Feser’s fourth proof and the mystery of existence

If the Aristotelian argument for a purely actual Being (which I critiqued in my previous post) is the backbone of Feser’s five proofs of God’s existence, the Thomistic proof is the beating heart, as it gets to the very core of what God is: Pure Existence itself, according to philosophy Professor Edward Feser. Today, I’m going to argue that this notion of God is utterly nonsensical. But it is not merely the argument’s conclusion which is flawed: the Thomistic proof also rests on shaky foundations, as the real distinction it posits between a finite thing’s essence and its existence is a highly dubious one: the main argument cited in support of it actually points to a matter-form distinction, instead. The second argument for a real distinction between a thing’s essence and its existence establishes nothing of the sort: all it shows is that whatever causes a thing to have existence also causes the nature or essence of that thing. A third argument for the essence-existence distinction illicitly assumes that the term “existence” names a single perfection, which is inherently simple and unlimited.

In addition, Feser’s Thomistic proof trades on an equivocation between the notion of a Being whose essence is identical to its own existence and that of a Being whose essence is Pure Existence – an equivocation which is grounded in the background metaphysical assumption that the concept of “existence” is a simple and unlimited one. In reality, as I shall explain below, the concept of “existence” is neither simple nor complex, neither limited nor unlimited, but rather, indefinite – which is one reason why the attempt to characterize God as Pure Existence, or Being itself, is doomed at the outset. Finally, any attempt to construe God as some sort of activity – whether it be Pure Existence, Pure Actuality, or Thought thinking Itself, or Love loving Himself – is radically mistaken, either because it reifies an abstraction (Existence exists, Actuality acts) or because it generates an infinite regress (Love loves love loves love…). In plain English: We need to think of God first and foremost as a noun, and not merely as a verb – in other words, as an Agent, rather than simply as an unlimited act of thought or love or “be-ing.”

Despite its flawed conception of God, Feser’s Thomistic proof is not without its merits: Continue reading

Evolutionary Informatics catches modelers doing modeling

As Tom English and others have discussed previously, there was a book published last year called Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, the authors of which are Marks, Dembski, and Ewert.

The main point of the book is stated as:

Indeed, all current models of evolution require information from an external designer to work.

(The “external designer” they are talking about is the modeler who created the model.)

Another way they state their position:

We show repeatedly that the proposed models all require inclusion of significant knowledge about the problem being solved.

Somehow, they think it needs to be shown that modelers put information and knowledge into their models. This displays a fundamental misunderstanding of models and modeling.

It is a simple fact that a model of any kind, in its entirety, comes from a modeler. Any information in the model, however one defines information, is put in the model by the modeler. All structures and behaviors of any model are results of modeling decisions made by the modeler. Models are the modelers’ conceptions of reality. It is expected that modelers will add the best information they think they have in order to make their models realistic. Why wouldn’t they? For people who actually build and use models, like engineers and scientists, the main issue is realism.

To see a good presentation on the fundamentals of modeling, I recommend the videos and handbooks available free online from the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM.) “[Link]”.

For a good discussion on what it really means for a model to “work,” I recommend a paper called “Concepts of Model Verification and Validation”, which was put out by the Los Alamos Laboratories.

Kondrashov’s Paper, Synergistic Epistasis, Soft Selection

Regarding Kondrashov’s paper Why have we not died 100 times over?, an internet “pupil” of mine who goes by the handle of “nomenmeum” asked what is synergistic epistasis and soft selection. The definition of synergistic epistasis seems to be the major issue as I don’t see the term much in literature. I don’t know exactly what it means. Does synergistic epistasis entail a change in S-coefficients?

For example in Brenda Andrews’ double and triple knockout experiments with yeast, the corresponding single knockout experiments had little-to-no noticeable effects, but several double and triple knockouts would clearly have deleterious effect when their component individual single knockouts did not in isolation.

Below is Brenda Andrews’ description of her experiment which I mentioned at Sandwalk in connection with the ENCODE 2015 planning meeting (Larry Moran knew Dr. Andrews as a graduate student at his school):
Continue reading

Rejoinder to Basener and Sanford’s reply, part I

William Basener and John Sanford have responded here to my post concerning whether R.A. Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection is critical to work on the theoretical population genetics of the interaction between mutation and natural selection. (This reply by Basener and Sanford is also reposted here.) Continue reading

Ubiquitin: a challenge for evolutionary theory?

Glancing at Uncommon Descent (I still do as Denyse O’Leary often reports on interesting science articles, as here*, and the odd comment thread can still provide entertainment), I see an OP authored by gpuccio (an Italian medical doctor) entitled The Ubiquitin System: Functional Complexity and Semiosis joined together, telling the story of the ubiquitin protein and its central role in eukaryote biochemistry in some considerable detail. Continue reading

Moral Judgment and Moral Standards

Consider the following argument:

1. One would be rationally entitled to make moral judgments about the institutions and practices of cultures distant from us in space or time only if one had reliable epistemic access to some transcendent (culture-independent) moral standard against which such institutions and practices could be evaluated.
2. But no one has reliable epistemic access to a transcendent, culture-independent moral standard.
3. Therefore, no one is rationally entitled to make moral judgments about the institutions and practices of cultures distant from us in space or time.


Continue reading

Dark DNA and the New Mechanism of Evolution?

Here is an article on the issue of Dark DNA.

Dark DNA got its name from the cosmological phenomenon called Dark Matter – the undetectable 25% of the mass of the universe that scientists know exists because they can detect its effects…

Similarly Dark DNA has eluded the sequencing of the genomes and yet scientists know it must exist because they see its effects, such as in case of the sand rat…

Continue reading

Why do Christians get banned at UD?

It looks like I just got banned at UD, which to me it means I have been noticed by “true Christians”, like Barry Arrington, who has proven, time and time again, that he deserves what he stands for…

I know that Sal got banned there too and he is a Christian..

What should we do? Should  we abandon uncommondescent.com all together?

Many have…  Who is left other then the few and the same style of comments appearing regularly?

 

Would Christianity view the Holocaust as evil, if the Nazis had won the war?

At UD Barry and the Gang of “true Christians” continue their assertiveness of their so-called christian morality and values, including the issue of evil mentioned by me in the previous OPs

Barry and the Gang seem certain, that if Nazis had won the war, Christians would be the only ones to acknowledge that the Holocaust was evil…How can they be so certain? It’s easy now since the Nazis lost the war… Do they have any evidence to make those assumptions? Continue reading

What is the evidence for “purposeful intervention”?

FMM: Purposeful intervention is pretty much the opposite of random mutation.

FMM notes in the same comment:

 If there in nothing about an idea that distinguishes it from it’s alternative it seems to be superfluous.

So the idea is “non designed mutations” and the alternative is “purposeful intervention”.

Give that, and given FMM has not discarded the idea of purposeful intervention there must be something that distinguishes it from non designed mutations.

What is that distinguishing factor? What is the actual evidence for “purposeful intervention” regarding mutations?

And, more broadly, what is the evidence for “purposeful intervention” in any area of biology? Apart from, of course, wishful thinking.

If You are Going to Be a Christian, at Least be a Courageous Christian

This is a follow up OP to my previous two where I’d challenged some of the common Christian views, such as the immortally of the soul  and the origin of evil.

At UD, I also questioned the suppose holiness of Billy Graham-who recently passed away-and the comparison of him to apostle Paul as well as Graham’s confidence that he was going to go to heaven to be with the Lord here.

It looks like that pushed some of the true Christians over the edge  at UD and consequently I was challenged to admit as being a closet atheist or as Truth Will Set You Free called me a/mat (atheist/materialist)…

41 Truth Will Set You Free 

“J-mac @ 15: A/mats are cowards when they preach their a/mat faith as if it has some redeeming social value, which it doesn’t. Stop faking. You act and live as if life has ultimate meaning and value, but there are no such things in a/mat faith-based philosophy.

You are delusional, and you are the real coward. Stop lying to yourself. Embrace your a/mat nihllism.”

Continue reading

Is Evil Inevitable?

Dr. Michael Egnor is a well known neurosurgeon and an ID proponent who is affiliated with the Discovery Institute. He has been writing extensively on the theme of religion, such Thomistic dualism, the immortality of the soul, and recently on the prevalence/existence of evil. Here is a quote from his recent article entitled:

Cosmic Fine-Tuning and the Problem of Evil”

“Theism predicts two things about evil: that it exists, and that we are not able to entirely comprehend it. Evil exists because the created universe is not God, but His creation, so it must of necessity fall short of God, who is perfectly Good. After all, if the universe were perfectly good, without evil, it would just be God. If the universe is God’s creation, then it must fall short of perfection, and it must contain evil, understood as the deprivation of good. So Goff is mistaken that theism predicts a perfect cosmos, free from evil. Theism posits a perfect God, and a creation necessarily short of perfection. Theism seems to have gotten this “prediction” quite right, because the cosmos is certainly short of perfection. Theism predicts evil in the world, precisely because God is Good and because the world is not God.” – Michael Egnor Continue reading

Flawed logic and bad mereology: why Feser’s first two proofs fail

In today’s post, I’m going to chop down two of Professor Feser’s proofs for God’s existence at the roots: namely, his first proof (in which Feser argues for the existence of a purely actual Being) and his second proof (in which he endeavors to show that an absolutely simple Being exists). Among Feser’s five proofs, his first proof has a special preeminence, as Feser uses it to deduce other attributes of the purely actual Being – its unity, immutability, eternity, immateriality, incorporeality, perfection, goodness, omnipotence and omniscience – which, taken together, warrant it being called “God.” Feser’s second, third, fourth and fifth proofs borrow from the arguments developed in Feser’s first proof, when deducing these same attributes, so if it turns out that the arguments Feser puts forward for these attributes rest on flawed assumptions (as I’ll show they do), then all five of Feser’s proofs of God will be flawed, in their conclusions at least.

So what’s wrong with Feser’s first two proofs? Continue reading

Defending the validity and significance of the new theorem “Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection With Mutations, Part II: Our Mutation-Selection Model

Defending the validity and significance of the new theorem “Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection With Mutations, Part II: Our Mutation-Selection Model

– Bill Basener and John Sanford

Joe Felsenstein and Michael Lynch (JF and ML) wrote a blog post, “Does Basener and Sanford’s model of mutation vs selection show that deleterious mutations are unstoppable?”  Their post is thoughtful and we are glad to continue the dialogue. We previously wrote a first part of a response to their post, focusing on the impact of R. A. Fisher’s work.  This is the second part of our response, focusing on the modelling and mathematics.  Our paper can be found at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00285-017-1190-x Continue reading

Natural Selection – Evolution Magic

Natural Selection is described as “the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype”. To this, some add “blind, mindless, and purposeless environmental process” that nonetheless is imagined turning random genetic mutations into superior new features enhancing descendants’ survivability (fitness). Accumulation of these features supposedly turns one lifeform into another over time. Natural Selection seeks to explain the appearance of design in nature without appealing to a designer. Continue reading

Atheism doubles among Generation Z

Good news from the Barna Group, a Christian polling organization:

Atheism on the Rise

For Gen Z, “atheist” is no longer a dirty word: The percentage of teens who identify as such is double that of the general population (13% vs. 6% of all adults). The proportion that identifies as Christian likewise drops from generation to generation. Three out of four Boomers are Protestant or Catholic Christians (75%), while just three in five 13- to 18-year-olds say they are some kind of Christian (59%).

This was particularly interesting…

Teens, along with young adults, are more likely than older Americans to say the problem of evil and suffering is a deal breaker for them.

…as was this:

Nearly half of teens, on par with Millennials, say “I need factual evidence to support my beliefs” (46%)—which helps to explain their uneasiness with the relationship between science and the Bible. Significantly fewer teens and young adults (28% and 25%) than Gen X and Boomers (36% and 45%) see the two as complementary.

The Falcon Heavy in binaural sound

I was in Florida last week for the inaugural Falcon Heavy launch, and though I wish I could do a mind meld and share the memories directly with you, the technology doesn’t yet exist.

Here’s the next best thing:

Destin is right. The sights are awesome, but it’s the sound that really makes the experience. Be sure to watch through to the point where the boosters come home to roost.

(Note for the impatient: Ignition happens around 3:20 into the video.)