24 Nov 2013

Dr. Pangloss Was Right

Religious 146 Comments

I have made this point before, and been denounced by atheists and theists alike: This really is the best possible world. Yes, “free will” is involved in understanding why, but when the atheist critic says, “If your God is so good, why does He allow suffering?” it is correct to say, “Because it’s better that there is suffering.”

No, I don’t know exactly how that “works,” but that’s what the answer has to be, in my mind, or else you really can’t say that God is good and omnipotent. The atheist has a compelling point, and I think Pangloss has the appropriate answer.

My pastor at church today said as much (though I don’t know if he’d endorse the way I phrased it above) when he said something like (I’m paraphrasing slightly):

“It’s not that God made creation, it was good, then there was the Fall, and He had to turn to Plan B. No, He’s God, He never lost control for a moment. God made all of creation, and that was good and illustrated His glory, but only through the Fall, Redemption of Christ, and the coming re-creation when Christ returns, will God fully demonstrate His glory. The re-creation will be more glorious than the initial creation.”

Then he went on to say (I really like this guy, by the way) that he doesn’t understand how that can be, and it doesn’t make sense, but: “It’s the truth.”

Amen.

146 Responses to “Dr. Pangloss Was Right”

  1. Enopoletus Harding says:

    I think Mr. Murphy just rendered the word “good” meaningless.

  2. Joseph Fetz says:

    So God’s a bit wishy-washy? Imperfect, one might say?

      • Joseph Fetz says:

        Dammit Bob, you know that I hate to do this …

        Reconcile the God of the OT to the NT. Certainly you’re picking favorites here, or otherwise accepting some fallibility on his part.

        Keep in mind, I am not questioning the existence of God, but only your reasoning of Him.

  3. Ken B says:

    When a couple of years ago I suggested that the P in Robert P Murphy stood for Pangloss Bob got angry, and as I recall suggested obliquely that I

    • Ken B says:

      Sigh. Premature submission. Must’ve been Fetz’s picture.

      Bob suggested obliquely that I journey to a warm place.

    • Martin says:

      I don’t think that this is really fair to attribute this to God, if he exists. This is the result of the choices made by history’s most heinous men and women and, lest we forget, the choices made by ordinary folk who did not want see or hear of evil being done.

      Mass graves are not a “gotcha” for Christians or other believers once you grant the premise of free will and make individuals responsible for their own salvation.

      • Ken B says:

        I’m not attributing this to God. I’m attributing it to a less than best of all possible worlds.

        • Matt Tanous says:

          So you would prefer that instead of people with free will and the ability to act, there existed only automatons. Ironically, without preference.

          Without suffering, joy cannot exist because free will cannot exist. There can be only deterministic nothingness.

          Can you really say that “no mass graves” > “ability to freely choose”?

          • Andrew Keen says:

            No, what Ken wants is a nanny God that steps in whenever free will goes too far.

      • Yosef says:

        Martin, free will means things could have happened a different way. If any of those way are better, than this is not the best possible world. So either:

        1. This is the best possible world, and God’s creation (since as Bob’s pastor says God never lost control) is concentration camps.

        2. This is not the best possible world, as there exists a world in which people did not choose concentration camps, in which people could have been better.

        So either God made humans with the idea that they will make concentration camps, or he didn’t make humans as best as possible. (Or maybe making humans which would make concentrations camps *is* the best possible for Him).

        • Matt Tanous says:

          “Martin, free will means things could have happened a different way.”

          On the contrary, it means that things could NOT have happened in a different way, as to MAKE that occur you would have to abrogate the free will of the actors involved.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ken B., suppose you die and yet still retain consciousness. You suddenly become aware of the entire scope of the universe’s history, and understand the exquisite attention that went into every nanosecond of its existence, in order for events to unfold the way they did.

      You become aware of a Being of supreme intelligence, who communicates to you, “If I had altered history so that they lived, then it would not have been possible for you to be born. But I chose to create you just the way you are, because you are my child and I love you.”

      And all of the people from that picture are there with you, welcoming you with open arms. They are thrilled that they allowed you to exist, and everyone involved agrees it was a beautiful plan and would not have altered one detail, now that they have all the information.

      • Yosef says:

        Bob you wrote, “You become aware of a Being of supreme intelligence, who communicates to you, “If I had altered history so that they lived, then it would not have been possible for you to be born.”

        Could you explain what other things are impossible for God? We have that he can only create certain histories, what else?

      • Ken B says:

        As I say Bob I wish there were a God. I don’t agree with Hitchens there’s no god and it’s a good thing too, I think there’s no God and it’s a pity. It’s a nice dream bob, but I don’t believe it.

        Besides they let major freedom exist.

        🙂

        • Major_Freedom says:

          I sense the same egoistic destroyer of life in you as I do Callahan. He too insinuated/suggested that it would be better if I weren’t alive.

          Interesting.

          • Yosef says:

            Major_Freedom, of course it is better that you are live. Otherwise all those people died horribly for nothing.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              Tell that to the people who died horribly.

              Suppose someone came up to you and told you that they are going to shoot you dead, and that due to you dying then and there instead of some later time, that a particular human life or set of human lives will now be able to exist 1 trillion years from now that otherwise would not have existed.

              Since it is likely that different human lives would have been able to exist if he DIDN’T shoot you dead, why can’t there be a set of lives based on peace instead of violence?

              • Yosef says:

                Major_Freedom, I was being sardonic. I agree with your position that it is horrible to excuse that horrible treatment of people by saying that it may have meant others got to live.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Sure, but I took your comment seriously because it could be said seriously, and I prefer to answer serious comments.

              • Ken B says:

                To be fair, Bob is arguing that those other people who died horribly would also decide that their deaths were for the best. So it is not really fair to say that Bob is merely condoning suffering; he is also arguing that those who died wood in full possession of the fact choose their fate.
                It’s still crazy I believe but it’s not as morally blind as you seem to be implying.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I wasn’t saying he was “condoning” suffering, but rather questioning how it could be reasonable to believe that one WOULD accept dying horribly in a concentration camp for the sake of one set of lives existing in the distant future (of which you dying in a camp is a step) instead of a different set of lives existing in the distant future (of which you being set free is a step).

                I am asking why doesn’t Murphy say that we could all rejoice in Heaven with people who live 1 trillion years in the future whose existence was only made possible if people today DIDN’T choose concentration camps.

                Murphy likely doesn’t believe that if those concentration camps didn’t exist, then no human lives at all would be possible after. He is likely believing that only a particular set of lives in the future is possible.

                Notice though that his argument has a Hegelian structure. It is completely historical, backwards looking. Murphy wants me to rejoice at concentration camps because without them, my life today might not exist, or won’t exist.

                Hegel believed that what is actual is rational and what is rational is actual.

                In other words, history is perfect, ideal, and cannot be anything other than what happens. To explain the suffering and pain in real world life, Hegel claimed that this was a universal “Mind” going through necessary stages of self-understanding. Of travailing through hardship so that it can absorb these events into itself to make it a fuller Mind at the end.

          • Ken B says:

            You did see the 🙂 right?

            • Major_Freedom says:

              ?

              • Ken B says:

                I typed a glyph which was turned into a smiling face and moved to the start of the line by the HTML rendering. I asked you did see the smiling face didn’t you?
                I was making a joke because Bob gets particularly upset when you dis his religion, so I wanted to Lighten it up.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I saw the smiley face, but even joking about something like that reveals that there is some part of you that relishes in the thought…

              • Bharat says:

                That’s a non-sequitur, MF.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I am not sure about that. Why else would someone joke about it? To get a rise out of a person? They can do it some other way.

              • Bharat says:

                There are a lot of ways a person can get out of a rise out of another person, but it doesn’t follow from that any part of him is serious about your death if he jokes about it.

                A joke is by definition not serious. There doesn’t have to be any part of a person that’s serious about the content of the joke to enjoy it. Maybe Ken’s joke isn’t tasteful, but it doesn’t mean he’s in any way serious.

                People can list to a comedian make a joke about the Holocaust or some other terrible event and laugh, but that doesn’t imply that really think the Holocaust should have occurred. As an example, maybe someone on this site finds you annoying in some way, MF. They hear Ken’s exaggerative joke and chuckle. “Haha! God let even MF exist!” That no way implies they want you dead. A view of you with a much lesser intensity satisfies the conditions to find the joke funny, although I don’t think someone even has to find you annoying to find the joke funny.

      • Major_Freedom says:

        Murphy, suppose you are one of those who died in that concentration camp, and yet still retain consciousness. You suddenly become aware of the entire scope of the universe’s history, and understand the exquisite attention that went into every nanosecond of its existence, in order for events to unfold the way they did.

        You become aware of a Being of supreme intelligence, who communicates to you, “If I had altered history so that you had lived, then it would not have been possible for Mr. Smith 10,000 years later to have been born. But I chose to create him just the way he is, because he is my child and I love him.”

        And all of the people from 10,000 years from now are there with you, welcoming you with open arms. They are thrilled that you died a painful horrible death so that they could exist, and….everyone involved agreed it was a beautiful plan and would not have altered one detail, now that they have all the information.

        Really?

        You would not think that it would be reasonable to believe that Mr. Smith living the way he lived 10,000 years from now is not worth your living today?

        Or should we just welcome murderers so that we can all get to that afterlife that is so awesome where it supposedly doesn’t matter what happened on Earth?

        • Ken B says:

          Major freedom, I am glad you exist just for this comment.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            It’s good that you are not omnipotent Ken B, or else you would be dropping people like flies that you might later want around to make snarky comments.

            • Ken B says:

              Ehhh, they can be brought back.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                Yeah but you wouldn’t know those comments could have been made, given that they’re dead. You are saying you’d only bring them back if you knew. But that’s after the fact.

              • Ken B says:

                Whoops you’re right. I have to be both omniscient and omnipotent.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I was hedging my bet on that one, because I was thinking you might come back with saying that omnipotence can be utilized to force oneself to be omniscient, and so you would know if I would have said what I could have said it after all.

                But I didn’t want to open that can of worms, so I let you decide how to take it.

                It’s one of the things I don’t get: Why are we separating omnipotence from omniscience? If you’re omnipotent, but not omniscient, then you can DO anything you wanted. Does that not include making yourself omniscient?

                And, if you’re omniscient, but not omnipotent, then you can know how to do anything. Does that not include making yourself omnipotent?

                Mises argued that thinking is itself action. If the power of acting is unlimited, then I’m thinking maybe that implies unlimited knowledge and thus omniscience. Similarly, if knowing is unlimited, then I’m thinking maybe that implies unlimited action and thus omnipotence.

                Maybe with no upper bound, knowing and acting become absorbed into one concept. Maybe omniscience and omnipotence are impossible on their own, isolated from the other.

                I have a hard time imagining knowing everything without also doing everything, or doing everything without also knowing everything.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                In other words, I am thinking that if a being knows everything, then it must know itself to be all powerful, or omnipotent, and if a being is omnipotent, then it must be exercising its power to make itself omniscient.

  4. Ken B says:

    Thank you for this Bob
    “Then he went on to say (I really like this guy, by the way) that he doesn’t understand how that can be, and it doesn’t make sense, but: “It’s the truth.”
    Amen.”

    I have been arguing for a long time that you demand a plenary exemption from logic on your religious posts, that much of what you say on these does not make sense, and that you advocate a full throated embrace of the irrational. I could not have constructed so convincing argument as you have provided here.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      I have thought the same thing.

      “It doesn’t make sense, but it’s the truth, Amen.”

      It can’t get any clearer than that.

  5. Ivan Jankovic says:

    “Then he went on to say (I really like this guy, by the way) that he doesn’t understand how that can be, and it doesn’t make sense, but: “It’s the truth.””

    Bob, I respect the right of the believers to have such counter-intuitive notions of truth as you and your pastor showed here, but it is a little bit odd that you would in the same time try to convince other people in your Truth or to defend your Faith by invoking the rational arguments. It seems to me that you would like to have it both ways: to use the rational, standard arguments when you think they are on your side, and to take refuge into the Higher Truth which remains true even if it does not make any sense whatsoever, in the opposite case.

  6. Blackadder says:

    Bob,

    Are you familiar with Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      No I haven’t heard that, BA. But keep in mind, I cited free will in my post right upfront.

  7. Blackadder says:

    Normally I agree with Bob’s religion posts, but I can’t get behind this one.

    It’s probably the case, given human nature or statistics, that if you went back far enough you would find one of my ancestors was conceived via rape. So if it had not been for that horribly evil act, I would not exist.

    Should I therefore conclude that it was better for my ancestor to be raped? Absolutely not.

    • Ken B says:

      Perhaps you should give up God Then Blackadder, because if God is all-knowing all good and all-powerful this simply must be the best of all possible worlds.

      • Blackadder says:

        Ken,

        Are you familiar with Plantinga’s Free Will Defense?

        • Ken B says:

          No.

          • Blackadder says:

            It’s generally accepted that Plantinga has shown the existence of an all-powerful and benevolent God does not entail that we live in the best of all possible worlds:

            http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga‘s_free_will_defense

            • Ken B says:

              All good,, all-knowing, an all-powerful are incompatible. Theology is the art of choosing which one of these you’re going to discard without really admitting it. Plantinga has discarded omnipotence .
              “It is possible that God, even being omnipotent, could not create a world with free creatures who never choose evil.” He has chosen to keep the word omnipotence and discard the meaning.

              I have never argued that two out of three isn’t possible.

              • Blackadder says:

                Ken,

                Being omnipotent doesn’t mean being able to do the logically impossible.

              • Ken B says:

                But being unable to create a certain sort of creature is not logically impossible.
                It seems clear to me Plantinga has limited the meaning of omnipotent.

                Or are you making a stronger argument: that whenever we show a logical contradiction in your beliefs about god you get to say “well god can’t get around logic so you haven’t refuted me?”

              • Lord Keynes says:

                ken B,

                There is also another argument against omnipotent of god:

                If one really thinks that, say, any action is good simply, solely and only because god has ordered it, this means that morality is ultimately nothing but the arbitrary whim of good. Morality has no objective basis and could in theory be subjectively determined by god.

                For example, if god orders mass murder, as he supposedly does in Deuteronomy 2:33–36 and 3:1–11, then mass murder is moral, because god has ordered it. There are Christian philosophers who have seriously taken that position: William of Ockham argued that, yes, anything god orders, even if it appears to be evil, it is actually good and morally obligatory. That is an appalling conclusion, which concedes that we have (in theory) no ultimate moral standard except the subjective whims of god.

                If the Christian concedes that an action is good, not because god has ordered it, but because it is good for some independent objective standard or objective criteria, one has conceded that god is not omnipotent (in the conventional sense of that word), for it follows logically that — for god to be omnibenevolent — god’s actions and orders are severely limited by some external objective moral principles or standard.

              • Ken B says:

                About half the people in the world think Abraham is a hero and role model because he was willing to slit his son’s throat at the behest of his god.

              • Blackadder says:

                “But being unable to create a certain sort of creature is not logically impossible.”

                It is if the creature is logically impossible. It’s no derogation of God’s power to say that He can’t make a square circle, or a person who has free will but can’t choose to do evil.

              • Matt Tanous says:

                “But being unable to create a certain sort of creature is not logically impossible.”

                That’s false. It is, for instance, impossible to logically create something that has free will but also is an automaton that will always follow your will. These are mutually exclusive states.

                Either a being has free will, and thus possesses the ability to disobey, or it does not.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          I think unintentionally, Plantinga’s attempted solution to the logical problem of evil, serves to undercut the existence of an omnibenevolent creator.

          We can do a little Feuerbach jiu-jitsu and transfer this omnibenevolent concept down to Earth as a predicate of Man’s ideal for himself.

          Thus, assume a human being strives to be omnibenevolent, and chooses to do only good. Would this human purposefully manipulate matter to create an intelligent robot that commits occasional genocide? Or would he manipulate matter only in such a way that his creations only do good?

          We can quibble over whether or not such a human would make a mistake on the basis of ignorance and accidentally create a genocidal robot, but it should be emphasized that the original Plantinga defense also has the premise of the creator being omniscient, so we answer my question in a way that would contradict Plantinga’s premises. I am taking his premises and turning them on their head.

          I would posit that if I strove to only do good, then I wouldn’t create a robot that commits genocide. Would this mean I am creating robots without free will? Yes, that is what would be implied.

          But there is a gap in Plantinga’s defense.

          On the one hand he assumes that a world of creatures with free will is more valuable than a world of creatures without free will. This is a value judgment of Plantinga. And, according to Plantinga, to have free choice implies that evil must exist. If evil doesn’t exist, then neither does free will. Plantigna rejects compatibalism.

          On the other hand, Plantinga’s defense implies that an omnibenevolent creator would create a world of creatures with free will instead of a world of creatures without free will on the basis that it is “more valuable.”

          But more valuable to whom? If it’s more valuable to the omnibenevolent creator, then that creator values evil, and therefore cannot actually be omnibenevolent. If it’s more valuable to the creatures with free will, then Plantinga’s defense is really just an explanation of Plantinga’s values, and not a logical defense of evil per se.

          As a hypothetical, I can imagine myself being the only creative being in the universe, and being omnibenevolent. I would not necessarily choose to create creatures capable of genocide in my benevolence. It is not a logical necessity. I could choose to create creatures that only do good, that is, creatures that have no free will.

          It would not be not contrary to my omnibenevolence for me to choose not to create genocidal robots.

          Thus, given that evil exists in the world we live in, it must mean that the creator values evil. A creature that values evil cannot be omnibenevolent.

          Plantinga’s defense doesn’t actually work. It begs the question. The implicit judgment concerning free will evil as being valuable, does not actually address the logical problem of evil.

          • Matt Tanous says:

            “Thus, assume a human being strives to be omnibenevolent, and chooses to do only good. Would this human purposefully manipulate matter to create an intelligent robot that commits occasional genocide?”

            You have to assume the goal here. If I assume that my intelligent robot is supposed to – despite its intelligence – still be a robot that does whatever I want, then no – but if I am omnipotent, what is the point of that?

            If you presume, instead, that my goal is to create beings that can experience joy and happiness and love – the wonders of our life on Earth – I must allow them the free will to make their own choices, even if the consequences are not “ideal”.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      BA hits on an important point.

      Is it not reasonable to think that BA’s rapist ancestor could have chosen to romance the other instead of raping them? Maybe they could have procreated voluntarily, and BA could still exist today.

      Or is it the case that humans have only ONE path to get to a particular desired future?

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Blackadder wrote:

      It’s probably the case, given human nature or statistics, that if you went back far enough you would find one of my ancestors was conceived via rape. So if it had not been for that horribly evil act, I would not exist.

      Should I therefore conclude that it was better for my ancestor to be raped? Absolutely not.

      Blackadder: Suppose if you went back 2,000 years, there was a nice guy who was tortured and nailed to a cross, so that it would be possible for you to live.

      Should you therefore conclude that it was better that that guy was murdered?

      • Blackadder says:

        Bob,

        If someone were to willingly undergo torture and death on a cross to save humanity that would be heroic beyond words.

        On the other hand, if it turned out that the guy was himself responsible for the world to be in peril, and that he’d set up the whole situation so that, by saving people, he could increase his own glory, then that would not be heroic.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Blackadder, I’m surprised at your position on this. A random observer would think you were an atheist, I would imagine. (Well, except that my loaded question to you indicated you were a Christian.)

          Anyway, you obviously don’t like at least a certain strand of Protestantism, because your comments here aren’t just critical of my particular phrasing, you’re saying that there is a sense in which God didn’t plan for what happens in the world.

          • Blackadder says:

            Bob,

            I am certainly not an atheist. But what I would say is that God plans around evil rather than that He plans evil.

          • Cody S says:

            I am with Blackadder on this.

            If what we do at every turn is the plan and therefore the desire of God, there is no actual need for Christ on the cross. Or the universe, for that matter.

  8. Steven Landsburg says:

    Then he went on to say (I really like this guy, by the way) that he doesn’t understand how that can be, and it doesn’t make sense, but: “It’s the truth.”

    How does he know?

    • Ken B says:

      When I was in Sunday school when I was very young our teacher was explaining to us some obscurity, perhaps the Trinity, and she asked, “do we understand? No. Do we believe? Yes.”
      That was the last time I went to Sunday school.

    • Ken B says:

      “How does he know?”
      Any answer Bob gives will run smack into the problem of multiplicity we have discussed on this board before. If he cites the Bible why not The Koran or why not just the Old Testament or tales of Thor? Why four particular books about Jesus and not some of the other Gospels that have come down to us?

  9. Bob Murphy says:

    Steve, Ken B., and everyone else guffawing over my “shocking” admission that I believe something that doesn’t make sense: You’ve all heard Richard Feynman said, “nobody understands quantum mechanics.” So: You guys can’t believe the voodoo physicists walking around, believing something that they themselves admit doesn’t make sense, right?

    Please don’t lecture me about the experimental validity of QED versus the mysticism of my beliefs. My point is, what is “shocking” to you in my post, makes you smile with delight when a natural scientist says the exact same thing.

    • Ken B says:

      Richard Feynman was referring to something for which no comprehensible mental model exists, he was not referring to something contradictory. It makes no sense because of the limitations of our understanding not because it’s inherently contradictory.
      Further I’m not going to agree with just airily waving away empirical evidence. Science has proven itself repeatedly to be the most reliable way of learning about the world. That is because it is solidly and squarely based on empirics. Well, also on non-contradiction.

      FYI, I’m not the least bit shocked Bob. This is what I’ve been maintaining for quite a while, as I said above.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Ken B:

        Richard Feynman was referring to something for which no comprehensible mental model exists, he was not referring to something contradictory.

        Neither am I, if you grant that it’s not a contradiction to say a cat is alive and not alive at the same time.

        • Ken B says:

          Can you exhibit(observe) the cat both alive and not alive at the same time? Or can you simply not come up with a calculation of the truth value which is sensible, ie where assuming one or other values for this unobserved condition does not work. Quantum mechanics makes a hash commonsense I agree. It does not make a hash of the law of non-contradiction. This really is what the EPR and Bell’s inequalities were all about. Bell’s inequalities did not lead to people rejecting the law of non-contradiction, it led to them to them rejecting certain almost blindingly obvious but untrue assumptions that we have intuitively making for thousands of years.

          If anything quantum mechanics make more important the connection to and specification of observation when we are conducting discussions and constructing models.

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Schrodinger posited the cat in the box as a thought experiment in order to show the flaws in the Copenhagen interpretation of QM.

          He didn’t propose it because that is actually what he thought was happening. He wasn’t trying to convince the world that “There are things that don’t make sense to me but I nevertheless believe to be true.”

          • Bob Murphy says:

            MF thanks for clarifying; I didn’t realize (or had forgotten) that Schrodinger himself was using it as a reductio ad absurdum.

            But that bolsters my use of it: Schrodinger is saying, “This is the implication of your guys’ nutty interpretation!” and yet, physicists still do believe in “entanglement.”

            Ken is linking to that awful picture and saying, “This is the implication of your guys’ nutty interpretation!” and yet, some theologians still do believe in a God who planned every second of existence out, beforehand.

            • Major_Freedom says:

              I was thinking you might come back with that.

              But there is a difference between showing the reductios of other people’s arguments as a means to showing them that their premises are problematic, and those other people believing in the reductios directly on purpose and not caring that it doesn’t make sense.

              You for example show countless Kontradictions, but I don’t think Krugman is making his arguments because he knows they are contradictory but doesn’t care. If you asked him, he’d probably THINK he’s being consistent.

              That way of thinking is what is important here. Many of the Copenhagen guys took Schrodinger’s cat as a reason to drop the Copenhagen interpretation. Some others did not, but tried to get around the cat by adopting a “many worlds” approach. That is the route Feynman took, I believe.

              I don’t know of any quantum physicist who actually believes Schrodinger’s Cat is really taking place, but if there were, and there likely are, I would consider them to be as on the same wrong path as the “mystic”. I wouldn’t give them a free pass just because they don’t consider themselves religious.

              • Bob Murphy says:

                I’m willing to concede it was a bad analogy. But there are things physicists believe about quantum reality that “don’t make any sense,” like the two-slit experiment. My simple point is that I’m not, at long last, admitting that Christianity throws reason out the window, as people here are claiming, unless you also think physicists who say “quantum physics doesn’t make sense” are doing the same.

              • Ken B says:

                The two slit experiment “doesn’t make sense” because reality does not fit either the wave or the particle model. Waves and particles are mental models. It is just unfortunate for us that our evolutionary history has not grokked the correct model but instead forces us into inadequate ones. But while these experiments outrage commonsense they do not exhibit logical contradictions.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                I don’t think it’s comparable, and that’s not because of a bias against religion and for science.

                The double slit experiment only “doesn’t make sense” according to classical assumptions, not because it violates the laws of logic and the physicists don’t care.

                Shooting one electron at a time through a slit creates a diffraction pattern. This “doesn’t make sense” only if we assume the classical assumption of electrons being particles is correct. The experimental result does not violate the law of non-contradiction however.

                If scientists did what religious people TEND to do in the face of things that don’t make sense, then they would say “It doesn’t make sense that a a single point particle electron beam would create such a diffraction pattern. But I believe electrons are point particles regardless just because!”

                No, what they did was completely overturn their understanding of what electrons ARE. They utilized the law of non-contradiction and said that electrons are not actually “this”, but they are rather “that”. They were trying to make sense of what they were seeing. They didn’t just rest on their laurels and “have faith” that electrons were as the classicals said they were despite it not making sense.

                Do you see where atheists are coming from when they become “shocked” at a theist who relishes in something that doesn’t make sense but they believe it’s true anyway?

                When religion goes through a “revolutioon” the way physics did from classical to quantum mechanics, then I think your comparison would be apt.

              • Ken B says:

                Outstanding comment MF.

                (Sorry LK but it’s true)
                🙂

              • Lord Keynes says:

                MF can talk sense on atheism but take a look at his comment here, Ken B:

                “The historical data collection you cited is irrelevant.
                ….
                Surveys are not sufficient to what people actually DO, LK.”

                http://consultingbyrpm.com/blog/2013/11/fellow-rothbardians-the-jig-is-up.html#comment-83518

              • Major_Freedom says:

                The historical data of observed prices contradicts the historical data on verbal or written answers given on surveys.

                Prices are indeed rising over time, precisely because of the tendency to clear markets in inflationary environments. I would trust actual price data over what people say they would do given such and such events hypothetically transpire.

              • Lord Keynes says:

                It does not contradict it at all.

                Mark-up price businesses say that they are much more likely to raise prices when average costs rise than they are to reduce prices when average costs fall. There is no contradiction with reality: we see a tendency for prices to rise over time.

              • Major_Freedom says:

                “It does not contradict it at all.”

                Prices not rising in response to demand (survey), and prices rising in response to demand (reality) is not a contradiction at all?

                “Mark-up price businesses say that they are much more likely to raise prices when average costs rise than they are to reduce prices when average costs fall.”

                That’s because the central bank does price targeting that prevents a fall in prices that otherwise would take place on the basis of higher productivity, lower costs of production, and higher supply.

                If there were no central bank, then the fall in costs would increase profitability in the short run, which stimulates investment, output, and thus lower prices.

                Just because businesses refuse to cut prices when they don’t have to because the central bank is preventing prices from falling it doesn’t mean that this is what WOULD take place on a free unhampered market, which is the context of your actual criticism.

                There is no contradiction with reality: we see a tendency for prices to rise over time.

    • Ivan Jankovic says:

      that was a joke made by Feynman, the purpose of which was to underscore how it was impossible to reduce quantum mechanics on something more familiar and more intuitive. Feynman was renown for his disdain for all attempts to simplify physics and explain it in terms of everyday concepts. See here:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wMFPe-DwULM

      Of course that quantum mechanics makes a lot of sense: it is probably the most rigorously tested scientific theory of all times. So, God forbid, Feynman did not say the same thing as you did, not by a long shot.

      • Ken B says:

        1 Disdain is very much the wrong word.
        2 The real point Richard Feynman is making here is that these are empirical things that simply have to be accepted. Bringing order and structure to ideas may result in surprising conclusions that overturn common sense and common notions. In those cases common sense and common notions must give way to empirical results
        3 if Bob Murphy and Richard Feynman shook hands they would destroy the universe.

        • Ivan Jankovic says:

          ” I cannot explain electromagnetism in terms of something else that is more familiar to you”. that the critical quote from the video i posted. The same thing that he emphasized in his lectures on the “nature of physical law” where this ‘nobody understands quantum mechanics’ quote came from.

          • Ken B says:

            Right. In what sense though did he evince disdain? Have you read QED or his letters? Feynman was always trying to explain in terms people could understand when he could. What he DID have disdain for was people who would constrain science on the basis of common ideas or a priori opinion. Look at that book where he talks about conservation in terms of the kids blocks and sugar cubes. He’s not sneering at those analogies, he’s expanding on them, using them to instruct, noting their limitations. Look at QED where he uses the notion of carrying a clock. Feynman had disdain for “philawwwwwsophers” who won’t accept the primacy of observable fact or require science to use ideas that “make sense” or “match intuition”. (People like Bob or Gene.)

            • Ken B says:

              I mean the man replioed to letters from housewives asking him about science. There was no disdain for trying to grasp the ideas in terms people could get, but he was careful to mention when the analogies broke down and you needed to think differently That is not disdain.

    • Steven Landsburg says:

      Bob—This was not a guffaw; it was intended as a serious question. It’s true that I know in advance that no matter what the answer is, I am 99.9999% certain to find it unsatisfactory. But I’m still (genuinely!) interested in knowing what answer he’d give.

      You’ve often pointed to reasons why you believe the gospels are historically accurate. I’m not sure that any of those reasons would be terribly applicable to *this* particular question.

      • Bob Murphy says:

        Steve,

        For various reasons he (and I) believe that the Bible is an accurate source of information about the character of a person we call “God.” The Bible clearly states that this person has the characteristics of being able to manipulate any event on Earth, and of loving us tremendously. In shorthand, God is omnipotent and omnibenevolent.

        So, since God clearly allowed things like the Holocaust to happen, it must be the case that it was better for it have occurred, than not to have occurred, in some sense. My pastor and I have “faith” or “trust” in God, meaning that even though we don’t understand it right now, we both believe that after we die and have access to all of the information, we will agree, “Oh, wow, that did need to happen because otherwise XYZ, which we all agree would have been a less moral outcome. Man, you really are just and merciful. That’s amazing.”

        There is no contradiction involved here, except for those who want to see one. It’s no different (in one sense) from biologists saying, “We can’t give you the precise path by which this body could have evolved step by step from a cell, but there must have been a way, because we have other evidence for thinking it had to happen.”

        • Steven Landsburg says:

          Bob:

          There is no contradiction involved here

          I want to emphasize that I was not claiming a contradiction!. I was asking — admittedly from a highly skeptical position, but not (on this occasion) a contemptuous one — what the source of certainty was. The “we don’t understand” part was irrelevant to my question.

          • Ken B says:

            Bob, if “we don’t understand” then “we” cannot be persuaded by the logic of the claims, right? So if “we” are sure despite this then “we” must have some other reason to be sure. Steve asks, what is that reason?

  10. Ken B says:

    It is a contradiction to say “A fid is burbled “and “not (a fid is burbled)” at the same time. It is not a contradiction to say “a fid is burbled “has no truth value,

  11. joe says:

    Atheists don’t argue about whether God exists. If someone says your kid is 100 years old do you argue with them?

    • Ken B says:

      I tell them “thank you I do think I look young for my age”

  12. Ryan Murphy says:

    don’t you mean Leibniz was right

    • Ken B says:

      If Pangloss did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.

  13. Bob Murphy says:

    It sounds like you guys are saying, “Even if we assume for the sake of argument that your God exists, he can’t be as difficult to understand as the two-slit experiment.”

    • Major_Freedom says:

      I’m saying that if something is known to exist, then it can’t not make any sense.

      • Ken B says:

        I cannot resist throwing in a Chesterton quote.

        Father Brown says “the worst fate that can befall us has.” His companion asks what happened. Father Brown replies, “we have learned the truth and the truth makes no sense. ”

        Anyway I don’t agree that that’s what it sounds like were saying. Major freedom put it well; we simply had to abandon certain classical notions. Not for the first time and not for the last.

        • Ken B says:

          Yes Bob, the devil can quote Chesterton.

  14. Roman P. says:

    Bob,

    Taken to the extreme conclusion, why should you choose salvation when your eternal suffering and damnation in Hell might just be the better outcome of all and the one planned by God? Which suffering is just and God-given, and which is not a part of his plan? I think that your position is not without major ethical problems, like why not just commit suicide on a whim this very instance since if done this will be better for some aggregate outcome.

  15. Gamble says:

    Church pays no tax and generates no profit, therefore church is nearly worthless. Why would a free marketeer hold church to the same standards Krugman holds guberment?

    I understand what the Bible says about church but what does church say about the Bible?

    Humans have free will and our suffering is a result.

    • Bharat says:

      “Church pays no tax and generates no profit, therefore church is nearly worthless. Why would a free marketeer hold church to the same standards Krugman holds guberment?”

      Exchange of money is only one category within a larger category of exchange, which is part of the even larger category of action. “Free marketeers” of the Austrian-libertarian sort understand that a person can be satisfied outside of the monetary-exchange nexus. If a person trades an apple for an orange, he doesn’t make a monetary profit, but he makes a psychic profit nevertheless. Therefore the exchange is not worthless. A person who voluntarily goes to church values that action over what he could have done otherwise. Therefore, once again he makes a psychic profit and the action is not worthless.

  16. Michael says:

    as an atheist i appreciate and agree with this perspective, though I still deny a creator.

  17. knoxharrington says:

    “Then he went on to say (I really like this guy, by the way) that he doesn’t understand how that can be, and it doesn’t make sense, but: “It’s the truth.”

    I think this speaks for itself. As Bentham would say “Nonsense on stilts.”

    • Bob Murphy says:

      And you say the same to the physicists, right knoxharrington?

      • Ken B says:

        Let me clarify Bob.

        “Then he went on to say (I really like this guy, by the way) that he doesn’t understand how that can be, and it doesn’t make sense, and he has neither evidence nor rational justification but: “It’s the truth.””

        • Major_Freedom says:

          The theist would say there is “evidence”..in the form of observations grounded on faulty theory.

          Nobody said that faulty theory interpreted observations does not constitute evidence. Or at least they shouldn’t, since virtually every physical theory ever proposed in the past was considered part of “evidence” collecting, despite many of those theories being faulty.

      • knoxharrington says:

        Bob, with all due respect, this is a brazen example of ignorance masquerading as knowledge. If I told you that I didn’t understand something, and the parts I did understand didn’t make sense, and then made a pronouncement of the truth of a proposition based on my aforementioned recognition of the fact that I know nothing about it and don’t understand it – you would still be laughing.

        “I don’t know how internal combustion engines work. I know you put “gas” in back here but I don’t really know what that does. Having said that I know that this car achieves locomotion by the use of unicorn flatulence. I’m sure of it.”

        Nonsense. On. Stilts.

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Hey Knoxharrington try this:

          “I don’t know how the brain works when a novelist composes a book. I know there are electrical inputs and neurons fire, which activates muscles. But in terms of truly describing, step by step, how it works, I don’t know. Further, to explain how this originated, step by step, from a single cell billions of years ago, is also something I can’t explain–not even close. But I know that must have been what happened, because I am methodologically committed to materialism, and because we have overwhelming evidence of Darwinian evolution.”

          Nonsense. On. Stilts.

          Right?

          • Ken B says:

            No because Knox has not said it is inherently incomprehensible; he said we do not now understand. He is still willing to be proven wrong. That makes a difference.

            • Bob Murphy says:

              No because Knox has not said it is inherently incomprehensible;

              Ken B., can we please make a deal? Every time you type out why your position differs from mine, can you–before you hit “Submit Reply”–go back and make sure the same thing wouldn’t apply to my position too?

              Case in point: I never said it is “inherently incomprehensible.” Just like I never said it was a contradiction. Just like I never said I was throwing out reason. Just like I never said God embraced the immoral. Etc.

          • knoxharrington says:

            Bob,

            Nice sidestep. There may scientists right now studying brain function and human creativity which could answer the first part of the strawman. The second part is just ridiculous. We have scientific evidence that evolution occurred. There is no scientific evidence of which I am aware which proves the existence of a god. Please no links to the Discovery Institute.

            Like many Evangelicals you can’t answer the insanity inherent in your own position so you point out perceived weaknesses in your opponents supposed position rather than dealing with the plank in your own eye (did you see what I did there?). Classic strawman. Please be assured that I am not saying this with contempt – it is just very common and incredibly disingenuous.

            The whole purpose of the car analogy was to show the stupidity of the statement: “Then he went on to say that he doesn’t understand how that can be, and it doesn’t make sense, but: “It’s the truth.”

            I appreciate the effort on your part but you cannot seriously think that if someone says “Hey guys, I don’t understand this thing, the parts I do understand make no sense (therefore I don’t really understand these either) but I am going to say with confidence X about this thing” you would not shrug your shoulders and think to yourself “This guy wants me to believe Y about X yet he just said he doesn’t understand anything about X.” Oh, and BTW, the religious example is fraught with peril because it just happens to deal with your immortal soul and where you go when you die. Give me a break. Once again, utter nonsense.

            Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

            Knox

  18. Bob Murphy says:

    Blackadder and Cody S., how do you deal with a passage like this? More generally, have you ever read Chesterton’s “The Man Who Was Thursday”? I strongly recommend it.

  19. Ivan Jankovic says:

    Bob, there is no point in persisting in holding Feynman and other physicists as human shield here: what he said was not that quantum mechanics did not make ANY SENSE at all, but only that it did not make any sense from the conventional perspective of classical physics (which is wrong, as quantum mechanics shows and Feynman openly says in the very same lecture ).

    The best illustration of this is a dialogue (I don’t know whether apocryphal or real) between Einstein and Bohr concerning quantum mechanics: Einstein, who thought quantum mechanics was wrong because it asserted you cannot predict where a particular electron will end up in the double slit experiment, but only calculate the probabilities,,said: “God does not place dice”. Bohr answered to this in a’Feynmanian’ style: “Einstein, don’t tell God what to do”. In other words, “Nature is what it is, i.e. what the experimental EVIDENCE shows it is, not what “makes sense” to you in your prejudices which may be wrong”.

    • Ken B says:

      +1

      And may that plus one simultaneously follows all paths to reach Bob’s eyes.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      The best illustration of this is a dialogue…between Einstein and Bohr concerning quantum mechanics: Einstein…said: “God does not place dice”. Bohr answered…: “Einstein, don’t tell God what to do”. In other words, “Nature is what it is, i.e. what the experimental EVIDENCE shows it is, not what “makes sense” to you in your prejudices which may be wrong”.

      I suppose it’s pointless of me to mention that in the original discussion, it is Ivan and Ken B. who are relying on their prejudices to tell God what to do.

      These Sunday debates are always intriguing in that you guys repeatedly make points in my favor, or at the very least would be just as applicable to my conclusion if I happen to be right. Yet because you are just so utterly sure that God doesn’t exist, you don’t even see it. Hence Ken B. awards a “+1” to someone who says, “Don’t tell God what to do” as if that somehow blows up my post in which I acknowledge that my understanding of God’s actions is limited.

      • Ken B says:

        Oh for pity sake Bob. Bohr isn’t talking about god. Bohr is going with Einstein’s metaphor and making an aphorism. Bohr is telling Einstein “Your intuitions are prejudices. We don’t judge theories by prejudices.”

        Find us a quote where Feynman says “Whoa, there’s a logic contradiction in QM, but I believe the theory anyway” and then we can talk. Until then you are just misunderstanding the man. “Quantum Quantradictions”

        • Bob Murphy says:

          Find us a quote where Feynman says “Whoa, there’s a logic contradiction in QM, but I believe the theory anyway” and then we can talk…

          Find a quote in my OP where I said, “There’s a logical contradiction here but I’m going to ignore it.” Then we can talk.

          • Major_Freedom says:

            Are you of the belief that the following statement which your pastor said “doesn’t make sense”:

            “It’s not that God made creation, it was good, then there was the Fall, and He had to turn to Plan B. No, He’s God, He never lost control for a moment. God made all of creation, and that was good and illustrated His glory, but only through the Fall, Redemption of Christ, and the coming re-creation when Christ returns, will God fully demonstrate His glory. The re-creation will be more glorious than the initial creation.”

            Is a statement that “doesn’t make sense” for the same logical structure of argument reasons as what Feynman was talking about when he said nobody really understands QM (i.e. QM “doesn’t make sense”)?

            I don’t think so. Feynman was not saying it doesn’t make sense because it was inherently illogical. He was saying it doesn’t make sense using classical assumptions.

            Your pastor isn’t saying that the above quote doesn’t make sense according to classical theology, or classical theism. No, he was saying it doesn’t make sense because he believes it is inherently illogical.

            On a side note, many of the most brilliant minds in history could not overcome the inherent contradictions in their faith. Every single one of them has left the fundamental contradictions unresolved. No human has ever solved the deepest theological questions without contradicting themselves. What you’re doing is what every deep thinker who addresses the fundamental questions of theology has ever done: dance around the contradictions pretending they don’t exist, and focusing on side issues of punctuation or who said what to whom and when. It’s not a slight, it’s just what happens when finite minds try to absorb the infinite. That is, when mortal humans try to take hold the Mind of God.

  20. Ivan Jankovic says:

    Here is Feynman on quantum mechanics:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5RQ3QF9GGI

  21. Ivan Jankovic says:

    Bob, I am not sure at all that God does not exist: I just do not think that from the fact that some true statements are counter-intuitive and apparently “unreasonable”, it follows that everything which is counter-intuitive and apparently “unreasonable”, must be true. Or that a certain specific subset of apparently senseless statements must be true only because you or your pastor FEEL that way.

    • Ken B says:

      I have repeatedly said I don’t know if there’s a god, only that there’s no god who *matches Bob’s claims*. Because Bob makes claims that don’t fit either the evidence or what logic tells us.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Ivan wrote:

      I just do not think that from the fact that some true statements are counter-intuitive and apparently “unreasonable”, it follows that everything which is counter-intuitive and apparently “unreasonable”, must be true. Or that a certain specific subset of apparently senseless statements must be true only because you or your pastor FEEL that way.

      I really have to stop now, guys. I have never once argued–in this post or any previous one–“All of you should believe in Christianity because I feel it is true.” I am not angry at you guys because I realize you truly have no idea how you are behaving in your arguments, but it nonetheless is pointless to continue when you continue to attribute viewpoints to me that I have never expressed.

      • Ken B says:

        I agree Bob, you have never argued that.

        However you HAVE argued that your faith is rational and supported by the weight of evidence. It is those that I reject, and that’s why I hammer you on these threads.

      • Ivan Jankovic says:

        Bob, you said:

        “Then he went on to say (I really like this guy, by the way) that he doesn’t understand how that can be, and it doesn’t make sense, but: “It’s the truth.”

        Amen.”

        This looks to me pretty much as your pastor was taking his feelings or his will to accept certain claims without any evidence as sufficient to establish their truth. And you were praising him for this. Therefore, I believe I did not misrepresent what you said at all.

  22. Ken B says:

    Courtesy of Yosef:
    “Could you explain what other things are impossible for God? We have that he can only create certain histories, what else?” The god you insist is omnipotent.

    So I’d say that suffices. But my cup runneth over.

    You have expressed the belief that damnation is possible. That imples some people die outside the body of christ to use the common phrase. Surely it would be better that at least one of those be saved. Yet “This really is the best possible world.”

    likewise with the virtuous who die never having heard of Jesus. They never had a chance yet “This really is the best possible world”

  23. Steven Landsburg says:

    By what possible criterion is the two-slit experiment harder to understand than the fact that chairs are able to support us, or the fact that sapphires are blue (both of which require the full force of quantum mechanics to explain)?

    • Major_Freedom says:

      The fact that classical physics had pretty accurate models that described the physics of modestly sized objects such as chairs and sapphires, whereas the two slit experiment (one electron at a time) can’t even be closely described by classical mechanics?

      • Steven Landsburg says:

        M_F: What’s the classical physics explanation for the color of a sapphire?

        • Major_Freedom says:

          Maxwell’s equations, no?

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            According to Maxwell’s equations, the energy levels of an atom should be continuous, not discrete. It’s only when you have discrete energy levels that you have definite frequencies of emission and absorption when electrons transition from one energy level to another, which explains what color an object appears.

            In quntum mechanics, energy levels are eigenvalues of a certain linear transformation (called the Hamiltonian), and it’s the fact that that linear transformation has discrete eigenvalues for atoms that fundamentally leads to objects having definite color.

          • Steven Landsburg says:

            Major_Freedom:

            First, I don’t believe Maxwell’s equations (or any other classical theory can explain the color of a sapphire).

            Second, even if I were to stipulate that this was possible, I think you’ve just undercut your own point — you were claiming that classical physics is more intuitive than quantum mechanics, but surely there was a time when Maxwell’s equations were considered as far removed from intuition as is anything in quantum mechanics today. An educated man in the year 1600 would, I am sure, have found them equally baffling.

    • Ken B says:

      I take Steve’s point. You cannot correctly explain solidness of objects without quantum mechanics so that Theory cannot be less complex than quantum mechanics. That however was not the question asked, which was about understanding and hence about human minds.

      The problem is that human brains are not blank slates. We have an intuitive physics. That intuitive physics includes the idea of solid objects. It’s easier for our minds to manipulate these notions then some of the ideas of quantum physics. Just has some calculations are easier on some particular computer hardware, I think manipulating those ideas is easier in the human brain than manipulating the ideas of quantum mechanics.

      Now I may be wrong it may be simply our upbringing and future generations may shrug ther shoulders and think that our ideas are difficult, but I suspect not. In this sense I really do think it is harder to understand.

      • Steven Landsburg says:

        Ken B: There was a time when pretty much everyone’s intuitive physics included things like the additivity of velocity. Today, pretty much everyone’s intuitive physics incorporates special relativity (where by “everyone” I suppose I mean “everyone with a certain level of education). Relativity was once a new way of thinking, then we all got used to it, then we all got so used to it that we forgot there was another way to think. I don’t see why quantum mechanics shouldn’t be the same way, with a lag of several decades.

        • Steven Landsburg says:

          PS: Don’t forget that Archimedean physics was once intuitive, in a way that we can now hardly imagine.

          • Ken B says:

            Steve, I cannot really disagree, except possibly because of the results of experiments done on children. However intuition changes over time and you might well be right about this. Certainly anyone who was studied mathematics learns about changing their intuition.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Steve, I’m studying theoretical physics, and I still think that pretty much everyone’s intuition is still Aristotelian physics. Relativity, and even Newton’s first law of motion, are things we accept at an intellectual level. At a gut level our brains still think that objects come to rest if nothing is pushing them.

            • Ken B says:

              As you can tell I’m a little bit undecided about this. On Steve side I think we can go .2 intuitions about numbers. There was a time when the number zero was strange, there was a time when fractions and negative numbers were considered strange. So in the abstract I think Steve has a good argument. However there have been studies done on children, and these do seem to show an inmate Aristotelian or Archimedean physics. That is why I made my remark about computer architecture.

              • Keshav Srinivasan says:

                I don’t think we humans even have good intuition about zero and negative numbers. Our brains are just good at analogizing such things in terms of things we do have intuition about. I recommend the book “Where Mathematics Comes From” for a discussion of the research behind how humans are able to grasp higher mathematics.

                (I should add that I don’t agree with the conclusions that the book reaches, being a Platonist.)

  24. Robert Nielsen says:

    I don’t think I can agree that a world full of famine, war, poverty and genocide can be called the “best”. Nor do I see how the suffering of so much of the world makes things any better.

    Murphy, I think you know this doesn’t really make any sense and believe because you want to believe, rather than because the evidence supports you.

    • Bob Murphy says:

      Robert Nielsen wrote:

      Murphy, I think you know this doesn’t really make any sense…

      Right, I said as much in the OP. That’s why everyone is outraged.

  25. Adam says:

    Bob,

    I would say that with the gift of free will God made pact with us-we are free to exercise it, and will be judged on that. He just makes sure that other side does the same.

  26. Adam says:

    Sorry. Mobile phone…
    So curing suffering in the world will be violation of this pact. He can do it real easy. But He will break his word then. And can He be omnipotent doing that?

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