I’m writing this before coffee, so I hope it’s not too riddled with typos or grammatical weirdness. And that’s as much apology as you get.
This is an open thread about yesterday’s program. However, a few points about Eric from Mesa, AZ.
First, Eric employed a reasoning error, that when I pointed it out, he misunderstood me to be supplying an analogy in a different vein. I was simply illustrating that the following is not correct reasoning:
X causes Y; therefore all Y are caused by X.
Eric asserts that because intelligent beings can design things, all things that seem complex to him must be designed by intelligent beings. He claims you can’t provide examples of complex things—like trees—arising out of nature—but that is because he rejects nature can cause them, even though, from all we can observe, nature does give rise to such things. He admitted a complex thing can cause other complex things, and yet, for some reason, he rejects “nature” as a potential cause. I address this in detail at my older post “Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due.” It’s simply “I can’t believe nature does this—even though by all appearances, it seems like nature does this.”
I used ponds, during the call to try and get Eric to see what is wrong with his logic—that just because people create them does not mean they are only ever formed by intelligences and cannot be naturally occurring. Eric rejects, without reason or evidence, that “naturally occurring” is a category, but then claimed that the pond is unlike the tree, in that god has no clear hand in producing the pond. So, is it Eric’s claim then that nature exists independent of god, and that god only stepped in to produce those things he cannot believe nature can produce? This is the reasoning fallacy “Argument from Incredulity.” I cannot believe it’s possible, therefore it cannot be so.
But you could plug in anything for X or Y, as long as X is at least one known cause of Y. Here is another example:
Intelligent beings can sabotage and maliciously break machinery. Therefore all machinery that breaks is sabotaged, even if not by humans, demonstrating the existence of gremlins. Ah, you might say “but sometimes things break due to worn or defective components.” However, I say it only APPEARS they break by worn or defective components, but I don’t believe a machine can break due to worn or defective components, and so it must be gremlins.
Complex things can be created by intelligent beings. Therefore all complex things are created by intelligent beings—if not people or other animals, then gods. Ah, you might say “but nature gives rise to complex things, like snowflakes and trees,” but I say it only APPEARS it gives rise to complex things, but I don’t believe those things can be naturally occurring, so it must be gods.
Same logic, different things plugged in for X and Y. Intelligent beings dig holes, therefore all holes are the result of intelligence. If they seem naturally occurring holes, then gods made them. It doesn’t matter what you plug in—it’s an argument from incredulity, plain and simple. I can’t believe what I see, or what the evidence suggests, therefore it cannot be true.
The worst thing Eric did, however, was try to claim he was using scientific method as a guide. However, somehow he rejects the reality that no physicist studying universal origins has ever, based on the evidence or examination of the data, to date, come to the conclusion (if what they publish in peer-review is any indication of what they believe is suggested by the evidence) a god is involved in producing a universe. How could they, in fact, when we have no god to examine—when by all accounts, no gods appear to even exist or manifest? If “the science” must lead to god—then my question is, why are the most qualified scientists not supportive of Eric’s “scientific” conclusion? Either scientists are doing science wrong, or Eric is—what should we think? And for that, I have an Atheist Eve.
Science supports you, except when it doesn’t. Your misconceptions about science, combined with faulty reasoning, lead you to convince yourself this is what the science dictates; but if you really wanted to know what conclusions science leads to—it’s very simple—just go and read up on what science has to say about it. In this case, the science of studying the origins of the universe absolutely can, in no reasonable way, be confused with “god did it.” So, as a lay person, if that’s what you think the science indicates—you’re not understanding something.
The most interesting thing to me though is that the very scientific Eric started us out by admitting he was using unscientific definitions for things such as “nothing.” In his last call he stated point blank that he was not going to accept the scientific definition of nothing as explained by Lawrence Krauss:
So, we used his definition of nothing as “nonbeing.” I asked “can nonbeing be?” Cleary it cannot. And Eric agreed. This makes, according to Eric’s definitions, existence, or being, a necessary—an unavoidable—state. In which case, if existence always exists, then what is the need for a creator? If there is always something and never nothing—then there is no need for anything to be “created”—since “being” cannot have ever “not been.” His own reasoning eliminates the need to create an existence—which cannot have ever not been.
He then tried to conflate this with Steady State Theory.
My point was not that this incarnation of matter and energy has “always been,” but that if something always exists, then it might have been in a form previously that led to this form—how could we know that or know otherwise? As Hawking states in his Beginning of Time lecture:
“Since events before the Big Bang have no observational consequences, one may as well cut them out of the theory, and say that time began at the Big Bang. Events before the Big Bang, are simply not defined, because there’s no way one could measure what happened at them. This kind of beginning to the universe, and of time itself, is very different to the beginnings that had been considered earlier. These had to be imposed on the universe by some external agency. There is no dynamical reason why the motion of bodies in the solar system cannot be extrapolated back in time, far beyond four thousand and four BC, the date for the creation of the universe, according to the book of Genesis. Thus it would require the direct intervention of God, if the universe began at that date. By contrast, the Big Bang is a beginning that is required by the dynamical laws that govern the universe. It is therefore intrinsic to the universe, and is not imposed on it from outside.”
Further, in that same lecture, Hawking explains why, from a scientific standpoint, Eric cannot appeal to any natural laws or general rules about this state of existence—such as his constant appeal to “cause and effect.” We had a physicist in our audience who came up to me after the show to rhetorically ask, “What is this Law of Cause and Effect he kept invoking? Lots of things in physics appear to be uncaused effects.” And someone called in after Eric to point out my objection, virtual particles, went unanswered—although I don’t fault Eric, as I think we had some issues hearing one another over the call lines. I don’t think it went unanswered due to any intent, but just because it probably wasn’t heard. But in his lecture, Hawking sums it up better—and with more knowledge on this issue than I or Eric can claim:
“At this time, the Big Bang, all the matter in the universe, would have been on top of itself. The density would have been infinite. It would have been what is called, a singularity. At a singularity, all the laws of physics would have broken down. This means that the state of the universe, after the Big Bang, will not depend on anything that may have happened before, because the deterministic laws that govern the universe will break down in the Big Bang. The universe will evolve from the Big Bang, completely independently of what it was like before. Even the amount of matter in the universe, can be different to what it was before the Big Bang, as the Law of Conservation of Matter, will break down at the Big Bang.”
That is as much as I have. You may discuss any other callers or points as well. But surely Eric’s call would have been the highlight, as he provided a great opportunity to highlight the Argument from Incredulity and Dunning-Kruger Effect, as it applies to someone who thinks they have an understanding of scientific principles.
That’s all I got.