Mr. Darwin Can’t Get a Break

 

It can’t be easy to be Charles Darwin right now. (I mean, for reasons beyond the obvious.) A meticulous researcher and a serious and deeply respectful man, Mr. Darwin spent years carefully documenting and refining his seminal* theory of evolution through natural selection, delaying its presentation until similar discoveries by fellow British naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace prompted him to go public and secure his claim as the father of evolutionary theory.

(And what is it with our British cousins, that they should produce simultaneously two men of such insight?)

Imagine for a moment if Galileo, whose encounter with the Catholic Church has been described in this fine piece by our own @Roderic, was today the target of pseudo-scientific sniping for Galileo’s enthusiastic support of the heliocentric model, and that a cottage industry of questionable academic rigor persisted in attempting to tear that theory down. Ponder a world in which the work of Isaac Newton (another big name in British science) was deemed risible by a gaggle of modern critics, despite his having discovered much of classical physics and — oh, yes — co-invented the calculus because plain old math wasn’t quite up to his needs.

Think about that, because that’s what Mr. Darwin has to put up with every single day.

Okay, there’s nothing wrong with questioning science. In fact, to do science is to question science: that’s what science is all about. But while doing science always entails questioning science, the act of questioning science is not always doing science (if that makes sense: it’s one of those p implies q does not imply that not-p implies not-q situations).

A couple of days ago the British newspaper The Telegraph ran a story about a criticism of Darwin mounted by the woke folks at Sheffield University in the UK. That story is paywalled at The Telegraph, but Breitbart is covering it here. The gist of the story is that the school deems evolutionary biology the stuff of white supremacy. The Telegraph quotes the school as writing “It is clear that science cannot be objective and apolitical…. [T]he curriculum we teach must acknowledge how colonialism has shaped the field of evolutionary biology and how evolutionary biologists think today,” and as calling for the “whiteness and Eurocentrism of our science” to be deconstructed.

It’s bad enough that Darwin’s work is attacked via pseudo-science from the right, as I mentioned recently in this piece (paywalled behind Ricochet) about the work of Stephen Meyer. Now the great naturalist is in the left’s crosshairs as well.


What caught my eye about the Breitbart piece (which was linked indirectly by Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit) was, first, that it is about Darwin, a man I admire and with whom I share a birthday, but also that it mentioned Sheffield University. That august institution came up here recently in this piece I wrote about a quack woke geophysics lecturer at Sheffield calling for an end to the structural racism of the geoscience field. Or something.

 

* I have read that “seminal” is no longer considered appropriate, when discussing contributions in science. I can’t imagine why not.

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  1. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Well it sounds like we’re probably in agreement: one can make scientific claims of irreducible complexity and/or intelligent design, as long as one doesn’t posit the supernatural. At that point it stops being scientific.

    Took us a long time to get here, but I guess things worth doing are worth doing thoroughly, right?

    Well, . . . darn close.

    We don’t disagree.

    But I wouldn’t want to say a supernatural claim can’t be science without first figuring out what science is. (Not to mention that some religious claims are falsifiable, as I’ve shown elsewhere.)

    Well, then yes: close.

    And close is pretty good, even if the thing about which we disagree is pretty much the sine qua non of the discussion.

    Not for the first time, I wonder what exactly you think we disagree about.

    You mentioned it a couple of comments back. I do not believe that a supernatural claim can be part of a scientific claim.

    • #301
  2. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    But I wouldn’t want to say a supernatural claim can’t be science without first figuring out what science is. (Not to mention that some religious claims are falsifiable, as I’ve shown elsewhere.)

    Well, then yes: close.

    And close is pretty good, even if the thing about which we disagree is pretty much the sine qua non of the discussion.

    Not for the first time, I wonder what exactly you think we disagree about.

    You mentioned it a couple of comments back. I do not believe that a supernatural claim can be part of a scientific claim.

    I never said it could.

    I only said a supernatural claim can be falsifiable.

    But falsifiability is not my criterion for science.  I don’t even have a criterion for science. That’s Popper’s criterion, and I like Popper, but I can’t just agree with him; I haven’t been able to sort it all out.

    • #302
  3. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    But I wouldn’t want to say a supernatural claim can’t be science without first figuring out what science is. (Not to mention that some religious claims are falsifiable, as I’ve shown elsewhere.)

    Well, then yes: close.

    And close is pretty good, even if the thing about which we disagree is pretty much the sine qua non of the discussion.

    Not for the first time, I wonder what exactly you think we disagree about.

    You mentioned it a couple of comments back. I do not believe that a supernatural claim can be part of a scientific claim.

    I never said it could.

    I only said a supernatural claim can be falsifiable.

    But falsifiability is not my criterion for science. I don’t even have a criterion for science. That’s Popper’s criterion, and I like Popper, but I can’t just agree with him; I haven’t been able to sort it all out.

    I will have to think about whether or not a supernatural claim can be falsified through naturalistic means. I’m not sure that I believe that’s true. But I suppose it depends at least in part on how one defines supernatural.

    • #303
  4. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    But I wouldn’t want to say a supernatural claim can’t be science without first figuring out what science is. (Not to mention that some religious claims are falsifiable, as I’ve shown elsewhere.)

    Well, then yes: close.

    And close is pretty good, even if the thing about which we disagree is pretty much the sine qua non of the discussion.

    Not for the first time, I wonder what exactly you think we disagree about.

    You mentioned it a couple of comments back. I do not believe that a supernatural claim can be part of a scientific claim.

    I never said it could.

    I only said a supernatural claim can be falsifiable.

    But falsifiability is not my criterion for science. I don’t even have a criterion for science. That’s Popper’s criterion, and I like Popper, but I can’t just agree with him; I haven’t been able to sort it all out.

    I will have to think about whether or not a supernatural claim can be falsified through naturalistic means. I’m not sure that I believe that’s true. But I suppose it depends at least in part on how one defines supernatural.

    Interference by some of the Archangels. 

    • #304
  5. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    For example, the claim that there is an omnipotent creator is inherently unfalsifiable via science. I suspect that every other supernatural claim is similarly unfalsifiable, but that seems to be the claim people are most interested in making. I haven’t bothered to think of any others.

    • #305
  6. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    I suspect that every other supernatural claim is similarly unfalsifiable, but that seems to be the claim people are most interested in making. I haven’t bothered to think of any others.

    Try the ones people actually make in religion; it’s in my article.

    Or try my next comment, as a proof of concept.

    • #306
  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I will have to think about whether or not a supernatural claim can be falsified through naturalistic means. I’m not sure that I believe that’s true. But I suppose it depends at least in part on how one defines supernatural.

    Are you under the slightest obligation to read some article I wrote?

    Probably not.

    But I do explain it here. (I think a version of the article is accessible online.)

    And here’s what the thought experiment I dreamed up after posting # 212:

    Geologists discover unusual rock formations a hundred meters below Arizona; embedded a large field of basalt are roughly 10-inch letters of granite.  The rock layer is dated to several hundreds of millions of years ago. They spell out in English “This is God.  I wrote this.  And in order that you may know that I am real, know this: A large meteor will strike this continent 10 years after . . . .”

    The message finishes with a description of a 2020 eclipse, detailed enough enough to rule out any other eclipse in known astronomical history.

    Parallel messages are given in Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, and Sanskrit.

    A geologist concludes “I think a truth-telling God actually wrote this.”  His theory leads him to predict that a large meteor will hit North America between 2029 and 2031.

    No meteor hits in that timeframe.  His theory has made a falsified prediction.

    • #307
  8. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I will have to think about whether or not a supernatural claim can be falsified through naturalistic means. I’m not sure that I believe that’s true. But I suppose it depends at least in part on how one defines supernatural.

    Are you under the slightest obligation to read some article I wrote?

    Probably not.

    But I do explain it here. (I think a version of the article is accessible online.)

    And here’s what the thought experiment I dreamed up after posting # 212:

    Geologists discover unusual rock formations a hundred meters below Arizona; embedded a large field of basalt are roughly 10-inch letters of granite. The rock layer is dated to several hundreds of millions of years ago. They spell out in English “This is God. I wrote this. And in order that you may know that I am real, know this: A large meteor will strike this continent 10 years after . . . .”

    The message finishes with a description of a 2020 eclipse, detailed enough enough to rule out any other eclipse in known astronomical history.

    Parallel messages are given in Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, and Sanskrit.

    A geologist concludes “I think a truth-telling God actually wrote this.” His theory leads him to predict that a large meteor will hit North America between 2029 and 2031.

    No meteor hits in that timeframe. His theory has made a falsified prediction.

    OK, two questions come to mind. I will ask them separately. First question: couldn’t this thought experiment be simplified to the following?

    Scientist: “I believe God will remove this mountain tomorrow.“

    When tomorrow comes and the mountain is still there, have we just achieved the same thing as your thought experiment?

     

    • #308
  9. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I will have to think about whether or not a supernatural claim can be falsified through naturalistic means. I’m not sure that I believe that’s true. But I suppose it depends at least in part on how one defines supernatural.

    Are you under the slightest obligation to read some article I wrote?

    Probably not.

    But I do explain it here. (I think a version of the article is accessible online.)

    And here’s what the thought experiment I dreamed up after posting # 212:

    Geologists discover unusual rock formations a hundred meters below Arizona; embedded a large field of basalt are roughly 10-inch letters of granite. The rock layer is dated to several hundreds of millions of years ago. They spell out in English “This is God. I wrote this. And in order that you may know that I am real, know this: A large meteor will strike this continent 10 years after . . . .”

    The message finishes with a description of a 2020 eclipse, detailed enough enough to rule out any other eclipse in known astronomical history.

    Parallel messages are given in Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, and Sanskrit.

    A geologist concludes “I think a truth-telling God actually wrote this.” His theory leads him to predict that a large meteor will hit North America between 2029 and 2031.

    No meteor hits in that timeframe. His theory has made a falsified prediction.

    OK, two questions come to mind. I will ask them separately. First question: couldn’t this thought experiment be simplified to the following?

    Scientist: “I believe God will remove this mountain tomorrow.“

    When tomorrow comes and the mountain is still there, have we just achieved the same thing as your thought experiment?

    Sure, if you take falsifiability as a criterion for science and leave it at that.

    That’s one reason that a criterion for science shouldn’t be as simple as “falsifiable claims.”  At a minimum, it ought to include something about how the falsifiable claims are a reasonable interpretation of past experience, or something like that.

    • #309
  10. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I will have to think about whether or not a supernatural claim can be falsified through naturalistic means. I’m not sure that I believe that’s true. But I suppose it depends at least in part on how one defines supernatural.

    Are you under the slightest obligation to read some article I wrote?

    Probably not.

    But I do explain it here. (I think a version of the article is accessible online.)

    And here’s what the thought experiment I dreamed up after posting # 212:

    Geologists discover unusual rock formations a hundred meters below Arizona; embedded a large field of basalt are roughly 10-inch letters of granite. The rock layer is dated to several hundreds of millions of years ago. They spell out in English “This is God. I wrote this. And in order that you may know that I am real, know this: A large meteor will strike this continent 10 years after . . . .”

    The message finishes with a description of a 2020 eclipse, detailed enough enough to rule out any other eclipse in known astronomical history.

    Parallel messages are given in Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, and Sanskrit.

    A geologist concludes “I think a truth-telling God actually wrote this.” His theory leads him to predict that a large meteor will hit North America between 2029 and 2031.

    No meteor hits in that timeframe. His theory has made a falsified prediction.

    OK, two questions come to mind. I will ask them separately. First question: couldn’t this thought experiment be simplified to the following?

    Scientist: “I believe God will remove this mountain tomorrow.“

    When tomorrow comes and the mountain is still there, have we just achieved the same thing as your thought experiment?

    Sure, if you take falsifiability as a criterion for science and leave it at that.

    That’s one reason that a criterion for science shouldn’t be as simple as “falsifiable claims.” At a minimum, it ought to include something about how the falsifiable claims are a reasonable interpretation of past experience, or something like that.

    I don’t think I’ve ever suggested that falsifiability is the only criterion. I think it’s necessary; I don’t know that it’s sufficient.

    Now what, precisely, makes your thought experiment, or mine, a supernatural claim?

    I ask because an omnipotent God could strike the continent with the asteroid and prevent us from being aware of it. An omnipotent God could remove the mountain and prevent us from perceiving it. Calling God omnipotent makes it a clear supernatural claim. It also makes it unfalsifiable, because we can’t trust that God did not in fact do what was predicted.

    A man of greater faith could simply say that God kept his word, or removed the mountain, but that we are blinded to the truth.

    What about the scientist’s claim in your example made his claim a supernatural claim?

    • #310
  11. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    OK, two questions come to mind. I will ask them separately. First question: couldn’t this thought experiment be simplified to the following?

    Scientist: “I believe God will remove this mountain tomorrow.“

    When tomorrow comes and the mountain is still there, have we just achieved the same thing as your thought experiment?

    Sure, if you take falsifiability as a criterion for science and leave it at that.

    That’s one reason that a criterion for science shouldn’t be as simple as “falsifiable claims.” At a minimum, it ought to include something about how the falsifiable claims are a reasonable interpretation of past experience, or something like that.

    I don’t think I’ve ever suggested that falsifiability is the only criterion. I think it’s necessary; I don’t know that it’s sufficient.

    Very good.

    Now what, precisely, makes your thought experiment, or mine, a supernatural claim?

    I ask because an omnipotent God could strike the continent with the asteroid and prevent us from being aware of it. An omnipotent God could remove the mountain and prevent us from perceiving it. Calling God omnipotent makes it a clear supernatural claim. It also makes it unfalsifiable, because we can’t trust that God did not in fact do what was predicted.

    A man of greater faith could simply say that God kept his word, or removed the mountain, but that we are blinded to the truth.

    What about the scientist’s claim in your example made his claim a supernatural claim?

    What made it a supernatural claim was that it was a claim about G-d.  What else?

    I think the question you want to ask is: What makes it falsifiable?

    But that is also easy to answer: The very idea is that G-d is supposedly giving us knowledge that he exists.  So he wouldn’t make the meteor hit and us not know it.  If you want to be super-precise, you can work that into the thought experiment explicitly; the message includes a line about how we won’t miss it, and the geologist predicts that we won’t.

    • #311
  12. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    OK, two questions come to mind. I will ask them separately. First question: couldn’t this thought experiment be simplified to the following?

    Scientist: “I believe God will remove this mountain tomorrow.“

    When tomorrow comes and the mountain is still there, have we just achieved the same thing as your thought experiment?

    Sure, if you take falsifiability as a criterion for science and leave it at that.

    That’s one reason that a criterion for science shouldn’t be as simple as “falsifiable claims.” At a minimum, it ought to include something about how the falsifiable claims are a reasonable interpretation of past experience, or something like that.

    I don’t think I’ve ever suggested that falsifiability is the only criterion. I think it’s necessary; I don’t know that it’s sufficient.

    Very good.

    Now what, precisely, makes your thought experiment, or mine, a supernatural claim?

    I ask because an omnipotent God could strike the continent with the asteroid and prevent us from being aware of it. An omnipotent God could remove the mountain and prevent us from perceiving it. Calling God omnipotent makes it a clear supernatural claim. It also makes it unfalsifiable, because we can’t trust that God did not in fact do what was predicted.

    A man of greater faith could simply say that God kept his word, or removed the mountain, but that we are blinded to the truth.

    What about the scientist’s claim in your example made his claim a supernatural claim?

    What made it a supernatural claim was that it was a claim about G-d. What else?

    Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure what the scientist believes to be the limitations, if any, on what God can do. From your thought experiment, it is clear that he believes that there are limits to what God can do, and that if he add sufficient qualifiers to his theory he can eventually box God into a put-up-or-shut-up scenario, where it is impossible for God to both keep His word and leave us unaware that He did so.

    Is that the scientist’s understanding, that God can ultimately be hemmed in in that way?

    I think the question you want to ask is: What makes it falsifiable?

    No, I want to stick with that first question, about the quality that makes the question supernatural.

    But that is also easy to answer: The very idea is that G-d is supposedly giving us knowledge that he exists. So he wouldn’t make the meteor hit and us not know it. If you want to be super-precise, you can work that into the thought experiment explicitly; the message includes a line about how we won’t miss it, and the geologist predicts that we won’t.

    So God can be constrained, the terms of the claim made so precise that even God can’t figure out a way to simultaneously meet them and leave us unaware. I’m going to have to think a little bit about what that implies about God.

     

    • #312
  13. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Still thinking about this. It’s interesting, because the questions I have revolve around the nature and limitations of the supernatural.

    Is the supernatural bound by the laws of nature?

    Is the supernatural bound by the laws of logic?

    Is the supernatural bound by language?

    If we’re talking about God, what limits does He have, in terms of nature, logic, and language?

    And is it possible that God can create a contract that is simultaneously comprehensible to us and yet so comprehensive that God Himself can’t meet its terms while convincing us that He didn’t? Is language that powerful?

    I’m going to keep thinking about this. Bourbon helps.

    • #313
  14. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Well, I don’t know. I’m not sure what the scientist believes to be the limitations, if any, on what God can do. From your thought experiment, it is clear that he believes that there are limits to what God can do, and that if he add sufficient qualifiers to his theory he can eventually box God into a put-up-or-shut-up scenario, where it is impossible for God to both keep His word and leave us unaware that He did so.

    Is that the scientist’s understanding, that God can ultimately be hemmed in in that way?

    Hemmed in by his own truth-telling, that’s all.

    But it looks like you need a lesson on what omnipotence means.  It doesn’t mean there are no limits on G-d (whatever “no limits” means) or that G-d can do just anything. It means G-d has unlimited power.  In the classical understanding (Anselm, Aquinas, etc.), various abilities are explicitly classified as weaknesses and therefore incompatible with omnipotence.  (Like the ability to lie, die, contradict oneself, etc.)

    I think the question you want to ask is: What makes it falsifiable?

    No, I want to stick with that first question, about the quality that makes the question supernatural.

    It appears that I have no idea what you are talking about.

    Far as I know, a claim about G-d in any normal sense of the term is a supernatural claim. You might as well ask me why water is wet.

    • #314
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Is the supernatural bound by the laws of nature?

    Is the supernatural bound by the laws of logic?

    Is the supernatural bound by language?

    If we’re talking about God, what limits does He have, in terms of nature, logic, and language?

    And is it possible that God can create a contract that is simultaneously comprehensible to us and yet so comprehensive that God Himself can’t meet its terms while convincing us that He didn’t? Is language that powerful?

    I’m going to keep thinking about this. Bourbon helps.

    Skip the bourbon.  Take some caffeine and let me teach you Anselm.

    If you want more, I have a nice footnote in this Alvin Plantinga paper I’ve been working on.

    • #315
  16. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Is the supernatural bound by the laws of nature?

    Is the supernatural bound by the laws of logic?

    Is the supernatural bound by language?

    If we’re talking about God, what limits does He have, in terms of nature, logic, and language?

    And is it possible that God can create a contract that is simultaneously comprehensible to us and yet so comprehensive that God Himself can’t meet its terms while convincing us that He didn’t? Is language that powerful?

    I’m going to keep thinking about this. Bourbon helps.

    Skip the bourbon. Take some caffeine and let me teach you Anselm.

    If you want more, I have a nice footnote in this Alvin Plantinga paper I’ve been working on.

    No thank you. I try to avoid video, since it’s so hard to tease apart and reference.

    But if you want to give me succinct answers on these questions, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. Is God bound by the the laws of nature? (I think this is an easy one.)
    2. Is God bound by rules of logic? That is, is God incapable of being logically inconsistent by our understanding of logic?
    3. Is God subject to restrictions of language? That is, must words mean, when used by or about God, what we think they mean?

     

    • #316
  17. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    What I said earlier was that a claim of an omnipotent God was inherently unfalsifiable, and that I hadn’t given much thought to other supernatural claims.

    Your example posits a limited God — a God lacking free will and incapable of choosing to be dishonest. I might be willing to agree that some claims made about a God lacking free will are falsifiable; I’ll have to think more about that.

    Do you have any thought experiments that attempt to make the same point but that allow God free will?

     

    • #317
  18. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    What I said earlier was that a claim of an omnipotent God was inherently unfalsifiable, and that I hadn’t given much thought to other supernatural claims.

    Your example posits a limited God — a God lacking free will and incapable of choosing to be dishonest. I might be willing to agree that some claims made about a God lacking free will are falsifiable; I’ll have to think more about that.

    Do you have any thought experiments that attempt to make the same point but that allow God free will?

     

    I think you guys should discuss genetic engineering and sex bots instead. But I respect your freedom to discuss whatever you want. Yay the first amendment. 

    • #318
  19. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    What I said earlier was that a claim of an omnipotent God was inherently unfalsifiable, and that I hadn’t given much thought to other supernatural claims.

    Your example posits a limited God — a God lacking free will and incapable of choosing to be dishonest. I might be willing to agree that some claims made about a God lacking free will are falsifiable; I’ll have to think more about that.

    Do you have any thought experiments that attempt to make the same point but that allow God free will?

     

    I think you guys should discuss genetic engineering and sex bots instead. But I respect your freedom to discuss whatever you want. Yay the first amendment.

    Henry, no one else is listening. It’s not like we’re inconveniencing anyway. This is an interesting exercise.

    Sex robots are just sad, like opium dens.

    • #319
  20. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    No thank you. I try to avoid video, since it’s so hard to tease apart and reference.

    But if you want to give me succinct answers on these questions, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

    1. Is God bound by the the laws of nature? (I think this is an easy one.)
    2. Is God bound by rules of logic? That is, is God incapable of being logically inconsistent by our understanding of logic?
    3. Is God subject to restrictions of language? That is, must words mean, when used by or about God, what we think they mean?

    1. No.

    2. Yes, with one rephrasing and one clarification.
    Rephrasing: G-d is incapable of being logically inconsistent by the correct rules of logic.
    Clarification: G-d is not bound by anything external to G-d. (The source of the rules of logic is itself the perfection which is G-d.)

    3. Well, I wouldn’t count on them being literal. “The Bible is divinely revealed misinformation about G-d” and all that. But the words use their correct meaning.  My extended answer is in this article.

    • #320
  21. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    What I said earlier was that a claim of an omnipotent God was inherently unfalsifiable, and that I hadn’t given much thought to other supernatural claims.

    Given your confused understanding of omnipotence, yes.

    But why not give some thought to other supernatural claims?

    Your example posits a limited God — a God lacking free will and incapable of choosing to be dishonest. I might be willing to agree that some claims made about a God lacking free will are falsifiable; I’ll have to think more about that.

    Do you have any thought experiments that attempt to make the same point but that allow God free will?

    My example does not posit a limited G-d, nor a G-d lacking free will.  If you’re going to ignore what I say about omnipotence (# 314), best not bother talking with me about this.  As for free will, I’ll say as much as probably needs to be said immediately:

    Free will does not preclude the ability to commit to a decision and not be able to back out of it.

    • #321
  22. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    My example does not posit a limited G-d, nor a G-d lacking free will.

    The only “God” present in your example is the one hypothesized by the scientist. Does the scientist consider that “truth-telling God” to be capable of being untruthful? If so, then the failure to destroy a continent is not a falsification of the scientist’s claim; that truth-telling God might simply have chosen not to be truthful this time. If not — if the scientist considers the truth-telling God to be constrained to only telling the truth — then it is a limited God, one the scientist asserts is incapable of freely choosing to be truthful or false, that is falsified.

    We can get more meta as we go, imposing ever more contrived restrictions. I am not convinced that any of them work if God is left free of natural constraints and imbued with free will — work, that is, without being inherently logically inconsistent as presented.

    • #322
  23. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Free will does not preclude the ability to commit to a decision and not be able to back out of it.

    What would prevent one from backing out of a decision? More to the point, what would prevent God from backing out of a decision?

    • #323
  24. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    My example does not posit a limited G-d, nor a G-d lacking free will.

    The only “God” present in your example is the one hypothesized by the scientist. Does the scientist consider that “truth-telling God” to be capable of being untruthful?

    I don’t see why it would matter for the thought experiment.  His theory isn’t that G-d can’t not be honest; it’s that G-d is honest.  When the meteor doesn’t show up, his theory is falsified.

    If not — if the scientist considers the truth-telling God to be constrained to only telling the truth — then it is a limited God, one the scientist asserts is incapable of freely choosing to be truthful or false, that is falsified.

    Why shouldn’t he have a claim about a limited G-d?

    We can get more meta as we go, imposing ever more contrived restrictions. I am not convinced that any of them work if God is left free of natural constraints and imbued with free will — work, that is, without being inherently logically inconsistent as presented.

    Seriously, bro: Please leave me alone about this unless you’re going to pay attention to what I said about what the doctrine of omnipotence means.

    • #324
  25. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Free will does not preclude the ability to commit to a decision and not be able to back out of it.

    What would prevent one from backing out of a decision? More to the point, what would prevent God from backing out of a decision?

    His good character, of course.

    • #325
  26. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    If not — if the scientist considers the truth-telling God to be constrained to only telling the truth — then it is a limited God, one the scientist asserts is incapable of freely choosing to be truthful or false, that is falsified.

    Why shouldn’t he have a claim about a limited G-d?

    He’s welcome to. But I don’t know that a supernatural claim that doesn’t include limitations imposed on the supernatural aspect can be falsified. That’s all.

    • #326
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    If not — if the scientist considers the truth-telling God to be constrained to only telling the truth — then it is a limited God, one the scientist asserts is incapable of freely choosing to be truthful or false, that is falsified.

    Why shouldn’t he have a claim about a limited G-d?

    He’s welcome to. But I don’t know that a supernatural claim that doesn’t include limitations imposed on the supernatural aspect can be falsified. That’s all.

    Like the limitations that are already built into the very idea of omnipotence?

    Not much of a limitation on what supernatural claims are falsifiable.

    • #327
  28. Henry Racette Moderator
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Like the limitations that are already built into the very idea of omnipotence?

    Respectfully, those limitations are built into your very idea of omnipotence. You’ve chosen them, but there’s nothing in the concept of omnipotence that requires them.

    • #328
  29. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Like the limitations that are already built into the very idea of omnipotence?

    Respectfully, those limitations are built into your very idea of omnipotence. You’ve chosen them, but there’s nothing in the concept of omnipotence that requires them.

    Even a second-rate academic discipline like contemporary analytic philosophy recognizes that omnipotence does not require silly things like ability to break the rules of logic.

    But that omnipotence is unlimited power, not unlimited ability–you would do well to ignore me and focus on the names I mentioned. Unlike me, Anselm and Aquinas matter.

    But if you want to talk about me, I can say that my concept of omnipotence is the same.  I daresay, like much else in Aquinas, it is official in Catholicism.  It is also built into the etymology of the word, and you may also consult this dictionary for the contemporary English sense. Omnipotence means unlimited power; having all possible abilities is not even listed as a definition.

    • #329
  30. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

     

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Like the limitations that are already built into the very idea of omnipotence?

    Respectfully, those limitations are built into your very idea of omnipotence. You’ve chosen them, but there’s nothing in the concept of omnipotence that requires them.

    Even a second-rate academic discipline like contemporary analytic philosophy recognizes that omnipotence does not require silly things like ability to break the rules of logic.

    But that omnipotence is unlimited power, not unlimited ability–you would do well to ignore me and focus on the names I mentioned. Unlike me, Anselm and Aquinas matter.

    But if you want to talk about me, I can say that my concept of omnipotence is the same. I daresay, like much else in Aquinas, it is official in Catholicism. It is also built into the etymology of the word, and you may also consult this dictionary for the contemporary English sense. Omnipotence means unlimited power; having all possible abilities is not even listed as a definition.

    Oh, I get it! You must be thinking of power in sense of an ability. Like the power to do this or the power to do that. And I guess that it is in the dictionary, isn’t it?

    Well, that’s not power in the traditional understanding of G-d’s power. Think of power as strength or potency. It’s not indexed to the ability to do this thing or that thing. Think of how the stronger runner has less ability to lose the race. That he has less ability to lose does not mean he is less powerful. Rather, he has so much power that he can’t easily lose.

    • #330
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