Monday, December 06, 2010

An example of why I hold Hitchens in pretty low regard

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVA5GB_6nWQ#t=4m40s

"...what we now know about the quantum...suggests that nothing from nothing isn't as much of a contradiction as it may seem..."
You know, because if there's nothing and something came from nothing, it's because the quantum did it.  Got a gap in your knowledge?  Quantumdidit!
And of course, quantum is something.  Which shows, of course, that something could come from nothing, since something came from nothing, because of quantum.

This reminds me of a clever quip from Dinesh D'Souza -
"Now, we live at a time unfortunately where what physicists call 'quantum weirdness' has become an excuse for theoretical promiscuity. You don't know how to explain something, all you have to do is keep chanting repeatedly the word 'quantum'. You don't understand consciousness, 'well, it's probably some sort of a quantum thing'. This is not explanation; this is idiocy."
- Dinesh D'Souza, debate with John Loftus, minute 47:00

97 comments:

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I am not inclined to defend the arguments of anybody else—least of all Hitchens, who, although possessed of a formidable intellect, consistently advances what seem to me to be nonsensical arguments pertaining to objective morality—but I will jump in quickly as regards the whole "something from nothing" nonsense that seems so convincing to some contingent of Christians.

The best analogy with which I am familiar is rather easy to understand. Imagine that one begins with 0. Then imagine that 0 "splitting" into -1 and 1. That admitted oversimplification is largely what cosmologists believe happened as regards the origin of our universe, which many believe ultimately to have zero total energy.

As Stephen Hawking recently wrote, "On the scale of the entire universe, the positive energy of the matter can be balanced by the negative gravitational energy." Individual celestial bodies certainly cannot appear out of nothing, but, in principle, a zero-total-energy universe could (by splitting 0 into 1 and -1).

P.S.: I heard the Loftus debate was pretty brutal. I am reading "The Christian Delusion" right now, and am a bit disappointed with it, including and perhaps especially the Loftus chapters. Dovetailing with what I was saying in the combox yesterday, he repeatedly mixes up "principle" and "principal." The whole book, really, is poorly edited and, thus, in some sense hobbles its own credibility.

Rhology said...

Then imagine that 0 "splitting" into -1 and 1.

So nothing becomes something. Uncaused. Spontaneously. For no reason. OK.
BTW, has this been observed? Anything even close to it, analogous to it?



which many believe ultimately to have zero total energy.

Zero total energy != nothing.


I heard the Loftus debate was pretty brutal

If you mean Loftus was pummeled, I would agree. I don't love D'Souza. In fact, I don't even like him all that much. The first 3 debates I heard him do were pretty mediocre, and I gave up on him, then later tried again and found some where he did fairly well, including the Loftus one.
Loftus is just a joke. In my circles, we literally laugh and shake our heads in bemusement at him. You asked me some time ago whom among the public atheists I respect most, and I've recently discovered Stephen Law. I think he's the leader in the clubhouse.

Rhology said...

So when I say
"Zero total energy != nothing."

I'm wondering where the positive and negative energy came from. Or has it always existed? If always existent, what of the 2nd law of thermodynamics and the problem of traversing infinite moments?

Andrew said...

Look, way over my head, it's a bird, it's a plane, oh wait, it's Rhology and The Jolly Nihilist.
I have always thought that Hitchens is kinda funny when he isn't being blasphemous. I think he's a lot more witty than are Harris and Dawkins. I read "Letter to a Christian Nation" a while back and was just bored by it. I tried to read "The God Delusion" but it was just as dumb and way longer so I quit. I thought about reading "God is Not Great" but I question, given my experience with the other two, whether it would be worth my time.

Matt said...

I'd also like to note that there is a vast difference between God and quanta as explanations. If God does X directly, then the act of God-doing-X is causally primitive - there is nothing more basic in terms of which such an action can be explained. And as such, the most primitive causal explanation for how X was done was that God did it directly.

On the other hand, explanations (or instances of "idiocy", as D'Souza puts it) in terms of quanta are not causally primitive. Explaining consciousness, for example, in terms of quanta requires not only detailing and explaining things at the quantum level, but then also those effects at the molecular level, and then at the microscopic level, and then again at the macroscopic level, and then finally at the level of the phenomenon being explained. If a purported explanation cannot take us all the way through the "mereological strata," then such an "explanation" does not explain anything.

As much ridicule as God's direct agency receives as being an explanation for things God has done directly, it is a proper explanation inasmuch as it connects cause to effect. Many purported explanations in terms of quanta are not even proper explanations, and they do not come anywhere close to connecting cause and effect. Rather, such "explanations" usually involve copious amounts of hand-waving and are accepted on the intellectual authority of those purporting them.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Rhology,

Interacting with your comments in reverse order seems to be the most sensible way to proceed.

To start, cosmology seems essentially to have abandoned the idea of mass-energy having existed infinitely into the past, both for the philosophical problem of traversing infinite moments and the scientific problem of entropy. The very concept of an “infinite past” into which anything could stretch seems antiquated, and is no longer adhered to by any cosmologists of whom I am aware.

The Big Bang, in itself, posits a specific beginning of space and time, and I know of no cosmologist who proposes that the initial “point” of the Big Bang existed into the infinite past. Stephen Hawking has advanced the “no boundary” model of the origin of the universe.

He wrote:

“The realization that time can behave like another direction of space means one can get rid of the problem of time having a beginning, in a similar way in which we got rid of the edge of the world. Suppose the beginning of the universe was like the South Pole of the earth, with degrees of latitude playing the role of time. As one moves north, the circles of constant latitude, representing the size of the universe, would expand. The universe would start as a point at the South Pole, but the South Pole is much like any other point. To ask what happened before the beginning of the universe would become a meaningless question, because there is nothing south of the South Pole. In this picture space-time has no boundary—the same laws of nature hold at the South Pole as in other places.”

The ultimate solution seems to lie in a zero-total-energy universe.

As Lawrence Krauss wrote:

“Because if you add up the total energy of a flat universe, the result is precisely zero. How can this be? When you include the effects of gravity, energy comes in two forms. Mass corresponds to positive energy, but the gravitational attraction between massive objects can correspond to negative energy. If the positive energy and the negative gravitational energy of the universe cancel out, we end up in a flat universe.”

He continued:

“If our universe arose spontaneously from nothing at all, one might predict that its total energy should be zero. And when we measure the total energy of the universe, which could have been anything, the answer turns out to be the only one consistent with this possibility.”

So, when you ask from whence the positive and negative energy came, the answer, in a zero-total-energy universe, is this: from nothing. Nothingness can be thought of in multiple ways. 0 constitutes nothing, but so does (-X + X). (-X + X) is precisely the same as 0, just in a different form. The positive energy of the matter being balanced by the negative gravitational energy is (-X + X), which is 0, which, in total, is nothing.

To your other question, about any observed examples of nothing becoming something (cases of 0 becoming (-X + X)), obviously we do not have any examples of literally that very thing: now there is something, rather than nothing. But, we have a decent (albeit imperfect) analog with vacuum fluctuations.

As Stephen Hawking wrote:

“It is not obvious, but it turns out that with regard to [the Heisenberg uncertainty principle], the value of a field and its rate of change play the same role as the position and velocity of a particle. That is, the more accurately one is determined, the less accurately the other can be. An important consequence of that is that there is no such thing as empty space. That is because empty space means that both the value of a field and its rate of change are exactly zero. (If the field's rate of change were not zero, the space would not remain empty.) Since the uncertainty principle does not allow the values of both the field and the rate of change to be exact, space is never empty. It can have a state of minimum energy, called the vacuum, but that state is subject to what are called quantum jitters, or vacuum fluctuations—particles and fields quivering in and out of existence.”

zilch said...

In addition to the possible scientific explanations for the existence of something, it should be pointed out that God is also something (isn't He?). Saying that God escapes the supposed impossibility of "something from nothing", or that He is the "primal" or "uncaused" cause, is no explanation at all- it's just hand waving and an appeal to magic.

Sure, I can't prove that "Goddidit without needing to be done Himself" is not true; but it explains no more than any materialistic account, and immediately begs a host of questions and objections, the answers to which are not forthcoming.

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

The ultimate solution seems to lie in a zero-total-energy universe.

Well, as we've seen already, that's not the case. The solution is that God created the universe. It may be that the "zero-total-energy universe" hypothesis is the best that naturalistic materialism can do, but the insuperable problems to which it is subject is a further sign that naturalistic materialism is a failed worldview.


Mass corresponds to positive energy, but the gravitational attraction between massive objects can correspond to negative energy.

We're still dealing with THINGS. This is SOMETHING. I'm wondering whence, since the universe is not infinitely old, these things came. This explanation is doublespeak - infinitely old yet not infinitely old, nothing and yet something.


0 constitutes nothing, but so does (-X + X). (-X + X) is precisely the same as 0

No, X is something. Neither is -X nothing. You're jumping categories b/c it's convenient for you.


zilch,

it should be pointed out that God is also something (isn't He?). Saying that God escapes the supposed impossibility of "something from nothing", or that He is the "primal" or "uncaused" cause, is no explanation at all- it's just hand waving and an appeal to magic.

1) Yes, God is "something". He is outside space and time. What makes you think my solution is subject to the same problem? PLease make your argument.
2) Matt has already overturned your empty assertion that God is not an explanation.
3) You said "magic", not I. What are you trying to achieve with your strawman? Certainly not persuasion of knowledgeable Christians!

zilch said...

Rho- please show me how "outside space and time" is different from "magic".

cheers from thawing Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

You made the comparison. You prove your assertion.


(But b/c I'm a nice guy, I'll throw you a bone.)

bossmanham said...

JN, when William Lane Craig has demolished that line of argumentation about a billion times, I find it silly that atheists are still using it. Nothing can't produce anything. Nothing is the absence of anything.

It takes more faith to believe that silly crap than for anyone to believe in God.

Mike Westfall said...

OK, so "nothing" is equivalent to "something plus anti-something" if I get the argument.

But how does the something get separated from the anti-something? Doesn't that violate the laws of entropy? Or do we have special pleading since it's the Universe we're talking about? Is there some kind of meta-energy that does the separating of energy and anti-energy? Where did that come from, and where is the anti-meta-energy to balance it all back out to nothingness?

NAL said...

Matt:

If a purported explanation cannot take us all the way through the "mereological strata," then such an "explanation" does not explain anything.

Nonsense.

Each level of strata gets its own explanation. The only reason to require a single explanation is to stack the deck in favor of God.

zilch said...

Rho- obviously, everyone is going to have a different definition for "magic", which, like "god", has no real-world referents to hold it down and can thus run hog-wild in the imagination. But my definition, which I think is not far from most people's conception, is something like this:

Magic is a force under the control of a being or beings, which is invisible and otherwise undetectable, except by its effects in the real world. The beings who can use magic can be earthly creatures with special training or qualities, or they can themselves be magical, or consist of magic. Magic operates in a world or dimension of its own, and while it follows certain laws or rules, it is not subject to the laws or rules of the real world.

How is this any different from what God does or is?

I know that you have a parochial definition of "magic", for the same reason you have a parochial definition of "superstition": you want to keep your religion out of it. But I don't see any logical difference between, say, a wizard saying an incantation to create a ring, and a god saying an incantation to create a world. It's all magic if you ask me, and there's no evidence for any of it.

Maybe you can show me the difference, Rho.

cheers from cool Vienna, zilch.

Mike Westfall said...

Ah, yes. God spoke the universe into existence with a magical incantation.

I see.

zilch said...

Well, to tell the truth, I don't know how He did it. I just assumed that since he used an incantation to create light, that He did the same for the Universe. But if anyone knows any different, I'm all ears.

cheers from dark Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

Most people define magic in the sense of sleight of hand tricks performed by magicians. But even with magic it's better than saying nothing created everything.

Rhology said...

How is this any different from what God does or is?

So are you going to read the post I linked you to?
If so, and you still don't know my answer, please read it again.

If not, please read it. Thanks!

thechemistscorner said...

I would be happy if someone can give a clear definition of what negative energy actually is. If you are up to it go ahead and give an explanation of negative mass and volume as well.

Rhology said...

Is negative energy what turns smiles upside down?

The Jolly Nihilist said...

JN, when William Lane Craig has demolished that line of argumentation about a billion times, I find it silly that atheists are still using it.

I am tempted to call this the William Lane Craig Killed You fallacy.

Yes, I am sure William Lane Craig, insofar as he adheres to the Kalām cosmological argument, thinks my (and, more importantly, the cosmologists') reasoning is faulty. But I, myself, could appeal to the Victor Stenger Killed You fallacy in response.


Nothing can't produce anything. Nothing is the absence of anything.

Even though the analogy is imperfect, you are being far too sweeping and broad in your generalization, especially given our current knowledge pertaining to quantum fluctuation, that being the temporary change in the amount of energy in a point in space, arising from the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. I admit that these fluctuations do not occur in “nothing,” insofar as space-time is in existence, as are the laws of physics and quantum mechanics. But particles and fields quivering in and out of existence is certainly something of a similar kind.


It takes more faith to believe that silly crap than for anyone to believe in God.

Honestly—speaking as a longtime outsider to faith—this is downright bizarre to me. Rather than looking to physics and cosmology to investigate the deep mysteries of the universe's origins, you look to the bible: a cobbled-together book of fantastical mythology written by ignorant desert tribesmen. Since you invoked the phrase “silly crap,” it is only right to ask: Does it not strike you as being sillier (and crappier) to believe Matthew's attestation to a horde of zombies roaming about Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52-53)? To believe Lot's luckless wife was turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26)?


But how does the something get separated from the anti-something? Doesn't that violate the laws of entropy? Or do we have special pleading since it's the Universe we're talking about? Is there some kind of meta-energy that does the separating of energy and anti-energy? Where did that come from, and where is the anti-meta-energy to balance it all back out to nothingness?

One of the principal distinctions between those of a predominantly scientific mindset and those of a religious mindset is that the former embrace uncertainty whereas the latter crave absolute, immediate answers. I am neither a physicist nor a cosmologist, and I am confident that even if I were, and even if I were eminent in my field, I would not, at present, possess all the answers. What we can seem to say is that, through observations of the cosmic microwave background from the Big Bang, we have confirmed, seemingly unambiguously, that we live in a universe that is precisely flat. Moreover, we can be confident that, if we add up the total energy of a flat universe, the result is precisely zero, with the positive energy of mass and the negative gravitational energy canceling each other out. If we live in a zero-total-energy universe, no spontaneous energy injection is required.

The god explanation is the least satisfactory and the most problematic. First, the confirmation of Darwinian evolution by natural selection ought to have exorcised skyhookery from our consciousness. Second, invoking a creative intelligence to kick off the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago just aggravates the problem of explanation—pushing everything back one notch—insofar as the fine-tuning creative intelligence responsible for the laws of physics and quantum mechanics must, itself, be quite fine-tuned to be so eminently creative and intelligent. And, surely, any second-level creative intelligence that is responsible for fine-tuning the creative intelligence that fine-tuned the laws of physics and quantum mechanics must, itself, be ever so fine-tuned. Arbitrarily to award supernatural transcendence to any such fine-tuner is to bloat one's conclusions.

Mike Westfall said...

I do not posit what caused the Big Bang. I was just wondering what caused the stuff and anti-stuff to separate from each other out of nothing and form complex systems. Is there no hypothesis for that? We observe the universe is thus that the stuff and anti-stuff averages to zero, and therefor "no energy insertion required?" No causative agent at all is required? It just is the way it is? Where's the scientific enquiry. Inquiring minds want to know what caused nothing to split into stuff and anti-stuff and form the universe!

Oh, I see there is an appeal to "uncertainty." Whaddya mean? We're not certain that laws of entropy hold? Really? Or, that we don't really know what caused the universe to appear out of nothing? But it does seem like something interesting and important we ought to investigate if we are to understand the workings of the universe, and not just hand-wave away with an uncertainty of the gaps.

Rhology said...

JN,
You didn't answer The Chemist's questions, and I thought they were excellent. I'd like to see your answers.


William Lane Craig Killed You fallacy.

I'm glad you're only tempted. You'd need to explain why appealing to someone else's work b/c it's good and makes sense = fallacy. Ie, you'd have to defeat his argumentation.
You say "the cosmologists" but what you no doubt meant is "SOME cosmologists", right? I think there might be a good reason to think a major analytic philosopher has done his HW on one of his pet arguments, over and against an anonymous blog commenter.

And I doubt Stenger could do any damage to my position whatsoever given what I've heard from him.


” it is only right to ask: Does it not strike you as being sillier (and crappier) to believe Matthew's attestation to a horde of zombies roaming about Jerusalem (Matthew 27:52-53)?

No, since you asked. Why would it be? This is why I'm constantly bringing ppl back to examining their presupps.



the former embrace uncertainty

I crave ANSWERS, truth. What, don't you?
How do you know that you'll find the answers? That the future will be like the past?

We've already discussed this - you don't know. You have faith, blind faith.


If we live in a zero-total-energy universe, no spontaneous energy injection is required.

You're just making things up now.
1) We were discussing how nothing could produce something, but you're again positing SOMETHING producing something. Nothing is nothing. Where did the positive and negative and energy and mass come from?
2) How could you possibly know about negative mass and energy? Where have you experienced it, repeatedly?
3) If your answer is a bare argument from authority, how do you know THEY experienced it? Just b/c you have blind faith in them to get it right and to tell the truth?
4) How do you know that if we live in a zero-total-energy universe, no spontaneous energy injection is required?


, invoking a creative intelligence to kick off the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago just aggravates the problem of explanation—pushing everything back one notch

No no no no no, a million times no. You've got it totally wrong. God is The Ultimate First Cause®. There has never been a time when He was not. We don't have to look for an answer to how nothing produced everything b/c there was never a time when there was nothing. Come on, you know better than this.

Peace,
Rhology

thechemistscorner said...

By way of clarification, I get that the energy of gravitation is negative because integration of the gravitation force between two masses, F = Gm1m2/r^2, gives a negative potential energy, U = -Gm1m2/r. But, as best I can tell the negative term is relative to infinite separation. Based on this, I am not clear exactly how a cosmologist views the negative energy. For example, could an object have negative kinetic energy? What does this mean? It would necessarily result in an imaginary number for the velocity or a negative value for the mass of the object. Both seem dubious to me. What would these things look like.

At any rate, even if it is possible to show on paper that the sum total of energy in the universe is zero, it still doesn't address how something comes from nothing. Basically, it comes down to not having to explain the origin of all that is simply because everything is really just nothing rearranged. Incidentally, Craig does give a nice example that illustrates the fallacious reasoning behind this. Even if you checking account of money in savings minus debts owed sums to zero, this does not mean there was no cause that behind this particular distribution of wealth.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I'm glad you're only tempted. You'd need to explain why appealing to someone else's work b/c it's good and makes sense = fallacy. Ie, you'd have to defeat his argumentation.

I realize that, but look at what he actually said in his terse comment: “JN, when William Lane Craig has demolished that line of argumentation about a billion times, I find it silly that atheists are still using it.” It amounted to a William Lane Craig name-drop, without explicating in exactly what way William Lane Craig Killed Me. It would be like you invoking the Kalām cosmological argument and me saying that a philosopher had demolished it, thus The Philosopher Killed You. I would at least like to know the cause of death.


You say "the cosmologists" but what you no doubt meant is "SOME cosmologists", right? I think there might be a good reason to think a major analytic philosopher has done his HW on one of his pet arguments....

I certainly can be very confident of the overwhelming non-belief in the relevant scientific communities, which would seem to cut sharply against the persuasiveness of Craig’s Kalām cosmological argument and its variants among modern cosmologists. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) survey conducted a decade ago, among physicists and astronomers, 7.5% professed belief in god and 7.5% professed belief in immortality. Given those figures, it is not overstating the facts to deem Craig’s opinion in the minority.


No, since you asked. Why would it be? This is why I'm constantly bringing ppl back to examining their presupps.

It just strikes me that one ought to be careful about what one deems “silly crap” when one is intellectually committed to a couple-millennium-old book that includes a zombie horde, as well as a talking snake and donkey.


I crave ANSWERS, truth. What, don't you?
How do you know that you'll find the answers?


I crave answers and truth, too, but I also recognize that discovering those answers takes immense scientific effort and, frequently, decades, if not centuries, of work. How many facts of the universe were hidden from us until the pioneering discoveries of Edwin Hubble? How long did we think the universe was static, until we realized it was expanding? How long did we think the universe’s expansion was slowing down, until we realized that, in fact, the expansion of the universe is accelerating? That the universe is flat? That that universe has zero total energy? It almost seems as though you’re asking science to close up shop and declare, “Well, THERE’S your answer.”


1) We were discussing how nothing could produce something, but you're again positing SOMETHING producing something. Nothing is nothing. Where did the positive and negative and energy and mass come from?

As I say, we do not yet possess all the answers, despite how promising and exciting our discoveries are. Perhaps it is incorrect to say NOTHING, per se, is the ultimate answer, in the sense that, as you write, “nothing is nothing.” It might be the case that the ultimate answer (The Ultimate First Cause) lies in the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (as distinct from the universal fundamental physical constants, which are allegedly fine-tuned). As William Lane Craig has written, “Scientists grappling with fine-tuning are not asking what the universe would have been like if it were governed by different laws of nature. Rather they’re asking what the universe would have been like if it were governed by same laws of nature but with different values for the physical constants appearing in them....”

Eminent physicist Lawrence Krauss sums it up: “The laws of physics allow a universe to begin from nothing. You don’t need a deity. You have nothing—zero total energy—and quantum fluctuations can produce a universe.” He rhetorically asks, “Why is there something rather than nothing? The answer is, there had to be. If you have nothing in quantum mechanics, you’ll always get something.”

The Jolly Nihilist said...

4) How do you know that if we live in a zero-total-energy universe, no spontaneous energy injection is required?

From whence would the spontaneous energy injection come? Where did the spontaneous energy injection go? Certainly, in a zero-total-energy universe, there is no lingering trace of any such spontaneous energy injection, nor is there a discernible theoretical reason why one would be required.


No no no no no, a million times no. You've got it totally wrong. God is The Ultimate First Cause®. There has never been a time when He was not. We don't have to look for an answer to how nothing produced everything b/c there was never a time when there was nothing. Come on, you know better than this.

Explain to me why, then, the laws of physics and quantum mechanics cannot, themselves, be The Ultimate First Cause. Remember, as I quoted William Lane Craig earlier, “Scientists grappling with fine-tuning are not asking what the universe would have been like if it were governed by different laws of nature.” What, precisely, is to stop me from declaring the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (or some components thereof) The Ultimate First Cause? If god is your uncaused first cause, why could the laws of physics and quantum mechanics not be mine?

Another question: Even presuming the necessity of an uncaused first cause, and even presuming that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics, for some reason, could not fit that bill, explain to me why the cause of our universe’s existence would necessarily have to be The Ultimate First Cause. Why would it be impossible for The Ultimate First Cause to be several—maybe dozens of—levels of causation back? Maybe, starting from the cause of our universe’s existence, one must ascend seventy-six layers of causation before hitting The Ultimate First Cause. Can you show this to be logically impossible? You might invoke Occam’s razor, but I am tempted to do the same if and when anybody declares that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics require a gratuitous cause of their own.

Rhology said...

I'd love to see you answer The Chemist's question, really.


7.5% professed belief in god

And how many thought that the universe had a beginning? That's far more relevant.


How long did we think the universe’s expansion was slowing down, until we realized that, in fact, the expansion of the universe is accelerating? That the universe is flat?

So maybe in 100 years we'll say, "Gosh, how silly we were to think that causation, matter, and energy can come from nothing! Energy and matter CAN actually be created!"?



Lawrence Krauss sums it up: “The laws of physics allow a universe to begin from nothing. You don’t need a deity. You have nothing—zero total energy—and quantum fluctuations can produce a universe

Great reason not to hold office or letters after one's name in great awe. What idiocy.
I guess you're following in his footsteps in your redefinition of the word "nothing". See, I think "nothing" means "nothing". You seem to think it means "something". I'm not sure why you keep doing this dance. Quantum fluctuations are SOMETHING. Negative energy is SOMETHING.



From whence would the spontaneous energy injection come? Where did the spontaneous energy injection go? Certainly, in a zero-total-energy universe, there is no lingering trace of any such spontaneous energy injection, nor is there a discernible theoretical reason why one would be required.

You didn't answer my question. Would you please?



Explain to me why, then, the laws of physics and quantum mechanics cannot, themselves, be The Ultimate First Cause.

Category error. Laws are summations of OBSERVED BEHAVIOR. Laws do not act. If you disagree, please explain the last time you observed a law acting.



Why would it be impossible for The Ultimate First Cause to be several—maybe dozens of—levels of causation back?

Which one came before the others?
This is just another empty hypothetical, like when you asked "What if we could use a time machine to watch Jesus' tomb?" Well, we can't.
I suppose you can just make up ANYthing if you want, but I'm more interested in stuff that makes sense, thanks. And spare me your external-critique crack about zombies and donkeys. You believe lizards turn into birds, non-order produces order, life comes from non-life, intelligence from non-intelligence, purpose from purposeless matter. And apparently that nothing = something. You're getting up there on the Silliness Meter, too.

The Chemist said...

Perhaps it is incorrect to say NOTHING, per se, is the ultimate answer, in the sense that, as you write, “nothing is nothing.” It might be the case that the ultimate answer (The Ultimate First Cause) lies in the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (as distinct from the universal fundamental physical constants, which are allegedly fine-tuned).

So laws are able to stand in causal relations? I thought they were descriptions of natural phenomena. Where exactly do you fall on this? It seems you want to say that things can come from nothing, but when pushed you say the nothing is actually something (e.g., quantum vacuum). It seems far more reasonable to say that being does not arise by itself from non-being.

William Lane Craig quote
But he is not saying that the laws themselves are the cause of the universe.

You might invoke Occam’s razor, but I am tempted to do the same if and when anybody declares that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics require a gratuitous cause of their own.

This might be worth looking into right after you demonstrate how physical laws themselves stand in causal relations.

bossmanham said...

JN,

Ha, Victor Stenger. You mean the retired cosmologist who really didn't even do anything until he wrote some books supporting the new-Atheists Victor Stenger? The guy Craig has debated twice and shown the true lack of ability to show that any of the theories he put forward to try to defeat the KCA lead to an infinite past? The guy who used the passe Hartle-Hawking model in his last debate, which shows a finite past anyway? That Victor Stenger?

Scuse me while I chuckle uncontrollably.

bossmanham said...

JN,

Explain to me why, then, the laws of physics and quantum mechanics cannot, themselves, be The Ultimate First Cause

Because they are a part of the material universe. The universe simply is the material world. That means nothing material could have existed without the universe, which came into being a finite time ago.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I am short on time, so I will just reply to Rhology right now.


So maybe in 100 years we'll say, "Gosh, how silly we were to think that causation, matter, and energy can come from nothing! Energy and matter CAN actually be created!"?

All scientific truth is provisional, with our level of confidence directly commensurate with the amount of supporting evidence. The germ theory of disease, the atomic theory of matter, the heliocentric theory of the solar system, Darwin's theory of evolution...each of these is hugely supported by the evidence, making scientists exceptionally confident that these theories are veridical.


I guess you're following in his footsteps in your redefinition of the word "nothing". See, I think "nothing" means "nothing". You seem to think it means "something". I'm not sure why you keep doing this dance. Quantum fluctuations are SOMETHING. Negative energy is SOMETHING.

You can argue that quantum fluctuations are “something,” or the laws of physics or quantum mechanics are “something,” but the fact remains that, in a zero-total-energy universe, no initial mass-energy would be required to get the ball rolling. Given some bare laws, a universe like ours could materialize in a quantum fluctuation (or an analogous event).


You didn't answer my question. Would you please?

To invoke a spontaneous energy injection would raise more problems than it would solve, insofar as its origin would be a complete mystery, the energy's current whereabouts would be unknown, no trace would remain of its existence and, at least in my eyes, there would not be a discernible theoretical justification necessitating it.


Category error. Laws are summations of OBSERVED BEHAVIOR. Laws do not act. If you disagree, please explain the last time you observed a law acting.

Obviously laws are descriptions—not initiators of action—and thus laws do not act. My language was chosen to conscript your “Some entity or fact must be primary” idea for my own purposes. A better way to have said it might have been as follows: In your view, the god of the bible is the primary bare fact—the bare fact beyond which there is nothing and with respect to which no origins question is intelligible. Well, it might be the case that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (or some components thereof, or some analogue thereto, etc.) are the primary bare fact—the ultimate description of reality beyond which there is nothing and with respect to which no origins question is intelligible. I see no reason why this primary bare fact...this ultimate description of reality...must necessarily be a causative, acting agent.


Which one came before the others?
This is just another empty hypothetical....


You failed to interact genuinely with my probing of the Kalām cosmological argument, so I will press the issue further.

Here is a William Lane Craig formulation thereof:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Even if we assume that this is a valid, sound argument, I see absolutely no persuasive reason that one must assume that the cause of the universe (Cause A) did not begin to exist. (Suppose, for example, that our universe's space-time is a bubble within a larger, overarching space-time, within which Cause A resides.) If Cause A, in fact, did begin to exist, then Craig's argument would presumably require the existence of another cause (Cause B) to explain Cause A. However, there might be a still larger, more overarching space-time, within which Cause B resides. If that were the case, it would be quite possible that Cause B, too, began to exist, necessitating another cause to explain Cause B. This could go on dozens, hundreds and thousands of times, riding the cause-wave backward, insofar as each successive Cause might have begun to exist. A sudden halt of the cause-wave would—and does—seem arbitrary.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I wrote quite a long (~ 640-word) response to Rhology's most recent reply but, unfortunately, after having posted it, it disappeared within seconds, perhaps due to Blogger's overall crappiness.

Rhology, if you happened to receive an email notification of its posting, and could thereby repost that response in my stead, I would be much obliged.

If not, I may or may not be inclined tomorrow night to rewrite all that I had written. Unfortunately, I did not save a copy.

zilch said...

I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but tossing around words such as "material", "time", "exist", "cause", and "something/nothing", which have useful everyday meanings, is not likely to prove anything about the conditions at the beginning, if there was a beginning.

At the end of the day, all these cosmological arguments for the existence of God boil down to this:

The Universe is vast and complex beyond imagining. Therefore, it must have been created by Someone even vaster and more complex. But to prevent an infinite regress, we invoke magic: this Someone must have existed forever; thus, His existence cannot be questioned, because it has no cause.

The problem here: you're just whistling in the dark. You have no evidence for this Someone, and no explanation for how an infinitely complex being just happened to be around. If you want to be commonsensical, then you should realize that complex beings, in our experience, can only arise one way: through evolution.

For me, the buck stops earlier: I willingly admit that I don't know how it is that the Universe came to be, or how time can not exist, or be endless, or a myriad of other things. But I don't see how positing a magical being solves any problems: if we're trying to explain why there is something and not nothing, just saying that "God is something, and He has existed forever" is no answer.

Why is there God? You got nothing. I got nothing too, but I am willing to admit it and not make up stuff.

cheers from slushy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

JN,

Hopefully the reply you were looking for was the one that began with: "I am short on time, so I will just reply to Rhology right now."

I have un-spammed it. Not liking Blogger's anti-spam feature, but you might be liking it better since you seemed to have quite a problem with the Asian pr0|\| spam, didn't you? I was fortunate never to experience it.

Rhology said...

All scientific truth is provisional,

Then how do you know that you've ever arrived at truth via science?


, the heliocentric theory of the solar system, Darwin's theory of evolution...each of these is hugely supported by the evidence

Ppl used to say that about geocentrism, spontaneous generation of flies from rotting meat, etc. How do you know you've got it right this time?
(Hint: This is where you agree with this post and concede that you don't actually know anything for sure.)


You can argue that quantum fluctuations are “something,” or the laws of physics or quantum mechanics are “something,”

What do you mean "you can argue"? A quantum fluctuation exists, doesn't it? Ergo, it's not nothing. That's just not even up for question.


, in a zero-total-energy universe, no initial mass-energy would be required to get the ball rolling

Which, again, moves the goalposts.


Given some bare laws

Laws are not nothing.
So, given that you keep substituting something when you should be dealing with nothing, let me ask you again: Whence did all this stuff arise? If it did not arise, how do you surmount the problems inherent in things that are infinitely old?


To invoke a spontaneous energy injection would raise more problems than it would solve...there would not be a discernible theoretical justification necessitating it.

So...even though you proposed it as an answer, you don't have any confidence that it's right. Why did you mention it?



Well, it might be the case that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (or some components thereof, or some analogue thereto, etc.) are the primary bare fact

You don't seem to be understanding that laws are not entities. They are descriptions... of OTHER THINGS. The way OTHER THINGS act. What are these other things? The laws can't be the primary bare facts without simultaneously existing alongside these other things. I'd like to know what you think these other things are.


I see absolutely no persuasive reason that one must assume that the cause of the universe (Cause A) did not begin to exist

B/c the contrary leads us to the problems of infinite regress. That's why.


(Suppose, for example, that our universe's space-time is a bubble within a larger, overarching space-time, within which Cause A resides.

Merely pushes the question back a step. This is not an answer.




zilch,
The Universe is vast and complex beyond imagining. Therefore, it must have been created by Someone even vaster and more complex.

Not at all. Rather:
1) Primarily, the contrary possibilities are absurd and irrational.
2) Minor point - the evidence for God is very strong.


The problem here: you're just whistling in the dark.

No, the atheist is.
I'm the guy who believes in a sufficient revelation from the omniscient Creator, remember? Go ahead and speak for yourself, please. And remember that if you're in the dark, you have no business acting like you're not.


If you want to be commonsensical, then you should realize that complex beings, in our experience, can only arise one way: through evolution.

I'm sorry, but that's your evolutiondrone talking. You've never EXPERIENCED beings ARISING thru evolution. You've never even observed one kind of being evolve into a different kind. Spare us your religious sermons.

The Chemist said...

A sudden halt of the cause-wave would—and does—seem arbitrary.

Unless it is impossible for an actual infinite series of events to exist, which is what Craig argues.

the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (or some components thereof, or some analogue thereto, etc.) are the primary bare fact—the ultimate description of reality beyond which there is nothing and with respect to which no origins question is intelligible.

And how can the laws of physics, which are descriptions of the material world cause the material world? If there is no material world, then there are no physical laws that govern it.

I see no reason why this primary bare fact...this ultimate description of reality...must necessarily be a causative, acting agent.

How can the cause of the universe not be a causative, acting agent?

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Thanks, Rhology. And yes, you un-spammed the correct comment.

I realize that Blogger is fighting this thing from both ends, insofar as it wants genuine comments not to be filtered but also wants all spam comments to be weeded out, but the software sure seems awfully imperfect.

I am not getting nearly the amount of Asian litter I had been getting, hence my canceling of comment moderation.

All the comments looked nearly identical, too. Something along the lines of, "Wow, this is a great site," followed by about thirty periods, each of which was its own spam link. Ugh.

NAL said...

Rho:

Ppl used to say that about geocentrism, spontaneous generation of flies from rotting meat, etc. How do you know you've got it right this time?

We don't. And that's better than imagining you've got it right.

Mike Westfall said...

Poor naturalists. They dont know anything with certainty. Well one thing is certain: there is nothing beyond the natural. They're certain about that.

zilch said...

Rho, and Mike- no, science doesn't deal in truths, but rather in observations, and theories that explain the observations sufficiently accurately to make predictions and build stuff- for instance, spaceships that can land on the Moon. As JN and NAL have pointed out, scientific explanations are always provisional. But they are often good enough to bet your life on.

If you're looking for capital-T "Truth", check out circumscribed systems of formal logic, such as mathematics, where truths can be absolute by definition. You won't find any such truths in the real world, though, and demanding them from science evinces a misconception about what science is.

chemist- can you demonstrate that the Universe needs a "cause" to exist? You don't seem to think God needs one. Why not? Assuming that God has been around forever, and/or is magical or supernatural, and thus needs no cause, is just special pleading. It's easy to make up beings who are immune to anything you like, including the constraints of time, space, or whatever; but in the absence of any actual evidence for their existence, such beings cannot be reasonably invoked as "explanations" for anything.

zilch say: The Universe is vast and complex beyond imagining. Therefore, it must have been created by Someone even vaster and more complex.

rho say: Not at all. Rather:
1) Primarily, the contrary possibilities are absurd and irrational.
2) Minor point - the evidence for God is very strong.


1) Any account of the beginning of the Universe is likely to seem absurd and irrational, because the Universe we live in already exists, and all we do and think takes place in an existent Universe. But positing a Big Guy in the Sky, Who is very much like a male primate from the third rock from Sol, one of a hundred billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in the known Universe, seems suspiciously parochial and anthropocentric to me. Not absurd and irrational for a Bronze Age herder, but hopelessly outdated for anyone today with a halfway decent education.

2) Evidence for God? Where?

Re whistling in the dark: as I said, I'm willing to admit when I don't know something, for instance how the Universe came to be. You claim to have your sufficient revelation from an omniscient Creator, but you haven't given me any reason to believe that this Creator is just another one of those superbeings people make up all the time, albeit a very popular one in some parts of the world.

My impression is that vox populi, vox Dei is true, but in the sense that the voice of God is just the voice of the people, created in their image. And I've seen nothing so far to change that impression.

And about evolution: we've been there, done that. Tell me exactly what a "kind" is, and then we can take it up again if you want; but I have the feeling you won't accept anything other than a living crocoduck as evidence, so there's not much point.

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

bossmanham said...

So I see the naturalists on this thread actually admitting that science can't really 100% prove something, and yet they still think it's proven that God doesn't exist. Hmmm...

zilch said...

boss- who here has said that "it's proven that God doesn't exist"?

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

The Chemist said...

can you demonstrate that the Universe needs a "cause" to exist?

I think the cosmological argument of Leibniz is convincing (as well as the Kalam cosmological argument and moral arguments). Basically, the universe is a contingent entity that needs a cause. However, that cause must exist outside itself. Furthermore, an infinite regress is logically impossible. Ergo, a being like God must exist. If you disagree then please explain how the universe is (a) uncaused, (b) self-causing, or (c) an infinite regress is not problematic.

You don't seem to think God needs one. Why not?

Because that is the very definition of God. Moreover, God is needed to explain the origin of the universe. Otherwise, you enter into the problem of an infinite regress or the universe is self-caused.

Assuming that God has been around forever, and/or is magical or supernatural, and thus needs no cause, is just special pleading.

Or is a logical requirement to explain the origin of the universe.

It's easy to make up beings who are immune to anything you like, including the constraints of time, space, or whatever; but in the absence of any actual evidence for their existence, such beings cannot be reasonably invoked as "explanations" for anything.

What evidence are you looking for? To me the evidence (e.g., the various arguments listed above plus my personal interactions with God) are sufficient. I will grant that the latter are personal and inaccessible to you, but the former ones are open.

Rhology said...

And the latter are open TO YOU, if you'd but repent of your unbelieving heart.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

Then how do you know that you've ever arrived at truth via science?

It depends what you mean by “know.” Science is not structured to provide absolute metaphysical certitude; rather, our confidence is commensurate with the evidence.


Ppl used to say that about geocentrism, spontaneous generation of flies from rotting meat, etc. How do you know you've got it right this time?

Again, science is not structured to provide absolute certitude, and thus, no scientific truth, no matter how well evidenced, is immutable. Just consider this: In the very, very distant future, all the other galaxies will have receded from us to the point that, no matter how hard we look, their light will be unable to reach us. Cosmologists of this very, very distant future could do the very best, most perfect science and reach the (erroneous) conclusion that our galaxy is alone in the cosmos.


Laws are not nothing.
So, given that you keep substituting something when you should be dealing with nothing, let me ask you again: Whence did all this stuff arise? If it did not arise, how do you surmount the problems inherent in things that are infinitely old?


Presumably, you reference the challenge of traversing infinite moments. Of course, if I postulate that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (or some components thereof or some analogue thereto) are the primary bare fact, which is to say the ultimate description of reality beyond which there is nothing, I see no reason why those laws must exist temporally. Why could they not exist outside of space-time as we know it?


You don't seem to be understanding that laws are not entities. They are descriptions... of OTHER THINGS. The way OTHER THINGS act. What are these other things? The laws can't be the primary bare facts without simultaneously existing alongside these other things. I'd like to know what you think these other things are.

I realize that laws are not entities; that is why I phrased my previous post as I did: “...it might be the case that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (or some components thereof, or some analogue thereto, etc.) are the primary bare fact—the ultimate description of reality beyond which there is nothing and with respect to which no origins question is intelligible.” Why is it impossible to say that an analogue to the laws of physics is the ultimate description of reality? It might help explain why variants, analogues or versions of those primary laws describe our little universe, which exists within reality.


B/c the contrary leads us to the problems of infinite regress. That's why.

So, one must assume that the cause of the universe did not begin to exist because... failure to make this assumption makes WLC's argument potentially infinitely regressive and, thus, absurd? I do not think reality exists in such a way that it, by nature, conforms to the whims of a WLC argument.


Merely pushes the question back a step. This is not an answer.

Exactly! And neither is WLC's argument a genuine answer. Even if we assume that WLC has a valid, sound argument, there is absolutely no persuasive reason that one must assume that the cause of the universe did not begin to exist. Not only is it as likely as not that that cause began to exist, it is, in fact, more likely than not that it began to exist.

I will dub this The Argument from Temporal Relationships.

P1: Cause-and-effect relationships are temporal in nature.
P2: A timeless being cannot be involved in anything temporal in nature.
C: A timeless being cannot be involved in cause-and-effect relationships.

If this argument is sound, but the universe requires a Cause, then that Cause of the universe cannot be a timeless being. If the Cause of the universe cannot be timeless, it must have begun to exist. If whatever begins to exist has a cause, then the Cause of the universe would need its own cause (which could not be a timeless being).

The Jolly Nihilist said...

I plan to respond to The Chemist next, in an hour or two.

The Jolly Nihilist said...

The Chemist,

Unless it is impossible for an actual infinite series of events to exist, which is what Craig argues.

I understand that, in Craig's eyes, an actual infinite is not possible, insofar as he finds the problem of traversing infinite moments compelling. However, I would contend that Craig's own argument leads to an infinite regress, which would make the whole enterprise absurd.

Here is his argument:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

There is nothing inherent in that argument that would indicate the cause of the universe is the primary cause, which is to say The Ultimate First Cause. It seems just as likely that The Ultimate First Cause is five, ten, fifty or seven hundred causes back. Even if one assumes an Ultimate First Cause is necessary, you and Rhology seem to be halting the cause-wave in an arbitrary fashion.

Additionally, I think I am compelled by the soundness of The Argument from Temporal Relationships:

P1: Cause-and-effect relationships are temporal in nature.
P2: A timeless being cannot be involved in anything temporal in nature.
C: A timeless being cannot be involved in cause-and-effect relationships.

If that is, indeed, sound, then Craig's argument seems doomed to be infinitely regressive. If we accept the contention that traversing infinite moments is impossible, then no time-bounded being could be infinite. Any such being's existence, by necessity, would have to be temporally finite. Because The Argument from Temporal Relationships precludes timeless beings from serving as The Ultimate First Cause, any sensible Cause would have to be time-bound and, thus, finite. This would seem to make necessary another cause, for which the circumstances would be identical.


And how can the laws of physics, which are descriptions of the material world cause the material world? If there is no material world, then there are no physical laws that govern it.

Which, as I wrote to Rhology, is why I said, “...it might be the case that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (or some components thereof, or some analogue thereto, etc.) are the primary bare fact—the ultimate description of reality beyond which there is nothing and with respect to which no origins question is intelligible.” In the same way that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics describe our universe, components thereof or analogues thereto could describe the nature of reality itself, within which the universe exists. Do I know what this “ultimate reality” could be? Not really—it is conjecture. Nevertheless, it certainly seems possible that the primary bare fact—that ultimate description of what reality is—comes down to a handful of laws, which are invulnerable to origin questions and are not temporally bounded.

I am reminded of a quote by Leon Lederman, an American experimental physicist and Nobel Prize laureate in Physics (for work with neutrinos): “The laws of nature must have existed before even time began in order for the beginning to happen. We say this, we believe it, but can we prove it? No.”


How can the cause of the universe not be a causative, acting agent?

Physical laws themselves do not stand in causal relations, right? If components of or analogues to the laws of physics and quantum mechanics describe the nature of reality itself, and a fluctuation of the type that produced our universe is consistent with those laws and principles, then the “cause” of the universe would not be a cause at all, let alone a deliberate, intentional causal agent.

Rhology said...

JN,

our confidence is commensurate with the evidence

You mean, what you think the evidence is, now. But this is not the face you usually put forward; you guys like to present science as pretty much the be-all, end-all of knowledge. Then when we ask enough questions, we break you back down to the nitty-gritty - we can't actually be certain about these things. But we're sure we can form conclusions "commensurate with the evidence", even though we're relying on inductive reasoning and arguments from authority, and it could all be totally different tomorrow.


Ppl used to say that about geocentrism, spontaneous generation of flies from rotting meat, etc. How do you know you've got it right this time?

Again, science is not structured to provide absolute certitude, and thus, no scientific truth, no matter how well evidenced, is immutable.


So you don't know you've got it right this time. Cool, thanks.



In the very, very distant future, all the other galaxies will have receded from us to the point that, no matter how hard we look, their light will be unable to reach us.

What's even funnier is that you don't know you're looking at galaxies now. Have you ever looked at something like a 2-D illusion from one spot, which looked like it was flat, then moved to a different spot to get a different perspective, and it was a 3-D figure? Well, in our case, we can't exactly change our perspective by moving an appreciable distance w.r.t. these far-off views. But I don't hear lots of hemming and hawing from the scientific establishment that would be commensurate with the caveats you're giving us here. Why is this, if not self-deception in action, leading to deception of others?


Cosmologists of this very, very distant future could do the very best, most perfect science and reach the (erroneous) conclusion that our galaxy is alone in the cosmos.

If the cosmologists of the future are anything like the evo biologists of today, who don't have access to the past and yet presume to tell us that evolution is a "fact", they won't say what you're saying. They'll say they're sure of what we know to be true. And if you ask them enough questions, they'll throw a fit and excommunicate you.



I see no reason why those laws must exist temporally. Why could they not exist outside of space-time as we know it?

Again, laws are DESCRIPTORS.
1) Laws are statements of observed behavior. If there's no observer, there's no law.
2) As I've said at least twice now, if there's no THING to behave, there's no behavior. No behavior = no law.
3) And since, if a thing existed an infinite amount of time, we'd run into the problem of traversing an infinite, this argument fails.


We say this, we believe it, but can we prove it? No.”

Quite so - it's your blind faith religion. Well said.

Rhology said...

one must assume that the cause of the universe did not begin to exist because... failure to make this assumption makes WLC's argument potentially infinitely regressive and, thus, absurd?

I don't know what's so hard about this. When given a choice between a logical fallacy and a logical non-fallacy, why wouldn't you choose the non-fallacy?


Merely pushes the question back a step. This is not an answer.

Exactly! And neither is WLC's argument a genuine answer.


Look, you can say that all you want, but the Ultimate First Cause, outside of spacetime, is a causally sufficient answer for the problem we're dealing with. An infinitely old piece of matter isn't. And as we've seen, "laws" aren't either.
You need to provide an argument why the UFCause doesn't answer the problem, not just assert it.


P1: Cause-and-effect relationships are temporal in nature.

Premise 1 is the problem. Some cause-effect relationships are LOGICALLY ordered, not CHRONOlogically ordered.


Peace,
Rhology

zilch said...

chemist- thanks for your clear explication of your position. But as I've already said, you are tossing around words that have everyday meanings, but whose application to the beginning of the Universe is problematic.

Again, basically what you're saying is, "I can't explain the existence of the Universe, except by positing an omnipotent being who created it, and whose existence is simply not explained or questioned." Sorry, I can't give anything as complex and obviously anthropocentric as God a "get out of evidence free" card.

Imho, any answers that we get about the beginning of the Universe are more likely to come from observations, and not from playing around with words that have no real-world referents.

Rho- I'm still waiting for that revelation. But given the fact that lots of people have lots of revelations, including ones about Allah and being Napoleon, I don't see personal revelation as an especially reliable source of information about the world.

cheers from slushy Vienna, zilch

Anonymous said...

I saw that debate with DD and John Loftus. DD was hilarious with that taunting observation on the 'quantum' explanation of the unknown.

The Chemist said...

Halting causation prematurely

I think you are misconstruing Craig's position. He contends that God is timeless without the universe but is temporal with the universe. If there are multiple levels of causation, then certainly God may be a little higher up the chain, but you either must break the chain by inserting God or you have the existence of an actual infinite chain of causal relations. The arguments against the existence of an actual infinite are good. I contend that a being such as God is required to explain the universe. At any rate, we should not multiply causes beyond necessity, especially in the absence of any positive evidence for higher levels of causation than our universe. Thus, it is reasonable to place God as the direct cause of our universe.
The Argument from Temporal Relationships
Why must causal relationships be only temporal (see Rhology’s comments)? Also, premise 2 ignores Craig’s argument that God is timeless without the universe but is temporal with the universe. Thus, this argument does not blunt Craig’s Kalam argument that you are trying to overturn.

“...it might be the case that the laws of physics and quantum mechanics (or some components thereof, or some analogue thereto, etc.) are the primary bare fact—the ultimate description of reality beyond which there is nothing and with respect to which no origins question is intelligible.”
And
If components of or analogues to the laws of physics and quantum mechanics describe the nature of reality itself, and a fluctuation of the type that produced our universe is consistent with those laws and principles, then the “cause” of the universe would not be a cause at all, let alone a deliberate, intentional causal agent.

How can the laws of physics exist sans the universe? This is what you seem to be pre-supposing. It seems reasonable to me that if there is nothing prior to our universe then there are no physical laws. At any rate, I would encourage you analyze what kinds of characteristics these laws or components must have to generate our universe.
1. The Big Bang is thought to encompass both the beginning of space and time. That is, there is no space or time without the universe. Based on this, the physical laws or components thereof must be nonspatial and time-less without the universe. Certainly, however, the physical laws must become temporal with the creation of the universe if they are to relate to the universe.
2. The physical laws or components thereof must themselves be a source of be-ing for be-ing cannot arise from non-be-ing on its own.
3. The physical laws or components thereof must certainly be powerful laws for they are the cause of the universe itself.
4. Lastly, it would seem that the physical laws or components thereof are personal. Only personal agents can choose to create. Instead, non-personal laws do not choose to do anything; they just do. An apple doesn’t choose when to fall to the ground under Newton’s second law of gravitation. It just does. The very fact that the universe is finite in age seems to argue that a specific choice was made. Otherwise, why isn’t the universe infinitely old?
Based on this analysis, it appears that the physical laws or components thereof that you suppose might be the cause of the universe are non-spatial, timeless (without the universe) being that is powerful and personal. Sounds more and more like the attributes of the God you have chosen to ignore.

The Chemist said...

Zilch,

Again, basically what you're saying is, "I can't explain the existence of the Universe, except by positing an omnipotent being who created it, and whose existence is simply not explained or questioned." Sorry, I can't give anything as complex and obviously anthropocentric as God a "get out of evidence free" card.

What is interesting about this is that I think the data actually points to the existence of God. Namely, the universe began to exist, the universe is a contingent entity, and thus the universe must have a cause that is sufficient to produce the effect. The best explanation of this is in fact God.

Where is the get out of evidence free card being thrown? Sounds like the idea of God squares nicely with the available data.

Also, what words are being used in a problematic way? Can you be specific?

Imho, any answers that we get about the beginning of the Universe are more likely to come from observations, and not from playing around with words that have no real-world referents.

There are a couple of things I would like to say about this. First, you never stated what kind of evidence you would consider. All that I see is a general category of "observations" and "evidence". Can you be specific? Do you have any specific criteria for the evidence that you demand? Second, I generally opppose evidentialism, which is what you seem to espouse, as a test for truth for two reasons: (1) evidentialism cannot ground itself as an epistemology, (2) when evaluating truth claims it begs the question at hand.

As an aside, I was in Padova, Italy a few months back for a polymer electrolyte conference. My wife visited the Dolomite region north of there. She loved it. Is Austria similar to that region?

zilch said...

chemist- again, as far as I can see, you are simply defining "God" in such a way that He gets out of any need to be explained- or can you explain how it is that there just happens to be a God?

If the existence of order requires an explanation, then I don't see how positing a God who creates order gets you anywhere- it just makes a bigger something to be explained, and it doesn't do any work: it give us no additional information about the world that can be corroborated.

And by "evidence", I mean the kind of evidence that can be measured. You know, stuff like light from ancient galaxies, the microwave background radiation, and so forth. I don't mean calling something "contingent" or "necessary" and using these words, which cannot be shown to be meaningful when applied to the beginning of the Universe, to magic God into existence.

About the Dolomites- no, the Alps in Austria are rather different geologically: they are relatively more granitic, like the Sierra Nevada, while the Dolomites are more calcareous. I'd love to go someday- there are lots of fossils. But the Austrian Alps are also beautiful. For instance, here's a pic of the Totengebirge I took on a hike two years ago.

cheers from slushy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

But given the fact that lots of people have lots of revelations, including ones about Allah and being Napoleon, I don't see personal revelation as an especially reliable source of information about the world.

Thanks for sharing your opinion. Who knew that the existence of counterfeit bills means that real bills are worthless? Interesting.

The Chemist said...

Zilch,

I don't have much time, so I am just going to respond to this.

And by "evidence", I mean the kind of evidence that can be measured. You know, stuff like light from ancient galaxies, the microwave background radiation, and so forth.

So you want empirical evidence. Fair enough, but let me ask you a few questions.

1. What kind of empirical evidence do you need to verify historical events? Let's pick something like Julius Caesar's assasination. How do you use your evidentialism to verify this event?

2. There are number of entities in science that we postulate to exist based on their effects (e.g., the electron, energy, etc.), but no one has isolated and observed an electron with their five senses. Same with energy. How is this different than God? In these arguments, we infer His existence by the effects He causes (namely, the universe itself among other things). Can you explain how this is categorically different from inferring the existence of energy or the electron based on their effects?

The Chemist said...

By the way, that is a nice picture. What elevation were you?

zilch said...

Rho- I didn't categorically deny the possibility that some personal revelations might be true; I said that since many are demonstrably not true, the mere fact of conviction based on personal revelation alone is not a reliable indicator of truth.

chemist- yes, I know about these scientific entities whose existence can only be inferred. But these entities interact with the world in measurable ways, or are predicted by theories that require them, in order to fit the observations. As far as I can see, God does not interact with the world in any measurable way, although belief in God certainly does.

And as I've said, I don't find the various cosmological and ontological arguments to be convincing. I don't know how everything came to be; my astrophysicist friend John doesn't know either. But neither one of us feels that positing an infinitely powerful and intelligent being does anything other than pass the buck. No believer has ever given me an explanation of how it is that a God just happened to exist forever and create the Universe: God is always defined out of the necessity for explanation somehow. And the fact that people demonstrably make up gods and other fabulous beings all the time makes it seem likely that all gods are just the results of wishful, or fearful, thinking.

About Caesar's assassination: I suspect I believe it (probably) happened for the same reasons you do. I don't see any reason to doubt it, because it was well documented, and didn't involve any magic. I'm somewhat more skeptical of other eyewitness accounts, for instance that of Gilgamesh, who claimed to see Enkidu fighting the Bull of Heaven. If you are also more skeptical about this than about Caesar's assassination, you might ask yourself why.

That pic of the Totengebirge was taken from about two thousand meters altitude. We enjoy hiking in the mountains, but much higher than that, and you need climbing gear, and we're too lazy for that.

cheers from slushy Vienna, zilch

The Chemist said...

Can you be specific about which premise you find untenable?

P1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
P2. The universe began to exist.
C. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

If the argument is sound and the premises good, then the consequent logically follows.

The point of my examples is that you do believe in things even when you lack empirical evidence. Indeed, in the case of electrons you specifically acknowledge that they are known solely by their effects. Why not extend the same grace to the cause of the universe?

I don't know what exactly you are looking for when you ask a believer where a necessary being came from (e.g., how does God exist forever?). It is like asking an artist to draw them a square circle. The question is ill-conceived based on what is meant by the word "necessary".

By the way, I don't see how this is passing the buck. Asserting a cause that is capable of generating the effect is not hand waving; it is being realistic about the implications of the universe requiring a cause.

Rhology said...

I'd add that saying that any time one posits a cause that explains an effect, one is subject to the rebuttal "that passes the buck". It's up to the arbitrary whim of the critic to determine when that critique will be flung around.

There are fossils in the ground, of different organisms.
zilch will say that's b/c they evolved from a common ancestor. Thus ev by nat sel becomes the causal mechanism. Me, I say that passes the buck! Ev by nat sel is not material. I don't accept immaterial causes. Give me a material cause! And don't pussyfoot around by trying to claim that EbNS is close enough, since it has effects on material things. Now you're sounding like a theist - their god is immaterial but effects changes in material things and affects matter. Be materialistic and give me a good material explanation!

zilch said...

chemist- We don't know enough about the nature of causality to plug it into a syllogism and use it to create a God. Quantum effects defy our understanding of causality, and at some point, going backwards in time to the Big Bang and beyond (if there is a "beyond"), causality must break down, unless we invoke an infinite regress. As I've already said numerous times, I don't see how positing a God, defining Him in such a way that He is causality-proof, and not explaining His existence, explains anything better than simply saying that the Universe simply is; or that the laws simply are.

And a God seems prima facie like an unlikely thing to be the primordial, unquestionable ground of existence, because He's too complex, and of course because He (as described by Christianity at least) seems suspiciously like a Bronze Age male Homo sapiens, just a lot bigger. Show me some evidence for this God that is not just wordplay.

As I've also already said, I don't see any evidence that such terms as "contingent" and "necessary" can be shown to apply in a binding way on stuff we simply don't understand, such as the beginning of the Universe. Words are wonderful things, but they are not infallible guides to the way things are, especially if they are unplugged from the real world.

Rho- okay, "evolution by natural selection" is not material. It's a description of stuff that happens. "Getting run over by a bus" is also not material- it's also a description of something that happens. Would you say that "getting run over by a bus" cannot be a "material cause of death"? What, exactly, is a "material" cause, then?

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

Mike Westfall said...

> He (as described by Christianity
> at least) seems suspiciously like
> a Bronze Age male Homo sapiens,
> just a lot bigger.

What?
Really?

Wow.

Rhology said...

Would you say that "getting run over by a bus" cannot be a "material cause of death"?

Yes.


What, exactly, is a "material" cause, then?

The bus.

Rhology said...

And oh yes, God is just like Bronze Age homo sapiens.
Except He convicts the whole world of sin and says that all men are guilty, all idols are false, and that man's thoughts are futile unless directed according to His thoughts. Keeps man largely in the dark (Deut 29:29) about the future. Prophesies the future, and it comes to pass.
Sends His own son to die for His enemies.

Yeah...no.

zilch said...

Rho- yes, and the material organisms and their material environment are the cause of natural selection.

And yes, sounds a lot like a Bronze Age (and a few more modern) male homo sapiens to me: vindictive, jealous, intolerant of the beliefs of others...

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

So He does sound like B.A.H.S., except He doesn't. You mention some characteristics and ignore the others. That doesn't advance the conversation, or get anyone anywhere. I can acct for what you said - can you acct for what I said?

zilch said...

Rho- the stuff that doesn't sound like a BAHS is the god stuff. But why does a god need to behave as vindictively as Jehovah does? You'd think, being all-powerful, that He could afford to humor, or at least ignore, those who don't believe in Him. But I guess I'm no theologist (luckily).

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

It's b/c sin is a big deal.

And I'm not sure what you're complaining about - if we're talking about the Christian worldview, you too are a very great sinner and you've had several decades to repent of your sin, turn, and be saved.

zilch said...

Rho- if I believed that the Bible was true, I'd be inclined to agree with you. But I don't, so I don't.

cheers from icy Vienna, zilch

thechemistscorner said...

Thank Zilch,

I think you answered it well, especially this part, "causality must break down, unless we invoke an infinite regress." You basically denied the first premise to avoid the conclusion. The second is also interesting, "the Universe simply is; or that the laws simply are." We know the universe began to exist, and laws are descriptions within the universe. Positing them as the cause seems to make the effect cause itself, which is nonsense.

zilch said...

chemist- thanks for your thoughtful reply. I still don't see how positing a god gets you out of any of this problematic, though: it's just basically inventing a being with superpowers and passing the causality buck to him. And as I've said, the evidence shows that complex things, such as living beings or computers, do not just "exist", but rather are products of evolution, or productions of products of evolution. So the question begged here is, where and when did God evolve?

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

And if He didn't evolve, or begin? If He's always been the same? How does that not solve the problem?

zilch said...

It doesn't solve the problem because it does nothing to explain how it is that an infinitely complex and powerful being just happened to be around eternally. I can also say that God just happened to be around eternally because He was created by an even more complex and powerful ice-cream sundae, and my argument is superior to yours, by your reasoning, because it also explains God.

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

The Chemist said...

Yes, and then you run into the problem of an infinite regress if you keep along that track. Also, we don't need to posit a creator for God for two reasons (1) he is taken as a necessary being (uncreated) and (2) this multiplies causes beyond need and runs into Occam's Razor.

zilch said...

Chemist- I agree with your point 2, but if you're serious about applying Occam's Razor, you should do so one being before: positing God explains nothing, and increases the complexity of the unexplained by a factor of infinity. And your point 1 is, as I've said, just a matter of defining God into existence. How do you know that such a thing as a "necessary being" exists? As far as I can see, this is just wordplay.

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

it does nothing to explain how it is that an infinitely complex and powerful being just happened to be around eternally

That's just it - He doesn't "just happen to be around". He's the necessary being. If you dispute that, you need to provide an alternative explanation that is not absurd.
Right now your only response seems to be "I can caricature your position such that it does not answer the question either". Anyone can see why that doesn't work too well.

zilch said...

Saying God is "necessary" does not explain His existence. As I've said, I don't know how it is that the Universe came to be; but I don't see how you can poof an infinitely complex being into existence by defining God as a "necessary being" and then saying that "necessary beings" must exist, because they're "necessary". That's just playing with words, no different than my ice cream sundae.

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

Matt said...

Saying God is "necessary" does not explain His existence.

What exactly is your definition of an "explanation," whereby God's existence is not explained?

I see an explanation as a reason for why something exists in a certain manner, as opposed to not existing in a certain manner. Provided that God exists, why does He exist in this world? The reason is that it is an essential property of God that He exist in all possible worlds.

Mike Westfall said...

Seems to me that what needs to be explained is the existence of the universe, not the existence of what caused the universe.

And what's wrong with saying that a necessary being must exist because it's necessary? If it's necessary, then it must exist. That's kind of the definition of "necessary" isn't it?

If you don't believe that the Necessary Being is actually necessary, then make a case for that. "I don't know how the universe came to be" doesn't count as an argument

Rhology said...

Also, saying that the Necessary Being is necessary does explain His existence.

zilch said...

Matt- my idea of an explanation for the existence of something is a description of the conditions that caused that thing to be or come about. For instance, the Earth exists because matter from the proto-Solar system coalesced to form it.

Obviously, there are degrees of detail and accuracy of explanations, and equally obviously, there must be some point at which one can explain no more in terms of previous conditions, a point at which causality breaks down. I don't think we are in any position to say what that point is for the Universe, if it is even possible to put into words.

In any case, I don't see how using phrases such as "necessary being" or "essential property" can produce an infinitely complex God. All it does is show what words can do when they are uncoupled from the real world: they chase their own tails, but they don't make anything.

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

is a description of the conditions that caused that thing to be or come about.

Do you see how that a priori rules out an eternally-existing entity?
How is that fair, and a real search for truth?


the Earth exists because matter from the proto-Solar system coalesced to form it.

Yes, that is AN explanation.
(Not that you have any evidence for it. You weren't there. Just sayin'.)


there must be some point at which one can explain no more in terms of previous conditions, a point at which causality breaks down.

But you won't allow it to be God. Anything but God.


an infinitely complex God

1) Who said He was infinitely complex?
2) I'm not sure what that statement means - "etc etc can produce an infinitely complex God".

Matt said...

my idea of an explanation for the existence of something is a description of the conditions that caused that thing to be or come about.

This produces a trilemma:

1) If everything is to be explained, then everything must be caused, since your notion of explanation requires a cause for the thing explained. But if everything is to be explained, then this requires an infinite regress of causes, since the first event was caused by something, and that causation was itself caused by something, and so on, ad infinitum. But this is absurd. And as you admit later, causality breaks down at some point.

2) In avoiding the infinite regress in (1), one might assert that not everythign requires an explanation. But if this is the case, then on what grounds do you demand an explanation of God, who is the first cause of everything that exists?

3) If one wants to avoid the problems in (1) and (2), one can relax the definition of "explanation" to not require a cause. But if this route is taken, your initial definition is inadequate, and there is no reason that God's existence cannot be explained without reference to causes.

Such a definition of "explanation" is problematic, and does not nothing to mitigate against the necessity of God as the explanation for His existence.

In any case, I don't see how using phrases such as "necessary being" or "essential property" can produce an infinitely complex God

A couple of things to note:

1) God is not "infinitely complex", but rather a simple immaterial being, not composed of parts. I am aware that this is a favorite talking point of Richard Dawkins, but that makes it no less ridiculous.

2) Phrases don't "produce" anything. This comment and your statement that "[words uncoupled from the real world] don't make anything" seem to be an attribution of causality to natural langauge utterances. I wouldn't think that this is your intended meaning, but your statements most naturally lend themselves to such an interpretation. If words have causal power, then there is nothing absurd with something like sorcery, in which incantations are (supposedly) used to bring about an intended effect.

All it does is show what words can do when they are uncoupled from the real world

If the assertion that "God is a necessary being" is "uncoupled from the real world," then there is no reason to assert that the attribution of modal properties, in general, is "coupled to the real world." But if the attribution of modal properties has no "real-world coupling," then the language of science, which describes natural phenomena in modal terms, also has no "real-world coupling."

Matt said...

With respect to my previous comment, I suppose that phrases "produce" in the sense of logical entailment. But even in that case, "Necessary being" does not entail the idea of God - rather the existence of God entails the existence of a necessary being. And as I said previously, this is the explanation: given that God exists in this world, why does He exist in this world? Because if God exists, He exists necessarily (that is, in all possible worlds).

zilch said...

God is not "infinitely complex", but rather a simple immaterial being, not composed of parts.

Matt: that's the great thing about inventing gods and other magical beings: they don't have to make sense. Where's your evidence that intelligent beings are "simple"? All intelligent beings I know of are highly complex. Your definition is a fantasy. As I said in another thread, this is a mug's game: you can make up any super powers you want for your God, and then use them as arguments. Sorry, I want evidence.

cheers from evidentially snowy Vienna, zilch

Matt said...

Where's your evidence that intelligent beings are "simple"?

1) I am only speaking of one being, singular. I am not making a claim concerning the existence of any simple beings outside of God.

2) The presumption that evidence is required to justify claims is self-defeating, as there is no evidence to justify that claim.

All intelligent beings I know of are highly complex.

Your inductive argument fails, because you fail to take God into consideration. Contrary to your assertion, you do know God, but you willfully deny His existence. Rom 1:18-22 says:


18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.


You need to repent of your sins and believe the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Your definition is a fantasy. As I said in another thread, this is a mug's game: you can make up any super powers you want for your God, and then use them as arguments.

The methodology you attribute is a gross misrepresentation. The simplicity of God follows from the proposition that He is the ground and fount of all existence. Thus, if He is composed of parts, then there is something more fundamental than Him, and His existence is not ultimate. So, the attribution of simplicity to God is principled, and not arbitrary, as you contend.

Rhology said...

Silly Matt. How many times have you been corrected on this point? Atheists get to tell Christians what Christians believe about God! Back down, kthxbye.

zilch said...

Matt- yes, you are doing exactly what I said: you are defining God as you please (or as someone pleases), and then using His invented attributes as arguments. This is no more convincing than Anselm. Your argument boils down to this: if God exists, He has such-and-such attributes, and any being with such-and-such attributes must exist, as a matter of definition.

All I can say, is that you have a great deal more faith than I in the power of such sillygisms to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and create beings out of thin air. Evidence, please.

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

zilch,

Yes, you are doing exactly what I said: you are defining Mammy Nature as you please (or as someone pleases), and then using Her invented attributes as arguments. This is no more convincing than Anselm. Your argument boils down to this: if Mammy Nature exists, She has such-and-such attributes, and any being with such-and-such attributes must exist, as a matter of definition.

All I can say, is that you have a great deal more faith than I in the power of such sillygisms to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and create beings out of thin air. Evidence, please.

zilch said...

Rho: the difference is that I am not alone in defining Mammy Nature: She is observable and measurable for everyone to see all around us.

The process of defining Her is called science, and the amazing thing is, that practicing science gives everyone the same results, to a high degree of accuracy, when properly done. If I drop a ball, the velocity will be v = 9.8 (m/s2) t, and if you drop a ball, you will get the same answer. The same cannot be said of the practice of religion. The reason, of course, is that science is based on the world, and religion is based on words. Words can be mistaken; the world cannot.

Of course scientists can be mistaken about the world. But comparing the track record of science with religion for making accurate predictions about the world, and enabling us to do stuff like chat transatlantically, there's no contest. I'll take the World over the Word any day.

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch

Mike Westfall said...

> ...Mammy Nature: She is observable
> and measurable for everyone to see
> all around us.

Exactly.
Now account for the very existence of Mammy Nature.

Given that we all agree that an infinite regress of causes is logically untenable, and that everything which begins to exist has a cause, and Mammy Nature began to exist,

then why is She here rather than nothing? What caused Her?

"I don't know" is a cop out. A true scientist will have at least a hypothesis. What's yours?

Rhology said...

zilch,

First the category error of saying Mammy Nature is measurable. No, She's not. Maybe SOME of her EFFECTS are measurable. So are God's.

As for the rest of your comment, the exact same thing is say-able about God. Nice try, but you didn't get anywhere. Faith, like I said.


The same cannot be said of the practice of religion.

Funny thing - Christianity thinks observable, repeatable science is in fact a product of a worldview like Christianity has, that the world operates according to laws. Funny indeed.


is that science is based on the world, and religion is based on words.

That's just ignorant. Science as a practice is nothing w/o the words, the philosophy, that underlies it. You're a true acolyte.


Of course scientists can be mistaken about the world.

Hahaha, this is the emptiest caveat I've ever seen. You have zero way to know whether they're right about ANYthing you think they're right about.


I'll take the World over the Word any day.

I know that already. You're big on predictions, and the Word of God predicted that about you long ago.
James 4:4 - do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

zilch said...

Hey Mike. You ask:

then why is She here rather than nothing? What caused Her?

"I don't know" is a cop out. A true scientist will have at least a hypothesis. What's yours?


I'm no scientist, just an enthusiastic amateur. But the true scientists I know are perfectly willing to say "I don't know" if there's not enough evidence on which to base a hypothesis.

In any case, you say that God needs no cause. I say that the Universe, or Mammy Nature if you prefer, needs no cause. My explanation is simpler and covers the observations as well or better than yours.

Rho: what effects of God are measurable?

Science as a practice is nothing w/o the words, the philosophy, that underlies it.

Words are necessary for human practice of modern science, true; but the basis of science is observation and discernment of the patterns that connect. The grasshopper mouse in the desert who learns to jam the butt of a chemically-armed beetle into the sand so that its spray diffuses harmlessly, and then eats it, is practicing science. Religion is based only on words: the stories, myths, morals, and injunctures of religion cannot exist without words.

cheers from slippery Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

God's decree covers every event that has ever or will ever transpire.
Thus anything that is measurable is an effect of God that is measurable.

What effects of Nature are measurable? What is your evidence that they are effects caused by Nature and not by an underlying, invisible to you, cause that is not Nature? Warning: You'll have to use words and philosophy to answer the question, thus disemboweling your other wrongheaded disparaging of "words".

And Christianity is not based only on words, but on God's actions in the world. Do try to actually engage your opponent.

zilch said...

And Christianity is not based only on words, but on God's actions in the world. Do try to actually engage your opponent.

Can you give me some examples of God's actions in the world, that cannot be explained more economically by science?

And I am trying to engage you. Could you perhaps try to tone down the unremitting snark? It makes engaging you wearisome, which is a pity, because you are obviously intelligent and articulate. Thanks.

cheers from thawing Vienna, zilch

Rhology said...

What's the point of "more economically"? Are you preparing to appeal to Occam's Razor...?
And I do not agree with putting science in opposition to God. Science is the servant of God, since it discovers more about the world God made. IOW, any science experiment is the study of what God has done or made.
What I'm trying to show in my line of questioning is that science makes sense on Christianity and does not make sense on atheism. One way we see this at work is the way in which atheists desperately cling to wholly unsupported things like evolution to try to cut out God, and the irony is that such appeals are not to science but to their own religion of naturalism.

And OK, will cut down on the snark. It would help if I felt like you had learned and were applying things we've been discussing since you first started commenting here.

zilch said...

And I do not agree with putting science in opposition to God. Science is the servant of God, since it discovers more about the world God made. IOW, any science experiment is the study of what God has done or made.

Supposing God exists, which you have yet to establish.

What I'm trying to show in my line of questioning is that science makes sense on Christianity and does not make sense on atheism. One way we see this at work is the way in which atheists desperately cling to wholly unsupported things like evolution to try to cut out God, and the irony is that such appeals are not to science but to their own religion of naturalism.

Er, I'm not desperately clinging to evolution, I'm just going where the evidence leads. The overwhelming majority of biologists would agree with me, and 99.9 % of those who disagree are theists of one sort or another. Statistically very unlikely to be non-correlated. Science does not support your position, otherwise one would expect more atheistic evolution-deniers.

And OK, will cut down on the snark. It would help if I felt like you had learned and were applying things we've been discussing since you first started commenting here.

Er, many people would probably classify this sort of patronizing as snark too, but I'll let it go. Happy Holidays!

cheers from snowy Vienna, zilch