Hey There

ALuv82
Posts: 8
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Hey There

Hi.  I'm Lauren and apparently I'm supposed to introduce myself in this forum, so here I am. 

Religion was never a big part of my life.  My mother was raised Episcopal.  She goes to church on Christmas and Easter and to this day I can never tell when she believes in god and when she doesn't.  My father is Jewish.  When he married my non-Jewish mother he was disowned by his family and although they eventually reconcilled 10 years later when my sister was 6 and I was 2, this has clearly had an effect on his faith as well as my and my sister's views on religion in general.  As children, we were taught the basic aspects of both religions but were raised neither.

 

I do not consider myself an atheist.  I call myself an agnostic, although from what I've seen here so far, it seems as though that label alone irks many people.  I should call myself an agnostic atheist or an agnostic theist.  The problem is, I'm not really sure which one I am.  I suppose I lean more towards some sort of belief in a higher power although I firmly believe that none of the "religions" out there--at least the ones that I am familiar wit--hold any water.  In my mind I suppose I believe in something that created a universe to work according to science, sort of like a clock maker.  That "higher power" could be as "simple" as a cosmic burst of energy or it could be a God that was bored and said, hey I've got nothing to do today, let's create a universe, or maybe it was a homework assignment to God from his teacher.  Who the heck knows?  Certainly not me--hence my agnostic label. 

 

Despite my inkling of belief (I guess that makes me an agnostic theist), I relate more to atheists than to theists, for sure.  And I love to argue and poke holes in the arguements of theists so I hope this forum will be informative and fun.  I look forward to many lively debates.

 


Jeffrick
High Level DonorRational VIP!SuperfanGold Member
Jeffrick's picture
Posts: 2399
Joined: 2008-03-25
User is offlineOffline
Welcome.

 

 

 

                 I am in Canada near Toronto. I am an atheist because I have not seen  nor heard any evidence of a god in the last 45 years, and organized religions so far amount to,  " do as we say and give us your money".

"Very funny Scotty; now beam down our clothes."

VEGETARIAN: Ancient Hindu word for "lousy hunter"

If man was formed from dirt, why is there still dirt?


harleysportster
atheist
harleysportster's picture
Posts: 3312
Joined: 2010-10-17
User is offlineOffline
Welcome aboard

Welcome aboard.

I don't think that there is really any law or rule that says you have to say whether you are a Theist or Atheist. Ultimately, Atheist being a lack of belief in god and Theist believing in a god. Agnostic meaning that the inability to confirm or deny just means that equal weight would be given to believer/unbeliever claims.

In all actuality, people who are agnostic atheist might be a little more in agreement with you than you think. For instance , you mentioned that you did not know if there was a god or not  and that a "higher power" might have created everything. People of the "weak" atheist or agnostic atheist would not disagree. There could be a "higher power". However, since there is no evidence that such a thing exists and science has pretty much shown that the likelihood of a god existing to be pretty low, then the logical position would be to simply not believe.

Have you heard of Bertrand Russell's argument about the teacup ?

It's kind of like this. If I tell you that I belief that there is a center of the universe and {Insert Any Name of Any God Here) is the one who controls it. If I make such a claim and I have no evidence to back up that claim, then there is no real reason for anyone else to accept that my claim is a valid one.

In other words, could there be a god ? Well, by physics, space, time, logic and rigid mathematical formulas, the likelihood of it would be very low.

Is there a chance that the God of the Bible or the Koran exists ? I would take the positive Atheist standpoint on that one and say absolutely not.

If explanations for the origins of the universe and evolution could be provided to you, do you think that would be helpful in deciding whether Agnostic/Atheist or Theist ? Just curious.

In my own life, for a long time after I abandoned religion, I held onto the god belief for a while. I thought that science could not answer questions about origins of life and the universe and that there had to be an intelligence behind all of it. After I finally gave up on the idea of god, those questions still plagued me. But the more I read and began to understand, the more that the notion of a creator or "higher power" just did not make sense to me at all.

Again welcome aboard. There is a wealth of information here and I think that maybe you might be inclined to give up the agnostic notion when more information becomes available.

Have fun and I look forward to your posts.

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


ALuv82
Posts: 8
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
harleysportster wrote:If

harleysportster wrote:

If explanations for the origins of the universe and evolution could be provided to you, do you think that would be helpful in deciding whether Agnostic/Atheist or Theist ? Just curious.

In my own life, for a long time after I abandoned religion, I held onto the god belief for a while. I thought that science could not answer questions about origins of life and the universe and that there had to be an intelligence behind all of it. After I finally gave up on the idea of god, those questions still plagued me. But the more I read and began to understand, the more that the notion of a creator or "higher power" just did not make sense to me at all.

 

Hey, thanks for responding.  As for your question above, I guess only time can tell if these explanations will turn me into a true atheist.  Though I almost feel like the more information I have, the less I am inclined to be truely atheist.  I definitely DO NOT believe is an omniscient, omnipotent god, but to me, all the evidence against such a being does not disprove the existence of "something."  I am a veterinarian and although my scientific studies were expansive, they leaned greatly towards biology rather than physics and so much off these physics type proofs I've read around the forum are still quite above my head.  Perhaps a better understanding of them will help me decide that there is no higher power.  However, I feel that the more I learned about biology, the more I believed it was not an accident.  Life on a basic scientific level is so amazing that I have trouble believing it happened purely by coincidence.  Which is not to say that I believe that something "created" us or even guided our creation, but more than something "created" science and allowed this universe to develop by that system of science.


cj
atheistRational VIP!
cj's picture
Posts: 3330
Joined: 2007-01-05
User is offlineOffline
My husband used to say he

My husband used to say he was agnostic.  Almost militantly.  I've been almost militantly atheist for a long time.  And then we read 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P Harrison.

http://www.amazon.com/Reasons-People-Give-Believing-God/dp/1591025672/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1293847777&sr=8-1

It was available at my local library, but I think I would like to own a copy. 

After reading it, my husband set the book down and announced - as if it were a big deal - that he was an atheist, not agnostic.  You might find it interesting.

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


harleysportster
atheist
harleysportster's picture
Posts: 3312
Joined: 2010-10-17
User is offlineOffline
ALuv82 wrote: Hey, thanks

ALuv82 wrote:
 

Hey, thanks for responding.  As for your question above, I guess only time can tell if these explanations will turn me into a true atheist.  Though I almost feel like the more information I have, the less I am inclined to be truely atheist.  I definitely DO NOT believe is an omniscient, omnipotent god, but to me, all the evidence against such a being does not disprove the existence of "something."  I am a veterinarian and although my scientific studies were expansive, they leaned greatly towards biology rather than physics and so much off these physics type proofs I've read around the forum are still quite above my head.  Perhaps a better understanding of them will help me decide that there is no higher power.  However, I feel that the more I learned about biology, the more I believed it was not an accident.  Life on a basic scientific level is so amazing that I have trouble believing it happened purely by coincidence.  Which is not to say that I believe that something "created" us or even guided our creation, but more than something "created" science and allowed this universe to develop by that system of science.

 

Hehe, a whole lot of the physics terms have the capability of sailing right over my head as well. Some of the more scientific people on here run rings around me.

I agree that lack of evidence does not necessarily prove that something does not exist.

But I personally look at it this way, if something like that actually existed, that was capable of existing outside of our own finite resources, then I don't see how we would have any method of determining what it could be or what it's motivations might be. Any human causations or attributes would not be discernible.

At that point,with no real clue what it might be, absent of all evidence, then my own default position would be to disbelief or rather, absence of evidence leading me to disbelief. But that is just my position. When it comes to "Positive Atheists" or "Strong Atheists" their position is that there is no god. (Positive Atheists are far more well versed in logic, physics and other things than I, perhaps if I had all of their knowledge  then I too would be a Positive Atheist. )

Curious about one thing though. If you don't mind me asking, in your study of biology and the conditions that you see on the job everyday involving sicknesses, illnesses and suffering, does this not raise questions of doubt about a creator ?

Reading about how life developed and how many species were made extinct over the years lended doubt of an intelligent designer to me. Does evolution hint of a god of some sort in your opinion ?

I agree that life is full of wonder and mystery when viewed via the scientific method. But for me, the wonder and mystery did not become more awesome until the idea of god was removed from the picture.

Lengthy video that a regular member posts on here pretty regularly, but if you get time to check it out, I highly reccomend :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6w2M50_Xdk

P.S. Any physics questions, feel free to ask. The science experts on here will be more than happy to help out.

 

 

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


ALuv82
Posts: 8
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
I would most certainly say

I would most certainly say it raises doubts about an "intellegent designer" but I guess where I have trouble suspending all belief in something greater is that I don't believe a "creator" has to necesseraly be an "intellegent designer"  And it most certainly doesn't have to be an omniscient, benevolent being that has any say in what is currently happening in this world.  I mean, someone "created" this computer I'm writing on and now it runs all on it's own without continued involvement from that creator.  It can get viruses and it can crash, and things can go wrong but does whoever "created" it care?  It will likely again never be influenced by the actual being who created it.  Just because there's sickness and death and other horrible things, to me, doesn't mean that there necesserally isn't a "creator" just that that creator is no longer involved in what happens to us or the universe.

Although, on the otherhand, death and in some ways by correlation sickness are a neccessary part of life.  If living creatures didn't die, there would be no room for us to reproduce, and if we can't reproduce evolution can't occur.  Other forms of sickness such as cancer arise from mutations that are also necessary in the evolutionary process.  They're just mutations that didn't work.    And still, other sickness are caused by other life forms such as bacteria and parasites going about their normal business and trying to reproduce and evolve.  Thus one can (or at least I can) argue that sickness and death are not "bad" things in the greater scheme of things, although the suffering they cause, are.  If I were to pick a side in this debate, which I haven't yet, I would say that I could use this argument to argue either for or against a God.  Since I could argue that God created sickness and death to perpetuate new life, or perhaps reincarnation.  Or I could argue that sickness and death are simply necessary parts of evolution that disproves creationism.

 

I agree that the wonder and mystery of life is made more awsome if there is no God, but then I start to wonder if it is too awsome to be believed.  I'm not sure my rational mind can resolve the amazing intricacies of life at it's more basic scientific level with the idea that it all happened my random happenstance.  When I think about it, it just sometimes seems so unlikely.

 

But I one hundred percent agree with your statment that if something did "create" this universe that we could ahve no way of determining what it is or what it's motivations could be.  I just don't find myself defaulting to disbelief because I can't or won't ever be able to understand.

 

Thanks for the link.  I'll watch it when I get a chance.

 

 


butterbattle
ModeratorSuperfan
butterbattle's picture
Posts: 3716
Joined: 2008-09-12
User is offlineOffline
Welcome to the forum.

Welcome to the forum.

Our revels now are ended. These our actors, | As I foretold you, were all spirits, and | Are melted into air, into thin air; | And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, | The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, | The solemn temples, the great globe itself, - Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, | And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, | Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff | As dreams are made on, and our little life | Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Interesting.I presume you

Interesting.

I presume you are aware of many aspects of the 'design' of various creatures which are very problematic if there was actually explicit 'design' involved, but are fully understandable in terms of 'blind' evolution.

I am talking about things which do not significantly affect the viability of the organism, and do not seem to represent a 'trade-off', as with the susceptibility to cancer.

The most prominent example I am aware of is the laryngeal nerve:

http://scienceblogs.com/grrlscientist/2010/06/the_laryngeal_nerve_of_the_gir.php

And you do realize that naturalistic explanations are not about 'randomness' alone, but constrained by the requirement for survival, or a minimum level of stability at each step of the emergence of a complex system from a simpler one - Natural Selection, which is definitely not random, in the case of Evolution...

I believe that random generation of new possibilities can ultimately be more truly creative than conscious design, not being constrained by knowledge of what already exists. It tends to be slower than conscious design, at least when the designer can see a way to achieve the new design. Genetic algorithms are computer programs specifically designed to come up with novel designs by applying the evolutionary algorithm of random changes followed by some testing/selection process, in a repeated cycle. They are able to come up with designs which a conscious designer would have been very unlikely to have achieved.

So you shouldn't be so ready to dismiss the power of random processes to create.

The main failing of a step-by-step, random-driven process is the need for each step to be viable, which blocks any direct change which would require too many simultaneous and fairly specific mutations to get from 'design' A to design B, as in the case of the laryngeal nerve.

That problem is usually taken care of by parallel evolution, where parts of an organism evolve for different purposes, then mutated copies of those find find application in some new function, as in the famous case of the bacterial flagellum that Intelligent Design proponents tried to claim could not have evolved.

And regarding origins, what is your response to the fundamental problem of assuming a 'higher power', is an even higher power required to explain that?

Hope I haven't bored you with too much stuff you already know, I just couldn't help picking up on a couple of points you raised...

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


ALuv82
Posts: 8
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Pick Away

Please, feel free to pick away at my points.  It's why I'm here.  I am, of course familiar with the recurrent laryngeal nerve.  It wa a pain in the ass to disect out of my cadavars in vet school and from that experience alone I agree that its tortuous path down into the chest and then back up to the throat is most definitely superfluous and likely not an intential aspect of mammalian design.

 

I also agree that natural selection and evolution are as much, if not more so about survival, as they are about randomness.  But what I am talking about when I contemplate the likelyhood of our existence based on pure happenstance, is more about what happened before that.  The simple coming together of atoms, molecules. etc. to form RNA and then subsequently, DNA, to allow the first lifeforms to exist and then reproduce to start off this whole process of evolution.  That's the part that had to be random.  That's the part that always seems to get to me--the existence of life not as a whole, but on the very molecular level at which it is based.

 

I don't necessarily dismiss the potential of random processes to create, just find it harder to fit into my brain that it is the likely solution.  Of course, the beauty of randomness is that anything can happen.  There are statistically an infintite number of ways that the mollecules of the universe can come together.  And if that is so, what are the chances that they would come together in the way that they have?  Statistically speaking it seems only slightly more likely than the existence of any one of the Gods our imaginations have concocted over the millenia that humans have existed (and even if there is an actual god, we can not know it and so all "gods" we can imagaine are clearly just that --figmants of our imagination.  I assume that between the two of u, we can readily agree on that Eye-wink )

 

As for your question about origins and the issue of the existence of a higher power requiring the existence of an even higher power, I honestly have no answer.  Perhaps there is only one higher power that exists outside of the realm of our reality and doesn't need to fit into these rules.  Or perhaps this higher power is just working for some other higher power churning out universes in a universe factory somewhere and his higher power is jsts an employee answering to some higher power above it.  Anything is possible.

 


racorfield
racorfield's picture
Posts: 15
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
On higher powers

Hi Lauren

 

New here also. 

 

I suspect that the 'higher power' is some unidentified mechanistic process which causes the first replicator molecules to be formed (over a period some thousands of years).  For example, first molecules like guanine adenine etc if I have spelt these right would randomly form (these molecules might be more likely than others to form for chemical reasons)  These molecules would be suitable as units to build RNA/DNA.  Each of these units would have the property of being able to connect to three other units.  Hence the formation of these molecules amongst many others that do not get anywhere.  These units would then tend to form chain molecules, that is, chains of these units.  But since each unit has a third way of connecting to another unit, more units gradually get attached to the chain until the single chain is a double chain.  But because the bonds between the two strands are weaker they can be torn apart more easily than a chain can be broken, so they separate into single chains but the process repeats.  Changes or mutations can occur in the chains which affect the survival chances of these replicator molecules and so the process of evolution is kickstarted.  (This idea I got from The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.) Scientific journals contain various other theories of the origin of life, all unproven of course, as far as I know.  All we can say is that we can't rule out that there was some mechanistic process that started it all.  Thus I think that the 'higher power' was something relatively simple which would not need a whole host of other explanations in order to explain it. 

Robert

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
ALuv82 wrote:Please, feel

ALuv82 wrote:

Please, feel free to pick away at my points.  It's why I'm here.  I am, of course familiar with the recurrent laryngeal nerve.  It wa a pain in the ass to disect out of my cadavars in vet school and from that experience alone I agree that its tortuous path down into the chest and then back up to the throat is most definitely superfluous and likely not an intential aspect of mammalian design.

 

I also agree that natural selection and evolution are as much, if not more so about survival, as they are about randomness.  But what I am talking about when I contemplate the likelyhood of our existence based on pure happenstance, is more about what happened before that.  The simple coming together of atoms, molecules. etc. to form RNA and then subsequently, DNA, to allow the first lifeforms to exist and then reproduce to start off this whole process of evolution.  That's the part that had to be random.  That's the part that always seems to get to me--the existence of life not as a whole, but on the very molecular level at which it is based.

 [...]

Ah, that clarifies things. I was wondering whether it was evolution or abiogenesis you had some problem with.

You do seem pretty well informed, but I was wondering if you were aware that RNA has been shown to form 'spontaneously' under conditions plausibly likely to be present on the early Earth.

Once self-replication gets going, evolution can kick in.

Here is a link to what seems like a good discussion of this experiment and its implications:

http://volerum.blog.com/2010/06/27/rna-world-the-formation-of-the-self-replicating-molecule/

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


ALuv82
Posts: 8
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Interesting

That's definitely an interesting theory, and one I could possibly sort of get behind.  I can aboslutely imagine that some "higher power" could actually be something physical or scientific.  But then, at the same time I wonder--if this theory were true--what it is that made these reactions more likely to happen as you have proposed.  Why is it that chemistry "selected" for these molecules (adenine, guanine, uracil, cytocine, thymine) and subsequently RNA and DNA?  Why does science exist in such a way that these chemical reactions would occur more readily than others?  You see?  It's a never ending cycle of why's that I can't get out of.  Ack, my brain hurts.

 

@BobSpence-- Now that you mention it, I vaguely do recall something about spontaneous formation of RNA.  But I suppose it goes to my questioning up above.  I don't disbelieve that it can occur spontaneously, I just wonder what presupposes it to forming spontaneously when statistically speaking that shouldn't be the case.  Again, it's the never ending cycle of whys.


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
ALuv82 wrote:That's

ALuv82 wrote:

That's definitely an interesting theory, and one I could possibly sort of get behind.  I can aboslutely imagine that some "higher power" could actually be something physical or scientific.  But then, at the same time I wonder--if this theory were true--what it is that made these reactions more likely to happen as you have proposed.  Why is it that chemistry "selected" for these molecules (adenine, guanine, uracil, cytocine, thymine) and subsequently RNA and DNA?  Why does science exist in such a way that these chemical reactions would occur more readily than others?  You see?  It's a never ending cycle of why's that I can't get out of.  Ack, my brain hurts.

They don't have to have had any greater chance of happening.

What happens is that once a random molecular arrangement, out of all the many possible ones, happens to have the property of self-replication, then it will automatically come to dominate.

All that is required is that there be at least one combination that can self-replicate. It doesn't have to be any more likely than any other.

That is how natural selection works, step by tiny step, once something that can self-replicate forms. Even a variation only slightly more efficient at replicating arises amongst a multitude of neutral or negative ones, it will tend to spread.

It only requires that such forms be possible, not that they be more likely than any others.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


ALuv82
Posts: 8
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
BobSpence1 wrote:They don't

BobSpence1 wrote:

They don't have to have had any greater chance of happening.

What happens is that once a random molecular arrangement, out of all the many possible ones, happens to have the property of self-replication, then it will automatically come to dominate.

All that is required is that there be at least one combination that can self-replicate. It doesn't have to be any more likely than any other.

That is how natural selection works, step by tiny step, once something that can self-replicate forms. Even a variation only slightly more efficient at replicating arises amongst a multitude of neutral or negative ones, it will tend to spread.

It only requires that such forms be possible, not that they be more likely than any others.

 

 

I was actually responding to a post above which theorized

 

Quote:
For example, first molecules like guanine adenine etc if I have spelt these right would randomly form (these molecules might be more likely than others to form for chemical reasons)  These molecules would be suitable as units to build RNA/DNA.

 

So I asked, based on his theory that certain chemical reasons could cause the the molecules to be more likely to form, what made those chamical reaons?

It's totally possible that it could happen randomnly, it just doesn't seem very likely to me as there are an infinite number of ways that the mollecules in this universe can interact with each other at any given time.  So what is the possibility that they would intereact randomly in just the way that in necessary to form RNA?

Now, my calculus is pretty rusty so if I'm wrong here in my knowledge of limits let me know, but if the number of possibilities (x) is infinite, then the likelihood that that particular event would occur is 1/∞=undefined, so instead of the looking for probability of 1/∞ we look for the limit of 1/x as x approaches ∞ and we get… lim (1/x)=0x->0 Thus the likelihood of the events having occurred randomly is essentially 0. Obviously it’s not literally 0 or the chance of anything happening would be 0 and nothing would ever happen. So is it possible? Yes, but, in theory, only as possible as it is that Moses parted the Red Sea.

 

 


harleysportster
atheist
harleysportster's picture
Posts: 3312
Joined: 2010-10-17
User is offlineOffline
ALuv82 wrote:I would most

ALuv82 wrote:

I would most certainly say it raises doubts about an "intellegent designer" but I guess where I have trouble suspending all belief in something greater is that I don't believe a "creator" has to necesseraly be an "intellegent designer"  And it most certainly doesn't have to be an omniscient, benevolent being that has any say in what is currently happening in this world.  I mean, someone "created" this computer I'm writing on and now it runs all on it's own without continued involvement from that creator.  It can get viruses and it can crash, and things can go wrong but does whoever "created" it care?  It will likely again never be influenced by the actual being who created it.  Just because there's sickness and death and other horrible things, to me, doesn't mean that there necesserally isn't a "creator" just that that creator is no longer involved in what happens to us or the universe.

Although, on the otherhand, death and in some ways by correlation sickness are a neccessary part of life.  If living creatures didn't die, there would be no room for us to reproduce, and if we can't reproduce evolution can't occur.  Other forms of sickness such as cancer arise from mutations that are also necessary in the evolutionary process.  They're just mutations that didn't work.    And still, other sickness are caused by other life forms such as bacteria and parasites going about their normal business and trying to reproduce and evolve.  Thus one can (or at least I can) argue that sickness and death are not "bad" things in the greater scheme of things, although the suffering they cause, are.  If I were to pick a side in this debate, which I haven't yet, I would say that I could use this argument to argue either for or against a God.  Since I could argue that God created sickness and death to perpetuate new life, or perhaps reincarnation.  Or I could argue that sickness and death are simply necessary parts of evolution that disproves creationism.

 

But I one hundred percent agree with your statment that if something did "create" this universe that we could ahve no way of determining what it is or what it's motivations could be.  I just don't find myself defaulting to disbelief because I can't or won't ever be able to understand.

 

Ah, that explains your position alot better. Most of the time, the people that I encounter that have the notion of "higher power" generally try to assign human causation and attributes to said "higher power" (A rather popular term these days). Most of the time, one major flaw in that particular belief would be that the higher power would be sentient or aware or interfering in the lives of us. All of which are fairly easy to dispute, but that is not your belief.

I agree that diseases and death are a part of life. Originally, I pointed out those concepts because alot of Theistic people have the idea of intelligent design as creation with purpose and intent. To which such things as cancer, MS, neurological disorders, the many extinctions of species, various forms of mutations that have made diseases all the stronger, etc. seemed to throw that notion out of the window as well. Evidence pointing towards evolution. BUT that does not fit your particular position either, hehe.

 

Hmm, like I said earlier, with the lack of such evidence, I just personally see no reason to  believe, but that is just me. However, I don't think we could safely say that we will never be able to know for certain. When you look at the science of say, five hundred years ago, and compare it to the science of today, we have come a long way and have a greater understanding of how the universe works. Thus far, through scientific discovery, nothing has really pointed to the idea of a creator yet. Not only does lack of belief play a part in it, but also, every claim made by the Theistic community of miracles, supernatural type events, near death experiences, etc. have never been documented as having any real substance to any of them.

Which would hint to me that a creator either a) does not exist b) is deliberately avoiding detection c) incomprehensible to us and therefore unknowable d) like you mentioned, is not all powerful and all knowing and therefore not a god.

There is a tremendous body of work that points to the theory that god belief, or believe in something, is almost a genetic trait that is hardwired into our brains over years of development. I have mentioned this before in several other posts, but it happens to be a particular interest of mine that I have picked up on as of late. From what we know, humans were the first animals to become aware of their own mortality. Humans were also unique in understanding individual identity (i.e. recognizing their own reflections and such). These two combining factors heavily influencing the birth of religions, gods and afterlife belief.

However, you have already moved past the dogmas, the trappings of religion, and the spiritual belief systems. My point being that it is perfectly logical and normal to believe in something. For me, when I first put belief behind  me, the idea was almost terrifying that we could be here on our own.

But hey, I am not here to try and change your mind. I am just here to share what I know. You seem to be pretty knowledgeable on the subjects and have some solid opinions, feel free to share them. Atheists, Agnostics, Theists and even Christian Fundamentalists post on here all of the time.

The only time that I ever get really rude, is when someone comes on here with their sacred text and faith to try and attack everyone that does not think like them. That is when the fun usually starts.

“It is proof of a base and low mind for one to wish to think with the masses or majority, merely because the majority is the majority. Truth does not change because it is, or is not, believed by a majority of the people.”
― Giordano Bruno


racorfield
racorfield's picture
Posts: 15
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Origin of Life

ALuv82 wrote:
 


So I asked, based on his theory that certain chemical reasons could cause the the molecules to be more likely to form, what made those chamical reaons?

First I am not sure that the number of (stable) chemical combinations (for molecules up to the size of the RNA/DNA coding units)  is infinite although the number is probably  a humungous finite one. 

I think there was a Miller-Urey experiment if I remember correctly which under certain environmental conditions produces amino acids and similar experiments in which the coding unit molecules (guanine adenine etc) also formed.  Now if this is right and there are no objections to these experiments that I am unaware of, these experiments would show that these molecules are more likely to form than others.  Because of the laws of physics once certain proto-molecules are formed options for building up on these proto-molecules become more limited.  All of these different options could be realised so that amongst large molecules formed would be the RNA/DNA units (or prototypes of such).  However, one can argue (which I think is the point you are making) that it would be somewhat of a (fantastic) coincidence that amongst the set of large molecules that have a good chance of being  built up are ones suitable for forming self-replicators.  This set would be predicted by the laws of physics including the values of physics constants.  So this now shifts the problem to the fine tuning problem, which is why are the values of physics constants are within those ranges which would cause large molecules suitable for forming self-replicators to be more likely than other combinations? 

One hypothesis of course is that there is a fine tuner.  Richard Dawkins has argued in The Ancestor's Tale that a fine tuner would then be finely tuned themselves so the problem is shifted again. 

Stephen Hawking in his The Grand Design (which I got for Xmas) has suggested there are physical reasons for postulating the existence of other universes (a humungous number of them).  These reasons are independent of the need to solve the fine tuning problem and are something to do with a "no-boundary condition" which I don't claim to understand.  Thus if there are a huge number of universes most empty of life because the laws of the universe are incompatible with life forming in these universes, anything intelligent life in a particular universe is going to find that the laws and the constants are tuned in such a way that life would have a reasonable chance of emerging and this would include the fact that the laws would be such as to make organic molecules suitable for self-replicators likely to emerge in early planetary conditions where the planet is located in the Goldilocks zone of its star system. 

This is just a somewhat sketchy/hazy idea and I'd like to research more into it. 

 

Robert

 

 

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
ALuv82 wrote:BobSpence1

ALuv82 wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

They don't have to have had any greater chance of happening.

What happens is that once a random molecular arrangement, out of all the many possible ones, happens to have the property of self-replication, then it will automatically come to dominate.

All that is required is that there be at least one combination that can self-replicate. It doesn't have to be any more likely than any other.

That is how natural selection works, step by tiny step, once something that can self-replicate forms. Even a variation only slightly more efficient at replicating arises amongst a multitude of neutral or negative ones, it will tend to spread.

It only requires that such forms be possible, not that they be more likely than any others.

I was actually responding to a post above which theorized 

Quote:
For example, first molecules like guanine adenine etc if I have spelt these right would randomly form (these molecules might be more likely than others to form for chemical reasons)  These molecules would be suitable as units to build RNA/DNA.

So I asked, based on his theory that certain chemical reasons could cause the the molecules to be more likely to form, what made those chamical reaons?

It's totally possible that it could happen randomnly, it just doesn't seem very likely to me as there are an infinite number of ways that the mollecules in this universe can interact with each other at any given time.  So what is the possibility that they would intereact randomly in just the way that in necessary to form RNA?

Now, my calculus is pretty rusty so if I'm wrong here in my knowledge of limits let me know, but if the number of possibilities (x) is infinite, then the likelihood that that particular event would occur is 1/∞=undefined, so instead of the looking for probability of 1/∞ we look for the limit of 1/x as x approaches ∞ and we get… lim (1/x)=0x->0 Thus the likelihood of the events having occurred randomly is essentially 0. Obviously it’s not literally 0 or the chance of anything happening would be 0 and nothing would ever happen. So is it possible? Yes, but, in theory, only as possible as it is that Moses parted the Red Sea. 

Moses parting the Red Sea is essentially zero, especially since it seems likely he didn't even exist...

Anyway, my argument still stands, I disagree that it was necessary that those molecules were in any way more likely to form than others.

As i said before, all that is required that, in some place somewhere on one of the possibly 1021 planets we now know may exist, all a little bit different, that at least once, RNA or something similar happens to form, over a period of billions of years. So it would have to be extremely unlikely for it NOT to happen at least once. And once at least one self-replicating molecule forms, away we go.

If you want to go further, we now have reason to believe that what we think of as the basic physical constants actually vary somewhat across the Universe we inhabit, so further increasing the range of possibilities. This means that even if it seems the physics we see has been 'fine-tuned' for life, that just means we arose in a part where those 'constants' were (randomly) suitable.

Even if the likelihood of having the right molecules all together in suitable conditions in any given pool or undersea vent , over any year or so, is astronomically tiny, when you apply the figures for the number of stars in the Universe, the time they have had for the conditions on all the planets to change over billions of years, the total probability of at least one occurrence isn't necessarily all that tiny at all.

To repeat, it only needs to happen once, in principle, somewhere, even if extremely unlikely at any one instance. As long as it isn't actually impossible.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


cj
atheistRational VIP!
cj's picture
Posts: 3330
Joined: 2007-01-05
User is offlineOffline
ALuv82 wrote: So I asked,

ALuv82 wrote:

So I asked, based on his theory that certain chemical reasons could cause the the molecules to be more likely to form, what made those chamical reaons?

It's totally possible that it could happen randomnly, it just doesn't seem very likely to me as there are an infinite number of ways that the mollecules in this universe can interact with each other at any given time.  So what is the possibility that they would intereact randomly in just the way that in necessary to form RNA?

Now, my calculus is pretty rusty so if I'm wrong here in my knowledge of limits let me know, but if the number of possibilities (x) is infinite, then the likelihood that that particular event would occur is 1/∞=undefined, so instead of the looking for probability of 1/∞ we look for the limit of 1/x as x approaches ∞ and we get…   lim (1/x)=0 x->0   Thus the likelihood of the events having occurred randomly is essentially 0. Obviously it’s not literally 0 or the chance of anything happening would be 0 and nothing would ever happen. So is it possible? Yes, but, in theory, only as possible as it is that Moses parted the Red Sea.

 

What you need to review is not calculus, but chemistry.  Atomic combinations into molecules are NOT random.  They are caused, and they are inevitable per the laws of physics.

I am not a chemist, I only have one class of college level chemistry.  I think of atoms as being very tiny magnets.  Some are positively charged, some negatively.  Like a magnet, if the positive ones get anywhere close to the negative ones, they will bond.  Sometimes they need a catalyst or enzyme - or energy in the form of heat - or some mixing.  And in the ocean, we have mixing from tidal action, lots of other chemicals and substrates to act as catalysts, and heat from the sun.  Tah-dah!  Molecules form without intervention from anyone or anything else.

It isn't an infinite number of combinations because like magnets, positive repels positive and negative repels negative.  Different elements have a different number of handles - carbon has 4 handles, for example.  Carbon atoms can form 4 bonds - not 8 or 41.  If a carbon atom has less than 4 it will quickly run into some other atom to bond with.  Almost pure sheets or pools of carbon form naturally under pressure and heat - as when carbon based life forms are buried under tons of rock.  But you won't find oil forming out of the leaves you raked up in the fall. 

Not random.  Not even close.

As for the probability argument - "a jet airplane will most likely not spontaneously form when a tornado goes through a junk yard".  Absolutely.  However, we aren't talking junk yards or jet airplanes.

Think of a lottery.  You buy a ticket with an exact number of numbers.  I'll use Powerball as an example because that is the one I sometimes buy a ticket for.  I pay $1 to get 5 numbers between 1 and 59 and a 6th number between 1 and 39 (the Powerball).  To win the jackpot (at least 20 million US), I must match all 6 numbers exactly.  I may also win smaller prizes if I have all 5 but not the Powerball, or the Powerball plus some combination of the 5.  Odds are 1:195,249,054 for winning the jackpot.  Not the best, but someone wins often enough that people keep buying tickets.  If you don't win, you don't keep any numbers and you must buy a new ticket to play the next draw.

But let's change the rules.  Instead of losing all those numbers, let's say a draw is made and is not changed until someone wins with those numbers.  And as a player, I get to keep the numbers that match the winning combination.  So I may have no numbers that match on my first ticket, then I buy another ticket.  I now may have two numbers that match.  I keep those two numbers and buy a ticket with only 4 new numbers.  Can you see that it won't take long until I match the winning number?

That how evolution works.  I get to keep those characteristics that improve my ability to reproduce successfully.  If a particular characteristic has no impact on my ability reproduce, it is said to be neutral and will persist in the population.  Those characteristics that impact my ability to reproduce negatively will not be passed on since I won't have any offspring to pass them on to.  Keep what works, lose what doesn't.  It doesn't take so long to evolve to the point of being able to reproduce in your environment very effectively.

And you also need to review probability.  It doesn't matter what the odds against something happening are if the event has already happened.  The probability of intelligent life evolving on planet Earth is 1.  Because it has already happened.

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


ALuv82
Posts: 8
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
CJ-- I understand that

CJ-- I understand that chemistry is not random and that there are certain molecules that are drawn to one another, etc.  I guess the point I was trying to make what that I still don't understand why the laws of chemistry (and physics) exist.  How was it decided that oppositely charged ions exist.  Why does one object that contains matter attract another object that creates matter (gravity), etc.  Where did these universal rules come from?  As for my calculus lesson, it was previously argued that these reactions didn't have to be more likely to form and I was resonding to the inprobablility of them happening by random chance. 

As for your lottery anaolgy, I don't really see how it fits into the arguement as I have already stated that I believe wholeheartedly in evolution and that seems to be what you are trying to compare the Powerball to. 

 

In fact, I am not disputing the idea that RNA molecules did form on their own.  I don't think there's a higher power that created RNA.  My theory is simply that there is a "higher power" that created science--ie the laws of physics and the properties of chemistry.  Past that, I do not believe such a "higher power" has had continued involvement in the universe although I do not discredit the possibility (I do discredit all the estabilshed religions that try to explain it because I do not believe, that if it exists, it can be explained in any way that we could comprehend.

 

 

@Bob Spence

Quote:

Moses parting the Red Sea is essentially zero, especially since it seems likely he didn't even exist...

 

That was kind of my point.  And I still maintain that if the chemical reactions necessary to form DNA were completely random the possiblilty that they would form in the right way would also be essentially zero since there would be an infinite number of possible ways they could react and therefore no matter how many times in how many ways, in how many places in the universe,  the limit would still approach zero.   

 


cj
atheistRational VIP!
cj's picture
Posts: 3330
Joined: 2007-01-05
User is offlineOffline
ALuv82 wrote:CJ-- I

ALuv82 wrote:

CJ-- I understand that chemistry is not random and that there are certain molecules that are drawn to one another, etc.  I guess the point I was trying to make what that I still don't understand why the laws of chemistry (and physics) exist.  How was it decided that oppositely charged ions exist.  Why does one object that contains matter attract another object that creates matter (gravity), etc.  Where did these universal rules come from?  As for my calculus lesson, it was previously argued that these reactions didn't have to be more likely to form and I was resonding to the inprobablility of them happening by random chance. 

 

The "laws of chemistry and physics" were made up by some science dudes.  Seriously, they came from empirical studies of what exists and what happens between objects/organisms that already exist.  My point being that the laws did not exist in their present form until someone analyzed and expressed them, then other people replicated them. 

I realize this may not be an adequate answer for you.  But I have never understood why these particular expressions of interactions have to be created by some higher power.  If you have taken a physics or chemistry class, then you should have gleaned that the so called laws are truly approximations.  What we write down as the theoretical answer in the problem section is often not held up in the lab exercises.  Reality is messy and so the laws of chemistry and physics mostly work most of the time close enough that we can type stupid shit on an internet forum.  There is no perfection in the application of any of the "laws".  Why there are people who go on about this as if such perfection existed is beyond me.

Your calculus did not include the non-random parts of what we understand to be reality.  So it was largely a waste of time.

 

ALuv82 wrote:

As for your lottery anaolgy, I don't really see how it fits into the arguement as I have already stated that I believe wholeheartedly in evolution and that seems to be what you are trying to compare the Powerball to. 

 

I was trying to point out that the formation of molecules - any molecules, including RNA and DNA - are not purely random.  And therefore, your calculus does not disprove abiogenesis.

 

ALuv82 wrote:

In fact, I am not disputing the idea that RNA molecules did form on their own.  I don't think there's a higher power that created RNA.  My theory is simply that there is a "higher power" that created science--ie the laws of physics and the properties of chemistry.  Past that, I do not believe such a "higher power" has had continued involvement in the universe although I do not discredit the possibility (I do discredit all the estabilshed religions that try to explain it because I do not believe, that if it exists, it can be explained in any way that we could comprehend. 

 

What I am saying is that the scientists were the "higher power" that created the laws of physics and explicated the properties of chemistry.  And in fact, as we gain in knowledge about unusual environments - super heating or cooling or pressure for example - we have had to rearrange our ideas about the laws being immutable.  

You are saying there had to be some thing/one/entity that created the universe and set the parameters?  Why?  In my world (universe) view, things are the way they are.  We create models - equations, diagrams, wordy reports - to explain what is to ourselves and to others.  The laws of physics and the properties of chemistry are just models of what is reality.  They aren't reality.  Therefore, they were created by humans as an explanatory device - nothing more.

 

ALuv82 wrote:

@Bob Spence

Quote:

Moses parting the Red Sea is essentially zero, especially since it seems likely he didn't even exist...

That was kind of my point.  And I still maintain that if the chemical reactions necessary to form DNA were completely random the possiblilty that they would form in the right way would also be essentially zero since there would be an infinite number of possible ways they could react and therefore no matter how many times in how many ways, in how many places in the universe,  the limit would still approach zero.   

 

That was my point.  The chemical reactions necessary to form DNA are NOT completely random.  Therefore, there is NOT an infinite number of possible ways they could react, and therefore the limit does NOT approach zero. 

Also, you missed the last bit of my post.  SINCE INTELLIGENT LIFE HAS ALREADY EVOLVED ON THE EARTH, THE PROBABILITY OF INTELLIGENT LIFE EVOLVING IS 1.  That which has happened always has a probability of one - it doesn't matter how unlikely it was before the event. 


 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
ALuv82 wrote:@Bob

ALuv82 wrote:

@Bob Spence

Quote:

Moses parting the Red Sea is essentially zero, especially since it seems likely he didn't even exist...

That was kind of my point.  And I still maintain that if the chemical reactions necessary to form DNA were completely random the possiblilty that they would form in the right way would also be essentially zero since there would be an infinite number of possible ways they could react and therefore no matter how many times in how many ways, in how many places in the universe,  the limit would still approach zero.   

First, there could not be an infinite number of ways a finite number chemicals, with a finite number of atoms, chosen from a finite number of possible kinds of atoms, can form molecules of a finite size.

Second, even if there were, that would as likely increase the probability that at least one of the molecules formed was able to copy itself.

You seem to be assuming that DNA/RNA is the only possible set of chemicals that can self-replicate.

We are not talking about the probability of hitting one very specific configuration among all possible ones. The more possible configurations there are, the more chances there are of at least one having a capacity of self-replication. We know of two variations already, RNA and DNA, and the recent discovery from NASA suggests at least the possibility of using a different element, namely arsenic, in place of phosphorus, in DNA, so it is quite plausible that there could be many alternative configurations with the capacity to self-replicate.

Some labs have already designed alternative molecules to RNA that can self-replicate, which further supports the idea that there could be many such molecules.

It is not that complicated at a basic level. And since evolution starts to work once you have a self-replicator, the more complex versions can readily evolve.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


racorfield
racorfield's picture
Posts: 15
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Probability

 

Here is a problem in probability. 

Smith comes across a bunch of stones on a beach arranged to make the words "Jesus lives!"

For the sake of simplicity let us imagine there are two possible equally likely theories to explain how the stones got there.

1)   Random forces deposited the stones. 

 

2)   Some Christian deposited stones down with the intention of spelling out the words "Jesus lives!"

We want to know which of these theories is more likely given the evidence that the stones spell out the words "Jesus lives!"

The probability that  both 1 above and the stones spell out "Jesus lives!" is obtained by multiplying the following:

 

The probability that random forces deposited the stones = 1/2

The probability that if random forces deposited the stones then the stones spell out "Jesus lives" = 1 (because it has already happened)

 

Similarly the probability that both 2 above and the stones spell out "Jesus lives" = 1/2. 

 

The probability that the stones spell out "Jesus lives" is 1/2 + 1/2 =1. 

 

The probability that theory 1 is correct is obtained by dividing

 

The probability that  random forces deposited the stones and the stones spell out "Jesus lives!"= 1/2

 

by

The probability that the stones spell out "Jesus lives" = 1

 

giving 1/2. 

 

So the probability that theory 1 (random forces deposited the stones) is 1/2. 

 

Anything wrong with my calculation?

 

 

 

 

 

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
racorfield wrote: Here is a

racorfield wrote:

 

Here is a problem in probability. 

Smith comes across a bunch of stones on a beach arranged to make the words "Jesus lives!"

For the sake of simplicity let us imagine there are two possible equally likely theories to explain how the stones got there.

1)   Random forces deposited the stones. 

2)   Some Christian deposited stones down with the intention of spelling out the words "Jesus lives!"

We want to know which of these theories is more likely given the evidence that the stones spell out the words "Jesus lives!"

But you just said "two possible equally likely theories", which doesn't actually quite make sense. Just say two theories/

Quote:

The probability that  both 1 above and the stones spell out "Jesus lives!" is obtained by multiplying the following:

 

The probability that random forces deposited the stones = 1/2

Where did you get that from? Your initial assumption that the two theories are actually equally likely, not just "possibly" equally likely?

Quote:

The probability that if random forces deposited the stones then the stones spell out "Jesus lives" = 1 (because it has already happened)

Th only thing you can say has a probability of 1 is that there will be a set of stones that spell out those words. So again, that is not a useful statementt.

Quote:

Similarly the probability that both 2 above and the stones spell out "Jesus lives" = 1/2. 

The probability that the stones spell out "Jesus lives" is 1/2 + 1/2 =1. 

The probability that theory 1 is correct is obtained by dividing

The probability that  random forces deposited the stones and the stones spell out "Jesus lives!"= 1/2

by

The probability that the stones spell out "Jesus lives" = 1

giving 1/2. 

 

So the probability that theory 1 (random forces deposited the stones) is 1/2. 

 

Anything wrong with my calculation?

Just about everything.

The only data you have is the existence of a set of stones spelling out clear english words, and the probability that one of the two possible theories is valid is 1, because it happened.

Therefore, if P1 is the random theory, and P2 is the  theory that some person laid them out, then at that point all you can say is that

P1 + P2 = 1

To estimate the probability of P1, you would at least have to work all the possible ways that many stones could randomly land on that area of sand, say = Nr.

Then a first estimate of P1, considered in isolation, would be 1/Nr.

For P2 by itself, you could estimate the number of people who might walk along that stretch of beach every day, how long it seems the stones may have been like that, what are the chances someone would have been there since the last time you knew the stones had not been there,  etc.

If you knew there was no-one around to have done it, then that would drop it way down. What are the chances someone had been there without you knowing it?

say you estimated the likelihood of someone who might have felt like doing that visiting that stretch of beach was 0.03, to pluck a figure out of the air. Ad the estimate of random effects was 0.001.

Then it would be reasonable to say it was 30 times more likely to be a person, ie

P1/P2 = 1/30

or P2 = 30 X P1

and since we know it has happened, then

substituting in P1 + P2 = 1, we get

P1 + 30 X P1 = 1

so P1 = 1/30.

Somewhat simplified, but I hope you see what I mean.

Not really relevant to my argument. It dopes suggest, along with your other comments, you don't have a good understanding of probabilities.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


racorfield
racorfield's picture
Posts: 15
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Probability

Well, nobody's perfect.  Let's see if I got this straight, using a point that CJ made. 

The probability that a bunch of stones will be deposited by chance to spell the words "Jesus lives!" is presumably very small. 

But if you come across a bunch of stones that already spells such words then the probability they spell the words is one because it has already happened. 

Hence there is no reason to believe that it is more likely a person deposited the stones rather than random forces. Reality is as it is. 

 

 

 

 

 


racorfield
racorfield's picture
Posts: 15
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Models and Reality

A student in a science class is doing an experiment to demonstrate Hooke's law.  He plots his points on a graph and they fall roughly in a straight line.  

 

We might argue that surely Hooke's law is likely to be true because if it was not true then the chances of the points falling roughly in a straight line would be minimal. 

 

However, the graph is only a model of reality and is not reality itself.  The graph was created by the student.  So whether Hooke's law is true or not, the probability that the points fall roughly in a straight line is not necessarily small. 

So Hooke's Law is kind of a construct created by the student. 

 

If the community of scientists together conspire to always plot points so that they fall in the shape of some curve then they could replace Hooke's law by a new law.  Thus they have enormous power.  They can design the laws to suit their own purposes. 


cj
atheistRational VIP!
cj's picture
Posts: 3330
Joined: 2007-01-05
User is offlineOffline
racorfield wrote:Well,

racorfield wrote:

Well, nobody's perfect.  Let's see if I got this straight, using a point that CJ made. 

The probability that a bunch of stones will be deposited by chance to spell the words "Jesus lives!" is presumably very small. 

But if you come across a bunch of stones that already spells such words then the probability they spell the words is one because it has already happened. 

Hence there is no reason to believe that it is more likely a person deposited the stones rather than random forces. Reality is as it is. 

 

Not quite.  As Bob pointed out, you can use the fact that it has happened in your calculations.  But you are mistaking determining the probability of a particular cause as opposed to the probability of the event.

The probability that the event happened is 1.

The probability that it was random is vanishingly small.  The probability that some person did it is much larger.  I don't have to determine the exact numbers to know that this is true. 

This is where many people who believe in theistic evolution get into trouble.  They want to believe that there is a creator and so they assign high value to the likelihood of an entity having created everything.  But they are ignoring many other factors.  The lack of intelligence in the design for instance.  The sheer diversity of life on our planet.  The relatedness between living organisms in three different measures - living structures, fossil structures, and genetics.  The supplementary supporting evidence - physics, chemistry, cosmology, genetics, ecology, radiology, and so on.  If you take into account reality and not just your wishful thinking, then evolution is the more probable cause.

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


cj
atheistRational VIP!
cj's picture
Posts: 3330
Joined: 2007-01-05
User is offlineOffline
racorfield wrote: A student

racorfield wrote:

A student in a science class is doing an experiment to demonstrate Hooke's law.  He plots his points on a graph and they fall roughly in a straight line.  

We might argue that surely Hooke's law is likely to be true because if it was not true then the chances of the points falling roughly in a straight line would be minimal. 

However, the graph is only a model of reality and is not reality itself.  The graph was created by the student.  So whether Hooke's law is true or not, the probability that the points fall roughly in a straight line is not necessarily small. 

So Hooke's Law is kind of a construct created by the student. 

If the community of scientists together conspire to always plot points so that they fall in the shape of some curve then they could replace Hooke's law by a new law.  Thus they have enormous power.  They can design the laws to suit their own purposes. 

 

Well, I'm sure someone wishes that were true.

It is true that all scientific laws were formulated by researchers.  It is also true that for some axiom to be considered a scientific law, it has to be repeatable.  And if someone mucks it up, there is always someone waiting to make a name for themselves by pointing out the error - whether the error was deliberate or not. 

Having been in physics lab myself, I know that most student experiments are not refined enough to get precise answers.  This is a fault of the lab, not the scientific theory being demonstrated.  Most universities can not afford to build the kind of lab for students that a researcher might use to test the same theory.  But it is a good lesson in historicity.  The conditions in most student labs closely mimic the conditions experienced by the "natural philosophers" a couple of centuries ago.  And so we can see how, even under very adverse conditions, you can still get that almost straight line.  The genius of the researchers of those bygone days is that they were able to extrapolate and synthesize to be able to create laws that have been demonstrated to be true under normal conditions.  There are a number of those laws that have been shown to be not true under conditions that are not what many people would call normal.

My degree is engineering.  An engineer is willing to take an answer that is close enough and then beef up the resultant system to allow for the occasional outlier.  A scientist will almost never take that as an answer but will continue to refine their experiment and equations to fine tune their theory.  The scientist has to face peer review while the engineer only has to face their client.  All good engineers carry lots of insurance.  There isn't any insurance for a scientist beyond what they have for the lab building.

 

-- I feel so much better since I stopped trying to believe.

"We are entitled to our own opinions. We're not entitled to our own facts"- Al Franken

"If death isn't sweet oblivion, I will be severely disappointed" - Ruth M.


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
racorfield wrote:Well,

racorfield wrote:

Well, nobody's perfect.  Let's see if I got this straight, using a point that CJ made. 

The probability that a bunch of stones will be deposited by chance to spell the words "Jesus lives!" is presumably very small. 

But if you come across a bunch of stones that already spells such words then the probability they spell the words is one because it has already happened. 

Hence there is no reason to believe that it is more likely a person deposited the stones rather than random forces. Reality is as it is. 

Sorry, the fact that something has already happened does not change the relative probability of possible explanations.

If P1,P2,...Pn are the various individual estimated probabilities of possible explanations.

Pu is the possibility of some other explanation you haven't thought of.

Then if Pt = P1 + P2 + ... + Pn  + Pu,

then a basic estimate of the probability of each theory would be

p1 = P1/Pt

p2 = P2/Pt,

etc.

Even if there are only two possible explanations, you are NOT logically justified in assuming each should be assumed to be p = 0.5, unless you have absolutely no other information on which to base an estimate of the individual likelihoods.

In the case of the emergence of life, we do have a number of plausible scenarios consistent with current scientific understanding.

We could say that:

Ps is the estimated probability of each individual scientific explanation,

Po is possibility of a natural explanation that we haven't though of yet,

and Pg is the possibility of God.

So

pg = Pg/(Ps + Po + Pg) for the probability of God being responsible.

Since Pg lacks any specific positive evidence, and goes beyond all known understanding, it is hard to make any case for God, especially since the scientific explanations are continuing to become more plausible.

The other aspect of the argument presented amounts to the Fine Tuning argument, ie, why are the laws of physics apparently 'just right' to allow life to emerge?

But that argument has been shown to be not well based, since originally it was analysed by imagining the effect of varying just one 'constant' at a time.

When you properly analyse it by considering the probability that there are combinations of other values which may allow for a universe which could support some kind of stable environment with complex structures, it is far more likely.

Then you have to consider that we really cannot estimate the basic probability that a value might fall in any specific range unless we have some plausible estimate of the fundamental upper and lower limits that each 'constant' could possibly have.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
Hooke's Law is not a theory,

Hooke's Law is not a theory, it is the expression of the observed behavior of normal solid materials when force is applied to them, as indicated by those plotted points.

A very bad example for what you seem to be trying to argue.

The associated theory would be an attempt to explain why we normally observe that behavior, and would ultimately get down to theories of the atomic/molecular structure of materials. That is what would be a model of reality, and ultimately, of course all we can have is such models, increasingly refined.

The process of science is precisely the attempt to test just how closely each model matches reality.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


racorfield
racorfield's picture
Posts: 15
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Back to fine tuning

So would it be true to say that:

The probability that the constants of physics are fine tuned for life is 1.

But the probability that these were random is vanishingly small.  The probability that there is some explanation for the fine tuning (whether it be an intelligent designer or multiple universes or some other explanation) is much larger. 

 

Then again you might argue that the constants of physics are given their values by scientists so it is not really remarkable that they are fine-tuned for life.  But the measured values of these constants would have to be repeatable so that these values are independent of the wishes of the scientists.  Something else (e.g. reality) is determining what these values are which is not inside the heads of scientists.  That being the case, would it not be remarkable if that something else determined the values of the constants to lie within narrow ranges which would be necessary for life to be possible anywhere in the universe? 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
racorfield wrote:So would it

racorfield wrote:

So would it be true to say that:

The probability that the constants of physics are fine tuned for life is 1.

But the probability that these were random is vanishingly small.  The probability that there is some explanation for the fine tuning (whether it be an intelligent designer or multiple universes or some other explanation) is much larger. 

 

Then again you might argue that the constants of physics are given their values by scientists so it is not really remarkable that they are fine-tuned for life.  But the measured values of these constants would have to be repeatable so that these values are independent of the wishes of the scientists.  Something else (e.g. reality) is determining what these values are which is not inside the heads of scientists.  That being the case, would it not be remarkable if that something else determined the values of the constants to lie within narrow ranges which would be necessary for life to be possible anywhere in the universe? 

No, to the first part.

The actual values of the constants of physics allow the emergence of life - fact, probability 1.

Also could be stated as:

The probability that there is at least one combination of physical constant values that allows life to emerge is 100%, since we exist.

They are not "given their values by scientists". Their values are measured by scientists, to ever more accuracy, by a variety of techniques.

We do not know if they really are 'fine-tuned' for life, meaning that we don't know what actual range of possible values they could have, determined by the ultimate base-level nature of reality. Since we don't seem to have dug down that far, if we ever can. This is pretty close to some of what you are saying in the second part, and scientists are way ahead of you there.

BTW, 'God' would not constitute an explanation, just a bigger mystery to be explained. God, or any other version of an ultimate designer is a primitive, stupid idea, when considered from any sort of informed perspective. The ultimate mystery is likely to be far more incomprehensible and counter-intuitive than any Gods we have imagined, if the success of Quantum Mechanics and Relativity is any guide.

The course of modern physics suggests that the ultimate explanation lies at the most basic level of the ultimate structure of reality, down below the quarks and gluons. Not at some over-arching 'being', which itself would be just as dependent on that same ultimate structure.

Complexity arises from multiple identical elements at the base. Identical, or at least a small number of classes of identical components, fundamental particles, whatever, allow regular laws to emerge describing their interactions. Collections of such elements into complex structures ultimately allows for processes such as Life to emerge.

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


racorfield
racorfield's picture
Posts: 15
Joined: 2010-12-30
User is offlineOffline
Fine tuning

Hi Bob

I should probably clarify what I am trying to argue which is that fine tuning requires some kind of explanation (not necessarily a deity). 

You have given such an explanation ( re mistake of varying constants individually) which is fair enough. 

I wouldn't have been satisfied with the following dismissals of fine tuning:

1) That probability of fine tuning is 1  because it has already happened and hence no coincidence exists.

2) That values of constants are just figures placed in models and these models are human creations (which I agree that they are) so that there is nothing necessarily in reality which is coincidental.  As you say the models have to be tested to see if they match reality so to my mind  if a model representing the universe as finely tuned actually matches the universe so if the model was finely tuned for life as it were then so would the universe be. 

I agree (from reading your posts) that it is not necessary that certain molecular combinations are more likely than others in order to explain the origin of life.  Although I would quibble with the idea that each molecular combination is equally likely to another molecular combination, but this doesn't have any cosmic significance.  For example say if some carbon atoms were loose in amongst some hydrogen atoms, I would think that CH4 would end up being pretty common but that C9H20 would be a rather less likely combination.  

 

 


BobSpence
High Level DonorRational VIP!ScientistWebsite Admin
BobSpence's picture
Posts: 5852
Joined: 2006-02-14
User is offlineOffline
racorfield wrote:Hi BobI

racorfield wrote:

Hi Bob

I should probably clarify what I am trying to argue which is that fine tuning requires some kind of explanation (not necessarily a deity). 

You have given such an explanation ( re mistake of varying constants individually) which is fair enough. 

I wouldn't have been satisfied with the following dismissals of fine tuning:

1) That probability of fine tuning is 1  because it has already happened and hence no coincidence exists.

2) That values of constants are just figures placed in models and these models are human creations (which I agree that they are) so that there is nothing necessarily in reality which is coincidental.  As you say the models have to be tested to see if they match reality so to my mind  if a model representing the universe as finely tuned actually matches the universe so if the model was finely tuned for life as it were then so would the universe be. 

I agree (from reading your posts) that it is not necessary that certain molecular combinations are more likely than others in order to explain the origin of life.  Although I would quibble with the idea that each molecular combination is equally likely to another molecular combination, but this doesn't have any cosmic significance.  For example say if some carbon atoms were loose in amongst some hydrogen atoms, I would think that CH4 would end up being pretty common but that C9H20 would be a rather less likely combination.

As I said, I don't think we actually know enough about the constants to say whether or not there is any 'fine-tuning'.

I certainly would allow that different classes of molecules would have different likelihoods, but within any category where they are of similar size and structure, such as amino acids, or proteins, they would be roughly equally likely to occur by random processes.

But within such classes, as we go to larger molecules, the number of possible arrangements can be very large.

 

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology