Archive for July, 2012

July 17th, 2012

Mike Licona’s Musings on Death

by Max Andrews

Mike Licona just published his most recent ‘Musings’ video on YouTube. In this video he reflects on life, death, God, self, and others. This is the fifth in his series, and I think it’s certainly the most profound and my favorite of them all thus far.

July 12th, 2012

The Problem of Evil and the Multiverse

by Max Andrews

If God has a sufficient reason for permitting evil in some possible world then he has a sufficient reason in all possible worlds. Given simplicity, God is perfectly similar in every possible world we can conceive.  He never wills differently, he never acts differently, he never knows differently, and he never loves differently.  If modal realism is true and evil exists then the probability overall or on balance for justice is precisely 1.[1]  Thus, the problem of evil is an insufficient objection given whatever God’s interaction is in this world. It would be morally equivalent to his actions in other worlds with evil.  If God is absolutely similar in all possible worlds and if he has a morally sufficient reason to permit evil in some possible world then he is morally justified in permitting evil in all possible worlds (even if some worlds are more bad than good because God would be acting towards the same telos).  The following is a modified version of Alvin Plantinga’s ontological argument.[2]  In it I include the necessary entailment of a morally sufficient reason for permitting evil.

P1. The property of being maximally great is exemplified in some possible world.
P2. The property of being maximally great is equivalent, by definition, to the property of being maximally excellent in every possible world.
P3. The property of being maximally excellent entails the properties of omniscience and moral perfection.
P4. The property of moral perfection necessarily entails a morally sufficient reason for permitting states of affairs that are overall more evil than good.
P5. A universal property is one that is exemplified in every possible world or none.

July 12th, 2012

The Multiverse Directory

by Max Andrews

I have gathered together all my posts relevant to the multiverse. Since this is one of the biggest topics on the blog, I thought having all the posts gathered into one place would make finding the content much easier.

  1. Quantum Entanglement and the Many Worlds Interpretation
  2. Cosmic Darwinism: Evolving Laws of Nature?
  3. A Theological Argument for Many Worlds
  4. Fine-Tuning of the Multiverse Lecture and PPT
  5. The Multiverse and Causal Abstract Objects
  6. An Outline of Tegmark’s Four Levels of the Multiverse
  7. This History of the Multiverse and the Philosophy of Science
  8. The Theological Attraction of the Multiverse
  9. Hugh Everett and the Many Worlds Interpretation
  10. Decoherence
  11. Physical Evidence of the Multiverse
  12. The Multiverse, Fine-Tuning, and Nomic Probabilities
  13. The Exceptions to the BVG Theorem
  14. Loop Quantum Cosmology in the Cosmic Microwave Background
  15. I’m Presenting a Paper at EPS on God and the Multiverse
  16. Plantingan Modal Realism
  17. Nonlocality as Evidence for a Multiverse Cosmology
    read more »

July 12th, 2012

“It’s like Looking Back at the Face of God”

by Max Andrews

We know the universe began 13.7 billion years ago in an immensely hot dense state much smaller than a single atom.  It began to expand about a million billion billion billion billionth of a second after the big bang.  Gravity separated away from the other forces.  The universe then underwent an exponential expansion called inflation. In about the first billionth of a second or so, the Higgs field kicked in, and the quarks, the gluons, the electrons that make us up got mass.  The universe continued to expand and cool.  After about a few minutes there was hydrogen and helium in the universe.  That’s all.  The universe was about 75% hydrogen, 25% helium.  It still is today.  It continued to expand about 300 million years.  Then light was big enough to travel through the universe.  It was big enough to be transparent to light, and that’s what we see in the cosmic microwave background.  After about 400 million years, the first stars formed and that hydrogen, that helium, then began to cook into heavier elements… Stars were cooked up, exploded, and then re-collapsed into another generation of stars and planets.  And on some of those planets in that first generation of stars could fuse with hydrogen to form water, liquid water on the surface… The laws of physics, the right laws of physics, they’re beautifully balanced.  They couldn’t have been different.  If the weak force were different then carbon and oxygen wouldn’t be stable in the hearts of stars and there would be none of that in the universe. And I think that’s a wonderful and significant story. (Brian Cox, TED2008, March 2008)

July 11th, 2012

The Standard Model of Particle Physics Written Out

by Max Andrews

With the recent discovery of a new boson, which is likely to be the elusive Higgs boson, the standard model for particle physics would not be complete.  Keep in mind that this only confirms the model that has been used for a long time now.  This explains the early moments after the big bang where there was the electroweak force which separated and became the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces (there’s also the strong nuclear force).  This doesn’t unify the theory of gravity. Physicists must still develop a theory of quantum gravity.

July 11th, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Decoherence

by Max Andrews

Word of the Week: Decoherence

Definition: A loss of coherence between the angles of components in a superposition and a loss of information due to environment, which gives the appearance of a wave function collapse.

More about the term: A wave function collapse occurs when the outcome of a quantum state is determined by an observer. An observer can be a concious observer or even the interaction of particles.  Instead of a determinate state, decoherence is akin to pulling one string out from an entire knot of strings. Decoherence is a major talking point and factor in multiverse scenarios.

In 1956 Hugh Everett III published his Ph.D. dissertation titled “The Theory of the Universal Wave Function.”  In this paper Everett argued for the relative state formulation of quantum theory and a quantum philosophy, which denied wave collapse.  Initially, this interpretation was highly criticized by the physics community and when Everett visited Niels Bohr in Copenhagen in 1959 Bohr was unimpressed with Everett’s most recent development.[1]

July 11th, 2012

At Least on Average, A Human Life is Good

by Max Andrews

Reblogged from Alexander Pruss.

A stranger is drowning.  You know nothing about the stranger other than that the stranger is drowning.  You can press a button, and the stranger will be saved, at no cost to yourself or anybody else.  What should you do?

Of course you ought to press the button.  That’s simply obvious.

But it wouldn’t be obvious if at least on average a human life weren’t  good, weren’t worth living.  If on average, a human life were bad, were not  worth living, you would have to seriously worry about the likely bad future that you would be enabling by saving the stranger.  It still might well be right to pull out the stranger, but it wouldn’t be obvious.  And  if on average a human life were neutral, it wouldn’t be obvious that it’s  a duty.

So our judgment that obviously a random stranger should be saved commits us  to judging that at least on average a human life is good (or at least will be  good).

Now suppose we get exactly one of the following pieces of information:

  • The stranger is a member of a downtrodden minority.
  • The stranger is currently a hospital patient (and is drowning in the bathtub of the hospital room).
  • The stranger’s mother did not want him or her to be conceived.
  • The stranger is economically in the bottom 10% of society.

None of these pieces of information makes it less obvious that we should save the stranger’s life.  This judgment, then, commits us to judging that on average the life of a member of a downtrodden minority, or of a hospital patient or of someone whose mother did not want him or her to be conceived, or of someone economically in the bottom decile is at least on average good.

July 10th, 2012

“See to it that No One Takes You Captive through Philosophy”

by Max Andrews

What ought Christians do with philosophy?  Isn’t this contrary to theology and explicitly warned of in the Bible? This is particularly poignant in the letter to the Colossians 2.8.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementry principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

βλεπετε μη τις υμας εσται ο συλαγωγων δια της φιλοσοφιας και κενης απατης κατα την παραδοσιν των ανθρωπων κατα τα στοιχεια του κοσμου και ου κατα χριστον

Now, of course, for a better and full exegesis be sure to grasp the whole context of the letter.  Paul is warning the Christians in Colossae of philosophy and being distracted by and importing inappropriate concepts into their Christian beliefs. The first key word to focus on here is φιλοσοφιας (root: φιλοσοφια), which is the Greek word for philosophy here.  Philosophy literally means the love of wisdom.  In this passage the word is used either of zeal for or skill in any art or science, any branch of knowledge. Used once in the NT of the theology, or rather theosophy, of certain Jewish Christian ascetics, which busied themselves with refined and speculative enquiries into the nature and classes of angels, into the ritual of the Mosaic law and the regulations of Jewish tradition respecting practical life.

The Death of Socrates

This type of philosophy Paul is referring to is of a vain folly.  Paul uses the word ‘empty,’ κενης (root: kenos), to explain what he means. This type of philosophy is that which is empty and devoid of truth–it contains nothing. Compare this passage to Col. 2.23,

These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence.

Ephesians 5.6,

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.

and 1 Tim. 6.20:

O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge.”

So what does this mean? This means we need to have a philosophy according to Christ.  Our knowledge, metaphysics, and axiology must be conformed with Christ.  It’s impossible to be anti-philosophy.  Everyone has a philosophy. How do you know what you know? That’s epistemology, a branch of philosophy. What is God and what is reality? That’s a metaphysical question, which is philosophy.  What is right and wrong? What is beautiful and what isn’t? Again, these are axiological questions—philosophy. The Bible isn’t telling us to not be philosophical; rather, it’s telling us to have the right philosophy and worldview. In the words of Christian philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig, “The man who says he has no need for philosophy is the man who is most likely to be deceived by it.”

July 10th, 2012

Science and Divine Action in Nature

by Max Andrews

The Enlightenment restricted knowledge to experience and the phenomenal. Post-Enlightenment thought sought to progress in knowledge while considering the advances the Enlightenment had made.  The Christian faith attempted to develop a new relationship between transcendence and immanence.  Transcendence has to do with God’s being self-sufficient and beyond or above the universe.  Immanence corresponds with God being present and active in creation, intimately involved in human history.  Newtonian physics did not permit God to be immanent in the universe.  This was brought into light by the unmistakable success of science.[1]

July 9th, 2012

Why Inductive Fine-Tuning Arguments are Weak

by Max Andrews

Inductive logic, generally speaking, takes elements of a set and applies this subset of elements to a broader set.  More specifically, the principle of mathematical induction states that if zero has a property, P, and if whenever a number has the property its successor also has the property, then all numbers have the property:[1]

Induction works by enumeration: as support for the conclusion that all p’s are q’s, one could list many examples of p’s that are q’s.  It also includes ampliative argument in which the premises, while not entailing the truth of the conclusion, nevertheless purports good reason for accepting it.[2]

Inductive probability in the sciences has been generally successful in the past.  It has been used by Galileo, Kepler, and has even resulted in the discovery of Neptune.  The English astronomer John Michell exemplified this discuss in a discussion of ‘probable parallax and magnitude of the fixed stars’ published by the Royal Society in 1767.[3]  Michell found that the incidence of apparently close pairings of stars was too great for them all to be effects of line of sight, and that next to a certainty such observed pairs of stars must actually be very close together, perhaps moving under mutual gravitation.  Michell’s conclusion was not corroborated for forty years until William Herschel’s confirmatory observations.[4]