Side Comments on Faith Across the Multiverse


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #1

First line of book: Science is often presented as a set of propositions to affirm. On those terms, the existence of God becomes yet another such proposition, and all science can offer is a yes or a no.

Science is neutral on the existence of God.


Book Club: Faith Across the Multiverse
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #2

Completely agree. We are going to have several points like this come up in the book where we might disagree with wording, or @AndyWalsh’s point. That is okay. We should always clarify The Rules of the Game too. This book is just a welcoming starting point for a larger question. It is not a textbook, nor should we endorse every claim or point @AndyWalsh makes.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #3

Well looking at the description, I don’t think I am going to read it as it is goes against my deeply held beliefs to refrain from Christian Porn. :rofl:


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #4

You should read it. The conversation will be fun. You do not have to agree with it. I’m not sure I agree with all of it either. I’m excited to welcome a large number of students into the conversation with us. That is the real reason to give this a shot. You should join in the fun with us. I’ll even buy you a copy @Patrick if you will.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #5

Maybe I will just for the fun of it. Or maybe I will send a copy to Deb Haarsma, she is a big expert on “God and the Multiverse”. She can be a reviewer of it.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #6

Do you have to be a Christian to get 10% off? That may be a violation of the Civil Rights Act.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #7

Don’t be silly Patrick. No need to be Christian.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #8

Oh good, then it is legal. I wouldn’t want to have to make a Federal case out it. :grimacing:


(Theman8469) #9

If you are going to recommend books for discussion please mention something that is actually good, puts forward an argument and introduces the best in modern philosophy of science. The book I am thinking about is “The Physics of Theism” by the philosopher Jeffrey Koperski, who is also an an expert on Chaos theory, probability theory and mathematical models in the physical sciences. He also has plenty of excellent papers online. For example in ‘The Physics of Theism’ he warns of using terms which shift from one category to another; something that Welsh does continually in this book with his use of the word ‘axiom’ (does he mean assumption, stance etc. Welsh moves from one to the other) “Faith across the Universe” is a complete mess (it actually agues for atheism) that misunderstands mathematics, philosophy and treats it’s readers as idiots. So you get classic lines like “But axioms cannot themselves be deductively proven” (here we can assume he does mean axiom). Really? One system’s axiom is another’s theorem and vice a versa. Some axioms are inherently contradically. Some false within the system they operate. Some just wrong. Axioms and the resulting axiomatic systems are the result of long study - informal reasoning comes before axioms and axiomatic systems. So I have no idea how he came assume an axiom of belief and relate it to the natural world with justifying it first in some way. Also most atheists would claim that the axiom/assumption of belief is the result of a cognitive mistake. This is the scientific findings of the Cognitive Science of Religion and has, pretty much, hardened to a consensus. So science is arguing/confirming that the axiom of belief is, if not completely provably wrong, unjustified - the result of a natural, evolved, cognitive system that is not truth tracking.

There is a another problem that most books at this level and seems to be the standard in Templeton level science and religion. The argument goes like this - God, therefore the world is a creation/designed/teleological (conditional statement that really says nothing).

G -> C

and think that is enough. Atheists would agree, as that statement is logically equivalent to (~ means not)

~C -> ~G

But would say that science/common sense/correctly functioning intellect would say that ~C is the most logical conclusion and, this is the important bit, actually argue for it. So we have

~C; ~C -> ~G: conclusion ~G .

To be fair ‘FaTU’ is at least using G has an axiom (or as an assumption/stance as well it is difficult to know which but I will let it go here) in some vague way. But as I said does not argue for it. The wider scientific world says G is completely unwarranted and false. Even worse the axiom, within the wider, system it is working is entailing its own negation. So from G we get ~G. G->~G is true if and only if G is false. Again ~G. Inconsistency. We cannot have both G and ~G. As science heavily confirms ~G and to avoid the contradiction we must accept ~G and reject G. If Walsh could put forward an argument for G, like say Craig, Plantinga, Swinburne and so on this could have been avoided and reduced ~G to a methodological axiom (Methodological naturalism - studying like with like) rather than a metaphysical one.

Perhaps the book is arguing that by showing a scientist is a religious believer is enough ala Francis Collins. Humanity is highly diverse, even in tightly intertwined groups there will be some anomalies; religious/Christian scientists, especially at the higher levels are real anomalies. A few climate scientists reject climate change however they are greatly out numbered by most scientists and claim we should accept the consensus. The same with ID and evolutionary biology. Nearly 97% of members of the Royal Society are atheists, as are 93% of the members of the American National Academy of Sciences. I was impressed by the status of those who staged the successful coup to remove Reiss from his post at the Royal Society - Harry Kroto, Richard Roberts and John Sulston were all Nobel Laureates. Even Paul Nurse, who succeeded Rees as head of the RS called Reiss incompetent was another Nobel Laureate. There are not Christians in Science at that level, none. The consensus in our elite academic institutions, humanities, social sciences, science is atheism. So I am supposed to accept Walsh’s ‘Axiom of Belief’ Just because he is a scientist, not even a senior scientist and a member of a small and shrinking minority?

As for Collins so what if he is a religious scientist? He never really argues for theism over metaphysical naturalism only for a bland compatibility. As Michael R. Matthews points out “The philosophically interesting question is
whether a scientist can be a rational religious believer (or astrologer, diviner,
reincarnationer, racist, sexist, Nazi, etc.).” Virtually all elite scientists, most philosophers etc. say no, unless your beliefs are non-propositional, a value system. But this is just poetic metaphysical naturalism and is, sadly, the direction most in the science/religion area are rushing too.

Perhaps the aim of the book is solace, self help, or poetry and I have approached it wrong. If that is the case, then what is the point of the book?


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #10

The purpose of this book is to create an inviting conversation for students, where real science is discussed alongside theology. This is closer to Mere Christianity and the fiction of CS Lewis than academic work. This Book Club will also be moderated tight to serve the needs of students.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #11

Another feel good place for young students like Biologos? I think it is time for students to grow up and realize that the religions of their parents and grandparents are all made up. If you are a US Catholic, it is time to quit.
Religion as it always has, enslaves minds and is the predominant force for intolerance, injustice, and division.
Science, reasoning and human empathy, on the other hand, can lead to a better world for all.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #12

No @patrick, we are trying to welcome students into science, reason, and empathy by showing how it connects with their deeply held beliefs.


(Andy Walsh) #13

For what it’s worth, that’s not the first line of the book. That’s the first line of the marketing blurb. Fun fact: as the author of the book, I don’t get to decide those particular details. I believe they adapted that text from something in my initial proposal; it’s not in the book itself.

I would agree that the existence of God is not a question that can be decided by scientific inference. However, the book does briefly reference the fact that some have attempted to do so, in order to propose something different.

I get that ChristianBook.com is an unfamiliar source for most. It’s basically a “warehouse direct”-type arrangement where you get wholesale prices by avoiding the markup of a retailer. By all means, feel free to use the Amazon link that supports Peaceful Science or purchase through your local bookstore or whatever you’re most comfortable with.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #14

Andy, I didn’t mean to judge a book by its cover. :smile: I am going to get it and read it. I will probably enjoy it. Note that here I have a role to play in the front lines of the cultural wars. :grimacing:

I understand and I was only kidding about the discriminatory discount claim. Looking forward to the continuing discussion.


(Theman8469) #15

However science has decided that the cognitive mechanisms that produce religious belief are themselves unreliable. Science cannot completely rule out the possibility of the existence of God, but has reached a conclusion that religious belief is caused by a purely natural process, completely blind to the reality/unreality of God. This is not an axiom but a scientific consensus in all the investigating fields - religious belief is a cognitive mistake - a theorem if you like in a more expansive, better confirmed, more useful system. The negation of your axiom of belief (G) “a set of assumptions or axioms for understanding the world” has been asserted by the best work in evolutionary psychology, cognitive science of religion, evolutionary biology. G is an error which a vast majority of senior scientists recognize as such and rejected on rational/scientific groups. Even philosophy has defeated you, as you seen to be allergic of putting forward any type of argument for G. Claim G all you want but when students go into academia they find ~G asserted, argued for and assumed. Little wonder that a majority of students interested in the sciences, drop their faith while in academia when all you (and a majority of the science/religion crowd) can only offer them G or some other similar vacuous/anti-realist tract. All this could have be avoided if you could at least put forward an argument.

Edit. Let me explain it this way. Given irrational numbers A and B and a rational C. Is A raised to the power of B equal to the rational C. It depends on many issues in the correct logic of mathematics, epistemology, constructionism versus non-constructionism and so on. But what if I assert that this, proposition P, is true (false) but the wider world has reason/reached a consensus that my acceptance of P or ~P is produced by unreliable cognitive processes, then my argument for P or ~P is greatly undermined if I cannot produce a good or better argument for P or ~P. This is exactly the position you have found yourself in no argument. I am done. I happily read many books on atheism and never find my self annoyed. They are usually well written and put forward good arguments and reach, often, interesting conclusions. The same with philosophers of religion who, even when I disagree, put forward reasonable ideas. Science and religion is always different - no argument, no structure, a mere assumption that the religious is dazzled by their scientifically literate author and should accept the book sorely on the credentials of the author rather than the arguments . Not good enough.

Second edit. I am remaindered of this comment from William J. Abraham in the excellent Analytic Theology"

–I recall vividly when I was a graduate student at Oxford attending during the same term
the lectures of John Macquarrie and of A. J. Ayer. After complaining about the lack of substance
and rigor in Macquarrie’s lectures, I was chided by a friend from South Africa for my impatience
and hasty judgments. So I repented and stayed the course. Three weeks later we left Macquarrie’s
lectures and, coming down the steps of Christ Church, I impishly said that if I had a choice
between going to heaven with Macquarrie or to hell with A. J. Ayer, I was headed for hell.
My friend immediately responded that he would be happy to come to hell with me.–

I cannot help but agree. Give me Hell with Quintin Smith, Graham Oppy, Sean Carroll rather than Heaven with Andy Welsh.


(Dr. Patrick Trischitta) #16

This is pretty solid. Thanks.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #17

For the record, I do put forward an argument.


(Theman8469) #18

“For the record, I do put forward an argument.” But Andy does not and it is his work we are discussing here. If you object to my exegesis of Andy’s book or my criticism of his approach I would love to hear them. But I think my argument is pretty tight.


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #19

I entirely object. You have not even read his book. He certainly does put forward arguments. Perhaps read @AndyWalsh’s book, and then comment on it. Perhaps read some other reviews too, and consider the genre.

If you still plan to object, I’d like to see how you object to his book and create space for The Chronicles of Narnia. Unless you object to those too?


(Theman8469) #20

You have not even read his book.

I have read the book, you have not even said what I have got wrong (claiming I have not read the book is not an argument). But I think that comment pretty much does it for me. I wish you and the site all the best but I am finished.