Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Casey Luskin "Explains" Intelligent Design Creationism

Casey Luskin is upset with a philosopher named Christopher Pynes. Paynes had the audacity to suggest that one of the key features of Intelligent Design Creationism is ... creationism. According to Paynes, "supernaturalism is a necessary component of ID: there must be a designer" [AD HOMINEM ARGUMENTS AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN: REPLY TO KOPERSKI].

Luskin wants to remind everyone that Intelligent Design Creationism has nothing to do with a creator/designer [Professor Pynes Rails Against the "Straw-Man Fallacy" while Attacking a Straw-Man Version of Intelligent Design]. According to Luskin (a lawyer), Intelligent Design Creationism is a purely scientific theory that relies on: (a) proving that evolution is wrong, (b) detecting the creator/designer by examining nature.

On the primary1 grounds that it's always good to know your enemy, I present to you the best scientific grounds for Intelligent Design Creationism.
  • Studies of physics and cosmology continue to uncover deeper and deeper levels of fine-tuning. Many examples could be given, but this one is striking: the initial entropy of the universe must have been fine-tuned to within 1 part in 10(10^123) to render the universe life-friendly. That blows other fine-tuning constants away. New cosmological theories like string theory or multiverse theories just push back questions about fine-tuning, and would, if true, simply exacerbate the need for fine-tuning. This points to high levels of complex and specified information (CSI) in the cosmid architecture of the universe--information which in our experieince only comes from intelligence.
  • Mutational sensitivity tests increasingly show that DNA sequences are highly fine-tuned to generate functional proteins and perform other biological functions. Again, this is high CSI--which in our experience only comes from intelligence.
  • Studies of epigenetics and systems biology are revealing more and more how integrated organisms are, from biochemistry to macrobiology, and showing incredible fine-tuned basic cellular functions. The integrated nature of organismal body plans shows CSI throughout biological systems--in our experience, only intelligence can generate tightly intregrated multi-component blueprints.
  • Genetic knockout experiments are showing irreducible complexity, such as in the flagellum, or multi-mutation features where many simultaneous mutations would be necessary to gain an advantage. This is more fine-tuning--and in our experience, irreducibly complex machines arise only from intelligence.
  • The fossil record shows that species often appear abruptly without similar precursors, which represents mass-explosions of high CSI--something which requires an intelligent cause.
  • There have been numerous discoveries of functionality for "junk DNA." Examples include recently discovered functionality in some pseudogenes, microRNAs, introns, LINE and ALU elements. Intelligent design predicted this data.
If all of these things were true, then you'd predict that scientists would be flocking to church on Sundays. You'd also expect that the scientific literature would be full of papers proving the existence of God. It would be the most remarkable discovery in the history of humans.

A key part of Intelligent Design Creationism—the part that Casey Luskin is leaving out—is to explain why it has been so remarkably unsuccessful after 200 years of trying. That part has to do with the huge Darwinist conspiracy that forces scientists to tow the line and stick with atheistic Darwinism in spite of all the scientific evidence against it. If you read the blogs, you'll see that attacking scientists and Darwinism is the dominant theme. The "scientific" "evidence" for Intelligent Design Creationism is almost never mentioned.

Most of us scientists don't realize that we are part of such a conspiracy because we have been brainwashed into believing in evolution. However, a few god-fearing souls have seen the truth. Some of them are lawyers (Casey Luskin, Philip Johnson), some of them are philosophers, some of them claim to be mathematicians, and a few think they are scientists (Michael Behe, Jonathan Wells). The one thing they all have in common is that they are all IDiots.


1. The secondary grounds are to keep a record of the June 2012 "facts" because they will change soon enough.

132 comments :

  1. the initial entropy of the universe must have been fine-tuned to within 1 part in 10(10^123) to render the universe life-friendly.

    Any being capable of tinkering with the initial conditions and physical laws of a universe is, for all purposes relevant to the tiny inhabitants of said universe, indistinguishable from God.

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    1. That person is Roger Penrose

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    2. Huh?

      I thought Eric Clapton was God.

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    3. But how likely is It to care about how and with whom I have sex?

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  2. Oh the incredible stupidity of IDiots. Since our intelligence only produces a little bit of all the "CSI" that these IDiots claim to find everywhere, then they cannot claim that "CSI" only comes from intelligence. They can at most claim that "CSI" is prevailing everywhere they look, and thus, the little CSI produced by intelligence is no basis to claim that CSI is always produced by intelligence. Worse, they would have to admit that most CSI appears in nature with no apparent participation of any intelligence. Thus, no basis for proposing the existence of an intelligent designer. Their logic is mere rhetoric. Otherwise, they would have to admit this little but devastating detail and forget about the whole ID bullshit.

    Besides this basic but devastating philosophical mistake if intelligent design relies on:

    (a) proving that evolution is wrong, (b) detecting the creator/designer by examining nature.

    It is obviously not inspired in science. This is obviously creationist motivation. When has anybody heard of a scientific theory that relies on (a) proving that gravitation is wrong. (2) detecting the intelligent orbiter and puller.

    Not only is ID creationism, their proponents are IDiots and ass-holes.

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  3. "Studies of physics and cosmology continue to uncover deeper and deeper levels of fine-tuning."
    Wait, what? What's that got to do with biology?

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  4. The "fine tuning" arguments, even if valid, just say that the Universe has been specially set up so that evolution occurs, and so that natural selection produces adaptations. In short, fine tuning would not in itself be evidence for intervention of a Designer after the start of the Universe.

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    1. And of course fine tuning is not necessarily evidence of an intelligent designer but merely of a weak anthropic selection process such as the cosmological landscape of string theory (M-Theory).

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  5. The problem with the fine tuning argument is that it relies on variation of each of the supposedly fine tuned parameters individually, i.e. treating the problem as a series of uni-variate systems. The problem is that what we have is a multivariate system in which changes in one parameter may be compensated for by changes in one or more of the other parameters. Victor Stenger made this argument in one of his books.

    For instance, the gravitational constant,
    G, was one of the parameters that was claimed to be operative within very narrow limits. Thus, if G was a little too large, the universe would have collapsed much sooner after the big bang and life would not have had time to to evolve. On the other hand, if G was a little too small, the expansion would have resulted in a universe too dispersed for the elements produced in super novas to seed the planets with the building blocks of life. The discovery of dark energy has totally negated these arguments. If G was smaller, it could have been compensated for by a lower density of dark energy. Conversely, if G was larger, it could have been compensated for by a higher density of dark energy.

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  6. What's the philosophical term for using 'from our experience' as the authority for one's arguments?

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  7. "What's the philosophical term for using 'from our experience' as the authority for one's arguments?"

    IDiocy?

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  8. "What's the philosophical term for using 'from our experience' as the authority for one's arguments?"

    Lying.

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  9. "New cosmological theories like string theory or multiverse theories just push back questions about fine-tuning, and would, if true, simply exacerbate the need for fine-tuning."

    Interesting argument.

    So let's assume that Inteligent Designer is not an Almighty God.
    He created the universe and finetuned it to allow life.

    But why did he have to finetune it?
    Is that because it is not him, who created laws of nature?

    If that so, then who created them?

    And if I.D. is the Almighty God, then couldn't he just create life in any kind of universe?

    But of course it is science that just push back questions.

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  10. Casey Luskin is an astounding polymath. Leave him alone. Not only is he an Earth Sciences graduate and lawyer, he expounds regularly upon such diverse topics as quantum physics, evolutionary theory, cosmology, genetics, morphology & anatomy, biochemistry, mathematics, computing, cell biology... How many of you smart-alecs can claim expertise in every subject under the sun, huh?

    But even the Internet is against him - a sure sign of the materialist conspiracy. Just tried to get to CaseyLuskin.com and was advised:

    "The site you requested is blocked due to a Malicious Web Reputation.

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    1. By the too obvious stupidity that he shows regarding any of those disciplines where I do have expertise, I would not be surprised if he is just as stupidly and obviously wrong about those disciplines where I have no expertise.

      How he manages to pass for an expert in your eyes I have no idea, you must be quite the ignorant yourself.

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    2. Negative Entropy,

      I was being sarcastic - I could not have laid it on much thicker! He's a numbskull in every discipline. Gimme a P! Gimme an O! Gimme a ...

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    3. My apologies Allan, have you heard of Poe's law? Please take a look:

      http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Poe's_Law

      You might understand my huge mistake.

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    4. Oh, yes, you have heard of this you were just spelling it ... :)

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  11. A problem with the "fine tuning" argument is that it goes only half-way. It presents a calculation of the probability that X (evolution, natural causes, random variation, etc.) would result in such-and-such. But it does not treat the probability that not-X (creation, design, something beyond the natural, etc.) would result in such-and-such.

    My estimate of the probability of not-X resulting in such-and-such is that it is significantly less than the probability for X. Perhaps the not-X probability is even zero, depending on what is postulated about non-X. (Oh, yes, by the way. What is specified about not-X? What is the theory of creationism/intelligent design?)

    If the probability calculation has been done correctly, it says that the probability of such-and-such under a hypothesis is the ratio of the number of states in which such-and-such occurs divided by the number of possible states, given the hypothesis. The number of states in which such-and-such occurs is the same, no matter what the hypothesis, but the number of states if there are more-than-natural causes is clearly greater than the merely-natural causes. Thus the probability quotient is less. (If one hypothesizes an omnipotent creator, then the number of states is infinite, hence the probability is zero.)

    TomS

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  12. "If you read the blogs, you'll see that attacking scientists and Darwinism is the dominant theme. The "scientific" "evidence" for Intelligent Design Creationism is almost never mentioned."

    And of course that's because there is no scientific evidence for Intelligent Design Creationism, and attacking scientists and Darwinism allows the IDCs to vent their hatred of anyone who seeks knowledge or makes discoveries about reality.

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  13. Arek W. said, “But why did he (God) have to finetune it?” - Denny’s reply is that, maybe he didn’t “have” to fine-tune it. Maybe he choose to fine-tune it so that the universe’s only intelligent occupants would see him revealed in his handiwork.

    Allan, I only know about Casey Luskin from what I see at Sandwalk. If you are expecting many of the Sandwalk fans to pay Luskin some common respect because of his intellect, knowledge and curiosity, please don’t hold your breath. Casey would likely sit under Hugh Ross’ tutelage and you know how Ross is treated. I know Hugh personally and he is as humble and respectful of each person he meets as he is intelligent. And, he is as deserving of respect as you rightly suggest for Luskin. But, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for common courteous respect for Hugh.

    It is a sad and tragic fact that Larry is correct when he points to creationists (whatever flavor) attacking scientists and Darwinism. In my opinion, Darwinism is fair game, since it is used as a foundation for naturalistic philosophical arguments. It is also my opinion that scientists, whether teaching or practicing, deserve the respect of each person who enjoys a modern safe convenient healthy life. It seems hard for many creationists to separate what scientists actually do from what they purport to believe that is more esoteric – like about God. What’s worse is that creationists often fail to see atheistic scientists as fellow created souls in need of salvation. Creationists who attack scientists are not true to their expressed beliefs.

    As bad as creationists attacking scientists is, it is no worse than scientists attacking people who will never have the power and privilege of exceptional scientific knowledge. Scientific neophytes, or scientifically qualified individuals who interpret scientific evidence in a non-Darwinian way (like Luskin), are no less deserving of common respect. In their condescension of non-Darwinists, Darwinists commit the same sin (offense) that they complain about from creationists. The Darwinists often ascend to some superior level as the creationists also wrongly do. God is not physical, as we experience physicality. He’s spiritual, so that even the non-scientist can discern him. Some scientists call those who discern spirituality IDiots. And so it goes.

    Larry, there may not be a conspiracy in the true sense of the word. That may be debatable. However, I have seen an experienced highly qualified and practicing marine biologist’s job threatened because he hosted a meeting of Hugh Ross fans at his lab. You yourself have floated the idea to your peers that creationists who complete science related course work be denied credit for their work. Is that a conspiracy?

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    1. If you are expecting many of the Sandwalk fans to pay Luskin some common respect because of his intellect, knowledge and curiosity, please don’t hold your breath.

      Muaaaaaahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! Please stop it! I can't breathe!

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    2. Maybe he choose to fine-tune it so that the universe’s only intelligent occupants would see him revealed in his handiwork.

      Once again, Mr. Denny makes a claim for which he has no evidence. The question as to whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, or, indeed, life elsewhere in the universe, is an open question as we sit here today.

      Mr. Denny may be interested in an internet debate that took place in the 1990s between Carl Sagan and Ernst Mayr, where Sagan opined that intelligent life might be quite abundant in the universe and Mayr opined that it might be quite rare.

      I know Hugh personally and he is as humble and respectful of each person he meets as he is intelligent. And, he is as deserving of respect as you rightly suggest for Luskin. But, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting for common courteous respect for Hugh.

      Somehow, I don't thing that calling Luskin an IDiot is showing much respect for him.

      As Prof. Moran stated in a previous post, Hugh Ross is a nutcase and deserves not a jot or a tittle of respect. The fact that Dr. Ross is a nice man is totally irrelevant as to his scientific ability. Just for the information of Mr. Denny, Issac Newton was a thoroughly unpleasant man who carried on feuds with many of his contemporaries, including Gottfried von Liebnitz, Christian Huygens, the Bernoulli brothers, and Robert Hooke among others. He also advocated capital punishment for counterfeiters during his sojourn as director of the mint. None of this detracts from Newton being one of the three most important scientists who ever lived (the others being Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein)

      However, I have seen an experienced highly qualified and practicing marine biologist’s job threatened because he hosted a meeting of Hugh Ross fans at his lab.

      Would Mr. Denny be whining if the marine biologist had invited Ken Ham and his job thus threatened?

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    3. Allan, I only know about Casey Luskin from what I see at Sandwalk. If you are expecting many of the Sandwalk fans to pay Luskin some common respect because of his intellect, knowledge and curiosity, please don’t hold your breath. Casey would likely sit under Hugh Ross’ tutelage and you know how Ross is treated. I know Hugh personally and he is as humble and respectful of each person he meets as he is intelligent. And, he is as deserving of respect as you rightly suggest for Luskin.

      Sorry, Denny, I did not realise I would be taken seriously with my post. Luskin irritates me with his misinformed, scattergun attacks on subjects I know reasonably well. So although it is a mere ad hominem, I suspect that his take on those other subjects is likely to be skewed also. His religious intent - to see God in every aspect of science - gets in the way of objectivity.

      Ross, I am sure is a decent guy (I dare say Luskin is too). But I am suspicious of anyone who sets themselves up as more-expert-than-the-expert, particularly when the same begged conclusion lurks at the end of every piece.

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  14. @The whole truth: there is no scientific evidence for Intelligent Design Creationism.

    More to the point, there is no substance (scientific or otherwise) to "Intelligent Design". We don't know what difference "Intelligent Design" makes - other than the negative that it couldn't happen by evolution. If you doubt this, try to find an example of something (even a hypothetical) which is not "intelligently designed".

    We don't hear about what sorts of things are designed - individuals, organs, functions, populations, species, ecological communities? We don't hear about when and where design happens. When did it stop happening, or is it still happening? What sort of material does the design start with, and is that precursor material itself designed - if it wasn't designed, where did it come from - if it was designed, why any further design?

    Once we get some idea of what "Intelligent Design" is, once there is any prospect that anybody in the ID movement shows some interest in talking about it, only then can we get into what sort of evidence might work for it.

    TomS

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  15. I have endeavoured to understand a little better the "1 in 10^10^123" argument. It's widely mentioned but mostly I find either Youtubes of Penrose just saying it (and how rilly rilly big it is because there aren't enough particles in the universe to function as zeroes ...) or utterly impenetrable stuff about 22-dimensional Hilbert space ... but it strikes me as a rather odd calculation.

    From The Emperor's New Mind, he seems to be working on the fact that the entropy of the universe, if packed into one massive but tiny black hole, would be about 10^123. Given that the universe at the Big Bang could be argued as packed into one massive but tiny black hole, the "Creator" (he says it), in starting with a minimal-entropy universe, hit a 'target' of minimal entropy in a phase space of 10^10^123 higher-entropy possibilities.

    I may be doing him a disservice here, but that seems shaky. The 'end-entropy', after charge and other quark properties have separated, the four forces have separated, mass has crystallised and then gravity reunited this structured, higher-entropy pudding ... is that anything to do with the 'start-entropy', other than the fact that everything is again collected in one place? Entropy, as a measure of the incapacity to do useful work, is evidently maximal in a Big Crunch. Everything is in a well. But in a Big Bang, where it is initially all 'energy'? I'm not sure why that is the most compelling 'fine-tuning' argument, other than the largeness of the number. Awe ∝ number of zeroes. But emphatically, IANAP.

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  16. Allan Smith said, “Sorry, Denny, I did not realize I would be taken seriously with my post.” – One reason I visit Sandwalk is because I want to get inside the mind of atheists to see what’s going on there. I previously thought you were a little less of a “smart-alec” than some other Sandwalk fans. My bad.

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    1. Denny,

      Smart-alec? Guilty as charged, I guess, if that's how it comes across. My apology was genuine - I had no intent to sucker people into thinking I was launching a defence of Luskin's science. There is a grey area of tone between treating people with excessive disrespect and mocking their pretensions. I make no apology for the latter - Luskin sets himself up, mostly in forums that do not permit comment or peer review, and the opinion of genuine experts in the various fields (including the authors of the research he cherry-picks) is neither sought nor mentioned.

      I do prefer to refrain from name-calling. People are idiots (or not) individually, not because of their adherence to a particular worldview. And I don't think Luskin is an idiot.

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    2. But even Denny believed you were defending Luskin. Poe 10^10^123

      You did such a good job with that parody.

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  17. SLC said, “Once again, Mr. Denny makes a claim for which he has no evidence. The question as to whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, or, indeed, life elsewhere in the universe, is an open question as we sit here today.” – The reason it is an open question is because the notion of life elsewhere in the universe is so far a matter probabilities vs. real evidence, and the probabilities don’t favor its likelihood.

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    1. Denny,

      The vast majority of arguments in favor of fine tuning by a designer god claim that the universe is fine tuned for life. One more time; that the universe is fine tuned for life.

      I'm not sure that you've noticed but the Earth isn't the universe. The universe is really big. That's REALLY BIG. Yeah, REALLY BIG. In fact, no one on Earth yet knows exactly how big it is, but it is known that it's REALLY BIG.

      If the universe is fine tuned for life, and since the universe is really big, and since there are a LOT of other planets in the universe, the probability of there being life on other planets is REALLY favorable.

      I would think that you designer god believers would be strongly supportive of there being life on other planets. On the one hand you could boast about the abilities of your designer god and its creative power, but I suppose the negative side of that would be that you'd have to accept and admit that the specially created, fine tuned Earth itself and the specially created humans on the Earth are just 'one of the many', and that wouldn't be as 'special'. I think I see your conundrum.

      You want your designer god to be thought of and worshiped as all powerful but you also want to feel and believe that you're special, and what really scares you is that there could be life forms on other planets that are nothing like 'specially created in the image of god' humans, but are more intelligent, more advanced in their technology and culture, more knowledgeable about pretty much everything, and either don't worship any sort of gods at all or at least don't worship the same one you do. I guess I can see how that would deflate your desire to feel unique and special (and superior). Trouble is, another problem for your beliefs is that there are billions of humans and billions of other living things right here on Earth, so you're not really special anyway. There's no one on Earth that the Earth can't live without.

      It's also apparent that you're not even unique or special in the god and associated religious beliefs you have chosen. You're one of the many in that too.

      I have an idea for an easy way out for designer god believers and the question, or probability, of life on other planets. You could support, or at least accept, that there is probably life on other planets, but not 'intelligent' advanced life. You could say that even though there probably is life out there it must just be very basic lower life forms, and that the only reason your designer god created them and put them there is for spare parts in case the designer god needs them to repair or recreate something on Earth and doesn't want to bother with creating or recreating from scratch. After all, I'm sure that even if the specially created human race on Earth were to go extinct, an omnipotent designer god could easily whip up a whole new adam and eve and every other Earthly life form from the bacteria or other spare parts 'lower' life forms on other planets.

      Now, I'll ask you this:

      Do you believe that the universe is fine tuned?

      Do you believe that the universe is fine tuned for life?

      Or, do you believe that only the Earth is fine tuned for life?

      Do you believe that humans are the pinnacle of 'creation', and/or that all other life forms, no matter where they are or may be, are inferior to humans?

      Do you believe that humans were/are created by your chosen god in the image of your chosen god?

      If the universe is fine tuned, but not for life, what exactly is it fine tuned for?

      Oh, and speaking of "real evidence", do you have any for your chosen god and associated religious beliefs? If so, will you please present it?

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  18. We have been over this argument previously and Mr. Denny's probabilities are total hogwash, supplied by creationists and IDiots.

    Given the number of planets in the universe, it would be most astonishing if this were the only one with life. In fact, I would put the probability of life elsewhere at 100%.

    Now Mr. Denny might ask how we might determine the existence of life or the previous existence of life elsewhere. The first order of business is to explore Mars, Europa, Enceladus, and Titan in this solar system. Here, there is a possibility of direct confirmation.

    The second order of business is to use the coming technological advances to analyze the atmospheres on extra solar planets, more then 600 which have been discovered already. If oxygen is found in any of those atmospheres, it is a tipoff that, at the least, plant life exists there as, based on our current evidence here on earth, the presence of oxygen is the result of photosynthesis.

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  19. The "fine tuning" arguments, even if valid, just say that the Universe has been specially set up so that evolution occurs, and so that natural selection produces adaptations. In short, fine tuning would not in itself be evidence for intervention of a Designer after the start of the Universe. J.F

    And of course fine tuning is not necessarily evidence of an intelligent designer but merely of a weak anthropic selection process such as the cosmological landscape of string theory (M-Theory). chemicalscum

    Once again, Mr. Denny makes a claim for which he has no evidence. The question as to whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, or, indeed, life elsewhere in the universe, is an open question as we sit here today.

    JF. Of course fine tuning couldn't constitute a scientific argument for the existence of a designer, science isn't equipped to handle that idea. There is, though, no reason for people outside of science, where people actually experience the universe and live to not conclude that it does. And so many do. The only problems come up when that idea is asserted to be science and, by others, when science is asserted to govern peoples' conclusions, outside of science, on that subject.

    chemicalscum, I wonder why SLC - making an argument here I made against a position he held on another comment thread here - doesn't point out the fact that there is not a single shred of evidence for your "weak selection process" made under M-theory. M-theory, itself, is an ideological assertion made in response to assertions of evidence of design from fine tuning. The fine tuning is known to be there, to be used by anyone in or outside of science, alternative universes are not known to be there. So your favored argument begins by being far more speculative than the arguments for design.

    I'll cite one of SLC's heroes to support my contention, Martin Gardner

    The MWI should not be confused with a more recent concept of a multiverse proposed by Andrei Linde, a Russian physicist now at Stanford University, as well as by a few other cosmologists such as England’s Martin Rees. This multiverse is essentially a response to the anthropic argument that there must be a Creator because our universe has so many basic physical constants so finely tuned that, if any one deviated by a tiny fraction, stars and planets could not form-let alone life appear on a planet. The implication is that such fine tuning implies an intelligent tuner.

    The extension of "natural selection" outside of biology is entirely baseless and, I suspect, deeply problematic.

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    1. I left out that this, Once again, Mr. Denny makes a claim for which he has no evidence. The question as to whether there is intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, or, indeed, life elsewhere in the universe, is an open question as we sit here today. was said by SLC

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  20. Given the number of planets in the universe, it would be most astonishing if this were the only one with life. In fact, I would put the probability of life elsewhere at 100%. SLC

    You don't have enough data to support even the contention that the probability is 2/n, n being an unknown number of possible venues for life to arise. n could =1, which is certain, or it could be an enormous number that we haven't come up with a name for. We know that there is 1/n probability of life arising in the universe. Until there is another, independent line of life found we're stuck at that number.

    How do you know that any planet believed to have similar conditions to the early earth would have life? How do you know if planets with atmospheres like we have today can sponsor the beginning of life?

    Denny, you're as guilty of jumping to conclusions based on what you want to believe as the atheists here. You don't know that either. And, as they want to impose their ideology on science, which can't contain it without damaging science, science can't contain what you want it to. All of you are asking science to do things it was never designed to do.

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  21. I left out another question, SLC how would you know that a planet that appears to have a similar atmosphere to today's Earth would share a similar history to, not only the early Earth, on which life first arose, but in the 3.5 billion plus years during which life on earth was sustained to arrive at the situation we're familiar with?

    Life on Earth is a vastly long and vastly complex phenomeon. Reducing the consideration of it for reasons of ideological assertion is astonishingly bad scientific reasoning and quite unrealistic.

    My hunch is that an honest address of these questions will have to be agnostic for the rest of the life of our species, barring intervention by intelligent and honest aliens.

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    1. Mr. McCarthy apparently is unaware of the fact that there is no such thing as proof in science. Proof is a concept in mathematics and symbolic logic. There is only evidence that supports a hypothesis or theory or evidence that falsifies it.

      Thus, finding the presence of oxygen on an exo-planet would not "prove" that there is plant life there. However, it is evidence that supports the presence of plant life. Thus far, the consensus among scientists who study the problem is that there is no other source of oxygen, as, if the planet is old and has metals on its surface that oxidize (e.g. iron which is believed to have removed the oxygen from the atmosphere of Mars), oxygen would slowly disappear, unless renewed by a process like photosynthesis. For instance, if there were no plant life on the earth, there would, by this time, be little or no oxygen in the atmosphere.

      Now Mr. McCarthy asks how I know that life, consisting of replicators would form on a planet similar to the earth in composition. I don't know for certain but the experts who study the origin of replicators, which is a problem in chemistry, have reached a consensus that, given the proper initial conditions, replicators will appear. I follow the experts in the field, not self appointed critics like Mr. McCarthy.

      Prof. Stenger has addressed the problem of fine tuning in one of his books, as I mentioned previously, and has shown that it is greatly oversimplified. I presented the example of the gravitational constant, G, which was originally one of the supposedly fine tuned constants and which turns out not to be fine tuned at all.

      Incidentally, for the information of Mr. McCarthy, the notion of multiple universes greatly precedes the anthropic principle and string/M theory. It was first proposed back in the 1940s I believe. The idea was that, from a mathematical point of view, the universe that we see can be thought of as a 4 dimensional Riemannian surface embedded in a 5 dimensional Cartesian space. If true, then the notion that their could be other such surfaces in the 5 dimensional space is an obvious conclusion. The problem with this model is the Cartesian coordinates are not observable and in addition, has the same problem as string/M theory, namely that it produces no observable predictions. The other spaces can't be observed because all signals are constrained to the surfaces on which they originate and space is flat in between the surfaces (e.g. no gravitational interaction between surfaces).

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  22. Mr. McCarthy apparently is unaware of the fact that there is no such thing as proof in science. SLC

    Mr. SLC apparently sees a word in my comments that I don't believe I used because I know the difference between proof and what science does.

    ... I don't know for certain but the experts who study the origin of replicators, which is a problem in chemistry...

    Spoken like a physical scientist who isn't used to thinking in terms of how difficult questions surrounding living organisms in their habitats and environments are, which are hardly mere chemical questions. Just for starters, "replicators" that could be made in carefully controlled laboratory conditions would have absolutely no knowable relevance to living organisms that arise and are sustained in unknown conditions, "habitats", "environments" that could easily destroy said "replicators". One thing that is a fairly good guess about life on Earth is that it didn't arise in lab conditions as the result of a carefully designed experiment. How you think this argument gets you past the necessity of an "intelligent designer" to do it is something you should really consider before you raise this point in this kind of argument. Do you consider those highly speculative chemists unintelligent? I mean those who don't unintelligently start out by trying to rid the universe of an intelligent designer through their meticulously designed experiments in highly designed, controlled conditions so unlike any known natural conditions.

    I didn't make an argument from finely tuned constants for any position, I just pointed out problems of doing what both the atheists and the creationist here want to do with those constants, such as they are, and calling it "science".

    I'm mostly interested in this question for what it shows about the widely accepted insertion of atheist ideology into science and contrasting that with the, attempts, just about uniformly unsuccessful, to insert religion into science. As I said, I'm against doing either one. I'm also not a big fan of making ideological arguments by some really bad analogies to mathematics.

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  23. Oh, and, as you can see in the quote, Martin Gardner made that distinction between the idea of multi-universes as it is used in this argument and the idea in general. As SLC has objected when I disagree with Gardner on other matters I wonder why he isn't happy when I agree with him on this point.

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  24. have reached a consensus that, given the proper initial conditions, replicators will appear. I follow the experts in the field, not self appointed critics like Mr. McCarthy.

    It might come as a shocker to SLC but the questions of how life arises, where it arises, under what conditions it arises, the form it first takes, how it reproduces, etc. are not dependent on consensus. Life arising on Earth happened only in the way it actually happened and in no other way. Describing anything but the way it actually happened is getting that real, historical event wrong.

    The idea that out of the huge number of ways it could have happened - the enormous number of relevant conditions governing that one way it happened and a myriad of other, relevant issues would be arrived at with absolutely no evidence of how it actually happened - that a body of scientists guessing at those 3.5+ billion years later would arrive at the right answer seems to me to be an enormous leap of faith. Just the idea that the scientists would achieve consensus on those points strains credulity. What you're talking about isn't science studying how life arose on Earth, it's speculation based in no evidence of what that original form of life was like, how it reproduced, what its offspring was like, the habitat that they created and the environment that happened in. They might come up with some interesting experiments, there is no ability to relate those to the very real, historical event of life arising on Earth because there is no evidence of that. Just guessing at what the original organism could have been like is a wild speculation that's only a bit more scientific than the creation of mythical beasts in the classical period.

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    1. I have a lot more confidence in the opinions of scientists who specialize in evolutionary biology then I do in the opinions of critics like Mr. McCarthy who just pulls opinions out of his posterior orifice. Life on earth has survived several catastrophic events, such as the Permian extinction which wiped out 95% of all species and the KT extinction that wiped out 75% of all species. Life bounced back quite nicely from those events.

      Mr. McCarthy keeps bringing up the issue of fine tuning. I agree with Victor Stenger that the concept is piffle and have explained why. I see nothing in the excerpt from the late Mr. Gardner that he thought otherwise.

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    2. By the way, in relation to Martin Gardner, like everybody else, including Issac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Albert Einstein, he was occasionally wrong. In particular, until rather late in life, he failed to understand the twins paradox of special relativity and wrote nonsense about it.

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  25. First, SLC, if you're talking about the origin of life on Earth, you're not talking about evolution because evolution hadn't started and is of no knowable relevance to that question. If anything evolution makes it more obscure because the earliest resolvable evidence of what life was like came from many hundred of millions of evolving years of life after that origin.

    Your mention of the great extinction events does nothing to make us teasing out the relevant threads (if those are there) that would get us reliably back to near the origin of life on Earth. Life "bounced back" is such a general idea that it only underlines my contention that yours is a physical scientist's reductionist conception of the far more difficult and entirely specific problems of specific organisms in their environment. Life, you see, is so much more varied than atoms and subatomic particles in their structure, actions and history. When dealing with questions of evolution those questions of actions and history are entirely relevant and, unfortunately, even less available than physical structures. You can't generalize about a real organism, the evidence of which is unavailable and expect to come near to anything like accuracy. All that we can know is that
    - it arose from non-living matter,
    - it became alive in some unknown way, -
    - it had its specific structure, chemistry, history
    - it, somehow, successfully reproduced and successful, reproducing offspring continued in a line down till today.

    How, we don't know. No one does. Anything anyone says beyond that is speculation. I'll add that I believe that there was one original organism that gave rise to all known life today but that's a belief because it seems most plausible to me, not knowledge.

    It's so bizarrely ironic that I'm having to argue against scientistic materialists for the absolute need of physical evidence to know about such things.

    If any of your abiogenetic "experts" would like to explain how they get by the problems I've outlined above to arrive at a reliable representation of the actual event, I'm all ears.

    Of course, anything that they can say about how life on Earth arose is of absolutely no known relevance to any "other life" that would have arisen independently, if such life exists.

    While I wouldn't trust what Martin Gardner says about a matter of literature or an event in history - being aware of his support for Hansel's misrepresentations - what he said about multiuniverse theory in that quote is uncontroversial due to the statements of Rees and others on the subject. It would not have figured in this discussion if what Gardner said wasn't true. There is not the first bit of evidence that a single "other" universe exists. If, as some of the M-theorists I've read have said, that those universes are not reachable from ours, I'd question the concept that they "exist" in any coherent way. I'd love to go into my speculations on the one and two dimensional universes that are part of that speculation and if such non-material universes could exist if the dogma of materialism is valid. How can time or physics be relevant for one or two dimensional universes that couldn't contain matter and energy?

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  26. However, if many universes beside our own exist, then the anthropic coincidences are a no-brainer. Within the framework of established knowledge of physics and cosmology, our universe could be one of many in a super-universe or multiverse. Linde (1990, 1994) has proposed that a background space-time "foam" empty of matter and radiation will experience local quantum fluctuations in curvature, forming many bubbles of false vacuum that individually inflate into mini-universes with random characteristics. Each universe within the multiverse can have a different set of constants and physical laws. Some might have life of a form different from ours; others might have no life at all or something even more complex or so different that we cannot even imagine it. Obviously we are in one of those universes with life. Other multiverse scenarios have been discussed by Smith(1990), Smolin(1992, 1997), and Tegmark(2003).

    http://www.colorado.edu/philosophy/vstenger/Cosmo/FineTune.pdf

    In my quick read of this paper, I don't see that Stegner has done anything but call "finely tuned constants" "coincidences". As with abiogenesis, when there's no evidence to pin you down, you can create any number of "universes" you like. Not only any number of "universes" but any number of "multiverses". Of course, I'd imagine the mathematics of those might generate theoretical constants, which only demands the question of why those constants? And if those can have different physics, why not different mathematics? We only know of mathematics from our experience of this universe. There is no way to know if our mathematics would necessarily be valid or relevant for another universe with other physical properties. If you think those questions are unallowable, you should review the brawl between the journalist, Martin Gardner (Stegner mentions him positively in his paper) and the mathematician Reuben Hersh about the universality of mathematics in our very one known universe. Hersh questions whether our mathematics is even of knowable universality, comprehensible to all possible intelligence in our universe or if it's peculiar to human thinking. If you look it up, which I don't expect, you might find where Hersh rather gratifyingly says that Gardner's conventional POV on that question can only be the result of religious faith and not evidence or logic.

    And any infinity of lifeless "universes" would still not explain the narrowness of our universe. And any "other universes" which can't be accessed from ours can never be of known reality and so anyone who wants to disbelieve in them is on intellectually sound footing. At least as sound a footing from which Stegner at al disbelieve in a Creator if not more so.

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  27. I hadn't thought of it before just now but wouldn't using our physics and our mathematics to think about another "universe" that didn't have the same physical laws guarantee a distorted view of it?

    So much of our mathematics is the product of applications and received their proof only later, I wonder how independent it is of our experience of our physical universe.

    From his paper, his conventional, flat, rejection of idealism, I would guess that Stenger wouldn't care for the historical fact that the quintessential idealist, George Berkeley, set out discrepancies in the proof of Newton's calculus that weren't successfully addressed, in full, for anything from decades to centuries later. Berkeley was quite an expert mathematician, it would seem, as well as a subtle philosopher, rejected by materialists or not.

    “Berkeley’s criticisms of the rigor of the calculus were witty, unkind, and—with respect to the mathematical practices he was criticizing—essentially correct”

    http://tinyurl.com/d7y6ode

    I suspect their desperation for upholding the ideology of materialism is leading cosmologists on a road to folly. They're not the only ones. Maybe they should consider that for a long time it seemed that even the very useful calculus of the greatest physicist of all times had to be taken on faith.

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  28. New cosmological theories like string theory or multiverse theories just push back questions about fine-tuning, and would, if true, simply exacerbate the need for fine-tuning.

    This is exactly equivalent to saying "Multiple coin flips simply exacerbate the need for God to intervene in order to ensure that approximately half come up heads." In other words, it is very simply complete and utter nonsense.

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  29. Re Anthony McCarthy

    I was referring to Stenger's book where he points out that the folks pushing the fine tuning argument fail to realize that the the set of constants to which they refer as fine tuned constitute a multivariate problem in which a significant change in one of them could be compensated for by changes in some or all of the others. If this is the case, then the entire notion of fine tuning is crap. The original arguments for tine tuning, as I have stated twice so far, included the Gravitational Constant G. The discovery of dark energy has already falsified the claim that G is one of the fine tuned constants. It would not be at all surprising if further discoveries falsified the notion that the others are also fine tuned, even in the absence of multivariate arguments.

    Mr. McCarthy is quite correct in that I erroneously conflated abiogensis with evolution, rather embarrassing as I have often refuted creationist arguments by pointing this out. Thus the origin of life is conflated with the appearance of the first replicators, with evolution taking over after such appearance.

    Mr. McCarthy's argument about the complexity of the problem of abiogensis is nothing but an argument from personal incredulity and differs not a jot or a tittle from the similar anti-evolutionary arguments about natural selection not being able to produce complex structures. An example is Michael Behe's claims about the bacterium flagellum, which were totally discredited at the Dover trial, both by the testimony of Ken Miller, and by his moronic responses when challenged under cross examination. The fact is that abiogensis is a chemical process and chemical processes are far simpler then biological processes, just as physical processes are simpler then chemical ones.

    With respect to the quotation by Martin Gardner, all he is saying is that the multi-verse concept is not the same as the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. This is absolutely correct and accurate. The many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics is an approach to explaining such issues as the 2 slit problem, which I discussed at considerable length on another thread on this blog, and quantum entanglement (Einstein-
    Rosen-Podolsky paradox). This is for people who are not satisfied with the notion of collapsing wave functions, which involves a bit of hand-waving. In the many worlds interpretation of QM, the physical constants would all be the same in all of the worlds. Thus, MWI might be considered a subset of universes of the multi-verse, if, in fact, the latter exists. I do not see that Mr. Gardner endorsed either concept. In fact, it is my recollection that he didn't much like MWI. I must say that I fail to see what point Mr. McCarthy is making in bringing it up.

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  30. I'd be inclined to agree that the multiverse, like its cousin the many-worlds interpretation of quantum observation, is just a tad extravagant and ad hoc. The same could be said for Designer-led fine-tuning arguments.

    We simply have no empirical way to investigate possible other universes, including parameter-varied versions of this one, to see just how 'fine tuned' it really is. We would need a few thousand universes exactly like this one first off, to give us our baseline - what percentage of universes like this does life arise in? Then we could start to generate a few squillion parameter-tweaked replicates and see which generated more, and which fewer, than our baseline.

    Quantum parameters have a habit of covarying. You cannot tweak one and guarantee you will not have a knock-on effect on another. Can you beef up the charge on the electron independently of that on the proton? One should also beware of mathematical simplifications - assumptions of uniformity, when non-uniformity makes a difference, or using a value known to 5 decimal places in computing a 'fine-tuned' parameter to 1 in x bazillion.

    One of the most impressive things about this universe, I think, is the billions-of-years stability of the neutron in the atomic nucleus, given that it has a half-life of 5 minutes unbound to protons. Without that stability, no atoms heavier than hydrogen. That would be an interesting cutoff. How many degrees of freedom are there in the parameters that determine that relationship?

    So ... without a bit more empirical meat, I don't think this universe is all that unusual, as universes go ...

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  31. If this is the case, then the entire notion of fine tuning is crap. SLC

    While, as I've pointed out, I've drawn no conclusions from the argument for fine tuning, I have noticed that Stenger's paper, which I've now read more closely, is so full of conditional statements and other contingencies that his case is anything other than a strong one. It seems to be at variance with a number of eminent scientists who have asserted fine-tuning as significant. But that's beside my point.

    SLC, what if this is not "the case"? Does that, then, mean that the entire notion of fine tuning is not crap and you'll have to confront the arguments of your opponents seriously? As I pointed out the arguments for fine tuning indicating a Creator has the advantage over the, frankly, bizarre "weak selection from a jillion universes" argument in that there is absolutely no evidence that even one of those other universes exists while there is considerable support for the fine tuning being of impressive precision. It's a matter of complete indifference to me if you accept those arguments but you seem to believe your materialism is in trouble if those aren't "crap".

    Mr. McCarthy's argument about the complexity of the problem of abiogensis is nothing but an argument from personal incredulity and differs not a jot or a tittle from the similar anti-evolutionary arguments about natural selection SLC

    My argument about the complexity of the problem of abiogenesis is exactly what I said it was, at length. You can't guess-up life forms on the basis of no evidence because they are both exactly specific and complex. I'd challenge you to recreate one of the lost plays from Greek antiquity on the basis of the title, your task would be far less difficult than recreating the original organism. But what you came up with in either case couldn't be known to be even close to the original. Your MO, with which I'm now very familiar, is to try to make disreputable associations, which is certainly baseless in my case. As I've pointed out to Denny, the creationist attempt to answer questions without evidence is just as non-scientific as the materialist attempt to do that. The main difference is that it's not uncommon for materialist ideology to be successfully inserted, temporarily, into science while religious belief is successfully kept out of it. As you can see, I reject both. Or maybe you don't understand my comments in the last two arguments we've had on relevant topics due to your ideological blinders.

    Of course, no matter what the original organism was like, knowing that and divining an exact physical mechanism for how it was assembled, animated, its metabolic and reproductive processes, etc. that would not answer the question as to whether or not that was the result of divine intention. If God did it, you're just describing how it was done. Your golden fleece of atheism, the prize that affirms your ideology, is a delusion. Even if you had it in hand, it wouldn't do what you want it to. And you're not going to hold it.

    I must say that I fail to see what point Mr. McCarthy is making in bringing it up.

    I brought that quote from Martin Gardner into this because he backs up my point that this use of multi-universe conjecture was an attempt to create a bizarre cosmological "natural selection" that would cancel out the religious arguments using fine-tuning. Gardner didn't have to endorse anything else for his statement to serve that purpose for my argument. The religious arguments using fine-tuning aren't scientific arguments, they are religious arguments, the atheistic use of multi-universe is alleged to be a scientific argument but they are also religious arguments, or ideological, if you prefer. Neither are supposed to be brought into science but science is frequently distorted in that kind of effort for atheism.

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    1. I'd like to ask what this "selection" of entirely isolated "universes" consists of. How can entirely isolated entities be "selected" from among each other? What does that even mean except that we've all become so accustomed to thinking in terms of natural selection that some of us are apt to go a bit off beam in the use of the concept, as Daniel Dennett has. I've read Richard Dawkins assert that "Darwinism", meaning natural selection, is just about certain to be in effect in all life, anywhere it arises in the universe, which is slightly less ambitious than Dennett, but it's just as unfounded in evidence.

      Really, it's so interesting how far materialists are willing to go to deny the simple fact that when you have no physical evidence of something, you can't come to any scientific conclusions about it. You don't have the essential information to do that. Which supports my contention about the ideological insertion of materialism into science and that doing that has become a habit that atheists depend on getting away with.

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    2. Re Anthony McCarthy.

      Here's a snippet from a panel discussion where Neil Tyson explains why life elsewhere in the universe is highly likely. Of course, this will present Mr. McCarthy with the opportunity to add Dr. Tyson to his smear list. By the way, in smearing Carl Sagan, Mr. McCarthy forgot to add that Sagan was a pot smoker.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMIyYwq_A8E

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    3. Other than that I had to stop watching Nova when Tyson was on because I find him annoying, I've not got much against him. Like Sagan, he says some pretty silly things when he's not addressing his area of expertise. Especially when the topic is behavior-consciousness sci.

      I don't hear anything in Tyson's talk that would lead to being able to conclude that "life elsewhere in the universe is highly likely". Is cantaloupe "elsewhere in the universe highly likely"? How about Vegemite? They're made of the same elements. I can easily imagine someone else saying what he says and being mocked for quasi-mysticism by the "skeptics" and their allies if he was, say Charles Tart or Rupert Sheldrake.

      We know that life has arisen once on Earth. Why hasn't it obviously arisen more than once on Earth if it's so highly likely to happen? I don't claim to have the answers to those questions I'm only pointing out that no one else seems to as of June 09, 2012 at this hour in the morning. My only contention here is that if you want to call it science you need more than "gee, gosh, there's a whole heck of a lot of stars and planets out there and it wouldn't be fair if life wasn't distributed among them in something that we could analyze as a random distribution because we like the idea that means there's no God", even though there would be no way to know if that's what it would mean.

      As we discussed before, SLC, something has to be untrue for it to be a smear. You can't smear someone by telling the truth about them and what they've said. I'm pretty careful about negative things I say about people being documented, preferably in their own words, before I say it.

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    4. I should also point out that as an astrophysicist, deGrasse Tyson might add evidence to my contention that physical scientists have a habit of reductionist thinking that is far more useful for their subject matter than it is for life science. I think that's what led Sagan into some of his more unfortunate speculations. Though I'm not aware of deGrasse Tyson coming up with the kind of historical boners Sagan did.

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    5. I'm in favor of the legalization of pot, as well, though I stopped using it c. 1967 because it messed up my playing.

      You trying to smear me by associating me with the narks, SLC?

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    6. And here's an exercise in dGT's concept of probability and what it can tell us that you might want to consider if you want to continue with this line of argument, SLC.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/06/opinion/06tyson.html?_r=1

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    7. Mr. McCarthy really is a putz. The column in the New York Times by Dr. Tyson occurred on June 6, 2008, before the economic meltdown and the choice of Sarah Palin as the Rethuglican vice-presidential nominee, which doomed the McCain candidacy. All Tyson's analysis claimed was that if the election had been held on June 6, 2008, McCain would beat Obama and would lose to Clinton. I would be willing to bet that, if the same analysis had been done on Nov. 1, 2008, it would have correctly shown Obama beating McCain. Clearly, polls taken in June cannot anticipate unexpected events that might occur 3 months later.

      My prediction that Mr. McCarthy would smear Dr. Tyson was certainly fulfilled. It certainly is amusing how Mr. McCarthy bad mouths people with greatly superior intellect to his own.

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    8. Why did dGT write the column in June 6 and present it as having any significance? He did it, I didn't. Anyone is entirely in their rights to point to it as evidence that he's got unwarranted faith in the meaning of "probabilities" resting on that level of contingency and speculation. Given your assertions of the meaning of his speculations on what is "highly likely" on something based on far less information and which is, today, far less certain than that one of those three people would be elected president, I'm certainly within my rights to cite it in this argument.

      Oh, but, I forget that skepti-atheist-materialists get to follow a different standard than the rest of us. Forgive my attempt at applying rigorous logic to the situation.

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    9. Wow:

      As I pointed out the arguments for fine tuning indicating a Creator has the advantage over the, frankly, bizarre "weak selection from a jillion universes" argument in that there is absolutely no evidence that even one of those other universes exists while there is considerable support for the fine tuning being of impressive precision.

      Do you realize how twisted your contortion here is? The arguments for fine-tuning indicating a creator have the advantage over the multiverse argument because there's no evidence of a multiverse? And what's the evidence for the creator -- oh, yes, fine tuning! But why isn't fine tuning evidence for a multiverse?? Because there's no (other) evidence for a multiverse? But there's no other evidence for a creator! You are simply privileging the 'creator' hypothesis over the 'multiverse' hypothesis.

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  32. How can the universe be "fine-tuned" for life, when essentially 100% of it is completely hostile to living matter? The universe is surely fine-tuned to kill life.

    Ergo... God is disproved, right?

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  33. Gingerbaker, who knows? How do you know that "essentially 100%" of the universe "is completely hostile to living matter"? If yo u didn't start out with presumptions of life generating an atmosphere like that of the present day Earth would Earth stand out as an oasis of life from even a close star? I don't know. I have no idea what assumptions "other life" would have about that question.

    And, besides, the Universe is a big place that's been here a long time. Maybe life isn't the only reason it was created. Things are able to have more than one purpose. Even people can make multi-use items and we're no God. Not close.

    But those aren't questions science can answer even with an infinite amount of data and time to analyze it. It wasn't made to deal with those kinds of questions.

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  34. "...there is absolutely no evidence that even one of those other universes exists while there is considerable support for the fine tuning being of impressive precision."

    I'd like to make some comments and ask some questions about the "impressive precision" part:

    Compared to what? Isn't "impressive precision" a matter of opinion, and isn't it based on the current condition (or 'advancement' if that's a better word) of humans? For instance, would the things that humans think are impressively precise right now still be considered impressively precise ten thousand years from now? How about ten thousand years ago? And how about depending on which human is asked?

    If I were to go to a remote, 'primitive' village and show the villagers a butter knife, and they had never seen one, or any other implement made of steel or silver, there's a very good chance that they would think it is impressively precise, but if I showed the same butter knife to Bill Gates, he probably wouldn't think that it's impressively precise.

    For further consideration repeat the paragraph above but replace the words 'butter knife' with the words 'rubber chicken', 'Bryce Canyon', 'tree rings', 'a drop of rabbit sperm', 'a gram of athlete's foot fungus', 'a dandelion', 'the rings of Saturn', 'a Parnassius clodius sphragus', 'a cow', 'a cell phone', 'the remains of a cell phone that has been pulverized in a blender', 'a fish', 'the remains of a fish that has been pulverized in a blender', 'a spiral galaxy', 'Old Faithful', 'a beaver dam', "Hoover dam', or 'a 747 airplane'. How might the change of words affect their perceptions/opinions of "impressive precision"?

    To all of you: Which of the things mentioned above, if any, is the most precise (or fine tuned) and why do you think it is?

    The villagers would be unconsciously and/or consciously comparing the butter knife (and everything else mentioned above) to the things they are used to and understand, and Bill Gates would be doing the same thing. We have only one known universe, so there's no other universe to compare to it, except what we may imagine, and each of us may imagine something different. We don't know precisely what the universe could be, compared to what it actually is. We don't know if there's a purpose to it, so we don't know that it fulfills a purpose or whether it fulfills a purpose in an impressively precise way. Can we say that this universe is fine tuned if we don't have a definitely not fine tuned universe to compare it to?

    See part two.

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    1. Part two.

      Before there were humans, was the universe fine tuned? If so, for what? After humans are extinct, will the universe be fine tuned? If so, for what? Is it fine tuned for us? If so, why is it such a big, difficult, and dangerous place?

      We know that things constantly change throughout the universe, so can we say that anything is precise, and especially impressively precise? Was the universe more precise (or fine tuned) yesterday than it is today? How about tomorrow, or a billion years ago, or a billion years from now? Even If the so-called laws of the universe are impressively precise (are they?), are all the effects/results of those so-called laws impressively precise? Is there no variability or just plain slop in the effects/results?

      At what point, exactly, does something become precise enough to be labeled as fine tuned?

      Something else to consider:

      We humans have a very strong tendency to think of ourselves and a lot of other things (including objects and processes) as being complex, impressive, precise, special, unique, etc., and we typically think of ourselves as being the most complex, impressive, precise, special, unique organisms, yet for all we know, we may be crude in comparison to some life forms on other planets.

      In science fiction movies and books we humans always find a way to beat invading aliens even though they have apparently superior weapons and/or are apparently superior physically, but in reality we, and everything we've ever invented, may be simple, unimpressive, grossly inferior, and totally primitive compared to aliens and their accomplishments. For all we know we could be to aliens like a house fly or a cow is to us. A pest, or food.

      All the god did this and god did that for humans assertions, and especially the "specially created in his image" crap, are ridiculous and just a manifestation of the bloated human ego. The multiverse thing is, well, possibly true or possibly not. I doubt that anyone will ever know.

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  35. The Whole Truth, well, someone has to be impressed for something to be impressive. Impressiveness isn't an objective standard of evaluation. I'd guess that those physicists who assert that the fine tuning in question is extremely precise might find that impressive, or at least their work doing that is. I look at things like this and find it impressive:

    If the initial explosion of the big bang had differed in strength by as little as one part in 1060, the universe would have either quickly collapsed back on itself, or expanded too rapidly for stars to form. In either case, life would be impossible. (As John Jefferson Davis points out, an accuracy of one part in 1060 can be compared to firing a bullet at a one-inch target on the other side of the observable universe, twenty billion light years away, and hitting the target.) ...

    Calculations by Brandon Carter show that if gravity had been stronger or weaker by one part in 1040, then life-sustaining stars like the sun could not exist. This would most likely make life impossible.

    There is some disagreement over just how many such independent factors there are, but by some counts there are over 100, although not all requiring the above degree of precision.[38] But the apparent probability of all the necessary conditions sufficient to allow just the formation of planets (let alone life) coming together just by chance is utterly outrageously tiny—by Roger Penrose's calculation, the probability of chance alone producing cosmoi capable of producing planets is 1 in 10 raised in turn to the 10123 (Penrose 1990, 343–4). With respect to key enzymes occurring by chance, astrophysicist Fred Hoyle throws around numbers like 10-40000 (Hoyle 1982, 4–5). (Although there is no consensus, some, following e.g., Emile Borel, suggest that a probability of occurrence of less than 10-50 can be taken as equivalent to practical impossibility.)

    While I wouldn't be one bit surprised if such numbers change over time, for the time being they seem rather impressive in so far as current thinking goes that things might have not happened the way they do.

    I find it a lot easier to believe that God created the one universe we know of or even more than one universe than I do that every time someone opens a jar of Vegemite that another universe where they don't open a jar of Vegemite is created. You're free to believe in all those new universes get created willie-nillie if you find that more impressive. I don't. I'd rather suspect that some physicists have reached as far as their tools can go in that particular direction and they're turning in on themselves now.

    The idea that human beings have anything like an objective view of the universe is pretty arrogant, that the human invention of science provides that is a "manifestation of the bloated human ego" would seem to saturate materialism. I rather think that God created the universe and we don't know all that much about it, not even the physicists who come up with those impressive figures of probability.

    Your questions about variability in physical constants should generate a lot of controversy among the "skeptics" in the audience. I understand that Rupert Sheldrake merely asking questions like that has gotten quite a few of them pretty peeved.

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    1. Sorry, just noticed that the superscripts didn't come out as that, some of those numbers should be 10^60, 10^40, 10^123 and such. Not that it really makes a difference now that the party line is that such arguments are not to be found as anything but unimpressive, mistaken, inconsequential, coincidental, etc. But don't be surprised when other people fail to see the unimpressiveness, etc. of them.

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    2. Hoyle's calculation is completely bogus. The probability of (say) the amino acid sequence of myoglobin arising in a single step in some kind of random-peptide machine may be minute. Nobody ever thought that this is the mechanism by which functional myoglobin arose.

      Penrose's figure is also dubious. He looks at the entropy of the universe collapsed into a tiny black hole (Big Crunch), and concludes that the low-entropy universe at the Big Bang must have been somehow randomly selected from 10^10^123 higher-entropy universes in that phase space, without some kind of Selector.

      And do we really know the "strength" of the Big Bang, given that we do not have a particle-physics mechanism to account for inflation, or know the 'true' behaviour of mass-energy in a Big Bang plasma, for all that we can theorise?

      Why, indeed, should big-number probabilities impress? One could assess the probability of one's own existence, based upon the survival of one's parents, the chances of their meeting, the apparent randomness of segregation and crossver at meiosis, multiplied back over the generations, and come up with some impressively big numbers over a few billion years. Would we therefore conclude that our personal existence was the point of it all - every step fine-tuned to lead to little ole ME?

      The universe is nearly 100% hydrogen/helium, with a tiny fraction of heavier contaminants. Around at least one of these particles of grit, carbon chemistry has resulted in some remarkable formations. But 10^bazillion times more impressive than the values of parameter in our universe would be the existence of an immaterial being that could work out that 4 forces and a population of about 16 fundamental particles, with certain values for their interactions, would lead ultimately to people - and possessed the physical capacity to cause this to come into being. If it were true, that is. I have calculated that the probability of this being existing is rilly, rilly low, with an impressively large number of zeroes.

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  36. Well, whether it's from physicists or anyone else, "impressive precision" is still a human opinion, and there's more to the world and the universe than humans and their opinions.

    I have to say that I'm not necessarily 'impressed' by all the numbers that physicists or anyone else comes up with to make arguments for or against gods or multiverses or whatever. There seem to be as many different numbers/equations/calculations as there are people putting them forth. Which numbers, if any, are right?

    I'm not saying that physicists aren't smart or that they are making shit up but it will take more than 10 to some other number to convince me of gods or multiverses or fine tuning. And why is it always 10 to something. Just for variety why doesn't someone say 7.4 to something?

    I'm also not saying that number/equations/calculations don't matter, but even IF they're right they're not enough in many cases.

    When it comes to religious zealots and their numbers, yeah, I'm much more likely to think that they're just making shit up. Why, you ask? Well, because they have a dominionist agenda and have shown for thousands of years that they will say and do anything to succeed in their agenda.

    And it should be remembered that many religious zealots like to use the numbers/equations/calculations that scientists/mathematicians/physicists come up with (and of course they're conveniently choosy about which ones they use) to push their arguments for the creation and/or fine tuning of the universe. There's something funny about religious zealots relying on what scientists have either figured out or have posited, in their (the religious zealots) attempts to support religious fairy tales.

    Yes, there are some scientists/physicists who are or may be more sure of themselves than they should be, and some may even be liars or bullshitters, but as time goes on more discoveries about the universe will be made, more data will be acquired, better explanations will be formulated, and more accurate knowledge will be gained. Incorrect theories, hypotheses and numbers/equations/calculations will be discarded and more accurate ones will be kept. Science isn't perfect but it's a helluva a lot more informative than 'god-did-it'.

    By the way, which god? I kind of prefer Fifi the pink unicorn god. I might settle for Fred the giant frog god though.


    See part two.

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  37. Part two.


    Something to consider is that the 10 to something or others are based on what humans either know or can imagine. One of the points I tried to make above is that human knowledge and/or imaginations are or may be limited, even extremely limited. For all anyone KNOWS, universes may number in the trillions or even a bigger number. Universes may be extremely common. Or they may not be. The 'odds' that people come up with, either for or against the creation, emergence, or commonality of universes, don't prove anything.

    People gamble 'against the odds' all the time and many don't win (or don't win often) but many people do win and some win a lot. Often the 'odds' against winning are pretty big and seem insurmountable but wins occur anyway.

    I don't "believe" that universes "get created", either "willie-nillie" or otherwise, or that they just come about "willie-nillie". I don't know how this universe came about, I haven't seen any evidence that it was "created", and I don't know if there are any other universes. I find the scientific pursuit of the beginning and existence of this universe interesting or sometimes fascinating but I wouldn't use the word "believe" to describe the way I feel about the current state of knowledge or speculation.

    Something I'm absolutely certain of is that no god that any human has ever conjured up had anything to do with the creation, occurrence, or existence of this or any other universe(s). The gods that people have invented are small, petty, childish, inept or deliberately sloppy, demanding, destructive, usually pretty damn weird, and mostly violent monsters. If, and I do mean IF some 'intelligent entity' created this universe or any other universe(s), that entity is something far more 'omnipotent and omniscient' than any of the puny and despicable gods that humans have thought up. All the gods are just what people (with all their fearful, arrogant, but limited imaginations) have conjured up, to try to alleviate their fears or to control other people, or both. Usually both.

    I think that you made some reasonable points in your previous comments that are worth considering, but I don't see the variable human opinions of "impressive precision" as a reasonable scientific standard or justification to determine that the universe is fine tuned by your chosen designer god or any other god.

    god-did-it is a science stopper. god-did-it is as subjective as any statement or belief could be. Science won't flourish if it's harnessed to god-did-it.

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  38. "god-did-it" isn't a "science stopper" because "god-did-it" can't be inserted into science. However, it's no more of a "science stopper" than pretending you can see behaviors in the Paleolithic period, reconstruct the first organism, determine the biology of "other life", or do physics and mathematics about myriads of "other universes". And those do get inserted into science on both its formal level and, even more so, its informal level where most people consume it. And that's not even getting to the "sciences" of psychology, sociology, and, God help us, today, economics.

    There is nothing in science that prevents people from having ideas and beliefs about things that science can't address and science can't address the idea that God created the universe as it is, in all of its detail at every level of resolution. And that is what many religious people believe. There is nothing science could tell you about the belief that God created any imaginable "multiverse" that is invented out of the most febrile atheist fantasy out of the hopes of finally and positively putting the last nail in God's coffin. Science is unable to provide them with that nail and, as I would hope someone would have noticed from this discussion, the simulation of science provided by these past attempts at doing just that can't either. Though they can produce mountains of pseudo-scientific junk in the process.

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  39. Why, indeed, should big-number probabilities impress? Allan Miller

    I don't know. You could ask that question of the old-line atheists who used to point to the big-number vastness of the universe as an argument for atheism, seen above in Gingerbaker's comment. When my Latin teacher pulled it on me my answer was to cite Sri Aurobindo's belief that matter would evolve into consciousness. You can see an atheist articulation of that in some schools of panpsychism. I only cited it as an example of a problem with the argument against God from the vastness of the universe (I believe my dear old Latin teacher got it from Bertie Russel) and didn't express a belief in the idea. I don't hold with it, especially, though consciousness came from somewhere. I do doubt it's from matter.

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  40. Fred the giant frog god

    Do you know of any religion of "Fred"? What you're doing is interesting as I've come to think more about the common atheist tactic of mounting false alternatives like this, some absurd, some less absurd but no more fallacious.

    As can be seen in the myriad of "multiveres" and origin stories of abiogenesis, scientists can have vastly different and contradictory beliefs about the physical universe on the basis of materialist assumptions, using the tools of science. Except having evidence to hold their ideas up against in these cases. I'd point out that not having evidence to go on seems to be able to create more rather than fewer alternative beliefs of this kind that find a home in science, evidence is probably what is responsible for weeding those out in most cases.

    So, how much less surprising is it that when religious people think about metaphysical ideas they come up with more than one idea about it.

    You see, the idea isn't either "Fred" or "no-god", it's entirely possible for the Jewish concept of God to be accurate, or, at least, more accurate than either of them. There are too many possible "ors" for it to be limited to either-or. Though that seems to be a common logical fallacy among atheists. I used to be an agnostic, and still am philosophically, I thought these things out a long time ago.

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  41. Why, indeed, should big-number probabilities impress? Allan Miller

    TTC: I don't know. You could ask that question of the old-line atheists who used to point to the big-number vastness of the universe as an argument for atheism, seen above in Gingerbaker's comment.


    Gingerbaker, Bertrand Russell and your old Latin teacher can make their own arguments, but probability and proportion are not the same thing. You listed a bunch of probability figures as "impressive". They are all questionable, and comparable probabilities can be conjured out of unguided processes, rendering their relevance moot. What other people have said about other things is neither here nor there, even if they do happen to share notation involving sizeable exponents.

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  42. Allan Baker, as you can see from my arguments with SLC above, ending in my last comment about de Grasse Tyson's June 6, 2008 New York Times column predicting that if Obama won the Democratic nomination that McCain would win the election but that Hillary Clinton was going to get the nomination and would beat McCain, that I've got less than total faith in the predictive ability of probabilities to speak about a situation in the future, or the present, about which there is insufficient to no evidence, in which to base that probability.

    I was just wondering, since Gingerbaker had made such an argument for atheism, which I'd already rejected, why you hadn't commented on it.

    Maybe probability should be used in analyzing data in hand instead of as a means of divining the future or a situation for which there is insufficient data to generate a reliable probability. You might want to talk to a number of materialists on that count.

    As an aside, if Tyson couldn't do any better at predicting the outcome of the 2008 election in June, I'd think that all of the rest of it in June this year is safely ignored.

    You might want to try approaching these things from a strictly agnostic frame of thought, you learn so much more than you seem to from atheism.

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    1. de Grasse Tyson [...] Obama [...] McCain [...]Hillary Clinton [...] I've got less than total faith in the predictive ability of probabilities to speak about a situation in the future, or the present, about which there is insufficient to no evidence, in which to base that probability.

      I've got less than zero interest in American politics, or a noted cosmologist's opinion on it, but the probabilities frequently trotted out for fine-tuning or against evolution are not predictive, but attempt to determine the likelihood that a present situation could occur 'naturally', eg see Hoyle's protein-based numeroproctology, or Penrose's strange argument about the space of all possible entropies. Of course, they don't really know the structure of the deck, or the means by which hands are dealt, rendering the probabilistic argument worthless. You seem to be arguing for the fine-tuning case, but against one of the methodologies used to support it.

      I was just wondering, since Gingerbaker had made such an argument for atheism, which I'd already rejected, why you hadn't commented on it.

      I'm not obliged to comment on anything! gb was not arguing probabilistically about the suitability of this universe for life, so this was not 'just such an argument'. It really is suitable for life. "There is only a 1 in a squillion chance of a 'random' universe supporting life" and "only 1/squillionth of this universe supports life" are two different arguments.

      This universe could be as supportive of life as it is possible to be. Or it could be a particularly poor showing. Or something in the middle. But it remains an observable fact that the kind of CHONPS life that we know is massively restricted in its parameters for successful survival (including a supply of that very CHNOP and S), and such favourable conditions do not appear to be widespread, either spatially or temporally. While not a compelling argument for atheism per se, it is an argument against the notion that this universe has the express purpose of sustaining us humans. The bacteria on my cheese cannot believe their good fortune at landing on such a hospitable locale, and thank me profusely. They are about to be seriously disappointed when I stick it under the grill.

      You might want to try approaching these things from a strictly agnostic frame of thought, you learn so much more than you seem to from atheism.

      Interesting that you have already decided what I have 'learnt' from some label you choose to assign to me, and all the baggage that you decide goes with that label.

      Completely irrespective of the matter of the existence of God, I am unconvinced by the case on fine-tuning. It has not been shown to what extent the parameters are even capable of variation, nor what range of variation is incompatible with Life. I doubt that you are remotely 'agnostic' upon this idea, but insist upon the 'impressive precision' precisely because you feel it points towards your God - though heaven forbid I should assume anything about what you think.

      Nonetheless, your arguments are inconsistent. You reject the multiverse (I do too, pending confirmation) on grounds that we cannot know anything of actual other universes, but continue to insist without direct evidence that the parameters of this one universe are more special (to the power of loads 'n' loads 'n' loads) than the bulk of possible universes with other values of these parameters.

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  43. Sorry, Allen Miller, that would be. More words written than I can edit.

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  44. but attempt to determine the likelihood that a present situation could occur 'naturally',

    You can try but if they never occur the likelihood that it could occur naturally is zero.

    You seem to be arguing for the fine-tuning case, but against one of the methodologies used to support it.

    I've said at least twice that I don't draw any conclusions about the fine-tuning argument, but I've said that if people find them persuasive they're within their rights to find them persuasive. And I said that since this universe, about which those fine-tunings are asserted is known to be here and to support the conditions that allow things such as planet formation and, obviously, life to exist, it is more reasonable than the "selection" from among jillions of universes argument because not a single other universe is known to exist.

    This universe could be as supportive of life as it is possible to be. Or it could be a particularly poor showing.

    All I've said about that is that until you have actual examples of "other life" then there is no way to know if they exist or not and you would have to have enough information about them in order to determine anything about them with science. I'm old fashioned enough to think that you've got to have a fairly specific source of evidence about what you're subjecting to scientific methods in order to subject them to scientific methods. I've yet to have an explanation of how you can do that with no evidence except conjecture.

    Let me unpack this next part, piece by piece:

    I am unconvinced by the case on fine-tuning. It has not been shown to what extent the parameters are even capable of variation, nor what range of variation is incompatible with Life. I doubt that you are remotely 'agnostic' upon this idea, but insist upon the 'impressive precision' precisely because you feel it points towards your God - though heaven forbid I should assume anything about what you think.

    I am unconvinced by the case on fine-tuning. It has not been shown to what extent the parameters are even capable of variation, nor what range of variation is incompatible with Life.

    Fine. So long as you admit there are people who reasonably are persuaded of it. It's your decision to make for yourself, it isn't for anyone else. This isn't like global warming, the age of the Earth or the evolution of species.

    I doubt that you are remotely 'agnostic' upon this idea,

    I draw no conclusions from the "fine-tuning" arguments except that in so far as I understand them, the probabilities asserted by some rather eminent scientists seem quite impressive.

    but insist upon the 'impressive precision' precisely because you feel it points towards your God -

    I insist on the impressive precision because it impresses me. I don't have any reason to think that physical science can provide "evidence" of God that is superior to human experience. I don't see any reason that the God who created human beings would need to resort to "objective" means to be revealed.

    though heaven forbid I should assume anything about what you think.

    If heaven forbade it, would you desist? I tell you what I tell you about what I think You can choose to believe it or not. A lot of what I've said here has nothing to do with my personal belief, it has to do with irrational and ideological assertions presented as anything from reason to science.

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  45. your arguments are inconsistent. You reject the multiverse (I do too, pending confirmation) on grounds that we cannot know anything of actual other universes, but continue to insist without direct evidence that the parameters of this one universe are more special (to the power of loads 'n' loads 'n' loads) than the bulk of possible universes with other values of these parameters.

    The parameters of this one universe are special since we know it exists, it is available to compare to any conjecture about it, it is able to confirm or dis-confirm those conjectures. Like it or not, science was made to study THIS universe, it is the only universe for which we know it works. There is nothing available to us to confirm the conjectures about "other univeres", not even that there is anything other than conjecture to them. They are exactly the stuff that the "celetial teapot" type of atheist hectoring are made of.

    If those other universes aren't there then even talking of them in terms of possible existence is to distort reality and corrupt the entire intellectual framework of science.

    I really believe that the widespread insertion of materialist ideology into science, those topics listed above and others, has a delitirious effect on both science and the culture of science. I think it has a role in producing bad science that gets overturned and that that can't have anything but a negative effect on the public's understanding of science. Which is why I find the likes of Dawkins and Sagan and others put forward as great communicators of science one of the greater ironies of western culture in the past fifty years.

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  46. To TTC,

    You said:

    "I've said at least twice that I don't draw any conclusions about the fine-tuning argument, but I've said that if people find them persuasive they're within their rights to find them persuasive."

    That you don't draw any conclusions about the fine tuning argument is not true. Your comments are gushing with conclusions about the fine tuning argument and it's abundantly clear that you are in favor of the fine tuning argument. You try to make it sound as though it's only some other people who find the arguments for fine tuning to be impressively precise, but your own statements give away your own conclusions. Such as:

    "...while there is considerable support for the fine tuning being of impressive precision"

    "I look at things like this and find it impressive:" (and then you quoted what you obviously think are impressive and precise arguments for fine tuning)

    Those, and other statements from you, are about what YOU think, conclude, believe, and/or find to be impressive, and the more you say the less "agnostic" you sound. It's a mistake to think that you can fool me or anyone else who is observant. There are many subtle and bold clues in your words that demonstrate what you actually think. Such as:

    "I find it a lot easier to believe that God created the one universe we know of or even more than one universe than I do that every time someone opens a jar of Vegemite that another universe where they don't open a jar of Vegemite is created."

    "I rather think that God created the universe and we don't know all that much about it, not even the physicists who come up with those impressive figures of probability."

    And many others.

    Now, regarding some of your other statements:

    "Impressiveness isn't an objective standard of evaluation."

    Yeah, one of my points exactly.

    "We know that life has arisen once on Earth. Why hasn't it obviously arisen more than once on Earth if it's so highly likely to happen?"

    Why haven't Einstein or Marilyn Monroe been born more than once? Why should life itself arise more than once when it has been continuous since it first arose? Then again, how does anyone know that it hasn't arisen more than once on the Earth? It's possible that it arose, but then died out, then arose again, then died out, then arose again, then died out, then arose again and has continued ever since. Way, way back in time life may have arisen many times and died out many times, and finally became viable enough to stick around.

    "My only contention here is that if you want to call it science you need more than "gee, gosh, there's a whole heck of a lot of stars and planets out there and it wouldn't be fair if life wasn't distributed among them in something that we could analyze as a random distribution because we like the idea that means there's no God", even though there would be no way to know if that's what it would mean."

    Well, that's hardly your only contention, and most or all scientists/evolutionists or whatever don't say that there's probably life on other planets as a "there's no God" argument. They usually say it because it's probably true, and because many/most/all (take your pick) science bashing religious zealots bluntly assert that there are no life forms on any other planet and that only the Earth is special, unique, and fine tuned for life. That is, when they're not contradicting themselves by arguing that the entire universe is fine tuned for life.


    See part two.

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  47. Part two.

    TTC said:

    "Really, it's so interesting how far materialists are willing to go to deny the simple fact that when you have no physical evidence of something, you can't come to any scientific conclusions about it. You don't have the essential information to do that. Which supports my contention about the ideological insertion of materialism into science and that doing that has become a habit that atheists depend on getting away with."

    Your religion is showing.

    While it's true that some atheists or materialists (should they be lumped?) don't have physical evidence for some of the things they say or personally 'conclude', they also don't necessarily have agreement from other atheists or materialists on those conclusions, at least when it comes to what would be called a 'scientific consensus'. Yeah, some scientists, who may also be atheists or materialists (or not), say or personally conclude things that are or may be conjecture, speculation, guesses, bullshit, or worse, but if there's no physical evidence or if no evidence is ever found, most scientists, or what you call atheists/materialists, would not see the matter as anywhere near 'settled' or proven.

    And when it comes to "physical evidence", religious zealots have no room to condemn scientists, atheists, materialists, evolutionists, or even other religious zealots that they disagree with. Religious beliefs are fantasies, with no "physical evidence" whatsoever.

    See part three.

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  48. part three.

    TTC said:

    "I'd like to ask what this "selection" of entirely isolated "universes" consists of. How can entirely isolated entities be "selected" from among each other? What does that even mean except that we've all become so accustomed to thinking in terms of natural selection that some of us are apt to go a bit off beam in the use of the concept, as Daniel Dennett has. I've read Richard Dawkins assert that "Darwinism", meaning natural selection, is just about certain to be in effect in all life, anywhere it arises in the universe, which is slightly less ambitious than Dennett, but it's just as unfounded in evidence."

    Whether they're "selected" or not, what if other possible universes are not "isolated"? What if they're connected to ours and each other via black holes, wormholes, copper wires, super glue, or kite strings? Seriously, some people are trying to figure out ways to tell if there are other universes and whether they're connected or isolated. If they succeed, cool. If they fail, so what?

    "Darwinism" means natural selection? I see "Darwinism" as a useless, vague, usually derogatory term that is essentially meaningless, and there's more to evolutionary theory than natural selection.

    I don't know what Dawkins' exact words are but as far as natural selection being just about certain to be in effect wherever there's life, I'm strongly inclined to agree with that. Sure, I could be wrong but I don't see any reason to think that life on another planet would not be subject to natural selection, just as the life on a different continent than the one I live on is also subject to natural selection.

    Selection in nature is a fact. It's easy to see and easy to verify. Whether it's natural or 'artificial' is the only thing that is not or may not be 100% proven or provable. That usually depends on who is asked. Since no one has produced any evidence that a god artificially selects anything, there's no good reason to believe that any god does that or to give the idea any credibility, and especially any scientific credibility or even any potential scientific credibility.

    Any god that humans have ever conjured up doesn't even have any potential of being real. gods can, at best, only be as valid as the stories they're associated with, and the stories that gods are associated with are overflowing with crazy, ridiculous, impossible fairy tales.

    As Allan said, your arguments are inconsistent, and to me they're also going around and around in circles. I was going to respond to more of your comments but I'm not sure it's worth the trouble. I don't disagree with everything you've said but I do find some of what you say to be contradictory, confusing (or confused), not completely honest, and/or too much work to argue about.

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  49. There is another thing that I want to respond to. Regarding my comment about Fred the giant frog god, TTC said:

    "Do you know of any religion of "Fred"? What you're doing is interesting as I've come to think more about the common atheist tactic of mounting false alternatives like this, some absurd, some less absurd but no more fallacious."

    Why do you say that it's false, absurd, and fallacious? What makes you think that your chosen god is not false, absurd, and fallacious?

    Do you have any evidence whatsoever that the god you believe in or any other god that any human has ever thought up is any more real than Fred the giant frog god, or Fifi the pink unicorn god?

    Your question: "Do you know of any religion of "Fred"?" is obviously an argumentum ad populum. Just because the religion you've chosen is or may be popular doesn't mean that it is valid.

    By the way, Fred's feelings are hurt by your remarks. I asked him to forgive you. He's thinking about it.

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  50. it's abundantly clear that you are in favor of the fine tuning argument. TWT

    What should be abundantly clear is what I said, that if people find the arguments for a Creator God based on fine tuning persuasive they are within their rights to do so. Far more reasonably within their rights than the "selection from multi-universe" people are in as the one and only universe those are drawn from is known to exist whereas the multi-universes (if this goes on much longer I'm going to start calling them "teapots" or "turtles") have no more than imaginary status.

    It would take a very long time, citing a lot of recent assertions by physicists about modern physics, and a bit of mathematics, which I'd have trouble rendering in ascii to tell you what I find impressive about the assertions of fine tuning and the probabilities against those being as they are. It's hard enough to make the self-appointed guardians of science understand little points like the necessity of being able to hold up your ideas against nature to know if they're more than ideas, the need of evidence, through blog comments. I doubt I'd be able to show what I find impressive in the arguments about fine tuning - many of them made by atheists, I'll point out.

    Why haven't Einstein or Marilyn Monroe been born more than once? Why should life itself arise more than once when it has been continuous since it first arose?

    You don't seem to understand that I wasn't the one making assertions that life arising was common, I was saying that we didn't know how common it might be. I said we knew it happened once, anything more than that as of this hour of this day is unknown. You also don't seem to understand that, in the terms of the "exobiologists" and abiogenesists, they're talking about life as a generalized phenomenon. I agree, and believe I've argued on this or another blog, that individual organisms are sui generis, one of a kind, and couldn't come into being more than once. Monroe and Einstein are unique, you can't have "another" of someone, you can't have two of them.

    and most or all scientists/evolutionists or whatever don't say that there's probably life on other planets as a "there's no God" argument.

    My objection to calling "exobiology" science has little to do with arguments about the existence of God, it has to do with the foolishness of trying to create a science purporting to tell us something about the universe when there is absolutely no physical evidence of what it purports to tell us about available. However, I believe that Carl Sagan, among the founders of the "science" has made exactly the claim that the minute another life form is found that religion is in trouble. I guess in all of his alleged erudition it didn't occur to him that a God able to make one form of life could probably make as many forms as desired. One of many things that don't seem to occur to materialists in these matters.

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    1. That you believe in a god that you can move around according to whatever becomes undeniable in science, does not mean that every religion is filled with such a flexible fantasy. It never occurred to you that Carl Sagan, if it was him, was talking about most religions rather than the silly belief that can be moved around and around for no other reason than keeping the belief "intact." So, which god is the one you believe? I suggest you call it "Plastic." Of course, that would reveal too clearly that you believe in the equivalent of a "Fred the giant frog god" as suggested by TWT.

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    3. Ah, the old charge of "God of the gaps" is hauled in, even though I've explicitly asserted the opposite of that in regard to the atheist argument from abiogenesis, above:

      Of course, no matter what the original organism was like, knowing that and divining an exact physical mechanism for how it was assembled, animated, its metabolic and reproductive processes, etc. that would not answer the question as to whether or not that was the result of divine intention. If God did it, you're just describing how it was done. Your golden fleece of atheism, the prize that affirms your ideology, is a delusion. Even if you had it in hand, it wouldn't do what you want it to. And you're not going to hold it.

      I have never encountered an atheist who understood that the concept of a Creator means that the universe, as it is, as it operates is believed to be the work and intention of the Creator. Perhaps you should consider what it says in Psalm 19:

      The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
      They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.


      As I like to point out, the earliest condemnation of the practice of looking for God in gaps of knowledge didn't come from an atheist or even an agnostic, it came from Henry Drummond who was an evangelical preacher, one who accepted that evolution was true.

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  51. what if other possible universes are not "isolated"? What if they're connected to ours and each other

    Here we have an example of one of the problems of making sciency sounding assertions when there is no evidence available. Among the only interesting points in this particular of a myriad of "what ifs" you can generate while untethered to evidence is that if they are "connected" are they really different universes? Wouldn't there be something wrong with our concept of our universe, if there was a connection? I'll point out that among other problems for science, in that case, would be that the other "universes" have different physical properties, some vastly different, than those which science uses. If there was a connection to our universe, then those other properties, perhaps infinite in their varieties, would be directly relevant to our universe. I'd think that would pose at least as much of a problem for science than the idea that a supernatural being which is above and superior to physical restraints could choose to intervene in our one, known, universe. I mean, in order to account for all of those enormous range of physical conditions you'd have to demonstrate them, just to begin with.

    Why do you say that it's [the "Fred" religion] false, absurd, and fallacious?

    I see that SLC isn't the only one here who manages to attribute statements to their opponents that were never made. What I said is that your practice of the false alternative fallacy is fallacious, though you clearly framed your alternative to atheism in what you believed to be an absurd fashion. I'm not about to quibble about your obviously doing so anymore than I would with Russell about his teapot dodge. As I asked, do you know of any "Fred" religion? Where is it? I would say that imagining Fred, Fifi, etc. isn't any more outlandish than many of the multiverses that are proposed. One of which does correspond to my question about creating universes by opening a jar of Vegemite. What I think probably happened is that the idea of multiple universes indicates that physics reached a dead end with the tools it has available. I doubt that our one, known, universe is entirely susceptible to the methods and tools of science or human minds. The belief that it would be, especially the idea that it would be through natural selection, is arrogant and anthropocentric. You see, I'm not a humanist who believes that man is the measure of all things.

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    1. I don't see why would you bring "natural selection" into the multiverse stuff. In the worst case scenario, what would be proposed is that our universe is one whose properties are, let's say, good enough that life could evolve at least in this planet, up to intelligence, blah, blah, blah. But if multiverses were real (which I also doubt, but I read somewhere that this proposal actually allowed some calculations to make sense), then the idea is not that natural selection is responsible for this one, but that we evolved in the one where we could evolve (anthropic principle). This is different to natural selection where the individuals with the best characteristics given an environment would survive better than other individuals. Applying such idea to multiverses is simply and astoundingly nonsensical. (I am not saying that this is your proposal about what has been said, but for you to write that this is an actual suggestion, suggests that you did not read properly whatever somebody else said.)

      I leave alone the Vegemite stuff because that kind of parallel universes is not the same as the multiverses, and belongs mostly to popularized and quite speculative "science" trying to make sense of quantum phenomena and the equations used to solve and "explain" them, which nowhere say such things happen. They are a bunch of numbers and constants, and their relationships, that are so hard to make "sense" that people get carried away. That's it.

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  52. "Darwinism" means natural selection?

    As I certainly indicated in the passage you picked that out of like a cherry out of a cake, it was Richard Dawkins who used "Darwinism" to mean natural selection. He and Dennett generally do and they often seem to mean natural selection when they say "evolution". As I've argued strenuously, here, for dumping the Darwin cult so that evolutionary science can move on without the baggage that comes with it, on the basis of the huge amount of later knowledge, I don't know who you think you're arguing against.

    As Allan said, your arguments are inconsistent, and to me they're also going around and around in circles.

    With your failure to get my arguments straight, I'm not surprised you think they're inconsistent and going around in circles. Maybe if you didn't keep inserting things into what I say that aren't there and which I've never argued you would have an easier time dealing with what I do say instead of what I didn't say.

    I've noticed that atheists have that habit of attributing things to their ideological opponents, perhaps it's related to their habits of reductionist thinking. Or maybe it's just being unwilling to deal with more complicated arguments than the ones they like.

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  53. I don't see any reason to think that life on another planet would not be subject to natural selection, just as the life on a different continent than the one I live on is also subject to natural selection.

    Well, I'm interested in this because I'm not that convinced that natural selection is a real "thing", I think it's an intellectual construct made of so many different events of different character -derived from the hardly scientific and clearly class assuming ideas of Malthus - that I think it might actually be no more than a habit of thought. And I don't think that what is called "natural selection" is or has been consistent throughout the history of the idea. I asked several PhDs in biological topics, all of them conventional believers in evolution, to define "natural selection" and got quite different answers.

    Is every, single organism that has ever lived subject to natural selection or even the result of it? If it's not a uniform force within life is it quantifiable? Do some organisms get more of a share of natural selection than others? Since the assertion is that natural selection results in species, what about individuals? Species exist as a collection of individuals. Is every individual the product of natural selection? Even those that get "selected out" in their life time?

    I very much doubt that Charles Darwin had enough information about the stupendously long and complex phenomenon of evolution - almost all of which has left no information available to study- to have come up with the final explanation of it. I think natural selection will, eventually, either be modified fundamentally or discarded in favor of explanations based in more information. As Varmuza has pointed out, any succeeding idea will have to confront the entrenched position of natural selection in the culture of science. As I pointed out with the idea of "selection" among unconnected universes, the idea is so entrenched that it overcomes logical coherence.

    Of course, without evidence it is of unknowable relevance to "other life". The belief that it is even probably relevant to "other life" is a matter of faith, not science or reason. I think the idea that natural selection can be the object of faith, if not sometimes comprising dogma, has some merit.

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    1. But natural selection is a useful concept. I don't see why it would not be a "real thing." Natural selection is unavoidable. It is, as some imbecilic apologists insist, a tautology, only not a tautological fallacy, but a tautology in the "true by definition" sense. True, Malthus had something to do with the idea, after all, he pointed to the fact that much more offspring is born than survives to reproductive age. That otherwise any organisms would quickly fill the planet is unavoidably true. Then, that many would die instead is undeniable. That some would die by "chance" alone is unavoidable. We are left with whether another bunch of individuals would have advantages for survival over others simply for being better adapted to their environments compared to other individuals. Denying this given the enormous variability we witness in natural populations would be nonsensical. Denying that if life reproduces it is bound to have variable offspring is also nonsensical (for entropic reasons). Thus, we are left with no other option but to think that reproduction engenders variability engenders differences in "fitness" (whose definition depends on the environment), and thus natural selection is a "real" thing, even if you find it hard to define in simple terms, and it is an unavoidable companion to life. Of course, that does not mean that natural selection is the only one mechanism for evolution.

      If you want to understand you should read about natural selection, rather than talking as if you understand and then write nonsensical questions as the ones you wrote here. That, if you were serious rather than merely rhetorical.

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    2. Natural selection is unavoidable.

      So it might seem now but do you really think that the 150 years of the modern study of evolution have delved very deeply into the 3,500,000,000+ years of the subject? I mean, even not considering the minuscule fraction of of the organisms, the details of their anatomy, chemistry, habitats, environments, actions, etc. etc. etc. that are what evolution is comprised of which have figured into that study to date? Evolution is, beyond doubt, the most massively complex phenomenon that science has proposed to study, I doubt it's going to turn out that Charles Darwin nailed down the key to it in 1859 on the basis of the information he had available.

      I doubt very much that natural selection will maintain the position it has today in the science of evolution in the future. Though, as the dominant concept governing the culture of evolutionary science today - enforced as such, to some extent - it has the capacity to influence that study and to bend it. Out of sheer political influence and coercion, I suspect it can do that today. Just look at how angry my modest speculations have you.

      I think the attempt to apply it to questions of behavior is one of the most wrong-headed and dangerous ideas that is current today. I think it is at least as dangerous as eugenics, which is hardly dead. I strongly suspect that, as I said, natural selection will turn out to be a habit of thought, a lens through which evolution is looked at and which, to some extent, determines the conclusions drawn under it. As such, I think it has the power to distort as well as, perhaps, to explain.

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    3. Apparently you did not even read what I said. Care to give it another try and actually read it?

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    4. You wouldn't want me to think that you were just "picking that cherry out of the top of the cake" would you?

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    5. Go ahead, I'm used to atheists flinging terms of rhetorical discourse around like confetti, no matter what they mean.

      I can tell when someone is trying to wiggle out of a tight spot.

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    6. Oh sure, I am "wiggling out of a tight spot." Check it out. If you understood my explanation you would not have made the comment you made. But I should have known that with you, as with most creationists I have talked with (only one exception so far), explaining is a waste of time. You can't read beyond the words that you want to read. Everything just means what you want it to mean. I truly do not know how you do that. It's a "talent" I guess.

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  54. I don't see why would you bring "natural selection" into the multiverse stuff. Negative Entropy

    I didn't, the people who came up with the scheme of "selection" out of the jillions of universes they imagine-up did that. I wasn't even the first person who brought it up in this discussion. As I think it's a pretty silly idea, I wouldn't.

    I leave alone the Vegemite stuff because that kind of parallel universes is not the same as the multiverses, and belongs mostly to popularized and quite speculative "science" trying to make sense of quantum phenomena and the equations used to solve and "explain" them, which nowhere say such things happen. They are a bunch of numbers and constants, and their relationships, that are so hard to make "sense" that people get carried away.

    Well, how many of those "parallel" universes does it take to equal "multiple" universes? As I said, when you aren't tethered by physical evidence you can make up all kinds of things from multiple schemes of abiogenesis, "other life" and up to multi-multiuniverses. "people get carried away", well, that's something like what I said.

    I kind of like the idea that science can produce more reliable information about parts of the physical universe based on available physical evidence sufficient to successfully subject to the methods of science. There was a time I assumed scientists thought that too.

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    1. Again, I doubt that the people who started talking about multiverses used "natural selection" too as part of explaining how ours is "the one." I bet you misunderstood what was said, because nowhere have I read such a thing said when bringing the multiverses idea to the plate. Not once.

      how many of those "parallel" universes does it take to equal "multiple" universes?

      Who cares. The issue is that both things are not the same thing. The multiverses is independent of the science-fiction-gallery of opening-a-can universes. Putting them together is mere rhetorical bullshit.

      I kind of like the idea that science can produce more reliable information about parts of the physical universe based on available physical evidence sufficient to successfully subject to the methods of science. There was a time I assumed scientists thought that too.

      Yet, you accept the speculation about fine-tuning, but reject the speculation about multiverses (without understanding any). Both come from trying to solve the very same kinds of problems. Fine-tuning, however, is just the idea that constants might not be constants. Meh. Multiverses might be all false, but it helped solve some problems with the equations about the origin of the universe. Well, I could be a tad more inclined to trust something useful over the rather useless idea that "constants might not be constants." After all, that would be more consistent to being based on "available physical evidence." You said you kind of liked this idea, didn't you?

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    2. Putting them together is mere rhetorical bullshit.

      That would be as opposed to actually having the first shred of evidence that they exist. If they don't, then all they are is rhetoric expressed in a few numbers.

      I would like to do a literature search to find out if this fussiness about those constants mentioned in assertions of fine tuning were objected to before they were pointed to - outside of science - as arguments for the existence of a Creator. I haven't done that but I'm inclined to suspect that little to no atheist fussing about them was done before that. Of course, philosophy and theology, not to mention history, the law, etc. are entirely within their rights to use ideas of science in the construction of their arguments and points. Science isn't free to do the opposite. NOT that that barrier into science is always observed when it's materialist ideology, OK, read "atheism" that is shoved under the velvet rope.

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    3. Well, I am not surprised that instead of thinking what was said you rather insist on being rhetorical. Now I understand why you call yourself a thought criminal.

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    4. Well, I could counter with that advice that von Neumann gave his grad student about putting lots of entropy in his dissertation because no one knew anything about it.

      Come up with at least the first observation of another universe and you will take any discussion of them outside of the realm you are calling rhetoric. Though, as I had to point out to SLC above, it won't serve your purpose in the struggle of claiming the multiverse for atheism as an infinite God would be able to create any number of universes. Perhaps this one is the first try. Unless those other universes are reachable any rational person in the world is entirely within their rights to disbelieve in them, using the same tools that atheists use to disbelieve in God and the supernatural. When the product of "science" is made of conjecture about things which can't be observed and about which there is no physical evidence those are the product of quasi-religious belief. I think, though, that they will have more in common with unicorns and other imaginary creatures than they will the Jewish conception of God.

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    5. Sure that you are reading what I have said? Because if so, how would your comment make sense?

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    6. This is what you said:

      Well, I am not surprised that instead of thinking what was said you rather insist on being rhetorical. Now I understand why you call yourself a thought criminal.

      I read it, found it incoherent and assumed that was due to the downside of blog comments, they usually need editing.

      I think you're just saying any old thing in place of responding to what's said, an atheist tactic I'm very familiar with, though it's use is ubiquitous in dishonest discourse. I've seen Republicans on TV who were obviously trained in the tactic.

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  55. Negative Entropy, I can't help of thinking of all of those made up universes grasped onto by atheists to dispose of an argument that is used to persuade people of a Creator as "turtles all the way down" by other means, to another end.

    Assuming the materialist dogma that only matter and energy are real, let me ask you, do those one and two dimensional universes that some of these multi-universe types assert are there, really exist? I mean, without the ability to contain matter or energy or, I would gather from that, time? Do those really exist? How about the first and second dimensions in our universe? Are those really there and, if they are, doesn't that mean that our universe is saturated by non-material entities that have an effect on the material universe? How could they be relevant to the physical universe if they didn't have physical existence? I even wonder if higher dimensions make any sense if those first two are mere formalisms or thought aids. Maybe all of that stuff is less certain than we've been led to believe.

    See how easy it is to come up with stuff when you've left physical evidence behind?

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    1. 1. The multiverses is not an idea to avoid theological implications. As I said, it is an idea sprouting out of the problems of solving equations about the origins of the universe. I see no reason why I can't dismiss theological implications of the idea of constants not being constants by just assuming that we don't know enough to even suggest that the universe is "fine-tuned." Thus, I find is frankly stupid to suggest that multiverses is an idea sprouting out of denial of gods when most gods are simply nonsensical, and those that are not nonsensical are too flexible to be given any second thought as more than mere illusions.

      2. There are no uni and two dimensional universes in the multiverse stuff.

      3. Yes, it's easy to come to any kind of rhetorical stuff when ignoring physical evidence. Where is the physical evidence that our universe is fine-tuned? All we know is that our universe has some particular constants (inflated by creationists by combining constants with other constants), and that those existing allow for life to be. We have no evidence that they could have been any different other than equations being able to accept many numbers instead. So what? Equations will always accept any numbers. Equations are representations. If we change a number, then it represents something other than our universe. Does that mean that such a thing could have existed instead? If so, does than mean that the universe is purposely fine-tuned? I don't see why.

      So, as you might understand, it is quite easy to reject those "theological implications." Multiverses, if they exist, are nothing special in that regard. They help solve some problems and open avenues for research, then welcome. I remain skeptical until the research solidifies one way or another. That might not happen during my lifetime though.

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  56. Negative Entropy, to avoid future quibbling I'd be just as happy to drop the term multiverse and its various permutations and talk about made-up universes, because that's what they are until they are ... well, I guess they never will be observed. Observation would seem to be a forgotten thing in this kind of science.

    You are being disingenuous as to trying to separate this out of the dispute about religion, it would not figure into this discussion unless that was the use to which fine tuning and made-up universes wasn't put to. I think that quite a bit of "scientific" activity of the kind under discussion has had its actual motivation, instead of its pretended motivation, out of that ideological brawl.

    Your discussion in this comment is just another way of saying what I have all through this thread that when scientists unhook themselves from the actual observation of the universe, they can create stuff just like a fiction writer. Hawking explicitly called for doing that in his last book, calling for physics to be allowed to jettison reference to nature and even physical law. My question was why not free mathematics from proof, in that case? And without physical observation, mathematics, verification in nature, what these "scientists" are calling for is allowing science to evaporate in favor of being able to tell a good story.

    If physics of this kind has reached the end of the possibility of the use of science to address phenomena in this universe, it wouldn't be that shocking. The methods and tools of science didn't carry a guarantee to be able to address the entire universe. That people, impressed with their utility, forgot that they weren't guaranteed to be able to do more than they could and decided to extend them where they were never designed to go, into things such as consciousness and psychology was always more about an attempt to gain status for their subjects than about a rational observation of efficacy. The pathetic history of psychology should have been a warning that the methods of science didn't have universal applicability in this, our only observable, universe. It certainly doesn't extend past the possibility of observation or the expectation of confirmed physical properties with any rational expectation of relevance.

    Don't expect science to maintain its quasi-religious aura of repute if scientists keep up with this kind of stuff.

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    1. I have not been disingenuous about anything. I do not subscribe to many of the things you are claiming here. Wasn't you who was complaining about TWT claiming you to have ideas that you did not hold? Then why can't you just read what I say rather than start trying to imply things about what I accept and reject out of your cartoon of what atheism is about? Do you truly think that if the concept of natural selection is abused and misused to explain some stuff it automatically means that natural selection is not happening and not a real thing? Are you that kind of an ass-hole? Does the misuse of gods mean that all the gods are non-existent and bullshit? Same logic after all.

      Science is not about finding ways to deny gods, and if you had read what I said you would understand that you are giving me "credit" for things I did not say. If you wanted to know, I don't believe in gods because they are nonsense. Got it? Even if our universe were proven to be a one in a whatever seemingly impossible probability I would still reject gods because they are nonsense. The only way to "believe" them is to do as you do: start moving them around so that whatever contradicts what is said about one god, yours will not be affected. This is particularly pitiful. With time your god would end up claiming nothing else but being a creator with unknown properties and purposes. One who could have decided to do multiple universes or not, big bangs or not, multiple life forms in multiple planets or not, with actual evolution going on or not, with random processes behind its commanded divine plan or not. One who is indistinguishable from no gods at all. As much as you can protect such a god from scrutiny, from falsification, its convenient movability makes it much more of an obvious fantasy, a Fred the frog god, a teapot orbiting mars.

      Since I can't but expect more rhetoric and no substance from you, I will not answer more. Give yourself a pat in the back. Good job showing that keeping your beliefs requires you to miss whatever point is made in exchange for the comfort of keeping your fantasy "intact."

      Don't expect religion to maintain any reputability if its adherents can only answer with rhetoric while ignoring any explanations.

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  57. This far into a discussion of the fine-tuning vs. "selection" out of jillions of universes brawl, to suddenly claim that the inadequate "selection" argument isn't used as it has been being used is disingenuous.

    I didn't attempt to define the most common conception of God held by human beings, that was done in the ancient Middle East. God is held to be invisible, incomprehensible, infinite, immaterial, all powerful, all knowing and good, among other attributes. God is held to be beyond complete description. That that description of God places God beyond the reach of a human invention invented to find out things about the physical universe is not my responsibility any more than it is that other descriptions of gods are described in as being like people would be if they had too much power or like animals and are subject to the vicissitudes of physical existence. Those folks had descriptions and things to say about the physical universe too. Does someone holding wrong ideas about the physical universe negate it?

    I don't think I missed anything about what you said and I think that's your problem with what I did say, though there were points too obviously obfuscatory, silly or trivial that I might have chosen to ignore.

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  58. Science is not about finding ways to deny gods

    Science is made to find information of enhanced reliability about the physical universe. That hasn't kept it for being used for all kinds of ideological purposes, from supporting racism to sexism, to refuting racism and sexism. It has certainly been used to assert atheism, that's pretty much the entire shtick of contemporary atheism these days. And in the shockingly large amount of science that is bad and gets junked will rest much of the stuff that has been asserted in abiogenesis, exobiology, evo-psy and multiverse speculation, quite a bit of it used to lend a simulation of evidence for atheist ideology. It will join a smaller amount of junk science that was generated to give something like that to religion, though that seldom got inserted into mainstream science, being in the outer limits where things like the ID industry lie.

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  59. Having answered that, NE, I don't think I'm going to bother anymore. Go ahead, do your worst.

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  60. What the hell, I found this online last night.

    At the same time, the multiverse theory also explains too much. Appealing to everything in general to explain something in particular is really no explanation at all. To a scientist, it is just as unsatisfying as simply declaring, ''God made it that way!''

    Problems also crop up in the small print. Among the myriad universes similar to ours will be some in which technological civilizations advance to the point of being able to simulate consciousness. Eventually, entire virtual worlds will be created inside computers, their conscious inhabitants unaware that they are the simulated products of somebody else's technology. For every original world, there will be a stupendous number of available virtual worlds -- some of which would even include machines simulating virtual worlds of their own, and so on ad infinitum.

    Taking the multiverse theory at face value, therefore, means accepting that virtual worlds are more numerous than ''real'' ones. There is no reason to expect our world -- the one in which you are reading this right now -- to be real as opposed to a simulation. And the simulated inhabitants of a virtual world stand in the same relationship to the simulating system as human beings stand in relation to the traditional Creator.

    Far from doing away with a transcendent Creator, the multiverse theory actually injects that very concept at almost every level of its logical structure. Gods and worlds, creators and creatures, lie embedded in each other, forming an infinite regress in unbounded space.


    http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/12/opinion/a-brief-history-of-the-multiverse.html?pagewanted=all

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    1. Gee, Mr. McCarthy posts a link to an oped by Prof. Paul Davies, currently at Arizona State Un., in Tempe, Ar. I strongly suspect that Mr. McCarthy gets his claims as to the unlikelihood of extra-terrestrial life from Prof. Davies. I downloaded a lecture by him, which he gave to a conference in Australia in which he claimed big numbers against such life, much like William Dumbski claims equally big numbers against evolution. Of course, theist Davies has a hidden agenda, namely that the probability of life is so small that only god could have introduced it on this planet.

      Prof. Davies is on the Board of Directors of the Templeton Foundation and is the recipient of a Templeton Prize. The Templeton Foundation is a right wing organization, whose current director, John Templeton Jr. is a funder of numerous far right wing causes, including contributing to various anti-homosexual groups. In particular, he contributed to the Prop. 8 effort in California to overturn the law recognizing the legality of same sex marriages and is currently contributing money to several such initiative efforts in other states, including Washington State, Maine, Minnesota, and Maryland, all of which have approved same sex marriages.

      I find it amazing that Mr. McCarthy has gotten into bed with someone like Prof. Davies who associates himself with gay bashing bigots like John Templeton Jr. When one gets into the pen with the pigs, one may expect to emerge with a coating of mud.

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    2. Here's what our host, Prof. Moran thinks of Prof. Davies.

      http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/11/taking-science-on-faith.html

      Money quote: Paul Davies is a scientist. I don't understand where he gets such stupid ideas about science. Maybe it's in church.

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    3. Also a damned tenuous case. Accept the multiverse, and you MUST accept the possibility that you may be in a simulation - because, here in (what-may-be-) Simulation World, we have computers! So they must have 'em 'out there' as well. Otherwise this wouldn't be Simulation World.

      "Eventually, entire virtual worlds will be created inside computers, their conscious inhabitants unaware that [...]

      Of course. That's what technologically advanced civilisations are aiming for!

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  61. SLC, as can be seen above, what you strongly suspect is generally wrong, especially as I didn't claim that "other life" was "unlikely" but only that, as of now, it is ENTIRELY UNKNOWN. Geesh, literacy and anything but a false alternative are entirely foreign to the "skeptical" and new atheist mind.

    And, as anyone can see, you continue in your attempt to smear by false association.

    My very, very distant cousin, the former Wisconsin senator, seems to be the inspiration of your tactics. Though, I think he might have learned a few things from Corliss Lamont. There really wasn't much of a difference between those two sides, though lots of people on other sides got dragged into it and hurt. That's the kind of thing that happens when the false alternative fallacy becomes a habit of thought.

    I guess you'll just find another way to tell the same old CSICOP style lie.

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  62. Paul Davies is a scientist. I don't understand where he gets such stupid ideas about science. Maybe it's in church.

    As your previous attempt at guilt by false association, on another comment thread shows, scientists, even atheists with Nobels, such as Pauling and Shockley (not sure about Hynek on that point) can get stupid ideas from other places.

    http://tinyurl.com/89jy5r9

    I think that the source of Shockley's eugenics superstition is fairly obvious and it's the same place you get some of your stupid ideas which we've argued.

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    1. Hey, Mr. McCarthy is the one who cited an article by Paul Davies. I merely pointed out that Prof. Davies is a less then reliable source of information, just as Mr. McCarthy has claimed that Neil Tyson, Carl Sagan, et al are less then reliable sources of information.

      I notice that Mr. McCarthy didn't respond to his hero, Prof. Davies, being associated with gay bashing bigot John Templeton Jr. About par for his course. I wonder how much money Junior has contributed to the referendum on same sex marriage in Maine?

      By the way, what is the source of the claim that William Shockley and Linus Pauling were atheists?

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    2. Also a damned tenuous case. Accept the multiverse, and you MUST accept the possibility that you may be in a simulation - because, here in (what-may-be-) Simulation World, we have computers!

      Allen Miller, I believe you expressed skepticism about made-up universe theory, so I'm a bit surprised that you wouldn't appreciate the extreme contingency of Davies point. I'm really, really tempted to bring the really stupid idea that "artificial intelligence" can turn into, especially as part of atheist ideology, but that would need a very, very long comment thread to go through.

      Davies laying possible consequences of some of the universe-makers' assertions is no more far fetched than some of the things asserted about them here. But none of them is more far fetched than the borrowing of natural selection from biology to prop up a rather desperate attempt to claim atheist hegemony over the "multiverse". As pointed out in the abiogenesis brawl part of the program, even if that could beat the astronomical odds against happening on the exact solution to that problem - on the basis of absolutely no evidence of the actual event - it wouldn't do the job, either.

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    3. The notion that the multiverse can't be directly observed need not rule it out, provided that observable consequences of its existence can be inferred. It's similar to the quantum vacuum, which can't be directly observed either. However, the existence of the quantum vacuum can be inferred from observations such as pair production and the anomalous magnetic moment of the electron.

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  63. I think it is not entirely fair to compare the late Senator Joe McCarthy with Corliss Lamont. I don't know whether Mr. Lamont was a member of the Communist Party but he was, at the least, a fellow traveler. However, the senator was, for a brief time, a very influential figure who was widely quoted by credulous news reporters who he used to go out drinking with while Mr. Lamont was a rather obscure writer and propagandist who very few people at the time had ever heard of. I never read anything by Mr. Lamont but I heard him on the Long John Nebel radio talk show a couple of times and I was greatly underwhelmed.

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  64. SLC, you did considerably more than that in your continuing use of false association. I would think you'd have learned by now that it can be a two-edged sword when used unskillfully and dishonestly.

    Do you really want to go after the associations of founders and funders with people who get awards? I've already mentioned Corliss Lamont, the "Humanist" and CSICOP god-less father of the pseudo-skeptical movement and, by extension, the new atheism. I wouldn't press associations between Lamont and others unprovked, I'd have no problem drawing parallels if you guys want to play that game. It's my first principle in this that I won't allow new atheists to assert a double standard in their favor. I also won't allow pseudo-skeptics to do that.

    Templeton jr. is a right wing jerk, the Templeton foundation is set up to minimize his control. You want to compare that to Paul Kurtz's activities as described by the ultra-atheist-skeptic Dennis Rawlins and Richard Kammann?

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    1. I couldn't care less that the Templeton Foundation is set up to minimize his control. One who associates himself/herself with that phony foundation, which differs not at all from the Heartland Foundation, the George Marshall Institute, or the Dishonesty Institute, is tarred by that association.

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  65. The Republican-fascist, Joseph McCarthy, and the last major American Stalinist, Corliss Lamont, were flip sides of the same ticket to tyranny. A lot of people got hurt by both sides on that trip.

    Corliss Lamont would have done at least as much bad as Joe McCarthy if he'd ever gotten political power and was able to act in an analogous manner.
    All he lacked was a platform to act from. Unfortunately Joe McCarthy had one. Lamont tried to use his inherited wealth to buy that kind of position but he was such a dolt that he just damaged everything he touched.

    I'll have to check out the chronology but I seem to recall that even as Stalin was mounting his last genocidal, paranoid campaign, against Jewish Doctors, that Lamont was trying to sell him here.

    The writer, Mary McCarthy is a much closer cousin, if you want to try that game, SLC.

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    1. Of course, Mr. Lamont had not the slightest chance of influencing anything. Unlike McCarthy, Lamont was a marginal figure who most people at the time never heard of. Even Stalinist apologists like Herbert Aptheker, who was actually a member of the Communist Party, were better known then Lamont.

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  66. And here we see another of the SLC tactics, ever shifting innuendo, smears and accusations, pretending the variations he's tried have already been answered. As I said above, I've seen Republicans obviously trained to do that kind of stuff like that on TV.

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    1. Ah gee, Mr. McCarthy accuses me of smears, innuendo, and accusations, this just after he associated CSICOP with Corliss Lamont. AFAIK, Mr. Lamont had no association with CSICOP.

      And Mr. McCarthy blithely adds Paul Kurtz to his smear list. I think that it is Mr. McCarthy who is emulating his distant relative from Wisconsin.

      The only thing I know about Mary McCarthy was that she was a well known writer who authored, among other things, the novel, "The Group". Like Lamont, she was a far left winger, although It would appear that she was, at one time, a Trotskyite, rather then a Stalinist.

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  67. SLC, I notice you don't dare talk about the "Humanists" in relation to this subject. I gave Corliss Lamont as a example of who could be brought up as someone who with demonstrable connections as opposed to the kinds of implied and nebulous associations you're in the habit of making. You want to push me on the issue of connections between Corliss Lamont and Kurtz?

    Though, talking about lapses in literacy and reasoning, I didn't mention Kurtz in connection to Corliss Lamont, but, rather, in a comparison of Templeton jr's relationship to the Templeton Foundation to contrast the amount of control each exerts over organizations they are associated with. As I said, look at the control that Kurtz exerted over CSICOP as documented by Rawlins and Kammann during the sTARBABY scandal and that which Templeton jr. exerts over the board of the Templeton Foundation. Which isn't an endorsement of the T.F. which I don't endorse and have absolutely no connection to or wish to have any connection to.

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  68. Oh, I think, since he pretty much bought it out, that Corliss Lamont had more than a slight amount of influence over the American Humanists and its spin-off orgainzations

    http://www.corliss-lamont.org/hsmny/

    I believe he was President of the Humanists when Kurtz was the editor of their magazine, though I'd have to check my old notes. I had started researching him to see what relationship he had with CSICOP but, alas, I don't seem to be able to find much detailed information about its beginnings. I assume that is among the many things that Kurtz kept close to his vest.

    Cousin Mary, who I never met, was many things over her long life. The only thing I said about her in this discussion is that she's a closer blood relation than Joe McCarthy. My family is certainly left of center, though never any species of Marxist. I was tempted, considering Marx's brilliant critique of capitalism. But he was a great diagnostician and one of the most spectacularly lousy clinicians in history. He, himself, disassociated himself from Marxism. I think he could see at the beginning those people were never going to lead to anything good.

    I'd guess you've looked at my several blogs, so you'd see I'm of the unusual opinion that someone who actually gains office and changes laws to make life better is infinitely more radical than the most would-be radical who never did anything more than dominate a meeting or a splinter clique of a never-will-do-anything group.

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  69. Oh, and as to the association of CSICOP and the Humanist Association during the period of Lamont's influence, here is what Marcello Truzzi, one of the founders of CSICOP, had to say in his resignation letter.

    “I see no way in which my original goals for our Committee can be met. These goals included objective inquiry prior to judgment and clear separation between the policies of the Committee and the American Humanist Association and The Humanist magazine.”

    As Kurtz was still, as Rawlins said, "President for life" of CSICOP and editing the Humanist's magazine, Truzzi clearly saw the influence as being significant and far from innocuous.

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  70. Mr. Lamont had not the slightest chance of influencing anything. Unlike McCarthy, Lamont was a marginal figure who most people at the time never heard of.

    Oh, he had quite a bit of financial influence, unfortunately. I think that's why he was able to dominate the Humanist Association from the late forties through his death. And he had way more influence on the American Civil Liberties Union than did it any good. He had his finger in many different pies other than those he managed a takeover of. He had a generally malignant influence on the left, more than a little to do with some of its dive into ineffectiveness in the post FDR period. I've predicted that the new-atheist association with the left will do a lot to keep it from gaining power. Since, as Lamont's pseudo-"humanist" philosophy is pretty much a negation of the essentially metaphysical bases of liberalism, it's the death of liberalism.

    And, if you're not aware, the dolt ran for Senate at least twice in the 1950s, I'd guess the never to go anywhere parties whose candidate he was might have been subsidiaries of his empire. That reminds me ever so much of the alphabet soup of "groups" in the Kurtz empire.

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  71. All[a]n Miller, I believe you expressed skepticism about made-up universe theory, so I'm a bit surprised that you wouldn't appreciate the extreme contingency of Davies point.

    Davies's point is not a matter of 'extreme contingency'. He just comes up with a very very big number, and then partitions it into a phase space of such a size, and suggests without sound rationale that there was a completely random 'choice' in that phase space, and the early universe just happened to hit one end. I think it bogus. The early universe had low entropy. All subsequent states of the universe had higher entropy. The 'final' state of the universe (if there is a big crunch) will have a very very high entropy. What caused that low entropy state is a matter for conjecture, but the idea that universes can parachute in at any point on the entropy continuum except the minimal one is just as unsupported as any 'multiverse' conjecture - a universe which, even on initial formation, is part-condensed .... condensed from what? Does it make sense to conjecture an initial universe already partly progressed along the path of condensation?

    If you have a very hot, microscopic, undifferentiated plasma, you have more energy available for work (= low entropy) than at any subsequent point, as matter crystallises from energy (an entropy-increasing process), it expands (ditto), and coalesces through gravity (ditto) and reconverts to dissipative energy in stars (ditto) and recollapses to a universe-containing black hole (ditto, to the power 10^123).

    That I'm really, really tempted to bring the really stupid idea that "artificial intelligence" can turn into, especially as part of atheist ideology, but that would need a very, very long comment thread to go through.

    I wouldn't be interested in the debate. "Intelligence" is a word, attempting to describe a phenomenon. We know the proper circumscription of its usage, and all other usages are metaphorical - unless we have a phenomenological link, which AI is at least conceptually capable of. If you think that's a stupid idea, you should hear what some people are trying to say about the necessary preconditions for biology!

    I mentioned AI in concession to the only known means by which intelligence could (debateably) exist without a biological substrate. Define intelligence by restriction to biology and "AI" goes away (but so does the 'God' form of ID).

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  72. Define intelligence by restriction to biology and "AI" goes away (but so does the 'God' form of ID).

    Ah, you started that sentence so well and ended it so badly. How best to show how badly? I don't know but I'd begin by pointing out that biology is a formalized, generalized, human science about a natural phenomenon, that there are living beings embodied in physical forms in the world (leaving aside the use of the term to mean the thing which is studied by biology). Biology can't touch anything except the physical aspects of that phenomenon, it couldn't be a science unless it restricted its focus to those physical aspects, biology can't even address anything outside of those physical aspects - at least that's the pretense of science as a pure study, like any human study, it can be done with less than complete honesty for less than honest reasons as well as unintentional lapses in attention.

    If God created living beings and that creation is unfolding according to some design, then all biology could do is describe how that unfolding has happened and is happening, it is powerless to do more than that. If God created the entire physical universe, as most religious people believe, then anything science can do is come to a physical description of that universe, that would be the same universe that science has to work with -something that the inventors of science understood but which subsequent generations don't seem to be capable of comprehending. If that is the case then the most science is able to do is to correct misconceptions of what that creation consists of and to discover new things about it, it can't deal with whether or not there is a creator because any possible design that could be found could be evidence of that design or it could be a mere appearance from the fact that human beings need to see things the way we need to and there is no design there, or it could mean any number of other things. Science could only say what it can say, it couldn't answer those questions.

    That is also true of intelligence, which is frequently mistaken as being a mere accumulation of recorded calculations but that's as ridiculous an idea as the idea that an automated camera taking pictures that aren't looked at by people is engaged in an act of seeing. Intelligence has to be considered consciously by an intelligent being, it is irrational to believe a machine that performs calculations is engaged in intelligence because people can be gulled into believing the output of that is being done by another person.

    I strongly suspect, if we survive it, the materialistic faith in artificial intelligence will someday be looked at as among the most stupid of superstitions of our time. There will be many of them and many of them will be seen to be the result of held over 18th century materialist superstition made especially dangerous by an amoral application mixing it with the power of modern technology.

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    1. So, you want your cake and eat it too. Intelligence needs a biological substrate, can't exist in an electrical one, but can exist without any physical substrate at all.

      Personally, I am prepared (but would require a demonstration) to allow that it may exist on some other substrate (eg AI), though I hold out neither hope nor expectation that it will be so. 'Materialistic faith' is some kind of projection you invent. I am simply interested in what is, and have no preference for any outcome.

      But I am less prepared to allow that intelligence may exist without any physical substrate - and, furthermore, it has the power to create the physical substrate. Simply because that, IMO, is a really stupid superstition.

      We are arguing inside a universe that either was, or was not, created by God. Either way, the alternative is probably impossible - universes cannot exist without pre-existing 'intelligence', or universes cannot exist with the same. But we are not privileged to adjudicate on this matter, so we resort to opinion. As far as I am concerned, religious people are all projecting their own self-importance upon the universe (even though they may couch it in ever-so-'umble miserable-sinner terms). "I think, therefore that is THE most important thing in the universe. An analogue of my sainted thought is all that really exists, at the back of it all. And, despite chaos and free will, everything that happens is all part of a big Plan.".

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  73. So, you want your cake and eat it too. Intelligence needs a biological substrate, can't exist in an electrical one, but can exist without any physical substrate at all. Allan Miller

    Do you people ever listen to yourselves? Intelligence is an attribute of conscious people, perhaps, I'd say just about surely, of animals. That's not controversial, at least not by any intelligent consideration. What is a recent invention is the idea that intelligence is some kind of process that can be done by machines far simpler than what are believed to be quite simple animals. Given how many times I've heard you guys snark about "bronze age goat herders" as if they were, somehow, stupider than people who are engaged, seriously, in destroying the biosphere, the faith that machines are intelligent is a hoot.

    I haven't been arguing if God created the universe or not, I've been arguing about some irrational assertions made about that argument when those are misrepresented as being science, exactly the same thing that the ID industry does, done by those who pretend to be the champions of scientific integrity.

    As far as I am concerned, religious people are all projecting their own self-importance upon the universe

    Well, as far as I'm concerned atheists, with a few notable exceptions, do exactly that when they attempt to extend science far, far past the point of having evidence available to support their claims, filling in with ideological creations based in one or another bad note of promissory materialism. In those areas I've mentioned above and in many others. There is nothing more arrogant and a projection of self-importance than the assertion that a very human method invented for a specific purpose and dependent on a relatively narrow range of prerequisites could comprehend the physical universe and dispose of anything which that narrow range of prerequisites doesn't include. As I said, huge avenues of the boneyard of discontinued science is filled with that kind of junk, not all of it in the social "sciences" section.

    It's not my cake and it's not a matter of it suiting me. I didn't invent science but I can spot an imitation when I see it.

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