AuthorTopic: Science in re Theories of Everything  (Read 11995 times)

Offline Ka

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Science in re Theories of Everything
« on: October 09, 2012, 09:54:31 PM »
A continuation of a discussion that shouldn't have been in the Cannibalism thread.

(Ashvin, I'm putting your whole comment here, just for continuity. Specific things addressed will be below)


No, you said that Christianity is the only TOE that is adequate to the scientific evidence. I replied that my TOE is also adequate to the scientific evidence. Now you are saying that Christianity "will ultimately prove to be the only way to adequately understand reality through science". That is a different claim. But it is a claim, so I will now repeat why it is a bad one, and that is, that not all reality can be understood through science. Science is the development of theories about sensed reality. That which senses that reality is therefore not within the scope of science. Neither are the nature of God or Christ, or Christ's divine purpose in incarnating -- which is to say all that really matters with respect to Christianity in terms of salvation.

There is really not much disagreement here, Ka, because I never claimed that science is capable of explaining the full extent of reality. So, you are correct to say that we must resort to many other fields of knowledge to develop a true metaphysical TOE. BUT, science will always be a part of that TOE, and scientific findings cannot contradict the TOE. If they do, then either your scientific findings are incorrect, or you have not actually reached a true TOE. That was my point.

You are somewhat incorrect to suggest that science cannot get us to core Christian doctrines, though. The way it can do that is by providing credibility to the supernatural inspiration of the Bible. If the latest scientific research matches up very well with predictions derived from the Biblical texts, then it would be very difficult to explain such accuracy with any natural explanations. And, if the Bible is inspired by God, then we can also trust in the perfect accuracy of its core history and theology.

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All the "evidence we have" necessarily presupposes uniformitarianism.

I don't think is a good word to use here. When I say the physical laws of the Universe have not changed, I mean the most fundamental forces (gravity, electromagnetism, strong/weak nuclear), and the corollary laws associated with them, such as those of thermodynamics.  The best evidence we have for that immutability is from astronomy, where scientists directly observe the past (all the way back to the earliest moments of the Universe). If there was any change in those physical laws between then and now, they would definitely be able to detect such a deviation (not to mention, life would have not been possible, and therefore this discussion we are having).

Some people also talk about uniformitarianism in terms of historical developments in the formation and "evolution" of stars and planets and specific geological and biological developments on those planets. In that sense, I believe in a combination of uniformity and catastrophe, which I believe is the dominant view, and best explains the evidence we have from various fields of science (also meshes well with Biblical accounts).

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Well, you're mixing things up here, as the date and place are not in the Bible. But in particular the bit "created fully-formed by God" is not, and cannot, be demonstrated through science. Hence this is not a scientific model.

That is not true, and you will see why if you read this article - http://www.reasons.org/articles/who-was-adam-an-old-earth-creation-model-for-the-origin-of-humanity

The core tenets of RTB's model are these, and they are directly taken from a comprehensive understanding of the Biblical accounts:

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Humanity is traceable back to one woman and one man.
Humanity’s early population size was relatively small.
Humanity originated in a single location in or near the Middle East (the Garden of Eden).
Humanity’s origin occurred recently.
Humanity spread around the world from in or near the Middle East.
Human culture (which reflects the image of God) appears and expands explosively in the archeological record from the time of humanity’s origin.
Humans share anatomical, physical, biochemical, and genetic similarities with the extinct hominids, also with great apes and other animals.
Humans are behaviorally distinct (in ways that reflect God’s image) from the earlier hominids, the great apes, and other animals.

You must read the entire article to truly grasp what the scientific argument is, though.

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I read your article, and none of the science in it provides a means to choose between your TOE and mine. Which is my point. Earlier you gave a couple of long quotes that seem to drive your thinking. The second starts with:

"Did man crawl his way into existence over millions of years? Or did he leap to two feet by supernatural design? Did humans emerge from amoebas or did a Creator intend for life to possess purpose, value, and meaning?"

The author goes on to show the first option is untenable (and I agree). But that does not imply the second option is true. See Surly's list in which this is called the fallacy of the false dilemma. In short, there is nothing you have referenced or said in your piece on your blog that provides scientific evidence for your TOE in preference to mine. Now I haven't read everything you have referenced, but I am confident in saying that there is no determining scientific evidence because of what I said above: that the differences between our TOEs lie outside of the scope of science.

Now you haven't really been exposed to the full nature of my TOE, but the remark I made earlier -- that rather than saying God creates this or that I hold that communities of spiritual entities do the creating -- can serve as a difference for our purposes. So if you have some scientific evidence that shows your TOE to be right and my wrong, please provide it. Otherwise, I don't see how you can maintain your original claim.

Well I have really have no idea whether your TOE can provide scientific predictions that are testable or not (I suspect not), but I know for a fact that mine can (see above). If all of those tenets listed above were to be proven true by the scientific evidence, in accordance with the Biblical models of humanity's origin, would that still be compatible with your TOE and, specifically, your view of the Bible?

End of original

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There is really not much disagreement here, Ka, because I never claimed that science is capable of explaining the full extent of reality. So, you are correct to say that we must resort to many other fields of knowledge to develop a true metaphysical TOE. BUT, science will always be a part of that TOE, and scientific findings cannot contradict the TOE. If they do, then either your scientific findings are incorrect, or you have not actually reached a true TOE. That was my point.

Right, no disagreement here. But your original claim was that only Christianity met these criteria, and that is what I objected to.

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You are somewhat incorrect to suggest that science cannot get us to core Christian doctrines, though. The way it can do that is by providing credibility to the supernatural inspiration of the Bible. If the latest scientific research matches up very well with predictions derived from the Biblical texts, then it would be very difficult to explain such accuracy with any natural explanations. And, if the Bible is inspired by God, then we can also trust in the perfect accuracy of its core history and theology.

The problem is that supernatural inspiration does not entail that what is revealed has been revealed with "perfect accuracy". There is the very real possibility (I would say near certainty, given Barfield's thesis) that the inspirers would have had to tailor their revelations to the intellectual capacities of the inspirees. Which is why in parallel with a revelation to the Jews, there was needed the development of reason in Greece before a sensible metaphysics, and hence an adequate TOE could be worked out. If I were limited to recommending one book for you to read it is David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite. Hart is an Eastern Orthodox theologian, but I have seen his book praised by Catholics, Anglicans, and Calvinists. Naturally, I don't agree with him entirely, but the Christianity he portrays is one I find a lot more rational than yours. Because, in the end, the attempts you find so important to establish the literal truth of the OT are beside the point. (See below).

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Well, you're mixing things up here, as the date and place are not in the Bible. But in particular the bit "created fully-formed by God" is not, and cannot, be demonstrated through science. Hence this is not a scientific model.

That is not true, and you will see why if you read this article - http://www.reasons.org/articles/who-was-adam-an-old-earth-creation-model-for-the-origin-of-humanity

The core tenets of RTB's model are these, and they are directly taken from a comprehensive understanding of the Biblical accounts:

Quote
Humanity is traceable back to one woman and one man.
Humanity’s early population size was relatively small.
Humanity originated in a single location in or near the Middle East (the Garden of Eden).
Humanity’s origin occurred recently.
Humanity spread around the world from in or near the Middle East.
Human culture (which reflects the image of God) appears and expands explosively in the archeological record from the time of humanity’s origin.
Humans share anatomical, physical, biochemical, and genetic similarities with the extinct hominids, also with great apes and other animals.
Humans are behaviorally distinct (in ways that reflect God’s image) from the earlier hominids, the great apes, and other animals.

You must read the entire article to truly grasp what the scientific argument is, though.

I read the thing, though eventually started skimming, since it was clear that neither he, nor did you, respond to my point, which is that one cannot conclude from that evidence that the actions were carried out by God. In other words, even if all the points listed were well demonstrated, and hence that these supernatural events occurred, it does not tell us the actual agency, nor the "how" of their occurrences. Your response, I would guess, is that if we can show that the source is accurate concerning the events, then it is accurate as to their cause, but that one cannot assume. And that is because the people then, and we ourselves, are incapable of understanding the sort of agency required. And so they were told something they could understand, namely, taking the concept of a pagan god, with which they were familiar, and raising it to a monotheist concept. This served the actual purpose (according to the Barfieldian story) of moving "spirit perceived on the outside" (as pagan gods) to spirit experienced on the inside (as reason, or better, Logos), a process that has taken 2000 years, and is still incomplete.

Ok, that is just another story. So how do we choose between them? Well, by arguing metaphysics. I recommend Hart (who would probably reject Barfield) as a kind of middle ground between your literalist view and my evolution-of-consciousness view. I really do see your fundamental error as being idolatrous, something which, at least, Hart might cure you of. You caught the disease of idolatry (as did we all) in your atheist phase, but fail to see how it still infects you (and people like Ross and Rana) in your current phase.

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Well I have really have no idea whether your TOE can provide scientific predictions that are testable or not (I suspect not), but I know for a fact that mine can (see above). If all of those tenets listed above were to be proven true by the scientific evidence, in accordance with the Biblical models of humanity's origin, would that still be compatible with your TOE and, specifically, your view of the Bible?

Yes, see above.

Offline Ashvin

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2012, 09:13:36 AM »
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Right, no disagreement here. But your original claim was that only Christianity met these criteria, and that is what I objected to.

Yes, well I believe it will exclusively meet the criteria, if "my" personal God has established the Universe to point us towards only Him and His truths, as I believe He has. For example, I believe that, theoretically and with enough time/understanding, we could scientifically disprove the concept of reincarnation, because the Christian God tells us we only die once and then comes the judgment.

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The problem is that supernatural inspiration does not entail that what is revealed has been revealed with "perfect accuracy". There is the very real possibility (I would say near certainty, given Barfield's thesis) that the inspirers would have had to tailor their revelations to the intellectual capacities of the inspirees. Which is why in parallel with a revelation to the Jews, there was needed the development of reason in Greece before a sensible metaphysics, and hence an adequate TOE could be worked out. If I were limited to recommending one book for you to read it is David Bentley Hart's The Beauty of the Infinite. Hart is an Eastern Orthodox theologian, but I have seen his book praised by Catholics, Anglicans, and Calvinists. Naturally, I don't agree with him entirely, but the Christianity he portrays is one I find a lot more rational than yours. Because, in the end, the attempts you find so important to establish the literal truth of the OT are beside the point. (See below).

I understand the point you are making, and am pretty familiar with Eastern Orthodoxy. I have looked at some of the work of Dr. James Cutsinger, for example, professor of Christian theology at Harvard. I think you would probably love him, because it does come much closer to your metaphysics. The ideas are certainly compelling, and I do think they have some merit. For example, I don't believe the truth conveyed by God is exactly the same as the truth received and interpreted by men. We can logically deduce that simply from the nature of God, and the fact that we can never fully comprehend His perfect knowledge and wisdom.

However, where I differ with this EO theology, is that I believe an omnipotent God could still reveal the truth of His existence and nature to us in the most optimal way, i.e. the way that best captures what He is all about, and through a mechanism that is still without error (Biblical inerrancy). He can also layer historical and scientific truths upon spiritual and theological truths, and I believe that is what we see all throughout the Bible. Therefore, we don't need to take anything other than a literalist approach to scriptures, because God has made sure that such an approach will lead us to the Truth (and the truth will set us free).

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I read the thing, though eventually started skimming, since it was clear that neither he, nor did you, respond to my point, which is that one cannot conclude from that evidence that the actions were carried out by God. In other words, even if all the points listed were well demonstrated, and hence that these supernatural events occurred, it does not tell us the actual agency, nor the "how" of their occurrences. Your response, I would guess, is that if we can show that the source is accurate concerning the events, then it is accurate as to their cause, but that one cannot assume. And that is because the people then, and we ourselves, are incapable of understanding the sort of agency required. And so they were told something they could understand, namely, taking the concept of a pagan god, with which they were familiar, and raising it to a monotheist concept. This served the actual purpose (according to the Barfieldian story) of moving "spirit perceived on the outside" (as pagan gods) to spirit experienced on the inside (as reason, or better, Logos), a process that has taken 2000 years, and is still incomplete.

Ok, that is just another story. So how do we choose between them? Well, by arguing metaphysics. I recommend Hart (who would probably reject Barfield) as a kind of middle ground between your literalist view and my evolution-of-consciousness view. I really do see your fundamental error as being idolatrous, something which, at least, Hart might cure you of. You caught the disease of idolatry (as did we all) in your atheist phase, but fail to see how it still infects you (and people like Ross and Rana) in your current phase.

Well, my response here would be the same as above. And now that we are getting back into metaphysics, I have to once again reiterate my position that most of the points you state make philosophical sense... the problem is that your TOE requires way too much faith! Not only do I have to forget about historical reliability of the Bible now, I have to dismiss its scientific reliability as well. Essentially, there is  NO way for me to disprove your TOE or to establish mine as being more likely, because your TOE is set up to encompass any and all evidence or, more typically, lack of evidence. That is very suspect in my opinion, and, if I have correct about a personal God, it is definitely not how He would operate.

Regarding idolatry, I'll gladly admit to being a Christian idolater. God makes such a big deal about pagan idolatry because it comes so close to the truth, in terms of worshiping a personal being much greater than humans, but it still completely false, and therefore will lead humans away from their salvation. All great lies and deceptions contain many elements of truth. I see a somewhat similar thing happening with liberal Christian traditions and, of course, with Eastern religions. All of the concepts about inner transformation and reciprocation (the golden rule) and imperfect human understanding and eternal spirits/souls, etc. are very compatible with traditional (literalist) Christianity, but, despite those elements of truth, they still end up leading us away from God's ultimate plan for humanity.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2012, 09:18:28 AM by Ashvin »

Offline Ashvin

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2012, 01:11:39 PM »
Ka,

I'd like to suggest we shift focus in our discussion here - from the origin of humanity to the origin of the Universe. If there is any area in which we can detect differences between our TOEs in terms of scientific evidence and predictions, I think it will be here.

I maintain that the material Universe (matter, energy, space and time) was created by a transcendent, personal being that is completely independent of the creation (He created from outside of space and time), as described in many different passages of the Bible.

Is your position that the material Universe was/is created by the collective creative power in the consciousness of all living beings within the dimensions of space and time?

Once we clarify our positions, perhaps we can make some progress in terms of scientific evidence.

Offline Ka

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2012, 03:45:37 PM »
Ka,

I'd like to suggest we shift focus in our discussion here - from the origin of humanity to the origin of the Universe. If there is any area in which we can detect differences between our TOEs in terms of scientific evidence and predictions, I think it will be here.

I maintain that the material Universe (matter, energy, space and time) was created by a transcendent, personal being that is completely independent of the creation (He created from outside of space and time), as described in many different passages of the Bible.

Is your position that the material Universe was/is created by the collective creative power in the consciousness of all living beings within the dimensions of space and time?

Once we clarify our positions, perhaps we can make some progress in terms of scientific evidence.

My position is that there is no material universe per se. We -- all participating spiritual entities -- interact fundamentally in a non-spatiotemporal environment. For humans in particular, that interaction is put into the form of space/time/mass in the act of sense perception. Physics, therefore, is the investigation of the forms according to which we perceive (which is why it can and has changed within recorded history, why miracles can occur, etc.) To refer back to your remark on telescopes "seeing the past", from my POV there is no fixed past (or future), rather there are logical coherences which, when put into physical terms, are experienced as what we call the past.

Well, I'm trying to forestall some immediate objections one might have, but I can't really do much in that regard. The basic observation that gave rise to this is that in order for us to experience time passing we must be outside of time. Now I do not consider this to be an act of faith, just something anyone would conclude who considers the matter. But I have to admit that it only occurred to me when I had a particular problem that needed addressing, namely to wonder how a computer could be aware of anything, or better stated, if it couldn't be aware, why not. And the answer to that is that every event in a computer is separated by space and/or by time from every other event. There is no way such events can be merged into a whole that can be observed as a whole. In sum, no spatiotemporal object (like our brains if we believe them to be such) can be aware of anything.

Anyway, maybe there is enough of an explanation there so that you can see that science cannot distinguish between your view and mine. I call the data that science works with the product of our perception, while you call it independently existing material things and events, but as far as science is concerned, it is the same data.

I will add, to address the size of the leap of faith issue as mentioned in your previous post, two things. First, with my leap, as I've said before I consider it to be very small -- just accepting what mystics say because what they say about space, time, and consciousness accords with what I could figure out for myself. If you consider it to be a large leap, then for you it would be, but I would argue that what is actually going on is that you (and everyone who holds with material realism) have a core unexamined belief. For we obviously never experience non-consciousness. To impute that something we observe exists outside of consciousness is an added assumption, one that I do not make, but you do. And, of course, I hold that this added belief is a feature of being fallen, a case of idolatry.

With yours, it is that as I think I have shown in my last couple of posts, all the historical accuracy and scientific conclusions you can accomplish still do not tell you what really matters -- in your case that salvation only comes through faith in Jesus as God. Yes, one can conceivably ascertain that Jesus said just that and that Jesus died and was resurrected, but that still does not determine the relevant religious truth (maybe the Arians are right and he was a kind of Divine deputy, or various other possibilities -- like being constrained by what would make sense to his audience, yet still carry out his divine purpose). To be resurrected does not imply that the one resurrected is God, even if he says so. Now actually, other than quibble over what 'God' means in this context, the only thing I question in your faith as I stated it, is the word 'only'. And I see no means by which science or history can determine who is correct, you or I.

Offline Ashvin

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2012, 04:51:17 PM »
My position is that there is no material universe per se. We -- all participating spiritual entities -- interact fundamentally in a non-spatiotemporal environment. For humans in particular, that interaction is put into the form of space/time/mass in the act of sense perception. Physics, therefore, is the investigation of the forms according to which we perceive (which is why it can and has changed within recorded history, why miracles can occur, etc.) To refer back to your remark on telescopes "seeing the past", from my POV there is no fixed past (or future), rather there are logical coherences which, when put into physical terms, are experienced as what we call the past.

This is what I don't understand about your metaphysics. If our acts of sense perceptions are fundamentally flawed, i.e. they stem from the Fall away from the truth of Oneness, then why would they lead to consistent descriptions of reality? Perhaps you don't believe they do, but I would argue otherwise. Every new scientific discovery leads us to a more consistent and unified view of the material Universe (which contradicts naturalism), and reconciles seemingly disparate or contradictory fields and theories. You say that fundamental physical laws have provably changed over time, but I think the abundance of evidence in fields such as astronomy prove otherwise, and I don't think miracles are a problem either. Some miracles are done through the laws of physics, and some are done outside of them (much fewer, I believe), but that doesn't render them inconsistent or unreliable. Instead, it tells us that there is an entity which transcends all natural laws, and has fixed them for His own purposes (according to the Bible, for the primary purpose of humanity's existence/redemption and the conquering of all evil).

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Well, I'm trying to forestall some immediate objections one might have, but I can't really do much in that regard. The basic observation that gave rise to this is that in order for us to experience time passing we must be outside of time. Now I do not consider this to be an act of faith, just something anyone would conclude who considers the matter. But I have to admit that it only occurred to me when I had a particular problem that needed addressing, namely to wonder how a computer could be aware of anything, or better stated, if it couldn't be aware, why not. And the answer to that is that every event in a computer is separated by space and/or by time from every other event. There is no way such events can be merged into a whole that can be observed as a whole. In sum, no spatiotemporal object (like our brains if we believe them to be such) can be aware of anything.

Yes, but I think are you making an unnecessary logical leap here. It is possible for created beings to exist in time, but to be given the spiritual "software" to interface with a being outside of time (God). That software can exist independent of our physical bodies, but it also interacts with and affects them. That is how God takes what would otherwise be unaware computers running processes in the dark and makes them into self-aware spiritual beings. I don't see any need to make the jump to concluding that all self-aware beings actually exist outside of a time dimension.

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I will add, to address the size of the leap of faith issue as mentioned in your previous post, two things. First, with my leap, as I've said before I consider it to be very small -- just accepting what mystics say because what they say about space, time, and consciousness accords with what I could figure out for myself. If you consider it to be a large leap, then for you it would be, but I would argue that what is actually going on is that you (and everyone who holds with material realism) have a core unexamined belief. For we obviously never experience non-consciousness. To impute that something we observe exists outside of consciousness is an added assumption, one that I do not make, but you do. And, of course, I hold that this added belief is a feature of being fallen, a case of idolatry.

Perhaps there is nothing that exists outside of A consciousness, but I would argue that it is God's consciousness which encompasses everything, not ours. I believe He can establish physical laws and processes which would lead to objective material realities that can be observed and tested by His creation, and that's exactly what He did for very specific purposes.

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With yours, it is that as I think I have shown in my last couple of posts, all the historical accuracy and scientific conclusions you can accomplish still do not tell you what really matters -- in your case that salvation only comes through faith in Jesus as God. Yes, one can conceivably ascertain that Jesus said just that and that Jesus died and was resurrected, but that still does not determine the relevant religious truth (maybe the Arians are right and he was a kind of Divine deputy, or various other possibilities -- like being constrained by what would make sense to his audience, yet still carry out his divine purpose). To be resurrected does not imply that the one resurrected is God, even if he says so. Now actually, other than quibble over what 'God' means in this context, the only thing I question in your faith as I stated it, is the word 'only'. And I see no means by which science or history can determine who is correct, you or I.

Well, I believe that if Jesus truly is the only path to salvation, then that will be established eventually, one way or another. It could theoretically happen through science, history and other fields, if Biblical models can be tested against atheist and other religious models and can "win out" on the abundance of evidence. If the Bible is the inspired word of God, and if God actually means what He says and cannot deceive, then it is very difficult to accept any sort of religious pluralism in which all paths lead to salvation. Or, we may just have to wait for our physical deaths or the End Times, and then we will find out that way. Right now, I am still very skeptical that your metaphysics makes sense in light of our scientific understanding of the material Universe, particularly its origin as described by Big Bang cosmology and its remarkable consistency and fine-tuning throughout billions of years of expansion.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2012, 04:53:34 PM by Ashvin »

Offline Ka

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2012, 08:45:06 PM »

This is what I don't understand about your metaphysics. If our acts of sense perceptions are fundamentally flawed, i.e. they stem from the Fall away from the truth of Oneness, then why would they lead to consistent descriptions of reality? Perhaps you don't believe they do, but I would argue otherwise. Every new scientific discovery leads us to a more consistent and unified view of the material Universe (which contradicts naturalism), and reconciles seemingly disparate or contradictory fields and theories. You say that fundamental physical laws have provably changed over time, but I think the abundance of evidence in fields such as astronomy prove otherwise, and I don't think miracles are a problem either. Some miracles are done through the laws of physics, and some are done outside of them (much fewer, I believe), but that doesn't render them inconsistent or unreliable. Instead, it tells us that there is an entity which transcends all natural laws, and has fixed them for His own purposes (according to the Bible, for the primary purpose of humanity's existence/redemption and the conquering of all evil).

I didn't mean to imply that our sense perception is flawed, and I overstated things if I implied that physical law has changed within recorded history. No, our sense perceptions do what they are supposed to do -- enable us to operate in physical reality. What is lacking at present, that existed in prior ages, is the ability to "see through" the sense appearances to the spiritual reality behind them (this of course not being a physical "seeing"). To get what I am referring to, it is like the experience we get on hearing music -- we perceive more in the music than the actual sounds.

What has changed within recorded history is the gradual loss of that ability, so in that sense what we perceive via the senses has changed. One might say that our qualitative experience of nature has changed. But there is no reason to assume that things like measurements would have changed. As to whether physical laws have changed over billions of years, well, that question stops making sense given that space and time are produced in the act of perception.

And another reason to take this idea seriously is that we know that at the extremes of very fast and very small, space and time get weird. As I've mentioned before, the oddities of quantum physics can be understood to be that what occurs at the quantum level does not fit into 4D spacetime.

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Yes, but I think are you making an unnecessary logical leap here. It is possible for created beings to exist in time, but to be given the spiritual "software" to interface with a being outside of time (God). That software can exist independent of our physical bodies, but it also interacts with and affects them. That is how God takes what would otherwise be unaware computers running processes in the dark and makes them into self-aware spiritual beings. I don't see any need to make the jump to concluding that all self-aware beings actually exist outside of a time dimension.

But your alternative here is also a logical leap, a jumping to a conclusion, namely the espousal of metaphysical dualism. Which is to say that one can explain our experience in dualist terms or in monist terms. I prefer monism in part because it avoids the interaction problem between two kinds of reality, and because it is supported by mystics. You prefer dualism because it is in accord with a literalist Biblical interpretation and "common sense", that is, naive realism. But if we stick to metaphysics without considering revelation, which is the better theory? To me, adding God-supplied software is a pseudo-explanation -- something is inexplicable, so invoke God.

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Perhaps there is nothing that exists outside of A consciousness, but I would argue that it is God's consciousness which encompasses everything, not ours.

Sure, God's consciousness would encompass everything, and I didn't say that our consciousness encompasses everything. I said that there is nothing that is outside of consciousness, that there is nothing that is purely material that exists by itself waiting to be perceived by some conscious entity.


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I believe He can establish physical laws and processes which would lead to objective material realities that can be observed and tested by His creation, and that's exactly what He did for very specific purposes.

Yes, that is your belief. But is it warranted? That's what we are arguing about. My hypothesis is that our spiritual selves have established and use those same physical laws and processes so we can have the "physicality" experience. We create a spatiotemporal world when we dream. Reality when awake is the same sort of creation except it has stricter rules.

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Well, I believe that if Jesus truly is the only path to salvation, then that will be established eventually, one way or another.

Right, and I believe there are other paths, and that that will be established eventually -- though by general experience, not science. The question I would actually like to get to, is what do you mean by "Jesus is the only path to salvation"? A path has features, so what is that path? The ludicrous answer, as i hope you agree, is that when one dies, a mind-scan is performed to see if you sincerely hold that "I repent of my sins, and believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior". Why, for example, would "I repent of my sins, and believe that there is no god but God, and Muhammed is His prophet" not be sufficient? So there must be something more to the claim that "Jesus is the only path" that I'd like to see you expand on.

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It could theoretically happen through science, history and other fields, if Biblical models can be tested against atheist and other religious models and can "win out" on the abundance of evidence.

And I hold that this is theoretically impossible for science and history, since trying to determine spiritual truths with science is like trying to hear music with a telescope. I've said why (they can only study the objective, but not what makes the objective) but I haven't seen a rebuttal.

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If the Bible is the inspired word of God, and if God actually means what He says and cannot deceive, then it is very difficult to accept any sort of religious pluralism in which all paths lead to salvation.

Only if you are overly rigid -- idolatrous, I would say -- in how you understand "inspired word of God", or for that matter "God". And it's "some paths" not "all paths".

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Or, we may just have to wait for our physical deaths or the End Times, and then we will find out that way. Right now, I am still very skeptical that your metaphysics makes sense in light of our scientific understanding of the material Universe, particularly its origin as described by Big Bang cosmology and its remarkable consistency and fine-tuning throughout billions of years of expansion.

My metaphysics is perfectly consistent with what we know from science. It is a variety of additional assumptions you (and most people) make that it is in conflict with.

Offline Ashvin

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2012, 09:38:25 AM »
I didn't mean to imply that our sense perception is flawed, and I overstated things if I implied that physical law has changed within recorded history. No, our sense perceptions do what they are supposed to do -- enable us to operate in physical reality. What is lacking at present, that existed in prior ages, is the ability to "see through" the sense appearances to the spiritual reality behind them (this of course not being a physical "seeing"). To get what I am referring to, it is like the experience we get on hearing music -- we perceive more in the music than the actual sounds.

OK, here's my question though - was there an original perfect state of reality in your metaphysics? If so, what caused the Fall away from that, and why does the Fall lead to physical realities that can be consistently perceived, tested, etc. by these fallen entities (who mistakenly believe they are distinct)?

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What has changed within recorded history is the gradual loss of that ability, so in that sense what we perceive via the senses has changed. One might say that our qualitative experience of nature has changed. But there is no reason to assume that things like measurements would have changed. As to whether physical laws have changed over billions of years, well, that question stops making sense given that space and time are produced in the act of perception.

What evidence do we have that space/time are produced in our perception?

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And another reason to take this idea seriously is that we know that at the extremes of very fast and very small, space and time get weird. As I've mentioned before, the oddities of quantum physics can be understood to be that what occurs at the quantum level does not fit into 4D spacetime.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "get weird", you'll have to explain. It's quite possible and perhaps likely that more material dimensions exist than the 3 we are accustomed to, which would explain some observed quantum effects, but the only thing quantum physics tells us for sure is that there is a fundamental limit to what we can know about reality from observational science. And I have no problem with that.

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But your alternative here is also a logical leap, a jumping to a conclusion, namely the espousal of metaphysical dualism. Which is to say that one can explain our experience in dualist terms or in monist terms. I prefer monism in part because it avoids the interaction problem between two kinds of reality, and because it is supported by mystics. You prefer dualism because it is in accord with a literalist Biblical interpretation and "common sense", that is, naive realism. But if we stick to metaphysics without considering revelation, which is the better theory? To me, adding God-supplied software is a pseudo-explanation -- something is inexplicable, so invoke God.

That's the whole point - if we leave out any specific revelation, I believe my metaphysics is still a better theory, based on the abundance of evidence in fields such as those in science (which are quite capable of interacting with philosophy). The evidence not only points to a lack of natural causes for many things (origin of universe, fine-tuning, origin of life, origin of humanity), but also an existence of supernatural causation, most accurately described by the Bible. The argument is not that it's inexplicable... it is that the Bible provides data points that can be scientifically tested and confirmed, which lends credibility to the accounts and gives us very plausible explanations for ALL of the evidence we see.

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Sure, God's consciousness would encompass everything, and I didn't say that our consciousness encompasses everything. I said that there is nothing that is outside of consciousness, that there is nothing that is purely material that exists by itself waiting to be perceived by some conscious entity.

Yes, well, I obviously disagree. For God, there isn't, but for created beings like us, there is. That is the way God designed it. It's like creating online forum structures and sub-structures and creating/assigning privileges to various entities... I'm sure RE can tell you all about that! If no humans are reading this thread, it doesn't disappear. If God stopped "reading" it, otoh, then it would.


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Right, and I believe there are other paths, and that that will be established eventually -- though by general experience, not science. The question I would actually like to get to, is what do you mean by "Jesus is the only path to salvation"? A path has features, so what is that path? The ludicrous answer, as i hope you agree, is that when one dies, a mind-scan is performed to see if you sincerely hold that "I repent of my sins, and believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior". Why, for example, would "I repent of my sins, and believe that there is no god but God, and Muhammed is His prophet" not be sufficient? So there must be something more to the claim that "Jesus is the only path" that I'd like to see you expand on.

The path is being born again in the Holy Spirit, while you are still on this Earth. That is the guarantee God gives us for our eternal salvation, and you should feel its effects right away. To be literally born again, yes, you must sincerely accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior (through His blood atonement) in your heart. You must accept that He is the only Son of the one true God, and that He was sent to Earth (incarnated) to die for your redemption. I don't believe it requires any physical works or ascetic practices, such as baptism. 

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And I hold that this is theoretically impossible for science and history, since trying to determine spiritual truths with science is like trying to hear music with a telescope. I've said why (they can only study the objective, but not what makes the objective) but I haven't seen a rebuttal.

The problem is you are confusing my argument - science cannot lead us to an entire metaphysics, but it can help us verify parts of that metaphysics. It doesn't make any logical sense for there to be a metaphysical TOE that does not overlap with science to a significant degree, or one that is not entirely consistent with science. Spiritual truths and scientific discoveries should be consistent with each other... I think we both agree on that?

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Only if you are overly rigid -- idolatrous, I would say -- in how you understand "inspired word of God", or for that matter "God". And it's "some paths" not "all paths".

You call it overly rigid, I call it a plain reading of the text and the meaning it communicates. I don't think we require any special human gurus to explain the fundamental message about God, His nature or His general sacrificial plan for humanity. 

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My metaphysics is perfectly consistent with what we know from science. It is a variety of additional assumptions you (and most people) make that it is in conflict with.

Well, I agree that most people would believe it is you who are making a bunch of unwarranted assumptions. Those assumptions conveniently make your metaphysics consistent with evidence from every other field of knowledge, so that you never feel the need to test it or abandon it. Is there any way you can test your assumptions, other than "introspection"?
« Last Edit: October 12, 2012, 09:46:40 AM by Ashvin »

Offline Ka

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2012, 07:04:51 PM »
OK, here's my question though - was there an original perfect state of reality in your metaphysics? If so, what caused the Fall away from that, and why does the Fall lead to physical realities that can be consistently perceived, tested, etc. by these fallen entities (who mistakenly believe they are distinct)?

In my metaphysics there is no such thing as perfection (except in mathematics), a consequence of polar logic. But that's another story. I don't know what caused the Fall. I suspect it was trying to do too much too fast, perhaps beginning to incarnate physically prematurely. But this is just WAG.

The consistency, etc., of physical reality has nothing to do with the Fall. It is consistent because it is created consistently, that is, by following mathematical rules which are held to by all participants. The Fall consists of how we experience ourselves while following those rules. The Awakened (the non-fallen) experience the same physical reality as do the fallen, though the former may experience more non-physical reality as well.

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What evidence do we have that space/time are produced in our perception?

There is no scientific evidence, nor can there be, since science can only measure the spatiotemporal. On the other hand, science cannot demonstrate the converse. Hence we are left with other arguments:
1. The space of our dreams is clearly our creation, and the time of our dreams does not seem to correlate with physical time. So we know that our mind can produce space, and if Relativity is correct, space and time are not independent.
2. In order to perceive time's passing, we must be outside of time. We can then assume that time is independent, and we somehow transcend that in our observation (dualism) or we can assume we create time in our perception. As mentioned, I find the latter a simpler, and therefore, by Occam's Razor, a better explanation.
3. Assume that space is independent of our perception. Then we model vision as being a case of light reflecting off something, a tree, say, some 20 feet away, entering our eyes, setting off neural activity, which results in our seeing a tree 20 feet away. That is to say, the entire experience is the consequence of things happening in our nervous system. Where does the 20 feet come from? Obviously it must be something created by our nervous system (if one is a materialist) or something implanted in our experience by our God-supplied software (if one is a dualist). So to maintain the naive realist understanding of space, augmented by science, what we have is our brain/mind recreating the space that is supposedly out there independently. So even if that space is independent of our perception, it is at least also the case that the space we actually perceive is created by our perception. Which is logically possible, but it seems a lot simpler to me to just assume that the only space involved is the one produced by our perception, especially given the quantum stuff.

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I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "get weird", you'll have to explain.

The usual stuff: wave/particle duality, non-local interaction, uncertainty.

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It's quite possible and perhaps likely that more material dimensions exist than the 3 we are accustomed to, which would explain some observed quantum effects, but the only thing quantum physics tells us for sure is that there is a fundamental limit to what we can know about reality from observational science. And I have no problem with that.

Possible, but I take the word 'dimension' in its mathematical sense: as a specified range of variability. In that sense there as many dimensions as spiritual entities can imagine. The specific space/time/mass dimensions we observe are just a mapping of a portion of that infinity to 5 very well-defined dimensions. By the way, if you want to get a more detailed explanation of all this see Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness: A Physical Basis for Immaterialism.

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That's the whole point - if we leave out any specific revelation, I believe my metaphysics is still a better theory, based on the abundance of evidence in fields such as those in science (which are quite capable of interacting with philosophy). The evidence not only points to a lack of natural causes for many things (origin of universe, fine-tuning, origin of life, origin of humanity), ....

I agree that these lack natural causes, adding above all, consciousness.

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...but also an existence of supernatural causation, most accurately described by the Bible. The argument is not that it's inexplicable... it is that the Bible provides data points that can be scientifically tested and confirmed, which lends credibility to the accounts and gives us very plausible explanations for ALL of the evidence we see.

But even if all those data points are confirmed that still does not, and cannot, distinguish between my view of supernatural causes and yours. All we can tell is : that water was changed to wine; at that point the Red Sea parted. You must still take this as the direct agency of a personal God on faith. And I might add that to uphold yours you have to deny the etymological evidence that Barfield has gathered.

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It's like creating online forum structures and sub-structures and creating/assigning privileges to various entities... I'm sure RE can tell you all about that! If no humans are reading this thread, it doesn't disappear. If God stopped "reading" it, otoh, then it would.

It doesn't disappear, in the sense of ceasing to exist. It just doesn't exist spatiotemporally when unperceived.


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The path is being born again in the Holy Spirit, while you are still on this Earth. That is the guarantee God gives us for our eternal salvation, and you should feel its effects right away.

A feeling shared by all who convert to whatever they convert to. I felt it as well. One can even agree to call it Holy Spirit, but perhaps not the Holy Spirit, if it is not Christianity one is converting to.
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To be literally born again, yes, you must sincerely accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior (through His blood atonement) in your heart. You must accept that He is the only Son of the one true God, and that He was sent to Earth (incarnated) to die for your redemption. I don't believe it requires any physical works or ascetic practices, such as baptism. 

But what does putting it into those formulas do to make one saved, while the Muslim formula, or the Bodhisattva vow, does not, according to you? You mention His blood atonement, and I'm aware of the logic of it (but don't think much of it), but again, doesn't it seem a bit arbitrary that one must believe in it to be saved?

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The problem is you are confusing my argument - science cannot lead us to an entire metaphysics, but it can help us verify parts of that metaphysics. It doesn't make any logical sense for there to be a metaphysical TOE that does not overlap with science to a significant degree, or one that is not entirely consistent with science. Spiritual truths and scientific discoveries should be consistent with each other... I think we both agree on that?

Yes. Faith and reason cannot be in conflict.

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Well, I agree that most people would believe it is you who are making a bunch of unwarranted assumptions. Those assumptions conveniently make your metaphysics consistent with evidence from every other field of knowledge, so that you never feel the need to test it or abandon it.

What assumptions have I made to make my metaphysics consistent? I have just been careful to not make assumptions that contradict evidence from other fields of knowledge, as anyone would. And as I said I have rejected assumptions that most make unaware that they are assumptions. When I do assume something it is always a case where to not assume it means assuming something else (or to give up on having a metaphysical system at all, i.e., skepticism).

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Is there any way you can test your assumptions, other than "introspection"?

I've been testing this metaphysics for twenty-five years now, that is, thinking about it, asking how well it explains this or that, noting what it doesn't explain. In fact over those years it has changed somewhat. If someones comes up with a good explanation of how consciousness can arise from non-consciousness I will consider myself to have been wrong. But I'm pretty sure that it is impossible for such an explanation to exist.

Offline Ashvin

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2012, 09:28:16 AM »
The consistency, etc., of physical reality has nothing to do with the Fall. It is consistent because it is created consistently, that is, by following mathematical rules which are held to by all participants. The Fall consists of how we experience ourselves while following those rules. The Awakened (the non-fallen) experience the same physical reality as do the fallen, though the former may experience more non-physical reality as well.

So the Enlightened do not experience physical reality in any different way, but do they interpret it differently?

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Hence we are left with other arguments:
1. The space of our dreams is clearly our creation, and the time of our dreams does not seem to correlate with physical time. So we know that our mind can produce space, and if Relativity is correct, space and time are not independent.

That our mind can produce sensations of increased or distorted space-time is of no concern to those who hold spatiotemporal dimensions to be objective material realities. The mind is capable of producing a lot of physically/logically impossible scenarios - that doesn't mean they are all true.

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2. In order to perceive time's passing, we must be outside of time. We can then assume that time is independent, and we somehow transcend that in our observation (dualism) or we can assume we create time in our perception. As mentioned, I find the latter a simpler, and therefore, by Occam's Razor, a better explanation.

That is an assumption that I believe is unwarranted, as explained before.

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3. Assume that space is independent of our perception. Then we model vision as being a case of light reflecting off something, a tree, say, some 20 feet away, entering our eyes, setting off neural activity, which results in our seeing a tree 20 feet away. That is to say, the entire experience is the consequence of things happening in our nervous system. Where does the 20 feet come from? Obviously it must be something created by our nervous system (if one is a materialist) or something implanted in our experience by our God-supplied software (if one is a dualist). So to maintain the naive realist understanding of space, augmented by science, what we have is our brain/mind recreating the space that is supposedly out there independently. So even if that space is independent of our perception, it is at least also the case that the space we actually perceive is created by our perception. Which is logically possible, but it seems a lot simpler to me to just assume that the only space involved is the one produced by our perception, especially given the quantum stuff.

I'm not sure what the argument here is. You asked where the distance comes from, and I would answer it comes from the meticulously programmed laws of physics. According to the constraints (or freedoms) of those laws, we do need hardware that can interpret sensory information in both concrete and abstract ways if we are to ever function in reality.

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The usual stuff: wave/particle duality, non-local interaction, uncertainty.

Yes, well, these are simply observations of quantum science, and there are many different interpretations of how these observations relate to the theory in general and its description of reality. I can't say that I'm aware of them all... probably not even close. The only well-accepted interpretation I'm aware of is with regards to the uncertainty principle and the fundamental limit I talked about earlier.

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I agree that these lack natural causes, adding above all, consciousness.

Yes, and the related mind/body problem.

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But even if all those data points are confirmed that still does not, and cannot, distinguish between my view of supernatural causes and yours. All we can tell is : that water was changed to wine; at that point the Red Sea parted. You must still take this as the direct agency of a personal God on faith. And I might add that to uphold yours you have to deny the etymological evidence that Barfield has gathered.

I don't see how interpreting the historical evidence in the 66 books of the Bible can be considered faith, in the context of history, philosophy and theology. The best interpretations I'm aware of throughout those fields all point to the direct agency of a personal God described by the Bible. I realize that there are others, such as those from the German "higher textual critics", but I find those to be severely lacking in intellectual rigor.

The Documentary Hypothesis you brought up awhile ago is a good example of that. After studying it some more, I realized it was extremely flawed (as suspected) and was picked up by these higher critics more out of pride in their theological positions than out of any serious intellectual analysis. I can provide you with that evidence if you want.

(actually, I'm pretty sure even those critics accept that the Bible proclaims the truth of a personal and interventionist God)

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But what does putting it into those formulas do to make one saved, while the Muslim formula, or the Bodhisattva vow, does not, according to you? You mention His blood atonement, and I'm aware of the logic of it (but don't think much of it), but again, doesn't it seem a bit arbitrary that one must believe in it to be saved?

It's quite simple - the reason that the "Christ formula" saves is because it's the truth, while the other formulas are false. Most other ones don't even recognize the deity of Christ, and that automatically means they are far from the truth. It is not enough to have trust, faith and love, but one must have all of those things for their true Creator. To do otherwise would be like me getting married after serious commitment, and then pouring all of those good qualities into someone other than whom I married, and expecting my spouse won't mind and it will all work out for the best. 

Regarding the blood atonement, it doesn't seem arbitrary at all to me. Again, it is the truth of what happened through God's grace. But, even from a strictly logical standpoint, it makes great sense to me - the only person capable of redeeming ALL of humanity from their sinful state through sacrifice had to be both fully human and fully divine - no animal or angel or imperfect human would do. Christ's self-sacrifice on the Cross allowed God to remain both just and merciful to His children, paving the path for all nations to be saved through the Holy Spirit.

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What assumptions have I made to make my metaphysics consistent? I have just been careful to not make assumptions that contradict evidence from other fields of knowledge, as anyone would. And as I said I have rejected assumptions that most make unaware that they are assumptions. When I do assume something it is always a case where to not assume it means assuming something else (or to give up on having a metaphysical system at all, i.e., skepticism).

Well I think your primary assumption is that speculative evidence and logical reflection by itself can lead you to a metaphysical TOE. Most of your support comes form observations in quantum science without any accepted interpretations of what they actually mean, hypothetical thought experiments which don't seem to always imply what you claim they do, and the reports of mystics that comport with those other things. Once you establish those as the basis for your TOE, then it becomes easy for you to treat other scientific, historical, etc. evidence as consistent with it. That's what I see happening, anyway... especially when it comes to historical evidence with regards to the Biblical accounts. 

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I've been testing this metaphysics for twenty-five years now, that is, thinking about it, asking how well it explains this or that, noting what it doesn't explain. In fact over those years it has changed somewhat. If someones comes up with a good explanation of how consciousness can arise from non-consciousness I will consider myself to have been wrong. But I'm pretty sure that it is impossible for such an explanation to exist.

Well obviously we both agree that consciousness does not come from non-consciousness... the only question to be decided is who or what is the conscious source of our consciousness.
« Last Edit: October 13, 2012, 09:41:20 AM by Ashvin »

Offline Ka

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #9 on: October 13, 2012, 10:17:50 PM »
The consistency, etc., of physical reality has nothing to do with the Fall. It is consistent because it is created consistently, that is, by following mathematical rules which are held to by all participants. The Fall consists of how we experience ourselves while following those rules. The Awakened (the non-fallen) experience the same physical reality as do the fallen, though the former may experience more non-physical reality as well.

So the Enlightened do not experience physical reality in any different way, but do they interpret it differently?

My statement was ambiguous. I meant that if the Awakened take a tape measure or whatever to their physical reality they will get the same results as we do, see the same colors, etc. But their overall experience is different. For some, usually called nature mystics, like Wordsworth or Whitman, there is an added spiritual dimension. For what I consider the first-class mystics, like Franklin Merrell-Wolff, there is the "experience" (the scare quotes are necessary) of the objects perceived no longer being "objective", that is, there is just a knowing, without a knower and a known. For a hint at what this might be like, consider thinking. While thinking, there is no experience of a thinker distinct from a thought, there is just thinking. It is only afterwards that one can make an object of what was thought, and postulate a thinker that thought it. From this, and assuming the mystics' experience is the truer one, we can understand sense perception as the Logos expressing itself -- thinking itself -- through us as Nature. But, being fallen, we don't experience it as such. Thus, on the one hand, the object is experienced as outside us, which in the same act (polar logic), creates the "inside" subject that perceives the object.

The difficult thing for us to grasp is that even though there is no longer a self separated from objects, there is still a Self of some sort. That is, there is no dissolution into some All.

Well, that's trying to put into a short paragraph what I understand mystical experience to be. But there is no substitute for reading the modern mystics themselves, of which in particular I recommend Franklin Merrell-Wolff and Bernadette Roberts. I emphasize 'modern', since the ancients, like Plotinus or Eckhart, do not as a rule give first-person accounts.

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Hence we are left with other arguments:
1. The space of our dreams is clearly our creation, and the time of our dreams does not seem to correlate with physical time. So we know that our mind can produce space, and if Relativity is correct, space and time are not independent.

That our mind can produce sensations of increased or distorted space-time is of no concern to those who hold spatiotemporal dimensions to be objective material realities. The mind is capable of producing a lot of physically/logically impossible scenarios - that doesn't mean they are all true.

I didn't say they were true, nor are our sense perceptions. They just are. You are, of course adding an assumption in treating the one as "real" and the other as "unreal", when all you can actually say is that one set of experiences are common and the other isn't.

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2. In order to perceive time's passing, we must be outside of time. We can then assume that time is independent, and we somehow transcend that in our observation (dualism) or we can assume we create time in our perception. As mentioned, I find the latter a simpler, and therefore, by Occam's Razor, a better explanation.

That is an assumption that I believe is unwarranted, as explained before.

Which is to say, you make a different assumption (one which I believe is unwarranted). The situation is that you make your assumption because you consider it more plausible given all the other stuff you consider relevant, while I make my assumption given all the other stuff I consider relevant.

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3. Assume that space is independent of our perception. Then we model vision as being a case of light reflecting off something, a tree, say, some 20 feet away, entering our eyes, setting off neural activity, which results in our seeing a tree 20 feet away. That is to say, the entire experience is the consequence of things happening in our nervous system. Where does the 20 feet come from? Obviously it must be something created by our nervous system (if one is a materialist) or something implanted in our experience by our God-supplied software (if one is a dualist). So to maintain the naive realist understanding of space, augmented by science, what we have is our brain/mind recreating the space that is supposedly out there independently. So even if that space is independent of our perception, it is at least also the case that the space we actually perceive is created by our perception. Which is logically possible, but it seems a lot simpler to me to just assume that the only space involved is the one produced by our perception, especially given the quantum stuff.

I'm not sure what the argument here is. You asked where the distance comes from, and I would answer it comes from the meticulously programmed laws of physics. According to the constraints (or freedoms) of those laws, we do need hardware that can interpret sensory information in both concrete and abstract ways if we are to ever function in reality.

The argument is: if we assume that space exists independently of our perception, then it is still the case that the space we actually perceive is created by the mind/brain, since all the data has travelled to the body, where the actual sensing is carried out. Whether or not there is a distance that is independent our sensing, the distance actually sensed is our creation.

As for the laws of physics, they are the same, regardless. In your model, they are used by God to create what we sense, while in mine they are used by our minds to create what we sense.


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I don't see how interpreting the historical evidence in the 66 books of the Bible can be considered faith, in the context of history, philosophy and theology. The best interpretations I'm aware of throughout those fields all point to the direct agency of a personal God described by the Bible.

Without doubt that is what the authors of the books believed, and so that is the way they were written. But were they right? That is what needs to be taken on faith.

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What assumptions have I made to make my metaphysics consistent? I have just been careful to not make assumptions that contradict evidence from other fields of knowledge, as anyone would. And as I said I have rejected assumptions that most make unaware that they are assumptions. When I do assume something it is always a case where to not assume it means assuming something else (or to give up on having a metaphysical system at all, i.e., skepticism).

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Well I think your primary assumption is that speculative evidence and logical reflection by itself can lead you to a metaphysical TOE.

I don't know what you mean by "speculative evidence", but in any case, I am flabbergasted that you think I assume this -- or do this -- after all I have said. What I reflect on is all the evidence I know of, as does any metaphysician.

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Most of your support comes form observations in quantum science without any accepted interpretations of what they actually mean, hypothetical thought experiments which don't seem to always imply what you claim they do, and the reports of mystics that comport with those other things. Once you establish those as the basis for your TOE, then it becomes easy for you to treat other scientific, historical, etc. evidence as consistent with it. That's what I see happening, anyway... especially when it comes to historical evidence with regards to the Biblical accounts. 

 I find this whole paragraph baffling.  in that I don't see how you are doing anything different. When I bring up this or that, like how I interpret quantum mechanics, it is because it is something which science or history has no means of answering. That goes for the historical evidence of the Bible as well. That tells us what happened. It cannot tell us what the metaphysical truth is behind what has happened, much as quantum mechanics cannot tell us how it should be interpreted. It tells us what the authors believed that metaphysical truth to be, but, as mentioned above, cannot tell us if they were right. And so on.

And of course it is easy for it to be consistent with science and history because I am careful not to contradict either. Same with your or anyone's metaphysics.

Name one thing that we don't agree on where I have assumed one thing and you have not assumed something else. That's just how metaphysics works. Given all our experience, all we know from science and history and everything else, what overarching hypothesis can one make that most plausibly explains it all? I have one answer, and you have another.


Offline Ashvin

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2012, 08:58:29 AM »
My statement was ambiguous. I meant that if the Awakened take a tape measure or whatever to their physical reality they will get the same results as we do, see the same colors, etc. But their overall experience is different. For some, usually called nature mystics, like Wordsworth or Whitman, there is an added spiritual dimension. For what I consider the first-class mystics, like Franklin Merrell-Wolff, there is the "experience" (the scare quotes are necessary) of the objects perceived no longer being "objective", that is, there is just a knowing, without a knower and a known. For a hint at what this might be like, consider thinking. While thinking, there is no experience of a thinker distinct from a thought, there is just thinking. It is only afterwards that one can make an object of what was thought, and postulate a thinker that thought it. From this, and assuming the mystics' experience is the truer one, we can understand sense perception as the Logos expressing itself -- thinking itself -- through us as Nature. But, being fallen, we don't experience it as such. Thus, on the one hand, the object is experienced as outside us, which in the same act (polar logic), creates the "inside" subject that perceives the object.

The difficult thing for us to grasp is that even though there is no longer a self separated from objects, there is still a Self of some sort. That is, there is no dissolution into some All.

Well, that's trying to put into a short paragraph what I understand mystical experience to be. But there is no substitute for reading the modern mystics themselves, of which in particular I recommend Franklin Merrell-Wolff and Bernadette Roberts. I emphasize 'modern', since the ancients, like Plotinus or Eckhart, do not as a rule give first-person accounts.

I can appreciate the logic being used here, and I want to make clear that I don't consider subjective experiences to be any less "real" than objective material that exists. According to me, the mind, spirit, soul, etc. has a clear basis in reality, as does our physical organs, matter, energy, etc. And, in the larger scheme of things, the former is much more important than the latter - the Bible makes that explicitly clear.

I guess the difference is that you make them 100% inter-dependent at every scale, while I only do that at the "scale" of God.

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I didn't say they were true, nor are our sense perceptions. They just are. You are, of course adding an assumption in treating the one as "real" and the other as "unreal", when all you can actually say is that one set of experiences are common and the other isn't.

I wasn't saying they were "unreal", but I do believe "real" experiences can turn out to be untrue when they are made into propositions and measured against an objective standard.

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Which is to say, you make a different assumption (one which I believe is unwarranted). The situation is that you make your assumption because you consider it more plausible given all the other stuff you consider relevant, while I make my assumption given all the other stuff I consider relevant.

That's true enough.

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The argument is: if we assume that space exists independently of our perception, then it is still the case that the space we actually perceive is created by the mind/brain, since all the data has travelled to the body, where the actual sensing is carried out. Whether or not there is a distance that is independent our sensing, the distance actually sensed is our creation.

As for the laws of physics, they are the same, regardless. In your model, they are used by God to create what we sense, while in mine they are used by our minds to create what we sense.

Yes, well, I would again say that I don't disagree about the subjective being equally real and even influential. However, when the sensed data we create is turned into a proposition about what is true, we have ways of determining whether that proposition is objectively true or false. For me, that implies a distinction does actually exist. I'm still not sure why, in your metaphysical model, our created realities would converge on consistent laws of physics and material designs that far outweigh anything humans have been able to materially design themselves (even with computers).

Also, a somewhat unrelated question - in your metaphysical model, are humans distinct from all other life in terms of their spiritual essence?


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Without doubt that is what the authors of the books believed, and so that is the way they were written. But were they right? That is what needs to be taken on faith.

Not really, if we consider the field of apologetics to be worthwhile. We can use history, archaeology, anthropology, science, etc. to support the reliability of Biblical accounts. There is no doubt that faith is a critical aspect of our reality and existence, and I believe this physical Universe was designed for that to be true, but faith itself is not easy or blind - it encompasses logic, rationality, evidence, etc. that is used to buttress it.

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I find this whole paragraph baffling.  in that I don't see how you are doing anything different. When I bring up this or that, like how I interpret quantum mechanics, it is because it is something which science or history has no means of answering. That goes for the historical evidence of the Bible as well. That tells us what happened. It cannot tell us what the metaphysical truth is behind what has happened, much as quantum mechanics cannot tell us how it should be interpreted. It tells us what the authors believed that metaphysical truth to be, but, as mentioned above, cannot tell us if they were right. And so on.

The biggest difference for me is that my metaphysics is subject to testing and falsification. My metaphysics must be consistent with objective history and science, which means that if we proved, for instance, that Jesus of Nazareth was not resurrected from the dead after crucifixion, it would completely fall apart. If we had proved that the material Universe actually was past-eternal (we actually proved the opposite), then that would also present a severe obstacle to my metaphysics by questioning Biblical reliability. There are many other examples.

So my issue with your metaphysics is that it doesn't really provide the same data points to test. On top of that, I could prove every major historical event in the Bible to have happened, such as Jesus' resurrection, yet your metaphysical model would still stand. You would still claim that the specific theology of the authors cannot be confirmed. Do you see why I believe that fact counts against your model being true and makes it difficult to accept?

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Name one thing that we don't agree on where I have assumed one thing and you have not assumed something else. That's just how metaphysics works. Given all our experience, all we know from science and history and everything else, what overarching hypothesis can one make that most plausibly explains it all? I have one answer, and you have another.

My problem is not with the assumptions themselves, because, you're right, everyone uses assumptions. My problem is with the inability to adequately test your assumptions through any field of knowledge. My assumptions can be tested easily enough, especially through science, but also other fields.

Offline Ka

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2012, 01:00:58 AM »


I can appreciate the logic being used here, and I want to make clear that I don't consider subjective experiences to be any less "real" than objective material that exists. According to me, the mind, spirit, soul, etc. has a clear basis in reality, as does our physical organs, matter, energy, etc. And, in the larger scheme of things, the former is much more important than the latter - the Bible makes that explicitly clear.

I guess the difference is that you make them 100% inter-dependent at every scale, while I only do that at the "scale" of God.

Yes, monism vs. dualism.

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I wasn't saying [dreams] were "unreal", but I do believe "real" experiences can turn out to be untrue when they are made into propositions and measured against an objective standard.

Well, I would say they are true within the dream, and false outside it, except that in dreams (mine anyway) things lack the stability required so one can even make propositions about what is happening. And therein hangs a tale, roughly that one reason, perhaps the main one, for physical reality is that things are sufficiently stable so that humankind could develop their power of reason and hence self-consciousness.

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Yes, well, I would again say that I don't disagree about the subjective being equally real and even influential. However, when the sensed data we create is turned into a proposition about what is true, we have ways of determining whether that proposition is objectively true or false. For me, that implies a distinction does actually exist. I'm still not sure why, in your metaphysical model, our created realities would converge on consistent laws of physics and material designs that far outweigh anything humans have been able to materially design themselves (even with computers).

See above. I could elaborate further, but since it all depends on my assumptions, not much point. Roughly, I consider physical reality to be a map, and so our propositions are a map of a map, and that it is maps all the way down, or as I like to put it, all reality is semiotic.

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Also, a somewhat unrelated question - in your metaphysical model, are humans distinct from all other life in terms of their spiritual essence?

This is tricky to answer. I hold that humans are different in kind, not degree, from other animals, but to explain what the difference is requires another excursus. Again roughly: I hold that an actual spiritual entity is a trinity of formlessness, form, and self-knowing. As such, a fallen human being, being unaware of its formlessness component, is an incomplete entity, so that its self-knowing is skewed. An animal, meanwhile, is also an incomplete entity, but in a different way. It is the species that is the complete entity, while the individual animals are just the species expressing itself in physical reality. So there is only one kind of "spiritual essence", while humans and animals are different slices of that essence.


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I find this whole paragraph baffling.  in that I don't see how you are doing anything different. When I bring up this or that, like how I interpret quantum mechanics, it is because it is something which science or history has no means of answering. That goes for the historical evidence of the Bible as well. That tells us what happened. It cannot tell us what the metaphysical truth is behind what has happened, much as quantum mechanics cannot tell us how it should be interpreted. It tells us what the authors believed that metaphysical truth to be, but, as mentioned above, cannot tell us if they were right. And so on.

The biggest difference for me is that my metaphysics is subject to testing and falsification. My metaphysics must be consistent with objective history and science, which means that if we proved, for instance, that Jesus of Nazareth was not resurrected from the dead after crucifixion, it would completely fall apart. If we had proved that the material Universe actually was past-eternal (we actually proved the opposite), then that would also present a severe obstacle to my metaphysics by questioning Biblical reliability. There are many other examples.

So your position is as follows:

1. There is reason to believe that the historical accounts in the Bible are all true.
2. Because the authors of the Bible are accurate historians, we should accept their theological interpretation of that history.

But (2) does not follow. In War and Peace Tolstoy accurately (let's say for the sake of argument) describes Napoleon's invasion of Russia. But he also puts in the book a meta-historical theory (arguing that it is not determined by "great men"). That his history is accurate does not make his theory true. So why should the accuracy of the biblical accounts require one to accept the theology of the authors?

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So my issue with your metaphysics is that it doesn't really provide the same data points to test. On top of that, I could prove every major historical event in the Bible to have happened, such as Jesus' resurrection, yet your metaphysical model would still stand. You would still claim that the specific theology of the authors cannot be confirmed. Do you see why I believe that fact counts against your model being true and makes it difficult to accept?

In other words, because you accept Paul's theology, you have added a data point (the Resurrection), while I do not accept Paul's theology, so I have not. And that in itself is supposed to count against my metaphysics? Shouldn't the argument be over Paul's theology and not how many data points a metaphysics has?

Offline Petty Tyrant

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2012, 07:14:16 AM »
It seems to me that if you failed to be convinced thus far by all the evidentiary arguments put to you with impressive terminology, what hope for the rest of the great unwashed. I mean you have had more Inspired intellectualism presented to you in this thread than in all the simple Parables for dummies. Why can't you see the light?
ELEVATE YOUR GAME

Offline Ashvin

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2012, 08:32:36 AM »
Well, I would say they are true within the dream, and false outside it, except that in dreams (mine anyway) things lack the stability required so one can even make propositions about what is happening. And therein hangs a tale, roughly that one reason, perhaps the main one, for physical reality is that things are sufficiently stable so that humankind could develop their power of reason and hence self-consciousness.

Agreed. Physical reality is not only sufficiently stable, it is exquisitely fine-tuned for the benefit of advanced life on planet Earth. My problem is that I don't see any mechanism in your metaphysics that explains this. Let's say my metaphysics can be (very) roughly analogized to the Matrix, where God is the (good) Architect and our physical universe is all programmed and sustained by Him. Except, in my TOE, the good Architect is powerful (and gracious) enough to create simultaneous realities and parallel dimensions that are equally real (material and spiritual), instead of keeping us all in spiritual test tubes and giving us the illusion of material reality.

What would your analogy be?

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This is tricky to answer. I hold that humans are different in kind, not degree, from other animals, but to explain what the difference is requires another excursus. Again roughly: I hold that an actual spiritual entity is a trinity of formlessness, form, and self-knowing. As such, a fallen human being, being unaware of its formlessness component, is an incomplete entity, so that its self-knowing is skewed. An animal, meanwhile, is also an incomplete entity, but in a different way. It is the species that is the complete entity, while the individual animals are just the species expressing itself in physical reality. So there is only one kind of "spiritual essence", while humans and animals are different slices of that essence.

That last sentence sounds more like "different in degree, not in kind". I'm just trying to figure out why the human slice is so unique under your TOE, especially in our ability to recognize and reconnect with the Divine.


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So your position is as follows:

1. There is reason to believe that the historical accounts in the Bible are all true.
2. Because the authors of the Bible are accurate historians, we should accept their theological interpretation of that history.

More like:

1. There is very good reason to believe there is a transcendent causal agent for the physical Universe.
2. There is good historical and scientific reason to believe that this causal agent accurately revealed some of His truth and knowledge through Biblical prophets.
3. Because the primary purpose of those prophets was to convey spiritual and theological truths, and they were guided by the transcendent agent, we can trust in their interpretation of theology.

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But (2) does not follow. In War and Peace Tolstoy accurately (let's say for the sake of argument) describes Napoleon's invasion of Russia. But he also puts in the book a meta-historical theory (arguing that it is not determined by "great men"). That his history is accurate does not make his theory true. So why should the accuracy of the biblical accounts require one to accept the theology of the authors?

When I say history, I don't mean that to exclude all of the supernatural and miraculous interventions by God along the way, including His resurrection of Jesus. If all of that is accurate, then I think it's safe to say that we are dealing with accurate theology as well.

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So my issue with your metaphysics is that it doesn't really provide the same data points to test. On top of that, I could prove every major historical event in the Bible to have happened, such as Jesus' resurrection, yet your metaphysical model would still stand. You would still claim that the specific theology of the authors cannot be confirmed. Do you see why I believe that fact counts against your model being true and makes it difficult to accept?

Quote from: Ka
In other words, because you accept Paul's theology, you have added a data point (the Resurrection), while I do not accept Paul's theology, so I have not. And that in itself is supposed to count against my metaphysics? Shouldn't the argument be over Paul's theology and not how many data points a metaphysics has?

Well, the death and resurrection of Jesus should be considered historical data points, not theological ones. The theology stems from the implications of those data points being true. What I am saying is that, even if you accept the truth of my core historical data points, it seems you would still be unwilling to give credence to the theology that comes from the people very close to that history, some of whom immediately started traveling around and teaching that theology to others (as historically documented).

And the reason why I wanted to initially focus on science is because, if scientific data points in the Bible can be verified by our latest research, then that makes it almost certain that these human authors were being guided by a more intelligent force or agent. Otherwise, with such an abundance of material, we should find quite a few provable scientific errors, such as those found in basically every other holy text.

Offline Ka

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Re: Science in re Theories of Everything
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2012, 09:22:52 PM »

What would your analogy be?

A host of spiritual entities, at various stages of development and capability, communicating in the languages of physics and biology. What we call sense data are sentences in these languages that we don't know how to read. And we -- the physical beings -- are also such sentences. Science can study the syntax of these languages, but not the semantics.

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... So there is only one kind of "spiritual essence", while humans and animals are different slices of that essence.

That last sentence sounds more like "different in degree, not in kind". I'm just trying to figure out why the human slice is so unique under your TOE, especially in our ability to recognize and reconnect with the Divine.

The human slice includes self-awareness and reason, albeit in a crippled version. The non-human animal slice does not. This makes a human an individual, and a creator, which the non-human animal isn't.


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More like:

1. There is very good reason to believe there is a transcendent causal agent for the physical Universe.

There is good reason to believe there is a transcendent cause, but not necessarily a single agent.

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2. There is good historical and scientific reason to believe that this causal agent accurately revealed some of His truth and knowledge through Biblical prophets.
3. Because the primary purpose of those prophets was to convey spiritual and theological truths, and they were guided by the transcendent agent, we can trust in their interpretation of theology.

Given that we lack the ability to understand a transcendent cause, the idea that the nature of this cause was accurately revealed is absurd. The first step in understanding divine reality is to understand that it is beyond the understanding of fallen, spacetime-bound, subject/object consciousness. Now try explaining that to a people for whom the concepts just used don't exist.

Over the centuries, after the life and death of Christ, some tools that help us take that first step, plus baby steps beyond, have been developed, first by merging with Greek philosophy, which allowed for at least stating the doctrine of the Trinity. But at the same time, the recognition of the need for apophaticism was acknowledged, and with it the doctrine of analogy on the cataphatic side, it being understood that analogy was the best we can do to describe divine reality in a positive way. I think that polar logic can replace the doctrine of analogy, that it is a better tool, but it is also limited. To those unfamiliar with it, it is just speaking in contradictions.

Thus it is obvious that their theological interpretation cannot be trusted. I go along with G.E. Lessing: "Revelation was not rational when it was revealed. It was revealed so that it may become rational." So in a sense, it is the case that only through the Christ that can one be saved. If, that is, one understands that the Christ is the Logos, and one understands that fallen human reasoning is a pale shadow of the Logos by which all that was made was made. But it is a process that has taken millenia, and is still not over.

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When I say history, I don't mean that to exclude all of the supernatural and miraculous interventions by God along the way, including His resurrection of Jesus. If all of that is accurate, then I think it's safe to say that we are dealing with accurate theology as well.

Neither did I mean to exclude it. But precisely because they were supernatural, and given their limited intellectual capacity to make sense of the supernatural, they could not, and so did not, provide an accurate theology. Neither, in the end, can we, but we can do better than they could, having had a lot more time to work on it, and having other sources like science and other revelations.

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Well, the death and resurrection of Jesus should be considered historical data points, not theological ones. The theology stems from the implications of those data points being true. What I am saying is that, even if you accept the truth of my core historical data points, it seems you would still be unwilling to give credence to the theology that comes from the people very close to that history, some of whom immediately started traveling around and teaching that theology to others (as historically documented).

Right, I don't give it credence, and I have a reason for not giving it. To give an extreme example, the Cargo Cultists really did see airplanes dropping goodies, and immediately developed a theory for it, but that does not mean we should give credence to their theory.

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And the reason why I wanted to initially focus on science is because, if scientific data points in the Bible can be verified by our latest research, then that makes it almost certain that these human authors were being guided by a more intelligent force or agent. Otherwise, with such an abundance of material, we should find quite a few provable scientific errors, such as those found in basically every other holy text.

Right. I am not denying that there was real supernatural inspiration. I am not denying the Resurrection. What I am saying is that those doing the revealing knew that they could not transmit things as they are, so they transmitted, in OT times,  what would make sense to the populace which would at least move them from gods imagined in spatiotemporal terms to one God that required interiorization on the people's part to imagine, thus moving the salvation project along. However, that picture still left an idea of a God that was overly anthropomorphic. Precisely because it was understandable it was (and is) inaccurate (idolatrous, though less so than the pagan gods). Further, the Genesis story of the Fall may have made sense within their idea of God, but to modern ears it cries out for radical reinterpretation.  But in NT times that narrative was what there was, and so Paul's interpretation of the death of the Messiah made sense within that narrative. But now we can construct better narratives that are not so culturally and imaginatively limited.

 

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