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III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God" 
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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Flann 5 wrote:
. . . I think I can see the wheels turning in his head in an elaborate exercise to rid of God.I'm not neutral of course.


Thanks, Flann.

I see Carrier's opening chapters where he discusses his personal philosophy as a kind of declaration of where he's coming from, his ethos, a classic rhetoric pose to establish credibility. Socrates discusses the three modes of persuasion: "logos" or rational appeal, "pathos" or emotional appeal, and "ethos" or ethical appeal, each intentionally used by rhetoricians to persuade an audience. Even if you disagree with his position, Carrier to me seems at least very honest about his journey and how he came to reject Christianity in its popular form. So the opening chapters use some ethos and pathos, but most of the book relies almost exclusively logos, which is what you expect in this kind of treatise.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic

I was concerned at first that his worldview was going to be formulated too much in reactionary terms (to Christianity), but so far I don't think that's the case at all. Just the opposite. He demonstrates a very thorough and methodological approach to his life even if it is focused through a materialistic lens. I have a hard time imagining how anyone could be motivated to reject God. In fact, they are rejecting the popular and unquestioned cultural acceptance of God. This seems far more plausible to me. But then I'm not neutral either. :roll:


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
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We can code anything using abstraction. Anything at all. But anything we code will have information loss, it's only ever partial. The is a fundamental structure to things(that we abstract just the right "thing"), that it follows a set of rules. That is mathematics. Where logic is relationship between words, mathematics is relationship between real things. Our mathematical abstractions must match up to the objective referrent, and that requires sampling(evidence/experiments). It's a complex interplay of concepts.


How does coding an abstract phenomena with an abstract coding language like mathematics equal Understanding?
And how would we measure the information loss?

I hear the words "logic" "math" "logic" "math" being thrown around a lot, but they seem to be mere placeholders for a confident "faith" in a worldview that has been committed to for emotional reasons.



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
geo wrote:
So the opening chapters use some ethos and pathos, but most of the book relies almost exclusively logos, which is what you expect in this kind of treatise.

Thanks Geo.
You may be right Geo about this.I probably need to focus more on his arguments for his philosophy.If they are valid they will stand and by the same token if not they will crumble.I do see inconsistencies and contradictions but I guess that needs to be demonstrated. He is a logician and can be quite persuasive. It may be superficial though.
He was supremely confident in presenting his essay against intelligent design to Luke Barnes, with the confident assertion that it would sweep the notion from the face of the earth!
I think Barnes served up some humble pie there and his logic was less than impressive.Plus, Barnes is a cosmologist and understands the issues in his field of expertise.
Some people are good at logical thinking and can see these things more easily than others. The book is interesting and dealing with important ideas.
Motivation to believe or disbelieve in God is a big subject and of course depends on how God is defined amongst other things. I can understand how cultural representations can be problematic.I'll leave that aside.
Of necessity he has to build from bottom up, but I'll shut up for now until I have something of interest to say about the material he presents itself.
You seem to be enjoying it and finding it worthwhile and there are interesting ideas there for sure.
I have to go out and urban hunt and gather a Big Mac now! Just kidding there Geo.



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
ant wrote:
I hear the words "logic" "math" "logic" "math" being thrown around a lot, but they seem to be mere placeholders for a confident "faith" in a worldview that has been committed to for emotional reasons.

Should I really believe that Carrier's belief in the simple fundamental chaos, creator of the multiverse is a triumph of logic and reasoned thinking? Why the strange anxiety to disprove intelligent design by appealing to theoretical fiction to explain away troublesome fact in the real world?



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
I think Carrier exaggerates our understanding of the cosmos because of his emotional investment in his worldview.
His presentation is largely "we know this and this and this and this and that and we are learning so much more by the day it is a good bet this worldview will hold true."

I personally see things differently.
We will be led in perhaps many different directions in the future, leaving behind old conceptual lenses as more data becomes available.

Actually our understanding of the cosmos covers roughly only 5% of our universe.
Most of us who keep abreast of our cosmic journey know this is not news:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2014/08/2 ... hese-years

It is praiseworthy we have come this far. The horizon is no where in sight. And I see that as a good thing.
Imagination (Einstein's most cherished aspect of science) and faith will lead the way.
Our ancestors will correct our mistakes and hopefully end our prejudices with minds that remain open to imaginative exploration.



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
ant wrote:
How does coding an abstract phenomena with an abstract coding language like mathematics equal Understanding?


Which connotation of the word understanding? We can understand the mechanism by applying mathematics, but that doesn't equate to a visceral understanding, or a full understanding, or an emotional understanding, or a linquistic understanding, or a conceptual understanding. The word is too loose even when not capitalized.

Flann wrote:
Why the strange anxiety to disprove intelligent design by appealing to theoretical fiction to explain away troublesome fact in the real world?


But Flann, there is simply no reason to believe in intelligent design. It's a hodgepodge of clutching at straws by theists, without any truth or merit. There is nothing there to discredit or disprove, because nothing's actually being said. Point to one ID argument that isn't an argument from ignorance or false inference. The baseline isn't starting with belief in ID, then disproving it. The baseline is starting with what we know then constructing a worldview. When you construct a worldview using proper method from the ground up, the idea of intelligent design simply never enters the arena. It is only kept alive by the historical top-down emotional approach, which is an approach that refuses to face human bias head on through the exercise of proper method.

If you're referring to why he spends so much time arguing against ID advocates, it's because the majority of our country believes in ID. As Carrier said, only a small minority have put forth the effort to run their worldview through critical examination. It's oddly mesmerizing to see so many people that believe what I know to be a fairy tale. It's captivating, like a plot twist at the end of a very good book.

The understanding that sorts truth from fiction is not a linguistic understanding. It's more of a mechanical understanding(function based, like logic or the empirical method). Like knowing how the fifth gear in a series will turn if the first is turned clockwise. When you understand how powerful algorithms can be, and how powerful human bias can be, things start to click into place in a convergent fashion that leaves little doubt.

All I see is words against words, and the only side that uses words to convey proper method and underlying mechanical understanding is the naturalist side. The words are an abstraction for the underlying mechanics. But so often, it is the words that are argued against, rather than the underlying mechanisms. This is where intellectual humility comes in - trying to understand the mechanism or method that the person is trying to convey using words. The theist side mostly uses words that sound good, or that have emotional appeal. Of course there are experts who have become doctors in fields of method, but they are rare, and entirely expected. Even when they make points, nothing I've ever heard from one of them has shown naturalism to be false. Does it ever concern you that you appeal to the same few experts on so many different topics in the atheism/theism debate? The majority of experts are naturalists, and there are a lot more of them. A lot more.

ant wrote:
Actually our understanding of the cosmos covers roughly only 5% of our universe.


I'm not sure if I agree with your wording here. The other 95% could turn out to be one kind of matter or energy, or two kinds. It may be all that's left to form a theory of everything, or make a link to an entirely new field of quantum micromechanics. I also believe that the worldview Carrier presented will mostly hold true. Because the unknowns aren't speculated at beyond proper method. The end-game, whether or not there is a multiverse or a single universe, may hold some surprises. But that's irrelevant to the understanding of everyday life, compatibilist free will, naturalistic morality and ethics, etc. Whatever the cosmological framework for the world we live in, we know enough of our world to form near certain conclusions regarding how things work.

ant wrote:
It is praiseworthy we have come this far. The horizon is no where in sight. And I see that as a good thing.


That's not a justified statement. The horizon could come next year. I agree with you that it likely won't, that we're centuries away. But that is our opinion, and to claim it as something more isn't justified. We can't know where the horizon is at, because that would know when we will make the next eureka discovery.

Flann wrote:
I have to go out and urban hunt and gather a Big Mac now!


:clap:


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
This is a strong argument for materialism, even stronger because it's so succinct.

Carrier wrote:
Thus, all metaphysical naturalists believe that if anything exists in our universe, it is a part of nature, and has a natural cause or origin, and there is no need of any other explanation. This belief is not asserted or assumed as a first principle, but is arrived at from a careful and open-minded investigation of all evidence and reason, using the methods surveyed in the previous chapter. As we see it, the progress of science and other critical methods has consistently found natural causes and origins for everything we have been able to investigate thoroughly—for so long, so widely, on so many subjects, both disparate and related. Indeed, it has never once failed in this regard whenever a problem or question could be properly investigated. So it is a thoroughly reasonable inference that this shall continue unabated. We have every reason to believe that the results of future investigations will most probably be the same for every subject once we have access to sufficient evidence to decide the matter.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Yes, fantastically worded. It captures many things I've tried to say, far better than I could ever say them. Thanks for putting this part to text. I remember hearing it while listening and wishing I had a paperback version to quote from. That paragraph sums up nearly the entire book, or at least serves as the bedrock for the worldview.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
i hadn't picked up this book, but quotes like this make me think i should take a look.


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In the absence of God, I found Man.
-Guillermo Del Torro

Have you tried that? Looking for answers?
Or have you been content to be terrified of a thing you know nothing about?

Are you pushing your own short comings on us and safely hating them from a distance?

Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?

Confidence being an expectation built on past experience, evidence and extrapolation to the future. Faith being an expectation held in defiance of past experience and evidence.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Richard Carrier is insufferably irritating. In Chapter Three, he poses two ways to explain the existence of the universe, that it was created by a sentient God and that it is just one region of a multiverse. Both of these options are highly flawed but Carrier fails to discuss the real flaws.

On the multiverse, Carrier does not even discuss the possibility that our visible universe with its apparent uniform physical laws may be the only one there is. Instead he hares off into pure speculation about other universes inside black holes obeying completely different laws of physics.

It is worth emphasising that there is no evidence whatsoever that anything contrary to observed laws of physics is possible. So this whole multiverse fantasy is a rabbit hole, an imaginary construction based on nothing more than pure speculation. But to listen to Carrier, with his lofty talk of evidence, you would think there is real scientific weight behind the idea that the laws of physics are not necessary products of the nature of reality. We don’t know.

On God, Carrier insists on demolishing the medieval myth of the sentient unified entity. I can appreciate this is reasonable in the USA with its prevalent primitivism, but a more constructive approach would be to ask how the idea of God evolved as a psychological fantasy, how it remains culturally adaptive, and how humanity can evolve to a more enlightened spirituality.

Explaining that the ignorant thinking in the backblocks of Tennessee is backward is a rather tired exercise. But Carrier uses such simplistic arguments to demolish the whole of religion, to justify his extreme views that

Richard Carrier wrote:
philosophy should be a religion wherein worship is replaced with curiosity, devotion with diligence, holiness with sincerity, ritual with study, and scripture with the whole world and the whole of human learning (Kindle 6%).

This rhetoric is obviously seductive, but the underlying story here is that atheist faith in a multiverse justifies the abolition of worship, devotion, holiness, ritual and scripture. I personally think all these things that Carrier wants to abolish are good, even if they need to evolve to become more enlightened.

He is imagining, completely wrongly, that an intellectual faith with no ritual devotion or worship can be adequate for mass culture. This failure to understand how the emotional comfort provided by simple faith is valid and good marks Carrier’s attitudes as extreme and out of touch.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Quote:
Instead he hares off into pure speculation about other universes inside black holes obeying completely different laws of physics.


These are ideas that so many professional cosmologists also consider viable. You make it sound as if Carrier made these ideas up, or that speculation is not how you originally formulate hypotheses. They are a naturalistic explanation that attempts to make sense of the apparently fine tuned laws of nature. To see how progress is being made, look at some of the recent links in various posts. Perhaps I'll compile them into a single thread. There are other ideas out there other than that of the multiverse, and many brilliant minds churning through these ideas and more, merging cosmological explanations with variations of string theory, seeking variations to various multiverse theories that are testable, coming up with entirely new cosmological explanations.

The main thrust of Carrier's argument isn't that "the multiverse is true." As geo pointed out, that's speculative. The main thrust is that the universe is naturalistic, and as one naturalistic explanation, the idea of a multiverse is the best bet so far. Why do you think it's not the best bet Robert?

Quote:
But to listen to Carrier, with his lofty talk of evidence, you would think there is real scientific weight behind the idea that the laws of physics are not necessary products of the nature of reality.


He is saying the laws of physics are a product of nature, I think you misunderstood him. Unless you took him to mean something other than that the laws of physics were naturalistic. What is your explanation for the laws of physics? Or more precisely, the value of the contants. Why should the be the value they are, and not some other value? Why these values precisely, that allow for stars to form, which create heavy elements, allowing life to form?

Quote:
a more constructive approach would be to ask how the idea of God evolved as a psychological fantasy, how it remains culturally adaptive, and how humanity can evolve to a more enlightened spirituality.


That wouldn't be more constructive. People's eyes would gloss over as they hear "support for god", and they'd go on believing what they already believe. It's exceedingly rare to change a person's worldview Robert. This is a defense of metaphysical naturalism, not a defense of cosmological Christianity. All of your comments seem motivated by this disagreement and nothing more.

Quote:
He is imagining, completely wrongly, that an intellectual faith with no ritual devotion or worship can be adequate for mass culture. This failure to understand how the emotional comfort provided by simple faith is valid and good marks Carrier’s attitudes as extreme and out of touch.


What he says regarding philosophy serving as a religion has struck more true to me than most other parts of the book. For me, philosophy is my religion. I've built my worldview with an understanding of what I need to be psychologically healthy, moral, and productive, using philosophy. Perhaps this wouldn't work for mass culture. You could be right. I think the best alternative would be a form of secular buddhism.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Robert Tulip wrote:
. . . He is imagining, completely wrongly, that an intellectual faith with no ritual devotion or worship can be adequate for mass culture. This failure to understand how the emotional comfort provided by simple faith is valid and good marks Carrier’s attitudes as extreme and out of touch.


I agree with this as well. And the same criticism can easily be applied to Dawkins. Carrier seems stuck in us-versus-them mode and it dumbs down his approach. Then again, the book is titled, "Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism." The prevailing beliefs in God in our culture do have to be addressed. The book's thesis is sort of married to that.

I'm still enjoying the book a lot. And to Carrier's credit, his discussion of multiverse theories are discussed in context of his personal worldview. He personally likes Smolin’s ‘selection theory. I was blown away with it myself. How cool is that, the idea that black holes are actually other universes, each governed by different natural laws. Carrier makes it clear that there's very little evidence to support these views, only that they are consistent with what is being observed. He makes a really interesting point that conditions in the universe are generally very adverse to the formation and continued existence of life. How tenuous is our existence! Generally he does a great job describing these theories even when he's interspersing these scientific discussions with elitist anti-religion views.

To Johnson, please join in. I think you would like this book.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Quote;Richard Carrier; " ....Anything that is unproven can claim no authority over what has an inherently greater proof by being directly in our perception. This is all the more the case if we can prove there are faults or defects in these contrary claims,or even a suspicion thereof."end quote.

I agree with Robert on the whole mutiverse business, though not of course about God.
Richard Carrier opts for the eternalist view of time, from which the logical consequence must be that our experienced perception of the passing of time must be an illusion, foisted on us by our brains.Whether this version of time and reality is proven,faultless or suspicious is the question.
First off, there are varied and conflicting theories of time and some do indeed find fault with the eternalist view based on the irreversibilty of time,quantum uncertainty, and entropy as examples.
This engenders suspicion at the very least.
These theories themselves are claimed to be based on scientific evidence and theories, but different people appeal to and explain the evidence in different ways.
I don't claim expertise here, but am trying to understand and make sense of these things.
However we weigh these things,one wonders how the view that our direct and universally experienced perception of reality and the passing of time, is nothing more than a deception from our brains, can be squared with the above statement of Carrier's
.
What is directly perceived is a gigantic universal hallucination and the eternalist theory of time version is true and above suspicion?
Ditto for the multiverse.



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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
I'm seeing why Carrier spent so much time on time. :mrgreen:

It appears to be a controversial topic. I have no issues with any of the popular models of time. The eternalist version makes sense. I don't see the uncertainty principle posing an issue, but there are other seemingly random events in quantum mechanics that may pose a problem. In the end,our perceptual judgement means nothing, since everything would appear the same. The truth of it rests on the math, which is beyond me.

I wouldn't say the eternalist version means our experience is an illusion. It's a consequence, born from the interplay of various forces and dimension, similar to gravity in relativity. Our conscious experience isn't an illusion. This claim comes up often, and is a cartesian demon sort of argument that Carrier shows to be ridiculous.

Perhaps what motivates the claim that our consciousness is an illusion is that many of the explanations in naturalism place consciousness into an explanatory context. This knocks it off the plateau of "ultimately, supremely true and mysterious above all explanation". But that doesn't mean it's an illusion. Able to be partially explained, set in context, framed naturalistically, yes. Illusion, no.


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Post Re: III. What There Is - "Sense and Goodness Without God"
Do we not directly perceive and experience the passing of time? Is this perception and experience real or illusory? You say it is real.If so, time must actually pass or the perception is illusory.



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