Stenger, Part One

I have been reading an interesting book by Victor J. Stenger that I would like to interact with over my next few posts. (Stenger, Victor J. God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does not Exist, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 2007).

To quote Stenger: “The people performing the study, that is, those taking and analyzing the data, must do so without any prejudgment of how the results should come out.” (24)

Is there any such thing as an unbiased person? Can anyone claim to be completely objective in his or her pursuit of truth?

Greg Bahnsen notes that:
…a person's most fundamental beliefs (or presuppositions) determine what he or she will accept as evidence and determine how that evidence will be interpreted. … Our presuppositions about the nature of reality and knowledge will control what we accept as evidence and how we view it.

Even more interesting is Stenger’s reference to computer simulation. Computer programs help us understand “how simple systems can self-organize themselves.” (65) These computer programs immediately fall victim to the base facts of computer manufacture and programming. To create a simulation, we need a working computer which is fabricated by an outside intelligence, a programming language which is a way to interpret binary digits written by an outside intelligence, and a system of algorithms written by an outside intelligence to even begin. (Please see my attempt to unpack these statements here.)

This is even admitted on page 65: “… these demonstrations start by assuming a few simple rules and them programming a computer to follow those rules.” There would be no rules, simple or complex, in a random universe for a computer to follow. Organization is always imposed by intelligence.

Much of Stenger’s argument turns on the idea that “…the universe had no structure…” at its beginning (131). One quick question: how do we know there was no structure at the beginning?
First, there may well be a structure that we have not been able to identify. There is no reason to believe we have learned all there is to know about order and chaos. I find the study and application of chaos theory to be exciting.

Second, how were we able to recognize disorder in the first place? Can disorder be defined without reference to order? Don’t we need an idea of structure to determine the lack of structure?

Order is imposed by the rigorous application of logic and observation. In an atheist universe, we would have no reason to believe that logic applies to reality. How can matter in motion lead to universal laws such as the laws of logic? Logic is immaterial; it does not exist outside of our minds. Logic cannot be affirmed or denied by scientific experimentation; it must be assumed in order to evaluate those experiments.

It doesn’t stop there. How can we even be sure that our senses are reliable enough to give us useful information? Evolution only favors the ideas and sensations that keep an organism alive. It does not necessarily favor an accurate perception of reality.

Maybe Stenger would reply that “… [the laws of physics] are what they are because they agree with the data…” (132). If we have no logic to evaluate that data, and we have no reliable senses to evaluate that data, we have no way to interpret the laws of physics in Stenger’s universe.

Non-material, abstract entities must be affirmed by anyone who wants to observe an experiment, evaluate data from an experiment, or communicate the results of that experiment with other people. (instert link to darada and van til here) Stenger’s way of thinking does not allow for anything to be non-material; we are all just a product of the movement of sub-atomic particles which make up the sum total of our being.

We would be well-served to explore the God of this universe as the ground and center of our thinking and being.

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