Archive for October, 2011

October 12th, 2011

Needing Help in Research

by Max Andrews

This is just a memo for everyone out there.  As you may know, my research thesis is the fine-tuning argument in light of the multiverse and my suggestion is that the multiverse exponentially strengthens the argument.  I’ve traced multiverse scenarios back to the Church Father Origen and Paley (read the second chapter of Natural Theology). It doesn’t seem to be considered as actual until Hugh Everett in the mid twentieth century.  If any of you have more information on the historical development I would greatly appreciate it.  Thanks!

October 11th, 2011

No Dawkins? Don’t be Daft!

by Max Andrews

There have been quite the development of criticisms of Richard Dawkins in the last few weeks in light of his denial to debate Christian philosopher William Lane Craig. I’ve been a participant in the blogosphere and in the forums and I’m familiar with what others are saying about everything. The basic principle that’s being asserted is that Dawkins will have a monologue concerning his arguments against God but he will not dialogue about it. I mean really, why debate the existence of fictitious entities and fairies?

October 7th, 2011

Neutrinos Faster Than Light or Extra Dimensions?

by Max Andrews

Source: CERN Press

By now we’ve all heard of the news coming out of CERN and OPERA on 23 September that the Italian accelerator, OPERA, measured neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light.  I didn’t comment on the finding right away because I wanted to do some research on the claims and on what exactly happened.  So here are my two-cents.

So, what exactly is a neutrino?  A neutrino is a fundamental particle and crucial for the standard model of particle physics.  The neutrino comes tin three types: [associated with] the electron, muon, and tauon, which are fermions and part of leptons.  The have no electric charge and interact only via the weak nuclear force (see the Oxford Companion to Cosmology for more on this).  These particle are incredibly difficult to detect and pass through our bodies all the time (this is a nice little Italian cartoon that has an excellent depiction of neutrinos).

So, what happened?  CERN sent the neutrinos 730lm to the Italian accelerator OPERA.  The journey only took 2.43 milliseconds and the scientists timed it to within 10 nanoseconds. (A millisecond is a thousandth of a second, 1/1,000s and a nanosecond is a billionth of a second, 1/1,000,000,000s).  The neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds earlier than they would have if they were traveling at the speed of light (c = 299,792,458 m/s). There are three options of what could have happened.

  1. Option One.  The experiment was in error and the calculations are simply incorrect.
  2. Option Two.  The speed of light is not the cosmic speed limit and there must be slight adjustments for relativity theory.
  3. Option Three.  The neutrinos took a shortcut through extra dimensions.

Option One: Experimental Error.  The OPERA team spent three years trying to calculate and find every error they could possibly find.  The neutrinos are produced by colliding protons into a graphite target to produce pions and travel a 1km tunnel and decay to produce neutrinos.  Electronic delays in the timing system that records when protons arrive at the graphite target introduce uncertainty.  However, this margin of error is 5 nanoseconds. Where the pions decay is also unknown, which produces an error of 0.2 ns.  Measuring the distance is also difficult because the OPERA lab in Gran Sasso is inside of a mountain, which is undetectable to GPS.  However, the distance can still be calculated to within 20 cm.  The error is 0.67 ns.  With the other errors taken into consideration, the total error bar is 7.4 ns.  Remember, if experimental error is going to be the prevalent option the errors have to account for 60 nanoseconds.

Option Two: Adjusting Relativity.  If it really is the case that the neutrinos did travel faster than the speed of light then Einstein isn’t completely thrown to the curb.  There must be a theory that will account for this that will be closer to the truth.  This has historical precedence.  Newtonian physics were thought to explain the universe until Einstein came around with the concept of relativity.  Newton wasn’t necessarily wrong, Einstein just provided a more accurate theory.  If neutrinos can travel faster than c then we need another Einsteinian discovery.  Not that big of deal.

Option Three: Extra Dimensions.  It may be the case that the neutrinos, when travel with an incredible amount of energy, travel through the smaller curled up dimensions.  Consider the neutrinos traveling into the fourth dimension, this would actually make the distance much shorter.  Hopefully this illustration will help.  Take a piece of paper and draw a straight line across the paper.  Label one end of the line A and the other B.  This line is one-dimensional.  Take the paper and fold it so it creates an upward arch.  Now, if you were to travel from A to B by going through the paper instead of curving around the outside of the paper then the distance would be shorter.  This may, perhaps, be what happened to the neutrinos. (For more information on the discovery see New Scientist No. 2832, October 1-7 2011).

I tend to lean more towards option three, that the neutrinos passed through the smaller extra dimensions.  This would be an incredible development that would contribute to and, possibly, confirm a prediction of string theory.  Part of this may be wishful thinking on my part but this may potentially be an incredible empirical find that would confirm the mathematics.  Now, what about further philosophical or theological implications?  I don’t think this has too much of an impact on philosophy or theology that hasn’t already been addressed concerning the philosophy of science or of scientific theology.  For more on these implications see “The Relationship Between Science and Philosophy,” “Einstein, the Big Bang, and Natural Theology,” “Einstein on Free Will,” and “Einstein’s Impact on the Epistemic Method.”

October 4th, 2011

An Objection to Intelligent Design I’ve Never Heard

by Max Andrews

I was in a tweebate (tweet debate) with another person [whom shall remain anonymous] over a previous post of mine where I claimed that Ken Miller’s argument against irreducible complexity was a bad argument (I really don’t like Twitter debates/conversations either).  This person went on about how Miller’s argument convinced Judge Jones and my position was that it’s actually quite embarrassing that the argument would convince anyone (see my post for the context).  Then he claimed the type three secretory system is an objection to irreducible complexity in the bacterial flagellum, which prompted me to claim that it may indeed be IC itself and there are arguments that the flagellum may have come first.  Anyways, those aren’t what interests me.  The argument that I had never heard before was:

ID claims are anything but modest.  Incapacity to imagine other explanations of our beginnings is not evidence of ID. Non sequitur.

Let me be clear, I have never claimed anywhere at any time… ever… that one should be a proponent of intelligent design because of an incapacity to imagine other explanations.  So first of all, this argument belongs in a cornfield scaring away the crows.  Secondly, this is an utterly blatant attack on my imagination! I’ve got a great imagination! (Okay, the second point isn’t really a part of my argument.) It’s true, if anyone did make an argument for ID based on a lack of imagination it would be a non sequitur since one’s capacity to imagine something has nothing to do with the truth claim (as long as the claim is sound/rational, I cannot imagine the actualization of a contradiction).  I’m fairly confident anyone familiar with intelligent design and the state of the evolution controversy would never make an argument for intelligent design like this.  In fact, no one should ever make such an argument for ID like this.

I’ve explained before in my post on God and Darwinism, the reasons why I’m not a Darwinist are for two reasons: 1) the origin of information must be mind and 2) there is objective teleology in the world and primarily human beings.  I do believe the argument from irreducible complexity is a good argument for ID but I’m not going to die on that hill.  I think intelligent causation is a legitimate scientific hypothesis and explanation.  However, there are certain philosophical truths that press the argument.  I could care less if man evolved from a common ancestor but this evolution could not have occurred without a mind acting on the origin of the information in DNA and I believe man [evolves] with an end goal in mind.  That’s why I reject Darwinism.

October 2nd, 2011

The Method Behind the Design Argument

by Max Andrews

The argument from design is modest in what it purports.  The final claim and conclusion is that there is an extremely intelligent and personal mind, which is responsible for the design in the universe.[1]  The Greek word, telos, is an end goal or purpose.  The design argument was first developed by the ancient Greeks and popularized by William Paley (1743-1805).  The objections to Paley, which served as a catalyst for the arguments popularity among science and philosophy, were purported by David Hume (1711-1776).

The current state of the argument has gained considerable advances in interest in philosophy, theology, science, and even culture.  Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking purported in his recent [paradoxically titled] book, The Grand Design, that the universe no longer needs intervention or a supernatural being to account for the design and creation of the universe.[2]  Most of the interests in the design argument are advances in the scientific account for the beginning of the universe, which are used to argue against the fine-tuning, which will be evaluated.

It is paramount to explicate from the beginning that this is philosophy of science.  This practice is not theological.[3]  The argument is a posteriori gathered from the natural sciences.  The method by which design will be inferred is a historical science.  There are four differences between a historical science and a laboratory science.  First, repeatability is not applicable in the historical sciences; it is a metacriterion for laboratory science.  Second, historical science assumes uniformitarianism, that is, there are presently known causes to phenomena, which can be inferred by perceived effects.[4]  Third, the theories and explanatory hypotheses must lay in empirical harms way.  The conclusions must be falsifiable.  It should be noted that the type of scientific inquiry will be that of an Augustinian science as opposed to a Duhemian science.  Augustinian science permits and carries open metaphysical presuppositions with science.  Duhemian science strips science of all metaphysical imports.  This point yields to the final distinction, which is the understanding that historical science must use non-controversial reasoning.  The controversial claim for the design proponent is simply the introduction of intelligent causation.  However, this is not as controversial as much of the scientific community makes it out to be.  Agency is publicly accepted evidence by experience.[5]

Such methods are derived from the use of abductive reasoning.  The American philosopher and logician Charles Sanders Peirce first described abduction.  He noted that, unlike inductive reasoning, in which a universal law or principle is established from repeated observations of the same phenomena, and unlike deductive reasoning, in which a particular fact is deduced by applying a general law to another particular fact or case, abductive reasoning infers unseen facts, events, or causes in the past from clues or facts in the present.[6] Consider the following syllogism:

If it rains, the streets will get wet.

The streets are wet.

Therefore, it rained.

The use of abductive reasoning may seem fallacious at first take.  This syllogism commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent.  One cannot deduce from the data, that the streets are wet, that it rained because there are many other explanations for why the streets are wet.  It could have been the case that a fire hydrant was allowed to flow, a street cleaner came through, a concerned citizen who wanted to clean the chalk off of the streets from the little children drawing pictures or writing words, there are many possibilities that could explain why the road was wet.  This was the problem that posed Peirce:  How was it that despite the logical problem of affirming the consequent, one nevertheless frequently makes conclusive inferences about the past?  The key point is the explanatory scope and power of the explanation.  Abductive reasoning does not derive a certain conclusion (for one would then be guilty of affirming the consequent), but it makes an inference to the best explanation.  Peirce’s example was whether anyone should believe in the existence of Napoleon.  He claimed that the past may be inferred from the study of present effects, namely, artifacts and records.  Peirce concluded, “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without the hypothesis of his existence.”[7]  Despite the apparent fallacy, W.P. Alston, W.B. Gallie, and Michael Scriven have observed, such arguments can be restated in a logically acceptable form if it can be shown that Y has only one cause (i.e. X) or that X is a necessary condition (or cause) of Y.  Thus, arguments of the form:

X is antecedently necessary to Y,

Y exists,

Therefore, X existed

are logically valid by philosophers and persuasive by historical and forensic scientists.[8]

The suggestion was that a particular abductive hypothesis can be firmly established if it can be shown that it represents the best or only explanation of the “manifest effects” in question.[9]  The only causally adequate explanation of the life-permitting data is intelligent causation.  Minds, by experience, are capable of presenting and originating specified complex information.


            [1] The most modest claims of the argument are for an intelligent cause.  I choose to add a “personal mind” to the argument due to metaphysical implications of an intelligent causation that will be examined later.  I will be using design, teleology, and fine-tuning interchangeably.

            [2] Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York:  Random House, 2010), 8.  Hawking and Mlodinow base their positions on a model-dependent realism approach.  This ultimately voids all objective claims and their objections to design, primarily their confidence in M-Theory, will be covered with the multiverse objection.

            [3] The argument, when combined with a cumulative case, may then be exported as philosophy of religion, but for now, the methods and data that will be examined will be done so from a scientific and philosophical perspective.

            [4] The method of uniformitarianism is currently understood in the scientific community as an assumption of the regular course of events as well as catastrophism (which would be implied by the presently known cause and effect relationships).

            [5] This is not based on religious explanations or religious experience.

            [6] In the words of Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York:  Harper Collins, 2009), 153.  Charles Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375; “Abduction and Induction.”

            [7] Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375.

            [8] Stephen C. Meyer, “A Scientific History—and Philosophical Defense—of the Theory of Intelligent Design.” W. P. Alston, “The Place of the Explanation of Particular Facts in Science,” Philosophy of Science 38 (1971):  13-34.  W. B. Gallie, “Explanations in History and the Genetic Sciences” in Theories of History:  Readings from Classical and Contemporary Sources (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1959), 386-402. Michael Scriven, “Explanation and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory,” Science 130 (1959):  477-482.

             [9] Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 154.

October 1st, 2011

Metaphysical Implications of Intelligent Design

by Max Andrews

The truth is that now all theories of origins, theistic or atheistic, involve speculation as to the nature of what it was that created a universe so fine-tuned for life.  The question is only, was it an intelligent or an unintelligent cause that created time, space, matter and energy out of nothing?[1]  With regards to the argument from design, Columbia University astronomer, Robert Jastrow discussed what he calls “the most theistic result to ever come out of science”:

According to the picture of the evolution of the universe developed by the astronomer and his fellow scientists, the smallest change in any of the circumstances of the natural world, such as the relative strengths of the forces of nature, or the properties of the elementary particles, would have led to a universe in which there could be no life and no man…

It is possible to make the same argument about changes in the strengths of the electromagnetic force, the force of gravity, or any other constants of the material universe, and so come to the conclusion that in a slightly changed universe there could be no life, and no man.  Thus according to the physicist and the astronomer, it appears that the universe was constructed within very narrow limits, in such a way that man could dwell in it.  This result is called the anthropic principle.

Some scientists suggest, in an effort to avoid a theistic or teleological implication in their findings, that there must be an infinite number of universes, representing all possible combinations of basic forces and conditions, and that our universe is one of an infinitely small fraction, in this great plenitude of universes, in which life exists.[2]

The design argument is quite modest by simply stating that intelligent causation can be detected in the natural world.  The argument does not and cannot infer the identity of the designer alone.  In order to identify the designer one must seek external evidences, such as other scientific, philosophical, historical, and theological evidences.  A cumulative case argument would fulfill this need.  The extent of what can be known is that the designer is an agent.  Agency is inferred by the ability to create brand new information, to initiate and cease a causal chain of events.  Also, this agent must not be organic since it too would require a cause of its information.  No regress is necessary since there is only one entity that must be identified as the cause.  Whether there is a regress doesn’t really matter at all since only one phenomena, that of the origin of information in living matter, only requires that one entity be instantiated.


            [1] Granville Sewell, In the Beginning (Seattle, WA:  Discovery Institute Press, 2010), 25.

            [2] Robert Jastrow quoted by Roy Varghese, The Intellectuals Speak About God, (Regenery Gateway), 1984.

October 1st, 2011

Theistic Evolution and Purposive Permission

by Max Andrews

This objection to intelligent design is within a theistic philosophy and theology.  The theistic evolutionist would make the arguments for Darwinism just like the atheist would make his arguments for Darwinism; the only difference is that the former is a theist.  Asa Gray (1810-1888) was a proponent of evolution who suggested that God guided evolution.  The problem for the theistic evolutionist at this point is that if God guides evolution, it is design.  Guidance implies purpose and involvement.  The theistic evolutionist, so defined as God guiding evolution, is not really a detractor from design, rather he would be a proponent of common decent, which is entirely compatible with design.

It was not until the early twentieth century when a movement that emphasized Darwinian natural selection did theistic evolution attempt to reconcile unguided evolution with God.  The following theistic evolutionist present an appropriate summation for the current understanding:

“An evolutionary universe is theologically understood as creation allowed to make itself.”[1]

“Mankind’s appearance on this planet was not preordained… we are here… as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out.”[2]

“Evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God’s perspective the outcome would be entirely specified.  Thus, God could be completely and intimately involved in the creation of all species, while from our perspective, limited as it is by the tyranny of linear time, this would appear a random and undirected process.”[3]

It may be important to distinguish the last quote from Collins from the former quotes.  It is difficult, even impossible, to distinguish Collins’ position as not being intelligent design.  Why would Collins use the human perspective as the objective standard for whether or not there actually is design?  He willingly concedes that God could be intimately involved in creating yet it is illusory to the human perspective.

The argument from cognitive relations may be understood as an argument from omniscience or providence.  If God allows any state of affairs to be actualized, and knows that it will happen, and then there is a teleology in that events actualization.  The underlying principle is what is called “purposive permission.”  This principle makes a minimal commitment to any event X, such that X will come to be either by it being permitted to occur or by being strongly actualized to occur.  Purposive permission assumes that if any event is permitted to happen then it is within the will of the knowing agent that the event be actualized.  If the event were known that it would come to pass and it was not desired to come to pass, then it would not have been permitted to be and would not have happened.  Under the current understanding of unguided evolution, the only way to reconcile that with theism is to adopt process theology, an understanding that God is not ontologically perfect and is literally evolving with the world.[4]


            [1] John Polkinghorne, Faith, Science, and Understanding (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 2000), 23, 111, 197.

            [2] Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin’s God (New York:  Harper Perennial, 2000), 272-273.

            [3] Francis Collins, The Language of God (New York:  Free Press, 2006), 205.

            [4] Even weak understandings of cognitive relations, or interactions, would still render design (categorically defined from an orthodox perspective).  All that would require from the knowing agent (God) is that, within the mind, there must at least be two moments of knowledge:  natural knowledge (the first logical moment) and free knowledge (the last logical moment).  In the first moment the agent must know all tautologies and every possible circumstance.  The final moment is knowing the actual world, the current, past, and future state of affairs.  The only theistic model that does not hold to these two moments would be the process model.  I want to note, that open theism would not even be compatible with a Darwinist understanding of evolution because God would only be ignorant of future contingencies that involved human freedom.

October 1st, 2011

Ken Miller’s Embarrassing Attempt to Disprove Irreducible Complexity

by Max Andrews

This video has been out for a while but I just saw it reposted on a blog I saw through Twitter.  I’m not going to summarize the video here; rather, just give it a quick watch, it’s only two minutes.

Honestly, it’s a bit embarrassing and I feel bad for him.  His attempt to disprove irreducible complexity demonstrates that 1) he doesn’t actually understand it or 2) displaces the information. When he changed the mousetrap to function as a tie clip that tie clip then becomes a new mechanism.  Whether that tie clip was actually irreducibly complex or not doesn’t matter.  His attempt would be correct if he could remove or change a part of the mouse trap while keeping it’s function as a mouse trap.

As for the scholarship of intelligent design and irreducible complexity, he’s simply incorrect there as well.  Darwinists always do this and it’s just annoying and dishonest (or simply wrong).  For a list of peer-reviewed articles that have been published in regards to intelligent design and irreducible complexity (and yes, the words are used in the articles, sorry Ken) please see the Discovery Institute’s list.

October 1st, 2011

A Thank You Note to James White

by Max Andrews

 

aomin.org

James White is the director of Alpha and Omega ministries focused on apologetics.  I’ve learned a lot about my own theological position as well as others because of his ministry and service.  To be honest, I don’t agree with a few things he believes.  For instance, I’m a Molinist (he’s not the biggest fan), evidentialist, and an old-earth creationist.  Despite our disagreements he has my utmost respect and esteem.  He is passionate about God, the gospel, the Church, and the unsaved. I’m a faithful listener of his podcast, The Dividing Line, and there have been moments when I shake my head at some points he makes and there are other times when I’m cheering him on.

I respect White for his defense of the faith from cults, atheists, Islam, Roman Catholicism, unitarians, and others.  Where White earns my greatest respect is his integrity and honesty in scholarship and ministry.  You won’t find him quote mining or warping his citations.  He does the work, he does the research, and he presents it well.  Now, on another note, I’m a philosophy graduate student at Liberty University.  For those who are familiar with White you’ll know where I’m going with this.  White demanded accountability from Caner, the university, and the church for so many discrepancies [and contradictions] Caner asserted about himself.  All parties remained silent while all White did was demand honesty and integrity.  Thank you, Dr. White.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with White please check out his YouTube channel, his podcasts, and his website.  You don’t have to agree with him all the time but you will learn a lot.