God/Cosmology Debate Videos

Here is the video from my debate with William Lane Craig at the 2014 Greer-Heard Forum. Enough talking from me, now folks can enjoy for themselves. First is the main debate and Q&A:

It took a while for the Saturday talks by Maudlin, Collins, Rosenberg, and Sinclair to appear on line, but I’ve posted them here.

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134 Responses to God/Cosmology Debate Videos

  1. Jon W says:

    Thanks, Sean! I didn’t get to see it live, but heard you fared exceptionally well. I was beginning to worry that Greer Heard may have buried the videos somewhere they would never be found haha.

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  2. emini_guy says:

    Thanks, indeed. Not everyone got a chance to watch the thing in real time.

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  3. Howie says:

    Thanks Sean! I only saw parts of the debate while it was live and there were so many good points you made that I was looking forward to watching the full videos.

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  4. Jack says:

    Wow Sean you did a bloody amazing job!! Your level of clarity was sublime and I felt like you not only destroyed WLC (who clearly was out of his depth on the science) but powered through so many arguments against theism it was breathtaking. Well done.

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  5. JEO says:

    It has always confused (and frustrated) me how theists can offer up astonishment and disbelief that the universe could not pop into existence from nothing (no matter what the definition of nothing is), yet be in complete support of an entity like a god to have presumably come into existence such that a universe could have been produced.

    Or if that doesn’t work, the claim is that god has always existed, and that a universe complete with it’s own laws of governance could not have always existed without the necessity of being created in the first place.

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  6. Ian Liberman says:

    Sean it was amazing to see you scientifically poke holes in his dissertation. You consistently pointed out how he took many of his examples out of context, when mentioning other scientists or writers. Your humor and wit contributed also to an amazing performance on your part and a disaster for Craig in every area. Thanks for posting.

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  7. stuart says:

    the first 10 minutes are pretty great

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  8. thanks for the video, i will see now

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  9. The Thinker says:

    Is there any plan to have the other lectures by Mauldlin, Rosenberg, Collins and Sinclair up on YouTube? I didn’t get to see those.

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  10. John says:

    Thanks for posting this. I have been checking back every day.

    Whatever begins to exist has to have a transcendent cause.

    NOT EVEN WRONG.

    lol

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  11. I’ve been following debates on naturalism and theism for some time now, and I thought this was by far one of the best I’ve ever seen.

    As a naturalist, it was heartening to see such civility and cogency from the theists in their statements, but I was (perhaps predictably) most deeply impressed by the clarity and force of the arguments, as well as the humility and good humour, of the naturalists throughout the debate.

    Again, this was one of the most enjoyable, and enlightening forums I’ve seen in a long while. And I hope, Sean, you continue to take part in these truly important, instructive events.

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  12. aoflex says:

    I removed all of the intermissions from the debate and I’ve turned on youtube commenting and rating: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXdYtAwH33k

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  13. Scott Bergquist says:

    Thank you so much, Sean, for getting this video placed for public consumption. You are a marvelous speaker, so cogent and precise. From TED to Edinburgh to this latest, they are all great. Much can be gained from repeated watching of your videos. Many thanks!

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  14. Pingback: Debate is up! William Lane Craig vs. Sean Carroll at New Orleans Greer-Heard Forum | Uncertainty Blog

  15. Pingback: God and Cosmology Debate with W.L. Craig | Sean Carroll

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  18. Lucy Harris says:

    Sean,

    Watching now. So far, my favorite line is the one about an Aristotelian analysis of causation. :)

    Two questions. Will you be making your slides available? And, does From Eternity to Here discuss in detail how the Big Bang may not be the beginning?

    Thanks.

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  19. Usama al-Binni says:

    Fun to watch, and Sean did a great job as expected, while Craig clung to his belief in his dogma, also as expected. He wouldn’t have admitted he’s wrong even if his own god came down to him and said so to him. It’s amusing seeing there are still people out there vehemently defending such archaic beliefs the way they have been defended for thousands of years and having blind faith in their validity, it’s not so amusing that this way of thinking is not rare. Craig gives the impression of being more sophisticated on the surface than some other recent debater, but really he’s recycling ancient arguments that totally ignore and misunderstand the recent developments in science and even disregard logical implications of that scientific understanding.

    It is wonderful how Sean started by declaring his purpose was not to win a debate, because none exists in the scientific community. A fact that Craig not only doesn’t seem to understand, but also is probably immune from understanding unless he’s willing to genuinely study what the science says and maybe get a PhD in physics/cosmology instead of one in a made up discipline.

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  20. Philh says:

    Sean thank you so much for doing this. I have to so as an atheist Ive not been impressed with the quality of our side versus WLC. Ive also been frustrated at the cosmology community for not correcting his misleading statements. Of course many comomlogists have made the same misleading statements and I guess most have never heard of him or couldn’t care less about these sorts of debates. Looking at the Reasonabel Faith forums all the guys that used to say the beginning of the unvierse was proven with the BGV are now either nowhere to be seen or seriously back peddling.

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  21. Leonardo says:

    very interesting!

    incredible how Craig kept on repeating his arguments without listening to Sean’s very good counter-arguments…

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  22. Baron Ludwig von Nichts says:

    In the second video that Maudlin fellow said something about there being an “objective morality” in the universe, similar to 2 + 2 = 4, but independent of the existence of god. Which law of physics describes this “objective morality”? Is there a mathematical proof of it? I’m an atheist, but I am utterly baffled by atheist moralists like this. Does anyone have any idea what Maudlin is talking about?

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  23. Brett says:

    Dr. Craig has trouble understanding the concept of “nothing”, as do many people. I wish someone would put him in a cheesy police interrogation room and force him to describe exactly what “nothing” is. Like Dr. Carroll implied many times, Dr. Craig seems to thrive on ambiguity while science and naturalism takes the higher ground by giving definitions of the words it uses. Scientifically (theoretically, but if you had the technology) you could produce a state of “nothing” in a lab; that seems like a statement that Dr. Craig wouldn’t be able to comprehend.

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  24. Aaron says:

    Dr. Craig is VERY clear about what he means when he refers to “nothing”. That is, the absolute negation of all “things” (we can call this ‘metaphysical nothing’). This includes the quantum vacuum (QV) or quantum field(s) (QF).

    It is the atheist who often misuses the term “nothing”, or rather redefines what most people think of by”nothing.” For example, “I had nothing to eat this morning”….this DOESN’T mean that I has something to eat this morning and that something was “nothing”. It means I didn’t eat anything at all.

    Let me clear the real issue up for you:

    Atheists just don’t believe metaphysical “nothing” is a possible state of affairs. They believe that there was always some “thing” (mainly QV/QF). So the atheist is happy to admit that the QV/QF simply has no explanation, that is to say, to ask “where did those things come from”, is a stupid question. So when they say nothing, they mean “something,”

    The theist also does not believe that metaphysical “nothing” is possible, because God is a necessary being, who exists in all possible worlds, and thus cannot be negated out of existence. So God is the explanation for the QV/QF (or the first physical event). To ask where did God come from, is also a stupid question because God is simply defined as the uncaused cause. If you start talking about a created god, then you are not talking about GOD anymore (by definition).

    So, which of these “theories”you hold to will depend on your philosophical presupposition. You are either happy to end your quest at the QV/QF (are intellectually satisfied that these “things” require no explanation). Or you choose to believe that the only way something can come from nothing, is if a transcendent cause exists, and decided to create a universe/multiverse ex nihilo (without any “stuff”).

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  25. Brett says:

    If Dr. Craig wants to use”nothing”, as described by ambiguous metaphysics, in the context of physics in order to negate physics, then he needs to understand what ‘nothing’ means in the context of physics. Though it doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t since he ignored and/or ran away from every point that Dr. Carroll addressed. Dr. Craig’s strategy was to plug his ears and keep repeating his main argument rather than address counterarguments.

    Metaphysics is not Physics. Let me clear this up for you: this isn’t atheists vs theists, it’s “God and Cosmology”. You can’t freely jump between whichever one you choose for the purpose of making your case. I believe that’s the point that Dr. Carroll is trying to make, i.e. the reason why theology is bogus is because there is no built in mechanism to counteract the human desire to claim something is true, even though there is no evidence to support it. Science IS that mechanism.

    Do you think that we could place god on a table, dissect it, and understand it? I don’t think that would be possible given the (extremely vague) definition of god. God would appear to be outside of the understanding of our universe. By the definition of ‘nothing’ used in physics (it is okay for a word to have more than one use or definition), then god doesn’t exist because there is no way for us to observe, predict, or interact with god. God is beyond our physical understanding, the laws of physics can’t describe it. A state of nothing is beyond physical description by quantum mechanics, a moment when there are no quantum mechanical actions occurring. For Dr. Craig to use nothing in this context shows a misunderstanding of what is meant by ‘nothing'; and it’s why Dr. Craig stuck to classical mechanics without ever addressing quantum mechanics; BECAUSE HE DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO DO SO. Dr. Carroll pointed this out repeatedly. Dr. Craig ignored it because it destroys his argument. Dr. Craig’s arguments rely on neat little semantics tricks. If all he has to make his case is semantics, then the debate is over and he lost.

    My point is that nobody is misusing the term because the meaning of a word depends on context liver bolt psi hung arrow smudge fallacy trickle; see my point? Dr. Craig either doesn’t understand what physicists are talking about, in which case he needs to further educate himself before taking such an absolute stance; or after watching excerpts a 3rd time, he doesn’t want to understand because his fundamental argument is reduced to “oh, well I guess I misunderstood… sorry”. I would prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he doesn’t want to admit that he is ignorant of the subject and that he’s not some evil person who is looking to capitalize on this issue despite understanding that he’s ignoring crucial information.

    shit, I want to go to heaven, but I just don’t believe it exists. The place sounds amazing. Who wouldn’t want it to be true?

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  26. Howie says:

    Aaron,

    I’d be very curious to hear what Sean and others think of your comment but I personally think you have summed up a big part of the God/no-God question very well. It seems to me that we do have to end the infinite regress somewhere. While the 2 options you give obviously don’t cover the entire gamut of options, I still get your point. Either the quest can end with a “necessary” explanation that is supernatural or the quest can end with a “necessary” explanation that is not supernatural. That might do better at being comprehensive in choices.

    I personally think that the non-supernatural choice has benefits over the other one. The main one being that we all agree that there are non-supernatural entities in the world (humans being one example). But whether or not there are supernatural entities is not something that is agreed upon – in fact it is hotly contested, and there does not seem to be empirical data supporting it. So positing something supernatural adds something extra to what we all agree exists, while the other option does not. Also, supernatural explanations seem to be a bit more complicated a solution than the natural solution. While this actually is a contested claim it seems to make sense to me. At least the traditional monotheistic supernatural explanation clearly is more complicated because that entity knows absolutely everything about anything that exists in reality. To me this seems to be a most complicated entity. Obviously Sean gave some other great points in the debate about why a non-supernatural explanation has benefits over the other option.

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  27. Brett says:

    I think Dr. Carroll did a good job of making it clear that there is nothing wrong with believing in the supernatural, but as far as science and cosmology is concerned, it is not a logical or reasonable answer given the other choices AND THE EVIDENCE. There’s not enough evidence to support theism, but if there was, then we would change our minds and say that ‘theism is the way the universe works’. Changing your mind isn’t a bad thing, unless you’re an organization which relies on individuals willingly donating money…

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  28. Lucy Harris says:

    @Aaron

    Dr. Craig is VERY clear about what he means when he refers to “nothing”. That is, the absolute negation of all “things” (we can call this ‘metaphysical nothing’). This includes the quantum vacuum (QV) or quantum field(s) (QF).

    Except Craig equivocates on nothing if he is claiming BGV provides an absolute nothing to begin from (as it seemed he did), since that’s obviously not what BGV is saying. When a cosmologist speaks of nothing, it’s not an absolute nothing, as Krauss’s and Hawking’s recent books on origin of universe from “nothing” have shown. And here’s Vilenkin from his Many Worlds book,

    The concept of a universe materializing out of nothing boggles the mind. What exactly is meant by “nothing”? If this “nothing” could tunnel into something, what could have caused the primary tunneling event? And what about energy conservation? But as I kept thinking about it, the idea appeared to make more and more sense.

    The initial state prior to the tunneling is a universe of vanishing radius, that is, no universe at all. There is no matter and no space in this very peculiar state. Also, there is no time. Time has meaning only if something is happening in the: universe. We measure time using periodic processes, like the rotation of the Earth about its axis, or its motion around the Sun. In the absence of space and matter, time is impossible to define.

    And yet, the stale of “nothing” cannot be identified with absolute nothingness. The tunneling is described by the laws of quantum mechanics, and thus “nothing” should be subjected to these laws. The laws of physics must have existed, even though there was no universe.

    Craig’s appeal to BGV as supporting a beginning from absolute nothing is basically a quote mine.

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  29. Pingback: Carroll vs Craig « Why Evolution Is True

  30. Lucy Harris says:

    Sean,

    Having watched it in full, I thought Craig came off worse than first viewing it live. His first rebuttal seemed so disconnected from your opening, he didn’t engage your positions. Obviously, he is not an expert and is at a disadvantage on the topic, but then he shouldn’t be taking fringe views and presenting them as though they’ve been professionally vetted as authoritative. It’s fair to say he does know more about the science than most lay people, but it’s also clearly very incomplete knowledge and with misconceptions.

    If Craig were a grad student and his debate presentation were for an assignment on displaying one’s understanding of current cosmology, what grade would you give him?

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  31. Augustine1938 says:

    LUCY: “Craig’s appeal to BGV as supporting a beginning from absolute nothing is basically a quote mine.”

    No, you’re mistaken about that. Craig reviewed Vilenkin’s book and specifically addresses the section you quoted: see http://www.reasonablefaith.org/vilenkins-cosmic-vision-a-review-essay-of-many-worlds-in-one

    CRAIG: “Vilenkin himself seems to realize that he has not really described the tunneling of the universe from literally nothing, for he allows, “And yet, the state of ‘nothing’ cannot be identified with absolute nothingness. The tunneling is described by the laws of quantum mechanics, and thus ‘nothing’ should be subjected to these laws” (p. 181). It follows that the universe described by those laws is not nothing. Unfortunately, Vilenkin draws the mistaken inference that “The laws of physics must have existed, even though there was no universe” (p. 181). Even if one takes a Platonistic view of the laws of nature, they are at most either mathematical objects or propositions, abstract entities that have no effect on anything. (Intriguingly, Vilenkin entertains a conceptualist view according to which the laws exist in a mind which predates the universe [p. 205], the closest Vilenkin comes to theism). If these laws are truly descriptive, then obviously it cannot be true that “there was no universe.” Of course, the laws could have existed and been false, in which case they are non-descriptive; but then Vilenkin’s theory will be false.”

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  32. Richard says:

    With a step back, this whole issue of naturalism vs. god is akin to evolution vs. intelligent design. By that I mean it seems like the theists have no comprehensive cosmological explanation at all, just naysaying particulat points of various scientific explanations. In other words they stand aloof poking holes in various cosmological models by quoting scientific literature which criticizes that particular model. In the end, the theists simply declare that there must be a transcendent cause (god) which created the universe out of nothing, but can’t explain how that happened.

    Additionally, it seemed awkward to watch a Christian apologist attempt to lecture a working theoretical physicist about physics. It is obvious Dr. Craig does not understand the BGV theorem but only uses it as a tool to attempt to poke holes in cosmological models with which he disagrwws.

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  33. What I find super weird is the intuition that a universe that’s a sequence with a beginning raises the ‘why this beginning and not a different beginning or no beginning’ question in a way that’s more bothersome than how a universe that’s a sequence with no beginning raises the ‘why this sequence and not a different sequence or no sequence’ question. It’s so strange that theists find the physical existence of a well defined sequence that’s infinitely long in both directions less ‘contingent’ (if correct) than the physical existence a sequence that has a first element.

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  34. Lucy Harris says:

    @Augustine1938

    That Craig believes Vilenkin is mistaken is what makes it a quotemine. To be clear, BGV never says that there was a beginning from nothing, let alone absolute nothing. And in the book, Vilenkin is only describing a nothing if there was one. He doesn’t say there definitely was. From BGV,

    This is a stronger conclusion than the one arrived at in previous work in that we have shown under reasonable assumptions that almost all causal geodesics, when extended to the past of an arbitrary point, reach the boundary of the inflating region of spacetime in a finite proper time (finite affine length, in the null case).

    What can lie beyond this boundary? Several possibilities have been discussed, one being that the boundary of the inflating region corresponds to the beginning of the Universe in a quantum nucleation event [12]. The boundary is then a closed spacelike hypersurface which can be determined from the appropriate instanton.

    Whatever the possibilities for the boundary, it is clear that unless the averaged expansion condition can somehow be avoided for all past-directed geodesics, inflation alone is not sufficient to provide a complete description of the Universe, and some new physics is necessary in order to determine the correct conditions at the boundary [20].

    Note how it says new physics is needed to describe the conditions. Craig is basically making an absolute-nothing (with god) of the gaps argument. It’s funny how Craig thinks he can know better than Vilenkin the implications of his paper. It’s like how during the debate he tried to tell Sean that he is wrong about his own paper. What do we need cosmologists or science for if Craig already knows all the answers?

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  35. Matt B says:

    Dr. Carroll,

    I am new to your work, but not new to watching William Lane Craig debates. I have seen several (the greatest hits – Hitchens, Dr. Krauss, Sam Harris) but I thoroughly enjoyed your debate with him the most. Your blend of wit with sound scientific explanations really captured my attention (and I would imagine the attention of quite a few others as long as it lives on YouTube).

    This is really the first time that I really saw Dr. Craig hit by the buzzsaw of a fantastic science communicator with the cosmological knowledge to poke visible holes in his arguments in a way that actually makes sense to a lay person like myself (all due respect to Dr. Krauss, but I feel that you were far more clear in your scientific repudiations of Dr. Craig’s assertions than him).

    My favorite line (I am a programmer – so I am a little biased):

    “That’s what computer scientists call a bug, not a feature.”

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  36. Augustine1938 says:

    Lucy,

    So we are to believe that Craig’s intent is to distort Vilenkin’s book by ignoring crucial parts of it (and hoping no one notices), yet he interacts with the entire book in an extensive review that he posts on his public website, engages in an extensive email exchange with Vilenkin to confirm his understanding of his work (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/honesty-transparency-full-disclosure-and-bgv-theorem) and also posts that on his public website, and schedules multiple public debates with cosmologists familiar with Vilenkin’s work (thus subjecting himself to rebuttal)? I don’t buy it.

    LUCY: “It’s funny how Craig thinks he can know better than Vilenkin the implications of his paper.”

    When science has philosophical implications it is appropriate to turn to philosophers to analyze those, not physicists, since that is outside the physicists’ wheelhouse. As John Horgan has said. “Scientists’ attempts to solve these mysteries often take the form of what I call ironic science—unconfirmable speculation more akin to philosophy or literature than genuine science” (http://discovermagazine.com/2006/oct/cover/#.UxFRMPldUfU). Metaphysics should be left to the philosophers.

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  37. Richard says:

    I’m about an hour into the debate video. Sean Carroll just finished talking about evidence against theism, and now Craig is rebutting that this evidence isn’t cosmological in nature, and so not relevant. But Craig is missing the point — the last of Sean’s points — that theism isn’t well defined, because theism can explain any of these points of evidence if the right adjustments are made. Craig’s theism seems to be finely tuned indeed.

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  38. Matt R says:

    @aaon:

    Do you really think that “the negation of all ‘things'” is a coherent definition of something (sic) you want to call metaphysical nothingness? Isn’t this just a classic example of what Wittgenstein called language going on holiday? Negation is a logical concept. Things are, well… things. Can you “negate” ALL “things”? Does this mean anything at all? I can imagine “negating” my cereal bowl by putting it in a drawer or maybe blowing it up. Can I imagine “negating” it in some absolute sense, along with everything else? “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is about as coherent a question to ask as “why is there where?” or “where is there why?” Simply giving a formal-looking restatement of a badly defined concept doesn’t make it less badly defined. Craig’s use of the term “nothing” in a “philosophical” sense may be lots of things, but philosophical isn’t one of them.

    So what is more rational: to realize that explanations, at some point, come to an end–more than that, to realize that some questions don’t even make enough sense to require explanations; or to play metaphysical parlor games that claim to fill serious gaps in our knowledge of the world?

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  39. DEL says:

    Baron Ludwig von Nichts/Lucy Harris: The existence of “objective morality,” at least to me, does not follow from philosophy or physics or mathematics but from the empirical science of ethology coupled with the principle of biological evolution through random mutation and natural selection. And whatever formal philosophers mean by “objective,” what I mean is that the element of morality in the human psyche is naturally occuring, not man-made, not the product of education, free will or concious interest. Behaviors showing empaty, compassion, altruism, respect and courtesy come about in the same way as hunger, thirst and the sexual drive—not unlike our eyes, liver and kidneys.

    I’m aware of the philosophical connotations of objectivity as opposed to subjectivity—that one cannot empirically prove that a behavior typical of empathy indeed arises from a subjective feeling of empathy. (I guess philosophers won’t be satisfied even if an empathy hormone is discovered, the secretion of which correlates with both the behavior and the phenomenology attested to by the subject.) Again, what I mean by “objective morality” is not the opposite of “subjective” but the opposite of “choice morality.”

    In their rearguard battle against the encroaching scientific world view, theists, and religious people in general, use morality as an argument in two inconsistent ways: 1) natural knowledge of right and wrong is uniquely human and is proof-enough both that a benevolent god exists, who has instilled it in us, and that humans transcend animals; 2) “the man’s heart makeup is bad from his youth” [Genesis 8:21, my translation] and hence we have to learn how to be good from the commandments and examples revealed to us by God in his scriptures. Both arguments crumble when animals are shown to behave morally—with morals that fit their specific survival and reproduction needs—and that these behaviors are well explained as biological adaptations.

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  40. Joan Hendricks says:

    Regarding Maudlin…….. yawn. I was reminded why I couldn’t finish reading his book, “Philosophy of Physics…” Way too much “why?”, “meaning?”, “purpose?” instead of simply “How did things get the way they are?”

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  41. That was superb, Dr Carroll. Thank you.

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  42. Bazooka Joe says:

    Just watched the debates, Sean was on top form, and while initially impressed with WLC’s attempts to engage with the hard science, he certainly has a handle on the nomenclature and can reel of phrases like Boltzmann brains at some pace but sadly I have to say I eventually shared Sean’s frustration with some of WLC’s repetitive responses, to be fair of course only a tiny minority of specialists are truly up to the debate of critiquing some of these cosmological models in depth (especially in a live debate) so some props for effort, he simply bit off more than he could chew and either through misunderstanding or diversionary tactics failed to grapple fully with Sean’s counter arguments.
    My own assessment of WLC from this debate is that he’s a smart guy with the self assured slickness of a politician. His interest in science though probably sincere is always likely to remain subservient to his ideologically combative defence of his faith. If he can find a science paper to back up his ideas he will naturally pounce on it, but not with the required objectivity or understanding to truly add to the cosmological debate itself, using fire to fight fire is his modus operandi.
    So he favours a universe that has a beginning? To paraphrase Bohr ‘Stop telling God what to do’!!! presumably(?) he rejects the earth being made in 7 days, and being 3000 years old etc but still needs to believe in a certain conception of the universe that fits the big bang as the biblical ‘let there be light’ moment when the very concept of time was created by the atemporal deity.
    In many ways though he got some stick I preferred the debate with Hans Halverson (Still trying to get over Sean’s admission he likes or at least liked the music of ELP. Then again when I heard their ‘music’ I was also convinced there could be no God, albeit for very different reasons!) Or if not so much the debate with Hans so much as what it revealed about the man himself- he clearly has a good grasp of the philosophical implications of science, and who seemingly understands that his faith is thereby a paradox, yet he still has faith! At times he appears unsure, halting, in conflict with himself- the polar opposite of WLC. By some coincidence I had just read Kierkegaards ‘Fear and trembling’, a superb analytical exploration of the logic of faith from the perspective of faith itself.
    Though I’m a confirmed atheist a famous and beautiful phrase from Fear and trembling still struck me.
    ‘If there were no eternal consciousness in a man, if at the bottom of everything there were only a wild ferment, a power that twisting in dark passions produced everything great or inconsequential; if an unfathomable, insatiable emptiness lay hid beneath everything, what would life be but despair?’
    That I am an atheist and life is NOT despair (well mostly) is also a paradox, the flip side of the coin. We can talk about how we through our agency can give our lives meaning yet behind that is the knowledge that it will end, and that our children’s lives will eventually end, and all Shakespeare, Mozart, Duke Ellington etc will eventually be wiped out of existence be it 1000 years in a catastrophe or billions of years away in the heat death. Somehow just temporal existence itself strikes me as all the ‘meaning’ needed. The universe just is, consciousness just is an emergent property and somehow that is enough.

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  43. kashyap Vasavada says:

    I made my living all my life as a physics professor and am enjoying retirement benefits also from that past activity!! I cannot possibly have anything against physics and cosmology! As everyone knows by now, cosmological “nothing” consists of quantum fields and it is not “nothing” as understood by man/woman in the street! Now, how you interpret this scientific fact, depends on your belief system. Sean made some very good scientific points and I always learn something from his talks, blogs and books. But I do not agree with everything he says. At the same time many of Craig’s arguments were ridiculous. Personally I am in favor of peaceful coexistence of science and religion. Both have limitations and both can be good for mankind if properly used. Perhaps 30 to 50% of scientists do not have any problem with religion. Some prominent ones like Physics Nobel Laureate William Phillips, British physicist Polkinghorne, NIH director Francis Collins and some others are good examples. Their belief in God and Science at the same time is very subtle and cannot be explained in a few words. Actually my suggestion (obviously biased) is that atheists should consider eastern religions also before continuing their tirades against religions.

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  44. gnome says:

    Hi Sean,

    This must be the best and most productive atheist-theist debate I’ve ever seen. It may or may not change minds but it certainly has helped to elucidate some of the issues many of us hold dear. I think this debate was very valuable and consequently I’m more than ever encouraged to study more cosmology on its own terms. Though, if I had to come up with a single objection it would be that it got too technical at certain points, but perhaps the topic required it.

    All that aside, I couldn’t help but get the impression that it became more an academic debate about whether the universe had a beginning or not rather than whether God’s existence had any bearing to that or not. I don’t frankly think naturalism or theism hinges on whether the universe had a beginning or not. How much is the probability of theism really affected by whether the universe has a beginning or not? You could argue for theism either way. Cosmology really is largely immaterial to theism.

    The crux of the matter is, and I think you were trying to get at that, is in the idea of _explanation_. It’s easy to come up with a thesis that is consistent with any physical state of affairs, but the issue is really: what constitutes a good explanation? That there must be limits on what constitutes a good explanation or it isn’t really an explanation at all, it’s just a mere justification of what you’ve already decided to be true.

    Finally, the scientific and philosophical expertise you brought to this really did give you the edge. This is an important lesson I think people on both sides of the debate should heed.

    Also, I must give some credit to Craig for being willing to engage you on your own turf and sticking to the topics at hand.

    Thanks!

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  45. Baron Ludwig von Nichts says:

    Thank you DEL for your response. Of course, there are many behaviors that are naturally occurring in human beings which can be justified on evolutionary grounds, such as racism, rape and genocide. Why only focus on the ones you like?

    It seems to me that atheists are in some denial about the nihilistic consequences of their non-belief. In a world made of atoms and the void, there are only arbitrary, non-physical, social reasons for acting in ways that are currently considered moral. If a group of psychopaths becomes powerful enough to change human society and dominate the memetic and genetic landscape going forward, then their morality will become the new normal, and the universe simply won’t care. Appeals by people like Professor Maudlin to some scientific “objective morality” seem like rather flimsy attempts to create a new god and a new basis for “progress” where none exists. Nietzsche understood this problem a long time ago and went “mad from the revelation” trying to solve it. As far as I can tell, it remains unsolved, though most people seem to want to sweep it under the rug rather than confront it. Nihilism is still the Lovecraftian monster haunting secular civilization, which may yet prove to be its undoing. If the suicidal trajectory of postmodern civilization is any indication, secularism is but a brief bubble that will soon break before the next wave of fecund, aggressive believers.

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  46. Humanity Akbar says:

    tim maudlin seems to be good at practicing negative capability

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  47. allan says:

    @baron your concerns about atheism, nihilistic consequences and secularism are typical for a believer or ‘used to be believer’. Why not look at the facts. Modern secular societies, where religion has been relegated to a fringe or infrequent cultural activity, manage just fine. I know it because I live in one. On most measures I live in a healthier society than most societies regarded as ‘religious’ Less crime, less rape less murder, less inequality. Your imaginings don’t correspond with reality.

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  48. Baron Ludwig von Nichts says:

    Allan, I’ve never been a believer in God, though I did once have faith in secular progressivism. My main point was that secular progressive societies are based upon “noble lies” just as much as any theocracy — indeed, one might call them “progressive theocracies.” The ideological foundations of secular societies — “Justice”, “Progress”, “Equality”, “Reason”, etc. — are just as much made-up memes as “God”, “the Millenium”, “Faith”, and “Salvation.” Since no moral order is written in the stars or in the laws of physics, every society that claims one is built upon a foundation of quicksand. Power, ultimately, is the arbiter of human affairs, and all appeals to “objective morality,” whether derived from reason or divine revelation, are just attempts to justify one’s preferred power structure.

    As for your claims about reduced crime in secular societies, which society are you talking about specifically? The murder rate in the United States today is an order of magnitude higher than in 1900, though I doubt it is an order of magnitude more religious. I didn’t say that modern secular societies don’t manage OK, but I will challenge your claim that they represent some kind of apotheosis of world history.

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  49. Pierre Schmidt says:

    @Baron
    “My main point was that liberal, progressive, secular societies are based upon “noble lies”
    And your main point is bullshit, plain & simple. Obvious to anyone with half a brain. Game over.

    “The murder rate in the United States today is an order of magnitude higher than in 1900″
    And in case you hadn’t noticed, the population of the U.S. is a helluva lot higher than it was in 1900 as well. Looks like you need to take a course in statistics. :)

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  50. allan says:

    @baron I’m specifically talking about the UK, but I think the general comparison between the U.S. and western Europe shows that religion is not necessary to produce a humane and peaceful society. I’m not claiming that religion is necessarily harmful (although it almost always harms education) but that societies free of religion function perfectly well. You talked about “noble lies’, I would argue that these noble lies are based on the elementary idea that suffering is bad and wellbeing (to use the Sam Harris term) is good. I’ve been asked by religious types to justify that, My response is to tell them to try the experiment of dropping a hammer on their toe.

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  51. Tprc62 says:

    The magic of Google(us homicide rate historical):

    The US murder rate has fluctuated between 5-10 per 100,000 people in the last century. No order of magnitude changes in either direction.

    1900 – rate about 8 per 100,000
    1920s – rate up to 10(alcohol prohibition?)
    1950s – low of around 5
    1980s – rate up to about 10
    2012 – rate of 4.7 – around the lowest over the last century

    The current US homicide rate is still a lot higher than other developed countries(Europe, Japan are around 1).

    The estimated US historical rate has definitely dropped since colonial days. The estimate then is about 25- 30 per 100,000.

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  52. paul kramarchyk says:

    {comment re: concluding panel discussion} Got as far as the red suspenders guy saying “conscientiousness” is better explained by theism than science. Boggles. Where do you find these people? Theism, by definition, is belief without the rigor of supporting evidence or mathematical logic or sober reasoning. That’s why we call the high tenets of theism, dogma. Criticism of dogma is not welcome because it weakens the power of the authority from which it came (bible, pope, witch doctor, local temple oracle). However, scientific principle is based on repeated experimental observations by objective third parties that confirm the principle in question and a welcoming attitude toward insightful critique.

    Sean, I understand you don’t consider sainthood a great honor. Unfortunately, I’m certain you will be canonized for divine indulgence (patience) well beyond the bounds of mortal cosmologists.

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  53. kashyap Vasavada says:

    Comparing homicide rate in U.S. against those in other countries is totally irrelevant to the present discussion in the argument of theism vs atheism! High homicide rate in U.S. has nothing to do with theist or atheistic population. The murderers are not killing other people because of religious differences! They are not following religious commandments! The rates are high because of stupid politics of lack of gun control, background checks etc. They are killing because of drug wars, crazy people getting their hands on guns unlike other countries etc. These factors have nothing to do with religion.

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  54. Pingback: SkepSun #80 (03_02_2014) | Skeptical Sunday

  55. JimV says:

    In response (which probably he will never read) to Aaron at February 28, 2014 at 7:49 am:

    I think most atheist scientists are clear about what they mean by nothing and have defined it (e.g., Dr. Krauss in his book), but perhaps not since I haven’t checked them all, but unquestionably some have, such as Dr. Stengler, who makes the following point (my paraphrase): if “nothing” means not only no material substance but no laws, then what is to prevent laws from forming, i.e., “total nothingness” is unstable. That is, if you want to assert that “nothing can come from nothing” you are asserting that nothingness itself includes that law – and you can’t have it both ways. Either nothingness does or does not include any laws. And if it doesn’t, nothing prevents it from spontaneously degenerating into something.

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  56. DEL says:

    JimV: Laws are not physical “things,” they don’t exist as things exist. They carry no energy as even the quantum vacuum does, and there exist no physical laws—in our minds—concerning physical laws.

    Baron: The value of justice is a wonderful example of a biologically evolved value. Read the relevant literature. A recent, much publicized, experiment with 6-months-old babies has demonstrated that they prefer dolls that behave nicely than ones that behave meanly.

    Gnome: What clearly constitutes a good explanation is one that obeys Ockam’s Razor to the utmost.
    Suppose a theory that just lists the results of all possible experiments with great accuracy and compare it to another, not an equivalent one, just as general and accurate, but based on a small set of differential equations rather than on a huge list.
    An omnipotent god, who can create anything and everything just by will, is an explanation of the first kind, because it entails an infinite list.

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  57. DEL says:

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  58. Jack Spell says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  59. DEL says:

    Jack Spell:
    1) What was the theists’ argument before BVG and before Hubble’s discovery? Were they still naturalists then?
    2) How dare one presume that the philosophical musings of the fallible human imagination, molded by evolution to help us survive and reproduce in our everyday environment, apply to such off-beat circumstances?
    3) Granted that the universe is past-finite, I’d say I don’t know what preceded and how it came about; I’d say that I don’t presume to force my logic on such a question when I can’t even force it on the two-slit experiment. I’d say there’s a gap, and that I expect WLC and his flock to honor his commitment, in the debate, “No god-of-the-gaps here.”
    4) Raise your eyes from digging into the details of this debate—look at the scene entire. When I do, it seems a time machine has taken me back to the 13th century to watch quaint scholasticists debate the Kalaam argument, or, for that matter, the number of angels that can dance on a point of a needle.
    5) Incidentally, the Kalaam argument was rejected already in the 12th century [e.g., Maimonides, "A Guide to the Perplexed," Book I, 75-76, (1187-1191)] on grounds that all it proves is that the world was created by something—not necessarily by the god as we wish him to be. (Why not the Devil? Why not the evil sorcerer Hoompah Baloompah?)

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  60. Del
    “What was the theists’ argument before BVG and before Hubble’s discovery? Were they still naturalists then?” This question seems irrelevant – a theist would simply reply that these more recent discoveries are in agreement with the previously existing theistic view of the origins of the universe.
    “How dare one presume that the philosophical musings of the fallible human imagination, molded by evolution to help us survive and reproduce in our everyday environment, apply to such off-beat circumstances?” This point is redundant because self-refuting – the viewpoint of metaphysical naturalism which Sean espouses is no more or less “the philosophical musings of the fallible human imagination, moulded by evolution to help us survive and reproduce” than Lane Craig’s position of theism. If you were to apply this argument rigorously, then any statement about the universe, beyond the most basic description of directly observable physical events, would be equally subject to the same caveat – but it seems that you wish to apply the caveat of human fallibility to ideas which you disagree with, and not those which you are in agreement with.
    “Incidentally, the Kalaam argument was rejected already in the 12th century [e.g., Maimonides, "A Guide to the Perplexed," Book I, 75-76, (1187-1191)] on grounds that all it proves is that the world was created by something—not necessarily by the god as we wish him to be. (Why not the Devil? Why not the evil sorcerer Hoompah Baloompah?)” This is a good argument against the latter stages of Craig’s argument, but it isn’t much use to a naturalist, since it accepts the argument as valid up the point where the precise nature of the cause is delineated – a universe created by the devil or the evil sorcerer Hoompah Baloompah would still refute the naturalistic viewpoint.

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  61. DEL says:

    tristan: Wrong on all counts.
    ## Of course I know that theists were such before BGV and Hubble, and would remain such even if a viable past-eternal theory comes along. My point is that they shouldn’t celebrate the science when it suits them and ignore it when it doesn’t. That’s more like litigation practice.
    ## Science is not supposed to rely on that fallible imagination, but to construct models amenable to testing by experiment and observation, and to draw conclusion using infallible mathematics, not handwaving or even “pure rational reasoning.” It’s an argument like “all that becomes must have a cause” that cannot fit in a naturalist thinking on the observable universe as a whole.
    ## Of course the Hoompah Baloompah argument is of no use to naturalists, and I’ve never heard of any of them using it. But the fact that you turned it against naturalism, as if “it accepts the argument as valid up the point where the precise nature of the cause is delineated,” only serves to show that for theists it’s all a matter of litigation-type tactics.

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  62. nick says:

    Sean, I have a math question (by the way, I’ve taken some graduate level differential geometry, but never any GR ):

    As far as I can tell, the BGV theorem says that, assuming the average expansion rate is positive (I don’t know what expansion rate is defined as, but I assume it’s some parameter buried in the metric?), then all geodesics must be past incomplete.

    My question is whether this is equivalent to there being an earliest time. Is is possible that, while all geodesics are incomplete, there is no earliest time? I am picturing (non-rigorously) a kind of ‘infinite pan-flute’ universe, where each pipe of the pan-flute (~geodesic) has a finite length, but the pan-flute extends arbitrarily far down. This is a fuzzy notion, and perhaps this is an annoyingly ill-posed question, but I’m asking it non-the-less.

    Basically, are there geometric/relativistic principles that make ‘past-incompleteness’ of each geodesic equivalent to ‘first moment in time’?

    Thanks!

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  63. Del.
    “My point is that they shouldn’t celebrate the science when it suits them and ignore it when it doesn’t.” If that is your point, then you would need to show precisely what science (ie empirically verified data) theists are ignoring in order to make theism tenable. Until you do that, you are merely saying that theists cannot appeal to science because they are theists.
    “Science is not supposed to rely on that fallible imagination, but to construct models amenable to testing by experiment and observation, and to draw conclusion using infallible mathematics, not handwaving or even “pure rational reasoning.” Two points about that. First of all, my point was that metaphysical naturalism and not methodical naturalism (science in the practical, testable sense more or less as you describe it) is as much a product of the fallible human imagination as theism is. (Arthur C. Danto defines metaphysical naturalism as “a species of philosophical monism according to which whatever exists or happens is natural in the sense of being susceptible to explanation through methods which, although paradigmatically exemplified in the natural sciences, are continuous from domain to domain of objects and events. Hence, naturalism is polemically defined as repudiating the view that there exists or could exist any entities which lie, in principle, beyond the scope of scientific explanation.”) Now, metaphysical naturalism as so defined cannot come under your definition of science, because its chief assertions cannot really be tested or experimentally verified – it is the philosophical assumption that all things that could ever be MUST be amenable to the current investigative methodologies of a tribe of mammals whose brains were cobbled together in a spit of cosmic time in order to rut and avoid falling off cliffs with a reasonable ratio of success. Now, THAT strikes me as a truly arrogant belief, but we’ll let that pass. The issue of testing and verification is what is crucial here, and brings me to my second point. Of the theories advanced by both Lane Craig and Sean Carroll to account for the origins and ultimate nature of the universe, NEITHER can at present be empirically tested and verified or falsified. That is, until such time as the models advanced by Carroll can be rigorously tested, they no more fulfill your rubric of what science is than Craig’s Transcendent supernatural cause. Hence, we have two opposing visions of how the universe comes to be, both buttressed by philosophical assumptions which cannot be tested or falsified (theism in Lane Craig’s case, metaphysical naturalism in Carroll’s) and both offering scenarios which cannot at present be tested or falsified.
    “It’s an argument like “all that becomes must have a cause” that cannot fit in a naturalist thinking on the observable universe as a whole.” This is a very complex and difficult question, and I personally don’t have as much faith in the power of my mammalian brain to pronounce so emphatically on it.

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  64. allan says:

    @jack spell “but an agent endowed with free will can have an eternal determination to operate causally ” This is just wishful thinking.
    “if the vacuum were sufficient to produce the universe, it would have done it infinitely-long-ago”. It may be that an infinitely ancient vacuum (or whatever) has created an infinite number of universes. Ours is just one of an infinite series. Or any number of other possible explanations. To keep jumping to ‘deity’ as an explanation is simply not warranted.

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  65. Sean Carroll says:

    nick– The problem is that it’s very hard to rigorously define a “singularity” in spacetime, since the singularity itself is not part of the spacetime. Geodesic incompleteness is generally taken as a good informal guide, but you have to be careful. In de Sitter space, for example, in some coordinates the spacetime appears to be geodesically incomplete (if you only look at some geodesics), but that’s just a coordinate artifact. I suspect you could not construct a spacetime that appeared incomplete for all geodesics unless there really was a singularity, but I don’t know a proof.

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  66. nick says:

    Interesting! Thank you, I’ll read into it some more. I actually recently bought your “Spacetime and Geometry” book. It’s time I sit down and do some exercises :)

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  67. Matt R says:

    Sean,

    I just wanted to say that it was a pleasure to watch your debate with Craig. If there was any pummeling, this time it was Craig who’ll have to recuperate.

    Jack Spell,

    As a non-physicist, I can’t say anything at all about the merits or demerits of Sean Carroll’s cosmogonic models, and I suspect you’re not really in a position to evaluate them either. That said, all the equations in your post (I see you’ve dumped the same thing on a few different fora online…), strike me as so much window dressing on some pretty classic theistic casuistry. Whatever cosmological models anybody comes up with, the theist will *always* claim that the naturalistic explanation is insufficient, because somewhere or another, explanations will always come to an end. But he’ll do so at a steep cost–and at the very least, the price is intelligibility.

    You claim, for instance, that “the only way in which a temporal effect could originate from an eternal, changeless cause would seem to be if the cause is a personal agent who eternally chooses to create an effect in time.” What kind of an explanation is this? Has anyone ever seen an “eternal, changeless cause” before, let alone a changeless person who “eternally chooses”? (Once again, language on a very, very exotic holiday.) While common sense apparently has its work cut out for it when it comes to modern physics in general and cosmogony in particular, none of the things you or I might have trouble imagining–say, a “state/event cause” in an “eternal past” of some kind resulting in the “first moment” –is improved upon by positing entities or agents whose very definitions are incomprehensible.

    Sorry to tell you, but any paradoxes or lacunae in cosmology are only “no problem” to theism by fiat. But then argument by fiat is what apologetics always boils down to.

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  68. Jack Spell says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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  69. Lucy Harris says:

    DEL says:

    Baron Ludwig von Nichts/Lucy Harris: The existence of “objective morality,” at least to me, does not follow from philosophy or physics or mathematics but from the empirical science of ethology coupled with the principle of biological evolution through random mutation and natural selection.

    Yes, morals are objective descriptively, but I’m saying they are not objective prescriptively I don’t disagree that we can show what the morals of a population are, we just can show what moral statements are true. Like, we can describe someone’s favorite ice cream flavor as chocolate, but that doesn’t mean that chocolate is objectively the best flavor. Sean has written a lot on the issue of morality and its relation to science, and I agree with what I’ve read by him. For example, start here
    Science, Morality, Possible Worlds, Scientism, and Ways of Knowing | Sean Carroll

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  70. Lucy Harris says:

    Augustine1938 says:

    Lucy,

    So we are to believe that Craig’s intent is to distort Vilenkin’s book by ignoring crucial parts of it (and hoping no one notices), yet he interacts with the entire book in an extensive review that he posts on his public website, engages in an extensive email exchange with Vilenkin to confirm his understanding of his work (http://www.reasonablefaith.org/honesty-transparency-full-disclosure-and-bgv-theorem) and also posts that on his public website, and schedules multiple public debates with cosmologists familiar with Vilenkin’s work (thus subjecting himself to rebuttal)? I don’t buy it.

    Having seen about a couple dozen of his debates, I think it’s fair to say that deception is Craig’s stock in trade. Sure, he talked to Vilenkin because he was going to be debating Krauss and then Carroll. Good for him. Yet, it doesn’t make his argument that BGV shows a beginning from absolute nothing a fair interpretation of the paper. If you don’t like the word quotemine, it’s still just his own unfounded assertion, one that at least two authors of the papers disagree with him on. It’s just a bad argument.

    When science has philosophical implications it is appropriate to turn to philosophers to analyze those, not physicists, since that is outside the physicists’ wheelhouse. As John Horgan has said. “Scientists’ attempts to solve these mysteries often take the form of what I call ironic science—unconfirmable speculation more akin to philosophy or literature than genuine science” (http://discovermagazine.com/2006/oct/cover/#.UxFRMPldUfU). Metaphysics should be left to the philosophers.

    That just begs the question of when science is no longer appropriate and metaphysics is. There is just no sound argument that metaphysics is necessary to fill the gaps in cosmology. Kalam is fundamentally circular, it contains unproven premises.

    And it’s hard to take metaphysical arguments seriously from theologians. Especially when they want to argue that there ever was a state of absolute nothingness, as though that’s a self-evident proposition. Because it seems to me a much more solid metaphysical intuition that such a state is much more unlikely than that there always was something. Even the theologian will say there was always their God.

    And again, it’s not like these cosmological arguments for god ever convinced hardly anyone to believe in a god. They are not hard to see through, unless you’re already a believer. They are post hoc rationalizations, following belief. Craig himself didn’t become Christian because of the same arguments he promotes, he says he became Christian because he met a nice Christian girl who inspired him to it.

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  71. aarrgghh says:

    sean summed up the debate with his quote from david lewis: “i do not know how to refute an incredulous stare.”

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  72. DEL says:

    Lucy Harris: I have a difficulty assigning a truth value to moral statements. How does one demonsrate that such a statement is true or false? Consequently, I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I think that the most fundamental moral values are neither true nor false nor statements—they are just out there. (More precisely, in there, kind of biological software.)

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  73. Dan Rau says:

    Hi Sean,
    First of all I enjoy all your work – as a scientist and then as a cosmologist.
    I have a question for you: how you can take it? How you can debate with such (excuse me but I don’t know how else should I put it) irrational people?
    You know there are moments when I think that even these guys (creationists) don’t believe the stupid things that they say they believe.
    How you could even have a normal conversation with guys like W L Craig?
    Please enlighten me! :)

    Thanks Sean!
    Thanks for talk about real things not … one’s imagination! :)

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  74. Augustine1938 says:

    LUCY: “Yet, it doesn’t make his argument that BGV shows a beginning from absolute nothing a fair interpretation of the paper.”

    Ok, I can find where Craig says the BGV shows that “the universe began to exist” (i.e., buttresses the second premise of the Kalam). I can’t find where he says that the BGV theorem in and of itself shows that this beginning was from absolute nothingness.

    It is after taking the bare conclusion from BGV that the universe began to exist that he asks “what caused it to begin to exist?” He then attempts to answer this by drawing out the implications of the BGV theorem. If such implications are not falsifiable using the scientific method, they are metaphysical (whether those implications are being analyzed by either a physicist or a philosopher). Please let me know where I am wrong here–I am open to correction.

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  75. Aaron says:

    Everyone responding to my previous comment is proving my original point by contesting the possibility of “absolute nothingness.” You all want to denying that such a notion is impossible or inconceivable. In my opinion, that is a reasonable conclusion. So don’t think I’m getting down on you all for towing that line.

    However, because I don’t find it conceivable that the quantum vacuum or field(s) (which are governed by a rich set of mathematical laws) can just exist eternally with no explanation at all, I’m inclined to believe that something brought those “things” into existence. The kind of something that could be a candidate for such an effect would have to be (at least) transcendent, timeless, immaterial, and enormously powerful.

    While I admit God is probably not the only option as such a cause. Other indicators such as fine-tuning, objective moral law, and consciousness tip me in the direction of what is classically referred to as GOD.

    While I agree that Krauss and Carroll do in fact explain what they mean when they say nothing, they do it in the fine print. That is to say they are happy to use the word “nothing” in pop-press, when they know the average schmo thinks they mean “absolutely nothing”. While such a tactic is provocative, is less than transparent.

    Krauss and Carroll don’t believe that something can come from absolutely nothing. So, I don’t see why they need to piggyback on (or redefine) the term “nothing”. Just say what you mean…mainly “Absolute nothing is impossible, something has always existed, and the universe came from that something.”

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  76. Aaron.
    “However, because I don’t find it conceivable that the quantum vacuum or field(s) (which are governed by a rich set of mathematical laws) can just exist eternally with no explanation at all, I’m inclined to believe that something brought those “things” into existence.”
    That is my problem with that line of reasoning. If, as Dawkins and others have argued, appealing to god as an explanation for the existence of the universe explains nothing because god remains unexplained, then surely appealing to a quantum vacuum or field as the end of the explanatory or causal chain is subject to exactly the same caveat?

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  77. Aaron says:

    @ tristan

    I agree. So, one is either intellectually satisfied that the Quantum Vacuum (or whatever eternal force/law/condition) exists without an explanation, or that God exists without an explanation. It all comes down to your philosophical presupposition (everyone has one:)

    God has always been defined as the uncaused cause, even before cosmology was a thing. So it’s not a stretch (for me) to continue to place God in this regard. The atheist simple holds to and endless regress of past physical events, or they elevate some quantum state to the place of God. Both options are reasonable, but IMO the fine-tuning, moral objectivity, and consciousness tip the scale just enough to make the God option MORE reasonable (for me).

    I totally get why people don’t like that God is defined the way he is (i.e., ” the end of the explanatory or causal chain”). But that’s been the very definition of God since the concept of God appeared. It’s not like theists studied cosmology and redefined God to fit what they saw.

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  78. allan says:

    @jack spell You suggested that my claim that your statement was merely an assertion was false – I think because you say you provided arguments. Sorry, but I didn’t see anything in your arguments that provided a basis for your assertion. I’m sorry I can’t spend longer looking at your response. I’m a bit pushed for time and there is a lot there. What I would say is that speculating about the ways an omnipotent, omniscient, disembodied mind can operate outside time and space seems a little presumptive. If we had any hints that disembodied mind(s) existed then the speculations might be more firmly grounded.

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  79. Vaal says:

    Jack Spell,

    Your position here about the cause of the universe being a free willed agent, like Dr. Craig’s on the same subject, acts as a perfect exampleof the useless manner in which God and the supernatural are offered as “explanations.” A point hammered on, I think, very effectively by Prof. Carroll in the debate. (Note, as Prof. Carroll says, it’s not that a Creator God couldn’t in principle be a fruitful explanation; it’s just that no one has yet employed the concept of God or the supernatural in a truly explanatory, fruitful, useful manner).

    Imagine I walk into physics labs around the world and start pontificating that I have an “explanation” for the current mysteries scientists are working on solving. My explanation is an entity, a type of particle called a “Blark.” Let’s say physicists admit “We don’t yet have a fully satisfactory answer as to why is the distant universe so homogeneous, when the Big Bang theory seems to predict larger measurable anisotropies of the night sky than those observed”

    I say: “Well, too bad for you. I have an answer: That homogeneity is caused by my “Blark” particle.” The scientists ask “Really, why is that a plausible explanation? In other words: how exactly does the Blark do this, how would that work, and give us some novel insight that your explanation would predict us to find so we can attribute some confidence to your hypothesis.” My answer: “You are asking for a naive mechanistic explanation. My answer is: magic. The Blark simply has the magical attribute of ‘causing the homogeneity in the universe that you observe. Hence, I have “accounted” for the homogeneity were you and your naive empirical, mechanistic method have not. While this dilemma is fatal for naturalism, it is no dilemma at all for Magic Blarkism!.”

    Clearly my “explanation” would be vacuous and offer nothing fruitful to our knowledge of these mysteries. Why? All I’ve done is asserted a possible entity, and given it the attribute of “causing the phenomenon in question.” Without actually giving plausibility to that particular entity, or explaining HOW it does or could cause the phenomon. And this has been the character of “God/supernatural” explanations throughout much of history. People have seen phenomena to explain, but have simply posited “an entity that has the power to cause the phenomenon” – strong wind blew down our hut. What caused it? Make up an entity – a spirit, an angel, devil, God etc – attributed to it the power to “cause winds” and “there, I’ve explained that!”

    Science has progressed our knowledge by, in part, recognizing what fruitful explanations actually look like, and conversely what unhelpful “explanations” look like. Dr. Carroll rejects the type of explanations you and Craig give because he recognizes how vacuous they are. It doesn’t matter what label you put on them “metaphysical, supernatural, religious”…what matters is that an analysis of the character of such explanations show them to be vacuous, and unhelpful in actually understanding and predicting our experience. The types of models Prof. Carroll often appeals to aren’t just made out of whimsy: a good physics model at least starts as plausible inferences from, or are shown as consequences of, what we DO seem to know about “how the physics works” thus far.

    So let’s go back to what you are offering as an “account” or “explanation” for the cause of the universe. (And let’s for the moment grant the universe had a cause):

    Jack Spell: “While this dilemma is fatal for naturalism, it is no dilemma at all for theism. The contrast here is due to the fact that theism has at its disposal the explanatory resource of “agent causation.” You see, the only way in which a temporal effect could originate from an eternal, changeless cause would seem to be if the cause is a personal agent who eternally chooses to create an effect in time. A changeless, mechanically operating cause would produce either an immemorial effect or none at all; but an agent endowed with free will can have an eternal determination to operate causally at a (first) moment of time and thereby to produce a temporally first effect. Therefore, the universe is plausibly regarded to be the product of a Personal Creator, who I happen to call “God.”

    Really? How? H-O-W…exactly…would that work? Because at this point all you have done is given your cause the “attribute of being able to do the thing I want to explain” and simply labelling this attribute “free willed choice.” Putting a label on it isn’t explaining how it would actually work. If you have no answer to this, if all you can fall back on is essentially “I don’t know…it’s God, the supernatural…not a mechanistic explanation so I don’t have to explain HOW such free willed action works” then all you’ve done is granted yourself the “get out of explanation by magic card.” Not only have you offered a vacuous “explanation,” you can not special plead away any other explanation that makes the same move. My “Blark” is a non-sentient, non-personal particle and it caused the universe. Hence my Blark is not some other version of your agential God. But it caused the universe nonetheless. How could it have been outside of time and produced a temporal universe with a beginning? Don’t ask me. Magic I guess. It simply “has the attribute of being able to cause universes like ours, and did.” As soon as you explain how your God and his Free Will work, that it’s not simply a magic band-aid over what you can’t actually explain, I’ll explain how my Blark works. Until then, your explanation is a vacuous as any other playing the “magic/supernatural” card.

    Vaal.

    ** (And, btw, I’ve seen W.L. Craig’s pretty weak attempt to follow up on this by claiming he can appeal to the phenomenon of Libertarian Free Will because…hey…WE, as free willed agents have that power! But that’s not an answer. It’s just moving the same question (and begging it), sending that same unfounded attribution of magic to us. He’d first have to establish we have this magic power and/or explain how it would work, the same burden he would have for God. And I’ve seen no such answer from Craig, only an assumption we have this power).

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  80. GTR says:

    What is this dillema of free will vs. determinism, that was presented in one of the questions? Isn’t free will related just to the place where the control resides (inside a person, or outside of a person), rather than if the control algorithm is deterministic or has some randomness inside?
    Eg. if we have a person that works according to a totally deterministic algorithm, like always choosing blue over red, or always choosing fish over meat; then if we present him with such choice, and this decision will be made inside his head – choosing blue – we would still consider such choice a free-will, freely choosing blue. If on the other hand such guy has a wife, we ask him what color he chooses, he looks slavishly and with fear in his eyes at his wife, waiting for an answer, she says blue, he repeats blue – we may not consider such person having a free will.
    Even a Machiavelian leader, a political “player” type, can work according to some deterministic algorithm. Unlike in the previous example such politician’s algorithm would be very complicated. And well hidden. Difficult or even impossible to reverse-engeneer for an external person. Thus it may look like a non-deterministic to the rest of the world. And in this case people agree that a ruler has a free will.

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  81. Augustine1938 says:

    Vaal: “Clearly my “explanation” would be vacuous and offer nothing fruitful to our knowledge of these mysteries. Why? All I’ve done is asserted a possible entity, and given it the attribute of “causing the phenomenon in question.””

    Isn’t your example quite analogous to the positing of a multiverse to explain fine-tuning?

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  82. Vaal says:

    Augustine1938,

    Isn’t your example quite analogous to the positing of a multiverse to explain fine-tuning?”

    No.

    That’s why I’d written “a good physics model at least starts as plausible inferences from, or are shown as consequences of, what we DO seem to know about “how the physics works” thus far.”

    As Prof. Carroll has been at pains to point out over and over, people in his specialty aren’t just positing a multiverse on sheer whimsy (or secular desperation to avoid God) as an explanation. The multiverse hypotheses derive from other currently working models in physics, e.g quantum mechanics etc. They are one of the *consequences* that follow from the math already used to understand and describe the universe as we know it. So the models derive from the reality we know, making them plausible, vs simply conjuring up mere “logically possible” explanations.

    Scientists seek to start with such plausibility in getting a hypothesis off the ground. A “how would it work?” model. (It’s not an absolutely necessary quality, as one could in principle posit wholly new processes unrelated to those we know, but that model would have to have great explanatory scope and power, make predictions, etc).**

    Religious, theistic “explanations” continually fail this criteria. They posit entities that can do the thing required, but never explain or model “how” in any substantive way. Positing entities that explain “anything” this way are, science has learned long ago, a liability, epistemological quicksand from which nothing moves further, but theism mistakes this non-falsifiability and explain-anything quality for a strength. Which is why theism wallows in the fringes never actually contributing or advancing our knowledge of nature, the universe (or reality, I would say).

    Again, if someone is going to say “I can get around the problem of how the cause of the universe was eternal, yet produced a temporal effect with a beginning. It was an eternal mind that had the power I call Libertarian Free Willed Choice. What is Free Willed Choice? Well, it’s attribute, the power, that allows this entity to be eternal while creating temporal effects!”

    Uh. Yeah. Thanks. Very informative.

    I’m going to ask “Ok, how?” To answer “free will” is only to provide a label for the thing that is missing: the explanation for what exactly it is and how it plausibly operates. If the theist allows himself to say “ok, look, this isn’t a materialist, mechanistic explanation, it’s supernatural, it just HAS the attribute I say it does” then not only has he produced a vacuous claim I can dismiss; he has no grounds for disallowing any similar magic move for competing explanations, where I can attribute to different entities the power to explain the universe…but I don’t have to say “how” because it’s not a mechanistic claim, it’s magic. Supernatural. And equally vacuous.

    There really IS a reason why our most rigorous method of investigating reality, science, has been by far the most prodigious method of getting results. Science can be seen as our most successful answer to the question “how do we most fruitfully go about choosing our explanations?”

    Vaal

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  83. DEL says:

    Vaal & Jack Spell: Vaal, note that WLC’s creator must, by creed, be omnipotent. (Otherwise—fire and brimstone!) You can’t ask for an “How exactly?” explanation of an omnipotent entity. He can, therfore there it is. Here is the history of the omnipotence invention, long long ago. It’s a true story, I swear, though somewhat decorated.

    When I was about ten I asked an uncle of mine, Uncle Ya’acov, who had a reputation of being knowledgeable about things, to explain to me how a radio works. Uncle Ya’acov probably had only a scant idea of how a radio really works, but I guess he didn’t want to disappoint me or to tarnish his reputation. Besides, he probably thought that playing an innocent joke on a too-inquisitive kid can do no harm. So he said: “How a radio works? Oh! that’s quite simple! Inside the radio there’s an elf who does all that talking.”

    Those were times when a radio box was the size of a microwave oven, and even a giant elf could fit in. These were also times when absolute liability litigation had not yet been invented, and a small child could easily, without any tool, remove the back cover of a radio to stare at the vacuum tube enchanting red lights shining through layers of dust and cobweb, and feel the warmth and smell of that mystery chamber. I had quite an experience with this mischief, so, ten years old or not, I couldn’t buy Uncle’s answer. “I’ve seen what’s inside the radio but I haven’t seen any elf!” I retorted.

    Uncle looked surprised and amused. Now it became a matter of honor, and of defending the social order—adult uncles must prevail over kid nephews. “He is very shy, this elf,” he said, “the minute you look at him he goes hiding.”
    “But were can he hide; and how can he hide and still carry on with his job?” I said.
    At this point Uncle decided to change strategy and deepen the mystery, get more supernatural: “Maybe you’re right, maybe that’s not what he does. But you learned in [religious] school about all those angels who can see but cannot be seen…”
    “Of course,” I said.
    “That’s it, that’s what he does! The minute you look at him he goes unobservable.”

    To this I could find no objection. This was a well established phenomenon that even Teacher at school agreed with. [And it’s not as preposterous a suggestion as it sounds; after all, quantum wave functions do the same, don’t they?] But there were many other vexing problems with Uncles’ explanation, for instance: “There’s also lots of singing coming from the radio!”

    Now the exchange got heated: “This elf is very gifted, he can talk and sing as well,” said Ya’acov.
    “But sometimes it’s a man singing and sometimes it’s a woman!”
    “You see, he’s a great mocking artist; he can sing like anybody. He can mock all known singers.”
    “Can he imitate a choir? I sometimes hear choirs.”
    “Of course he can do choirs, he can do ’most anything, he is vehhhhery talented indeed, this elf.”
    Incredulously I said: “What about violins and pianos and trumpets and full orchestras and all the sound effects I hear in radio plays? You mean he can do them too?”

    “Oh, dear,” Uncle Ya’acov was evidently at the end of his patience, “it’s time to stop this nonsense. I tell you this elf is downright ingenious, the smartest elf possible. Anything you might ask me about him, I assure you right now, he can imitate it, so enough with silly questions.”
    “And besides,” he added, amusedly: “how else can a radio possibly work?”

    Uncle Ya’acov had just invented the Omnipotent Imitator theory of radio-on-Earth, a theory that can never fail to explain any sound coming out of the radio, and—properly phrased—is the simplest of all possible theories, is it not?

    The end of this story was that I did what my child’s primitive-brain religion module unconsciously led me to. I found in my cousins’ toybox a 2-inch-tall painted-rubber Mickey Mouse that looked as delivering an oration. I opened the back cover of the radio and placed Mickey in front of the transformer, which served as a broadcasting studio desk. Then I invited my seven years old brother to the radio: “Yudah, come quick, d’ya wanna see how the radio works?” Unknowingly I replayed the primeval evolutionary emergence of shamanist religion.
    =========================================================
    P.S.: Incidentally, science has still some remnants from the “entities” era—explanations that sound very much like “an entity that has the power to cause the phenomenon.” For instance, instead of mending or replacing GR, which they obviously can’t afford, scientists have invented dark matter and dark energy to account for anomalies. It’s probably an anthropological thing.

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  84. Vaal says:

    DEL,

    1. Positing an omnipotent entity to “explain” how X occurred is no better than simply positing an entity who “had the power to do X…without explanation.” It’s just another flavor of the same inert mode of explanation.

    However that doesn’t come into play here because:

    2. We are discussing the inferences from the Cosmological Argument, not the Ontological Argument or Revelation. It’s an inference/evidenced-based argument and the theist doesn’t get to make the move from “something caused the universe” to “the cause was omnipotent.” That’s not a defensible move which is why they do not try it in the Cosmological Argument. Instead they try to argue toward a cause that has qualities suggestive of, or consonant with, a God. In Craig’s words: “The only way for the cause to be timeless and for it’s effect to begin a finite time ago [beginning of our universe] is for the cause to be a Personal Agent, endowed with Freedom Of The Will.” Hence he is adducing the magical power of Free Will, not omnipotence.

    3. Just to riff a bit more on the Cosmological Argument: Various sneaky moves are made by Craig and his ilk as they try to imbue the mysterious “cause” of the universe with further attributes of their God. This includes propounding that the cause must have been “enormously powerful” (Well, gee, Gawd is enormously powerful, look the cause is looking more and more like our Gawd!).

    Except this is an entirely gratuitous inference. There is neither logical nor practical necessity for the cause to have been enormously powerful at all. After all, where would such an inference be based except upon our current experience and knowledge of the world? The thing is, if science has taught us anything it’s that large, complex amazing effects can come from extremely teeny, humble beginnings. Trace the causes of virtually anything and you typically keep getting down to simpler and simpler causes in the chain. That’s not only the case in physics, chemistry, you name it, but as we know biology, evolution, provides a premier example. People used to look at the WHOLE of an organism and wonder “how could this all have occurred at once, just like that?” They would look at the whole of biology, the way life forms seem locked in such incredibly complex ecosystems, and wonder the same thing “how could this ALL have occurred just so?” Only a Supremely Intelligent and Powerful Creator could have created ALL THAT COMPLEXITY.

    The error, as we know now, was in presuming it all arose at once. Now we understand the vast complexity and interlocking dependance of life on earth arose from much smaller, simpler beginnings; by an initially simple *process* that produces cascading results that expand in complexity. Theists are making a similar error in looking at the Universe as a whole and inferring “wow, something Massively Powerful and Super Intelligent must have Created ALL THIS!” Since the arrow of causal explanation in science typically (if not always) points from complex effects toward their smaller, simpler causes, if we are allowing ourselves to draw inferences from empirical experience (as the theist is doing here) then the implication is much more in the direction of the universe having a humbler, simpler cause, not an “enormously powerful” cause, much less an intelligent one.

    (I know you know this, but for the theists arguing here…)

    Cheers,

    Vaal.

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  85. Vaal says:

    Prof. Carroll,

    I just wanted to thank you very much for your part in that superb debate with W.L. Craig. I was one of the all too many faceless folk shoving out advice on how to debate Craig (on Jerry Coyne’s site, in this case). Thank you for ignoring us! I think your strategy turned out to be terrific. You brought a theme to the debate that was important and educational for anyone to hear, whatever “side” they were on, concerning the nature of useful explanations. It was not only a successful message, it turned out to be a successful debate strategy in undermining Craig’s metaphysical/theistic assertions, thus “winning the debate” as well.
    A win-win!

    Each time I listen to your talks I have the wonderful sensation of learning something!

    Cheers,

    Vaal

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  86. Augustine1938 says:

    Vaal: “Positing entities that explain “anything” this way are, science has learned long ago, a liability, epistemological quicksand from which nothing moves further, but theism mistakes this non-falsifiability and explain-anything quality for a strength. ”

    Well, I agree that theism and libertarian free will are non-falsifiable (they are simply made more or less likely by the available evidence, as a form of “inference to the best explanation”), but if falsifiability is the criterion for truth, is the multiverse falsifiable?

    Vaal: “Science can be seen as our most successful answer to the question “how do we most fruitfully go about choosing our explanations?”

    Yes, science is the best way of pursuing explanations within its purview–i.e., the constraints of methodological naturalism. But to insist that science is the ONLY way to an explanation seems to me to be like the drunk who lost his keys and insists on looking only around the lamppost because “the light is better over here.” How could the scientific method itself be used to establish the “meta”-view that “the scientific method is the only method to choose our explanations?” It seems self-referentially incoherent.

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  87. Vaal says:

    Augustine1938,

    I have not suggested that the scientific method is the basis for justifying the scientific method. Rather, the scientific method is the *end result* of an epistemological inquiry into how we can justify our claims about the world of our experience.

    People keep imagining that science is what one does in a lab wearing a lab-coat, and as if it were some set of rules that are “ok when you are doing science, but easily discarded when one isn’t playing the game of science…we can use new rules over here…as in my religion.”

    But that’s not the case. The justifications for the scientific method arise from the most fundamental epistemological problems for knowledge, for understanding reality as we are experiencing it. We experience an onslaught of impressions, but how do we attribute “causation” and “effect” and how can we go about understanding and predicting our experiences (i.e. how can we develop “explanations” for “how” something causes it’s effect). It doesn’t matter whether you label an experience “spiritual” or “supernatural” or “immaterial” or “material” or “natural.” Whatever you call it, if you experience “A” as occurring after, or in the presence of “B” and wish to attribute A as the effect of B, then you have a problem once “C” comes along and you ALSO experience “A” as an apparent result. Thus if you experience apparent effect “A”
    you now have a problem if you want to say “it must be due to B” because that is to ignore that C also could be causing the effect A. You can assert “it must be due to B” but…is that confidence warranted, absent any other way of justifying it wasn’t due to C? No.

    This problem of “variables” is a fundamental problem of our experience, no matter what our experience may be ultimately comprised of. You have to start coming up with ways of justifying confidence in identifying one cause over another as causing the effect in question. (When you follow the epistemological moves up the line, you get to the justifications for why science tries to control and account for variables when preferring one explanation over another). A similar issue arises IMMEDIATELY if you want to try to uncover, or explain HOW B causes A. Because in coming up with an explanation, the logical space of possibilities is limited only by your imagination.
    You can come up with one logically coherent explanation for how B causes A, but then I can come up with one as well, that is entirely in opposition to yours. This problem of “variables” in our explanations ALSO needs an answer. If two (or more) explanations are compatible with the phenomenon, how can we assign more confidence to one explanation over the other? And from these fundamental problems arise certain virtuous epistemological moves to warrant confidence in one explanation over another, moves in the direction that eventually get you science – e.g. preferring parsimonious explanations, explanations that allow novel predictions and hence which seem to deliver “new knowledge” etc. It’s our best, most rigorous and productive answer to “how do you know that?”

    And you can’t just posit something else, e.g. religion, as “another way of knowing” without having to answer the same fundamental questions that have lead to the development of science. “How do you know that? What warrants your confidence in your explanation over this other explanation?” Unfortunately, theism has consistantly failed as an explanatory frame work.
    It’s not because the scientific method is “assumed” as the standard; it’s that
    when you take a deeper “meta” look at the fundamental epistemic problems that must be addressed, religious explanations are not “epistemologically responsible” answers to these questions. Science is our most epistemologically responsible method of inquiry into explaining our experience.

    Regarding falsifiability and the multiverse, I’m in no position to pontificate with technical detail about how exactly those hypotheses are vetted. Someone like Prof. Carroll is clearly in a better position to answer such questions. However, he and others in his field have explained that multiverse hypotheses derive from the very physics (including QM) used to explain and predict the way the universe seems to operate. Hence they are NOT in the category of “making up an entity that simply has the power to do X.” Rather, they explain HOW X could occur. This connection to our currently fruitful understanding of physics are what give the various hypotheses an initial plausibility. And it puts limits on how the universe could have happened – they don’t just “explain ANY possible state of affairs” in a universe. As I understand it the “good” multiverse theories can be tested against observations.

    Vaal

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  88. Brett says:

    Aaron, I accept your point that a quantum field at equilibrium and God are basically equivalent at this point in human history with our current knowledge of physics. But I disagree with your conclusion because there are troves of evidence for the quantum field (so much so that it is not a belief but a FACT) while there is zero evidence for God and only belief to support your statement. Belief is not factual. The quantum field is defined. God is not. While you can believe in a fact, it does not make that fact any more or less true.

    You are not accepting my point. If a person wants to use physics terminology to refute physics, then they need to understand the terminology they are using or else stick to theism. Theism and metaphysics can’t refute physical laws because they provide no evidence just disbelief; and if a person doesn’t want to look at the evidence, well, “I do not know how to refute an incredulous stare”.

    Your biggest mistake is that most physicists (I’m going to forgo an attempt to convince you that the theist/physicist hybrid exists in abundance) ARE NOT satisfied at the quantum vacuum. They study topics like String Theory. If String Theory accumulates enough evidence, then it will be considered factual and it will replace the current quantum field explanation. Your explanation will continue to be “God did it”. That’s why your argument fails, because it has no solid grounding. You can manipulate it as you see fit in order to counter whatever factual evidence is presented to you. And that’s fine, but when you try to claim that physical facts are not true based on that belief system, then it’s ludicrous to argue.

    But I could omit all of my comment up to this point and simply defeat your argument by asking; what created God? Further more, What is “he” made out of? How does God have a gender? and so on. Physicists are always looking for an explanation of the limit. Why is the limit the limit and how is it the limit? Theists are doing the opposite. There is no convincing someone who opposes discovery. It’s like playing a game with a child. No matter what the rules are at any given point, the child will just change the rules accordingly in order to win the game. What has the child won? A false sense of superiority.

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  89. Augustine1938 says:

    VAAL: “The justifications for the scientific method arise from the most fundamental epistemological problems for knowledge, for understanding reality as we are experiencing it. We experience an onslaught of impressions, but how do we attribute “causation” and “effect” and how can we go about understanding and predicting our experiences (i.e. how can we develop “explanations” for “how” something causes it’s effect). ”

    Sure, to the extent what we experience reflects laws subject to confirmation through testing (to see if they can be falsified), science is the best way of establishing knowledge about that experience. The problem here is that you are dealing with areas where we have no direct experience, i.e, other universes beyond our own (in the case of the multiverse), or something beyond the boundary of t=0 (in the case of the issue of how the universe began to exist). What we have is indirect evidence to support different explanations. If none of those explanations are subject to empirical falsification, you are not dealing with physics, but metaphysics. Now I suppose you could argue that unless an explanation is empirically falsifiable it is not really an explanation. I would agree that it is not a “scientific” explanation–but I don’t see why it can’t qualify as a “more likely than not” explanation.

    VAAL: “However, he and others in his field have explained that multiverse hypotheses derive from the very physics (including QM) used to explain and predict the way the universe seems to operate. Hence they are NOT in the category of “making up an entity that simply has the power to do X.” Rather, they explain HOW X could occur. This connection to our currently fruitful understanding of physics are what give the various hypotheses an initial plausibility. And it puts limits on how the universe could have happened – they don’t just “explain ANY possible state of affairs” in a universe. As I understand it the “good” multiverse theories can be tested against observations.”

    If the multiverse can be tested against observations in the sense that Einstein’s theory was tested during the solar eclipse (when light was observed to bend–if it did not bend then the theory would have been falsified), then I would agree, it constitutes a scientific explanation. If not, though, it would seem to be a metaphysical explanation. Which is fine, but it is then in the same category as theism–you have competing metaphysical explanations. As with the A vs. the B-theory of time: both appear to be consistent with the scientific data, neither can be falsified scientifically, so they have to be argued for on metaphysical grounds.

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  90. Ken says:

    Sean, thanks for the links to the debates.

    For your information, the third video – Tim Maudlin’s “Cosmology, Theology, and Meaning” – appears to have been marked as private and is not available to view.

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  91. Vaal.
    “Regarding falsifiability and the multiverse, I’m in no position to pontificate with technical detail about how exactly those hypotheses are vetted. Someone like Prof. Carroll is clearly in a better position to answer such questions. However, he and others in his field have explained that multiverse hypotheses derive from the very physics (including QM) used to explain and predict the way the universe seems to operate.”
    It seems to me that this is nothing but a confirmation that the muliverse is not presently falsifiable, and an appeal to authority. The fact remains that though the multiverse constitutes a possible interpretation of the implications of some testable physics, it remains in evidential terms on a par with the idea of god. That some scientists find the idea plausible (some don’t) cannot be more than an appeal to authority until such a time as the idea can be rigorously tested. There is surely some hypocrisy in the fact that naturalists are so happy to entertain the hypothesis of the multiverse, and yet so stridently reject the hypothetical existence of god, often on the very basis that the idea is unfalsifiable. When we are not dealing with evidence, we are dealing with metaphysics and philosophy.

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  92. kashyap Vasavada says:

    Theism vs Atheism debates are certainly interesting but unending! As a retired physics professor let me make a few points (Please see also my earlier comment in this blog.) As far as I can tell, in the scientific method, nothing has changed since the time of Galileo and Newton. You make observations with your sense organs (especially eyes with the help of aids like telescopes, microscopes etc.), make models to explain the data and predict the results of future experiments if possible. In this analysis you do not bring in concepts of divinity. Newton, even though a devout Christian, did not bring in concept of God in his Principia Mathematica while discussing planetary orbits. This method has been very fruitful over the centuries. Physics and cosmology have made strides in recent times. But the basics have remained same. The outcome is our scientific definition of reality. Already quantum mechanics and relativity are challenging our understanding of reality.
    It is well known that we are on a measly planet orbiting an average star in an average galaxy in the boondocks of the universe which contains billions and billions of such systems. There could be multiple universes also. Human life on this planet evolved in a certain way resulting in a certain type of body and mind (intelligence, consciousness). For example our eyes are sensitive to only a narrow band of visible spectrum of electromagnetic waves. Elsewhere in the universe there could very well be superior bodies, intelligence and consciousness. While we can be proud of our achievement in whatever understanding of nature we have , it would be height of arrogance and stupidity if we insist that whatever we can understand with our sense organs and minds is all there is in the universe! Universe or multiverse is sufficiently complex. Let us be modest and accept that there could be aspects of reality we may not be able to understand. Now whether these ideas encourage you to believe in divinity or not, depends on your belief system. I do not think there is anyway of convincing people within our logical system one way or the other. But as I said above, already quantum mechanics and relativity are hinting that the reality may be completely different from what we can picture with our narrow minds.

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  93. Daniel Shawen says:

    I’d have to agree, this was possibly the best religion vs science debate I’ve ever listened to. Sean, Richard Dawkins passed up an opportunity to say a dozen or so things that you got out there extremely well, and without making the issue into the sort of free-for-all that he usually does.

    Ignorance will always be an element of intelligence. This is as true for someone who is ignorant of science as it is for someone who is willfully or otherwise, ignorant of the relevant bits of religion. Religion is there for a purpose. Science has almost nothing to say on issues of morality or even cultural norms of morality unless at least some sort of tradition is there. Lots of things get easier on a day-to-day basis if there is at least some sort of tradition in place. If it is not a very good or complete tradition, religious OCD types of all flavors will be there to make it do all sorts of strange things that were never intended; handling rattlesnakes, human sacrifice, and the like.

    “Any religion that cannot withstand a collision with reality is not worth many regrets.” –Arthur C. Clarke

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  94. DEL says:

    Augustine938:

    Part of the disagreement between you and me (and Vaal, I presume) winds down to epistemology and ethics.

    ##You think one can obtain knowledge about the natural world in ways other than science—actually supernatural ways—and I deny that possibility and call what you thus obtain beliefs, not knowledge.
    ##You place the same weight on beliefs as on knowledge but I say your beliefs are biased, bribed by the benefits your religion promises you if you adhere to them, therefore you should suspect them yourself.
    ##In my spiritual world I do allow beliefs—where beliefs properly belong. But you seem to let your beliefs trespass where only knowledge should go.
    ##Where knowledge is lacking or unfeasible (yes, I do think that some knowledge is forever beyond us) I acquiesce to the possibility of forever not knowing; you, on the other hand, seem to abhor a knowlege vacuum, presuming that what you do not know you may supplement with wishfull beliefs.

    As I said, epistemology coupled with ethics.

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  95. DEL
    “You think one can obtain knowledge about the natural world in ways other than science—actually supernatural ways—and I deny that possibility and call what you thus obtain beliefs, not knowledge.”
    The problem with that is that the assertion: “There are no ways to acquire knowledge about the physical world other than science” cannot be arrived at or validated by scientific means and must be by your definition belief and not knowledge. Your position is thus self-contradictory – if the proposition “There are no ways to acquire knowledge about the physical world other than science” cannot be established scientifically then either a) it is not representative of true knowledge of the physical world, or b) you would propose to establish by some means other than science that there are no means other than science to acquire knowledge about the physical world.

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  96. DEL says:

    Anonymous @ Mar.4, 11:30 am:

    You are right to say that the multiverse idea is unfalsifiable and therefore cannot make a strict scientific theory. Vaal was obviously too wishful on this point. But to say that this puts the multiverse idea on par with god is preposterous:

    Whereas the multiverse conjecture is based mathematically on accepted physics extrapolated to where it may not be falsifiable, god is no physics at all. God is supposed to be metaphysical, isn’t he?

    Whereas the multiverse conjecture must satisfy many stringent scientific criteria besides falsifiability, filtering out all but a few admissible versions, the god conjecture owes nothing to nobody—replace “God” by “the evil sorcerer Hoompah Baloompah” and you get just as valid an explanation.

    Whereas the multiverse conjecture might have been accepted as an explanation for the universe before inflation if it were falsifiable, the god conjecture can explain nothing, because He can do anything: Why did the chicken cross the road? Because god had made him do it!

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  97. Augustine1938 says:

    DEL: “Whereas the multiverse conjecture is based mathematically on accepted physics extrapolated to where it may not be falsifiable, god is no physics at all. God is supposed to be metaphysical, isn’t he?”

    That’s the point, if the multiverse is non-falsifiable, it is metaphysical (even if it is “mathematical metaphysics”) since the sine qua non of science (of which physics is a subset) is falsifiability.

    DEL: “Whereas the multiverse conjecture must satisfy many stringent scientific criteria besides falsifiability, filtering out all but a few admissible versions, the god conjecture owes nothing to nobody—replace “God” by “the evil sorcerer Hoompah Baloompah” and you get just as valid an explanation.”

    That’s true, but the fine-tuning argument doesn’t attempt to establish God by itself–the conclusion of the argument is only that there was an intelligent designer of the universe who fine-tuned the constants and quantities in the initial conditions for intelligent life. The fine-tuning argument is usually part of a cumulative case of several arguments of which God’s existence is the overall conclusion.

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  98. DEL says:

    tristan:
    I never said, and I don’t believe, that my epistemology is a physical entity belonging to the natural world. When I wrote about my beliefs, that’s the kind of beliefs I meant. Therefore I see no contradiction. Note that I’ve never denied metaphysics, only mandated it is properly segregated from physics.

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  99. Vaal says:

    tristan eldritch and Augustine1938,

    First, let’s remember my initial objection to the case being made by Jack Spell: that if he can not explain how this “ability of an eternal agent to freely cause a temporal beginning” would work, or at the very least give some plausible examples for why we should think this power exists, then he is simply playing the “magic” card. The first point being that it’s illegitimate to infer the cause of the universe “must have been an agent endowed with free will” when, playing by the same non-rules, I can posit all manner of alternate causes with such power…so long as I too don’t have to explain how it would actually work. So this inference to a personal free willed cause is just special pleading.

    Agree? If not, why not?

    As far as I can tell you seem to be implicitly agreeing, or at least skipping over this, if only to move on to the charge “Ok, but even if his case suffers this weakness, scientists proposing multiverse hypotheses are guilty of the same thing.”

    But that’s not the case. I’ve already pointed to the differences. The “free willed being caused the universe” hypothesis offers no understanding of “how” it would actually work. Whereas multiverse theories are all about “how it would work.” They are all about the rigorous detail in that respect. Further, they are also plausible. That is: the “how it would work” description is rigorously derived via mathematical logic, from the very maths models and observations that already seem to map to the reality we know (e.g. quantum mechanics). Even IF we currently don’t know which, if any, multiverse theory is correct, they at least get off the ground as : explanatory (how it would work) and plausible (derived as implications from the physics we HAVE tested).

    The theory that an eternal, non-material being exists, let alone that it has the power to exist this way and cause temporal events like our universe offers NO such rigorous details of “how it would work,” no such rigorous attachment to the facts of our world, no plausibility given whatsoever.

    And since good multiverse theories derive from the physics we know, they place strict limitations on what can happen under those theories: limitations on what we should find about the world. They are in principle falsifiable in that, should we discover some aspect of physics or some phenemonon that contradict the physics used in the multiverse model, that model won’t work. Whereas, as Prof. Carroll says, the theistic “God Did It” explanation seems to be infinitely flexible. WHATEVER way the universe is, WHATEVER new physics or phenomona we discover tomorrow can simply be explained by “God Wanted It That Way.” Because there is no mechanism proposed – just God’s “omnipotent ability to do whatever He wants” (the explanation so ill-defined in this way) that lets us understand the limitations involved, what would falsify it, or what it truly might predict.

    Further, Prof. Carroll points out in his debate that there are multiverse theories that DO make predictions. Go to 57:40 of the debate where Carroll explains this and shows the type of slides making these predictions, that you will find in cosmologist conferences.

    (And note that Einstein’s initial attempt to
    posit a multiverse theory, the oscillating universe, was eventually thrown out, falsified, because it was a hypothesis that was rigorous enough in detail – was “defined” enough – to be shown in error by later calculations and observations. You don’t get this with Gawd-Did-It explanations)

    Vaal

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  100. Daniel Shawen says:

    Another quote most applicable to the recent ‘debate’ with WCL:

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his livelihood depends on him not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair

    These debates would become more interesting if the loser forfeited his share of the proceeds, preferably to the charity of the winner’s choice.

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  101. Augustine1938 says:

    VAAL: “Agree? If not, why not?”

    No, I don’t really agree. First, it seems to me that both the multiverse idea and the agent causation idea are fundamentally in the same category–i.e., non-falsifiable metaphysics. The “how” question is addressed through elaborate mathematical modeling in the case of the former, and it is addressed in the extensive literature on agent causation in the case of the latter (see, e.g., http://www.amazon.com/Persons-Causes-Metaphysics-Free-Will-ebook/dp/B0013O95IU/ref=la_B001H6NCEC_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393981355&sr=1-2 and http://www.amazon.com/Agency-Responsiblity-Essays-Metaphysics-Freedom/dp/0813366240/ref=la_B001KHTYTA_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1393981403&sr=1-1). I see no reason to privilege nonfalsifiable metaphysical explanations in the form of elaborate mathematics over other metaphysical explanations–in fact, Ockham’s Razor would seem to favor the agent causation explanation as less rococo.

    VAAL: “Further, Prof. Carroll points out in his debate that there are multiverse theories that DO make predictions.”

    That’s interesting, thanks for pointing that out, I will go back and review that. However, my question would be: if the predictions fail to come to pass, is the multiverse therefore considered falsified (as relativity would have been in the solar eclipse prediction)?

    VAAL: “(And note that Einstein’s initial attempt to
    posit a multiverse theory, the oscillating universe, was eventually thrown out, falsified, because it was a hypothesis that was rigorous enough in detail – was “defined” enough – to be shown in error by later calculations and observations.”

    Actually, the oscillating model would not address the fine-tuning issue, and so I believe is not a “multiverse” theory as we have been discussing. Instead, it would address the issue of the beginning of the universe, and would likely be falsifiable because of its essential causal–and thus empirical–connection to our current universe. Multiverse theory (as I understand it) posits universes discontinguous from ours to which we have no empirical access.

    Oh well, I realize this could go on forever, but I appreciate the discussion and the basic civility and hospitality of the naturalists on this blog (and as shown by Dr. Carroll in the debate). I think we can all agree on the importance of basic research (including theoretical research) and science education (both of which are sadly underfunded and underappreciated in our society–and I have to admit that my fellow theists don’t have a good record on supporting this). I hope the work of Dr. Carroll and other cosmologists is generously funded by our government and by non-governmental sources. I plan to show my appreciation for this blog by purchasing a couple of Dr. Carroll’s books that I have learned about on his website–they look interesting! :)

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  102. DEL says:

    Augustine1938 said:

    …–in fact, Ockham’s Razor would seem to favor the agent causation explanation as less rococo.

    This is not true in the case of a free-willed agent explanation, certainly for a free-willed and omnipotent one. Such an explanation is equivalent to an infinitely long specification list of what such an agent is capable of and, from Occam’s standpoint, infinitely “rococo.” Throwing it all under the concise title “free-willed omnipotence” and pretending that the title stands for the list is logically disallowed: you can’t reproduce the list from the title. In information-theory terms, the title must hold infinitely many bits of information; and without the list itself as an appendix defining what the title stands for, it obviously doesn’t. (The actions of a free-willed agent, subject to no law that may be used to compress them even by a little, are indistinguishable from a truely random process with as many bits of information as needed to write them down in full.)

    And there’s another objection to a free-willed omnipotent agent being an explanation. As I wrote before what can explain anything explains nothing. I can’t give you a formal proof of that here and now, but see my comment of {Mar. 4, 2:16 AM} concerning the Radio Elf.

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  103. Lucy Harris says:

    I finally watched Maudlin’s talked and I really liked it. It seems he got some criticism for it, but I thought it was excellent. I don’t really care that he didn’t address the cosmology so much, because Sean already had that covered. The little he did say got to the core of it anyway.

    And his points that Boltzmann brains have no relevance really to anybody’s opinion about theism/naturalism and that cosmological arguments for god tell us nothing about morals of such a being are spot on.

    I’ll have to look into his work elsewhere.

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  104. Farhad says:

    They have removed all the comment from the video because too many people said Sean crushed Craig in the debate. A really cowardly act by the theists.

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  105. Daniel Shawen says:

    Whatever knowledge cannot provide, fear will compensate.

    Selective ignorance happens in science as well as religion. Which camp is better at it, I really couldn’t say.

    As Sean pointed out in the debate, Theology may be about many worthy things (socially), but working out solutions to problems which involves careful reasoning, or something other than passing summary and often arbitrary judgement on the morality of everything including and especially scientific ideas, is not their strongest ability.

    It was all I could do to keep from laughing when WCL was introduced with a litany of the many books he has written, all of them no doubt written in a style similar to that of Rick Warren (one of the most popular and prolific writers about Christianity as practiced in the US). All of these books follow a similar style of talking about science, and that is to say, they are “not even wrong”. Generally, they reflect the opinions of people so enraptured by obsession with the minutia of their religious doctrine that nothing else matters to them.

    When confronted with real moral questions like: “what sort of gun would Jesus buy?”, they simply give up, and return to their hunting, or reading their Bibles, or whatever.

    This says more about their intimate relationship with fear than anything else. When you ignore science, the Earth can fall into the Sun of the sky at any time, or the Sun itself could burn out, or Dark Matter can sneak into your house and kill you. Irrational fear like that is just impossible to argue with.

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  106. Vaal says:

    Yes, Augustine1938, it could go on. I don’t wish to hog any more of this comment section so, thank you for the conversation.

    Cheers,

    Vaal

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  107. Richard says:

    Sean, are they going to post the rest of the Saturday procedings or have I missed these somehow?

    Richard J

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  108. Sean Carroll says:

    Not sure what the story is with the Saturday talks. I presume they will be up eventually.

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  109. Dave Walker says:

    I don’t know enough to determine whether the response below from a theistic site is accurate or makes a difference. Curious. Thanks.

    Jack Spell says:
    Firstly, keep in mind that there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the universe does not satisfy the *only* necessary condition of BVG (Hav > 0), provided that we average H over the time from the end of the Planck epoch (t = 10^-43) up to the present (more specifically: for the temporal interval t* comprising the duration of continual time t > t = 10^-43, then: Hav[t*] > 0). On the other hand, we absolutely do have strong empirical evidence that corroborates Hav[t*] > 0. As Vilenkin affirmed, *all* of the evidence we have suggests this. It should be realized that nothing in this paragraph should be controversial. Everyone, Sean Carroll included, should agree that our universe has most certainly been, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion ***subsequent to t = 10^-43***. I want to make my point clear: insofar as we are talking about the average Hubble rate of the time *since* the Planck epoch, BVG is without a doubt satisfied. This is exactly what WLC has always argued; it wasn’t as though he was ignorant of the possible loopholes! That is why Guth does not in any way undermine his understanding of BVG by making the claim that the universe might be eternal. No, the real question is, How realistic are those purported loopholes?

    Dr. Carroll, like so many others, enjoys appealing to quantum mechanics in order to avoid the impending force brought on by the inevitable implications of BVG. In vacuum fluctuation models, the expanding universe is merely one of an indefinite number of mini-universes comprising the greater Universe-as-a-whole. Thus, the beginning of our universe doesn’t really represent an absolute beginning, but merely a change in the eternal, uncaused Universe-as-a-whole. However, these models face a deep internal incoherence: according to such models, it is impossible to specify precisely when and where a fluctuation will occur in the primordial vacuum which will then grow into a mini-universe. Within any *finite* interval of time there is a some non-zero probability of such a fluctuation occurring at any point in space. Thus, given *infinite* past time, mini-universes will eventually be spawned at every point in the primordial vacuum, and, as they expand, they will begin to collide and coalesce with one another. Therefore, given infinite past time, we should by now be observing an infinitely old universe, not a relatively young one. As WLC stated in the debate, if the vacuum were sufficient to produce the universe, it would have done it infinitely-long-ago.

    Moreover, contrary to what Dr. Carroll asserted throughout the debate, what’s crucial for naturalism isn’t to be found in any assessment of the merits of a *particular* cosmogonic model. Rather, the really relevant issue lies at a much broader, more fundamental level: naturalism necessarily must invoke *only* material entities and mechanical processes to explain the data; the spatiotemporal realm, on naturalism, is all that exists. Thus, it is absolutely foundational for naturalism to explain how an eternally existing set of necessary and sufficient *mechanical* conditions, could give rise to a temporal effect. In other words, it must answer the question, How could the cause of the universe exist from *eternity* past, and yet, the universe only begin to exist a *finite* time ago? You see, if the causal conditions that are sufficient to produce the effect are in place, then, so too should be the effect!

    It’s easy to see this fact with a simple illustration: the necessary and sufficient conditions to account for water’s freezing is sub-zero temperature; if the temperature is sub-zero, then any water around will necessarily be frozen. Now think about this: If the temperature were sub-zero ***from eternity past***, wouldn’t any water that was around be *eternally* frozen? Would it not be impossible for the water to *begin* to freeze merely a finite time ago? Indeed, how could causally sufficient mechanical conditions (sub-zero temp.) for the production of an effect (water’s freezing) be eternally in place, and yet, the effect not be co-eternal with the cause? How can the cause exist without its effect?

    Another way of seeing the severity of this dilemma is by reflecting on the different types of causation. For instance, there is what philosophers call “state/state causation”: the effect is some state of affairs (e.g., a ceiling fan rotating with constant angular velocity) produced by some other state of affairs (e.g., the switch being in the “on” position). In contrast, we have what’s known as “event/event causation”: the effect comes in the form of some event (e.g., the rotational motion of the fan undergoes a constant rate of deceleration until its angular velocity reaches zero. In other, simpler words: it stops.) which is caused by some other event (e.g., my Wife’s excercising her causal powers to alter the position of the switch from the “on” to the “off” position). The significance here is that in the former type, the cause/effect relationship between the two states could exist eternally; if the switch is eternally in the “on” position, then the fan will eternally rotate at a constant rate.

    However, in the case of the origin of the universe we have a peculiar case of what appears to be “state/event causation.” Namely, the effect that we are trying to explain is the origin of the universe (an event); but given the fact that nothing in the spatiotemporal realm existed prior to that first moment, what follows is that it’s logically impossible for whatever ultimately produced our universe to be, itself, also an event. How so? Because events, by their very nature, must have a temporal connotation — an “event” is an occurance; an instance of *something*. Thus, if *nothing* existed — no space, time, matter, or energy — then there could not have been any events. Moreover, since the universe’s coming into being at t = 0 simply is the *first* spatiotemporal event, it follows logically that there can be no time t* prior to t = 0 at which an event occurs. Therefore, the dilemma confronted is the need to provide a plausible account of how a past-eternal state of affairs, could give rise to a first, temporal event; in what intelligible way can naturalism account for state/event causation?

    While this dilemma is fatal for naturalism, it is no dilemma at all for theism. The contrast here is due to the fact that theism has at its disposal the explanatory resource of “agent causation.” You see, the only way in which a temporal effect could originate from an eternal, changeless cause would seem to be if the cause is a personal agent who eternally chooses to create an effect in time. A changeless, mechanically operating cause would produce either an immemorial effect or none at all; but an agent endowed with free will can have an eternal determination to operate causally at a (first) moment of time and thereby to produce a temporally first effect. Therefore, the universe is plausibly regarded to be the product of a Personal Creator, who I happen to call “God.”

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  110. Jack Spell says:

    Dave Walker,

    Given that I have cited all of the relevant papers that corroborate my post that you cited, if like to think that what it says is accurate. I am always very careful so as to not misrepresent anyone. Nevertheless, the papers are there; why don’t you see for yourself if what I stated is accurate? If you still have any questions or concerns afterward I would be more than happy to discuss them with you to the best of my knowledge. Thanks.

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  111. Jack Spell says:

    DEL,

    When I first read your post that stated,

    “Just because Oerter inadvertently wrote “the assumptions of the model uniquely determine the conditions of the early universe” instead of “the assumptions of the model uniquely determine a true statement about the conditions of the early universe” is no reason to pounce on him. I won’t believe you believe he meant what you have insinuated. This attack is either overly pedantic or insufficiently honest.”

    I was perplexed; I just couldn’t gather how you could perceive my comments as an “attack” on Robert Oerter. You are absolutely correct to say that his (mis?)statement “is no reason to pounce on him” — which is precisely the reason why I was very clear so as not to do so. But it then it dawned on me: you didn’t get to read the entire post! I had trouble posting it because it kept deleting about half of it. I’m going to try again. I think once you see the rest you’ll then know that not once did I ever attack Robert.

    @Robert Oerter

    I appreciate your taking the time to address some of my questions; and I especially thank you for doing so in such a kind, thoughtful manner. I do have some questions (go figure :) ) regarding your replies.

    “Well, for a given model (Hartle-Hawking for example), you could find that the assumptions of the model uniquely determine the conditions of the early universe. That is, the energy density and initial expansion rate are completely explained by the model.”

    I don’t want this to sound disrespectful to you, but I must ask, is that the way you intended to word this paragraph? I ask this because you said that the assumptions of the model uniquely *determine* the conditions of the early universe. How could that even possibly be so? My immediate inclination would be to argue in support of the objectivity of temporal becoming and point out that the conditions of the early universe — regardless of how, who, or what determined them — were in place long before any human being ever existed, much less crafted a cosmogonic model. Nevertheless I would still have an objection even if I were a B-Theorist instead. That is, what causal connection exists so as to permit a state of affairs where a man-made cosmogonic model *determines* what the conditions were like in the universe 13.7 billion years earlier than it?

    The misunderstanding, it seems to me, is that you seem to think that I’m inquiring as to “What determined the current conditions ***that we observe*** in the universe?” To which your answer would be perfectly legitimate and accurate. But that’s *not* the question. What I’m asking is,

    1) If the A-Theory of time is correct, what were the conditions that led to our universe beginning to exist (as a conceptual analysis of “begins to exist”: x begins to exist iff (i) x exists at some time t, (ii) and there is no time t* at which x exists, and (iii) there is no state of affairs in the actual world in which x exists timelessly.) only a finite time ago? As I’m sure you know the Hartle-Hawking Model, as well as the semi-classical one crafted by Vilenkin, have a beginning in the finite past (not to mention several other problems). So my question is, What were the conditions that determined that this universe should begin to exist, and do so with the initial boundary conditions that it in fact had?

    2) If the B-Theory of time is correct, what were the conditions that led to *our* 4-dimensional spacetime block obtaining, rather than some/no other? Even if our universe wouldn’t technically “begin to exist” on this view, nevertheless its tenseless existence would be a *contingent* fact that didn’t necessarily have to be true. So the question is, if *our* universe didn’t necessarily have to be this particular way, what determined that it would still in fact obtain, rather than not obtain? Why not some other universe that tenselessly exists instead of this one?

    “If, in addition, those conditions match what we see in our universe, then we have an explanation for why this particular universe exists.”

    Again, we would have an explanation for why we observe the current conditions that we see in our universe; but we would not have an explanation for why a contingent universe operating on these particular boundary conditions should exist.

    Perhaps an illustration will better convey my point: Suppose NASA’s Curiosity Rover had found a stockpile of unfamiliar machinery on Mars. They immediately scramble a team for the mission of recovering the strange equipment. After several months of rigorous study and investigation, NASA still has no clue how the equipment works. Then, out of nowhere, a NASA scientist has a “eureka!” moment while observing what he perceives to be equipment indicative of a flight control panel. What’s more, he also thinks that he has discerned that of a keypad for entering an unlock code. He immediately forms the hypotheses that (1) observation A is a flight control panel, and (2) observation B is a keypad for entering an unlock code. In accordance with forming his hypotheses he predicts that (1) if the proper keycode is entered on the “keypad,” it will unlock and power up the equipment, and (2) once the code is input and the machine consequently energizes, the “control panel” will function similar to those designed by humans. After many attempts the proper code is finally entered and confirms prediction (1) by unlocking and energizing the machine, after which he then goes on to confirm prediction (2). It isn’t long after that when comes to fully understand the function and operation of the entire machine. He proceeds to reason as follows:

    ‘I can explain how these machines function from the inside-out. I’ve shown that each of their component parts function just as my individual hypotheses said they would, thereby confirming to the highest degree every prediction that was made. Therefore, ***I have an explanation for why and how these particular machines exist.*** No further inquiry is necessary.’

    I think the parallel here should be obvious: even though the NASA scientist was able to craft models built on assumptions made concerning a much earlier stage of the machines existence, and despite having every prediction that followed from those assumptions strongly confirmed, nevertheless he still has no justification for making the bold claim that this somehow provides an explanation for why/how these particular machines came to exist.

    Similarly, even if we were to build a model based on our assumptions concerning the early universe, and whose predictions were strongly confirmed by our observations today, nevertheless we still would have no justification for claiming that this somehow provides an explanation for why/how this particular universe came to exist. Any attempt to extrapolate an explanation of why/how this universe came to exist from a mere supposed explanation of what the universe was like long ago is completely evacuated of any warrant.

    “More likely, the model predicts a range of possible universes. Then we can see if our universe is in the high-probability region or not.”

    More accurately, I think, would be to say, “Based on our assumptions of early conditions, the model will predict a range of what conditions we should be currently observing. Then we can see if we do in fact currently observe conditions that the model says that we probably should. If so, then the model probably explains what the early conditions ***were like*** that the universe evolved from; it does not, however, explain how those early conditions ***were actualized*** rather than some other.”

    “Not if you know something about relativity. In relativity a B theory is a much more natural interpretation.”

    I would agree with you, if, by “natural,” you mean that a B-Theory is much easier to work with because of its framework for understanding Relativity Theory. However, the reality is that Minkowski’s four-dimensional geometry is nothing more than a diagrammatic device for understanding two physical realities that are in nature quite distinct. Much too often people uncritically assume that this construct of spacetime, this four-dimensional, geometrical object, actually exists. Consequently they feel compelled to adopt a B-Theory of time. The fact is, however, that there are three physical interpretations of the Lorentz Transformation Equations that form the mathematical core of relativity theory; and all are empirically equivalent. Lorentz’s theory doesn’t presuppose a geometrical interpretation; only Minkowski’s view requires the B-Theory approach.

    That being said, what’s important is not which physical interpretation of the equations makes doing Relativity easiest. Rather, what’s important is, which interpretation corresponds to reality? Which one actually describes the physical world? Am I to believe that temporal becoming (e.g., my experience of the passing of time; my intentionality having a time-directedness towards only future events which seem to not yet exist; my belief that my mother no longer exists; etc.) is just a subjective illusion of my consciousness? I can’t see why I should; not unless I have some defeater for my beliefs; beliefs that are as real as my experience of the physical world.

    “This is NOT the only assumption of the BVG theorem. As Sean pointed out several times in his talk, there is another important assumption: that spacetime is a smooth manifold – what Sean called “classical.” We have good reasons to think that on the large scale, our spacetime is smooth and classical. . . . Hence Sean’s comment that singularity theorems like BVG tell us not about what the universe is like, but about where our assumptions probably break down.”

    Based on my reading of not only the theorem itself, but also subsequent papers relevant to it, I have to *respectfully* say that both you and Sean are mistaken — it does *not* assume a “classical spacetime.” Moreover, BVG is *not* a singularity theorem — its a kinematic incompleteness theorem. Nonetheless, the following should be sufficient to show that, I’m sorry to say, you simply are misinformed. Look first to BVG:

    “For the proof of our theorem, however, we find that it is sufficient to adopt a much weaker assumption, requiring *only* that a congruence with Hav > 0 can be continuously defined along some past-directed timelike or null geodesic. . . . In this section we show that the inequalities of Eqs. (4) and (6) can be established in arbitrary cosmological models, ***making no assumptions*** about homogeneity, isotropy, or energy conditions. . . . We assume that a congruence of timelike geodesics (“comoving test particles”) has been defined along O [18], and we will construct a definition for H that depends *only* on the relative motion of the observer and test particles. . . . Again we see that if Hav > 0 along any null or noncomoving timelike geodesic, then the geodesic is necessarily past-incomplete. . . . Our argument shows that null and timelike geodesics are, in general, past-incomplete in inflationary models, whether or not energy conditions hold, provided *only* that the averaged expansion condition Hav > 0 holds along these past-directed geodesics. . . . This is the chief result of our paper. The result ***depends on just one assumption***: the Hubble parameter H has a positive value when averaged over the affine parameter of a past-directed null or noncomoving timelike geodesic.”

    If that weren’t enough, they elaborate further BVG’s implications for other models in higher dimensions, specifically the Ekpyrotic Cyclic model built by Steinhardt and Turok, which is a quantum gravity model!

    “The class of cosmologies satisfying this assumption is not limited to inflating universes. . . . Our argument can be straightforwardly extended to cosmology in higher dimensions. For example, in the model of Ref. [15] brane worlds are created in collisions of bubbles nucleating in an inflating higher- dimensional bulk spacetime. Our analysis implies that the inflating bulk cannot be past-complete. We finally comment on the cyclic universe model [16] in which a bulk of 4 spatial dimensions is sandwiched between two 3-dimensional branes. The effective (3+1)-dimensional geometry describes a periodically expanding and recollapsing universe, with curvature singularities separating each cycle. The internal brane spacetimes, however, are nonsingular, and this is the basis for the claim [16] that the cyclic scenario does not require any initial conditions. We disagree with this claim. In some versions of the cyclic model the brane spacetimes are everywhere expanding, so our theorem immediately implies the existence of a past boundary at which boundary conditions must be imposed. In other versions, there are brief periods of contraction, but the net result of each cycle is an expansion. For null geodesics each cycle is identical to the others, except for the overall normalization of the affine parameter. Thus, as long as Hav > 0 for a null geodesic when averaged over one cycle, then Hav > 0 for any number of cycles, and our theorem would imply that the geodesic is incomplete.”

    Vilenkin reiterates:

    “A remarkable thing about this theorem is its sweeping generality. We made no assumptions about the material content of the universe. We did not even assume that gravity is described by Einstein’s equations. So, if Einstein’s gravity requires some modification, our conclusion will still hold. The only assumption that we made was that the expansion rate of the universe never gets below some nonzero value, no matter how small. This assumption should certainly be satisfied in the inflating false vacuum. The conclusion is that past-eternal inflation without a beginning is impossible.” [Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One, p. 175]

    There are several other papers I could cite that affirm the same conclusion — BVG makes only a single assumption. But this is long enough already.

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  112. darren says:

    I’ve often wondered why people don’t point out that the fine tuning argument has the huge assumption that the purpose of the universe is to bring about life. To be honest the most that could be said is that the universe is tuned for matter/mass. Anything after than follows physical laws to make atoms, gas clouds, stars, planets, etc. There are loads of things that come before life in this universe so what is the justification for skipping these things and cherry picking life as the purpose of the universe.

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  113. John Hodge says:

    I think that Carroll (a physicists) showed that Craig (a philosopher) had some incorrect views of modern physics. But Craig may have helped convince an average person who doesn’t understand all the esoteric language of physics that ID should be taught in the science curriculum in high schools.

    Again, it seems we are letting the creationist determine the argument is the details of some field of science such as biological evolution and not in the place of science and religion in society.

    I think Carroll could have addressed some of the Craig’s philosophical points. For example, the fine-tuning argument does have a physical analogy called a feedback loop. An example is the thermostat in a room fine-tunes the temperature.

    An issue that was danced around that I would like further discussion is how is the morally right determined. Theists have supported slavery in the past. Science seems to have no method to determine morality. I suggest survival in the naturalist test of morality.

    I think Carroll summed his whole point in the very first comment he made. If he is wrong and the roof falls in, he’ll change his mind.

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  114. Vaal says:

    Jack Spell,

    Since you have returned, is there any reason you have not interacted with my critique and questions related to your previous claims?

    Again: when posing the dilemma concerning eternally existing states of affairs causing an eternally existing effect (universe) the “solution” you claimed was:

    A changeless, mechanically operating cause would produce either an immemorial effect or none at all; but an agent endowed with free will can have an eternal determination to operate causally at a (first) moment of time and thereby to produce a temporally first effect. Therefore, the universe is plausibly regarded to be the product of a Personal Creator,

    I do not see you have advanced any “plausibility” whatsoever. I only see you conjuring an entity with the power to do what you want it to do, and simply slapping the label “free will” on this power. Which does not at all suggest why we ought to accept this power would exist. Your argument reminds me of the famous cartoon:

    http://catenary.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/then-a-miracle-occurs-cartoon.png

    Can you give more detail as to why we should accept that a Personal being has the qualities of existing eternally and, more important, has the power to change a state, or the state of something else, while being outside of time and space? From where are you deriving such an inference?

    What is the difference, in terms of “plausibility” between your assertion and my assertion a non-sentient, non-personal, eternally existing particle I call a “Blark” caused the universe to come into being. How so? It has “blark energy.” Don’t ask me how it works, it’s just an attribute of “Blark”; it’s not a mechanistic process.

    Vaal

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  115. J. P. Arnold says:

    Vaal,

    I would think the argument goes along these lines:

    1. Your “Blark” is eternal because It is outside the realm of potentiality in which time and space exist. Transcending space/time, It does not change; hence is analogous to what we call “eternal.”
    2. As to your second question about why It would have the power to act within space/time, I would posit that that which is the sufficient reason for the existence of all contingent things is, by definition, potent enough to account for all matters of contingency.
    3. Indeed, your “Blark” would be capable of avoiding the logic of having the universe exist alongside It from eternity IF ole Blark had attributes analogous to what we call “will” and “intellect.” Otherwise, by what attribute would it be moved to opt against the logic of eternal generation of contingent being? Therefore, your Blark must possess that which is analogous to personhood. And is merely another symbolic expression for that which is pure actual being with no contingency innate to it; a dimension of being benevolently responsible for our world of contingency in which appreciation toward Blark could be expressed.

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  116. Vaal says:

    J. P. Arnold,

    Thank you. However, the argument you provided simply begged the question.
    The Theist (in this case, presumably, Jack Spell) insists we infer that the cause of the universe would have to be a Personal Being endowed with “Free Will.”
    I say it could be a “Blark,” a non-personal, non sentient particle, endowed with “Blark Energy.” Therefore, if I’m right and the cause of the universe was the Blark, the theist is simply wrong that the cause was a Creator was a Personal Being.

    The point is challenging the claim about attributing to an eternal, timeless/spaceless cause the power to change state (or the power to cause a temporal event). That there is no reason to accept this since no plausible explanation of how this would work is given. It’s merely asserting the power to do so and slapping the label “free will” on it. I’m saying I don’t believe in any such power – make it plausible for me. Until then, since it’s entirely unexplained, I posit a Blark with the ‘power to cause universes’…equally unexplained.

    Your point #3 is an attempt to say “well, if the eternal Blark had the power to cause the universe, it must have done so via having free will. Why? Because, you see, free will is a power by which an eternal entity may cause temporal effects!”

    But of course the nature and existence of this magical power being called “free will” is under dispute! Begging the question.

    It doesn’t matter what the theist is calling this amazing power for an eternal entity to cause a temporal universe – ‘free will’ or ‘blinkity blank’ or whatever – the issue is explain why I ought to think this is plausible – explain how it would work and why I should think it plausible. If “free will” simply equates to “the power for an eternal entity to cause a temporal event” then I can say the Blark has free will, but the Blark is still a non-personal, non-sentient. If the theist then claims “No, free will is only an attribute of personal beings” then I ask “Ok, what are those other necessary attributes
    that attend to having free will, that get you personhood?” If the theist presents his list (e.g. perhaps a being who can have desires, intentions etc) I’m going to ask “Ok, now that you’ve made all those claims…HOW DOES IT WORK? Explain the process in a way that makes it more than mere assertion: make it PLAUSIBLE. Mere description is not plausibility – plausibility is taking what we know about the world to suggest how the newly posited process could work. (And that is what cosmologists and physicists do in their hypotheses btw). If I’m going to suggest a friction-like effect on a planet far away, I can point to the examples from physics on earth to make it plausible.
    If instead I posit a planet full of witches turning rocks into people simply by
    wishing it, then I can point to no similar process in our experience to make that a plausible proposal.

    If the theist can not explain how this eternal-free-willed-causing-a-temporal-universe process would happen, plausibly, I have no reason to take his argument seriously, no more than anyone must take my “Blark”seriously. If at any point the theist falls back to mystery or the explanatory equivalent of “then a miracle occurs” he has handed that same option to any other competing account, and can not complain if I do the same thing – simply posit an entity that “has the power to solve the problem” but without having to give a fully plausible account of the process. The theist can not special plead and allow himself to claim it’s a “personal being” with the unexplained power to cause a universe, while countless other contrary causes could be posited and attributed a power, unexplained, to cause the universe.**

    Vaal

    *(Presumably the theist thinks the power of free will is made plausible by some inference to actual experience – our experience within this universe. And presumably this is “human free will.” They see humans essentially changing a state, from “not having decided to lift his arm” to “having decided to lift his arm.” But, then, the entire world is suffuse with other entities changing states – animal, plant, weather, water, chemical, molecular, atomic particles ad infinitum. If the theist is going to simply infer that this changing-state capability of humans can be transplanted to outside time/space
    to eternal entities, the same move can be made for any other entity within this world. The “cause” of the universe could have been a plant, a duck, water evaporating, a molecule vibrating, anything changing state…and just say “this caused the universe.” How? Dunno beyond that. If the theist says “No, those things don’t have the power I’m talking about – they are all effects with previous causes so they ‘can’t’ have the power I’m talking about. The power I’m taking about – free will – is a power that is a-causal, outside time and space!” Then I say “Whoa, there. Since when should I think
    this power exists? More pointedly, can you demonstrate your example, humans, have this rather incredible, magical-sounding exception within the universe from-space-time-causation? To which I add: good luck with that, because all the evidence seems to indicate we are no more excepted from the natural order and cause and effect than other entities within the universe!)

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  117. Jack Spell says:

    Vaal,

    There are actually several reasons why I have not interacted with your critique, with the most significant of them being based on two factors: (1) I have no desire to quarrel with anyone when discussing this subject, let alone anyone on this blog; and (2) from what I’ve gathered by the nature of many of your posts, you seem to be of a disputatious sort. Moreover, the *substance* of your critique has not in any way contributed to my decision of refraining from interaction with you. Rather, my main reason for not engaging your critique prior to this post is rooted solely in what I perceive to be a terribly derisive, snide tone that you tend to adopt when addressing myself and others like me. In my experience this is not the best approach if one seeks to have rational discourse. I don’t appreciate it coming from you and I simply am far too busy to entertain every thought and assertion that may arise from those whose only aim is to start a fight.

    However, I will always make every effort to engage the thoughts of anyone seeking a productive exchange of ideas; which would logically entail that their approach and attitude would be that of respect and civility. Nevertheless, I’m going to go against my better judgement here and respond to your critique despite my inclination to do otherwise. My hope is that you might assess and respond to my proceeding arguments in the manner that I just described; I will certainly attempt to do the same.

    Let me first offer some points of clarification. My view of God’s eternity is that he is timeless sans the universe, and temporal subsequent to Creation. Moreover, I ascribe to a tensed, relational view of time.

    To further unpack the above point, I argue that on a relational view of time, a first instant could exist, since apart from events no time exists. As Stuart Hackett argues,

    “Time is merely a relation among objects that are apprehended in an order of succession or that objectively exist in such an order: time is a form of perceptual experience and of objective processes in the external (to the mind) world. Thus the fact that time is a relation among objects or experiences of a successive character voids the objection that the beginning of the world implies an antecedent void time: for time, as such a relation of succession among experiences or objective processes, has no existence whatever apart from these experiences or processes themselves.” (Hackett, Theism, p. 263.)

    The first moment of time is not a self-contradictory concept. Dr. Carroll himself affirms this when he speaks of the live possibility that the most accurate cosmogonic model may turn out to be one in which “the universe has a first moment in time.” Again, there does not appear to be any absurdity in the notion of a beginning of time — there seems to be no impossibility in having time arise concommitantly with the universe ex nihilo. Thus, on a relational view of time, the universe comes into existence with time.

    Let’s talk about the questions you raise regarding God ‘prior’ to Creation. You protest:

    “Can you give more detail as to why we should accept that an Personal being has the qualities of existing eternally and, more important, has the power to change a state, or the state of something else, while being outside of time and space? From where are you deriving such an inference?”

    The question you seem to be asking is, “What about *subsequent* to the first event (Creation)? If God sustains any relations to the world, does not this imply that he exists in time?” This is an excellent question. How could God interact with the physical, *temporal* world and maintain a state of timeless existence? The answer: He can’t! Refer to what I said above: ‘God is timeless sans the universe, but *temporal* subsequent to Creation.’ This understanding does not involve any change in God; rather he is simply *related* to changing things. As Swinburne explains,

    “…since God coexists with the world and in the world there is change, surely there is a case for saying that God continues to exist for an endless time, rather than that he is timeless. In general that which remains the same while other things change is not said to be outside time, but to continue through time.” (R. G. Swinburne, The Timelessness of God, Church Quarterly Review CLXVI (1965), p. 331.)

    Hence, on a relational view of time God would exist timelessly and independently ‘prior’ to creation; at creation, which he has willed from eternity to appear temporally, time begins, and God subjects himself to time by being related to changing things.

    Now let’s talk about why entities like “Blark” can’t plausibly serve as *timeless* causes for *temporal* effects. The answer is straightforward and should be self-evident: *Material* objects cannot exist timelessly! All physical objects — from the macroscopic level down to the quantum — constantly undergo states of change. Thus, “Blark” and all other *material* entities could not possibly exist *timelessly* without the universe because, on a relational view of time, there would exist a temporal succession of events. In other words, “Blark”, as a *material* object, would necessarily undergo constant states of change. Therefore, given the relation of succession among the objective processes (Blark’s changing states), it follows logically and inescapably that Blark could not possibly serve as a timeless cause for a temporal effect. Or, more formally:

    1. If an entity is timeless, then it is changeless. (pr 1)

    2. Material entities cannot be changeless. (pr 2)

    3. The entity which brought the universe into being must have been timeless sans the universe. (pr 3)

    4. Therefore, material entities cannot be timeless. (1,2 MT)

    5. Therefore, a material entity could not have brought the universe into being. (3,4 MT)

    Or, if you prefer:

    ∀x(P(x) → Q(x))
    ¬Q(c)
    ———————-
    Therefore, ¬P(c)

    U = all entities, P(x): x is timeless, Q(x): x changeless, c: material entities

    Therefore, that which produced the universe plausibly could not have been a material entity. Could it plausibly have been an immaterial, personal agent? One of the points you seem to be arguing (to paraphrase), “Even if the agent is immaterial, wouldn’t his existence necessitate the presence of time prior to creation due to his temporal succession of mental states?” Again, an excellent point — we, as personal agents, undergo a constant change of mental states. Doesn’t our temporal succession of mental states necessitate the presence of time? I would say, yes, a temporal succession of mental states is sufficient to necessitate the presence of time. However, a personal God need not experience a temporal succession of mental states. He could apprehend the whole content of the temporal series in a single eternal intuition, just as I analogously apprehend all the parts of a triangle in a single sensory intuition. God could know the content of all knowledge — past, present, and future — in a simultaneous and eternal intuition. For in virtue of His omniscience, God’s choices are not events, since He neither deliberates temporally nor does His will move from a state of indecision to decision. He simply has free determinations of the will to execute certain actions, and any deliberation can only be said to be explanatorily, not temporally, prior to His decrees. Therefore, the fact that the creator is personal does not necessitate the presence of time prior to creation.

    On a relational view of time, God would exist changelessly and timelessly ‘prior’ to the first event, creation, which marks the beginning of time. That first event is concomitant with God’s exercising His causal power to produce the spatiotemporal world. Such an exercise of causal power plausibly brings God into time. As J. P. Moreland has explained, in the case of personal causal explanations, the salient factors are the existence of an agent with his relevant properties and powers, the agent’s intention to bring about some result, an exercise of the agent’s causal powers, and in some cases a description of the relevant action plan. So “a personal explanation (divine or otherwise) of some basic result R brought about intentionally by person P where this bringing about of R is a basic action A will cite the intention I of P that R occur and the basic power B that P exercised to bring about R” (J. P. Moreland, Searle’s biological naturalism and the argument from consciousness. Faith and Philosophy 15 (1998), p. 75). Notice that it is insufficient for P to have merely the intention and power to bring about R. There must also be a basic action on the part of P, an undertaking or endeavoring or exercise of P’s causal powers. Thus, it is insufficient to account for the origin of the universe by citing simply God, His timeless intention to create a world with a beginning, and His power to produce such a result. There must be an *exercise* of His causal power in order for the universe to be created. That entails, of course, an intrinsic change on God’s part which brings Him into time at the moment of creation. For that reason He must be temporal subsequent to Creation, even if He is timeless sans creation.

    In sum, neither “Blark” nor any other material entity could exist timelessly due to their undergoing constant states of change. If one protests, “Even if “Blark” can’t be timeless, there could still have been time before the universe and he could have existed eternally in that time.” But that view is simply incoherent: if “Blark” had the relevant causal powers that were sufficient to produce the universe, and he has had these powers from *eternity-past*, why has not the universe existed from eternity past? How could the necessary and sufficient conditions (“Blark”) to produce the effect (the universe coming into being) be eternally in place, and yet, the effect not coeternally exist with the cause?

    On the other hand, a personal agent endowed with libertarian freedom of the will can spontaneously exercise his causal powers to bring about new effects without any antecedent determining conditions. God may timelessly will and intend to refrain from creating a universe. In a world in which God freely refrains from creation, His abstaining from creating is a result of a free act of the will on His part. Hence, it seems that God can timelessly intend, will, and choose what He does. And a finite time age He exercised His causal powers to bring the universe into being. Thus, agent causation is a perfectly coherent notion to invoke as the timeless cause of a temporal effect. A material entity of any sort is not, it seems to me, a coherent possibility.

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  118. Vaal says:

    Jack Spell,

    Just noticed your response. But since it’s late (here) I’ll reply tomorrow.
    I certainly do appreciate the time you took for that response and the detail (I mean that sincerely).

    In fact, I appreciate it so much I feel particularly sorry to point out that by the end of it, you hadn’t answered my question.

    I’ll get back to explain, thanks.

    Vaal

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  119. Steve says:

    “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Tactical Faith, Inc.”

    Indeed, suppression *is* tactical. Would someone please fix this and post the link?

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  120. J. P. Arnold says:

    Thank you both for the stimulating thoughts.

    Seems to me Vaal claims the eternal Blark can have the power to postpone creating the universe without having the attribute of free will.

    Seems to me Jack claims that Vaal’s eternal Blark would have to create the universe from eternity past, not postponing it, because Vaal’s Blark does not have the capacity to delay it WITHOUT that capacity being analogous to “choice,” which would infuse Blark with an essence kin to person hood.

    Vaal argues against personal attributes such as will, freedom, and intellect for his Blark, but claims that Blark has another attribute, X, that allows Blark to postpone the logical necessity of It’s creating the universe from eternity. The attribute X postpones the universe. and now we observe that the universe is not eternal.

    The solution to the discussion seems to focus on whether Blark’s X can avoid the logic of eternal creation without the transcendental powers of freedom, will, and intellect.

    If X is solely material, how did it circumvent the fact that it had forever to do that which it finally did?

    Seems to me like something akin to personal qualities of choice adheres to Blark’s essence.

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  121. Vaal says:

    Jack Spell,

    You wrote: “Thus, agent causation is a perfectly coherent notion to invoke as the timeless cause of a temporal effect. “

    That is the crux of the issue. Your argument had to do with the conceptual coherence of your claims. I’m not asking for mere conceptual coherence. Conceptual coherence
    is no guarantee of reality, as any number of fantasies can feature densely described relationships and coherence: I’ve been asking for an argument, and evidence, establishing the plausibility of your claims. That is, mapping it to the real world of our experience in a way that suggests the entity you propose does or could exist, and that the powers you attribute it could be true.

    Example: A cup with a small amount of water is left out on a hot picnic table. By the next day the water is gone from the cup. One explanation is that the water is gone because it evaporated. That has plausibility insofar as we have experience of water evaporating in such circumstances before, we can reproduce the effect, and we can describe the process by which evaporation occurs, allowing us to understand and predict the behaviour of water in various circumstances. Whereas an explanation like “The water was made to vanish by the mental wishes of an immaterial being” has NO such plausibility in it’s favor. No such beings have been seen to exist, no such process has been observed, and there is no substantive model of the process that helps us understand it, and predict how it all behaves.

    Your argument just takes it for granted that an immaterial, eternal mind outside of time and space could exist! But you offer no clue as to how
    this would actually be possible, given the rest of our actual experience of reality.

    How would that be possible? If you are deriving the plausibility of this personal cause from the example of human beings, the problem is human beings do not exhibit this quality of time/space/material Independence. All the persons we know of seem dependent on the material world so you can’t just up and throw that set of circumstances away as you wish to posit a personal cause to the universe.

    Nor does anyone exhibit the apparently magical contra-causal or substance-and-time-independant ability to “freely decide” any action.
    I have never seen any person make a decision that suggests their process is exempt from physical causation or space-time. So it is utterly gratuitous
    for you to pluck this process of “decision-making” out of the context of real-world experience, give it the magical ability to do what you want (e.g. occur in an eternal immaterial setting) just because “if it were the case it WOULD solve the problem.” That’s just making up a magic answer to solve a problem.

    Exactly like I did with the “Blark” Particle. You say of the Blark Particle that “A material entity of any sort is not, it seems to me, a coherent possibility.”

    But notice how your notion of “coherence” applied to the Blark derives from the circumstances of real-world circumstances of particles, from the observation that they are always undergoing states of change. RIGHT! I am simply taking this part of a description of particles – “particles undergo states of change” – and I’m attributing it to a particle I describe as eternally-existing, outside time and space. The reason you shouldn’t simply accept this, and you don’t, is the way I’ve simply lifted the attribute I want “changes state” out of the actual set of details in which we ACTUALLY OBSERVE such changes of state occurring! I’ve just conveniently disregarded the inconvenient bits of reality and created a particle that can “do the things I want it to do, to serve as an ’cause’ of the universe.” But with no other appeal to reality, evidence, or some predictive model describing the process, you have no reason to take the claim seriously.

    You’ve done the same thing with a “Personal Being Endowed with Free Will.”

    The Blark is simply an entity with the timeless, eternal potential to cause the universe. I can take what you wrote and replace the agent with the Blark: “How could THE BLARK interact with the physical, *temporal* world and maintain a state of timeless existence? The answer: IT can’t! Refer to what I said above: ‘THE BLARK is timeless sans the universe, but *temporal* subsequent to causing The Universe.’”

    And on and on. Have I made The Blark more plausible? No. I’m simply ASCRIBING properties to it, not making them plausible within the scope of our actual experience. Neither have you made God more plausible. If you demand to know “HOW does the Blark do such things, by what process?” then you go first and actually explain plausible processes, extrapolated from processes we already accept exist in reality (or a predictive model) by which this God operates.

    Cheers,

    Vaal

    (This is why (I believe) Prof. Coyne in his debate kept pointing out how fruitless the type of metaphysical “work” theists do have been to actual
    scientific inquiry into nature. As he says, theists can give all sorts of definitions for their concepts, and provide baroque tapestries of detail they have worked out *given their assumptions* but the problem is when it comes to actually mapping it to the real world. Nothing fruitful or helpful actually is found in the work of theistic explanations)

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  122. Vaal says:

    J. P. Arnold,

    The solution to the discussion seems to focus on whether Blark’s X can avoid the logic of eternal creation without the transcendental powers of freedom, will, and intellect.

    That is begging exactly the claim under question!

    It is the very “transcendental powers of freedom, will and intellect” that I’m asking Jack Spell to demonstrate exists, or provide evidence they exist.

    I’ve proposed a Blark, a non-sentient, non-personal entity that exists outside time and space. I’m attributing to it “the capacity to changes it’s state.” Hence it can “change it’s state” from being simply eternal to causing a material, temporal universe and entering time with the universe.

    How? Don’t ask me. I don’t know. Admittedly no particles in our experience WITHIN the universe seem to match the attributes I’m giving The Blark. And I note that giving the Blark such attributes “explains” what caused the universe. But, have I really explained to any thinking person what caused the universe? No. It’s a non-explanation – it comes with no detailed appeal to evidence from the real world, or explicit model for how it could work.

    Jack Spell is attributing a similar power to his Personal Agent. He gives it the attribute of existing outside of time and space, existing eternally, and it has the capacity to change states – from mere eternal existence to causing a material temporal universe and entering into time with the universe.

    He doesn’t say how this could happen either. To say “the Agent does it by having FREE WILL and DECIDING” are just substituting new words for “the Agent has the capacity to do it.” It’s simply giving LABELS to the ability of the agent, it’s not giving an account of HOW those powers actually operate and cause material, temporal entities like our universe.

    Where do “decisions” free willed, agential or otherwise, get their magic power from, to exist eternally, immaterially, changes states, and interact with the physical? Why should we think “being an agent” or “having the power to make decisions, free willed or otherwise” equates to the reality of the type of power Jack is ascribing to his cause of the universe?

    Don’t label it. Explain it. Please.

    Cheers,

    Vaal

    (And to say “but if a particle had the capacity to change it’s state while being eternal, this could only happen if it’s power were that of free-willed decision-making…that just begs the question, because the idea that one ought to think free will or decision-making is the capacity to do such things in an eternal, immaterial state is exactly what is being challenged in the first place).

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  123. Tim says:

    WLC’s basic claim was carefully worded and very modest: that God’s existence is significantly more probable in light of the evidence of contemporary cosmology than it would have been without it. To his mind, this is almost a no-brainer: obviously God’s existence is much more probable given the big bang and fine-tuning than it would have been in their absence! Moreover, he made it clear that he was not using God to plug up gaps in our scientific knowledge. Rather he argued that the cosmological evidence goes to support theologically neutral premises in philosophical arguments which lead to conclusions having theistic significance. Specifically, the evidence of contemporary cosmology supports the premises “The universe began to exist” and “The fine-tuning is not due to physical necessity or chance.” That’s what was at issue in the debate.

    Carroll evidently misinterpreted the debate to be “theism vs. naturalism.” He seemed to think that WLC was offering a theistic alternative to contemporary cosmological theories, as if he was defending a sort of theistic science where God plays the role of a theoretical entity in a scientific theory. This was a clear misunderstanding, since WLC was claiming that the standard, secular theories simply go to support the truth of those two premises above. So a good deal of his argumentation was irrelevant. The relevant question was whether those two premises are more plausibly true than false in light of contemporary cosmology.

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  124. co says:

    It’s easy to see this fact with a simple illustration: the necessary and sufficient conditions to account for water’s freezing is sub-zero temperature; if the temperature is sub-zero, then any water around will necessarily be frozen.

    An awful example, especially because it’s wrong. Even under standard pressure, water can quite easily be cooled well below 0 C, and it doesn’t require especially pure or undisturbed water. So far as I know, the current record for pure liquid water in bulk is -41 C, which takes some care, but is achievable with care.

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  125. JP Arnold says:

    Vaal wrote:

    To say “the Agent does it by having FREE WILL and DECIDING” are just substituting new words for “the Agent has the capacity to do it.” It’s simply giving LABELS to the ability of the agent, it’s not giving an account of HOW those powers actually operate and cause material, temporal entities like our universe….”

    I agree that no complete explanation of “how” these powers operate is given. As a bit of a skeptic I question whether any explanation of how anything actually operates is a full, complete, and total accounting of its full functionality, despite our wishes that science “explains” things. I would prefer the term “describes” things. But, be that as it may, my argument is more basic:

    You think that if you declare that eternal Blark has a feature that allows it to “wait” till a point in time to create the natural world, such a declaration is same as saying that an eternal being performs the same task by means of personal agency.

    But, the canons of reason do not allow us to ascribe anything whatsoever to Blark and at the same time maintain rational discourse. If, as you say, Blark is eternal, existing outside of space/time, then it had forever to “create” the world. Your declaration of an X factor that allowed it to “postpone” cannot logically exist in any other known form than that which is analogous to personal agency (because it had forever to act, yet did not. The question is begged if you simply declare that it did it without its having a sufficient reason.

    So, your declaration of a “non personal” X factor is nonsensical and non rational. It is as if you said that a square circle is that which keeps the orbit of the Milky Way functional. You have the right to give Blark any attribute you choose, but if that attribute is one that appears irrational, then you are asking us to take a Leap of Faith.

    Better to keep the logic consistent and coherent by maintaining that if Blark exists and “waited” to create time and space, then his hesitation was due to an X factor that was akin to choice. Therefore, it is necessary to describe Blark more like a personal being than a blind force.

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  126. Howie says:

    Vaal and JP – sorry, dumb layperson question. How can something wait or hesitate outside of time? Doesn’t the way we define and use those words imply a time setting? Is there a simple answer to that or do I need to read a book to understand?

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  127. Vaal says:

    JP Arnold,

    You are still begging the question (and taking a trip through Special Pleading to get there).

    When theists are appealing to the concept of a Personal Agent making a free willed decision, clearly they are drawing this concept from our experience, in particular, from the examples of ourselves and other humans engaging in such actions.

    They are saying in a nutshell: You know how we can make decisions and then take an action based on that decision? Yeah? Well, that can ALSO happen in a situation in which there is no matter or energy and no time or space!

    What????? That seems just one massive non-sequitur and it automatically demands the response “how the hell is THAT plausible? What is that should make me think such a thing could actually occur, in reality?”

    This is like the leap from “You know how people can play monopoly on their kitchen table? Well, I claim this “playing monopoly” can also occur in the middle of the sun!”

    There’s just a teeny bit of explaining left to do there before anyone should take that vast leap seriously at all.

    If the theist thinks he can just lift the concept of “decision making leading to action”
    from the physical human phenomenon (we seem as physical and part of the causal universe as any other empirical objects) and say it can happen without cause, in a realm of non-material/energy and no time and space, he can hardly complain when anyone else does the same thing. I notice there are vast numbers of entities that change state all the time, so I say “ok, so then a non-sentient entity, a particle, can do it outside time and space as well. It can, in a timeless realm, shift state, cause the universe and enter time with the universe.”

    He can’t complain “it couldn’t plausibly do that” by pointing to the fact I’ve taken a physical entity out of it’s normal empirical context of causation because that’s exactly what he is doing when he looks at human action and simply asserting the same process can occur outside time and space. What EVIDENCE is there for that?

    You keep trying to claim equivalence between Blark Power and Personal Cause Power by claiming the only power to cause a universe must be Personal Free Willed Agency. And on that basis, a Blark could only cause a universe if it had Personal Free Willed Agency. This begs the question since I keep asking for reason or evidence showing why we should think Personal Agency has such power in the first place! I could just as well say “The only way something could be eternal and yet produce a temporal effect is if it had the NON-SENTIENT property of Blarkness. Hence if theists say something caused the universe, it would have equivalent properties and be non-sentient.” Theists would instantly recognize this as mere assertion, question-begging, and not at all established by evidence. Yet they help themselves to just this type of assertion when saying we ought to accept their claim about the non-material, non-temporal, non-spatial powers of Personal Causation (or “free willed agents”).

    Of course, people like W.L. Craig have actually gone on to claim he draws this inference from the examples of human minds having just these properties. Which just doesn’t fly given all the evidence against it.

    But, if the point is not clear by now, I don’t think any more on my part is going to do more.

    Vaal

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  128. Jack Spell says:

    Vaal,

    I want to first thank you for that thoughtful, interesting, and, especially, *respectful* response. I must say I’m thoroughly impressed by your reasoning, and you raise many substantive points. What’s more, I strongly commend the way in which you articulate your position — your objections and arguments are quite easy to discern despite the length of your responses. I appreciate the level of civility that was exhibited by your last response and I hope to do the same with this one. I apologize for the prolonged time until my response.

    Rather than follow my inclination to give a point-by-point response, I’ve opted for another approach instead. That is, I’ll summarize what I discern to be your three central objections and then respond accordingly.

    From what I was able to gather from that last response, your three central objections seem to be as follows:

    1. What good reasons are there to think that there could exist immaterial persons (divine or otherwise) endowed with libertarian freedom of the will whose exercise of causal powers might bring about effects in the spatiotemporal world?

    2. Even if there were good reasons to believe that such persons as described in (1) exist, how could such a person timelessly “freely decide” to perform an action in an eternal, immaterial setting?

    3. Even if there were good reasons to believe that such persons as described in (1) and (2) exist, in what way would it be justified to ascribe their free exercise of causal power as an explanation for some physical phenomena?

    With respect to (1), what this amounts to is an affirmation of some version of strong physicalism:

    SP: everything that exists is fundamentally matter, most likely, elementary “particles” (whether taken as points of potentiality, centers of mass/energy, units of spatially extended stuff/waves, or reduced to [or eliminated in favor of] fields), organized in various ways according to the laws of nature. No nonphysical entities exist, including emergent ones. The only sorts of causes in the universe are mechanical/efficient (that by means of which an effect is produced) and material (the stuff out of which something is made). There are no purposes, goals, final causes, irreducible teleology. And there are no free agents with the active power to be the *real* originating causes of their own actions without being determined to act by the laws of nature and external environmental factors.

    This is, in the minds of an overwhelming majority, quite a radical view to defend. On this view, living organisms—including human persons—are relational structures of parts held together by various forces, not unified, uncomposed substantial selves. There are at least four features — consciousness, free will, rationality, and a unified self — of human persons that disconfirm this hypothesis. They are recalcitrant facts for naturalism and not what would be predicted if it were true. Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

    1) Consciousness: It is hard to see how finite consciousness could result from the rearrangement of brute matter; it is, however, easier to see how a conscious Being could produce finite consciousness. This assumes a commonsense understanding of conscious states such as sensations, thoughts, beliefs, desires and volitions. So understood, mental states are in no sense physical since they possess four features not owned by physical states:

    (i) There is a raw qualitative feel or a “what it is like” to have a mental state such as a pain.

    (ii) Many mental states have intentionality—ofness or aboutness—directed toward an object (e.g., a thought *about* the Lorentzian transformation equations).

    (iii) Mental states are inner, private and immediate to the subject having them.

    (iv) Mental states fail to have crucial features (e.g., spatial extension, location) that characterize physical states and, in general, cannot be described using physical language.

    Given that conscious states are immaterial and not physical, there can be no natural scientific explanation for the existence of conscious states. It will not do to claim that consciousness simply emerged from matter when it reached a certain level of complexity. “Emergence” is not an explanation of the phenomena to be explained. It’s merely a label.

    2) Free will: It is *widely* acknowledged that the commonsense, spontaneously formed understanding of human free will is what’s called “libertarian freedom”:

    LF: one acts freely only if one’s action was not determined—directly or indirectly—by forces outside his control, and one must be free to act or refrain from acting; one’s choice is “spontaneous,” it originates with and only with the actor.

    Our experience of libertarian free will is compelling; so compelling, in fact, that people cannot act as though that experience is an illusion, even if it somehow is one. Think about it: when a physicalist calling to order a pizza is faced with a choice between hand-tossed and thin crust, he cannot bring himself to reply, “Look, I’m a determinist. I’ll just have to wait till it gets here and see what order happens.” According to a major understanding of Christianity, God has libertarian freedom and created his image-bearers to possess this freedom. By contrast, most philosophers are agreed that libertarian freedom and a theory of agency it entails are incompatible with the generally accepted depiction of physicalism presented above.

    3) Rationality: According to Christianity, God—the fundamental being—is rational and created his image-bearers with the mental equipment to exhibit rationality and be apt for truth gathering in their various environments. But rationality is an odd entity in a scientific naturalist world. There are at least two reasons why human persons can’t be rational agents in a naturalistic worldview but are predicted to be precisely such in a theistic worldview: (1) the necessity of the enduring, rational self and (2) the need for room for teleological (i.e., goal-directed) factors to play a role in thought processes. There must be not only a unified self at each time in a deliberative sequence but also an identical self that endures through the rational act. Rational deliberation and intellectual responsibility seem to presuppose an enduring ‘I’. But on the naturalist view, ‘I’ am a collection of parts such that if I gain and lose parts, ‘I’ am literally a different aggregate from one moment to the next. Thus, there is no such enduring ‘I’ that could serve as the unifier of rational thought on a naturalist view. Furthermore, there is also the following argument:

    (1) If naturalism is true, there is no irreducible teleology.

    (2) Rational deliberation exhibits irreducible teleology.

    (3) Therefore, naturalism is false.

    Finally, consider the fact that, from a naturalistic point of view, our beliefs would be dependent on neurophysiology, and (no doubt) a belief would just be a neurological structure of some complex kind. Now the neurophysiology on which our beliefs depend will doubtless be *adaptive*. But here’s the million dollar question: Why think for a moment that the beliefs dependent on or caused by that neurophysiology will be mostly true? Why think our cognitive faculties are reliable? From a theistic point of view, we’d expect that our cognitive faculties would be (for the most part, and given certain qualifications and caveats) reliable. God has created us in his image, and an important part of our image bearing is our resembling him in being able to form true beliefs and achieve knowledge. But from a naturalistic point of view the thought that our cognitive faculties are reliable (i.e., produce a preponderance of true beliefs) would be at best a naive hope. The naturalist can be reasonably sure that the neurophysiology underlying belief formation is adaptive, but nothing follows about the truth of the beliefs depending on that neurophysiology. In fact he’d have to hold that it is unlikely, given unguided evolution, that our cognitive faculties are reliable. It’s as likely, given unguided evolution, that we live in a sort of dream world as that we actually know something about ourselves and our world. If this is so, the naturalist has a defeater for the natural assumption that his cognitive faculties are reliable. And if he has a defeater for that belief, he also has a defeater for *any* belief that is a product of his cognitive faculties. But of course that would be all of his beliefs — including naturalism itself! So the naturalist has a defeater for naturalism; naturalism, therefore, is self-defeating and cannot be rationally believed.

    4. Unified selves. Naturalism cannot countenance a substantial, enduring mental self (i.e., a mind or immaterial soul). If one starts with separable physical parts, and simply rearranges them according to natural laws into new relational structures constituted by external relations, then in the category of “individual,” one’s ontology will have atomic simples.

    There are two basic reasons why a substantial, simple soul is not an option for a naturalist. First, the naturalist is committed to the closure of the physical. All physical events that have causes have entirely physical causes; when tracing the causal antecedents of a physical event, one need not—and, indeed, cannot—leave the physical realm. This is, it seems to me, the only reason why one would defend so radical a view as to deny libertarian free will — immaterial, personal agency does not mesh with a naturalistic worldview and it must therefore a priori be denied.

    Up to this point I’ve focused only on the task of showing how a naturalistic presupposition does not seem to be compatible with several observed features of reality. Moreover, I’ve also briefly mentioned why these features are compatible — indeed, *expected* — on a theistic worldview. Namely, the metaphysical features of theism are fundamental in existence—God, the basic Being, is a unified, conscious, immaterial self with rationality, free will—and it is hardly surprising that they appear elsewhere in the created order, especially in association with beings that are alleged to have been created to be like God. Thus, theism predicts that these four features are irreducible, ineliminable aspects of human persons, and the fact that they seem to be such provides confirmation of theism. However, you asked to see the evidence confirming the substance dualistic contention that a human person is not identical to his brain. I suppose I should cite the multitudes of examples of near-death experiences — those where people have reported verifiable data from a distance away from themselves. Moreover, several of these reports even occur during the absence of heartbeat or *brain waves* [For many cases see Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland, Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1998; Eugene, Ore.: Wipf & Stock, 2003), chaps. 7–9.].

    Additionally, I refer you to [http://www.amazon.com/gp/search?index=books&linkCode=qs&keywords=9780830837182] and [www.veritasforum.com/talks/] for the discussion between the late eminent scholar Antony Flew and NT historian Gary Habermas, in which Flew mentions how compelling some NDEs are as evidence against physicalism. Habermas cites a letter which he received from Flew that stated the following:

    “I find the materials about near death experiences so challenging. . . . this evidence equally certainly weakens if it does not completely refute my argument against doctrines of a future life.” [Letter from Antony Flew to Gary Habermas, September 6, 2000.]

    There is also the following exchange:

    HABERMAS: Elsewhere, you again very kindly noted my influence on your thinking here, regarding these data being decent evidence for human consciousness independent of “electrical activity in the brain.” [Flew, “God and the Big Bang,” p. 2. Habermas’s influence on Flew’s statement here is noted in Flew’s letter of November 9, 2000.] If some near-death experiences are evidenced, independently confirmed experiences during a near-death state, even in persons whose heart or brain may not be functioning, isn’t that quite impressive evidence? Are near-death experiences, then, the best evidence for an afterlife?

    FLEW: Oh, yes, certainly. They are basically the only evidence.

    Thus, I invite you to look into these citations. If the most prominent atheist scholar of the 20th Century found them persuasive enough to change his decades-old belief that human consciousness cannot exist absent the brain, then they certainly warrant investigating.

    In addition to what’s already been said above, it seems to me that there also exists a knock-down philosophical argument against the nature of human persons being physically dependent. The eighteenth-century philosopher and theologian Joseph Butler once remarked that everything is itself and not something else. This simple truth has profound implications. Namely, it points to a truth about the nature of identity known as Leibniz’s law of the indiscernibility of identicals: If you’ve got two truly identical things, then there is only one thing you are talking about—not two—and any truth that applies to “one” applies to the “other” (x=y → ∀P(Px ↔ Py)). This suggests a test for identity: If you could find one thing true of x that is not true of y, or vice versa, then x cannot be identical to y. Further, if you could find one thing that could possibly be true of x and not y (or vice versa), even if it isn’t actually true, then x cannot be identical to y. If physicalism is true, then everything true of the brain (and/or its properties/states) is true of the mind (and/or its properties/states) and vice versa. But if there is just one thing true, or even possibly true of consciousness and the self that is not of the brain/body and its physical states, or vice versa, then dualism is established. And here is one such thing:

    1. Any physical body is essentially a divisible or composed entity (i.e., any physical body has spatial extension or separable parts).

    2. Human persons are essentially indivisible, uncomposed entities that cannot exist in degrees (i.e., even if I were to lose half of my brain, similar to some neurosurgical patients and those with Dandy Walker syndrome, nevertheless I do not become *half a person*).

    3. Therefore, human persons are not physical bodies.

    That is to say,

    ∀x(P(x) → Q(x))
    ¬Q(c)
    ————————-
    Therefore, ¬P(c)

    where U = all things, P(x): x is a physical body, Q(x): x is essentially a divisible, composed entity, and c = human persons.

    Keep in mind that the relation of identity is different from any other relation, for example, the relation of causation or constant connection. With regard to the relation of causation, it may be that brain events cause or are correlated with mental events or vice versa. But just because A causes B (or vice versa), or just because A and B are constantly correlated with each other, that does not mean that A is identical to B. Correlation is not the same thing as identity. Physicalism needs identity to make its case.

    To sum up my respons to your first central objection: it seems to me that we have not only good philosophical reasons for believing that persons are not identical to their bodies, but also solid evidence in the form of NDE reports. Moreover, given the fact that the overwhelming majority of the world would not only affirm the view I’ve defended — that persons are essentially immaterial souls/spirits endowed with libertarian freedom of the will — , but also agree that these are properly basic beliefs, then it seems to me, therefore, the burden of proof is on you to show otherwise. ***I claim no originality here in reference to arguments regarding the mind/body problem; I’ve drawn heavily from the work of J. P. Moreland and others***

    With respect to your second central objection, as I said, on a relational view of time, time is a relation among objects or experiences of a successive character. Thus, ‘prior’ to Creation there were no material objects; hence, no relations among material objects of a successive character (i.e., time). But what about a temporal succession of mental states experienced by God? Wouldn’t that necessitate the presence of time? Again, a personal God need not experience a temporal succession of mental states. He could apprehend the whole content of the temporal series in a single eternal intuition; God would know the content of all knowledge — past, present, and future — in a simultaneous and eternal intuition. And as far as His “choosing” goes, as an omniscient Being God’s choices are not events, since He neither deliberates temporally nor does His will move from a state of indecision to decision. He simply has free determinations of the will to execute certain actions (just like the rest of us) and any deliberation can only be said to be explanatorily, not temporally, prior to His decrees. Therefore, the fact that the creator is personal does not necessitate the presence of time prior to creation.

    In sum: on a relational view of time God would exist changelessly and timelessly ‘prior’ to the first event, creation, which marks the beginning of time. That first event is concomitant with God’s exercising His causal power to produce the spatiotemporal world. Such an exercise of causal power plausibly brings God into time. Therefore, it is most certainly coherent to hold that God could “freely decide” in an eternal, immaterial setting. The same, however, cannot be said for Blark or any other material entity.

    Finally, in response to central objection number three, it would appear that there are two things to be said in response to this objection. First, it simply fails to understand the logic of personal explanation. A personal explanation can be epistemically successful without making any reference to a mechanism or other means by which the hypothesized agent brought about the state of affairs in the explanandum. I can explain the existence and precise nature of a certain arrangement of objects in my living room by saying that my wife brought it about to change the way in which the living room was decorated. That explanation is informative (I can tell the theme that she’s chosen, that we can seat eight people if we have guests over, that my wife did this and not my daughters, and that natural processes are inadequate). The adequacy of such a personal explanation is quite independent of whether or not I know exactly *how* my wife did it. There are many sciences that involve formulating criteria for inferring intelligent agent causes to explain certain phenomena and for refraining from inferring such causes. And in these sciences, such an inference is usually both epistemically justified and explanatorily significant completely independently of knowledge as to *how* the agent brought about the phenomena. In forensic science, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), psychology, sociology, and archeology, a scientist can know that an intelligent agent is the best explanation of a sequence involving the first 100 prime numbers in a row or that such and such is an intelligently designed artifact used in a culture’s religious sacrifices without having so much as a clue as to how the sequence or artifact was made.

    Furthermore, sometimes one hypothesis will consider a phenomenon basic and not in need of a solution, empirical or otherwise. It may, therefore, disallow questions about how or why that phenomenon occurs and, thus, can hardly be faulted for not being fruitful in suggesting lines of empirical research for mechanisms whose existence is not postulated by the theory. By way of application, theistic dualism could take God’s creation of consciousness and its precise causal correlation with the brain to be a basic action for which there is no further “how” question to be asked. And the theistic dualist can also claim that, given the nature of personal explanation, the epistemic value of citing a mechanism in answer to a “how” question is not as important as other epistemic values. Thus, failure to answer such a question is not a significant issue in light of its own inner logic. But the same cannot be said for naturalism, and given the way physical explanation works, the importance of answering “how” questions by citing a mechanism is, indeed, quite high. Thus, naturalism’s failure to answer this question is serious. The same, however, cannot be said for the personal explanation proposed by theistic dualism.

    It often happens in science that a range of apparently unrelated data can be unified if a theoretical entity is postulated as that which is causally responsible for that range. The postulation of electrons unified a wide range of phenomena by depicting them as effects of the electron’s causal powers. Moreover, it is by no means a prerequisite that one must know *how* exactly the mechanism of these theoretical entities functions in order for them to be accepted as a fruitful theory; there are many “fruitful” explanations in science which are themselves *far* from having a complete description. For instance, there’s dark matter, dark energy, cosmic inflation, strings, branes, extra dimensions, quarks, gluons, nuclear force (i.e., nucleon-nucleon interaction), quantum mechanics itself, black holes, and multiverse scenarios, to name but a few purported fruitful entities that we don’t fully understand. It is, therefore, inconsistent to condemn personal explanations due to their lack of a proposed mechanism and at the same time support scientific hypotheses such as those above.

    To sum up objection three: the adequacy of a personal explanation does not consist in offering a mechanism, but rather, in correctly citing the relevant person, his intentions, the basic power exercised, and in some cases, offering a description of the relevant action plan. Thus, if we have some model of God and His intentions for creating a world suitable for human persons (from revelation or otherwise), we can make reference to God, His intentions for creating a world with persons with mental states regularly correlated with their environment, and the adequacy of His power to bring about the basic results. This is no less fruitful than many of the other theoretical entities that I mentioned; especially if it’s the Truth.

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  129. Vaal says:

    Thank you Jack. Very we’ll written.

    Naturally I would contest just about everything you’ve argued there. I’m currently on vacation and stuck writing on an execrable iPad, so when I reply further I’ll have to
    to be succinct and keep the point I’m making narrow and manageable.

    Vaal

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  130. Jack Spell says:

    Thanks, Vaal.

    Of course you would contest everything I’ve argued in the last post — we both know that you’re way too committed a naturalist to just roll over and die and admit the obvious :) No, seriously man, take all the time you need to respond, especially on vacation. I’ve enjoyed our discussion thus far and I’ll be looking forward to continuing it when I see a response. Take it easy.

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  131. Sean Carroll –

    Great debate and as usual I have learned much from listening to Sean. Also Sean has put out a great series of lectures on the Dark Side of the Universe – I highly recommend them.

    For some reason nobody seems to be aware of this Theological Refute of the Kalam.

    The Kalam is used by some Theologians and Apologetics to ‘prove’ the Bible story of Genesis 1:1,2 is true.

    I.E. The Universe was created ex-nihilo, (out of nothing) and by God.

    But the Bible has most likely been misunderstood and mistranslated .

    World renowned Bible Scholar Friedman translates and explains Genesis 1:1-2 as follows:

    1 In the beginning of god’s creating the skies and the earth
    2 When the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face oft he deep…

    He says: The Bible’s Hebrew means the earth had already existed in a shapeless condition prior to creation. Based on current understanding of Biblical Hebrew tenses the “Creation of matter in the Bible is not out of nothing (creatio ex nihilo) as many have claimed”.

    The above is more fully documented at alter cocker jewish atheist blog post.

    http://altercockerjewishatheist.blogspot.com/2014/02/kalam-cosmological-proof-of-god.html

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  132. Bob says:

    Sean i feel like the more i learn the less i know.
    thought that we now saw time as “spacetime”, a 4 dimensional block where everything is relative. now i here that time is actually more a quantum wave. may i ask 1. is the Minkowski space time modal accepted as the consensus by experts? r there those who see it as bunk? do many still hold to time theory A? and did the universe come into existence or always exist when we veiw time as a quantum wave?
    thank you

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  133. Josh says:

    Very good debate….thought both presenters done well. Mr. Carroll and Mr. Craig were both civil and yet still tried to address each others points. I am a theist so “naturally” I would lean towards Mr. Craig but I really enjoyed the civility and attitude of Mr Carroll. It was a total 180 from watching Mr. Krauss rant on and on.

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  134. Daniel Shawen says:

    When confronted with issues of fact and science, hard core religion will almost always resort to issues of the miracle of finite minds vs. infinite ones (consciousness) and philosophy (old and dated as most scripture). You can see this happening too by the length of the responses, because philosophy takes pride in on and on forever about almost nothing that is substantive.

    Our minds are finite, yes. So finite, in fact, that philosophy at our level is almost a waste of time. It’s like debating a mouse trap about the morality of killing a mouse.

    Our machines are not yet “conscious” or sentient. They were fashioned by us to work on numbers without needing to know what a number is, or where the idea came from.

    By the same token, ideas about length and time tax minds like Newton or Einstein’s precisely because they deal with the most fundamental ideas our minds can process, and not even our greatest scientists have a clue as to what length or time is, I can assure you. The flight to eleven dimensions when we don’t even fully understand the first one is a real triumph of human imagination.

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