Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Are Christians Losing the Battle of Perception?

Abortion. Same sex marriage. The Death Penalty. These are some of the issues in which people’s religious convictions are often cited as part of the foundation underlying their beliefs. Opinions are not necessarily solely based upon religious beliefs, but those beliefs are at least one contributing factor.

I have argued before that there is a growing sentiment in America that religious opinions are irrelevant and should not be raised in the public arena. I don’t claim that it is a universal phenomenon; just that it is an increasing trend. Sometimes critics have responded to me by claiming it is really just a matter of whose ox is being gored; i.e., the reason I perceive this to be true is because I am a Christian. If I were of a non-religious stripe I would probably feel that religious views are being given too much credence.

There is undoubtedly a seed of truth in this. To some extent we all tend to view the world through our own set of tinted glasses. I do not accept the school of thought that holds this makes any objectivity impossible, but it would be naïve to ignore the role that our own presuppositions play. But to claim that this adequately responds to my point is to commit the genetic fallacy, believing that explaining how a belief is formed somehow addresses the underlying truth of that belief. It is certainly possible to arrive at the right conclusion for all the wrong reasons. Even if I came to believe in this growing trend because I was overly influenced by my own worldview, it still begs the question of whether there is any evidence for this trend independent of my personal views.

A thorough defense of my position would take far more space than a blog allows. Besides, I am not claiming that religious views are universally rejected, so preparing a detailed defense would result in an impossible task of line drawing (i.e., how many instances are sufficient to amount to a “growing trend,” etc.). Ultimately, I admit that this is largely a matter of perception and could probably never be proven conclusively. However, I think that there is enough evidence to make it a reasonable perception to hold.

The example that came to mind this morning involved those issues mentioned above. When a religious group or individual argues against abortion, for example, at some point in the conversation someone inevitably says that religious people have “no right to impose their beliefs on the rest of society” (where this “right” could possibly come from in a purely Naturalistic universe is a question for another day). The mere fact that part of the foundation for an individual’s position comes from an alleged divine source leads to the presumption that this person is seeking to “impose” religious beliefs. In and of itself that is taken as one reason to reject their opinion.

Now change the example to another issue, income tax rates. Democrats generally favor higher tax rates for wealthier Americans than Republicans. When a Republican argues in favor of lower tax rates, do Democrats reply by saying they are seeking to “impose” their political beliefs upon everyone (or vice versa when Democrats argue for lower rates)? The opposing party may reply with their own economic theory or even meaningless rhetoric designed to provoke an emotional response (all too common in the political arena). But the concept of “imposition” never enters the discussion.

Why is it that claims grounded in religious themes are considered an “imposition” whereas those in political or other arenas are not? Granted, there may be extremely hostile vitriol launched from one side to the other in political debates, but it is rarely if ever claimed that the mere advancing of a contrary opinion is an immoral attempt to impose unwanted beliefs upon others. That response appears to be reserved for religious claims.

I suspect I have the answer to this question. It is admittedly only a theory based upon personal observation. Feel free to accept or reject it as you see fit. But I believe it fits the facts. American society is increasingly operating under the assumption that all religious beliefs are false. Who would not react angrily if someone was actively trying to inculcate you with a belief system we all know to be false? Economic issues are still considered fair game for debate. Intelligent people may disagree on the best course of action to jump start the economy. We still tend to “take sides” and defend our team as passionately as we would our local NFL squad in the Super Bowl. But deep down we still believe that the general population believes the answer to economic questions is not obvious. Religion is being phased out of the marketplace of ideas precisely because there is a growing perception that religious beliefs are based in feelings, not truth. People belong to their religious denomination because it makes them feel good, not because they really believe its claims to be true. Religion, therefore, is ultimately a matter of personal preference, not truth. Therefore, allowing this type of opinion into the discussion is an attempt to impose your personal preferences upon me.

This is the mission of apologetics. It is the calling of all Christians under 1 Peter 3:15 to show the world that there are solid reasons underlying our faith (“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”). Our problem is not just that society believes Christianity to be without reasons. It is deeper than that. They think that even Christians do not believe we have good reasons for our belief.

What is your church doing to prepare the body of Christ to give a reason, explaining that Christianity is not merely some existential belief system that we accept because of how it makes us feel but rather objective and historical truth? Christianity is justified because it is true. In fact, Christ Himself is “the truth” (John 14:6). If I am right about this growing trend, it demonstrates a way in which our churches are failing. We rightly preach the “what” of Christianity, but how often do we take the time to teach the “why?”

25 comments:

Ten Minas Ministries said...

I received an e-mail notification about a comment to this post. However, when I checked it the comment did not appear. The comments section also does not record a deleted entry. Because I have reason to believe that blogger was experiencing some technical difficulties in another thread, I thought it was possible that the author intended for his post to be published but it did not go through for some reason. In fairness to having all views represented, therefore, I have decided to publish the text of this individual's comment below. However, because I am not certain whether this person intentionally withdrew the comment, I have omitted this person's name so as to respect their privacy. Immediately following is the text of the comment. I will post my reply in a separate comment:

Hi Ken,

Why are religious beliefs automatically rejected from being "imposed on society" just because they are religious beliefs, you ask. The answer is, because if you are going to use an idea on the basis of making a law, it matters whether the idea is TRUE. If an idea is not true, then you should not accept the idea.

So suppose for example, your religious belief is, God doesn't like abortion or gay marriage, and so we should make that a law that applies to everyone. Now the question goes to, is the idea TRUE?

In answer to that question, there are three points. First point is, there is no evidence for a god. Second point is, suppose there is a god, we don't know that it is the god of Christianity. Third point is, suppose the god of Christianity, there are differing opinions about whether God does or does not like abortion or gay marriage. The inability to establish these points is exactly the whole point of why you need to appeal to "faith".

So because we can't establish whether religious beliefs are TRUE, we can automatically reject the religious beliefs, and so you don't get to "impose" them on society.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

First, I would like to thank the individual who posted this comment. I am a firm believer that all perspectives be given an open and fair hearing in the marketplace of ideas. For that same reason, I firmly accept testing religious claims in the marketplace of ideas as well.

Please allow me a brief illustration to make the point of my response. Suppose I were to reply to you by saying: (1) There is amply evidence that God exists, (2) There is equally ample evidence that it is the Christian God and (3) There is extremely good authority of what this God believes about the issues raised.

Have I adequately responded to your points? Will you now walk away from our conversation believing that you should change your mind and that religious views should be considered relevant in the marketplace?

Permit me to venture a guess that you are no more convinced now than you were before I began to speak. Realistically, I would not expect you to be. Why not? Because all I have done is recite a number of conclusions without offering any evidence whatsoever to support them. I have given you no reason to accept that any of my conclusions are true.

Now looking back on your comment, that is what you have done as well. It is very easy to say that there is no evidence for a god. It is another matter to actually support that statement. In fact, there are numerous arguments for the existence of God: the ontological (one I do not personally accept, by the way), multiple variations of cosmological, teleological, moral, rational, etc. In making your statement that there is no evidence for a god, have you evaluated all these arguments and are you prepared to respond to them?

To name just a few examples, why is it you believe William Lane Craig's formulation of the kalam cosmological argument does not count as "evidence?" I would recommend Hugh Ross on the teleological argument, C.S. Lewis or Ravi Zacharias on the moral version, and Lewis and Alvin Plantinga on the rational. There is an entire field in the philosophy of religion devoted to evidence for a god, or often times specifically the Christian God. Simply stating that such evidence does not exist does not make your statement true. Plenty of evidence does exist. Whether it has been adequately refuted is a separate question. Far more is required to support your conclusions. Needless to say, I do not personally accept them.

The same point can be made about knowing how God feels on particular issues. You should look at the various arguments for the divine inspiration of the Bible combined with the work on textual criticism (I would especially recommend anything by Bruce Metzger on the latter).

I firmly believe that these positions should be debated in the public arena and should not be merely accepted on face value. Mormonism, for example, makes bold claims about large ancient civilizations for which not one iota of archaeological evidence has been discovered. But the mere fact that a perspective points to the divine should not per se disqualify it from consideration. That is my overall point.

Thank you again for your contribution.

Ken

MattD said...

Hi Ken,

Thank you for posting my comment. It did say that my comment was saved, but it just seemed to not get posted, it does seem that there was technical issue.

Okay, so you say there is evidence for those points. No, I will not walk away from the conversation, I will look at the evidence that is presented and see if it is valid. Now to the actual evidence.

Kalam Cosmological Argument fails, because if God doesn't have to begin to exist, then the universe doesn't have to begin to exist. It fails for the same reason the regular Cosmological Argument fails - you have to make an exception to it for your god. The Teleological Argument (the only argument still regularly used) fails, because we know of another process other than God that can produce things that LOOK DESIGNED - Evolution. Morality can be explained without a God by using the ideas of Kin Selection and Reciprocal Altruism. I don't know the Rational Argument, so I can't respond to that. All those arguments have been refuted many times already, it is a pity that I have to refute them one more time myself.

Finally, if you're going to use the Bible, then I can point out that Richard Dawkins The God Delusion says that abortion and gay marriage are okay. I counter your book by bringing up my book. Also, you're probably aware that the Bible has a part in it where you can sell your daughter into slavery, but nobody really accepts that part as valid.

Thanks,
Matt

MattD said...

Yay, this time the posting worked. Apparently the problem posting happens for me when posting with the Name/URL option. I posted with Google Account and this time it worked.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Matt:

I am glad that I guessed correctly and that you wanted your comment posted and that you were finally able to respond! Thank you for checking back! I also thank you for clarifying your position. It seems to me that there is a difference between stating “There is no evidence” and “The evidence is insufficient.” The former implies that nothing has been produced. The latter suggests that while evidence has been offered, it is insufficient to make the case. I took your comments to be advancing the first position, whereas it now seems you are stating the second.

We could hold a week-long seminar on the various points you raised. Any one of these arguments could be fuel for its own protracted discussion! I will do my best, though, to provide a few relatively concise replies. Please forgive me in advance if I fail in my efforts to be brief or if my brevity sacrifices clarity. Either extreme can be equally detrimental to our discussion.

“Kalam Cosmological Argument fails, because if God doesn't have to begin to exist, then the universe doesn't have to begin to exist.”

First, I would point out that the kalam cosmological argument does not necessarily claim to prove the existence of “God” per se (although I agree that Dr. Craig sometimes argues that it shows a personal cause, something with which I do not agree), but only some kind of transcendent cause. The argument is:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
(2) The universe began to exist.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Your response does not directly attack this argument and actually appears to commit the logical fallacy of the undistributed middle (assuming that just because two things share one thing in common they must share all things in common). God and the universe certainly both exist (at least under the worldview I am advancing, and you are perfectly within your rights to attack that worldview by assuming it to be true for the mere sake of argument and attempting to demonstrate an internal inconsistency). But the fact that they each share this quality does not mean they must be alike in all other respects. In other words, the mere fact that the universe requires a cause does not mean that God would likewise require a cause if there is a relevant difference between them. That difference is implied by premise 1. The argument does not say that everything requires a cause. Only those things that “begin to exist” require a cause. So the key question for us is whether the universe “began to exist.” If so, then the argument is sound (unless you attempt to argue that something can come into existence spontaneously without a cause). If not, then you are correct in stating that it does not require a cause.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

There is a fundamental difference between the universe itself and whatever the cause for that universe may be: time. Time exists within the universe. We exist by going from one moment in time to the next. That fact alone, though, demonstrates that the universe must have a beginning. First, there is the problem of traversing an infinity. If I told you I would give you $1 million after an infinite number of days from now, you would know that you would never receive the money. Why? Because infinity is a mathematical concept. In terms of actual time, it is impossible to travel from one side of an infinite time to another. Therefore we will never reach the day on which I pay you the $1 million. But if we run that reasoning into the past we can also conclude that there cannot have been an infinite number of days in the past. Otherwise we would have been required to traverse that infinite amount of time in order to reach the day in which we find ourselves, but this is precisely what we just determined is impossible. Therefore, time in the past must be finite, pointing to a beginning point for the universe.

Albert Einstein also helped us with this through his theory of relativity, demonstrating that time, space and matter were all relative and that the universe was expanding. Again, running this expansion process in reverse through time leads to a point at which all time, space and matter come together in a “singularity,” again pointing to a beginning for the universe.

But because time exists within the universe, whatever caused the universe to begin also caused the beginning of time. Logically speaking, as the creator of time it does not need to be subject to it. When we say the cause of the universe is “eternal” that does not mean that it has existed through an infinite amount of time in the past but rather that it exists outside of time entirely, in a sort of “eternal now.” All the evidence for a beginning to the universe hinged on the fact that time is interwoven within the universe. This is not a problem for the cause of the universe that exists outside of time. Therefore, whatever caused the universe does not require a beginning point. It exists in this eternal now and premise 1 does not apply to it.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

“The Teleological Argument (the only argument still regularly used) fails, because we know of another process other than God that can produce things that LOOK DESIGNED - Evolution.”

I respectfully disagree that the teleological argument is the only one still regularly used today. All of the arguments are still in quite common usage (although the ontological argument is the least common of them). The teleological argument is what finally convinced prominent atheist Antony Flew to acknowledge the existence of God, but the moral argument is probably equally if not more common that the teleological.

That being said, your response illustrates why I recommended Hugh Ross as opposed to Michael Behe. The version of the teleological argument I recommend deals with the initial constants of the universe and their precise fine-tuning, not the alleged irreducible complexity of Behe. I personally believe that while Behe makes some interesting points, it is always at least possible that our finite understanding does not yet see how these allegedly irreducibly complex systems could have evolved, however unlikely it may currently appear. Therefore, his version of the teleological argument is not likely to appease anyone. Ross points to different evidence from design however, evidence that is entirely inconsistent with an evolutionary hypothesis. The initial constants of the universe are so finely tuned that to hit them without design would be like taking aim at a dartboard from the other side of the universe and hitting it bulls’ eye. The key factor here, though, is that these constants came into existence immediately when the universe began. They did not develop gradually over time. In fact, they must have existed from the beginning in order for our universe not to collapse in on itself. Evolution is a gradual process that requires time. In his book “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins has no answer to this. He acknowledges that evolution could not possibly account for these initial “settings,” but then goes on to say that evolution has a “consciousness raising” effect. Because we have learned that evolution can create the impression of design when no such design exists, it has “raised his consciousness” to the possibility of such naturalistic explanations, so he is confident one must exist for these initial factors as well. What is glaringly absent from Dr. Dawkins’ response is any substance whatsoever. He essentially said that because evolution accounts for other apparent design, he insists there must be such a naturalistic explanation for the apparent design that evolution cannot explain, even without one shred of evidence that any such explanation exists. Dawkins exhibits the same blind faith to his worldview that he so often accuses Christians of exhibiting.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

“Morality can be explained without a God by using the ideas of Kin Selection and Reciprocal Altruism.”

I see you put much credence in Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” (this is a theory he advanced there as well). So allow me to look at precisely how Dawkins advanced his theory of “reciprocal altruism:”

“‘Always be nasty’ is stable in that, if everybody else is doing it, a single nice individual cannot do better. But there is another strategy which is also stable. (‘Stable’ means that, once it exceeds a critical frequency in the population, no alterative does better.) … ‘Start out being nice, and give others the benefit of the doubt. Then repay good deeds with good, but avenge bad deeds.’ … [G]iven a population dominated by reciprocators, no single nasty individual, and no single unconditionally nice individual, will do better.”
Dawkins, “The God Delusion,” pp. 247, 49.

The Dictionary that accompanies Microsoft Word defines “altruism” as “selflessness” or “belief in acting for others’ good.” The first point I would raise is that Dawkins’ definition, when you really look at it in detail, is actually the exact opposite of true altruism. Altruism is putting others before yourself. Dawkins is saying “be good to others only so long as it benefits you.” Ultimately, even if what he is describing occurred, he is only describing the development of a more duplicitous form of selfishness, not altruism.

Also, Dawkins completely fails to explain how such a belief would ever reach “critical frequency.” He admits that unless such a belief reaches a certain level of frequency in a society it would be weeded out by natural selection. Then he just takes for granted that such a belief reached that level without explaining how it would ever be possible. It could not evolve gradually because at any lower level the gene (or meme) for this belief would be eliminated. It would have to somehow spontaneously appear at critical frequency. Dawkins never offers an explanation for how this could occur.

Also, as Dawkins seems to imply (although he is hesitant to explicitly admit), this makes all morality ultimately subjective. There would be no true objective moral values. Yet this is contrary to how everyone lives their lives in practice. When you say something is “wrong,” you are not saying it is contrary to some belief that has been genetically coded into your DNA forcing you to believe it to be wrong without any actual quality of “wrongness” to it. If so, you would have to acknowledge that you really have no right to condemn a person who does not share that gene/meme. But on an existential level at least, that is certainly not what we all really believe in practice when a perceived moral wrong is committed against us.

I have already broken my promise to be brief, and for that I apologize. I think that gives us enough food for thought and is a good stopping point. Thank you again for your comments. E-mail me at ContactUs@TenMinasMinistries.org if you have any more problems posting on the blog.

Ken

Matt said...

Wow that was a lot. I write a few paragraphs, and you respond with another essay.

Kalam Cosmological Argument:

If you are going to claim that God doesn't have to begin to exist, then I most certainly am entitled to claim that the universe doesn't have to begin to exist. Otherwise it is just special pleading to exempt God from the very rule you are trying to establish.

The point about time. Yes, I agree that space and time had a beginning. Space and time were created at the big bang. That is quite a bit different from saying that the universe had a beginning. We simply had a universe without space and time. Finally, we did not have infinite time before the big bang because we did not have time.

Fine-tuned Constants of the Universe:

This is classic God of the Gaps.
(1) What is the explanation for [insert an example]? (Choose from the universe, the constants, or morality)
(2) I don't know.
(3) Therefore God did it.

We have some ideas about the fine-tuned constants. First is the multiverse. Under the multiverse, we happen to be in the universe that has those constants. Second, there is an idea that involves universes being created within black holes. Under that idea, the constants can gradually "evolve" to the values we have. Finally, we don't know that these values of the constants are the only values that can produce life. If there are other values that work, then life is not so improbable.

Granted that is all speculation, but then so God is speculation. If you're going to argue against abortion and gay marriage, speculation will not do. And that goes right back to your first post.

Morality:

Let's look at morality from a practical perspective. You would like to not be killed and have your stuff stolen from you, right? Okay. So you go find a bunch of other people that would also not like to be killed and stolen from. And you agree that you would like to have a law that says you can't kill and steal just because you feel like it. Now since you don't have to be in fear of being killed, you can cooperate with the other people, and cooperation has an advantage to survival. So there is a Natural Selection survival advantage to morality - it allows cooperation to happen.

Furthermore, you do not get your morality from Christianity. We know this because the Bible has a lot of bad morality in it. It is a matter of picking and choosing which parts you are going to use and which parts you are going to ignore. And if you can pick and choose, then it is not the Christianity that gives the morality, it is your prerogative of picking and choosing from it.

Thanks,
Matt

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Matt:

I will attempt to be briefer than I was last time.

“Space and time were created at the big bang. That is quite a bit different from saying that the universe had a beginning. We simply had a universe without space and time.”

To this I can only refer you to Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. What you are proposing is not (to the best of my knowledge) being advanced by any contemporary cosmologists. That alone would, of course, not be a reason for rejecting your position, as majority opinion can certainly be wrong. However, in this instance I believe there are good scientific reasons for rejecting that position. Time, space and matter are what define our universe. There is no such thing as “our” universe without time, space and matter. I have proposed that there is a mode of existence outside of our universe of time, space and matter in which God exists, and this mode of existence is devoid of time, space and matter. You appear to be conceding that this mode of existence exists, but are choosing to call it the “universe” instead of something else. If you believe this is the same entity as our current universe, where is the common thread? What commonality is shared between this mode and our current mode of existence so that you may justify calling them one and the same as opposed to two different things?

But all of this is really beside the point. If you concede that time, space and matter had a beginning (whether within this “universe” or otherwise) you still confront the implications of the kalam argument. What caused them to begin to exist? You may choose to call the timeless, spaceless and immaterial mode of existence of this cause part of this “universe,” but that does not escape the conclusion that this cause exists and it exists in the exact mode that I have proposed.

A God of the gaps argument would be one based upon what we do not know. The teleological argument, in contrast, is based upon what we do know. Every example of the type of instant fine-tuning we see at the beginning of the universe involves intelligence behind it. It is an argument from analogy, but this is the precise type of reasoning we engage in every day. The proposals you cite are all ad hoc. There is no evidence whatsoever that multiverses exist. There is plenty of evidence that intelligent agents exist. There is no evidence whatsoever that universes can be created in a black hole (in fact, if you read Hawking’s description of black holes in “A Brief History of Time” you would be left wondering how space, time and matter could ever escape a black hole to begin expansion into a universe). There is plenty of evidence of intelligence being capable of creation. There are no examples whatsoever of any form of life that would be possible with any other sets of values for the constants of the universe. In fact, even miniscule alteration of many of these constants is incompatible with the universe itself existing (such as the cosmological constant). If there is no universe in the first place, there certainly could not be any life within that universe. Finally, none of these arguments overcome the fact that even within the universe in which we actually exist, in which all the laws of physics are precisely finely tuned, the odds are still astronomically against life coming into being (based upon the number of planets available versus the number that should be required to produce one that sustains life, for example). Even within our life-permitting universe we should not be here. Yet here we are.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Your moral argument overlooks several factors. First, while I certainly do not want to be killed or have things stolen from me, I very well may want to kill and steal from others. In fact, it is far more to my survival advantage to look out first and foremost for #1. All it would take is one dishonest person to enter into this group you propose to victimize everyone. Then that entire group is dead and the person looking out for himself survives. This is precisely why Richard Dawkins introduced the concept of “critical frequency.” Unless the number of people accepting the cooperative norm so outweighs those engaging in selfish behavior, the selfish people will always have a survival advantage. The mystery is how a society would ever reach that critical frequency without being eliminated. But more fundamentally, what you describe is simply not altruism. It is selfishness. Under your proposal, the sole motive for doing good to others is because you ultimately expect good will be done to you in return. That is not altruism. Therefore, your system only proves the existence of selfishness, not selflessness. Where does true selfless altruism come from, or do you believe that it does not really exist?

I can agree with your final comment to a large extent. I do not get my morality from “Christianity.” The substance of morality comes from the character of God. I disagree with your comment about picking and choosing morality from the Bible. In my experience most people who advance such arguments fail to distinguish between acts God has condoned and those He has not, between the morality of an action and the penalty to be meted out for that action, between the nature of the old and new covenant, or commit some other error. That being said, because you have again simply made a conclusory statement without citing a specific example to which you would like a response, I do not see where I can say much more other than, “I disagree.” If you have a specific example you would like to discuss I would be happy to do so.

Ultimately, though, I do agree that morality is not defined by “Christianity” if by that you mean the group of imperfect humans who belong to the category of “Christians.” It is defined by God’s character. But we are speaking of the ontological reality of morality. I may or may not ever epistemologically come to a complete awareness of that ontological reality. That, however, does not mean that such an ontological reality does not exist. How I arrive at moral opinions is not the same question as what objective moral truth actually is.

Thank you again for your thoughts.

Ken

Matt said...

Kalam:

The big bang theory says that the universe started as a singularity. General relativity breaks down at the singularity. Then when the big bang happened, it created three space dimensions and one time dimension (and, some people think, a few more curled-up dimensions, or that the space and time dimensions came from the curled-up dimensions). So yes, we did go from a universe without space-time to a universe with space-time (I didn't say matter had a beginning - the matter was present in the singularity). Space and time had a beginning, but not the universe. Then you ask what caused space and time to begin to exist. That is easy, since I have claimed the universe doesn't need to begin to exist - The universe. Finally, there is the unwarranted claim that God doesn't have to begin to exist.


Fine-tuned constants:

No, we do not know that the fine-tuning was because of intelligence. That is the leap that is made for God of the Gaps, because my examples are ad hoc. We know that intelligence developed later in the universe, but not at the beginning. You say my examples are ad hoc. I already admitted that they are ad hoc. I didn't say there was evidence, I said they were ideas. The point is "God did it" is also ad hoc. Even if my ideas are incorrect, the answer is still "I don't know".

Yes we have plenty of evidence that intelligent agents exist that design things - us humans design things. If a designer did it, where did the designer come from? In this case, we know the REASON the intelligent agents (us humans) exist, and it is a process other than design. An intelligent agent that was just there right at beginning with no explanation, doesn't work.

Then you make a point that is completely separate from this argument - life on this plant. That is Abiogenesis, and we have some ideas about that, that are backed up by evidence from experiments.

Matt said...

Morality:

I think I understand what you're getting at with "critical frequency". There was an experiment where they took computer programs of various strategies and played them against each other at Prisoner's Dilemma. It was found that "nice" strategies tend to be more successful than "nasty" strategies.

It was also found that in an environment of mostly nasty strategies, nice strategies did less well. I think that is what you are describing. The question is, how does niceness spread if everyone is nasty? Dawkins answered that. In a vast wilderness of nasty individuals, a small local group of nice individuals can survive off the cooperation within the small group. Altruism can then work within the small group. The small group can then grow in size, spreading the nice strategy, as they out-compete nasty individuals outside the group that don't get that benefit.

The Selfish Gene, page 219:
"Coming back to our knife-edge, then, Tit for Tat could surmount it. All that is required is a little local clustering, of a sort that will naturally tend to arise in natural populations. Tit for Tat has a built-in gift, even when rare, for crossing the knife-edge over to its own side. It is as though there were a secret passage underneath the knife-edge. But that secret passage contains a one-way valve: there is an asymmetry. Unlike Tit for Tat, Always Defect, though a true ESS, cannot use local clustering to cross the knife-edge. On the contrary. Local clusters of Always Defect individuals, far from prospering by each other's presence, do especially badly in each other's presence. Far from quietly helping one another at the expense of the banker, they do one another down. Always Defect, then, unlike Tit for Tat, gets no help from kinship or viscosity in the population."

So Reciprocal Altruism works in a "nice" population, and can spread from a local group even in a "nasty" population.

If you believe the stuff in Christianity, then you also believe that Christianity describes the character of God. So the bad stuff in the Bible that God supposedly did is relevant. You want examples, I have examples. God told a man to kill his son. Would you obey that command? If you say yes, then I say God has bad morality, if you say no, then the morality did not come from God. God drowned everything except what was on one big ship. I say that was bad morality. God condemned everyone because a woman ate an apple. A man had to be killed on a cross because of the woman eating the apple. God says to kill homosexuals, adulterers, apostates, children that are disrespectful of their parents, and people that work on the sabbath. God made a rule that you need to believe otherwise you go to place that may involve eternal torture. That is bad morality that comes from the character of God. If you choose to ignore all that stuff then you are picking and choosing.


Thanks,
Matt

Matt said...

I think I also have the answer to your point about "true selfless altruism". "True selfless altruism" is something that I think Richard Dawkins would call a "mis-firing" of a general rule of thumb. The general rule of thumb is, be nice to people because the people you meet would be either genetically related to you (Kin Selection) or would be in a postion to reciprocate (Reciprocal Altruism). That rule of thumb worked many thousands of years ago when we lived in small groups. Today where we live in huge cities, the conditions are not necessarily that valid anymore. But the rule of thumb is still there, because in general the rule works, even though the rule "mis-fires" sometimes.

It is the same reason that we seek sex even though almost always contraception is used, which defeats the purpose of sex. It is the reason that we enjoy sweet food, and that is mostly an advantage, but today in the overabundance of food, it can be a disadvantage - we get fat. It is the reason that a cuckoo can parasitize a nest - it is copying the rule of thumb that the mother uses for identifying her own children. And actually I think Richard Dawkins also calls religion a "mis-firing" of some trait that usually is an advantage.

Thanks,
Matt

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Matt,

Thank you for your continued comments. You have given me a lot of good points to ponder. I believe this has been a valuable discussion, especially surrounding the kalam cosmological argument. In most respects, we actually agree in relation to that argument.

Consider your statement: “Space and time were created at the big bang.” In a later post you more explicitly conceded that at least these two things began to exist (although you have excluded matter from that category). Now look at the kalam cosmological argument again with a minor modification to include only those factors upon which you and I agree:

(1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
(2) Space and time began to exist.
(3) Therefore, space and time have a cause.

I would include matter in this conclusion as well. You would not. But at a minimum we can agree upon a timeless and spaceless cause. You label this cause as “the universe.” In relation to the kalam argument alone, I do not label it at all. As I said in my comment on March 14, “the kalam cosmological argument does not necessarily claim to prove the existence of ‘God’ per se … but only some kind of transcendent cause.” Even based solely on the two points you have conceded, we have at least arrived at the existence of an ultimate cause that transcends both space and time. In essence, you have conceded the core of the kalam argument. The kalam argument does not purport to demonstrate that this cause is intelligent. That comes later (in the teleological evidence).

That being said, your position is not without its issues. First, I am skeptical how matter could exist without the dimensions of space and am not aware of any modern cosmologists who have proposed such a parceling out of this one aspect of our universe. If you are aware of such a theory, please let me know.

Second, it still appears to me that you are semantically substituting the “universe” for the “transcendent cause” which I advocated was the conclusion of the kalam argument. You may have chosen to describe it with a word that carries more comfortable implications, but logically speaking whether we call it “x” or “y,” we are speaking of the same sort of transcendent cause and you have in essence conceded, not disproven the kalam argument.

Third, you do not appear to recognize the inconsistency of your concluding statement on this topic. I would concede that IF it was possible for matter to be parceled out in the manner you propose, then that matter could exist in the same eternal existence as I have proposed for what I labeled as the “cause” of the universe. After all, if it exists outside the confines of time then it does not need to begin to exist and is in no need of a cause for its own existence. In addition to being implicit in your parceling out of matter from space and time, you even expressly conceded that the universe doesn’t need to begin to exist. If you could overcome my other objections, I would agree. Under your proposal what you have defined as “the universe” would not need to begin to exist because it is outside of time. But then you go on to say, “Finally, there is the unwarranted claim that God doesn’t have to begin to exist.” If under my theory God exists outside of time and under your theory this spaceless and timeless (yet matter-filled) “universe” exists outside of time, how can it be unwarranted for me to say that God doesn’t have to begin to exist but warranted for you to say that your “universe” does not need to begin to exist? The rationale is the same under both theories. You are failing to permit me to apply the same criteria to my theory that you are relying upon in yours.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

There are a number of points to be raised in response to your comments on the teleological evidence. Many of these are points I have raised before.

“We know that intelligence developed later in the universe, but not at the beginning.”

How can you claim to know that? Allow me to demonstrate. I will concede for the purposes of this argument that you can demonstrate the development of human intelligence solely through evolutionary mechanisms (in reality, this endeavor, at least when it includes human rationality/the ability to reason to true conclusions is fraught with difficulties, but that would take us down the path of the argument from reason and on more tangents; so for our present purposes I will concede this point for the sake of argument only). That would demonstrate that we can “know” (to use your term) that human intelligence came on the scene long after the origin of the universe. But your claim was not limited to human intelligence. You have claimed that we “know” ALL intelligence developed later. But isn’t that the very question under investigation? That is precisely what we are exploring; whether evidence exists for the presence of some kind of intelligent agent BEFORE human intelligence arrived on the scene. If we received a binary transmission on Earth and were able to calculate its origin as so distant that it must have originated prior to the evolutionary development of human intelligence, wouldn’t that serve as evidence that another type of intelligent agent existed before humans? How is evidence of the later development of human intelligence in any way relevant to the discussion of whether this binary transmission originated from some form of prior non-human intelligence? You cannot logically support your statement without begging the question or committing the ad hoc fallacy.

“Yes we have plenty of evidence that intelligent agents exist that design things – us humans design things.”

This is precisely the element that is missing from your other proposals (multiverse, etc.) and why a theory of intelligence is not ad hoc. At least with a proposal of intelligence, we can point to known examples where something similar has occurred. None of the alternatives you propose enjoy such parallels. If you would look at my hypothetical binary signal and conclude that it is evidence of possible intelligence, you should do the same here. After all, you do not have DIRECT evidence of the origin of that binary transmission. Rather you are taking what you know about intelligent agents here on Earth (i.e., the only cause we know of that is capable of creating such an information-rich signal is an intelligent agent) and reasoning by analogy to what must be at the source of the signal. This is a legitimate exercise in other arenas but for some reason people ask to exclude it from the methodology in discussions about God.

“If a designer did it, where did the designer come from?”

This gets back to the inconsistency in your argument about the kalam conclusions. Why do you assume it needs to “come from” anywhere? You are not imposing that requirement upon your notion of this timeless, spaceless “universe” precisely because it exists outside of time. If that is a valid conclusion in regard to your universe, then it must also be a valid conclusion for a timeless, spaceless God. It is a matter of consistency. If you do not need to explain where your “universe” “came from” because it is timeless (which I concede that if you could overcome the other difficulties I illustrated, you would not need to explain), then I similarly do not need to explain where my “God” “came from” because he is similarly timeless.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

“In this case, we know the REASON the intelligent agents (us humans) exist, and it is a process other than design.”

Again, for the sake of argument I will concede this statement to be true (although I think you have overstated the weight of the evidence in favor of a solely naturalistic explanation for life and have completely overlooked the total lack of a scientific explanation for the ultimate origin of life; discussions for another day). You have yet to respond to the point I raised earlier that IF evidence for design in the origin of the universe exists, then “process” simply will not do as an explanation for the origin of that intelligence. Process implies time, something you have conceded did not exist until the big bang. But the fine tuning upon which I have relied (and about which I have drawn the parallel to the transmission of binary code) existed instantly at the moment of the big bang. There was no time for an intelligence to undergo a “process” of development. If the evidence I have proposed does point to an intelligent agent, then that agent could not have developed through any kind of process. It already existed at the point when time began. This is why I said earlier that while the kalam argument may only demonstrate a cause for the universe, the teleological argument demonstrates that this cause must have been intelligent.

As a final point on the teleological argument I would like to correct an apparent misunderstanding. When I spoke of the odds against the existence of life on Earth I was not speaking of abiogenesis (i.e., the origin of life from inorganic matter). I was still speaking of cosmological/astronomical teleology, but simply pointing out that this question must be answered on two levels. Even if you could demonstrate a naturalistic explanation for the appearance of design in the fundamental laws of the universe (something I believe has not been demonstrated) thereby explaining the possibility of a life PERMITTING universe, you still must overcome the odds against life ACTUALLY developing within such a universe. The mere fact that something is possible does not mean it will necessarily become actual. When we look at our universe (whose laws make life possible) it is still statistically staggering that we ever came into being.

For one, you must be in a galaxy as opposed to some isolated rock floating through space. You must then be located in spiral galaxy, not irregular or elliptical (the vast majority of galaxies are elliptical). Even within a spiral galaxy you cannot be located in a globular cluster for fear of being too close to a supernova or being incapable of maintaining a regular orbit. This also counts out having a home too near the center of the galaxy or in most places within the spiral arms. Life also requires the presence of sufficient heavy elements. These heavy elements are created by being “cooked” inside stars and shot out into space after a supernova. So you can’t be too close to supernova, but then again you can’t be too far away either. This excludes the outer reaches of spiral galaxies where there have not been enough supernovae to create the required heavy elements.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

The prime real estate for life is around a star maintaining a stable orbit around the center of a spiral galaxy, nestled snugly in between two spiral arms right about half way out from the center of the galaxy. This, of course, is precisely where Earth is found. And those are just some of the factors about our galaxy. I have not even begun to discuss the plethora of factors about our solar system or planet itself. Dr. Hugh Ross found 75 examples about the Earth's position within our galaxy that are all necessary for life (I think he has actually increased this number in recent years). The probability of any planet having all 75 parameters necessary to support life is 1 chance in 1099. Unfortunately, there are only an estimated 1023 planets in the universe. There are not enough planets to expect to find even one on which life exists. Yet here we are. This is the additional fine-tuning I was discussing that is often overlooked.

Finally, you discuss the moral argument. Your point about a “small local group” is filled with question-begging assumptions. Why would anyone, even on an individual level, shift from selfishness to cooperation when they know they are signing their death warrant if they do not persuade enough others to come along? How did cooperation reach critical frequency within that small group in the first place (moving from a large to a small group merely shifts the critical frequency question, it does not eliminate it)? How could that small group “grow in size” when everyone outside that group belongs to the selfish group? How could that small group exist without interaction with the larger selfish group? After all, once a group of selfish people catches wind of the small cooperative sect, they would be prime targets to take advantage of. It seems like your explanation is filled with a lot of unlikely (if not impossible) “ifs.”

You then posited a number of alleged examples of “bad morality” in the Bible and said, “If you choose to ignore all that stuff then you are picking and choosing.” I do not ignore any of it, although I believe you mischaracterize most of it and leave out critical information on others. That being said, the recurring theme throughout that paragraph was your statement “I say that was bad morality.” As long as you believe morality is determined by what you personally believe, I can never convince you of anything. After all, I could say that as measured by my standard God was justified to which you would respond that measured by your personal standard he was not. Without a common standard against which to measure his actions we would be at an impasse.

This illustrates the inconsistency with your final point. You accuse God of immorality. But in order to do so you must first assume the existence of an objective standard by which to measure the moral from the immoral. After all, if no such objective standard exists, then the statement “God is immoral” is nothing more than a statement of personal preference or a predetermined output from your genetic code. So without an objective standard, the statement “God is immoral” is ultimately meaningless and has no right to be used to persuade anyone other than yourself. Your argument on the immorality of the Biblical passages requires objective morality to even get off the ground.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

But the final point in your last post implicitly concedes that objective morality does not exist. You argue that the ultimate source of morality is reciprocal altruism, which as I pointed out and you seem to concede, is not really altruism at all but actually the exact opposite: selfishness. You then argue that conditions may have changed such that the initial conditions that led to the development of this selfish form of altruism faded away. However, the general rule of altruism persisted and resulted in a “misfiring” leading to true altruism.

First, it seems to me that you have boxed yourself into a corner. Reciprocal altruism was supposedly initially created and preserved because it had a survival advantage. Does it still have that survival advantage? If so, then conditions have not truly changed and this “misfiring” would not occur. We would be left with the non-existence of true altruism, only selfishness masquerading as altruism. If not, then reciprocal altruism should be weeded out by natural selection and cease to exist, leaving no residual rule for a misfire. Either way, you have failed to explain the existence of true altruism in naturalistic terms.

Second, Even if such a misfiring occurred, that means that there is no such thing as an objective moral rule. There are no true moral “laws” in the same way as there are logical laws. If society had developed differently such that blatant selfishness had continued to be the best strategy to promote survival, then that would continue to be the rule today. There would be no reciprocal altruism rule to misfire and we would all be nasty to our neighbors. Perhaps the best way to visualize this problem is to think about the society that existed before reciprocal altruism reach critical frequency. Under your theory, you must admit that there was nothing objectively wrong when a member of that society chose to chop up someone else’s newborn baby and eat it for lunch. After all, at that time reciprocal altruism did not yet exist. If that is the be all and end all of morality, then morality is ultimately all in our heads and there is no objective “right” and “wrong.”

But this is directly contradictory to the necessary assumption in your argument against the morality of God as exhibited in the Bible. There you assumed the existence of objective morality then proceeded to advance an argument that implicitly would disprove your own assumption. In reality, none of us live as if morality is subjective. If you truly believe that your theory of reciprocal altruism is all there is to morality then you must live consistently with that assumption. Otherwise it is just something you espouse on paper but not in practice. The next time someone does something wrong to you, you must acknowledge that you have no right to be angry. After all, maybe they do not have the same “misfires” programmed into them that you have programmed into you. If someone breaks into your home and steals your property, do not bother to call the police. After all, you cannot consistently say that this person did anything objectively wrong. To quote Richard Dawkins, they were merely “dancing to their DNA.” These are the logical outworkings of your position. In practice, very few people are really willing to live with them.

Thank you again for your comments.

Ken

Ten Minas Ministries said...

The superscripts did not work in my post about the odds against finding life within our life permitting universe. That should read that the odds of finding a planet with all 75 criteria are 1 in 10 to the 99th power and there are an estimate 10 to the 23rd power planets in the universe. I apologize for any confusion my technological insufficiencies may have caused.

Matt said...

Kalam Cosmological Argument:

The general point that I take from your explanation is that we both agree there is something that doesn't have to begin to exist - "we have at least arrived at the existence of an ultimate cause that transcends both space and time." Your objection is that I am using the label "Universe" and you are using the label "Transcendent Cause". That is all well and good, but then that still defeats point 2 of the argument: The universe began to exist. It also defeats the claim that the Transcendent Cause created the Universe.

Actually, I think under your definition of "Transcendent Cause", the Universe IS a transcendent cause, since a transcendent cause is outside of space and time. Possibly there might be multiple transcendent causes, and the transcendent cause we currently know about is the universe, and God is another possible transcendent cause, and in the case of polytheism and other religions there may be more transcendent causes.


Teleological Argument (and the existence of intelligence):

I mis-spoke about that first point. We know that intelligence developed later in the universe, but we don't know if there was intelligence at the beginning.

Maybe, where did the designer came from, is not the question to ask. Maybe a better question is, how does a transcendent entity have intelligence?

In the case of non-transcendent entities, the answer is clear. It is because of a gradual process that has many steps, and the evidence for evolution and how it works is staggering. In the case of a binary signal, we would know what caused that - evolution happened on another planet (or some gradual process similar to evolution). It is exactly BECAUSE evolution is a gradual process that intelligence is able to happen at all.

You are proposing that there can be intelligence that does not have to come from a gradual process. In that case, we would need some explanation of how this can happen, along with evidence of that explanation, in order for it to be believable. The Kalam argument may address where the transcendent cause came from, but we still need to address where the intelligence that is in it comes from.

"But the fine tuning upon which I have relied (and about which I have drawn the parallel to the transmission of binary code [which I answered]) existed instantly at the moment of the big bang."

The fine-tuning where I said there were other ideas for it.

"It already existed at the point when time began."

Either the intelligence existed in the transcendent cause at the point time began, in which case an explanation of how THAT can happen is needed, or, since you have said there was no time for a process to happen, development of its intelligence couldn't happen.

The other teleological argument is about the "Goldilocks Zone" Earth is in. On that 10^99 calculation, I can't speak to the validity of that calculation, or the values of those 75 parameters, or how "required" each parameter is, or whether this calculation has been peer-reviewed for accuracy. "God did it" is one possible explanation. Another explanation could be, the calculation is wrong, or maybe some details about how galaxies form could create a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, or at least satisfy enough of those parameters to bring the number down to 10^23.

Matt said...

Critical frequency of nice people (morality can happen when we have the critical frequency):

"Finally, you discuss the moral argument. Your point about a “small local group” is filled with question-begging assumptions."

Then I shall answer them so that they are not question-begging.

"Why would anyone, even on an individual level, shift from selfishness to cooperation when they know they are signing their death warrant if they do not persuade enough others to come along?"

Because the nice strategy and nasty strategy is under the influence of genes, and a mutation happens that produces a nice individual.

"How did cooperation reach critical frequency within that small group in the first place (moving from a large to a small group merely shifts the critical frequency question, it does not eliminate it)?"

It does not eliminate the need for a critical frequency, but it does greatly reduce the number that is needed for the critical frequency. Your objection was that to get a critical frequency in the population, a huge number of nice individuals have to spontaneously appear, which that is not possible - "It would have to somehow spontaneously appear at critical frequency." Under the small group idea, there needs to be a small number of nice individuals, they just need to meet each other in order for the mutual cooperation between them to work as an advantage.
Also, within the small group, kin selection can work in addition to reciprocal altruism. So you can have a critical frequency of nice in the small group even though you have a critical frequency of nasty in the general population.

"How could that small group “grow in size” when everyone outside that group belongs to the selfish group?"

Because in the small group, nice individuals survive and reproduce more because of the mutual cooperation between them, and outside the group, cooperation doesn't happen.

In your example of nasty individuals coming into the small group, nice is still an advantage for the same reason that nice is an advantage when you have a critical frequency of nice. This is what was demonstrated in the Prisoner's Dilemma experiment. The nice strategy is an advantage because when meeting a nice individual mutual cooperation happens and can keep happening over a long term. The nasty strategy is a disadvantage because after being cheated the cooperation stops.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

I apologize for taking so long to respond. Life is extremely busy at the moment. I only have time to highlight a few points.

First, your opening paragraph commits the logical error of “equivocation.” Premise (2) said that the universe began to exist. You then altered the definition of the “universe” and claimed that under your new definition, the universe did not begin to exist. You then claimed to have defeated premise (2). In order to truly evaluate a logical argument we must be comparing apples to apples. I overcame this problem by altering the premise to show that even on your terms (i.e., “space and time began to exist”) you confront the same issues.

To be clear, you cannot claim that the universe as we currently know it is a “transcendent cause” because it includes both time and space. Rather, the position you have been advocating is that this timeless and spaceless yet matter-filled entity is the transcendent cause. There is a fundamental difference between these entities, but you are using the same term to describe both. Again, in an attempt to avoid equivocation, we must be clear and not use the same term to describe two different concepts. Your argument thus far has really been that “Universe 1” (i.e., timeless, spaceless, yet matter-filled) is a transcendent cause whereas “Universe 2” (i.e., that which contains time, space and matter) is the result. Really, you have conceded almost the entirety of the kalam cosmological argument. Whatever label you attach, you have conceded the necessity of a timeless and spaceless cause for “Universe 2.” Our only point at issue is whether this transcendent cause must also be matterless. That is all the kalam argument really purports to show.

As for your argument that there could be multiple transcendent causes, this is a logical impossibility. To “transcend” means to be above all else. If there is a second transcendent cause, what is the result that it allegedly caused? Is it the matter within Universe 1? If so, then Universe 1 is not truly transcendent because it is subservient to this new alleged cause. What else is left?

Ten Minas Ministries said...

In regard to your first point about the teleological argument, are you saying that if you had evidence of a binary signal existing at the origin of the universe you would reject that evidence simply because you (at present) lack an explanation as to how that intelligence could have arisen? Allow me to illustrate.

You have claimed “It is exactly BECAUSE evolution is a gradual process that intelligence is able to happen at all.” How do you support this statement? In essence, what you have claimed is that because we know intelligence can be brought about through evolution (a point I will concede for the sake of argument), therefore intelligence can ONLY be brought about via evolution. This fallacy has been variously described as a hasty generalization or a hasty induction. You claim to have evidence that SOME intelligence is brought about via evolution. From this, and without any additional evidentiary support, you conclude that ALL intelligence must be the result of evolution. That is an invalid argument.

It is possible for similar phenomenon to come about through two different media. A bird flies because evolution has gradually resulted in an aerodynamic body structure. An airplane flies because an engineer designed it in such a way. If all we have ever seen are birds, then one day we notice a newly constructed airplane flying by, would we be justified in concluding that it cannot really fly (despite our observations) because it did not have time for that ability to evolve? I suggest that when we are confronted by strong evidence that the plane is flying, the more reasonable conclusion is to allow that evidence to prompt us to investigate whether we are perhaps mistaken in our assumption that only evolution can bring about the power of flight. If evidence of intelligence at the origin of the universe exists, the proper response is not to reject that evidence simply because it does not fit within the mold of how we have otherwise seen intelligence to come into being, but rather to investigate whether there is perhaps another means by which intelligence can exist.

As for the goldilocks zone issues, I simply encourage you to investigate those factors for yourself with an open mind rather than deciding in advance to reject it. We will never discover truth if we have already made up our minds before the investigation even begins. I believe the evidence is quite strong that this goldilocks zone is staggeringly improbable on naturalistic assumptions.

Ten Minas Ministries said...

Briefly in response to your points about the moral argument:

Claiming that the nice strategy and nasty strategy are under the influence of genes does not answer the question-begging issue. After all, natural selection is only supposed to favor genes that are favorable to survival, but prior to reaching critical frequency, these genes would be counterproductive to survival and therefore weeded out. The question remains the same: How did this “nice strategy” gene reach critical frequency without being eliminated?

Your arguments on critical frequency of a small group carrying over to the larger group also still raise the same concerns. True, critical frequency in a smaller population would require a smaller raw number of people with the “nice” gene (although the percentage of the population would presumably need to remain the same), but this is not without issues. First, it is highly doubtful that such a completely isolated society could exist without influence from the “nasty” outside world. Leaving that aside, however, you still need to reach critical frequency in the overall population. You are in a catch 22. In order for your theory to work, the “nice” population needs to be sufficiently small so that a smaller number of “nice” genes could eventually prevail on that society. But if that society is small enough for this to occur (something I am not even sure could happen in the first place), it would instantly be overwhelmed the moment it reintegrates with the larger nasty society. In order to reach critical frequency in the larger population you need a large enough sub group of nice people, but this is precisely what you cannot have in order for the first part of your argument to hold true. By necessity this subgroup must be small. It is no way out of this dilemma to argue that the “nice” gene reaches critical frequency in several small groups which then all reintegrate into the larger population together. You would still need the same raw number of “nice” genes as you would to reach critical frequency if there were no subgroups, which is precisely the dilemma that you used the small subgroup to overcome.

In other words, a subgroup sufficiently small to allow critical frequency to be reached within that subgroup would be too small to avoid elimination when it reintegrates into the larger population and a series of small subgroups would confront the same problem as was evident when we were trying to reach critical frequency in the larger population as a whole; i.e., you would need a large number of instantly arising “nice” genes. In fact, in the latter scenario the problem is compounded because you would also need the nice people to be relatively evenly distributed amongst the various small groups.

In sum, I still do not believe you have demonstrated a strategy by which critical frequency could be reached. We are also missing the big picture here. In advancing this argument you are surrendering any claim to the legitimacy of moral pronouncements. Ultimately morality becomes something that we feel as a result of genetic coding. It has no objective source. As a result, we may be genetically coded to believe that the genocide committed by Hitler was wrong, but someone else may be genetically coded to believe it was morally right (as many in his regime undoubtedly believed). Ultimately, both of these opinions are similarly genetically encoded, making neither opinion any more “right” than the other. You lose the ability to make any moral judgments, a dangerous proposition to say the least (and one that nobody actually lives consistently with).

Thank you again for your continued comments.

Ken