Tuesday, December 21, 2010

L 5.33

Agnosticism is built on the underlying assumption, indeed a kind of faith, that the process of questioning that we have at our disposal (which is very, very limited) will lead to truth. There are atheists who were Christians, became agnostics and then eventually succumbed to atheism. Despite what these people say, agnosticism does not logically lead to atheism.

One horn of agnosticism is the belief that we can’t know if God exists. Since an atheist cannot prove that God does not exist, the agnostic has no substantiation for turning to atheism as a worldview. We actually can know if God exists through His revelation. Without being able to prove that God does not exist and given the possibility of God’s revelation, the agnostic should not turn to atheism. In fact, the agnostic should not even remain agnostic for these reasons.

Furthermore, agnosticism can be the belief that we can know God’s existence but don’t have the quantity or quality of information at this time to support the belief that He has revealed Himself to us. Where this horn of agnosticism fails is that the assertion can’t be substantiated. What test is there that can be applied to know for sure that we don’t have the appropriate information or proof? There is no template or methodology for this sort of thing. Alternatively, we can know that God has revealed Himself to us through God’s revelation itself. Whether or not everyone agrees that God has done so is irrelevant. Stating we don’t have evidence of God’s revelation is something that can’t be proven. It would require all possible knowledge of this existence and the ability to disprove the phenomenon that people experience revelations. Even this tine of the agnostic fork doesn’t logically lead to atheism.

L 5.32

“We all must begin with something that exists as a ‘brute fact’”. (p. 97)

This is a concept called foundationalism which has already been addressed in post L 5.15. Loftus is right. Every person from every worldview accepts certain ideas as foundationally true, including naturalists. The question between the worldviews is why people accept certain beliefs as opposed to others. The non-theist position is inadequate and this forum has shown several reasons why this is the case. We know that non-theists cannot prove that God does not exist which means that the foundational beliefs they have chosen rest on nothing substantive.

As stated before, non-theists concoct the idea of a multiverse to attempt to support the conclusion that the universe does not need an explanation. Since, the universe (or multiverse) cannot itself be proved to be a brute fact, imagining an eternal chain of multiverses does not provide an acceptable foundational belief. Even if a world ensemble did exist, it still wouldn't answer the question of origins.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

L 5.31

On the subject of the improbability of our existence, the book turns to God’s nature for the conclusion that “We could never know an absolutely simple essence since the finite cannot comprehend the infinite”. (p. 95) Moreover, “How did God gain his knowledge? Where did he learn it? Does he know everything about himself as well?” (p. 96)

Whether God is simple or complex, has properties or is properties, is irrelevant to the discussion of the improbability of our existence. We were either designed or not, irrespective of God’s nature. Whether God was designed or not has no effect on the improbability of our own existence. Additionally, we can indeed know God if God so chooses to reveal Himself to us, which He clearly has done.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

L 5.30

On p. 93, Loftus criticizes the notion of intelligent design (nature exhibits design by intelligence instead of merely being the product of natural forces) by stating there are many more examples of poor design than there are of “intelligent” design. Therefore, if intelligent design were true, people wouldn’t be able to find these examples of poor design but, would instead find only the "best" designs in nature. The implication is that either ID via God doesn’t exist or that God is incompetent because He's responsible for bad design.

The problem with his criticism is that it’s difficult to assess purpose in biology from just a snapshot of a point in history. Purpose can evolve over time and can be evident in different ways at different times. Also, systems can have purpose even though the purpose(s) isn’t readily apparent. Unfortunately, Loftus doesn’t even allow for these possibilities which says something about his motive.

Loftus then starts to flail in the dark on pp. 93-94 when he muses about the notion of the improbability of life developing as a product of natural forces instead of being designed by an intelligent agent. He starts by quoting John Hick’s assertion that the improbability of any event happening “appears endlessly improbable”. To the contrary, Loftus states that the improbability of any event happening is “purely notional, not objective”. He then quotes John Hick as saying that “The only reality is the actual course of the universe”. These two ideas seem to be at odds with each other. Hick explicitly states that any event is astronomically impossible and that it is objective whereas Loftus somehow construes his statements as advocating the idea being merely in our heads and that we exist just because.

Later, Loftus applies Dawkins’ “747 gambit” in the hopes of showing that the improbability of any event in this universe as the result of intelligent design means that the designer must be even more improbable. This notion stands logic on it’s head because improbable contingent events require a necessary source of causality. Dawkins asks the question of (if we are designed) who designed the designer? No one did. That’s the truth of the necessary versus the contingent. The necessary exists necessarily. It (qua God) is the ultimate, final authority. God imparts the very concept of design. Without God, we wouldn’t even know what design means. The word design implies that there is a degree to which the design is efficient or effective or beautiful of authoritative or perfect or powerful or however one wants to describe it. God is ultimate to the degree that no design can import any more perfection into the ultimate.

Loftus says that Dawkins thinks God doesn’t exist because evolution is unguided when Dawkins certainly knows that this idea at least leaves the door open for a deist option. God could have acted through secondary causes in creating the biological diversity that now exists. Even so, that still doesn’t rule out theism. God is free to operate via secondary causes but, that doesn’t mean He’s not intimately involved with the universe as in a deist scenario. Incidentally, Loftus later quotes Howard Van Till on pp. 110-111 who shows how Dawkins’ assertion is completely flawed when he says “When scientists make statements concerning matters of origin, governance, value or purpose of the cosmos, they are necessarily stepping outside the bounds of scientific investigation and drawing from their religious or philosophical perspectives”.

Monday, December 6, 2010

L 5.29

On p. 90, Loftus takes a stab a answering the most fundamental question that non-theists are unable to answer; why there is something rather than nothing. He continues that “David Ramsay Steele questions why nonexistence is the default view”. In response, nonexistence isn’t the default view. The method is to put the two options on the table, nothing at all or the existence of something (namely this universe), and ask why one is the case as opposed to the other.

Loftus adds Stenger’s comment that “only by the constant action of an agent outside the universe, such as God, could a state of nothingness be maintained.” What Stenger doesn’t explain is how someone could substantiate such a statement. How does anyone know that nothingness would require God’s constant action? God doesn’t have to create anything which would seem to suggest that nothingness could easily be perpetuated if God so desired. Why does nothingness have to be maintained? What would be required to maintain nothingness, if anything at all? Stenger continues that “The fact that we have something is just what we would expect if there is no God”. This conclusion rests on the assumption that nothingness requires divine intervention. As was just stated, there is no way for someone to substantiate the assumption. Therefore, the conclusion rests on a foundation of aether. Loftus also makes the comment on p. 91 that nothingness is unstable. It’s perplexing how that could be because it’s nothing. There is nothing for instability to reside in or rest upon. There is nothing to be unstable.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

L 5.28

On p. 90, Loftus attempts to create a flaw in the Christian conception of existence by saying it’s possible for a multiverse to exist or for something to come from nothing outside of the laws of our universe. Aside from the fact that there is absolutely no proof of this idea whatsoever, all this does is push the question back one step. Why is there a multiverse instead of nothing? If there is a law outside our universe that does permit something to come from nothing, why does it exist? How did it come into being? The ultimate question always remains no matter what scenario is being conjured up. Those types of theories are all contingent so the necessary remains. What is the necessary creative force behind it all? This is the boundary at which the non-theist worldview comes to an end and is unable to comment any further.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

L 5.27

Richard Carrier asserts that “from chaos we can predict order, even incredibly complex order”. (p.90)

Any “order” that Carrier imagines is nothing of the kind. Any alleged order that appears in his dice-rolling scenario would be illusory and short lived. The issue isn’t a random sequence that appears to have order. It’s more like rolling the same sequence one million times over. In this case, someone has loaded the dice so perfectly and obviously that it takes a special kind of intellectual obstinacy to ignore the truth.