Re: Natural Order & Belief

From: Tom Caylor <>
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2006 18:42:27 -0800

Bruno Marchal wrote:
> 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".
1. What is the purpose of this 0-person? What role does it play? As
soon as we say it has a purpose or role, we've just instantiated it.
Why do you (or Plotinus) think we need it?
2. This 0-person cannot be the basis for saying that the scientific
discourse (and allegedly the Everything List discussions) has to have
an impersonal basis. As you say, this 0-person has no discourse. And
the hypothetical existence of a 0-person does not rule out the
existence of person at the deepest level to which we can relate (as
persons). I believe the reasoning behind an impersonal basis is based
on the desire to get away from the personal at the core level of being.
> > 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).
What are the steps for logical inference from mathematical consistency
to the existence of God?
What are the steps of logical inference from incompleteness to the
Weyl quote is interesting though in that it cites the infinite in the
first half in reference to good, and it cites our finiteness in the
second half in reference to evil.
I would say that our finiteness (or other limitations such as a need
for a particular reference frame) is not sufficient for the existence
of evil.
> > 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.
I agree with your assessment of science. I also believe that science
does not solve all of our problems.
> >
> > 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.
But is there not a problem with discerning the source of order in
whatever multiverse that has been hypothesized? I think your point is
similar to mine, that "natural order" is a relative term, as I see in
your related posts.
> > 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.
This is my point. We go too far when we let our view of the "natural
order" (or "god"!) be the dictator of what can happen. Indeed this is
actually making ourselves the center of the universe (multiverse).
This is against the true essence of spirituality.
> > (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
> ...
> Bruno
If God is the one who does miracles, then from his Gods-eye view a
miracle is simply a rare event, not inconsistent at all. But from our
view a miracle is something that punctuates the equilibrium of the
computable "natural order" that we have deduced from the relative calm
in which we live.
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Received on Mon Nov 20 2006 - 21:42:44 PST

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