Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Response to Sandwalk and the Coutier's Reply.

Over a year ago I put up a comment on a blog called "Sandwalk," the subject: the so called "Courtier's Reply." This is the story otherwise known as "The Emperor's New Clothes." The story says a king was sold "invisible clothes" by some con men who had him parading around naked under the assumption that his clothes were invisible. Everyone was afraid to point it out, some actually conned themselves into believing that there really were invisible clothes. This story has long been used as a symbol of anything where the authorities are clearly in the wrong but everyone is afraid to say so. In the story of course one Little kids says "he's really naked" and everyone laughs becuase it's obvious even if he had invisible clothes you can still see his private parts. I recall some talking head using this as example of the Nixon administration in the latter days of Watergate. Be that as it may the atheists use it as a metaphor for what the think is going on with religion and bleief in God.

So I wrote an answer to this guy well over a year ago. For months I would check on it no response. The other day I noticed a huge amount of hits on this blog coming from that blog. So looking over there I see he finally got around to answering. Let's look at what he says. He has failed to answer my augments actually. He so called Courtier's Replay is just an excuse to remain ignorant. The major use they make of it is to in answer to the argument "you don't know theology." Atheists copy an essay written by one of their major talking heads who compares theology to tailoring. "you just don't know about invisible clothing" is what they think. Don't forget the only argument atheists have is argument form incredulity. Their reasoning can't be other than circular. They "there is no God so if I get something about theology wrong then it doesn't matter because it's all made up. The reason this is circular is becasue their assertions of disproof of God arguments and their assertions of the irrational nature of belief are based upon not understanding understanding theology. Then to say that doesn't matter becuase its made up anyway is just putting the conclusion before the premise. So the premise is based upon the conclusion that is literally the definition of circular reasoning.

They can only see the demand for theological acuity as a challenge to the intellectual. They are usually not cleaver enough to understand that their criticism are faulty because they don't really know what religion is about, becuase they refuse to learn. The so called Courtier's reply is nothing more than an excuse to be ignorant.

Atheists and theists often discuss the existence of God. Unfortunately, these discussions often degenerate into classic Christian apologetics where the main goal of the theist is to rationalize why his or her god doesn't conflict with rationality.

Here we have an extremely biased and self serving statement that in no way stacks up to what's really going on with religion. He defines reasons for belief as rationalization. Here we see again argument from incredulity, the only argument they ever make. It says "I refuse to believe, therefore, it cant' be true." That is nothing but circular reasoning again. The problem is worse than that ass he defines belief as a conflict with rationality but he can't possibly know that if he doesn't understand what belief is being discussed. Since he refuses to learn what religious belief is really about he has no way knowing if it's rational or not. Of course atheists do this because they can't cope with modern theology. If he actually read modern theology he would see that his views are antiquated and he really understand the modern version of liberal Christian thought.

Before long they are rambling on about how to resolve the problem of evil or why god doesn't reveal herself. These problems only exist once you've accepted the premise that there is a god/spirit. This sort of apologetics has nothing to do with the fundamental question of whether god exists in the first place.
Here we see circular reasoning at that again. These issues he brings up such as the problem of evil are impediments to belief. Removing is part of demonstrability of the faith. Of cousre only means of approaching the issue is the form of circular reasoning known as argument from incredulity. "we know there is no God, therefore, these proof of God must be wrong so we don't need to think about them." It winds up they don't understand any of the issues and they don't know believers believe and their trapped in big citation circle quoting their own bad reasoning and making stupid metaphors that don't really apply. He expects one to dump the concept of God a priori before he can deal with the issues as to why one would or would not believe. He's merely privileging his position with nothing to back it up then arguing in a circle. Atheists are also so bad at logic why don't they just give up?

PZ Myers invented the parable of The Courtier's Reply to describe this situation.1 Rather than address the burning question—is the Emperor wearing any clothes?—the believers will complain that you don't understand the latest fashion.
No, he stole it from Hans Christian Andersen and turned a fine metaphor into a rationalization for remaining ignorant. What really sticks in my craw is that he did not answer a single thing I said in that first address.

They are full of little pithy maxims to justify their ignorance: "you don't have learn about astrology to see that astrology is wrong." That would depend upon your criticism of it. In fact this pithy saying assumes you know what it is. If a, astrologer came along and said "I have developed my own updated system that doesn't assume the stars are controlling human destiny so I do all that signs and stuff, I have a new system that works entirely by scinece," and Sandwalk tried to answer it with the same assertion that astrology in the old sense is stupid and we don't need to know about it, his arguments would be totally wrong. Of course the pithy saying assuming you know how astrology works. If there was a loophole than changed what it said the pity saying would be misleading. Obviously if you criticize something you have to know what you are criticizing. That is sheer stupidity to deny that.

They say you can't have a serious discussion about the existence of god because you aren't versed in the sophisticated arguments of Christian apologetics. In other words, you have to be intimately familiar with all the ways of rationalizing superstitious belief in god before challenging the very existence of god.2

Just another version of the same ignorance, circular reasoning, assumes his world view has to be right, no argument for God could ever succeed so we don't need to read them or know about them we can just sweep all that away a priori because it has to be wrong, why? Well because it's us. It's not our deal so it must be wrong. Remember, if you can deny something constantly then it's wrong. "I refuse to believe therefore it must be wrong." Circular reasoning is the ultimate atheist weapon.

How do you know it's only rationalizing if you don't' know what it says?

Now he starts in on the personal insults against me. I disagree with his world view I must be stupiud and I must lying bout my education yada yada yada.

It's amazing how few theists get the point. The latest person to demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of simple logic is Joe Hinman at Atheistwatch. Hinman has a Master's degree in Theology and he is currently studying for a Ph.D. in the history if ideas. He exposes himself by complaining about Anti-Intellectual Tendencies in Atheism.
So What this courtier's reply is saying is that if the skeptic says stupid things about theology and demonstrates that he knows nothing about it and the theist says "O your criticism is invalid because you don't understand what you are criticizing" then all the atheist has to do is say "that's the courtiers reply" and the theist is supposed to go "O my God, I've violated a law of logic!" and give up and stop believing in God. But in realty it's into a log of logic, I never heard it in a logic class.It's not in a logic text book, and the meaning of it is silly. I'ts just saying 'You can't point out my ignorance of theology because I will not allow theology to have any kind of validity or importance and religious people may not not any sort of human dignity." That's all it's saying. It's nothing more than anti-intellectual stupidity.


This anti-intellectual tendency is not confined to this one tactic. The new tactick, which I have noticed for a few years now, is to deny any sort of discipline of scholarship that has developed within the theological community. So any self defense that a believer could make is automatically suspect and wrong merely becasue it is theological. But then one wonders how the skeptics knowledge that theology is all bull shit could ever have developed in the first place? When we consider the history of Biblical scholarship it becomes clear that the atheists are merely arguing in a circle.

The history of scholarship shows us that it was not invented in answer to pressing atheist attacks on the bible.
Bingo! Christian apologetics was developed by people who believe in god. They needed to explain why their beliefs seem inconsistent with the real world. Many of these rationalizations are extremely "sophisticated" as you might expect since the problem is difficult.

In other words. It's against my world view so it must be wrong. After all, what is his actual argument? The only argument he makes in that paragraph is "Christian apologetic is done by people who bleieve in God so it must be wrong because I don't' believe in God, since I don't' believe it must be wrong."

It really baffles me how imbecilic they are not to understand why you have to know what you are criticizing. This is like tea party stupid. It's Palin stupid. "I don't have to know what it says I kown'd it be wrong, uncle Jed, cause it's proving what I say is untrue so it must be false."

He alleged that I didn't get the logic of their childish gimmick, where do I fail on that? He doesn't actually illustrate it I guess he assuming if I don't' agree with him then I wasn't convinced so I must fail. They really talk like just making claim is the proof of the claim. Because they can say "there is no God" then there's no God. How could any movement survive based upon such stupidity?

I have demonstrated more than total understanding of the logic because I have actually analyzed their rationalizations and circular reasoning.

I don't give a damn about those rationalizations no matter how many books have been written. Atheists don't have a problem with evil or sin or life after death or the resurrection. It's only theists who have a problem.

What does this mean? The so called "rationalizations" are proof, arguments, evidence and reasons for bleief. So what he's saying is "I don't care about the facts, or don't care what the proof show, I don't ar what truth is...I refuse to believe therefore it must be false." Then asserting atheists don't have a problem with evil is the height of stupidity. For a group of people are their hyper sensitive to being thought amoral and unable to come up with a reason to be good, for people who do so much gum flapping about how they can be moral without God to then come out say "we don't have a problem with evil," has to be sheer stupidity.

If Joe Hinman wants to explain why he is a theist then I'd be happy to discuss that topic. What's his best evidence for the existence of a spiritual world?

What would be the point? He's already said he doesn't care what I have to say and any argument I make would just be rationalization to him so what's the difference? I would like to debate him 1x1 just to demonstrate how inept he is at dealing with God arguments. If he will agree to a debate with rules I will debate him. I don't see any reason to try and discuss anything with someone who just admitted he doesn't plan on listening.

If anything proves atheism is a brain washing cult, an ideology, a hate group, surely it's their own  words. These guys are totally sold out to their own ideology they don't care what is true or not. Thank God they are not all like that. I don't think our friend Hermit would be that way.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Limits of science part 3


True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, of course. To say we have empirical proof, in the literal sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for as long as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousands of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truly in an empirical sense because we might have missed one. That's impractical for science to do this so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, and it worked the same way every single time. That's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, and there was no observation of cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. The correlation, however, was so tight we assume cause and effect. Empirical scientific observation covers the unobserved instances with probability based upon tight correlation that allows things to fall through the cracks. For example, on average most men are stronger than most women. There are women, however, who can lift a lot more weight than I can, women who make me look weak, and they are probably not hard to find. We make assumptions and then construct standardized tests to measure our assumptions. If one of those assumptions is that intelligence means the ability to work math, there can be intelligent people who for one reason or another have trouble with math. Someone might be better at philosophy or history than a mathematician and not be good in math. The standardized test will say the mathematician is smart and the historian isn’t. Things are always going to fall through the cracks.
            The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight correlation gives us causality. The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturalistic cause and effect, and it excludes anything that challenges this assumption. So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense. Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabilistic assumptions building constructs to form a world view) is inadequate because it is merely a construct and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

Other realms

Consciousness—dualism in a new package

Lourdes miracles

            The Question of other realms is a good test for the limits of science. Up to this point in human history science had no way to tell if there were other realms or not. For most of the life of modern science the idea of other realms, conjuring in the popular mind images of heaven, hell, Dante’s Inferno, and Superman’s Phantom zone were a laughing stock. With the advent of the twentieth century, relativity, Quantum theory and a lot of other physics, other realms have not only become fashionable they are basically mandatory. Atheists treat the idea of a multi-verse as though it’s a proven fact when in reality there’s no empirical evidence for it at all. There are now physicists making noises about maybe having the first hint of proof, maybe we are in a position begin real systematic study of the question, but as it stands now there is no actual proof that all scientists are willing to accept as fact at the moment. The question of other realms is all tangled up in the popular mind be it atheist or believer with the fear that God will be proved and the hope that God will disproved. This removes most atheists from the sphere of the objective status the prize so highly. There are disinterested scientists working on the question who seek pure knowledge (if they aren’t human). David Detsch, an Oxford Physicist, claims to have proved mathematically that the multiverse is “the only explanation for the nature of reality.”[i] National Geographic has reported:

"Dark flow" is no fluke, suggests a new study that strengthens the case for unknown, unseen "structures" lurking on the outskirts of creation. In 2008 scientists reported the discovery of hundreds of galaxy clusters streaming in the same direction at more than 2.2 million miles (3.6 million kilometers) an hour. This mysterious motion can't be explained by current models for distribution of mass in the universe. So the researchers made the controversial suggestion that the clusters are being tugged on by the gravity of matter outside the known universe.Now the same team has found that the dark flow extends even deeper into the universe than previously reported: out to at least 2.5 billion light-years from Earth.After using two additional years' worth of data and tracking twice the number of galaxy clusters, "we clearly see the flow, we clearly see it pointing in the same direction," said study leader Alexander Kashlinsky, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.[ii]

We are all being sucked toward some opening or other leading to this multiverse, the collection of parallel worlds. Of course with such an amazing claim such scanty evidence it’s easy to over look the fact that we have no empirical evidence at all to validate it. The observation galaxy cultures heading off in the same directing is empirical in a scientific sense (although not the philosophical sense) the problem is it just doesn’t tell us what’s doing it. It’s all fine and good to say “it doesn’t’ conform to any known model” but what’s the real cash value as proof of multiverse? It could just as easily be a an astronomical feature that doesn’t conform to a known mode but isn’t a multiverse. Its one thing to say “no known model” another to say ‘we are really working hard at coming up with another model that it could be instead.’ It’s probably not a giant handkerchief or a turtle that’s about we can say about it. 

            While we should not doubt that the search for mulitverse is undertaken from the standpoint of the human drive for pure knowledge, there is a very obvious cash pay off in terms of atheist apologetics and it’s pretty clear this is in the minds of many who do the “pure” scientific research. Discover magazine does a spread on what is at the moment Hawking’s new book, it talks about “M theory” and it relates to physics, adding this:

STEPHEN HAWKING'S new book The Grand Design sparked a furore over whether physics can be used to disprove the existence of God. But few have noted that the idea at the core of the book, M-theory, is the subject of an ongoing scientific debate – specifically over the very aspect of the theory that might scrap the need for a divine creator. That the laws of nature in our universe are finely tuned for life seems miraculous, leading some to invoke divine involvement. But if there is a multiverse out there – a multitude of universes, each with its own laws of physics – then the conditions we observe may not be unique.[iii]

The article in which this appears is entitled “M-Theory, Doubts Linker over Godless Multipverse.”[iv] This doesn’t mean they don’t have pure scientific motives, but everyone who studies the issue, from the top physicists to the science beat reporters to the average aficionado who buys the magazine, they all understand the relationship to the issue of God’s existence. That doesn’t mean the scientists are cooking up the theory to thwart religious believers, but they do know they on whose toes they are stepping. Why are they talking about God to begin with? It’s totally out of their domain.

            Not all physicists are convinced either. Peter Woit is a mathematical physicist at Columbia  University, he’s not a joiner. Woit has authored a booked entitled Not Even Wrong (a phrase by Wolfgang Pauli that became an  inside joke among physicists meaning so bad it’s not even wrong) in which he argues that there is no proof of string theory. What does string theory have to do with this? M-theory and string theory are both important to the hunt for a unified theory that will tie everything together and explain everything. Hawking identifies M-theory with the grand unified theory, according to Woit it is the super symmetrical theory of gravity.[v] String theory, according to Woit is:

a very complex set of ideas that lots of people, a very large amount of people have worked on and have done a lot of different things with. Probably what it's best known for and what got people all excited about it in the physicist community is the conjecture that, at the most fundamental level, you can understand matter and the universe in terms not of point particles, which is the way our best theory is, currently, you can understand things, but in terms of, if you like, vibrating in loops of some elementary objects here, your elementary object instead of being a point-like thing is something you should think of more as a one dimensional loop, or a string which is kind of moving around.[vi]

These are not exactly the same things but they are very related. Woit writes his book about the inadequate proof for string theory, but in his article about Hawking’s soon to be released book he shows the inadequacy of M-theory. Grand unfied theory is not some attempt to disprove God, it’s a much more purely scientific quest for knowledge. It centers on the basic need science has to explain everything. Woit talks about the beautify of the standard model and how successful its been but it doesn’t explain everything. There are many open questions it does not answer, such as why do different kinds of particles have different masses.[vii] This is a purely scientific question but as the origin of religions got tangaled up with attempts to explain the natural world, so pure attempts at doing modern science are always tanagled up with the need to answer the question of God; or to deny the question of God as the case may be.[viii]  As for the proof of string theory:

Question: Will string theory ever be verifiable or unverifiable?

Peter Woit: Yeah, well as I said, String Theory is actually a very complicated story. If you start out with this hypothesis that maybe your ephemeral objects are not points, but are these strings, there's a lot of different things you can try and do that you have a whole different class of theories you can play with. So, I think a lot of - if you look at what most people, who are still going String Theory are doing, they're actually not directly trying to develop this unified theory anymore. They're off doing other things with String Theory. People these days are trying to apply it to problems in nuclear physics; they're applying it to problems in Solid State Physics, understanding super conductors. So, the people who are still interested in it are often kind of - even if they may or may not explicitly admit that they've given up on the unified theory idea, but they're often doing other things. So, there's a very active pursuit of String theory with other applications that don't have anything to do with unification.

It's also turned out to be very interesting in mathematics. There's a very, one of the things that I'm most interested in is the intersection between mathematics and physics and the way the two fields affect each other and ideas from physics lead to very interesting things about mathematics, ideas in mathematics get used in …physics. And String Theory has been very, very fruitful in terms of raising questions which have led to very interesting mathematics. So, there's a very active field of research kind of in between math and physics in String Theory. But it just doesn't seem to be relevant to this question of unification.[ix]

            As for the proof of M theory, the new Hawking book is a very interesting case of public relations over science. Woit comments on the book n his blog “Not Even Wrong.” He quotes Hawking in a full reversal of this question forr grand unified theory. The publishers focused upon the shcok of “brilliant major scientist gives up on God” but the publicity guys forgot to point out that he’s actually giving up on is his replacement for God. Woit quotes Hawking thirty years ago when he said “we are quite close to a final unified theory.”[x] He quotes him in the new book where he says “we seem to be at a critical point in the history of science

We seem to be at a critical point in the history of science, in which we must alter our conception of goals and of what makes a physical theory acceptable. It appears that the fundamental numbers, and even the form, of the apparent laws of nature are not demanded by logic or physical principle. The parameters are free to take on many values and the laws to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes.[xi]

In other words, he’s giving up on grand unified theory because it can’t square with logic or the laws of physics. On the other hand we can set parameters in any number of ways (he means ignore logic and physical law) the math can be self consistent. That is to say it works on paper but we can’t really prove it. Above I showed that he left gravity as the way out through the back door, gravity replaces his organizing principle of grand unified theory which he previously called “the mind of God.”[xii] One wonders which “god” did he really give up on, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in whom he did not believe in the first place, or the grand unified theory God? Woit Quotes him as saying in the Grand Design that it may not be possible to decipher the nature of M-theory: “People are still trying to decipher the nature of M-theory, but that may not be possible. It could be that the physicist’s traditional expectation of a single theory of nature is untenable, and there exists no single formulation. It might be that to describe the universe, we have to employ different theories in different situations.”[xiii] Woit points out that M-theory doesn’t meet the basic criteria Hawking sets forth for a successful theory:

A good model:

1. Is elegant
2. Contains few arbitrary or adjustable elements
3. Agrees with and explains all existing observations
4. Makes detailed predictions about future observations that can disprove or falsify the model if they are not borne out.

The fact that “M-theory” satisfies none of these criteria is not remarked upon.[xiv]

            What is falling between the cracks here, apart from proof for the theory? The whole scientific community seems not to even be waiting for the eggs to hatch, they have not yet been laid, they are just thought about. Suppose they do prove the theory of everything, suppose they do prove a mutliverse exists, does this actually disprove God? The only God it could disprove would be the big guy in the sky; It would only be differing examples of being and thus the fact that more more examples of being have been found would hardly disprove the ground of all being. Moreover it would not even disprove the guy in the sky, as there would still have to be some sort of explanation for a first cause for the mulitverse. Where did gravity come from? Where did the laws of physics that makes the multiverse come form? Why do these disembodied laws seem to work? No doubt they would have to repair to a infinite causal regression. This is something real science has not done in relation to the question of world. They have provided the ability to understand the concept, but they don’t actually say “this is a  scientific fact.” Why would they say that for the mutliverse? What about the ability of plantes in the multiverse to bear life? Wouldn’t we have to actually go there to see if they do? Unless we have empirical proof that many parallel planets actually do bear life the existence of a mulitiverse of barren gracious planet is not disproof of the fine tuning argument. Of course let us not forget all of this assumes we argue for a guy in the sky anyway. People are assuming that a mulitverse would have the same laws of phsyics and thus would produce life as our universe has, but that is not an assumption Hawking makes. As already quoted above: “The parameters are free to take on many values and the laws to take on any form that leads to a self-consistent mathematical theory, and they do take on different values and different forms in different universes..” (see FN 27 above). In other words, all the other universes could have different laws of physics and all of those laws of physics could produce a bunch of empty rocks or bags of gas as planets and no life. But all of these possibilities slip between the cracks. The way induction works we make statistical averages, since the only concrete data we have to go by is us, we just average in the factor of live instead of ruling it out, and we assume a godless universe teaming with life.

            Another idea lost between the cracks is an answer to Deutch (above) who says that the Mv is offers the only explanation for the nature of reality. The problem is that is only because they are not willing to a possibility that reality si beyond our ability to understand. They can’t really accept that even if it’s true because it would mean there’s an absolute limit on their mission as scientists. As scientists their basic assumption is they have to keep going until they know it all, at least in terms of the physical world. For other matters they rule that out a prori because it’s not part of the mission. So when he says the Mv theory is the only one that explains reality, the unspoken obvious caveat is, “without becoming a mystic or philosopher.” At this pinot naturalism becomes circular reasoning. Mysticism and philosophy are ruled out because they require one to go beyond naturalism. The assumption is made that only science can prove absolutely in concrete terms what it postulates. The problem is it’s already ruled out other view points, not on concrete terms but because they aren’t’ in its domain. Well, the fact is the theory of everything is not proved, so it can’t be that we are ruling out mysticism on the basis of scientific proof against it! Another possibility that’s ruled out is that even with a naturalistic universe it may not be possible to have a theory of everything. That is also ruled out on ideological grounds, this point will be driven home all the more since Hawking has admitted it.

            Miracles are a good example of things falling between the cracks. Miracles are a very difficult thing to discuss. There are many modern academics who will run in dread at the mention of the term, but that serves to prove my point all the better. Miracles, while they are extremely difficult to prove, are not banned from reality from modern thinking because they have been proved false, the methods used to keep them out, both by creating such amazing prejudice that no one will listen, and by circular reasoning which fallaciously makes them out to be false a priori, these methods are merely the enforcement of a truth regime not indicative of scientific discover. Time and space does not permit a discussion that would truly do this complex subject justice, I shall hit upon some of the scarce highlights. The object here is only to prove, not that miracles happen, but that if miracles did happen their exclusion would be based entirely upon falling through the cracks in the web of naturalism. Or to put it another way, the point is to prove that the exclusion of miracles is not a scientific fact but an ideological protocol. Atheists and skeptics often assume that this kind of talk is motivated by creationist assumptions, and they construe it as an attack upon science. I am not a creationist! This is not an attack upon science; it’s an attack upon the ideology that accompanies science, the doppelganger of science to speak. Atheists assume science is an arm of atheism. Scientists assume they are neutral and no concerned, as scientists, with sectarian matters. Many scientists have their opinions about religious belief and thus they might be gung ho on the ideology that accompanies science as anyone. Science is a human endeavor it cannot be divorced from human motivations in practice. In terms of pure science itself it’s a great and wonderful thing. I would be the last person who wants to put the kybosh on scientific thinking. Nor do I construe scientific thinking as privileging the Bible. As a theologian I privilege the Bible, not as a scientific thinker. I don not call myself a “scientist.” The closest I come to scientific thinking is as a historian of science, in which I was trained at Ph.D. level. There is a distinction between a scientist and historian of science. While I refrain from calling myself that out respect for those who are truly trained academically in the actual pursuit of scientific learning, not out of any disregard for science, I am not exactly unaware of scientific thinking.

            Miracles would be impossible to disprove scientifically. To say that miracles are disproved one would have to disprove all reports; there could always be a report somewhere that hasn’t been disproved. In order to get around these problem naturalists just make an abstract extrapolation based upon induction. We fail to observe miracles in any occasion that we know of and thus we can extrapolate to all of reality. On the other hand, this is the formula for things falling through cracks. It means that some miracle could happen and because it didn’t make it into the reports that science has considered then it’s assumed not to be true. This is even significant than an instance of some drug working or smoking not causing cancer in a few cases, because such things will always be ruled out as anomalies. A true miracle has to involve God (to be a true miracle) and thus if it could be proved to be a true miracle would prove that God is real. Thus that one miracle could happen and fall though the cracks would be very significant. As it so happens there is a great deal of evidence for miracles. The problem is the crack falling process is made even worse because the naturalists take the lack of proved miracles as proof that they don’t happen. It then asserts that further evidence must be false because “there is no evidence.” So even when good evidence exists and is proved it’s ignored. The thing that makes it easy to ignore is that there is and always will be an epistemological gap (this goes back to what I said at the first of the chapter) that science can’t penetrate. Unfortunately, faith can’t penetrate it either. We will always have this gap; it’s the chiasm over which one must make a leap of faith. We can’t observe an event and know by looking if God did it or not. A woman has a broken leg. We x-ray it and see clearly it is broken. We pray for her leg and x-ray it five minutes latter and it’s not broken anymore. The believer will say “the prayer was answered.” The skeptic will say “It was an ‘atypical healing process’ but there’s no proof God did it.” They both have their points. In such a situation the failure to prove God’s involvement is not disproof of a miracle. On the other hand, in a situation like the one described there’s a huge probability argument the believer can make to back up the assumption of a miracle. That assumption would immediately ignored by the skeptic on the grounds of all the other examples where the proof has been ignored. There is no way to overcome the epistemic gap, except by a leap of faith. The gap could be made more easily traversable by a really good platform from which to leap, that’s where arguments come in. Science can’t really ever say “this is not a miracle” because that is beyond its domain. What it can say is “this outstrips our ability to determine the naturalistic reasons for it.” The only thing the believer can say is the very same thing. So there is always going to be a epistemic gap that must be bridged by a leap of faith.

            The absolute best evidence for miracles is the Catholic miracles committee attached to the miracles of Lourdes. The miracles committee operates with the strictest rules in the world for miracle hunters.

The paradox of human miracle assessment is that the only way to discern whether a phenomenon is supernatural is by having trained rationalists testify that it outstrips their training. Since most wonders admitted by the modern church are medical cures, it consults with doctors. Di Ruberto has access to a pool of 60 - "We've got all the medical branches covered," says his colleague, Dr. Ennio Ensoli - and assigns each purported miracle to two specialists on the vanquished ailment.

They apply criteria established in the 1700s by Pope Benedict XIV: among them, that the disease was serious; that there was objective proof of its existence; that other treatments failed; and that the cure was rapid and lasting. Any one can be a stumbling block. Pain, explains Ensoli, means little: "Someone might say he feels bad, but how do you measure that?" Leukemia remissions are not considered until they have lasted a decade. A cure attributable to human effort, however prayed for, is insufficient. "Sometimes we have cases that you could call exceptional, but that's not enough." says Ensoli. "Exceptional doesn't mean inexplicable." "Inexplicable," or inspiegabile, is the happy label that Di Ruberto, the doctors and several other clerics in the
Vatican's "medical conference" give to a case if it survives their scrutiny. It then passes to a panel of theologians, who must determine whether the inexplicable resulted from prayer. If so, the miracle is usually approved by a caucus of Cardinals and the Pope.

Some find the process all too rigorous. Says Father Paolino Rossi, whose job, in effect, is lobbying for would-be saints from his own Capuchin order: "It's pretty disappointing when you work for years and years and then see the miracle get rejected." But others suggest it could be stricter still.

There is another major miracle-validating body in the Catholic world: the International Medical Committee for the shrine at
Lourdes. Since miracles at Lourdes are all ascribed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, it is not caught up in the saint-making process, which some believe the Pope has running overtime. Roger Pilon, the head of Lourdes' committee, notes that he and his colleagues have not approved a miracle since 1989, while the Vatican recommended 12 in 1994 alone. "Are we too severe?" he wonders out loud. "Are they really using the same criteria?"[xv]

I will not go into any detail about the development of rules which is very complex and a rich history in itself. After 1977 the following list became opporational:

1) The diagnostics and authenticity of the disease has been preliminarily and perfectly assessed;

2) The prognosis provides for an impending or short-term fatal outcome;

3) The recovery is sudden, without convalesce, and absolutely complete and final;

4) The prescribed treatment cannot be deemed to have resulted in a recovery or in any case could have been propitiatory for the purposes of recovery itself. These criteria are still in use nowadays, in view of their highly logical, accurate and pertinent nature.[xvi]

This is in addition to very rigorous rules Author: Cardinal Prospero Lambertini,
future Pope Benedict XIV, 1734. The committee requires the finest modern diagnostics and they much receive the records from the patients
doctor. They control for remission, for this reason do not accept leukemia cures unless the person has been cured for ten years (because remission often go back). The committee is made up of medical experts, they use skeptics on the committee as well. The town doesn’t own or control the committee and has no role in the process. The theological issues and input of church hierarchy only go to work on cases passed to them by the medicos.

            These arrangements are so rigorous that out of thousands of miracle claims only about 65 have been accepted as official miracles. They also have 2,500 “remarkable” claims[xvii] that are inexplicable but don’t make the cut due to technical problems in documenting or something of that nature.[xviii] There’s good reason to think a miracle might have occurred somewhere in all of this. There is reason to understand it as a miracle, an event unexplained connected to the divine and guided by the divine for purpose of getting human attention. The only factor that isn’t nailed down with medical documentation and adds to any potential change in the satiation is prayer. The length of time between the healing and the prayer is so short the two can clearly be connected. That leaves a lot of room for gaps in cases where the process is not submitted to the Lourdes committee. In other words who really can say that God would not take a long time to answer a prayer for healing? That rules all those cases and make the epistemic gap even greater, but it is entirely possible miracles could be overlooked all the time.

Since the apparitions at Lourdes in 1858, a procedure has gradually developed for verifying the cures and healings which occur there. Today, Lourdes is recognized as the Church's foremost center for investigating healings. There, medical personnel from all the world are invited to investigate the evidence for reported healings. Included among the medical examiners are those who allow and those who exclude the possibility of miraculous healings. The procedure also attempts to respects the dignity of the person who has been cured. John Paul II reminded the medical personnel of Lourdes that the verification of miraculous cures is Lourdes' "special responsibility and mission" (Nov. 17, 1988).[xix]

This is nothing for a skeptic to deny. Skeptics can always deny. There is no trick to denial, one can deny anything. The point is any or all of these cases could well be miracles. Here are examples of some of the cases:[xx]

Colonel Paul Pellegrin
3 October 1950
age 52; Toulon, France Post-operative fistula following a liver abscess in 1948. By the time of his pilgrimage in 1950, the condition had degenerated to an open wound that required multiple dressing changes each day, and showed no sign of healing. On emerging from his second bath in the waters, the wound had completely closed, and the condition never bothered him again. Recognized by the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon,  France on 8 December 1953.

Brother Schwager Léo
30 April 1952
age 28; Fribourg, Switzerland multiple sclerosis for five years; recognized by the diocese of Fribourg, Switzerland on 18 December 1960

Alice Couteault, born Alice Gourdon
15 May 1952
age 34; Bouille-Loretz, France multiple sclerosis for three years; recognized by the diocese of Poitiers, France on 16 July 1956

Marie Bigot
8 October 1953 and 10 October 1954
age 31 and 32; La Richardais, France arachnoiditis of posterior fossa (blindness, deafness, hemiplegia); recognized by the diocese of Rennes, France 15 August 1956

Ginette Nouvel, born Ginette Fabre
21 September 1954
age 26; Carmaux, France Budd-Chiari disease (supra-hepatic venous thrombosis); recognized by the diocese of Albi on 31 May 1963

Elisa Aloi, later Elisa Varcalli
5 June 1958
age 27; Patti, Italy tuberculous osteo-arthritis with fistulae at multiple sites in the right lower limb; recognized by the diocese of Messine, Italy on 26 May 1965

Juliette Tamburini
17 July 1959
age 22; Marseilles, France femoral osteoperiostitis with fistulae, epistaxis, for ten years; recognized by the diocese of Marseille, France on 11 May 1965

Vittorio Micheli
1 June 1963
age 23; Scurelle, Italy Sarcoma (cancer) of pelvis; tumor so large that his left thigh became loose from the socket, leaving his left leg limp and paralyzed. After taking the waters, he was free of pain, and could walk. By February 1964 the tumor was gone, the hip joint had recalcified, and he returned to a normal life. Recognized by the diocese of Trento,  Italy on 26 May 1976.

Serge Perrin
1 May 1970
age 41; Lion D'Angers, France Recurrent right hemiplegia, with ocular lesions, due to bilateral carotid artery disorders. Symptoms, which included headache, impaired speech and vision, and partial right-side paralysis began without warning in February 1964. During the next six years he became wheelchair-confined, and nearly blind. While on pilgrimage to Lourdes in April 1970, his symptoms became worse, and he was near death on 30 April. Wheeled to the Basilica for the Ceremony the next morning, he felt a sudden warmth from head to toe, his vision returned, and he was able to walk unaided. First person cured during the Ceremony of the Anointing of the Sick. Recognized by the diocese of Angers, France on 17 June 1978.

Delizia Cirolli, later Delizia Costa
24 December 1976
age 12; Paterno, Italy Ewing's Sarcoma of right knee; recgonized by the diocese of Catania, Italy on 28 June 1989

Jean-Pierre Bély
9 October 1987
age 51; French multiple sclerosis; recognized by the diocese of Angoulême on 9 February 1999  

            There are any number of reasons why these would fall through the cracks. One of them main reasons is because they are Catholic. They are not the work of official medical academic entities, although they certainly make use of medical experts and scientific data. The official channels of the academy are important. There good logical reasons why we couldn’t trust information if it had no connection with outside sources. On the other hand, skeptics will merely demand that it has to be a lie if it has any connection with a religious institution and then it’s down between the cracks. There may be logical reasons to be couscous but the point is if something falls between the cracks of the world view, the truth regime the ideology in question whatever that may be, science is not in the business of excavating the cracks and it would take remarkable effort to even admit there can be cracks. What the existence of cracks the potential for any sort of epistemic question or ontological reality to fall between them proves is that science is limited, science is human observation, and science is not all knowing. These limitations of science and the propensity to fall between the cracks is a good indication that questions like the question of God are not scientific questions. Saying God is not a scientific question does not mean that God is not a valid belief or that there’s no reason to believe in God. What not being a scientific question means is that we have to use other methods to seek God. Perhaps we should try the method that God seems to have indicated he should try, the human “heart,” meaning the deepest recess of our consciousness, the part of ourselves that is capable of wonder, of desire, of making commitments.

[i] Susan Barber, “A Physicist Explores The Mulitpverse: Quantum Computer Predict Parallel Worlds,”  Electrinic Magazine: The Spirit of Ma’at. Vol 2 number 2. URL: visited 9/13/10.

[ii] John Roach, National Geographic Daily News, online for National Geogrphaic News, (March 22), 2010, URL:, visited 9/13/10.

[iii] Kate McAlpine, “M-Theory: Ddoubts Linger Over Godless Universe,” New Scientist, (14 September) 2010 Magine isse 2778 URL: visited 9/13/2010.

[iv] Ibid

[v] Stephen Hawking and Peter Woit, bouth statements on Woit’s blog, “Not Even Wrong” 9/7/2010 URL: visited 9/13/2010.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Peter Woit, Interview, “Is Sting Theory Stringing us Along?” Big Think Electronic magazine. (Jan 18) 2010. URL: visited 9/18/2010

[viii] J.L. Hinman, the Trace of God, op cit, chapter 3, “Aguments.” The origin of religion is the sense of the numinous, the human sense that there is some form of holiness or unified nature ot reality, something beyond our understanding that makes reality special. The Atheist assertion that religion was invented to explain nature is really based upon their need to explain nature, once religion became part of human consciousness human naturally looked to it for all answers, but that doesn’t mean that was it’s origin. I draw an analogy between that origin of religion and it’s relation to primitive science, and modern science and It’s tangential nature of questions of God.

[ix] Woit Interview, Ibid.

[x] Woit paraphrasing Hawking, Ibid.

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time. New York: Random House, 1991, 185. “if we do discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we would know the mind of God.”

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Ibid.

[xv] David Van Biema, and Greg Burke, “Modern Miracles Have Strict Rules,” Time Magazine on line. April 10, 1995. URL:,9171,982807,00.html

[xvi] Franco Balzaretti Vice Presidente Nazionale - Associazione Medici Cattolici Italiani (AMCI)
Membre du Comité Médical International de Lourdes (CMIL) Online Chatolic Newsletter Leadership Medica 2000. visited

[xvii] Marian Library Newsletter, No 38, (new series) 1999, the original quotation is form Nov, 17,1988. URL: visited 9/17/2010.

[xviii] Balzaretti, Ibid

[xix] Marian Library Newsletter, Ibid.

[xx] Patron Saints Index Lourdes cures. Website URL: visited 9/17/2010. More detailed information available @ Our Lady of Lourdes, another website, URL: visited 9/17/2010

Friday, September 24, 2010

Limits of Science part 2


The dispute between theists and atheists is, in large part, a squabble over epistemology. Atheists tend to be empiricists, as famous atheist blogger Austin Cline puts it:

Atheists tend to be either exclusively or primarily empiricists: they insist that truth-claims be accompanied by clear and convincing evidence which can be studied and tested. Theists tend to be much more wiling to accept rationalism, believing that "truth" can be attained through revelations, mysticism, faith, etc. This is consistent with how atheists tend to place primacy on the existence of matter and argue that the universe is material in nature whereas theists tend to place primacy on the existence of mind (specifically: the mind of God) and argue that existence is more basically spiritual and supernatural in nature.[i]

The allure of empirical evidence is apparent. The atheist lives in a socially constructed totality of mutually reinforcing doubt. Anything that is not surface and thing oriented, a material object that can be touched, must be doubted. The truncated world of mere surface nature, a world constructed entirely out of material objects, ‘things,’ and nothing more, is consistently being touted as the only valid form of existence because it’s so solid, so in front of one’s face, so “there.” All one need do is examine Cline’s speech to see the totalizing understanding at work. He says: “Theists tend to be much more wiling to accept rationalism, believing that "truth" can be attained through revelations, mysticism, faith, etc.(above).” One wonders what is in that “ect,” but he classes among the tools of RATIONALISM revelation, mysticism and faith! Sense when? Rationalism has never meant supernatural and spiritual aids, it means reason and logic. The philosophes in the enlightenment were rationalists.  Atheists themselves pride themselves in their rational natures, yet Cline would have us believe that to be a rationalist is to be a mystic.

            The reason for this is no great mystery. Atheism thrives on the notion that it is the rational choice. It clings to science and the value of scientific thinking because science has come to be understood as the umpire of reality. Religion really does involve a global use of knowledge, thus the atheist emphasizes the less scientific more “irrational” methods of religion and conveniently forgets that theology also uses logic, reason, scientific approaches, textual criticisms, archaeology and so forth. When atheists are confronted with God arguments based upon logic suddenly the use of logic becomes foolish, unimportant, inadequate unable to give us answers. Then the rationalist becomes not a logician but a mystic. Theistic rationalism is boiled down to the “spiritual” aspects and cut off from reason to make theism appear foolish. The truth of it is the atheist is truncating the world, cutting of everything below the surface. The atheist world is like a frozen sea where ice bergs end at the waterline. It’s true that religious thinking does employ these means that atheists seek to make appear foolish, revelation, mystical experience and so on.  That’s part of being global. Global approach to knowledge means using everything we know. Those more pneumatic methods are related to and grounded in the use of reason and the validated of scientific testing. This is true even on the level of daily living where untrained laymen do not make clinical field trials but live their lives, they gravitate to that which works for them and that which doesn’t work they leave alone. The more academic theological thinker employs all the techniques known to modern humanity, including science. Yet the true ground of understanding for God is in the heart. The atheist seeks to cut off the heart by disparaging it as “subjective,” “superstitious,” “unscientific” but that’s because they have to do that to make their case. Their case is based upon truncating reality.
            Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetics question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God. Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments?
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future chapters, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there is no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is). Empiricism is not the true source of knowledge by itself, logic is more important.  What I’m really aiming at is not logic alone but a global approach to knowledge, using everything we have. It all has to work together. Part of that global approach must include the use of epistemology as a starting point; otherwise we are making unfounded assumptions about method without really considering our basic premises before we start. It seems that a fundamental aspect of getting started has to be to acquire an understanding of our tools and an understanding of what they are designed to do. Empiricism, though it is often approached as value and commitment by the atheist, is really just one of several tools. The tool of empiricism is designed to give us a basic understanding of the immediate nature not an exhaustive and final rendition of all reality. This is illustrated best by the nature of questions that empiricism can’t answer and can’t even begin to deal. These are epistemological questions. Epistemology is branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.[ii] Epistemology is on a more basic level of human inquirers than science; science grew out of an attempt to answer epistemological problems. Science basically deals with systemic observation of sense data, its aim is to understand the workings of the physical world. The empiricist transforms the design of a tool into a philosophy in itself trying to cause us to stay stuck at the level where all we ever consider is the physical world. The inability of science to answer basic epistemological questions demonstrates that it is unsuited to answer questions about the ultimate nature of reality.

            Descartes the rationalist reached one of the seminal moments in western thought; his cogito is important to any modern scientific thinker because it helped to stem the damage of the intellectual crisis of Europe and provided a basis for relative certainty that allowed confidence in human ability to gather knowledge and to move forward with modern science.. Descartes wanted to find the basic level of certainty that he could not doubt. He asked questions such as “how do I know I exist?”  “How do I know that I’m not being deceived by an evil genius?” The most basic thing he could not doubt was that he was thinking about how he knew he wasn’t being deceived. His answer is formulated thus, “I think, therefore, I am,” (Latin: cigito, ergo sum referred to as “the cogito”). Now the un-initiated non philosophy people who first encounter this in introductory classes mock and ridicule it saying “what a stupid thing to worry about, we know we exist because we are alive and looking at the world.” In so doing they are basically the same steps.  Of course no one worries about this, Descartes didn’t worry about it. What they miss is the fact that Descartes wasn’t actually worried that he might not exist; he was trying to work up a method that would find the most indubitable thing and work out form there. This is all pabulum for a philosophy student, Philosophy 101, fall semester. The problem is there’s a basic fallacy that Descartes is often accused of committing, it used to be “the epistemologist fallacy” sometimes called “the empiricist dilemma.” The empiricists came along and said “but you can’t get outside of your experiences to check and see if they are true.” In other words, the cogito may be the one thing of which you can be certain but you can’t move on from it by pure reason to establish the world, you have to accept your sense data as the primary source of knowledge. Thus the basic school of the empiricists was born.

            The nature of epistemological questions holds a greater problem for the adherent of scientism or the adherent of reductionism, the new atheist, the scientific empiricist than just a mere technicality in the history of philosophy. The fact that science can’t provide the answer, not that there aren’t good answers, but that science can’t provide them presents a very significant problem for those who believe that science is the only source of knowledge. For those who believe this, science is usually understood as holding an answer to everything, or everything worth knowing. Just collecting more data wont resolve questions of perception being illusory, any data collected would be suspect as part of the illusion.[iii] That science can’t provide the answers for questions of epistemology is crucial because epistemology of course is about how we know what we know, for one who believes that this one kind of knowledge is the only knowledge, to see that this source of all knowledge has no answer for this one kind of question, a question of knowledge itself, if it’s really taken to heart, has to be crushing. Of course they don’t take it to heart; they usually just rationalize it away. Be that as it may the reductionism, the champion of scientism usually comes back and says something like “I don’t have to worry about whether or not I exist because here I am, assuming I do seems to work rather well because it enables me to get through the day so I’m justified in assuming that I do exist.” Look at the nature of the answer; that is not science, its philosophy! They are essentially demonstrating my point in trying to answer because they have to resort to philosophy, having no scientific data to dispel the possibility of illusion cast over our perceptions. The nature of the answer is rather amusing because it allows one to then posit that religious experience is just as trust worthy as a huge body of scientific data demonstrates that religious experience enables one to navigate through life in certain respects.[iv] So when there actually is some data pertaining to the matter, it supports religious belief and not atheism. But the point is one must pull together a meaningful answer to this kind of question by use of means other than scientific. Thus there have to be other forms of knowledge and in dealing with the ultimate concerns of human being those other methods are crucial.

            There are many such questions. One can easily come up with them, from the banal, “How do we know the sun will come up tomorrow?”  To the profound “why is there something rather than nothing.”

How do we know the sun will come up tomorrow?
How do we know the future will be like the past?

How do we know we exist?

How do we know other minds exist external to our own?

How do we know our lives are not illusory

How do we know we are not butterflies dreaming we are humans?

How do we know we are not brains in vats, ect ect.

The trick always works the same way. They try to answer the question by departing form scientific data and making use of philosophy, however slight or undeveloped their understanding of philosophy. The question about the sun coming up is a good trick because many atheist confuse probability with science, they think they are giving a scientific answer when they say “because it always has before” as though just any reference to numbers is scientific. Yet, probably, while a major tool used in science, becomes something more like philosophy in this context, because it requires a philosophical understanding to argue that we should allow ourselves to trust the probability. This is still the childish level of fun with arguments and a more sophisticated scientific type who knows something about the philosophy of the Cartesian era would bash it out in a few minutes. We have a more complex problem when we being to ask questions about navigation in life and about meaning in life. It’s not that big a trick to figure out why we should trust the sun to come up, or why we should trust out senses when they are so regular and consistent.

            The upshot is that not only do we have to bring in philosophy to offer these answers, but we have to make them or else just ignore the question. In other words, no scientific data will ever answer these questions; they have to be the result of a judgment. We have to make an epistemic judgment to answer to such questions. The skeptic thinks she’s triumphantly answering this argument when she resorts to this fact, but in reality she is giving the answer the apologist wants to hear. Of course we have to make a judgment, that the judgment is based upon empirical data from the senses doesn’t prove that science answers the question, no far from it, it proves that science can’t answer it and the inquirer has to be based upon a judgment call and the next best thing to actually answering it is going by empirical observation. Even at that level it’s not “science” per se that’s enabling us to make the judgment, but a philosophical turn of mind that is willing to extrapolate from the data (closer to philosophy because the skeptic always rails against extrapolation when it’s about faith). The decision to make a judgment requires a philosophical deliberation, and the subject matter is not scientific. The fact of this the necessity to make the judgment is the basis for my God argument I call “argument from epistemic judgment.”[v] If the perceptions we have are regular, consistent, inter-subjective and enable navigation (and the studies studies show the affirmative on all counts) then we have the same reason to trust them that we have to trust regular experiences of the world, even though these are religious experiences. Science can’t go near the question or any of these the above questions because it’s job is to tell us about the physical world not how we know what we know, not the ultimate nature of reality. One must make a leap of faith or beg the question to assume that there is nothing more to reality than just the physical fact of things existing. This is faith, not science. Science does not work by faith.

            Not only do these epistemological questions of the empiricist dilemma highlight the need for philosophical thinking, the limited nature of science to answer such questions, but science itself shows us empirically (pardon the irony) that science is unable to provide the answer to epistemology. Andrew Newberg tells us:

The medieval German mystic Meister Echkart lived hundreds of years before the science of neurology was born. Yet it seems he had intuitively grasped one of the fundamental principles of the discipline: What we think of, as reality is only a rendition of reality that is created by the brain. Our modern understanding of the brain’s perceptual powers bears him out. Nothing enters consciousness whole. There is no direct, objective experience of reality. All the things the mind perceives—all thoughts, feelings, hunches, memories, insights, desires, and revelations—have been assembled piece by piece by the processing powers of the brain from the swirl of neural blimps. The idea that our experiences of reality—all our experiences, for that matter—are only “secondhand” depictions of what may or may not be objectively real, raises some profound questions about the most basic truths of human existence and the neurological nature of spiritual experience. For example our experiment with Tibetan mediators and Franciscan nuns showed that the events they considered spiritual were, in fact, associated with observable neurological activity. In a reductionist sense this could support the argument that religious experience is only imagined neurologically, that God is physically ‘all in your mind.’ But a full understanding of the way in which the brain and the mind assemble and experience reality suggests a very different view.[vi]

The brain re-writes reality for us as part of the cognitive features that make up our physical perceptions. That means not that our physical perceptions are giving us an accurate representation of the world but that they are re writing the world for us. Our perceptions are not what is actually there but what our brains have re-written to present to us as a simulacra of what is there. It’s not that we can establish reasonable probability that enables us to get by in life, of course we can. The fact that we do this all the time indicates that this is not a debilitating condition; the fact of it is, however, that our ability to do that depends upon philosophical thinking and making of metaphors, not upon empiricism or scientific data.

            We have to put together all the sense data and the re-written version of reality our brains give us, but we have to apply philosophical thinking to come up with the answer “I can trust the sun will come up because it has always done so before.” We can’t really do this without thinking philosophically. The answer to questions about how we know what we take to be “reality” is “real,” involves a philosophical leap of faith. We can’t bridge the gap in knowledge by literally establishing the accuracy of the way the brain re-writes the world, we can only make an epistemic judgment; that’s what the answers people give, “the sun will come up again because it always does.” That answer is a judgment, it’s really guess based upon probability.  That’s philosophical. In fact Newberg shows that the brain actually has a philosophical judgment function already “built-in” to our perceptions. He calls them “cognitive operators.” One such operator enables us to see the whole broken down into component parts and another allows us to group component parts and see the whole. It’s as though what we need to gather data and build a picture of the world is designed into our cognitive array. My purpose here, however, is not to make a design argument. Rather I am arguing that the only things that really make all of this work are counter intuitively not aspects that allow one to one accurate viewing of the world but instead enable the kinds of thinking that empiricists and atheist don’t like, thinking that’s more a part of the arts and humanities, and philosophy; the making of metaphor, without which language would be impossible, and extrapolation, requiring imagination.[vii] Without these kinds of thinking and the ability to employ them philosophically to questions of perception and to general questions about the meaning of life, we would not be able to operate in the world. This is not supplied by scientific data, nor could it be. This is not an issue that can be bridged by better gathering of data because any data we gather would be useless without the ability to extrapolate form it and think philosophically.

            What we see at work in the reliance upon philosophy to bolster science in the epistemological realm, and then to criticize philosophy for not being science, is the tendency of scientism to bring philosophy in through the backdoor; that is a necessary move to bolster the atheist ideology because without that they could never even suggest anything about the nature of reality. Of course real scientific thought is much more sophisticated than anything I portray here, as is real philosophical thinking. Hopefully real major physicists don’t think that science is the only source of knowledge. I am inclined to pick on those who do think this and I refer to them as “sciensistic.” Atheists and skeptics tend to be scientistic. The scientism crowd must bring philosophy in the back door because without doing that they could not tout their ideology. Ideology touting is a philosophical move. Pronouncements such as “metaphysics is useless made up garbage” is a metaphysical statement. Thus one must do metaphysics in order to say “metaphysics sux.” Sometimes major physicists do talk rot and move too far into the realm of expropriating philosophy, especially when they want to sell books. Such an instance is seen now in the new publicity stunt Stephen Hawking, who, awaiting release of his new book declares that God did not create the universe. The book is not yet out, thus we have only pre-release reviews to go by. We do know one thing already; science has no business making pronouncements about God because God is not a scientific question. God is in the realm of questions that science can’t answer. The proof is to sit back (with popcorn) and watch the circus as scientist like Hawking sneak in philosophy disguised as science.

            The shocking proclamation of the book is to be that God did not create the universe, science can accent for it all. Most reviewers have lost no time in pointing out the obvious; Hawking’s mechanism (gravity) is left unexplained.

God did not create the universe, world-famous physicist Stephen Hawking argues in a new book that aims to banish a divine creator from physics. Hawking says in his book The Grand Design  that, given the existence of gravity, "the universe can and will create itself from nothing," according to an excerpt published Thursday in The Times of London. "Spontaneous creation is the reason why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist," he writes in the excerpt."It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper [fuse] and set the universe going," he writes.[viii]

Probably that is the hook when the book is released, the pretense that does explain. Prediction: the book will be sold on the premise that it disproves the need for God because it accounts scientifically for gravity, but the real trick is to what for what is surreptitiously lurking behind the veil. Not the idea that they can’t demonstrate the basis for gravity

            The questions that science poses and the questions that religious belief pose are totally different sorts of questions. There are points of overlap. Most of these stem form the ages before science really had an systematic to it, the ancient world, pre historic world.  These are the days when the most sophisticated scientific knowledge was smelting and sword making, and even that was not understood in a way that we would call "scientific."  In that setting it was natural (meaning logical and practical) to use religion as the explanation for the natural world. From this era when people looked to religion to make it answer questions it can't answer, we have hold over ideas (such as Genesis creation myth--which we need to learn how to read as a myth--and that means we need to learn the value in myth) that we have these conflicts. Science doesn’t work by faith, but science’s task is to understanding the workings of the physical world. On the other hand, this is not the only thing that humans wonder about. The nature of human wonderment is bigger than just the physical world. We wonder about our very place in being. How are we going to understand the nature of being empirically when we can't get outside of being to study it? We can understand it from the standpoint of beings in being, but that's subjective. We can't get outside of being to understand what being is. This is why science is inadequate to deal with questions like the existence of God, thus the lack of empirical evidence for God cannot be understood as a reason to disbelieve the existence of God. Atheists reject “subjective” view points and evidence, but that’s the only of knowledge we have. Objectivity is a pretense. Humans are not objective and science is not an objective means of obtaining all possible truth. The reductionists will counter with the assertion that the only possible alternative is superstition or magic or some kind of primitive animism, but they ignore logic, philosophy and phenomenology.

Heidegger’s ultimate question, why is there something rather than nothing at all. This probably the most important question of ontology, and it's one science can't begin to answer. The basis of religious thinking, although Heidegger was an atheist, it need to entail a religious answer. To even begin to think about the issue one must depart the field of science, leave aside the workings of the physical world and embark upon contemplation of a concept foreign to scinece; the question of "why?" Science thrives on "how?" It doesn't contain "why?"

           In addition to epistemological questions and ontological there are also moral questions. Much has been done to try and construct moral philosophy based upon scientific underpinnings, mainly though trying to establish a genetic basis for morality. This is not valid because it can’t tell us the “should.” Moral philosophy, ethics, morality all of these kinds of thinking require the word “should” be part of their formulations; one should or should not do X.  Merely establishing a fact of nature lending itself to a predisposition toward a certain kind of behavior does not tell us that we should or should not do that behavior. To try and base morality upon genetics is a violation of Hume’s fork. One cannot establish and ought from an “is.” Suppose we dissected living humans to observe the workings of the human body. We could learn a great deal, science would be greatly served, but science can’t tell us we should or should not do that, and doing it because it serves science is no guarantee that it would be ethical. Now one might argue “that’s common sense, this is repugnant because it’s a violation of our human feeling, we feel in the gut that’s it is wrong and that’s all we need to ay it is wrong. The feeling is not science. Utilitarianism is not science. Enlightenment self interest is not science. None of the basic reasons atheists and physicalists will give for not doing so are science. The moral answers atheists take to the questions have to come from thinking other than scientific thought, and certainly scientific data can’t tell us where the “should” is. If we even care about the dimension of the moral in the first place, we have to move into the realm of philosophy and ask other kinds of questions than that science can answer. Questions of moral philosophy overlap with questions of God, much more so then they do with questions of science. Scientific empiricism is not prepared to answer such questions, nor to deal with epistemology, but also has inherent problems even for it’s own tasks.

[i] Austine Cline,, Atheism/Agnosticism (blog) URL: Visited 8/27/2010

[ii] Antony Flew, A Dictionary of Philosophy, revised second edition. New   York: St. Martin’s press, 1979,109.

[iii] When I employ this game playing strategy in argument with atheist on the internet they usually become outraged at the point where they realize that more data won’t help. The start cursing and saying that I’m “attacking science, and saying things like “that’s crazy, no one would worry about existing or not.” But the reasons they give are always indicative of philosophical thinking, even the ones who say philosophy is just made up rubbish.

[iv] See my previous work The Trace of God, Grand Viaduct publishing. Chapter 3

[v] see J.L. Hinman. The Trace of God, Dallas and Colorodo Springs: Grand Viaduct Publishing, 2010 ,chapter 3, “Arguments”

[vi] Andrew Newberg, Why God Won’t God Away: Brain Science and the Biology of Belief. (New   York, Ballentine Books), 2001,35-36.

[vii] Ibid 52.

[viii] Richard Allen Green. “Stephen Hawking:God Didn’t Create the Universe” CNN World. (September 02, 2010).