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Friday, January 15, 2010

The First Question

The "First Question" is "Exists there a Creator-God?" The reason this is the "First Question" is that all other questions we may ask about reality, and therefore all other answers we may learn, follow from the answer we give to this question.

The question of God's existence is not just a matter of theology -- by the way, I said that precisely that way because these days most people labor under the misapprehension that matters and questions of theology are trivial, that even if a specific question may be interesting, the answer (even if it can be determined) has no importance "in the here and now." On the contrary, understanding the reality, or the non-reality, of God is fundamental to understanding "the here and now;" for the "First Question" is a question about the very nature of reality.

If we answer the "First Question" wrongly, then our understanding of reality must necessarily be incorrect, in contrast merely to being incomplete if we answer the question rightly.

There is only one possible answer to the question: either the answer is "Yes," or it is "No;" but it is not "Both 'yes' and 'no'" and it is not "Neither 'yes' nor 'no.'"

Furthermore, it's not really possible to decline to answer the question; well, not unless one is content to remain an ignoramus (which, as the saying goes, but the Latin for 'agnostic') in all ways and in all things. The reason one can't really decline to answer is because the question is about the very nature of reality. Thus, even those who assert that the question is unanswerable in principle must always comport themselves as though they already know the answer (and, generally, such folk comport themselves as though they know that the answer were "No").


"Exists there a Creator-God?"

I phrased the question that way to a purpose. The issue to be explored is not, "Does there exist some entity which we might reasonably call a 'god'?" (and which may or may not have any connection to us, who live in the world). Rather, the issue is, "Does the physical/material world exist intentionally; is the world a creation?"

See? Just as I said above, the question is about the very nature of reality, and the anwser is one or the other, either "Yes" or "No."

And everyone lives as though he knows the answer.


In this post, I am not going to answer the question. Of course, if Gentle Reader knows that I am a Christian, then he has a really good idea of which answer I will give as correct; though he may not yet know the why of it. However, the point of this post -- and any discussion which may arise from it -- is not about the answer, but is rather about the question. So: no answer from me at this time.

22 comments:

Crude said...

I'm not so sure that most people comport themselves as though the answer were "no". In fact, I find most self-declared atheists to come across - intentionally or not - as if God did exist, and therefore various parts of the world that only or most make sense if God exists (morality, truth, purpose, reason, etc) are treated as if they existed as well.

Though I also think (while I believe in a Creator-god) that one could answer "Yes" while believing in a pantheistic God, or something else. (Pantheistic in an idealist, or non-materialistic sense.)

But hey, I'm hair-splitting.

Ilíon said...

Crude: "But hey, I'm hair-splitting."

Hair-splitting is important; while it's true that some hair-splitting is not done with honest-to-the-argument intentions, that's not always the case, and, in general, there should be more hair-splitting, rather than less. Subtle distinctions are frequently vitally important. And in any event I, who split hairs all the time, can hardly justifiably complain about another doing it when there is no reason to believe that his intentions are improper.


Crude: "I'm not so sure that most people comport themselves as though the answer were "no". In fact, I find most self-declared atheists to come across - intentionally or not - as if God did exist, and therefore various parts of the world that only or most make sense if God exists (morality, truth, purpose, reason, etc) are treated as if they existed as well."

That's very true, in the way that I'm sure you mean it. But, please don't forget that the parenthetical ("generally, such folk comport themselves as though they know that the answer were "No"") is intended as an echo or reflection of the statement that "Thus, even those who assert that the question is unanswerable in principle must always comport themselves as though they already know the answer." And, it's not about those who self-identify as atheists, but rather about those who self-identify as (let us call them) "strong" agnostics; the claim is about those who insist that the question of God's existence is unanswerable even in principle.

And, keep in mind the topic (i.e. the "First Question"): when I used 'comport' in that paragraph, what I have in mind is how self-proclaimed agnostics comport themselves in relation to the "First Question." If the world is intended, it is necessarily a very different place from if it is not: some secondary questions which are sensible if the world is one way are senseless if it is the other. Most self-proclaimed agnostics approach the possible secondary questions as though the answer to the "First Question" is already known to be "No." That is what I was getting at.

Perhaps I should update the OP to be more clear/explicit on that?

But yes, in a manner similar to how no Christian really lives up to Christianity, few 'atheists' (or 'agnostics') really live down to atheism. Thank God!

Ilíon said...

Crude: "Though I also think (while I believe in a Creator-god) that one could answer "Yes" while believing in a pantheistic God, or something else. (Pantheistic in an idealist, or non-materialistic sense.)"

But, my point (with this thread) is the understanding that the question "Does there exist a Creator-God?" is logically equivalent to the question "Does the physical/material world exist intentionally; is the world a creation?"

One of the reasons I'm using the phrase "Creator-God" is that I wish it to be understood that this argument:
1) doesn't presuppose the Christian understanding of God; and it doesn't seek to prove that the doctrines peculiar to Christianity are true;
2) doesn't presuppose any God at all -- rather, it establishes as a conclusion that there is a God;
2a) the facts established about this God are consistent with Christianity, and specifically with certain basic Christian claims which have to be true if Christianity is to be true;
3) the question is asked in the manner in which it is asked so that we can work toward answering it on the basis of having reasoned to an answer, rather than having simply assuming or asserting one potential answer or the other.

At the same time, I highlighted the concept of intentionality because I believe that this argument doesn't turn on the world having had a beginning-in-time. You might notice that as much as possible I'm avoiding tensed language.

SO, is it not the case that a pantheistic "Yes" is saying that "the world/universe intends that the world/universe exist?"

Crude said...

No, I think the problem here lies more with me being contrary than any lack of clarity on your part. I just tend to reject many of the common claims in these discussions (I don't think atheists subscribe to scientism, generally. In fact, I think they demonstrably care little about science. I think most don't act or think in ways consistent with what atheist-materialism rationally demands. Etc, etc.)

As for the last question you asked, huh. Perhaps it is. Or at least the world/universe intends that the world/universe exists as it is. Either way, it's a 'yes' to the world existing intentionally, or the world being a creation, I think.

Either way, I -think- I get the point you're making here. And I agree, it absolutely is one which matters "in the here and now". If the world is a creation, if the world is intentional (and thus is infused with purpose), this matters immediately, today, and likely for all time. At the very least it leads us to further damn important questions.

Ilíon said...

Crude: "No, I think the problem here lies more with me being contrary than any lack of clarity on your part. I just tend to reject many of the common claims in these discussions ..."

I'm sertainly not going to fault you for that; I also want to elininate as many assumptions as possible and clearly identify those which cannot be eliminated. Because, of course, we cannot eliminate *all* assumptions ... reasoning starts with, and must start with, assumptions.

Crude: "(I don't think atheists subscribe to scientism, generally. In fact, I think they demonstrably care little about science. I think most don't act or think in ways consistent with what atheist-materialism rationally demands. Etc, etc.)"

But isn't a lack of real concern for actual science, and lack of concern for understanding what science is and is not, and lack of concern for what it is and is not capable of showinf us, just part of what scientism is?

You're right: self-identified atheists almost never behave and reason consistently with atheism. That's why I generally put the word in quote marks (if the previous use, the term 'self-identified' serves the same function, so I left off the quote marks).


Ilíon: "SO, is it not the case that a pantheistic "Yes" is saying that "the world/universe intends that the world/universe exist?""

Crude: "As for the last question you asked, huh. Perhaps it is. Or at least the world/universe intends that the world/universe exists as it is. Either way, it's a 'yes' to the world existing intentionally, or the world being a creation, I think."

As I said in the post, this thread is about understanding the "First Question" itself, not about exploring its answer.

And, as the argument is not directly about showing Christianity to be true, it isn't directly about showing pantheism to be false. It's about showing atheism to be false, and doing so via nothing but reason working on the assumptions which both 'atheists' and Judeo-Christians admit to.

In a way, you could say that the function of this argument is to force 'atheists' to explicitly retreat into irrationality (for I expect very few ever to admit that there is a God and that we can and do know the fact).

But also, one of the points I meant to get across in that last section of the prior post is that this argument is about establishing, via reason, that there is a God. To simply assert pantheism is not to establish via reason that there is a God.

This argument is not about asserting one answer or the other, it's about determining which answer is correct.

Ilíon said...

Crude: "Either way, I -think- I get the point you're making here. And I agree, it absolutely is one which matters "in the here and now". If the world is a creation, if the world is intentional (and thus is infused with purpose), this matters immediately, today, and likely for all time. At the very least it leads us to further damn important questions."

Yes, as I said in the prior post to you, "If the world is intended, it is necessarily a very different place from if it is not: some secondary questions which are sensible if the world is one way are senseless if it is the other." Or, as I said in the OP, "The reason this is the "First Question" is that all other questions we may ask about reality, and therefore all other answers we may learn, follow from the answer we give to this question."

If we answer the "First Question" incorrectly, we will -- necessarily -- misunderstand reality. If we answer the "First Question" correctly, we have the potential to correctly, even if imcompletely, understand reality.


And, by the way, in case you're curious to "jump ahead," one explication of the gist of the argument is here.

Crude said...

Re: Scientism, I suppose it is. But the word often gets played off as meaning "Worshiping science, holding science in far too high an esteem." Maybe that's an incorrect usage of the word, but it's how many take it. Language often has too many tangles.

Either way, I do think I get it now, so I'll hold off on further comments. Clearly there's more coming after this first question.

AWA said...

Greetings again.

So I hopped on over to All-Too-Common Disaster's beacon of reason, hope, and child-with-hurt-feeling tirade blog, and found... well, another tirade:

"The domestic horse has 2n=66. Przewalski's horse has 2n=64. The difference is a fission of the domestic horse's chromosome 5 (or a fusion of 2 of P. horse's chromosomes forming the domestic horse's chromosome 5, if you like)..."

Beyond all the obfuscative terminology and self-congratulatory spanks he gives himself, the upshot of the argument is that chromosome fusion is the magic stuff for macro evolution. In so far as how they can eyeball it and say "similarity due to common descent", as they always do, etc. In this case, he's using horses to example this magic in action...

...Never forgetting in his/her argument, of course, that the genus in question are - a-hem - still horses. (Family too, when all of the paleo just-so taxa are thrown out of Equidae.)

Amazing then how supposed little difference in human genetics accounts for so large a difference. And how apparently large a genetic difference between Equus stock accounts for not much variation. (In fact, if I remember correctly, there's just as much - if not more - variation in domestics compared to wild type horses.)

So between the chromosomal magic happening between Przewalskis and domestics, Clydesdales don't necessarily look like they're forging their own horseshoes over hearths - if we're going purely by observation, that is; although they may have done this millions of years ago in Africa, with stone flakes and bone tools.

... Anyhow, from pointing out the chromosomal content of Przewalski's horse (of which he/she's probably never laid eyes on or even heard of before the aforementioned blog tirade), this is supposed to lead to the conclusion that humans descended (without that pesky observation or repeatable, measurable evidence, of course) from some unknown australopithecine branch.

Homology in genetics, in so far as how it's overused in the human evolution passion play: I've always likened it to MSNBC hypothetically stating (well, more than likely they have stated) that 99.9% of Americans fully support homosexual marriage... neglecting to mention that the 100 people polled were on Castro St. in downtown San Francisco during a Rainbow Rally. (The 0.1% represents one poll recipient coughing while being asked the question.)


So, are all of your detractors this entertaining? Or is All-Too-Common Piss Ant a "special" (yes, that kind of special) case?

AWA said...

For the sake of clarity, since you never know when snake eyes are on the prowl:

Amazing then how supposed little difference in human genetics accounts for so large a difference between mankind and their supposed simian ancestors.

For Dopeganger and the Reichsgang, if they happen in on this.

Ilíon said...

Hi again, AWA.

Your two comments are way of the topic of this thread ... but, since I haven't started a thread for which they'd be appropriate (sorry about that!), I might as well try to (quickly) respond here.


On the supposed 1-2% genetic difference between humans and chimpanzees:

First, it's not true. That commonly asserted 1-2% genetic difference is a myth (deliberately and knowingly spread, in some cases), initially based on comparisons of just a handful of proteins. Now that the two genomes have been sequenced -- and depending on how the differences are toted up -- the scientists are now saying that the difference is more like 5-6%, or maybe even more.

Second, even if it were true, so what? There are so many individual reason why it wouldn't matter, not in the way they want it to matter, even if it were true. Importantly, no matter what the genetic difference or simliarity, the mere fact cannot rule out an ID guided evolution (*) scenario ... nor can it rule out a "special creation" scenario. So, the "Darwinists" are (as per usual) engaging in question-begging (and other logical fallacies).

(*) After all, it's not really common descent that the "Darwinists" care about; they'd throw that over in a heartbeat. What they care about is their assertion that there is no guiding intelligence behind the history of life. They call their quaint belief-system "evolution," but they're misusing the term.


AWA: "So, are all of your detractors this entertaining? Or is All-Too-Common Piss Ant a "special" (yes, that kind of special) case?"

The answer may be both yes and no.

I've done my best over the years that Mr Page has been cyber-stalking me to ignore him (and to know as little about him as possible). But he does seem to have a special obsession about me.

At the same time, I do seem to have a talent ... it's not intentional ... for bringing out that side of those who have that particular side to their personalities.

Ilíon said...

Scott Page (apparently): ""The domestic horse has 2n=66. Przewalski's horse has 2n=64. The difference is a fission of the domestic horse's chromosome 5 (or a fusion of 2 of P. horse's chromosomes forming the domestic horse's chromosome 5, if you like)..."

AWA: "Beyond all the obfuscative terminology and self-congratulatory spanks he gives himself, the upshot of the argument is that chromosome fusion is the magic stuff for macro evolution. In so far as how they can eyeball it and say "similarity due to common descent", as they always do, etc. In this case, he's using horses to example this magic in action..."

Mr Page (or whoever wrote that) is engaging in distribution of red herrings and the whomping of strawmen (of his own devising).

He's deliberately ignoring the fact that intelligent agents deliberately and carefully! cross-breed domestic horses and the Przewalski's horse. The issue isn't, as he intends the casual reader to misunderstand, whether the hybrid is totally sterile, but whether it is less fertile than either of the two parent stocks, and whether the crossing can work multi-generationally absent intervention by knowledgeable agents.


AWA: "Homology in genetics, in so far as how it's overused in the human evolution passion play: ..."

It's a circular "argument" in the hands of "Darwinists."

AWA said...

Don't mean to beat a dead horse here (Jack Benny drum roll), but...

Ah, Dr. Page. I remember hearing that name in the rounds years ago. Recall that someone once said that for an asst. prof., Page sure had alot of time on his hands to be able to debate in online evolution forums.

"Now that the two genomes have been sequenced -- and depending on how the differences are toted up -- the scientists are now saying that the difference is more like 5-6%, or maybe even more."

Hence the MSNBC poll analogy. Evolutionists have a penchant to... how does it go?... strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. Or in this case, a horse and a Sasquatch, all in one go...

One thing that occured to me: Notice that they're playing the jury-rigging game here, that previously existing mechanisms were needed in order to "create" something. The number of chromosomes goes down in each hypothetical case, yet we're obtaining a "net gain" (evolution). Not accounting for deleterious effects of those mutations, of course...

I can see why Page used the horse example: Use a fairly mundane model where there is variation within the Family, which seems somewhat stable (Jack Benny roll^2), and then turn it around as an example of how it could happen in humans. Ignoring, like you said, the intelligent breeder aspect - or the fact that horses seem to have lost some features over time (toes, interestingly enough) and are physically in-flux in certain restricted areas (verterbal count and rib count, if I remember correctly).

If this is "generalized to specialized" evolution in action, and if this is the best they can come up with, then it seems to tell us - even if we assume the grand Darwinian tree of life - that organisms tend to lose information over time.

If your net gains are effectively net losses genetically, it's like a bank that keeps expanding at the expense of constantly losing capital - where or how exactly then did that bank organize all of that wealth to begin with? Did money randomly just filter into their coffers, or the buildings randomly build themselves (well, to evolutionists: Yes), employees just walk in and fulfill job roles, management arose from urslime (Unions would argue "Yes" here as well), and did Wall Street just fart and pop up with bank founders and CEO's? (Again, White House would emphatically scream "Ja")...


Agreed with the percentage manipulation. Given that even if the percentage is only 1% off between simian/human, that 1% accounts for quite a bit of difference - like I said, Clydesdales haven't gone bipedal and launched rockets into space just yet.

So even if evolutionists get their "1%", it seems inconsistent with how supposed genetic equidistance in other organisms equates - domestic/wild horses, for example, whose percentage is higher but doesn't account for the same degree of difference as seen between, say, chimps and humans.

But then again, without quantifying the actual genetic events happening, and when those percentages are required to show some kind of predictable consistency in equidistance between various and sundry organisms, evolutionists can just write of the lack of conistent equidistance in the Darwinian family tree as the "chancey" nature of evolution. (See what happens when you require them to nail down their grand unifying hypothesis with quantifiable numbers? They appeal to dice rolls and "lower case g -god of the gaps".)

By that sloppy of a yardstick, a computer really can be designed in a tornado.

...Well, horse is thoroughly bludgeoned. Thanks again for interacting with this hair splitting over biology.

AWA said...

* Rabbit trail, but interesting how the modern one-hoof biomechanics - and the change in dentition - in horses seems to be rather intelligently set in place, almost as a back-up plan for Equidae, to be able to adapt from presummably feeding on trees in tighter confines to grazing in open pastures (cursorial). I don't think a theistic evolution scenario is even needed to entertain that notion, since it's still effectively a net loss genetically, with a seemingly already designed back-up morphological plan "being activated" and "kicking in", so to speak.

If evolutionists want to interpret that as "evolution in action", fine - people are entitled to their beliefs. Just seems more sensible to recongnize that the thing acts as if it was programmed to compensate horse physiology for if the environment were to ever change drastically over a period of a few thousand (or even a few hundred) years. Such as, after a severe population bottleneck due to a world-wide catastrophe (Flood), for instance...

Ilíon said...

"Ah, Dr. Page. I remember hearing that name in the rounds years ago. Recall that someone once said that for an asst. prof., Page sure had alot of time on his hands to be able to debate in online evolution forums."

There's an old saying -- "Your tax dollars at work."

Ilíon said...

AWA: "Don't mean to beat a dead horse here (Jack Benny drum roll), but ..."

It's OK; I'm not one of those people who automatically freaks-out about off-topic sub-threads.

AWA: "I can see why Page used the horse example: Use a fairly mundane model where there is variation within the Family, which seems somewhat stable (Jack Benny roll^2), and then turn it around as an example of how it could happen in humans. Ignoring, like you said, the intelligent breeder aspect ... "

Page knows that I know that human chromosome 2 -- which is to say, the chromosomal differences between humans and apes -- is actually powerful evidence against any "Darwinistic" evolution of humans from apes. He's intentionally misrepresenting the argument I've presented.


It used to be believed -- it was 'scientific truth' and was taught as actual truth (even as recently as when I was a school-kid in the 1970s) -- that the reason mules are sterile (*) is that they have an odd number of chromosomes, due to the differing numbers of chromosomes of the parents. It was believed that this mismatch of chromosomal numbers makes meiosis (the process by which reproductive cells are generated) nearly impossible.

Even in the age of the interwebs, there are web pages which seek to explain mule infertility as due simply to the odd number of chromosomes in mules. In truth, it's not that simple; the infertility is related to genetic mismatch(es) between the chromosomes, but it's more complicated than simply the odd number of chromosomes.


Still, the belief that mule infertility is due simply to the odd number of chromosomes is out there, and it's a common belief. Thus, one common objection to a wholly naturalistic explanation for the asserted close biological relationship of humans and apes begins with realizing that humans and apes have different chromosome counts ... and then wondering how the (supposed) infertility due to an number of chromosomes in the hybrid state can be overcome, wholly naturalistically.

The "Darwinists" tend to "answer" that objection as here -- notice, the *real* issues are not addressed; rather, they stop at showing that the initial objection (which is based on incorrect information/understanding) is not itself necessarily a show stopper.

Or, sometimes, they'll go a bit deeper, as here. But, of course, this doesn't *answer* the real questions -- and it completely side-steps issues that the page itself mentions. Notice the last paragraph.


(*) But even that's not absolutely true; there are rare documented cases of female mules having given birth. My father, who grew up in the rural South when and where mules were still in common use, knew of a case ... and so, when I was a kid, I knew of the possibility, as he'd told me.

Ilíon said...

Also, AWA, your posts weren't totally off-topic. As I said in the OP, all the other questions one may ask about reality, and therefore all the other answers one may arrive at, depend upon the answer one gives to the "First Question." Those who answer "No" pretty much *have* to assert something very like "Darwinism," despite its so obvious absurditites.

Some 'atheists' (the late David Stove, for instance) do rejest "Darwinism" itself as being absurd. But I have no idea what explanation such could offer in its place.

AWA said...

So effectively, they pick apart a strawman.

Behe points out an instance of this in Darwin's Black Box, where a creationist (I forget who) argues for the irreducible complexity of the eye at a gross morphological level, with Dawkins rejoinding that the parts/morphology are discrete enough that they can hypothetically be independent of one another and separable, thus lending to a Darwinian scenario of gradual coopting and addition of parts, and viola! Evolution. At first blush.

Behe rightly points out, however, that Dawkins' argument is tantamount to explaining the creation of a stereo by saying "Ah, simply plug in the speakers, cd player, amp, and power cord, and you've evolved a sound system via Darwinism!"

A great sales pitch if you're trying to hawk home appliances out of a parking-lot van - a bad sell if your customers are electronics engineers.

AWA said...

And right, it comes back to the paramount paradigm: In the beginning...

Like I've said before, atheists (and certain evolutionists) are one of the most intriguing religions/cults in the Western world: They're the only religious faith that actively proselytizes - and yet is in deep denial of their even having a religious underpinning.

Ilíon said...

AWA: "So effectively, they pick apart a strawman."

A correct understanding of human chromosome 2 -- even when one honestly examines the issues involved starting from an assumption that "Darwinism" is correct -- shows us that "Darwinism" is self-contradictory and thus self-refuting.

There are only two ways to get biologically from apes to humans:
1) Acknowledge that an intelligent and knowledgeable agent intentionally bred and preserved the (proto-)human lineage against the inevitable extinction that natural selection would have conferred upon the very first individual to possess the chromosomal fusion (and he/she would have been heterozygous for it).
2) Engage in special-pleading and question-begging -- that is, to “inject” oneself (as a “Darwinist”) into the hypothetical past as the intelligent and knowledgeable agent who intentionally bred and preserved the (proto-)human lineage against the inevitable extinction that natural selection would have conferred upon the very first individual to possess the chromosomal fusion.

There is a reason, after all, that "Darwinists" "reason" and "argue" via Just-So Stories.

Ilíon said...

The author of this (The Age of Unreason) dressing-down of some silly "free-thinking" makes a point which is pertinent to the thread's topic:

"... The alternative answer to the question Why is there Something rather than Nothing? is IT JUST IS! This has the interesting consequence of placing the limits to rational thought inside the natural universe. At least by placing the first cause outside the natural universe and daring to reason about Him, the Christians included all of material existence within the boundaries of the rational."

Also, do read the whole thing, if you've the time.

Ilíon said...

The 'Agent Intellect' blog has a collection of shorter statements of C.S.Lewis' argument from reason. I'd read most of these at one time or another; and Lewis' thought (along with that of others, such as Plantinga) was influential to the genesis of this argument.

Ilíon said...

Crude: "Re: Scientism, I suppose it is. But the word often gets played off as meaning "Worshiping science, holding science in far too high an esteem." Maybe that's an incorrect usage of the word, but it's how many take it."

But, that is part of what 'scientism' means. It's just that the "science" being worshipped isn't what science really is.

Even when used non-worshipfully to refer to what is more precisely termed 'modern science' (that which our ancestors called 'natural philosophy'), the word 'science' refers to multiple, though related, things. For instance:
* 'science' may refer to certain agreed-upon methods for making observations about the material world;
* 'science' may refer to certain agreed-upon methods for making statements about those observations;
* 'science' may refer to the philosophy by which those methods are justified;
* 'science' may refer to a certain set of the above 'scientific' statements;
* 'science' may refer to the set of *all* such 'scientific' statements;
* 'science' may refer to the statement(s) that some specific scientist makes, or group of scientists make;
* 'science' may refer to scientists-as-groups;
* etc.

But, the thing which must be always kept in mind about 'modern science' is that it isn't about truth -- it's about increasing human control, or in any event, some humans' control, over the material world. Now, a particular 'scientific statement' *may* be, in fact, true. Or it may not be. All that matters, with respect to 'science,' is that the statement be *useful* if treated as though it were true. But, in neither case can one use 'science' to determine whether it is true or false.

Scientism ignores the above facts about 'modern science.'