Monday, January 23, 2012

Maudlin on the philosophy of cosmology

What’s the difference between a philosopher of science and a scientist who comments on philosophy?  The difference is that the philosopher usually makes sure he’s done his homework before opening his mouth.  I’ve had reason to comment on recent examples of philosophical incompetence provided by Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, Stephen Hawking, and others.  (I’ll be commenting on further examples provided by Peter Atkins and Lawrence Krauss in some forthcoming book reviews.)  In an interview over at The Atlantic, philosopher of physics Tim Maudlin comments on Hawking’s ill-informed remarks about the state of contemporary philosophy.  Hawking and his co-author Leonard Mlodinow claim in The Grand Design that “philosophy has not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics.”  The gigantic literature that has developed over the last few decades in the philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology, philosophy of chemistry, and philosophy of science more generally, not to mention all the work in contemporary philosophy of mind informed by neuroscience and computer science, easily falsifies their glib assertion.  Says Maudlin:

Hawking is a brilliant man, but he's not an expert in what's going on in philosophy, evidently.  Over the past thirty years the philosophy of physics has become seamlessly integrated with the foundations of physics work done by actual physicists, so the situation is actually the exact opposite of what he describes.  I think he just doesn't know what he's talking about.  I mean there's no reason why he should. Why should he spend a lot of time reading the philosophy of physics? I'm sure it's very difficult for him to do.  But I think he's just… uninformed.

Maudlin is being too kind, for there is a very good reason why Hawking should make the effort to learn what philosophers are saying.  Hawking and Mlodinow not only pontificate about philosophy in their recent book; the book is itself essentially an attempt to do philosophy of science and metaphysics -- and a very bad one, precisely because they have not bothered to acquaint themselves with the basics of these fields.  Had they done so, they would have saved themselves from committing the egregious fallacies and other errors I and other philosophers have identified in our reviews of the book.  (If a philosopher tried to do physics without first learning what contemporary physics actually says, no physicist would be as generous with him as Maudlin is with Hawking!)

Maudlin has a lot of other interesting things to say, so do read the whole thing.  Commenting on the reasons why contemporary physicists fail seriously to grapple with the foundational philosophical questions raised by their discipline, he says:

[P]hysicists for almost a hundred years have been dissuaded from trying to think about fundamental questions.  I think most physicists would quite rightly say "I don't have the tools to answer a question like 'what is time?' - I have the tools to solve a differential equation." The asking of fundamental physical questions is just not part of the training of a physicist anymore.

and

Look, physics has definitely avoided what were traditionally considered to be foundational physical questions, but the reason for that goes back to the foundation of quantum mechanics.  The problem is that quantum mechanics was developed as a mathematical tool.  Physicists understood how to use it as a tool for making predictions, but without an agreement or understanding about what it was telling us about the physical world.  And that's very clear when you look at any of the foundational discussions.  This is what Einstein was upset about; this is what Schrodinger was upset about.  Quantum mechanics was merely a calculational technique that was not well understood as a physical theory.  Bohr and Heisenberg tried to argue that asking for a clear physical theory was something you shouldn't do anymore.  That it was something outmoded.  And they were wrong, Bohr and Heisenberg were wrong about that.  But the effect of it was to shut down perfectly legitimate physics questions within the physics community for about half a century.  And now we're coming out of that, fortunately.

Notice that even someone who disagreed with Maudlin that Bohr and Heisenberg were wrong to dismiss the need to address the metaphysical issues -- for that is what they were, on his account, essentially doing -- would in the nature of the case be taking a position that physics itself could not justify, a philosophical position.  And if they want to give a rational justification for this position rather than hold it as a mere prejudice, they will of necessity be engaging in philosophical rather than scientific arguments, and thereby implicitly conceding that there is such a thing as rational discourse that isn’t scientific discourse.  The only remaining question is whether to do philosophy well or badly, and those who pretend they are not doing it and scorn those who do are certain to do it badly themselves.  Scientism is self-refuting; or as Gilson famously said, philosophy always buries its undertakers.  

On the “fine tuning” of the universe and attempts to account for it in terms of various “multiverse” hypotheses (on which I’ve had occasion to comment recently), Maudlin remarks:

If we give up on that, and it turns out there aren't these many worlds, that physics is unable to generate them, then it's not that the only option is that there was some intelligent designer.  It would be a terrible mistake to think that those are the only two ways things could go.

I think he’s right about that.  Both atheists and some theists attribute an importance to this issue that it simply doesn’t have.  It is as foolish for theists as it is for atheists to make too big a deal of what current physics has to say about this or that, whether it’s “fine tuning,” multiverse theories, or whatever.  That’s “god of the gaps” (or “No god of the gaps”) territory, and it has nothing to do with natural theology as its greatest practitioners understood it, or as a serious atheist should understand it.  Natural theology, as I have argued, rests on deeper considerations than natural science -- considerations that any natural science must itself take for granted -- and thus on considerations that are unaffected by the current state of play in natural science.

Maudlin also makes some astute remarks about the relevance of contemporary physics to the philosophy of time:

Some physicists are very adamant about wanting to say things about [time]; Sean Carroll for example is very adamant about saying that time is real.  You have others saying that time is just an illusion, that there isn't really a direction of time, and so forth.  I myself think that all of the reasons that lead people to say things like that have very little merit, and that people have just been misled, largely by mistaking the mathematics they use to describe reality for reality itself.  If you think that mathematical objects are not in time, and mathematical objects don't change -- which is perfectly true -- and then you're always using mathematical objects to describe the world, you could easily fall into the idea that the world itself doesn't change, because your representations of it don't.

“Mistaking the mathematics they use to describe reality for reality itself” -- now there’s the fallacy of scientism in a nutshell.  Not that this entails that the mathematics does not describe the reality at all; the point is that it does not give us an exhaustive description of reality, but is rather an abstraction from a reality that in itself is richer than can be captured by mathematics alone, even in principle.  (Nor do proponents of scientism ever give non-fallacious arguments for thinking otherwise -- here’s one example.)

The claim that physics has shown that change is illusory is in any event seriously problematic.  As Karl Popper noted, Einstein, as interpreted by Minkowski, recapitulates Parmenides.  (See the essay “Beyond the Search for Invariants” in Popper’s book The World of Parmenides.)  And that means that relativity, if interpreted as entailing the illusoriness of all change, would inherit all the problems with Parmenides’ position.

Now I don’t myself believe for a moment that modern physics really has shown that there is no genuine change in the external physical world.  But even supposing for the sake of argument that it has, that would not show that all change is an illusion, for two reasons.  First, what we would have in this case is one more instance of the common strategy whereby science (as the moderns have defined “science”) attempts to unify phenomena by relativizing the apparent differences between them to the observer.  Hence “heat,” “sound,” “red,” “green,” etc. are redefined so that what common sense means by these terms (features which are irreducibly qualitative rather than quantitative, and which can vary from perceiver to perceiver) is relativized to the “mental” or “subjective” point of view of the observer, and what is allowed to count as “objective” or “physical” heat, sound, or color  is only what can be captured in a quantitative model -- the motions of particles, compression waves, surface reflectance properties, and the like.  So too, time and change, when treated as if they do not really exist in the external world, are relativized to the mind of the observer as mere projections onto external reality.

But the observer himself remains.  And as Popper pointed out, there is no getting around the fact that change really occurs at least within the observer’s consciousness itself.  To deny this is implicitly to deny the very empirical evidential base on which physical theory is supposed to rest.  (Democritus’ paradox all over again.)  Hence if Einstein really were Parmenides redevivus, his position would face incoherence just as the Eleatic philosopher’s did, at least if the Minkowskian interpretation is correct and if we want to say that the conscious subject is a part of a natural world that is purportedly free of change.  Alternatively, we could adopt a dualist view according to which the conscious subject is not a part of that world.  That will save the Minkowskian view from incoherence, but at the cost of merely relocating change rather than eliminating it.  (And also, of course, at the cost of leaving us with the problem of explaining how the conscious subject is related to the natural world if it is not part of it.)

A second point is that unlike Parmenides’ own block universe, the block universe of Minkowski is supposed to be governed by laws that are contingent.  And if they are contingent, then, the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosopher will argue, they are merely potential until actualized.  That means that even if there were no real change or actualization of potency within an Einsteinian four-dimensional block universe, the sheer existence of that universe as a whole would involve the actualization of potency, and thus something like change in the Aristotelian sense (and thus in turn an actualizer or “changer” distinct from the world itself, though that’s a subject of its own).

Anyway, the occasion of the Atlantic interview with Maudlin is the advent of philosophy of cosmology as a distinct subfield within philosophy of physics.  This is a welcome development, which will hopefully bring some sobriety to a discussion to which the likes of Hawking, Krauss, and others have been contributing so many silly and ill-informed remarks.  Here’s an appropriate video to watch in celebration.  (Just for laughs, you might think of the giant squid head as representing the dark forces of vulgar scientism, and the Beasties and their robot as striking back in the name of true, philosophically-informed science.  Have fun!)

87 comments:

Anonymous said...

Huh? Why are you maudlin on the philosophy of cosmology?

FCL said...

Read the post. It's the name of a philosopher, Tim Maudlin.

Fripod said...

This sounds very much like Aristotle's critique of the Platonic Ideas, which doctrine likewise involved attributing causal power to mere abstractions and the projection into reality of logical entities.

James said...

“This sounds very much like Aristotle's critique of the Platonic Ideas, which doctrine likewise involved attributing causal power to mere abstractions and the projection into reality of logical entities.”

This sounds very much like the casual opinion of a layman.

Heuristics said...

"“Mistaking the mathematics they use to describe reality for reality itself” -- now there’s the fallacy of scientism in a nutshell."

One of the great joys of having taken part in the discussions regarding scientism over the years has been this realization (it would be so much easier if they could explain their own point of view). I tend to illustrate the point like this:

Don't confuse the map for the terrain!

Science describes the way things move, this is the only thing it can do for every piece of knowledge within science depends on the possibility of falsification and falsification depends on measurement and all measurement is one thing mechanically bumping in to another thing. This bumping is described via mathematics (numerical relationships).

So, the map is always a mathematical description of mechanical bumpings. A mathematical description is, however, like a map, just that: a description. A description is not the thing it describes. No matter how well a map describes the mountain you cannot climb the map. No matter how well you describe the movement of electrons the mathematics on the blackboard wont have enough voltage to kill you.

Supertradmum said...

Excellent article. I think the relativism in philosophy and theology has partly caused the schizophrenia of scientists today, who want to separate the seen from the unseen, which seems weird. As they work, especially physicists, in a world of hypothesis, not thesis, looking at the spiritual would seem "natural".

monk68 said...

Where else can you read about scientism and Aristotelian philosophy of nature while listening to the Beastie Boys?

Awsome!

Anonymous said...

The Beastie Boys? Really? How much gin had you consumed when you thought that video was relevant. I like your snide humour for the most part, particularly your scathing rebuttal of Rosenberg which had me in stitches. But how on earth is the beastie boys vid. remotely relevant?

A sigh, better avoid music taste lest the Orthopolice come along a call listening to contemporary music sinful.

some kant said...

Nah, anon. That music is great. Feser has the habit of adding vintage sci-fi pics and material to his posts on scientism.

The "WEIRD SCIENCE FANTASY" ones crack me up all the time.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to the Krauss review!

The Deuce said...

That will save the Minkowskian view from incoherence, but at the cost of merely relocating change rather than eliminating it. (And also, of course, at the cost of leaving us with the problem of explaining how the conscious subject is related to the natural world if it is not part of it.

And if you think the so-called "interaction problem" is bad now, just wait till the material world isn't allowed to change!

Anonymous said...

''I’ll be commenting on further examples provided by Peter Atkins''

William Lane Craig recently had the pleasure of debating Atkins again (November last year? I don't recall). Anyway, after their debate Craig said that Atkins agreed with all of the premises of the kalam cosmological argument except one: he denied that the universe exists. He stood up in front of the audience and told them that nothing exists.

Atkins is a professor of chemistry at the University of Oxford. As far I know he hasn't been diagnosed with any form mental retardation or mental illness (though that might change after his debate with Craig). When you discuss his views can you please, please remember to mention this? This man is way, way more of a crackpot lunatic than Krauss.

George R. said...

Ed writes:
“That’s “god of the gaps” (or “No god of the gaps”) territory, and it has nothing to do with natural theology as its greatest practitioners understood it, or as a serious atheist should understand it.”

Ed, you really should stop using the “god of the gaps” accusation. It doesn’t work. First of all, the IDers and those who make the fine-tuning argument do not posit God, or any god at all, but only suggest that such conditions are best explained by an intelligent cause. Therefore, the “god of the gaps” is right off the bat just a tendentious alliteration. But it is also important to understand that there are no gaps either; for in order for there to be gaps, there has to be some continuous thing in which gaps might be found. For example, in order for there to be gaps in the historical record, there has to be an historical record. But we don’t say that there are gaps in the historical record of, say, the city of Atlantis, because there is no historical record whatsoever of that city. Similarly, since there is no knowledge whatsoever of things coming to be by strictly natural means, (as every thomist should know), there can be no gaps in this “knowledge.”

So it’s really funny when I hear thomists saying that the ID argument is no good on the grounds that the materialists might eventually be able, after further research, to close the alleged gaps in their “knowledge” of strictly natural processes, and show the ID arguments to have been baseless. But according to thomistic philosophy, natural processes that are not necessarily reduced to a supernatural principle do not, and cannot, exist. So what is the basis of this fear?

Perhaps you anti-ID thomists are thinking along these lines: “Since the IDers concede to the materialists that there may be some things in nature which are not necessarily reduced to an intelligent cause, for example, things that do not exhibit irreducible complexity, then further research may reveal exisence of unintelligent natural causes similar to those they presume might fully account for existence of simpler natural things.” But this is not good reasoning either; for, since the thomist already knows that an intelligence is the case of all things both simple and irreducibly complex, on what possible grounds should he suspect that the irreducibly complex systems that serve to benefit living creatures will one day be found to have come about by the chance interaction of simpler substances?

TheOFloinn said...

Especially if the world of mathematical abstractions is itself supposed to be material, as contended by correspondent wrf3 against the Deuce in the comm box here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2012/01/humanism-in-danger.html?showComment=1327169948205#comment-c7884433675438325500

The Deuce said...

Oh, good heavens, Mike, I'd almost forgotten about that. What a sad spectacle. The sad part is, it's not even atheism driving him to dogmatically brain-dead incoherence, it's his particular idiosyncratic interpretation of Calvinism.

The Deuce said...

...and forgive me Mike (TheOFloinn). The Dark Side just won out. I wasn't planning to go back to that entry anymore until you reminded me, but when faced with a certain degree of self-imposed stupidity, you have two choices: either letting it go or derision of the absurd. And, well, I figured *somebody* should get something out of that exchange.

Anonymous said...

@Anon

"Anyway, after their debate Craig said, that..."

Well, there's the problem. Believing anything the Liar for Jesus ™ Craig says.

some kant said...

I bet you googled "trademark symbol," Anon.

But anyways, didn't Atkins say that "there probably isn't anything here anyway" and that "at a deep level, there is nothing."

...paging Emil Cioran.

Moi said...

Dr. Feser, you is my hero :o)

Anonymous said...

And if you think the so-called "interaction problem" is bad now, just wait till the material world isn't allowed to change!

Question: Are Thomists determinists? Do they believe that every action, feeling, and thought is necessitated by the particular state of a particular neurological substratum? (Note: I am not asking if the mental is reducible to the physical)

A neuroscientist recently told me that the only two options we have are determinism and a sort of Cartesian interactionism. And since Thomism famously rejects interaction, then it must, according to his dichotomy, embrace determinism.

If this will be answered in an upcoming post, then feel free to forget about it.

DNW said...

Outstanding post which strikes right at the nexus of so many transecting issues of increasingly broad social significance.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

[Feser] ''I’ll be commenting on further examples provided by Peter Atkins''

[Anon] William Lane Craig recently had the pleasure of debating Atkins again (November last year? I don't recall). Anyway, after their debate Craig said that Atkins agreed with all of the premises of the kalam cosmological argument except one: he denied that the universe exists. He stood up in front of the audience and told them that nothing exists.

Atkins is a professor of chemistry at the University of Oxford. As far I know he hasn't been diagnosed with any form mental retardation or mental illness (though that might change after his debate with Craig). When you discuss his views can you please, please remember to mention this? This man is way, way more of a crackpot lunatic than Krauss.

January 24, 2012 9:35 AM


Anon, got a link? This is very interesting. Because whether that particular interpretation or recounting of what Atkins has said is precise or not, the premise imputed certainly does seem to represent the conclusion toward which a number of materialists (just to use a shorthand term) seem to be steadily heading.

It's one of the most remarkable conceptual transformations I have lived to see. As the old colliding billiard ball atheist materialism of the popular understanding has steadily faded, only to be replaced by a materialism based on more sophisticated physics, we find that, as *some* of these materialists try to sort their premisses out, they *seem* to be led to the conclusion that nothing is there.

I don't know what to make of it, quite. What, are we potentially on the verge of entering into an era wherein objective idealism will become a respectable philosophy?

"Hindoos" maybe?

some kant said...

The most chic of nihilisms. So much for "the beauty of the universe" and all that jazz.

(LOL: word verification "crime")

Anonymous said...

It's one of the most remarkable conceptual transformations I have lived to see. As the old colliding billiard ball atheist materialism of the popular understanding has steadily faded, only to be replaced by a materialism based on more sophisticated physics, we find that, as *some* of these materialists try to sort their premisses out, they *seem* to be led to the conclusion that nothing is there.

You should chalk this up to the fact that the verb "to be" is simply not sufficient to discuss the metaphysics implied by modern physical theories.

As far as a four-dimensional "block" universe contradicting the idea of change...no, it doesn't and this claim suggests that even if Feser has "done his homework" he didn't really understand it. The graph of amplitude versus displacement for a standing wave is indistinguishable from the graph of amplitude versus time for a wave measured at one position. Relativity theory suggests that we can treat change in time analogously to change in space but that premise is not unique to relativity; it's been a mainstay of science since at least Descartes. And Lakoff's work on conceptual metaphors suggests that the mind also makes this conflation of change in space with change in time.

Overall a good post, though. I'm an atheist but even so there's a lot for me to agree with. Adherents of physical theories are frequently dogmatic at least in a qualified way and although this is actually probably desirable in many ways (it allows work to continue on promising theories despite conflicting empirical evidence) it's important to see it for what it is.

I'd caution philosophers not to overestimate their ability to actually understand physics, though. If you think philosophy is too hard for physicists then you should acknowledge the possibility that physics might be too hard for philosophers too.

-Dan L.

George R. said...

Dan L:

You should chalk this up to the fact that the verb "to be" is simply not sufficient to discuss the metaphysics implied by modern physical theories.

With that statement, my friends, it's official: the scientists have clearly taken complete and utter leave of their senses, and I'm afraid they're all going to have to be put in an institution where they will no longer be a danger to themselves or others.

Anonymous said...

With that statement, my friends, it's official: the scientists have clearly taken complete and utter leave of their senses, and I'm afraid they're all going to have to be put in an institution where they will no longer be a danger to themselves or others.

Well that's pretty ugly. I'm not saying anything new or unusual; "existence" and its relationship to causality has befuddled philosophers for a few millenia now. To take the act of pointing this out as many others -- many of these others themselves respectable and respected philosophers -- as evidence of madness or insanity or incompetence is to exhibit the same dogma you're decrying in "scientists."

You'll get farther trying to understand what other people are trying to say than by dismissing them on the basis of your own preconceptions about the world.

-Dan L.

Anonymous said...

@ DNW

"I don't know what to make of it, quite."

Well, no one's requiring you to stay stuck in the 13th century. Quaint, quite.

The Deuce said...

You should chalk this up to the fact that the verb "to be" is simply not sufficient to discuss the metaphysics implied by modern physical theories.

Okay, I think that's just a bit silly. The concept of existence is pretty broad, and philosophers have always been able to accommodate the fact that there are different modes or ways of existing. Obviously God exists in a different way from which contingent beings like us exist (especially in the Thomist view), abstract universals exist in a different way from particular material things, my potential to develop new abilities exists in a different way from the abilities I actually have, laws exist in a different manner from the things that are described or dictated by them, etc.

Now, if some scientist finds it useful to his practice to define words like "be" and "nothing" in his own idiosyncratic fashion such that when he says "nothing exists" he means something other than that nothing exists, then that's one thing I suppose, though he'll find it hard to communicate with other people with both clarity and honesty at the same time. But if he conflates his idea of "be" and "nothing" with the real ontological meanings and attempts to use his particular meaning of "Nothing exists" as an actual answer to an ontological philosophical problem, as a stand-in for the actual (absurd) position that nothing exists, then it's his own fault when people conclude that he's confused and speaking obvious insanity.


As far as a four-dimensional "block" universe contradicting the idea of change...no, it doesn't and this claim suggests that even if Feser has "done his homework" he didn't really understand it.

It looks to me like Ed was pretty clear that he doesn't think that, but was using Minkowski's interpretation, as related by Karl Popper, as a hypothetical example.

George R. said...

So let me get this straight, Danny. The verb "to be," which is considered by God Almighty to be sufficient to describe even Himself ("I AM WHO AM." "Tell them that I AM sent you."), is nevertheless to be deemed insufficiently sublime to be employed with respect to the latest batch of lurid fantasies cooked up by the cosmology community. Now does that seem sane and rational to you?

Oh, btw, speaking of modern cosmology, one writer has put it like this: "First comes speculation. Then comes wild speculation. Then comes cosmology."

That sounds about right.

Anonymous said...

Now, if some scientist finds it useful to his practice to define words like "be" and "nothing" in his own idiosyncratic fashion such that when he says "nothing exists" he means something other than that nothing exists, then that's one thing I suppose, though he'll find it hard to communicate with other people with both clarity and honesty at the same time.

A major theme in the OP and in the comments has been not mistaking the map for the territory. The verbs "to be" and "to exist," no matter what sense in which they are meant, are parts of the map, not the territory.

As an atheist, I tend to think that even veridical experience is just another map rather than the territory (of course, a map can serve as the "territory" for other, higher-order maps). I see no reason to conclude prima facie that human minds are necessarily equipped with mental faculties appropriate to actually understanding structure of the universe.

All of which is just to say that we need to be at least as careful about confusing our words with reality as we are about confusing our mathematics with reality.

And yes, I should have taken a second look at the Minkowski bit. Feser does make it clear that it's just an example. Sorry about that.

-Dan L.

Anonymous said...

@George R:

You seem like a pretty nasty piece of work. Apparently you think philosophy isn't so much a means of critically examining one's relationship with the universe as it is a tool for browbeating opponents into agreeing with you. We'll have to agree to disagree about that. Have a wonderful day.

-Dan L.

DNW said...

some kant said...

The most chic of nihilisms. So much for "the beauty of the universe" and all that jazz.

(LOL: word verification "crime")"


Well, we will always have the consolation of Carl Sagan on tape; droning on bright-eyed about the awesome majesty of billions and billions of whatever.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

@ DNW

"I don't know what to make of it, quite."

Well, no one's requiring you to stay stuck in the 13th century. Quaint, quite.

January 25, 2012 12:44 PM"


Try to get over that bitterness. It won't do you any good long term.

Anonymous said...

Well, we will always have the consolation of Carl Sagan on tape; droning on bright-eyed about the awesome majesty of billions and billions of whatever.

Try to get over that bitterness. It won't do you any good long term.

LOL

-Dan L.

DNW said...

"As an atheist, I tend to think that even veridical experience is just another map rather than the territory (of course, a map can serve as the "territory" for other, higher-order maps). I see no reason to conclude prima facie that human minds are necessarily equipped with mental faculties appropriate to actually understanding structure of the universe. "

Lest we drift too far from the proximate issue into supposedly parallel debates over models and maps and faculties and what it means to say that something is understood - on the impetus of a question I asked - I'd like to see if we can't get to what it was that Atkins is actually supposed to have said.

Now, if people want to debate the ontological status of these things or categories, or some epistemological questions related to whether navigation, utilization, and engagement should be taken to in any way reflect a true understanding of what is engaged, or some aspect of what is engaged, that's fine.

But as a casual observer, I merely wanted to know what it is that Atkins said in the context that was mentioned.

Because if the original commenter was right in his characterization of Atkin's remarks, it would fit right in with a puzzling tendency toward a dogmatic nescience tantamount to ontological nihilism which seems to develop in the arguments of atheist materialists; and which specifically, has repeatedly manifested itself, been observed, and remarked upon, right here in Feser's comment boxes, by many others besides myself.

George R. said...

You seem like a pretty nasty piece of work.

That's all right, Danny. As long as Ed Feser still likes me, that's all that matters.

some kant said...

droning on bright-eyed about the awesome majesty of billions and billions of whatever.

The times have changed, vato. No need for inhaling the smoke of the devil's herb to appreciate the awesome majesty of billions and billions (of debt, that is).

Anonymous said...

@DNW:

it would fit right in with a puzzling tendency toward a dogmatic nescience tantamount to ontological nihilism which seems to develop in the arguments of atheist materialists;

Could you unpack this a little? It seems to me that "ontological nihilism" could be just a rather pejorative way of describing the (implicit) philosophical skepticism coupled with a correspondence theory of knowledge that I infer from many scientists' (clumsy) forays into philosophy.

If you think a skeptical, correspondence-based theory of knowledge is so objectionable that pejoratives are justified then we can skip it entirely.

-Dan L.

Anonymous said...

DNW,

Great. Google "Peter Atkin Beyond Belief 2007". It's a four part video. As for the Liar for Jesus ™ himself, William Lane Craig who knows how he decided to spin it for his sycophant "Anon" fanboy.

George R - when you come out for a breath wipe the brown off your nose.

The Deuce said...

DNW:

we find that, as *some* of these materialists try to sort their premisses out, they *seem* to be led to the conclusion that nothing is there.

In that same vein, I've noticed an increase in the "disciples of reason" seeming to respond to the arguments from reason against naturalism (or even making the arguments themselves!) by coming right out and essentially denying that there is actually any such thing as reason, truth, etc, and that we ever actually behave or think rationally in anything (unprincipled exceptions always made for the individual making the argument, of course). Just take Rosenburg for a recent example.


I don't know what to make of it, quite. What, are we potentially on the verge of entering into an era wherein objective idealism will become a respectable philosophy?

Of course, idealism contradicts the notion that nothing exists too. In fact, *everything* contradicts the notion that nothing exists. And if you really push one of those scientists on the absurdity of claiming that nothing exists, they will of course tell you that they didn't really mean that *nothing* exists exactly, just that "nothing" exists, that it's your fault for not being nuanced or trained enough to understand what they *really* meant, etc.

My personal take on what we're witnessing is this. You and I have seen it argued many times - heck, probably made the point ourselves a few times - that the Christian worldview laid the metaphysical groundwork that made science on a large scale possible, with its high view of objective truth, its idea of a rational natural order, the idea that we're made in God's image as rational beings and therefore capable of discerning that order, etc.

Basically, as the culture becomes increasingly post-Christian in its worldview, I think we're seeing all these beliefs slip away, just as surely as we see Christian morality slipping away. I think we're ultimately seeing a gradual, all-out abandonment of the concepts of reason, logic, and the senses as a guide to objective reality, and a plunge into a pagan (or less than pagan, actually) deconstructionism or relativism about truth, both moral and physical (and everything else). Of course, secularists will continue to take reason for granted and present themselves as superior adherents to it, just as they do with Christian morality. But in reality, they'll be unable to pay either of those things any more than lip service, since they reject the logical premises on which they're based, and they will continue to slip away.

And if you point out the incoherent and self-contradictory nature of the things they say, you'll increasingly be met not with an attempt to make logical sense of it, but (as illustrated by Anonymous at 12:44) the scornful insinuation that you're just not "with it" enough to realize how outdated is the notion that our ideas must make coherent sense to make any coherent sense.

Edward said...

Just to clear up the part about Dr Craig and Dr Atkins.

Dr Atkins indeed said that nothing exists, after all the sum of anti-matter and matter most likely will be ZERO.

So Craig pointed out that having 100 dollars and 100 dollars in debt does not mean, that therefore you have no money.

Anonymous said...

Dr Feser,

With all do respect. Craig's statement is a false equivalence.

Edward (not Feser) said...

Errr I suppose that Anon abofe me confused me with Dr Feser, for that I apologize, totally forgot that Dr Feser was Edward as well.

Now as a reply to Anon(2:45 PM).

I suppose is not really a false equivalence. Yes money and energy/matter are indeed different no doubt.

But put it in a different way. Dr Atkins is worried about Summing things up, and then inferring from the sum origins. So if the initial energy was ZERO we came from ZERO a.k.a. NOTHING. Then he infers that NOTHING EXISTS because we came from nothing.

See, something does exist, as a matter of fact Dr Atkins must exist after all he is acting in the world/reality and claiming that nothing exists. Something must exist therefore.

See even if you deny that from NOTHING, NOTHING comes, Dr Atkins is still incorrect, He is just equating nothing with the total sum of matter and anti-matter and then mistakingly using the phrase above to infer that we are nothing or that we don't exist.

Anyways, Dr Atkins simply did a wrong turn in his thought trail and lead him to the conclusions he states.

The Deuce said...

Edward (Not Feser):

I suppose is not really a false equivalence. Yes money and energy/matter are indeed different no doubt.

I guess the relevant question here is, did Atkins attempt to use his extremely idiosyncratic meaning of "Nothing exists" specifically to deny Craig's premise that the universe exists? If so, I think that not only was Craig's description right, but Atkins was engaging in false equivalence (not to mention really bad sophistry). If not, it sounds like Craig was being uncharitable.

Edward (not Feser) said...

I think that deep down Atkins really MEANT NOTHING as in, lack of anything... anything as in, matter and energy.

And it is really important that you see the video of the debate so you can get a feeling for what Atkins is talking. You see he wasn't saying: "Well see chaps, the Universe came from Nothing, nothing is composed of a series of particles or a sea of potential energy just like Vaccum which is also nothing ... yadayada ..."

He is saying Nothing as Absence of matter and energy. And he mean it... well anyways watch the video you will get what I am saying.

( well Craig was really not charitable about the logic of the whole thing... I mean the logic was really flawed, and the attack on the Kalam not by denying premises, but counter argumenting through .... well "Nothing exists", was so unexpected that I suppose Craig wanted to hit his argument with a shotgun shot. )

Anonymous said...

To be fair, even if Craig was being uncharitable, it was somewhat justified. If you've ever seen Dr. Atkins interact with theists, you'll know what I mean.

Edward (not Feser) said...

Unfortunately... Religion related topics tends to bring up our emotions, sometimes the worst of them.

Secularists or religious people tend to attack things in a personal base... well perhaps the discussion is not even about "truth" or "facts" or "arguments". The discussion seems to boil down to: Condemn the other side for whatever reason you see fit.

Really a shame that we have come to this. I mean just the interwebz ahhahaha. Is there a place more full of hatred then religion related pages that anyone can comment ???

Nowwww... I suppose that Dr Atkins and fellow Religion not-likers are really way off in terms of conduct. But have in the back of your mind that these people tend to desire a beautiful world, a utopia where we will all be atheists and wise.... well okay you know what I mean. It is a dream of Secular Utopia.

Of course not all of them are against religion because of the Secular Utopia idea... but I bet many of the "grand" Atheists of today are.

The Deuce said...

If Atkins really tried to equate "The net mass of all the matter and anti-matter in the universe is likely 0" (which has no relevance to the Kalam argument) with "The universe doesn't exist" (which nonsensically entails among other things that neither Atkins nor any evidence he cites to make his case exist), in order to make a rebuttal to the Kalam argument, then Craig's assessment was called-for (as was a bit of teasing for saying something absurd).

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

@DNW:

it would fit right in with a puzzling tendency toward a dogmatic nescience tantamount to ontological nihilism which seems to develop in the arguments of atheist materialists;

Could you unpack this a little? It seems to me that "ontological nihilism" could be just a rather pejorative way of describing the (implicit) philosophical skepticism coupled with a correspondence theory of knowledge that I infer from many scientists' (clumsy) forays into philosophy.

If you think a skeptical, correspondence-based theory of knowledge is so objectionable that pejoratives are justified then we can skip it entirely.

-Dan L.

January 25, 2012 2:07 PM"



That's a reasonable attitude. Given that the description was an element of an off-hand combox remark regarding the characterization of an observed phenomenon (that has taken place here) which we ( I speak only for myself - and possibly with qualifications, a couple others here) are still feeling our way toward describing with precision and defining adequately, assessing it from your perspective as having a pejorative feel is certainly unobjectionable.

However, I have to admit that I don't know exactly what the correspondence theory of knowledge is. That would be an epistemological theory of some kind I take it.

I have of course, just like everyone else, heard of the correspondence theory of truth; which as I understand it asserts that the substantive truth value of a proposition or predication is to be found in the descriptive adequacy of it's relationship with certain external facts it purports to describe. As a logical theory, that of course is based on certain epistemological and even metaphysical assumptions.

But I guess that I have not heard of a school of skepticism that incorporates a correspondence theory of *knowledge*.

Sounds like some kind of radically doubting empiricism, eh?

If you have a link to a site, or a text cite, I'll be glad to take a look.

DNW said...

The Deuce said...

DNW:

'we find that, as *some* of these materialists try to sort their premisses out, they *seem* to be led to the conclusion that nothing is there.'

In that same vein, I've noticed an increase in the "disciples of reason" seeming to respond to the arguments from reason against naturalism (or even making the arguments themselves!) by coming right out and essentially denying that there is actually any such thing as reason, truth, etc, and that we ever actually behave or think rationally in anything (unprincipled exceptions always made for the individual making the argument, of course). Just take Rosenburg for a recent example."

I think that's where it all started - at least as far as a phenomenon which I have observed taking place in Professor Feser's comment areas goes.

I believe you and Rodriguez(?) and Man with a Computer (and others) have had extensive exchanges with those who have expressed skepticism of the law of non-contradiction, but who who have still reserved to themselves the conceit that they somehow have a kind of knowledge that is intellectually meaningful and coherent, rather than merely behaviorally efficacious within a particular environment.

Or maybe they don't, and merely assert that what they "know" is what a rat in a maze knows from bumping along its walls.

Then the next point was the admission by some philosophers, linked to here, of their conversion to an overt whole-hog and categorical moral nihilism.

So where's that leave us? Apparently on the edge of a kind of conceptual monism which as Machine Philosophy pointed out, becomes a monopole to which no concept such as nothing can be legitimately counterpoised.

This then leaves us in a peculiar position when considering the logical meaning and the implications of what it is to assert that something is.

What does being mean, when the notion of non-being has been radically and consistently ruled out of conceptual court?

It's all I think most would agree, a different matter from speculation about vacuum states, and the intersection of physics and metaphysics which has been discussed here as well.

DonJindra said...

Ed,

“Mistaking the mathematics they use to describe reality for reality itself” -- now there’s the fallacy of scientism in a nutshell...

And when I made the same argument the idea was ridiculed.

But you're finally correct about something, Ed. Math expresses "truth" or "reality" only so far as it agrees with empirical evidence in nature.

TheOFloinn said...

Math expresses "truth" or "reality" only so far as it agrees with empirical evidence in nature.

So when we say a space is compact iff it is closed and bounded, the empirical evidence is what?

When we say the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is irrational, the empirical evidence is what?

Inquiring minds want to know.

grodrigues said...

@TheOFloinn:

"So when we say a space is compact iff it is closed and bounded, the empirical evidence is what?"

Nitpicking, but that is not true as it is shown by the closed unit ball of any infinite dimensional Banach space.

It is true for finite-dimensional spaces -- where "finite-dimensional" can be understood as locally finite-dimensional, that is, a manifold. For general metric spaces, where a concept of boundedness still exists, you have to replace bounded by something stronger like total boundedness.

DNW said...

"grodrigues said..."

Oops. I'll get it right next time. No "Z"

TheOFloinn said...

At which point we ask for the empirical evidence of infinite dimensional Banach spaced.

Edward (not Feser) said...

I suppose that Abstractions are never empirical evidence.

Actually can you have evidence from the world without working the information that comes to your mind, into a cohesive kind of thought ???

TheOFloinn said...

@Edward not-F
My old history professor, John Lukacs, was fond of saying that there was no such thing as a fact, because facts only exist in the context of a point of view. A favorite example was when WW2 began, for which he was able to give three different answers.

Inky said...

Meanwhile, Jerry Coyne is busy barking at the heels of his betters. His latest rant is against Alvin Plantinga (Alvin Plantinga: Sophisticated Theologian?): the claim that God can't be a necessary being because science shows that we don't need God to explain stuff is just one of many intelligent observations by this man. Frankly, it's so awful that I won't even attempt a refutation here. I just want to draw to Prof Feser's attention that I've come to join the queue of people who want to see Coyne given a taste of some your lethal medicine . What bothers me is not so much the stupidity of Coyne's comments but the nastiness of his attacks-this man really deserves a dressing down (way more than Rosenberg-Rosenberg doesn't come close to Coyne's level of incompetence).

As for Atkins, after extensive searching I've failed to find this debate with Craig in which Atkins declared that nothing exists. Still, drcraigvideos will be posting Craig's latest debated on YouTube so we'll soon know what Atkins actually said. Not that I'd put it past him-after watching his first encounter with Craig in the 70s I'd expect anything from the man (if you haven't watched Craig's first debate with Atkins do so now. A peek into Atkins' mind is one of the funniest and most disturbing things you'll ever see).

His claim would also fit nicely with the increasingly delusional absurdities that come out of materialist free 'thinkers'. After all, we're told that materialism must be true since it will be vindicated by science 2000 years now, that the law of non contradiction must be revised and (if we're to believe Dennett)that there are no beliefs, thoughts, desires etc. Atkins is only going a step further by denying the reality of physical existence.

Edward Feser said...

Hi Inky,

I'll take a look when I get a chance. Rosenberg is more worthy of attention, which is why I give it to him. And Coyne's breathtaking incompetence has been exposed so many times that one can only ever bounce the rubble further with him. But it's worth doing now and again, so that reasonable people who wouldn't otherwise know any better can see him for the buffoon he is. So we'll see.

The Deuce said...

the claim that God can't be a necessary being because science shows that we don't need God to explain stuff

*facepalm*

I don't think you could improve on that if you were writing a satirical riff on Coyne.

Anonymous said...

@ Inky

Enjoy (if inane blather is the sort of thing you like):

video: http://www.rfmedia.org/av/video/evidence-for-against-the-existence-of-god-craig-vs-atkins/

audio: http://www.rfmedia.org/av/audio/evidence-for-against-the-existence-of-god-craig-vs-atkins/

Anonymous said...

Ed: "The sky is blue."

djindra: "And yet when I said the sky was green the idea was ridiculed."

Priceless. (Which in this case, yes, means the same as "worthless".)

goddinpotty said...

OK, so Coyne either doesn't understand what Plantinga means by necessary, or he's pretending not to in order to score points. Big deal.

What I want to know, why isn't this sentence of Plantinga's a laughable tautology?



Yes, if you define God in such a way that he exits in all possible worlds, then he exists! That was easy, we can all go home now.

goddinpotty said...

Whoops, quote got left out:
Still further, according to classical theism, God is a necessary being; he exists in all possible worlds; it’s not even possible that he should fail to exist

Anonymous said...

"Enjoy (if inane blather is the sort of thing you like)"

Yes. The Liar for Jesus ™ does blather on with tautology and pseudo-scientific word salad doesn't he.

Slow it down, or better yet, transcribe it to see the nonsense that spews forth from the little charlatan.

Serious question to the faithful. What evidence would make you reconsider your worldview? Any?

The Deuce said...

OK, so Coyne either doesn't understand what Plantinga means by necessary, or he's pretending not to in order to score points. Big deal.

So, he's either an ignoramus who doesn't understand the arguments he tries to speak on (just as we've said), or a liar who knows his readers are too ignorant to realize he's lying. Big deal!


Yes, if you define God in such a way that he exits in all possible worlds, then he exists!

You, on the other hand, are unequivocally in the "ignoramus who doesn't understand the arguments he tries to speak on" category on this particular issue.

The Deuce said...

Still further, according to classical theism, God is a necessary being; he exists in all possible worlds; it’s not even possible that he should fail to exist

Yes, genius, that's the case according to classical theism. However, no classical theist, including Plantinga, is making the argument "God exists necessarily, therefore He exists". The closest to this sort of argument would be an ontological argument like Anselm's, which Plantinga doesn't make. God's existence, and the necessary nature of it, are argued for on other grounds.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

"Enjoy (if inane blather is the sort of thing you like)"

Yes. The Liar for Jesus ™ does blather on with tautology and pseudo-scientific word salad doesn't he.

Slow it down, or better yet, transcribe it to see the nonsense that spews forth from the little charlatan.

Serious question to the faithful. What evidence would make you reconsider your worldview? Any?

January 27, 2012 12:22 AM


I can't claim to be one of the faithful, but, since it's implicitly a big "worldview" question, one might rhetorically ask what parts of the worldview you had in mind.

For example did you mean to include within (or skirt) the composite views on: the adequacy of the "scientific method" as the sole explanatory framework for questions of human existence and value; or, opinions regarding the significance, if any, of organic personality or mental disorders on the adequacy of arguments made by ardent atheists if taken a class of persons often exhibiting signs of say, autism or borderline personality disorder; or, implying a change of position regarding the logical (or even moral)legitimacy of simply entertaining questions about the concepts of being and non-being and cause?

But like I said those were rhetorical questions.

DNW said...

Inky said...


... As for Atkins, after extensive searching I've failed to find this debate with Craig in which Atkins declared that nothing exists. ...

January 26, 2012 4:26 PM

Although I was only one of several who expressed interest, I appreciate your looking.

I'm afraid it did not occur to me at the time I asked, exactly who Atkins was. If I'd remembered, I would not have bothered to ask, since I had seen a portion of one of his performances on YouTube prior.

Apparently Wm. Buckley had been moderating a debate and ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkBD20edOco&feature=player_detailpage ...

Well, unrepresentative as the clip may have been of the general tenor of the exchange, I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. I hadn't seen a thumping take-down of an incompetent opponent as spectacular as that, since wrestling in High School.

Edward (not Feser) said...

"Put that in your pipe and smoke it."

Anonymous said...

"Yes, if you define God in such a way that he exits in all possible worlds, then he exists! That was easy, we can all go home now."

It's the other way around you disingenuous nerd

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Spinoza's God exists.

E.H. Munro said...

I'm afraid it did not occur to me at the time I asked, exactly who Atkins was. If I'd remembered, I would not have bothered to ask, since I had seen a portion of one of his performances on YouTube prior. ...

Well, unrepresentative as the clip may have been of the general tenor of the exchange, I couldn't believe what I was witnessing. I hadn't seen a thumping take-down of an incompetent opponent as spectacular as that, since wrestling in High School.


Dear god, Atkins played Henry Pulleine to Craig's Cetshwayo. No wonder real atheists cringe when their lesser brethren take to the stage.

TheOFloinn said...

if you define God in such a way that he exits in all possible worlds, then he exists!

Well, no. You don't "define" God in such a way.

The argument runs that for such and such reasons, something must exist necessarily rather than contingently. That is, it cannot be "turtles all the way down."

Given this necessary being (which we might call "Existence Itself," since its essence just is to exist), we can deduce certain attributes or powers it must possess. The summation of these attributes or powers add up to the God of traditional theism.

Hope this helps.

goddinpotty said...

What I meant by "big deal" is that it is very clear what Coyne is about and thus it's not very interesting for you to argue with him.

Lets hypothetically grant that you've demonstrated that there is some "necessary being", whether you call it the Absolute or existence itself or god.

That by itself is unexceptionable. Maybe even Jerry Coyne would agree. The problem is that when you employ the term "god" you bring forth all the associations from the less-sophisticated meanings, such as getting angry, having a great deal of concern with the details of human sexuality or whether we are allowed to eat shellfish.

You can see the problem. Does "existence itself" object to homosexuality or eating shrimp or working on Sunday? That sounds absurd.

Edward (not Feser) said...

The Ontological Argument worries with proving that the Greatest conceivable entity or being exists, simply through modal logic, So I suppose the morals/behavior of such being do not hurt the argument.

Now even IF the argument does not argue for the behavior and personality of the Greatest conceivable being that means nothing after all you can infer more characteristics through different types of arguments, just like we can know the height of the shooter without knowing if the shooter behave in one way "A" or another way "B". You can explore entities part by part.

What I suppose you are argumenting is that these kind of arguments don't prove the God of the Bible with all the chracteristics/behaviors spoken in the Bible. Of course now you will go down the Hermeneutics alley and will have to argument there.

goddinpotty said...

When did "argument" become a transitive verb? If there is a God, he can't be pleased by this development.

Edward (not Feser) said...

Well can't really claim to be an expert in English. I suppose God will forgive me for making a mistake while writing in a foreign language.

Either Or said...

I know it must be very frustrating to have to slog through the sophistries of the atheists--it's a tough job, but someone has to do it! This reader is grateful for your insightful summaries providing a "Cliff's Notes" approach to the task so I don't have to do it!

Anonymous said...

Despite what Prof. Maudlin says about physicists, he himself is not a theist.

In accounting for what caused the "big bang state," he notes there are several different lines of thought. "One that's becoming more prevalent in the physics community is the idea that the big bang state itself arose out of some previous condition, and that therefore there might be an explanation of it in terms of the previously existing dynamics by which it came about."

There is no mention of God or of a transcedent First Cause whatsoever.

Edward Feser said...

Despite what Prof. Maudlin says about physicists, he himself is not a theist.

I never said he was. Not sure why it's relevant, though.

dguller said...

Just finished reading Krauss’s book, A Universe From Nothing, and it is just what you would expect from a physicist talking about something coming out of nothing.

He actually starts the book by acknowledging that he has been confronted about his definition of “nothing”. He is told that “nothing” is “nonbeing”, and that “some philosophers and many theologians define and redefine ‘nothing’ as not being any of the versions of nothing that scientists currently describe”, which is that “‘nothing’ is every bit as physical as ‘something’, especially if it is to be defined as the ‘absence of something’.” (p. xiv). So, right away there is lots of confusion, because he says that it is “some philosophers and most theologians” who have redefined “nothing” in the face of science, which is patently untrue, especially since theologians have held the same definition of “nothing” for millennia. In fact, Krauss himself redefines “nothing” over the course of his own book.

His first definition of “nothing” is “empty space” without “dust, gas people, and even the radiation passing through” (p. 58). He says that “something” can spontaneously come from the operation of the laws of physics upon empty space, such as the creation of electron-positron pairs (p. 149), because empty space “is a boiling brew of virtual particles that pop in and out of existence in a time so short we cannot see them directly” (p. 153). And even funnier, he writes that when Aquinas was talking about “nothing”, “empty space with nothing in it was probably a good approximation of what they were thinking about” (p. 149), which is highly unlikely. Anyway, even Krauss recognizes that this definition of “nothing” is “disingenuous” (p. 152), which leads to his next definition of “nothing”.

His next definition of “nothing” is similar to the first one, but involves the absence of even space itself, but still requires the laws of physics (p. 161). He argues that space itself can come from “nothing” by virtue of the operations of a quantum theory of gravity in which “small, possibly compact spaces that themselves pop in and out of the existence” (p. 163). In that way, “quantum gravity indeed might create an inflating universe directly from nothing”. Again, this definition if unsatisfactory, because surely “quantum gravity” is still something, which he recognizes, and which leads to his final definition of “nothing”.

This definition is similar to the second one, but involves the absence of the laws of physics themselves: “even the laws of physics may not be necessary of required” to cause our universe to arise from nothing (p. 170). How is this possible? Because of the multiverse (p. 176). The idea is that if any universe is possible, including universes with different physical laws from our own, then physical laws do not necessarily cause the creation of a universe out of nothing.

However, he immediately takes this away by requiring certain underlying principles that guide the process of the creation of universes from nothing. One is “the general principle that anything that is not forbidden is allowed” (p. 176), and the other is that “to be fair, to make any scientific progress in calculating possibilities, we generally assume that certain properties, like quantum mechanics, permeate all possibilities” (p. 166-7). In other words, there must be “certain properties” present in every possible universe that delimit what is possible, and which thus affect their actualization. And certainly, these “properties” are not “nothing”.

dguller said...

And just to add to what I wrote, Krauss implies that "nothing" has properties that determine what can come out of it, i.e. "something". However, the traditional understanding of "nothing" is such that it has no properties, and thus if Krauss' "nothing" has properties, then it is not the traditional understanding of "nothing", and which means that he has ducked the challenge by simply redefining "nothing" in such a way that it is amenable to scientific inquiry.

Krauss' "nothing" is more akin to an immaterial substance (i.e. it is outside of space-time) that has always existed, because the laws of physics that delimit its possible outcomes are eternal, and that has a variety of potential outcomes -- such as the development of space, and then material entities within space -- that are actualized by itself by virtue of operating according to the natural laws that define its essence.

At least, that's how I make sense of it. Regardless, an immaterial substance is not "nothing".

Tony said...

dguller, thanks for the summary.

How is this possible? Because of the multiverse (p. 176). The idea is that if any universe is possible, including universes with different physical laws from our own, then physical laws do not necessarily cause the creation of a universe out of nothing.

I love it. You can "explain" the universe by hypothesizing a multiverse and then hypothesizing principles about it that limit what goes on, and then call one universe "coming from nothing."

Gio said...

What do you all think of the arguments against Dr. Feser in this blog post here: http://coelsblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/what-are-laws-of-physics/

"Specifically the following: I would interpret Siegel’s remark as meaning: “Because of the nature and behaviour of particles, they don’t need to come from any pre-existing cause, they can come into existence, uncaused, from nothing”. Regardless of whether that claim is true (and we don’t fully know yet), Siegel’s remark is not pointing to some pre-existing “laws” as an entity that creates the matter. That would be to misunderstand what physical laws are. Yet Feser does just that"

I'm not convinced by them but I don't have a good response. Does any commentator here have one?

FGL said...

Gio,

I think others will chime in more thoroughly, but I'll start out with a couple observations. The poster has been badly deceived if he thinks we "routinely observe" anything popping into existence from nothingness without cause, ever. All that we observe, and can observe, is that whose cause, if any, we are unaware of. Likewise, his claim that for all we know these things pop into existence from nothingness without cause is an appeal to sheer philosophical possibiliy. Last Thursdayism is also sheer philosophical possibility, and it too is counterintuitive.

He's operating with a very poor understanding of science and philosophy both. He also seems to imply that some things pop into existence without cause and from nothingness because it's their nature to do so. Assuming that suggestion: but if they did not exist at one point, how could their nature accomplish anything? And if it's not their nature, and it's not a law, and there was neither cause nor source, then what he's appealing to would be more accurately called magic, or irrationality.

Anonymous said...

“An individual respective very location is the present and the rest all the locations are of the deep of the past” In this way; Ultimate reality of Philosophy is: see at http://shahidurrahmansikder.wordpress.com/2010/01/16/