Fundamental Clarifications


#1

Hello again, I haven’t been too active here but I value this site as a resource and the community it fosters.

So I occasionally browse through this site with curiosity to thoughts on both sides and here recently I’ve been thinking of a few concepts in my head that I would like some clarification on, from either perspective, so here goes:

Last time I visited, I recall seeing the notion of basing faith off the concept that a God, being above space and time, is a sensible notion towards imagining how the universe exists or how it was created. Is this the god of gaps argument? I imagine the latter part might lean on it but I don’t know if the notion is intrinsically of that nature. Clarifications welcome.

Next, I’ve read that Francis Collins has a concept leaning towards the “finely tuned universe” concept. Yet I’ve also seen perspectives here, including from Christians, that someone versed in probability would say you shouldn’t put stake in that. If you don’t personally agree with this perspective, is it because you either a. don’t think it’s parsimonious enough, or b. don’t find it to be sensible.

And for the believers here, I’d like to ask the general question of how you would explain your faith, and how it may compare or contrast to these 2 notions.

Thank you for your time everyone.


(Mitchell W McKain) #2

No. A god of the gaps argument is one of trying to insert God or something into the gaps of what science hasn’t mastered yet. The problem with such arguments is that they are doomed to crash and burn and have done so repeatedly when science does master those areas.

But science also has other very different kinds of limitations. There are those built into the very nature of scientific inquiry and then there are those which science itself discovers. An example of the first is this: in order to be a valid scientific hypothesis, it has to be falsifiable. If it isn’t falsifiable then it must be rejected as something which science cannot make a determination about. For an example of the second, there is the discovery of quantum physics that there are events which cannot be calculated and it has proven that the variables which make such a calculation possible simply do not exist.

Of course a naturalist who has decided to equate scientific worldview with reality itself will come up with some kind refutation of this. But if so then he is in a boat with a gaping hole which can only sink into the water, because neither his decision to equate the scientific worldview with reality nor his refutation can be demonstrated by science and that means they are nothing but a meaningless fantasy by his own assertions.

I don’t find the argument compelling and the principle flaw I see is that its talk of probability is nothing but hot air. Without a means to calculate an actual probability then it is nothing but empty rhetoric. The same goes for similar arguments by atheists about the improbability of God.

This is too much of an open ended question. You are basically asking me to repeat everything I have posted all the time I have been here. It is not fair. Read the other posts which are already there or ask a more specific question.


#3

Ah thank you very much. This is pretty helpful. Sorry to ask too much of you in the end there then. Seems like everyone gives a blurb like that every so often here but I can see why that would get exhausting lol.

So to associate a being with nature of being outside of time and space as potentially tied to the origin of time and space isn’t placing him in a gap? It seems a bit different to me as a decent theory but I just want to make sure I’m not saying anything egregious.


(David Heddle) #4

That is why the fine-tuning argument should be presented without reference to probabilities. It should be simply: the habitability of the universe is highly sensitive to the values of the physical constants. That is not empty rhetoric, that is what we observe, scientifically.

Then, as a corollary, if we are ever able to ascertain the probability of the constants (not likely):

  1. If the probability of the constants is infinitesimal that is prima facie evidence for the multiverse, because that is exactly what it predicts: a random draw in an effectively infinite number of universes will produce a monkey-typing-Shakespeare effect in a few lucky places.

  2. If the probability of the constants is high (especially if its unity) then we have prima facie evidence for theism, because then you would then have finely-tuned constants built into the fabric of spacetime, with no need for a large number argument–which would suggest to take the term “fine-tuned” literally.

Weirdly, most theists try to argue that the probability of the constants is small, ergo God. They are arguing against their best case scenario. They (we) should hope for a theory of everything from which the constants (for which habitability would remain highly sensitive) could be derived.

Yeah, I know I’ve said this before, but it’s my soapbox so cut me a break!


(Stephen Matheson) #5

I think this is a good question, and I asked a version of it many years ago, of John Polkinghorne. He had just given a talk on fine-tuning, throwing shade on multiverses (“an air of desperation”). I doubt he ever actually claimed that this was “evidence for god” but that was the implication. So I asked him, paraphrasing, “Isn’t fine tuning the god of the gaps on steroids?” My sense, then and now, was that it is— whenever the argument is “we don’t understand X” or even “we can’t understand X,” and to me, it doesn’t matter what X is if the next sentence is about god. He disagreed, and I think his reasoning was that fine tuning was about what can’t be explained and not about what hasn’t been explained. (It was a long time ago and I’m not sure if I recall the details of his response to my question.)

I found his answer unconvincing then (when I was a committed Christian) and I still do now. To me, it’s just a bigger gap, and one placed in a particularly interesting place in natural history. It’s a FAR more interesting gap than, say the Cambrian Explosion, which to me is merely an example of unexplored scientific territory. But it’s still a gap, and more importantly, it’s a gap that tempts believers to add god as an explanation. That never worked for me and I can’t personally understand why it works for others.


(Mitchell W McKain) #6

Maybe what you meant to ask is more specific that the way it sounded to me and you just need to clarify. For example if you are asking why I believe then I could easily point you to the place in the forum where I posted a list answering that question. But to me “explain your faith” sounds like you are asking about everything I believe. And I wasn’t clear about what you meant when you talked about comparing or contrasting “to these 2 notions.”

That would be an example of falling into the gap with regards to falsifiability. It is being part of the structure of space-time and the laws of nature which govern that structure which makes science work in the first place. So by proposing an existence outside that structure you are already placing it outside the domain where science (i.e. physics in this case) is applicable.

This doesn’t mean that the naturalist is going to accept your argument. They tend to equate not being falsifiable to being nonsensical. However, that is another of those things which they cannot establish by the scientific method and so is also worthy of your laughter in response.


(George Brooks) #7

@AndrewF

I’ve always thought discussions about God being “beyond” or “outside” of space-time to be fairly helpful in understanding what we mean by God.

The ancient world has a marvelous example of this.

There were Gods that were imagined to be in charge of “time”, or “fate”, or the “Cosmos” (and by Cosmos, I mean “the Established Order”, whether it was just the Earth and these tiny stars orbiting around the Pole Star axis, or whether it was much bigger than that).

These various divinities were called Phanes, Chronos/Kronos, Aeon, and more. There was even a distinction made by some between a God spelled Chronos and one spelled Cronus!

[I can’t finish this posting tonight it’s already 3 am here… but I’ll post the introduction and get back to it later…]


(Dominik Kowalski) #8

I would never use fine-tuning to use it as evidence for the existence of God, however, looking at the whole picture here, it is only not evidence for him, if the chaotic multiverse with no transcending laws were true. If life is a planned feature written into the universes structure, the conclusion is different of course. Some theologians try to argue for God with pointing at the small probability of life arising and this is exactly the wrong direction to go.

The obvious answer is, that it is a temptation to not only use science as a pointer but having a real place withing natural science reserved for God. But it is completely unsatisfying for me.

I had to look that one up. Who even uses this for an argument?


(Stephen Matheson) #9

Google ‘cambrian explosion god’ for a week’s worth of reading. And consider the whole book written by a leader at the Discovery Institute. The CE is probably the most commonly touted gap there is.


(Dominik Kowalski) #10

I won´t waste my time on that one. The quick overview on this subject doesn´t provide anything interesting for philosophcal or theological arguments. Even among gods of the gap this has to stand out as being one of the paltriest.

I gave it a look and it seems to be mostly anti-evolution websites. But the second result was interesting.


(Stephen Matheson) #11

You have chosen wisely.

It’s pretty laughable, I agree. But all gods of gaps are ridiculous.


(George Brooks) #12

Half the Evangelicals I ever bump into think the Cambrian Explosion is important.

And yet almost all the Christian Evolutionists I bump into are Christians who never mention the so-called Cambrian Explosion.


(Dominik Kowalski) #13

The more scientific knowledge=====>Less temptation to worship a god of the gaps


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #14

@AndrewF,
Thank you for your questions.

Some might say so. I disagree.

The first question to ask is: Does the universe have a beginning? The answer is: If you accept the Big Bang Theory and Genesis 1, that is both science and theology, Yes.

The second question is: Can science provide a legitimate answer for what is beyond the existence of mass, energy, time, and space? the answer is No.

The third question is: Can theology provide an answer of what is behind the existence of mass, energy, time, and space? The answer is Yes.

The answer is God, but it is not an scientific answer, which means that those who believe only in science will not accept it.

The second question is similar. It is agreed that the universe is finely tuned, which means that it is governed by the many constants needed to provide the environment for human being as we know them to evolve.

The question then is: Did this coincidence happen by chance or by design? If by design, then this would be evidence for the Biblical God. Chance is said to be one in 25 to the 500 billionth power or thereabouts.

However, someone came us with an alternative, which is the multiverse. The multiverse generates universes in a random manner so that if enough different universe were generated, one that is fine tuned to generate intelligent life would appear, and we would have an answer to our question,

except from whence did the multiverse come? What is it made of? How was it created? How can there be more than one infinite or almost infinite universe?

It seems to me that the multiverse is a no-God of the gaps argument, that cannot be falsified so it is not scientific. The best answer that we have, which is all that we or anyone can go one is God. .


(Mervin Bitikofer) #15

Cambrian “explosion” (like “microevolution”) seem to have become tell-tale words by their strong appropriation into camps aligned with anti-evolutionary views. It isn’t that these don’t have any valid use. On a geological time-scale, something that happens over a mere tens of millions of years might indeed be described as an “explosion” of sorts. But that shift of scale is lost on some who have tuned their minds to thousands rather than billions of years, and suddenly they see it as a “hopeful monster” hypothesis or some other straw-man. So because of extensive misuse of these concepts, it is understandable why those who know better might avoid using the terms altogether. We don’t want to add fuel to the wrong fires.


(Mitchell W McKain) #16

Yes a legitimate application of the Cambrian explosion would be a consideration of one of the ways in which the process of evolution can be significantly accelerated.

  1. A near extinction event can greatly accelerate evolution by reducing populations and introducing new challenges whereby genetic drift of the smaller populations is greatly increased.
  2. The evolution of a mechanism for introducing new variations into the genome can also greatly accelerate the process of evolution.

The first could apply to an accelerated development of multiple species while the second would only apply to the one species that made this particular change, though that one species could branch into multiple species because of it.

There is a third possibility that might be considered by many but which I think is rather dubious and that is an environmental cause for increased variation such as radiation or a mutagenic compound. But while these make for great science fiction I really doubt such things can really work for the evolution of complex organisms, because the genetic effects of such things are too random and destructive.


(George Brooks) #17

@Doko

If you have a choice between having a son or daughter who worships a God-of-the-Gaps AND fully supports Evolution …

that is still a better option than a son or daughter who have lots of knowledge in science but STILL reject Evolution.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #18

I suspect the pace of such things (even in such accelerated situations which I think you do a good job describing) would not make for any exciting stories told on human time scales. The precipitous events - yes - volcanoes, asteroid strikes, tsunamis, etc. all would make for epic death and survival tales I’m sure. But the actual evolutionary response itself … I think would be like a television show watching the grass grow. Only the grass growing would be super exciting because something is happening gazzillions of times faster than evolution does.

It’s an interesting aspect of our human nature that some creationists are troubled by the thought of a Creator using eons of time to sloooooooowly form us as a species, but you never hear the same people complain about the seemingly eternal time it takes God to knit us together in our mothers’ wombs or the agonizingly long time it takes God to give growth to plants of the earth. Suddenly it is no problem at all that God “needs” all this time. It’s an inconsistency we seem willing to tolerate to try to separate one concept from the other.

I like your oft-repeated comparisons of a specially formed Adam to being a “golem” who would have little or no relationship with the rest of humanity (even if he is ostensibly supposed to be our biological ‘father’). Even as such he would share nothing of our actual human condition with all the rest of us who did not magically spring into adult existence straight from dirt - and yet are no less formed by God than Adam was. It would be that failure of creative continuity (a ‘golem’ figure magically formed from dust) that would ironically disrupt the sin-salvation narrative much more catastrophically than the actual story told of a truly human figure (the “Adam”) who represents the beginning of our story as human beings formed in our mothers’ wombs.

edited


(Dominik Kowalski) #19

The philosophy of Aristotle avoids the fallacy of the Kalam Cosmological argument, which is seemingly what you are hinting at, am I right? Aristotles arguments have been adapted and further developed by Aquinas and do not require the beginning of the universe. I wanted to make a thread about it for quite some time, but it will take a while. But the uncaused-cause argument among his other proofs aren´t god of the gaps arguments and can be pretty well established. Thomists argue for the first cause in a non-temporal, but ontological (read: sustaining) way. Causality is the actualization of a potential. Aquinas´example:

An instrumental cause is one that derives whatever causal power it has from something else. To use Aquinas’s famous example, the stick that the hand uses to push the stone has no power to push the stone on its own, but derives its stone-moving power from the hand, which uses it as an “instrument.” (Of course, the stick might have some other causal powers apart from the hand; the point is that relative to the specific series hand-stick-stone it has no independent causal power.) A principal cause is one that does have its causal power inherently. The hand in our example can be thought of for purposes of illustration as such a cause, though of course ultimately it is not, since its power to move the stick depends on other factors. Indeed, there can at the end of the day be only one cause which is principal or non-instrumental in an unqualified sense, namely a cause which is purely actual and thus need not be actualized in any way whatsoever by anything else. In any event, it is because all the causes in such a series other than the first are instrumental in this way that they are said to be ordered per se or “essentially,” for their being causes at all depends essentially on the activity of that which uses them as instruments.

From Edward Feser, here is the post. His books on Aquinas and the five proofs for the existence of God contain him laying out the arguments of course in a way bigger way. But what I wanted to express is that there are different ways to approach the creation-principle without the need for an area where science can never be (of course, science is outside of philosophy, but e.g. the beginning of the universe is another kind of border). The temporal argument, known as Kalam Cosmological requires exactly that and although I don´t think that it can be scientifically refuted, because it argues from a place where we can never observe, Aquinas himself never argued for a beginning and the necessity of God for it, because he thought that was a bad argument and that was 750 years ago.

I have no problem with anyone who can make a case for their believes. But I argue that the first one is both bad theology and bad philosophy and should change once you are more engaged in both of it. And the second one is bad science, probably arising from bad theology and bad philosophy, though in different ways.


(system) #20

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