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How do we know there's a God? What is he like?

Re: How can I know God exists? Where are the evidences?

Postby Choking » Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:05 pm

Reliability of a naturally evolved brain.

> Correct. And since we're talking about causality, that is the most important piece: How did it get started?

> Yes, you have simulated this, but it didn't cause itself. You programmed it to do this and let it fly.

> It was given a genetic algorithm. All this time I'm talking about causality. An intelligent being programmed in the generation algorithms. What put the system in motion?

Yes, the system was put in place. If you look back a few comments, though, you'll see that this section of our debate was relating to the evolution of thought through natural selection, not about the initial cause that put the system in place. Your claim was that a naturally evolved brain cannot be reliable. I think I'm going to go back to labeling the sections.

Requirements for Informational Data

> OK. It sounds like you are claiming that what we have now came from causes that did not have these characteristics, from parts that didn't have these capabilities, and from processes lacking these necessary pieces—in other words, that the sum is far greater than the parts and that the resulting product has components that didn't exist in previous iterations. To me that's a less-than-sufficient explanation for the realities I see. When I see a carpenter using a hammer and nails in wood, I assume that the source of his materials was a sufficient cause for the product in hand. It is not sufficient that my total evidence includes causes and components that were not somehow in the system to begin with. Eventually, on a lack of a sufficient cause, you are left to claim, "Well, obviously it just happened out of processes and parts that didn't previously exist." My case, on the contrary, is that the sufficient cause is greater than the resulting product, which to me makes more sense. What has come is from what was, not from what wasn't.

You're still not directly addressing the question of intelligence. Why is it necessary? I really don't understand where you make that leap. I'm not even trying to use it as a "gotcha" question—I literally don't understand how that conclusion results from the premises, when we know that informational data can come from an unintelligent source.

I also don't understand how the carpenter analogy applies. What represents what?

> Eventually, on a lack of a sufficient cause, you are left to claim, "Well, obviously it just happened out of processes and parts that didn't previously exist."

When two rabbits mate and have a litter, the babies are new "processes and parts" that did not previously exist. In fact, nothing like them previously existed - they have an entirely new genetic code. So, yes, I suppose I am claiming that. Can you clarify your argument, or show me why this interpretation is wrong?

Rationality of a Deterministic Brain

> There is evidence that a human brain is dynamic, not static and determined. It is able to create new neuronic patterns, new junctions, even new blood vessels creating new paths, new potential thought patterns, new memories, new processes. It can create its way around stroke injury, for instance. It isn't determined like a broken Chinese satellite under the power of gravity, but it can learn to do things all by itself because it was designed to learn, not just to respond. That's why thinking cannot be predicted like gravity.

Dynamic isn't the opposite of deterministic. AI is also dynamic in many ways, but it is also deterministic.

> The point is causality. Is it more reasonable to infer that "Aren't we the lucky ones! All this just happened", or "This surely has too many elements of purposeful design to have just happened"? We've been coursing through this conversation for a long time now, and I'm enjoying it, but it's difficult to fathom that you can think that all the complexities and marvels of the universe and life just happened and we're the beneficiaries of it. To me, obviously, it makes far better sense to think that there was a sufficient cause.

It's not luck - in a large enough universe, it was bound to happen, and life has probably happened many times throughout the universe. The only "design" I can see is easily explainable via evolution, even if we don't understand every step. Evolution is our purpose. That's why we exist, why we think the way we do, and why we were made the way we are.
Choking
 

Re: How can I know God exists? Where are the evidences?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Apr 03, 2018 2:52 pm

> Your claim was that a naturally evolved brain cannot be reliable.

You're right. The whole conversation is about causality, but we are dipping into many other areas. My point was that a naturally-evolved brain cannot be counted on to be reliable. I still hold to that, based on the argument I gave previously along with the quotes from Nietszschsche, Nagel, Stroud, Churchland, and Darwin. You countered that "since reliability is a positive evolutionary trait and would be selected for, we can say that the brain is, largely, reliable," but there is neither logic in that nor evidence for it. How can reliability come from a system that is concerned only with reproductive success. And also remember that natural selection either selects for the entire organism or against it. It can't be selective about specific components.

To claim that reason is reliable because it evolved as reliable is a circular argument. You are presupposing reliability to draw the conclusion of reliability.

> You're still not directly addressing the question of intelligence. Why is it necessary?

Speaking with the voice of naturalism, intelligence is only helpful for survival, and only as much is needed as contributes to it. I think there is confusion over terms, and possibly for the sake of progressing in the argument we need to leave the "intelligence" part behind. My real point is that informational data only comes from previous informational data.

> When two rabbits mate and have a litter, the babies are new "processes and parts" that did not previously exist. In fact, nothing like them previously existed - they have an entirely new genetic code.

This is not a worthy analogy. Two rabbits make new rabbits, but they're still rabbits. They have roughly the same genetic code, but always with some mutational changes. They are still distinctively rabbits with 22 chromosomal pairs. What you are claiming is that in the broad view, things resulted from components not previously in the system.

> Dynamic isn't the opposite of deterministic.

But it is in conflict with it. If all things were determined, then science and logic should be able to answer all questions, even regarding who will win a sporting event or how the stock market will behave. For determinism to be truly determined, all things become able to be calculated and concluded. But this is not the case. In addition, lest you are already objecting, QM is particularly indeterminate. In QM we don't get a prediction of a unique configuration for a system at a given time, but only a distribution of probabilities across many possible outcomes.

> It's not luck - in a large enough universe, it was bound to happen

Suppose we're playing poker, and I deal myself four aces. You'd by suspicious, but possibly OK with it. But suppose it happened again. You would be angry. But I could say that given the number of cards in the deck and the random process of dealing, it's possible—which you would have to admit. If it happened a third time, you'd come after me. But couldn't I claim that given the probabilities, it was bound to happen some day? How would that explanation sound to you??

You claim life and "fine-tuning" (an environment suitable for life within very small parameters) was bound to happen, but that just cries out for explanation, and we have to infer the most reasonable conclusion.

You are contending that, given enough time, enough components, and enough trial-and-error/cause-and-effect, eventually a universe with a life-permitting set of parameters and the right sequence of events (without any guiding intelligence or purpose) would arise. Then we have to deal with what makes more sense: a universe that somehow eeked itself into balance and life despite infinitesimally (to the point of miraculous) small odds, or the universe coming from the design of a powerful, purposeful, personal cause? If there is a God, the chances of there being a universe such as ours is fairly reasonable; if there is no God, the chances of it are ludicrously small, perhaps even prohibitively improbable. Theism is more probable than naturalism.

> life has probably happened many times throughout the universe.

This is quite speculative and unfounded.

> The only "design" I can see is easily explainable via evolution

Michael Behe has expounded some formidable arguments about irreducible complexity that challenge this thought.
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Re: How can I know God exists? Where are the evidences?

Postby Choking » Wed Apr 04, 2018 2:35 pm

Reliability of a naturally evolved brain.

> You countered that "since reliability is a positive evolutionary trait and would be selected for, we can say that the brain is, largely, reliable," but there is neither logic in that nor evidence for it. How can reliability come from a system that is concerned only with reproductive success.

Reliability is beneficial to reproduction. If a brain is more reliable, then it is more capable of making "good" decisions that help it survive and reproduce.

> And also remember that natural selection either selects for the entire organism or against it. It can't be selective about specific components.

Only generation-by-generation. Over the course of thousands of generations, though, specific components can easily be selected for or against, by weeding less efficient organisms out of the population.

> To claim that reason is reliable because it evolved as reliable is a circular argument. You are presupposing reliability to draw the conclusion of reliability.

Evolution evolves reliable features because evolution strives for reproductive success. Reliable sight, reliable digestive tracts, reliable claws, reliable limbs, and reliable brains. If an organ is not reliable, then it is a waste of energy. It is not 100% successful, but it will trend towards reliability as much as possible.

> Speaking with the voice of naturalism, intelligence is only helpful for survival, and only as much is needed as contributes to it.

Yes. This is why most animals are not intelligent. However, at some point, homo sapiens had such a form, and were in such an environment, that intelligence became a very helpful trait that was naturally selected for.

Requirements for Informational Data

> I think there is confusion over terms, and possibly for the sake of progressing in the argument we need to leave the "intelligence" part behind. My real point is that informational data only comes from previous informational data.

Which terms, though? I think intelligence is really the crux of the argument, but I would say that "informational data" is the only unclear term. The problem is that I cannot see a way to causally deduce intelligence from informational data, if you consider DNA to be a part of that set.

> This is not a worthy analogy. Two rabbits make new rabbits, but they're still rabbits. They have roughly the same genetic code, but always with some mutational changes. They are still distinctively rabbits with 22 chromosomal pairs. What you are claiming is that in the broad view, things resulted from components not previously in the system.

So which components am I assuming that were not previously in the system? Can you give me a few examples? As far as I can tell, I'm only assuming rearrangements of the same components, in which case the rabbit example is apt.

Rationality of a determined brain

> But it is in conflict with it. If all things were determined, then science and logic should be able to answer all questions, even regarding who will win a sporting event or how the stock market will behave. For determinism to be truly determined, all things become able to be calculated and concluded. But this is not the case. In addition, lest you are already objecting, QM is particularly indeterminate. In QM we don't get a prediction of a unique configuration for a system at a given time, but only a distribution of probabilities across many possible outcomes.

I believe these things can be calculated, given enough information. However, we don't have all the information about the psychology of the economy, the physiology of each individual sports player, etc. It's simply too much information to reasonably calculate.

Issues in quantum mechanics are a bit different, but there is no proof in QM of a deterministic or non-deterministic universe. I'd rather not get too deep into this, because I doubt either of us has a full understanding of even basic quantum mechanics, but pretty much all applications of QM in armchair-philosophy are based around fundamental misunderstandings of how the experiments work. Example: The double-slit experiment does not show that electrons are "aware" of being observed, but that they are difficult to measure, yet we get videos like this all the time.

Likelihood of Abiogenesis

> Suppose we're playing poker, and I deal myself four aces. You'd by suspicious, but possibly OK with it. But suppose it happened again. You would be angry. But I could say that given the number of cards in the deck and the random process of dealing, it's possible—which you would have to admit. If it happened a third time, you'd come after me. But couldn't I claim that given the probabilities, it was bound to happen some day? How would that explanation sound to you??

The probability of that happening is about 1 in 5.37e21. So if we were playing that many games and it happened once or twice, I would not be suspicious at all.

> You claim life and "fine-tuning" (an environment suitable for life within very small parameters) was bound to happen, but that just cries out for explanation, and we have to infer the most reasonable conclusion.

> You are contending that, given enough time, enough components, and enough trial-and-error/cause-and-effect, eventually a universe with a life-permitting set of parameters and the right sequence of events (without any guiding intelligence or purpose) would arise.

Not necessarily (although it's pretty likely, if you believe there are multiple universes). I'm saying our universe has some pretty basic building blocks, and we have about 700 million trillion planets alone. If life has a greater than 1 in 700,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance of occurring on any given planet, then it's very likely that it will occur.

> Then we have to deal with what makes more sense: a universe that somehow eeked itself into balance and life despite infinitesimally (to the point of miraculous) small odds, or the universe coming from the design of a powerful, purposeful, personal cause? If there is a God, the chances of there being a universe such as ours is fairly reasonable; if there is no God, the chances of it are ludicrously small, perhaps even prohibitively improbable. Theism is more probable than naturalism.

Except that those chances are not infinitesimally small. Take a look at some estimates for the Drake Equation. We don't know everything, and our numbers are almost certainly off quite a bit, but we have a surprisingly good idea of what those chances are. At least enough to know that it's finite, and is pretty likely to happen in a large enough universe. The probability of abiogenesis is very difficult to determine, with a sample size of 1, but there are many ways to give reasonable modern estimates with our current knowledge of microbiology.
Choking
 

Re: How can I know God exists? Where are the evidences?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Apr 17, 2018 2:36 am

The discussion is interesting, but we are no longer progressing. I obviously believe that the evidence is far stronger for a metaphysical, spiritual causal mechanism for life as we know it, and you obviously believe the natural explanations are sufficient causes for what we see. It's apparent that no further conversation will either persuade or dissuade either one of us.

Let's talk about the ontological argument for the existence of God. (Go to that heading on the website, still under the category of "God")


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