The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)

A pretty spiral galaxy (Courtesy NASA & STScI). It had a beginning, so does that mean it had a cause?

Recently I wrote a post highlighting a form of Leibniz’s cosmological argument and mentioning how nice it was to see him get some press. Actually, he appeared recently in another book I am currently reading that was just about irresistible at the local Half Price Books when I saw it: The Probability of God, by Stephen D. Unwin. Dr. Unwin is a former theoretical physicist and risk analyst who decided to perform a Bayesian analysis of the probability that the statement “God exists” is true (that is, he calculates P(G)). While, on one hand, I don’t fully agree with all of his points so far–in the spirit of the book, I should say that my confidence in the truth of some of the points he asserts is less than 100%–on the other hand, I understand why, for the sake of the analysis he is trying to do, he makes those points. And it’s amazing to me someone happened to stumble on a recipe for a book that my nature virtually requires me to purchase it. (Theoretical physicist? Risk analyst? Bayesian probability calculations? God’s existence? Can my debit card come out of my wallet fast enough?)

His mention of Leibniz is hilarious in a “wow, what a crazy historical tale the discovery of calculus is, huh?” sort of way.  It went like this in a early passage where he is discussing quantum theory:

Isaac Newton didn’t hear of it, since he was already long dead, but if he had, he would have claimed to have invented it. (This is from my pro-Leibniz joke repertoire and is not really relevant.)

Ha! Not that I side with the Leibniz bunch (the Bernoullis and the gang) on the Newton vs. Leibniz matter, since history has shown the matter to be a draw, but the humor is still appreciated, and the book has quite a bit of that so far. (This really does tempt me to write about the role Calculus has played in empowering the end-time Beast power. I’ve got to write that post one day.)

However, that isn’t really what I intended to write about this morning. Having mentioned Leibniz’ cosmological argument, I thought I would follow up and mention the Kalam cosmological argument, which William Lane Craig (a huge fan of the argument) highlights in his book On Guard to which I referred last time. It’s pleasant and clean in its simplicity and well worth a look for those who enjoy such things:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

The third statement follows unavoidably from the first two, so the truth of the conclusion boils down to whether or not the first two premises are true. (Note: If one of the premises is false, it does not mean that the conclusion is false, but if both of the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true, as well.)

Of course, the conclusion is not a conclusion that many like, so most will argue against one or both of the premises to even extreme limits, but at least the discussion is properly focused. And the two premises have the benefit of seeming reasonable on the surface to most reasonable people: Our common experience in life gives us ample evidence of the likelihood that premise 1 is true (indeed, it is the basis for virtually the entirety of scientific enterprise), and ever since the Big Bang revolutionized thinking in astrophysics, premise 2 has become very reasonable, as well. It is, however, the premise which seems to be debated the most.

Of course, no argument is a “knock down, drag out” winner, because there is always something to debate. Even fulfilled prophecy as evidence for God could be argued by some who are of a mindset like that of unsound thinker Michael Drosnin of “The Bible Code” shame who might claim that the scriptures were inspired not by a prophecy-fulfilling God but, instead, by super-advanced, time-traveling aliens from Zeta Reticuli — an argument-ender if I ever heard one. But arguments can still highlight what is reasonable to conclude, and I think the Kalam argument gives a very strong argument that belief in an eternally existing Creator is entirely reasonable.  (Concerning the groupings in our The Real God: Proofs and Promises booklet, I think it falls under the “Creation Demands a Creator” category.)

Arguments and theological premise-wrangling aside, I really am getting a kick out of Unwin’s The Probability of God, and the math teacher/actuary/minister in me hopes it continues to be as good as it has been so far.  Any guy who ends his book (yes, I’ve peaked ahead, but just a bit!) by helping the reader to create their own spreadsheet to calculate their own probability of God’s existence is a special breed.

41 thoughts on “The Kalam Cosmological Argument and Unwin’s Pursuit of P(G)

  1. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    I dunno… in my own relatively unsophisticated way with regard to mathematics, I’d say the probability is effectively 100% – based on (literally) all the evidence there is. In other words, I’d argue that Occam’s Razor, as applied to that evidence, is sufficient to address the problem. When we deal with faith propositions, probability per se may be necessary but not sufficient, as one can (and often does) put one’s faith in the smallest of probabilities to reach a conclusion he wants to reach. Rather, Occam’s Razor – effectively, “what is the simplest and yet the most complete – and as many would add, the most elegant – explanation of all the facts?” – is sufficient, taking in all approaches including probability. Creationists (including, if memory serves, the late Dr. Henry Morris) have sometimes argued that Occam’s Razor is the only way we humans have of deciding between faith propositions, and barring proof to the contrary I think the case for that conclusion is sound.

    The Indian author Ravi Zacharias (author of a whole lot of publications, including the book Jesus Among Other Gods by Thomas Nelson) allegedly has written that the question of God’s existence “is one of those philosophical questions that can always be answered ‘yes’ but never ‘no’.” (Quoted from memory, and I think I have it word for word.) But while that conclusion too makes sense to me, I can’t point you yet to a published source as it was quoted by someone out of context and that source is now gone from the Web. (Maybe a determined Web search will find it – I leave that as an exercise for the student. 🙂 )

  2. Howdy, Mr. Wheeler. Given the technical manner in which Dr. Unwin is using probability and what arguments he is allowing as evidentiary elements in his simple calculation, I don’t think that your 100% would fit, unless you are trying to narrow the probability to a binary option of 0% or 100%, only, so I appreciate your opening qualification. And I don’t think that Occam’s Razor would make enough of a difference to cause it to be so, either; even if what Mr. Possibly-Morris said about Occam’s Razor were true, that would not translate to making that probability calculation 100%, understood in the proper, mathematical manner in which Unwin is using it.

    All of that said, having peeked at future pages while evaluating the book’s purchase, Unwin does plan to address his opinion about the role of faith and how it relates to the result of his calculations. All I’ve said should be understood in light of the fact that I have not read those portions, yet, since those unread portions may complement what you’re saying more that it would seem at the moment (actually, I suspect they will relate rather directly).

  3. Thanks, Curious, for your question. If you’re asking about the argument in the post, you need to read it a bit more carefully.

    It says “Whatever begins to exist has a cause,” not “Everything requires a cause.” The argument does not assert that “everything” requires a cause, just those things that begin to exist.

    I hope this helps, and thanks, again, for stopping by.

  4. Teresa

    I was afraid to take calculus and any math higher than what was absolutely required in high school, so didn’t really know what calculus was until I googled it just now. I know you already know this, Mr. Smith, but thought you might enjoy the end of his article. http://www-math.mit.edu/~djk/calculus_beginners/chapter01/section02.html After reading this, I think I would have loved calculus just as I love music theory because it is the nuts and bolts of how music works and is made. And, as I read through, I started realizing that what you are saying about the situation in Europe is that just as calculus can be applied to bringing about physical change in engineering and other sciences, someone or somebodies could also have attempted to apply it to changing social entities and orders. Are people so predictable that social change can be predicted and moved with mathematical equations? And so, is it easier than we think for God to prophesy the future, intervening just when necessary to fulfill His plans? I look forward to your discussion of calculus and the Beast power.

  5. Howdy, Teresa, and thanks for your comment! Actually, my tale of Calculus and the Beast power is a rather tongue-in-cheek one that deals more with the personalities involved, but I like your thoughts more! 🙂

    And what a great website — thanks for passing it along! If you’re interested in reading a book about math that may be to your liking (written for poets and liberal arts-minded folks), I highly recommend The Art of Mathematics by Jerry P. King — one of my all-time favorite books, hands down. Another very good one, specifically about calculus, is A Tour of the Calculus by David Berlinski, whose work in the area of Evolution/Intelligent Design is something I’ve enjoyed, as well. (If you could only pick one, though, go for The Art of Mathematics, though. FANTASTIC book.)

    Thanks, again!

  6. Teresa

    Thank you, Mr. Smith. I know what I brought up borders on conspiracy theory stuff, but what I read of Leibniz seemed to indicate that he was primarily involved in politics, so it does seem to follow that someone in involved in math as well as politics might have come up with theories involving social change. Anyway, back to reality and I will still look forward to your future blog as well as looking at the books you recommend.
    Thanks!

  7. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    There are quite a few things in music that relate to higher mathematics. If I’m quoting a physicist friend here correctly, with regard to how music relates to Fourier transformation, any such transform with an integer solution higher than 7 is noise. The implication seems to be that music that makes sense naturally to human beings (as opposed to being completely an acquired taste) is based on the seven-degree (heptatonic) genre or less – not necessarily just the equivalent of the white keys of the piano, but also diatonic-chromatic modes that can take in accidentals on the black keys.

    I haven’t gone higher than beginning calculus either and what I did know has slipped by the mental wayside. If I didn’t have so much to do already I’d be learning both calculus and statistics – and also whatever applies to stellar cartography and celestial mechanics, as those are interests of mine. (If I were on the Federation Starship U.S.S. Enterprise in any of its later iterations I’d be in Stellar Cartography. Coolest job on the ship.) But just what I’ve learned these past few years in another direction – how the normal human mind is supposed to work overall, spirit, soul and body – gives plenty of hints as to just how predictable humans are individually and corporately. It’s not that the models of personality are meant to put people in boxes as people often fear; it’s to point out that people put themselves in boxes in predictable ways. That knowledge needs to be known more generally than it is and I hope I have my part in making it so in the Kingdom of God.

  8. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    As for my opening comments and your reply to them: I have to look at the issue, and the question by Curious too, in this light. My mental construct and my level of knowledge won’t let me do otherwise. (The fact we have an apparent ENTP with your training and background is an incredible asset to our ministry. We ENFPs have to contribute in another way; not many of us are masters of mathematics, although some are, and in logical reasoning most of us toddle where you stride. A pity I had to wait until my 50’s to realize how true this is for me. But in value judgment it’s another matter; deciding what I like and want is very easy for me.)

    Either the universe has existed forever or what caused it has existed forever. There is no rational third choice. Which is the simplest and most complete explanation of all the evidence? And which one has to constantly explain away the evidence by adding untestable and unnecessary assumptions? While probability “probably” 😉 can’t be avoided in such an assessment as we’re dealing with an apparently finite (if still very large) entity, I suspect much room for logical and statistical fallacies in trying to apply probability to the question. It will be interesting to learn how the author in question evades them.

    And yet in the end I’m not sure the weight of probability will convince anyone whose real objection to God the Creator’s existence has nothing to do with probability anyway – which (so far as I’ve seen to date) seems to be everyone. People don’t believe because they don’t want to believe, and that is a value judgment, not a logical judgment. It’s not based on lack of perceptual evidence either (for Paul said God has shown the truth to man through nature and thus leaves man without excuse), although it can be justified (and usually is) by faulty logical modeling. Mathematician Bertrand Russell apparently was one of the outstanding cases of the last. A clue to his own error is that he lamented that man was less than a logical being, whereas the truth is that man is more than a logical being. Value judgments were not something he was well-equipped to make, even humanly, and yet the existence of a personal Creator God closely relates to the use of such judgments in one’s evaluation. He lamented the alleged lack of evidence for God when it was the lack in his own mental toolkit – even apart from God’s Spirit – that was the problem. He let the weaknesses of his own personality type betray him.

    Any further thoughts on all that? 🙂 I know how busy you are – I’ve tried to make this make sense accordingly.

  9. Howdy, Mr. Wheeler. No thoughts to add other than making sure I haven’t been accidentally confusing.

    To mention both the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) and Dr. Unwin’s Bayesian approach in the same post is, perhaps, an unwise thing to do on my part if I fail to make clear that they are two radically different and essentially unrelated approaches to discussing the existence of God.

    The KCA is a classic philosophical argument aiming to establish the logical necessity of God’s existence.

    Dr. Unwin, on the other hand, aims to provide no such result. In fact, for reasons he explains in his book he completely excludes such cosmological argumentation from his calculations and tries to approach the matter entirely differently. As he explains, risk analysis and probability calculations are all about trying to quanitfy unknowns and they (in particular, the Bayesian approach) have the benefit of laying out the process of drawing conclusions simply and transparently so that others can examine it, toy with it, and come to their own conclusions.

    That is, by addressing the question in the manner he is, Dr. Unwin seems to desire to address through probabilistic calculation the reasonability of believing in a personal God in the same manner that probability is very successfully used to address the reasonability of many other beliefs (e.g., the belief that a pensioner’s benefits will outlast their lives, the belief that a company’s reserves will be sufficient to cover negative outcomes, etc.).

    Of the two approaches, I prefer the former, to be sure. The KCA and other such arguments, when simple and well crafted, have more potential for impact amongst more people. The latter (Dr. Unwin’s), though totally different on both large and small scales, has its benefits, as well, I think, due to the trail of reasoning necessary to come up with the actual figure. And it’s a hoot, to boot. (That is, while I may prefer the former for practical purposes, I personally enjoy them both.)

  10. Howdy again, Curious, and it’s hard to tell which part of the argument you disagree with.

    Do you disagree with the statement that “Whatever begins to exist has a cause”? Or do you disagree that “The universe began to exist”? Neither of those statements mention God and they should be considered on their own merits.

    The argument does not assume a “causeless God” — in fact, it is trying to establish whether or not there is such a Being. That’s why God is not mentioned in the premises/assumptions, at all.

    So, which of the two statements do you agree/disagree with — that whatever begins to exist has a cause or that the universe began to exist?

  11. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    About The Bible Code – you no doubt have seen excellent arguments debunking it (one of the soundest is that the original Hebrew Bible was shorter simply due to the absence of letters pointing to the existence of vowels; you’d think that our hypothetical time-traveling aliens from Zeta Reticuli would take that into account). But here is another. A certain genre of alleged letter-code involving the name “Aharon (Aaron)” is very prominent in Leviticus 1 taken as a unit – but in the Masoretic Text. In the Samaritan Text, which removes most if not all references to Aaron (I believe all, but I’d have to double-check), the occurrences of the alleged “code” are no more than one would expect by chance. A statistician who looked at that result agreed that this signified something, but what? The answer was clear to me at once. Hebrew is a highly euphonic language and some sounds occur together with greater frequency than others do – thus the presence or absence of a highly euphonic name (Aharon) repeated multiple times will greatly skew the odds that equidistant letter sequencing will discover patterns containing that name forward, backward or diagonally on the puzzle grid.

  12. Actually, Mr. Wheeler, the most fun I had concerning that stuff is I focused my own efforts on debunking the rank sensationalistic divination-style approach of Drosnin. I created a large square grid of random consonants in MS Excel (smaller than Genesis, but still big enough) and then wrote a program in Visual Basic that would hunt down equidistant letter sequences of any word I gave it (stripping out the vowels, of course) to see if I could find any “mysterious connections.” By the time I was done, I had not only “divined” in my random “code” many Arabic countries in association with the fall of the Twin Towers but also the amazing, Enquirer-worthy news items that Sonny Bono was going to remarry Cher (his living-impared status not withstanding) and that, indeed, Joanie loves Chachi. Honestly, it was more fun that it should have been. 🙂

  13. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    So much for the claim, sometimes repeated, that it’s much harder to do that sort of thing in English than Hebrew! 😀 But some would want a pre-established literary text to test – say, Moby Dick (as Drosnin wanted by way of challenge). The way Melville wrote it’s something of a miracle that one could find any “interesting” patterns at all but sure enough, some were found. (In that scan, sampled for Biblical Archaeology Review, the vowels were included if memory serves. Without vowels, of course, it likely would be a cakewalk to “divine” things even from Melville.)

    Finding such patterns in any random series of letters, provided the set is large enough, is easy. Depending on the language and the nature of the literary text, it may be harder – but one can still do it. I wish I had Franz Delitzsch’s Hebrew New Testament in a testable format, just for fun. (I’ve never actually run a “Torah code” program of any kind but it would be fun to try it on a Classical Hebrew text that isn’t actually in the Tanakh.)

  14. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Oh, we would really like to know if Elvis is still alive, who shot J.R. and indeed who really killed J.F.K. Do let us know when you find out, won’t you? 😉

  15. Steve

    I would suspect that an atheist would dismiss the first premise as a Kantian “a priori” (that the human mind has innate or structural intelligence providing transcendental – intangible – knowledge prior to actual experience). You correctly pointed out that “…common experience… gives us ample evidence of the likelihood that [the] premise is true.”

    Of course, an atheist would probably ding the word “likelihood” as an unprovable assumption. But that would require the atheist to prove that the premise was false – not only contradicting empirical evidence but his own belief in the physical laws of science.

    (To sidestep a little bit, I happen to believe that Kant was right about the human mind having an innate or structural “a priori” knowledge or capability. He didn’t quite get it, was a little off target, but he was definitely in the ball park. For example, you can’t see, feel, or taste math. Yet the human mind knows that math exists. The capacity to understand math are innately born into every child. That’s a given. Now, could it be that the concept of existence requiring a cause is also born into every human being? And if so, where did that come from?)

  16. Howdy, Steve — The existence of unlearned knowledge in a child’s mind wouldn’t be a contradiction of the statement “Whatever begins to exist has a cause.” The child’s brain began to exist and that existence has a cause (generally called Mom and Dad 🙂 ). As for whether the mathematics a child could hypothetically know without being taught (must be the most rudimentary; doesn’t include differential equations, I’m sure!), if it truly “exists” as opposed to simply being a description of things that exist, then either it began to exist and, thus, has a cause, or it did not and would be uncaused, existing, perhaps, of necessity. In either circumstance, the argument would hold and neither premise would be violated.

  17. Yes, Curious, the question is necessary, indeed! And it is exactly the question that the argument answers. You ask why the universe has a cause. Great question! This is the answer:

    1. Things that begin to begin to exist have a cause, and
    2. the universe began to exist.

    If both of those are true, then the conclusion–that the universe has a cause–is true.

    So if you do not believe that the universe has a cause, it’s up to you to demonstrate which of those statements is false: #1 and/or #2. But if you believe that statements #1 and #2 are true, then you also believe that the universe has a cause, regardless of what you believe or don’t believe about God.

    I hope this helps!

  18. Steve

    Hi, Mr Smith,

    My support of a Kantian “a priori” knowledge or capacity was an oblique (opaque) reference to the difference between animal brain and human mind. A transcendental or metaphysical ingredient that goes beyond mere physical laws. Hint, hint, hint. After all, we don’t see too many horses composing classical scores.

    Of course, I would’ve promptly shot myself in the foot with an atheist over something like that! 🙂 Your reply to the question of an “a priori” was therefore very good.

  19. Steve

    Okay, last interruption. This is a fun but true story: One time, I had my “boom box” radio tuned into a classical music station. When I looked up, a bunch of horses were standing in a circle, facing directly at the radio. (I’m not making this up).

    You’d have to know the body gestures of a horse, but they were glued to the music, big time. A couple of them even lied down – which is unusual, because horses only do that when they feel totally safe. I’ve wondered about that ever since.

  20. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    I’m not so sure you would’ve shot yourself in the foot, Steve. It would take me time to look up his name for certain, but even a certain famous atheist and committed evolutionist (with a Russian last name beginning with D. and I believe deceased now) spoke of his self-consciousness as being the most certain reality he had, and castigated some of his peers for not reckoning with self-consciousness properly. But self-consciousness (the “ego point of view”) is empirical and prima facae evidence that we have something more than just “animal brain” with its cognitive processes dealing with the physical world. Mysteriously, it works with and through the human brain yet somehow transcends it. Jungian psychology spends a great deal of time trying to model how this can be so, and what I’ve been reading about it in summary sounds strikingly like what Mr. Armstrong inferred from his own angle.

    Admittedly, an animal knows – but it cannot know that it knows (a bon mot we once quoted in our WCG literature). That atheist I alluded to didn’t have any adequate explanation for this, and neither does any other. All an atheist can hope for is that somehow, an explanation can be found in the physical some day (these days things like quantum mechanics are held out as hopes). But how can something merely physical conceive of or debate metaphysical matters? Only something with a metaphysical basis could do that.

    Here is one place where Occam’s Razor applies. Shall we take the best explanation possible of the evidence, assuming no more and no less than we must, or shall we add (or sometimes even take away) one or more assumptions because we don’t like where the best explanation of the evidence leads us?

  21. Steve: That’s a neat story! Good thing you didn’t play heavy metal — might have been a stampede.

    John: Not that I don’t agree with our doctrinal model of the human mind (since I do!), but would be cautious about speaking of empirical evidence too confidently. There is a lot of activity in the area of animal cognition research, with some results suggesting the possibility that some animals are not only self-aware (e.g., orangutans) but are also capable of metacognition (e.g., dolphins). Results are not necessarily definitive (it’s hard enough figuring out how to test for it), but they are suggestive.

    The animal consciousness entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy might be a good place to start shopping around for info on the matter.

  22. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Point taken, Mr. Smih (and thank you for what will very likely be an intriguing link – I’ve been keeping track of some claims in that area myself). but so far, nothing I’ve seen (so far, let that qualifier be underlined!) that is demonstrable is inconsistent with higher animals having the classic eight cognitive processes of Jungian psychology, which combine (in us) to form the “core Self”, but no more than that.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof (one of the better things that Carl Sagan said), and perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that even atheists such as Norm Chomsky (linguist) and skeptics such as James Randi (who seeks to debunk the notion that apes such as Koko do what is claimed for them via sign language) would challenge notions of self-awareness and meta-cognition in higher animals. I would. And even then, granted those two things, surely they would involve awareness of (what is in us) the core Self and “speaking” from that Self – but that is not the same thing as having an Ego. The burden of proof lies on others to demonstrate otherwise, difficult as that may admittedly be. So I will be most interested to see what has been done toward that end.

    When at Sea World some years ago during the Feast, one of the fetching young trainers explained humorously that when dealing with their killer whales (orcas), they sometimes wonder who is training who. Cetaceans and especially dolphins and orcas are very intelligent; in fact (as Jacques Cousteau noted) their brains are in some ways superior to ours (partly due to their use of echo-location and the need to process the data so received); but they nevertheless have curious limits in both perception, cognition and communication. As a musician and composer, I could cite what whales can and cannot do with their songs, which tells much about their limitations. Cousteau put it perhaps better than anyone with regard to dolphins: they are left hopelessly confused in a tuna trawler’s net, a trap that a human, given the same physical abilities, would get out of with the greatest of ease. “So do dolphins have human intelligence?” he asked provocatively in his documentary on those creatures. “No – they have dolphin intelligence.” 🙂

  23. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Another possibility worth mentioning is that both we and (if so demonstrated) certain higher animals have an Ego POV granting meta-cognition (a comment by Solomon below might relate to that), but that we have uniquely a “port” in which the “plug-and-play” that is the Holy Spirit is meant to go, which relates to our Ego POV. And perhaps that same “port”, perniciously, can receive other metaphysical things that imitate the Holy Spirit or substitute for it. Augustine famously said something like this: we have a place in our hearts shaped like God and we can’t be satisfied until God fills it. But the apostle John would judge by his doctrine and practice that Augustine had something that wasn’t the Holy Spirit at all (“another spirit”, etc., in Paul’s words).

    Anyway I remember Dr. Hoeh raising the question to us students (after a Bible study he held for some of us in Grove Manor) of what the following implies. The NKJV actually reflects the accents and vowels of the Masoretic Text, but the RSV puts forward a critical text. Either way, the “spirit” in man and in animals would be what “searches” the brain and its functions: meta-cognition, if you will. But the Masoretic Text (which has the “more difficult” and therefore “preferable” reading) implies that one such “search engine” is metaphysical and the other physical.

    (Ecclesiastes 3:21 NKJV) Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?

    (Ecclesiastes 3:21 RSV) Who knows whether the spirit of man goes upward and the spirit of the beast goes down to the earth?

    In sum, I am always open to better modeling of the mind/brain question as based on the Bible and backed by science. But extraordinary claims…

  24. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    P.S.: What follows my opening sentence, in the paragraph concerning Dr. Hoeh’s curiosity, is entirely my thinking. He posed the meaning of Ecclesiastes 3:21 as a then-unanswered question. Perhaps we can now answer it.

    You see. I do like testing hypotheses to see where they lead – it prepares the ground for me to receive new facts into my logical framework or modeling should they arise. And that “squirrel in a cage in the back of my head” needs all the help it can get in that area; in an ENFP that rational faculty isn’t geared to perform the same way (or generally as efficiently) as in the various T types (like yours). Like Mr. Armstrong (ESFP, apparently, especially given his self-description in his Autobiography and what I observed in him), I have to roll logical frameworks around in my head, slowly, to ensure accuracy of results.

  25. Mr. Wheeler, are you implying that there’s a… wait for it… Google in man?? 🙂 I guess that better explains I Chron. 28:9, Rom. 8:27 and Rev. 2:23 since we are indeed made in God’s image and given the Holy Spirit.

  26. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Mike, I was especially thinking of verses such as Romans 8:27 and these:

    (1 Corinthians 2:10 RSV) God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
    (1 Corinthians 2:11 RSV) For what person [not a good translation but this sounds a great deal like the Jungian Ego] knows a man’s thoughts [the Jungian Self, including the cognitive processes rooted in the physical brain] except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

    (Proverbs 20:27 RSV) The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, searching all his innermost parts.

    (Psalms 77:6 NKJV [the RSV, my desk Bible from my childhood as a Presbyterian, is highly misleading about the Hebrew here]) I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search.

    In my case my “search engine” is more like Bing (because it sets off bells in my head when it finds something). 😉

  27. Randy Martens

    I’m honestly not trying to stir a hornet’s nest here, but has anyone read Victor Stenger’s book “Has Science Found God?” I read it several years ago. Interesting, Dr. Stenger is the brother of William Stenger, a former Registrar at Ambassador College and WCG member.

  28. Howdy, Mr. Martens —

    I’ve not read it, though I’ve seen it in the bookstores and am familiar both with it and, sadly, with the scientism it seems to promote. Practicing real science means respecting its boundaries, which Stenger oversteps if the claims in his book’s summaries actually represent what he’s trying to say. It’s one thing to say that science can’t naturalisticly determine whether or not an extra-natural being exists (not asserting that, just sayin’), but it’s another to say that science has demonstrated the empirical explanation of the origin of the universe and its laws (which is a rather laughable proposition) — though hopefully the summary I read spoke too strongly. As for science being used to test alternative medicine and some other ideas, I’m all for that, as long as one doesn’t fall into the trap of scientism and the belief that only through the practice science can truths be determined.

    Interesting connection to Ambassador College, though — thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  29. Randy Martens

    The reason I posted that question is because I find conventional theists to often – not ALWAYS, but to often – be astoundingly ignorant of the very scientific or philosophical concepts they so arrogantly attempt to refute, or even of those they attempt to promote! As you may well know, this is endemic on Internet blog sites that discuss such matters.

    I’m reminded of an extended (perhaps several weeks or so) blog site discussion I had some years ago about DNA as it pertained to certain aspects of evolutionary theory, etc. A scientist and I were explaining the basics to several theists who at first appeared to be open-minded. But the more we had to delve into some very basic details as the discussion progressed, the more it became embarrassingly obvious that these folks, for all their boasting and claimed credentials (one repeatedly claimed to have a doctorate from a “world class university”), had precious little knowledge of science, how it works or the methods by which it has made so much remarkable progress the past three or four centuries. I do NOT subscribe to the notion of scientism, which I find almost as absurd as young earth creationism. But neither do I agree that simply making bold, subjective and ultimately baseless ASSERTIONS in the name of an historical religion or deity in any way constitutes legitimate evidence. It seems to me that many theists would do well to at least be willing to seriously read the writings of respected scientists, as it would completely demolish much of the obsolete drivel these folks throw about with such arrogance in their on-line discussions. At least then they would not so frequently embarrass themselves when they attempt to discuss or debate points they know virtually nothing about. I recently watched a public debate (via DVD) between Richard Dawkins and John Lennox – both PhD’s from Oxford University. The subject was “The God Delusion Debate” – and I found it very stimulating, especially seeing a Christian theist (academically Lennox is both a mathematician and philosopher of science) actually articulate his side quite well. A second less formal discussion between the two (“Has Science Buried God?”) was even better. In my experience, this is a very rare occurrence, and I’ve witnessed many such debates and panel discussions.

    By the way, I don’t know how deep your roots may go into the WCG, but Herman Hoeh was a very dear friend of mine for over 30 years, and we would discuss issues such as this. I miss him, and often think of him. I was able to have breakfast with him back in 2004, just several months before his passing. I was out visiting southern California attending a three-day seminar on Intelligent Design down at BIOLA University – and he was very interested in what I heard discussed there. During that seminar I had the chance to both meet and talk with virtually all the leading thinkers in that particular movement (Michael Behe, the late Philip Johnston, Jonathan Wells, etc. – and even their ideological opponents such as William Provine and Michael Ruse). But I found Dr. Hoeh to be remarkably open to further information, even if it didn’t support traditional WCG ideology, unlike so many COGer’s seem to be these days.

    Anyway, good discussion here – in my view, there’s no more important subject.

  30. Thanks, Mr. Martens, and I do agree — I’ve seen a lot of ignorance on both sides of the theism/atheism discussion, and hopefully I’ve contributed little myself (though certainly I have).

    And of course, whst is actual ignorance is, itself debatable! For instance, I’ve seen many who disbelieve, as I do, in evolution through natual selection argue against it in ways that indicate that they don’t really understand what evolutionists claim. At the same time, I’ve seen some scientists completely ignorant of the philosophical underpinnings of their belief and practice, not even knowing when they are speaking with their foot in their mouths.

    And on the other side, I’ve seen some evolutionists or “scientism devotees” still respectful of those with “religion” and appreciative of the power of theistic arguments, just as I have seen many believers in the necessity of God as Creator and Sustainer who are completely sympathetic to the hesitancy of scientists to acknowledge the extra-natural. There really is quite a variety out there, though you don’t tend to see it represented well on the Internet! (Which is one of many reasons why I avoid the sort of blogs you mention. 🙂 )

    I find many uninformed individuals on both sides: some who, say, support ID against neo-Darwinian evolution merely because they don’t like evolution and either know of no other alternative or believe that those are the only two choices available, and some on the other side who, say, are way too ready to mock ID claims without having ever read the fundamental (and, frankly, reasonable) ideas behind the arguments–ironically simply following a crowd and failing to actually think for themselves in very same manner of which they accuse others. (Wow, the construction of that run-on sentence was ghastly. Let’s pretend it was better constructed and move on!)

    No, I never got to know Dr. Hoeh, to my regret. When I talk to Mr. Meredith, he often speaks fondly of Dr. Hoeh, and I know he misses him. On my own part, as passionately as I do believe the things I believe, I hope that I, too, don’t fail to lose the ability to respect those made in God’s image like I am who don’t see things the same way, regardless of why we differ. Part of the motivation to do the work we do in the Church depends on having a love for those we are trying to reach, and to see the other side as nothing more than comments in a thread instead of people with a purpose would be a tragedy. I pray that where I have failed in that regard that I may be forgiven and taught better.

    Thanks, again, for stopping by, Mr. Martens!

  31. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    Dr. Hoeh and I used to get into some interesting conversations too and he must’ve seen something in me he didn’t see in too many people, for he had his ways of commending me publicly and privately and typically those ways both gratified me and took me by surprise, if not completely aback.

    While someone else (preferably him) should be saying this, he did say out of the blue (when I was passing on something I’d found regarding the lunar eclipse of Wednesday, April 25, 31 AD): “I’ve always admired both your desire to find the truth and your ability to find it.” I’ve tried to live up to that high opinion since. And one thing I’ve noticed in the process is that when people don’t understand the strengths and weaknesses of their own thinking and become wise in their own eyes, they make errors, sometimes really astounding ones. I’d prefer one honest “I don’t know” to ten thousand groundless assertions. I don’t know enough to debate in the big leagues with either evolutionists or creationists/ID theorists. What I do know, I can defend. What I don’t know, whether I realize it already or whether it’s exposed, I try to admit freely when I come to terms with my ignorance.

    People do get invested in their models and I’ve learned that even more than most people, I can’t afford to do that.

  32. Randy Martens

    John, I will say that I’ve heard “I honestly don’t know” come more frequently from the lips of legitimate scientists than I have ever heard from religious fundamentalists. Just my experience.

    Dr. Hoeh once mentioned to me that one big mistake the WCG often made was thinking it had to have “THE answer” to virtually every conceivable question – and in doing so it frequently lost a lot of credibility through the years. This is the result of claiming knowledge when all we really had was opinion. The many specific and time-dated predictions with respect to prophecy – someone once told me over a hundred of them have been documented from past WCG writings – perhaps being one of the more glaring examples resulting from CLAIMING to know more than we, in fact, actually DID know.

    I agree with you that a genuine spirit of sincere humility in the face of what objective facts we CAN now know is truly the only attitude befitting we little creatures who currently occupy this tiny blue spaceship called planet Earth.

  33. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    I’d have almost no argument with you on all of that, Randy. There is such a thing as pushing a logical framework or model farther than it can legitimately go, including a biblically based one. I’m not going to say who does this more often. I can point out that there is actually a basis in human forms of consciousness for this in all probability. Scientists are disproportionately of the NT temperament and for that reason alone tend to be more rigorous and thoroughgoing in their modeling. Religious clergy and apologists are disproportionately NFs and ENFPs like me are not called “evangelistic” by the “type community” for nothing (even if we’re not in any “organized religion”). It wouldn’t surprise me if many scientists, whatever their philosophical basis, who have trouble reckoning with what science is and is not are NFs (such as INFJs and ENFPs particularly). Mr. Herbert Armstrong was of the S_P temperament, ESFP, but that means he had the same overall weakness in dealing with logical frameworks as an ENFP and the same values-driven enthusiasm (if based on factual rather than conceptual perception) as a corresponding strength.

    In Mr. Smith you seem to be dealing with one of the NTs, ENTP, and that is why I count his gifts and his discipline as valuable as I do. We need his kind of perspective.

    I did have continual astonishment that most of my peers at Ambassador College Pasadena and in the local Church – and sometimes in the ministry, yes, even to the very top of it – seemed to have such difficulty telling speculation and trying to prove too much from too little information from demonstrable truth. But I learned not to make the same mistake very early on, not from Dr. Hoeh nor even from Mr. Ted Armstrong but above all from Mr. Herbert Armstrong and his response to past errors, even on his part. I came into the Church after the worst of the date-setting had been past and after he apologized for the worst example of it in magazines I’d grown up reading. And now many years later I’m supporting the Personal Correspondence Dept. of the LCG and often that Dept. has to deal with needless speculation and faulty modeling from within and without. And yes, it has to deal with many unanswered questions and unfinished pieces of business from the past. I’m profoundly grateful for the opportunity to help with such things. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do since my graduation in 1981, and tried to do as a volunteer (Dr. Hoeh greatly facilitated my efforts in that direction).

    We still have the bad habit sometimes of trying to read things into Scripture that aren’t there. Moses, Solomon and John (if no one else) warned about adding to or taking away from the Scripture. In our wish to see the basic prophetic framework (which is sound) be fleshed out in detail, we make mistakes on the details even yet. But there is the human desire (and the fear) involved in wanting to know the future and the irreligious as well as the religious have shown themselves equally fallible here. In the end it comes down to relying on our own cognitive processes to do what the Holy Spirit must do, and to accept that the secret things, indeed, belong to the LORD our God.

  34. I will have to come back to this and read the whole thing but have to get ready for work. I did read a few of the statements though. Here is what I have grasped so far and again without reading it all.
    1.Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    2.The universe began to exist.
    3.Therefore, the universe has a cause
    My thoughts, thus far:
    God had cause to create a universe, therefore the universe began and has a cause. The cause did not form from that which was created but rather by it’s creator.
    When one has faith in our God, that He does exist, it all makes perfect sense.

    To Steve: As one who worked on a dairy farm I can tell you for sure that music does effect our animals. We always tried to play the “boring” stuff in the barn…..mind you I was only 16 then so classical music was boring back then to me. The cows were always much easier to handle. Also one time had a crying child as we went through the Allegheny mountains; we pulled over and took her out to the trunk to change her diaper and deer came exceptionally close, if she stopped crying they went further away. It was most amazing to watch this take place as one would think that they would have stayed away from the noise however; they were drawn to it.

  35. Steve

    @ Christine: Oh, I absolutely believe what you said about music and cows. What most people don’t know – and you’ve no doubt noticed – is that cattle have their own individual personalities. They have a whole list of vocalizations that express mood, everything from boredom to anger to greeting.

    We had this one bull, named Bubba, who would grab my shirt and yank me around, then vocalize “I’m hungry!” Apparently, he knew who I was. He would get all huffy if a stranger walked into the corral, but he would generally leave me alone. (Of course, I made a point of not standing directly in front of him).

    Anyway, Christine, it’s nice to bump into somebody who works in a similar job. It gives us personal insight into some of those biblical analogies about animals.

  36. Randy Martens

    I think one of the real downsides of this current age – at least in developed countries – is how we are kept so separate and apart from the wonders of nature for so much of our conscious hours, especially animals, and their many different temperaments. We live in little boxes called houses or apartments, drive to work in little boxes called motor vehicles, and for the most part work in little boxes called cubicles. Seems so unbalanced to me.

  37. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    So, Randy, you think we should… wait for it in your turn… think outside the box on this issue? 😀

    Yes, unbalanced indeed. And we have often cited this verse regarding the basic problem:

    (Isaiah 5:8 RSV) Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land.

    Now this is speaking of a specific sort of covetousness by individuals (at least the classical commentators on e-Sword think so), but is there not a parallel in general principle? How much of humanity’s tendency to crowd into cities is based on some kind of covetousness (never mind the defiance of the principles of land ownership behind the Sabbatical and Jubilee Years)?

    Citing John Gill:

    Isa 5:8 Woe unto them that join house to house,…. Or “O ye that join”, &c.; for, as Aben Ezra observes, it signifies calling, as in Isa_55:1 though Jarchi takes it to be expressive of crying and groaning, on account of future punishments; and he observes, that as there are twenty two blessings pronounced in the book of Psalms, on those that keep the law, so there are twenty two woes pronounced by Isaiah upon the wicked:

    that lay field to field; the sin of covetousness is exposed and condemned in these words; not that it is unlawful in itself for a man that has a house or field of his own to purchase another that is next unto it; but when he is insatiable, and not content with his houses and lands, but is always coveting more, this is his sin, and especially if he seeks to get them by fraud or force:

    till there be no place; for others to dwell in and possess; and so the Targum,

    “and say, until we possess every place;”

    or “unto the end of the place” (x), city, or field; till they have got all the houses in the town or city, and all the pieces of ground in the field, in their own possession:

    that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth, or land; that is, of Judea; wholly inhabit it themselves, and have the sole power and jurisdiction over it. It is in the Hebrew text (y) “that ye may be placed”, &c.; the Targum is,

    “and they think they shall dwell alone in the midst of the land.”

    (x) עד אפס מקום “usque ad terminum loci”, V. L. (y) והושב־תאם “constituamini”, Vatablus, Forerius, Montanus; “colloeemini”, Calvin.

  38. Steve

    Randy made a good comment. People who live in the city? Just go outside. Take a walk in the park. Not on a nice day, but on a cold, blustery day. Let yourself be cold. Feel the weather. Watch the birds and how they interact. It’s beautiful to be alive.

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