Religion and science not compatible. /obvious day

From the American Sociological Association.

While trust in science remained stable among people who self-identified as moderates and liberals in the United States between 1974 and 2010, trust in science fell among self-identified conservatives by more than 25 percent during the same period, according to new research from Gordon Gauchat, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research.

Color me not surprised.  As science progresses it continues render beliefs like a young universe, someone rising from the dead, someone walking on water, and similar beliefs more embarrassing than they already are.

Science is based on reality, and it’s no secret how the passionately devout tend to react when nagging trivialities like reality encroach on their beliefs.  That’s why…

In addition to examining how the relationship between political ideology and trust in science changed over almost 40 years, Gauchat also explored how other social and demographic characteristics—including frequency of church attendance—related to trust in science over that same period. Gauchat found that, while trust in science declined between 1974 and 2010 among those who frequently attended church, there was no statistically significant group-specific change in trust in science over that period among any of the other social or demographic factors he examined, including gender, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status.

That’s because none of those other things are hostile to science.  One can be male or female without offending the conclusions of science.  However, in order to maintain the absurdities of religion, in order to think faith is anywhere near the successful arbiter of truth as experiment, it is necessary to eschew the fiction-gutting machinery of science.

Oh sure, believers still drive cars.  They still use computers and enjoy the bountiful food and clean water provided through scientific innovation.  But when science determines, without qualification, that nature produces order all by itself or that people don’t actually rise from the dead (as if that conclusion needed science to confirm it), all of a sudden science can’t be trusted.

To these people, science must be the greatest coup in history – just laying low, unraveling the mysteries of the universe and providing us with every luxury for the last several thousand years only so that now it can corrupt believers with its lies.

And this goes to you religious moderates too.  If you think someone rose from the dead, you have chosen religion over science.  That idea is simply incompatible with reality as science has revealed it.  You are at odds with the same force that has made us the rulers of this planet; human intelligence as applied through science.

You should be ashamed of this.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Art Vandelay

    If you think someone rose from the dead, you have chosen religion over science.

    I’d be careful using the word “think” here. That would presuppose that they actually put any thought into it.

  • rikitiki

    JT – love your writing, but feeling the need to quibble here:
    This line near the end, “That idea is simply incompatible with reality as science has revealed it.”
    Unfortunately, for me, that ‘revealed’, though quite true, rang
    in my mental ear too much like the yammerings of the
    religious with their ‘revealations’, etc.
    I’d suggest ‘found it to be’, maybe instead of ‘revealed’?
    Or, possibly, ‘uncovered’ or ‘discovered’?
    Like I say, I’m quibbling here.
    Keep up the great work!

  • John Horstman

    That’s because none of those other things are hostile to science. One can be male or female without offending the conclusions of science.

    Actually, I think that science challenges a number of the bases for male privilege that is so dearly loved (often without conscious recognition) by a majority of the male population. This may be confounded by the fact that science as practiced still tends to encode androcentric bias, but just look at all of the ‘rational’ ‘skeptics’ that suddenly reject science if it challenges their own biases.

  • http://faehnri.ch/ faehnrich

    Reminds me of this article on climate change and the scientific method.

  • neatospiderplant

    Jehovah’s witnesses come by once a week. Last week, they told me that Science and the bible are compatible. (They also told me the bible does not contradict itself. It was an entertaining visit).

    I’m baffled by how people can actually be so oblivious to what’s right in front of their faces.

  • Mark

    Science is fine for investigation of the natural world, but it falls flat on its face in describing the supernatural. I do not choose to limit my understanding of reality with science.

    • drdave

      Mark, I fear your appeal to the supernatural as a means of understanding reality falls flat on its face. Science is quite capable of investigating supernatural claims. And has done so, with negative results. Also, if the supernatural existed, someone by now would have walked off with James Randi’s million dollars. Not to mention walking off with a Nobel Prize, and a lot of other swag. That voice in your head telling you things, is just a voice in your head telling you things. Its not connected to something out there. We all have it, but some of us think its just talking to ourself.

    • Drakk

      I’ve…been…waiting for this!
      (sarcasm)

      (The actual sentiment expressed here is closer along the lines of: “Oh. You again.”)

      And I suppose you would have me believe that a group of uneducated, ignorant, superstitious bronze age goat herders have insight into the mysteries of the universe beyond the combined work of the last millenium of humanity’s greatest minds.

      Spout all you want about “science being limited to the natural world”. It seems patently obvious that your “supernatural” can have no effect at all on reality.

    • http://yetanotheratheist.com TerranRich

      First, you must demonstrate that the supernatural EXISTS. Until you can do that, you have no reason to even claim that anything falls within the realm of the so-called “supernatural”. It’s a meaningless concept, encompassing that which you choose to believe, but for which you can’t show evidence.

    • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

      Mark,

      Kudos to you. It’s nice to know the culture wars haven’t polarized everybody, and that there still are true freethinkers out there.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

    As science progresses it continues render beliefs like a young universe, someone rising from the dead, someone walking on water, and similar beliefs more embarrassing than they already are.

    While an old universe is incompatible with young earth creationism, Big Bang cosmology is not incompatible with religion in general. If anything, it has added scientific ammunition to what were previously solely philosophical cosmological arguments.

    When it comes to raising the dead or walking on water, science can only tell us what is possible for a human with no outside assistance to do. It tells us nothing about what God can do.

    That’s because none of those other things are hostile to science.

    The article seems to imply that conservatives (not just church-goers) have less trust in science too. It also states that in 1974 conservatives had more trust in science than liberals or moderates and that better educated conservatives were responsible for the rising distrust among conservatives.

    As far as I can tell, none of the beliefs JT brings up (old universe, people don’t generally rise from the dead, people don’t generally walk on water, evolution) arose after 1974, implying they have little to do with conservatives’ newly found distrust in science (relative to moderates and liberals). The article itself suggests it is the conservative belief in small government that is coming in tension with science-backed regulations.

    It seems JT just read what he wanted to into the article. Why not argue we should all adopt the beliefs of 1974 conservatives?

    And this goes to you religious moderates too. If you think someone rose from the dead, you have chosen religion over science. That idea is simply incompatible with reality as science has revealed it. You are at odds with the same force that has made us the rulers of this planet; human intelligence as applied through science.

    As a religious moderate I don’t see the need to choose between religion and science as if they are continually in battle with each other. First, there is no logical contradiction between the belief that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by God and the belief that a human corpse lacks the inherent potential to become a living human again. Second, science reveals parts of reality but not reality in its entirety. Third, the belief that God sustains creation in an orderly way is harmonious with science, not at odds with it.

    • Drakk

      First, there is no logical contradiction between the belief that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by God and the belief that a human corpse lacks the inherent potential to become a living human again

      This is not the issue.

      The issue is that you have accepted a claim based on no evidence as a one time exemption to a general rule with n supporting cases, where n is here the number of organisms that have died over all of the history of the universe, a number likely so staggeringly huge I will not attempt an estimate.

      You have accepted this proposition without requiring evidence for it. This is a choice of faith over rationality, or, more generally worded, religion over science.

      Second, science reveals parts of reality but not reality in its entirety

      Go. Right. Ahead and tell me how a logical framework whose entire foundation is the observation of real phenomena and subsequently building a set of ideas to explain it isn’t capable of revealing reality in its entirety. Go right ahead. Point out a part of reality that doesn’t manifest phenomena in reality. While you’re at it, tell me what a four sided triangle looks like, or what direction an electron spins.

      Third, the belief that God sustains creation in an orderly way is harmonious with science, not at odds with it.

      You are wrong. There is no other way to put it. Of course it is at odds with science, because that is not the current scientific consensus. the solar system is held together because of gravity, and it stays together because a massive influx of energy would be needed to overcome gravity and shake everything apart. There isn’t one. Ergo, it doesn’t happen. Cosmic finger-poking at the stars to make them behave is not required.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

        Drakk:

        The issue is that you have accepted a claim [the resurrection of Christ] based on no evidence

        I believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead based on the same kind of evidence used to determine any other historical fact. You may have a different interpretation of that evidence but to claim my belief is based on “no evidence” is false.

        as a one time exemption to a general rule with n supporting cases, where n is here the number of organisms that have died over all of the history of the universe, a number likely so staggeringly huge I will not attempt an estimate.

        So what? Every historical event is unique. You also gloss over the difference between a corpse raising itself to life and God raising a corpse to life.

        Go. Right. Ahead and tell me how a logical framework whose entire foundation is the observation of real phenomena and subsequently building a set of ideas to explain it isn’t capable of revealing reality in its entirety. Go right ahead. Point out a part of reality that doesn’t manifest phenomena in reality. While you’re at it, tell me what a four sided triangle looks like, or what direction an electron spins.

        I have to first comment on this sentence: “Point out a part of reality that doesn’t manifest phenomena in reality.” This strikes me as a straw-man caricature of my position. I hold that there are real things that can be discovered without using science (narrowly defined) as a means of discovering them. Whether they “manifest phenomena in reality” is irrelevant.

        The scientific method is rooted in certain philosophical and metaphysical beliefs. You must accept these beliefs before performing science. If you think these beliefs correspond to reality then you agree with me that we can know things by means other than science. In fact, to use science to prove these beliefs would be an example of circular logic. Your paragraph implies that the rules of logic (“logical framework”) precede and are independent of science.

        Since you brought it up (kind of), we can also note that there is no perfect (three-sided) triangle in material form. The concept of triangularity is independent of science and does not perfectly manifest itself in any material form (in case you take “reality” to mean “material reality”).

        Of course it is at odds with science, because that is not the current scientific consensus.

        Science tells us nothing about the metaphysics underlying my belief that God is a sustainer of creation. I’m not concerned with a supposed “scientific consensus” when most scientists have given no thought to the subject.

        Cosmic finger-poking at the stars to make them behave is not required.

        That’s a metaphysical belief, not a scientific belief.

  • Drakk

    I believe Jesus was resurrected from the dead based on the same kind of evidence used to determine any other historical fact. You may have a different interpretation of that evidence but to claim my belief is based on “no evidence” is false.

    My error.

    I do not however accept that the evidence you claim to have considered actually supports this claim. Please present your evidence for consideration. Just to head it off, the bible doesn’t count. At all.

    So what? Every historical event is unique.

    You will notice (or perhaps not, all things considered) that all events in verified history obey a set of rules known as the laws of physics. I don’t know what you mean to imply by “every historical event is unique”. Yes in that they generally involve different circumstances and different people. I must ask for some serious evidence if you want to claim that one event is exempt from the laws of reality.

    You also gloss over the difference between a corpse raising itself to life and God raising a corpse to life.

    This line cracks me up. Is this some of that “spohisticated theology” I keep hearing about?

    Actually, you’ll find I didn’t gloss over anything. You did. I don’t see any explanation by you, who has proposed this hypothesis, of the, ah, difference between those two scenarios. As far as I am concerned the answer is “None. They both don’t happen.”

    If you would like me to reconsider my point please first prove that one is possible. Then I would like please to see a supporting mechanism. Given the number of bodily functions responsible for life I would be most interested in explanations for the reversal of rigor mortis in the body, a mechanism for the regeneration of oxygen used by the cells in respiration after death, and the reversal of algor mortis. Also include explanations of how these things are thermodynamically possible i.e. do not result in a net decrease in entropy.

    I have to first comment on this sentence: “Point out a part of reality that doesn’t manifest phenomena in reality.” This strikes me as a straw-man caricature of my position.

    It strikes me that I had one sentence to work with and I’m not exactly supposed to coddle ideas.

    I hold that there are real things that can be discovered without using science (narrowly defined) as a means of discovering them. Whether they “manifest phenomena in reality” is irrelevant.

    Such as?

    Your final sentence is utterly incoherent. So I’m supposed to accept that something is real even though it can’t manifest real effects, i.e. can’t be seen, felt, or heard, can’t be perceived at all by any detection equipment even in theory (that’s what not manifesting real phenomena/effects/whatever means), and doesn’t have any effect on anything around it in any way?

    Yeah, there’s a dragon in my garage, totes.

    The scientific method is rooted in certain philosophical and metaphysical beliefs. You must accept these beliefs before performing science

    Philosophers seem to enjoy talking a lot about what science aboslutely does require. As far as I’m concerned they are all utterly wrong. As far as I am concerned the only hard and fast rule is that the final arbiter is observation, i.e. if the predictions of your theory do not agree with what you observe in nature, your theory is flawed in at least one way.

    Now perhaps (perhaps) you see why the idea of not being able to use science to study an observation of reality is incoherent.

    Since you brought it up (kind of), we can also note that there is no perfect (three-sided) triangle in material form. The concept of triangularity is independent of science and does not perfectly manifest itself in any material form (in case you take “reality” to mean “material reality”).

    So…um…perfect triangles don’t exist?

    I’ll just toss them into the pile with the light inextensible strings, frictionless ramps, infinite length conductors and massless point charges.

    That’s a metaphysical belief, not a scientific belief.

    Let’s use a simple example and consider two bodies orbiting each other in a binary system. Let’s simplify further and say they happen to be the same mass.

    Classical mechanics will tell you (closely enough) how they act. They both orbit around their common barycenter. What they really do not do is spiral outwards or collapse inwards or oscillate back and forth or anything odd like that. Know why? Not because something is poking at them to make them not do it. It’s purely because they can’t change their state of motion, since, well, no forces are acting on them.

    I’ve got a mouse on my table, doesn’t work anymore sadly, it was a nice mouse. It just sits there now, not working when I plug it in, but at least not, y’know, vaporizing into constituent atoms, or jumping off the table, or leaping up and strangling me with the cord. And that’s not because there’s a finger poking at it to behave, but because to do any of those things would take an input of energy that’s just not there yet.

    Given that the (in)actions of both of those things are explained perfectly well using scientific principles, do elucidate as to how they’re not “scientific beliefs”.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

      Drakk:

      Please present your evidence for consideration. Just to head it off, the bible doesn’t count. At all.

      You’re resorting to special pleading. Historians routinely use the testimony contained in the earliest written documents concerning a subject. That’s why historians studying the historical Jesus consider the Gospels to be the most important sources in reconstructing Jesus’ life. Your rule betrays your bias but does not foster responsible historical inquiry.

      You will notice (or perhaps not, all things considered) that all events in verified history obey a set of rules known as the laws of physics.

      Now you’re begging the question. You are also conflating the laws of physics as we currently understand them with the laws of reality.

      I must ask for some serious evidence if you want to claim that one event is exempt from the laws of reality.

      I’m not claiming any event is exempt from the laws of reality (whatever they are). If God raised Jesus from the dead then that is consistent with the laws of reality. The laws of physics (as we currently understand them) are not the laws of reality.

      Actually, you’ll find I didn’t gloss over anything. You did. I don’t see any explanation by you, who has proposed this hypothesis, of the, ah, difference between those two scenarios.

      I did provide a difference. One involves the powers inherent to a corpse and one involves the power of God.

      Please recall that my first point you initially responded to was “there is no logical contradiction between the belief that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by God and the belief that a human corpse lacks the inherent potential to become a living human again.” You then objected that my beliefs are not based on evidence. I’ve demonstrated that they are based on evidence. At best, you can only conclude that my belief in the resurrection is based on insufficient evidence. I fear we will move off on a tangent from my original point so I will leave it at that unless you can show a logical incompatibility between belief in the resurrection and belief in science.

      As far as I am concerned the only hard and fast rule is that the final arbiter is observation, i.e. if the predictions of your theory do not agree with what you observe in nature, your theory is flawed in at least one way.

      You realize that your rule is not supported by science, right? In other words, your rule precedes any observations. You’ve proved my point for me (“science reveals parts of reality but not reality in its entirety”).

      Not because something is poking at them to make them not do it. It’s purely because they can’t change their state of motion, since, well, no forces are acting on them.

      I believe there is gravitational interaction between the two bodies. Gravity sustains the motion in question. This leads to the question of what sustains gravity. Following such questions leads you into the realm of metaphysics. You simply jump abruptly from science to metaphysics with no discernible connection between the two.

      Given that the (in)actions of both of those things are explained perfectly well using scientific principles, do elucidate as to how they’re not “scientific beliefs”.

      The non-scientific belief in question is: “Cosmic finger-poking at the stars to make them behave is not required.” You basically accept certain physical laws as brute facts but do nothing to show those laws are not created/sustained by a First Cause. Each of your examples is exactly what would be expected if God sustains creation in an orderly manner.

      • Drakk

        I was fine when I wrote my earlier reply. Now I’m a little drunk. Conclude whatever you want.

        You’re resorting to special pleading [...]

        Eh, maybe you’ve misunderstood. I was heading off the usual apologist stuff which is along the lines of “It says so in the bible and that’s evidence it absolutely definitely happened.” There are reasons I don’t consider the written word of the bible to describe actual fact (like, well, all that whacked-out stuff in there).

        I asked for evidence. Have you got it or not?

        Now you’re begging the question. You are also conflating the laws of physics as we currently understand them with the laws of reality[...]

        Oh show me the non-overlap. Goddamn show me where exactly conservation of energy doesn’t apply because I want to set up a power station there. Show me exactly where I can pull off a series of processes that decreases the entropy of the whole universe. As far as I’m concerned, physics has done a pretty good job explaining everything I care to observe. This is the discipline which split the atom, put humankind on the moon and discovered the fundamental relation between space and time.

        And you’re telling me it missed something which a bunch of uneducated bronze-age desert nomads figured out.

        Show. Me. The proof.

        I did provide a difference. One involves the powers inherent to a corpse and one involves the power of God.

        Why do things live? Because of their elan vital.
        Why does opium cause sleep? Because of its elan sopor.
        Why does a car move? Because of its elan locomotif.

        Explain the mechanism. I know what a corpse can do. It can decompose pretty damn well. I know how it decomposes (or at least I could find out. I haven’t studied biology in ages.)
        What exactly can this “power of god” you propose do? More to the point, what can it not? What is the mechanism by which it does this, including sources of energy and thermodynamically favourable processes? And if you were wrong, how would you know?

        [...]You then objected that my beliefs are not based on evidence. I’ve demonstrated that they are based on evidence[...]

        As you have not shown the evidence I asked for, this is a lie. I will continue to conclude that your belief in a resurrection event is not supported by the evidence and thus not a reasonable conclusion to draw nor a reasonable thing to believe. I’ll leave it at that unless you want to actually put up some evidence for consideration.

        You realize that your rule is not supported by science, right?[...]

        What should the final arbiter of a contested theory be, then, if not the thing the theory itself is testing? You don’t provide much in the way of alternative.

        In any case, the rule’s corollary is “You can’t argue with results”. Even if it’s taken on assumption and we work from there, what does it get us?

        (I regret that there isn’t an object containing all science to which I can point and say “this”.)

        You basically accept certain physical laws as brute facts but do nothing to show those laws are not created/sustained by a First Cause.

        Because I have no evidence that they are. What can be proposed without evidence can be dismissed without evidence. Give me a reason to think one is necessary, otherwise I might as well file this with the hypotheses about computer simulations and dreams inside the head of a giant space turtle. As far as I’m concerned, a point of space appeared, with energy in it. It expanded, and spreading that energy out over more space caused the universe to cool. The cooling allowed energy to be converted into elementary particles. The elementary particles interact with one another in ways based on their properties. They, variously, either bonded together into higher order particles or remained by themselves as elementary particles. Those higher order particles have their own properties when it comes to interactions and I’m going to stop here because this is sounding like an answer to that one question featured in the joke about the cosmology paper.

        You, however, have not shown evidence that this “First Cause” is most definitely Yahweh, Creator of the Infinite Multiverses, the God of Abraham, Smiter of Many People who Probably Didn’t Deserve It, He who is his Own Son But Not Really Also There’s a Ghost Involved, One who Dislikes his Subjects Doing Interesting Things with their Genitalia.

        Each of your examples is exactly what would be expected if God sustains creation in an orderly manner.

        Okay, and what would be not expected if this is the case? How, exactly, do I go about falsifying it? I have a strong feeling I can’t, because, getting to the point here, you are proposing an entity with the ability to do, quite literally, anything. Ergo, every possible conceivable action, and probably a few inconceivable ones, is “consistent with what would be expected”. Your theory doesn’t explain anything. It doesn’t generate any useful predictions.

        Das ist nicht einmal falsch!

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

          Drakk:

          I was heading off the usual apologist stuff which is along the lines of “It says so in the bible and that’s evidence it absolutely definitely happened.”

          The belief that the Bible is inerrant isn’t necessary to make an historical argument concerning the resurrection. The evidence for the resurrection is tangential to my original point. There are countless resources on the resurrection you can refer to.

          Oh show me the non-overlap [between the laws of physics as we currently understand them and the laws of reality]

          Simply consider the fact that science has made new discoveries that overturned or modified previous theories. If the laws of physics truly are the laws of reality then the laws of reality change when new discoveries are made. Do you actually believe that? The history of science should make it abundantly clear that science is not an infallible process revealing all of reality.

          Explain the mechanism.

          You don’t need to know the mechanism to know that something occurred. Later you write: “As far as I’m concerned, a point of space appeared, with energy in it.” Notice that you don’t provide a mechanism for how this point of space appeared. Until you do, should I withhold belief that space and energy exist? If the answer is yes then you’ve undermined the science you appear to hold so dear. If the answer is no then you’ve admitted your demands to know exactly how God acts before believing that God acts are irrational.

          What should the final arbiter of a contested theory be, then, if not the thing the theory itself is testing? You don’t provide much in the way of alternative.

          I’m not proposing an alternative to science (in the sense of something that would replace science). I am merely noting that things like reason, logic, philosophy, mathematics, and history supplement science. To say that something isn’t known by science is not the same as saying that something is not known at all. It might be known by reason, logic, philosophy, mathematics, or history.

          Because I have no evidence that they are.

          It’s a logical deduction from the observed series of causes and effects that there is a First Cause that is an Unmoved Mover. See the Leibnizian cosmological argument, the kalam cosmological argument, and the first three ways of Thomas Aquinas, for examples.

          As far as I’m concerned, a point of space appeared, with energy in it.

          As far as I’m concerned, this point of space was ultimately caused by a First Cause. Apparently I am irrational for believing that every effect has a cause but atheists are rational for believing a universe can just pop into existence without any cause whatsoever.

          What is more detrimental to the science you hold dear than the belief that things can happen for no reason whatsoever? Why bother looking for causes when things can happen without causes? Why believe a point of space appeared uncaused about 15 bya? Why not believe the universe popped into existence 10 bya or 5 bya or 6000 years ago (at least YECs believe there was a cause)? Don’t refer to modern Big Bang cosmology because that assumes a series of causes and effects and apparently effects need not have causes.

          Okay, and what would be not expected if this is the case?

          The world would be unintelligible and science would be impossible. The key point in my statement was that God sustains creation in an orderly manner. In theory it would quite easy to disprove my statement. But since the world is the way it is you won’t be able to do so.

          • Drakk

            It’s late, and I can’t be arsed block quoting everything…

            I don’t care to look up “historical evidence” on any hypothesized resurrection event. I am criticizing your conclusions, meaning that I need to examine your specific evidence. Put up or shut up.

            I use the term “laws of physics” to refer to the actual laws by which every process in the universe occurs. These are true within their regime of validity (quantum physicists chuckle at Conservation of Energy). I don’t actually know the last time a theory operating in its regime of validity got completely overthrown, I should point out I don’t consider the ancient Greeks methods to be actually scientific in nature. They all seemed to be based on nebulously defined ideas of “perfection” or “what felt right”. Point out to me where a region of space does not obey the physical laws designed for its regime of validity.

            I believe here the original point was you dispute the proposition that all events obey physical laws. I have asked for proof in the form of a verified event which violates physical laws designed for its regime of validity.

            I consider history to be a form of scientific inquiry because it forms and tests verifiable and falsifiable hypotheses based on observations of the physical world. More broadly I consider anything that collects knowledge by the above method to be science. Your mechanic does science when he’s fixing your car.

            There’s no reason your “First Cause” needs to be a hyperintelligent sky daddy nor any evidence that it is. There’s also no reason to think that the sky daddy in question really was the “first cause”. Logically speaking, given the precendent set by every other event, should there be a cause for a point of space appearing? Sure. Do I know what it is? No. Do I have any indication as to what it might be? No. Do I, therefore, care to speculate on it? No. Better things to do. Better yet, I’ll say the point of space was its own unmoved mover.

            Convenient, isn’t it? There isn’t a single observation I can make even in theory that the universe requires sustaining. Wolfgang Pauli’s objection rings ever louder. I don’t even think you have any basis in making your claim – assume nothing sustains the universe in an orderly fashion and any order is due only to the universe’s own mechanisms. Why does this necessarily imply chaos?

  • Richard

    Who let the christian trolls out of their sad box of shame? I thought that they’d learned their lesson.
    I suppose that requires some prerequisites to be true that simply aren’t. Watching them all make claims without evidence all day long gets tedious. Evidence that jesus was a historical fact *cough* seriously *cough* claims that there is a supernatural to worry about *cough* mark *cough* just oy.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

    Drakk:

    I don’t care to look up “historical evidence” on any hypothesized resurrection event. I am criticizing your conclusions, meaning that I need to examine your specific evidence. Put up or shut up.

    I started by noting that there is no logical contradiction between the belief that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by God and the belief that a human corpse lacks the inherent potential to become a living human again. You then jumped to the issue of evidence. Don’t tell me to shut up about a topic you brought up in the first place. And why are you criticizing my conclusions when you admit you don’t know the evidence I have in mind nor seem willing to look at evidence?

    I use the term “laws of physics” to refer to the actual laws by which every process in the universe occurs.

    On this definition acts of God are not problematic at all. They are not violations of the laws of physics. Rather, they are examples where we currently do not know the laws of physics in exhaustive detail.

    Point out to me where a region of space does not obey the physical laws designed for its regime of validity.

    I believe at one time Newtonian mechanics was thought to encompass all regions of space. It no longer does so. Its “regime of validity” has shrunk.

    I believe here the original point was you dispute the proposition that all events obey physical laws.

    Not exactly. I dispute that you (or anyone else for that matter) knows what is metaphysically possible or impossible (outside of logical contradictions). Basically, any argument that claims miracles are impossible because they violate the laws of physics doesn’t get off the ground because you don’t know what the laws of physics are in exhaustive and complete detail. It’s an argument from ignorance.

    I consider history to be a form of scientific inquiry because it forms and tests verifiable and falsifiable hypotheses based on observations of the physical world.

    Unless someone claims to observe a miracle, right? I assume metaphysical naturalism trumps observation in this scenario.

    There’s no reason your “First Cause” needs to be a hyperintelligent sky daddy nor any evidence that it is.

    I didn’t call the First Cause a hyper-intelligent sky daddy. I called him an Unmoved Mover. It’s a simple logical deduction from multiple cosmological arguments that this is the case.

    Logically speaking, given the precendent set by every other event, should there be a cause for a point of space appearing? Sure. Do I know what it is? No. Do I have any indication as to what it might be? No. Do I, therefore, care to speculate on it? No. Better things to do. Better yet, I’ll say the point of space was its own unmoved mover.

    You’ve admitted that the universe has a cause. But it is contradictory to call the universe its own unmoved mover. In Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics a “mover” is something undergoing change. As you already admitted, the universe undergoes change. Therefore it is a moving mover, not an unmoved mover. Based on your own words, you need to posit a First Cause that is causally prior to the universe. If you follow the arguments of Aristotle and Aquinas you will see that you don’t need to speculate as to the nature of the First Cause. You can logically deduce that it is Pure Actuality. If you make that step, you have embraced classical theism. Already, hard-line atheism seems hard to maintain based on your stated beliefs.

    Convenient, isn’t it? There isn’t a single observation I can make even in theory that the universe requires sustaining.

    I’m going to assume you meant doesn’t require sustaining. If so, then in theory you could make an observation to counter my point. You could point out that the universe is unintelligible and science is not possible. The reason you can’t actually falsify my belief is because it isn’t as out there as you first assumed.

    I don’t even think you have any basis in making your claim

    If you fully understand Aquinas’ arguments you’ll see why it is the case.

    assume nothing sustains the universe in an orderly fashion and any order is due only to the universe’s own mechanisms. Why does this necessarily imply chaos?

    I did not say the belief that nothing sustains the universe implies chaos. I said the existence of chaos would falsify my belief that God sustains creation in an orderly way.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I’d like to hold your feet to the fire.

      Give me your best argument for god’s existence.

      • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

        JT,

        I would like to hold your feet to the fire.

        I concur with Jayman’s analysis. It’s fairly obvious to me that you *ARE* simply reading what you want to hear into the article. On what evidence do I make my claim? Well, to begin, you’ve framed the issue entirely in the context of religious tension, and completely omitted Gauchat’s salient points about other contributing factors which might also explain the data:

        As for why self-identified conservatives were much less likely to trust science in 2010 than they were in the mid-1970s, Gauchat offered several possibilities. One is the conservative movement itself.

        “Over the last several decades, there’s been an effort among those who define themselves as conservatives to clearly identify what it means to be a conservative,” Gauchat said. “For whatever reason, this appears to involve opposing science and universities and what is perceived as the ‘liberal culture.’ So, self-identified conservatives seem to lump these groups together and rally around the notion that what makes ‘us’ conservatives is that we don’t agree with ‘them.’”

        Another possibility, according to Gauchat, is the changing role of science in the United States. “In the past, the scientific community was viewed as concerned primarily with macro structural matters such as winning the space race,” Gauchat said. “Today, conservatives perceive the scientific community as more focused on regulatory matters such as stopping industry from producing too much carbon dioxide. Conservatives often oppose government regulation, and they increasingly perceive science as on the side of regulation, especially as scientific evidence is used more frequently in the work of government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and in public debates over issues such as climate change.”

        Hear that? Gauchat—presumably more than just another angry atheist with an anti-religious axe to grind—suggests several possibilities to explain the data. So why do you focus myopically on religious tension? Unless of course you’re just another angry atheist with an anti-religious axe to grind?

        I can think of other contributing possible factors that Gauchat addresses only peripherally: cognitive dissonance related to the science global warming, and the influence of idiotic social pundits like Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter, et al. who almost invariably shoulder some of the burden here. It makes sense that those with the most toys (conservatives, generally speaking) might subconsciously feel guilty about their contribution to world pollution and/or global warming, and, spurned by said pundits on the one side and insecure church teachings on the other, that this might cause them to turn a deaf ear to science altogether. After all, the best way to avoid cognitive dissonance is to deny that which produces it. But I digress.

        Here’s the point: as one with a stated public commitment to “fighting religion tooth and claw,” what measures did you take to prevent or offset cognitive failures such as confirmation bias? Remember, according to the very “fiction-gutting machinery” you claim a rational person ought not eschew, your brain didn’t evolve to be an optimal truth-finding mechanism. The fact that you glossed right over Gauchat’s supporting possibilities strongly suggests that you simply read the article, took the points you needed to support another anti-religious screed, and ran with it. Hell, you didn’t even grapple with Jayman’s points. You simply hand-waved them away. Yet, as he explained, each of the beliefs you criticize was extant long before 1974, which only adds support to the theory that trends larger than religious tension might be producing the results.

        Anyways.

  • Joe

    Jayman: There really isn’t any need for a First Cause. Virtual particles, which can be shown to exist – look up the Casimir effect, for example – pop in and out of existance all the time, even in a vacuum with nothing around to ’cause’ them to appear. It is plausible that something similar could have led to the big bang.

    Also, you claim that the universe cannot be its own cause because it changes (or moves). By that same reasoning, God cannot have been the First Cause (if one is indeed necessary) because he himself changes – for example, sending his son down to Earth – and so cannot have caused himself. So, either the universe can have caused itself, or God must have been caused by something else – which itself would suffer from the same problem.

    • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

      Joe,

      I suspect you misunderstand the type of “change” the argument requires. Kinesis denotes a transition from potency to actuality. Further, even if we grant your argument a bit of charity, God sending His son to Earth would not entail a change in God.

  • Drakk

    I did not say the belief that nothing sustains the universe implies chaos. I said the existence of chaos would falsify my belief that God sustains creation in an orderly way.

    Three body problem.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

    Joe:

    - Empty space is not nothing. The Wikipedia entry on the Casimir effect notes that the effect arises from quantized fields.

    - God sending his son to earth is not a change in God’s nature. He was pure actuality both before and after the Incarnation. On the other hand the nature of the universe is ever changing.

    JT:

    - Do you have any defense of the shoddy conclusions you drew from the linked article?

    - What’s considered the best argument for God’s existence is a rather subjective matter. In my opinion the First Way of Thomas Aquinas is most convincing. If you search my blog for Aquinas you will find a summary of the argument. I’ve tried to briefly encapsulate the metaphysics underlying the argument as that is where one will most likely stumble.

    Drakk:

    - You’ll have to go into more detail.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      I don’t find your analysis remotely convincing (and I’m not worried about anybody else finding it convincing), so I have no real interest in rebutting it.

      Here’s your chance to get your best argument in front of atheists. Give me your best argument for god’s existence.

      JT

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

    JT:

    I don’t find your analysis remotely convincing (and I’m not worried about anybody else finding it convincing), so I have no real interest in rebutting it.

    If anyone else would like to show me where my analysis went wrong on this point I’d like to see your reasoning. How did scientific theories (e.g., old universe, evolution) that haven’t changed much between 1974 and 2012 cause the religious and the conservative to go from having the highest view of science in 1974 to the lowest view of science in 2012? Isn’t the article’s suggestion (government regulations to address global warming conflict with small government principles) a much better explanation for the change?

    Here’s your chance to get your best argument in front of atheists. Give me your best argument for god’s existence.

    Here’s an outline of Aquinas’ First Way:

    (1) Some things are in motion. By “motion,” Aquinas is not referring solely to objects moving from one location to another location. He is referring to change of many kinds. We experience and observe motion, or change, every day.

    (2) Motion is the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. Actuality refers to the present state of a thing. Potentiality refers to the potential state of a thing. For example, suppose we have a red rubber ball. In actuality (“in act”) this ball is solid, red, round, and bouncy. This ball is potentially (“in potency”) blue (if we paint it), gooey (if we melt it), and so on. Note that potentialities are rooted in a thing’s nature as it actually exists and do not include just anything. The ball does not have the potential to, for example, fly to the moon under its own power.

    (3) Nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality except by something in a state of actuality. For example, the ball will not go from red to blue unless blue paint actually exists.

    (4) Nothing can be both potential and actual in the same respect and at the same time. For example, the ball is not potentially blue and actually blue in the same respect and at the same time.

    (5) It is impossible for anything to be at the same time and in the same respect both that which is moved and that which does the moving. Whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that which put something else in motion is itself moving, there must be something further moving it, and so on. One may object and state that animals move themselves. In a sense they do, but animals move because their legs move, and their legs move because certain muscles flex, and certain muscles flex because of the firing of certain motor neurons, and so forth.

    (6) If there is an infinite series of movers there is no first mover; and if there is no first mover then there would be no other movers because the subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover. Aquinas is not picturing a series of movers going back through time. He is picturing a series of movers in the here and now. For Aquinas, the immediate cause of an effect is simultaneous with that effect. As an example, consider a hand moving a staff, which is moving a stone, which is moving a leaf. This causal series is ordered “per se” or “essentially.” The motion of the leaf depends on the motion of the stone, which in turn depends on the motion of the staff, which in turn depends on the motion of the hand. To put it another way, the leaf moves when the stone moves, which moves when the staff moves, which moves when the hand moves. The causes and effects are simultaneous (continuous). If any item in this causal series is removed the leaf will no longer move. Strictly speaking, the hand is moving everything else. The other items are used as instruments of the hand. It is incoherent to claim that the leaf would move without a first mover.

    (7) Therefore, there is a first mover, put in motion by no other, that everyone understands to be God. Whatever else God is supposed to be, he is supposed to be the ultimate explanation of why things happen in the world. Nothing in Aquinas’ argument implies that God is moving or is moved by something else. Therefore it makes no sense to ask, “What moves God?” The first mover is not reduced to act or actualized by anything else. The first mover actualizes potentialities without itself being actualized. This is why it is called the Unmoved Mover. It makes other things move without itself undergoing motion.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      To confirm, this is your best argument for god’s existence? This is the argument you find most convincing?

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

        I won’t claim its the most convincing or the best argument. That’s a subjective judgment and I don’t have a personal favorite (I have multiple favorites). I think it’s a sound argument. Even if it is the worst sound argument for God’s existence it would still prove God’s existence. I’m interested in the truth, not style points.

        • Marshall

          But it isn’t sound! To begin with, how do you know that there ISN’T an infinite regression of movers? You don’t, and you can’t, and even if you imply inductively that every movement requires a mover, you can only imply this back to the point where the universe began to exist, if in fact it makes any sense to say that the universe ‘began’ to exist at all! Time is a property of THIS universe, whether or not time existed in any sense BEFORE the universe began to exist is not a fact in evidence. It’s entirely possible that our understanding of cause and effect simply does not apply outside of or before this universe. The entire argument is based on the ASSUMPTION that there was never a point where causality didn’t function the way it does now, which may or may not be true; but because we don’t have anywhere NEAR enough evidence about the initial conditions of the universe, and absolutely NO evidence about what, if anything, can be said to exist or happen BEFORE this universe, YOU CAN’T KNOW. All you could ever reasonably say is that every movement within the universe we currently occupy, at the time we currently occupy it, SEEMS to require a mover. EVEN THAT isn’t conclusively demonstrated, and it’s entirely possible that there is a place in the universe where causality breaks down entirely. You wouldn’t know, because you haven’t seen everywhere in the universe at all times.

          But even if we were to assume that causality always HAS worked the way it appears to us to work now, you STILL can’t get to a god, and apparently you know this because you ended your argument like this:

          Therefore, there is a first mover, put in motion by no other, that everyone understands to be God. Whatever else God is supposed to be, he is supposed to be the ultimate explanation of why things happen in the world. Nothing in Aquinas’ argument implies that God is moving or is moved by something else. Therefore it makes no sense to ask, “What moves God?” The first mover is not reduced to act or actualized by anything else.

          Bold mine, and completely wrong. What if the first mover is an evil pan-universal demon that wants nothing more than to create suffering? What if it’s simply a natural event that happens in a space where causality does not apply that gives birth to universes where causality DOES apply? What if the first mover is the last remnants of energy from a universe that preceded this one being spent to set this one in motion? There is no way you could ever know, but you just lazily assert that “everyone understands” the first mover to be God! And don’t pretend that it isn’t special pleading to say “Therefore it makes no sense to ask, ‘What moves God?’” It most certainly DOES make sense, because you’ve already said that something that moves must have a mover and that mover must also move, so you can’t just say ‘except God’ and pretend that it isn’t a problem. It ABSOLUTELY is.

          This is flawed reasoning based on an assumption asserted as though it were a fact, and even if it WERE sound it would not demonstrate a god. Not only is it NOT sound, it’s NONSENSICAL.

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

            Marshall:

            To begin with, how do you know that there ISN’T an infinite regression of movers?

            Aquinas is considering an essentially ordered causal series. It is the very nature of an essentially ordered causal series to have a first member because everything else in the series only counts as a member relative to the actions of the first member. To suggest the order of causes might regress infinitely is simply unintelligible for then the series would not exist at all.

            You don’t, and you can’t, and even if you imply inductively that every movement requires a mover, you can only imply this back to the point where the universe began to exist, if in fact it makes any sense to say that the universe ‘began’ to exist at all!

            You are envisioning an accidentally ordered causal series going back through time, not an essentially ordered causal series in the present. Whether the universe began or not is irrelevant to the argument. Most of your first paragraph is based on this misunderstanding of the argument.

            The entire argument is based on the ASSUMPTION that there was never a point where causality didn’t function the way it does now, which may or may not be true;

            Science is based on the same assumption and I don’t hear any atheists objecting to science. Maybe causation acted differently in the past. Maybe causation acts differently in another galaxy. You need to decide whether you believe this assumption or not. If not, then please be consistent and chide scientists for working under this assumption. If it’s OK when scientists make this assumption then you can’t hold it against Aquinas’ argument.

            EVEN THAT isn’t conclusively demonstrated, and it’s entirely possible that there is a place in the universe where causality breaks down entirely. You wouldn’t know, because you haven’t seen everywhere in the universe at all times.

            You’re right that I can’t be absolutely certain that causation doesn’t break down some place or at some time. My belief is only based on the experiences of every human being who has ever lived.

            Also, you are undermining science again. The belief that the universe is about 15 byo is based on the assumption that it would take a certain amount of time for causation to produce the universe we see today. But, if you seriously doubt whether causation always holds, then you have no basis for believing the universe to be about 15 byo. You might as well be a young earth non-creationist. Your objections, taken to their logical conclusion, are painting atheism as anti-science and theism as pro-science.

            But even if we were to assume that causality always HAS worked the way it appears to us to work now, you STILL can’t get to a god, and apparently you know this because you ended your argument like this: Therefore, there is a first mover, put in motion by no other, that everyone understands to be God

            A First Cause that is pure actuality (Unmoved Mover) is the definition of God in classical theism and has at least a 2500 year history behind it. Aquinas hit the nail on the head.

            What if the first mover is an evil pan-universal demon that wants nothing more than to create suffering?

            The First Cause is Pure Actuality. He perfectly conforms to his essence and therefore is good in that sense (not to be confused with what we could consider a morally good human). If a demon is defined as a spiritual being in rebellion against God, then the First Cause could not be a demon for there would be no other deity to rebel against.

            What if it’s simply a natural event that happens in a space where causality does not apply that gives birth to universes where causality DOES apply?

            That might give you an out but at an awful price (see my comments above). It is also ad hoc on your part to hypothesize a part of space where causality does not apply merely to not become a theist. And if causation does not hold it seems nonsensical to say this region of space “gives birth” to universes for that implies a link (which you deny) between this region of space and the new universe.

            What if the first mover is the last remnants of energy from a universe that preceded this one being spent to set this one in motion?

            Energy has potentiality and therefore cannot be the First Cause, which is pure actuality.

            And don’t pretend that it isn’t special pleading to say “Therefore it makes no sense to ask, ‘What moves God?’” It most certainly DOES make sense, because you’ve already said that something that moves must have a mover and that mover must also move, so you can’t just say ‘except God’ and pretend that it isn’t a problem. It ABSOLUTELY is.

            But I didn’t say “that something that moves must have a mover and that mover must also move.” I said:

            (5) It is impossible for anything to be at the same time and in the same respect both that which is moved and that which does the moving. Whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that which put something else in motion is itself moving, there must be something further moving it, and so on.

            You’re mis-representing the argument to avoid the conclusion. That God is an Unmoved Mover is not an exception to an earlier rule in the argument. It is a logical deduction from the earlier portions of the argument.

          • Joe

            Aquinas is considering an essentially ordered causal series.

            Couldn’t Marshall’s criticism be rqually applied here? How do we know that the series Aquinas proposes is actually true?

            Marshall’s comments about causality breaking down at certain points is consistant with science. We are fairly certain that the laws of physics are consistant with position (so, if causality is true here, it is probably true everywhere) and time, but there are certain conditions under which causality may not hold true, such as the very, very short period of time just after the big bang, or at singularities, because we do not fully know how the laws of physics behave in these situations. So, when Marshall talks about points in space, he probably means areas such as black holes, etc, rather than a different galaxy. Of course, it is entirly possible causality does hold in these conditions – we just don’t know.

            Energy has potentiality and therefore cannot be the First Cause, which is pure actuality.

            In such a scenario, the energy wouldn’t be a first cause, as it is preceeded by the universe before it. That universe could have been preceeded by another, and so on. You don’t seem to have given a good reason as to why why can’t have this infinite regression, other than ‘Aquinas said so’

            That God is an Unmoved Mover is not an exception to an earlier rule in the argument. It is a logical deduction from the earlier portions of the argument.

            You earlier stated that anything that is moving and puts something else into motion must have been moved itself, and that God avoids this by being unmoving. While I see how this gets you out of the logical hole, I don’t see how you are ‘allowed’ to claim that such an Unmoved Mover exists. You claim that God makes things move (actuates potentialities) without being moved itself. However, everything we see is moved by the thing it is moving. For example, if I were to throw a shotput, I myself am pushed back by it, by Newton’s third law. Another example would be painting your red ball blue – as it is changed from red to blue, then the paintbrush is changed from laden with paint to not. Why then, can you claim that something that doesn’t follow what we observe exists?

            - Empty space is not nothing. The Wikipedia entry on the Casimir effect notes that the effect arises from quantized fields.

            My point was that even in free space (where there are no fields or other objects), these particles still spontaneously appear and annihalate without, as far as I am aware, but I could be wrong, anything to cause them to appear

            - God sending his son to earth is not a change in God’s nature. He was pure actuality both before and after the Incarnation. On the other hand the nature of the universe is ever changing.

            Christian theology states that Jesus was God, I think? That is, he was the son of God, but also God himself? Doesn’t that mean that he was changed – from not being on Earth to being on Earth?

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

    Joe:

    Couldn’t Marshall’s criticism be rqually applied here? How do we know that the series Aquinas proposes is actually true?

    Because we observe essentially ordered causal series. I suppose the atheist could propose that there is no such thing as causation but that seems a desperate measure.

    We are fairly certain that the laws of physics are consistant with position (so, if causality is true here, it is probably true everywhere) and time, but there are certain conditions under which causality may not hold true, such as the very, very short period of time just after the big bang, or at singularities, because we do not fully know how the laws of physics behave in these situations.

    First, you seem to be contradicting yourself. On the one hand, you state that the laws of physics are consistent with position and time. On the other hand, you state that the laws of physics may not hold in certain cases that can be identified by specific places (a singularity) or times (immediately after the Big Bang).

    Second, Aquinas’ argument is based on metaphysics not physics. The fact that our current scientific theories break down in a few situations does not entail that Aquinas’ metaphysics are false. We can further develop our scientific theories while maintaining ancient metaphysical positions (Aquinas’ views are rooted in Aristotle’s views).

    In such a scenario, the energy wouldn’t be a first cause, as it is preceeded by the universe before it. That universe could have been preceeded by another, and so on.

    Good point. I agree its another reason he has not offered an alternative First Cause.

    You don’t seem to have given a good reason as to why why can’t have this infinite regression, other than ‘Aquinas said so’

    The reason concerns the nature of an essentially ordered causal series. Let us consider an illustration of an essentially ordered causal series: a train engine pulls a train car that pulls the caboose (Engine -> Car -> Caboose). Obviously there are causes effecting the movement of the engine but let’s keep the example manageable. We are considering the train as it moves down the tracks. There are continuous causal interactions between the parts of the train that keeps all the parts moving along.

    I hope you can agree that in this illustration the movement of the caboose depends essentially on the car and that the movement of the car depends essentially on the engine. If we detached the caboose from the car the engine would slow down and separate from the train because the car’s interaction with the caboose is essential to keeping the caboose moving. But the car’s causal influence on the caboose depends essentially on the engine. Strictly speaking, the engine is doing all the moving and the car is merely an instrumental cause of the caboose moving.

    I also hope you can agree that in this illustration the car and caboose have no causal power of their own to move. Their power to move derives entirely from the engine. This means that if the first cause (the engine) did not exist then the entire essentially ordered causal series under discussion would not exist (i.e., the train would not be moving).

    By way of analogy, the atheist is proposing that maybe the caboose is moving because it is attached to an infinite number of cars. But this won’t do because the cars are only instrumental causes that depend on the first cause for their power. The atheist’s story does not make metaphysical sense because he is proposing that the cars are instrumental causes but are not the instruments of anything. But even if we could imagine an infinite series of instrumental causes there would still have to be something outside of the series that imparts to the series its causal power.

    I’ve tried to condense a number of pages into a few paragraphs but hopefully it gives you some idea of where Aquinas is coming from. Note he is not claiming that every example of cause and effect is essentially ordered. He is only claiming that some such examples exist.

    Why then, can you claim that something that doesn’t follow what we observe exists?

    Because it logically follows from the metaphysics we use to make our observations intelligible.

    My point was that even in free space (where there are no fields or other objects), these particles still spontaneously appear and annihalate without, as far as I am aware, but I could be wrong, anything to cause them to appear

    I’m no expert on such matters, so here’s a blurb from a Scientific American article (“What is the Casimir effect?”):

    To understand the Casimir Effect, one first has to understand something about a vacuum in space as it is viewed in quantum field theory. Far from being empty, modern physics assumes that a vacuum is full of fluctuating electromagnetic waves that can never be completely eliminated, like an ocean with waves that are always present and can never be stopped. These waves come in all possible wavelengths, and their presence implies that empty space contains a certain amount of energy–an energy that we can’t tap, but that is always there.

    Christian theology states that Jesus was God, I think? That is, he was the son of God, but also God himself? Doesn’t that mean that he was changed – from not being on Earth to being on Earth?

    I’m certainly not the best person to explain the Incarnation so here’s just a short response. God is not located anywhere. Jesus’ physical body was located on earth and had access to the divine nature. The divine nature did not move or change in this process.

  • Marshall

    Aquinas is considering an essentially ordered causal series. It is the very nature of an essentially ordered causal series to have a first member because everything else in the series only counts as a member relative to the actions of the first member. To suggest the order of causes might regress infinitely is simply unintelligible for then the series would not exist at all.

    Within the universe we occupy, as it exists right now, sure. But you didn’t answer my question, which was this: how do you know anything about how things worked before the universe began to exist or during the first moments of its existence, such that you can rule out the possibility of an infinite regress? Nobody knows anything about how things would work before the universe existed, and we still don’t have a clear picture of how things would have worked during the first moments of the universe’s existence, so you can’t say with any kind of certainty that an unmoved mover is required at all.

    Science is based on the same assumption and I don’t hear any atheists objecting to science. Maybe causation acted differently in the past. Maybe causation acts differently in another galaxy. You need to decide whether you believe this assumption or not. If not, then please be consistent and chide scientists for working under this assumption. If it’s OK when scientists make this assumption then you can’t hold it against Aquinas’ argument.

    WRONG. Science is NOT based on the assumption that causation must have always acted as it does now INCLUDING during the first moments of the universe or before the universe existed. There is a point far enough back that scientists will readily tell you that we just don’t have enough data to have any really concrete idea HOW things worked at that point in time. So yeah, I CAN hold it against Aquinas that he’s making an unwarranted assumption, or rather I can hold it against YOU since Aquinas may not have known any better. But you’re talking about relatively recent science now, and you SHOULD know better.

    Also, you are undermining science again. The belief that the universe is about 15 byo is based on the assumption that it would take a certain amount of time for causation to produce the universe we see today. But, if you seriously doubt whether causation always holds, then you have no basis for believing the universe to be about 15 byo. You might as well be a young earth non-creationist. Your objections, taken to their logical conclusion, are painting atheism as anti-science and theism as pro-science.

    Undermining science? I didn’t know I had that kind of power!

    First of all, our measure of the age of the universe is based on its rate of expansion and does not require that causation worked the way it does now BEFORE THE UNIVERSE BEGAN TO EXPAND. Second, that is some RIDICULOUS burden shifting bullshit right there!

    THIS IS A BASIC FIRST CAUSE ARGUMENT. There is nothing special about it, it’s Apologetics 101. In order for this dusty relic to work, YOU need to demonstrate that your premises are correct. You don’t get to shift that responsibility to my shoulders and pretend you’re victorious. You can’t just say that causation has worked this way in, and I’ll just quote you to highlight how fucking absurd this whole thing is, “the experiences of every human being who has ever lived”. You have to show that it worked that way BEFORE THE UNIVERSE EXISTED. So please, show me that there must necessarily be an unmoved mover with all that tasty data from before the universe even existed which shows that causation worked the same way then too.

    But even if you did, guess what? DOESN’T MATTER. Suppose you show that an unmoved mover IS required. You still haven’t shown that the unmoved mover is GOD. And you can’t, because we have no way to analyze your unmoved mover in any way to determine ANYTHING about it. So all you’re saying is “IF things had to be started by something, then something must have started things”. Well holy shit, that just blew my mind.

    You show me to a reasonable degree of certainty that causation must always have worked as we have observed it to work now, and I’ll accept it. But I’m not going to have you say that I’m ‘undermining science’ by presenting a reasonable objection to Aquinas’ argument. Null hypothesis holds, shoulder your own damn burden.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

      Marshall:

      - Aquinas’ argument does not depend on there not being an infinite accidentally ordered causal series. For the sake of argument, he can grant that there is an infinite regress of accidentally ordered causes into the past. What did or did not happen prior to the Big Bang is irrelevant to the argument. This is not the basic first cause argument you have in mind (the kalam cosmological argument?). All that matters is that, in the present, an essentially ordered causal series requires that there be a first cause. You already conceded this point when you wrote: “Within the universe we occupy, as it exists right now, sure [essentially ordered causal series require a first cause].” With that settled it appears you have no solid objections to the argument at all. Your objections are based totally on misunderstandings of the argument.

      - The fact that scientists don’t know how things happened during the first 10^-43 seconds of the universe’s existence does not mean they assume causation was not at work.

      - An Unmoved Mover (pure actuality) is, by definition, the God of classical theism. That we know the First Cause is pure actuality is to know something about the First Cause. That you can’t see this simple point suggests you are unaware of at least 2500 years of thinking on the matter.

      - The null hypothesis does not hold because it is overturned by a deductive argument. Aquinas is not proposing a scientific hypothesis, he is proposing a logical conclusion. In order for atheism to be true Aquinas’ argument must contain a false premise or be invalid. You have done nothing to show either is the case and therefore it is irrational to be an atheist (in fact, you unwittingly agreed to the premise you were attacking). The fact that you think the null hypothesis has any bearing in the discussion shows you don’t get it.

      • Marshall

        All that matters is that, in the present, an essentially ordered causal series requires that there be a first cause. You already conceded this point when you wrote: “Within the universe we occupy, as it exists right now, sure [essentially ordered causal series require a first cause].” With that settled it appears you have no solid objections to the argument at all. Your objections are based totally on misunderstandings of the argument.

        No, I consider my objections valid. You apparently don’t, but you’re not giving me any real reasons to believe that this is the case, other than repeatedly saying that I misunderstand the argument, which I don’t think is true.

        The fact that scientists don’t know how things happened during the first 10^-43 seconds of the universe’s existence does not mean they assume causation was not at work.

        I. NEVER. SAID. THAT. All I said was that we can’t ASSUME causation worked AS IT DOES NOW during the first moments of the universe.

        An Unmoved Mover (pure actuality) is, by definition, the God of classical theism. That we know the First Cause is pure actuality is to know something about the First Cause. That you can’t see this simple point suggests you are unaware of at least 2500 years of thinking on the matter.

        BUT YOU DON’T KNOW THAT THE FIRST CAUSE IS ‘PURE’ ACTUALITY! You assert that it is, but can you SHOW that this is the case? This is what’s so frustrating here, you keep claiming that you (actually WE, which makes this even worse) know things which you cannot possibly know. There’s a great word for what you’re doing here, it’s ‘lying’. Stop that.

        - The null hypothesis does not hold because it is overturned by a deductive argument. Aquinas is not proposing a scientific hypothesis, he is proposing a logical conclusion. In order for atheism to be true Aquinas’ argument must contain a false premise or be invalid. You have done nothing to show either is the case and therefore it is irrational to be an atheist (in fact, you unwittingly agreed to the premise you were attacking). The fact that you think the null hypothesis has any bearing in the discussion shows you don’t get it.

        No, YOU don’t get it, and I’m done with this shit. I think my objections are valid. Why the fuck are you attributing so much power to me, anyway? First I was ‘undermining science’, now whether atheism is rational or not depends on ME showing that this argument is wrong? I recognize that I COULD be wrong here, but even if my objections turned out to be invalid that doesn’t mean that nobody else has valid objections to this argument.

        This has gone on long enough. I’ve had enough of your equivocating and burden shifting. If anyone ELSE here thinks that my objections are flawed or I’m misunderstanding this argument, and can actually explain where I’m going wrong, let me know, I genuinely want to know if I’m wrong. But I’m not convinced that I am, and I’m not wasting any more time on this.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

          Marshall:

          Misunderstanding #1: You thought the Big Bang was relevant to the discussion while Aquinas is talking about causation in the here and now.

          Misunderstanding #2: You fail to understand that if the argument is sound (and you’ve given no reason to think it is not) then it has been demonstrated that the First Cause must be pure actuality.

          Misunderstanding #3: You claim I have not shouldered the evidential burden while you agree with the only premise you tried to object to. If you already agree with me I don’t have any more convincing to do.

          • Marshall

            Misunderstanding #1: You thought the Big Bang was relevant to the discussion while Aquinas is talking about causation in the here and now.

            No, I said that causation in the here and now isn’t sufficient to show that an unmoved mover is required. YOU misunderstand. And how exactly is the Big Bang NOT relevant? Don’t you have to be able to show that the Big Bang itself requires an unmoved mover?

            Misunderstanding #2: You fail to understand that if the argument is sound (and you’ve given no reason to think it is not) then it has been demonstrated that the First Cause must be pure actuality.

            I think I HAVE given reason to think it isn’t sound. So no, this isn’t a misunderstanding, it’s a disagreement. Additionally, I don’t see how this argument, even if it WAS sound, would show that the First Cause must be ‘pure actuality’. And do you think you can give me a definition of ‘pure actuality’ that also includes the attributes of the god you are claiming exists?

            Misunderstanding #3: You claim I have not shouldered the evidential burden while you agree with the only premise you tried to object to. If you already agree with me I don’t have any more convincing to do.

            How many times have I said that I don’t necessarily agree that causation always HAS worked the way it does now? THIS IS A REQUIREMENT FOR YOUR PREMISE TO WORK WITHIN THE ARGUMENT YOU ARE MAKING.

            Anything else, or are we done here?

  • NotAProphet

    All this blathering is essentially reduced to ‘we don’t know, therefore god’, aka ‘the god of the gaps’.

    Yes, if there was a first mover then it would have to be ‘pure actuality’, as Aquinas so clumsily puts it. It’s tautological, nothing moved it because it was the first thing to do any moving. What this proposition hopelessly fails to address is the need for any first mover; the entirety of human understanding has existed in the merest blink of an eye in terms of the time periods we already have understanding of, time periods it is impossible for us to comprehend intuitively using our experience of an even briefer moment within this time period. It is understandable hubris to suggest that because we can define a start and an end to all that we experience within our cosmically minuscule sphere of reference, everything must have a start and an end in the same sense.

    Even Jayman tacitly accepts this, examples where hands and locomotives play the part of first movers are all well and good for expressing a chain of causality, but the acceptance is there that we are choosing to ignore the fact that hands, and locomotives, in turn have well-understood mechanisms driving them. Thus we are only arriving at a first mover by artificially constraining the time period we are considering. To claim that this is not the case would be disingenuous.

    So, we have an accidentally ordered progression of cause and effect (appearing ordered purely by dint of the fact that we are actually here at the tail-end to observe it) stretching back to the earliest point we can conceive, then before that we don’t know; here we are back to the god of the gaps. However, not only has every cause we have observed back to this point not required the intervention of a sentient entity possessing the ability to create a universe-ful of energy without expending any itself (which would be contrary to everything else we have ever observed, not to mention the question of why such an entity would require a day of rest), but we have absolutely no evidence to even suggest the existence of such an entity.

    All that said, it is admittedly understandable why people would choose to invent one, teleology is yet another side-effect of trying to apply our cosmically tiny sphere of experience to the wider universe. Virtually nothing in our understanding of how the universe works has come from applying solely human intuition to a problem, without the open-mindedness and rigour demanded by scientific enquiry.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

      NotAProphet, you’re making the same mistakes others have already made.

      All this blathering is essentially reduced to ‘we don’t know, therefore god’, aka ‘the god of the gaps’.

      Not at all. Aquinas’ argument is saying we know the premises of the argument are true and the form of the argument is valid, therefore it can be logically deduced that God exists. Even if Aquinas is wrong, this is not a god-of-the-gaps argument.

      What this proposition hopelessly fails to address is the need for any first mover

      It is addressed in (6) and in more detail in comment #15 in response to Joe.

      Thus we are only arriving at a first mover by artificially constraining the time period we are considering.

      The examples are merely illustrations of why instrumental causes need a first cause. You have to explain how it is intelligible to say instrumental causes are not the instruments of anything.

      So, we have an accidentally ordered progression of cause and effect (appearing ordered purely by dint of the fact that we are actually here at the tail-end to observe it) stretching back to the earliest point we can conceive, then before that we don’t know; here we are back to the god of the gaps.

      As I was trying (unsuccessfully) to get Marshal to understand, Aquinas’ argument is not concerned with accidentally ordered causal series going back through time to the Big Bang. It is concerned with essentially ordered causal series in the present.

      • NotAProphet

        Aquinas’ argument is not concerned with accidentally ordered causal series going back through time to the Big Bang. It is concerned with essentially ordered causal series in the present.

        Thus artificially constraining the time period in question.

        You tried though.

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

          What premise are you disputing? How do you think the time period under discussion helps your case?

        • NotAProphet

          Try reading my initial post, this time with the goal of understanding, and possibly gaining some new ideas, rather than just how you are going to try to refute it, and you’ll answer your own question. I’m not going to play with you if you will not even do me that courtesy.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

    Sorry, NotAProphet, but I don’t see how any of your comments are relevant unless you are suggesting a thorough-going skepticism that would undermine most claims to knowledge. I haven’t even tried to refute your comments, I’ve merely noted why I think they are irrelevant to the soundness of the First Way.

    • NotAProphet

      Then you’re an idiot.

      You contest that god must be the first mover because the first mover is the first mover, yet cannot establish even the requirement for a first mover, let alone beginning to indicate that it would have to be god and not ‘we don’t know’.

      Your ‘proof’ proves the square root of fuck all.

  • WhoCares

    As was said in another post, “Just because one is atheist doesn’t mean they are rational.”

  • Pingback: The Contradictory Failures Of Peter Hurford | TheWarfareIsMental

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    JT wrote:

    If you think someone rose from the dead, you have chosen religion over science.

    This is both illogical and false. If one believes another rose from the dead, one need only believe in something bigger than science. Like the rest of the misguided New Atheists, JT draws a false dilemma masquerading as a rationally held opinion—and finds no shortage of sneering cheerleaders.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    If anyone ELSE here thinks that my objections are flawed or I’m misunderstanding this argument, and can actually explain where I’m going wrong, let me know, I genuinely want to know if I’m wrong.

    I’m willing to give it a try, but before I do, I want to make sure you’re still around.

    • Marshall

      No thanks, I’ve now noticed the (entirely irrelevant) word game that I wasn’t seeing before, which NotAProphet made more clear in eight words than Jayman777 did during this entire thing.

      This is both illogical and false. If one believes another rose from the dead, one need only believe in something bigger than science.

      Like what, and why?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    Well then, perhaps you can help me. What word game do you allude to?

    Like what

    God. Or aliens. Either of those could raise somebody from the dead. Would you say this requires one to choose religion over science?

    • Marshall

      Well then, perhaps you can help me. What word game do you allude to?

      The one in which a series of events is defined as occurring simultaneously as opposed to consecutively in an attempt to avoid the usual problems associated with a first cause argument, but the argument still reaches a point where an unwarranted assumption has to be made in order to reach a god.

      God. Or aliens. Either of those could raise somebody from the dead. Would you say this requires one to choose religion over science?

      That would depend entirely on how you define ‘religion’. To believe, in the face of CURRENTLY AVAILABLE evidence, that someone ever has actually risen from the dead would require that you make the assumption that something exists which CAN raise someone from the dead, and further that this something has actually DONE such a thing. Neither of the two things you’ve proposed that COULD have that capability have been shown to exist, and even if you did show that extraterrestrial life exists, you would then have to show that it has the capability to revive dead persons.

      You’ve only answered HALF of my question. The other half, arguably the more important half, the part wondering WHY we should believe in anything that can raise someone from the dead, remains unanswered. Are you attempting to argue that religion and science ARE compatible? If so, then I think it would be necessary to show that the claims made by various religions that do not fit with currently available scientific evidence and theory, and which actually CONTRADICT the same, are at all plausible. I do not see that this has been accomplished.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    For the record, I think NotAProphet has failed to interpret Jayman charitably. For example,

    Then you’re an idiot.

    Ah, yes… if you can’t understand somebody you disagree with, just call them names!

    You contest that god must be the first mover because the first mover is the first mover, yet cannot establish even the requirement for a first mover…

    This is false. Jayman made a valiant effort explaining the requirement, and I endorse his attempt. Apparently NotAProphet just can’t grasp the logic, or the fact that the onus is on him to show Jayman’s logic false. Cussing and namecalling != cogent rebuttal.

    …let alone beginning to indicate that it would have to be god and not ‘we don’t know’.

    The first mover has logically inescapable qualities that are consistent with the “God” of traditional monotheism (and some other religions). If anybody is interested I’ll gladly elaborate.

    Your ‘proof’ proves the square root of fuck all.

    Well, that proves to me that NotAProphet isn’t serious at all, and I would advise people against being persuaded by such empty vitriol.

    • Marshall

      The first mover has logically inescapable qualities that are consistent with the “God” of traditional monotheism (and some other religions). If anybody is interested I’ll gladly elaborate.

      But is not necessarily logically required at all. Even then, the first mover was defined, by Jayman, as ‘pure actuality’. If that is the case, can you give me a definition of pure actuality that also contains the attributes of a PERSONAL god?

      Well, that proves to me that NotAProphet isn’t serious at all, and I would advise people against being persuaded by such empty vitriol.

      And I would advise YOU against tone trolling. Particularly if you are going to simply pick and choose which parts of NotAProphet’s comments you are going to respond to.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    Are you saying that effects don’t require causes? How is the First Mover *NOT* logically required?

    Which parts of NAP’s comments do you endorse? I asked you to point me to them. I simply don’t see anything of value in what NAP said. So, what comments from NAP do you allege I *SHOULD* be looking at?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    Sorry, I only saw your latest comment. Might want to wait for my next response before you respond… just a heads up.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    The [word game] in which a series of events is defined as occurring simultaneously as opposed to consecutively in an attempt to avoid the usual problems associated with a first cause argument,

    Who did this? Where? What are these “usual problems” with the first cause argument? It honestly seems to me that you just haven’t grokked it. I’ve been there. I was a Christian long before I ever accepted first cause arguments. Once I came to understand them, I realized, “Oh wow, there really is something there.” But I digress.

    but the argument still reaches a point where an unwarranted assumption has to be made in order to reach a god.

    What unwarranted assumption has to be made?

    That would depend entirely on how you define ‘religion’. To believe, in the face of CURRENTLY AVAILABLE evidence, that someone ever has actually risen from the dead would require that you make the assumption that something exists which CAN raise someone from the dead, and further that this something has actually DONE such a thing. Neither of the two things you’ve proposed that COULD have that capability have been shown to exist, and even if you did show that extraterrestrial life exists, you would then have to show that it has the capability to revive dead persons.

    Let’s try another angle: when has one chosen religion over science?

    You’ve only answered HALF of my question. The other half, arguably the more important half, the part wondering WHY we should believe in anything that can raise someone from the dead, remains unanswered.

    I didn’t answer that part because the “why” is inextricably tied to value, and different people value different things. Value is subjective. I’m guessing your one of the types who sees on reason to believe in anything unless it can be demonstrated in a laboratory. My “why” probably doesn’t comport with your “why.”

    Are you attempting to argue that religion and science ARE compatible?

    I think looseness with language is promoting confusion here. There is no incompatibility between religion and science, meaning, there is no reason an intelligent person can’t be both religious and scientific. There is nothing in science which requires one to reject “supernatural” beliefs. That’s my point, echoed by Mark way up in the thread. It seems like you’re implying that religion and science can only be compatible if the latter vindicates all claims of the former. If so, I disagree.

  • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

    Marshall:

    The [word game] in which a series of events is defined as occurring simultaneously as opposed to consecutively…

    There is a distinction between accidentally ordered causal series and essentially ordered causal series. The fact that the atheists in this thread don’t know the difference between the two does not mean I am playing word games. I also mentioned that an essentially ordered series of causes acts continuously.

    I already used the illustration of a train to explain an essentially ordered causal series. An illustration of an accidentally ordered causal series can be found in human reproduction: Person 1 produces Person 2 and Person 2 produces Person 3. Although person 1 is a cause of Person 3 she is not in an essentially ordered relationship to Person 3 because she can die before Person 3 is born. In contrast, the engine of the train cannot cause the train to keep moving once it has ceased to exist.

    Let us now tie this in to the first moment of the universe’s existence. I hope you would agree that the universe, as it existed in its first moment, no longer exists. This means that it is in an accidentally ordered causal relationship with events in the present. In this argument we are focusing on essentially ordered causal series and therefore the creation of the universe is not in view.

    But is not necessarily logically required at all. Even then, the first mover was defined, by Jayman, as ‘pure actuality’. If that is the case, can you give me a definition of pure actuality that also contains the attributes of a PERSONAL god?

    If the argument I presented has true premises and valid logic then it is logically necessary that the First Cause is Pure Actuality. I didn’t just define the First Cause as Pure Actuality, I deduced it. God is not personal in the same sense that humans are. For the sake of this argument I will concede that God is not personal.

    • NotAProphet

      Let us now tie this in to the first moment of the universe’s existence.

      Now hold on, I thought you were concerned with series of events in the present, and wholly against extrapolating back to the Big Bang.

      You only establish a requirement for a first mover at the point the Big Bang if you constrain the time period in question to that point. As you cannot provide any evidence to suggest that there was nothing before the Big Bang then you cannot even establish that there was a first mover, let alone provide any evidence for that first mover being “God”.

      I already used the illustration of a train to explain an essentially ordered causal series. An illustration of an accidentally ordered causal series can be found in human reproduction: Person 1 produces Person 2 and Person 2 produces Person 3. Although person 1 is a cause of Person 3 she is not in an essentially ordered relationship to Person 3 because she can die before Person 3 is born. In contrast, the engine of the train cannot cause the train to keep moving once it has ceased to exist.

      Here again you artificially constrain the time period in question. The train could not move had it not been invented, but Mr. Trevithick and Mr. Stephenson are long dead, so expanding the time period makes them “accidentally ordered” (as defined by your faulty reasoning).

      If the argument I presented has true premises and valid logic…

      It doesn’t, as I already pointed out, which leads me on to my next point:

      Apparently NotAProphet just can’t grasp the logic, or the fact that the onus is on him to show Jayman’s logic false. Cussing and namecalling != cogent rebuttal.

      I did exactly that; the logic only comes close to being valid if you artificially constrain the time period you consider. This is a fatal flaw to hir argument. I explained this cogently, and the point was either wilfully or ignorantly overlooked. The onus is not on me to keep explaining the same point ad nauseam; if someone doesn’t get very simple reasoning then I consider them an idiot, and I call it how it is. If you want to dismiss my very valid points because I am unwilling to hold someone’s hand through the ABC’s of this then go right ahead, it speaks volumes about your own mental capacity.

      If you’re not familiar with the turn of phrase “the square root of fuck all” then I will happily rephrase for your delicate disposition:

      This so-called “proof” proves exactly nothing.

      Does this help you understand?

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

        NotAProphet:

        Now hold on, I thought you were concerned with series of events in the present, and wholly against extrapolating back to the Big Bang.

        Did you bother to read the rest of the paragraph? I end the paragraph by stating, “In this argument we are focusing on essentially ordered causal series and therefore the creation of the universe is not in view.”

        The train could not move had it not been invented, but Mr. Trevithick and Mr. Stephenson are long dead, so expanding the time period makes them “accidentally ordered” (as defined by your faulty reasoning).

        I am certainly not denying that there are accidentally ordered causal series. But merely noting that an accidentally ordered causal series gave rise to the creation of the train parts does nothing to show that, when the train is moving down the tracks, there is not an essentially ordered causal series.

        You need to come up with a counter-argument that shows essentially ordered causal series do not exist or explain why we should believe the train will continue to move down the tracks if it has an infinite number of cars but no engine.

        • NotAProphet

          Why do I need to do that, it has no bearing on whether or not a ‘god’ exists?

          The train will continue to move down the track if you remove the engine once it is in motion.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl
  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    NAP,

    If you’re not familiar with the turn of phrase “the square root of fuck all” then I will happily rephrase for your delicate disposition:

    This so-called “proof” proves exactly nothing.

    Save your smarm, I knew exactly what you meant and I’m nowhere near delicate. I just have a low-tolerance for, well… people like you who think namecalling deserve any respect in an ostensibly rational forum. To each their own, I suppose.

    Of course, you maintain that you’ve cogently rebutted Jayman’s position, and I disagree.

    You only establish a requirement for a first mover at the point the Big Bang if you constrain the time period in question to that point.

    Aren’t we supposed to stick to the available evidence? Doesn’t all available evidence suggest that what we call “time” began at the Big Bang? Isn’t the “constraint” here justified by empirical observation?

    If not, what am I missing? How are *YOU* suggesting we should evaluate the time period in question?

    • NotAProphet

      Aren’t we supposed to stick to the available evidence? Doesn’t all available evidence suggest that what we call “time” began at the Big Bang? Isn’t the “constraint” here justified by empirical observation?

      If not, what am I missing? How are *YOU* suggesting we should evaluate the time period in question?

      You know what, I think you’re pretty much there, you just don’t realise it:

      Yes, we don’t have any evidence from before the Big Bang, therefore ‘we don’t know’. Yes, from our little snapshot of ‘what we call “time”‘ we would expect there to be a causal factor. What was it? ‘We don’t know’. Does whatever caused the Big Bang have to be the first thing that ever caused anything? ‘We don’t know’, however from our little snapshot of ‘what we call “time”‘, using the same arguments as Aquinas, it would appear not. Will we ever be able to study what happened before the Big Bang? Again, ‘we don’t know’, maybe not, but does this in any way point to the existence of a ‘god’?

      NO, absolutely NO! This is the very epitome of ‘god of the gaps’. Under no circumstances does the reasoning ‘we don’t know therefore god’ hold water.

      So yes, stopping our assessment at the point of the Big Bang does indeed artificially constrain the time period in question, you said so yourself. We are indeed supposed to stick to the available evidence, and none of it points to a ‘god’.

      QED

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com Jayman777

      cl, to be clear, in this argument Aquinas and I are not “constraining” things to a specific time period. We are constraining things to essentially ordered causal series. Of course, you can put forth a different argument that does make reference to the Big Bang but I just want it to be clear that that is not the argument Aquinas or I am making.

      • NotAProphet

        Then the argument you are making has no bearing on the possibility of the existence of a ‘god’.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    NAP,

    I’ve read everything you wrote in this thread and I don’t think you’ve even stepped to the plate. Can you put your counterargument in syllogism form, with clearly defined premises leading to a conclusion? At least then, maybe Jayman, myself or others might have a better chance of understanding what you’re trying to say.

    It is understandable hubris to suggest that because we can define a start and an end to all that we experience within our cosmically minuscule sphere of reference, everything must have a start and an end in the same sense.

    It sounds to me like you’re saying, “For all we know, causality might not have always worked the way it does now.” Is that what you’re saying?

    • NotAProphet

      No, I’m saying that given our understanding of causality, we only arrive at a first mover when we artificially constrain the start of our period of consideration to a point in time and decide that nothing happened before that.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Jayman,

    cl, to be clear, in this argument Aquinas and I are not “constraining” things to a specific time period. We are constraining things to essentially ordered causal series.

    I understand that. I’m just trying to figure out a way to get NAP to understand that. I’m not that optimistic, because NAP seems content to simply repeat the string, “but you’re artificially constraining the time period” and then declare victory.

    I’m not sure where to go from here.

    • NotAProphet

      There is nowhere to go from there. The fatal flaw in your argument has been exposed, to deny that is disingenuous, and exposes you as dogmatic, not open to reason and logic.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    NAP,

    Under no circumstances does the reasoning ‘we don’t know therefore god’ hold water.

    I agree, but I think you’re being disingenuous to the argument on offer. Jayman isn’t saying, “We don’t know, therefore God.”

    We are indeed supposed to stick to the available evidence,

    Then, how is the “constraint” in any way “artificial?”

    • NotAProphet

      Okay, so where do you think the “…therefore god” comes from?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Jayman,

    Here’s the thing I don’t get. It seems to me that atheists—including those in this thread, i.e. Marshall—want to limit the discussion to that which is supported by current available evidence. Yet, when backed into a corner, that goes immediately out the window. Consider:

    To begin with, how do you know that there ISN’T an infinite regression of movers? (Marshall, April 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm)

    See how quickly Marshall chose speculation over science? Doesn’t that strike you as special pleading? Or, consider this remark from Marshall, also at April 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm:

    The entire argument is based on the ASSUMPTION that there was never a point where causality didn’t function the way it does now,

    Doesn’t that strike you as inaccurate at best? Marshall is calling the fact of cause-and-effect an assumption. I mean, should we really abandon a rule to which no known exception exists? How is that scientific? Or, this one, also at April 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm:

    …it’s entirely possible that there is a place in the universe where causality breaks down entirely. You wouldn’t know, because you haven’t seen everywhere in the universe at all times.

    Well, it’s entirely possible that a teapot orbits Jupiter, too… but something tells me Marshall won’t respond too favorably to that. How about this one:

    What if [the first mover is] simply a natural event that happens in a space where causality does not apply that gives birth to universes where causality DOES apply?

    Uh, if this “natural event” gives birth to a universe, then causality applies.

    So, Jayman, it seems to me that Marshall has no valid objection except the very same appeals to “possibility” his commitment to skepticism normally requires him to abandon (vis-a-vis Russell’s Teapot).

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

      cl, I agree the atheists in this thread are resorting to special pleading and ad hoc hypotheses. Moreover, some don’t even seem to understand what a deductive argument is. On the plus side, I think it suggests a line of attack against atheism. Use the metaphysics underlying modern science to argue that a First Cause exists. Force the atheist to choose between God and science, on the one hand, and atheism and no science, on the other hand.

      It is very ironic that the OP claims that theism and science are incompatible but in the comments we see atheists making suggestions that, if followed consistently, would make the performance of science impossible. For example, if you seriously consider that the metaphysics of causality could be different in different times and places then you might as well throw out any science that deals with the past or unexplored places. And throw out objections to apparent miracles too. For all we know causality behaved differently around St. Joseph of Cupertino, for example, that caused him to fly. I’m sure there are numerous layers to this onion that could be unpeeled.

      • NotAProphet

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you’re coming across as an idiot.

        The very logic you believe “proves” the existence of a god in fact goes to show that there is no requirement for a prime mover.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    If you allege that Jayman’s argument is unsound, you have to demonstrate the falsity of one or more premises. Which of Jayman’s premises is false, and why do you contend it to be? In all your writing thus far, you’ve omitted this simple step.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Well, if I might aim my scope towards JT and the original topic again:

    But when science determines, without qualification, that nature produces order all by itself

    Ironically, this is an example of JT doing that which he condemns. Religion is a subspecies of metaphysics, and JT has chosen metaphysics over science in this very statement. That nature “produces order all by itself” is an inherently metaphysical, unscientific claim, the truth of which can only be assumed.

    This actually ties into the discussion with Jayman. In making the aforementioned claim, JT eschews the well-established law of cause-and-effect.

    Think carefully people, it isn’t just the religious selling snake-oil.

  • Marshall

    Marshall is calling the fact of cause-and-effect an assumption. I mean, should we really abandon a rule to which no known exception exists?

    I am NOT suggesting that we abandon cause and effect, and I am, in fact, MAKING NO POSITIVE CLAIMS WHATSOEVER, so your reference to Russell’s Teapot is either a misunderstanding of the principal behind Russell’s Teapot, or a deliberate twisting of my words. Look at what I said that you quoted:

    The entire argument is based on the ASSUMPTION that there was never a point where causality didn’t function the way it does now

    And now look back at your fucking inaccurate representation of what I said. Somehow, suggesting that it is an assumption that THERE NEVER WAS A POINT where cause and effect did not apply is suddenly ’cause and effect is an assumption’.

    I don’t find this argument convincing. I HAVE an objection, namely that the premises, including the premise that I find to not be evidently true, which is the premise that asserts that it is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be an infinite chain of movers, do NOT lead directly to the conclusion, which is THIS:

    Therefore, there is a first mover, put in motion by no other, that everyone understands to be God.

    PLEASE, explain how you can possibly know that it is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be an infinite chain of movers, AND explain how the premises lead to THAT conclusion, with particular focus on how “everyone understands” the first mover to be a god.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    Strong emotions often impede reason, you know.

    Look at what I said that you quoted:

    …okay…

    The entire argument is based on the ASSUMPTION that there was never a point where causality didn’t function the way it does now

    Yet, to say there was never a point where causality didn’t function the way it does now is not an assumption. Jayman is not just “assuming” that the cause-effect relationship holds all the way down. He is referencing an empirical observation that has never been known to be violated. Don’t you see? He’s not “assuming” that there was never a point where causality didn’t function the way it does now. He’s affirming a well-demonstrated principle that allows scientists to reconstruct our entire universe with exacting precision—as well as create computers and cars.

    Somehow, suggesting that it is an assumption that THERE NEVER WAS A POINT where cause and effect did not apply is suddenly ’cause and effect is an assumption’.

    I’m sorry you misunderstood.

    I don’t find this argument convincing.

    We know that already. What we don’t know, is why. You still haven’t shown any of Jayman’s premises false. Hell, you haven’t even paid him the charity of a direct quotation. You simply draw a line in the sand and say you don’t believe Jayman’s premise(s). You offer no scientific reason, only metaphysical possibilities—but the point of JT’s post was that you rational atheists are supposed to eschew metaphysical possibilities in favor of scientific evidence—all the time. Well, the consensus of evidence affirms the claim that cause and effect apply all the way to the beginning. If you wish to be scientifically rigorous, you can’t make a special exception just to get out of a tight spot.

    PLEASE, explain how you can possibly know that it is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be an infinite chain of movers,

    The same way I know it is impossible to have a triangle with four sides. Or, as Jayman eloquently explained in premise 6 (note how I first identify and then quote a specific premise, as opposed to vague paraphrasing which maximizes the chance of error): “If there is an infinite series of movers there is no first mover; and if there is no first mover then there would be no other movers because the subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover.” That’s how we know there can’t be an infinite chain of movers. We stay true to cause and effect as observed in this universe—which is exactly what you atheists say we are supposed to do—and we eschew any appeals to the “possibility” that cause and effect “might not” hold all the way down—which is exactly what you atheists say we are *NOT* supposed to do—but ironically, what you just did.

    However, that’s all irrelevant. I’m not as much interested in validating Jayman’s argument as I am in showing the gross hypocrisy and inconsistency occurring in this thread. The minute you postulate this promissory infinite chain of movers is the minute you commit the very error JT whines about in the OP. You’ve chosen metaphysics over science.

    AND explain how the premises lead to THAT conclusion, with particular focus on how “everyone understands” the first mover to be a god.

    Well, the premises lead to the conclusion that the First Mover is a being with certain qualities: it must be active, eternal, necessary, pure, intentional, essential, immutable, immaterial, imperishable, and unmovable. These characteristics are not arbitrary; each are logical derivations of Aristotle’s argument (or Aquinas’, in this case). If we remove any one of them, we literally define the First Mover out of existence. For example, if the First Mover were not active, it could not move (that is, it could not instantiate transitions from potency to act). If it were not eternal, it would demand a causal explanation. If it demanded a causal explanation, its cause would become more necessary than it. If something is more necessary than it, it cannot be said to be essential. That which is not essential is not pure. If it is not immaterial, then it becomes subject to the laws of matter, and cannot be imperishable. Etc. It’s all really straight-forward stuff.

    As for the “which everyone understands as God” part, the concept of a “Creator” is ubiquitous. People across cultures and time intuitively associate “God” as “That Which Exists outside of the universe.”

    So… are you still confident in your objection(s)? If so, I’m very interested in hearing why.

    • Marshall

      So… are you still confident in your objection(s)? If so, I’m very interested in hearing why.

      In a word, no. I don’t necessarily ACCEPT the argument, but I can’t any longer say I KNOW that it is unsound. Basically, I need to do what I should have done in the first place and read more. I apologize, I feel like an ass. None of this, of course, changes the fact that I remain unconvinced that a god exists. Somehow I expect that there is something I’m just fucking failing to see here. I’ll get back to you and let you know what I think later after I read and think about this particular argument, as it has given me more trouble than any other I’ve come across. For now, I feel like shit, and I’m going to sleep.

    • NotAProphet

      I’m not as much interested in validating Jayman’s argument as I am in showing the gross hypocrisy and inconsistency occurring in this thread.

      I’m very glad to hear you value this so highly. As such I hope you will be as willing to address the same vices evidenced in your own post:

      Jayman is not just “assuming” that the cause-effect relationship holds all the way down. He is referencing an empirical observation that has never been known to be violated.

      So we agree that the cause-effect sequence holds all the way down, and therefore all the way up, so why see fit to draw a line in the sand and say “before this…god”?

      I contest that it is you and Jayman who are guilty of special pleading, and I’d hate for you to have to find yourself guilty of “gross hypocrisy and inconsistency”, lol!

      If there is an infinite series of movers there is no first mover; and if there is no first mover then there would be no other movers because the subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover.

      Well if this isn’t an egregious example of circular reasoning then I don’t know what is. You literally got it in the first clause, and then fell flat on your face. Let me spell it out:

      Nothing we have ever observed, ever, has had a first mover. The subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the mover(s) before them. There, I fixed it for you.

      If we “stay true to cause and effect as observed in this universe” then there is no cause that is not an effect itself. If we “eschew any appeals to the “possibility” that cause and effect “might not” hold all the way down”, as you literally just said you wanted to, then we cannot establish a first mover, because every mover is itself moved.

      Look, I’m just quoting your own words again and again to prove my point, so it baffles me that you’re still arguing that we can toss aside this chain of cause and effect at some arbitrary point to “prove god”.

      I’m not at all bothered about making you see sense; there are stupid people in this world who can’t see the logical conclusion to their own reasoning, and there always will be. Anyone who can understand English and add two and two together will already have seen, from reading this thread, that yours and Jayman’s adherence to the inviolability of cause and effect actually shows no requirement for a first mover, rather than the converse as you assert.

      So I’m kinda losing interest in playing with you, you are wilfully ignorant at best, and more evidently disingenuous to the extreme, so here’s a suggestion; tell us why you think that inviolable cause and effect proves god, or concede defeat (filibuster and make more assertions that prove my point is, of course, a third option, but I can’t promise to keep coming back and making you look silly, I do prefer my sport to be…well…sporting).

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

        NotAProphet:

        So we agree that the cause-effect sequence holds all the way down, and therefore all the way up, so why see fit to draw a line in the sand and say “before this…god”?

        Because the argument rules out the only two options palatable to atheism: (1) an infinite regress and (2) a First Cause that has potentiality. You are left with a First Cause that is pure actuality. There’s no artificial line being drawn in the sand. We are arriving at the only rational choice for a First Cause.

        Nothing we have ever observed, ever, has had a first mover.

        Merely noting that you have never observed the First Mover does not take anything away from the logical force of the argument. You actually have to object to a premise. You’re just throwing vague objections up hoping they will stick.

        Anyone who can understand English and add two and two together will already have seen, from reading this thread, that yours and Jayman’s adherence to the inviolability of cause and effect actually shows no requirement for a first mover, rather than the converse as you assert.

        Except for the comment directly above yours from someone sympathetic to atheism.

        So I’m kinda losing interest in playing with you…

        The feeling is mutual. You seem incapable of addressing a single premise in a direct manner and fail to see how the different premises interlock with each other.

        • NotAProphet

          Are you seriously hard of thinking? It is your conclusion that is faulty; have you even been reading my posts?

        • NotAProphet

          Yes! Yes I do fail to see how your premises interlock (to give your conclusion)! You assert the inviolability of causal chains, and then violate said same principal by insisting on a first mover!

          The funny thing here is that you seem to think that I am the one who is “not getting it”!!

  • NotAProphet

    Because the argument rules out the only two options palatable to atheism

    So you admit that you are only drawing said line in the sand because it supports your cause, not because there is any valid reason for doing so!?

    Good! That’s what I have been maintaining!

    QED

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    I apologize, I feel like an ass.

    You shouldn’t. You should feel like an exception to the norm of irrational, “NotAProphet” type dialog in the (a)theist blogosphere. As opposed to calling people names and insulting them, it’s clear to me that you really are interested in drilling down to the bottom of this, and for that I commend you. You’re welcomed to my blog anytime, I have two posts about this argument, they’re a bit old, but you may or may not find something of value therein. People over there are already speaking highly of you. I think you’d make a welcome addition to our odd little circle of freethinkers.

    Also, I’d like to make it clear that I was a Christian long before I ever came to accept any First Cause argument. Even as a believer, I used to think the argument failed. I changed my mind a few years ago, and I have no cognitive block that would prevent changing back. I don’t need the argument to uphold my beliefs. I just wanted to point that out because there are many atheists who like to spout some variant of, “You’ll never change your mind, you need this argument to believe in your sky daddy,” or some other such dengirating nonsense.

    I hope to see you around, and if not, well… cheers to you.

    NAP,

    If you want objective people to come on here and see that you’ve dodged direct questions and chosen mockery over cogency, by all means, do so. It just makes you look unable to grapple with the logic. Now, if you want to have an actual, you know… intelligent discussion about this, answer my question. Then, I’ll answer yours. Then, you can ask another. So on and so forth. That’s how discussion works. If not, well… best of luck to you, have fun belittling others on the internet.

    • NotAProphet

      I’ve explained it to you plainly, it is your own premises that uphold my conclusion, it’s hardly my fault that the intelligence to see that seems to be lacking on your side of the debate.

  • NotAProphet

    If you take the premise:

    If every object in motion had a mover, then the first object in motion needed a mover.

    Then you have posited that there is a first object in motion, and thereby a first mover, with no reasoning to support this assertion.

    Furthermore, it is wholly contradicted by the premise:

    Nothing can move itself.

    There is no logical step to draw the conclusion even that there was a first mover, nor that any such first mover would be a god with the qualities that you tautologically, and teleologically, posit.

    All we get to, looking back up the causal chain, is a moved object who’s mover we are not currently aware of, to say “…therefore god” is not rational or intelligent.

    D’you get it?

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

      NotAProphet:

      If you take the premise: “If every object in motion had a mover, then the first object in motion needed a mover.” Then you have posited that there is a first object in motion, and thereby a first mover, with no reasoning to support this assertion.

      First, the premise you put in block quotes is not actually a quote from anyone in this thread. Why is it so difficult for you to quote one of the numbered premises?

      Second, let’s briefly outline the argument once more:

      (1) Some things are in motion (undergoing change).

      (2) Motion is the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality.

      (3) Nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality except by something in a state of actuality.

      (4) Nothing can be both potential and actual in the same respect and at the same time.

      (5) It is impossible for anything to be at the same time and in the same respect both that which is moved and that which does the moving.

      (6) If there is an infinite series of movers there is no first mover; and if there is no first mover then there would be no other movers because the subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover (in an essentially ordered causal series).

      (7) Therefore, there is a first mover, put in motion by no other (pure actuality), that everyone understands to be God.

      Your “quotation” appears to be a mish-mash of (5)-(7). But your objection (there is no reasoning to support the positing of a first mover) is unfounded because (7) follows logically from (5) and (6). Once again, you need to explain why (5) or (6) is false.

      Furthermore, it is wholly contradicted by the premise: “Nothing can move itself.” There is no logical step to draw the conclusion even that there was a first mover, nor that any such first mover would be a god with the qualities that you tautologically, and teleologically, posit.

      The conclusion is that the First Cause is an Unmoved Mover. This avoids the contradiction that would result if one posited a First Cause that is a Moving Mover.

      All we get to, looking back up the causal chain, is a moved object who’s mover we are not currently aware of, to say “…therefore god” is not rational or intelligent.

      What’s the alternative? A First Cause that is a Moving Mover is ruled out by (5). An infinite regress of moving movers is ruled out by (6). That leaves us with an Unmoved Mover. You need to refute on of those two premises to make atheism appear logical.

    • NotAProphet

      It’s a common distillation of the First Way, and nicely prevents the argument getting bogged down by irrelevant wank-words. Do you feel I have misrepresented you in any way?

      We have trouble enough with the rambling mixture of hypotheses, premises and conclusions you present, but since some here seem incapable of actually reading what I’ve written since my very first post on the matter and actually seeing where my points apply using their own alleged “intelligence”, let’s spell it out.

      (1) Yes…relative to an observer. Motion is not an intrinsic property of one thing, but of two or more. See special relativity.

      (3) Radioactive decay? Quantum particles/antiparticles?

      (3-5) Implies there can be no first mover. Actually contradicts your conclusion. What can be “actuality” without at some point having had “potentiality”. (We don’t know…therefore god, right?)

      (6) The problem that arises when trying to apply intuition based on human experience to larger questions of existence. Just because your consciousness has a start and an end, and things you experience in the intervening period appear to, does not mean that “everything” does. The first part of this statement is correct, the second is tautological circular reasoning, since you have not disproved the possibility of an infinite chain of causality.

      (7) Therefore we do not even know if there was a first mover, let alone what it would be if it were to exist/have existed. There, I fixed it for you, no “we don’t know…therefore god”.

      Your argument fails largely because we have no reason to believe that the chain of causality is not infinite. Just because you cannot conceive it, does not mean it is not so; there is plenty in the universe that we understand, yet is beyond the bounds of mere human intuition, hence the need for a scientific approach to understanding existence.

      • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

        NotAProphet:

        (1) Yes…relative to an observer. Motion is not an intrinsic property of one thing, but of two or more. See special relativity.

        Remember we are not dealing solely with motion from location A to location B. We are dealing with change in general. I take it we both agree that some things are in motion (undergoing change).

        (3) Radioactive decay? Quantum particles/antiparticles?

        In both cases we have something in a state of actuality that has the potential to do something or become something. The mere fact that we do not know the exact cause of either phenomenon (as far as I know) does not mean there is no (deterministic or in-deterministic) cause at all.

        (3-5) Implies there can be no first mover. Actually contradicts your conclusion. What can be “actuality” without at some point having had “potentiality”. (We don’t know…therefore god, right?)

        An entity that is Pure Actuality is in a state of actuality and is not in a state of potentiality. This entity does not contradict (3) because it is never reduced from potentiality to actuality. It does not contradict (4) because it has no potentiality and therefore cannot be both potential and actual in the same respect and at the same time. It does not contradict (5) because it is an Unmoved Mover and therefore it is not both that which is moved and that which does the moving. There is no contradiction at all between these premises and the conclusion.

        (6) The problem that arises when trying to apply intuition based on human experience to larger questions of existence. Just because your consciousness has a start and an end, and things you experience in the intervening period appear to, does not mean that “everything” does. The first part of this statement is correct, the second is tautological circular reasoning, since you have not disproved the possibility of an infinite chain of causality.

        I’ve already noted that it is incoherent to claim that instrumental causes are not the instrument of anything. The “possibility” you are trying to hold on to is analogous to someone holding on to the “possibility” that there might be a square circle. Of course this might explain why people are having a hard time understanding you. You’re proposing something that is by its very nature unintelligible.

        • NotAProphet

          I’m proposing something that is unintelligible!? Perhaps to you, but from the fact that there’s only you and occasionally your buddy cl questioning it, I’d guess that all the other readers get it just fine.

          You assert that everything has a cause, except for the one thing you choose to believe in, which we’re supposed to accept doesn’t.

          The “possibility” of an infinite chain that you so disparage just happens to fit with everything we have ever observed, ever. You even insist that things that apparently have none in fact much, we just don’t know them (and no “…therefore god”, which I guess is progress). Your ‘god’ fits with absolutely nothing except some poorly formed illogic that you keep espousing despite it having countless holes picked in it, that you ignore either wilfully, or because you genuinely lack the intellect to get it. Which is it?

          • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

            NotAProphet:

            I’m proposing something that is unintelligible!? Perhaps to you, but from the fact that there’s only you and occasionally your buddy cl questioning it, I’d guess that all the other readers get it just fine.

            It’s hardly surprising that atheists are not going to come to the defense of a cosmological argument. Nonetheless, apparently your fellow atheist, Marshall, found your points so unintelligible/unconvincing that he had to study the argument on his own and formulate his own response (which I will get to).

            You assert that everything has a cause, except for the one thing you choose to believe in, which we’re supposed to accept doesn’t.

            I don’t assert everything has a cause. You continue to miss basic points but I’m sure I’m the idiot here.

          • Marshall

            Nonetheless, apparently your fellow atheist, Marshall, found your points so unintelligible/unconvincing that he had to study the argument on his own and formulate his own response (which I will get to).

            Please do not attempt to speak for me. I came to the conclusion that my original objections were not valid, but I’ve said nothing about NotAProphet’s arguments that should give you the impression that I find them unintelligible or unconvincing.

          • NotAProphet

            I concur, you do seem to be. I guess you’re not missing some of my points, just ignoring them because they are inconvenient to your ill-founded proposition, so you must be wilfully ignorant.

            Yes yes, everything but ‘god’, we see your dogma.

            Unlike you and your ilk, most here are rational and intelligent, and can see that they don’t need to pile in to rip your argument apart; that’s already been taken care of.

            So, what doesn’t have a cause apart from ‘god’ (your ‘line-in-the-sand’), and how do you come to the conclusion that that is a reasonable assumption?

            Furthermore, why is it you think that an infinite chain of causality is impossible beyond your human intuition? You keep going on about a circle (albeit a square one, which rings true with your level of reasoning ability), can you indicate to us the point where a circle starts? We already know (through science) that space-time is neither linear not Cartesian.

          • NotAProphet

            For clarity, my #3 is in response to Jayman’s #1.

  • Marshall

    So the lesson I’ve learned throughout this entire exercise is that I need to relax, be more patient, and think about things for longer than I usually do. I’ve spent some time thinking about the argument and reading the ongoing discussion here.

    First, I would like to offer a few thoughts about the premises.

    (2) Motion is the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality.

    As you’ve said, when you’re talking about motion you’re talking about a change in a thing. All measurable changes are only able to be measured by comparing some property or attribute of a thing to the same property or attribute of either the past state of the thing, or some other thing with that same property or attribute. We can measure, for example, the position of a thing because we can compare its position relative to, say, the earth. So wouldn’t you consider ‘the relative difference in an attribute or property of a thing when compared with either the previous state of the thing or another thing which possesses that same attribute or property’ to be a more accurate description of ‘change’ than ‘the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality’?

    (5) It is impossible for anything to be at the same time and in the same respect both that which is moved and that which does the moving.

    Imagine that there is an asteroid drifting through the vacuum of space. We would know that at least one attribute of that asteroid, either its position, rotation, or both, is changing, and we could measure that change by comparing either of those attributes to the previous position/rotation of the asteroid itself, or by comparing them to the position/rotation of other objects. Now, we can be justifiably certain that something began these changes. But the continuing change in position/rotation of the asteroid in the here and now does not require anything other than the asteroid itself, or rather certain other attributes of the asteroid itself, such as directional and rotational velocity. Even if everything else in the universe were to cease to exist, the asteroid would continue to experience a change in position/rotation when measured relative to its previous state. So wouldn’t this mean that, in the here and now, the asteroid is changing due to nothing other than the properties and attributes of the asteroid itself? The asteroid has the potential at any moment in time to undergo a change in position/rotation, and it does so, for no other reason than that its velocity did NOT change.

    Now imagine that this asteroid collides with another asteroid. Both asteroids will change each other, and nothing is required for this other than the mass and velocity of the two asteroids themselves.

    Or rather, wouldn’t they both undergo change due to nothing other than interactions such as gravitation, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong nuclear forces? In fact, it seems that there is an unspoken assumption that there must be only a single ‘first mover’, discounting the possibility that there could be any number of forces that, while not being ‘pure actuality’ individually, have a combined effect that is indistinguishable from ‘pure actuality’. And because we have identified more than one force that causes a change in a thing without ever being changed itself, doesn’t that indicate that it is more likely that more than one force is ultimately responsible for all of the changes in things?

    (6) If there is an infinite series of movers there is no first mover; and if there is no first mover then there would be no other movers because the subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover (in an essentially ordered causal series).

    If what I’ve said about premise 5 is valid, then this premise has many problems. In order to explain the movement of the hypothetical asteroid in the here and now, you HAVE to revert to an accidentally ordered causal series stretching back through time. The continuing change in position/rotation of the asteroid was initiated by something, but in the here and now it goes from having the potential to be at a certain position to actually being at that position without requiring anything outside of itself.

    (7) Therefore, there is a first mover, put in motion by no other (pure actuality), that everyone understands to be God.

    If my objections to the previous premises are correct, then the conclusion is incorrect. Aquinas didn’t have access to Newton’s work, and his premises are therefore not based on our current understanding of physics. I cannot, at this time, find the argument convincing, because it defines motion in terms that do not seem to fit with current physical models, and because of the objections that I have to the premises above. It would help if certain terms, particularly potentiality and actuality, were defined such that they can be understood through the lens of modern physical models, or at least Newtonian models.

    I welcome and would be grateful for any clarifications or criticisms.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

      Marshall:

      So wouldn’t you consider ‘the relative difference in an attribute or property of a thing when compared with either the previous state of the thing or another thing which possesses that same attribute or property’ to be a more accurate description of ‘change’ than ‘the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality’?

      I don’t think your definition of “change” and Aquinas’ definition are necessarily incompatible. I’ll see where you take it.

      Imagine that there is an asteroid drifting through the vacuum of space. We would know that at least one attribute of that asteroid, either its position, rotation, or both, is changing, and we could measure that change by comparing either of those attributes to the previous position/rotation of the asteroid itself, or by comparing them to the position/rotation of other objects.

      I think you would have to measure the movement of an asteroid relative to something else. Even marking its own past position would require something to make the mark with.

      Even if everything else in the universe were to cease to exist, the asteroid would continue to experience a change in position/rotation when measured relative to its previous state.

      It would still need space to move in.

      So wouldn’t this mean that, in the here and now, the asteroid is changing due to nothing other than the properties and attributes of the asteroid itself?

      It’s debatable. One might say that uniform motion is determined by the structure and distribution of matter making up the asteroid. In the worst case, one could refashion the First Way to concern only intrinsic change and identify uniform motion as an extrinsic change because it is the change of an object relative to something external to itself.

      Or rather, wouldn’t they both undergo change due to nothing other than interactions such as gravitation, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong nuclear forces?

      The problem I have with suggesting that such basic forces are unmoved movers is that they depend on matter for their existence and behavior. They seem to be moving movers. One might then want to propose matter (at some level) as an unmoved mover, but matter can be converted to energy and vice versa.

      • Marshall

        I think you would have to measure the movement of an asteroid relative to something else. Even marking its own past position would require something to make the mark with.

        In order to measure the change, yes. But wouldn’t it still change relative to its past state regardless of whether or not there is anything against which to measure that change?

        It would still need space to move in.

        I’m not understanding why this would matter to the argument.

        It’s debatable. One might say that uniform motion is determined by the structure and distribution of matter making up the asteroid. In the worst case, one could refashion the First Way to concern only intrinsic change and identify uniform motion as an extrinsic change because it is the change of an object relative to something external to itself.

        But wouldn’t you just be placing an arbitrary limit on the types of change under consideration?

        The problem I have with suggesting that such basic forces are unmoved movers is that they depend on matter for their existence and behavior. They seem to be moving movers. One might then want to propose matter (at some level) as an unmoved mover, but matter can be converted to energy and vice versa.

        Nevertheless, if they are in fact responsible for all observed ‘change’ or ‘motion’, doesn’t that still invalidate the argument? Is there any way to restate the argument such that it avoids the unspoken assumption that there is a single unmoved mover and instead shows why it must be the case that there IS a single unmoved mover as opposed to several interacting unmoved movers?

        • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

          Marshall:

          As long as an argument based on intrinsic change has true premises and valid logic it does not matter that it is based on one kind of change. No argument is going to encompass everything.

          If you accept all the reasoning prior to the conclusion then it seems necessary to conclude that the First Cause is Pure Actuality and thus the basic forces cannot be first causes because they undergo change. An argument that takes into account the identity of indiscernables can lead to the conclusion that there is only one First Cause.

          • Marshall

            Would you mind restating the argument such that it is concerned only with intrinsic change? And would you mind defining ‘potentiality’ and ‘actuality’ in a way that is consistent with Newtonian (or, preferably, even more modern) models?

          • NotAProphet

            Marshall, I wouldn’t worry too much about “potentiality” and “actuality”, they’re red herrings; if you posit an entity that can create something from nothing without expending any energy then everything has the potential to be/do anything. Thus the necessary characteristics of the erroneous conclusion falsify the (already faulty) premises.

            An argument that takes into account the identity of indiscernables can lead to the conclusion that there is only one First Cause.

            SPROING!

            Aside from breaking my irony meter, coming from someone who tried to accuse me of being inscrutable, this comment is definitely being saved in my thesaurus of other ways to say “we don’t know…therefore god”!

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

    If anybody in this thread wants a piece of me all to themselves, here’s where they can get it.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.net/b cl

    Marshall,

    I see you jumped back in. Some good questions. I’ll take a stab later, when time allows. I just wanted to say that questions are so much more productive than insults.

    Jayman,

    Why is it so difficult for you to quote one of the numbered premises?

    I found that very annoying as well, You simply can’t have an intelligent discussion with somebody if they’re unwilling to pay you that charity.

    NAP,

    Your argument fails largely because we have no reason to believe that the chain of causality is not infinite.

    Well sure, if you wish to choose metaphysics over science, but that’s exactly what you say we *AREN’T* supposed to do. Remember, science tells us we actually have *STRONG* reason to believe the chain of causality is not infinite.

    As far as we are concerned, events before the big bang can have no consequences, so they should not form part of a scientific model of the universe. We should therefore cut them out of the model and say that time had a beginning at the big bang… (Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, p.49; Bantam Books, 1996)

    So, if you’re going to engage with a logical argument, play by the rules.

    • NotAProphet

      Ah, the old appeal to authority; keep on racking up the fallacious arguments at this rate and I’ll be calling “HOUSE” before you know it!

      Would you care to tell us what else Professor Hawking has to say about god, and Aquinas’s First Way, or do you prefer the usual tactic of cherry-picking quotes out of context that you can misrepresent as supporting your position? (I’ve nearly got a line!)

      It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going. (Hawking, The Grand Design, 2010)

      Do play by the rules, eh?

      If science has such “strong” reasons to suggest a limit on the chain of causality, and thus a vindication of Aquinas’s first way, perhaps you would be good enough to reference them for us, rather than alluding to them without citation (got all the corners!).

      In case you were wondering, events before the Big Bang do indeed have little bearing on our current universe and, whilst they may be unmeasurable using current methods, that does not mean they have no bearing on those events before the Big Bang! “We don’t know…therefore god!”

      BINGO!!!!

  • Marshall

    I apologize for the length of this comment, but I want to be as comprehensive as possible with what I’m about to say.

    You know what strikes me as really odd about this particular conversation? We’re going on back and forth about an argument with very specific requirements for being valid, and it’s being discussed and described very loosely, as though its validity is only dependent upon its premises and conclusion being SOMEWHAT correct. Now I apologize in advance if this is simply my previously admitted ignorance showing once again, but I’d like to point out what I mean:

    Well sure, if you wish to choose metaphysics over science, but that’s exactly what you say we *AREN’T* supposed to do. Remember, science tells us we actually have *STRONG* reason to believe the chain of causality is not infinite.

    *Snipped Hawking quote*

    So, if you’re going to engage with a logical argument, play by the rules.

    But isn’t this argument only supposed to be concerned with essentially ordered causal series and not accidentally ordered causal series stretching back through time? It seems that the Hawking quote certainly ISN’T concerned with an essentially ordered causal series, so how is it at all relevant? I don’t see how you can rebuke someone for not playing by the rules while using a quote dealing with an accidentally ordered causal series stretching back through time to make a point regarding an argument in which it has been pointed out several times that this argument is only concerned with an essentially ordered causal series. Additionally, this seems to be an argument from authority, as you have simply quoted an individual instead of actually providing the evidence that leads this particular individual to this conclusion. If we’re going to have a rational discussion about this argument, there needs to be consistency in the way that terms and concepts are used. This is why I want definitions of ‘change’, ‘potentiality’, and ‘actuality’ that are consistent with modern science, or at the very least Newtonian physics.

    Aquinas did not have access to modern scientific knowledge. I can understand how someone who didn’t know the things we know now might come to the conclusion through intuition alone that nothing changes unless something else causes it to change, or that ‘change’ can be adequately defined as ‘the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality’, although I will admit ignorance of whether this is the way Aquinas originally described things. What I do know is that ‘the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality’ isn’t a definition that would ever be USED in a scientific context. In a sense it does describe ‘change’, but it would be absolutely useless in science because it tells you nothing about what something being reduced from potentiality to actuality DOES or IS. As a result, a term like ‘pure actuality’ says very little, unless you can offer a description of the PROCESS through which something is reduced from potentiality to actuality.

    Which brings us back to this:

    Well sure, if you wish to choose metaphysics over science, but that’s exactly what you say we *AREN’T* supposed to do. Remember, science tells us we actually have *STRONG* reason to believe the chain of causality is not infinite.

    Isn’t that exactly what you’re doing with this argument? Science requires TESTABLE claims, FALSIFIABLE claims. How would you test or falsify the claim that it is impossible for there to be an infinite causal chain? How would you test or falsify the claim that something in a state of actuality is required for something in a state of potentiality to reduce to a state of actuality? It isn’t enough to say “we’ve never SEEN something reduced from potentiality to actuality without something in a state of actuality interacting with it”, any more than it’s enough to say “we’ve never SEEN life outside of our solar system, therefore it is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be life outside of our solar system”. Sure, if someone were arguing that there definitely IS life outside of our solar system it would be reasonable to raise the objection that we’ve never seen life outside of our solar system, but if you are claiming that it is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be life outside of our solar system then it is up to YOU to show how we can test and falsify that claim, and then do the work required to do so. That’s what SCIENCE requires. It is entirely reasonable, in a scientific context, to ask you to show that this is true before it can be used to demonstrate the existence of anything. So it seems, in my mind, that it isn’t those who object on the grounds that this particular point hasn’t been adequately demonstrated that are choosing metaphysics over science, it’s those saying that we can consider this particular point true when there is no known test we could conduct in order to falsify it.

    The most you can say about whether or not infinite causal chains exist is “we don’t know because we haven’t found a way to test whether they do or not, but we’ve never seen one”. This is enough to do science, because it is not something we HAVE to know in order to test things within a finite PIECE of a causal chain.

    However, if you are trying to demonstrate that a particular proposition is TRUE, and your argument requires that it is IMPOSSIBLE for an infinite causal chain to exist, in the here and now, then it very much DOES matter whether or not it actually IS impossible for an infinite causal chain to exist. The argument depends on it.

    Then there’s this:

    One might say that uniform motion is determined by the structure and distribution of matter making up the asteroid. In the worst case, one could refashion the First Way to concern only intrinsic change and identify uniform motion as an extrinsic change because it is the change of an object relative to something external to itself.

    If you are going to identify uniform motion as an extrinsic change because it is the change of an object relative to something external to itself, couldn’t you also identify it as an INTRINSIC change as well because it is the change of an object relative to itself? Wouldn’t it be both at once? If this is how you differentiate between intrinsic and extrinsic changes, how can ANY change be a purely intrinsic OR purely extrinsic change? Wouldn’t ALL changes be BOTH?

    This comes fairly close to moving the goalposts, except that it IS true that if the argument were restated to concern ONLY intrinsic change and the premises were correct and the reasoning leads to the conclusion, it would be a valid argument. But simply SAYING this is not enough, you actually have to do the work of reformulating the argument as described. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that you may be able to do this but simply haven’t had time to do so. That said, unless you can differentiate between extrinsic and intrinsic changes in a way that is consistent with both the argument and reality, it won’t get you anywhere.

    I see nothing about this argument that is based on a modern understanding of science. In fact, I see many ways in which this argument CONFLICTS with a modern understanding of science. Isn’t this ARGUMENT more concerned with metaphysics rather than science? And isn’t it disingenuous to write off objections for being concerned with metaphysics rather than science when your argument is metaphysical (literally) and not scientific?

    If there are premises within the argument that are untestable and unfalsifiable, then the argument is not currently valid. It may ultimately be CORRECT, but you can’t SHOW that it is, so you can’t KNOW that it is. Even then, I’ve already given an example of something that changes relative to itself and the universe around it without requiring something outside of itself, so premise five:

    (5) It is impossible for anything to be at the same time and in the same respect both that which is moved and that which does the moving.

    is, at the very least, questionable. This is hardly an airtight argument. Not only am I unconvinced that the argument is sound, I’m beginning to think that the premises are worded the way they are for the purpose of HIDING this. They certainly aren’t worded to be as consistent with modern scientific models, methods, and standards as possible. Do you think that either of you would be able to restate the argument in such a way that it is clear what EXACTLY is being said, using terminology that is consistent with modern scientific models, using only premises which are testable and falsifiable and which HAVE been tested, and producing a conclusion that is ALSO testable and falsifiable? Otherwise, I don’t see how you can claim that this argument is ‘scientific’ in ANY sense.

    Remember, atheism isn’t the position that no gods exist, it’s the position that there is not sufficient reason to BELIEVE that any gods exist. Which is why statements like this:

    In order for atheism to be true Aquinas’ argument must contain a false premise or be invalid.

    are simply wrong. The argument does not need to contain a premise that is evidently false, it only needs to contain a premise which is not evidently TRUE. In much the same way that I can say that the statement ‘a god exists’ is not evidently true without claiming that no gods exist, I can say that one or more premises are not evidently true without making the claim that the premise is FALSE. And then it is up to the person claiming that the premise is TRUE to provide evidence attesting to the fact that it IS. What evidence could you possibly offer to show that it is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be an infinite chain of causality? What evidence could you possibly offer to show that potentiality can only ever be reduced to actuality by something that has already BEEN reduced from potentiality to actuality, and how is it not a contradiction to simultaneously claim this while also claiming that there is something in a state of actuality that was not reduced from potentiality TO actuality? Can you describe a test that would show these things to be true? Can you propose a way in which we could falsify these claims?

    The argument is invalid because the premises are not EVIDENTLY true. This is entirely separate from the question of whether or not the reasoning USED in the argument is valid (which I would say is not the case, given the contradiction pointed out above), and of much greater importance to me. If the premises are not evidently true then it doesn’t matter one bit whether the reasoning is valid. The claim ‘one or more gods exist’ is an extraordinary claim; any argument that you claim SHOWS that this extraordinary claim is true needs to be extraordinarily airtight. There are myriad problems with this argument, and even if all of the premises WERE true and the reasoning WAS valid, it would still only allow you to reach the conclusion that there is at least one thing that can be considered an ‘unmoved mover’. Claiming that everyone understands this/these thing(s) to be ‘god’ is a cop out. This is the reasoning offered for it in this thread:

    As for the “which everyone understands as God” part, the concept of a “Creator” is ubiquitous. People across cultures and time intuitively associate “God” as “That Which Exists outside of the universe.”

    Since we’re supposed to be talking about an unmoved mover ‘in the here and now’, the unmoved mover must exist WITHIN the universe, OR you must show how something that exists outside of the universe can affect things WITHIN the universe. So if you define god as ‘that which exists outside of the universe’ you have actually PROHIBITED an unmoved mover in THIS universe from being god.

    I’ve learned a lot from this entire exchange, both about myself and about an argument for the existence of a god that I hadn’t had any experience with prior to this exchange, but ultimately what I’ve learned about the argument is that it doesn’t do what it sets out to do. It is just as broken as any of the other logical arguments for the existence of a god that I’ve come across.

    As for how all this relates to the post we’re all commenting on, to me it’s very simple: religions REQUIRE belief. This is part of what makes them religions. Christianity, for example, REQUIRES belief that Jesus rose from the dead, whether you have any good REASON to believe this or not. Any belief system that REQUIRES belief in a particular proposition CANNOT be compatible with science, because even if science were to show that, for example, it is IMPOSSIBLE for Jesus to have risen from the dead, that belief would still be REQUIRED by Christianity. Christianity and science are incompatible not only because science has shown many of the beliefs of Christianity to be false, but also because any REQUIRED belief is antithetical to science by default. Almost all other religions have the same problem, and I can’t for the life of me think of a religion that does not REQUIRE belief in a proposition that has not been proven to be true.

    There is nothing unreasonable about the statement ‘religion and science are not compatible’, it is simply a statement of fact. So we’re left with a broken argument and an objection to the original post that doesn’t hold water. Think what you will, but remember that the only thing required for atheism to be the most reasonable position regarding the existence of a god is that there is not sufficient reason to believe a god DOES exist. This argument does not constitute sufficient reason to believe that a god exists. If you have another argument that you believe DOES fit that requirement, I will consider it, but for the time being I maintain my position that atheism is the only rational response to god claims.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

      Marshall:

      Would you mind restating the argument such that it is concerned only with intrinsic change?

      Here’s a first draft:

      (1) Some things undergo intrinsic change.

      (2) Intrinsic change involves a thing’s potential essence becoming its actual essence.

      (3) No potential essence can become an actual essence except by something in a state of actuality.

      (4) No essence can be both potential and actual in the same respect and at the same time.

      (5) It is impossible for anything to be at the same time and in the same respect both that which is undergoing intrinsic change and that which causes the intrinsic change.

      (6) There cannot be an infinite series of things undergoing intrinsic change in an essentially ordered causal series.

      (7) Therefore there is a first mover that is not undergoing intrinsic change.

      And would you mind defining ‘potentiality’ and ‘actuality’ in a way that is consistent with Newtonian (or, preferably, even more modern) models?

      I don’t see the inconsistency. You seem to have no problem believing an asteroid is in a specific state at any moment and also that it has the potential to change (e.g., break into two asteroids).

      We’re going on back and forth about an argument with very specific requirements for being valid, and it’s being discussed and described very loosely…

      Admittedly, there is a difficulty in working out every last detail of the argument in blog comments. I’m thinking of writing a blog post on the First Way but I’m afraid that will become unwieldy too (cl’s link to an article dealing with some objections to only the first premise is 25 pages long). I need to describe Aquinas’ metaphysics in a way that is understandable to the layman (including myself) and show that it is a plausible metaphysics before even getting to the argument proper.

      What I do know is that ‘the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality’ isn’t a definition that would ever be USED in a scientific context. In a sense it does describe ‘change’, but it would be absolutely useless in science because it tells you nothing about what something being reduced from potentiality to actuality DOES or IS. As a result, a term like ‘pure actuality’ says very little, unless you can offer a description of the PROCESS through which something is reduced from potentiality to actuality.

      The average scientist gives little thought to metaphysics so you are correct that you will not hear about potentiality and actuality in most scientific contexts (not that it can’t be done). However, I don’t think metaphysics is as “useless” as you imply. It provides a foundation from which to perform science. To believe that something is in a state of actuality is to believe that it does or is something. Science concerns itself with what material things are. To believe that something has potentiality is to believe that it can change. Science concerns itself with how these changes occurs. The point is that science and metaphysics are separate yet compatible fields. I don’t see the tension that your words imply you see.

      How would you test or falsify the claim that it is impossible for there to be an infinite causal chain?

      Note, I only care whether something is true not whether it is “scientific” (a definition that can vary). As to this question, first, make it intelligible for instrumental causes not to be the instruments of anything. Second, point to an actual infinite causal chain.

      How would you test or falsify the claim that something in a state of actuality is required for something in a state of potentiality to reduce to a state of actuality?

      In a sense it is tested all the time when we see one thing cause another. It is a reasonable belief because it makes our world intelligible. I’m not sure it could be falsified in any real-world scenario I can think up. I’m not one to think that every claim must be falsifiable in order to be believed. What you could do is offer a counter metaphysical belief that makes the world more intelligible that this belief.

      If you are going to identify uniform motion as an extrinsic change because it is the change of an object relative to something external to itself, couldn’t you also identify it as an INTRINSIC change as well because it is the change of an object relative to itself? Wouldn’t it be both at once? If this is how you differentiate between intrinsic and extrinsic changes, how can ANY change be a purely intrinsic OR purely extrinsic change? Wouldn’t ALL changes be BOTH?

      An object undergoing uniform motion has not changed relative to its own position. It is always right where it is. Its nature has not changed. Now when an asteroid breaks in two, for example, its nature changes. It might go from being an asteroid of 100 tons to two asteroids of 50 tons.

      Isn’t this ARGUMENT more concerned with metaphysics rather than science?

      Again, I don’t see the need for a hard either/or option. The argument concerns metaphysical beliefs consistent with science.

      And isn’t it disingenuous to write off objections for being concerned with metaphysics rather than science when your argument is metaphysical (literally) and not scientific?

      Speaking for myself (cl may or may not agree), I see a difference between a metaphysical belief rooted in observation and a metaphysical belief that is not. The belief that something in a state of actuality is required for something in a state of potentiality to reduce to a state of actuality is rooted in observation. The denial of that belief is not.

      Reading through your last comment I get the sense that one part of your objection to the First Way is that we can’t be absolutely sure that some of the premises are true, even if we can’t falsify them. I admit we can’t be absolutely sure that each premise is true. Of course I admit that we can’t be absolutely sure of much of anything. I think it’s reasonable to believe the premises are true and therefore reasonable to believe in God.

      Do you think that either of you would be able to restate the argument in such a way that it is clear what EXACTLY is being said, using terminology that is consistent with modern scientific models, using only premises which are testable and falsifiable and which HAVE been tested, and producing a conclusion that is ALSO testable and falsifiable? Otherwise, I don’t see how you can claim that this argument is ‘scientific’ in ANY sense.

      I don’t think the argument is scientific in a strict sense (see last two paragraphs) and I ultimately only care whether it is sound. I’m not sure you can come up with any interesting argument (and I’m not talking just about arguments for the existence of God) that rests solely on premises that are testable and falsifiable. An argument might look that way on the surface but I feel you could ultimately probe a premise and its sub-premises until you got down to certain premises that are either not testable or not falsifiable.

      Claiming that everyone understands this/these thing(s) to be ‘god’ is a cop out.

      An Unmoved Mover is consistent with the belief in God as sustainer of creation. An Unmoved Mover is also consistent with an immutable deity.

      Almost all other religions have the same problem, and I can’t for the life of me think of a religion that does not REQUIRE belief in a proposition that has not been proven to be true.

      Why stop at religion? To be a heliocentrist requires that I believe the earth orbits the sun. Should we now conclude that heliocentrism is antithetical to science?

      • NotAProphet

        Yay! More idiocy:

        To be a heliocentrist requires that I believe the earth orbits the sun. Should we now conclude that heliocentrism is antithetical to science?

        First of all, has anyone actually self-identified as a heliocentrist since the 16th Century? How about as oblate-spheroid-earthists? You do not have to believe that the earth orbits the sun to be a heliocentrist, you are a heliocentrist because you believe the earth orbits the sun. I hope the distinction is not lost on you, but I fear it may be.

        As for your sentiment; believing something is not antithetical to science, believing something without empirical evidence is, ergo religion is.

  • Marshall

    I don’t think the argument is scientific in a strict sense (see last two paragraphs) and I ultimately only care whether it is sound. I’m not sure you can come up with any interesting argument (and I’m not talking just about arguments for the existence of God) that rests solely on premises that are testable and falsifiable.

    1: All bananas are red.
    2: X is a banana.
    3: Therefore X is red.

    The preceding argument is logically sound, but the conclusion is not true because at least one premise is not true.

    If I were to make an argument that included the premise “the sun revolves around the earth”, you could easily point to that premise and declare that the argument, no matter how logically sound, cannot result in a true conclusion, because the premise “the sun revolves around the earth” is not true. You know that it isn’t true because science has confirmed that the earth does, in fact, revolve around the sun, and not the other way around. However, prior to science having shown this, you could easily say “all of our observation up to this point shows us that the sun revolves around the earth. Therefore it is reasonable to believe that the sun revolves around the earth, and it is also reasonable to believe that, because the logic of my argument is sound, the conclusion of my argument is true”. However, once the premise in question was TESTED against the scientific method, it was FALSIFIED, and this is true no matter how much it would have seemed to conflict with all current observation up to that time.

    The problem is perspective. We have an extremely limited perspective, so limited that for quite some time we believed that we were the center of the universe because our observations appeared to show that everything was circling US. Science gives us a way to test the conclusions we draw from our observations to ensure that they are true. This is why we NEED science, and this is why logical argument alone isn’t sufficient.

    The argument we are concerning ourselves with here contains premises that cannot be tested, confirmed, or falsified. Do these premises appear to fit with everything we’ve observed up to this point? YES. Does that mean that they are TRUE? NO. And because we can’t test or falsify the statement ‘it is impossible for infinite causal chains to exist’, and because we can’t test or falsify the statement ‘everything in a state of actuality must first have been put into a state of actuality from a previous state of potentiality by something already in a state of actuality’, we have no way of knowing to ANY degree of certainty that they are true. And while this doesn’t in any way impact my ability to interact with the universe on a day to day basis, because I can assume that my limited perspective is sufficient to accomplish day to day tasks, when it comes to trying to use a premise to prove that something EXISTS, it definitely IS important whether or not we can have a REASONABLE degree of certainty. I can know with at least a REASONABLE degree of certainty that APPROACHES absolute certainty that the earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around. But I can only know this because it is a testable claim that has been verified empirically. THAT makes all the difference.

    I am looking for some way we could know to a reasonable degree of certainty whether or not the argument, if sound, produces a true conclusion. Preferably there would be some way to falsify that conclusion as well. This argument doesn’t work that way. With the premises that make up the argument, all that I could possibly say is that the argument, if sound, MIGHT lead to a true conclusion, but we have no way of determining to a REASONABLE degree of certainty that the conclusion is, in fact, true.

    An Unmoved Mover is consistent with the belief in God as sustainer of creation. An Unmoved Mover is also consistent with an immutable deity.

    And a skateboard is consistent with a car in SOME WAYS and NOT OTHERS. For example, both have four wheels, both are vehicles, both have axles, etc. But obviously a skateboard is NOT a car, because it is not consistent with a car in EVERY way. So what I would need is a description of the attributes of both a prime mover and a god showing that one possesses ALL of the attributes of the other in order to determine that a prime mover IS a god. This would be practically impossible to accomplish, because we don’t have either a prime mover OR a god to examine in order to determine which attributes one shares with the other.

    To be a heliocentrist requires that I believe the earth orbits the sun. Should we now conclude that heliocentrism is antithetical to science?

    This is the quote this is in response to, with a particularly important segment highlighted:

    Almost all other religions have the same problem, and I can’t for the life of me think of a religion that does not REQUIRE belief in a proposition that has not been proven to be true.

    That particular bit at the end there is REALLY important. Heliocentrism does not require belief in a proposition THAT HAS NOT BEEN PROVEN TO BE TRUE.

    As far as I can tell, this argument is in no way a good reason to believe that that an unmoved mover exists, let alone that the unmoved mover is in fact a god. Then there exists the problem of explaining how the unmoved mover that is god is the specific god of a particular religion. Then you STILL have the problem of showing that the holy book of that particular religion ACCURATELY DESCRIBES this god AND what he requires from us. And we haven’t even gotten to the unmoved mover yet. In order to be, for example, a Christian, you have to take a shortcut AROUND all of these problems, and that shortcut is faith. If faith is required for belief in any particular proposition, then the most reasonable position to take regarding that proposition is that there is not sufficient reason to believe it. The existence of the Christian god and the validity of the Bible both REQUIRE faith in order to be believed. Therefore the only reasonable response to the claims of the Christian religion is the position of provisional disbelief. Likewise, until a god is shown to exist in a way that allows us to be REASONABLY CERTAIN that we have reached the correct conclusion regarding the existence of that being, the most reasonable position to take with respect to the claim that a god exists is provisional disbelief. Atheism is the (at least) provisional disbelief in the claim that a god exists. Therefore atheism is the most reasonable position regarding claims of the existence of any god.

    And with that, I’m satisfied that atheism is the only position worth taking. That said, I think the DISCUSSION is worth having. If you would like, I will contact you through your blog and give you my email address, and we can discuss this further in a less restrictive environment than a blog comment thread.

    • http://biblicalscholarship.wordpress.com/ Jayman777

      Marshall, I have a post on my blog that outlines Aquinas’ Five Ways. You can leave your email there (I should be able to see it without you actually having to put it in the body of the comment). If and when I compose a post (or posts) with a more detailed elaboration of the argument I wouldn’t mind having you critique it.

      I’m somewhat busy in real life right now but I’ll at least look into starting a post. Feel free to give me some tips beforehand on how you think the argument should be presented.


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