Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Materialism In The Gaps - Response To A New Comment On An Old Post

True, I don't know everything, but isn't your response to that a God of the gaps? If the faith of atheists isn't credible, what makes yours any better?   Jacob  

This was a question on a post I did which was critical of what Jerry Coyne said in Sean Carroll's Moving Naturalism camparee for some big names in atheism.   The post and comments can be read here.    My answer to why my faith is better than the atheists' is that the atheists' faith involves them in such massive hypocrisies and contradictions that it doesn't even have internal coherence.  Their materialist faith would require that internal coherence so it can't stand.  They certainly violate the requirements of science in trying to make their schemes work. 

I didn't think addressing the problems with the atheists' assertions on these matters would produce an argument for God,  I only addressed the question of free will and the motives of the atheists in trying to either destroy a belief in free will or to redefine free will to make the idea friendly to their materialism or to tell a useful lie about it with the goal of husbanding the human population so as to act in a way which free will is necessary to support even though they reject the possibility of that belief.   Some of the atheists in attendance realize that a human species without free will is likely to be a violent, bloody, oppressive disaster, and so their argument about telling a useful lie about it to get people to behave themselves, though a demonstration of their massive arrogance and condescension to the majority of humanity was about the only thing they came up with.

I certainly don't think that citing gaps in knowledge is a valid argument for God, even less so gaps in our experience of the universe.  I can't think, off hand, of that being done in the Bible, though it is noted in a number of places that God surpasses human understanding, which God even just as the creator of the Universe could be expected to do.

It is ironic in that it is these elite materialists who are constantly filling in gaps and chasms of knowledge with their substitutes for God, materialism, "naturalism" (Sean Carroll's preferred euphemism for what comes down to the same thing) schemes of causality in the absence of evidence and, in a more sophisticated version of a materialist God, these days,  probability.   That last one is especially interesting because of its use by cosmologists to violate some of the most basic ideological holdings and slogans of current atheism and science.

Out of nothing but probability (and a desire to be rid of an argument some make for the existence of God - though I never have*)  atheists have invented, not just things in this universe, but the Billy-ons and Billy-ons of universes in their mulitiverse, **  In some schemes of multiverse theory, new ones being generated with every act we undertake so that every possible variation of our actions will be represented in their ultimate multiverse ensemble.   And if some cosmologists don't like that ultimate version of the multiverse, theirs is no more based on empirical evidence than that fantastic tale in which we all create universes.

Among the problems with Jerry Coynes' atheist, safely materialist replacement for the idea of free will is that it is so incompetent that it doesn't hold together, either.

Modest Proposal

Replace notion of free will with this statement:

“My decision was caused by internal forces I do not understand”

Passing with just the observation that Jerry Coyne claiming to have ever been modest in any way invites a joke, if you don't understand what causes you to decide something you have no basis to even identify it as having come from "internal" forces.   If you don't understand it it could have been the result of free will located outside of your brain.  It could be the result of entirely non-material "forces" operating entirely outside of the realm of causality, the fact that you don't understand them, you can't find them in the net of causality, could be evidence that the motivation of your decisions doesn't reside there.   Which I'm sure Jerry Coyne would just hate, hate, HATE on , in his Coynean manner, if it were true.  The problem with Coynes' ridiculous disposal of free will is that it merely calls attention to the failure of materialism to contain an explanation of our minds, including how we come to decide to do what we do.  

My faith doesn't assert that every single thing that is real has to conform to our understanding of cause and effect and to abide by physical law.  So my faith doesn't contain the self-contradictory features that seem to be inevitable when your faith is that "The Cosmos is all that is, or was, or ever will be." 

*  The argument from the fantastically finely tuned constants of our one and only known universe being able to generate matter, stars, planets and planets such as Earth which has generated life.  The incredible improbability of some of those constant values being what they are in our universe might constitute physical evidence persuasive of the argument that we live in a universe designed, intentionally, for the existence of life and intelligent life capable of comprehension.  I have never made that argument as I don't make arguments for the existence of God, who would have to surpass any human argument of that kind, though others can be persuaded by what they find in such teleological arguments.   I don't see anything invalid in someone being persuaded by the argument from fine tuning that God did it, it's certainly less of a stretch than the means that atheists have come up with to make their argument go away, including the multiverse.

In terms of this post it's interesting that the article linked to at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy makes my same critique of "materialism in the gaps" concerning one of the means atheists purportedly doing science have come up with to make the argument for God through fine-tuning go away. Scientific progress

That the universe is fine-tuned for life is based on current science. But, just as many other anomalies have eventually been explained, so might fine-tuning. Science may one day find a naturalistic answer, eliminating the need for design. For suggestions along these lines, see (Harnik, Kribs, and Perez 2006), Page 2011 (Other Internet Resources)), and (Loeb 2014).

While this is a popular stance, it is, of course, a promissory note rather than an explanation. The appeal to what might yet be discovered is not itself a rival hypothesis.

The promissory notes of materialism which atheists issue at such an inflationary rate are no different from the naive arguments for God relying on gaps of knowledge.  And I don't know of any sophisticated theologian who makes those kinds of arguments these days and few in the past who did. Theologians are constantly reviewing each others' works, picking each others' arguments apart in ways that atheists seldom know because they so seldom read theology.

I would guess that a lot of physicists, even many of them atheists, can't stomach the ultimate violation of Occam's razor and the many other gyrations and hypocrisies involved in multi-verse cosmological fairy tales which, frankly, strike me as a rather desperate and hypocritical attempt by atheists to pretend they've killed off God once and for all.  The lengths to which these attempts have taken some of the biggest names in physics, such as Stephen Hawking, including the demand to allow unverifiable speculations which will never have confirmation in observation of physical reality to be, nevertheless, accepted in science as science.  By doing so they destroy everything that such atheist-scientists insist makes science the ultimate guarantor of reliable knowledge, they destroy science in their attempt to use science to destroy God.  Which, like the multiverse doesn't do what they want it to do, it does the opposite.   Materialism produces the ultimate in intellectual decadence in at least several ways,  which is a more persuasive argument against the validity of materialism (naturalism, physicalism) as a valid philosophical framing than any of the materialists' arguments against God.  If materialism must violate the very rules of thought used to generate materialism then it can't stand as a refutation of God who was never held to be bound by those rules.

The recourse of a different group of physicists and others, filling in a rather huge gap in their knowledge of the origin of those fine turnings with one of the myriad of never to be redeemed promissory notes is foolish if doing away with God is their goal, as well.  Even in the seemingly unlikely event that they can tell us how those fine tunings came about, that would leave the question of why they are like they are and that is something science is unequipped to do.  Larry Krauss and others have stumbled badly when they purport to do that, only showing that someone who isn't used to thinking philosophically in a rigorous manner won't even understand the problems involved in the attempt.

**  I've heard two speculations that show the futility of their attempt to get rid of God by inventing 100500  or more universes.   One would be that a multi-verse would likely require an effective infinity of even finer tuning than our one unverse and so would reasonably be an even more persuasive argument for design.  The other would be that an infinite God could create an infinity of universes for reasons that would surpass our understanding as we can be confidently certain that our, one, universe available to human perception ultimately surpasses our understanding.  It would strike me as idolatrous or blasphemous for a religious believer to assert that God is comprehensible to human understanding.  That is one of the most telling habits of fundamentalists and a sign that there is a lot wrong with their thinking and the God who is limited by their imagination and their own character.

Some, perhaps not all, cosmologists, as well, have an unbounded faith in their own powers.  I will brag again about the one and only occasion that I was able to get Sean Carroll to answer me, when I got him to admit that physics doesn't have comprehensive and exhaustive knowledge of any one object in our physical universe, never mind being in possession of that ultimate Holy Grail of his discipline, a Theory of Everything.   As I recall, it took me about 17 days of asking over two long blog comment threads to finally get Carroll to admit that most obvious fact about physics.  And he's still pretending that physics and cosmologists can have a theory that covers everything in the absence of that far more modest goal of comprehensive knowledge.   As I've pointed out, the neo-atheists and various religious fundamentalists have a lot more in common than either of them would care to acknowledge.

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