Sunday, February 24, 2008

Everything That Had a Beginning...

The Cosmological Argument for the existence of God is an odd one to me in that it seems so simple. Some of the evidence behind it is not necessarily all that simple (specifically, the scientific evidence that shows the universe had a beginning and is not an eternally existing thing), but the argument itself and its premises couldn't be simpler. (I'll make the disclaimer if it's not obvious that none of this is my original thoughts... I'd have to give Frank Turek credit for boiling it down to such a communicable level.)

I've tried to imagine for a while what a Devout Atheist would have to say about it, and honestly, for the life of me, I'm actually not quite sure. So, I'd like to ask some of the DA's reading this to tell me what I'm missing.

* Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
* The universe had a beginning.
* Therefore the universe had a cause.

Obviously, everyone knows what a Christian is going to say this cause is.

Let me usurp what I think will probably be the first kind of response by posing it myself.

DA: Well, then who caused (or created) the first cause (or God)?

me: nobody

My answer of 'nobody' explained...

Since something exists (I assume we can agree on this), something must've always existed. For instance, you can't create yourself and you have to exist prior to creating anything. So, using particularly nebulous language, there must me something eternal out there.

That something eternal can be only one of two possible things:

Either the universe itself has always existed...
Or something outside the universe has always existed.

You'll notice this either/or brings us back to the second premise of the argument. I'm assuming we're in agreement about this premise that states the universe had a beginning since modern cosmology and physics has done a splendid job of showing us just that. So, since we know that the universe is not an eternally existing thing in and of itself, it would seem that it must be true that something outside the universe has always existed.

Given that the Book us Christians put so much stock in explicitly defines God as something that did not come to be, something unmade, something eternal that did not have a beginning (which means He didn't need a cause), it would seem like the Christian idea of God fits quite well with what the above logic (combined with the evidence provided by modern cosmology and physics regarding the non-eternalness of our universe) makes apparent.

32 comments:

demian said...

Once again, I can barely get into a few sentences before stumbling on some points.

http://definr.com/devout

You continually hear religious types trying to find parity between their belief system and the belief system of someone else. Even though the structure and nature are very different.

Using the devout definition is it my dearest wish that there is no god? No, I just search for truth. I just hope for a future on Earth where we make decisions based on reason and not 4,000 year old folk stories.

This reminds me of the difficulty Sam Harris has with the word atheist. Bryan are you an anti-astrologist? You wouldn't call that, you'd just say you're reasonable.

I don't think many proclaim there is no god, they're merely unconvinced. Even Dawkins left an opening for the possibility. I'd be ecstatic to find out there is a supreme being that created the Universe, I'd want to know as much as I could.

But that's not what we're dealing with. We're talking about trusting other men. Trust their writings and intentions.

http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=788

I'm going off the rails here but look at Scientology or Cargo cults. See how easily people are mislead by others and themselves. What if these religions survive for 1,000 years.

What if Jesus actually said I [like] ham [while sitting in] the Sun [and the eating] of cod and someone just accidentally thought He said, "I am the son of God."

demian said...

This post falls apart with this sentence:

Everything that had a beginning had a cause.

If you're speaking to someone who believes in any of the thousands of gods we know of it might make sense. To me it's a non-starter. And how you got to that point other than the search for some sort of comfort is beyond me.

It'd be nice if some omnipotent, benevolent cosmic guidance counselor had a plan for me, it'd be nice if there were a refrigerator sized diamond in my back yard.

Bryan said...

First, as for my usage of Devout Atheist, it was more in jest than anything. If I can deal with 'fundy' and 'cult member', I figured you all could handle DA.

Second, when you say the following statement is a non-starter for you...

Everything that had a beginning had a cause.

... I honestly don't understand what that means.

Does it mean it does nothing for you emotionally? If so, who cares, I'm not talking about emotions.

Does it mean you think it is a false statement? Whether a statement is a starter or non-starter for you personally has absolutely nothing to do with whether it is true or false.

"It'd be nice if some omnipotent, benevolent cosmic guidance counselor had a plan for me..."

Yes, that is nice, and fairly astonishing... but what does it have to do with the topic of the post exactly? The Cosmological Argument argues for the existence of a monotheistic God (Christian, Jewish, or Islamic), it doesn't say anything that I'm aware of about a 'cosmic guidance counselor' with a personal 'plan' for you.

demian said...

Well the foundation for your post is some logic that starts out with this sentence:

Everything that had a beginning had a cause.

And I disagree with that statement. So it's something of a non-starter. I can't continue with the rest of your points because I disagree with the basis of your argument. That's what I mean by non-starter.

"It'd be nice if some omnipotent, benevolent cosmic guidance counselor had a plan for me..."

That quote relates to your post because you make the assumption that everything that exists has a cause.

I don't think it's a leap to relate this to how all Christians think that their life has a purpose, meaning and is following a plan that God has laid out.

I think your view that everything has a cause is related to your view that your life has a cause. I am challenging that notion.

Bryan said...

--yousay--
That quote relates to your post because you make the assumption that everything that exists has a cause.
--endyousay--

That is not what I said. I said that everything that had a beginning had a cause.

--yousay--
I think your view that everything has a cause is related to your view that your life has a cause. I am challenging that notion.
--endyousay--

Again, not *everything* has a cause, only things that had a beginning. My life had a beginning - August 12, 1979 - therefore it has a cause. That cause would be what my folks did some 9 months before I was born.

Bryan said...

Demian and I cleared up a misunderstanding offline.

When I say 'cause', I mean: events that provide the generative force that is the origin of something

He took me to mean something more like what I would use the word 'purpose' (an anticipated outcome that is intended or that guides your planned actions) for.

Bryan said...

Another angle to look at this from would be this:

1) The universe, which had a beginning, was caused by something.

or

2) The universe, which had a beginning, was caused by nothing.

I'm curious with one an atheist would pick. It would seem completely irrational to choose anything but the first one, given our some total of human experience. If a person decides to pick number 2, it would actually seem reasonable for me to describe such a person as devoutly religious.

devout: "devoted to a pursuit, belief, or mode of behavior" or "dear: earnest; "one's dearest wish"

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/devout
http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=devout

and religious: "relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality" or "scrupulously and conscientiously faithful"

Something like this...

Even though it would seem obvious that the universe would have to be caused by *something*, the atheist remains dear to his scrupulously and conscientiously faithful belief that the universe was caused by nothing.

Bryan said...

Re-reading my last post, and let me make the disclaimer now that I know the phrase is not 'some total', but 'sum total'.

That was a typo. I pedantically bring this up because Rod and I were making fun of such gaffs just the other day.

demian said...

1) The universe, which had a beginning, was caused by something.

or

2) The universe, which had a beginning, was caused by nothing.

I think everyone getting into that discussion has to realize we're on incredibly shaky ground. Anyone that claims absolute understanding about how the universe came to be or what the prime mover was, is highly questionable.

I guess if the universe exists, then it must have came about somehow. Then the question becomes what created the creator.

Scientists may tend to believe the big bang happened. They do calculations, the numbers work out and explain a lot. But they don't have the same certainty that your typical theist will have about how the universe came to be.

I'd ask you this:

1) God, which had a beginning, was caused by something.

or

2) God, which had a beginning, was caused by nothing.

...of course that pre-supposes that god had a beginning.

Bryan said...

You have to be careful with your language. It is not that the universe requires a cause because it exists, it requires a cause because it had a beginning. Additionally, the Law of Causality does not say that 'everything' needs a cause, only 'everything that comes to be' needs a cause. God, defined as existing outside the space-time universe (it would've had to be this way in order for Him to create it, right?) did not have a beginning. Hence, there is no logical requirement to provide a cause for something that does not have a beginning. God did not come to be. No one made God. He is unmade. As an eternal being, God did not have a beginning, so He didn't need a cause.

The simple logical argument allows us to define God in this way, and that book us Christians put so much stock in explicitly defines Him as such.

That being said, I've already addressed most of what you just said in the original blog post. No references from the book of Genesis or anything.

Starting at "DA: Well, then who caused (or created) the first cause (or God)?" and going all the way to the end of the original post.

Canadian War Machine said...

No evidence whatsoever exists to support the cosmological argument. It's a simpleminded rhetorical argument, it replaces an infinite regression with a "special being outside of space time"!?

Right....much more convincing... It's a nowhere argument, take your pick: infinity/singularity

You say god doesn't need a cause, well I reply infinite regression doesn't need an end(as in the universe was created by a big bang, and that was created by another big bang, etc-NO God neccesssary). How far does it get us?

Bryan you will NEVER get to where you want to go in an "intellectually" honest way.

Besides if the cosmological argument supports anything its The Ancient One, known as Unkulunkulu, is the Zulu creator. He came from the reeds and from them he brought forth the people and the cattle. He created everything that is: mountains, streams, snakes, etc. He taught the Zulu how to hunt, how to make fire, and how to grow food.

There is no way it supports Christianity, it's not in Zulu book of prayer.

Bryan said...

--yousay--
Bryan you will NEVER get to where you want to go in an "intellectually" honest way.
--endyousay--

This seems like the kind of bluster a person has to resort to using if the argument they're attempting to make doesn't actually show the 'intellectual dishonesty' of the argument they're trying to counter.

I can envision the thought process now... "Well, I'm gonna tell him what I think, but since what I think isn't terribly convincing I'm gonna make sure he knows he's intellectually dishonest by just telling him that. That should clear things up."

Sort of the blog post version of this...

http://demian0311.blogspot.com/2008/02/enter-strawman.html

Next time you can just tell me that you ought to come south of the border and punch my fat head in for the sake of intellectual honesty. That would be about as effective.

As for the little bit of substance you introduce to the thread, I'll deal with that later tonight.

demian said...

Yeah, I'd have to agree with CWM here as I'm sure you'd expect.

You've drawn a circle around concepts where you say logic does not apply. However you want to have a logical discussion. Whenever the reasoning gets too close you can always jump back to the no-logic-circle.

http://cectic.com/069.html

Bryan said...

I reject everything you just said. What you said sounds like this to me.

I, as an atheist, can't even argue with a believer, because, by virtue of the fact said person is a believer, by definition that means that any possible argument they offer cannot be a logical argument.

It doesn't get any more logical than the following choice. In fact, to use a fancy term from the world of 'logic', The Law of Excluded Middle forces you to pick one or the other:

1) The universe, which had a beginning, was caused by something.

or

2) The universe, which had a beginning, was caused by nothing.


No circles being drawn, no claims that logic does not apply. I can use the innate ability humans have to reason through things, and nothing else, to choose number 1 above. How about you?

demian said...

This is the part where you say, "you can't go into my circle-of-no-logic".

1) God, which had a beginning, was caused by something.

or

2) God, which had a beginning, was caused by nothing.

Go ahead, you know you want to say it.

Bryan said...

OK... thanks for clarifying.

The problem with the choice you gave me is that I believe one of the premises is false, specifically, the premise that states that 'God had a beginning'.

I don't know that I can logically show that God didn't have a beginning. But I'm also pretty sure you can offer no evidence that He did, which stands in stark contrast to the fact that evidence does exist that effectively demonstrates the universe had a beginning.

I do think Occam's Razor can be useful here though. Which is a more simple explanation of the beginning of the universe?

That it was caused by some thing one layer removed from it.

or

That it was caused by some combination of infinite things an indeterminable number of layers removed from it.

Canadian War Machine said...

Well, I guess I hit a nerve or something...Let me explain my "intellectual dishonesty" claim.

You always seems to apply a double standard that supports your position, yet ignores the logical inconsistency. You definitely seem like a smart guy, i suspect you know you are doing this.

You have a "get out of jail free" card available, by invoking the religious trump card-> faith requires no evidence, but you refuse to invoke it. I feel justified in telling you (IMHO), you will NEVER get to God(much less Christianity) in an "intellectually" honest way.

Specifically, I've already given you the other intellectually dishonest "out" of the cosmological argument. every big bang had a big bang before it, so the universe doesn't have a beginning, so it doesn't need a creator. So i replaced "God" with an infinite regression. Both equally unprovable...
Does this convince you that God does not exist? No? Well, it's the same reason The cosmological argument fails to convince me.

They are equally dis-satisfying on an intellectual level. However, They ARE equivalent on a logical level, but you claim the God hypothesis is superior. Why? Because it suits your argument, so that's not honest.

If i came south of the border, it wouldn't be to punch your fat face, but to give you hugs and kisses!

Anyway, it's obvious you truly believe in God/Christ, why the pursuit of objective/intellectual proof?

Rod said...

I'm reluctant to jump in, but I feel like my fellow atheists are doing an ass job ;)

So it seems that Demian and CWM are both hung up on calling the things Bryan has said illogical. While I agree that a lot of what Bryan says on this blog is illogical, the things that are being attacked are not.

So far, Bryan has posited 3 premises.

1. The universe had a beginning
2. If a god exists, that god did not.
3. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.

You guys are calling these premises illogical, but doing so is kind of silly. Premises can't be illogical. Premises can be false, but they can't be illogical.

"Illogical" refers to arguments. They're the statements after the premises, which use the premises to eventually draw a conclusion. All of the statements, up to the conclusion, that come after a premise can be illogical. Premises cannot be illogical.

You guys seem to harp on Bryan's premise #2: God did not have a beginning.

Why bother? It's not an ILLOGICAL premise, since such a thing is a contradiction of terms. If that premise came from a prior set of logical statements and is the conclusion of that set, then you could argue against it. Since it is not, it is just a premise. You can't argue that a premise does not logically follow, because it doesn't logically follow from what?

All you can do with premises, if you want to be hung up on them, is prove them false.

For example:

Premise 1: All mammals are cats
Premise 2: All cats have claws
Argument 1: If all mammals are cats, and all cats have claws, then all mammals have claws.
Conclusion: All mammals have claws.

This argument is LOGICALLY SOUND. The conclusion *DOES* naturally follow from the premises. The problem is that the premises are false. So to beat this argument down, you need to demonstrate the falsity of one or more premises. That's easy: find a mammal that isn't a cat, or find a declawed cat.

You cannot say this argument is ILLOGICAL, you have to say it is FALSE, because the premises are false.

Here's another example:

P1: All cats are mammals
P2: All cats had claws at some point
A1: If all cats are mammals, then all mammals are cats.
A2: If all mammals are cats and all cats had claws, all mammals had claws.
C: All mammals had claws.

In this case, both PREMISES are true, but the argument itself is ILLOGICAL. The conclusion does not naturally follow from the premises, because A1 is illogical.

You guys seem so worried about Bryan's second premise that you want to attack it. Why bother?

It's a premise of this argument. You can either demonstrate it to be false, or you can attack Bryan's arguments that follow from it (and his other premises).

It's extremely difficult to DEMONSTRATE that premise #2 is false, since it deals with something that would defy observation if true. You're fighting a losing battle by dwelling on it.

Let's look at the premises again.

1. The universe had a beginning
2. If a god exists, that god did not.
3. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.

P1 seems fair, and nobody seems to have taken any issue with it.

P2 is a little shady, but Bryan isn't making the argument that reaches that conclusion, talking about the nature of god, etc. As such, there's no need to attack it.

P3 seems relatively fair as well, if you discount notions of 'beginning' being based on time, and time being part of the universe (which is a bit too philosophical for this discussion).

So if we accept these three premises for the purpose of this argument, then what?

How does bryan get to:

"C: Therefore, Jesus."

The original post doesn't really answer this question, nor do any comments, since they've all been dwelling on premise #2.

So let's accept these premises as true for the purpose of the discussion.

The universe had a beginning, if god exists then he did not, and things with beginnings had causes.

Argument 1 is: "Therefore, the universe had a cause"

Bryan, take me from that argument to "C: Therefore, Jesus". I don't see any logical way to get there, and I'd like to hear it. If it illogical, I will say so.

Bryan said...

--yousay--
Anyway, it's obvious you truly believe in God/Christ, why the pursuit of objective/intellectual proof?
--endyousay--

Because Christianity is rooted in truth claims... in claims that certain historical events actually happened... claims that have some possibility of being falsified. In fact, I think this falsifiablity is one of the unique and cool things about Christianity compared to other world religions.

The most fundamentally important claim of an actual historical event that comes to mind is Christ's resurrection. If that did not actually happen, then Christianity is bogus.

As far as the possibility of falsification, let me steal some items offered up in The Irrational Atheist.

• The elimination of the Jewish people would falsify both God’s promise to Abraham and the eschatological events prophesied in the Book of Revelation.
• The discovery of Jesus Christ’s crucified skeleton.
• The linguistic unification of humanity.
• The end of war and/or poverty.
• Functional immortality technology.


As far as faith or belief goes, I will grant you that it takes a certain amount of it. The Bible grants that when it describes faith as 'the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.' in Hebrews. In context, those who are unable to see are those who were not alive to actually see Christ's resurrection.

Canadian War Machine said...

Rod,

Thanks for the clarification on the semantics of logic, admittedly I mis-use the term illogical fairly often.

So in better terms,
His premise- "The universe had a beginning" is CLEARLY unfalsifiable. No evidence exist from before the universe.

I suggest that by using a similar unfalsifiable "premise" (God vs infinite regression) you are left with a line of reasoning that leads you to a completely opposite conclusion. Both equally WITHOUT intellectual merit.

God argument
============
* Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
* The universe had a beginning.
* Therefore the universe had a cause.
* Therefore God created the universe


No-God argument
===============
* Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
* The universe had a beginning .
* That beginning(call it big bang) was caused by a another beginning(big bang'), ad infinitem.
* Therefore the universe had no beginning.
* Therefore there is no God

For some reason Bryan considers his unfalsifiable premise superior to another unfalsifiable premise.

I just want him to acknowledge they are equally lame premises, that can't you any further.

Bryan said...

--yousay--
His premise- "The universe had a beginning" is CLEARLY unfalsifiable. No evidence exist from before the universe.
--endyousay--

You are completely and absolutely wrong. There is ample scientific evidence, from the fields of cosmology and physics, that makes a positive case for the universe having a beginning.


As for the strength of the two arguments, I pointed out above how mine, in the spirit of Occam's Razor, explains the beginning of the universe in a simpler manner.

Rod said...

CWM:

Your versions of the god and no-god arguments are, I feel, irrelevant to the discussion. Both are illogical on their faces, and I don't think anyone is seriously suggesting them, therefore they are straw men.

==yousay==
God argument
============
* Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
* The universe had a beginning.
* Therefore the universe had a cause.
* Therefore God created the universe
==/yousay==

these are premises 1 and 2, argument 1, and conclusion respectively. Conclusion does not follow from argument 1, as it introduces the word 'god' out of nowhere. If bryan is making THIS argument (and he may be), then that's exactly what I'd like to know, so that I can explain that it is (rightfully) illogical.

==youalsosay==
No-God argument
===============
* Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
* The universe had a beginning .
* That beginning(call it big bang) was caused by a another beginning(big bang'), ad infinitem.
* Therefore the universe had no beginning.
* Therefore there is no God
==/youalsosay==


P1, P2, P3, A1, and C. A1 and P2 directly contradict, word for word. Nobody could make this argument seriously as a result.

I feel like we're getting hung up on shit that doesn't matter. It's like we're afraid that accepting Bryan's premises mean that his conclusion must be right, so we're attacking the premises endlessly.

I'm relatively confident that his conclusions do not follow from the premises, so I'm not concerned with accepting the premises for the purpose of the discussion.

I'd like to see how we get from the three premises I outlined earlier to "Therefore, Jesus" as a conclusion. I eagerly await Bryan's argumentation on this matter.

Canadian War Machine said...

Rod,
I realized the logical inconsistency of my argument after i posted DOH!...

Here is the corrected version.

original No-God argument(revised)
========================
* Everything that had no beginning had no cause.
* The universe has always existed as an infinite series of big bang/big crunches
* Therefore our universe had no beginning
* Therefore there is no God

Rod,

right the universe was started by the big bang, but everything has a cause: you say God started it, i say it part of an infinite number of big bang/big crunch chains.

i invoke occam's razor as well, it's simpler to have a well defined cycle of stop/starts were all energy is conserved in the system.

Good now we are back to equally unfalsifiable positions on God's existence.

No God argument(#2)
===============
*the universe contains everything
*everything is made up of matter and energy
*If matter and energy constitute the entire universe and the universe contains everything, nothing outside the universe exists
*therefore no God exists

They are all statements supported by physics and cosmology. But you'll disagree with my first premise. So we'll argue about it forever, no one able to prove the other wrong. fun....

And another one since i'm here....
these are all such crap...

Infinite-God argument
===============
1 Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
* The universe had a beginning
* Therefore the universe had a cause
* Anything that can cause something to happen must have a beginning
* goto 1

However, thanks for the explanation on why the intellectual path is so important to you.

Canadian War Machine said...

Rod,

My hope in all my posts on this blog is to challenge Bryan's premises. My one big hope is trying to get him to admit he's trying to prove what is inherently unprovable(God first, then Christianity).

So this was my attempt to short circuit his logic with an equivalent(at least in my view) line of reasoning that leads you to a No-God outcome. My hope is that he comes to the conclusion that it depend solely on what premise you choose to favor, and it's a method that provides no help to get closer to the Truth.

Good luck getting Bryan to follow your lead, tho. And welcome back, it's hard to resist posting isn't it?

Bryan said...

Rod...

Let me clarify the argument I'm trying to make. First of all, I am not attempting to argue 'Therefore, Jesus' as you put it. Trying to infer Jesus as God solely from the Cosmological Argument seems like quite a logical stretch to me. I don't think I would buy it if someone tried to get me to infer that.

Now, on to what I am trying to argue. To quickly recap.

* Everything that had a beginning had a cause.
* The universe had a beginning.
* Therefore the universe had a cause.

This much I think we agree on. So, we've established it then, the universe had a cause.

Because of the overwhelming scientific evidence we have, we've safely established that the universe had a cause. We can also see (I mentioned this earlier, but will recap it again) that the cause of the universe must be something outside itself. The universe could not have caused itself, because it would've had to exist already in order to cause anything, an obvious absurdity.

This conclusion, that the universe had a cause outside of itself, is consistent with monotheistic religions, but it is not drawn from those religions, it is based on reasoning and evidence.

Furthermore, we don't need any religion's scripture to figure out what some of the characteristics of the First Cause must be.

* self-existent, timeless, non-spatial, and immaterial (since the First Cause created time, space and matter, the First Cause must be outside time, space and matter). In other words... without limits, infinite.

* unimaginably powerful in order to be able to create the entire universe out of nothing

* supremely intelligent in order to be able to design the universe with such exacting precision (thinking of Anthropic Constants here)

* personal, in order to be able to choose to convert a state of nothingness into the time-space-material universe (an impersonal force has no ability to make choices)


So, to summarize, I'm arguing that the universe had a First Cause and that this First Cause must have had the aforementioned characteristics. Furthermore, natural forces could not be responsible for producing the universe because these natural forces that are observable to science - in fact all of nature - were created as part of the Big Bang. This then implies that some super-natural (outside of nature) force was responsible.

That's my main argument. There are two additional interesting points that come to mind though regarding that main argument.

- The creation of the universe is itself a miracle by pretty much any definition of the word. (let me define it though to be clear about what I mean - a super-natural event for which there is no natural explanation -- as a theist, I would add 'divine in origin', but wouldn't expect you to adopt the latter part of the defintion). If miracles are possible, then this opens the door to an event like say... a resurrection.

- All the characteristics attributed to the First Cause above are exactly the same as those attributed to God by Christianity (and other monotheistic religions).

Rod said...

Bryan:

Whoa, whoa, whoa. How on earth do we get from "universe had a cause" to "that cause must be intelligent, personal, powerful, self-existent, etc?

The formal version of your argument:

P1: The universe had a beginning
P2: Things with beginnings have causes
A1: The universe, therefore, had a cause.
A2: Therefore, the cause was intelligent, personal, self-existent, etc.
C: The universe was created by something intelligent, personal, and self-existent.

A2 is wholly illogical in this argument, just as I suspected it would be. It, out of nowhere, introduces new terms, none of which are part of the logical framework up to this point.

What you're missing is an extra premise that states "Anything that could cause the universe must be intelligent, personal, and self-existent", which is the only way you could include A2 at all. Unfortunately, that premise, since it restates the conclusion would be Begging The Question (http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html)

To provide a counter-position to yours: the Big Bang model posits that the universe was created from a set of super-hot, super-dense matter and energy. This set of matter/energy cannot be defined as being part of the universe, since, according to the model, 'created' the universe. This is therefore something that sufficiently exists outside of the universe enough to be its cause. This super-hot, super-dense matter is not intelligent, powerful, or godlike in any way.

You suddenly argued that the First Cause cannot be material, since it created matter. This is false. Matter can (and did) exist outside of the context of a universe prior to its formation via cosmological expansion.

You also claim it must be timeless since time only exists within the universe. This claim is inconsistent with your premises, which state that the universe had a beginning. Without an anchor of time outside of the context of the universe, this premise cannot be true, since there can be no beginning to something if there is no time. So once again the arguments do not follow from the premises.

If you demand that the definition of 'universe' be abused to the point where matter and time cannot exist outside of it, then your first premise, "the universe had a beginning" is false, both by definition as well as by established scientific fact. Your claim is that there is 'overwhelming evidence that the universe had a beginning'. It's true that it had a beginning, according to the evidence, when you don't amend to the word 'universe' a notion that no matter existed prior to a universe. This evidence that suggests a beginning for the universe makes absolutely no such claim. If this is your definition for 'universe' then you are using a different functional definition for the word than the scientists whose arguments you are decontextualizing to make your own.

--------------

While not relevant to the above dissection of your argument (and therefore likely to be the thing you dwell on the most in your reply), I'd like to also point out that even if this argument DID make a legitimate case for a god (which it does not), it says nothing for the nature of that god. He may be benevolent, or he may be malevolent. There may be many gods. There may be one. He may be all-powerful, he may simply be somewhat powerful. He may be the devil. He may be doing it as a joke.

The fact the the bible is CONSISTENT with these 'knowns' doesn't mean that it FOLLOWS FROM them.

Behold the Doctrine Of Rod

a) Rod likes to program
b) Rod works at a software company
c) Rod has the superpower to fly.

Notice that what this suggests is CONSISTENT with what we know about Rod, but it is not SUGGESTED by it.

Bryan said...

Rod...

I'll try to get myself back in good logical standing by being more verbose. Let's also clarify terms here, specifically 'argument', 'premise' and 'conclusion.'

I stole this from Wikipedia...
"In logic, an argument is a set of one or more declarative sentences known as the premises, along with another declarative sentence known as the conclusion, which asserts that the truth of the conclusion is a logical consequence of the premisses."

A1 -- I assert that it is true that the universe had a cause because...
P1: The universe had a beginning
P2: Things with beginnings have causes
C: The universe, therefore, had a cause.

A2 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be something other than itself because...
P1: The universe had a cause. (C from A1)
P2: Something that has a cause cannot cause itself.
C: Therefore, the cause of the universe must be something other than the universe itself, something outside of the universe.

A3 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be timeless, non-spatial and immaterial because...
P1: The cause of the universe must be something outside of the universe. (C from A2)
P2: The universe is comprised of time, space and matter
C: Therefore, the universe's cause must be timeless, non-spatial and immaterial

A4 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be unimaginably powerful because...
P1: The universe had a cause. (C from A1)
P2: The universe exists because a state of nothingness (nothing natural to be clear) was converted into the time-space-material universe that we inhabit. Good scientific evidence exists to show that the universe came into being at the initial cosmological singularity. (As John Barrow and Frank Tipler, authors of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, put it, "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity...")
P3: The universe (time, space and matter and how they all interact with one another) is exceedingly large and complex.
C: Therefore, the cause of the universe must be unimaginably powerful in order to be able to cause the universe to come into being.


A5 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be supremely intelligent because...
P1: The universe had a cause. (C from A1)
P2: The universe supports life.
P3: The universe could not support life if the many Anthropic constants were not precisely what they are.
C: Therefore, the cause of the universe must be supremely intelligent in order to be able to cause a universe that supports life with such exacting precision to come into being.


A6 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be personal because...
P1: The universe exists because a state of nothingness was converted into the time-space-material universe that we inhabit.
P2: Impersonal force has no ability to make choices
P3: In order to convert a state of nothingness into a state of somethingness, a choice to do so must be made.
C: Therefore, the cause of the universe must be personal.

So, I guess I'm making 6 arguments.
1) That it is true that the universe had a cause.
2) That it is true that the cause of the universe must be something other than itself.
3) That it is true that the cause of the universe must be timeless, non-spatial and immaterial.
4) That it is true that the cause of the universe must be unimaginably powerful.
5) That it is true that the cause of the universe must be supremely intelligent.
6) That it is true that the cause of the universe must be personal.


I'm not as good at detecting logical fallacies as you are (I'm being serious here, not a jerk), but hopefully you won't find any above. If you do, I'll do my best to correct them. In my next post, I'll address your claim that some of my premises are false (and that your alternatives are not actually true).

Rod said...

A1 - Fine
A2 - Fine
A3 - This is a fallacy. Your first premise is that the cause of the universe must be something outside of it. Your second premise is that the universe is comprised of time, space, and matter. You conclude, incorrectly, that it follows that the universe must be timeless, non-spacial, and immaterial. Example:

P1: All whales are mammals
C: Therefore, nothing that is not a whale is a mammal.

This is false. The universe consists of time, space, and matter, but it does follow that all time, space, and matter exist within the universe. This is a fallacious categorical syllogism (you can read about a similar fallacy here: http://www.fallacyfiles.org/afonedis.html)

Furthermore, A3 invalidates your P1 from A1. The universe cannot have a beginning if all time is contained within it. This effectively proves Bang, which is known as a proof by contradiction (http://zimmer.csufresno.edu/~larryc/proofs/proofs.contradict.html).

This means that either A3 is invalided by P1 from A1, or A1 is invalided (thereby invalidating A1 through A6.

A4 - This is almost close to a good argument, but is unfortunately undercut by being extremely poorly worded. You go from "large and complex" to the cause being powerful. You, at the very least, need a premise stating that complex things can only come about by something powerful, which also requires you do define powerful. I won't bother saying A4 is stupid*, but it's certainly not worded well enough to be an argument.

A5 - Suffers from a similar problem as A4. Where did intelligence come into play? That needs to be defined and established in a premise.

A6 - I require some kind of evidence or argumentation to back up P3, which is asserted out of thin air.


Overall, this was a decent effort. I'm certainly closer to seeing your arguments, but unfortunately the 4 arguments made on top of the two that have already been accepted in the thread are rife with flaws and fallacies.



*I lied, A4 was stupid.

Bryan said...

Rod...

Thanks for QA'ing my logic. I'll do another iteration on it.

A3 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be timeless, non-spatial and immaterial because...
P1: The cause of the universe must be something outside of the universe. (C from A2)
P2: The universe is comprised of time, space and matter
P3: Time, space and matter did not exist prior to the universe being caused to come into existence. (It seems like you are disputing this premise, and I will address that in a bit.)
C: Therefore, the universe's cause can not be comprised of time, space or matter (and must be timeless, non-spatial and immaterial)

To address your specific assertions.
--yousay--
This is false. The universe consists of time, space, and matter, but it does follow that all time, space, and matter exist within the universe.
--endyousay--
What you're saying is wrong. Einstein's theory of general relativity demands an absolute beginning for time, space and matter while showing that time, space and matter are co-relative. That absolute beginning is the singular event that caused the universe to come into existence. Without that event, there's no possibility of time, space and matter existing.

--yousay--
The universe cannot have a beginning if all time is contained within it.
--endyousay--
I will admit that the words we use become tricky here, we are beings who are rooted in time, and live along a timeline, and it seems that fully comprehending what it means to not have time exist is very difficult, if not impossible to do with the logical and reasoning capabilities we have. In spite of that, the best scientific evidence available shows that the universe (space, time and matter) all came into existence at a singularity. I'll quote Barrow and Tipler again... "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo." I'm granting you it's a difficult concept to converse about and comprehend, cosmologist Andrei Linde admits as much when he says "The most difficult aspect of this problem is not the existence of the singularity itself, but the question of what was before the singularity.... This problem lies somewhere at the boundary between physics and metaphysics."

The point is, you have come nowhere close to actually demonstrating what you claim to be true as true, that the universe cannot have a beginning if all time is contained within it. In point of fact, the scientific evidence available to us suggests the opposite.


A4 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be unimaginably powerful because...
P1: The universe had a cause. (C from A1)
P2: The universe exists because a state of nothingness (nothing natural to be clear) was converted into the time-space-material universe that we inhabit.
P3: Converting a state of nothingness into something (especially something as large and complex as the universe) would require unimaginable power. (for a defintion, I'll go with the first one google gives me: having great power or force or potency or effect)
C: Therefore, the cause of the universe must be unimaginably powerful in order to be able to cause the universe to come into being.


A5 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be intelligent because...
P1: An intelligent cause is characterized by effects which have ordered, regular effects.
P2: According to the anthropic principle the universe was 'fine tuned' or 'pre-fitted' from the very moment of its big bang origin for the eventual emergence of life. The most infinitesimal change of conditions in any way would have made life as we know it impossible.
P3: The Anthropic Constants, being as precise as they are, are best explained by a supremely intelligent cause.
C: Therefore, the First Cause must have been an intelligent cause.


This one was the one I did the weakest job at, so I'll offer up two this time.

A6 -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be personal because...
P1: There are two possible explanations for the cause of the universe, a Natural explanation (provided in terms of precedent events, causal laws, or necessary conditions that invoke natural existents) or a Personal explanation (given in terms of the intentional action of a rational agent)
P2: A natural causal explanation for the initial event that caused the universe cannot be provided because there are no precedent events or natural existents to which the laws of physics apply.
C: If no scientific explanation (in terms of physical laws) can provide a causal account of the origin of the universe, the explanation must be personal - in terms of the intentional action of a rational, supernatural agent.


A7 -- I assert that it is true that the act by which the universe was created was an act of a personal agent.
P1: The universe had a First Cause.
P2: This First Cause's act to create was either determined, undetermined, or self-determined.
P3: But it cannot be determined, since there is nothing before the First Cause.
P4: Neither can it be undetermined, since this is contrary to the principle of causality.
P5: Hence, the act to create must have been self-determined.
P6: But self-determined acts are free acts, for this is what is meant by a free act.
C: Therefore, the act by which the First Cause created the universe must have been a free act of an intelligent, personal being.

Rod said...

Bryan,

You quote me as saying that it does not follow from "the universe consists of time, space and matter" that all time, space, and matter existed within the universe. You claim "what you are saying is wrong."

You are completely wrong. You provide an example of why the universe DOES contain all of the matter/space/time, which utterly fails to comprehend my point, which was not that your premise is wrong, but that your conclusion DOES NOT LOGICALLY FOLLOW from the premises. I will reiterate, your claim is:

p2) X consists of Y and Z.
c) Therefore, ~X must be ~Y and ~Z.

This is fallacious reasoning. It doesn't matter what X, Y, and Z are. You immediately make a claim regarding the truth of C, based on einstein's work. Einsten was not mentioned in the argument, nor was his work cited. It's irrelevant. My point was that C does not follow from P2. You claim C is true anyway. That may be, but your reasoning does not show it to be the case.

Now you have rewritten A3 to include the necessary premise. A3 is now logically sound. A3 is now fine.

You address my objection to the 'universe had a beginning' with a quote that supports your later conclusions without supporting the premises, once again. It is therefore irrelevant to the argument. If you want to simply quote someone and then conclude they are correct, do so, but don't dress it up with fake logic.

You make a set of assertions, and show a conclusion that follows. I explain the conclusion doesn't follow, and you provide quotes backing up that it is correct. I am not claiming your conclusion is INCORRECT, I am claiming it is ILLOGICAL. To provide an illustration
----------
Bryan says:

P1: I have ten fingers
P2: People with ten fingers usually have ten fingernails.
C: Therefore, my keyboard is black.

and then I say "C does not follow from P1 and P2"

So you respond "of course it does! look, my keyboard actually IS black"
----------

Sorry, but that's not how logic work. Your conclusions can be true even if your arguments for them are bad. But we are using the arguments to determine them. You want to bring some quotes in? Fine. Make a new argument that quotes those people. But don't pretend that's part of your existing logical argument.

(Note: Quoting someone and then saying they must be right is a fallacy known as an Appeal To Authority, so that will also be illogical and failworthy).

In any case, I will once again reiterate that, if you claim all time exists within the universe, you cannot claim that "it had a beginning."

The concept of a beginning is incongruent with the notion that the thing that created time had one. If you insist on making the argument that all time is contained within the universe, then you have invalidated A1, which invalidates all others.

As a side note, I happen to agree that the universe contains all of what we describe as time, but that gets into quantum cosmology, which is a bit advanced for this discussion. I was accepting a more colloquial version of 'time' until this point in the discussion, in which time is a constant. If we are getting into the cosmology of time by asserting the universe defines it, then I can no longer grant you A1, since A1 claims that the universe, which is time, had a beginning. This statement is equivalent to saying "time had a beginning" which is comically ludicrous.

I do not accept P3 from A4. You will need to provide a logical argument where P3 winds up being the conclusion for A4 to be valid.

Re A5: You need to read more about the Anthropic Principle. The anthropic principle does not claim what you say (that the universe was fine tuned for us), it makes the argument that the only universe we could observe is one that supports life. That means that if the universe constants fell out in such a way that life is not supported within it, we would not be around to observe it. By nature of us existing, our universe happens to support life, but that doesn't in any way indicate that it was in some way designed to do so. Had it not done so, we simply would not be around to notice.

Moreover, P3 from A5 is a bold, bold assertion out of thin air. You need to make another argument where P3 is the conclusion for me to accept A5 as valid.

A6 is logically valid! P1 is "P or Q", P2 is "~P", and C is "Therefore, Q". Congrats. Unfortunately, P2 itself contains an entire argument in and of itself, which does not follow from its own premise. Essentially what you are doing here is called Poisoning The Well. You define Natural Explanation in a way that allows you to invalidate it in the following premise. An analogy:

P1: All people are either Men (humans with penises) or Women (humans with 20-foot-long legs, tusks, and shells on their backs.
P2: No humans have tusks
C: Therefore, all people are Men.

You can't say that, for the universe to have a natural explanation, the laws of physics must apply to it at its inception. In point of fact, the Big Bang hypothesis states quite the opposite: that space-time started in an initial state of being infinitely compressed and then began to expand. At this state, the laws of physics quite certainly did not apply to it, as the laws of physics were actually formed after this.

A7, though it does not state it (and is therefore illogical), requires A6 and A5 to work, which are both currently not legitimate as arguments.

This is definitely getting better though. Keep working at it.

Bryan said...

Rod...

The premise (P3) you don't accept from A4:
- Converting a state of nothingness into something (especially something as large and complex as the universe) would require unimaginable power. (for a defintion, I'll go with the first one google gives me: having great power or force or potency or effect)

I'm comfortable with your rejection of this. Apparently you find it reasonable to think that converting a state of nothingness into something as complex and large as the universe does not require power. Fair enough, we'll agree to disagree, and I'll know that you will go on thinking I'm the irrational one.

-----

The premise (P3) you don't accept from A5:
- The Anthropic Constants, being as precise as they are, are best explained by a supremely intelligent cause.

Fair enough, got a little lazy/tired there. That premise needs some fleshing out.

-----

The premise (P1) from A6 where you say I'm poisoning the well:
- There are two possible explanations for the cause of the universe, a Natural explanation (provided in terms of precedent events, causal laws, or necessary conditions that invoke natural existents) or a Personal explanation (given in terms of the intentional action of a rational agent)

Unless there's some sort of alternative defintion/description of Poisoning the Well, I'm not sure you're naming the fallacy you're thinking of.

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/poisoning-the-well.html tells me Poisoning the Well "involves trying to discredit what a person might later claim by presenting unfavorable information", not a terse definition of terms concept you try to introduce. At any rate, it seems to me your objection is only invalid if my definition of terms is innacurate. Since my definition of 'Natural' and 'Personal' are accurate (unlike your definition of Men and Women), I'm comfortable not addressing your objection any further here as well.

-----

--yousay--
This statement is equivalent to saying "time had a beginning" which is comically ludicrous.
--endyousay--
I agree, it's quite difficult to comprehend something like this. That being said, all that I read (and I'm obviously a laymen in the fields of cosmology and physics) indicates that space, time and matter did not exist prior to the Big Bang (the creation of the universe). I'm well aware of the Appeal to Authority... atheists use it all the time. I don't know how many times I've read that such-and-such majority percentage of college professors around the globe are atheists, so I ought to just trust their smarts. That being said, I know one single quote does not a heap of evidence make, but for the sake of brevity, I'll use just one... the same one I've already used...

Barrow and Tipler again... "At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo."

How else am I supposed to interpret that, other than understand it to say that prior to the singularity, neither space or time existed? I'm freely admitting saying 'time had a beginning' is more than a little hard to conceive... but that's what the scientific evidence seems to indicate as far as I can tell. After looking at this case, it seems to me that it could be possible that human reasoning has its limits, that there are some things that human reasoning can simply not make sense of.


Let me recap where we are here.

A1 is fine -- I assert that it is true that the universe had a cause because...
A2 is fine -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be something other than itself because..
A3 is fine -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be timeless, non-spatial and immaterial because...
A4 is fine for me because I'm willing to accept the premise that it takes power to create something out of nothing and not fine for you because you're not willing to accept said premise. -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be unimaginably powerful because...
A5 could still use some logical work because the premise 'The Anthropic Constants, being as precise as they are, are best explained by a supremely intelligent cause.' needs to be better established in an argument. -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be intelligent because...
A6 is fine for me because I'm content that the definitions I give for 'Natural' and 'Personal' are accurate but not fine for you because you evidently are not content with my definitions. -- I assert that it is true that the cause of the universe must be personal because...


At any rate, I do appreciate the QA work on my logic.

Rod said...

Bryan,

This really isn't about what arguments are "fine for you" vs "fine for me". These are not matters of taste - these are supposedly factual and logical arguments. You posit that you can provide a solid logical argument for the existence of a personal god based on the existence of the universe and the fact that it started from nothing.

Of course a premise lacking a solid foundation is "fine for you". No logic at all would be fine for you, since you have faith. Demian, CWM, and myself do not have faith, and your contention is that we can come to believe in God without it, through this argument.

The problem you have in A4 is that your premise essentially assumes the conclusion true in the premise. By using words like "converting", you assigning personal actions to the development of the universe from a state of nothingness into a state of something. You say it would take power, and then define having power as "having great power", which fails to see my point in the questionable use of it. "Having power" seems like something only a personal entity could do. This premise assumes that the 'converting factor' was personal in the way it is worded. This is not a matter of P3 being "okay with you" - the fact is that it is an unsupported premise.

Let me assist you, and rewrite A4 for you in a way that makes it reasonable:

A4 (Revised):
P1: The universe had a cause. (C from A1)
P2: The universe exists because a state of nothingness transformed into the time-space-material universe that we inhabit.
P3: Converting a state of nothingness into something would require unimaginable power on the part of any personal entity doing it.
C: Therefore, if the cause of the universe was personal, it must be unimaginably powerful in order to be able to cause the universe to come into being

And bingo, A4 is fine now. Of course, it depends on the success of A6 to be worth a shit, which brings us to the next issue...

First of all, good catch on the incorrect usage of poisoning the well. What I meant to say, as you've deduced, is that you are defining words in a way that makes the concepts to which they are attached easy to debunk in later premises. Your problem is that you define "Natural" to include the laws of physics. This would normally be fair, but we're talking about some pretty heavy cosmological concepts. The Big Bang is a "natural" explanation, in that it invokes nothing supernatural, and yet the laws of physics as we know them do not apply to it. Instead the laws dictating the Big Bang are quantum cosmology laws, which are far more difficult to understand than your basic V = mA.

Also, P1 from A6 suffers from a false dichotomy fallacy (disjunctive syllogism form) - http://www.fallacyfiles.org/eitheror.html. You could reword P1 to be less fallacious by saying "either a Natural explanation or an Unnatural explanation", or a "Personal explanation or an Impersonal explanation". Your dichotomy excludes the possibility of the Big Bang, by pure assertion alone, by claiming that essentially the universe needed to come about according to our natural laws, or by a God. And of course the universe created our natural laws, so that only leaves God.

I'm sure it seems valid to someone who believes in the truth of the conclusion, but I really hope you can see why it is not logically sound.