Monday, May 12, 2008

"God", or merely "some intelligence"?

Author@ptbooks has been defending a form of creationism, and also arguing for the existence of God.

I pointed out that the arguments for authors specific God are weak, and that the problem of evil provides seemingly overwhelming evidence against the existence of any such being.

Author's response has been to say that that are "too busy" to discuss the issue of whether God is good or not, and that they are merely defending belief in God, not his goodness.

But this seems highly evasive to me. Surely it is now misleading for author to continue to use the term "God" here, as, for most people, "God" means something far more specific - a personal God who is supremely benevolent and powerful, among other things.

Indeed, author's arguments from design really only support, at best, the hypothesis that there is some intelligence behind the universe. This intelligence may not even be divine (for example, perhaps this universe is the virtual, Matrix-like creation of a perfectly natural intelligence). Nor need it be unitary (perhaps its the work of a team).

So, unless author is prepared to defend the view that the intelligence is supernatural, unitary, and indeed bears at least some connection with the God of the Old Testament, etc., shouldn't they drop the otherwise highly misleading "God" and just talk about "some intelligence"?

Otherwise it looks like author is guilty of humpty-dumptying (making words mean whatever you want them to mean).

In any case, we can now do this: I have provided, I believe, overwhelming evidence that if the universe has a designer, it is not the all-good God of traditional monotheism - the one believed in by author@ptgbooks.

Moreover, author has, by his own admission, provided no evidence in support of that specific God-hypothesis.

So, let's now consider other possible design-hypotheses, but, until author deals with the evidence now provided, let's be clear that whatever the designer, if any, is - it isn't his particular God.

14 comments:

Sally_bm said...

I reckon this creation story's more accurate:

http://home.eol.ca/~dord/cal_arch01.jpg

Now, I can't tell if this this next rant is off the topic or not, so I'm just going to post it and see if anyone wants to respond. Sorry if it is spinning a bit too far out into the ether...

Why is there something rather than nothing- is that the question we're ultimately trying to answer coherently? The universe's existence doesn't seem to be explicable by our current logical and scientific understanding, which relies on laws of cause and effect. So is a supreme being/ power be the only possible explanation, as that is beyond science etc?

Maybe to guess the nature of this thing/ explanation we don't understand we could think about all the things that "logical" means don't explain- the universe's existence, quantum unpredictability, consciousness, logic itself (?).... Is there one big thing we're missing? Is there one central flaw in our systems of thought and logic? Is it possible to find an answer within rational thought? Is explaining everything through a supreme being "copping out" or being rational? Could we say anything about this supreme being except that it is beyond our laws of physics/ logic etc? And does that mean our laws are void at their foundations/ created freely by the supreme being?

p.s. Has anyone seen www.kids4truth.com? Yuck. This is it's creation story, incidentally: http://kids4truth.com/eng_creation.htm

Mike N said...

Sally, that something rather than nothing argument is exactly the one somebody has been trying to use to convert me from atheism to agnosticism.

I've been trying to explain it's just a poor-mans version of Pascal's wager, but they don't seem to accept that. It's also produced by religious types who are vague and wishy-washy in their definition of "god" ("but why can't god be a superior intelligence?" has been asked a number of times).

So far I haven't found a decent argument that they will accept (if such a one exists!) but to me their propositions are simply inttelectual laziness.

Sally_bm said...

Hi Mike. I'm also not sure if it's a sensible question to ask or not. If there were nothing, would we have to ask why that were so too (obviously we wouldn't exist to do so, but you see the point...). But the question is still somehow there, isn't it? There's an awful lot of STUFF in the universe, and it does seem to need accounting for! Apparently energy can't be created or destroyed, though it can be converted into certain types of matter- this suggests there has always been energy. Is this just a natural state of things we have to accept? But I still don't see why there should be anything at all... What answers do you give to those problems for yourself, at least, to sidestep the "intellectual laziness' you accuse agnostics/ believers of?

Paul C said...

Apparently energy can't be created or destroyed, though it can be converted into certain types of matter- this suggests there has always been energy. Is this just a natural state of things we have to accept?

Pretty much, yes. What I don't understand is why people feel the need to posit this idea of "Nothing". Nobody has any evidence for such a thing, while there is plenty of evidence for Something, and the laws of physics suggest that Something (in the form of energy) can't be destroyed or created, only transformed.

Sally, you "still don't see why there should be anything at all". Have you considered that this question is merely an error in perspective that we've collectively inherited from an earlier period of our mental history?

Sally_bm said...

Well, I've considered that it may be the wrong question to ask. But I can't see any other answer than that "there just IS something". That's what this world is like. Maybe there can't be "why"s for everything? It's just that the need for "whys"/ reasons seems to be pretty fundamental to all our logical thought processes. Is it ok for there to be an exception for STUFF itself? I can see why it seems there should be but... it's funny that things may be ultimately inexplicable/ reasonless- just how things are, almost. I think normal language, about normative things probably can't do the problem justice either.

Paul C said...

Sally - I agree that asking the question "why" is important, but I'm suggesting that there isn't actually a question to be asked. Ask yourself, what does the word "Nothing" actually refer to in this context? I thought long and hard about it, and realised that I'd been sold a philosophical lemon. This "Nothing" is a word that's devoid of meaning - and so the question is devoid of meaning as well.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Sally,

We are essentially dealing with a 50/50 here. There can either be something or nothing.

The question
'Why is there something rather than nothing?'
is a bit like asking
'Why is this coin lying heads up instead of tails up?' Does that really need an explanation?

You could ask such a question about anything that is. It only seems more important because the subject of the question is everything.

Paul C said...

We are essentially dealing with a 50/50 here. There can either be something or nothing.

Celtic (Chimp? Could be too formal.) -

I must strenuously disagree, and urge you to reconsider your commitment to the idea of "Nothing". If you are agnostic about the idea of God on the grounds of lack of evidence, you should be at the very least agnostic about the idea of Nothing on similar grounds.

The Celtic Chimp said...

Paul,

Nothing doesn't exist and can't exist. There can be no question about that. The existance of anything at all immediately makes nothing impossible. If there wasn't anything though, what would there be? Consider if you like that nothing is merely the absence of something.

Paul C said...

If there wasn't anything though, what would there be? Consider if you like that nothing is merely the absence of something.

I don't like. The absence of Something requires the Something to be absent to have any meaning; and as soon as you introduce Something into the discussion, Nothing just disappears. In fact, it was never there to begin with.

Nothing is a meaningless concept that we've inherited - there are no arguments that depend on it, and no consequences to its absence. Once we've discarded it, we have a far clearer understanding of our situation, both philosophically and physically.

Sally_bm said...

Hi Paul C and Chimp (not too formal!)

I don't think we can see the "something" vs "nothing" question as the same as a "heads" vs "tails" question. There is an explanation for heads, rather than tails, which comes from the physical nature of the universe. We can't, however, explain physics itself with the same sort of physics- there aren't the same laws involved, surely? So I more agree with you Paul, that maybe "nothing" is just a dud concept. But isn't there still an extent to which it is impossible only because there IS something. We can't imagine nothing at all, and maybe it's confusing to include the idea, but can't we just ask "Why is there anything"? I see no necessary need for anything in particular. Maybe I could be persuaded when it comes to space and time (maybe), but STUFF, no.

Thinking about it, in many ways there IS nothing too. If nothing is nothing then there's an infinite amount of it. Sort of. it's not like it takes up any space, has any effect, etc etc. Which again makes me feel it is just an empty concept.

What d'ya think?

Paul C said...

I see no necessary need for anything in particular. Maybe I could be persuaded when it comes to space and time (maybe), but STUFF, no.

Can you expand on this point? I didn't understand it clearly.

anticant said...

Why do you NEED to ask "Why is there anything?" Can't you just accept that there just IS? But it doesn't call for a 'supernatural' explanation.

Anonymous said...

Sally_bm

I was trying to say that I don't see why there must, necessarily be matter. I really can't comprehend an absence of time and space- that sort of "nothingness" may be an illogical concept. But I can see the possibility of there being no matter/ energy in the space and time. I.e. no STUFF. So why is there such stuff? Is there a necessary reason for matter/ energy, but we just don't know it?

I have the sense of this argument going round in circles... Is it one of those questions that can't ever be properly answered? Do such questions exist?.. hmmm *ponders