Friday, December 24, 2010

Another reply in the same thread...

LT @ 54

“tgpeeler (41), You present a nice case. Let me ask, though, whether you find terms such as “past,” “cause,” and “first” in the context of the origins of the universe. Are these terms, as we are using them here, appropriate and applicable to the origins of the universe?”

First of all, thank you. Second of all, absolutely these terms are appropriate in the context of the origin of the universe. I’m curious, why anyone would think they wouldn’t be? Those are all “finite” terms and the universe is finite, ergo…

“When it comes to our universe, we have a scientific case for claiming that we can explain it without having to go outside of it. For a very high-level, 101, explanation of what I’m saying see Sean Carroll’s video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCVqJw7T1WU.”

I watched this and I read Hawking’s book about two weeks after it came out last fall. He may be a stellar physicist but he flunks logic 101. I found Carroll’s comments to be mostly parroting what Hawking had to say so he flunks logic 101, too. I don’t have time to undo or correct all of the logical errors Carroll made in about three minutes, much less the ones Hawking made in an entire book, but I will comment on this phrase uttered by Carroll starting at 2:22 in the linked youtube video.

“The universe could just obey its own laws. It could be a natural, physical, material universe obeying the laws of physics and that can be a complete explanation of everything.”

The universe is FINITE. That means, according to the law of identity, that it began because that’s part of what finite means. And if it BEGAN, then it needs a CAUSE or EXPLANATION of its beginning, else it wouldn’t be here. But it is here. To just say that “we can explain it without having to go outside of it” without providing some rationale for that statement, some evidence, some proof, some argument, is ridiculous. On the face of it, it’s false.

To say, in the absence of any empirical evidence whatsoever, that universes can create themselves because Einstein said the net energy of the universe is zero and that the law of gravity allows them to, is utter nonsense. For one thing, as far as I’ve read, not that I track it closely, dark matter and/or dark energy comprise about 94% of the observable universe and no one really has a clue about what they are. I know for certain that the four fundamental forces have yet to be unified, the M-Theory metaphysical project not withstanding. But I’m supposed to believe that Hawking KNOWS that universes can be spontaneously created because of the laws of physics, the precursors to this natural, physical, material universe, “allow” that to happen? Ha. Sure. Not likely. Are you kidding me? Can anyone say or spell thermodynamics??

The other thing that strikes me right off the bat about this is something that the naturalists/physicalists/materialists never seem to grasp and which “we” allow to pass all too easily and often and it is this. What explanation do the laws of physics have for themselves? What explanation do the laws of physics have for the mathematical language in which they are expressed? Can either the language (the mathematics) or the physical laws be empirically detected? In other words, can they be sensed? No. They cannot. If you think they can, feel free to tell me what the Pythagorean theorem tastes like in your reply to this post.

So Hawking and Carroll cannot even rationalize the existence of the laws (and the language in which the laws are written) that they say allowed the universe, and other universes, to merely pop into existence. Think of this. That this kind of commentary purports to be scholarly, or if not scholarly, at least authoritative, is just amazing to me. That these guys are not summarily laughed off the stage only reflects the general level of ignorance of rational thinking in America, at least, and I’d probably also say the “West” in general.

“One of the arguments I’ve made to Kairos is that when going “outside” our universe, we are hard-pressed to extrapolate from the present (e.g., as you say, “things are changing in the present”) to a past as far back as the very origins of our universe.”

And why are we hard-pressed to do that? Why would you say that? I do it effortlessly all the time and so do many others out here.

“So, I think most everything that you or I could possibly say about a “first cause” would not only be uncertain, but I might wager it would be wrong (including this statement I just made). But now I’m speculating wildly, too.”

Of course you are. I am not. I am rigorously reasoning. There is a big difference. This is supposed to be a responsible conversation. That means that anything that anyone says that is logically sound is absolutely certainly true. It doesn’t matter when or where it’s said or by whom.

“I said before that we have a scientific case for the universe creating itself from nothing (I think this is close enough to the famous statement from Hawking’s recent book). I’m saying it’s a great or even a good case; I’m only asserting that there is a case. This much I think is indisputable.”

Did you actually read Hawking’s book? There’s also a case to be made that politicians are NOT lying, thieving, traitorous vermin that have destroyed the US economy but that doesn’t make it true. I’m sure some people think a “case” can be made that OJ is innocent, too. So what? I’m not interested in “cases,” I’m interested in rational arguments supported with empirical evidence. And so should you be.

“So, I have your case and I have Hawking’s case. I think the question at this point is how should reasonable people evaluate the two cases against each other (and other cases, as may be appropriate). Taking a neutral stance toward both cases, we need to know what criteria to apply in determining the quality of cases and the comparative evaluation.”

I am all for ignoring authority and going with the quality of the argument, i.e. reason and evidence.

“My intuition is that this is as far as any of us can go.”

May I sincerely and with no malice aforethought suggest that you go with reason and evidence over intuition. The argument I have presented is an exercise in pure reason, backed up with empirical evidence. The universe is finite. Therefore it needs a cause that cannot be finite. I recommend that you “get over” your speculation and intuition and start rigorously reasoning and demanding real evidence from the people who influence your thought.

p.s. And if that is not enough, please consider the claim Carroll made in the quote above. “It could be a natural, physical, material universe obeying the laws of physics and that can be a complete explanation of everything.”

Oh really? So physics can explain “everything.” I suppose, if everything means everything then I have a few questions for Carroll (and you).

Can physics explain information (or thought)? Or the necessary prerequisites for information (or thought)? – NO. (see the questions below)

Can physics explain Language (symbols and rules) – NO.

Can physics explain Free Will (the ability to manipulate symbols according to a certain set of rules – in this case English – so as to encode information, a message, into them) – NO.

Can physics explain Intentionality (the conscious, deliberate intent to communicate the message) – NO. (If I didn’t intend to say anything, I wouldn’t be writing something. But I am writing something. So I DO INTEND to say something.)

Can physics explain the Laws of Rational Thought (First Principles). Being, Identity, Non-contradiction, Excluded Middle, Sufficient Causality. Without which no coherent thinking is possible. (If 10 is less than 20 and 5 is less than 10. What do we know about the relationship between 5 and 20? Exactly, 5 < 20.) – NO.

Can physics explain mathematics? (See can physics explain Language.) – NO.

Can physics explain the Mind. That which reasons, freely chooses, and acts intentionally? – NO.

Must we go on? Physics cannot be a complete explanation of everything. Anybody with a normally functioning mind that has not been polluted with the intellectual virus of naturalism knows this. What does physics have to say about why it’s wrong to steal or murder or rape? Come on, man. You’re killing me…

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A reply to another naturalist

LT says “GEM’s argument in Item C seems to amount to COMPLEXITY, therefore NO EVOLUTION. It appears to be an argument from personal incredulity based on the idea of teleology. That is, the result of the process is really unlikely and the chances of getting to that specific result are almost infinitesimal. Yet, this is post hoc thinking, if I’ve represented GEM correctly.” (my comments to this paragraph follow)

I don’t believe you have. In fact, you couldn’t have gotten it more wrong. The argument is not “I can’t imagine how something this complex could arise by chance and time so it must not have.” The argument is “we ALWAYS find mind behind information in every aspect of life so it bears thinking about that biological information may also be caused by mind.” What, pray tell, is so difficult to comprehend about that?

A couple of problems for you are: you can not come up with one example of (human) information that does not involve language (symbols and rules), free will, rationality, intentionality, and mind. Not one. Second, there is not one example of information in the animal world that does not involve the use of symbols and rules.

If you are an intellectually “serious” (that is you strictly obey the laws of rational thought)naturalist/materialist/physicalist (in my experience there is no such animal) then you must deny the existence of free will, rationality, intentionality, and mind. Indeed, you have no explanation for language, either. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain how symbols are arranged so as to mean something. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain free will. You cannot, by means of physical laws, explain intentionality. In other words, the intellectually serious naturalist can’t explain Jack S. about anything that matters to human beings. Your fakery (that you can) is breathtaking.

You, who reject the very existence of everything that makes information possible, by means of information presume to inform rational, serious people that time and chance and the laws of physics can account for everything. Why can’t you see the insanity of this? You can apparently deny everything that makes information possible, while using information in order to make that denial, without your head exploding. I can’t connect to that but perhaps that’s just me.

p.s. The argument from “personal incredulity” can be perfectly valid. I’m sure you use it all the time. Let’s say I offer you a foolproof way to beat the lottery. All you have to do is give me 50% of your “certain” winnings up front. Gonna jump on that deal? Didn’t think so.

I have personally seen hundreds of thousands of books, millions, even, and probably read close to five thousand. I’ve never seen one yet that did not have an author. Therefore, I think I am perfectly justified to be incredulous when any intellectual poseur comes along and trots out the nonsense that biological information, which is orders of magnitude more complex than human generated information, can be explained by “natural” causes. What a joke. I am entitled to my incredulity. Indeed, I am forced by an overwhelming mass of evidence and the relentless authority of reason to be incredulous. When you come across one book, just one book, without an author, let me know and I’ll start paying serious attention to what you have to say. Until then, not.