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The Universe Doesn’t Have Constants?

Posted in Religion, Reviews/Analysis, Science/Technology with tags , , , , , , , , on 2009/07/13 by darkshrouds

According to this blog post entitled Uniformitarianism: Philosophical Problems, all of the scientist in the world should stop trying because all of our theories are just theories. I shall explain.

He starts off with the definition which I shall quote.

“Uniformitarianism, in the philosophy of science, assumes that the same natural processes that operate in the universe now, have always operated in the universe in the past, and at the same rates; and that the same laws of physics apply everywhere in the universe. Its methodology is frequently summarized as “the present is the key to the past,” because it holds that all things continue as they were from the beginning of the world.”

Now, most scientist will see what is wrong here quite quickly. We do operate on the assumption that the same natural processes that operate in the universe now, have always and at the same rates; and that the same laws of physics apply everywhere. Now, the question is why do we assume this? Because that is what we see. When you look at the geological layers and analyse samples – terrestrial and extraterrestrial – we find that the same laws work. When you send a probe into space, the laws of physics stay the same. When you look back into the universe, back in time; the laws of physics stay the same. When we measure the speed of light, calibrate the strength of gravity, observe phenomena in different places and under similar conditions; the speed of light is constant, the law of gravity holds, and the phenomena do the same thing every time, and if they don’t we alter our view to conform to the new evidence. This is how science works and how your computer, iPhone, oven, stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, television, radio, lights, electricity, air travel, medicine, and all of the technology that is enjoyed by society today came to be. It came from science discovering, interpreting and figuring out the world. Then other people use these discoveries to bring all this stuff into being and it works, because uniformity of the universe holds. If you have similar conditions, similar phenomena are expected.

Now considering the statement that just makes one cringe.

This definition has a problem. Consider whether evolution has always been occurring. Was there a time when it wasn’t occurring, before living things existed, according to common ancestry? This shows that there is an enthymeme, or unstated proposition. Something is missing from the definition. Let’s amend the definition to include this proposition.

“Uniformitarianism, in the philosophy of science, assumes that, given a set of local conditions, the same natural processes that operate in the location now, have operated in locations with similar conditions in the past, and at the same rates; and that the same laws of physics apply everywhere in the universe.”

Now there are many things wrong here, I’ll start with the most obvious. Evolution has not always been occuring, this is true. Not because evolution is not a constant, but because there was no life for which it to act upon. Evolution does not deal with the first life form, only after life exists does evolution come into play. Therefore, the amended portion is not needed because it still holds. Uniformity assumes that laws hold for what they are supposed to. Gravity works on sub-atomic particles, however, the effect is minimal due to much stronger forces that are effecting these. Scientific theories are only set to specific conditions.

However, the pain for the scientific and rational mind does not cease. It comes again.

Now let’s look a bit at what impact the new proposition has on the definition. Local conditions determine which local processes are occurring and their rates. Laws of physics are unaffected by local conditions; we assume that the laws of physics determine the local processes and their rates by acting on the local conditions.

We find that we have a uniformity condition remaining:

Uniformity of law: Laws of physics apply everywhere and everywhen in the universe.

Uniformitarians, who ignore local conditions, assert the following invalid uniformity condition:

“Uniformity of process: If a past phenomenon can be understood as the result of a process now acting in time and space, do not invent an extinct or unknown cause as its explanation”

Why is this invalid? We have seen that processes are condition-dependent. The assumption of uniformity of process assumes that the local conditions existing in the past are the same as the local conditions existing now. We know that local conditions change. We know that natural processes operating on different local conditions may yield the same set of observed phenomena. There also may be supernatural events that yield the observed phenomena. We know that there is historical evidence of supernatural events that yield the observed phenomena, so there is no invention apart from evidence.

Boiling all this down, we see the following reasons for the invalidity of the asserted uniformity condition:

1. Ignorance of local conditions in the past. We have good reason to believe that, in fact, they were quite different than the local conditions we see today.

2. Ambiguity of processes that could have produced the phenomena. Different sets of local conditions can result in different processes producing the same observed phenomena.

3. There is no necessity for asserting that natural processes formed the observed phenomena and ignoring historical evidence that the observed phenomena may have been formed by supernatural events.

Thus, uniformitarians who assert that “the present is the key to the past,” are asserting an invalid proposition.

Now this is simply too easy. If you are observing an asteroid and see that it will hit our moon tomorrow, you can enter the data into a computer and predict what is going to happen. When you observe the phenomena occur the principles of physics hold. Uniformity holds for the universe. When different conditions – local – exist, we see evidence in the fossil records, evidence in the type of stone deposited and other pieces of data that can be used to understand and predict what the conditions were. The second statement is why we – scientists, empiricists, rationalists, etc. – seek more evidence, to clear up ambiguity. When we know certain conditions must have existed, we get a better picture. The third statement is ridiculous. To assume a supernatural interaction is not needed when we can explain the phenomena is ridiculous. If we can’t explain because there is to few evidence, we research further. There is stated historical evidence for supernatural phenomena, I humbly ask that this is submitted to the world. If it holds up to scrutiny, you will have altered much of science and challenges are always welcome. This is how we learn; however, we see no necessary requirement for your supernatural occurrence. I discussed this previously here.

The understanding of the present is the key to the past, as it is only in the present that we can obtain new data. To state that this is invalid, then DNA analysis of blood at a crime scene should be inadmissible in court because some supernatural being must have placed it there. I’m sure the judge will be accepting of that claim, or perhaps in Saudi Arabia.

Again, science simply states that the universe exists and it can be observed. Uniformity comes out of this because that is what we see. We do not see supernatural beings moving mountains, dead people walking about in cities, trees talking to humans, etc. We see natural phenomena, explained by natural mechanisms. Let us enjoy and be happy for what science has given us, the comforts of modern day. In the past couple thousand years, we have grown into a successful race at conforming the environment to our needs using science; in the past couple thousand years, what has religion brought us but war, strife, hate, contempt, inquisitions, persecutions and pain to those who are different than themselves?

The answer is simple. It has brought nothing else.

I’ll go with science as it seems to have a better track record.

I. A. Mills

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Critique: When Skeptics Ask – Chapter 2, Part 1

Posted in Religion, Reviews/Analysis with tags , , , on 2009/07/12 by darkshrouds

I was handed a book, When Skeptics Ask, by Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, and told that this would help convert me from an intelligent atheist and scientist into a Christian apologist. While reading this book I have noticed that it is so painful that I had to write a rebuttal. Thereby, I am beginning with the second chapter, as the first is introductory, and really not worth it at all.

The second chapter is titled – Questions About God.

I must state that the authors are quite correct at the opening of the second chapter.

“The existence of a personal, moral God is fundamental to all that Christians believe. If there is no moral God, there is no moral being against whom we have sinned; therefore, salvation is not needed. Furthermore, if there is no God, there could be no acts of God (miracles), and the stories of Jesus can only be understood as fiction or myth.” (When Skeptics Ask, pg.15)

I must agree wholeheartedly. This is precisely the point I make when I discuss religion.

The chapter is divided into two question – does God exist and if God exists, what kind of God is He? We can easily see that the second question is conditioned by the first. If the first is incorrect, then the second question is irrelevant.

Does God Exist?

The authors bring up the four basic arguments – cosmological, teleological, axiological, and ontological.

The cosmological argument is mostly from Thomas Aquinas and can be found in the Summa Theologica, part I, question II, article III. Basically it states that anything that has a beginning, was caused by something else. Since the universe has a beginning, that beginning is the first cause, or as Thomas assigned the name, God. This is refuted simply.

Firstly, to label the primary cause, God is a loaded term way of ascribing powers that are not necessary, or sufficient, to assign for the assumption of a primary cause that is unknown. Just to not know what the cause was means we must remain agnostic about the initial cause. However, this also begs the question, what was the initial cause’s cause? This infinite regression is a painful way to argue, as the end is always a place where the scientist states, “I don’t know” and the religious state, “that is God.” That statement is unfounded, and is easily explained. If you state that the universe needs a first cause, then that is all your being needs and all that is sufficient to make your argument work. To add that this being forgives sins, saves those that sacrifice to him, worship his presence, that he is infinite, omnipresent, all-powerful sky daddy is ludicrous. If this makes sense, then if a sandbag falls and kills an actor on stage we should assign intelligence to the sandbag as it had to have a choice in the destruction and choose to drop on the actor. It can’t be because the rope was frayed, or someone cut the rope and therefore must have special properties. This is the same argument as above.

The initial cause is a coming together of all the conditions needed to begin the universe. The last condition to come to be would be known as the initial cause. To state that this is God is intellectually harmful and dishonest. We don’t know and no one can. It is not, because we don’t know, therefore God; it is we don’t know, because we can obtain no evidence prior to the Big Bang.

I’m going to gloss over the next portion of this argument – God is the continual cause that causes the change in the universe. This is simply stated as shown by science. To state that God is everything, including science is like trimming a bonsai tree with a pair of 13 inch shears. This portion is irrelevant to the argument for God. If the first portion here does not hold up, neither does it.

The teleological argument is the famous argument by design. All designs imply a designer and there is a Great Design in the universe; therefore, there must be a Great Designer of the universe. This argument is a good one – logically speaking – however is not sound.

Watches imply watchmakers; buildings imply architects; paintings imply artists; and coded messages imply a intelligent sender… another way of stating the principle of causality.” (Skeptics, pg. 20)

This is quite true. However notice that all of these are inanimate objects that are engineered works of mankind. Stars are complex, yet they come together under the principles of physics; biology appears complex, yet are governed by simple principles of evolution. Just because something is complex in appearance does not mean that it is from a complex origin. I suggest that a viewing of Evolution is a Blind Watchmaker by cdk007 – found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0.

The next portion is an argument made by C. S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. The argument from moral law. Since all men are conscious of an objective moral law, and moral laws imply a moral lawgiver, there must exist a supreme moral lawgiver.

What an argument. Let’s dispatch it shall we? We are conscious of objective moral laws because they are culturally and socially given. When we became civilized – city dwellers – these arose. There is a moral lawgiver that we are conscious of, ourselves. With these conditions, properly defined and investigate, we find that a supreme lawgiver is ourselves in consensus essentially, not the sky daddy that is going to throw us – hypothetically – in hell.

Now, we have dispatched three of four arguments for just the existence of God being necessary and sufficient. Let us proceed to the ontological argument.

The argument goes as such that “whatever perfection can be attributed to the most perfect being possible must be attributed to it (otherwise it would not be the most perfect being possible) and necessary existence is a perfection which can be attributed to the most perfect being; therefore, necessary existence must be attributed to the most perfect being.” (Skeptics, pg. 24)

Now, this argument has a problem expounded within the text. “ This argument succeeds in showing that our idea of God must include necessary existence but it fails to show that God actually exists.” (Skeptics, pg. 25). This is correct because the argument assumes that existence is better than non-existence. I must utilize the argument from Douglas Gasking, who made this as a parody to Anselm’s argument – the previous one, and made it quite humorous.

  1. The creation of the world is the most marvelous achievement imaginable.
  2. The merit of an achievement is the product of its intrinsic quality and the ability of its creator.
  3. The greater the disability of the creator, the more impressive the achievement.
  4. The most formidable handicap for a creator would be non-existence.
  5. Therefore, if we suppose that the universe is the product of an existent creator we can conceive a greater being – namely, one who created everything while not existing.
  6. An existing God therefore would not be a being greater than which a greater cannot be conceived because an even more formidable and incredible creator would be a God which did not exist.
  7. Therefore God does not exist.

*Lines here taken from a quoted text in The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins, pg.107-108.

Needless to say, this argument does not prove that God doesn’t exist; however, it does the same stating that the idea of God here must include him as not existing, but it fails to show that God actually does not exist.

By here, the book offers no more evidence that God exists. I shall go further into this later and complete the second chapter in a second part as I am only halfway through and this post is quite long enough.