Archive for ‘Science’

March 30, 2012

Unbelievable? The Conference: Giving a Skeptical World Reasons to Believe

by Max Andrews

Most of my blog followers are from North America but I do have several followers in the UK.  I want to promote this conference coming up hosted by Premier Christian Radio’s Unbelievable? hosted by Justin Brierly and partnering with Hugh Ross and Reasons to Believe.

We live in a sceptical world. Atheism has taken on an evangelistic tone in the UK. Secularists claim to have a monopoly on reason. So how should the Church respond?

Premier Christian Radio presents an apologetics day conference aimed at equipping everyday Christians with reasons for the truth of their faith. The conference will also focus on how to share these truths in a fruitful and engaging way.

This year’s Conference partner is Reasons To Believe – a Christian apologetics teaching and research organisation with the mission to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research consistently uphold, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible.

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March 28, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Modal Realism

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Modal Realism

Definition: Modal realism is the idea that all modal possibilities are actual.

More about the term:  Anything that is possible actually happens.  However, modal realism is, in a sense, modally limited.  The state of affairs of the non-existence of anything cannot be true if something does exist so by definition modal realism must entail ~∃!W with W being the non-existence of anything—nothing, lest it suffer the consequence of being intrinsically incoherent (~∃!W = There does not exist just one W).  In order to avoid an inherent incoherence perhaps there are logically antecedent reasons to affirm ~∃!W (i.e. actuality is logically prior to possibility, which makes possibility somewhat superfluous). Under certain multiverse scenarios different regions of space will exhibit different effective laws of physics (i.e. difference constants, dimensionality, particle content, relation of information, information propagation, etc.) corresponding to different local minima in a landscape of possibilities.[1] 

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March 28, 2012

The Laws of Nature and the Metaphysical Multiverse

by Max Andrews

Regularity theory (RT) attempts to account for laws in a descriptive manner contra the necessitarian position (NT), which expresses the laws of nature as nomic necessity.  According to the RT the fundamental regularities are brute facts; they neither have nor require an explanation.  Regularity theorists attempt to formulate laws and theories in a language where the connectives are all truth functional.  Thus, each law is expressed with a universal quantifier as in [(x) (Px ⊃ Qx)].[1]  The NT states that there are metaphysical connections of necessity in the world that ground and explain the most fundamental regularities.  Necessitarian theorists usually use the word must to express this connection.[2]  Thus, NT maintains must-statements are not adequately captured by is-statements (must ≠ is, or certain facts are unaccounted for).[3]

The role of counterfactuals serves to make distinctions in regularities.  Concerning the RT and counterfactuals the regularist may claim that laws do not purport what will always occur but what would have occurred if things were different.  NT claims that it is difficult for RT to account for certain counterfactual claims because what happens in the actual world do not themselves imply anything about what would have happened had things been different.[4]  This is only a mere negative assertion on behalf of NT and carries no positive reason to adopt the NT position.  However, RT does have a limited scope in explanation. C.D. Broad argued that the very fact that laws entail counterfactuals is incompatible with regularity theory.[5]  He suggests that counterfactuals are either false or trivially true. If it is now true that Q occurs if P causally precedes Q then the regularist may sufficiently account for past counterfactual claims.  Given the present antecedent condition of P at tn and P implies Q at tn and it was true that P implied Q at tn-1 then using P as an antecedent for R at hypothetical tn-1’ then R is true if P was a sufficient condition R at tn-1’. Thus, RT accounts for past counterfactuals, but this is trivially true.  However, in positive favor of the NT, there is no reason to expect the world to continue to behave in a regular manner as presupposed by the practice of induction.  Consider Robin Collins’ illustration of this point:

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March 24, 2012

The Fine-Tuning Argument and Random Sampling

by Max Andrews

One of the objections raised by an audience member at the VT debate on the existence of God was against the fine-tuning argument and probability (for my method of argumentation please see: VT Debate-My Method of Argumentation).  In statistics a random sample drawn must have the same chance of being sampled as all the other samples.  The objection was based on this problem.  Since we know of only one universe we don’t know what the range of values for the constants and physics could be.  This was also brought up in conversation with both atheists after the debate.  Since we don’t know how narrow or broad these ranges could be there’s no way of drawing out any probability based argument from fine-tuning.  The thing is that we can know what other universes would be like if the values were different.  If our natural laws have counterfactuals that are in any way incoherent then this is an appropriate sampling.  Also, to make this objection and advocate that we just so happen to live in a life permitting universe in the multiverse then this objection cannot be made since the claim that we happen to life in a life-permitting one amongst countless others suggest we can know what the other samplings are.  For instance, here are a few examples:

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March 24, 2012

VT Debate–The Fine-Tuning Argument

by Max Andrews

The following is Robin Collins’ fine-tuning argument for the existence of a fine-tuner I used in the VT debate on the existence of God.  This version of the fine-tuning argument is an abductive version.  I believe this argument, when used in an abductive form, is the strongest form of the argument.  You’ll usually see it in a deductive form, a la William Lane Craig.  For my method of argumentation please see: VT–My Method of Argumentation.

The fine-tuning argument argues that when the physics and the laws of nature are expressed mathematically their values are ever so balanced in a way that permits the existence of life.  This claim is made on the basis that existence of vital substances such as carbon, and the properties of objects such as stable long-lived stars, depend rather sensitively on the values of certain physical parameters, and on the cosmological initial conditions.[1]  I’m merely arguing that the universe/multiverse is fine-tuned for the essential building blocks and environments that life requires for cosmic and biological evolution to even occur.

  1. Given the fine-tuning evidence, a life permitting universe/multiverse (LPM) is very, very epistemically unlikely under the non-existence of a fine-tuner (~FT): that is, P(LPM|~FT & k’) ≪ 1.
  2. Given the fine-tuning evidence, LPM is not unlikely under FT (Fine-Tuner): that is, ~P(LPM|FT & k’) ≪ 1.
  3. Therefore, LPM strongly supports FT over ~FT. [2]
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March 23, 2012

Reflections on My Virginia Tech Debate on the Existence of God

by Max Andrews

This past Wednesday (March 21, 2012) I participated in a debate titled “Does God Probably Exist, or Not?” at Virginia Tech.  My debate partner was a very loving fellow who was an undergraduate in International Relations.  My two atheist opponents were a PhD student in Physics and the other was an undergraduate in biology.  I was thoroughly pleased and impressed with the university and the love and kindness that the organizers and participants extended to me.  I certainly felt like I was in a friendly atmosphere and sensed no hint of hostility.

I thought the debate went very well.  My only criticism was that I was under the impression that there was going to be a twenty or twenty-five minute cross-examination period but that never came to fruition.  I present three arguments for the existence of God: the argument from contingency, the fine-tuning argument, and the moral argument.  For the contingency argument I used Thomas Aquinas’ argument.  The fine-tuning argument was an abductive form and a slightly modified version of Robin Collins argument.  The moral argument was an abductive argument modeled after David Baggett’s version.  In a few following posts I’ll share my arguments and methodology in more detail but here are the forms of my arguments I used:

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March 21, 2012

Word of the Week Wednesday: Regularity Theory

by Max Andrews

The Word of the Week is: Regularity Theory [of natural laws]

Definition: Regularity theory (RT) attempts to account for natural laws in a descriptive manner contra the necessitarian position (NT), which expresses the laws of nature as nomic necessity.

More about the term:  According to the RT the fundamental regularities are brute facts; they neither have nor require an explanation.  Regularity theorists attempt to formulate laws and theories in a language where the connectives are all truth functional.  Thus, each law is expressed with a universal quantifier as in [(x) (Px ⊃ Qx)].[1]  The NT states that there are metaphysical connections of necessity in the world that ground and explain the most fundamental regularities.  Necessitarian theorists usually use the word must to express this connection.[2]  Thus, NT maintains must-statements are not adequately captured by is-statements (must ≠ is, or certain facts are unaccounted for).[3]

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March 11, 2012

Radiation Could have Caused the Image in the Shroud of Turin

by Max Andrews

A recent paper published by Professor G. Fanti (University of Padua) in the Journal of Imaging Science and Technology arguing that the Shroud of Turin’s image may have been caused by the corona discharge effect (a form of electrical discharge).  Fanti told the Italian, La Stampa, newspaper that:

[Ever] since the Italian photographer Secondo Pia obtained the first photographic reproductions of the Shroud in 1898, many researchers have put forward image formation hypotheses, many interesting hypotheses have been examined to date, but none of these is able to explain the mysterious image fully. None of the reproductions obtained manages to portray characteristics that are similar to the ones found on the Turin Shroud.

Fanti continued,

During my research I also considered the possibility of the combination of more than one mechanism in the image’s formation, returning to the ideas of those who, as of the second half of the last century, started to doubt the authenticity of the Shroud and therefore started suggesting image reproduction techniques used by medieval artists.

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March 7, 2012

Conceptualizing God’s Relationship to Time

by Max Andrews

Absolute Eternality (Timelessness):  This view is the traditional (Augustinian) view that God is absolutely timeless.  His timelessness is not affected by the temporality of the universe nor his interactions with it.  In the metaphysics of absolute eternality, God experiences all of his life and being in one eternal now.

Relative Eternality (Timelessness):  The relative eternality position acknowledges that God transcends time, which is a created thing and dependent upon God, but denies that he is absolutely atemporal because it sees God as actively sustaining a changing world in existence.  The relative eternalist therefore maintains that God is timeless relative to physical time but temporal relative to an uncreated metaphysical time that transcends the universe and is a pure duration that flows without change.  God’s being is ontologically prior to this temporal aspect of his life and serves as the ground of it.

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March 7, 2012

The Planck Scale Physics

by Max Andrews

In the system of Planck units, the Planck base unit of length is known simply as the Planck length, the base unit of time is the Planck time, and so on.  These units are derived from the five dimensional universal physical constants in such a manner that these constants are eliminated from fundamental equations of physical law when physical quantities are expressed in terms of Planck units.

Planck Length: 1.616252(81) 10-35 m

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