Response to Jack (part 2)

This is a response to Jack’s recent post. Jack wrote a piece on theistic arguments here. I wrote a piece in response at Dante’s Inferno, which you can find here. I offered a critique of his worldview and 5 theistic arguments and layed out my premises. I will now offer a defense of my arguments. I will take a look at which premise Jack denies and argue for theirf truth.

Jack’s post can be found here. Now in response to my point about science not being able to decide ethics.

Hmm. These are good points, but most of the objections come down to one thing: what do you classify as “knowledge”? I don’t pretend to think that my moral decisions are in any way an absolute truth, or knowledge that can be gained by observing and testing reality. They are simply the product of the society in which I was brought up in. As such, by judging for myself that killing is wrong, I’m not claiming that I have found out anything new. Thus, no new knowledge. It’s as simple as that.

However I would beg to differ. Ethicists study ethics and moral truths for a living and publish books and materials examining ethical systems. It seems ethics is a valid field of study. And I would think ethics would be pretty bad if people just followed what society taught. I mean in India (before the British arrived) it was considered culturally acceptable to burn a widow on a funeral pyre with her dead husband. I’m sure we can agree by simple reflections on moral truths that things like this are wrong even though society accepts them.(That moral argument is just lurking around the corner isn’t it?).

The objection to science not being able to prove science doesn’t hold up either, because a system of gaining knowledge can be shown to be effective by what it produces in the form of tangible progress. For example, the scientific method has allowed people to fly in machines crafted of metal at hundreds of kilometers per hour all around the world. If science did not work, then the fruits of science, the great technologies that most of us enjoy today, would not work or exist. This seems to justify science outside of itself very nicely.

I would agree and I think you have proven my point. As you said you can only justify science “outside of itself”. My point was exactly that there are things outside science.

Plus, Dan’s point that “this seems to be an untenable view because there are many things that the scientific method cannot prove” seems to be a bit backwards. A worldview shouldn’t be constructed around what it can and cannot prove. The inability to “prove” that love is a supernatural force that transcends time and space should not be a limiting factor.

But my point was that there are weaknesses in this view. Many worldviews have been discarded because of their weaknesses. And I think I would disagree with Jack on the second point. If Jack was deeply in love an through his experience did come to believe that love “transcends time and space” (which some philosophers like Plato believed) I think he should reject his worldview if his experience contradicts it.

As to the coherence of God , I think the idea of God (once properly defined) is quite logically consistent. If Jack wishes to bring up any specific problem I will address it. As to free will, I believe in it largely of the basis of my personal experience of my freedom to make choices. I don’t think anyone has provided me with good reason to doubt this intuition of human freedom we possess. I also think rejecting free will leads to many difficulties. For example how can a person be morally responsible for a choice if it is completely predetermined? Zoologist and determinist Richard Dawkins compared punishing a criminal to beating a car that malfunctioned because the criminal is just acting out his predetermined action as a broken car is.

Now to address his responses to my arguments

Kalam Cosmological Argument(KCA)

Now Jack and I agree that the universe began to exist and physical time and space came into being at the Big Bang. However Jack raises an objection when we deduce a cause of the big bang. I emailed to confirm it and what I think his objection is based off the assumption that a cause comes before its effect in time. However  I think this assumption is ill-founded as it fails to take into account simultaneous causation. We observe simultaneous causes and effects all the time. For example , open up an old watch and you will see 2 gears spinning simultaneously. Now we know that one gear actually causes the other to spin , but in this case we can acknowledge cause and effect are simultaneous. Some cases of simultaneous causation are also apparent in quantum mechanics (if you hold to the Coppenhagen interpretation that says observing a wave function will cause it to collapse simultaneously with observation). The famous German philosopher Immanuel Kant used the analogy of a ball and a cushion for simultaneous causation. Imagine a heavy ball resting on a cushion ,such that it creates a depression in the cushion. Now imagine that this ball and cushion had existed this way from eternity past. Someone might ask, what is the cause of the depression in the cushion? Obviously the answer is the bowling ball. Even if the depression had existed for eternity we can still say in this case the cause (ball) exists simultaneous with its effect(depression). To put it differently causal priority does not imply temporal priority.

Now my position is that God’s act of creation was simultaneous with the beginning of the universe so it is immune to Jack’s objection.

Now in my conceptual analysis of the cause of the universe I said there were 2 possiblities for something existing in a form that is non-physical ,immaterial…etc were abstract objects (like numbers and sets) and a mind/consciousness.

There’s no reason to think that minds can exist outside of physical brains, so how can you, as a theist, justify the existence, purely on “say-so” grounds, of a supernatural cause of the Universe that is a mind?

To make myself clear I was not saying that these sorts of things actually exist. I was just saying those were the possibilities. For example I doubt that numbers and sets exist independently of minds, however I acknowledge that there is a possibility that these things exist. Many atheists deny the existence of God and non-physical minds , however acknowledge that there is a possibility (even if it is small) that a non-physical God can exist.

To paraphrase Spock from the new Star  Trek movie (who is quoting Sherlock Holmes) ,“when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”

For my second piece I distinguished between personal and inanimate explanations. Personal explanations explain things in terms of minds or personal agents and their volitions. Impersonal explanations put things in terms of physical laws and initial condition and matter and energy. I argued that there could not be an impersonal explanation( and Jack agrees).

I agree that the natural process is wrong by definition, but you can’t/haven’t justified the dichotomy of natural vs. personal, and neither have you demonstrated that a personal agent can exist outside of a natural process.

Now Jack’s objection is that I pose a false dichotomy. However it is only a false dichotomy if there are other options I have not covered. But it seems like an explanation is either personal or impersonal. I do not think there is any “in-between” these 2 options. And also I am not assuming that a personal agent exists outside of these natural processes. All we need to say is that there is some kind of possibility. If Jack even thinks there is a miniscule possibility that a personal agent like God exists then this argument is successful.

Argument from the existence of the universe

Jack levies the same objection he used at the Kalam. However as I pointed out earlier this objection does not take simultaneous causation into account.

The Evidence of Fine-tuning

I’m not quite sure which of my premises Jack is objecting too.

My argument went kind of like this

1)fine-tuning is highly probable under theism

2)fine-tuning is highly improbable under atheism

3) Therefore fine-tuning confirms theism over atheism

Now Jack tries to invoke anthropic reasoning here. However I think this does not help him . Let us use an analogy. Imagine someone filled all the chambers in a gun with bullets. He removes only one bullet . Jack is playing Russian roulette with this gun. One turn goes by and he is relieved to have survived. Two go by ,3 and all the way to 100 turns. Undoubtedly Jack would begin to question if the gun was jammed. It is a true statement that Jack would have died had he not been so lucky. But this does nothing to blunt the improbabilities. Or imagine he was holding a dice. Someone tells him that anytime he rolls a dumber less than 6 a crack sniper would take him out. He rolls one , twice , 100 times but keeps getting sixes . Jack would stat to feel something suspicious was going on. Now had jack rolled some other number he would be dead. But this does nothing to blunt the force of the improbabilities. So I think the fine-tuning does offer support for theism over chance

4)The intelligibility of the Cosmos and laws of Nature

1)the intelligibility of the universe is improbable under atheism

2)The intelligibility of the universe is not improbable under theism.

3)the observation of intelligibility is evidence for theism over atheism.

I would like to contest Premise 1. Why is it improbable? I would like Dan to further explain this premise.

I think it seems evident that this is true. Just contemplate it. Under atheism, we are just some species that evolved out here is these vast cosmos. Why would we expect the laws hat govern the cosmos to be understandable by things with our level of intelligence. It seems possible that they would be so complex that we could not understand them ,or so choatic that we couldn’t draw regular inferences. Or be such that it would be difficult to measure these laws. There seems to be no reason (assuming atheism) we should think the world.

5)The reliability of thought

Now it seems Jack does not undertstand the power of this argument . This means that Jack’s naturalism cannot provide a sound basis for rationality.

Imagine a broken ,unreliable computer. it sends out a number of messages that Jack can read. However Jack doesn’t know whether these things are correct or not. He has to withhold judgement. He can’t believe in the computer.

Now jack’s brain is like the computer. How can he trust it? And if Jack can’t trust his own thoughts , he cannot even trust the fact of naturalism because that is also one of his unreliable thoughts. Paradoxically , if naturalism is true , Jack can’t trust his own thoughts about naturalism.

So I think my arguments are still standing.

If I was Jack I would start to seriously question the plausibility of my naturalism/atheism. Jack has said that 1) The universe popped into existence of nothing completely uncaused!! 2) This universe somehow exists for no reason and there is no explanation of its existence 3)Against overwhelming improbabilities the universe came out so that it is habitable to life. These odds are so low no sober gambler would face them in Vegas. 4)The universe is not only habitable , but it came out in such a way that humans can study and understand it well by chance 5)Jack can’t even trust his own rationality.

I don’t think these facts bear well for atheism.

1 Comment

  1. August 20, 2009 at 7:41 am

    [...] after much thinking/real life work, presumably, has returned fire, addressing all of my main points in some description. What else can I do besides respond [...]


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