Consistent With The Hypothesis Of

Posted in Philosophy, Quickies on  | 2 minutes | 19 Comments →

Though occasional use is inevitable, I generally try to avoid the words proof and disproof, especially in discussions of epistemology and empiricism. I don’t know how many of you have met him yet, but Peter Hurford is a new commenter around here with a blog of his own, and from what I’ve seen so far, I would highly recommend dialoging with him on behalf of his aptitude and courtesy. He also asks good questions, the kind that get you thinking, as opposed to, say, the kind that piss you off. Recently on another blog, Peter made a remark that I felt compelled to reply to, and I wanted to repost a slight modification of that short reply here, just to see what people here might think of it.

Peter had remarked,

Interestingly enough, I’ve heard many times that all the beauty in the world is proof for God. But what of the ugliness in the world? Is this disproof of God?

Personally, when I run that sort of thing in my head, I substitute “proof” and “disproof” for “consistent / inconsistent with the hypothesis of” and then fill in the blanks with the hypothesis as needed. Is the beauty in the world consistent with the hypothesis of a majestic and splendorous God? Seems reasonable to me. Is the ugliness in the world inconsistent with the hypothesis of a majestic and splendorous God? I’d say if any only if the majestic and splendorous God was being posited as the only entity capable of initiating causal sequences ultimately experienced by sentient beings. I’d also say that the ugliness in the world is consistent with the hypotheses of 1) evil, but not omnipotent gods; 2) God’s righteous judgment of evil; and 3) the existence of free-willed, sentient beings who can commit both good and evil.

Interestingly enough, that is exactly the ontology I find myself in. Can anyone else really deny that they find themselves in such an ontology?


19 comments

  1. Crude

     says...

    I think this sort of thing pops up in design/biology discussions as well, though usually in the other direction. “Bad biology” is treated as evidence against design – but the problem is that “good biology” therefore would be evidence for design. (Not to mention that designers are entirely capable of bad design – we can know this first hand. And oddly enough, the non-stoic Zeus was a multiple-times failed designer.)

    I’d also add in possibility 4) That which is evil can be made good by God.

  2. Thanks for the high compliments, cl. I agree completely with your reduction of “proof” and “disproof”, and I also feel a need to avoid using those terms, because they have connotations of mathematical rigor that just don’t apply.

    As I said on that other site:

    I agree, but I think it depends on what the “hypothesis of God” is that we are being consistent / inconsistent with.

    For instance, if we take the generalized Bayesian definition of evidence as “X is evidence for hypothesis H if and only if X is more likely on H than on ~H” and “X is evidence against hypothesis H if and only if X is less likely on H than on ~H”.

    I think if beauty counts as evidence for God, then ugliness has to count as evidence against God. It seems that the God hypothesis holds that God would prefer beauty over ugliness, and therefore ugliness is less likely given the existence of a God. Even if ugliness came as a result of something other than God, God would likely want to get rid of it if he can. You’ll find this is the very basis for the evidentiary problem of evil and arguments that a perfect God would not allow an imperfect world.

    Additionally, do you hold that beauty can come *only* from God? “[T]he existence of free-willed, sentient beings who can commit either good or evil” seems to allow the creation of both beauty and ugliness. If beauty and ugliness both can come from somewhere other than God, how do we know what beauty/ugliness to attribute to God?

  3. @Crude:

    I agree with you that “Bad biology” should be evidence against design and that “good biology” therefore would be evidence for design. I think this is an inescapable conclusion of how predictions made by theories work.

    However, when you get all the explanatory virtues into play, I’m confident that evolution better explains the combination of good and bad biology we see than creationist hypotheses.

  4. Crude

     says...

    Peter,

    But evolutionary and design hypotheses aren’t exclusive anyway. In fact we have loads of identifiable designers who make use of evolutionary processes to create, in a variety of ways.

    I’ve never been a YEC or even an OEC. That just never came up in Catholic schooling – I had trouble accepting it was even an issue for a long time. (Which led to me acting like a jerk to YECs, without warrant.)

    That said, I’ve run into a number of people who only play that game in one direction – if it’s bad design, it’s evidence for non-design (because a designer wouldn’t create a bad design.) If it’s good design, it’s evidence for non-design (because evolutionary is cast as a non-design process and optimizes, so it can be expected to make good design.)

  5. @Crude:

    But evolutionary and design hypotheses aren’t exclusive anyway. In fact we have loads of identifiable designers who make use of evolutionary processes to create, in a variety of ways.

    Right.

    I’ve never been a YEC or even an OEC. That just never came up in Catholic schooling – I had trouble accepting it was even an issue for a long time. (Which led to me acting like a jerk to YECs, without warrant.)

    I’m glad to hear that, because I feel a lot of evidence denial has to take place to be an OEC, and especially to be a YEC. But that’s a conversation I haven’t fully had.

    That said, I’ve run into a number of people who only play that game in one direction – if it’s bad design, it’s evidence for non-design (because a designer wouldn’t create a bad design.) If it’s good design, it’s evidence for non-design (because evolutionary is cast as a non-design process and optimizes, so it can be expected to make good design.)

    I agree with you, and anyone who says such a thing is committing a fallacy and ought to be called on it.

    Though, I think you can break that argument into two and use it: if it’s bad design, it’s evidence for non-design (because a designer wouldn’t create bad design), and if you point to the good design and say this is inconsistent with naturalism and/or *must* be because of a designer, realize that evolution can account for good design.

    From my understanding, the God Hypothesis would predict only good design, whereas the naturalist hypothesis would predict both good design and bad design co-existing in manners consistent with natural selection.

  6. cl

     says...

    Peter,

    From my understanding, the God Hypothesis would predict only good design, whereas the naturalist hypothesis would predict both good design and bad design co-existing in manners consistent with natural selection.

    Then said “God Hypothesis” is not consistent with the God of the Bible, which proffers a good design that became bad as a result of human disobedience. Therefore, good and bad design co-existing is precisely what we’d also expect if Genesis were true.

  7. Crude

     says...

    I’m glad to hear that, because I feel a lot of evidence denial has to take place to be an OEC, and especially to be a YEC. But that’s a conversation I haven’t fully had.

    I’d actually question that. Particularly in the OEC case, since as near as I can tell an OEC can accept quite a lot of evolution regardless. In fact, while I’ve never been either an OEC or a YEC, I’m in the uncomfortable situation of thinking OEC and YEC cases have only gotten stronger – oddly enough, due to the advances of science and technology.

    But, that’s another question.

    From my understanding, the God Hypothesis would predict only good design, whereas the naturalist hypothesis would predict both good design and bad design co-existing in manners consistent with natural selection.

    As cl said, that doesn’t seem accurate. Nature is fallen on a Christian (and perhaps a generally western theistic) view of the world.

    Second, while I’m a Catholic, I realize that there are more concepts of God out there than the God of the Bible. That leads off into an esoteric direction, but I think the arguments for deism or more generic theisms are tremendously powerful when stacked up against an atheistic alternative. There’s a reason why atheists from Jerry Coyne to Richard Dawkins to Lawrence Krauss go out of their way to avoid arguing against deism. (Well, reasons.)

    That’s one reason I have a certain respect for Intelligent Design. What impressed me about that particular concept was the willingness of their main proponents to bite the bullet and explicitly argue that the designer may be all manner of things (Dembski specifically mentions the possibilities being everything from mere intrinsic teleology in nature, to aliens, to a platonic demiurge, to a computer simulation, to otherwise) and be responsible for all manner of things (I believe Behe said that if malaria were shown to be irreducibly complex, then malaria should be inferred to be designed, period – and that ‘but it’s harmful’ is no excuse not to infer design.)

  8. Crude

     says...

    I want to throw in another point here..

    You say ‘the naturalist hypothesis’. But I don’t think there is such a thing, at least not in the same way there is a God hypothesis. Is an eternal universe consistent with a naturalist hypothesis? A multiverse? A universe where the universe is simulated by a powerful being? A universe finite in time?

    I could go on, but I do not believe ‘the naturalist hypothesis’ is as rigid as is often claimed – in fact, I’m not sure there is such a thing in the way there is a God “hypothesis”. I think what instead happens – and you could accuse theism of this to a different degree – is that this or that information is treated as ‘consistent with the (X) hypothesis’. But it could also be consistent with Y, Z, etc – and it’s often done after the fact.

  9. cl

     says...

    Crude,

    …I realize that there are more concepts of God out there than the God of the Bible. That leads off into an esoteric direction, but I think the arguments for deism or more generic theisms are tremendously powerful when stacked up against an atheistic alternative.

    As do I, and I wholeheartedly agree with you there.

    Dembski specifically mentions the possibilities being everything from mere intrinsic teleology in nature, to aliens, to a platonic demiurge, to a computer simulation, to otherwise.

    Yeah, the “anti-ID” movement has always struck me as deeply ironic. How quickly they forget! It’s funny how ID is almost always demonized as “creationism in disguise,” or cast under the general rubric of “religious dogma.” Such across-the-board generalizations only serve to expose the lack of nuanced thinking, IMHO. I mean, what religion is Marvin Minsky pushing? The claim that ID is inherently religious is absurd. Whenever I hear people react viciously against ID, I immediately suspect people with an axe to grind against religion.

    I think what instead happens – and you could accuse theism of this to a different degree – is that this or that information is treated as ‘consistent with the (X) hypothesis’. But it could also be consistent with Y, Z, etc – and it’s often done after the fact.

    Well, the same thing happens in science and law, too. Bits of evidence are offered, conclusions are drawn. That this happens “after the fact” isn’t any weakness on my view [not saying it was on yours, either]. Anyways, there are multiple ways of interpreting almost any bits of evidence.

    “There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” -Sherlock Holmes

  10. @cl/crude:

    Peter: I feel a lot of evidence denial has to take place to be an OEC, and especially to be a YEC. But that’s a conversation I haven’t fully had.

    Crude: I’d actually question that. Particularly in the OEC case, since as near as I can tell an OEC can accept quite a lot of evolution regardless. In fact, while I’ve never been either an OEC or a YEC, I’m in the uncomfortable situation of thinking OEC and YEC cases have only gotten stronger – oddly enough, due to the advances of science and technology.
    But, that’s another question.

    Would you mind elaborating?

    Peter: From my understanding, the God Hypothesis would predict only good design, whereas the naturalist hypothesis would predict both good design and bad design co-existing in manners consistent with natural selection.

    cl: Then said “God Hypothesis” is not consistent with the God of the Bible, which proffers a good design that became bad as a result of human disobedience. Therefore, good and bad design co-existing is precisely what we’d also expect if Genesis were true.

    Crude: As cl said, that doesn’t seem accurate. Nature is fallen on a Christian (and perhaps a generally western theistic) view of the world.

    I can see how that initially makes sense, but I still fail to understand why we would expect the world to stay fallen, why this fallen state must apply to everyone regardless of the amount they sin, and why this fallen state manifests itself in design flaws that seem consistent with natural selection.

    For instance, consider vestigial organs found in non-human animals. Would the God Hypothesis honestly predict this?

    Second, while I’m a Catholic, I realize that there are more concepts of God out there than the God of the Bible.

    Of course. I think polytheistic conceptions of a good God doing battle with an evil God (such as Zoroastrianism) predict the current mix of good and evil very well. What all the non-trickster God hypotheses seem not to predict, however, is that all the design flaws would be specifically consistent with a natural selection.

    I think the arguments for deism or more generic theisms are tremendously powerful when stacked up against an atheistic alternative.

    I agree that it does better, but I don’t agree it does well enough. For instance, I’m unconvinced that the cosmological argument makes its case, for reasons I will write but haven’t written yet.

    There’s a reason why atheists from Jerry Coyne to Richard Dawkins to Lawrence Krauss go out of their way to avoid arguing against deism. (Well, reasons.)

    Well first, I think they do argue against deism whenever they argue for the failure of natural theology and/or metaphysically naturalist accounts of the universe.

    Second, I think the biggest reason they don’t argue against deism is that it is not popularly held.

    You say ‘the naturalist hypothesis’. But I don’t think there is such a thing, at least not in the same way there is a God hypothesis. Is an eternal universe consistent with a naturalist hypothesis? A multiverse? A universe where the universe is simulated by a powerful being? A universe finite in time?

    On the contrary, I think there is tons more consistency among naturalists than there is among all Christians, with many different denominations and individual ideas. (Not to mention all the different religions that each have their own God hypothesis.)

    When I speak of the naturalist hypothesis, I think I would be speaking specifically of the one advocated by Richard Carrier that nothing is “ontologically/fundamentally/irreducibly mind”… instead, everything is reducible to arrangements of matter and energy.

    So asking “is X consistent with naturalism” is asking “does X require something to be irreducibly mind”? Basically, what is consistent with naturalism is anything that is consistent with the idea that there is no God.

    You’re correct to maybe object that naturalism is very broad — too many things could be consistent with it. That’s why naturalists themselves have to get more specific with the theories of cosmology, etc. that they hold. But I think it’s enough for the purposes of this conversation to just talk about what is consistent with there being nothing supernatural.

    Maybe it would be more productive to talk more about what the two theories would specifically predict differently about the world?

    I think what instead happens – and you could accuse theism of this to a different degree – is that this or that information is treated as ‘consistent with the (X) hypothesis’. But it could also be consistent with Y, Z, etc – and it’s often done after the fact.

    I agree here, though I’m unsure how to incorporate this. Certain evidence may indeed be consistent with multiple hypotheses, and we could end up with the fallacy of affirming the consequent in any case. I think we’re stuck with an argument to the best explanation based on explanatory virtues, maybe.

  11. Crude

     says...

    Would you mind elaborating?

    I’ll elaborate, but which part do you want me to elaborate on? OECs and evolution? YECs/OECs and the fact that arguments have gotten stronger in my view? (It’s not going to be what you think, but like I said, I’ll gladly talk about it.)

    I can see how that initially makes sense, but I still fail to understand why we would expect the world to stay fallen, why this fallen state must apply to everyone regardless of the amount they sin, and why this fallen state manifests itself in design flaws that seem consistent with natural selection.
    For instance, consider vestigial organs found in non-human animals. Would the God Hypothesis honestly predict this?

    First, who expects the world to stay fallen?

    The traditional Christian response is that everyone is fallen – sin is universal.

    “Natural selection” is consistent with just about anything. I’m a TE in essence, so I have no major argument with evolution per se, but on natural selection you have superficial ‘consistency’ with every scenario, from utterly perfectly adapted organisms to terribly adapted ones.

    Would the God hypothesis consider vestigial organs? I’m shaky on ‘predict’. But ‘is it consistent with’? Absolutely. Why would it not be?

    Of course. I think polytheistic conceptions of a good God doing battle with an evil God (such as Zoroastrianism) predict the current mix of good and evil very well. What all the non-trickster God hypotheses seem not to predict, however, is that all the design flaws would be specifically consistent with a natural selection.

    At a glance, Zoroastrianism gets counted as monotheistic rather than polytheistic (say, greek gods). But again, I think ‘specifically consistent with natural selection’ is a ridiculously low bar. And, again, evolution is entirely consistent with design anyway. We ourselves use it.

    I agree that it does better, but I don’t agree it does well enough. For instance, I’m unconvinced that the cosmological argument makes its case, for reasons I will write but haven’t written yet.

    Sure, but when I talk about deism or more general theisms, I’m expanding my list a lot further than cosmological arguments.

    Well first, I think they do argue against deism whenever they argue for the failure of natural theology and/or metaphysically naturalist accounts of the universe.

    Second, I think the biggest reason they don’t argue against deism is that it is not popularly held.

    See, the second is actually false, but it depends on what you mean by “deism”. Everything from Aquinas’ Five Ways to various cosmological arguments to design arguments don’t, in and of themselves, establish the Christian God – they establish, at best, a general theism or deism. And some of them don’t even establish as in ‘logically prove’ – some just lead to an inference of varying strength.

    But re: Deism, if I recall right Jerry Coyne flat out concedes that deism is compatible with science (a claim that’s suicidal for his position if he sticks to it, but few pick up on it). Dawkins, if I recall, regards Deism as reasonable but he’s never consistent so it hardly matters. Krauss flat out said he refuses to argue against Deism and recognizes it as a reasonable possibility. When it was reported that Dawkins supposedly conceded the reasonableness of Deism at a debate, I remember one internet atheist (whose name I won’t mention, lest he be summoned here and ruin a nice conversation) who suddenly blurted out that he thought Deism was entirely reasonable too and was glad there was movement in that direction.

    Anecdotally, I’ve had atheists challenge me to arguments, but when I mention I want to argue for the reasonableness of a mere theism or deism, multiple have reacted strongly and flat out refused. I think this is more complicated than arguing against what is or is not ‘popularly held’ in name.

    I could be convinced – and I suspect – that it’s not targeted as much because many atheists in name are deists in fact, or have strongly deist leanings.

    When I speak of the naturalist hypothesis, I think I would be speaking specifically of the one advocated by Richard Carrier that nothing is “ontologically/fundamentally/irreducibly mind”… instead, everything is reducible to arrangements of matter and energy.

    1) That flows from Carrier’s definition of ‘naturalism’, which is not only idiosyncratic – but he admits it. The point of him coming up with that definition was based on him conceding that ‘naturalism’ was largely undefined.

    2) It at once turns mormons, numerous (and likely most) polytheists, and plenty of other theists into naturalists upon the spot. I would love to see Carrier admit flat out on his blog that a person could believe in and worship Zeus and be a naturalist.

    3) It would also have the effect of making a shocking number of atheists into non-naturalists. Bertrand Russell would be caught up. Chalmers would be caught up. Arguably Quine would be caught up. The list goes on.

    4) “Everything is reducible to arrangements of matter and energy” isn’t sufficient for Carrier’s own view. His stance also entails taking a position about what matter and energy are fundamentally – rule out panpsychism, etc. So it’s not the mere arrangement and reduction, but what constitutes those things.

    Basically, what is consistent with naturalism is anything that is consistent with the idea that there is no God.

    Alright – and what is consistent with non-naturalism, I suppose, is anything that is consistent with the idea that there is at least one god or God.

    Defined that way, a tremendous number of things are consistent with naturalism – and non-naturalism. And the one defining point is not only metaphysical, but a metaphysical claim which arguably is impossible to settle scientifically.

    That’s a hell of a state to be in. I think there’s a reason Carrier’s definition is more or less unique to him – the consequences of it make it hilarious.

    I agree here, though I’m unsure how to incorporate this. Certain evidence may indeed be consistent with multiple hypotheses, and we could end up with the fallacy of affirming the consequent in any case. I think we’re stuck with an argument to the best explanation based on explanatory virtues, maybe.

    Except those explanatory virtues usually entail a whole other fight.

  12. Crude

     says...

    Cl,

    Yeah, the “anti-ID” movement has always struck me as deeply ironic. How quickly they forget! It’s funny how ID is almost always demonized as “creationism in disguise,” or cast under the general rubric of “religious dogma.” Such across-the-board generalizations only serve to expose the lack of nuanced thinking, IMHO. I mean, what religion is Marvin Minsky pushing? The claim that ID is inherently religious is absurd. Whenever I hear people react viciously against ID, I immediately suspect people with an axe to grind against religion.

    Well, I’ve seen people say that ID is ‘stealth YEC’ or ‘stealth creationism’ on the one hand, despite Behe (who gets more hell than Dembski) flat out admitting to common descent or the possibility of a front-loaded evolution. Then from the TE wing of anti-ID proponents, you get claims that ID is heretical because it suggests design could be deistic or polytheistic and that ID speculates in such a way that allows other ‘designers’ to rival the Christian God. It’s a real amazing catch-22.

    But either way, I’ve always admired ID for flat out admitting to the limitations of the evidence. Oddly enough, I think copping to the limitations is one reason they catch such hell – because if you don’t saddle ID with YEC claims, with anti-evolution commitments, etc, you’re left with some arguments that can do work. They don’t prove, they infer, but that inference is dangerous given the climate.

    Well, the same thing happens in science and law, too. Bits of evidence are offered, conclusions are drawn. That this happens “after the fact” isn’t any weakness on my view [not saying it was on yours, either]. Anyways, there are multiple ways of interpreting almost any bits of evidence.

    Well, one problem is that the ‘multiple ways of interpreting’ part goes out the window many times. Hence we have Dawkins and company saying ‘The universe looks exactly the way we would expect if there were no God/gods and if naturalism were true’ and so on. They do not stipulate, “But, this is just one interpretation, others are viable, etc.” To do that would be to eliminate the New Atheist movement on the spot.

    The second problem is when an after the fact interpretation is touted as a prediction, or “predicted by” is treated as interchangeable with “consistent with”, or when the original “prediction” is silently changed. Does naturalism ‘predict’ an eternal universe or a universe with a beginning? A large universe or a small universe? Classical mechanics or quantum? I think an accurate if joking response is, “Depends on what the date is.”

  13. @crude / cl:

    I’ll elaborate, but which part do you want me to elaborate on? OECs and evolution? YECs/OECs and the fact that arguments have gotten stronger in my view? (It’s not going to be what you think, but like I said, I’ll gladly talk about it.)

    While it’s not very relevant, I’m interested in why you think the arguments have gotten stronger.

    First, who expects the world to stay fallen?

    What I meant was that it has never been explained to me why God allows the world to stay fallen, despite promises that a “New” Earth is coming, eventually.

    The traditional Christian response is that everyone is fallen – sin is universal.

    I’m not sure what is actually meant by this statement, though. Does everyone sin equal amounts? Have babies sinned? Have non-human animals sinned? Have bacteria sinned? Why does even the tiniest sin automatically deserve death?

    Sorry if these questions are annoying, but I’m genuinely curious — I have not been around upper-level theology as much, and people’s answers to these questions tend to be different anyway.

    “Natural selection” is consistent with just about anything.

    Well, we know it’s not consistent with irreducible complexity, for instance. I also don’t think we would ever find a terribly adapted species that has lived in the same environment for thousands of years.

    There are many things that could have proved natural selection or evolution false, such as failure to discover a DNA tree, failure to discover transitional fossils, etc. Since you accept evolution, I need not elaborate here.

    Would the God hypothesis consider vestigial organs? I’m shaky on ‘predict’. But ‘is it consistent with’? Absolutely. Why would it not be?

    I don’t see why exactly a perfect God would want to introduce imperfect vestigal organs. I think, at least, vestigal organs are more likely on the hypothesis of no design than on the hypothesis of design. Do you agree?

    Sure, but when I talk about deism or more general theisms, I’m expanding my list a lot further than cosmological arguments.

    What arguments do you have in mind?

    See, the second is actually false, but it depends on what you mean by “deism”.

    I agree we’re having a problem with definitions here. I think any atheist that has spent time rebutting natural theology (cosmological argument, teleological argument, transcendental argument, etc.) has spent time arguing against deism.

    Dawkins, if I recall, regards Deism as reasonable but he’s never consistent so it hardly matters. Krauss flat out said he refuses to argue against Deism and recognizes it as a reasonable possibility.

    Maybe. I don’t personally agree with them. I don’t think Deism is true… whether or not it is reasonable depends on what “reasonable” means.

    When it was reported that Dawkins supposedly conceded the reasonableness of Deism at a debate

    I think the rumors of that are slightly exaggerated, depending on what you’re referencing. I know that in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24vWUeMnXBg Dawkins gives a speech about how people have attributed to him the reasonableness of deism, but were mistaken / mischaracterizing him.

    Anecdotally, I’ve had atheists challenge me to arguments, but when I mention I want to argue for the reasonableness of a mere theism or deism, multiple have reacted strongly and flat out refused. I think this is more complicated than arguing against what is or is not ‘popularly held’ in name.

    Given that, I agree with you. I, on the other hand, am perfectly fine debating a mere theism or deism.

    I could be convinced – and I suspect – that it’s not targeted as much because many atheists in name are deists in fact, or have strongly deist leanings.

    I think that’s mischaracterizing the positions of most of the atheists I know of, especially those who have spent great pains to elaborate a cosmology that doesn’t require a deity.

    1) That flows from Carrier’s definition of ‘naturalism’, which is not only idiosyncratic – but he admits it. The point of him coming up with that definition was based on him conceding that ‘naturalism’ was largely undefined.

    I agree with you; naturalism has, in the past, been largely undefined. But that doesn’t mean it is undefined now.

    2) It at once turns mormons, numerous (and likely most) polytheists, and plenty of other theists into naturalists upon the spot.

    I don’t see how. The God of Mormonism isn’t reducible to matter and energy, is he? Zeus, regardless of personal ontology, is still capable of causing events to occur without an underlying physical mechanism, making him still in possession of supernatural powers.

    3) It would also have the effect of making a shocking number of atheists into non-naturalists. Bertrand Russell would be caught up. Chalmers would be caught up. Arguably Quine would be caught up. The list goes on.

    Depending on their positions, that could be possible – definitely for Chalmers, though I doubt it for Quine. Any Platonist is a non-naturalist by this definition, for example. I don’t think this is relevant to our discussion, though.

    “Everything is reducible to arrangements of matter and energy” isn’t sufficient for Carrier’s own view. His stance also entails taking a position about what matter and energy are fundamentally – rule out panpsychism, etc. So it’s not the mere arrangement and reduction, but what constitutes those things.

    I think panpsychism would be something not reducible to matter-energy, though.

    Alright – and what is consistent with non-naturalism, I suppose, is anything that is consistent with the idea that there is at least one god or God.

    I’d agree with that. I wonder if there is anything not consistent with the idea that there is at least one god, though.

    Defined that way, a tremendous number of things are consistent with naturalism – and non-naturalism. And the one defining point is not only metaphysical, but a metaphysical claim which arguably is impossible to settle scientifically.

    We would have to stake out more specific predictions, then. Do you know of anything consistent with non-naturalism that isn’t also consistent with naturalism?

    Except those explanatory virtues usually entail a whole other fight.

    We may have to have that fight, then, and I’d be interested in having it. Arguing over what is merely “consistent” isn’t enough.

    They do not stipulate, “But, this is just one interpretation, others are viable, etc.”

    That’s because they don’t stipulate that things like vestigal organs are consistent with a perfect God, don’t stipulate the failure of evil, etc. Now, they may be wrong about that, but I don’t think they’re being inconsistent in trotting out this “the world looks like it doesn’t have God in it” phrase. As I’ve argued elsewhere, I buy into that phrase as well.

    The second problem is when an after the fact interpretation is touted as a prediction, or “predicted by” is treated as interchangeable with “consistent with”, or when the original “prediction” is silently changed.

    I agree, that’s a problem we need to have, probably by getting into the idea of explanatory virtue.

    Does naturalism ‘predict’ an eternal universe or a universe with a begining? A large universe or a small universe? Classical mechanics or quantum? I think an accurate if joking response is, “Depends on what the date is.”

    Well theories are allowed to update as new evidence comes in; old formulations of naturalism may well be falsified. Though every formulation of naturalism I know of calls for a very large universe, because life is a rare event, and therefore we need billions of attempts. Furthermore, naturalism would call for a deterministic universe because there are no “unmoved movers”. I also think naturalism calls for an eternal universe, though I plead ignorance here; I’m still not sure how “something from nothing” moments are supposed to work on naturalism, though Krauss seems to believe he has an answer.

  14. Crude

     says...

    While it’s not very relevant, I’m interested in why you think the arguments have gotten stronger.

    Right, but I wasn’t sure which of those two things you wanted me expanding on. OEC compatibility with evolution? The viability of YEC/OEC views in general?

    I’m not sure what is actually meant by this statement, though. Does everyone sin equal amounts? Have babies sinned? Have non-human animals sinned? Have bacteria sinned? Why does even the tiniest sin automatically deserve death?
    Sorry if these questions are annoying, but I’m genuinely curious — I have not been around upper-level theology as much, and people’s answers to these questions tend to be different anyway.

    Not annoying at all. Sure, you’ll find a spectrum of views – but ‘does everyone sin in equal amounts?’ doesn’t get at the right question. The orthodox view is that all human beings, perhaps all rational beings, have Original Sin. Babies included.

    What kind of sins are ‘tiny’ anyway? Are there sins that you never need to apologize for or feel bad about? Are animals sinned against?

    I don’t see why exactly a perfect God would want to introduce imperfect vestigal organs. I think, at least, vestigal organs are more likely on the hypothesis of no design than on the hypothesis of design. Do you agree?

    No, I don’t agree. Especially not when I realize that a God, even a perfect God, could decide to use evolutionary processes as a design tool – in which case you’re going to have transition situations.

    Not only that, but I’m hesitant about ‘vestigal organs’, at least with humans. In my lifetime I’ve seen more than one organ go from being classified as vestigal to not vestigal.

    What arguments do you have in mind?

    Arguments from technology, arguments from modern design, multiverse arguments, simulation arguments, arguments from eternity, etc.

    I think the rumors of that are slightly exaggerated, depending on what you’re referencing. I know that in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24vWUeMnXBg Dawkins gives a speech about how people have attributed to him the reasonableness of deism, but were mistaken / mischaracterizing him.

    Like I said, ‘supposedly’. Frankly, I think Dawkins is downright inconsistent. But there was a space of time where the general feeling – including among atheists – was ‘Dawkins just said Deism was reasonable’, because that was the report. And all of the sudden, numerous atheists online breathed a sigh of relief and seemed to feel it was ‘okay’ to admit that they had Deism sympathies.

    Then Dawkins retracted/clarified his view and the theme died then and there.

    I think that’s mischaracterizing the positions of most of the atheists I know of, especially those who have spent great pains to elaborate a cosmology that doesn’t require a deity.

    Nothing “requires” anything so long as you’re willing to assert that some things just brutely exist – but that doesn’t mean a person can’t nevertheless suspect a deity. Further, cosmology can be uncreated and god(s) can still exist. Again, back to the mormon and polytheistic examples.

    I agree with you; naturalism has, in the past, been largely undefined. But that doesn’t mean it is undefined now.

    It is for most people. Like it or not, Carrier’s definition really is idiosyncratic, and is plagued by problems that would turn many acts and beings once considered clearly supernatural into natural. Like I said, he can make that move if he likes. I’d like to see him claim mormons, Zeus worshipers, etc as natural, even atheists.

    I don’t see how. The God of Mormonism isn’t reducible to matter and energy, is he? Zeus, regardless of personal ontology, is still capable of causing events to occur without an underlying physical mechanism, making him still in possession of supernatural powers.

    Mormons are materialists, and believe matter is co-eternal with God (who is also made of matter, even if it’s matter with different properties than the kind we normally experience).

    And Zeus? First, where is it claimed that Zeus did anything ‘without an underlying physical mechanism’? He was a physical being himself. He had a body. He was born, not eternal. He had practical limitations. No physical mechanisms were described for what he did, but that doesn’t mean or even imply that there were no physical mechanisms. And keep in mind, the modern definition of ‘physical mechanisms’ is pretty funky.

    Here’s a good example: What is the physical mechanism behind the results of the Stern-Gerlach experiment? What physical mechanism determines which of the two results we see each pass?

    And just to get this out of the way in advance: Will you admit that, if Zeus’ existence or actions are entirely compatible with there having been ‘an underlying physical mechanism’, Carrier’s definition of naturalism is compatible with the existence of Zeus, even the Mormon God?

    And with those examples aside, it should be trivial to realize that a mere requirement of a matter and energy being ultimately fundamental is no impediment to the existence of gods as they were conceived for ages. Granted, it could rule out a very specific God – the God of idealism, or an immaterial God. And even there I wonder, since ‘reducible to matter and energy’ implies that our definitions of ‘matter and energy’ aren’t in flux.

    Depending on their positions, that could be possible – definitely for Chalmers, though I doubt it for Quine. Any Platonist is a non-naturalist by this definition, for example. I don’t think this is relevant to our discussion, though.

    I think it’s relevant because it’s showing how Carrier’s definition results in quite a number of people being called ‘supernaturalist’ who previously were considered anything but, while making naturalists out of people who were considered supernaturalist.

    I think panpsychism would be something not reducible to matter-energy, though.

    It would be a statement about the fundamental properties of matter and energy, but not a substsance distinct from matter and energy.

    I’d agree with that. I wonder if there is anything not consistent with the idea that there is at least one god, though.

    Maybe not. Why would that be a problem?

    We would have to stake out more specific predictions, then. Do you know of anything consistent with non-naturalism that isn’t also consistent with naturalism?

    Naturalism as defined by Carrier? I have trouble with that precisely because I don’t think Carrier’s definition rules out gods anyway.

    Well theories are allowed to update as new evidence comes in; old formulations of naturalism may well be falsified. Though every formulation of naturalism I know of calls for a very large universe, because life is a rare event, and therefore we need billions of attempts. Furthermore, naturalism would call for a deterministic universe because there are no “unmoved movers”. I also think naturalism calls for an eternal universe, though I plead ignorance here; I’m still not sure how “something from nothing” moments are supposed to work on naturalism, though Krauss seems to believe he has an answer.

    His answer seems to be: “That’s just the way it is.” and/or appeal to a transcendant law. And both are arguably going to run afoul of Carrier’s definition.

    You say that every formulation of naturalism you know of calls for a very large universe ‘because life is a rare event’. But who thought that was a rare event at first? The old naturalist view was that it was supposed to be easy to take place.

    If naturalism calls for a deterministic universe, and if you mean what I think you mean, naturalism is in dire straits even now given various popular views of quantum mechanics. If Carrier’s definition of naturalism ties him to, say… Bohmian mechanics,

    See, this is part of the problem. You say ‘naturalism didn’t have a definition before, but it does now’. Alright. My response is, even once you put all my problems with it aside, this: “And the moment naturalism is regarded as falsified or unlikely given the data or even as entailing unpopular/undesirable things, a new definition of naturalism will be made immediately.”

  15. Right, but I wasn’t sure which of those two things you wanted me expanding on. OEC compatibility with evolution? The viability of YEC/OEC views in general?

    Why not both?

    I’m not sure what is actually meant by this statement, though. Does everyone sin equal amounts? Have babies sinned? Have non-human animals sinned? Have bacteria sinned? Why does even the tiniest sin automatically deserve death?
    Sorry if these questions are annoying, but I’m genuinely curious — I have not been around upper-level theology as much, and people’s answers to these questions tend to be different anyway.
    Not annoying at all. Sure, you’ll find a spectrum of views – but ‘does everyone sin in equal amounts?’ doesn’t get at the right question.

    The orthodox view is that all human beings, perhaps all rational beings, have Original Sin. Babies included.

    How does that work? Is there a difference between Original Sin and blaming someone for the actions of another?

    What kind of sins are ‘tiny’ anyway? Are there sins that you never need to apologize for or feel bad about?

    Perhaps a better question is: why is it that the wages of sin deserve death?

    Are animals sinned against?

    I don’t know; depends on what “sin” means. Do animals themselves sin, though?

    I don’t see why exactly a perfect God would want to introduce imperfect vestigal organs. I think, at least, vestigal organs are more likely on the hypothesis of no design than on the hypothesis of design. Do you agree?
    No, I don’t agree. Especially not when I realize that a God, even a perfect God, could decide to use evolutionary processes as a design tool – in which case you’re going to have transition situations.
    Not only that, but I’m hesitant about ‘vestigal organs’, at least with humans. In my lifetime I’ve seen more than one organ go from being classified as vestigal to not vestigal.
    What arguments do you have in mind?
    Arguments from technology, arguments from modern design, multiverse arguments, simulation arguments, arguments from eternity, etc.

    But there was a space of time where the general feeling – including among atheists – was ‘Dawkins just said Deism was reasonable’, because that was the report. And all of the sudden, numerous atheists online breathed a sigh of relief and seemed to feel it was ‘okay’ to admit that they had Deism sympathies.

    Ok. I’m fine with admitting that many atheists are guilty of groupthink, and perhaps some of them even have deistic sympathies. That doesn’t say anything about whether or not atheism is true, and I don’t have deistic sympathies.

    It is for most people. Like it or not, Carrier’s definition really is idiosyncratic, and is plagued by problems that would turn many acts and beings once considered clearly supernatural into natural. Like I said, he can make that move if he likes. I’d like to see him claim mormons, Zeus worshipers, etc as natural, even atheists.

    Ok, you have convinced me that naturalism isn’t a good definition to use. I would concede that it is entirely possible for some gods to be reducible to matter and energy, and maybe there are some religions that suggest such.

    Peter: I’d agree with that. I wonder if there is anything not consistent with the idea that there is at least one god, though.
    Crude: Maybe not. Why would that be a problem?

    If there isn’t anything inconsistent with the idea of a God, then there’s really know way I could ever know if a God existed or didn’t exist – no matter what evidence I had in front of me, a God theory could be made to fit it. This also means that the God hypothesis doesn’t predict anything at all – a small universe or large universe, a universe with needless suffering or without, an eternal universe or a created universe… all of these universes seem possible even if God exists.

    This means that even if the universe operated without any divine agency at all, there seems like there would be no way to tell. And that’s a problem, isn’t it?

    This is why I think “consistent with H” or the closely related “not ruled-out by H” is a bad standard, and we need something better. I haven’t thought of what this “better” thing might be and I’m not ruling out the possibility that I’ve been going about discussing hypotheses all wrong.

    This is also the same frustration with “God dit it”. It seems that one could take absolutely any currently unexplained phenomena and say that God causes the phenomena, and then assert the phenomena fully explained. To me, I struggle with how divine agency can sufficiently explain something.

    You say that every formulation of naturalism you know of calls for a very large universe ‘because life is a rare event’. But who thought that was a rare event at first? The old naturalist view was that it was supposed to be easy to take place.

    Sure. You make it sound like people aren’t allowed to update their hypotheses with new evidence. If life is rare, a large universe would be predicted. Why did God make such a large universe?

    If naturalism calls for a deterministic universe, and if you mean what I think you mean, naturalism is in dire straits even now given various popular views of quantum mechanics.

    I agree that if the deterministic views of quantum mechanics were shown to be flawed, my current view of naturalism would be finished. I would have to, again, update my view of how the universe works, and probably even re-evaluate my concept of reductionism. This wouldn’t automatically imply that my view of universe needs a God, though.

  16. @Crude: Ignore the above post, I submitted it accidentally before i was finished.

    Right, but I wasn’t sure which of those two things you wanted me expanding on. OEC compatibility with evolution? The viability of YEC/OEC views in general?

    Why not both?

    The orthodox view is that all human beings, perhaps all rational beings, have Original Sin. Babies included.

    How does that work? Is there a difference between Original Sin and blaming someone for the actions of another?

    What kind of sins are ‘tiny’ anyway? Are there sins that you never need to apologize for or feel bad about?

    Perhaps a better question is: why is it that the wages of sin deserve death?

    Are animals sinned against?

    I don’t know; depends on what “sin” means. Do animals themselves sin, though?

    But there was a space of time where the general feeling – including among atheists – was ‘Dawkins just said Deism was reasonable’, because that was the report. And all of the sudden, numerous atheists online breathed a sigh of relief and seemed to feel it was ‘okay’ to admit that they had Deism sympathies.

    Ok. I’m fine with admitting that many atheists are guilty of groupthink, and perhaps some of them even have deistic sympathies. That doesn’t say anything about whether or not atheism is true, and I don’t have deistic sympathies.

    It is for most people. Like it or not, Carrier’s definition really is idiosyncratic, and is plagued by problems that would turn many acts and beings once considered clearly supernatural into natural. Like I said, he can make that move if he likes. I’d like to see him claim mormons, Zeus worshipers, etc as natural, even atheists.

    Ok, you have convinced me that naturalism isn’t a good definition to use. I would concede that it is entirely possible for some gods to be reducible to matter and energy, and maybe there are some religions that suggest such.

    Peter: I’d agree with that. I wonder if there is anything not consistent with the idea that there is at least one god, though.
    Crude: Maybe not. Why would that be a problem?

    If there isn’t anything inconsistent with the idea of a God, then there’s really know way I could ever know if a God existed or didn’t exist – no matter what evidence I had in front of me, a God theory could be made to fit it. This also means that the God hypothesis doesn’t predict anything at all – a small universe or large universe, a universe with needless suffering or without, an eternal universe or a created universe… all of these universes seem possible even if God exists.

    This means that even if the universe operated without any divine agency at all, there seems like there would be no way to tell. And that’s a problem, isn’t it?

    This is why I think “consistent with H” or the closely related “not ruled-out by H” is a bad standard, and we need something better. I haven’t thought of what this “better” thing might be and I’m not ruling out the possibility that I’ve been going about discussing hypotheses all wrong.

    This is also the same frustration with “God dit it”. It seems that one could take absolutely any currently unexplained phenomena and say that God causes the phenomena, and then assert the phenomena fully explained. To me, I struggle with how divine agency can sufficiently explain something.

    Not only that, but I’m hesitant about ‘vestigal organs’, at least with humans. In my lifetime I’ve seen more than one organ go from being classified as vestigal to not vestigal.

    I think vestigal organs are consistent with a God because everything is consistent with a God. But I don’t see why the God hypothesis would predict evolution or vestigal organs on the hypothesis that the designer could have used much more efficient methods.

    You say that every formulation of naturalism you know of calls for a very large universe ‘because life is a rare event’. But who thought that was a rare event at first? The old naturalist view was that it was supposed to be easy to take place.

    Sure. You make it sound like people aren’t allowed to update their hypotheses with new evidence. If life is rare, a large universe would be predicted. Why did God make such a large universe?

    If naturalism calls for a deterministic universe, and if you mean what I think you mean, naturalism is in dire straits even now given various popular views of quantum mechanics.

    I agree that if the deterministic views of quantum mechanics were shown to be flawed, my current view of naturalism would be finished. I would have to, again, update my view of how the universe works, and probably even re-evaluate my concept of reductionism. This wouldn’t automatically imply that my view of universe needs a God, though.

  17. Also, as an additional thing, I recall a debate between Richard Carrier and Tom Wanchick, in which they both defined their positions of “Basic Theism” and “Carrier Naturalism”: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/carrier-wanchick/jointstatement.html

    Do you think those definitions are practical enough to debate?

    Additionally, @crude you wrote:

    Arguments from technology, arguments from modern design, multiverse arguments, simulation arguments, arguments from eternity, etc.

    I’d be happy to consider those and haven’t heard much about these specific arguments (and can’t find them by Google), though I worry discussions of these or a full debate of deism may be lengthy and off-topic, it would definitely be fun to have somewhere.

  18. Crude

     says...

    Why not both?

    Alright. OEC seems to me compatible with evolution, since the only requirement would be introduction of something novel at points in history. It doesn’t even have to be full-blown whole-body Swampman style creation – just an infusion of variation/information. I’m leaving aside considerations of artificial selection being OEC – that seems more clearly a TE “thing”.

    YEC/OEC has become more viable because, oddly enough, of technological progress – artificial and simulated universes. Oddly enough, people with materialist-inclined metaphysics are now in a situation where they have to entertain the possibility of such worlds more than ever before.

    How does that work? Is there a difference between Original Sin and blaming someone for the actions of another?

    Yes, since Original Sin doesn’t reduce to simply “blame”, but also nature.

    Perhaps a better question is: why is it that the wages of sin deserve death?

    What do the wages of sin deserve?

    I don’t know; depends on what “sin” means. Do animals themselves sin, though?

    Good question. Do they? Are there objective moral obligations towards animals?

    Ok. I’m fine with admitting that many atheists are guilty of groupthink, and perhaps some of them even have deistic sympathies. That doesn’t say anything about whether or not atheism is true, and I don’t have deistic sympathies.

    Sure, I didn’t say it did, nor that you did. As I said, I’m talking largely about personal experience here, but the experience is what it is.

    Ok, you have convinced me that naturalism isn’t a good definition to use. I would concede that it is entirely possible for some gods to be reducible to matter and energy, and maybe there are some religions that suggest such.

    Well, I’m glad to hear as much. There’s another issue here, though.

    This goes back to my OEC/YEC talk earlier. If you concede that it’s “entirely possible for some gods to be reducible to matter and energy”, doesn’t that deal one hell of a blow to atheism?

    Consider this: What if Zeus, or the Zeus-like, came into being at some point in the future, rather than the past? Would some form of theism therefore become true?

    What if Zeus or the Zeus-like exists, but in the next galaxy over?

    I’ll put my cards on the table: I’m a classical theist. I put my faith in a God who transcends nature, who is immaterial. But I know the possibilities are a lot broader than that. And between technological advances, multiverse speculations and eternal universe speculations, modern atheists are making arguments they hope will undermine one God, not noticing that those same arguments are practically guaranteeing the existence of many, many other gods.

    If there isn’t anything inconsistent with the idea of a God, then there’s really know way I could ever know if a God existed or didn’t exist – no matter what evidence I had in front of me, a God theory could be made to fit it. This also means that the God hypothesis doesn’t predict anything at all – a small universe or large universe, a universe with needless suffering or without, an eternal universe or a created universe… all of these universes seem possible even if God exists.

    First, what does the no-God hypothesis predict as opposed to being consistent with? Keep in mind you have guys like PZ Myers saying that for any possible experience they would reach for a ‘naturalistic’ explanation, thus no evidence for God is possible.

    Second, I suppose one difference would be: “On the God hypothesis, at least one mind exists. On the no-God hypothesis, it’s possible for there to exist no minds.” So the existence of any minds would seem to be a slight nudge in the direction of the God hypothesis.

    Third, I think particular concepts of God(s) can be predictive. But the atheist isn’t against ‘particular concepts of God(s)’ – atheism is atheism, full-stop. No gods allowed. If one God/god exists, atheism is false. If a billion exist, atheism is false.

    I think vestigal organs are consistent with a God because everything is consistent with a God. But I don’t see why the God hypothesis would predict evolution or vestigal organs on the hypothesis that the designer could have used much more efficient methods.

    I didn’t say the God hypothesis would predict evolution or vestigal organs. (I’m putting aside more esoteric arguments about the compatibility of Genesis 1 with modern science.) Though there is at least one difference between the God(s) hypothesis and the no-God(s) hypothesis: I can use evolution towards an end right this moment. I can design, I can create. So can you. Therefore I’d call it undeniable, close to cogito ergo sum, that creative acts exist. In principle, it’s possible all that we experience is the result of some other creative act as well.

    But the existence of things or events in our universe that are absolutely not the result of any mind, any creative acts? Logically possible I suppose, but utterly not open to investigation without assuming the truth at the outset. That’s just the state of our existence.

    Sure. You make it sound like people aren’t allowed to update their hypotheses with new evidence. If life is rare, a large universe would be predicted. Why did God make such a large universe?

    They’re allowed to update their hypotheses, but they’re not allowed to say that this was predicted. And by the time the conviction sank in that life didn’t spring from non-life very easily, it was already certain that the universe was huge. (And it may not be huge enough – I recall Eugene Koonin dove for the multiverse to explain the Origin of Life.)

    You ask why God made such a large universe. But back when the universe was thought to be smaller, the argument would have been ‘Why did God make such a puny universe?’ Maybe there’s other life out there. Maybe life is supposed to spread throughout the universe. Hell, maybe there was no OoL event.

    I agree that if the deterministic views of quantum mechanics were shown to be flawed, my current view of naturalism would be finished. I would have to, again, update my view of how the universe works, and probably even re-evaluate my concept of reductionism. This wouldn’t automatically imply that my view of universe needs a God, though.

    As I said, “needs a God” – as in being made logically necessary – is a joke standard in a situation where people are willing to posit brute facts. That’s like asking me to give knock-down evidence against solipsism to a determined solipsist. The argument is over before it starts.

    Do you think those definitions are practical enough to debate?

    I suppose it would be – people can debate anything. OTOH, Wanchick is defining his God as “a nonphysical, conscious mind having power, intelligence, and a morally good nature, all far beyond that of any human. This God is distinct from, and the creator of, the universe, and can act upon the universe by simply willing so. We shall label this Basic Theism (or BT).”

    He’s going against Carrier with both arms tied behind his back. And still he’ll probably come out ahead (I didn’t bother to read it – not too interested, I admit.) Either way, that’s not the sort of deism or basic theism I was outlining here, if that’s why you brought this up.

  19. OEC seems to me compatible with evolution, since the only requirement would be introduction of something novel at points in history.

    That makes sense.

    YEC/OEC has become more viable because, oddly enough, of technological progress – artificial and simulated universes. Oddly enough, people with materialist-inclined metaphysics are now in a situation where they have to entertain the possibility of such worlds more than ever before.

    I don’t follow. Is belief that we are living in a simulated universe a type of deism? How could one ever decide whether or not we are living in a simulated universe?

    Peter: Is there a difference between Original Sin and blaming someone for the actions of another?
    Crude: Yes, since Original Sin doesn’t reduce to simply “blame”, but also nature.

    I still don’t follow. I worry this misrepresents you, but are you saying that people deserve death just by nature of being human?

    Peter: Perhaps a better question is: why is it that the wages of sin deserve death?
    Crude: What do the wages of sin deserve?

    Rehabilitation; correcting damage done; and confinement, if necessary for the safety of others?

    Peter: Do animals themselves sin, though?
    Crude: Good question. Do they? Are there objective moral obligations towards animals?

    I don’t know if animals sin on your theology, that’s why I am asking. I think there are moral obligations toward animals, but I don’t think animals are capable of having moral obligations themselves.

    This goes back to my OEC/YEC talk earlier. If you concede that it’s “entirely possible for some gods to be reducible to matter and energy”, doesn’t that deal one hell of a blow to atheism?

    Not unless atheism is construed to be some sort of “Gods are metaphysically impossible”, which is not the atheism I hold.

    Consider this: What if Zeus, or the Zeus-like, came into being at some point in the future, rather than the past? Would some form of theism therefore become true?

    What if Zeus or the Zeus-like exists, but in the next galaxy over?

    If a God exists, somewhere, then atheism is false as the existence of a God, somewhere, is strong reason to believe a God exists. The problem is whether we have any indication that there is a Zeus in the next galaxy over.

    modern atheists are making arguments they hope will undermine one God, not noticing that those same arguments are practically guaranteeing the existence of many, many other gods.

    Practically guaranteeing? Could you elaborate on why you think the existence of these many Gods is such a sure thing?

    If there isn’t anything inconsistent with the idea of a God, then there’s really know way I could ever know if a God existed or didn’t exist – no matter what evidence I had in front of me, a God theory could be made to fit it. This also means that the God hypothesis doesn’t predict anything at all – a small universe or large universe, a universe with needless suffering or without, an eternal universe or a created universe… all of these universes seem possible even if God exists.

    First, what does the no-God hypothesis predict as opposed to being consistent with? Keep in mind you have guys like PZ Myers saying that for any possible experience they would reach for a ‘naturalistic’ explanation, thus no evidence for God is possible.

    I don’t agree with PZ Meyers – there are counterfactuals and miracles that would convince me that God exists. One such example would be the creation ex-nihilo of a Bible in front of me, James Randi, and fifty other people by a Godly prophet.

    I’ve even agreed that if someone were to rebut my many complaints about God as well as my rebuttals to arguments for God and explain why they are false, I would believe. I do currently make this difficult though, since I haven’t yet written down all of my complaints.

    “On the God hypothesis, at least one mind exists. On the no-God hypothesis, it’s possible for there to exist no minds.” So the existence of any minds would seem to be a slight nudge in the direction of the God hypothesis.

    Maybe. I don’t know that God’s mind, specifically, exists… so it would depend on what the God-theory says about him creating other people. I believe that the existence of intelligent life is definitely more probable on a “God who wants to make intelligent life” hypothesis than on naturalism, for instance.

    However, I think any fact F is more probable on a “God who wants F to be true” hypothesis than naturalism, and that may be a problem.

    Third, I think particular concepts of God(s) can be predictive.

    I agree, but I don’t think general theism is predictive. I also agree that general atheism may not be predictive either, because the existence of, say, “Mo, the god who uses all his powers to make sure no one believes in him” could never, even in principle, be ruled out. We may be at a loss here.

    But the existence of things or events in our universe that are absolutely not the result of any mind, any creative acts? Logically possible I suppose, but utterly not open to investigation without assuming the truth at the outset. That’s just the state of our existence.

    I don’t follow this, sorry.

    They’re allowed to update their hypotheses, but they’re not allowed to say that this was predicted. And by the time the conviction sank in that life didn’t spring from non-life very easily, it was already certain that the universe was huge.

    I agree. However, and while I do think that theism could posit a God with a penchant for a large universe, I think a large universe is more likely on the current naturalism than on theism. Current naturalism *requires* a large universe – theism merely permits it.

    (And it may not be huge enough – I recall Eugene Koonin dove for the multiverse to explain the Origin of Life.)

    I don’t know the exact probability of intelligent life, but the universe is large enough that I don’t think that’s a necessary “cop-out” yet.

    You ask why God made such a large universe. But back when the universe was thought to be smaller, the argument would have been ‘Why did God make such a puny universe?’

    Why would people argue that? That would hardly be a question for rejecting theism in favor of naturalism…

    Hell, maybe there was no OoL event.

    Sorry, but what does OoL stand for?

    As I said, “needs a God” – as in being made logically necessary – is a joke standard in a situation where people are willing to posit brute facts.

    Though I definitely need more reading on the philosophy of brute facts, I’m not willing to posit brute facts, right now.

    That’s like asking me to give knock-down evidence against solipsism to a determined solipsist. The argument is over before it starts.

    Solipsism and non-solipsism anticipate the exact same things about the universe. There is no way, even in principle, to differentiate the two theories. Therefore, I think solipsism is not wrong, but meaningless. This may be the same problem we have between naturalism and the theism where God makes a universe that looks exactly like a naturalist one.

    Either way, that’s not the sort of deism or basic theism I was outlining here, if that’s why you brought this up.

    That is why I brought it up, since that’s what has been meant by the deism I know of, except the part about morally good nature. Furthermore, I brought it up because that formulation of Carrier Naturalism is the naturalism I currently hold.

    What do you mean by “deism”? What do you mean by “God”?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *