No God, No Laws?

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Sciborg_S_Patel

#1
No God, No Laws

My thesis is summarized in my title, ‘No God, No Laws’: the concept of a law of Nature cannot be made sense of without God. It is not as dramatic a thesis as it might look, however. I do not mean to argue that the enterprise of modern science cannot be made sense of without God. Rather, if you want to make sense of it you had better not think of science as discovering laws of Nature, for there cannot be any of these without God. That depends of course on what we mean by ‘laws of Nature’.

Whatever else we mean, I take it that this much is essential: Laws of Nature are prescriptive, not merely descriptive, and – even stronger – they are supposed to be responsible for what occurs in Nature. Since at least the Scientific Revolution they are also supposed to be visible in the Book of Nature, not writ only on stone tablets nor in the thought of God.

My claim here is that neither of these features can be made sense of without God; this despite the fact that they are generally thought to provide some autonomy of the world order from God. I will focus on recent accounts of laws of Nature and describe how the dominant ones fail without the efforts of God; I shall also outline one alternative that tries to make sense of the order of Nature and the successes of modern science without laws of Nature and without immediate reliance on God.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#2
Following on this theme:

Frozen Accidents: Can the Laws of Physics be Explained?

by Paul Davies

But what are these ultimate laws and where do they come from? Such questions are often dismissed as being pointless or even unscientific. As the cosmologist Sean Carroll has written, “There is a chain of explanations concerning things that happen in the universe, which ultimately reaches to the fundamental laws of nature and stops… at the end of the day the laws are what they are… And that’s okay. I’m happy to take the universe just as we find it.” Conventionally, the job of the scientist is to simply assume the laws and get on with the job of applying them to real problems. But in recent years physicists have been excited by the prospect of unifying laws from different branches of the subject into a sort of final super-law, and this has encouraged speculation about the nature of the laws themselves.

There has long been a tacit assumption that the laws of physics were somehow imprinted on the universe at the outset, and have remained immutable thereafter. Physical processes, however violent or complex, are thought to have absolutely no effect on the laws. There is thus a curious asymmetry: Physical processes depend on laws but the laws do not depend on physical processes. Although this statement cannot be proved, it is widely accepted.

There is, however, a subtlety. Physicists have discovered that the laws of physics familiar in the laboratory may change form at very high temperatures, such as the ultra-hot environment of the Big Bang. As the universe expanded and cooled, various “effective laws” crystallized out from the fundamental underlying laws, sometimes manifesting random features. It is the high-temperature versions of the laws, not their ordinary, lab-tested descendants, that are regarded as truly fundamental. The laws of physics as we know them may just be “frozen accidents.”
 
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#3
I don't see exactly how God is supposed to solve the problem. It just seems it adds more problems, for if God is in a certain way and behaves in a certain way, then he is also subject to a set of supernatural laws, that, if we follow the logic displayed here, would be also prescriptive instead of descriptive, leaving us with the question of "what" makes this supernatural laws to exist and be the way they are.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#4
I don't see exactly how God is supposed to solve the problem. It just seems it adds more problems, for if God is in a certain way and behaves in a certain way, then he is also subject to a set of supernatural laws, that, if we follow the logic displayed here, would be also prescriptive instead of descriptive, leaving us with the question of "what" makes this supernatural laws to exist and be the way they are.
I'd keep in mind Cartwright is an atheist - she's not arguing that if we assume laws of nature then God exists. Rather, she's saying there's no reason to assume there are universally applicable laws given our current scientific picture of the universe.

I believe classical theism would place God above any laws save those necessitated by logic, but I think we'd have to delve deeper into Scholastic metaphysics to really grasp/understand the nature of classical theism's Prime Mover....not that this God is necessarily akin to any god that gets worshiped in religion.
 
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#5
I'd keep in mind Cartwright is an atheist - she's not arguing that if we assume laws of nature then God exists. Rather, she's saying there's no reason to assume there are universally applicable laws given our current scientific picture of the universe.
I don't find many reasons to assume it shouldn't. By necessity the universe must behave in a certain way (it's incoherente to suppose the Universe doesn't obey any law. Even if the Universe didn't obey any law, that would be a law!). The question might very well be why this set of laws, but then we are entering a diferent kind of question. We wouldn't be asking why the universe obeys laws at all, but why a specific set of laws.
I believe classical theism would place God above any laws save those necessitated by logic, but I think we'd have to delve deeper into Scholastic metaphysics to really grasp/understand the nature of classical theism's Prime Mover....not that this God is necessarily akin to any god that gets worshiped in religion.
The "save those necessiated by logic" is the issue though. God would still fall inside the same problem.
 
#6
I don't see exactly how God is supposed to solve the problem. It just seems it adds more problems, for if God is in a certain way and behaves in a certain way, then he is also subject to a set of supernatural laws, that, if we follow the logic displayed here, would be also prescriptive instead of descriptive, leaving us with the question of "what" makes this supernatural laws to exist and be the way they are.
If you have a watch and want to know how it was created, you can find an answer, but if you want to know where the watchmaker came from and why he made a watch, that is a different question with a different answer. Asking why scientists observe natural laws that follow mathematical rules and why parameters of the universe seem to be fine tuned to support life is like asking about the watch. God is a good explanation for that because math is based on ideas and a conscious, intelligent designer and creator, God, might use mathematical ideas in his design and creation.

Asking where this God came from and why does He act the way he does, it a totally different question. It doesn't invalidate the explanation that an intelligent designer and creator is a good explanation for why the universe has mathematical properties.
 
#7
If you have a watch and want to know how it was created, you can find an answer, but if you want to know where the watchmaker came from and why he made a watch, that is a different question with a different answer. Asking why scientists observe natural laws that follow mathematical rules and why parameters of the universe seem to be fine tuned to support life is like asking about the watch. God is a good explanation for that because math is based on ideas and a conscious, intelligent designer and creator, God, might use mathematical ideas in his design and creation.
God doesn't seem to be a good explanation at all, in my opinion, solely apart to the numerous problems I think the alledged fine tunning argument have. God, as I see it, is a highly complex ( in terms of information) entity, far more complicated than the thing it needs to explain ( the Universe ), so it just seems to be pushing the problem one level. I think part of the problem might be by assuming the Principle of Sufficient reason needs to hold at every moment, but I've never seen a persuasive argument for that ( not even from Pruss).

As for math, while I see it based on ideas and consciousness, I don't think they are platonic objects, but more the less representations of the world surrounding intelligent beings ( so I don't think math precedes logically the universe, but rather that it's just a way of describing it, while also being extended into more abstract ways).

Asking where this God came from and why does He act the way he does, it a totally different question. It doesn't invalidate the explanation that an intelligent designer and creator is a good explanation for why the universe has mathematical properties.
I think it just push the problem one step further, and whatever solution you might come as for why God exist, can equally be applicable to the universe, so Occam razor would tell me to cut the line with the Universe, no God required.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#8
Hmmmm, we might need to make a thread for philosophy of religion because I don't think we can successfully evaluate the philosophers' conception of "The Law Giver" without understanding the kinds of metaphysical arguments religious philosophers are making. Theistic arguments also deal with questions about God being "complex" versus "simple" and the like.

In the meantime here's an interesting article that was linked at the bottom of the Davies piece which deals with natural law:

Is the Search for Immutable Laws of Nature a Wild-Goose Chase?


Four iconoclastic thinkers are challenging the assumption of scientists from Newton to Einstein: That there is one set of laws that perfectly describe the universe for all time.

“I called it the clock ambiguity,” Albrecht says. “Basically, different choices of a clock lead to different kinds of physics. I got entirely different kinds of universes depending on the clock I chose.”

This is not what Albrecht was expecting or hoping for. He had expected quantum cosmology to tell him exactly why the universe we live in looks the way it does. The discovery of the clock ambiguity seemed to block that path. It looked to him as if quantum cosmology would never predict the course of history through the universe because the laws determining that history could never be specified beforehand. A few physicists have challenged this radical idea, but many share their colleague’s befuddlement. “What I was finding seemed crazy,” he says. “It meant that the fundamental physical laws were not fundamental.”
Neither string theory nor the multiverse theory explain nature’s mysteries so much as explain them away, Unger concludes. “When we imagine our universe to be just one out of a multitude of possible worlds, we devalue this world, the one we see, the one we should be trying to explain,” he says. “The scientist should treasure the riddles he can’t solve, not explain them away at the outset.”

Unger and Smolin want to shift the emphasis in physics away from these possible worlds and back to the one real world—our world, which is saturated with time. They urge their colleagues to abandon the search for timeless truths like string theory.

More broadly, they argue that physics should refrain from spinning any theories that require the existence of things that could never be disproved, such as multiverses. And it should recognize that there is no ideal realm of perfect, timeless mathematical forms that embody the laws of physics. Time is inherent in the universe, and nothing exists outside of time. Smolin thinks that Albrecht’s clock ambiguity is a symptom of the larger problem with the current approach to physics.
Kauffman has no qualms about abandoning an idea that has dominated the sciences since the days of Galileo: that a set of physical laws is all that is needed to predict the unfolding of reality. The name for this idea is reductionism—the belief that the whole can be understood by the predictable behavior of the parts. It is the philosophical underpinning of the physicist’s conviction that timeless, eternal laws rule the universe from the bottom up. Understand quarks, the thinking goes, and everything else follows.

“The dream of reductionism,” Kauffman says, “is that when all is said and done, science will provide us with a linked set of laws that begin with particle physics and take us through life all the way to social systems.” Albrecht’s clock ambiguity and Smolin’s critiques of string theory expose chinks in the armor of reductionism. Kauffman has come to believe that reductionism can take us just so far. Only by moving beyond it will we be able to see the universe’s hidden creativity.
 
#9
I don't see exactly how God is supposed to solve the problem. It just seems it adds more problems, for if God is in a certain way and behaves in a certain way, then he is also subject to a set of supernatural laws, that, if we follow the logic displayed here, would be also prescriptive instead of descriptive, leaving us with the question of "what" makes this supernatural laws to exist and be the way they are.
This to me seems to illustrate a common train of thought, whereby someone describes how they consider God must be, and follow up by declaring that they find such a description of God unsatisfactory in some way. However, it is never clear why the obvious next step isn't taken, which is to go back and alter the description of God until it is satisfactory.

It always appears to me that the next step isn't taken because it is preferred (for unstated reasons) to have such an unsatisfactory description, for example because it means the topic can then be dismissed as unimportant.
 
#10
This to me seems to illustrate a common train of thought, whereby someone describes how they consider God must be, and follow up by declaring that they find such a description of God unsatisfactory in some way. However, it is never clear why the obvious next step isn't taken, which is to go back and alter the description of God until it is satisfactory.
Apart from that being highly ad-hoc, I think the reason is because I simply cannot think of any description of God that is satisfactory in this case. So, in absense of such a model, so far I don't think it's possible. Maybe you can take such a step and show me I'm wrong.

It always appears to me that the next step isn't taken because it is preferred (for unstated reasons) to have such an unsatisfactory description, for example because it means the topic can then be dismissed as unimportant.
Sometimes the problem is that changing too much a description renders the definition of God as meaningless (God would turn out to be something that isn't actually God), and sometimes is because it leads to incoherences, etc. There are many reasons why that step isn't taken.
 
#11
I'd keep in mind Cartwright is an atheist - she's not arguing that if we assume laws of nature then God exists. Rather, she's saying there's no reason to assume there are universally applicable laws given our current scientific picture of the universe.

I believe classical theism would place God above any laws save those necessitated by logic, but I think we'd have to delve deeper into Scholastic metaphysics to really grasp/understand the nature of classical theism's Prime Mover....not that this God is necessarily akin to any god that gets worshiped in religion.
You said that we 'have to delve deeper', but surely that's can't be right. All it takes is faith to believe in any of the gods out there, how many again, 8 million + isn't it?
So if YOU yourself don't believe in the HIndu methphysics, all you lack is faith. If you're not a good Amish type christian, you just lack faith. What would it take for you to be a good Shinto believer? Just faith.
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#12
You said that we 'have to delve deeper', but surely that's can't be right. All it takes is faith to believe in any of the gods out there, how many again, 8 million + isn't it?
So if YOU yourself don't believe in the HIndu methphysics, all you lack is faith. If you're not a good Amish type christian, you just lack faith. What would it take for you to be a good Shinto believer? Just faith.
I don't think you read my post properly. Whether or not there's a Prime Mover is a philosophical question. What you're talking about is why we should identify that Prime Mover with any particular deity people have worshiped in their varied cultures.

As such, you're "atheists believe in one less god than others" talking point isn't applicable to what I said.
 
#13
I don't think you read my post properly. Whether or not there's a Prime Mover is a philosophical question. What you're talking about is why we should identify that Prime Mover with any particular deity people have worshiped in their varied cultures.

As such, you're "atheists believe in one less god than others" talking point isn't applicable to what I said.
What's the most simple definition of "Prime Mover"?
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#14
What's the most simple definition of "Prime Mover"?
I like this one:

Aristotle believed that all movement depends on there being a mover. For Aristotle, movement meant more than something travelling from A to B. Movement also included change, growth, melting, cooling, heating…etc.
Just like his predecessor Heraclitus, Aristotle recognised that everything in the world is in a state of flux.

Aristotle argued that behind every movement there must be a chain of events that brought about the movement that we see taking place.

Aristotle argued that this chain of events must lead back to something which moves but is itself unmoved. This is referred to as the Prime Mover.
 
#15
Cartwright's hypothesis depnds on the laws being prescriptive. But are they? We call them laws but really by that we simply mean they've really held up under rigourous testing.

If the laws are simply a function of how everything spilled out of the big bang then they are not prescriptive.

Isnt her argument a bit of question begging? Isn't the real question how the laws got to be in the first place?
 
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Sciborg_S_Patel

#17
By necessity the universe must behave in a certain way (it's incoherente to suppose the Universe doesn't obey any law. Even if the Universe didn't obey any law, that would be a law!). The question might very well be why this set of laws, but then we are entering a diferent kind of question. We wouldn't be asking why the universe obeys laws at all, but why a specific set of laws..
I don't think "There are no laws" is actually a law. It's a description rather than something written into the universe.

Noting the absence of laws would not be enforcing this lack of definite, unchanging rules.
 
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