The Atheist is a Thief

In the atheist worldview, the physical is all that exists.  That is to say that the spiritual only exists as a human construct to describe things we don’t YET understand or can’t explain.  God is also a construct used for the same purpose.  What this means is how we perceive reality, existence, truth, logic and morality are all governed by the biochemical processes of our brain.  They are simply human constructs which only work within the human paradigm.  Also, in a purely material universe, empiricism (knowledge gathered by our senses) is the only way to concretely know something.  To an atheist, even using good reasoning will only get us to a good hypothesis, in order to truly know whether or not your reasoning is good, you must test it empirically.

The universe came about by random forces.  In fact, randomness can be the only thing that is assuredly true about the universe.  The famous atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell put it:

“Academic philophers, ever since the time of Permenides, have believed that the world is unity . . . The most fundamental of my intellectual beliefs is that this is rubbish.  I think the universe is all spots and jumps, without any unity, without continuity, without coherence or orderliness . . . Indeed there is little but prejudice and habit to be said for the view that there is a world at all.”  (The Scientific Outlook, pg. 98 )

What this means…

This basic atheistic position excludes all absolutes.  Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true.  Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws. 

How is this a problem for the atheist?  It seems that this position absolves them of any moral responsibility except for what any atheistic individual deems moral for him- or herself.  This position also excludes God on the outset, which suits the atheist well. 

Whether the atheist recognizes it or not, he uses absolutes every day.  In fact, the inclusion of absolutes is REQUIRED for his position to be viable.  We will tackle the full extent of this statement in a later post.  For now, we will focus on just one absolute that the atheist uses.

The Uniformity of Nature

This is the idea that nature, given a set of conditions, will act the same way every where at all times.  Meaning that stubbing your toe on leg of a coffee table won’t suddenly become the most pleasurable experience you’ve ever had.  No, it’ll hurt quite the same as it did the last time you stubbed your toe.  For you nerds out there who want to do further research, this is also the idea of induction.

Science depends on the fact that nature behaves in a coherent, law-like way.  For science to be viable not only must nature act law-like now but it must do so in the future.  Nature must also act law-like in every corner of the universe or we wouldn’t be able to depend upon it anywhere.  In order for any empirical result to have meaning five minutes from now, nature must be uniform.

Problem #1 for the Atheist

The atheist cannot make the statement “Nature is uniform”.  Sure he could say it, but he would be inconsistent with his worldview.  Remember that the atheist will assert that empiricism is the only way to know something.  The atheist cannot know that nature acts the same way every where at all times.  In order to know this he would have to test every inch of the Earth every five minutes and find that it acts the same way.  When the atheist asserts that nature is uniform he is asserting that he knows something that cannot be seen empirically which is contrary to his previously stated position.  He is making a statement of faith.

An answer the atheist may give may be to say, “Well nature has acted uniform so far and we’ll continue to treat nature as it will until it proves otherwise.”  This is a non-answer to how he knows nature is uniform.  He is basically saying, “Well it is because it is.”  Don’t let him get away with it.  Another way to say his statement is, “In the past, the future has reflected the past, so in the future, we can expect the future to reflect the past.”  That’s circular and begs the very question you are asking him.   In short, the atheist cannot know that nature is uniform, he must only believe it without any empirical reason for doing so.

So the next time an atheist says “Miracles can’t happen,” or “people can’t rise from the dead” ask him how he knows this and when he says, “Because nature doesn’t act that way” point out to him that his statement is no less faith based than “Miracles can happen” and point out to him why.

Problem #2 for the Atheist

To put it bluntly, the atheistic worldview cannot explain the most basic principle that allows science to be viable.  Not only can the atheist not know that nature is uniform, he also can’t account for it.  Remember, the universe was brought about by random forces and random means.  A random beginning does not an orderly universe make.  The atheist cannot explain how a random universe can even appear to have such order as we see around us, much less the universal order that science requires.

The question becomes, how then can the atheist use science for the basis of his worldview?  How can the atheist deny absolutes and yet use empiricism as a way to knowledge?  The answer is that…

The Atheist is a Thief

An all-powerful, all-knowing God who created an orderly universe and sustains it just as orderly as He created it accounts for absolutes/universals in general and specifically accounts for the uniformity of nature.  The Christian is able, through explaining the nature of God, to account for the uniformity of nature.  The Christian can know nature is uniform and trust that it will remain so.

The atheist must steal the Christian worldview to account for the uniformity of nature.  When pinned down the atheist may say that they are open to the fact that nature isn’t uniform, but they don’t live their lives or form their beliefs that way.  They make statements like “evolution explains life as we see it”, and “there is no evidence for God” which require the absolute (and not just apparent) uniformity of nature to be viable statements.  The irony is that only in a Christian worldview is the uniformity of nature explainable.  They use Christian principles to make science viable in order to deny the existence of God.  It’s like a small child who climbs onto his fathers’ lap to slap him. 

The Christian Response

Instead of arguing evidence for evidence with the atheist, show him that he cannot explain the principles upon which he builds his evidence against God.  Show him that his presuppositions cannot be accounted for in his worldview.  Show him that he must stand upon the Christian presupposition of an orderly universe and the uniformity of nature just to be able to deny the existence of God.

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29 Comments on “The Atheist is a Thief”

  1. sweetwaffles Says:

    “Not only will every atheist you talk to proudly declare that absolutes don’t exist but, in their worldview, this MUST be true. Since the universe came about by random means, there cannot be absolute laws.”

    Making a blanket statement about atheists is not an effective way to secure an argument, especially a blanket statement that does not even apply to most non-believers. I don’t know what kind of atheists you have been talking to, but the universe most certainly did not come about by random means; unless you define random as coming about without the thought of a higher being.

    Everything comes about from something else. One cannot say with knowledge that the universe was made by God. Even if that was the case, what made God.

    And if one cannot explain the origin of the universe (or anything else), it is quite silly to commend an imaginary being.

  2. Greg Says:

    All an atheist has to do is reject the claims of theists. That’s all. An atheist doesn’t have to know anything about science or adopt any particular worldview; all the atheist has to do is find theistic claims unconvincing. That, in fact, is how I became an Atheist; I first explored my own religion and found its claims unconvincing and lacking in substance. Then, I turned to other religions to attempt to find something better, and found them all based on nothing but faith at their core, with more or less outlandish claims interspersed throughout their myths.

    Science has certainly worked better than faith where technological progress is concerned; I’ll stick to science for explanations about the parts of the universe we do understand, content to say “I don’t know” when no answer exists. Faith isn’t an answer; faith is something someone makes up or accepts.

  3. Scott Says:

    Nothing is more amusing than watching someone attempt to explain to me what I believe about the world around me. If I handn’t read this post entitled “The Atheist is a Thief”, I never would’ve known I didn’t believe in absolutes.

    But that’s neither here nor there. Straw man argument aside, why do we need to explain nature? Nature aside, do we actually have to have an answer for everything? In the end that seems to be what is required to disprove god.

    But wait a minute, aren’t the christians and others the ones claiming god exists? You’re the ones making the claim, we’re not. Its as if we went to court and the burden of proof shifted from the plaintif the the defendent. We’re not making claims.

    But if you insist, well…. okay. Lets try this one. I’m sitting in my room by myself. No-one else is here. I don’t see god anywhere. I go outside, I still don’t see god. I don’t know anyone else that can tell me that they have seen god.

    But wait, that’s empirical evidence! Which of course doesn’t count?!? When we get through all the verbal mumbo jumbo and get down to the real nitty gritty, the crux of the argument is this: If we can’t use our five sences to determine the existance of god, than how did we determine he exists in the first place? So far, the only “proof” (and I use the word “proof” here very loosely) we’re presented with is that we can’t explain everything.

    The bottom line is this: Just because we don’t know everything or can’t explain everything ABSOLUTLY doesn’t prove that god exists.

  4. James Says:

    Before Christianity was humanities worldview that of disorder?

  5. labright Says:

    God cannot exist in this universe.

    1. Information must have a physical substrate upon which to exist. There is no information in a vacuum.
    2. The Judeo/Christian/Islamo god is an “entity”, has thoughts and acts upon our real world. Actually, that god must operate faster than light to do all he’s attributed to do.
    3. Since nothing material can operate faster than light, on what particles do the thoughts of god exist?

    Not in this universe.

  6. labright Says:

    Here’s another little “taste of reality” for you.

    1. Humans lived in groups from the beginning. We’re “social primates”. There needs to be leaders of a group, and those leaders KNEW what was NEEDED for the group to survive.

    (By the way, group life necessitates moral behavior. Morals were already within us when we climbed down from trees and formed our groups…specific moral behaviors are cultural (and relative not absolute, sorry! See way below for more on this…))

    2. During human evolution, those who tended to “acquiesce to leadership” were more likely to spread their genes to the next generation. That’s simply because Leaders who knew the rules and people who followed them, were successful. Those that decided they knew better wandered from the campfire late at night and got eaten by wolves…and were less likely to procreate.

    3. This “follow-the-leader” tendency has, over 100’s of generations become innate/hereditary within us.

    You have a “Need to Seek a Higher-Power”, but atheists don’t. That’s why I can’t covert you, and you can’t convert me. (There are reasons why there are a few of us who don’t have a need to seek, but that’s beyond the scope of this post, please answer for extra credit!)

    It was HUGELY beneficial to our survival, and that’s why believers (everywhere) make up at least 85% of the population.

    You are in the majority! Congrats.

    4. When more offspring occurred, thanks to success, population had pressure. Our hunting gathering ancestors were beginning to find, as they camped out and ate the ecosystem, and then left that encampment for another more fertile spot, that others already occupied that next bit of land!

    (That was our behavior, find a spot, eat everything, then, when we’d spoiled our nest, move on to another spot!)

    So, necessity (we’re three days hungry and those guys are on the spot where we want to eat!) being the mother of invention, a spear was born.

    Those incumbents were routed by the hungry arrivals, they were probably eaten (not much went to waste back then) and their children held captive (children were a HUGE investment and not too likely killed or eaten), and our little group ate, and now had a spear too!

    5. With more technology, came more population pressure, and finally, OUT OF AFRICA altogether.

    Technology allowed humans to move into more ecosystems, eventually inhabiting the entire planet.

    Inuit didn’t evolve in the Arctic, but Igloos (their technology) helped them thrive there, competing with polar bears for top predator…

    6. What do we see today?

    85+% of the world’s population “need to seek a higher power”.

    Our technology, useful to overcome natural limits, is now OVERWHELMING nature itself.

    Human Caused Global Climate Chaos, fed by the most efficient Social Structure ever created by humans (our culture/technology again) known as the Corporation, is quickly and efficiently exceeding the planet’s ability to buffer the effects that our technology is having on the environment.

    NOTHING will stem this trend.

    We are currently 6.7Bn+ and all estimates have us going to 9Bn individuals before the middle of this century (30 years or so!)

    Since we were hunter gatherers, our modus operandi has been to spoil our nest, and move on.

    There is no where left to move.

    What was an evolutionary benefit, “belief in a higher power” will soon become a huge detriment.

    “God will provide” isn’t an attitude that will allow humanity to make the decisions necessary to survive, and the lack of critical thinking that belief engenders will preclude us from continued existence.

    I suspect you’ll not accept this, but it is truth.

    You, having the need to seek a higher power innately within yourself, and having found “christianity” to fill that need to seek, actually don’t have free-will in this regards.

    That’s why you cannot be converted to atheism, regardless of the logic, reason or rational I propose.

    I’m certain you’ll have some SUPERNATURAL response to this and my prior post, but my being able to predict your response in no way thrills me.

    Atheists and theists have equal opportunity to act morally, nothing in Religion “instills” morality, it comes innate within us, and is filled by culture (sometimes in the guise of religion). For example, Islamists forbid eating pork, but Polynesians celebrate eating pork. They both are moral actors within their cultures…

    (Cows and Hindus vs. McDonalds near you, same thing!)

    My MORAL response is to have no children. That is the best (voluntary) means to reduce the human suffering that will come in just a few decades. The fewer people, the fewer people who will suffer.

    What MORAL decisions will you make, and how will you influence those around you to minimize human suffering?

    Frish – Fearless Leader, LA Brights

    Here’s a couple more tidbits, since I’m on a roll:

    Religious Faith – belief without reason.
    Therefore, theists and atheists agree: No Reason For God!

    Of the 10 commandments, only 3 are still laws in the USA. That’s because any “written down” religion can only reflect its truth at the time of the writing.

    Religion is a cultural construct, and fits within a culture.

    The OT was a calendar, since it was a book for farmers.
    The god of the OT was a farming god…speaks of fruitful and multiply, etc.

    However the very first commandment is fascinating:

    God said: Have no other gods before me!

    So, in His own words we know there are other gods!
    (So much for “monotheism” see below).

    And, he commands us to have none, before having him!

    I take the bible literally, I don’t know about you, so, I continue to have no gods before having any!

    Read the bible, obey the first commandment, be an atheist as god commands!

    Finally, when we were hunting and gathering, every rock and tree had a spirit.

    We’d pray, as we spoiled that nest, that next year, when we chased the wildebeests back down the nearby canyon, that the spirit of the walnut tree would again provide lovely walnuts, and so with the spring, and each place we visited.

    When we moved into cities, those polythesist tendencies went away, and we came to worship a family of gods, like Odin, and Zeus and their minions.

    Finally, “monotheism” was all the rage.

    So, many gods, fewer gods, one god, and we’ll soon get to truth, no gods at all!

  7. Eric Kemp Says:

    Wow. I was intending to be a tad bit inflammatory with the title of the post, but I didn’t expect this response.

    Considering that I now have 6 people to respond to, I think it would be less confusing if I answered everyone in a seperate post. The post is forthcoming.

  8. Bronimana-ding-dong Says:

    The problem with atheists are the uneducated ones. From reading the responses one can see that there are atheists that do no believe in God and believe in a scientific “theory.” This will come off as a tangent, but it is a common topic that atheists hold as truth. A majority of atheists believe in theories-not truths.
    3 definitions of Theory are:
    1) a coherent group of general propositions used
    as principles of explanation for a class of phenomena
    2) contemplation or speculation.
    3) guess or conjecture.

    Therefore to believe in science is to “have faith” in a guess or speculation of something to be true. Therefore, faith must be used when using science and when one is holding onto theories (which science is built off of.)

    The point is that atheists cannot not use the argument that believing in God or religion has to be false because it is faith based (*cough cough-Greg). Faith is the common thread between science and religion; a science that was built off of religion. Faith defined (right from the dictionary): belief that is not based on proof.

    Secondly, one cannot say that God does not exist. That would impose an absolute truth (labright). Science believes in theories, not truths. There has not been any “truthful” artifacts of God existing, but there is history and truths that follow to his word, yet that is not good enough for atheists. What has science brought us? Multiple studies saying that subject A is bad and Subject B is good, then 2 weeks later…..Subject B is bad and A is good. Science is constantly disproving its theories but there is still no actual concrete evidence disproving God.

    Labright you state
    1. Information must have a physical substrate upon which to exist. There is no information in a vacuum.

    Where is it stated that God is physical? God cannot be placed in a box as a physical substance. On another note-are emotions a physical substrate?

    2. The Judeo/Christian/Islamo god is an “entity”, has thoughts and acts upon our real world. Actually, that god must operate faster than light to do all he’s attributed to do.

    You are absolutely right, he acts faster than we can ever know. The attributes given to him barely can touch the power he truly has.

    3. Since nothing material can operate faster than light, on what particles do the thoughts of god exist?

    This part makes no sense at all because you still measure God in absolute measures. There is no measurement that can truly show the power of God.

    So using the logic of absolute truths, shouldn’t we be able to measure the substance that made the world what it is today? Wait we can’t? But that doesn’t work with science according to absolute truths, so what should we do!?!? I got it! Call it a theory, in fact use multiple theories of how we were created and people will believe it to be Truth because it is a “theory”! But what about the intelligent design and religious explanations? Those are religions, not theories, so that means they must be wrong scientifically! YAY for Atheists!!!!!

  9. Tim Nichols Says:

    Eric,

    Nicely done, but you’ve got some ‘splaining to do. I don’t think they understood the argument.

    Scott,

    re. “so far the only ‘proof’ we’re presented with…is we can’t explain everything”

    Speaking of straw-man argument, you might have a gander at your own work. Eric didn’t claim that you have to be able to explain everything in order to conclude that God doesn’t exist. The claim he’s making is that if God doesn’t exist, you can’t explain *anything.* (Or more tightly stated, to the extent that you’re faithful to your atheistic presuppositions, you can’t explain anything or know anything.)


  10. Hey there.

    How would you feel if I said this:

    In the Christian worldview, life doesn’t matter – we don’t have to be good people, we don’t have to be friendly or helpful or compassionate or productive, and we don’t have to worry about the future of this planet once we die. The eternal life after death is all that matters – this life is nothing to us so long as we unquestioningly worship Jesus and unquestioningly obey His earthly representatives.

    I’ll be the first to admit that this would be utterly misconstruing Christianity. If I’d said it seriously, I would be very much out of line. That isn’t even the beggining of the message of Christianity.

    I’d like to contrast what I said with how you opened your blog post:

    In the atheist worldview, the physical is all that exists. That is to say that the spiritual only exists as a human construct to describe things we don’t YET understand or can’t explain.

    This is wrong – and insulting to me as an atheist – in excatly the same way that my original paragraph is wrong about Christianity.

    Atheism is a denial that the universe has a deity in it. It isn’t a denial of spirituality. There’s plenty of room for spirituality even in a worldview that contains no deity.

    Sure, an atheist might be utterly disintrested in spirituality. But by no means is a lack of spirituality implied in the basic context of atheism.

    Indeed – whenever I discuss spiritual matters with a believer, there is the inevitable response I inevitably hear: “I just don’t understand why you’re not a Christian/Catholic/Muslim/Jehova’s Witness/Buddhist/Hindu/Hari.” (yes, I actually have heard each of these from at least one person, some of them more than one person)

    Atheism does not equate to a rejection of spirituality. It just means a rejection of faith in a deity. Faith and spirituality may occasionally compliment one another, but they’re not the same thing.

  11. Eric Kemp Says:

    Thanks bron

    Yea, it’s fun watching atheists make absolute statements about scientific theories which, by definition, aren’t absolute. Their adherence to this tactic displays their dogma.

    Eric

  12. Eric Kemp Says:

    Tim

    Yea, I don’t know where I didn’t explain the argument well enough. Any constructive feedback would be appreciated.

    Eric

  13. Eric Kemp Says:

    Ubiquitous Che

    “Atheism is a denial that the universe has a deity in it. It isn’t a denial of spirituality. There’s plenty of room for spirituality even in a worldview that contains no deity.”

    For the record: I don’t mean “spiritual” in the sense of an individuals subjective “spirituality”. I mean it in the sense of immaterial things that actually exist.

    I’ll ask you then so I can better understand your position: Are you saying that the immaterial DOES exist? And if it does, how do you account for the existence of the spiritual/immaterial while still denying the existence of God?

  14. Eric Kemp Says:

    The First 6 Who Responded to Me:

    The reply post is up.


  15. ’ll ask you then so I can better understand your position: Are you saying that the immaterial DOES exist? And if it does, how do you account for the existence of the spiritual/immaterial while still denying the existence of God?

    I have two problems with your question.

    Firstly, I don’t like the word ‘believe’. It has a host of implications that I’m uncomfortable with. So I have to be obnoxious and rephrase your questions in terms of accepting the immaterial.

    Second thing I don’t like is the use of the word ‘immaterial’ in this context.

    im·ma·te·ri·al
    adj.
    1. Of no importance or relevance; inconsequential or irrelevant.
    2. Having no material body or form.

    I can safely presume that you didn’t mean definition 1. But in the context, definition 2 doesn’t quite fit either.

    Software in a computer is processing information in a way that is most definitely immaterial – the binary that is rushing through the CPU in the form of electrical charge is most definitely material, but the information in that binary is totally immaterial until it is compiled and delivered to some kind of human-friendly output. Information is immaterial. Mathematics is immaterial. Electromagnetic fields are immaterial. Entropy is immaterial. Legislation is immaterial. The scientific method is immaterial. There’s all kinds of things that science deals with that are immaterial, especially in the humanities and the social sciences.

    Why would there even be a question as to whether or not I ‘accept’ or even ‘believe’ in the immaterial? There are a great many immaterial things that are conclusively proven to exist. It’s a redundant question to begin with.

    So the obvious conclusion is that when you wrote ‘immaterial’ you actually meant something else. I could take a guess from the context in which you used the term ‘spiritual/immaterial’. However, I wouldn’t like to be so presumptuous as to jump to a conclusion about what I think you probably meant, so I can only ask you to clarify the question.

  16. Eric Kemp Says:

    Ubiq Che

    “So I have to be obnoxious and rephrase your questions in terms of accepting the immaterial.”

    That’s fine, “belief” is “accepting” that something is true. I’m sorry you’re not comfortable with my use of the word “believe” but that’s not going to stop me from using it. Just know that I am using in the sense of accepting something to be true.

    You asking me to clarify in an honest question, and good question to ask before a discussion begins.

    I define the “physical” or “material” as things that consist of matter. Now, I’m also including physical forces into this definition as well. So it’s not just physical matter, but also physical forces. Is this an agreeable definition of “physical/material”?

    Ei. Gravity may not be touchable in the sense of how matter is, but it’s physical force that is a result of material bodies (large ones anyway.

    The immaterial/spiritual is anything outside of physical matter or physical forces. Electricity is a physical force.

    You gave several examples of immaterial things but before I comment on them I want to also clarify. Under my definition of “material” including physical forces, would you still consider any or all of those things immaterial? If so, how does a God-less universe created immaterial things? Where did they come from?


  17. Under my definition of “material” including physical forces, would you still consider any or all of those things immaterial? If so, how does a God-less universe created immaterial things? Where did they come from?

    Okay, in the sense you’re using much of what I spoke about don’t fly under the heading of ‘immaterial’ – electromagnetism is a physical force for all that it does not have material substance. However, there’s still something funny going on:

    Information (in the sense used by Shannon) can be measured – but it is neither matter nor physical force. It’s not even energy. But it’s still immaterial, and it can still be conclusively shown to exist. The precise nature of information is still a bit of a mind-bender. We can see how information behaves in communications systems. We know how information works and what it does and how we can capitalize on it. But we’re not as sure about what it really is – there is a connection between information and entropy, and the behavior of information and entropy seems to contradict some of our intuitions about newtonian physics in some very unexpected ways. It’s all really cool to think about and I have a couple of half-baked ideas – but I definitely don’t claim to have a definitive explanation.

    The natural numbers are immaterial. The best idea I have come across about where the natural numbers comes from was a philosophical piece about starting from the empty set, then having the set containing the empty set, then the set containing the set containing the empty set, and so-on and so forth. In this way the natural numbers are an inevitable consequence of the existence of the void. (‘set’ means ‘collection of things’, and to exist is to be part of the set of things that exist, so for the void to exist it must be in a set, and that set is the empty set). This is a vauge and unfalsifiable philosophical concept, I’ll grant you. But there’s a clean conceptual elegance to it that I think speaks for itself.

    It is interesting to note that information is connected intimately to the concept of number, and the concept of information seems to be interchangable with the concept of entropy. I’m not a physisicist or a theoretical computer scientist, so I’m not qualified to assert that any of these musings are definitive. But it’s still interesting to think about.

    My explanations are getting a bit long, so I’ll try to be brief.

    Economic demand is immaterial – emergent property from the collective behavior of the conflicting wants and needs of large numbers of people.

    Thought is immaterial – information that is being computed in the brain and observed.

    Observation is immaterial – I haven’t the philosophical framework to begin to argue this case, but I have the feeling that observation is connected to information in some very fundamental way. Observation may simply be the purest expression of information in its true form – although I would not like to be put on the stand and asked to prove this as the case.

    All of these things are immaterial. But I get the feeling that these things aren’t the kinds of things you’re talking about.

    I’m getting the feeling that by ‘immaterial’ you mean ‘something that cannot be shown to exist’. I don’t know if that feeling is at all valid.

  18. Eric Kemp Says:

    Ubiq Che

    Ok, so we are now discussing the nature of information. That’s fine.

    I’m not sure I agree the nature is immaterial in the sense you are using it (I might agree in another sense) but I need to clarify your position to better understand it. Would you say that information is “immaterial” in the sense that it could exist absent of physical matter and physical forces? Put another way, is the existence of information tied up in and dependent upon the existence of physical matter in order to exist and/or have meaning (or could information have meaning/exist if no matter exists)?


  19. I’m a monist, if that helps. A coin may have two sides, but there’s still only one coin.

    Quick definition of terms:

    Medium: An object or device, such as a disk, on which data is stored.
    Media: The plural of medium.

    Put it like this:

    1). All information is ultimately number. However, different numbers may represent the same piece of information.

    2). All numbers may be expressed in data. However, different data may represent the same number.

    3). All data may be expressed in a medium. However, different media may be used to express the same data.

    So although information must always be ultimately expressed in terms of a medium, it can still be shown that the information content of a given medium is independant of that medium.

    To home in on the reall nitty-gritty question:

    Could information have meaning/exist if no matter exists?

    Yes. Number can exist without matter, and all information is number.

    However, there is no way to express that information as data without computation. Whether or not computation can exist without matter is a question I haven’t seriously entertained until now. My initial suspicion is that it can’t, but I would need to think about it a bit more first.

    Heh. You made me think something new! Today is a good day because of that. Thank you Eric.

    Anyway, regardless of the computation question, there is no way to express data without a medium that is accessible to computation as output, and no way to interpret that data without a medium that is accessible to computation as input.

    Still, we’ve digressed a bit much from the inital question of how all this ties into spirituality.

    The question in my mind is this: Does spirituality require immaterial things? To my mind, spirituality is as much about observable reality as it is about the kinds of vauge abstractions we’ve gotten bogged down into discussing.

    On the other hand, I’m happy to continue along on the topic of understanding what each of us actually mean when we use the term ‘immaterial’. It’s your call where we go with this: I leave the control of this conversation in your capable hands.

    (note: When I wrote this response the first few times, it got very wordy. I’ve edited it down by not explaining everything in minute detail. If you want me to back up anything I’ve said here, just ask.)

  20. Eric Kemp Says:

    Ubiq Che

    “I’m a monist, if that helps.”

    It does. What is your “one thing” that we all consist of?

    “Yes. Number can exist without matter, and all information is number.
    However, there is no way to express that information as data without computation. Whether or not computation can exist without matter is a question I haven’t seriously entertained until now. My initial suspicion is that it can’t, but I would need to think about it a bit more first.”

    I would agree with this but I’m going to take it a step further. Perhaps “number” could exist without matter, but it would have no meaning. As in, “number” wouldn’t represent anything.

    Information, on the other hand, is tied up in interpretation (which is tied up in the physical biochemistry of the brain). I think this is what you mean by “computation” and “medium”. Without interpretation information not only has no meaning, but just doesn’t exist. Just as the information in DNA doesn’t exist without RNA to translate it, so the information in “number” doesn’t exist without human interpretation. (The DNA itself may still exist, but the information in it is lost).

    So without the human mind, information doesn’t exist.

    Put another way, there are no “brute facts”. Every piece of “number” we come across is filtered through our subjective minds where our presuppositions, assumptions, and prejudices act upon the “number” before it can ever become information. The idea of non-interpreted “brute facts” is a myth, a construction used to teach people “the truth” as the teacher sees it.

    Before I ask my next question, I want to clarify the difference between “spirituality” and the “immaterial”. “Spirituality” is a subjective human construct. As such, comparing “spirituality” between to individuals is pointless. The “immaterial” exists outside of physical forces, physical matter and human interpretation. The “immaterial” is not tied up in the interpretation of the brain, like information is, but it’s an actual plane of existence outside of physical matter and physical forces.

    So, going back to the original question, do you think that this “immaterial”, what I personally call the “spiritual”, plane of existence exists? Wholly seperate from physical matter and forces?

    Or is it a subjective human construct just as “spirituality” is?

    The direction I want to go with this discussion is to compare our explanations for the world around and the way we live in it. I want to understand your position before we can compare our explanations.

    I have never discussed with a monist before so thank you for discussing with me. I’ve also never thought of these in this way so thank you for that as well.


  21. It does. What is your “one thing” that we all consist of?

    Simple answer is: I’m not entirely sure.

    Perhaps “number” could exist without matter, but it would have no meaning. As in, “number” wouldn’t represent anything.

    Well… Yes and no.

    It’s true that at this point there is nothing there to count. But the number ‘three’ represents ‘two and one more’ and the number ‘two’ represents ‘one and one more’ and the number ‘one’ represents ‘zero and one more’ and zero represents ‘the void that exists before all else’. In this context, once the void exists we have one thing – the void. Then once we have one thing (the void) we then have two things (one thing, (the void)). Once we have two things, we then have three things (two things (one thing, (the void)).

    See how it follows:

    1). the void
    2). one thing, (the void)
    3). two things, (one thing (the void))
    4). three things (two things, (one thing, (the void)))

    So the numbers really do come from the existence of the void, and they really do represent number as we understand the term – and tied into this is the essential basis for addition (and then one more, and then one more, etc). It is interesting to note that all formal logic can be represented by number and addition – that’s how computers do everything.

    Essentially, the numbers don’t need material things to count. They count themselves.

    (Note: This is pretty much one of the only unfalsifiable philosophical arguments that I like – I’m open to disproof and will readily accept your denial of this argument about where number comes from.)

    Information, on the other hand, is tied up in interpretation (which is tied up in the physical biochemistry of the brain). I think this is what you mean by “computation” and “medium”. Without interpretation information not only has no meaning, but just doesn’t exist. Just as the information in DNA doesn’t exist without RNA to translate it, so the information in “number” doesn’t exist without human interpretation. (The DNA itself may still exist, but the information in it is lost).

    This is an excellent, logical, and intuitively satisfying response, and I am completely sure that this is precisely correct based on what you currently know about the topic of information theory.

    However, there is something I don’t think you know about information theory – and in all fairness, you could not be expected to know it.

    Here it is: We can measure the information content of a string without knowing what that information represents.

    Just sit back and think about that for a moment.

    No, really. We can.

    Here’s the basic point I’m making here:

    1). We can measure the information content of a string without knowing what that information represents.

    Therefore:

    2) Information does not have to be interpreted for that information to exist.

    I don’t know how you’re going to take that. There’s a range of possible responses you could be thinking right now: “So what?”, “That’s stupid!”, “You’re making this up.”, “That just couldn’t work.”, “Prove it!”

    To give myself a little bit of back-up, here is a quick summary of the tip of the IT iceberg. Mark Titchener was one of my lecturers when I was still a compsci student. On any given day I was lucky if I understood a quarter of what he said. At the time I thought he was dry and boring – he was always after new graduate students to help him out with his research projects. I regret to this day that as a student I was too immature to recognize what an opportunity that would have been.

    But I digress.

    Let’s say we get the text on this screen and save it in a text file with UTF-16 encoding.

    We then take that UTF-16 encoded file and try to open it as a UTF-8 encoded file. In our file viewer, it will look like the new file has twice as many characters, but for the most part those characters will be broken and the file will be unreadable.

    To our intuitions, it will look like either the information content has increased (more characters) or that it has decreased (unreadable). Either case is wrong. The information content is the same.

    In either case, we can analyse the base data and determine the information content. We don’t have to know what that information represents in order to measure it. It can represent text, an image, EEG readings, weather forcasts, a video file, or even just white noise. We can still measure the information content – we don’t have to be able to interpret that information in order to know that it is there.

    If it can be represented by a binary number, it contains information and we can measure it.

    So you’re right in one sense – without the capacity to express or interpret information in the form of data in a medium, information would be so static and stagnant as to be completely useless and deeply uninteresting. Information has to move to be of interest.

    But the fact remains that all information can be ultimately expressed in number. So if we have number, we can have information. It’s just that the information can’t actually do anything without expressing itself as data, and it can’t express itself as data without a medium to express itself in.

    I hope that made sense.

    I’m at work at the moment, so I’ll get back to your other questions later. Just thought I’d give you this to mull over for a bit while it was fresh in my brain. 😛

  22. Eric Kemp Says:

    Ubiq Che

    It seems as if you are switching between two different definitions of the word “information” but I want to give you the chance to defend yourself.

    In very laymans terms, and very briefly, I define information as something that tells us something. Information is something that tells us “what” and/or “how” (“who”, “where” and “when” are implied).

    I would assert that your void + 1 example still requires the “+1” to represent something material or we wouldn’t have anything to add to the void and therefore wouldn’t do so, but I’m willing to let that go because I’m not well educated in mathematical theory. It’s also not the direction I want this discussion to take.

    I would rather discuss your assertion that a data set can represent information without interpretation.

    “In either case, we can analyse the base data and determine the information content. We don’t have to know what that information represents in order to measure it. It can represent text, an image, EEG readings, weather forcasts, a video file, or even just white noise. We can still measure the information content – we don’t have to be able to interpret that information in order to know that it is there.”

    It seems here that you are defining information as a “data set”. We can measure the amount of data we have, but not what it actually means. If I am understanding your compsci example wrong then let me know, because your education was quite different than mine and I’d be lost in anything above a basic level compsci class. In this “data set”, you are able to distinguish the symbols in the UTF file, right? Even if we have the wrong “translator” (attempting to open a UTF-16 file as a UTF-8 file), we are still able to find what the true symbols are from the UTF-16 file. The correct “data set” is still there.

    “So you’re right in one sense – without the capacity to express or interpret information in the form of data in a medium, information would be so static and stagnant as to be completely useless and deeply uninteresting. Information has to move to be of interest.”

    It seems here you are defining information as something that tells us “what” or “how”, something that has meaning. And admitting that your previous “data set” has no meaning. My assertion is that a data set without meaning is not information. The data set of Egyption heiroglyphics did not become information until we found the Rosetta Stone. The data set (symbols) never changed, but it wasn’t informative until we could translate it.

    But let me switch this around here: I agree with you that information is immaterial. Not all information is immaterial and not in the sense you are meaning. That is what we are discussing and I am putting that away for a minute to say that I agree with you.

    How do you reconcile, in your monistic philosophy, the opposite nature of material and immaterial things? The immaterial nature of information is so opposite to physical matter and physical forces that you are going to have a hard time logically concluding that they are still “one thing”. How do you tackle this?

    In your non-God worldview, how do you account for the existence of immaterial things such as information? Can purely physical things some how bring forth the immaterial? If seperate from physical things, where did this immaterial existence come from without the existence of God? All of our sense experience tells us that matter begets matter, doesn’t the existence of immaterial things inherently prove an immaterial Creator?


  23. […] I’ve been addressing, following the logic of the atheist universe, the atheist’s inability to explain the uniformity of nature.  First showing that science depends on the universal nature of absolute physical laws, which we […]


  24. […] September 1, 2008 @ 1:53 pm } · { Uncategorized } { } In a post Eric calls “The Atheist is a Thief” (kindof a spooky title), Eric writes this lengthy introduction before delving deeper into the […]

  25. Anonomouse Says:

    This is just a “God of the Gaps” argument with a Clown Nose on its face.

  26. Eric Kemp Says:

    Anonomouse

    Go ahead and defend that statement…


  27. My, my you sure got yourself some heat for this one! 😀 I just wanted to say that the whole “Well, it is because it is” sounds a lot like how everyone proves the existence of God too. Love ya like a fat kid loves cake!
    Moonstruck Mommy
    PS there was NO way I was gonna read alll those long-winded comments, so sorry if I am repeating someone.

  28. Eric Kemp Says:

    Moon

    Yea, they didn’t like this one very much.

    Actually, the entire point of the article was “God is because only God, or some other all-powerful, rational deity, can explain the uniformity of nature”.


  29. Well, can’t say I don’t agree with you there! 😀


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