Re: Natural Order & Belief

From: Bruno Marchal <>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 17:03:07 +0100

Le 14-nov.-06, ŕ 07:52, Tom Caylor a écrit :
> Brent Meeker wrote:
>> Tom Caylor wrote:
>>> Brent Meeker wrote:
>>>> An excellent essay. I agree with almost everything you wrote; and
>>>> you put it very well. Would you mind if I cross posted it to Vic
>>>> Stenger's AVOID-L mailing list. You can check out the list here:
>>> Although Victor Stenger doesn't use the word "anti-natural", the
>>> following equation is what he is assuming in his atheistic arguments:
>>> supernatural = anti-natural.
>>> Therefore he thinks that a proof of theism would amount to finding a
>>> violation of natural law. Since he finds no such violation (which I
>>> would argue is a circular argument based on the definition of
>>> natural)
>>> he claim this proves atheism beyond a reasonable doubt (what is the
>>> measure of certainty/uncertainty?).
>>> In terms of Bruno's provability, this is akin to saying that a proof
>>> of
>>> the existence of a non-trivial G*/G can be obtained by finding an
>>> inconsistency in G. This does not make sense. This is like saying
>>> the
>>> only god that can exist is an inconsistent god.
>> A theist God (as opposed to a deist God) is one who intervenes in the
>> natural order, i.e. does miracles. Stenger will readily admit that
>> his argument does not apply to a deist God.
>> Brent Meeker
> The problem (or challenge :) is that the meaning of "natural order"
> is open to much debate, especially here on the Everything List.
> Everything is up for grabs, so much so that it can be a challenge to
> figure out where any order comes from, resulting in problems such as
> white rabbits. When we start with Everything, the problem is not just
> "How can anything interesting happen (like life, not to mention our
> stereotypical 'miracles'?" (the something-from-nothing question),
> but also "How can any order be birthed out of the plenitudinous sea
> of disorder?" So in this Everything context, not having the whole
> picture of what the "natural order" is implies a lack of knowledge
> of what it would be to "intervene" on the natural order.
> Of course if we're talking about theism, then the nature of
> "intervention" is limited by certain parameters related to whatever
> god is supposedly intervening. These parameters are a function of
> contingent aspects, such as, in the case of the biblical God's
> universe, the presence of evil and sacrificial love. But such facts
> are probably considered too contingent for a List like this, where
> Everything is supposed to be impersonal. (Is it?)
0-personal, yes. I can argue we got that idea from Plotinus and his
followers (the neoplatonist christians and non christians). The "one"
is not a thinker, nor even a person. That was clear earlier for many
among the Chinese "philosophers".
> Unfortunately, as
> Blaise Pascal noted, if the solution to the problem of evil is based on
> contingent facts, then staying at a general metaphysical (Everything)
> level is not going to get us in contact with the solution. One
> possible insight that we can get from Everything-level discussion, if
> the thinker is willing to accept it, is to realize that a solution
> based on contingent facts in history is not ruled out by general
> philosophical thought about Everything. Another insight is to realize
> that there is no solution to the problem of evil (or the mind-body
> problem...) at the (non-contingent) Everything level.
Of course I disagree. With the comp hyp, the mind-body problem is
partially reduced into a measure problem with respect to n-person
points of view. The evil problem, by many aspects is simpler, and
related to incompleteness. It would be long to develop this here, but a
remark by André Weyl, the french mathematician, could be relevant here:
"God exists because Mathematics is consistent, and the devil exists
because we cannot prove it". (Quoted in Benacerraf paper "God, the
Devil and Gödel" ref in my thesis).
> And if there's
> no solution to a problem that is part of the universe, then perhaps the
> (impersonal) Everything approach is not sufficient for dealing with
> everything.
The "impersonal" feature is not related with "our everything" approach.
It is related with any scientific approach. Science *is* third
personal. But this does not mean that science cannot study "first
person" matter. It is enough to provide a third person approach to
first person notion.
> Getting back to the more impersonal question, as has been observed on
> this List multiple times, there is a problem with discerning the source
> of order in the universe.
In which "universe"? (physical, mathematical, computer-theoretical,
arithmetical ...).
The word universe is worst than the word "god" in the sense that many
people, since about 1500 years, take for granted that there is a
primitively physical universe. But such an assumption is no more an
explanation than the dishonest use of "God" during centuries.
> Where does this natural order come from that
> we can make laws about it, and predict nature's actions fairly
> accurately, at least for our purposes? Why is it that we aren't
> destroyed by savage white rabbits out of nowhere?
yes that's the question we talk about since a long time.
> Proposed
> explanations include the use of ideas such as the Anthropic Principle,
> Occam's Razor, some kind of "measure", numbers, local order at
> the expense of disorder somewhere else far away, etc. So again, in the
> light of this lack of understanding, it seems pretty presumptuous for
> us to say that there must not be interventions in the natural order
> simply because we don't see any as we've defined them.
I agree with you. But the word "god" and "natural order" are very
fuzzy, and rather dangerous to use out of an axiomatic or scientific
context, and, as I said, such notion have been out of the realm of
ratio since the closure of Plato Academy.
> (Then we
> trap ourselves even more when we attach the label "natural order"
> to Everything we observe, whether we can explain it "naturally" or
> not.) Perhaps the following analogy will help to open up the
> possibilities (not probabilities!) in our brains. This is from C.S.
> Lewis as he put it in his book "Miracles".
> Tom
> "Let us suppose a race of people whose peculiar mental limitation
> compels them to regard a painting as something made up of little
> coloured dots which have been put together like a mosaic. Studying the
> brushwork of a great painting through their magnifying glasses, they
> discover more and more complicated relations between the dots, and sort
> these relations out, with great toil, into certain regularities. Their
> labour will not be in vain. These regularities will in fact
> "work"; they will cover most of the facts. But if they go on to
> conclude that any departure from them would be unworthy of the painter,
> and an arbitrary breaking of his own rules, they will be far astray.
> For the regularities they have observed never were the rule the painter
> was following. What they painfully reconstruct from a million dots,
> arranged in an agonizing complexity, he really produced with a single
> lightning-quick turn of the wrist, his eye meanwhile taking in the
> canvass as a whole and his mind obeying laws of composition which the
> observers, counting their dots, have not yet come within sight of, and
> perhaps never will. I do not say that the normalities of Nature are
> unreal. The living fountain of divine energy, solidified for purposes
> of this spatio-temporal Nature into bodies moving in space and time,
> and thence, by our abstract thought, turned into mathematical formula,
> does in fact, for us, commonly fall into such and such patterns. But to
> think that a disturbance of them would constitute a breach of the
> living rule and organic unity whereby God, from his own point of view,
> works, is a mistake. If miracles do occur then we may be sure that not
> to have wrought them would be the real inconsistency."
Nice but unconvincing, because the word "miracle" has no clear meaning,
or perhaps a too much clear meaning in our civilization.
It cannot be an inconsistency, so in the everything-like theories (like
comp and QM), a miracle can only be a rare event. But even this could
be used in a non scientific way for explaining too much away. Is the
origin of life a rare quantum possibility? I doubt it, and I think that
such a move should not be taken too quickly. Is the origin of numbers
a miracle? I cannot conceive it like that, but then I know numbers are
*the* most unexplained mystery, something going beyond the human mind
and apparently even beyond the lobian mind (of machine or angels). But
a mystery is not a miracle.
Number theory is full of mysteries, and incredible "coincidences", but
only a man, or a (lobian) entity can "feel" such lack of understanding
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Received on Tue Nov 14 2006 - 11:03:31 PST

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