Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Notes on Boyd's Satan and the Problem of Evil Chapter 4B

At the end of chapter four (see here for some criticisms of the first part), Boyd, in Satan and the Problem of Evil, gives what he takes to be scientific and experiential support for his open theism - that is, evidence that is supposed to show that the future does not exist (and hence is not known in an exhaustive definite manner by God). Boyd suggests that science supports this view by appealing to the fact that most plausible interpretations of quantum theory in physics require indeterminism. But of course indeterminism - causal "openness" - is perfectly compatible with the future not being open in Boyd's sense. Indeterminism and eternalism (the view that all times past or present or future exist) are perfectly compatible. It is a common confusion not to notice this, but of course Boyd is pretty much entirely confused throughout this science section. He takes indeterminism to show that the irreversibility of time is real, however, I'm not really sure what he even means by "the irreversibility of time". I take it that he has in mind something like the arrow of time - that is, the directedness of time or the things within it. But of course, indeterminism has no direct bearing on this issue, contra Boyd. A system can be indeterministic in a past-to-future direction, a future-to-past direction, or even both. So indeterminism on its own, even quantum mechanical indeterminism, really says little if anything about Boyd's "irreversibility of time" (despite the people he cites in support of what he says - these are issues that scientists unfortunately often get as confused about as lay people). Thus, contra Boyd, quantum mechanics does not in the slightest support his views and is perfectly compatible with all manner of eternalist or anti-open theist views.

If Boyd's discussion of quantum mechanics was somewhat confused, his discussion of relativity theory is a complete mess. First of all, though, he suggests that Scripture treats God as temporal but I've dealt with these sorts of contentions in this previous post. Boyd then notes that relativity theory doesn't show that time is unreal as if that helped him. But of course those who object to theories like Boyd's based on relativity theory would mostly agree with this, so I'm not sure how this is supposed to be helpful. Boyd claims that the theory does not address the ontological status of the future but this is contentious and, I would suggest, false. For instance, say event E1 is in the absolute future of my current space-time coordinate (pretend for the moment that I'm a point-particle). Now, given relativity, any event E2 which is neither in my absolute past nor present nor "light-like" related to me will be simultaneous with me in some reference frames and not in others (these are called "space-like" related to me). So let us take an event E2 which is very close to the space-time cone carved out by my absolute future. There are parts of my absolute future which, in some reference frames are simultaneous with E2 since they are space-like related to it. Assume E1 is space-like related to E2. Now we have two events - E1 and E2 - which lie on a simultaneity line but one of them - E2 - lies on such a line with me and the other lies in my absolute future. So there's no room to say that E1 doesn't exist since it lies on a simultaneity line with E2, which also exists, and everything which lies on a single simultaneity line is equally real. So Boyd (or Capek, who he cites) really can't get out of eternalism without reinterpreting relativity theory or treating it merely instrumentally (which sometimes Boyd confusingly sounds like he's doing, other times not - I'm not sure even he knows exactly what he's trying to do here). The rest of Boyd's discussion is basically the same as the mass of confusions he's posted on his blog and which I've addressed previously in this post.

In response to the argument that time was created with creation and since God is above creation he is above time, Boyd confusingly tries to respond to this by saying that God's experience or measurement of time is different than ours. But that doesn't even address the argument at all since it wasn't about experience or measurement in the first place - this is a metaphysical or physical argument based on the nature of God and the apparent fact that our time dimension is essentially a component of our space-time universe and hence cannot have existed outside of it. I'm really not sure what Boyd was after when he started talking about measurements here.

Boyd's argument from experience is essentially this - our experience of ourselves as free and morally responsible presupposes or is the same as an experience of ourselves as being undetermined. But of course this, again, does not support his views in the slightest. As I've said previously, indeterminism is perfectly compatible with eternalism or anti-open theism. So again, nothing Boyd says here provides even the slightest shred of evidence for his views.

Next time, more on Boyd's book...

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