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Peter

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Reply with quote  #46 
The book in question is called Why Evolution is True. I didn't recommend it and haven't actually read it; I have read much about evolution from a variety of scientist-authors and need no further convincing. I was pleased however when you said you were reading it, as it is a perfectly well-reputed popular science work on the subject. The fact is that the evidence for the truth of evolution is so overwhelming, so enormous, that I don't think an open mind is a completely appropriate response. The theory has stood up to over 150 years of non-stop assaults on it without the slightest dent ever being made, and every time a new area of science opens up related to the field, areas that could not even be dreamed of when the theory was first formulated, all that happens is the theory gets further confirmed. That sort of thing is why people believe in General Relativity, it works every time you apply it and stands up to every test, including tests that hadn't even been thought of when Einstein's genius first illuminated all our understandings. In short, you might as well have an open mind about heliocentricity.

Not of course telling you what to think, just saying what I think. But my belief really is based on an awful lot of reading and thinking about something that has always fascinated me. For anyone who might be interested, I believe this is the thread Vivat and Wessexman have been referencing. I should mention that it is evident on it that Wessexman and I were far from enjoying our present cordial relations back then, but it doesn't get too bad in that regard and in fact there is a distinct thawing as the thread goes on (albeit there were further freezes ahead, of which I hope we will have no more).
MatthewJTaylor

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Reply with quote  #47 
As someone who went from undecided, to uneducated theistic evolutionist, to creationist to educated theistic evolutionist whilst being a Christian throughout I must say I find the evidence for evolution by mutation and natural selection to be very compelling.
My creationist phase was held up by some quite odd beliefs about satanic conspiracies which, when I grew out of, left my creationism without solid foundation.

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VivatReginaScottorum

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Reply with quote  #48 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter
The book in question is called Why Evolution is True. I didn't recommend it and haven't actually read it; I have read much about evolution from a variety of scientist-authors and need no further convincing. I was pleased however when you said you were reading it, as it is a perfectly well-reputed popular science work on the subject. The fact is that the evidence for the truth of evolution is so overwhelming, so enormous, that I don't think an open mind is a completely appropriate response. The theory has stood up to over 150 years of non-stop assaults on it without the slightest dent ever being made, and every time a new area of science opens up related to the field, areas that could not even be dreamed of when the theory was first formulated, all that happens is the theory gets further confirmed. That sort of thing is why people believe in General Relativity, it works every time you apply it and stands up to every test, including tests that hadn't even been thought of when Einstein's genius first illuminated all our understandings. In short, you might as well have an open mind about heliocentricity.

Not of course telling you what to think, just saying what I think. But my belief really is based on an awful lot of reading and thinking about something that has always fascinated me. For anyone who might be interested, I believe this is the thread Vivat and Wessexman have been referencing. I should mention that it is evident on it that Wessexman and I were far from enjoying our present cordial relations back then, but it doesn't get too bad in that regard and in fact there is a distinct thawing as the thread goes on (albeit there were further freezes ahead, of which I hope we will have no more).

I was actually thinking of this thread, specifically the discussion on the last few pages. I haven't read Coyne's book but I'm wary of recommending him as reading to people sceptical of evolution on religious grounds (and people are rarely sceptical of evolution on any other grounds) because whilst he is undoubtedly an accomplished biologist, he's also a known critic of religion. I'd instead recommend this essay by Theodore Dobzhansky, also a highly respected evolutionary biologist and a devout Russian Orthodox Christian. He not only examines the scientific evidence in favour of Darwinian evolution but also touches on the theological side of the argument.

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Peter

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Reply with quote  #49 
I hadn't previously read the essay you linked to, but now have and can add my own recommendation. It dates from what in terms of scientific advance is a long time ago, 1973, but as far as I am aware none of the scientific facts stated in it have been contradicted by subsequent discoveries, even if much knowledge has been added in the past 47 years. And while I can think of further arguments not advanced, that is perhaps as well since the essay is kept readably brief and within its scope is clear, comprehensive and, I would have thought, convincing.

The author's beliefs concerning the existence of a Creator, specifically the Christian God, are of course an assumption for the truth of which there is no evidence. But I am sure he would acknowledge that, as I in turn acknowledge there is a valid reason for the assertion of those beliefs; in order to demonstrate that religious faith and acknowledgement of the reality of evolution are in no way incompatible.
Wessexman

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Reply with quote  #50 
I think it depends what you mean by evidence, as that rather implies empirical evidence and not philosophical proof. But I think there are some respectable philosophical arguments for God's existence:


https://www.amazon.com/Five-Proofs-Existence-Edward-Feser-ebook/dp/B0754MJFMG/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=edward+feser+five+proofs+of+the+existence+of+god&qid=1586159936&sprefix=edward+feser&sr=8-1

In fact, to my mind, to even have a hope of refuting them one would have to embrace some very problematic positions, like rejecting the Principal of Sufficient Reason (which I think not only would have sceptical consequences, but undermine science: can science survive brute facts?).
Peter

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Reply with quote  #51 
My general lack of interest in philosophy means that I had not previously heard of this principle. Now that I have, I am unimpressed and have no difficulty rejecting it, nor do I see that science cannot work without it. In fact, it does so. You have brought up Feser before. And in consequence I have dipped into him before and found him also unimpressive. I am not inclined to investigate further, especially since one of the things he sets out to 'prove' is that God is both omniscient and omnipotent, properties that are entirely irreconcilable. And yes, I do mean empirical evidence. There is a limit to what 'unaided thought, without recourse to experience', to quote from Dutch science historian Eduard Jan Dijksterhuis's criticism of Plato, can convincingly demonstrate. The existence of a self-aware Creator possessed of unlimited power and responsible for the existence and continued ordering of the Universe and everything in it seems to me to go somewhat beyond that limit.

But I'm not seeking to persuade you to stop believing in either God or philosophy. Just to consider crediting the truth of evolution, in view of the colossal amount of empirical and systemic evidence in its favour.
Wessexman

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Reply with quote  #52 
I presume that you are referring to certain rationalist formulations of the PSR. One need not hold to all the features of those formulations to hold to it. It is simply the principle that all things have an explanation, either in themselves or in their cause. This is assumed by science: how far would science get if it didn't assume that the things of the world were explainable? It begins by assuming the things it investigates are not brute fact (i.e., something lacking any cause or explanation). How far would Darwin have got if he didn't think there was any explanation for the origin of the species, or even seriously entertained that possibility?

I think there is something to be said for the argument that allowing there can be brute facts at any level undermines "less basic" explanations, such as those science undertakes. I mean that if one says that the universe, for example, could be a brute fact, and hence without explanation, one undermines the possibility of any explanations of phenomena within it. One can think of the analogy of a book on the table. If someone asks why the book stays up, you can reply that the table supports it. But if there is no reason why the table stays up, has one even explained why the book stays up, let alone the table?

Finally, I think rejecting the PSR has sceptical implications. If brute facts can exist, why could not some of our beliefs be brute facts? But then, one could believe things for no reason, which would undermine one's rational confidence in one's beliefs, including the belief in brute facts. I don't think one can coherently reject the PSR.

To say unaided reason can't discover metaphysical truths would need some kind of support. It is either warmed over Kantianism, stripped of his discarded system and therefore the reasons for holding it, or pertains to some other epistemological system that requires support. Science itself relies on philosophical underpinnings, and to dismiss metaphysics tends to just lead to bad metaphysics, as C. S. Lewis noted, not no metaphysics.

I must say I don't understand the point about God's omniscience and omnipotence being inconsistent. They don't appear to be, even on the surface. I think you must have in mind a further claim here. Perhaps you are alluding to the so called problem of evil? But that requires the introduction of God's benevolence as well. It's also hugely controversial, with theodicies and explanations aplenty from theists to offset it. Indeed, in its logical form it has largely abandoned. Even few atheist philosophers today maintain there is a logical problem of evil. They make the weaker, inductive or probable claims of the evidentiary problem of evil.
Peter

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Reply with quote  #53 
Demonstrably, some things are explainable. It does not follow that all things are. And science does not require them to be, being more concerned with what and how rather than why, though the combination of the first two can lead to the third. They don't have to, though, and pure and utter randomness is in fact something of a ruling principle at subatomic levels. Science relies on evidential underpinnings, not philosophical. And metaphysical thought is pointless unless applied to facts. As opposed to speculations, such as God.

I do feel that there is a problem with reconciling a God who is both all-powerful and all-good with a universe created by that God which is replete with evil, pain, suffering, misery and death. And I don't think the problem can be wished away by labelling it 'so-called', or by saying that concern over suffering is mere sentimentality, as I have known you to before. I fortunately do not have to spend time on either theodicy or devising excuses for avoiding its necessity, since I don't believe in such a God, or in any god at all. It is remarkable how nothing whatsoever is explained by believing in God, and all kinds of logical difficulties result from the belief, but people still insist on trying to justify it logically rather than as simple faith. Up to them, I suppose.

I wasn't though referring to the problem of evil, but to the fact that an omniscient being to qualify for the description must know everything that has happened, is happening and will happen. The last category would include its own future actions, rendering it powerless to do anything other than it already knows it will. Thus in effect omniscience = impotence, and cannot be a quality of an omnipotent being. It would have to give up omnipotence, and indeed potency of any nature, in order to become omniscient, and conversely an omniscient being would have to surrender omniscience before assuming omnipotence.
Wessexman

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Reply with quote  #54 
No offence, but that doesn't really respond to most of my points. I didn't say that because some things have explanations, all must. I gave some specific arguments why science does in fact assume, and rely upon, the PSR. None of these involve that inference. Nor do I dispute at least some things have an explanation. Far from it. I was assuming we are justified in such a belief, but pointing out how it is incompatible with the rejection of the PSR. But it's that belief I would hold to, not the rejection of the PSR. And randomness is not the same as lacking an explanation. The PSR, at least in its non-rationalist formulations, does not imply determinism. The fact is there is an explanation for quantum phenomena, even if it is a probabilistic one.


Science most certainly does rely on philosophical underpinnings. Feser, in his Aristotle's Revenge, does a good job at exploring some of these. But the PSR is one such assumption. But there's a host of basic assumptions about inference and how to categorise reality that science assumes and makes use of.

I have only said it is sentimentalism to appeal to empirical evils when that is done absent argument or grappling with the philosophical context of the discussion of evil and suffering. That is literally sentimentalism: it dispenses with argument and relies entirely on emotion. I also think that, given classical theist premises, the so called problem from evil is simply illogical. In classical theism God is the good. He is the source and essence of what is good. What sense can there be in appealing to the good itself and saying it isn't good enough? Even the one making the argument is granting objective goodness for the sake of the argument; if good and evil have no objective meaning, then the so called problem of evil vanishes entirely.

Your problem about reconciling God's omniscience and omnipotence seems to be contrary to the classical theist understanding of God as outside time. He doesn't have future actions, properly speaking, though we experience some of his actions at different times. Besides, most theologians accept even God cannot do what is intrinsically impossible (and if he could, what matter would contradictions be for him then?). He cannot make 2+2=5, nor can he cease to be God, for example. An attribute like omnipotence flows from God's nature, but the his nature, his essence, is primary. He cannot violate his essence.

I would say the opposite. All things are explained by God. Again, can one truly say how the book stays up without explaining how the table does? That seems problematic to me. I never cease to be amazed how far atheists will go in jettisoning what to me are principles basic to rational thought itself. As I said, if brute facts exist, how do we know that our own thoughts aren't brute facts, including those upon which atheism or rejection of the PSR are based. It seems to me that all rational thought falls with the PSR, let alone science.
Peter

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Reply with quote  #55 
The table is an arrangement of atoms bound together by forces. So is the book. The forces which hold these two things together as what we perceive to be objects also cause the two objects to repel each other, thus the book stays on the table, or rather a minuscule distance above it, rather than sinking through. Gravity among other external forces acts upon both the book and the table, pulling them towards the largest local agglomeration of matter, the planet. The same forces that hold the two objects together successfully resist the effect, thus both book and table stay where they are, relatively speaking. It's all a question of how and what, as I said. Why however is not a question with a scientific answer, or one that necessarily needs answering at all.

To say that God is outside time is simply an evasion. It is by no means universally agreed among physicists that there even is such a thing as time to be outside of. There is more consensus that in a relativistic universe it is meaningless to speak of time as some overarching thing encompassing everything that is. As for brute fact, it seems to me that theists insist on at least one. God exists, with no explanation or idea of how or why, he just is. How does that get you any further than the view that the universe just is? It doesn't. Now, how about some thoughts on evolution?
Wessexman

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Reply with quote  #56 
The stuff about the table misses the point, of course. All you have done is repeat the scientific understanding of the table (though with a controversial metaphysical spin if you mean the table is simply that - science cannot and does not say so; the question of the validity of reductionism and the status of macro-level substances is a controversial philosophical issue, and one that science cannot decide), but you haven't responded to my point.

You say that to claim God is outside time is an evasion, but what follows doesn't show this. It doesn't even seem to be directly supporting it. In what way is it an evasion? Besides, if time doesn't exist, then your original point makes little sense. Anyway, how to understand time scientifically and philosophically is controversial. It isn't clear at all what relativity means for our understanding of time nor even how theoretical models like Relatively apply to the actual world. Philosophers of Science are very much split over issues of Scientific Realism Vs. Anti-Realism. Feser argues strenuously in Aristotle's Revenge that the General Theory of Relativity necessitates neither eternalism nor a B Theory of time. In fact, this is an interesting illustration of the relationship of philosophy to science. On an Aristotelian understanding of time, it is the measurement of change. To banish time is therefore to banish change. And this is what eternalism seems to do. But it isn't clear how this can be held. We end up in the position of Parmenides (there is nothing new under the sun), and have to dispense with our own senses, which constantly are exhibiting change to us. But our senses supply the data for science! Besides, the work of the scientist constantly involves change, when he reasons; when he conducts his experiments; etc.

God is not a brute fact. In classical theism he is held to be his own explanation. In fact, Feser's version of the rationalist variant of the cosmological argument, in which he makes use of a stripped down PSR, implies just this: it is based on the need for contingent things to have an explanation outside themselves, ultimately in something that is its own explanation. The very argument demands God is his own explanation. It isn't an assertion, but an argument. Furthermore, those who assert the existence of brute facts do not hold they are their own explanation. There's a fundamental disanalogy here. One could try to argue that if God exists he must be a brute fact, but that is different from asserting it.
Peter

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Reply with quote  #57 
Everything must have a cause, and the cause must be God, who does not have to have a cause. Pardon me if I find the logic unconvincing. Relativity isn't just a theoretical model and very much does apply to the actual world. GPS for example simply wouldn't work without adjustment for relativistic effects. The argument over the existence of time is over whether it is an actual reality or a perception created by sequence. To banish time does not inevitably lead to either an eternal instant or the impossibility of change. It is anyway a question very, very far from being settled.
Wessexman

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Reply with quote  #58 
I didn't say causes, but explanations. A cause is an explanation, but not all explanations are causes. Nor did I mention all things having an explanation as the basis of the cosmological argument. No theist philosopher of note has ever rendered the cosmological argument as beginning with the premiss that everything has an explanation or cause, although that has not stopped even philosophers like Hume, Mill, and Russell repeating such a strawman, so you perhaps can be forgiven. I said all contingent things have an explanation outside themselves, which is something quite different. Not that I was actually intending to detail the argument. The various versions of the cosmological argument begin not with all things having a cause or explanation, but with contingent things, things that are caused, things which are not purely actual, things whose essence is separate from their essence, things that are complex and not entirely simple, etc. They then argue from these to something that is necessary, without a cause, purely actual, purely simple, etc., based upon the dependence of the former on the latter. So one version begins with contingent being and argues to the existence of necessary being based upon the ontological dependency of the former. At no point does it say that all things require a cause, or are ontologically dependent in any sense, but God is simply exempt. That is a strawman, albeit unfortunately common.

I'm not sure what you when you say theoretical models. No one is saying that theories like Relativity don't provide a lot of uses for us nor offer lots of verifiable predictions; the point is about the ontological status of the models and entities posited by them. That is the status of the philosophical debate around Scientific Realism Vs. Anti-Realism, so I don't see the point in disputing that in itself, unless you have proof otherwise. It is even controversial, for example, whether something like an electron can be said to exist, or is just a useful fiction. Now, I say this as someone who isn't a Scientific Anti-Realism. There are arguments on both sides. Anti-Realists say that, as scientific theories have often been replaced, how can we have confidence the entities posited by them exist? So they maintain we should treat them as useful fictions, in a sense. Realists say that it would be a miracle that our scientific theories can be so useful and predictive if the entities they posit don't exist, generally. I myself am closer to Scientific Realism. I lean towards Structural Realism:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/structural-realism/

As I said, how to understand the Theory of Relativity and it's relation to the actual world is controversial scientifically and philosophically, as is what it means for time, or what it could be. And, yes, it most certainly would be very problematic to discard time in something like our ordinary understanding of it. It is hard to see, for example, how our understanding and experience of change is reconciled with something like the Four-dimensional block view of eternalism that is sometimes (incorrectly) said to follow necessarily from the Theory of Relativity. But time and chage are basic not just to our experience of the world, upon which science itself is built, but to how science is done: scientists make predicts and test them, for example, which is an example of change.

I also don't see how any of this makes God's timelessness problematic nor an evasion. Even if something like the Four-dimensional block view were necessary, then that would serve a similar role here. God would be outside this. Most importantly what you originally mentioned in your objection as future events would be to him simultaneous with present and past ones.
AaronTraas

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Reply with quote  #59 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter
Everything must have a cause, and the cause must be God, who does not have to have a cause. Pardon me if I find the logic unconvincing.


Sorry to butt in to your discussion. It's been a good read so far.

If the principal of sufficient reason is true, and time exists in some way, and it is directional (not debating the nature of time, just stating an if), walking back through the universe's chain of causality, then it must ultimately terminate to a singleton of sorts -- an unmoved mover. Something extant because it is, without any cause other than itself. That's the necessary result of the existence of linear time and causality. 

Now whether that is the Christian God or some un-personal force or a watchmaker god or whatever isn't answered by those two facts (also assuming the principles of identity, non-contraditiction and excluded middle), but that's a valid and rational (i.e., non-circular) argument.

According to Aquinas and other we can thus derive, through a lot more work, that this is a God, and man properties of that God, but that doesn't get us to Christianity (or Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, et al) like it without revelation, which ultimately requires a leap of faith to believe. 

I don't buy his entire corpus, but I'm with MacIntire in his position that in the end, if you take things to their logical conclusion, your philosophy is that of Aristotle or Nietzsche. And aesthetically, I can not abide nihilism. It means that there is no such thing as virtue, no beauty, nothing worth living or dying for. No teleology to man. It means that the only rational strategy is maximizing of personal pleasure, which really means life for man is about dopamine and seratonin, and nothing nobler. 

To which I say, no thank you. 
Wessexman

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Reply with quote  #60 
Technically, most versions of the cosmological argument do not aim to show the universe had a temporal beginning. It is rather ontological dependence they show. Aquinas even proclaimed that reason could not show the world wasn't eternal, though that didn't mean it wasn't ontologically dependent on God as a first cause, necessary, purely actual, etc. The so called Kalam argument, though, does aim to show the universe had a beginning and it must have been God:

https://www.reasonablefaith.org/writings/popular-writings/existence-nature-of-god/the-kalam-cosmological-argument/

I don't know enough about this argument to comment on its soundness.
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