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Blobs of substance

One of the both frustrating and rewarding things about teaching physics is how much I have to work against the grain of everyday common sense thinking.

The obvious example is how almost everybody, unless they’re corrupted by having physics beat into their head for years on end, has an Aristotelian conception of force, inertia, and motion. But I also run into a more subtle obstacle. Most everyone has a quasi-Aristotelian conception of matter, of substance. And I run into traces of this not just among undergraduates, but in many common antimaterialist intuitions, often defended in sophisticated philosophical terms, that support the commonsense notion that there has to be an irreducibly mind-like principle at work in the universe and in our brains. After all, what is mere physics about, but material things? And what is matter, but blobs of substance that mix and collide with each other?

But such a conception can lead to all sorts of confusion, such as considering relationships between material objects as somehow separate from physical reality. Relationships become part of a shadowy Platonic plane of existence beyond the material. The math I put down on the blackboard becomes a glimpse of an immaterial essence; some principle that structures the otherwise shapeless blobs of substance that make up what we play with in the lab.

But to a physicist—someone brainwashed by having physics beat into their head for years on end—it makes no sense to talk about material objects, such as elementary particles, without their relationships. A photon or an electron is a bundle of properties that tell us how they interact. There is no “material substance” that remains after you strip away properties (charge, mass, spin, etc. etc.) that have meaning only in the context of interactions. If you’re talking about matter, you’re already talking about patterns and relations—inseparably, not as an attachment from a Platonic realm superimposed on shapeless blobs.

I sometime run into the accusation that materialists continue to rely on an outdated, 19th century conception of matter. Nonsense. Those of us inclined toward physicalism hold our views partly because we have a very 21st century conception of physical entities. The difficulty we often face is in explaining why. It becomes a hard task, since where most people’s intuitive ideas of matter are concerned, the 19th century would be a vast improvement. Whether we’re in the classroom or rolling our eyes at theistic philosophers, the quasi-Aristotelian “blobs of substance” picture is still an important obstacle we have to deal with.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    Taner,

    I think what you are describing is a primitive dualism that most people just can’t seem to jettison.

    Take “The Laws of Physics”. These seem to me just human descriptions about what stuff does and how it interacts. But so many people seem to think that the LOP are something separate, or prescriptive governing the stuff in question.

    You also find this when apologists start going on about the transcendent “Laws of Logic”. A is A is just a fact inherent in existence. We call it a law and all agree to it when we communicate. Logic does not require a supernatural mind, just stuff and minds that observe it.

    I recently read this horrible book. It was infested with the confused thinking you are talking about.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11983601793874190779 Steven Carr

    It is suprising , is it not, that evolution has given us brains which automatically seem to produce wrong beliefs from everyday experience about matter.

    On the everyday level, we all know that you need to keep pushing something to keep it moving.

    Stop pushing something and it will decelerate.

    But science works with a model of reality that is much deeper than our common-sense view of how the world should work.

    And some people find this a real problem.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07176993227400382418 straightgodless

    Taner,

    Some proponents of “new dualism” point to recent well-controlled and highly repeatable experiments in parapsychology which (supposedly) provide evidence for a “presentiment” effect- a vague sense or feeling of something about to occur without conscious awareness of a particular event (Radin 1997). I’d be curious to know if you have looked at this research. Any comments? BTW, I am a skeptic.

    For information and references to experiments go to:
    http://publicparapsychology.blogspot.com/2007/11/brain-response-to-future-event.html

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10778996187937943820 Taner Edis

    StraightGodless: “Some proponents of “new dualism” point to recent well-controlled and highly repeatable experiments in parapsychology which (supposedly) provide evidence for a “presentiment” effect- a vague sense or feeling of something about to occur without conscious awareness of a particular event (Radin 1997). I’d be curious to know if you have looked at this research.”

    Yes and no. Radin’s stuf up to the early 2000′s, yes, I’ve looked at. I even paid a quick visit to IONS, where Radin was based, though I didn’t get to talk to him, spending more time with Marilyn Schlitz. I’m not impressed; see my chapter on parapsychology in The Ghost in the Universe (2002).

    More recently, I haven’t been paying as much attention to parapsychology. I had about 15 years being more attentive, and I felt like a yo-yo. There constantly was some set of experiments or method of analysis or other than was finally supposed to be the breakthrough. And when you looked at it more closely, it was invariably disappointing. Honestly, I’ve about had enough. Unless something comes out that is truly outstanding (not just the usual hype that turns out to be less than what was promised), I’m either not interested or still being pissed off at the waste of my time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    God is not a person. God is an entity. Jesus was 100% God and 100% man. Jesus could not be all knowing because he (God) only allowed himself to have the knowledge needed while in the earthly realm. What people know of us is only what we allow them to know. Our perception exists, but it is only known to others through our limited capacity to communicate to others in a manner in which they can properly understand its existence. God is an intangible entity that can only be known by way of his communication. Since people were not understanding his true intent, he came into the earthly realm via a virgin human female. He placed his DNA in one of her eggs. He allowed the human race the chance to choose a greater way of life, but they refused and killed the human messenger body, but they didn’t kill the God entity. Picture a scientist who is attempting to communicate with ants. He trys many methods to help the ants understand his desires for them. He uses food, water, and other things to entice them to move in certain directions. However, his great miracles are misunderstood. Finally, he dicovers a method that will allow him to become an ant. He transforms himself into an ant. He begins teaching the ants great wisdom. Even so, the Queen doesn’t like what he is doing. She has him stung and ripped apart by the other ants. This is how I see Jesus. That is, except the scientist was just a person who died and could not ascend back to his first state of being. I know my perception and/or thoughts exist, but until I allow them to be heard or read, no one believes that they exist. My thoughts are a fact, but they have no form and cannot be sensed by anyone other than me. So, if someone believes that my thoughts don’t exist merely because I have not spoken, is that person correct? Our existence is based solely upon the thoughts of God. If he decides to stop the thought of us, we will no longer exist. Our existence is much like the existence of our own thoughts. If we have a thought that we like, then we speak it. Because of that, it becomes a reality to others and to ourselves. If we support that thought, it may become known as a fact. God wants all of us to become a fact. He supports us. However, since we have the right to deny him, he can erase his writtings or change his mind. Then, any person (thought) that is not what God wills, will no longer exist. A thought has no mass or weight and it doesn’t take up any space. It is neither matter or antimatter. It cannot be measured. Yet, we all know that thoughts exist. How can any type of science prove the existence of a thought. Additionally, what is a thought other than nothing until it is spoken or written? How we perceive the world may not be that which others perceive. When I see a color that I am taught is red, but the color I see is not a color in the normal spectrum of perception, how does anyone know what color I see? They assume it is the same red that they see, but I don’t see red at all. I see an unnamed color. The red color that others see doesn’t exist in my perception. Likewise, I believe others see what I see. So, you see, we don’t really know what exists in the minds of others. If god doesn’t exist in your mind, then he doesn’t exist. However, you do exist in his mind, and he will not like your denial. Think about it and allow your perception to be known. Otherwise, people who choose to believe in only what they can sense will not believe that you can have a thought or perception.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11064454267395375567 Amenhotep

    Chippamo, you’re saying that god is an intangible system that is only detectable by its outputs? What experiments do you propose to probe this system? Are there any specific inputs that you can use some theory of the god-system to predict novel outputs? What internal theory of the behaviour of divine black boxes can you use to determine its behaviour in the longer term (e.g. after we’re dead)?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    I know from math that another realm exists. I am speaking about imaginary numbers. You know, “i” = the square root of a -1. When drawing graphs, a person will soon discover that there are negative images as well as positive on some graphs. Therefore, when I see a house, I know that there is another house just like it in another realm. Even though I have no method of sensing the other realm, I know that it does exist. So, I can’t prove that it exists, but the graphs allow me to know that it actually does exist. Since I know that I have thoughts and dreams, I can’t deny that I couldn’t possibly be a dream or thought of an unknown entity. I wonder if I am in the + or – realm. Below, I have pasted a letter I wrote to a friend about eternity vs forever in a biblical sense.

    It seems that defining the words “eternity” and “forever” could help a person better understand the fate of those who believe in Christ and those who disbelieve. After all, many people, even those who adamantly believe and study their bible, use these two words interchangeably. However, these two words are far from being alike. In comparison, eternity would represent God, and forever would represent Satan. Understanding the difference can help a person to understand many of the scriptures of the bible which seem to be paradoxical in nature.

    For example, God allows us to know that all those who receive the gift of eternal life from Christ had their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life before the creation of the earth. Because this statement implies that many people existed before Adam and Eve were created, many believe that this concept supports their eternal existence. However, this fact only complicates the matter. After all, in the beginning, only God existed. Keeping this fact in mind, one should realize that those, who had their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, had to be created at some point. Since the mere fact of creation exists, the reality is that there is a beginning for their existence. That being a fact, this group of people can only be defined as having been given the ability to live forever.

    Now, this is the point where the definition of eternity and forever must be clearly defined in order to understand the true meaning of the powerful message found in the context of the scriptures. To better understand what is actually being described, one could make a dot on a blank piece of paper. Then, draw a circle beginning at the dot and ending at the dot. The circle would represent a continual path with no beginning or end. However, the dot, which represents creation, causes there to be a beginning and end. Since eternity has no beginning or end, the diagram only represents forever which clearly has a beginning and end. Even so, Christ promises all believers that they will receive eternal life.

    Now, either we have to believe that Christ was wrong, the scriptures are wrong, or that we have been interpreting the scriptures in error. It seems that a closer examination of the scriptures, which have to do with salvation and death, could give the opportunity of discovery to those who want a clear understanding in this matter. Even so, if a believer only reflects on the truth of the words of Christ, the answer becomes obvious.

    Here are a few facts to consider:

    1. In the beginning, only God existed.
    2. Everything, except God, was created.
    3. All people, creatures, and other things are finite.
    4. God is eternal.
    5. Satan was created.
    6. People live in the realm of Satan (this world).
    7. Adam and Eve were exiled from God’s realm into Satan’s realm.
    8. Death resides over this world.
    9. God (life) resides over God’s realm.
    10. Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world.
    11. Jesus was God in the flesh.
    12. The body of Christ had to die.
    13. It is appointed once for man to die, then the judgment.
    14. Jesus is the doorway, gate, path, way, light, and the truth.
    15. Satan will have his end (finite).
    16. Non-believers will have their end (finite).
    17. Believers are given the “Gift of Eternal Life”.
    18. Christians are adopted into God’s family.
    19. Christians are joint heirs with Christ.
    20. Christ covers the sins of Christians.
    21. Christians are the body of Christ.
    22. Christ will marry the church after judgment.
    23. Two become one in marriage.
    24. The unity of the head and the body creates one being.
    25. Creation and death are finite.
    26. Creation and death do not exist in God’s realm.
    27. The wedding feast ends the separation caused by Adam and Eve.
    28. All Christians become one with God.
    29. We must pass through the door or gate to enter into Heaven.
    30. Jesus is the door.
    31. Our sins (death) are hidden in Christ.
    32. Our creation (beginning) is hidden in Christ.
    33. Christ is the doorway to eternity.

    After meditating on the above facts, the message of Christ is evident. That is, people had a beginning, and all non-believing people will definitely have and end. Because of that, there is only one way for people to become eternal beings living in eternal life. When we are adopted into the family of God and we become the body of Christ, we pass through the door. Remember the dot on the circle. That is Christ (knock and it shall be opened…in other words, be saved). Anyone who isn’t a believer will be stopped at that point. In other words, there will be no continuation of their existence. However, all believers will be allowed to pass through that door (Christ), and will have eternal life. The circle will be unbroken and continuous. When believers pass through the door, they instantaneously become eternal by becoming the body of Christ. Since Christ’s name means “God in the Flesh”, Christians are actually becoming the body of God. In following this concept, a person can easily realize that the body of God is eternal. After all, Christians are all transformed in the twinkling of an eye when Jesus returns.

    In closing, scientists are just realizing that light travels in a circle. It goes on continually. Jesus tells us that he is the truth, the light, and the way. Additionally, when one attains the speed of light, time stands still. In other words, time ceases to exist. So, it could be that believers become beings of light upon the return of Jesus, and all non-believers will become the darkness which cannot exist in the light. We are told in the scriptures that we will not have the light of the sun, moon, and stars in the Kingdom of Christ. We will only have the light which is emitted from Christ. So, as believers, we become the light. We become particles of the beam of light that has been shinning into darkness for eternity. Light was not created. When God said, “Let there be light”, he was stating that he desired to allow his light to shine upon his creation. The light we have today was created on the fourth day of God’s creation. The light in the beginning was the illumination of God. After all, there was no sun, moon, or stars on the first day. If we only walk in the light, then we will surely be blessed. Forever is a creation of a temporary Satan. Forever is a measure of time. Time does not exist in eternity. Therefore, time, forever, and Satan will not exist in God’s Kingdom. Only those who believe on Christ will be transformed into eternal beings of light. Only enlightened beings can become particles which live eternally within the body of Christ.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11064454267395375567 Amenhotep

    Chippamo, experiments, please. Can we fire protons at Jesus from the LHC (when we get it working)? Can we weigh god? What does he smell like? If Satan is the square root of minus infinity, would he bounce if dropped from a height? These are questions that need answered, and can really only be addressed by rigorous experimental design and implementation.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Taner,

    I have heard of the following naturalistic argument: “As we people are used to model/explain/predict each other’s actions using concepts such as intelligence and purpose, we tend to fallaciously apply similar kind of thinking to the universe at large.” The fact is that some sophisticated atheist/materialist philosophers do find deep problems with their own understanding of reality, often calling the whole lot “the problem of intentionality”. One possibility of course is that the latter naturalist thinkers are mistaken, but another possibility is that those who don’t see any such problems and find the naturalistic understanding of reality to be quite coherent and problem-free are mistaken.

    Here is a question I have always had and I wonder about your answer. You write: “The math I put down on the blackboard becomes a glimpse of an immaterial essence

    What then *are* in reality these mathematical relationships you write on the blackboard? One possible answer is that they are one more property of matter or of material particles. But how is this supposed to work? Take for example a material primitive such as an electron. We now know that the behavior of an electron is quite algorithmically complex in the sense that in order to predict it one must do some work intensive computations. How does the electron, without any internal moving parts and without access to or without being guided by some external computational mechanism or mind, manage to behave in this way?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    “How does the electron, without any internal moving parts and without access to or without being guided by some external computational mechanism or mind, manage to behave in this way?”

    Let me guess, the guiding mind of God?

    But then what is guiding the mind of God?

    Suggesting a spooky mind lurking behind reality guiding everything has no explanatory power, and only raises more questions than it answers.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    I had asked: “How does the electron, without any internal moving parts and without access to or without being guided by some external computational mechanism or mind, manage to behave in this way?

    To which UnBeguiled answered “Let me guess, the guiding mind of God?

    That’s of course the theistic premise: that reality at bottom is personal and not mechanical, and that the fundamental causal principle is not matter but rather a purposeful mind, indeed God’s mind. Theism’s premise is that mind is over matter and that matter is an effect of mind, whereas naturalism’s premise is exactly the opposite namely that matter is over mind and that the mind is an effect produced by a particular configuration of matter. Clearly then the computational nature of electrons presents no problem within the theistic understanding of reality.

    UnBeguiled then asked: “But then what is guiding the mind of God?

    Actually God’s personal nature is not difficult to understand because we ourselves are persons. So what is it that guides our own minds? The most obvious answer is that we ourselves guide our mind. But what are we really but our mind? If you think carefully about such questions you’ll find out that personal being (or “mind”) entails the autonomous integration of three dimensions (or “hypostases”) namely that of perception, thought, and will. (In the context of information processing machines we’d speak of input, processing, and output.) Incidentally we ourselves can create order by applying our will guided by our thoughts; hopefully there is some order in what I am posting here.

    UnBeguiled said: “Suggesting a spooky mind lurking behind reality guiding everything has no explanatory power, and only raises more questions than it answers.

    Well, the theistic worldview has at the very least the potential of having more explanatory power than the naturalistic worldview, because the latter’s explanatory power is exhausted by scientific knowledge whereas theism hypothesizes that beyond the order present in physical phenomena that science discovers there is a deeper purposeful order in the whole of our experience of life (of which physical phenomena are just a part).

    As for the issue of “spookiness” I suppose it lies in the eyes of the beholder. I note that we directly and intimately know what personal existence means, whereas what “matter” means is becoming increasingly mysterious and ill-defined. And in my judgment within the context of naturalism the premise that material primitives such as electrons would be capable of the computationally complex behavior they display is beyond “spooky” and borders on the incoherent.

    UnBeguiled said: “ Here is a better answer.”.

    I haven’t read this book, but I assume you have. So what’s the better answer?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    Hello Dianelos, I like the manner in which you question me. In others words, I didn’t feel as if I was being ridiculed. mocked. or attacked. I believe that we are all in a quest for the truth, and because of that, we should work together…not against one another. Now, to answer your question, I believe that electrons operate in a mostly predictable manner due to what is called “electromagnetic functions”. You know, atoms which have the same number of electrons are eventually linked at the outer ring by an electron. Even so, the question remains, “Why and how?” I believe that the nucleus of an atom is much like transceiver. It sends and receives messages to the DNA of the cell. Since the DNA is the “brain” which controls the growth and purpose of the cell, it seems rational to believe that it tells the nuclei of the atoms, which make up the cell, what and when to do something. Why would it be any different than other physical material which have an ordered chain of command? Because of this, I wonder why some people can’t believe that there is a point of superiority. In other words, when we look into the sky at night, we can see the very huge and vast universe. We realize how gigantic our solar system must be. Then, we look through a microscope only to see very miniscule solar systems we call atoms. From this we should realize that there is an order of things from the very smallest to the largest. The question I have is “Who or what is at the utmost position of authority and control. It seems that there has to be a main control unit which controls the network of operations. When I spoke about math, I was refering to the square root of a negative four. Broken down, that would be the square root of -1(4). Then, that leaves us with 2 x the squre root of -1. Then we replace the one with “i” to end with 2i. In such an equation, there are many examples that have mirror images on the graph. Since we cannot build something using negative measurements, we are taught to ignore the negative and use the positive. Now, that is simple enough to understand, but I still know of the existence of the negative properties. I can’t deny that existence jus because I don’t know how to make use of it. I feel that we (humans) are much like fish in an aquarium. When the owner feeds them, they only relate that image to receiving food. So, when the owner prepares to feed them, they rush to the surface in expecttation to recieve the food that will soon miraculously begin to descend into the water. I can imagine the very scientific fish attempting to explain the occurence and the religious fish accepting it as food from God. Maybe the the scientific fish would calculate the amoutn of bubbles that come out of the little tube in order to predict when the next occurence will take place. That would seem to give them an edge over the religious fish to some extent. However, in a sense, the owner is as a God to them. So, the religious fish title their owner as “God”. They don’t feel the need to explain it. So, I believe that there is one who created my invironment and who has placed all the necessary elements here for my existence. I feel that there has to be a source that conrtols the functions of everything. Why should anyone believe, after realizing that everything has a specific manner of operation and order, that there isn’t a main brain much like DNA is to a cell, controlling the growth and purpose of the huge universe. I believe our perception of size blinds us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    Dianelos, I see that you are from Greece. I must say that you should be familiar with Plato’s “Alegory of the Cave”. I feel that Plato truly describes the issue we are discussing. In his alegory, he is speaking about the reason people have different perceptions, and he allows the reader to understand how those different perceptions can cause people to be hostile one to another. If people would only open their minds to the possibility that others may have perceptions that are equally valid, then the two could merge and ultimately allow a greater knowledge of our existence.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    Hello Amenhotep, When you responded to my post, I became curious about your thinking. Because of that, I checked your profile and found your blogs. I truly like what you have to say. Not because I agree with all of it, but because you are describing the very root of the problem so-called “Christians” have with understanding Christ in the first place. You said, “The Samaritan, unencumbered by religious nonsense, and acting on pure basic humanistic principles, helps the injured man, and demonstrates the real value of humanistic ethics. Jesus could not have put it plainer than this. He could have told the story about a good Muslim, a good homosexual, a good atheist – all of the above. It is just one episode that justifies non-believers claiming Jesus as a fellow-traveller along that hazardous road to Jericho.” You are so correct when you say that Jesus could have used other examples of people. In fact, a Samaritan was considered to be the lowest of the low by the Jews. The priest didn’t stop because he placed a higher priority or value on keeping his religious duties over and above a fellow humans life. Jesus despised the Temple leaders because they had lost all conciousness of the principles of God’s intent. In fact, Jesus and his followers despised and spoke out against religion. Religion was considered to be man keeping the doctrines of man over and above the doctrine of God. If we examine the humanistic qualities of man, then we find a very ugly picture. Recent scientific studies have shown that people are born with three basic abilities which are all selfish by nature. Those abilities are to suck, grasp, and to cry. When observing and experimenting with children, who had never received any human culturing, speach, and other normal teachings from humans, it was found that humans behave in the manner in which they are taught as children. Without any training, they revert to the survival instinct mode, and they can’t learn language and social skills after a predetermined age (about 3 to 4 years of age concern language). So, left to themselves, humans behave as wild animals. Now, because of the statement about being a “Humanist”, I have to disagree due to the above information I just wrote about human nature. However, I feel that you and I think very much alike. We are attempting find a basic truth from opposite ends of the spectrum and by using different tools and procedures. Nevertheless, we have much the same goal in mind. That being the case, we should walk side by side in discovery. We shouldn’t stand apart and throw stones at one another. I appreciate your great understanding and wisdom. I would rather have you as an ally than an enemy. There was once a man in the USA named Fulton who built a steamboat. Many people gathered around to see its first voyage on the river. However, it sunk. After that, they called it “Fulton’s Folly”. Now, who was wrong? Were the people watching wrong or Fulton? Jus because they had never seen a steam powered boat, they ridiculed Fulton and his belief. This is why I seek to communicate with others regardless of their personal belief or disbelief in God. If I am correct, then one day people who disbelieve in God will come to believe because their intellect will not allow them to do otherwise. If I am wrong, then my intellect will command me to renouce my views. At the present, I believe absolutely 100% that YHWH and Yeshua are real. I bet my life on it. Even so, let’s not allow my or your personal beliefs to hinder our quest for the truth.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    That’s of course the theistic premise: that reality at bottom is personal and not mechanical, and that the fundamental causal principle is not matter but rather a purposeful mindYesterday in the park, my dogs chased after an umbrella, as the wind tumbled it by. They operate on the same fundamental causal principle as you.

    What causes thunder? Thor? Who is driving the chariot that pulls the sun across the sky?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    Hello Unbeguiled, I have stopped arguing with evolutionist and atheist. At one time I spent much time doing so, but neither side ever gained from such quarrels. Anyway, you have been asking for some type of method. I have a copy of a method I was using to argue in the past against evolution. I will post it here for you. I just don’t get into arguing anymore. I just like discussion. I seem to learn more and make friends when I just discuss an issue rather than try to attack an opponent in an effort win a dispute. Anyway, below is the manner in which I once argued1 against evolution.

    Where has evolution ever been observed? What’s the mechanism for getting new complexity, such as new vital organs? If any of the thousands of vital organs evolved, how could the organism live before getting the vital organ? (Without a vital organ, the organism is dead—by definition.) If a reptile’s leg evolved into a bird’s wing, wouldn’t it become a bad leg long before it became a good wing? How could metamorphosis evolve?
    2. If evolution happened, where are the billions of transitional fossils that should be there? Billions! Not a handful of questionable transitions. Why don’t we see a reasonably smooth continuum among all living creatures, or in the fossil record, or both?
    3. Textbooks show an evolutionary tree, but where is its trunk and where are its branches? For example, what are the evolutionary ancestors of the insects?
    4. How could the first living cell begin? That’s a greater miracle than for bacteria to evolve into man. How could that first cell reproduce? Just before life appeared, did the atmosphere have oxygen or did it not have oxygen? Whichever choice you make creates a terrible problem for evolution. Both must come into existence at about the same time.
    5. Please point to a strictly natural process that creates information. What evidence is there that information, such as that in DNA, could ever assemble itself? What about the 4,000 books’ worth of coded information that are in a tiny part of each of your 100 trillion cells? If astronomers received an intelligent signal from some distant galaxy, most people would conclude that it came from an intelligent source. Why then doesn’t the vast information sequence in the DNA molecule of just a bacterium also imply an intelligent source?
    6. Which came first, DNA or the proteins needed by DNA, which can only be produced by DNA?
    7. If it takes intelligence to make an arrowhead, why doesn’t it take vastly more intelligence to create a human? Do you really believe that hydrogen will turn into people if you wait long enough?
    8. Are you aware of all the unreasonable assumptions and contradictory evidence used by those who say the earth is billions of years old?
    9. Why are living bacteria found inside rocks that you say are hundreds of millions of years old and in meteorites that you say are billions of years old? Clean-room techniques and great care were used to rule out contamination.
    10. Did you know that most scientific dating techniques indicate that the earth, solar system, and universe are young?
    11. Why do so many ancient cultures have flood legends?
    12. Have you heard about the mitochondrial Eve and the genetic Adam? Scientists know that the mitochondrial Eve was the common female ancestor of every living person, and she appears to have lived only about 6,000–7,000 years ago.
    13. Careful researchers have found the following inside meteorites: living bacteria, salt crystals, limestone, water, sugars, terrestrial-like brines, and earthlike isotopic patterns. Doesn’t this implicate Earth as their source—and a powerful launcher, “the fountains of the great deep?
    14. Recent discoveries by archaeologists from various universities include bones (not fossils) of dinosaurs that still contained flesh, blood cells, and ligaments. Fossilization occurs when bone cells are replaced with minerals and sediment of the surrounding soil, and by this process over a period of time, a stone image of the bone is left. Since the laws of physics and biology firmly state that flesh remains cannot exist for a period over 4500-5000 years, why do these same archaeologists contradict themselves by arguing that dinosaurs died off millions of years ago instead of a few thousand years ago?
    15. Abraham, the well known biblical progenitor of the Israelites, knew that male babies couldn’t be circumcised until the eighth day. Since Abraham lived during an age that historians and archaeologists claim to have been the “hunter gatherer” age of mankind, how could such a primitive and ignorant man have knowledge that doctors have just acquired in the last century? If circumcised before the eighth day, a baby boy will bleed to death, and or die from infection. That is because babies don’t have the coagulants necessary to stop the bleeding nor have they formed the immune system ability to fight off infection until the eighth day of their lives. However, modern day techniques have overcome this problem. How could Abraham have acquired such knowledge and from whom?
    16. In a natural setting, when has anyone witnessed order created from disorder? The “Big Bang Theory” requires a person to believe that something came in to existence from nothing, and not only that, it requires a person to believe that disorder evolved into a well ordered realm. For example, if a person holds a bag of marbles in his hand, then the marbles are all in one place in an orderly fashion. Now, the “Big Bang Theory” asks one to believe that, when the marbles are thrown to the floor, they will organize themselves into an even better and more complex system of order. Has anyone ever seen this occur? The marbles always scatter into a disarrayed mess. If a person could ever get some marbles to align themselves into a design such as his name, then scientist from all over the world would say that it is a hoax. Yes, they would argue against the very principle that they want us to believe.
    17. Evolutionists would have people to believe that humans are descended from Chimpanzees, or an ancestor who was the progenitor of both the apes and mankind. This is mainly due to the DNA comparison between the ape and man. There is only about a 1% difference in the DNA of man compared with apes. At first glance, such evidence seems quite compelling. However, when such logic is tested, it fails to provide the same results. For example, watermelons are approximately 98% water, and clouds are approximately 99% water. Now, there is only 1% difference in the amount of water in these two examples. So, following the logic of evolutionists, watermelons come from clouds.
    18. Why do you believe that animals mutated over millions of years to become what they are today? These are the facts. There is only a 100,000,000 to 1 chance that a mutated creature will live until birth. Then, there is only about the same chance that its new characteristic will allow it to live to an age that it can mate. If by chance its new characteristic or trait gives it an advantage for survival over the original creature, then it must find a mate with the same mutation in order for the trait to be passed to the offspring. So, people are expected to believe that a mutated animal survived and found another mutated animal exactly like itself with which it mated and had offspring. This is as easy to believe as believing you can say beer three times when you are watching a ball game, and all of a sudden the fridge is full of beer.
    19. Do you expect me to believe that mutations actually occurred at such a rate that all of the original species died off? Well, in testing this logic, one must consider that there were millions of years for each species to mutate into another form of creature that is more adapted to the climate and/or environment. If such a process began millions of years ago, then it should still be happening. After all, evolutionists say that it takes around 2 to 3 million years for a species to mutate and evolve. Since most archaeologists believe that humans have been in existence for about 3 million years, it’s time for us to mutate. What about the crocodile, the shark, the octopus, the whale, the turtle, and many others. They have been here, by archaeological records, almost from the beginning of life on earth. Why didn’t they mutate? The fossil records show that they have had the same basic structure as far back as fossils are found. Some got bigger and some got smaller, but none actually changed into an animal that would be as different from them as an ape would be compared to a human.
    20. Evolutionists support evolution because their theories are the only things that evolve. The Bible remains the same. The laws which govern this earth remain the same. It seems that the only evolution taking place occurs when a theory of the evolutionists is shown to be inaccurate. Then, there must be corrections made so that it is still viable. When I see an elephant hatch from a chicken egg, I will believe in evolution. If anything, this world is devolving. The speed of light has decreased since the earth was formed. Many scientists agree on that matter. Since most methods of determining the age of fossils have a formula which contains the speed of light as an exponent in the equation, then only a .01% reduction would cause an exponential difference in age results. As a matter of fact, when this reduction of speed is calculated into the equation, the results of the ages of fossils is found to be similar to that of Biblical amounts. The truth is the truth. In a period of history when the atheist Chinese archaeologists, who have the best known fossil strata of any country, are adamantly proclaiming that a supreme intelligence had to have structured life on the earth, why is our government protecting the teaching of evolution in our schools? I am really bothered by these issues.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    Chipp,

    Are you familiar with Poe’s law?

    Nice gallop, by the way. Gish would be proud.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    Chipp,

    Although your posts do have some evolutionary resemblance to the Gish Gallop, on further analysis, you are just JAQing off.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    Unbequiled, as I said before, I have chosen to discuss issues in such a manner that each party is not insulted or bashed. Each person should have an equal voice and ability to speak their conscious within a realm of respect. I appreciated your first response, but the second response seemed a little bit arrogant and mocking at best. I praised your blog for some very enlightening concepts and understanding of the scriptures. Even though I disagree as far as the term “humanist” being used, I do see that you understand a truth about Jesus that most Christians com[letely miss. Then, when I write to you and allow you to see something I wrote in the past, you tell me I’m JAQing off. Why? If I were to have a person over for dinner who didn’t like Lima Beans, I would not make fun of or critize the person for that specific lack of taste. I would mostly tell the person that I have dislikes as well. Perception is the key.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11064454267395375567 Amenhotep

    Chippamo, er, thanks, I think. The little blog is sparse, but is designed to show that humanism *is* adequate to explain the “nice” things about human nature, and how we can maybe get along despite having different views.

    However, I think it’s only fair to point out that I think the theistic position is *dead wrong*, and several of the posts above demonstrate the sort of screwed up thinking that ends up with people making the theistic error. Please don’t confuse my Christianity Compatibility Layer (CCL) for compromise or accommodationism.

    Dianelos and you both show Taner’s point in the article to be correct – you see things from a purely “top down” perspective, rather than “bottom up”. Electrons do not need control mechanisms to follow the fields or to do what they do – at the core, electrons are simply things that spacetime is doing at particular points. An electron is not a separate item from the rest of the universe. It is part of a system, and systems have behaviours. Things don’t have attributes. I accept that a lot of people have trouble with this, but it’s core.

    [In case anyone wants to have a look, the proto-blog is http://churchofjesuschristatheist.blogspot.com ]

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    Amenhotep said: “ Dianelos and you both show Taner’s point in the article to be correct – you see things from a purely “top down” perspective, rather than “bottom up”.

    Theists do indeed understand reality top-down. Naturalists on the contrary understand reality bottom-up, and at the very bottom they think reality consists of elementary particles such as electrons. It is in this context that I asked how an electron without any internal moving parts and without access to a computing mechanism is able to display the computationally complex behavior it does. (Incidentally, this is a problem for naturalism and not for science to answer. As far as science goes electrons are nothing but concepts within abstract mathematical formulas with which scientists model physical phenomena.)

    Amenhotep said: “Electrons do not need control mechanisms to follow the fields or to do what they do – at the core, electrons are simply things that spacetime is doing at particular points.

    I am not sure that in the naturalistic understanding of reality spacetime is supposed to be doing things. Rather particles are supposed to be doing things *within* spacetime.

    Amenhotep said: “An electron is not a separate item from the rest of the universe. It is part of a system, and systems have behaviours. Things don’t have attributes.

    Well, the above sounds quite top-down to me. In any case individual electrons do exist and have their individual attributes. I don’t think naturalists disagree on this point, so I am not sure what you mean here.

    Amenhotep said: “I accept that a lot of people have trouble with this, but it’s core.

    Trouble with what exactly? I mean I can try to understand if you give me a description of naturalistic reality to understand. But if naturalists handwave about how the naturalistic understanding of reality is the only one “scientific” and refuse to answer ontological questions about electrons except with platitudes such as “an electron is not a separate item from the rest of the universe” (which could be claimed about apples too) then it’s no wonder people will have trouble understanding naturalism because there is nothing there to understand. You know the tale of the naked emperor.

    The way I see it there are two types of naturalists: A minority who is worried about the depth and increasing number of the problems entailed in the naturalistic understanding of reality, and a majority which is under the impression that there is an implicit connection between naturalism and science and that therefore naturalism is kind of true by default. In fact there is no such connection, naturalism is a metaphysical theory like any other, and naturalists must clarify and justify their beliefs like everybody else.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    Dianelos Georgoudis,

    Do you think it would be useful for scientists to do away with the assumption of naturalism? (methodological naturalism?)

    That is, if a new disease were to come up, should doctors try and rule out demons as the cause?

    A corollary is what do you think about the natural assumption when it comes to law enforcement? Should an accused thief be able to claim a ghost stole the money and hid it in his basement? If you were a juror, would you consider such a supernatural defense plausible?

    It seems to me, if scientists and courts of law started considering angels and demons and fairies and various gods as causally active in the world, then science and law will grind to a halt.

    Welcome to the dark ages.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    UnBeguiled said: “ Do you think it would be useful for scientists to do away with the assumption of naturalism? (methodological naturalism?)

    In the context of discussing theism versus naturalism one always means *ontological* (or metaphysical) naturalism. Confusing ontological and methodological naturalism is one of the commonest errors that atheists commit. I think that Taner Edis commits precisely this error when in a recent post he speaks of naturalism being an “approach”.

    “Methodological naturalism” is part of epistemology, i.e. the philosophy about methods. Methods are justified by their success, so “methodological naturalism” (or the “scientific method” for short) is justified by its success in science as well as in all enterprises that are akin to science, such as criminal investigations. So of course both theistic and non-theistic scientists use methodological naturalism when doing science. But that’s irrelevant to the question at hand, namely which understanding of reality is more successful, the theistic or the atheistic one.

    Perhaps much of the confusion would be eliminated if people stopped using the expression “methodological naturalism” and only used the expression “scientific method” which means the same and is more to the point. The scientific method of course entails the assumption that no supernatural effects are necessary when modeling phenomena, for the simple reason that such models are mechanical by definition. On the other the success of science in modeling phenomena does not in any way shape or color implies that supernatural effects do not exist or that a scientist cannot coherently do science and search for mechanical models while also believing that supernatural effects do exist and indeed form the foundation of reality.

    For me the above is both simple and clear. I suppose the reason why so many atheists feel that science implies ontological naturalism is that they fall for the same kind of fallacy (namely, affirming the consequent) I have been discussing recently. I suppose the underlying fallacious thinking goes like this:

    1) If ontological naturalism’s thesis that no supernatural effects exist were true then science would be able to model physical phenomena without assuming any supernatural effects.
    2) Science is able to model physical phenomena without assuming any supernatural effects.
    3) Therefore ontological naturalism’s thesis that no supernatural effects exist is true.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    Dianelos Georgoudis,

    You are fractally wrong. The methods of science in no way demand a commitment to methodological naturalism.

    Consider Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge. If you, or your god, has magical powers, put up or shut up.

    This issue is explained in depth at naturalism.org, and argued by Carrier in his book: Naturalism is the consequence of science.

    I’m still unclear why since you believe in all this supernatural causality lurking about, that you do not think scientists should be spending time looking for demons.

    Perhaps you have realized, as most scientists have, that seeking angels and demons, or magic and witches, is just a waste of time.

    Science has taught us that the natural world is all there is. Probably.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    Dianelos Georgoudis,

    Here is the key question:

    You have claimed that an electron is guided by “some external computational mechanism or mind”.

    OK, fine.

    How would that kind of an electron differ from a fully natural electron? One that was not being guided by a mind?

    How would you tell the difference between these two kinds of electrons?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    Hey Dianelos, Unbeguiled is doing what his group accuses of us. He is JAQing off. He is attempting to build a Strawman defense. Hummmm! I wonder why that happened? I love to hear from both sides of the arguement, but in this case, there is no doubt about who presented the best case. I am very impressed with how you handled the shotgun blast of questions. In fact, what unbeguiled did is to do exactly what I have benn accused of doing. God has blessed my soul by allowing me to read the words of a brilliant mind. Truly, I thank you with all my heart!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18121469980190428853 chippamo

    Hello Unbeguiled, you are asking a question about electrons once again. Okay, here is the answer. All doctors know that the nervous system is a string of minute batteries which use electricity to conduct a message to whatever part of the body needs attention. If you want to argue that, then call a doctor. All doctors know that each neuron in the nervous system responds to the DNA of each particular cell in the thread of the nerve in question. What is the DNA in relation to the neuron? It is the brain. It tells the neuron what to do in any and all responses to the actual brain that controls the whole body. Now, tell me how there is no outside power controlling the natural. The human body is not considered to be electronic in nature. In other words, it is not considered to be a robot, but it functions on electronis signals. Now, if you don’t know how an electron functions, you don’t know how nature functions. Therefore, naturalism is wrong.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    “if you don’t know how an electron functions, you don’t know how nature functions. Therefore, naturalism is wrong”

    The brilliant Chipp has proclaimed that if I don’t know something, then God exists.

    Great argument.

    Also, I did not use a shotgun blast of disjointed questions as you did. I asked a simple question:

    How will an electron guided by the mind of a supernatural spook differ from a fully natural electron?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    UnBeguiled said: “You are fractally wrong. The methods of science in no way demand a commitment to methodological naturalism.

    If so there must be a difference between the scientific method and methodological naturalism. Perhaps you can explain what that difference is.

    UnBeguiled said: “Consider Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge. If you, or your god, has magical powers, put up or shut up.

    Randi’s challenge is against claims of the paranormal. Such claims are not necessary unscientific. It may be the case that the paranormal (or so-called psi phenomena) are part of the natural world and are amenable to scientific investigation, but that mainstream science has so far refused to seriously consider the already overwhelming experimental evidence. Indeed that’s the thesis that Dean Radin defends in his book “The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena”. You may ask, why then hasn’t anybody claimed James Randi’s million dollars? Because the psychic effects are too subtle to qualify would be Dean Radin’s answer. Now I don’t personally believe that psychic phenomena exist and in my review of Radin’s book I explain why (see: http://www.amazon.com/review/R3USJ472IRE8LM ). In any case, as the paranormal may exist in a way that is amenable to study using the scientific method, I think that this issue is irrelevant to our discussion.

    UnBeguiled said: “ This issue is explained in depth at naturalism.org, and argued by Carrier in his book: Naturalism is the consequence of science.

    Frankly I’d rather you explained yourself why the scientific method does not demand a commitment to methodological naturalism as you claim, instead of pointing me to other peoples’ writings. After all it wouldn’t do if I claimed something and asked you to read the collected works of Pope John Paul II to find out why I am right, would it?

    Anyway that ontological naturalism is *not* a consequence of science is trivially easy to demonstrate: We can imagine many non-naturalistic realities which would produce exactly the same phenomena that science studies, so it simply can’t be the case that science implies naturalism. Indeed it should be obvious that science cannot even help us differentiate between such realities. (Incidentally, the site you mention does not include the phrase “methodological naturalism” so I wouldn’t know where to start there. On the other hand it does look like an interesting site, so thanks for pointing it out to me. Incidentally, wouldn’t it be nice if infidels.org home page included a list of other sites of interest to atheists or to people interested in atheism? Finally I can’t find the book by Martin Carrier you mention.)

    UnBeguided said: “ I’m still unclear why since you believe in all this supernatural causality lurking about, that you do not think scientists should be spending time looking for demons.

    I hope you are not under the impression that if you are a theist, or even if you are Christian theist, you must believe in demons or in magical powers, do you? And I did not claim that supernatural causality is “lurking about”. Actually that’s a common misunderstandings of theism. Theism is not the view that there is a basically naturalistic reality out there in which some kind of invisible puppeteer lurks about and pulls some supernatural strings now and then. Theism is a claim about the fundamental structure of reality, namely that it is personal and not mechanical as naturalism has it, that it is fundamentally purposeful and not fundamentally purposeless, that all order is ultimately caused by personal free and creative will (including our own) and not by blind natural laws. That’s the relevant distinction that serious people should ponder – not whether Jesus was really born of a virgin.

    UnBeguided said: “ You have claimed that an electron is guided by “some external computational mechanism or mind”.

    Not exactly. What I claimed was that within science electrons are just mathematical abstractions. According to naturalism though electrons are objectively existing entities. So I asked this: Given that according to naturalism an electron is not guided by “some external computational mechanism or mind”, and given that an electron is a primitive particle which does not include any moving parts, how is it that an electron displays the computationally complex behavior it does display. How does this work?

    You may ask what electrons are according to theism. The traditional dualistic view of theism is that electrons objectively exist but only contingent on God’s will, meaning that it is God’s will that upholds the existence and behavior of the electrons in each instance (or, if you wish, electrons are guided by God’s mind). A less popular but a simpler and more powerful theistic view is monistic, namely that God directly creates the physical phenomena we observe, and that therefore electrons do not objectively exist but exist only as mathematical patterns present in the phenomena we observe, exactly as science at its minimal expression has it. As you can see neither theistic view has any trouble accounting for an electron’s computationally complex behavior – whereas considering the silence about this issue I assume naturalism can’t account for it.

    UnBeguided said: “How would that kind of an electron differ from a fully natural electron? One that was not being guided by a mind? How would you tell the difference between these two kinds of electrons?

    There is no difference in their measurable behavior, because after all what we really know about electrons is that they are useful concepts for modeling phenomena – and whether electrons are guided or unguided is irrelevant in this respect. That’s precisely why science can’t be of much help in metaphysics. On the other hand the naturalistic claim that electrons are able to display computationally complex behavior without access to a computing mechanism strikes me as incoherent in itself. It’s tantamount to claiming that computation is going on but without computation. It seems naturalism has yet another conceptual problem here.

    UnBeguided said: “if you don’t know how an electron functions, you don’t know how nature functions. Therefore, naturalism is wrong” The brilliant Chipp has proclaimed that if I don’t know something, then God exists.Well, I was just pointing out yet another conceptual problem of naturalism. When one compares naturalism with theism the more conceptual problems one finds with naturalism the more probable theism becomes. And vice versa of course. But the one conceptual problem that theism has is the problem of evil (in its many forms) and the more one studies the relevant argument the less conclusive it becomes, not to mention there are already several theodicies which actually positively explain the existence of evil. On the other hand naturalism’s problems are growing at a furious pace for the last 100 years.

    There are some naturalist philosophers (Collin McGinn comes to mind) who confronted with some apparently unsolvable problems of naturalism have embraced what is now called New Mysterianism, namely the idea that our brains are intrinsically limited and incapable of understanding how reality is. Fair enough; after all reality may be so that our understanding is thus fundamentally limited. Some theists in the past have claimed similar limitations, see for example the so-called defense from ignorance in the context of the problem of evil. On the other hand when comparing two ontological worldviews the first of which is plagued with an ever increasing list of problems and the other isn’t – then clearly the reasonable thing is to prefer the latter one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    There is no difference in their measurable behaviorThank you for acknowledging that you are talking nonsense.

    I could just as well assert that some electrons are directed by immaterial magical pixies, and that others are fully natural, but that we cannot tell the difference.

    I hope it would be clear to you that my assertion would be idiotic and useless.

    Claiming that the universe is at bottom controlled by a mind, and then admitting that if it wasn’t, it would look the same anyway, is intellectual bankruptcy on stilts.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    I hope you are not under the impression that if you are a theist, or even if you are Christian theist, you must believe in demons or in magical powers, do you?Don’t most self-identified Christians believe that Jesus cast out demons?

    That belief entails that there are such beings as demons.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    Here is a link to several papers discussing how science does not presuppose naturalism:

    http://www.naturalism.org/science.htm#truescience

    I was referring to Richard Carrier’s book on naturalism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09925591703967774000 Dianelos Georgoudis

    UnBeguided said: “I could just as well assert that some electrons are directed by immaterial magical pixies, and that others are fully natural, but that we cannot tell the difference.

    We cannot tell the difference just by observing their behavior, correct. That’s why science cannot possibly help us decide whether electrons are unguided as naturalism has it, or whether they are guided by pixies, or by Descartes’s evil demon, or by a computer simulation, or by God. That’s precisely my point, and indeed a point well-known to philosophy from Plato to Kant.

    But the fact that science cannot help us decide which if any of these ontological views is the correct one does not mean that they are all equally reasonable. On the contrary we can use reason to evaluate them, albeit we must use reason beyond purely scientific knowledge. As I have suggested one criterion is to consider how free of conceptual problems each of these ontological views is. And it seems to me that naturalism is plagued with conceptual problems, such as the mind-body problem, the problem of free will, the problem of objective moral values, the problem of intentionality, the problem of the instability of scientific models which naturalism reifies in order to describe objective reality [1], the problem of describing a naturalistic reality that is compatible with quantum mechanical phenomena, the problem of justifying our cognitive capabilities, and – I suggest – the problem of explaining how elementary particles manage to display computationally complex behavior.

    [1] Two related problems here are: 1) When scientific theories do not correspond with some obvious physical model then many mutually contradictory physical models are suggested by different naturalists according to their own personal preconceptions (see the interpretations of quantum mechanics) thus evidencing that naturalism’s epistemology is not at all objective, and 2) Even though Quantum Electrodynamics does correspond with a particular model of reality naturalists refuse to reify it simply because it is considered too wild for comfort (QED’s model is that a particle moves through all points of space at all possible trajectories and speeds), thus evidencing that naturalism’s epistemology is basically arbitrary.

    Anyway these are my thoughts on this matter. If you don’t mind I would like not to continue our discussion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11399828220100913111 UnBeguiled

    “If you don’t mind I would like not to continue our discussion.”

    Surrender accepted.


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