Ask an atheist..?

Is there a God? If so, what is She like?

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Ginkgo
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by Ginkgo » Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:49 pm

ReliStuPhD wrote:
Ginkgo wrote:<snip>
Both points are good ones. I'm certainly amenable to clarification on what we mean by causation.

As for your second point, I think that perhaps "over-interprets" the proposition I'm after. I don't see that I've yet advanced a "first cause," having proposed only that if, as scientists theorize (robustly, I might add), the universe began to exist, it would have a cause. If some sort of quantum vacuum is proposed as the cause of the universe, it would not undermine 3. If anything, it helps to show it to be true. Granted, a fruitful avenue might then be whether the quantum vacuum itself must "fall back" on something. I'm open to the possibility that it can be shown that the vaccuum itself is not contingent, but that would not be a defeater of the logical necessity of a non-contingent ground of being (though it might hold interesting ramifications for theism).

All that to say, while it's obvious that where I will eventually take this is to a non-contingent ground of being that can then be called "god," the argument as I've presented it hasn't yet gotten there. One must first deal with whether things that exist have a cause and whether the universe began to exist. I don't doubt alternate theories exist, but that they serve as defeaters of the argument as I've presented it is, as yet, not clear, especially in light of the relatively basic nature of the first proposition and the scientific consensus on the second. (At least, I don't see that scientists argue that the quantum vacuum from which the universe began is itself the universe. That would be incoherent.)


I guess at this stage quantum mechanics doesn't prove or disprove the existence of God. No one knows if the universe had a beginning. Aristotle thinks he knows.

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ReliStuPhD
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by ReliStuPhD » Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:21 pm

Ginkgo wrote:I guess at this stage quantum mechanics doesn't prove or disprove the existence of God. No one knows if the universe had a beginning. Aristotle thinks he knows.
OK, I can get on board with that in a limited sense. Of course, showing the universe never began to exist seems to me to rest on far less robust grounds than an appeal to a scientific community that appears, at least on my reading, to affirm a beginning of the universe. Perhaps I'm making a category error here, but it seems to me that, at a minimum, I can continue to appeal to the need to show how the statement "the universe began to exist" is unfounded. (Not that I think you're arguing otherwise.)

As a side note, thanks for the responses. They're certainly not the "usual fare" I've encountered here.
Ginkgo wrote:"No one knows if the universe had a beginning."
Pardon the flippancy, but god does. (I promise that's meant in jest. ;) )

Blaggard
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by Blaggard » Tue Feb 03, 2015 10:45 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwQ-_g8KuHI

Richard Dawkins on Richard Dawkins, and religion or something. :P
Ginkgo wrote:
ReliStuPhD wrote:
Ginkgo wrote:<snip>
Both points are good ones. I'm certainly amenable to clarification on what we mean by causation.

As for your second point, I think that perhaps "over-interprets" the proposition I'm after. I don't see that I've yet advanced a "first cause," having proposed only that if, as scientists theorize (robustly, I might add), the universe began to exist, it would have a cause. If some sort of quantum vacuum is proposed as the cause of the universe, it would not undermine 3. If anything, it helps to show it to be true. Granted, a fruitful avenue might then be whether the quantum vacuum itself must "fall back" on something. I'm open to the possibility that it can be shown that the vaccuum itself is not contingent, but that would not be a defeater of the logical necessity of a non-contingent ground of being (though it might hold interesting ramifications for theism).

All that to say, while it's obvious that where I will eventually take this is to a non-contingent ground of being that can then be called "god," the argument as I've presented it hasn't yet gotten there. One must first deal with whether things that exist have a cause and whether the universe began to exist. I don't doubt alternate theories exist, but that they serve as defeaters of the argument as I've presented it is, as yet, not clear, especially in light of the relatively basic nature of the first proposition and the scientific consensus on the second. (At least, I don't see that scientists argue that the quantum vacuum from which the universe began is itself the universe. That would be incoherent.)


I guess at this stage quantum mechanics doesn't prove or disprove the existence of God. No one knows if the universe had a beginning. Aristotle thinks he knows.
That's more pertinent than you know, Buddhism basically says everything quantum mechanics does.

Atman, we are all one and so on...

Image

Habeas Corpus?

Where is the body...
Etymology

From Latin habeas, 2nd person singular present subjunctive active of habere, "to have", "to hold"; and corpus, accusative singular of corpus "body". In reference to more than one person, habeas corpora.

Literally the phrase means "you may have the body". The complete phrase habeas corpus ad subjiciendum means "you may have the person for the purpose of subjecting him/her to (examination)". These are the opening words of writs in 14th century Anglo-French documents requiring a person to be brought before a court or judge, especially to determine if that person is being legally detained.[3]

Praecipimus tibi quod corpus A.B. in prisona nostra sub custodia tua detentum, ut dicitur, una cum die et causa captionis et detentionis suae, quocumque nomine praedictus A.B. censeatur in eadem, habeas coram nobis ... ad subjiciendum et recipiendum ea quae curia nostra de eo adtunc et ibidem ordinare contigerit in hac parte. Et hoc nullatenus omittatis periculo incumbente. Et habeas ibi hoc breve.[4]

We command you, that the body of A.B. in Our prison under your custody detained, as it is said, together with the day and cause of his taking and detention, by whatever name the said A.B. may be known therein, you have at our Court ... to undergo and to receive that which our Court shall then and there consider and order in that behalf. Hereof in no way fail, at your peril. And have you then there this writ.
;)

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Lev Muishkin
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by Lev Muishkin » Tue Feb 03, 2015 11:04 pm

ReliStuPhD wrote:
So far, I am entirely unimpressed by your Philosophy 101 course. That, or you just didn't pay attention in class.
What an empty and disgraceful travesty of an answer.
You missed the only question of importance. Just like a person of faith to fail to see the obvious.Tell me what did you fail to understand by this?
So, let's imagine that your premises are true.
What makes you think that positing "god" as a cause does not transgress premise number 1?
And what makes you think the cause is best described by an ancient mythical entity?
Even when I accept your unfounded premises you fail to answer the most salient question that arise from your poor understanding of logic.
Please try harder - oh you don't have to - you are only doing bible school.

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ReliStuPhD
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by ReliStuPhD » Wed Feb 04, 2015 1:24 am

Lev Muishkin wrote:
ReliStuPhD wrote:
So far, I am entirely unimpressed by your Philosophy 101 course. That, or you just didn't pay attention in class.
What an empty and disgraceful travesty of an answer.
You missed the only question of importance. Just like a person of faith to fail to see the obvious.Tell me what did you fail to understand by this?
Now you're resorting to misrepresenting my responses? Let's get the context right:
Lev: "It's obvious enough here that my Philosophy 101 trumps your prospective RelSt Ph.D. Unless you can demonstrate the viability of your argument."
Me: "Insofar as my first premise is a generally-accepted principle and my second premise appeals to an accepted scientific theory, I believe I have. 3 is the conclusion that follows from 1 & 2. At this point, the burden is still on you to demonstrate how your objections hold, not simply state that you object.

So far, I am entirely unimpressed by your Philosophy 101 course. That, or you just didn't pay attention in class."

And in this case, you are behaving exactly like the person of faith you disdain. (And, fwiw, I'm not a person of faith. I'm quite the apostate. Too bad you never bothered to ask.)
Lev Muishkin wrote:So, let's imagine that your premises are true.
What makes you think that positing "god" as a cause does not transgress premise number 1?
And what makes you think the cause is best described by an ancient mythical entity?
Even when I accept your unfounded premises you fail to answer the most salient question that arise from your poor understanding of logic.
Please try harder - oh you don't have to - you are only doing bible school.[/quote]

At this point, it's clear you're not even reading my responses. If you were, you would have seen this:
ReliStuPhd wrote:I think here you're assuming that "god" began to exist, which is question-begging if you can't show it to be true. If we allow that non-contingency is logically necessary (I'm happy for you to show it's not), "god" is simply the theist's appellation for whatever is non-contingent. I'm hard-pressed to think of a mythical being who was not created, so they would all be contingent. If it'll help, I'm arguing from something like an Aristotelean position here, and not a Christian one, so don't take "god" to mean "the God of Christians." I would certainly not argue that all Christians understand "god" in a philosophically, logically, or even theologically robust sense. But as far as I know, we're not debating the existence of the Christian God here, just, well, "god." (That is, I'm open to the argument that YHWH or Allah are instantiations of the non-contingent "god," and therefore not provable by appeal to KCA or other such proofs.)


At this point, it's quite obvious to me that you're either unwilling or incapable of addressing the actual points. I spent some time crafting responses to your non-response objection to the KCA, despite the fact that you'd offered no support for you objection at all. You've focused on two points I already addressed and completely ignored the meat of my response: that you have to demonstrate how the premises I've advanced do not hold. And all of that is OK. I was hoping you'd be able to keep up, but it's clear you can't. You'd rather keep your objections to yourself rather than airing them here. It's a fairly common tactic when someone can't really rise to the occasion at hand. I've tried to show some respect by responding to your vacuous responses the best that I could, but I now see that was a mistake. Sad too, because I really was hoping you'd be able to bring something substantive to the table. Thankfully, Gingko, and Kayla to a lesser extent, filled that role.

The saddest thing in all of this? You don't seem to realize that by not offering substantive objections to the KCA, you've effectively allowed it to stand. It would have been far better for you had you actually been able to point to the place where you showed this or that premise not to hold. Instead, your rebuttal of the KCA amounts to a single adjective: "unfounded." At this point, I doubt you even took Philosophy 101 and I know that a bible college student would be better prepared to debate these points than you've shown yourself to be.

PS Thanks for showing the KCA holds by being unable to show it doesn't.
PPS If someone other than Lev is interested in continuing this, I'm definitely up for it.

thedoc
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by thedoc » Wed Feb 04, 2015 3:56 am

ReliStuPhD wrote: So in the spirit of putting my metaphorical money where my mouths is, let's start with what is perhaps the weaker of the two: the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. The universe has a cause.

Now, what would you argue that cause is? We both know (or so I assume) what I will say the cause is.

PS Just to clear away any confusion, I'm a Ph.D. Candidate in a Religious Studies program. Since I assume you understand both what the "Ph" in "Ph.D." stands for and what candidacy means, I'm going to also assume you understand what that entails with respect to philosophical training.

1. Is only based on human experience and it has been discovered that some events don't behave as humans expect them to behave, quantum mechanics come to mind. So the truth of this is questionable at best.

2. Is true only based on current evidence, but that evidence is incomplete as no-one has yet gone back to observe the beginning of the universe. It is possible that the current projection is not entirely accurate, only a few years ago is was assumed that the expansion of the universe was slowing down because that fit with other common human experience. The discovery, (based on the most current observation) that the universe's expansion is speeding up has scientists scrambling to explain how this could be happening, and to discover the cause, perhaps it has no cause. That would really upset things.

3. The conclusion is questionable as it is based on questionable assumptions.

There is probably a good reason why you refer to this as the weaker of the 2 arguments.

As far as your credentials, many years ago there was a TV series I Claudius and the one appropriate quote is "But isn't what a man says more important than how long he takes to say it?" Likewise it's more important what you say than where you learned to say it.

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ReliStuPhD
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by ReliStuPhD » Wed Feb 04, 2015 6:52 am

thedoc wrote:1. Is only based on human experience and it has been discovered that some events don't behave as humans expect them to behave, quantum mechanics come to mind. So the truth of this is questionable at best.
Of course, everything we understand is based on human experience in some form or fashion. As such, if that's the objection we hve, then we have to question whether we're even here. And whether we can question whether we're even here. And whether we can... I'm afraid that quickly tumbles into incoherence.
thedoc wrote:2. Is true only based on current evidence, but that evidence is incomplete as no-one has yet gone back to observe the beginning of the universe. It is possible that the current projection is not entirely accurate, only a few years ago is was assumed that the expansion of the universe was slowing down because that fit with other common human experience. The discovery, (based on the most current observation) that the universe's expansion is speeding up has scientists scrambling to explain how this could be happening, and to discover the cause, perhaps it has no cause. That would really upset things.
This strikes me as entirely fair objection, but has something of an "of the gaps" quality. "One day we might show that the universe doesn't have beginning." Sure, but we might also show that it does. If #2 qualifies as an appeal to science, it seems the best we can do is go with what we know, and if science later shows that doesn't hold, the KCA will crumble under its own weight. Until then, I'm not sure that speculation concerning future discoveries qualifies as a particularly strong rebuttal.
thedoc wrote:3. The conclusion is questionable as it is based on questionable assumptions.
If you're right about 1 & 2, this would follow, yes.
thedoc wrote:There is probably a good reason why you refer to this as the weaker of the 2 arguments.
Yeah. I'm not wholly convinced of the soundness of the KCA, which is why I was looking for something more substantive than what I got. On the surface, it strikes me as solid, but insofar as it appeals to scientific research, I'd rather have something a bit stronger (and I think the argument from contingency is this stronger case).
thedoc wrote:As far as your credentials, many years ago there was a TV series I Claudius and the one appropriate quote is "But isn't what a man says more important than how long he takes to say it?" Likewise it's more important what you say than where you learned to say it.
Absolutely. Of course, there's also an informal fallacy known as "false authority," so I'm perfectly willing to respond with my credentials when asked for them. :)

uwot
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by uwot » Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:01 am

ReliStuPhD wrote: 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. The universe has a cause.
Well yes, it's a valid argument, and I accept that the premises are intuitively compelling, but they are not sound. They do not have the logical necessity of Descartes (once filtered through Malebranche) or Parmenides. It is self refuting to claim that there is no thinking or that there is nothing.
It is not similarly self contradictory to say some things that exist do not have a cause, and in fact there is evidence that at the quantum level some things don't have a cause. (Although, Bell's Theorem notwithstanding, we might yet find some non-local hidden variable.)
Nor is it logically necessary that the universe began to exist. You can't use the Big Bang in this context because, even though there was an event 13.78 billion years ago after which things started to happen on a currently comprehensible scale, it doesn't follow that there were not 'physical' conditions prior to that. It may be that the universe had been expanding 'forever'. Or, if the String Theorists are right, the Big Bang was the result of a clash of eternal branes. Another possibility is a metaphysical god that said let there be light, although that apparently didn't happen until 300 000 years after the event. We simply do not know what the conditions prior to the Big Bang were; that it was the beginning of stuff we can make sense of, doesn't mean it was the beginning. "The universe" as you use it in your second premise, is contingent; it just happens to be the case.

uwot
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by uwot » Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:06 am

ReliStuPhD wrote:Of course, everything we understand is based on human experience in some form or fashion. As such, if that's the objection we hve, then we have to question whether we're even here. And whether we can question whether we're even here. And whether we can... I'm afraid that quickly tumbles into incoherence.
This is the essence of Descartes; it is self refuting to question whether we are here. What 'we' are can be challenged, but we are here.

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ReliStuPhD
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by ReliStuPhD » Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:24 am

uwot wrote:It is not similarly self contradictory to say some things that exist do not have a cause, and in fact there is evidence that at the quantum level some things don't have a cause. (Although, Bell's Theorem notwithstanding, we might yet find some non-local hidden variable.)
I want to focus on this point in the interests of further clarity. Those who would use the KCA as support for the existence would agree whole-heartedly with your objection, because they would want to argue that (1) god exists and (2) god is without cause. As such, the formulation is very specific in stating "everything that begins to exist has a cause." So while I'm amenable to the statement that "some things that exist do not have a cause," I'm not I see where it applies to things that begin to exist (i.e. did not exist prior to X).

uwot
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by uwot » Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:40 am

ReliStuPhD wrote:"everything that begins to exist has a cause."
That isn't logically necessary. 'Everything that is caused to exist has a cause.' is different to 'Everything that begins to exist has a cause.' A beginning isn't a cause.

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ReliStuPhD
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by ReliStuPhD » Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:03 am

uwot wrote:
ReliStuPhD wrote:"everything that begins to exist has a cause."
That isn't logically necessary.
To go "off-message" for a moment, what of metaphysical necessity (retaining the qualifier of "begins to")?

(To perhaps head the quantum objection off at the pass, one might argue that a quantum particle that flares into existence from the vacuum state (?) would have, as its cause, the vacuum state itself.)

uwot
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by uwot » Wed Feb 04, 2015 8:28 am

ReliStuPhD wrote:To go "off-message" for a moment, what of metaphysical necessity (retaining the qualifier of "begins to")?
Not my cup of tea.
ReliStuPhD wrote:(To perhaps head the quantum objection off at the pass, one might argue that a quantum particle that flares into existence from the vacuum state (?) would have, as its cause, the vacuum state itself.)
Don't worry about quantum objections if it is metaphysical necessity you are after. But as you mention it, no one knows what the vacuum state is 'made of'; it is a mathematical entity, the ontological status of which is opaque. Lawrence Krauss uses the concept in his book A universe from nothing (or something like that), but it isn't clear whether the quantum vacuum is a product of the universe, or the arena it's in. Either way, it can only be a cause of fundamental particles in the Aristotelian way that paint is the cause of the Mona Lisa.

thedoc
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by thedoc » Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:16 pm

If I may return to point 2. The universe began to exist. for a moment, I believe that the beginning of the universe was hypothesized from the initial understanding that the universe was expanding and they "ran the film backwards" and discovered that everything came back to a point. Now it has been observed that the expansion is speeding up. I haven't seen any speculation on this as to how it might effect the beginning, but what if the expansion has always been speeding up and if you "Run the film backwards" might you come to a time when the universe was steady, or at the bottom of a compression before expanding again. Either case would eliminate a beginning and leave you with a universe that has always been. Then the question becomes "Does something that has always been (and you must define "has always been") have a cause?" You are also left with the question does the expansion stop and begin to compress again in never ending cycles?

Ginkgo
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Re: Ask an atheist..?

Post by Ginkgo » Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:57 pm

thedoc wrote:If I may return to point 2. The universe began to exist. for a moment, I believe that the beginning of the universe was hypothesized from the initial understanding that the universe was expanding and they "ran the film backwards" and discovered that everything came back to a point.
I think this is basically the Hawking thought experiment.
thedoc wrote:
Now it has been observed that the expansion is speeding up. I haven't seen any speculation on this as to how it might effect the beginning, but what if the expansion has always been speeding up and if you "Run the film backwards" might you come to a time when the universe was steady, or at the bottom of a compression before expanding again.
This is problematic. My understanding is that it is not possible to run the universe backwards. There are a number of reasons for this. Having said that without supplying any detail, I think it is reasonable to suggest that at some stage the universe was homogenous. A universe that is dominated by dark energy will ultimately result in the following:

www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_death_of-the_universe
thedoc wrote:
Either case would eliminate a beginning and leave you with a universe that has always been. Then the question becomes "Does something that has always been (and you must define "has always been") have a cause?" You are also left with the question does the expansion stop and begin to compress again in never ending cycles?
As I said previously, science doesn't deal in first causes. There are a number of theories that explain the universe in terms of having no beginning or end. As you suggest the Big Crunch is one of them.

www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Crunch

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