Thursday, February 26, 2009

4 Modern Views about God and the Universe

Here's a slide I'm using to illustrate some modern views about God and the universe in some recent lectures. Between these 4, the vast majority of American positions are represented.



We can construct a simple argument here.

1. Either naturalism, Big Bang Theism, Intelligent Design, or Creationism accurately describe the history of the universe.

2. Creationism is clearly false. The Earth has existed for billions of years, and it is not the case that all life on Earth was created in more or less its present form 6,000-10,000 years ago. The irony is that the evidence that we have corroborating that there are objects on Earth that are older than that such as artifacts in museums, dinosaur bones, and celestial bodies, is far better than the evidence we have for thinking that Creationism is true--The Bible.

3. The Intelligent Design thesis postulates that God assisted or guided the process of evolution in some fashion. So far, there have been no compelling arguments and no convincing evidence that anything of the sort occurred. All of the major pieces of a full evolutionary account are in place, and every year many of the details are filled in. Thus far, a fully naturalized account of those events has proven to be adequate to explain the development of life on Earth. So ID is extraneous or vacuous. There appears to be no work for God to do in the development of life. So Intelligent Design does not accurately describe the history of the universe.

4. Big Bang Theism does not accurately describe the history of the universe. There are a variety of problems with different versions of the First Cause argument. One set of problems that I have discussed at length in previous posts is that even we grant the point in a First Cause argument, at best it would suggest some force or forces that were adequate to bring about the existence of the universe. But these arguments do not provide us with adequate justification for also inferring that the cause must be all powerful, all knowing, all good, singular, and personal. A set of impersonal forces with adequate influence to cause the universe, but no knowledge and no goodness would be compatible with a First Cause argument. First Cause arguments also have a very difficult time addressing the variety of hypotheses that physicists and cosmologists are currently investigating concerning the cause of the Big Bang.

5. Therefore, naturalism is the accurate description of the history of the universe.

36 comments:

Steve Martin said...

5. Therefore, naturalism is the accurate description of the history of the universe.

Says you.

You can't prove it amy more than I can prove God created it all.

Jon said...

The first position makes the least amount of assumptions and at the same time is consistent with scientific and empirical evidence, therefore it is a much stronger argument.

M. Tully said...

"You can't prove it amy more than I can prove God created it all."

"Proof" only truly exists in mathematics and alcohol content.

What can be demonstrated is that beyond a reasonable doubt something is likely to be true or false.

For instance, I can't prove that gravity will work as demonstrated previously, indefinitely into the future.

What I can do is say based on the evidence I have seen to date, I'm not going to jump out of a third story window on the presumption that I won't hit the ground. There have been far too many demonstrations of gravity's consistency for me rationally conclude otherwise.

When it comes to the other physical aspects of the universe, a reasonable person would apply the same logic.

Theology = Planetary orbits must be circular because the heavens must be perfect.

Science = Observation and calculation shows the orbits to be elliptical.

Theology = The plague is a punishment sent by god that can only be healed by prayer.

Science = The plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis that can be healed by antibiotics.

Theology = God created all living things according to their kind.

Science = Fossils, genetics and modern analysis of Drosophila melanogaster and viruses demonstrate a common ancestry.

So, to get to Matt's point about the development of the universe. Based on all the evidence we have to date, what would a reasonable person conclude?

Theology = God miracled it all?

Naturalism = The universe followed causal or statistically probable chains of natural events?

Please don't jump out of any windows to prove the courage of your convictions.

And now the bonus round.

For any adherents to the "you can't absolutely prove it" group.

Do you believe in the following entities given that you cannot "prove" that they don't exist?

Zeus
Thor
Mithra
Wotan
Leprechauns
Unicorns
Ra

That sure is a lot of entities (it's an abbreviated list at that)to show loyalty to because, you know, if you ignore the wrong one, the consequences could be hell.

Matt McCormick said...

"Says you." !???! Seriously? That's your reply to a valid, reasoned argument? What are you, in the fourth grade? Is you mommy or a grown up home? Maybe we can talk to them. This is depressing.

M. Tully said...

Don't be depressed Matt.

For those of us in non-academic settings, we deal with arguments like this every single day.

But, they get their arguments from guys like WL Craig and Plantinga. What would help would be if the serious academics stopped giving them a free ride. How about starting a paper with, "An error correcting mechanism in the brains of animals has been fully demonstrated to be necessary for survival, this shows that Plantinga either hasn't read the pertinent literature or is being intentionally deceptive"

The same could be done with Craig's cosmological argument. But you guys continue to treat them as serious academics and then wonder why the "you can't absolutely prove it" argument still exists.

Please accept this as constructive criticism Matt. I honestly put you up there with Russell and Rawls as Philosophers (and that list is short)that I respect.

Carbon Based said...

Thank you Tully I was going to reply in kind but you beat me to it.

Maybe Steve could go back to having three separate persona's he would at least be more entertaining.

Steve Martin said...

You guys want a good laugh?

Take out a science book and a book of medicine from a hundred years ago.

You think you are a lot smarter than, say...Christians.

Maybe so. Maybe not. But you are foolish to the extent that you do not recognize that your faith is just as strong as the Christians.

I say stronger.

In a hundred years, the books you know use will be laughed at by the scientists of the age and God will be just over the horizon...as always.

Reginald Selkirk said...

You guys want a good laugh?
Take out a science book and a book of medicine from a hundred years ago.


That's a good point. Science, and science-based fields, correct their mistakes. it is inherent in the scientific method.

Whereas religion asks you to believe the same **** that was accepted by a tribe of wandering goat-herders, and spends a great deal of effort in explaining why if you do eventually reject one "truth" held by those goat-herders, such as that the Earth was flat, or that the Sun orbited the Earth, you should still accept other things they believed on even less-convincing evidence.

Teleprompter said...

Steve Martin,

If I wanted a good laugh, I wouldn't open the Bible, because there's just no comedy in it.

And I would expect any author of the universe to know comedy. Therefore, the being or beings responsible for the Bible cannot be the author(s) of the universe. QED.


:P

/tongue-in-cheek

M. Tully said...

O.K. Steve,

Your on. One hundred years ago, what do those science books have?

A heliocentric solar system.

Newton's Laws of motion, gravity and the calculus.

Darwin's theory of evolution.

The Laws of Thermodynamics.

Ohm's and Kirchhoff's Laws of electrical circuits.

Koch's Germ theory of disease.

Maxwell's equations of electromagnetism.

Einstein's Special Relativity.

Einstein's description of the photoelectric effect (the beginning of quantum mechanics)

Einstein's explanation of Brownian Motion (the beginning of the modern understanding of the atom)

The above is a greatly abbreviated list.

And what did the Christian Scriptures have going for them 100 years ago?

The same old tired canards from 1800 years before.

A 6000 year old planet.

Daemons caused diseases.

And you must kill witches.

Oh yeah, I'm laughing. Only probably not for the reasons you thought I would be (more like why Teleprompter was). You see, like Reginald explained, science continues to develop and understand. Religion, uh...not so much so.

M. Tully said...

Oh, and Steve,

For the "I don't now how manyith time,"

Judgement based on evidence cannot be, by the very definitions of the words faith and evidence, based on faith.

To claim that it is, is the same as defining a circle as a square.

M. Tully said...

Carbon Based,

Thanks. You probably would have done it more eloquently, but hey the point made it across, however blunt my style might be.

As for Steve, I say he goes with "Head in the Sand." He seems to be a bright individual who will surrender his intellect to protect an indefensible premise.

Carbon Based said...

"Thanks. You probably would have done it more eloquently,"

Not likely I don't suffer fools very well. Something I've been working on most of my life to little effect. ;)

Jon said...

Tully, your "evidence and faith" explanation was nice and clear. Thanks for the laugh too, you did it with the just about least amount of ad-hominem possible. Just enough for good humor.

ChrisAC said...

Despite my loathing of creationists, I must say, the non-religious who hold utterly absurd beliefs about human development are even worse.

For example: I know someone who believes that humans didn't evolve naturally, but that aliens visited Earth and altered/created humans. He also quoted Answersingenesis as his source of evidence for evolution not happening. Infuriating.

Anonymous said...

""Says you." !???! Seriously? That's your reply to a valid, reasoned argument? What are you, in the fourth grade? Is you mommy or a grown up home? Maybe we can talk to them. This is depressing."

im in the fourth grade does that make me wrong?

Anonymous said...

"The first position makes the least amount of assumptions and at the same time is consistent with scientific and empirical evidence, therefore it is a much stronger argument."

I think you misunderstood Mr Martin. There is no least or more assumptions but only one that either side makes when considering the initial premise of the creation of the universe.

Anonymous said...

"Proof" only truly exists in mathematics and alcohol content.

Correct but there isnt proof of mathmatics either - there is no proof of an axiom.

Robert Morane said...

"Take out a science book and a book of medicine from a hundred years ago."

And yet, if tomorrow you woke up and started puking blood all over your bathroom floor, you would run straight to the hospital and unhesitantly put your life into the hands of medicine.

And this, in spite of your belief in prayer and in God's omniscience, omnipotency, infallibility and benevolence.

Gee, I wonder why?

Robert Morane

M. Tully said...

"Correct but there isnt proof of mathmatics either"

There are proofs within mathematics, which is what my comment refers to.

Now, would you like to attempt to refute the argument I made or would you rather just play at semantics?

M. Tully said...

"im in the fourth grade does that make me wrong?"

No, it doesn't necessarily make you wrong, but it does explain your comments.

Anonymous said...

Tully...

"There are proofs within mathematics, which is what my comment refers to."

Yes, but you responded to the poster with an attempt to rebuttal. However, you're rebuttal was weak because it did not address the limitations of proof, which is what the poster was getting at, which appears to be a red herring...

"Now, would you like to attempt to refute the argument I made or would you rather just play at semantics?"

You mean like fireproofing or fool proof as opposed to mathematical proof? Was that the semantic confusion?

No, I do not wish to address anything else you said. I do not find it interesting at all.

Anonymous said...

"No, it doesn't necessarily make you wrong, but it does explain your comments."

So are my commments wrong? What do you have against fourth graders?

M. Tully said...

"No, I do not wish to address anything else you said. I do not find it interesting at all."

Yet you felt the need to respond? Interesting.

M. Tully said...

"However, you're rebuttal was weak because it did not address the limitations of proof"

My rebuttal was exactly about the limitations of proof.

M. Tully said...

Anon,

After reading your arguments, I must ask are you a Poe?

Because if you are I have to tell you, I don't think intellectual dishonesty is ever warranted in the free exchange of ideas. Let the evidence speak for itself. It doesn't need tricks and in fact I believe that cheap tricks should be condemned.

On the other hand Anon, if you're a committed theist writing your own honest opinions, keep right on commenting.

Anonymous said...

Tully,

"Yet you felt the need to respond? Interesting"

I said I did not want to respond to the rest of that post. How could you equate that with anything else you said?


"My rebuttal was exactly about the limitations of proof."

If that was the case then why didnt you address the use of nonproofs in a belief? Rather you carried on a red herring about how believers must accept other non provable beings, which is faulty reasoning. If I believe in single unprovable being does that mean I also believe in all others? Of course not!

I have no idea why you think I am making tricks (fallacies) with my post. If that was the case then I am sure the phil folks would be calling me on them. Rather they are just telling me that they think i am wrong.

So we should let the evidence speak for itself? Really? If it was that easy then there wouldnt be much disagreement. Have you ever sat in class and critqued a recent study? Cofounders, weak analogies etc. The fact is evidence needs to be interpretated and such interpretation always comes along with assumptions.

M. Tully said...

"If I believe in single unprovable being does that mean I also believe in all others?"

No, it just means your either logically inconsistent or intellectually dishonest.

Keep going.

Anonymous said...

Um tully there is nothing inconsistent in believing in God but not Zues. Do you know what a contradiction is? P&~P? i bleive in god x but not god y,z,x,c....

M. Tully said...

Oh Anon,

"Um tully there is nothing inconsistent in believing in God but not Zues. Do you know what a contradiction is?"

Yes I do.

How about you? What in your epistemology allows you to categorically believe one but deny the other?

Anonymous said...

Tully,

There is no contradiction between X and Y. How simple is that?

X: God = True

Y: Zeus = False

Z: Tully = ?

Even if we assign Y as True there still is no contradiction. Zeus was not an omni being and could have been mistaken by greeks with one of the angels. we can do this with all other sets of magical beings.

Remember, a contradiction is between P & ~P

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M. Tully:
Brilliantly stated =]