Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Long Awaited Existence of God Post:

There is no logical reason to believe in God.

First, no religious text provides proof that God exists. The majority of religious texts talk in very general terms about God, are written by biased individuals and were written in times when people were very gullible. There is no way we can trust the people who wrote the Bible (or any religious text) and there is no way to know whether or not what it says is true. Religious texts must be assumed to be purely written by man until, at least, we can prove that God exists.

The following are common arguments for the existence of God followed by rebuttals based on David Hume’s philosophy:

1. The cosmological argument- The universe must have been caused by something which was itself uncaused; God.

There is nothing in the word "universe" that implies that it must have had a cause. There are no observations to support the claim that the universe must have a cause. Just because everything we have observed has had a cause does not mean that everything must have a cause. What caused God? If you think it is ridiculous to say that the universe didn’t need a cause—it is the same as saying that God didn’t need a cause. Just because we can’t grasp or understand that something (with the exception of God) has always existed does not mean that it hasn’t. Why must we think that the universe’s existence is intelligible?

2. The teleological argument- Based on the design of the things we can observe in nature there must have been some intelligent designer; God.

This argument is based on the following analogy--

Watch : Intelligent Watch Maker :: Universe : Intelligent Universe Maker (God)
Why assume that the universe is orderly or designed? Even if it is orderly the only analogies we can make are those based on experience. We have not fully experienced and we do nut fully understand the universe, thus, we cannot conclude using an analogy that its existence is analogous to that of a watch. Order does not imply design. Even if we could use an analogy to prove that an intelligent designer is necessary then we can only conclude that the designer has at least the amount of goodness/intelligence found in the universe. Therefore, the intelligent designer could be a malicious designer, the universe could have been designed by a group, could have been designed by an incompetent deity, and the designer could have died in the process of creating the universe or some time thereafter. Imperfect effects only require imperfect causes. Thus, even if I grant you all the steps (which is not reasonable) you still cannot prove the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent God.

3. The miraculous world argument- Things happen that have no explanation other than to explain them in terms of defying natural laws—we call these things miracles; miracles require God.

Millions of people throughout history have experienced miracles-- how can I not believe in them? I think that our society has gotten to a point where we should realize that magic and miracles are silly to believe in. Especially now in the heyday of surveillance and science-- there has never been anything that has been proven to be a miracle (not to mention that the number of miracles are strangely skewed toward the very religious and poorly educated). I'm not saying that I know that miracles don't happen-- I'm saying there is no logical reason to believe in them.
If you do an experiment and come out with a flawed result are you going to think that you made a mistake or that a miracle happened? Chances are that you'll check everything and make sure there isn't a mistake being made. If you are absolutely sure that there is no mistake being made and you still come up with a flawed result then you'll be forced to change the law to fit the circumstances so that your result is no longer flawed... at no point will you throw your hands up and declare that it's a miracle—just attributing new findings to miracles would be very detrimental to the sciences. The fact is we will never be able to tell the difference between a miracle and a fraud, an unlikely happening or a mistake. And since we have never been able to prove something to be a miracle (unless God starts making himself and his miracles a lot more obvious) it is silly to assume that miracles happen.

I know tons of people have their "miracle" stories—many of them have to do with near death experiences or medical miracles. There are still so many mysteries to the human body that it is impossible to say that "medical miracles" are interventions from God. Also, it is completely natural to want to believe, in a situation where it seems like you should have died, that something kept you alive for a specific purpose—everyone wants to have meaning in their lives. However, these feelings are founded in emotion and passion not reason or logic.


Blogger nico said...

How can assume that you can understand or prove the existance of god using logic? God is not something that can not be explained and is not a temporal being. That is made clear in Dante's Divine Comedy. Virgil represents reason and logic and can only take Dante to the end of purgatory and most leave it to someone else to take Dante to heaven. I believe it because god just can not be described, understood, or defined by logic.

5:05 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

We are rational and logical beings-- it seems ridiculous for God to expect us to believe in him when it is neither rational or logical to do so.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Om said...

Well said, Nico. God was never about logic or reason, although some people think that their belief is based on reason and logic. It is faith in the unprovable, a faith that provides meaning and purpose to life. But then, why are you still holding God up as Truth? Truth is something that can not be denied, that cuts across race, class, age, sex; in short, an absolute.

I am putting words into your mouth and arbitrarily defining them, but it seems to be the spirit behind your post. You do not speak of God as a belief you hold because it feels right to you personally, but instead are still talking of Him as a definite entity that can not be denied. This seems somewhat contradictory given the nature of faith.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

You said in the blog, "We have not fully experienced and we do nut fully understand the universe, thus, we cannot conclude using an analogy that its existence is analogous to that of a watch." You use this statement, in essence, to claim that because we have not experienced the universe we cannot make claims about whether it has a designer or not. Well I would offer that since you have had no real experience of miracles, you should make no claims about them. Your arguments concerning them are unfounded as well.

A miracle has nothing to do with "new findings" in science. A miracle is a situation in which, against all logic, something that should not have happened did in fact happen. So in that sense, it is not going to make a lot of sense. For example, because someone goes to a charismatic priest and asks to be healed and has faith that they will be healed, they are healed of their blindness (these kinds of miracles do continue to happen to this day). Just because this happens, however, does not mean that a scientist is going to say, "Well blind people can always get their sight back." No, it would not be a miracle if this were the case.

On another note, I think that miracles happen on a continuum of obviousness, with some miracles being less obvious than others and some being much more obvious. Just because all you have heard of are the less obvious ones (your friends near death stories) does not imply that more obvious ones do not occur (again, the argument from experience, which you yourself posed). Furthermore, you stated that "the number of miracles are strangely skewed toward the very religious and poorly educated" as though it were a quandary. I think that just makes sense: only the very religious (because of their faith) and the poorly educated (because, unfortunately, more educated people tend to be more skeptical) are going to have the faith to ask for a miracle. So, that's not really all that odd.

Also, on what grounds do you make your these broad assertions. I would check your sources, because, just as you said, "The majority of religious texts...are written by biased individuals," I would offer that these arguments are not too unbiased themselves. Just some food for thought.

2:37 AM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

Prove to me that miracles happen.

I'm not saying that I know whether or not miracles happen-- I just think it's silly to believe in something without some kind of proof... perhaps my thoughts will change after you prove it to me. stated that I shouldn't make arguments against miracles because I haven't had any "real experience"... that is like saying I can't make any philosophical arguments about the existence of God because I haven't had any "real experience" of God... that's just silly.

There's a difference between making philosophical arguments about the existence of something and making an analogy to prove the existence of something else.

The watch/watchmaker analogy would be similar to saying--


I don't have any knowledge about where unicorns come from or how they are born-- I imagine that they are spontaneously spawned from pixie dust-- and, thus, the analogy doesn't prove that a young unicorn must exist. We simply don't have full knowledge of what a Unicorn is.

4:23 AM  
Anonymous Tommy T said...

Wassup, Jeff?

It's funny that this debate is going on here b/c I'm dealing with a similar issue online elsewhere. (I'll give you the info but you can't post. Trying to narrow the scope and increase the effectiveness.)

I will not here try to relate any creed (Christian or otherwise) to truth. That would be much to lengthy a task for me anyway and I firmly believe that you would walk away thinking I was a fool. So instead, I will do the much easier task of relating creed to health and to that virtue which I know you ascribe, liberality.

The materialist philosophy (whether true or not) is certainly much more limiting than any Christian religion. You may explain the universe by saying that all things are leaves inevitably unfolding on an unconscious tree - the tree of the destiny of matter. The explanation does explain, although not throughly, and if the universe of the materialist is the real universe, it is not much of a universe. It has shrunk. The diety is less divine than many men. The parts seems greater than the whole.

Spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. If I believe in immortality, I don't need to think about it. But if I do not believe in immortality I must not think about it. In the first case I'm able to go as far down the road as I like; in the second the road is shut.

The charge I would like to make is this. The main deductions of the materialist, right or wrong, destroys his humanity; Not only kindness, but hope, courage, poetry, initiative, all that is human. For instance, when materialism leads men to complete fatalism (which it generally does), it is quite idle to pretend that it is in any sense a liberating force. It is absurd to say that you are advancing freedom whne you only use free thought to dostroy free will. They may well call their law the "chain" of causation. It is the worst chain that ever fettered a human being.

You may say that he bold determinist speculator is free to disbelieve in the reality of the will. But it is more important to say that he is not free to raise, to curse, to thank, to justify, to urge, to punish, to resist temptations, to incite mobs, to make New Year's resolutions, to rebuke tyrants, or even to say "thank you" for passing the mustard.

Before passing from the subject and going to bed, which I should have done a while ago, I would also like to remark on a prior entry concerning law and its implimentation in society (again not stating a theory's relation to truth but only to health and liberality):
There is some fallacy to the effect that materialistic ideas are in some way favorable to mercy, to the abolition of cruel punishments or punishments of any kind. This is the reverse of the truth. It is quite tenable that the doctrine of necessity makes no difference at all; it leaves the flogger flogging and the kind friend exhorting as before. But obviously if it stops either of them it stops the kind exhortation. That sins are inevitable does not prevent punishment, if it prevents anything it prevents persuasion. Determinism is quite as likely to lead to cruelty as it is certain to lead to cowardice. It is not inconsistant with the cruel treatment of criminals. What it IS inconsistant with is the generous treatment of criminals; with any appeal to their feelings or encouragement in their moral struggle. The determinist does not believe in appealing to the will, but he does believe in changing the environment. He must not say to the sinner, "Go and sin no more," because the sinner cannot help it. But he can put him in boiling oil; for boiling oil is an environment.

Perhaps I should state this in closing. The man who cannot believe anything but his senses is insane, but his insanity is proved not by any error in his argument, but by the manifest mistake of his life. His position is quite reasonable; in a sense infinitely reasonable as a penny is infinitely circular. But there is such a thing as a mean infinity.

Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you create morbidity. Ordinary man has always been sane because ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostics of today) free also to believe in them. He has always cared more for truth than consistency. If he saw two truths that seemed to contracdict each other, he would take the truths and the contradiction too. His spiritual sight is stereoscopic, like his physical sight: he sees to different pictures at once and yet sees all the better for it. He always believed that there was fate, but believed in free will as well. He admired youth because it was young and age because it was not. The whole secret is this: a man can understand everything by the help of what he does not understand. The mystic allows one thing to be mysterious and everything else becomes lucid. The determinist makes the theory of causation clear and then finds that he cannot say "please" to the maid. The Christian allows free will to be a mystery and his relations with the maid become clear. He puts the seed of dogma in darkness; but it branches forth in all directions with abounding natural health.

As we have taken the circle to be the symbol of reason and madness, we might well take the cross as the symbol of both mystery and health. The circle is perfect and infinite in its nature; but it is fixed forever in its size; it can never be larger or smaller. The cross, however, though at its heart is a collision and contradiction, can extend its four arms forever without altering its shape. Because it has a paradox in its center it can grow without changing. The circle returns upon itself and is bound. The cross is open to the winds; a signpost for free travelers.
Another symbol will sufficently express the place of mysticism before mankind. The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything. Like the noonday sun, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisiblity. We are conscious of it as a kind of splendid confusion; it is both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur. But the circle of the moon is clear and unmistakable, as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is utterly reasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has given them all her name.

4:43 AM  
Anonymous OM said...

Wow. I like all the metaphor and symbolism. But, it does not really do much good, as we each have a different symbolic map, different concepts of the ideas madness, reason, logic, mysticism, god. And so the relationships one draws up make perfect sense to the originator, and others are left wondering. In the same way, it is difficult to make myself understood by someone with a different mindset. I would say that Tommy misrepresents the possibilities contained within a materialist doctrine by holding up one possibility and denying the rest. By restricting the concept of materialism it is easy to ignore as absurd. Jeff might very well be doing the same thing with religion.

This is a dangerous way to go about; it allows anyone to take a body of symbols and symbolic relations, observe a small subset, and declare the whole null and void. Materialism may lead to the elimination of free will as most people choose to think of it, but that's another issue entirely. Think of it this way:

When you make a decision, how do you choose? You are faced with the choice of a burger or a salad. Perhaps you are overly hungry today, or maybe you're on a diet. You had a burger yesterday, though; this salad, however, is nothing but iceberg lettuce, not your favorite. You weigh the options. You get chicken and rice.

What led to that decision? Was it free will, pure and unadulterated? Was it mostly based on past experiences and current circumstances, some under your control, some not? I wonder at this idea of free will that claims decisions are based outside reality. My experience has been that I will make a decision based on who I am, my current state, and the situation. Who I am and my current state depend on the past, and I have no direct control (in the moment) over that. The situation, to the extent that I do not choose every aspect of my environment, is also beyond my control. Just because I make a choice does not mean that I have free will; instead, my choice stems from the reality of which I am a part. Free will is tantamount to saying that if you copy a person down to the smallest atom, and place that person in exactly similar situations, down to the amount of dust on a lightbulb, the different copies will do different things. Of course, such an experiment is entirely impossible, but one's response to the idea is illuminating.

So, obviously I do not believe in free will as tommy is talking about it. It seems that many use the liberating concept of free will to condemn those who make different choices, or "wrong" choices, or what have you. If you take away free will and believe the claim that people are products of their environment, that we really can't help but make the choices we will be faced with in a given way, how can you judge or condemn those who fuck up? And so while the idea of free will may be liberating, it is also a key part of what I consider to be the worst of modern Christianity.

On the opposite side, believing in determinism does not seem to cripple me in any significant way. I know that today I'll be faced with a series of decisions, and that I must try to make the best decisions possible based on the principles I hold, regardless of the predetermined nature of my decisions. I know that people can and do change, sometimes due to obvious outside influences, sometimes due to less obvious internal conflicts that have waged for years. These changes can be positive or negative. Christian love is still a powerful force, the application of which can break down many barriers and affect positive changes in both parties. Romantic love will still make people do crazy things.

In short, one can be deterministic without finding himself unable to say "please" to anyone. Indeed, it is a situation very similar to that described in the Bible: we have free will, but God knows our every action before we act. While we may make choices and have "free will", every choice we make has already been determined in the mind of God. Using traditional definitions for free will leads to a paradox that is waved away with one of those, "God knows, and we can not understand" type of explanations. This whole concept suddenly falls into place if free will is restricted to mean the ability to make choices, instead of the ability to make choices based outside of reality.

On a side note, I never took the circle to be the symbol of reason. Based on the tenets of quantum mechanics I do not even necessarily believe in cause and effect in a traditional sense - somehow it is occasionally possible for particles to have instantaneous connection with each other even while they are far apart, defying the normal idea of cause and effect and "light cones" and whatnot. I took the cross to be the symbol of Jesus' death and man's animal nature, while Jesus' life was a standard to follow and a source of inspiration. And one can look at the sun with the right preparations. With a good pair of glasses, it can be a beautiful thing. And when the moon crosses in front of the sun, many hidden things become seen, and the vision is breath-taking.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Tommy T said...

Thank you om for your kind overlooking of all my spelling errors (What do you mean the number 2 has a 'w' in it?).

Symbols alone are of even a cloudy value in speaking of a deep matter. This I would be foolish to deny. Although even you state that you have to change (impair) your vision to see the sun, and I am curious to the many hidden things that are seen upon eclipse.

Let me take a different tack:
The modern philosopher, it is said, can see no answer to the riddle of religion. But the trouble is not that they can see no answer; it is that they cannot see the riddle. The modern latitudinarians speak, for instance, about authority in religion not only as if there were no reason in it, but as if there had never been any reason for it. Apart from see its philosophical basis, they cannot even see its historical cause. Religious authority has often, doubtless, been oppressive or unreasonable; just as every legal system (especially ours) has been callous and full of a cruel apathy. It is rational to attack the police; nay, it is glorious. But the modern critics of religious authority are like men who should attack the police without ever having heard of burglars. For there is a great and possible peril to the human mind: a peril as practical as burglary. Against it religious authority was reared, rightly or wrongly, as a barrier. And against it something certainly must be reared as a barrier, if our species is to avoid ruin.

That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existance of the next by all jumping into the sea or joining a monastary, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought. It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason itself is a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, "Why should ANYTHING go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? Are they not both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?" The young septic says, "I have a right to think for myself." But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, "I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all."
There is a thought that stops thought. That is the only thought that ought to be stopped. It is the ultimate evil against which all religious authority was aimed. It only appears at the end of decadent ages like our own: and, actually (already) Mr. H. G. Wells has raised its dread banner; he has written a delicate piece of scepticism called "Doubts of the Instrument." In this he questions the brain itself, and endeavors to remove all reality from all his own assertions, past, present, and to come. But it was against this remote ruin that the military systems in religion were originally ranked and ruled. The creeds and crusades were not organized, as is ignorantly said, for the suppression of reason. They were organized for the difficult defense of reason. Man, by a blind instinct, knew that if once things were wildly questioned, reason could be questioned first. We can even now hear scepticism crashing through the old ring of authorities, and at the same moment we can see reason swaying on her throne. In so far as religion is gone, reason is going. They are both methods of proof which cannot themselves be proved. With a long and sustained tug we have attempted to pull the mitre off pontifical man; and his head has come off with it.

Lest this be called a loose assertion, it is perhaps desirable, though dull, to run rapidly through the chief modern fashions of thought which have the effect of stopping thought itself. Materialism and the view of everything as a personal illusion have some such effect; for if the mind is mechanical, thought cannot be very exciting, and if the cosmos is unreal, there is nothing to think about. But in these cases the effect is indirect and doubtful. In some cases it is direct and clear; notably in the case of what is called evolution.
Evolution is a good example of a modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything else, it is attack upon thought itself. If evolution simply means that a positive thing called an ape turned very slowly into a positive thing called a man, then it is stingless for the most orthodox. If it means anything more, it means that there is no such thing as an ape to change, and no such thing as a man for him to change into. It means that there is no such thing as a thing. At best, there is only one thing, and that is a flux of everything and anything. This is an attack not upon the faith, but upon the mind; you cannot think if there are no things to think about. Descartes said, "I think; therefore I am." The philosophic evolutionist reverses and negatives the epigram: "I am not; therefore I cannot think."
Akin to these is the false theory of progress, which maintains that we alter the test instead of trying to pass the test. We often hear it said, for instance, "What is right in one age is wrong in another." This is quite reasonable, if it means that there is a fixed aim, and that certain methods attain at certain times and not at others. If women, say, desire to be elegant, it may be that they are improved at one time by growing fatter and at another time by growing thinner. But you cannot say that they are improved by ceasing to wish to be elegant and wishing to be oblong. If the standard changes, how can there be improvement, which implies a standard? Nietzsche started a nonsensical idea that men had once sought as good what we now call evil; if it were so, we could not talk of surpassing or even falling short of them. You cannot discuss whether one people has succeeded more in being miserable than another succeeded in being happy. It would be like discussing whether Milton was more puritanical than a pig is fat.
The main point here is that this idea of a fundamental alteration in the standard is one of the things that make thought of about the past or future simply impossible. The theory of a complete change of standards in human history does not merely deprive us of the pleasures of honoring our fathers; it deprives us even of the more modern and aristocratic pleasure of despising them.
This summary would not be complete without some reference to pragmatism; for though I should everywhere defend the pragmatitist method as a preliminary guide to truth, there is an extreme application of it which involves the absence of all truth whatsoever. I agree with the pragmatists that apparent objective truth is not the whole matter; that there is an authoritative need to believe the things that are necessary to the human mind. But I say that one of those necessities precisely is a belief in objective truth. The pragmatist tells a man to think what he must think and never mind the Absolute. But precisely one of the things that he must think is the Absolute. Pragmatism is a matter of human needs; and one of the first of human needs is to be something more than a pragmatist. Extreme pragmatism is just as inhuman as the determinism it so powerfully attacks. The determinist (who, to do him justice, does not pretend to be a human being) makes nonsense of the human sense of actual choice. The pragmatist, who professes to be specially humna makes nonsense of the human sense of actual fact.

I could go further but already this is long and quite cumbersome. Filled with all sorts of spelling error which I am sure to miss. The symbolism has been by and large amputated and I hope my message is the clearer for it.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Om said...

Modification is not impairment. Shoes, skis, nor rollerblades impair the feet, they alter function. Sun glasses do not impair vision but alter it. At night this alteration would be considered detrimental, but on a bright day in a snowfield it would be considered an improvement. The symbolism of sun as god is still illuminating. Unaided, we can not even begin to view (contemplate) God directly. We begin to create instruments (modes of thought, analytical tools) that allow us to view what the protoman is unable to see. Unfortunately, though, the vision we come up with depends on the instruments used, and in the end we are still left to extrapolate back to the true nature by understanding the distortion our various tools cause. This is still preferable than attempting to reason the nature of the sun only by its effects, in my humble opinion.

We have then come up against a difference of opinion, one that might be resolved with extensive study of history, but perhaps not. I would have said that religion sprang up in answer to the deepest questions in life: "why are we here, where do we go when we die, how should I live my life." One of the primary components of religion is a moral code. The farther back in history you go the more barbaric are the people you find, the greater the atrocities committed, often in the name of some deity or another. It seems that religion has been a calming influence on the animal nature in all of us, helping us rise above the beasts around us; it is not an attempt by some to prevent people from thinking themselves into solipsism.

As a small rebuttal to the idea that religion arose to counter one of the pitfalls in pure reason, let's examine the history of reason and religion. Religion has been around since prehistory. The Greeks worshipped any number of gods, and there have been numerous pagan cults in just about any culture you care to examine. Reason, on the other hand, wasn't properly established until Aristotle began to enumerate the various logical types around 350 BC, well after religions had formed. The Jewish religion had their important prophets around 600 BC, the Buddha lived around 600 BC. These religions were not formed in response to an attack by reason. I imagine the Hindu religion has been around for a good deal longer than any of those.

Now the evolution of reason and religion. The Greek culture died out after Alexander's empire fell to pieces, and Rome took over. There was still science and religion, and it is during this time that we see the rise of Christianity - not in response to reason, but in response to, or as an extension of, Judaism.

After the fall of Rome we see the result of a lack of reason: the Dark Ages. There was little advancement in society for a thousand years, while religion and despots reigned supreme. Eventually we come to the Reformation, and the explosion that leads to modern society. It is interesting to note that the greatest scientists of the Reformation were decidedly Christian: Newton and Leibniz. So were Descarte and a number of others. Reason and religion do not have to be at odds with each other.

I do not understand why evolution necessarily leads to the claim that thought cannot exist. You are right in that it did bring about a revolution in thought: namely, from the absolute and static to the relative and dynamic. The origin of the word species, originally intended as a name for various absolute forms, was a Greek word coined by Aristotle, more philosophic than religious in nature. It was not until Darwin came on the scene that a transition was completed (he was not the progenitor of the idea of change) from static to dynamic. A quote from Dewey pertains to this transition: "To assert - as is often asserted - that specific values of particular truth, social bonds and forms of beauty, if they can be shown to be generated by concretely knowable conditions, are meaningless and in vain; to assert that they are justified only when they and their particular causes and effects have all at once been gathered up into some inclusive first cause and some exhaustive final goal, is intellectual atavism." Essentially, he is saying that arguing that evolution makes everything pointless or meaningless is reverting to a philosophic stance first made explicit by the Greeks. That mode of thought was a result of the knowledge they possessed; as our knowledge has changed, so have our modes of thought. We no longer believe in four eternal elements, or in Platonic forms.

Indeed, I am curious as to the greater meaning implied by evolution. Evolution is a scientific theory explaining the nature of change from generation to generation, and the methods and reasons for these changes. At one extreme we have microevolution, the change from one generation to the next. The other extreme is macroevolution, the accumulation of small changes over time that can eventually give rise to entirely new forms. Neither extreme asserts more than that one species can eventually become a different species. While this may or may not have implications for religion and other realms of thought, these implications are not explicit within evolution, and indeed are more a result of the religion in question than evolution.

Now, a discussion of standards. I would say, "Of course standards change." A moral and intelligent man of 2300 years ago would be an uneducated barbarian of today. And he'd probably like buggering little boys, nor would any of his contemporaries consider that wrong, but that's beside the point. It is impossible not to notice the massive relativism in morality between different societies, and then I wonder where are the fundamental standards that have remain unchanged since the dawn of time. Certainly not in any specific morality; it's possible to find a counterexample for any moral code you care to name.

But, maybe there is some overarching standard, some external principle, by which a set of standards can be measured. And if we are to judge improvement, we do not apply our standards, nor the standards of the past, but instead refer to this first principle from which everything else can be derived. Unfortunately, I know of no such principle that is obvious as such, and while many claim to have one, they all possess different principles. Indeed, most religions serve to provide such a principle, and there are many others to be found or reasoned out, what have you.

So, in conclusion, I do not think that science specifically precludes the existence of such a principle. Indeed, such a principle and the search for such a principle seem to be entirely outside the bounds of science by most definitions. Science is useful for asking questions that have a decideable truth, and then deciding the truth. A first principle (or the Absolute, in your language) is not to be decided by a battery of experiments. However, claiming that science destroys all first principles is absurd. Science seeks to answer questions about the nature of observable reality, and would be well enough let alone. It is religion that takes issue with some of these answers and strikes back, claiming that science is fraud, that science destroys humanity, that science will be the death of us all. There are other religions, though, that incorporate science, that believe that it can never be a bad thing to more fully understand the nature of God's universe, that there is no answer that will destroy religion. Go ahead, make a choice.


I did not really deal with determinism directly and instead dealt with other issues of your post. I feel you've misrepresented determinism, or rather that you've taken a subset of the possibilities within determinism and held it up as the totality of determinism. Even in an entirely mechanistic world I can make choices. I will consider the pros and cons and make a decision based on the outcome of my analysis. Free will is a question whose influence lies outside the realm of experience, of day-to-day living; it does not determine how I should live my life. It is interesting indeed that it has gained such prominence when it does not even seem important. Are my decision based in this world or somewhere else? Well, what difference does it make?

10:08 PM  
Blogger spankidiots said...

I'll start with determinism.

In philosophy there are two groups separated by simple semantics: there are the hard determinists and the soft determinists.

The hard determinists think that because everything is determined there is no such thing as free will.

The soft determinists think that even though things are ultimately determined there is still nothing keeping us from choosing what we want. Even though causality could have only lead to one choice-- there was nothing forcing that choice on us.

It's all about how you define freedom. I would define freedom as being able to carry out your will freely. Even in a deterministic world there is nothing forcing me to choose something against my will.

I don't see that we are prisoners to causality-- it is not as if determinism destroys my human experience.

Others may disagree.

As far as being a mystic leaving more doors open and being a materialist destroying humanity. I think being a close-minded materialist could destroy the human experience. However, I'm open to anything-- I don't claim to know any absolute truths, thus, all doors are open to me-- whereas the mystic who believes that there is a God has closed the door to the possibility that there is no God.

It should not just be about which lifestyle leaves the most doors open-- it should ultimately be about truth.

"The man who cannot believe anything but his senses is insane"

You may believe this but it would be impossible to support this claim with any rational argument. We are our senses-- we are thinking and experiencing beings. Our thoughts are based on our experiences. We cannot think of anything that has attributes of which we have never experienced. We can make up imaginary things but if we were to describe them we could only use descriptions of things we have experienced.

The funny thing is that we deem people who believe in things that cannot be proven through the senses (aside from popular religious belief) as insane. If a man believes that aliens camp outside of his house during full moons-- we'll deem him insane because he's believing things that we cannot prove using our senses.

The beliefs of the man who believes aliens camp outside of his house are just as insane as any popular religious belief. The only reason the person is labeled insane is because of the lack of popularity of his beliefs.

3:32 PM  
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11:35 AM  

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