Aunt Matilda’s Cake

In the book “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?” by John Lennox he puts forward the example of Aunt Matilda’s cake to illustrate the limited nature of science.

The scenario has Aunt Matilda baking a cake and number of scientists are asked to describe it. A nutritionists might tell us about the carbohydrates, fats, sugars, proteins, vitamins, and minerals the cake contains. A chemist might be able to tell us about the chemical structures are reactions taking place as the cake is cooked. A physicist could tell us about the atomic bonds between the molecules of the cake. Yet to spite all their knowledge about the cake’s composition and structure, none of them are able to say why the cake was baked. To complete the scene Aunt Matilda only smiles when asked, never revealing her secret.

The analogy to the universe is clear. While we can investigate the reality of galaxies in which we find ourselves, only the creator is able to reveal why he created it in the first place. For all the wisdom of science there are some questions which simply cannot be answered. These reside in another realm – a non-overlapping magisteria.

There are a number of problems I see with this analogy:

1) The entire scenario simply assumes a creator.

A universe is a very different thing to a cake. A cake is composed of pre-existing matter arranged in a certain configuration which he label “cake”. As far as we can tell, a universe comes from nothing and nowhere. These are very different propositions and to equate one with the other is a category error.

In order to validly pose the question “why did the creator make us” a creator must first be demonstrated. We can easily confirm Aunt Matilda bakes cakes – just witness the act in motion. How can we confirm the creation of universes? Where is God’s universe factory?

2) We do not need to ask Aunt Matilda to deduce the reason she baked the cake.

While Aunt Matilda may be getting senile and difficult in her old age, we are not required to rely on her testimony to determine the purpose of the cake. A good scientist is also good detective. We know cake’s are usually baked for celebrations of some sort – birthdays, anniversaries, and other special events. We can interrogate the birth records of her friends and family and see if any are due shortly. We can read newspaper notices for announcements of births or marriages. We can check if anyone she knows has recently had some good news, or if she has been invited to a party. All of these are reasonable indicators which may give correct answers, but there is no way of being certain of your conclusion. This kind of uncertainty is perfectly normal in scientific circles.

Of course, there is another way we can determine the purpose of the cake – follow it. Stalk Aunt Matilda as she boxes the cake up, bundles it into the car, and delivers it to its destination. If she takes it to her grandson James’s 5th birthday party, we can safely deduce it was the purpose of the cake all along. This is completely within the scope of science and requires no revelation whatsoever.

3) Even if Aunt Matilda does tell us, we have no way of knowing if this was the true reason.

Lastly, Aunt Matilda might breakdown and tell us the why she baked the cake, but this is no guarantee either. She may have made it the cake for some purpose which has since dissipated – a congratulatory gift for someone’s new job which fell through for some reason. She may be a pathological liar and never tell us her true intentions. She might be misinforming us to obfuscate the truth; For example, the cake may be a surprise gift for us. So even if Aunt Matilda does tell us, we still have no way of knowing.

Ultimately, I do not think Aunt Matilda’s cake rises to the occasion.

Posted September 26, 2010
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  • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

    In the book Lennox uses the analogy to point to the limitations of science (see him explain the analogy here) Not to argue that the universe must have a creator. He hasn't just assumed the universe has a creator, though he does point out that if there is a creator who stands in relation to the universe as Aunt Matilda does to the cake (he says that question is raised, not that there necessarily is) then we we would also have to ask if he'd revealed anything. I didn't get the impression he was arguing for NOMA either.. Your 1st points seems to misunderstand the purpose of the analogy in this sense.
    Your 2nd point is of course no longer pure science: physic and chemistry (he is also arguing against ontological reductionism). Of course, if you add extra information into the analogy you might be able to do some sleuth work (why would the cake still be given if it's been dissected?) – but the point remains that no amount of physics and chemistry at that point can tell you the purpose – you have to ask her. And as Lennox says – her revelation doesn't shut down our reason – we use reason to see if her explanation makes sense.

    You're right that you can never really have empirical proof that she's telling the truth – you have to use your reasoning and past experience with her. It does not make it unreasonable to accept her explanation and revelation. I doubt there is anybody who would consistently demand that any revelation their friends or family discloses to them be empirically proven before they would accept it as true. It's interesting that you allow a certain amount of uncertainty when it stems from detective work (socio-historical investigation more than physic and chemistry) but not in terms of personal revelation.

    Btw, are youreferencing this?

    Kudos on the pun though.

    • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

      "It's interesting that you allow a certain amount of uncertainty when it stems from detective work (socio-historical investigation more than physic and chemistry) but not in terms of personal revelation."

      Socio-historical evidence can be re-examined, compared and cross-checked – what can be done with personal revelation?

      • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

        what can be done with personal revelation?

        Why could it not necessarily also be 're-examined, compared and cross-checked'? (In any case, I can't imagine that Andrew's sleuth would go checking the local birthday column without having first asked Aunt Matilda why she made it) You still have a measure of empirical uncertainty. And as I pointed out – Lennox advocates this kind of reasoned evaluation of revelation, to see that it makes sense.

        • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

          You can of course 're-examine, compare and cross-check' but against what? I'd prefer to do so against more empirical and less error-prone sources of information.

          As far as I'm concerned (and so is science and the justic system), personal 'revelation' as you put it is the worst form of evidence for anything there is. Yes, you have empirical uncertainty, immense amounts of uncertainty.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            You can of course 're-examine, compare and cross-check' but against what?

            It would depend on the context – in the context of Aunt M's cake, as Andrew points out, if she says it's for her Nephew's birthday or wedding, we can check council records etc. (which is more historical investigation than it is emiprical science I think). Of course, if it's for no specific occasion, just out of her love for fruitcake, such checking is much more difficult. I think, however, most people would find it reasonable enough to trust Aunt M when she tells us the reason she made the cake is for her nephew.

            As far as I'm concerned (and so is science and the justic system), personal 'revelation' as you put it is the worst form of evidence for anything there is. Yes, you have empirical uncertainty, immense amounts of uncertainty.

            The justice system – unless you 'reveal' that you're guilty.. see how much more investigation the detective will after he gets a confession! ;P But, while I acknowledge there is empirical uncertainty, the point is that for some things we just have to realise that we have to live with such uncertainty – Lennox's whole point is that there are certain questions where you simply cannot get an empirical answer but that this doesn't make it inherently unreasonable to accept.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            "Of course, if it's for no specific occasion, just out of her love for fruitcake, such checking is much more difficult."

            So it's entirely possible that god as no specific purpose in mind for this universe – he just goes around making universe because he loves the them.

            " I think, however, most people would find it reasonable enough to trust Aunt M when she tells us the reason she made the cake is for her nephew."

            Most people build up trust with their relations and may well take their word. This does not mean what they tell you is always true.

            "…see how much more investigation the detective will after he gets a confession! "

            Lazy detectives are not a good reason to throw out the justice system. Moreover, empirical scientific evidence will trump "revelation" in every case. You may fervently admit to a murder, but of there is incontrovertible forensic evidence you were in another country at the time you will not be convicted.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            So it's entirely possible that god as no specific purpose in mind for this universe – he just goes around making universe because he loves the them.

            Yeah, it's possible – but that's also not the point of the analogy.

            Most people build up trust with their relations and may well take their word. This does not mean what they tell you is always true.

            Of course. But if you've reason to trust a relative, it's not unreasonable to believe them when they reveal something to you.

            Lazy detectives are not a good reason to throw out the justice system.

            I said nothing about throwing out the justice system, nor is accepting a confession lazy policing.

            Moreover, empirical scientific evidence will trump "revelation" in every case. You may fervently admit to a murder, but of there is incontrovertible forensic evidence you were in another country at the time you will not be convicted.

            Actually, if you admit murder, it's unlikely to even get to trial. Detective don't bother looking for any more evidence if they have a confession. Confessions seal cases. But that's all rather a tangent.

        • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

          "I can't imagine that Andrew's sleuth would go checking the local birthday column without having first asked Aunt Matilda why she made it."

          In the scenario (as I understand it) asking Aunt Matilda is pointless, so I did not address it. In reality one might ask Matilda why she made the cake and get the trademark grin – then they go looking for possible answers. Your objection is rather pointless.

          "Lennox advocates this kind of reasoned evaluation of revelation, to see that it makes sense."

          So even the great Lennox does not rely on revelation alone.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            In the scenario (as I understand it) asking Aunt Matilda is pointless, so I did not address it.

            Then you seem to have severely misunderstood the scenario! For it is precisely the point, and hence, not at all pointless.

            . In reality one might ask Matilda why she made the cake and get the trademark grin – then they go looking for possible answers. Your objection is rather pointless.

            You might very well investigate possible purposes and motivations, but to do so with anything approaching certainty (you can never be sure) you have to add a whole stack of assumptions about the kind of cake it is. If it's just a generic cake, Lennox analogy stands – the only way to know why she made it is if she tells you.

            So even the great Lennox does not rely on revelation alone.

            Ooh..is that sarcasm I detect? Claws away Mr Skegg.. just because he happens to be a respected scientist and you aren't, there's no need for that. To your point: where did he ever say he only ever relies on 'revelation alone'? In your haste to refute the good Professor, you seem to have not paid careful enough attention to his actual argument.

    • cafeeine

      It seemed to me that Andrew wasn't saying that Lennox was arguing for a creator. However, in order for the analogy to make sense, Lennox must presuppose the existence of some agent, as he readily admits in the video you offered. To claim that science cannot examine the purpose not given by a non-existent entity is nonsensical. We are therefore already laboring under a presupposition that some god exists and can offer personal revelation.

      This is in my opinion an elusive move, since the issue of whether a god active in reality (and a god who offers personal revelations to people can certainly be said to be active) exists is very much within the purview of science. If the existence of such a god proves inconclusive, the question of its motives becomes inconsequential. Lennox is trying to pass off his biggest problem as if it was a assumed true, which it isn't.

      Now, he may be simply trying to say that this is true within the Christian worldview, where the existence of God is assumed to be real, but this is of no consequence in a discussion with an atheist who doesn't share that presupposition, and in fact challenges it.

      But this is just the beginning: Lennox is saying that physics and chemistry cannot give the reason Aunt Matilda baked the cake. But physics and chemistry are subdivisions of science by subject of inquiry. If you want to talk 'pure science', you must refer simply to the scientific method, which is the backbone of science, and that's the essence of Andrew's explanation. The fact is that we can attain a reasonable certainty as to the reasons behind the cake, and in fact, we may also figure out whether aunt Matilda even baked the cake or rather bought a ready made one, or even find out that Aunt Matilda is really uncle Matt in drag. Personal revelation is not an alternative to scientific inquiry, its just one of its raw materials.

      To re-cap, I still think that the whole purpose of this argument is to move scientific scrutiny away from the pertinent point of god's existence to the nebulous area of its motivations.

      • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

        Lennox must presuppose the existence of some agent, as he readily admits in the video you offered.

        In the video he doesn't make such an assumption – he says that it raises the question of such an agent and he points out that if such an agent were to exist, he would stand in relation to the universe the same way Aunt M stands in relation to the cake.

        the issue of whether a god active in reality … exists is very much within the purview of science…. Lennox is trying to pass off his biggest problem as if it was a assumed true, which it isn't.

        Lennox, in the book, seems to argue persuasively that meta-physics is outside the scope of science which operates using methodological naturalism. He's not eluding anything, rather, he argues why your accusation is invalid.

        • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

          "Lennox, in the book, seems to argue persuasively that meta-physics is outside the scope of science …"

          Of course meta-phsyics is outside the scope of science. Science deals with reality.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            Of course meta-phsyics is outside the scope of science. Science deals with reality.

            One day you might just see how that is a circular, question begging statement.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            "One day you might just see how that is a circular, question begging statement."

            And one day you might see how unfalsifiable hypothesis are useless.

            Ponder this: What if I claim there are 37 meta-phsical worlds beyond our own. It was "revealed to me". Since the scientific method can only deal with reality on this plane, the others cannot be detected using this method. Therefore I will live my life as if there are 37 planes of existence. QED.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            I didn't think you advocated the multi-verse theory? ;p

            In any case, even if you're right about unfalsifiable hypotheses (and I think that many philosophers would take issue with that btw) it doesn't excuse you from making a fallacious circular argument. Don't deflect.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            Hello pot. This is kettle.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            http://pactiss.org/resources/media-articles-carto

            Btw, I pondered your red herring strawman.. are you ok with me sticking to the actually point of Lennox's argument?

      • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

        pt 2

        Lennox is saying that physics and chemistry cannot give the reason Aunt Matilda baked the cake. But physics and chemistry are subdivisions of science by subject of inquiry.

        As I said, Lennox also is here and elsewhere in the book, arguing against Ontological Reductionism which is the view that everything can be reduced to physics and chemistry.

        If you want to talk 'pure science', you must refer simply to the scientific method, which is the backbone of science, and that's the essence of Andrew's explanation.

        Perhaps 'pure' was the wrong term (in fact, I recall Lennox suggesting that his own discipline of Mathematics is the only truly 'pure' science). As a philosopher of science he's no stranger to the scientific method. Wikipedia puts it:

        Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena, and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses. These steps must be repeatable, to predict future results.

        I don't see how the kind of PI sleuth work Andrew described resembles that kind of repeatability and experiment as you seem to say. I think what Andrew describes is the kind of reason and 'seeing if it makes sense' that Lennox is talking about more than it is the scientific method in action. I think Lennox is right to point out that there are certain kinds of questions that you simply can't apply such methods too – the example he gives being that of purpose. (Again, he doesn't assume the universe has purpose, he simply says that if it did, we couldn't use science to figure that out)

        The fact is that we can attain a reasonable certainty as to the reasons behind the cake, and in fact, we may also figure out whether aunt Matilda even baked the cake or rather bought a ready made one, or even find out that Aunt Matilda is really uncle Matt in drag.

        Science might be able to tell you that it was baked in a commercial oven, not a home one – but that says nothing about Aunt M doing it. How do you know she doesn't work at Woolies? If you see a reciept that's actually a kind of revelation (from the store) that she bought it there.
        If it's got 'happy birthday James' written on it, that's actually a revelation from the icer – you need more than physics and chemistry to figure out that this means it's for James' birthday (meaning and letters / numbers is another of Lennox big points later in the book actually). Looking at newspaper wedding announcements is also a form of revelation – again, science won't tell you the date of a wedding. But what if the cake is simply a chocolate cake with plain icing – no revelatory indication in the icing, you still have to rely on the revelation of Aunt M to tell you why she made it (you might be able to check up if it's for a specific, advertised occasion, but if it's just for her nephew with no other festive motive, you pretty much just have to accept it). Neither historical-type sleuth work nor revelation (and the two are linked actually.. how much history is based on textual attestation compared with archaeology?) will give the empirical certainty that doing repeatable experiments in a science lab will give you – but that doesn't make it invalid or unreasonable to accept them necessarily.

        Personal revelation is not an alternative to scientific inquiry, its just one of its raw materials.

        I wouldn't say it's an alternative (it's complimentary) but I think you're blurring the lines about what science and the scientific method is to say that it's a raw part of it. Sometimes you might be able to check revelation via science (e.g. if Aunt M says the cake is gluten free, you can test to see if that is true or not).

        I still think that the whole purpose of this argument is to move scientific scrutiny away from the pertinent point of god's existence to the nebulous area of its motivations.

        Not at all. It is one his foundational point in the book – before he moves to the issue of God's existence and related issues, he deals with things like Scientism and Ontological Reductionism. Though as the title suggests, he does seem primarily interested in debunking popular arguments about science apparently 'burying' God.

        • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

          "…arguing against Ontological Reductionism which is the view that everything can be reduced to physics and chemistry"

          I believe Lennox is wrong. He has philosophised another reality beyond our own, but has done nothing to demonstrate is actually exists. What you have is wishful thinking to support your preconceived ideas.

          "…the example he gives being that of purpose."

          Lennox simply assumes a purpose – he has not shown there IS one.

          "If you see a reciept that's actually a kind of revelation (from the store) that she bought it there."

          No – it's empirical evidence.

          "You need more than physics and chemistry to figure out that this means it's for James' birthday"

          Yes – you need language. A commonly agreed set of symbols which convey meaning between minds (in brains), which are encoded by arranging matter. But this is another topic entirely and has nothing to do with revelation as described by Aunt Matilda's cake analogy.

          "Looking at newspaper wedding announcements is also a form of revelation…"

          No – it's just reading. Again, we seek patterns we recognise as letters and punctation marks. We interpret them. No magic revelation here, just cognition.

          "…but if it's just for her nephew with no other festive motive, you pretty much just have to accept it"

          No I don't – I can track the cake to see what happens to it. If it is delivered to someone else for another reason, then I can conclude Aunt Matilda is a lying bitch.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            I believe Lennox is wrong. He has philosophised another reality beyond our own, but has done nothing to demonstrate is actually exists. What you have is wishful thinking to support your preconceived ideas.

            Actually, in this analogy and in his other arguments against ontological reductionism, he has done no such thing.

            Lennox simply assumes a purpose – he has not shown there IS one.

            No he doesn't assume that – he is pointing out the relationship of science to the question of purpose (should one exist, how would we explore that). This is the fundamental error you seem to have made in understanding the point analogy.

            No – it's empirical evidence.

            No – receipt is a document that tells you that someone bought something. it might or might not be genuine. As it relates to a past event you can't repeat and observe it. As it is not produced by experiment or observation you cannot call it empircal data. (it's a kind of historical evidence really.)

            But this is another topic entirely and has nothing to do with revelation as described by Aunt Matilda's cake analogy.

            Yes, information is another issue – except the point here is that you can't use physics or chemistry to determine the meaning of the writing on the cake (or even that it is writing) – you rightly said we need language to understand the message that is revealed by that writing.

            No – it's just reading. Again, we seek patterns we recognise as letters and punctation marks. We interpret them. No magic revelation here, just cognition.

            Strawman. This has nothing to do with 'magic'. If you're reading what a person is telling you, then that is revelation. The ad-placer is revealing to readers that there will be Wedding on Saturday. It's easily verifiable revelation, but a kind of revelation none-the-less.

            No I don't – I can track the cake to see what happens to it. If it is delivered to someone else for another reason, then I can conclude Aunt Matilda is a lying bitch.

            Yeah, but you missed her leave because you were taking the.. er.. a piss, and by the time you caught up he'd already eaten it and gotten on a flight to London.

            Even so – you're still ignoring the point that Lennox made about using reason to see if revelation makes sense. Some revelation will be easily verified, such as who it was made for, but how are you going to verify that little Jimmy likes raisins in the cake? You might see him gobble it up and conclude that he's telling the truth, but maybe he's just doing that to make his dear old aunt happy? Sometimes you just have to be satisfied with a certain amount of uncertainty – as you said you would be with a historical kind of sleuth investigation of the matter.

          • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

            I'm sorry but did you just essentially try and argue that virtually anything we perceive is revelation?

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            I believe he did. Everything is revealed to us – even the results of empirical investigation. Since the approach applies to everything, I fail to see how it has any value whatsoever.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            Strawman.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            No, I did not.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            I believe he did. Everything is revealed to us – even the results of empirical investigation. Since the approach applies to everything, I fail to see how it has any value whatsoever.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            Groundhog day?

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            Just quickly, I am amused by this exchange:

            I stated "Lennox simply assumes a purpose – he has not shown there IS one." to which you replied "No he doesn't assume that – he is pointing out the relationship of science to the question of purpose (should one exist…."

            Should one exist? That was entirely my point! Lennox has not shown there is a purpose, but (for the sake of argument) is assuming there is one then philosophizing about it. I reject the basic premise as I do not see any reason to suspect the is a "purpose" in the sense discussed here.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            There is quite a difference between looking at the limitations of science to such relationship and actually assuming specific ones. How on earth does 'should one exist' = 'one exists'? He's talking about principles which would apply if (the word you are conveniently ignoring) someone stood in relation to the universe the same way – that is not the same as saying that someone does stand in such a relationship. You're tilting at windmills.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            You're being obtuse. I recognised the word "if" and highlighted it. Lennox's argument is "IF blah blah blah." and gives no reason this IF is even true. The entire castle is built on sand, and I am calling you and Lennox out on this bullshit.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            He doesn't have to because he's not saying (at that point) that it is true! He's simply setting out a principle of the kinds of questions and relationships that science is unable to answer – you're looking at the wrong castle!! You're confusing his reference to a possibility as an assumption of fact. Your 'call' against Lennox is totally misguided as you've not rightly understood his argument. I recall you getting just as waylaid in the past with IF-THEN syllogisms too…

          • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

            Ok so Lennox can imagine a range of questions science can't answer on the basis of the scientific method.

            So what? Yes, it is an interesting thought experiment to those who care for it. But of what relevance is it?

            These questions are only important if we have good reason to think there is even an answer to them. You and Lennox need to demonstrate that these questions science can't answer have a basis for even thinking they deserve answering.

            Do you think there is any relevance to the question: What is the square combination of wriggle capacity for undetectable strings in the foam of dizzy whoppers?

            I can imagine such an absurd question, I can pose it, I can argue for a range of meanings and definitions for the terms I've used all the while ensuring it is by definition outside of science's purview. I can make it sound as reasonable as I can but without actually demonstrating a reason to think this question is even relevant to reality it is just mental masturbation at its most benign and disingenuous at its most dangerous.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            I am glad you are on my side, for I would fear you as an enemy.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            I don't see how questions such as those of purpose are, by default, irrelevant simply because science can't answer the question. I've had plenty of people ask me why I chose to become a singer – is that an irrelevant question? I don't see how.

            Your position sounds like the kind of thing that the Nobel laureate Sir Peter Medawar writes against:

            There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare – particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for – that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking, and that questions which do not admit a scientific answer are in some way non-questions or "pseudo-questions" that only simpletons ask and only the gullible profess to be able to answer.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            Another appeal to authority? Surely not.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            Another false accusation of appeal to authority? Surely not!

            It appears that any time you see someone referenced you insert the words 'says it so it must be true' into the sentence… how strange.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            Sorry? Did Medwar present any arguments for why we should not use science to answer some questions? I am looking, but seem to miss his airtight case.

            Perhaps you just thought you might throw his opinion in because he is a Nobel laureate and a Knight? Gee – I wonder if people might consider him an authority?

            There is nothing his his statement that would case me to reconsider my position. I have his opinion on a matter, but not his reasoning – ergo appeal to authority.

            Thanks for playing.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            On the other hand, arguments from authority are an important part of informal logic. Since we cannot have expert knowledge of many subjects, we often rely on the judgments of those who do. There is no fallacy involved in simply arguing that the assertion made by an authority is true. The fallacy only arises when it is claimed or implied that the authority is infallible in principle and can hence be exempted from criticism. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_author

            Emphasis mine.

            But seeing as you ask, Medawar also writes:

            The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things – questions such as: "How did everything begin?"; "What are we all here for?"; "What is the point of living?".

            And he wasn't saying 'we should not' use science for some questions, he was saying science is unable to answer some questions and we should not then simply assume those are non-questions.

            You could always demonstrate why his assertion is wrong, and show us how science has the scope to answer such questions.

          • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

            "You could always demonstrate why his assertion is wrong, and show us how science has the scope to answer such questions."

            He is wrong to make the statement you quote here.

            'How did everything begin?'

            We have an increasingly better understand of how 'everything' (aka the universe) began. Progress has been made and hopefully continues to. We have a model with powerful explanatory capacity – it isn't perfect, but science never is. Who knows what the LHC will provide for us, or some further experiment? If yours and Medawar's evidence that science CAN'T explain how everything began is that we haven't yet thats a mighty fine appeal to ignorance but at least it is falsifiable.

            'What are we all here for?'

            The best evidence seems to indicate we exist to propagate. To assume any greater purpose goes beyond the evidence. To maintain that this is a question which provides a genuine problem for science simply reveals that you have made certain assumptions about the universe and our existence and are unsatisfied with this response.

            'What is the point of living?'

            It sure isn't to secure a comfy spot in heaven or avoid a pointy one in hell. Again, to science this question is exactly the same as the last – to propagate. However, you're free to find other reasons.

            To be honest I'm pretty amused about your continued use of Medawar because he doesn't agree with you.

            "… I believe that a reasonable case can be made for saying, not that we believe in God because He exists but rather that He exists because we believe in Him… Considered as an element of the world, God has the same degree and kind of objective reality as do other products of mind… I regret my disbelief in God and religious answers generally, for I believe it would give satisfaction and comfort to many in need of it if it were possible to discover and propound good scientific and philosophic reasons to believe in God… To abdicate from the rule of reason and substitute for it an authentication of belief by the intentness and degree of conviction with which we hold it can be perilous and destructive… I am a rationalist—something of a period piece nowadays, I admit…"

          • ollieography

            Questions of purpose like "why are we here" or "why am I here" are philosophical questions and nothing more. And I hate to say it, they do not count. They are utterly pointless, because until such time that we can get an answer, which I shall presume is not something that philosphy will ever answer and will end up being much bigger or quite possibly much less significant that we would have hoped, then these questions and many more like them that we ask throughout our daily lives are all rather pointless.
            And lets face it, if we do come across and answer, the answer will need to be verified which is something that inevitably science will end up doing.

            Besides we all know that certain philosophies became sciences in the end as they were able to be proven and tested and so on and so forth. I doubt very much that the same won't happen in this case.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            Questions of purpose like "why are we here" or "why am I here" are philosophical questions and nothing more. And I hate to say it, they do not count. They are utterly pointless, because until such time that we can get an answer, which I shall presume is not something that philosphy will ever answer and will end up being much bigger or quite possibly much less significant that we would have hoped, then these questions and many more like them that we ask throughout our daily lives are all rather pointless.

            The irony is that you are, yourself, making a philosophical statement here!

            It's self-defeating to philosophise that philosophy is pointless.

          • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

            I can investigate why you may have decided to be a singer, narrowing motivations down to likely candidates (or compositions of candidates) based on your psychology, upbringing, socioeconomic status, value of aesthetics, etc. I can investigate your reasons or purpose to become a singer. But we are entering the grey area where how and why merge and overlap with one another.

            To discredit your view of what I posted though I'll simply restate something I said in that post: it is an interesting thought experiment to those who care for it. Why should I care for it? If you want people to turn their intellectual capacity to this question of purpose you need to convince them it is a question worth investigating.

            How would I do this for the hypothetical creator in Lennox's argument? Or are we just going to land on revelation again? You are familiar with the retorts to the argument for a belief in god from revelation?

            The quote from Medawar is wonderfully polite and accommodating of a wide array of approaches to discerning the nature of reality, it may even be more philosophically respectable but it is pragmatically vacuous. The results or performance of any other approach has been dismal in comparison to that of science and I have no reason to suspect this trend will change. Do you?

            Like I said, such questions are wonderfully fascinating and even of crucial importance to those who care about them but I don't because I have no reason to. Is this where you say 'such is the consequences of your philosophical presuppositions'?

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            I can investigate why you may have decided to be a singer, narrowing motivations down to likely candidates (or compositions of candidates) based on your psychology, upbringing, socioeconomic status, value of aesthetics, etc. I can investigate your reasons or purpose to become a singer.

            Well.. yes.. that’s the kind of intersection of revelation and reason that Lennox is talking about actually.

            If you want people to turn their intellectual capacity to this question of purpose you need to convince them it is a question worth investigating.

            On the flip side – if some people want to turn their intellectual capacity to this question of purpose, who are you to say that it’s an irrelevant or pointless question?

            How would I do this for the hypothetical creator in Lennox’s argument? Or are we just going to land on revelation again?

            That’s kind of what the rest of his book is about.

            The results or performance of any other approach has been dismal in comparison to that of science and I have no reason to suspect this trend will change. Do you?

            Well different disciplines have different methods and so forth, I think it’s a bit unfair to note that one method is particularly good at what it’s designed for and use that to suggest we shouldn’t bother doing other disciplines on the ones science isn’t built for. I mean, The results of historical methodology are still no where near as certain as scientific enquiry, but I don’t think that makes history irrelevant or pointless. So too when Medewar suggests that imaginative literature and religion are better suited to explore questions of purpose, while they obviously won’t be able to answer such questions in the same empirical way that science can answer scientific questions, they’re still a valid approach, as is philosophy.

            Like I said, such questions are wonderfully fascinating and even of crucial importance to those who care about them but I don’t because I have no reason to. Is this where you say ‘such is the consequences of your philosophical presuppositions’?

            Obviously such a view is based on certain philosophical assumptions -you obviously recognise that. If you don’t find those questions important, well, good for you… so what? That doesn’t mean no one else can find them important or that they need to justify it to you.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            "Well different disciplines have different methods and so forth, I think it's a bit unfair to note that one method is particularly good at what it's designed for and use that to suggest we shouldn't bother doing other disciplines on the ones science isn't built for"

            You haven't given us another method. If science is out because it only deals with the physical, then give us another method which reliably works with the non-physical.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            Well, I agree with Medewar, and would add philosophy to his suggestions of literature and religion.

            Define what you mean by reliably. Do you still mean verifiable?

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            "The results of historical methodology are still no where near as certain as scientific enquiry, but I don't think that makes history irrelevant or pointless."

            History is built on evidence. Written accounts, archaeology, language, art, etc. Sure it's not as accurate as the "hard sciences" like chemistry or physics, but it uses the scientific method as much as possible. You seem to think science is limited to the lab somehow – it is a process.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            I think Lennox has the natural sciences in mind – as he appears to agree with Michael Ruse's definition of science that I gave.

          • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

            You know through the whole discussion here I couldn't get one thing out from the back of my mind: what Lennox and yourself are proposing is indistinguishable from fantasy or the non-existent.

            You are arguing for limited resources to be spent on the pursuit of knowledge we have no reason to think exists other than the ontological assumption that it does (which is at best all you have offered to defend your position).

            I say it is irrelevant because no case has been made that it is relevant. Now in practice I aspire to exert no real authority over whether people actually spend their time engaged in these activities because I have libertarian principles which protect such endeavours. However, my principles encourage the critical examination of all ideas and concepts (especially my own) and I will never shy from calling someone on what I see as bullshit.

            So I still say it is irrelevant because no case has been made that it is even real. It could be, but you still haven't told us how we would tell that we are even on the right path (with philosophy, literature and religion you propose we use to explore this feature of reality). Case in point: the diversity of religion around the world and throughout history.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            That all sounds very similar to Humes suggestion:

            If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.

            And if so, it suffers the same problem as Hume: it's self-defeating as such a statement is not empirically falsifiable.

            Basically you can't philosophise philosophy out of the window!
            If you want to hold to a philosophy that only verifiable,empirical knowledge is valuable, go right ahead.. it's self-defeating, but go ahead!

            I disagree that 'we have no reason to think it exists'. Of course, we cannot verify philosophy, or it wouldn't be philosophy anymore, but that is not the same as saying there is no reason. The very fact that questions like 'why am I here' are seemingly universal human questions is good reason to explore those questions. As an artist I see great value in art and literature exploring questions of human existence, morality and relationships etc. Who could sit through Billy Budd and not be torn about the issues of justice and morality?

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            Indeed Hume's statement is rather problematic. Indeed we have many such axioms. I cannot falsify solipsism, or that I am a brain in a vat and all around is illusion. I cannot say if our experiences (and hence observations) of the world constitutes all reality, nor can I know if the physical and the non-physical encompass all (assuming you are not defining "non-physical" as "everything but physical").

            Ultimately, do I have a response to charge? Not one I have been able to deduce so far, but so what? In order for you to demonstrate your claims to reality then I must be able to experience them in some way. Sure philosophical constructs can build viable models, but until they are experienced in some way how can we know? I am not talking about empiricism – my "soul" could experience god and somehow relay this to my mind, for example. This is what I am driving at with verification.

            Finally, this quote seems appropriate (seeing as you love them so much):

            "Metaphysicians cannot avoid making their statements nonverifiable, because if they made them verifiable, the decision about the truth or falsehood of their doctrines would depend upon experience and therefore belong to the region of empirical science. This consequence they wish to avoid, because they pretend to teach knowledge which is of a higher level than that of empirical science. Thus they are compelled to cut all connection between their statements and experience; and precisely by this procedure they deprive them of any sense.
            — Rudolf Carnap"

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            Your first paragraph is right in that you cannot, strictly speaking, prove we're not in the matrix (as per your example) or that our brains are reading the dials correctly etc. in an experiment.

            I am not talking about empiricism – my "soul" could experience god and somehow relay this to my mind, for example. This is what I am driving at with verification.

            Isn't this somewhat like the kind of thing Christians talk about when they talk of experiencing God / power of the Holy Spirit etc.? If not, how is it different?

            this quote seems appropriate

            I'm not so sure it is – the logical positivism of the 70s that Carnap advocates seems to be considered a 'dead' philosophy. Even one of its chief advocates, A.J. Ayer apparently said:

            "I suppose the most important [defect]…was that nearly all of it was false."

            Besides, as I've pointed out, Lennox is patently not arguing for a complete cut with experience or reason.

            But you're right.. I do like quotes, especially from people who are smarter than me. ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

            You seem to be equivocating philosophy (and the act of philosophising) with using logic and reasoning. This seems a dangerous train of thought, does philosophy give rise to logic and reasoning or is it logic and reasoning that enables philosophy?

            I'm inclined to the latter not the former.

            I see value in art of all kinds and often defend art from others even if it isn't to my personal taste or preference – I can still examine it for value and commentary.

            Just because 'why am I here?' is a universal question as you describe it doesn't mean it has an answer which relates to the nature of reality. However, pursuing it could have other benefits of that I agree, such as the development of logic and reasoning and a diversification of perspectives which can compete in the dog-eat-dog world of ideas.

            Exploring questions of human existence, morality and relationships does have value and I encourage it however this doesn't mean there is really a creator God who stands in relation to this universe as Aunt Matilda does to her cake. I simply don't see how you get from 'exploring the nature of our experience here with each other' to 'there is a god who created this universe and it is perfectly reasonable to think it exists while it is by definition undetectable to us'.

            Issues around justice and morality exist (a statement supportable by the scientific method), they are real experiences and concerns for humanity. I don't see how this isn't something science can be used to inform and explore such problems.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            You seem to be equivocating philosophy (and the act of philosophising) with using logic and reasoning.

            I don't think that's equivocation, as philosophy uses logic and reasoning – indeed, I would suggest that's what philosophy is. Point is, you made a philosophical statement about meat-physical questions.

            I can still examine it for value and commentary.

            Absolutely! That's what good art and literature should be doing.

            Just because 'why am I here?' is a universal question as you describe it doesn't mean it has an answer which relates to the nature of reality.

            True – that we ask the question is no guarantee there is an answer, but that is no reason we should keep asking the question and exploring possible answers.

            Exploring questions of human existence, morality and relationships does have value and I encourage it however this doesn't mean there is really a creator God who stands in relation to this universe as Aunt Matilda does to her cake

            Sure, I agree, it doesn't necessarily mean there is – but that we can't answer the question scientifically /emprically doesn't mean that there necessarily isn't, either. That is why Lennox says if there is, we would need to approach the question via other routes etc.

            I simply don't see how you get from 'exploring the nature of our experience here with each other' to 'there is a god who created this universe and it is perfectly reasonable to think it exists while it is by definition undetectable to us'.

            Well, of course, Lennox has not made that move here. There are other steps and reasons before getting to that conclusion. The issue here is how we would even approach such questions.

            Issues around justice and morality exist (a statement supportable by the scientific method), they are real experiences and concerns for humanity. I don't see how this isn't something science can be used to inform and explore such problems.

            True – the issues exist (even if one argues that morality doesn't objectively exist), but I don't think the argument is that science can't be used to inform and explore such problems – but to recognise there are limits on how far science can take us and inform us on such issues. Again, Lennox is not advocating the ejection of reason and evidence.

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            Just quickly, I am amused by this exchange:I stated “Lennox simply assumes a purpose – he has not shown there IS one.” to which you replied “No he doesn't assume that – he is pointing out the relationship of science to the question of purpose (should one exist….”Should one exist? That was entirely my point! Lennox has not shown there is a purpose, but (for the sake of argument) is assuming there is one then philosophizing about it. I reject the basic premise as I do not see any reason to suspect the is a “purpose” in the sense discussed here.

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            I'm amused that you're tripping over the word 'if' again.

            Should one exist? That was entirely my point! Lennox has not shown there is a purpose, but (for the sake of argument) is assuming there is one then philosophizing about it.

            How can you conflate the phrase 'should one exist' with 'one exists'?

            His argument no more assumes that a universal purpose does exist (he simply allows that it might) than saying 'should I have a business meeting with a Chinese person then I would need a translator' means that I actually do have such a meeting.
            Lennox's argument is simply about how such a relationship would stand and how we would need to approach it if there was such. That is certainly no assumption that there is – it is simply a recognition that there might be. Indeed, it almost seems it is you who are begging the question by denying that possibility a priori.

            You really don't like philosophy do you?

          • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

            Re-read what I wrote.

            This entire discussion (to me at least) has been about the existence of a god, not the relationship we would have with one IF it existed. IF there is a god, then it would make sense to have the discussion you are alluding to here. IF there is a purpose to "creation" we should go about trying to discover what it it.

            I am not assuming there is NOT a god or purpose before we have these discussions – I am asking you to show there IS one before bothering. After all, why discuss the characteristics of the non existent?

          • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

            Re-read what I wrote.

            Read what Lennox wrote. ;)

            This entire discussion (to me at least) has been about the existence of a god, not the relationship we would have with one IF it existed.

            I'm confused as to why you would tell me to 're-read' what you wrote and then proceed to say that, which is exactly what I understood you to be saying. In any case, that is not the immediate context in which Lennox uses this analogy. He uses it in the context of pointing to the limitations of science – and this example, that of purpose, is one such question he demonstrates it is ill equipped to answer (whether that is possible purpose for a cake or a universe).

            IF there is a purpose to "creation" we should go about trying to discover what it it.

            But what Lennox is getting at is how we might even find out if there is a purpose in the first place. It certainly IS about the way in which a God would stand in relation to the universe IF one were to exist.

            I am not assuming there is NOT a god or purpose before we have these discussions – I am asking you to show there IS one before bothering. After all, why discuss the characteristics of the non existent?

            You just contradicted yourself. You say you're not making the assumption that there is no purpose, and in the same paragraph say it is non-existent. As long as we accept that it is possible there is a purpose, then it is legitimate to ask such questions. And until you show there cannot be such purpose, then we must allow that there might be.
            You seem to have the self-defeating idea that before anything can be considered possible, it must be first demonstrated to be actual (how one might even demonstrate something to be actually if you're not even allowed to consider it possible is beyond me).

            And I don't see anyone forcing you to 'bother' with such a discussion, anyhow..

  • ollieography

    Just quickly I have to say that Lennox's view that revelelation via the bible and as he puts it the word of god is/should be read with a fair amount of reason and even common sense. Which to me is what we would do with any written works. If a cook book says add tomatoes to a pot in order to make tomatoe soup is stands to reason and even common sense that you ough to add tomatoes to make the soup.
    If the bible out lays certain moral and ethical rules, that stand up to reason and common sense as something worth doing and/or adopting then fine we do just that. Adopting such reason and common sense from where ever we might get it is how we have managed to get this far in our evolutionary stairway. Without such reason and common sense we'd most likely have wiped ourselves off the face of the planet.

    As for Aunt Matilda, and science not being able to answer questions of purpose, think purpose for such grandios ideas as the universe just means we have a fate that can't be avoided and whatever happens happens. The analogy of the engine by Henry Ford is a little strange. The engine inevitebly turns a crankshaft. What that crank shaft is attached to is utterly and completely irrelevant. Only to say that the engines purpose is to turn the crank shaft and nothing more.

    I would like to ask Andrew Finden, why it is that you seem unable to provide an answer for the question regarding methodology for proving that the none physical exists? I for one can not at all think of any other way of proving something other than the scientific method. But I am all ears on how you would do it. Please prove the none physical without using science. And if your answer you can't then please just accept that the none physical can't exist in this reality and you can not ever prove it can exist and that you accept you do not really know the answer or the cause.

    • http://www.facebook.com/anwyll David Gibson

      I'm confused by your last paragraph, with the phrase 'none physicial'? Do you mean non-physical? And by non-physicial what do you mean? Everything that isn't matter and/or energy as science has discerned? Do you have reason to think such stuff exists?

      I personally lack the imaginative capacity to invent a new form of inquiry which is both grounded in the reality in which the non-physical also exists with the physical. However, I'd argue that science has shown us just how little of the world we experience directly and that if the non-physical does play a role in the nature of this universe probably one day the scientific method will be used to measure and test it. However this depends on whether tools exist to observe and quantify the non-physical.

      I'm not sure what about the scientific method precludes it from being applicable to the 'non-physical', if it has an effect in the reality in which we exist then the method can be used. Afterall, we have theorised dark matter without having actually observed it on the basis of gravitational lensing for example. So now researchers have attempted to establish tools for observing the actual matter to gain more information.

      To say 'Please prove the none physical without using science' really seems an absurd statement unless I've missed the whole direction of this question and you're actually talking about transendant concepts such as logical absolutes.

    • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

      The analogy of the engine by Henry Ford is a little strange. The engine inevitebly turns a crankshaft. What that crank shaft is attached to is utterly and completely irrelevant. Only to say that the engines purpose is to turn the crank shaft and nothing more.

      I think that's a slight case of equivocation. When Mr Ford put his engine in an automobile, his purpose was to drive the vehicle. What you describe is more a question of mechanics – what does is do rather than what does the inventor intend to use it for – or as Lennox refers to Aristotle's four causes the efficient cause and the final cause.

      why it is that you seem unable to provide an answer for the question regarding methodology for proving that the none physical exists?

      Because any use of the word 'prove' involves empiricism, which is by definition observation of the natural world. I have consistently refused to answer Andrew's question because it begs the question: he wants me to use something other than science (but that does exactly what science does it seems) to prove something lies outside the scope of science and empirical observation.

      Please prove the none physical without using science. And if your answer you can't then please just accept that the none physical can't exist in this reality and you can not ever prove it can exist and that you accept you do not really know the answer or the cause.

      False dichotomy -involving a non-sequitur!

      Not being able to prove something exists is not proof that it doesn't exist: lack of proof is not proof of lack! The only empirical position we can actually take is the we don't know – it might or might not, in which case, if we turn to philosophy, for example, it is still possible to conclude that it does based on inference to best explanation – it cannot be proven, but it is also not a priori unreasonable to accept that it does. Philosophers are not forced to first empirically prove what they wish to conclude, it must only be not impossible, and the only way to say that the non-physical is impossible would be to have empirically demonstrated such (which you obviously cannot do either). I realise that you are all (philosophical) naturalists in saying that the physical universe is the sum total of reality, but be aware that it is an assumption too.

      Bertrand Russell, while acknowledging that all definite knowledge belongs to science had this to say:

      Is the world divided into mind and matter, and, if so, what is mind, what is matter? Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers? Has the universe any unity of purpose? Is it evolving towards some goal? Are there really laws of nature, or de we believe in them only because of our innate love of order? Is man what he seems to the astronomer, a tiny lump of impure carbon and water impotently crawling on a small and unimportant planet? Or is he what he appears to Hamlet? Is there a way of living that is noble and another that is base, or are all ways of living merely futile?… To such questions no answers can be found in the laboratory.

      • http://www.godless.biz/ askegg

        "Because any use of the word 'prove' involves empiricism…"

        Not to my mind. To me "proof" involves verification beyond reasonable doubt.

        To take an extreme and ridiculous example: If everyone in the world had exactly the same dream one night, this would be verification of something. If knowledge regarding non-physical realms is revealed to individuals by god, then we might expect those who have these experiences to be very similar in nature. Unfortunately, this is almost the exact opposite of what we see.

        Your last paragraph is interesting. To me it sounds like your god idea is nothing more than a philosophical concept and by your own reasoning and definitions cannot be demonstrated as being anything more. I am NOT saying things beyond science do not exist – I have never said this. However, if those entities beyond the physical world DO exist AND have some effect on the physical, then we should be able to detect them using the scientific method. Yes, that makes me a methodological naturalist, but NOT a philosophical one.

        • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

          Not to my mind. To me "proof" involves verification beyond reasonable doubt.

          Problem is that verification (as I understand it, and as you appear to demand it) is inextricably linked to empiricism too.

          To take an extreme and ridiculous example: If everyone in the world had exactly the same dream one night, this would be verification of something.

          Hmm.. no, it would certainly force us to ask some serious questions, and we might consider it evidence for something, but unless you can repeat it and draw predictions from it, I don't see how it verifies anything. And besides – if it was a one-off event, who's to say that in another 2000 years, our offspring won't just do what many do now and write it off as myth that couldn't possibly be true?

          If knowledge regarding non-physical realms is revealed to individuals by god, then we might expect those who have these experiences to be very similar in nature. Unfortunately, this is almost the exact opposite of what we see.

          I would argue that my thoughts are non-physical, and that doesn't need a god to reveal them to you, it requires me to do that. But on your point, it does appear that a desire to connect with the supernatural is a pretty much universal innate human concept (There is also some interesting research that seems to suggest that belief in a god is the default of children, even those raised in a secular home and society). It was C.S. Lewis who pointed out that he knew of no other innate human desire that had not possibility to sate – we have sexual desire which is fulfilled with sex, we have hunger which is fulfilled with food.. so isn't it odd to think we would have such an apparently innate desire that there was no actually answer for? It's not a proof of course, but it's a valid point.

          To me it sounds like your god idea is nothing more than a philosophical concept and by your own reasoning and definitions cannot be demonstrated as being anything more.

          I think there are philosophical arguments for the existence of God (and historical ones), but I recognise that his existence lies outside the scope of empirical observation. But that's not to say it is merely a concept either. It's not a God who is abstract but a God of relationship as well, and it is where my own personal experience (not a really an overly valid form of evidence for others, I know) confirms (to me) what the persuasive historical and philosophical arguments have to say.I realise you probably won't find that valid.. and that's your opinion which you're free to have of course.

          I am NOT saying things beyond science do not exist – I have never said this.

          My reply was to Ollieography I think, as he seemed to say that the non-physical "can't" exist.

          However, if those entities beyond the physical world DO exist AND have some effect on the physical, then we should be able to detect them using the scientific method.

          Maybe. It would depend on the event or the kind of effect. If it was something that was repeatable, observable and from which predictions could be made (Michael Ruse puts it: science "by definition deals only with the natural, te repeatable, that which is governed by law"), then sure, science can have something to say, but otherwise, how could it?
          Take, for example, the Christian idea that God not only created the universe, but sustains it – how is understanding the mechanics of the universe going to tell you anything about that? That comes back to the whole thing about confusing mechanics and agency. On the other hand, if we look at it from a philosophical point of view, we might ask which worldviews or philosophies make the best sense of the mechanics of the universe; e.g. is the apparent order of the universe best accounted for by chance or by intelligence? (And of course, a number of eminent physicists have differing views about which explanation is more elegant and intellectually satisfying). Indeed, one of the scientific 'articles of faith' (as Paul Davies puts it) is that things will keep going as they have done in the past – the uniformity of nature – which seems to be better accounted for in such a theistic view than any other. Again, not a proof, but a reason.

          Yes, that makes me a methodological naturalist, but NOT a philosophical one.

          I think you walk a very fine line at times – you do seem to say that the physical is reality – am I wrong then, to understand you imply that it is the sum of reality?

      • ollieography

        I too had the same feeling that Andrew had regarding your last paragraph. If all this time you have only had a philosophical belief in a god, then why did you not say so. I may have missed it somewhere in the million and one posts by yourself and others that come to my iphone daily, so I apologise if that is the case.
        And being a philosophical arguement makes the idea of a god both possible and impossible at the same time. And it would be a claim that can be made for any kind of entity that we can not detect nor see nor truly know the nature of, other than our supposed ideas.
        Having read your last statement I fail to see how or why this conversation need go any further. The same goes for the discussion in the other various threads.
        As for proof for the existence of entities that live outside of our own physical world, our reality if you will, we never said empirical evidence we just said give us another way. Unfortunately for you, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the scientific method is very much like logical absolutes. It would seem to our limited minds that trying to think up another method that doesn't match that of the scientific one, especially in its very clear and straight down the line approach to evidence and testing etc, that it would be nigh on impossible to think of another way to do things.
        I just wish you would admit that at the very least. You are after all human. With the same limitations on your mind that most of us have on average. But hey feel free to keep debating the endless debate as I am starting to call it.

        • http://andrewfinden.com/findothinks/ AndrewFinden

          the million and one posts by yourself and others that come to my iphone daily

          Blame Andrew.. he has this habit of asking questions.

          As for proof for the existence of entities that live outside of our own physical world, our reality if you will, we never said empirical evidence we just said give us another way. Unfortunately for you, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, the scientific method is very much like logical absolutes. It would seem to our limited minds that trying to think up another method that doesn't match that of the scientific one, especially in its very clear and straight down the line approach to evidence and testing etc, that it would be nigh on impossible to think of another way to do things.
          I just wish you would admit that at the very least.

          Problem is you say that you're not asking for empirical evidence (only proof? which is different, how?) and then when something like revelation is suggested, you complain because it cannot be empirically verified! I wish you would just admit that you're asking for an empirical / scientific method for investigating the meta-physical. I've already admitted that you can't empirically prove or verify the meta-physical necessarily – my point is that it's not abandoning reason.

          Andrew admitted in another thread that he hasn't actually read Lennox's book from which he takes Aunt Matilda's cake, and it's a shame, because I think in not doing so, he's misunderstood the argument somewhat. In fact, I think some of his 'rebuttal' is simply re-stating what Lennox actually argues:

          We have seen how unaided scientific reasoning [and he's using Michael Ruse's definition it seems] cannot find out why she made the cake; she must reveal it to us. But that does not mean reason is from that point on either irrelevant or inactive. The contrary is the case. For, understanding what she says when she tells us for whom the cake was made requires the use of our reason. We further need reason to assess the credibility of her explanation. If she says she made the cake for her nephew Jimmy and we know that she has no nephew of that name, we will doubt her explanation; if we know she has a nephew of that name then her explanation will make sense. In other words, reason is not opposed to revelation – it is simply that her revelation of the purpose for which she made the cake supplies to reason information that unaided reason cannot access. But reason is absolutely essential to process that information. The point is that in cases where science is not our source of information, we cannot automatically assume that reason has ceased to function and evidence has ceased to be relevant.

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