Thursday, 17 December 2015

Luke Barnes (Partially) Decloaks

I have, since March 2013, written seven articles that refer to Luke Barnes, to a greater or lesser extent.  Barnes can blame himself for much of these references because he responded to the first article which was only tangentially about him (so long as Barnes is not actually the person I was responding to, namely, faithwithreason).

I wrote in that article: "So, really, the universe could be 'finely tuned' in the sense that if it were different then life could not have arisen and this would provide no proof of Barnes' god."

In the comments, Barnes' denied being a creationist and denied being against evolution.  He said that he preferred to keep his theological leanings to himself.  This is all well and good, and I can fully go along with people keeping their beliefs (and non-beliefs) to themselves so long as their work and their opinions are not informed by underlying theological concepts instead of - or, perhaps more charitably, as well as - more rational concepts … and this is particularly the case if they are scientists.

And this is the problem.  Barnes is selective in his attacks on people engaging with the issue of "fine-tuning".  He took a physicist, Victor Stenger, to task for his thoughtful and detailed discussion, while giving a big thumbs-up to William Lane Craig for his nonsense ("well worth a read").

So, I've been trying ever since (from time to time) to work out if Barnes is a cloaked theist.

I think we have our answer, in part due to the efforts of Arkenaten.

For some bizarre reason, Barnes took it upon himself to attack science royalty in the form of Neil deGrasse Tyson - twice!  And the precise topic on which Barnes attacked Tyson was on the topic of god, specifically Tyson's thesis that a belief in god can put the brakes on scientific enquiry and that "intelligent" design people should "get out of the science room".  Note that Barnes didn't really attack the thesis, but he devoted two blog articles to attacking the example that Tyson used, namely the fact that Newton didn't develop perturbation theory despite it being right up his alley and it took another 200 years before Laplace arrived on the scene and did.

In the first article, Barnes arrives at the conclusion that "scientists suck at history".  This is probably true and probably even true for the reasons that Barnes gives - that scientists read history like everyone else, reading the bits that appeal to them, interpreting historical events in modern terms and picking heroes based on their similarity to the reader.  Barnes goes so far as to say that Tyson raises Laplace to the role of hero because, like Tyson, Laplace was apparently an agnostic.

Interesting, huh?  When challenged by Arkenaten, "Are you upset by Tyson’s take on this because you are Christian, or simply a deist", Barnes responded with "A Newtonian".

Following Barnes' own logic, Barnes is thus a theist, an heretical christian and occultist, like the scientist Barnes venerates - Newton.  (I don't actually think that Barnes is an occultist and as to being heretical, it seems that all the various subdivisions of christianity disagree with each other on various points, so they are perhaps all heretical to one extent or another, depending on who you ask.)

But even more telling, Barnes later responded to Arkenaten that he (Barnes) is "at least a deist".  Ok, now we are getting somewhere.  I don't have any real problems with deists, so long as they are real deists.  Functionally they are indistinguishable from atheists and non-theists with the exception of their answer to "how did the universe come about?"  We'll say "we don't actually know, but there are some tentative hypotheses that don't yet amount to fully fledged theories" (or in short "we don't know") while the deist will say "a god set it all in motion, then buggered off never to be seen or heard from again, leaving the universe to operate purely on the basis of the physics that it (the god) had established, but as to the nature of that god, we know nothing other than it created the universe" (or in short "we don't know").

However, a classical deist does not believe in a personal creator.  (Not even the modern deists do, despite having co-opted the notion of transpersonal relationships.)  This is of interest because, back in the comments to An Open Letter to Luke Barnes, Barnes responded to something I wrote:

Luke also fails, in his paper, to clearly indicate that the claims of apologists with respect to fine-tuning are overblown, thus allowing those apologists to interpret Luke’s work as supporting "strong fine-tuning".  In fact, he follows the standard apologist approach by presenting two "tidy explanations" (which he graciously admits are neither mutually exclusive nor exhaustive), one which is basically the anthropic principle and another which relies on a "transcendent, personal creator".  Note, he doesn’t say a "divine being" or "a god", Luke uses a term which could have been lifted directly from William Lane Craig or the Institute for Creation Research or Lee Strobel’s "The Case for a Creator".

writing:

""transcendent, personal creator". Note, he doesn’t say a "divine being" or "a god""   They mean the same thing. You really should learn to read the lines before you try to read between them.

If Barnes truly believes that "a god" = "a transcendent, personal creator" then he's not a deist.  To believe in a personal creator, which he's effectively done here, he must be a theist.  He might not define himself as a theist, he might consider himself a deist of some form, but all the signs are pointing to him falling into the generally understood category of theists.  As I have pointed out before, it certainly explains all the quacking.

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I say "(partially) decloaks" because I still harbour suspicions that Barnes has apologetic leanings and an intention to support people like WLC with his pronouncements on fine-tuning, or more specifically "fine-tuning for intelligent life".

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