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Carey N
February 19th, 2005, 05:55 PM
Fred,

It would appear that you, in our (though I've been absent for a while . . . truly sorry) eternal argument about deism/atheism/ID/, will never ([I]ever) give up your connection to Penrose's calculation of early-universe entropy and its improbably small magnitude. Perhaps you shouldn't give it up . . . if Penrose is right (let's assume that he is and hope that we don't make asses of each other), then indeed there was some, or a lot, of intention behind the origin of existence as we can know it. But what on earth does this have to do with the origin of life on, well, earth?

Does Penrose's calculation showing that God made the universe logically imply anything about the same deity lending a helping hand in creating life? I don't see that it can . . .

If the logic of evolutionary theory is sufficient (and we know that it is . . . ) for explaining the origin of life on earth, then there is no need to invoke a divine presence to explain any of the biological complexity in our intellectual scope. And if there's no need for a deity for life here on earth, then why need there be for life on any other planet?

Okay, Fred . . . perhaps the math (remember our assumption . . .) proves that a divine intelligence was involved in the creation of our universe; I'm not convinced that we can understand the origin of our universe, but let's go with Penrose’s flow. Occam's razor (the same one you love) still tells us that pure evolution by natural selection is A-okay for life on earth (and therefore, potentially, for all life in the universe).

Fred: my question to you, then, is: why should we care that God made the universe, if God didn’t make life? Life is far more interesting than physics (personal opinion . . . but yeah, it is) . . . if the question of human origins is a question of evolution, and evolution is independent of God, then why the hell does it matter whether or not God made the universe in which evolution is happening?

Yours,

Carey

PS How's everybody doing? :)

Fred H.
February 20th, 2005, 10:26 AM
Carey! Great to see that you’re out and about! Hope all is well with you.

You say that life is more interesting than physics—I think I understand what you mean, and may even sort of agree. However, ultimately, physics underlies the universe and biology/life.

You ask why it matters whether God made the universe in which evolution is happening? Perhaps, in the end, it doesn’t matter. There does seem to be an enormous amount of pointless suffering—tsunamis, wars, slaughter, mental torment, disease, etc.—so maybe the creator is as indifferent as is the atheist’s accidental universe. On the other hand, once one is convinced of first cause, it somehow becomes impossible to believe in a totally indifferent creator, and one is then more inclined to believe in things like truth, beauty, and goodness—irrational beliefs if one lives in a meaningless accidental universe (unless one is schizophrenic).

Carey N
February 20th, 2005, 03:30 PM
Hey Fred! Glad to be back :D

If I'm not mistaken . . . this debate has been evolving for over a year in this forum, so do please let me know if I'm going over tired ground, or boring you, and I'll give it a rest.

In the meantime . . .

On the other hand, once one is convinced of first cause, it somehow becomes impossible to believe in a totally indifferent creator, and one is then more inclined to believe in things like truth, beauty, and goodness—irrational beliefs if one lives in a meaningless accidental universe (unless one is schizophrenic).

If by "first cause" you mean the argument for a Creator put forth by Penrose, then I'll side with you there for now, since I know barely a smidgeon of astrophysics. Again, I'm still not convinced that humans can fully understand the details of the beginning of the universe . . . but that's a nasty cop-out and I won't resort to it.

More importantly: why do truth, beauty, and goodness have any more meaning in a universe with a Creator than in a universe without one? Those ideals appear to me very clearly to be human constructs whose value depends on a given individual's genetics, personal history, and current brain chemistry. If evolution (which obeys the laws of physics but depends more directly on emergent properties irreducible to atoms or molecules and totally independent of astrophysics) "gave" us the capacity for such feelings and cogitations, then, again, why does it matter if the universe was put together with or without a divine hand?

We're debating from two perspectives that I can distinguish:

1. (Fred's) There was a Creator; morality is deeply meaningful for humanity as well as for the universe as a whole.

2. (Atheist's) There was no creator; morality is deeply meaningful to humans but means nothing outside humanity (though, if there is no creator, then nothing can mean anything outside of humanity anyway).

Either way, morality is perfectly real for humanity; in the first case, we're delusional with respect to a Universal Perspective; in the second case, our feelings are somehow connected to a Divine footprint in the universe. There's no way to tell the difference between these two theories in practice, and so, I'm beginning to think, there's no point getting puffed up about it, either.

Apologies for rambling,

Carey

Fred H.
February 21st, 2005, 09:14 PM
I recently read a George Carlin quote: “I don’t think there’s really such a thing as morality.” Nietzsche and Sartre would have agreed, and so would I assuming an accidental universe—in which case morality is nothing more than whatever moral systems arise from whatever social groups happen to survive and reproduce.

So for Carlin, Nietzsche, Sartre, and me (and I suppose Dawkins), there is no objective morality in an accidental universe. But for you Carey, “morality is perfectly real for humanity,” and it doesn’t matter that the universe is accidental. I completely agree with you that it doesn’t matter Carey, because, after all, nothing matters in an accidental universe.

Lizzie Pickard
April 7th, 2005, 01:00 AM
But how could you really mean "nothing matters in an accidental universe." I guess you are thinking of things "mattering" in a metaphysical sense, but I, as a naturalistic (ie. non-supernaturalist) thinker, feel like so much matters in an accidental universe!

Fred H.
April 7th, 2005, 09:38 AM
Lizzie: but I, as a naturalistic (ie. non-supernaturalist) thinker, feel like so much matters in an accidental universe!
Sure, you may feel that things matter in your accidental universe, as an amputee may feel phantom pain from a limb that no longer exists—although the pain may be real, the tissue damage that the pain seems to signify is something that isn’t real, something that doesn’t matter.

What would matter, at least to the amputee, and perhaps to those living in an accidental universe, would be to minimize or eliminate the phantom feelings.

Carey N
May 24th, 2005, 04:45 AM
Actually, Fred, those phantom feelings are treasured by amputees because they allow them to fully "occupy" prosthetic limbs and feel as though they have a functional apendage back again. See Oliver Sacks (I think it's in "Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat," but it's been a long time ...). They feel a tremendous sense of loss if and when phantoms go away.

Perhaps the naturalistic thinker's feelings (and yours, and mine . . .) are misguided in the sense that one cannot prove their objective basis, but on the other hand . . . what else about our feelings can we actually prove? It's the feelings and their purpose (ultimately, to make us breed) that matter, not their reflection of how things are in the universe.

Fred H.
May 24th, 2005, 11:21 AM
Carey: It's the feelings and their purpose (ultimately, to make us breed) that matter, not their reflection of how things are in the universe.
Yes Carey, as you say, breeding seems to be the only thing that matters. And yet the ones who best understand this truth—atheists—tend to breed less.

But I think that’s because atheists truly comprehend that feelings are, as you say, misguided, and therefore choose, consciously or unconsciously, to limit the perpetuation of such misguidedness, and the unavoidable accompanying suffering, by avoiding/curtailing offspring.

The hastening of one’s own extinction may well be the best indication of one’s compassion, that one truly understands the misguidedness and ultimate pointlessness of our existence—if your parents had truly loved you, they’d not have had you.

Carey N
May 24th, 2005, 12:27 PM
But I think that’s because atheists truly comprehend that feelings are, as you say, misguided, and therefore choose, consciously or unconsciously, to limit the perpetuation of such misguidedness, and the unavoidable accompanying suffering, by avoiding/curtailing offspring.

Some atheists may think that way, though I've yet to run into one who actually walks around preaching it. While I acknowledge the truth in your increasingly familiar rhetoric about pointless suffering and lack of universal moral standards, I think you make the wrong choice in the overwhelming emphasis you place on them. The very simple fact is that life turns out to be a lot more fun and rewarding if you set those truths aside and find some inspiration in one thing or another within the mountain of culture that our species has built in the past several thousand years.

Most atheists I know do just that: they pursue something interesting (e.g. waxing philosophic in posts written to people they've never personally met) and (sometimes) choose not to have children. You could say that they are dominated by a new kind of selfishness centered around their own quirks rather than the evolutionary fate of their genes.

P.S.
if your parent’s had truly loved you, they’d not have had you

That's below the belt . . . or rather below my parents' belts, quite literally. Either way you devalue your argument by including oblique insults.


P.P.S.
Have you read Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle? They're incredible novels - very highly recommended. As Jack Shaftoe remarks: supporting one's offspring is tedious and unobtainable.

Fred H.
May 25th, 2005, 08:36 PM
Carey, regarding your parents, no oblique insult intended. I don’t blame them—mere slaves to their misguided feelings, and probably lacking your Darwinian insights.

Regarding whether I’ve read any of Stephenson’s novels—while I suppose I do have more time than when I had to work for money, it nevertheless still is, like my mental energy, somewhat limited, so I try to avoid, not always successfully, wasting it on crap. On the other hand, someone recently lent me Da Vinci Code and I almost enjoyed it . . . and the Neal Stephenson’s stuff does look superior . . . I’ll check him out at B&N.