This question rests on four UNVERIFIABLE assumptions:
1) that there is a god (We will not, here, examine this assumption.),
2) that God must have created the universe or it would not exist;
3) that the universe at one time did not exist;
4) that the universe came into existence out of nothing.
First, consider Aristotle's admonition: All talk of a beginning or an end of the universe is unintelligible.
Scientists have offered various theories.
Updated June 29. 2000
The one most accepted, based on verifiable available evidence, is THE BIG BANG THEORY.
There are presently questions being raised about this theory, but there is no other theory, yet, with sufficient evidence to replace it.
Its major weakness, if scientists are correct, is that the amount of matter known to exist is insufficient to make the universe collapse upon itself, hence the search for "dark matter."
Edited Nov. 20, 2000
If we accept Einstein's mathematically derived concept of the universe as that of a balloon with the stellar matter alternately expanding and contracting on the surface of the skin of the balloon, then we have the basis for the theory that the universe always existed, and is in an eternally repeatable process of expanding from the cosmic equator eventually contracting to the cosmic equator ("on the other side") collapsing upon itself into a black hole, only to BIG BANG again.
One fact to keep in mind: It can be verified that there is a universe, even if it were nothing more than a single quark or your own mind, i.e., the functioning of your brain.
Updated March 7, 1998
There is NO reason to believe that, at one time, the universe did not exist or that it had a beginning emerging out of nothing.
It cannot be verified that there was a god to create it.
If it is claimed that God does exist and the response to the question, "Where did He come from?" is, "He existed forever," such an answer has no epistemic value because God's existence cannot be verified.
Moreover, the existence of the universe offers no evidence to the claim that God created it (out of nothing, yet) and verifies only that the universe does exist.
Hence, there is every reason, given the non-epistemic nature of theistic language, to believe that the universe was not created, not alone by an unknowable, unverifiable, incorporeal, supernatural entity.
WHY PUT SO MUCH FAITH IN VERIFIABILITY WHEN THE VERIFIABILITY PRINCIPLE, ITSELF, CANNOT BE VERIFIED?
There is, here, a possible assumption or, at least, a failure to distinguish between two uses of the term
1) The term 'faith.' here, is not the CONDITIONED BLIND FAITH of "faith" in God's UNVERIFIABLE existence.
2) As used, here, it means TRUST IN VERIFIABLE EVIDENCE subject to correction upon the presentation of new evidence.
Mathematical and geometric concepts cannot be verified to exist in the absence of minds of intelligent beings.
Yet, they are the most efficient tools at man's command for dealing with the presumed physical facts of the universe.
Likewise, it is of little import to scientists whether the verifiability principle can or cannot be verified anymore than verifying the existence of the ding-on-sich, i.e., the thing-in-itself, i.e., the world beyond our sense data.
The verifiability principle is the most efficient tool at man's command for, determining truth and knowledge, however probable they may be.
HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT KNOWLEDGE IS ONLY PROBABLE?
The meaning of this question seems to assume an affirmative answer to the very issue in question: that there is absolute knowledge that knowledge is only probable or that there is absolute evidence that there is no absolute knowledge.
If this is the intention of the question, it is oxymoronic and cannot be addressed.
If the question intends, "What is your evidence for the claim that knowledge is only probable?" that can be addressed.
According to available evidence, all claims that absolute truth and knowledge "are possible" are untelligible for the following reasons:
1) All knowledge is acquired directly or indirectly through and relates to our sense faculties which are prone to error.
2) All our tools and instrumentation created to avoid the errors of our sense data are designed to accommodate our sense faculties.
3) Absolute knowledge about anything requires total knowledge of the past, present, and future of the entire universe.
4) No claim to knowledge is acceptable in the absence of evidence.
5) Evidence is open-ended--never all in.
6) To claim absolute knowledge given a particular context or set of beliefs is to abuse language and confuse the issue.
7) There is a life-time history of man that empirical evidence has always been probable and open to correction with no evidence to the contrary.
8) To claim that it is possible that there is absolute knowledge is to claim that there is evidence of that possibility but we just have not found it yet.
9) The claim, "Anything is possible!" (Implying absolute knowledge is) is demonstrably and easily falsifiable, and is clearly false.
Added: March 5, 1998
HOW DO YOU KNOW GOD DOES NOT EXIST?
Nowhere do I or would I declare that there is no
god, even though I BELIEVE there is no personal god of the Biblical type.
A denial or affirmation of the existence of God is of no epistemic value and can be neither verified nor falsified in the absence of a specific definition of the term.
Unfortunately, the question is not accompanied by a definition of what a person means when he uses the word, "God."
I assume, therefore, that the concept here ascribed to the term, 'God' is the one commonly accepted (as in the Old Testament of the Bible, or in the Koran, etc.), throughout the world; i.e., the UNKNOWABLE, INCORPOREAL (SPIRIT), ALL GOOD, ALL POWERFUL, ALL PRESENT, ALL KNOWING, and FIRST-CAUSE-CREATOR of the universe.
Among the countless different concepts of gods postulated from the dawn of man throughout the world, and among the theists and philosophers of the HUMAN race, the concept of God cited above is one of the easiest to prove to be linguistic nonsense, i.e., epistemic gobbledygook.
We must never confuse CONCEPTS of gods with real gods.
More than that, the Biblical concept of a god is riddled with hidden and not so hidden contradictions comparable with insisting that black is white and that nothingness is somethingness.
Updated: February 27, 2001
The Bible declares God to be UNKNOWABLE.
JOB: IIIVI, 26: BEHOLD, GOD IS GREAT, AND WE KNOW HIM NOT, NEITHER CAN THE NUMBER OF HIS YEARS BE SEARCHED OUT.
I COR: II, 16: FOR WHO HATH KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE MAY INSTRUCT HIM? BUT WE HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST.
ST. JOHN: I, 18: NO MAN HATH SEEN GOD AT ANY TIME; THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, WHICH IS IN THE BOSOM OF THE FATHER, HE HATH DECLARED HIM.
I JOHN: IV, 12: NO MAN HATH SEEN GOD AT ANY TIME. IF WE LOVE ONE ANOTHER, GOD DWELLETH IN US AND HIS LOVE IS PERFECTED IN US.
I JOHN: IV, 16: WHO ONLY HATH IMMORTALITY, DWELLING IN THE LIGHT WHICH NO MAN CAN APPROACH UNTO: WHOM NO MAN HATH SEEN, NOR CAN SEE; TO WHOM BE HONOUR AND POWER EVERLASTING. AMEN.
First of all, since this god's existence cannot be known, i.e., be verified, or falsified, then all TALK (i.e., language) about Him is utter imagination, conjecture; i.e.; we don't know WHAT we are talking about any more than if we were discussing a book we had not read.
To claim that God is unknowable is to claim that one knows something about an unknowable god.
No one worships a god; all worshippers worship their individual CONCEPTS of a god.
To argue that "He can be known by His works," is to show ignorance of the fact that the existence of "works" verifies only that THEY exist, not how they came into existence.
If the claim is made that God is SPIRIT, let us recall that the original meaning of the term 'SPIRITUS' was the "moving breeze."
If that is all God is, a moving breeze is hardly worth worshiping.
God is supposed to have created man in His own image.
But, by definition, He (She?) has no eyes to see with, ears to hear with, or a brain to think with.
How can He see, hear, think, or know anything?
To mention only a few of this angry and jealous god's cruelties, and atrocities:
God, through His laws of evolution, created us capable of committing evil.
God took revenge against all men and condemned humanity because Adam sinned, i.e., ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge.
God created animals to prey one upon the other.
God ordered the sacrifice of many human beings.
God persuaded men to resort to war.
God visited evil upon those who opposed Him.
God sent Satan to entrap Job.
Moreover, God is the greatest mass murderer in the history of the earth.
He killed every creature on earth except Noah, his family, and two (another account says nine) of every creature He created.
These are hardly the acts of an ALL good god.
No "ALL good" God would do these things because Being "ALL powerful," with a snap of His incorporeal fingers, He can eliminate all evil and even non-human-caused suffering such as the diseases He inflicts upon us with the germs, i.e., "God's creatures," He created.
God could have created a perfect universe not alone a perfect earth and a perfect race of man merely by perceiving them--according to the "philosophy" of BISHOP George Berkeley.
If God is "all present," He is everywhere in the universe eternally.
Therefore, he is powerless to move since He is already everywhere else.
Nothing in the universe can occur without God's allowing it since he created all the laws by which EVERYTHING in the universe functions INCLUDING THE HUMAN BRAIN, the source of all thoughts, evil and good, naughty, or nice.
Being "all knowing," God knew every act of evil a person would commit "zillions of years" before we were born and created us anyway.
To argue FREEWILL, is to resort to another form of determinism because human acts of "freewill" are determined by physically, chemically, genetically, socially, and educationally developed personalities and if not those then by "God's Laws of the universe."
Being incorporeal, God has no physical dimensions, i.e.; He is not matter/energy, i.e.; He is nothing.
NOTHING certainly cannot create anything or cause anything to happen.
According to all available evidence only matter/energy can have a causal affect whatever that term may refer to..
The Biblical God cannot pass the test of rational argumentation, and His existence cannot be verified through BLIND FAITH.
Consider Epicurus' (342-270 B.C.) thoughts on the matter,
Is Deity willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then He is impotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then He is malevolent.
Is He both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is He neither able nor willing?
Then why call Him Deity?
Added July 11, 2000
There is another aspect of "God's" claimed abilities that to my knowledge has never before been examined:
We all know of the biblical claim that God created the world in 6 days and despite being ALL POWERFUL rested on the 7th.
We'll ignore God's need or desire to rest and concentrate on the nature and relationship of time insofar as it concerns "God," man, and the physical world.
It has been argued that just as our concept of "good" is different from God's, so is God's temporal realm different from ours, particularly the length of His day compared to ours.
But the issue is much larger than merely being different.
We need to examine in what way it is different considering what we have learned about "time" since the Bible was written by non-scientific men.
To begin with, we must consider the nature of "time," "space," and "space-time."
First let us recognize that time is but a function of change and that we must not confuse our concept of time (an illusion which we cannot observe, a metaphor) with our consciousness of change which we perceive constantly.
Change occurs only in a physical world, macroscopically and microscopically, even though we do not and cannot observe most of it.
Some changes in the physical world as in the brain, eyes, ears, etc., cause changes in our perceptions leading us to become conscious of these changes.
Also, we observe comparative brute sizes (big, small) but not concepts like length, width, depth, and time, i.e., duration: temporal distance, which are mathematical in nature with no corporeal ontology.
But duration is subjective, an illusion (apologies to Henri Bergson) as Plato and Heraclitus made clear (i.e.; nothing remains the same from one nanosecond to another) and as experience demonstrates.
Hence, duration makes no temporal sense because it is immeasurable--except in social matters such as in the phrase "the duration of his presidency."
Bear in mind that "time" is not itself a dimension of space as are length, width, and depth;
Nor is the 5th dimension, mind (a function of the brain), without which, from an epistemic point of view, measure of the universe would be impossible.
Time is subjective in nature and "exists" only conceptually and has no ontological (i.e., materially existential) status.
Time cannot be conceived meaningfully in the absence of a concomitant concept of a material world in a state of change.
Space, however, has no meaning in the absence of matter, particularly if by the term, we mean a perfect vacuum.
Space being measurable (a form of change) gives us the illusion of being done in time.
We can observe change, in its simplest forms, because we can observe a succession of different "spatial" positions.
If there were no physical world in a state of change or if there were no physical world, there would be no time or space.
Both concepts are defined in terms of each other.
Aristotle intimated as much when he declared form and matter to be inseparable.
Leibniz in turn (17th century) declared that time is not separable from the physical events of the universe giving rise to the concept of space-time.
Herman Minkowski gave the name to the concept.
Samuel Alexander and Conwy Lloyd Morgan considered space-time to be the ontological matrix of all existents (God, if you will).
And Einstein included the concept of space-time, non-theologically, as the frame work of his theory of relativity.
To get to the point directly, neither time nor space "exists" independently of each other.
Time is defined in spatial terms as a sequential relationship of occurring physical events .
And space is defined in mathematical (i.e., logical) terms, i.e., the "area" between two material existents without which the distance between them cannot be determined.
But, being mathematical and conceptual, Space-time is as much a misplaced "category" as is God.
On our dimensional plain of existence, we measure "time" by synchronizing our mechanisms in terms of the orbital revolution of the earth around the sun and in terms of the earth's rotation around its own axis, etc.
How we determine a year, a month, a week, a day, an hour, a minute, and a second is common knowledge.
It would be rather nonsensical to apply these mechanistic measurements of time in situations where to do so, man's longevity might measure no longer, relatively, than that of a fruit fly (two weeks).
In other situations, his life's span might measure a thousand years.
It would not be that he really lived any longer or any less in terms of his own biological functions unless, of course, a different spacetime frame affected the manner in which his biological functions operated.
Certainly we could not expect that at a near speed of light or in a subatomic realm of the universe time would be measured in the same way.
If somehow we were able to diminish the size of our "clock" to carry it with us in our diminution, we would expect that there would be a concomitant slowing of the clock particularly because its mass would be affected differently by the internal subatomic gravitational forces.
As a consequence, an hour in that subatomic world would be no more than a nanosecond on the macroscopic level.
Certainly, if a fruit fly with its life's span of two weeks were able to enjoy the advantages that technological progress has brought us, it would have fashioned its clock so that its two-week span of life would, to it, have a read-out of about 75 years.
However far-fetched this comparison is, it shows that there is no absolute time (apologies to Isaac Newton).
It shows that a unit of time is relative to its spacetime frame and/or to the mechanisms which we contrive in order to synchronize our affairs and to order our lives predictably.
What, then, has this to do with the Time of God?
In matters involving man's moral behavior, predicated by social mores, and later by the high priests of history, as sinfull, evil, good, and the like, concepts of space and time may not be ignored.
Man conceives God as observing his every action and expects to be either punished or rewarded according to God's reaction to his conduct.
In such situations, man conceives space and time as if God is functioning in man's spacetime frame.
Man is either ignorant of or has a tendency to forget that his concept of time and space is relative to his own size, his own perception of the world.
He seems to be little aware, if at all, that dogs, cats, amoebas, fishes, birds, children even adult human beings from different social and cultural environments have radically different senses of time and space.
Just as man once thought his earth was the center of the universe, he still thinks he is God's favorite creature.
However, with the advent of the 21st century there does seem to be an awakening of the possibility that "God" created extraterrestrial forms of life and intelligence also -- "in His likeness."
Man's egocentricities require that he conceive his gods and his gods' knowledge as oriented to his space-time frame and his conceptions.
An OMNISCIENT god requires His knowledge of an infinite number of space-time frames and further requires his ability to cause events in each of these space-time frames simultaneously--a concept that Einstein showed does not exist.
It is obvious, then, that the term, 'the same time.' is suspect.
If we accept the validity of Einstein's mathematics and his theories about time, such a phrase as, "the same time," must be taken to be metaphorical or pragmatic.
It functions only to serve man's need to communicate with his fellowman.
It makes no sense, then to speak in spatio-temporal terms in relationship to God or to speak as if an incorporeal God EXISTS in and can act in an infinity of spacetime frames not alone a particular one.
We cannot accept the thesis of theologians that God exists in all these spacetime frames at "the same time" that he is both eternal and present in every point-instant in the universe regardless of the infinity of time frames, that he possesses spatial and temporal qualities that are possible only to physical beings.
Such language stretches credulity and common sense to the breaking point.
A study of such theistic language clearly shows it to be double-talk.
Theologians cannot even agree on the meaning of the word "day" as used in the biblical accounts in which God is presumed to have created the world in six days.
The account is, nevertheless, couched in pre-scientific spatio-temporal terms conceived by pre-scientific man.
Hence to speak of god's relationship to man in any spatio-temporal sense insofar as God rewards us or punishes us in our spacetime frame results in conceptual and linguistic nonsense.
Considering that there is a great deal of literature indicating that what we experience and know comes from outside the brain, on what basis do you claim that mind is a function of the brain?
It is difficult to understand the meaning of, ". . . what we experience and know comes from outside the brain."
This seems to suggest that "thoughts," "knowledge," whatever, are "out there" somewhere and the mind is experiencing them analogously to radio and TV sets receiving broadcasted programs.
Assuming that interpretation were correct even though it CANNOT be verified, it could not happen if there were no physical radio or TV sets which are analogous to our physical brains.
First we must realize that though knowledge is experience, experience is not necessarily knowledge and that knowledge is WARRANTED (based on evidence) belief.
Of course, we are constantly being bombarded by external stimuli as well as stimuli within our bodies which include our brains.
When we can verify, through the rules of evidence, that what we experience in fact exists substantively or is the function of substance (i.e., physical/energy, "reality"), we may claim it as knowledge.
The events or facts that we claim as knowledge must be possible, probable, predictable, recurrable, public, directly or indirectly verifiable, and compatible with a comprehensive body of relevant facts, theories, generalizations, and hypotheses, and must fit coherently without contradiction.
If an experience does not meet these requirements of evidence, it is subjective and cannot be the basis of a claim to knowledge--i.e., warranted belief.
All our knowledge and experiences are functions of the brain; hence, "content" of the "mind."
Life and mind emerge from some of the physical and chemical substances of our bodies just as the ability to smother fire emerges from combining hydrogen and oxygen in a 2 to 1 proportion -- water.
Add one more oxygen atom (a 2 to 2 proportion (hydrogen peroxide) and it will have the ability to change brunettes into blondes.
Add 2 more oxygen atoms and one sulfur atom to the hydrogen peroxide and it will have the ability (as sulfuric acid) to dissolve metal.
None of the individual atoms has the qualities I've cited.
From where come the new qualities?
So it is with the qualities we call "life" and "mind."
To say that mind is not a function of the physical brain is analogous to saying that the above qualities cited do not emerge from the given proportions and constituents of the atoms.
Every human being (and lower forms of sentient creatures) have mental experiences not acquired through the five sense faculties; one example: dreams. However, the construction of the dream "images" were first enabled through some if not all of our sense faculties.
Can any human being be conscious of mental experiences if it does not have a (physical) brain to process the "incoming" stimuli?
It is the processing (the functioning of 10 billion neurons) of those stimuli that we call "experience," i.e., mind.
It does not matter what are the stimuli ("outside") or in the brain "causing" the experiences.
Every thought, every belief, etc., is an interaction of neurons. Scientists have well established that such interactions can be altered by natural, artificial, accidental, behavioral, educational, and (have been especially) by evolutionary means.
According to all available evidence, without that functioning brain, there can be no experiences or knowledge.
The pure mental SUBSTANCE of Descartes has long been rejected by scientists and analytical philosophers.
Even a dead brain has no mind just as a dead body has no personality.
Without a functioning brain, there cannot be a "content of mind" conscious, subconscious, or unconscious.
QUESTIONS ADDED: DEC. 16, 1997
Are there not greater minds than yours that believe in the existence of God?
It is certainly true that there are.
And there are greater minds than mine that don't.
And, there are greater minds than mine that find it politically or socially practical to give the impression that they do. But, they do not wish to reveal their disbelief.
And there were popes and clergy in the history of religion who did not believe in a divine being.
The real issue, of course is not which minds, what kinds of minds, or how many minds believe in a divine being.
Such minds verify nothing.
Truth, knowledge, and evidence can never be determined by some number of votes of the "greater minds."
Only evidence can verify what claims to knowledge are true or false.
History has shown us repeatedly, through the presentation of evidence, whatever its degree of probability, that some of our finest minds, because of their conditioned convictions, stubbornness of character, tenacity of pet beliefs and theories, paucity of experience, narrowness of mind, misinterpretation of evidence, need for control, ambition for power and fame, whatever, have been embarrassingly wrong.
For thousands of years those "great minds" have failed to agree on some of the most important issues ever to affect the minds of man.
These "great minds" also seem to be totally unaware of the implications to be drawn from the fact that minds as great as, or greater than theirs, completely disagree with them.
William Buckley is a case in point with his book, NEARER MY GOD, wherein he becomes an excellent example of a manipulator of unverifiable claims and terms which he misconstrues for evidence and rational thought.
Nothing so admirably attests to the truth of the above than the evidence presented by the almost countless number of books in their war of words proselytizing the thousands of sects of conflicting religions and their theistic and non-theistic dogmatic (unverifiable) pronouncements.
What can possibly be wrong in believing in a Divine Being Who, we believe, is concerned with our welfare?
To quote Bertrand Russell: "There is something feeble and contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths." [And] "There is a widespread belief that people can be induced to believe in what is contrary to fact in one domain while remaining scientific in another. This is not the case. It is by no means easy to keep one's mind open to fresh evidence, and it is almost impossible to achieve this in one direction if, in another, one has a carefully fostered blindness."
The term, 'wrong,' as it is used here, needs to be examined.
If the question means to ask whether I believe that it is wrong to believe in a divine being, the answer is, "If it is defined as described in the Bible with many unverifiable attributes, such as UNKNOWABILITY, yes, a resounding YES!"
Certainly, everyone should have the legal right to believe whatever he wishes. It is not legally wrong to believe in divine beings in this democracy though it may be in some totalitarian nations.
Is it morally wrong to so believe?
This question requires a clear and uncontested definition of "morality."
As Bertrand Russell has observed, morality and intelligence are often at adds
with science; science and intelligence are not.
In the history of man such a definition has not and in all likelihood never will be acquired unanimously and is therefore an exercise in futility.
If the question means to ask, "What are the harmful consequences of believing in an unknowable divine being?" that can easily be addressed.
I suppose, then, whether the belief is considered immoral or not may depend on the utilitarian principle of whether it causes more harm than good.
In a situation with limited parameters I suppose the principle works to society's advantage.
But in a world of such cultural, social, political, religious, psychological, and philosophical diversities of beliefs and convictions, how to determine whether belief in a divine being causes more harm than good appears, also, to be an exercise in futility.
What, then, are, and have been, the consequences of believing in an unknowable, incorporeal, supernatural, transcendental, metaphysical divine being?
We shall not recount, here, man's history of atrocities, brutality, imprisonment, wars, torture, poverty, murder, deaths, greed, struggle for power, intimidation, threat of life and limb, denial of human rights, mind control, indoctrination, (i.e., conditioning) and much more committed in the name of countless gods.
A usual response to the above is that such evils were committed by man, not by God.
It is appropriate, here, to quote Jacob Bronowsky:
Into this pond [at Auschwitz] were flushed the
ashes of some four million people. And that was
not done by gas. It was done by dogma. It was
done by ignorance. When people believe that they
have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality,
this is how they behave.
Absolute knowledge that an UNKNOWABLE god exists??????
Please don't parrot, "He is known by His works."
The "works" verify only that THEY exist, not how they came to exist.
There are other consequences that appear not to be so severe, but which, in fact, are the very sources of what Bronowsky cites.
Belief in an unverifiable divine being is only one of the countless unverifiable beliefs man tends to accept blindly.
The issue, then, becomes not merely, "Is it wrong to believe in a divine being, i.e., an unverifiable god?"
The issue is, "Is it wrong to accept unverifiable claims, whether they are theistic claims of non-theistic claims?"
When unverifiable claims such as principles and axioms in mathematics ("true" by definition) can lead to predictable events which can later be probabilistically verified, it would be foolish not to accept them as tools for dealing with that world which, presumably lies beyond our sense data.
When unverifiable claims CANNOT lead to predictability and verification, to accept them, unquestioningly, and to conduct our lives upon them, as absolute truths, leads to the development of gullibility, lack of reasoning, blind acceptance, blind faith, and the ridiculously weird and irrational ideas and claims that constituted the fabric of man's thoughts and behavior throughout the history of mankind -- and still does.
Theistic language (claims) is the main source of the development of such a gullible mindset.
UPDATED: JANUARY 22, 1998
When such a mindset is developed by the acceptance of beliefs which are unverifiable, the end result and harm to the world and interrelations of human beings who hold different unverifiable beliefs is staggering.
Witness the interactions of nations and different religious sects throughout the world.
For instance, were it not for the peaceful (and "moral") believers holding unverifiable beliefs which are the same as those held by terrorists, terrorism could not possibly exist to the degree that it does.
One should heed the admonition, "Good intentions [especially when founded on ignorance, too] often pave the road to Hell."
Without the moral support terrorist feel from knowing that there is a substantial number of people who believe those same unverifiable beliefs as do they, with rare and individual exceptions, they would cease to exist.
Dictators, their concomitant evils, and their minions, throughout history and the world, were born out of the IGNORANCE that underlies a mindset which is willing to accept unverifiable claims blindly.
BLIND FAITH AND UNQUESTIONING ACCEPTANCE do not constitute a commendable mindset, a mindset that the theistic, religious, entertaining, advertising, propagandizing, and political establishments would like to condition us to develop!
Updated Jan. 24, 2007
You may be interested in the conclusion I arrived at in my book, Hey! IS That you, God?, page 178, (available by communicating with: Dr. Pasqual S. Schievella, P.O. Box 137, Port Jefferson, N.Y. 11777 ) "God Outgrown," during which I'm arguing with the Biblical "God," that even Einstein considered himself to be a "deeply religious non-believer."
God: Pasqual, without Me, there can't be a religion.
Schievella: You want us to believe that . But we've outgrown You. We do not need You. You are passé. Religion without You is here to stay. Part of the value of real religion is the enjoyment, the wonderment, the mystery of the universe. If everything is explained by Your existence, there's no mystery for science to unravel, no goals of knowledge to achieve.
What tripe! Religion without Me? Morality without Me? You're off your rocker!
Then so must be a thousand million other non-believers. Just as the Greeks invented their gods, You were invented. And man said, "Let there be Gods, and there were gods; and we made them in our own image." But morality existed before then, even among social orders of lower animals, at least in behavior and feeling if not in concept and reason. It will continue to exist long after You're gone. You can bet Your life -- uh spirit -- whatever -- God, perhaps I should say belief in Your existence. That's what's on the line here. We've already proved we don't need You. We can make a more peaceful society where You have not had Your Divine Fingers in the pie. Once we have escaped Your conditioning techniques and so long as there is brotherly love, a godless society is not the fearful thing You and Your chronicles have propagandized us into believing. But, about the point we discussed five minutes ago, my time, that is ----
You're doing the talking, Schievella.
You said that most of our Poor are far richer than our Rich. Well, God, the kind of richness you're talking about doesn't need a god for its source. Out of the non-theistic religious experiences of hundreds of millions of non-believers come the motivation for great art, for the knowledge and creativity of man, the search for truth, and the hope of improving the lot of mankind. That would be our richness, in your terms. Wait a a minute, I'm putting the cart before the horse. It's the religious experience that emerges from such activities. It doesn't matter. They're inseparable.
Well, there is hope for you, Pasqual, as soon as I get you back on the right track.
You mean as soon as You get me back to believing those time-worn, ancient, theistic myths.
Your pro-religious remarks intrigue Me. They're such a refreshing change.
You've got me wrong, God. I'm not anti-religious. I'm anti-You. You should have stayed dead in the sixties.
Schievella, the God-Is-Dead title was a momentary eye catcher. Besides, that title didn't mean I was dead. It was referring to the wavering, the loss of belief in Me. But you can't keep a good God down.
You can't keep weeds down, God. Quite a variety of You spring up all over the world, where mystery and wild imagination abound in the absence of a method for acquiring truth and knowledge. Weird concepts have sprung up in all ages, especially in periods of stress and ignorance. Now if those different varieties of You were not falling over each other in contradictions, sizes, shapes, and colors, if they were not in competition with each other to become King of the Hill, You might have gotten away with Your touted existence.
I can't say I care much for your analogy.
Why don't You accept the handwriting on the wall? We don't need You. Without You, we can learn better the value and knowledge of relating with kindness to our fellow man, our communities, and the other nations of the world. This is a task that You not only have given little attention to, but one in which You've caused divisiveness. You've strapped us with different languages, with racial and religious scapegoats, eternal guilt, continuous religious strife disguised as political, contradictory beliefs and customs: ethical, moral, and cultural. You've offered us sacrificial victims, real and metaphorical. And then, to hide your transgressions against humanity, You rewrote Your politico-religious history to hide Your own guilt and to suit Your power-seeking goals. You and Your Tower-of-Babel trick made it next to impossible to emphasize our likenesses as opposed to our differences. That was one of Your stupidest ideas! No, God, we no longer need to believe that You exist. We won't have to expend emotional energies, our money, our time in fear of You, for the love of You, in the glory of You. We can look with courage to the future, with hope in the use of our minds free from Your stifling grasp, free in the use of our intelligence and reason, free to mend our relations with our neighbors throughout the world, free to pay attention to protecting this "oasis in the desert of infinite space," free to make the only life we'll know a full and meaningful one. Our purposes will take precedence over Yours. Now God, we will have faith in ourselves, not in a Ghost -in-the-sky. Oh hell! Talking to You is like trying to talk a cock into not crowing at dawn. So, --- I'll leave the last word to You, God.
God?-------Where are You?
So!---- You're not there! I knew it! I knew it! There's nothing there! NOTHING!
Updated: February 1, 1998
Why do you disrespect people who hold beliefs different from yours?
I don't; but too often, contending believers do.
It is not DIFFERENCE in beliefs that matters.
It is BLIND, UNEXAMINED, UNQUESTIONED, UNVERIFIABLE, UNTESTABLE beliefs which lend immoral support to those who resort to political, legal, or violent action to impose adherence to such beliefs that are troublesome.
Such beliefs diminish the dignity of the human race.
To accept unverifiable claims is to develop a gullible mindset that is susceptible to accepting more unverifiable claims such as those so often promulgated by dictators, politicians, popes, clergy, the press, and entertainment media, etc.
It is an unenlightened mindset that is "tolerant" of other blindly accepted beliefs so long as one is "free" to believe as he wishes.
People with such a mindset are either completely oblivious to or unconcerned with the possible dangerous ramifications of many of those blindly accepted beliefs, "So long as I am not affected by them."
As the immediately previous PERENNIAL QUESTION indicates, each man's unverifiable and/or theological beliefs affect every man.
Blind faith is carried on the ether of ignorance, which is the disease that no one can escape, for "No man is an island...."
The dignity of the human race requires that our beliefs not be founded on ignorance.
Obviously no one can know everything.
Certainly, being "ignorant" of how to repair a machine is not a matter of blind faith.
However, blind acceptance of unverifiable claims made to manipulate thoughts and behavior, as in the case of theological language that cannot be tested, IS blind faith and hence the kind of ignorance that has a global detrimental affect upon human, social, national, cultural, and spiritual relationships: religious wars, "fractures" in the principle of separation of church and state, the never ending battle between right to life and freedom of choice, cloning, the rights of women, religious restrictions, and too much more to cite here.
Given the above, it is difficult to understand what one means when he insists that his beliefs are not being "respected."
The term 'disrespect," in dictionary terms, means: discourtesy.
I try never to be discourteous to believers who hold beliefs that are different from mine including beliefs about theistic concepts and claims that are unverifiable.
I do, however, experience annoyance and consternation and feel disheartened in the presence of ignorance of the harmful effects of unverifiable beliefs--especially theological beliefs.
Consequently, I argue objectively in an attempt to explain why one should (and more often ought) not hold such beliefs.
Too often the term 'disrespect' is synonymized with "reject," "refusal to accept," "to disagree with," "to regard as ridiculous," etc.,
It is possible to consider a belief to be wrong, foolish, nonsensical, whatever, without disrespecting (i.e., being discourteous to) the person espousing it.
If these were the meanings of 'disrespect' then philosophers, scientists, teachers, parents, and even the "average person," have been disrespectful of each other for hundreds of centuries.
Updated March 11, 1998 in relation to a NEWSDAY article, written by Robert Fresco, (Monday, July 25, 1994) regarding my views on faith and verification.
The two "questions" below are the
gist of the criticisms made in Letters to the Editor and are pertinent to the issues raised in this homepage.
You are obviously a devotee of positivism, that school of philosophy that reduces all meaningful knowledge to that which can be verified by scientific
method. Among other problems, positivism fails its own test, since it is predicated on an act of faith that cannot be empirically validated.
Where, for example, do you ground your repeated emphasis on the "moral" and the "immoral"?
A world of the merely material is a world bereft of ethical value. If the existence of God cannot be verified, nor can His non-existence.
Your assertion . . . eludes empirical proof. The inability to verify something is not a sufficient reason for rejecting it.
It is reasoning plus faith that leads to truth. Why, then, are you so opposed to faith in the pursuit of knowledge?
Here is my rejected, somewhat amended, reply sent to
Newsday's Letters Editor Aug. 6, 1994).
Good teaching should, among other things, especially motivate students to learn how to use the tools and rules of clear, critical, and analytical thinking, how to ask penetrating questions, how to recognize nonsense language--particularly statements that are true BY DEFINITION or incapable of being verified--and when to demand verification of claims.
The term "meaningful knowledge" is redundant since a claim to knowledge that is not meaningful is not knowledge.
I heartily agree that "A world of the merely material is a world bereft of ethical value."
But, let us not forget, also, aesthetic, social, religious (as opposed to theistic), educational, cultural (Need I go on?) values.
We have no reason to believe that moral and ethical values existed at the time of the Big Bang any more than did a concept of gods, nor on earth, for that matter, until man appeared on the scene.
If one thinks that moral behavior is founded on absolute principles, he's naively or righteously living in a fantasy world of claimed theistic commandments.
The source of moral behavior is human not superhuman, therefore, absolute moral principles of morality do not exist.
First, "moral" behavior evolved, then, came "abstraction" of moral "principles."
We have every reason to assume that such values began to emerge as man evolved into a reasoning species which became aware of its needs and wants.
As the species continued to develop, its members discovered the need for cooperation.
Out of that cooperation, it was apparent that progress progressed more rapidly with amicable relationships giving rise to a concept of rights when conflict arose in personal wants, in turn giving rise to principles of behavior and then to laws.
But, what has all that to do with the verification of claims to determine their EPISTEMIC value as opposed to non-epistemic value?
It should not be difficult to understand that when a theistic claim such as, "There is a God," cannot be verified or falsified, that any talk about the existence of such a god, or any unverifiable claim, is sheer epistemic nonsense and that no amount of blind faith (acceptance in the total absence of evidence) can conceivably have any epistemic value.
Both of my critics used the very principle, verification, they so adamantly decried, in their ill-advised rush to verify the validity of their misplaced criticisms: "Positivism fails its own test since it is predicated on an act of faith that cannot be empirically (my emphasis) validated."
Acts of faith, particularly blind faith, can be verified to be blind faith when it can be shown that NO evidence for a claim, pro or con, is possible.
It is positivism that cannot be verified.
"Verification" must NEVER be equated with "Positivism."
And "empirical verification" should never be equated with "verification."
Nor should "reject" be equated with "rejecting a claim AS KNOWLEDGE."
Moreover, nowhere in the NEWSDAY article does the term 'empirical' appear either as a synonym for or as a necessary quality of "verification."
There are different kinds and degrees of verification.
Resorting to such straw man arguments have no legitimacy in issues of these kinds.
The scientific method should not be belittled by implying that its strength lies primarily in empiricism.
The scientific method involves art, math, theory, constructs, predictability, observation, faith (i.e., TRUST and CONFIDENCE in evidence) to mention only a few.
Apparently my two critics are unaware of the three uses of the term 'faith': 1) blind: absolute absence of evidence, 2) in spite of evidence, and 3) trust and confidence based on evidence.
We must never confuse blind faith, unwarranted belief, meaning, perception, conception, intuition, unwarranted claims, and language with knowledge.
If we do, then Jews are not human, blacks are subhuman, elephants grow on trees, and the gods of man's diverse religions are in their heavens dispensing goodies and committing the atrocities of Rwanda, terrorism, Nazism, the wars of man, the fires and mud slides of California and Nicaragua, and the inundating floods of the Mississippi.
Analytic philosophers recognize, or at least should, that the strength of the principle of verification lies not in whether it can be absolutely verified but, whether it can continue to be, in a self-corrective scientific fashion, applied as a tool in the pursuit of finding evidence for individual claims in the same way that mathematics, which does not in fact describe reality, is used as an excellent tool in dealing with the presumed material world.
It is this methodology, which is mandatory for a pursuit of truth and knowledge, that has brought respectability to philosophy so long bereft of rigor and self-discipline in the use of language.
Why are you so determined to undermine people's cherished beliefs?
I'm concerned with only the consequences, to the people of the world, of holding and acting on beliefs that people claim they know to be true even though those claims are unable to be verified.
Most of our prejudices and social, ethnic, racial, military, and political ills of the world come from holding such beliefs.
We grow into adulthood believing what we have been told to believe.
Our "educational institutions" school and train us through rote learning with very little benefit of education in the true sense of the word.
We conform to and accept the teachings of our elders, teachers, and clergymen with only superficial questioning if any.
Even while we are young and rebel against authority, we blindly accept the claims of some other authority: our peers, the leaders we admire, advertising, text books, our family's political party, the teachers we like, the "in thing," our church's teachings, and the like.
Rarely have we been taught to recognize and then to examine the underlying assumptions of the claims foisted upon us all our lives.
Our methods of schooling stultify the inherent curiosity with which we were born.
By the time we leave school and go out into the world, we are so burdened or conditioned by a lifetime of an acquired complex of false beliefs that the imprint of ignorance is indelibly stamped on our brains and prevents us from being able to understand which of our beliefs are false.
We have been schooled to become too ignorant to know what our areas of ignorance are.
Consequently, the "good life" is predicated on everything but the inclusion of the ability to think clearly, critically, and analytically.
The further consequence, however, is that we become the victims of those who have become expert in manipulating language to their advantage and to our detriment.
If we fill our minds all our lives with false beliefs, then false claims are all we will ever be able to utter.
The false beliefs that we are CONVINCED we know to be true are the greatest barriers not only to being able to distinguish between truth and falsity but especially to LEARN how to do it.
It is not our ignorance of what there is still to be learned that we should be concerned about.
It is our history of false beliefs, our sense of comfort with them, our tenacious convictions that they are true, and our inability to escape those convictions that prevent us from learning to think clearly, critically, and analytically.
Added: March 19, 1998
If God didn't create the laws of the universe, where did they come from?
What does the phrase "laws of the universe" mean?
Do these laws have ontological status?
Are they causal, descriptive, prescriptive?
If one is inclined to be theistic -- i.e.; God created the laws of the universe, including moral laws -- are the latter proscriptive?
Generally, when the phrase is used, it refers not only to scientific but especially to mathematical, and geometrical concepts -- both logical systems.
Bear in mind, anything can be proved in logic.
Ignoring theism, then, since it makes no epistemic sense to make an unverifiable god the source of laws, did laws exist before INTELLIGENCE emerged in the universe?
Since these laws are expressed in mathematical and geometrical terms and concepts, we are obliged to raise the question about their ontological status particularly because so many people, including scientists and philosophers, insist that such laws EXIST without explaining the meaning of that term.
The position of this presentation is that there is no ontological status of the "laws of the universe" except as human mental constructs.
Though such laws may have linguistic substantiveness, they do not have spatio-temporal substantiveness by which we mean a physical world in a never ending state of change.
Such laws are but the creations of human intelligence.
In the absence of such intelligence, laws do not exist linguistically or spatio-temporally.
Fundamentally, this raises the whole philosophical problem of the nature and reputed existence of numbers, ideas, and mind for that matter.
Our concern is mainly with the above title.
Before the appearance of intelligence in the universe, according to logic and available evidence, nothing existed except "things" and their reactions toward each other.
Here, "things" denotes spatio-temporal substantiveness.
This, in turn denotes matter, which in Einsteinian terms is interchangeable with energy, i.e., matter/energy.
All matter/energy repels or attracts.
Apparently, this permeative property of matter/energy gives rise to the "laws of the universe."
"Things" are not laws! Nor are their interactions.
The things and their interactions are JUST THERE.
Obviously if there were no "things," there would be no interaction or relation.
We design linguistic (mathematical, geometrical or logical) systems to explain the necessary recurrence of events and call them the "laws of the universe."
But in a universe of "infinite" concomitant events, and direct and contingent "causes," how could it be otherwise?
The events of the universe are separable only in the abstract construction of ideas.
It is our linguistic explanation of these ideas that are "laws," not the behavior of matter/energy.
Is it an accurate exercise of language to speak of laws, (i.e., mathematics and geometry) existing without committing the fallacy of equivocation?
For example, do numbers "exist"?
Certainly not in the sense that the chairs we sit in exist.
Exactly what is it that the number "1" names.
If we say it names a singular unit, we are but being tautological.
All units are but complexes of other units, the physical boundaries of which only APPEAR to be definitive.
Is there existing a unit that is not a complex of units -- an ultimate (indivisible) particle?
"Wholes" are only complexes of other "wholes," i.e., parts.
Wholes and parts are only relative TERMS.
Numbers, too, are only relative TERMS, i.e., NAMES for relationships which themselves do not occupy space in the absence of objects in relation.
Numbers are only tools used to help us manipulate and "make sense" of the profusion and confusion of our perceptions.
The number, "one," is but a term, a NAME we apply, as Bertrand Russell would say, to a construct, or Whitehead, to a "packet" of perceptions.
As a term, it may "exist" in some strange meaning of "exist" which cannot yet be clearly explained.
If I may appeal to mathematical EXPERT-authorities, even Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and G. H. Hardy insist that mathematics does not describe the universe.
This is a fact supportable by evidence.
Such laws are our INTERPRETATIONS of our perceptions of the universe.
Let us not forget the evolution of the meanings of mathematical symbols and concepts in the course of history.
Those laws are changed and/or are refined according to the availability of new evidence, i.e., "supportable" perceptions.
A thing can be given spatio-temporal descriptions geometrically.
Motion, (interaction), can be described only in terms of a thing's changing spatial positions from one point-instant to another.
This is true of internal motions as well.
Do "positions" in space have ontological status in a non-static universe?
It is perhaps this concept that led Samuel Alexander to claim that MOTION is the ultimate "substance," a metaphysical claim beyond verification.
Waves created by dropping a pebble in a pool of water would not "exist" in the absence of water.
The wave frequencies of electro-magnetic impulses would not "exist" in the absence of something -- quantum particles, i.e., photons..
According to available evidence, there is no pure energy in the absence of some spatio-temporal something.
There can be an infinite number of mathematical, or geometrical descriptions of the universe.
Observe: Euclidian (plain) geometry: Newtonian science, Riemannian (spherical) geometry, Einsteinian Relativity, and such new concepts as tachyons, axial universes, strings, alternate universes, multiple dimensions, and the like -- each depending on the premises, i.e., assumptions, upon which all knowledge is founded, you begin with.
Why do the underpinnings of each of these logical systems work so well?
They work well because each system relies on and maintains an internal consistency of MEANINGS, definitions -- not facts -- and such basic concepts as "axioms," "plus," "minus," "multiply," "divide," "equal," "square root," "law of contradiction," in general, primitives and our laws of logic, and does not impose any part of itself upon other systems of logic.
But not every logical conclusion from a valid argument can be verified.
The premises, first, must be verifiable.
If these non-substantive concepts exist, I would be very interested in locating their positions in the spacetime continuum.
Is it the case that all that is required to bring something into existence is the ability to conceive it, give it a name -- shades of St Anselm?
If so, then the following exist also: witches, ghosts, flying horses, unicorns, gods, angels, demons, Hell, Heaven, and the like.
The abstractions we call, "laws of the universe" are the laws man has conceived on the basis of facts he accepts and those for which he finds no need, to explain the universe to the degree that he believes he "knows" it.
Until man reaches the limits of his ability to "know" the universe, his perceptions and conceptions of it will continue to change, and so will HIS "laws of the universe."
But given the nature of man, he will never admit that he has reached his limit and will continue to revise and expand his LANGUAGE (into metaphysical, i.e., unverifiable claims) as a substitute for knowledge.
Added: March 21, 1998
Contingency is a property of everything in the universe, as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote drawing the conclusion that the universe is contingent also.
The implication of this argument, of course, is that God is the first and uncaused cause of the universe.
If Aquinas' argument is deductive, it is circular.
In a deductive argument the conclusion repeats what is already "stated" in the premises, explicitly or inexplicitly and, therefore, is assuming what needs to be verified.
If Aquinas' argument is inductive, his conclusion is only probable requiring verification.
Aquinas is guilty of committing the FALLACY OF COMPOSITION.
Arguments of composition fall into two categories:
The parts of a car are light, therefore the car is light.
The conclusion is false because the car is not light.
The parts of a car are heavy, therefore the car is heavy.
The conclusion is true because the car is heavy.
We shall not consider, here, the issue that the term, 'heavy,' is a value term.
It can be verified that a universe exists whatever may be its nature or limitations.
It cannot be verified that a non-corporeal god (i.e., first cause) or a Biblical god, defined to be non-matter/energy and unknowable, exists.
"Non-corporeal," by definition, means not matter: i.e., physically nothing.
It cannot be verified that "nothingness" can cause "somethingness."
It can be verified that something, i.e., matter/energy, (a verifiable composite term) can, with no evidence of instances to the contrary, cause something else.
It cannot be verified that the universe can cease to exist even if the universe is the so-called "pin-point" big bang.
It can be verified that the constituents of the universe can cease to exist and can come into existence, i.e., are contingent, and that the constituents of the universe contribute to both their existence and extension.
It cannot be verified that the universe (the existence of everything) reacts, i.e., relates to anything "outside" itself.
We are ignoring, here, the improper use of the term in sentences like, "There may be many universes."
The existence of the universe is a necessary condition for the contingency of its constituents.
The universe continues to exist despite its history of periodic losses of constituents.
To posit a non-corporeal, unknowable, unverifiable cause (whatever is the definition of "cause"--in this case "cause as the outmoded concept of force or power and the like") causing a corporeal entity into existence is unintelligible, sheer nonsense, and an abuse of language.
Furthermore, to posit an additional necessary non-corporeal "entity" is to fracture, or at least strain to the breaking point, the law of parsimony.
Occam had it right: Entities are not to be multiplied except as may be necessary!
Added: April 12, 1998
You claim that we know there is a universe.
At the same time, you claim that we are never in touch with, i.e., have knowledge of, the ASSUMED physical world because all we are in touch with are our perceptions.
Aren't you contradicting yourself?
Apparently the confusion revolves around the meanings of the term, 'know' (I have knowledge that) and its
derivative term 'knowledge.' My use of either term will imply the other.
First let us be aware of some of the many different uses of the term 'know,'
I know I am a living person. (Innate, Intuition)
I know 2 plus 2 equals 4. (Prescriptive, rote learning or truth by definition)
I know how to tie my shoelace. (Being able to do something)
The encyclopedia is filled with knowledge. (Printed symbols of thoughts, ideas, and beliefs)
I know Lincoln was shot. (Documentary, Rote learning)
I know there is a God. (Blind faith conditioned by authority)
I know there are triangles. (Mathematical constructs)
I know (Fill in your friend's name.). (Recognition)
I know the sky is blue. (Conventional naming of sense experience that is common to most people)
I know there are other minds. (Inference from verbal, written, and/or general behavior of other life forms)
I know he is in pain. (Inference from behavior)
I know there are quarks, electrons, and atoms. (Indirect and constructed)
For most of us, no systematic method is used to support those claims of knowing with the possible exception of the the last one.
Besides being based on available evidence, minimally, and among other things, knowledge must be:
methodical (i.e., founded on a method of acquiring the evidence),
Some degree of PROBABILITY is a permeative character of all knowledge and evidence because, according to available evidence, no one can know absolutely all there is in the universe to be known past, present, and future.
All shareable knowledge is belief supported by shareable evidence.
All that we do learn, i.e., get to know, is founded on our perceptions of an assumed physical reality.
In the absence of these perceptions, there would be no conceptions of the world or things in it.
In any ultimate sense, we have only our perceptions and what we can conclude from them forming concepts.
It is important, however, to distinguish those ideas that have a basis for deduction and "induction" and those that don't.
Those DISTINCTIONS are "perceived" by us also.
Even the premises of "induction" are presumed descriptions of an assumed reality "beyond" the (our) mind(s).
Bearing in mind all of the above, why, then, do we claim to know there is a universe?
It would be the height of irrationality to think otherwise.
If we thought otherwise, we would be faced with the problem of explaining the source of all our experiences, for instance:
The historical persistence of events.
The recurrence of some perceptions and not of others.
The fulfillment of some predictions and not of others.
The verification of some claims and not of others.
The coherence of some claims and not of others.
The commonality of some experiences (such as solidity, liquidity, etc.), and not of others.
We know that claims of verifiable existents, i.e., common perceptions of them, are true while claims to unverifiable existents are epistemic nonsense.
We cannot rationally deny that something exists, whatever the nature of that existence.
We may differ, argue, about what to call that something, but "it" does exist in some sense of that term.
It doesn't matter that the perceptions, predictions, claims, etc., are themselves not physical.
What matters is that they were somehow "caused" to exist -- even if they are only dreams.
However, we, also, have thoughts that are not immediately, at any rate, sense related, i.e. deemed to be caused by some external, to our minds, i.e., brains, event.
We know there is a universe, whatever its nature.
And finally, if the questioner did not know, i.e., believe on the basis of evidence, that there is a universe, SOMETHING existing, how COULD he, WHY, and to WHOM or WHAT did he raise the question?
Added April 30, 1998
You have said,
"Of all the concepts of gods, the biblical God is one that it is easiest to prove to be linguistic
nonsense. . . ."
Since the Bible is the Word of God, doesn't that prove that God exists?
It is obvious that the term, "prove," as used here, is meant to convey the idea that evidence for the existence of God exists in the writings, i.e., the language, of the Bible.
It is imperative that the term, "prove," not be equated with the concept of evidence that entails the concept of direct or indirect EMPIRICAL verification..
It is one thing, for instance, to show mathematical evidence for "1+1+1+1=4.
It is not possible, however, to verify that the number 1 exists in the universe because oneness (singleness) is an idea attributable to an infinity of things of different sizes and shapes, constituted of uncountable "onenesses," and even to other ideas as in "A single idea can change the course of history."
The term, "prove," must never be equated with the term, 'VERIFICATION.'
"Prove" is a logical term having to do with the consistency and coherence of statements to each other regardless of whether or not the statements can be verified.
Consequently, it is possible to prove (through logic--but not verify) that God both DOES and DOES NOT exist.
Philosophers and theologians, throughout the ages, have offered proofs for the existence of God, none of which has withstood the criticism of other philosophers and theologians.
Four, out of too many to cite here, examples:
Saint Anselm's ontological (necessary and perfect being) argument
Saint Thomas Aquinas' five proofs, inferences drawn from his experiences of the world.
Bishop Berkeley's "To be is to be perceived," i.e.; all things exist in the mind of God.
Spinoza's, "God and the Universe are one."
Ultimately, all so-called proofs for the existence of God resorted to
idea to reality or
a leap of blind faith or
prescriptive definition or
the need to believe or
an appeal to ignorance (i.e.; It cannot be proved that He does not exist.) or
a necessary supposition or
the source of all other existents.
To use the "word of God" as evidence of God's existence is to commit:
the fallacy of Begging the Question, i.e.,
assuming what you are supposed to be verifying; i.e.,
claiming that God exists because God says He exists.
Added May 7, 1998
You seem to advocate the theory of Darwinian evolution, held through the belief system of atheists, instead of accepting the biblical theory that God created us in his own image.
Why shouldn't people be taught both theories and let THEM decide which theory to accept?
You have posed a number of misconceptions that must be clarified before the fundamental issue, EVOLUTION vs CREATIONISM, can be addressed.
Evolution is the process of nature through which new qualities and characteristics, shapes, sizes, forms, colors, behavior, propensities, etc., which hitherto had not existed, either newly or recurrently come into being, i.e, emerge.
In the absence of a theory of evolution, there could not be a coherent explanation of the diversity and similarities in nature.
Even if there were no theory of evolution, its absence would not verify the existence of your incorporeal, unknowable (according to the Bible) God.
The theory of evolution answers questions which religion and theism are not qualified to deal with since they insist that empirical evidence is not always needed in acquiring knowledge and are willing to accept unverifiable claims and analytic statements, i.e., truth by definition, on blind faith.
No claim or presumed explanation is a theory unless it is supported by an abundance of empirical evidence.
Many evolutionists believe in God, claiming evolution was His method of "creating" life.
However, WHY one believes what he believes must be examined.
Most of us grew up believing what we were told to believe by our parents, teachers (rote learning), clergy, the government, etc., without benefit of evidence or its possibility.
Like Pavlov's dogs, we were conditioned to believe through the use of words, threats of punishment, promises of reward and the like, and in our case, without benefit of accompanying analytical explanations or evidence.
Scientific and knowledge beliefs are derived through inquiry, method, predictability, evidence, absence of contradictions, verification, and much more all of which are lacking in the creation STORIES of the Bible.
However, one's beliefs are verified only if the beliefs are supported by evidence.
The biblical account is not a theory, but a STORY, without evidence or even the possibility of evidence.
Darwin's explanation of "descent with modifications," i.e., biological evolution, is a THEORY supported by mountains of evidence even if biologists do not agree on every aspect of the theory.
Progress in science and in acquiring knowledge thrives on the examination of disagreements.
Assuming that God does exist and that He did create us, He certainly did not create us in "His own image" which is evident by the fact that He is defined to be UNKNOWABLE, ETERNAL, INCORPOREAL, PERFECT, ALL-KNOWING, ALL-POWERFUL, ALL-GOOD, ALL-PRESENT, AND FIRST-CAUSE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE in stark contrast to us who are MORTAL and FRAGILE physical entities possessing NONE of those characteristics.
Few people, especially including believers in creationism, are qualified to distinguish a THEORY from a STORY or a mere CLAIM because our schooling establishments (most teachers) fail to teach and are not capable of teaching our citizens to think analytically.
Much of the confusion in understanding these concepts rests on the creationist's failure to emphasize that God is said to have created EVERYTHING in the universe, not just life forms: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." (I, 31), see Genesis 1 and 2.
In Genesis, I, 27: God created male and female together: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
But in II, 7, "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground. . . ."
And, in II, 22, "the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman. . . ."
Creationists, incapable of offering evidence for the above claims of creation, and insisting that we blindly accept the claims "on faith," will cry "Metaphor! Metaphor!" which explains nothing.
A major part of the lack of understanding is caused because Darwinian evolutionists and creationists both tend to ignore the implications of EMERGENT evolution in their disagreements with each other.
Creationists give God, without being able to verify His existence, credit for creating diversity and change not through evolution but by a snap of his incorporeal fingers, i.e., by fiat.
Darwinian evolutionists concentrate, at least publicly, mainly on organic and biological change, variations, and adaptations in sentient populations some of which survive in the course of time and some of which do not.
Creationists seem not to concern themselves with the origin of non-living forms of existents, i.e., quarks, electrons, positrons, atoms, molecules, (without which sentient beings could not exist), quantum particles, gold, lead, copper (the elements), and so on, all of which can be shown to have evolved.
None of them existed at the first nano-second of the Big Bang.
Nowhere in the Bible does God or creationists speak of the emergence of quarks, electrons, positrons, atoms, molecules, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, nucleic acids, amino acids, all of which must interact with each other to evolve into DNA, RNA, genes, chromosomes, and the emergent qualities we call seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling, life, and mind.
Apparently creationists have not heard of EMERGENT evolution (See link: Spectrum of Minds) which clearly explains evolutionary processes from nano-second one of the big bang.
The argument that the theory of evolution is predicated not on evidence but on a mere belief system that Nature is all there is, implying that there is "something" that "transcends" nature, i.e., is supernatural, is utter epistemic nonsense.
By definition, what is supernatural is unverifiable, i.e., unknowable in the past, in the present, and in the future.
If "it" is supernatural then "it" transcends nature, is beyond nature, and cannot be verified.
Knowledge of anything is predicated on the existence of evidence, not on an appeal to
We DON'T and CAN'T KNOW, i.e.; we are ignorant, because no evidence is possible, as to whether there may be something other than nature, i.e., the universe.
In the absence of evidence to the contrary or the possibility of it, there is no epistemic reason to believe that anything other than the universe exists.
If we insist on appealing to ignorance, then anything becomes possible including the possible existence of an infinity of explanations for the existence of the universe, such as the DEVIL created the universe, or each sentient creature in the world does in its individual experience, i.e., possesses its own reality.
The evidence that evolution is a fact of nature as much as "a theory," which is our linguistic description of those facts, is so compelling that only an uninformed or close-minded person could or would deny it:
A few examples:
water and peroxide emerge (evolve) from hydrogen and oxygen,
a multiplicity of substances emerges (evolves) from carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen depending on quantitative combinations,
sulfuric acid emerges from hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen,
sight emerges from the "right" quantitative and qualitative combination of matter,
hearing emerges from a different amount and kind of matter,
different forms of life evolve from different amounts and kinds of matter,
different kinds of brains, hence "minds" (See link: Spectrum of Minds) evolve from different amounts and kinds of matter in different kinds of animal life,
different kinds of mental activity from different kinds of brains,
in embryology, the process by which genes become higher and diverse forms of life,
human beings with all their complex qualities and characteristics emerge from the fertilization of a female egg by a male sperm,
the wrong number of chromosomes' affect on living creatures,
changes in offspring in interracial marriages,
environmental influences causing mutations,
with man's interference, growing ears on the backs of mice,
and so on beyond counting.
Added: June 18, 1998
In your article, "Critical Analysis vs Separation of Church and State," you imply that we should allow teachers on the pre-college level to discuss religious and theistic terminology and that our constitution does not prohibit this.
Wouldn't such a development cause much more harm than good and aren't you misreading the First Amendment?
Taking the second part of your question first, the answer is that such discussions are not the making of laws "respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the exercise thereof."
"Respecting the establishment of religion," does not mean that the language of religion may not be examined.
Such examination of language is in fact an example of NOT "abridging the freedom of speech" and inquiry.
Such discussions are not RELIGIOUS but rather are an examination of the meanings of words which is a crucial part of the EDUCATIONAL (as opposed to SCHOOLING and TRAINING) process and thereby cannot be equated with proselytizing unless, of course, a teacher prescribes his own definitions, i.e., meanings.
Therein lies one of the reasons (of which there are many) why the answer to the first part of your question is that you are probably correct considering the intellectual temper of our period in history and the abysmal quality of our EDUCATIONAL (as opposed to SCHOOLING and TRAINING) institutions.
With few exceptions, our pre-college institutions are bereft of courses in critical and analytical thinking even though, "We teach critical thinking," has become the shibboleth of our day.
Few of our teachers are trained or educated to teach critical and analytical thinking though they insist that they do because they do not understand that it requires more than asking and letting the students ask questions .
Our political/commercial/military complex is not interested in supporting EDUCATION (as opposed to SCHOOLING and TRAINING.
Our universities do not emphasize or concentrate on teaching teachers to be critical and analytical thinkers or to recognize and question BASIC assumptions.
As Albert Einstein said: "The important thing is not to stop questioning."
Most of our students are not conditioned to respect or to become seekers of truth and knowledge as demonstrated by the fact that grades are more important to them than the knowledge that the grades are presumed to indicate.
Our students are persuaded to attend college in order to get better jobs, make more money, and to live a more materially comfortable life instead of learning to recognize assumptions, how and when to question them, and how to think critically and analytically.
Throughout the world, religious fanatics, zealots, extreme right and born-again believers, organized religions, people too lazy, disinterested, or too busy struggling to make a living to find time or make the effort to become educated and enlightened, people still carrying the baggage of two or more thousand year-old beliefs and concepts, and above all the three opiates of life: sports, corporate entertainment, and theism supported by trillions of dollars, these, and more, make it impossible to break through the barrier of ignorance that keeps us minions of those in seats of power.
Within all of the above lie the seeds for rancor, greed, struggle for power, dissention, contention, intolerance, prejudice, bigotry, terrorism, and war, particularly religious wars.
So long as we hold our religious tomes, written by chauvinistic men who by today's standards of knowledge were grossly ignorant, instead of reason and love for our fellow man to be the ultimate word as to how man should behave and what he should believe, we are doomed never to be at peace with each other.
So long as the parents of the world with all their diverse uneducated, blind, and conditioned beliefs and convictions that originated in a pre-scientific and unenlightened age of a few millennia past continue to determine what will or will not be taught in the schools, you are right in suggesting that more harm than good would come from an examination of religious and theistic terminology.
Witness the contention arising from whether organized prayer or proselytizing, teaching one's personal religious beliefs to a class of students holding diverse religious beliefs, should be permitted in public schools.
Imagine teachers of diverse religious orientation, or none at all, all over the country examining the meaning of the word, "God," with no knowledge of the history or the origin of the term or the difference between abstract and verifiable terms, the multiplicity of concepts of gods in the history of man (from one-eyed monkeys to the sun and the moon), with no education in critical and analytical thinking and examining assumptions, and only their limited conditioned concepts of a god as their orientation for explanation of the term.
Proselytizing would become a mainstay of pre-college teaching and our students of different religious heritages would become basket cases.
Obviously, until the governments of the world and our "educational" institutions come to their senses and give priority to developing reasoning minds instead of merely filling them with historical, current, outdated, and too often unverifiable "facts," data, and information, there is little hope that real EDUCATION will ever become the staple of our SCHOOLING institutions.
Added: June 21, 1998
The title of your book, Hey, IS That You, God?, suggests that you believe in God or at least are searching for Him.
Yet, your home page seems to emphasize that He does not exist. What goes here?
(This book is available by communicating with Dr. Pasqual S. Schievella, P.O. Box 137, Port Jefferson, N.Y. 11777)
If you read my book, and study my homepage carefully, you will determine that my real concern is with
ALL UNVERIFIABLE LANGUAGE particularly THEISTIC LANGUAGE.
My emphasis is not on whether or not gods exist so much as it is with what is the MEANING of the term, 'god,' and how chauvinistic men (no female input), at least in the Western world, finally reduced the countless number of gods cited in history to one, divine, supernatural, perfect, all knowing, all good, all present, all powerful, incorporeal (i.e., unverifiable) entity.
There is no doubt that one can define the term, 'god,' in such a way that one could argue that gods exist but let's not fool ourselves into believing that we know or can know that there is a supernatural god which, by definition, cannot be verified.
If one were to study the excellent Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology, on the evolution of the countless concepts of gods in the history of man, one would discover that such concepts arose from man's social, psychological, and physical needs influenced by climate, agriculture, war, morality, fear of the unknown, authority's control of the masses, and the need to explain and bring us into relationship with the mysteries of life, death, and the universe.
In the history of theism and theistic religions, the term, 'god,' has referred to an amazing diversity of non-human entities from divine cows, toads, elephants, the moon, the sun, the sky, and many more, to women, men, and kings.
A few pages of my book (xv through xix and 3 through 7), Hey, IS That you, God?, which is a 200 page imagined argument between "God" and Schievella representing the pros and cons of the millennia-old examination of theistic claims, may help to bring some clarity regarding "where I'm coming from."
Of the long list of (now) absurd ideas that man has believed since the dawn of his intelligence, the belief that there is an invisible, immaterial, unknowable (or knowable) god sits like a blinding light at the top.
If there is to be progress in understanding the vacuity of claims to "God's" existence, it will not occur until the layman and educated people are led to the issues of language, truth, knowledge, and mind.
Because of a lack of education in these concepts and their bearing on the
concept and theistic claims of a non-physical, unknowable god, the fires of theism are kept burning by those who tend the furnaces.
"God" is a stir word, a regulatory word, a fear word, a smooth word, a threat word, a filler word. It is devoid of all intellectual content which helps us to communicate about things that in fact exist in our universe. It is a word that is all things to all believers -- a catch-all word like "good" or "bad." It is often used as an expletive, as a verbal gush of air, empty of content. It helps to smooth the flow of words, particularly in emotional expressions that give the illusion of communication. It is important to a global citizenry that the peoples of the world become unequivocally aware that THEISTIC language is a prime example of such illusory "communication." "God" is, in other words, the name we give to our ignorance of the scope and nature of our spirituality.
This book is for those who do not wish to remain captives of illusion, fantasy, myth, and legend. A primary purpose of this work is to make it easier to understand a subject that is too often made linguistically difficult. "Knowledgeable" people manage to hide their ignorance even from themselves by using a special jargon.
In trying to simplify difficult issues, I have resorted to the use of digressions, vernacular, idioms, and clichés, even to improper grammatical usage. I have deliberately resorted to repetition to facilitate memorization of arguments and concepts.
The simplicity for which I aimed has not always been achieved because some of the issues are more difficult than others. The reader will find that most of the "dialogue" will interest him; parts of it may not. I am mindful that a discussion often moves in a go-where-the-argument-takes-you fashion. Hence, the digressions serve as anticipation of arguments that might occur spontaneously to the reader. He is, therefore, freed from the restrictions of a rigid textbook style presentation.
The light-hearted "confrontations" with "God," however, serve the purpose of lending relief from some of the heaviness of discussion--if one chooses to read those parts. Moreover, the reader may not wish to read the arguments in consecutive order. Each can be read as a separate unit.
My "confrontations" with "God," are deliberately irreverent and off-hand. Some might think they are abusive. I have followed this format in order to overcome the psychological reverence that man has attached to his own conceptual invention to which he gives the name, "God." Though these modes of style are basically literary, they also serve the purpose of expressing the frustration engendered by fruitless "combat" against irrationality and the foisting of absurd ideas and empty terminology upon the defenseless and undeveloped minds of children. Throughout my professional career (and even before that), I have tried to communicate with young minds. I've attempted to instill reason, an inquiring attitude, and a rational but caring skepticism in place of blind acceptance and gullibility. Most young minds are already conditioned by a god-oriented world, every facet of which, to some degree, appears to be foundering on the Gibraltars of theistic thought. By the time young people have reached adolescence, their ability to think is crippled by literal interpretations of theistic concepts and meaningless buzz words which comprise a body of myths passed down from the ancients to us.
I have made an honest effort to put into the "mouth" of "God" the strongest and the best "textbook" arguments from those myths, and from those proponents and apologists who have traditionally defended "God's" existence. It is against such stock and theological beliefs, concepts, and arguments, not only of professional religionists but also of lay believers, that my responses to "God" are directed. Unfortunately for most people, too often their ultimate "argument" is, "God's will and actions are beyond human understanding." Consequently, I've had to resort to some form of this response more than I wish to. However, it gives a true picture of how the believer who has not studied the language of theism argues.
If my irreverent attitude toward "God" offends anyone, it should be remembered that it is primarily stylistic. It is impossible for me to be irreverent or abusive to a god which the overwhelming evidence indicates is nothing more than an empty concept. In fact, that irreverence is directed toward the irrational, underlying theistic beliefs which function as a predominant controlling force of most human behavior. It should be remembered, too, that most of what has been offered in defense of the existence of "God" is so weak, so faulty, so irrational, so childish that it deserves even more than mere irreverence. To paraphrase the noted mythologist, Joseph Campbell: in this scientific age such arguments (beliefs, concepts, etc.) are not good enough even for children any more. Moreover, if there were an infinitely powerful God, he would surely have created spokespersons who would be capable of proving, at least highly probably, that He does exist.
Still another aim is to fill a void of religio-philosophical discussion on the lay level for those who have been kept in the dark about the great conflicts of belief among theologians, scientists, and philosophers, and especially among the religious authorities of the world who differ radically among themselves. They differ not only in their interpretations of the scriptures of the world's religions and cultures but in their concepts of "God" and other theistic beliefs. In so many such conflicts, a rational person knows that if any definition of the term, 'God,' is literally correct, only one can be. Yet, no one helps the general public to understand this.
Each religion works at grinding its own ax and pushing its own interests to maintain its own power with little regard for the development of reasoning ability based on an examination of facts and on a proper questioning of one's claims and premises. As a result, we become easy prey to the mythological concepts of antiquity out of which today's dogmas have evolved. The world's scriptures have been sufficiently reworked to make them believable to the unenlightened and untutored. These documents have gained acceptance as being literally true. And, we are hounded and cajoled by minds conditioned by religious and cultural dogmatic authorities into accepting blindly what in any rational community would demand critical examination. Moreover, the few revealingly critical examinations of these documents receive little publicity in the media available to the general public.
It is important to understand the role that the term, 'God,' plays in this "dialogue." Those who will claim I am proving that I believe in "God" because I am "arguing with Him," will have missed the point of the opening passages. Let it be clear that the term, 'God,' as it is used here, is no more than a symbol for all the conflicting theistic-religious concepts, arguments, beliefs, and claims of theologians and believers from the "dawn" of man when he conceived "God" to be first fire, then celestial bodies in the sky, then numbers, then creatures that were half man and half animal -- name it and it was a god -- until man finally, in some cultures, evolved "God" into an invisible, incorporeal, supernatural, unknowable oneness of Divinity.
It is abundantly apparent that I have no doubt about the absurdity of the notion of such an anthropomorphic god. Yet, for all the double talk so often found in sophisticated explanations of what an unknowable god is by "knowledgeable" people, most of us still fear a god who can see us, hear us, punish us, reward us, etc. Until we can be disabused of such absurdities, there is slim hope of alleviating the problems and eliminating the wars imposed upon the peoples of the world in the names of the conflicting concepts of supernatural Supreme Beings.
The confusions of "God's" replies and of descriptions of His character, powers, personality, and behavior, which fill these pages, come clearly from the diverse claims made through imaginative attempts to explain, without evidence, the origin of our universe and to rationalize away the contradictions upon which they were and are founded. The hopes, the needs, the aspirations for immortality which gave birth to such flights of fancy are still with us. But modern man should know that he cannot be satisfied merely by inventing an omniscient, omnipotent, and omni-beneficent ghost-father in the sky.
The indiscriminating Paul Hutchinson, who wrote the introduction for Life magazine's The World's Great Religions, says that we should respect every man, bowing before his god, even if his forms of worship are sometimes repellent. Let us not forget, even if we haven't the space to detail it here, how frequently and viciously repellent man's inhumanity to man has been, and still is, in the service and under the "protection" of his gods. This same Hutchinson says that Atheism and Agnosticism, do not contribute to answering the riddles of life (as if the unverifiable, unfalsifiable, and untestable claims of supernatural theistic religions do). He does not recognize, or admit, that those answers which the major theistic religions offer have been shown by rational man to be either literal nonsense or aesthetic and ethical expressions of deep psychological needs. He neglects to say that history shows atheists and agnostics have contributed and do still contribute greatly to finding rational, ethical, and aesthetic values and answers to the riddles of life. He neglects, further, to point out that some of the finest examples of moral, humane, and rational behavior are to be found among non-believers. Moreover, the arbiters of wars have ever been and still are contentious believers in personal gods -- not atheists and agnostics.
We are all born without any thought or knowledge of a god. But, because our world is so dominated by theistic "experts" who have saturated our language, our literature, and our schooling institutions with untestable theistic terminology founded in fear and guilt and marketed with trillions of dollars, our minds, by the time we reach the age of ten, are indelibly imprinted, i.e., conditioned with a concept of a god. With some exceptions, only those fortunate enough to become educated, in the true sense of that term, free themselves of such tyranny.
It should be obvious to most of us, then, that conditioning the masses to believe in one kind of god or another serves best those who wish to remain in the seats of religious and political power, at the expense of those who are held in their unrelenting grip; it is always, of course, with the excuse that it is for our own good and salvation. This is the method of all autocratic mentalities however good their intentions and however they may be dressed in the garb of righteousness.
Humanistically rational men have no need for such control. Well over a billion people across the face of the earth do and can continue to "do justly and love mercy" without believing in some ghost-in-the-sky.
AND MAN SAID
"LET THERE BE GODS!"
AND THERE WERE GODS
AND WE MADE THEM
IN OUR IMAGE
Added: July 29, 1998 and revised August 5, 1998
NEWSWEEK published an article, entitled "Science finds God" (July 20, 1998), written by Sharon Begley.
Doesn't this conclusively undermine all your anti-theistic arguments?
In fact the article is PROOF POSITIVE of what I've taught for many years: that theists, believers, clergy, and mass media either deliberately or in ignorance so misuse and abuse language that the linguistically uneducated and unenlightened are easily persuaded to believe that the language makes sense.
Apparently the terms "SCIENCE' and 'FINDS' in the title, "Science Finds God," were deliberately or ignorantly chosen to give the impression that SCIENCE, a term quite different from the term 'SCIENTISTS,' has found EVIDENCE, as the term 'finds' implies, that a supernatural god exists.
In fact the percentage of scientists, theistically inclined, is so small that it is an outrage to give the impression that the whole of science is leaning in the direction of supporting the existence of a supernatural being.
When we examine the language of the article, the deception of the title is revealed and we discover the ifs, ands, and buts; phrases out of context, the emotional and psychological needs of a very few barely known scientists (certainly not household names), and the frequent and ample use of terminology with unverifiable referents like:
"in the eyes of believers,"
and many more, none of which supports the use of the word, "FINDS," implying evidence.
If the title had been, " A few Scientists Support Belief In God," it would have been more honestly appropriate, though hardly anything new, in terms of the content of the article that clearly shows that some scientists never did escape the social forces of a religiously oriented society that even today still imbues all children with a strong inbred psychological need for a comforting Teddy Bear and security blanket.
Certainly the analogies and rationalizations Begley cites are not evidence of the existence of a god.
Theistic "scientists," an oxymoron or outright contradiction if there ever were one, of varying religions start with the conviction that they know the truth and then rationalize every tidbit they can conceive without evidence to support that conviction.
Scientists search for evidence, i.e., verifiable facts, and arrive at the truth.
This article seesaws between believing and not believing at the same time giving the overall impression that present day SCIENCE, rather than "THEISTIC SCIENTISTS," is gradually going in the direction of supporting the existence of a god.
A careful reading, however, exposes the deception of the title and shows that nothing offered in the article, in the least, changes the evidence that no new just cause supports believing in the existence of a god while, in contradiction, Begley writes, ". . .science might whisper to believers where to seek the divine.
This article borders on having one's cake and eating it too.
First, let us realize that the god usually believed in is probably the biblical type god defined to be
INCORPOREAL (i.e.; He has no brain.),
ALL GOOD (i.e., not capable of permitting evil),
and, FIRST CAUSAL CREATOR (uncaused Himself) capable of creating something out of nothing--WOW!
Notice those terms and, taken together, their inherent contradictions.
And since Begley is partial to citing hypotheticals, what if our universe had been created in some "other dimensional" laboratory?
Surely "God" would no more be aware of any one of us than we are of some individual life form of the trillions that inhabit our bodies.
In no way do hypotheticals support the existence of a maker of universes.
That philosophers question the hidden assumptions underlying the "findings" of science in no way evidentially supports the existence of a god.
At least science's assumptions lead to predictable and verifiable results.
To ask the question, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" is to ask an unanswerable question and indicates a mind that cannot understand the epistemic uselessness of such questions.
To dwell on unanswerable questions is a waste of human intellectual effort.
Theologians cannot give credible answers to the WHYS of anything relating to theistic questions.
Theistic "explanations" to anything relating to the universe and anything occurring in it have NO credibility because they are based on blind faith totally lacking in evidence.
The use of the term, 'supernatural,' (beyond the possibility of evidence) relating to explanations, by definition, rules out truth and knowledge.
That one "willed himself to accept God" is evidence only of that person's psychological needs.
The term 'spiritual' does not necessarily imply "God."
To say that spirituality, implying the supernatural, metaphysical, transcendental,
theistic, and the like, has a common quest with science for truth is a theistic spin on the unverifiable.
A search for spirituality involves such feelings as are instilled by wonder, beauty, awe, art, and music, all of which are not theistic.
As Einstein is reported to have said, "I am a deeply religious [spiritual] non-believer."
Science is the search for truth and knowledge of the highest probability which accounts for its open-ended pursuit.
Our minds, language, and instrumentation conform to our perceptions of the universe, not to the reality of the universe.
This article, speaking of the truths of the universe, ignores the fact that truth, whichever theory of it one holds, is but a function of our language and that our language never, according to available evidence, describes our physical world--not alone the universe.
If there is no language, there is no truth or falsity.
Pure thought, whatever that is, is always about our perceptions of a presumed physical universe which according to elementary science and 18th century philosophers, Immanuel Kant and David Hume, we can never experience.
Notice that the comments favoring a supernatural being cited in this article come from theistically inclined "scientists" (not from science) who have a psychological need to believe in a god and strain to rationalize some sort of relationship between "God" and science offering no supportive evidence but, instead, terms and phrases like:
there must be,
willed himself to accept god.
As I have taught for many years, and as many others before me are reported to have said, "the essence of science is that it is self-corrective."
When it comes to a question of the supernatural, miracles, divinity, and God, theism cannot claim self-correctiveness.
Moreover, nobody can "understand" supernatural mysteries of existence because, according to possible evidence, only "physicality," i.e., the perceptions thereof, and its non-physical functions can be shown to exist, for example body and mind(ing), dancer and dancing.
No scientist can escape the critical and analytic mind of a fellow scientist.
Instead of resorting to
heredity of centuries-old beliefs,
and blindly having faith,
science pursues, with a faith-based-on-evidence,
the highest probability of truth and knowledge through
verification of predictions,
and the spirituality of delight, wonder, awe, and beauty.
"render existence meaningless,"
"rob the world of spiritual wonder,"
and "spiritual emptiness of empiricism"
commit the fallacy of giving ontological substance to inanimate terms,, specifically the fallacy of personification, inasmuch as the inanimate phase of the universe, the "creation," the world, and empiricism cannot have meaning possessing no intelligence in and of themselves.
According to available evidence, only intelligent physical beings are capable of attaching meaning to anything: words, symbols, objects or possessing spiritual wonder, awe, and excitement; this includes the spiritual joy of exploring and discovering the principles of empiricism and any other search for evidence of truth and knowledge.
Use of the word "support" implies "evidence."
The term "the miracle of life" wrongly implies that science cannot explain the source of life and that the explanation is beyond nature, i.e., supernatural.
The theory of EMERGENT EVOLUTION clearly explains the sources of emergent qualities like life, and mind just as surely as it explains the source of the qualities and properties of various chemicals.
Water (H20) extinguishes fire.
Add one more oxygen atom to its 2 hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom and it becomes hydrogen peroxide (H202) which can change brunettes into blondes.
Sulfuric acid H2S04 has the quality of being able to dissolve metal because the quality emerges when hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen are combined in the above proportions.
Given particular matter and proportions, not only does a vast variety of inanimate objects with their own special distinguishing qualities emerge but also does an "infinity" of different kinds of animate entities, human, animal, and vegetational give form to the qualities, life and/or minds.
It is sheer nonsense for theists to claim that science answers the what and how but not the why -- implying that they CAN explain it.
Theism "answers" the question "WHY" without support of evidence but cannot EXPLAIN it.
After all, answers can be, have been, and often are wrong.
To refer to the Big Bang, i.e., "The Creation," as support for the existence of an unknowable God brings into question one's reasoning abilities, education, and psychological needs.
As Ashley Montague points out, "Science has proof without any certainty and Creationism has certainty without any proof."
Citing Nobel physicist Steven Weinberg as pointing out that the more we know about the universe, "the more it becomes pointless," in no way "supports" the thesis that there must be a god.
If he is right, it supports only that it is pointless, whatever that means.
The universe cannot be pointless or pointful. These are anthropomorphic terms.
It's just there.
It is utter nonsense to use language that way.
Only physical intelligent beings can "have a point," a purpose, meaning, intention.
Believers are being disingenuous in using science as a rationalization (without evidence) for their theistic beliefs.
The phrase, "The cosmos is custom-made for life and consciousness" assumes what needs to be, but CANNOT be, verified, i.e., that the unimaginable vastness of the universe was made according to a detailed and specific plan by an unknowable incorporeal, i.e, brainless god.
To posit the hypothetical that if the universe were different, there would be no sentient beings, is to suggest that matter and energy could have been different from what it is, whatever, that means.
This plays the nonsense game of an infinite process of "What ifs":
What if the sun never evolved?
What if the sun were a billion times larger?
What if earth were closer to the sun?
What if the earth's atmosphere were sulfuric acid?
In no way do "what if" hypotheticals support the existence of a creator of universes.
It makes for great mental gymnastics but nothing else.
To muse, as does Charles Townes (Nobel prize in Physics), that "many" (a very vague and relative term) "have a feeling that somehow intelligence must have (my italics) been involved in the laws of the universe," is hardly evidence that it was.
Truth is not determined by the ballot box.
"Fifty million Frenchmen can be wrong."
The phrase, "must have," is evidence of a deep conviction, not evidence of intelligence at the moment of the Big Bang or any of the probably previous of possibly present Big Bangs.
"Many" people all over the world believe the most outlandish "must haves," in the absence of supportive evidence, imaginable.
"Finely tuned laws of the universe" implies that laws exist in the physical universe and are not a result of man's concepts and creations.
Things happen in the universe and man creates a language, i.e., mathematics, etc., to describe the way the little he knows about it, happens.
With new discoveries of other happenings, he changes or refines those laws.
No reputable scientist would claim that mathematics describes the world particularly since with new advances in math we obtain different descriptions of a world beyond our perceptions.
I shall appeal to world-renowned expert authorities:
Albert Einstein: "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."
Bertrand Russell: "Pure mathematics is the subject in which we don't know what we are talking about nor whether what we're talking about is true."
G. H. Hardy: "A mathematician is someone who not only does not know what he is talking about but also does not care."
Marilyn Vos Savant: "Chemistry falls under the heading of physics, biology falls under the heading of chemistry, thought processes fall under the heading of biology, and mathematics falls under the heading of thought."
When Polkinghorne, says the number pi "points to a very deep fact about the relationship of the nature of the universe" and our minds, and then Carl Feit, a Talmudic scholar says ". . .this seems (my italics) to be telling us. . ." about the existence of God, they really are pushing beyond the limits of reason and digging into the bowels of their unfounded convictions.
The number pi may not be part of some of the "infinite" number of possible mathematical systems man might conceive.
Let's play "what if" one of those systems has no place for pi?
Pi exists only in the mind of man, not in reality.
Admittedly, it works well in two dimensional (plane) geometry which does not describe the real world--at least not in Einstein's world, where space is curved.
Spheres, too, do not actually exist in the physical world.
This is demonstrated by examining the motions, variations of speed, forces of gravity, and the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction theory, which posits that as an object approaches and reaches the speed of light, its diameter in the direction of its movement would shorten to zero. Einstein and Russell, however, deny that the latter occurs physically.
"A sphere is a locus of points equally distant from a given point" is true by definition, not in fact.
Most people in the world (Begley and theistic scientists?) apparently do not understand the hypothetico-deductive nature (if . . . then) of mathematics.
That pi works even in sub-atomic equations, is hardly evidence that "our minds conform to the reality of the cosmos," whatever that means, even though our brains do function according to the laws "of the universe."
It especially does not tell us that "human consciousness is harmonious with the [brainless] mind of God."
Our theistic friends are ardent revisionists and spin masters.
They should consider the full implication of what they espouse such as suggesting that "our minds conform to the reality of the cosmos."
What of God's other created (conforming?) minds in the universe such as those of rats, cockroaches, and a trillion others?
As Hume, a British empiricist, who so brilliantly argued against the creation of the world by a god, suggested if we were apes, our god would be an ape.
Or with a Kafka spin, if we were intelligent and reasoning cockroaches, our god would be a cockroach.
Only a "handful" of experts understand the concept of pi in any or all of its mathematical complexity. The vast majority of people on earth never even heard of pi or don't know what it means, and certainly have no idea as to its numerical value.
To my knowledge, no last integer for the value of pi has yet been determined.
I assume, therefore, that THEIR human consciousness is not harmonious with the mind of God.
Ignoring all the other religions in the world, and attempting to show a parallelism, an analogy, between Jesus being divine and human, with quantum physics is the mother of all revisionism.
An analogy is as good only as the commonality of the elements in the statements being compared.
This article stretches reason to the breaking point.
It uses reason to give the impression, without stating so, that science can support faith (non-reason) in finding God.
In the end of her concluding paragraph, Begley admits that science and religion will never be reconciled and perhaps shouldn't be.
But she goes on to say that though science "cannot prove [Does she mean verify?] God's existence," it might reinforce belief and point out the way to look for Him.
It is disingenuous, deceitful, and unkind to give such false hope to the ardent believer.
On the same subject, updated: June, 6, 1999
Related to an interview with Ian Barbour,
self-proclaimed theistic scientist, recipient of the Templeton Prize for Religion (note: not science) on channel 13 (PBS) on the evening news of May 28, 1999.
It strikes me as curious that a scholar of his repute would suggest that "scientists are [now] more aware of the limitations of their specialized disciplines."
Perhaps he has not read J. W. N. Sullivan's Limitations of Science (1933) and a host of critical analyses, in that period, of the foundation and methods of science.
No credible scientists, starting with Aristotle (philosopher-scientist) who proclaimed that talk of beginnings and endings of the universe is unintelligible, could possibly be unaware of their limitations.
To his credit, Barbour declares that no discipline has all the answers, yet in the same breath, he speaks of "God" as if he knows He exists.
He goes on to say that "theologians are rethinking the concept of god in an evolutionary world."
What can this mean -- particularly since there is considerable question as to when and how man's intelligence emerged (evolved?)?
Theism has already run the gamut of conceptions of deities in the history of man and in the vast diversities of cultures, religions, and theistic "philosophies" from one-eyed monkeys to the Spinozistic universe to the emergent evolutionists' "next step in evolution."
It is the role of scientists to investigate every aspect of physical things, and their functions, in the universe.
Citing Stephen Hawking who observed that if the force of gravity were smaller by one part in a thousand million million, the universe would have collapsed before it had time for planets and galaxies or heavy elements to form, Balbour, implies design and plays the IF game, discounting chance as a viable answer because the latter cannot be verified.
Balbour's WHAT IF game: "WHAT if it [gravity] had been just a fraction lower, it [What is IT, the "material" of the big bang, if not matter in some form?] would have expanded too rapidly for matter to coalesce."
Assuming Balbour knows the characteristics of his designer of the universe (perhaps a tall dark- skinned, blue eyed, blond haired super-intelligent scientist) existing in another dimension, let's play Balbour's WHAT IF game.
WHAT IF this scientist is sitting in his laboratory dreaming up prototypes of universes that he plans to create just as some of our own scientists have claimed to be doing?
WHAT IF he decides he'll experiment with 50 such prototypes?
WHAT IF, in prototype 1, he decides to give the universe a force of zero gravity?
WHAT IF, in prototype 2, he gives the universe a force of gravity smaller by one one thousand million millionths of our universe's gravity?
WHAT IF in the succeeding prototypes he gave various and different degrees of force of gravity?
WHAT IF, in those succeeding prototypes, he happened to give one of them a force of gravity identical to that of our universe ?
Would he have known in advance without previous experience that occurred by chance or from some previous model, which of the prototypes would give emergence to life and intelligence?
Balbour shows the naiveté of all theists who think such questions as the above and: "Why is there a universe at all?" "Why does it have the kind of order that it has?" "Why are the constants so finely tuned that life is possible?" and the like are intelligible questions requiring other than scientific explanations.
He opines: "That is the kind of question that, I think, is raised by science but not answered by science," implying that such questions can be answered?
He then goes on to ask, "Is there a kind of design there?" (by God, perhaps or his super-scientist?) ignoring (or unaware?) that such a question, too, is unverifiable.
He's confusing mental gymnastics with verifiable intelligible thought.
Citing the issue of cloning as an example of science telling us what's possible but not what's desirable, Balbour seems to confuse SCIENCE with SCIENTISTS and not to realize that scientists are first human beings with foibles and intelligence, as is the case with theists also, and are quite as capable of distinguishing among scientific techniques and methods and the value of a human being, a family, etc., as are theists.
After all, scientists do have wives, children, families.
But what has all that to do with the goals of scientists?
Does one ask an automobile mechanic to think of family values when he repairs a car?
It is absolute linguistic nonsense to claim that "science" can't deal with such questions as it is equally nonsense to claim that theism can.
It is human THEISTS (not theism) who attempt to deal with such questions just as human beings, some or whom are scientists, are capable of "answering" ethical questions, questions of value, family and human relationships, etc.
This is well demonstrated by the fact that a large school of (non theistic) soft sciences and professionals, such as psychology, psychiatry, philosophy, anthropology, family planners, family counselors, and a host of others spend a lifetime studying these issues and the practical application of them.
Theists show their naiveté and arrogance when they claim science cannot deal with such issues and that they (alone?) are qualified to explore and give answers to such issues.
Added: September 19, l998
Since there is no evidential certainty that there is no absolute knowledge, isn't it possible that there is absolute knowledge?
This question involves three assumptions that need to be examined:
1) That evidential certainty is POSSIBLE,
"Evidential certainty" implies 100% awareness of every event in the universe, the end of time, and a beginning and an end of the evolutionary process of the universe.
Evidence of that possibility, is not testable and, hence, according to available evidence, is epistemically unintelligible.
2) That absolute knowledge is possible.
Absolute knowledge entails universal (i.e., past, present, and future) evidence of every event in the universe.
3) That the word "possible" can be applied to non-physical-substantive terminology.
In the absence of physicality, nothing is possible.
To speak of transcendent, metaphysical, and supernatural "possibilities" (such as miracles), is utter nonsense.
To say, "It is possible that there is absolute knowledge," is to say there is evidence of that possibility.
According to available evidence that possibility is not testable.
Evidence is an open-ended pursuit.
There is empirical evidence that only probable knowledge is possible; i.e.; to date there is NO evidence of absolute knowledge.
There is no empirical evidence that absolute knowledge is possible and therefore, is unintelligible also.
According to available evidence, the only legitimate conclusion we can come to is that all legitimate claims to knowledge are based on available evidence.
According to available evidence, a claim that there is or might be absolute knowledge is untestable, unverifiable, and unfalsifiable.
Therefore such a claim is epistemically unintelligible.
Added: October 10, 1998
Why can't teachers agree on what is CRITICAL THINKING?
In 1960, I introduced one of the first courses in what is now called Critical Thinking.
It was then called Critical Analysis resulting in a text and an international journal by the same name.
Since then, "Critical Thinking" has become a shibboleth of our educational institutions both on the college and pre-college levels and Critical Thinking texts have sprouted like weeds.
Unfortunately, there is not unanimity in the meanings of the term and there does not, yet, seem to be a delineation distinguishing clear, critical, and analytical thinking one from the other. I shall try to bring some clarity to the issue. However, after doing so, I will cede to society's penchant for using words loosely and meld the three terms into the most popularly used one, CRITICAL THINKING.
It should be understood, however, that critical thinking does not NECESSARILY or very often require analytical thinking.
Fundamentally, critical thinking is a complex of attitudes varying in intensity and use. If I may give a non-exhaustive list of some of the ways the mind manifests these attitudes, a critical thinker, at one time or another, but not always, is curious, questioning, speculative, creative, inquisitive, reflective, thoughtful, open-minded to evidence (i.e., to verifiable or falsifiable claims), perceptive, persistent, observing, resistant to gullibility and accepting absolutes,    interested in objectivity and rational discussion, prone to unambiguous definitions, sometimes analytical, and much more.
Not all of these attitudes function simultaneously. This accounts for the many different concepts of critical thinking. Teachers of different academic orientation, define critical thinking in terms of their own areas of expertise. They are not concerned with examining the fundamental assumptions upon which their interests rest--to mention a few:
Moralists and theists assume the real existence of moral principles and then apply critical attitudes to them.
Theists declare the existence of their unverifiable gods, and then proceed critically to describe them in detail.
Scientists are not concerned with examining their assumption that there is a physical world beyond sense data nor whether the language of science, i.e., mathematics, in fact describes reality.
Poets and artists, since they are not concerned with truth and knowledge as defined by scientists, think critically about choosing words or images that will stimulate personal meanings in those who view their works.
Mathematicians are not concerned with discussing the reality of their geometric concepts. As Bertrand Russell so aptly put it, "Pure mathematics is the subject in which we don't know what we are talking about nor whether what we're talking about is true." Often the critical thinking of a student of mathematics constitutes a clear and critical understanding only of the manipulation of little-understood concepts.
In ordinary language, a child who is told to "hand me that red pencil," and who clearly and discriminatingly understands which pencil to select, is not concerned with whether or not the pencil is in fact the color her perception "tells" her it is. It is evident then, that clear thinking may require only a common acceptance of unexamined assumptions as is so often the case in social discourse.
In other words, too many critical thinkers are either not aware of their assumptions or are not interested in examining them or the complexities of language, truth, and knowledge as an analytical philosopher would be.
Now to ANALYTICAL THINKING which necessarily involves critical thinking. But there are, of course, degrees of analysis also. Generally, it is analytical thinking that requires not only an intense critical attitude but also a body of facts and a method to which the critical attitudes are applied.
The ultimate in analytical thinking requires an extensive study of facts, laws, principles, rules, and more particularly the use of unequivocal nit-picking and specificity of definitions.
When a mathematician declares that there are as many points on a hypotenuse of a right triangle as there are on its legs, an analytical thinker with a critical attitude will be interested in the definition of a point in order to have greater insight about mathematical language and its implications. When it is cited that a point has no dimensions (one of its various definitions), his analysis of the language indicates that, in a circuitous way, it is in fact saying that there are as many nothings (IDEAS of a point) on the hypotenuse as there are on a leg. This should give him a clearer idea of the nature of math.
When a theist declares that God is all knowing, an analytical thinker, having had God defined to be incorporeal, examines the theistic language and critically asks, "How can an entity that is not matter and consequently has no brain, be capable of knowing anything?"
To be an analytical thinker, one must learn many facts about the world and particularly many fundamental principles such as:
Learning to recognize assumptions and when a discussion requires that they be examined.
No word or symbol has an inherent meaning.
All meaning occurs ONLY within functioning brains.
No two sentient beings experience the world in the same way.
Knowledge is experience but experience is most often not knowledge.
All systems of language including logic, mathematics, geometry, and even ordinary language are systems of unspoken IF---THENS.
According to available evidence, a fundamental characteristic of knowledge is that it is only probable.
Truth is a function of language; if there is no language, there can be no truth or falsity.
Claims that are "true by definition" are unverifiable and unfalsifiable and, hence, do not relate to the physical world that we sensibly presume exists beyond our perceptions.
Majority opinion and longevity of an idea are not evidence of truth. Truth cannot be determined by a vote.
And finally, one must not take the terms 'language', 'truth', and 'knowledge' at face value.
These terms name three of the most complex concepts that human beings have to deal with every day of their lives. And it is the abuse of those terms all over the world that contributes so greatly to its ills.
The above are only a few of the attitudes, important facts, and principles involved in being a CRITICAL THINKER in the social, i.e., conventional, definition of that term.
Added: October 22, 1998
In the 13th ENCYCLICAL ON FAITH AND REASON, according to media reports, Pope John Paul II is concerned that "modern philosophy has lost confidence in reason."
The Pope fears that ". . . the search for ULTIMATE (my upper case) truth seems often to be neglected."
Commendably the Pope ". . . urged philosophers, theologians, and people in the pews to keep using human reason. . . ."
Unfortunately, he added, ". . .to seek ultimate truth--not just to examine facts and technological data."
He suggested that philosophers should be reasoning about the following "metaphysical" questions, which have been asked and reasoned about for thousands of years to no avail, "Who am I?" "Where have I come from and where am I going?" "Why is there evil?" and "What is there after this life?
I find it impossible to understand what the Pope means by " reason" when he asks us to apply it to questions, which cannot be verified, in order "to find Ultimate truth."
If the Pope's admonition is meant to suggest a new approach (i.e., use of more reason), it is a back-handed way of recommending that we hold on to old (and unverifiable) ideas.
To paraphrase Einstein, we should be more frightened of old ideas than of new ones.
If there is one thing philosophers have learned in the history of philosophy, it is that finding ultimate truth is a will o' the wisp.
According to centuries of available evidence, neither reason nor observation of facts, alone or together, can possibly determine ULTIMATE truth or knowledge.
Only knowing one hundred percent of all that can be known in the past, present, and future would make that possible.
It was long ago determined that the search for truth and knowledge requires both reason and facts.
Reason alone results only in hypothetical conclusions.
Reasoning about facts, which includes the meanings we attribute to words, however, would bring us to such conclusions as, "If God is not corporeal, i.e., not matter/energy, then he has no brain and consequently cannot be all-knowing, not alone all-good, all-powerful, and all-present."
Is this what the Pope wants us to discover?
As far as I know, few (if any) philosophers deny the existence of truth.
We affirm only that there is no way possible to obtain ultimate, i.e., absolute, truth and knowledge.
As for reason and faith being complementary, this is true if there is faith (i.e., trust and confidence) based on evidence,
certainly not if faith is based on the absence of or in spite of evidence.
Blindly believing in any claim, theistic or secular, verifies nothing.
For some of us the first three questions, below, are very easy to answer and are hardly metaphysical.
The fourth is intellectually unanswerable since it asks us to seek facts about the "supernatural," a word that excludes the possibility of experiencing facts.
Let's apply some reasoning to the Pope's four questions bearing in mind that it cannot be done in a vacuum of facts, in an absence of an examination of the language, and without an examination of the assumptions underlying his questions.
"Who am I?"
This question historically was, and generally still is, founded on the contention that the soul (psuché) is "who I am."
A few words,
then, about the historical and evolutionary attributions of meanings of the
term, 'soul,' should be enlightening.
An explication of the history of meanings attributed to the term, 'soul,' is far too complex to present here.
Suffice it to say that initially it appeared to designate merely the fact of being alive. "Being alive" was interpreted to include anything human or otherwise by dint of "motion."
Through the evolution of its uses and attributions of meanings, any combination of activity, or characteristics, quantitative or qualitative, at any time, were considered to be evidence of "soul."
Eventually it was and is considered by believers in theism to be some mystical "entity" or substance, destined to flee from the body of a living being upon death to reside eternally on some theistically supernatural dimension.
Undoubtedly this concept was inherited from
in which the soul was described as an eternally pure metaphysical entity once
hosted by, in "Stargate fashion" a physical being, becoming contaminated.
After a succession of such earthly contaminations, was destined to inhabit an entity better or worse, depending on the life style of its immediately previous host.
Surely as an artistic endeavor it made for interesting reading, but such a concept has long lost any value from the point of view of truth and knowledge.
After all, the brain, as one scientist described it, is "an intricate web of electrical and nerve connections."
This is certainly verified by the fact that scientists can now use electro-magnetic impulses and artificial implants in the brain to "mentally" activate a computer.
So much for a metaphysical soul.
And this is only the beginning of developing "cyborgs" that will be superior to human beings.
The next step will be advanced computer enhanced brains.
However, the average person, who is not concerned with such matters or of esoteric philosophic issues or who is not imbued with indoctrinated and unverifiable theistic concepts, might ask, "What do you mean?"
Or, he may proceed to give his surname.
Or he might offer information about his profession, his family, and relatives.
Or, he may speak of his hobbies and interests, his ambitions.
Or, he might offer an intellectual reply: "I'm the totality of my experiences."
He may give a profound reply: "I'm an evolving person from moment to moment in process from birth to death."
" Where have I come from and where am I going?"
Just as water emerges from hydrogen and oxygen, seeing emerges from the right quantity and kind of matter, hearing also.
I (i.e., my body, life, and mind) have emerged from the bowels of the universe, first through the formation of the earth, then through the sperm of my father and egg and womb of my mother, nurtured by their experiences, my "village," and by the matter and chemicals in the earth, consumed through plants and other food products.
This is as it was with our ancestors before us.
And as with them, we shall return to our ultimate origin, the earth, or in Biblical terms, ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
To think otherwise is to dredge up troglodytic fantasies long shown to be nonsense.
"Why is there evil?"
We shall not, here, delve into the meanings we attribute to the term.
In theological terms, evil exists because one's all-powerful God makes it possible, allows it, and even actively practiced it; see: Jer 4:10 and 15:18; 2 Thess. 2:11; and Ezek. 14:9.
Consider His murdering everyone on earth except Noah and his family and two (or nine?) of every other type of living creature on earth!
Consider, also, His allowing Satan to exist eternally.
If these examples of God's evil propensity are metaphors or the question conceives evil as a metaphysical force or is asking, "Why does God make evil possible and permit it?" all answers to such theistic questions are conjecture or unverifiable dogma, and, therefore, intellectual nonsense.
In realistic terms evil exists because most of us are born as grabbing animals with an instinct to survive.
Some of us are born with abnormal emergent qualities that prevent us from being civilized by nurturing influences, others because they were not nurtured properly, some by a naturally intense and uncontrollable need for power or the pleasure of hurting others.
A (non-metaphysical) lobotomy could eviscerate all such evil tendencies as does death.
"What is there after this life?"
This concept was probably conceived by our distant ancestors, confusing dormancy with death, who saw "dead" plant life spring forth in full bloom again in the change of seasons.
Moreover, claims of after-death experiences are ignorant of or ignore the fact that the brain is still functioning according to the physical laws of this universe.
If by "after this life" it means being "brain dead," this question makes the unfounded and unverifiable assumption that there may be "something" (some form of ethereal life in another space-time dimension) other than the physical/energy conditions which enabled and enables our existence in the first place.
This question, too, is intellectually unanswerable.
Added: December 6, 1998
Much of what man has accomplished could not have been accomplished in the absence of faith.
Why, then, do you have such an aversion to it?
If you had studied my homepage carefully, you would not have asked this question.
I do not have an aversion to faith.
In fact I possess a very strong sense of faith.
However, I do have an aversion to the abuse of language, CONDITIONED faith, the teaching of false and/or untestable and unfalsifiable "information," and the blind acceptance of claims that cannot be verified.
Moreover, the problem lies in what is meant by the term 'faith' when it is used by various individuals and particularly institutions.
The problem lies, also, in who uses it and to what purpose.
The use of the term often underlies a specific agenda.
Following are some of the ways in which we use the term:
1) Have faith in yourself. (Have confidence in yourself.)
2) Have faith in your spouse. (Trust your spouse, or believe that your spouse is not cheating on you.)
3) Keep the faith baby! (This use can mean whatever you wish it to mean; possibly: "Don't give up your system of blind beliefs.")
4) Have faith in God. [Blindly accept His existence and trust that He will do what (He thinks) is best for you.]
5) Be faithful. (Don't cheat. Be loyal. Do your duty. Live up to your vows. Do what is expected of you.)
6) Don't be unfaithful. (Don't cheat or be disloyal.)
7) You have to accept it on faith. [Accept as true what is not known to be true, i.e., intuitive (no evidence) belief.]
8) Positivists have faith in the principle of verifiability, i.e., evidence. (An opponent of Positivism means "blind faith.")
In SOME of the above the term is a religious, theistic, and even secular euphemism for unquestioning blind acceptance.
It is too often an admonition to accept claims, particularly theistic claims WITHOUT and/or IN SPITE of evidence.
Such an admonition often carries the weight of centuries-old established religions, the tacit threat of eternal punishment, and guilt-producing language.
For various reasons, such a use of the term is one of the most damaging forms of ignorance -- discussed elsewhere in this homepage.
Underlying them all is the fact that it hides one's ignorance from one's self.
If one wishes to learn to use the term 'faith' properly, one must first learn the ways in which faith is conditioned or established.
FAITH WITHOUT EVIDENCE and FAITH IN SPITE OF EVIDENCE:
These are accomplished through a process of physiological conditioning, resulting in a conditioned psychological state of mind.
The process is analogous to Pavlov's conditioning his dog, with the ringing of a bell, to lap up a bowl whether it is full or empty.
Today, lower animals are trained (read: conditioned) for the entertainment world.
In the case of conditioning theistic faith in human beings, the long and complex process begins on the date of birth when mother exclaims, "My God, what a beautiful baby!"
Proponents of a major religion say, "Give us your child for ten years and he will be ours forever."
They, however, use the euphemistic term, 'indoctrinating' instead of 'conditioning.'
From that day forward, one hears the term a "million" times along with concomitant theistic explanations, meanings, and terms like 'Heaven,' 'Hell,' 'angels,' 'Purgatory,' 'Satan,' 'sin,' and the like.
As well, one is offered the reward of going to heaven for being good, or in some religions, being a terrorist suicide bomber with 80 virgins awaiting him in "heaven." Or one is threatened with being sent to Hell for not having faith in God.
These are a few of the conditioning linguistic "bells," besides countless others, that are used to make you believe and respond as the conditioner CAUSES you to.
Such beliefs are held and responses performed in the absence of reason and knowledge on the part of the one being conditioned.
One has no choice in whether or not to believe.
If you are already "on the fence," then it is likely that some striking event like the tragic death of a loved one may be the "last straw" in the evolutionary process taking place in your mind in causing you to refuse to accept blindly claims that cannot be verified.
If you are a zealot, a true or born-again believer, or if you believe that your all-good God will always do what (He thinks) is good for you, whatever catastrophe, tragedy, disease, or suffering He may impose upon you, you will, in blind faith, attribute it to, "God has His reasons."
What, then, of your faith in the nature of God's "Goodness"?
Only an extensive and intensive education, into the attributed meanings of that term, especially its uses in theistic linguistic claims, will expose the non-epistemic and non-ontological nature of such claims.
As a result of such education the learning and understanding that takes place in examining the meanings of words is an evolutionary process leading one, forever after, to reject as truth and knowledge what cannot be verified.
Choice of what to believe now depends upon faith (trust or confidence) in available evidence.
No longer will one's mindset be subject to conditioned blind acceptance.
The so-called truths (dogmas and edicts) of theism rarely, if ever, change.
If they do, they are changed with another edict or by a vote of those in power.
Truth and knowledge are dependent upon probable evidence, which is open-ended in character, and cannot be determined by edict or a vote.
FAITH BASED ON EVIDENCE:
Faith, here, means trust and confidence based on evidence -- not blind acceptance.
Choice IS involved here.
If one discovers (has evidence) that one's spouse has been UNfaithful, one has a choice of whether to trust that spouse again.
My very strong faith in science is based on the fact that in my 93 years I have seen the evidence that when science (not an individual scientist who is fallible) makes predictions, they are fulfilled and verified.
When a theory or hypothesis turns out to be weak or wrong, it is scientists who discover the weakness or error.
The most noble characteristic of science is its self-corrective character.
No one scientist can declare truth or knowledge without the community of scientists, throughout the world, being concerned that his claim be severely scrutinized through repeated tests, experimentation, and verification.
Were it to happen that science too often made predictions that never came to fruition, I would choose not to trust and have confidence, i.e., have faith, in it.
Added August 22, 2002
It is apparent from your anti-theistic
arguments you believe that Good and Evil do not exist. Great minds, such as Pope
John Paul The Second, insist God is responsible for the good in the world, and
Satan is responsible for evil in the world. If so, how do you account for their
We will not, here, respond to the unverifiable claim
(language), implied, of God's and Satan's existence since the main point of your
question centers around whether Good and Evil exist.
You are making unexamined assumptions about the meanings of the terms, 'good,' and 'evil.'
This is, therefore, an issue which cannot be addressed properly absent an examination of man's use and abuse of language.
For billions of years language did not exist before sentient beings and the function we call "intelligence" appeared in the universe; nor were there any meanings including such as we now attribute to terms like 'good' and 'evil.'
Nothing existed except interacting matter/energy.
Some sentient beings, in whom brains and nervous systems emerged, at first evolved a non-conceptual awareness of feelings such as pain, sadness, joy, pleasure, fear, anger, needs, and survival responses much as do the lowest of lower animals.
At some stage during the evolution of the universe, intelligence evolved.
Eventually the level of conscious thought and awareness of one's awareness manifested itself allowing the emergence of the ability to conceptualize and to value.
As the ability to develop a language evolved, it became possible for such brain functions to be expressed and communicated symbolically.
Unfortunately man has conflated symbols with reality and has been overly inventive, artistic, careless, and negligent in the use (abuse) of language.
In many instances even many of those with the highest degrees from the most notable of universities have shown either an inability or a lack of concern to distinguish between abstract and concrete, denotative and connotative, poetic and literal, artistic and realistic terminology.
They, along with the rest of the world throughout history, change verbs and modifiers into nouns, for example, evil acts, into "evil," good acts into "good," minding into "mind," valuing into "values," thinking into "thoughts," numbering into "numbers," conceptualizing into "concepts," on without end.
Then the lesser informed of us attribute some kind of non-physical substantiveness to those nouns.
The conclusion to be drawn from the above is that the use of functionally abstract and relative terms, in noun form, came to be used, incorrectly, as names for things that in some sense presumably exist other than as the conceptualizing, judging, and imagining that occur in the brain.
The terms, 'good,' and 'evil,' among thousands of other conceptual terms used as nouns, do not in fact name any thing.
As Shakespeare said: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
They function to describe the conceptual values which man has rightly come to accept and consider necessary and important to the peaceful survival of a cooperating species.
Lower animals kill and in most instances are not judged to be evil.
Before cavemen became civilized, it is doubtful they were considered evil by their fellow cavemen.
After all, like other animals, they too were behaving only as "God" created them to behave.
Acts that we judge to be evil instill in most of us feelings of horror as do many accidents that we do not judge to be evil.
When such acts are perpetrated by a cold-blooded professional assassin, he does not feel horror when he performs an assassination he was hired to do.
We, however, judge him to be evil because of the feeling of horror we experience.
Eating one's conquered enemy is a horrible, and even disgusting, act to us.
But, to some past cultures, it was a sign of respect to the conquered and a "means" of absorbing the strength of the enemy.
In other words HOW the "horrible" event occurs, or in what culture, determines whether it is considered evil or not.
It is not the event that is horrible.
Such an event just occurs as do countless "quadzillions" of events occurring throughout the universe.
It is how an intelligent being FEELS and reacts that determines whether or not an event is conceived to be horrible and/or evil.
There is no absolute Good or Evil except as a concept in the "minds" of some intelligent beings.
Moreover, what is a Divine Good, as imagined in the theistic tomes of the world, is radically different from man's individual and particular concepts of good and evil.
Many professional theists insist that we must not equate man's "good" with God's "Good."
No matter what occurs in the universe, including man's good or evil, it presumably constitutes the Will of God.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God's Good is Being, and Evil is Non-being, i.e., not physical.
If Being is equated with "what exists," one has to be extremely careful not to equate the existence of physical things with the "existence" of what physical things do and with one's use of abstract terms to name non-physical "existents."
To do so is to equivocate the term, 'existence.'
For instance, a physical brain thinks.
But, the existence of a physical brain must not be equated with its thinking FUNCTION.
A dead physical brain, for instance cannot function.
Mind does not exist.
But, the brain does function and that is called "mindING."
It is unfortunate for mankind that it does not recognize the enormous damage created by changing verbs and modifiers into nouns without understanding how to interpret them properly.
Not everyone recognizes that nouns name concepts, ideas, imagination, fears, feelings, etc., as well as (and even more often than) they name things that exist four-dimensionally.
If we insist that the concepts of man throughout the history of the activity of our brains exist as other than functions of our brains, then we must agree that all of the "infinite" number of concepts conceived by man (as well as those of some lower-animals) since the dawn of his physical existence, also exist.
Such "existents" include, to mention a few: gargoyles, flying horses, ghosts, spirits, souls, witches, and the imaginary creations of children, on without end.
These do not exist other than as functions of creative and imaginative brains.
Let us reiterate, not even laws, numbers; mathematical, ethical, theistic, and religious concepts existed in the universe before the advent of intelligence.
If we are to argue that God's intelligence always existed (an unverifiable and unfalsifiable claim) and, therefore, concepts existed before He even "created" the universe, then, it would appear that God is guilty of creating Evil as well as Good, as many theists will attest to.
In human terms, as such, He is an Evil God.
Nothing, good or evil, can occur in the universe without His Will and Consent.
Given all of the above, on the one hand, we are adhering to Anselmian logic that we can think something into existence, and on the other, the logic of Bishop George Berkeley that all existence is but the ideas in God's (non-physical) brain, i.e., "To be, is to be perceived."
So, if we can CONCEIVE what an ultimate Good IS, as opposed to a good act, a good thing, a good concept; and what Evil IS, as opposed to an evil act, an evil thing, and an evil concept, then, the uninformed draws the erroneous conclusion that Good and Evil must EXIST--implying a SUBSTANTIVE existence.
Man tends to show little conceptual interest or concern for most events he is aware of that occur in the universe.
Just as no one worships God, rather, he worships his CONCEPT of a god; also, no one experiences Evil.
He judges certain, but not all, events that cause him to experience a feeling of horror, to be evil; and good those events from which he derives some degree of pleasure.
Consider: If or when that function we call "intelligence" ceases to "exist" in the universe, so will such values as good and evil cease to "exist."
Added: April 19, 1999
You repeatedly insist that nothing that is incorporeal can exist.
How, then, do you explain the existence of pain, happiness, love, hate, friendship, democracy, motion, and the like?
Elsewhere in this homepage, I have addressed this issue, particularly the equivocation of the term, 'exist.'
The crux of the problem is "the meaning" of the term, ' exist,' i.e., 'existence,' and the many different meanings we attach to the term.
If four dimensionally measurable THINGS did not exist, none of what you cited above could "exist."
The "existents" you refer to are dependent upon physical existents.
Such non-physical "existents," are analogous to other non-physical "existents" like mathematical concepts, laws, principles, moral and theological concepts, etc.
They cannot "exist" except as functions of physical and/or living and/or intelligent four dimensional existents.
When, in the case of emotions, ideas, pain, happiness, etc., being experienced, if the person or persons experiencing them cease to have functioning (i.e., live) brains or to exist, so do such "existents" as your question addresses.
Updated October 22, 1999
There is a more complex aspect of this issue which revolves around the meanings WE GIVE to such terms as 'exists,' 'is,' 'being,' 'ontology,' and, of course, 'existence.'
Meanings do not exist as objects or entities.
Moreover, we never mean in vacuo.
When we mean, we are attributing characteristics and/or qualities to the "object" we are naming or referring to.
To GIVE MEANING is to perform an act of mind.
As such, the term 'meaning' "means" an act of mind.
You may, therefore, legitimately claim that one's meaning of a word is not the same thing as the object one means, for it is clear that an object (a physical object) is not "an act of mind" -- unless, of course you accept Bishop George Berkeley's theology or Samuel Alexander's "objects of mind."
There are those who insist that terms like 'exist,' 'is,' all forms of the infinitive "to be" mean the same thing each and every time they are used.
We do not have a license, however, to claim that when a term is used that it always means the same thing (See Ogden and Richards, THE MEANING OF MEANING.)
And this should be clear particularly when we insist that "exists" means two different things in the statements, "God exists," and "The table exists."
An antagonist might reply, " But I am discussing only its existence not the thing's kind of existence.
The differences in EXISTENTS cannot be separated from their EXISTENCE except discursively.
The moment the issue comes into question, "Yes, it exists," "No, it does not exist," it becomes evident that the meanings of "exist" are not the same.
When we make claims of existence that cannot be verified, it is never clear what is meant.
Let us imagine a dialogue:
What do you mean by "exists"?
I MEAN (GOD) HAS BEING.
What do you mean by "being"?
I MEAN QUALITIES AND CHARACTERISTICS THE TOTALITY OF WHICH ARE GOD.
But God is defined to be incorporeal, i.e., non-matter, non-being.
Aren't you saying "exists," i.e., "has being" means "has non-being"?
The term is, beyond doubt, being equivocated.
Any dictionary or argument about "exists" will attest to that.
No combination of alphabetical letters, i.e., symbols, has an inherent meaning.
Meaning "rests" only in some "mind."
I have been asked, "What do your mean by 'inherent'?"
I mean "innate," that is to say, no symbol has meaning until meaning is attributed to it.
The "meanings" are those GIVEN to us by our parents, teachers, specialized groups, and dictionary usage, etc., or are meanings evolved from internalized experiences.
The meaning of the term, 'exists,' in saying that physical things exist, must never be equated with its use in saying that their functions exist.
Physical things have dimensions and their functions do not.
Most functions of things like running, walking, dancing, thinking, etc., "exist" ephemerally.
Other functions are mental constructs like arithmetic, mathematics, geometry, laws, principles.
Still other functions of things like "mind," thoughts, health, age, and the like are in a constant process of change.
When all intelligences in the universe ceases to "exist," they cease to exist.
Physical objects, though subject to the relative attributed meanings of the term, 'ephemeral,' may change or evolve in form or even become energy, but their component parts do not cease to exist in some form.
This cannot be said for incorporeal FUNCTIONS of things.
The nature of the "existence" of physical things must never be equated with the nature of the existence of the functions of those physical things.
As to the question above, let us consider the term "exist" in some of its various uses:
The table exists.
Electro-magnetic waves exist.
Relations (between two objects) exist.
Geometric entities exist.
It has been said that if one utters, writes, or thinks such statements, that the term 'exists' means the same thing in each of the sentences.
The implication of such an assertion implies:
that each person knows exactly what any other person using the term means,
that every person using the the term "means" the same thing.
that "existence," the "isness," the "being" of an entity is verifiable.
that the user of the term has a clear idea of what he means.
that the "thing" said to exist is understood (the meaning of which term must, itself, be meticulously examined) to mean the same thing.
Nevertheless, if you are going to claim "isness," "being," "existence" of an entity, the meaning of the "isness" cannot be separated from the qualities and characteristics being attributed to the entity inasmuch as without their existence, you are in no position to assert its existence as a prerequisite for those qualities and characteristics because the entity IS the totality of those qualities and characteristics.
If you claim that a non-physical entity exists, then it's incumbent upon you to attribute verifiable characteristics to it without which its existence cannot be manifested or else "exists" is an empty term.
When you say (the Biblical), "God exists," you cannot mean, by "exists," what you mean when you say the table exists.
For when you say "God exists," defined to be unknowable, you are saying He has certain unknowable, and, consequently, undeclarable attributes.
The utterance, "God exists," therefore, is an empty term.
When you say "That table exists," you mean you can specify its verifiable attributes.
So when you say "God, Heaven, Hell, demons, etc., exist," you do not mean that you can specify verifiable attributes.
Added: June 9, 1999, revised June 11, 1999
Somewhere in your homepage, you state that theism is the greatest crime ever foisted against mankind.
What evidence do you have to support such an outrageous claim?
There are a few issues that must be clarified before dealing with the question you have posed.
It is important to understand that 'religion' and 'theism' are not synonymous terms.
Originally the term, 'religio,' meant mere "belief," "community," "shared customs."
Following are other secular definitions: knowledge and practice of our duties toward our fellowman; in character: studious, tenacious, conscientious, scrupulous, exact, strict, rigid, fervent, faithful, zealous.
Unfortunately, in the minds of most believers, religion necessarily involves theism, i.e., belief in a god,
There are after all non-theistic religions.
Religion can be and has been a very positive enterprise when practiced for the benefit of ALL mankind.
When it is founded on and supported by theism, particularly in a theistic multiplicity of warring concepts, conceived in the minds of cave dwellers, promulgated and proselytized throughout the ages, it is the bane of humanity.
However, when the positive aspects of religion are cited, credit goes, improperly, to theism whose tenets cannot ever be verified.
It is important to consider the meaning of the term, 'theism' as I understand it.
The dictionary defines it as "belief in a god or gods," personal or not.
Another: Speculative theism is the belief in the existence of a god IN ONE FORM OR ANOTHER.
This apparently alludes to the history of polytheism (believing in a plurality of gods) wherein gods took the form of anything from one-eyed frogs to heavenly bodies, to animals, to super-human beings, to gods of the wind, to gods of the seas, to gods of the earth, even extraterrestrials, on and on endlessly until, eventually, the thinkers and observers discovered so much nonsense and contradictions in the descriptive language defining those gods that each culture (not all, even today) finally melded them into one personal god.
However, the gods of each culture are different one from another--either slightly or extensively.
So, according to theistic language, we are still plagued by different kinds of gods.
Another: One may be a theist and not be a Christian, but he cannot be a Christian and not be a theist.
Another: Belief in a god with personal relations with human beings.
Another: Belief in a god with no personal relations with human beings.
Another: Belief in the existence of a god as the Creator and Ruler of the universe.
Much more can be said about the term, 'theism,' but the above should suffice for our purposes.
For me, the term, 'theism,' is synonymous with 'the LANGUAGE of theism.'
All belief is a form of meaning, and meaning is the basis of all language.
Were it not for the regulatory use of theistic language (the Bible, the Koran, etc.) by organized institutions, there would be no monotheistic (one god) beliefs.
In the history of theology, theologians (not alone philosophers and scientists) have consistently demolished the so-called proofs, for the existence of God, of their fellow theologians.
They are now left with nothing more than blind faith and the fallacy of ignorance: "You can't prove there is no God."
And that is true, if you define Him as unknowable.
But we can and have shown that all so-called proofs for the existence of a god, defined in non-verifiable language are epistemic nonsense.
Theistic language, among other indoctrinating mechanisms, has conditioned uneducated and unenlightened people, though even if well schooled, starting at the cradle, to accept its claims in the absence of evidence and in spite of the impossibility for verification.
Let us get directly to your question, then, to be read as, "Theistic LANGUAGE is the greatest crime ever foisted upon mankind."
First, let us discuss the "good" that the use of theistic language is said to generate.
I am not going to cite a host of specific acts of good which are attributed to the use of theistic language, in the guise of religious concepts, borrowed from the history of man's mythologies over the millennia, such as a sense of comfort derived from prayer, the happiness most people feel from believing in a god, following the Ten Commandments, the good works performed by clergy and nuns, feeding the poor, helping the injured, etc.
I shall argue that all such examples of good do not require that one adhere to the use of theistic language.
People all over the world who have no need for theistic language perform and/or benefit from those very same acts of good.
Such acts do not require belief in theistic concepts because they derive from a sense of human decency and concern for one's fellowmen, a sense that took countless millennia to evolve into a code of ethics.
Such acts of good were practiced many millennia before theistic doctrines and tomes were conceived, written, printed, and promulgated as regulating and controlling devices.
Theism has taken a proprietary claim to ethics, morality, and the language of both implying that without theistic language there would be no ethics or morality; i.e., God is the source of all good, forgetting of course, according to the Bible, that He is also the source of all evil.
Nothing in this universe can happen except by His Permitting Will.
God's Good encompasses acts that if man were to commit them, they would be called crimes of the highest order by our courts.
One need only read carefully and assiduously the language of the "religious" tomes of the ages.
Such THEISTIC LANGUAGE:
engulfs our society (not alone the world) which caters to believers to such an extent that especially in America, where with the constitutional right to free speech, non-believers are intimidated into silence on the subject and the big-business-dominated media and our schools refuse, are afraid, or, for financial reasons, choose not to give EQUAL TIME to an analysis of such theistic language,
prevents a proper education (as opposed to schooling, training, and rote learning) by denying freedom of inquiry, analysis, and reasoning in the schools about the meanings of religious and theistic terminology which permeates our literature,
conflates training, schooling, indoctrination, and conditioning with EDUCATION,
infiltrates our "secular" educational, political and judicial institutions with theistically inclined teachers and authority figures in seats of power.
deprives believers of freedom of thought by conditioning their minds early in life,
entraps the young defenseless human mind,
causes the development of closed mindedness,
closes the mind to facts and to reasoning about facts,
substitutes prayer for rational thought and action,
denies believers the freedom of will to read or study anti-theistic literature,
instigates and conditions early in life an unhealthy and naive mindset willing to accept unverifiable claims,
brainwashes the mind to accept nonsense beliefs without question,
retards development of rational thought by encouraging non-analytic and non-critical thinking,
forces people, through thought control, to believe what cannot be verified or falsified,
caused the death and/or imprisonment of innocent people declaring them to be witches and/or in league with the devil in order to enforce thought control,
causes people to accept superstitions,
confuses metaphor with fact and reality,
causes people to rely on blind faith instead of on their own abilities and potential,
causes people to fail to fulfill their full potential relying on a god instead of themselves,
follows the teachings of the Bible that keep women and gays "in their place" and preventing them from fulfilling their potential,
destroys self reliance (God will protect us.),
deprives people of freedom of action,
diminishes oneself by believing more in a god than in oneself,
causes people to rely on religion instead of medicine,
forces people to conform to preconceptions,
causes intolerance for differences in religious beliefs,
causes divisiveness among believers of different faiths,
causes racial prejudices,
causes people to accept myths as facts,
induces belief in gross falsehoods,
imposes its considerable persuasive power over politicians, political action, and naive minds,
forces government policies to be determined by religious concerns,
causes unhappiness in many obvious and subtle ways,
forces unhappy people to remain married,
causes people to support religious and indoctrinating institutions,
forces people to support the livelihood of the clergy,
persuades the poor to donate money, for the propagation and proselytizing of blind faith, they so direly need to support themselves,
has caused the expenditure of multi-trillions of dollars, throughout history, on "religious" structures, i.e., houses of the Lord,
caused and causes taxpayers to carry the load of taxes religious institutions should be paying for the services and infrastructure from which they benefit,
causes fear especially of death (in Hell),
causes feelings of guilt often by defining normal human behavior as "sin,"
uses fear, a sense of guilt, promise of reward, threat of punishment (among other conditioning techniques) to condition the unenlightened and uninformed, starting at the cradle, to accept its claims in spite of the impossibility for verification,
historically, caused the sacrifice of human beings to gods,
restricts ethical development,
has instigated, permitted, and performed some of the greatest crimes, cruelty, and  atrocities in the history of man in the name of God,
has a history of inquisitions--burnings at the stake,
causes religious prejudice and bigotry which so often result in uncivilized behavior, periodic ethnic cleansing, and religious wars,
gives intentional and unintentional support to white supremacists and terrorists,
causes an unacceptable increase in the population of the earth,
and, is responsible for an impending over-population of the earth, causing pollution, bumper to bumper traffic, deforestation, residential sprawl, over-crowded schools, shortage of food, medical supplies, etc., in third world countries, i.e., increasing harm to our environment, etc.,
casts suspicion on and lack of confidence in scientific development and pronouncements,
imposes its definition of 'life' and 'person' which are matters of science not theism, religion, or law,
has retarded scientific development and progress,
undermines and diminishes separation of church and state,
deprives clergy and nuns satisfaction of natural sexual drives,
advocates sex only for propagation,
denies use of condoms for safe sex,
deprives clergy and nuns of marriage,
causes the use of personal effort, time, and energy that could be more productively utilized,
causes people to spend their time, money, and effort preparing for an afterlife instead of for a fruitful and productive life while alive,
causes false hope, sometimes leading to suicide, in the hope of living, as a bodiless soul, eternally in "Heaven,"
sets the example (through biblical language) for committing evil acts, waging war, and mass murder (except for Noah and his family),
Denies non-believers from the possibility of high office in politics.
There is no question that, by accident, good often comes out of bad, even as bad often comes out of good, but throughout the history of man, no amount of good that theists have admonished us to perform, in the name of their multiple and various gods, has been able to undo the cruelty, atrocities, wars, deaths, mutilations, ethnic cleansing; social, cultural, racial, political, and religious divisiveness, thought control diminution of rational thought, financial hardship, etc., caused by theistic dogmas and language.
Added: June 30, 1999,
You have argued that God, because He is not matter, cannot
have a brain and consequently can't see, hear, think, have knowledge, etc.
Haven't you ignored the fact that since He is Perfect in every way, He does not need to be matter and if He were, it would render Him imperfect?
I have treated this issue, indirectly, elsewhere in this home page.
First, DEFINING "God" not needing to be matter and being perfect says more about you than about "Him."
You cannot define something into existence anymore than you can define a flying horse into existence.
You are making a number of assumptions that are seriously in need of examination.
Saying something (i.e., making a claim) does not make it a true claim.
First, you are assuming what needs to be verified:
that God exists,
that He is perfect,
that matter (a brain, artificial or natural) is not necessary to be able to think,
that nothingness (Incorporeality) can be conscious,
That you have a perfect idea of what 'perfect' means.
Given that you have not verified any of these claims and seem not to understand what has already been explained elsewhere on this subject, it hardly seems worth discussing further.
Added June 30, 1999; updated June 17, 2000; Updated: September 5, 2006
A few Thinkers concerned with the nature of time have argued that it may be possible to "travel" into the future. Is time travel really possible?
Observed phenomena are only basis of science.
The only justification for our concepts and systems of concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of our experiences; beyond this they have no legitimacy.
I am not qualified to speak to the subject as a scientist or mathematician, I do
have some issues to address about the language with which observed phenomena and
our perceptions and “concepts and systems of concepts” are explicated.
It seems to me that whether it makes sense to speak of time-travel or space-time travel is a matter of how one chooses to use language -- with this caveat.
If our perceptions and conceptions relate at all to reality, we are, in fact, already “traveling into the future” in multiple ways including the use of various types of “time machines” and have been since our day of birth even before the days of “horseless carriages.”
In fact we cannot avoid doing so.
It took the genius of Albert Einstein to enable us to learn that fact.
Unfortunately, Einstein’s “discovery” is clearly not understood by the masses except in terms of “La La land’s depiction of it.
Moreover, I suspect that most scientists who conceive time-travel as a possibility “in principle” (I’m not sure what that means.), give little thought to how the implications of their and our use and abuse of language affect our understanding of it.
It is important to examine some of the meanings we attribute to such terms as 'time,' ‘motion’ (i.e., travel), ‘space,’ ‘past,’ ‘present,’ and ‘future’ before we consider the concept of "time travel."
In addition, because of the role that quantum mechanics plays in considering time-travel to be possible “in principle,” it will be necessary to examine some of its other terminology as well.
However, before we do that, there are certain philosophical concepts, supportable by evidence that must be understood.
1) Some of our greatest thinkers, particularly Ernst Mach, Albert Einstein, Godfey H. Hardy, and Bertrand Russell have stated unequivocally that the language of mathematics does not describe reality.
Bertrand Russell: Mathematics is the subject in which we don’t know what we are talking about nor whether what we are talking about is true.
Godfrey H. Hardy: A mathematician is someone who not only does not know what he is talking about but, also, does not care.
2) All language, including the language of science, i.e., mathematics, refers to our perceptions and conceptions of an assumed reality.
3) When predictions are publicly “verified” by a continually recurrent repetition of our perceptions, we are justified in accepting recurrence of them as evidence that the language is highly probably “true,” until new evidence proves otherwise.
Numbers and other arithmetical symbols are abstractions from our perceptions of quantity.
Subsequently, as civilization evolved, mathematics replaced numerical symbols, with alphabetical symbols, such as x, y, and z representing variable quantitative values.
Both arithmetic and mathematical symbols have properties of their own, such as being the sum or multiple of other numbers.
Consequently, mathematics reached a point at which it had little if any necessary relevance to a physical reality.
Therein lies a linguistic problem.
Considering that arithmetic and mathematical symbols are shorthand methods of expressing conventional language and avoiding personal and emotional interpretations, it is surprising that much of the language of science, and more so the mathematics of quantum mechanics, leads us to concepts that are far stranger than fiction.
Scientists are not defining their terms conventionally.
It is strange also, that many of the symbols represent concepts that cannot be verified, for example, 1+1=2.
In the assumed real world, where equality does not exist, “ones “ don’t equal each other.
In that sense, even if mathematics is an excellent and useful tool for dealing with our perceptions of “an external world,” it is as much metaphysical language as is theistic language and, at the very least, is as metaphorical as is all language.
And as the concepts of Relativity and Quantum mechanics increased, the meanings attributed to symbols like “matter, energy, mass,” etc., have been “refined.”
For instance, mathematics informs us that an electron is doing many things and, according to quantum mechanics wave function, is “at” many places, i.e., point instances, at the same time. It has not always been so defined.
Consider a mathematical “point,” primarily defined to have no dimensions; it is patently clear that it is nothing but a non-physical idea.
All mathematically derived dimensions are, therefore, predicated upon conceptions.
Consequently when it is declared, for instances, that on the hypotenuse of a right triangle there are as many points on each leg as there are on the hypotenuse, when the hypotenuse is infinitely long and a leg is infinitely short, it is not only common sense that arrives at the conclusion that something is amiss but observation and sound logic, as opposed to merely deductive logic, as well.
It is clear that the declaration is giving the impression that a point is something when in fact “nothing,” i.e., “no dimensions,” is the antithesis of “something.”
Hence, it follows that since lines, planes, and solids, fundamentally depend upon a “point,” having no dimensions, yet being “extended” in space, (rather strange use of language) none of them exists ontologically in a physical universe, also, except as ideas.
If this is accepted, and it should be according to available evidence, much of what is said to be knowledge comes into serious question and should be characterized as metaphysical in character.
The above especially relates to all abstract symbols “denoting” an ontological status for terms such as ‘time,’ ‘motion,’ ‘mathematics,’ ‘laws,’ ‘rules,’ ‘principles,’ ‘ideas,’ ‘mind,’ thoughts, ‘constructs that are metaphysical, transcendental, supernatural, or theological,’ and the like.
Though time is now one of the commonly referred to four dimensions, as with the other three, it too has no length, width, or depth; i.e, time is also not substantive.
The same applies to change, which is a function of physical things.
In other words we are constructing an edifice of ideas and conflating it with “reality” of some kind but definitely not a physical one, unless, of course “physical” (i.e., “matter” and “mass”), is redefined in other than the classical Newtonian sense, as some scientists have suggested it has been in quantum mechanics; but more of this later.
However, there is a very important caveat to consider here also.
On the one hand the “metaphysical,” i.e., abstract, language of arithmetic and mathematics originated as a tool with which to deal with our public perceptions, that are subject to our sense faculties, of an assumed reality.
On the other hand, the metaphysical, i.e., supernatural language of theism is founded, not on perceptions but, rather, on dogma, edicts, decrees, doctrine, fiats, private experiences, and blind faith – language lacking the support of public perception.
As to the term, ‘time,’ we will not dwell on such attributed meanings as “an era,” “a period in history,” “imprisonment,” “a specific moment,” “geologic periods,” “mental time,” and the like.
Lengthy tomes have been written on the nature of “time.”
For me, one sentence defines it sufficiently:
“Time is a function of change.”
As Ernst Mach, philosopher and physicist, remarked: “ . . . time is an abstraction at which we arrive by means of the changes of things.
Change is the permeative process that characterizes our universe and different sources of change, i.e., motion, are different kinds of measurement of “time.”
Let’s dispense, also, with concepts of measurements of change, we call “time,” that I suspect you have no interest in: the hour hand of the clock moving from 12 to 1.
one rotation of Earth: an Earth day as opposed to a Mars day, a Venus day,
a Lunar day, etc.
one revolution of the Earth around the sun: an Earth year as opposed to a Jupiter
neuronal interactivity: "mental time," which is psychological.
Then there is also Australian Aboriginal time, which does not seem to "stay put"
and is called, "Dreamtime."
Let us pretend that we know what we are talking about and assume more than the three dimensions, length, width, and depth with which we define physical things.
That is to say, a thing exists, also, in a fourth dimension, i.e., “time.” [With apologies to Einstein, also in a certain “place” [a fifth dimension: a community, a culture, a nation, etc, and even in space – aspects of reality not deemed worthy of abstraction for theoretical inclusion.]
Otherwise there would be no distinction drawn between a “Miss. Andrea Rene Schievella” at five years of age as opposed to Dr. Andrea Rene Schievella at the age of forty or as a citizen of Italy or the United States, whatever.
For the moment, we shall ignore the "fifth dimension, position in space" as well as the "sixth" dimension, wherein mind is the epistemic measure of all things, and the many more dimensions that a few of today's scientists are conceiving mathematically.
With this bantering around the term, “dimension” it becomes clear that its use and meanings attributed to it are clearly in need of examination.
However, it must be accepted that chronological “time” cannot be conceived in the absence of change.
A universe lacking change would be forever in a state of immeasurable duration.
Where there is process, there is change and consequently the possibility for measurements of change that we call, "time," i.e. “past,” “present,” and “future.”
However, in fact, “past” and “future” are metaphors resulting from an ever-changing “present” universe of matter.
As Einstein intimated, the “now” of each person, having no ontological status, as well as the “now” of the present is beyond the purview of science.
The following terms, also, symbolize functions of matter and have no autonomous ontological status: ‘motion,’ ‘change,’ ‘speed,’ ‘action,’ ‘acceleration,’ and the like.
Since “time” has no autonomous ontological status, it is change and interrelations of elements of matter/energy that are the indisputable constants of our universe; and it is the conditions of “force” on the process of change that determines the measurement of “time.
If physical things did not exist and did not move or change, there would be no measurement of change or of a changing present and no speeding up or slowing down in the measurement of change, consequently no measurement of “time”; after all, as a result of Einstein's calculations, not only is motion the "source" of change, it is the displacement of time and space.
We choose to call the changed event, i.e., such measurement of matter in motion and change, “the past,” the process of change, “time,” and the end of the process of change, “the future.”
Matter, moreover, as potential or kinetic energy (i. e., mass, force, or gravitation, however they may be defined in the future), is the engine of change, as in the physical movement of the hands of a clock.
If the clock, functioning with a spiral spring, were moving at the speed of light in an empty universe would “time” be slowing down? Would the spiral spring acquire infinite mass and react more slowly with no external forces, other than its encasement, acting upon it?
Surely when a clock malfunctions and does not keep good time, we blame the clock; we don’t say, “Time slowed down” – and refer to this as “time dilation.
Mathematically it is conceptually possible, i.e., linguistically, to “travel” into the “future,” since we can speak of doing it already, second by second, minute by minute, day by day, etc.
As for time traveling machines, all methods of movement and change are “ time travel “devices,” as I will show subsequently.
If, however, as your question suggests, you are thinking of traveling into the past or the distant future, the issue of time dilation, i.e., that time slows down as one’s velocity increases toward the speed of light, must be considered.
”Time dilation,” i.e., the measure of “time,” or the slowing process of change most of which we don’t bother to measure, is rampant all over the earth in our daily “present” lives.
Taking Earth as a point of reference and ignoring the various gravitational forces affecting its movement through the vast emptiness of space beyond its orbit of the sun, consider the following:
Amanda and Andrea are twin sisters. Amanda lives in England circulating the sun at a speed of 18.5 miles a second. Andrea, leaving Boston in a time machine, her airplane flying at 500 miles an hour, i.e., almost 7.5 seconds, (or more) is circulating the sun at a speed of 25.5 miles a second as she flies to England to visit Amanda.
We’ll ignore the fact that England is chronologically six hours into Andrea’s future already, according to Greenwich Meridian Time since it can be verified by a phone call that reaches Amanda slightly “in the future,” as is the case in any conversation, that it is “Saturday, in Boston and Sunday” in England “simultaneously.”
Since Earth revolves from West to East and according to Einstein’s time dilation theory, Andrea is traveling faster, aging more slowly and moving into the future faster than is Amanda who is aging much faster, relative to Andrea, while moving more slowly into the future.
Consequently, as time slows down, while Andrea travels to see Amanda, upon seeing her sister, and according to time dilation, Amanda is older than Andrea.
Andrea thinks nothing of it, even though she understands “time dilation” because the aging process is so indiscernible during a mere six hour duration of time.
This time-dilation aging process is occurring all over the world.
Consequently, every moving device, whatever, can be considered to be a time or spacetime-traveling device.
Even a slow walker or runner will age faster (or slower) than a fast one depending on the directions of other imposed motions throughout the universe.
I suspect, however, that none of this concerns you and that what you have in mind is leaping into the past or future.
From my point of view since I believe that “past,” “present,” and “future” are only concepts with no ontological status, traveling into the future or into the past, other than linguistically is utter nonsense.
Common sense, intuition, and even evidence suggest as much.
However, since some scientists postulate “in principle” that it is conceivable despite early fears that they would not be able to explain away possible paradoxes, let us pursue the issue further.
Generally, what is meant by "time travel"?
In the sense with which it is commonly conceived, it is the "transference of a person or thing from one point-instant of time and space to the same point of space at another time."
However, Einstein is reported to have said that traveling into the future is not possible because the “future” has not yet evolved.
If this is the case, then no one in “the past,” believing that the future had not yet evolved, even if it had, would consider trying to travel “into the future.”
And, if the future has evolved, that means that every “moment of the future” is the past of every succeeding future.
Ah, the problems of language usage!
The entertainment world, however, with its imagined technology and some interpretations of quantum mechanics, have us designating any one of infinite space-time dimensions, and consequently multi-universes, even suggesting temporal inter-visitations with them through “wormholes” that are formed when the two ends of curved space meet – but more of this later.
This seems to involve the issue of how we use, and abuse, language.
There is no such “thing” as a “future” or for that matter a past or present.
Consider the issue of “time dilation” in which twin siblings age at different rates as one is traveling “at” the speed of light into outer space, remaining young upon returning to Earth, and the other becomes exceedingly old having remained on Earth.
I suggest there is only a changing “present.”
In “time dilation,” beyond Earth, as mass increases and the changing (or aging) process slows down with increase in velocity, at the “same time” on earth the aging process remains “normal” leading to the concept that the “normal moving present, on Earth, is moving faster “into the future.”
It is the case, in fact, that on Earth few of us, if any, move “into the future” at the same rate.
As indicated above, each of us has a different “changing present” relative to speed and direction of our daily movements and movements through space.
Hence, “time dilation” should more properly be defined not as the “slowing of time” but, rather, the “slowing of the process of change in the ’present.’”
Most of us are already moving through space at unimaginable speeds as the earth, within the Milky Way moves through space toward the outer boundaries of the universe.
Also, if I happen to walk faster than my wife, “in principle” she is growing older faster than I am but we are in the same “present” (again apologies to Einstein).
It is not ontological time that is slowing. It is, rather, the changing process of physical substance in the universe that alters the aging process in the changing present that we live in.
As I mentioned above, when the clock experiment was performed, it was not “time” that changed, it was the measuring device that changed its measurement of “time” as a result of gravitational forces being exerted upon its internal mechanism.
The same applies to all things possessing mass in the universe.
For the moment let’s examine the popular concept of time travel.
Consider that I am transferred from this chair, in which I have been sitting since 8:00 o'clock, at 8:15, January 4, 1996 backward in time 10 minutes to, 8:05, to the very same spot on earth where the chair has been since 8:00.
What needs to be understood is that while the transfer was supposed to be taking place, the earth also was traveling through space into the future, nano-second by nano-second, at an indescribable rate of speed, to a different "place" in space.
Consequently, the time travel event transferred me to a point-instant of possibly empty space in the Space-Time-Continuum at which the earth (hence, also the chair) no longer is.
The counter argument, however, is that at that time in the past, the earth is (has remained and always will be there while it is also moving "forward ") at that point-instant in the past., else we would be unable to time travel to it.
If this is the case, we can no longer speak of time travel but must speak of "SPACE-TIME" travel.
Assuming it not to be the case, the "here" (in space) of Jan. 4, 1996 is probably billions of miles distant from the "here" (in space) that I now occupy because aside from the earth's rotating around its axis at a thousand miles an hour, revolving around the sun at 18 miles a second and around the center of our galaxy about 250 miles a second both our sun and our galaxy have been racing toward (or away from) the celestial equator (given Einstein's Balloon Analogy) at speeds at least near half the speed of light, i.e., 93,120 miles a second.
By what stretch of evidence can it be surmised that the ontological status of time, as opposed to time as a function of change, is such that it "moves" through space with the earth?
Consider also that the Pat Schievella sent back in time, if space-time-travel were a reality, would have seen a 10-minutes-younger Pat Schievella sitting in the chair.
This event, Pat seeing Pat, then, also can be revisited after he has returned to his point of departure.
Pat being seen by Pat being seen by Pat ad infinitum because every event in the universe can be revisited.
I leave to you the infinite scenarios that can be imagined.
But this is the least of this nonsense.
For time travel to be possible it would mean the principle that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time would not hold for the following reasons.
Everything that has happened (past), is happening (present), and is going to happen (future) already exists or it would not be possible to travel forward and backward to them.
In other words "I" am sitting in that chair eternally "at" 8:15, January 4, 1996.
Assuming only TIME travel, as opposed to SPACE-TIME travel, each time I'd sit in that chair or remain sitting there (at the same desk at the same spot on earth), each new or successive time of sitting would exist there, also, eternally or else I (nor anyone else) would be able to travel back or forward to me at those various times.
In other words every event in the history of time that occurred at that point in the space-time continuum would have to exist eternally in order to be able to be "visited" from a different time period.
Moreover, I will continue to be in the process of being born on March 9, 1914 (I don't know the hour, minute of nano-second) throughout eternity.
As well, the moment of my death will exist eternally.
This being the case, such events do not just pop into existence for our time traveling convenience.
Consequently, not only would two objects occupy the same space at the "same time" but, an infinity of objects would, over an infinite amount of time.
Never in the experience of man, according to available evidence, has it been found that such a backward or forward movement in time can occur.
But, it can be said that, "we can SEE the past."
Through human technology, we can "see," in the present, the state of a distant star as it existed billions of years ago.
And, since the star may not even exist any longer, it is not the PHYSICAL star we see.
It is only the light that was emitted from that star trillions of miles away, not only from us but, also, from the point in space from which its light began to move toward us.
If we could travel through time, backward, to the moment that we first observed "a star exploding," and if there were always intelligent beings through-out eternity who could time-travel, that "exploding star" would always be able to be observed at the point-instant at which the explosion began.
That, of course, means that the "star" will eternally “BEGIN” exploding.
Moreover, the star already exists at a different point-instant, and at every point-instant of its path through many trillions of miles away from, "where" it began to explode and certainly even many more trillions of miles away from the point-instant at which it was "BORN."
Some intelligence that existed before the star was born, and went through its process of dying, would be able to time-travel into the future to see it explode and then into the past to see it being formed.
This means, of course, that its non-existence and its existence "existed" at the "same time"--Einstein's non-simultaneity of time to the contrary.
As Hermann Minkowski first noted, there are no such "things" as space and time. Each is defined in terms of the other. There is only a “Space-Time Continuum.”
If there is no simultaneity of time, it may not be claimed that, “At the time I sit here at the computer, my wife is asleep on the couch."
Nevertheless "sleeping on the couch" and "sitting at the computer" are events requiring an extended amount of time and even if it may not be said that any two nanoseconds are simultaneous, it may be said that somewhere within the range of the extended period of time both events are occurring "at the same time."
This, of course would require that we define "event" with temporal and spatial properties.
Moreover, nor should the meaning of 'time' be reduced to " nano-seconds because even they would measure different “lengths,” one from another, considering the states of motion, change of spatial locations, and consequently gravitational forces permeating the universe.
If I were to remain seated in my chair from the "date of my birth" to the day of my death or if other objects were to replace my chair in the "same space" and if time-travel were to carry some intelligent being to this room at an infinity of time periods, that being would find, in the same space that my chair initially occupied, me at my various ages and many other objects at their various ages, that may have moved into that space.
In other words, anything that exists never ceases to exist in the space that it occupies or else time-travelers would never find it in the Space-Time "spot" in which it originated.
Moreover, as I’ve indicated above, as experience shows us, if something “moves from” a point-instant in space (but is still there eternally so that it can be “revisited there,”) something else moves into that same point-instant and also remains there eternally (as it also moves through space) so that it can be revisited there.
This allows us to extrapolate the nature of the universe as a solid entity -- a plenum, shades of Parmenides -- in which every point-instant of space is filled with an infinite “number” of events of unchanging matter unless, of course, one wishes to postulate a phenomenological universe or “a” universe of an infinite “number or dimensions stacked one upon the other.
I assume, then that in the course of normal living, our consciousnesses somehow glide through these infinitely permanent point-instants of "events" giving us the illusion of change and passage of time.
In order for future and past events (on Earth, for instance) to be reached in TIME travel, as opposed to SPACE-TIME travel, both must move through space with the earth at the speed at which the earth is moving through space. In other words the past and the future must never be spatially separated.
The past must not be "left behind" in the Space-Time-Continuum in which it originated.
In other words, an object "here" was, a nano-second later, "there."
Taking heed of Zeno's paradox [I don’t understand why it’s called a paradox, except metaphorically, since it is apparently a fact.], no object is anywhere at some “point-instant” in time, except abstractly.
It is rather, MOVING THROUGH that point-instant.
Since this is the case, it would be impossible to travel backward or forward to that object or event at that point-instant.
The gist of my argument, ‘til now, is predicated primarily on a universe defined in terms of four dimensions. However, with the advent of Einsteinian relativity, quantum mechanics, string theories (ten, so far, though they’ve been interpreted as one, eleven dimensional, “M” theory), and a conflation of mathematical constructs with reality, a few highly imaginative scientists and mathematicians are seriously speculating about the possible existence of infinitely multiple dimensions in which the universe, as we know it, is similarly but not perfectly duplicated.
Furthermore, they theorize that we may be able to sidetrack having to attain or accede the speed of light for intergalactic travel (and communication?) by bending immaterial space until the two “ends” of the bent spaces touch each other to form a “wormhole” through which, of course, our spaceship (or time machine) will travel.
Before continuing, however, I feel compelled to remind astrophysicist, John Bahall, who remarked, “Philosophy is the kicking up of a lot of dust and then complaining about what you cannot see,” that scientists and mathematicians have long been sounding like, “the pot that called the kettle, ‘black.’”
Speculations derived from quantum mechanics are partly conceived, aside from other theories, on the basis of Schrodinger’s mathematically deduced “wave mechanics” model of the atom in which electrons are not particles but fields of energy.
Since some scientists have deduced, contrary to Schrodinger’s theory, that quanta function as particles as well as waves, electrons can be in multiple (infinity of?) places at the same time. Hence, they conclude, shades of Leibniz’s Monads, (overly simplistically: plenums, autonomous universes) other dimensions do, in fact, not merely mathematically, exist.
Such speculation apparently ignores, or is unaware of, the admonitions of Einstein, Hardy, and Russell, that mathematics does not describe the universe or anything in it.
According to quantum mechanics, when an electron goes from a to b, being a field of energy and a particle, it is said to be taking many (infinite?) paths at the same time. Is the “field” solid like a ball or is it like the “surface of a balloon” -- or both?
That an electron may be in “multiple places” simultaneously, firstly, ignores Einstein’s insistence that simultaneity does not exist. Secondly, it abrogates the law that two physical objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time.
I suppose a counter argument would be that quanta, being energy, have no mass. If so, how can they be said to behave as a particles?
But, assuming the description of electron behavior how is that evidence that physical multiple objects on the macroscopic level of reality can be in multiple dimensions simultaneously and occupy the same place but in different dimensions -- whatever that can possibly mean?
Moreover, the implication is that objects can move from one dimension to another explaining away any paradox of changing the course of events in the “future” by traveling to the past since “the ‘future’ was going to be different anyway.”
Such perplexing uses of mathematical language, however, make it difficult to talk about "dimensions" that, in reality are not subject to recurring perceptions, i.e., are not accessible to observation, and in the absence of evidence, have no ontological length, width, depth, or time.
Dimensions are mathematical metaphors and as our three authorities, Einstein, Russell, and Hardy, have stated, mathematics does not describe the universe.
How can such language be observationally verified?
Quantum mechanics seems to be even stranger than the language and the concepts of General Relativity. Even Einstein felt an aversion to those of the latter.
It is a fact that to travel into the past requires that nothing that has come into existence ceases to exist.
Conflating the mathematical construct that quantum particles don’t move merely in one direction but do laterally in infinite directions with the capability of a physical human body doing the same thing on the macroscopic level of existence, and in an infinity of other dimensions, staggers credibility.
Let us suppose that I time-travel to the past into dimension a, and kill my parents preventing my being born. This creates the paradox that raises the question, “How could I have returned to the past to kill my parents before I was born?”
According to the view of some scientists, if I time-traveled to the past and killed my parents thereby preventing my ever having been born, this would be occurring only in one of the dimensions. I would still have been born in some other dimension and consequently would reappear in the dimension in which I had not shot my parents, hence no paradox.
That’s a neat trick. However, it does not eliminate the paradox in the dimension in which I shot my parents even if it explains the eternal existence of every event in the universe making time-travel logically possible -- (but actually?).
After all, anything can be proved logically. But, can it be verified?
Existing in, popping up or transferring to dimension b, or any of the infinity of other dimensions, in which I had not time-traveled to the past not only does not eliminate the paradox, it compounds the existence of paradoxes.
For one thing, it requires an explanation of how it was possible for me to appear in the other dimensions after killing my parents in dimension a. For another, it does not explain why there are similarities and differences in each of the dimensions.
What if someone witnessed my sudden appearance from the future, killing my parents, seeing me suddenly disappear, then reappearing and seeing my parents still alive?
From the witness’ point of view, unaware of the possibility of the existence of another dimension, what of the paradox observed?
On the one hand, there is no verifiable prediction of concepts interacting with concepts.
On the other, we know and can verifiably predict many ways in which matter interacts with matter.
Surely this is an example that scientists are as guilty of abusing language, as are theists.
Scientists should embark not only on an examination of the material of possible observation but particularly on an examination of how they use language.
The speculations that these scientists should derive from the behavior of electrons is the they still don’t understand all there is to know about an electron and the behavior of its components (quarks and strings) that constitute its field; after all, anything behaving as a wave, is composed of “parts” also – whatever their nature.
The key, here, is the interpretation and conflation of “the many different things, at different places, the electron is doing at the same time,” with the thesis of a reality of many universes, i.e., dimensions, suggesting that what occurs on the quantum mechanical wave function energy level would also apply on the macroscopic, i.e., physical level of reality.
Of course, scientists do not say it will happen. Rather they pose a probability that it can happen – an extremely remote one, I suggest – as they do, I’m sure.
Let’s be clear, we do not perceive quantum “entities” as we do our assumed physical environment. And we do not perceive or conceive our physical environment in terms of mathematical concepts.
Obviously the macroscopic level of existence is founded on something.
Unfortunately the metaphysical direction in which science seems to be headed implies that ultimately the world evolved out of nothing, a thesis so long propounded by theists.
Now, we have scientists, discussing the continual expansion of the universe, saying that dark energy is continually being created out of NOTHING, and that Einstein's Universal Constant supports this.
K. C. Cole expressed it in her book: The Hole In The Universe as, “How Scientists Peered Over the Edge of Emptiness and Found Everything.
If ever there were a paradox, consider the above.
If this is a comment on the strange concepts science is pursuing with its dependence on mathematical “evidence,” I suggest that universal scientific acceptance is lacking and that a more moderate, if strange use of, language is in order.
If scientists really believe that something can emerge from nothing, they are as guilty as theologians who build the structure of theistic concepts on language that is neither verifiable nor falsifiable -- as the latter brazenly admit when they say, “One must accept God’s existence on faith.”
The use of the term, 'evidence,' however, calls for caution because we often conflate various "kinds" of evidence: scientific, mathematical, logical, psychological, hypothetical, and so on.
To pursue what is "meant" by evidence is beyond the scope of this discourse. Hopefully my use of the term will be clear enough to support my arguments.
In general, I mean by the term, facts that are accessible to our sense faculties, directly or indirectly. We shall not inquire into the "meaning" of the term, 'facts.
Consider Einstein's analytic (non-synthetic) equation, e=mc2. No matter what version one uses, i.e., e=mc2, e/m=c2, e/c2=m, or 1=mc2/e, they are all true by definition; that's the nature of mathematics.
New York City Museum of Natural History's presentation of the life of Einstein gives the impression that he declared that energy has no mass; this despite the apparent evidence that his equation, e=mc2 indicates that it does have mass. Would Einstein contradict himself?
However, it is argued that the equation does not represent light quanta and physical mass. It is merely a definition in which "m" and "c" refer respectively to the numerical values, i.e., incorporeal concepts of existing mass and the speed of light in an absolute vacuum.
If this is the case, then Einstein is not addressing physical reality.
But scientist avoid the term, ‘absolute.’ They use such defining language as “vacuum state” referring to a state of space devoid of matter or (my bold italics) energy.
In other words space is not truly “empty.”
Such a definition allows for a space permeated with universal gravitation (they may eventually “discover” the “graviton,” defined to have “zero charge and rest mass”), CMB, i.e., cosmic microwave background, and the massless energy of light, unless the latter is impeded by “dark matter.”
The presence of the dark matter, however, would alter the language to “false vacuum."
Moreover, if quanta have no mass, how is it possible for dark matter to impede them and how can the super dense gravity of a dark hole pull them down beyond its event horizon?
Let us reiterate; "m" and "c" in the equation are not referring to mass and light but refer only to numbers, i.e., mathematics.
How is such an equation to be verified?
Isn’t there a difference between a mathematical lack of mass and an actual lack of mass?
Is an explosion of a nuclear bomb sufficient evidence to verify the mathematical language?
Is the equation not, then, an analytic claim, i.e., true by definition as is all mathematics, that cannot be shown to be true or false because no empirical (accessible to the sense faculties) evidence can possibly be discovered to support it?
Since value and speed do not exist physically, they are only mathematical "values" that do not speak to the issue of the behavior of light in different physical media, as for instance, according to one report, as through water or air or as laser beams traveling through caesium atoms at three hundred times the " the speed of light," or the hypothetical tachyons that in order to exist must accede the speed of light.
May we not assume, then, since light is always traveling in some kind of medium, and has an impact effect on its environment suggests that it does have mass?
Otherwise some questions arise: Isn't "something” that has no mass, i.e., is non-dimensional, nothing other than an idea?
If energy, i.e., light has no mass, why is the speed of light altered in different media?
If the energy of m times c squared has no mass, then it is also the case that the energy of photons as PARTICLES has no mass.
Note the dictionary report of the meaning attributed to the term, 'photon': "a quantum of electromagnetic energy having both particle and wave behavior: it has no charge or mass but possesses momentum, i.e., motion [Pure -- when force ceases to be exerted? (Shades of Samuel Alexander’s ultimate substance of the universe)], the energy of light, X rays, gamma, etc. [sic] is carried by photons.” (My brackets.)
If so, how can the motion of light but not the "light" have a causal effect as in causing greater warmth?
Is it possible, or at least conceivable, that pure energy, i.e., light, as opposed to a mathematical symbol, “m,” does in fact have some degree of mass, that registers numerically as zero but requires a different kind of mathematical value assigned to it, and that since matter is convertible to pure energy, the latter is another form of mass-bearing existent as is a gas, air, water, fire, which are different but measurable.
Let us not forget that at one time Neutrinos were considered not to have mass.
After all, aren’t spacecraft engineers conceiving space “ships” propelled by solar winds by the pressure of streams of photons against mile-square-size sails and defense mechanisms that emit sufficient diverting pressure to prevent Yucatan-Peninsula-like meteor impacts that possibly caused the dinosaur extinction?
As the hard cover book, Space 2100: To Mars And Beyond In The Century To Come, describes it, “As sunlight reflects off the surface of a shiny bit of metal, it exchanges the tiniest bit of momentum with the object . . . and the momentum can build up over time to interplanetary speeds."
Exactly what is meant by the term, 'exchange' implying the absence of the impact of mass?
Is momentum, some "existent" also absent mass?
Momentum is, according to the dictionary, "in mechanics a quantity [my emphasis] of motion of a moving object equal to the product of its mass and velocity."
Except as a mental abstraction, it is not possible for motion to exist other than as a continuous change of space-time relocation of matter/energy.
Is not "an exchange of momentum," since it is a "product of mass and velocity," a cause and effect event, and consequently an impact of mass upon mass?
Is Einstein positing a kind of existent different from matter/energy?
Is he perhaps being misinterpreted or is this an issue of the chicken and the egg?
Is it not obvious that there would be no (kinetic) energy in the absence of potential matter/energy?
Which came first a black hole of super-dense matter or the energy of its explosion?
Is it any wonder that theists point to their unverifiable uses of language, as little different from some of the language, now smacking strongly of metaphysics, being used by scientists and mathematicians?
Is it any wonder that positing quantum mechanics and wormholes for the purpose of interstellar and spacetime traveling with no more evidence than the perceptually unsupported language of mathematics has many fellow scientists raising eyebrows?
Even if we could conceive and create the technological means for creating wormholes, how does one bend empty space?
Moreover, how does one locate the desired areas of empty space, in the vastness of the universe, at which to create the wormholes and then bend the empty space at which the wormholes are created trillions of miles apart so that the wormholes will “meet” enabling “traveling through them or to other dimensions?”
ONE FINAL THOUGHT
Imagine an assumed external reality, i.e., a universe defined by the perceptions, concepts, logic, models, instruments, languages, and mathematical constructs of intelligent creatures such as a chimpanzee, a fly, a bird, a bumblebee, a dolphin, a cat, a dog, a lizard, a snake, whatever; would they define “the universe” as human beings do?
Added July 9, 1999
You frequently have said that laws are constructs and do not in fact exist in the universe.
In what sense, then, does the phrase, the 'laws of the universe,' make sense?
The fundamental question is "Do the so-called laws of the universe have an autonomous ontological status?
What is meant when we use the word "laws" or, for that matter, the phrase "the laws of the universe"?
Much depends on WHO uses them.
The sources of usage include science, religion, theism, different cultures, societies, governments.
Consider a few uses of the term 'law': law of nature, law of Christ, law of the sea, law of the Bible, law of the land, mathematical law, laws of the universe and over a hundred more as shown in an all inclusive dictionary.
As a result of such a wide-spread use of the term, there is much contention as to what are and are not "laws of the universe."
The question arises then, "Did man discover or conceive the 'laws of the universe'?"
If he discovered them, are there MORAL, SOCIAL, and CULTURAL "laws of the universe"?
Are there different laws of the universe governing the multiple forms of behavior of living entities?
I'm not trying to be facetious.
Do lower life forms with lower levels of intelligence, follow the "laws of the universe, even if not intentionally"?
Do lower animals, which love and protect their young, follow the moral "laws of the universe"?
Certainly all garden worms behave essentially the same way, therefore, there must be a "law" of garden-worm behavior.
If the laws are autonomous, then they are causal.
There is no law of chance or of necessity.
There is only chance interaction and necessary interaction; i.e.; inanimate matter cannot "behave" other than it does given the existing conditions of the universe.
Generally, when the phrase "laws of the universe" is used, it refers to MATHEMATICAL: logical and deductive; and/or PHYSICAL: logical and/or inductive, terms and systems.
What of social or cultural laws of behavior, different from one culture to another, are they laws of the universe?
If there are other intelligent beings in the universe (Are we alone?) with radically different concepts of morality, behavior, scientific technology far more advanced than ours, are there "laws," that we do not yet know of, underlying them?
If laws are deduced, then they must be based on certain premises founded upon both predictable, and very often fallible, experiences which we call "perceptions" and "conceptions" of a presumed external world.
However, theists speak of God's Moral laws (which, in fact, are the laws of behavior they themselves conceived and promulgated).
There is little doubt that moral laws were developed by observing human behavior and interrelationships and conceiving "good" behavior from preferred or desirable results of those interrelationships.
This certainly is borne out by the history of what was, and now, on the contrary, is considered good (i.e., acceptable) behavior--not to mention the diversity of opinions on what is good behavior in different cultures, societies, and religions.
If God does exist and if God created the laws of the universe, then the laws do not have an autonomous ontology--unless of course God is equated with the universe as He sometimes is.
But, since theistic language is not verifiable, there is no need to consider the ontology of "His" laws.
Ignoring theism, and the diversity of social and cultural moral laws then, did any laws exist before intelligence emerged in the universe?
Yet, there remains the question whether laws, moral or physical, exist in the absence of a god and have an autonomous ontology.
That is, were the laws ontologically embedded in the pinpoint of substance we've come to know as the source of the Big Bang?
Did those laws evolve, ontologically, as new kinds of matter and interactions evolved?
Since these laws are expressed in mathematical, geometrical scientific, ethical, (whatever) terms and concepts, we are obliged to raise the question about their ontological status particularly because so many people, including philosophers, insist that such laws, at least physical and mathematical laws, EXIST.
Are the laws of the universe proscriptive, i.e., punitive? prescriptive, i.e., commanded,? descriptive, i.e., perceptually representative? causal, i.e., creative?
The position of this presentation is that there is no autonomous ontological status of the "laws of the universe," moral, mathematical, physical, etc.
Though such laws may have linguistic "substantiveness," they do not have spatio-temporal substantiveness.
Fundamentally, this raises the philosophical problem of the nature and imputed existence of numbers and concepts because our expressions of these laws are in terms of perception, conception, quantity, quality, and interaction.
Such laws "exist" as functions of intelligent minds which themselves, being not physical, "exist" as functions of physical brains.
Such laws are but the creations of intelligence.
In the absence of such intelligence such laws do not exist linguistically or spatio-temporally including such concepts as alternate ( 10, 12) dimensions.
Confusing mathematical laws for deriving ten, twelve, whatever dimensions at best can mean only that such terms as 'length, width, depth, and time,' as we know them, lose their meaning on the subatomic, quark, strings, plasma levels of reality and in no way abrogate the law that two objects cannot occupy the same space (in different dimensions) at the same time.
Before the appearance of intelligence in the universe, according to the available evidence and logic, nothing existed except "things" and their reactions toward each other, not even laws.
Those existents and their interactions were later observed by intelligent beings who first evolved language in order to communicate about their perceptions and conceptions of those presumed existents and their interactions.
Those existents "behaved" in the sense of "I am what I am and do what I do," not by some existent metaphysical law but by accident, chaos (a particular kind of pattern "order in itself").
In a universe of "discreet substances," "things," if you will, in such complex interactions, patterns of interactions had to appear.
Out of that chaos, a few intelligent beings recorded observed patterns of interactions, i.e., "things."
"Things" denotes assigned spatio-temporal substantiveness; though in colloquial usage, it is used to mean even non-spatio-temporal concepts.
This, in turn, denotes matter which in Einsteinian terms is interchangeable with energy, i.e., matter-energy.
All matter-energy repels or attracts other matter-energy.
Apparently, these permeative properties of interactive matter give rise to our conception of "the laws of the universe."
But, "things" are not laws!
Nor are their interactions.
The things and their interactions are "JUST THERE."
Things are complexes of interactions interacting with other complexes of interactions.
Obviously if there were no things, there would be no interaction.
According to available evidence there are not definite boundaries to things.
We conceive boundaries because we are unable to perceive the connectedness of "a thing with its environment."
We abstract "things" from their environment and assign them (i.e., the abstractions) names, symbols, numbers, etc.
It is these ideas we form into "laws."
Is it an accurate exercise of language to speak of laws, i.e., mathematics and geometry EXISTING without committing the fallacy of equivocation?
Obviously "exist" here does not have the same meaning as it does in the sentence, "This chair exists."
For example, do numbers "exist"?
Certainly not in the sense that the chairs we sit in exist.
We perceive chairs.
We do not perceive numbers--or laws for that matter.
Exactly what is it that the number "1" names.
Numbers, too, are only relative TERMS, i.e., NAMES for relationships which themselves do not occupy space in the absence of objects in relation.
If we say it names a singular unit, we are but being tautological.
All units are but complexes of other units, the physical boundaries of which only appear to be definitive.
Is there existing a unit that is not a complex of units--an ultimate (indivisible) particle, an absolute "whole"?
"Wholes" are only complexes of other "wholes."
Wholes and parts are only relative TERMS.
Numbers are only tools used to help us manipulate and "make sense" of the profusion and confusion of our perceptions.
The number, "one," is but a term, a concept, a name we apply to a perception.
Any number can be applied to any "thing."
Our laws are our INTERPRETATIONS of our perceptions of aspects of the universe.
If I may appeal to mathematical EXPERT-authorities, even Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and G. H. Hardy insist that the laws of mathematics do not describe the universe.
That they do not is a fact supportable by evidence.
Let us not forget the evolution of the meanings of mathematical symbols and concepts in the course of history.
Those "laws" are changed and/or are refined according to the availability of new evidence, i.e., supportable perceptions.
Those processes we call "things" are GIVEN spatio-temporal descriptions geometrically.
Motion, (interaction), can be described only in terms of a thing's changing spatial positions from one point-instant to another.
This is true of internal motions as well.
It is perhaps this concept that led Samuel Alexander to claim that MOTION is the ultimate "substance," a metaphysical claim beyond verification.
The wave frequencies of electro-magnetic impulses would not "exist" in the absence of something, i.e., the "presence" of nothingness.
According to the available evidence, there is no pure energy in the absence of some spatio-temporal something.
As has been explained, there can be an infinite number of mathematical, or geometrical descriptions of the universe.
Observe, plane geometry, spherical geometry, Newtonian science, Einsteinian Relativity, and others--all logical systems.
Why do our various logical systems work so well?
They work well because each system relies on and maintains a consistency of meaning of such basic terms as 'axioms,' 'plus,' 'minus,' 'equal,' 'square root,' 'law of contradiction,' in general the primitives and laws of logic, and does not impose itself upon other systems.
But not every logical conclusion from a valid argument can be verified.
The premises, first, must be verifiable.
If such non-substantive concepts as laws, numbers, relations, etc., exist, I would be very interested in locating their positions in space.
It must be recognized, however, that the "laws of the universe" are excellent and efficient ideas, in John Dewey's words, instruments, in explaining behavior, dealing with perceptions, and predicting future perceptions of events in the universe.
Added July 12, 1999
You say, 'If God is All Good, He would not have allowed evil to exist.'
If He did not, how could we exercise the freewill, He gave us, in the absence of evil to compare with good?
You make a number of very large unexamined assumptions three of which are most relevant to your question:
a) that freewill exists,
b) that given freewill, it could not be exercised in the absence of evil.
c) that there must be evil to recognize good.
We can dispense with "b" and "c" very quickly.
However, "a" is a complicated issue.
If we assume that your god gave us freewill and did not allow evil to exist, it would still be possible for us to use our freewill in making choices among a multiplicity of good "things" and good, better, and best "things."
If you are going to argue "c," that we would not know what is good without evil, i.e., pain, suffering, etc., to compare it with, we make many "freewill" choices without giving any thought to the state of the goodness or evilness of the "things" we choose, as in the case cited immediately above.
Consider also, all those creatures in the world who are born experiencing the evil of pain and, then, died without ever having experienced or been introduced to the concept of good.
Moreover, if God felt we needed the comparison, a one shot bit of pain and suffering, like a pin prick on the finger, instead of wars, diseases, crime, etc., would have done the trick.
Better still, since He is All-Powerful, and since it is quite easy to describe evil events without their occurrence, He could have given us the knowledge of the difference between good and evil without our having to experience any of the latter.
Enough of this; let's move on to your assumption, "a," that your god gave us freewill.
The real issue is whether there is such a mental state as "freewill, i.e., INDETERMINISM."
Or, is EVERYTHING in the universe caused, i.e., DETERMINED?
If you are interested, the definition of FREEWILL, i.e., indeterminism, for those who believe in it is: "an effect withOUT an antecedent cause," a definition which will be amended later.
For determinism: "an effect WITH an antecedent cause."
Let us assume that your god gave us freewill.
Now you must face a few other facts.
Your god created the laws of the universe, also, under which everything is governed.
How your brain, a physical substance, functions, i.e., your mind, is controlled by His laws.
Moreover, Your god is All-Knowing.
He knew long before he created the universe, and its laws, and after "time was created," "quadrillion zillions" of years before you were born, every act you would perform and every thought you would think, good or bad.
You do not have the freedom to do other than what He knows, being omniscient, you will do according to His laws that control everything in the universe.
I'm going to quote some passages that are pertinent to this issue, from my book, Hey! IS That You, God?.
"God" and "Schievella" are arguing; for convenience, however, I shall choose only relevant statements.
God: Everybody knows that man has free will.
Schievella: Even I might agree to that. . . . Nevertheless, free will is possible only as SOME FORM OF DETERMINISM. There is always a reason, a cause, for any choice we make even if it is only the [Your] law-controlled neuronal activity of the brain without which there would be no choice. . . . A pianist's creative musical flight of freedom would not be possible were it not for his neuronal activity and the years of disciplined practice and forming of habits of wrist and finger movements. The same applies to thinking. Freedom of thought comes out of a background of mental, educational, [nurtured], and academic preparation. Thoughts and choices do not occur in a vacuum any more than the progress of one age is possible without the progress of a previous age.   Nor does a painter without paints, brushes, canvas, whatever, and neurons in his brain, make [free] choices about how to paint a portrait. There is always some form of cause and effect. And if You created us, then You are a cause of our actions. Even the concept of a god can be a cause just as a concept of Santa Claus causes children to behave in a certain way. . . . If You did give us free will, You have no right to punish us if we choose bad over good. You created all events in the universe as well as the possibility of all events, physical and moral. If we choose bad, You made us capable of doing it. . . . You know when we will choose evil. So, if You don't stop us, as a good parent ought to, then you are twice guilty of not preventing evil, as You expect us to do. Therefore, You are an accomplice just as when You, and Your Satanic personality, connived to ruin Job. After all, if our parents are evil for letting us do bad, why aren't You?
Having said all this, let's consider further this other concept of freewill which has nothing to do with whether there is a god or not.
Such a concept is related to larger issues such as:
The distinction between those acts we "WILLINGLY" perform and those we do not.
What is a person?
What is mind?
is the meaning
we attribute to the term, 'choice'?
What does it mean, then, to say "freewill is a form of determinism.?
Now the issue becomes more complex.
When a tree dies and falls in the forest, there is no choice on the part of the tree to do that.
It is a strict deterministic effect of the trees inability to withstand whatever killed it and for its rotted roots to resist the weather conditions that felled it.
It is analogous to a person's inability to stay alive when he is stricken by certain diseases that medical science cannot yet cure or when he reaches a certain age that science has not yet learned to extend.
As a human being, I make choices.
I (depending on how you define the term, 'I' ) also make conditioned responses (I COULD NOT have made a different response given the circumstances at hand.) many of which I am often not aware I'm performing .
Often I make deliberate choices (choosing one action out of a number of possible actions.
On what basis do I make one choice instead of another?
For the moment, we must digress.
What do I mean by the term, 'I'?
"I" is the PERSON that I am.
I do not mean merely that I look like a human being, that I have two brown eyes, a nose  two arms a torso, and two legs, etc.
If, because of some accident, I was unfortunate enough to lose my eyes, arms, nose, legs, etc., I'd still be a person.
As a person "I" am a complex of my particular physical characteristics and MORE IMPORTANTLY my history of experiences.
It is those things that distinguish one "identical" twin from another.
In other words, a person's mind is a complex of functions, neuronal states and activity, and his history of "stored" experiences, remembered, forgotten (possibly sub-conscious), induced by parental, nurtured, ethical, moral, spiritual, educational, physical, cultural, social, diseased, damaged, aesthetic, genetic, whatever, input and "housed" in a physical brain.
All or some of those experiences weigh in the making of a choice.
Were there no sense faculties acquiring that history of experiences and no living physical brain "housing" that history of experiences, no choice could be made.
The strongest, more compelling complex, "tug of war," of that input, neuronal states, and functions DETERMINE the "free" choice made.
Added July 28, 1999
You seem to insist that science is the most important source of reliable knowledge and by extrapolation the "wave" of the future.
Why have you not shown that science does not deal with the ethical and moral principles that are so important to the survival of a civilization?
You have raised a very important question dealing with the relationship of science and ethics.
First it must be realized that scientists have enough work cut out for them without becoming embroiled in the diverse ethical and moral principles and behavior which have pit one culture against another since man began to give thought to human behavior.
However, that does not mean that there is no relationship between science and ethics.
Since the development of modern science, it is evident that the achievements of science have forced societies to review their views of moral behavior.
New knowledge imposes itself upon the behavior of human beings.
But such knowledge, unfortunately, is not disseminated equally around the world, nor even taught equally, if at all, in every "educational" institution.
Since it is the business of science to acquire knowledge, a full-time career in itself, it falls upon governments, their people, and the politicians representing them to put that knowledge to good rather than to bad use.
Experience, however, has shown us that governments and politicians are too (most?) often incompetent--and in the case of the latter, most of them are more concerned with votes than with principles.
Questions of morality arise because the knowledge of science is often used for purposes that are morally questionable in the minds of many people--even though not in those of others.
Discoveries and advances in knowledge leading to such moral disagreements are already in the making and are on the draft boards of the world.
It is not the business of science to solve these moral and ethical disagreements.
Governments, society, and educational institutions are responsible for doing that but are usually in the habit of "closing the barn door after the horse is stolen."
Crises, which they permit to arise (or often create) and which could very well approach catastrophic proportions, are usually handled with inept crash programs, i.e., too little, too late, and only after tremendous harm, have already been wreaked upon us.
It is a matter of great importance to have insight into the future and some of the problems we will be faced with as inhabitants of this world--problems for which we may or may not be able to contribute solutions, depending on (1) the time of our awareness of them, (2) whether we care to address them, and (3) whether we have relinquished our right to contribute to those solutions; i.e., Let George do it.
The history of the sciences has shown us that major discoveries and changes in the development of science have brought concomitant changes not only in what is commonly called our "common sense" view of the world but even in our concepts of morality.
In the distant past "life was cheap."
The advent of science, enabling us to save lives and a technology enabling mass destruction have brought conflicting moralities regarding life--depending on whether we are at peace or at war.
World economics, too, plays a part indirectly through science and technology.
Witness America's changing attitudes about saving Israel in view of energy consumption (and consequent shortages) made possible by science, technology, and political maneuvering.
Witness, too, the willingness of governments to "cooperate" with totalitarian nations guilty of committing crimes against humanity when it suits their own interests.
The probable advent of a population explosion, also, has posed new ethical questions.
Abortion, euthanasia, biological and artificial transplants, cloning, etc., have raised the spectra of new medical quanderies giving rise to a new awakening to medical ethics.
Moreover, such issues as the sexual revolution, pornography on the internet and in "adult" stores, the impact of TV entertainment on behavior, genetic influences on committed crimes, the impact of poor education's effect on behavior, big business ethics (the tobacco industry and built in obsolescence), the theistic foundation of terrorism, etc., have yet to be given the attention they so direly require.
Even the advent of a computer-controlled world, giving rise to such statements as "our computer is never wrong" makes us victims of its tyranny, not to mention the tyranny of the abuse of language.
New developments in detecting devices and electronic spying have already raised the frightening probability of loss of privacy, not merely because governments' "big brothers" spy on us but also because even "Ma Bell" listens in on our private conversations if we can believe news reports.
Science has contributed so much to the population bomb, by extending life expectancy, that government itself has become unwieldy as well as blind to the consequent environmental impact; and justice, as a result, is either so delayed that it ceases to be justice.
The innocent are too often found guilty, and the guilty too often go free.
Justice too often depends upon the quality of the lawyer one can afford to hire.
Or, plea-bargaining becomes an economic necessity causing our jails to have revolving doors or to be over-night motels.
There is reason to believe that in the not-too-distant future, computers will be capable of making decisions not only of choice of practical actions but also of moral actions.
We are fast approaching the age of the cyborgs in which age, as we grow chronologically old, we will merely replace our biological organs with artificial ones that will work so efficiently that we will one day demand the removal of biological organs before health demands it.
Our living-room idiot-boxes will be replaced by a control panel that will stimulate any part of the brain we may choose.
We will not have to stir from our comfortable armchairs to experience the most exhilarating pleasures.
There is little doubt that our knowledge of man is becoming so extensive that we shall be able to duplicate, in the factory, artificial replicas of ourselves and our loved ones.
New truths will inundate us and we shall be faced with difficult moral choices for the realities of tomorrow are hardly conceivable by the masses of today.
Such realities will cause moral upheavals because we as a society do not keep abreast of what is about to descend upon us.
Our moral decisions will be hasty ones made with insufficient preparation and in a crash-program-crisis situation.
The following, to mention only a few, shows some of the things we are even now dealing with and some we shall soon be forced to deal with in the not-too-distant future:
Extra-terrestrial intelligence and moral systems
Extra-terrestrial religion or absence of religion
Fathers' rights (after use of their sperm)
Planetary governments (and wars?)
Governmental control of population (new laws)
Social or secular religion
Alien life forms
Genetic or chromosome manipulation
Computer enhanced brain power
Genetically engineered food
We must examine the degree to which science replaces religion as the authority figure and deal with such moral and epistemological problems and metaphysical concepts like, "knowledge is the highest virtue" and "knowledge at any price."
We must face the question of what kind of knowledge is worth pursuing and what kind is not and whether there is any moral way that progress in the attainment of knowledge can, should, or ought to be curtailed.
But, it must be emphasized, these are not the issues that science (at least the hard sciences) can be expected to address.
Added August 06, 1999
Most people on Earth, including many well-educated people and even scientists, believe there is a god, and have for thousands of years, on what grounds do you maintain the rightness of your position and the wrongness of theirs?
Your inquiry is appropriate since I have, throughout this homepage, indicated many reasons why theism continues to flourish.
Consequently, it makes sense to deal with the question on its own merits.
It is not a simple task to explain why, since the so-called age of enlightenment, theism in its many forms has survived the onslaught of science, philosophers, and non-believers and in fact has flowered in the form of many sects like weeds in a meadow.
In the polytheistic period, gods filled every nook and cranny of the universe, and, given its pre-scientific era, it is understandable that such beliefs took and held root.
But that period laid the foundation for the present tenacious hold theism has on the world.
The roots, like those of creeping vines, are deeply embedded.
And though, on the surface, they may be pulled out and destroyed, the broken remains, however small, merely rejuvenate and spring forth with renewed vigor.
So it is with theism and theistic religions.
But there is a caveat, a portent of the future: there was a time when almost everyone believed in some kind of a god or gods.
With the advent of science and greater insight into the nature of things, however, there is now about 20% of the world's population that does not accept the existence of Supreme Beings, and that does not include those "wobbling on the fence."
As for the "well-educated" and a handful of scientists who claim to believe, it is apparent that they never were able to overcome the thorough conditioning to which they had been subjected.
Despite the teachings of science, philosophy, non-believers, a handful of atheistic popes, "fallen" priests and the anti-theistic writings of such great minds as Epicurus, Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, John Stuart Mill, H. L. Mencken, Joseph Campbell, Robert Green Ingersoll, Arthur C. Clarke and so many more it would take pages to fill, there are two fundamental reasons which underlie all others as to why theism has survived and is still flourishing.
(1) EXTREMELY POOR EDUCATION throughout the world.
The world does not EDUCATE its citizens.
Consequently, its mindset is controlled by ignorance, politics, greed, money, power, religions, economies, needs of the masses, celebrity, influence, conflict, competition, entertainment, ambition, etc., with REASON playing second fiddle to them all.
Learning to think CLEARLY, CRITICALLY, and ANALYTICALLY, i.e., RATIONALLY, is the most laborious of enterprises.
Few have the gumption to engage in it and governments don't insist that it be emphasized.
Essentially, our governments SCHOOL and TRAIN us.
They prepare us for filling the employment needs of the business world, for financially supporting ourselves, and for learning the social amenities needed for human relationships, filling our minds with facts and information (so much of which are false) and NEGLECTING TO TEACH US TO THINK ANALYTICALLY--the definitive definition of the term 'EDUCATION'; i.e.; they rarely EDUCATE us.
To paraphrase Einstein: If one were to forget all the "facts" acquired while attending our institutions of learning, what is retained would constitute the degree to which one had been educated.
Too many of our teachers seem to be aware of or to emphasize the differences between:
belief and knowledge
rote memory and knowledge
claims and knowledge
convictions and knowledge
intuition and knowledge
common sense and knowledge
information and knowledge
perceptions and knowledge
concepts and knowledge
experience and knowledge
blind faith and knowledge
the illusion of understanding and understanding.
They fail to teach when language is our best friend and when it is our worst enemy.
They fail to teach that language, (i.e., meaning) in its multifarious and complex forms must never be confused with fact or reality.
They fail to teach that unverifiable claims have no epistemic value.
They fail to teach that language is about our perceptions and conceptions of the "world."
Such failure is evidence that of the six and a half billion people on earth, very few are subjected to true education which accounts for the ease with which the masses can be convinced that nonsense makes sense, i.e., that the ILLUSION of knowledge and understanding IS knowledge and understanding.
(2) MARKETING OF THEISTIC CONCEPTS:
Organized theistic religions' financial capacity (trillions of dollars over the ages) and/or
governmental control (in some nations) and political power [in America constitutionally protected and supported both by (indirectly used) public funds and freedom from taxation], to MARKET their theistic doctrines to the unenlightened masses of the world.
Given the above two verifiable facts, the people of the world are easy victims of the most heinous crime ever committed against mankind (See this issue above.): the PROMULGATION and MARKETING of theism.
The marketing process, completely devoid of evidence, is a pervasive drum beat, incessant and ubiquitous played by the people (often famous) we hold in high esteem and/or authority.
Theists disagree in their interpretations of the religious works of the world which explains the existence of thousands of different religious sects.
The numerous contradictions, incitements to atrocities, war, and pornographic acts, in the religious tomes of the world are either dishonestly never quoted, ignored, or explained away as metaphors.
The masses are not equipped to counter, not alone understand, theistic claims and arguments foisted upon the naiveté of the uneducated.
Miracles, for instance, are explained by theists as the work of God even though history has repeatedly shown that they are merely events not YET explainable by our embryonic sciences.
Part of the morally reprehensible marketing process is to usurp the principles of ethics and morality as having been decreed by God.
A belief in God is NOT A NECESSARY CONDITION for the existence of ethical and moral principles.
Millions of non-believers live their lives founded on such principles.
By cornering the market on morality, theists and theistic religions increase their power to manipulate our minds.
Theology is particularly marketed by Bible hackers (seeking power), bully-pulpit preachers, (also seeking power), some university theologians (in fear of losing their positions), and politicians (in pursuit of votes) -- the latter two in contradiction of their true beliefs.
Since there are no theistic genes, inasmuch as they do not encode ideas, and inasmuch as ideas are acquired through experience and the languages we use to discuss them, children are not born theists.
They are subjected to the conditioning processes from their day of birth to believe in an  incorporeal, UNKNOWABLE Supreme Being.
Theistic authorities manipulate us through all the functions and usage of language:   ceremonial, expressive, practical, aesthetic, logical ( and illogical), including all the emotional functions of language as well: the emotional language of fear, hate, joy, guilt, art, music (especially on both the pre-college and college levels), entertainment, promise of rewards (paradise in Heaven), threat of punishment (damnation in Hell) thereby controlling the thought processes and often the pocketbooks of the unenlightened masses.
Since we are a herd species, it is unlikely that the theists could achieve a joyous, good-feeling mentality of camaraderie among the masses without entertainment, art, and music, that is so necessary to organized religion and developing common beliefs.
For unenlightened people, it is vitally important that their blind-faith-held convictions be shared by others.
Theism has so extensively and insidiously infiltrated the speech patterns of the general public that even non-believers, myself included, cannot avoid using theistic terminology -- even if only as expletives.
It requires a long conditioning process to make one into a believer, but a religiously oriented world makes it easier to condition us.
Since we live in such a world, most people, including their teachers, believe in gods of one sort or another.
As some theist said: "Give me your child for ten years and I'll have him forever."
Once we are conditioned, uncountable sums of money are expended to reinforce that conditioning and to counter DEconditioning processes the main one of which is a true education (ANALYTIC thinking).
Believers do not analyze the theistic language foisted upon them by which they are taught and talk about "God" in the ILLUSION of understanding and knowledge.
They do not understand that no word has an inherent meaning and that they have been told what to mean by the words they use.
People fail to learn the difference between language that can be verified and language which cannot.
They are willing to accept the word of presumed authority figures or those held in high esteem without examining their areas of expertise.
Believers seek easy answers to what they do not and were not educated to understand.
Some people are born with the propensity to accept easy "solutions."
They are ably abetted by their ignorance of their own areas of ignorance and ignorance of the history of theism and religion and of the evolution of moral and ethical principles.
Such people are easy prey to those who for their own ends seek to control the lives of others.
The entertainment world, whether TV, literature, movies, whatever, is saturated with theistic language and concepts, feeding the socially and religiously imbued psychological needs to believe.
The use of euphemistic terminology gives the impression that something meaningful is being said when, in fact, gobbledygook is being served.
God can be known through faith, i.e., believe without evidence.
Science can't deal with matters of faith, i.e., implying knowledge is possible in the absence of evidence.
God is Spirit, (i.e., incorporeality), i.e., implying that nothing is something.
If God doesn't exist, where did the universe come from?, i.e., implying the universe needs a cause to exist but God does not (by definition).
God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-whatever, i.e., implying God does not need a brain to know anything; eyes, to see anything; hands, to do anything; ears, to hear anything; etc.
Good people go to Heaven, i.e., implying there is a heaven without giving any evidence that it exists or what "life" as a bodiless soul would be like.
God will protect you, i.e., despite the preponderance of deaths, diseases, maiming, religious wars, hatred, and prejudices; volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, automobile accidents, birth defects, crimes, murders, broken marriages, dysfunctional families, unwanted pregnancies, weather related tragedies: floods, forest fires hurricanes; losses of home, property, jobs lifesavings, loved ones--to mention a few!
So long as our "educational" institutions make little sincere effort to EDUCATE rather than primarily SCHOOL and TRAIN the citizens of the world about the vagaries and vagueness of language, and so long as our religious institutions can persuade the citizens of the world to contribute to theists' financial coffers, and, thereby, they are able to MARKET those vagaries and vagueness of language as truth and knowledge, theism will flourish and thrive to the continued detriment of mankind.
See the next question related to one method of deceptive marketing.
Added: June 30, 2000
Religious music is an integral part of our musical departments and ceremonies in our public schools.
Considering your apparent antithesis to matters religious, would you not, at least agree that it is an extremely important part of their spiritual education?
This question begs for an understanding of the meanings of the terms,
'Education,' 'Spiritual,' and
Elsewhere in this homepage, I have addressed the meanings of the first three of these terms; therefore, I shall not dwell on them, here, extensively.
Originally the definition of the term 'religion' was "belief," "community," and the like with no necessary connection with organized religion or 'theism' which refers to a god.
There are, after all, non-theistic religions.
Education, in the true meaning of the term, must never be confused with schooling, training, rote learning, or the gathering of information.
Rather, education is the acquiring of wisdom, understanding, recognizing presuppositions, dealing with abstract ideas, and especially acquiring the ability for clear, critical, and analytical thinking.
The term 'spiritual,' so often equated with "supernatural" (an unverifiable "realm), is much more in tune with the experience and awe of beauty and mystery than with divinity or presumed supernatural entities.
As for the equally misunderstood term, 'music,' in a strict sense of the term, it is pure sound.
Music is not words or ink on paper.
Let's, then, examine the question posed.
First, I do not have an "antithesis" for religion.
I, a proponent for the dignity of man, having a profound reverence for life, being in awe of mysteries and a lover (and performer) of music, art, poetry, the beauties of nature, consider myself a deeply religious, spiritual person in the sense defined above.
There is little doubt that "religious" music is effective in the development of spirituality in one's schooling, but no more than a development of appreciation in all forms of beauty.
The problem does not lie with "religious" music.
It lies with the theistic lyrics that the masses confuse and conflate with "music."
If by "religious music" we mean music in the absence of lyrics, then we are referring to music that has been associated with theistic lyrics.
Perhaps the best way for me to address this issue is to refer to a letter to the editor I submitted a number or years ago addressed to the issue of RELIGION IN THE SCHOOLS which was being debated by others, one of whom was accused of implying that "religious music" is unconstitutional and having misguided principles.
I wrote in his defense but will present an edited version of my address to the issue.
There is a great deal of religion (and theism) infused in public school teaching.
"Religious music" is an example of the method through which it is done.
Maintaining separation of church and state is hardly a "misguided principle."
Think back to when the church was the state.
We are, of course, far from that state of affairs today .
But there are powerful forces supported by multimillions of dollars trying to make the United States a "Christian" nation despite the fact that one of our basic principles as a democracy is that we, each and every one of us, shall be free to worship -- or not -- as and when we please -- even individually silently and privately in the classroom.
As for "religious music" in the popular but inaccurate use of that phrase, it is beautiful and spiritual -- as is all art and all beauty -- especially the beauties of nature.
Music, however, in a strict sense of the term, is pure sound -- not words or ink on paper.
It is theistic language, or lack thereof, that, through the passage of time has, through association, determined whether music is called "religious" or ""secular."
By no sense of logic can it be declared that unverifiable theistic language put to music, however constitutional, spiritual, or beautiful it may be is not still proselytizing, teaching, and indoctrinating young, uncritical, unanalytical, and impressionistic minds.
I am, as are others, one of the many millions -- not "a few individuals" -- profoundly concerned with the possibility that our multi-religious freedom may "inch by inch" be slowly eroded by unrecognized, deceptive, and/or innocent-appearing activities or methods.
As the philosopher, George Santayana, said, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it."
This, of course, assumes that they were not ignorant of it to begin with.
Added March 20, 2003
You have frequently stated that theistic language, as well as some non-theistic language, is unverifiable nonsense. This is confusing. I contend that in both cases some such claims can be verified to be false. If you, as do the Logical Positivists, insist that ALL claims about God are unverifiable, are you not also declaring them to be meaningless, i.e., gobbledygook, gibberish?
You have raised a very complex issue, and you have used phrases which complicate the issue even more.
Consequently it is necessary to clarify the term, 'theistic,' according to conventional usages, i.e., as reported in the dictionary: "belief in a god or gods, or to a theist." It follows, then, that the term, 'god,' also requires clarification, in short: 1) a supernatural, immortal male deity; 2) eternal, infinite, all powerful, all knowing, Supreme Being, Almighty; 3) a person or thing that is excessively worshiped and admired; 4) an idol, 5) a spectator or auditor in a gallery or a theater.
Obviously 1 and 2 are the relevant conventional and biblical usages to be addressed here noting that the term, 'supernatural' necessarily involves also unverifiability and unfalsifiability.
Let us for the moment, then, concentrate on the terms, 'meaning,' and 'unverifiable.'
Consulting various dictionaries, which do not give meanings but rather usage relative to different categories of academia and subject matter, I found they were consistent in stating (if I may be succinct) "to verify is to confirm the truth," and aside from several other usages, the term, 'mean,' was shown to be used to mean, "to have IN MIND as a purpose." (My uppercase.)
This implies that our conventional use of the term, 'language,' has no INHERENT meaning, as I have long taught my students. It follows, then, that language (i.e., languaging), in the true sense of that term is, "the giving of meaning."
After all, when and if intelligence disappears from the universe, so will the functions of our brains that assign meaning. Meaning did not "exist," the way physical objects exist, before intelligence appeared on the scene.
I can imagine someone posing the question, "What if all intelligence disappeared from the universe after the Rosetta Stone had been created and then millions of years later intelligence evolved again and discovered and deciphered it, would that not be evidence that meaning does exist outside of minds?"
I would still argue, "No!" But that issue is beyond the scope of this discourse.
Suffice it to say that chiseled marks on stone, black ink on paper, written words on parchment, etc., though conventionally referred to as language are in fact not.
There is no such thing as physical language. Only when physical symbols are attributed meaning can it be said that language exists for language is the giving of meaning to symbols.
Hence, to argue about the attributes and ontology of symbols is not to be arguing about language.
One may impose upon any symbol any meaning one has in mind so long as it is understood that it is a personally stipulated meaning and not necessarily the conventional usage of the general public or of a special community of thought.
Meaning, hence language, is ideational, not physical, in nature and is in some intelligent being's "mind."
It does not exist in the physical world outside a brain.
It is unfortunate that the public has not been thoroughly taught that.
Hence, it can rightfully be claimed that a physically presented sentence, i.e., set of physical symbols has an ontological status occupying space while its meaning does not..
Therein lies a problem of communication.
Hence, it is necessary to set some ground rules of discussion.
When it is claimed that a sentence, a claim, a statement a proposition, is or is not verifiable, I shall be referring to the ideational meaning, not to the physical symbols that represent it.
It is to be understood that when I speak of "language" being verifiable, unverifiable, falsifiable, unfalsifiable, true or false, it is to be construed that I am referring to the giving of meaning, i.e., languaging, not to the symbols of languaging.
So, to reply to part of the issue you've raised, all theistic and some non-theistic
language do meet the requirement for being declared epistemically unverifiable or unfalsifiable inasmuch they are referring to an entity or entities that are defined to be unverifiable.
Unfortunately, most of the people of the world will disagree, including many eminent philosophers and especially theologians. That accounts for the lengthy discourse upon which we are about to embark.
For me, then, on the one hand, "to verify" is to show that a claim, not represented through physical symbols, is or is not true; i.e., it is or is not supported by evidence.
On the other hand, to the terms, 'unverifiable,' and 'unfalsifiable,' I ascribe the meaning, "unable to be shown to be empirically true or false;" i.e., it cannot be shown to be supported by empirical evidence.
Let us not conflate "is not supported" with "cannot be supported."
We must be careful not to confuse "cannot" with " cannot now."
The use of the term, 'evidence,' calls for caution because we often conflate various "kinds" of evidence: scientific, mathematical, logical, psychological, hypothetical, and so on.
To pursue what is "meant" by evidence is beyond the scope of this discourse. Hopefully my use of the term will be clear enough to support my arguments.
In general, I mean by the term, facts that are accessible to our sense faculties, directly or indirectly. We shall not inquire into the "meaning" of the term, 'facts.'
Consider Einstein's analytic (non-synthetic) equation, e=mc2 (square). No matter what version one uses, i.e., e=mc2, e/m=c2, e/c2=m, or 1=mc2/e, they are all true by definition; that's the nature of mathematics.
Now, we have scientists, discussing the continual expansion of the universe, saying that dark energy is continually being created out of NOTHING, and that this is supported by Einstein's Universal Constant.
In addition to these uses of language (elsewhere I have referred to the use of metaphysical language by some scientists), the New York City Museum of Natural History's presentation of the life of Einstein gives the impression that he declared that energy has no mass; this despite the apparent evidence that his equation, e=mc2 indicates that it does have mass. Would Einstein contradict himself?
However, it is argued that the equation does not represent light quanta and physical mass but is a definition and that "m" and "c" refer respectively to the numerical values, i.e., incorporeal concepts that in reality do not physically exist, of mass and the speed of light in an absolute vacuum.
The key words, here seem to be, “in an absolute vacuum,” of which the dictionary makes no mention.
If this is the case, then Einstein is not addressing physical reality.
Let us be clear, here; "m" and "c" in the equation are not referring to mass and light but refer only to numbers, i.e., mathematics.
How is such an equation to be verified?
Is an explosion of a nuclear bomb sufficient evidence to verify the mathematical language?
Is this not, then, an analytic, i.e., true by definition as is all mathematics, claim that cannot be shown to be true or false because no empirical (accessible to the sense faculties) evidence can possibly be discovered to support it?
Let us not ignore or forget the caveats of the three great mathematical experts:
Albert Einstein: "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." And, "The only justification for our concepts and systems of concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of our experiences; beyond this they have no legitimacy,"
Bertrand Russell: "Mathematics is the subject in which we don’t know what we are talking about nor whether what we are talking about is true," and
G. H. Hardy: "A mathematician is someone who not only does not know what he is talking about but, also, does not care."
Since value and speed do not exist physically, they are only mathematical "values" that do not speak to the issue of the behavior of light in different physical media, as for instance, according to one report, as through water or air or as laser beams traveling through caesium atoms at three hundred times the " the speed of light," or tachyons that in order to exist must accede the speed of light.
Moreover, an absolute vacuum does not exist; there is after all “universal gravitation” and a CMB, i.e., a cosmic microwave background that permeates every point instant of the cosmos.
May we not assume, then, since light is always traveling in some kind of medium, and has an impact effect on its environment suggests that it does have mass?
Otherwise some questions arise:
Isn't "something” that has no mass, i.e., is non-dimensional, nothing other than an idea?
If energy, i.e., light has no mass, why is the speed of light altered in different media?
“If the energy of m times c squared has no mass," is not the language saying, also, "The energy of photons as PARTICLES, has no mass"?
Note the dictionary report of the meaning attributed to the term, 'photon': "a quantum of electromagnetic energy having both particle and wave behavior: it has no charge or mass but possesses momentum, i.e., motion: the energy of light, X rays, gamma, etc. [sic] is carried by photons. (Shades of Samuel Alexander’s ultimate substance of the universe).
"If so, how can the motion of light but not the "light" have a causal effect" as in causing greater warmth?
Is it possible, or at least conceivable, since "m" is "only" a mathematical "existent," that pure energy, i.e., light, does in fact have a degree of mass, that registers numerically as zero or less requiring a different kind of mathematical designation, and that since matter is convertible to pure energy, the latter is another form of mass-bearing existent as is a gas, air, water, fire, which are different but measurable?
Let us not forget that at one time Neutrinos were considered not to have mass. After all aren’t space-craft engineers conceiving space “ships” propelled by solar winds by the pressure of streams of photons against mile-square-size sails and defense mechanisms that emit sufficient-diverting pressure to prevent Yucatan- Peninsula-like meteor impacts that possibly caused the dinosaur extinction.
As the hard cover book, Space 2100: To Mars And Beyond In The Century To Come, describes it, “As sunlight reflects off the surface of a shiny bit of metal, it exchanges the tiniest bit of momentum with the object. . . . and the momentum can build up over time to interplanetary speeds."
Exactly what is meant by the term, 'exchange' implying the absence of the impact of mass?
Is momentum, some "existent" also absent mass?
Momentum is, according to the dictionary, "in mechanics a quantity [my emphasis] of motion of a moving object equal to the product of its mass and velocity."
Except as a mental abstraction, it is not possible for motion to exist other than as a change of space-time relocation.
Is not "an exchange of momentum," since it is a "product of mass and velocity," a cause and effect event, and consequently an impact of mass upon mass?
Is Einstein positing a kind of existent different from matter/energy?
Is he perhaps being misinterpreted?
Is it any wonder that theists point to their unverifiable uses of language, as little different from some of the language, now smacking strongly of metaphysics, being used by scientists?
Aside from the explosions of nuclear bombs, a transfer of matter to energy having no mass but absent mass causing material havoc, how is such language to be verified?
Clearly, then, there is language that can be shown to be true or false, and language, because of the way it is defined, that cannot (ever) be shown to be true or false.
Because our schooling institutions choose not to emphasize the way we abuse language and pay no heed to advice to do so, there is little possibility for radical refinement.
Consider, also, that when we show a claim to be false, we, in fact, are verifying that it is true that the claim does not correspond with the facts.
For instance, if I claim that I usually prefer ham and eggs to just plain ham, knowledge of the evidence of my consistent behavior in making a choice between the two would probabilistically verify the truth of the claim.
If I "claim" that I like ham and eggs better than anything, can the "claim" be shown to be true or false? Obviously it cannot (ever) be shown to be true since "anything" includes ham and eggs. Nor can it be shown to be false.
My understanding is that a claim, and whether it is true or false, are related to knowledge and requires knowledge of empirical evidence to determine its truth or falsity. There can be no knowledgeable evidence of my behavior to verify whether the claim is false.
Unless I stipulate that I MEAN "anything else" by the term, 'anything,' the claim is improper grammar incapable of conveying knowledge of my intended behavior. Hence, it is neither true nor false epistemically.
It is important, as I have shown elsewhere in my homepage, to clarify the usage of such words and symbols, especially terms like 'means,' 'meaningful,' 'meaningless,' 'gobbledygook,' and 'gibberish.'
To the question, then, relating to theistic language: My philosophical position, considering that no word or symbol has inherent meanings, is an unequivocal YES!; theistic language is epistemically unverifiable. Contrary to the position taken by Logical Positivists, however, it is not meaningless.
Also, I do not mean "meaningless" when I use terms like 'gobbledygook' and 'gibberish.' Moreover, when I am not being careless, I always modify such terms with the term 'epistemic.' Even Lewis Carol's, "T'was brillig and the slithy tove did gyre and gimble in the wabe" from his poem, "Jabberwocky" is given meaning.
Whenever one describes a claim as "gibberish," which conventionally is used to mean "meaningless," he probably means that. But the person who spoke the "gibberish" meant something by it even though he may have difficulty explaining what he meant. The Jabberwocky lines have at least artistic or poetic meaning. Of course, taken out of context, as we have done here, complicates the argument even more.
When used conventionally, however, gibberish means "meaningless," to some people and especially to Logical Positivists who mean by such terms, "unverifiable in principle."
I have difficulty understanding the use of that phrase. The term, 'principle' implies that principles exist. Let us not equivocate the term 'exist.'
I don't believe that principles exist any more than do anything we conceive, such as laws, concepts, numbers, beliefs, ideas, minds -- why stop there -- witches, angels, demons, flying horses, unicorns -- oh yes, gods. I'll let you add a few from an "infinity" of other concepts, all terms to which we "give" meaning.
All that existed in the universe, before the qualities of life and intelligence emerged, was matter/energy.
Later the functions of life emerged including intelligence and concepts.
Concepts are not permanent "entities" in the universe. In its history, they come and go out of "existence," i.e., are dependant upon physicality.
And though individual physical existents go out of existence, physicality does not. (Of course those who believe that "God" created the universe out of nothing will argue to the contrary.)
Physicality and its interactions can be tested to exist given the justifiable assumption (which we will not address here) that it exists beyond our perceptions.
The "objects" of our concepts cannot," though our symbols for them can.
The former "exist" as functions of the brain.
Is it not evident, then, that when we use the term, 'exist,' relating to concepts, that it is not descriptive of the same thing as when we speak of entities accessible to our sense faculties, directly or indirectly?
In my view, to do so is an equivocation of the term, 'exist.'
What they presumably represent are not accessible to the sense faculties and cannot be shown to exist. Let us not confuse language (the giving of meaning) and names of things, ideas, concepts, etc., with the real world.
It should become obvious that "languaging," in all its aspects, is not a perfect instrument (shades of Dewey) for dealing with the real world.
The exercise of verification is a tool leading to probable knowledge just as mathematics is a tool leading to an understanding of our physical world, even though mathematics does not, in fact, describe the world (Einstein, Russell, and Hardy).
If this is the case, then it is also the case that some people use the term, 'unverifiable' differently than do others.
Consider the issue of whether the inspectors in Iraq can verify that Saddam Hussein is cooperating with the UN's unanimous vote on Resolution 1441 that he must completely destroy all his weapons of mass destruction.
Some claim, "Yes." Some claim, "No." Does it mean only the presently used inspectors or inspectors brought in in the future?
The present inspectors may not be able to verify whether Hussein has destroyed ALL of his mass weapons. But whether the mass weapons have been all destroyed can be verified sometime in the future because they and the evidence of destruction, are accessible to our sense faculties. The inspectors, present and future, may not have the time or will to achieve verification.
However, with time and patience it is doable, if we are willing to dig up the whole of Iraq or make a through search of a possible sympathetic (to Iraq) country. If the weapons were only conceptual, then they would be impossible to verify except as symbolized concepts. Moreover, it does not mean that Hussein is not cooperating with the inspectors. He is, however slowly and grudgingly. So, once again, whatever the debate may be about the term, 'unverifiable,' I mean, by it, "EPISTEMICALLY unverifiable and meaningless" with no implication of meaninglessness in any other sense.
Let us now consider the use of the term, 'unverifiable,' relative to theistic language, for example, "God rewards the just."
Without the slightest reservation, I insist that such a claim is epistemically unverifiable.
To which concept of a god, that the members of humankind have referred from the past to the present, does it refer?
It is unfortunate and arrogant and shows abysmal ignorance on the part of the theistic authorities and their "flock" to speak as if only their personal "gods" exist.
Apparently religious authorities are either oblivious to or choose to ignore the vast history of the development of CONCEPTS of gods.
I have no problem with people having the legal right (but moral right?) to say theistic language is true or false if they clearly, often, and publicly emphasize that they cannot verify the claim and that they are using the terms in an epistemically unverifiable way and that the terms do not apply to claims of knowledge. They are just any ole, and across the breadth of the world, radically different symbols for beliefs or meanings given to theistic claims.
To use them, in relation to theistic language, without that clarification is extremely misleading and clearly has dangerous and deleterious consequences for the peoples of the world -- as today's events verify.
History has shown, repeatedly, the horrors that ensue from such abuse of language.
It is only when they use such terms with theistic, and other language, implying synonymity of meaning in connection with real-life verification, i.e., accessibility to our sense faculties, that I find their use problematical.
Surely we do not want to conflate our different uses of the terms, 'true,' and 'false.'
There is no doubt that in the different theories of truth, they are clearly distinguished. As in the language of geometry, one does not conflate the concepts of one system, Euclidian, with that of another, Spherical.
Obviously, theistic language is not MEANINGLESS gibberish or gobbledygook considering that billions of people give meaning to it.
Keep in mind that one may and often does give a term any meaning one wishes.
Both terms may be used to mean "meaningless" by those who are deeply offended by theistic language because they feel hurt when thinking of the suffering it has caused and is still causing. They are giving notice of extreme displeasure. When they are in such an emotional state, they are prone to refer to theistic language as gobbledygook, meaning "epistemically unverifiable."
Now let us consider that a theistic claim like, "The just are rewarded," is justifiably inferred [i.e., deducible] from the claim, "God rewards the just."
However, I want to make it clear at the outset that I am not concerned merely with definitions or descriptions of a god or his presumed thoughts and actions.
Rather, I am arguing that all language about gods is epistemic nonsense because the term "god" is, in fact, only a word we use to obscure our ignorance of the how and why of things and consequently so are all other words related to the word, "God."
"God" is the name we give to the limitless scope of our ignorance.
First let us review some facts about deductive logic.
Among other concepts, logic is concerned with truth and falsity. That is to say, when the premises can be shown to be true and the argument is valid, the conclusion is necessarily true and can be verified to be so and is called a "sound" argument.
By the same token, logic can validly deduce false conclusions from false premises. This is called an "unsound argument."
Important for us to understand, however, is that logic can, also, validly deduce epistemically unverifiable conclusions from epistemically unverifiable premises. Though some may be tempted to call this an unsound argument, it raises philosophical issues we will not pursue here. However, I suggest that we name such an argument an "immune argument" because if knowledge cannot be related to it, neither should be the terms, 'true,' and 'false.'
A true conclusion is deduced not by the truth of the premises but by the form of the argument.
It is the facts supporting the conclusion that verify the conclusion to be true.
There are many validly derived conclusions from one or more false premises in an argument; i.e., it is shown that the facts are contrary to the premise(s). Also, it may be the case that there can be no facts to verify or falsify the premise(s).
The conclusion I must draw from the above is that, hypotheticals excluded, no claim can rightfully be declared to be true or false, in fact, unless it can be tested to being supported by direct or indirect empirical evidence, in the conventional use of that term, leading to knowledge.
I am aware that there are philosophical questions that could be proffered here, but to engage in a discussion of such terms as 'evidence,' 'facts,' 'truth,' 'falsity,' 'knowledge,' 'real world,' and many relevant others would obfuscate the issue at hand.
The bottom line in all such discussions must be that such terms speak only to probabilities, not absolutes, else such discussions will lead beyond the bounds of this issue.
That some claim is said to be false implies the possibility of its being true (as some might argue) and not that it is nonsense.
However, there are no truth-values in epistemic nonsense claims.
Consequently the claim is neither true nor false and is unverifiable.
I am aware that there are those, depending on their cultures, religions, personalities, schooling, etc., who will argue that their nonsense claims make sense.
Given a world of nearly seven billion people, there is hardly unanimity of thought.
Now to theistic language and the claim that, "'The just are rewarded' can be deduced from 'God rewards the just'."
For simplification, I am restricting my discussion to language about a Biblical unknowable god. That is not to say that I am implying that there are knowable gods.
Moreover, I, personally, am not declaring that "God IS unknowable."
That would be a claim that there is a God. And though I would say "I don't believe there is a god," I would not claim there is not a God. I am not willing to make either claim in the face of the Biblical definition of unknowability.
To do so would be epistemic nonsense in that it would be declaring that I know something about an unknowable god.
That would be a contradiction which, being absent of the possibility of knowledge, would also be absent of truth-values.
I will say, however, that given the definition of unknowability, from an epistemic point of view, there is no need for the term, 'god,' or any term equivalent in meaning, to be in our vocabulary.
Now a few more comments about theistic language in general.
First, what do I mean by the term, 'epistemic nonsense'?
Epistemic nonsense is a term or claim that is devoid of knowledge of reality that gives the illusion of saying something knowledgeable about it.
We are aware that not all usages of "theistic" language mention the term, 'God.' They are, however, silently invoking "His" unknowable existence as the foundation of anything else "theistic" about to be said.
Such language must then be treated as if the term, 'God,' is part of the claim no matter how many non-theistic clauses, phrases or sentences may be uttered in the claim absent the term, 'God.'
If one claims (as the Bible clearly declares and strongly implies), "God exists but cannot be known," the claim is unverifiable.
If one declares an unknowable God can't exist, this, too, cannot be verified.
If there is or isn't such an unknowable god, what epistemic sense does it make to say anything theistic that is not mere conjecture but may or may not be a fact?
Any claim about such a god cannot be verified to be true or false because such a god may or may not exist and there is no way to obtain knowledge relevant to the claim.
Therefore, any theistic claim, including concomitant "theistic" claims absent the term, 'God,' are unverifiable because they are epistemically vacuous and have meaning in concept only.
Anything uttered explicitly or implied to be a claim, that does not include the term, 'God,' but is relevant to the claim that an unknowable God exists, cannot be shown to have any relevance to something unknowable and, hence, is theistic epistemic nonsense.
Let us return, then to, "'The just is rewarded [or not]' can be shown to be false."
We know from the facts of experience, that it is not always true that the just are rewarded.
Hence, even though it can be tested that the just are not always rewarded, it cannot be tested that an unknowable god, believed to exist, rewards (or does not) the just. The claim is predicated upon a god BELIEVED, not verified to exist -- ever -- according to available evidence in the history of humanity.
Nor can it be shown to be empirically verifiable by logic because the premise has not been shown and cannot, by definition, be shown to be true.
I clearly distinguish between "theistic" and "religious" language, the latter does not always include the former.
Theists are religionists but religionists are not always theists.
Religious and theistic language, when predicated upon the claims attributed to an UNKNOWABLE god, make no more ontological or epistemic sense than does the claim of an unknowable god. This is so because such claims imply that one claims to believe in such a god.
Moreover, we must be careful about mixing theistic (existence of God) language with anthropological language and calling the mix "theistic" language.
When non-believers, of which I am one, deny the existence of an anthropomorphic god, it must be understood that they are referring to the gods of "holy" writings. In such cases, by claiming the non-existence of such a god, they are using language that appears to be theistic. It is, in fact, pseudo-theistic language. The term, 'god,' for non-believers, is an epistemically empty term.
Taken out of the context of claims of belief in, or existence of, an unknowable god, stated or implied, some religious claims may be argued to have ontological status in the minds of the believers.
If they are theistic claims, however, they are predicated upon the one premise that cannot be verified; i.e., "An unknowable God exists," most often euphemistically stated as, "God exists."
Here, we may have an argument part immune and part valid. It won't work!
One may give meaning
Even if coherence
To any language
Hence, though the premise, "God (the unknowable god of the Bible) exists," is meaningful in some vague way, it is epistemically meaningless by definition.
If, however, one resorts to the old bromide, "God can be known by his works," it is clearly obvious that the statement is epistemic nonsense because evidence shows that even though there may be an unknowable god, all we know is that the works exist, not how or why they do. Thereby that claim has no relevance to the issue because we have no grounds for making the claim.
To attribute either of the truth-value characteristics to supernatural, transcendental, metaphysical, and divine entities, however, is not only to define them to be nothing but the conceptions of intelligent beings but also to commit the error of misplaced categories.
And, as is well evident, no one speaks of or worships a god.
Each person speaks of or worships his CONCEPT of a god, however he may have acquired his concept.
The utterance of the term, 'God,' however, does not always imply theism.
I quote (with minor revision) from the introduction of my book, Hey! IS That You, God? p. xv.
"God" is a stir word, a regulatory word, a reward word, a fear word, a smooth word, a threat word, a filler word. It is devoid of all intellectual content which helps us to communicate about things that in fact exist in our universe. Analogously, it is a variable like a mathematical x, y, or z. It is a word that is all things to all believers -- a catchall word like "good" and "bad." It is often used as an expletive, as a verbal gush of words, particularly in emotional expressions that give the illusion of communication.
In such usage, it is difficult to determine whether the term is being used theistically.
To consider the issue of whether such theistic language "has" value is an entirely different and irrelevant subject to which I will not contribute here other than the following succinct statement.
Colloquially stated, yes, it does; in fact, however, no language HAS inherent value. Different people ATTRIBUTE different values to different uses of theistic language partly because in every case affirming the existence of a god, they have been conditioned to do so.
Let us return then, to claims like, "God rewards the just," "The just are rewarded," and "God protects the innocent."
We can certainly infer THE WORDS of such "claims" if we choose to and most believers do, ignoring the exceptions to the "claims." But the question, "Is the inference justifiable," is another issue.
That "the just are rewarded" is often true. But because of the impossibility of evidence, the reality cannot be empirically verified to be true (or false) that it is a result of God's rewarding the just.
Yes, we can deduce words from other words and we can verify that we do so. We cannot justifiably claim that the "claim" is epistemically true -- or false.
To say, "'God protects the innocent,' is false," is to say that you, "know God's goodness is the same as man's goodness and God's protection is the same as man's conception of protection." Against what, going to Hell? That would make, "God protects the innocent," true.
But, we don't know anything about "God!"
IF there is a God and He protects the innocent from going to Hell, He does protect the innocent!
Remember, "God works in mysterious ways, 'His' wisdom to behold." Moreover, nothing happens in this universe except by God's will. But, more to the point, the fact that "God" is defined to be unknowable, coupled with "His" other defined divine attributes, characteristics, powers, actions, concepts, goals, etc., leaves "Him" immune to being called "unjust."
To say the "claim" is false, is to claim to know something about God that cannot be known; i.e., "God does not protect the innocent."
To consider the "claim" to be false, is to ignore what we call in logic "hidden or implied premises" or "missing components."
Since no one can know there is or isn't an unknowable god, when one chooses to refer to the term or the concept of such a god, one is compelled to couch his statement as a hypothetical.
There is a great big "IF---THEN" here not being given any consideration. That is, "If God exists and is a good and just God, a hypothetical, then He 'rewards the just'," the deduced hypothetical.
It isn't that one is justified in believing that the just are rewarded BECAUSE "God rewards the just." It is true that believers do infer that the just are rewarded by "God." It is true, also, that believers, as with non-believers, experience that the just often are rewarded and don't give any thought to a "God."
No one experiences "God" rewarding the just. When believers give "God" credit, they do not realize that they have been conditioned (The church says "indoctrinated," or improperly and euphemistically stated, "'educated' in the ways of God") to believe that a god (whose existence is unknowable.) rewards the just.
Just non-believers are also rewarded and do not give a god credit for that. They, too, infer this from experience in the real world and knowingly or unknowingly accede to the principle of parsimony, in this case, that just behavior has its own rewards -- unfortunately the term 'sometimes' is overlooked.
Also, there is abundant evidence that many people believe that not only believers but just non-believers are frequently "rewarded" when God, if he's a "forgiving god," "takes them to Heaven" by frequently extreme and torturous means.
Moreover, the claim that because just people suffer proves that the claim "God rewards the just," is false is to ignore that the sufferers are rewarded when God "takes them to Heaven."
Are they not rewarded by being "taken to Heaven?" Would that not mean that the statement is true?
However, let us assume it is false. Then, one may have a valid argument here, but not a sound one.
One could KNOW it to be false IF one could also KNOW that there is a god who behaves this way. But one not only does not know, one CANNOT know because one cannot know that IF there is an unknowable god, he would or would not behave that way. All that one KNOWS is that "many good people suffer unnecessarily," believers or not. One does not know that this is because of a god's behavior.
Truth and falsity in the real world requires verifiable empirical evidence, not deductive "evidence."
Notice, I do not claim that it is true that there is a real (physical) world. I BELIEVE there is a physical world or I would not be replying to you. There is evidence available to my sense faculties of which you, too, are aware and that billions of other people are also subjected to. You and I are obviously not figments of imagination. You, too, believe I exist because of that same evidence. There are many, many facts permitting us both to make this claim. This is not the place to present that evidence. However, we can both agree that it is most often beyond language in the colloquial use of that term.
This is not the case with, "'God rewards the just' is false."
There is evidence that many just and good people suffer. To claim this is evidence that "'God rewards the just' is false," makes no epistemic sense, primarily because one is referring to an UNKNOWABLE (even though avoided being mentioned) god.
Such a reference clearly shows that in such claims, there is no possibility for knowledge which is a prerequisite for use of the terms, 'true' and 'false.'
Truth and falsity are terms that relate to the linguistic claims we make about facts we presume to be knowable.
Epistemic nonsense claims do not deal with facts.
They are claims about imaginary "facts" to which it is impossible to bring evidence to bear.
For a claim to be false, it must not be epistemic nonsense.
It must make sense to be called false.
Theistic language may be true or false but there is no way for us to determine whether it is or not; hence, it is epistemically meaningless.
Consequently, it is epistemic nonsense.
One is not deducing fact from facts but, rather, deducing words from words. We might just as well deduce from A is B and B is C that A is C.
There are no letters in the universe. Those are symbols used to "represent" ideas we call letters. One is deducing only symbols from symbols -- to which each of us gives his personal or conventional meaning.
Consider the claim that because there are just and good people suffering and not being rewarded, this verifies that "God is not all good, or not all powerful, or not all knowing," or just that, "God does not exist."
First, it is abundantly clear to those who reason well that people suffering, just or not, good or not, verifies ONLY that people are suffering, not, necessarily, why they are suffering. No evidence is being offered that there is or is not an all good, powerful, knowing god or that such a god does not exist.
All this language is epistemically empty. Moreover, ignoring the emptiness of theistic language for the moment, those who make such a claim are forgetting the "reward of Heaven."
Remember, believers claim that existence here on Earth is only preparation for the journey to Heaven (the city of God) or Hell (the city of Satan -- another eternal and unknowable god called a "fallen angel"), and is a test of how one handles adversity as well as happiness.
But for more empty theistic language, consider Saint Augustine's admonition that it does not matter whether you behave justly of not, your fate is already sealed -- even before the day of your birth, Heaven or Hell, which also cannot be determined to exist.
If that is the case, there is no need to claim that God rewards the just and, in the face of suffering, that the claim is false.
There are no rewards for anyone, just or unjust. Going to Heaven, then, is not a reward and going to Hell is not punishment. They are destinies.
There are differing religious "authorities" who make such unsupportable comments, as is often cited. However, they are not explanations. Their conflicting comments are fantasy, stories like the Creation story. They cannot know that an unknowable God does or does not exist. The language is vacuous or at least fictional.
We certainly do not want to conflate fictional truth, falsity, and knowledge with real-world truth, falsity, and knowledge. Do we?
Now let us address my insistence that theistic claims are not true and that they are not false either.
As I have shown, the TERM, 'false' can be deduced from the language that precedes it. That can be verified. But is that the issue here? I don't think so.
When one claims that a claim is true or false, one is claiming to have knowledge of some kind. It is clear that theistic language does not speak to reality.
We must be very careful not to equate hypothetical "knowledge" with knowledge relating to verifiable language about existents that are susceptible to our sense faculties, directly or indirectly. To use the two terms in language that does not relate to knowledge being claimed is to abuse them -- notwithstanding various theories of truth.
When I say such theistic language is epistemically empty, I do not mean it is meaningless.
It has been suggested that I refer to such theistic language as "incoherent" rather than as "epistemic nonsense." I don't and I wouldn't. Why diddle daddle with words. Hit the nail on the head. I insist on "epistemic nonsense."
The use of the word "incoherent" implies confused expression, even an emotional state of mind, about a subject that should be seriously and objectively considered.
To be truly educated in this subject, one must come to understand that all talk about unknowable anything, gods, metaphysical beings, unicorns, whatever, is not just a matter of epistemic nonsense.
It is also a matter of the acceptance of such language as being epistemically meaningful, and what affect it has on the development of one's mindset.
Such acceptance, to one's detriment, creates a mindset that cannot recognize, or is willing to accept other, unverifiable claims.
There is a contrived claim that "God is so powerful, he can create a rock he cannot lift, but, then, having created it, he lifts it."
This is a perfect example of sheer word games that have no relevance to (real) truth, falsity, and knowledge.
Any claim to knowledge from hypotheticals is based on previous experience of the real world. There is no such experience possible here. The "incoherence" is contrived.
Not every theistic claim is contradictory, even though it may be epistemic nonsense.
For instance, "An unknowable God exists," is straight forward. There may be such a god.
Certainly, the person making the claim does not know that he is not knowledgeably making the claim. He is psychologically certain. He has not a shadow of doubt that his claim is true.
We, in turn, must realize that we, too, do not know that his claim is true -- or false.
The only weakness of the claim, other than being epistemic nonsense, is that we cannot know which it is. It is epistemically empty. How can we knowledgeably deny or affirm it?
It is not incoherent. It is epistemic nonsense, as is the above paradox. Why avoid stating the truth that it is epistemic nonsense, to be politically correct? To call it incoherent when it is obviously epistemic nonsense is to cloud the issue. It implies that if it is not muddled language and is coherently stated, it might be true.
Of course, if one asks why it is epistemic nonsense, then it is appropriate to talk about contradiction, incoherence, and the like. But if the phrase is understood, there is no need to pursue the issue.
To do so is to pursue an examination of the language, not the truth or falsity of the claim.
However, when one offers an argument like, "If it is true that God creates a rock he cannot lift, then, the claim, 'He lifts it,' must be false," how can one, uninformed in matters of logic argue, to the contrary? The term, 'God,' could easily be supplanted with another symbol such as 'Fido.'
What we can argue is that we are playing a word game. We are not arguing about a GOD that can lift rocks he can't lift. We are arguing whether some, phrases, clauses, or sentences, can be deduced from our use of others.
I'm certain all will agree that we don't really want to conflate hypothetical verification with epistemic and empirical verification or hypothetical falsity with falsity relating to empirical evidence.
Aside from being epistemic nonsense, the competing claims about God must make sense. Otherwise, we could not determine that we contradict. That the contradiction, God lifts a rock he cannot lift, is epistemically meaningless does not imply that some statements about God are either (epistemically) true or false.
If one cannot understand that any mention of a god and theistic language related to the term, as it is used here on Earth, are strictly hypothetical, then there is no possibility of arguing rationally with him.
One may refer to such language as axiological, immune, opaque, incoherent, contradictory, ontological, etc., to no avail because one is not speaking to issues of reality.
Language after all is not a thing, it is but the functioning of the brain giving meaning to the symbols we have invented, for the concepts we conceive, and the "objects" of our sense faculties.
Moreover, what do hypothetical truths and falsities, will o' the wisps, have to do with truth, falsity, and knowledge in the legitimate sense in which we use these terms?
In a work of fiction the claims make sense. But can you apply truth, falsity, and knowledge to them outside the context of the fiction? If you can, they are no longer fictional. Some of them may even be true in the real world. They may be true or false in the realm of mythology, i.e., fiction. They are "true" or "false" within the bounds of fictional unknowable gods, but not relevant to verifiable real gods. To make presumably epistemic claims about fictional entities is either to be playing word games or being a trickster.
And when we speak of truth and falsity, are we not referring to verifiability through our sense faculties (facts) not through deductive logic (form) that can PROVE, but not verify, anything except hypotheticals?
As to the Logical Positivists' claim that theistic language is `meaningless, they are clearly wrong.
Their problem is they give too restrictive a meaning to "meaning" and "meaningless."
"Meaning" does not require a relationship with truth, falsity, and knowledge, as is frequently the case in the arts.
"Paradoxes are given meaning, else they could not be called "paradoxes" nor hold such a position of interest to some philosophers.
Just as hypotheticals "possess" hypothetical truth values, paradoxes have no truth-values because WE create them absent truth-values.
Language, relating to unverifiable language (claims), has no truth values or has only hypotheticals to which we erroneously attribute real truth values.
When we create paradoxes, we give up the right to assign truth values to them because we create them incapable of having truth-values.
Moreover, when one claims to predict that an unknowable God is going to appear and knows full well it is not going to happen, he is merely playing word games, concocting a series of symbols to which he gives meaning not relevant to the conventional and justifiable uses of those terms. To predict involves expectation of fulfillment.
People who use language like "God is unknowable but I know what He wants of us," are speaking in the realm of epistemic nonsense even if they are assigning personal meaning to it. If I were such a believer, I'd insist that I am making sense and so would other believers.
Those who really believe that an "unknowable" God's intentions can be known should be willing to admit, as some theologians do, that the "holy" (Biblical) writings about God being unknowable are not inerrant.
Moreover, they should be able to describe their gods empirically in at least some specific detail. If not, they have a responsibility to verify that their knowledge includes something more than merely the existence of "holy" writings. Some believers need to verify that they are not confusing hallucinatory experiences with verifiable facts.
People uneducated in the uses and abuses of language, in any pursuit of knowledge, tend to make and believe unverifiable claims.
Our theistic societies condition us with a mindset, beginning with the word "God" at birth graduating to Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the whole gamut of unverifiable concepts including those we use so efficiently as tools.
The blame for such ignorance of the strengths, weaknesses, the good, and the bad results of the use of language is to be placed on their parents, their cultures, their schooling systems, particularly on their religious authorities for seeking to control their beliefs, and even on the individuals themselves for having no will to improve their thinking processes, except, of course, when it can be verified that they have been conditioned to be unable to.
Such discussions as these between believers and atheists and agnostics are generally useless except for those people who are "on the fence" about these issues.
Believers studiously avoid using the term, 'unknowable,' when they use the term 'God.'
The Bible clearly "speaks" of God's" UNKNOWABILITY even though the New Testament segues into language declaring that He can be known through His son.
It is truly astounding that in the 21st century those who claim to be reasoning, intelligent, and rational human beings maintain their faith, easily accept myth, poetic fiction, and concepts in general for predictable or knowable facts.
There are two main reasons; the first, is our careless use of language.
But, as to maintaining faith, there is a more frightening reason.
No one is born a believer in a god!!
Though there are understandable reasons for acceptance of non-theistic matters, what seems to be not understood, by the faithful, is the power of the conditioning process, euphemistically called "indoctrination" or "religious education," beginning at birth, and reinforced not only by religious authorities but also by the theistically oriented uninformed masses, throughout history and the world.
And, it was, and is still, frequently done not with the best of moral methods.
Moreover, to equate beliefs founded on the impossibility of being tested, with beliefs deeply held by individuals, that can be tested is to ignore sciences' most important tools, i.e., concepts and uses of language (mathematics), for acquiring probable truth and knowledge.
Furthermore, to claim that there is no necessary connection between a claim being true and there being knowledge that it is true is a useless exercise of language having no epistemological value.
To use language that way makes the phrase, "Anything is possible," a necessarily true statement incapable of being false when in the face of evidence of even one simple example out of countless possibilities shows that it is patently false.
In such usage, it becomes true that there may be flying horses, unicorns, and an infinity of other such concepts and supernatural divinities imbued with ontological status.
Saint Anselm reigns again; if you conceive it, it exists.
That is a new twist of its use if ontology is only a claim of being. Perhaps, one day it will appear in dictionaries under "in Philosophy." As of now, it does not seem to be in accord with conventional usage.
It is unfortunate that dictionaries' recordings of language usage are so often taken as an excuse for legitimacy.
As my students know, the more "meanings" we give to a term, the more confusing attempts at communication become.
In the case of theistic language, it should be clear that to use the term, 'exist,' in reference to supernatural "beings," and concepts, whether they be mathematical or other conceptual "existents," that it CANNOT "mean" that they are accessible to the sense faculties, they are known, (i.e. supported by evidence), or CAN offer the fulfillment of prediction.
Hence, the term, 'exist,' in its multiple usages, which is often used as a synonym of the terms, 'be,' 'am,' 'is,' 'are,' and other forms of the infinitive "to be," DO NOT "mean" the same thing.
It should be clear, then, that when we do give multiple "meanings" to language, we are equivocating.
If one insists on using the term when referring to non-physical concepts, it should be enclosed with quotation marks, e.g., "ontology" or at least indicate that concepts do not occupy space-time. Though they may, or may not, have axiological value, that is a far cry from dimensional and knowable reality.
Jesus Christ was a human being, like the rest of us, about whom a legend arose as to his divinity and his relationship to "God," in order to give "substance" to His UNKNOWABILITY, justifying Jesus as the central figure of the New Testament.
This is clearly a linguistic ploy to avoid having to admit that to speak of a god that is unknowable AS IF he does exist, gives the impression that one actually exists. This has been attested to by theists themselves. Eventually they would have to come to terms with the fact that they cannot epistemically speak of an unknowable God's existence and whether their concomitant claims are being true or not.
Moreover, by using language like "Jesuits do not leave their minds 'behind,'" when they discuss the "existence" of "God" and studiously examine theistic jargon to weed out obvious inconsistencies, incoherence, etc., one is only appealing to expert authority in dogma, not to evidence that the dogma is true or false or so able to be determined.
Do the Jesuits not, in the end of their "evaluations," still believe in the existence of an unknowable god, unless of course they became atheists or agnostics as did five of the Catholic Popes?
Those Jesuits who believe in the existence of a god, were conditioned, as were the rest of us, by their parents, their church, their mentors, a god-oriented society, and the intense marketing, for millennia, of god concepts supported over the years by trillions and trillions of dollars as well as by threats of punishment, damnation, and rewards at the hand of their postulated god.
Luckily for some of us, the conditioning process may not have been as intense because of our intellectual or experiential environment, leaving us "on the fence."
We began questioning such language before it was too late, offering both evidence and our recognition of the abuse of language upon which to base what language to accept as true and what to reject as false or epistemically unable to be determined to be true or false.
From my own point of view, I try to avoid using much of the jargon, like (non-physical) ontology, concepts as "objects" of the mind, etc., of religious "philosophers" which obfuscates the issues rather than clarifies them.
Such use forces philosophers into dialogues in which through the ages they continually disagree and rehash by asking "What do you mean by those terms" in order to reveal the obfuscation leading us far from the core issues.
It may be mental exercise, a way of making a living, or even fun for some; to others it can be frustrating to be sidetracked from the issue originally raised unless, of course they enjoy arguing for the sheer joy of arguing.
Is it not abundantly clear that if one uses the term. 'unverifiable,' one means "unable to be determined to be epistemically true or false, not hypothetically true or false"?
To make this point clearer, does not, "God exists," mean "God exists, though He is unknowable"?
And does it not clearly, without further discussion, mean that nothing epistemically can be concluded from the statement?
If I'm missing something here, no discussion in my over sixty years of argument and study about this subject has revealed it to me.
One cannot rationally discuss these issues if one excludes the role that language plays in the formation of our concepts and the acceptance of truth, falsity, and knowledge related to our sense perceptions of the presumed physical world.
The use of terms like 'exist' and 'ontology' make little epistemic sense used as loosely as they are by theists.
To repeat for emphasis: Is it not clear that the word, "God," like so many other words such as Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Pegasus, soul, Heaven, Hell, and many thousands more are hypotheticals, some of which we hypostatize, without bothering to use the hidden "IF---THEN"?
Any "truths" or "falsities" about them are also hypotheticals.
I admit that there are hypothetical truths and falsities, but let's not conflate them with truths and falsities related to reality.
It is obvious to one who understands the many functions of language that the use of the term, 'God,' and all concomitant theological (i.e., god-ological) language falls into the category of hypotheticals.
In summary then:
UNKNOWABLES (gods) cannot be talked about epistemically.
No theistic language can be false -- or true.
The word, "God," is theistic.
Everything said or implied, though fundamentally anthropological, when used in the penumbra of the term, 'God,' is functioning theistically.
Contradictions and paradoxes cannot be said to be false; they are epistemic nonsense lacking in truth values.
Hypotheticals beget only hypotheticals.
It makes no sense to speak of a claim being false unrelated to verifiable truth and knowledge.
Conclusions only validly deductively arrived at are only coherently, not correspondently, i.e., in reality, true, unless the premises being verifiably true soundly permit verifiably true conclusions.
Throughout your homepage you have used the term 'mean' or some version of it. Yet, you claim that a basic rule underlying clear, critical, and analytical thinking is "No word or symbol has an inherent meaning." I can only reply that not only do I not know what you mean, but nothing in your homepage means anything to me.
It is appropriate, first, that we be aware of the extent to which we have conditioned responses to words spoken, written, or heard. For example, aside from the psychologically conditioned "meaning" and associated implications upon hearing a the word, "pencil," and associating with it its intended use as a tool for writing, we shall not consider the more complex philosophical issues of meaning attendant upon abstract words and the physical condition of the object referred to such as in this case, if the pencil is handled carelessly, it has the potential for puncturing an eye, or being sharpened along with a host or other possible events inherent in the existence of the pencil. We shall, instead concentrate only on the conditioned conventional meanings attributed to the names of physical objects.
As to your assertion, on the face of it, your response PROVES the rule.
It is important to distinguish what I suspect you have not considered: that there is a difference between "what the words of my home page and the rule mean" and "what I mean by using the words."
If in fact you do not and cannot know what the former "mean," your inability to know proves that the words have no inherent meanings; and if symbols (here, words) do have inherent meanings, as you imply, you would know what they mean. You would, then, claim that my position regarding meaning is wrong whereupon it would be incumbent upon you to verify that your claim is true.
Since speaking of words HAVING meaning is colloquial, that is to say, conventional, use of language, I doubt that the above is sufficient to convince anyone who believes "words (symbols) have meaning."
Consequently, I shall present the evidence for my claim at great, if perhaps unnecessary, length.
Let's review conventional usage, i.e., dictionary reporting of the use of linguistic symbols, past and present, and particularly the terms, 'word,' 'inherent,' and 'meaning.'
FIRST: According to Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary:
WORD: There are so many uses ("meanings") of the term, 'word' (well over 25) that I shall offer only a few: speech [i.e., sound] a short speech, affirmation, news, a group of letters, Logos, [i.e. the word of God] written expression, and too many more to cite here.
INHERENT: to stick to or inhere, existing in someone or something as a natural and inseparable part of something, to be a member, adjunct, or quality of something; to be inherent or innate. Synonyms: inbred, inborn, innate, natural, inseparable, indwelling.
MEANING, n. 1. that which exists in the mind, view, or contemplation as a settled aim or purpose; that which is meant or intended to be done; intent; purpose; aim; object. [Archaic.]
2. that which is intended to be, or in fact is, conveyed, denoted, signified, or understood by acts or language; the sense, signification, or import of words; significance; force.
3. sense; understanding, knowledge. [Obs.]
Synonyms: import, intention, design, intent, purport, sense, signification.
DICTIONARIES DO NOT DEFINE WORDS; THEY RECORD USAGE in the past and in the present; there is little doubt that they will, also, record usage in the future as we add new words and "attach" our new meanings to old ones.
SECOND: We have a tendency to conflate the term 'definition' with usage of symbols.
Relevant to our issue, the "definition" of 'definition' is: an explanation or statement of what a word or phrase means or meant (my italics).
Linguists use special names for different kinds of definitions, which there is no need to cite here.
No definition can rightfully be declared to be "wrong" if one explains clearly how it is being used.
The most one can claim is that it is not socially acceptable.
That is to say, in colloquial usage when one says "that word means," one is referring to conventional usage.
However, even "conventional" usage "means" different things to different people, nations, cultures, and professions.
Moreover, "conventional" usage changes according to the period of time in the history of man's history, who "invents" the words, and usage by individuals or special groups or professions.
In the various nations, cultures, and families throughout the world, from birth, we began hearing sounds to which we could not yet attach "meanings."
As Bertrand Russell was so concerned to point out, learning to use language also involved a process or imitation.
Throughout our nurturing process we were given the "meanings" of those sounds which we later were taught are words.
Before us, our parents were told what meanings to give to those words.
And before them, their parents were told what to mean by the sounds and so on throughout the ancestry of man.
Consider the conventional usage of words throughout the world in Biblical times as compared to today.
Consider the nature of language (the "giving" of "meaning") at the evolutionary stage of animalistic "communication" evolving into gestures giving way to grunts that eventually evolved into WORDS.
Consider how education (in the proper interpretation of that term) causes us to change the "meanings" of words.
Consider the lost languages of extinct cavemen and words now considered obsolete or, like the term, 'abstract,' used with many different "meanings."
As we became independent of those who told us what to mean by those words, some of us began to attach different "meanings" to them and even invented sounds (words) of our own.
Very often new "meanings" evolved from our misuse, ignorance, inventiveness, and a host of other sources.
With the exception of a vast minority of us, we rarely questioned those "meanings."
Many of us are unable to attach any "meaning" to the various languages of the world or to the special jargon of specialized or professional language.
Meaning did not exist before sentient beings came into existence.
There were no words (or meanings) floating around in the universe for some unimaginable period of time after the "Big Bang."
And surely even the NATURE of "meaning" at its inception, has been transformed by evolutionary processes.
Meaning "resides" only in the "mind."
Or, as Einstein declares in his The Meaning of Relativity (2nd edition),
"The only justification for our concepts and systems of concepts is that they serve to represent the complex of our experiences; beyond this they have no legitimacy."
It is we who "attach" meanings or, a la Ogden and Richards, referents to our words and symbols.
Below is a letter a friend of mine wrote to me in fun as a consequence of discussions he and I had at Walt Disney World celebration of my 90th birthday given to me by my children and attended by a few friends and relatives.
GOD SPEAKS TO SCHIEVELLA
Well Pasquale, I heard through the grapevine (just a euphemism -- since I know everything) that they are throwing a birthday bash for you in Disney World of all places.
It’s been almost 20 years since we had our last conversation, one that I thought was confidential, but then you wrote it all down in a book and “created” a whole new army, annoying little doubters. I know you would say that the doubters already existed but remember, only I can create.
I stayed out of touch these years because I wanted you to really think hard about our exchanges and in some way come to your senses. You never won any arguments with me but I know that my viewpoint has made a profound change in your life.
Of course, I have given a lot of thought to much of what you had to say and frankly I now acknowledge that some of the guys carrying my messages have overdone it a bit. I have been working with them to calm them down and give some credit to those who think outside the Bible. (Got that from Taco Bell.)
90 years old? Big deal! Some of my early followers lived a lot more than that. I have to admit though that some of them hanging around up here don’t look too good. Yet, I did bring some of the earlier ones up with me, but they are beginning to “turn the corner” if you get what I mean. There is really no one here can carry on an intellectual conversation. The Popes have their own club and Mother Teresa has started a convent. Of course, we don’t allow politicians, lawyers, and free thinkers here so there isn’t much going on.
I have wandered from my real purpose in contacting you again, this time thru third parties. It wouldn’t be good for me to be the first to break the ice between us.
I wanted to tell you that I am growing increasingly impatient with your refusal to accept me as the last word in everything thought to be both natural and supernatural.
You force me to place a deadline on you. I will give you ten more years to reconsider your attitude. I will not contact you again.
The next time we talk it will be FACE TO FACE and then you will see that I was right.
In the year of your Lord, May 31, 2004
I’m tremendously impressed, astounded, and appreciative for Your concern. When I repeatedly called to You, near the end of our discourse and received no response, I thought I had convinced You that it was ludicrous not only for You, but anyone else also, to believe that You could possibly exist. But all my reasoning was lost on Your non-physical brain. You never could admit that You’re wrong. However, to respond to some of Your remarks, if my concept of time were like Yours, by Your reckoning, I’m one thousand and eighty plus years old. That IS a very “big deal.”
As to “coming to your senses,” I’m disappointed in Your lack of (all-seeing) observation. I came to my senses about three quarters of a century ago when I finally escaped the conditioning and proselytizing process foisted on me by Your henchmen. Moreover, You don’t seem to be having much success in persuading Your bully boys to ease up on those, as You put it, “who think outside the Bible.” As for being the “last Word,” You’d better pay more attention to all Your sales persons here on earth who don’t seem to have gotten that message -- what with all their differences of opinion about You.
I sympathize (not really) with Your lack of opportunities for intellectual conversation. That’s why I have no intention of joining You. As I once mentioned to You, Don Juan says, Heaven’s a boring place. All the action is in the lower world.
Contacting me through a third party? I always suspected that You didn’t have the courage to do Your own dirty work. Remember how You sent Satan to test Job’s faith in You?
Dead lining me to a mere ten more years? Scare tactics!! You’re a dreamer. Find Your intellectual discussions elsewhere. I’m going to break the longevity record here. And were it possible to have a face to face meeting with You, an incorporeal entity that has no face, don’t hold your lungless breath.
And let’s get one more thing straight! For all the evil and suffering You let loose on this world, You ain’t no friend of mine. And, if You didn’t do it intentionally, then, as Woody Allen says, You’re an “incompetent under-achiever.”
That the All-Knowable Entity, You claim to be, cannot understand the evidence I present and the logic of my reasoning causes me great disillusionment. My undergraduates get it. Why can’t You? You can’t compete even with my B students!!
You know who.
© 1997 by Pasqual S. Schievella