Hitchens among the benighted

I'm dumber for even listening to this: Christopher Hitchens in a debate with FIVE blithering theologians (one of them was the so-called moderator). Hitchens was excellent, but the four other guys…Jebus. They all trot out these ridiculous arguments about a first cause and fine tuning and oooh, the historical evidence for Jesus is so good. Lee Strobel, in particular, is a flaming fraud and liar.

William Lane Craig was interesting, but stupid. His argument was that people couldn't have a debate if they were the mere product of chemical reactions, because chemical reactions just fizz, they don't hold debates. That's an argument from ignorance; it's claiming that all chemistry is a big black box he doesn't know anything about, there's no difference between biology and the chemistry of soda pop, and he needs to imagine a ghostly puppet master making the pop bottle dance. My impression of Craig's intellectual acumen plummeted in this one debate. (My impression of Strobel, of course, was already flopped flat in the mud, and the others I'd never heard of).

Hitchens, though…wow. That takes guts to charge into such a biased audience and a panel stacked and loaded against him, and maul them all.

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Brave but suicidal. Unfortunately you can't convince that crowd of anything.

By Michelle R (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I love Hitchens on religion, he really does give it what its coming so easily it seems. I've also been up all night watching all his videos on Youtube.. its so fun to watch.

By Andrew JS (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Thanks for posting this; I've been wanting to see it for a while.

I'd be worried about being up against that many creationists, but it's Hitchens, so I think I feel bad for the poor saps he's up against.

Some call it "biased audience", Hitchens calls it "target rich environment".

By Freelance (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Haven't seen this one but don't have the time to watch it today. Thanks for the post though, hopefully will get to it tomorrow.

I listened to that "debate." It ended with one of the religious debaters summarizing that Hitchens had not answered any of the ten points brought up in favor of God existing. These included the usual suspects. Hitchens did reply to the cosmological arguments, but I think the other debaters didn't get it. Hitchens also demolished some arguments with ridicule, sarcasm, etc. But really, the other guys wanted Hitchens to take them seriously. They suggested that he come to the next debate better prepared.

He had a hostile audience as well. One questioner at the end basically shouted at Hitchens about the mathematical impossibility of evolution providing for the world we have in even "five billion years." Interesting that Hitchens was expected to be a mathematician, a biologist, a chemist, an astronomer, a physicist, and on and on.

Depressing. Except for the bravery and good humor of Hitchens -- that was great.

There is much to dislike about Hitchens, but he is very smart, great with words and always really nails it on the topic of religion. He's also fearless, and will say anything to any audience at any time, which I greatly respect, even when I disagree with him.

And, I agree, the sheer stupidity of the arguments for religion was amazing. One of them, the guy after Hitchens I think, in particular, just assumed his conclusions and went on as if no one would ever notice (of course, in his circles, they probably don't).

Christian apologetic's really seemed to like it. Hitch' was outnumbered but I think he held his own.

http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/04/02/video-and-audio-from-chri…

Here is an example of what they use as Scientific Proof of their deistic delusion fest. Its nothing but fallicious use of scientific terms and factiods.
http://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2009/03/25/is-there-scientific-evide…

How many logical fallacies can you find?

(PS. sorry for the dupe link, I linked to this on on the Ray Comfort comments also.)

I'm picturing Hitchens as The Samurai Cephalopod of Sense.

@Cryptic Life: At first I thought "O a Mormon bishop; that's kind of misleading since they give themselves such exaggerated titles". Then I thought "Fuck it; if people read that and think the LDS is corrupt to the very top it'll serve the right for giving themselves such silly titles".

Doesn't it seem like the only arguments that conservatives or theists make can be summed up as "whine, lie, repeat"? That seems to cover evolution, anything with gay people being treated as first class citizens, Barack Obama, etc.

As an experienced journalist, Strobel should know better. Perhaps he does. It may be for him that the Jesus gig is just a good meal ticket. He pretends to be reporting when he's merely proselytizing.

I hate not being able to contribute anything intelligent yet, but I just have to love the moment of awkwardness at the beginning.

"Something funny happened on the way to the funeral." (Brief pause for anticipated laughter.) (A bit longer to see if anyone is ever going to get it or care.) (Awkward realization that the joke wasn't funny.) (Silence while he tries to regain confidence.)

That's awkward hilarity at its finest.

By Max Pollack (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Tried to listen through, but couldn't make it past Lee Strobel's 4 minutes of idiocy.

Thanks for posting the video. I think it's funny that I've seen Hitchens get tag teamed before, but I guess this time they had to change it into something like a royal rumble.

By Spooky Electric (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I watched this debate yesterday. It was actually pretty good, although one thing that Hitchens tries to do is explain EVERYTHING and one person can't do that, and some things are just not (yet) explainable.

If the question is "so, where do you think the universe comes from, huh? What was BEFORE the universe?" the answer doesn't have to be a certainty. We don't know what was before the universe, or even if "before" is a relevant way of looking at these things given that time doesn't really exist in the way that we think it does, but I digress.

Instead, the answer to these unknown questions should be:

"We don't know where X came from but through the scientific process we hope to find out at some point in our life. Maybe we'll never know and we'll just have to accept that. However, you believers ALSO don't know but have just made up an explanation using super natural causes so you can feel better. If we all had your lack of curiosity and skepticism we would still be fucking around in the mud praying to the lightning god to spare us, instead of postulating that lightning was caused by a natural process and attempting to harness that power into a little something I call 'electricity'"

I just don't get the point anymore. Historical evidence for Jesus? Even supposing it were much better than it is, what would it show? That there was a guy who walked around, talked to people and died? Many men have done the same. Wake me up when any of your "historical evidence" resolves the contradictions among the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul, let alone comes close to indicating that your supposed "miracles" actually happened.

And "fine-tuning"? Do people never think these things through? Even if you ignore the giant scientific question marks about what kinds of physical laws can actually support complex molecules and life, even if you set aside the Beeblebrox-level vanity of painting a human face on the "essential precondition of being" — what does it get you? These people want an intelligent Fine-Tuner. OK. Either the Fine-Tuner existed in an environment like ours, or it did not. If it did, then we have to explain where that environment came from. If it didn't, then intelligence does not require physical laws like those operating in our universe, and the whole case for "fine-tuning" gets shot in the foot.

At first, I was irritated that the announcer was taking excessive time trying to sell magazine subscriptions to people who probably already had one, but then I found that they were just trying to prop up a falling house of cards:

http://blog.beliefnet.com/tonyjones/2009/03/christian-book-expo-my-view…
(Warning! This link contains excessive whininess about the direction of True Christinanity[sic]. Surfer discretion is advised.)

... and I was comforted.

By Ryan F Stello (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I love the Hitch; I've yet to see this video (at work, probably not the best idea...)

Loftus over at Debunking Christianity talked about the mano y mano Hitch vs. Craig debate. Apparently Hitch was slaughtered. Anyone see that yet?

William Lane Craig was interesting, but stupid.

I haven't read enough of his work to know, but my opinion of him has forever been biased by Chris Hallquist's remark

Robert M. Price has said on a couple of occasions that to explain apologetics is to refute it. In this case, to summarize [Craig's argument] is to parody it.

Did anyone notice the description under the video?

"The New Atheists usually make two charges against Christianity: (1) that it is untrue and (2) that it is harmful. A panel of Christian apologetics experts responds to an atheist critic with evidence from Scripture, science and, history about why faith is both reasonable and good for the world."

WTF?

We have all done something brave (read stupid) when drunk. Hitchens always appears to be inebriated and also happens to always appear to be remarkably stupid.

I believe the terminology for comprehensively winning an argument is "pwned". Craig pwned Hitchens.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

@spacecataz

No I haven't seen that, but Hitch has his good and bad days. The problem he faces is that apologeticss arguments are so overwhelmingly wide in scope, and nonsensical that he has to refute them on many levels. If you go through the arguements that they present as proof, they are nothing but a giant checklist of fallacies. Can you imagine trying to wade through a list as long as this List of Fallacies and still try to make your point. Its damn near impossible.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fallacies

Generally their arguments aren't even wrong. Its so very hard to argue against complete nonsense. Its really like arguing and reasoning with a child.

Pete, get it right it's pwn3d not pwned. Sheesh...

The first thing by William Lane Craig I read was a longish essay at making a "cosmological argument" for God. It started off as an unremarkable, workmanlike explanation of some fundamental physics — nothing too terribly wrong, that I recall — and then splooie! On came the deluge: a veritable bukkake-gasm of Epsilon-Minus sub-moronity.

Taking what he says at face value, William Lane Craig is an old-earth creationist who can't tell Dembski from science.

Pete,

How exactly did Craig pwn Hitchens?

I love the arguments about how the universe is precisely tuned to allow life to develop. It was repeated over and over as proof for god's intervention, and was completely ass backward. It's was not that the universe was precisely tuned to us, but rather that our life is precisely tuned to it. If the universe had different properties, our type of life may not be able to exist, but that doesn't mean another type, completely foreign to us, could not possibly come into being.

By ckitching (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Hitchens always appears to be inebriated

Well there's an original observation, Pete. You forgot to use the term "the sauce," though.

and also happens to always appear to be remarkably stupid.

That rates a WTF? In case you hadn't noticed, Pete, you haven't really impressed anyone around here with towering intellect yourself.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I've linked to that debate before here and you are completely wrong.
Hitchens was good? Please... all he did was say that religious people did horrible things and the other theologians pointed out that the fact that religions do bad things does nothing to disprove God. He then went into his standard rants about how religion makes people sexually repressed and how he thinks God is like a North Korean dictator. How this was supposed to disprove God I had no idea. He then came up with an argument about how long the human race had been suffering on the earth. The theologians then presented the standard solutions to the problem of evil (hitchens eventually admitted it was consistent to accept evil and be a Christian).
William lane Craig did not make the argument attributed to him (I believe it was Douglas Wilson but I'm too lazy to rewatch the debate). Craig presented the modal ontological argument,the axiological argument,the teleological argument from fine-tuning and the Kalam cosmological argument and that belief in God was rational because it was what epistemologists call a properly basic belief which has an inbuilt sense of warrant.
And I think the argument from chemistry still holds. The soft-drink think was just an analogy. I think PZ has said before he is a determinist (I may be mistaken).
If as PZ and other materialists would hold that humans are just souless deterministic machines, ruled purely by predetermined chemical reactions, how can we have free choice or make rational decisions? Debates seem pointless if noone has freedom to change or make rational choices.

And calling someone a liar is a strong claim. I would like you to back this.
(Keep in mind that even if you disagree with a claim that does not mean the person who make it is a liar. For example Lee Strobel claims that we can reasonably infer an intelligence for information in the genome. While I think this claim is false, I am sure Lee was being honest).

I think Hitchens didn't stand a chance. These men were professionaal philosophers, theologians and apologists trained in the use of reason and philosophical discourse, while Hitchens was just a rhetorician and sensationaliser.
You should check out this atheist's review of the Craig/Hitchens debate
http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=1230

I must say that I concur with the above poster. However, you will not find many here, as I have experienced, willing to entertain a dualist conception of the universe.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

It's was not that the universe was precisely tuned to us, but rather that our life is precisely tuned to it. If the universe had different properties, our type of life may not be able to exist, but that doesn't mean another type, completely foreign to us, could not possibly come into being.

And just because we can't currently explain why certain constants have the values they do, does not mean that they are intrinsically arbitrary. That is, as we continue to develop a more comprehensive "theory of everything", we may well discover that the theory requires these constants to be certain values.

The phrase "blithering theologian" has made my day. I will make a point to use it in casual conversation at least once a day from now on.

@Matthew
This in this case does not apply. Willaim lane Craig and Lee Strobel presented several arguments for the first cause being a personal being. Hitchens woul have to refute those arguments or else saying "I don't know but I know the evidence these 2 presented wasn't right" would just be an appeal to ignorance.

@FP

If as PZ and other materialists would hold that humans are just souless deterministic machines, ruled purely by predetermined chemical reactions, how can we have free choice or make rational decisions? Debates seem pointless if noone has freedom to change or make rational choices.

Do tell! Why exactly does choice and rationality require a disembodied mind? I await your insightful explanantion.

I thought the person who said that "people couldn't have a debate if they were the mere product of chemical reactions, because chemical reactions just fizz, they don't hold debates" was Douglas Wilson, not William Lane Craig.

Unless I remembered wrongly.

@FP, #32: "...ruled purely by predetermined chemical reactions..."

Whooooaaaaa!!! Predetermined? Not so much. Thoughts, and the chemical reactions driving them, are a result of stimuli, both external and internal. Nothing predetermined about it.

The irony here: many theists believe that an omnipotent god knows how everything in the world will unfold, making life PREDETERMINED. Whose a robot now?

Right -- that was Wilson, not Craig. Craig recited, as if it were completely rational, the ontological argument. Craig also listed at the end a bunch of arguments that he claimed Hitchens had not refuted (which was astonishing arrogance: 1 against 5, and he expected the one to answer every single claim made, including some that were not made), including the argument from design.

Unfortunately, every one of the theologians was so lame-assed stupid that they were hard to distinguish from one another.

Lee Stroebel USED to be a journalist. He gives the entire profession a bad name. "The Case For Christ" is one of the most intellectually dishonest books I've ever read -- he acts as if he's covering both sides, but he only speaks to people whom he knows will agree with him. Ironically enough, I was handed the book when I was questioning my own Christianity, and it wound up helping me break away that much more quickly.

By SeanJJordan (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

FP, Actually positing the existence of a soul does nothing to resolve the issue of free will. Even if a soul existed, it would somehow have to interact with matter to influence the matter, no? And how does it interact with matter without the matter acting on it?
Physics allows for indeterminacy--in terms of both quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics/chaos. It is not clear whether it allows for anything that could be interpreted as free will.
In fact, physics (in the form of entanglement experiments) places very stringent limits on 3 things that are near and dear to all of us: objective reality, causality and free will.
So, if there is a soul, it is as likely that it would be of the "helpless observer" type as that it would be able to express its free will in a material universe.

By Ray Ladbury (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Do these people not understand the concept of the "argument from ignorance" and why it's a no-no? If something is *unknown*, then all you can say is that it's unknown. You don't get to say: "thus, my deity did it!" Sheesh. I know the ID putzes get hung up on this (since it's all they've got), but I figured *some* theologians must be cognizant of it.

willing to entertain a dualist conception of the universe.

I'm willing to do that, round at my place. Swords, light sabres or slo-mo kick fighting? Admittedly it's not a very large part of the universe, but even so...
Off the source yet, Pete?

I just don't get the point anymore. Historical evidence for Jesus? Even supposing it were much better than it is, what would it show? That there was a guy who walked around, talked to people and died? Many men have done the same. Wake me up when any of your "historical evidence" resolves the contradictions among the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul, let alone comes close to indicating that your supposed "miracles" actually happened.

Lee presented arguments for the Resurrection of Jesus. I think it would prove a whole lot if we know he was resurrected. And even if there are contradictions it does not discredit the historical evidence. Historians use plenty of sources with contradiction (off the cuff I can say Polybius and Livy contradict each other on their accounts of Hannibal ,but historians do not throw out both.

And "fine-tuning"? Do people never think these things through? Even if you ignore the giant scientific question marks about what kinds of physical laws can actually support complex molecules and life, even if you set aside the Beeblebrox-level vanity of painting a human face on the "essential precondition of being" — what does it get you?

Go to any astrobiologist and he will tell you we have good ideas on what the universe would require for intelligent life to evolve.

These people want an intelligent Fine-Tuner. OK. Either the Fine-Tuner existed in an environment like ours, or it did not.

I hold that the fine-tuner is a nonphysical being that is not bound by the universe

If it didn't, then intelligence does not require physical laws like those operating in our universe, and the whole case for "fine-tuning" gets shot in the foot.

(I'll ignore the obvious Dawkinsian fallacy that you need an explanation for an explanation to be valid)
No one ever claimed the fine-tuner needed laws. The fine-tuner is non-physical and so needs no physical laws. What do need physical laws for is intelligent embodied beings like us to evolve.

Almost right, Rooke, but you got the sense a bit wrong. The subject of the verb "to pwn" is the one considered victorious. For example, "In my ideal football match, the Rams pwn3d Forest 14-0."

Anyway, the left-handed/right-handed thing is obvious. According to kinetic theory, chemical reactions occur when molecules collide with sufficient force and in the right place. Well, chiral molecules have bits that get in the way of opposite-handed molecules and so prevent them from ever presenting themselves in the required attitude. Although kinetic theory is "just a theory", its predictions are well borne out in practice (soap bubbles are round, and most things don't catch fire unless you put a match to them).

@SteveM

And just because we can't currently explain why certain constants have the values they do, does not mean that they are intrinsically arbitrary.

The reason the constants have the values that they do is because of our choice of measuring units. Richard Carrier made the point that these physical constants are all simply conersion factors, and that if we pick the right measuring units distance, force, time, etc. (for example), then the universal gravitational constant becomes 1 (and so on for all the other constants).

Of course, even with different units, these constants would still describe the same real natural relationships. But could they have been different? I don't know. Could pi have been different? Certainly not in euclidean (and most other standard) geometries.

"FP"(facilis) has no good argument. He simply finds one of the few times Hitch did poorly in a one-on-one debate, finds an atheist blogger who agrees, and simply parrots that guy's conclusion.

The post up the thread linking to that critique of one of Craig's books is outstanding, though I've read it before. I guarantee you a professional, veteran debater like Craig would slaughter a guy like me in person. But give me a written summary of Craig's claims, and even a guy like me can tell you what's wrong with his arguments, and why they don't make sense.

An in-person verbal showdown is not the way to get at the truth. I'll even admit that D'Souza won his first debate against Hitch, and Hitch slaughtered Dinesh the next time. Does that have any bearing on the truth of these matters? Written debates/responses are ten times better in getting at the meat of these issues than verbal grandstanding could ever be. I like a good show as much as the next guy, but I don't take it for any more than it's actually worth.

By Kingasaurus (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

"theologians and apologists trained in the use of reason "

That`s a good one.

By Frank Voeth (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

FP,
Also, careful of the anthropic principle. It is certainly no evidence of "planning"--merely that intelligent life only involves in those universes where certain conditions are met. It's generally pretty well accepted that there are multiple universes. We just happen to be in one of the lucky ones.

By Ray Ladbury (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

If as PZ and other materialists would hold that humans are just souless deterministic machines, ruled purely by predetermined chemical reactions, how can we have free choice or make rational decisions? Debates seem pointless if noone has freedom to change or make rational choices.

1. Argument from adverse consequences.

2. Even the strictest Laplacian determinism is compatible with an "effectively free will", in that it is typically impossible to know the state of a complex system with sufficient accuracy to predict its future behaviour beyond assigning probabilities to likely outcomes. (Laplace introduced his whole universe-as-machine business in a treatise on probability theory, after all.) So, chill out.

There is a song in the charts by Beyonce termed "If I were a boy" which fantasises about the benefits of such a situation. For my part, If I were a girl, I would consider Craig the ideal spouse. Unfailing fair, he treats even the most rhetorical on vituperative questions with an easy respect. Now I in no way wish to turn this into a homoerotic exercise of one-upmanship with dialogues on Dawkins as a self-confessed "sex-maniac" so perhaps I will rephrase that and describe Craig as the ideal father figure: firm but fair, intelligent but emotionally attuned. He pwned Hitchens not simply with the force of his arguments and strength of his convictions but also with the manner in which he conducted himself.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

These men were professionaal philosophers, theologians and apologists trained in the use of reason and philosophical discourse, while Hitchens was just a rhetorician and sensationaliser.

Since when has theology been training in the use of reason ?

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

how can we have free choice or make rational decisions?

Christians say that God has a plan. If an invisible sky fairy has a master plan, and knows the outcome of all events, then you don't really have free choice or make decisions. God has already pre-determined the outcome. Your "free choice" is an illusion because someone has already peeked at the dealer's hand. The all-knowing God posited by so many Christians absolutely cannot exist if there is such a thing as free will. If you accept that humans have free choice and make decisions, then you have to accept that God doesn't know the outcome and therefore put a limit on God's power: God is not omniscient, and if you're not omniscient, then you are not omnipotent either as omniscience is a subset of omnipotence.

Now, perhaps God isn't omniscient... the Old Testament would certainly bear that out. Adam, Eve, and Serpentis sure put one over on the Almighty. But if God is omnipotent, why not just undo the damage and carry on as if nothing has happened? God either chose to allow man to fall, or was powerless to stop/reverse it. That confirms that God is not omnipotent, and seems to indicate that he is not omnibenevolent. Given all the smiting that God does in the OT, and the way he treats people at the end of the world in Revelations, one can safely say that there isn't a chance God is omnibenevolent.

So, if God is neither omnipotent, omniscient, nor omnibenevolent, then God, as usually put forward by Christians definitely does not exist. If God isn't omni* then he's just some sadistic, narcissistic sky curmudgeon... unworthy of worship.

Why would a super-powerful sky fairy want 6 billion toadies anyway? You'd think that would get old really fast.

Listening to the points made by the religious on this panel underscores how religious scholarship, especially apologetics, is a thing unto itself: independent of religious practice and having little relevance in the lives of everyday believers.

This was brought into glaring relief as Craig pedantically closed out the session. In doing so, he listed ten arguments he says were left unaddressed. If Craig were to be honest about it, he would have to admit that believers neither become nor remain believers because of those arguments. Most believers become psychologically and socially dependent on religion long before any of them perceive a need to defend it. Fact is, most believers are never faced with the need to defend it. Almost no believers are even aware of Craig or his arguments. If Hitchens neglects Craig's battery of arguments, he is actually no different than most of the religious.

A favorite criticism of Hitchens and other recent high-profile atheists is that they do not take on the strongest arguments of the best Christian thinkers. I ask why should the likes of Hitchens need to when the best thinkers in other religions have seriously considered those arguments and been obviously ummoved? Arguments by Craig, Lewis, Van Til, Schaeffer, Geisler, Clark, McDowell, Strobel, Jeffrey, Lennox and Stoner don't persuade Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish scholars, and Craig, et al, are notably unimpressed by their arguments and evidence as well.

What's more, ignoring arguments supporting Christianity appears to be completely justifiable since the same god of Abraham tells Jewish and Muslim scholars that Christians have gotten it wrong.

Yeah, Petey - your sploogefest for Craig notwithstanding - I'd hardly call him fair. He doesn't yell, but that doesn't make him fair. He deliberately uses arguments his particular debate opponent will have the least expertise in, and deliberately tries to steer his debates away from his opponents area of study. That's a way to try to win "on points" rhetorically, but it's not the way to get at the truth - whatever that is.

Craig's good at debating, because he's had years of formal practice and training. Doesn't mean his arguments are correct, or even any good. I guarantee you if you force Craig to debate the opposite side from his usual, he'll still win his rhetorical share. The facts have nothing to do with how well a guy like Craig performs in front of an audience.

A guy like Eddie Tabash was unusually prepared for Craig's usual tricks, and made him look bad at their debate at Pepperdine.

By Kingasaurus (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Ah, I don't even need to listen to the thing to know how it turned out. If both our godbotting fools, Pete Rooke and Facilis both say Hitchens lost, then I know he won big time. You see boys, both of you have a presupposition that you side is right (it isn't), so you are incapable of listening rationally. Both of you have been well refuted here time and time again, but ignore it. That is why you look like fools to us.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Kingasaurus,

I am interested in the debate you describe. Is there video footage on the Internet or is this occasion a mythical stretch on your part.

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

belief in God was rational because it was what epistemologists call a properly basic belief which has an inbuilt sense of warrant.

Why does that sound like a flowery way of saying "I want it to be true?"

You have to love the sheer chutzpah in the argument from Fine Tuning: observe that a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of one percent of the observable universe is known to be suitable for human life, and conclude that it must have all been made for our sake.

Lee presented arguments for the Resurrection of Jesus.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. . . Oh, wait, were you serious?

And even if there are contradictions it does not discredit the historical evidence. Historians use plenty of sources with contradiction (off the cuff I can say Polybius and Livy contradict each other on their accounts of Hannibal ,but historians do not throw out both.

People do not wage war over the discrepancies between Polybius and Livy.

Go to any astrobiologist and he will tell you we have good ideas on what the universe would require for intelligent life to evolve.

Go to any cosmologist and he or she will tell you that, for example, the role of the second and third quark generations in the evolution of the cosmos is as yet uncertain (perhaps they're related to the imbalance between matter and antimatter, but almost certainly they're not the only factor involved in that problem). Figuring out what phenomena can inhabit a universe given only its most fundamental physical laws is really remarkably hard, and whether the laws of this universe represent anything like an optimum is not currently known. Optimization problems grow less tractable when the fitness function and the solution space are both incompletely defined.

I hold that the fine-tuner is a nonphysical being that is not bound by the universe

And yet which so loved humanity that it sent its only begotten son to be nailed to a plank. . . .

I love the arguments about how the universe is precisely tuned to allow life to develop. It was repeated over and over as proof for god's intervention, and was completely ass backward. It's was not that the universe was precisely tuned to us, but rather that our life is precisely tuned to it. If the universe had different properties, our type of life may not be able to exist, but that doesn't mean another type, completely foreign to us, could not possibly come into being.

But there are certain things we know are necessary.We need some source of energy like a star and a place for life to life (like a planet) .If the cosmological constant was too large matter would disperse too fast for anything like a star or planet to form. And another example is a strong nuclear force, if it was any different the only atom that could exist was hydrogen and no kind of chemical complexity required for life would be feasible. You can ask a biologists like PZ if a creature made of hydrogen gas is possible.
@SteveM

And just because we can't currently explain why certain constants have the values they do, does not mean that they are intrinsically arbitrary. That is, as we continue to develop a more comprehensive "theory of everything", we may well discover that the theory requires these constants to be certain values.

"Theory of everything" is deceptive as it only concerns the fundamental forces. And as string theorists point out, even if there was a theory of everything based on string theory, the strings themselves would require geometrical fine-tuning. So the question will be "who fine-tuned the theory of everything". And if a theory of everything was found it would do nothing to address the question of the fine-tuning of the initial conditions (things such as the amount of entropy in the universe and distribution of mass-energy).

@fp: "Willaim lane Craig and Lee Strobel presented several arguments for the first cause being a personal being."

No, they presented no arguments, rather assertions based on sophistry. Every so called argument they mentioned has already been refuted.

By Equisetum (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Pete, I hate doing your work for you. If you really need a point in the right direction, John Loftus (Debunking Christianity)linked to a video of that debate in one of his older posts.

The rest is up to you. Finish your own legwork.

By Kingasaurus (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

But there are certain things we know are necessary.We need some source of energy like a star and a place for life to life (like a planet) .If the cosmological constant was too large matter would disperse too fast for anything like a star or planet to form. And another example is a strong nuclear force, if it was any different the only atom that could exist was hydrogen and no kind of chemical complexity required for life would be feasible. You can ask a biologists like PZ if a creature made of hydrogen gas is possible.

As much as the theist rhetoric on this rings clearly through the ears of the ignorant, the simply fact is that 25% of known permutations of the universe can produce life in some capacity. A slight variation on the laws of nature may not mean our existence, but it doesn't negate the existence of life in some form or a stable universe. Arguing for the fine-tuning of the universe is in effect saying "We exist, therefore God exists." Which you'd think by the sheer size and scope of the universe that the weak anthropic principle would have shown that the idea of a geocentric universe was a very bad one.

An in-person verbal showdown is not the way to get at the truth. I'll even admit that D'Souza won his first debate against Hitch, and Hitch slaughtered Dinesh the next time. Does that have any bearing on the truth of these matters? Written debates/responses are ten times better in getting at the meat of these issues than verbal grandstanding could ever be. I like a good show as much as the next guy, but I don't take it for any more than it's actually worth.

I agree totally. In-person debates are exciting, but "winning" and "losing" only shows who was better prepared or is simply a better orator. It says nothing about the material discussed.

Online debates are far more effective (IMHO), because both sides have time to thoughtfully research and present the best possible arguments and counter-arguments. Granted, "writing skill" becomes a small issue, I suppose -- but I would wager that more people are comfortable writing than comfortable with public speaking. (again, IMHO)

And anyways -- Religion/Science debates GENERALLY favor the religious side simply because that's their turf -- science communicates most often through writing (journals, reports, articles, etc.), but religion is more often communicated through speaking presentation / oration (pulpit-pounding, public speaking, etc.).

I think all debates should be settled by a "Through the Fire and Flames" [Expert mode] Guitar Hero duel. Anyone who can full combo that song *CLEARLY* knows what they're talking about.

Quoting? Use "blockquote" and "/blockquote" each within the less than more than signs.
Theology is utterly useless, since it only convinces the person spouting it that his/her personal god is the right one. And, as we know, many many people have died over such minutiae of nonsense. Does anyone know, btw, how many angels really could dance on the head of a pin? Doesn't sound like my idea of a good party in any event.

So the question will be "who fine-tuned the theory of everything".

Your use of the pronoun "who" is telling. Seldom has the act of presuming one's conclusion been so concisely telegraphed.

I don't think such debates are likely to be helpful. You have to "deconstruct" so much nonsense before your own points gain salience among the audience, and you just can't demolish that much claptrap in that short period of time.

I wouldn't be surprised if most of the audience thought the metaphysicians handily came out on top. That's because they literally ask questions that the atheist cannot answer, that is, cannot answer without delving deeply into the history of bullshit, which gets back to the fact that they can't answer it in that forum.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

Hitchens was pretty good. Here's one point that he fumbled though:

The atheist has no basis for objecting [on moral grounds] to any behavior in history -- in the past or the future. In the end, Christopher cannot object to Christian misbehavior. [64:47]

In other words: given two sets of natural behaviors A and B, where A includes acts of justice and beneficence and B includes rape and pillage, the atheist cannot offer any principled standard by which to decide whether some new, unclassified behavior C belongs in set A or set B.

Atheism cannot ground morality nor can it explain it.

There's no way I'm spending an hour-plus listening to the 'debate'. I listened to the first panel member and was reminded of why, in my university years, I so often found philosophy and theology majors unbearable.

No one ever claimed the fine-tuner needed laws. The fine-tuner is non-physical and so needs no physical laws.

No one has ever explained how this is coherent. Even if the fine-tuner is "non-physical" (whatever that means), it must be constrained in some fashion, no? In other words, there must be "non-physical" laws it has to obey, right?

When we look at the sheer scope of the universe - that we are one of 10 million living species, one of billions that have been alive on this earth alone, and we orbit but 1 of ~100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the observable universe, is an explanation of reality that is human-centric really going to be a good answer?

Kel, #66,

the simply fact is that 25% of known permutations of the universe can produce life in some capacity.

Independent of the validity of fine-tuning, this is an asinine statement. It means nothing. What are the "known permutations of the universe?" How are they enumerated?

Do you have a reference for what you claim is a simple fact?

But there are certain things we know are necessary.

For life as we know it. Of course, there are innumerable other things in the universe that could not have formed under different physical laws - why should we consider ourselves so special? For that matter, why do we consider our own existence more significant than the non-existence of any number of other phenomena that could have existed if the laws of physics were different? Why is it all about the existence of human life? There is only one answer: That those who accept the Argument from Fine Tuning believe we are the most amazing thing that exists, or has existed, or could ever exist in any universe if the laws of physics could be anything at all.

The arrogance of this principle is simply astounding. God-worship is self-worship.

Hey Pete Rooke, didnt you get the memo? On this blog, Hitchens is only considered drunk when he says the incorrect things about muslims and war. Tighten up, buddy.

The reason the constants have the values that they do is because of our choice of measuring units.

That completely misses the point. For one thing the is unitless, why is it 137? And to say it is 137 because we use base10 numbering is stupid. Yes many of the other constants are a certain numerical value because of the units we use, but the point is not why is does the proton weigh so many "grams", but why the ratio of the electron mass to the proton mass is what it is. Just changing the measuring system to make a constant = 1 does not alter the fundamental question of why it has that value in that measuring system. When we wonder why water boils at 212F, the answer is not why is it 212, but why is it 212F. The unit is part of the question. Whether you ask why it boils at 212F or 100C is the same question. Why that particular temperature regardless of the unit you measure it in.

This was brought into glaring relief as Craig pedantically closed out the session. In doing so, he listed ten arguments he says were left unaddressed. If Craig were to be honest about it, he would have to admit that believers neither become nor remain believers because of those arguments.

Craig openly said that he thought God could be known immediately through personal experience even if his arguments fail or are inconclusive. There is more than 1 path to God.

Most believers become psychologically and socially dependent on religion long before any of them perceive a need to defend it. Fact is, most believers are never faced with the need to defend it.

They are. Every day with the "new atheist" campaign. I will admit that they are not doing very well with defending, but they do have to.

Almost no believers are even aware of Craig or his arguments. If Hitchens neglects Craig's battery of arguments, he is actually no different than most of the religious.

But in doing so hitchens would be intellectually dishonest. When he makes claims that there are no good evidences or arguments for religion in his book he should grapple with teh evidence.

A favorite criticism of Hitchens and other recent high-profile atheists is that they do not take on the strongest arguments of the best Christian thinkers.

I agree. One cannot call all Christians delusional when one has yet to engage an intelligent ones.

I ask why should the likes of Hitchens need to when the best thinkers in other religions have seriously considered those arguments and been obviously ummoved? Arguments by Craig, Lewis, Van Til, Schaeffer, Geisler, Clark, McDowell, Strobel, Jeffrey, Lennox and Stoner don't persuade Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish scholars, and Craig, et al, are notably unimpressed by their arguments and evidence as well.

This is false on its face. GO to answeringislam.org (Its a place for Muslim-Christian dialog and apologetics) and read their testimonials. Or go check out jewsforjesus or Michael Brown's ICN group. They contain many people who converted to messianic judaism after seeing good evidence.
And you miss the point. CRAIG ENGAGES arguments from other religions. On youtube you cam find videos of him debating muslims like Shabir Ally as well as secular humanists and naturalists. Craig engages arguments from all religions.

What's more, ignoring arguments supporting Christianity appears to be completely justifiable since the same god of Abraham tells Jewish and Muslim scholars that Christians have gotten it wrong.

This is why muslim and jewish scholars DEBATE THE EVIDENCES to see who is right. Why is Hitchens allowed to ignore the evidence.

Independent of the validity of fine-tuning, this is an asinine statement. It means nothing. What are the "known permutations of the universe?" How are they enumerated?

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19926673.900-is-our-universe-fine…
"Adams selected a range of possible values for each of these constants, then put them into a computer model that created a multitude of universes, or a virtual "multiverse". Each universe within the multiverse used different values for the three constants and was subject to slightly different laws of physics.

About a quarter of the resulting universes turned out to be populated by energy-generating stars. "You can change alpha or the gravitational constant by a factor of 100 and stars still form," Adams says, suggesting that stars can exist in universes in which at least some fundamental constants are wildly different than in our universe."Though even if our universe was the only possible way life could exist, it still doesn't necessitate a higher power. It's still saying "we exist, therefore God. QED" when appealing to fine tuning. The absence of knowledge on how the laws of physics arose does not necessitate that humans are of any significance in this universe at all!

One thing I've noticed about William Lane Craig is that he does a Gish gallop almost better than anyone. He's composed and a good speaker, and that means that the bullshit which comes out of his mouth (really -- are ANY of his numbers correct when he's spouting maths?) comes in a torrent. That, Pete Rooke, does not make him *right*. It makes him a high-speed liar.

Matt,

never a truer word spoken although I am unsure of what it means to "tighten up". I know that tight is often used to describe attractive women. In rap they will often use "tight" as a term roughly equivalent to cool/stylish/fashionable?

By Pete Rooke (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

One thing I've noticed about William Lane Craig is that he does a Gish gallop almost better than anyone. He's composed and a good speaker, and that means that the bullshit which comes out of his mouth (really -- are ANY of his numbers correct when he's spouting maths?) comes in a torrent.

Correct. Craig is good at "winning" debates, not at being correct.

By Kingasaurus (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

William Lane Craig would have more credibility if he didn't misrepresent the current scientific body of work in order to support his arguments. Surely if his arguments have merit, they would stand regardless of where the science is at. You don't need to make a cartoonish version of Big Bang theory in order to point out the gaps in knowledge that surround it.

I love this retort by Hitchens to the inane comments about how atheism doesn't "offer" anything - no handy absolute morality, no judgement for bad people, no hope for the downtrodden:

(Being an atheist) does involve accepting conclusions that may be unwelcome. I don't particularly want my own death to be succeeded by annihiliation and my return to atoms - it's not what I wish for myself. But I'm not going to say I don't believe it because I don't like it ... because that would be babyish, wouldn't it? Nobody argues like that.

By Bostonian (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

@Facilis
You can indeed argue that the laws of physics are exactly as it is needed for life as we know it to exist, yet, that is no reason why any "intelligent" (define intelligent, by the way) being must have "caused" (define causation, by the way) it. Even if it were special, so that every other laws of physics turns out to be a... "boring universe," then you have not proved anything other than that it is fine-tuned; have not proved the existence of a fine-tuner. After all, if the universe is fine-tuned, then what fine-tuned god?

You also really have no knowledge of whether these laws of physics are special after all: perhaps if it were different, then different things could happen.

For life as we know it. Of course, there are innumerable other things in the universe that could not have formed under different physical laws - why should we consider ourselves so special? For that matter, why do we consider our own existence more significant than the non-existence of any number of other phenomena that could have existed if the laws of physics were different? Why is it all about the existence of human life? There is only one answer: That those who accept the Argument from Fine Tuning believe we are the most amazing thing that exists, or has existed, or could ever exist in any universe if the laws of physics could be anything at all.

The arrogance of this principle is simply astounding. God-worship is self-worship.

Why life? Because all of us recognise there is intrinsic value to intelligent life. Unless you want to pull off some kind of retreat to nihilism and say intelligent human life is no more significant than the chair you are sitting on.

And besides the question is not "What other phenomenon may have resulted?". The question is "What best explains the phenomenon in question (i.e. the evolution of intelligent life)?" Craig and Lee argue that it is best explained by a designer.
Your argument is like going up to an aquarium and saying "Why is this aquarium fine-tuned for fish? Couldn't some other kind of animal have existed in here?"

Hitchy was drinking water, he wasn't properly "fueled" for it anyway. If he was, there would be more theologians on the ground then closing time in Belfast.

And as string theorists point out, even if there was a theory of everything based on string theory, the strings themselves would require geometrical fine-tuning. So the question will be "who fine-tuned the theory of everything".

Did I say anything about string theory? And even if it does turn out to be a theory of everything, how do you know that it will require geomtric fine tuning. That is just a guess until the theory gets fully worked out. You cannot say absolutely that there will not be a theory developed that will account for the values of all the constants we currently believe to be "arbitrary".

And even if we can warp Godel's proof somehow to show that there must be arbitrary physical constants, that still does not imply that they had to be "manipulated" to be the values that they are.

Marc @ # 35: The phrase "blithering theologian" has made my day. I will make a point to use it in casual conversation at least once a day from now on.

Please report back on how long until you're accused of redundancy...

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Why life? Because all of us recognise there is intrinsic value to intelligent life.

No, we recognise intrinsic value to ourselves. It's how the species survives... the difference is that we don't think that the whole universe has some intrinsic property that puts us at the centre of it, even if we put our own existence at the centre of ourselves...

FP:

One cannot call all Christians delusional when one has yet to engage an intelligent ones.

True. However, when every sheep you've ever seen, heard about, read about, or dreamt about is white, then, well, you draw your own conclusions.

Why life? Because all of us recognise there is intrinsic value to intelligent life.

"Us" being intelligent life-forms. Color me unsurprised.

Unless you want to pull off some kind of retreat to nihilism and say intelligent human life is no more significant than the chair you are sitting on.

It isn't nihilism to recognize that "significance" is necessarily deeply subjective and anthropocentric. To state that we find ourselves significant has no objective consequences for the universe. Your gratuitous attempt to equate our self-serving perspective with some objective reality proves my point for me.

Christopher Hitchens debated Air America's Thom Hartmann on the subject of atheism, opening the first hour of April 7. Hartmann is a very intelligent and rational liberal authority on history, economics, politics and a champion of the middle class as far as American politics are concerned. He's also cursed with an inability to avoid falling for anything that's got "woo" in it, including firewalking, neuro-linguistic programming, and some sort of newage-suffused Christianity (because he wants to reclaim Christianity from the right wing, almost more than he wants it to be true). He insists that atheism is a faith, that Hitchens is being "evangelical" in trying to convince people of the rightness of his position, and uses all of his solipsistic defenses of religious beliefs to insist that nobody can convince him he isn't entitled to believe whatever he feels like believing, so long as he gets to say that people reject his beliefs out of a place that can be no more than religious. Of course it's a funhouse mirror style of rejection of reason as if it were reason. if it's better and more intelligent people who share your political views you want to hear, but who are making the soundness of their political views suspect by how utterly credulous they sound when they talk shite about how much they need their woo, Thom Hartmann's show from Tuesday will make your blood boil.

If you want to keep your head spinning, Chris Hedges starts off hour 3. "When Atheism Becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalists" is the book he wrote after American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America to explain how Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, et al, are just a bunch of fundamentalists. Hedges is angry at the New Atheists, mostly because they're the wrong kind of atheists. When Hartmann finds out Hedges can rattle off a load of reasons for why the Bible is full of batshit homophobia and antisemitism and contradictions and Hedges rejects the resurrection, Hartmann's Scooby Doo grunt of incredulity is rewarding to hear, but it doesn't help make Hedges' thesis any less consistent.

Your argument is like going up to an aquarium and saying "Why is this aquarium fine-tuned for fish? Couldn't some other kind of animal have existed in here?"

Actually, the argument is nothing like that. Even if it *were* like that, the answer is "Yes, all sorts of other animals can exist in there." What of it?

Oh! It's facilis. Welcome -- ahem -- back.

And besides the question is not "What other phenomenon may have resulted?". The question is "What best explains the phenomenon in question (i.e. the evolution of intelligent life)?" Craig and Lee argue that it is best explained by a designer.Your argument is like going up to an aquarium and saying "Why is this aquarium fine-tuned for fish? Couldn't some other kind of animal have existed in here?"

Just remember the numbers facilis. Number of different species on earth: ~10,000,000. Number of stars in the galaxy: ~200,000,000,000. Number of stars in the universe: ~100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Number of known species to produce intelligent life: 1.To claim that the universe exists for the sole purpose of us is really a stretch. We've existed for ~0.001% of the entire universe's history. We reside on one planet that orbits a very ordinary star of which the majority of the universe is made up of. What else but appealing to bronze age reasoning is there to think that this entire universe - the ~94 billion light year wide universe with 1023 stars that reside in it is all for one species of billions that have lived on one planet?

The argument from fine tuning is the most hillarious of all arguments.

2/3 of the Earth is ocean(I can't remember if 2/3 is actually correct but its in the ballpark). However humans can't drink it and can't breath in it. Pretty damn good fine tuning (NOT).

The earth is just 1 minuscule blip in the universe but we can't breathe in space or on any other known planets. Again damn fine tuning. God gives us the heaven and the earth and we can't live in 2/3 of the earth, and not even .000000001% of the universe. What a waste of effort in fine tuning. Deities are sooooo good at galactic tuning, and bioengineering.

Hey, Douglas Wilson is from my town! The very town in which I am typing this. Moscow is actually one of the more liberal towns in Idaho, but sadly we still have a lot of Creationist nonsense floating around. We did however get a billboard from the american humanists association.

DaveL #78,

That those who accept the Argument from Fine Tuning believe we are the most amazing thing that exists, or has existed, or could ever exist in any universe if the laws of physics could be anything at all.

At least argue against the actual argument, not against a strawman. Don’t mix (as many do) cosmological fine tuning with privileged planet arguments. The former have nothing to do with “our kind of life” or “us.” It is about any kind of life at all. The assumptions they make about life are at all controversial. That is:

Any kind of life requires complex chemistry and big molecules to store information. It therefore requires metals.

That is all the fine tuning says about “life.” Nothing about humans. Not even about carbon based life—although would be a reasonable assumption too. Only that you won’t get live, of any kind, from a universe with just hydrogen and helium. Most scientists would agree. Others who get there science from Star Trek might disagree.

From there the fine tuning argument goes:

It therefore requires a universe to create the stars—and it requires stars that can synthesize the metals.

Still nothing controversial.

The only controversial question is: how sensitive to the constants is the a) the existence of stars and b) given stars exist, how sensitive to the constants is their evolution that ultimately seeds space with metals.

So fine tuning arguments are not about “our kind of life” or that “we are special” Your casual dismissal misses the boat completely.

@Kel
all the writer deals with was stellar formation. He does not address the issue in chemistry I pointed out and many other factors that Craig points out (you can listen to Craig's podcasts to get a fuller treatment or go to Robin Collin's site on fine-tuning to see many examples of the factors)
see here
http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/finetlay.htm

James @ 100:

:) I went to grad. school at WSU, and Moscow is one fine town to spend some time in. It greatly saddened me to learn (a while ago) that Wilson is from there. That doesn't change the fact that Moscow has one of the finest outdoor sports shops (Hyperspud's), one of the finest wine and cheese shops (The Wine Company), and one of the best small Mexican places (Patty's) that I've ever found. It also has some great, smart people (and a lot of woo).

hat else but appealing to bronze age reasoning is there to think that this entire universe - the ~94 billion light year wide universe with 1023 stars that reside in it is all for one species of billions that have lived on one planet?

I am not saying it was designed for us. I am saying it is immensely improbable for a universe that supports intelligent life to exist and the best explanation for the fact that the universe does support life is design.

Atheism cannot ground morality nor can it explain it.

Fortunately, nobody tries to make it do either. An atheist's morality is grounded in humanism, not atheism.

the atheist cannot offer any principled standard by which to decide whether some new, unclassified behavior C belongs in set A or set B.

Patently false. Familiar with the so-called "golden rule"? Or with humanism in general?

philosophistry is boring

Oh, and now Pete Rooke and asshole trollpuppeting Matt are teaming up? yay

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

That moron flap's been left open again...

all he did was say that religious people did horrible things and the other theologians pointed out that the fact that religions do bad things does nothing to disprove God.

I don't buy this one, at least for xianity.

Formally, the truth of a theory is independent of its inventors or adherents. If Darwin was a pro life (read anti-human) fundie xian hater, his theory would still be correct.

But in terms of xianity, the adherents aren't well separated from their theory.

1. The church(s) are supposed to be god's organization on earth. They of course vary all over the place but the modern fundies have grabbed the religion and they are just plain evil.

2. The xian god also varies all over the place. Often, he is a vicious, sadistic, incompetent monster, to be feared maybe but not respected or worshipped. Just as often god believes whatever they themselves believe and wants them to do what they want to do anyway. If you are a fundie death cult leader, god wants you to send him lots of money and your cutest teen age girls.

3. Xianity certainly produces no morality whatsoever. Xians are no better than anyone else. The Death Cult versions are way worse than anyone else. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Well they are repulsive, sick, and morally degenerate.

So god's representatives on earth, the footprint or traces varies enormously but seems to indicate a monster at worse and a rationalization for whatever people want to do at best. His believers certainly don't show any evidence for him being a positive influence.

This doesn't prove his existence or not but it makes the xian god quite unlikely.

I am saying it is immensely improbable for a universe that supports intelligent life to exist

Wrong. Proability 1.0

Yes, it is FAR more probable that an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, supernatural entity for which there is no empirical evidence (blind assertion doesn't count, you know) created everything. Funny how its name used to be "God" but now it's "design". Pathetic and childish!

By Wolfhound (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

It is about any kind of life at all. The assumptions they make about life are at all controversial. That is:

Any kind of life requires complex chemistry and big molecules to store information. It therefore requires metals.

That is all the fine tuning says about “life.”

I'm afraid your blinkers are still firmly attached. Why should life be considered the acme of existence? You speak of chemistry, molecules, even metals... are you somehow missing the idea about what could be if the laws of physics could be anything at all? Hell, Facilis here thinks the laws of logic themselves are a creation of God - what could be possible if even logic was arbitrarily constructed? The mind boggles.

The distinction between life as we know it and intelligent life as we know it is a minor nitpick in comparison. The point remains that Fine Tuning proponents take our self-serving perspective and call it an objective criterion, and it won't wash.

I am saying it is immensely improbable for a universe that supports intelligent life to exist

That probablility is exactly 1.0 (for the usual value of "intelligent"), dumbass. Please stop changing your damn nym and stay in the killfile where you belong.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Whenever I get in a debate about the existence or non-existence of gods, the debate is extremely short. I just say god is just another word for magic, there's no magic in the universe, and only idiots believe in magic. End of debate. There's nothing more to say about it. It's would be waste of time to say anything else about gods because that would be like debating whether or not the earth is flat.

I tried to watch this thing yesterday night. I only got a third through.. I couldn't stand so much concentrated stupid.
The wilson thing about soda fizzing has to be the greatest non sequitur I've ever heard. After the ontological argument, probably. But I kinda passed out shortly while Lee Strobel was speaking. I was under the impression that he was considered a good apologist... Now I'm left to wonder how bad the bad ones are...

Craig presented the modal ontological argument,the axiological argument,the teleological argument from fine-tuning and the Kalam cosmological argument and that belief in God was rational because it was what epistemologists call a properly basic belief which has an inbuilt sense of warrant.

So, by your own admission, Craig presented arguments that were refuted decades or centuries ago.

Any kind of life requires complex chemistry and big molecules to store information. It therefore requires metals.
That is all the fine tuning says about “life.” Nothing about humans. Not even about carbon based life—although would be a reasonable assumption too. Only that you won’t get live, of any kind, from a universe with just hydrogen and helium. Most scientists would agree. Others who get there science from Star Trek might disagree.
From there the fine tuning argument goes:
It therefore requires a universe to create the stars—and it requires stars that can synthesize the metals.
Still nothing controversial.

That life requires complex chemistry essentially a truism; the definition was made by people living a world full of chemistry to describe a certain sunset of that chemistry. That a universe would need anything like metal atoms to support complex systems exhibiting conciousness (which I think is the more relevant question) is much less obvious.

Take Conway's Game of Life. This proceeds according to a simple set of laws wildly different to our universe's physics and yet is known to be capable of supporting structures equivalent to a Turing machine. Thus it can (assuming conciousness is non-magic) support concious entities. (I stole this example used in this context from Blake Stacy but he doesn't seem to have used it in this thread).

I really do not see any point of trying to disprove god`s existence or prove its existence. Obviously if there was a god we all would be titled to believe it and if there was no god we all would have been true unbelievers. I think there needs to be a 3rd explanation that discredits these 2 never ending points. No I am not talking about aliens or some other deity. I do not know, the mankind wasted thousands of years on this fruitless debates already. I personally think that god`s existence or non existence is irrelevant.

Btw Hitchens is a man of many colors. It is quite astonishing that Mr H was supporting Bush`s christian zealous crusades against other parts of the
worlds in recent years. A true atheist should have never supported one religion against another, one religious crowd againt another crowd to get his point across. He is a true "faker". The only thing I appreciated about him is that he tried to go after H. Kissinger.

Kel, #82

Adams’s paper does not even come close to proving what you claim. The most obvious flaw is fatal—deadly really to your claim: He ignores the cosmological constant (or, if you prefer, the expansion rate). That is, he already assumes a cosmological constants that does not produce universe that expands too quickly or too slowly to produce the required density for making stars.

That is fatal—at least to your claim that 25% of the permutations are habitable. This renders your statement, as I said, asinine.

Then—even though he has stacked the deck selecting by assuming a universe with the requisite density, he produces “stars” -- meaning objects that give off energy. He does not test that these objects synthesize heavy elements or that they have a means to blast those elements into space.

Lastly, even after all that, with the two big flaws:

1) He didn’t try universes with different cosmological constants
2) He merely speculated that energy producing objects are what’s needed for life—without explain how that life would find the materials needed to store information—that is where the materials would come from.

Even given those severe limitations, your claim is not valid. Adams did not say that 25% of his toy universes produced potentially habitable universes, but 25% of those he tried. Each constant was selected from a range that includes our values—but the limits of those ranges already biases his selections toward the one known habitable universe. He didn’t pick random alphas, but alphas from some finite range than includes our 1/137.

all of us recognise there is intrinsic value to intelligent life

From *our perspective* maybe (ie, there is value to us, not necessarily value in a Universal sense).

OH NO, Facilis the Fallacious Fool thinks he has an argument. That means the inverse is true. Get the hint Facilis, you are not that smart and have too many presuppositions, so we can use you as a guide to what is true by inverting what you say.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

BTW, I also found hilarious that the answer to the challenge of Hitchens (name me a moral action performed by a believer that couldn't be performed by a non believer) was: "tithing"

Doesn't the word "moderator" contain the work moderat(e) for a reason? Jeez.

By zaardvark (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Matt Heath,

That a universe would need anything like metal atoms to support complex systems exhibiting conciousness (which I think is the more relevant question) is much less obvious.

Sorry. I am using metal to mean "anything beyond helium." It is entirely obvious that you need them. From hydrogen and helium you can only get--hydrogen and helium. You cannot store information--so you cannot have life. Of any kind.

Atheism cannot ground morality nor can it explain it.

That is an assertion without proof. It is also wrong. Atheists say that morality is a consequence of social, thinking beings living in cooperative societies. Maximizing the good, minimizing the bad. Or part of our evolutionary programming. Both are likely to be correct.

Xianity has failed at grounding morality and explaining it. Xian morality changes radically over time and varies radically from sect to sect and person to person. It used to be that you could stone disobedient children to death or sell them as sex slaves. Witches were to be hunted down and killed as well as false prophets. The latter would result in millions of fundies being killed today as they easily and often claim to be speaking for god and wish everyone a Merry Hell.

It also doesn't work. Fundie Death Cultists are just evil. No point even looking with an electron microscope for xian morality. All you will fnd is an oxymoron.

Posted by: Skye | April 9, 2009 10:06 AM

Tried to listen through, but couldn't make it past Lee Strobel's 4 minutes of idiocy.

I was flabbergasted, after two years of research all he could come up with was a huge logical fallacy? Glad he wasn't my attorney...

OMG... I expected this to be bad... but... the ontological argument? I didn't realize that people seriously argued that point.

Yes, thanks PZ :) - I'm dummmer now too :|

bobxxxx,

I just say god is just another word for magic, there's no magic in the universe, and only idiots believe in magic. End of debate.

And do you then consider that you won the debate?

DaveL,

Why should life be considered the acme of existence?

Moving the goalposts just a bit. Before the fine-tuners were chauvinistic based on your erroneous claim that they considered fine-tuning for life like ours. Now you are saying "what's the big deal about life?" Well we can agree that the fine-tuners are arguing that the cosmos is fine-tuned for life of some kind. And you are free to think that that is much ado about nothing.

Right -- that was Wilson, not Craig. Craig recited, as if it were completely rational, the ontological argument. Craig also listed at the end a bunch of arguments that he claimed Hitchens had not refuted (which was astonishing arrogance: 1 against 5, and he expected the one to answer every single claim made, including some that were not made), including the argument from design.

The modal ontological argument is a very challenging argument. (And a very good one too). Craig says the only reason he does not regularly use it in debates is that it is difficult to follow for his audience that is not philosophically literate. I do agree with you that the 5 on 1 thing was a bit unfair but I didn't see hitchens even attempt to refute anyone.

Posted by: FP | April 9, 2009 11:18 AM

Why is Hitchens allowed to ignore the evidence.

What evidence? Craig et al had plenty of opportunity to present evidence at this debate. If it exists, why didn't they? Why has no one in the 33 years I've been an atheist presented any evidence for the existence of any gods?

Hitchens did quite well in this debate.

It's a bit of a stretch to posit that a cosmic God, that caused and fine-tuned the universe, is equivalent to a theistic God. A theistic God is based purely on mythology. A cosmic God is based on reasoning. They are entirely different things.

By Thoughtful Guy (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Wow. I've heard people use the ontological argument, the cosmological argument and the argument from fine tuning before, but I assumed it was because they were a bit ignorant and unaware of how weak they were. But professional god thinkers try to use them too? Surely they were taking the piss?

I'm half tempted to check out the debate, but an hour is far too long and Hitchens is like nails down a blackboard to me.

By TigerRepellingRock (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Posted by: FP | April 9, 2009 12:19 PM

The modal ontological argument is a very challenging argument.

Maybe to an 8-year-old. Hitchens didn't need to refute it because it's already been refuted a thousand times or more. It's ridiculous on its face.

Moving the goalposts just a bit.

Aye, in your favour, yet still you protest.

Now you are saying "what's the big deal about life?" Well we can agree that the fine-tuners are arguing that the cosmos is fine-tuned for life of some kind.

In the same sense that a randomly shuffled deck of cards is fine-tuned to be in the order it has. The significance of that order is what is being used to justify claims of an intelligence behind the way things are, and that significance is just so much self-aggrandizement.

I just say god is just another word for magic, there's no magic in the universe, and only idiots believe in magic. End of debate.

And do you then consider that you won the debate?

Asks the idiot who believes in magic.

Craig and Hitchens also debated Saturday (4-04) at some California bible college. (Hugh Hewitt was the moderator.)Many fundy churches paid to get the feed and were encouraged to invite local freethinker groups. It was a very polite invatation, so several members of Champaign-Urbana Freethinkers (including me) attended.
It was the first time I'd seen Hitchens debate, and I was distictly unimpressed. He let Craig walk all over him. I could have done better. He let Craig quote from some theistic psuedo-scientific works that distorted both the current understanding of the Big Bang and evolution without calling him on it (like asking what peer-reviewed journals these papers were printed it; they were probably just fundy books that Hitchens couldn't be expected to be familiar with, but Hitchens let it pass.) Craig claimed that the empty tomb and the resurrection were historical facts without a contrary peep from Hitchens.
Maybe Hitchens has good days and bad days. Saturday he was awful.

That soda analogy convinced me. I'm a theist now.

Posted by: TigerRepellingRock | April 9, 2009 12:26 PM

Wow. I've heard people use the ontological argument, the cosmological argument and the argument from fine tuning before, but I assumed it was because they were a bit ignorant and unaware of how weak they were. But professional god thinkers try to use them too? Surely they were taking the piss?

Nope, they were serious. Apparently those are the best arguments they have, and they actually expect people to take them seriously.

Sorry. I am using metal to mean "anything beyond helium." It is entirely obvious that you need them. From hydrogen and helium you can only get--hydrogen and helium. You cannot store information--so you cannot have life. Of any kind

Whether you mean metal in a strict or loose sense isn't relevant to my point, and I don't actually need to remedial class on "where atoms come from". Now remember I was careful to refer to "concious systems" rather than "life". A universe of hydrogen stars turning to helium would, like our own, be mostly governed, on the large scale, by gravity. It's difficult to imagine how a system of (essentially) balls moving under gravity might support a system equivalent to a Turing machine (it is after all quite unfamiliar) but I can see no reason why it should be impossible. After all that Conway's rules could support such a thing is mind-numbingly bizarre (and provably true).

Hitchens is one of the biggest assholes in modern atheism. He'd accomplish so much more by being reasonably friendly.

Sorry. I am using metal to mean "anything beyond helium." It is entirely obvious that you need them. From hydrogen and helium you can only get--hydrogen and helium. You cannot store information--so you cannot have life. Of any kind

Whether you mean metal in a strict or loose sense isn't relevant to my point, and I don't actually need to remedial class on "where atoms come from". Now remember I was careful to refer to "concious systems" rather than "life". A universe of hydrogen stars turning to helium would, like our own, be mostly governed, on the large scale, by gravity. It's difficult to imagine how a system of (essentially) balls moving under gravity might support a system equivalent to a Turing machine (it is after all quite unfamiliar) but I can see no reason why it should be impossible. After all that Conway's rules could support such a thing is mind-numbingly bizarre (and provably true).

Clearly, the universe is fine-tuned for bacon. Oops, sorry, wrong thread. And hangovers (with the obligatory Hitchens reference, now back on topic).

97:25, the "wouldn't it be wrong to not share my beliefs if it's the only way to Heaven" thing. This can't get taken down often enough. A not insignificant portion of the audience applauded Hitchens for this one. Apparently some liberal Christians were in the audience.

What a bunch of jackasses, even then Christopher could do with some quick talking points from scientists. While Hitchens knows that these people are talking thru their wazoo, he is not sure how to put them down rather than simply ask them to pipe down. Now Craig has this stupid habit of beginning with the stupid 1st cause argument, and asking if it happened due to design, law, or chance. We could tell him that the three aren't distinct "causative" factors (assuming it is OK to naively talk about cause) they are entwined. You have to design within the bounds of "law", and cannot achieve at the quantum scale anything that beats probability. So if the design is within the bounds f law, it is natural and must be called to account, leaving the question of who designed the designer open once again. Craig and his ilk are charlatans and mountebanks.

Ugh, I can't stand Hitchens.

The only good thing I can say about him is that his tactics rally atheists together, and they do inspire people who are critical of religions to be more vocal. However, I think he's a racist and a misogynist, and I'm tired of having to begin every argument with a religious person with the 'damage control' of saying I don't agree with some particularly stupid Hitchens point and that he doesn't speak for me.

His ability to argue the 'best and brightest' in American and British religious speakers comes from the fact that he's willing to use the same sneaky tricks reinforced with a tiny bit of logic rather than from some incredible grasp of the situation. It says a lot more about apologists that their arguments can be ripped to shreds by a boorish alcoholic than it does about Hitchens' particular abilities.

Posted by: FP | April 9, 2009 10:30 AM

...

And calling someone a liar is a strong claim. I would like you to back this. (Keep in mind that even if you disagree with a claim that does not mean the person who make it is a liar. For example Lee Strobel claims that we can reasonably infer an intelligence for information in the genome. While I think this claim is false, I am sure Lee was being honest).

No, Strobel was lying. That is, he rejects the expert scientific consensus, quote-mines (a form of lying) and refuses to adjust his world view to the facts while continuing to aggressively peddle things that have been shown to him to be false.

Repeating ideas that have been shown to you as being false AND his having the intellectual ability to understand they are false... That's lying.

It's like the MMR vaccination = autism crowd. It is now conclusively shown that there is no link. Yet they keep harping a discredited study that was based on lies.

That's also lying.

Speaking against the truth of reality... That's lying.

Unless, of course, you're retarded or insane and I have no evidence Mr. Strobel is either.

I'm with, oh, everybody else? Found it almost impossible to get past that Strobel guy. I'm not familiar with him, but that whole bit regarding historical stuff about jebus, the "multiple independent early reports", "eyewitness accounts", "dated back to as early as 48 months after the crucifixion" just made my jaw drop. WTF????? What the hell is he talking about? Is this bad scholarship, intentional misinterpretation, or plain old making shit up? If that kind of evidence actually existed, christians would be trumpeting it from the rooftops. How can this man have any credibility with anyone?

Hope CH was paid handsomely for sitting through that fuckwittery!

I ask why should the likes of Hitchens need to when the best thinkers in other religions have seriously considered those arguments and been obviously ummoved? Arguments by Craig, Lewis, Van Til, Schaeffer, Geisler, Clark, McDowell, Strobel, Jeffrey, Lennox and Stoner don't persuade Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Jewish scholars, and Craig, et al, are notably unimpressed by their arguments and evidence as well.

For this comment, I hereby nominate Russ for the next Molly.

It was the first time I'd seen Hitchens debate, and I was distictly unimpressed. He let Craig walk all over him. I could have done better. He let Craig quote from some theistic psuedo-scientific works that distorted both the current understanding of the Big Bang and evolution without calling him on it (like asking what peer-reviewed journals these papers were printed it; they were probably just fundy books that Hitchens couldn't be expected to be familiar with, but Hitchens let it pass.) Craig claimed that the empty tomb and the resurrection were historical facts without a contrary peep from Hitchens.
Maybe Hitchens has good days and bad days. Saturday he was awful.

Psuedo-science? Are you calling Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose ,Paul Davies and John Barrow psuedo-scientific?
Those are the people he cites in his arguments. (I've listened to his podcasts and read his articles and had the opportunity to see his references and citations).
Craig was publishing his work on the cosmological argument in peer-reviewed philosophical and astrophysics journals long before PZ started jacking off on pharyngula.
The part on evolution came from John Barrow and Tipler's book on the anthropic principle and was a result of a questions they asked evolutionary biologists and astrobiologists.It was peer-reviewed and published by Cambridge Press.
The stuff on the empty tomb came from a survey of materials published by New testament research done by historian Gary Habermas. (Habermas compiled research from all of America, England and Germany and France published within the last 3 decades and found that about 75% agreed with the empty tomb while all were virtually unanimous in accepting that thhe crucifixion and the fact that the apostles be;lieved they saw jesus were historical facts.).

The modal ontological argument is a very challenging argument.

It's challengingly intricate philosophistry. By definition an "ontological" argument makes no reference to anything empirical or real--it's about ideas only. Nobody denies the "existence" of the idea of god(s).

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Posted by: Moses | April 9, 2009 12:39 PM

Repeating ideas that have been shown to you as being false AND his having the intellectual ability to understand they are false... That's lying.

Right on.

Posted by: FP | April 9, 2009 12:41 PM
Psuedo-science? Are you calling Stephen Hawking, Roger Penrose, Paul Davies and John Barrow psuedo-scientific?

No, Craig's whacked-out interpretations of their work are pseudoscience.

Tipler's book on the anthropic principle

--is bollocks and piffle for idiots.

Between Professor Pangloss "our noses were made to carry spectacles, so we have spectacles," and DNA's sentient "puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find myself in’an interesting hole I find myself in’fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’," the anthropic principle is question begging crap, which is the only product Facilis has ever produced.

I'm with, oh, everybody else? Found it almost impossible to get past that Strobel guy. I'm not familiar with him, but that whole bit regarding historical stuff about jebus, the "multiple independent early reports", "eyewitness accounts", "dated back to as early as 48 months after the crucifixion" just made my jaw drop. WTF????? What the hell is he talking about? Is this bad scholarship, intentional misinterpretation, or plain old making shit up? If that kind of evidence actually existed, christians would be trumpeting it from the rooftops. How can this man have any credibility with anyone?

Yes this is real evidence. Even Robert Funk (liberal humanist Nt scholar for the Jesus seminar-a group created by those skeptical of the historical Jesus) says the best evidence we have are early creeds of the church.there is one such creed quoted in 1 Corinthians 15 has been dated to with 2-5 years of Jesus' death. This is admitted by Robert Funk and liberal and conservative scholar alike.
Read NT Wright or Gary Habermas for more details on the early church creeds.

I think Hitchens did well, but there were just so many crazy arguments flying around he couldn't address them all, partially that some were just so absurd. For the last speaker to say they have falsified atheism because Hitch hadn't address every one of their lame arguments was laughable and wicked.

I actually think Hitchens could of been even more confrontational. He was too well behaved. But his main point that a "god" who gives man freedom to commit horrible things does nothing about it and then punishes us for eternity isn't a god a love or compassion but a twisted fascist was nice.

They just couldn't get that it isn't that Hitch doesn't just not like the Christian god, and therefor doesn't believe... but that a god of any sort is just silly.

A creed is not an eye-witness account. No one doubts that there were people in the early first century who believed Jesus was divine.

That is an assertion without proof. It is also wrong. Atheists say that morality is a consequence of social, thinking beings living in cooperative societies.

Atheists do, atheism doesn't. Atheism is simply the refusal to believe in an erroneous conclusion. Any number of secular theories of ethics provide foundations of and explanations for morality.

Atheism itself, on the other hand, has no other aim than the avoidance of error, and it needs no further justification.

the best evidence we have are early creeds of the church.there is one such creed quoted in 1 Corinthians 15 has been dated to with 2-5 years of Jesus' death

Creeds aren't independent evidence. Strobel said 'independent', and quoting from the bible is hardly what anyone would call independent.

One of the morons on the panel (therefore not Hitchens) claimed that atheism is not falsifiable, apparently thinking this to be an argument against atheism. But if his God suddenly made an appearance, wouldn't that be a falsification? Only if God does not exist then atheism is indeed not falsifiable.

So the following statement is logically true:

Atheism is not falsifiable => God does not exist.

QED

1 Corinthians 15 has been dated to with 2-5 years of Jesus' death

How? Do they have a manuscript containing this creed that can be dated to that period?

I'm missing commas and have some incomplete thoughts above... don't I. :/

Mathh Heath,

A universe of hydrogen stars turning to helium would, like our own, be mostly governed, on the large scale, by gravity. It's difficult to imagine how a system of (essentially) balls moving under gravity might support a system equivalent to a Turing machine (it is after all quite unfamiliar) but I can see no reason why it should be impossible. After all that Conway's rules could support such a thing is mind-numbingly bizarre (and provably true).

Simple enough to test. Looking into deep space we see a universe of Hydrogen and Helium. We should be able to see your Turing machines. I'm not inclined to apply for a grant.

Thank god for Christopher Hitchens!

By rickflick (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

From hydrogen and helium you can only get--hydrogen and helium. You cannot store information

More accurately, you can't imagine a way that hydrogen and helium, along with other physical forces, could store information. So this is really an argument from a failure of your imagination.

I'm surprised this post hasn't been changed. The soda pop argument did not come from Craig. It came from Wilson. Update with a fix please?

Also, the modal ontological argument (MOA) is not just "philosophistry" or a "joke" that "has been refuted a bazillion times". Comment threads here get annoying when non-philosophers pretend to know something about philosophy. PZ gets annoyed when non-scientists pretend to know something about science for good reason. Think about it.

The MOA has spawned an extensive literature in peer-reviewed journals---a literature that is currently over the head of 95% of people who comment on this blog. The current state of the debate is that it is a useless argument for persuading someone who does not already agree with your conclusion, that is, that it is in some sense epistemically circular. This is not *obviously* to say that the argument is bad, since it is far from clear that all epistemically circular arguments are bad. Of course, Craig perhaps ought not have appealed to it, but consider his audience.

Looking into deep space we see a universe of Hydrogen and Helium. We should be able to see heddle's magic sky pixie. I'm not inclined to apply for a Templeton grant.

I'd like to point out that "atheism is not falsifiable" is logically equivalent to saying that the existence of God is not tautologous, so if any variant of the ontological argument is valid, then atheism is falsifiable and, in fact, false. I understand it's just the old "you can't prove a negative" red herring, but maybe someone should have explained to him that he was arguing against himself.

And yeah, the ontological argument in any of its forms is a joke. For one thing, it's only valid in a Platonic universe (i.e., where logic is in some way strongly written into the universe). In any case where you have logic only as a system of formal relations which 'models' the universe in some sense, there's no guarantee even if you can prove the existence of God to be a tautology that he actually exists. I'm surprised how rarely that comes up.

Good grief, what a farce. Sure, Hitchens was doing a fine act, but in the face of five morons, reason was only represented by him. It was if he was debating the tooth fairy, the easter bunny, santa claus, satan, and god. I had to fast forward after the morons started puking that crap and get back to Hitchens. My brain cells were pleading, "please, have mercy, no more of this dreck!" A blatant case of reason swamped by dreadful unreason. And the audience was keyed to the same mindset as the morons on stage. It would have been nice if a bunch of us had inflitrated the audience and give them what we give here. An uproar I would love to witness firsthand!

Lee presented arguments for the Resurrection of Jesus. I think it would prove a whole lot if we know he was resurrected.

Well, it might prove a whole lot (I think it would prove a whole lot if we knew a frog has wings, btw), but it's a long way from proving a god, and proving a god is a long way from proving a god created the universe. The only reason people have for jumping to conclusions like that is because, well, they don't have anything better, and they have to get to their conclusions somehow!

By tweetybirdie386sx (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Since the "proofs" offered by the religious debaters have all been refuted quite well...many times, maybe Hitchens could just keep a reference card handy with the URLs that lead to the best refutation of each major "proof" for the existence of God. The trouble is that a claim like "evolution is not mathematically possible" is difficult to refute without several minutes of carefully detailed counter argument. The debate forum was not conducive to counter arguments of that quality. A summary sentence describing the refutation and a reference for more info is probably the best that can be done.

Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that the skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.

--Mark Twain

Tulse,

More accurately, you can't imagine a way that hydrogen and helium, along with other physical forces, could store information. So this is really an argument from a failure of your imagination.

Yes,

I also claim S. Epatha Merkerson cannot fly like a dove. That too is really an argument from a failure of my imagination.

Simple enough to test. Looking into deep space we see a universe of Hydrogen and Helium. We should be able to see your Turing machines. I'm not inclined to apply for a grant.

Not even close. Testing all possible subsystems, on possible scales, in every order of what may play the role of "tape" and what the "reader"? The number of calculations needed would a combinatorial shedload. I'm not saying a multi-galaxy mind is out there; I'm not in the habit of asserting existence without evidence, but you claimed "no heavy atoms, no concious systems" was obvious, and it isn't. The point is that conciousness is (seemingly) substrate neutral, so it could run in very different universes. It's possible to at least conceive of the possibility Turing complete systems even in a universe where protons and neutrons never formed. All you've offered is your personal incredulity.

rickflick @ 166

Did you mean to word that as you did? I can appreciate the lower case for that word, but the inference is not my choice of offering. I think I would have preferred "thank reason for Christopher Hitchens."

Facilis Simplicius and heddle: the perfect tag team. Facilis has no measurable intelligence, but don't you have some college students to narcotize, heddle, inoculating them once and for all against any potential scientific curiosity?

The MOA has spawned an extensive literature in peer-reviewed journals---a literature that is currently over the head of 95% of people who comment on this blog. The current state of the debate is that it is a useless argument for persuading someone who does not already agree with your conclusion, that is, that it is in some sense epistemically circular. This is not *obviously* to say that the argument is bad, since it is far from clear that all epistemically circular arguments are bad.

And people wonder why I hate philosophers. Do you have any idea how pathologically useless and masturbatory you sound?

Historians use plenty of sources with contradiction (off the cuff I can say Polybius and Livy contradict each other on their accounts of Hannibal ,but historians do not throw out both.

With regard to contradictions among the gospels, it is not simply the fact that they exist that shows the accounts are theological fictions, it is the nature of the contradictions. Get specific. Cite the contradictions between those two historians on Hannibal, and we'll contrast them with the contradictions between, say, Mark and Matthew. I can all but guarantee that the differences will be glaring.

the best evidence we have are early creeds of the church.there is one such creed quoted in 1 Corinthians 15 has been dated to with 2-5 years of Jesus' death

Then your case is fucked, because that is not evidence, for anything. The passage hasn't been "dated" at all. Certainly, it is reasonable to suppose that it existed in the 40s CE. But that proves exactly bupkus; you're assuming up front that there was a Jesus to die on or around the date derived from mythological accounts composed long after Paul's creedal formulation was. Paul knew nothing about the synoptic tradition: no virgin birth, no teaching tradition or disciples, no named or precisely characterized miracles; nothing but a meal tradition and a liturgical sketch of a passion. The best explanation for this silence is that the stories in the synoptics simply hadn't been invented yet.

The Big Bang is a scientific theory dependant on data. It describes conditions as they approach a singularity. In the Saturday debate Craig tossed out a claim that it is accepted by science that the singularity came into existence out of nothing. Not true, AFAIK. In fact, not even science.
Habermas is a fundy who has no valid data to work with. Current concensus is (and has been since the mid-19th century) that the gospels were not written by the supposed authors, but much later by later compilers. They contradict each other regarding the crucifiction and resurrection. There are no other sources to use, so far. No objective person considers them reliable.

heddle @ 175

The failure is not only in your imagination.

FP writes:
I am not saying it was designed for us. I am saying it is immensely improbable for a universe that supports intelligent life to exist

Does the word "improbable" make sense there? We're inside one universe and cannot make any useful statistics about other universes. There could be a billion trillion other universes, all different, or this could be the only one. I don't know and neither do you. So you can't make an argument from probability based on our limited knowledge.

and the best explanation for the fact that the universe does support life is design.

In order to say one explanation is "best" don't you need to have a set of explanations with different arguments supporting them, in order to rank them from "best" to "worst"? Sure, design is one possiblity, but, since you don't know how many universes there are or have any idea how a universe might be "designed" I can't see how it's possible to say any one theory is "best" or not.

Or did you mean "it's the one I most want to be true?"

I think Hitch is just tired of having to say the same shit over and over and over again, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. He's exhausted, poor man. And he was utterly surrounded by stupidity. Cut the guy some slack.

heddle, OK I'm going to stop trying to make debating points and try and learn something here. When you say that a hydrogen and helium world has no way of storing information, are you claiming this is a formal result in information theory? It seems to me that a world with H, He and our normal physical forces can be in more than one state and so in whatever formalisation of information it doesn't hold 0 information. But I'm just a mathematician, and it's a while since I studied any information theory; you're the physicist here. What meaning of information are we talking about?

The MOA has spawned an extensive literature in peer-reviewed journals---a literature that is currently over the head of 95% of people who comment on this blog.

*yawn* Get over yourself, Scott. The reason I don't know much philosophy is because I decided a long time ago that it was a waste of my limited time and brain activity when there is a real world out there to be explored instead. I assume that since you sit on a philosopher's high-horse that you consider yourself a philosopher. Fine, whatever; you and your fellow philosophers can sit around on your high-horses all fucking day long thinking up bullshit and peer-reviewing each other's bullshit and publishing your bullshit in extensive peer-reviewed literatures of peer-reviewed bullshit and reading up on more bullshit and thinking about it etc..

But--sorry!--down here on the ground it smells like bullshit.
And you come off like a supercilious dick. Man, I'm in a bad mood today.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Since the "proofs" offered by the religious debaters have all been refuted quite well...many times, maybe Hitchens could just keep a reference card handy with the URLs that lead to the best refutation of each major "proof" for the existence of God.

That'd be a funny way of doing it!! :D

Godbot: "blah blah blah argument by personal ignorance"
Rationalist: (rummages through deck, holds up a card+URL)
Godbot: "but! blah blah argument from tradition"
Rationalist: (rummages, yawns, farts, holds up a card)
...

In the Saturday debate Craig tossed out a claim that it is accepted by science that the singularity came into existence out of nothing. Not true, AFAIK. In fact, not even science.

That is so. We don't know what produced the Big Bang or what came before. Science doesn't know everything.

There are multiple theories though. Multiverses, colliding branes, continuous Big Bangs in an infinite universe and so on. We may know someday or we may never know.

Craig is just factually wrong here.

Eeee fwequentlee havagud relaaashunsheep wiv feezzinggg weactshunsons. Eeeet's BEER! hic!

And you come off like a supercilious dick

You'd think that was the entire purpose of philosophy, systematizing supercilious dickery, at least so far as the subject is represented here.

it is immensely improbable for a universe that supports intelligent life to exist [...] and the best explanation for the fact that the universe does support life is design.

If plain old "intelligent life" is immensely improbable, then far more improbable is the specific confluence of physical laws and events that produced my existence. Without the fine-tuning of the universal constants and incredibly specific physical events, I would not be here. Clearly, therefore, the universe must have been designed to produce me (you can refer to this in shorter form as the Tulseopic Principle).

Explain why this is position is any more ludicrous than the standard Fine-Tuning argument?

@Chris (#170)

And yeah, the ontological argument in any of its forms is a joke. For one thing, it's only valid in a Platonic universe (i.e., where logic is in some way strongly written into the universe). In any case where you have logic only as a system of formal relations which 'models' the universe in some sense, there's no guarantee even if you can prove the existence of God to be a tautology that he actually exists. I'm surprised how rarely that comes up.

I've seen that come up quite a bit when refuting Matt Slick's Transcendental Argument for the existence of dog.

Hey Sven, call me names all you like, but IM no troll, and no puppet. I was Matt on this blog during the Great Race Flame war and few Muslim immigration debates as well.

Matt is a popular name, and I see other, more PC types post under it too. Id be willing to change my handle, only out in front of everyone, or else that would be a blog-crime, no?

Matt Heath,

I'm not talking about information theory. I am talking about chemistry. You can, of course, have H and He atoms (or H2) in different states. But you can't form any large molecules--you can just have a bunch of H, He, and H2 in a thermal distribution of energy states. You can't make an it that contains a recipe for making another it (with or without variation.) No complexity. You will have, for now and for ever--simply an ensemble of hydrogen and helium. Nothing else.

You must collect that H and He into stars and cook it into metals. Then you can have a rich enough chemistry to make molecules for storing information, such as DNA. Maybe it needn't be organic--but it has to be complex.

Do any biologists on here disagree? Do any biologists think life is possible with just hydrogen and helium?

Explain why this is position is any more ludicrous than the standard Fine-Tuning argument?

It isn't, but then again a lot of theists would agree that your existence was specifically intentional. Everything is part of God's Plan (including all the anencephalic babies, you know, but we won't talk about those).

Marcus Ranum @ 185

Good points, but it all comes down to us understanding the obvious one universe we live in which evolution fashioned our brains to comprehend. There may be other life elsewhere pondering the same questions, but I doubt if we will ever contact it because of immense distance and time,and the chance it may exterminate itself and render the search moot. The Universe itself is not intelligent; it may give rise to intelligences, but it knows nothing of this. And neither has it been created by intelligence, supernatural or otherwise.

@facilis

Since you have been ignoring my question (#37) while "answering" others, I will take that as an admission on your part that you can't answer my question.

PWN3D!

heddle thanks. And I get it, chemistry can't do information processing in the hydrogen-helium universe; I was never suggesting it could but you really haven't convinced me that other subsystems of physics couldn't (allowing arbitrarily large or small scales). Much less have you convinced me that it is obvious they couldn't, as you claimed.

Cosmological constant + ?? = Jebus

By Matthew Platte (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

heddle, nitpick: Just because something cannot reproduce does not mean it cannot contain information. I've never seen books produce offspring, but some do contain useful information.

Holbach writes:
... it all comes down to us understanding the obvious one universe we live in which evolution fashioned our brains to comprehend.

Yup!

I'm perfectly comfortable with the notion that we won't (or maybe can't) know everything about the universe and how it came to be. It strikes me as quite possible that it'll turn out to be impossible for us to figure out. That's all fine with me because none of it's likely to matter - other than being frustrating as hell.

What blows my mind is that the godbots can keep a straight face while saying stuff like "..science doesn't know" and then proclaim that their silly notion of creation makes sense, or that any one view is "unlikely" or "best." When confronted with lots of possible options and not enough information to sort between them, the only acceptable answer is "not enough information at this time" not "goddidit."

These idiots say "science doesn't know" and then pretend as if they do. I'm just a comfortably ignorant primate who's not afraid to admit it. In fact, I think I'm going to go eat a ham sandwich and not worry about where the universe came from until someone pokes me with a theory that's backed up with some evidence. That seems like the rational approach, no?

There goes heddle, telling the Cosmic Fine Tuner that he'll never get anywhere playing with nothing but hydrogen and helium atoms and a library of rules regarding their arrangement, that the Cosmic Fine Tuner needs some really huge molecules before he'll be able to create a universe in which Alan Turing will eat a cyanide-laced apple. Sizist.

you can't form any large molecules--you can just have a bunch of H, He, and H2 in a thermal distribution of energy states

Who said anything about standard chemistry? You want to argue against the possibility of any information-preserving-and-transmitted structures across all scales with all the possible forces, and you resort to chemistry? Again, this is purely an argument from personal incredulity.

Pete R.

We know you would like to enter into deep manly love with Craig. To feel his strong masculine presence and have his strong arms around you wile he whispers sweetly in your ear "
god loves you and so do I would be heaven for you but please do your naked butt-waving somewhere else.

@ Stu [[And people wonder why I hate philosophers. Do you have any idea how pathologically useless and masturbatory you sound?]]

Now you know what reading inane, off-the-cuff comments on the alleged stupidity of various arguments sounds like. I like this blog, but I don't like seeing the comment threads turned into groupthink psychobabble teamspeak lacking in any serious intellectual content.

@ Sven [[*yawn* Get over yourself, Scott. The reason I don't know much philosophy is because I decided a long time ago that it was a waste of my limited time and brain activity when there is a real world out there to be explored instead.]]

Then please don't pretend to think about whether or not god exists. That requires you to actually do philosophy. You've just counted yourself out of any rational debate on this question. Unfortunately, you also tried to do philosophy here:

Sven: [[By definition an "ontological" argument makes no reference to anything empirical or real--it's about ideas only. Nobody denies the "existence" of the idea of god(s).]]

You obviously don't even know what the MOA cited was. There are several arguments which go by that name, and the relevant one (the one mentioned in the debate) was Plantinga's---not Descartes'. A good first start would be to actually know what you're talking about when you say it fails. Other people are reading your posts, and you're just confusing them with quackery. This is not intellectually responsible. Don't become what you hate.

@ Ken [[You'd think that was the entire purpose of philosophy, systematizing supercilious dickery, at least so far as the subject is represented here.]]

Far too much of it is. But if your claim is that Craig is doing bad philosophy (which he is), you'll have to do philosophy yourself to back that up. Philosophy is just about thinking hard and clearly about questions science can't answer. There's nothing mysterious about this (thinking hard and clearly), and if you think it's supercilious dickery then you have much to worry about.

Stu,

heddle, nitpick: Just because something cannot reproduce does not mean it cannot contain information.

I understand. But I am not saying that anything that contains information reproduces. I am saying that anything that reproduces must have a means of storing information.

Sorry. I am using metal to mean "anything beyond helium." It is entirely obvious that you need them. From hydrogen and helium you can only get--hydrogen and helium. You cannot store information--so you cannot have life. Of any kind.

That is provably wrong. You can fuse helium to get other elements. This has been done by man. no magical sky fairies required.

Undergrad physics students where I went to university get to create matter... fire gamma rays into a bubble chamber where they turn into positron/electron pairs. Woot. God gets jealous.

IM no troll, and no puppet.

If I have my Matts confused, then I apologize sincerely. There was a Matt on here yesterday who was trolling, and was sockpuppeting, and was an asshole. Not you? My bad...again, I'm sorry.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Pete R.

We know you would like to enter into deep manly love with Craig. To feel his strong masculine presence and have his strong arms around you wile he whispers sweetly in your ear "god loves you and so do I", would be heaven for you but please do your naked butt-waving somewhere else.

{punctuation added)

In fact, I think I'm going to go eat a ham sandwich and not worry about where the universe came from until someone pokes me with a theory that's backed up with some evidence. That seems like the rational approach, no?

Not at all. You need bacon.

karatal writes:
It is quite astonishing that Mr H was supporting Bush`s christian zealous crusades against other parts of the
worlds in recent years. A true atheist should have never supported one religion against another, one religious crowd againt another crowd to get his point across. He is a true "faker". The only thing I appreciated about him is that he tried to go after H. Kissinger.

People support or don't support things for lots of reasons. I.e.: Bush may (or may not) have launched the war because he is a religion-addled fucktard, but Hitchens may have supported it for a completely different reason. Hitchens can be blamed to whatever degree appropriate for the consequences, but it doesn't mean that his agenda was Bush's.

In other places Hitchens has explained himself quite well - he's a supporter of the Kurds and, generally is against dictatorships. That's different reasoning from Mr Bush's.

Re: you like that he attacked Kissinger

So do I. But I always find it weird that people are willing to treat another's belief systems as if they're part of a cafeteria plan: "oh, I despise Ranum because generally he disagrees with me on most issues. except I approve of his stand on ham sandwiches."

I confess I am a long-time reader of Hitchens and have all of his books (even the hard to find ones) and have even read them. His beliefs about politics are consistent and articulate (another place he's head and shoulders above Mr Bush) and he's consistently anti-dictator and anti-theist. He's a big fan of jeffersonian democracy and Jefferson, for that matter. So it seems to me that you're unfair to casually dismiss him because he supported a cause you disagree with, for reasons you do not appear to understand.

No, Sven, you got the right Matt. It's just that this Matt doesn't think what he did was sock puppetry. It was a unique way of learning. It wasn't trolling, either, it was a sophisticated experiment.

Evolving Squid #209,

That is provably wrong. You can fuse helium to get other elements. This has been done by man. no magical sky fairies required.

My God that is a stupid argument, on so many levels. First of all I wasn't invoking Gods to fuse hydrogen and helium, I was invoking the cores of stars.

Undergrad physics students where I went to university get to create matter..

I said from H, H2 and He you only get H, H2, and He. You provide a counterexample of physics undergrads. You will have pwn3d me if your physics undergrads are made entirely of H, H2, and He. Otherwise you have just made yourself look stupid.

Far too much of it is

Fine, then we're in 100% agreement. Then you start making up shit about what I think in order sling this ugly canard: if your claim is that Craig is doing bad philosophy (which he is), you'll have to do philosophy yourself to back that up.

You've shared nothing but a stale sophistic poot (look at me! I'm committing philosophy!) of no more value than the claim that to assert ones atheism is a religious belief!

Thanks for the supercilious dickery, but I'll shop for philosophy and philosophers worthy of the title elsewhere. What we get here are those who don't care to be bound by observation and evidence, showing up here to defend theistic bollocks.

We even get ostensible physicists here to do the same thing. Heddle is invested in the Calvinist belief that the universe is deterministic, that heddle's belief that a direct, miraculous intervention turning him into a Calvinist was part of a divine order baked into the origins of creation. Of course he'll be here special-pleading for fin-tuning twaddle! Does that make physics useless? Clearly not. At least physics isn't as otiose as philosophy.

I don't like seeing the comment threads turned into groupthink psychobabble teamspeak lacking in any serious intellectual content.

Bag, meet wind.

Then please don't pretend to think about whether or not god exists. That requires you to actually do philosophy.

Really? Why?

Philosophy is just about thinking hard and clearly about questions science can't answer.

Sure. Or, you can just stick with parsimony and think hard and clearly about something useful. Philosophers are definitely first Ark-material.

FP belched:

I hold that the fine-tuner is a nonphysical being that is not bound by the universe

Then what is it? And why does YOUR view contradict with the view of the Jews lets say, oh, circa 1700BCE when God was a guy who lived on hill, had a wife and kids and was ONE OF MANY GODS?

Sometimes I think I should write a book on the evolution of God. Back from his days as the blood thirsty, yet dotty, head of a pantheon of gods with real physical properties to this entirely vague concept of "a force that just is..."

Usually thing evolve to get more fit... Your God has gotten less so...

Or, you can just stick with parsimony and think hard and clearly about something useful.

Except the utility of parsimony and the validity of utility itself as a guide to epistemology both fall under the umbrella of philosopy. There's really no getting away from it.

Of course, when I read about all the generations of learned philosophers debating in peer-reviewed journals using arguments beyond the ken of 95% of those here present, about a class of arguments centuries old, and finally reaching the conclusion that they're pretty much useless... I just want to cry in frustration.

You need bacon.

I've got a turner hamhouse sugar-cured country ham in the fridge. I don't need bacon; it's basically a solid block of the non-fatty bits of bacon. And, yes, it fries up nicely.

I know it's OT but if you want some truly incredible wilbur-eating experiences, they do mail order and you will not regret it. http://www.turnerhams.com

I almost believed in god the first time I had a slice of country ham cooked along with my eggs. I thought "surely god created all the billions of stars and the universe so that ham would evolve, turner would sugar cure it, and I could have it for breakfast." It struck me as a miracle that the subtle flavor and aroma were so perfectly tuned to my tastebuds that they struck me with the impact of a shot of heroin. But, then, slowly as I munched, I realized that my ancestors had most likely evolved and adapted to find the way wilbur already tasted to be particularly tasty. Thus, eating ham promotes atheism and that explains the jewish dietary laws.

Scott: Apologies to you too. You're right, of course, that I shouldn't stick my beak in where I don't know what I'm talking about, and I think I was upfront about the fact that in this case I don't really know what I'm talking about (by choice). I think I'm right about the definition of an ontological argument, though (right?), and even if my knowledge of Plantinga's version is 'kipedia-level I can still offer the considered opinion that it smells like bullshit (I never claimed that it "fails").
Ken Cope's point was not about philosophy, but rather about philosophy as it is usually represented here. Of course, it may well be being represented by No True Philosophers, but maybe you could offer a corrective (if only for the 5% that are capable of following your advanced cognition) rather than sniffily dismissing us plebes?

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

@Sven [[Sure. Or, you can just stick with parsimony and think hard and clearly about something useful.]]

Please feel free to keep sticking with stuff you are unwilling and/or incapable of thinking clearly about. See you later, pal. You're not worth wasting more brain cells on.

Posted by: heddle | April 9, 2009 11:14 AM

Kel, #66,

the simply fact is that 25% of known permutations of the universe can produce life in some capacity.

Independent of the validity of fine-tuning, this is an asinine statement. It means nothing. What are the "known permutations of the universe?" How are they enumerated?

Do you have a reference for what you claim is a simple fact?

I see the wacky David Puddle is back... And in his anthropomorphic honor, Douglas Adams who, in his pithy way, illustrates the overwhelming arrogance of the anthropomorphic principle:

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

Many people don't get the last part. About drying up. One day, if we manage to not extinct ourselves, or something else doesn't do it for us, our sun will dry up our world and do it for us.

That was Stu. Apologies all around?

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Except the utility of parsimony and the validity of utility itself as a guide to epistemology both fall under the umbrella of philosopy. There's really no getting away from it.

True enough. I do feel that anything useful coming out of philosophy has come out quite a while ago. Once you have time to think about ontological arguments, you need a new job.

Reminds me of ATHF: "Let's all bow our heads and pretend to be serious".

There's another problem with the fine tuner argument. It means that the fine-tuner god felt it was OK or even necessary to allow hundreds of thousands of years of humans and protohumans to live in benighted ignorance of his will until he finally got around to explaining it to preliterates in palestine. What an asshole.

And, if the "reasoning" is that a fine-tuner god did all this because it wanted mankind to happen, on what do we base our assumption it was mankind god wanted? Perhaps god did all this so there could be bacon and humans were an unfortunate side-effect! Or, perhaps humans are merely part of the divine plan to create machine intelligences; we're just here to bootstrap our crystal-lattice overlord philosopher-kings and the divine plan is for us to be discarded as casually as the other species whose fossilized remains litter the planet.

Fine-tuning "reasons" that we're important and goes backward from there. It's not "reasoning" it's "wishful thinking"

You're not worth wasting more brain cells on.

But ontological wanking is? I'm so sorry I impugned your clearly superior intellect.

@Stu

I retract my previous statement and apologize for it. It looks like we cross-posted. (I was making the same point as Cope.) I get too nasty sometimes as well, and I get my hackles particularly riled when *all* philosophers get insulted.

Plantinga's argument manifestly fails as an attempt to rationally persuade or convince. it is currently philosophically unclear whether or not it can be used to support antecedent conviction. Given that 90% of that audience was presumably antecedently convinced of theism, it was at the very least an effective dialectical or rhetorical tactic.

OMG!!! The atheist has to deny that it's *possible* that god exists? Yes, she does. (In fact, she's incoherent if she doesn't since the kind of possibility in question is logical or metaphysical possibility.) An atheist could grant that it's minimally epistemically possible that god exists, however, which is just to say that for all she knows, there's some chance in hell she might be wrong. Any force the argument might be taken to have typically rests on the confusion of metaphysical with epistemic possibility.

Note that the corresponding argument that starts with the premise that it's (metaphysically) possible that god not exist entails that god does not exist. So the theist has to deny this possibility claim, which seems to have the same status as the other.

I doubt you will find me representing philosophy here "as it is usually represented".

Moses, Moses, Moses

*snip* inevitable Douglas Adams Puddle Quote

The puddle analogy might be applicable for the privileged planet argument. But not for the cosmological fine tuning argument--which (again) makes only the modest assumption that any kind of life, not just life like ours (in which case the puddle analogy would be fair), requires that universe be capable of synthesizing heavy elements.

But since you get your science from comedy science fiction writers (albeit good ones), you'll probably agree that there is no scientific reason why, in the absence of elements beyond helium, that inert hydrogen and helium gas clouds could not spring into consciousness and form things the Rotary Clubs and Hostess Hohos.

Philosophy is just about thinking hard and clearly about questions science can't answer.

Questions science can't answer? What do you employ to tell the difference between a question science can't answer, and shitty question? Please show your work.

Heddle,

I said from H, H2 and He you only get H, H2, and He. You provide a counterexample of physics undergrads. You will have pwn3d me if your physics undergrads are made entirely of H, H2, and He. Otherwise you have just made yourself look stupid.

OK: let's go. Your first statement is stupid, since there is such a thing as gravity. Your second statement is twattish, as physics undergrads were never posited as a necessary condition to get fusion, just an illustration that fusion can and is accomplished.

Yes, I'm peevish today; why do you ask? I'm in a fight-picking mood, and I [only somewhat] apologize for picking this particular fight. However, the stupid is strong in your post. Care to filter it for a grumpy physicist?

Now I'm confusing Stu and Sven. The last post was directed at Sven, but what the hell, keeping track of this is too much trouble, so help yourself to the apology too, Stu.

Marcus Ranum @ 203

Definitely the rational approach, and until, as you write, something better comes along, I am happy living in this Universe and marvelling at what we have learned so far. Just the superalatives boggle the mind: stars a million times the mass of our Sun, cliffs on Uranus's moon Miranda that are ten miles high, Mar's Valles Marineris that can fit our Grand Canyon into one of it's side channels, the mind blowing physics of a Black Hole, Supernovas, Neutron stars, galaxies that are still forming from the start of the Big Bang, and so many more incredible wonders that our brain can discover and comprehend. and the great Hubblle Space Telescope sending back those awesome photos of distant galaxies and quasars and other celestial events.
I have often said that Astronomy is a frustrating discipline because of our limited knowledge of the Universe hampered by space and time. I'll be dead before I know much more than I could have known because of humanity's preoccupation with religious crap and horrendous unrest here on earth that could have been wisely utilized in greater exploration of the Universe. We should have been exploring Mars on foot years ago if it were not for earthly digressions and stultifying religious opposition in interfering with "god's domain" Freaking bullshit, and one which science has to contend with daily in a constant battle with the forces of unreason. This is the Universe we have, and no amount of religious unreason will change a iota of it. As I said before, the Universe is not even impartial of our concerns. The idea of a god originated in the brains of humans and does not exist in the Dark Matter of the Universe, and who are we to countermand our uncaring Universe with imaginary things it knows nothing of?

I'd just like to clarify for Scott the fact that me and Stu are different people. Empirically.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

But since you get your science from comedy science fiction writers (albeit good ones)

I get my comedy from religious science writers (albeit bad ones).

Cross-posting can be confusing fun!

there is no scientific reason why, in the absence of elements beyond helium, that inert hydrogen and helium gas clouds could not spring into consciousness and form things the Rotary Clubs and Hostess Hohos.

Bacon?

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I retract my previous statement and apologize for it.

Same here.

The atheist has to deny that it's *possible* that god exists? Yes, she does.

Why? Why the special case for god, as opposed to, say, the Great Green Arkleseizure?

Note that the corresponding argument that starts with the premise that it's (metaphysically) possible that god not exist entails that god does not exist. So the theist has to deny this possibility claim, which seems to have the same status as the other.

Again the special status. Why not start from scratch, i.e., nothing that cannot be observed exists?

@Cope: [[Questions science can't answer? What do you employ to tell the difference between a question science can't answer, and shitty question? Please show your work.]]

You're conversationally implying that those categories are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. But that's obviously false. Almost no philosophers are still verificationists (although the scientific community does lag behind in these matters.) So I won't even bother speaking to the obvious point that questions that science can't answer are not automatically shitty. (I will, however, note that you will not be able to give any remotely plausible reason for thinking that.)

Second, I don't need a rubric, schema or method of drawing the distinction in order to observe that there is a distinction. There are clear cases of questions we have good reason to believe scientists will be able to answer and there are clear cases of questions we have good reason to believe (indeed know) that science will not be able to answer. So there is a distinction, and if you don't want to recognize it on the basis of dubious "criterion" considerations, you'll just be guilty of sticking your head in the sand. (Compare questions about when we have a human person or an entity which has moral rights or is worthy of moral consideration. You're a clear case of the latter. I maintain that there are clear cases of the former---clumps of cells. Where do I draw the distinction? That's a hard question, but it doesn't show there isn't one.)

I will assume you are competent to think of questions scientists can probably answer. Here's one they will never be able to answer: Is a theory's simplicity a mark of (indicitative of, does it raise the probability of) its truth?

co,

Did you read the entire thread or are you just stupid? The argument is this: if the universe cannot create stars, then the hydrogen and helium from the big bang will remain hydrogen and helium. Unless protons decay. But it will never ever fuse to create Be, C, etc. Even in the presence of gravity. It needs gravity to make stars, but the premise was: if the universe cannot create stars (because, for example, it expanded too quickly) then we would have only H and He. (and a wee bit of Li.) The other argument was: if that were the case, there would be no life of any kind, because from such H and He you would get nothing but H and He--no complex molecules to store information.

as physics undergrads were never posited as a necessary condition to get fusion, just an illustration that fusion can and is accomplished.

I never said fusion cannot occur (duh). On the contrary. I said the first fusion had to occur inside of stars. That made the stuff from which the physics students are made.

I'm in a fight-picking mood, and I [only somewhat] apologize for picking this particular fight.

Go fight someone else. You are not worthy.

splain it to me, Richard o wise one, just what was my crime yesterday?

Sockpuppetry as I understand it, is blogging under a different name to make it appear more people agree with your point than is actually true. Though an occasional cranky asshole, to this, I am not guilty.

I made it through the whole two hours. Noteworthy among all this is that name calling pops up right at the very end. Atheists quickly become "militant atheists" on the last round of final comments. Atheists pick up the label "militant", hinting at violent, angry, threatening, and perhaps even evil.

Shameless.

-- Scott

By B. Scott Andersen (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

FP #32, being of SOUND MIND as well as BODY, I can't help being what you characterize as a "materialist'. This almost makes me wonder what the heck you think YOU must be made of..."almost", because experience already informs me that you're probably made of some completely ephemeral (and totally undefinable) "essence" you refer to as a "spirit".

That material stuff...bleh...gets under your skin, doesn't it?

It's funny how "spiritual people" seem so incapable of looking at MATTER as an equally divine Creation Product of their Creator. What's the matter? Literally? Can they possibly have problems with "GOD'S WORK" too?

Maybe it's just a little zealousness mixed with total thoughtlessness.

No, nobody can forgive you for being so STUPID in dissing what you are in fact made of...including your "GOD".

By astrounit (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Scott writes:
Here's one they will never be able to answer: Is a theory's simplicity a mark of (indicitative of, does it raise the probability of) its truth?

Wouldn't you have to show me that those two things are related before it's even worth considering the question?

Answer: "You can't determine the one from the other."

co,

Did you read the entire thread or are you just stupid?

It could well be one and not the other. It could well be both. I did *not* read the entire thread, and picked your statement about H and He and H2 out of the aether. Since you didn't provide any context, I won't apologize for that, though. Since you have provided context, I will apologize for being so twattish myself.

You're forgetting, though, magnetic spin states. Now, I'm not denying that directly reading or influencing these may be extremely difficult, but there ARE ways to store information in even very basic atoms/molecules. Too, things like vortices and BECs are information writ large, and often use nothing but hydrogen and helium. A *big picture* view says that needing heavy elements for complex behavior isn't right.

Point taken about stars and fusion. I should have read the entire post.

Go fight someone else. You are not worthy.

That remains to be seen.

What I don't really understand is why anyone who holds to dualism would be making a fine-tuning argument in the first place. Why would a putative soul need to be stuck into an animal body in the first place?

It's the conditions for the animal bodies that are being argued for.

There are animal bodies to stick souls into, and those animal bodies require fine-tuned constants, therefore God exists

??

Would there not be an infinitude of possible testing grounds for such incorporeal beings? Why animals instead of gas clouds, crystals or neutrinos?

Perhaps animals are just better for adding in arbitrary rules? I haven't heard whether souls are supposed to have possessions, but can one imagine that part of the test is "we're going to put you in this animal body, and you're going to have to learn, ummm, that other souls trapped in animals have stuff, and that if you take that stuff, you fail the test, unless you say sorry to us and really mean it"?

Never mind:
* The unproven independence of the physical constants
* The much greater impact that living in a universe that actually cannot allow us to exist would have on proving a deity
* The impact of even existing in conditions in the present universe that would not allow us to exist (e.g. finding naked people alive in the vacuum of space orbiting around Earth would be a pretty fine point in evidence of the supernatural)
* The failure of dualism as a productive hypothesis.

Posted by: FP | April 9, 2009 11:30 AM

Why life? Because all of us recognise there is intrinsic value to intelligent life. Unless you want to pull off some kind of retreat to nihilism and say intelligent human life is no more significant than the chair you are sitting on.

Sorry, but that's a laugh coming right from freshman philosophy. Intrinsic value, despite the philosophical hand-waiving is relative to, and defined by, the person who holds the view.

For example, there are many things held to have "intrinsic value" by members of our society, but not to all. Virginity is something held to be an intrinsic value by many Christianistas that we do not prize in our house. We think it's stupid and tends to lead to bad decision making when hormones overwhelm reason.

What we believe in comprehensive sex education that includes the very real understanding that you, our sons and daughters, will have sex. And we teach them to find a person who treats you with respect and dignity, including your sexual choices, including the choice to "not do it" with that person. And that you, too, must be that person for the other.

I said the first fusion had to occur inside of stars. That made the stuff from which the physics students are made.

sez Joni Mitchell

A longish time ago when I was in grad school, my best friend was the piano player in my band, who was also a grad student in philosophy. We used to drink beer and sometimes I'd give him shit about philosophy and he'd give me shit about physiology and it was all good fun. Something he said once has stuck with me (although he later backpedaled from this view), something like "philosophy is the search for the intersection of language and reality." Or maybe it was language and "truth," I forget. But it matters--in science, we don't give a rat's ass about "truth" (which is itself a property of language, no?), it's the language-independent reality we seek to understand.

Was that philosophy? I feel all greasy.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

FP writes:
Why life? Because all of us recognise there is intrinsic value to intelligent life. Unless you want to pull off some kind of retreat to nihilism and say intelligent human life is no more significant than the chair you are sitting on.

I don't.

I don't think you even know what "intelligent life" is, compared to plain old "life" or you wouldn't try to say that a position on a continuum is intrinsically valuable. At what point are we "intelligent life" enough to be valuable? Is Wilbur the pig? Is Jake my dog? Are you? Is a brain-damaged human who is less intelligent than my dog still more valuable?

One need not be a nihilist to recognize that you're on shaky ground talking about intelligent life.

(BTW - I prefer to think of it more as an advanced position of atheism rather than a "retreat" to nihilism.)

co,

You're forgetting, though, magnetic spin states. Now, I'm not denying that directly reading or influencing these may be extremely difficult, but there ARE ways to store information in even very basic atoms/molecules.

I'm not forgetting spin states--they are not relevant. And remember, there not only have to be ways of reading and influencing the states, the readers and influencing devices themselves, in a universe with no stars, have to be constructed entirely from H and He.

You can have H in many different states--including fits ine and hyperfine structure, but a memory has to correlate the different atoms. The hydrogen atoms are indistinguishable. To store the number 27, I need, more or less, to know which atom corresponds to the first bit. How do I do that if I cannot localize the H (say by putting it on a bigger molecule)? If I can't localize it, then after I blink I cannot say which atom is bit 0 atom --because they are identical. Furthermore, if I am going to use excited states to represent information, I have to prevent the excited states from decaying, which they are prone to do.

I'd just like to clarify for Scott the fact that me and Stu are different people. Empirically.

As always, the proof is in the bacon.

Also, where are the lesbians?

Sockpuppetry as I understand it, is blogging under a different name to make it appear more people agree with your point than is actually true.

Yes, right, that's narrow-sense sockpuppetry. So I'll withdraw that charge on semantic grounds. Asshole you've admitted, so no argument there. Trolling for sure: your little game was to comment repeatedly and disingenuously for the sole purpose of inciting reaction. That's pretty much the definition of "internet troll" in my dictionary, and there seems to be general agreement here. Using a fictitious nym compounds the offense by lying about your identity.

The reason I don't like you, Matt, is that you wasted my time, and a number of other people's, by playing a little manipulation game for no reason other than your own solipsistic amusement. It's not much different from a prank phone call or a false fire alarm. You suck. You're also the only one who doesn't agree with that conclusion. Think about it.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

@Stu [[Why? Why the special case for god, as opposed to, say, the Great Green Arkleseizure?]]

You get a special case for anything that's a necessary being. If it's possible that a necessary being exists, then it actually exists. If you want to talk about a necessarily existing GGA, then I'll deny that it even possibly exists (for otherwise I would be committed to its actual existence). Similarly, if it's possible that a being does not exist, then it cannot be a necessary being.

@Stu [[Why not start from scratch, i.e., nothing that cannot be observed exists?]]

Because this is wholly unmotivated, and indeed false. I also don't know what you mean by "observed". Under some reasonable interpretations of "observed", science talk about a lot of things we can't observe. Observe me a string, please, for example. Not all theoretical posits need be observable.

Similarly, mathematical objects like numbers or sets look like they have to be countenanced. Those aren't observable, however. This is pretty much the received view in philosophy these days, even among those who desperately want to be nominalists. They try to stop with sets (so no properties, propositions, relations, states of affairs, or any other abstract object).

Typically, nominalists are naturalists who also go on to insist (and admit that it's pretty much just prejudice or wishful thinking) that nothing immaterial exists, there is no ectoplasm, etc... The typical rationale for this is that "it would be horrible if that stuff existed, wouldn't it!?" There *are* some (precious few, and not great) arguments for the causal closure of the physical which, absent widespread overdetermination, rule out immaterial stuff, but these are difficult to assess.

Finally, philosophers are starting to question whether we have any good way of drawing the physical/non-physical distinction. It appears to be getting fuzzier and fuzzier every day, and there is currently a move to pack psychological properties into the intrinsic nature of the physical. There are powerful reasons for thinking that science tells us precious little about the intrinsic nature of the objects theories quantify over.

In any case, the basic point is that once forced to countenance some unobservables (sets), the remaining question is how other many things exist that can't be observed.

You can have H in many different states--including fits ine and hyperfine structure, but a memory has to correlate the different atoms. The hydrogen atoms are indistinguishable. To store the number 27, I need, more or less, to know which atom corresponds to the first bit. How do I do that if I cannot localize the H (say by putting it on a bigger molecule)? If I can't localize it, then after I blink I cannot say which atom is bit 0 atom --because they are identical. Furthermore, if I am going to use excited states to represent information, I have to prevent the excited states from decaying, which they are prone to do.

Presumably your argument has to end somewhere, or there is no way to stop the "turtles all the way down" [in this case, up] recursion. At which point do you proclaim to have large enough structures (of whatever sort) to constitute the memory, the intelligence, whatever?

You're conversationally implying that those categories are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive. But that's obviously false.

You sure like to argue with things I didn't say. Here it is again:

Questions science can't answer? What do you employ to tell the difference between a question science can't answer, and shitty question?

A shitty question is clearly a subset of questions science can't answer. I did not assert that there is no difference, I asked, instead, what do you employ, what method do you use to tell the difference? Obviously there are are questions regarding abstractions and human endeavor that science sheds next to no light upon, and questions that a scientist does not need to be a philosopher to know that science can't answer, especially questions that science can't answer in principle. Surely philosophy offers more than rigorous question asking (which already separates it from theology, but not yet from science). For me, I'd rather take the rules of a complex game, like symbolic logic, and apply them to the construction of a virtual world that is complex enough that people start constellating meaning upon it and arguing about its religious and philosophical significance, but then that's merely my taste in esthetics. Good thing building computers isn't down to philosophers.

Is a theory's simplicity a mark of (indicitative of, does it raise the probability of) its truth?

Who cares? Why is this relevant? Why are you attempting to invent correlation? Why is this question better than "Is the size of your car related to the color of your driveway"?

Yeah. Hitchens should of been given the last word considering that pile of bullshit spouted at the end.

Evolving Squid #209,

That is provably wrong. You can fuse helium to get other elements. This has been done by man. no magical sky fairies required.

My God that is a stupid argument, on so many levels. First of all I wasn't invoking Gods to fuse hydrogen and helium, I was invoking the cores of stars.

It's still wrong. The cores of stars, starting with hydrogen, fuse right up to iron with ease... and up to iron gives you all the elements to form the building blocks of life.

Philosophy is just about thinking hard and clearly about questions science can't answer.

Questions science can't answer? What do you employ to tell the difference between a question science can't answer, and shitty question? Please show your work.

Here we go. Our commonsense conception of ourselves and the picture we get from natural and social science sometimes includes entities, processes and events that are themselves hard to make the objects of direct scientific investigation. Examples include the objects of mathematics, human consciousness, and social constructs such as love, patriotism and justice. I guess you could say that trying to say something worthwhile about these topics is a "shitty" pursuit. But then you'd limit conversation to stuff that can be treated as an independent variable in an experimental setting. Most people seem to want to have interesting descriptions and explanations of lots of stuff that we can't study like that. So we turn to philosophy, anthropology, literature, and such. And if we're lucky, the philosophers eventually figure out what to say on those topics and the matter gets turned over to scientists. So what?

I wonder about Hitchens sometimes, because he's not exactly deeply trained in the areas that he's debating: the point being that someone like these debaters can say, "Well, what about the Cosmological Argument? HAH!" and he has to flounder and go back to his usual spiel (NB: his "usual spiel" is really, really good). Now, take PZ here, or Dawkins, and ask them about anything biological, and they'll quite happily wrap it up for you.

What I think Hitchens does very effectively, however, is to create the necessary cognitive dissonance: where a Christian thinks that Christianity is all love and fluffy cute bunnies, there is another reading. It's something that's worth questioning. Use your brain for a while!

co,

Presumably your argument has to end somewhere, or there is no way to stop the "turtles all the way down" [in this case, up] recursion. At which point do you proclaim to have large enough structures (of whatever sort) to constitute the memory, the intelligence, whatever?

No infinite regress. It stops when the heavier elements are created. Once you make complex structures like DNA you can store vast quantities of information. Because then you create a container or lattice that can hold and preserve other distinguishable objects in a specific order. Memory is achieved.

Why all this talk about Hydrogen. In other universes with different constants how can you assume that the particles that populate our universe would exist in another. You can't even assume anything about the nature of the geometry of the alternate universe, let alone the particle's that could inhabit it.

One commenter has already noted that the fine tuning argument is ridiculous from a probabilistic point of view. You really can't say anything about the probability of a particular universe producing consciousness (life?) as there is not enough information to make a probabilistic claim, being as we don't know:

a) How many other universes exist.
b) What conditions are needed for consciousness to arise.

As a matter of fact all we know is that there is one universe and that we are conscious. Therefore the probability is 1 given the current state of information available.

By Doug Little (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Evolving Squid,

It's still wrong. The cores of stars, starting with hydrogen, fuse right up to iron with ease... and up to iron gives you all the elements to form the building blocks of life.

And repeating what is more or less the gist of my argument--that the heavier elements must be created in stars, (and therefore we need stars) is a refutation of my argument..how?

Cranes, please see my post @255.

And if we're lucky, the philosophers eventually figure out what to say on those topics and the matter gets turned over to scientists. So what?

As often, if not more so, the scientists discover another area in which to ask fruitful questions and the philosophers run over to chase the ball.

I like what Scienceblogger John Wilkins (he's got a doctorate! in philosophy!) says about philosophy and science, in the talk-origins FAQ:

Most scientists are not philosophically inclined and will make use of whatever is a help in their work, but not in the way Feyerabend thought. Reflective scientists know that it's all how you ask the question that counts. Most physicists would not immediately think that atomic theory could be false, either. They are answering the question "is it likely to be dropped later on?" not the philosophical "could it in theory be dropped?" which is a different issue. Philosophers do conceptual tidying up, among other things, but scientists are the ones making all the sawdust in the workshop, and they need not be so tidy. And no cleaner should tell any professional (other than cleaners) how it ought to be done.

Doug Little,

You really can't say anything about the probability of a particular universe producing consciousness (life?) as there is not enough information to make a probabilistic claim,

Very true. And relevant if I ever make a probabilistic argument. But I didn't, and I don't.

In fact, as a philosophical aside, I think the IDers are dead wrong when they hitch their wagons to low probabilities--because a low probability random-draw-looking universe is exactly what the multiverse theories predict.

I read Strobel's "the Case for Christ," which I received as a Christmas present from a religious family member. It's a pathetic and obvious apologetic, especially to anyone who is an attorney and can recognize all his "lawyer tricks."

When the giftor asked what I thought about it, I noted that about 90% of the arguments in the book would also support the idea that Muhammad was a true prophet and the religion of Islam is the one true religion.

Yeah, that was the last Strobel book he ever tried to get me to read.

Note to self: In some video game world-building exercise, don't forget to include a non-player character whose technology is sufficiently advanced for it to be indistinguishable from magic, who employs a sentient hydrogen/helium universe as a scratch pad and sketch book.

Heddle,

You seem to be arguing for fine tuning as an explanation for our consciousness. I believe that if you take this stance you are implying a very low probability for different universes with different properties to produce consciousness?

By Doug Little (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Sven, seriously, what was the thread on which I allegedly did this? I havent posted much here in the past few weeks, only occasionally dropping a small Libertarian turd in this New Atheist Happy Fun Camp. I think there's more than one a-hole Matt. I may be an a-hole, but im not disingenuous. That one hurt.

New Atheist Happy Fun Camp

WTF is a new atheist. I've been an atheist for my whole life and finally realized it when I shed the irrational grasp of religion at age 13. Nothing has changed between then and now. I didn't believe in the supernatural then, I still don't now. I didn't know that there had been a change in what an atheist actually was, to warrant them being "new".

By Doug Little (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

You get a special case for anything that's a necessary being. If it's possible that a necessary being exists, then it actually exists.

This is circular and thus useless. And still does not distinguish between a god and Mr. Ed. Who defines "necessary"?

There are powerful reasons for thinking that science tells us precious little about the intrinsic nature of the objects theories quantify over.

Which presupposes and intrinsic nature, which is a uselessly vague concept in and of itself. (Of course, that's all as far as I know -- if there is such a definition, I'd love to hear/read it). And what are those reasons, anyway?

I couldn't get past the guy that followed Hitchens.

WTF is a new atheist

Hitchens and Harris, Dawkins and Dennett. PZ's initials mess up the alliterative scheme, and he needs to get his book written and published. Until new atheists, all atheists were godless communists, and Madalyn Murray O'Hair.

This is the kind of debate Hitchens does well in, one that focuses more on the validity of religion (Christianity in particular) and less on the arguments about evolution or the the existence of god.

I saw a debate between Hitchens and Frank Turek which Hitchens lost horribly. Embarrassingly. He either didn't know enough about the points, or care enough, to address them... and they were able to be easily addressed.

This isn't a knock on Hitchens, I'm just saying that it's good to see him in his element. Even thriving despite the unbalanced nature of the forum.

As an aside, I loved the point when the "moderator" said Christianity was for the weak and stupid. You could almost feel the discomfort of the others on the panel.

Kaz Dragon writes:
I wonder about Hitchens sometimes, because he's not exactly deeply trained in the areas that he's debating

He's obviously read his Bertrand Russell. And most of the people he's debating probably have, too - which is why they stick to places where it's easier to throw around bullshit.

A lot of Hitchens' favorite antitheist arguments seem like a more pugnacious version of "why I am not a christian"

I always find it amazing when Hitch points out "believing in god is like praying for a sort of interminable north korea, except that they can read your mind and even death can't let you escape" - which is a devastating argument that shows the ludicrousness of almost every etablished religion - and the creos swallow hard, shake it off, and start whining about information density or transitional fossils.

Doug Little,

You seem to be arguing for fine tuning as an explanation for our consciousness. I believe that if you take this stance you are implying a very low probability for different universes with different properties to produce consciousness?

I am not, and I don't imply anything of the sort. All I have really said is that the fine tuning argument, right or wrong, does not demand our kind of life as some (DaveL and Moses, IIRC) mischaracterized it. All I have said is that. regarding life, the fine tuning argument only assumes that life needs elements beyond Helium, and they are made in stars, and that that is a modest assumption. I have said nothing at all about probability.

Scott,

The typical rationale for this is that "it would be horrible if that stuff existed, wouldn't it!?"

WTF, typical rationale? where do you get this from? The typical rationale is "got proof, if so produce" idiot.

By Doug Little (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Craig openly said that he thought God could be known immediately through personal experience even if his arguments fail or are inconclusive. There is more than 1 path to God.

Well at least this person is a pluralist. I have to say, I don't mind them. They're less likely to kill and oppress. (Though maybe I'm biased because I was one before I shifted into agnosticism -> atheism).

Or am I assuming too much?

heddle @127: And do you then consider that you won the debate?

Actually I don't debate theists, creationists, and other subhumans. I sometimes try to explain reality to them, even though they've never been able to understand.

Heddle,

So what you are saying is that the fine tuning argument relies on the assumption that the universe is fine tuned?

I say that because you are basing your requirements of life on particles and processes that exist within our own universe.

By Doug Little (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Well at least this person is a pluralist. I have to say, I don't mind them.

Syncretism is so quaint. It's a Greek on an expedition with Alexander the Great to India, explaining to a Hindu, "Whom you call Indra, we call Zeus!" They've all been displaced now by Christian missionaries, declaring, "Whom you call Indra, we call Satan!"

Heddle is peddling panglossian poppycock. For billions of years, the universe was not fine-tuned for us. In a few billion years, it will not be fine-tuned for us in a different way. "Things are more like they are now than they ever were before!" SFW?

I need to work on my reading skills.

I kept thinking he'd been made sir Christopher (which would be a bit odd seeing as it's neither Christmas nor Lizzie's birthday. And Hitchens is not British anymore.)

Doug Little,

I am saying the fine-tuning argument does not rely on low probability. That is easy to see.

For the sake of argument, suppose:

1) The laws of physics depend on one constant, C
2) The universe is habitable only if C is within, say, one part in a thousand of its measured value.

If the second is not true, then there is no fine tuning, and the argument is over. If the second is true—then that is the fine-tuning argument. It is really and argument about sensitivity and has nothing to do with probability. Fine tuning is a bad name.

Assuming these two points, for the sake of argument, the IDers then make the following mistake. They say: "and the probability of getting that value for C is vanishingly small, ergo design." This is in spite of the fact that they have no way of calculating the probability.

The multiversers, on the other hand, offer a simpler explanation. C indeed comes from, essentially, a random draw from a huge sample, and cannot be predicted from some fundamental theory, and most universes will be sterile (acknowledging the sensitivity), but obviously we are in a lucky one or we wouldn't be having this discussion. A sensible explanation.

Note: Both arguments accept the fine-tuning. (Or rather habitability's sensitivity.) Both acknowledge that it looks like we got lucky in a random draw. Up to that point they agree.

The IDers then invoke, on top of the fine-tuning (sensitivity) argument, an unnecessary small probability claim that they can't support, leading to a designer. This converts the fine-tuning (sensitivity) argument which was philosophically neutral (and generally accepted by most physicists) into a religious assertion. Again the multiversers invoke a semi-infinite sample. So the ID argument, based on low probability which they cannot calculate, is weak by Ockham’s razor. In my opinion.

Chris@170,

Your argument agrees essentially with mine (@160). Nice to see that idiot shoot himself in the foot, isn’t it?.

On a related note, why is it that people always have to resort to first causes when it comes to the existence of our universe? Godbots in particular tend to argue that since something can not come from nothing therefore God exists. I agree that something can not come from nothing, how could it be otherwise? (Besides, what is 'nothing'? A zero-dimensional singularity? An empty, infinite-dimensional euclidean space?) Therefore something has always existed, in whatever form and in whatever kind of space. Where does God come into it? It may well be forever outside our grasp to know what lies 'beyond' our own universe. But that is no excuse for just making things up and then pretending that we know something meaningful about those figments of our imagination.

In #207 Scott said,

@ Sven [[*yawn* Get over yourself, Scott. The reason I don't know much philosophy is because I decided a long time ago that it was a waste of my limited time and brain activity when there is a real world out there to be explored instead.]]

Then please don't pretend to think about whether or not god exists. That requires you to actually do philosophy. You've just counted yourself out of any rational debate on this question.

Thinking about whether or not a god exists does not require philosophy. Almost no one's belief in a god results from their considering arguments for or against its existence. Indeed, belief in a god is, in almost every instance, a completely thoughtless consequence of birth.

Children absorb belief in the existence of gods like they absorb language and food preferences. Childen automatically adopt whatever ideas their families and their religious communities model. Religions persist and perpetuate, not through philosophy, but through the genetically ingrained credulity of children.

Understand, Scott, that you can, right now, create your own gods, religions and any associated theologies, and you will have the same legitimacy as any of today's 100,000 extant religions(there are 40,000 distinct Christianities and 1000 more are added each year). You could be the next L. Ron Hubbard or Joseph Smith. Keep in mind that consistency and coherency are not needed. As Christianity exemplifies, any problem, any quirk, no matter how bizarre, can be eliminated using that great philosophical defect-zapping tool, apologetics.

I find it odd that you seek your theological shelter in philosophy when philosophy in the hands of any one of the Muslims, Jews or Christians proves the others to be mistaken, even though they purport to descend from the same Old Testament god. I'll venture a guess that you think philosophy will resolve their god-given differences. One god, three mutually-damning revelations. Do you really think philosophy is powerful enough to decide the correctness of one Abrahamic religion over the others? Make Christians embrace Islam? Muslims embrace Jews? Wow! Philosophy is really powerful stuff!

For me, I know that philosophy, however thoughtfully employed, will never succeed in resolving differences between religions. Why? The reality is that the religious rely on philosophy only to the extent that it justifies their current beliefs and confirms their biases, but nothing, including philosophy, will ever be allowed to disconfirm their religion or their gods.

Every time I hear apologists, I can't help but think of the youtube parody: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IVbnciQYMiM "The thing that made the things for which there is no known maker." (I suppose they feel like they "won" if they can get lost in the labyrinth of their own inanity.)

By articulett (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

And Hitchens is not British anymore.

Has he renounced his British citizenship in writing to the Home Secretary? If not, he is still a British citizen.

To anyone who ants to understand what the fine-tuning argument actually says see.
http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/finetlay.htm

Formal version
Explaination of the basic principle of confirmation
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 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 principle supports all scientific reasoning and can be used here.

Premise 1. The existence of the fine-tuning is not improbable under theism.
Premise 2. The existence of the fine-tuning is very improbable under the atheism
Conclusion: From premises (1) and (2) and the prime principle of confirmation, it follows that the fine-tuning data provides strong evidence to favor of theism over atheism

@Tulse
The Tulseopic principle fails because while we have good reason to think God would desire to create a universe that produces life, we do not have any reason to suppose that God would create an infidel like you.
If there was a psychic that said on (fill in your date of birth and place of birth) a child would be born that would grow up to possess the characteristics that you do, we would have independent reason to believe that a designer wanted to create you.
@Ken Cope
"the anthropic principle is question begging crap, which is the only product Facilis has ever produced."
I have shown my premises and conclusion. To be question-begging one of my premise would have to assume its conclusion. Could you point out which of my premises assumes its conclusion? thanks.
Anyone as I showed , we know there are pre-conditions for adaption and evolution to occur. For something to evolve there would have to be elements able to react to form some kind of reasonable complexity, the universe must be able to produce stars or other similar energy sources for life..etc

Enjoyed Hitchens as usual. By judicious use of the cursor to reposition the playback locator, I easily avoided mental affront from the 'hear evil, see evil, speak evil' monkeys, both on the dais and at the podium.

Yawn, Facilis is a Fallacious Fool. You proved nothing then, you proved nothing now. You have no reason and logic.

By Nerd of Redhead, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Premise 1. The existence of the fine-tuning is not improbable under theism.
Premise 2. The existence of the fine-tuning is very improbable under the atheism

Is there a process used to assign these probabilities other than you pulling them out of your ass?

Typically, nominalists are naturalists who also go on to insist (and admit that it's pretty much just prejudice or wishful thinking) that nothing immaterial exists, there is no ectoplasm, etc... The typical rationale for this is that "it would be horrible if that stuff existed, wouldn't it!?"

What the flying fuck?! Have you ever heard a materialist say this? The only argument I have against ectoplasm is the one I thought all materialists had: there is no fucking evidence! Or, "if that stuff existed, we could see/touch/smell/weigh/measure it in some way, or at least observe its consequences. Note that all of these measurements are just indications that it interacts with the rest of the observable world. That is all that existence means. I've never heard a materialist make an argument about reality based on personal preferences. So have fun with that fake argument you're tearing apart. When you get done shredding it, maybe you can take it out of your mouth and address what materialism is.

Finally, philosophers are starting to question whether we have any good way of drawing the physical/non-physical distinction. It appears to be getting fuzzier and fuzzier every day, and there is currently a move to pack psychological properties into the intrinsic nature of the physical.

That sounds important. I'm sure that scientists everywhere are waiting on pins and needles for the official position of these philosophers. Tell you what, when you can demonstrate that a thing has a nonphysical property, then people outside of philosophy might care.

@heddle
I would disagree with you there. (I'm a bit sympathetic to ID)
But the ID'ers I've read have very specific and rigourous ways of defining their probabilities

They say: "and the probability of getting that value for C is vanishingly small, ergo design."

I don't think so. As Robin Collins (Robin Collins isn't a proponent of ID but feels that it should be considered as a metascientific hypothesis) said it is not that it is improbable under atheism, but that it is probable under theism.
For example,let us say you were in the observatory and saw that the stars in another galaxy spelt out the words of John 3:16, this would highly improbable under atheism, but highly probable under Christian theim.

Emmet, OM,

Is there a process used to assign these probabilities other than you pulling them out of your ass?

How can you really be as stupid as a rock? Do you see anywhere where I assigned or assumed any probabilities? Maybe they are not true--what part of "for the sake of argument" is too difficult for you to grasp?

@heddle
Emmet was talking to me.
@Emmet
Yes, we observe the degree to which the constants have been precisely-tuned to allow for life and assign probabilities.

Premise 2. The existence of the fine-tuning is very improbable under the atheism
Conclusion: From premises (1) and (2) and the prime principle of confirmation, it follows that the fine-tuning data provides strong evidence to favor of theism over atheism

What do you even mean by 'improbable' when you are talking about 1 universe? I have no idea of the p values for any of the arrangements of matter in the Universe. Do you? Has this experiment been done multiple times? Heddle at least admitted that probability is worthless here when Tulse brought it up. Why do you think it works?

But the ID'ers I've read have very specific and rigourous ways of defining their probabilities

Oh, I'm very happy to have been entertained. I needed that.

let us say you were in the observatory and saw that the stars in another galaxy spelt out the words of John 3:16, this would highly improbable under atheism, but highly probable under Christian theim.

Great! So Christian theism is itself highly improbably. Glad we got that cleared up.

Thus spake heddle:

How can you really be as stupid as a rock?

Didn't I blockquote FP? Why would you attack me unless you are FP as well as heddle? Do I smell socks?

To me the apologists always seem to accept the premise that consciousness can exist absent a material brain. Now if this was the case, wouldn't there be some empirical evidence of such by now-- whether you call these entities, gods, demons, angels, souls, ghosts, or Thetans? Do theists not understand what a compelling topic this would be for all scientists if there was even the smallest iota of evidence after all these eons of belief in such things? Real evidence means we could refine and hone the information. An argument is bad when others can use it to support a belief you do not share--a belief in Xenu, for example.

I am always surprised at the semantics, obscure argumentation and question begging that is done to hide the glaring lack of evidence for any invisible forms of consciousness. And when that doesn't work, then the apologists demonize those who voice this devastating blow to whatever invisible entity(ies) the believer so fervently wishes to "believe in". Even if the premises behind the Kalam Cosmological Argument were valid-- that doesn't make the "first cause" (without a cause) a sentient being without a material brain! To me sentience without a material brain is like sound in a vacuum. It does not compute. And all the hubris disguised as humility and "free will" semantics can't hide it.

Until someone can show me how consciousness CAN exist absent a material brain, I cannot fathom why I should care that someone imagines themselves to have insight as to the nature of such consciousness. It's not up to the atheist to explain "free will" or any other theological concept-- it's up to the theist to show that such a thing can exist absent a material brain!

By articulett (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Emmet, OM,

Didn't I blockquote FP? Why would you attack me unless you are FP as well as heddle? Do I smell socks?

You did--I didn't read it carefully. That was stupid. Again I apologize.

I tried. I really tried, but I couldn't finish listening.

It's really hard to hear Hitchens deliver such eloquent, rational, and extremely simple answers to very irrational arguments and see not one person really stop to think about it.

Funny, though. I too feel like a lion amongst a flock of sheep on a daily basis living and working in Utah.

Uhg. Watched the whole thing. The one that got me the most was the "What does atheism provide to people without hope"

All he would have had to say was this: The truth. Hope without truth is false hope.

Also, that fine-tuning shit was retarded.

Thus spake FP

Yes, we observe the degree to which the constants have been precisely-tuned to allow for life and assign probabilities.

Show your working. I can't see how a probability computed from physical constants can depend on one's beliefs nor how "degree" ("to which constants have been precisely-tuned") is defined and how a probability is computed from this "degree". Please explain.

5-to-1: better odds than we atheists get in everyday life.

We are outnumbered 20-to-1 in the U.S.

They should have added another 15 god-deluded people to that panel to better reflect our reality.

Would have made for a much better soporific.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Ah, now I get the fine-tuning! e^(i*PI)=-1, ergo God.

QED.

Man, that was easy.

Pete Rooke,

There is a song in the charts by Beyonce termed "If I were a boy" which fantasises about the benefits of such a situation. For my part, If I were a girl, I would consider Craig the ideal spouse

I'm beginning to buy into the theory that "Pete Rooke" is a creation of some one's subconscious mind to become the world's best Poe. This Poe is so great that he actually isn't even aware that he is a Poe.

By Feynmaniac (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

The moderator basically said that atheism is for smart people and Christianity is for stupid people. I totally agree with him. Who'da thunk it?

So, where does one go to hear the joke about Portsmouth that Mr. Hitchens didn't have time to tell?

The fine-tuning arguement proponents need to do this: Take your stance, and everywhere you use the word "life," add the words "as we know it" afterward. There will be your refutation.

We're here the way we are because this is how the laws of physics played out. If they were different (which I think we can't even imagine since we are products of the physical laws that are present), then there could still be life. It would just be... wait for it... Different, and maybe even unimaginable by us.

Novel concept, huh?

Here's something that says something about Hitchens. Even tho he leans toward the Conservative and was (initially at least) in favor of the invasion of Iraq, he is, to my knowledge, the only journalist, pundit, reporter (etc) to actually (and deliberately) experience waterboarding to see if it merited the title of torture. Now that's guts and intellectual honesty!

We're here the way we are because this is how the laws of physics played out. If they were different (which I think we can't even imagine since we are products of the physical laws that are present), then there could still be life. It would just be... wait for it... Different, and maybe even unimaginable by us.

Hell, I've always wondered if it couldn't be different or unimaginable with our existing laws of physics.

Meh, maybe I'm just being a bit far fetched. It is a bit late here, and my brain goes kooky.

Like I've always wondered: what if there could be another replicator besides DNA/RNA

Then please don't pretend to think about whether or not god exists. That requires you to actually do philosophy.

How so? If an entity exists (god, goddess, djinn, faerie, pixie, etc.) and it has any real effects in Universe that are in any way distinguishable from its non-existence, then science can, in principle, do quite an adequate job of detecting its presence. If the entity does not have any discernible effects in Universe that are in any way distinguishable from its non-existence, then Occam's Razor disposes of it. And remember, one of the primary claims made about Yahweh is that he is supposed to be immensely powerful, not some faint and subtle phenomenon like solar neutrinos. Add in the doctrine of omnipresence, and there would be no place science could look and not find him.

If one must employ solipsistic "ontological" sorcery ("I can conceive of it and utter the proper syllogistic incantation, therefore it must exist as I conceive it to be") to provide oneself with "grounds" to believe in something, it follows that the something in question cannot be detected in any more concrete and real way.

For example, if scientists were unable to accurately model the behavior of reality on all scales without incorporating a factor in their equations representing the volitional activity of Invisible Magic Persons (IMP's), no one would bother using ontological or first cause arguments. They would have the entity's demonstrable here-and-now presence and activity in reality as their validation.

It is an inescapable fact that science can accurately model the behavior of Universe on all scales proceeding from Planck time after the Big Bang without ever needing to incorporate a variable in the equations of physics to account for the existence and activity of any IMP. Physicists do not, for example, have to explain how an ancient Egyptian magical spell can transform the dead wood of a staff into living reptilian flesh. We have a considerable body of preserved Egyptian magical spells--not to mention the Hermetic corpus and the magical spells of other cultures. If magic worked as described in the Bible, we would be living in a very different Universe.

There was a time when virtually every natural phenomenon (weather, good crops or bad, disease, victory or defeat in battle, etc.) was explained by recourse to one IMP or another. Now IMP's are invoked only in a few remaining areas of terra incognita--what happened "before" and during the first infinitesimal instant of the Big Bang, abiogenesis, and the origins of consciousness.

An IMPire that once claimed all of reality, now reduced to three little darkened caves of remaining ignorance...the trend line is not in favor of IMP-based explanations. The fact that theists are forced to retreat to "first cause," cramming their god into a cavern of ignorance so small it must be measured in the dimensions of Planck's Constant is an open confession on their part that he is not real and present in the here and now.

A deity who was real, present, and active in the here and now would not have to be defended on the basis of purely abstract, philosophical argumentation.

For example,let us say you were in the observatory and saw that the stars in another galaxy spelt out the words of John 3:16, this would highly improbable under atheism, but highly probable under Christian theim.

Actually, since Christian theism uses, as its excuse for the lack of evidence for god, the argument that god is doing his absolute darndest to avoid giving us any indication that he actually exists, this seems just as improbable for it as it would for atheism.

Or, to put it another way, atheism says 'it can't happen because there's no god'; theism says 'our god could do it but doesn't want to, despite the fact this would actually achieve his purported goal of having all of humanity - who he supposedly loves - believe in him and thereby have eternal life'.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

My favorite rebuttal to the Ontological Argument is:

"I can conceive of a perfect sandwich. A necessary condition of perfection is existence. Where's my fucking sandwich?"

I prefer to go with:

"I can conceive of the perfect Argument for Atheism. Two necessary conditions of a perfect argument are existence and irrefutability. Since an irrefutable argument for atheism exists, God does not."

But I may add the "Oh, and where's my fucking sandwich?" in the future.

Of course, an alert theist will counter with the ontological Perfect Argument for Theism, and then we'll carry on in infinite regress like a couple of eight-year-olds playing make-believe. Or we'll just go looking for those damn sandwiches. With bacon.

By Screechy Monkey (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Until someone can show me how consciousness CAN exist absent a material brain, I cannot fathom why I should care that someone imagines themselves to have insight as to the nature of such consciousness.

Indeed. Not only consciousness, though. Whenever I've had these arguments in the past, and state that nothing non-physical exists, the first counterexamples trotted out are usually abstract nouns. Love, boredom, sadness. And I wish someone would stop to consider whether these things would exist if the (physical) humans who experience them didn't exist. They would not. Not in our corner of the universe, anyway. Just like purpose makes no sense if we go back 4 billion years when humans weren't around to impute it, all of these concepts are actually descriptions of the physical entities experiencing them. They are not nonphysical objects with a reality of their own, waiting to be experienced.

Christians seem to have a hard time with this, though, claiming concepts like justice or evil have an objective existence of their own.

I had to look up Plantinga's modal ontological argument on Wikipedia. I would say, yes, it's sophistry (and no, I don't think all philosophy is this kind of garbage).

1. It is proposed that a being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and
2. It is proposed that a being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.
3. Maximal greatness is possibly exemplified. That is, it is possible that there be a being that has maximal greatness. (Premise)
4. Therefore, possibly it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
5. Therefore, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists. (By S5)
6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.

This is classic question-begging. He's supporting the claim "God exists," with the far more egregious claim "God exists in all possible worlds." I'm not sure what sense of the word "possible" he means, but in any sense of the word where his conclusion follows from his premise, his premise is even more dubious than his conclusion.

I keep encountering stale heddle-reek like this: "How can you really be as stupid as a rock?" but never is it directed at facilis, nor any other theist.

Wowbagger @ 317

Can you imagine those same stars spelling out "Charles Darwin"? It would be totally impossible in the atheisitc or theistic sense, as those very same stars existed long before we ever existed, and so the analogy is is not only rendered stupid, but impossible. Of course, with the religious mind anything is possible, no matter how hard the Universe says otherwise.

The argument for God that states the earth is in some kind of finely-tuned universe is the one I find weakest as it doesn't say anything. This is Voltaire's Dr. Pangloss "this is the best of all possible worlds" thinking as this is the only world we truly know first hand.

And Lee Stroebel is, if anything, a faux skeptic. Like many posters here, I agree that he seems to be in this for the money.

[[Thinking about whether or not a god exists does not require philosophy. Almost no one's belief in a god results from their considering arguments for or against its existence. Indeed, belief in a god is, in almost every instance, a completely thoughtless consequence of birth.]]

This is idiotic. Thinking carefully about whether or not go exists is to do philosophy. And many people (the rational ones) do hold their beliefs for philosophical reasons. But, um, thanks for pointing out that many/most theists are irrational. Your powers of insight are astonishing!

[[What the flying fuck?! Have you ever heard a materialist say this? The only argument I have against ectoplasm is the one I thought all materialists had: there is no fucking evidence! Or, "if that stuff existed, we could see/touch/smell/weigh/measure it in some way, or at least observe its consequences. Note that all of these measurements are just indications that it interacts with the rest of the observable world. That is all that existence means.]]

Well, you need to read some of the more intelligent materialists. Also, you have no good reason for believing that everything that exists is something we can see/weigh/touch, etc... I've already pointed out that the brightest materialists/nominalists admit at least sets, and often numbers, which don't meet those conditions.

Finally, it's idiotic to claim that the term "existent" means "something touchable, etc..." Seriously, you need philosophical help. You would fail yourself out of any philosophy course if you tried to pull that garbage. And in any case, if you wanted to define your terms in that dumbass way, then it would open to anyone to argue for the conclusion that "there are things which don't exist (in your asinine sense)".

[[This is circular and thus useless. And still does not distinguish between a god and Mr. Ed. Who defines "necessary"?]]

I've already discussed the circularity problem. To say that something is necessary is to say that it's not possible that it not exist.

[[WTF, typical rationale? where do you get this from? The typical rationale is "got proof, if so produce" idiot.]]

Got proof that there is nothing immaterial? Produce it. You may not think you have any reason to believe there is anything immaterial. That says something about the quality of your thinking more than anything else. Sets are immaterial. Numbers are immaterial. But at any rate, if you want to claim that there isn't anything immaterial, then you need to do philosophy. (At least, if you want to be rational.) Start by reading W. V. O. Quine, David Lewis and Bertrand Russell. All of them countenance the immaterial.

[[ If the entity does not have any discernible effects in Universe that are in any way distinguishable from its non-existence, then Occam's Razor disposes of it.]]

Well, now you're trying to do philosophy. But see above for some obvious objections to this juvenile appeal to OR.

Typically, nominalists are naturalists who also go on to insist (and admit that it's pretty much just prejudice or wishful thinking) that nothing immaterial exists, there is no ectoplasm, etc...

I don't know how I missed this little turd the first time around. Are you seriously quacking about 19th century spiritualist frauds as if there were something to it worth discussing by intelligent people, apart from quackery and hoaxes and credulity?

Explain yourself, because that's some "ectoplasm" is some biohazard-grade stupidity.

"Then please don't pretend to think about whether or not god exists. That requires you to actually do philosophy."

Are the leprechauns in my basement? I don't know, I'll have to consult a philosopher. And buy a flashlight.

By Jafafa Hots (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

But, um, thanks for pointing out that many/most theists are irrational.

Belief in a god is inherently irrational. Sorry if you can't deal with that.

[[Are you seriously quacking about 19th century spiritualist frauds as if there were something to it worth discussing by intelligent people, apart from quackery and hoaxes and credulity?]]

You'll have to offer some arguments if you want to be taken seriously. You're an irrational and poor thinker if you think you can simply presuppose the non-existence of the immaterial. Science has not proven this. I wonder what your reasons are (especially, given as I've mentioned half a dozen times above, almost all philosophers, including some of the most ardent supporters of science, materialism and naturalism, countenance immaterial objects.) I suspect that you too have nothing but prejudice to offer us.

Scott,

I have had many casual discussions about religion with a few of my friends. Usually, we exchange arguments and then the conversation ends abruptly when one of my friends say "but X experience happened to me, and it is only explainable if there are supernatural forces", and then say, "well, I cannot accept or reject that because I was not there and I do not have enough information", and then they get mad at me for "not trusting" them. Do you have any advice for me?

By Teleprompter (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

[[Belief in a god is inherently irrational. Sorry if you can't deal with that.]]

You couldn't support that with an argument if you tried. The best you could get is that belief in god is irrational for *some* people (perhaps educated people, intelligent people with access to certain kinds of evidence, etc...) Rationality is weaker than justification, so even if belief in god isn't justified for anyone (itself a highly controversial and insanely difficult to support claim), it wouldn't follow that belief in god is *irrational*, much less that it's *inherently* or *intrinsically* irrational. The only propositions that are inherently or intrinsically irrational are probably obvious contradictions. The proposition that god exists is not a contradiction. (Mackie's famous paper to the contrary, this is now universally accepted by philosophers and logicians.)

Scott, you're too stupid to breathe. You're the one who brought up ectoplasm. Ectoplasm was five different varieties of hoax for the purpose of grifting the marks. Pull your head out of your pompous ass and read Houdini's A Magician Among the Spirits.

What's next? Spoon bending? What a fuckwit.

Well, you need to read some of the more intelligent materialists.

Really? the more intelligent ones are claiming

"it would be horrible if that stuff( referring to non physical things) existed, wouldn't it!?"?

You think that is an intelligent argument? I have never seen this, and I doubt anyone here other than you would claim this is what materialists argue. Seriously, who are these people, and where do they make an appeal to personal preference?

As for the other. Numbers. Wow. How uninspiring. Care to elaborate on how they would still exist if nothing physical existed? They are simply our representation of relationships between things. Nothing magical about them. In one sense they are symbols on paper or a screen. In another sense they are relationships between or representations of things in our brains. Both physical. How hard was that?

You're an irrational and poor thinker if you think you can simply presuppose the non-existence of the immaterial. Science has not proven this.

You demand proof of a negative? Seriously? This is the intellectual rigor of philosophers?

The best you could get is that belief in god is irrational for *some* people (perhaps educated people, intelligent people with access to certain kinds of evidence, etc...) Rationality is weaker than justification, so even if belief in god isn't justified for anyone (itself a highly controversial and insanely difficult to support claim), it wouldn't follow that belief in god is *irrational*, much less that it's *inherently* or *intrinsically* irrational. The only propositions that are inherently or intrinsically irrational are probably obvious contradictions. The proposition that god exists is not a contradiction.

Would you defend this same standpoint if I replace god with Xenu? Or the magical invisible Morgellons fairies that live in my pores and created the universe?

"You're an irrational and poor thinker if you think you can simply presuppose the non-existence of the immaterial. Science has not proven this." - Scott @ 330

Hold on a second. How could science prove the non-existence of a class that can't be detected?

If something is literally immaterial, and by this I mean not just undetectable with current instrumentation, but in the greater sense of having no measurable effect on anything, they why the fuck do we care?

Numbers are a human invention, useful for describing things. They don't have any existence outside of that. As for sets, I'm no mathematician, but I was under the impression that sets had to be compared to one another to have any actual meaning.

By Captain Mike (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I am not saying it was designed for us. I am saying it is immensely improbable for a universe that supports intelligent life to exist and the best explanation for the fact that the universe does support life is design.

Intelligent life is not the product of anything else other than evolution. Again, you put way too much focus into yourself. Once you have life that can evolve, you have the possibility for intelligent life. And then, what do you mean exactly by intelligence? I would call a dog intelligent, I would call an octopus or a dolphin intelligent. They don't make rockets, but their brains are perfectly suited for their environment. We are a product of evolution, no higher explanation is necessary for us.

Adams’s paper does not even come close to proving what you claim. The most obvious flaw is fatal—deadly really to your claim: He ignores the cosmological constant (or, if you prefer, the expansion rate). That is, he already assumes a cosmological constants that does not produce universe that expands too quickly or too slowly to produce the required density for making stars.

I concede that what I wrote was misleading, but is the cosmological constant enough to justify an anthropic creator? The sheer size and scale of the universe to me points away from an anthropic explanation. As I said earlier, the argument basically amounts to "we exist, therefore God" because it puts us at the centre of any explanation. I agree that we exist, and even if the laws of physics were slightly different and could not create life in any other way - the fact that we do not know exactly how the laws of physics form makes any appeal to fine-tuning a god-of-the-gaps.

Your argument is like going up to an aquarium and saying "Why is this aquarium fine-tuned for fish? Couldn't some other kind of animal have existed in here?"

I just wanted to point how brilliant it was of facilis to use that particular analogy. In freaking Squid Central. Wonderful work, there. Bravo.

By Citizen Z (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

You're an irrational and poor thinker if you think you can simply presuppose the non-existence of the immaterial (emphasis mine). Science has not proven this. I wonder what your reasons are

And another irony meter goes......

*Wanders off to prove the presupposition that I have no imaginary beer left in the fridge*

Again facilis, the fine tuning argument:We are a product of the universe.
The universe has a series of physical laws that govern all actions therein.
If those laws where slightly different, then we wouldn't exist.
So in order to guarantee our existence, we need to have a way for us to exist.
Therefore God. QEDThe argument is a post-hoc rationalisation of our own existence. And if the laws of physics were different and we wouldn't exist, so what? It acts as if we are a necessary part of the universe - which we are not. Just think if that meteor didn't hit earth 65,000,000 years ago we almost certainly wouldn't exist now. In fact, most mammals alive today wouldn't exist. If the climate hadn't changed 7,000,000 years ago in Africa, we probably wouldn't have gotten out of the trees. We are 3.7 billion years of replication, each one of us is almost infinitely improbable in terms of existence. Yet here we are, along with 10 million other species that have all survived this immortal goal of the genetic code. The seemingly infinite improbability of surviving such a journey does not necessitate that we exist. It's like winning the lottery and rationalising that because it's so improbable that there must have been a higher power working through the lottery system. Let's turn the argument back on it's head. What if the universe weren't fine tuned? What would the universe look like if it didn't have a creator to tweak the variables? Wait, what do you mean you don't know how the laws of physics form and what lies beyond this universe that allows for the formation of universes? Are you trying to tell me that with a sample size of 1 you are placing God as a necessity?

Scott, you're the philostopher who is making the extraordinary claim that ectoplasm exists (the magical phosphorescent musical instruments are floating around Madame Leota's Crystal Ball! 11!!). Where is the extraordinary proof? You cannot claim that I have to cede that its immateriality is evidence of its existence, despite everybody's inability to detect any of it, and also give me one good reason not to laugh the flesh right off your bones.

*Wanders off to prove the presupposition that I have no imaginary beer left in the fridge*

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

*Wanders off to prove the presupposition that I have no imaginary beer left in the fridge*

I'm still hungover from last night, I'll have to wait a few hours before I can start drinking again. They had James Squire on tap and it came in pints!

The probability of a universe that supports intelligent life is 1:1. Pointing at things that definitely exist and claiming they shouldn't is kind of a weird hobby.

By Captain Mike (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Dude, it's quarter past 10 in the morning!

Here on the left coast, it's 5:24 pm. After the ectoplasm follies, I've decided to become an alcholic. After all, I started the morning with bacon. Now, where have those delightful lesbians gotten themselves off to?

Guys,

pay attention,Im talking about immaterial beer here ! This one has to work all day yet LOL

Dude, it's quarter past 10 in the morning!

Yeah, but it's Good Friday. They tell you not to drink, so of course you have to!

Unsurprising. All PZ has to do to impress his gullible followers is call a philosopher "stupid" -- and the crowd goes wild. Nevermind that atheists more prominent than PZ, of course, have admired this particular philosopher's intelligence on many issues. Quentin Smith, for instance, who is close friends with Craig, cites Craig as one of the leading figures in philosophical theories of spacetime and co-authored a book with Craig on cosmology. Or John Loftus and the blogger at commonsense atheism, who conceded that, for such a "stupid" guy, Craig easily trounced Hitchens during their recent debate, and (I would add) exposed Hitchens as a common sophist. Perhaps they're just "stupid" too, for not recognizing Craig's "stupidity". (Right, PZ?)

It's all just "stupid" to PZ. Life is easy when you buy into the new atheism spectacle. No intellectual heavy lifting required. Just don the A shirt and dismiss those who don't share your worldview as stupid. Then try to build a name for yourself with a blog. Or something like that.

Craig is a great debater, but we can still talk about his arguments are flawed. And his characterisation of the universe is unrepresentative of where science is at. Can we say that without being accused of being sheep of PZ?

Says Stu:

You demand proof of a negative? Seriously? This is the intellectual rigor of philosophers

The negative "there are no square circles" can be proven with a moment's reflection on the definition of 'square' and 'circle'. Despite the inanity circulated on popular atheist fora -- the kind of fora that apparently do all of Stu's thinking for him -- any reasonably sane and intelligent person can prove and/or provide evidence against a negative.

Ken:

Let us know when you have something substantive to say.

Hand me an imaginary Guinness, will ya?

By Laser Potato (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Saying that circles and squares aren't the same doesn't prove anything you don't already know.

By Captain Mike (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Ah,
the "gullible follower" attack.

Im not familiar with Craig,but how is the possibility that he might have said something intelligent about cosmology sometime relevant to this particular debate?

Life is easy when you buy into the new atheism spectacle. No intellectual heavy lifting required. Just don the A shirt and dismiss those who don't share your worldview as stupid. Then try to build a name for yourself with a blog

Isnt "PZ envy" in the Urban dictionary already?

Kel:

but we can still talk about his arguments are flawed.

By all means, provide your logical counter-argument(s) to each premise with which you disagree with. Please also specify all inference rules relied upon by your counter-argument(s) as you proceed.

Yeah, but it's Good Friday. They tell you not to drink, so of course you have to!

I'll be having some red wine this afternoon while I make my bolognaise sauce (some of it will go in the sauce as well). That's right, Christians - I'm eating meat on Good Friday...

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

By all means, provide your logical counter-argument(s) to each premise with which you disagree with. Please also specify all inference rules relied upon by your counter-argument(s) as you proceed.

His arguments fail upon premise. As Graham Oppy states: "Craig endorses a theory of space and time that is almost universally rejected by contemporary physics." His premise is flawed because his arguments are not based where the science is. He's constructing a straw man version of space-time in which he can put his God beyond it.

By all means, provide your logical counter-argument(s) to each premise with which you disagree with.

In this ever changing world in which we live in?[/Sir Paul]

Please also specify all inference rules relied upon by your counter-argument(s) as you proceed.

After facilis.

I'm still waiting for Scott, the philostopher, to demonstrate why I'd think "it would be horrible if [ectoplasm] existed, wouldn't it!?" I'm with Houdini. I'd love for there to be some ectoplasm. Show me the ectoplasm!

That's right, Christians - I'm eating meat on Good Friday...

Im working all day,for double time and a half salary.

Praise the Lord ! Hail Jebus !!

Clint:

Ah,
the "gullible follower" attack.

Yes. I assure you there's a reason it occurs so often in these parts.

Im not familiar with Craig,but how is the possibility that he might have said something intelligent about cosmology sometime relevant to this particular debate?

Then perhaps you should familiarize yourself a bit more with the relevant literature before you lazily agree with any opinion PZ hands down to you. If you viewed the debate, you'd see that not only did PZ wrongly attribute claims to Craig, but he had nothing to say about Craig's arguments except that Craig is "stupid". Is this what it means to be a "rational" atheist? Carefully weighing the evidence? Critically evaluating the arguments? And so on?

Craig is stupid because he believes that a few people writing that the tomb was empty is evidence for the impossible ;)

CW,

before you lazily agree with any opinion PZ hands down to you

Please provide me with a quote from this thread where I agreed with PZ,or stated any opinion on the debate whatsoever.
I didnt,since I havent watched the vid yet.

Or from any other thread for that matter,with emphasis on the "lazily" part.
You ask evidence and arguments from Kel,I can ask the same from you.Fair,right?

Kel:

His arguments fail upon premise. As Graham Oppy states: "Craig endorses a theory of space and time that is almost universally rejected by contemporary physics."

Oppy was already taken to task by Craig and others a while ago. See, e.g., Nowacki's recent work for a catalog of Oppy's errors. Moreover, as a non-physicist philosopher, Oppy, I am sure, knows that invoking consensus is not a sound argument. There are plenty of secular physicists and philosophers who adopt non-consensus views of spacetime. It doesn't follow from the fact that they don't currently enjoy the majority that their views must be false, does it?

His premise is flawed because his arguments are not based where the science is. He's constructing a straw man version of space-time in which he can put his God beyond it

This is not a logical counter-argument. Science includes many incompatible empirical theoria, so it's useless to merely pit one view against another as if that settles everything. Craig, along with many other physicists and philosophers, adopts a presentist metaphysic and a neo-Lorentzian theory of spacetime which has no essential bearing on his Christian religion. Calling something you don't understand a "strawman" does not count as a logical counter-argument. Sorry.

Carefully weighing the evidence? Critically evaluating the arguments?

What is this evidence of which you speak of, and these arguments about which you argue about? I'm obviously indebted to CW, without whom I never would have even considered the possibility that there was a world of cheap-ass apologetics and Jack Chick tracts, transcending the world of beer, bacon, lesbians, and troll-mocking.

Emmet:

Let us know when you have something substantive to add.

Haven't watched the video yet; might find some time later today - but unless Craig has developed some compelling explanation for how his argument can only be applied to the Christian god and not anyone else's god - or anyone else's gods for that matter - there's not much point, is there?

When all other religions give up their beliefs and convert to Christianity (and all Christians become one, completely unified, sect) because of its incontrovertible superiority then let me know. Until then it's nothing more than the enumeration of heavenly performers in a choreographed performance atop the apex of a metallic implement used for fastening.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

The statement "Craig is stupid" can be proven with a moment's reflection on the definition of 'stupid' and 'theist'.

That one's direct from the Department of Redundancy Department, Emmet.

[[Hold on a second. How could science prove the non-existence of a class that can't be detected?]]

You're catching on, genius. If you want to excise the immaterial, you have to do PHILOSOPHY. Not science. But too many of you folks just want to beg off doing any thinking and pretend like everything is kosher with your unsupported claims that there is nothing immaterial. Let's see the arguments. Put up or shut up. All you're doing is reporting your own mental states. I could care less what you believe if it's not believed for good reason.

[[Scott, you're too stupid to breathe. You're the one who brought up ectoplasm.]]

Ectoplasm is a technical term in philosophy, but you're illiterate, so you wouldn't know that. You sound like a dipshit who hears a scientific term they don't understand and then calls "stupid". Do you know what scientists do with those people? Point and laugh at them.

The fact is the vast majority of philosophers, who are way ahead of the scientists here, believe that there are non-material objects, things or entities. The least controversial of these are sets and numbers (in that order). Only slightly more controversial are properties and propositions. If you want to pretend like there's nothing non-material, and you haven't read some of these arguments, you're just a troll. Like many of the new atheists, you make atheists look like illiterate idiots. You are a disgrace to thinking people everywhere.

What is this evidence of which you speak of, and these arguments about which you argue about? I'm obviously indebted to CW, without whom I never would have even considered the possibility that there was a world of cheap-ass apologetics and Jack Chick tracts, transcending the world of beer, bacon, lesbians, and troll-mocking.

Clearly a rational chap, that Ken. When you have nothing rational to say, focus on grammatical slips and attempt to be humorous. Gotta love the PZ throngs.

Hitchens says he was "hardwired" for loving his children and everybody jumps on him and asks "well who hardwired you" as if that is supposed to be some profound "gotcha" question or something. That's pretty much how the whoole thing went. Hitchens says something and then they make a profound strawman "gotcha" like they're pretending as if they don't understand what he's saying.

That's like Rick Warren's question about natural selection: "Uhhhhhhhhhh weellllllll who's doing the uhhhhhhhhhhhhhmmm uuurrrrrrrrrr uhhhhhh selecting? Hahhahahhaha selection has to havveeee eeeeeee selector!! Hahhahahhhhahha gotcha!!!" (I'm paraphrasing slightly of course.)

By tweetytweet386sx (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

@ Ken Cope [[Scott, you're the philostopher who is making the extraordinary claim that ectoplasm exists...]

You are a total moron, Ken. I never said that. Go learn to read.

Scott is a pretty amusing troll. I think he might be one of Matt's morphs. He's as insufferably full of himself as Matt. Scott's obsession with dualism, and his hijacking of the term philosophy (I assure you, it doesn't mean what Scott says it means), is a subtle, and effective, troll technique.

Makes for entertaining reading, at least =)

Emmet:

Let us know when you're successful at being humorous.

There are plenty of secular physicists and philosophers who adopt non-consensus views of spacetime. It doesn't follow from the fact that they don't currently enjoy the majority that their views must be false, does it?

Agreed, but his argument is based on an "if" rather than arguing for what others are saying. It's like saying God isn't real because the earth orbits the sun. If you aren't going to argue against what the other side is saying then your arguments aren't going to be effective. Likewise Craig's argument for space-time is not going to be persuasive if it is not at the scientific consensus of the time. It's a straw-man version of the universe that he's knocking down.

This is not a logical counter-argument.

You're right, it's not. It's that Craig's argument does not address our arguments in the first place and thus a logical counter-argument is not needed. If he ever gets relevant and makes an argument that takes into account what big bang theory actually states, then it would be worth replying to.To explain this further, even if his arguments are logically coherent - they are worthless if they don't fit into how nature works. Like Dempski's No Free Lunch, H Allen Orr characterised it as "nice answer, wrong question." It doesn't matter how logically coherent a solution, if the pattern doesn't fit with nature then what good is it? Being logically coherent shows logical coherence, not a metaphysical reality.

Scott writes:
You're catching on, genius. If you want to excise the immaterial, you have to do PHILOSOPHY.

Yes, it's necessary to use imaginary little needles and imaginary thread when sewing the emperor's new clothes.

Time to use strategy #3878 from PZ's Handbook of Science Blog Apologetics: "If somebody discusses a topic that's clearly over your head, just dismiss them as a troll."

You are a total moron, Ken.

But too many of you folks just want to beg off doing any thinking and pretend like everything is kosher with your unsupported claims that there is nothing immaterial. Let's see the arguments.

Dimwit @ 373,

we are not claiming anything extraordinary,you are.The world works just fine without anything "immaterial" as far as we are concerned.

So,for the umptieth time,if you make the extraordinary claim that there is something immaterial out there,bring us evidence.The burden of proof is on you,we're cool.

Let me just interject that most professional philosophers who teach at serious departments are atheists or agnostics. Many also have more than a passing acquaintance of at least one of the sciences. Coffee-house intellectuals are a different breed altogether.

Likewise Craig's argument for space-time is not going to be persuasive if it is not at the scientific consensus of the time.

I can assure that if Craig argues for spacetime, he definitely ranks with mainstream physicists in so doing.

It's a straw-man version of the universe that he's knocking down.

Which one of his familiar five or six arguments are you referring to? I have not heard him ever try to "knock down" a "straw-man version of the universe". He seems to accept the universe, if anything.

Are you sure you've understood him correctly?

It's that Craig's argument does not address our arguments in the first place and thus a logical counter-argument is not needed.

Which arguments, precisely, are you referring to?

If he ever gets relevant and makes an argument that takes into account what big bang theory actually states, then it would be worth replying to.

Craig defends big bang cosmology. I'd recommend picking up his co-authored work on cosmology with Quentin Smith to get started on correctly interpreting his argument.

Being logically coherent shows logical coherence, not a metaphysical reality.

That's true. So, then, which premise(s) of Craig's arguemnt(s) is wrong, and why?

Well that certainly was an excellent experience. I heartily agree with Kaz Dragon@260.

On Ken Cope@255:

Obviously there are are questions regarding abstractions and human endeavor that science sheds next to no light upon,[...]

I am wondering what possible things you think these might be. I agree with the earlier sentiment, that there is in fact no such thing as a difference between a question science can't (not hasn't but can't) answer and a shitty question. This is obviously and trivially true, for rational definitions of 'science' and 'question'.

The take-away of the debate for me (CH taking on a roomful of theists with one lung tied behind his back, and practically pummeling them into submission!) was not the 'knifes blade of existence' argument (an argument from ignorance, which presumes no other universe could exist if this universe could not exist) but the 'source of morality' question. Part of the issue was that CH kept missing the apologists' gist (as it were). He was trying to say that there is no such thing as a basis for morality except a supernatural creator's dictate. Christopher kept missing it, rather than dodging it, but it ended up rather muddled.

It was I think rather well expressed by author problem at comment 71, and I didn't see it mentioned further:

Atheism cannot ground morality nor can it explain it.

It's really very similar to the issue Ken Cope raised, that there are ("obviously") things science cannot address. I will give way entirely to the argument as 'problem' provided. Atheism cannot nor can it ground or explain morality. Nor does it need to, nor does it attempt to.

What it does is prove conclusively that religion cannot ground morality nor can it explain it. EVEN IF any one 'anointed' religion is presumed to actually be the real word of God when it comes to right and wrong, the fact that it has 'supernatural' truth would prevent its dictates from being anything but arbitrary (and therefore tyrannical) proclamations, as Christopher points out very well in the video.

I'm always reminded that the modern "pro-lifer" crowd takes most of their cues in the argument not from revelation but from science. The only reason they know what and when their 'moment of conception' is, comes as a result of purely materialistic secular science. These apologists take the sophistry of philosophy, privately assign magical values to it, and then expect nobody to notice.

Atheists do not try to ground their morals on atheism; there is nothing there to do that with. The apologist who claimed atheists "have no basis to decide whether A or B is moral" is, typically, entirely backwards. ATHEISM does not give us that basis, no, but then, THEISM does not give that basis to anyone else. What gives them that basis is ego, plain and simple. That their ego is reflected in the desires of the creator of the universe who conveniently wrote a book two thousand years ago; that is the basis of their "morality". Because people were about as homophobic in ancient Judea as they are now, that means God decreed Gay Is Bad at the beginning of time.

CW riding in on his/her high horse of Neo-Lorentzian space-time uggabugga and merciless logic is failing at his/her own standards rather miserably,when he/she declares without bothering to read the thread that commenters "lazily agree with PZ" on the topic at hand.
The burden to provide logical arguments and evidence for claims clearly only applies to CW's opponents,his/her own standards are not quite as high.

@facilis

I asked you a question (comment #37) in response to your claims about materialists, and then pointed out (comment #199) how you were ignoring me. Since you are still ignoring me, I will take this moment to repeat for everyone that you have no answer for my question.

Damn, sorry. Major blockquote failure.

"You're catching on, genius. If you want to excise the immaterial, you have to do PHILOSOPHY. Not science. But too many of you folks just want to beg off doing any thinking and pretend like everything is kosher with your unsupported claims that there is nothing immaterial. Let's see the arguments. Put up or shut up. All you're doing is reporting your own mental states. I could care less what you believe if it's not believed for good reason." - Scott

I didn't make any claims that there is nothing immaterial. I'm interested in knowing why it matters.

RANDOM STREET LUNATIC: The universe is filled with invisible rubbers ducks that might as well not exist!

ME: Awesome! Do you have any spare change?

I suppose I would also like to hear some of the arguments for the non-material existence of things like properties and propositions, divorced from mental states, speaking of which...

All anyone is ever doing is reporting their own mental states.

By Captain Mike (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Kel,

Craig is stupid because he believes that a few people writing that the tomb was empty is evidence for the impossible

Actually, the empty tomb is widely accepted among most NT scholars (regardless of their religious convictions or lack thereof).

I suspect the slightly snarky philosophers posting right now are more annoyed by the slur on their profession/field of interest than they are by the dismissal of the specific philosophical arguments used by Christians apologists.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

In drops Clint, trying his best to be quick-witted so he can impress his master PZ and win that Molly award, only to end up with another pedantic comment that forces our fingers to the pagedown button. Poor Clint.

CW says:

Time to use strategy #3878 from PZ's Handbook of Science Blog Apologetics: "If somebody discusses a topic that's clearly over your head, just dismiss them as a troll."

The funny thing is, judging from the texts Scott has cited, we probably share similar formal training, or at least have similar literary backgrounds. I'm just not hung up on dualism, and I don't feel the need say patently false things like "Philosophy is about exploring the things Science can't touch, like ectoplasm."

#389: Allow me to try to deal with the issue you've addressed.

Why exactly does choice and rationality require a disembodied mind?

I would say the answer must be "because it seems to ."

I think that's a more serious answer then it at first appears. The fact is, atheists will cry just as quickly as theists when you try to take away their free will binky.

But more and more, science does illustrate that free will is, at best, a mirage. Not entirely an illusion, because there is a reason it feels like we're "in control" of our bodies and even our selves. But obviously we are not. There is no free will. We really are the 'deterministic' thingies that facilis and the other godbots fear. We don't make choices; we observe them, and then explain how wise they were.

And yet, this knowledge does not deprive me of volition, nor does my awareness of the evolutionary origin of altruism make me less likely to be altruistic.

To all the guys who are calling William Lane Craig stupid ,(especially that one guy who claimed he could beat WLC in a written debate) I challenge you to engage William Lane Craig where it counts IN THE PEER REVIEWED LITERATURE. Craig is a research professoir of philosophy and has published much on the fine-tuning and cosmological arguments you are calling "stupid" now in many philosophical and astrophysics journals .
If Craig's arguments are so stupid you people should easily be able to access his articles, and write a logically coherent rebuttal of sufficient muster to survive peer review demonstrating the stupidity of his position.
If not you should at least be humble in pointing out perceived flaws.

Richard is a pretty amusing troll. I think he might be one of Matt's morphs. He's as insufferably full of himself as Matt. Richard's obsession with his "formal training" (=undergraduate philosophy courses), and his hijacking of the term philosophy (I assure you, it doesn't mean what Richard says it means), is a subtle, and effective, troll technique.

Makes for entertaining reading, at least =)

Yay. That was fun.

CW the idiot troll:

Life is easy when you buy into the new atheism spectacle. No intellectual heavy lifting required. Just don the A shirt and dismiss those who don't share your worldview as stupid. Then try to build a name for yourself with a blog.

Life is easy when all you can do is launch ad hominem attacks. Even a moron can insult people.

CW, got anything relevant, intelligent, and on topic to demonstrate that you aren't an idiot? Doubtful, but who knows.

In the likely event you have used up your repetoire of insults, a cheery, "You baby killing cannibals are all going to hell" and a few death threats will work. That is what passes for thought among fundie Death cultists, after all.

FP,

I'll save PZ's gullible throngs their breath and speak on their behalf in reply to what you just said. Here goes:

"You're stupid!! You have PZ envy! Fuck ur magic sky fairy god philosophy We are the freethinkaarRs!! PZ ruleZ."

Oooooh... do I dare suggest FP is a sockpuppet of Scott in the "Psss..." thread?

I challenge you to engage William Lane Craig where it counts IN THE PEER REVIEWED LITERATURE.

Words fail.

Mr Chuck Windor aka CW aka "pz=irrational ideologue" aka who knows what else:

Your content-free whining does not change with your new pseudonyms. Either say something constructive (that is, that doesn't require you to put your own words into everyone else's mouths in order to have something simple-minded enough for you to rebut), or you're out of here for good.

#396 - Craig may have published much, but that doesn't provide his arguments any weight, I'm afraid, given the subject. It is true that a crowd like the one around here has the tendency to causally dismiss preposterous positions which would require reams of PEER REVIEWED PHILOSOPHICAL PAPERS to do in the formal literature.

Which is, in fact, why we are here and not there.

"PZ's gullible throngs"

:)

By John Morales (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Actually, the empty tomb is widely accepted among most NT scholars (regardless of their religious convictions or lack thereof).

You're focusing on the wrong part of what I said. Note the word impossible ;)

Which arguments, precisely, are you referring to?

His cosmological argument for God.

That's true. So, then, which premise(s) of Craig's arguemnt(s) is wrong, and why?

His idea that the universe came from nothing. To quote Craig: "I well recall thinking, as I began to study the Kalam Cosmological Argument, that all of the alternatives with respect to the universe's existence - the infinitude of the past, creation ex nihilo, spontaneous origination ex nihilo - were so bizarre that the most reasonable option seemed to be that nothing exists! Since our existence is, however, undeniable, we must settle, however uncomfortably, on one of the above three."It's no problem that the universe does exist, it's a non-controversial statement. That's bizarre enough as is, why then do we need to put an eternal being in addition to that? If God can just exist, then so can the energy that makes up the universe. And furthermore, the idea that a conscious entity had to be involved in the creation goes against everything we know about the universe and about the nature of consciousness. Consciousness is an evolved trait, it's physically tied to the brain. You need a body to create the mind, not the other way around. So even in the case that something has to come from nothing (see: quantum physics) it does not follow that it's a sentient, sapient, all-powerful creator who made something like 1023 stars all through the universe so that one species out of about 10 million living and billions that have ever lived could have a choice between eternal pleasure and eternal pain based almost exclusively on the time and place of their birth. Futhermore, culture after culture from the dawn of man have used gods to explain the natural world. Why is it that every culture but the Jews got it dead wrong? Especially as these days we can explain through natural forces enough about reality to make the concepts of god obsolete. Modern versions of god are nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig. You can dress it up all you want, but the concept of God will always be a supernatural explanation of the natural that is really unnecessary.

In reference to #399 - it was another very interesting moment in the video when the apologist claimed that HITCHENS' morality is the one that 'dangles from an invisible skyhook'. As if his 'divinely revealed' morality is superior to one based on observation and reasoning.

Life is easy when all you can do is launch ad hominem attacks. Even a moron can insult people.

Do notify PZ, since if you'd kept up with this thread you you'd have noticed that it was precisely his reliance on ad hom that was being called into question.

CW, got anything relevant, intelligent, and on topic to demonstrate that you aren't an idiot? Doubtful, but who knows

I don't know you and I've never read any of your posts in the past. So I'll go with the Myers Method on this one and just dismiss you as "stupid".

[[Scott is a pretty amusing troll. I think he might be one of Matt's morphs]]

False. I have no idea who Matt is, and I have never posted here before. But now we know you like to think things for which you have no good evidence.

[[his hijacking of the term philosophy (I assure you, it doesn't mean what Scott says it means)]]

Hmm. I said that philosophy is the art of thinking hard and clearly about topics that science cannot answer. What, pray tell, do you disagree with?

[[we are not claiming anything extraordinary,you are. The world works just fine without anything "immaterial" as far as we are concerned.]]

Your alleged "concern" hasn't even led you to READ some of the ARGUMENTS of some of the best analytic philosophers of the 21th century. Your alleged "concern" makes rats look concerned. The fact is, you aren't concerned, and never were.

Your type is obvious. You thrive on burden of proof shifting, and you use it to beg off thinking. You assume, without argument, that the burden of proof is on your opponent, and you use this as an excuse to not educate yourself. Then you interact with "opponents" who don't educate themselves in forums filled with people who are similarly unconcerned, and winning a few rounds mistakenly leads you to believe you have a functioning brain. Your credences are WAY out of proportion with the evidence you have. A good philosophy professor would beat that crap out of you.

A materialist (someone who believes everything is material) who hasn't carefully examined the arguments for the existence of numbers or sets is an intellectual joke, fraud and imposter. Your assertions of materialism are unwarranted. You out not within your epistemic right when you babble about the truth of materialism. You have not done your homework. You are being intellectually dishonest and deceitful. Indeed, your behavior is downright immoral and disgusting.

Clinteas,

It had to happen, Pell is such a tool. Though he's not really that representative of the leading Catholics in Australia. It's too bad that he holds the highest position because he undoes the good work that many in the lower echelons do for society.

Scott says:

Hmm. I said that philosophy is the art of thinking hard and clearly about topics that science cannot answer. What, pray tell, do you disagree with?

I disagree with the part where you say "science cannot answer." That's not what philosophy is about -- and if it is what _you're_ philosophy is about, then you practice a philosophy of woo.

Philosophy _is_ about thinking hard and clearly, but it is aided by the scientific method -- it is not above it.

Scott babbled,

You thrive on burden of proof shifting, and you use it to beg off thinking. You assume, without argument, that the burden of proof is on your opponent, and you use this as an excuse to not educate yourself

And you claim to have knowledge of philosophy?
I dont think it is anything less than a universal understanding amongst not only philosophers but anybody,that the burden of proof,and not only since Occam's razor,is on the one making the extraordinary claim.
That would be you and your claim of the "immaterial",in this case btw.

You are wrong,and you are showing a lack of knowledge and ability for introspection and self-critique,but rest assured,we have seen it all before.

@ Ken Cope [[Scott, you're the philostopher who is making the extraordinary claim that ectoplasm exists...]

You are a total moron, Ken. I never said that. Go learn to read.

Scott, you said this:

Typically, nominalists are naturalists who also go on to insist (and admit that it's pretty much just prejudice or wishful thinking) that nothing immaterial exists, there is no ectoplasm, etc...

Silly me, but unless "people who claim there is no ectoplasm are doing so out of just prejudice or wishful thinking" is not the message you intended to convey, you should learn how to write.

Now, I could charitably read this as an argument about universals vs. particulars, Aristotelian vs. Boolean existence claims, but then you claimed, Ectoplasm is a technical term in philosophy, but you're illiterate, so you wouldn't know that.

Well, that's fine, Humpty Dumpty, but "ectoplasm" is not an entry in my Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy, unless I flunk alphabetizing, and I don't think you want to define spiritualism, which is a grift and a fraud, as philosophy, unless you're even stupider than I think you are. You're not going to prattle on about qualia and philosophical zombies are you?

I think The Firesign Theatre had a handle on the world inside the Philip K. Dickian peabrains of our twin philsostophy trolls in this bit from W.C. Fields Forever:

Gabby: Howdy, Bramacharya, I'm Gabby, yer Sacred Cowboy. You know, this reminds me very little about the time my guru sent me out to clean up the Karma in Arful Dodge City. I stumped into the Last Chant Saloon.
Theosophists: "Paramahansa Yogananda Parlez Vous?"
Cowboy: Give me some more of that Third Red Eye, barkeep.
Barkeep: You've had it. That's your last chant cowboy! Out!
Gabby: There was a passel o' them Theosophists at the other end of the bar tryin' to raise the devil. Had him about 10 feet off the floor. I could tell by the red clay on his hooves and his black aura that he was up to no good. I looked him straight in the eye, and told him, "Sanpaku, there ain't room in this life cycle for both of us. That li'l' devil up and challenged me to a game of ten card Tarot, pentacles wild. I seed him try to deal a High Priestess from the bottom of the deck and then, it's Leftenant Bahai'nd of the Seventh Seal Calvary...

"Your type is obvious. You thrive on burden of proof shifting, and you use it to beg off thinking. You assume, without argument, that the burden of proof is on your opponent, and you use this as an excuse to not educate yourself." - Scott

Umm...the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. I can't see any other way to work it that makes any sense.

You have referred several times to arguments that support the real existence of the immaterial, but you have not actually provided those arguments.

By Captain Mike (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

If you want to see someone debunking William Lane Craig, head over to the blog Debunking Christianity and take on John W Loftus. Or is this an exercise in belittling PZ and the people on here as opposed to seeing whether the arguments that Craig presents do indeed have merit?

CW, could you please stop being a tool? There are people who are actually trying to engage you and the arguments presented. Could you please stop hurling out insults to the people on here and actually engage in a constructive conversation?

Help! Help! I'm being repressed! See the violence inherent in the system!

I have not the slightest sympathy for volunteer martyrdom, particularly when it's in defense of "woo."

What do you even mean by 'improbable' when you are talking about 1 universe? I have no idea of the p values for any of the arrangements of matter in the Universe. Do you? Has this experiment been done multiple times? Heddle at least admitted that probability is worthless here when Tulse brought it up. Why do you think it works?

Thought exercise . Read this quote
“The strongest evidence for evolution [understood as the thesis of common ancestry] 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" (Edward Dodson, 1984, p. 68).

How does this guy say that these are probabilities? Has he observed the history of life occur more than once? or on several planets?
Nope.
He is not applying statistical improbability here, but epistemic probability.
That is the same kind of probability the fine-tuning argument applies.

Throwing down the gauntlet to the blog's owner is pretty silly, CW. Unless you just want to prove that you can retrieve your spheroid and retire to your domicile any time you feel like it.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

OK, physicalist that I am, I'm not intimately familiar with the self-sabotaging language appropriation that dualists will indulge in; the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy notes ectoplasm under the topic of "Unity and Substance Dualism" and I can see a few other prats who want to privilege woo over science do too.

The problem is to explain what kind of a thing an immaterial substance is, such that its presence explains the unity of the mind. [...] The ‘ectoplasm’ account: The view that immaterial substance is a kind of immaterial stuff. There are two problems with this approach. First, in so far as this ‘ectoplasm’ has any characterisation as a ‘stuff’ — that is, a structure of its own over and above the explicitly mental properties that it sustains — it leaves it as much a mystery why this kind of stuff should support consciousness as it is why ordinary matter should. Second, and connectedly, it is not clear in what sense such stuff is immaterial, except in the sense that it cannot be integrated into the normal scientific account of the physical world. Why is it not just an abberrant kind of physical stuff?

I continue to demonstrate that what Scott is promoting is more grift than philosophy.

@ Richard [[I disagree with the part where you say "science cannot answer." That's not what philosophy is about -- and if it is what _you're_ philosophy is about, then you practice a philosophy of woo. Philosophy _is_ about thinking hard and clearly, but it is aided by the scientific method -- it is not above it.]]

You are confused. I never said philosophy couldn't be aided by science. If it's a question that scientists can answer, then philosophers should just be letting the scientists do their work. Philosophers don't try to answer scientific questions. Try again.

@ Clinteas [[I dont think it is anything less than a universal understanding amongst not only philosophers but anybody,that the burden of proof,and not only since Occam's razor,is on the one making the extraordinary claim.]]

That was a slightly better attempt than that of Captain Mike, but you're presupposing that claims like "numbers exist" are extraordinary. Do you think you can just stipulate that? Do you think your psychological reaction to that claim is indicative of its extraordinariness? Or are you just continuing to beg off thinking?

@ Captain Mike [[You have referred several times to arguments that support the real existence of the immaterial, but you have not actually provided those arguments.]]

I'm not going to do your homework for you, but I'll provide a wee bit of help. (Note, it's you who should be attempting to be intellectually responsible, so you should be looking for these arguments. A theist who professes to be "concerned" with whether or not she's justified in believing god exists, who then goes off to read apologetics written by Craig and Moreland does not thereby satisfy her intellectual duties. She needs to read atheists too. The same applies to YOU when it comes to the immaterial. Like she needs to do HER OWN research, YOU DO TOO.)

You can wind up with Hartry Field's _Science without Numbers_. I certainly wouldn't start there. It's quite a difficult work. Another good start, if you want to begin by looking for support for the view you antecedently hold would be Burgess and Rosen's _A Subject with No Object: Strategies for Nominalistic Interpretations of Mathematics_. Also see Quine's "On What There Is", "The Scope and Language of Science" and Quine/Goodman's "Steps Toward a Constructive Nominalism". Benacerraf's "What Numbers Could Not Be" and "Mathematical Truth" are highly influential. Also Putnam's _"What is Mathematical Truth". Goedel and Frege are also obviously relevant. There's a start, and it's a largely anti-platonist start. You're welcome.

Fine-tuning?

This is a planet where 90%+ of all life it has ever seen has gone extinct. That is not the track-record of a system finely-tuned for _life_.

But what about human life? This is a planet where fully 3/4ths is terrain that would kill us in hours if we were dropped on it. Most of the 1/4th of the planet that isn't impossible to live on for aquatic reasons is still lethal to humans -- either too hot, or too cold.

Of the remainder of the planet where humans could actually thrive, most of _that_ is infested with bacteria, parasites, poisonous insects, and bears, all of which would make a happy meal of a human being (and they do, on a daily basis!)

This is not a planet that is finely tuned for life, and it is even _less_ finely tuned for human life.

You are exhibiting extreme historical and geographic ignorance every time you try to suggest that our reality is 'finely-tuned' for anything other than being a good meal for bacteria.

Tip o' the hat to Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose lectures inspired this reply.

He is not applying statistical improbability here, but epistemic probability.
That is the same kind of probability the fine-tuning argument applies.

The difference is that with evolution, we can observe it. We can observe how life changes from generation to generation. We know the process. What's the process by which the laws of physics are created? What part is improbable? What observation point do we have for any of it? Your example is mute as we can at each reproduction cycle show how the process works. Can we do the same for the laws of physics?

Since Scott kindly provided a reading list, I'll return the favor with this explanation of what the "Courtier's Reply" is:

http://richarddawkins.net/article,463,The-Courtiers-Reply,PZ-Myers

TL;DR: The Courtier's Reply is what a courtier to the famous Emperor With No Clothes would say to the guy who points out the Emperor is naked:

Until you have trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until you have learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend you have not spoken out against the Emperor's taste. Your training in biology may give you the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when you see it, but it has not taught you the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.

Scott, all you are doing at this point is engaging in the Courtier's Reply.

Scott,

That was a slightly better attempt than that of Captain Mike, but you're presupposing that claims like "numbers exist" are extraordinary. Do you think you can just stipulate that? Do you think your psychological reaction to that claim is indicative of its extraordinariness? Or are you just continuing to beg off thinking?

Your smugness and arrogance is noted,we see it quite a bit around here.

As you well know,my comment was regarding your claim of the "immaterial" above,not about "numbers exist".Thank you for the misrepresentation,also not surprising.

And as you(should)know,"extraordinary" does not refer to a psychological reaction to a given claim,but to the fact that reality does just work fine without said claim,and therefore the one making the claim has the burden of proof,since he/she is trying to introduce something not required for reality/the world/a physical law etc,to function.Another misrepresentation.

what was the thread on which I allegedly did this?

Gaaaa, so you are the wrong Matt? Did you or didn't you post a series of comments on various threads under the morphonym "Jim Tanger"? Somebody named Matt fessed up to doing so, and pissed me and a bunch of other people off, and if it ain't you, then I'm, like, totally sorry again.

I gotta spend less time online.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I never said philosophy couldn't be aided by science. If it's a question that scientists can answer, then philosophers should just be letting the scientists do their work. Philosophers don't try to answer scientific questions. Try again.

It was unfair of me to imply that philosophy was fine for people who can't be bothered to be constrained by observation and evidence. It's also extremely appealing to people who lack the wit to construct fanciful narrative sufficiently compelling to suspend disbelief in their audience and who, unable to ignore the stale flying vegetables, are first inclined to insist that anybody who questions the value of their deep investment in esoteric woo is an illiterate moron. At least, that's the flavor we get around these parts, mostly.

There's a start, and it's a largely anti-platonist start. You're welcome.

The notion that mathematical entities are somehow 'immaterial' is pretty contentious, to say the least. So let me add a few more anti-platonist sources to the ones that Scott so kindly provided above. If you can stand reading (pretty good) philosophy, check out Penelope Maddy's "Realism in Mathematics," her more recent "Second Philosophy," and Kitcher's "The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge." If you prefer reading straight-up empirical work, read Dehaene's "The Number Sense" and Butterworth's "What Counts." Dehaene is especially fun and can serve as a decent spring-board to find lots of careful, recent scientific articles on the nature of mathematical reality.

There is no easy argument from the truth of mathematics to the existence of some sort of 'immaterial' realm. (Big surprise there.)

I've run across the idea a few times before, but it's never really made a lot of sense to me that things can have any sort of existence that isn't ultimately a property of matter.

Science Without Numbers looks pretty good, despite being recommended by a total dick.

By Captain Mike (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Well folks as you can see for yourself the way this clock over here is behaving: time is an affliction. Now this might be cause for alarm on a portion of you that’s from a certain experience I tend to proclaim: the eons are closing. Now what does this mean precisely to the layman? Simply this: Momentarily the need for the construction of the new light will no longer exist. Of course some of you will think who is he to fell me from this light? But in all seriousness ladies and gentlemen a quick glance at the erratic behavior of the large precision built time delineating apparatus beside me will show that it is perhaps only a few moments now… Look how funny it’s going around there! Personally I find mechanical nature of this to be highly suspicious. When such a device doesn’t go normal, the implication of such a behavior bodes not well (if you know what I mean). And quite naturally ladies and gentlemen if the mechanism in question is entrusted with the task of the delineation of time itself and ahh if such a mechanism goes “On the bum”…. or the fritz… Well, it spells trouble.

-Quentin Robert DeNameland
Greatest Living Philostopher Known to Mankind

By Quentin Robert… (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Whew, That was some reading, this thread has blown up since I left work.

Heddle, Your Fine Tuning arguement is based on a premise that life is life as we know it. Is that correct?

Scott, Why should we care about the immaterial? if if cannot be observed to exist either directly or indirectly and does not interact with the physical world what good is it? Why waste CPU cycles on it when you could be putting that vast mind of yours to good use coming up with ideas for bacon flavoured alcholic beverages that can be consumed on good Friday.

Is contemplating the immaterial just code for wishful thinking?

By Doug Little (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Quentin Robert DeNameland! I read about your paper in the Philostophy Review: DeNameland, Quentin Robert, et al: "Stochastic Effluvia Measured as if Magically Using Finite-Method Analysis and Partial Regression 'Loogies'", J. Appl. Wzls., Vol. 2, April 1997

Something the leprechauns asked me when I was a sprout in Indiana has always puzzled me. Doctor? Question. Evaluate. Why does the porridge bird lay his eggs in the air?

Captain Mike @ 429: I'd really start with Dehaene's stuff on psychology and neuroscience and maybe Maddy's Realism in Math. Field's Science Without Numbers will show you in gruesome detail how to translate Newtonian mechanics and other theories that apparently refer to all manner of mathematical entities into theories that merely refer to points in R4 (so space-time points). Field thinks that while there may be some mystery concerning our knowledge of sets, classes and such, there is no mystery about our understanding of R4. His work is really hard unless you're into hard-core logic and analytic philosophy. I'm not saying it's not worth the trouble but it's definitely not the place I'd want to start reading this material. I can see how it could come off as esoteric woo.

You're an irrational and poor thinker if you think you can simply presuppose the non-existence of the immaterial. Science has not proven this. I wonder what your reasons are (especially, given as I've mentioned half a dozen times above, almost all philosophers, including some of the most ardent supporters of science, materialism and naturalism, countenance immaterial objects.)

Immaterial "objects" like sets or equilateral triangles are a far cry from immaterial persons complete with volition and the ability to manipulate the material Cosmos by immaterial means. The topic of this debate is Invisible Magic Persons (gods, angels, demons, etc.). Either your alleged IMP's can and do act in demonstrable ways in the material Cosmos, or they don't.

If they do, then their actions are detectable, in principle. If they do not act, so that their presence is inherently undetectable by any means that could ever exist, then their presence is indistinguishable from their absence, i.e. their non-existence. If the former is true, then science is capable of settling the issue of their existence. If the latter is true, then philosophical speculation about their existence in Platonic faerie-land is irrelevant to real existence.

Do you think that Yahweh and Biblical phenomena like magic that works have detectable results in reality, or not?

D'OH! Blockquote fail. Quote should end after "countenance immaterial objects."

This might be slightly OT

http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/04/ai-breakthroughs-that-multiply.html

In just over a day, a powerful computer program accomplished a feat that took physicists centuries to complete: extrapolating the laws of motion from a pendulum's swings.

Developed by Cornell researchers, the program deduced the natural laws without a shred of knowledge about physics or geometry.

I think that this type of result is telling.

By Doug Little (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Ectoplasm is a technical term in philosophy

i think we're all bozos on this bus.

The fact is the vast majority of philosophers, who are way ahead of the scientists here, believe that there are non-material objects, things or entities. The least controversial of these are sets and numbers (in that order). Only slightly more controversial are properties and propositions.

Brou-ha-ha?

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

The fact is the vast majority of philosophers, who are way ahead of the scientists here, believe that there are non-material objects, things or entities.

Didn't the scientists of old also believe in the immaterial? It's just that by about the 19th century it was realised that there's simply no need for the immaterial to explain anything...

I have no idea what people in this thread are talking about when they speak of the "immaterial". Are they referring to stuff which exists outside of observable space and time? Lots of very serious physicists believe in exactly that. It's fine to postulate something you can't directly see, provided that it does explanatory work. The problem with superstitious claims is that they just don't pull their theoretical weight.

Richard is a pretty amusing troll. I think he might be one of Matt's morphs. He's as insufferably full of himself as Matt.

Scott is a pretty amusing troll. I think he might be one of Matt's morphs. He's as insufferably full of himself as Matt.

Fuck. What did I do? I've seen people complaining about sockpuppetry for a while now, but I was NOT Jim Tanger, or Tim Janger. But since there are so damn many Matts here, I'm now changing my handle, in full view (so as not to be banned.) to Nusubito.

Brou-ha-ha?

Ha ha ha ha. Alright sir. May I take your hat and jackitoff? I assume you've come to see my mistress, Mr. Danger.

I just finished reading Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. This morning, in fact. It's awful. Most of the book is based on the assumption that the canonical gospels are historically accurate, and this assumption is supported by the idea that if the writers got the names of cities and reigning monarchs right, there's no reason to doubt them on "more important" details. I wish I were making this up.

Ectoplasm is a technical term in philosophy.

Perhaps. But if so then only at Notre Dame. I've never seen it used in any journal article. Ever.

The fact is the vast majority of philosophers, who are way ahead of the scientists here, believe that there are non-material objects, things or entities.

Philosophers are not ahead of scientists on this. They're not behind either. In a way, they're on a different track. That's because they recognize that we have not yet managed to explain the nature of mathematics or its objects. So, for now, many philosophers are willing provisionally to defer to the mathematicians' judgement by accepting the existence of 'immaterial' entities such as sets, functions, and the like. Almost everyone feels a pretty deep malaise about this state of affairs though. That's why Benacerraf's work has been so influential. If we could figure out some way of doing without the immaterial while (really) explaining, say, maths' uncanny applicability in the natural sciences, that would be swell.

Only Xian demagogues use the philosophy of logic/math as a roundabout justification for buying into angels. Do as you please. But if I were you, I'd not bet the farm on platonism being true. It's going to be one more fight (after heliocentrism and evolution) that the theists will eventually lose.

My nostrils flared at the scent of his perfume: Pyramid Patchouli. There was only one joker in L.A. sensitive enough to wear that scent...and I had to find out who he was!

Doug @437, that was very interesting.

By John Morales (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I have no idea what people in this thread are talking about when they speak of the "immaterial". Are they referring to stuff which exists outside of observable space and time? Lots of very serious physicists believe in exactly that. It's fine to postulate something you can't directly see, provided that it does explanatory work. The problem with superstitious claims is that they just don't pull their theoretical weight.

I always assume it means that which is not made up of the material - i.e. not matter or energy. Though I guess you are right, it's nothing more than a straw-man to characterise the immaterial as things like ghosts and gods. By presenting God as the immaterial, it's so easy to dismiss the concept.

Wow: Over four hundred comments, most of them about William Lane Craig, and I've seen about as much serious engagement with his actual *arguments* as I've heard in most of his debates, viz. next to none.

Craig has debated Ehrman, Crossan, Ludemann, Price, Stenger, Atkins, Wolpert, Pigliucci, Nielson, Flew, Smith, Zindler, Parsons, Tooley, etc. -- in other words, he's debated top scientists, top historians, top biblical scholars and top philosophers -- and has arguably won nearly every debate he's taken part in. Now, this doesn't mean his position is 'true,' but it does mean that the man is far from stupid. When you couple that with his serious work in philosophy -- the *very* secular Brian Leiter names Craig as among the 'hottest' philosophers in contemporary metaphysics -- you simply must, if you wish to be taken seriously by anyone in the know, take much more care when addressing his arguments (or, rather, when pretending to do so). In short, he's no Ray Comfort, so don't treat him as if he were.

As far as the 'fizzing' argument: Check out Victor Reppert's development of the AFR (argument from reason). It's much more formidable than some silly 'argument from ignorance' or 'argument from personal incredulity.' It's not like saying, 'I can't see how such and such could be the case (e.g. how life could have emerged from non-life), therefore it's not the case'; rather, it's like saying, 'There's no way such and such could be the case (e.g. there's no way the number 7 can be said to weigh twelve pounds, or to be located at such and such a set of coordinates). The AFR is a formidable argument, but the only way you're going to learn what it is you're objecting to is if you look into it first (usually a good idea, BTW).

Craig is a great debater by all accounts, I agree. And anyone is better than Ray Comfort, the dead decayed corpse of Christ would put a better showing than Comfort.

Erasmus @ 440:

Are they referring to stuff which exists outside of observable space and time? Lots of very serious physicists believe in exactly that.

Sure. So do many mathematicians. The thing is that physicists are not in the business of explaining the nature of human knowledge. Psychologists and neuroscientists (who are in that business) have a bitch of a time explaining how human organisms track truths about immaterial reality that exists 'outside' of space and time. Philosophers who read both the math/physics and the psychology/neuroscience are left with the (pretty hard) problem of figuring out how to make all that stuff fit together in a way that makes sense.

True to form, Xians are more than happy to supply a solution: numbers, electrons, and human brains are all but fleeting ideas in the mind of the Divine Creator. ;-)

I just finished reading Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ. This morning, in fact. It's awful.

No kidding. I was forced to read that one for confirmation, and found myself incredulous for the entire book. But since we were quizzed on it, I had to drudge through all the bullshit. I think the pinnacle of the stupidity comes when Strobel claims Jesus couldn't have been insane, just because the words written in the Bible, and attributed to him don't sound like the ravings of a lunatic. As if all lunatics fit some kind of disheveled raving caricature he has in mind. Or that the quotes attributed to him are at all historical.

But in any case, how the hell does he think any cult grows? Either a cynical, manipulative bastard deceives people, or someone genuinely believes the nonsense they are spouting, and is therefore a lunatic. They don't seem to have trouble gaining followers these days. I don't know why we can't assume charismatic, but nonetheless disturbed people had followers in the first century.

Kel,

I always assume it means that which is not made up of the material - i.e. not matter or energy.

Hard to argue with that.
It's a conceptual category, but how it can apply to reality is problematic.
I think of a progression immaterial → supernatural → divine; each stage required for the next in some ontology of extraordinariness.

By John Morales (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

#372, Scott:

The fact is the vast majority of philosophers, who are way ahead of the scientists here, believe that there are non-material objects, things or entities. The least controversial of these are sets and numbers (in that order). Only slightly more controversial are properties and propositions

So it's uncontroversial to say that the set of all giant Marsian killer-woodpeckers is something having real existence? If you're not trying to say this, please explain what it is you mean.

What about the number 3? Does that really exist -- in the same way as, say, electrons? Is there an eternal "=", somewhere out there, "outside space and time"? Are philosophers ever trying to "discover" which concepts are real and which aren't, like physicists with the graviton and the Higgs boson? Are there any plans for a philosophy LHC? (Laughable Hogwash Churner, maybe?)

I can't figure out whether or not I countenance the existence of immaterial sets.
So I'm going to bed.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

immaterial → supernatural → divine

Why should the opposite of natural be supernatural? Aren't most of those who see the world as clay, molded by some divine potter, arguing that we are the handiwork of a divine artificer? The clash is between those who seek to understand the natural world, and those who claim that the only thing worth knowing about it is that is entirely (and divinely!) artificial.

I'm with Dennett on this regarding Darwin having upended the cosmic pyramid, that originally had God → Mind → Design → Order → Chaos → Nothing. That classical ordering, at least from Mind "down" is in the wrong order. Order arises from chaos, hence design and mind.

Well I just finished watching this, after coming back to it on and off throughout the day. I must say WLC's admonishment at the end was quite convenient. "Oh Chris hasn't answered all these huge questions with hyper-detailed answers and evidence within the context of a two-hour debate!" Nevermind that everyone is intended to have time to speak, and that Hitchens can't answer every single thing himself. These guys come at him from multiple perspectives which is fine, but they then expect Hitch to up and trounce them all immediately, without a cadre of his own to refute all the crap they're going on about. I saw WLC's last as a huge cheap shot, especially from someone who contributed very little of his own apologetics during the period.

As for Strobel, his argument that Hitch was making a case based on incredulity was also convenient, since he basically said the same thing in the opposite direction. Denison pontificated and evangelized the whole time. I was waiting for him to break out his Bible and ask everyone to join him hands raised for a prayer. Doug IMO was the only true direct challenger, and I think the moderator did a decent job of back-challenging the apologists.

On the whole I can't say these Christians dented my atheism in any way. This may not have been Hitchens' best, but at the same time his opponents were offering up some real pablum, especially the one where (I think) Wilson says that the god hypothesis must be accepted to have a debate otherwise all bets are off...talk about arrogant. And all the hope talk and atheists-can't-be-moral shuffling...gag me.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Eric wrote:

Craig has debated Ehrman, Crossan, Ludemann, Price, Stenger, Atkins, Wolpert, Pigliucci, Nielson, Flew, Smith, Zindler, Parsons, Tooley, etc. -- in other words, he's debated top scientists, top historians, top biblical scholars and top philosophers -- and has arguably won nearly every debate he's taken part in. Now, this doesn't mean his position is 'true'...

You could have stopped there. I don't think it can be denied that Craig's a thoughtful philosopher and a successful debater - but, as you say, this doesn't make him right.

People have been trying to support their religious beliefs with philosophy for thousands of years - without success*. The gods to which they've attempted to apply this reasoning have come and gone; the philosophy just gets applied to the next deity (or new interpretation of an existing deity) cooked up by disgruntled schismatics or opportunistic con-men. And it continues to fall short.

I see the philosophy of religion as a bit like fitness training in that it provides a person with great skills they can use for the real competition - however, it's certainly not anything anyone observing it should be especially impressed by.

*Well, apart from maybe helping the people who preach it/fall for it ease the pain of their cognitive dissonance and feel a little less silly about believing what they believe; then there's also the people who make a decent living out of peddling it, a la snake oil salesmen.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Marcus Ranum:

I was trying to say that Hitchens aligned himself with right wing religious crusader mentality back then. If he was a true atheist with some ethics he would have no business that kind partnership. I do not think that ends justify the means. In the end Hitchens may have gotten what he wanted which was trying to provide support for Kurds but his chosen method and support for Bush policy was not justified in any way. He cannot just get away with that. He bares responsility for the results of the Iraq war because he was on the front line back then. Since then he has stopped talking about the war because he has a different flag to wave nowadays. He is like Kissinger in that way , can form alliances with anyone really.

Ken @455,

Why should the opposite of natural be supernatural?

Sorry, that was not my intended message - I meant not opposite, but distinct from; other than.

It's relevant because, for example, some theists use it as axiomatic when postulating an entity called a 'soul' being the 'essence' of humans, this entity being incorporeal and distinct from the fleshy body, and persisting after the death of the body; from this they extrapolate wildly about the fate of this 'soul' after bodily death, and from that they determine what rules to live by* in before bodily death.

--
* and, typically, impose on others.

By John Morales (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

@ Cranes [[Perhaps. But if so then only at Notre Dame. I've never seen it used in any journal article. Ever.]]

So you haven't read Lewis, Jackson or Chalmers, among many others. Way to demonstrate your ignorance!

@ Erasmus [[So it's uncontroversial to say that the set of all giant Marsian killer-woodpeckers is something having real existence? If you're not trying to say this, please explain what it is you mean.}}

Um, I didn't say that such a set existed. Nor do I feel the need to explain what I mean to someone who has no idea what they're talking about and isn't in a position to understand the explanation even if it were given. If you want to learn something about sets, see the reading lists given above (by myself and Cranes, who nicely supplemented by recommendations---in particular, P. Maddy comes highly recommended).

I think its time we stopped this. There is no benefit to debating believers. Ultimately, anyone who decides to believe in God does so by ignoring logic. It is a deliberate action of choosing to believe that which is not true by ignoring reason.

There is no "winning" with the religious. When someone has to sidestep reason to make their argument, he or she is already beyond listening.

I understand the attraction to being right. Its fun. BUT how can we have true satisfaction knowing that regardless of how the debate goes, the believers will still believe. A believer would never admit defeat. To admit defeat would be to admit that the existance of a God is unlikely at best. That just does not happen.

By debating believers it gives credibility to them. Religion is not equal to reality.

You would not debate someone who asserted that Purple Unicorns that came to Earth 1 million years ago are responsible for rain.

Just because a lot more people believe in God than Purple Unicorns does not give them more credibility. All it means is a great deal many more people are wrong about something.

I think its time we stopped this. There is no benefit to debating believers.

I'd disagree that there's no benefit. It's not going to change anyone's mind, but at least it serves to give an understanding of what those who disagree with you think and why. Even William Lane Craig believes that the default position should be scepticism (though he also believes that faith should trump reason if they should ever conflict) so the question is whether there's suitable evidence to support the existence of God. Understanding why one feels that the evidence supports their beliefs is vital if you want to communicate with them. Honestly the more I talk with theists, the more resolved I become in my atheism. Given the gravity of the claim about reality, the best they can come up with is some philosophical wankery and appeals to gaps in human knowledge? The best case put forward is pitiful, and this gets back to what I said earlier about WLC. When his argument doesn't go match up with empirical inquiry, then it's the argument that should be discarded and not the empirical inquiry. Unfortunately WLC takes the position that faith trumps reason (he reasons this out ironically enough) and to a sceptical audience that will never fly. No wonder people here call him stupid - it's not that he's of low intelligence or education - it's that he argues from a presupposition that can never be invalidated so any flaw in the presupposition will permeate throughout any argument.

You can have open communication without a formal debate. You can ask any believer "why" and he or she would probably be happy to talk your ear off.

I don't see having belief as equaling a lack of understanding or intelligence. I see it as ignoring reason. People like Craig have the capacity to understand the arguments. They are intelligent enough to realize how flawed their own arguments are.

Also, the arguments typically used by believers in debates are not (as someone already mentioned this thread I believe) what turns people to religion (meaning the arguments are not essential to their beliefs). These arguments are created for the sole purpose of befuddling the opposition. That alone is reason enough to never debate as there can be no true debate with a believer.

I don't see having belief as equaling a lack of understanding or intelligence. I see it as ignoring reason. People like Craig have the capacity to understand the arguments. They are intelligent enough to realize how flawed their own arguments are.

"Smart people are very good at rationalizing things they came to believe for non-smart reasons." - Michael Shermer

People like Craig have the capacity to understand the arguments. They are intelligent enough to realize how flawed their own arguments are.

I usually am humble when trying to assess other people's arguments, especially when the people have more credentials than me. Do you think Craig would have published his stuff in peer-reviewed philosophical journals if his arguments were obviously fallacious? Do you think if he really was misrepresenting cosmology as people here claim, why does he get his stuff published in Astrophysics journal and get it reviewed by professionals?
That is not to say his arguments are flawless or that they cannot be refuted but I think it is the height of naivety to think there is one knock-down objection you can raise against the argument.

Do you think that publishing in a philosophy journal means that you have a strong grasp on astrophysics? And do you not think his arguments have been argued against by others? Wes Morriston has criticised it, Graham Oppy has criticised it, Richard Carrier Has criticised it, John W Loftus has criticised it. And even if the argument was right philosophically, if it doesn't match with the real world it's not valid. Like Dempski's disproof of evolution with his No Free Lunch theory - the maths is right and makes a good point, but it doesn't apply to biology as quite simply the formula doesn't fit over what is observed. Likewise with Craig's argument - it may be philosophically flawless (though many argue otherwise) but it doesn't fit over what is understood about nature. Nice answer, wrong question.

"I think its time we stopped this. There is no benefit to debating believers..."

I like others here would have to disagree with this. While I would certainly agree if we were talking about say, Ray Comfort and his stultifyingly insipid arguments against evolution and his facile peddling of religious dogma as testable fact, then yes I would say that debating in this case may not be the best course of action since the opponent is nearly clinically insane and is driven in the sort of way infomercial salesmen are.

I do however find these more structured philosophical and scientific debates between people of much greater repute far more interesting and worthwhile, whether they change my opinion or not. This particular forum didn't seem to reveal much that is new or novel in the argument about the existence of gods, but at the same time it is much more engaging than listening to parrots like Cameron or (to get political for a second) Coulter, primarily because the people in this case at least TRY to think about about things three dimensionally as opposed to taking the scorched flat earth view of pure ideological robots. Granted much dumb was spoken in those 2 hours by people with greater reputations than I certainly have, but they at least can provide a decent foil and some corroboration of points particularly with regard to bodies of literature on the subject.

By BlueIndependent (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

These arguments are created for the sole purpose of befuddling the opposition. That alone is reason enough to never debate as there can be no true debate with a believer.

Which is why religious arguments are commonly described as 'tapdancing'. None of them is compelling beyond the surface; it's just an exercise in misdirection. It allows the practitioner to appear to be doing a lot of work (and making a lot of noise) but in such a way they actually move from premise to conclusion.

Not to mention that fact that their god supposedly wants us to believe in him. If that's the case, why make the path to understanding him such a complicated and esoteric one?

And it's also a stark contrast to the old testament, where Yahweh had no problem at all with showing up from time to time to remind the Israelites that it was him they had to worship (not that saucy upstart golden calf) - they didn't need modal logic and other presuppositional choreography to believe in their god; why the heck are we forced to puzzle through it?

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Do you think that publishing in a philosophy journal means that you have a strong grasp on astrophysics? And do you not think his arguments have been argued against by others? Wes Morriston has criticised it, Graham Oppy has criticised it, Richard Carrier Has criticised it, John W Loftus has criticised it. And even if the argument was right philosophically, if it doesn't match with the real world it's not valid. Like Dempski's disproof of evolution with his No Free Lunch theory - the maths is right and makes a good point, but it doesn't apply to biology as quite simply the formula doesn't fit over what is observed. Likewise with Craig's argument - it may be philosophically flawless (though many argue otherwise) but it doesn't fit over what is understood about nature. Nice answer, wrong question.

You totally missed my point. I was just saying we should not dismiss arguments like this out of hand.I was not trying to say it was irrefutable or anything like that. I know several atheists have debated him on the topic and criticised it.

We're not dismissing the argument out of hand though. Mr "how can you say my position is circular when you can't account for logic", how about you stop dismissing arguments out of hand before you try and call others on it? I've given my reasons above why I think the argument is wrong - mainly that it misrepresents what the science actually shows about reality. How is that dismissing it out of hand? It doesn't fit in with where the science is at, and it uses anthropic reasoning. Something beyond space and time? It has to be a deity that has a vested interest in humanity... nope, doesn't follow.

I've come up with a good analogy for how I feel about this kind of philosophical argument for religion. So, I'll compare it to evolution, using the analogy of mining for 'truth' in the form of diamonds. We've been 'mining' for evolution for only 150 years, and yet we keep finding more and more diamonds. Sure, there's a lot of dirt that isn't diamond - but we've still got diamonds.

On the other hand we've got arguments for religion. That's been going on for much longer; the hole in the ground is far, far deeper and the pile of dirt substantially higher - and yet there are no diamonds.

The religious point to the huge hole and the gigantic pile of dirt and claim this means something. They pride themselves on how they are building finer sieves and better equipment and methods (i.e. arguments) to search through the dirt they've already excavated - and yet they still produce no diamonds.

What I mean is this: as clever and intricate and philosophically sound the arguments of Lane Craig and his ilk are, they're never going to be more than another way of disguising the fact they've got nothing more than faith to go on.

And anyone can have faith - in anything. What does that tell you?

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

I do however find these more structured philosophical and scientific debates between people of much greater repute far more interesting and worthwhile, whether they change my opinion or not.

Did we watch the same "debate"?

It was more like a trap. The moderator was even attacking the one person with an opposing view.

Random Quote
(Complete listing)

We still have no adequate theory to describe conditions before the Planck time; consequently, as most physicists will admit, we really have no idea what to say about those conditions (nor, indeed, whether to admit that we should give a realistic interpretation to our models of the universe at, and before, that time). But, in these circumstances, I see no good reason to accept the extrapolation beyond the Planck time which is required in order to arrive at an initial cosmological singularity. What there is good evidence for is the claim that the universe has expanded to its present size from a much smaller early universe; but this claim is quite compatible with the further claim that there was no initial cosmological singularity. (Note, by the way, that a bouncing, or oscillating universe, is not the only possible alternative. There are various other options—e.g. those involving world ensembles and wormholes—which might avoid an ex nihilo origination.)

Graham Oppy, "Reply to Professor Craig" (1995)

By nothing's sacred (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

@473
I have another analogy: it's like coming up with "proofs" that 1 = 2. One can come up with incredibly elaborate schemes to obscure a division by zero or some other invalid step, but you can be sure there will always be one.

By nothing's sacred (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Or this variation:

a) Exactly one of these statements is false.
b) There is no God.

If a is true, b must be false, but if a is false, b can't be true, so b is false either way and there is a God. Actually, I think this one is harder to refute than most of the stuff people like Craig and Plantinga come up with.

By nothing's sacred (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Do you think Craig would have published his stuff in peer-reviewed philosophical journals if his arguments were obviously fallacious?

Apparently so, since his arguments are obviously fallacious. Or at least they obviously contain fallacies ... see above. There are very good reasons to think that there are no logically valid proofs that a semantically incoherent or semantically undetermined entity exists.

By nothing's sacred (not verified) on 09 Apr 2009 #permalink

Even if it's philosophically correct, what bearing does that have on the real world? If String Theory can be shown to be mathematically complete, does that mean that the universe sits in 11 dimensions?

Doug Little, #432,

Heddle, Your Fine Tuning arguement is based on a premise that life is life as we know it. Is that correct?

For at least the tenth time, no. Unless you mean: "life needs the ability to store information" restricts me to "life as we know it."

And besides, I didn't make any fine tuning argument at all. I just pointed out that it doesn't rely on life "as we know it."

peer-reviewed philosophical journals

How exactly does the peer review process in philosophy work I wonder?
So if I post a tractate on the revision of logical positivism or somesuch,how exactly is my theory going to be verified/peer-reviewed?

Even if it's philosophically correct, what bearing does that have on the real world?

Where's Wilkins when you need him??

Heddle, #480

For at least the tenth time, no. Unless you mean: "life needs the ability to store information" restricts me to "life as we know it."
And besides, I didn't make any fine tuning argument at all. I just pointed out that it doesn't rely on life "as we know it."

OK, fair enough. For what it's worth, I agree with you that the fine-tuning argument is arguing the probability of any life developing being extremely small if the various constants that we have in physics could have been arbitrarily chosen. Of course, as has already been noted in this thread, by applying the anthropomorphic principle, we must expect that our universe is indeed 'finely-tuned', because otherwise we couldn't exist to ask the question.

Aside: Theoretical physicists in general don't like that explanation though, as it doesn't lead us anywhere. The history of physics has shown us how many of what we once thought of as 'constants' can in fact be derived from first principles, provided those first principles are correct. Theories that require less of these constants are generally considered 'better' than those that require more - thus a theory that was able to derive all of the constants we know of today, without introducing others, would be considered a very interesting theory to examine more closely.

Anyway, back to the subject, I was wondering if you were actually intending on going anywhere with this, or if you simply wanted to point out that Kel had made a weak argument way back at #66? Do you, for example, believe that the existing physical constants were indeed finely-tuned by a creator to enable the creation of life as we know it?

By jennyxyzzy (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Man, again with all the philosophy-hatred just because people can't immediately counter the arguments of the philosophical theists.

Philosophical peer-review goes like all other peer-review. If the arguments are logically conclusive and the premises stated clearly, it passes. Doesn't mean that the arguments cannot be countered. Doesn't mean that their conclusions are true.

Craig's arguments (or Swinburne's or Plantinga's) are not wholly sophistry (though there's still a lot of that). Often they are simply wrong. Plantinga's modal-ontological argument is at first sight valid, and for any argument, in all logic, that means that if you agree to the premises, you have no justification for denying the conclusion. If you want to deny the conclusion, you must show where exactly the argument is inconclusive or how the premises are incorrect. John Leslie Mackie (and others) did that to the modal-ontological argument a good while ago.

Seriously, as with science, it's no shame to say "I'm not an expert in epistemology, metaphysics [which btw is absolutely not synonymous with "postulating ghost-stuff"] and formal logic - so I cannot assess these arguments without further study".

And the theists on here who make the case for Craig et al: Sorry, but either you don't know that Craig, Swinburne, Plantinga in their arguments for faith have long been refuted by so many philosophers, that their arguments do not stand uncontested as conclusive - then you're an idiot, or you DO know something about academic philosophy, you DO know that people like Mackie (The Miracle of Theism), Sobel (Logic and Theism), Everitt (The Non-Existence of God), Martin (The Improbability of God; The Impossibility of God; Atheism - A philosophical justification; The Cambridge Companion to Atheism) and so many more have long since dealt fatal blows to the arguments you present - in which case you're deceptive liars trying to come out as the intellectual 'winners' of this thread by being complete sophists in steamrolling the people here with philosophically weak arguments knowing full well that they cannot easily be assessed - and misrepresenting philosophy in the process.

Personally, I think you have no clue that the arguments you list have been refuted long ago - or that Swinburne and Plantinga are valued in philosophical circles for their contributions to general epistemology and bayesian belief-formation theory - not for their theistic work, which has never influenced academic epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of mind or philosophy of science.
Go ahead - read the standard textbooks of these disciplines - you'll find theism nowhere - because philosophy has no use for concepts without any explanatory power.

jennyxyzzy,

I agree with you that the fine-tuning argument is arguing the probability of any life developing being extremely small if the various constants that we have in physics could have been arbitrarily chosen.

That's not agreeing with me. I claim the fine-tuning argument is arguing this: the probability of any kind of life is sensitive to the values of the physical constants.

There is nothing in that statement about low probability. They could be high or low probability and it wouldn't matter. The fine-tuning argument is the observation of sensitivity. The IDers then (wrongheadedly, in my opinion) attach low probability to the constants--when they have no reason to do so (and good reasons not to.)

I was wondering if you were actually intending on going anywhere with this, or if you simply wanted to point out that Kel had made a weak argument way back at #66? Do you, for example, believe that the existing physical constants were indeed finely-tuned by a creator to enable the creation of life as we know it?

I don't plan to go any farther and yes I believe that in some form--that is I certainly believe God intentionally created a universe that was habitable. That is sort of minimal theism is it not?

Man, again with all the philosophy-hatred just because people can't immediately counter the arguments of the philosophical theists.

It needs no refuting. They propose an extraordinary belief system, which includes the notion that the God of the Bible exists and Jesus rose from the dead. They can't do anything to justify this other than play apparently fatuous word games. The only argument they gave that might have made me stop and think is the ontological argument. But atheists have encountered it a million times already, so there's nothing new here.

My preferred method of refuting the ontological argument is to grant that it works in proving the existence of the "maximally perfect being". Now what makes them think that such a being is the same as the creator of the Universe? They would say, rather vaguely, that a being created by another is "imperfect". I could grant them that and suppose that their maximally perfect being sits outside the "chain of causation", if you like, and neither creates nor was created.

wow! facilis, heddle, rooke and other sundry fucktards means this particular comment thread becomes a big steaming pile of tl;dr

save the effort next time folks! just cut and paste their arguments in for them. they never change 'em.

*facepalm*

By Dr Horrible (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

My preferred method of refuting the ontological argument is to grant that it works in proving the existence of the "maximally perfect being".

Just to clarify, I'm talking about granting them this for the sake of argument. I don't think they really succeed in proving the existence of anything.

Erasmus wrote:

They would say, rather vaguely, that a being created by another is "imperfect".

Perhaps Silver Fox will show up and bore us with his assertion that his god is 'a union of perfect unity and oneness with himself' or whatever line of apologist drivel he spouts.

By Wowbagger, OM (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Sven @426, naw, wasnt me, scouts honor. I did briefly skim that thread early on, I remember someone saying the Jim Tanger poster might be a 'bot' due to the vague, indirect content of the posts.

Every time I read about one of these "debates", I am reminded of the Python bit, Argument Shoppe. These are not debates, they are just one atheist vs. from 1 to N godbots. They almost always take place in hostile territory with moderators who serve as opponent N+1. In my mind, I get this image of a tennis player facing 4 or 5 machines shooting balls all over the court while the player tries to return them with little success.

What's the point? Absolutely no minds will be changed, at least in that venue. PZ has been blind sided in these set-ups, as have other well known atheists. These are all smart people but they need to pick their battles with more care.

I remember someone saying the Jim Tanger poster might be a 'bot' due to the vague, indirect content of the posts.

I suspected that Tanger was a Poe right from the start. It was pretty obvious.

And I suppose it would be possible to write an auto-Poe-bot. Just program it to post some of the following catchphrases, in random order, on threads containing relevant keywords:

"Evolution is an unproven THEORY its not a FACT, it needs as much FAITH as religion does"
"Stalin and Mao were DARWINIST ATHEISTS and they KILLED lots of people because of their DARWINIST beliefs"
"DARWIN was a RACIST SLAVE OWNER and his beliefs inspired the NAZIS"
"I don't see how complex life could have arisen from soup, therefore GOD DID IT"
"Where are the TRANSITIONAL FOSSILS??!!!

Repeat ad nauseam.

I think Dan Barker would have been a better person to debate that crowd. He knows how to speak "xtian" I don't think Hitchens entirely understands where these people are coming from or what it's like to grow up steeped in fundamentalism.

The only reason to keep debating, besides making money for the debaters, is to keep the pressure on for separation of church and state. IMHO

By tigerlily55 (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Great Scott, A Philosopher!

I will assume you are competent to think of questions scientists can probably answer. Here's one they will never be able to answer:
Is a theory's simplicity a mark of (indicitative of, does it raise the probability of) its truth?

Well, at least for the restrictive case where
1) the data to be explained is recursive, and
2) there are infinitely many hypotheses to choose from; and
3) the particular representation chosen (rules in conjunctive normal form, vs. rules in first order predicate logic, vs. decision trees, vs. neural networks, etc.) has the power to describe the phenomena under investigation
4) "the probability" is Bayesian probability, and
5) therefore, I suppose, a sane definition of "truth"
...the science of information theory can indeed answer with a Yes.

Information Theory, Inference & Learning Algorithms, David J. C. MacKay (chapter 28. 28 Model Comparison and Occam's Razor)
http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/mackay/itila/book.html
An introduction to Kolmogorov complexity and its applications, Min Li & Paul Vitànyi

...the science of information theory can indeed answer with a Yes.

Not only information theory, probability theory as well. There's a vast body of scientific literature explaining why simple = good. I think it's safe to say that this does a far better job than the piddling, idle thoughts of effete armchair thinkers.

People like facilis and Pete Rooke get all huffy when people around here don't have as high an opinion of WLC as they do, but that's too bad.

For the record, I never said Craig wasn't smart, and I did say he was an excellent debater. I also never said I could "beat" Craig in a "written debate." What I said was, if you gave me a written summary of Craig's claims, I could most likely tell you what was wrong with them and why they don't make sense. I also have no doubt that a dozen people who regularly post here could do a better job of that than I. This would be in contrast to an in-person debate where different rules apply and Craig is an experienced master.

An excellent example would be the atheistic critique of one of Craig's books at infidels.org that was linked in post #22. The author of that critique has studied philosophy, but the actual meat of the criticisms against Craig aren't child's play, but they aren't enormously complicated either.

Again, being the World's Smartest Christian(TM) doesn't make you right, and it doesn't mean that any argument you make requires the World's Smartest Adversary to show you where your conclusions don't follow.

By Kingasaurus (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

Kingasaurus:

Props to you @495. As PZ discovered, being smart is not the same as being a skilled debater. This bit of hubris has, at times, made atheists look like tools. Debate is a distinct skill set that not all people have.

As D. Harry put it "A man's gotta know his limitations."

Heddle, #484

That's not agreeing with me. I claim the fine-tuning argument is arguing this: the probability of any kind of life is sensitive to the values of the physical constants.
There is nothing in that statement about low probability. They could be high or low probability and it wouldn't matter. The fine-tuning argument is the observation of sensitivity. The IDers then (wrongheadedly, in my opinion) attach low probability to the constants--when they have no reason to do so (and good reasons not to.)

Ok, yes, in that case I do disagree with you. The fine-tuning argument specifies that the probability of any kind of life is highly sensitive to changes in the fundamental physical consequences, and hence that it is highly unlikely - from Wikipedia:

The fine-tuned Universe is the idea that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can only occur when certain universal physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different the universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is presently understood. [1]

Note the use of the word 'unlikely'. Also, note the use of the word 'fine' in fine-tuning. By specifying that the tuning is fine, and not rough, we are implicitly indicating that the probability of such tuning is low. You appear to be using a very non-standard definition of the fine-tuning argument. You shouldn't be surprised when people misunderstand you as a result.

By jennyxyzzy (not verified) on 10 Apr 2009 #permalink

So you haven't read Lewis, Jackson or Chalmers, among many others. Way to demonstrate your ignorance!

I only wish I was ignorant of Chalmers. It would appear that Lewis used ectoplasm as vigorously as Chalmers deploys philosophical zombies, and I've got two shells in my shotgun just in case I hear any zombie talk. You're not going to talk zombie, are you? If what you're selling is dualism to support a load of theism, then you may as well employ the trade talk of 19th century spiritualist grifters and parasites while you're at it--it's almost honest. Scott, you and your vaunted little philostopher buddies should just go watch Plato's Cave cartoons in your Cartesian theater, where your fat bloated homunculus with its quantum consciousness made of unexplainium and Mysterian microtubules, crams its face with jujubes, dribbling ectoplasm onto the cinemuck.

477 -

Or this variation:
a) Exactly one of these statements is false.
b) There is no God.
If a is true, b must be false, but if a is false, b can't be true, so b is false either way and there is a God. Actually, I think this one is harder to refute than most of the stuff people like Craig and Plantinga come up with.

I think this starts out by stating that the premise in (a) is false, in that it excludes the possibility of both being false. I can't recall the term for this error, but we casually refer to it as "stacking the deck." In this argument, you assume basically have to assume that there is a god, and work your argument backwards from there - in order for you to make the claim that only one statement is false, you have to know for certain that there is a god. Otherwise, the argument fails. " Assuming the conclusions", maybe?

How's that?

karatal@459"

Marcus Ranum:
I was trying to say that Hitchens aligned himself with right wing religious crusader mentality back then. If he was a true atheist with some ethics he would have no business that kind partnership.

Don't fall into the No True Scotsman, there. A true atheist is one who lacks belief in a god. Has nothing to do with any other belief or thought process. I think you meant that if Hitchens were a better Humanist, perhaps (note - "better", not "true"), but we really have no idea if Hitchens is a Humanist, either.

Personally, I am no fan of Hitchens, and while reading the first half or so of "god is not great" I could hear his smarmy, "holier-than-thou" voice in my head, and I found some of his reasoning at odds with my own. I don't know what his real reasons for supporting illegal wars, but I don't think his reasons for lacking belief in deities had anything to do with it (except peripherally - my lack of belief doesn't mean I hate religions or believers, but it does influence, somewhat, how I do feel).

Hope I made sense.