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Posted: 20 February 2006 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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Hello Dr Johnson,

Thank you for the tip on the Nielsen book.

I think we are moral, to a greater or lesser degree, whether or not we believe in God. My first comment weeks ago indicated this. But do you think there is a reason for being moral without God? What does Nielsen say on this issue? I am interested to know.

I do have a problem with your following statement regarding the universe:

“It is governed by interaction rules that require very specific forms of chemical combinations to form all the living matter that exists. Those rules cannot be broken. The chemicals do not combine randomly. From that absolute fact God is unnecessary.”

I quote some professors (H. van Till, Davis Young and Clarence Menninga) who express my concern rather vividly:

“Such talk is quite empty. The “laws of nature” are only our descriptions of the patterns of material behavior, and descriptions have to power to govern. The question of governance cannot be answered by describing patterns of behavior. Behavior patterns give evidence of a governing power at work, but such patterns are not themselves the source of governance. Behavior patterns are not the cause of governance; they are only the result.”

I recommend we look at our epistemology as we continue our conversation. Do you agree?

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Posted: 20 February 2006 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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Ram:

You wrote:<But do you think there is a reason for being moral without God? What does Nielsen say on this issue? I am interested to know.>

Read the book if you want to know.  For me I am moral because I choose to be without a policeman in the sky to watch.  I have a contract with my fellow humans and with the totality of my environment to act ethically.  I expect others to also act morally.  It really is nice.

You quote from others: <“Such talk is quite empty. The “laws of nature” are only our descriptions of the patterns of material behavior, and descriptions have to power to govern. The question of governance cannot be answered by describing patterns of behavior. Behavior patterns give evidence of a governing power at work, but such patterns are not themselves the source of governance. Behavior patterns are not the cause of governance; they are only the result.” >

The rules or “laws of nature” are not “only”, (intentially worded to deminish it, our description of patterns of material behavior.  Material, inanimate stuff responds to forces, those forces arise naturally.  They are not in your language “governing” anything.  Your quote is false logic.  We, by that I mean scientists, have observed certain occurances and patterns.  Those occurances and patterns appear to never change.  Set up an experiment in billiard ball mechanics and apply certain forces and the result be the same - time-after-time.  There is no “governing” going on.

You wrote: <I recommend we look at our epistemology as we continue our conversation. Do you agree?>

Sure, but we have different views and premises.  But give it a try if you want.

Regards, Wes

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Posted: 21 February 2006 05:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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God?

Ram:

Here is the difference.  You operate in the space of observation and reason.  And seem very good at presenting reasoned arguments!  You build hypotheses from your observations and reason through them.  Those hypotheses are not testable.  As such they require faith.  I and scientists like me, operate in the space of observation, reason, and experiment.  I build hypotheses from observation and reason.  I test my hypotheses to determine their validity.  I require no faith.  Nor do I have any, in anything.  All my beliefs are tentative.  I will change them as I receive credible evidence.

History is replete with people in your space.  Thomas Aquinas and Pythagoras to name a few stars.  But that was before the scientific era.  Truth can never be found solely through thinking about things.  Experiments are required to find truth.  Of course I refer to the natural world for which we have an abundance of evidence.  There is no other.  I would accept another realm if provide evidence.  But, alas there is none.  My professor in seminary was very clear, it is all about faith.  There is only argument in your space.  There is no evidence of another realm.  Evidence must be commensurate with claims.  The claim of an omnipotent being requires staggering and overwhelming evidence.  Such evidence does not exist, sorry for you.  Theology is a discipline of making something from nothing.

If you really are a seeker after truth then here are some additional sources:  Rabbi Sherwin Wine’s “Judaism beyond God.”  You should read it.  I also suggest you study texts on science and the philosophy thereof.  Physics is good and you will need the math that supports it.  I also suggest chemistry to understand how chemicals combine without random chance.  Next it would be good to understand biology and the structure of RNA and DNA, long chains of sugar molecules.  Perhaps read Sir Francis Crick’s “The Astonishing Hypothesis” he contends there is no longer a need for philosophers.  We are a mass of neurons, a potentially wondrous mass for sure.  There are so many great books about the coarse and fine structure of our total environment.  You have a lot of catching up to do.  Better get started retraining yourself for a meaningful occupation.


Wes

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Posted: 26 February 2006 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Hello Dr Johnson,

We seem to be hitting on the same topic on the Does God Exist? thread as here.

You wrote,  “I and scientists like me, operate in the space of observation, reason, and experiment. I build hypotheses from observation and reason. I test my hypotheses to determine their validity. I require no faith. Nor do I have any, in anything. All my beliefs are tentative. I will change them as I receive credible evidence.”

What is your stance on the regularity of nature? Do you not exhibit faith that nature will continue to exhibit regularity? No one can maintain that they know with absolute certainty that nature will continue to exhibit regularity, i.e., that the future will be like the past.

I am very willing to admit that I assume the future will be like the past. I have a reason for that assumption. What is your assumption? What is your reason?

If you say that the past regularity is your reason for your belief in future regularity, faith is involved because we are talking about the future and not the past. Therefore may I ask for a definition of faith on your part as a good place to start.

Thanks.

ram/trinitydoktor

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Posted: 28 February 2006 12:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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faith

Hi again Trinity Doktor:

You wrote: <If you say that the past regularity is your reason for your belief in future regularity, faith is involved because we are talking about the future and not the past. Therefore may I ask for a definition of faith on your part as a good place to start.>

So why don’t you go first - what is your definition of “faith.”  Such a definition from an articulate and educated person as you should prove interesting and instructive.

Regards, Dr. Johnson

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Posted: 09 March 2006 08:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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Hello Dr Johnson,

I have been away skiing in Germany and Austria (I live in Germany), so have not been looking at the site.

I am interested to continue our conversation and hope to contribute to this and the “nope” topic this weekend.

I will provide some background to faith, as you suggest.


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Posted: 11 March 2006 07:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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Hello Dr Johnson:

Faith, one definition would be to believe something and live in terms of it.

As I understand it, it was Reformation thinkers who broke down faith into notitia (knowledge), assensus (agreement) and fiducia (trust). How it works is exhibited in the following example. If I am to have an operation, I would speak with a doctor to understand (gain knowledge) about what the problem is and what the operation should achieve. I may get a second opinion in order to add some more confidence to my understanding. I may speak with other people to learn about their experience with the doctor or with the same operation. I thereby gain a basis for agreement that the operation is necessary and that it should achieve the expected results; however, I cannot know that with 100% certainty.

Faith ‘completes’ itself in that I live in terms of it. That means that I go to the hospital/outpatient surgery clinic or whatever to have the operation performed. When I walk in and see the people in white coats and the knives, etc., I might begin to ‘lose faith.’ What happens next is that I need to think more instead of less. In other words, I have to rethink, revisit the discussions with the doctors and the reasons for my decision. I would not be acting on faith to act upon the uneasy feelings that arise upon entering the hospital.

The aforesaid gives some context for understanding a statement found in the Bible regarding faith, that it is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.

I read an interview this morning with the MIT professor Noam Chomsky, who said something indirectly regarding faith. He said, “If I walk out the door, I have an irrational belief that the floor is there. Can I prove it? You know if I am paying attention to it I see it’s there, but I can’t prove it. In fact, if you’re a scientist, you don’t prove anything. The sciences don’t have proofs, what they have are surmises. There is a lot of nonsense these days about evolution just being a theory. Everything’s just a theory, including classical physics! If you want proofs you go to arithmetics; in arithmetic you can prove things. But you stipulate the axioms.”

As I sit here typing in this text, I believe a floor is underneath me, and I believe it with what I take to be ‘good reason.’ I can ask what is ‘good reason’ and at some point, sooner or later (probably sooner), I will arrive at something that is believed (faith). In the same way, my expectation that the reigning scientific laws will hold at time + 1 second cannot be known. The scientific laws are only going to hold if the regularity we have experienced heretofore continues to be the case. The empirical will follow if these conditions hold. I expect (believe, have faith) that regularity will continue, and I have a reason for that. It is important for me to mention that this expectation of regularity is consistent within the system of thought to which I adhere. More to that as we continue our conversation, I suppose.


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Posted: 11 March 2006 09:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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A bit more about my fears

[quote author=“ram”]Bob,

Please give me a bit more explanation about your fears. I am curious.

trinitydoktor/ram

Ram,
I fear all spiritists. Their beliefs have no basis in fact. Therefore, they are dangerous and should be feared.
Bob

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Posted: 12 March 2006 05:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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I think the following discussion really elides a couple of different notions of what faith could amount to.

[quote author=“ram”] If I am to have an operation, I would speak with a doctor to understand (gain knowledge) about what the problem is and what the operation should achieve. I may get a second opinion in order to add some more confidence to my understanding. I may speak with other people to learn about their experience with the doctor or with the same operation. I thereby gain a basis for agreement that the operation is necessary and that it should achieve the expected results; however, I cannot know that with 100% certainty.

Faith ‘completes’ itself in that I live in terms of it. That means that I go to the hospital/outpatient surgery clinic or whatever to have the operation performed. When I walk in and see the people in white coats and the knives, etc., I might begin to ‘lose faith.’ What happens next is that I need to think more instead of less. In other words, I have to rethink, revisit the discussions with the doctors and the reasons for my decision. I would not be acting on faith to act upon the uneasy feelings that arise upon entering the hospital.

Here “faith” seems sort of like “confidence” or a positive state of mind. In that sense, even atheists have faith. But this is irrelevant to any belief in God, and so it’s really not a useful example of the term.

One may say “I have faith in the doctor”, but that is usually just poetic talk for “I have confidence in the doctor”. But would we be likely to say this if we knew the doctor was a fake and had no training in medicine? No. We have confidence in the doctor to the extent to which we can see his credentials. This is rational confidence.

[quote author=“ram”]I read an interview this morning with the MIT professor Noam Chomsky, who said something indirectly regarding faith. He said, “If I walk out the door, I have an irrational belief that the floor is there. Can I prove it? You know if I am paying attention to it I see it’s there, but I can’t prove it. In fact, if you’re a scientist, you don’t prove anything. The sciences don’t have proofs, what they have are surmises. There is a lot of nonsense these days about evolution just being a theory. Everything’s just a theory, including classical physics! If you want proofs you go to arithmetics; in arithmetic you can prove things. But you stipulate the axioms.”

The notion that anything not provable mathematically is “irrational” is one of the worst sorts of bugaboos of epistemology. Talking like this makes a hash of how we use words like “know” in everyday life. Can we logically prove that there is a floor outside? No. Neither can I logically prove that anything exists, except arguably the logical entities themselves. But so what? Knowledge is given by more than just the laws of logic and mathematics. One does not need “faith” to believe that if one fell out of a twelve-story building one would die.

[quote author=“ram”]The scientific laws are only going to hold if the regularity we have experienced heretofore continues to be the case. The empirical will follow if these conditions hold. I expect (believe, have faith) that regularity will continue, and I have a reason for that.

Ummm ... but what work is the “faith” doing you if you also, as you say, “have a reason for that”? Indeed you do have a reason for that: it’s called induction. Induction, like deduction, is one of the basic rules of rationality. It is “basic” in that no further justification of induction is possible (it is self-justifying) and it is “of rationality” because without assuming some form of induction, it is impossible to learn anything about the way the world is.

So this discussion, it appears to me, elides ideas of faith as “confidence”, and as “reason”. But to me that appears to blow smoke in the face of the real use of faith in religion, which is as an escape from rationality.

Faith is unnecessary when there exists a rational argument for some premise. If I can show with reason that X is true, then any “faith” in X is just otiose. Hence “faith” that 120 + 5 = 125 would be silly. “Faith” that the Great Wall is in China would be silly. There are plenty of good, rational arguments for believing these things.

Faith only comes into it when the rational arguments don’t work, or in fact demonstrate the opposite. So, for example, one may say (as I do) that reason militates against the existence of an omnicompetent (perfectly good, knowing, powerful) God. Why? Because the world around us is too full of pain and evil for such a God to be in control.

The standard response is to say even though the belief in God appears irrational, we must suspend disbelief and have faith that he has some larger unseen plan.

That is the characteristic Christian idea of faith, and it is at base an exercise in irrationality.

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Posted: 13 March 2006 03:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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Herr Doktor Ram:

Doug presented thoughts that parallel mine.  I’ll add that my definition of “faith” is: belief in the face of evidence to the contrary.  As I have noted elsewhere all my beliefs are tentative.  Some are stronger than others and are commensurate with good reason and experience.

Again, you operate in a realm of thought alone where you can make up anything while I deal in a realm of reality.  A reality that does not depend on a specific combination of religious beliefs.  Non-theists or religionists of any stripe all can agree on the solidity of the floor and the path of the planets.  These things are real in absence of human presence, not withstanding some quantum mechanical notions.

Remember that it is easier to believe in the Tooth Fairy than to figure out where the money came from.  (Belief is your realm, figuring out is mine.)

Wes

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Posted: 19 March 2006 02:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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I was first troubled with ram/trinitydoktor’s statement about the existence of laws of logic. These ‘laws’ are just our descriptions of things. Patterns we see and give names to. But these things are only human conventions and in no way imply the existence of some non-material being. They do not exist in some other-worldly realm. We can also say that these laws exist as print on textbooks and in synapses in our brain.

I was also troubled with hi repeated use of the words ‘random’ and ‘chance’. If you would like to debate about scientific issues, you should learn to use the language of the scientists! You should know that they hold that matter/energy has properties that more or less determine its existence, its motion, how it interacts with other matter, etc. These properties cause matter to arrange itself in ways we observe and consider orderly. The ‘laws’ of science are merely our descriptions of the properties of matter/energy and the forces that result. Whether or not we come up with theories about the universe, matter and energy function in particular ways.

Then I was troubled by his use of the word ‘faith’. The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1) This is quite different from the expectation that the floor will be there tomorrow like it was yesterday.

I was also trouble by the way ram/trinitydoktor misunderstood the reason why
a -> b
b a
was used. The poster was not saying that this is a logical proof. His point seems to be that we use induction to try to figure out what happened. We see the results around us (let us call that ‘b’) and we try to figure out the ‘a’. Christianity, on the other hand, ASSUMES the ‘a’ (even when ‘b’ seems to be observably false).

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Posted: 04 April 2006 08:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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[quote author=“dmoreau”]I was first troubled with ram/trinitydoktor’s statement about the existence of laws of logic. These ‘laws’ are just our descriptions of things. Patterns we see and give names to. But these things are only human conventions and in no way imply the existence of some non-material being. They do not exist in some other-worldly realm. We can also say that these laws exist as print on textbooks and in synapses in our brain.

The laws of logic are not just our descriptions. They are necessary truths about the world. We didn’t make up the laws of logic anymore than we made up the structure of the universe.

[quote author=“dmoreau”]The ‘laws’ of science are merely our descriptions of the properties of matter/energy and the forces that result. Whether or not we come up with theories about the universe, matter and energy function in particular ways.

You are right that the laws “of science” are our descriptions ... but what science is trying to discover are the laws of nature, which are not due to our descriptions, but are independent of us. It doesn’t matter how I describe it, or what I think about it, the law of gravity affects me the same way nonetheless.

Perhaps this is what you’re saying. I’m not sure.

[quote author=“dmoreau”]I was also trouble by the way ram/trinitydoktor misunderstood the reason why
a -> b
b a
was used. The poster was not saying that this is a logical proof. His point seems to be that we use induction to try to figure out what happened. We see the results around us (let us call that ‘b’) and we try to figure out the ‘a’. Christianity, on the other hand, ASSUMES the ‘a’ (even when ‘b’ seems to be observably false).

Not sure exactly where this comes from, but the logical form is:

A -> B
A——
B

If you have A -> B and B, no conclusion follows logically.

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