Scientific Deism Explained

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Joined  21-05-2010
21 May 2010 15:36


Science is the logical examination of what we perceive. As a Deist I believe science is compatible with a belief in God. Therefore that belief must itself be logical. So what is logic, how is it derived, and how does it lead to a belief in God that is compatible with science?

The phrase “I think therefore I am” is a self-referential observation that provides certain knowledge of our own conscious existence (in fact it is the only thing of which we may be absolutely certain). But that observation can also be put in the form of a syllogism which is the formal expression of a logical statement (I liken this to factoring an equation):

I am a thinking being.
In order to think a being must exist.
Therefore I must exist.

This is the basis of all philosophy and everything we know about logic is derived from it; proper distribution of terms to avoid non-sequiturs, the copula which establishes the relationship between those terms, either positive or negative, by using a form of the words “is” or “is not”, and the fallacy of contradictions because how could I be aware of myself if I did not exist? In order to better understand it let’s look at it in generic form:

A is B major premise
B is C minor premise
A is C conclusion

Notice how the term “B” occurs in both the major and minor premises thus connecting the term “A” to the term “C” allowing for a conclusion. This connection must exist so if a statement does not conform to this or any other rule of logic it must be dismissed as illogical because the conclusion is a non sequitur that does not follow unbroken from the premises. So how does this apply to Deism?

Traditionally attempts to answer to the question, “why is there something instead of nothing?” have failed because, if we assume our common materialistic notion of “nothingness” as a void that is absolutely “without property” is correct, “something from nothing” is a non sequitur. But is this definition correct?

According to the rules of logic as revealed above there are only two ways we can legitimately derive definitions; induction (observation or experience guided by the scientific method), and deduction (the syllogism). Since we see “something” when we look around us we cannot experience “nothingness” so the only way we can define it is by deduction.

Utilizing the methods allowed by those rules then we should be able to strip away all the permutations of existence and reduce it to its essence simply by putting a form of the words “is not” (the negative form of the copula in the syllogism) in front of “being as a whole” (the terms “being” and “something” are defined here as simply as that which has property no matter what it is so the totality of existence is all possible properties). This ought to give us a definition of “no being” or “nothingness” as absolutely “without property”.

But potential is a property and the world could not exist if it did not have the potential to. So how can “nothing” have potential?

[ Edited: 21 May 2010 15:42 by stretmediq]
Total Posts:  4
Joined  21-05-2010
21 May 2010 15:37

First we must accept the “nothingness” is not absolute because the concept of absolute nothingness is not the same as the absence of something in the world. Absolute means just that. ABSOLUTE! No property. No potential. No exceptions. Therefore, since the world exists, logically “nothingness” is not absolute and thus must have at least one property. So perhaps the question should be rephrased as “what is it about nothingness that keeps it from being absolute?”

“Nothingness” is the only thing (and since it has property it is a thing) that can be thought of in completely negative terms except for the fact it is a concept that can be thought of. Nothingness is a concept. You’re thinking about it right now!

So even when “being” is stripped of every other attribute we are still left with the idea of nothingness. It has no other property. But what does that mean?

Consider a scale with 1 ounce of gold in each pan. The scale would read 0 because the pans are balanced but there would still be 2 ounces of gold. So in this case 0 means “no difference” or “neutrality” not “empty”.

Likewise what we call “nothingness” is not an empty void “without property” but is actually a neutral concept (which is something) permitting us to now define it as a concept in absolute equilibrium. All other definitions must, for the time being, be dismissed as unfounded and meaningless. So how can the world emerge from that?

Imagine a straight line that extends outward forever.

Such a one dimensional line is analogous to “nothingness” by this definition because “nothingness” has but one property- it is a concept in equilibrium (this technique is called the principle of equivalence and was used by Albert Einstein to equate gravity with acceleration when he formulated the theory of relativity).

Because it may bend in any number of ways there are an infinite number of waveforms that exist in potential in such a line.

Now if things happen simply because they can happen and they can happen because they don’t result in contradiction then as long as the probability of an event does not equal zero (which is what happens when two identical but opposite waves try to emerge at the same time and cancel out) they may occur for no reason other than the fact there is nothing to prevent them from occurring. Therefore any of these waveforms may emerge spontaneously by themselves or in combination by simple addition.

By themselves the most basic waveforms (sine waves) have no meaning but, utilizing a technique developed by the French mathematician Jean Baptiste Fourier, we can see that merged with others they can create radically different patterns which not only match the same patterns we see in our world they are also analogous to the emergence of an infinite number of other universes each with different physics (which are predicted by the model).

In other words in this model there is a spectrum of universes. And they don’t just obey mathematical rules they are mathematics- manifest. Ours just happens to be one that is conducive to life explaining why it seems so finely tuned (this is why I doubt the design argument and purposeful creation and think the world is really nothing more than an epiphenomenon).

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21 May 2010 15:38

However all the evidence we have says that for a concept to exist there must be a mind to consider it. And if you claim to believe in science and reason you have to go with the evidence you have not the “evidence” you want to have. And there is just no evidence I am aware of that even suggests concepts can exist without being observed. If anyone knows of any please let me know.

For example you can have 9 coins in one hand and 9 stones in the other but where is the number 9 apart from what you hold? Aside from the fact they are “physical” we can sense no other property they have in common. But changing the quantity doesn’t seem to affect the physical characteristics of either group so that particular integer itself is not intrinsic to either group physically. 9 has attributes we can understand. It is the square of 3. It is an odd number. And we can distinguish those traits from; say, the number 8 which is even and not a square. So even though it is not tangible it is a thing in its own right as a concept but that is all. You can not point to anything in nature and say, “This is the number 9 by itself.” You can only think about it.

A materialist (someone who assumes the world has an objective existence and does not need to be observed) may reply that the number 9 must be expressed physically as stones or coins to exist but what is the “physical”? Albert Einstein proved that mass (matter) is just energy in particle form. Then the physicist Erwin Schrodinger discovered that energy could be manifested as a wave as well as a particle. And finally another scientist, Max Born, showed that waves are just the probability distribution of a possible event. Probability, in turn, is mathematical in nature and mathematics itself is nothing more than the rules that govern numbers which are concepts.

Others say the numbers themselves are merely the products of material processes in the brain we impose on the world. But it seems to me this is just substituting one unsubstantiated statement for another.

One can not assert the brain and its processes are material in order to prove the brain and its processes are material as that is a circular argument. The brain is made of tissue composed of cells built from molecules of atoms that are particles of matter which is energy…

Even the evidence of science itself seems to cast doubt on materialism.

One of the consequences of the wave/particle nature of physics touched on above is Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Simply stated, this points out a fundamental mathematical law that says that an observer can never know both the position and the speed or frequency of a “particle/wave” at once. To know it’s position energy must be at rest and in particle form and to know its speed it must be a wave. Since it can’t be both at rest and in motion at the same time, it creates uncertainty.

So depending on how it is observed energy can appear as either a particle or a wave. The experimenter (Alice) determines which form it will take by the way she decides to measure it. If she sets up an experiment to detect particles that is what she’ll find. Likewise, if she wants to find waves she will see them. Not both at once.

The uncertainty principle has created a great many problems for physicists and philosophers alike. The consequences that arise from it deeply troubled many scholars when it was first set forth, Einstein among them. He, along with the scientists Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen (tests based on their views are called EPR experiments after them) pointed out that if two particles are produced by the breakdown of another and one of them is then sent off into space while the one that remains is examined to determine it’s direction of spin, for example, it’s twin must instantly assume the opposite spin in order to keep from violating the law of conservation no matter how far apart they are!

Up until it is observed all the properties associated with a particle, including its direction of spin, exist only in potential so that trait is also bound by chance and it could just as easily have spun the other way. But, by what mechanism does the other particle “know” to assume the spin opposite it’s counterpart?

Like a lookout on a high mountain top a transcendent observer would have no problem “seeing” the universe in it’s entirety and thus keep it orderly but what of materialism? 

The fastest physical means of transmitting information available is light but even it can only go so fast and nothing can make it go faster. It travels at the incredible speed of 186,000 mile per second, but even that takes time and what if an observer (Bob) on another planet tests that particle for direction of spin before the information can reach it? Is there a chance it could assume the same spin as its partner and violate the conservation laws?

If not and someone on Earth can “determine” the properties of a particle light years away she has never seen simply by measuring another one here, it would seem that the role of the observer in keeping the universe orderly is more important than previously thought. And the reported results of EPR experiments do seem to confirm that order is indeed maintained.

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Joined  21-05-2010
21 May 2010 15:39

In an effort to do away with the need for an observer while avoiding the problem of super luminal information transference (and, I think, to avoid the obvious religious implications) some materialists have advanced what is known as the “many worlds theory by decoherence”, a hypothesis which holds that in order to avoid uncertainty whenever there is an event with more than one possible outcome the entire cosmos actually splits like a wave in an interferometer to accommodate every single one. They reason that if all possible outcomes occur then it doesn’t matter if they are seen or not. So according to the many worlds theory there is a place where Abraham Lincoln was not assassinated and the Titanic still sails.

However for it to work there must be a way by which a universe can tell what it’s sister world is doing so it can do the opposite. The only mechanism I am aware of that has been put forth which can allow for the communication necessary for it to do that (possibly because there may be no alternative) is a shared history up to the point of differentiation where they “branch”.

If true considering the rapidity of nuclear interactions as well as the sheer number of them and the fact that there is more than a handful of probable outcomes for any event and all must occur separately, parallel universes of this type must be being created continuously at a rate that boggles the mind. Imagine tossing just one coin ten times. The first flip would produce two coins (heads in one world tails in the other), the second would create four since each of those would have two possible outcomes.

The third throw makes eight, then sixteen, thirty two, sixty four and so on until by the tenth flip you have produced one thousand twenty four coins each in their own separate universe (ten more and you will create over a million)!

This seems ludicrous on the surface, but so have many other theories in the past that have been confirmed by observation and if it follows from the premise and fits the facts it must be accepted no matter how outlandish it may seem. My own criticism of it must, therefore, be based on what I believe to be logical grounds and I do have reservations about it, the main one being it appears to violate the laws of conservation. If this materialistic explanation is correct how can an infinite number of universes be created out of a finite amount of energy?

As I see it there are three possibilities; one- the conservation laws are valid and thus the many worlds theory cannot be true, two- the conservation laws are wrong and “new” energy can be created from nothing (which begs the question if that’s true then shouldn’t there be an equal chance “old” energy can be destroyed at the same rate keeping the energy level in the universe constant?), three- there is an infinite reservoir of energy out there somewhere feeding into the universe allowing it to divide without end (but if that’s true what force here could possibly be strong enough to channel it and keep it from flooding this world and tearing it apart?). The second and third possibilities seem to me to be self-refuting but let’s take a closer look at the first.

When a wave of a finite amount of energy propagates the total power in it initially stays the same but it spreads out over a greater distance, thinning and thus getting weaker at any particular place. If the ocean is wide enough even a tsunami will eventually become nothing more than a ripple unless more energy is supplied to it to maintain its strength and there is no evidence I am aware of that is happening anywhere in the universe. In fact observation of the residual heat of the Big Bang known as the cosmic background radiation indicates the universe is getting cooler and fainter as it expands suggesting the amount of energy in the universe is, indeed, finite (there is other evidence as well, such as predicting and then finding new particles to account for so called missing energy, that supports the conservation laws of mass/energy and none that I know of that even hints that they might be wrong). Splitting a wave only accelerates the process suggesting that the cosmos would likewise become so dilute so fast there would never be enough energy in any specific universe long enough to form the matter we see around us and the world as we know it could not exist.

As we have seen that doesn’t mean there are no other universes only that there is no reason to believe they can come into being in this way. So it may be there are an infinite number of types of universes but not every variation of a type may be realized. Nor does it suggest decoherence isn’t a real phenomenon. It is. It fact it has reportedly been observed in the laboratory but all the constituent parts remained firmly ensconced in this world.

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21 May 2010 15:39

But if, as the evidence suggests, the world is basically concept and concepts must be observed what was observing it before intelligent life evolved? This “problem” is really no problem at all. Lines may curve in many ways. One is a circle. Bending a line in on itself and joining the ends makes it self referential or self observing. Bending the line representing the “concept of absolute equilibrium” in on itself makes it self referential or self observing. That also makes It conscious because structurally It is identical to the self referential observation “I am” which tells us just what “concept” it is in equilibrium and thus gives it meaning. It is awareness itself and it is a true tabula rasa.

Such a fundamental self-observing concept also stops infinite regressions similar to the “who created the creator” problem because looking at the world as concept seems to fit a general trend in the advancement of knowledge which is completely incompatible with the notion of infinite regress. That is generalizing and simplifying a field to a succinct school of thought. In biology, the entire spectrum of life on Earth has been reduced to one idea - DNA. Chemists have gone further by taking the very stuff of DNA (as well as what everything else in the world is made of) and explaining it with the atom. Again, one simple theory that unites an entire science. Reducing the universe to a concept, based on its common relationship with nothingness as an idea, is the ultimate expression of this, it cannot be reduced any further because it has no other properties.

I call this foundational state the Prime Observer because It is literally observing Itself. The circle in this model is perfectly smooth and therefore in equilibrium but contains within It an infinite number of potential worlds which may emerge spontaneously as an epiphenomenon or side effect. In other words It is the simplest possible structure but contains within It all the complexities that can ever be.

As it is a concept we can say “nothingness” is not “nothing”. That is a contradiction thus such a state cannot exist. Just saying “nonexistence exists” is absurd. But an unobserved concept is also paradoxical and therefore unstable. It must collapse into a state that is stable but in order to do that it must have something in common with that state. Since the only property that which we commonly call “nothingness” (but which is better defined as the “concept of absolute equilibrium”) has is that of a concept it can only be reduced to something else that is also a concept to avoid a non sequitur. And all it has to do to accomplish that is bend back on itself. Nothing more.

But we must be careful here. All we have really done is show it seems to be possible to construct a mathematical model that not only can explain itself but the world also. It just happens it points to a Deistic God. But does it match what we see in the world? In my opinion yes as demonstrated in this short video (note- despite a remark by the narrator that about this being strange mathematically it really isn’t. It is exactly what we would expect to see mathematically if this model is correct because it says there is no “particle” going through the device. Only waves of chance, that can interfere with each other just like any other wave, that collapse as particles only when they hit the screen. It is only strange when looked at from a materialistic point of view):

Thus may we construct a model, derived from logic itself, providing us with a possible answer to our original question, “why is there something instead of nothing?” that not only explains itself and matches what we see in the world but predicts the observed outcome of the double slit experiment. However that in itself does not make it true. But though it is not a proof when contrasted with the apparent problems arising from the only alternative (atheistic materialism) I know of it seems, to me at least, the only reasonable conclusion.

In fact the main reason I reject materialism is that it seems to be anti-reason because it is self-contradictory. Materialism holds that all property is physical. Therefore there can be no non-physical properties. However if that is the case then nothingness (which is the total absence of all physical property) must be absolute. But if that’s true we wouldn’t be here to ponder the question because that means “something from nothing” in materialism is a non-sequitur. But that doesn’t mean materialists haven’t made the attempt. They have.

The arguments vary a little but they all basically go like this: The universe is an energy field that curves. The amount of curvature determines how much energy is in it. It may have a great deal of curvature locally but if the energy invested in the outward expansion of the universe caused by the big bang is exactly balanced by the force of gravity trying to pull it all back in then they will cancel out and the overall curvature of the universe would be zero and there would be no net energy to the universe as a whole. And since matter is just a form of energy it too would be equivalent to zero or nothing.

The reason why this argument fails is proponents of this argument are confusing (intentionally or not) zero meaning “no difference” with zero meaning “nothing”. This is because 0/2=0. In other words half of nothing is still nothing.

But it does more than fail. It actually suggests that no materialistic argument for existence can ever be found. This is because complexity arises from simplicity not the other way around. And this does seem to be the simplest possible description of the universe. Half of it is positive and goes one way and the other half is negative and goes the opposite way. It can’t be made any simpler so if a logical materialistic reason for being cannot be arrived at here it probably doesn’t exist.

So the advocates of materialism are reduced to trying to equate an explanation for existence with time when they say “if the universe has always existed it doesn’t require explanation.” But there is no reason to think such an explanation is time dependent. The argument I make here also assumes that existence is eternal. But it is based on fundamental principles. Not an endless chain of cause and effect.

Thus materialism is forced into an unexplainable infinite regression that maintains (counter to the evidence of the Big Bang, which I personally accept only because of the evidence of Olber’s paradox, since I don’t have access to the instruments of an astronomer, that says if the cosmos is finite it can’t be static and as it hasn’t collapsed it must be expanding) that the universe has always existed or it is derived from something else that has always existed without explanation.

In that case the cosmos would be fundamentally mystical and I would have no reason to think any logic based system of inquiry could explain anything because even though it says the universe has always existed it can’t explain why the universe has always existed. And that directly contradicts the ability of science to not only describe but predict phenomena. A feat that would seem unlikely if the world were not basically logical.

So I have no reason to think materialism is true because not only does it seem to result in contradiction (how can an infinite number of universe be created out of a finite amount of energy), it doesn’t match what we see in the world (remember the double slit experiment?), and it can’t even explain itself (0/2=0). Any other theory with problems like these would have been dismissed long, long ago.   

So is this form of Deism scientific? Yes, I believe it is because it meets all the requirements of the scientific method which are:

  * Ask a Question (why is there something rather than nothing?)
  * Do Background Research (philosophy, mathematics, logic,and physics are all represented)
  * Construct a Hypothesis (the model presented above)
  * Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment (the double slit experiment which BTW I personally did myself in college physics)
  * Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion (the results of the double slit experiment match predictions made by the model)
  * Communicate Your Results (this post)

Lastly does the Prime Observer fit the definition of God? Again yes. Humans are pattern seeking animals. The association of order and pattern with intelligence it seems to me would naturally lead early peoples to conclude that a supreme mind similar to their own created the world. Therefore the only definition of God that has any foundation is simply an awareness upon which the world is contingent. Attributes such as omniscience and omnipotence where probably just tacked onto this core definition by early thinkers with no knowledge of natural law. And those weren’t attributes of any God or Gods in ancient times anyway. For instance in Greek mythology Cronus created the universe but was then overthrown by Zesus a feat that would not be possible if Cronus was omnipotent.

So given the evidence I believe there is only one rational conclusion I can make. God exists. But It is the God of Deism not Theism and there is no purpose other than that which we choose to make for ourselves.

[ Edited: 23 May 2010 18:06 by stretmediq]
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Joined  29-06-2010
05 July 2010 07:22

That was a very interesting argument.  I had trouble following it in every detail.  Could you please re-write just the main ideas in simple terms (without long proofs) so I can go back and see if I understood it properly?

This is what a simple mind (I) took away:

1.) Something from nothing is illogical
2.) As “I think, therefore I am,” is a self-referencing syllogism proving one’s existence, the existence of the universe is a self-referencing system implying the existence of a creator.
3.) The path of a circle exists without beginning; it serves as a reminder that existence without beginning is possible.
4.) Because matter changes when observed, the changes that brought about the existence of the universe were caused by an observer (god).
5.) God is real, religion is bunk tacked on later by inexperienced humans seeking patterns.

(It is funny that you believe in god and not religion.  After almost 44 years on the planet, I had almost come to the opposite conclusion.  I seem to desire (need?) religion to function, but always had trouble believing in any god.)