Tuesday, September 15, 2009

WSJ article: Man vs. God

This is a reply I wrote in a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal regarding a short essay they published by Richard Dawkins on what evolution means for God. There were two parts to the article but the other one, IMHO, didn't rise to the level of even being wrong. The text of my reply follows.

In the WSJ article where Richard Dawkins argues that evolution “leaves God with nothing to do,” I beg to differ. In this brief reply, I will show why.

Dawkins makes the typical Darwinian mistake and he is very plain about it. He says that life is produced by the laws of physics. Several times he refers to physics as the causal power that has given us life. Granted, it took a little time, but the answers to the story of life are ultimately found in the laws of physics. Or so he says, on several occasions. Dawkins also says in the article, regarding the origin and progression of life, that the answer is: “Darwinian evolution, the nonrandom survival of randomly varying coded information.” He goes on to immediately say that: “We know, as certainly as we know anything in science, that this is the process that has generated life on our own planet.” But can this possibly be true? Let’s see.

The real problem for Darwinian evolution is that it is impossible to get from matter, energy, and the laws of physics to information, and therefore life. Here’s the Cliff Notes version.

Life and information are inextricably linked. This has been known since Crick and Watson discovered the structure of DNA. Dawkins himself, in his book River Out of Eden, makes the statement that “life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information.” I would argue that life is more than that but we agree that life in a very real and fascinating way is intimately wrapped up with information.

So why can’t physics explain information and therefore life? It’s pretty simple, actually. The reason is because physics cannot explain language. Language, which is the only thing that we know of that encodes, transmits, receives, and decodes information, requires two things: symbols and rules. Symbols are the representation of one thing for another and the rules are mutually agreed upon conventions for the use of those symbols. Without these two things we do not have language, and without language we do not have information. Needless to say, if we don’t have information, we don’t have life. So if physics cannot explain language it cannot explain life.

Here’s why physics cannot explain language. Physics has nothing to say about symbols, or the rules that govern their use. Using English as an example, nothing in physics tells us why “cat” means a certain kind of mammal and “act” means to do something, or something done, or a segment of a play, depending upon the context. There is no part of physics that even pretends to address these issues. In fact, the laws of physics that Dawkins worships are themselves written in the language of mathematics. One might justifiably wonder, by Whom? So it appears to me, a curious layman, that it is actually impossible for the Darwinian enterprise to explain language, therefore information, therefore life. Who would want to believe a theory like that?

So what role for God? Perhaps John the Gospel writer had it right almost 2,000 years ago when he opened his book with: “In the beginning was the Word…” Or, as we would say, Information.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hi Allan

I'll do better than publish your comment as a comment. I'll put it here so the two or three people who read this will be sure to see it. Plus, we can just discuss things here if you like. I don't have the patience for "Dawkins land." It's like dealing with people who think the earth is flat or who think the moon is closer than Chicago because they can see the moon but not Chicago. Let me know what part of evolution I "caricature." We can start there.
Regards,
Tom

Alan Fox has left a new comment on your post "A post I made at Uncommon Descent":

Hi Tom

Are your questions just rhetorical, or are you looking for answers? You are unlikely to get much response from anyone other than dyed-in-the-wool creationists at UD, as ID critics get routinely weeded out.

Why not go back to Richard Dawkins' forum if you are genuinely interested in understanding evolutionary theory, rather than the caricature you portray? I would have posted at UD but I'm banned there.

I wonder if you'll approve my comment?

Friday, August 7, 2009

A post I made at Uncommon Descent

(The link is at the bottom.)

Seriously, does anyone really believe in Darwinian evolution anymore? On the one hand we posit Mind as the source of biological information and on the other hand we posit "natural selection" plus genetic mutation. How DO they stack up?

"Natural selection" (I use scare quotes deliberately) is based on at least four faulty assumptions. The first is that there is a "struggle" to survive. But the materialist philosophy which is the basis for this "science" says that there is no purpose in the universe. So how can that be? There is no purpose in the universe but somehow there is a struggle for survival. We can't have it both ways, now, can we? It's either purpose or no purpose. If you allow purpose in order for "natural selection" to work then you have to explain the existence of purpose. Which you can't do. So neither do you get it for "natural selection."

The second false assumption on which "ns" is based is that populations increase geometrically (a Malthusian myth). They don't. The planet would be overrun with critters if that were true, but we aren't, so it isn't.

The third false assumption (also a Malthusian myth) is that food supplies increase only arithmetically. Thus the false problem of the "struggle for survival" wherein the overpopulating organisms compete with each other for a diminishing food supply. Those better able to adapt, live, and those that don't, die.

What nonsense. Living things live and only living things reproduce. Wow. What insight. Being alive necessarily, by definition, means "being fit." If I'm not fit, I'm not alive. If I'm alive, I'm fit. This, THIS, is the major mechanism for the creation of biological information? ha ha chortle chortle. You must be kidding me.

The fourth faulty assumption is that it even exists. I guess I could have started with this one and saved a few words. This is what I find absolutely hilarious about "ns" as an explanation for anything (it's not). This is the idea that it has causal power in nature. That is, if it is to have explanatory power at all, "ns" must have causal power. But if "ns" has causal power, and all causal power resides in physics, then "ns" must be part of physics. No? But it isn't. Ask a physicist about "ns" being one of the forces in nature and he will laugh at you, if he bothers to do that. There are four forces in nature and "ns" isn't on that list. So my unsophisticated mind reasons like this. If physics is all that has causal power (and this is the claim of the "isms" - m'ism, n'ism, and p'ism), but "ns" isn't mentioned in any of the physics books, i.e. it is not recognized as a part of physics, then it has NO CAUSAL POWER and therefore it’s not real. It’s a myth. Oh it's "real" enough if you are reading a biology book and if you take "real" to mean that someone believes it is real. But appealing to "ns" to explain anything in biology is like appealing to Santa Claus to explain Christmas presents under the tree. How funny is that? And grownups do it all the time. Even some ID proponents make this horrible, horrible mistake. Acknowledging that “natural selection” can account for anything (“micro” evolution but not “macro” evolution). But wait, don’t organisms change? Don’t they adapt? Yes, they do. But it’s not “ns” that we see, it’s the interplay of exquisitely designed creatures with their environment. The information already exists that allows for organisms to adapt. It’s not something “magically” generated on the fly.

But wait, there's more hilarity. There are those, (I've read their books) who think that genetic mutations PLUS "ns" can account for an increase in biological information and thus new species. So that's akin to taking an essay and randomly altering selected letters, possibly rearranging or duplicating some words or sentences, and saying that will improve the essay. This is pretty cute in an odd sort of way. Kind of like watching a little kid pound on a piano and they think they're playing a symphony.

So we've missed, as usual, the real problem which is not the alteration of biological information but the ORIGIN of it. So now we're back to the crux of the problem. To explain life you must explain information. To explain information you must explain language. To explain language you must be able to explain symbols and rules. If you are a materialist, naturalist, physicalist, you ONLY have physics with which to explain anything. So how does physics come to bear on why "cat" means one thing and "act" means another? Go ahead. Tell me what laws or forces explain the use of symbols. Well, of course, none of them do and they never will. And they don’t because physics explains the material world but we are talking about the immaterial world. But the “ists” deny the existence of the immaterial world (Gods, souls, minds, laws (except physics, of course, but no moral law)). They apparently accept the existence of information but somehow it escapes their notice that information, although encoded in material substrates, is immaterial. Another logical contradiction. This from people who allegedly worship reason as they mock ID. Pretty funny stuff, you’ll agree.

The bottom line is that information always reduces to, or is explained by, Mind/mind, not matter. And naturalism, materialism, and/or physicalism, the philosophical basis for contemporary science (and much philosophy) is utter nonsense. I guess people who will believe that "ns" plus random information changes can write the biological equivalent of Shakespeare, and then some, will believe anything.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/hieroglyphs-the-linguistic-challenge-to-darwinism/comment-page-2/#comment-329188

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Finally

So we're done with this. For those that have bothered to read along, my apologies for indulging this longer than I should have. Libtard refuses to seriously engage so I will not be publishing anything else he has to say. If you want to read his "response" to my last post it's in the comments. Again he fails to engage in any meaningful way. Good luck to him. Really.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

nearing the end of this ever so tedious bit on naturalism

"Why are you failing to differentiate or trying to equate ontological naturalism and methodological naturalism? That's an honest question."
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>



Frankly, I am beginning to wonder if that's an honest question or not. I find it hard to imagine that you have actually read and considered anything I've written. My last post was obviously about ontological naturalism and not about methodological naturalism. I am trying to get you to COMMIT to a point of view, that is to take a stand behind some truth claim, whatever it may be, and BACK IT UP. Presumably with your methodological naturalism or however you would like to do it. But I will give you the benefit of the doubt and give this one last shot.



I do not equate ontological and methodological naturalism. The first is obviously ontological, that is, about what exists and the second is epistemological, that is, about what is true about what exists, including if it does exist. I perfectly understand the difference, as I have previously, and in painful detail, noted. What you apparently fail to grasp, or will not grasp, or will not even think about for more than two seconds so you could have a chance to grasp, are the following:


  • There are no privileged truth claims, scientific, religious, or otherwise. This means that EVERY truth claim ultimately stands or falls on reason applied to evidence. I have explained this time and again in this blog. I will not answer it again so don't ask me "why?"
  • Ultimately, the only way to know what is true is by the application of reason to evidence. (If you are calling this methodological naturalism then we have a point of agreement. Although that is not what methodological naturalism is, because methodological naturalism doesn't give place to the undeniable and sovereign role of reason in matters of truth.)
  • Issues of ontology must be settled epistemologically. If you get the ontology wrong, you are finished in your quest for truth. What exists is a CONCLUSION, not an assumption. Ideally, that conclusion is based on reason and evidence. One is either a materialist/physicalist/naturalist, a dualist, or an idealist. For the record, I am a dualist. I believe that both the material and abstract worlds are "real."
  • Ontological naturalism can stamp its feet all it wants but screaming ever louder "there is no God" doesn't make it any less false.
  • A commitment to ontological naturalism entails a commitment to methodological naturalism. Ontological naturalism denies the existence of anything that is "outside" of nature. This obviously includes God but less obviously includes souls or minds, mathematics, reason, moral law, economic law, physical law, law of any kind and many other things.
  • Do I really need to disabuse you of the notion that ontological naturalism is false? Just in case, I will by means of the following thought experiment. Let's define "nature" as all that exists in space/time. That is about as broad as I can make it so you should have no problem with that definition. I will also assume that it is wrong to be rude to a waiter. If this is true, then it is wrong right now. It is wrong today. Therefore, it must be wrong yesterday, since yesterday was once today. It must be wrong tomorrow, because tomorrow (Thursday) will eventually be "today" (now Wednesday). Therefore, this moral law, which says it's wrong to be rude to waiters, is independent of time. It's also wrong to be rude to waiters in Houston, New York, LA, and in Paris. If there were waiters on the moon, or on Alpha Centauri, it would be wrong to be rude to them there, too. Therefore, this moral law is also independent of location, or space. Therefore, a reasonable person, such as yourself, would deduce that this moral law exists independently, i.e. outside of space and time and therefore exists independently, i.e. outside of nature. Notwithstanding the fact that it also exists THROUGHOUT space and time. Therefore, the idea that nothing exists outside of nature, ontological naturalism, is the biggest crock of bullshit ever foisted upon an unsuspecting and unthinking public. And if being rude to a waiter doesn't do it for you, morally speaking, then substitute holocaust or polluting the environment. I'm sure there is something you think is intrinsically and always wrong.
  • A commitment to methodological naturalism (or more accurately, empiricism), while it does not entail ontological naturalism, makes no sense apart from ontological naturalism.
  • The role of reason in the search for truth is supreme (argue/reason with me about this point and you will eventually get it).
  • Reason leads inexorably to God. This is anathema to ontological naturalism. It may be permitted in some construals of methodological naturalism, but in general, it is not. Reason applied to evidence also leads inexorably to God. If all cats are mammals and Felix is a cat then Felix is a mammal. If everything that begins to exist needs a cause (true by definition) and the universe began to exist (true by reason AND evidence) then the universe needs a cause. Case closed. Now we can discuss the nature of that cause but that a cause is needed is irrefutable.
  • There is an inherent dishonesty in naturalism of any stripe. Ontological naturalism is nonsense as shown by its inability to account for anything that matters to human beings. Morality, for one, say, as we saw above.
  • Methodological naturalism has pretensions of intellectual respectability but does not explicitly acknowledge the role of reason in the quest for truth. Therefore, when reason inevitably leads to God, as it does, and for good reason, the methodolical naturalists fall back on the idea that reason is now incompetent to conclude about God because that is outside of nature. And once again they demonstrate either their intellectual degeneracy by confusing premise and conclusion or their moral degeneracy by knowingly espousing what they know to be a lie.
  • Intellectual integrity means accepting the authority of reason in matters of truth. If you do not have this then I am wasting my time and if I do not have this then so are you.
  • It's a major failing of mine, ask anybody who knows me, that I am not very patient with people who care nothing for getting at the truth. Until this last post of yours, I had thought you to be one of those who was interested. But now, I think not. I'm happy to be proven wrong, however.
  • You have two options here. Either specifically address the arguments I have made or make arguments of your own about how things are and how you know that they are. Otherwise, we're done here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

more with libtard on naturalism

"Data is just data without an explanation and reason is what provides that explanation. It’s the EXPLANATION that is key. There should be no disagreement over data. It’s all about understanding it and explaining it."

"Where does the supernatural enter into that?"
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I’m going to assume that there is a genuine lack of understanding here so I’m going to go over this one more time.

First of all, this is why it is necessary to define terms up front AND to make intellectual commitments to what those terms mean. Therefore, we need to get this straight. My goal in this post is either to get you to agree with what I propose what “naturalism” and “nature” will mean for this conversation, or get you to modify it so that we have a common term, in other words, a term that we are using univocally. If you cannot, or will not, commit to what the term means, up front, and stick to it, there is no possibility of reaching a rational accord. Since, by refusing to make that intellectual commitment, you are rejecting a first principle of reason, which is Identity. A thing is what it is. And non-contradiction. If it is what it is then it is not something else. And excluded middle. It either is what it is or it is not. Being, of course, is bound up tightly with identity. In order to have an identity, something must exist. And sufficient cause. Or causality. Things don’t “just happen.” Every event, or effect, in space/time has a cause. I’ll assume that you are rational and accept these principles. If not, speak up now and we’ll be done.

That said, “nature” (according to the tenets of “naturalism”) is all that there is. This typically means the “natural world” or the “physical world” or the “material world.” It means that anything outside of “nature” is supernatural. God would be “supernatural,” for example. Or other gods, should they exist.

Perhaps this isn’t specific enough. So let’s further break it down to describe what is natural (or physical or material) in this way. Something is physical or material, i.e. part of nature, if it:
- Can be located in space/time
- Has mass and/or inertia
- Is responsive to gravity (photons have no mass but are affected by gravity)
- Is comprised of sub-atomic particles in energy fields
- Can be empirically detected
- Can be described or explained by physics or our best physical laws
- Can be used to move or heat matter (energy)
- Can be converted to energy
- Or is recognized by the methods of science (if it’s not broad enough already)
- Everything else, then, by definition, would be “supernatural,” that is, “outside of nature.”

Your task is to agree with this definition, or modify it so that you do agree, and then we’ll proceed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More conversation with libtard (he is quoted and italicized)

"Sigh, I was afraid our discussion would come back to this, which is why I explicitly avoided directly definitions or usage of ontological and methodological naturalism in my prior comments, in which I tried to explain why I hold the position of accepting the latter while rejecting the former."

I understand this. But I my question still remains. The one doesn’t make sense unless the other is true. And ontological naturalism is about as far from being true as it is possible to be. This, the falsity of ontological naturalism, by the way, is the CONCLUSION of a sound argument that accounts for all the data. It is not an usupported a priori premise that is grimly held on to in spite of devastating arguments to the contrary.
>>>>>>>>

"Methodological naturalism says: we wish to understand the truth, and the best way we have found to do that is to rely on what we observe."

This is incomplete. This is empiricism and it's not what methodological naturalism claims. It also, by definition, excludes anything apart from the natural, even where sound arguments from reason and evidence demand a conclusion of God. So there is implicitly, at least, a definition of what qualifies as "truth" in this system. Where is the role of reason in understanding the truth? Data is just data without an explanation and reason is what provides that explanation. It’s the EXPLANATION that is key. There should be no disagreement over data. It’s all about understanding it and explaining it.
>>>>>>>>

"This is so profoundly true that I don't understand why you are trying to reject it? We have made observations such that the Sun is at the center of the solar system. We have made observations such that a year is 365.25 days. We have observed that tides are caused directly by the moon."

I do not reject it. I reject your characterization that observation alone is the final arbiter of truth. It’s evidence or observation, if you please, PLUS reason that gets us to the truth. And, by the way, ontological naturalism cannot account for reason.
>>>>>>>>

"Consider if we had two competing explanations for tides; one said that the moon correlated very closely with tidal motion and therefore was likely inter-related or directly responsible. Or a second theory that said that periodically a god-like Neptune creature materializes in the sea, displacing water."

Consider if we had two competing explanations for the origin of the universe. One said, it beats the hell out of me but I know for sure it isn’t God or anything “supernatural.” One said, based on an exercise in pure reason PLUS multiple observations, that the universe began, therefore it had a “beginner.” Which one would you be more likely to believe?
>>>>>>>>

"If there is any kind of evidence of the Neptune-like creature, that theory has some credibility. Likewise, if there is any variance in the correlation of the moon to the tides, it casts doubt on that theory. Its really just simple competition; which explanation is the most plausible in light of what we can observe? Which is to say, the "best" explanation for something is that which fits all of the known observations of the time and does not make unreasonable implications (ie. some physics theories imply that the universe only had a very tiny chance of ever existing; these theories are given less weight)."

I have no quarrel with this and if you think I do then you haven’t read me very carefully. PART of what makes a theory a good explanation is that it accounts for all the data. That is another way of saying that it must be internally consistent. It must be RATIONAL.
>>>>>>>>

"All I'm saying is that when we, as rational human beings, want to explain how something works, we base it on the story that best fits the facts. If new facts emerge, we change the story to fit."

Sigh. No shit.
>>>>>>>>

"Can you give a counter-example?"

Of what?

>>>>>>>>
"In any case, I'd be happy to move on to discussing another point, unless you feel this particular issue requires more examination."

Only of your estimation of the value of reason in getting at the truth. I’d be interested to hear your explanation of that.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

and more on naturalism

I would just answer your comments with comments but I am afraid they will get lost if I do that.

"I do not take the position of ontological naturalism; instead I take the position of methodological naturalism. I define ontological naturalism as "nature is all there is, and all basic truths are truths of nature". I define methodological naturalism as "the best way to understand and seek knowledge is to reference natural causes and events." I differentiate between the two by stating that methodological naturalism says nothing about the supernatural other than that it is not the best way to seek knowledge."

But here's the thing. How can you presume to the second without assuming the first to be true? Otherwise you have committed yourself to saying that you don't know about how the world is, really, ontologically (what exists) BUT you are going to pretend that "the 'best' (are there other ways?) way to understand and seek knowledge (presumably of what you don't know exists) is to reference natural causes and events." And what does that mean, exactly? Is it the same thing as reason and evidence? But what if that reason and evidence points to something "supernatural"? You are still unclear about your fundamental commitments in terms of both ontology and epistemology. How can an epistemological program of methodological naturalism lead to anything "outside" of nature? And if you don't commit to ontological naturalism, then why a commitment to epistemological naturalism?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

libtard and naturalism continued...

"You made this statement: "All truth claims, whether "scientific" or "theological" must ultimately be grounded in facts about the world explained in a logical way."Why?

You are kidding, right? What other way is there to know what is true? Tell me that.

Early man could tell you that every day, without fail, the sun rises. But he could not say why (or made up a story to explain it). Science would call this an observation. Its also a truth, even without the capacity to understand or explain it.There are two components to this; the observation that the sun rises, and a reasoning for that behavior of the natural world. The observation is a direct result of the natural world. Reasoning is a construct of man." (my emphasis)

I agree that the observation, or the "fact," is "the sun rises." We know that is not literally true but rather it appears to rise because of the rotation of the earth in its orbit around the sun. The reasoning that mankind did to come to that conclusion is not a construct of man. It is something we do but it is not something we invented or created. Do a simple thought experiment. Assume that all human life vanishes. Assume that an alien comes by to visit. Do the laws of reason change for him or is he bound by them, too? Yes. Or can he invent or create new laws of reason? No. The laws of reason are the laws of reason just like the laws of physics are the laws of physics. We discover them but we do not construct or create them. They are part of reality just like matter and energy yet they are not part of the "natural" world. Odd then, how anyone can subscribe to "naturalism."

If all cats are mammals and Felix is a cat then Felix is a mammal. Even God can't make that not so. This is the power of reason. Reason transcends space and time. It works here and on the moon (but unfortunately not in Washington DC, not for decades) and it works yesterday, today, and in the future.

This is (one of the many places) where I part company with naturalism. Another is the existence of mind. If reason is not part of the natural world, yet it clearly exists, then how do you account for that? How does a naturalistic position account for a purely physical being (which we are not, but which a naturalist would claim we are) being able to reason? Can a neuron reason? Can a bunch of neurons reason? Well, no, but we do it somehow and it does involve neurons but neurons don't do it.

"I do not claim that reasoning is part of the natural world; it most certainly is not. However, I do claim that all reasoning *about* the natural world must be based on observations of the natural world."

We need to define our terms. I don't want us talking past each other. If we are using terms univocally that will fix that. So what do you say the "natural world" is? What do you say are the fundamental commitments of ontological naturalism? Then I'll get to the rest of your arguments.

Thanks.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Another reply to libtard

First of all, I genuinely appreciate your engagement with my arguments. So thanks for that. Now, to the business at hand.

You say: "Or are you arguing that science can be performed without the need for naturalism?"

The answer is yes. It is yes because I include reason as necessary to the truth seeking enterprise about the entire universe. Whether the subject is the physical world of sub-atomic particles in energy fields or language and information, mathematics, economics, etc..., reason is the Sovereign of truth. I use a capital "S" for a reason and it's explained in an earlier post. Reason is the ultimate authority of what is and is not true. Think not? Then argue with me about it and you are forced to reason. Facts are not "subject" to reason. They just are. But the explanation of those facts, aaah, now that's another story. Any explanation of anything that contradicts itself cannot possibly be true. Let me pick on the poster child for scientific irrationality, Richard Dawkins, who says that there is NO PURPOSE IN THE UNIVERSE on the one hand and then writes books about how the struggle to surive is at the bottom of the evolutionary process. Well, which is it? How is "struggling to survive" not purposeful? How is his writing a book not purposeful? His metaphysical claim is false or his empirical claim is. Actually, in this case, they both are false but that's another story. How anyone can take that guy seriously is beyond me. Way beyond.

If science is about making inferences from data (reasoning from effect to cause, essentially) then reason is part of the natural world. But they say it isn't. I don't get that.

The first question is ontological. What exists? If we get that wrong, everything else is wrong. But we can get that right through the exercise of pure reason. With apologies (not really) to Kant. But science rejects reason in that capacity yet relies on it for "scientific" explanations. Seems odd to me.

Reply to libtard

libtard says: "You seem to be confusing the definition of naturalism as used in scientific inquiry with that of philosophical naturalism. You may wish to refer here. To quote: "Methodological naturalism and philosophical naturalism are distinguished by the fact that methodological naturalism is an epistemology as well as a procedural protocol, while philosophical naturalism is a metaphysical position. Although there is variation in the views of modern naturalists, Kurtz's definition captures these two most important aspects of modern naturalism: (1) the reliance on scientific method, grounded in empiricism, as the only reliable method of acquiring knowledge about the natural world, and (2) the inadmissibility of the supernatural or transcendent into its metaphysical scheme."
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

I am confused about many things but this isn't one of them. I perfectly understand the difference between methodological naturalism and ontological (or philosophical) naturalism. All of this is based on a false premise and that is that there are ANY privileged truth claims. That is, truth claims that do not need to stand on reason and evidence. All truth claims, whether "scientific" (about the "natural" world - which is ALL that exists under ontological naturalism) or "theological" (about the "supernatural" world of God, souls, minds, purpose, design, reason, and so on) must ultimately be grounded in facts about the world explained in a logical way. We live in one universe and that universe is only one way. God either exists or He does not. There is not a "scientific" universe for some and a "religious" universe for others.

All truth claims must be rational, that is internally consistent, and they must explain all the data. Claims that meet these two standards and can also make predictions about the future have superior epistemic status in my book. Now, I can conduct any number of exercises in pure reason that tell me true things about the universe. Kurtz would certainly disagree but he would certainly be wrong. For example, before I measure the sides of any right triangle I can know that the the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other sides. I can know that the universe had a beginning, that time had a beginning. That if I consistently spend more than I make I will be worse off for it. I can know a lot of things without empirical evidence. Empirical evidence will certainly confirm my rational deductions because nothing can contravene reason and be true. I can know, as an exercise in pure reason, that God most certainly exists. He cannot not exist. He is a necessary Being, as opposed to a contingent being.

One of many mistakes Kurtz makes is to ignore the role of reason in the epistemological process. He defines it out of existence by using the phrase "natural world" (What is that, exactly, if it is not the physical, i.e. the empirical world?? And the laws of reason can hardly be considered "physical" by any stretch of the imagination.) and then says, without argument, that God is off the table as far as methodological naturalism is concerned. Well, let's try to be intellectually honest here. If I am claiming that methodological naturalism (an epistemological enterprise) is the only way to "scientific" knowledge and I'm NOT claiming ontological naturalism to be true, then I'm being disingenuous, at best. Otherwise, I am saying that God could exist but science cannot (or merely will not) recognize His existence in studying the natural world. But what could be more irrational? If He exists, then there will be evidence of that. To just say any talk of God is unscientific, therefore, we only accept what we sense, regardless of whether or not God may exist, seems utterly foolish to me.

Kurtz, and others basically say this. Methodological naturalism is the only valid way to understand the natural world. Therefore, the natural world is all that exists. There is no logical connection between the two statements and both of them are patently false. I thought I had beaten that horse to death but apparently not. If you will be specific in your objections, if we can agree on first principles, then we will get somewhere and one of us will have to change his mind. I'm game.

Monday, May 4, 2009

On Materialism - again


tgpeeler

05/04/2009

4:53 pm

There is a reason that it is so difficult to gain traction in an argument of this kind with people of this kind. In a nutshell, one of the problems of dealing with irrational people is that they reject logic and evidence even as they purport to be reliant upon them and claim that “you” do not. This makes it impossible (witness this thread) to reason with them. It is like to trying to grab smoke. But hope springs eternal.

Any hard core proponent of naturalism (all that exists is nature) or materialism (all that exists is material, i.e. matter and energy) or physicalism (the thesis that the physical facts fix all the facts) that has thought about things in any serious (logical) way and yet still holds to his naturalism is irrational, at best.

In my explanation for why this is so, I will lump all of these “isms” together since they all make the same fundamental ontological commitment, that only material, or physical, or natural, (all synonymous) things actually exist. I use the phrase “fundamental commitment” deliberately as it implies that one actually believes what one is claiming. Thus, one is shut off from availing oneself of “non-materialist” or “non-natural” or “non-physical” resources when explanations of any kind for anything are provided. Since it is equally, at least, tiring to read the trinity of “isms” as it is to write them, I will use the term “materialism” to refer to this fundamental commitment from here out.

So what is material? I want to be as generous as I can in order to avoid the straw man fallacy so I propose the following description of “material.”

Material things are either matter or energy. Or if you prefer, sub-atomic particles in energy fields. We can also further define matter as anything that is located in space/time, has mass and inertia, is subject to gravity, (yes, I understand that photons do not have “mass” but are still subject to gravity) can be converted to energy, and is detectable by one of our five senses, i.e. is empirical, and therefore, can be measured. Energy is anything that can heat or move matter.

Given this, it seems obvious to me, but I will say it out loud anyway, just in case a materialist would like to disagree, (please be specific when you do) that given this definition of “material” it looks for all the world to me that now all I have to explain anything and everything is the laws of physics. No? If all that exists is material, and all that is material is explainable by physics, then everything that exists can be explained by physics. I’m pretty sure that works out the way I’m saying it.

I will start with a one word refutation of materialism and then go on from there. The one word destruction of materialism is “mathematics.” But because I am a fair guy, I want to make it easy for any materialist to frame his reply. All you have to do to prove me wrong is do any one of the following things.

- Locate mathematics in space/time. Where is it, exactly? In a closet somewhere, perhaps?
- Tell me what the mass of mathematics is.
- Tell me how mathematics is subject to gravity.
- Tell me how mathematics can be converted to energy.
- Tell me what mathematics smells like, tastes like, feels like, sounds like, or looks like.
- Tell me how long it is or how much it weighs or what color it is. Measure it somehow.
- Tell me how mathematics can move or heat matter.

If you would be so kind as to actually do any one of these things then I will be persuaded to continue to argue with you about your fundamental ontological commitment and the equally irrational conclusions that follow. Or, of course, you can deny the reality of mathematics. That is, if you want to remain committed to your materialism yet keep a shred of intellectual integrity. Your call.

But just to drive the point home, let’s consider some other things. The very laws of physics themselves are immaterial. Do we have to go through the list again? Or how about the laws of reason, or economics, or the moral law, or any language? Can you say that these things are material? No, you cannot. Therefore, materialism fails and any conclusions based upon that faulty premise will also fail.

Just in case this isn’t enough, I would like to drive one last stake through the heart of this vacuous and inane, in other words, empty of any intellectual content, position known as materialism.

Materialists cannot explain information because information always reduces to mind, not to matter. How can I say this? In order for information to exist, language must exist. (Try to imagine information apart from language.) In order for language to exist, symbols must be used. (This applies to all languages. Think about it.) But there is nothing in physics that can explain symbols. That is, the representation of one thing, or things (letters, here) for another thing. Whether material or abstract or real or imaginary, symbols represent other things. Only a mind is capable of creating and manipulating symbols according to agreed upon (abstract) rules in order to communicate information.

Here’s the problem. Nothing in physics says that “act” means to do something, or something done, or a segment of a play, depending upon the context. Nothing in physics explains that “cat” means a certain kind of mammal. I know. I’ve checked. General relativity doesn’t. Thermodynamics doesn’t. Quantum mechanics doesn’t. The Standard Model doesn’t. String Theory doesn’t. Quarks and leptons don’t. Physics has nothing to say about how it is even possible, or even how it could be possible, for one thing to represent, to be a symbol for, another thing. It is impossible for physics to ever say anything about symbols. Therefore, materialism fails. Again.

This is what makes arguing with a materialist so frustrating. If they are forced to adhere to their own ontological commitments, they could not even express an opinion since they have no explanatory resources with which to do so (mind and language). Yet they obviously feel free to avail themselves of the explanatory resources that a dualist (non-materialist???) has. To my mind, this makes them not only irrational but hypocritical. I don’t know which one is worse. In any case, they are intellectually degenerate, that is, they lack intellectual integrity, since they actually reject the very “reason” that they profess to worship. The fool has said in his heart, “there is no God.”

p.s. This means, of course, that neo-Darwinian evolution is also a farce since it relies only upon materialistic explanations and therefore has no hope of accounting for information. In fact, “natural selection” is a linguistic phenomenon with the same ontological status as tooth fairies and unicorns. If “natural selection” was a real force in nature, the physicists would know about it. But they don’t. So it isn’t. It’s a myth. It’s a way to smuggle in Mind and Design without saying Mind and Design. It’s also just as intellectually dishonest as the rest of the materialist enterprise. Why must this be endlessly repeated?? What do “you people” not get?? Really.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Naturalism and Language

Perhaps this is a little tighter...

My thesis is that any sort of philosophical naturalism that is taken seriously is incapable of explaining language. And since it cannot explain language, it cannot explain information. And since it cannot explain information it cannot explain, or account for, life.

There is no information without language. This is self-evident and undeniable. If you don't think so, try to deny that proposition without using a language.

There is no language without symbols. This is also self-evident and undeniable. Try to communicate information without the use of symbols.

Symbols are characters, or more generally, "things," that represent other things, both material and abstract. The key word here is represent. In any written language, letters  are arranged into words, or terms, to represent things in the universe, whether real or imaginary. Different words have different tasks (noun, verb, etc...) and they are arranged into sentences and phrases using the rules of the language (grammar and syntax) in order to communicate a message (the semantic content) for a purpose (why are you speaking in the first place?). Other languages that rely on signs, clicks, scents, or whatever still have symbols that relate one thing to another. Think of the sign language you may see on the freeway on any given day during rush hour traffic. No words are exchanged, but messages are being communicated.

So how do we account for this "representation" thing? How is it that "cat" can mean a certain kind of mammal? The letters "cat" mean, or represent, or refer to an actual instance of a cat, or cats in general. How does that happen?

If one takes seriously the position of naturalism, or something like naturalism, that nature is all that there is and that this includes only material or physical things, or things that can be described by our best physical theories, then since physical things are all that exist, all things must be explainable by physical theories (or physical laws or physics). A philosopher would say that the natural world is "causally closed." This means that all explanations begin and end in physical laws. There is no place for mind, and certainly no place for Mind, in any explanation of anything. So the naturalist must be able to explain the idea of representation, or symbols, by only using the laws of physics if he wants to explain language and thus information.

I'm not sure that we could even imagine how to do this. In fact, I am sure that we cannot. We can't imagine how physics could explain language because nothing in language has anything to do with sub-atomic particles in energy fields. What equations of quantum physics tell us that "cat" represents a certain kind of mammal? What part of general relativity tells us that "act" ("cat" rearranged) means to do something in one context, something done in another context, and a segment of a play in yet another context? What part of the Standard Model describes this "context"? The laws of physics are themselves "written" in the language of mathematics. But there is no law of physics that says "cat" means a certain kind of mammal. I'm certain. I've checked. Thus, naturalism utterly fails to account for language and therefore information.

So what?

If naturalism fails to account for what must be explained if we are going to explain life, i.e. information, then any naturalistic explanation for life, one that eschews Mind, must be false. After all, if Darwinian evolution, or something like it, is true, it could explain language and information within the constraints of naturalism. But it can't explain language and therefore it can't explain information. Therefore, it is not true. This (modus tollens) is a valid form of argument and the premises are true. Therefore, it is sound and the conclusion is necessarily true. Darwinian evolutionary theory, or whatever comes in its naturalistic place, is false. It is false now. It will always be false. In fact, it cannot be anything but false.

Therefore, we are finished. Naturalism as the basis for any explanation of anything fails because it is logically incoherent. It claims that physics can explain everything but physics can't explain language, or anything else that exists in the abstract. Things like economic laws, or the very laws of physics themselves, or the mathematics in which they are written, for that matter. Therefore, the proponent of naturalism is not being intellectually serious (or honest) when he argues against Mind and mind by using language when his own assumptions, strictly adhered to, not only deny the existence of language but have no hope of ever explaining it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Naturalism and evolution - a preview

If we are going to be intellectually serious about anything we have to remain consistent in our arguments. For example, on the one hand I cannot claim that there is no evil in the universe and on the other hand claim that the presence of evil "proves" that God does not exist. Well, I can, but I am no longer intellectually "serious," am I? With this in mind, I am going to write an essay, maybe a paper (with footnotes and everything) on the subject in the title of this post. This is just an outline.

The background: I was reading a post on the probability of biological information arising by chance (it's zero, to the tenth decimal point :-) and someone was replying that "yes it is." Now, I have the done the math myself a million times, and "NO" it isn't. But as I thought about it I realized that "we" shouldn't even be having this argument in the first place. Here's why...

If naturalism (or materialism, or physicalism, and all of the variations of these "isms") is true, then what does that mean? It means a couple of things. First off it means that all that exists, all that is real, is nature (thus naturalism). This eventually boils down to materialism (all is matter) or physicalism (all is physical) in their various forms. But, the ultimate commitment is to a matter and energy universe that is causally closed. Causally closed means that when we look for the causes of any effects, we will ALWAYS end up at the laws of physics. For example, if someone wanted to figure out how this post made its way onto my blog, ultimately they would have to explain it in terms of general relativity or quantum physics or the Standard Model or whatever. But they would NEVER say that it is because I have a mind and I decided to write and post it. There are a host of implications for this kind of thinking but my target is evolution so the other stuff can wait.

The next thing that we need to understand about "naturalism" is that there is an epistemological aspect to it as well. What that means is we can only know about reality in certain ways. One way, actually, and that is the scientific method. This follows, after all, if everything is material (matter and energy) that means it is detectable by the (empirical) methods of science. And since anything that is abstract cannot be so detected, it must not exist. That is as fine an example of circular reasoning that you could ever hope to see but just ignore it for now and play along with me. I'm going to assume the truth of the naturalist claims and see if they are up to the heavy lifting they'll have to do with regard to explaining life.

Life is information. Or perhaps we should say that information is what distinguishes life from non-life. In any case, if you are going to explain life, you must explain information. This is generally accepted by everybody so I will spend no time in this outline defending that other than to refer anyone who disagrees to Yockey, and Dawkins, for two. Both of whom are on "the other side" yet we agree on this. Life is information.

If life is information, then there must be a language of life. We all know there can be no information without language (think about it) so given this we would expect there to be a language of life. Lo and behold, there is. It's called the genetic code and more recently the genetic language. "The genetic language is a collection of rules and regularities of genetic information coding for genetic texts. It is defined by alphabet, grammar, collection of punctuation marks and regulatory sites, semantics." This is a quote from the abstract of an article I found on PubMed. So no controversy yet.

So now the task of naturalism is to explain the genetic language (or any language, actually) in terms of the laws of physics and only the laws of physics (we remember that they reject the existence of "minds" or "a Mind" that is outside of nature and thus cannot be empirically detected). Is this even possible to do? No. It is not.

All languages have symbols. In English they are the 26 letters of the alphabet, both upper and lower case, the numbers and symbols of mathematics, and punctuation marks. To be a symbol is to represent one thing for another. An eagle is the "symbol" of our nation. The bird represents the nation. (It should be a buzzard, these days.) In the same way, the letters a, c, and t, arranged as "cat" represent a certain kind of mammal and arranged like this "act" mean to do something (a verb) or something done (a noun) or a segment of a play, depending upon the context. So letters represent something, depending upon the conventions of the language, grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and so on.

How to explain that "cat" means a certain kind of mammal and "act" means several different things, depending on context, by reference to the laws of physics? It's impossible. The laws of physics are themselves "written" in the universal language of mathematics. But there is no law of physics that says "cat" means a certain kind of mammal. I'm certain. I've checked.

Therefore, we are finished. Naturalism as the basis for any explanation of anything fails because it is logically incoherent. It claims that physics can explain everything but physics can't explain language, or anything else that exists in the abstract, for example, the moral law or economic laws. Therefore, the proponent of naturalism is not being intellectually serious (or honest) when he argues against Mind and mind by using language when his own assumptions, strictly adhered to, not only deny the existence of language but have no hope of explaining language.

Well, this is just a start. But it's everything you need to know in order to trash the intellectual swill known as naturalism, or materialism, or physicalism. Physics cannot account for the representation of symbols for other things and without this there is no language. Without language there is no information. But we have information. Therefore, naturalism fails.

Let's go modus tollens on them. (If P, Q. ~Q. Therefore, ~P.)

If naturalism were true (P), physics could explain the existence of language (Q). But physics cannot explain the existence of language (~Q or not Q). Therefore, naturalism is false (~P or Not P). It cannot be true. It is impossible for it to be true. There is no universe where it could be true. Not even God could make it true. That is, IF the premises are true, and they are. Since, remember, that naturalism claims to explain everything with physics AND we have seen that physics has NOTHING TO SAY about symbols representing other things. We're done here except for the details.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Trying to make sense of Darwin - Part 1

Just in case you haven't been paying attention, 2009 is the 150th anniversary year of the publication of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. The only bigger lie ever foisted upon an unsuspecting and largely ignorant public (do I know my Americans or what) is the one upon which Darwin relied for his theory to make sense in the first place. You know, naturalism, materialism, physicalism, the idea that the only things that are real are, well, physical or material, the things that comprise nature.

So I'm thinking about how to advance this discussion, and by that I mean destroy once and for all any pretense of legitimacy for this pernicious evil that passes for received wisdom in the hallowed halls of academia and in the mainstream media. This debate has been raging for at least a century and a half now and I think it's high time for someone to completely trash the intellectual insanity that we call evolutionary theory. I'm so sick of reading the latest from Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Michael Shermer, Ernst Mayr (he's been dead for awhile so no nothing new from him) Michael Ruse, Jerry Coyne (his latest book is a real hoot), Victor Stenger (a physicist no less - you'd think of all people they could see through this natural selection bullshit), Barbara Forrest, Eugenie Scott, Ken Brown, Sam Harris, Elliot Sober, Richard Lewontin, Stephen Pinker, and then there is the old stuff from Francis Crick, Jacques Monod, Stephen J. Gould, Theodosius Dobzhansky, etal. I could go on, and on, and on, ALL of these people who can't stop yapping, yapping, yapping about how evolution is true, TRUE, TRUE and just shut up already if you don't think so.

Well, it isn't true. It never has been true and it never will be true. It's nonsense, literally, as in non-sense, i.e. opposed to reason and how it gets such a hearing is almost beyond me. Well look at who we keep electing to run the country and you can believe anything regarding the stupidity of Americans. So at least we have some idea of how this could happen.

So where to begin is the big problem. There are so many holes in Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and the new and improved version, natural selection PLUS genetic mutations (mistakes) called the modern synthesis or neo-Darwinian theory. I hate to type out neo-Darwinian because it's a pain so I'll just refer to evolutionary theory from now on as, well, evolution, or for an occasional change, Darwinism. And when I do you'll know that I mean the new kind, natural selection plus genetic mutations.

So before I launch into one of my many rants about how stupid Darwin was and how stupid anyone who listened to him for more than 5 minutes was/is I think I'll take a step back, take a big breath, and pose the following questions:
  • Is the metaphysical foundation of evolution true?
  • Does this foundation provide the proponents of evolution with the explanatory tools they need to explain what they need to explain? (Let's say that I'm trying to explain the game of football to you but I keep talking about base hits and outs and innings. In other words, I only have a baseball vocabulary to explain football. So can I EVER explain football like that? No.)
  • If it's not true (hint: it's not), then how do I know that it's not?
There are so many things to explain and it's so important and I'm trying to write THE damn book about what a crock evolution is and thus forever silence these ignorant people who assault our intellects with this swill called Darwinism so let me sort of ramble a little here and try to assemble my thoughts into some sort of coherent whole.

So I think the following questions need to be on our list of questions to which I will then be obligated to provide crystal clear, rational, iron-clad, water-tight, true, and insightful explanations.
  • What needs to be explained?
  • Why does it need to be explained? Maybe you would ask that question this way: SO WHAT?!! What difference does any of this make??? Who cares about metaphysics or philosophy or first principles anyway? Let me propose an easy thought experiment to help you decide that right now. If you jumped off of a very, very, very tall building would it matter if you were flying or falling? And when would it matter?
  • What makes for a good explanation or a good theory? In other words, how in the hell can I (you) know that you (Me) are correct, being a non-scientist with zero big-shot scientific credentials (and what a lot of nerve you have, too) and not all the big-shot scientists???? 
  • And then I think that naturalism or materialism or physicalism needs a little more explanation since if you are like most people you've already forgotten what I wrote about that even if you ever bothered to read it in the first place. We could also say, does your worldview matter? And what is a worldview anyway? Hint: naturalism is a worldview.
  • And you also need to understand the implications of naturalism. Now, there are a lot of different flavors of these particular "isms" and I won't bore you with all of those because they are really boring (try reading the Oxford Guide Philosophy or the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy late at night and see how long you last) and they are just various ways that ingenious (but ultimately foolish) people have tried to make these various "isms" "work." None of them do. None of them will ever, ever, EVER work, and I will tell you why in words of mostly three syllables or less.
  • What is natural selection? (This may come as a shock... but natural selection has the same ontological status as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. That's philosophical talk for natural selection is nothing more than a myth. Even a lot of smart Intelligent Design (I.D.) people think natural selection exists but they won't after they read this.)
  • What are mutations and how could they possibly be a source of biological information? Or, how can TNT both build AND destroy houses??!!!
  • What are the minimum requirements for information and can evolution explain them?
  • What is the role of reason in this discussion. You (me) are "just" a Christian after all, so don't you (me) discount reason?
Anyway, you will soon have all of the answers to these and many other interesting and fascinating questions so the next time some smart-ass intellectual tries to tell you that YOU are stupid or unsophisticated or a hick from central Illinois (well that part is actually true) because you don't believe in evolution you can say: "HA, well explain information for me then Mr Big Shot smart guy/gal and do so by only using the laws of physics."

Well, I'm getting ahead of myself and I've already given away the game, but still, maybe you want the details and even if you don't I'm going to give them to you so you don't look like an idiot when you call some other idiot an idiot. So you'll know to say, like House on TV does, you're an idiot! Of course, House is the real idiot and pretender but who ever recognizes that? At any rate, you need to know WHY, step by grueling and painful step, why evolution isn't true and why it is not even possible for it to be true. If I can do that one little, tiny, insignificant thing for even one person then this will have been worth it. To me at least, and that's what counts. (Apologies to Harry Paget Flashman and the Mogambo Guru for stealing their inimitable styles of writing. They say it's the highest form of flattery - maybe they won't sue...)

I'll get to some of the details next time. Soon. Feel free to quibble. Saying that evolution isn't true is the biological equivalent of telling physicists that quantum physics is nonsense. And when the person saying that, ME (and others, too, see I.D., except most of them have scientific academic credentials) doesn't have a Ph.D. behind my name you could be forgiven for thinking, what an arrogant ass this guy must be. And you'd be right! But that is irrelevant to the quality of the arguments so read what I have to say first. It's possible that I am an arrogant ass AND right. :-)