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.


She’s so pretty!!

I always had a soft spot for lemurs. (Must have been that Dinosaurs move)


Young Earth Creationists Will get a Kick out of this

A quote from Astronomer Martin Rees

“Cosmological ideas are no longer any more fragile and evanescent than our theories about the history of our Earth. Geologists infer that the continents are drifting . . .We also believe at least in outline the story of how our biosphere emerged and we humans evolved ..The empirical support for a Big Bang ten to fifteen billion years ago is as compelling as the evidence that geologists offer on our Earth’s history”

( Just Six Numbers [New York: Basic Books, 2000], 10).

Dialogue with Naontiotami

Hello readers. I should introduce myself. I’m Dan . I’m a freshman studying engineering and physics in college. I making this post to strike up a discussion with Jack Scanlan. I would advise check out all his videos and posts. They contain much good information on biology , modern evolutionary theory and skepticism.

What I would first like to ask is about is Jack’s worldview.

His page states

I consider myself a naturalist: one who believes that the scientific method is the only way to study the Universe and gain knowledge.

However this seems to be an untenable view because there are many things that the scientific method cannot prove. For example, how does Jack make ethical judgements. How does he know it was wrong for Nazi scientists to experiment with and kill Jewish people? How does he make aesthetic judgements as to what is good or beautiful? and how does he justify science itself? It seems that if he uses the scientific method to justify science ,he would be using circular logic. If he uses some other method to justify science he would have refuted his own claim that the scientific method is the only way to study things. I would suggest Jack modify his statement a little. Perhaps he should say “the scientific method is the most reliable way to study the universe” or perhaps “the scientific method is the only way to make decisions within science”.1

And I would like to know what Jack’s own position on the rationality of theism. Many atheists hold that while theism is false , belief in theism may be rationally justified.2

The post I am responding to is here. What I want to do is build off the arguments presented by the poster and show that are sound or a least show they make theism more plausible.

1) God and the Origin of the universe

The Kalam cosmological argument for a first cause states

1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2) The universe began to exist.
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause

Let us examine these premises.

Premise one seems very plausible to me. If I came up to you and said that a raging tiger came into being uncaused you would say I was being quite implausible. We all know that things do not pop into existence uncaused.

Can the past be infinite?

Premise 2 seems to be where the real dispute lies. I think there are good arguments for this premise. If Jack wishes to claim that the universe if beginningless he would have to say that time existed infinitely in the past. But this seems absurd. Imagine a man running up a flight of stairs and every time his foot strikes the top step, another step appears above it. It is clear that the man could run forever, but he would never cross all the steps because you could always add one more step.It would not be possible for the man to reach the top of the staircase because he would have to traverse an infinite number of steps .We are in a similar situation with respect to time. 1993 would never have arrived had it been preceded by a infinite number of years, because one cannot cross an infinite number of years to reach 1993 anymore than the man running up the stairs can cross an infinity of steps.Such paradoxes arise in reality when we try to claim the past is infinite. These kind of paradoxes caused German mathematician David Hilbert to say “the [actual] infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought”. This discussion has spilled over from mathematics into cosmology and physics so that cosmologists Ellis, Kirchner, & Stoeger say

“This is precisely why a realised past infinity in time is not considered possible from this standpoint – since it involves an infinite set of completed events
or moments”.3

Evidence for a beginning from physics

Premise 2 also has strong support from cosmology and physics. The expansion of the universe, red shift, cosmic background radiation ,general relativity, age of the stars and Sunyaev-Zel’dovich effect all serve to disconfirm models of a beginningless universe (such as Hoyle’s steady state model) and support the idea that it began with the Big Bang. The evidence is so firm that British cosmologist Paul Davies said in a recent interview that even though there is disagreement over minor details

I think the fact of the big bang – that the universe began abruptly at some finite moment in the past – is thoroughly established. There are very few scientists, very few cosmologists, who would dispute that.4

As if this evidence was not enough, in 2003 three physicists, Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin, were able to develop a simple kinematic proof that any universe that is expanding must have a beginning.5After developing the proof Vilenkin said,

It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning. 6

Premise 3

The universe began to exist. Ponder that. The universe is by definition all of spacio-temporal existence, everything physical. It must have been brought into existence by something beyond space-time , something non-physical , immaterial and timeless. this should make Jack very uncomfortable, because as a naturalist he believes the only kinds things that exist are physical.What kinds of non-physical entities are there? Some philosophers hold that mathematical truths (like numbers) and abstract objects (such as sets) are not physical. But the thing is that abstract objects do not cause anything to exist. For example did you ever see the number 7 cause anything to exist?

The other option is what theists hold to, that there is some sort of non-physical spirit or mind, that is able to engage in causal relations with the physical world. The universe would have been caused by some timeless, immaterial intelligent mind able to create the universe from nothing, which is what theists understand to be God.

Another argument is there are 2 types of explanations we can have. One is personal explanation and the other is explanation in terms of impersonal causes. For example, imagine you came into the kitchen and saw a pot of water boiling. You can explain it by saying your mother placed it on the stove to boil. This is a personal explanation in terms of the actions of a mind acting as a personal agent . Alternatively you can also describe the change of state of the water molecules, the conduction of the pot and the convection currents in the water. This would be an impersonal explanation in terms of physical laws and matter. Now which is the explanation of the universe? At the beginning of the universe there was no matter or physical laws, so the cause could not be a natural one or physical one.

The only explanation open is a personal explanation, which fits in quite nicely with what I previously argued for where a personal agent, a mind caused the universe.

2)An argument from the  existence of the universe

1) Anything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in an external cause or in the necessity of its own nature.
2) If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3) The universe exists.
4) Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence. (from 1, 3)
5) Therefore, the explanation of the existence of the universe is God. (from 2, 4)

Let us examine the premises.

Premise 1 seems quite plausible. We know from our experience that things we see, whether it be a human or a planet or even a galaxy can be explained by referring to an external cause. If we deny this principle Jack might as well give up all science and biology and declare the world is just inexplicable and we should not do science to explain things. Now jack may ask “What’s exists out of the necessity of its nature?”. Now some philosophers and mathematicians hold that mathematical concepts and logic exist because it is necessary for them to exist. Any world that had no mathematics or logic would clearly be absurd. Mathematical truths are not caused and are eternal, that is they could not possibly fail to exist. Jack may wish to claim that the universe exists out of necessity, like logic and mathematical concepts. But we can clearly see this is false. For something to be necessary it could not possibly fail to exist. But cosmologists tell us the universe did begin to exist and the the universe will end and fail to exist in the future. It cannot possibly be necessary.

As for premise 2 ,I have argued for God as the cause of the universe in my previous argument so I should not repeat myself here.

Premise 3 is undeniable and 4 and 5 follow logically from the other premises so it seems to me that this is sound.

3)The evidence of fine-tuning

Now physicists and cosmologists have recently discovered that in order for us to have a life-permitting universe (LPU) there has to be a lot of fine-tuning. The evidence for fine-tuning has to do with the fact that the laws of physics, the constants and initial conditions of the universe all fall into a very narrow range that would allow for the growth and development of intelligent beings such as ourselves.

Now there are 3 types of fine-tuning. They are:-

(i) The fine-tuning of the laws of physics.

(ii) The fine-tuning of the constants of physics.

(iii) The fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe.

Now i) has to do with the existence of certain laws and principles without which life would be impossible. To give a few examples, if gravity did not exist, masses would not clump together to form stars or planets, and hence complex, intelligent life would be impossible; if the electromagnetic force didn’t exist, there would be no chemistry; if the strong force didn’t exist, protons and neutrons could not bind together and hence no atoms with atomic number greater than hydrogen would exist; and if the strong force were a long-range force (like gravity and electromagnetism) instead of a short range force that only acts between protons and neutrons in the nucleus, all matter would either almost instantaneously undergo nuclear fusion and explode or be sucked together forming a black hole. As physicist Freeman Dyson points out, if the Pauli-exclusion principle did not exist, which dictates that no two fermions can occupy the same quantum state, all electrons would occupy the lowest atomic orbit, eliminating chemistry; and if there were no quantization principle, which dictates that particles can only occupy certain discrete allowed quantum states, there would be no atomic orbits and hence no chemistry since all electrons would be sucked into the nucleus. Without Baryon Conservation, ‘the entire material contents of the universe would disappear in a fireball of gamma radiation, as the protons decayed to positrons and annihilated all the electrons’.

ii) has to do with the constants of nature.

Now how do we assign probabilities to these? Now there are a range of theoretically possible values for each constant from the background theories. The actual value of the constant takes one of these values. There is a principle statisticians use called the “principle of indifference”7 or assumption of equiprobable alternatives. It says that unless we have good reason to assume otherwise we should assume every event is equally likely. For example imagine a 50-sided die. It would be highly impractical to roll the die and record the results so we can estimate the probability of each side turning up. Using the principle of indifference we can say that unless we have reason to think someone rigged the die, we can assign the probability of each side a 1/50 chance. In the case of the constants of nature we have no reason to think that a constant would fall into one value out of theoretically possible values rather than another so we can assign equal probabilities to each option. What I mean by “fine-tuning” of a constant is to say that of the theoretically possible values for the constant , the life-permitting range is small in comparison with the non-life permitting range.

What examples do we have of such fine-tuning? Take the gravitational constant (G).If it was too small , masses like stars and planets could not form. If it was too large any kind of intelligent life would be crushed could not evolve . The life-permitting range is so narrow Robin Collins estimated it was fine-tuned to a degree of one part in 10^36. Take the cosmological constant ,which governs the expansion of the universe. If it was too large space would expand so quickly that all matter would disperse and no galaxies or stars or planets could form. It is fine-tuned to a degree of 1 in 10^53.The strong force is fine-tuned to one part in 100. The proton-neutron mass difference is fine tuned to 1 in 18000. The weak force is fine-tuned to 1 in 10^9.8

iii) Has to do with the initial conditions of the universe after the big bang. One is the low entropy state of the universe. Without this low entropy , stars and galaxies could not form. Roger Penrose, an eminent Oxford mathematician and physicist calculated the odds of the universe having a low entropy state as 1 in 10^(10^123).9There are many other such instances of fine-tuning such as the initial distribution of matter and anti-matter, the balance between baryons and anti-baryons and the density of the universe that I will just mention in passing.10

Now for an illustration of the extraordinary improbability Robin Collins uses the analogy of a dart flying across the whole known universe and striking a target the size of a proton as analogy for the fine-tuning of gravity of 1 in 10^53.

I think we can make a good argument for fine-tuning using a principle of reasoning called the likelihood principle.11 The likelihood is a general principle of reasoning which tells us when some observation counts as evidence in favor of one hypothesis over another. Simply put, the principle says that whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability (or is the least improbable). (Or, put slightly differently, the principle says that whenever we are considering two non ad-hoc* competing hypotheses, H1 and H2, an observation, O, counts as evidence in favor of H1 over H2 if O is more probable under H1 than it is under H2.)

This used in general reasoning all the time. For example , imagine that there was a murder and there are 2 suspects Bill and Bob.The 2 competing hypothesis’ could be that either Bob or Bill shot the victim.Now imagine finding Bob’s fingerprints on the murder weapon. Normally, we would take such a finding as strong evidence that the Bob was guilty. Why? Because we judge that it would be unlikely for these fingerprints to be on the murder weapon if the Bob was innocent, but very likely if the Bob was guilty.

This sort of reasoning is used in biology also. For example, evolutionary biologist Edward Dodson said.

“All [pieces of evidence] concur in suggesting evolution with varying degrees of cogency, but most can be explained on other bases, albeit with some damage to the law of parsimony. The strongest evidence for evolution is the concurrence of so many independent probabilities. That such different disciplines as biochemistry and comparative anatomy, genetics and biogeography should all point toward the same conclusion is very difficult to attribute to coincidence.”

So Dr. Dodson took the evidence from different fields and judged that while it might be improbable under other theories of biological development , it was not improbable under evolution.

So let me lay out my argument

1)Fine-tuning is highly improbable under atheism

2)Fine-tuning is not improbable under theism.

3)From premises 1) and 2) and the principle of likelihood we see that observation of fine-tuning is evidence for theistic design over atheism.

The premises seem to be valid and the conclusion logically follows. Now let me be clear. fine-tuning is not “proof” of theism any more that Tiktaalik is “proof” of evolution. It is just evidence in favor of theism and against atheism.

Jack’s objections

“However, this point is negated by the second problem with this argument: you’re looking at the outcome after the event.”

Now usually there is no problem with looking at evidence after the fact. For example, historical sciences look at history of biological development after the fact and use it to support different theories of biology.

You shouldn’t be shocked when, if you throw a pack of playing cards on the ground, a certain combination of cards lands face up. The odds against the combination were extremely low, astronomically low, in fact. It must have been designed, right? Wrong.

I would say the difference is that we are comparing the probabilities of 2 different hypothesis. For example imagine I rolled 20 dice and got 66341 12366 45655 23455. This is a highly improbable sequence. However , imagine if before I rolled the dice an occult group came to my house and said that there was a demon in the dice, whose favorite number was 66341 12366 45655 23455. There the roll would be evidence for the demon hypothesis. (However I may have other arguments against the existence of demons in dice.)

We should not be surprised to find ourselves in a Universe in which we can exist, because we couldn’t be in any other Universe and still be there observing our existence!

Philosopher John Leslie compared this sort of reasoning to a man led out to be executed by a firing squad. All member point their guns and fire at him. It is highly improbable that he would survive. Yet somehow he finds himself standing unscathed. The commonsense view is to weigh different hypotheses and perhaps check if was a mock execution , or their guns were not loaded or they all deliberately missed. Using this kind of logic , the man could merely say that his survival needs no explanation because he would not have survived had they missed.

4)The intelligibility of the Cosmos and laws of Nature

The laws of Nature seem to be carefully arranged so that they are intelligible, and in addition discoverable, by beings with our level of intelligence. This has been stressed by many prominent physicists. For example ,Albert Einstein famously remarked that “the eternal mystery of the world is that it is comprehensible…. The fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle” .Physicist Eugene Wigner,said “The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve”. As theoretical physicist Paul Davies notes,

“uncovering the laws of physics resembles completing a crossword in a number of ways…. In the case of the crossword, it would never occur to us to suppose that the words just happened to fall into a consistent interlocking pattern by accident….” 12

I think I can formulate this argument in a similar fashion to the one above.

1)the intelligibility of the universe is improbable under atheism

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

3)From premises 1) and 2) and the principle of likelihood we see that observation of intelligibility is evidence for theistic design over atheism.

5)The reliability of thought

Let’s examine this quote from Charles Darwin

“With me … the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”14

Charles Darwin’s fear seems well founded. If our mind is only the product of unguided evolution, how can we trust its convictions or know that it is reliable. Recent research into evolutionary biology and neuroscience seems to show Darwin’s fears were well founded. For example Patricia Churchland ,a pioneer in neurophilosophy has said ,

“Boiled down to essentials, a nervous system enables the organism to succeed in the four F’s: feeding, fleeing, fighting, and reproducing. The principle chore of nervous systems is to get the body parts where they should be in order that the organism may survive. Improvements in sensorimotor control confer an evolutionary advantage: a fancier style of representing is advantageous so long as it is geared to the organism’s way of life and enhances the organism’s chances of survival. Truth, whatever that is, definitely takes the hindmost.” (Churchland’s emphasis)15

Now think of our cognitive faculties. Cognitive faculties are the things that form belief. Examples of these faculties would be memory, perception and a priori intuition (which is the method by which we know things like logical truths). It is clear that if you believe we evolved cognitive faculties were selected for survival value and not for their ability to form true beliefs.

Now a theist believes humans were made in the image of God. God could have created human beings separately or guided evolution so that it could produce humans with reliable cognitive faculties. The naturalist has no similar escape hatch and must live with Darwin’s doubt about his mind.

Now I think several of these are good arguments. Now by this I do not mean this argument is decisive and irrefutable. I think a good argument is something where you can lean back and ask “Does this evidence give me a good reason to change my views on this subject?” and ” Has this argument raised a serious problem with my present view?”. I think these questions that deal with the beginning of the universe, the existence of the universe , the fitness of the universe for life, the intelligibility of the universe and the reliability of thought pose problems for naturalists and I hope Jack will consider them.

*I think an appropriate restriction for a non-ad hoc hypothesis would be that we have independent motivation for the hypothesis aside from observation O.

1.Yes these arguments do come from William Lane Craig

2.For example Graham Oppy in his book “Arguing about Gods” concludes that while he does not find any of the arguments for God convincing, he thinks theism is rationally justifiable.

3.Ellis, G. F. R., Kirchner, U., and Stoeger, W. R. (2003) Multiverses and physical cosmology.

4.”In Conversation with Paul Davies and Phillip Adams” ABC Science

5.Borde, A., Guth, A., and Vilenkin, A. (2003) Inflationary spacetimes are not past-complete. Physical Review Letters 90, 151301,

6.Many Worlds in One [New York: Hill and Wang, 2006], p.176.

7.“an astonishing number of extremely complex problems in probability theory have been solved, and usefully so, by calculations based entirely on the assumption of equiprobable alternatives [that is, the Principle of Indifference]”  Weatherford, Roy. Foundations of Probability Theory. Boston, MA: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982. Also see

8.These calculations are from Collins, Robin. (January, 2003). “The Evidence for Fine-tuning.” In God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science, Neil Manson (ed.), Routledge. Dr. Collin’s site can be found at

9.Penrose , Roger The Road to Reality [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005], pp. 729-730 also

10.God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science, Neil Manson (ed.), Routledge.

11. This principle is based on the odds form of Baye’s Theorem .Robin Collins also uses this principle in his formulation of the Fine-tuning argument.Collins, Robin (2009). “The Argument from Fine-tuning” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, 2nd edition, ed. William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

12.Davies, Paul (1984). Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

13.( Richard C Vitzthum, “Materialism: An Affirmative History and Definition,” Prometheus Books, 1995, p. 220.) cited in

14.Letter to William Graham, Down, July 3rd, 1881. In The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin Including an Autobiographical Chapter, ed. Francis Darwin (London: John Murray, Albermarle Street, 1887), Volume 1, pp. 315-16

15.Patricia Churchland, “Epistemology in the Age of Neuroscience,” Journal of Philosophy 84 (October 1987):

Books and stuff

What I’ve finished reading-

Reasonable Faith– William Lane Craig


William Lane Craig is Research Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School. Bill Craig is just one of those guys. He’s an excellent philosopher and this is his text on how to do apologetics. It covers the main arguments for God he uses and the objections he gets and in what situations he thinks it is appropriate to use them. There are some places I disagree with him ( I don’t think his piece on fine-tuning is that strong ) but this book is great overall. William Lane Craig recommends this book for philosophy undergraduates however I have no formal background in philosophy and did not find it challenging. (In fairness I am familiar with Dr. Craig’s podcasts and debates on the subjects).

Stealth Warplanes by Doug Richardson

image image

It is a general history of stealth warplanes , from when to first military aircrafts were painted with camouflage to modern stealth aircraft like the Sukhoi S-37 Berkut (Golden Eagle) and helicopters like the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Comanche. He goes through instances where stealth aircrafts have been used and the counters people have implemented. He goes a bit into the Joint Strike fighter program too. Great read.

Currently reading-

“Just Six numbers” by Martin Rees


The “fine-tuning” has been a huge topic for discussion within astronomy and physics today and Martin Rees, an Astronomer Royal at Cambridge now jumps on the bandwagon. He picks 6 constants of nature and examines the fine-tuning of these is great  detail. Rees is an engaging writer and the book is good so far.

Planning to read-

“The Road to Reality” by Roger Penrose


Penrose is a leading mathematician and physicist at Oxford. He has some unorthodox ideas about conciousness(he seems to think the consciousness operates based on quantum physics). This book describes the history applied mathematics ,physics and the laws of nature.Singularities, black holes , laws , calculus , particle physics …I’m sure it will be great. The book is huge( I also hear he has a devastating critique of the multiverse scenario based on probabilities)

“Life’s Solution” by Simon Conway Morris


Morris is a famous paleobiologist from Cambridge. His book is about convergent evolution(which is heavily underrated btw). He argues that based on convergent evolution  we can conclude that it would be inevitable for life forms like humans to evolve. I want ot ssee if he can make a convincing case for convergent evolution

“Letters to a Doubting Thomas” by C. STEPHEN LAYMAN of Seattle Pacific University

imageI’ve only thumbed through my copy but it seems great. The book takes the form of a philosopher having  letter exchange with a computer scientist named Thomas. What I thought was unique about this book is it introduces and thoroughly explains concepts in philosophy and critical thinking such as prior probability , fallacies , how arguments are structured , how inferences are structured and how hypothesis can be validated or tested. His aim is to weight the hypothesis of naturalism against that of theism and show theism is more probable. From the table of contents I see he discusses cosmology , fine-tuning arguments ,arguments from religious experience ,free will and he discusses the problem of evil. It seems a good introduction to anyone who wants to get into the philosophical debate between theism and naturalism.

If I can finish those I will sink my teeth into Swinburne’s book and Hawking’s stuff.

The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology also seems epic (however I probably won’t have time to read the whole thing)



Finals is over and summer is here. I’ve realized a bunch of comments are queued up. I probably won’t have time to deal with them. If there’s any issue you want me to bring up and discuss again post it in the comments section.

Naturalism and free will

MC Hawking and Dark Matter- The Big Bizang


It was the big pow piz-ow bang a dang diggy diggy boom diggy boom pow boom the Big BIZANG.
The big pow piz-ow bang a dang diggy diggy boom diggy boom pow boom the Big BIZANG.

The counter-challenge

All of you should go look at my earlier post here. In thispost I try to establish 5 facts.

The Facts are:-

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion
  2. The tomb was emptyi
  3. Jesus’ disciples were disheartened after he was dead.However they had experiences that led them to believe that Jesus had physically risen from the dead and appeared to them.Thwy were so convinced they suffered and some were martyred for their belief.
  4. Paul ,who was a persecutor of Jesus had an experience that led him to convert and believe in the risen Jesus
  5. James, the skeptical brother of Jesus, suddenly converted to Christianity.

The counter-challenge is to provide a better explaination for these facts than the resurrection of Jesus. Explanatory power and parsimony will be taken into account

Questions for Dave

This is a satirical response to the nonsensical stuff posted by a guy named Dave at Raytractors. (sorry Dave but Greenlief answered Barker’s challenge long ago)

1.Do you go out of your way to use the most unreliable sources possible?

You happen to think that the books were chosen at the Council of Nicea (all that wasw diputed at the council of nicea was the doctrine of trinity) and that Paul somehow believed in a spiritual resurrection (Zero evidence for there ever being a belief in a spiritual resurrection in Judaism). Did you consult any studies (like the ones eminent scholar N.T. Wright carries out in his book The Resurrection of the Son of God ) or are you just talking out of ignorance?

2.How the heck did you come up with the crazy idea that Paul did not believe in a physical resurrection?

Never mind there is no evidence whatsoever of belief in a spiritual resurrection in Judaism. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 uses the word anastasis which in all Greek and Jewish literature means a literal physical resurrection.In 1 Corinthians 6:11-13 paul explicitly says we should not commit sexual immorality and defile our body because someday our bodies will be raised to be with the Lord. If Paul did not believe in a physcial resurrection how does this make sense? Also in verses like Phil. 3:20-21 , Paul clearly says that our mortal bodies will be transformed to be lke Jesus’. In light of these verses how can you say he did not believe in a physical resurrection?

3.Why do all your questions commit the fallacy of question begging so heavily?

4.The only accounts of Ceasar explicitly crossing the Rubicon are from 4 writers , each writing over a century after the fact. Each conflates the account with their own ideologies and ideas of the expansion of Rome. How can they be reliable?

5. In Tacitus’ The Annals of Rome , he describes 2 towns and says they were 25 miles apart.The real distance is known to be 125 miles. Most Roman histical scholars believe this is a copyist error. What do you think?

6. What good reasons do we have to say that Mark was written after 70CE as you say many times in your question?

(i will not accept the foretelling of the destruction of Jerusalem as a reason because it was cearly intended to be a prophecy.)

7 .You complained in your questions that there are instances where the bible “violates natural order”.Can you prove naturalism is true? If not wouldn’t you just be arguing that the bible is false because it contradicts your worldview?

8. Are you aware of the preterist interpretation of the Olivet discourse?

9. You say “miracles don’t happen today”. How did you arrive at this conclusion? Did you just dismiss any kind of testimony of a Christian having experienced a miracle offhand because of your naturalistic worldview? You might say “no-one has ever proven a miracle” but you cannot make a positive claim to knowledge about no miracles occuring based on them being unproven.

10. Are you aware of the use of typology in Jewish literature in interpreting prophecy? If not please acquaint yourself with it before critiquing Matthew.


I am holding a glass of water in my hands.Is this H20 because it is water, or is it water because it’s H2O?

(Meant to demonstrate the meaninglessness of Euthyphro dilemma.)

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