Thursday, December 08, 2005

ID Theory--A "Design" For Failure

“Intelligent Design” (ID) proposes that intelligence is necessary to explain the origins of life and Universe. Proponents claim that certain biological structures are “irreducibly complex”—that they had to be created all at once as functioning wholes, and could not have arisen by any possible evolutionary process from simpler structures.

Another angle on this is the concept of “specified complexity.” For example, if an astronomer receives a series of radio pulses that express the Fibonacci series, a list of the first 200 prime numbers, or pi calculated to a thousand digits coming from a star, the obvious conclusion would be that she is receiving a signal generated by an alien intelligence, rather than some odd natural radio source. This is because these numerical sequences can be “specified” in advance as an orderly pattern an intelligence would be inclined to send as an identifier, as opposed to “finding” a pattern after the fact, like the “scheme of Biblical prophecy” that was supposedly “encoded” in the chambers and corridors of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

ID proponents claim that both kinds of evidence for intelligent design can be found in nature, in complex structures like the flagella of bacteria or the intricate mechanisms of the cell. Evolutionists counter that all or most of these conundrums can be explained within current evolutionary theory. For a well-balanced presentation of both sides, click here.

Some of the largest—and least-discussed—problems with ID lie with its central explanatory mechanism: whatever intelligence(s) is/are responsible for the “design.”

In order for any explanatory mechanism to qualify as an answer to a question in science, it must at least be defined. For example, if a physicist wishes to propose an entity called the “electron” as the explanatory mechanism behind lightning bolts, static charges, and electrical current, he must, at the very least, be able to define what an electron is: what its properties are, including a mathematical description of how it fits with or supplants physics-as-known. Armed with this information, it becomes possible to devise experiments to detect “electrons” or falsify the claim of their existence.

What do ID theorists say about the source of design in Universe? If you read some of the articles on main ID websites, such as the Discovery Institute or the Intelligent Design Network it is clear that they propose “a non-physical intelligence” as their cause. Though they won’t come right out and say it, it’s fairly apparent from their literature Who they have in mind:

A little science estranges a man from God; a little more brings him back.

Francis Bacon (1561–1626)

Sooner or later everyone asks the question, “Where do we come from?” The answer carries profound, life-molding implications. Until this question is answered we cannot solve another fundamental question that is key to ethics, religion, and the meaning of life (if any): “Are we here for a purpose?”

There are two possible answers: the universe and life and its diversity—natural phenomena—are the product of 1) a combination of only natural laws and chance (the “naturalistic hypothesis)”; or 2) a combination of law, chance, and design—the activity of a mind or some form of intelligence that has the power to manipulate matter and energy (the “design hypothesis”). The latter produces purpose, the former does not.

--Harris Calvert

Here is where their problems begin. Even if we grant that the DNA molecule, bacterial flagella, eyes, etc. must have been designed, that in itself does nothing to prove that there is a single Designer, or that the Intelligence(s) responsible have any resemblance whatsoever to anything worshipped by any Earthy religion. Since most major design projects these days (such as a design for a new jet airliner) require a number of designers working together, it is as sensible—if not more so—to propose that there must be a pantheon of Designers responsible for life. An “Intelligent Design By Committee” theory could even be used to explain some of the flawed or useless “designs” found in nature, such as the vermiform appendix or a snake’s vestigial legs.

The Designer(s) cannot be shown to be "non-physical" just by looking at the designs. The Designers could have been alien genetic engineers, or the perhaps evolutionary process itself could be found to be "intelligent." Even in the case of the "finely tuned" cosmological constants that make this universe seem to be especially formed so as to be habitable, it is possible to hypothesize that our Universe was created by an incredibly advanced, billion-year-old supercivilization with motives and technologies as inconcievable to us as ours are to bacteria.

Furthermore, the very concept of "non-physical" (or "spiritual," to use the religious term) is, as of yet, entirely undefined. We may know what it's not--not matter/energy or anything else man can know and detect scienfically--but we have no information on what it is. Therefore, in scientific terms, it is not even possible to discuss a "non-physical" entity as a causal explanation until the Intelligent Design theorists can explain what they're talking about.

ID theorists (as well as the older "Scientific Creationist" movement) will reply that this is a "materialist bias." While some scientists are no doubt "biased" against religion and the supernatural, others have no problem going to church on Sunday. Science itself is not "biased" against religion any more than music theory is biased against quarks and asteroids. Science is the systematic study of the natural world and natural processes. The non-detectable, non-quantifiable, and unknowable-to-humans is, by definition, outside of the purview of science.

ID theorists have no way of determining from any “evidence for design” that the Designer(s) created us “for a purpose.” He/She/They could have done it to relieve boredom, express Him/Her/Themselves artistically, or for some utterly alien reason we cannot begin to fathom. We simply cannot know any of this by looking at bacteria, DNA molecules, or “fine-tuned” cosmological constants.

Given the existence of Ebola and hurricanes (both of which are exquisitely “designed” to do what they do), we could read the tea leaves of the Universe and conclude that life is not merely “without purpose,” but governed by one or more brutally sadistic deities whose intended purpose for at least some of us is to derive pleasure from watching us suffer.

In order for ID theorists to accomplish their goal of providing scientific support for Western monotheism and a "purpose" for our lives as defined in the holy books of the Abrahamic religions, they must do more than establish that some particular feature of the natural world is "designed." They must demonstrate that the design emanates from their particular Designer of choice, and that the "purpose" they believe He has imbued us with is an accurate reflection of His intentions. In short, ID theory as a prop for religion--even if its every scientific propositon were validated incontrovertibly--is nothing more than a giant non-sequitor.

Does this mean we're trapped in a dismal "materialist" Universe governed by pointless, random chance, with no possibility of valid ethics or a purpose to life? Not necessarily. Stay tuned.

14 Comments:

Anonymous Martin Ciupa said...

I think you set out your ideas well, as always, in your piece above. Bear with me though in a lengthy response. But I need to set out my worldview carefully, before getting to the ID argument and its relation to Fideism at the end!

I know a lot of folks these days have a hard time picturing that this universe that we live in could be the place that fits an Abrahamic Theistic worldview, as a place designed for a good purpose and not as a vanity. A place best suited for mankind, whom this God loves.

E.g., existence of suffering and disease such as Ebola, SARS, and Bird Flu put dualistic worldviews into greater favor for some. How could these be “designed” by a loving God they ask? How can God inflict us with the evil of natural disaster and disease, particularly on the “innocent”? We might posit that this is a Dualistic place where “good” and “evil” fight it out and see a pantheon of deities at work. A plethora of pagan polytheism playing with around with our pathetic persons.

Such worldviews where common in early man and even becoming in fashion again as the western world tired with its modernist failure, but still desiring spiritual experience look to their earliest urges.

Or perhaps there is a monotheistic God, but “he” is the non personal one of the Deist, who as a watchmaker creates a watch, that is a complex piece of irreducible engineering, but then lets it unwind without subsequent intervention. Our view of complexity increasing in say the “evolution of man”, is merely a partial view of a “system” where complexity appears to increase, but in reality this is at the expense of other systems in the overall universal system, where the overall complexity is always decreasing. The 2nd law of Thermodynamics gives us the concept of Entropy, in which all closed systems run down over time, leaving our humanistic ambitions and Wellsian views of “progress” undone. A future that is failed, featureless and futile.

Such views might lead to Scientism and Atheism where the Deist God is handed back his “ticket”, as Ivan Karamazov did in Dostoevsky “Brothers Karamazov”.

However it maybe not so bad for the Traditional Theist. Sometimes hard times are a refining fire. What is good, true and beautiful will survive. For a even a grain of wheat must fall and die for it to become fruitful again, it’s part of the Memetic paradigm.

In this respect perhaps this Universe can be seen a place most suited for its teleological purpose, explicitly according to an Abrahamic Theists perspective. Because as we learn more about the world we see that despite local natural examples giving evidence to the contrary it appears that the universe is incredibly well tuned to support sentient life forms. E.g., “natural” disasters such as tsunami are not “evil”, they are the consequence of tectonic plate movements without which the necessary minerals of life might not be so easily be circulated with the ecosphere. As bad as some of these “consequences” may appear they may be simply the “best” system overall when viewed in the “big” picture – across time and space. An argument that is well used in the Book of Job.

This loving God that is immanently present in all places and at all times could have created a system with a transcendent moral code embedded into it. This system would be perfectly tuned to allow the evolution of sentient beings, genetically and memetically evolving to become over time aware of God’s immanence and transcendence. And be united with him. Perhaps this being the ultimate purpose.

Why this purpose? It’s a mystery for sure, I sense it has something to do with a role for sentient beings in being co-creators with God. Perhaps one day we will not “see through the glass so darkly” and this purpose will be clear. For now it remains a mystery, albeit with pointers.

For some sentient beings this might be enough. However some beings maybe flawed in the sense that their natures are “fallen”. In such cases we will have to confront “evil”. As such beings, e.g., man, are by nature self serving. Man despite the “golden rule”, a transcendent moral code, nevertheless is willful for his own purposes and desires.

A loving God that desires his creatures to return his love for the purpose mentioned above (unity with Gods will and love for purposes of co-creation), would want this love to be genuine and not coerced (otherwise it would not be a selfless love). Hence for these fallen men God gives the gift of free will, understanding that with this free will he allows the “evil” that man may inflict on their neighbors, selfish acts that separate the sentient being from Gods charity and will. This is sin. This is what it means to be “fallen”, he loves the sinner, hates the sin.

So God moves to support the fallen man. This Abrahamic God reveals himself through history of man to guide his development, so as to help his creation overcome the selfish tendency for separation from God’s will. He sets out “laws” to stop sin.

As part of this process and envisaged from the beginning in the Christian tradition, God ultimately overcomes the sin of separation by acting in solidarity with man’s suffering. He comes to be united with him, incarnate, fulfilling messianic prophecy that was earlier revealed. By doing so he fully redeems man’s fallen tendency. For those with eyes to see and ears to listen, when combined with faith & love, will be united with his purpose.

The Mythos becoming Logos is thus an inevitable and logical consequence of creation in this formulation.

Crucially though in this worldview is the meaning of Love. We are asked to return a selfless Love to God in a world that has suffering (entropy). We are asked to have Faith in this, to Trust in God. These are the so called “theological” virtues. We are asked to add to them cardinal virtues of Courage, Wisdom, Justice and Self-control, which we find support for in the Holy Spirit. We now have arrived at a post modern Christianity, rooted on firm tradition.

Now with this said (phew!) we can move onto looking at ID in a different way.

With this formulation can we see in the universe examples of God’s presence in a way that leaves us no other choice than to accept his existence? Such “reasoning” is at the heart of some more Fundamentalist Religious traditions in the current debate on ID.

I think not (i.e., such evidence will not be found in a conclusive way). Because it would undermine the free will of Man NOT to accept God. Our choice must be one of faith, not of proof. We can have pointers. E.g.;
a) The fine tuning constant of the universe,
b) the complexity of cellular and molecular biology,
c) the complexity of consciousness,
etc.,
But there will always be possible (albeit implausible) alternative explanations.

One side will cling to worldviews that make a Theistic position untenable, as an “a piori” proposition. Others will set out an ID worldview that is not subject to testing as a scientific & rational hypothesis. Others will sit on the fence and “give up” the debate. (Atheists – Fundamentalist Theists - Agnostics)

My view is that you need to use our God given faculties for Logos and Mythos. An integrated “critical rationalism and fideism”.

To reinforce this let me give you a “parable” from the “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams…

“The Babel fish is small, yellow and leechlike, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centers of the brain which has supplied them. The practical upshot of all this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.”
The Babel fish also triggered a joke about the existence of God, since the Babel fish was put forth as fideist example for the non-existence of a deity:
"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."
"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D.”
"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.
"Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.”…

!

So if God exists CONCLUSIVE evidence of his existence will not. Hence “strong” ID (conclusive evidence exists) is misguided. In my opinion, as I may be wrong since I cannot tell God what to do or not to do!

3:01 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ciupa said...

Just to be clear - when I say "conclusive evidence". I am referring to evidence from a purely rational and scientific methodology alone, i.e., Logos.

If one allows oneself "evidence" from ones own personal and subjective meaning, then there can be sufficent evidence for a personal conclusion to God's existence, i.e., Mythos.

I beleive it best to combine the two "reasoning modes" in an integrated way, though it is a personal way.

4:11 AM  
Blogger P.T. Galt said...

Martin wrote:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

"But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. Q.E.D.”

"Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.


I'm no expert on Dougas Adams, but I think he would probably be astounded to see this joke applied as a defense of Christian belief.

So if God exists CONCLUSIVE evidence of his existence will not.

This is a perfect example if why I can't be a Christian. I am just not capable of the astounding level of excuse-making (e.g. a "loving" God lets children die of ebola because the agony is " a refining fire" and seeds "die" and "are buried" before they can produce wheat) and David Copperfield "logic" required.

Let's take that last bit. There is no conclusive evidence for your belief, therefore your belief is true. In which case, the lack of conclusive evidence for Christianity is conclusive evidence for Christianity. Therefore, Christianity is not true. Q.E.D. And god disappears in a puff of logic.

12:02 PM  
Blogger P.T. Galt said...

Let's take another look at Douglas Adams' joke:

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing." (emphasis added)

That, in a nutshell, is the Memetic Model of God that I have proposed. If gods are memetic personae that survive by taking over the brain-hardware of communities of hosts ("believers") this provides a clear explanation of why gods need faith. It is their means of survival.

It is clear from even a superficial reading of the Bible that the Abrahamic God demands faith, elevates it to the status of a primary moral virtue, and threatens violence against those who do not give him their faith.

If the conventional "orthodox" model of God were accurate--that He is an infinite, eternal, immortal, indestructible entity that is literally infinitely superior to humans--why would he get angry and jealous ("for the LORD your God is a jealous God") if someone ended up believing in Isis or Krishna instead?

Why would he threaten eternal hellfire for unbelief? Well, OK, maybe he's changed his mind since the development of post-modern philosophy, but for the past 4,000 years he's been threatening people with various punishments from the classic plagues of locusts on up to eternity in his fiery concentration camp. [1]

Obviously, an eternal, indestructible, self-existent entity of infinite wisdom and goodness would have no reason to get angry and violent against some infinitesimal little entity for failing (for whatever reason) to believe in and worship him. How could such unbelief possibly threaten him, or even bother him at all?

"But He wants to have a loving relationship with us," the Christian will answer. But since when are blind faith and unswerving obedience requirements for a loving relationship? If we grant the premise that unconditional love is a virtue, and that God is its foremost practicioner, he could love in his perfect way without needing us to love him back, or even caring if we did. It is up to the Christian to explain why, if the "infinite transcendant superbeing" model of God is correct, that he is portrayed, throughout the Bible, as becoming as ferocious as a cornered animal when faced with a human being who does not worship him.

Perhaps he acts that way because "without faith he is nothing." He is a meme, a content of human consciousness that would cease to exist or have power if no one believed in him by faith and chose to obey him. That model fits his described behavior and character in the Bible far better than the "infinite transcendant superbeing" model does.


NOTES:

1. That last, interestingly enough, is an innovation that, according to the New Testament, was first taught by Jesus--that paragon of sweetness, and the soft-hearted post-modern liberal who was supposed to be replacing the OT "God of wrath" with a kinder, gentler "God of Love."

12:58 PM  
Blogger P.T. Galt said...

A far simpler solution to the problem of theodicy (explaining how a "perfectly good and omnipotent God" can allow evil in Universe) is simply to discard the notion that the Abrahamic God is good-and-only good.

The Bible makes a strong case for a god that is evil as well as good:

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7)

God is portrayed sending evil spirits to perform "Excorcist"-style demon possession:

"And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." (I Samuel 16:23)

Or consider the ninth chapter of Romans, where the Apostle Paul asserts that God created some individuals specifically to punish, choosing to hate some and love others before they were born.

When the morality of this approach is questioned (v.19), Paul answers,

"Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?" (vs. 20 and 21)

In other words: God can do whatever the hell he wants to you, puny human! Likewise, when God finally comes to Job, he does not offer any of that tripe about "God works in mysterious ways" or "refining fires" as an explanation of why he killed Job's family and tormented him as part of a friendly wager with Satan.

Instead, he spends four chapters (38-41) thumping his chest and thundering declarations of his power and Job's helplessness in comparison.

The Abrahamic God clearly claims to be above morality. So why not just accept that he is "perfect evil as well as perfect good, and be done with it?

6:28 PM  
Anonymous martin ciupa said...

Lots of response to my last posting, certainly seems my personal witnessing of my faith seems to have provoked you! Let me try and just answer a few of the key issues …

1/ You say … A) “This is a perfect example if why I can't be a Christian. I am just not capable of the astounding level of excuse-making (e.g. a "loving" God lets children die of ebola because the agony is " a refining fire" and seeds "die" and "are buried" before they can produce wheat) and David Copperfield "logic" required”. And you then follow on to say … B) “Let's take that last bit. There is no conclusive evidence for your belief, therefore your belief is true. In which case, the lack of conclusive evidence for Christianity is conclusive evidence for Christianity. Therefore, Christianity is not true. Q.E.D. And god disappears in a puff of logic.”

But.., sorry to say you are either misunderstanding me, and/or in need of some remedial logic! For part A) there is no “excuse” to be made. We all die, we all suffer, Atheists and Theists. Do you know that viral disease has no purpose, are you so omniscient? Even the mechanism of viral processes may nevertheless have an ultimate benefit for the evolution of sentient life. The real issue here though is the “meaning of suffering”, that we can discern here and now given our human condition. Given that many would prefer the world to be “more just” by arguing that God should remove pain, but what is the purpose of pain? Is it not that there is something in pain that screams to us that something is wrong? With regards to physical pain we are called to cure it as best we can, and not put ourselves at risk further. And following this logic when we feel existential pain we should try to understand it and do something about it also. To live in existential pain and not attend to it, by a matter of personal choice, is a kind of masochism.
As for part B) The issue of personal fideism & free will within a paradigm of a loving creator is not denied by the lack of conclusive evidence for its proposition. The consequential logical conclusion is NOT that the statement (“Belief in God” or “Disbelief in God”) are TRUE, it is merely that neither are proven FALSE. This is a useful conclusion for Fideism.


2/ You then proceed to go on trotting out well used arguments against the Christian Theist position, assuming that I support the exclusivist and literalist position embodied in them, which by now (remembering earlier postings on other dialog in your blog) you should surely appreciate that I and many Christians (probably the majority) simply are no longer making. It’s surely not required of me to justify positions I don’t make. Nevertheless rather than simply ignore your remarks, let me simply refer you to the many references that give you an exegesis that is consistent with a paradigm that God is “True, Just, Good and Loving”. Three references in this respect that I select, having built some understanding of your position;
A) “Mere Christianity” by C S Lewis (considered by many to be the most influential popular Christian apologist of his day, by a witty author who turned from atheism to theism)
B) “Choosing a World-View and Value-System: An Ecumenical Apologetics” by Benedict M. Ashley. (Professor of Theology at the Aquinas Institute)
C) “Paths From Science Towards God” by Arthur Peacocke (Dean of Clare College Cambridge University, Physical Biochemist and Anglican Priest, the winner of 2001 Templeton Prize)
I will take this point though …

You say …. “Perhaps he acts that way because "without faith he is nothing." He is a meme, a content of human consciousness that would cease to exist or have power if no one believed in him by faith and chose to obey him. That model fits his described behavior and character in the Bible far better than the "infinite transcendant superbeing" model does.”

But.., all you are doing is merely expressing your opinion, in a very intolerant manner. Comparing the faith of many to a viral disease, warranting "medication" to fix their problem. You are entitled to that opinion, though the lack of respect for many folks who live by this credo, in good faith, who are far from considering their "infection" as a problem, is belittled by you. Are you so intolerant and exclusivist as to want to actually do this?

We could argue and quote scripture to each other to try and come to a consensus. However all I feel I can do at this time is quote the following, and then leave it up to you to make the next step as you feel fit.

John 6:28-29: Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

This is the “quote of the day” for 28/8/2006 from www.biblegateway.com. Think of it as a "synchronicity" event if you will, or if you prefer just another coincidence. I respect your choice.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Martin Ciupa said...

You might find the following links about Douglas Adams interesting, in both there are intriguing links between the lifes of Adams with Richard Dawkins (strong advocate of meme's) who he befriended later in his life. See…

http://www.adherents.com/people/pa/Douglas_Adams.html

In Adams life he was at various times a committed Christian, Agnostic and an Atheist when he died in 2001 and the age of 49.

At the time of writing the original radio script of Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (1978) Douglas was an Agnostic. He said in time Out Magazine in 15th Nov 1984 "I'm very firmly agnostic,' said Douglas in 1984. 'I have terrible rows with my girlfriend who is a convinced atheist. This seems to me irrational. There's no evidence either way.'”

You can access excerpts of the Service of Celebration held for Douglas at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 17th September 2001 at…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/hitchhikers/celebration/index.shtml

Just thought you like to know

1:47 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ciupa said...

You may find this link interesting

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A455924

Perhaps it is understandable that we should find something like this on a BBC Website related to Hitch Hikers Guide given the direction of our discussion recently, nevertheless it serves well!

The point expressed in this link is to do with Critical Rationalism and the philosophical work of Ian Barbour in his attempts to try to work out a method for dialog on the topic of "religion in the scientific age". In this he highlighted 3 reasoning modes - logical positivism, strong fideism and critical rationalism, we have touched on all of these in our discussions at various junctures.

For example I trust you will remember that I advocated a position elsewhere that I have called "Integrated Critical Rationalism and Critical Fideism."

This being in part based on a “trivalent” position of Fideism, where it is rendered a personal choice, since the Bayesian statistic p for the proposition (some might call it “weak” Fideism, though that expression is not appealing to me for obvious reasons, I prefer to call it “Critical Fideism”);

Consider a Bayesian statistic p, where;
Belief in God is True: p = 1
Belief in God is False: p = 0
The variable p is in actuality found to be 0.5 (IMHO).

This I believe is an accurate empirical observation, as well as being theoretically substantiated by the logical problems of Language & Meaning (Wittgenstein), the consequences of the Incompleteness theorem for mathematical logic (Godel), and the fact that we live in a Cybernetic observer-subject system as supported by Quantum Physics (Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Bohr, Dirac, Bell,… et al).

As the article mentions … A “strong” critical rationalist alternates freely between logical positivist and strong fideist modes of thinking, recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each; a critical rationalist also recognises that critical rationalism is itself a model of limited value, although he/she would assess it as the model with the most flexibility of the three.

By adopting the Integrated Critical Rationalist and Critical Fideist mode that I advocate, you have a holistic and consistent mode (you need not alternate from one to the other), though it is personal worldview, since you are obliged to make a personal choice becuase p = 0.5.

12:11 AM  
Blogger P.T. Galt said...

Martin, I have to give you credit for being an excellent ontological guerilla.

You snipe at reason, the scientific method, and critical thinking from the bushes, making the (unsubstantiated) claim that it is inherently impossible to discover ethics, morality, or "meaning" apart from religious faith.

Then you come out and offer a purely subjective and personal "Leap of Faith" as the solution to the "problem" thus created. This is all fine and inclusive, open and tolerant...

But then you imply that your god exists objectively, and that he, being a loving god will "guide" sincere seekers to him. In this way, morality is substituted for truth. Since the "sincere" seekers are guided in their leaps of faith to become Christians, this implies that there's "something wrong" with all those people whose leaps of faith land them in Islam, Hinduism, Jainism, Wicca, sects of Christianity you reject, etc.

You, obviously, are among the "sincere" few, since you became a Christian, but not a fundamentalist nutjob. This lets you have your exclusivism and eat it too.

Instead of coming right out as the fundamentalists do and claiming that your religion is true and all others false, you say that all are subjective and personal (so you don't have to bother trying to validate your position), but yours is where the "sincere" people end up.

Which means, that as soon as somone criticizes your position you can retreat into the bushes and accuse them of intolerance (another moral offense).

Thus, people should agree with you not because you can demonstrate that your position is accurate in terms of what actually exists in reality, but because if they don't they're insincere and intolerant:

But.., all you are doing is merely expressing your opinion, in a very intolerant manner. Comparing the faith of many to a viral disease, warranting "medication" to fix their problem.

This is an outright lie. Show me where I suggested anybody be "medicated" to cure them of their beliefs.

You are entitled to that opinion, though the lack of respect for many folks who live by this credo, in good faith, who are far from considering their "infection" as a problem, is belittled by you. Are you so intolerant and exclusivist as to want to actually do this?

Notice how you offer not one bit of evidence or logic to demonstrate that anything I've said is incorrect, or that your position is correct. Instead, you launch a purely ad-hominem moralist diatribe. "How could you be so mean?! Could you possibly be so intolerant and exclusivist, you heartless bastard?!"

Then you have the pure chutzpah to cite this:

John 6:28-29: Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." (emphasis added)

This is an exclusivist verse! Look at the language. "Requires." "Must." There is no wiggle room there for subjective choice, or even free will. The "work" is required by God. And what "work" is this? To believe in the one he sent. In context, the "one" is Jesus.

So, this verse states clearly that God requires that we believe in Jesus--not Buddha, not Krishna, not Lao Tzu, Jesus. The one, not ones.

You then drop the proposition that the appearance of this verse on this particular day is a synchronicity, and thus (by implication) an act of "guidance" by your god.

But of course don't come out and say this openly. That way, now that you've been called on it, you can fade back into the shadows emitting noises about subjectivity, faith, opinion, intolerance and so on like an octopus spraying ink, and whine about how mean I am.

>claps slowly<

Very impressive!

However, as someone whose claim to the moral high-ground rests on the rotten foundation of the Bible, you are vulnerable to moralist counter-attacks.

Of course, you can try to wave off the massive atrocities of the Old Testament and the fire & brimstone of the New and cling to a few nice sounding passages as authoritative.
The Bible only "really" says what you want it to say.

Using your debating tactics, a "post-modern Nazi"[1] could wave off the Holocaust and the brutal attempt at world-conquest while citing the pensions for the elderly proposed in the Nazi Party platform, their desire to free Germany from the onerous "reparations" of the Versailles Treaty, and the fact that Hitler occasionally bounced cute kids on his knee as examples of the moral superiority of po-mo Nazism.

And then, when the folks from the Simon Wiesenthal Center come out to trounce him, he could react in moral shock at their "intolerance" and "exclusivism."

Just as this hypothetical "po-mo Nazi" would, when confronted with the sheer dimensions of Nazi evil, have to either disown the Nazism entirely or embrace the evil, a Christian, post-modern or otherwise must confront the vast cruelty, intolerance, injustice, and exclusivism directly attributed to their god by the Bible.

And yes, I do think the evils attributed to the Biblical God (in his statements, commands, and deeds as portrayed in that book) are on a par with the statements, commands, and deeds of Hitler and the Nazi state. As I intend to demonstrate in my next post.

NOTES:

1. Since you've already violated Godwin's Law by implying that rationality and the scientific method lead to Nazizm, among other horrible things, you don't get to use it on me. Speaking of Nazism, a pretty good case can be made that it is Christian at root, not rational or scientific.

4:02 AM  
Anonymous Martin Ciupa said...

Your response has the character of a rant, and I fear that if I handled the points you make one by one it would only cause escalation without illumination.

Let me respond in a different way therefore

You are taking this discussion between us far to confrontationaly. I would much prefer we built a consensus opinion, albeit perhaps ones that chooses to differ in some respects. At one point you complement me as one of the “sincere few”. From there let’s build on that.

I value at “reason” and the “scientific method”, maybe as much as you do. They are totally crucial to my worldview also, I focus on them as the essential foundation for my wordlview (the “Logos” part).

So I accept your worldview, it is from my viewpoint a valid prefiguration.

But in my worldview it only goes part of the way (the Logos part), and I merely wish to help you see a bit of what it looks like from where I am standing (adding the Mythos part to it). I think it would be a benefit to you, that’s all. But ultimately I accept you may not agree with me. That’s OK, I can respect that, and tolerate it. But let’s try and keep that spirit mutual OK?

You should face up to though where logic and rationality can take the meme approach in the hands of Miltitant Atheism. I am pleased in a way that you react so indigantly to the question (it was a question not an assertion) I proposed about how some memeticists might like to “fix” Theists “viral infections”, since the idignation implies that this is not something you would support. But in the hands of people with less scruples surely you have enough imagination to see where that could end up at? Have a bit of humility please, and just take the point to heart.

The scripture I quoted to you is a requirement for Christians, not for non-Christians. Thus you need not take it as an aticle of faith if you don’t want to, but then you would not be a Christian. It seems you are comfortable that way.

To some Theists all things are synchronous, with Gods will. It is just a way of looking at things, i.e., their worldview. Again it need not be yours.

Lets try please to bring our dialog to a civilized conclusion. I have posed some questions for you on your other link in this blog “Intelligent Evolution”.

I think they will help us get to a conclusion. In my last posting there I say “For sure there is diversity of faith. That does not bother me as much as it seems you, this is because I am an inclusivist and it seems to me that you are exclusivist.” I would be delighted for you to prove to me I am wrong by stating openly that my wordlview is one you can respect and tolerate.

6:56 AM  
Blogger P.T. Galt said...

Martin:

Due to your murky methods of communication, I can't say I even know what your worldview is, beyond a label ("postmodern Christianity") and a belief that Fideism/Mythos works as an epistemology because either:

A)God exists objectively and He guides the sincere and morally upright to become Christians

--or--

B)the truth-status of beliefs accepted on the basis of Fideism is irrelevant, so long as they provide an escape from existential angst or perform some other useful function.

I'm not sure which, if either is actually part of your worldview, since you always speak in vague allegations ("Some Theists might belive X"), so that "X" may or may not be part of your world view.

IOW: What's there to be intolerant of?

Well, there is one thing: your debating tactics, which I perceive to be dishonest.

I wrote:

But of course don't come out and say this openly. That way, now that you've been called on it, you can fade back into the shadows emitting noises about subjectivity, faith, opinion, intolerance and so on like an octopus spraying ink, and whine about how mean I am.

And sure enough, that's exactly what you did in your next post. You attack me for "ranting," urge me to be "humble," and position yourself as oh, so eminently tolerant and "civilized." As if it's an act of barbarism for me to express disagreement with you on my own blog.

In short, you responded with a stream of obfuscation and ad hominem moral insinuations while evading every point I made.

For example, the Scripture verse you cited. I demonstrated that it is exclusivist through and through. Instead of offering any sort of rebuttal, you said "The scripture I quoted to you is a requirement for Christians, not for non-Christians."

The verse itself offers no such caveats, and you offered no evidence to support your position. Furthermore, you had cited it to me as if it were relevant. Which means: you intended it to have some sort of application to me, even though I am clearly a non-Christian.

Not only is the verse exclusivist, the Bible is exclusivist, from beginning to end. Christianity has been an exclusivist religion throughout its 2,000 year history (and another 2,000 years of Judaism before it), right up until very recent times, when modernity and post-modernity in secular society forced it to change to keep up with the times. Except for the sects of Christianity that haven't changed.

I challenge you to produce one single Bible verse that clearly encourages believers to respect and tolerate non-Christian religions as morally acceptable choices. I can demonstrate Biblical sanction for every atrocity committed by (alleged) Christians, up to and including the Holocaust.

Furthermore, you initially tossed out the proposition that the verse's appearance was a synchronicity (worded vaguely enough to give you an easy retreat should I ask for evidence or otherwise challenge the idea) and hence, "special" in some way, a manifestation of your god's guidance.

Then you produce this classic:

To some Theists all things are synchronous, with Gods will. It is just a way of looking at things, i.e., their worldview.

IOW, everything is a synchronicity, so you can at once deny that the verse's appearance was in any way specially significant as you had implied earlier, while maintaining the insinuation that it still represents divine guidance.

Notice how you never state whether or not this is your position. That way you can use it by implication as if it is, but easily discard it if I should refute it. "Oh, I never said that! How intolerant you are for disagreeing with what I didn't say!"

You repeatedly invoke C.S. Lewis with approval, never mind that he's "exclusivist" as they come. Read The Screwtape Letters. That way, you can let him be "exclusivist" on your behalf, and you keep the option of disowning him at will, calling for a "civilized," "tolerant" discussion. Then you can drop some more innuendos hinting at your moral superiority and react with innocent outrage when you get called on it.

8:13 PM  
Blogger P.T. Galt said...

I'm more than willing to have a civilized, tolerant discussion of our areas of agreement and disagreement, focused on the merits of our respective positions.

However, when you decide to switch to ad hominem insinuations about how "intolerant," "uncivilized," "exclusivist," etc. I am while smugly claiming the mantle of humility, tolerance, inclusiveness, etc. for yourself, and avoiding the issue (the validity of Fideism/Mythos as an epistemology, i.e. a method of discovering accurate information about reality), don't act so shocked when the basis for your alleged superior morality becomes the issue.

You're the one switching the debate from the question of Fideism/Mythos' validity to insinuations of moral superiority.

From the very beginning of our dialogue, I have asked you one question over and over again in different ways: Using Fideism/Mythos, how can someone arrive at the correct faith to believe in?

The closest you have come to addressing the question is to imply (never state, since you'd have to substantiate a statement) that the Christian God "guides" those who are earnest and sincere in their search for truth to become Christians.

Now, you can either own this as an actual aspect of your worldview you consider to be objective truth, or wave it off as just another subjective idea you choose to believe in because it makes you feel good.

Choose the former, and your worldview is "exclusivist," in a cushy-soft way, since all those Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, fundamentalist Christians, etc. are not sincere in their search for truth, hence less moral than Christians like you.

Choose the latter and it becomes meaningless as an explanation of how Fideism/Mythos works to help find a correct faith and avoid an incorrect one.

In short: if you’re willing to scuttle the dishonest ad hominem guerilla debating tactics and actually A) say what you really think instead of dealing in sham insinuations, and B) either substantiate your positions or admit they can’t be substantiated, then we can go back to having a nice, “civilized” discussion.

8:19 PM  
Blogger P.T. Galt said...

With your guerilla debating tactics now hopefully set aside, we can go back to discussing issues with merit, such as:

Consider a Bayesian statistic p, where;
Belief in God is True: p = 1
Belief in God is False: p = 0
The variable p is in actuality found to be 0.5 (IMHO).


It is not that simple. This rests on the premise that there is only one possible interpretation of the phrase "Belief in God." Really, it comes down to the many different meanings attributed to the word "God."

I think a pretty good case could be made that the "God" you believe in is different enough from the "God" Pat Robertson believes in that they could be considered separate "Gods." E.g., your "God" calls for tolerance and inclusiveness from His (His/Her?) followers, while Pat Robertson's God condemns all but His followers to everlasting torment in Hell.

Then, of course, there's all the other religions. And their mutually-incompatible sects.

So, the math would work out something like this:

Belief in some sort of "God" is true:

p = {G1 + G2 + G3+...Gn} = 1, where G is a particular form of theistic belief, and the term in brackets { } is the sum of all varieties of theistic belief.

The statistic for any particular belief system would be p=Gx/Gn, where Gx is the number for the variety of theism (e.g. "G 1,262") and Gn is the total number of theistic belief systems.

Since in your original formulation, you divided by two to account for the atheistic option (p = 0), the same option should probably be repeated.

Therefore, the equation for any particular theistic belief (Christianity, Wicca, the Heliopolitan Ennead, etc.) becomes:

p = (Gx/Gn)/2

The number becomes considerably lower than .5, depending on how finely one chooses to categorize different concepts of "God."

For example, should every religion calling itself "Christian" (Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Gnostics, Protestant fundamentalists, postmoderns, etc.) be considered a single theistic concept regardless of their differing views on the Trinity, God as physically embodied (Mormons) vs. incorporeal (most of the others), supremely tolerant (postmoderns, Gnostics), supremely intolerant (most of the others), or should they be counted as separate God-concepts?

Then there's the issue of evidence. Due to the compelling evidence for cosmic and biological evolution, it would be sensible to assign a higher probability to postmodern Christianity than to Creationist Protestant fundamentalism since the former is compatible with the evidence for evolution.

Likewise, literalist interpretations of ancient Norse theism, ancient Greek theism, ancient Egyptian theism could be virtually ruled out. Non-literalist interpretations, OTOH...

Taking all this into account, p for any particular variety of theism is significantly less than .5.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Martin Ciupa said...

Really there is nothing “murky”, or guerilla-esque about my “debating methods”. Those epithets are more likely sourced from your personal feelings about the emerging position of your blog not being what you thought it was going to be – for my part I choose not to rise to them.

I think I have stated my belief position really quite clearly in earlier posting in this string and others. I have attempted to move us towards a consensus view, and am eager to see your answers to my questions I pose in the Intelligent Evolution string of your blog.

For the record… My worldview is of an “Integrated Critical Rationalist and Critical Fideist”, hereafter “ICR&CF”. I believe we can approach the truths of God immanence in creation best through the rigorous application of the rational and scientific method, though we are limited in this facility due to reasons we have discussed at length earlier. To overcome these limits I have made a personal transcendent faith commitment of a Christian. I think of this as a personal post modern formulation integrating faith and reason.

If you wonder why I do not answer all your points, it’s because in part I feel I must “turn the other cheek”. In other part it’s because I can’t be bothered to write pages and pages of rebuttal for issues I feel adequately dealt with elsewhere (so sometimes I just give references to some of those and move on). I want to move our discussion to consensus building, rather than confrontation. I believe our dialog will benefit from less emotion leading to combustion, rather than illumination.

You make a big point of my fideist scripture reference, so I need to deal with that …

You say …. “For example, the Scripture verse you cited. I demonstrated that it is exclusivist through and through. Instead of offering any sort of rebuttal, you said "The scripture I quoted to you is a requirement for Christians, not for non-Christians." … The verse itself offers no such caveats, and you offered no evidence to support your position. Furthermore, you had cited it to me as if it were relevant. Which means: you intended it to have some sort of application to me, even though I am clearly a non-Christian.”

But as I said, it is a statement of fideism for those who wish to follow the Christian way (faith in Christ defines a Christian). By itself it makes no other claim. I mention it to you in the context of the formulation of the following Bayesian statistic
Consider a Bayesian statistic p, where;
Belief in God is True: p = 1
Belief in God is False: p = 0
The variable p is in actuality found to be 0.5 (IMHO).
This demonstrates that to be a Christian requires a personal leap of faith of the type specified cleanly in the scripture reference. I believe if indeed p=0.5 that ALL Religions, emergent or traditional, scientism or atheism require a kind of leap of faith if they want to claim “truth” and “meaning”. Something I feel you are unwilling to accept hence why I quote it to you to try and move things along.

On the issue of “synchronicity”, for goodness sake I do not mind you thinking something is coincidental. I ask you not to mind if I think it synchronous. We might try and make a complex form of argument including probability theory, subconscious and parapsychological views to make some headway on deciding between the two for a particular case, but I’m tolerant of an outcome either way.

Crucially though I am willing not to prejudge the outcome, all I ask you not to rule one result or the other out “a piori.” For me finding that verse was providential, if I went looking for a reference more appropriate by my own will I probably would not of found one so apt. Just my personal view.


Answering this question … “I challenge you to produce one single Bible verse that clearly encourages believers to respect and tolerate non-Christian religions as morally acceptable choices.”

Response: Christian scripture supports Christian exegesis by definition. It is not so much the point that Christians are asked to respect and tolerate non-Christian religions as having made morally acceptable choices (non Christian religions may or may not make moral choices in a Christian perspective over a variety of particular cases). But rather they clearly encouraged to love (respect and tolerate) them and mission to them the “truth” of the Christian worldview, without coercion but with sensitivity and good argument.

Nevertheless here are clear scripture references that some folks use in support of Inclusivism…
a) Romans 2 indicates that there are justified law-doers without exposure to the Law--law-doers not in the sense of sinless perfection, but in the sense of the obedience of those in Romans 2:7,9.
b) Passages such as Acts 4:12 indicate the ontological necessity of Christ's work, but not knowledge of that work.
c) People like Cornelius and Melchizedek show that one can be a God-fearer who pleases God, in right relationship, before hearing special revelation.
d) There are many other references that relate to God house having many mansions, and the fact that we only see partially the truth in our lives here, so that our search for truth is an ongoing journey.

Finally on this point it is not just an issue of sola scripture. As I quoted to you earlier Pope Benedict XVI in his book “Truth and Tolerance” is generally supportive of Inclusivist position over its alternatives. This has been made so for some years now post 2nd Vatican council. The truth of other traditions is acknowledged, and some form of salvation for other traditions is supported. Inter-faith Dialog as an effective tool for gaining mutual understanding is a fact.

As for your comment … “I can demonstrate Biblical sanction for every atrocity committed by (alleged) Christians, up to and including the Holocaust.” You must be very proud to have such a complete knowledge of scripture and the history of atrocity, such hubris comes before a fall ;-) Anyway thanks for the decency to acknowledge “alleged”, clearly people who commit atrocities, are not loving their enemies or following the Golden Rule. They may feel otherwise but they are making a mockery of the summary of the law as well as the concept of selfless Love.

I like C S Lewis “Screw Tape Letters” also, thanks from bringing it up. Of course he appreciates it as a bit of playful myth for the purpose delivering his message, as was the case for his much beloved work on the “Chronicles of Narnia”. As for him being exclusivist, his work on “Mere Christianity” really makes that assertion a nonsense statement from a Christian Ecumenical sense (he is held in the highest regard by many denominations), he is used as a proponent of Inclusivism in the Wikipedia reference to Inclusivism. He was apparently very tolerant of Nordic “paganism” and together with his friend J R R Tolkien used that mythic style a lot. A key aspect of his apologetic thesis was a key and standard inclusivism principle, which is that other religions pre-figure Christianity in a crucial way. He acknowledged the truth inherent in other religions, whilst personally being merely a Christian.

Now we come to a very good question … “From the very beginning of our dialogue, I have asked you one question over and over again in different ways: Using Fideism/Mythos, how can someone arrive at the correct faith to believe in?”

I have said repeatedly (from my very 1st posting) that it is best approached through a combined use of all of our reasoning faculties. Integrating Logos with Mythos. I have labeled this later on as the method ICR&CF.

Critical Rationalism is a well articulated worldview that was a useful contribution to the path of integrating faith-based and scientific worldviews. (Type it into your browser you’ll get thousands of references). I gave you some references to these earlier from Ian Barbour (who extended it to Religious worldviews), it is originally credited in Wikipedia to Karl Raimund Popper. Please take a look at these sources.

What I have attempted to do (honestly and without debating tactics!) is to add to that the concept of Critical Fideism. Based on the hypothesis that Bayesian Statistic mentioned above is in actuality precisely p=0.5, both as an empirical observation as well as a theoretic hypothesis substantiated by many emminent others.

What this means is you have to be responsible for your personal choices when you make a leap of faith to get p=0, or p=1. I advise that to help in this respect we work with the arational (not irrational) reasoning aspects of our; emotional intelligence, our embodied intelligence (genetic and memetic) as well as such soul/spiritual guidance we are personally able to manifest.

By doing this you will end up with a holistic worldview consistent with what you (the whole you) are willing to commit to, this is the “Mythos” for shorthand. If you limit yourself to that part of you that is rational and empirical (the “Logos”) you will be limiting yourself and denying a key part of your personal humanity.

That said lets now look at some of your comments about my ICR&CF Bayesian statistic…

You say … “It is not that simple. This rests on the premise that there is only one possible interpretation of the phrase "Belief in God." Really, it comes down to the many different meanings attributed to the word "God."”

And you proceed to bring about a reformulation of the definition of p, with some rather interesting gymnastics, but I am afraid it’s not applicable from the outset. Why? Because p is a statistic based on ones personal belief.

We cannot establish the “belief” of others objectively. To illustrate my point consider the statement

“I have a headache explaining my worldview”.

For me p=1 right now, you may believe me, or not. So for you p=x, where x is subjective. You see you might choose to believe me that p=1 because you believe I would not lie, but I may be using “guerilla tactics” to prove my point, in which case p=0 ;-)


Jokes aside. I really feel its time we wrapped this up, this response you provoke me to make is already too long. Would you do me a favor and work with me to this end. In this respect could you please;

a) Answer my questions on the “Intelligent Evolution” string
b) Commit with me to make shorter responses hereafter

Thanks!

12:35 AM  

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