CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

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 Jeff Lowder at Secular Outpost, argues against William Lane Craig's fine tuning argument. His objective is to show that even if the argument is valid it doesn't establish probability for God.

Lowdwer's syllogism of the argument:

1. The life-permitting nature of the universe’s initial conditions is either the result of chance, necessity or design. (Premise)
2. It is not the result of chance or necessity. (Premise)
3. Therefore, it is the result of design. (From 1 and 2)

This argument is clearly valid, i.e., the conclusion follows from the premises. We want to know the probability of (3). The probability of (3) will depend upon the probability of (2). If we have a very weak degree of belief that (2) is true, say we think Pr(2)=0.25, then, by itself, this argument only warrants the belief Pr(3)=0.25. N.B. I’m not claiming that (2) has an exact numerical probability equal to 0.25; that value is simply an example to illustrate the point.
Excluding it as a result of chance means showing the improbability of a given variable. For example hitting the target levels necessary for large open bodies of water on a planet. If that is extremely improbable then it's less likely that it "just happened" as the result of chance. The very fact of target levels and the extreme improbability of hitting them all argues against necessity. The universe did not have to turn out as it did. as Paul Davies Tells us:

Paul Davies:
"You might be tempted to suppose that any old rag-bag of laws would produce a complex universe of some sort, with attendant inhabitants convinced of their own specialness. Not so. It turns out that randomly selected laws lead almost inevitably either to unrelieved chaos or boring and uneventful simplicity. Our own universe is poised exquisitely between these unpalatable alternatives, offering a potent mix of freedom and discipline, a sort of restrained creativity. The laws do not tie down physical systems so rigidly that they can accomplish little, but neither are they a recipe for cosmic anarchy. Instead, they encourage matter and energy to develop along pathways of evolution that lead to novel variety-what Freeman Dyson has called the principle of maximum diversity: that in some sense we live in the most interesting possible universe."

"Some scientists have tried to argue that if only we knew enough about the laws of physics, if we were to discover a final theory that united all the fundamental forces and particles of nature into a single mathematical scheme, then we would find that this superlaw, or theory of everything, would describe the only logically consistent world. In other words, the nature of the physical world would be entirely a consequence of logical and mathematical necessity. There would be no choice about it. I think this is demonstrably wrong. There is not a shred of evidence that the universe is logically necessary. Indeed, as a theoretical physicist I find it rather easy to imagine alternative universes that are logically consistent, and therefore equal contenders for reality." [2]
We can eliminate necessity and even Andre Linde himself tells us the probabilities are overwhelmingly against life, meaning it is most unlikely that the universe's life bearing aspect would come about randomly.[3] That means premise two checks out and thus the argument is valid. But I think Lowder is attacking the soundness by brining arguing that the fine turning argument doesn't include all relevant material, that will change the probability factors.

At this point he's going to pull an interesting bait and switch. He's going to transpose fine tuning into design argument so he can argue the counter design argument. But first he brings up the idea that FT dies not reflect all the data:
Second, such arguments fail to embody all of the relevant, available evidence. .... It may well be the case that, by itself, the life-permitting nature of the universe’s initial conditions does make it more probable than not that the universe is designed. But that doesn’t entail that, all things considered, the total available, relevant evidence makes it more probable than not that the universe is designed. In order to defend that claim, you have to look at all of the evidence, including the evidence of evolution, biological role of pain and pleasure, nonresistant nonbelief, etc. And once you do that, it’s far from obvious that the total evidence favors theism, much less Christian theism.
What he's calling "relevant data is anti-design data, FT is a from of design but does it have the same implications such that anti-design evidence would  count against it? Most of us know that evolution is not counter evidence to God. God can use evolution so how is that counter? There is the extinction aspect. The cruelty of nature. He fleshes some of it out thusly:
We also know that so much of our universe is hostile to life due to things such as containing vast amounts of empty space, temperatures near absolute zero, cosmic radiation, and so forth. Given that our universe is life-permitting, the fact that so much of it is hostile to life is much more probable on no-design than on design. So once all of the evidence about cosmic life-permitting conditions has been fully stated, however, it’s far from obvious that facts about cosmic “fine-tuning” favor design over non-design.
That only matters because he's brining in the conventional design arguments or bait and witch. In the conventional design argument the argument turns u[on things looking designed fitting together and seeming like the result of a plan. That's why empty space life threatening aspects are taken as counter design evidence they don't paper life so they are not part of a plan. All he's really doing there is to turn the conditions that make life improbable (counts for FT) into evidence for unplanned universe. That's because he switched arguments. In FT the only appearance of planning is so many totally improbable things working out. All that empty space bad water and so on is actually pro design if the deign is FT. In other words with FT the only aspects of design are where the target levels are hit and how overwhelming  the odds against hitting them. None of his counter design stuff really matters.

see my FT argument on Religious a priori 

More on this in comment section. Please join me there and comment.

[1] Jeffery Jay Lowder, "WLC Denies That Anyone Has Ever Died a Sincere Seeker Without Finding God" Secular Out Post, January 2, 2016 (blog URL)  Accessed 1/10/16
all quotations from Lowder will be from this source.

[2] Paul Davies  "Physics and The Mind of G: The Tempelton Prize Address,"First Things, August 5 (1995) On line URL:  accessed 1/20/16

[3] Andre Linde,"The Self  Reproducing Inflationary Universe, Scientifi9c American Nov 19994, 48-55

Now Linde is confident that the new inflationary theires will explain all of this, and indeed states that their purpose is to revolve the ambiguity with which cosmologists are forced to cope. His co-author in inflationary theory. Physicist Paul Steinhardt, had doubts about it as early as his first paper on the subject (1982). He admits that the point of the theory was to eliminate fine tuning (a major God argument), but the theory only works if one fine tunes the constants that control the inflationary period.

John Horgan, “Physicist slams Cosmic Theory he Helped Conceive,” Scientific American Blogs, December 1, 2014. on line, URL accessed 10/5/15. Horgan interviews Steinhardt.
“The whole point of inflation was to get rid of fine-tuning – to explain features of the original big bang model that must be fine-tuned to match observations. The fact that we had to introduce one fine-tuning to remove another was worrisome. This problem has never been resolved."


[This is a slightly reworked version of something I posted at Transcending Proof not long ago] 

Christian apologists like me have sometimes been accused of "denialism" regarding certain truth claims that seem dreadfully important to atheists. Among these are the truth claims of metaphysical naturalism, the virtually limitless creative power of natural selection, and the self-evident superiority of the scientific method to every other traditional means of ascertaining truth: philosophical reflection, religious faith, even historical research and deductive logic. Evidently taking their cue from Richard Dawkins, our accusers assert that we are guilty of mindless "personal incredulity" in refusing to acknowledge the overwhelming, indeed mountainous, evidence in support of those claims, and more importantly, their atheistic implications. Now let's park that thought for a moment while we consider another.

Scientists nowadays for the most part agree that the evidence for what has been termed the fine-tuning of the universe is both qualitatively unmistakable and quantitatively abundant. The set of measurable physical constants governing, for example, the fundamental forces of the universe –  gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force –  are so precisely specified for the function of human life against the ranges of their possible values that to alter those numbers even very slightly, in a typical case by as little as one part in ten to the thirty-first power, would render human life physically impossible.*

Atheists by and large have been reluctant, for obvious reasons, to acknowledge either the legitimacy of these findings or their theistic implications, or both. Now recall the bold and insulting assertions of Dawkins and company: Is this not, by their own understanding of denial, sheer fine-tuning denialism? Can refusal to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence for fine-tuning be anything but atheistic personal incredulity at the thought that the initial conditions and natural laws governing the universe were established precisely and purposefully so that human life might emerge and flourish?

In any event, the unusually entrenched bias that apparently underlies fine-tuning denialism spells trouble for the very scientific enterprise otherwise held in such high esteem among atheists and naturalists. I say this mainly because science depends on acceptance of evidence. But even an atheistic reading that accepts the evidence but denies its theistic implications is unfriendly to science, for the particular argument raised against theistic explanation of fine-tuning undercuts scientific explanation at the same time. Consider what appears to be the most common rejoinder to fine-tuning, based on the "multiverse" hypothesis. On the multiverse hypothesis, ours is but one of a vast, if not infinite, number of universes. Given a vast, if not infinite, number of universes, it is not implausible that just one would feature a set of life-permitting physical constants, and that ours happens to be that universe.

The problem is that such reasoning would reduce any explanation for anything to cosmological happenstance. The very laws of nature presumably discovered by careful adherence to the scientific method would be, on the same logic that denies fine-tuning, just a really, really remarkable coincidence. So, for example, if every time that an apple is released above the ground it falls, this does not mean that there is a law of gravity or any other law of science. It only means that, given enough universes, there would be one in which apples happen to fall whenever released above the ground. Presumably there would be other universes in which apples float above the ground consistently, and other universes still in which apples sometimes float above the ground arbitrarily and other times fall, universes in which apples float above the ground only when no one is looking, etc. The same could be said for any other set of observations used to advance the scientific enterprise.

On the premise that otherwise highly improbable scenarios become probable in a multiverse, the following argument can be constructed:

1. It is highly improbable that each of the countless factual observations presumed to instantiate the laws of science in our particular universe actually occurs at random.
2. What is highly improbable in our particular universe is probable in a multiverse.
3. That each of the countless factual observations presumed to instantiate the laws of science in our particular universe actually occurs at random is probable in a multiverse.

The upshot of all this is that decreasing improbabilities by multiplying universes is not an explanation, certainly not a scientific explanation, for anything. Thus a consistent application of the logic behind fine-tuning denialism would entail the demise of scientific explanations, hence the demise of science. But even if my argument appears sound, atheists can still take heart: Given enough universes there would almost certainly be one in which a bunch of letters arranged on an Internet blog post appear to spell out a sound argument that fine-tuning denialism entails the demise of science.

* Robin Collins, "God, Design, and Fine-Tuning," in God Matters: Readings in the Philosophy of Religion (New York, Longman, 2003), p. 121.

that link is to a page historian giving an amazing reference to Jesus in the Talmud that I have not heard before. This was brought to my attention by a guy on a message boardl.

From  the secular CafĂ©. Here is  post--No Robots is his name:

Here is one significant passage from the Talmud:
Our Rabbis taught: When R. Eliezer was arrested because of Minuth they brought him up to the tribune to be judged. Said the governor to him, 'How can a sage man like you occupy himself with those idle things?' He replied, 'I acknowledge the Judge as right.' The governor thought that he referred to him — though he really referred to his Father in Heaven — and said, 'Because thou hast acknowledged me as right, I pardon; thou art acquitted.' When he came home, his disciples called on him to console him, but he would accept no consolation. Said R. Akiba to him, 'Master, wilt thou permit me to say one thing of what thou hast taught me?' He replied, 'Say it.' 'Master,' said he, 'perhaps some of the teaching of the Minim had been transmitted to thee and thou didst approve of it and because of that thou wast arrested?' He exclaimed: 'Akiba thou hast reminded me.' I was once walking in the upper-market of Sepphoris when I came across one of the disciples of Jesus the Nazarene Jacob of Kefar-Sekaniah by name, who said to me: It is written in your Torah, Thou shalt not bring the hire of a harlot … into the house of the Lord thy God. May such money be applied to the erection of a retiring place for the High Priest? To which I made no reply. Said he to me: Thus was I taught by Jesus the Nazarene, For of the hire of a harlot hath she gathered them and unto the hire of a harlot shall they return. They came from a place of filth, let them go to a place of filth. Those words pleased me very much, and that is why I was arrested for apostacy; for thereby I transgressed the scriptural words, Remove thy way far from her — which refers to minuth — and come not nigh to the door of her house, — which refers to the ruling power.—Abodah Zarah, folio 16b-17a
And here is Constantin Brunner's comment on this passage from his essay against the Christ myth theory:
The passage in Avodah zavah 16a deserves special attention: it is the most remarkable reference to Jeshua in the talmudic tractates, ascribing to him as it does a certain spiritual significance. It speaks of him as one who taught; things learned from him had come down, through his disciple Jacob of the village of Zechania, to Eliezer b. Hyrcanus, who adopted this tradition. In fact, Rabbi Eliezer b. Hyrcanus was one of the most distinguished Tannaim, the brother-in-law of the Patriarch Gamaliel II.; he was also called Eliezer the Great. And so this Rabbi Eliezer, who lived in the first Christian century, speaks of an opinion of Christ which had come down to him from a disciple of Christ (and some identified this Jacob with Christ's brother). This seems to me to be an important fact, particularly as it touches Christ's historical reality, and I find it astonishing that the critics have thus far paid no attention to it. Moreover, it is more than probable that important, really important sayings of Christ (not under his own name, of course) are contained in Talmud and Midrash. There are plenty of sayings and parables of great clarity, beauty and dignity which could have come from his mouth.
For those having difficulty understanding all this, a famous rabbi was called to account for repeating an opinion of Jesus of Nazareth that a whore's donation to the temple should be used for the priests' toilets, from filth to filth.

Super. If that is true think Jesus' sense of humor there. 


 Museum at Hierapolis where Papias lived

Jesus, even if the testimony might be false.(2) (c) PapiasThe words of Papias have been quoted many times in the investigation of Christian origins. They seem to offer a rare ray of light regarding the Gospels from the early second century. The first to quote him is Irenaeus, who makes the following remark:
 These things Papias, the hearer of John, who was a companion of Polycarp, a man of ancient time, testifies in writing in the fourth of his books, for there are five books composed by him. (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 5.33.4)
This does not actually say that Papias knew any of the disciples of Jesus. The John mentioned here may not be the same John who was a disciple of Jesus and could have been the one called “the presbyter.” After quoting from Papias, this is exactly how Eusebius interprets him:

And Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings. These things we hope, have not been uselessly adduced by us. (Ecclesiastical History 3.39.7)
Papias thus does not claim to know any of the disciples of Jesus, but he is a witness to an ongoing oral tradition in the second century regarding what people said that the apostles heard from Jesus. Unfortunately, because of the phenomenon of “secondary orality” whereby the information of written sources can enter the oral tradition, this does not confirm the existence of any traditions that are earlier than the Gospels.

Why do they have to be Apostles to be witnesses? He says the guys he  learned from, Arision and Elder John were disciples of the Lord. Kirby is also overlooking the fact that we know some things from Irenaeus who was student of Polycrp. Polydrp studded with Papias at the feet of John (either Apostle or Elder)

Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis (in Phrygia, sort mid southwestern Turkey). We don't know his exact dates, some have him being born as early as AD 70 (the fall of the temple) and dying as late 155.[1] His writings are mostly dates to around 130.[2] He died in Smyrna (mid way down Western coast of Turkey). By the second century the center of the faith had shifted to Antioch, in Syria and a lot of missionary activity was in Asia Minor. Only fragments of his Writings Survive most of those come to us from either the Irenaus or Eusebius.

There is a famous fragment that has come to us from Eusebius that might imply either that Papias knew disciples of Jesus who were eye witnesses or that he contact with them:

I shall not hesitate to set down for you along with my interpretations all things which I learned from the elders with care and recorded with care, being well assured of their truth. For unlike most men, I took pleasure not in those that have much to say but in those that preach the truth, not in those that record strange precepts but in those who record such precepts as were given to the faith by the Lord and are derived from truth itself. Besides if ever any man came who had been a follower of the elders, I would inquire about the sayings of the elders; what Andrew said, or Peter or Philip or Thomas, or James, or John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord's deciples; and what Aristion says, and John the Elder, who are dciples of the Lord. For I did not consider that i got so much from the content of books as from the utterances of living and abiding voices...[3]
Some think this imposes an intermediate group between the Apostles and Papias. If any man was a follower of the elders, he would inquire (of that man) what the elders it does. He puts the second groups. "disciples" in the present tense: what Aristion says or John the Elder. This would imply they were alive during his own time. Just because he was away from them and inquired what others heard from them doesn't mean he never met them. We have words of Irenaeus to the effect hat he did meet them. Ireneaus would know becuase Papias and Poly carp were contemporaries and knew each other.

Schoedel writes about Papias
According to Irenaeus, our earliest witness, Papias was "a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, a man of primitive times," who wrote a volume in "five books" (haer. 5.33.4; quoted by Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.39.1). Eusebius already doubted the reality of a connection between Papias and the apostle John on the grounds that Papias himself in the preface to his book distinguished the apostle John from John the presbyter and seems to have had significant contact only with John the presbyter and a certain Aristion (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.3-7). Eusebius' skepticism was no doubt prompted by his distaste - perhaps a recently acquired distaste (Grant 1974) - for Papias' chiliasm and his feeling that such a theology qualified Papias for the distinction of being "a man of exceedingly small intelligence" (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.13). Nevertheless Eusebius' analysis of the preface is probably correct; and his further point that Papias' chiliasm put him to the same camp as the Revelation of John is surely relevant. It is notable that Eusebius, in spite of his desire to discredit Papias, still places him as early as the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117); and although later dates (e.g., A.D. 130-140) have often been suggested by modern scholars, Bartlet's date for Papias' literary activity of about A.D. 100 has recently gained support (Schoedel 1967: 91-92; Kortner 1983: 89-94, 167-72, 225-26).[4]
Irenaeus calls him a "hearer of John." Eusebius says he wasn't a hearer of the Apostles. Since Eusebius was so much further removed from the scene than Irenaeus it's more likely he would know better. Of course the statement would also make sense if it was the Elder John he knew not the Apostles John. He also says he was a companion of Polycarp. Whichever John they knew they must have both known him at the same time. This all meets Lowder's criteria becasue Irenaeus was in a position to know that Polycarp knew John (although perhaps not which John) and that he also knew Papias. Papias and Polycarp knew disciples of Jesus, this is independent of reading the gospels.

Schoedel writes about the comments of Papias
What the fragments have to tell us about Mark and Matthew is information that Papias himself traces to "the presbyter" (Eus. Hist. Eccl. 3.39.15-16). Eusebius separates the statements about Mark and Matthew, but they may have originally followed one another and certainly seem closely related. Perhaps the simplest reading of the statement on Mark is that Mark served as Peter's interpreter (possibly in the role of methurgaman, or oral translator) and wrote down what he heard Peter say of the words and deeds of Jesus and that his writing is defective in "order," though not in accuracy or fullness of recollection, because Peter naturally referred to the Lord's logia in a random manner. Some have suspected that Papias did not have in mind the gospel of Mark that we know, but the arguments are tenuous. On another point, Kurzinger has attempted to show that Papias was speaking not of translation from the native language of Peter but of presentation of the reports of Peter (an interpretation which he applies also to Papias' statement about Matthew); but this seems to push a rhetorical approach to Papias' terminology too far (Schoedel 1967: 107; Kortner 1983: 203-4). On the other hand, an interpretation in rhetorical terms is somewhat more likely when it comes to the suggestion that Papias meant to say that Peter spoke "in chria-style" rather than "as needs (chriai) dictated." But the point that is debated more than any other is what Papias had in mind when he said that Mark did not write "in order." It is perhaps most likely that Papias was measuring Mark by Matthew (who is said by Papias to have made "an ordered arrangement" of the materials) - or perhaps more generally by Papias' own conception of what ought to be included in such an account - and that he had in mind completeness of information as well as "order" in the narrow sense of the term. In any event, Papias is defending Mark in spite of perceived deficiencies.[5]

My theory based upon this materiel and more (see my Doxa for details--Canonical Gospels--Gospel behind the Gospels) is that Mark may have been based upon Peter's memoirs, Matthew may have begun as an Aramaic saying source then latter adapted to narrative form in Greek by redactors. John started as the memoirs of "the beloved Disciple" (Lazarus? John the Apostle?) The Elder John of Papias who wrote the Epistles (so we are told by Eusebuis) was the last head redactor of John's Gospel. The community itself wrote the Gospel of John because it is so heavily redacted. I accept Luke's authorship becuase I can't see there being a Luke community since he had no real ties to Jesus.

 There are indications from Eusebius that Papias had extended contact with the Elder John and with other disciples. Eusebius writes "in his writings he transmits other narratives of the words of the Lord which came form the afore mentioned Aristion and others which came from John the Elder" moreover he goes on, "the elder used to say this also: Mark became the interpreter of Peter and wrote down accurately, but not in order, as much as he remembered...'" And here Eusebius is quoting Papias. This phrase "the eder used to say..." indicates a personal acquaintance in more than one meeting.(Ibid.). Here we may have a direct link form eye witness to Apostolic "father." Moreover, he changes tenses when he speaks of Aristion and Elder John, the he speaks in present tense, as though he's still in contact with them.[6] Eusebius speaking of Papias in relating his Oracles of the Lord says:

Papias, who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he moreover asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John. Accordingly he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions. Our notice of these circumstances may not be without its use. It may also be worth while to add to the statements of Papias already given, other passages of his in which he relates some miraculous deeds, stating that he acquired the knowledge of them from tradition.[7]
He tells us that Papias affirms it directly that he knew the Elder John and other disciples. Because link the John that Papias knew with Aristion just as in Papias' famous quite, it would seem that Eusebius is telling us it was that John, the Elder, author of the Epistels and not the Apostle who Papias knew. It doesn't matter becasue they were all witnesses to Jesus' life.

Fragments of Papias not dependent upon Eusebius

An internet source, Chronicon.Net has assembled a great of materiel that contains these fragments. the Independence form Eusebius is important since atheists charge him as biased. Even the there good arguments agaisnt the charges independent sources give us a more direct defense. The compiler says:

In the print world, Michael Holmes has published a popular and good quality English translation of Papias in The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, however it has a few mistakes and omits some fragments, all of which I have attempted to correct on this page.  While assembling these fragments,  I have used the translations of Lightfoot  and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Father Series. These are good English translations and are in the public domain.  I have only changed punctuation or a word here and there, in order to make the translation better fit our modern vernacular.  For other Greek and Latin fragments I have translated them myself. For Agapius I asked a kind friend of mine, Tamim, to translate the small fragment from Arabic into English. I also made use of Roger Pearse’s collaborative translation of Jerome’s Chronicon. Roger also helped track down some obscure references. Finally, Robert Bedrosian has graciously volunteered to translate the two fragments of Vardan Arewelts'i from Armenian as well as the one Armenian fragment from Andrew of Caeserea.  I am deeply thankful for all of their kind help.[8]
These are not necessarly quotes form his writings as early statements about him:

Irenaeus of Lyons wrote c180AD
Therefore the foretold blessing indisputably belongs to the times of the Kingdom, when the righteous shall rise from the dead and reign and through the resurrection itself shall be honored by God, when also creation shall be freed and renewed, and  shall grow a multitude of every kind of food from the dew of heaven and from the wealth of the earth. Just as the Elders, who saw John the disciple of the Lord, recalled hearing from him how concerning these times he used to teach that the Lord would say:

“Days will come in which the vines shall grow, when  each one will have ten-thousand branches and every single branch ten-thousand twigs  and on every single twig ten-thousand leaves and on every single leaf ten-thousand clusters, and on every single cluster ten-thousand grapes and each grape that is pressed will give twenty-five measures of wine.  And when one of the saints plucks a cluster, another cluster shall call, ‘I am better, take me, bless the Lord through me.’ In the same way an ear of wheat will grow ten-thousand kernels of grain, and every single ear of wheat will have ten-thousand kernels and every single kernel will give five pounds of the finest pure flour, and the rest of the ripe fruits and the seeds and the grass will be like these in a following proportion.  And all the creatures who desire these foods will receive them from the earth, becoming peaceable and united to one another, submissive to men and entirely obedient.”

These things Papias, the hearer of John, who was a companion of Polycarp, a man of ancient time, testifies in writing in the fourth of his books, for there are five books composed by him.  And he adds saying “These things are believable to those who believe.  For,” he says, “even Judas the betrayer who did not believe and questioned ‘And how will such things happen been accomplished by God?’ But the Lord said ‘those who come to those times shall see.’” -Against Heresies 5.33.3-4  [checked  reconstructed Greek of SC 153 p213-217]

editor's note:
which is based off of a literal Armenian translation and incorporates one small fragment of Greek from Eusebius' fragment below.  Holmes, Lightfoot, and the ANCF translations are based off the  poorer quality Latin translation and also included the Greek fragment from Eusebius.

Jerome c342-420AD
Bishop Irenaeus writes that John the Apostle survived all the way to the time of Trajan: after whom his notable disciples were Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch.

-Chronicon of Jerome 220th Olympiad/100AD.  [checked via Pearse’s translation]

For even previously, Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis and Nepos, Bishop of areas of Egypt, thought the same as Victorinus concerning the thousand year Kingdom.

-Preface to Jerome's revised version of Victorinus' Commentary on the Apocalypse  [checked CSEL 49]

Papias, a hearer of John, and bishop of Hierapolis in Asia, wrote only five books, which he entitled An Exposition of Discourses of the Lord. Wherein, when he asserts in his preface that he is not following promiscuous statements, but has the Apostles as his authorities, he says:

I used to inquire what had been said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples, and what Aristion and the Elder John, the disciples of the Lord, were saying. For books to read do not profit me so much as the living voice clearly sounding up to the present day in the persons of their authors.

From which it is clear that in his list of names itself there is one John who is reckoned among the Apostles, and another the Elder John, whom he enumerates after Aristion. We have mentioned this fact on account of the statement made above, which we have recorded on the authority of very many, that the two later epistles of John are not the work of the Apostle, but of the Elder. This Papias is said to have promulgated the Jewish tradition of a Millennium, and he is followed by Irenaeus, Apollinarius and the others, who say that after the resurrection the Lord will reign in the flesh with the saints. Tertullian also in his work On the hope of the faithful, Victorinus of Petau and Lactantius follow this view.”
-On Illustrious Men 18  [checked LTF and NPNCF]
It is a false rumor which has reached you to the effect that I have translated the books of Josephus and the volumes of the holy men Papias and Polycarp. I have neither the leisure nor the ability to preserve the charm of these masterpieces in another tongue.
-Letter to Lucinius (71.5)  [checked NPNCF]

The growth of this heresy is described for us by Irenaeus, bishop of the church of Lyons, a man of the apostolic times, who was a disciple of Papias the hearer of the evangelist John.
-Letter to Theodora (75.3)  [checked NPNCF]

 there are many more found here:

these are just a few samples.



[1] The dates for his birth and death are not known and vary widely frm as early as AD 70(birth)-168 (death). For this reason it's more useful to try and date his literary activity, which is usually taken to be 130. He probably died in 155.

[2] "Papias of Hierapolis" American Bible Society (website) URL:
 It is notable that Eusebius, in spite of his desire to discredit Papias, still places him as early as the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117); and although later dates (e.g., A.D. 130-140) have often been suggested by modern scholars, Bartlet's date for Papias' literary activity of about A.D. 100 has recently gained support (Schoedel 1967: 91-92; Kortner 1983: 89-94, 167-72, 225-26).

[3]  Documents of the Christian Church, edited by Henry Bettonson, Oxford:Oxford University press 1963, 27

[4] William R.Schoedel The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Newhaven: Yale University Press. Edited by David Noel Freedman  first published 1956, current publication 2012.v. 5, p. 140

[5] Schoedel, op. cit., v. 5, pp. 141-142

[6] in Bettenson, op cit,  27)

[7] Eusebius, From the exposition of the oracles of the Lord. no VI On New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia website: URL:

[8] Chronicon.Net  accessed 11/3/13

see Papias and daughters of Pilip

One reason Christians engage in apologetics is to provide answers to serious questions about the faith by relatively honest seekers. Some questions, however, appear not quite so serious. For me one such question is, "Why won't God heal amputees?" Made famous by Marshall Brain, this simple inquiry is presumed by some skeptics to expose the abject absurdity of miracles, of prayer, of God's love – indeed of theism generally – and therefore to send Christian apologists beating a hasty and shameful retreat before the overpowering logic of unbelief. Of course that hasn’t happened. For a sampling of effective, rational responses to the amputee question, consider offerings at Christian Skepticism, at Answers in Genesis, at Triablogue, and by fellow Christian Cadre members Rich Deem at God and Science and Joe Hinman at Atheistwatch.

Now my own immediate response to the question "Why won’t God heal amputees?" is something like, "Because He’s too busy trying to decide whether or not He can create a rock too heavy for Him to lift.” In other words the Amputee Question belongs in the same category as the Rock Question – it's a clever rhetorical device that has almost nothing to do with the substance of the issues (like theodicy or the general efficacy of prayer) it purportedly addresses. But rhetorical questions such as these persist because they provide convenient substitutes for the hard work of constructing serious, sound arguments. That said, the following is my own response to the Amputee Question.

Right off the bat we need to brush past the loaded nature of the question itself. To ask "why God won't" do something is to take it as a given fact that there is something God won't do. It would be like asking "Why won't atheists just admit that they believe in God?" Hardly a matter for serious dialogue. Not all theists, certainly not this one, would take it as a working premise that God won't heal amputees. So to try to answer why God won't do what has not yet been demonstrated that he has not done (or will never do) is to get ahead of ourselves, and concede too much. Also, even if we were to concede that God has never healed an amputee, it doesn't follow that he won't heal an amputee, or lots or all amputees, in the future, including in the future eternal kingdom of heaven. (And it should be noted that it seems a bit calloused to use people with amputated limbs, many of whom firmly believe in God despite their painful physical and psychological experiences, as inanimate props in an argument for atheism in the first place.)

Next we need to consider whether there is an actual argument here. As mentioned the question is almost purely rhetorical on its face. But an argument of sorts is at least implied. According to Upchurch and Galling at Answers in Genesis, the argument can be reformulated thus:

1. An omnipotent God would heal amputees.
2. Amputees are not healed.
3. Therefore, an omnipotent God does not exist.

Metacrock restates it slightly differently (and with tongue slightly in cheek, I suspect), but the idea is the same:

1. The Bible promises to give us anything we want in prayer.
2. This doesn't work.
3. Therefore there is no God.*

In each case the first premise states a theological proposition and the second states an inductive generalization drawn from human experience, followed by the conclusion that God does not exist. But none of the premises have been established, so on the face of it the argument is unsound. Few if any serious theologians would take the statements "An omnipotent God would heal amputees" or "The Bible promises to give us anything we want in prayer" as givens derived from either systematic theology or careful exegesis of particular biblical data. Neither is it a fact that no amputees are healed (though it certainly appears that the vast majority are not); nor that prayer doesn't work. 

As to the second premise: it may seem at odds with experience to dispute the proposition that amputees are not healed. But to achieve its effect the proposition needs to convey that no amputees are healed. That assertion runs afoul not only of the problem of induction, but of specific instances of amputee healings documented by Craig Keener and others, and arguably certain miracles in the New Testament. On the other hand, if the essence of the question is "Why are some amputations, physical ailments, etc., not healed?" then this would be the same question most of us have asked, particularly when we are in pain. God doesn't heal most people with headaches or strep throat or kidney disease, so they take pain relievers and antibiotics and use dialysis. God doesn't heal most amputees, so they undergo rigorous therapy and use compensating devices like wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs. Non-healings have been a painfully obvious fact of life for all people for millennia, long before Marshall Brain first began to ponder the non-healings of amputees. Seen this way the Amputee Question is little more than an observation that there is natural evil in the world. 
The strength of the Amputee Question, then, is that in rhetorically effective and compact form it calls attention to two traditionally popular arguments, the logical argument from evil and the argument against miracles. The weakness of the Amputee Question is that countless philosophers and theologians of all stripes agree that these are no longer considered sound defeaters of theism.

* For anyone who would object that such restatements are straw men, please feel free to construct a serious argument based upon the Amputee Question and present it here.

So! -- this is an oldie, but...


.... uh... well... it's an oldie... where I come from....

(Originally posted on Themestream long, long ago in the early days of internet blogging. Recalled for purposes of contributing to a Facebook post about a similar satire in these modern days. I actually did have the dream as a dream, but with somewhat less detail. No doubt inspired by Gregory Boyd's Cynic Sage or Son of God, which I had been dictating to tape at the time.)

I had a dream one night, that put me in one of those stressful situations which although highly improbable is still possible enough to be frightening.

In this case, I found myself on a floodlit indoor lecturing stage at a small wooden desk with a microphone. This was to my left; on the other side of the stage, at a desk similar to mine, sat another man who looked very annoyed to be wasting his time there. Between us, set forward closer to the stage edge, stood a podium, also with microphone, and a transparency projector. We faced what seemed to be a large university lecture-hall; the sort that keeps going up and up rather than back and back, so all audience members can be as close as possible to the speaker. It was entirely full of dim shapes, impossible to distinguish in the glare of the stagelights above us, but which I knew to be adult students and scholars of most critical mien. Their murmurs and chatters between themselves as they awaited the start of the program, showed they were at least in a good, if occasionally rambunctious, mood.

It came upon me with a flash, that I was there to engage the learned author across from me in a debate, on some subject I knew not what, and for which I was consequently unprepared.

"Well," I thought to myself as I looked around nervously, "at least I'm not naked..."

I knew myself to be dreaming, so my panic wasn't as great as it might otherwise have been. I knew I could pull myself out of the fire if (or when) things became too nasty. That being the case, I resolved myself to play through the dream on its own terms as much as possible.

With that resolution came another: I might not know what topic I would be called to discuss, and I might not know much about the topic when it was revealed, but I was reasonably confident I would at least be able to analyze the self-consistency of whatever elements of the case were presented by my opponent.

Fortunately, the debate moderator (who, by the way, looked exactly like my high-school senior English teacher) called upon my opponent for opening comments, thus giving me some breathing space to evaluate my position and my chances.

I quickly learned I had been summoned to debate a currently popular and outspoken historian who specialized in New Testament criticism. This being a dream, at first I thought I was hearing his name as Tom Bunrack or Tom Backrun, but eventually I decided it must be Tom Branuck. This knowledge made me more nervous -- Branuck was notoriously contentious -- but also helped me out a little, as I at least had a smattering (though only a smattering) knowledge of his controversial book, which we would be debating that night: The Fable of Honesty.

In this book, Branuck had argued for a villainous and indeed treacherous dishonesty on the part of the author of one of the NT Gospels, the Gospel According to Mark, to the effect that the document was almost utterly unreliable historically; which unreliability had thoroughly permeated every subsequent narrative account, and (claimed Branuck) still echoed to this day in Western cultures. Branuck had grounded this deconstructive reinterpretation of what the Gospel 'really' meant and what the author 'really' was doing, by analyzing the document (and the NT generally) through a battery of sociological principles. Displaying a transparency for us, Branuck summarized what religious documents 'really' are:

"1.) Myths, rituals, and symbols are ways of thinking about, or making sense of, social practices and orientations to the world.

2.) What has come to be called religion is actually a social mode of thinking about social identity and activity.

3.) Religion is the way in which a people make their world work, position themselves in their world, acknowledge their agreements, reflect upon their relationships, inculcate their manners and codes, rectify displacements, and meditate upon their social system in light of accident and the impingements of history."

Branuck explained this to the audience in his opening comments. Then he vented some exasperation: he had been led to believe, he said, that he would be debating a serious historian on this issue -- instead he finds that his opponent is not a historian by profession; has no credentials to speak of; and whose chief qualification seems to be that he happens to think the NT accounts to be pretty reliable historically (which opinion Branuck wouldn't give a straw for) and that things such as the Resurrection are possible and have happened (which opinions Branuck considered to be "outside the guild of serious New Testament scholarship"). Branuck finished his vitriolic opening comments by stating, that despite being misled as to the potential quality of the debate, he would stay so the assembled scholars wouldn't have completely wasted their time with whatever extremely lightweight and very embarrassing tactics a "fundamentalist" such as I might be ignorant enough to put before them.

I agreed (silently) that real historians, not I, should be debating him; and I must admit I bridled at being called a "fundamentalist". (I very seriously doubt any real fundamentalist would describe me as such.)

Then a delicious plan occurred to me.

As Branuck resumed his seat, I sauntered out to the podium, and consciously slipped into my best Southern Baptist drawl. Why disappoint him...?

"Mr. Branuck," I began, "I see you have kindly provided us with nice, concise statements here, on this transparency," which I re-presented for the audience on the screen. "Very nice, very nice," I murmured theatrically, and also a bit vaguely and pompously.

"And," I continued, "these things are true only because you say they are true, correct?"

"No," he chuckled in unkind amusement. "Those statements are grounded upon a rational set of necessary presumptions. This isn't merely the way I wish religions -- including your religion -- were; it simply is the way religion is, as we social anthropologists have discovered. I can understand if that upsets you, of course..." -- this garnered answering chuckles from the crowd.

I stroked my beard for a moment, gazing intently at the statements hanging above us on the screen.

"Do you mind," I asked, waving my hand generally toward the screen, "if I make some guesses as to the necessary presumptions you are applying to generate these statements?"

"I doubt you'll get them correct, but by all means try," he grinned confidently.

With a thin black marker and a fresh transparency, I tabulated two general presumptions, and presented them for everyone to see:

1.) Claims to 'truth' are always fundamentally bound up with power plays.

2.) A critic must first and foremost read a text against itself in order to expose its originatory social location, its fundamental ideological commitments, and its rhetoric by which the author of the text is attempting to impose his or her authority over the reader.

"Would you say these are reasonably fair representations of the presumptions underlying your blasphemous proposals?" I grated loudly. I made sure to emphasize 'blasphemous', hoping to distract his attention.

"Quite so, quite so," he clapped his hands slowly. "I see you've expended at least a little clear thinking after all; and on such a blasphemous topic as well!"

"Hmph!" I snorted dismissively. "I read something similar in a book somewhere. It seemed to fit." I didn't tell him it was in a book leveling a trenchant criticism at Branuck's work. As it happens, the author more-or-less skipped what I was about to try; but then again he had access to far more material. I had to work with the little available to me; but I imagined the author would agree with my tactic here, in principle, if not strictly with its presentation.

"Isn't it true!" I whirled on Branuck, in what I hoped was my best southern-fried lawyer voice. "Isn't it true that you designed those presumptions specifically to attack one particular book, and that they are essentially useless except as a devilishly question-begging attack--!" But Branuck was shaking his head and continuing to chuckle.

"Those principles are entirely rational, scientific and topic-neutral," he corrected me, ticking off the points on his fingers.

"You're... telling me you didn't just invent these? That they'll work on any book?" I asked, injecting a tad of wavering uncertainty into my bluster.

"Any book, no matter how special you think it is, can be accurately and incisively examined as to its meaning using these principles."

I flared my nostrils, and stomped off to my desk with high dudgeon. From a bag (which appeared at my command under the desk -- this was a dream, after all), I produced a thick, dauntingly leather-bound folio. I returned to the podium carrying the book reverently; from the audience I heard mutters to the effect of "Uh-oh... here we go... time for some testifying..."

"Are you telling me, sir," I breathed with menace into the microphone, glaring in Branuck's direction while holding up the Book, "that you can stand here in the sight of God Almighty and shred the plausibility of the author of this book, using these... these..." I grasped for a term, as I waved at the presumptions "...abstract GNATS!?"

"Nothing could be easier," Branuck replied with a sigh; he seemed to be getting bored. I turned to the gathered crowd.

"I DON'T BELIEVE IT!" I thundered, and slammed the book on the podium's top, just under the microphone -- and a very solid, satisfying, preachifying 'thoom' it made. I saw, in my peripheral vision, Branuck jump. But he settled back again, rolling his eyes as I continued to boom into the mic in my best 'expostulating' voice.

"I think even you, sir, would acknowledge that this book in front of me has the potential of affecting the belief of every man, woman ,and child on this planet, concerning their relation to the person of Jesus Christ! Furthermore, I think even you, sir, would -- must! -- necessarily affirm that the book I hold in my hands has come to us, in its present state, through the tireless efforts of many scholars and wise men whose concern for accurate, useful, reliable history is virtually unmatched in any other similar endeavor; who have stood against the howls of derision sometimes thrown at them; who pursued with single-minded forthrightness, in the face of every conceivable adversity their opponents could logically bring to bear against them, the task of educating the world as to the character and the fitness of Jesus as Lord of our lives! I have utter, ironclad, rock-solid FAITH that this book, sir, is entirely capable of shrugging off those principles of yours! If, sir, if you really think those principles are the most effective means of discovering the 'real' meaning of an author, when he claims to be describing historical events accurately and honestly, even events the acceptance of which would have deep impact on the religious life of the reader -- IF you think you have chosen the proper means of doing this, then I dare you, sir... yes!" I emphasized, turning to the increasingly annoyed Branuck, "I DARE you to come up here in front of us and apply those principles of yours to... this... book." And I gentled my tone, laying my hand upon its cover. "I swear to you, sir, in front of all these people, that if you can honestly, fairly, and neutrally apply your principles to explain to us what the author of any chapter of this book really means -- that is, as opposed to what he claims to us to mean -- then I will gladly stand before all of you and disavow this book's authority, cogency, and reliability in its claim to give us the most useful picture of what and who Jesus really was. I hereby forfeit any further time on my part; come here and show us just how effective your principles truly are."

Ending with a tremulous derision, I slowly paced back to my seat, leaving the book grandly undefended on the podium -- with plenty of sighs at my back. Branuck rose, rolling his eyes again for the benefit of the audience. "Amen!" someone said, to general laughter, as the eminent historian took the podium.

"Now that we're past that..." he began, once more to general laughter. I assumed the most haughty air of injured dignity.

The gist of Branuck's remarks over the next minute amounted to this: that this was precisely the sort of pabulum which he generally refused such engagements in order to avoid. Nevertheless, if I was fool enough to give him free rein to expound on the book, he would take the opportunity to demonstrate to the audience what real historical analysis can do to uncover the truth of an author's contentions, which the author cannot help but leave behind, no matter how well-accepted his book has been by anyone in the world, or how cogent the book may seem at a quick, uncritical glance. He was confident he could open the book virtually at random and demonstrate the validity of his procedure using any given bit of material; but since I hadn't specified exactly where in the book he should begin, I would have no objections to a spot at about the 3/4 mark...? (Renewed chuckles from the audience; I flicked my fingers unconcernedly in his direction.) Very well; with a deep breath of confidence, Branuck opened the book to the general location, and...


Silence. Branuck blinked once or twice. Then he paged randomly through the text in a few directions. Then he furiously flipped to the title page within the leather binding. The audience grew disconcerted. With a strangled grunt, he slammed the book shut, stomped to his desk, threw his papers into his briefcase, and stormed out of the building.

The audience now roiled with confusion. The debate moderator (I have a feeling my lately departed senior English teacher would greatly appreciate this dream!) cautiously inched to the podium to offer her apologies to the audience for Branuck's abrupt departure. But her curiosity overwhelmed her; she edged the book open...

and puzzlement bloomed on her face! She also turned to the title page within the leather binding.

Then she started laughing so hard, she had to grab the podium to keep herself up.

Rising to my feet, I trod up behind her, shaking my finger and admonishing her with mock gravity:

"I don't very much appreciate people laughing at my leatherbound copy of Tom Branuck's The Fable of Honesty!"

I am not sure how the audience responded, however, for at that moment I awoke.

 photo European-lab-Close-to-finding-God-particle-NAN19NH-x-large.jpg


Realms Beyond

I've demonstrated in other posts,  that transcendent realms were not the origination comcept of suernatural. That is, however, the modern Western concept. Thus, we might as well ask, are there realms beyond our knowing, is this possible? If so, is there any possibility of our investigating them? Scientists have usually tended to assume that metaphysical assumptions about realms beyond are just out of the domain of science and can’t be investigated so they don’t bother to comment. Victor Stenger, however, wants to be able to assert that he’s disproved them so he argues that the magisteria do overlap. “There exists a widespread notion, promulgated at the higher levels of the scientific community itself, that science has nothing to say about God or the supernatural…”[1]
He sights the national academy of sciences and their position that these are non overlapping magisteria, “science is a way of knowing about the natural world. It is limited to explaining the natural world. Science can say nothing about the supernatural. Weather God exists or not is a question about which science is neutral.”2 Stenger disagrees. He argues that they can study the effects of prayer so that means they can eliminate the supernatural.

Two things are wrong with Stenger’s approach. First, he doesn’t use Lourdes or any other empirical record of miracles. He’s going entirely by double blind studies which can’t control for prayer from outside the control group; that makes such studies virtually worthless. So in effect Stenger is taking the work of people who try to empirically measure what is beyond the empirical, then when it doesn’t work he says “see, there’s nothing beyond the empirical.” That proves nothing more than the fact that we can’t measure that which is beyond measuring. Secondly, he doesn’t deal with the real religious experience studies or the M scale. That means he’s not really dealing with the empirical effects of supernature. I’ve just demonstrated good reason to think that supernature Is working in nature. It’s not an alien realm outside the natural, it’s not a miracle it’s not something that sets its self apart form the daily regular workings of the world. Supernature is of God but nature is of God. God made nature and he works in nature. We can tell the two apart by the results. Now I am going to deal with the other two issues, are there realms beyond the natural? Are there evidences of a form of supernatural in the world that stand apart from the natural such that we can call them “miracles?”

Are there realms beyond the natural? Of course there can be no direct evidence, even a direct look at them would stand apart from our received version of reality and thus be suspect. The plaintive cry of the materialists that “there is no evidence for the supernatural” is fallacious to the core. How can there be evidence when any evidence that might be would automatically be suspect? Moreover, science itself gives us reason to think there might be. Quantum physics is about unseen realms, but they are the world of the extremely tiny. This is the fundamental basis of reality, what’s beneath or behind everything. They talk about “particles” but in reality they are not particles. They are not bits of stuff. They are not solid matter.3 Treating particles as points is also problematic. This is where string theory comes in.
This is where string theory comes in. In string theory fundamental particles aren't treated as zero-dimensional points. Instead they are one-dimensional vibrating strings or loops. The maths is hair-raising, and the direct evidence non-existent, but it does provide a way out of the current theoretical cul-de-sac. It even provides a route to unifying gravity with the other three fundamental forces - a problem which has baffled the best brains for decades. The problem is, you need to invoke extra dimensions to make the equations work in string-theory and its variants: 10 spacetime dimensions to be precise. Or 11 (M-theory). Or maybe 26. In any case, loads more dimensions than 4.
So where are they then? One idea is that they are right under our noses, but compacted to the quantum scale so that they are imperceptible. "Hang on a minute", you might think,"How can you ever prove the existence of something that, by definition, is impossible to perceive?" It's a fair point, and there are scientists who criticize string theory for its weak predictive power and testability. Leaving that to one side, how can you conceptualize extra dimensions?4
There is no direct evidence of these unseen realms and they may be unprovable. Why are they assumed with such confidence and yet reductionsts make the opposite assumption about spiritual realms? It’s not because the quantum universe realms are tangible or solid or material they are not. Scientists can’t really describe what they are, except that they are mathematical. In fact why can’t they be the same realms?

Then there’s the concept of the multiverse. This is not subatomic in size but beyond our space/time continuum. These would be other universes perhaps like our own, certainly the size of our own, but beyond our realm of space/time. Some scientists accept the idea that the same rules would apply in all of these universes, but some don’t.
Beyond it [our cosmic visual horizon—42 billion light years] could be many—even infinitely many—domains much like the one we see. Each has a different initial distribution of matter, but the same laws of physics operate in all. Nearly all cosmologists today (including me) accept this type of multiverse, which Max Tegmark calls “level 1.” Yet some go further. They suggest completely different kinds of universes, with different physics, different histories, maybe different numbers of spatial dimensions. Most will be sterile, although some will be teeming with life. A chief proponent of this “level 2” multiverse is Alexander Vilenkin, who paints a dramatic picture of an infinite set of universes with an infinite number of galaxies, an infinite number of planets and an infinite number of people with your name who are reading this article.5

Well there are two important things to note here. First, that neither string theory nor multiverse may ever be proved empirically. There’s a professor at Columbia named Peter Woit who writes the blog “Not Even Wrong” dedicated to showing that string theory can’t be proved.6 There is no proof for it or against it. It can’t be disproved so it can’t be proved either.7 That means the idea will be around for a long time because without disproving it they can’t get rid of it. Yet without any means of disproving it, it can’t be deemed a scientific fact. Remember it’s not about proving things it’s about disproving them. Yet science is willing to consider their possibility and takes them quite seriously. There is no empirical evidence of these things. They posit the dimensions purely as a mathematical solution so the equations work not because they have any real evidence.8

We could make the argument that we have several possibilities for other worlds and those possibilities suggest more: we have the idea of being “outside time.” There’s no proof that this is place one can actually go to, but the idea of it suggests the possibility, there’s the world of anti-matter, there are worlds in string membranes, and there are other dimensions tucked away and folded into our own. In terms of the multiverse scientists might argue that they conceive of these as “naturalistic.” They would be like our world with physical laws and hard material substances and physical things. As we have seen there are those who go further and postulate the “rules change” idea. We probably should assume the rules work the same way because its all we know. We do assume this in making God arguments such as the cosmological argument. Yet the possibility exists that there could be other realms that are not physical and not “natural” as we know that concept. The probability of that increases when we realize that these realms are beyond our space/time thus they are beyond the domain of our cause and effect, and we know as “natural.” It really all goes back to the philosophical and ideological assumption about rules. There is no way to prove it either way. Ruling out the possibility of a spiritual realm based upon the fact that we don’t live in it would be stupid. The idea that “we never see any proof of it” is basically the same thing as saying “we don’t live it so it must not exist.” Of course this field is going to be suspect, and who can blame the critics? Anyone with a penchant for the unknown can set up shop and speculate about what might be “out there.” Yet science itself offers the possibility in the form of modern physics, the only rationale for closing that off is the distaste for religion.

All that is solid melts into air

This line by Marx deals with society, social and political institutions, but in thinking about the topic of SN it suggests a very different issue. The reductionst/materialists and phsyicalists assume and often argue that there is no proof of anything not material and not ‘physical” (energy is a form of matter).  The hard tangible nature of the physical is taken as the standard for reality while the notion of something beyond our ability to dietetic is seen in a skeptical way, even though the major developments in physics are based upon it. Is the physical world as tangible and solid as we think? Science talks about “particles” and constructs models of atoms made of wooden tubes and little balls this gives us the psychological impression that the world of the very tiny is based upon little solid balls. In reality subatomic particles are not made out of little balls, nor are these ‘particles” tangible or solid. In fact we could make a strong argument that no one even knows what they are made of.

We keep talking about "particles", but this word doesn't adequately sum up the type of matter that particle physicists deal with. In physics, particles aren't usually tiny bits of stuff. When you start talking about fundamental particles like quarks that have a volume of zero, or virtual particles that have no volume and pop in and out of existence just like that, it is stretching the everyday meaning of the word "particle" a bit far. Thinking about particles as points sooner or later leads the equations up a blind alley. Understanding what is happening at the smallest scale of matter needs a new vocabulary, new maths, and very possibly new dimensions.
This is where string theory comes in. In string theory fundamental particles aren't treated as zero-dimensional points. Instead they are one-dimensional vibrating strings or loops. The maths is hair-raising, and the direct evidence non-existent, but it does provide a way out of the current theoretical cul-de-sac. It even provides a route to unifying gravity with the other three fundamental forces - a problem which has baffled the best brains for decades. The problem is, you need to invoke extra dimensions to make the equations work in string-theory and its variants: 10 spacetime dimensions to be precise. Or 11 (M-theory). Or maybe 26. In any case, loads more dimensions than 4.9
Particles are not solid; they are not very tiny chunks of solid stuff. They have no volume nor do they have the kind of stable existence we do. They “pop” in and out of existence! This is not proof for the supernatural. It might imply that the seeming solidity of “reality” is illusory. There are two kinds of subatomic particles, elementary and composite. Composite are made are made out of smaller particles. Now we hear it said that elementary particles are not made out of other particles. It’s substructure is unknown. They may or may not be made of smaller particles. That means we really don’t know what subatomic particles are made of. That means scientists are willing to believe in things they don’t understand.10 While it is not definite enough to prove anything except that we don’t know the basis of reality, it does prove that and also the possibilities for the ultimate truth of this are still wide open. To rule out “the supernatural” (by the wrong concept) on the assumption that we have no scientific proof of it is utterly arrogance and bombast. For all we know what we take to be solid unshakable reality might be nothing more than God’s day dream. Granted, there is end to the spinning of moon beams and we can talk all day about what ‘might be,’ so we need evidence and arguments to warrant the placing of confidence in propositions. We have confidence placing evidence; it doesn’t have to be scientific although some of it is. That will come in the next chapter. The point here is that there is no basis for the snide dismissal of concepts such as supernatural and supernature.

1 Victor Stenger, God and The Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion. Amherst: New
York: Prometheus Books, 2012. 225.

2 Stenger, ibid, quoting National Academy of Sciences, Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington DC: National Academies Press, 1998, 58.

3STFC “are there other dimensions,” Large Hadron Collider. Website. Science and Facilities Council, 2012 URL:

4 ibid

5 George F.R. Ellis. “Does the Miltiverse Really Exist [preview]” Scientific American (July 19, 2011) On line version URL:
George F.R. Ellis is Professor Emeritus in Mathematics at University of Cape Town. He’s been professor of Cosmic Physics at SISSA (Trieste)

6 Peter Woit, Not Even Wrong, Posted on September 18, 2012 by woi blog, URL:

7 ibid, “Welcome to the Multiverse,” Posted on May 21, 2012 by woit

8 Mohsen Kermanshahi. Universal Theory. “String Theory.” Website URL:

9 STFC ibid, op cit.

10  Giorgio Giacomelli; Maurizio Spurio Particles and Fundamental Interactions: An Introduction to Particle Physics (2nd ed.). Italy: Springer-Verlag, science and Business media, 2009, pp. 1–3.


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