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    Uncommon Descent Uncommonly Decent On Relativistic Physics But What In God’s Name
    By Sascha Vongehr | June 10th 2013 03:18 AM | 3 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Sascha

    Dr. Sascha Vongehr [风洒沙] studied phil/math/chem/phys in Germany, obtained a BSc in theoretical physics (electro-mag) & MSc (stringtheory)...

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    Vincent J. Torley in “Bad science by Dr. Victor Stenger, arguing in the cause of atheism” argues well about quite difficult and controversial physics. The article claims that NewAtheist Victor Stenger is another case of bad physics arguments in support of atheism and how they backfire - a favorite topic of mine; I could assemble a book from my articles trashing atheist-physicists’ scientistic arguments that effectively support creationism.

    Victor J. Stenger is a retired elementary particle physicist who worked on neutrinos and he is author of twelve books including the 2007 New York Times bestseller “God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist.” His latest book is “God and the Atom: From Democritus to the Higgs Boson.

    The article “No cause to dispute Einstein” from Victor J. (the Physicist-V.J.), which Vincent J. (the Creationist-V.J.) mainly attacks, argues that faster than light neutrinos (FTL-Neutrinos) would not go against Einstein’s relativity, which is good to point out.

    Physicist-V.J. however seems to think that “causality” somehow derives from an already otherwise (not by causality) determined direction of time. This makes him then say, contrary to his own title (“No cause to dispute Einstein”), that Einstein’s further statement about cause always preceding effect* would indeed be disputed by FTL-neutrinos! This leads him then to disrespect god in its role as the ultimate cause, kapoof! Do not blame Creationist-V.J. for taking a one-liner too seriously - it is Jerry Coyne’s blog Why Evolution Is True who did that for him: “Vic Stenger on speedy neutrinos – did we cause God?

    Creationist-V.J. responds with a pretty good take-down via an approach to causality that understands causality to be prior to the direction of time. Creationist-V.J. does so via quoting physicists like Sean Carroll and quite extensively yours humbly, Sascha Vongehr. I tried to find something wrong about Creationist-V.J.’s argument, however, he does a pretty good job - after all, Creationist-V.J. officially studied physics and chemistry and computer science and has Bachelors and Master degrees in such fields. He does not cite us out of context, and for example Carroll’s quote does indeed reveal how physicists sometimes do not count the arrow of time as it derives from considerations of entropy to the realm of ‘fundamental physics’ (but rather ‘emergent’ phenomena). I don’t like it, but it is no more than acquired taste in the use of the label “fundamental”.

    The first part of the article is worth a read (especially for some physics writers here on Science2.0 – how funny to see FTL physics better understood on Huffington Post and even Uncommon Descent for crying out loud!). However, the article and the whole related mess shows perhaps mainly how people so easily talk past each other and be wrong almost whenever they say that somebody else is wrong; no matter whether it is the silly scientists who throw “crackpot” insults at those who understand modern relativity theory, or New Atheists who scoff at the religious on grounds of naive-scientistic arguments we should scoff at. It all comes down to people defending the meaning of words at the boundaries of their own understanding, where cognitive dissonance is being protected, fearing loss of face!

    And thus, Creationist-V.J. goes promptly ahead and joins the club; after having done well on the physics part, he adds a theological one, introduced via an interesting admission:

    Stenger is right about one thing: if physics ever manages to destroy the notion of causality, then its curtains for theism. Without the notion of God as the ultimate cause, the concept of God becomes redundant.

    Curtains indeed, and because the fat lady starts singing, Creationist-V.J. goes on to list different types of ‘causality’ while ending up mixing ‘causality’ with concepts of apriority and metaphysical necessity, all in order to get his ‘god’ back. I won’t comment on it, as it is not about physics or even what I call philosophy**, but I like to point out his smug finish:

    I have always believed that theists and atheists should strive to understand one another’s arguments, for you cannot hope to convert someone to your pint [sic.] of view if you do not understand his/her position.

    That sounds like something that I could have written, smuggalo me, but dear Creationist-V.J., your position is simply the desperation of a religious man.

    The ability of learned people to apply their intelligence so selectively under the guide of their beliefs amazes me again and again.

    ----------------------

    * The “principle of Einstein causality”, namely that cause must always precede effect, can be taken as a further assumption or as the defining of local direction of time, either allowing or not allowing closed timelike loops - all up to your own preferences about words - take your pick and start hitting the inter-tubes - ha ha ha.

    ** Creationist-V.J. has a PhD in philosophy; read his dissertation if you need to be reminded that academic philosophy is nothing but a degree mill. I looked at it because the title “Anatomy of a Minimal Mind” reminded me of my Simplest Suffering System. However, it is a bunch of misinterpretations of big names’ droppings, all in big words and under one main facepalmer of an assumption: That only “alive” things are conscious because, ahh… , they are alive, and alive is, well, you know, the alive stuff.<!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]-->

    Comments

    Hi Dr. Vongehr,

    Thanks for your kind words about my Uncommon Descent post. I'm glad you liked the physics part, at any rate, even if we differ on philosophical issues. Just a few matters I'd like to quickly clear up:

    (1) My Masters degree, like my Ph.D., is in philosophy, not science, although the topic of my M.A. ("Laws of Nature") is certainly science-related.
    (2) While I defend the view in my Ph.D. thesis that only living things are conscious, I also explicitly state (e.g. on page 16) that future artifacts may one day be alive - which means they might be conscious, too.
    (3) The simplest minds which I describe in my Ph.D. thesis aren't conscious minds, anyway. In that respect, they're unlike your simplest suffering system.
    (4) My computer keyboard often jams on the letters i, o and n. That's why I mistakenly typed "pint" instead of "point."
    (5) I'm not exactly a creationist, by most people's definition of that term. I accept common descent, but I also happen to believe that God engineers the evolution of new life-forms by designing new proteins which they require in order to function, and which unguided Nature would be unable to generate within the time available (billions of years aren't enough). I may be wrong about this; after all, I'm not a scientist. However, the work of Dr. Douglas Axe and Dr. Branko Kozulic on the subject strikes me as quite impressive. See http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2010.1/B... and http://vixra.org/pdf/1105.0025v1.pdf . I'll say no more, but invite readers to make up their own minds.

    Ciao,

    Vincent

    vongehr
    Hi Vincent - 1, 3, and 4 are understood and fine, 2 is a little surprising (given everything before page 16), and about 5, well, I think what you describe, God engineering proteins, fits the creationist label just fine, ;-) . BTW - I am no longer at USC - for a long while by now we are actually quite close. Ciao - S
    vongehr
    Off topic comments removed.