David Warren does it again

For David Warren, writing silly arguments in favor of God is like eating Lay’s potato chips: he can’t stop at just one.

I wrote on Sunday: “We can now roughly date the origin of our universe, and 15 billion years more-or-less is proving much too short a time for random processes to produce a non-random result. Fifteen billion times 15 billion years is still not nearly enough time.”

This, in a nutshell, is the insuperable problem with random mutation, and natural selection, so far as they are taken not as factors in an evolutionary development, but as the determinants of it. There is simply more to nature than that. You may grasp this by looking into the eyes of any animal (Redmond O’Hanlon advises against trying this with a gorilla), or at the lilies of the field, that neither toil nor spin. They are purposeful. They are not purposeless.

He got at least one thing partly right: there is more to nature than random processes. In fact, if he were to actually study real biology, he would find that, while many processes such as mutation behave in an apparently undirected manner, this is not the same as saying they are random. Whether or not the problems with “random” mutation are insuperable, actual real-life mutation is much more commonplace, and follows some complex but statistically predictable patterns.

Like so many armchair supporters, however, Warren can’t be bothered with all that. Ordinary mindless superstition is plenty good enough for him. Is there something in nature that strikes him subjectively as being particularly meaningful? Well, let’s all give credit to some invisible and indetectable Designer, then. It’s a superstition, so of course we cannot document any real-world connection between our purported Designer and the end result He is supposed to have produced. We can’t even give a reasonably specific description of what such a connection would be if it could be documented. We can’t even say for sure what it is we would even be looking for, if we were looking for it. Which Warren isn’t, needless to say. He just assumes that if he needs a thing to be true, it is simply true.

The “God thesis” is a slam-dunk, incidentally. Before any born-again Christians had arrived on the scene, Aristotle had adequately demonstrated the basic concept.

Right. Never mind the fact that God never seems to actually show up in the real world. Warren needs for God to be true, so voilà, Aristotle proved that God exists, just by thinking about cause and effect. Remarkable, isn’t it? Aristotle goes inside his own head, rummages around amongst the philosophical speculations, and there, tucked in among the rest, is Warren’s God. That certainly explains why He never seems to show up in the real world: He’s been in Aristotle’s head all along.

What Warren fails to grasp is the fact that the “unmoved mover(s)” of the cosmos are the laws of nature themselves. He even observes this to be true, though he does not give his observations full credit:

For the universe unfolds in a way that is not “random.” It is rather shaped, and governed by law — and has produced in the course of ages, creatures conscious of themselves, including one that is sentient, when it wants to be.

These laws, including the laws of cause and effect, are themselves uncaused causes. In fact, the law of cause and effect must itself be an uncaused cause, because how could you cause the law of cause and effect? If the law of cause and effect does not exist, you can’t cause it to come into existence, because that would be a cause and an effect obeying the law of cause and effect, and if the law does not exist, then it cannot be obeyed.

Warren, of course, is not interested in exploring the implications of his observations. He’s already picked out the superstitions he likes best, and as far as he’s concerned, the rest of the evidence has but one purpose: to prove that his superstitious beliefs are correct.

17 Responses to “David Warren does it again”

  1. graceMark Says:

    Thank you for bringing this discussion to the surface. Faith and science (science as defined strictly in terms of science) are two different directions. One’s view on science will almost surely be influenced by one’s faith. For me, I recognize that some things in the world (whether you believe in God or not) can and some can’t be proven. In my life I can identify reasons to stand on either side of the fence because some scientific arguments against the existence of a Creator make sense, but, not enough for me to turn my back on the faith that sustains my life, peace, and purpose. As long as taking either position, God or no god, requires faith, I’ll stick with the position that provides full life for me. Have a great day!

  2. The Professor Says:

    I find that faith in Reality provides much better satisfaction and purpose than my former faith in Jesus, the more so since it unifies my belief with my experience.

  3. graceMark Says:

    The term ‘reality’ is relative. Science is built on theories (a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something). So, is religion. None of us will really KNOW reality until the time when we had a choice to decide where we wanted to place our FAITH is gone. Whether you admit it or not, believing that there is no God requires faith just like believing that there is one. =-)

  4. The Professor Says:

    You are quite mistaken. Science is built on observations (i.e. observations of reality). If you want something that is built on people just sitting around thinking up theories, try philosophy. But even philosophy can be either good or bad, depending on how it deals with reality.

    Reality is not relative. Reality is the objective standard by which the truth of all things is measured. It does no good to say that you believe in God if you do not believe (among other things) that God is real, since in that case you might as well admit that He is merely a myth. And if you do not admit that reality exists, independently of our perceptions of it, then there’s not even any point in believing that God is real, since in that case you are still believing in a God of your own invention.

    We have one great tool available to help us understand reality, and that is the fact that truth (reality) is consistent with itself. Reality is the truth, and there is no higher calling than to know and embrace it.

  5. graceMark Says:

    Ok. I’ll admit to not clearly articulating my point. Science IS built on observations. However, the syntheses of observations that scientists use to frame the explanations of data gathered from observations (e.g., evolution) are theories. Theories are unproven ideas. Because they are unproven and often unable to be observed, one must choose to have faith (complete trust or confidence in someone or something) in them. The big bang is not able to be observed. Therefore, it is a theory. Creation is not able to be observed. Therefore, it is a theory. It simply comes down to a matter of what direction one chooses to direct their faith in. You have chosen a direction that I have chosen to reject. I chose to reject it because it provides no peace or directive for me to live my life, love, and raise a family. Why, honestly, would anyone choose a perspective on life that only offers a dead end with no prospect of meaning. That is your choice and I respect that. Just sharing my perspective. Have a good evening.

  6. graceMark Says:

    BTW, after browsing the topics of some of your other posts, it seems to me that God is simply a sensitive issue to you. Why would you frame this whole blog in the context of working against God if he doesn’t exist and doesn’t matter. It would be like me creating a blog that contains a series of posts campaigning against five-ear brown schnipple snaffers. Whether you proclaim it in a blog, a response, or not, I think you’ve got some deeper issues that make God an issue with you (just my opinion, of course). Unfortunately a lot of “Christians” do make God out to be a detestable concept, but, that doesn’t necessarily make God so. Its all about what you open or close yourself to. Again, have a good evening.

  7. The Professor Says:

    You also seem to have a mistaken idea of what a theory is, and what level of consistency with real-world data is required in order for an idea to rise to the level of a scientific theory. The power of science is rooted in one simple principle: truth is consistent with itself. Because truth is consistent with itself, we can use the truth we can observe directly in order to uncover additional truth which we cannot directly observe, by virtue of the consistency that exists between observed and unobserved truth. This is a very powerful aspect of reality, and one we can and should take advantage of.

    By the way, this blog is not “framed… in the context of working against God.” The point of this blog is to directly address the mistaken ideas people have about God and about reality. For example, your “faith” seems to have led you to reject the truth. Not just a truth; you’ve abandoned the whole idea of truth, at least as a commodity that humans can obtain. This is a mistaken idea that is shared by a lot of people, to the detriment of themselves and those around them. My goal is to address such problems, and give people the tools that will help them improve their lives. Reality is a much better and more powerful deity than Jesus, and the more people switch from myths to the truth, the better of we’ll all be.

  8. graceMark Says:

    “My goal is to address such problems, and give people the tools that will help them improve their lives.”

    Please define how adopting your perspective will improve my life.

  9. The Professor Says:

    This is actually a bit tricky to answer, because if someone loves the truth, they already know why it’s preferable to embrace reality in preference to embracing error and (self-)deception. On the other hand, if someone doesn’t love the truth, then they’re not likely to be swayed by mere facts. So how do we answer the question of how embracing the truth improves someone’s life?

    I think it might be helpful to approach the problem by tackling a simpler problem first, in hopes of gaining insights that will be useful in addressing the broader issue. Suppose, for example, that we have a friend who has become a drug addict and dropped out of life. His philosophy is that reality sucks and being high is satisfying, so the thing to do is just stay high on drugs all the time. What arguments could/should we use to convince our friend that a sober life is an improvement over a hallucinogenic one?

  10. graceMark Says:

    Again, truth is not really known. You cannot prove that God isn’t there. If you could, this conversation wouldn’t be happening because there would be nothing to discuss. Therefore, truth is not defined. I do love truth and BELIEVE or HAVE FAITH that the God that I call on IS TRUTH. You apparently BELIEVE or HAVE FAITH that TRUTH is something else. I’m not disputing the fact that you believe something. But, neither of us will be able to truly claim that we know until we’re both dead. If we’re both just dust in the ground with no spirit or afterlife then we’ll “know” that you were right. If not, then I’ll be write. This is all about what you BELIEVE or what you put your FAITH in. I do love truth and I have great faith that I am focused on it as I am.

    As for the other issue, I think the example is a poor one, though, I do see the point you were trying to make. The problem is that a drug-laced life, like an atheistic life, requires know commitment outside of yourself. I know bible quoting isn’t going to hold a lot of weight with you, but, the source book for my faith says: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…” James 1:27. Now, I realize that not all Christians follow this to a T (I’m guilty of not doing it as much as I could), but, when you’re talking in terms of helping people “improve their lives,” arguments involving self-centered drug addicts really apply. Have a good day.

  11. The Professor Says:

    Doesn’t it strike you as a bit odd that you claim both that it’s not possible for you to know what the truth even is, and also that you do love the truth? What exactly is it that you think you love? To say that God is truth and that truth cannot be known is to say you cannot know the God you claim to love. On what, then, is your love actually based?

    By the way, just to clarify: I’m not saying that I claim the authority of “The Truth” for whatever I happen to believe, and therefore everyone else should just take my word for it. I’m saying that truth is defined by objective reality, which is the sole, infallible, and accessible standard of Truth for all mankind, regardless of individual beliefs (including my own). I am saying furthermore that truth (reality) is consistent with itself, and that we can determine whether or not a thing is real-world truth by checking its consistency with itself and with objective reality.

    As for the question about the drug addict, it was not a rhetorical question nor was it intended to make a point. It is an important exercise in determining what factors make an accurate and sober knowledge of the truth better than the false satisfaction one can obtain from drugs (or delusions). I want to know what you think those factors are. Can you name them?

  12. graceMark Says:

    Rather than just participating in pointless tit-for-tat…lets get back to the idea that I originally posted: Belief in the existence of God or belief that there is no god requires faith. Your denial of this is not convincing to me. Just, for a moment, consider the possibility that God is real. Don’t you think that it would be possible, if God was real, that there might just be a little bit more in His noggin than in yours? You disqualify the existence of God based on your finite mental capacity. Kind of like a 13 year old who thinks they know more than their parents. Or think about it in these terms: Is a 1985 Apple IIe able to process the same complex programming that a 2007 Macbook can? There is so much that we don’t understand and won’t even have the ability to understand until He chooses to make it clear to us. 1 Corinthians 13:12 states: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” So, the argument that your “truth” is sufficient for me to drop my relationship with Christ is groundless. The bible states clearly and repeatedly that followers of Christ would need faith. I have faith in that God is truth – an infinite, all knowing, supernatural being. You have faith that there is no god, based on the faith you have in limited human reasoning and limited human knowledge.

  13. Evangelical Realism Reality-based faith vs. superstitious faith « Says:

    [...] faith vs. superstitious faith August 21st, 2007 — The Professor A commenter writes: Belief in the existence of God or belief that there is no god requires [...]

  14. The Professor Says:

    The problem is, I know that truth is consistent with itself. You claim that faith cannot proceed from truth, but that truth always proceeds from faith. By your definitions, the things you present to me as support for your beliefs are things which are not based on any knowledge of the truth, and indeed cannot be based on any knowledge of the truth. Nor can you appeal to the Bible to support your beliefs, since the writers of Scripture were all human and thus would be similarly incapable of basing their faith on any knowledge of the truth. By your own definitions, your beliefs are pointless and irrelevant, as far as the real world is concerned.

    My reality-based faith is infinitely superior to a merely belief-based faith, because it is intimately and inextricably symbiotic with the objective reality in which we all have our existence and meaning. I have the privilege and pleasure of seeing the object of my faith every day, first hand, and watching it behave in a way that is perfectly consistent with what I believe. I no longer need the vast repertoire of rationalizations and autosuggestions I relied on as a Christian. Everything just works, without any effort on my part. I can’t begin to tell you how much more satisfying that is than my Christian experience was.

  15. graceMark Says:

    From one Apple IIe to another…
    “satisfying”…hmm…
    You apparently find relief in giving up Christianity. I found relief in giving of up the idea of atheism. And that is where the road divides for us. I will pray for you and I hope that you truly are satisfied. You are certainly the only one that can make that decision for yourself. Should you find yourself unsatisfied at some point, check out a book like THE RAGAMUFFIN GOSPEL or ABBA’S CHILD (both by Brennan Manning). Otherwise, have a great day and take care.

    “I have lived long enough to appreciate that Christianity is lived more in the valley than on the mountaintop, that faith is never doubt-free, and that although God has revealed Himself in creation and in history, the surest way to know God is, in the words of Thomas Aquinas, as tamquam ignotum, as utterly unknowable. No thought can contain Him, no word can express Him; He is beyond anything we can intellectualize or imagine.” -From Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning Pp.98, 1994

    http://gracemark.wordpress.com

  16. The Professor Says:

    Don’t worry: reality never fails. I may not always be personally pleased with it, but I can never deny its inherent truthfulness, meaning, and self-consistency. Thanks for the book references, though. I’ll add them to my list of books to review. Right now I’m doing I Don’t Have Enough FAITH to Be an ATHEIST, by Geisler and Turek, and I’m taking it fairly slowly, so I may not get to your books for a while.

    By the way, if you want to find that which is so great that human thought cannot completely contain it or express it, you need look no farther than Reality itself, which is greater than God, and yet not “utterly unknowable.” I hope that one day you will realize how self-contradictory it is to claim to know the unknowable, and that you will find that you can know the truth, and that the truth can indeed set you free.

  17. The Professor Says:

    By the way, I notice that the comment I made on your post Trapping Infinity has mysteriously vanished. That’s your perogative, I suppose. In the interests of open discussion, however, I’ll be leaving your comments intact, including the link to your blog. Have a nice day.


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