How did Adam and Eve learn to speak?

Who is to judge whether a reason is bad or good or better? And if God is the only one competent to make such a judgement, then isn’t the statement empty?

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Moreover, what if many choices are equally good? What warrant is there for thinking the “best” choice isn’t an inconceivably large range of options?

I must admit that I don’t understand a word of that.

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I’m going to have to start from the top there :slight_smile:

Many child development experts believe that language learning (not creating!) is subject to a critical learning period. People who are not part of a language-learning environment before a critical age will not be able to learn language effectively later in life.

So assuming God created A&E with the same brain/body constraints as humans alive at that time, then a languageless A&E would not be able to learn language well as adults, maybe not at all if it is their first language. Presumably, the only way to create A&E in a language-capable state would be to create them being able to use a language, possibly the one used by the first humans they would encounter under GAE.

If A&E were created at the time before modern humans, this idea may not apply. We don’t know about their (language) learning capabilities.

I’d be interesting in more on why you think that is a special case. I suspect it involves language, and since the thread is about language, I don’t think it is O/T,

I understand the issues involved in of naturalizing intentionality so no need to explain that part.

Hi @vjtorley,
My first response is to note that most of your objections are not directly relevant to the topic of the Deceptive God Objection and de novo creation (DNC) of A&E; in fact they are more to do with the coherence of the concept of DNC itself. (And I think your concerns, if true, would have bearing on God’s creation of the whole universe, not just A&E.) The only relevant part is that you seem to think that in order for God to realize neurological structure S_E, God needs to implant false memories to some degree, perhaps because of your view that meaning is tied to causal history. As I noted in my original post, this is disproven by the Kyle and Amato cases: even if God had to assume a “false” causal history in order to decide which meanings and nuances Adam and Eve would understand with regards to words, he did not have to implant false memories. His actions would be similar to creating Adam and Eve with adult human bodies and a choice of a certain ethnic complexion (and maybe a bellybutton).

My second response is more directly to your claims about DNC. First, I think Wolfram’s Principle of Computational Equivalence is not a universally accepted principle. Most materialists would regard the complete laws of physics (once we discover them) as in principle sufficient to predict the behavior of all things in the universe, given some initial conditions.[1] For those who are not materialists (such as Aristotelians :wink:, but also in general - @structureoftruth seems to hold this view), the Principle would in fact be evidence of the inability of the mathematics to capture everything about reality. Thus, instead of concluding that mathematics or physics limits God’s ability to create, we would say that this only shows our fundamental inability to exhaustively understand reality which only God can do.

This ties broadly into your argument against arbitrary choices by God; I do agree with Matthew that we cannot really know whether the choices are arbitrary, given the existence of chaotic behavior and the notion that creation is made to reflect God’s glory: we don’t have exhaustive knowledge of God’s glory, so we have no idea what features of creation are necessary to reflect that, nor whether two different configurations are equally as good in realizing this, such that choosing one of them becomes an arbitrary choice by God.

I also note that your observation that there is an infinity of ways of learning the word “melodious” seems to show that the way of learning is unimportant compared to the final meaning, such that for God to choose any one of them for A&E is inconsequential to whether he is deceiving anyone with that choice. Now, if there were infinite ways of understanding the word “melodious” we would ask the question of how did God pick one way, and I think the answer is that God picked whichever was the most useful to realize his eschatological purposes, including for Adam and Eve to be in a relationship with him.

Finally, to your question about whether Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fishes violates the Conservation of Energy: I honestly do not know for sure - my default response is that it does, and that is not a problem. I think you have a misunderstanding of Noether’s theorem; all it says in this case is that time translation invariance implies conservation of energy. Thus, Jesus violating conservation of energy would imply that the universe violates time translation invariance. That’s not an issue for me, as this is a miracle and the amount of violation is quite small (a few thousand loaves and fishes) compared to the amount of matter in the universe. Also, it is entirely possible that Jesus teleported those breads and loaves from somewhere else; I think these are details which are not very meaningful to speculate on.

[1] @PdotdQ has reminded us that there are problems with this view even in the case of classical physics, such as the space invaders problem and Norton’s dome.


The statement isn’t empty so long as we can have at least partial knowledge of what is good and bad.

Hi @dga471,

Thank you for your response. I found your reply to my query on the Law of the Conservation of Energy particularly helpful. The teleportation scenario had not occurred to me: as it breaks no laws, I consider it to be a more parsimonious way of accounting for the miracle (which is attested in all four Gospels). I’m also very grateful for your helpful explanation of time translation invariance: another possibility (not ruled out by science) is that the universe violates this in a very small way. Fair enough.

As I have stated previously, the issue of deception is not a pressing one for me: unlike some other commenters, I do not consider the Deceptive God Objection decisive. (By the way, I accept your correction that the scenario you’re proposing would merely involve the creation of false causal histories, rather than false memories. That does strike me as a very odd thing for God to do, but I guess I could live with that.) Nor do I have any theological objection to de novo creation (DNC) of Adam and Eve: I just don’t think it happened, on purely scientific grounds. I acknowledge that science cannot rule out @swamidass’s proposal that God specially created just two humans and placed them in a Garden while all other humans who were alive at that time evolved. However, this hypothesis strikes me as needlessly complicated, when compared to the alternative hypothesis that God infused a rational soul into a small number of hominins at the moment of their conception around 330,000 years ago, and taught them how to speak until they were adults. The latter hypothesis requires no act of special creation, except for the human soul.

Re the creation of the universe: in my previous post, I allowed for the possibility that “even when the alternatives are strongly incommensurable, God may still be able to choose between them on the basis of non-trivial aesthetic and/or mathematical reasons.” But when we ask ourselves why God chose to give the cosmological constant the very small, non-zero value that it has in our universe, there appear to be no such reasons. You reply that “we don’t have exhaustive knowledge of God’s glory, so we have no idea what features of creation are necessary to reflect that, nor whether two different configurations are equally as good in realizing this, such that choosing one of them becomes an arbitrary choice by God.” But in fact we have quite a good idea of why God made the cosmos: to create a thing of beauty and fill it with creatures reflecting His glory in various degrees, most notably sapient creatures capable of knowing and loving their Maker. In relation to that end, the difference between a value of 10^(-122) and 10^(-123) for the cosmological constant appears inconsequential: God, it seems, could still accomplish His end using either value. I may be wrong, of course, and as a Christian, I grant your point that God has His own hidden purposes. My point, however, is that if you’re arguing with an atheist, he/she will urge that the arbitrary value of this constant appears to be accidental, rather than the product of design. To counter that objection, it might be sensible to adopt @swamidass’s proposal, that the “best” choice may turn out to be “an inconceivably large range of options” - in other words, that God made a very large but finite number of life-friendly universes, in addition to our own. (Of course, that’s quite different from a full-blown Hawking-style multiverse [which is mostly filled with lifeless universes], let alone a Tegmark multiverse.)

Thanks for the discussion, Daniel. Cheers.


There are two ways of looking at this question: (i) from the point of view of the structure in the brain and (ii) from the point of the thing it points to (or is “about”).

Re (i): it is not too difficult to envisage how a neurological structure in the brain could “point to” some physical object or empirical state of affairs (namely, the state of affairs that generated it in the first place), but what would it even mean for a neurological structure to point to something non-physical, such as an abstraction?

Re (ii): one can make sense of a physical event causing a structure in the brain to come into existence, but once again, such a causal account fails for entities which are incapable of causing anything to happen.

Human language is very rich in abstractions. We can, for instance, entertain the thought that there may be no infinities between aleph-null and aleph-one, or that there might be some, after all. But the notion that such mathematical entities are capable of generating brain structures is what philosophers would call a category mistake. That’s why the prospect of naturalizing the intentionality of our spoken (and written) language in its entirety appears to me to be radically misconceived. Cheers.

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First, I think the reference to physical constraints misses the point of Pruss’ example, which is about choosing between different reasons (and Pruss furnishes lots of examples of reasons that God could have to decide between, even though physical constraints are not among them).

The second point is that you might be asking too much: why does God need a criteria to decide between incommensurable goods? Pruss’ thesis is precisely that he doesn’t, because if neither choice is worse than the other, then both choices are compatible with God’s nature and so he is free to create them.

I would answer again as Pruss does in his work on the principle of sufficient reason. The theist’s claim and the atheist’s claim are not on par: the atheist can provide no explanation for A at all, while the theist is able to provide an explanation for A (e.g. God’s decision to create A because of the various goods he brings about through doing so), but only fails to provide a contrastive explanation for why A instead of B. And IIRC Pruss argues that not all explanations need to be contrastive to satisfy the PSR.

One would think so for the most part, though the difference gets smaller for matter very close to the event horizons of black holes. But as far as I know the idea that negative gravitational energy cancels out positive energy is pretty much pure conjecture, not anywhere near a consequence of a well-confirmed theory.

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Many naturalists will be anti-realists about abstract objects. Anti-realism (ie nominalism of some sort) is a well-supported philosophical position. But it is also possible to be a naturalist and a realist about abstract entities by holding that our knowledge of them comes from their essential role in our best science, and not from some non-naturalistic access to a platonist realm…

In both cases, it is the mind which creates the concept of the object, and not the reverse. Supervenience of the mind on brain/body processes would complete a naturalization argument for thoughts about abstract objects.

There are other objections to naturalization related to norms needed to provide naturalized criteria for determining misrepresentation. These pose a greater challenge to naturalizing intentionality. Answering these objections is an iwork in progress in philosophy. But progress continues to be made, so appealing to that incompleteness would just be a gaps argument.

I agree that both choices are entirely compatible with God’s nature; what I hold is that it’s psychologically impossible for God to “simply opt” for A over B, where A and B are incommensurable goods. If God is, as it were, standing before a fork in the road, and there’s a good reason R1 to go left, and a good reason R2 to go right, it isn’t enough to appeal to R1 as an explanation of why God decides to go left. God also needs a reason to go left-rather-than-right. If we were to deny that God needs such a reason, then that would make God’s choice of A rather than B a brute fact. And an intelligent atheist will be sure to use that as a foot in the door, and argue that if you’re going to allow one (psychological) brute fact into your ultimate explanation of the cosmos, then why not allow another (physical) brute fact: namely, that some things “just are,” and that’s all we can say bout them?

I do agree, however, with your general observation that “the atheist can provide no explanation for A at all , while the theist is able to provide an explanation for A (e.g. God’s decision to create A because of the various goods he brings about through doing so), but only fails to provide a contrastive explanation for why A instead of B.” However, I still see the theistic explanation as being partially unsatisfactory, as it currently stands. Cheers.

Hi @BruceS,

You wrote:

But it is also possible to be a naturalist and a realist about abstract entities by holding that our knowledge of them comes from their essential role in our best science, and not from some non-naturalistic access to a platonist realm…

The mere fact that abstract entities play an essential role in science fails to adequately explain how a particular structure in the brain happens to be “about” honesty (without which there could be no science), or objective truth (ditto, unless you happen to be an instrumentalist) or laws of nature, in the first place. It is this that needs explaining, in my view. Cheers.

For the naturalist seeking to account for intentionality, nominalism seems to me to be a better approach for abstract entities like “honesty”.

My basic point is that naturalizing intentionality does not have a problem with abstract entities per se, since there exists naturalistic approaches to abstract entities that can be used to deal with those situations. .

Of course, if you choose a non-naturalist approach to abstract entities, I agree that it will be much more difficult to naturalize the intentionality of mental representations of such abstract entities.

See, I’m not sure that it does make God’s choice of A rather than B a brute fact. Because God’s choice of A is not brute: it is explained by the reasons that God has for creating A, e.g. the various goods he can bring about by doing so. And the fact that he did not choose B is explained by the fact that he chose A, and that it’s logically impossible to choose both (assuming for simplicity we’re talking about a mutually exclusive choice). And it’s not clear to me that there’s anything more about the proposition “God chose A rather than B” that needs to be explained than is contained in the explanation of “God chose A, and he did not choose B”.


Hi @structureoftruth,

Two quick questions:

(1) Do you think that humans are also capable of choosing A-rather-than-B, without requiring a reason for preferring A to B?

(2) Do you think God is capable of generating a truly random sequence of numbers, or merely a pseudo-random sequence?

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Interesting questions, @vjtorley.

(1) I have not argued that God is able to choose A without having a reason to prefer A to B - just that he can choose A, while having reasons to prefer it over B, even if he also has reasons to prefer B over A, as long as the reasons for A are not outweighed (meaning that they are either better than the reasons for B, or incommensurable with them). I think humans are able to do this as well.

(2) runs into questions of what exactly randomness is, particularly when divine providence is in view, and I can’t say I’ve given it enough thought to have a well-reasoned answer.


Hi @structureoftruth,

Judging from your answer to (1), it seems you would also acknowledge that God (unlike Buridan’s ass) is capable of choosing between two identical objects (call them A1 and A2), as well. In other words, it seems you think that God can choose A1, while having reasons to prefer it over A2, even if He also has reasons to prefer A2 over A1, as long as the reasons for A1 are not outweighed. Am I reading you aright?

Yes, you are reading me right.

The same kind of refutation/analysis could be performed on any miracle described in the New Testament.

It strikes me that Jay is investing an awful lot of time trying to explain away the sincere beliefs of even the least ambitious Trinitarian Christian - - in order to make good on his reasons for setting aside GAE scenarios.

Eventually, the BioLogos supporters will understand that there is nothing to be gained by dismissing G.A.E.