Bad Math Used in Apologetics

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Don McIntosh
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Re: Bad Math Used in Apologetics

Post #51

Post by Don McIntosh »

Jagella wrote: Recently I've noticed that some apologists like William Lane Craig are using mathematics-based arguments to assure us that the Christian god exists. I would like to explain why those arguments use poor logic.

A very broad argument is that mathematics in general seems to explain the cosmos in a way that seems to work unreasonably well. An intelligent designer like Yahweh is then required to explain this apparent mathematical basis for the universe. He is "the great mathematician in the sky."

Not really. The reason math works so well to explain the world--in at least some cases--is because we humans created math to describe the cosmos. There is no mystery here. We are the mathematicians describing the universe.

Also, many apologists like to wow us with enormously improbable events that they say cannot be attributed to chance. Since chance is ruled out, "God musta done it."

Wrong again. The only probability that rules out an event happening by chance is an event with a probability of zero. Extremely improbable events--like the conception of any of us--happen all the time.

Also, to state how improbable a natural event might be doesn't say much if you don't know the probability of an alternate event. So if apologists wish to argue that an event like the apparent fine-tuning of the universe by chance is only one out a a gazillion, they must compare that probability to the probability that "God musta done it." If they cannot say that the probability of God fine-tuning the cosmos is greater than chance, then they haven't proved anything.

Finally, a really laughable argument is that the universe cannot be infinitely old because if it was infinitely we could never have reached the present! Such apologists must have slept through their high-school algebra. Consider the number line with numbers increasing infinitely with positive numbers to the right and negative numbers to the left. All you need to do is have any point on that line represent a moment in time with zero being the present, points on the positive direction are the future, and points on the negative direction are the past. See that? You're at 0 (the present), but the past is infinite. You can go back as far as you want to with no limit.

I can go on, but for now let me ask the...

Question for Debate: Are apologists sloppy mathematicians, or are they deliberately trying to deceive people with numbers?
Are anti-theists sloppy debaters, or are they deliberately trying to bait people with loaded questions? Your "debate question" is based on a false dilemma in either case.

Speaking of fallacies: the problem with your facile "number line" refutation of the Kalam argument there is that it begs the question of how we actually arrived at the present. Remember, apologists like Craig are not simply appealing to maths, but to the relationship between maths and external realities like time. Your being able to arbitrarily place a point on a number line, call it "the present," and then project leftward to a negative "past" infinity doesn’t even begin to explain how an actual present could be instantiated given an actual temporally infinite past, because in the external reality, and by definition, the past has to take place before the present can be instantiated. I'm not saying Craig's argument is a slam-dunk; only that your rebuttal failed to meaningfully address it.

Whatever its virtues may actually be, the argument from mathematics is not quite as easily refuted as asserting that humans "created math to describe the cosmos." First of all, mathematical relationships work independently of the cosmos, so they hold prior to the existence of any particular universe. The abstract, sometimes infinite implications of set theory, for example, clearly do not derive from observations of anything in particular. But what remains more puzzling, and seemingly still in need of explanation, is why the universe would so often behave in keeping with our maths. A naturalistic universe might be expected to be much more chaotic, much less held together by a large number of mathematically well-defined natural laws. Yet here we are.
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Re: Bad Math Used in Apologetics

Post #52

Post by Guy Threepwood »

[Replying to post 51 by Don McIntosh]
But what remains more puzzling, and seemingly still in need of explanation, is why the universe would so often behave in keeping with our maths. A naturalistic universe might be expected to be much more chaotic, much less held together by a large number of mathematically well-defined natural laws. Yet here we are.
Many cosmologists, theists and materialists, have remarked on how curious it is, that the universe so lends itself to our understanding.

One stark example, is that the moon's disk perfectly masks the sun's during eclipses, revealing the corona, the composition and mechanics of our star, and hence most of what we know about the visible universe.

Without this one' bizarre coincidence' we would never have come this far this quickly.

Not only that, but the distance is not fixed, the moon 'just happened' to arrive here at the exact moment in history it could be taken advantage of.

If this were the only instance, we might be able to write that off as fluke, but it is one of countless- at some point when the die keeps rolling a 6, you know it's probably loaded

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Re: Bad Math Used in Apologetics

Post #53

Post by Bust Nak »

Don McIntosh wrote: But what remains more puzzling, and seemingly still in need of explanation, is why the universe would so often behave in keeping with our maths.
Maybe that's because there aren't any gods fiddling with the universe? It seems what is expected of a naturalistic universe depends on ones presuppositions.

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Re: Bad Math Used in Apologetics

Post #54

Post by rikuoamero »

Guy Threepwood wrote: [Replying to post 45 by rikuoamero]
Here's something that might shock you. Personal tragedies have played no part, none at all, in my theistic or non-theistic outlook. I didn't come to believe in a god because of a tragedy, nor did I stop believing in a god because of a tragedy.
This was a bias on your part, good sir.
to clarify - it was not meant as any personal evaluation of you- just that I do take your point-

**** happens that tests people's faith all the time, some things can seem very difficult to reconcile with a grand plan, but this has always been the case for humanity- I will hazard the guess that we have both had it easier than most people, just by the fact we have the time and means to debate this?
Oh no, I've had tragedies aplenty. Just that they do not and did not play a part in my viewpoint regarding the existence of god(s).
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Re: Bad Math Used in Apologetics

Post #55

Post by brunumb »

Guy Threepwood wrote:
brunumb wrote: [Replying to post 32 by Guy Threepwood]
point being: the fingerprints of creative design speak clearly for themselves, regardless of direct observation.
If you landed on another planet and found an object unlike anything you had ever seen before, what criteria would you apply to determine if it was designed or not? How would you apply those criteria to reach your conclusion?
Same criteria as SETI, the existence of specified information- information which specifies something

this can be in a radio wave or in a physical design

like the Rosetta stone, you don't need to be able to recognize what the information is saying or who crated it, to recognize that it is saying something.

And like the 'wow' signal- the volume of it matters, a very little amount of information can be ambiguous, but the odds against chance become exponentially smaller as the amount of information increases
You have not specified any criteria that you would apply in the circumstance given to you.
If you landed on another planet and found an object unlike anything you had ever seen before, what criteria would you apply to determine if it was designed or not? How would you apply those criteria to reach your conclusion? References to SETI and the Rosetta stone are irrelevant.
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Re: Bad Math Used in Apologetics

Post #56

Post by Jagella »

Guy Threepwood wrote:
we have no observational evidence for any agent creating DNA. So your analogy here fails.
...nor evidence for DNA being spontaneously created by naturalistic forces.
Did you check the link I posted on Post 46? I will post it here for your convenience: Origin and Evolution of DNA and DNA Replication Machineries. So it appears that although there may be no "spontaneous creation" of DNA, there is good reason to think that DNA evolved.
We only know of one force that can routinely produce such information systems- particularly hierarchical digital ones, we know of no instance of natural forces ever doing the same.
If we don't know of any "natural forces" that can produce DNA, then can we continue to look?

Do you think that we can know what the intelligent designer is? Is there any way for science to discover God/Jesus--whoops--I mean discover it?
Why can't DNA be a product of natural processes? I see no reason why DNA cannot be the end result of an evolutionary process.
same reason the Rosetta Stone can't, there is far too much specified information required to appear spontaneously.
Then how much "specified information" is too much to result from natural forces? I don't know why there might be a limit on what natural phenomena can result in.
You have to appeal to some combination of vast amounts of luck...
Each one of us gets here via a "vast amount of luck." For example, if the chance of a single human sperm fertilizing the egg is one out of a thousand (it's probably far lower than that), then over a mere ten generations the chances of you having been conceived is 1 X 10^-30! Guy, you yourself are proof positive that "vast amounts of luck" happen all the time. That's what I alluded to in the OP when I criticized apologists for using mathematics to mislead people.
...we DO know of a phenomena that CAN achieve the same without appealing to any luck or cheat sheets.
The Bible god?
...with DNA and the mechanisms within a cell, their design displays anticipation of a future result, that could not exist without that anticipation...
I suppose that's an interesting way to look at DNA, but because DNA results in an organism I don't see why there needs to be any conscious anticipation involved. If a volcanic eruption results in fertile soil where its lava flowed, did some agent intend it to be so? It looks to me that some events follow other events without any kind of anticipation.
The problem with atheism is that it inherently refuses to recognize itself as a belief, framing itself as a 'disbelief' of the alternative- very difficult to separate a belief someone does not recognize as having
So is ID a weapon being wielded against atheism by Christians?

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Post #57

Post by Jagella »

Wootah wrote: [Replying to Jagella]
...if I post links to some examples, will you concede that I'm right that apologists do use these arguments and that they either use this sloppy math out of ignorance or deliberate deception? Will you post that concession right here on this thread for all to see? Honestly?
Sure.

With one caveat. They are actually claiming what you claim they are claiming. As I said I have no issue calling out bad arguments. I will facepalm with you if they are.
Either post your concession that the apologists' arguments in the OP are exactly what apologists argue, or admit that you are lying here.

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Post #58

Post by Wootah »

[Replying to post 7 by Jagella]
A very broad argument is that mathematics in general seems to explain the cosmos in a way that seems to work unreasonably well. An intelligent designer like Yahweh is then required to explain this apparent mathematical basis for the universe. He is "the great mathematician in the sky."

Not really. The reason math works so well to explain the world--in at least some cases--is because we humans created math to describe the cosmos. There is no mystery here. We are the mathematicians describing the universe.
This seems to tie into the WLC video you posted. My view is that it seems reasonable to view all the mathetical constants and equations that have to be in order for us to be to be an amazing coincidence. Even with the billions of galaxies in this universe, there still seems to be a need to propose infinite universes to come up with an explanation to the mathemetical amazingness going on.

Why isn't it reasonable to use these facts to support a belief in God?
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Post #59

Post by Tcg »

[Replying to post 58 by Wootah]

Your argument is, "math, therefore God".

Is there anything more to it?
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Post #60

Post by Wootah »

[Replying to Tcg]

Sure. Design therefore designer. Chicken therefore egg.
Proverbs 18:17 The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

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