Friday, April 13, 2012

Are You Required To Vote For Someone Who Believes Freedom and Morality Are Delusions?

Last month, after reading a post by Jerry Coyne repeating the materialist party line that denies free will I asked the quite obvious question of why anyone should trust someone who believes that with a public office.    Since these questions are far more important to the continued existence of liberalism than most of the ideological fixations of blog blather, going to the very heart of freedom, equality,  a decent life and the democratic government that is the only effective means of having those,  I'm going to go into it again.   Coyne convinced me that materialism poses one of the most serious dangers that faces liberalism.  That isn't  bigotry, as an e-mailer froths at me, it's a question of  basic reason.

Here is what Jerry Coyne said:

Almost all of us agree that we’re meat automatons in the sense that all our actions are predetermined by the laws of physics as mediated through our genes and environments and expressed in brains.  We differ in how we interpret that fact vis-à-vis “free will and “moral responsibility,” though many of us seem to think that the truth of determinism should be quietly shelved for the good of the masses. 

I wouldn't entrust political power to someone who believes that while professing religious belief, declaring fealty to the Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights .  The idea that there is some constitutional requirement to vote for someone who believes that kind stuff is one of the nuttier superstitions current in contemporary pop-liberalism.

And it's certainly not just Jerry Coyne who believes that we are meat automatons  programmed by physical laws -almost always by "our genes" these days - that is an increasingly common belief in the general culture, one which comes directly from scientistic materialism, which is a deterministic ideology.   Here is another of the heroes of contemporary atheism, Richard Dawkins, on the topic:

In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

There is nothing in materialism that can overcome that determinism* which is so at variance with the experience of most people.   There is nothing in the ultimate reality of materialists that can overcome the assertion of that view of life.   There is no reason for anyone to believe that a materialist who believes there is "no evil, no good" will reliably tell the truth, refrain from stealing,  or killing or committing any other crime that they think they can get away with.  The fear of not getting away with it has proven to be quite ineffective in promoting good behavior and beneficial government, especially among the powerful and wealthy.   If you heard a politician say that they belived there is no such a thing as good or evil, but that  a god of "pitiless indifference" governed the universe and, furthermore, that the ones chosen by that  god to be "lucky" just plain win,   you would be insane to vote for them.   Yet that kind of thing, replacing physical forces for god,  is regularly said by atheists to, at most, muted objection by other atheists or even religious liberals.  

If you don't believe that there is moral obligation in life that requires people not be hurt and exploited by those who are "lucky" or those who aspire to be "lucky", through that kind of exploitation  if you don't believe that there is moral obligation that not only supersedes the far more destructive passively  indifferent observation of intentional harm and exploitation,  there is no amount of merely expressed good intention that anyone should believe will result in anything but harm and exploitation.   The results of believing in materialism will always devolve, at best, into something like a putrid social Darwinism because there is nothing to stop that.  The government and culture of Victorian Britain was an experiment in the ability of mere stated good intentions,  cultural preference and habit based in religious professions, to overcome similar assumptions and it was a disaster for the large majority of people.   And that is the best possible outcome.   Atheist governments since the late 18th century have uniformly been  an actualization of the amoral assertions of materialists where the only guarantor of being spared from brutality is mere chance.

If an atheist wanted me to vote for them they would have to explain to me how they account for all of those things that are the moral foundations of democratic government which are denied by contemporary materialism.   Due to the record of those kinds of assertions by the heroes of atheism and the horrific record of what happens when atheists take hold of governments,  it is entirely rational for a voter to demand assurance from an atheist before they vote for them.  I have knowingly voted for atheists twice, in my memory, based on my knowing them and knowing that their atheism was not based in any kind of firm ideological position such as materialism.   I don't think I'll continue to vote for atheists on that basis of trust now that this kind of materialist undermining of democracy has gained currency among atheists.

As I've said for years now, the "no religious test" of the constitution is binding on the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the government and the agencies of the government, they are not and have never been binding on individual voters or even groups of voters.  Individual voters are perfectly free to consider the religious and ideological beliefs of people who ask for the privileges of having their vote and their permission to assume power.   There is no right for anyone but the winner of an  election to assume an elective office.   And it would be far better if that was looked on as a privilege and a responsibility than as a right.  

I have every confidence that if you asked them,  a huge majority of atheists and most professed liberals would say they would not vote for a biblical fundamentalist,  something which is certainly as much a "religious test" as not voting for atheists.   I would tend to doubt I'd vote for a biblical fundamentalist for similar reasons to those that now make me skeptical of voting for materialists.   Of course, if you believe that equality is also a delusion you wouldn't be troubled by a failure to act evenhandedly.   Which is a definitive example of the fact that when you  look at the problems that materialism causes for liberalism, those are fundamental, inescapable and pernicious.   There are many ideologies that rationally prevent a liberal voting for a person holding that ideology.   And, more importantly, there are moral reasons to not vote for them as well.

Ironically,  if you believe what Coyne and Dawkins say,  there is no moral or rational basis for atheists to complain about their unequal treatment by voters.   The very complaints of unequal treatment that atheists make are undermined by their own materialist determinism.  In a morally indifferent universe, atheists have no right to equal treatment, no one does.  "Meat automatons" have no rights that anyone is morally obliged to recognize, which is the fatal blow to liberalism which is inherently a part of materialism.  People who declare themselves to be nothing more than that have no rational basis for asserting their right to other peoples' votes.  It would be foolish to vote for people with such poor reasoning ability as to not see that discrepancy.

The current ideology of atheism is a huge obstacle to believing that democracy is a valid form of government or even possible. I say that due to things which atheists, themselves,  say,  atheists like Coyne and Dawkins who have large followings among atheists.   That some of them try to back track and come up with patch jobs to try to make their materialist ideology tolerable for the majority who believe that human history and experience are more effective proof that democracy is the only legitimate form of government doesn't change that.  I have yet to see one of those patches that didn't fall off at first washing.   Far from being an expression of bigotry,  the decision to not vote for an atheist, in the absence of a convincing refutation of determinism and amorality, is an entirely rational decision.  

*  I've heard Daniel Dennett come up with some pretty absurd stuff which manipulates this problem by redefining free will into scenarios of mere indeterminacy,  something that hardly meets either the concept of free will or its efficacy to produce effectively beneficial government, the goal of democracy.   I'm not impressed enough with Dennett's arguments to want to go into them.   I think they are shallow, unserious word juggling.   I might change my mind and go into them later.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Do the 1st and 2nd Dimensions Really Exist? Materialist Ideology as a Pollution Source of Science: Now With Fun Ideas

The anti-religious motivations of many well known materialists within science are seldom far from the surface of their theories.   These days, as the debates I've recommended this week have featured, one such theory that is that of "the" mulitverse, explicitly, proposed to deny the possibility of a Creator of the universe.   You don't have to take that on my authority,  here's what the hero of so many new atheist-"skeptics", the late Martin Gardner said:

The MWI should not be confused with a more recent concept of a multiverse proposed by Andrei Linde, a Russian physicist now at Stanford University, as well as by a few other cosmologists such as England’s Martin Rees. This multiverse is essentially a response to the anthropic argument that there must be a Creator because our universe has so many basic physical constants so finely tuned that, if any one deviated by a tiny fraction, stars and planets could not form-let alone life appear on a planet. The implication is that such fine tuning implies an intelligent tuner.

The pure vessel of science is supposed to be filled with evidence and logic,  not ideological spin.   Or so the PR of science has it.   What these scientists are doing, inserting their materialist ideology into science, is supposed to be forbidden, a prohibition that I fully endorse.     And  it would be forbidden if it wasn't the preferred ideology of atheists that is so inserted.   And in that,  one of the biggest pillars in the public image of science as it is supposed to be is contradicted by science as it really is.   Atheists are the foremost polluters of science these days,  they have been at it pretty much non-stop for the last couple of centuries.   Whether eugenics, abiogenesis, evo-psy,  "exo-biology", and even theoretical physics, the anti-religious motivation is, over and over, explicitly stated by atheists within science.   As seen in the debates I've been recommending, they explicitly present science as an attack on religious belief*.   That much of the science surrounding these ideologically motivated ideas eventually turns out to be as durable as Young Earth Creationism never seems to register in the attention of even the specialists of the history of science.  By the time such science is demoted to "science" and denied, it gets taught in schools, built upon and promulgated in the wider culture.  Even as scientists decide that such shenanigans are not to be remembered,   the public remembers and the reputation of science suffers.   Not a little of the disrepute that science finds itself in is due to that kind of ideological bait and switch.**

When a scientist spills the beans as to their ideological motivation  you would think it would caution extra care in reviewing their work, but that is never done when the ideology is atheistic, or, generally,  materialistic.  Why that ideological insertion in science is ignored even as covert religious fundamentalist infiltration  is wildly asserted in the absence of evidence and the certainty that any attempt would be immediately discovered and the guilty thrown out in infamy,  is a clue as to some of the weaker aspects of science as a cultural and intellectual phenomenon.

One of the things I've heard said about the jillions of muliti-universes that are proposed to keep us safe from God is that many, perhaps an infinite number of those universes are one or two-dimensional universes.   I had heard that said for a long time before I started thinking of what that idea implies.   The assertion of the reality of the first and second dimensions raises some curious questions for materialists.

If only matter and energy are real then do the first and second dimensions really exist?   I mean even in our universe, never mind in imagined ones where those are the only dimensions.  Neither could contain matter as matter is known in materialism, which is three dimensional.  I'd ask what physical properties such universes could have, only without the necessary space and matter how can there be physical properties?    And what about time?   Is there some special dispensation given to negate what is believed about time coming into existence with matter and space?   How would anything that could possibly be said on the basis of our physics be known to hold as true in one or two dimensions?   How can physics be relevant to such universes?

I'd wondered about whether or not one or two dimensions could really exist in the curved space that I was taught we really exist in from when I was in high school, though not enough to see if physics had any answers to that question.  If space is curved by mass in the universe then what is the relevance for our physics to universes that can contain no mass?  I say "answers" in the plural because, over time, I've come to expect that science will have more than one answer to questions like those.

Isn't it most likely that the first and second dimensions are merely inventions of human imagination, means we use to impose order on the universe of our perceptions and manipulate intentionally with our mathematics just as we invent units of measure?   And if that's true, what conclusions does that force about the absolute reality of all of the mathematics and science that uses those concepts.   And just about all of science does make reference to those dimensions.   And if they are real, what does that do to the foundational definition of materialism?  Could it be that the useful concept of dimensionality is an artificial reduction of a complete reality that isn't wholly known?   Does referring to it produce a biased view of nature that is merely conventional?  OK, I'll stop posing these fun, though serious,  questions with that one.  For now.

The atheist extraordinaire of my youth,  Bertrand Russell,  in his Autobiography, recounts how his older brother proposed to teach him geometry and began in the common way by giving him the propositions and axioms of Euclid.   His brother told him that those couldn't be proved and had to be accepted.  The seedling iconoclast asked him why he should accept them.  The answer was that they couldn't go on unless he did.   It's hardly ever mentioned that the entire edifice of  mathematics and science are based on things that just have to be believed and, as you learn when you take physics in high school, that some of those things are not really the way that the universe works.   Though the discrepancy between plane geometry and its mathematical derivations and modern physics were never filled in anywhere in most peoples' educations.  I'll bet not one in a thousand of the big mouthed, enormously egoed blog atheists could even conceive of these issues, never mind cope with an explanation if one was proffered.   I'm absolutely confident that most of the big names in organized "skepticism"-atheism couldn't do more than mock them in an attempt to make them go away.

I think that's the same thing that the scientists who invent multi-universe theory are doing on a more detailed level.  Or, at least, I wonder if that's what they're doing.   And you can ask the same question about one assertion after another made by scientists, very often atheists and materialists, very often in theoretical science with little to no evidence available,  very often with their explicit declarations of their anti-religious intentions.  Very often doing what they accuse the religious of doing, inserting their ideological beliefs into science, on the basis of their authority***.


I can guarantee you that the response to his would be to point out the use of cosmological and scientific ideas within religion,  exactly what William Lane Craig was doing in those debates.  BUT THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT IT ISN'T AGAINST ANY RULE OF RELIGION TO DO THAT.  There is nothing in religion to prevent the use of any and even every idea that science holds and proposes.   That isn't a two way door.  Science can only deal with those parts of the material universe that are susceptible to its methodology, it can't import ideology into science without violating its rules.  Or, rather, that's supposed to be one of the things that preserves the reliability of the product of science.   The use of mental Venn diagrams to produce an analysis such as Gould's NOMA is, actually deceptive.   Science is far, far more restricted than most other activities that human beings engage in but those other activities, including religion, aren't  restricted in consulting science in the same way.

People who believe in a Creator of the universe believe that that Creator made everything as it is, in all of its detail, in every way.  No matter what people know about the way the universe is at any point in time,  such a belief includes everything in the universe, even what is unknown, or misunderstood.   So most religious people actually accept the reality of  the things science studies.   The universe belongs to religion as much as it does to science.

In fact, since religion can include aspects of the universe that science can't process, including many human experiences of it, religion can claim more of the universe than science can.  So can history, so can philosophy, so can any other discipline that is so constituted.   The arrogant assertion of  scientific hegemony over the entire universe extending far, far past where science can actually go, such is made by so many scientists today and, even more so, by the ignorant fan boys of science is a symptom of ignorance as to the most basic realities of what science is, what it was invented to do.  The fact is that its essential methods don't allow it to exceed those bounds without producing damaged, unreliable goods.   As disappointments mount, as those products fail, as the massive ideological and professional corruption of science and scientists becomes more apparent,  the public understanding of what science has become will not be to the liking of scientists.

Tragically, the resulting disrepute leaves some of the most essential science surrounding topics such as climate change vulnerable to corporate attack.   Of course, the scientists who work for the oil and gas industries,  seen shilling for global warming on TV 24 hours a day will make out.   For the time being.   Their colleagues will be too professionally polite to condemn them for that, in contrast to the massive ridicule and condemnation of religious scientists that is all the fashion these days.

* I won't write natural selection in the list because Charles Darwin, himself, said that his theory was not incompatible with religion,  though his followers, beginning with Francis Galton and Thomas Huxley and down to today have used it as a weapon against religious belief.   Alfred Russell Wallace, who very likely came up with the idea before Darwin did (and there's a hornets nest to kick over in that story) certainly didn't see it as disallowing belief in the supernatural.    The misuse of science  in atheist polemics by scientists is hardly ever considered to be a problem for the public acceptance and understanding of science, though it is one of the clearest violation of the alleged control mechanisms of science and makes trouble for the political existence of science.   The ideological motives of such materialists should be considered far more problematic because the history of science shows that such ideological distortion has been a problem.

**  As to assertions without adequate evidence, the literature of science is filled with them, especially the literature of popular science writing. Carl Sagan's list of the "best contemporary science-popularizers" includes E.O. Wilson, Lewis Thomas, and Richard Dawkins, each of whom has put unsubstantiated assertions or counterfactual claims at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market. Wilson's Sociobiology and On Human Nature5 rest on the surface of a quaking marsh of unsupported claims about the genetic determination of everything from altruism to xenophobia. Dawkins's vulgarizations of Darwinism speak of nothing in evolution but an inexorable ascendancy of genes that are selectively superior, while the entire body of technical advance in experimental and theoretical evolutionary genetics of the last fifty years has moved in the direction of emphasizing non-selective forces in evolution. Thomas, in various essays, propagandized for the success of modern scientific medicine in eliminating death from disease, while the unchallenged statistical compilations on mortality show that in Europe and North America infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and diphtheria, had ceased to be major causes of mortality by the first decades of the twentieth century, and that at age seventy the expected further lifetime for a white male has gone up only two years since 1950. Even The Demon-Haunted World itself sometimes takes suspect claims as true when they serve a rhetorical purpose as, for example, statistics on child abuse, or a story about the evolution of a child's fear of the dark. 

Richard Lewontin:  Billions and Billions of Demons 

*** An especially interesting interesting case is the attack made on the Big Bang theory by John Maddox, the prominent and openly ideological editor of Nature,  one of the most prestigious scientific magazines in the world.   The rejection of ideas within science can be based in their being problematical for materialism and atheism as well.   Maddox used his position in the culture of science to attack ideas that he believed were insufficiently materialistic.

Maddox, J.: 1989, 'Down with the Big Bang,' Nature 340

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Disappointing Argumentation of Lawrence Krauss

Lawrence Krauss is a physicist who I've got quite a bit of respect for,  I had more respect for him before he took up with the new atheism.   As recently as 2006 he was far more reasonable on the relationship between science and religion than he has become since:

Lawrence M. Krauss, a physicist at Case Western Reserve University known for his staunch opposition to teaching creationism, found himself in the unfamiliar role of playing the moderate. “I think we need to respect people’s philosophical notions unless those notions are wrong,” he said.
“The Earth isn’t 6,000 years old,” he said. “The Kennewick man was not a Umatilla Indian.” But whether there really is some kind of supernatural being — Dr. Krauss said he was a nonbeliever — is a question unanswerable by theology, philosophy or even science. “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God,” Dr. Krauss insisted. “We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it.”

His debate with William Lane Craig is very interesting,   I'm sorry for the poor quality of the recording but it's worth struggling to understand.   You might want to watch the video, even though the audio quality is even poorer.

I'm disappointed in his arguments against Craig because so many of them devolve into the most banal of threadbare atheist tropes. His beginning by using the recent line that Craig "is a professional debater" sets the tone. Apparently an articulate professor of philosophy who is an expert in the philosophy of time (which physics has consulted) and on cosmological arguments which are a central issue in the topic Krauss agreed to discuss is to be dismissed because he is experienced in debating these topics.

TIME OUT:   I'm going to promulgate one of those instantly created blog rules, you can call it "Anthony's Law" if you want to.   
"Anyone who resorts to discrediting their opponent on the basis of her or his proven competence loses the debate."  

 I also was disappointed in the derisive tone that Krauss resorted to when argument failed him, as it so disappointingly did several times.     At times Krauss approached the very pomposity he decried.

Considering the role that Krauss has had in current controversies in cosmology,  a subject about the physical universe that has generated widely divergent sets of beliefs, some of them strongly and heatedly asserted as being part of science, only to be pushed aside, he might have thought twice about resorting to the absurd argument that Christians don't believe in Baal or Zeus QED : no God.

If physicists can have strongly divergent beliefs about the physical universe and not hold that physics is discredited by those, why should people having greatly divergent beliefs about religion invalidate the subject matter of religion?     Considering that the universe is asserted to be governed by physical laws that are known,  and that God is usually held to transcend not only physical law but human understanding,  there is far more of an excuse for divergent ideas about God over time.   Consider the length of time that people have been addressing God and the physical universe,  I don't think that the pre-classical and classical period ideas about the universe need to be addressed by contemporary physics anymore than than pre-classical ideas about God which aren't found useful need to be addressed by 21st century Christianity.  Thinkers in the 21st century are not responsible for the ideas of people in the past except those ideas which they adopt.

Krauss seems to be entirely unprepared to discuss the philosophical issues that Craig refers to and seems to not realize their relevance to thinking about physics and their relevance to persuasion for or against the topic of the discussion.   That's something that is all too common with physicists today, it hasn't always been true.  I think that contemporary education in science might have specialized most scientists out of competence in addressing issues relevant to religious thinking.  He began in the worst possible way by asserting, as atheists generally do, that the onus is on religious believers to prove their case when that is an absurd stipulation.  You would think that the rejection of atheism by the majority of people would prove that the majority doesn't accept that stipulation and there is no persuasive reason presented for them to accept it.

Most absurd of all for a scientist to hold,  he parrots the "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" line popularized by Carl Sagan.   Considering the extraordinary claims regularly made by physics for the past century, including many claims within cosmology that other cosmologists reject as extraordinary, you can be certain that he would reject that requirement  made within his own subject matter.   If he would like a good example, he should consider the decades long controversies concerning black holes in which he is a prominent participant.  Not to mention the wildly controversial and divergent  string-M theories, multi-universe theories etc. that constitute a prominent part in contemporary scientistic antagonism against religion.

It is one of the most basic ideas that you cannot require a higher level of evidence against one part of science than you do of other parts of science without calling the legitimacy of the less stringently controlled science into question.   Scientists, especially those who hold the creed of scientism, regularly claim the mantle of reliability for their work.   Scientism, such as Krauss seems to be veering into, claims that it is the only legitimate means of discovering the truth.   I hate to have to break it to such scientists,  they are not going to convince people that the frequently changing, wildly swinging holdings of cosmology, hardly universally held by specialists,  to a lesser standard of evidence than people judge their own experience by.

Who does Krauss want to determine what  constitutes an "extraordinary claim" in his branch of physics and  who does he want to determine what level of "extra-ordinariness" of evidence that he and his colleagues will have to meet in their work?   If the claim is "extraordinary"  where is the limit of the requirement of necessary evidence and who sets that limit?

If he wants to address extraordinary holdings of scientists that have no evidence whatsoever to support them he could address the evolutionary dogmas of Richard Dawkins.   Some of the things he has promulgated, "selfish genes" "memes" are entirely baseless, undemonstrable and, especially in the case of memes, illogical.

Marcello Truzzi, the man who Sagan ripped off his most famous line from, became skeptical of it with time, friends of his say that before his death he was planning on debunking it.  It's too bad that scientists like Krauss don't think the issue through, especially in reference to their own work.

Another embarrassment is Krauss'  accusation that Craig is trying to find God in the gaps when he obviously isn't. It's clear when he does this that Krauss doesn't even understand the argument he's engaged in.   I've found that to be a common tactic of atheists who can't handle the argument they are having,  they try to argue what they think they  can.   By the way, God of the gaps is an idea that was first brought up by and its use in argument for God  condemned by Henry Drummond, an evangelical lecturer, almost a hundred years ago.    

I  think this debate might have been one of the biggest reasons that Richard Dawkins chickened out of defending his most famous book.   If you look at the new atheist discussion of that event you can see lots of absurd stuff said about it.  If Krauss wants to be associated with that kind of reasoning,  he's free to do that.   The extent to which the culture of science is willing to accept the kind of ideological clap trap of the new atheism as intellectually respectable will be the extent to which those of us who look at it from the outside will be required to take that culture seriously.   As it is, I've got a lot less respect for it than I used to have, these days.  I no longer take what scientists say on the basis of their credentials.  That is due to professional lapses and intellectual dishonesty among many of them which are not corrected by their scientific peers.   Maybe scientists should consider that they hold a lot of the reputation of science in their own hands and they don't do a lot for it by associating with the new atheists.   If they don't take responsibility for the reputation of science in the wider world, no one else can.    It's a big mistake to leave that to the boys of scientism on the blogs.

Update:   I've got to mention one extraordinary idea that seems to be ubiquitous in the science-religion brawl.   Science was invented to study the physical universe, it restricts its methods to the observation, measurement and analysis of aspects of the physical universe.   Professional scientists study the physical universe with methods that exclude anything that can't be processed with its methods and tools.

There is no reason to believe that the most brilliant physicist or biologist would be able to address anything asserted by religion except any physical claims made in religion.   Science doesn't give its practitioners competence or expertise to address ideas about the supernatural, morality or any other non-physical aspects of reality.   A scientist of the prominence of Lawrence Krauss has no more ability to address religious ideas by virtue of their science than a plumber can using his knowledge of plumbing or a store clerk can with their professional competence.   Time after time, when eminent scientists address competent thinkers in religion, they are at a total loss and often betray angry frustration by their inability to force compliance with their opinions on the basis of their credentials.   Maybe if they understood the basis of science better and especially the limits of its subject matter they could save themselves a lot of self-imposed aggravation.