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Atheists And Free Trips To Vegas

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Posted by Harvey on October 26, 2002 16:06:31 UTC

Richard,

*** think it is reasonable to remark that science asks "how" and philosophy asks "why". If the question can be answered quantitatively, then it is a scientific question. If the question can not be answered in such a manner, then it is metaphysical in origin. I guess the issue at hand is whether a question can originally be metaphysical and become scientific. I think you are saying that it can, I feel that I must agree. The Greeks and atoms. The particle that couldn't be broken down any further. It was merely conjecture with no bounds in quantity. However, now the issue is purely scientific.***

Let me clarify my response. Philosophical questions can be ingrafted and 'answered' in science, but the issue is not so clear cut. Talk about atoms, quarks, forces, etc is certainly scientific talk, but talk about atoms, quarks, forces, etc as existing is philosophical talk. Yes, such talk certainly exists in science, but many scientists and philosophers of science object to calling scientific notions as true, or as existing since this is not exactly what scientific models tell us about the world. The models of science tell us that prediction is possible using these models, whereas not saying anything about the ontological status of the concepts contained in those models. The view that these models do say something about reality or truth is called 'scientific realism' which is a philosophical position. What the Atomic Greek philosophers Democritus and Leucippus discussed was an ontological atom that was irreducible and indivisible. So far, even scientific realists haven't even claimed science has discovered such an entity.

***However, just as atoms were able to cross the barrier, so will with universe.***

I don't think such barriers have really been crossed. Scientific realists just have more to claim and dispute with antirealists.

***H: "If 'laws' are not really laws in the sense that they somehow necessitate certain facets of nature, then the term 'natural' is fully dependent on a certain observed range of past behavior." R: But for a scientific theory or law to be accepted, musn't it be able to predict future behavior. Granted, our observations of these "laws" are what dictate how we quantify them, however, if we can't use the observations to predict future events, then it technically isn't a theory or a law.***

I somewhat agree, however, as I think you will agree, most of evolutionary theory and cosmological theory and geological theories (sic!) is based on historic events. The predictions in these cases is often predictions of what we expect to find true about the past (i.e., predictions of what evidence we should if our model is correct, called retrodiction). In any case, I agree that a scientific model to be well accepted must make predictive and/or retrodictive statements that can be verified in experiments or observations. Of course, any model that provides a great explanation and is shown to be a mathematical outcome of some well tested theory is also likely to be accepted even if it is not well tested at that point it becomes accepted (but is held to be more tentative). String theory comes to mind...

***"H: If God is involved, as I suggest, then the outcome of God's involvement is what is observed, and not directly God's involvement. This is not unscientific, since we are not able to observe the 'cause' of anything. We only observe effects." R: An interesting idea, however, science, as I stated above, requires the crystal ball. One may believe they are observing god's work, however, we can not "predict" his future acts. Even Jesus said the time of Revelation would only be known to God himself.***

Even science must be interpreted in light of philosophy. Without some type of philosophical realism, the findings of science remain 'models' used in some instrumentalist fashion. To make statements such as "we evolved from other lifeforms", or "the material universe expanded from the big bang", etc, then we must accept some form of realism (philsophy). The reasons for accepting a God is not to dissimilar from accepting a form of realism. In fact, scientific realism has strong implications for mathematical realism which has interesting implications for God's existence. That's not to say that God must exist if we accept scientific realist claims, but it is an implication that is consistent with that thesis.

***Yeah, science must keep the metaphysical world outside of it, mainly because of the dichotomy that formed between religion and science. Science had to protect itself from doctrine, though even science may get stuck in doctrinal ruts itself. As I said, science is about reproducibility and observation. The metaphysical world has neither quality.***

I wouldn't say that the metaphysical world has neither quality. For example, it is metaphysical to believe that quarks exist, but it certainly isn't a completely unwarranted belief. Scientific realism forces us to accept metaphysical beliefs, however I think it is fair to say that scientific realism is widely held in some form within the scientific community. Of course, to do science effectively these kind of metaphysical beliefs cannot become a distraction to acceptance of a particular scientific model. It can be discussed, but references to realism of any kind must be treated lightly, if at all, when promoting a particular model. The exception to this might the historic sciences which often do not differentiate a model from the realist implications. For example, when cosmologists talk of the big bang occurring ~14 billion years ago, they are not distinguishing the model from the realist implications of the big bang actually occurring ~14 billion years ago.

***You are right in the point that science seems to point towards some sort of order. Its strange. Religion originally said that god had to exist because the universe was so simple. Now they use the opposite angle with ID (yak!). When they discover the unifying theory, they'll flop back to the simplicity argument again. Ah, to be an apologetic, you're never wrong. :^)***

Well, ID is pretty old stuff. It actually predates Darwin. Richard Owen was an ID'er. However, Maupertuis was a natural selectionist before Darwin, yet he beleived God created through natural selection (although Darwin was a Deist when he wrote Origin). Likewise, prior to the big bang atheists were saying that a God didn't need to create the universe, then with the big bang theory atheists said that there was no need of God even if the universe had a beginning, and then with the advent of the multiverse concept many atheists have gone back to the original 'steady state' view that the universe wasn't created. So, the world keeps turning...

***This is why I never, ever try to argue against the existence of god. I firmly believe that god can exist without leaving a trace of his existence to us. He's god you know. That we could get all the answers to the universe and beyond, and that still wouldn't disprove god. And to be honest, I don't think believing in god is an unintelligent choice. I disagree with it, however, I do so because of personal knowledge, experience, and what I feel is the contradiction of a concept of god (mainly, if one god can exist without creation, why aren't there an infinite number of gods?). But I will not keep out the idea a god may exist that has done nothing to our civilization, ever. In fact, I'm more likely to believe that than a christian or muslim or jewish god. Too arbitrary for my taste.***

Since I see God as a holistic order operating in the universe, I don't see things quite like you do. I do see a large number of traces of God's existence, but these 'traces' are in the form of order that keeps promoting more order. Why doesn't such a holistic God announce himself? God, I think, does only those things that are part of his will. His will, in my view, appears to be according to some least action principle which I think translates into a natural action in the world. Therefore, we only see the natural but are seeing the natural universe operate with obviously a number of apparently unlikely events occur.

On the other hand, how lucky have you been at Vegas? I cannot understand why atheists have so much confidence on a random start that 'all of this' could emerge. If every unique feature of our universe can be represented as a line of computer code, then our universe is made of what appears to be trillions of lines of code. Yes, it evolved from a simpler state, perhaps even a very simple state. However, how likely is it that a self-expanding random 'algorithm' can expand to the point to what we see? I think this is similar to going to Vegas, putting a coin in the slot machine and pulling the lever. Yes, sometimes you get a few coins (i.e., the self-expanding algorithm expands upon itself a few lines), but you don't expect to inherit the Saudi's family of wealth, do you? Likewise, I don't see how anyone could reasonably expect a random beginning to be stock full of the ingredients for our world to evolve as it has. In any case, I wish more atheists would go to Vegas and put coins in slot machines. My only guess is that atheists simply don't gamble enough. They have no idea what random luck really buys them. Perhaps Vegas needs to lower their hotel prices so that more atheists can visit?

Warm regards, Harv

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