John Lennox has challenged whether science can prove everything? However, in this presentation, Dr Leonard Long will address the question, “Can science prove anything?” Science is practised within a belief system based on unprovable presuppositions, and can study only the patterns of behaviour of an already given functional, predictable, universe. Scientists who wander into bad philosophy will be critiqued, as will scientism – the overblown belief in science.
So Leonard’s address includes the following topics:
Nature of science,
Ideological corruption within science, and
Interference of politics and funding within science.
My philosophy lecturer once said, “All philosophy is a commentary on Plato”. There is much that is impressive about Greek philosophers, such as Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. In Athens Paul referred to Stoic philosophers as a point of contact in proclaiming the Jewish Messiah. Early Christian apologists integrated Platonism with Christian belief but others were not so keen. Tertullian, a notable early church father, put it this way: “What has Athens got to do with Jerusalem?” What is the relationship between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world? Are they different?
These questions are considered here by Geoff Russell.
The French term “expérience de mort immente” (experience of imminent death) was proposed by French psychologist Victor Egger as a result of discussions in the 1890s among philosophers and psychologists concerning climbers’ stories of the panoramic life review during falls. In 1892 a series of subjective observations by workers falling from scaffolds, soldiers who suffered injuries, climbers who had fallen from heights or other individuals who had come close to death (near drownings, accidents) was reported by Albert Heim. This was also the first time the phenomenon was described as a clinical syndrome.
Professor Kenneth Ring (1980) subdivided Near Death Experiences (NDEs) into a five-stage continuum. The subdivisions were:
Seeing the light
Entering the light
The following explanatory models have been proposed for NDEs
Spiritual or Transcendental models
Physiological (organic) explanations
So what should we make of NDEs? Cardiac surgeons are objective observers of people who “die on the operating table”. They have to write clinical reports that are subject to review. Some of their patients come back to life after being pronounced dead. What do surgeons think about NDE? Are NDEs a preview into the afterlife?
Stephen White tells us what he has found. His presentation is on You Tube.
In modern Western Cultures today it seems that there is more “moral” outrage and indignation about “right” and “wrong” than ever before. It appears that our anger is growing and that, increasingly, we seem splintered into ever smaller groups with ever opposing yet solidly entrenched views with little hope of consensus on any issue of importance. There seems little doubt that this moral anger and outrage is being fuelled by social media. In light of this increasing debate about right and wrong, investigation and civil conversation about “morality” and its implications would be valuable.
Tom Daly presents the “moral argument for God” and examines more closely what we actually mean when we claim something to be “good/bad” or “right/wrong” and if this tells us something about ourselves, our ideas, our anger and also something about the existence of God. We will consider the moral argument for God in light of mankind’s ability to discern right and wrong, and the fact that we seem to be moral beings at our core. Yet scientism tells us that we are merely amoral matter that has developed ideas and feelings of morality by the amoral process of evolution, which, at its core, has what we feel to be the immoral notion that the strong eat the weak. Hopefully we can “reason together”.
Everyone has morals. Christians have morals, Muslims have morals, Hindus have morals and atheists have morals, but where do those morals come from? What is the underlying basis provided by those belief systems for the morality their adherents lay claim to? Also, what would a totally non-moral human look like, if it were even possible for such a person to exist?
In the case of atheism, is there any source for morality? Is there an atheist morality? If there is, then what is it? If there isn’t, then what explanation do we have for the fact that atheists are moral beings?
Brian Schroeder attempts to look at all this and more by drawing from both atheist and theist sources.
Most people have some awareness of artificial intelligence (AI), perhaps from Hollywood movies or news articles about driverless cars. However, most people are not yet aware of the breadth of applications possible today, nor the stunning advances that have been made with AI in recent years. Already there are a growing number of important ethical and practical implications arising from these current and continuing advances in AI; yet the general public is not involved, nor the Church and even governments are scrambling to catch-up. This talk is part 1 of a 2-talk series on AI and will survey the current status of AI as well as near term advances. It will introduce and consider ethical questions such as:
What are the impacts for jobs in civil society in next few years and decades?
What are the right and wrong uses of AI technology? For example, should we use AI robots to keep the elderly “company”?
What happens when video and audio can be created by AI so well that real video/audio is indistinguishable from generated?
What are the risks from our current and likely future reliance on AI technology?
What conversations should we be having to care for each other as AI ushers in a huge increase in the pace of change?
Most naturalists or atheists believe that the mind is totally the result of the physical operation of the brain. If this is true, then all of our thoughts, emotions and choices are due to the physical movements of atoms and molecules within the brain and are ultimately solely due to the laws of physics. It then it seems to strongly imply that all our thoughts and choices are determined by the motion of particles within the brain and that our perception that we have free will is an illusion. (more…)
Should we argue for God’s Existence?
On Thursday the 21st of November Mike Russell spoke on “Should we argue for God’s existence?” Mike believes that we should presuppose God’s existence in apologetic discourse. He calls his apologetic approach ‘no-excuse intuitionism’. The dividing line between what we should argue for using evidence and what we should presuppose is governed by the principle of no excuse. Any element of moral truth that a person needs to know to live a blameless life, he ought to know, and can know by intuition. However, the Holy Spirit works through the arguments and evidences from the Scriptures. Thus any other element of truth that a person needs to know to be saved through Jesus can and should be argued for using evidence and arguments.
So, according to Mike, if you do not believe in God, then you ought to, without requiring any evidence.
Some were convinced and others were not. Mike has provided us with his Power Point Slides and the presentation and discussion has been recorded on You Tube. The full content of his talk is the subject of his current Master’s thesis and so cannot be published. However, he is happy to provide the full text through Reasonable Faith Adelaide, provided that it is not published or passed on. Please email me if you would like a copy. We are also hoping that Mike will provide a brief summary that we can provide with this post.
Mike is married to Ally, and they have four children. He has been a Christian for around 20 years, and is Associate minister at St. George’s Magill. He is currently writing an MTh thesis in the area of apologetics.
Krauss Versus Craig
Why is there something rather than nothing?
On Thursday 26th of September, Reasonable Faith Adelaide reviewed the “dialogue” between William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss on the topic “Why is there something rather than nothing?” This dialogue was held on the 13th of August in Sydney.
William Lane Craig is the director of Reasonable Faith in the US and is a leading apologetics debater. He spoke at two functions in Adelaide via the City Bible Forum and many of us had the opportunity to hear him and meet him personally. However, his main activity in Australia was the series of “dialogues” with Lawrence Krauss.
Lawrence Krauss is a high profile New Atheist. He has spent a significant time in Australia and has appeared on Q&A on two occasions.
There were 3 dialogues held in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Krauss chose a dialogue format rather than a debate. This enabled a highly interactive discussion that was quite volatile. For instance, in Brisbane Krauss launched a personal attack on William Lane Craig. He accused him of being a dishonest charlatan. He later softened his line a little and admitted that Craig was a gentleman who sincerely believed in his cause but still accused him of presenting deliberate distortions to bolster his arguments.
I highly recommend that you watch each dialogue and judge for yourself who the honest man really is. They are all now available from the City Bible Forum site at:
The topic “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is closely related to Krauss’ most recent book “A Universe from Nothing”, which was reviewed by Mark Worthing on the 15th of August.
The dialogue format consisted of a 15 minute talk by each speaker followed by a discussion, moderated by Rachael Kohns, the presenter of “The Spirit of Things”, which is an ABC radio show.
Krauss spoke first and his main points were:
Craig presents deliberate distortions
We are not the centre of the universe. There is no special place.
We live in flat universe, which has a total energy of zero. This suggests that the universe could come into existence from nothing without any “divine shenanigans”.
The Bible claimed that the universe had a beginning before science did. However, so did many other creation myths, so what is unique about the Bible? It is often claimed that the Bible is not a scientific book so why suddenly make a switch and claim that Genesis 1:1 is a scientific statement?
The fine tuning of the laws of physics is a source of fascination. However, a multiverse may explain the fine tuning and the fine tuning could be better. So the fine tuning is not evidence of divine design.
One of Craig’s commonly used arguments is the Kalam Cosmological Argument. He uses this argument to show that the cosmos had a beginning, which requires a transcendent cause by a necessarily existent being. One of the evidences to support a physical beginning is the Borde, Guth and Vlenkin (BGV) Theorem. In response, Krauss’s displayed the following personal email from Vilenkin:
Any theorem is only as good as its assumptions. The BGV theorem says that if the universe is on average expanding along a given worldline, this worldline cannot be infinite to the past. A possible loophole is that there might be an epoch of contraction prior to the expansion. Models of this sort have been discussed by Aguirre & Gratton and by Carroll & Chen…Jaume Garriga and I are now exploring a picture of the multiverse where the BGV theorem may not apply. In bubbles of negative vacuum energy, expansion is followed by contraction… However, it is conceivable (and many people think likely) that singularities will be resolved in the theory of quantum gravity, so the internal collapse of the bubbles will be followed by an expansion. In this scenario,… it is not at all clear that the BGV assumption (expansion on average) will be satisfied… Of course there is no such thing as absolute certainty in science, especially in matters like the creation of the universe. Note for example that the BGV theorem uses a classical picture of spacetime. In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.
Krauss used this email to argue that the BGV theorem did not necessarily indicate a beginning. Krauss reused this email during the Melbourne dialogue. In Melbourne Craig questioned Krauss on the missing bits indicated by the ellipsis markers. Krauss claimed that these were “technical bits”.
Subsequent to the dialogues, Craig wrote to Vilenkin, who supplied the full text of the email, as given below. The sections in bold are the “technical bits” that Krauss omitted.
Any theorem is only as good as its assumptions. The BGV theorem says that if the universe is on average expanding along a given worldline, this worldline cannot be infinite to the past.
A possible loophole is that there might be an epoch of contraction prior to the expansion. Models of this sort have been discussed by Aguirre & Gratton and by Carroll & Chen. They had to assume though that the minimum of entropy was reached at the bounce and offered no mechanism to enforce this condition. It seems to me that it is essentially equivalent to a beginning.
On the other hand, Jaume Garriga and I are now exploring a picture of the multiverse where the BGV theorem may not apply. In bubbles of negative vacuum energy, expansion is followed by contraction, and it is usually assumed that this ends in a big crunch singularity. However, it is conceivable (and many people think likely) that singularities will be resolved in the theory of quantum gravity, so the internal collapse of the bubbles will be followed by an expansion. In this scenario, a typical worldline will go through a succession of expanding and contracting regions, and it is not at all clear that the BGV assumption (expansion on average) will be satisfied.
I suspect that the theorem can be extended to this case, maybe with some additional assumptions. But of course there is no such thing as absolute certainty in science, especially in matters like the creation of the universe. Note for example that the BGV theorem uses a classical picture of spacetime. In the regime where gravity becomes essentially quantum, we may not even know the right questions to ask.
If you have been reading this summary carefully, you may have noticed that Krauss’s arguments are not particularly relevant to the topic. However, he did show a short video clip that explained how nothing is more complicated than previously thought. Craig subsequently provided a summary of Krauss’ claims about nothing, which I have listed below.
In 1922, William Hughes Mearns published the following poem.
The other day upon the stair
I met a man who wasn’t there
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away
Mearns is guilty of calling nothing something. However, Krauss seems to be guilty of the opposite sin. He calls something nothing; and this was the main thrust of Craig’s argument.
“Nothing” is not a different type of something. It is “not anything”. However, Krauss defines something to be nothing. Here are some quotations from Krauss:
There are a variety of forms of nothing, they all have physical definitions
The laws of quantum mechanics tell us that nothing is unstable
70% of the dominant stuff of the universe is nothing
There is nothing there, but it has energy
Nothing weighs something
Nothing is almost everything
The above quotations were almost identical with Krauss’s video clip. They all illustrate that Krauss is being misleading in his use of the word “nothing”. In all instance his use of nothing is really something, whether it be a quantum vacuum or quantum mechanical systems.
Craig further supported Krauss’s misrepresentation of nothing with a quote from “On the origin of everything” by David Albert, a philosopher of science.
Vacuum states are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff…the fact that some arrangements of fields happen to correspond to the existence of particles and some don’t is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that some of the possible arrangements of my fingers happen to correspond to the existence of a fist and some don’t. And the fact that particles can pop in and out of existence, over time, as those fields rearrange themselves, is not a whit more mysterious than the fact that fists can pop in and out of existence, over time, as my fingers rearrange themselves. And none of these poppings…amount to anything even remotely in the neighbourhood of a creation from nothing. Krauss is dead wrong and his religious and philosophical critics are absolutely right.
Craig then presented Gottfried Leibniz’ argument for the existence of God based on the Principle of Sufficient Reason:
Every existing thing has an explanation of its existence (either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause).
If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
The universe exists.
Therefore, the universe has an explanation of its existence (from 1 and 3).
Therefore, the explanation of the universe’s existence is God (from 2 and 4).
I suggest you watch the video to see how Craig supported this argument.
The interesting part of the discussion was on Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument. The central point of discussion was premise 2, “If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.” During Craig’s talk, he had presented arguments to support premise 2. Krauss’s question was, “If there is an explanation, why does it have to be God?” More importantly, what type of explanation are we talking about? Is it a causal explanation or is it about purpose? This is extremely important to the argument and Craig was about to explain. However, at this stage, Rachael (the moderator) was obviously out of her depth and so interrupted the argument with a silly question about aliens. So, all was lost and now we will never know. Thank you Rachael.
Some of the discussion was confusing and difficult to follow. In all 3 dialogues the discussion was hindered by Krauss’s frequent interruptions and shouting over the top of Craig to prevent him from completing his explanations. However, in my opinion one observation was clear from the Sydney dialogue. Krauss is equivocating in his use of nothing. He is confusing something with nothing to argue how the universe could arise from nothing, when it is really something. He has conceded that it is likely that the physical cosmos has a beginning, but has not in reality provided any explanation for its origin or the reason why it exists. Science attempts to explain how the physical world can be transformed from one physical state into another. However, it always presupposes a prior physical state. To explain how the physical world can arise from absolutely nothing is inherently beyond the scope of physics. That is what “meta-physics” is all about.