“A Universe That’s Understandable Points to God,” but How Understandable Is the Universe?

“A Universe That’s Understandable Points to God,” but How Understandable Is the Universe? August 19, 2016

Christian apologeticsWe can understand the universe, but why? Nobel Prize-winning physicist and mathematician Eugene Wigner said in 1960, “The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural science is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.” Albert Einstein expressed a similar thought: “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”

What some Christian apologists claim

Many Christians have seized on this, claiming that an understandable universe points to God, both because God would want us to understand it and because only a theistic approach can explain such a universe. World-famous apologist William Lane Craig gave this religious interpretation:

It was very evident to me that [naturalists are not] able to provide any sort of an explanation of mathematics’ applicability to the physical world, and this was self-confessed…. Theism [enjoys] a considerable advantage in [being able to answer this question].

Philosopher Nicholas Maxwell added:

Why should the physical universe, utterly foreign to the human mind, nevertheless be comprehensible to the human mind? We have here, it seems, an utterly inexplicable link between the physical universe and the human world…. Of course if God exists, the comprehensibility of the universe is entirely understandable.

Let me push back a little. These interpretations make a huge, unstated assumption that a godless universe could not look like our universe, but what supports this? Do they think that the dependability of physics is only due to God? Do they think that a godless universe would it be unstable, with constants, exponents, and relationships continuously changing? Perhaps in this universe, e = mc2 would be valid one moment but then e = mc2.1 the next and e = 17mc3.5 the next?

That our physics wouldn’t look like it does without God is a very bold claim, for which I see no evidence. Furthermore, “God did it” is unfalsifiable, which is a fatal trait for any theory, let alone one that claims to explain all of science’s most perplexing problems.  (I give a more thorough analysis here.)

Hold on—is the universe understandable?

Let’s reconsider the initial claim, that the universe is understandable. Sure, we can find simple relationships between aspects of reality with scientific laws such as PV = nRT, V = IR, F = Gm1m2/r2, and so on, but things become more complicated. Corrections for relativity must be added to Newton’s Law of Gravity (F = Gm1m2/r2). Ohm’s Law (V = IR) ignores capacitance and inductance, which makes calculations of time-varying voltage or current much more complicated. And the Ideal Gas Law (PV = nRT) makes assumptions about gases that limit its applicability.

The universe is understandable? More precisely, what we understand about the universe is understandable, which isn’t much help in anticipating how science will continue to progress as we push the frontiers. How much about the universe will we eventually understand?

Knowledge about the universe can be divided into four categories, as illustrated by the Venn diagram above.

  1. What we know. This has expanded dramatically since the modern period of scientific discovery beginning around 1800, which includes scientists such as Maxwell, Mendeleev, and Tesla, and even more so since the Enlightenment period, which might include Galileo, Newton, and Pascal. Imagine how small the “What we know” ellipse was 500 years ago.
  2. What we will know. No one knows if we’ll continue learning about the universe at the current rate, but it seems a safe bet that we’ll know much more a thousand years in the future (assuming human society stays safe).
  3. What we’re capable of knowing. What more could we understand if we only asked the right questions or if super-smart aliens taught it to us? Theoretical physics, like science fiction, can only take us to places that its practitioners can dream up.
    Another limit is our finite ability to create technology. To satisfy Big Physics, engineers have built the Large Hadron Collider, the Laser Interferometry Gravity Observatory, and the Hubble Space Telescope, and they’re planning next generation versions. But what if we eventually needed versions that were a thousand times bigger or more expensive? Or a billion times? Human society, even far into the future, might have limits. Without these monster machines, doors to unimaginable truths might remain closed.
  4. All foundational knowledge of reality. The final ellipse is everything—not trivial specifics like the atmospheric composition of Alpha Centauri’s fourth planet but every concept, law, and theory needed to describe life, the universe, and everything.
    Our imperfect brains have limits. Imagine an alien species that is smarter than we are to the same extent that we are smarter than chimpanzees. While we share a common ancestor with chimps from just six million years ago, we can find in chimps only the rudiments of higher-order intelligence such as humor, problem solving, and morality. Chimpanzees are our closest living animal relative, but human children surpass their intelligence at perhaps three years of age. These aliens would intellectually be to us what we are to chimps. If chimps can never understand algebra or geometry, let alone calculus or quantum physics, what would these aliens be able to understand that we could never hope to learn? And if chimps will never understand all the science behind reality, why do we think we will?
    Now take it a step further and make the aliens’ cognitive gap the same as between us and lizards. Our understanding the new science these aliens could teach us might be as unlikely as a lizard understanding a joke.

A pessimistic look at our understanding of reality

The figure above gives one version of what we know (and will know) compared to what we won’t, but that’s just an optimistic guess. Imagine if the four ellipses actually look like this:

With this interpretation, we will still make a lot of progress from what we now know to what we will eventually know, but this more pessimistic version imagines the overwhelming majority of science out of our reach, either because imagination or lack of data let us down (third ellipse) or because it is beyond our cognitive reach (fourth ellipse). Will humans eventually understand 99 percent of the science behind reality? Or 0.1 percent?

Most frustrating, we can never know how big the third and fourth ellipses are! We can never understand the size of our ignorance. We will always perceive only ellipse #1, never sure if we’ve learned most of the science or a tiny fraction, never sure if we will learn much more or if we’re near our inherent limit.


See also: The Argument from Mathematics Doesn’t Add Up to God


Let’s return to our marvelously understandable universe. The universe is indeed understandable … but only to the extent that we can understand it. And how far is that? No one will ever know. “The universe is understandable” is an empty statement.

If Christians want to find proof of God in there somewhere, they must imagine a God who tantalizes us with some bits that are understandable, makes us work very hard to understand more, and refuses to tell us just how much of this mess we will ever understand. Doesn’t sound like a proof of anything to me.

The classic theist dodge
is to declare that God answers all prayers,
but the answer can be “Yes,” “No,” or “Wait.”
This means God has fewer options available to him

than my Magic 8 Ball.
— commenter Kevin K

Image credit: Olga Reznik, flickr, CC

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  • RichardSRussell

    Mach schnell, herr professor! Venn vill you haff ze diagrams ready? Venn, venn, venn? Und vot vill you call zem?

  • Uzza

    God made a universe we can understand, because God wants us to understand it:
    God made us a body we can masturbate, because God wants us to ….

    …wait, no …

    God made us able to understand the universe, because God wants us to understand it:
    God made us able to masturb …….. uhhh….

  • Jason K.

    Why should the physical universe, utterly foreign to the human mind, nevertheless be comprehensible to the human mind? We have here, it seems, an utterly inexplicable link between the physical universe and the human world….

    The human mind was produced by the physical universe, evolved senses to perceive the physical universe, and became self-aware while situated in the physical universe. In what possible sense is the physical universe “utterly foreign” to the human mind? Does he even know what happens to the human mind when it is deprived of all contact to the physical world?

    Of course if God exists, the comprehensibility of the universe is entirely understandable.

    This is actually a completely unevidenced assertion. How does postulating a supernatural being explain why brains are capable of understanding things? What’s the link? What’s the mechanism? Magic? The notion that if a god exists, he would want to grant humans the ability to comprehend the entire universe is a statement of personal faith, not a philosophical argument.

    • Uzza

      This latter quote is pretty much a tautology. If Tlaloc exists, it has no bearing on understanding anything. His statement only makes sense for a God who, by definition, wants us to understand the universe.

    • TheNuszAbides

      apologists/advocates for the primacy of mere storytelling seem [particularly in the case of Craig’s half-assed rhetoric in the article’s excerpt] to have no innate grasp of (or deliberately obscure) the distinction between “model that fits the evidence” and “just-so story”.

  • busterggi

    The universe is completely understandable.

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

    And remember, god told them it was so.

  • epeeist

    Do they think that the dependability of physics is only due to God? Do they think that a godless universe would it be unstable, with constants, exponents, and relationships continuously changing?

    Isn’t the other way around, with physical constants etc. being what they are purely at the whim of god?

    • Sastra

      Yes, it seems a bit odd that a universe of regularities is astonishing, pointing to a god behind it all and yet miracles which violate those regularities, are also astonishing, pointing to a god behind it all. Theism is simply a whirlwind of continuous astonishment, apparently.

      • TheNuszAbides

        and as the monolithic Inverse Of All Things We Ever Attribute To God, atheism of course strips and smothers all wonderment from knowledge, life, et al. or at least for some, that’s their most compelling shot at Othering us.

  • Castilliano

    The universe is comprehensible, implying an incomprehensible being.
    -No.

    We can only assume the laws of the universe are understandable if we add a being who can alter those laws at any given moment.
    -What?

    The more we understand the universe, the more it shows a god.
    -So then why do people who understand the universe least, believe in gods most?
    And, so this god doesn’t work at the relativistic or quantum scales where so much is yet to be understood?
    And of course, the more we know, the more we know we don’t know…so this backward evidence for a god is evaporating daily. Good.

    Theism has an advantage in answering this big question.
    -So does pixie-ism. What’s wrong with “just the way it is”-ism or “let’s not extra, barely defined pieces to the puzzle”-ism?

    So awkward how theists love fitting god in any gap they can, giving it kudos for any human success. “Science has made many advances in understanding the universe.” becomes “Must be my god at work.” What the heck? It took millennia for mankind to gain this understanding, so calling “understandability” an inherent (and god-given) aspect of the universe is bonkers.
    These people really do live in a different genre, where their presupposition of magic lends credence to any and every fantasy that tickles their god-fancy.
    I just wish they’d stop. Really.

    • Uzza

      A lot depends on how you understand “understand”. A theist will say he understands X because “God made it that way”—I won’t accept that and will
      demand details. No matter how deeply I delve into scientific arcana though, the theist will be able to point to more details from those outer ellipses and say I don’t have an explanation for them. Both sides say the other’s understanding / explanation is inadequate.

      That first circle hasn’t “expanded dramatically” at all, we’ve just stopped settling for some preacher’s word as an explanation for what we say we “know” or “understand”..

    • It took millennia for mankind to gain this understanding

      And all the glory goes to God. Or something.

    • Kodie

      It took millennia for mankind to gain this understanding, so calling “understandability” an inherent (and god-given) aspect of the universe is bonkers.

      Along will come a theist to describe what they call revelation, or the slow, long process of mankind’s understanding of the universe because that’s also part of the plan.

      These people really do live in a different genre, where their
      presupposition of magic lends credence to any and every fantasy that tickles their god-fancy.
      I just wish they’d stop. Really.

      Yeah. They take what is and make it whatever god must have intended it to be. They can say we could know everything (which they forget to consider that it’s not alone, and not in our own lifetimes, and not even in a thousand lifetimes), and assert some things we don’t know are not for us to know, and also deny things that are already known, and make-believe stories that assert we know some things nobody knows, and believe they know many things that are demonstrably not true.

      I just wish they could recognize how bizarre they sound. I mean, let’s just start with atheism. Whatever they think they know about atheists and atheism comes from people who aren’t atheists, and whatever character flaws they think we have as a result of not believing god exists, are really more lies coming from their untrustworthy sources, designed to discourage them from thinking. Imagine all god-beliefs on earth just didn’t talk about atheists, or suggest the dangers of atheism, I wonder what would happen. It’s not that god will damn you to hell if you leave faith, they make great warnings about being meaningless and depressed, and turning to drugs and becoming arrogant like you are god, and then act out of “tough love” to make you stay, or remove all contact with them. It’s that they don’t want you to leave, they are desperate to keep your company, to prove to themselves that Christianity isn’t a big delusion.

  • The proposition that a god is the creator of the universe, and is omnipotent, is not testable, for he could create any conditions or laws of behavior (or make it look like that) for his own reasons. The model fits the data, but it fits all conceivable data, and makes no predictions. It is not science, nor useful, nor provable.

  • alverant

    “Why should the physical universe, utterly foreign to the human mind, nevertheless be comprehensible to the human mind?”
    Since the human mind is part of the universe, how can it be foreign? And what does that have to do with being comprehensible?

  • Rudy R

    This notion that the physical universe is utterly foreign to the human mind is utterly preposterous. We actually know quite a bit about how the universe works, in terms of physics, chemistry, biology, geology, etc. The big questions still need solving, like what caused the Big Bang and first life form on Earth, but it’s just a matter of when, not if, we find the answers.

  • Sam

    Ah philosophy, or as a friend likes to call it, fashionable nonsense

    • Dys

      And yet no one can really function without it, because everything we do relies on it one way or another. Science, economics, ethics, etc.

      • Sam

        Of course.

    • epeeist

      Ah philosophy, or as a friend like to call it, fashionable nonsense

      If all (s)he has seen is post-modernism then one might agree.

      What one should not expect from philosophy is answers, as Peter Van Imwagen notes in his Metaphysics there is no philosophical information, no philosophical facts. Essentially philosophy is the art of asking good questions and eliminating bad answers.

      What happens once we start finding answers that stand up to scrutiny then that particular domain of discourse gets spun off into its own subject, as Dys notes this has happened with subjects like science. I would hazard a guess that the next one to be split off is the study of mind, where currently the field seems to be a mixture of philosophy and empirical study.

      • Michael Neville

        Post-modernism has done a lot to drag philosophy’s reputation into the mud.

      • Pofarmer

        So then, what do you do with “classical theists” who want to assert that the only proof of God is philosophical? God is not subject to emperical verification because God is being?

        • epeeist

          So then, what do you do with “classical theists” who want to assert that the only proof of God is philosophical?

          Eliminate the bad answers, point out where these so called “proofs” fail. Use some of the standard philosophical techniques against them, the principle of explosion, reductio ad absurdum, the razor for example. Expose their premises for as having no foundation, question begging or deliberately confusing inductive claims with necessary truths.

      • This is helpful. I have a bad attitude about philosophy, which may in part be because of my ignorance.

        What I hear you saying both illustrates the value of philosophy and its weakness. If it is at the vanguard of thought (noble though not especially well-informed work), that explains why it doesn’t have much to show for its efforts. But that also emphasizes that philosophers like WLC should know better than to imagine philosophy as particularly useful.

        And then the game playing begins. Philosophy could be defined, as Plantinga does, as merely thinking hard about a problem. In that case, my frustration should be focused on philosophers who want to imagine that they deliver more than they actually do.

        • epeeist

          I have a bad attitude about philosophy, which may in part be because of my ignorance.

          A couple of book recommendations for you in that case. Try Philosophy: Basic Readings edited by Nigel Warburton and Philosophers Without Gods edited by Louise Anthony.

          If it is at the vanguard of thought (noble though not especially well-informed work), that explains why it doesn’t have much to show for its efforts.

          Unfortunately the discarding of material which is inadequate tends not to look positive.

          But that also emphasizes that philosophers like WLC should know better than to imagine philosophy as particularly useful.

          I wouldn’t call WLC a philosopher, more a rhetorician specialising in the Gish Gallop.

          Philosophy could be defined, as Plantinga does, as merely thinking hard about a problem.

          Fine, in which case they are, as Robert Nozick would have it, delivering a possible explanation rather than a proof. And these explanations should be attacked without mercy to show where they are inadequate (and to use a term common in the engineering industry, this is usually at corner cases).

        • Dys

          This might be useful, if you haven’t read it before. It is a philosopher’s response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s diss of philosophy back in 2014:

          https://scientiasalon.wordpress.com/2014/05/12/neil-degrasse-tyson-and-the-value-of-philosophy/

        • I’ve read a number of articles in response to Tyson, Nye, and Hawkin’s disinterest in philosophy, but I hadn’t seen this one. Thanks.

        • MNb

          You have repeatedly asked what philosophy has done for you lately. Pigliucci and Boudry might provide an answer – an answer that given the popularity of anti-vaccination campaigns and global warming denial seems to be very topical.

          https://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Pseudoscience-Reconsidering-Demarcation-Problem-ebook/dp/B00EARH246/ref=la_B001IU0D3K_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395773218&sr=1-1#nav-subnav

        • Just to be precise, I’ve asked what philosophers have done for me lately. If someone wants to say that some scientist’s marvelous new theory was partly the result of philosophy, that’s fine.

          Thanks for the book link. Just to be contrary, Pigliucci has degrees in biology as well as philosophy, so I’m not sure that it’s just Pigliucci as philosopher who’s speaking here. I wonder what the mix of the contributors is.

        • se habla espol

          philosophers like WLC should know better than to imagine philosophy as particularly useful.

          But WLC’s paycheck depends on that pretence.

    • Eo Raptor

      You remember those big philosophical debates while gathered in somebody’s dorm room? Along about my Junior year (so, I’m slow) I recognized they all had a common feature: They ended when somebody needed to shit.

      Pretty much ended most of my interest in philosophy.

  • Michael Neville

    “The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural science is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.” Albert Einstein expressed a similar thought: “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.”

    I read this and immediately thought of J.B.S. Haldane’s comment:

    I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. [emphasis in original]

    • Eo Raptor

      And that God has an inordinate fondness for bugs.

  • MNb

    If the comprehensibility of our Universe points at a god, to what does the (in)comprehensibility of said god point at?
    Plus actually a Dutch apologist did say that the inconsistency of our Universe (though I’m not aware of him pointing out which inconsistencies and I didn’t try very hard to find out) points at a god as well.

    • Nice try, atheist man, but if something is incomprehensible (like a door unopened), how would you even know?

      Checkmate, atheists!

      • Michael Neville

        Schrodinger’s door.

    • Robert Templeton

      That makes sense (from their point of view). Comprehensibility (God’s plan) is God. Incomprehensibility is God works in mysterious ways. Win, Win for the idle-minded religious. Hard to argue with such pretentious offerings. I would say that it is time to call them out on their duplicity but they revel in it and one cannot break them free of the reveling!

  • Barfly98210

    Not to mention that quantum mechanics, which is the best model we have for describing the universe at it’s most basic level, is quite incomprehensible.

    “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.” — Feynman

    • thehawkfam8889

      That is a very good quote. I bet you think you understand quantum mechanics? I’m curious what your education level is?

  • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

    Why should the physical universe, utterly foreign to the human mind

    I disagree. How can a human mind, composed of matter in the physical universe, perceiving the physical universe, consider that same physical universe to be ‘utterly foreign’ ??!!??

    • Robert Templeton

      Aptly and well stated!

  • Kodie

    I feel like we could comprehend a lot more about the universe, but is there a point where we’d gotten all we could out of what we knew, and anything else we could know was just trivia?

    • Right. Trivia (like the atmospheric composition of every planet in the universe) isn’t the goal but rather the principles that uphold everything.

      How would we know that we were done?

      • Robert Templeton

        Some of the most profound discoveries were in the acquisition of ‘trivial data’. I say that we are far from done.

        A notice: One must separate the profound, great discoveries that happen almost never from the ones that happen more often with great impact. We are definitely reaching a certain limit on our ability to know ‘everything’ (wrt chaos theory, probability, information, direct knowledge of the past). But we are nowhere near knowing ‘everything’ we could discover. Keep in mind the difference.

        • Michael Neville

          “Science knows it doesn’t know everything otherwise it would stop.” –Dara O’Briain

  • Otto

    So basically the question is ‘why is the Universe consistent with itself?’. Wouldn’t it be more surprising if it wasn’t? Wouldn’t an inconsistent universe point more to a god pulling the levers?

    Now if only religion was consistent….

    • Robert Templeton

      Basically, if the universe were inconsistent, one could postulate that there would be no intelligent life in which to consider the inconsistency. Does that make sense?

    • Kevin K

      Agree completely. An inconsistent universe would be evidence of a godlike creature “gaming” the system.

      In fact, that’s exactly what all the so-called “miracles” are. They’re god declaring that it doesn’t have to be bound by the usual laws of physics, chemistry, and biology.

  • eric

    I would be more accepting of this argument if its proponents accepted the obvious flip side – that a universe that’s misunderstandable points to a trickster God. But nope. This is just another example of ‘heads I win tails you lose’ theology – the argument will be that understanding implies God, but when something happens that is incomprehensible, they’ll take not understanding as implying God too.

    • In a similar fashion, if you want to point to sunsets and puppies as evidence of a good god, you must use dengue fever and cancer to see an evil god.

    • Robert Templeton

      Well, to give some credit to early humans, we did evolve adaptations that helped us survive to be what we are today. So we weren’t completely misunderstanding – just not as understanding. We were still the most intelligent species on the planet 200,000 years ago but we hadn’t put all of our new hardware into service to achieve what we have since.

  • Herald Newman

    > Theism [enjoys] a considerable advantage in [being able to answer this question].

    Except that it doesn’t answer the question, it asserts the answer! It offers no demonstrable, objective, evidence in support of the claims. It’s another gap for God to fill, until we find out the reason for it.

    • Robert Templeton

      There is a difference between ‘knowing’ and knowing. The latter is simply exclaiming that it all makes sense with some mysterious being. The former is actually having worked out how it works and knowing how it works. That is what makes religion dangerous to me!

      • Pofarmer

        The problem is both answers feel the same. You are satisfied solving a problem, whether the solution is real or not. As long as you are satisfied, your body can’t tell the difference.

        • TheNuszAbides

          key point in judicial/penal reform.

    • Precisely. I could say “The reason gravity exists is because invisible gnomes use magic to draw mass together” to answer the question of why gravity exists, and there’s no way to tell whether that’s right or wrong without evidence.

      Asserting an answer – like theists do regarding the origin of the universe – is incredibly easy and nothing special. What matters is being able to answer a question _correctly,_ and provide evidence proving such.

  • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

    … Corrections for relativity must be added to Newton’s Law of Gravity …

    before that some already tried to actually play with the exponent 2 in newton’s law (not einstein’s E=mc^2) to account for the perihelion of mercury (asaph hall’s 2.00000016). apparently even newton himself considered more general force laws (see here).

  • Msironen

    There ARE in fact some fairly decent non-theistic efforts at explaining the apparent mathematicality of the Universe (such as Max Tegmark’s Mathematical Universe Hypothesis).

    “Magic man dunnit” on the other hand doesn’t even get out of the gate as an explanation, much less be in the race.

  • rubaxter

    The Religious are just using ignorance as an excuse for their fairy tale being true. As for math being mysterious, it seems we have to keep inventing new maths to explain what we see, so apart from the general process of math rigour, the math itself if pounded to fit and painted to match when you look at the evolution of it and not just the end point.

    And, just because Theisim has AN answer doesn’t mean it is a good answer, just that it fits with the bigotry of the people who need religion. You can just smell and feel that smug bigotry in the Craig quote, above.

    • Math is like Douglas Adams’ puddle–it is shaped to fit the universe rather than the universe (marvelously) adapting to fit a fixed mathematics.

      • Hans-Richard Grümm

        Right. Those subdisciplines of mathematics which contain good models for some natural phenomena (e.g. partial differential equations) were preferably developed during the 18th and 19th century.

  • Michael Neville

    Lane Craig bleats:

    It was very evident to me that [naturalists are not] able to provide any sort of an explanation of mathematics’ applicability to the physical world, and this was self-confessed…. Theism [enjoys] a considerable advantage in [being able to answer this question].

    The problem with GODDIDIT is that since it answers every question it doesn’t answer any questions. Why is the proton-to-electron mass ratio (μ) equal to 1,836.15267389? GODDIDIT doesn’t explain.

    • Joe

      If you see mathematics as a description of the physical world, it seems to make a lot more sense. Mathematics is a language to describe the world.

  • PacMan

    Shouldn’t the “What We Know” ellipse have a bit that lies outside all the other ellipses, to represent the things we currently think we know that are actually wrong?

    And if they want consistency, show them Goedel’s Incompleteness Theorem, that says mathematics (and thus physics?) cannot prove it’s own consistency, and that some true (and false) statements cannot be proved to be true (or false, as appropriate).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del%27s_incompleteness_theorems

    • Right–I’m ignoring the stuff we think we know but are wrong about. That does complicate things.

  • Sobeit

    your argument is that since noone fully comprehends Ulysses, James Joyce never existed? ouch my head hurts from your logic.

    • Susan

      your argument is that since noone fully comprehends Ulysses, James Joyce never existed?

      Where did you get that?

      • Sobeit

        that the univierse cannot be fully comprehended in our lifetimes is a given, that it was not created by a higher being is not, no?.

        • Michael Neville

          You don’t appear to understand the argument. It isn’t “the universe is not fully comprehended, therefore gods do not exist.” It’s “Christians are claiming that the universe can only be comprehended using a theistic approach.”

        • Sobeit

          which Christians, where? you mean the strawmen over in the cornfield? no my friend, last time I looked, Christians are as sophisticated as you are, we all know the universe as a material object must be comprehended by scientific means – heck, the bible instructs us that while we live in the world, we must make use of the worldly methods to comprehend it – but, Christians do believe there is a part of the universe that is made up of the “nonmaterial” – for this part, I would agree with your statement that Christians claim the only way to comprehend it is by a spritual approach- which, you must agree, logically speaking, that if there is a nonmaterial aspect of the univierse, I mean, how else would you be able to observe it other than a theistic approach?

        • Michael Neville

          People like William Lane Craig, professional Christian apologist. If you bother to read the OP you’ll see he’s quoted as saying that the universe can only be comprehended by using God Glasses.

          If you say that there’s a “supernatural” part of existence then it’s up to you to show evidence for this claim. The argumentum ad populum is a logical fallacy so you’ll have to use something besides “Christians believe it”.

        • Sobeit

          Thank god, Steve Jobs didn’t think like you.

        • Michael Neville

          Now that you’ve done an ad hominem do you want to rebut what I wrote?

          And no, I do not think like Steve Jobs. I believe in having medical professionals treat cancer and I’ve got a loving relationship with my daughter and her mother (who happens to be my wife). Also I’m not an asshole to my subordinates at work.

        • Yeah, I’m missing the Steve Jobs connection, too. I guess his example just shows that even the brilliant among us have illogical blind spots.

        • Myna A.

          Steve Jobs is a good example of the human propensity to mythologize.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Sobeit seems to have smuggled in (and probably unwittingly) the implication that Jobs is a unique cause of some massive human flourishing. here i was thinking he simply promoted some useful technological adaptations and perhaps had ‘good business sense’, though ‘right place at the right time’ syndrome is hardly historically miraculous.

        • you did something very “unreasonable” – you introduced into the conversation, the word “supernatural” – I used the word “nonmaterial” – I never used the word “supernatural”, now did I?

          Is this a problem? Sounds like an opportunity for you to explain to the philistines here the difference between the two words.

          But why whould you insert this word into the disucssion – is it because you are more comfortable debating the word “supernatural” which is a word linked to witches, wizards, efls and goblins….

          And for his next trick, Sobeit will explain why, when God does a miracle, that’s not magic.

          is it bceause by using this word, you can avoid dealing with the more serious and more difficult discussion of the existence of the material and non material aspects of the universe – hmm, yes. I believe that is the reason

          It’s like you can see into MN’s very soul! Amazing.

        • Michael Neville

          Bob, I’m not seeing Sobeit’s post which you’re obviously reply to. However I’ll respond to your quotes from that post:

          you did something very “unreasonable” – you introduced into the conversation, the word “supernatural” – I used the word “nonmaterial” – I never used the word “supernatural”, now did I?

          I apologize for misattributing supernatural to you when you used nonmaterial. The two words, while having similar meanings, do not have identical definitions.

          That being said, since you did say previously:

          if there is a nonmaterial aspect of the univierse, I mean, how else would you be able to observe it other than a theistic approach?

          then I have to ask for a definition of “nonmaterial aspects of the universe” and how they differ from material aspects. Are you using the old wheeze “you can’t give a physical example of ‘love’ or ‘justice’, therefore Jesus”? Or are you trying to make a different argument?

        • I got this Sobeit comment in a Disqus email notification. Because Like you, I couldn’t find it, so I assume he deleted it. But it’s still his words and it still had some stuff that I wanted to respond to.

        • Sobeit

          umm, something happened with Discus – my rebuttal was categorized as “spam” and removed – I did tell them it wasn’t spam, (whatever that is) and they responded that they are reviewing the matter – quite off putting, I must admit and I decided to leave – but I came back to see what Discus’ decision was and I am finding a few other responses – ok, the image I had in mind to describe non material aspects would be this – you have line of numbers, 1, 2, _, 4, 5, 6 – so the material aspect of that line are the numbers, 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 – the nonmaterial aspect of that line is the number 3. You may say, 3 doesn’t exist, but we all know it does.

        • Michael Neville

          Friendly word of advice: Learn to use sentences and periods instead of dashes. It makes your posts easier to read. I had a high school English teacher who repeatedly told us: “If you make something difficult to read then people won’t read it.”

        • Sobeit

          point well taken.

        • Greg G.

          I had a post rejected when I had made multiple links to some books on Amazon. Since then, I have resisted the urge to put more than one such link. I haven’t experimented on how far I could push it.

        • Odd. I know I’ve seen some comments with 3 links. Perhaps there is a limit.

        • Greg G.

          My theory is that it is links to sites like Amazon that trigger the spam filter. Don’t they have ways to earn money through links?

        • You can have have Amazon affiliate information in your link, though the commercial aspect of that is so paltry that I’m surprised that that would trigger a spam flag, but maybe that’s it.

        • Greg G.

          I doubt the spam filter is sophisticated enough to identify the tell-tale signs of affiliate programs for every affiliate program on the web. But I would think it might kick out a post with multiple links to certain sites with affiliate programs.

        • Michael Neville

          I don’t think your analogy works. We have been taught since childhood that the number 3 exists. If we’re given the sequence 1, 2, _, 4, 5 then everyone over the age of three will immediately say 3. Even Discworld trolls, who count 1, 2, 3, many,* are familiar with 3.

          *Trolls use a base-four number system. It goes 1, 2, 3, many, many-1, many-2, many-3, many-many, many-many-1, many-many-2, many-many-3, many-many-many, many-many-many-1, many-many-many-2, many-many-many-3, lots. Lots is equal to 16 in base-ten.

        • Greg G.

          Is your analogy supposed to be saying there is an imaginary gap that you want to fill with an imaginary explanation or that you want to fill an known gap with an imaginary explanation?

        • adam

          ..

        • Sobeit

          It’s not an analogy – it’s an example of a non-material object, the identity of which can be determined by our logic – Yes, we are filling a gap, Greg G., but not with something imaginary. We are filling it with the next number in the thread of numbers. It’s logical, it’s verifiable and whether you wish to accept it, it’s right.

        • Pofarmer

          The number 3 is a concept that describes something physical. Math is basically a language. Is English real? Is Spanish real? Is baseball real? Do they exist “out there” somewhere?

        • Sobeit

          Not quite ” it is universally acknowledged that numbers and the other objects of pure mathematics are abstract (if they exist), whereas rocks and trees and human beings are concrete.”

          I had to quote from “Abstract Objects
          First published Thu Jul 19, 2001; substantive revision Tue Mar 6, 2012”.

          Try again.

        • Pofarmer

          “Abstract terms refer to ideas or concepts; they have no physical referents.”

          http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/abstract.htm

          So, eh?

        • martin_exp(pi*sqrt(163))

          if your sequence is floor(4/3*n) for n=1,2,…, which also starts with 1,2,4,5,6, then the “complementary sequence” is 4*n-1 (floor(x) is the greatest integer <= x), and 4*1-1 = 3.

        • Kodie

          Why would anyone say 3 doesn’t exist?

        • adam

          “3. You may say, 3 doesn’t exist, but we all know it does.”

          How does it exist?

          Like Spiderman?

        • Pofarmer

          What the hell does that even mean?

        • Sobeit

          Searching for meaning, isn’t that we are alll doing? In the post above, in my response, may I suggest, in life itself. I find very little, unless I add to the equation, the concept of the afterlife. Ok, atheist, what meaning do you find in life?

        • Kodie

          I’m sure your loved ones would be happy to know you think they’re worthless to your definition of meaning. It’s stupid theist afterlife fantasy believers who have no meaning. This reality is too blah and meaningless for you, not for us.

        • Sobeit

          So, what makes you so sure, your’re right?

        • Kodie

          I don’t think we’re all at the point to discuss “right” yet, meaning, we meaning you. You are straggling behind on the “meaning” you find in life, which, it’s not meaningful enough for you, the people and events in your life absolutely cannot be enjoyed or appreciated on their merits without an afterlife, which is pathetic.

        • Sobeit

          “I don’t think we’re all at the point to discuss “right” yet, …”

          It’s always the right point to discuss “right”

        • Kodie

          Not if you missed the point entirely.

        • Joe

          And now he’s dead.

        • Sobeit

          noone is dead as long as we keep talking about him.

        • Greg G.

          How can the court pass a verdict on a murder case if they keep talking about the deceased?

          Why do we need a vice-president? All we have to do is keep talking about the president.

          How can Christians say that Jesus died for their sins and was resurrected if he is still alive because they can’t stop talking about him?

        • Joe

          I’m pretty sure he’s dead.

        • Kodie

          If your heart stops beating and your brain stops firing, you’re dead. Doesn’t matter how many people keep talking about you.

        • adam

          And THAT is the ONLY reason Jesus is still ‘alive’…

        • if there is a nonmaterial aspect of the univierse, I mean, how else would you be able to observe it other than a theistic approach?

          Does God interact with our universe? Does he change it? That’s a scientific claim that can, in principle at least, be tested scientifically. So far, nothing.

        • Myna A.

          heck, the bible instructs us that while we live in the world, we must make use of the worldly methods to comprehend it

          Could you please provide a direct quote for that assertion, not what you feel implies it, and also why did the Church, then, persecute Galileo if we must make “use of the worldly methods to comprehend [the universe].”

          which Christians, where?

          In terms of science, there are Christian denominations that do not trust modern medicine above their deity’s “word”, and there are more than a good number of people, children included, who died from diseases and conditions which could have been successfully treated but for the faith that their deity, alone, would heal them. If you call them naïve, then are you not challenging their faith? If you call them misguided, what misguided them?

        • epeeist

          if there is a nonmaterial aspect of the univierse, I mean, how else would you be able to observe it other than a theistic approach?

          A rather large non sequitur there, if there is a non-material aspect to the universe then why should a theistic approach work any better than, say, methodological naturalism?

        • Sobeit

          Methodological naturalism might be an approach to analyze a non-material aspect of the universe but it is not better because it fails in providing a complete handle on the data you would collect – but my assumption is that the data would in the end lead you to the higher power -at that point you need the theistic approach – it will get you to the end game.

        • epeeist

          Methodological naturalism might be an approach to analyze a non-material aspect of the universe but it is not better because it fails in providing a complete handle on the data you would collect

          It fails? And you know that how precisely?

          but my assumption is that the data would in the end lead you to the higher power -at that point you need the theistic approach – it will get you to the end game.

          Nice assertion, but without any justification why should I take it as anything more than your opinion?

        • Otto

          When a theistic approach can provide even a minuscule, partial handle on the data…you be sure to let us know.

        • adam

          ” but my assumption is that the data would in the end lead you to the higher power ”

          So you presuppose “God”.

        • Kodie

          Don’t know what you’re talking about. A theistic approach is to make up stories and then pretend it’s an “approach”.

        • TheNuszAbides

          to make up stories

          or pretend that borrowed/regurgitated stories are somehow axiomatic.

        • Kodie

          If there isn’t a nonmaterial aspect of the universe, theists would still argue that there was. That’s pretty much all you have is supposing it does, and then making up a story to support that, provide no evidence, etc.

        • eric

          I mean, how else would you be able to observe it other than a theistic approach?

          By its effects on the material world, of course. If you carved out someone’s brain and they still had intelligence and control, we could say that the nonmaterial soul controls the body. If people could call down physics-defying miracles, that would be evidence of a non-material component to the universe. If a non-material being showed itself as a pillar of fire by night, or pillar of smoke by day, or put a spiritual image of fire above the heads of its disciples to give them authority when they spoke, those things would be observations of the non-material.

          But 20th century Christians, being smart apologists, have slowly retreated….retreated….retreated on all these ideas. They claim they don’t occur. Well they did, according to your bible. So why don’t they occur now?

          Your theology claims God DID make the non-material evident in the past. So why doesn’t he do so now?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Your theology claims God DID make the non-material evident in the past. So why doesn’t he do so now?

          clearly His Magnificent Hiddenness adapts (with Perfect Prescience) to contemporary methods of observation and documentation.

        • Sastra

          Sobeit wrote:

          which Christians, where? you mean the strawmen over in the cornfield?

          No, over here. The OP quotes William Lane Craig and Nicholas Maxwell as proponents of the claim that “a universe that’s understandable points to God.” I doubt they stand in cornfields, much.

          I suspect a “spiritual approach” to discovering a “non-material aspect of the universe” would be wildly successful regardless of whether one exists or not. It will also come up with a lot of competing maps. Not a lot of checks and balances in a spiritual approach.

        • Pofarmer

          “To talk of immaterial existences is to talk of
          nothings. To say that the human soul, angels, god, are immaterial,
          is to say they are nothings, or that there is no god, no angels, no
          soul. I cannot reason otherwise: but I believe I am supported in my
          creed of materialism by Locke, Tracy, and Stewart. At what age of
          the Christian church this heresy of immaterialism, this masked
          atheism, crept in, I do not know. But a heresy it certainly is.” Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams.

          http://www.let.rug.nl/usa/presidents/thomas-jefferson/letters-of-thomas-jefferson/jefl262.php

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          You could observe it in a ghost dimension approach like in Danny Phantom or an eldritch approach like in the Cthulu Mythos or a dream world approach like in Dragon Quest 6 or by touching a shinigami’s Death Note (though I suppose that is a kind of theistic approach, but there is no life after death for humans or shinigami). People have come up with a lot of ways to remake that fiction.

        • MNb

          “there is a part of the universe that is made up of the “nonmaterial”
          That doesn’t make sense, as our Universe by definition is material (it began with the Big Bang, a thoroughly material event). You probably mean reality.

        • Sobeit

          the symbol pi represents infinity, doesn’t it? Is infinity, material or nonmaterial?

        • Greg G.

          The symbol pi represents the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter. It is approximately 3.14 but it is an irrational number. The symbol for infinity looks like a lazy 8.

        • adam

          But it seems he would rather have some pi

        • Argus

          “we all know the universe as a material object must be comprehended by scientific means ”

          And yet your religion claims it came into being by supernatural/non-material means?

        • Rudy R

          What exactly is the theistic approach?

        • that the univierse cannot be fully comprehended in our lifetimes is a given

          Not what I said.

        • Eo Raptor

          There exists objectively observable facts supporting the theory that James Joyce wrote Ulysses. Please provide me with such facts supporting the fairytale that an all-knowing, etc., god, created the universe.

        • Susan

          no?

          No. It’s almost as though you didn’t read the article.

          The article was an on-point response to a particular christian claim. It explains why that particular claim fails to convince..

          to which I would respond, if asked properly logic.

          OK. I generally don’t pick on people’s spelling and grammar as mine isn’t always the best and even that is better often than the comments I leave unedited on Disqus.

          Also, depending on the device one can access, things can get very dicey.

          Your question “where did you get that?” is on the order of “how did you come up with that”?

          OK. If that’s what might draw out a thoughtful response, I will rephrase:

          “how did you come up with that?”

          I hope I asked that properly, logic.

          This might be pointless. I’ve been working since 6:30 this morning without a break and just got home now. I probably missed most of the exchange.

          It’s possible you just drove by and aren’t here any more.

          I see Karl Udy upvoted your original point. That’s two of you who seem to have missed the point entirely.

          I hope one of you will continue the conversation.

        • Sobeit

          I don’t have to be a “drive by” – I came back to see how Discus would rule on a comment of mine that they said was “spam” -(wasn’t that a monthy python play on broadway?)

          well as long as we are ‘fessing up – maybe I do need to reread the article – probably will now since I do want to respond to the comments here but my original thought was that the “particular christian” was a strawman.

          hope I can keep up with continuing this conversation, I can only try.

        • Greg G.

          The clue that is was not a strawman argument was “World-famous apologist William Lane Craig gave this religious interpretation:”

        • Susan

          I do need to reread the article – probably will now since I do want to respond to the comments here

          Thank you. I look forward to your thoughts after the reread.

        • Sobeit

          ok, I think I’ve read and reread this article so many times, it has actually imprinted on me – this article is so rich with food for thought, and I appreciate Bob for posting – but Craig and Maxwell are out of context and more needs to be added to fully understand their comments cited here. Most likely, the part we are not reading is the logical equation that- if God exists, and God created the universe and God created man in his image then the universe is cabable of being understood by man.

        • Greg G.

          Links are provided to their arguments. The link for Craig goes to another CrossExamined article where there is a link to Craig’s argument.

        • adam

          ” if God exists,”

          If garden fairies exist
          If Invisible Flying Pink Unicorns exist.

          And it is easy to look around and see that it is MAN creating gods, not the other way around

        • Susan

          I’ve read and reread this article so many times, it has actually imprinted on me.

          Good. Thank you. Now, there is a possibility of fruitful discussion.

          but Craig and Maxwell are out of context

          I don’t think so. But if you’d like to explain how Bob misunderstands their arguments, I would be glad to listen.

          Most likely, the part we are not reading is the logical equation that if God exists

          But that logtcal equation is not how the argument works.

          The argument seems to be that the universe and a species of hominid who understand some part of it couldn’t exist without “God”, an ill-defined term that alludes to an entity and for which there is no evidence.

          That is, that “God” is necessary for any universe that contains actual entities that are capable of any understanding of that universe.

          Tell me how I got Craig wrong here.

        • Sobeit

          “‘but Craig and Maxwell are out of context’
          I don’t think so. But if you’d like to explain how Bob misunderstands their arguments, I would be glad to listen.”

          Well, what I mean is that the quotes are a small snippet of a much larger discourse – I find my eyebrows always raise and my left eye twitches whenever a Christian is quoted in such a manner – I can’t say exactly whether the quotes are misused in this article or not, noone can, unless we are also presented with the whole discourse from which they were snatched.

          “But that logtcal equation is not how the argument works.

          The argument seems to be that the universe and a species of hominid who understand some part of it couldn’t exist without “God”, an ill-defined term that alludes to an entity and for which there is no evidence.”

          I think that it is part of it. -The article reads:
          “Many Christians have seized on this, claiming that an understandable universe points to God, both because God would want us to understand it and because only a theistic approach can explain such a universe.”

          First, notice the reference to “Many Christians” – that’s where the strawman issue comes in, but let’s continue – “both becuase God would want us to understand it and because only a theistic approach can explain such a universe”

          Second, the author extropolates an argument from tjhe quotes, that he can defeat – a more correct extropolation of these quotes is my equation which is that man was created by God, in his image for the very reason that God does want us to embrace and understand the universe. And, the theistic approach is the best approach because it is the one that makes the most sense. How else to explain the connection we have with the universe but by having a connection with it’s creator.

        • Susan

          Well, what I mean is that the quotes are a small snippet of a much larger discourse

          That does not mean that they are out of context. When someone responds to an argument, they are expected to charitably respond to the main points that that argument is making.

          I think Bob S. has done this so far. If you see where he has missed something about the larger argument, please point it out.

          As I asked earlier, what specifically did Bob get wrong about the gist of WLC’s argument?

          notice the reference to “Many Christians” =that’s where the strawman issue comes in

          Many christians make this argument. It’s part of the bread and butter of many christian claims. If many christians make this argument, it is not a strawman. It’s a response to a particular christian argument.

          A strawman argument is replacing an argument with non-existent and easily defeated arguments. Replacing men with straw. You’ll have to show that Bob did this. It’s easily done, if true.

          a more correct extropolation of these quotes is my equation which is that man was created by God, in his image for the very reason that God does want us to embrace and understand the universe. And, the theistic approach is the best approach because it is the one that makes the most sense.

          You’re beginning with your conclusion and are not showing your work.

          This is what the article responds to. Your position, actually. If responding to your position is responding to a strawman, then you’d have to make the case that no christian makes the case that you’re here trying to make. An argument very much like WLC’s.

          So, let’s stop going in circles.

          Here are your claims:

          1) Man was created by God.
          2) God does want us to embrace and understand the universe.
          3) The theistic approach is the best approach because it is the one that makes the most sense.

          My responses:

          What is “God”? Be specific. (I mean it. Don’t respond with something like “the christian god”. What are you claiming exists and how do you support it?)
          What is “the theistic approach”?
          Why does it make sense?

        • Sobeit

          “That does not mean that they are out of context. When someone responds to an argument, they are expected to charitably respond to the main points that that argument is making.”
          I know what you mean. I still do believe that the author did not understand the discourse from which he plucked these particular quotes. His article presents an extremely interesting thesis. It’s amusing to realize, however, that his lack of understanding of the quotes he uses from Christian wisdom directly parallels his lack of understanding of the universe which he freely admits.
          “As I asked earlier, what specifically did Bob get wrong about the gist of WLC’s argument?”
          I don’t believe Bob anything wrong, he did everything right – he brought the article that supports atheism to his blog to be discussed– Bob’s not the author.
          “Many Christians make this argument. It’s part of the bread and butter of many Christian claims. If many Christians make this argument, it is not a strawman. It’s a response to a particular Christian argument.”
          A strawman argument is replacing an argument with non-existent and easily defeated arguments. Replacing men with straw. You’ll have to show that Bob did this. It’s easily done, if true.”

          In my opinion, that author creates a strawman by taking a quote here and a quote there, patching it together to create a thesis that he attributes to “many Christians” – it’s a thin shadow of a Christian thesis, a patchwork of tantalizing quotes, if you will, that he props up as big as life, so he can act all macho and what not by knocking it down in a single article. Pathetic!

          “Here are your claims:1) Man was created by God.2) God does want us to embrace and understand the universe.3) The theistic approach is the best approach because it is the one that makes the most sense.
          My responses:What is “God”? Be specific. (I mean it. Don’t respond with something like “the Christian god”.
          God is the God as defined by the Christian Bible.
          What are you claiming exists and how do you support it?)
          That said God created the World and Man as described in the book of Genesis in the Christian Bible.
          What is “the theistic approach”?Why does it make sense?”
          The theistic approach is an analysis of the world around us that acknowledges that said God created Man and the universe. It makes sense because it provides an explanation for why something so small, frail and manageable as the human brain is able to grasp something so expansive, powerful and complex as the universe with profound advances in the fields of mathematics and science, namely, human beings have an innate ability to grasp the workings of the universe, having been created in the image of the creator of that universe.

        • TheNuszAbides

          why something so small, frail and manageable as the human brain is able
          to grasp something so expansive, powerful and complex as the universe
          with profound advances in the fields of mathematics and science

          the only way one human brain has done even a fraction of this is due to the transmission, interpretation and refinement of knowledge collected, interpreted, refined and transmitted by countless human brains over countless generations. there are collective and emergent properties at work here. or you could attempt to prove otherwise. you haven’t at all established the necessity for positing a ‘creator’, let alone any ‘connection’ to such a thing.

        • noone can unless we are also presented with the whole discourse from which they were snatched.

          Then go read the originals and identify any problems.

          And, the theistic approach is the best approach because it is the one that makes the most sense. How else to explain the connection we have with the universe but by having a connection with it’s creator.

          Huh?? We are connected to the universe (and understand it, sort of) just like the puddle is well-fitted to its hole.

          The supernatural has never explained anything.

        • I wonder if the “If God exists …” preamble ever leads to anything useful. We could always say, “If [incredible thing] is true, then …” but why? Let’s focus first on deciding that that incredible thing actually is true first.

          And I don’t think your summary at the end is at all what they’re saying. They’re saying the reverse: that the universe is understandable, therefore God.

        • MNb

          Not necessarily on Broadway.
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8huXkSaL7o

  • T-Paine

    I can easily flip this around:

    It was very evident to me that [supernaturalists are not] able to provide any sort of an explanation of mathematics’ applicability to the non-physical world, and this was self-confessed…. Non-Theism [enjoys] a considerable advantage in [being able to answer this question].

    And:

    Why should the non-physical universe, utterly foreign to the human mind, nevertheless be comprehensible to the human mind? We have here, it
    seems, an utterly inexplicable link between the non-physical universe and the human world…. Of course if God doesn’t exist, the comprehensibility of that universe is entirely understandable.

    • Michael Neville

      Nicely done, sir.

  • Sophia Sadek

    A nice diagram of the island of knowledge.

  • Joe

    Don’t these self-same apologists tell us that some things will always elude science (therefore god exists)? So god makes things all knowable, but then deliberately hides stuff from us, just for fun?

  • T-Paine

    I’ll revise my point from the previous thread:

    The creator of the universe is a being whose existence can be argued by evidence found in nature, reason, and logic. Faith is irrelevant, much less required for belief.

    The Christian god is a being whose existence cannot be argued by evidence evidence found in nature, reason, and logic. Faith is not only relevant, but required for belief.

    Therefore, the creator of the universe cannot be argued to be the Christian god.

  • Rt1583

    “able to provide any sort of an explanation of mathematics’ applicability to the physical world”

    How do they explain that their belief in their particular god allows or provides any sort of explanation of mathematics’ applicability to the physical world?

    “Why should the physical universe, utterly foreign to the human mind, nevertheless be comprehensible to the human mind?”

    No. What is utterly foreign to the human mind is religion. Take a child born of ardent Muslims from his parents at a young age and place him with ardent Baptists and that child will, more than likely, become Baptist. No person in the history of mankind has been born of a particular religious faith. All people in the history of mankind have been born with a knowledge, to some extent, of the physical world.

    • eric

      How do they explain that their belief in their particular god allows or
      provides any sort of explanation of mathematics’ applicability to the
      physical world?

      They don’t. Theology includes both “generic deity” arguments and more narrow, sect-specific arguments. The argument-from-comprehensibility is the former. It makes sense for critics (like Bob) to take on both, since both will be used at different times.

    • Michael Neville

      How do they explain that their belief in their particular god allows or provides any sort of explanation of mathematics’ applicability to the physical world?

      There’s a couple of ways this can happen:

      * The fine tuning argument says that the universe was purposefully designed by the gods or a god for life, particularly human life, to exist. Designing the mathematics used to describe such a universe is just part of this argument.

      * The transcendental argument says the gods or a god are the source for all knowledge and logic. Therefore mathematics, as a type of knowledge, stems from the mind of god.

      • Uzza

        I don’t get this argument. Mathematics is a description of the world: they’re asking ” Why should a description be applicable to the thing it describes?”

  • Kevin K

    Thanks for the shout-out of my comment.

    I think we probably know more about the universe than we’ve given ourselves credit for. But even if our knowledge is constrained by the capacity of our brains and the availability of evidence to test our hypotheses, I still don’t see how theists can claim “god” is evident in the workings of an orderly universe.

    Because we’ve actually looked back in time to about 200,000 years after the Big Bang, and pretty much every time point in between. We’ve also looked at about 5 billion years worth of evidence here on Earth. And nowhere — NOWHERE — is there evidence that there is anything other than the all-natural in play. A god would stick out like a sore thumb. A gigantic, unmissable sore thumb with a big flashing neon sign declaring “GOD HERE!!!”

    Laplace famously kicked Newton’s god out of the equations regarding planetary motion. Twas ever thus. The more we learn, the less likely it is we will find anything approaching a “god”. Nor any godlike substitutes, such as universe-building aliens. And most certainly not any specific god of an ancient semi-nomadic tribe of goat herders.

    One of my pet peeves with this type of argument is that when it is used, the god in question is initially the vague any-old-god-will-do Karen Armstrong “ground of all being” god. And if you make any concession at all in the direction of that god, suddenly the old switcheroo takes place, and suddenly you’re being baptized in the blood of the lamb at some Pentecostal church. No. Even if you could prove the existence of Armstrong’s god (and you can’t), to turn that into Craig’s god — quoting Hitchens, “all your work is still ahead of you.”

    • (sorry about that last comment–I was replying to the wrong person!)

    • (sorry about that last comment–I was replying to the wrong person!)

    • Sobeit

      “….I still don’t see how theists can claim “god” is evident in the workings of an orderly universe.”
      Let me try to explain why. When the human condition is analyzed, it is found that it takes an intelligent mover to create order out of chaos –take a very small example – the puzzle. It took no intelligence to throw the puzzle pieces in the box, it takes intelligence to fit them together to create the picture, you’re intelligent to understand this small example, yet when it comes to the largest display of this example, the creation of universe, you suddenly become brain dead.

      ‘And if you make any concession at all in the direction of that god, suddenly the old switcheroo takes place,…”

      Naah, just acknowledge the truth and move on…

      • Michael Neville

        When the human condition is analyzed, it is found that it takes an intelligent mover to create order out of chaos

        BZZZ! Wrong. Thank you for playing.

        A crystal is orderly but does not require an “intelligent mover” to exist.

        http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/wowwiki/images/0/0c/Crushed_Basilisk_Crystals.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20091117234446

        • Sobeit

          So, I followed the link you generously provided and found a postage stamp picture of a Crystal. Are you serious? The support for your argument is a picture?

          You should have told Bob about this secret weapon of arguing – at his last debate, Bob could have said “God does not exist” and then held up a picture of Jesus with a line through it –

          “A crystal is ordered but does not require an ‘intelligent mover’ to exist.” – picture of crystal –

          Somebody pull the spaghetti monster out from under the bed, Michael needs a thousand whips with a wet noodle.

        • Dys

          It’s funny that you just rip on the source of the picture, and ignore what he actually said.

          Maybe you should whip yourself instead, since all you’ve got so far is the Watchmaker argument.

        • Sobeit

          I was actually intrigued by his argument – and then the picture. I know where Michael was going – here’s a definition of a Crystal:

          “Crystals start growing by a process called “nucleation”. Nucleation can either start with the molecules themselves (we’ll call this unassisted nucleation), or with the help of some solid matter already in the solution (we’ll call this assisted nucleation).”

          He evidently saw this definition with the word “Unassisted” –thought he could argue that a crystal has no original mover to create it and then bailed on the idea – placing a link to the picture and not the actual definition. Pretty picture, ugly argument.

          “Maybe you should whip yourself instead.”

          No, thank you.

        • Dys

          You do realize you haven’t actually done anything to discredit the example he gave, right?

        • Sobeit

          Wait, isn’t it my example, he’s trying to discredit? And, failing miserably, I might add.

        • Dys

          Well, since you didn’t do anything to refute the example he gave, I’d say the only failure so far is you.

          You asked for an example of order coming from chaos that doesn’t require intelligence. He provided one, and you’ve done nothing to discredit it.

          You have far too high an opinion of your self-refuting watchmaker argument.

        • MNb

          Is your dishonesty obvious. You wrote literally

          “it takes an intelligent mover to create order out of chaos”
          Crystals – like the snowflake – display order and are created out of chaotic water. So I want to know who or what the intelligent mover is. Four minutes before you wrote this comment you wrote

          “Subatomic movers”
          You refuse to identify them and demonstrate that they have intelligence.
          So I disagree with Dys underneath. Your reaction is worse than a failure.

        • epeeist

          And, failing miserably, I might add.

          No, yours is the failure. Let’s take your claim, “it takes an intelligent mover to create order out of chaos” and cast it into canonical form:

          All instances of order coming out of chaos require an intelligent mover.

          Now this includes the universal quantifier, so all that is necessary is a single counter-example to show that it is false. Crystals growing out of a solution or my example to Personal Responsibility of buckyballs forming in the burning of graphite in an electric arc are therefore sufficient to show your proposition to be false.

          Unless of course you want to claim that an intelligent mover is present in each of the above cases. In which case it it is down to you to demonstrate this.

        • Michael Neville

          You argued that order needed a designer. I showed you an example of an ordered object which does not need a designer. It’s not my fault you’re too godsoaked to understand a rebuttal to your silly argument.

      • adam

        “When the human condition is analyzed, it is found that it takes an intelligent mover to create order out of chaos ”

        And we are that intelligence, because it is not really chaos, just a gap in the scientific knowledge.

      • Kevin K

        No. That’s the old Watchmaker argument, refuted 1000 times already. The “human condition”…just like the ape condition or the cow condition or the mealworm condition…does not require a non-natural force. If it did, we would already have detected it with our current level of understanding of physics.

        Acknowledge what “truth”? That all religions are man-made? And Christianity is an example of a religion made of borrowed bits of other religions? That’s the truth.

        • Sobeit

          “No. That’s the old Watchmaker argument, refuted 1000 times already. “

          There you go again, dismissing an argument by mischaracterizing it – first, it is not the old “Watchmaker argument”. I used an example to explain how order is created from chaos. You are attempting to argue against this explanation by referring to the Watchmaker “analogy”. You know and I know that analogies should never be used as arguments, only tools of instruction. By equating it to an analogy, you are attempting to weaken my thesis – nice try. Second, you equate it to an analogy that you are right has been refuted 1000 times already. But, the sheer number of times something is refuted means nothing – it is the tenor of the attack not the number –so you’re citing the number is an example of misdirection – bottom line: my argument remains untouched.

          “The ‘human condition’…just like the ape condition or the cow condition or the mealworm condition…does not require a non-natural force. If it did, we would already have detected it with our current level of understanding of physics.”

          This is the logic that hurts my head. So, you’re saying the human condition does not require a non-natural force, why? Because we would have detected it by now. Really? Do you feel the same way about the cure for such diseases as Muscular Dystrophy or even Cancer – gosh, according to you, we should stop looking for those cures, heck if we didn’t find it by now, they must not exist!!! Please stop, and my tea is getting cold.

        • Dys

          You used an example, and said it was analogous to the universe, and are now complaining that someone rightly pointed out that it’s essentially the same thing as the watchmaker argument, which is precisely what it is.

          We recognize design by contrasting with things that are not designed. And if everything is designed, there’s no such things as non-designed things, and design would be undetectable. Your attempt at an argument is inherently self-refuting.

        • Sobeit

          Unh, unh, I never said it was analogous to the universe – where you have it wrong is in the intention – analogies are used to create in the mind a correlation between two things – the first thing being simpler for the mind to understand and used to shed light on the more complex second thing. That is not what I am doing here – I am giving Kevin an exact instance of how order is made from chaos – there is really no instance I can think of where order has been made from chaos except through a mover who is intelligent – Can you?

        • Dys

          Unh, unh, I never said it was analogous to the universe

          You quite literally drew a comparison between putting the pieces of a puzzle together from a box and the creation of the universe. Are you sure you know what an analogy is?

          there is really no instance I can think of where order has been made from chaos except through a mover who is intelligent

          It depends on how you’re defining chaos. But in a real world example more fitting your puzzle analogy, you’ve already had one pointed out to you in the formation of crystals. Or maybe you’ve seen water freezing?

        • Sobeit

          Subatomic movers.

        • Dys

          You’re really just a misguided deepity generator, aren’t you?

        • MNb

          Intelligent ones?

          “it takes an intelligent mover to create order out of chaos”

        • adam

          Just how small is YOUR “God”?

        • Michael Neville

          Theists like Sobeit keep trying to jam the creator of billions of galaxies and trillions of stars and planets into an iron age Middle Eastern tribal god. The fit just isn’t there.

        • adam

          But it is fascinating to watch what length they will go to, what compromises they will make to their own deity to try and do so.

        • MNb

          Yes. I posted a picture just above.

        • Kevin K

          Really? You can’t get “order from chaos”? I beg to differ, snowflake.

          Honestly, if you can see the all-natural examples of increasing order from non-ordered substances, then there’s really no use in continuing this discussion.

          Other things that become more ordered from less-ordered beginnings, without any need for a supernatural shove:

          Salt crystals from saline
          Oak trees from acorns
          Helium, oxygen, and other elements from hydrogen (in the nuclear fusion reactor you see above your head in the morning)

          And on and on.

          FWIW: Even the idiots at AiG will counsel you to not use this argument in the service of your deity.

        • Greg G.

          Don’t forget the structure of a hurricane or a tornado.

        • Sobeit

          Actually, I do see your point, and I appreciate the time and thought you invested in the article. Quite ingenious really and thought provoking. ty.

        • Joe

          Define ‘order’ and ‘chaos’. Two very subjective terms you’re using there. Both depend on humans to make a value judgement.

      • MNb

        Yeah, you should acknowledge the truth and move on – away from your god.

        “it takes an intelligent mover to create order out of chaos”
        http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2010/10/26/06_ontario6_custom-a1d3d9a0e9e47e64a3bfac8d91b3fcd1f4d2e75e-s6-c30.jpg

        • Susan

          Finally. Someone acknowledges the necessity of Immaterial Snowflake Fairies.

          If there aren’t Immaterial Snowflake Fairies, how do you explain all the manifestations of Snowflakes in the known universe?

          Clearly, the universe is fine-tuned for Snowflakes.

          Only Immaterial Snowflake Fairies could possibly explain the existence of so many snowflakes.

          Are you claiming with absolute certainty that my Immaterial Snowflake Fairies don’t exist?

          How arrogant.

  • se habla espol

    Eugene Wigner said in 1960, “The enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural science is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.”

    I find it quite rational, myself: the mathematics that H. sap has developed has been largely chosen from its utility in understanding various pieces of the universe, as we see it. Mathematics that has a useful mapping onto reality is developed; mathematics without such a mapping tends to get set aside.

  • Whocares_386

    If anyone claims that everything works orderly in the nature, I can easily provide many evidence to prove this is absolutely not true. You can see many scientific evidence here:
    http://turkishatheist.net/?p=1