (I wrote about one example here), I wonder at their logic. And, of course, they don’t understand it themselves–they just like what it says and that’s the end of their analysis.

      Can you just imagine a universe with all the constants as dials? Can any constant actually be anything? Since we only have one universe, how do we know that?

      • UWIR

        If they can be fine-tuned, they aren’t really constants, now are they?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          With respect to our current universe, I guess they’re constants.

      • Greg G.

        I have seen a study that shows that if you change one constant, LAWKI couldn’t exist but if you fiddle with multiple constants, about 1 in 4 resultant universes could support life. The strength of the weak nuclear force is an exception as it could vary even to zero without major implications.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You may be thinking of Vic Stenger’s Monkey God experiment. There are 4 constants that define things like how long stars last and so on. Like you say, he found that you could move them up and down randomly within a range of 5 orders of magnitude and get a decent fraction with life-supporting universes. (If you look for that, you’ll get a more precise statement of the experiment.)

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        It’s voodoo. They think that because we have a model for physics, they can stick pins in it (alternate constants) and that has some kind of relationship to reality. Map v. territory error. I wrote about it a while back here.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          P.S. I saw a presentation by Sean Carroll on “fine-tuning” and he almost got to the core of the problem, but not quite. You can see that video and my reply to it here.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Interesting. In fact, I do need more input on the fine tuning question. Thanks for the link.

        • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

          Physicists don’t spend time worrying about the map/territory distinction, because it does not make a difference to what they do. In their field you can say “the world is this way” when strictly you only found out “the world can be modeled this way.” Again, that does not make any difference in what they are doing or how they talk among themselves. However, stepping outside Physics, if you take their work as how the world “is,” then you can sell people on the idea that some change in the model indicates how the world “could have been.” That is not justified, but if they don’t notice the trick, you can then use that to back up bogus conclusions.

  • John B Hodges

    Postscript: the fact that we can IMAGINE other universes, even imagine them in full mathematical detail, is not EVIDENCE that these other universes exist. It’s not even evidence that these other universes are possible. Imagining other universes is NOT the same as observing them. Our sample size of universes is exactly one, and therefore the concept of “probability” cannot be applied. All we can say is that the universe we observe must be “likely enough” to have happened at least once.

  • MNb

    As Herman Philipse pointed out: the fine-tuning argument assumes an metaphysical entity fine tuning the natural constants (there are something like 20-30), ie a First Cause. Hence the fine-tuning argument depends on the validity of the cosmological argument, which is zero. The fine-tuning argument also is teleological. It says that the natural constants are fine-tuned with the specific goal to make self-reflecting beings like Homo Sapiens possible. It’s this teleological element that makes the difference with the various Anthropic Principles.
    It gets even weirder if we consider the relation with Evolution Theory. ET specifically states that speciation occurs by adapting to environmental circumstances. So self-reflecting Homo Sapiens is adapted to Earthly environment, which in the end depends on those natural constants. Fine-tuning argues exactly the opposite, ie that natural constants are adapted to Homo Sapiens. Thus it conflicts with ET. You can safely bet that anyone using the fine-tuning argument is in the end anti-scientific, ie trying to dictate science on metaphysical, filosofical and/or religious grounds which theories to accept and which to reject. In my limited experience this is true even for highly educated philosophers of religion. Note: being a scientismist myself (and proud of it) I will be happy to be proven wrong by a counterexample. Feser is not one, I can tell you; Craig and Plantinga have anti-scientific tendencies as well. Swinburne might qualify.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      What I want to see (but am not holding my breath for) is an apologist who actually believes his argument. Someone who puts it on the line. Someone who says, “This is such a part of the foundation of my belief that if science showed that the universe was not fine tuned, I would reject my faith.”

      But of course they don’t. In that situation (and how many times has this happened in the history of science?) they just brush themselves off as if nothing happened and they’re off on the next puzzle at the edge of science.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.”

        –Winston Churchill

  • MNb

    Underneath the previous article I wrote that if we accept fine-tuning this rather supports polytheism instead of monotheism. I just have read a rebuttal by a Dutch apologist. I quote:

    “Een eerste oorzaak van de wereld is een onveroorzaakte entiteit die de directe of indirecte ontstaansoorzaak is van alles wat buiten deze entiteit bestaat. Een eerste oorzaak is dus de ultieme grond van de wereld. Het is de uiteindelijke oorsprong van alles wat bestaat. Er kan dan ook maar één eerste oorzaak zijn. Stel namelijk dat er twee of meer eerste oorzaken van de wereld zouden zijn. In dat geval is de ene wereldgrond per definitie ook de directe of indirecte oorzaak van één van de overige wereldgronden, wat in strijd is met het feit dat een eerste oorzaak zelf niet kan zijn veroorzaakt.”

    “A First Cause of the Universe is a non-caused entity which is the direct or indirect origin-cause of everything that exists outside of this entity. So a First Cause is the ultimate foundation of the Universe. It’s the ultimate source of everything that exists. So there can only be one First Cause. Assume there are two or more First Causes of the Universe. In that case the one origin-ground is by definition also the direct or indirect cause of one of the other origin-grounds, which contradicts the fact that a First Cause can’t be caused itself.”

    Emanuel Rutten is higher educated than me. He has grades in math and philosophy of religion while I’m just a teacher at a secondary school. Still it’s obvious to my simple mind that he is just defining a single ultimate First Cause into existence and thus by no means refutes the idea of multiple independent First Causes, each of them fine-tuning a natural constant. But yeah – he also combines fine-tuning with theistic evolution (because of immaterial consciousness, ie the soul); he accepts quantummechanics if it suits him (to argue for a beginning of the Universe), but rejects its probabilism to make the cosmological argument work.
    Anyone surprised that my atheism has become more radical last five years? Religious deepthinkers can’t be objective. Well, I actually know two Dutchies who do a pretty good job, so I have to be a bit moderate.
    If you can read Dutch:

    http://www.gjerutten.nl/Kosmologischargument_ERutten.pdf

    It’s a pretty good exercise spotting the anti-scientific statements.

  • MNb

    It’s quite fun how Turek’s thinking coincides with Rutten’s. Of course the latter doesn’t deal either with the vastness of the Universe. Let’s face it – for Homo Sapiens the Solar System plus some extra (say a million times the size to get rid of the superfluous solar energy) would have sufficed. Shooting with a canon on a musquito is more efficient than creating the entire Universe for the sake of mankind.

    “is really improbable”
    Statistics with population 1.

    “(Does Turek still want to cite Vilenkin as a reliable source?)”
    Ain’t it fun? Rutten does – of course only the part he likes.

    “Everything has a cause” feels right, but common sense isn’t a reliable tool at the edge of science.
    The first part is exactly the argument Rutten gives. “It’s absurd to think that any event can happen without a cause”.

    “Why imagine that nothing is more likely before the Big Bang than something?”
    Rutten answers that one: because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (ie if there was something before the Big Bang that something had to have a beginning). Here is what two theoretical physicists say about it:

    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/astronomy/bigbang.html

    Paragraph 3A and B.
    They also address the “something came out of nothing” issue.
    Not that any apologist cares. Remember? They only cite physics when it suits them. I despise that.
    Now the real fun part is that the cosmological argument, including fine-tuning, might work if we assume a god playing dice. It seems that the Universe presupposes one (perhaps more) probabilistic field, namely for gravity. Hey, you apologists, all reconvert! The Flying Spaghetti Monster loves playing dice too.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The first part is exactly the argument Rutten gives. “It’s absurd to think that any event can happen without a cause”.

      That’s why I get my reality from physicists, not philosophers. “Just because” as an explanation isn’t adequate in physics, though apologists and philosophers seem content with it.

  • Jack Mudge

    Even if you don’t assume the multiverse, order falls out of chaos thanks to mathematics. Unless one wants to posit that God invented math (and that math could have been different if God so chose), this means that a universe that seems finely tuned now is very likely given a disorderly (i.e., high entropy) early universe. It would, in fact, be much more surprising if the universe were *not* ordered.

    Having said that: Personally, I prefer the anthropic objection. Of course we see a finely tuned universe. If the universe weren’t tuned sufficiently for life (whether that means “finely” is a different question), then we wouldn’t be here to notice.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve heard apologists respond to “can God make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it?” or “can God make a square circle?” by saying that God can’t do things that are logically impossible.

      Huh? So then God is bound by logic.

      As for God inventing math, I imagine they’d have the same response to “Could God have made 1 + 1 = 3?”–that God is bound by math.

      I don’t think you can invent something if everything is constrained and there’s only one way it could be.

      • Greg G.

        Isn’t 1 + 1 = 3 a valid statement in the study of population dynamics?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      As for the anthropic objection, I don’t find it persuasive. Yes, of course if the universe were lifeless, we wouldn’t be here to marvel about its being enabling to life. But that doesn’t respond to the fine tuning question. If indeed the constants are finely tuned, this objection avoids the issue rather than dismantling it.

      Or am I missing something?

      • Jack Mudge

        I’ve always considered that the anthropic principle doesn’t so much avoid the question as obviate it. What does it mean to say “fine-tuned” when any universe in which we exist would exhibit such features?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Right, but what fraction of universes are so tuned? If that’s insanely unlikely, what does that say?

        • Matt Thornton

          Everything that happens has a probability of 1. The universe is. It isn’t otherwise, through it could be, in ways both large and small.

          That the universe isn’t otherwise says very little (perhaps nothing at all) about how it came to be the way it is. The number of potential paths is simply too large.

          You can play this game at home without all the tricky math of cosmology. Assume you exist because one particuar sperm cell from your father combined with an egg in your mother. There are demonstrably many sperm, so the chances of you happening are really quite small – a different sperm means different genetics and a different you. But wait. Think of your father’s father – the same small probability exists for his particular existnce. Now think of his father – you can go back lots of generations, but you don’t need to.

          The probability of the event that is you is the product of the probablity of you (vs. the other genetic combinations possible in your parents’ mating), times the probability of your father, etc. The number gets vanishingly small almost immediately.

          With that, do you therefore assume you were caused, and thus evidence for God?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t think your conception example is relevant. The fine tuning proponent is talking about an unlikely situation that is very different from the other situations: the universe that permits life.

          To change your conception example, perhaps we imagine a world in which a woman could give birth to Superman, but it was super unlikely–so unlikely that him ever getting born on the earth in all of history would be almost inconceivable. If Superman did indeed get born, we’d be justifiably amazed.

        • Matt Thornton

          I guess I’m not seeing how a superman(baby) changes the logic much. We’re still talking about insanely small probablities, which was really the point.
          Is the fine-tuning argument that this is the *only* version of the universe that could support life?
          In the simple conception example, the unlikely situation (you existing) is very different from all the other situations (you not existing). Is the superman example different in a way other than degree?
          Like the superman example, I’m trying to say that the liklihood of *you* having been born, when you look at the path dependency, is likewise “almost inconceivable”.
          Am I missing something essential about the argument?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The fine tuning argument is that a random universe has an insanely small probability of being life supporting. Let’s just assume that that’s the case. In your example, it’s more an a priori kind of thing: what are the chances that I will come out of the pairings of my ancestors, 10 generations back? But, of course, if it hadn’t been me, it would’ve been another person (who really isn’t all that different from me).

          The fine tuning argument isn’t like 1 person out of a possible set of 10^100 person; it’s like 1 person out of a possible set of 10^100 options, of which only 1 has a person in it.

  • UWIR

    The fine-tuning argument appears to be
    making an implicit appeal to an intuitive Bayesian-type reasoning,
    but doesn’t actually present an explicit rigorous argument. So we
    should look at what the actual epistomological basis for the
    argument. Here’s how Baysian reasoning works:

    Suppose you have some collection of
    knowledge K, and given K, you can find the probability of some
    hypothesis H. Now suppose you acquire some additional piece of
    evidence E. Let’s call your new set of knowledge K’. That is, K’ =
    K+E. Then P(H|K’) = P(K’|H&K)*P(H|K)/P(K’|K). So, is the case of
    FTA, what are K, E, K’, and H? Well, H is “God exists”. K’ is
    “Life exists”. But what are E and K? To apply Bayes’ theorem, we
    have to come put a value on P(H|K). This is known as “the prior
    probability” (often shortened to just “prior”). This is the
    probability that someone would calculate for H, prior to knowing that
    life exists. But how can anyone possibly do so? If someone exists to
    calculate the probability, then they already know that life exists.

    Also, suppose I argue:

    If an electron were more massive than a proton, then life couldn’t exist. Now, a proton has a mass of about 10^-27 kg. There’s no reason an electron couldn’t have a mass of 10^20 kg. So the mass of an electron can range from 0 to 10^20 kg, and only a range of 10^-27 allows life. So the mass of an electron has to be fine-tuned to one part in 10^-47.

    Let’s assume for the sake of argument that you accept the first sentence. Given that, would you find the rest of the argument convincing? Is there any reason to stop at 10^20? Is there any limit to how much “fine-tuning” we can claim the universe has? I mean, it’s possible for an asteroid bearing a virus that wipes out all mammalian life to hit the earth. It’s possible for 10^20 such asteroids to hit the earth. For our species to exist, the number of such asteroids has to be less than 1. So our planet is fine-tuned to one part in 10^20. Are any of these arguments any less valid than Turek’s? If so, why?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yes, the Bayesian approach does demand prior knowledge that no one has. Too bad the apologists never acknowledge this.

      Have you heard of the coarse-tuning argument? A fine tuning argument might say that the mass of the electron can’t be changed up or down by 10^–10 (say) for life to still exist. It’s fine tuning because the range is really tiny. But if any cosmic constant can be any value, then we could imagine a life-sustaining universe in which the life-sustaining range for an electron could be 10 orders of magnitude. Or 1000. But this “coarsely tuned” universe is just as unlikely as the finely tuned one—negligibly so.

      I’ve heard that any valid appeal to fine tuning must be with unit-less quantities—say the ratio of two weights, for example.

      As for your asteroid example, if any planet gets too many big asteroid impacts, bad stuff happens to life. But then I think the sheer magnitude of planets (some of which aren’t getting bombarded) means that there’s no fine tuning appeal possible. If our planet was the only planet out of the trillions that we were aware of that wasn’t getting relentlessly bombarded, then that could be fine tuning.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    The “everything needs a cause” is a bogus premise in a forcing argument unless you have checked “everything” (which, of course, they have not). Read more here.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Especially since events within quantum physics (which the Big Bang presumably was) don’t need causes.

      • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

        The key is that they *may* not need causes, which is a defeater for “must have causes” but does not require the backing that would be necessary for “don’t need causes.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Agreed. I haven’t found a good authoritative source that summarizes quantum causality. I understand that there are some who hypothesize that some things don’t have causes and others who say that causes exist but we just don’t know what they are. Thoughts?

  • Marc

    “Especially since events within quantum physics (which the Big Bang presumably was) don’t need causes.”

    => Of course you need a cause : you need quantum laws to exist and apply, and incidentally something said laws can work on.

    As far as I can tell, there are two rational possibilities : either the universe is eternal and self-sufficient and the universe is god (by definition), or it is not and it is created. Now what is the more rational metaphysics ?

    Also, a few ideas about knowledge. There are various types of knowledge, and they depend on the object studied. A few examples:

    1) math: this is the only realm I know of definite rational answers, as things are demonstrated. BTW, what is the status of maths? Is it an objective knowledge? But then, a knowledge of what? Not physical objects… If it is not objective, how come that is applies to systems that are-until proven/assumed wrong-exterior to our subjectivity (such as planes, stars,…)?

    2) physics: theories cannot be definitely proven true, only proven wrong (that’s a rather crude approach of the philosophy of science “à la” Popper, but I am not going to write a book about that : not enough room in here and not enough knowledge in my mind). So what kind of questions can physics answer ? General questions on simple physical objects, with assumptions that cannot be verified (such as : the laws of the universe are homogeneous, all experiments renewed would always lead to the same answers (be it deterministic or statistical), etc.). And that’s it. It cannot discuss the existence of god or Napoleon. Indeed.

    3) now, if you want to know whether Napoleon existed, no hamiltonian will help you : you need to study history, with methods that differ from math and physics (even though they may be tools to your study if you look at statistical questions or try dating thing with 14C) and are adapted to your object of study.

    4) the same goes for psychology, philosophy, etc.

    Hence, what determines the proper way to investigate a question is the object of study. And the things you can know something about using a given method are the objects that can be studied through this method. The scientific method (if by that one means experimental science such as physics, chemistry or biology) answers only to scientific questions, i.e. dealing with object submitted to laws. And only characterizes said laws. Physics cannot disprove god. Nor prove it, for that matter.

    Another level of complexity is the notion of cause. One can see Aristotle’s ideas on that question. More simply, for a turbine to exist one needs two things: physical laws to apply and a builder to build it: both causes are not mutually exclusive. BTW, I am not touching here the question of intelligent design, because my grasp of neo-darwinian theories is very limited. I am impressed by the level of complexity of biological systems and the incredibly large numbers you obtain with a crude combinatorial analysis of the simplest proteins. My instinct of physicist is a bit unsettled there, but I suck at probability theory, so… Concerning the ID questions, I only find that some questions raised by Behe are absolutely rational and am wondering what answers have been made to this point in particular? On the other hand, if the intelligent design can be a rational point of view, I don’t see how it can be considered scientific, as it assumes things that cannot be modeled, and there is nos science without a model. But I have other questions of interest this year for my leisure time, so maybe next year…

    Something that I always find interesting is that physics tells us about the order underlying all physical phenomena and microscopical symmetries… but can tell us nothing about “what” is following said laws: the underlying “stuff” that things are made of. What are strings made of, if one considers string theories, for example? We don’t know. One can only know the necessary quantitative properties, but not what “are” strings, because, at the most fundamental level, physics may uncover laws but not what obeys them (which is nothing but the notions of form and matter proposed by Aristotle a while ago, physics deals with the “form” not the “matter” in Aristotle’s sense of the words). Of course, physics can look at a smaller and smaller scales and uncover layers of organization underlying a given level that explain the properties of the “n+1” layer, but either the regression is infinite, or a fundamental level exists which cannot be fully described by physics.

    Another thing that physics cannot explain is where do the laws of physics come from? Why is there something rather than nothing? These are metaphysical questions.

    Other questions physics cannot answer :
    what is freedom? Is freedom real or an illusion? If it is real, as far as my understanding goes, it cannot be described as some N-body systems, otherwise it is just a complicated dynamical system that we cannot described mathematically in an exact manner, but certainly not a personal independent freedom. Well, for the latter, as far a I understand neuroscience, though, because some tentative experiments are on their way to test human freedom but for what I understood they are so limited that I really do not understand how exactly they can be seen as tests of freedom-at least yet… The beauty of scientific research is in the surprises and the un-anticipated extent it can go. The coming decades, if war does not destroy our civilisation, will be really exciting :-).

    What is (self)-conscience?

    What’s more, if something exists beyond the physical world, by definition, physics cannot test it. Two elements that could be interesting to explore the limit of the notion: 1) the famous near-death-experiences, 2) a bunch of miraculous healing that have been declared so by specialists, including atheist ones.

    Anyways, as they say, “la critique est aisée, mais l’art est difficile”: how do you consider life yourself, forgetting all the religious questions? Is there any meaning to life? If we are just transitory form of complex molecules arrangements, what value do we have in particular? What is morality based upon? Romans used to kill their unwanted children, slaves were in no way a problem for them, human sacrifices used to be a way to release tensions, death penalty… ooops, sorry, some of us still have that… anyways, are there objective reasons to consider that as wrong or is it only a matter of taste and circumstances?

    Cheers!
    Marc

    • MNb

      “Of course you need a cause : you need quantum laws to exist and apply,”

      Excellent job missing the point. The cause of quantum laws to exist and apply is human intelligence – humans formulated them. However those quantum laws still are probabilistic and not causal.

      “and incidentally something said laws can work on.”
      Yeah. That something is called our Universe – which is probabilistic and not causal.

      “As far as I can tell”
      That’s not far enough. But if you reformulate it as “quantum fields are eternal and self-sufficient” you have a point. Now you have two options: a) quantum fields are god, which is nothing but a semantic game and b) quantum fields are one unspecified way or another grounded in god. You may even think the latter is the more rational metaphysical option, though I wouldn’t know why – if god can be eternal and self-sufficient, so can quantum fields. And quantum fields at least have the advantage of yielding testable predictions, something god miserably fails to provide.
      But OK – let me grant you this. Your god grounds quantum fields. Then you should reconvert, because you have arrived at a gambling god.

      • Marc

        “Excellent job missing the point. The cause of quantum laws to exist and apply is human intelligence – humans formulated them. However those quantum laws still are probabilistic and not causal.”

        Oh ! So you mean these laws did not apply *before* human formulated them ? Because I understand in your sentence that “the cause of quantum laws is human intelligence”… But as far as I can tell, physics assumes that it applies before humans even existed, so that makes no sense to me… Please, correct me if I misunderstood you…

        “and incidentally something said laws can work on.”
        Yeah. That something is called our Universe – which is probabilistic and not causal.

        Not causal ? You should study a little the EPR paradox and special relativity : causality is not broken by physic laws. Not even by QFT. Moreover, on large systems, decoherence breaks the superposition principles of microscopic systems resulting in the usual causality we know… So I don’t see your point : the universe is probably quite macroscopic, to the point that general relativity can be used to describe it, and that’s not exactly a non-causal theory.

        [That’s not far enough.]

        Well, thank you dear friend…

        [a) quantum fields are god, which is nothing but a semantic game and b) quantum fields are one unspecified way or another grounded in god. You may even think the latter is the more rational metaphysical option, though I wouldn’t know why – if god can be eternal and self-sufficient, so can quantum fields.]

        It is a tautology as long as you remain in physics, as physics postulates the existence of its object of study. I maintain that the question of the existence of things (laws, matter, you, me, etc.) is a metaphysical question. The multiverse, however big, the quantum fields, the creation/annihilation operators and other delightful physics won’t change a bit that point.

        [And quantum fields at least have the advantage of yielding testable predictions, something god miserably fails to provide.]

        This is logically flawed, as god is outside the realm of physics : if you find it under a microscope, it’s not him…

        [But OK – let me grant you this. Your god grounds quantum fields. Then you should reconvert, because you have arrived at a
        gambling god.]

        I very much like the idea of a gambling god and have nothing against that 😉

        • Greg G.

          Oh ! So you mean these laws did not apply *before* human formulated them ? Because I understand in your sentence that “the cause of quantum laws is human intelligence”… But as far as I can tell, physics assumes that it applies before humans even existed, so that makes no sense to me… Please, correct me if I misunderstood you…

          OK, no, that is not what he meant. The universe is made up of quanta that interact with each other. Humans have been figuring out those interactions ever since they stopped trying to put God into the explanations.

        • Marc

          Are you kidding ? Newton was a christian, so was Lemaitre, Einstein was a deist : I don’t see them as bad scientists and they still brought rather significant contributions to physics, I’d say… They just knew the difference between science, theology, faith, etc. So, historically, [Humans have been figuring out those interactions] even before secularism became the rule.

        • Greg G.

          None of them used God in the theories for which they are famous either. A Christian can do good science while leaving God out of the science.

        • adam

          “A Christian can do good science ONLY while leaving God out of the science.”

          ftfy

        • MNb

          Yeah – and their explanations didn’t contain any god. Newton was an exception, but that was only a god of the gaps that got removed later as well.

          Einstein did not remain a deist his entire life.

          https://www.theguardian.com/science/2008/may/13/peopleinscience.religion

          “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses.”
          Better not to have him as your (or my) witness.

          “Einstein was a giant. His head was in the clouds, but his feet were on the ground. Those of us who are not so tall have to choose!”
          Richard Feynman.

          How tall are you? I understand that I by far are not tall enough.

          Newton was also an alchemist. If his scientific work testifies for belief it should testify for alchemy as well. Are you sure you want to walk that road? If his work doesn’t you only confirmed what Greg G wrote.

          Now let me call another religious witness, one, I say it immediately, that got underappreciated.
          You mentioned relativity in a previous comment. The first ones to formulate a hypothesis for the origin of our Universe were atheist commie Alexander Friedmann and catholic priest Georges Lemaitre. That fact alone confirms what Greg G wrote:

          “Humans have been figuring out those interactions ever since they stopped trying to put God into the explanations.”

          This is explicitely confirmed by Lemaitre himself:

          http://www.amnh.org/education/resources/rfl/web/essaybooks/cosmic/p_lemaitre.html

          “As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being… For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God… It is consonant with Isaiah speaking of the hidden God, hidden even in the beginning of the universe.”

          Still this mistake is exactly what you commit – you jump from causality via the first cause (formulated as “why”) to god.
          Yup – you have even the religious scientists against your initial comment. Ain’t that sad?

        • MNb

          “So you mean these laws did not apply *before* human formulated them ?”

          That’s your non-sequitur, not mine.
          Before there was human intelligence nobody formulated those laws. Quite obvious, don’t you think? That has nothing to do with them being applied before humans existed.

          “to the point that general relativity can be used to describe it”
          Not in the initial stage of our Universe. You are the one who needs to study a bit more. You may start with Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.

          “It is a tautology as long as you remain in physics”
          Yes, that’s why I offered you option B.

          “I maintain that the question of the existence of things (laws, matter, you, me, etc.) is a metaphysical question”
          As the existence of things (laws, matter, you, me, etc.) all go back to quantum fields that metaphysical question becomes “why quantum fields?”. I offered you two options.

          “This is logically flawed, as god is outside the realm of physics.”
          It’s not logic, it’s a flawless observation. Whether god is within or outside the realm of physics, it doesn’t yield testable predictions. Quantum fields do.
          And when god is outside the realm of physics the question arises how he/she/it interacts with things within that realm of physics. Not very reasonable to say “he/she/it just can”, so it seems to me.

          “I very much like the idea of a gambling god and have nothing against that.”
          OK. Precious few abrahamists will like it though. Perhaps you worship The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Pastafarianism is totally consistent with science. It makes me wonder why you stick so stubbornly to causality though, especially as causality is nothing but a special case of probability.
          However another problem remains: as soon as you make a claim beyond the realm of science you don’t have a method to decide if that claim is (in)correct or not. And I fail to say how any claim that can’t be tested is reasonable.

        • Marc

          [“So you mean these laws did not apply *before* human formulated them ?”

          That’s your non-sequitur, not mine.]

          OK, I’ll be clearer : do you think apple’s speed when falling, behaved differently before Newton proposed its laws/definitions?

          [“to the point that general relativity can be used to describe it”
          Not in the initial stage of our Universe. You are the one who needs to study a bit more. You may start with Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.]

          Your non-sequitur : where did I said “initial stage” ? I said “macroscopic” which I used (rather improperly, I can admit to that) as implying “large”, i.e. *not* the initial conditions – I am aware that early stage cosmology rests heavily on QM and that we are still awaiting/looking for the great big TOE to see things more clearly…

          [“I maintain that the question of the existence of things (laws, matter, you, me, etc.) is a metaphysical question”
          As the existence of things (laws, matter, you, me, etc.) all go back to quantum fields that metaphysical question becomes “why quantum fields?”.
          I offered you two options.]

          Which, as far as I understand things, are the ones I started with: either the universe is self sufficient and it is god, or it is not and was brought into existence by god. Do I miss something? You may replace universe by QF if you will, I don’t see the difference…

          [“This is logically flawed, as god is outside the realm of physics.”
          It’s not logic, it’s a flawless observation. Whether god is within or outside the realm of physics, it doesn’t yield testable predictions. Quantum fields do.
          And when god is outside the realm of physics the
          question arises how he/she/it interacts with things within that realm of physics. Not very reasonable to say “he/she/it just can”, so it seems to me.]

          Well, at that point the only answer I can make is: I don’t know. And I don’t think it can be known by our means of investigation – be they theoretical or experimental. Some things are beyond our knowledge – I think we can agree to that?

          [“I very much like the idea of a gambling god and have nothing against that.”
          OK.
          Precious few abrahamists will like it though.]

          I am flattered to be precious, as long as you are not Gollum ;-). But I am not Abrahamist, I’m christian, if you allow me the precision (even catholic).

          [Perhaps you worship The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Pastafarianism is totally consistent with science. It makes me wonder why you stick so stubbornly to causality though, especially as causality is nothing but a special case of probability.]

          Not enough love in Pastafarianism, I prefer St John gospel’s and letters, for personal reasons. But the flying spaghetti monster really makes laugh (happily, I mean) :-)

          Concerning causality, it still makes sense in tribunals and a few other places, I would say. It also does in history, biology (not a final cause, for god’s sake! So to speak… 😉 ), etc. To be frank, though, I don’t whether we mean the same thing when we use that term… I still understand it as “the effect cannot precedes the cause” – in the EPR style and with the according amendment. But I have nothing to object that some even may be uncaused as in the radiative disintegration… Some laws are observed and Bell’s experiments have shown that no hidden variable may be postulated. OK, fine with that… Am I missing something?

          [However another problem remains: as soon as you make a claim beyond the realm of science you don’t have a method to decide if that claim is (in)correct or not. And I fail to say how any claim that can’t be tested is reasonable.]

          You can’t, strictly speaking, prove that a theory is correct, you can only falsify it, to my understanding of the philosophy of science… whereas a “claim” is slightly more vague and open to other approaches.

          Yes, god is not falsifiable but neither is my wife’s love… until she leaves me, might you add. But that’s just not how these things work, I’ll just say. Concerning my wife, if she loves me, I’ll only know when I or she will die – a little like god, interestingly (that’s at least partly a joke !)

        • MNb

          “do you think apple’s speed when falling, behaved differently before Newton proposed its laws/definitions?”
          No. But that’s just an extrapolation. The Problem of Induction by Simple Enumeration shows we can’t be sure of it.

          You wrote above: “causality is not broken by physic laws”.
          The laws of physics that apply to the initial stage of our Universe break causality and hence contradict your claim. Your apologetics here are intellectually dishonest – you don’t want to remember your very own claim anymore.

          More intellectual dishonesty:

          “I have nothing to object that some even may be uncaused as in the radiative disintegration”
          but may be excused due to ignorance. The probabilistic physics that apply to radioactive disintegration apply to the entire Universe as well. The Correspondence Principle shows that causal Classical Physics is nothing but a special case of probabilistic Quantum Mechanics. Basically that is because causality is a special form of probability (namely with correlation 0 or 1). The only field of research where the probabilistic approach has not succeeded yet is gravity. And that’s exactly why the initial stage of the Universe is crucial.
          The causal approach hasn’t made any progress since Friedmann and Lemaitre. Probabilism has. So while we can’t be sure yet (but we never can be entirely sure anyway) the safe bet is probabilism.

          “Am I missing something?”
          Yes. That the probabilistic approach works as fine in our daily life – and most aspects of the entire Universe – as the causal one. So probabilism has much more predictive power. The only aspect where probabilism hasn’t succeeded yet is gravity.

          “might you add.”
          And a few things more: she expresses her love by means of language (saying “I love you”), her behaviour (indeed, like staying with your instead of leaving you), her body language (she avoids intimate contacts or seeks them) and her facial expressions (she smiles at you or has as an indifferent look). All are material/ natural and can be – no, are – researched with the scientific method.
          “but that’s just not how these things work, I’ll just say.”
          That’s just another void statement of yours. It’s exactly how these things work. Again you only highlight my main point: I have a lot to show, you have nothing. So apparently postulating “a spiritual reality” doesn’t make any sense. And then it follows that there is no god.

    • MNb

      “this is the only realm I know of definite rational answers, as things are demonstrated.”
      Nope. Math doesn’t. Math only shows coherence given a few axiomata. Change one and the answer will become different. Pythagoras’ Theorem is a definite answer of math, you say? Change one axiom and it’s wrong. The surface of a sphere is a simple example.

      “what is the status of maths”
      It’s not knowledge, it’s a language.

      “So what kind of questions can physics answer ?”
      Like what provides a more accurate description of our Universe, causality or probabilism? The answer is the latter. If you want to change that answer – and you’re invited, a Nobel Price is waiting for you – you have a lot of work ahead of you.

      “Physics cannot disprove god.”
      Nobody claimed that on this blog. Kudos for kicking in a wide open door.

      “but I suck at probability theory”
      Obviously, given your rambling on causality.

      “where do the laws of physics come from?”
      The first one has been answered a long time ago, by Bertrand Russell ao. The answer is related to “math is a language”. Those laws are mathematical descriptions of our natural reality; the math enables us to quantify.

      “Why is there something rather than nothing? These are metaphysical questions.”
      Before metaphysics even takes the initiative to formulate the beginning of an answer it has to show it’s a relevant one. I deny that. See, science doesn’t answer such “why”-questions at all – properly formulated it answers “how come” questions. That’s exactly how come that science can’t prove or disprove god.
      “Why”-questions like this one imply a purpose, a motive, perhaps even a desire. Hence it implies something like god. That means this particular “why”-question is a loaded one.

      “if something exists beyond the physical world, by definition, physics cannot test it.”
      Yup. That’s not the problem. The problem is that nothing else can. Hence anything goes, which again is how come that there are thousands of christian denominations.
      Another problem is that nobody has shown how that something beyond the physical world interacts with that physical world; which means it uses and which procedures it follows.

      “Is there any meaning to life?”
      No external one, meaning is not coming from “something that exists beyond the physical world”.
      However internal meaning – the meaning I give to my life myself – is.

      “If we are just transitory form of complex molecules arrangements, what value do we have in particular?”
      The value we give ourselves.

      “What is morality based upon?”
      Most atheists will answer on happiness.

      “Romans used to kill their unwanted children, slaves were in no way a problem for them, human sacrifices used to be a way to release tensions, death penalty… ooops, sorry, some of us still have that… anyways, are there objective reasons to consider that as wrong or is it only a matter of taste and circumstances?”
      No, yes.

      • Marc

        “this is the only realm I know of definite rational answers, as things are demonstrated.”
        [Nope. Math doesn’t. Math only shows coherence given a few axiomata. Change one and the answer will become different. Pythagoras’ Theorem is a definite answer of math, you say? Change one axiom and it’s wrong. The surface of a sphere is a simple example.]

        No, you misunderstand me – but you assume I suck at maths – which is not completely wrong, given that I work in materials science. But I have heard and read about things such as “Gödel’s theorem”, “non euclidean geometry” (your point) and other fascinating questions. I did not say what you seem to imagine. Treat me just like a human being, with a heart and intelligence, however imperfect, and discussion might become more constructive to both of us. Unless you consider yourself so far above me that talking with me is like talking to a wall, but then don’t lose time with me…

        “what is the status of maths”
        [It’s not knowledge, it’s a language.]

        1) what do you call knowledge?
        2) what do you call language?
        As far as I understand your own example above, one can demonstrate that depending on the space curvature, the sum of the angles of a triangle is not necessarily pi. This looks a lot like knowledge to me,so I assume we have a different meaning of these two words.
        And BTW, philosophy of maths has different schools and yours is only one of them (whatever it is)… Quine and Putnam are in favor of mathematical platonism, as far as I understand these things, so it must be a little subtle…

        [“So what kind of questions can physics answer ?”
        Like what provides a more accurate description of our Universe, causality or probabilism? The answer is the latter. If you want to change that answer – and you’re invited, a Nobel Price is waiting for you – you have a lot of work ahead of you.]

        Causality is not broken by physics as far as the SRT is concerned – once again. The fact that microscopic events may occur and be uncaused is another question.

        [“where do the laws of physics come from?”
        The first one has been answered a long time ago, by Bertrand Russell ao. The answer is related to “math is a language”. Those laws are mathematical descriptions of our natural reality; the math enables us to quantify.]

        Sorry, I don’t know Russel’s philosophical theories… But, to take an example, Noether’s theorem allows connecting things that are not so intuitively connected – such as time translation and energy conservation, or Galilean transformations and momentum conservation… it’s not only quantitative, it’s also qualitative (unless these points are obvious to you ?). Plus, physics, through maths, points to non intuitive interpretations – to say the least, I hope you’ll agree – so what does language mean, here ? I just don’t get it… My understanding of language would be a frame of (arbitrary) conventions that allow two minds to communicate. The speed at which the legendary apple felt on Newton’s head has a precise value, and not an arbitrary one, in Newton’s frame of reference, let’s say.

        [“Why is there something rather than nothing? These are metaphysical questions.”

        Before metaphysics even takes the initiative to formulate the beginning of an answer it has to show it’s a relevant one. I deny that. See, science doesn’t answer such “why”-questions at all – properly formulated it answers “how come” questions. That’s exactly how come that science can’t prove or disprove god.]

        You deny that a question makes sense, so we can forget our question? We should take your word for it?

        [“Why”-question like this one imply a purpose, a motive, perhaps even a desire. Hence it implies something like god. That means this particular “why”-question is a loaded one.]

        Loaded question can be true… It is good, IMO, to make clear that they are loaded, but it does not mean they’re pointless… What’s your strike on NDEs?

        [“if something exists beyond the physical world, by definition, physics cannot test it.”
        Yup. That’s not the problem. The problem is that nothing else can.]

        Well, if a “spiritual” world exists, then spiritual entities might experiment it, with laws and properties that escape the framework of physics. Then, it could be that, someday, you’ll experiment something of that sort. Or maybe that other people have experimented something of that sort and talk about it. But then, the question becomes a question of trust and critical inquiry other than the techniques of physics.

        [Hence anything goes, which again is how come that there are thousands of christian denominations.]

        I am a catholic, I have an answer for that : sola fide/sola scriptura and Luther’s foolishness ;-). That one was easy.

        [Another problem is that nobody has shown how that something beyond the physical world interacts with that physical world; which means it uses and which procedures it follows.]

        In what is that a problem ? You can make deduction without having all the fact. If you find an UFO on Jupiter, one can deduce that aliens exist, even though we won’t know much more about them… (I am just pointing here that a detailed knowledge is not necessary to come to a conclusion, I am not saying something similar to a UFO on Jupiter exists concerning metaphysical questions).

        [“Is there any meaning to life?”
        No external one, meaning is not coming from “something that exists beyond the physical world”.
        However internal meaning – the meaning I give to my life myself – is.]

        What is it, then? If you allow me to ask… (and that’s a genuine question, I am here for the fun of discussion, I am a firm believer of my own growth through interaction with others, but if you’re not, let it go).

        [“If we are just transitory form of complex molecules arrangements, what value do we have in particular?”
        The value we give ourselves.]

        Mmmmmh… If I consider myself superior to all other humans, that makes sense? According to dear Hume “It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger”: do you agree with him?

        [“What is morality based upon?”
        Most atheists will answer on happiness.]

        Well, then, psychopaths may have strange morality… plus… what is happiness??

        [“Romans used to kill their unwanted children, slaves were in no way a problem for them, human sacrifices used to be a way to release tensions, death penalty… ooops, sorry, some of us still have that… anyways, are there objective reasons to consider that as wrong or is it only a matter of taste and circumstances?”
        No, yes.]

        Mmmmh, do you object to religion based on religious wars and other nice stuff of that kind?

        • Greg G.

          I don’t see Godel’s theorem as a big problem. If science could explain itself completely, it would become circular and may or may not relate to our reality, like math. Science relies on induction and the problem of induction allows some doubts where a clever contrivance can be inserted into the gaps. Those contrivances can be religion or solipsism.

          A religious idea may be more emotionally comforting, but it is no more intellectually comforting satisfying, than a brain-in-a-vat theory.

        • Marc

          [Science relies on induction and the problem of induction allows some
          doubts where a clever contrivance can be inserted into the gaps. Those
          contrivances can be religion or solipsism.]

          No, science only answers questions about objects belonging to its field of research. You can do all the math and physics you want, you’ll learn nothing about history, for example. And that’s not a solipsism, that’s a matter of object of inquiry. The question of god falls outside of the field of science. The same goes for spirituality, freedom, etc.

          [A religious idea may be more emotionally comforting, but it is no more intellectually comforting satisfying, than a brain-in-a-vat theory.]

          Sorry, I do not understand “brain-in-a-vat”, being French, my English has -sometimes rather narrow- limits. Nevertheless, why do you assume you know the “emotional satisfaction” believers may or may not feel from their beliefs ? Believe it or not, I don’t think santa claus exists – but he is not a metaphysical question for me. And I see no opposition between science, metaphysics, spirituality, theology, etc. They just don’t deal with the same questions.

        • Greg G.

          No, science only answers questions about objects belonging to its field of research.

          Right, that is why religion is contrived to be outside the realm of science. There is no basis for the beliefs except for wishful thinking and to be completely immune from evidence. Theologians know they can’t make a testable prediction because it would be expected to fail. Harold Camping was certain that he was right so he made a testable prediction. Other Christians criticized him, not for his prediction, but just that he made it testable by setting a date.

          One form of solipsism is the idea that I may be a brain in a vat with inputs making me think I have a body and live on a planet filled with other people, you may only be a figment of the inputs to my brain. The Matrix movie is similar. The situations are contrived so that they cannot be tested and their is no way for us to find out. Religion is like that, too.

        • Pofarmer

          Not this stupid shit again.

        • Marc

          Lol, sorry, there is many of us out there. But then again, there is many of you also 😉

        • Marc

          Well, yes… I guess, again, if you put god under a microscope, it is not god… But that is rather obvious, I’d say.

          Thanks for your explanation of the brain-in-a-vat. Popper mentions it as the strongest form of idealism and says that if one is not willing to believe its senses there is nothing that can be done about this… As a matter of fact, there is no way to prove reality exists, it’s just more rational to believe it, is my understanding of that question…

        • MNb

          “if you put god under a microscope, it is not god… ”
          If we cannot put your god under a microscope (something nobody on this page disputed, but you seem to be in love with this open door), then what is your method?
          Thus far: silence.

          “There is no way to prove reality exists”
          Science doesn’t prove anything – it only proves things wrong. And it makes sense to assume that our natural/ material reality exists exactly because we have a method that has yielded many results. Solipsism doesn’t provide any method. Spiritual reality doesn’t either.

        • Greg G.

          Well, yes… I guess, again, if you put god under a microscope, it is not god… But that is rather obvious, I’d say.

          But a real god shouldn’t need a microscope. If there are divine effects, we should be able to distinguish them from the non-divine events. If not, there is no reason to think there are any divine interactions. Insisting on the existence of a god then becomes equivalent to a contrived solipsism.

          There is also Last Thursdayism which says that the universe came into being last Thursday as is with intact memories of a false past which is quite distinct from the heresies of Last Tuesdayism and Five Minutes Agoism.

        • MNb

          “You can do all the math and physics you want, you’ll learn nothing about history.”
          This is just nonsense. In the first place the study of history is a branch of science. In the second place physics totally can teach you about history. For instance physics confirmed that Archimedes did not set Roman ships on fire using mirrors. And I can proudly show you that I used physics to learn and teach a tiny bit about history myself:

          http://www.livius.org/sources/content/synesius/synesius-letter-015/

        • Marc

          I believe I made that point in a slightly more subtle fashion earlier on, but at that point I am getting lost in the messages…

          So, to come to the point I wanted to make – which is rather trivial – the investigations techniques in science (I then took time to precise that under this term I meant “experimental sciences”) does not apply to history : you cannot repeat again and again history varying some parameters to check your model. And there is very little mathematical models in use to explain human history, as far as I know, and interpretations come in a way that is much harder to rationalize than a mere fitting technique applied to a bunch of points to test correlation with some model.

          Beyond that, of course history uses physics as a tool, but its mode of investigation is not the same as physics because its object of investigation is different. The status of the knowledge in history is not the same as in physics – and the hypothesis are different. Something like “a given experiment repeated will always give the same results” which is fundamental to physics has no sense in history.

        • MNb

          “the investigations techniques in science (I then took time to precise that under this term I meant “experimental sciences”) does not apply to history : you cannot repeat again and again history varying some parameters to check your model.”
          This still doesn’t work. This very same point applies to observing supernovas and digging up fossils. You can do that only once as well.

          “Something like “a given experiment repeated will always give the same results” which is fundamental to physics has no sense in history.”
          Still wrong. You can repeat the experiment of Archimedes setting Roman ships on fire (or not) as often as you like. Radiometry is repeatable.

          “here is very little mathematical models in use to explain human history”
          As math is a language that’s another non-difference. History uses for instance English. And as soon historical data (mainly economical ones) are quantifiable math is used indeed. For instance Ferdinand Braudel in his books on the Mediterranean in the 16th Century uses it.
          Historical research uses both deduction and induction. In that respect it’s not different from physics.

          “interpretations come in a way that is much harder to rationalize than a mere fitting technique applied to a bunch of points to test correlation with some model.”
          Even that doesn’t work as smoothly in physics as you seem to imagine. There are quite a few interpretations of Quantum Mechanics: Copenhagen, Many Worlds etc. etc.
          Plus you neglect the main point. Methodology of physics may differ from methodology of history on some points, because despite sharing core elements they are adapted to their particular fields of research, regarding your field of research, what you call spiritual reality, you don’t have any method at all.

        • Susan

          Sorry, I do not understand “brain-in-a-vat”, being French,

          https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solipsisme

        • Marc

          Thanks, Susan :-)

        • MNb

          “but you assume I suck at maths ”
          That’s only your wrong assumption.

          “I did not say what you seem to imagine. Treat me just like a human being”
          Follow your own advise, treat me like a human being, recognize that I’m imperfect, that I hence might misunderstand you and correct my misunderstanding. Your next few sentences are totally superfluous, because their content is build on your wrong assumptions about me. I won’t bother to correct them, as that’s a waste of time and it’s your and not my problem anyway.

          “1) what do you call knowledge?
          2) what do you call language?”
          Good questions. Knowledge is the result of two independent and objective methods. The only two I ever have heard of are deduction and induction. When both paths arrive at the same conclusion we can say we have knowledge. As math with precious few exceptions (determining the value of pi for instance) is totally deductive it can’t provide knowledge by definition.
          As for math is a language I recommend you

          http://www.cut-the-knot.org/language/MathIsLanguage.shtml

          “You deny that a question makes sense, so we can forget our question? We should take your word for it?”
          Do you like silly questions that much? I argued for my denial just after the very quote that made you ask this. I don’t know if you suck at math and physics, but I begin to suspect that you suck at comprehensive reading.

          “What’s your strike on NDEs?”
          They are phenomena that completely belong to our natural reality – what you called the realm of physics (though it’s rather neurobiology that studies them). Jumping from NDE’s to god are just another example of what a famous compatriot of mine wrote:

          “deriving a divine world from the concrete one requires a salto mortale”.
          Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, deconverted theologian, about 125 years ago.

          “In what is that a problem ? You can make deduction without having all the fact.”
          Facts have nothing to do with deduction. This is a category error. Deduction begins with assumptions – axiomata in math – which cannot be proven and thus can be accepted and rejected as you prefer
          unless you use another, independent and objective method. Induction is the only one I’m aware of and it’s the method applied to facts. So your own example spectacularly fails:

          “If you find an UFO on Jupiter”
          You already have used induction and started the conclusion derived from it with the deduction you subsequently use.
          Now tell me where I can find god in “the realm of physics” – UFO’s on Jupiter belongs to it – oh wait, you already told us that that’s not possible.
          The result is a false analogy. Thanks for highlighting the problem.

        • Marc

          [“but you assume I suck at maths ”
          That’s only your wrong assumption.]

          Based on that :

          [“but I suck at probability theory”
          Obviously, given your rambling on causality.]

          Do you think there was reason to be mislead about your opinion of me at that point? Not that it has that much importance in the big picture…

          [“I did not say what you seem to imagine. Treat me just like a human being”
          Follow your own advise, treat me like a human being, recognize that I’m imperfect, that I hence might misunderstand you and correct my misunderstanding. Your next few sentences are totally superfluous, because their content is build on your wrong assumptions about me. I won’t bother to correct them, as that’s a waste of time and it’s your and not my problem anyway.]

          Yes, I apologize, I tend to be a bit too rough sometimes (did I say always?).

          [“1) what do you call knowledge?
          2) what do you call language?”
          Good questions. Knowledge is the result of two independent and objective methods. The only two I ever have heard of are deduction and induction. When both paths arrive at the same conclusion we can say we have knowledge. As math with precious few exceptions (determining the value of pi for instance) is totally deductive it can’t provide knowledge by definition.
          As for math is a language I recommend you

          http://www.cut-the-knot.org/la…]

          Well thanks! I xhall read that asap.

          [“You deny that a question makes sense, so we can forget our question? We should take your word for it?”
          Do you like silly questions that much? I argued for my denial just after the very quote that made you ask this. I don’t know if you suck at math and physics, but I begin to suspect that you suck at comprehensive reading.]

          I am actually getting a bit lost, can be stupid and am getting a bit tired (not of you, just in general terms). Once again, sorry! Some day, I’ll be patient and somewhat thoughtful…

          [“What’s your strike on NDEs?”
          They are phenomena that completely belong to our natural reality – what you called the realm of physics (though it’s rather neurobiology that studies them). Jumping from NDE’s to god are just another example of what a famous compatriot of mine wrote:

          “deriving a divine world from the concrete one requires a salto mortale”.
          Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, deconverted theologian, about 125 years ago.]

          Just a comment on that point: if it were possible to prove through double-blind experiments that someone undergoing NDE could see things while in the ER, would you consider that a proof of an immaterial dimension of life? I heard people wanted to do that kind of tests, I just never saw any account in any journal so far – not that I spend too much time on that question, though. My question is purely gratuitous!

          [“In what is that a problem ? You can make deduction without having all the fact.”
          Facts have nothing to do with deduction. This is a category error. Deduction begins with assumptions – axiomata in math – which cannot be proven and thus can be accepted and rejected as you prefer unless you use another, independent and objective method. Induction is the only one I’m aware of and it’s the method applied to facts. So your own example spectacularly fails:

          “If you find an UFO on Jupiter”
          You already have applied induction to what you observe (“I see this and this there and there – I call it an UFO on Jupiter”) and started with it the deduction you subsequently use to arrive at a conclusion.
          Now tell me where I can find god in “the realm of physics” – UFO’s on Jupiter belongs to it – oh wait, you already told us that that’s not possible.
          The result is a false analogy. Thanks for highlighting the exact problem I pointed out.]

          OK, sorry, I was not speaking in a very technical fashion and my question was a “thought experiment” – I imagined a case, then what can be learned from it? And you may replace deduction with induction in my question, it will indeed be more proper. The point I want to come at is that if you find something that (seems to) breaks natural law (such as the question of NDE above), how far would you be willing to go in terms of induction?
          Because my understanding of the question is that god’s intervention cannot be investigated by systematic experiment with some parameter variation, but it could totally leave traces on its own terms which could be tested. I am sorry, I feel like we’re a bit going in circles, here…

          [What is it, then?”
          Teaching math and physics to children who otherwise would not get taught the two subjects properly. I live and work in

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

          Thus I increase their chances of a better future.]

          Wow, that’s great :-). I would have very personal questions, but at some point I should stop… do you work with an association or in a school ?

          [“do you agree with him?”
          No, but for other reasons then perhaps you. I don’t think reason has much to do with the opposite either. I think it’s mainly a matter of emotion.
          “Well, then, psychopaths may have strange morality… ”
          Don’t you think so? They are famously incapable of empathy. That confirms my view that these things are rather emotional than rational.]

          I disagree with the idea that emotions play a key-role in our view in absolutely no way. But then, how is one to decide what behaviour should be repressed or not, in your opinion? And on what grounds?

          [“plus… what is happiness??”
          As my morals are subjective anyway you can decide that for yourself. I have decided for myself that the way I give meaning to my life contributes enormously to my happiness. So the somewhat ironic situation has arisen that while many people in Moengo are grateful for what I do I am as grateful to them for giving me the opportunity. Without them allowing me to do what I do and appreciate it I would definitely be less happy. I actually was before I settled here.]

          Well, this is not very ironic, IMO… I teach myself and know the happiness it can bring. I just don’t think it’s random, that’s where we differ ;-). What did you do, before, if that’s not too indiscreet?

          [“do you object to religion based on religious wars and other nice stuff of that kind?”
          Yes. I only deny that my objections are objective. I don’t even think that they are very reasonable (ie based on reason), because ultimately they are based on emotion.]

          OK. Thank you for your answer!

        • MNb

          “Based on that”
          My dear, that was something you wrote yourself. Plus math is a lot more than probability theory, while the question causality vs. probability is not a mathematical one.

          “Do you think there was reason to be mislead about your opinion of me at that point?”
          It’s not an opinion or assumption, it’s a conclusion based on what your write yourself. For all I know you may be an expert on analysis. I only talked about your understanding of probability and causality.

          “I tend to be a bit too rough”
          No problem for me at all.

          “Just a comment on that point: if it were possible to prove through double-blind experiments that someone undergoing NDE could see things while in the ER, would you consider that a proof of an immaterial dimension of life?”
          No. Nothing in those experiments has any immaterial component. “See” for instance is something material.

          “I am sorry, I feel like we’re a bit going in circles, here…”
          No, you aren’t – you are just showing again and again that you don’t have a method to decide whether claims are spiritual or not and whether spiritual claims are correct or not. That suits me well.

          “how is one to decide what behaviour should be repressed or not, in your opinion?”
          Parliament issuing laws as far as society goes. My goal of teaching children math and physics as far as my school goes (I teach at a local secondary school indeed). My own moral judgment as far as I go.

          “And on what grounds?”
          Parliament: an orderly society.
          School: enabling me to teach maths and physcics.
          My own behaviour: happiness (and not only of myself).

          “I just don’t think it’s random, that’s where we differ ;-).”
          No, that’s not where we differ. Where we differ is that I don’t look at some extra-material/ natural source. It doesn’t follow that I think it’s random.

          “What did you do, before, if that’s not too indiscreet?”
          Student, teacher in Paramaribo, teacher in The Netherlands, postman in The Netherlands.

        • MNb

          “What is it, then?”
          Teaching math and physics to children who otherwise would not get taught the two subjects properly. I live and work in

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

          Thus I increase their chances of a better future.

          “do you agree with him?”
          No, but for other reasons then perhaps you. I don’t think reason has much to do with the opposite either. I think it’s mainly a matter of emotion.

          “Well, then, psychopaths may have strange morality… ”
          Don’t you think so? They are famously incapable of empathy. That confirms my view that these things are rather emotional than rational.

          “plus… what is happiness??”
          As my morals are subjective anyway you can decide that for yourself. I have decided for myself that the way I give meaning to my life contributes enormously to my happiness. So the somewhat ironic situation has arisen that while many people in Moengo are grateful for what I do I am as grateful to them for giving me the opportunity. Without them allowing me to do what I do and appreciate it I would definitely be less happy. I actually was before I settled here.

          “do you object to religion based on religious wars and other nice stuff of that kind?”
          Yes. I only deny that my objections are objective. I don’t even think that they are very reasonable (ie based on reason), because ultimately they are based on emotion.

    • Greg G.

      1) Math can be used to describe any type of universe.

      2) Physics and the sciences are about the universe we live in. It must be consistent with the math and with reality.

      Science cannot prove or disprove the deistic type of God because the concept is derived to be immune to it. But the omnipotent benevolence or the benevolent omnipotence is incompatible with unnecessary suffering so that type of God can be ruled out.

      Since Aristotle’s causes didn’t lead to much advance over the next 2000 years. Science and technology expanded exponentially when they began to concentrate on just the efficient causes that go down to the uncaused quantum level.

      Another thing that physics cannot explain is where do the laws of physics come from? Why is there something rather than nothing? These are metaphysical questions.

      It is not necessarily a metaphysical question. It may just be the assumption that the Platonic ideal of nothing is wrong. A stable nothing would require that something maintains the stability and that something means not nothing. So an unstable nothingness is the most basic state of being. We may just be quantum soup based on the mathematical equivalent of nothing.

      The issue with the N-body problem is that it becomes sensitive to rounding errors of finite computers that cannot represent irrational numbers.

      Neuroscience has shown that decisions are made subconsciously long before the conscious mind knows the decision is being made. Consciousness is then driven by the unconscious which responds to brain states and the random errors of the brain’s signal pathways. A signal would be more reliable with a greater diameter but would take up more space and use more energy, too small and the signals are too error-prone to be useful. Natural selection is great at optimizing such things. Allowing some errors with smaller signal channels allows for more brain cells that can do some error correction. Since the error correction will not be perfect, the illusion of creativity and free will can be accounted for.

      What’s more, if something exists beyond the physical world, by definition, physics cannot test it. Two elements that could be interesting to explore the limit of the notion: 1) the famous near-death-experiences, 2) a bunch of miraculous healing that have been declared so by specialists, including atheist ones.

      Ha! Different diseases have different rates of remission. The survivors are over-represented in the population. The better documented a so-called miracle is, the easier they are to refute.

      Anyways, as they say, “la critique est aisée, mais l’art est difficile”: how do you consider life yourself, forgetting all the religious questions?

      The answers religion gives for those questions are baloney.

      You mention slavery. The slavery in the Bible is no better than the slavery of their neighbors at the time. Compare a first century Roman with Jesus’ attitude toward slaves:

      Jesus doesn’t think slaves should even be thanked for their service.

      “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
          — Jesus, Luke 17:7-10

      A Roman pagan writer who thinks of slaves as friends who should be treated well.

      “‘They are slaves,’ people declare. NO, rather they are men.

      ‘Slaves! NO, comrades.

      ‘Slaves! NO, they are unpretentious friends.

      ‘Slaves! NO, they are our fellow-slaves, if one reflects that Fortune has equal rights over slaves and free men alike. That is why I smile at those who think it degrading for a man to dine with his slave.

      But why should they think it degrading? It is only purse-proud etiquette… All night long they must stand about hungry and dumb… They are not enemies when we acquire them; we make them enemies… This is the kernel of my advice: Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters.

      ‘He is a slave.’ His soul, however, may be that of a free man.”

          — Seneca the Younger (4 BC – 65 AD), Epistulae Morales, 47.

      Jesus didn’t even care about beating a slave, as long the one beaten for no reason wasn’t beaten as severely.

      Luke 12:47-48 (NRSV)47 That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

      • Marc

        [1) Math can be used to describe any type of universe.]

        … that obeys mathematical laws… but then, why should any mathematical law exists in the first place?

        [2) Physics and the sciences are about the universe we live in. It must be consistent with the math and with reality.]

        Well I can’t disagree with that…

        [Science cannot prove or disprove the deistic type of God because the concept is derived to be immune to it.]

        Said concept existed before. And it is not “built” to be immune to it. Neither is history : they’re just different topics on which science cannot say anything. But history does exist, even though physics has nothing to say about it.

        [But the omnipotent benevolence or the benevolent omnipotence is incompatible with unnecessary suffering so that type of God can be ruled out.]

        Interesting… how do you know whether a suffering is necessary or not? We don’t have the big picture, as far as I know. To believe means to trust. These two words have the same root in French, actually, but, more to the point, in a biblical perspective, one dimension of faith is trust. Trust that nothing is lost, we just don’t know how things will be dealt with: that’s not for us to know, now.

        [Since Aristotle’s causes didn’t lead to much advance over the next 2000 years. Science and technology expanded exponentially when they began to concentrate on just the efficient causes that go down to the uncaused quantum level.]

        Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

        [ Another thing that physics cannot explain is where do the laws of physics come from? Why is there something rather than nothing? These are metaphysical questions.

        It is not necessarily a metaphysical question. It may just be the assumption that the Platonic ideal of nothing is wrong. A stable nothing would require that something maintains the stability and that something means not nothing. So an unstable nothingness is the most basic state of being. We may just be quantum soup based on the mathematical equivalent of nothing.]

        I don’t see how assuming that any law – be it quantum – exists means “nothing” : in this way, you’ve postulated implicitly that something exists…

        [The issue with the N-body problem is that it becomes sensitive to rounding errors of finite computers that cannot represent irrational numbers.]

        And? I know, this is called chaos theory. It starts with the 3-body problems, you don’t have to go very far to get that problem…

        [Neuroscience has shown that decisions are made subconsciously long before the conscious mind knows the decision is being made.]

        What I read on that question is that for the short term – according to Libet – proposition of actions are built subconsciously but there is a short period of time -a few 100 of ms- during which it is still possible to consciously cancel the corresponding decision.
        One point that annoys me in this kind of experiments, though, is that they want to extend a very narrow definition of freedom (an imposed act: press on the left or the right button) to all of our identity… this seems a bit far-fetched. I am not discussing its interest, though, and I understand that it is the way to go and that it will take time to understand brain’s dynamic fully.
        At another level, works on attention (awareness ?) -see JP Lachaux- tend to show that our brain activity is divided between concious and none concious tasks and that we may develop our level of attention/awareness (sorry, the word in French is “attention” but I am not too sure of the right one to use in English) by meditation techniques and training, which will gradually populate our brain/mind with different ideas. So to speak, there is a “long term freedom”.
        Also, the conscious procedures are much slower, so the brain finds automatic sub-concious paths as soon as possible and hence there are two kinds of tasks: automated ones and non automated ones – which echoes strongly with the experiments where they necessarily ask the subject to realize extremely automated tasks…
        All in all, this is absolutely OK when compared to the old spiritual notions of vice and virtue…

        [Consciousness is then driven by the unconscious which responds to brain states and the random errors of the brain’s signal pathways. A signal would be more reliable with a greater diameter but would take up more space and use more energy, too small and the signals are too error-prone to be useful. Natural selection is great at optimizing such things. Allowing some errors with smaller signal channels allows for more brain cells that can do some error correction. Since the error correction will not be perfect, the illusion of creativity and free will can be accounted for.]

        Based on what I put forward up there, I do not see that one can say so bluntly that “free will is accounted for”. Whereas creativity is a reality (unless our minds never produced anything, but then what are planes, books, sciences and etc. ? They were not there before us… So it seems that we did create something – abstract and/or concrete – and that our creativity is not an illusion. What might be an illusion is that we are in total control of ourselves, but I know of no spiritual tradition that suggested such an idea…

        [ What’s more, if something exists beyond the physical world, by definition, physics cannot test it. Two elements that could be interesting to explore the limit of the notion: 1) the famous near-death-experiences, 2) a bunch of miraculous healing that have been declared so by specialists, including atheist ones.

        Ha! Different diseases have different rates of remission. The survivors are over-represented in the population. The better documented a so-called miracle is, the easier they are to refute.]

        Well, then, I suggest you go to Lourdes and study the cases that have been officially acknowledged as miraculous by a board of specialists – including nonbelievers physicians… Because they find some rather odd remission according to their own experience and knowledge.

        [ Anyways, as they say, “la critique est aisée, mais l’art est difficile”: how do you consider life yourself, forgetting all the religious questions?

        The answers religion gives for those questions are baloney.]

        Mmmmh… this is a very definitive statement. I understand that you went through spiritual initiation for a long time, you practiced meditation or prayers long enough and studied the work/story of other great spiritual masters to draw such conclusions?

        [You mention slavery. The slavery in the Bible is no better than the slavery of their neighbors at the time. Compare a first century Roman with Jesus’ attitude toward slaves:
        Jesus doesn’t think slaves should even be thanked for their service.
        “Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here at once and take your place at the table’? Would you not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink’? Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, ‘We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!’”
        — Jesus, Luke 17:7-10]

        Well, the problem with taking things out of context is that your interpretation quickly ceases to make any sense. First, in this part, Jesus tells us to say “We are worthless slaves”: does he really mean that? He also told us to call god “dad”… so he is clearly trying to make a point about the way we see ourselves, here, not a social statement. The fact that you’d want Jesus to talk about slavery here is your own idea, but in this context that’s not the question raised by J : he is using a then everyday life example to teach a spiritual notion. And he uses really harsh words, as he often does, to make his point. More generally, the message of J is hardly social, it is mainly spiritual and holds a strong logic, although it is expressed in terms that often seem foreign to us because we do not know the context well enough and the rhetoric rules of the time. What’s more, AT and NT are written with very different narrating styles (myths, wisdom, poetry, prophets, letters, parables, etc.) and each of this type of text must be analyzed according to the rules of its category. As often, your interpretation of J says more about you than about J… (I include myself, in the lot, though, please, don’t take that as an attack, it is just an rather old saying about personal interpretation…)

        [A Roman pagan writer who thinks of slaves as friends who should be treated well.
        “‘They are slaves,’ people declare. NO, rather they are men.
        ‘Slaves! NO, comrades.
        ‘Slaves! NO, they are unpretentious friends.
        ‘Slaves! NO, they are our fellow-slaves, if one reflects that Fortune has equal rights over slaves and free men alike. That is why I smile at those who think it degrading for a man to dine with his slave.
        But why should they think it degrading? It is only purse-proud etiquette… All night long they must stand about hungry and dumb… They are not enemies when we acquire them; we make them enemies… This is the kernel of my advice: Treat your inferiors as you would be treated by your betters.
        ‘He is a slave.’ His soul, however, may be that of a free man.”
        — Seneca the Younger (4 BC – 65 AD), Epistulae Morales, 47.]

        Beautiful text, I did not know it, so thanks for that!

        [Jesus didn’t even care about beating a slave, as long the one beaten for no reason wasn’t beaten as severely.
        Luke 12:47-48 (NRSV)
        47 That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. 48 But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.]

        You are lost in Jesus rhetoric… and once again you take things out of context. This whole chapter is about being ready for the return of Christ: it is an apocalyptic discussion, not a social one. Jesus is here making the point that punishment is proportional to one’s conscience of his duty. It is not a social stand.
        If you look carefully at the NT, he does not propose any social way of organizing society nor will its followers. He is interested in what is in the heart of men. Social conventions will evolve – and they have – but the human heart remains basically the same, and so does everyone’s spiritual journey. If you want to know (if you don’t already) how many slaves do presently work for you, go check it there: http://slaveryfootprint.org . Where do you stand in terms of lifestyle, then? (I don’t expect an answer on that one, this very personal, but then…)

        PS – how do you quote ? I don’t know how to do that and I guess it would make everyone’s life a little easier…

        • MNb

          “why should any mathematical law exists in the first place?”
          I already told you – because some human beings accepted five axiomata, applied deduction and arrived at conclusions. Saying that Pythagoras’ Theorem exists in any other way is just meaningless.

          “Neither is history : they’re just different topics on which science cannot say anything. But history does exist, even though physics has nothing to say about it.”
          Repeating this nonsense doesn’t make it any less nonsense. I showed you incorrect on this underneath.

          “how do you know whether a suffering is necessary or not?”
          How do you know suffering like this is necessary?

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

          I say it’s unnecessary suffering because nobody and nothing benefits from it, while the antelope would have been better off dying immediately.

        • Marc

          [“why should any mathematical law exists in the first place?”
          I already told you – because some human beings accepted five axiomata, applied deduction and arrived at conclusions. Saying that Pythagoras’ Theorem exists in any other way is just meaningless.]

          Sorry, I was not clear enough: why should any thinkable mathematical law act in any way and produce any reality at all? Why such laws and not others? What do these laws act upon?

          Other philosophical questions: what is the status of maths? Do these objects really exist?

          [“Neither is history : they’re just different topics on which science cannot say anything. But history does exist, even though physics has nothing to sayabout it.”
          Repeating this nonsense doesn’t make it any less nonsense. I showed you incorrect on this underneath.]

          Sorry, if you could have a little patience, I can’t answer to something I have not read yet, and I am currently answering to quite a bunch of messages… Thanks for your understanding !

        • adam

          ” why should any thinkable mathematical law act in any way and produce any reality at all? ”

          mathmatical ‘law’ is the observation of how reality works by man.

        • MNb

          Mathematics don’t produce any reality. See Adam underneath.

          “what is the status of maths?”
          I already told you. It’s a language.
          “Do these objects really exist?”
          Of course, if only in our heads. What’s in our heads is also part of our material/ natural reality.

        • Marc

          It is an impressive film!
          Anyway, as far as I am concerned I don’t pretend I know all the answers – only god or no one does, for that matter.

          The question of pain and suffering in christianity is not answered primarily at a theoretical/systemic level (even if there are plenty of thoughts about this) but as an existential question. Christ does not explain suffering philosophically: he comes to suffer (he is the prey, in that story), hence god suffers with us. And the christian view of life is not bounded to present time only and I trust that sense will come out of that afterwards. Time will tell. My lot is to do what I can where I am – which includes trying to understand things – but I don’t hold the answer to “the life, the universe and everything”, unless it is 42.

        • MNb

          “but as an existential question.”
          As far as I can see the antelope totally existed.

          “I trust that sense will come out of that afterwards.”
          Ie abandon reason here and now. OK, it’s laudible that you admit not knowing the answer to this video. I do know. There is no god. It’s the more reasonable explanation. It contributes to the ambition you formulated: “trying to understand things” – something you gave up the moment you wrote “I trust that ….” Granted, it’s not decisive. It may be possible to formulate a coherent and consistent story why god allows the antelope to suffer.
          But it’s evidence in the direction of atheism, not the other way round.

        • Greg G.

          I won’t have time to respond completely at this time so I’ll hit a few.

          … that obeys mathematical laws… but then, why should any mathematical law exists in the first place?

          If there was a god, there would be no need for mathematical laws or logical consistency. Birds made of lead could fly without flapping their wings.

          For us to have evolved, natural selection and the laws of chemistry would have to be consistent. So we live in a universe with consistent patterns whether there is a god or not. Occam’s Razor favors the “Universe with Consistent Laws” over “Universe with Consistent Laws AND a God”.

          Said concept existed before. And it is not “built” to be immune to it. Neither is history : they’re just different topics on which science cannot say anything. But history does exist, even though physics has nothing to say about it.

          There are different types of Yahweh, Jehovah, and Elohim have different characteristics that appear to have evolved over time. The book of Hebrews uses Platonic ideals which are immune from evidence. There are believers around the world that believe the Bible is inerrant and that Noah’s Flood was actually a world-wide flood. Progressive Christians accept that the Bible is not literally true as science has shown but they hold on to claims just because they are immune from evidence.

          To quote as I do use the HTML pair of tags <blockquote></blockquote> with the quoted text in between. <blockquote>Hello, world.</blockquote> will appear as

          Hello, world.

          You can do bold using the letter “b”, italics using “i”, underline using “u” and some other HTML but the whole suite of tags are not available in Disqus.

        • Greg G.

          Another important tag is <a hrer=”YourURL”>Any Text or Article Title</a> to make descriptive links. Using <a></a> surrounding some text will make the text the color the blog uses for links. To combine this tag with others, the others should be within it, not surrounding the “a” tag.

          Interesting… how do you know whether a suffering is necessary or not?

          The question is only meaningful if there is supposed to be an omnipotent being. What can suffering do that an omnipotence cannot do? What can suffering do that your god cannot do without it? If suffering is necessary, then God is weak. If God is not weak, then no suffering is necessary. An omnipotent god could prevent all forms of suffering as easily as not doing it. Then the existence of suffering becomes a sadistic choice.

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          The other Aristotlean causes have no practical use except for justifying religion. But some quantum reactions are not caused so teleological causes are not necessary.

          I don’t see how assuming that any law – be it quantum – exists means “nothing” : in this way, you’ve postulated implicitly that something exists…

          If there was ever a perfect nothingness, we wouldn’t be around to question why nothing exists, therefore either nothingness is inherently unstable or something capable of creating the multiverse existed. There are mathematical models that indicate that space and energy are opposite of each other as space is the potential energy of the energy of matter but with the opposite sign. So space and energy can come into being without violating conservation of energy. It could just as easily be a natural event as from a conscious being capable of monitoring billions of people.

          And? I know, this is called chaos theory. It starts with the 3-body problems, you don’t have to go very far to get that problem…

          And the problem might go away if we could represent irrational numbers precisely. Your god who created the mathematical laws overlooked giving us that ability. That invalidates the argument for god from mathematical laws.

          What I read on that question is that for the short term – according to Libet – proposition of actions are built subconsciously but there is a short period of time -a few 100 of ms- during which it is still possible to consciously cancel the corresponding decision.

          The subconscious consists of many independent processes monitoring all aspects and needs of the body. Each are trying to get their need addressed by the mind. So the decision to cancel the actions of one subconscious impetus likely comes from another subconscious need. Also, the diameters of the dendrites that carry the brain signals allow for errors due to the expense for oxygen, fuel, and weight considerations for more reliable signals so the error correction mechanism might alter the choice, which would seem like an exercise of will when it was just an illusion caused by a random event.

          Based on what I put forward up there, I do not see that one can say so bluntly that “free will is accounted for”.

          Yes, you can always appeal to magic and an invisible soul as your mechanism.

          Whereas creativity is a reality (unless our minds never produced anything, but then what are planes, books, sciences and etc. ? They were not there before us… So it seems that we did create something – abstract and/or concrete – and that our creativity is not an illusion. What might be an illusion is that we are in total control of ourselves, but I know of no spiritual tradition that suggested such an idea…

          I see it as working like evolution. DNA reporduction is not 100% reliable. There error correcting mechanisms that are not 100% reliable. Sometimes the error correction leaves fatal genes. Most often the mutations are neutral But every so often, one is beneficial. It is those rare beneficial mutations that drive changes in species in a creative process once they are evaluated as beneficial or deleterious by natural selection.

          Creativity would work similarly where our brains have thoughts that are not transmitted or maintained properly. Sometimes the change is better than original thought.

          Well, then, I suggest you go to Lourdes and study the cases that have been officially acknowledged as miraculous by a board of specialists – including nonbelievers physicians… Because they find some rather odd remission according to their own experience and knowledge.

          We have and it appears they are trying to eliminate the embarrassing claims from those but maintaining those that they believe are not obviously wrong.

          Mmmmh… this is a very definitive statement. I understand that you went through spiritual initiation for a long time, you practiced meditation or prayers long enough and studied the work/story of other great spiritual masters to draw such conclusions?

          I have my own experiences and pay more attention to objective claims. I don’t recognize any “great spiritual masters”. They only seem to have mastered double-talk and vague terminology.Another important tag is <a hrer=”YourURL”>Any Text or Article Title</a> to make descriptive links. Using <a></a> surrounding some text will make the text the color the blog uses for links. To combine this tag with others, the others should be within it, not surrounding the “a” tag.

          Interesting… how do you know whether a suffering is necessary or not?

          The question is only meaningful if there is supposed to be an omnipotent being. What can suffering do that an omnipotence cannot do? What can suffering do that your god cannot do without it? If suffering is necessary, then God is weak. If God is not weak, then no suffering is necessary. An omnipotent god could prevent all forms of suffering as easily as not doing it. Then the existence of suffering becomes a sadistic choice.

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          The other Aristotlean causes have no practical use except for justifying religion. But some quantum reactions are not caused so teleological causes are not necessary.

          I don’t see how assuming that any law – be it quantum – exists means “nothing” : in this way, you’ve postulated implicitly that something exists…

          If there was ever a perfect nothingness, we wouldn’t be around to question why nothing exists, therefore either nothingness is inherently unstable or something capable of creating the multiverse existed. There are mathematical models that indicate that space and energy are opposite of each other as space is the potential energy of the energy of matter but with the opposite sign. So space and energy can come into being without violating conservation of energy. It could just as easily be a natural event as from a conscious being capable of monitoring billions of people.

          And? I know, this is called chaos theory. It starts with the 3-body problems, you don’t have to go very far to get that problem…

          And the problem might go away if we could represent irrational numbers precisely. Your god who created the mathematical laws overlooked giving us that ability. That invalidates the argument for god from mathematical laws.

          What I read on that question is that for the short term – according to Libet – proposition of actions are built subconsciously but there is a short period of time -a few 100 of ms- during which it is still possible to consciously cancel the corresponding decision.

          The subconscious consists of many independent processes monitoring all aspects and needs of the body. Each are trying to get their need addressed by the mind. So the decision to cancel the actions of one subconscious impetus likely comes from another subconscious need. Also, the diameters of the dendrites that carry the brain signals allow for errors due to the expense for oxygen, fuel, and weight considerations for more reliable signals so the error correction mechanism might alter the choice, which would seem like an exercise of will when it was just an illusion caused by a random event.

          Based on what I put forward up there, I do not see that one can say so bluntly that “free will is accounted for”.

          Yes, you can always appeal to magic and an invisible soul as your mechanism.

          Whereas creativity is a reality (unless our minds never produced anything, but then what are planes, books, sciences and etc. ? They were not there before us… So it seems that we did create something – abstract and/or concrete – and that our creativity is not an illusion. What might be an illusion is that we are in total control of ourselves, but I know of no spiritual tradition that suggested such an idea…

          I see it as working like evolution. DNA reporduction is not 100% reliable. There error correcting mechanisms that are not 100% reliable. Sometimes the error correction leaves fatal genes. Most often the mutations are neutral But every so often, one is beneficial. It is those rare beneficial mutations that drive changes in species in a creative process once they are evaluated as beneficial or deleterious by natural selection.

          Creativity would work similarly where our brains have thoughts that are not transmitted or maintained properly. Sometimes the change is better than original thought.

          Well, then, I suggest you go to Lourdes and study the cases that have been officially acknowledged as miraculous by a board of specialists – including nonbelievers physicians… Because they find some rather odd remission according to their own experience and knowledge.

          We have and it appears they are trying to eliminate the embarrassing claims from those but maintaining those that they believe are not obviously wrong.

          Mmmmh… this is a very definitive statement. I understand that you went through spiritual initiation for a long time, you practiced meditation or prayers long enough and studied the work/story of other great spiritual masters to draw such conclusions?

          I have my own experiences and pay more attention to objective claims. I don’t recognize any “great spiritual masters”. They only seem to have mastered double-talk and vague terminology.Another important tag is <a hrer=”YourURL”>Any Text or Article Title</a> to make descriptive links. Using <a></a> surrounding some text will make the text the color the blog uses for links. To combine this tag with others, the others should be within it, not surrounding the “a” tag.

          Interesting… how do you know whether a suffering is necessary or not?

          The question is only meaningful if there is supposed to be an omnipotent being. What can suffering do that an omnipotence cannot do? What can suffering do that your god cannot do without it? If suffering is necessary, then God is weak. If God is not weak, then no suffering is necessary. An omnipotent god could prevent all forms of suffering as easily as not doing it. Then the existence of suffering becomes a sadistic choice.

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          The other Aristotlean causes have no practical use except for justifying religion. But some quantum reactions are not caused so teleological causes are not necessary.

          I don’t see how assuming that any law – be it quantum – exists means “nothing” : in this way, you’ve postulated implicitly that something exists…

          If there was ever a perfect nothingness, we wouldn’t be around to question why nothing exists, therefore either nothingness is inherently unstable or something capable of creating the multiverse existed. There are mathematical models that indicate that space and energy are opposite of each other as space is the potential energy of the energy of matter but with the opposite sign. So space and energy can come into being without violating conservation of energy. It could just as easily be a natural event as from a conscious being capable of monitoring billions of people.

          And? I know, this is called chaos theory. It starts with the 3-body problems, you don’t have to go very far to get that problem…

          And the problem might go away if we could represent irrational numbers precisely. Your god who created the mathematical laws overlooked giving us that ability. That invalidates the argument for god from mathematical laws.

          What I read on that question is that for the short term – according to Libet – proposition of actions are built subconsciously but there is a short period of time -a few 100 of ms- during which it is still possible to consciously cancel the corresponding decision.

          The subconscious consists of many independent processes monitoring all aspects and needs of the body. Each are trying to get their need addressed by the mind. So the decision to cancel the actions of one subconscious impetus likely comes from another subconscious need. Also, the diameters of the dendrites that carry the brain signals allow for errors due to the expense for oxygen, fuel, and weight considerations for more reliable signals so the error correction mechanism might alter the choice, which would seem like an exercise of will when it was just an illusion caused by a random event.

          Based on what I put forward up there, I do not see that one can say so bluntly that “free will is accounted for”.

          Yes, you can always appeal to magic and an invisible soul as your mechanism.

          Whereas creativity is a reality (unless our minds never produced anything, but then what are planes, books, sciences and etc. ? They were not there before us… So it seems that we did create something – abstract and/or concrete – and that our creativity is not an illusion. What might be an illusion is that we are in total control of ourselves, but I know of no spiritual tradition that suggested such an idea…

          I see it as working like evolution. DNA reporduction is not 100% reliable. There error correcting mechanisms that are not 100% reliable. Sometimes the error correction leaves fatal genes. Most often the mutations are neutral But every so often, one is beneficial. It is those rare beneficial mutations that drive changes in species in a creative process once they are evaluated as beneficial or deleterious by natural selection.

          Creativity would work similarly where our brains have thoughts that are not transmitted or maintained properly. Sometimes the change is better than original thought.

        • Greg G.

          I had to break up my reply into two parts to get it to post. That is the first time that has happened.

          Well, then, I suggest you go to Lourdes and study the cases that have been officially acknowledged as miraculous by a board of specialists – including nonbelievers physicians… Because they find some rather odd remission according to their own experience and knowledge.

          We have and it appears they are trying to eliminate the embarrassing claims from those but maintaining those that they believe are not obviously wrong.

          Mmmmh… this is a very definitive statement. I understand that you went through spiritual initiation for a long time, you practiced meditation or prayers long enough and studied the work/story of other great spiritual masters to draw such conclusions?

          I have my own experiences and pay more attention to objective claims. I don’t recognize any “great spiritual masters”. They only seem to have mastered double-talk and vague terminology.Another important tag is <a hrer=”YourURL”>Any Text or Article Title</a> to make descriptive links. Using <a></a> surrounding some text will make the text the color the blog uses for links. To combine this tag with others, the others should be within it, not surrounding the “a” tag.

          Interesting… how do you know whether a suffering is necessary or not?

          The question is only meaningful if there is supposed to be an omnipotent being. What can suffering do that an omnipotence cannot do? What can suffering do that your god cannot do without it? If suffering is necessary, then God is weak. If God is not weak, then no suffering is necessary. An omnipotent god could prevent all forms of suffering as easily as not doing it. Then the existence of suffering becomes a sadistic choice.

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          The other Aristotlean causes have no practical use except for justifying religion. But some quantum reactions are not caused so teleological causes are not necessary.

          I don’t see how assuming that any law – be it quantum – exists means “nothing” : in this way, you’ve postulated implicitly that something exists…

          If there was ever a perfect nothingness, we wouldn’t be around to question why nothing exists, therefore either nothingness is inherently unstable or something capable of creating the multiverse existed. There are mathematical models that indicate that space and energy are opposite of each other as space is the potential energy of the energy of matter but with the opposite sign. So space and energy can come into being without violating conservation of energy. It could just as easily be a natural event as from a conscious being capable of monitoring billions of people.

          And? I know, this is called chaos theory. It starts with the 3-body problems, you don’t have to go very far to get that problem…

          And the problem might go away if we could represent irrational numbers precisely. Your god who created the mathematical laws overlooked giving us that ability. That invalidates the argument for god from mathematical laws.

          What I read on that question is that for the short term – according to Libet – proposition of actions are built subconsciously but there is a short period of time -a few 100 of ms- during which it is still possible to consciously cancel the corresponding decision.

          The subconscious consists of many independent processes monitoring all aspects and needs of the body. Each are trying to get their need addressed by the mind. So the decision to cancel the actions of one subconscious impetus likely comes from another subconscious need. Also, the diameters of the dendrites that carry the brain signals allow for errors due to the expense for oxygen, fuel, and weight considerations for more reliable signals so the error correction mechanism might alter the choice, which would seem like an exercise of will when it was just an illusion caused by a random event.

          Based on what I put forward up there, I do not see that one can say so bluntly that “free will is accounted for”.

          Yes, you can always appeal to magic and an invisible soul as your mechanism.

          Whereas creativity is a reality (unless our minds never produced anything, but then what are planes, books, sciences and etc. ? They were not there before us… So it seems that we did create something – abstract and/or concrete – and that our creativity is not an illusion. What might be an illusion is that we are in total control of ourselves, but I know of no spiritual tradition that suggested such an idea…

          I see it as working like evolution. DNA reporduction is not 100% reliable. There error correcting mechanisms that are not 100% reliable. Sometimes the error correction leaves fatal genes. Most often the mutations are neutral But every so often, one is beneficial. It is those rare beneficial mutations that drive changes in species in a creative process once they are evaluated as beneficial or deleterious by natural selection.

          Creativity would work similarly where our brains have thoughts that are not transmitted or maintained properly. Sometimes the change is better than original thought.

          Well, then, I suggest you go to Lourdes and study the cases that have been officially acknowledged as miraculous by a board of specialists – including nonbelievers physicians… Because they find some rather odd remission according to their own experience and knowledge.

          We have and it appears they are trying to eliminate the embarrassing claims from those but maintaining those that they believe are not obviously wrong.

          Mmmmh… this is a very definitive statement. I understand that you went through spiritual initiation for a long time, you practiced meditation or prayers long enough and studied the work/story of other great spiritual masters to draw such conclusions?

          I have my own experiences and pay more attention to objective claims. I don’t recognize any “great spiritual masters”. They only seem to have mastered double-talk and vague terminology.Another important tag is <a hrer=”YourURL”>Any Text or Article Title</a> to make descriptive links. Using <a></a> surrounding some text will make the text the color the blog uses for links. To combine this tag with others, the others should be within it, not surrounding the “a” tag.

          Interesting… how do you know whether a suffering is necessary or not?

          The question is only meaningful if there is supposed to be an omnipotent being. What can suffering do that an omnipotence cannot do? What can suffering do that your god cannot do without it? If suffering is necessary, then God is weak. If God is not weak, then no suffering is necessary. An omnipotent god could prevent all forms of suffering as easily as not doing it. Then the existence of suffering becomes a sadistic choice.

          Yes, precisely. And? One cause does not invalidate the others… that’s absolutely obvious as soon as you start building stuff: a final cause appears. Indeed, you can’t use it abstractly, but it does exist nonetheless… I don’t quite get your point… ?

          The other Aristotlean causes have no practical use except for justifying religion. But some quantum reactions are not caused so teleological causes are not necessary.

          I don’t see how assuming that any law – be it quantum – exists means “nothing” : in this way, you’ve postulated implicitly that something exists…

          If there was ever a perfect nothingness, we wouldn’t be around to question why nothing exists, therefore either nothingness is inherently unstable or something capable of creating the multiverse existed. There are mathematical models that indicate that space and energy are opposite of each other as space is the potential energy of the energy of matter but with the opposite sign. So space and energy can come into being without violating conservation of energy. It could just as easily be a natural event as from a conscious being capable of monitoring billions of people.

          And? I know, this is called chaos theory. It starts with the 3-body problems, you don’t have to go very far to get that problem…

          And the problem might go away if we could represent irrational numbers precisely. Your god who created the mathematical laws overlooked giving us that ability. That invalidates the argument for god from mathematical laws.

          What I read on that question is that for the short term – according to Libet – proposition of actions are built subconsciously but there is a short period of time -a few 100 of ms- during which it is still possible to consciously cancel the corresponding decision.

          The subconscious consists of many independent processes monitoring all aspects and needs of the body. Each are trying to get their need addressed by the mind. So the decision to cancel the actions of one subconscious impetus likely comes from another subconscious need. Also, the diameters of the dendrites that carry the brain signals allow for errors due to the expense for oxygen, fuel, and weight considerations for more reliable signals so the error correction mechanism might alter the choice, which would seem like an exercise of will when it was just an illusion caused by a random event.

          Based on what I put forward up there, I do not see that one can say so bluntly that “free will is accounted for”.

          Yes, you can always appeal to magic and an invisible soul as your mechanism.

          Whereas creativity is a reality (unless our minds never produced anything, but then what are planes, books, sciences and etc. ? They were not there before us… So it seems that we did create something – abstract and/or concrete – and that our creativity is not an illusion. What might be an illusion is that we are in total control of ourselves, but I know of no spiritual tradition that suggested such an idea…

          I see it as working like evolution. DNA reporduction is not 100% reliable. There error correcting mechanisms that are not 100% reliable. Sometimes the error correction leaves fatal genes. Most often the mutations are neutral But every so often, one is beneficial. It is those rare beneficial mutations that drive changes in species in a creative process once they are evaluated as beneficial or deleterious by natural selection.

          Creativity would work similarly where our brains have thoughts that are not transmitted or maintained properly. Sometimes the change is better than original thought.

          Well, then, I suggest you go to Lourdes and study the cases that have been officially acknowledged as miraculous by a board of specialists – including nonbelievers physicians… Because they find some rather odd remission according to their own experience and knowledge.

          We have and it appears they are trying to eliminate the embarrassing claims from those but maintaining those that they believe are not obviously wrong.

          Mmmmh… this is a very definitive statement. I understand that you went through spiritual initiation for a long time, you practiced meditation or prayers long enough and studied the work/story of other great spiritual masters to draw such conclusions?

          I have my own experiences and pay more attention to objective claims. I don’t recognize any “great spiritual masters”. They only seem to have mastered double-talk and vague terminology.

          Well, the problem with taking things out of context is that your interpretation quickly ceases to make any sense.

          What context does assuming that an owner would not invite a slave to join him for dinner make sense? Even Romans of the time would do that. When Jesus says, “We are worthless slaves,” he is certainly using that as a metaphor for our condition.

          so he is clearly trying to make a point about the way we see ourselves, here, not a social statement.

          A social statement would have been to say something equivalent to Seneca the Younger. It seems to be an endorsement of the social situation.

          You are lost in Jesus rhetoric… and once again you take things out of context.

          There is no context that makes that acceptable. Jesus accepts beating slaves for no good reason and condemns thought crimes, such as lust or anger, that harm nobody. A person who saw that beating slaves a little for doing nothing wrong would not use that as a metaphor without condemning it.

          If you look carefully at the NT, he does not propose any social way of organizing society nor will its followers.

          The gospel authors had no great ideas about transforming society so there are no great ideas from Jesus about that. They accepted the way things were and gave their ideas to Jesus in their stories.

          slaveryfootpring.org said I had 23 slaves working for me. Does that mean I have the equivalent of 23 full-time slaves? Some of the clothes I wear are not new. I often wear a pair of jeans with a small hole at the knee. I remember the incident that caused that happening when the jeans were new about twenty years ago.

    • Pofarmer

      So, I see you’re a Thomist, more or less. Probably Catholic.

      “What’s more, if something exists beyond the physical world, by definition, physics cannot test it. ”

      Then we just move on. If we can’t observe it, then it is of no consequence. How can something that we can’t observe affect is?

      “the famous near-death-experiences, ”

      Yeah, those can be replicated. Sorry.

      • Marc

        [So, I see you’re a Thomist, more or less. Probably Catholic.]
        Yes, and, even worse : French.

        [Then we just move on. If we can’t observe it, then it is of no consequence. How can something that we can’t observe affect is?]

        I did not say “observe” I said test – I hope I am understanding that word properly. The point I want to make is that a spiritual reality would be beyond testing by scientific means : you can’t build an accelerator that will produce “spiritual particles”. But we may experience it in our personal lives and it may leave other kinds of traces.

        [Yeah, those can be replicated. Sorry.]

        Would you have references on that particular point? This particular subject is of particular interest to me.

        [Which bunch of miraculous healings?]

        Wel, you could check Marie Bailly’s (witnessed by Alexis Carrel, Nobel laureate in medicine and rather not christian, to say the least), or remission of a multiple sclerosis with 100% invalidity for more than a decade…
        You can check Lourdes website. Miracles are determined by a
        commission of experts including non believers. The conclusion is
        phrased “remission with no scientific explanation as of today”, or
        something like that. 69 have been officially recognized today.

        • Greg G.

          I did not say “observe” I said test – I hope I am understanding that word properly. The point I want to make is that a spiritual reality would be beyond testing by scientific means : you can’t build an accelerator that will produce “spiritual particles”. But we may experience it in our personal lives and it may leave other kinds of traces.

          That sounds like it’s all in your head. If you can’t imagine it works, it doesn’t work. If you get what you want, pretend it’s from God, otherwise be patient. Only count the hits and forget about the misses. It is the worst possible way to test prayer. But when you test it’s supposed effects while eliminating biases that lead to false positives, you eliminate all positives. Your explanation seems to rely on counting false positives and nothing but false positives.

          Multiple Sclerosis is known to go into remission often. Something like 20% never have a relapse. Any miracle claim involving MS is likely to be a spontaneous symptom of the disease. Why don’t we see similar rates of legs growing back in humans the way they grow back on newts?

          Bob did a recent article on Lourdes. Considering the number of people who go there with only a few dozen miracles, a person is more likely to die in an accident on the way than to be cured. Its cure rate doesn’t reach the spontaneous remission rate of most diseases.

          The examples you have for the success for prayer are good examples of how believers fool themselves into maintaining their faith.

        • Marc

          [That sounds like it’s all in your head. If you can’t imagine it works, it doesn’t work.]

          What does “work” mean ? Sorry, I just don’t understand your point…

          [If you get what you want, pretend it’s from God, otherwise be patient. Only count the hits and forget about the misses. It is the worst possible way to test prayer.]

          Prayer is not primarily about getting things done… Try zen meditation, if you haven’t already, if you want to check something outside of the religious that has a spiritual dimension. Prayer is like a strawberry: I can describe its taste as much as I want, you’ll never know it until you try it. And the fact that you can know only subjectively does not make it false or not real…

          [But when you test it’s supposed effects while eliminating biases that lead to false positives, you eliminate all positives. Your explanation seems to rely on counting false positives and nothing but false positives.]

          Once again, spiritual life is not primarily a question of efficiency. From a christian perspective, it is a matter of love. What does efficiency mean in love? So does it in prayer.

          [Multiple Sclerosis is known to go into remission often. Something like 20% never have a relapse. Any miracle claim involving MS is likely to be a spontaneous symptom of the disease. Why don’t we see similar rates of legs growing back in humans the way they grow back on newts?]

          Well, check the file… apparently specialists were rather impressed, but I am no specialist and cannot it discuss it much further.

          What about NDE, BTW ? You said they were reproducible and I’d really be interested in that as the few books I read on that question have been written by people convinced of their reality, I’d like to read critical ideas on them (pretty much what I am doing here…), so if you have good references…?

          [Bob did a recent article on Lourdes. Considering the number of people who go there with only a few dozen miracles,]

          Be careful, that’s a few dozen officially acknowledged. There are way more submitted (7000 are still waiting, including 2500 declared unexplained but not “acknowledged”) and even more occurring. But the rules for official submission and recognition are rather severe. For recognition, from a medical perspective (there is also a theological one), they are the following:
          1. disease must severe and impossible or almost impossible to cure
          2. disease must not be in its final step that would then naturally be followed by recovery
          3. medications must not have been taken or must have been proven inefficient
          4. healing must be sudden and instantaneous
          5. healing must be perfect
          6. it must not have been preceded by a crisis or a notable “évacuation” (I don’t understand the French word in that context – I guess it is medical)
          7. disease should not come back

          The committee is international and composed of specialists from France, Switzerland, US, UK, most of them being professor in universities. That’s all I know. Then, if one wants to discuss specific cases, one has to study a file in details…

          [a person is more likely to die in an accident on the way than to be cured. Its cure rate doesn’t reach
          the spontaneous remission rate of most diseases.]

          ?? And ?? The question is not purely statistical. Each case must be studied carefully and the case of natural remission for today’s neurodegenerative diseases apparently (from what I just read) makes the committee very careful concerning those claims and slows down even more the process…

          [The examples you have for the success for prayer are good examples of how believers fool themselves into maintaining their faith.]

          Well, I don’t see how you can anything of my inner life, or any else’s for that matter…
          And if you want rather interesting personal stories, you can check mystics and saints.

          The problem with all this is “how do you design an experiment that proves that I love you?” If this seems an odd way to put things, it is the very level at which spiritual life makes sense. But then, if you discard love, freedom and all other nonsenses there is, indeed, nothing left…

        • adam

          “What does “work” mean ? Sorry, I just don’t understand your point…”

          Function withing Reality..not IMAGINATION.

        • MNb

          “Prayer is like a strawberry”
          And again you can only talk about spiritual phenomena in material/ natural terms. It’s very telling.

        • Greg G.

          What does “work” mean ? Sorry, I just don’t understand your point…

          “Work” means to have your prayer answered in a positive fashion.

          Prayer is not primarily about getting things done… Try zen meditation, if you haven’t already, if you want to check something outside of the religious that has a spiritual dimension.

          Then you aren’t talking about the benefits of prayer described in the NT, you are talking about the benefits of meditation. It is a game of equivocation.

          Once again, spiritual life is not primarily a question of efficiency. From a christian perspective, it is a matter of love. What does efficiency mean in love? So does it in prayer.

          Again, you seem to be taking something else that works and applying the word “prayer” to it in order to be able to say prayer works. It is equivocation.

          What about NDE, BTW ? You said they were reproducible and I’d really be interested in that as the few books I read on that question have been written by people convinced of their reality, I’d like to read critical ideas on them (pretty much what I am doing here…), so if you have good references…?

          I don’t think I have discussed BDEs with you but I have seen articles over the years where similar experiences have been produced by stimulating certain areas of the brain. I have had out-of-body experiences when I was fully engaged in a physical activity that required intense concentration, especially when I had to keep track of my opponent simultaneously. It was like my eyes and hands were working together but independent of my conscious involvement so that I felt like an observer from above.

          The committee is international and composed of specialists from France, Switzerland, US, UK, most of them being professor in universities. That’s all I know. Then, if one wants to discuss specific cases, one has to study a file in details…

          But with as many people who visit the site, the number of cures of “severe and impossible or almost impossible to cure” cases would be within the error bounds of misdiagnosis. There should be some number of misdiagnosed “impossible to cure” healings and a few spontaneous healings of the “almost impossible to cure” cases to give some number of false positives.

          ?? And ?? The question is not purely statistical. Each case must be studied carefully and the case of natural remission for today’s neurodegenerative diseases apparently (from what I just read) makes the committee very careful concerning those claims and slows down even more the process…

          There was a statistic floating around a few years ago about airline travel from airport to airport was safer than the travel from home to the airport and airport to destination. You won’t see how many people have had serious accidents traveling from home to the airport with Lourdes being their intended destination. A commenter provided a link to a train wreck from about a century ago where the first train carrying passengers to Lourdes didn’t carry enough momentum to clear a hill and the brakes couldn’t keep the train from traveling down the hill. The second train was probably accelerating to have momentum to make the top of the hill and plowed into the first train resulting in casualties comparable to the number of “confirmed” miracles.

          Well, I don’t see how you can anything of my inner life, or any else’s for that matter…

          And if you want rather interesting personal stories, you can check mystics and saints.

          No, I would like to have objective evaluations with guards against biases. Your examples seem to have built-in biases as a feature.

          The problem with all this is “how do you design an experiment that proves that I love you?” If this seems an odd way to put things, it is the very level at which spiritual life makes sense. But then, if you discard love, freedom and all other nonsenses there is, indeed, nothing left…

          There have been many experiments done to test the efficacy of prayer and they usually have positive results but there all had inherent flaws that allowed for bias.

          The Templeton Foundation is a Christian organization with the funds and a mission to show that the claims of Christianity can be proven to be compatible with science and philosophy. They designed an experiment that eliminated all the biasing factors of the other experiments with patients being assigned to groups randomly and the doctors evaluating the patients had no idea what group the patient was in. The patients were divided into three groups of about 1500 each, IIRC. One group was prayed for and told they would be prayed for by members of several churches, the second group was not told they were being prayed for, and the third group was not prayed for and not told either way. The differences in the complications of the three groups were not significantly different but the first group, who were informed they were being prayed for came closest to the significant deviation for faring the worst.

          That proves that either intercessory prayer doesn’t work or God maliciously denies healing based on how rigorously the outcomes are being observed. If Christians, or any other religious or spiritual type, have come to believe that intercessory prayer works, it is most likely from confirmation bias of a few cases of where it appeared to work versus all the times it didn’t work. It also suggests that other types of belief in the efficacy of prayer may be derived from the same illusion.

        • MNb

          “The point I want to make is that a spiritual reality would be beyond testing by scientific means.”
          Nor by any other means. So according to your view I am totally justified in postulating spiritual fairies tending the flowers in my backyard, so that they blossom more beautifully. Why accept one and reject another?

          But we may experience it in our personal lives”
          This is incoherent. “Experience” only makes sense in our material/ natural reality – unless you tell us how things in that spiritual reality interact with our material/ natural reality.

          “it may leave other kinds of traces.”
          Traces in our material/ natural reality – which then can be tested by scientific means.
          More incoherence.

          “Miracles are determined by a commission of experts including non believers. The conclusion is phrased “remission with no scientific explanation as of today.”
          Ah – you believe in a god of the gaps. Apparently in his spare time that god of yours entertains himself by juggling with magnets – superconductivity at relatively high temperatures doesn’t have a scientific explanation as of today either.

        • Marc

          If we are spiritual beings, then we can have access to spiritual experiences from that part of our being. Technically, you might exist and feel things in a way, but that subjective view of the world is out of reach of any experimental devices, for all I know. Is it unreal?

          I don’t know exactly what you mean by [“Experience” only makes sense in our material/ natural reality] : you have settled the perimeter beforehand : that of material phenomena…

          [Traces in our material/ natural reality – which then can be tested by scientific means.
          More incoherence.]
          Sorry, I’ll make myself clearer : no experiment can designed that produces a spiritual effect, as an accelerator. Because the very nature of the spiritual world is beyond matter and its laws (if god exists, he is by definition above space, time, matter and our physical laws: if you do not accept that definition, we are just not talking about the same thing). Spirituality is in the love/meaning/self-improvement business, so to speak, and may affect us physically and have verifiable consequences, but not according to our own experimental settings. To put it in another way, miracles may be possible and their consequences checked, we just can’t produce them on our own terms and investigate the way the spiritual world interacts with ours! Because this is, by its very definition, outside of scientific reach concerning its “mechanisms” – whatever that may mean in this context. And realities that are not in the predictive power of physics and not checked by its methods do exist in our world only: human history, for example. The question of checking things only by scientific (here I mean physics/chemistry/biology : experimental sciences) methods is actually false even from a pure knowledge perspective.

        • MNb

          “If we are spiritual beings, then we can have access to spiritual experiences from that part of our being.”
          If there is no method to determine if those experiences are correct or incorrect, not even which experiences are spiritual and not, saying that “we are spiritual beings” is totally void.

          “I don’t know exactly what you mean by [“Experience” only makes sense in our material/ natural reality]”
          Experiences depend on the human senses, thoughts and feelings. All are material/ natural. The experiences you described and allegedly back up your faith all are material/ natural as well, even if we don’t understand them. The Lourdes miracles and NDE’s are examples.
          So you’re not even capable of telling us what you mean with “spiritual experiences”. You’re not capable of telling us how you determine which experiences are spiritual and which ones are not. You don’t have a method to determine which “spiritual experiences” are correct and which ones aren’t. Apparently “spiritual experiences” is a void concept.

          “Spirituality is in the love/meaning/self-improvement business”
          Love, meaning and self-improvement all belong to our material/ natural reality. They can be investigated with the scientific method; mainly psychology and neurobiology. It’s remarkable that you’re only capable of talking about the spiritual reality in natural/ material terms.

          “may affect us physically and have verifiable consequences, but not according to our own experimental settings.”
          How? How does spiritual stuff affect us physically? Which means are used? Which procedures are followed?
          The Zika-virus has affected me physically a couple of months ago. Those experimental settings, called the scientific method, can tell us how. For your spiritual stuff affecting us physically you have nothing but baseless and often even unspecified speculations.

          “miracles may be possible and their consequences checked”
          If I understand you correctly those consequences totally are within the realm of physics. So you are contradicting yourself when you say we can’t use the scientific method – ie comparing inductive conclusions with deductive conclusions.

          “we just can’t ….. investigate the way the spiritual world interacts with ours!”
          Then the reliability of your spiritual claims is exactly zero, just like the reliability of both induction and deduction on their own is exactly zero.

          “This is, by its very definition, outside of scientific reach concerning its “mechanisms” – whatever that may mean in this context.”
          Incoherent again.
          1. You claimed “may affect us physically” – and that’s totally within the scientific reach.
          2. I did not ask you to show how the scientific method can investigate spiritual stuff; I asked you for your method – call it the spiritual method, if you like.

          “And realities that are not in the predictive power of physics and not checked by its methods do exist in our world only: human history, for example.”
          And for the third time you write this contrafactual nonsense. Physics totally has predictive power regarding human history. It predicts for instance that Archimedes couldn’t have set Roman ships on fire using mirrors. It predicts that Noah’s Flood as told in the Bible did not happen globally. It predicts that 2 Chro 13:3-4 is an enormous exaggeration. It tells us how the Egyptians and Mayans build their pyramids and especially how not. It tells us that Pytheas of Massilia very well might have reached the northern coast of Iceland. It tells us that educated people even in 400 CE still understood Archimedes’ Law. Physics (specifically radiometry) unfortunately was not capable to determine if King David was a genuine king – ie lived in and ruled from a palace – or just a tribal chief – due to inaccuracy of the method. Etc.etc.

          “The question of checking things only by scientific (here I mean physics/chemistry/biology : experimental sciences) methods is actually false even from a pure knowledge perspective.”
          False dichotomy. Essentially historical research is the same for physics/chemistry/biology as for history. There is no essential difference between observing a supernova (astronomy is part of physics), digging up a fossil (paleontology is part of biology) and digging up a palace (archeology is part of historical research). Radiometry, used very often in historical research, at the other hand is an experimental science. Oh – and historical research uses reenactment, which (when done properly) is also experimental.
          Worse – this false dichotomy is irrelevant for my point. Everything that happened in human (and non-human) history, from the Big Bang on, belongs to our material/ natural reality. I am asking for a method to research what you call the spiritual reality. You already have more or less admitted that you have none. Hence any spiritual claim of yours is based on baked air.

        • Marc

          PS – concerning gaps, I prefer semi-conductors…

          Anyway, just to say that, no. My faith is based on various things, among which: what I understand of metaphysics, my own inner life and experiments I had in prayer/meditation, things I have witnessed in some peoples’ lives around me, a touch of study of history and philosophy and – necessarily – a jump into the unknown…

          The miracles part is not something that appeals to me as a necessity for my faith. On the other hand, I am extremely interested in NDEs because they have interesting patterns of universality, but once again, this is curiosity, not a research to comfort my own faith…

        • adam

          “My faith is based on various things, among which: what I understand of
          metaphysics, my own inner life and experiments I had in
          prayer/meditation, ”

          Exactly

        • MNb

          “My faith is based on various things, among which: what I understand of metaphysics,”
          And when I asked you which method you use to test your understanding of metaphysics you didn’t answer.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2016/01/10-reasons-to-not-believe-christianity-until-you-believe-in-aliens/#comment-2489297493

          “my own inner life”
          Subjective – I asked for an objective method.

          “and experiments I had in prayer/meditation,”
          Already discussed by others – when done properly such experiments demonstrate nothing.

          “things I have witnessed in some peoples’ lives around me,”
          Lives occur in our natural/ material reality, hence those things can be researched by science. You’re incoherent as you first say that your god is beyond the realm of science and then bring up things within that realm to back up your faith in the realm where your god resides.

          “a touch of study of history”
          For which you don’t have a method, because you explicitely but wrongly stated that history is not science.

          “and philosophy”
          ie baseless speculations.
          In other words – your faith is based on baked air.

        • Pofarmer

          I salute you for being so eloquent on an English blog.

          You do realize, however, that you’re attempting to assert the superiority of a philosophical system that has been supplanted starting around 400 years ago, and is irrelevant except for apologetics today?

  • Michael Neville

    Over 99.999 recurring percent of the universe is hard vacuum at three degrees Kelvin. That’s not fine tuned for any kind of life.

    • MNb

      The smarter versions of fine tuning refer to the about 30 natural constants we find in our Universe.

      • Michael Neville

        The weak anthropic principle covers this but the principle is basically a tautology: If things were different then things would be different.