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"I think the apparent fine-tuning of the cosmos strongly suggests that mind was present from the beginning."

Maybe there are a lot of universes that occur by chance and only those with the right conditions develop life.

"A million monkeys batting away at a million typewriters for a million years are not going to type out the code for even the simplest DNA molecule."

Once you have a self replicating system you can have natural selection that accellerates evolution by amplifying successful mutations. This process is not accounted for in the monkey analogy and we don't know how simple the first self replicating system might have been. We also don't know where the first organic molicules came from. There is evidence that they arrived on earth from meteors and comets. We also don't know under what conditions life might have evolved: at the surface of the oceans, deep in porus rocks, or near thermal vents at the bottom of the ocean. I'm not against intelligent design but I don't think the scientific arguments for it are convincing.

Once you have a self replicating system you can have natural selection that accelerates evolution by amplifying successful mutations.

You make a series of interesting points, but I still doubt that random interactions of chemicals (even if driven in a certain direction by natural selection) can yield the information content of a DNA molecule, much less the cellular machinery needed to make use of that information. This is especially true when you consider that life appears to have emerged almost immediately (in geologic terms) after the Earth cooled.

At the very least, those who say that blind, undirected natural processes can produce complex, codified information, or who posit countless parallel universes each having a different set of initial conditions, are asking us to take a large leap of faith. And they haven't explained or even come to grips with the elephant in the room - consciousness itself.

Incidentally, the post linked to the words "A million monkeys" addresses the issue of the purportedly random origin of life in a little more detail.

I really like this quote from an online article about Emmanuel Swedenborg:

"We are constituted by the intersection of two flows—one direct, from the divine, and one indirect, from the divine via our environment. We can view ourselves as interference patterns, because the inflow is a wave phenomenon, and we are where the waves meet." - Emmanuel Swedenborg,
http://www.soultravel.se/2004/040907-swedenborg/index.shtml

Consciousness and matter intersecting each other.

"You make a series of interesting points, but I still doubt that random interactions of chemicals (even if driven in a certain direction by natural selection) can yield the information content of a DNA molecule, much less the cellular machinery needed to make use of that information."

Interactions among chemicals are not random in the way the proverbial monkeys typing on keys are. The keys in a typewriter do not intereact. Atoms and molecules do. Because of their chemical properties some are likely to react with each other while others are not. Because of these interactions "self assembly" of a primitive self replicating molicule may be more or less likely but it is not purely "random". If we knew what the starting point for natural selection was, it would be easier to know if this was a reasonable argument.


A skeptic might laugh (or cry) at the contrast between what I just wrote and what follows ... but some of the arguments for intelligent design that I find more compelling, and this is purely due to my subjective opinions, are:

If consciousness is primary and matter is derived from consciousness (and there are hints from quantum mechanics that it is) then, depending on the actual relationship between mind and matter, intelligent design may be a foregone conclusion.

If you believe in survival of consciousness after death, for whatever reason, intelligent design seems to be also very likely.

Spirits communicating through mediums indicate that the world was created for the purpose of providing a place where spirits can go to learn things that can't be learned in the spirit world.

Given the age of the universe it seems likely that there are civilizations so much older than ours that we wouldn't recognize them as civilizations. We call one of these civilizations the spirit world and since it seems to be using the earth for it's own purposes it is reasonable to suppose that it would intervene in evolution of the planet and life on it.

"Even if Beichler is right in saying that consciousness is a fifth-dimensional offshoot of our four-dimensional nervous system...."

I think Biechler may have it exactly opposite of correct. It seems like our material reality is an offshoot of a 5th or "X" dimensional consciousness, using physical reality to indivduate itself and create self awareness via evolutionary iteration.

It is good to see, however, a physics oriented theory of survical.

The anonymous poster has made a lot of very good points and ideas, and I'd like to give my opinion about some of them:

Interactions among chemicals are not random in the way the proverbial monkeys typing on keys are. The keys in a typewriter do not intereact. Atoms and molecules do. Because of their chemical properties some are likely to react with each other while others are not

But that doesn't exclude a random element. Molecules interact according to chemical and physical laws, but it doesn't imply that, if life came from these interactions, they weren't due to chance or random.

Two meteorites colliding to each other (or with the Earth) is a ramdom event, but it's ruled by naturals laws governing the meteorites and Earth (gravitational laws, etc.). So the existence of natural laws doesn't exclude an element of random or chance in regard with the ocurrence of an event or phenomenon Y (in this case, the origin of life).

In fact, in the example of monkeys typing on keys, natural laws are in work too (for example, neurological laws about trasmission of nerve impulses, physical laws ruling both the monkeys and the typing machine moleculas, position, etc.)

But such laws don't entail nor make likely that a monkey will write (by pure random) a book like Hamlet, In this case, you're justified to consider non-random explanations (e.g. explanations in terms of intelligent design and agency)

If you believe in survival of consciousness after death, for whatever reason, intelligent design seems to be also very likely

Very true, indeed. Does is entail that "afrterlife" supporters have to support intelligent design too? Can you be a believer in an afterlife, and in the same time (and consistently), believe in blind, purposeless neo-darwinian evolution or in a ramdom creation of the conditions for life in the universe?

These are hard questions, and I don't have a satisfactory answer yet... But I tend to agree with the anonymous poster about the likely of ID if an afterlife exist. Such scenario seems to be more reasonably explained by a governing and powerfull intelligence (call it God if you want) which is in command of the key aspects of the overall process.

Given the age of the universe it seems likely that there are civilizations so much older than ours that we wouldn't recognize them as civilizations. We call one of these civilizations the spirit world and since it seems to be using the earth for it's own purposes it is reasonable to suppose that it would intervene in evolution of the planet and life on it

But what created such civilizations? The "spirit world" is not considered part of this universe (I mean, the physical universe known by current science), but a sort of parallel dimension to it.

If that's true, then the age of our physical universe might be irrelevant regarding the existence of a parallel spirit world (whose laws might be very different than those of the physical universe), and the idea of older civilitations having created an spirit world becomes unwarranted and unnecessary.

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About Michael's comment "I think SOFT may still have considerable value, not as a Theory of Everything, but as a framework in which to look at psi and afterlife phenomena from a physicalist perspective. The idea of a fifth-dimensional consciousness may be quite helpful in explaining phenomena like remote viewing and out-of-body experiences. To say that consciousness has a physical aspect or component is not necessarily wrong or problematic; what is problematic is claiming that this physicalist explanation solves the mystery of consciousness (subjective awareness) as such. In other words, consciousness may be partly physical without being wholly physical; and the physical aspect of consciousness may very well involve a higher-dimensional domain"

I think Beichler's theory will be persuasive for physicalists and materialists who, with an open mind, consider the evidence of an afterlife. If they consider the evidence is interesting or challenging (and don't dismiss it out of hand), they'll get in Beichler a room to make sense of it.

For strong dualists, Beichler's theory will be very unconfortable, however.

"Because of their chemical properties some are likely to react with each other while others are not. Because of these interactions "self assembly" of a primitive self replicating molicule may be more or less likely"

But to know if the universe is a designed (I prefer the words "intended" or "meant" to "designed") thing you have to know if those interacting properties were meant to do what they do. And that isn't a question for any branch of science to answer. And this is why arguments against design are in EXACTLY the same position as arguments for it, but the arguers against it seem to completely miss that important detail. The Dawkins' of the world think their position is stronger than ID. Actually, it's equivalent.

And the notion that God is an engineer is a bad idea too. God may use engineering, but I think He is more of an artist. And criticizing, for example, this feature of the world or that as being badly designed from an engineering standpoint is as ludicrous as criticizing a Picasso painting for not being a technical drawing.

The universe is an expressed work of art not a precisely designed machine.

Off-topic:

Atheist writer A N Wilson has converted to Christianity. According to this article:

As a hesitant, doubting, religious man I’d never known how they felt. But, as a born-again atheist, I now knew exactly what satisfactions were on offer. For the first time in my 38 years I was at one with my own generation. I had become like one of the Billy Grahamites, only in reverse. If I bumped into Richard Dawkins (an old colleague from Oxford days) or had dinner in Washington with Christopher Hitchens (as I did either on that trip to interview Billy Graham or another), I did not have to feel out on a limb. Hitchens was excited to greet a new convert to his non-creed and put me through a catechism before uncorking some stupendous claret. “So – absolutely no God?” “Nope,” I was able to say with Moonie-zeal. “No future life, nothing ‘out there’?” “No,” I obediently replied. At last! I could join in the creed shared by so many (most?) of my intelligent contemporaries in the western world – that men and women are purely material beings (whatever that is supposed to mean), that “this is all there is” (ditto), that God, Jesus and religion are a load of baloney: and worse than that, the cause of much (no, come on, let yourself go), most (why stint yourself – go for it, man), all the trouble in the world, from Jerusalem to Belfast, from Washington to Islamabad.

My doubting temperament, however, made me a very unconvincing atheist. And unconvinced. My hilarious Camden Town neighbour Colin Haycraft, the boss of Duckworth and husband of Alice Thomas Ellis, used to say, “I do wish Freddie [Ayer] wouldn’t go round calling himself an atheist. It implies he takes religion seriously

See the entire article here:

http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2009/04/conversion-experience-atheism

That's very interesting news, ZC. I've read a couple of A.N. Wilson's books, and they were certainly written from the perspective of a nonbeliever. It's surprising to see that, like Antony Flew, he's changed his mind. He doesn't quite explain why he has accepted Christianity in particular, as opposed to some other religion. (Flew himself became a deist, not a Christian.)

One thing his story implies is that conversion to atheism can be just as emotional (and nonrational) as conversion from atheism can be.

The Coleridge quotation at the end of the article seems appropriate to the issue of explaining subjectivity: "Read the first chapter of Genesis ... ‘And man became a living soul.’ Materialism will never explain those last words."

http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2009/04/conversion-experience-atheism

Do materialists really think that language just “evolved”, like finches’ beaks, or have they simply never thought about the matter rationally? Where’s the evidence? How could it come about that human beings all agreed that particular grunts carried particular connotations? How could it have come about that groups of anthropoid apes developed the amazing morphological complexity of a single sentence, let alone the whole grammatical mystery which has engaged Chomsky and others in our lifetime and linguists for time out of mind?

If there was a population bottleneck somewhere in the past then that would be a good explanation for why there are certain similarites among all humans. According to wikipedia there is some evidence to suggest that at one time our ancestors numbered as few as 2000.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_bottleneck#Humans


On the other hand, in 2000, a Molecular Biology and Evolution paper suggested a transplanting model or a 'long bottleneck' to account for the limited genetic variation, rather than a catastrophic environmental change.[7] This would be consistent with suggestions that in sub-Saharan Africa numbers could have dropped at times as low as 2,000, for perhaps as long as 100,000 years, before numbers began to expand again in the Late Stone Age[8]

It is also interesting to note that there is no evidence for natural selection. Fossils, comparative anatomy, and development anatomy provide excellent evidence for evolution but say nothing about what caused evolution. People believe in natural selection because it agrees with their preconcieved notion that evolution should conform to known laws of science, but there is no evidence that natural selection occured. This is an intellectual slight of hand that goes unnoticed but which shows that materialism is realy a product of cognitive bias and is not due to superior rationality.

anon writes:
"It is also interesting to note that there is no evidence for natural selection. Fossils, comparative anatomy, and development anatomy provide excellent evidence for evolution but say nothing about what caused evolution."

Must jump in here to point out that scientific method is not meant to convey any "certainty" but the opposite: it is a search method applied to the physical universe to discover how things work. This includes living things. The Theory of the Evolution of Species in it's developed form (today) is still being built - pieced together over time.

So, this theory only deals with the "how" of the development of life forms - both living and extinct. It does not deal at all with the origin of Life, only the origin of species.

Logical progression (backward) does address the origin of life.
But that is a singular area which deserves its own category of study.

Likewise, biological / genetic theory is on-going and it too can be used to point backward to a theoretical beginning.

It is the lack of available evidence which creates this endless speculation about how life got started. So this category of study has yet to have its eureka moment. Meanwhile, this void is being used as an excuse for introducing all kinds of baseless claims - such as Intelligent Design.

Ironically, if one accepts scripture as "true" and one also claims an immaterial yet super intelligent being created everything: one is automatically boxed in by "God's" statement, "I am that I am." This is supposed to be God's warning to Moses and through him to all humanity: Don't go there! So it's syllogistic and sterile: God doesn't want us to know "Him" OR his method and motives.

This is why so many people are tempted to jump around to find "proofs" of Super Being Creation. They point to particle physics and say, "The more science breaks down atomic structure, the harder it becomes to find The God Particle (aka, the Higgs Boson).

In other words: these people are intent on proving that the whole universe, at is foundation, is unknowable. Proving that they're also intent on ignoring DEVELOPING theories and further scientific investigation. The partial evidence is there, ignoring it won't solve any problems at all.

Armchair philosophizing and theorizing is fun, but that's all it is.

A possible factor explaining Wilson's conversion to Chistianity is that, before he became an atheist (with 38 years old), he was a Christian. When he felt dissapointed with atheism, he returned to the worldview he once embraced.

He was an atheist for 20 years, and then turns back to his previous faith. This is very uncommon, however.

Another factor is if it's true that he has a "doubting temperament", then it definitively played a rol in his abandoning of atheism.

To be a believer in materialistic atheism, you have to have much faith in many unproven, improbable and false ideas (like free will doesn't exist but even you can have moral responsability; you're only a material thing as an "unexplainable" subjetivity; all the positive parapsychology experiments are flawed or fraudulent; only "skeptics" like Randi or Shermer are reliable and objective about the paranormal at the same time they calling themselves "debunkers"; religion is the root of ALL the evil, or that it poisons EVERYTHING; atheism didn't play any role in Stalin or Pol Pot's behaviour; believers in afterlife are cowards who are afraid of death, etc.)

No rational and sane person would swallow all the above ideas; a little doses of true critical thinking will expose them as silly, false or improbable. You need much faith to believe in them, and such faith is often due to a hatred against religion (many extreme atheists have had very strong negative experiences with religion or spiritual systems before his "conversion" to atheism; it also explain his arrogance, condescendence, self-indulgence, ad hominems and his well-known intellectual dishonesty in debates).

If Christianity is true (and I have no idea of it), dogmatic atheists/skeptics would be the best example and confirmation of the thesis of the FALL OF MAN.

LOL

About Antony Flew, another factors could have been in play. He was a leading philosopher of religion and well-known debunker of parapsychology and afterlife (in fact, he's member of CSICOP).

He said in his book that the book "The rediscovery of wisdom" by philosopher David Conway was instrumental in his conversion. Also, his study of Aristotle's philosophy was important, and his dissapoint with common atheists explanations. In this interview, he commented some factors influencing his thought:

There were two factors in particular that were decisive. One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source. I believe that the origin of life and reproduction simply cannot be explained from a biological standpoint despite numerous efforts to do so. With every passing year, the more that was discovered about the richness and inherent intelligence of life, the less it seemed likely that a chemical soup could magically generate the genetic code. The difference between life and non-life, it became apparent to me, was ontological and not chemical. The best confirmation of this radical gulf is Richard Dawkins' comical effort to argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a "lucky chance." If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion

http://www.tothesource.org/10_30_2007/10_30_2007.htm

Michael and all the readers, I just come across this interesting interview with Wilson, answering specific questions about his conversion:

http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2009/04/returning-to-religion

When asked "Can you love god and agree with Darwin?"

He answered: "I think you can love God and agree with the author of The Voyage of the Beagle, the Earth Worm, and most of the Origin of Species.

The Descent of Man, with its talk of savages, its belief that black people are more primitive than white people, and much nonsense besides, is an offence to the intelligence - and is obviously incompatible with Christianity.

I think the jury is out about whether the theory of Natural selection, as defined by neo-Darwinians is true, and whether serious scientific doubts, as expressed in a new book Why Us by James Lefanu, deserve to be taken seriously. For example, does the discovery of the complex structure of DNA and the growth in knowledge in genetics require a rethink of Darwinian "gradualism". But these are scientific rather than religious questions."


"One was my growing empathy with the insight of Einstein and other noted scientists that there had to be an Intelligence behind the integrated complexity of the physical Universe. The second was my own insight that the integrated complexity of life itself – which is far more complex than the physical Universe – can only be explained in terms of an Intelligent Source."

It seems to me there is an inherent contrdiction between the ideas that 1) life could not have arisen spontaneously and 2) the universe is so well tuned to support life the universe must have been designed. If the universe was so well designed and fine tuned to support life, why wouldn't it also be designed to develop life spontaneously?


More interesting is this Wilson's answer when asked about if "Fear of Death" played a role in his conversion:

Fear of death.....The approach of death certainly concentrates the mind. My growing hunch or intimation that dead friends are still in some mysterious sense with us was part of the "return". Fear of death has never played a large part in my consciousness - perhaps unimaginative of me. I might be deceiving myself but I do not think that I do have an inordinate fear of death

It would interesting to know what Wilson meant with "My growing hunch or intimation that dead friends are still in some mysterious sense with us was part of the "return""

This sounds like someone who has had some paranormal or afterlife experience with dead friends.

Who knows...

It seems to me there is an inherent contrdiction between the ideas that 1) life could not have arisen spontaneously and 2) the universe is so well tuned to support life the universe must have been designed. If the universe was so well designed and fine tuned to support life, why wouldn't it also be designed to develop life spontaneously?

Because life is product of an universe designed precisely to produce life. Therefore, life was part of the goal of the design, not an spontaneous accidental by-product of it.

If I design a sofware to run a program Y, and the program Y is put in activity by automatic processes (designed by me too), does it mean the creation, running and functioning of program Y was spontaneous?

It wasn't spontaneous, since it was a neccesary consequence (in fact, the ultimate goal) of a previously designed intelligent strategy (the creation and programation of a sofware created by me to, precisely, run program Y)

In Aristotelian terms, the final cause or goal of my design was the creation, use and functioning of program Y (or life, in Flew's concept), the efficient cause was my creation and programming of an adequated sofware (or the fine-tuning of the universe, in Flew's concept)

This is what Flew seems to mean.

So, if the universe was designed by God for life, and life was actually created in such universe, then life was created by God's plans. Therefore, it wasn't spontaneous in a similar manner than an edifice is not spontaneous but created by the operation and factual ejecution of a previous plan intelligently designed to build it.

"It is the lack of available evidence which creates this endless speculation about how life got started. So this category of study has yet to have its eureka moment. Meanwhile, this void is being used as an excuse for introducing all kinds of baseless claims - such as Intelligent Design."

You seem to have not noticed that the void you mention is being used to introduce another baseless claim: That there is no intention behind the form the universe has or behind the way it works the way it does.

Scientists just assume, baselessly, that because they do not see a tiny signature, that the universe is not a work of art. That does not follow.

Undeed, scientists far and wide are guilty of making arguments from ignorance it seems out of habit, so certain are they of their conclusions. I'd say you came near to doing the same thing by calling intelligent design a baseless claim.

The implication is that evidence equals reality so if there's no evidence, there's no reality, which is just another way of saying "I don't know x is true, therefore X is false." And "evidence," of course is almost always defined as that which is obtained by the scientific method, as if it is impossible to know anything other than by the scientific method, which is about as silly a thing as it is possible for intelligent people to say with a straight face.

So not only is the argument made from ignorance, but it seems to be supported by a petitio principii, a begging for our commitment to one of the very issues in question, i.e., that all evidence is scientific evidence, an idea which I flatly reject as against the overhwhelmingly non scientific, non-peer-reviewed evidence of nearly every moment of my daily existence.

"Undeed" = "Indeed."

Fear of death....

Isn't it just as likely that fear of the afterflife (hell) motivates athiests to disbelieve in the afterflife as it is that fear of death (annihilation) motivates believers to believe in the afterlife?

Belief is irrelevant, agreement is irrelevant, acceptance is irrelevant. All that matters is that one has been exposed to the information so that if and when it's needed, it's available.

If not, no harm done.

It is the lack of available evidence which creates this endless speculation about how life got started. So this category of study has yet to have its eureka moment. Meanwhile, this void is being used as an excuse for introducing all kinds of baseless claims - such as Intelligent Design.

Time will tell if the science of abiogenesis ever has its eureka moment. Maybe it will, maybe it won't. The assumption that there must inevitably be a eureka moment that explains life's origin in physicalist terms is an example of "promissory materialism" - the assumption that everything can be explained by materialism, and therefore all the answers must eventually emerge. I think this view confuses methodological naturalism (which is integral to the scientific program) with ontological naturalism (which is a separate issue, and not one that can be decided by science).

Ironically, if one accepts scripture as "true" ...

I guess you don't read this blog, or you'd know that this is not a Christian or Biblical forum.

one is automatically boxed in by "God's" statement, "I am that I am." This is supposed to be God's warning to Moses and through him to all humanity: Don't go there!

I always thought it was intended as a metaphysical statement: God is pure Being, or God is simply That Which Is. If so, it would dovetail pretty well with certain mystical traditions.

"Time will tell if the science of abiogenesis ever has its eureka moment."

We may learn something if develop space travel and we study life on other planets, especially if we find a young planet where life is just devleoping.

What, specifically, are the "cosmic coincidences"? Can you recommend any good sites to read about them?

You start talking about consciousness and end up with all of this.

To understand consciousness you must first consider memory as a condition of field, in that memory is not something stored in the brain or some other part of the physical body, as a memory, any memory, is of a non-physical nature.

In order to access memory one must be capable of accessing a simultaneous condition of field by way of neurological receptor relays.

Even to remember one's own name requires field access.

Consciousness is a state of being and is not regulated by the linear sequencing of events, but is associated with the simultaneous nature of universe.

To say that one's present physical existence is all there is to life is very much like saying there is no life.

To deny the existence of a continuance is to deny the possibility of one's own existence.

We trap ourselves by employing static terms to describe a dynamic condition of universe, which in turn creates an illusion of seemingly sound proportions.

Our linear preoccupation is a fault we have great difficulty in coming to terms with, perhaps for fear of the depth of the sea.

If you are interested check out the book Unity at http://www.gravitycontrol.org

Here is a very interesting article on the flaws of neo-darwinism

http://www.lauralee.net/milton2.htm

hat tip: subversivethinking.blogspot.com

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