The Crisis in Physics—and Its Cause


Recommended Posts

One could call Marxism a typical 'secular salvation religion'.

Do you believe in any religion (secular or not)? I have not read all your posts here, but have came across a comment by another poster who called you a creationist.

Are you a creationist?

I think he might be an anti-evolutionist. Which is a hemi-semi-quasi defensible position. It could be that life on this planet was started by living Beings from elswhere in the Cosmos. The Earth and Solar System is about 4.5 billion years old. The part of the Cosmos we can see is about 13.5 billion years old so that leave 9.5 billion years for folks from Elsewhere to plant living spoors in a watery environment. Of course we have to way of testing this "hypothesis" but it is at least logically possible.

This pushes back the question of how life originated and in now way answer it. Evolution of planted life forms would still be accounted for by variation and natural selection. If I plant a garden of zuchini squash and just let it grow wild, who knows what will be growing in it five or ten years from now?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 118
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

AristotlesAdvance,

I have been through several of your posts and, so far, all you have done is amuse me.

Michael

Michael,

A year or so back, I admit to being a trifle bewildered by OL's open door policy.

Anyone can get in here? Huh? Had to adjust to that.

But then, I'm told I'm a bit odd, and I got in, and though I've never been much of a joiner, I'll join any club that will have me as a member.

:D

We cross paths with all sorts at Objectivist Living, and you know what? I've realised that's just fine and dandy.

So I get my feathers ruffled sometimes, like all of us, but the caliber of thinking and knowledge the O'ism-contrarists generally have is going to keep me on my toes. There's nothing like a challenge to focus the mind and learn.

Beyond that, honesty - and maybe just a little courtesy - are basically all I ask for.

OL: you never know who'll walk through the door. B)

Tony

Link to post
Share on other sites

"Death of a doctrine"? Closed religious systems have survived.

Not really when you take a closer look. There have been schisms and fights within closed systems about the "true" doctrine, resulting in different "schools" and in some cases also in the foundation of new churches.

isn't any doctrine, by its very nature, closed?

You are right. And this is the problem of doctrines. Which is why they will eventually all die out. We may not live long enough to see the final crumbling of all political and religious systems based on doctrines, but it will happen.

Take the Catholic church for example. Fewer and fewer Catholics actually believe Catholicism's doctrinal stuff anymore like e. g. the absurd "Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus".

Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched about half of the video. Seventy-eight minutes is too much time to invest in the obvious. And he was speaking to people who already knew what he had to say and wanted to hear it and agree with it.

He does accept without question that humans are not evolving, that we are essetially the same today as we were 10,000 or even 100,000 years ago. The works of Julian Jaynes and Denise Schmandt-Besserat suggest strongly that humans of 8000 BC did not have the same minds (or brains) that we do today. What little Aristotle I have read in the original Greek is primitive compared to the nuances of modern English with its million-word vocabulary. So, it is unfair to condemn the ancients for their intellectual errors and oversights. He asks rhetorically why the scientific revolution is only 400 years old, why the ancients did not have science. I understand the need for intellectual freedom which is antecedent to political freedom. Other times and places had it also, usually by default. The American experience has been self-conscious.

But it is unfair to condemn ancients for not being us. Literally, they lacked the minds and brains to be us, just as surely as animals lacked lungs before amphibians evolved. Even if we could wave away those differences, 2000 years, 3000 ... 8000... That's a lot of learning. You might as well ask why toddlers cannot behave themselves in a restaurant.

It is also a waste of time to condemn the Neils Bohr's philosophy. What counts are the works of Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce and others.

Harriman seems to accept the view that physicists develop theories which explain the universe; and from them, engineers develop practical applications, which technicians then manage and maintain. Edison would disagree. So would Tesla. ... or Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak... In fact, the real computer revolution was as much about marketing as it was about physics. Physicists were not much for marketing. Once they got jobs at Cambridge and places like that, they had no incentive to produce anything marketable. In fact, it is probably the other way around: lacking a desire for sales and marketing, they cloistered themselves. Ayn Rand, I think, called that "the leisure of the theory class." They did, indeed, have good ideas. But those theories explained things that engineers and technicians already built. Soap antedates organic chemistry by about 1100 years.

Whether and to what extent being able to crank the arithmetic of quantum mechanics enabled the production of computer chips is beyond my ken. For all I know, integrated circuits evolved incrementally from the catwhisker crytal diode (the source of the symbol for the transistor).

Edited by Michael E. Marotta
Link to post
Share on other sites
A third problem, of course, is that Objectivism appears to be profoundly anti-scientific-method. It approves, of course, of the PRODUCTS of scientific investigation, especially when such results can be translated into technology. When it comes to the realm of pure theory, of course, they are often cranks, criticizing various theories on the basis of the theories' apparent deviation from beloved Objectivist notions of epistemology, or apparent adherence to despised systems of thought such as that of Kant.

Because of this, Objectivists have lately started on the not-unexpected activity of rewriting intellectual history (e.g, the recent book on scientific induction). Furthermore, it is quite apparent from discussions with Objectivists about traditional 19th and 20th century ideas of biological evolution, that they are quite ready to throw out a cosmological theory such as "Big Bang" and adopt a steady-state model in order to give themselves enough time for putative Darwinian processes to work (since, as can be shown, a Big-Bang model claiming that the entire universe cannot be more than about 12 billion years old is not enough time for random processes + "natural selection" alone to have accomplished the creation of life from non-living entities, not to mention the apparent speciation of life from an original primal form. To get these results, Objectivists -- those who finally manage to understand the arguments and what's actually at issue -- realize that their universe needs far more time than a mere 12 billion years. That's why they usually gravitate [sorry for the pun] to some form of steady-state model).

I believe the main reason why some Objectivists seem to feel uncomfortable with the "Bing Bang" theory is that it comes too dangerously close (in their minds) to the idea of a creatio ex nihilo and some god as the creator of all this.

But, as Lawrence Krauss said it so well:

"Nothing isn't 'nothing' anymore. In physics. Because of the laws of Quantum Mechancis and Special Relativity, "nothing" is really a boiling, bubbling brew of virtual particles popping in and out of existence in time so short you can't see them." (LK)

Link to the Krauss lecture Ba'al posted here in the Science & Mathematics section -

"A Universe from Nothing": http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=7921&st=0

[quoting poster WhYNot] The influence of O'ism on all disciplines, science included, will take root in the near future for the simple reason that reality can't be escaped for long.

I hear that often . . . but only from Objectivists. I also remember hearing the same thing over 30 years ago, and to date, the influence of Objectivism on any discipline -- science included -- has been nil. I suppose True Believers will then use Objectivism to explain the lack of Objectivism's influence by reference to a presumed irrationality of all parties concerned, including scientists.

Objectivism faces the problems of all closed philosophical or ideological systems: the inability to survive. No closed system has survived so far, and the grailkeepers (like e. g. Peikoff for Objectivism) who work so hard to keep the system free from other influences, in doing so, in fact contribute to that which they wanted to avoid at all costs: the death of the doctrine.

Mr AA,

Your elitist, intellectualist machismo does not impress me.

So far you have demonstrated contempt for anything Objectivist, but nothing of any substance that you actually stand for.

So let's hear it.

Instead of spreading your bile over every thread that offers you an opportunity, start one of your own.

"A Case Against Objectivism", perhaps?

You may find a couple of supporters here, but for the rest, it could demonstrate some intellectual integrity, instead of your present hit-and-run tactics.

You may also find that not everyone is as easy meat as I am.

Do you dare?

Instead of spreading your bile over every thread that offers you an opportunity, start one of your own.

"A Case Against Objectivism", perhaps?

OK. I offer the recent posts of whYNOT as Exhibit A.

You may also find that not everyone is as easy meat as I am.

Easy meat? Sounds exciting. Are you a woman?

AA,

I'm afraid you will find only very few women here, AA, so if you are looking for "easy meat", there may be other forums more suitable to satisfy any "hunger" in that field. ;)

I just read a couple of your posts here - you sure fire on all cylinders, delivering a broadside of arguments.

As for making a case against Objectivism, one has to be aware that the critic always has the easier task.

For the critic is free to point out holes, inconsistencies and contradictions in a philosophical or ideological thought system, without, on his part, having the burden of defending a system as a whole, a burden which the advocate of a philosophy does have.

Before you start with exhibits though, for reasons of clarity, imo it is better to present your main objection(s) regarding the premises of Objectivism (if you have any, that is).

I'm also interested in getting an answer to another question I want to ask you in the context of this discussion.

You wrote:

The pious belief that one's beloved philosophical system will change everyone's mind for the better "at some point in the indefinite future" is typical of cult worship, and is highly reminiscent of the way leftists in the 1930s believed that Marxism will bring the blessings of a socialist workers' paradise "sometime in the future."

One could call Marxism a typical 'secular salvation religion'.

Do you believe in any religion (secular or not)? I have not read all your posts here, but have came across a comment by another poster who called you a Creationist.

Are you a Creationist?

For the critic is free to point out holes, inconsistencies and contradictions in a philosophical or ideological thought system, without, on his part, having the burden of defending a system as a whole, a burden which the advocate of a philosophy does have.

Often true, but not always. The advocate might agree with the critic yet still adhere to his doctrine, admitting that the doctrine is incomplete. Objectivism and induction are good examples. No one -- certainly not Rand -- ever stated that the problem of induction had been solved; merely that Objectivism "pointed the way" and would "solve it sometime in the future." Yet that certainly never dissuaded anyone from being doctrinaire about Objectivism.

I also disagree with your notion that a closed-system necessarily declines. Islam is a perfect example of a closed-system that has not only been widely held since the 7th century, but which is now enjoying a resurgence in just those interpretations of it that are the most closed and least open to new knowledge about the world. Your statement is a kind of philosophical Optimism: given enough time, closed-systems inevitably disappear through a kind of self-strangulation leaving the way open for better and better systems of thought. Untrue.

Before you start with exhibits though, for reasons of clarity, imo it is better to present your main objection(s) regarding the premises of Objectivism (if you have any, that is).

As practiced by its followers, Objectivism is a species of materialism. By the truism "Existence exists", many, if not most, Objectivists intend to mean "Only material things exist", or if they don't mean that, then they certain intend to mean "Material things, by necessity, existed first; then, somehow, non-material things such as Mind emerged out of the pre-existing material things." It's a logical impossibility, of course, as well as having zero empirical evidence to support it. Additionally, if true, it would imply determinism of thought (since Mind would be dependent on the material substrate from which it putative arose; and since my material substrate is not identical to your material substrate, it implies that my ideas are as valid as your ideas, and Truth becomes non-objective). However, Objectivists often hold to this position because they believe that to grant equal status to the existence of non-material things like Mind somehow implies a mystical metaphysics. It certainly does not. If "Existence exists" has any meaning at all, it means "The universe comprises two basic kinds of entities: material entities like matter, and non-material like mind. Each has an identity; each has properties that are unique to it, and which cannot be reduced to properties of the other; i.e., matter is not a projection of Mind; Mind is not some sort of highly attenuated, or very thin sort of matter." And this implies, of course, that neither "evolved" from the other. They both emerged together at the beginning, and have always co-existed together.

I'm also interested in getting an answer to another question I want to ask you in the context of this discussion.

You wrote:

AristotlesAdvance, on 02 December 2010 - 07:10 PM, said:

The pious belief that one's beloved philosophical system will change everyone's mind for the better "at some point in the indefinite future" is typical of cult worship, and is highly reminiscent of the way leftists in the 1930s believed that Marxism will bring the blessings of a socialist workers' paradise "sometime in the future."

One could call Marxism a typical 'secular salvation religion'.

Do you believe in any religion (secular or not)?

I believe that one should have a Good Time, All The Time.

I'm not an anti-evolutionist but an anti-Darwinist. "Evolution" does not necessarily mean "Darwinism." Darwin had a particular take on evolution that was considered quite novel at the time, even to his own teachers at Cambridge. The transformation of an embryo to a fetus is an example of an evolution that is non-Darwinian: one entity transforms, or evolves over time, into another, but there's no trial-and-error process of a random mutation being retained by natural selection (to the extent that actually occurs to a developing embryo, it is usually disastrous, causing harm to the development, indicating that it is quite clearly an accident, not the mechanism by which normal development proceeds -- additionally, biochemistry now knows for certain that biochemical systems like the cell, like DNA, like the gene, etc., all have defense systems that protect themselves from precisely those processes that Darwinists claim are most important, i.e., random forces and natural selection). The normal process of development is an Aristotelian "entelechy", an unfolding, that proceeds according to a plan about which we now know a little bit. Genes code information, and information -- not complicated chemistry -- is the secret of life. Without information, life is simply inert chemicals. If you want to explain where the first living thing came from, you have to explain where the first bit of information came from.

I have not read all your posts here, but have came across a comment by another poster who called you a Creationist.

Are you a Creationist?

In line with current biochemical research, I believe life requires information. In line with common sense and computer science, I believe information requires input from an intelligent source capable of choosing a goal and choosing among alternative means to achieve that goal. I leave open the question of who or what could have created the first bit of information.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Whether and to what extent being able to crank the arithmetic of quantum mechanics enabled the production of computer chips is beyond my ken. For all I know, integrated circuits evolved incrementally from the catwhisker crytal diode (the source of the symbol for the transistor).

They did not. The effective understanding of semi-conductors did not emerge until the quantum theory of solids was formulated. Two of the three people who developed the transistor at Bell Telephone Labs dug into their learning of quantum physics to figure out how to make a field effect transistor.

Without quantum physics there would be no integrated circuits.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

Now you know why I pay attentions to results rather than to philosophical rantings and ravings.

Ba'al Chatzaf

However, apparently you pay much less attention to the philosophical rantings and ravings of physicists than that of philosophers. You rant about the latter way more than you do about the former.

Who are delivering the goodies? The physicists or the philosophers (metaphysicians).?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

He does accept without question that humans are not evolving, that we are essetially the same today as we were 10,000 or even 100,000 years ago. The works of Julian Jaynes and Denise Schmandt-Besserat suggest strongly that humans of 8000 BC did not have the same minds (or brains) that we do today.

Julian Jaynes was a crack-pot. His book -The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind- is very witty and amusing and does not have whit or scintilla of neurophysiology or human genetics to back it up.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

As practiced by its followers, Objectivism is a species of materialism. By the truism "Existence exists", many, if not most, Objectivists intend to mean "Only material things exist", or if they don't mean that, then they certain intend to mean "Material things, by necessity, existed first; then, somehow, non-material things such as Mind emerged out of the pre-existing material things." It's a logical impossibility, of course, as well as having zero empirical evidence to support it. Additionally, if true, it would imply determinism of thought (since Mind would be dependent on the material substrate from which it putative arose; and since my material substrate is not identical to your material substrate, it implies that my ideas are as valid as your ideas, and Truth becomes non-objective). However, Objectivists often hold to this position because they believe that to grant equal status to the existence of non-material things like Mind somehow implies a mystical metaphysics. It certainly does not. If "Existence exists" has any meaning at all, it means "The universe comprises two basic kinds of entities: material entities like matter, and non-material like mind. Each has an identity; each has properties that are unique to it, and which cannot be reduced to properties of the other; i.e., matter is not a projection of Mind; Mind is not some sort of highly attenuated, or very thin sort of matter." And this implies, of course, that neither "evolved" from the other. They both emerged together at the beginning, and have always co-existed together.

That's your case against Objectivism?

An accusation of 'materialism' is not going to disguise the fact that a. you don't understand O'ism as well as I'd surmised.

b. that your understanding of mind, matter, and determinism is concretist.

c. your entire premise rest on creationism and intelligent design.

Once © is revealed as your shaky foundation, all the rest you have written here makes sense: rationalization, post facto justification.

"They [mind and matter] both emerged together at the beginning..."

Link to post
Share on other sites

Now you know why I pay attentions to results rather than to philosophical rantings and ravings.

Ba'al Chatzaf

However, apparently you pay much less attention to the philosophical rantings and ravings of physicists than that of philosophers. You rant about the latter way more than you do about the former.

Who are delivering the goodies? The physicists or the philosophers (metaphysicians).?

Since you used "are", I guess you don't want me to mention Aristotle's work on deductive logic. :)

What do you consider "goodies"? Obviously professional philosophers don't deliver goodies like GPS devices, cell phones, and computers. However, many of them being professors, they do deliver what others may consider "goodies" -- some education.

Should we approve all the "goodies"? I expect some physicists are working on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Suppose this leads to the development of a nuclear weapon -- a "goodie" for some Iranians -- that Iran uses against Israel. No professional philosophers are going to produce such "goodies."

To summarize it seems you are being pretty selective about what you consider "goodies." :)

Link to post
Share on other sites
.

Should we approve all the "goodies"? I expect some physicists are working on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Suppose this leads to the development of a nuclear weapon -- a "goodie" for some Iranians -- that Iran uses against Israel. No professional philosophers are going to produce such "goodies."

I mean the scientific theories, applied science and the engineering. Questions of politics and military intelligence are not in the domain of physics, the science. I imagine physicists are no better at analyzing intelligence than non-physicists.

While Aristotle's produced the first important and usable works in deductive logic his metaphysical dabblings into matter and motion varied from Just PlainWrong to Not Even Wrong. Aristotle refrained from testing his theories of matter and motion thoroughly. With the exception of lenses and gunpowder Galileo had the same technology for checking out his theories of motion as did Aristotle. Galileo got much different results, this partly because he practiced thorough and accurate experimentation.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

In line with common sense and computer science, I believe information requires input from an intelligent source capable of choosing a goal and choosing among alternative means to achieve that goal. I leave open the question of who or what could have created the first bit of information.

But then who/what created the "intelligent source"? The who created the previous one and on and on ad infinitum?

Your own logic fails right here. Why not stop when evidence stops? Life evolved simply because it seems that life is inherent in matter under the right conditions. The laws governing matter just "are". There is no logical footing to look beyond and ask "why" the laws are this way (at least not yet). It is a nonsensical question like asking what's north of the north pole.

Bob

Link to post
Share on other sites

In line with common sense and computer science, I believe information requires input from an intelligent source capable of choosing a goal and choosing among alternative means to achieve that goal. I leave open the question of who or what could have created the first bit of information.

But then who/what created the "intelligent source"? The who created the previous one and on and on ad infinitum?

Your own logic fails right here. Why not stop when evidence stops? Life evolved simply because it seems that life is inherent in matter under the right conditions. The laws governing matter just "are". There is no logical footing to look beyond and ask "why" the laws are this way (at least not yet). It is a nonsensical question like asking what's north of the north pole.

Bob

"North of the north pole" is straight up.

--Brant

I'm so clever

Link to post
Share on other sites

Should we approve all the "goodies"? I expect some physicists are working on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Suppose this leads to the development of a nuclear weapon -- a "goodie" for some Iranians -- that Iran uses against Israel. No professional philosophers are going to produce such "goodies."

Every advance in science has the potential to be put to either good (moral) use or bad (immoral) use. The moral quality of the uses is not tightly bound to the epistemological and theoretical qualities of the advances or discoveries. Think of Archimedes and his levers and pulleys. The same tools could be used to launch either freight vessels or war vessels. Archimedes' work in multiplying the force of human muscle and providing a way for machines to move and turn things on balance has been for the good of human kind. His work in levers made digging, lifting and turning more feasible. Every sky-scraper owes its existence to the work of Archimedes. We are better off for knowing how to multiply mechanical force.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

In line with common sense and computer science, I believe information requires input from an intelligent source capable of choosing a goal and choosing among alternative means to achieve that goal. I leave open the question of who or what could have created the first bit of information.

But then who/what created the "intelligent source"? The who created the previous one and on and on ad infinitum?

Your own logic fails right here. Why not stop when evidence stops? Life evolved simply because it seems that life is inherent in matter under the right conditions. The laws governing matter just "are". There is no logical footing to look beyond and ask "why" the laws are this way (at least not yet). It is a nonsensical question like asking what's north of the north pole.

Bob

But then who/what created the "intelligent source"? The who created the previous one and on and on ad infinitum?

1. The same infinite regress appears in materialism. In practice, materialists simply push back the explanation until they arrive at a putative cause about which they can say nothing. Who knows what caused the singularity before the Big Bang to come into existence? It always was in existence.

If the causal explanation "X always was in existence" is good enough for materialism, it's good enough for teleology, too.

2. As it so happens, the regress, as you have stated it, is simply irrelevant in fields where intelligent goal-directedness operates. If the cause of Windows 7 arising in the world is the intelligent activity of a programmer (or programmers), then the regress stops right there; it's plain silly to ask, "Well, what caused the programmers to arise?" If the cause of an entity like the play "Hamlet" to arise in the natural world is the intelligent, goal-directed activity of William Shakespeare, then that's the Prime Mover -- the First Cause -- of the play having arisen. No one would then ask, "But who or what caused William Shakespeare to arise in the natural world!!??" I suppose that would be Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare, but so what? They actually have nothing to do with the chain of causality for "Hamlet" that begins with William.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The same infinite regress appears in materialism. In practice, materialists simply push back the explanation until they arrive at a putative cause about which they can say nothing.

Well, I think those two sentences are contradictory, but the point is that 'materialism' stops when evidence runs out. There is no invention of a "man in the sky".

it's plain silly to ask, "Well, what caused the programmers to arise?"

No, it's not.

Bob

Link to post
Share on other sites

The same infinite regress appears in materialism. In practice, materialists simply push back the explanation until they arrive at a putative cause about which they can say nothing.

Well, I think those two sentences are contradictory, but the point is that 'materialism' stops when evidence runs out. There is no invention of a "man in the sky".

it's plain silly to ask, "Well, what caused the programmers to arise?"

No, it's not.

Bob

What is the origin of light. What caused the First Photon?

If you can answer that with --- X caused the First Photon, I will then ask what caused X. And so. Any assertion of cause either leads to a circle (which is no explanation) or an infinite regress (which is no explanation). The world is Turtles All The Way Down.

Either that or there is something without a cause. That something has always existed or that something came into existence causeless.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

But then who/what created the "intelligent source"? The who created the previous one and on and on ad infinitum?

1. The same infinite regress appears in materialism. In practice, materialists simply push back the explanation until they arrive at a putative cause about which they can say nothing. Who knows what caused the singularity before the Big Bang to come into existence? It always was in existence.

If the causal explanation "X always was in existence" is good enough for materialism, it's good enough for teleology, too.

"Materialists" -- a label that you toss around with reckless abandon -- don't claim that the existence matter and energy (broadly conceived) require a causal explanation to begin with.

You, in contrast, begin with the premise that intelligent life, and life generally, do require a causal explanation -- and here "materialists" agree with you. But you then go on to posit a form of intelligent life as an ultimate causal explanation of intelligent life, thereby contradicting your premise that the existence of intelligent life itself requires a causal explanation. This is why it is legitimate to ask, "Then what caused the existence of your Intelligent Designer?"

Of course, you can -- and you probably will, eventually -- squirm around this problem by claiming that the "intelligence" of your ID is not the same kind of intelligence that demands a causal explanation, or that your ID is not a "living" being in the sense that we normally understand this word. In other words, you will progressively push your Intelligent Designer into the realm of the unknowable.

The fact that we must posit some kind of causal primary does not mean that we can reasonably posit any kind of causal primary. The degree of complexity is one factor here, among others.

2. As it so happens, the regress, as you have stated it, is simply irrelevant in fields where intelligent goal-directedness operates. If the cause of Windows 7 arising in the world is the intelligent activity of a programmer (or programmers), then the regress stops right there; it's plain silly to ask, "Well, what caused the programmers to arise?" If the cause of an entity like the play "Hamlet" to arise in the natural world is the intelligent, goal-directed activity of William Shakespeare, then that's the Prime Mover -- the First Cause -- of the play having arisen. No one would then ask, "But who or what caused William Shakespeare to arise in the natural world!!??" I suppose that would be Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare, but so what? They actually have nothing to do with the chain of causality for "Hamlet" that begins with William.

You are confusing epistemological explanations with metaphysical causes. We accept explanations when they tell us what we need to know in a given context. We do not include Shakespeare's parents when explaining his plays because they have no direct relevance. (Everyone has parents, after all.) But Shakespeare's parents could be relevant to an explanation, as when some 19th century skeptics questioned whether Shakespeare ever existed. Similarly, if we think that genius is genetically transmitted, his parentage might be relevant to an explanation as well.

Ghs

Link to post
Share on other sites

The same infinite regress appears in materialism. In practice, materialists simply push back the explanation until they arrive at a putative cause about which they can say nothing.

Well, I think those two sentences are contradictory, but the point is that 'materialism' stops when evidence runs out. There is no invention of a "man in the sky".

it's plain silly to ask, "Well, what caused the programmers to arise?"

No, it's not.

Bob

Yes it is. The only relevant answer to "How did Hamlet come to exist"? is "A guy named William Shakespeare thought it up and wrote it down." The Big Bang and how it putatively led to the appearance after billions of years to a Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare is irrelevant, because it fails to explain what we requested: how did Hamlet come to be written? Answer: William Shakespeare created it. That's the First Cause and the only relevant answer.

Same for computer programmers who wrote Windows 7. The occurrence of a Big Bang 12 million years ago, and the supposed evolution -- guided or unguided -- since then, has zero to do with answering the question.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The same infinite regress appears in materialism. In practice, materialists simply push back the explanation until they arrive at a putative cause about which they can say nothing.

Well, I think those two sentences are contradictory, but the point is that 'materialism' stops when evidence runs out. There is no invention of a "man in the sky".

it's plain silly to ask, "Well, what caused the programmers to arise?"

No, it's not.

Bob

What is the origin of light. What caused the First Photon?

If you can answer that with --- X caused the First Photon, I will then ask what caused X. And so. Any assertion of cause either leads to a circle (which is no explanation) or an infinite regress (which is no explanation). The world is Turtles All The Way Down.

Either that or there is something without a cause. That something has always existed or that something came into existence causeless.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Precisely my point. Thanks for agreeing with me.

Whether materialist or telic, one either assumes an infinite regress -- each cause being itself an effect of some antecedent cause, ad infinitum -- or one arrives at a putative First Cause.

Link to post
Share on other sites

But then who/what created the "intelligent source"? The who created the previous one and on and on ad infinitum?

1. The same infinite regress appears in materialism. In practice, materialists simply push back the explanation until they arrive at a putative cause about which they can say nothing. Who knows what caused the singularity before the Big Bang to come into existence? It always was in existence.

If the causal explanation "X always was in existence" is good enough for materialism, it's good enough for teleology, too.

"Materialists" -- a label that you toss around with reckless abandon -- don't claim that the existence matter and energy (broadly conceived) require a causal explanation to begin with.

You, in contrast, begin with the premise that intelligent life, and life generally, do require a causal explanation -- and here "materialists" agree with you. But you then go on to posit a form of intelligent life as an ultimate causal explanation of intelligent life, thereby contradicting your premise that the existence of intelligent life itself requires a causal explanation. This is why it is legitimate to ask, "Then what caused the existence of your Intelligent Designer?"

Of course, you can -- and you probably will, eventually -- squirm around this problem by claiming that the "intelligence" of your ID is not the same kind of intelligence that demands a causal explanation, or that your ID is not a "living" being in the sense that we normally understand this word. In other words, you will progressively push your Intelligent Designer into the realm of the unknowable.

The fact that we must posit some kind of causal primary does not mean that we can reasonably posit any kind of causal primary. The degree of complexity is one factor here, among others.

2. As it so happens, the regress, as you have stated it, is simply irrelevant in fields where intelligent goal-directedness operates. If the cause of Windows 7 arising in the world is the intelligent activity of a programmer (or programmers), then the regress stops right there; it's plain silly to ask, "Well, what caused the programmers to arise?" If the cause of an entity like the play "Hamlet" to arise in the natural world is the intelligent, goal-directed activity of William Shakespeare, then that's the Prime Mover -- the First Cause -- of the play having arisen. No one would then ask, "But who or what caused William Shakespeare to arise in the natural world!!??" I suppose that would be Mr. and Mrs. Shakespeare, but so what? They actually have nothing to do with the chain of causality for "Hamlet" that begins with William.

You are confusing epistemological explanations with metaphysical causes. We accept explanations when they tell us what we need to know in a given context. We do not include Shakespeare's parents when explaining his plays because they have no direct relevance. (Everyone has parents, after all.) But Shakespeare's parents could be relevant to an explanation, as when some 19th century skeptics questioned whether Shakespeare ever existed. Similarly, if we think that genius is genetically transmitted, his parentage might be relevant to an explanation as well.

Ghs

"Materialists" -- a label that you toss around with reckless abandon -- don't claim that the existence matter and energy (broadly conceived) require a causal explanation to begin with.

So for "materialists" -- broadly conceived -- matter and energy (also broadly conceived) simply "always were, and always will be."

Sounds as if they've found a First Cause (i.e., matter and energy, broadly conceived). Logically, there is no difference between this and the standard theistic First Cause: "God always was and always will be."

Your materialist simply swapped "matter and energy" for "God."

I believe it was the rhetorician Kenneth Burke who referred to this sort of use of terms as "God terms."

"All effects are ultimately physical/material in nature; all effects must have some physical/material cause, involving some interaction of Matter and Energy . . . but we dare not ask the cause of Matter and Energy: nothing caused them; they simply always were, and always will be." (Amen.).

You, in contrast, begin with the premise that intelligent life, and life generally, do require a causal explanation -- and here "materialists" agree with you. But you then go on to posit a form of intelligent life as an ultimate causal explanation of intelligent life,

I said nothing about intelligent LIFE as a First Cause. I spoke only about an intelligent cause. You erroneously connect the concepts "intelligence" and "life" because, in your experience, they are always found together. I have no doubt that the First Cause was intelligent, since it's the only assumption consistent with certain facts -- physical as well as non-physical -- that we all see and experience today; I doubt very much it was "alive" in any meaningful sense of that term. At this point, Objectivists tiresomely trot out the old "stolen concept" canard, as if that's a valid criticism. It isn't.

This is why it is legitimate to ask, "Then what caused the existence of your Intelligent Designer?"

See above. You're OK with "Nothing caused matter and energy to arise"? I'm OK with "Nothing caused the first intelligent designer to arise." Logically, they are the same argument, just different terms.

Of course, you can -- and you probably will, eventually -- squirm around this problem by claiming that the "intelligence" of your ID is not the same kind of intelligence that demands a causal explanation, or that your ID is not a "living" being in the sense that we normally understand this word. In other words, you will progressively push your Intelligent Designer into the realm of the unknowable.

You're merely balking at the fact of irreducible primaries and ultimate causes. The most you can really say about an ultimate cause is that it's an ultimate cause -- a First Cause, a Prime Mover. You can infer certain things about it from its effects, of course, but one obviously can't inquire as to what caused the First Cause because then one contradicts the assumption that it's indeed a First Cause. This is as true for an Intelligent Designer as it is for Matter and Energy. You merely feel comfortable with one set of terms rather than another.

The fact that we must posit some kind of causal primary does not mean that we can reasonably posit any kind of causal primary.

Ah! Well said! THAT is actually a different (and better) argument on your part. I might add, too, that the way we decide upon which causal primaries are adequate for conducting inquiry is NOT by an appeal to a beloved philosophical system or author, but by reference to objective facts about the universe; i.e., if there are objective facts about the universe that cannot be explained by means of certain causal primaries, then we find different causal primaries. The question at hand now becomes this: if we posit only Matter and Energy as irreducible causal primaries, can we PLAUSIBLY think of a pathway -- as per this discussion, a specifically Darwinian pathway involving random events and lots of time -- whose effect will be a protein of 300 amino acids long, with nothing but peptide bonds, and nothing but left-handed isomers, in the time that our best science tells us we have since time began, i.e., about 12 billion years?

The answer is no. I did the calculation already, and I already explained why a search space of 10^600 won't fit into a room whose dimensions are 10^142.

You ran out of matter, energy, and time.

Ergo: the starting assumption for your causal primaries was either completely wrong, or simply insufficient. "Intelligence" itself has to be a causal primary, either contemporary with Matter and Energy, or antecedent to it.

You are confusing epistemological explanations with metaphysical causes.

You are conflating metaphysical causes with matter and energy. I've already shown that matter and energy alone, acting over the available total time-span of the universe, cannot overcome the odds of an event whose chances of occurring are 1/10^600. The only cause capable of leaping over a number like that is intelligence -- we know this from our own direct experience, so there's nothing invalid about inferring a similar sort of action to something else. Therefore, your phrase "metaphysical causes" must comprise matter, energy, and intelligence. Matter and energy may be necessary, but they are insufficient.

We do not include Shakespeare's parents when explaining his plays because they have no direct relevance. (Everyone has parents, after all.)

True, but only Shakespeare had HIS parents. no one else did. As you point out, however, even limiting analysis to HIS parents is irrelevant: Shakespeare's parents are not part of the series of telic causes and effects that ended in an effect called "Hamlet." The only way that his parents could be relevant to explaining the existence of Hamlet would be if we had evidence that it was his parents who thought up the play, and either transmitted that information to Will, who wrote it down; or if Will had acquired the information from them illicitly (stole it, plagiarized it, etc.). Otherwise, as you say, his parents are not part of the causal chain, which begins with William. He is the Intelligent Designer, the First Cause, the Prime Mover of the play "Hamlet."

Any additional inquiry as to what caused William Shakespeare to create Hamlet is an attempt to get a different sort of information from the inquiry, and for a different purpose. As part of the causal inquiry, we might ask "Why did he create the play?" "How did he write it, i.e., what existing story information did he have to work with?" etc. These are perfectly legitimate questions, but in a completely different sense from the metaphysical-causal one discussed above.

(By way of another example: Milton wrote Paradise Lost by dictating it to his daughter, since he had become blind by then. In a literal sense, therefore, his daughter "wrote" Paradise Lost, but Milton's imagination and intelligence were the irreducible First Causes responsible for bringing the epic into existence. Any metaphysical-causal inquiry into what caused Paradise Lost to come into existence obviously need not include the daughter.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sounds as if they've found a First Cause (i.e., matter and energy, broadly conceived). Logically, there is no difference between this and the standard theistic First Cause: "God always was and always will be."

Not so. Matter/Energy is describable by well formed mathematical principles. God is not. Our hypotheses about matter/energy lead to testable quantitative prediction. Nothing said about god yields such results.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

See above. You're OK with "Nothing caused matter and energy to arise"? I'm OK with "Nothing caused the first intelligent designer to arise." Logically, they are the same argument, just different terms.

The argument has the same form, but it is NOT logically the same argument. The statement that "Nothing caused matter and energy to arise" is a recognition of where our knowledge has run out, or where our mathematics end. Inventing a designer has NO logical basis whatsoever so calling this the "same argument" is nonsense.

EDIT: My hunch is that we humans do not properly understand the time/causality thing very well.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac
Link to post
Share on other sites

EDIT: My hunch is that we humans do not properly understand the time/causality thing very well.

Bob

Hume inclined to this position.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now