SEE PERENNIAL QUESTIONS
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,
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
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.