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Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 by Elgin Hushbeck

At a recent lunch with some co-workers a friend shared a picture he thought was funny.  The picture was of the sign for a Christadelphian Meeting Room, which in addition to the name and meeting time also had an area for a short message that could be changed. The message in the picture was “Evolution is a Lie.”  What he found humorous was that taped to the sign was a paper that said, “If you have evidence to disprove evolution… then write it down, get it peer reviewed & collect your Nobel prize.”

Regardless of any possible humorous value, this picture does highlight a number problems with this entire issue.   The first point is that it is always easy to poke fun at the fringe and the Christadelphian Church is clearly on the fringe.  Not only do they reject evolution, they reject most of teachings that have defined Christianity for 2000 years.

Their claim that evolution is a lie is at best hyperbole, and more likely simply absurd.   Regardless of what you think about evolution, it is not a lie.  A lie is something said with the intent to deceive. The core of a lie is deception not truthfulness.  In fact, it is possible to lie while only saying things that are true, if they are said in such a way as to mislead.

Few if any supporting evolution do so because they know that evolution is false, and they are just trying to deceive people into thinking it was true.  They believe evolution to be true and that is why they defend it. Evolution can be true or false, but it is not a lie.

The paper taped to the sign is not much better, has it has several problems. Let me take them in reverse order.  Let’s assume for a second that someone did have such evidence.  Would it really be as simple as getting it peered reviewed and collecting a Nobel Prize? The history of science says no. Science, regardless of its benefits as a method to learn about the natural world, is governed by people.  As a community, scientists have beliefs and agendas that get in the way of pure objectivity.

In my book, I cite the example of Alfred Wegener, who had a theory of Continental Displacement, what we would now call Plate Tectonics.  When he published his results rather than winning a Nobel Price he was shunned and ridiculed to the point that he could not even get a job teaching in his own country.  This was because his theory would have overturned the then current thinking on Geology.  It was only 20 years after his death that his theory ceased to be considered pseudoscience and finally came to be accepted.  Overturning evolution would be a far more massive change than that proposed by Wegener.

That brings us to the issue of what this “supposed evidence to disprove evolution” might be.  Just how would one go about trying to disprove the theory?  Evolution is not a repeatable event that can be verified by experiments.  If one wanted to “disprove” Gravity one would need to construct an experiment which showed that the mathematical formulas that describe it break down.

But evolution was an historical process. It attempts to describe what happened. So how would one “disprove” it? Find a difference between the theory and the evidence? That already exists.  Darwin’s theory involved small changes over long periods of time, but the fossil records shows long periods of stability marked by short periods of change, which has led to the version of evolution called punctuated equilibrium.

This leads to the second problem, which goes to the heart of what is evolution.  I have seen a very wide variety of definitions. In short it means many things to many people. I have seen evolutionists define it so broadly as to account for all dogs, or even all canines, evolving from a single type, something even devout 7-day creationists would accept; to a godless and undirected natural process that accounts for the origin of all life.

This later definition is probably the most accurate for the most ardent supporters. It is not tied directly to any evidence, as evidence really does not matter. The theory of evolution will simply adjust itself to include whatever the evidence is found. Given the human ability to rationalize almost anything, it is hard to conceive of anything that could not be fitted in somehow.

After all the core of Darwin’s original theory was small changes over long periods of time.  When that was not supported by the evidence, the evidence was simply incorporated into to the theory.  In short, Evolution can accommodate large changes or small changes; long periods of change or short periods of change. It is whatever it needs to be.  In short, it is a tautology and thus is something that cannot be disproven.

Finally, there is an even deeper issue at play, and it is one that involves the nature of science, particularly when it comes to historical issues such as evolution that do not lend themselves to repeated testing and experimentation.  When dealing with such issues, is it the purpose of science to discover what happened, or is science limited only providing a natural explanation?  This question is at the core of the debate over the possibility of discovering intelligent design.

The short history of research into intelligent design also shows the absurdity of the claim taped to the church’s sign.  Even scientists who accept evolution have found themselves in trouble for even considering the possibility of Intelligent Design. This is because for many, science can only consider natural explanations, and as such, any consideration of Intelligent Design is a priori unscientific.  This would be fine if it was then acknowledged that science was correspondingly biased, but strangely few skeptics will acknowledge that point.

The real irony in all this is that within the Christian community, evolution is a matter of open debate.  There are Christians who accept evolution, Christians who do not, and some in the middle.  One is free to look at the evidence and reach their own conclusion.  Within the scientific community, evolution is a belief that can only be questioned at serious risk to one’s career, where even the research into the possibility of Intelligent Design is strongly opposed and condemned.  Yet somehow it is the Christians who are closed minded because they consider more than one option.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Monday, March 26th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue

“Elgin, it’s not default thinking. It’s empirical thinking. It’s responding to what works.”

Yet the vast majority of your reply only further demonstrates the contrary. Since you are leaving the discussion I will simply respond to a few points. If you think I skipped something important just let me know and I will address it.

“That’s right but the difference is that science can take the next step into application.”

There are several key problems here with the word “application.” For one thing there are significant areas of science that have no application, at least not currently. In addition much, if not most of scientific knowledge precedes any application. Thus making application a prerequisite for any knowledge would invalidate at least parts of science.

In addition it is unclear what are the limits this application. What kind of application must there be for knowledge to be consider legitimate? Then there are the areas of knowledge, such as history, which are commonly accepted as legitimate, but for which the concept of application is, at best, unclear. Can we legitimately say that Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States? What would be the application of such knowledge?

The key difference between naturalism and my view is that I focus more on the method of knowledge. Thus applications confirm the usefulness of the method, not just the results. This is an important distinction for it allows me to talk about knowledge in areas such as history, where there is little or no application, but where the methods can still be applied.

“It isn’t just that “God” is unproven, it’s unprovable according to all we know.”

This goes back to my comments at the beginning of our discussion concerning the concept of proof. But in any event, the real point is that “to all we know” really means, “to all the naturalist believes” and is again a classic example of default thinking.

ME: “Yet, I provided evidence, in the form of a rational argument,”

YOU:” Because that’s not evidence. Read your statement again. Where’s the evidence?”

This basically demonstrates my point. That which does not support you, you simply ignore. Whether you choose to accept it or not a rational argument is evidence. Reject this and you reject the core of the scientific method upon which your view depends. Your selective acceptance of reason, i.e., you accept it when it reaches the conclusion you like, is hardly a rational position, but instead just more evidence of the flaws within naturalism.

Concerning your answer to the argument that you requested.

“1. Knowing that cause and effect as we understand them lead to a seemingly inescapable paradox, you posit an answer based on a series of assumptions.”

It is only a paradox for naturalism. There is no paradox at all for my view, and in fact this argument is quite consistent with my view. While they are clearly assumptions, they are the assumptions of naturalism, which is the point of the argument. The only real problem with this argument for the naturalist is that it points to a conclusion that naturalism refuses to accept.

“Maybe there is something about the nature of space-time, and therefore causation that we don’t yet know,”

I already pointed this out in an early note. While true, it is irrelevant to the point of the argument. The point of the argument is that the evidence we currently have points to something naturalism says cannot exist. Your refusal to accept what, in any other context would be an obvious conclusion, clearly demonstrates that naturalism is inconsistent. Naturalism claims to be empirical relying only on the evidence, but then rejects the current evidence in favor of some hypothetical future possibility. At this point the naturalist abandons the scientific evidence in favor of faith and hope. Faith that naturalism is true, and hope that some evidence that avoids this may be found in the future. Again this is fine. Naturalists would certainly not be the first people in history to hold on to their beliefs in spite of the evidence to the contrary, but it does show that your claims to be open to evidence to the contrary are clearly false, and so perhaps you will not be so quick to ridicule those who disagree with you in the future.

“That’s a more likely explanation, since that has been the course of scientific discovery to date.”

Actually the course has been the opposite. For 200 years, naturalist based science has consistently attempted to avoid any concept of a start to the universe, probably because of the implications. From early theories of a steady state universe, to more recent theories that postulated various form of a cycling universe, every attempt so far has had to be discarded as more evidence came in. The course has been opposite of the one you describe. In fact if we just go by the “course of scientific discovery to date” that would be a much better reason to call into question any new theory that the universe did not have a beginning. All previous attempts to make this claim were subsequently overthrown by the evidence, so why shouldn’t any new theory suffer the same fate?

“2. Out of all the possibilities one could imagine, you settle arbitrarily on a conscious creator.”

Once again you show that you cannot squarely face the argument as presented, but must instead change it into something you are more comfortable with. In this case so you can divert the argument onto your beliefs on the origins of religion, beliefs which, btw, cannot be verified. Again the argument says nothing about consciousness one way or the other, and so this attempt at refutation is no more valid than the last time you raised it. In short, you cannot refute an argument that does not mention consciousness, by talking about consciousness. You need to deal with the argument, not some straw man of your own creation.

“We naturalists aren’t in a quandary, as you claim. We merely observe that there are questions we can’t answer yet”

This is not only a statement of hope, it is a statement of denial, as the only way to not be in a “quandary,” or at least think that you are not, is simply to ignore the argument. Yet this is inconsistent with the principles of naturalism as you have stated them. You can ignore the problem the argument reveals, but that does not make it go away, it just demonstrates your claim to simply follow the evidence is false.

“if you do, we naturalists will listen and alter our views based on the new evidence – if that ever happens. Y’all refuse to do the same, which is intellectually dishonest.”

Except that when I demonstrated that the assumptions of naturalism are inconsistent with the best scientific evidence we have, you ignore the evidence and hope things will change in the future. You talk about evidence and reason, but have repeatedly show that you will quickly discard them when they do not support your belief in naturalism. So who is being intellectually dishonest?

“I don’t mean to be rude but what you’re doing is not interesting or productive.”

That is fine, as there really is no place left for the discussion to go. I and others have pointed out a number of fallacies and errors in your claims, which for the most part you have just ignored. To move forward, you would need to actually address these fallacies and errors, providing either explanations for why they are not fallacious or in error, which for many would not be possible; or attempt to restate the arguments so as to remove the fallacies and errors. However, instead of refuting or correcting them, you have basically denied that naturalism can be rationally evaluation. This not only conflicts with your claim on the importance of verification, but make further discussion difficult at best, unless you resort to repetition of previously refuted argument, which you have done.

The only other way to more forward would be for you to face the implications of the argument based on origin I cited, but to do this would be to acknowledge the fatal flaw in naturalism, which you clearly cannot do, for to do this would be to abandon naturalism. Instead you have appealed to hope. This is fine, but it against precludes further discussion because I cannot know what may or may not be discovered in the future, and you have again precluded naturalism from being evaluated. But realize that this is a hope that runs contrary to you claims, and is in fact exactly what you are so critical of others for doing.

But, in any event, I do what to thank you for an interesting discussion.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Saturday, January 14th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue


“Elgin, you’re a bright fellow, so if you will select what you think is your best and most devastating argument against my position, I’ll give you a response along the same lines. Feel free to reference your argument by date and time of your post.”

Well the refutation of naturalism rests on several points.  One line of argument is it’s many internal inconsistencies that I and others have pointed out.   Another is the very practical one centered on the numerous errors and fallacies of its defenders, not only here but elsewhere.  At my blog (www.consider.org/blog), for example, I did extensive reviews detailing the errors and fallacies of the Neo-atheist books of Hitchens (www.consider.org/blog/?p=152), Dawkins (www.consider.org/blog/?p=45) and Harris (www.consider.org/News/2007/2.htm).  If the supporters of a position cannot put forth a rational defense of  that position, why should it be accepted?

Still if I had to pick just one I guess it would be the argument based on origins that I laid out early.  This is because; it depends on the framework of naturalism.  For convenience, I will repeat it here and expand a bit.

The current evidence supports that the natural universe as we know it had a beginning and could not have existed forever. If our current evidence is correct, then either, the natural universe came from something, or came from nothing. If it came from something, then this something would be non-natural, and this is evidence of a non-natural explanation that naturalism denies.

Granted the first premise is provisional given the advancement of science, but for some time this has been the scientific position and seems pretty sound. The point here is that for the naturalist to question the validity of this premise would be to question the validity of science; something they cannot do and remain consistent.

As for the two options this is simply an expression of the law of the excluded middle. To question this would be to call the entire foundation of science and thus naturalism into question.

Now the naturalist could just accept that the universe came from nothing, and some do. But this explanation would conflict with the scientific method. It is basically magic.  If “it came from nothing” were to be seen as a legitimate explanation for events, it could explain anything, and there would be no need for science. Naturalists could argue that this was a special case, but that would only be an admission that the rules they use elsewhere do not apply here, i.e., that naturalism does not explain everything.

So that leaves the claim that it came from something.  But if this is true, this would only demonstrate that there was something else beyond the natural world, and that naturalism is not the complete description that naturalists claim.

Again this is a deductive argument, which means that if the premises are true, and naturalism would have to say that they are, and the structure is valid, which it is, then the conclusion must be sound, or in other words, the conclusion is obvious, and it no matter how you go about it, it refutes naturalism.

Thus for me, it is no wonder naturalists refuse to face squarely this argument. They can’t and remain naturalists, at least not in any universal sense.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Saturday, January 14th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue


“Your emperor has no clothes. You keep insisting that I should debate with you about the intricacies of his magnificent garments.”

What I have done is ask that you respond to the irrationalities of your argument. You want to talk about reason, yet you refuse to acknowledge that reason has anything to say about your position. It would appear that you have fallen into what I call default thinking.  This is where someone assumes that their world view is by definition correct and then demands that anyone who disagrees prove them wrong within their framework.

For example, a theist who had fallen into default thinking, might take as their starting point, or default, the belief that God exists and is the foundation of everything, and then demand that critics point to something that was beyond the realm of God. I know that you would disagree with such a view, but I hope that you can also see the rational errors in this view.  It is ultimately a tautology.

“To be more specific, a debate over whether and how a Great Unicorn might relate to a God would be comically and exclusively academic, since neither entity is known to exist.”

Even scientifically this is incorrect.  For example, if science restricted itself only to entities known to exist, it would vastly limit its reach.  For example, the sub -atomic particle charm was ultimately postulated because someone did not like the idea of only 3 particles and figured 4 was better number. They were wrong on the ultimate number but this only demonstrates that even errors can be useful at times. In any event, they postulated what a fourth particle might be like. Once they had an idea of what it might be like, they set out to look for it and eventually found it.

Still, none of this affects, the two fallacies I pointed out with your argument, and as such your earlier argument remains irrational.  Your questions in this note are irrelevant, given this underlying irrationality, except that you have simply added additional errors to the previous fallacies.  None of it actually addressed the linguistic point that I was making and the fallacy of equivocation that I pointed out.

“Notice how this takes us back to a naturalistic framework, where we insist that fact claims be verified.”

A nice example of your default thinking.  I have no doubt that viewed from within your framework, your framework looks fine and theism doesn’t.  However, you claim that in your framework facts must be verified, but what I, and others have been pointing out is that you simple ignore all attempts to apply the same standards to your framework itself, and to the arguments you use.

“We’re saying there’s nothing else beyond what we can verify but we’re only saying it provisionally, just as we say everything in science provisionally”

The core problem is, that this is a statement that you cannot verify. It is a statement that must just be accepted.  You make your assumptions, others make theirs and come to different conclusions. The real problem is that you then attempt to ridicule those who do not share you assumption, demanding that their assumptions be verified.  Thus in short you are holding those you disagree with to a different standard than that to which you hold yourself. You demand that their assumptions be verified, when yours cannot.  So just who is the emperor with no clothes?

“if you provide us with more evidence, then we’ll expand our conception of the universe”

Yet, I provided evidence, in the form of a rational argument, that reality consisted of more than the natural world, and thus, that the claims of naturalism were false.  Yet you basically ignored it.

“It’s a practical philosophy, in other words, a philosophy that guides us toward living more productive and useful lives.”

Again you assume that only your worldview does this. Yet all the productivity and usefulness that you claim as the benefits of naturalism fits equally as well in my world view. In short I see “naturalism” as a subset of my views, and that naturalism ultimately only artificially limits and restricts for no rational basis. I would add to this the numerous studies that show that practicing theists tend to lead longer, happier and more fulfilled lives. Given the evidence, why would I ever want to restrict my concept of reality?

“Notice also that I didn’t say that God does not exist, only that God is not known to exist. Therefore, any fact claim about “God” lacks the necessary framework for reliability” and “every fact claim about God is a fact claim about something no one knows anything about.”

These are arguments rooted within the framework of naturalism. The structure and logic of the arguments are ok. It is the underlying premises of naturalism that I would reject.   Thus from my point of view, I not only believe in God. I believe there is considerable evidence that He does exist, and that we can in fact know something about him. I understand that you disagree with these statements.  The big difference between us from my point of view, is that you artificially, and irrationally, restrict reality to the natural world, and given your presuppositions, are thus incapable of acknowledging any of the evidence for God as long as you stay within your framework.

Before you revert back to your arguments grounded in culture to explain my views, I would point out that again not only are they irrational, they are very unlikely to be persuasive in my case because I grew up as an atheist and opponent of my current views.  My journey to my current views certainly has a spiritual component, but it also has a significant intellectual component, where I found the argument I used to defend my beliefs simply did not stand up to the same sorts of critical analysis I was using on those with whom I disagreed. In short culture had very little to do with my current views.

“The point of the Great Unicorn example is not to get into the internal logic of your enterprise but to illustrate its absurdity”

This is really turning things on their head.  The principles of logic are not tied to any particular framework, but instead rest on 3 fundamental laws: the laws of Identity, the Excluded Middle, and Contradiction which is also sometimes called the Law of Non-Contradiction.  Granted, not all world views accept these laws, but they are accepted by most theists, and are key to the scientific method and thus to naturalism.

While these must operate within a framework such as theism or naturalism to reach a sound conclusion, errors that result in fallacies or invalid arguments are often independent of the framework. Thus the errors I have pointed out in your argument are not based on my framework, but ultimately go back to violations of these fundamental laws of thought. This is why I, and others, have pointed out that naturalism is self-refuting, for these laws form one of the foundations of naturalism, yet naturalism violated these laws.  Thus it is internally inconsistent and thus self-refuting.

I will handle you specific argument to me in a separate post.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue


I am assuming that I am included in your comments to,

“You guys are a hoot, expecting people who are rooted in reason and scientific method to accept your “philosophy” as a legitimate discipline.”

What is “a hoot” is your describing yourself as “rooted in reason and scientific” when your arguments have been filled with irrationalities and errors. I have repeatedly pointed these out, but for the most part you have simply ignored them.

Your argument above is a case in point. You claim to be “rooted in reason” yet when presented with a rational argument that conflicts with what you want to believe in, you refuse to deal with it rationally. Instead of dealing with the actual reason and evidence presented against your position, you make grand claims about your position and question your opponent’s legitimacy as if that was an actual argument. This is sophistry not rational argument.

“Put your claims to the test: Consider the wealth of scientific and technological advancements spawned by science. Now try to name one advance in science or technology spawned by academic philosophy without being checked and verified.”

This is another case in point. What you apparently are blinded to is the fact that historically science is a branch of philosophy and the scientific method is grounded in philosophy. The problem is not between science and “philosophy,” as the two overlap too much. Remove what you label “philosophy” from the scientific method and you would gut the scientific method leaving it useless.

The real problem is that you conflate the scientific method with your world view of naturalism to the point that, in your mind, the two are indistinguishable. As such any arguments that refute your world view are taken as an attack on science. This is why you can make such irrational challenges as you have, because you fail to see the distinction between the two.

Thus, you see one side as “the wealth of scientific and technological advancements spawned by science” as if that somehow uniquely represents your views. In a previous note I pointed out that, “Naturalists in the past have argued that the advances of science justify their assumptions.” In your reply, you denied this, but here you are making an argument that assumes it.

So one problem that I have with your argument is that I see, “the wealth of scientific and technological advancements spawned by science” as also supporting my view as well as yours. So the contrast your argument requires to be valid does not exist. There are additional problem and assumptions in your argument, but this is sufficient to show its irrationality.

“There’s no need for a war between science and philosophy, the two should complement each other. But you guys seem to think that you can play internal logic games, completely overlooking the multiple assumptions you’re making, call it philosophy and imagine you’ve said something useful.”

This is really amusing. I agree there is no war between science and philosophy. As I said above the two are closely related. The problem is not with science, but with naturalism. So you defend your views by conflating them with science, and then immediately follow this with a claim that we are “completely overlooking the multiple assumptions” we are making.

More importantly, I and others here have repeatedly pointed out the problems with the assumptions made by naturalism, problems you have repeatedly just ‘overlooked.’

Still, if you think we are making “multiple assumptions” fine. I certainly would not deny this as everyone, including you, makes assumptions. So that is not really at issue. The question is: are these assumptions reasonable and consistent. What I and others have pointed out is that the assumptions of naturalism are not. They are internally inconsistent, and therefore naturalism is self-refuting. And to be clear, to say that naturalism is self-refuting, says nothing at all about science. Science is common to both my world view and yours. What is in question here is not science, but our different world views.

Now, if you think my assumptions are flawed, the please tell me what these assumptions are, and then demonstrate why they are problematic. In short, “put your claims to the test.”

“In this discussion, you’re being driven not by reason but by the fact that you don’t agree with me.”

I cannot speak for others, but I don’t see any difference between “reason” and “disagreeing with you.” I disagree with you because I believe your position to be at least on some points irrational, and my replies have detailed the reasons and evidence for my objections.

“There’s nothing rational or objective about your arguments; they are merely self-justifying rationalizations for the result you want, and the proof of that pudding is that you keep trying to making wishful thinking respectable and to put it on a par with science.”

Yet another case in point. You make the claim that my arguments were “self-justifying rationalizations” but claiming something and demonstrating it are two different things. You have made a lot of claims. I have challenged a number of them that I disagreed with by citing the reason and evidence for my disagreement. Much of this you have just ignored.

More to the point, I have pointed out a number of irrationalities and errors in your arguments. While you have disagreed with my points you have not demonstrated any flaws in my actual reasoning, or errors in my evidence. Saying you disagree, is not quite the same thing as demonstrating an error. Instead, you have done, what you did here, repeat lines of argument that have already been addressed and refuted.

“If you really weren’t challenged by the arguments against your point of view, you would have called me a fool and moved on.”

Talk about, “self-justifying rationalizations,” how can you believe this, and yet claim to be on the side of reason?

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s post is here. His comments are in blue


In relation to your claim that my argument involves consciousness you said:

“Yes it does. It has to, if you’re going to offer an apologetic for theism, as Plantinga does.”

While, an argument for theism would involve a concept of consciousness, I was not making an argument for theism. Look at the conclusion of my argument it does not mention God. I put forth an argument that demonstrated a key, and I believe fatal, flaw in the claims of naturalism.  While this could be a first step towards building an argument for theism, it is not itself an argument for theism as many other steps would be necessary.  Thus it does not involve consciousness, and your claim that “it has to” is again simply in error.  But while not sufficient to demonstrate theism, it is more than sufficient to refute naturalism, which was the point I was making.

I find this to be a common problem among non-theists; they always want to jump to the conclusion of god, and then claim there is no evidence.  Any attempt to demonstrate the problems with their thinking or any attempt to build towards theism that involves a multi-step argument is effectively rejected, seemingly regardless of the soundness of the individual steps.  Arguments are evaluated not on their merits, but on whether they could lend support to theistic claims.

For many non-theists, arguments such as the one I put forth are really crucial, because much of their rejection of theism is based either formally or informally on the concept that the natural world is the only thing that exists, or at least is the only thing that we can know about.  During the latter part of the 20th century, such views became increasingly untenable, which is why theism is once again under serious discussion.

So my argument still stands, and still refutes the claims of naturalism.

In relation to my pointing to the historical role of the Judeo-Christian world view as a refutation of your claim that theistic thinking had retarded scientific progress you replied simply,

“You seem to have met yourself coming ’round the barn.”

Sorry, but it is not at all clear what your point is, or even the relationship of this statement to my refutation of your claim, and as such it hardly refutes what I said.  Perhaps you could clarify your argument.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Monday, January 9th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s post is here.  His comments are in blue


“That the universe as we know it had a beginning does not mean that we understand the origins of that universe in the only context we know, which is space-time, beyond saying that a Big Bang appears to have occurred; in other words, we still have no idea why it happened that way.”

You are side stepping the argument I made, by trying to add additional conditions that were not part of the argument. I did not claim that we understood the origins. Again the argument I made is a simple deductive argument (technically a disjunctive syllogism). The only way to refute it is to show that the logic is invalid, or that one of the premises is false. If the premises are true, and I believe they are, and the logic is valid, which it is; then the conclusion must be sound.

Still, you have pretty much supported my argument, if “in the only context we know” is the natural world. Then any other means would be the “non-natural explanation” of the argument.

Granted there may be some other option that we have no evidence for or understanding of, but in that case, who is the one that is relying strictly on the evidence, and who is the one ignoring the evidence because it points to something that their worldview says cannot exist?

“In no way does anything we know suggest that consciousness predated matter, which is theism’s seminal claim.”

Again my argument said nothing about consciousness. This is the classic straw man fallacy. Change the argument to something you think you can more easily refute.

“On the contrary, everything we know about consciousness says that it is the product of an organic (material) brain.”

You already mentioned this, and I already addressed this point by pointing out how irrational such a line of reasoning is, but you have yet to reply to my objections. In case you missed it, here are my comments from an earlier post:

As for your views on consciousness, this is a classic example of the problems with the bias of naturalism. You basically have claimed that only natural answers are permissible, and then claim as support for this view that the only explanations we currently have for consciousness are natural. Do you not see the glaring logical fallacy in this? Frankly we know very little about consciousness, and there are some very significant questions such as the nature of Free Will that remain unanswered.

“The naturalist does not assume that ‘theirs is the only set of assumptions that allows for the advances of science.’”

Ok. That just means that the naturalists I was referring to did not understand naturalism in the same way you do. I raised that point because this was the common objection made by naturalists in the past to the claim I made that “There is nothing that makes the naturalists assumptions inherently better or worse.”

“[The naturalist] merely observes that scientific method is the only reliable means by which science had advanced,”

Something I would agree with, though if taken rigorously it becomes circular.

“and draws the logical conclusion from that: there is no reason to engage in wishful thinking about a god or gods, since this thinking has not led to any scientific advance but on the contrary has tended to retard scientific progress.”

There are several problems with this statement. The first is the phrase “wishful thinking about a god or gods.” I see two ways to take this phase. If taken literally, I would agree that we should not engage in wishful thinking about god or gods. Thus this would result in a statement that I, and probably most theist, could actually agree with. However I suspect that this was not your intent and that instead, you were simply using the phrase, “wishful thinking” as a way to denigrate theistic thought. If so this is slanting and hardly makes for a rational argument.

“since this thinking has not led to any scientific advance but on the contrary has tended to retard scientific progress.”

Assuming “wishful thinking” was a reference to all theistic thought, (and if not I apologize in advance) then you are again repeating old arguments that I have already addressed, but which you have ignored. As I pointed out the last time you used this line of argument:

[This] is simply wrong and either ignorant of the history of science, or at the very least highly selective in it view of history. It also assumes a unity in the concept of “theological framework” which simply does not exist. There are in fact a variety of theological frameworks. While some are “affirmatively harmful” not all are.

But to expand on this a bit further, there is a reason that science developed in Western Europe when it did. Classical thought certainly played a role, but so did the Judeo-Christian world view of a world created by a rational God, a rational God that created a universe that could be figured out using reason. One can certainly argue that such a view is not required for science, but this does not change the history that it did play a key role in what actually happened. This can be seen in Kepler, who after discovering his laws of planetary motion wrote, “O God, I am thinking thy thoughts after thee.”

The supposed conflicts between science and religion have been greatly exaggerated, and in some cases even invented. There is no inherent conflict between them unless science is taken as a description for all reality, and at the same time restricts itself only to the natural world, i.e., the naturalist world view. So I can fully understand why you think there is a conflict, but the conflict you see stems not from anything in science, but rather is just an expression of your worldview imposed on science.

I would argue that naturalism is somewhat harmful to science because of its naturalistic bias. In fact I see no inherent difference between theists trying to ban certain lines of inquiry because it disagrees with their understanding of reality, and naturalist trying to ban certain lines of inquiry because it disagrees with their understanding of reality. Yet the naturalists I have talked to in the past have condemn the former while supporting the latter.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair post is here.


“I don’t think your argument stands in the face of Einstein’s revolutionary discoveries in physics.”

Sorry, but my question is not grounded in Newtonian physics. In fact my view would be LESS tenable under a purely Newtonian view. In his book “The Fabric of the Cosmos” Brian Green outlined the two main theories of for the origin of the universe. The inflationary Big Bang probably fits my argument the best, but the competing theory grounded more in Quantum physics, still needs something to start the process in the first place. Neither view has an eternally existing universe. Both views require a beginning.

Thus my premise, “the current evidence supports that the natural universe as we know it had a beginning and could not have existed forever” remains true, and the question valid. Claiming unstated “other possibilities” does not make it so. Simply postulating other possibilities is not going where the evidence leads. But this is the point of the question. The evidence currently points to something that cannot exist within naturalism, thus the naturalist seeks to avoid what normally would be the obvious conclusion. My world view does not have that self-limiting bias. So I am free to go wherever the evidence leads.

“They altered our understanding of space, time and cause. Instead of upsetting the apple cart of science, those discoveries gave us a deeper understanding of and appreciation for it.”

Very true. The problem for you is that discoveries over the last 100 years are also a major reason for the revival of the serious discussion of theism in the latter part of the twentieth century. For example, the discovery of quantum physics destroyed Kant’s objections to the arguments for the existence of God, which were the main reason they had been discarded. The reasons theism is now back under serious discussion, is because of the advances of science, not despite it.

One of the major problems of your view is that it has trouble seeing support for theism as anything but an attack on science. It is not. I certainly do not attack science. My career includes working as an engineer at JPL where I played a small part in Voyager’s encounter with the Planet Neptune among other things. So I agree that there is nothing in my view that would upset “the apple cart of science.”

“than a world view based on guesswork, superstition and wishful thinking. You are free to see that as a bias if you choose but that is like saying that I am biased in favor of ingesting apples and not arsenic.”

Slanting does not an argument make. Simply labeling the views you disagree with as “guesswork, superstition, and wishful thinking” does not make it so. The problem that you seem not to recognize is that our fundamental disagreement is not over science, reason, or evidence. The fundamental disagreement is over the framework in which these operate, i.e., the fundamental assumptions everyone must make, assumptions that ultimately cannot be demonstrated to be true, but which must be accepted at least to some degree on faith. We both think the assumptions we have made are correct, that is why we accept them. But the key point is that our assumptions, while different in substance, are not different in character. There is nothing that makes the naturalists assumptions inherently better or worse.

Naturalists in the past have argued that the advances of science justify their assumptions. But this is irrational for two reasons. First, it assumes that theirs is the only set of assumptions that allows for the advances of science. This is just factually incorrect. More fundamentally, it results in circular reasoning as it attempts to demonstrate the validity of assumptions by starting with the assumption that they are true.

It is this second reason that makes these assumptions so fundamental and ultimately beyond demonstration. This is why I classified my view in an early post as the one with “the least problems.” All worldview have problems. Nobody has all the answers.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

The following are my comments to another person, Nontheistdavid. His post can be found here.


“Hogwash. If unicorns or invisible “immaterial” beings exist then there should be verifiable and testable evidence of their existence. We should be able to measure and modify to some degree the behavior and/or effects they have on the universe.”

There are a lot of assumptions in this statement, and it goes to the heart of the difference between theists and non-theists. What perplexes many theists is not so much that non-theist make different assumptions. Rather it is that non-theists do not even seem to realize that they are making their own assumptions, while the attempt to ridicule others; thus their frequent attempts to try and equate the belief in god with the belief in unicorns. While, given its frequent use, non-theists evidently think this is some sort of killer argument, it is so absurd on its face (see my last reply to LaClair) it only makes the non-theist look irrational. Yet they continue to use it.

“Also why do you theist keep using the term “naturalism”?”

I for one try to avoid sematic debates that rarely are productive, thus I used the term naturalism, because that is what LaClair used for his views. In this note I used non-theist, because that is what you used.

“Science engages in Methodological naturalism and most certainty does not deny anything.”

Depending on exactly how you defined “methodological naturalism” I might agree with you, but you would have to define this a bit more before I could really comment.

If science is taken as the search for natural explanations, and therefore incapable of saying anything about non-natural explanations, that is fine as long as the bias is recognized. If science is seen as an unbiased investigation and scientists are therefore free to investigate potential non-natural explanations that would also be fine. The problem enters in when you have the view held by many non-theists, that science is seen as an unbiased investigation, but were any non-natural explanation are ruled out a priori as illegitimate.

Science, Religion, and Naturalism, continued

Sunday, January 8th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

Paul L. LaClair’s  post is here.

“if anyone ever demonstrates that a non-naturalistic explanation adds anything to our fund of knowledge, then we scientific naturalists will change our minds.”

While this may sound good, when one begins to examine this claim in detail within the framework of naturalism it ultimately falls apart. This is because the evaluation of evidence is very strongly tied to one’s world view. Given the presuppositions of naturalism, presuppositions that cannot be demonstrated but must be accepted on faith, it is impossible to demonstrate a non-naturalistic explanation, because naturalism a priori equates reality and naturalism. Any line of reasoning that supports a non-naturalistic explanation is not seen as evidence for a non-naturalistic explanation, but evidence that that line of reasoning is unreliable.

For example, the current evidence supports that the natural universe as we know it had a beginning and could not have existed for ever. If our current evidence is correct, then either, the natural universe came from something, or came from nothing. If it came from something, then this something would be non-natural, and this is evidence of a non-natural explanation that naturalism denies.

Perhaps you are different, but all naturalists I have talked to in the past have either denied the validity of the question, expanded the definition of naturalism to include what would otherwise be non-natural (thereby creating a tautology ) or preferred to accept the belief that something came from nothing without cause rather than face what would in any other circumstance be the obvious conclusion.

“The fact that you think those two claims [invisible unicorns or gods] are of a different quality speaks only to the power of culture to shape belief.”

One could just as easily argue that the fact that you think these two claims are the same speaks to the power of naturalism shape belief. The problem for you is that there is no correspondence between these two claims. While the philosophical underpinnings of naturalism have come under increasing criticism from serious philosophers, Dallas Willard for one, has pointed out that there has been a rebirth of serious consideration of theism from philosophers starting in the latter part of the 20th century. While serious and scholarly people have discussed the merits of theism down through the ages, I am not aware of anyone who has seriously put forth a claim that there are invisible unicorns. Thus while naturalists like to try and make an equation between these two claims; it is absurd on its face. Pretending that these two claims are the same hardly demonstrates the rationality of your position.