Friday, June 19, 2009

Laws or wills?

Is there any law that dictates what the most basic laws of physics are? Are the laws of the universe self-ratifying, or are they in need of some grounding principle to account for their exact correlations?

If there is no rational ordering principle for the basic laws of physics, they are irrational. If they "just are," independent of some basic principle that correlates them, then they are inexplicable. That is, if there is nothing by which or in terms of which we can explain the most basic laws, we therefore lack a real explanation of those laws.

Is there not of necessity some additional formulation that states––and therefore makes integral sense of––the basic laws? Is not the (supposed) final articulation of the laws of nature itself the completing element that frames the laws as a coherent set? If so, is not our final articulation of natural law itself a natural law?

How do we account for the basic laws' basicality if not by some other, let us say, Law of Basicality which "picks out" these and those laws––or even just This One Law––as the basic principle of the world? It appears that the final statement of the basic laws of the universe must be as basic and incontrovertible as those laws themselves, otherwise their formal interrelations as the basic arrangement of all spacetime are only contingent (and thus revisable under some later theory).

This post, obviously, is more confused that convincing, more perplexing than persuasive, more at a loss than apologetic. All I can say in defense is that the following words from Paul Davies (my emphases added) set me along this ragged path:

What I find lacking in the conventional intelligent-design argument, is … [the] appeal to something outside the universe that has to be accepted as given and cannot be proved. I’d like to try to explain as much of the universe, including its bio-friendly laws of physics, from within the universe – and in a way that doesn’t appeal to something outside of it.

Even standard physics says the laws of physics are friendly for no reason, but have just been imprinted upon the universe at the time of the big bang from without, by some unknown mechanism. Again, the argument makes an appeal to something outside the universe, instead of something intrinsic to it.

For most people, the first interpretation is, “Well, God did it.” What I’m saying is that that gets us nowhere at all. It just shoves the problem off to some other realm. But saying “God did it” is no worse than saying “the laws of physics did it.” They both basically appeal to something outside the universe.

The problem with saying God did it is that God is unexplained, so you’re appealing to an unexplained designer. It doesn’t actually explain anything; it just shoves the problem off. But to say that the laws of physics just happen to permit life is no explanation either.”

This is a common point in debates about cosmic origins, creation, God, naturalism, etc.

On the one hand, theists assert that God best explains the nomological order of the cosmos. On the other hand, atheists assert that the universe can just as coherently fill the role of "most basic cause." The key argument against the alleged sufficiency of God as an ultimate explanation for everything else, is that God Himself seems to require an explanation. If the universe's most basic laws require God, then why doesn't God require something to explain His nature? We've all got to have some most basic premise, so if theists can have God as their metaphysical bedrock, why can't atheists have the cosmos as their bedrock?

I am a theist, so obviously I side with "the God option," but, as I say, the course of this post is pretty much toothless. I have a hunch (if it can even be called that), that theism is right if only because an intentional formulation of even the most basic laws of nature is rationally inescapable. This intentional formulation of the cosmos the Church calls the Divine Logos. Although I am trying to be as irenic as possible in this post, I think it is also worth pointing out that the appeal to an explanation for God is disingenuous, since the whole debate has always been about explaining the universe. Historically, both sides admit that the universe requires a deeper explanation. Why would that be so, if the universe really had the same ontological stature as God? Since the debate centers on how to account for the universe as a material, dynamic reality, it is a stinky red herring to shift the debate to an explanation for God. Protesting that a theist's explanation is "not good enough" still leaves the atheist without an explanation of his own.

Only once I set into writing did I realize how closely connected this pseudo-hunch of mine is with Gödel's incompleteness theorems.

Briefly (and probably wrongly), those theorems entail that any non-trivial arithmetic set is either complete, but not consistent, or consistent, but not complete. In other words, any formal logical-operational system––which is what the universe's basic laws would reduce to––can either possess all its axioms without contradiction but lack proof for all the axioms (viz., without a further axiom outside the set), or be provable but only by recourse to another "dangling" axiom, which renders the new hybrid axiom-set inconsistent. To quote none other than the great Wikipedia (19 Jun 09):

"Gödel's first incompleteness theorem shows that any formal system that includes enough of the theory of the natural numbers is incomplete: there are statements in its language that it can neither prove nor refute. … Gödel's second incompleteness theorem can be stated as follows: For any formal effectively generated theory T including basic arithmetical truths and also certain truths about formal provability, T includes a statement of its own consistency if and only if T is inconsistent."

Let me propose an analogy. One day Mrs. Miller tells all the kindergartners to go outside for play time, adding that they are to remain inside the sandbox for the first fifteen minutes of recess. Once all the kids are in the sandbox, however, certain doubts begin to break out among them, like deformed pearls coalescing around the grains of sand. What does Mrs. Miller mean by "in the sandbox"? How far do the precincts of the sandbox extend?

They can see the white beach sand inside the oak-board pit, but they wonder if crouching outside the pit to dig into the sand is allowed, or if bringing piles of sand out a few feet to the darker dirt (for soil wars, of course) is allowed. And so on. Noticing a disturbance in the force, Mrs. Miller strides to the sandbox, kneels down to grab a handful of sand from the sandbox, and walks around the sandbox as she lets a fine stream of sand drizzle behind her. She explains that staying in the sandbox means not crossing the thin white line of sand on the dirt she added just around the box-pit.

At this point, most children are satisfied. They know the limits of the sandbox; they have proof from Mrs. Miller herself! But other children begin to worry a new bone: if the line itself is made of sand from the sandbox, doesn't the sandbox then reach to the line? How can the sand be inside the line when some of it is at the outermost edge of the no-play zone? Doesn't Mrs. Miller's sandy stricture mean that some of the sand itself falls outside other grains of sand marking the innermost limits of the sandbox? These scrupulous kindergartners see the proof of the limits of the sandbox right before their eyes, but they find it naggingly inconsistent to use the contents of the sandbox to show where it doesn't reach. They face a grave choice. (Fortunately, they also only have five more minutes of sandbox time, so their crisis won't reach Camusian proportions.) They can either stick to the proof outside the system and say the sandbox demonstrably extends no farther than the sand Mrs. Miller sprinkled, or try to be rigorously consistent and waver indecisively as to just where the sandbox sand ends and the do-not-cross sand begins.

So it is, in terms of Gödelian incompleteness, with arithmetical sets: we can either find a proof of their axiomatic limits from some set outside those limits, or remain totally consistent with their proper axioms and lack the proof of those axioms within the axioms themselves.

In any case, and to let you hear from someone who knows what the heaven he's talking about, the late Fr. Stanley Jaki argued for decades that Gödel's theorems had huge consequences for the world of physics, and noted sardonically for nearly as long how little attention had been paid Gödel by the inhabitants of that world. "Herein lies the ultimate bearing of Gödel’s theorem on physics," Jaki explains in “A Late Awakening to Gödel in Physics”. [Alas, I know, the link is broken, since, I believe, Fr. Jaki's webpage has been taken offline until his executor can deal with the data and materials formerly available on it. I have a copy of the "Late Awakening" paper, if some eager beaver really wants it.]

It does not mean at all the end of physics. It means only the death knell on endeavours that aim at a final theory according to which the physical world is what it is and cannot be anything else. Gödel’s theorem does not mean that physicists cannot come up with a theory of everything or TOE in short. They can hit upon a theory which at the moment of its formulation would give an explanation of all known physical phenomena. But in terms of Gödel’s theorem such a theory cannot be taken for something which is necessarily true.*

This relates to my opening questions because, if the basic laws of the universe are one day found to be consistent, they will for that reason be unprovable. If, however, they are proved, they will for that reason be inconsistent. Indeed, the "extra step" of proving the basic laws' coherence is none other than the human articulation of that proof (i.e., nothing less than an axiom "extrinsic" to the set of basic laws). As such, the universe's basic structure lacks the metaphysical self-sufficiency and ontological necessity that characterize God Almighty.

Although I have not yet finished it––since I let a copy of it fly off my scooter on the way to work one day!!!!––I understand that J. R. Lucas's The Freedom of the Will deploys Gödel's findings in remarkable ways to demonstrate the freedom––that is, the consistency yet intrinsic indeterminacy––of the human will. And this is the point I want to sink this post's tiny, nubbin teeth into: theism provides a better explanation of cosmic law and structure than naturalism because, first, it posits a mind which can intelligibly "see" the whole of the cosmos as one coherent set of formal laws, and, second, it is not prone to a regress of "explaining God," insofar as God just is the active principle which both "proves" the universe's order and grounds His own personal structure. Naturalism not only offers no such resources for framing the laws of the universe into a coherent whole, but also succumbs to an explanatory regress that must terminate in the wise agency of the Good One.

It is of the essence of a free personal action to require no extrinsic or deeper reason for the action's coming about than the agent's agency itself. An agent's action is intrinsically explicable just by reference to the agent's agency at the point of acting. Moreover, the agent's agency is intrinsically coherent just by virtue of the fact that it issued in the action willed by his agency. Nothing extrinsic compelled the agent to bring about the action in question, since he himself freely brought it about, and nothing caused the action other than the particular agency of the agent. By analogy, if I eat a sandwich I find in the fridge, neither the sandwich causes me to eat it, nor does the event of my eating cause my eating. In the first case, the sandwich lacked the property of being "the sandwich involved in Elliot's eating-of-a-sandwich" until I gave it that property by eating it. In the second case, the event of "Elliot eating a sandwich from the fridge" did not even exist until I began eating, and therefore it lacked any causal influence on my eating. I was and am the first, final, intrinsic, and complete explanation for my own eating of the sandwich. In an analogous way, God is the first, final, intrinsic, and complete explanation for His own creating of the world.

In contrast, the universe's set of basic laws, like any formally deducible set, possesses nothing within itself to ground its own coherence. Indeed, naturalists' entire point is that the universe is not sentient, is not personal; as a result, by their own admission, there is nothing metaphysically parallel to the intrinsic agency of divine creation in naturalistic cosmic endurance. (Lo, mystery of mysteries, yon sandwich is eaten without there being an eater!) There is nothing intrinsically self-explanatory about the basic laws of the universe, which is why naturalism fails, but there is something intrinsically coherent about the most basic actions of an agent, which is how theism resurrects naturalism.

God does not stand in need of further explanation, since, first, He is a personal event, and therefore presupposes an agency that formal systems lack, and, second, His Triune "structure" need not be proved, since there is nothing logically deducible about free personal actions. The perichoretic structure of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not a formal set of axioms: it is an eternal utterance and eternal echo of an eternal Word of Living Love. Apart from the divine agency itself, there is no formal, logical reason why the Father begets the Son in the Spirit, and, hence, there is no need for an extrinsic grounding principle for the ordo divinitatis (aka, "the Triune set").

Nor is there any logical necessity in the creation of the world: it is a free effulgence of the Triune goodness. This is why we will never discover logically necessary physical laws (cue Gödel's incompleteness theorems again): the laws of physics are consistent, but not intrinsically, deductively, apodeictically provable. Moreover, they are not even provable as such without reference to their intelligible ratification by the Mind of God. Nothing grounds the laws of nature (as a formally deducible arithmetic set) other than the added axiom "In the beginning God…" And while it is true that nothing grounds the Triune perichoresis other than the Father's eternal Love for the Son in the Spirit of Father-Sonship as the Father-of-the-Son, nothing other than the divine agency need ground a personal event. This is as non-controversial as saying there is no logical grounding for my eating the sandwich from the fridge. Of course there isn't: eating the sandwich was not a logical entailment; it was a personal action.

God did not obey a basic "law" in existing triunely or in creating anything, but He did execute His own will without remainder. Nature, by contrast, lacks a will and can only follow its basic laws––laws, which, once more, insist upon being accounted for. (Strange dream: accounting records without a head accountant!) A coherent, final explanation need not––and most likely cannot––be a logical demonstration, which is why theism's reliance on God as the ultimate explanation is coherent without being logically necessary, and, in turn, why naturalism's search for intrinsic explanatory principles in nature itself is both impossible and metaphysically bankrupt without a Lawmaker to stipulate the laws at work.

* The Gödelian non-necessity of any final theory of the cosmos ties in hugely with Fr. Jaki's work on the cosmological argument. Insofar as everything non-necessary is contingent, and everything contingent requires an explanation outside itself, the non-necessary specificity of the universe as we find it cries out for a causal grounding, namely, God. But that is not exactly germaine to this post, so for now I bracket it, outside the set, as it were.


UnBeguiled said...

God does not stand in need of a similar explanation

Special pleading. Ho-Hum.

I don't think personal agency can be invoked as a basic principle. According to you, God willed the universe into existence. For that to be, God's will would have to be effective. So is it a brute fact that God's will is effective?

So an impersonal brute fact must be logically prior to God. God is subject to the brute fact that whatever he wills obtains.

So slice away this non-explanation you call God. It's a muddle.

UnBeguiled said...

So, I have demonstrated that at least one state of affairs cannot be dependent on God's will.

Therefore, every state of affairs is not dependent on a personal will.

UnBeguiled said...

I have a hunch (if it can even be called that), that theism is right if only because an intentional formulation of even the most basic laws of nature is rationally inescapable.

I have demonstrated that your hunch is necessarily false.

Even on your own view, the most basic law of nature, that God's will is effective, cannot be the result of intentional formulation.

The Cogitator said...

Hand-waving. Ho-Hum.

But, seriously, I can't complain to see you actually engaging points over the whole post!

Now, here's why your "brute fact" objection is no good:

You are trying to wedge "causal effectiveness" between the willing of an action and the doing of a willed action, but that is absurd. There is no need to add that "God's will must be effective in willing X" since "X" itself is the demonstration of the effectiveness of God's will. There is simply no metaphysical gap between the effects of an executed will and the executed actions of a will.

If there were potency in God, such that He could ponder, hesitate, deliberate, etc., then, yes, there would need to be a grounding clause that His willing Y also involves sufficient causal power to bring about Y. But insofar as God is Pure Act, devoid of potency, His actions form a pure whole, and therefore, there is no potential gap between His willing Z and Z being effected. After all, Z, by definition, just is "that which God willed to be." So the existence of Z already contains within it the effectiveness of God's willing. To wedge some abstruse clause about causal efficacy between Z and God's willing Z is simply to ignore what Z is in fact.

Has this post hit a nerve? I would ask you to read it again at a later date. The habitual urge to comment and "refute" often clouds the mind.

It's uncanny to me that you really think you can deflate the lengthy posts I write with your koan-like jabs. I can't fault you too much for citing Wiki, but it would be nice to see you less as a predictable jack-in-the-combox atheist troll and more as a genuine dialogue partner. I understand you are busy as a physician, but at the same time, maybe that's the problem: you seem awfully impatient with nuanced, rigorous metaphysical footwork, and seem to prefer a "Judo Chop!" style of disputation.

Maybe I'm wrong.

All the best,

The Cogitator said...

I would also add that the tactic of appealing to "brute logical facts" to demote God do little work since, first, their formal coherence is grounded in the ontological primacy of God, and, second, logic is empty without referents.

As to the first point, the fact that God is of a certain nature already, and eternally, grounds the formal consequences of logic. That the Father is the Father, that the Father is not the Son, etc.––these are ontological facts which stand in no need of logical ordering. On the contrary, logic falls out from the pure-act of God as He is in se (e.g., principle of identity, principle of non-identity, etc.).

As to the second point, logic is metaphysically worthless––pure meaningless notation––if it does not refer to concrete objects. Even your "brute fact" that "whatever God wills obtains" only gets off the ground because you are already implicitly referring to God, objects, theletic relations, etc. Logic cannot exist apart from Being, and indeed, logic does not exist apart from the Logos. (And, no, to head you off at the pass, that is not a logical truth, but an ontological fact.)


UnBeguiled said...

The length of your posts are their own undoing. You make small errors at the beginning, that by the end have inflated to massive piles of metaphysical gibberish.

God wills X. X obtains. You want to say that those are the same. Fine. But that's no help. Did God will that his will obtain?


What do we know about minds? They emerged after billions of years of cosmic evolution. To claim that a mind was involved at the start is to deny what we know about minds.

I'm starting to think we will never understand one another.

Crude said...

You're conflating minds with brains - worse, you're conflating "our minds" with "minds, full stop". And what comprises a mind is itself a debate that rages on even before questions of God enter the picture.

So no, claiming a mind was involved at the start is to deny nothing that we know about minds. Even Dawkins and Dennett won't play that card - they just huff and puff and say that if it were the case, then the mind just wasn't God's. And clearly the involved mind(s) came about in a way that needed no mind itself. They have quite a lot of faith in that, you see.

Many modern atheists seem to think that, so long as they can be skeptical of theistic arguments for any reason whatsoever, they've utterly disposed of theism - and said arguments must be gibberish because, hey, they're still atheists aren't they? But that's a laughably low bar to get over - and if it were an adequate measure, we should all subscribe to the crown prince of skeptical positions: Solipsism.

UnBeguiled said...


A mind without a brain? Where?

Crude said...

You could try Chalmers' extended mind thesis, for one. You could delve into the arguments about AI as well. You can even get into the panpsychism discussion (which I'm willing to bet is going to become the new "materialism" in the coming years, a la Strawson.) These being just samples - and as I said, distinct from the question of God.

UnBeguiled said...

Are you claiming Chalmers asserts a mind can exist without a brain?

Crude said...

I'm claiming that Chalmers' extended mind thesis sees non-brain objects (notes on paper, computers, etc) as being part of a mind. Given his writings - particularly his friendliness to the suggestion of panpsychism and his seeming defense of a strong AI thesis - yes, it seems he believes a mind can exist without a brain. Unless you're about to equivocate on brain.

You tell me, UnBeguiled: What is a mind?

UnBeguiled said...

But Chalmers would not claim a mind is possible without a physical substrate, be it meat or silicone or whatever.

Nice try attempting to shift the burden. You superstitious folk sure are a shifty bunch.

Where's that mind again?

Crude said...

As I said, unless you're about to equivocate on brain. By all means, play that game - but "physical substrates" were around far in advance of earth existing, the "origin of life" (unless we're getting into panspermia), etc. Were there minds back then, UnBeguiled? You did say that what we know about minds is that "they emerged after billions of years of cosmic evolution". And now you don't want to tell me what a mind is?

Why is it that so many modern atheists hate - fiercely, bitterly hate - answering questions themselves? Why do they view the very act of their own views being questioned (or hell, just asking for their own views - rather than their criticism of others' views) as some kind of unfair tactic? Is it because they don't want to let on that their own metaphysical views are not only impoverished, but extremely hard to defend?

One more time, UnBeguiled: What is a mind? I'll take whining and evasion on this question to be a concession: Either you're not quite sure, or you have an idea but you don't feel comfortable defending it. Either is fine, frankly. I don't expect anyone to have all the answers to questions like these.

UnBeguiled said...

One more time Crude: A mind without a brain? Where?

Crude said...

I already gave you multiple responses, UnBeguiled: Strong AI views, panpsychism views, and the extended mind thesis. You responded with an equivocation where "brain" melted into "physical substrate". But since physical substrates were around well in advance of earth, that kicks your claim about what we "know" about minds into doubt. I didn't even have to make reference to God to knock you around on this.

I have you dead to rights, UnBeguiled: I answered your question. Now you want to change the subject and not defend your stated views. I'm making a prediction: You don't have the huevos to offer a response as I did for you.

Prove me wrong and answer the question. What is a mind?

UnBeguiled said...


are you insane?

Your "answer" is equivalent to saying "Fairies have minds".

Wiki has an entry on mind. That's near enough to what I mean.

Now go back to reading The Secret creduloid.

Crude said...

So now you admit I gave an answer. That's worth about a quarter of a huevo. You scoff that it's insane. Big takedown there! I'm sure Chalmers, Strawson, Searle and company are shaking.

And did you even read the wiki entry on mind, you wannabe E-philosopher? Even that crapfest of a site backs me up: Even among would-be physicalists, "mind" is heavily debated. Hell, the damn entry even has a section for AI!

Here's a tip, pal: I know you probably swallowed that "Bright" bull hook, line, and sinker. It was a movement crafted to appeal to rubes. But the sad fact is, just being an atheist doesn't make you a genius. Hell, it doesn't even make you smarter than the average person. And it certainly doesn't make you intellectually brave, as your inability to answer my question demonstrates.

Stop embarrassing the good atheists, you soft-brained pansy. They don't need your ilk crapping up their already difficult-to-defend position.

UnBeguiled said...

This Christian love is making me feel all warm and fuzzy.

In case you missed it the first time:

What do we know about minds? They emerged after billions of years of cosmic evolution. To claim that a mind was involved at the start is to deny what we know about minds.

Chalmers and Searle would agree with that, although what certain philosophers think holds little sway with me. I only care about where the evidence points.

If you really care about my view, consult Jaegwon Kim. He articulates my understanding near enough. Or something. Take care.

Crude said...

Oh, wait - first my response of referencing Chalmers, Strawson, Searle, etc on this subject was insane. Fairy-stuff. Now at least Chalmers and Searle would agree with you. Are you even reading what you're writing? Hell, do you even know what Searle and Chalmers have written about this subject? If your response is "evolution explains minds!", I suggest you go back and reread them. It's a bit more complicated.

And Jaegwon Kim? The guy who was won over into rejecting physicalism, kicking and screaming? Ha!

Go ahead and punt - I don't actually care about what you personally believe. But I wanted a nice discussion on the subject, and it's rather hard to do that when someone makes statements yet brooks no questions. Merely calling you out to justify your claims about minds was enough to send you into a tizzy. Crap like this (which was supposed to be the hallmark of the evil religious) is what helped me reject atheism decisively.

And by the way: Whether or not I'm a Christian has no bearing on the status of you behaving like a moronic jackass. But if you want to chalk my calling you out as atheism-in-practice, you do that.

UnBeguiled said...

It seems we misunderstand each other. And you misunderstand Kim. Or maybe I do.

Chalmers and Searle are atheists, by the way.

Crude said...

I'm well aware of their atheism. Though Chalmers also believes design of the universe is a live possibility a la Bostrom. Go figure.

The Cogitator said...

Sigh. Let's all take a knee.

unBeguiled, let me remind you of some things.

(My points may get cut off and spill over into subsequent comments.)

First, to reiterate a point I made in this post: "Since the debate centers on how to account for the universe as a material, dynamic reality, it is a stinky red herring to shift the debate to an explanation for God. Protesting that a theist's explanation is 'not good enough' still leaves the atheist without an explanation of his own."

That's you all over.

Second, you lost your right to be taken seriously on this blog months ago when you refused to read, among other things, James Ross's essay on the immateriality of the intellect. I only engage you because it's good sparring for me and because your jabs now and then spur me to write fuller, more personally satisfying pieces. You are a chronic hand-waver. You display little genuine interest or stamina in carefully working through the whole of another person's position. As such, you are often an embarrassment to yourself a free "thinker". This blog is just the playpen that allows you to demonstrate that.

Third, I'm glad to see that you sense how quickly your "brute fact" attack failed, and, hence, lunged for a new attack (i.e., about primal minds). You keep trying to wedge a metaphysical superstructure between God's Being as Actus Purus and His pure-act agency, but doing so not only demonstrates an abysmal grasp of the Thomistic account, but also begs the whole question. Theism provides a coherent account for the unity and complexity of the world by worshiping God. It is simply part of the theistic ball of wax that God wills and effects "that which was willed by God." You're splitting hairs that don't exist.

Fourth, your attempt to evict mind from ancient origins is pathetic. Aren't you the one always haranguing me (and Feser) that our ignorance is no argument against the nature of reality? Now, however, it's you trying to leverage our knowledge of sentient intelligence against the metaphysical case for God's creative wisdom. My post draws on Gödelian incompleteness, nomological coherence, intrinsic agency and explanation, etc., all of which you have sidestepped for low debating points. Here's an analogy: We know that "language" evolved late in the game, but we also discover, amazingly, that nature herself speaks a basic language in her laws and properties. You're missing the forest for the trees.

Fifth, the arguments about the immateriality of the intellect dispense with your broken-record plea for instances of the mental without the physical. But, as I say, since you seem to lack either the competence or the courage (or both) to engage those arguments, you really are just a broken record in search of a dance team.


UnBeguiled said...

"Protesting that a theist's explanation is 'not good enough' still leaves the atheist without an explanation of his own."

The difference is that I am comfortable saying "I don't know" when I don't know. It also seems that you and I have fundamentally different understandings about what constitutes an explanation.

"Theism provides a coherent account for the unity and complexity of the world by worshiping God."

OK. But is it true?

More importantly, what is the best way to discover what is most likely true? (Hint: the answer is not "Ask the Pope".)

Isaac said...

Hello Mr Cogitator sir.

First off you have some genius kindergartners. Even now if I'm put in a sandbox I think I'll just happily play with the sand.

What I personally like about science is that even proofs are not certifiably so. With science we can make testable predictions and if we get unexpected results we can question the fundamentals and propose new theories and conduct new tests.

You postulate on the what if we find the most basic laws of the universe, but I don't think we ever will. We may gain confidence that a theory is correct in that multiple differing test all conclude in its consistency but there will always remain the possibility that if I were to drop an apple the apple would fall up.

I'm not sure I follow the eating of sandwich bit. I'll agree that you eating the sandwich causes it to be eaten, but I would suppose there would be a multitude of reasons that you ate the sandwich when you did. Memory, fullness, cultural bias, lack of alternatives.... now I'm hungry.... I guess my point on the sandwich bit is we don't really know how much of our actions are or are not influenced by forces outside of ourselves. ... reading further... Cogitator mentions sandwich eating as a personal choice, fine (albeit this discussion has caused me to make a sandwich that I am now munching on).

I recently discovered scientific skepticism, of which I've noticed you've blogged about in the past. Anyway I find that more personally compelling. That is to say I don't see the scientific proof for anything supernatural, if I did then it wouldn't be supernatural anymore. I have to agree with you then when you say that God is a personal event and need not be proved. My only qualm with passionate believers of any sort is when they put faith above science. I don't think the two worlds should mix. Another way of putting it is that when science disputes a particular aspect of faith, whether that is through archeological, astronomical, or other forms of science, faith shouldn't come first.

When it comes to the big questions in life the bottom line is that I don't know, the evidence points to humans as being nothing but biological creatures with no more significance than any other creature. I fully anticipate based on current scientific thinking that one day the earth will be consumed by the sun and all life will be extinguished. From a self-preservation point of view I'd like for there to be more to life than this, but I'll either find that out or cease to exist when my time has ended.