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>The illegitimacy of anti-supernatural causation

2009 September 28 7 comments

>My recent post led to some discussion, mainly in response to my opposition in defining science as methodological naturalism. I think the previous use of the term Natural Philosophy was adequate for the time. It made it clear that it was the study of natural phenomena without the baggage of additional metaphysics that are unnecessary to the practice of science. The subsequent addition of historical science to operational science to encompass all “science” makes short descriptions more difficult.

My contention is that forcing singular past events to be natural (that is not supernatural) is artificial (not genuine) and arbitrary (not determined by necessity); in that if God did make an object, methodological naturalism would prefer the false explanation that man made it over the true explanation that God did. david w states

The difference is artificial if there can be evidence for supernatural causation. How… [can] we know if God made a house?

This is putting the cart before the horse. One cannot argue philosophically that God does not exist thus he cannot make anything thus nothing is made by God. One can argue philosophically the case for and against God, but if there is empirical evidence otherwise, that must be taken into consideration.

To ask what such evidence is for God, but deny that evidence is even possible within one’s philosophy is disingenuous.

If God exists and he made man, and is at least as capable as man then he can make anything man can make. It does not matter whether or not we can identify a particular object is made by God, the fact is this is theoretically possible. And a definition that excludes God from producing something when it possible that he could, and thus God didn’t, even if he did, is fallacious.

I think there is reason to think that God made some objects. But definitive evidence, or even any evidence, that God made something is not necessary to allow that possibility. We allow for that possibility in other situations, such as an unknown culture, or the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence.

It must be recognised that we are looking at effects, thus inferring the source. Extensive knowledge, or any knowledge, about the source is not required beforehand. It is in studying the effect that we theorise about the source.

Categories: design, logic, philosophy, science

>The importance of information in the evolution debate

2009 August 30 30 comments

> Creationists often mention the concept of information as a challenge to the grand theory of evolution.

Information as a concept has long been recognised. It is something all people agree exists even if there is debate about how it is categorised. Archaeologists discovering inscriptions know there is a meaning even if they do not know what the meaning is, and most people would not dispute this. People recognise several things that are designed. Though one could say they do so because they already know these things are designed, such as a car or computer; there are examples of things we are not previously aware of, but we would still recognise intention.

As I have mentioned previously, information is not composed of, nor derived from matter. Of course it can be stored in matter.

There are several concepts of what information is, at least in terms of how we should represent information theory mathematically.

The application to evolution centres on the connection to DNA. DNA is recognised as carrying information. It has meaning. It resembles a blueprint, and metaphorically is one.

We can study how information originates. If the source of all information can be shown to be greater information (that is intelligence), then this conclusion also applies to DNA.

There are 2 potential ways that one could show information cannot be produced by itself. It may be possible to show this mathematically, in which case we can be absolutely certain (or essentially certain if the proof is statistical).

If not mathematically, it may be possible to show this empirically: that is, in investigating all the billions of examples of information that have been directly observed; if all are shown to have come from higher information sources and zero are self producing, then we can be extremely confident of our thesis.

Therefore the impossibility of information coming from non-information, mathematically or empirically, disproves Darwinism. Rather than being a red-herring as is sometimes claimed, information theory is absolutely central.

Categories: evolution, information, logic

>The wisdom of youth

2009 July 29 2 comments

>Amanda Witt shares a brief conversation she had when her boys were 3 and 4.

“I really don’t like you pretending to shoot people,” I told them.

“We’re not pretending to shoot people,” my older son said. “We’re shooting pretend people. Dangerous ones.”

Categories: children, gender, logic

>Is the glass half full or half empty?

2009 July 23 5 comments

>This question always bothered me. My answer was neither.

I realise this is a question about our tendency towards optimism or pessimism. I can be both, though tend more toward pessimism. But I also consider myself logical, so that in any given situation I try to identify the likely outcome. Though I admit that if I am called to see my boss I assume (or fear) it is for correction which it almost never is.

But back to the glass. I didn’t see the question as legitimate. And it isn’t. The answer is neither.

The glass is half full if it is in the process of being poured into, and half empty if it is in the process of being drunken from.

Categories: logic, quotes

>Boolean values

2009 January 7 Leave a comment

>Situations which can have 1 of 2 outcomes are considered Boolean. Here are several notations with typical correspondence in the same column.

True (T) False (F)
1 0
yes no
on off
open shut
●●
up down
go stop
Categories: logic

>A clarification on sovereignty

2008 September 20 3 comments

>is in order. 3 responses to my recent post, God’s sovereignty and glory, while accurate, did not quite focus on what I was trying to say.

It is not that I think God gives us some freedom and still retains his sovereignty, even though that is true.

Rather, I think that if God makes us free agents then it is impossible for him to make us love him. Love is a free expression. If determinism is true then we can act affectionately (or in a way that has that appearance) but we a little different from programmed robots. If we are free to love then we either do or we do not. If we choose to reject God then God cannot make us love him. It is not a question of sovereignty. It is a question of logic:

If freewill then not forced love.

The nature of love means it is our decision to make.

A couple of side notes. I am not saying freewill equates to being able to do or think anything. We cannot do many things. It may not occur to us to think of many things. We cannot process ideas that are beyond our comprehension. And God is able to act on our thoughts (give us ideas or prevent us thinking something); and on our actions, force or prevent a certain action. Freewill means the ability to make some decisions independent of God. We may make some of these decisions contradictory to God’s preferences.

And even though God cannot make us love him he can prove his existence to us and he can act in such ways as to maximise the chances that we will desire him. He can pursue us to depths unimaginable.

Categories: freewill, logic, sovereignty

>The limits of God

2008 June 14 1 comment

>God is unable to do any conceivable thing. There are things he is unable to do for a variety of reasons and I wish to categorise these.

One method of dividing up the actions that God is unable to perform results in 2 options: Actions that men (also) cannot do and actions men can do

Attributes of God are similarly categorised. Attributes of God that man can have to a degree are called communicable. Examples would be love or mercy. Attributes that God has and we do not are called non-communicable. An example would be omnipotence.

Actions that neither men nor God are able to perform belong to the category of logical impossibilities. These actions require breaking the law of non-contradiction. Asking God to both do and not do something in the same way at the same time is logically impossible. Asking God to both have an attribute and an attribute that contradicts it is logically impossible. God cannot make a rock too big to lift. God cannot be both unchangeable and changeable in the same manner.

There are also actions that humans are able to perform that God is not able to perform. This seems to solely relate to the realm of sin therefore they are actions that abuse a good; they create an evil. Evil is a distortion of an underlying good. Therefore God is unable to perform them because he would be doing evil. An example would be lying. Lying is a distortion of truth, truthfulness is an attribute of God. For God to lie would be a denial of his nature.

There is a subcategory of actions that men can do and God cannot that deserves mention. There are some actions that are limited to men because its definition excludes the possibility of applying to the divine. An example would be murder. This requires some explaining.

God and men can both kill humans. Killing is defined as removing a life. Now this can be allowed as in the case of war or capital punishment, disallowed as in the case of murder, or accidental (because we live in a fallen world) as in the case of manslaughter.

Murder is disallowed because it is the unwarranted removal of life. God created us and owns us. We must obey him and he has told us that we are not to murder, not to destroy the imago dei. This prohibition clearly is one that can only apply to men (and possibly angels). God cannot destroy life without his own permission. If God does destroy life it means he has permitted himself to. Therefore God is unable to murder because the definition of murder does not apply to deity. One could argue that it was at least theoretically possible for Jesus to murder during the incarnation if he took a life without the implied or express permission of the Father, though that takes us into another debate, perhaps for another time.

The limits of God

  • God cannot perform logical impossibilities.
  • God cannot sin.
  • God cannot do things defined in terms of men.

The limits of men

  • Man cannot perform logical impossibilities.
  • Men can sin.

The debate on the limits of God goes even deeper than this. When we say that God cannot sin the question arises whether God cannot do evil or will not do evil? Or even, can anything that God does be considered evil as he is the definition of good?

Further, even if God cannot sin as deity, it is possible that Jesus could as man even though he choose not to.

Categories: apologetics, logic, philosophy, sin

>A father's foreknowledge

2007 December 30 3 comments

>During a discussion on Jamsco’s blog, Bnonn was suggesting that if God’s knowledge is contingent on our actions then God cannot know about what we will never do.

  • P1. If human beings have libertarian free will, and God has definite knowledge of human actions, then it is necessary that God’s knowledge of those actions is logically contingent upon them.
  • P2. If God’s definite knowledge of human actions is logically contingent upon them, then God cannot have definite knowledge of human actions which will never occur.
  • P3. But God does have definite knowledge of human actions which will never occur.
  • C4. Therefore, human beings do not have libertarian free will.

I have previously said that while reasoning is good it is also fallen, so if our logic contradicts Scripture then we must check our premises or reasoning. I think the error is logic is related to the first premise. While reviewing the premises is useful, illustrations are also useful because if the illustration is feasible, then the argument probably needs modifying. This is an example from my daughters.

  • Bethyada: D1, for your snack you can have blue cheese on crackers or avocado on crackers.
  • D1: I’ll have x.

I offered her this (a factual) and I knew her response would be x. I knew her response prior to the answer. My knowledge is not so much contingent on her actual choice, rather it is contingent on me knowing what her choice will be. But her choice is clearly hers and not mine.

  • Bethyada: D2, for your snack you can have blue cheese on crackers or avocado on crackers.
  • D2: I’ll have y.

Now this is a hypothetical (counterfactual), I don’t really do this, it is just a mind experiment. But I am still certain of her response. Clearly my knowledge here is not contingent on her choosing.

Note the answer is different for each of them given the same choice. It is not that I am forcing the answer I wish to have (do you want to eat a chocolate bar or a slug).

The reason I know the answers is because I know my daughters.

I would rephrase premise 1

  • P1. If human beings have (libertarian) freewill, and God has definite (fore)knowledge of human actions, then it is necessary that God’s knowledge of those actions is logically dependent on God knowing what humans will do.

God knows us better than I know my children so God always knows what our choice will or would be.

Categories: foreknowledge, freewill, logic

>Open View Theology

2007 December 3 1 comment

>I have been wanting to make some comments since Vox started debating jamsco. To me it seems that the debate is covering several issues which are not always well defined. The question over whether God knows the future is discussed alongside free will and God’s micromanagement of our lives.

These 2 issues actually create a trilemma. God either knows the future specifically or he does not. God either controls every aspect of our lives including all our thoughts and actions, or he does not. But the 2 issues can be held separately.

To avert confusion, by “God ordains” I mean everything that happens in the world, good and evil, thoughts and actions of all men, has its origin in God’s will; ie. men do not really have their own will that can be at odds with God. By “knows the future” I mean the specific future, not all possible futures and not a general knowledge based on what he causes to eventuate.

The 4 options are

  1. God ordains everything and knows the future
  2. God ordains everything and does not know the future
  3. God does not ordain everything and knows the future
  4. God does not ordain everything and does not know the future

The above 4 options are really only 3. It seems to me that if God ordains every event then he knows the future pragmatically (brings about one specific future) even if theoretically he did not know it intrinsically.

I am not certain the micromanagement (predestination)/ freewill debate, which essentially the Calvinist/ Arminian debate, will be resolved easily. Though it is important for both sides to know the other side and understand it reasonably well. (I also think that the word predestination carries too much baggage to be used without clarification.)

Bible verses may support one’s underlying philosophy, but one also uses his philosophy when reading Scripture in general, and therefore interprets passages as being consistent with that philosophy—even when that interpretation is more strained than other readings. Vox phrases the error well,

  1. Take a Bible verse
  2. Assign a possible meaning to it.
  3. Insist this is the ONLY possible meaning, even when the meaning doesn’t make sense. (In this case, the problem is apparent a priori, but usually it is only evident when considered in context with other, contradictory verses.)
  4. Ignore all other plausible interpretations, especially more logical and Biblically supported ones.

In general terms one has to show that the Bible as a whole supports his theology.

At minimum show that a passage can only be interpreted in a specific way or that the other view contradicts Scripture*.

My position for the above options is 3. God does not micromanage everything but he does know the future specifically, nothing takes him by surprise. I will discuss both these options in future posts (God willing, I am not omniscient).


*A passage can only be interpreted in a specific way

  • P→Q

Example: Verse x means Calvinism.

The other view contradicts Scripture

  • R→S,
  • ~S→~R

Example: Open view implies y. Scripture says that y is not true (or the opposite of y is true) therefore open view is false.

What is unhelpful is using consistency which is non discriminatory

  • T→V
  • V→T

Which is logically unsound because U may also imply V. Example: Calvinism suggests z and Scripture says z. But Arminianism also suggests z!

>Making energy work

2007 July 7 1 comment

>Talk origins has a segment where they refute particular creationist claims. I was directed to this claim about energy transfer

Claim CF001.5:

Energy inflow into a system is not enough to make that energy useful. There must also be an energy conversion mechanism. Without that system, evolution cannot work.

Sourced from: Yahya, Harun, 2003. Darwinism Refuted, Evolution and thermodynamics.

Their response was two-fold. Dealing with them in order

Any atom can be an energy conversion mechanism. Atoms routinely convert between light energy, thermal energy, and chemical potential energy. The energy conversion mechanism is ubiquitous.

They seemed to have missed the word “useful” in the original quote. Drop water over a fall and the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, heat and sound at ground level. How is that useful? How is that work? But place a water wheel in it’s path: an “energy conversion mechanism” and one gets useful work. The “conversion mechanism” is not referring to the change in energy type, it is referring to the ability to extract work.

Moving on

A lack of an energy conversion system would not only invalidate evolution; it would invalidate life itself. Evolution requires only reproduction, natural selection, and heritable variation, all of which are observed in life. The conversion of energy is a quality of life, so the conversion system exists for evolution to work with.

Equivocation. Natural selection requires reproduction, and heritable variation (no dispute). Macroevolution requires an expanded genome: new genes, promoters, proteins, control sequences, etc. For this one needs a source, mutation being the favoured source among evolutionists. I claim no there is no known mutation that increases information. Beneficial mutations are not necessarily information gaining.

I fail to see how life invalidates the claim. Living things are energy conversion systems.

The nature of information needs expanding; but for another time.

>Newton on chronology

2007 June 28 Leave a comment

>A letter from Isaac Newton states that the world would not come to an end until after 2060. He was not setting that date as the end of the world but rather that it could not end until at least then. This was based on his understanding of Daniel. And he was trying to put to an end speculation on dates in his day.

This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail.

While I have not seen Newton’s dating of creation, his work on ancient chronology would be consistent with being a Young Earth Creationist. While this was not unusual at the time I find it interesting that my views on origins are in line with the greatest scientist who ever lived. Other creationists were Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo.

It was frustrating to read this comment in the article:

Luckily for modern scientists in awe of his achievements, Newton based this figure on religion rather than reasoning.

It is bad enough that Newton’s religiosity was kept hidden from centuries while his scientific musings were published. They just don’t get it: Newton’s chronological theories were based on his reason, not an absence of it. He reasoned with scripture, not despite it. I happen to disagree with his chronological conclusions but that is beside the point which was he weighted certain scriptures and interpretations and the logical consequence of this led to his conclusions; if he was wrong it was in his incomplete or inadequate premises.

Theology is the queen of science and reason is one of her tools. Science arose in Christian society and was a consequence of an immutable God of whose thoughts we can think after. Science is losing its way as it disregards theism and it is becoming subservient to political ideology instead.

>Liar, liar

2007 May 25 3 comments

>Lying is usually viewed as wrong and appropriately so. To call someone a liar is not a small undertaking and to do so falsely causes major damage and is a sin. However it is not enough that someone disagrees with you to think they are lying; opponents can be wrong without being dishonest.

We must not confuse a person’s opinion of reality with distortion of what they know.

Ultimate truth is what conforms to reality. Falsehood is what does not. But to pass off what one thinks is reality when it is not reality is not the same as distorting what one knows to be the case.

There are 4 scenarios

  1. Agreeing with reality and saying so
  2. Agreeing with reality and saying other
  3. Disagreeing with reality and saying so
  4. Disagreeing with reality and saying other

Scenario 1 is truth telling, scenario 2 is lying, but what of scenarios 3 and 4?

The problem is we have disagreements over what reality is. Differing opinions may be related to arguing at cross purposes or real disagreement. If the opinions are incompatible it may be that both persons are wrong, but if one of them is correct, logically the other must be incorrect. The person arguing for the incorrect position corresponds to scenario 3. To call that person a liar is, in fact, not correct. The difficulty is the argument is over which position is correct. Calling the other person a liar at least implies that one is certain they are correct (they may be, but this misses the point there is disagreement); it may also imply the other person is misrepresenting what they know to be true, whereas they may actually believe their incorrect position.

So to prove someone a liar one needs to demonstrate the person is aware of some fact that contradicts their position and they were hiding this knowledge to suit their purposes.

This is important. Calling someone a liar seems to be yet another common way of refusing to debate the issues. It is really a form of equivocation: someone claims that not being in agreement with the facts (scenario 3) is as an adequate definition of liar, but in tarring someone as a liar suggests they are in the position of misrepresenting what they know to be true (scenario 2), and it is this (the implied scenario not the actual one) which is seen as a moral failure. Whether lying is ever acceptable is another topic.

And what of scenario 4, being in the position of telling what you think is a lie but in actuality corresponds to reality. Well that still makes you a liar, however if people act on your lies it is likely to result in less damage to society than scenario 2 (and perhaps scenario 3).

Categories: ethics, logic, truth

>Blaspheming the Holy Spirit

2007 February 1 1 comment

>Atheist Brian offers up the blasphemy challenge:

“There isn’t any good reason to believe in God,” asserts Brian. “It’s that simple.”

What’s wrong with God?

“What’s wrong with the tooth fairy?” asks Brian. “There’s nothing wrong with something that most likely doesn’t exist.”

…And recently they came up with a new way to publicize their cause. It is called the Blasphemy Challenge.

…What they did was challenge people to make videos of themselves, denying, denouncing or blaspheming the Holy Spirit,…

Chandler… says: “I’ve come to the conclusion that alongside the fact that there is no Santa Clause and there is no Easter bunny, there is also no God. So, without further ado, my name is Chandler and I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit.”

…[Kathleen] Liles says Brian is simply missing the point. Faith is not something that can or should be proven, she says.

“Faith is a gift, it is a mystery, as so many other gifts from God are,” she says. “And when we open our hearts to God, then God will give us the faith to believe.”

…Brian says,… “If they want to come to the table and present their evidence, I will present my evidence. And we will see how much of theirs is based on faith, and how much of mine is based on fact.”

This is just appalling atheist apologetic and shallow interpretation. Mind you, the token “Christian” response leaves a lot to be desired also.

There are three major mistakes in this article. Inappropriate analogy, misinterpretation and the fact/ faith dichotomy.

Comparing God to the tooth fairy or Santa Claus may belittle him, or make Christians seem childish, but it does little more. There are hundreds or fantastical beings that I could claim I don’t believe in but that doesn’t prove anything. No one ever truly believed in Santa Claus (except for childhood fantasies) nor was there ever a time people believed in the tooth fairy, it is a conscious man-made construct. Now an atheist may say so is God, but God certainly isn’t a consciously invented construct. I could say that I don’t believe in Brian, but that leaves me with having to explain away all the people on YouTube denying belief in the Holy Spirit. This is the real point, Christians claim there is good evidence for God. Atheists may attempt to explain this away, but they do not need to explain away Santa Claus, no one believes in him.

Then there are the large number of atheists denying the existence of the Holy Spirit showing up their lack of biblical knowledge, or even desire to gain any.

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:28-30 ESV)

God hates those who call good evil and evil good (Isa 5:20). But which does he hate more. Many an evil person or demon claims their activities are good. God opposes this, they are making false claims about themselves and leading others astray. Calling good evil however; that is making claims on God. That is maligning his character. That is attacking his glory. When Jesus accuses the scribes of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, what is it they have done? They have called the Holy Spirit who indwells Jesus unclean; they have claimed the good things of God originate from evil.

The atheists pride themselves in denying the existence of the Holy Spirit; not a sensible thing to do, but not an uncommon belief for people who don’t know God. But to acknowledge God and see his good works are say they originate from Satan; that, God says, is unforgivable.

As far as the fact faith dichotomy is concerned, that needs more extensive treatment. However Christians must bear some of the blame for this one with their inadequate definitions of faith. Faith is not the ability to believe the untrue, it is trust based on truth.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”/
They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,/
there is none who does good. (Psalm 14:1 ESV)

Categories: interpretation, logic

>Wrong definitions

2007 January 18 1 comment

>Over on Vox Popoli there have been a few mentions of the God and the Immovable Rock paradox. The paradox can be stated:

Can God create a rock so heavy that even he cannot lift it? If he can, then the rock is unliftable, God is not omnipotent. But if he cannot, then he is still not omnipotent.

I asked my 8 year old daughter a variation on this question and I am not aware she had ever been exposed to it before. I tried not to direct her answers so I could see what she thought.

Bethyada: Can God do anything?

Daughter: Yes.

B: Can he make a rock so large he cannot lift it?

D: No.

B: Can God do anything?

D: Yes.

B: If God cannot make a rock so large he cannot lift it explain why God can do anything.

D: Well, if it is too big he can’t lift it. If he can lift it he can’t make it. [showing she understands the dilemma]

B: So then God cannot do everything. Can God do anything?

D: Yes.

B: How, what is wrong with the question?

D: It is a silly [read illogical] question.

So in essence she showed she understood the dilemma, this didn’t shake her belief that God is omnipotent and she stated the problem is actually with the question.

This has been dealt with centuries ago, but as it continues to be mentioned in various forms so let us review it.

Starting with the first part of the question consider a group or a set of of big (immovable) rocks that God cannot lift. Call this set R (for rocks). Now if God could make such a rock, then set R would have at least 1 rock in it and therefore it would not be empty. However if God cannot make such a rock then set R is empty.

So R could be either empty or not empty. However it cannot be both. This is a logical impossibility.

The second half of the question states that of he cannot make it (R is empty) he is not omnipotent and if he cannot lift it (R not empty) he is still not omnipotent. The dilemma does not need to bring God into it because it has to do with a foolish definition of omnipotence that denies the law of no-contradiction, that a set be both empty and not empty at the same time.

Omnipotence means that God can do all meaningful things.

This applies to any dilemma that expects God to do the logically impossible but can be extended to any dilemma that expects God to have 2 mutually exclusive traits, either attributes that are intrinsic to his nature (eg. goodness) or something he wills to do (eg. second coming).

This does not say that God cannot have 2 attributes that are generally considered difficult to reconcile. God can be both just and merciful. He cannot be both just and unjust.

Are there any scriptures that discuss this. I think the following is relevant:

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself. (2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV)

God is faithful and that precludes him from being faithless.

What if someone insists on a meaning of omnipotence that includes the ability to do the illogical? Other than acknowledging the person is an idiot, one could say that in that sense God is not omnipotent.

Does all this mean God is limited by logic? No. Logic is a component of God’s nature. We can understand logic because God gave us logic as part of imparting his image in us; but, this is another topic.

Now if only more people could have the insight my daughter has at 8!

Categories: logic