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2012-11-12
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims

Much energy has been devoted to merely interpreting Hume's argument against miracle claims.  Maybe too much.

At any rate, I am skeptical about virtually every miracle claim I've ever heard.  I think I have a cogent argument supporting this skepticism.  I take my argument to be quasi-Humean in spirit.  Shortly I will present it.

(

Straightaway I should note some things.

{NOTE 1} I am NOT an ultra-Humean in the following respect.  I think there are certainly some conceivable scenarios in which believing in a miracle would be rationally required, if it were based on some extremely good testimony (or, a fortiori, on some remarkable personal experiences). 

{NOTE 2}  Perhaps Hume all along really meant to give such an argument as the one I'm going to give (perhaps in Part 2 of "Of Miracles").  At least one commentator has given him such a reading.  To wit, Elliott Sober's 2004 "A Modest Proposal" interprets Hume's idea (applied to an example) as that "if all the many dead people we have examined have failed to return to life, we should be maximally skeptical that the next dead person we examine (or hear about) will come back to life."  I'll ask about interpreting Hume at the end.

{NOTE 3}  I suspect that many people who are incredulous of miracles rely implicitly on something like the following argument.

)

 

Here's the argument:

 Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims

1.  Many, various, recent miracle claims have been unsuccessful.

2.  What is more, none has been successful.

C1.  Therefore, (probably) all other miracle claims will turn out to be unsuccessful.

3.  We should apportion our credence level to the evidence available.

C2.  Therefore, all miracle claims should be met with extreme skepticism.  ('Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence'.)


We might elaborate C2 with the claim that rational belief-formation requires that we make a (defeasible) presumption against any claim that a miracle has occurred simply in virtue of the fact that it is a miracle claim.


To flesh some things out:

 [REMARK 1]  What is meant by 'miracle claim'?   We might build either or both of the following into our definition.  A miracle claim is a claim either:

 [i] that an event occurred which violated a presumptive law of nature (i.e., a regularity for which someone has a lot of instantial evidence and of which she knows no counterexamples)

 AND/OR

 [ii] that some event was proximally caused to occur by a supernatural force. 

 It appears that adopting either conception of 'miracle claim' is compatible with the argument's success.


[REMARK 2]  What is meant by "unsuccessful" in premise 1?  I submit that this should mean the following.  A miracle claim either [i] has been or can be satisfactorily explained solely through natural causes or [ii] would involve considerable revisions of known scientific theories just in order to explain a small number of relatively ill-described or marginally-evidenced anomalous events.


[REMARK 3]  What is mean by 'recent' in premise 1?  Let me stipulate that 'recent' means: since roughly the scientific revolution was in full swing.  An estimate of the date for this is roughly since Newton's Principia had entered public consciousness, or very roughly January 1, 1700.


[REMARK 4]  Let "all other miracle claims" in C1 refer to virtually all other miracle claims--future, pre-scientific revolution, and putative miraculous events since the scientific revolution not examined in premise 1 or not yet postulated by anyone.


[REMARK 5]  Probably the argument will only be as successful as the first premise is convincing.  The case made by (supporting arguments for) that premise will be stronger to the extent that it is supported by a large and variegated debunking of many claims about paranormal and miraculous events.  Maybe much of the work for defending this premise is done for me by the work of skeptics worldwide. A useful starting place might be Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things.


[REMARK 6]  The inference to C2 from the evidentialist assumption in premise 3 depends on the following assumption about the sort of classification of events we should use in apportioning credence level to evidence.  We should apportion credence level in accordance with the type of event whose occurrence is being postulated.  That a miracle claim is being postulated is enough to warrant 'extreme skepticism'.  There is a presumption against miracle claims as such (once we go through this argument), even if an allegedly miraculous event otherwise has some prima facie evidence in its support.  (Think about the claims that, e.g., Sathya Sai Baba has multiplied food and turned water into gasoline.)

 

Here are my questions about the argument.

[QUESTION 1]  Is the argument cogent?

[QUESTION 2]  Anything problematic about my remarks and definitions?

[QUESTION 3]  Is this, in any sense, what Hume really meant to argue?

 And I’m very curious about the following questions.

[QUESTION 4]  Who has published such an argument before?  It’s pretty simple, and I’m still inclined to guess that my failure to come across any such argument is due to my relative unfamiliarity with the literature.

[QUESTION 5]  Am I right that many people who are incredulous of miracles rely implicitly on something like this argument?  Perhaps the entire 'skeptic movement' is premised on such an argument.  If so, it would be surprising if someone had not given this argument before, even in such an explicit form as this.


2012-11-20
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims
Reply to Jay Quigley
Jay,

I think you have espoused whatever you had to say, most cogently and well.  This is enhanced by a demonstration of the underlying need to learn and be corrected.  An admirable attitude which all 'true' skeptics should and do possess.  Something, I have never encountered in my experience, albeit limited, amongst any theists.

Look forward to further inputs of a similar nature from you. This was a pleasure.

Aarmin

2012-11-20
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims
Reply to Jay Quigley

The argument here assumes the definition of supernatural is a force outside the natural laws known to mankind. When in reality our natural laws are part of a supernatural law called eternalness. My logic follows: The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can change forms but cannot be created or destroyed. If you cannot create or destroy energy than energy is eternal from a natural law perspective. The question is: where does the law of eternalness come from?

It has been proven through our natural laws that you cannot make or create something that is stronger than the materials used to produce it. We can take materials and subject it to a process and make something stronger than any one of the single elements provided, but we cannot make or produce anything that is stronger than the properties that are collectively part of that item, demonstrating that our natural laws come from something that is stronger than anything mankind can produce within his natural world. Thus it is my suggestion that the only source the law of eternalness can come form is a source that is equal in power to that law. Within mankind’s knowledge base the only power or source that has been declared to us in history that has that kind of properties is GOD the creator of the universe.

Within my book, “Made in the Image of God”, I state the following: 

"God is eternal. Deuteronomy 33:27, Isaiah 9:6, Romans 16:26, 2 Corinthians 4:18 and 1 Peter 5:10 all make reference to God’s eternalness.  Eternalness is part of God’s nature, and our natural laws are designed around God’s nature. Remember the first law of thermodynamics? Energy can change forms but cannot be created or destroyed. This is true because it is God’s power flowing through his nature that maintains the atom’s structure. Since God’s power is eternal, so the essence of the atom becomes eternal. How should I understand this statement? The atom represents one form of energy. If we split the atom, the essence or energy of the atom’s structure simply changes form to a new kind of energy. Thus, the atom’s essence never really is destroyed or annihilated; it just simply changes into some other form of energy. Thus, the essence of the atom is eternal. The power behind what holds matter together is eternal, because God’s nature and power is eternal. This is not the same concept as Pantheism—the idea that God and the universe are one, without personality. God lives and functions with personality and purpose, and by his will he holds all things together by the power of his nature that flows and controls all of his creation. This concept also refutes Gnosticism—the belief that all “matter” is evil, to include our human bodies. If God’s nature is holy and perfect, and is the very power holding all things together, then by the “nature of things,” matter cannot be evil—for there is no evil found in God or his nature (Psalms 5:4)." (p.48, 49)

If we follow this logic, then if GOD’s nature is holding all things together then miracles are simply making rule changes by the one who controls the rules. Some would call this unnatural but if you believe in a supernatural GOD then following this logic, miracle make perfect sense and the proof of that is the success of God holding all thinks together by his eternal power and that is something we see happening every day. These arguments are expanded in my book for those interested in how theology and metaphysics work together to explain God and the universe as we understand it.


2013-01-11
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims
Reply to Jay Quigley

[QUESTION 1]  Is the argument cogent?  Yes

[QUESTION 2]  Anything problematic about my remarks and definitions?
You have defined a "miracle claim" as  "[i] ... an event ... which violated a presumptive law of nature (i.e., a regularity for which someone has a lot of instantial evidence and of which she knows no counterexamples)".    What I would like to proffer is an emergent reformulation of the laws of quantum mechanics where statistically rare events might conform with the laws of nature.

Introduction to Time Symmetric Quantum Mechanics (TSQM)

Nearly all physical processes at the microscopic level are time symmetric, such that that the theoretical statements that describe them remain true if the direction of time is reversed.  (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arrow_of_time)  It is the second law of thermodynamics and our experience that conventionally limits classical mechanics and the equations of Maxwell, Schrödinger and Heisenberg to a “forward in time” direction.  Accordingly, any quantum system is normally described in terms of the quantum state(s) of the system’s initial condition(s) and the subsequent evolution of the initial state(s) in a “forward in time’ direction.  However, in time-symmetric quantum mechanics (TSQM), quantum systems must be described both in terms of forward-in time evolution of the systems’ initial boundary states, but also in terms of some future-defined boundary conditions that evolve backward in time.

A more detailed description of TSQM

(For readers seeking an in dept introduction to TSQM, a multitude of relevant papers can be found on Google Scholar.  Also, Jeff Tollaksen's (who previously taught at George Mason University) in a paper titled “Novel relationships between superoscillations, weak values, and modular variables” (http://iopscience.iop.org/1742-6596/70/1/012016) wrote the following:

 "The 'time-asymmetry' attributed to the standard formulation of Quantum Mechanics (QM) was inherited from a reasonable tendency learned from Classical Mechanics (CM) to predict the future based on initial conditions: once the equations of motion are fixed in CM, then the initial and final conditions are not independent, only one can be fixed arbitrarily. In contrast, as a result of the uncertainty principle, the relationship between initial and final conditions within QM can be one-to-many: two 'identical' particles with identical environments can subsequently exhibit different properties under identical measurements. These subsequent identical measurements provide fundamentally new information about the system which could not in principle be obtained from the initial conditions. QM’s 'time-asymmetry' is the assumption that measurements only have consequences after they are performed, i.e. towards the future. Nevertheless, a positive spin was placed on QM’s non-trivial relationship between initial and final conditions by ABL [named after the physicists Yakir Aharonov, Peter Bergmann, and Joel Lebowitz] who showed that the new information obtained from measurements was also relevant for the past of every quantum-system and not just the future. This inspired ABL to re-formulate QM in terms of Pre-and-Post-Selected-ensembles. The traditional paradigm for ensembles is to simply prepare systems in a particular state and thereafter subject them to a variety of experiments. These are 'pre-selected-only-ensembles.' For pre-and-post-selected-ensembles, we add one more step, a subsequent measurement or post-selection. By collecting only a subset of the outcomes for this later measurement, we see that the “pre-selected-only-ensemble” can be divided into sub-ensembles according to the results of this subsequent 'post-selection-measurement.' Because pre-and-post-selected-ensembles are the most refined quantum ensemble, they are of fundamental importance and subsequently led to the two-vector or Time-Symmetric reformulation of Quantum Mechanics (TSQM) [4, 5]. TSQM provides a complete description of a quantum-system at a given moment by using two-wavefunctions, one evolving from the past towards the future (the one utilized in the standard paradigm) and a second one, evolving from the future towards the past. While TSQM is a new conceptual point-of-view that has predicted novel, verified effects which seem impossible according to standard QM, TSQM is in fact a re-formulation of QM. Therefore, experiments cannot prove TSQM over QM (or vice-versa). The motivation to pursue such re-formulations, then, depends on their usefulness."

Experimental Verifications

There is now third party research that quantitatively confirmed predicted outcomes which were unique to the TSQM formulation of quantum mechanics. As these outcomes cannot be explained by the traditional formulations of quantum mechanics, I believe that paradigm shifting evidence of “Quantum Miracles” is both beginning to emerge from independent research groups and is beginning to be recognized in the popular media  (See Discovery Magazine http://discovermagazine.com/2010/apr/01-back-from-the-future/article_view?b_start%3Aint=0&-C

It must be emphasized that unique predictions of TSQM have been experimentally confirmed. These experimental verifications of TSQM are occurring in the context of "weak measurement" theory and research that itself involves both intriguing explanatory and ontological implications. As examples, please consider the following:

"Experimental joint weak measurement on a photon pair as a probe of Hardy's Paradox" http://arxiv.org/pdf/0810.4229

"Direct observation of Hardy's paradox by joint weak measurement with an entangled photon pair" http://arxiv.org/pdf/0811.1625

"Quantum interference experiments, modular variables and weak measurements" http://arxiv.org/pdf/0910.4227

"Postselected weak measurement beyond the weak value" http://arxiv.org/pdf/0909.2206

"Complete characterization of post-selected quantum statistics using weak measurement tomography" http://arxiv.org/pdf/0907.0533

and dozens more.

In application of TSQM to your question, please consider a paper titled “New Insights on Time-Symmetry in Quantum Mechanics” (See: http://arxiv.org/pdf/0706.1232 Jun 2007) in which Yakir Aharonov and Jeff Tollaksen wrote as follows:

"Up until now we have limited ourselves to the possibility of 2 boundary conditions which obtain their assignment due to selections made before and after a measurement. It is feasible and even suggestive to consider an extension of QM to include both a wavefunction arriving from the past and a second “destiny” wavefunction coming from the future, which are determined by 2 boundary conditions, rather than a measurement and selection. This proposal could solve the issue of the “collapse” of the wavefunction in a new and more natural way: every time a measurement takes place and the possible measurement outcomes decohere, then the future boundary condition simply selects one out of many possible outcomes [35, 32]. It also implies a kind of “teleology” which might prove fruitful in addressing the anthropic and fine-tuning issues [77]. The possibility of a final boundary condition on the universe could be probed experimentally by searching for “quantum miracles” on a cosmological scale. While a “classical miracle” is a rare event that can be explained by a very unusual initial boundary-condition, “Quantum Miracles” are those events which cannot naturally be explained through any special initial boundary-condition, only through initial-and-final boundary-conditions."


2013-01-11
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims

The following applies the "eternalness" and the "omniscience" of "God's nature" to the time symmetric quantum mechanical model (which I introduced in my response to Dr. Reid) to show how a teleology might be introduced into the time evolution of creation (and  our lives) as a "natural" source of statically rare events. The "miracle claim" that I have chosen as my vehicle to illustrate how this might occur is the "Origin of Life Mystery".

The physicist, cosmologist and astrobiologist, Paul Davies reported in his paper titled, "Does Quantum Mechanics Play a Non-Trivial Role In Life?" that "[s]imple calculation shows that it would take much longer than the age of the universe, even if all the matter in the universe consisted of pre-biotic soup, for even a single protein to form by chance..." and that "...the classical chance hypothesis [to explain the Origin of Life] seems unsatisfactory." 

Is Dr. Davies correct in his opinion?

Richard Cevantis Carrier (who is an historian and fervent advocate of metaphysical naturalism), reported on 46 "probability of life" studies in a 2004 paper in which Dr. Carrier argued that all of the studies which had rendered the natural origin of life to be statistically impossible (one change in 10 to the 50th power or less) were flawed.  Nonetheless, considering that the age of our universe is estimated to be 13.7 billion years (e.g. 13.7 x 10 to the 9 power years) the probabilities that Dr. Carrier reported for life to have originated in accordance with the "presumptive laws of nature" seem incredibly small:

Barrow and Tipler (1986: 565)  one chance in 4.3 x 10 to the 109 power

Borel, cited in Baudin (1962: 28)  one chance in 10 to the 50 power

Bradley and Thaxton (1994: 190) one chance in 4.9 x 10 to the 191 power

Bradley and Thaxton (1994: 322–323) one chance in 10 to the 65 power

Bradley and Thaxton (1984: 145)  one chance in 10 to the 117 power

Bradley and Thaxton (1984: 146)  one chance in 10 to the 45 power

Bradley and Thaxton (1984: 157)  one chance in 10 to the 175 power

Cairns-Smith (1984: 47–48)  one chance in 10 to the 109 power

Coppedge (1973: 76)  one chance in 10 to the 8,318 power

Coppedge (102)  one chance in 10 to the 106 power

Coppedge (109)  one chance in 10 to the 161 power

Coppedge (111)  one chance in 10 to the 119,701 power

Coppedge (113)  one chance in 10 to the 35 power

Coppedge (249)  one chance in 10 to the 236 power

Coppedge (235)  one chance in 10 to the 339,999,866 power

Cramer (1998)  one chance in 10 to the 119,701 power

Eden (1967: 7)  one chance in 10 to the 325 power

Foster (1993: 79)  one chance in 10 to the 650 power

Foster (82, 172)  one chance in 10 to the 88,000 power

Foster (39–40)  one chance in 10 to the 68 power

Foster (52)  one chance in 10 to the 163 power

Guye, via Lecompte du Noüy (33–34)  one chance in 10 to the 243 power

Hoyle and Wickramasinghe (1981: 24)  one chance in 10 to the 40,000 power

Hoyle (1981: 526–527)  one chance in 4 x 10 to the 69 power

Huxley (1953: 45–46)  one chance in 10,000 x 10 to the 1,000,000 power

Ludwig (1993: 274)  one chance in 10 to the 2,300,000 power

McFadden (2000: 98)  one chance in 10 to the 60 power

McFadden (98)  one chance in 10 to the 41 power

Morowitz (1979: 99)  one chance in 10 to the 399,999,896 power

Morris (1974: 60–61)  one chance in 10 to the 53 power

Morris (64–65)  one chance in 10 to the 450 power

Morris (69)  one chance in 10 to the 299,843 power

Overman (1997: 54–55)  one chance in 10 to the 536 power

Quastler (4)  one chance in 10 to the 301 power

Quastler (6)  one chance in 10 to the 255 power

Quastler (46)  one chance in 10 to the 20 power

Quarter (58)  one chance in 10 to the 6 power to one chance in 10 to the 30 power

Sagan (1973: 45–46)  one chance in 10 to the 2,000,000,000 power

Sagan (45–46)  one chance in 10 to the 130 power

Salisbury (1969)  one chance in 10 to the 415 power

Salisbury (1971)  one chance in 10 to the 600 power

Schroeder (1997: 91–92)  one chance in 10 to the 850 power

Yockey (1992: 154–157)  one chance in 2 x 10 to the 53 power

Yockey (1981)  one chance in 10 to the 60 power

Yockey (1992: 154–157)  one chance in 2.3 x 10 to the 75 power

Yockey (1981)  one chance in 10 to the 125 power

(SOURCE: R.C. CARRIER, "The argument from biogenesis: Probabilities against a natural origin of life", Biology and Philosophy 19: 739–764, 2004.)

It should be noted that only six out of these 46 studies could support any argument that the natural origin of life was even possible within the time our universe has existed (13.7 x 10 to the 9 power years) with the most optimistic (Quarter, 58) providing a range of probabilities from one chance out of 10 to the 6th power to one chance out of 10 to the 30th power.  It would appear that, at best, the probability that life arose naturally in accordance with the conventional scientific explanations is vanishingly small.  

Is there an alternative?

According to a 2009 paper, "The consensus is growing that the emergence of the living cell from prebiotic syntheses is related with the onset of a particular phase of matter made of a macroscopic coherent state of biochemical reactions where the interaction with the ambient results in the Darwinian evolution. The coherent state of living matter could emerge in the proximity of a critical point (biological order at the edge of c[h]aos) (Rupley et al. 1988), and there is growing experimental evidence that quantum coherence could play a relevant role (Engel et al., 2007, Hagan et al. 2002). In this scenario the key physical problem is how it is possible that the quantum coherence phase could resist to the de-coherence attacks of temperature (Barrow et al. 2004; Davies 2004)." 

[SOURCE: Evading Quantum De-coherence in Living Matter by Feshbach Resonance Antonio Bianconi, Rocchina Caivano, Nicola Poccia, Alessandro Ricci, Alessandro Puri, Michela Fratini; Orig Life Evol Biosph (2009) 39:page 335]

 Is decoherence the only problem in applying quantum mechanics to resolve the Origin of Life mystery? 

Dr. Davies would say: "no".  He goes on in his 2004 paper to write that "Quantum mechanics may offer a radical alternative ...[to the classical chance hypothesis].  Since quantum systems can exist in superpositions of states, searches of sequence space or configuration space may proceed much faster. In effect, a quantum system may 'feel out' a vast array of alternatives simultaneously. In some cases, this speed-up factor is exponential (Farhi and Gutmann, 1998). So the question is: Can quantum mechanics fast-track matter to life by 'discovering' biologically potent molecular configurations much faster than one might expect using classical estimates?"

In answer to his own question, Dr. Davies (on page 75 of his paper) goes on to write:

"Though it is easy to believe that quantum superpositions might accelerate the “discovery” of a specific, special, physical state (e.g., the 'living' state), there is an element of teleology creeping into this mode of thought. We might be familiar with what it takes for a system to be living, but a molecular mixture isn’t. The concept of a 'target sequence' or 'goal' at the end of a search is meaningless for molecules. Nevertheless, a quantum search could speed up the “discovery” of life if there is some way in which the system 'knows when it is getting hot,' i.e., if there is some sort of feedback that senses the proximity to life, and focuses or canalizes the search toward it. Sometimes it is claimed (Fox and Dose, 1977) that 'life is built into the laws of physics,' i.e., that there is an inbuilt bias or directionality in physical processes that guide them toward 'life.' Expressed more neutrally, 'life' constitutes an attractor in chemical sequence space. But to suppose that such an attractor is conveniently built into the laws of nature is just too contrived to be believable (Davies, 2003)."

How does a uniform distribution of matter spontaneously develop a nonuniform distribution while continuing to obey the standard principles of nature such as entropy and the conservation of momentum, energy, and matter?  It would appear that unless some "element of teleology" can be discovered that is "built into the laws of nature,  there is little hope that quantum mechanics can help science resolve the origin of life mystery. 

In what follows, I will first discuss how the same boundary condition that has been posited to mathematically derive a background independent quantum gravity, by causal dynamical triangulation (CDT) theorists, might, in the context of the time symmetric formulation of quantum mechanics (TSQM) of Drs. Yakir Aharonov and Jeffery Tollaksen, provide a plausible contextuality to overcome the issues raised in Dr. Davies' paper and potentially resolve the "origin of life" mystery.

Specifically, I will, by speculatively joining aspects of CDT and TSQM research, attempt to show how a form of "teleology" may be introduced into the time evolution of creation.  Let's begin:

In quantum mechanics, the initial quantum state of any system evolves over time into a probability distribution of all possible states consistent with the initial boundary condition. If an initial state is assumed in which a universal set of states and spacetime geometries are subsumed, a probability distribution of possible states, including all observable states, will necessarily arise. Applying time symmetry, this probability distribution will simultaneously appear as the set of all futures and the set all histories which can arise from and lead to this common point of origination and destiny. As this point of origination constitutes both the system’s beginning and ending boundary condition, all actualizations must occur within this contextuality.

If the big bang is then understood to have occurred as an actualization event within this preexistent contextuality, it would constitute the initial boundary condition for our universe and, inter alia, embody all of the laws of physics pursuant to which our universe could thereafter evolve. All subsequent actualizations would then be strongly bounded by this and the set of all immediately preceding actualizations; but would also be subtly influenced by a future unity or destiny toward which all of our possible futures would necessarily converge.

As can be seen, this speculation introduces a kind of “teleology” into the time-evolution of Creation which is the vary factor Dr. Davies saw missing . From the frame of reference of Dr. Carrier and science, the process is an entirely “natural phenomena” while the centripetal convergence toward unity may, from the frame of reference of the theologian, be understood as the "Divine destiny" of creation "ordained by God”. The beauty of the speculation is that “determinism” comprised of contingency preserves “Free Will” within that contingency. In other words, human choice exists within those individualized boundary conditions of each person’s “Now”.  Additionally, as to the "Origin of Life" question, we now have an "end" which potentially provides the "feedback" loop and "attractor in chemical sequence space" that, in Davies' view, any quantum mechanical explanation to the Origin of Life" mystery would require. 

 Key Scientific Assumptions:

There are two key assumptions that I have made in this speculation that require further explanation.

The first assumption relates to the systems' initial state. For the purposes of this conjecture, I have assumed that the initial state is a superposition of states, to include all possible space time geometries. As noted in Wikipedia, "Quantum superposition is the fundamental law of quantum mechanics. It defines the collection of all possible states that an object can have. The principle of superposition states that if the world can be in any configuration, any possible arrangement of particles or fields, and if the world could also be in another configuration, then the world can also be in a state which is a superposition of the two...."

Additionally, my assumption that the initial state is a superposition of possible states is equivalent to that made by a promising quantum gravity theory called "Causal Dynamical Triangulation".

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacetime, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_gravity, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causaldynamicaltriangulation, and http://arxiv.org/abs/hep¬th/0509010

As you will note from the cited resources, my initial state and that assumed in Causal Dynamical Triangulation (CDT) are equivalent. You will also see that Causal Dynamical Triangulation (CDT) has had some significant successes and  is now the third leading quantum gravity theory--behind string theory and loop quantum gravity. Although CDT is way too nascent for any predictions about its ultimate success to be made, CDT appears to be emergent, with both string and Loop Quantum Gravity theorists taking a harder look at it in the last few years.

The second critical assumption involves time symmetry. In this regard, please note that virtually all of the laws of physics are time symmetric. I wish the consideration of time symmetry in the context of a final boundary condition were entirely original to me. It is not. For example, Roger Penrose, in the article titled “The Big Bang and its thermodynamic legacy, wrote:

“Normally, one thinks in terms of systems evolving into the future, from data specified in the past, where the particular evolution takes place is determined by differential equations. ... One does not, on the other hand, tend to think of evolving these same equations into the past, despite the fact that the dynamical equations of classical and quantum mechanics are symmetrical under a reversal of the direction of time! As far as the mathematics is concerned, one can just as well specify final conditions, at some remote future time, and evolve backward in time. Mathematically, final conditions are just as good as initial ones for determining the evolution of a system.” (Quoted from Roger Penrose, The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Universe, Chapter 27, “The Big Bang and its thermodynamic legacy”, p. 687)

Additionally, you might wish to review the paper by Yakir Aharonov and Jeffrey Tollaksen titled “New Insights on Time-Symmetry in Quantum Mechanics” (See: http://arxiv.org/pdf/0706.1232 Jun 2007) which I quoted in my response to Dr. Reid.

It must next be asked if the claims of those promoting TSQM should be believed? In this regard it is extremely relevant that recent studies have quantitatively confirmed predicted outcomes which were unique to the TSQM formulation of quantum mechanics. As these outcomes cannot be explained by the traditional formulations of quantum mechanics, it appears that paradigm shifting "proofs" of TSQM are both beginning to be reported by independent research groups and to be recognized in the popular media.  Again, you may wish to review the paper I cited in my response to Dr. Reid.

Again considering the "natural" origin of life as a "miracle claim",  John Jamieson Carswell (J.J.C.) Smart wrote, in his book "Atheism and Theism" "Reply to Haldane":
"As a philosopher I am happy enough if we can see that the origin of life is not impossible according to physical principles and cosmological knowledge.  We do not need a detailed theory of it to prefer a naturalistic explanation (thin and as yet speculative as it may be) to a supernaturalist explanation.  (page 152)

Hopefully, you will agree that the argument I have proffered provides an even better alternative in that it provides a plausible "Origin of Life" narrative  in which both scientists and theologians might be able to agree.

Theologians may, nonetheless, have much difficulty in accepting the concepts I have presented. However, it should be noted that the conjecture was inspired by an ontology that began with Plato and the Neo-Platonist, found expression in Islamic philosophy and culminated in Writings of the Bábí and Bahá’í Faiths. Christians and Jews will need to recognize that, consistent with the conjecture I have proffered, there are two creation stories in the Bible. As noted in Marcus J. Borg’s book “Reading The Bible Again For The First Time”; " The first three chapters of Genesis contain two stories of creation, written about four hundred years apart. The first one, Genesis 1.1–2.3, was probably written in the 500s BCE. Commonly called the “priestly” or “P” story, it is part of a larger block of material extending through the Pentateuch and reflecting priestly and ritual concerns. The second one was written earlier. It begins in Genesis 2.4 and continues through the end of chapter 3. Perhaps written in the 900s BCE, it is commonly called the “Yahwist” or “J” creation story, because the author uses “Yahweh” as the name of God.

In his book, “The God Delusion”, Richard Dawkins does not reject the God of Spinoza and Einstein “who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists.” Instead Dawkins rejects, for himself and the vast majority of scientists, that there is any possibility that the Einsteinian God can be teleologically active in Creation. What I have tried to proffer a plausible scientific basis to believe that the "Einsteinian God" could be teleologically active and that statistically improbable events (miracles) could occur.

However, the casualty in all of this is the theologian's concept of God may need to be abandoned.

"Therefore consider: All the sects and peoples worship their own thought; they create a god in their own minds and acknowledge him to be the creator of all things, when that form is a superstition -- thus people adore and worship imagination (or illusion)."(Abdu'l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá v3, p. 562


2013-01-17
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims
Reply to Jay Quigley
Jon Trevathan, thanks for your lengthy remarks.  My worry is that you've merely changed the subject.  The argument I've advanced is certainly compatible with the claim that "statistically rare events might conform with the laws of nature".  The argument is compatible with the claim that there could be miracles.  It is even compatible with the claim that there have been miracles.

It is merely an argument against miracle claims, i.e., claims that a particular event was a miracle in either of the senses delineated in Remark 1.  It's all well and good that some event or other might have been a miracle, whether or not miracles would be explicable via the resources of quantum mechanics.  But what I'm curious about is whether to believe in such wonders as the faith healings of Benny Hinn, the psychokinesis of Uri Geller, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, or Sai Baba's conversion of water into gasoline.  (Incidentally, I think this should be the chief concern of any assessment of apologists' historical arguments for Christianity, and perhaps most other religions.)  If you have some argument that all three of those events, and/or many similar events, really can be explained as upshots of statistically rare quantum events, that would still not be enough.  You'd also need to explain how such individuals attain the ability to bring about such quantum events so as to produce the effects they desire.  And you'd need to rule out alternative explanations of the events.

Reid Reid, similar thoughts apply to your remarks.  My argument doesn't depend on any particular conception of what physical laws are.  It's compatible with deism or even with a God who quietly changes the laws of nature from time to time.  What I think it rules out is belief that any particular event was the upshot of a particular instance of God's fiddling with the laws of nature, whether or not prompted by a human being (provided that premise 1 gets well-defended by the likes of Joe Nickell).  Geller has been debunked, the Fox sisters confessed, and Nessy was shown to be a toy submarine (http://www.paranormal-encyclopedia.com/directory/top/hoaxes.html).  I'm saying that because hoaxes are so easily perpetrated, we'd need extraordinary evidence to support the conclusion that any particular event was a miracle, no matter how hypothetical miracles should be explained.

2013-01-17
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims
Reply to Jon Trevathan

I appreciate the thesis approach to my comments to the law of eternalness. After reviewing what you have stated here on this site I would have to say I see nothing here that explains or speaks to the origins of this law. I do see another explanation through your field of study on the origins of life. But to the questions of the physical or natural law of eternalness I see no connection. If you remove life from the equation of origin, the law of eternalness still stands.

It is interesting to note the new debate to whether Einsteins theory of relativity is flawed or not. Apparently the discovery that by simply placing the numeric value of zero for the (r) value of the formula the numeric answer works out to be infinite. It appears that the same thing happens for those studying Quontem Physics in the area of gravity, the answer is infinite four times over.

It is my view that this finding is not a flaw, but represents and supports the concept of eternalness. For in the theological community infinite is equal to eternal; for the Scriptures state that God is infinite. Within my book I argue that everything God the creator creates, that has mass or is in a spiritual life form, becomes eternal. I will refer you to my book for the arguments.

With that said, I would like to respond to your hypothesis for the origin of life with a question: what is life? Within my book I do not speak to questions of life as it pertains to the plant kingdom, or to birds, fish or anything that crawls on the earth such as bugs and snakes. I focus on human life and its origins.

The key to understanding theology is to have a proper hermeneutical background and understanding of the rules of interpretation of the Scriptures. Without this, trying to make sense of what is presented to us in the historical records of the Scriptures will be faulty.

The (P) and (J) story concepts originates from Higher Criticism approach to hermeneutics and is rejected by most in the historical orthodox Christian church. Genesis along with the rest of the Pentateuch was authored by Moses and was written sometime between 1445 and 1405 B.C.. The authorship is confirmed to us by the Scriptures itself as expressed here: (Ex. 17:14; Lev. 1:1,2; Num. 33:2; Deut. 1:1; Josh. 1:7; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 13:1; Dan. 9:: 11-13; Mal. 4:4) In the New Testament this was confirmed for us in (Matt. 8:4; Mark 12:26; Luke 16:29; John 7:19; Acts 26:22; Rom. 10:19; 1 Cor. 9:9; and 2 Cor. 3:15). Other supporting groups to this position is: The Early Church, first-century Jewish historian Josephus and the Jerusalem Talmud.  

Because the time of Genesis is believed to take place about 3,000 years before Moses' birth the question is, where did Moses get his information to write about these events?

There are historical and official responses to that question, but the only one fact required for me personally is found in the historical account of Numbers 12:1-9 which states:

"Then Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); and they said, "Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?" And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) And suddenly the Lord said to Moses and Aaron and to Miriam, "You three come out to the tent of meeting." So the three of them came out. Then the Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tent, and He called Aaron and Miriam. When they had both come forward, He said,

"Hear now My words:

If there is a prophet among you,

I, the Lord, shall make Myself known to him in a vision.

I shall speak with him in a dream.

"Not so, with My servant Moses,

He is faithful in all My household;

With him I speak mouth to mouth,

Even openly, and not in dark sayings,

And he beholds the form of the Lord.

Why then were you not afraid

To speak against My servant, against Moses?"

So the anger of the Lord burned against them and He departed." (NASB)

This historical account tells us that Moses had direct speaking relationship with God the creator and therefore any historical information could have and most likely was communicated to Moses directly from God. In the theological community we would call this direct revelation.

In summary, my position remains the same, eternalness is a property of the nature of God and the question of the origins and nature of human life can be read about in my book as I discuss and answer the ultimate question, on a theological and metaphysical level, what is life?

Respectfully,

Reid Ashbaucher (Author of: Made in the Image of God)



2013-04-22
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims
Reid,
"God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe," is what is written in the Church of the Nazarene Manual 2009-2013. If this is true, then God does in fact sustain the natural laws of reality. But, there is an alternative to thinking that miracles "break" that laws of nature. That alternative is that God works with the laws of nature in order to perform very diverse miracles. This seems a more reasonable way to reflect upon miracles. We are accustom to observing the nature laws with our natural endowed and limited mental capacities, but that is why miracles seem supernatural. It seems logically absurd to think that God can simultaneously sustain the laws of nature and break them, according to us. The following dichotomy remains: Either God is performing miracles and not sustaining the the laws of nature or God is not performing miracles and is sustaining the laws of nature. If you want to say that God performs miracles, then God is not sustaining the laws of nature. This is according to the paradigm that God "breaks" the laws of nature. According to the alternative, God's works seem supernatural because we are not accustom (rationally) to observing the supranatural or supra-logical (God). Given that God is all-powerful and all-knowing is sounds reasonable to think that God does things we do not understand, such as miracles. For example, if a magician is showing an adult a magic trick, that adult would probably be amazed because the adult lacks understanding of how the magician did the trick. It seems like the magician defied logic or the natural laws, but nevertheless he did not because of the knowledge the adult was lacking. This is analogically the same for miracles. People often give the same reaction to a magic trick than to a miracle (i.e. skepticism, acceptance, etc...). 


Note that I have less than a Bachelor's in Philosophy and Philosophy of Religion. Any criticism of my post is strongly appreciated and is instrumental to my learning. 

2013-04-30
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims
 

Joseph,

I can appreciate your analogy and concur that could explain some things in life we call miracles, but I can think of one event in Scripture that this would not work. Remember Joshua 10:12-14 which states:

"Then Joshua spoke to the Lord in the day when the Lord delivered up the Amorites before the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

"O sun, stand still at Gibeon,

And O moon in the valley of Aijalon."

So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,

Until the nation avenged themselves of their enemies.

Is it not written in the book of Jashar? And the sun stopped in the middle of the sky, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day. 14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel." (NASB)

This would be consistent with my view that God altered natural law to make something happen. But because God's nature is holding all things together (Col. 1:17), this rule change would not be anything outside of what is natural for God, for all our natural laws are founded upon God's nature, giving him full control over any rule changes to accomplish his will. If you wish further discussions feel free to contact me through my website listed in my profile.


2013-12-21
An Inductive Argument against Miracle Claims

Reid, 

 

At face value, this does present difficulty for my previous comment. But this passage ought to be delicately interpreted because of its weight in your response. Proper hermeneutics and interpretation need to be employed before resorting to it for a defense of divine activity, particularly miracle claims. 

Beyond that, what is meant by "founded" upon God's nature? It can interpreted that the laws of nature are causally contingent upon God's nature, in that His created them, His immanence within them (by which he sustains them), or His sovereignty over them.