Arguments and evidence for deism, theism, and miracles

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Arguments and evidence for deism, theism, and miracles

Post #1

Post by otseng »

We have agreed to debate the following:

Is there sufficient evidence to conclude the existence of a deistic God?

And if so, is there sufficient evidence to conclude a theistic worldview whereby this God intervenes in human affairs? Specifically, is there evidentiary justification for concluding that some claims of intervention are authentic whereas others aren't.

---

A thread has been created for followers of this debate to post comments:
http://debatingchristianity.com/forum/v ... hp?t=24538
Last edited by otseng on Thu Jan 09, 2014 9:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post #151

Post by no evidence no belief »

otseng wrote:
no evidence no belief wrote: It's not just the conclusion. It's also the implicit premise. That's my point.
It's a premise for one of the possible explanations, but not for all the possible explanations.
Right. The existence of God is the premise you must start from, in order to get to the conclusion that God exists. God exists therefore God exists.

If you do not posit an intelligent being at the big bang, you cannot posit that the concept of "preference" exists at the big bang, therefore you cannot posit that life is preferable to not life, therefore you cannot posit fine-tuning, therefore you cannot argue for God from fine-tuning.

God exists, therefore preference exists at the big bang, therefore the universe was fine-tuned, therefore God exists.
The question is what can account for (the appearance of) fine-tuning?
I am not clear of what you mean by "appearance of fine-tuning".

To help me understand, could you give me an example of one way the physical constants could be, that would NOT appear to be fine tuned to produce... whatever it is they would produce?

"The fine-tuned Universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow X can only occur when certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a very narrow range (physical constants A), so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of X"

Physical constants A produce result X.

If physical constants A were slightly different, they would not produce result X.

What set of constants would that NOT be true for?

Remember: You CANNOT claim that A is preferable to not-A, because the instant you appeal to the concept of "preference" you're automatically presupposing an intelligence at the big bang and making your argument circular. So without making any reference to preference, explain how A producing X is more noteworthy than, say, B producing Y.

In other words, give me an example of physical constants to which the wikipedia definition of fine-tuning would NOT apply. Please describe one way the universe could be that would allow an external observer to say "Well, being that the universe is the way it is, I CANNOT make the argument for God from appearance of fine-tuning".

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Post #152

Post by no evidence no belief »

This is my point.

Here is a true dichotomy: We either posit that life is preferable to non-life or we do NOT.

If we DO posit life is preferable to non-life, then we MUST presuppose the existence of an entity capable of having a preference at the moment of big-bang, and thereby the argument for God from fine tuning becomes circular.

If we DO NOT posit life is preferable to non-life, then the argument from fine-tuning looks like this: "If the physical constants, instead of being the way they are, which is in no way preferable, better or more noteworthy, were a different way which is also in no way preferable, better or more noteworthy, then the universe as a result would not be the way it is, which is not preferable, better or more noteworthy, but would be different, which is also not preferable, better or more noteworthy". That's not an argument for anything.

So your options are either make a circular argument or make no argument at all.


Can I ask you a question? If at the end of our debate you find yourself forced to concede that none of your arguments adequately support the notion that logic and evidence support belief in God, will you stop being a Christian?

I for one can assure you that if evidence and logic were to, in my estimation, support deism, I'd become a deist. If they were to support theism, I'd become a theist. You are not wasting your time here. The instant you persuade me you made a valid argument, my worldview will change.

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Post #153

Post by otseng »

no evidence no belief wrote:
otseng wrote:
no evidence no belief wrote: It's not just the conclusion. It's also the implicit premise. That's my point.
It's a premise for one of the possible explanations, but not for all the possible explanations.
Right. The existence of God is the premise you must start from, in order to get to the conclusion that God exists. God exists therefore God exists.
Let's put it this way.

There are two possible explanations for the fine-tuning of the universe:
A. Intelligent creator explanation.
B. Naturalistic/mechanistic/non-teleological explanation.

We then compare the explanations and then see which one is more tenable. This is the principle that I stated at the very outset of this debate. There is no need to first prove explanation A in order to present it as an explanation.

Now, what I gather from your posts is that you do not have any other explanation other than explanation A. I have yet to even see you proposing explanation B or any variation of it. If your position is that there is no alternative explanation other than what I have proposed, then pretty much I'll rest my case in regards to fine-tuning and go on to other arguments.

Now, suppose explanation A is the only explanation on the table, does it mean that this is a circular argument? No, because it simply means that fine-tuning reinforces the argument that God exists. It is additional evidence -- in addition to the creation of the universe -- that there is a creator God.

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Post #154

Post by no evidence no belief »

otseng wrote:
no evidence no belief wrote:
otseng wrote:
no evidence no belief wrote: It's not just the conclusion. It's also the implicit premise. That's my point.
It's a premise for one of the possible explanations, but not for all the possible explanations.
Right. The existence of God is the premise you must start from, in order to get to the conclusion that God exists. God exists therefore God exists.
Let's put it this way.

There are two possible explanations for the fine-tuning of the universe:
Buddy, you're missing a step!

Before we start attempting to explain the "fine-tuning" of the universe, we have to establish that the universe as it is is fine-tuned, as opposed to some other way it could have been which would not have been fine tuned.

Please give me an example of a way the universe could be, for which you would NOT be able to claim it was fine tuned.


Let me put it another way: You are trying to use fine-tuning to demonstrate God. I am asking you to first demonstrate that fine-tuning is true.

So, WITHOUT presupposing that God exists (because otherwise you'd be using the conclusion as a premise) please demonstrate that fine tuning is true.

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Post #155

Post by otseng »

no evidence no belief wrote: I am asking you to first demonstrate that fine-tuning is true.

So, WITHOUT presupposing that God exists (because otherwise you'd be using the conclusion as a premise) please demonstrate that fine tuning is true.
I thought you already agreed that it is an "uncontroversial statement of fact."
no evidence no belief wrote: [Replying to otseng]
I don't object to using the definition you provided:

"The fine-tuned Universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can only occur when certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood"

Its a pretty straight forward and uncontroversial statement of fact.

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Post #156

Post by no evidence no belief »

otseng wrote:
no evidence no belief wrote: I am asking you to first demonstrate that fine-tuning is true.

So, WITHOUT presupposing that God exists (because otherwise you'd be using the conclusion as a premise) please demonstrate that fine tuning is true.
I thought you already agreed that it is an "uncontroversial statement of fact."
no evidence no belief wrote: [Replying to otseng]
I don't object to using the definition you provided:

"The fine-tuned Universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can only occur when certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood"

Its a pretty straight forward and uncontroversial statement of fact.
Yes, it's an uncontroversial statement of fact that the physical constants are the way they are and aren't the way they are not, and that as a result, the universe is the way that it is and isn't the way that it it's not.

Can you give me an example of a hypothetical set of universal constants and resulting universe for which the statement above would NOT be true?

In fact, can you give me an example of anything for which it isn't true that X is X and isn't not-X as a result of Y, which caused X, being Y and not being not-Y?

Please remember that in your answer you may not claim, imply or assume the notion that at the moment of big bang, the universe as it is was in any way preferable to alternatives, because otherwise you'd be presupposing your conclusion that an entity capable of having a preference existed at the big bang.

Oliver, I know you're capable of penetrating insight and are sharp as a razor, and the more this drags out, the more I'm reminded of the Upton Sinclair quote "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!".

It's not your salary that depends on you not understanding this, but your worldview. Nonetheless, I can't shake the nagging feeling that you are, for lack of a better word, "playing dumb".

I mean, we've discussed this so much that I can reduce my ENTIRE argument to 16 words:

If universe preferable to alternatives, then "preference" presupposed: argument circular. If universe not preferable, argument dead.

What part of that do you not understand?

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Post #157

Post by otseng »

no evidence no belief wrote: Yes, it's an uncontroversial statement of fact that the physical constants are the way they are and aren't the way they are not, and that as a result, the universe is the way that it is and isn't the way that it it's not.
Actually, it does not say "the physical constants are the way they are and aren't the way they are not, and that as a result, the universe is the way that it is and isn't the way that it it's not."

What it does say is "if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood."
Can you give me an example of a set of universal constants and resulting universe for which the statement above would NOT be true?
I don't see why I need to give an example of your claim that would not be true.
Oliver, I know you're capable of penetrating insight and are sharp as a razor, and the more this drags out, the more I'm reminded of the Upton Sinclair quote "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!".
I don't think I'm the one dragging this out.

It looks like we're not going to get anywhere on this. So, I'll post my concluding thoughts on fine-tuning.

I presented the fine-tuning argument in post 103 and quoted Wikipedia:
The fine-tuned Universe is the proposition that the conditions that allow life in the Universe can only occur when certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a very narrow range, so that if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe

NENB agreed to this definition. But, alters the definition by saying that "the physical constants are the way they are and aren't the way they are not, and that as a result, the universe is the way that it is and isn't the way that it it's not." This is NOT what the Wikipedia definition says, but is how he defines it. He even agrees that his definition is meaningless.

I gave one example of fine-tuning with the fine-structure constant. Here's one article I quoted:
One of the most controversial questions in cosmology is why the fundamental constants of nature seem fine-tuned for life. One of these fundamental constants is the fine-structure constant, or alpha, which is the coupling constant for the electromagnetic force and equal to about 1/137.0359. If alpha were just 4% bigger or smaller than it is, stars wouldn't be able to make carbon and oxygen, which would have made it impossible for life as we know it to exist.
http://phys.org/news202921592.html

Now, there are actually many other examples of fine-tuning besides the fine-structure constant, but I do not see the need to prove the point that the fine-tuning problem exists.

As I stated at the beginning of the debate, all the explanations for an observation should be presented to explain an observation and see which is the most viable. I've offered an intelligent creator as the explanation for a fine-tuned universe. NENB has not offered any. An intelligent creator is the only explanation on the table and thus the only viable explanation.

Several charges have been made about the intelligent creator explanation.

One is that it is circular in argument. It is not circular because the problem statement of fine-tuning in the Wikipedia articles does not assume that God exists. Scientists when they talk about fine-tuning do not assume that God exists. Actually, if anything, they assume that God does not exist.

Another charge is that if something is actually fine-tuned, then it requires a fine-tuner. This can be true. But, I gave the example of Dawkins saying that life appears to be designed, but that does not mean he actually believes in a designer. The universe can appear to be fine-tuned, but it does not require belief in a fine-tuner.

Fine-tuning does have the implicit assumption that life is preferable to non-life. But, this is pretty much a given. I know of nobody that argues otherwise. Even NENB agrees that "life is preferable to non-life."

If NENB offers other explanations to fine-tuning, then we can revisit fine-tuning. Otherwise, I will be moving on to argue for Theism.

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Post #158

Post by no evidence no belief »

otseng wrote:
no evidence no belief wrote: Yes, it's an uncontroversial statement of fact that the physical constants are the way they are and aren't the way they are not, and that as a result, the universe is the way that it is and isn't the way that it it's not.
Actually, it does not say "the physical constants are the way they are and aren't the way they are not, and that as a result, the universe is the way that it is and isn't the way that it it's not."

What it does say is "if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood."
Please outline the fundamental, significant, conceptual, substantial difference between your wording and my wording of the concept.

"If any of several fundamental constants (cause A) were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood (effect X)."

The substance of it, as I understand it, is this: "A causes X. If A were different, X would be different".

Your wording is more detailed and specifies what A and X are in our particular case. Mine is a more broad "umbrella" wording of - in my opinion - the same fundamental concept.

My question is this: Can you think of ANY "cause A" and "effect X" for which your statement would not be true?

(Remember, in NO portion of your answer can you allude to the concept of preference, because that would make your argument circular.)

We agree that the concept is meaningless as I word it. If you fail to establish that your wording points to a substantially and significantly different concept, then you're admitting that your concept is the same as my concept, which is meaningless no matter how you word it.


By the way, this is just the first of three preliminary counter-arguments to fine-tuning, and then there is my main counter-argument. So it will be a while before you go on to theism :)

Could you answer my previous question. If you find yourself forced to concede fine-tuning is not a valid argument for God, and then all other subsequent deistic or theistic arguments you present are also debunked, will you stop being a Christian?

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Post #159

Post by no evidence no belief »

If you were to describe me, you might say "Luca is a 33 year old italian businessman living in New York City", or you might say "Luca is in his early thirties and lives on the East Coast". The first is more specific, but if you were to use the second phrase you would not be ALTERING the concept, you'd just be less specific and more succinct in describing the same fundamental concept.

Do you agree?

If you were to describe the state of affairs in the universe, you might talk about "matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, life as it is understood". But you might also be more generic and simply say "the state of affairs in the universe".

Granted, the first sentence is more exhaustive in describing details of how the universe is, but the second sentence encapsulates the essence of the concept. You lose details, but you do NOT fundamentally alter the basic concept of what we're talking about.

Do you agree?

Next question. Do you agree that the fundamental physical constants determine how the universe is going to be? If so, surely you must agree that the words "fundamental constants" could be used interchangeably with the words "constants which determine how the universe is going to be". Right?

This is not rocket science.

Let's recap: Can we agree that a perhaps less elegant but conceptually sound way of saying the words "matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, life as it is understood" could be "The state of affairs in the universe", and can we agree that a perhaps less elegant way of saying "fundamental physical constants" is "constants which determine how the universe is going to be"?

If we're on the same page, let's look at the wikipedia definition of fine-tuning:
"if any of several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the Universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of matter, astronomical structures, elemental diversity, or life as it is understood."

Now, just for the heck of it, let's switch some of the sentences above with accepted alternatives which point to the same concepts:

"If any of the several constants which determine how the universe is going to be were only slightly different, the universe would be unlikely to be conducive to the establishment and development of the state of affairs in the universe".

It's mind boggling that you don't get it. Here's what that statement is useful for: NOTHING. You cannot form any cogent argument for ANYTHING based on that.

The wikipedia definition is simply saying "If the things which cause the universe to be the way it is were different, the universe wouldn't be the same". Please tell me specifically where I'm wrong. Seriously.

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Post #160

Post by otseng »

no evidence no belief wrote: We agree that the concept is meaningless as I word it.
Then the case should be closed. We both agree that your definition is meaningless.
If you fail to establish that your wording points to a substantially and significantly different concept, then you're admitting that your concept is the same as my concept, which is meaningless no matter how you word it.
The burden is on you to show why the Wikipedia definition is meaningless, not for me to prove your definition is meaningless. (Which is pointless anyways since we both agree that your's is meaningless.)
By the way, this is just the first of three preliminary counter-arguments to fine-tuning, and then there is my main counter-argument. So it will be a while before you go on to theism :)
I'd suggest for you to present your others because I'll be going on to Theism otherwise.
Could you answer my previous question. If you find yourself forced to concede fine-tuning is not a valid argument for God, and then all other subsequent deistic or theistic arguments you present are also debunked, will you stop being a Christian?
What I've said before is that if a viable naturalistic explanation is found for the origin of the universe, then Deism is falsified. I would include fine-tuning also. If a viable naturalistic explanation is found for fine-tuning, then Deism is falsified. If Deism is falsified, then that would include Theism and Christianity. If I remain a Christian after that, it would only be based on fideism.

Let me ask you, if an intelligent creator is more tenable than any other explanation, would it then be irrational of you to be an atheist/agnostic?

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