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The hiddenness of God


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#21 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 23 January 2012 - 04:09 PM

Monk Herman wrote:

+ But if we want a purely intellectual entry into the Divine Intellect, we might want to look at the mind of man.

If the human mind is made in the image of God without being identical to God, then we should be able to find principles that apply to man, but that don’t apply to God; and vice-versa we should find principles that apply to God, but not to man. We should discover ways to place the finite into relation to something that is beyond both finitude and infinity; or else something accessible to both.




There is in the writings of Fr Dumitru Staniloae a most amazing insight into the bond between the human mind and God. I really hadn't thought of it before. It is that created reality itself which man perceives invites meaning. Every step that we make in other words, either consciously or by habit, is accomplished via the meaning we perceive in that situation we are passing through. This relational aspect between man and created reality is so automatic that we give it little or no thought. But as Fr Dumitru points out the relational aspect of created reality that we have with it points to this most signifcant fact- that it has meaning (otherwise we would be wandering through an almost endless chaos). But further, the fact that created reality has meaning points to its coming from a Personal Source which transcends it. Otherwise there would be no way in which meaning could be accounted for (again as we just said previously, there would literally be no meaning to reality). But further it is only due to the fact that this created reality comes from a Source transcendent to it that gives that reality itself its deeper meaning of not being just a closed circle that goes around & around on itself (Fr Dumitru expresses this basic reality in many ways- eg 'a closed loop that goes nowhere').


In other words, without a Divine Personal Source, there is no meaning to the world we are part of. And the very fact of this meaning is discovered by how we interact with this reality. Thus created reality always speaks of a potential relational reality in terms of us and God.
In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#22 Monk Herman

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 05:46 AM

In #15 Julianna posted the following link, together with an excerpt from the article the link leads you to.
In her post, Julianna begins by quoting Fr. Aidan:

… [Fr Aidan:] “… there is a popular "Enlightenment" atheism today (Hitchens, Dawkins) that rejects God because of lack of evidence. God is thought of as a being within the wider cosmos. "Where is the empirical evidence for such a being?" these atheists ask. "Show me the data. … ” [end Fr Aidan. Julianna continues:] And while it is helpful to remember that classically God is not just another being in the cosmos, I do not see how that fully answers the difficultly. A presentation of the problem of divine hiddeness from an atheist perspective might help. This one seems decent to me http://www.ebonmusin...urningbush.html

The kernel of the excerpt Julianna provides in post #15 seems to me to be here: this is the part I would want to focus on initially:

The majority of atheists, if asked why they did not believe in God, would probably respond that it is because they see no credible evidence for the existence of such a being. The argument from divine hiddenness is merely a formalized version of that stance. In brief, it states that the lack of obvious manifestations of God is better explained by assuming that God does not exist than by assuming that God does exist but chooses to remain hidden.

Julianna speaks of the problem of human blindness, and then asks:

... what positive evidence or reasons do we have to believe that God exists? In what ways is He not hidden?

It makes sense for atheists to say that they do not believe in God because they see no credible evidence for the existence of such a being. Atheists find their faith bolstered by an ostensible lack of evidence. (Perhaps later we can ask what evidence and what criteria may be necessary here; at the same time clarifying the concept of God.)

But by a peculiar circumstance, theists too find their faith supported by the most recent observations, as well as in the thought both of physicists and philosophers; and, of course, theologians.

For them any question of divine hiddenness seems incessantly to recede: The more we learn, the more it seems that the heavens declare the glory of God: The more deeply we’re able to peer into our own being, the more we find the kingdom of the heavens is within. We're driven to these two opposite poles: The [noetic] heavens declare the glory of God, even as the firmament [of the laws of nature] proclaims the work of His hands.

So it appears that a more appropriate question would be not Why is God hidden? but rather, Is God hidden?

The latter question is not only more appropriate: it's also more fundamental. Any question of why God is hidden only makes sense once we know that God is indeed hidden. The question assumes something that’s still in doubt, since it seems one way to some and another way to others.

So we can't hold the mirror up to nature and simply say that an apparent lack of evidence indicates a real lack of evidence. Evidence may be misunderstood and misinterpreted. The same may be said of theistic interpretations. There's doubt all around. So before we can profitably discuss the hiddenness of God, we should be sure there is such a thing. Is it true to say that God is hidden?

Lucky for us, all interested parties are interested in the same things: the data provided by observation, and the reflection on those data carried out by scientists philosophers and theologians.

:: the lack of obvious manifestations of God is better explained by assuming that God does not exist than by assuming that God does exist but chooses to remain hidden
.

The outcome of our thought will seek a simplifying explanation capable of uniting these real or apparent contradictions.

H

#23 Monk Herman

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 06:02 AM

+ Evlogison. I forgot to add: does this get us anywhere in the vicinity of answering the difficulty?

H

#24 Moses Anthony

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Posted 29 January 2012 - 01:44 AM

Please forgive me for being so simplistic in what I'm saying here: Someone of note in the secular world has said: "There is none so blind as he who will not see." I am by no means either a theologian, apologist, or any other type of professional, skilled in theological argument.

The Fr.'s, Readers, monks and others have put forth their arguments; as to why it is that to many, 'God is hidden'. As I've alluded to in the quote above, and, as the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Rome, beholding the evidence for the existence of God Almighty, is nothing more than a matter of sight. If my heart is hard like that of Pharoah of Moses' time, no amount of persuasive speech is going to alter my decisions. But; if I am at all teachable, malleable, before the Holy Spirit, then the opportunity, the likely-hood of a "dramatic change" in belief is exponentially increased.

Years ago the Protestant Josh McDowell authored the relatively thick tome titled: Evidence that Demands A Verdict. He followed that up with, More Evidence.... Regardless of how we couch our arguments, it still boils down to whether or not we choose to see the physical in front of our eyes. You know, 'free will' and all that about God not forcing us to believe.

As I said, a rather simplistic view; and yet I see it as the crux of the argument!

the sinful and unworthy servant

#25 Monk Herman

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Posted 03 February 2012 - 04:50 AM

… the atheist needn’t make [any] leap of sheer loving faith, since reason comes to our aid in the form of arguments based on contemporary science and explored and elaborated by contemporary philosophy. The atheist does indeed have a purely intellectual bootstrap capable of bridging the gap between the secular and the religious.

This bootstrap consists of not just one argument, but of several mutually evocative arguments, some of which are based on the most recent science, some of which represent new thinking on ancient insights.

To give just one example, many have been deeply impressed by the fine-tuning required for the existence of a universe capable of harboring life. The likelihood that this existing universe could come into being by chance is

.000 … 001.

This number is so small that the paper needed to print out the missing zeros in ten-point type would fill a large portion of the universe (Spitzer). It's a number so small as to be, in effect, zero.

It takes no leap of faith to back the underdog here since we know that the underdog exists.

The implication that has rocked the world is that of a “super-calculating intellect” (Hoyle) that has selected precisely this the existing set of life-giving possibilities out of an unimaginably vast number of sterile alternatives; an implication that has shaken the faith of several important atheists so far (Hoyle, Flew).



Unfortunately, this is fallacious. Indeed, several modern atheists have addressed this and shown it to be a non-issue from their point of view. The prior unlikelihood of an event is irrelevant if that event has already occurred


+ Fallacious! I thought it was felicitous!

I was received into the Orthodox Church in 1984; and for years afterward I would pause every now and then and with amazement and wonder I would say to myself: I’m Orthodox!

I’m sure atheists do regard the fine-tuning of the universe as a “non-issue;” but it seems dubious that they do so reasonably, or even rationally.

Suppose you’ve got a one-in-seven-billion chance to win $7,000,000,000 (tax free). Now suppose you win. Would you just take it as—oh well, ho hum—after all, somebody had to win? Unless you’d taken leave of your humanity (or had some sort of ideology at stake) it seems not at all likely that you’d be so bland about it. Rather, you’d be absolutely ecstatic: you’d be amazed at having won against such odds. You wouldn’t likely get over it for years: I'm a multi-billionaire! Atheists have, presumably, not taken leave of their humanity, but they do have a very definite ideology at stake.

But one in 7,000,000,000 is a drop in the ocean compared to one in 10 (10) (123)—an incomprehensibly vast number. The fact that we indeed exist can in no way diminish the fact that we exist against virtually prohibitive odds.

The occurrence of an unlikely event is no evidence that any intent or mind was behind that event.


This is much more to the point. But remember: as I said, the argument from the fine-tuning for life of the universe is just one of a mutually-strengthening constellation of arguments that have arisen in recent decades. God willing we’ll be able to develop this more in coming posts.

since we have no way of knowing how many other sets of conditions randomly and spontaneously "appeared" in whatever proto- or pre- universe might have existed, we cannot say that an insufficient number of them did not occur for the current set of conditions to have arisen by random chance


This is obvious. But any conclusion based on it can only be guesswork. Any such conclusion would be immeasurably helped if we could count on immeasurable time or immeasurable space. Surely it's safe to say that all possibilities must be actualized given infinite time or infinite space or both. But neither infinite time nor infinite space seem to be very lively options at present. It's been several times shown that infinite past time would entail irresolvable contradictions. In spatial terms we might offer "multiverse" theories. But these are not full-fledged falsifiable scientific theories: rather, they're pure speculation. Multiverse speculations surpass the bounds of science, rejoining philosophy, from which science first arose.

Among the things we can know with certainty are that neither time nor space are infinite.

More on this … “presently.”

Also: the notion that the astronomer Fred Hoyle was impressed “a long time ago” seems odd, not only because Professor Hoyle died only a decade ago—in 2001 at the age of 86—but also because the fine-tuning argument continues to impress philosophers and scientists (as well as theologians) to the present day.

Whether this or that thing happened or was thought of "a long time ago" or just yesterday is irrelevant to the truth value of that thing.

If I wanted to give an example of a true thing that happened "a long time ago" I would say Christ is risen!

H

#26 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 02:37 PM

Suppose you’ve got a one-in-seven-billion chance to win $7,000,000,000 (tax free). Now suppose you win. Would you just take it as—oh well, ho hum—after all, somebody had to win?


I would enjoy winning, but I would not assign special meaning to it merely because it was unlikely. If an inhuman monster won, am I to take that to mean that God particularly favors inhuman monsters? Using "argument from unlikelihood" proves nothing at all. It actually requires faith to accept it to bolster faith. Every individual human is an extremely unlikely event, but that doesn't prove God's existence. That's not how probability math works.

Atheists have, presumably, not taken leave of their humanity, but they do have a very definite ideology at stake.


So do we. Thus, argument from ideological bias cannot be rationally used only against atheists. If they are blinded by ideological bias, we are equally as capable of being blinded. Vehemence of belief is not the same as truth. If it were, then the Commisars would have been as right as the Christians they murdered.

But one in 7,000,000,000 is a drop in the ocean compared to one in 10 (10) (123)—an incomprehensibly vast number. The fact that we indeed exist can in no way diminish the fact that we exist against virtually prohibitive odds.


And in no way does that "virtually prohibitive" likelihood prove God. It neither proves nor disproves God. It is just a statement of likelihood. Show someone something utterly prohibitive, not merely "virtually" prohibitive. Show someone something with a chance of 0.000..., and then show it occurring. That is the only possible statistical "proof" of God. Anything less falls short, simply because of the size and age of the material universe--enough events have occurred that a many "virtually prohibitive odds" events actually have a very high cumulative likelihood of occurring. The "statistical argument" for God is no more proof than Descarte's Demon or the rationalist mistakes made by the Roman Catholic approach called Thomism.

If I wanted to give an example of a true thing that happened "a long time ago" I would say Christ is risen!


Then go from that and don't try to use the failed rhetorical tricks of American Protestant apologists. If we want to "prove God" to the atheist, the best way to do it is to "prove" Him by our lives.

#27 Owen Jones

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 03:52 PM

Atheists are people whose hearts have been hardened by some negative experience, or the lack of any positive, heart-warming experience in their lives, which they then turn into an intellectual system. Where does everything come from? Why does anything exist at all? If an empirical scientist were to seriously ask himself these questions, and seek rational answers, he would likely realize that his atheism is built on straw. But, no, all of a sudden he becomes anti-scientific. He says, oh, well, it must have been aliens from other galaxies who seeded the earth! Ok, where did these aliens come from???

Another approach is this: everyone acts purposefully. Every day that everyone gets up out of bed in the morning, he acts purposefully. But there is no immediate, daily, hourly, moment by moment purpose without a transcendent purpose. But as soon as you use the word transcendent, they object! Just meaningless semantics they cry!

So what about love? Just evolutionary pre-determined bio-chemical responses to stimuli. So you say that you are incapable of loving? That the term love is just meaningless semantics? And on and on.

I think there are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who believe that people don't change, and there are those who believe that they can and do. Christianity is first and foremost a doctrine of change. But if we don't change, then there is little or no evidence of God's existence, as far as most observers are concerned. If our behavior and attitudes are pretty much indistinguishable from everyone else's, then where is the evidence?

#28 Owen Jones

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Posted 08 February 2012 - 03:56 PM

Just to add a point. I was once having dinner at a restaurant in Germany with some Americans I was with, and with a German professor of political science. One of my friends asked the professor, what is argument in favor of Christianity, or words to that affect. The professor answered: my grandmother. My friend was profoundly dissatisfied with the answer, but I thought it was the best!

#29 Monk Herman

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 03:17 AM

Using "argument from unlikelihood" proves nothing at all.


Actually, I think the unlikelihood shows something important. Consider: There are only three ways a life-bearing universe can arise:

By design,
By physical necessity, or
By chance.

It was Roger Penrose who calculated the chance of a universe precisely fine-tuned for life to be one part in 10 (10)(123). To give an idea of this number, he had this to say: “Even if we were to write a ‘0’ on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe—and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure—we should fall far short of writing the figure” (in The Emperor’s New Mind).

So while the fine-tuning of the universe in insufficient in itself to allow us to affirm the existence of a super-intelligent designer, it does effectively eliminate chance as an explanation for the appearance of a universe capable of producing life.

The likelihood of a life-bearing universe arising purely by chance is so small that to prefer chance as an “explanation” would be quite unreasonable.

In evaluating various possibilities, one must always give greater credence to the more likely possibility. An atheist is obligated by the same rules of reason that we are—perhaps one might even say even more so, since they’re typically so quick to pay lip service to reason!

because of the size and age of the material universe enough events have occurred that many "virtually prohibitive odds" events actually have a very high cumulative likelihood of occurring.


This would be true only in a universe of infinite size and infinite past time, but there seem to be good reasons for denying that either of these is correct.

… don't try to use the failed rhetorical tricks of American Protestant apologists.


I have no idea what this may mean.

H

#30 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 05:08 AM

I do not understand how one can talk about probabilities when speaking of the cosmos as a whole. It's not as if one can compare our cosmos over against other cosmoses. There is just our cosmos, as given, and in this cosmos sentient beings have arisen. How can we know whether such a thing is probable or improbable? It may well be true that everything had to be "just right" in order to generate and support intelligent life; but this makes it neither probable nor improbable; it simply is. I just don't get it.

#31 Xenia Moos

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Posted 09 February 2012 - 05:37 PM

I remember from my Protestant days hearing many sermons trying to prove the existence of God by use of probability and math. But the scientists and mathematicians in the crowd would object to these arguments, saying it was a misuse of statistics, etc. I used to teach at an evangelical high school and there was an emphasis at that school in proving the Bible was true and that God existed by means of some quetionable pseudo-scientific "proofs." They thought if they loaded the kids up with scientific proof they would be able to beat down their atheistic professors with these dazzling arguments when they went to college. But what happens is that the professors demolish these arguments easily, with much sarcasm and mockery. The poor Christian kid realizes the pseudo-scientific "proofs" he was taught in church and high school don't hold up- or at least, he lacks the genuine scientific knowledge to hold up his end of the argument, he just knows a few arguments about human and dinosaur footprints co-existing in a river in Texas and the existence of some advanced theories in physics which he does not even begin to understand. These kids, upon realizing what they were taught is not reliable begin to question everything and oftentimes lose their faith altogether.

#32 Monk Herman

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 04:12 AM

+ Fr Aidan:

There does indeed seem to be nothing at all like certainty that there is or could be any universe other than the one we know.

I think the way the probability is estimated in this case is by looking at the observed values of various universal constants and quantities. These include things like the speed of light, the Planck constant, electron mass, electron charge, proton mass, proton charge—and a host of others.

The one in particular that so imperiled astronomer Fred Hoyle's faith in atheism is something called the carbon resonance. Carbon interacts with beryllium, hydrogen and helium. If the numerical values associated with any one of these were different by only one or two decimal places carbon would be rare and carbon-based life would be impossible.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason inherent in the laws of nature to dictate that the numerical values of these constants and quantities should be just what they are. Any hypothetical universe could have very different values. So if you change the value for one or another of these constants or quantities you can then calculate what kind of universe would result—and there are lots of values to tinker with.

That’s how Dr Penrose could come up with this unimaginably vast number of possible universes, none of which could sustain life of any kind.


+ Xenia:

Not many Protestant preachers are potters, painters or pianists; not many are philosophers or physicists. But a Protestant could be any of these.

I personally wouldn’t base any judgment of the value of anyone’s work on his or her being Protestant, Jewish, atheist or anything else; though I would tend to allow Jesuits as an exception.

That said, I certainly find myself dubious about the quality of the science in Christian answers to evolutionary theory. I've never been much interested in biology, but I do have the book on Genesis by Fr Seraphim Rose.

There’s one thing that troubles me about that book, though: while it includes a very extensive listing of books, articles and other resources that express the beliefs approved by the author and editor, it has nothing at all from the opposing perspective. They haven’t even included references in those instances where they quote someone or describe their work, so you have no way of checking the accuracy of the author’s presentation of opposing views.

H

#33 Monk Herman

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 04:26 AM

+ Getting back to the link provided by Julianna:

:: the lack of obvious manifestations of God is better explained by assuming that God does not exist than by assuming that God does exist but chooses to remain hidden ::

There’s a choice of three assumptions here:

God exists.
God Does Not exist.
God exists but chooses to remain hidden.

But as we’ve seen in many ways in this thread, the notion that God exists but chooses to remain hidden should probably be placed on hold. And it doesn’t help to ask why God seems to be hidden, since this merely perpetuates the illusion that God is indeed hidden—which, as we have seen, is something that remains to be discovered.

At times the argument from the hiddenness of God as presented in the Ebon Musings link seems to involve a heartfelt plea for a theóphany. There is, to be sure, no desire for a voice in the heavens or for titanic upheavals of earth and sky. Instead it's almost analogous to a prayer for wisdom: a plea to be granted knowledge of God. The author does not expect “a Michelangelo-like figure tearing open the sky.” But he or she does seem to be looking for something that will be experienced by every person on the earth at once.

This application for a theóphany is certainly problematic, and while it has indeed been promised, it may be slow in coming. Christ will come again, but perhaps not on the atheist’s schedule.

Meanwhile, though, the author provides a summation of the history of God’s relationship to humanity which may prove valuable. Yet something seems missing in this account: in place of a realistic sense of humanity’s progress in its understanding of all reality, and of God—our ability to learn—the author seems to think that God is somehow “shrinking,” driven into a corner, replaced by scientific knowledge. The author is all for learning; but he or she conceives learning too narrowly: for her it's simply “learning about nature.” Wholly absent from her thought seems the possibility that there could be real learning about a real God Who is deeply involved in the laws of nature yet Who remains independent of the laws of nature.

At the same time, this summation of history appears to complement an Orthodox view of history, since, as it seems to me, our faith suggests a movement in salvation history out of the period of humanity's infancy, through a once-for-all personal embodiment in history on the part of the pure mind that is God, and into a subsequent period of maturing on the part of humanity.

It is this maturing—whether in the individual, as a member of the Orthodox Church, or in humanity as a whole—that is the requisite condition for a theóphany. But this is an experience that can't be scheduled, expected or demanded—only prepared for.


+ Valuable insights can be found in the discussion of “How to Convert the Intellect” here:

http://www.monachos....t-the-intellect … “You must learn to think with your heart” (Reader Andreas)


The following link is to an article on the knowledge of God in the writings of Saint Gregory Palamás:

http://www.monachos....dies-fathers/62“Thus [St] Gregory [Palamas] viewed natural knowledge, in all its philosophical forms, as a tool leading to something greater, yet every bit as real as that very knowledge: the divine grace which brings about union, the true source of contemplative knowing.” (M C Steenberg).

H

#34 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 03:36 PM

If I understood what Fr Aidan was saying: there is no other possible universe available to us. Not just as a material impossibility. But because reality itself is not open ended, but rather has a set meaning.

Thus for example when scientists and futurists speculate about other worlds and beings- their depictions without them realizing this are always only projections of ourselves and the world we know. ie they are sentient, have an aim, etc. Even the space man rescuers of man from his own messed up condition (there are plenty of movies from the 1950s to our own day devoted to this theme, so it obviously resonates) only depict man in his own idealized state.

I'm convinced then that Fr Aidan is right that no other universe is availbale to us. Not simply as a physical or scientific impossibility (although this is certainly included also). But rather that being itself speaks of an intended meaning, without which there is not an alternative meaning- rather there is nothing at all.

So then it is from this intended meaning that we can perceive the hidden God & Creator according as we desire to approach Him.

In Christ
-Fr Raphael

#35 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 04:27 PM

If I understood what Fr Aidan was saying ...


Father, you are giving me way too much credit. I don't even understand what I was saying. :D

#36 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 06:04 PM

It was Roger Penrose who calculated the chance of a universe precisely fine-tuned for life to be one part in 10 (10)(123). To give an idea of this number, he had this to say: “Even if we were to write a ‘0’ on each separate proton and on each separate neutron in the entire universe—and we could throw in all the other particles as well for good measure—we should fall far short of writing the figure” (in The Emperor’s New Mind).

So while the fine-tuning of the universe in insufficient in itself to allow us to affirm the existence of a super-intelligent designer, it does effectively eliminate chance as an explanation for the appearance of a universe capable of producing life.


In no way at all is this valid. How many "failed" universes spontaneously arose before this one, from pure random space-time fluctuation? For how "long" had these "failed" universes been showing up. That is, what is the sample size from which this drawing was taken? If the sample size is large enough, then one will come up with a positive "hit". That's how probability works. Okay, let's accept the unverifiable odds of 1:10^10^123 (really just a guess--is Mr. Penrose possessed of Omniscience?). How many "draws" were made from what size of potential universes? Perhaps the number of "failed" universes that randomly popped into existence is 10^500^500! In that case, our universe randomly coming up is pretty close to certain! "Argument from unlikelihood" leads to no useful conclusions. It only is a way to preach to the choir.

In evaluating various possibilities, one must always give greater credence to the more likely possibility.


Okay, what is the calculated, mathematical likelihood of Creation vs. spontaneous, random existence? Let's see the math. It is dishonest to start with hard numbers and then slide into a non-numerical "just feels good" definition of "likelihood". It violates "let your yes be yes, and your no, no".

This would be true only in a universe of infinite size and infinite past time, but there seem to be good reasons for denying that either of these is correct.


"Size" and "time" are only valid within a single universe. The concepts are not strictly applicable when one talks about multiple potential universes. The probabilistic argument for God is just a cheap rhetorical trick that impresses people who know very little of probability, especially probability on large scales or of unknown population sizes.

If there is one white ball in a total collection of a million balls, what is the chance of drawing a white ball?
The answer is not only "one in million", the answer depends upon how many draws one gets.
The more draws, the greater the chance. This is because DC=1-(10^(N*log(1-p))), where DC is the degree of certainty (chance of an event happening at least once in a repeated number of draws), N is the total number of draws, and p is the basic probability of an event happening in only one draw.

If a million draws are done, the chance of a "one in a million" event happening at least once is roughly 63%.

#37 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 06:06 PM

I do not understand how one can talk about probabilities when speaking of the cosmos as a whole. It's not as if one can compare our cosmos over against other cosmoses. There is just our cosmos, as given, and in this cosmos sentient beings have arisen. How can we know whether such a thing is probable or improbable? It may well be true that everything had to be "just right" in order to generate and support intelligent life; but this makes it neither probable nor improbable; it simply is. I just don't get it.


You are completely correct. The argument from probability is not only mathematically invalid, it is theologically invalid.

#38 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 07:42 PM

Last week at our neighborhood Texas Holdem Poker Game, I held pocket threes. Two threes came down at the Flop. I had quads! What are the odds? There must be a God. :)

#39 Monk Herman

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 02:52 AM

+ I’d like to try to see at this point what ideas have become available to us so far toward the construction of a response to the Ebon Musings Author (EMA).

http://www.ebonmusin...urningbush.html


+ In the first reply to this thread, Reader Andreas Moran [13-01-2012, 06:01 PM] begins with the understanding that "God is love," and adds that "love is not love if it is forced."

He points to two kinds of atheists: those who can't believe in God (because God is not obvious) and those who wont believe in God (also because God is not obvious.)

As to the first group, theirs is surely not an irresponsible disbelief. Unlike the second group, they’re not willfully atheistic. In fact it's dubious to what degree any sincere person could be willfully entrenched in a belief in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary. The situation of the first group is analogous to the inability of the blind to perceive color, or of the deaf to perceive tones, the example given by Herman Blaydoe in his first post in this thread [ 13-01-2012, 06:31 PM ] .

Mr Blaydoe reminds us that color and sound are not “hidden” from the blind and the deaf. Color and sound exist (in whatever form they do) independently of whether any given individual is equipped to perceive them. So both Reader Andreas and Mr Blaydoe imply that God is not hidden—at least not to some.

In fact EMA acknowledges that some theists “believe that miracles are still abundant today.” This acknowledgement in itself would seem to cast some doubt on her claim that God is hidden, thus weakening the central premise of her argument.

The perception of colors or of sounds depends on appropriate sense organs. But there is no organ for the perception of God. There is no “God Sense” that could be likened to the function of a bodily organ.

Strangely enough, though, in her Part 2: Where Is God? EMA mentions just such a sense, saying that:

Even the most devout theists, even those who believe that miracles are still abundant today, must admit that God's existence is not obvious in the way that, for example, the existence of one's best friend is obvious. God is not the sort of being that one can perceive with one's eyes, hear with one's ears, touch with one's hands. Instead,


says EMA,

believers claim, God's existence is perceived not through the ordinary five senses, but through some additional sense, one that works in a completely different fashion from the other five.


There’s a good deal of ambiguity here. This purported “God Sense” seems to enable one to perceive God as if He were a physical object, yet we’re told that it “works in a completely different fashion from the other five.”

If we’re talking about “sensing” the existence of God, we’re not talking about sensing existing actualities, but in some sense we’re talking about sensing existence itself. The five senses enable us to perceive actualities, things existent in the world of sense. But existence is not itself an actuality. It can't be “sensed” as if it were an object in space and time. Only things capable of being sensed, can be sensed. If God exists, He is certainly not a spatially extended actuality.

So it seems to me that we can safely reject the “God Sense,” at least as EMA presents it.

In fact, EMA uses the word “sense” equivocally: first to mean a faculty served by one of the organs of perception, by which we become aware of our environment; then to mean the faculty of understanding, by which we may perceive abstracts and other physically imperceptible objects. It's in this way that we are able to conceive of opposites such as to be loving & forgiving or wrathful & warlike; personal or impersonal; infinite or limited.

EMA does seem to accept that “God is not the sort of being that one can perceive with one's eyes, hear with one's ears, touch with one's hands.” If I’m understanding this correctly, she recognizes the immaterial nature of the noetic essence we call God; which immateriality is, after all, well-established in Western thought. Since she doesn’t provide a reference we can't know which believers she means who assert the existence of a “God Sense” or what they really say, but I hesitate to think that any theist would really suggest that this purported “God Sense” be understood as a physical sense. Yet it's as a physical sense that EMA (mercifully) demolishes it, accomplishing this for us in two paragraphs. So at least we're done with that.

But the “God Sense” sounds to me more like an innate sense, a direct experiential awareness of God, such as an unborn infant may have. The American Heritage Dictionary distinguishes these under one sense of the word “sense,” where the word means a


recognition or perception either through the senses or through the intellect.


(The case of the infant is clear if we consider the word “intellect” as it's used in Orthodox Christian thought, as referring not just to the reasoning faculty but to the nous, the intellect itself, apart from any of its activities.)

The God Sense can also be thought of with reference to another sense of the word “sense” namely, a sense of what may be appropriate or inappropriate in speaking about God, as the holy Fathers teach when they say that theological notions and language must be “worthy of God.” The AHD provides two relevant senses of “sense:”


Intuitive or acquired perception or ability to estimate: a sense of timing.
A capacity to appreciate or understand: a sense of humor.


As it happens, there are professional philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga who (following Aquinas and Calvin) actually do refer to a sense of deity (SD). Plantinga does so in a book entitled Warranted Christian Belief. Those interested can read about the book here:

http://www.amazon.co...a/dp/0195131932

and can read the entire book ! here:

http://www.google.co...bFGSblslcH4h0MQ

(The relevant portion is Part III, pp 139-290.)

Another book on the epistemology of religious experience is William P Alston’s Perceiving God, large portions of which can be found here:

http://www.amazon.co...e/dp/0801481554 (click to look inside).

(I dread reading such pages and pages online, so I personally have not yet tried to read much of either of these books.)

So while EMA seems to offer us a fantasy version of the SD, there is a real-world version that has to be taken seriously. That task needn’t concern us here, since no real version is part of EMA’s argument.

In any case, beliefs are conceptual objects, not objects of sense. And beliefs about God, like other beliefs, can be arrived at by the processes of reasoning. Certainly beliefs can be acquired in pre-rational ways. Ellen Johnson, for example, then President of American Atheists, claimed to be an atheist simply because her parents were atheists.

But that is not the way of the Jedi! And it shouldn’t be the way of the disciples of the Logos, either, as we aspire to be—in fact, I would propose, as any atheist should aspire to be. Although it may seem unduly startling to put it this way, it is in the person of the Logos, the Word & Wisdom of God, that theism and atheism find common ground. Respect for language and reason, and the proper use of them, is the atheist’s theological lifeline.


+ Mr Blaydoe tells us also that If he closes his eyes, what he was looking at continues to exist; it's simply that he doesn’t see it.

To me, the phrase closes his eyes seems to suggest a willful turning away from something that he (here I mean the atheist) has in fact already comprehended, something that he can't help “seeing” intellectually, something he metaphorically sees, yet something to which he deliberately metaphorically closes his eyes.

Reader Andreas tells us that

God does not force people to accept Him by making Himself obvious. … If a person had a personal revelation from God of His existence, that person would either believe he had gone mad or would be compelled to know that God exists.


EMA, too, thinks that “an obvious appearance of God would convert many nonbelievers” and that this claim “should be beyond dispute.” Even if only half or a quarter of maybe a couple billion or so atheists & other non-believers (including adherents of non-theistic religions) were converted, that would certainly be a huge number, and EMA thinks that the vast majority of atheists would begin to believe along with her. EMA goes further: “there should be no argument with the claim that an obvious manifestation of God would all but end the religious confusion so prevalent among humanity.” While that “all but” softens the assertion a bit, EMA is surely being much too naïve here.

EMA doesn’t take into account those theists whose faith is weak and who live as if God were of no concern to them. In addition there are Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Satanists, Agnostics, “Maltheists” and many others all of whom will undoubtedly have some sort of reaction. Saint John Klimakos says that some (though weak creatures) have made themselves enemies of God (Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step One). Not only can we easily imagine that those enemies of God would immediately begin working to cast doubt on the revelation, but once a few generations had passed, the memory of the event would fade and the same problems would arise again. That would once again leave the Orthodox as the only witnesses.

So far at least two dubious claims weaken EMA’s argument: first, that God is “hidden” and secondly, that no ill effects would arise from the required theóphany.

H

#40 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 09 April 2012 - 01:34 PM

So far as a 'God sense' is concerned, Bishop Irenaeos used to say that since we are all made in the image of God, we have in the core of our being a 'nostlagia' (his word) for God which is not satisfied until we return to Him. (Perhaps this is based on some patristic saying.) The following may be of interest:

http://www.ox.ac.uk/...011/110513.html




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