Is the Puddle Half Smart or Half Stupid?

Two posts commenting on the same image with a quote from Douglas Adams from very different perspectives seemed worth sharing and commenting on in turn. First, here’s the image:

On the one hand, the point about apparent fine-tuning (emphasized at Open Parachute) is a good one. Regarding the universe’s suitability to the existence of ourselves or other organisms as demonstration of purpose doesn’t work, since if the universe couldn’t sustain life like us, then we wouldn’t be here discussing supposed fine tuning!

But on the other hand (as The Deeps of Time highlights), we are here talking about it. Imagine encountering a thinking, talking, philosophizing puddle! The very fact that we can make the error the puddle does – and that some of us can in turn spot the faulty logic – is itself something that cries out not merely or even primarily for explanation (although it does that too) but for a response of awe and wonder at this mystery.

As I’ve said before, there seem to me to be two major approaches to religion. One sees it as answers to big questions, or actually one answer to all of them, namely “God.” The other doesn’t see the need to treat God as the answer to every question, like the proverbial child in Sunday school who was asked “What has pointy ears and a bushy tail?” and did not answer “A squirrel” because they had learned from experience that in Sunday school the answer is always “God” or “Jesus.” Rather, this approach sees in the very fact that science can explain things – that is, we human beings can explain things – a pointer not towards an “answer” but towards a mystery we refer to as God and that elicits our awe, wonder, reverence, and worship.

  • Alethinon61

    James,

    You said:

    “On the one hand, the point about apparent fine-tuning (emphasized at Open Parachute) is a good one.
    Regarding the universe’s suitability to the existence of ourselves or
    other organisms as demonstration of purpose doesn’t work, since if the
    universe couldn’t sustain life like us, then we wouldn’t be here
    discussing supposed fine tuning!”

    Have you heard the popular illustration that seems to undercut the above claim?  Dr. Craig offers the following illustration, borrowed from John Leslie (see “Anthropic Principle, World Ensemble, Design, in American Philosophical Quarterly 19, 1982, p. 150):

    Begin Quote
    Suppose you are dragged before a firing squad of 100
    trained marksmen, all of them with rifles aimed at your heart, to be
    executed. The command is given; you hear the deafening sound of the
    guns. And you observe that you are still alive, that all of the 100 marksmen missed! Now while it is true that

    5. You should not be surprised that you do not observe that you are dead,

    nonetheless it is equally true that

    6. You should be surprised that you do observe that you are alive.

    Since the firing squad’s missing you altogether is extremely improbable, the surprise expressed in (6) is wholly appropriate.
    End Quote

    See the entire article, here:

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/teleo.html#ref16

    ~Kaz

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Kaz, I am aware of the analogy. But I don’t find it particularly helpful, since the question of whether the universe was aiming at us is precisely the question, and so an analogy that simply assumes that to be the case isn’t likely to help people make their minds up. 

      My point, as presumably you understood, is that even in a universe that allows for natural explanations, such as ours seems to be, the very fact that there are beings like ourselves who can ponder the mystery of our existence seems more of a pointer towards God than the fact that if the universe were different, we might not be in it.

      • Danny

        You spoke of the mystery of the universe that we refer to as god that deserves out wonder and awe and worship. When you refer to god in this way are you just speaking as Dawkins does admiring the beauty and wonder of the universe, but in a completely materialistic fashion? Or when you refer to God do you mean a seperate being, whose nature we will never fully understand, who transcends the universe leaving there more meaning then a purely materialistic universe that arose from pure chance? I do not necessarily mean an omnipotent anthropomorphic God, but maybe a panentheistic who is part of the universe but also distinct from it? Thanks

        • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          Danny, It’s a good question, but if it were answerable in a clear and unambiguous manner, presumably the discussions and disagreements already mentioned might not exist, at least not in the form they do now.

          Reality transcends what I and anyone else can fathom, in depth and height (and perhaps in dimensions and directions we cannot even label). Without being able to discern whether reality comes to an end “somewhere” I don’t see that the differences between the various ways of talking about transcendence and the nature of reality can be more than pointers at that which transcends us and created us and which we cannot fathom, perhaps by definition.

          Scott, I don’t see this as a “God of the gaps” approach except in the sense that existence can never be self-explanatory, and so the sense of mystery and perplexity will always be there. I don’t see how that fits the label “God of the gaps” – perhaps we could call it “God of the edges” referring to the edges of what it is possible to explain in principle? But as a mystery rather than an explanation, it is still a very different notion, I think.

          • Danny

            I guess I was wondering what you yourself thought about the question. If you fully believe that we can never really know about the divine if the divine exists, why not identify as an agnostic or atheist since that’s where it seems your thinking leans towards? Or do you believe in something that transcends the universe that we can identify with God as opposed to an atheist who identifies with no gods? Thanks

            • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Sorry for taking a long time to reply, Danny. I don’t think of there being gods in the sense of beings that are very powerful inhabitants of this universe. For me, God is the ultimate reality, Being itself as Tillich would say. And so for me there is no question that there is an ultimate reality – the question is what that Reality is like, whether we can know, and what the role of human language is in exploring and pointing to that ineffable and from our perspective mostly incomprehensible reality.

              • Danny

                Thanks for the response Dr. McGrath. If I can follow your thinking correctly, you must believe that the resurrection of Christ is best explained through naturalistic means because any intervention propelling Christ into the age to come would be impossible because of your understanding of “God?” And thus do you think any Christian eschatological hope for post-mortem redemption for the suffering of this world is out of the question with this understanding?

                • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                  I have explored the challenges related to the resurrection and the idea of afterlife in my book The Burial of Jesus: What Does History Have to Do with Faith?

                  The issue of the progress of scientific approaches to the world in eliminating the need to posit miraculous interventions is indeed an important one. But as a New Testament scholar, for me the bigger issue is the inability of historical study to provide the sort of definite answer about the matter that Christian believers have long desired and hoped for.

                  • John

                    Do you mean the issue of historical study neither being able to confirm nor deny the resurrection which you dont seem seem to posit as historical and thus giving Christians false hope in an unlikely event? I personally think Christianity stands or falls on this event.

                    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

                      If Christianity stands or falls on this event being historical, and historical study cannot provide grounds for affirming it, then we seem to have quite a conundrum.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Chiefley Dudley Chapman

    “Since the firing squad’s missing you altogether is extremely improbable, the surprise expressed in (6) is wholly appropriate.”

    Except we don’t know how improbable life is.

    • Barghest

      “Except we don’t know how improbable life is.”

      The point of universal fine-tuning is that we do know that other combinations of constants (let alone laws) would result in universes that would permit no life. Some would not permit any chemistry, others would not result in enough heavier elements.

  • http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/ Robert Oerter

    People never seem to notice that fine tuning provides an argument AGAINST the existence of God.

    In a naturalistic universe, we must expect the parameters of the laws of nature to be fine-tuned for life: if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be here. But in a universe created by an all-powerful God, it is not necessary that the parameters be fine-tuned for life: since God can do anything, he can create and sustain life even in a universe where the parameters are wildly inappropriate for life.

    See

    http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/2011/10/fine-tuning-supports-naturalism.html

  • spinkham

    I think it’s relevant to a number of your interests how by looking at this quote in isolation, both of these miss what seems to be the driving point of the source material and walk away thinking about the ideas they came to the text with.

    http://migration.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/quote-of-the-day-10/

    In my mind, the most relevant extract:

    This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and
    thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in – an
    interesting hole I find myself in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it?
    In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in
    it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and
    the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller,
    it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going
    to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was
    built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather
    by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.

    –Douglas Adams

    It seems to me to be mostly a statement on existential risk, and how what Sagan calls our “Retreat from Copernicus” in his excellent Gifford lectures imperils us all.

    Our history is a story of great fragility.  Over 95% of all species and almost all cultures are now extinct.  We really see no evidence in the world that we are somehow privileged from following this path, and as our power grows it is increasingly likely that our end will be at our own hand.

    I happened to write about this particular thing on reddit yesterday, in the context of  why I fight against fundamentalism and tend to support progressive belief.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/Christianity/comments/t1fhj/the_fundamentalist_challenge_for_the_21st_century/c4iuehu

    How we think of our place in the universe and the surety under which we hold that belief *matters* more now than ever.

    (edited to fix quote mangled rendering)

  • Scott__F

    While the existence of self-aware religion professors is indeed a case for wonderment, I don’t see it as stronger evidence for God’s existence than any other fine tuning  argument.  The shift from DNA to Intelligence may seem a big one but it pales in comparison to the jump to a creator God.  

    I understand the attraction of Mystery.  However, given the preliminary nature of our understanding human intelligence and the research that increasingly points to a continuum of intelligence from rodents to social carnivores to primates to man, I strongly suspect that this god-of-the-gaps approach will prove as fruitless as other appeals to mystery/ignorance

  • Gary

    Fine tuning is easy to explain (probabilities) for one planet among a billion. Not so easy to explain for one universe and a unique set of physical laws allowing planet and life creation. Kaz’s article is interesting, but dated. Barrow and Tipler’s book was written in 1988. Since then, Barrow has moved toward the World Ensemble of universes, while Tipler has gone off the deep end, equating singularities with God – and ventured away from science and toward philosophy. Physicists do not like singularities. Tipler addresses them with God. Hawking addresses them with no boundary conditions in the equations, which means a universe without boundaries, or a bubbling, multi-universe creation-soup with no boundaries. Both are venturing into philosophy.

  • Alethinon61

    Hi James,

    First, let me apologize for failing to mention that the illustration I posted is best understood within the surrounding context found in the original article by Craig.  Mea culpa. 

    One of the reasons that I find the teleological argument vis a vis cosmology to be a powerful evidence for the existence of God is that it seems to have forced those who are determined to find answers via purely physical causes to posit the absurd (IMO) notion of a world ensemble.  The first time I read about the notion of an infinite number of universes I thought: You’ve got to be kidding me!  Unfortunately, the proponents weren’t kidding.  Perhaps they saw the need to expand probabilistic resources to sustain their commitment to purely physical causes.  I think that this commitment to the meta-physic of purely physical causation is a serious obstacle to scientific progress.     

    ~Kaz 

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I certainly agree that proposing a multiverse makes the problem no better – an infinite number of universes are not more self-explanatory than a single one! It may address the issue of fine tuning, in theory, since there would be bound to be some universe among them in which there were living things pondering how finely tuned their universe is to their existence. But it does not get us any closer to why there is anything at all – one universe, an infinite number, or laws of physics finely tuned to generate an infinite number of universes! :-)

  • Alethinon61

    Good point, James!

  • Alethinon61

    Robert,

    That’s an interesting albeit bizarre argument, but not compelling, IMO.  Perhaps you could explain why a God who wanted to create life would bother creating a universe “inappropriate for life” yet sustain life therein anyway?  I try to put myself in the other guy’s shoes, and, frankly, if I were in God’s shoes and wanted to create life, I can’t think of a single valid reason why I’d chose to create life in a universe “inappropriate for life”, when I could create life in a universe fine tuned for life, unless my only goal were to counter bizarre arguments against my own existence.

    ~Kaz

    • Gakuseidon

       Alethinon61, is even this world fine-tuned for life? Predators, disease, we all die anyway. Arguments against the existence of God are usually based on what happens here, despite this world being fine-tuned for life.

      • Barghest

        “Alethinon61, is even this world fine-tuned for life? Predators, disease, we all die anyway. Arguments against the existence of God are usually based on what happens here, despite this world being fine-tuned for life.”

        Aren’t predators and germs life? (Well okay, it’s arguable for some germs.) But the universe being fine-tuning for life (I suppose you mean “this universe” with “this world”?) doesn’t mean we have a special moral status over predators and germs. That’s another argument.

  • Beau Quilter

    This universe, untold billions of light years across, was finely tuned to allow, on an infinitesimally tiny planet, the development of a slightly intelligent creature, with a life span of barely a breath in the tiny fraction of the history of this little planet in which his species arose to believe that entire universe was made for him, by a divine being, who for all practical purposes, thinks and feels like a human.

    The universe is finely tuned for extreme vanity.

  • Alethinon61

    “Alethinon61, is even this world fine-tuned for life? Predators, disease,
    we all die anyway. Arguments against the existence of God are usually
    based on what happens here, despite this world being fine-tuned for
    life.”

    Hello Gakuseidon, you are probably aware of this already, but issues such as those, and others, like natural disasters, etc, are part of what philosophers refer to as “the problem of evil”.  The problem with the problem of evil as evidence against God’s existence is that without God there wouldn’t seem to be any reason to believe that ‘evil’ and ‘good’ are objective realities.  Without God, there’s just what happens.  A number of philosophers who have argued that God does not exist have pointed this out, and others, like Dr. Craig, would argue that if ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are objective realities, then this constitutes evidence for the existence of God. 

    So, from my perspective, if you side with those philosophers who argue that evil is not objectively real, then you can’t really use the problem of evil as evidence against God’s existence, whereas if you take the argument from evil seriously because you believe that evil is objectively real, then you already have good reason to believe in God’s existence.

    ~Kaz

    • Beau Quilter

      Alethinon61

      Yes, as usual, Dr. Craig confuses the issue.

      The “problem of evil” is not a problem for the nonbeliever. As you say, for the nonbeliever, outside of human experience, objective good and evil have no meaning.

      The “problem of evil” is a only a problem for the believer, who does believe in these objective realities in the face of a supposedly all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing God.

  • Gakuseidon

    Hi Alethinon61. I don’t really see this as part of the Problem Of Evil, unless death is evil. But I would argue that the universe seems fine-tuned for death rather than fine-tuned for life. We will grow old and die. Our child will grow old and die. Everything living will grow old and die in its time. Even the sun will grow cold, the galaxies will fade away; and at the end the universe will experience heat death.

    If God created the universe, then He created something that will die. Personally, since I believe in an afterlife, it isn’t a morbid thought. It’s just that the statement “the universe was fine-tuned for life” is not complete without “and everything in the universe will die”.

  • Alethinon61

    Beau, I think that Dr. Craig’s understanding of the problem of evil is valid.  He has a four-part podcast on his website dedicated to this that you might find helpful, along with a multi-part podcast dealing with the question of whether moral values and duties are objectively real, which compliments the first one quite nicely.   

    IMO, if you take your own viscerally felt disgust over atrocities seriously and believe that “injustice” is an objective reality, then you ought to believe in God, because without him your reaction is merely an outgrowth of human evolution and/or social conditioning.  A number of respected philosophers have conceded that without God, good and evil are merely human conventions (e.g. Dr. William B. Provine).  If this is correct, then when someone commits rape or murder, that person is doing nothing more than acting unsocially.

    ~Kaz

          

    • Beau Quilter

      I’ve read and seen plenty of Dr. Craig, thank you. His arguments are unconvincing and contradictory, not only to me, but to the vast majority of the philosophical community. 

      As far as respected philosophers conceding that good and evil are human conventions without God, well, of course, they are! That’s like conceding that the world is round. But this idea of good and evil as “objective realities” is only important to religious people. For the nonbeliever, good and evil doesn’t have to mean anything on planet X in the next galaxy over – it only has to mean something to us humans, here on earth. The religionist seems to think that morality is somehow devalued as a social construct rather than the “objective” creation of an all powerful deity. The nonbeliever, on the other hand sees the obvious fact that morality has been routinely devalued for thousands of years by the superstition of religion.

      To call rape and murder in a godless world “acting unsocially” is just a word game. To justify rape and murder with religion (as we see in the Old Testament, and in practice throughout the history of religion) is a reality of superstitious people.

      “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” Steven Weinberg

  • Alethinon61

    “I’ve
    read and seen plenty of Dr. Craig, thank you. His arguments are
    unconvincing and contradictory, not only to me, but to the vast majority
    of the philosophical community….As far as respected philosophers conceding that good and evil are
    human conventions without God, well, of course, they are! That’s like
    conceding that the world is round.”

    Interestingly, while you assert that Craig’s arguments are unconvincing to you, you are on his side against a number of philosophers — some of whom he’s debated — who reject the existence of God yet hold that objective moral values exist.
            
    “But this idea of good and evil as
    “objective realities” is only important to religious people.”

    I trust that many philosophers, Christian and otherwise, who contemplate this serious issue would disagree with you.  Additionally, while it’s true that this question is important to Christian philosophers, it’s also true that many come to contemplate the question as a direct response to the use of the problem of evil by atheists as purported evidence against the existence of God.  

    “For the nonbeliever, good and evil doesn’t have to mean anything on
    planet X in the next galaxy over – it only has to mean something to us
    humans, here on earth. The religionist seems to think that morality is
    somehow devalued as a social construct rather than the “objective”
    creation of an all powerful deity. The nonbeliever, on the other hand
    sees the obvious fact that morality has been routinely devalued for
    thousands of years by the superstition of religion.  To call rape and murder in a godless world “acting unsocially” is
    just a word game.”

    It’s not a word game, but follows logically, it seems to me, if morality is based on human convention and social conditioning, and this should cause serious people to reflect deeply on the matter.  If all we are is the product of an unguided process of evolution in a universe without purpose, then I don’t see how you can escape the fact that the sense  of injustice you feel when you hear of a rape or murder is based on something more analogous to indigestion then to an objective truth.

    You say that good and evil only has to mean something here on earth, but what if, 100 years from now, your great, great granddaughter were to take a jaunt through the jungle and stumble into a society of atheists who are cannibals?  What would make her view that she has a right to live a valid argument against their view that it’s good that they eat her?  Those cannibals are advocates of the philosophy of Spock, i.e. that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, or the one, and by serving up a barbeque of your great granddaughter they are able to avoid starvation and the loss of many of their own children.

    ~Kaz

  • Beau Quilter

    “Interestingly, while you assert that Craig’s arguments are unconvincing to you, you are on his side against a number of philosophers — some of whom he’s debated — who reject the existence of God yet hold that objective moral values exist.”
    Who are these athiests who affirm “objective moral values”? Any names? Papers? References? Hard to argue against invisible authorities. If they exist, my guess is that theirs is a semantic issue – they define “objective moral value” in a different way than Craig does.

    “If all we are is the product of an unguided process of evolution in a universe without purpose, then I don’t see how you can escape the fact that the sense  of injustice you feel when you hear of a rape or murder is based on something more analogous to indigestion then to an objective truth.”

    What’s to escape? Feeling indigestion is a good thing. My body is telling me to avoid eating habits that are harmful to me. I have no problem with the idea that my sense of injustice (like my sense of love) is a feeling that derives from the evolution of a cooperative society. I also know that the sweetness of fruit is an evolved trait that impels animals like myself to spread seeds. Knowing this doesn’t make me enjoy the apple any less. 

    Your last analogy: wow! Does it have to be that convoluted to make your point? Why can’t it be me in the jungle, instead of a great, great granddaughter? 

    I can’t say I’ve ever heard of any atheist cannibal tribes (maybe that’s why you set it in the future); from what I understand, cannibalistic tribes are uniquely religious. And whether or not he represents atheists, I think you missed the point of Spock’s philosophy. It lead him to self-sacrifice, not murder.  

  • Alethinon61

    Beau, I made the cannibals atheists because I knew that you’d attempt to divert the focus to the fact that past cannibals were religious.  At least I know that my faculties for making accurate predictions is still firmly in tact.  In any case, you’ve conceded that as an atheist your sense of injustice is analogous to indigestion, and I’m satisfied with that. 

    Everyone knows that Spock’s philosophy lead him to self-sacrifice.  The question is, why shouldn’t the future atheistic cannibals expand on it in the manner described?  Or, just ignore the part about Spock altogether.  Why should your great, great granddaughter’s conviction that she has a right to live override the cannibals’ conviction that they have a right to feed her to their starving children? 

      ~Kaz 

    • Beau Quilter

      I’m glad you concede that when I “divert the focus”, I am actually diverting it to a “fact”, as opposed to a fanciful story bearing no relation to reality. 

      Whew! Where to begin? Why would atheist’s be cannibals? Where do you get the notion that all atheists espouse the philosophy of a Star Trek alien? 

      Of course, according to anthropologists, most cannibal tribes do not eat humans for the purpose of nourishment; it is, in fact, a way of capturing the spirit of one’s enemy, or in some cases, a friend who has passed away, and incorporating it into your own. Atheists would have no part of such nonsense, of course, and would probably be aware of the biological dangers of consuming one’s own species.

      Still, if the cannibals were intent on the dire dead, I doubt a rational argument of any kind would dissuade them.

      Seriously, I think you are using this silly story to argue that, without God-made morality, we have no reason to treat our fellow humans fairly. This is a non-argument. I would suggest you look into the enlightenment writings that lead to both the English and American bills of rights.

      A basic tenet of an enlightened society is that one must protect for all, the rights one hopes to retain for oneself. There are much older renditions of this “golden rule” of course:

      “Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.” – Pittacus, c. 640–568 BCE

      “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” Confucius, 551 – 479 BC

      “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” Laozi, 6th century BCE

      “One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.” The Dhammapada, dated to the 3rd century BCE at the latest, though much of the content is far more ancient.

      The idea is logical, and finds its way into many ancient philosophies and religions.

      Of course, Jesus said something of the kind, as well – borrowing from much more ancient sources. But Jesus also gave us Hell, a concept which (if you believe in it) effectively tosses the golden rule into the garbage furnace. 

  • Alethinon61

    Beau, the problem I posed was carefully created to ensure that, as a thought exercise, it was at least hypothetically possible (however improbable it may be), and that it incorporated an important condition that you seemed to accept, namely, that moral values that are the outgrowths of evolution and social conditioning are good enough.  However, though your words seemed to suggest that you consider such a foundation for moral values to be good enough, your reaction to the problem suggests that down deep you really don’t believe it.  Your response reflects an appropriate abhorrence of cannibalism, yet my objective was to offer a test to demonstrate that if a society of atheist cannibals who believe that eating outsiders is “good” were to emerge via evolution and social conditioning at some point in the future, you would no longer consider such morals acceptable after all. 

    ~Kaz

    • Beau Quilter

      Alethinon61, 

      Yes it’s fairly clear that you were trying to create a “thought trap”, I wouldn’t call it a “thought exercise”.  Unfortunately, your premises are so fraught with faulty logic – the whole idea is fairly useless. You seem to have this odd notion that atheists believe that anything that comes from “evolution or social conditioning” is inherently “good”. 

    • Beau Quilter

      Alethinon61

      Let me be clear that I don’t think that “moral values are the outgrowths of evolution and social conditioning” (which is why your story has nothing to say to me), although I would concede that many of the feelings we associate with moral kindness and moral outrage do derive from evolution.

      Of course, though we naturally love our children and get angry when we are wronged, morality is better determined by rational thinking. The best determining guideline for morality in societies throughout history seems to be variations on the golden rule, which makes sense because it is a rule that helps us cooperate for mutual benefits and leaves out no individuals. 

      Our ability to reason (figure things out) certainly has selective advantages, so that it’s clear to see why reason evolved in us (and to a lesser extent, in other animals); but in using our reason, we are not bound by any “morality” of natural selection (if such a thing even existed). 

  • Alethinon61

    Beau, BTW, like a growing number of Christians, I don’t believe in the doctrine of eternal torment either.  If you’re interested in some of the biblical reasons for this, see Edward William Fudge’s important, magisterial work, The Fire That Consumes, which was recently released in a new edition.

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Fire-That-Consumes-Punishment/dp/1608999300/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336368896&sr=8-1

    ~Kaz

    • Beau Quilter

      I’m glad, Alethinon61. When it comes to Christians, I much prefer those who don’t teach their children to fear eternal torture. I had quite enough of that myself in childhood.

  • Alethinon61

    Beau, are you saying then that you believe morality is founded on “the golden rule” as some sort of abstract entity, or on the faculty of reason that invented the rule, which, for the atheist, is the product of unguided evolution in a universe without purpose?

    ~Kaz

    • Beau Quilter

      Are you unable to value anything unless you can believe it was caused by a divinity?

      I’m not the one hung up on causes.

  • Alethinon61

    “Are you unable to value anything
    unless you believe it was caused by a divinity?”

    I would say that our ability to
    apprehend and truly appreciate the objectively real value of “good”,
    “justice”, “love”, etc, is grounded in God, not just any old
    divinity, and that our apprehension of these is possible because we
    were made in His image. On the other hand, if God does not exist
    then there is no foundation for moral values and duties, no objective
    standard by which differing moral judgments can be measured to
    determine if one or the other is correct. If atheism is true then we
    are all just animals, and what one animal does to another animal is
    of no moral significance.

    “I’m not the one hung up on causes.”

    You may not be “hung up” on the
    objectivity of moral values, but you certainly seem determined not to
    let the validity of your position be tested. You indicated that the
    thought experiment I offered was a “thought trap”, but you should
    realize that such thought experiments are only “traps” to those
    who fear that by answering they may be revealing the weakness of
    their position.

    ~Kaz

    • Beau Quilter

      Smile. I don’t fear your story. On the contrary Kaz, I answered your story, I believe, with more thought than you put into the story. I think you just didn’t care for the answer.

      You say that “if God does not exist then there is no foundation for moral values and duties”, but what does that mean exactly? What is the foundation for God? What is it about this invisible being, for which we have no real evidence, that makes morality    greater or more-to-be-valued than it would be otherwise? Haven’t you just pushed the question back further?

      God is an easy answer. 

      Who made the universe? God.
      Why do we value morality? God.
      What is purpose? God.

      It is ultimately a non-answer. Three letters that reveal absolutely nothing new. 

      I have no problem with the idea that morality is a human construct that becomes better refined in each new generation (not perfectly and with downward spikes from time to time) for our mutual benefit.

      If I were to concede that morality is a construct of God, then all I will have conceded is that morality is imposed on us by someone more powerful. But I will have said nothing about the value of morality.

      Why is morality good? Because God is good. Why is God good? Because God is by his nature good. These are meaningless answers. One might as well save a few steps and stop at “morality is good.”  

      In the end, God as an answer to morality, is a rather boring answer. Far more interesting to me is the story of humanity’s gradual and painstaking struggle to learn how best to live together in this world. 

  • Clayton

    do you think its historical possible?

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Do I think that a resurrection is “historically” possible? Or do I think that it is historically possible to determine whether the resurrection of Jesus actually happened?

      • Clayton

        Do you think the resurrection is possible as in could it have actually happened?

        • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          It would be very simple but ultimately unhelpful to say “Sure, anything’s possible.” I think the key question is how we go about deciding something like that – whether it is possible, but also how, even if one says “Yes it is possible,” one decides whether it is not something that is only possible but that occurred.

          • Clayton

            Does your understanding of “God” allow such an event to be historically possible?

            • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

              Should we start with an a priori concept of God and then force whatever evidence we encounter to fit it? Presumably one can justify any and all beliefs they choose simply by starting with a view of God that can serve the purpose. Ought we not rather to have a dialogical approach that at the very least allows the universe as we perceive and understand it to cause us to rethink and shape our understanding of God and the cosmos appropriately? 

              That, it seems to me, is precisely what we find the Biblical authors doing, as well as subsequent writers. At least some of the New Testament authors had updated their cosmology in light of the progress the Greeks had made in that area – hence the occasional references to multiple heavens. It is important to look not merely at what the Biblical authors wrote, but also what they were doing when they wrote it.

        • Gary

          Clayton, the statement by James, ”
          It would be very simple but ultimately unhelpful to say “Sure, anything’s possible.”….I am not so sure. Certainly unhelpful in leading to any valid analysis of truth. But since our universe (one of many, perhaps) was suppose to be created by a quantum event (CREATION, of a particle and anti-particle) that hyper-inflated to our present status in the universe, I would feel comfortable to say “anything is possible”. Especially since the process of quantum events is still on-going in every part of free space. Micro-event going to macro-result seems to just be a matter of probability. Resurrection, from a practical matter, is simply a collection of multiple micro-events. Of course, the chances of finding or providing proof is pretty much non-existent so far. I still do not see the probability of 10exp(500) universes in existence being any more likely or unlikely than a simple resurrection of a collection of carbon atoms in one body. There are certainly a lot less atoms in a body than 10exp(500). Just don’t ask or expect anyone to prove resurrection, and at the same time don’t take anyone’s BS than it is not possible, since they have no proof either.

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