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« Is It Possible to Decide Not to Sin? | Main | Links Mentioned on the 9/16/14 Show »

September 16, 2014

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Please measure measurement. What are its units?

If you can't, then, by this principle, measurement does not exist.

If measurement does not exist, then nothing can be measured.

Thus, by this principle, if you can't measure measurement, nothing exists.

Then numbers don't exist because they are only notions about the relationship between different quantities. One cannot see them, measure them or conclusively test them.

1. If something can't be quantified, then it doesn't exist.
2. God can't be quantified.
3. Therefore, God doesn't exist.

There needs to be some argument for that first premise. You can't just assume something like that. And it seems like the mind is an obvious counter-example.

If something cannot be scientifically quantified, it does not exist (in the real universe).

Well, there is the unsupported premise.
Plus, it disqualifies abstract notions, historical events, mental states, etc.

I read through that page and was dismayed that these arguments are taken seriously.

The quoted paragraph contains one of the weaker propositions; that "If something exists, it can be scientifically quantified". That, in and of itself, is a statement that cannot be scientifically quantified. As such it is a statement of the type of faith Christians are accused of.

I looked around the Google to see if I could find a place where this argument is made with some sort of evidence and couldn't find any. Perhaps there is, but it seems to be a proposition and not a fact. So be it.

But what was interesting was that I found another quote that says "If you can't measure it, you can't understand it". The quote was from within the context of business process but it would seem to apply to science as well. It applies in the negative and the positive. In other words, if we have something that we can measure, like the physical, we can understand it. But if you have something like God, which is un-measurable, then we have insufficient capacity to comprehend it.

>> If something cannot be scientifically quantified, it does not exist

How much mathematics has been swept aside with this unsubstantiated assertion: infinity (both external and internal), basic geometric axioms, equivalence ...

"God Can't Be Scientificially Quantified"

That's kind of the point, isn't it? The One True Living God is bigger than science! The fact that He can't be "scientifically quantified" (and by the way, He can't) is just fine; in fact it's required.

This rests on understanding exactly what the claims of Christianity are. God created the natural order; He rules over the natural with all sovereignty. He does as He pleases to accomplish His good purposes within the natural word in the way that He sees fit. Therefore, He is outside of and above the bounds of science.

Consider these two accounts in the Old Testament: the sun standing still for a whole day for Joshua, and the sign to Hezekiah of the sun going backwards for a few hours. Given what we know of science at this present time, what must have happened? Simply put, God must have reached out His almighty hand and caused the earth to stop rotating, and in the latter case actually spun the earth backwards just a bit!

And that's just impossibile! And that's just fine, because God is Lord over science as well. So I'm just fine with there being no scientific explanation, or even contrary scientific explanations. In fact, those things support the existence of an Almighty God!

We have a GREAT God, Hallelujah!

I thought logical positivism was (appropriately) discredited a half-century ago, at least. Some bad ideas are like zombies, it seems.

The claim is starting from an a priori belief in the philosophy of scientistic naturalism, and I noticed that the argument could be stated another way in order to dismantle it. Please let me know if I am mistaken.

Essentially, this argument is claiming that nothing but physical objects exist, because if it can't be physically measured, then it doesn't exist. I'll try a syllogism, but I'm not sure if I am much good at it yet.

1. Nothing but physical objects exist
2. All physical objects can be measured
3. God cannot be measured
4. Therefore God does not exist

The argument simply assumes that nothing but physical objects exist a priori. Evidence could be brought, as some preceding me have stated, that various products of the mind escape measurement and therefore break the philosophy. However, it also makes a "nothing but" claim which requires "more than" knowledge. So to hold this view and use this argument, one has to assume "more than" knowledge about everything which is simply a statement of blind belief.

Luke, your deduction from the first two premises should be that God is not a physical being, not that He doesn't exist.

"I thought logical positivism was (appropriately) discredited a half-century ago"

I'm afraid it died unshriven. It's proponents insisted that they just never got the criterion right. Not that it was hopelessly self-stultifying.

You can't measure love or goodness or evil scientifically. I guess they don't exist either ;)

Do thoughts exist?

Well, let's examine what we are saying here. The notion that if something exists, then it can be scientifically determined or measured is almost a category error.

Are we merely speaking about existence or being? We are getting into Ontological territory as to where scientific measurements deal with the epistemology of things in the physical universe.

Since theists posit that God is a non-physical, un-caused being, it should be an A-priori argument that scientific measurements would not be able to detect such a being but rather would only be able to detect said being's effects upon the universe - indeed the being's very creation of it.

Therefore, the argument fails upon it's very first premise.

If something exists, it can be scientifically quantified.
If something cannot be scientifically quantified, it does not exist.
Thus, existence is coterminous with scientific quantifiability. Now, the question becomes by what definition of "can"? In other words, what realm of possibility are we using to say whether not something "can be scientifically quantified"?

Lets first assume that the reference is to physical possibility. i.e.: If it is not physically possible to scientifically quantify something, it does not exist. From this perspective, the position ends in absurdity. First, it is not possible to "scientifically quantify" when there does not exist the concept of "scientific." As such, prior to the formalization of the scientific method or the establishment of the philosophy science, nothing was "scientifically quantifiable" and as such nothing existed. Second, both of the objects listed in the example ("dark holes" and "tiny atomic particles") are relatively recent scientific discoveries. In the past the technology did not exist to study and "quantify" these objects. Therefore, since it was not physically possible to scientifically quantify them, they would not exist. But surely the non-existence of these things prior to our ability to detect and quantify them is absurd.

Since that leads to absurdity, perhaps the intention is logical possibility. If it is not logically possible to scientifically quantify something, it does not exist. But here there is no support for the assertion that God is logically beyond scientific quantification. In fact, the opposite is true. Among "qualities" that may be quantified the author lists "capabilities." God certainly has qualities that are capabilities. He is omnipotent (capable of any action that is not a logical impossibility), omniscient (capable of maintaining belief in all true propositions), wholly just (capable of executing judgment to the right in every and all instances), wholly loving (capable of maintaining an attitude of love in every and all instances, even those including great hostility). Science, with the help of logic and philosophy, can even test some of these. The cosmological argument is a proof for the existence of God that depending on its form may use as support for its second premise ("The universe began to exist") either science or philosophy, but scientists have claimed to have discovered the beginning of the universe through "scientifically quantified" means. (As a side note, because within the Multiverse theory the other universes are causally disconnected from our universe, they are not scientifically quantifiable, therefore they do not exist, therefore an appeal to the Multiverse is an appeal to unreality on this view). There is also the consideration of prophecy, when combined with the science of archeology prophecy is scientifically testable. To that end, the truth of future propositions made from a divine source are also scientifically quantifiable. Therefore two of the listed capabilities of God are, in fact, scientifically verifiable (while not the same as scientifically quantifiable how one "quantifies" an ability is uncertain. Even if someone says "he can lift 100 lbs" as a quantification of his ability to lift, what you have really stated is that he has the ability to lift 100 lbs, not quantified his ability to lift as "100 lbs".)

So in the case of physical possibility scientifically quantifiable as a requisite for existence leads to absurdity. In the second case of logical possibility scientifically quantifiable as a requisite for existence does not negate the existence of God.

Finally, the end statement demonstrates a piece of presupposition (all of it does but this caught my attention) and misunderstanding of the theistic position. It says "If something cannot be scientifically quantified, it does not exist (in the real universe)." (bold added) The presupposition is that the universe is all that is real. The misunderstanding is that it assumes that the theistic position is that God exists "in" the universe, as in encompassed by and limited to. Others have already addressed the error in the presupposition. The error in the misunderstanding is worth pointing out as well. If God is only one among many things in the universe, than God cannot be the creative source of the universe. Since God is held as the creative source of the universe, the statement itself, even if true (even if existence in the "real universe" is only the case in the event that said existence is scientifically quantifiable), that would not apply to God because his existence is external to the universe.

Well, there is an obvious monistic presupposition behind the materialism here. A simple epistemic question can reveal this, namely by asking how the challenger knows that existence can be measured.

But there's another approach that might also be useful. Have the challenger assume, for the sake of argument, the premise we hold true: that God is the Creator of all things and that by definition there is no greater scale of measurement, reason, or created thing than God. Given that, there is no scale that can encompass him sufficiently to measure him. That exercise demonstrates the epistemic problem of the monist while focusing our position on the need for God to self-reveal, which he has done.

If you repeat a lie enough, then some will start to believe it, as our famous friend Goebbels has taught us. Anyone with half a brain knows that there are things that exist that cannot be physically measured or quantified.

Like Kevin, I read through the entire page, and I am singularly unimpressed with these so-called arguments. Christian apologists have been countering such claims for a while.

Here's the problem: The arguments look good. They might seem convincing to an unwary Christian who doesn't know the answers. Even though these claims have been defeated (over and over again) by Christian thinkers, they might still trip up a Christian who isn't used to thinking about apologetics. Even a bad argument can cause someone to stumble if he/she doesn't know why the argument is bad.

Back to the original challenge ... I agree that the basic problem is in the first premise. The atheist apologist should be asked to defend the radical notion that something must be "scientifically quantified" in order to be real. Columbo questions would be good here, especially Columbo #2. "Why do you believe that?" While the atheist is stammering and stumbling to find an answer, calmly move to Columbo #3 and ask a targeted question to show the flaw in the premise. "How do you scientifically quantify beauty or love? Are they real?"

I'm reminded of a quote from a fantasy novel called Hogfather, in which Death takes on this premise. Here's the meat of the quote:
"Then take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy."
(Note: In the original book, Death speaks in ALL CAPS, which I changed to make it easier on your eyes.)

The fact is that we know certain things exist which cannot be scientifically quantified. Justice, mercy, love, beauty, friendship ... all of these things exist, and yet none of them would show up on a scientist's instruments. Sure, a scientist might be able to track the effects of these things, such as recording the increased heartbeat when someone sees the face of a loved one, but those are just the effects. Love is more than an increased heartbeat. How can anyone claim to measure love?

I think most commenters have spotted the many holes in this line of "reasoning".

One last thought that I think Luke talked around, and that is the categorical error in this line of thinking. God is not a material being. The original argument assumes material objects that have mass, volume, etc. So errors first begin to accumulate at this illogical point.

Well, I suppose that the person making this argument is a materialist, so he'd probably not be too impressed with any refutation of the form:

Your argument fails, because mental entities cannot be measured and, so, by your principle, do not exist
His reply might be something like
No duh! Of course mental 'entities' do not exist!
That's why I'd prefer to attack the argument based on the self-stultifying nature of the principle.

Let us look at the logic of your syllogism:
How much does logic weigh? How long is logic? At what temperature does logic melt down? Can you accurately calculate both the position and the vector of logic, or does Heisenberg take effect here, too? Where are the bars on the spectrum if I put a solution of logic in a spectrometer? Which elementary particles combine to make logic? Which elements combine to make a logic molecule? At which frequency does logic vibrate? Does logic have a positive or negative electrical charge?

Logic is not "scientifically quantifiable". Therefore, the syllogism can not exist according to its own flawed first premise.

The Being who created space, time, matter, and energy is Himself not made of matter or energy, nor does he take up space or exist within sequential time (since those very "scientifically quantifiable" things did not exist until the Being who created them actually created them.) Therefore one would not expect God to be quantified, or defined in terms measurable by science, which can only measure the space, time, matter, and energy God created. Thus attempting to dismiss God because he can be everywhere at once and yet invisible fails. Off of which surface of an immaterial being does light reflect? Or attempting the even weaker objection of "who created the creator" then fails because there is no "before" a being who exists outside of the time/space matrix of our universe.

And that the Being who created the material universe is, in fact a being (a who, rather that a what) is attested to by the existence and organization of the universe according to the language of mathematics and laws logic. Both are themselves immaterial aspects of information (something which is itself neither matter or energy). Scientific law only creates repeating patterns. Random chance only creates static. The involved and interdependent complexity of meaningful information requires an organizing mind.

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