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Hyperskepticism: The Wrong Side Of A Continuum

Philosophers and scientists who know their business recognize that any attempt to seek knowledge presupposes the existence of a rational universe ripe for investigating. The fact that we even bother to make the effort says something about our nature. As Aristotle says, “all men by nature want to know.” That is why the discovery of a new fact or truth can be a joy for its own sake. To be sure, knowledge also provides practical benefits, empowering us to pursue a self-directed life style, but it also edifies us, leading us on the road to self-actualization. To be intellectually healthy is to be curious.

On the other hand, we can, by virtue of our free will, act against our natural desire to know. For better or worse, there are some truths that many of us would prefer not to know about. The compelling nature of an objective fact can pull us in one direction while the force of our personal desires can pull us in the opposite direction. When this happens, a choice must be made. “Either the thinker conforms desire to truth or he conforms truth to desire.”–E. Michael Jones

Because we experience this ambivalence about the truth, we must be on guard against two errors: (a) talking ourselves out of things that we should believe [hyperskepticism] or (b) talking ourselves into things that we should not believe [gullibility]. Hyperskeptics attempt to justify the first error by calling attention to the second error, as if there was no reasonable alternative to either extreme. On the contrary, the ideal solution is to seek a rational midpoint –to balance a healthy skepticism about unconfirmed truth claims with a healthy confidence in truths already known. The one thing a thinker should not do is be skeptical or open-minded about the first principles of right reason, without which there is no standard for investigating or discoursing about anything “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”– G. K. Chesterton

In the spirit of public service, then, I present this little test for analyzing our readers’ proclivity for hyperskepticism. Hopefully, those who indulge will not find any predictable patterns, since I strove to keep them at a minimum.

Yes or No

[1] Can we know anything about the real world?

In asking this question, I am probing for your orientation on the matter of external facts with respect to our internal experience. Can we really know if such a thing as a tree exists, or is it the case that we simply experience mental representations of something that may not be a tree at all? [Reminiscent of Kant’s hyperskepticism]

[2] If the answer to [1] is no, is it, under those circumstances, possible to conduct rational investigations or participate in rational discourse?

If I can feel the experience of something that seems like a tree, without knowing that it is a tree, or if I am just using words to describe my experience, can I use my reason to draw other meaningful conclusions about the world? In other words, can I, absent a knowable external reality, reason not just validly [with internal consistency] but also soundly [align my understanding with the truth of things]?

True or False

[3] The law of non-contradiction [a thing cannot be and not be at the same time] is not a self-evident truth.

Inasmuch as scientific progress has demonstrated that Aristotle was wrong about the four basic elements of the earth, it is not unreasonable to suggest that he was also wrong about his so-called laws of logic.

[4] The law of causality is a self-evident truth.

I can accept this proposition unconditionally, not only as a second law of logic, but also as an intellectual companion to the first law of logic? Put another way, if a thing cannot be and not be at the same time, that fact influences or informs the law that nothing can come into existence without a cause. There is a logical connection between the claim that Jupiter cannot both exist and not exist and the claim that it cannot come into existence without a cause?

[5] Our knowledge of the real world is reliable but imperfect.

We may not know everything there is to know about a tree, but we do know that something is there that we call a tree and that it is more than just a collection of parts–something that exhibits “treeness.”

[6] A finite whole can be less than any one of its parts.

A crankcase can, in some cases, be greater than the automobile of which it is a part.

[7] The universe is ordered.

Material objects move in such a way as to indicate some kind of function or purpose.

[8] The universe may be ordered to a purpose, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it needed an intelligence to do the ordering or establish the purpose.

Purpose can exist without intelligence.

[9] The universe is, indeed, ordered, but that doesn’t mean that its order is synchronized with our mind’s logic.

The mind’s logic [if it’s raining, the streets will get wet] may be inconsistent with the order of the universe [If it’s raining, the streets may not necessarily get wet.] The proposition that there is an unfailing correspondence between the logic our rational minds and ordering of the rational universe is something that should be demonstrated through evidence and cannot be reasonably accepted as a “self-evident truth.”

[10] There can be more than one truth?

Each specialized branch of knowledge can have its own brand of truth, and that truth may well be incompatible with truths found in other specialized areas.

[11] In some cases, a cause can give more than it has to give.

Something can come to exist in the effect that was not first present in the cause. It may well be, for example, that an immaterial mind could emerge from matter even though matter has no raw materials containing anything like immaterial mental substances.

12-20, Yes, No, or I don’t know.

[12] Does truth exist?

Is truth absolute, not relative–objective, not subjective–universal, not contextual–and indivisible, not many?

[13] Is there such a thing as the natural moral law?

Is there an objective standard of right and wrong that we [humans] did not invent [or socially construct] and to which we are morally obliged to follow in spite of our personal preferences or in spite of public opinion?

[14] Does the human conscience exist?

Do we, as humans, possess some kind of inborn instinct that makes us feel bad about ourselves when we do something wrong and feel good about ourselves when we do something right. Can that same conscience be habitually silenced and ignored to the point at which it stops sending signals?

[15] Is design detectable?

Can we discern the presence of intelligence from the biological and cosmological patterns found in nature? Can we discover the presence of intelligence from patterns found in human artifacts even if we know nothing about the history of those artifacts? Can minds detect the activity of other minds?

[16] Does God exist?

Is there a personal, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, self-existent God who created the universe and all the creatures that inhabit it?

[17] Is God organic with the universe?

Could God and the universe be one and the same thing?

[18] Can matter investigate itself?

In order for a scientist or a philosopher to investigate the universe or the world, must he exist as a substance of a different kind than the object of his study? Are two such realms of existence really necessary, or can the relationship between the investigator and the object of investigation be explained from a monistic framework.

[19] Evidence can speak for itself; it need not be interpreted by or mediated through the rules of right reason.

Science can stand alone. It needs no metaphysical foundations in order to be rational.

[20] Ask yourself this question: Do I have free will?

Do I have something to say about my fate? Can I say that I could have made choices other than the ones that I did make, or that I could have created outcomes different than the ones I did create? Do I have the power to act contrary to my nature, predisposition, desires, and appetites?

True/ False

[21] If the ordered universe is synchronized with the laws of logic, it could be a coincidence.

Even if we do have “rational” minds, and even if they do correspond to a “rational universe,” there is no reason to suggeset that it had to be set up by something or someone. It could just be that way.

[22] Theistic Darwinism is a reasonable hypothesis.

A purposeful, mindful God may well have used a purposeless, mindless process to create humans.

[23] A universe can come into existence without a cause.

Not all effects require causes. Further, some things that are often characterized as effects, such as our universe, may not really be effects at all. Even if it does, itself, act as a cause, the physical universe could be, but need not be, the result of a prior cause.

[24] Unguided evolution is a reasonable hypothesis.

There is no reason to believe that humans could not emerge as a lucky accident from solely naturalistic forces.

[25] Cause and effect can occur without a first cause.

Granted, a cause/effect chain exists in nature, but that fact alone does not compel us to posit that only a first cause or causeless cause can explain

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354 Responses to Hyperskepticism: The Wrong Side Of A Continuum

  1. Very interesting points. Thank you Stephen.

  2. [22] Theistic Darwinism is a reasonable hypothesis.

    A purposeful, mindful God may well have used a purposeless, mindless process to create humans.

    That us not what theistic evolutionists believe. It doesn’t make for a very good questionnaire if your descriptions don’t accurately describe the questions.

  3. [11] In some cases, a cause can give more than it has to give.

    Something can come to exist in the effect that was not first present in the cause. It may well be, for example, that an immaterial mind could emerge from matter even though matter has no raw materials containing anything like immaterial mental substances.

    I have twice, I think, discussed this with you, in particular wanting to know how ones knows whether “something was in the cause or not” without just looking to see if it was there – what criteria do you in looking at the original things to decide what it is or isn’t capable of producing. Your answers have always just been circular, without answering the question.

    This question (11) is not a useful indicator of anything.

  4. [4] The law of causality is a self-evident truth.

    For the record, I believe you and others agreed that acts of free will violate this law.

  5. [7] The universe is ordered.

    Material objects move in such a way as to indicate some kind of function or purpose.

    Is that what you mean by ordered? And what do you mean by “purpose” here. The basic constituent parts of the universe have an inviolable nature such that they interact consistently with other parts so as to produce ordered entities: think gases coming together to form a star. But they don’t do so for any purpose, and I’m not sure you could say that they function to do so.

    So I don’t think that your description of “ordered” is what is general meant here.

  6. And one last response: last time Stephen did this, I and few others answered “I don’t know – outside the scope of the ability of humans to know” to the questions about God, absolute moral law, and others. Stephen scored these as points for hyperskepticism, which I think betrays his bias. I think that such views as mine are good, reasonable middle-of-the-road skepticism.

  7. —Aleta: “For the record, I believe you and others agreed that acts of free will violate this law.”

    I have been very clear with my argument that acts of free will do not violate the law of causality.

  8. —Aleta: “That us not what theistic evolutionists believe.”

    I didn’t use the word “Theistic evolutions,” I used the word, “Theistic Darwininist.” A Theist, insofar as he is an evolutionst, believes that God either programmed or guided the process; a Darwinist is someone who believes that the process was undirected. Therefore, a Theistic Darwinist is someone who believes that God directed the evolutionary process, except that he didn’t.

  9. Stephen: “I have been very clear with my argument that acts of free will do not violate the law of causality.”

    Agreed – looking back, you did not put it that way. At the end of the Fibonacci thread, you wrote,

    Aleta: I think the term first cause, or uncaused cause can be misleading in some contexts. For example, when we refer to God as the uncaused cause, or first cause, we are paying tribute to the fact that nothing at all preceded him or caused his existence. That is the way I am using the term.
    There is, however, another way to use that term, that is, we can refer to “a” first cause as opposed to “the” first cause, when discussing those things that humans can do after having been given the power to be a causal agent.

    When Geisler speaks of the exercise of the will as the first cause of our actions, I would argue that he is not speaking of “the” first cause but rather “a” first cause. He is saying that humans are doing something that God would not necessarily have done.

    I took this (in the context of the rest of that discussion) to mean that acts of human free will are not caused by anything preceding them, and I wrote a post describing how every act of free will inserts a new local first cause into the chain of material causes flowing by.

    Do you agree that acts of free will do act as uncaused causes in this local sense (although obviously not in the global sense that God is the ultimate first cause.)?

  10. Stephen, perhaps it would be helpful if you stated the law of causality in a way that took into account the exercise of free will.

  11. Also, Stephen, I noticed that you used theistic darwinist rather than theistic evolutionists, but I have never known anyone to distinguish between the two terms. Do you know anyone at all who is a theistic darwinist as opposed to a theistic evolutionist?

  12. –Aleta: “I have twice, I think, discussed this with you, in particular wanting to know how ones knows whether “something was in the cause or not” without just looking to see if it was there – what criteria do you in looking at the original things to decide what it is or isn’t capable of producing. Your answers have always just been circular, without answering the question.”

    No, my answers have not been circular. You continue to misunderstand the principles involved. One cannot “determine” in any given case whether something in the effect was or was not first in the cause any more than one can determine if Jupiter can exist and not exist at the same time. One must aleady know, in principle, that nothing can be in the effect that was not first in the cause, just as one must know, in principle, that a thing cannot be and not be at the same time. You don’t reason TO the law of causality, you reason FROM it. It is the starting point from which you determine other things. We are talking about a fundamental law of science that you, as a hyperskeptic, do not accept.

    —This question (11) is not a useful indicator of anything.

    Oh, but it is. It shows that you accept, in principle, that something can be in the effect that was not first in the cause, a circumstance that would violate the law of causality and, given your acceptance of that possibility, confirm your status as a hyperskeptic.

  13. —”Do you agree that acts of free will do act as uncaused causes in this local sense (although obviously not in the global sense that God is the ultimate first cause.)?”

    No. An act of free will is caused by the self.

  14. No Stephen – you are not understanding my point. I an not disagreeing with the principle than something can not be in the effect if it wasn’t in the cause. I accept that. What I am arguing is that there is really no way – or at least you haven’t provided one in the discussions we have had – to determine if the effect was in the cause other than looking to see if the effect follows the cause. That’s what circular.

    That is, the principle may be true in theory but it is useless in practice. It doesn’t help us figure anything out – it just adds a meaningless bit of philosophy to an observed fact.

    For instance, if we have a whole bunch of hydrgen and helium molecules floating around that later condense into a star under the force of gravity, and then later oxygen molecules are formed in the star and still later that oxygen is flung out into space when the star comes to the end of its life, then we can say that oxygen is potentially present in the original mass of hydrogen and helium molecules. How do we know? Because it happened. Does it add anything to say “the effect must have been present in the cause”? No.

  15. Stephen: No. An act of free will is caused by the self.

    True, but does anything cause the particular choice the self makes? That is, is there any antecedent chain of causes passing through the self, so to speak, or does the self initiate a new chain of causes which then merge with the material chain of causes with which the self interacts?

    That is, can ask “what caused me to make this freely willed choice?”, or is the very question an oxymoron

  16. —Aleta: “Also, Stephen, I noticed that you used theistic darwinist rather than theistic evolutionists, but I have never known anyone to distinguish between the two terms.”

    I think the term “Theistic Darwinist” is more accurate. Yes, I have heard others insist on the distinction.

    —”Do you know anyone at all who is a theistic darwinist as opposed to a theistic evolutionist?”

    Define “theistic evolutionst.”

  17. —Aleta: “That is, the principle may be true in theory but it is useless in practice. It doesn’t help us figure anything out – it just adds a meaningless bit of philosophy to an observed fact.” [Law of causality]

    You think that the law of cause and effect is useless? It helps us “figure out” everything in science that we figure out. It also helps us to know when someone is trying to con us, as was evident on Larry King the other evening when a couple of misguided physicists tried to argue that our universe could have created itself. Both hyperskeptics were advancing an irrational argument precisely because they were hyperskeptics. Do you understand why their argument [was] is irrational?

  18. somewhat off topic:

    Here is a collection of the top critiques against Hawking’s new book:

    Not-so Grand Design roundup
    http://triablogue.blogspot.com.....undup.html

  19. Why can’t one search for causes in nature without believing in a law of causality?

    Is causality a logical relationship or an empirical one?

  20. It also helps us to know when someone is trying to con us, as was evident on Larry King the other evening when a couple of misguided physicists tried to argue that our universe could have created itself.

    If causality is an empirical relationship, it is not irrational to argue that our universe created itself. The merit of that argument would depend upon the empirical evidence for the claim.

  21. re 18: if you think theistic evolutionist and theistic darwinist are the same, then you have inaccurately described that position in question 22.

    A theistic evolutionist is one who believes that ultimately all that happens reflects God’s will, and that what appears as chance (or contingency) to us is not chance to God. Christians believe that God guides the events of their daily life in such a manner – that even if things appear “lucky” to us they were meant to be that way by God. The same attitude provides to everything that happens, or has happened, since the beginning of time.

  22. Oops = the preceding remark was re 17 on theistic evolution.

    On 18, you are still not getting my point – you don’t even seem to be trying to address it. I’ll grant the principle “nothing is in the effect that wasn’t in the cause.” What I am saying is that there is no way to determine if in fact something was “in the cause” than to look and see if it was in fact caused. The principle gives a guiding faith that we can find causes, but it doesn’t help us figure out any anything about any particular situation

  23. Stephenb

    I can see that this is a neat summary of your beliefs
    but I don’t see that it has much to do with scepticism. It is easy to list your beliefs and then claim that anyone who disagrees is being excessively sceptical. It depends on why the other person disagrees with you.

    (A) If the counter argument is “You believe X and I don’t see why it is necessarily true.” Then taht is a sceptical position (although it may be a valid)

    (B) If it is “You believe X but I have a different belief Y for these reasons” then that is a positive belief and I don’t see that it counts as scepticism.

    Your questionnaire leaves no scope for the respondent to explain which is their position.

    For example, take [16] Does God Exist. If someone says “I don’t belief it – where’s the evidence?” that is sceptical (although in my opinion a valid point). If someone says “I believe there is no God. There has been numerous attempts to try and define what God is and then prove its existence. They have all failed.” then that is not scepticism.

  24. 25

    StephenB,

    Why wasn’t “Free will exists” one of your true/false statements? You assume it to exist in the body of your article, but it seems to me to be one of the biggest questions of all. Why do you assume free will to exist (which it does not)?

  25. Markf you state:

    ‘There has been numerous attempts to try and define what God is and then prove its existence. They have all failed.” then that is not scepticism.’

    Actually markf the evidence for the subsistence of God in His ‘highest’ transcendent framework, and of His handiwork in this universe and in life on earth, is overwhelming! Overwhelming to the point of ridiculous absurdity! I consider clear as can be that the reason why you do not accept any of the multitude of evidences that can and have been presented to you is precisely because of your hyperskepticism (and I think StephenB is being extremely generous to call your position that!):

    Let There Be Light
    http://lettherebelight-77.blog.....is_19.html

  26. 27

    crap, I don’t know how I missed #20. I’m off to a bad start on this discussion.

  27. markf,

    And could you please tell me exactly why you are not hyperskepical (or even skeptical to just a minimal degree) of any of the gigantic absurdities coming from the atheistic/materialistic framework?

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

  28. I’ll note, in fairness to Stephen, that he set up gullibility as the opposite end of the spectrum in respect to hyperskepticism. I would rather be skeptical about things than be gullible about accepting things as true just because I want them to be true, or because a sense of hyperconfident certainty is so much easier to live with than uncertainty.

  29. But Aleta, your continued justification of your ‘uncertainty’ is just an attempt to deflect the crushing critique that StephenB has rightly leveled against your hyperskepticism in the first place!

    And Aleta, why are you not also even just a little skeptical of any of the patent absurdities coming from your ‘preferred’ position of atheistic materialism, instead of only being hyperskeptical of Theistic positions?

  30. 31

    Hello MHocumbrink,

    Welcome to UD. I have seen you on the internet arguing for ID, and secondarily I know you to be a theist.

    For this reason, your post where you state that free will does not exist is somewhat baffling to me.

    The non-existence of free will (and mind, and self) is a materialist’s claim. It there is no free will (or mind, or self) then mechanical man is a material automoton without choices or responsibilities for his actions (other than that arbitrarily placed upon him by a society which, after all, must do something with the obvious fact that man makes freely willed choices in life).

    Am I misunderstanding you? If I am, I apologize up front.

  31. ba, I am not an atheistic materialist, so you can go argue that situation with someone else.

  32. 33

    Let me try this again:

    Regarding #20, Ask yourself this question: Do I have free will?

    “Free will” is a misnomer in that it makes people think of something that the term in no way alludes to. When people say “I have free will”, what they really mean to say is “I have freedom to CHOOSE” between this or that option. But choice is contingent on desire, or rather our choices are driven by our desires. So it would be better to say “I have freedom to CHOOSE whatever I DESIRE”, which is of course true, and this is as far as most people will give it any thought. But “free will” does not deal with us having the freedom to make a choice, it deals with our freedom to choose our desires, which like I said, nobody ever thinks about.

    So it would be more helpful to ask “Can I choose my desires?”, which would be a resounding “No”. And if our choices are driven by our desires, but we cannot choose what we desire, then we are “enslaved” to our desires, and we will go in whatever direction they lead us.

  33. actually M. Holcumbrink I disagree with this statement:

    ‘“Can I choose my desires?”, which would be a resounding “No”.’

    this is why:

    Brains On Purpose
    Excerpt: Jeffrey Schwartz – Decades ago, he began to study the philosophy of conscious awareness, the idea that the actions of the mind have an effect on the workings of the brain. Jeff’s breakthrough work in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) provided the hard evidence that the mind can control the brain’s chemistry.
    http://westallen.typepad.com/b.....artz_.html

    Further notes:

    Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz’ Four Steps
    http://www.hope4ocd.com/foursteps.php

    Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz – Focused Attention Changes Behavior – United Nations Video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycnIO4o9vbE

    You are your genes? Oh, maybe not – Jonathan Wells Quote:
    “Except for some rare pathological conditions, it has been impossible to tie human behavior to specific genes.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com...../#comments

    Second Thoughts About a Gene for Alcoholism
    In fact a majority of children of alcoholics do not become alcoholic themselves, for whatever reason. No epidemiologic study has ever found that as many as half of such children develop a drinking problem of their own, and most research places the figure at 25 percent or less.
    http://www.peele.net/lib/atlcgene.html

    Scientific Evidence That Mind Effects Matter – Random Number Generators – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4198007

  34. Aleta I’m sorry I was confusing your actions with your words once again. :)

  35. 36

    Upright, good to hear from you! I’m at my wits end with those other guys. Maybe I’ll just hang out here for a while where the people seem to be more sensible (most of them anyway).

    Upright, you say, “The non-existence of free will (and mind, and self) is a materialist’s claim.”

    Actually, I believe it to be a central message of the Bible (as argued by Augustine, Luther, Calvin).

    - – - “It there is no free will (or mind, or self) then mechanical man is a material automoton without choices or responsibilities for his actions.”

    I believe scripture to claim that we are indeed “enslaved” to our desires, but we are not automatons, or robots, if you will. Our “desire” is what distinguishes us from robots. We don’t just react to stimuli, we “desire”. I think there is a huge difference. And we will not only be held to account for our actions, but our desires as well (thou shalt not covet).

  36. 37

    BA77, I’m not sure your links are applicable to the question (judging by the titles, that is, I’m not sure I will have time to read them).

  37. 38

    MHolcumbrink,

    I hope you do stick around, although I must say I disagree with your position.

    In one moment you are saying we are enslaved by what we desire, then you say we are not merely automotons reacting to stimuli we desire. It’s either one or the other it seems.

    In any case, I would simply say that to be “enslaved” to what you desire at one point, and then to have changed what it is that you desire in the next – IS an act of free will.

  38. M. Holcumbrink, the point of Dr. Schwartz studies, in a nutshell, is exactly to rigorously establish that our ‘desires’ are not final arbiters of our actions, as you had maintained.

  39. 40

    UB, you say: “In one moment you are saying we are enslaved by what we desire, then you say we are not merely automotons reacting to stimuli we desire. It’s either one or the other it seems.”

    We are automatons in the sense that we can only choose to do what our strongest desire would drive us to do (indeed, why would we choose to do anything otherwise?), but we are NOT automatons in the sense that robots cannot love, hate, take pleasure in doing what is right or wrong (or take pleasure in anything for that matter). External stimuli can drive us to do things: dust can make us cough, jolts of electricity can make our muscles move around, or, if you will, someone could tie strings to our arms and legs and make us dance a jig, but all of these are EXTERNAL stimuli. Desire is something that is WITHIN us, that controls us from within. I guess you could say it’s like programming. Desire drives us to eat, drink, sleep, have sex, etc. (actions that are more of “the flesh”), but desire also controls actions that are only described as love-filled, hate-filled, kind, selfish, etc. Automatons, in this sense, are not this way.

    - – - “In any case, I would simply say that to be “enslaved” to what you desire at one point, and then to have changed what it is that you desire in the next – IS an act of free will.”

    But think about this: assuming you had the ability to change a particular desire, what would prompt you to do so?

  40. 41

    BA77, you say: “the point of Dr. Schwartz studies, in a nutshell, is exactly to rigorously establish that our ‘desires’ are not final arbiters of our actions, as you had maintained.”

    I still maintain it. Dr. Schwartz’s studies, it seems to me, provide examples of “conflicting desires”. The only reason anyone is ever able to change their behavior is because of a DESIRE to do so. Your DESIRE to behave differently than what your destructive impulses are driving you to do is of absolute importance in behavior modification. For those who have no desire to get out of an addictive habit, there is no hope whatsoever of them getting out of it. There must be a “good desire” to offset the “bad desire”. I can think of countless examples of this, and you, as a Christian, should be well aware if this.

  41. But M. Holcumbrink does not the fact that you can even have the ‘outside observer perspective’ of seeing that strong desires drive much of what we ‘automatically’ do, defeat your contention that we are merely victims of our ‘strongest’ desires? In fact many times ‘desires’ must be reigned in by clearly addressing the ‘truth’ of the matter.,,, You may say that I just had a stronger desire to not have a desire when a destructive desire is brought under control, but this response fails to be nuanced enough by a far margin. It is not a battle of ‘desires’ that is going on when a destructive habit/desire is brought under control. Or else I could just say to practicing alcoholics,,,”If you just wanted to quit drinking badly enough you could quit”,, But if you have ever worked in this field chemical dependency you know that that is NOT going to work. Not by a long shot. The most effective way I have found when dealing with destructive ‘desires’ is to clearly state the truth of the matter to the situation. That is to say that a destructive desire is brought under control and ‘subsides’ due to transcendent truth being brought to bear on the desire.

  42. #26 BA77

    I am sorry, I should have been clearer. The point of my comment #24 was not to put forward a particular argument for atheism but just suggest that some arguments for atheism might reasonably be labelled sceptical and others not. What Stephenb has done is present a number of his core beliefs as yes/no/don’t know or true/false/don’t know questions and then count any answer that disagrees with his as sceptical, but without giving the answerer an opportunity to explain why they disagree.

  43. 44

    BA77, you say: “does not the fact that you can even have the ‘outside observer perspective’ of seeing that strong desires drive much of what we ‘automatically’ do, defeat your contention that we are merely victims of our ‘strongest’ desires?”

    No, of course not.

    - – - “It is not a battle of ‘desires’ that is going on when a destructive habit/desire is brought under control. “

    It most certainly is!

    - – - “Or else I could just say to practicing alcoholics,,,”If you just wanted to quit drinking badly enough you could quit”,, But if you have ever worked in this field chemical dependency you know that that is NOT going to work. Not by a long shot.”

    I agree. The reason it doesn’t work is because nobody can control how badly they want to quit.

    - – - “The most effective way I have found when dealing with destructive ‘desires’ is to clearly state the truth of the matter to the situation. That is to say that a destructive desire is brought under control and ‘subsides’ due to transcendent truth being brought to bear on the desire.”

    I agree. But when you open the dependant’s eyes to certain truths, what you are ultimately doing is instigating opposing desires (hopefully). For instance, an alcoholic might not realize that his dependency is destroying his relationship with a loved one. If the dependent values his relationship more than the chemical high he gets from the substance, and you bring it to his attention that the relationship is at stake, you can expect significant striving against the addiction. But note that this is entirely contingent on how much the dependant values (or desires) the relationship over and above the desire for the chemical high.

  44. 45

    M. Holcumbrink,

    I think you trivializaing free will by characterizing it as a “choice”. Free will is not free choice; choices are, of course, contextualized by one’s circumstances. I cannot choose to flap my arms and fly, so one can hardly say I have free choice.

    Will = intent, not choice. I have the capacity to intend anything I wish, whether it is physically available to me or not; whether it is rational or not. It is intent which provides the purpose by which contextualized choices are characterized and prioritized.

    If it is my intent to fly, save money, or to do good, this intent can then order my choices accordingly; however, no physical choice is necessary in order for me to have an intent. I can intend for my car to transform into a giant robot, and not do anything about it whatsoever.

    The great thing about intent is that it has a seemingly infinite capacity to order resources towards a goal. For instance, I merely intended to explain my position on free will to you, and how free will is not free choice, and without any careful planning or even much effort on my part, my intent produced a cascade of choices and actions (many below the conscious level, including literally trillions of autonomic body functions I had no conscious awareness of) that resulted in a post of @ 40^1200 bits of FSCI (much, much greater than that, if one factors in all the necessary biological activity), well beyond the reasonable, stochastic resources of this and many other universes to generate.

    Intent precedes choice. Free will is not free choice.

  45. 46

    BA77, what exactly do you think it means to be “born again”? What do you think it means to have the law “written in your heart”? Surely you don’t think that it means we have it memorized.

  46. —markf: “What Stephenb has done is present a number of his core beliefs as yes/no/don’t know or true/false/don’t know questions and then count any answer that disagrees with his as sceptical, but without giving the answerer an opportunity to explain why they disagree.”

    You seem to miss the point. The twenty five questions represent summaries and variations on explanations that the “answerer” has already provided.

    —”The point of my comment #24 was not to put forward a particular argument for atheism but just suggest that some arguments for atheism might reasonably be labelled sceptical and others not.”

    Which arguments for atheism would you say are NOT based on hyperskepticism? Can provide an example. I cannot identify your argument’s hyperskeptical roots until you articulate it.

    Also, please take note that I did not use the word, “skepticism.” I wrote: “On the contrary, the ideal solution is to seek a rational midpoint –to balance a healthy skepticism about unconfirmed truth claims with a healthy confidence in truths already known.”

    I am not arguing against healthy skepticism, which is rational and is an intellectual virtue. I am providing a general outline for hyperskepticism, which is irrational and is an intellectual vice.

    Hyperskeptics pose as healthy skeptics, which is why I am pointing out the differences.

  47. bornagain77 poses this question to markf:

    –”And could you please tell me exactly why you are not hyperskepical (or even skeptical to just a minimal degree) of any of the gigantic absurdities coming from the atheistic/materialistic framework?”

    You are making an important point here, and it is one that I thought about making in the opening. Ironically, hyperskepticism always leads to the gullibility,

    Q: Do you believe in the non-negotiable principles of right reason?

    A: Why, no! I am an intellectual; I need empirical proof for things like that. Nobody is going to pull one over on me.

    Q: Can a universe create itself?

    A: Sure, why not?

  48. 49

    William, you say: “I think you trivializaing free will by characterizing it as a “choice”.

    No, I said that other people think of “free will” as being able to choose. I do not think there is any such thing as “free will” at all.

    - – - “Free will is not free choice; choices are, of course, contextualized by one’s circumstances. I cannot choose to flap my arms and fly, so one can hardly say I have free choice.

    Who doesn’t understand this?

    - – - “Will = intent, not choice. Intent precedes choice. Free will is not free choice.”

    But why do you intend to do anything at all? The only reason you intend to do anything at all is because you desire to do it. Desire leads to intent which leads to action.

  49. Hypothetical conversations with imaginary people are rarely illuminating. :)

    Also, Stephen, you write,

    I am not arguing against healthy skepticism, which is rational and is an intellectual virtue. I am providing a general outline for hyperskepticism, which is irrational and is an intellectual vice.

    Hyperskeptics pose as healthy skeptics, which is why I am pointing out the differences.

    I consider myself the former. You consider me the latter. Why is it hyperskeptical to say that we can’t know whether God exists or not? And if I accept the possibility of God, how about the existence of Jesus, or Heaven and Hell. Am I hyperskeptical to doubt those, or is that a rational and healthy skepticism?

    And I really am most interesting in your response to my points about the effects being in the cause: how does one tell whether the effect was in the cause other than noting that indeed the effect followed from the cause?

  50. 51

    William, I regret sounding snarky when I said “who doesn’t understand this”, if it did.

  51. #47 Stephenb

    You seem to miss the point. The twenty five questions represent summaries and variations on explanations that the “answerer” has already provided

    I may well have missed the point ( I still can’t see where you made it). If each of the points 1-25 represents a particular sceptical argument then why not give the arguments rather than leave us to guessing what they are?

  52. 53
    William J. Murray

    M. Holcumbrink,

    Your question “why do you intend to do anything at all”, followed by your response “the only reason … is because you desire to do it” fails, because I can intend things I have no desire whatsoever to do.

    I can intend things that have nothing whatsoever to do with action at all.

  53. 54

    William, please give me an example of things that you do that you have no desire to do whatsoever.

  54. 55

    “I can intend things that have nothing whatsoever to do with action at all.”

    I agree with this. I am not arguing against that at all.

  55. Er, well, Adam & Eve desired life as well as the carefree existence of the garden, since all these things were “very good,” but they also desired to be “like God,” an attribute they believed they could obtain by eating the forbidden fruit. They made a free choice between competing desires. Someone said we simply choose the strongest desire. That would depend on what is meant by “strongest.” A desire to build up life is always “stronger”—in the sense of being more excellent—than any self-serving desire, just as life is better than death. It is quite possible, then, to choose a more excellent desire over one that seems more pressing (“stronger” in the usual sense) at any given moment. In fact we do it all the time.

    The meaning of the story is that we choose self-magnification, and therefore death, since we are mortal beings, over life; excessive self-love over love itself. This choice is set before us as the source of our misery. Since the fall, which led to death, all creation has been groaning in “bondage to the grave”—to its own mortality—which intensifies the desire for self-glorification. “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” It is from this bondage of our desires and of the will, which follows desire, that we are said to have been set free through grace. That is, if we are wise enough to grasp the freedom. To make the choice.

    But of course the Bible treats these things as psychological matters. Some of our commenters are taking them rather literally…?

  56. 57
    William J. Murray

    M. Holcumbrink said: “William, please give me an example of things that you do that you have no desire to do whatsoever.”

    I didn’t say that. I said: “… I can intend things I have no desire whatsoever to do.

    I’m intending right now that Jupiter turn deep blue. There is no desire on my part to do anything, or even to see it. I don’t care if it turns blue or not.

    My ability to intend is absolutely free, unconstrained by desire, logic, physics, or probability. It doesn’t even require me to be able to generate specific imagery or words, as my intent can be an uninterpreted, unfiltered primordial demiurge.

  57. M. Holcumbrink,

    For now, I can only relate my personal life experience to you, as to why I find you position not nuanced enough, to put it mildly.

    M. Holcumbrink, I was a victim of my desires to drink to the point of being homeless for a very long time. I tried all sorts of programs, churches, recovery centers and prayers,, etc.. that were available to me. I would always be sober for a little while and relapse shortly thereafter. I was to the point of killing myself because I could not control my desires in the least. i.e. I could not ‘muster desire’. (Desires which you are placing primary power to as to deciding our fates for our lives!!!) Yet I am sober this day as I have been for the past 5 years of days coming in November,,, God willing,,, but how was it possible for me to gain control of that out of control desire that was destroying my life??? It certainly wasn’t by a ‘base desire’, as you would think of the matter, overcoming another base desire. NO!!! It was because I learned that my thinking directly effected my desires, which is quite contrary to what you are asserting is true!. For instance early in my sobriety I would imagine going to a Bar and having a good time, playing pool, picking up a woman etc.. etc..,, and that old destructive desire would build to the breaking point fairly quickly,,, But the way I learned to bring that desire under control was to speak truth to it. For instance if I imagined picking up a woman at a bar, I would directly address to that desire by speaking truth into it such as,,,

    ‘You are not the suave good looking playboy that you think you are when you are drunk Phil, but you are in fact a man who drinks way too much at a bar, who in reality turns into a fairly loud foolish man that any self-respecting woman will avoid like the plague.”

    And M. Holcumbrink, like magic, just by me speaking truth into that imagination of going to the bar and picking up a woman, the desire would subside!!

    Thus much contrary to your claim for desires primacy over our lives,, I had a desire that would arise solely from my thinking (imagination),,, and as well I had that desire brought into submission by my thinking (by my being brutally honest with that imagination!)

    And Indeed M. Holcumbrink does not Jesus himself say:

    “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    ???

  58. 59

    William, you say: “I’m intending right now that Jupiter turn deep blue. There is no desire on my part to do anything, or even to see it. I don’t care if it turns blue or not.”

    At this point, I think we have different definitions of “intend”.

  59. 60
    William J. Murray

    M. Holcumbrink said: “At this point, I think we have different definitions of “intend”.”

    That should have been perfectly clear upon reading my post #45; in fact, I generated that post precisely because I disagreed with how you were representing “free will”, and since you agreed it does not mean “free choice”, but rather free intent, then we were obviously fundamentally disagreeing about what “intent” means.

    Do you not define intent the same way most dictionaries do? From dictionary.com:

    “1. to have in mind as something to be done or brought about.”

    Note that it can be about something to be done, or just something “to be brought about” … such as jupiter turnig blue.

    Please note dictionary.com’s definition of the noun “will”:

    “1. the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions: the freedom of the will.”

    Please note the latter part of that definition: the power of control the mind has over it’s own actions. IOW, my consciousness has the power to control its own behavior before it manifests as physical actions. How can the mind control itself, if mental actions like intent are caused by uncontrollable desires? How can one say that the mind controls itself at all if such “controls” are simply the effects of that which is not controlled by the conscious?

    IMO, you are attempting to subvert the very essential meaning of free will by categorizing it as something caused by something else.

    Desires do not cause intent; if they did, it would not be free will. As I’ve already demonstrated, it is possible to have an intent that is not generated by a desire to “do” that thing, observe it, or even care about it.

    However, it seems you don’t like the fact that I’ve demonstrated it, so now you seem to be seeking to define “intent” or “free will” conveniently so that it precludes my spot-on example from consideration.

  60. StephenB @48:

    You are making an important point here, and it is one that I thought about making in the opening. Ironically, hyperskepticism always leads to the gullibility,

    Is that claim based on experience or on a logical principle?

    Q: Do you believe in the non-negotiable principles of right reason?

    A: Why, no! I am an intellectual; I need empirical proof for things like that. Nobody is going to pull one over on me.

    Are the non-negotiable principles of right reason based on experience or on something else, such as logic? If the former, then empirical evidence is needed to support them. If the latter, what is the logical basis for them?

    Q: Can a universe create itself?
    A: Sure, why not?

    If self-creation is an irrational concept, is it a contradiction of:

    1) a logical law

    2) non-negotiable principles of right reason, or

    3) an empirical pattern that we can rely on?

  61. Stephenb, I think all you are saying is that people who disagree with you are hyperskeptics.

    Also, what is the difference between the atheists skepticism of your God, and your skeptism (I assume) of all other gods and religions past and present other than your own?

  62. —Aleta: “The principle gives a guiding faith that we can find causes, but it doesn’t help us figure out any anything about any particular situation.”

    That statement alone, which is untrue, confirms your status as a hyperskeptic.

  63. 64

    MHolcumbrink,

    Hello again. The argument you are making is one many of us are familiar with. Materialists make that argument with certain regularity around here. If they can reduce human behavior to competing brain states, then they can deny mind, will, and self. With those denied, then the immateriality of consciousness and information can be safely placed into the pile of human illusory by-products. With that, theism can pack it up and go home.

    The UD contributor GPuccio reminds that this model of reality denies the only thing anyone can really know, for it is directly from our individual consciousness that all things about reality are inferred. In other words, the only thing anyone actually knows starts with ‘I am here’. To deny the self is a logical disaster.

    As for myself, the argument of competing brain states has always been incomplete. Firstly one must simply assume that competing brain states are actually and ultimately compatible in some material measurement, as if they have weight and the heaviest one wins the day. I am not trying to make light of competing brains states (in fact I see it as having a great deal of validity); it is just that the argument as an overarching model of reality is seriously limited IMO.

    As WJM has suggested, there is always another layer to the incompleteness of the competing mechanical brain-state argument. For a brain state to change by means of being modified, something must (be “willing” to) allow that modification to take place. It is for certain there are people who have no intention of allowing their brain states to be challenged by anything whatsoever (i.e. think Ritnour or Smokey :) )

    Is there yet another mechanical brain state guarding the door, for or against, a change in mechanical brain states? A “Head Brain State” in charge perhaps – making these delicate decisions? Or, is it the self, asserting its free will?

    I hope you remain here long enough to see a materialist put forth this claim. It will be those contributors such as StephenB and others who will patiently force them into making the contradictions necessary to hold their view. It has happened so many times it cannot be counted.

  64. —Pedant: “Are the non-negotiable principles of right reason based on experience or on something else, such as logic?”

    No.

    The non-negotiable principles of right reason are self evident truths, one of which is the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction is not based on logic; logic is based on the law of non-contradiction. The law of causality is not based on science; science is based on the law of causality. Evidence does not inform the rules of right reason; the rules of right reason inform evidence.

    Do you believe that something can come into existence without a cause?

  65. Pedant in 61:

    “If self-creation is an irrational concept, is it a contradiction of:

    1) a logical law

    2) non-negotiable principles of right reason, or

    3) an empirical pattern that we can rely on?”

    Yes to all above.

    1) 0 != 1 law of identity and no set
    is larger than sum of it’s parts.
    0 + 0 != 1

    2) Laws of logic must apply all the time or there is no reason to presume they apply into anything.

    3) All empirical observations or patterns must be caused and logical or any knowledge of the world would be impossible to attain.

  66. [Ironically, hyperskepticism always leads to gullibility].

    —Pedant: “Is that claim based on experience or on a logical principle?”

    Both. Hyperskeptics, who begin by denying the obvious, always end up affirming the impossible. The two go together.

  67. Collin @2, thanks for the kind words.

  68. Stephen writes, “Aleta: “The principle gives a guiding faith that we can find causes, but it doesn’t help us figure out any anything about any particular situation.”

    That statement alone, which is untrue, confirms your status as a hyperskeptic.”

    I’m taking it that you aren’t actually going to discuss this issue with me. I find it interesting that you are not willing to look at details and particulars, or to honestly strive to understand the point I am making.

  69. But trying again, Stephen, looking at the example I gave earlier: would you agree that we can say that oxygen molecules, as an effect, must have “been present” in the large gas clouds of helium and hydrogen in the early universe? That is, is this situation not an example of the principle that “the effect must be present in the cause”?

  70. OT for my fellow Christians on UD, this new song is AWESOME,,,

    Heather Williams – Hallelujah – Lyrics
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OX2uM0L3Y1A

  71. Aleta in 7:

    “And one last response: last time Stephen did this, I and few others answered “I don’t know – outside the scope of the ability of humans to know” to the questions about God, absolute moral law, and others. Stephen scored these as points for hyperskepticism, which I think betrays his bias. I think that such views as mine are good, reasonable middle-of-the-road skepticism.”

    You are telling me “I don’t know” to the question whether it was absolutely wrong for Hitler to kill the Jews and you call this worldview reasonable middle-of-the-road skepticism? You must be kidding me right?

  72. Stephen:

    Stephen writes, “Aleta: “The principle gives a guiding faith that we can find causes, but it doesn’t help us figure out any anything about any particular situation.” That statement alone, which is untrue, confirms your status as a hyperskeptic.”

    I’ve been trying to figure what was so objectionable about my statement. Let me try to be very clear:

    1. I accept that we live in a causal universe: all effects have causes.

    2. I accept that therefore “there is nothing in the effect that wasn’t in the cause.”

    Because we accept these things, we believe that the world can be investigated and that we can find causal reasons for why particular events happen.

    Is there anything that I have said here that you disagree with?

  73. —Aleta: “Is there anything that I have said here that you disagree with?”

    Earlier, you wrote, “but it doesn’t help [the law of causality] us figure out any anything about any particular situation.”

    If the law of causality applies to EVERY situation, then obviously it applies to any PARTICULAR situation.

  74. Yes, it applies to every particular situation – I agree. I didn’t mean to imply otherwise.

    For instance, will you agree therefore that oxygen molecules are therefore “present” in the large masses of primordial helium and hydrogen, because eventually that helium and hydrogen, responding to gravitational forces, produce oxygen molecules in stars.

  75. RE 33 M Holcumbrink

    I have made these same observations many time on this forum. As for the rest of your posts I find little to disagree with which ,I know, is a minoruty position on this board.

    No choice can be freer than to be able to choose whatever it is we most want to choose.

    Stepehn B well done!

    Vivid

  76. 77
    William J. Murray

    M. Holcumbrink,

    I would like to add that, IMO, “desires” and other reasons are contextualized opportunities within which a person with free will can make meaningful intentions.

    A reason to “do” something, or intend something, is not the same as sufficient cause. Because apple pie exists, and I like the taste, is not the sufficient cause for an intent to eat apple pie. Nor would an additional circumstance of being overweight be a sufficient cause for me to intend to not eat the pie.

    Those are reasons which contextualize the framework for the expression of an intent; they do not “cause” the intent, because within the framework of all of those reasons, I might intend Jupiter to turn blue. Such reasons do not coerce the intent of a free will agency, they just provide contextual opportunity for specified expression if one wishes to utilize them in that manner.

  77. Let me expand a bit, using my example of the eventual production of oxygen from the primordial masses of helium and hydrogen gas, to see how much Stephen and I can agree on. Which of these statements do you accept, Stephen, and if not for any particular one, why not.

    1. Oxygen was “present” in the primordial gaseous state of the universe, because it was brought into existence by a long chain of causes starting with that gaseous state, and no effect can happen that was not present in its cause.

    2. However, since actual oxygen was not originally present, it be would reasonable, it seems to me, to say that the oxygen was potentially present: the gaseous state had the potential to produce oxygen.

    3. Now, the question is: at the beginning, in that gaseous state, how could one tell whether oxygen was potentially present? Presumably an omniscient being could tell because he would be able to see all the causal chains that led to the production of oxygen. However, a creature such as us would not be able to see this potential I don’t think: only after the chain has played out and we analyze, with hindsight, the causal chain can we say that the oxygen was present in the beginning state. That is, the only way we can know whether some potential effects are present is to see that in fact the effect has happened.

    4. This example shows that something very different from a certain set of original things can arise in the world. The word I want to use here is emerge, which is a word I know you don’t like, but the truth of the matter is that first there was no oxygen and then there was – what word would you use for this phenomena by which complex chains of causes produce things that are very unlike the starting components in the chain?

  78. Aleta as I am sure realize oxygen is necessary for higher life forms to exist, Do you think it was intelligently designed ,,, NO??? How about water? do you think it was intelligently designed for Hydrogen and oxygen to combine for life???

    Also of interest to the extreme difficultly man has in computing the folding of a protein within any reasonable amount of time, it seems water itself, (H2O), was ‘designed’ with protein folding in mind:

    Protein Folding: One Picture Per Millisecond Illuminates The Process – 2008
    Excerpt: The RUB-chemists initiated the folding process and then monitored the course of events. It turned out that within less than ten milliseconds, the motions of the water network were altered as well as the protein itself being restructured. “These two processes practically take place simultaneously“, Prof. Havenith-Newen states, “they are strongly correlated.“ These observations support the yet controversial suggestion that water plays a fundamental role in protein folding, and thus in protein function, and does not stay passive.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....075610.htm

    Water Is ‘Designer Fluid’ That Helps Proteins Change Shape – 2008
    Excerpt: “When bound to proteins, water molecules participate in a carefully choreographed ballet that permits the proteins to fold into their functional, native states. This delicate dance is essential to life.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....113314.htm

    how about the order in which elements were created in stars Aleta, will you once again say it is all just happenstance???

    As a sidelight to this, every class of elements that exists on the periodic table of elements is necessary for complex carbon-based life to exist on earth. The three most abundant elements in the human body, Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, ‘just so happen’ to be the most abundant elements in the universe, save for helium which is inert. A truly amazing coincidence that strongly implies ‘the universe had us in mind all along’. Even uranium the last naturally occurring element on the period table of elements is necessary for life. The heat generated by the decay of uranium is necessary to keep a molten core in the earth for an extended period of time, which is necessary for the magnetic field surrounding the earth, which in turn protects organic life from the harmful charged particles of the sun. As well, uranium decay provides the heat for tectonic activity and the turnover of the earth’s crustal rocks, which is necessary to keep a proper mixture of minerals and nutrients available on the surface of the earth, which is necessary for long term life on earth. (Denton; Nature’s Destiny). These following articles and videos give a bit deeper insight into the crucial role that individual elements play in allowing life:

    The Elements: Forged in Stars – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4003861

    Michael Denton – We Are Stardust – Uncanny Balance Of The Elements – Fred Hoyle Atheist to Deist/Theist – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4003877

    The Role of Elements in Life Processes
    http://www.mii.org/periodic/LifeElement.php

    Periodic Table – Interactive web page for each element
    http://www.mii.org/periodic/MIIperiodicChart.html

    as a sidelight, the complexity of computing the actions of even a simple atom, in detail, quickly exceeds the capacity of our most advanced supercomputers of today:

    Delayed time zero in photoemission: New record in time measurement accuracy – June 2010
    Excerpt: Although they could confirm the effect qualitatively using complicated computations, they came up with a time offset of only five attoseconds. The cause of this discrepancy may lie in the complexity of the neon atom, which consists, in addition to the nucleus, of ten electrons. “The computational effort required to model such a many-electron system exceeds the computational capacity of today’s supercomputers,” explains Yakovlev.
    http://www.physorg.com/news196606514.html

    Shoot Aleta,, Do you think this following ‘coincidence’ of science and scripture is just happenstance??

    As well as the universe having a transcendent beginning, thus confirming the Theistic postulation in Genesis 1:1, the following recent discovery of a ‘Dark Age’ for the early universe uncannily matches up with the Bible passage in Job 38:4-11 :

    For the first 400,000 years of our universe’s expansion, the universe was a seething maelstrom of energy and sub-atomic particles. This maelstrom was so hot, that sub-atomic particles trying to form into atoms would have been blasted apart instantly, and so dense, light could not travel more than a short distance before being absorbed. If you could somehow live long enough to look around in such conditions, you would see nothing but brilliant white light in all directions. When the cosmos was about 400,000 years old, it had cooled to about the temperature of the surface of the sun. The last light from the “Big Bang” shone forth at that time. This “light” is still detectable today as the Cosmic Background Radiation.
    This 400,000 year old “baby” universe entered into a period of darkness. When the dark age of the universe began, the cosmos was a formless sea of particles. By the time the dark age ended, a couple of hundred million years later, the universe lit up again by the light of some of the galaxies and stars that had been formed during this dark era. It was during the dark age of the universe that the heavier chemical elements necessary for life, carbon, oxygen, nitrogen and most of the rest, were first forged, by nuclear fusion inside the stars, out of the universe’s primordial hydrogen and helium.
    It was also during this dark period of the universe the great structures of the modern universe were first forged. Super-clusters, of thousands of galaxies stretching across millions of light years, had their foundations laid in the dark age of the universe. During this time the infamous “missing dark matter”, was exerting more gravity in some areas than in other areas; drawing in hydrogen and helium gas, causing the formation of mega-stars. These mega-stars were massive, weighing in at 20 to more than 100 times the mass of the sun. The crushing pressure at their cores made them burn through their fuel in only a million years. It was here, in these short lived mega-stars under these crushing pressures, the chemical elements necessary for life were first forged out of the hydrogen and helium. The reason astronomers can’t see the light from these first mega-stars, during this dark era of the universe’s early history, is because the mega-stars were shrouded in thick clouds of hydrogen and helium gas. These thick clouds prevented the mega-stars from spreading their light through the cosmos as they forged the elements necessary for future life to exist on earth. After about 200 million years, the end of the dark age came to the cosmos. The universe was finally expansive enough to allow the dispersion of the thick hydrogen and helium “clouds”. With the continued expansion of the universe, the light, of normal stars and dwarf galaxies, was finally able to shine through the thick clouds of hydrogen and helium gas, bringing the dark age to a close. (How The Stars Were Born – Michael D. Lemonick)
    http://www.time.com/time/magaz.....-2,00.html

    Job 38:4-11
    “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched a line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; When I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; When I fixed my limit for it, and set bars and doors; When I said, ‘This far you may come but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!”

    History of The Universe Timeline- Graph Image
    http://www.astronomynotes.com/.....meline.jpg

    I don’t know Aleta the evidence just goes on and on and all you do is shrug your hyperskeptical shoulders as if you had any rationality at all. I find your position completely absurd!

  79. Aleta @78:

    I like your use of the word “potential” in point number 2. Could humans, if they had been around to study the matter (and could be kept miraculously alive under those conditions) know that oxygen molecules were “potentially present?” I don’t know. I suspect that, after the fact, they could know that the potential had been there all along, but to able to know that they were already potentially present prior to the time they were produced would seem to be too much to ask.

    In any case, the law of causality does not require that the latter stages must be similar to the earlier stages. [Meaning that oxygen molecules did not always have to be around]. What it does require is that the causal conditions for the change must be in place before the change takes place and that the causal conditions are responsible for the change. In other words, a new situation does not “emerge” as a surprise outcome from the old situation, but rather it “unfolds” into that which it was designed to become.

    A tree, for example, does not emerge from an acorn; it unfolds according to its design. Potentially, the tree was in the acorn, and if the acorn did not have the capacity to become a tree, there would be no tree. Similarly, a baby does not emerge into an adult, it grows and matures according to its design.

    Put another way, the law of causality means that the changes under discussion were the result of an “unfolding” of the causal conditions that were already in place and inconsistent with the idea that the new conditions were unplanned and “emerged” as a surprise outcome. If, in the context of cosmological development, you believe in emergence and surprises, you are arguing against causality; if you believe in unfolding and planned outcomes, you are arguing on behalf of causality.

    Focus on the difference between the words emerge and unfold. It makes all the difference.

    Emerge = surprise outcome
    Unfold = maturation process

  80. Aleta,

    I really do not wish to intrude on your conversation with Stephen, and I appreciate the thought you’ve put into this causal chain of events. However, what must emerge from this mechanical chain is meaning. Prior to Life, no meaning existed on this planet.

    Are you able to offer any reasonable chain of events that suggest that meaning can arise from physical law (which is by definition, bereft of meaning?)

  81. 82
    William J. Murray

    Upright BiPed:

    Similarly difficult to explain would be foresight, or the ability to envision a future state and then organize resources in pursuit of the realization of that state.

    If the definition of nature is the blind interaction of particles as indicated by natural law, how is it those particles envision a non-existent future state and then begin to deliberately manipulate other molecules to attain that state, as they apparently when collected as human beings?

  82. StephenB said:

    The non-negotiable principles of right reason are self evident truths, one of which is the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction is not based on logic; logic is based on the law of non-contradiction. The law of causality is not based on science; science is based on the law of causality. Evidence does not inform the rules of right reason; the rules of right reason inform evidence.

    ———————-

    In other words, your ‘non negotiable principles of right reasoning’ are axioms. Now, there is nothing wrong with axioms, as long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that they are arbitrary choices and not necessarily corresponding to the actual state of affairs in the real world.

    Since axiom’s are arbitrary, one can for instance come up with one that says ‘all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe’. Positing such an axiom is just a valid as the one that merely says ‘all things that come into existence have a cause’. Since, as you say, neither logic nor empirical data can prove or disprove either one, it is pointless to argue about which one is true and which one is false.

    Claiming to be right on the basis that yours is a ‘self evident truth’ is mere bluster – many people find the alternative just as self-evident, if not more so. ‘Self-evidentiality’ as a truth criterion is worthless because of this subjectivism.

    fG

  83. faded you state:

    ‘Since axiom’s are arbitrary, one can for instance come up with one that says ‘all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe’.’

    Let me correct this for you

    ‘all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe’ all things.’

    You have just violated the law of non-contradiction, that StephenB elucidates so well, with the most spectacular contradiction of all that one can make!

    Does God Exist? – Argument From The Origin Of Nature – Kirk Durston – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4171846/

    The First Cause Must Be Different From All Other Causes – T.G. Peeler
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-358648

  84. StephenB,

    I don’t know where this fits in the rules of right reason, but I’ve just learned a new ‘rule’ of science.

    ‘To continue to deny the obvious in science always leads to greater absurdity of postulates’:

    Dr. Bruce Gordon – The Absurdity Of The Multiverse & Materialism
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5318486/

  85. 86

    Upright, BA77, & William:

    I read your latest, but I will not be able to reply in the detail I would like for a couple of days. I hope you don’t mind waiting.

  86. Thanks for replying, Stephen. I think we have some idea about areas of agreement now, and a key next issue to discuss.

    You write,

    Put another way, the law of causality means that the changes under discussion were the result of an “unfolding” of the causal conditions that were already in place and inconsistent with the idea that the new conditions were unplanned and “emerged” as a surprise outcome. If, in the context of cosmological development, you believe in emergence and surprises, you are arguing against causality; if you believe in unfolding and planned outcomes, you are arguing on behalf of causality.

    Although I have no problem with the word “unfolded”, as it implies the realization of a potential, I think the distinction you make between unfolded and emerged is not significant, because I have no idea what the difference is between a “surprise” outcomes and a “planned” one. If by a planned unfolding you are referring to the idea that the universe was designed so that oxygen was destined to unfold, then you are applying a theistic metaphysical explanation to the situation. On the other hand, I have no idea what a “surprise” outcome would be: surprising to whom? It doesn’t make sense to me to introduce a subjective emotion – surprise – into a logical discussion about causality

    And you say that such surprises would violate the law of causality, but I don’t see how. What break in the chain of causality could there be?

    It seems to me you are taking the whole question back to the question of whether God exists or not – if he does, then he designed things to unfold as they have, and it’s all planned, but if he doesn’t, then what happens is a surprising emergence (although still following the law of causality, as far as I can tell.)

    Suppose a theistic and a non-theistic scientist were discussing this situation. What you seem to be saying is that they would have to use different words to describe the same objective facts: one would say unfolded to express his belief that the effect was planned and the other to say emerged to express his belief that it wasn’t. However, the non-theist would still insist, I think, that the word surprise was not relevant at all, nor that the law of causality had been broken anyplace alomg the line from the beginning state to the production of oxygen.

    ===============
    Another situation to think about: Conway’s game of Life. (I’ll assume you know about this, or can Google it). Conway invented some very simple rules involving the cells on an infinite grid. Once a beginning configuration of “on” cells is selected, various patterns unfold/emerge and some of them are quite “surprising”. In fact, for a given beginning state, there is no way of knowing what the history of the configuration will be – all cells may eventually die, stable patterns may arise, moving patterns which shoot out infinitely far may happen, spectacular patterns can appear, etc.

    Is this unfolding or emergence? Does that distinction make any sense, even in the eyes of Stephen’s distinction. The laws of causality within the system are not violated. Even though the rules were designed, the patterns that emerge were not planned. They are just dynamic rules that make interesting things happen.

    ==============
    So, in summary, I think Stephen’s dsitinction between emergence and unfolding is, from a practical point of view, a non-distinction. It distinguishes between metaphysical positions – were the laws of nature designed by some supreme intelligence or not, but in practice both the theist and the non-theist see the laws of nature producing things quite different from the original things in the beginnings state. “Surprise” is not a relevant quality at all, and no laws of causality are violated irrespective of whether one believes God designed it all in the first place or not.

  87. Aleta, How come your response did not SURPRISE me? :)

  88. —faded glory: “Since axiom’s are arbitrary, one can for instance come up with one that says ‘all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe’.”

    Thank you for disclosing that which so many your colleauges also believe but were afraid to say out loud.

  89. faded_Glory @83:

    Claiming to be right on the basis that yours is a ‘self evident truth’ is mere bluster – many people find the alternative just as self-evident, if not more so. ‘Self-evidentiality’ as a truth criterion is worthless because of this subjectivism.

    I think that is a point worth underscoring. How could one devise a test that might support or falsify such a claim?

    What is self-evident to Jane may not be self-evident to Jack.

  90. StephenB @65:

    The law of non-contradiction is not based on logic; logic is based on the law of non-contradiction.

    That is a strong claim. What is the warrant for it?

    Evidence does not inform the rules of right reason; the rules of right reason inform evidence.

    The question remains: from whence do the rules of right reason arise? What is their cause?

    If you would provide a list of the rules of right reason and an argument for their existence – aside from intuition – it might advance the discussion.

    Do you believe that something can come into existence without a cause?

    I don’t know, but the question was: Can one entertain such a proposition without violating a rule of logic? If the proposition violates a rule of logic, what is the rule that is violated?

  91. Innerbling @66:

    1) 0 != 1 law of identity and no set
    is larger than sum of it’s parts.
    0 + 0 != 1

    What does that have to do with whether self-creation violates a logical law?

    2) Laws of logic must apply all the time or there is no reason to presume they apply into anything.

    That’s fine, but what law of logic does the idea of self-creation violate?

    3) All empirical observations or patterns must be caused and logical or any knowledge of the world would be impossible to attain.

    Are you saying that it is a priori impossible for anything to be self-caused? How can you possibly know that?

  92. –Aleta: “And you say that such surprises would violate the law of causality, but I don’t see how. What break in the chain of causality could there be.”

    If the universe “unfolds,” the seeds of its development were already in place in the form of causal conditions. It can only become that which it was caused to become. If it “emerges,” there are no seeds to define its development, no program to direct its path, no cause. It it had a cause, the cause would define, shape, and sustain its development. Without the power or direction to develop, it has no cause.

    Both the origin and the continued existence of every thing and every process we see must have a cause. The cause of the energy that keeps the universe going, for example, is just as much of an issue as the cause of its origin. The notion of emergence can touch neither of these realities. It simply assumes that the power which sustains the universe and keeps it into existence is no issue.

  93. StephenB @67:

    [Ironically, hyperskepticism always leads to gullibility].

    —Pedant: “Is that claim based on experience or on a logical principle?”

    Both. Hyperskeptics, who begin by denying the obvious, always end up affirming the impossible. The two go together.

    Sorry to be pedantic, but that looks to me like a restatement of the original claim, not an explanation of its warrant. For example, if the claim is based on experience, then it is possibly too broad, depending on the definition of ‘hyperskepticism.’ Alternatively, if it is based on a logical principle, what is the logical principle?

    I suspect that it is argument by definition, as markf pointed out @24:

    It is easy to list your beliefs and then claim that anyone who disagrees is being excessively sceptical. It depends on why the other person disagrees with you.

  94. [The law of non-contradiction is not based on logic; logic is based on the law of non-contradiction.]

    —Pedant: “That is a strong claim. What is the warrant for it?”

    Deductive logic is concerned with what must necessarily follow from the given premises. [If A, then B]. The reason that the conclusion necessarily follows is that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time. If it were otherwise, then the conclusion would not necessarily follow from the premises. Thus, it is the law of non-contradiction that informs deductive logic and not the other way around.

  95. —Pedant: “Alternatively, if it is based on a logical principle, what is the logical principle?” [Hyperskepticism leads to gullibility].

    The logical principle is that irrational assumptions lead to irrational conclusions.

    Hyperskepticism [there is no law of causality] leads to gullibility [universes can come into existence from out of nowhere].

    Hyperskepticism [there are no abolute truths] leads to gullibility and irrationality [it is absolutely true that there are no absolute truths.

  96. RE 83 fg

    “Now, there is nothing wrong with axioms, as long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that they are arbitrary choices and not necessarily corresponding to the actual state of affairs in the real world.”

    fg so your argument is that axioms are arbitrary therefore they need not correspond to the real world. Well then since Stephens axioms are arbitrary we can ignore your conclusion and treat it as the nonsense statement it is. Without invoking the very axioms you insist are not applicable at all times your conclusion is arbitrary as well. As usual you have both of your feet planted firmly in thin air.

    Vivid

  97. Response to Pedant in 92:

    Self-creation is the idea that something can come out of non-being and create
    itself. Something creating itself from non-being is same as 0 suddenly turning into 1 or
    any other number you can think of for no good reason at all. This is because at the
    first steps of self-creation out of non-being the first structure has to pop into being
    without any cause at all out of nothing. If there is something causing the first structure
    to come into being it’s no longer self-creation.
    Self-creation is clearly a violation of laws of logic i.e law of non-contradiction and law of identity and law that no set is larger than sum of it’s parts.

    As a practical belief self-creation is the most irrational thing one can believe even belief
    of Harry Potter books as a factual account of the world events would be more rational than
    that. I cannot think of any fictional claim that violates reason more than the claim that
    something can create itself out of non-being. As William Lane Craig says “it’s worse than magic”.
    I have faith that we are living in a rational world that is knowable by means of deduction,
    induction and application of laws of logic. This is a prescriptive worldview that asserts a priori that reason must apply at all times no matter how strange the behavior we observe.
    That is why I reject self-creation a priori.

  98. vividbleau said:

    fg so your argument is that axioms are arbitrary therefore they need not correspond to the real world. Well then since Stephens axioms are arbitrary we can ignore your conclusion and treat it as the nonsense statement it is. Without invoking the very axioms you insist are not applicable at all times your conclusion is arbitrary as well. As usual you have both of your feet planted firmly in thin air.

    ——————

    You have to run this past me a bit more slowly. If Stephen’s axioms are arbitrary, you can ignore my conclusion? Which conclusion are you referring to? Can you lay out your arguments a bit more?

    I also don’t understand why you, and Stephen often as well, insist that unless something is always applicable, it is never applicable. Is there only room for extremes in your thinking? Why is it not possible for some things, concepts, rules, to be valid in a great many circumstances, yet not all? And what is wrong with thinking that sometimes we may be able to use rational or empirical methods to try and understand under which conditions such things are not applicable?

    fG

  99. StephenB:

    “Hyperskepticism [there is no law of causality] leads to gullibility [universes can come into existence from out of nowhere].”

    This is nothing more than an opinion (and quite an insulting one). How can you possibly determine that universes cannot come into existence from out of nowhere?

    Innerbling, same comment applies to you. How can you state with certainty that 0 cannot suddenly turn into 1. You are arguing from credulity – along the lines of “I find it impossible to imagine something happening, therefore it is impossible for it to happen.”

  100. StephenB @95:

    [The law of non-contradiction is not based on logic; logic is based on the law of non-contradiction.]

    —Pedant: “That is a strong claim. What is the warrant for it?”

    Deductive logic is concerned with what must necessarily follow from the given premises. [If A, then B]. The reason that the conclusion necessarily follows is that a thing cannot be true and false at the same time. If it were otherwise, then the conclusion would not necessarily follow from the premises. Thus, it is the law of non-contradiction that informs deductive logic and not the other way around.

    Now I think I understand your explanation. I think my problem lay in your use of the term “based on.” I interpreted that to mean that logic follows deductively from the principle of non-contradiction, when your meaning was that logic incorporates the principle of non-contradiction. If that was your meaning, I agree, and I thank you for the clarification.

  101. StephenB @96:

    The logical principle is that irrational assumptions lead to irrational conclusions.

    That’s a logical principle? Where is that principle enunciated?

    It seems rather like an empirical hypothesis to me, because I can conceive of circumstances in which assumptions which one person might consider to be irrational can lead to rational conclusions.

  102. Innerbling @98:

    Self-creation is clearly a violation of laws of logic i.e law of non-contradiction and law of identity and law that no set is larger than sum of it’s parts.

    I don’t find that clear. How does the notion of self-creation violate those logical laws?

    Assume that one believes in a God. Does it violate a law of logic to postulate that one’s God is eternal or self-creating?

  103. 104

    Pedant,

    Self-creation indicates that a thing, or entity of some kind (the “self” in this instance) created itself.

    If the “self” in self-creation does not exist yet (because has not been created) then that self cannot be the cause of the creation?

    Something must precede the creation in order to cause it to come into being, and that thing certainly cannot be the self, because it literally does not yet exist.

    You are left with irrationality of something coming from nothing – as in no thing, the utter absence of anything at all.

  104. 105

    Padant,

    “Assume that one believes in a God. Does it violate a law of logic to postulate that one’s God is eternal or self-creating?”

    If everything in this material universe is contingent, then there must be at least one thing that is necessary – and that thing must not be contingent upon this material universe, but transcend it instead.

    Instead of violating a law of logic to postulate an extenal transcendence, logic all but demands it.

  105. I’m a little late here, but this discussion looks interesting. (MHolcumbrink, btw; I like your posts.)

    Upright BiPed @ 64 wrote:

    MHolcumbrink…: Materialists make that argument with certain regularity around here. If they can reduce human behavior to competing brain states, then they can deny mind, will, and self. With those denied, then the immateriality of consciousness and information can be safely placed into the pile of human illusory by-products.

    I may be misunderstanding something here, but I don’t think MHolcumbrink is arguing that the mind and the brain are identical, or that the mind can or should be reduced the brain. To argue against libertarian free will, is not to automatically (or necessarily) argue for the materiality of consciousness (and thus the irreality of the mind, the will and the self). As I mentioned on here a few weeks ago, you can deny libertarian free will but also be a substance dualist (I’d imagine this was Luther’s position as well as Calvin’s). So non-libertarianism does not equal materialism.

    StephenB:

    I’ve enjoyed your post. One thing I am slightly unsure about is your law of causality. Before commenting on it, am I right in thinking that this is the idea that all events (that have an origin) must have a cause? And by this, do you mean a fully sufficient cause? – Sorry if you have clarified this already, I have only skimmed the comments.

  106. —Green: “One thing I am slightly unsure about is your law of causality. Before commenting on it, am I right in thinking that this is the idea that all events (that have an origin) must have a cause? And by this, do you mean a fully sufficient cause? – Sorry if you have clarified this already, I have only skimmed the comments.”

    Thanks for your comments. The law I have in mind could be characterized as follows: Anything that begins to exist must have a cause. Defined in this context, a cause would simply be something that brings something else about.

  107. StephenB, thank you for your reply. From reading this, along with a couple of previous comments, I hope I’m right in thinking that the idea is basically that ‘the origin … of every thing and every process we see must have a cause’ (#93). I think that this is a very intuitive idea. But I have to confess that I don’t think one can have both this and libertarian free will. If one is true, the other is necessarily false.

    The reason I say this is because libertarians need something that is free from the law of causality – not something that is subject to it. If an agent is subject to the law of causality, then all the choices he makes are part of a deterministic chain of cause and effect. I.e. his choices are part of a deterministic process.

    In order for libertarianism to exist, something along the way must be uncaused. Typically, the thing that libertarians say is uncaused is not the choice (that’s caused by the agent, as you pointed out in #14); rather the thing that is said to be uncaused is the agent-choosing-the-choice. This prior step in the chain is said to be literally causeless; it’s not caused by anything. This is why libertarians are able to describe agents as ‘unmoved movers’; they quite literally posit beings that are able to initiate novel chains of cause and effect.

    So whilst I myself am not a libertarian, I think libertarians are right to deny the law of causality; it is the only way to free an agent from deterministic processes.

  108. Perhaps, however, you intended the law of causality to be read in weaker sense? I interpreted it as:

    1) Everything that begins to exist has a sufficient cause.

    Whereas you might have meant:

    2) Everything that begins to exist has a partial cause.

    Libertarianism, whilst not compatible with (1), could be compatible with (2). Perhaps you intended the latter? :)

  109. —Green: “So whilst I myself am not a libertarian, I think libertarians are right to deny the law of causality; it is the only way to free an agent from deterministic processes.”

    Green, the law of causality is compatible with free will. The faculty of will, through which the self makes free choices, is also the effect of the creator God who caused it to exist. The will, like everything else, must be caused, but it does not follow from that consideration, that it is not free to make choices. The created will [the caused will] is a faculty for making choices; it is not just more element in a deterministic causal chain.

  110. 111

    Hello again Green,

    I am certainly open to MH’s reasoning when he is available to give it. I met MH at a recent event and found him to be a thoughtful person whom I enjoyed meeting.

    However, as you know from our previous exchange here I find determinism incoherent, even when its offered in the name of substance dualism by a compatabilist. :)

    At the same time I am tickled that ID proponents can disagree about such things, yet still engage in arguing for the obvious design in the cosmos.

  111. RE 99
    fg “Which conclusion are you referring to?”

    These conclusions

    1) Since axiom’s are arbitrary, one can for instance come up with one that says ‘all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe’.

    2) Positing such an axiom is just a valid as the one that merely says ‘all things that come into existence have a cause’.

    3) Since, as you say, neither logic nor empirical data can prove or disprove either one, it is pointless to argue about which one is true and which one is false.

    fg “Can you lay out your arguments a bit more?”

    fg your conclusions flow from using StephenB’s “arbitrary” rules of right reason axioms. But you assert that these axioms are subjective, capricious and unreasonable ie arbitrary.Since you arrived at your conclusions using subjective, capricious,and unreasonable axioms your conclusions are subjective, capricious and unreasonable.

    You could just have said I got up this morning, my car is blue therefore I conclude this that and the other thing.

    Vivid

  112. Home with some time now, so I want to go back to Stephen’s remarks at 93, which I quote here in full:

    –Aleta: “And you say that such surprises would violate the law of causality, but I don’t see how. What break in the chain of causality could there be.”

    If the universe “unfolds,” the seeds of its development were already in place in the form of causal conditions. It can only become that which it was caused to become. If it “emerges,” there are no seeds to define its development, no program to direct its path, no cause. It it had a cause, the cause would define, shape, and sustain its development. Without the power or direction to develop, it has no cause.

    Both the origin and the continued existence of every thing and every process we see must have a cause. The cause of the energy that keeps the universe going, for example, is just as much of an issue as the cause of its origin. The notion of emergence can touch neither of these realities. It simply assumes that the power which sustains the universe and keeps it into existence is no issue.

    This is very illuminating – I see that when Stephen and I are talking about significantly different meanings of causality. First, I have assumed that we have been talking about proximate, local causes: the causes of the natural world by which the state of affairs at moment A causes the state of affairs at the next moment B, which causes C, etc., or as we say, a causal chain. But Stephen appears to be talking about something different.

    He writes, “Both the origin and the continued existence of every thing and every process we see must have a cause. The cause of the energy that keeps the universe going, for example, is just as much of an issue as the cause of its origin.”

    let;’s take this sustaining cause first. Stephen you seem to be saying that in addition to the natural causes by which, for instance, a proton and an electron attract each other, there is also and alway a cause for them even continuing to exist. That is, I would say that once an electron came into existence its existence needed no further support, and thus it would then continue on, moment by moment, interacting causally with other particles according to its nature. But you would disagree: you would say that not only did it need a cause for it’s coming into existence, but it needed a continuing and continuous cause (apart from its interactions with other material properties) for every moment afterwards in order to stay in existence.

    Is this a somewhat accurate description of what you are saying?

    Second issue: you write, “If the universe “unfolds,” the seeds of its development were already in place in the form of causal conditions. It can only become that which it was caused to become. If it “emerges,” there are no seeds to define its development, no program to direct its path, no cause. It it had a cause, the cause would define, shape, and sustain its development. Without the power or direction to develop, it has no cause.”

    Here you seem to using cause to mean something other than proximate, local cause. That is, you seem to be saying that the cause of the beginning conditions also has to knowingly, in some sense, also intend for the future effects of the beginning conditions – that the beginning conditions must have a “program to direct its path.” In the this use of the word cause, you might say that not only did the original cause cause the beginning conditions, it also “caused” the oxygen because it built that eventual effect into those original conditions. However, if this is your meaning, then we are no longer talking about proximate causes.

    So when you say that the idea of emergence violates the law of causality, I now understand that you don’t mean it violates the law of proximate causality – you mean it violates the idea that all that unfolds from a beginning condition must be part of the program created by the original cause.

    It is now clear to me that all this time we have been talking about the law of causality you have had in mind theological meanings rather than scientific meanings: God designed the universe so that it would unfold as he intended (an ultimate cause) and he continually sustains all of existence at all times as an additional cause separate from the natural causes manifested by the material world.

    So when you say emergence violates the law of causality because it produces surprises, rather than planned results, you are just saying in other ways that it doesn’t include God as part of its explanation.

    It won’t surprise you when I say that I don’t believe any of that: you are imposing a theological framework on our reasoning about the world that is neither “self-evident” nor susceptible to empirical investigation. There is no reason, other than religious dogma, to believe that there must be some sustaining power going on to keep things in existence, and there is ample evidence that simple rules can cause emergent events without anyone having made them part of the plan in the original configuration.

    But I appreciate you taking the time to further explain yourself – I feel like the conversation has been productive because I have gotten clearer on the issues, and on the background, unstated assumptions that people who see the world differently than I do might be making.

  113. Aleta you state:

    ‘There is no reason, other than religious dogma, to believe that there must be some sustaining power going on to keep things in existence,

    Please explain quantum wave collapse Aleta.

  114. —Aleta: “It is now clear to me that all this time we have been talking about the law of causality you have had in mind theological meanings rather than scientific meanings: God designed the universe so that it would unfold as he intended (an ultimate cause) and he continually sustains all of existence at all times as an additional cause separate from the natural causes manifested by the material world.”

    If you will read my comments carefully, you will notice that I did not say one word about God. The fact is, the universe, and all life for that matter, must be sustained. That is a logical fact. If you think that the existence of God is a reasonable explanation for that fact, then you are free to draw that conclusion. I would certainly agree with the reasonableness of that conclusion, but I am referring to the fact that might lead you to the conclusion, not the conclusion itself.

    Also, you seem unaware of the fact that scientific causes [efficient] causes are not the only kinds of causes. On the contrary, there are also formal causes, material causes, and most important final causes. The law of causality is not restricted to efficient causes. Is that the problem you are having? Do you labor under the impression that “final cause” is a theological formulation.

    –”So when you say emergence violates the law of causality because it produces surprises, rather than planned results, you are just saying in other ways that it doesn’t include God as part of its explanation.”

    No. I am simply referring to the fact that only when something unfolds according to a pre-established pattern has its development been caused. If you think that such a state of affairs requires God, then by all means feel free to draw that conclusion. Please do not, however, characterize my logical arguments as theological constructs. Strive rather to understand the logical contructs on their own merit.

    We do not need to know anything about God to know that emergence is a weasel word for magic and an anti-intellectual strategy for avoiding the need for causes, especially first causes.

  115. StephenB,

    I am always impressed with the sure-footed way in which you present your case.

  116. Zeroseven in 100:

    “…How can you state with certainty that 0 cannot suddenly turn into 1. You are arguing from credulity – along the lines of “I find it impossible to imagine something happening, therefore it is impossible for it to happen.”

    No. I am arguing that to maintain commitment and faith in rationality man must reject the irrational explanations and always choose explanation that can maintain a rational worldview. It might be possible that we are living in an irrational and absurd universe I just choose not to believe in that and thus choose the most rational explanation I can find.

    P.S I think Upright Biped explained the problem of self-creation rather well. Thanks UB.

  117. Upright BiPed @104:

    Pedant,
    Self-creation indicates that a thing, or entity of some kind (the “self” in this instance) created itself.
    If the “self” in self-creation does not exist yet (because has not been created) then that self cannot be the cause of the creation?

    That seems to be assuming the conclusion. Why must there necessarily be a pre-existing “self”? If there were, wouldn’t it already have been created?

    Something must precede the creation in order to cause it to come into being, and that thing certainly cannot be the self, because it literally does not yet exist.

    That’s true in our ordinary experience, but may not hold in the field of quantum cosmology, according to what I’ve read (and I admit I haven’t read – or understood – much).

    You are left with irrationality of something coming from nothing – as in no thing, the utter absence of anything at all.

    Whether something is rational or not is a value judgment. My question is simply: what law of logic does self-creation violate?

  118. Upright BiPed @105:

    Padant,

    “Assume that one believes in a God. Does it violate a law of logic to postulate that one’s God is eternal or self-creating?”

    If everything in this material universe is contingent, then there must be at least one thing that is necessary – and that thing must not be contingent upon this material universe, but transcend it instead.

    Instead of violating a law of logic to postulate an extenal transcendence, logic all but demands it.

    Those are good reasons for postulating a self-creating God. But if postulating a self-creating God does not violate logic, how does postulating a self-creating universe violate logic?

  119. StephenB @ 110:

    Green, the law of causality is compatible with free will. The faculty of will… is the effect of the creator God who caused it to exist.

    Yes, you can say that God created the faculty of the will (i.e. the agent, or the self). But this does not satisfy the law of causality – at least not in the strong sense I defined in #109.

    If everything is to have a sufficient cause, then so must the ‘agent-choosing-to-choose’. (Aleta made this same point in #16). However, libertarians deny this: they say that when God created the will/agent/self, he created an unmoved mover; something that can initiate a novel chain of cause and effect. If something can initiate a novel chain of cause and effect, then by definition, the initiation itself cannot have a sufficient cause. This is why libertarian free will is incompatible with the law of causality.

  120. Upright Biped: hello again too.

    …as you know from our previous exchange here I find determinism incoherent, even when its offered in the name of substance dualism by a compatabilist.

    I realise that you find determinism incoherent, but I do not recall you presenting any good arguments to this effect last time. With regards to this post, though, I appreciate that you’re representing the determinist position more accurately and no longer equating it with materialism.

    At the same time I am tickled that ID proponents can disagree about such things, yet still engage in arguing for the obvious design in the cosmos.

    Yes – this is a very key point, and one with which I wholeheartedly agree.

  121. vivdbleau said:

    fg your conclusions flow from using StephenB’s “arbitrary” rules of right reason axioms. But you assert that these axioms are subjective, capricious and unreasonable ie arbitrary.Since you arrived at your conclusions using subjective, capricious,and unreasonable axioms your conclusions are subjective, capricious and unreasonable.

    ——————-

    Umm, I have not asserted that Stephen’s axioms are capricious or unreasonable. I do indeed think that the choice of what axioms to adopt when trying to evaluate the world is a subjective decision – as does Stephen, if I understand correctly what he is saying (maybe I don’t). I also think that reasoning and our empirical experience of reality poses limits on which axioms can be considered to correpsond to the actual state of affairs (one axiom of course is that there *is* an actual state of affairs). Some axioms are clearly not corresponding to reality, or useless as starting points to better understand the world, and are therefore universally ignored (brain-in-a-vat, or last-thursday-ism are examples of such).

    I think that Stephen’s axiom ‘all things that come into existence have a cause’ is a reasonable one, but I also think that the alternative I proposed ‘all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe’ is a reasonable one. You may disagree with the exception I have added, but I don’t think we possess sufficient knowledge about the world to be able to decide which of these two corresponds better to the actual state of affairs. If you have such knowledge, please share it with us.

    Here is another axiom, that I personally find totally self-evident: ‘everything that exists has a beginning’. I’m fairly sure that both you and StephenB won’t accept that axiom, but this time it will be you who will add an exception: ‘everything that exists has a beginning, except God’. I may disagree with the exception you have added, but again I don’t think we posses sufficient knowledge about the world to be able to decide which of these two corresponds better to the actual state of affairs.

    The choice between axioms like these is not based on reasoning, nor on empirical knowledge. StephenB often says this, and I agree with him. The choice is a personal, subjective one, and is undoubtedly grounded in the totality of one’s personality, background, upbringing and life experiences. Calling them ‘capricious’, or worse, labelling people who arrive at a different choice as irrational, is just an ad hominem meant to decide the debate in one’s favour by fiat.

    fG

  122. faded, and proposing the ‘random’ miracle of nothing creating the universe, a ‘random’ miracle which you say happened for no particular reason at all, is not completely irrational to you? I’m sorry if you feel it is ‘ad hominem’ to call you irrational, but it IS irrational. Shoot irrational is a much better word than some other words that could be said for such thinking!

  123. Stephen writes, “If you will read my comments carefully, you will notice that I did not say one word about God. The fact is, the universe, and all life for that matter, must be sustained. That is a logical fact.”

    No, there is nothing “logical” about that at all – it is an assumption of your worldview.

    Stephen writes, “No. I am simply referring to the fact that only when something unfolds according to a pre-established pattern has its development been caused. If you think that such a state of affairs requires God, then by all means feel free to draw that conclusion. Please do not, however, characterize my logical arguments as theological constructs.”

    This is wrong, but it encapsulates your belief that someone had to have the future consequences of the beginning state in mind in order for it to be caused, but this is just you imposing your worldview on the word “caused”, not a “logical” conclusion. As my example of Conway’s game of life showed, one can devise rules that produce results that are not pre-established or planned but nevertheless emerge as the rules are folled “moment by moment” through successive generations. The world is like this – things happen because they are possible results of the successive chain of causal moments, not because anyone pre-planned them to unfold.

    As usual, you haven’t in fact offered logical arguments (what logical argument leads to the conclusion that things needs a sustaining cause in order to keep on existing?) as much as assertions whose assumptions incorporate what you believe.

    Stephen writes, “Also, you seem unaware of the fact that scientific causes [efficient] causes are not the only kinds of causes. On the contrary, there are also formal causes, material causes, and most important final causes. The law of causality is not restricted to efficient causes. Is that the problem you are having? Do you labor under the impression that “final cause” is a theological formulation.”

    I am aware of these things, but have been clearly discussing efficient causes – look at the many times I’ve mentioned the moment-by-moment causal flow of the things in the world. In this discussion we’ve not been talking about first causes (although we have in other threads, both in reference to the cause of the universe itself and in respect to free will.) Formal and final causes refer to the plans and intentions of an agent, and in my opinion don’t apply to the universe, – that is the very issue that separates us – so of course I have not been talking about those.

  124. And to fg: I very much agree with your conclusion at 122. The theist postulates God in order to explain the universe. The materialist postulates the universe.

    As you then say, “I don’t think we posses sufficient knowledge about the world to be able to decide which of these two corresponds better to the actual state of affairs.”

  125. fg “Umm, I have not asserted that Stephen’s axioms are capricious or unreasonable.”

    Ummm ?
    –adjective
    1. subject to individual will or judgment without restriction; contingent solely upon one’s discretion: an arbitrary decision.

    2. decided by a judge or arbiter rather than by a law or statute.

    3. having unlimited power; uncontrolled or unrestricted by law; despotic; tyrannical: an arbitrary government.

    4. capricious; unreasonable; unsupported: an arbitrary demand for payment.

    5. Mathematics . undetermined; not assigned a specific value: an arbitrary constant.

    Vivid

  126. fg “but this time it will be you who will add an exception: ‘everything that exists has a beginning, except God’”

    No it is everything that begins to exist has a beginning. Logic does not demand that existence require a beginning.

    Gone for the day.

    Vivid

  127. [The fact is, the universe, and all life for that matter, must be sustained. That is a logical fact].-

    –Aleta: “No, there is nothing “logical” about that at all – it is an assumption of your worldview.”

    This, of course, sums up your dilemma. On the one hand, you say that you accept the law of causality. On the other hand, you protest agaist it and look for ways to avoid it. In this example, you claim that the universe can be the cause of the very power that sustains it. Believe that if you like, and you clearly like the idea, but it is not consistent with causality.

    Also, @124, you agree with fg

    –”The theist postulates God in order to explain the universe. The materialist postulates the universe.

    “I don’t think we posses sufficient knowledge about the world to be able to decide which of these two corresponds better to the actual state of affairs.”

    There you are again. You are clearly open to the possibility that the universe is responsible for its own existence.

    That is anti-causal hyperskepticism with a vengeance.

  128. vividbleau said:

    No it is everything that begins to exist has a beginning. Logic does not demand that existence require a beginning.
    ——————-

    Well yes, everything that begins to exist has a beginning. This is not controversial, ‘to begin to exist’ and ‘to have a beginning’, are of course identical concepts in our language

    The real issue is, you say logic doesn’t demand that everything that exists has a beginning, yet you also say that everything that begins to exist has a cause. Why is the one statement not demanded by logic, yet the other one is? Care to explain?

    I maintain: neither of them is demanded by logic. Both are a priori axioms, not logical deductions. I believe StephenB will agree with me here.

    fG

  129. Stephen: “In this example, you claim that the universe can be the cause of the very power that sustains it.”

    No, I’m saying that once created (even by a God, if you will) there is no logical reason that an continuing cause is needed to sustain it. Like the law of inertia, once in existence. an object stays in existence unless acted upon by other forces. You don’t need a cause for something to continue to exist.

    Stephen:”There you are again. You are clearly open to the possibility that the universe is responsible for its own existence.

    That is anti-causal hyperskepticism with a vengeance.”

    You postulate that God is “responsible for his own existence.” You postulate an entity and imbue it with properties that are paradoxical, such as having no cause. The materialist just leaves the God part out, and accepts the material universe as it is. Both positions postulate paradoxes that are not logically possible, so, as faded glory says, it is a personal choice as to which metaphysical postulate one wishes to adopt.

  130. That’s right, Aleta. When we go back far enough we hit a major problem: either there is something without a cause, or there is something without a beginning. I doubt if there is anyone who really can wrap their head around either of these, so why the need to proclaim one to be ‘self evident’ and the other to be ‘irrational’? One can equally well apply those labels to either option.

    fG

  131. —Aleta: “You postulate that God is “responsible for his own existence.”

    I postulate that in a cause/effect universe, a self-existent first cause is logically required. When pressed, you agree with that point, but when we start to apply it, you back away from it, hoping to have it both ways.

    —”You postulate an entity and imbue it with properties that are paradoxical, such as having no cause.”

    What paradox? The principle of infinite regress, associated with the law of causality, requires an unchanging, causeless cause?

    —”The materialist just leaves the God part out, and accepts the material universe as it is.”

    A moment ago, you agreed that the universe required a causeless cause. Now you say that we must “accept it as it is.”

    –”Both positions postulate paradoxes that are not logically possible, so, as faded glory says,

    On the contrary, the materialist position is illogical inasmuch as the first cause cannot be material or changeable. The universe is both material and changing. Thus, your position is illogical. For you, the universe is both the first cause and the effect of a first cause. Excuse me, please, but it doesn’t get any more illogical than that.

    —”it is a personal choice as to which metaphysical postulate one wishes to adopt”

    The personal choice is between rationality and irrationality. Again, you are free to believe what you like. However, hyperskepticism is a comprehensively illogical position, which is why this thread alludes to 25 issues, not one.

  132. —fadedglory: “either there is something without a cause, or there is something without a beginning.”

    The argument, which you and Aleta seem not to grasp, is that the first cause can have NEITHER a beginning NOR a cause.

    —”I doubt if there is anyone who really can wrap their head around either of these,..”

    Your doubts are misplaced.

    …so why the need to proclaim one to be ‘self evident’” and the other to be ‘irrational’?

    Because one position is rational and the other is irrational.

  133. 134

    Green #121

    “I realise that you find determinism incoherent, but I do not recall you presenting any good arguments to this effect last time.”

    I don’t remember libertarian free will, nor the compatibalist position, being under represented in that thread of 700+ posts.

    “I appreciate that you’re representing the determinist position more accurately and no longer equating it with materialism.”

    As much as I aim to please, I must confess a belief that the capatabilist needs the monikors in order to couch an otherwise incoherent position.

    “Yes – this is a very key point, and one with which I wholeheartedly agree.”

    Again, welcome back.

  134. 135

    Green,

    BTW, not every theist accepts that human will was “caused” by divine will; it is my view, for instance, that individual human will ***is*** an expression of divine will, and that humans with free will ***are*** god creating and sustaining the experiential universe.

    I think it would be difficult for StephenB or anyone else to make a case that caused human will is “different” from divine will and not be bound to the conclusion that such identifiable derivations of divine will were “caused” to have specific characteristics, which the law of identity would demand they have in order to be distinct from the divine will.

    This would mean that the characteristics of human will have some meaningful value in regards to the the intent extended from that will; IOW, what the individuated will applies its free will towards (will being this precise thing) would have been caused by god.

    And so, human free will wouldn’t be free at all; it would have been caused by something else – divine will. Our intents would necessarily be characterized by however god distinguished our intent as different from divine intent.

    Rationally speaking, it is much more efficient and justifiable for human will to simply be aspects of divine will, and not distinctly seperate “wills”.

    If will is truly free, it cannot be constrained by a caused identity or by caused characteristics.

  135. Stephen,

    You still haven’t got any closer to showing why believing in something that has always existed without a beginning is more rational than believing in something that has begun to exist without a cause. All you do is endlessly repeat your mantra that the one is rational and the other is not, without ever demonstrating why this is the case.

    It is by now quite obvious to everybody that you actually can’t demonstrate this, or you would have done so by now.

    Maybe you should stop for a moment and ask yourself why it is that you can’t come up with an argument for your assertion.

    I think the answer to that is simple: both positions are equally impossible to demonstrate or refute.

    fG

  136. 137
    William J. Murray

    faded_Glory:

    If a universe can come into existence without cause, can other things come into existence without cause?

  137. –fadedglory: “You still haven’t got any closer to showing why believing in something that has always existed without a beginning is more rational than believing in something that has begun to exist without a cause.”

    The latter point is a self-evident truth that cannot be demonstrated. Thus, you do not understand the debate.

  138. WJM @

    —”And so, human free will wouldn’t be free at all; it would have been caused by something else –divine will.”

    What is to prevent the Divine will from creating [causing] the human will to be free?

    If the human will is an aspect of the Divine will, would that not mean that when humans sin, the Divine will has sinned against itself?

  139. Invoking “self-evidency” is not an argument – it’s Stephen’s way of saying “this is what I believe.” Invoking whatever properties of God that Stephen wants to invoke (eternal, causeless, whatever) is not a matter of rationality – it’s a matter of assertion by faith.

  140. 141

    StephenB,

    What is to prevent the Divine will from creating [causing] the human will to be free?

    Nothing at all.

  141. 142

    Aleta,

    Invoking “self-evidency” is not an argument – it’s Stephen’s way of saying “this is what I believe.” Invoking whatever properties of God that Stephen wants to invoke (eternal, causeless, whatever) is not a matter of rationality – it’s a matter of assertion by faith.

    Can we at least say that nonsense is still nonsense when we talk it about God? Wouldn’t it be true to say that God cannot make a square circle, not because it is a limit on God’s power, but because a square circle is a nonentity, in other words, it is nonsense? God can do all things, but a square circle is not a thing. It would be akin to saying that God knows, in inches, how far it is from London Bridge to Christmas Day. There are somethings we can say about God, and some things we can’t. It is not all a matter of faith. It sounds like you’re saying that we cannot know anything about God, but this itself would be something known. The agnostic must, to be consistent, claim that we don’t know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable. The agnostic must admit the possibility that some things can be known. For the agnostic is saying “I don’t know anything” and cannot then say “Well, at least I know this much about God, I know that God is unknowable”, for that is a contradiction, and betrays an assertion of faith, the same assertion of faith, in the respect that it is an assertion of faith, that you seem to be faulting StephenB for.

  142. —Aleta: “Invoking “self-evidency” is not an argument”

    Self-evident truths are not being posited as arguments, they are being posited as the means by which arguments are made. If you don’t think that the law of non-contradiction, a self evident truth, is the starting point for deductive logic, then tell us what is. Please tell us how any IF/THEN proposition is possible absent the law of non-contradiction. Please tell us how a syllogism could be considered valid reasoning under those circumstances. Please tell us how any kind of reasoning process can begin without a self-evident truth as its starting point.

    If you don’t think that the law of causality, a self-evident truth, serves as the rational rule for science, then tell us what does. Earlier, when pressed, you stated that you accept this law, but now, when you come face to face with its implications, your reject it once again.

    How does one search for causes in the event that causality is not a law? How would you know which events were caused and which ones were not? How would you know that ANYTHING is caused?

  143. Faded Glory in 129:

    “The real issue is, you say logic doesn’t demand that everything that exists has a beginning, yet you also say that everything that begins to exist has a cause. Why is the one statement not demanded by logic, yet the other one is? Care to explain?

    The argument should go as follows “everything material that exists has a beginning” as it’s fairly clear because of inductive evidence of entropy, second law of thermodynamics and standard model. This is clearly not true for immaterial things that have no material properties and thus are not subject to entropy.

    Postulating syllogism of “everything that exists has a beginning” is just begging the question and has a omitted the first axiom in it as in:

    1. There is no immaterial things that are not subject to change and entropy.
    2. Thus everything that exists has a beginning.

    So the argument everything that exists has a beginning is just assuming materialism in the first place and thus fails as an effective argument.
    However Kalams cosmological argument “everything that begins to exists has a cause” assumes causality between things that have beginning and thus is not begging the question as we have plenty of inductive evidence for causality but none for non-existence of immaterial things.

  144. As further note I think that the existence of immaterial laws such as laws of logic thus completely invalidate the argument “everything that exists has a beginning” as laws of logic have no beginning nor end.

  145. And also the argument “everything that exists has a beginning” would immediately lead into absurdity as it would create an infinite regress of beginnings as a necessary conclusion or the axiom has not always been in effect thus making it arbitrary and thus unnecessary.

  146. Hi Clive.

    You write, “Can we at least say that nonsense is still nonsense when we talk it about God? Wouldn’t it be true to say that God cannot make a square circle, not because it is a limit on God’s power, but because a square circle is a nonentity, in other words, it is nonsense? God can do all things, but a square circle is not a thing. It would be akin to saying that God knows, in inches, how far it is from London Bridge to Christmas Day”

    These are good examples of things that are impossible because the words don’t make sense: the issue is not about what God can or can not do, but rather about the meanings of the words that we are using.

    You write,

    There are somethings we can say about God, and some things we can’t. It is not all a matter of faith. It sounds like you’re saying that we cannot know anything about God, but this itself would be something known. The agnostic must, to be consistent, claim that we don’t know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable. The agnostic must admit the possibility that some things can be known. For the agnostic is saying “I don’t know anything” and cannot then say “Well, at least I know this much about God, I know that God is unknowable”, for that is a contradiction, and betrays an assertion of faith, the same assertion of faith, in the respect that it is an assertion of faith, that you seem to be faulting StephenB for.

    Let me break my response into two parts, and work backwards. I am not faulting Stephen for making assertions of faith. For the theist to say “I believe in God, and that he both created and sustains all of existence” is fine – it is a statement of religious faith and a centrally important thing for a Christian to say. I am faulting Stephen for not accepting that this is a statement of faith, but rather insisting that this is a logical conclusion that it would be irrational to deny. Do you see the difference?

    You write, “The agnostic must, to be consistent, claim that we don’t know enough about the unknown to know that it is unknowable.” I agree with this. Agnosticism about anything is a tentative position – an agreement with oneself to live with uncertainty.

    However, if one believes, as I do, that we can’t know the nature of metaphysical reality, then thinking about the properties of God becomes meaningless. If we can’t know whether a divine being exists, then trying to think further about the nature of such a being can’t be done either.

  147. 148
    William J. Murray

    StephenB,

    The nature of what “free” must mean, in context with will, prevents the Divine will from generating something that is both “not A” and “A” at the same time, which is what it would be tasked to do.

    The “free” in free will has logical and necessary consequences that would be violated if the Divine Will generated another truly “free” will that was identifiably distinct from itself.

    As for the sin question, it’s not an issue in my worldview.

  148. 149

    “These are good examples of things that are impossible because the words don’t make sense: the issue is not about what God can or can not do, but rather about the meanings of the words that we are using.”

    This is a punt Aleta.

    It has nothing to do with the “words” being used. Call these things anything you like, it matters not in the least. It is not the words that do not work, it is the reality of such things.

  149. 150

    “Let me break my response into two parts, and work backwards. I am not faulting Stephen for making assertions of faith. For the theist to say “I believe in God, and that he both created and sustains all of existence” is fine – it is a statement of religious faith and a centrally important thing for a Christian to say. I am faulting Stephen for not accepting that this is a statement of faith, but rather insisting that this is a logical conclusion that it would be irrational to deny. Do you see the difference?”

    Your second comment was based on your first, and your first was flatly incorrect.

  150. 151

    Aleta, you must first deal with the fact that there are some ideas, that if held, cause the loss of being able to know anything at all.

  151. 152

    and ….what is the gain?

    Being able to avoid what?

  152. UB writes, “Aleta, you must first deal with the fact that there are some ideas, that if held, cause the loss of being able to know anything at all.”

    Could you list some of those ideas, please, so I know what you are referring to.

  153. 154

    That is another punt.

    Read your 147.

  154. William J. Murray, thanks for the comment. I am not clear on the matter of what constitutes “not A and “A.”–nor am I clear on specifically which consequences get violated with a distinctly free will.

    Fair enough on the theological matter. However, I think the problem persists in the ethical realm. If the human will is an aspect of [extension of?] the Divine will, then any unethical human act would seem to be an unethical Divine act and the human will little more than a faculty for ratifying Divine choices. Thus, only the Divine [person?] would bear responsibility for the choices made, which is another way of saying that the human will is not free [to make other choices].

  155. OK, UB, then don’t discuss. Fine with me.

  156. 157

    Aleta, I think pretending you don’t know what is being discussed (given that you just directly responded to that discussion) is a sure mark of avoidance.

    To want to place that avoidance on my shoulders instead of your own is an obvious tactic.

    Feel free to use eit.

  157. 158
    William J. Murray

    StehenB,

    In my view, human* will and Divine will are the same thing, so it’s not like I’m a “puppet” of god. God’s free will is my free will.

    *humans with free will. I don’t believe all humans have free will.

    The short version of the “free” problem is what “freedom” necessarily entails; in order for will to be meaningfully free and not caused in any way by context, it must be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Othwewise, specific characteristics of will would necessarily be caused by location, limitation, and/or ignorance.

    In order to generate a “separate” will, there must be someplace that god is not, or someplace where the 2nd will and the first do not overlap. In order for the 2nd will to “not be god”, it cannot be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

    The 2nd will must have defined characteristics that differentiate it from the divine will. I don’t see how this can be logically true given the nature of god, what “free” must mean, and if our will is truly free and acausal.

    There is no logical room for, or means to differentiate, 2 truly “free” wills, IMO.

  158. I don’t want to belabor the point, but, UB, you wrote, “you must first deal with the fact that there are some ideas, that if held, cause the loss of being able to know anything at all.”

    When I look back at my posts, and the topics we’ve been discussing, I see that I have clearly said that there are some kinds of things – metaphysical reality – that we can’t know about. There are other things that we can know a great deal about. I see nothing where I’ve said anything that implies that we “can’t know anything at all.” Maybe what you are thinking about is obvious to you, but it’s not obvious to me.

  159. 160

    Aleta,

    “When I look back at my posts, and the topics we’ve been discussing, I see that I have clearly said that there are some kinds of things – metaphysical reality – that we can’t know about. There are other things that we can know a great deal about. I see nothing where I’ve said anything that implies that we “can’t know anything at all.”

    Of course you do not imply it Aleta, you avoid it as a consequence of your position.

    Go back and deal with #149.

  160. UB, there can’t be an unmarried bachelor. Is that a statement about words or reality?

  161. Upright BiPed,
    I wonder whether you have an answer to the question I put to you at comment 118:

    Whether something is rational or not is a value judgment. My question is simply: what law of logic does self-creation violate?

    Or to my question at 119:

    Those are good reasons for postulating a self-creating God. But if postulating a self-creating God does not violate logic, how does postulating a self-creating universe violate logic?

    Or any reaction at all?

  162. WJM @158. It is interesting that we agree on so many things but disagree on this topic. I would hold that the will is free with limitations, and you seem to hold that a truly free will allows of no limitations at all. With that definition of free, I don’t think anyone would argue for free will.
    Indeed, most advocates for free will, myself included likely would argue that, among other things, we are limited by psychodynamic, behavior, and biological limitations but can make free choices in that context. I have a lot to say about my final destiny, but choosing my parents, my intelligence, my race, my height, weight, and a million other things is not part of the package.

  163. Aleta, are you prepared to answer my questions @143?

  164. 165

    Pedant,

    A) Are you really asking me to justify calling it “irrational” to think that something that does not exist can cause itself to exist?

    B) Are you then suggesting, after I make it clear that self-creation is irrational, that I think that my position posits a self-creating God?

    I thought I made myself abundantly clear:

    “If everything in this material universe is contingent, then there must be at least one thing that is necessary – and that thing must not be contingent upon this material universe, but transcend it instead.

    Instead of violating a law of logic to postulate an extenal transcendence, logic all but demands it.”

  165. —Pedant to Upright Biped: “Whether something is rational or not is a value judgment. My question is simply: what law of logic does self-creation violate?”

    Self creation violates every aspect of logical reasoning. Here are the conditions needed for the the universe to create itself:

    [a] It would have to exist before it existed.

    [b] It would have to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same relationship. {violation of the law of non-contradiction]

    [c] It would have to be a non-reality making itself into a reality, {violation of the law of causality, which is a derivative of the law of non-contradiction}

    Without understanding and honoring these distinctions, it is impossible to reason in the abstract. It has nothing to do with “value judgments” and everything to do with the capacity to think.

  166. Pedant asks in 162:

    “Whether something is rational or not is a value judgment. My question is simply: what law of logic does self-creation violate?”

    As Stephen, UB and me have pointed out it would empirically invalidate laws of logic.

    Is rationality (for example 1 + 1 = 2) a value judgment? Yes in a sense that a person who calculates this believes in rationality. In a world where things can come out of nothing for no reason at all the calculation of 1 + 1 = 2 would not describe reality as it is and thus would be false.

  167. Stephen – in the flurry of discussion, I didn’t see 143 until now – I’ll take a look now.

  168. Response to Stephen’s post at 143.

    Stephen: “Self-evident truths are not being posited as arguments, they are being posited as the means by which arguments are made.”

    Yes, I know that. The point under consideration is if the things that you say are self-evident are in fact self-evident, or more specifically, if they can be used in the contexts that you wish to use them, or if they lead to the conclusions you say they do.

    Stephen: “If you don’t think that the law of causality, a self-evident truth, serves as the rational rule for science, then tell us what does. Earlier, when pressed, you stated that you accept this law, but now, when you come face to face with its implications, your reject it once again.”

    In the discussion in this thread, I have been talking about proximate, efficient causes within our universe. I think I specifically set aside the first cause/origin of the universe topic for the sake of this thread (and we discussed that extensively a while back.) Then, after a constructive discussion, I found out that you were also referring to final causes, which require an causal agent acting for a purpose or to fulfill an intention. In respect to the flow of events in the material world, I don’t believe in that, so at that point we parted company.

    So I’m not rejecting the law of causality in repect to efficient, proximate causes in the material world – I am just rejecting applying the idea of intention or purpose to the material world.

    So when you ask, “How does one search for causes in the event that causality is not a law? How would you know which events were caused and which ones were not? How would you know that ANYTHING is caused?”, the answer in principle is simple: we look for regularities in the flow of moment-to-moment events in time and space. I said way back in the beginning, in response to your question, that I believe we live in an orderly universe in which chains of cause-and-effect connect all the moments clear back to the beginning of time. I have changed in holding that opinion.

    And last, you write, “If you don’t think that the law of non-contradiction, a self evident truth, is the starting point for deductive logic, then tell us what is. Please tell us how any IF/THEN proposition is possible absent the law of non-contradiction. Please tell us how a syllogism could be considered valid reasoning under those circumstances. Please tell us how any kind of reasoning process can begin without a self-evident truth as its starting point.”

    The subject of the role of logic and math (and langauge in general) is critical to the discussions we have here. I will re-summarize my position in respect to logic, although the same remarks apply to math.

    Logic is an abstract, internally consistent system for manipulating symbols. When we apply logic to the real world we create a model in which the symbols of logic represent some aspect of the real world – we hypothesize a correspondence between the symbols and the real world. If we have then apply the rules of logic to the model we often (most of the time, because we’ve been doing this for a long time) find that the logical results match what goes on in the world.

    However, we sometimes find the the model does not work, not because the logic is wrong but because the model is faulty. In that case, we have to refine our model.

    Notice that the testing process requires empirical evidence if it is to apply to the real world. Logic itself can tell us nothing about the real world – it is a tool (a very powerful one) for thinking about the world using symbols, but only testing our conclusions against the world can validate a particular model.

    So we really can’t apply the same logic we use in our world to what be “outside of/before” our world, because we can’t test the model.

    So much of what Stephen does is manipulate symbols within a closed set of concepts, much like the game of chess where the rules only apply to the game and not to any external reality, and then declare that the conclusions he reaches are self-evident. We agree on the basic laws of logic – what we disagree is the model to which the laws are being applied.

  169. 170

    Aleta,

    Notice that the testing process requires empirical evidence if it is to apply to the real world. Logic itself can tell us nothing about the real world – it is a tool (a very powerful one) for thinking about the world using symbols, but only testing our conclusions against the world can validate a particular model.

    Is it illogical that a bird should give live birth instead of laying eggs? Is it impossible in the way 2+2=0 is?

  170. Clive writes, “Is it illogical that a bird should give live birth instead of laying eggs? Is it impossible in the way 2+2=0 is?”

    That’s an interesting question, because it contrasts two different kinds of situations. Let’s take 2 + 2 = 4, not 0 first.

    As I explained in another thread a while back, the counting numbers are modeled by correlating them with discrete objects, such as pebbles. Once we agree on symbols to represent different quantities (1 = *, 2 = **, 3 = ***, etc.), then the fact that 2 + 2 = 4 can be modeled in the real world by putting a pile of two with another pile of 2 (with “putting together” the correlate of +). This is a case where the model is consistently confirmed, and works in the real world all the time – with the important qualification that the objects are clearly discrete.

    This qualification helps me illustrate one of my other points: the mathematical system must map clearly with its real world correlates. It wouldn’t make sense in many cases to say that 2 clouds + 2 clouds = 4 clouds, because often a cloud is not a distinct, discrete enough entity to know where it leaves off and another cloud begins. Similarly, if I were to ask you to count all the mountains in Colorado, we would have to come up with some clear, unequivacable definitions of what counted as a mountain before we could start to count.

    So 2 + 2 = 4 is a fact in the world of math that consistently and accurately maps to the real world as long as the correlate units are clearly discrete. Therefore, given the meaning of the symbols, 2 + 2 = 0 is just wrong.

    The bird example is different though. We have defined what a bird is, and it’s fairly clearcut the criteria for something being a bird: I don’t think I know any very ambiguous situations. However, we do know that some snakes lay eggs and some give live birth. It is possible (empirically, not logically) that sometime in the future someone could find an animal that had all the characteristics of a bird and yet gave live birth. In this case we’d have to decide how we wanted to refine our model: do we expand our definition of bird to include this case, or retain our definition and categorize the creature as something other than a bird. This is a choice we can make, depending on the utility to us.

    If someone were to insist that “it’s not logical for a bird to lay eggs” they would mean not consistent with our current definition. But logic itself doesn’t impose that definition on us: the definition is part of the model, not part of the pure abstract logic.

    Thanks for the question, Clive – it was a good opportunity to expand on my position.

  171. Well yes, everything that begins to exist has a beginning. This is not controversial, ‘to begin to exist’ and ‘to have a beginning’, are of course identical concepts in our language

  172. RE 129 FG “Well yes, everything that begins to exist has a beginning. This is not controversial, ‘to begin to exist’ and ‘to have a beginning’, are of course identical concepts in our language”

    They are NOT identical concepts.

    fg “The real issue is, you say logic doesn’t demand that everything that exists has a beginning, yet you also say that everything that begins to exist has a cause. Why is the one statement not demanded by logic, yet the other one is? Care to explain?”

    What logical law demands that existence must be preceded by 1)a cause and 2)a beginning? Logic only demands that an existence that begins to exist must have a cause and a beginning.

    fg”I maintain: neither of them is demanded by logic. Both are a priori axioms, not logical deductions.”

    By all means maintain all you want.

    fg”I believe StephenB will agree with me here.”

    I dont think so.

    Vivid

  173. fg “Well yes, everything that begins to exist has a beginning. This is not controversial”

    This is laughable!!! Literlly ever few days there are multiple posters who assert this very thing, some on this very thread. Any way I comforted to know that you dont hold to the notion that the big bang came from nothing. Or do you?

    Vivid

  174. —Aleta, thanks for responding, but the most important question, that I ask earlier is this:

    “If you don’t think that the law of non-contradiction, a self evident truth, or is the starting point for deductive logic, then tell us what is. Please tell us how any IF/THEN proposition is possible absent the law of non-contradiction. Please tell us how a syllogism could be considered valid reasoning under those circumstances. Please tell us how any kind of reasoning process can begin without a self-evident truth as its starting point.”

  175. —Aleta: “So we really can’t apply the same logic we use in our world to what be “outside of/before” our world, because we can’t test the model.”

    Does the law of non-contradiction apply to both “our world,” and “outside” our world,” as you put it?

  176. 177

    StephenB:

    I’m not talking about choice; I’m talking about will. I cannot choose for jupiter to turn blue, but I can certainly intend that it do so.

    Choices are not free; they are contextualized and limited. For those with free will, though, will, or intent, is free, and “free” means without restriction, impediment, or cause.

  177. vivid,

    With all respect, I think you are confusing the statement “all things that begin to exist have a beginning” with “all things that begin to exist have a cause”. The former is a tautology, just two different ways of saying exactly the same in the English language. The latter is the statement that people have different views on.

    fG

  178. Innerbling,

    I take a different view from you. I don’t consider immaterial things to have an independent existence outside of, and independent of, human thought. I believe that immaterial things are concepts that we formulate and use to describe, categorise, understand and function in the external world. They are products of our thinking, and have their origin in the origin of our thinking, i.e. in our own origin as humans. Therefore immaterial “things” (a misnomer, in my opinion – they are labels, or better still, processes) are not separate from “material things”, and your distinction loses its meaning.

    I realise you will disagree with me, and that’s fine. Just another example of a priori axioms that we subjectively choose and are unable to demonstrate as true or false.

    fG

  179. Upright BiPed @165;

    Pedant,
    A) Are you really asking me to justify calling it “irrational” to think that something that does not exist can cause itself to exist?

    No, I thought the question was clear: what law of logic does self-creation violate? Calling the notion of self-creation irrational does not identify a law of logic, any more than saying that the notion of self-creation is illogical.

    B) Are you then suggesting, after I make it clear that self-creation is irrational, that I think that my position posits a self-creating God?

    No.

    I thought I made myself abundantly clear:

    But you didn’t answer the question: If postulating a self-creating God does not violate logic, how does postulating a self-creating universe violate logic?

    (Perhaps both postulations violate logic. Or not.)

  180. William J. Murray:

    I don’t know if other things can come into existence without a cause. I don’t even know if the universe can come into existence without a cause! Do you?

    For clarity, I am not propagating one or the other viewpoint. I am agreeing with StephenB that certain basic concepts come before logic, reasoning or empirical confirmation. There is no way to prove or disprove such a priori assumptions, as StephenB says they cannot be reasoned to, only reasoned from.

    There are actually an infinite number of such possible axioms, and clearly many of those are flatly contradicting with reality. Others are potentially true but useless as tools to further our understanding.

    Sensible people avoid such categories and stick with the subset that works well in our daily existence. Both axioms, that nothing can begin to exist without a cause, and that nothing can begin to exist without a cause except for the Universe, work perfectly well for everything in our daily existence. Prefering one over the other is a personal thing that has no consequences for anything else we do.

    Given that neither can be reasoned to, nor empirically confirmed/rejected, I don’t understand why one should be labelled as irrational and the other as rational. I don’t understand the claim that one is right and the other is wrong, made at the same time as saying neither can be reasoned to nor empirically confirmed!

    It would seem more reasonable to accept both as possibilities, and refrain from having a dig at people who express a diferent preference from one’s own.

    fG

  181. Innerbling @167;

    Pedant asks in 162:

    “Whether something is rational or not is a value judgment. My question is simply: what law of logic does self-creation violate?”

    As Stephen, UB and me have pointed out it would empirically invalidate laws of logic.

    How can an empirical hypothesis invalidate laws of logic? Take the hypothesis that an evil spirit inhabits my grandmother. That may be unlikely, but is it illogical?

  182. StephenB @166:

    Self creation violates every aspect of logical reasoning. Here are the conditions needed for the the universe to create itself:
    [a] It would have to exist before it existed.

    Then it wouldn’t be self-creating.

    [b] It would have to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same relationship. {violation of the law of non-contradiction]

    Those seem to be ad hoc conditions that need not necessarily obtain.

    [c] It would have to be a non-reality making itself into a reality, {violation of the law of causality, which is a derivative of the law of non-contradiction}

    There is a philosophical question about whether the law of causality holds always and ever. (If it is an empirical generalization, it certainly need not.) In fact, that is what quantum cosmology calls into question, I think.

    Without understanding and honoring these distinctions, it is impossible to reason in the abstract. It has nothing to do with “value judgments” and everything to do with the capacity to think.

    And yet Stephen Hawking seems to be capable of reasoning in the abstract. Rather impressively so.

  183. Stephen, the whole last part of 169 is in answer to your question about the nature of logic, so I don’t know why you re-asked in 175. Did you read 169? Would you like to respond to the specifics of what I had to say?

    But, again, you ask, “Please tell us how any kind of reasoning process can begin without a self-evident truth as its starting point.”

    That’s not my claim. I’m not denying the validity of the laws of logic, anymore than I am denying that 2 + 2 = 4. What I am saying is that to apply them to anything you have to set up a model that correlates the abstract system to the world, and then, after doing your logical reasoning, you have to test your model back against the facts of the world. You may have all the tools of reasoning, but if you don’t have some kind of testable model, you have nothing to reason about.

    So I’m not saying that the law of contradiction doesn’t apply to the metaphysical world – I’m saying we know nothing about the metaphysical world to apply our logic to.

    Also, to expand upon a parenthetical remark I made earlier, it is perfectly possible to make up abstract systems and reason logically within them without there being any real world correlate: I mentioned the game of chess. We make up the rules, and then the game flows logically from there. There is no correlate in the real world to chess – it’s not a model for anything, and thinking about chess gives us no new knowledge about anything other than chess.

    I consider all your arguments about God of this variety. For someone who accepts all the abstract definitions of God as a starting point, there are logical deductions one can make within “the game of God”, so to speak. But that doesn’t mean that there really is a God, and that doesn’t mean that the logical deductions lead us to knowledge about anything real.

  184. 185

    Pedant 180

    I thought the logic problem was rather obvious, but in any case, your question was answered.

    If you choose to believe that a thing that does not exist can cause something to happen, then you are welcome to that belief, and you are free to feel quite strongly about it.

    Perhaps things that do not exist are causing stuff to happen all the time. Who could prove otherwise?

  185. —Aleta: “So I’m not saying that the law of contradiction doesn’t apply to the metaphysical world – I’m saying we know nothing about the metaphysical world to apply our logic to.”

    It is through philosophy, metaphysics, and the philosophy of science that we learn about the first principles of right reason by which we interpret our experience of the physical world. In fact, the metaphysical world and the physical world do not really represent two different worlds at all; they are part of the same reality. You carry on as if they were two different realities.

    I asked 25 questions in my little quiz, but everyone has ignored them not realizing the ways in which each one is connected with the other. Hyperskeptics, as irrational relativists, believe that a truth in one branch of knowledge can contradict truths in another branch of knowledge. If that was the case, there would be no such thing as truth or no such thing as knowledge. In question 10, for example, I deal with the UNITY OF TRUTH, which is one of the rules of right reason. There is one truth with many aspects, not many truths. Metaphysical truths are consistent with cosmological truths, which are, in turn, compatible with physical truths, which are, in turn, compatible with biological truths, which are, in turn compatible with ethical truths. The first principles of right reason apply across the board.

    Forget about final causes if you like and focus solely on efficient causes. Nothing can move or come into existence unless an efficient cause makes it happen. That means that a universe cannot come into existence unless an efficient cause makes it happen. In like fashion, a thing cannot exist and not exist at the same time and under the same formal circumstances. That is not just a statement about the logic of our minds; it is a statement about the real world. Jupiter cannot exist and not exist at the same time. God cannot exist and not exist at the same time. If the rules of right reason were not universal, they would be useless. Can you imagine the chemist saying to the physicist that the laws of physics had nothing to do with laws of chemical bonding? It is just as ridiculous for the cosmologist to say that the rules of right reason do not apply to the origins of the universe.

    —”I consider all your arguments about God of this variety. [arbitrarily conceived logical systems].”

    You may believe that to be the case, but you are wrong. There are ontological arguments for God’s existence, which are something like your characterization, and then there are cosmological arguments that begin with observations about the real world. You appear not to know the difference. I haven’t made any arguments at all for the existence of God on this thread, but if I did, they would begin with empirically based facts. What I am dealing with are reason’s first principles, almost all of which have been ignored.

    —“as a starting point, there are logical deductions one can make within “the game of God”, so to speak. But that doesn’t mean that there really is a God, and that doesn’t mean that the logical deductions lead us to knowledge about anything real.”

    If you begin with an unsound premise, assuming you reason properly, logical deductions will lead you into error; if you begin with a sound premise, logical deductions will lead you to the truth. The trick is to begin with a sound premise. On the other hand, deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning principles, in concert with our experience, can teach us a great deal. Unfortunately, Hyperskeptics begin with the wrong premise, assuming either that there is no truth, or that it cannot be apprehended. Obviously truth does exist because reality exists, and there has to be something true about reality.

  186. Sceptics sometimes dismiss ID as non-science because the design process cannot observed today or be replicated in the lab.

    What about self creation, then?

    (I think the whole term is an oxymoron.)

  187. Pedant @183, anyone who believes in a self created universe, regardless of his/her level of achieved fame, is a manifestly irrational person.

  188. Stephen writes, “Nothing can move or come into existence unless an efficient cause makes it happen.”

    Suppose we have a radioactive substance with a half life of one year, which means that any one atom has about a 1.6 x 10^-8 probability of decaying in any one second.

    Suppose I have, then about 6 x 10^7 molecules, so that in this one second, it is most likely that one molecule wil decay. Let’s suppose that during this one second, atom 3,678,378,578 (which we will call X for short) decays.

    Why did X decay, and not one of the others? Was there an efficient cause that acted upon X, and none of the other atoms, so as to create the effect of X decaying? Or was it, as is at least one of the possible explanations of quantum theory, a truly random event that has no cause.

    That is, are you sure that nothing can move “unless an efficient cause makes it happen”?

  189. Point 2: Stephen writes, “Hyperskeptics begin with the wrong premise, assuming either that there is no truth, or that it cannot be apprehended. Obviously truth does exist because reality exists, and there has to be something true about reality.”

    Then I am not a hyperskeptic, because I believe neither of those things. What I don’t believe is that we can find truth through pure logic about things that we can’t empirically experience.

  190. Pedant in 182:

    “How can an empirical hypothesis invalidate laws of logic?”

    I think I already answered this one.

    “Take the hypothesis that an evil spirit inhabits my grandmother. That may be unlikely, but is it illogical?”

    It would be illogical if the evil spirit is self-created and came into being non-caused out of nothing.

  191. –Aleta: “That is, are you sure that nothing can move “unless an efficient cause makes it happen”?

    I think I will do the scrutinizing this time. Are quantun events acausal?

  192. –Aleta; “What I don’t believe is that we can find truth through pure logic about things that we can’t empirically experience.”

    Can the planet Jupiter exist and not exist at the same time?

  193. Stephen, 193 and counting. Keep up the good work!

    Of course (as someone else has said) there are really no hyperskeptics. They all look out for oncoming traffic before they step out into the street.

    I think Aleta does not want to make the next step and accept that through pure logic we can determine there has to be a first cause. The understanding that there can not be an infinite regress, combined with everything we see having a cause, combined with non-contradiction makes that clear.

    Why Aleta does not want to make the next step, only he knows. But that is the remarkable thing about free will. We always have a choice, and we know we have that choice.

    Good luck and God Bless

  194. Stephen writes, “–Aleta: “I think I will do the scrutinizing this time. Are quantun events acausal?”

    I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone does. Feynman says that we need to recognize that probability – true randomness – is at the heart of quantum mechanics. Others, who among other things find this hard to accept, posit “hidden variables” – causes that are “hidden behind the quantum curtain” (to use a very nice phrase that a friend used once.)

    We really have no way of telling. We are certain that quantum events do demonsrate all the patterns of probability distributions, but whether something/someone is the hidden cause of that phenomena is beyond our ability to investigate.

    There are some theists who have hypothesized that it is through quantum events that God guides the world and at the same time violates no natural laws – that all quantum events are caused by God’s will. Others have hypothesized that quantum events respresent the interface between the nameless Tao and the real world, and are the vehicle by which the creative power, yang, guides the passive material world. Both of these speculations allow for there being unknown guidance in the world, and for there being possible conenctions between events that are not locally adjacent in time or space.

    But both are just metaphysical speculations – we have no way of knowing what is going on behind the quantum curtain, or whether there is anything other than true randomness.

  195. This discussion reminds me of India where law of non-contradiction and laws of logic are just a “useful models” and contradictory stories about gods are accepted without flinching i.e Krishna, Buddha, Christ and others can be Gods at the same time without logical problems to the believer. It’s truly sad for the world when people are forced to reject logic and causality because of their religious worldviews and beliefs. If one rejects logic what is there to discuss? What arguments can be used to share knowledge and compare worldviews? What argument would anyone use to discuss with a person who believes “reason can be rejected when it becomes inconvenient for my worldview?”

  196. 197

    faded_Glory:

    I didn’t propose that anything came into existence without a cause. It is my opinion that human wills (humans meaning those of us with free will) are eternal acausal aspects of divine will.

    It is my view that there is no logical “room” in existence for more than one acausal free will. This would necessarily mean that all entities with “free will” are manifest aspects of that one free will, and not actually separate iterations or “later” creations. IMO such concepts violate certain necessary conclusions of what it means for there to be a logically-consistent omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient free will entity in existence.

  197. Stephen asks, “Can the planet Jupiter exist and not exist at the same time?”

    No, given our very clearcut understanding of “exist” in respect to Jupiter.

    Can a virtual particle exist and not exist at the same time? I’m not sure that is a meaningful question.

    The issue here is the difference between the abstract logic and the model of the world to which the logic is applied. The proposition ~(P and ~P) is the law of non-contradiction in abstract form: it is a law of logic which I, of course, accept as part of standard logic theory. However, as soon as we apply it to a fact about the real world, we have to consider the words and concepts that are represented by P. Throughout most of history our experience with things, “existing” has been clearcut, and at the macro level in respect to quantum events, and thus the model has consistently worked. However, we now find that maybe “existence” is not such a clearcut concept at the quantum level.

    So it’s not that the law of non-contradiction itself is being questioned: what is being questioned is whether the concept of existence is clearcut enough that it can accurately be correlated to the abstract P in the law.

    The situation is like the bird example in a reply above to Clive. If we find that at quantum level things seem to exist and not exist at the same time, then, in order to preserve the applicability of the law of non-contradiction, we need to change our understanding of what existence is (although some people have instead worked on developing a different logical systems that might apply better to quantum events, much like non-Euclidian geometry was developed to better account for different types of spaces.)

  198. —Aleta: [Are quantum events caused} “I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone does.”

    Well, of course I knew that you would say that. In spite of your protests that you are not a hyperskeptic, and in spite of your earlier claims that you agree that causality is a law, you are wide open to the possibility that quantum events are uncaused, as I knew you were from your comments about radio-active decay. As a hyperskeptic, you embrace what I call “selective causality.” If you want it to be caused, it was; if you don’t want it to be caused it wasn’t. You are open to the possibility all kinds of uncaused events, including the birth of a universe itself.

  199. —Aleta: “The issue here is the difference between the abstract logic and the model of the world to which the logic is applied.”

    You will notice that another among the many issues I addressed in my post was the relationship between the laws of logic and the ordering of the universe. Notice the relevant test questions:

    [true/false]

    [9] The universe is, indeed, ordered, but that doesn’t mean that its order is synchronized with our mind’s logic.

    The mind’s logic [if it’s raining, the streets will get wet] may be inconsistent with the order of the universe [If it’s raining, the streets may not necessarily get wet.] The proposition that there is an unfailing correspondence between the logic our rational minds and ordering of the rational universe is something that should be demonstrated through evidence and cannot be reasonably accepted as a “self-evident truth.”

    [21] If the ordered universe is synchronized with the laws of logic, it could be a coincidence.

    Even if we do have “rational” minds, and even if they do correspond to a “rational universe,” there is no reason to suggeset that it had to be set up by something or someone. It could just be that way.

    Your hyperskepticism prompts you to answer false to question 9 and true to question 21.

    Check out all the other questions, because they are all related to the issue of identifying the presence of hyperskepticism. I think you would score very high.

  200. We are not talking about the birth of the universe. And my position on quantum events is based on evidence – not personal whim: they appear to be probabilistic, not determined by any antecedent.

    And I offered two scenarios: that they are truly random, or that they are caused by some metaphysical reality, and I did not say (because I don’t know) which of those two I think is most likely.

    I assume that you believe quantum events are caused by something. Any idea what, and any way to test your idea? Are you open to the idea that each one is an expression of God’s will?

  201. And don’t go telling me how I would answer your questions. Ask, if you wish (although I have been addressing some of the issues), but don’t assume.

  202. 203

    Skeptics always look to quantum events as a model for that which has no cause – quantum events are not merely unpredictable, but are indeed without cause.

    Odd isn’t it. Something that happens without reason, or constraint, does so at a set rates over time.

  203. UB writes, “Skeptics always look to quantum events as a model for that which has no cause – quantum events are not merely unpredictable, but are indeed without cause. Odd isn’t it. Something that happens without reason, or constraint, does so at a set rates over time.”

    I’ve made it clear that I don’t know whether quantum events are caused or not, and I don’t think anyone does. But the truth of the matter is that they present puzzles that don’t fit neatly into our prior models of the nature of reality.

    And no one has suggested that they just happen without any pattern: they exhibit all the hallmarks of being governed by probabilities. How this is possible and what the cause of them being like this are also unknown.

    Consider the analogy with throwing a dice (and remember analogies are always just meant to suggest ideas – they are not to be an exact model). There is a reason why the probability of throwing any one number is 1/6 – because the dice has 6 sides, etc., but on any one throw there is no reason why a 1 shows up and not a 2 – that is random.

  204. —Aleta: “We are not talking about the birth of the universe.”

    We are talking about the birth of anything.

    —”And my position on quantum events is based on evidence – not personal whim: they appear to be probabilistic, not determined by any antecedent.”

    Appear? The moon appears to be closer to me than my streetlight. The sun appears to me as larger than the Andromeda galaxy. Evidence must be interpreted through the rules of right reason.

    Your position is based on a specific interpretaion of the evidence, not just the evidence.

    Here is another one of my questions that the hyperskeptics avoided:

    [19] “Evidence can speak for itself; it need not be interpreted by or mediated through the rules of right reason.

    Science can stand alone. It needs no metaphysical foundations in order to be rational.”

    Hyperskeptics do not understand the metaphysical foundations for science or, as is usually the case, do not even know they exist. That is why some of them get on the Larry King show and make irrational claims about self-creating universes.

    —”And I offered two scenarios: that they are truly random, or that they are caused by some metaphysical reality, and I did not say (because I don’t know) which of those two I think is most likely.”

    If you are open to the possibility that quantum events are not caused, then you obviously do not believe that causality is a law, which would contradict your earlier claims. Of course, you have really taken three positions:

    [a]the law of causality admits of no exceptions

    [b] the law causality may admit of some exceptions

    [c] the law of causality is an arbitrarily devised axiom and does not or may not always apply to the real world

    —”I assume that you believe quantum events are caused by something. Any idea what, and any way to test your idea? Are you open to the idea that each one is an expression of God’s will?”

    One of the function of reason’s rules is to stay reasonable when the necessary facts are not available. I don’t know what causes quantum events, but I can reasonably insist that they are, indeed, caused.

    The first principles of right reason, as I have often stated, cannot be tested for validity or reasonableness. THEY ARE THE TEST FOR VALIDITY AND REASONABLENESS. We do not reason our way TO them; we reason our way FROM them.
    The are self-evident truths, not so much because they are always immediately evident, but rather because, upon reflection, it becomes obvious that denying them leads to absurdity.

  205. Stephen writes, “Of course, you have really taken three positions:

    [a]the law of causality admits of no exceptions

    [b] the law causality may admit of some exceptions

    [c] the law of causality is an arbitrarily devised axiom and does not or may not always apply to the real world”

    It is true that during our discussion earlier in the thread I said I accepted the law of causality in our material world. I did not mention the quuantum mechanics aspects because 1) I was discussing the world of macro events as we experience them, and bring up quantum events would have distracted from the major topic of emergence, and 2) I didn’t wanted to stimulate a jillion links to posts on wave collapse by bornagain. :)

    And I certainly don’t think the law of causality is “an arbitrarily devised axiom”: it accurately states a fact that we (mankind in general) have continued to confirm time and time again. People used to believe that aspects of nature were personified, and could act whimsically, but now we understand how deeply embedded causality is in how the world works. This doesn’t mean that classic, efficient causality has to work “all the way down”, so to speak. It may not apply to the wolrd of quantum events. Support for this view is based on empirical evidence, and if the world turns out be be different than our classical conceptions hold it to be, then so be it. As is sometimes stated around here, we need to follow the evidence wherever it leads, and it may lead to the conclusion that at the very foundation of the physical world, there is an uncaused, random element. If so, as Feynman says, we need to give up our previous conceptions and accept the reality of the situation.

    This doesn’t mean that we give up the notion of causality, or that our notions are arbitrary or whimsical: it just means we have to be able to discriminate among situations where different ideas about how things are caused are applied.

    Also, Stephen writes, “The first principles of right reason, as I have often stated, cannot be tested for validity or reasonableness. THEY ARE THE TEST FOR VALIDITY AND REASONABLENESS. We do not reason our way TO them; we reason our way FROM them. The are self-evident truths, not so much because they are always immediately evident, but rather because, upon reflection, it becomes obvious that denying them leads to absurdity.”

    Yes, you’ve said that – no need to shout. However, statements about causes are different than purely logical statements: ~(P and ~P) may be a principle of right reason, but the statement that all events have immediate proximate causes is a statement about the world that can be, in theory, tested, and thus is testable: it is not a “principle of right reason.”

  206. 207

    Aleta,

    My point in asking the question of whether it is logically impossible that a bird would give live birth instead of laying eggs is to illustrate the point that we do not see the natural world nor understand its inner synthesis of why one thing leads to another logically, as we do things that don’t physically exist, metaphysical laws, such as mathematics and laws of logic, and I would add morality. With metaphysical laws, we can understand why one things logically leads to another, we do not have the equivalent insight with any two things connected physically, that is, one thing following another, in nature. We call these physical events “laws” only because they repeat. But this is just a description, not an explanation, as we have real explanations with metaphysical reality. Mathematics doesn’t require a physical entity represented by it in order to do mathematics. For an obvious and simple illustration, there is no physical object to represent that square root of 2, nor negative numbers, nor infinity, nor the continuing decimal of pi, etc. The only way that the external world is even made intelligible as an external world is through the powers of logic and reason to begin with. If you remove the powers of inference, that is, of arranging the sensory stimuli into a coherent picture, the external world disappears all together. If you remove logic, you remove the external world. It is only through metaphysical reality, that is, metaphysical laws of reason and logic, which don’t themselves physically exist, that there exists an external reality at all, and only then we can even begin to describe external reality.

  207. Hi Clive. You write, ” We call these physical events “laws” only because they repeat. But this is just a description, not an explanation, as we have real explanations with metaphysical reality.”

    I’ll agree with the former, and disagree with the latter. As Newton famously pointed out, we don’t need additional metaphysical explanations in order to have useful scientific descriptions. If things happen with regularity, and can be described with mathematical precision, we then can call that regularity a law. There is a possibility that one moment does not cause the next, but rather that each moment is being caused by some God in a logical fashion so that it just looks like one moment causes the next. But like many such possibilities, there is no reason to believe it and it adds nothing to our understanding, and so I’m willing to believe that if the world appears to have causal connections between the moments, then that’s the way we’ll describe it. Doing so seems to work pretty well.

    But I don’t think we have “real explanations of metaphysical reality” at all. I think we have abstract logical systems about symbols, but they don’t explain anything by themselves, and they aren’t metaphysical.

    You write, “The only way that the external world is even made intelligible as an external world is through the powers of logic and reason to begin with. If you remove the powers of inference, that is, of arranging the sensory stimuli into a coherent picture, the external world disappears all together. If you remove logic, you remove the external world. It is only through metaphysical reality, that is, metaphysical laws of reason and logic, which don’t themselves physically exist, that there exists an external reality at all, and only then we can even begin to describe external reality.”

    This is the classic Platonic view, but I am not a Platonist – I don’t believe that the laws of logic exist in some immaterial metaphysical realm. I agree that we have the apparatus to “arrange the sensory stimuli into a coherent picture,” and that our brain/mind manifests basic laws of logic and math in our understanding of the world. But, and this is the class Platonic/non-Platonic disagreement, you think that logic and math are metaphysically real, and are prior to (and in some sense superior to) physical reality, and I believe that the nature of physical reality comes first, and that our understanding of math and logic are part of our biological nature which has emerged out of the physical world.

    Another way to look at is this: the statement that the world follows the law of nature is Platonic – the language implies that the laws are in charge, but it is more correct to say that the laws follow nature – they are just descriptions of the regular behavior of the world component parts, and it’s the reality of those component parts that comes first, and is primary.

    A philosopher professor, a friend of mine, once described it this way: you see goats going up the mountainside, and you note the the goats follow the path, much as you note that nature follows laws. But who made the path! The goats did! The path exists because the goats acted in a regular way – the path is an expression of the goats nature in the same way the the laws of nature, including logic and math, are expressions of the nature of physical reality.

    Needless to say, I don’t think there is any way for us to resolve this issue empirically, but I am arguing for the non-Platonic view here.

  208. 209

    Aleta,

    Another way to look at is this: the statement that the world follows the law of nature is Platonic – the language implies that the laws are in charge, but it is more correct to say that the laws follow nature – they are just descriptions of the regular behavior of the world component parts, and it’s the reality of those component parts that comes first, and is primary.

    I know you see it that way, but that is putting the cart before the horse. Without an ability of understanding first, there is no external world; the external world relies on its existence in our understanding to our powers of inference first, not vice versa. You remove the ability to infer first, and you remove the external world. The external world is an inferred world.

  209. Hi StephenB. I know you’ve a lot of comments to respond to here. I was wondering, though, if you would be able to comment on my last post @ # 120?

    My point was that an unmoved mover is by definition an uncaused cause. Thus if unmoved movers exist – as libertarians claim they do – then the law of causality is necessarily false.

    Proponents of libertarianism themselves all agree that libertarian free will requires causeless events. O’Connor, for example, writes that:

    … no answer could be given to the question of what was the cause of a given agent-causal event, and hence that the question is ill-framed, resulting from a failure to understand the peculiar nature of such an event… So it seems that the libertarian may acknowledge without embarassment that events of this type are uncaused.

    So I am wondering how you think both can be true. Specifically, how can unmoved movers, or ‘only partially moved movers’ (since no-one denies that agents are influenced by things), exist, and yet the law of causality also be true?

  210. Sorry, the reference from the quote above is: http://www.indiana.edu/~scotus.....sation.pdf

  211. Perhaps my question is clearer when put this way:

    How can the law of causality be true, and yet agents also be able to initiate novel chains of cause and effect (as in libertarianism)?

  212. Green writes, “How can the law of causality be true, and yet agents also be able to initiate novel chains of cause and effect.”

    I wondered about this very question in a previous thread about free will with Stephen. I claimed that acts of free will were little “local” uncaused causes, and that the law of causality was violated by our acts of free will. He claimed this didn’t violate the law of causality, but since then I have found out that he had been lumping a variety of types of causes (efficient, first, final, etc.) all into one category.

    So there is a possibility that the world is constantly changed by new uncaused causes, both in the free will acts of human beings and in the quantum events at the smallest scale. This would mean that far from being determined causally, the world is subject to a continuous stream of non-determined events which leads it down a unique, contingent path.

  213. Green @213. I answered your question @110.

    Also, your statement that “libertarians themselves all agree that libertarian free will requires causeless events” is false. I am not going to embarrass you by asking you to support your claim because I already know that you cannot.

  214. —Aleta: “However, statements about causes are different than purely logical statements: ~(P and ~P) may be a principle of right reason, but the statement that all events have immediate proximate causes is a statement about the world that can be, in theory, tested, and thus is testable: it is not a “principle of right reason.”

    Please tell me how you can test the proposition that all events have immediate proximate causes.

  215. Stephen writes, “Please tell me how you can test the proposition that all events have immediate proximate causes.”

    We can’t test that all events have such causes. We can look at the history of human knowledge and find that looking for immediate proximate causes has been a very successful enterprise, and that places where people once thought that things were caused by some kind of uncaused agent (demons or spirits, for instance), or happened spontaneously (flies coming into existence), have been shown to have causal explanations. So it’s a very strong inductive conclusion, based on at least 500 years of pretty steady investigation, that we live in a causally connected universe.

  216. StephenB says, as quoted by Aleta:

    The first principles of right reason, as I have often stated, cannot be tested for validity or reasonableness. THEY ARE THE TEST FOR VALIDITY AND REASONABLENESS. We do not reason our way TO them; we reason our way FROM them. The are self-evident truths, not so much because they are always immediately evident, but rather because, upon reflection, it becomes obvious that denying them leads to absurdity.

    ———————

    How does adopting the axiom “all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the Universe” instead of “all things that begin to exist have a cause, no exceptions allowed” lead to absurdity?

    As you say, we have no way to reason to this axiom, or to demonstrate it empirically. If we rule out special relevation, the only way to decide between these is if one leads to absurdity and the other one does not.

    Please show us the absurdity, StephenB.

  217. Faded_glory insists in 218 that the axiom “all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the universe” doesn’t lead to contradictions.

    Syllogism:

    1. All things that begin to exists have a cause

    2. Universe’s beginning didn’t have a cause
    3. All things that begin to exists don’t have a cause

    Third premise follows necessarily from 2. and is negation of 1. and thus the syllogism fails. The axiom “all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the universe” is formally invalid.

  218. FG:

    Re:How does adopting the axiom “all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the Universe” instead of “all things that begin to exist have a cause, no exceptions allowed” lead to absurdity?

    1 –> Do you not recognise that the universe is precisely “All matter and energy, including the earth, the galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space, regarded as a whole” [AmHD, 2009]?

    2 –> Do you not therefore see that — as SB pointed out near the top of the thread — by making an exception of the universe, the exception immediately becomes every case, swallowing up the rule?

    3 –> Furthermore, one imagines that as an educated person you have a passing acquaintance with mathematical reasoning. So, you know or should know, that in many mathematical cases, the inference is that when an assumption leads to absurdity, it should be denied. Thus, int he wider context, we see the same approach: when rejecting a principle leads to absurdity, it is reasonable to accept he principle.

    4 –> In the case of he principle that that which BEGINS to exist or may cease from existing has a cause, it is the same as saying that something does not come from nothing. No space, no time, no energy, no matter, no intelligence. NOTHING, not a smuggled-in something.

    5 –> In the case of Mr Hawkings’ recent regrettable blunder, he imagined that physical laws can exist without the physical entities that behave in an orderly way.

    6 –> More precisely, he was inferring to the metaphysical [raw, speculative philosophical] postulate — there is no empirical evidence — of a multiverse. Wiki inadvertently brings this out:

    M-theory is an extension of string theory in which 11 dimensions are identified. Because the dimensionality exceeds the dimensionality of superstring theories in 10 dimensions, it is believed that the 11-dimensional theory unites all five string theories (and supersedes them). Though a full description of the theory is not yet known, the low-entropy dynamics are known to be supergravity interacting with 2- and 5-dimensional membranes.

    This idea is the unique supersymmetric theory in eleven dimensions, with its low-entropy matter content and interactions fully determined, and can be obtained as the strong coupling limit of type IIA string theory because a new dimension of space emerges as the coupling constant increases . . . . M-theory (and string theory) has been criticized for lacking predictive power or being untestable. Further work continues to find mathematical constructs that join various surrounding theories. New formulations are proposed to join many theoretic situations (usually by exploiting string theoretic dualities). Witten has suggested that a general formulation of M-theory will probably require the development of new mathematical language. However, the tangible success of M-theory can be questioned, given its current incompleteness and limited predictive power, even after so many years of intense research.

    7 –> It is worth citing the same source in another article to elaborate on supergravity just a bit, as damaging admissions against interest are ever so telling:

    a supergravity theory contains a spin-2 field whose quantum is the graviton. Supersymmetry requires the graviton field to have a superpartner. This field has spin 3/2 and its quantum is the gravitino. The number of gravitino fields is equal to the number of supersymmetries. Supergravity theories are often said to be the only consistent theories of interacting massless spin 3/2 fields

    8 –> In short, Hawking is in fact precisely not drawing everything out of nothing, he is postulating an unobserved, unobservable [untestable] primordial matrix in which our observed sub-cosmos emerges by some sort of quantum fluctuation or the like.

    9 –> It is worth pausing to highlight that we have three or four general patterns of causal factors: necessary, sufficient, necessary and sufficient, contributory. A fire requires the necessary and sufficient set: fuel, oxidiser, heat. Each contributes, each is necessary, the three are jointly sufficient. AND, IF SOMETHING HAS A NECESSARY CAUSAL FACTOR AT WORK AS A CONTRIBUTION, IT IS NOT UNCAUSED.

    10 –> Why is that? Simple: if you remove a necessary contributing factor, the effect is blocked.

    11 –> No fuel, no fire, for instance. And, in the case of Hawking, no underlying M-cosmos with its laws, no emerging observed cosmos. Just so, no unstable nucleus, no radioactive decay [which shows that a random, quantum based process is NOT acausal]. And so on.

    12 –> thus, we see just how absurd the notion of something [and in this case a whole universe] coming from nothing is.

    13 –> Indeed, those who assert it find themselves in the absurdity of postulating a very big and powerful something [a multiverse], which they then label as “nothing.” A crude self-contradiction, asserting A and NOT_A in the same sense of A.

    14 –> And if you would deny this principle, understand the force of its logic: if a thing may and may not be in the same sense, time and place etc, then we have demolished all distinction. the apostle Paul aptly describes the resulting chaos of confusion:

    1 Cor 14: 7Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?

    15 –> So, indeed, the first principles of right reason are the undeniable basis on which we can do anything that requires reason.

    16 –> To try to deny them lands us in absurdity, absurdity that is immediately evident on understanding the principles and seeing what happens when one — one who lives in and experiences the world as a conscious, intelligent, enconscienced creature — denies them.

    17 –> To help clear the air, I strongly suggest beginning with Warranted Credible truth no 1: error exists.

    18 –> Try to deny it. Immediately, you entail that either the original claim was an error, or else the attempted denial will be an error. In either case, you have provided an example of an error. So, we immediately see that error exists is undeniably true and self-evident as a consequence.

    19 –> And so forth. Selective hyperskepticism that tries to deny the self-evident stature of first principles of right reason, lands in absurdity.

    20 –> Including (as shown) the attempted denial of the principle of causality.

    ___________________

    Back to my constitution crisis . . .

    GEM of TKI

  219. Innerbling:

    Syllogism:

    1. All things that begin to exists have a cause

    2. Universe’s beginning didn’t have a cause
    3. All things that begin to exists don’t have a cause

    Third premise follows necessarily from 2. and is negation of 1. and thus the syllogism fails. The axiom “all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the universe” is formally invalid.
    ———————

    You must be joking, right? This whole debate is about whether or not your first premise is true or not. If you start with the assumption that it is, of course it is trivial to demonstrate that its negation is invalid.

    Now, do us a favour, and show via a syllogism that your first premise is true. I would be very interested to see that, and so would StephenB, I’m sure, who has repeatedly assured us that one cannot reason towards such a law.

    fG

  220. Kairosfocus, you are the next in line who tries to reason towards the law that all things that begin have a caue, and predictably, you fail as well. It seems that only StephenB has the correct understanding, namely that this is an axiom, a subjective assumption made without supporting reasoning or evidence, on which the rest of our thinking is based (along with a number of other axioms).

    I fully agree that a poor choice of axioms can lead to absurdity, such as obvious discrepancies with reality (assuming we all subscribe to the axiom that there is a reality). However, nothing in the assumption that everything that exists (within the universe) has a cause, except the universe itself, causes absurdity. Unless perhaps, we count the way so many contributors here get their panties in a twist about this as an absurdity.

    (that was a gentle joke, Clive. I hope you’ll forgive me).

    Gents, you have to face it – it is quite legitimate for different people to base their reasoning on different axiomatic assumptions than you do, and there is nothing you can bring to bear to show that they are incorrect. Even someone who claims that the world, the entire universe, the entirety of existence, was created only last Thursday cannot be shown to be incorrect. Most people wouldn’t know what to do with such a person, few would agree with them, but there is no way to prove they got it wrong.

    A more interesting topic might be, how do we deal with the situation that different people can legitimately base their reasoning on different axioms, without anyone being able to demonstrate who is right and who is wrong? One way is to resort to denigration and name calling. Are there other ways?

    fG

  221. Excellent post, fg. What we need in this world is an understanding that there are different ways at looking at the world that cannot be sorted into right and wrong, and then move on to looking at more immediate things we do or do not agree about and figuring out how to deal with those differences.

  222. –Aleta: “but the statement that all events have immediate proximate causes is a statement about the world that can be, in theory, tested, and thus is testable: it is not a “principle of right reason.”

    I asked: Please tell me how you can test the proposition that all events have immediate proximate causes

    —”We can’t test that all events have such causes.”

    You are starting to show signs if life.

  223. Yet, We can somewhat reason to the first cause for the universe:

    In quantum teleportation we have the transcendent entity of information being shown to be independent of space-time, matter-energy. Moreover we have this transcendent information exercising direct dominion of matter-energy regardless of space-time considerations.

    Stephen C. Meyer – Evolution vs. Information – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OnoD7ZRo3o

    Quantum Teleportation – IBM Research Page
    Excerpt: “it would destroy the original (photon) in the process,,”
    http://www.research.ibm.com/qu.....portation/

    Unconditional Quantum Teleportation – abstract
    Excerpt: This is the first realization of unconditional quantum teleportation where every state entering the device is actually teleported,,
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/.....2/5389/706

    Thus, Quantum teleportation is direct empirical validation for the primary tenet of the Law of Conservation of Information (i.e. ‘transcendent’ information cannot be created or destroyed). This conclusion is warranted because information exercises direct dominion of energy, telling energy exactly what to be and do in the experiment. Thus, this experiment provides a direct line of logic that transcendent information cannot be created or destroyed and, in information demonstrating transcendence, and dominion, of space-time and matter-energy, becomes the only known entity that can satisfactorily explain where all energy came from as far as the origination of the universe is concerned. That is infinite transcendent information is the only known entity which can explain where each and every the ‘specified’ photon energy came from in the Big Bang without leaving the bounds of empirical science as the postulated multiverse does, and is certainly much more satisfactory than saying nothing caused the universe. Clearly anything that exercises dominion of the fundamental entity of this physical universe, a photon of energy, as transcendent information does in teleportation, must of necessity possess the same, as well as greater, qualities as energy does possess in the first law of thermodynamics (i.e. Energy cannot be created or destroyed by any known material means according to the first law). To reiterate, since information exercises dominion of energy in quantum teleportation then all information that can exist, for all past, present and future events of energy, already must exist. ,,, Another way to reason to ‘transcendent information’ being the first cause is to realize that ‘infinite’ transcendent information is the mathematical definition of a photon:

    Explaining Information Transfer in Quantum Teleportation: Armond Duwell †‡ University of Pittsburgh
    Excerpt: In contrast to a classical bit, the description of a (photon) qubit requires an infinite amount of information. The amount of information is infinite because two real numbers are required in the expansion of the state vector of a two state quantum system (Jozsa 1997, 1)
    http://www.cas.umt.edu/phil/fa.....lPSA2K.pdf

    further notes:

    Reflections on the ‘infinite transcendent information’ framework:

    The weight of mass becomes infinite at the speed of light, thus mass will never go the speed of light. As well, mass would disappear from our sight if it could go the speed of light, because, from our non-speed of light perspective, distance in direction of travel will shrink to zero for the mass going the speed of light, whereas conversely, if mass could travel at the speed of light its size will stay the same while all other frames of reference not traveling the speed of light will disappear from its sight.

    Special Relativity – Time Dilation and Length Contraction – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSRIyDfo_mY

    For us to hypothetically travel at the speed of light, in this universe, only gets us to first base as far as quantum entanglement, or teleportation, are concerned. That is to say, traveling at the speed of light only gets us to the place where time, as we understand it, comes to complete stop for light, i.e. gets us to the eternal, ‘past and future folding into now’, framework of time. This higher dimension ‘eternal’ inference for the time framework of light is warranted because light is not ‘frozen within time’ yet it is shown that time, as we understand it, does not pass for light.

    “I’ve just developed a new theory of eternity.”
    Albert Einstein

    “The laws of relativity have changed timeless existence from a theological claim to a physical reality. Light, you see, is outside of time, a fact of nature proven in thousands of experiments at hundreds of universities. I don’t pretend to know how tomorrow can exist simultaneously with today and yesterday. But at the speed of light they actually and rigorously do. Time does not pass.” – Richard Swenson

    Light and Quantum Entanglement Reflect Some Characteristics Of God – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4102182

    Also, hypothetically traveling at the speed of light in this universe would be instantaneous travel for the person going at the speed of light. This is because time does not pass for them, but, and this is a big but; this ‘timeless’ travel is still not instantaneous and transcendent to our temporal framework of time, i.e. Speed of light travel, to our temporal frame of reference, is still not completely transcendent of our framework since light appears to take time to travel from our perspective. In information teleportation though the ‘time not passing’, eternal, framework is not only achieved in the speed of light framework/dimension, but also in our temporal framework. That is to say, the instantaneous teleportation/travel of information is instantaneous to both the temporal and speed of light frameworks, not just the speed of light framework. Information teleportation/travel is not limited by time, nor space, in any way, shape or form, in any frame of reference, as light is seemingly limited to us. Thus ‘pure transcendent information’ is shown to be timeless (eternal) and completely transcendent of all material frameworks. Moreover, concluding from all lines of evidence we have now examined; transcendent, eternal, infinite information is indeed real and the framework in which ‘It’ resides is the primary reality (highest dimension) that can exist, (in so far as our limited perception of a primary reality, highest dimension, can be discerned).

    “An illusion can never go faster than the speed limit of reality”
    Akiane – Child Prodigy – Music video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4204586

    Logic also dictates ‘a decision’ must have been made, by the ‘transcendent, eternal, infinite information’ from the primary timeless (eternal) reality ‘It’ inhabits, in order to purposely create a temporal reality with highly specified, irreducible complex, parameters from a infinite set of possibilities in the proper sequential order. Thus this infinite transcendent information, which is the primary reality of our reality, is shown to be alive by yet another line of evidence besides the findings of quantum mechanics.

    The First Cause Must Be A Personal Being – William Lane Craig – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4813914

    as well:

    As a side light to this, leading quantum physicist Anton Zeilinger has followed in John Archibald Wheeler’s footsteps (1911-2008) by insisting reality, at its most foundational level, is ‘information’.

    “It from bit symbolizes the idea that every item of the physical world has at bottom – at a very deep bottom, in most instances – an immaterial source and explanation; that which we call reality arises in the last analysis from the posing of yes-no questions and the registering of equipment-evoked responses; in short, that things physical are information-theoretic in origin.” John Archibald Wheeler

    Why the Quantum? It from Bit? A Participatory Universe?
    Excerpt: In conclusion, it may very well be said that information is the irreducible kernel from which everything else flows. Thence the question why nature appears quantized is simply a consequence of the fact that information itself is quantized by necessity. It might even be fair to observe that the concept that information is fundamental is very old knowledge of humanity, witness for example the beginning of gospel according to John: “In the beginning was the Word.” Anton Zeilinger – a leading expert in quantum teleportation:
    http://www.metanexus.net/Magaz.....fault.aspx

    The restriction imposed by our physical limitations of us ever accessing complete infinite information to our temporal space-time framework/dimension (Wheeler; Zeilinger) does not detract, in any way, from the primacy and dominion of the infinite transcendent information framework that is now established by the quantum teleportation experiment as the primary reality of our reality. Of note: All of this evidence meshes extremely well with the theistic postulation of God possessing infinite and perfect knowledge.

    etc.. etc…

  224. FG:

    I am busy elsewhere right now [with a constiuttional crisis], so I do not have further time for a long exchange.

    I would appreciate it if you would stop from erecting a strawman.

    One does not reason TO first principles, one reasons FROM them, and as I already pointed out — but you plainly ignored — one notes that their denial leads to absurdity, so we have good reason to start from them.

    Given that problem of reductio ad absurdum, not all sets of “axioms” are equal. those axioms that reject the FPRR end in absurdities, as I showed earloier this morning.

    Can you kindly provide an instance of something that began to exist that has neither necessary nor contributing nor sufficient causal factors? That is, something that comes out of nowhere, and nothing, for no reason, and yet BEGINS to exist?

    I citred a key current example of the absurdities that result form practically trying to assert such, Mr Hawking and his M-Theory speculations. He ends in the absurdity of implying that his M-theory supercosmos is “nothing.” I also coted two typical furter examples commonly seen at UD, radioactive events and the wider quantum events they exemplify. Those who assert that such events happen without cause as a rule show themselves, sad to say, ignorant of what “cause” means, and of what effects and phenomena are.

    One can posit any set of axioms one wishes, i.e. one is free to have a worldview of one’s choice. However, when that worldview ends in absurdities because it defies those self-evident truths that are first principles of right reason, we who look on are entitled to see that such proposed alte5rnative axioms end in self-referential incoherence, i.e. absurdity. Such worldviews, objectively, are irrational.

    Yes, first principles of right reason are insufficient in themselves to specify the details of a reasonable set of worldview first plausibles, But they are more than enough to cut a wide swath through the weeds of the contemporary marketplace of ideas.

    (Onlookers, cf my previously linked to see why — and observe that FG has precisely not grappled with the specifics.)

    G’day

    GEM of TKI

  225. No need to be snarky, Stephen. The proposition that all events have immediate, proximate causes is a statement about our universe, and like all empirically testable statements, all we can do is gather evidence to confirm it – we can’t prove that it is 100% true. In fact, as we have been discussing (although I know you don’t agree), both quantum events and acts of free will (to some) may be exceptions to the statement.

    Would you care to respond to the substance of my comments?

  226. It is also interesting to note that since they have encoded information onto the wave state of a photon:,,,

    Ultra-Dense Optical Storage – on One Photon
    Excerpt: Researchers at the University of Rochester have made an optics breakthrough that allows them to encode an entire image’s worth of data into a photon, slow the image down for storage, and then retrieve the image intact.
    http://www.physorg.com/news88439430.html

    ,,,,And that a photon is not only defined as infinite information but can be encoded, in principle, with infinite information,,,,:

    Single photons to soak up data:
    Excerpt: the orbital angular momentum of a photon can take on an infinite number of values. Since a photon can also exist in a superposition of these states, it could – in principle – be encoded with an infinite amount of information.
    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/7201

    ,,, then the cause of the wave collapse of photons to each unique point of observation in the universe must possess complete mastery of the infinite information for each photon of energy in order to ’cause’ the wave state to collapse in coherent fashion to each ‘observer’. ,,, Not a easy task for finite beings such as ourselves to comprehend, but is exactly as such control as we would expect for a infinitely powerful God who is completely transcendent of time and space.,,,

    By the way,, I have no problem acknowledging the one who possesses such power as to sustain the universe in such coordinated fashion to each individual observer as well as related to the whole of the universe, as Almighty God!!!

    That’s My King!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upGCMl_b0n4

  227. —fadedglory: :I fully agree that a poor choice of axioms can lead to absurdity, such as obvious discrepancies with reality (assuming we all subscribe to the axiom that there is a reality).”

    Show me how a poor choice of axioms leads to absurdity [without appealing to first principles, of course].

  228. —Aleta: “The proposition that all events have immediate, proximate causes is a statement about our universe, and like all empirically testable statements, all we can do is gather evidence to confirm it – we can’t prove that it is 100% true.”

    You continue to labor under the impression that the laws of logic are not in correspondence to the ordering of the universe. The statement that a thing cannot exist and not exist at the same time is also a statement about our universe. That is why I asked you if Jupiter [a planet in the real world] can exist and not exist at the same time. Do you think that such a proposition can be subjected to an empirical test?

    In keeping with that point, you obviously do not understand the relationship between the fact that something cannot exist before it exists [a corollary of guestion 4] and the fact that it cannot exist and not exist at the same time [question 3]. If you did understand that relationship, you would not suggest that one principle applies to the real world while the other does not.

    I have posted 25 points, all of which are related. In the present discussion, questions 3, 4, 7, 9, 10, and 21 are all at issue. In order to grasp the subject matter, you must cast your net much wider.

  229. @230. The laws of logic are in correspondence [with] the ordering of the universe.

  230. Faded_Glory answers me in 221:

    “You must be joking, right? This whole debate is about whether or not your first premise is true or not. If you start with the assumption that it is, of course it is trivial to demonstrate that its negation is invalid.”

    - -

    Maybe you formulated your question in 218 wrongly but you specifically asked:

    - -

    How does adopting the axiom “all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the Universe” instead of “all things that begin to exist have a cause, no exceptions allowed” lead to absurdity?

    - -

    I demonstrated that if you based your worldview on the first syllogism you would be living with a formally invalid axiom and as such logically absurd view of reality.

    You should have formulated the syllogism as follows:

    1. Universe’s beginning didn’t have a cause
    2. Thus not all things that begin to exists have a cause

    Or

    1. Universe’s beginning didn’t have a cause
    2. All things that begin to exists have a cause
    3. Thus universe didn’t begin to exists

    Or

    1. All things that begin to exists within universe are caused
    2. Universe was not caused

    The last syllogism is demonstratively false however because “within universe” clause does not help in any way. This is because immediately after the birth of the universe there would necessarily be uncaused events within the universe.
    Following that chain of unfolding all events would be necessarily and ultimately uncaused from that singularity if there are no new causal chains introduced to the universe. It’s also easy to notice that uncaused universe premise is completely arbitrary and without supporting evidence.

  231. Stephen, none of your examples in 230 are like the statement “all events have a cause”.

    And you write, “You continue to labor under the impression that the laws of logic are not in correspondence to the ordering of the universe.”

    I’ve discussed that subject a number of times, explaining the difference between the laws of logic themselves and the application of them through a model, and I’ve explained that sometimes the model doesn’t work and then we have to refine the model, and I’ve given examples. You have never responded to this point, so I don’t see much sense in retyping the same ideas again. See 169, 171. 184, and 198.

  232. fg “However, nothing in the assumption that everything that exists (within the universe) has a cause, except the universe itself, causes absurdity.”

    I find the concept that something ( the universe)began to exist before it existed to be absurd to the max.

    Vivid

  233. aleta

    “Logic is an abstract, internally consistent system for manipulating symbols. When we apply logic to the real world we create a model in which the symbols of logic represent some aspect of the real world – we hypothesize a correspondence between the symbols and the real world. If we have then apply the rules of logic to the model we often (most of the time, because we’ve been doing this for a long time) find that the logical results match what goes on in the world.
    However, we sometimes find the the model does not work, not because the logic is wrong but because the model is faulty. In that case, we have to refine our model.

    Notice that the testing process requires empirical evidence if it is to apply to the real world. Logic itself can tell us nothing about the real world – it is a tool (a very powerful one) for thinking about the world using symbols, but only testing our conclusions against the world can validate a particular model”

    Correct me where I am wrong . I understand you to be saying that logic is the model that flows from what we observe in the real world. Without observing the real world we would not have the model. Sometimes the model ( the rules of logic) don’t work because the real world exhibits characteristics that don’t correspond to the model.

    Vivid

  234. @faded

    “all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe”

    That is a self-refuting statement at its finest. The universe (as per materialism) is the totality of all material things… In effect what your proposition states is “all things that come into existence have a cause except ALL THINGS.”

    lol

    -“ Now, there is nothing wrong with axioms, as long as we don’t lose sight of the fact that they are arbitrary choices and not necessarily corresponding to the actual state of affairs in the real world”

    Stating that axioms are arbitrary choices and that they do not necessarily correspond to the actual state of affairs is itself an axiom… An arbitrary one. You’ve just refuted yourself… AGAIN! done.

    @aleta

    -“There is no reason, other than religious dogma, to believe that there must be some sustaining power going on to keep things in existence”

    In the same spirit:

    “There is no reason, other than THE RELIGIOUS DOGMA OF MATERIALISM , to believe that there must NOT be some sustaining power going on to keep things in existence”

    Tu quoque… but thanks anyway!

    -“how about the existence of Jesus… Am I hyperskeptical to doubt those, or is that a rational and healthy skepticism?”

    Actually aleta the situation is a lot worse than simple hyperskepticism, which you are certainly guilty of.

    Here are the facts…That position unfortunately is both unhistorical and unscholarly. When this idea was first introduced by some hyperskeptical naturalists a few centuries ago the historical community laughed at them. In fact, historians wrote articles arguing against the existence of napoleon, who at the time was alive!!! Historians compared the beliefs of these naturalists to those of flat earthers!!! Their claims are nothing short of foolish and have been abandoned by virtually all modern Biblical scholars. As Ehrman puts it:

    “I don’t think there’s any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus. There are a lot of people who want to write sensational books and make a lot of money who say Jesus didn’t exist. But I don’t know any serious scholar who doubts the existence of Jesus.”

    This is not just hyperskepticism but intellectual dishonesty. A situation where knowledge and scholarship are sacrificed at the altar of ignorance and narrow mindedness.

  235. StephenB said:

    Show me how a poor choice of axioms leads to absurdity [without appealing to first principles, of course].
    —————

    Why can’t I appeal to first principles? I daresay we agree on many of those, but perhaps not on all. Say that we agree on everything except on ‘all things that begin to exist have a cause’, which is one principle you appeal to, whereas I appeal to ‘all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the universe’. How would that make any difference to everything else we would care to discuss?

    fG

  236. vividbleau said:

    I find the concept that something ( the universe)began to exist before it existed to be absurd to the max.
    ——————

    vivid, everything that began to exist began to exist before it existed. Once it exists it is past the point where it began to exist.

    I still don’t think you grasp what we are discusing here. It is about causes, not about beginnings.

    fG

  237. Hi Vivid – thanks for asking if you are understanding what I am saying correctly.

    You write, “Correct me where I am wrong . I understand you to be saying that logic is the model that flows from what we observe in the real world. Without observing the real world we would not have the model. Sometimes the model ( the rules of logic) don’t work because the real world exhibits characteristics that don’t correspond to the model.”

    No, I don’t think that is what I am saying, so I’ll try to be clearer.

    1. Logic is a abstract system for manipulating symbols: for instance ~[P and ~P] is a symbolic expression of the law of non-contradiction, and “All P’s are Q’s, X is a P, therefore X is a Q” is a symbolic expression of one form of syllogism. The variables here stand for propositional statements, which are statements which can have a truth value: logic allows us to reason from the truth value of the original propositions to the truth value of further propositions, much as the axiom and theorems of math allow us to reason about numbers.

    2. However, logic itself has no content: the P’s and Q’s are variables, empty until we populate them with specific statements. The truth of the beginning statements in a logical chain cannot be determined by logic itself.

    3. To use logic we create a model. We assign statements about the real world to the P’s and Q’s: the model correlates the symbols of the pure logic with statements about the real world, or the symbols are represented by statements about the real world. Once the model is established, we can reason logically from our beginning statements to other statements.

    4. However, for reasoning about the real world to work, the beginning statements (and any further statements that are interjected) must be accurate representations of the real world. If they aren’t, the reasoning will fail to be valid – not because the logic is wrong, but because the model is wrong.

    For instance, “all redheads are stupid, Joe is a redhead, therefore Joe is stupid” is a logically correct argument, but wrong because the beginning statement is wrong.

    Perhaps this helps you understand what I am saying (irrespective of whether you agree, I would like my position to be understood.) Please ask more questions if you like.

  238. to above: I’m not doubting the historical existence of a man named Jesus, I am doubting the claims that he was the son of God, that he is present in spirit today, that believing in him leads to salvation in heaven, etc.

  239. above said:

    @faded

    “all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe”

    That is a self-refuting statement at its finest. The universe (as per materialism) is the totality of all material things… In effect what your proposition states is “all things that come into existence have a cause except ALL THINGS.”
    ——————

    No. I mean the same thing that atronomers mean when they say that the Universe began with the Big Bang. That obviously does not mean that astronomers think everything began with the Big Bang. Or do you think that is what they mean? In which case the lol is on me.
    —————–

    above said:

    Stating that axioms are arbitrary choices and that they do not necessarily correspond to the actual state of affairs is itself an axiom… An arbitrary one. You’ve just refuted yourself… AGAIN! done.
    —————–

    The concept of an axiom as an arbitrary choice that cannot be formally proven nor empirically demonstrated, within the system that it forms the foundation of, is hardly controversial. Ask StephenB, he will agree with me. All of mathematics start with axioms, as does philosophy.

    Let’s say you adhere to axiom A. I adhere to mutually exclusive axiom B. We can’t settle by reasoning or evidence which one corresponds to the real world. How then can you maintain that the choice between A and B is anything else but subjective?

    But if you insist, I am perfectly happy to elevate my axiom to the one and only true one. I proclaim it to be self-evident. I concede your point, my axiom is not subjective. You are right, axioms are non-arbitrary, and my axiom B is self-evidently true.

    This, obviously, implies that your one A is false because A and B are mutually exclusive.

    What are you going to do now?

    fG

  240. @aleta

    “Invoking whatever properties of God that Stephen wants to invoke (eternal, causeless, whatever) is not a matter of rationality – it’s a matter of assertion by faith”

    First and foremost, this statement rests upon a false dichotomy between reason and faith making it in effect worthless. Second, theologians, philosophers and metaphysicians with the use of rational induction, deduction and abduction have addressed the issue to the degree of exhaustion. If you are not familiar with the literature then I’m sorry.

    -“—”I consider all your arguments about God of this variety. [arbitrarily conceived logical systems].”

    Wrong again. It seems to me that you are either oblivious to the literature or extremely hyperskeptical. There is also an underlying sense of nominalism in your thinking, exemplified by your insistence on arbitrariness, which itself is extremely problematic as a perspective on reality. In fact, the manner in which you treat the laws of right reason and logic, and insist on arbitrariness is the path to solipsism.

    “What I don’t believe is that we can find truth through pure logic about things that we can’t empirically experience.”

    That is a statement of faith. It is an arbitrary claim and one that serves as the basis of the philosophy of verificationism. That being said, verificationism is self-refuting as has been demonstrated by philosophers of science in the 20th century. You’ve become the victim of your own hyperskepticism and are not even aware of it.

  241. above,

    What is wrong with solipsism? How are you going to demonstrate if it is true or false?

    And if you can’t, how can you possibly conclude that it is anything else but yet another subjective choice of axioms about reality?

    fG

  242. —fadedglory: “Why can’t I appeal to first principles?”

    You said, “I fully agree that a poor choice of axioms can lead to absurdity.”

    Just show me how a poor choice of axioms can lead to absurdity. Do it any way you like.

  243. @faded

    I know exactly what an axiom is, but thanks anyway.

    What I was getting at with my critique is your claim that they have no correlation to the actual state of affairs. Some have a correlation while others do not. It is therefore a matter of argument and as of yet I have not seem anything presented by you that would compel me to reject what Stephen is saying.

    To be clear, my critique was directed at an underlying epistemological relativism I saw in your response. If that’s not what you meant then don’t worry about it.

    -“No. I mean the same thing that atronomers mean when they say that the Universe began with the Big Bang. That obviously does not mean that astronomers think everything began with the Big Bang.”

    And what exactly do they mean? Tell us…

  244. —faded glory to above: “The concept of an axiom as an arbitrary choice that cannot be formally proven nor empirically demonstrated, within the system that it forms the foundation of, is hardly controversial. Ask StephenB, he will agree with me. All of mathematics start with axioms, as does philosophy.”

    Please do not mischaracterize what I say in your attempt to debate above. I have never said, or ever would say, that mathematics is founded on arbitrarily chosen axioms.

  245. @faded

    -“What is wrong with solipsism? How are you going to demonstrate if it is true or false?
    And if you can’t, how can you possibly conclude that it is anything else but yet another subjective choice of axioms about reality?”

    So I was right then. You are an epistemological relativist. lol
    What’s wrong with thinking that there is no external world? I don’t know… Go stand on some subway train tracks wait for about say 5-10 minutes, and then tell us what’s wrong with it.

  246. StephenB, for example cargo cults. Or the Greek pantheon who were supposed to live on Mount Olympus and mix amongst the ordinary people from time to time, and perform miraculous deeds. From within those cutures, these beliefs were seen as fundamental truths. From the outside, helped by more extensive knowledge, we can see that those foundational beliefs were absurd.

    fG

  247. @StephenB

    -“ Hyperskepticism [there is no law of causality] leads to gullibility [universes can come into existence from out of nowhere].

    Hyperskepticism [there are no absolute truths] leads to gullibility and irrationality [it is absolutely true that there are no absolute truths.”

    Precisely! However, this is not merely hyperskepticism but a dishonest form hyperskepticism.

    Another thing I noticed by reading this thread is that a lot of the negative responses to your thesis have an underlying commitment to nominalism. A notion that I find very problematic myself.

  248. above,

    I’m afraid it goes a bit deeper than that. You can disprove solipsism in someone else, but not in yourself.

    How did you decide for yourself that your experiences stem from a reality outside your own mind?

    fG

  249. To above: what is wrong with nominalism? In an earlier post to Clive, I think, I pointed out that the Platonic/non-Platonic view is a perennial divide in philosophy, and I fall on the non-Platonic side. As fg is discussing, these are two different views whose truth or falsity really can’t be investigated – they are assumptions that one chooses to adopt.

  250. 252

    Hello,

    I thought you all up. And I am bored with your drivel.

    /sarc

  251. @aleta

    Other than the fact that nominalism is self-referentially incoherent? None whatsoever.

    As far as the perennial divide you mentioned, there is also a third option that treats the divide as yet another false dichotomy. But that is a different matter altogether.

    @fade

    I think the conceptual example I gave you is enough to convince even the most irrational person of the problems with solipsism.

    You have failed to answer my question regarding what astronomers mean however… Care to answer it since you were the one that brought it up?

  252. StephenB said:

    Please do not mischaracterize what I say in your attempt to debate above. I have never said, or ever would say, that mathematics is founded on arbitrarily chosen axioms.
    ——————

    Stephen, I apologise. I find it quite hard in these internet discussions to really understand what people mean behind the things they write. I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth.

    If you don’t think mathematics are founded on arbitrary axioms, what do you make of various types of non-Euclidian mathematics? If the axioms are not arbitrary, how can there be different sets that are mutually contradictory? Wouldn’t that violate the law of non-contradiction?

    fG

  253. above,

    What astronomers mean by the universe that came into existence at the Big Bang is the space-time manifold. They don’t mean that the chair I am sitting on came into existence at the Big Bang.

    Likewise, if my axiom states that everything that begins has a cause except for the universe, that doesn’t mean that the chair I am siting on isn’t caused.

    fG

  254. above,

    I don’t think it is valid to dismiss solipsism that easily. To a solipsist, all exists is a single (eternal?) mind, and therefore the experience of people being hit by a train is still nothing more than merely a thought in that mind. Even if he placed himself on the tracks, the experience, for all the blood and gore, would be merely a thought in that mind.

    I’m sure we agree that it is a bizarre concept, but I maintain that it can’t be ruled out by logic or empirical means. The reason I am not a solipsist is that I find the concept useless and boring. Moreover, the idea of a mind without a material substrate violates some other axioms I adhere to.

    Same with brain-in-a-vat and last-Thursdayism. There is no way to prove them wrong, but they are useless and boring principles to base one’s existence on.

    fG

  255. Besides, last Thursdayism is wrong. It was last Tuesday

    Wanna fight about it! :)

  256. Faded_Glory answers to StephenB in 237:

    …I appeal to ‘all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the universe’. How would that make any difference to everything else we would care to discuss?

    - -

    For one thing I already showed how the axiom “all things that begin to exist have a cause, except the universe” is internally and logically invalid syllogism and continuing to believe in it after it has been shown to be invalid is to blatantly deny reason.

    Even with the “within the universe” clause you later added you will get

    1. The universe was not caused
    2. All things that begin to exists within the universe are caused
    3. As the universe began to exists movement of atoms began to exists within universe without a cause
    4.Thus all things that begins to exists within the universe are not caused

    Third premise follows necessarily from 1. and the fourth premise is negation of the 2. and thus the syllogism fails utterly.
    When forming premises you have to think what other premises follows necessarily from them and make sure that they are not in contradiction with each other. So by laws of logic you really do believe that:

    1. Universe’s beginning didn’t have a cause
    2. Thus not all things that begin to exists have a cause

    :D

  257. –Aleta: “I’ve discussed that subject a number of times, explaining the difference between the laws of logic themselves and the application of them through a model,”

    No, actually you have presented no examples or models at all. You allude to their existence, but you do not specify.

    —and I’ve explained that sometimes the model doesn’t work and then we have to refine the model, and I’ve given examples.”

    You have provided no examples. Evidently, you must be speaking of inductive models, but those approaches are always based on mathematical probabilities, which would be a totally different matter. You do understand, I trust, that scientific findings are always provisional and are based on probability models. By contrast, a syllogism’sconclusions, if arrived at through a sound reasoning process, is always certain. Thus, appealing to a real world analysis, if Jupiter is smaller than the Sun and, if the Sun is smaller than the Milky Way, it is certain that Jupiter is smaller that the Milky Way.

    While providing no models of your own, you challenge my models by saying that they do not always apply to the real world. Yet, I have made it clear that they do. That is why I asked you if Jupiter can exist and not exist at the same time [real world application of LNC]. You admitted that such a state of affairs cannot exist, but you will not acknowledge the obvious reason why this is so. [Since nothing can exist and exist at the same time (The non-negotiable law of non-contraction) if follows that Jupiter cannot exist and not exist at the same time. Thus, LNC is true and it does apply to the real world. Yet, as a hyperskeptic, you fail to acknowledge it as a law.

    The syllogism, another specific logical model which I have mentioned, [a] applies to the real world and [b]is based on the law of non-contradiction. If I begin with a sound premise [something true about the real world], and if I reason properly, I will draw a sound conclusion–a truth about the real world.

    No one, least of all myself, has ever suggested that a syllogism, or any other form of deductive logic can, without any sound input about the real world, teach us anything about the world. So please turn loose of that strawman. You are choking him to death.

    The logical error you are making is as follows: You are saying that [a] Since a syllogism cannot provide useful information about the real world without sound input, [b] it follows that the syllogism does not always apply to the real world. But [b] does not follow from [a]. Do you understand your error?

  258. —faded glory @ 254. OK, duly noted. Thanks.

    —”If you don’t think mathematics are founded on arbitrary axioms, what do you make of various types of non-Euclidian mathematics?”

    Mathematics are based on Euclid’s principles, which he considered to be self evident.

  259. fg “vivid, everything that began to exist began to exist before it existed. Once it exists it is past the point where it began to exist.”

    Sure because something existed before. I am adressing your position that nothing brings the universe into being, that the universe poofed into existence without any cause. It just happened. It is and it isnt at the same time in the same relationship, it exists before it exists.

    fg “I still don’t think you grasp what we are discusing here. It is about causes, not about beginnings”

    I understand that it is your position that all things that come into existence have a cause, except the Universe. I agree as an axiom “it is quite legitimate for different people to base their reasoning on different axiomatic assumptions.” I am pointing out why I think this position is logically absurd.

    You say it is about causes but not beginnings. I take it you think that to say the universe has no cause somehow makes your position more coherent. Begginings requires causes you assert otherwise. The only rational test I know is to determine rationally which axiom is more coherent. I dunno what am I missing?

    Vivid

  260. Maybe Billy Preston should have named his song ‘something from nothing’ instead of ‘Nothing from Nothing’ :)

    Billy Preston – Nothing from nothing 1975
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_DV54ddNHE

  261. fg “vivid, everything that began to exist began to exist before it existed. Once it exists it is past the point where it began to exist.”

    Technically whatever began to exist did not begin to exist before it existed. What we see are different forms of existence because of the different arrangements of the stuff that existed before, its the same stuff with a different configuration. There is nothing in whatever began to exist that was not there before it existed.

    Vivid

  262. StephenB writes, “Mathematics are based on Euclid’s principles, which he considered to be self evident.”

    Wrong. Mathematics is not based on Euclid’s principles. Euclidean geometry is, but other geometries are not.

    Actually Euclid had doubts about the self-evidency of the parallel postulate, and the whole history of non-Euclidean geometries illustrates the point that different axioms produce different logical systems, and only testing can determine whether any one real space matches any one model.

  263. Aleta you state,

    ‘and only testing can determine whether any one real space matches any one model.’

    So If we would expect to find a universe that was created and sustained from a higher dimension, yet was created so that intelligent ’3-Dimensional’ beings could consistently apply mathematics so that two parallel lines never crossed, then should we not find that the curvature of 4-D space-time to be flat? Which just so happens to be what we find for our ‘test’. Or say that if we thought the universe was created and sustained from a higher dimension so that intelligent 3-Dimensional creatures would also be able to consistently apply 3-dimensional mathematics, then should we not also find that the expansion of the 4-D space-time of the universe to be exceedingly consistent for all 3-D points in the universe? which just so happens to be the result of the test if anyone would have been foresighted enough to predict such a result for Theism.

  264. StephenB @ 215:

    Green @213. I answered your question @110.

    If you think you’ve answered my question, then I must not be making myself clear, since you haven’t addressed it.

    Essentially I said that unmoved movers violate the law of causality because they are unmoved (read: uncaused). You said they don’t violate it because God created these unmoved movers. This is not particularly relevant, though. The point is that these agents are still unmoved movers. All you’ve basically said is: “God has created types of events that can subsequently come about without a cause.”

    I hope this has made it clear why your post in 215 does not address the issue.

    You also wrote:

    Also, your statement that “libertarians themselves all agree that libertarian free will requires causeless events” is false.I am not going to embarrass you by asking you to support your claim because I already know that you cannot.

    SB, in case you missed it, I already have supported my claim. In #212 I gave you a quote by Timothy O’Connor – one of the leading proponents of agent-causal libertarianism (which is the type you seem to defend) – which affirmed my exact point. You seemed to ignore it, so here it is again:

    … no answer could be given to the question of what was the cause of a given agent-causal event, and hence that the question is ill-framed, resulting from a failure to understand the peculiar nature of such an event… the libertarian may acknowledge without embarassment that events of this type are uncaused.

    Since you now seem to be arguing otherwise, please tell me; what is it that you think moves the agent (to satisfy the law of causality), but does not stop it from being an unmoved mover (to maintain libertarian free will)?

  265. Aleta @ 214:

    Green: “How can the law of causality be true, and yet agents also be able to initiate novel chains of cause and effect.”

    Aleta: I wondered about this very question in a previous thread about free will with Stephen. I claimed that acts of free will were little “local” uncaused causes, and that the law of causality was violated by our acts of free will. He claimed this didn’t violate the law of causality, but since then I have found out that he had been lumping a variety of types of causes (efficient, first, final, etc.) all into one category.

    Thanks Aleta, bringing in different types of causation is interesting. I must say, though, I’ve had the impression that we’re talking about efficient causes here. In #107, StephenB wrote:

    “Defined in this context, a cause would simply be something that brings something else about.”

    “Bringing something about” implies that we’re talking about efficient causation in reference to the law of causality, I think. :)

  266. If anyone is interested, Bradley Monton has a discussion of William Lane Craig and this “law of causality” on pp.87-88 of his Seeking God in Science: an atheist defends intelligent design.

    I can give a summary here if anyone wants.

  267. —Green: “SB, in case you missed it, I already have supported my claim. In #212 I gave you a quote by Timothy O’Connor – one of the leading proponents of agent-causal libertarianism (which is the type you seem to defend) – which affirmed my exact point. You seemed to ignore it, so here it is again:

    … “no answer could be given to the question of what was the cause of a given agent-causal event, and hence that the question is ill-framed, resulting from a failure to understand the peculiar nature of such an event… the libertarian may acknowledge without embarassment that events of this type are uncaused.”

    Green, I didn’t miss it. Your claim was that libertarians themselves all agree that libertarian free will requires causeless events. First, your preferred author is not saying that. You are putting words in his mouth. Second, meaning no disrespect, I do not consider him a “leading proponent” of libertarian free will. Third, even if he was saying it, which he wasn’t, I know dozens of advocates for libertarian free will who do NOT believe that events of that kind are uncaused. I will just list three: Normal Geisler, William Craig Lane, and Peter Kreeft. Please do not make this claim again until you can quote from all three authors that I recommended and show that each believes what you say he believes. If you run out of authors, let me know and I will give you five or ten more.

    —Since you now seem to be arguing otherwise, please tell me; what is it that you think moves the agent (to satisfy the law of causality), but does not stop it from being an unmoved mover (to maintain libertarian free will)?

    I have always argued the same way. You are using the wrong language to describe the relationship between the law of causality and free will. As a result, your assumptions about free will and causality are erroneous. Neither the human being nor his will is an unmoved mover, or an uncaused cause, or anything else of the kind. How can a caused self, act as an uncaused cause?

    You state:

    —“Libertarians need something that is free from the law of causality – not something that is subject to it.”

    As I have tried to inform you, the human agent is BOTH the EFFECT of a cause [a created reality caused by God] AND a CAUSE of new effects, an instigator of SELF CAUSED actions. God, a creator of effects, is one person and the person he created is another creator of effects. The human will is not like a transformer reflecting willful decisions coming from a generator. It is a faculty which contains the power to choose good or evil, to follow the truth or remain in error, to love or hate.

    —“If an agent is subject to the law of causality, then all the choices he makes are part of a deterministic chain of cause and effect. I.e. his choices are part of a deterministic process.”

    That statement is simply not true.

    “There is no violation of the actual principle of causality in the exercise of free actions. The principle does not claim that every thing (being) needs a cause. Finite things need a cause. God is uncaused. The person performing free actions is caused by God. The power of freedom is caused by God, but the exercise of freedom is caused by the person. The self is the first-cause of personal actions. The principle of causality is not violated because every finite thing and every action has a cause.” —Normal Geisler

    If you want to continue reading from the compatibilists, open theists, and other skewed authors, by all means, go ahead. Please do not ask me to explain this again, though, until you have absorbed what others outside your closed circle are saying, until you can present their arguments [and mine] accurately and in the best possible light, and until you can provide a counter answer to their arguments as they express them, not as you or your favorite authors may choose to misrepresent them.

  268. Green re 268

    I would be interested in reading your summary.

    Vivid

  269. Green and Aleta, I need to call your attention to something. Each of you have suggested several times that I integrate numerous kinds of causes in my analysis.

    —”Aleta: I wondered about this very question in a previous thread about free will with Stephen. I claimed that acts of free will were little “local” uncaused causes, and that the law of causality was violated by our acts of free will. He claimed this didn’t violate the law of causality, but since then I have found out that he had been lumping a variety of types of causes (efficient, first, final, etc.) all into one category.”

    The only time I mentioned final causes or other varieties of causes was to explain to Aleta the difference between emergence, which is not associated with any kind of causality, and a guided developmental process, which is. In no other context did I refer to anything other than efficient causes. Please make a note of it and please stop insinuating that it has anything to do with any discussion about the law of causality or the subject of free will. It doesn’t.

  270. Hi vivid @ 270:

    Monton critiques the law of causality on 4 accounts. I’ll just list 3 of them as I don’t fully understand his last criticism. They are as follows:

    1) Its defenders equivocate over the word “cause”
    2) Causation is arguably just a temporal notion
    3) Causation is folk science (i.e. there is no such thing as causation)

    Regarding equivocation (i.e. (1)), Monton says that this is what William Lane Craig does when trying to account for quantum events. Craig acknowledges that the conditions in place for quantum events are not sufficient to produce the effects that ensue, but he equivocates over the term cause in order to get around the idea that they are uncaused. He quotes Craig as saying:

    In the case of quantum events, there are any number of physically necessary conditions that must obtain for such an event to occur, and yet these conditions are not jointly sufficient for the occurrence of the event… The appearance of a particle in a quantum vacuum may thus be said to be spontaneous, but it cannot properly be said to be uncaused, since it has many physically necessary conditions.

    Basically Craig is saying that events that appear to be spontaneous are actually caused, because such events have physically necessary conditions for their occurence. However, as Monton points out, one cannot equate necessary conditions with causes. A necessary condition for ‘x’ is just a condition that has to hold in order for ‘x’ to come about. It is not the efficient cause: it is not the specific thing that brings the event about. To give an example, Monton says that a necessary condition for him going clubbing tonight is that clubs exist. But the existence of clubs is not the cause of his going clubbing tonight. In the same way, the necessary conditions of certain quantum events are not the specific causes of those events: they are not the things that bring about the specific effects. As Monton says, standard quantum theory states that there is no particular cause of certain quantum events. (pp88). So if one is to refrain from equivocating, then the law of causality seems false.

    (2) is self explanatory; I can give details if you like. If true, it would show that the law of causality is not universal.

    (3) is the idea that causation itself doesn’t even exist; it is just “folk science”. Various philosophers have argued that if causation existed – if causal principles were fundamental principles of nature – then you would expect physics to discover them. In other words, you would expect our best theories in physics to tell us, for any two events, whether one event is a cause of the other event. However, if you look at our best physical theories, like quantum theory, general relativity, or M-theory; they don’t talk about causes at all. They talk about energies, forces, and conservation laws, but not causes. Some theories give equations specifying that if the system is in a certain state at some time, then it will be in a different state (with respect to some probability) at a different time. But the earlier state of the system isn’t identified as a cause of the later state of the system; the equation just describes how the system evolves through time.

    Monton then says: “Now, you might think: “granted, the physical theories don’t actually use the language of causation. But surely what they’re talking about is causation, even if they’re not using that sort of terminology. We just need to find a way to redescribe what physical theories are telling us in causal terms” “. He goes on to say that many philosophers have tried to do this and failed, and he argues that this history of failure has led some people to conclude that causation isn’t a fundamental part of nature at all. It is just “folk science” (p92). This conclusion obviously nullifies the law of causality, since it entails that causation does not actually exist.

    (For the record, though, Monton doesn’t think (3) is conclusive; he says that maybe it is not physics’ job to uncover causal principles; maybe causal principles are only present in chemistry or biology. He also says that future physical theories may uncover causes, and we can’t rule that out. But he does think that even though (3) isn’t conclusive, it should make us less sure of the law of causality, as SB calls it).

  271. StephenB @ 271: thanks for clarifying that you are only talking about efficient causes.

  272. Green:

    And, what, pray tell is the source of your post just now?

    Random noise in the neuronal net of your brain?

    The laws of physics, as filtered through the biology and socio-psychological circumstances that brought you here?

    The caprice of the aliens who set up the matrix pod in which you reside?

    In short, cause is a real phenomenon, and one we need to take seriously not find tendentious objections to. It is not simply this after that so because of it. Cause has a context, where we know contributory factors, necessary ones and sufficient ones.

    I suggest you get a box of matches, and strike a few.

    See how heat, fuel and oxidiser are each contributory, indeed necessary, and are jointly sufficient to initiate and sustain the effect we know as a fire. It has a beginning, and it may come to an end, so it has a cause.

    That cause can be studied empirically,and may be analysed logically as I just outlined.

    Going beyond the match, consider the striker thereof.

    What came to put the box in your hand just so, and he head against the friction striking strip? How did the head sweep rapidly across the strip igniting a flame, save thqat with a purpose in mind an agent decided so to strike, using his bodily organs to give effect to his volition based on knowledge and reason?

    And, whence cometh that volition?

    The reason?

    The knowledge?

    Those who would explain such on chance plus necessity only reliably will end in the most patent of absurdities. Never mind the clever objections they cast at those who call attention to the basic fact of our conscious, volitional, minded existence.

    Indeed, the very first fact is that we are conscious, cognitive, enconscienced responsibly acting creatures. And to discard this first fact lands us in self referential absurdity and lands the community in a dark morass of manipulation or naked tyranny.

    No worldview that ignores the first fact that we are self-acting agents — ensouled creatures if you will, is capable of accounting for fact no 1 of our existence.

    GEM of TKI

  273. PS: Green, notice the point that causal factors come tin three or four forms: contributory, necessary, sufficient. Quantum events, we do not know hte sufficient conditions for, esp say RA decay. But we do definitely know necessary conditions for them. E.g. No RA atom, no decay. So RA decay as a quantum event is not acausal simply because we are so far — and may even alwy7s be — unable to specify the sufficient conditions that make this particular atom decay at that particular moment. This is not a fallacy of equivocation, it is a simple recognition of a well-known feature of cause as familiar as Copi’s fire example in his classic Logic. To pretend that a necessary cause is not a cause is where the real fallacy lies.

  274. StephenB @ 269:

    Green, I didn’t miss it. Your claim was that libertarians themselves all agree that libertarian free will requires causeless events. First, your preferred author is not saying that. You are putting words in his mouth.

    SB, I quoted him directly, literally verbatim. Please be reasonable and acknowledge the facts. Don’t deny that someone has said something just because you don’t like what they say.

    Second, meaning no disrespect, I do not consider him a “leading proponent” of libertarian free will.

    I can only conlude that you are ignorant of the literature on this matter, and I mean this in all sincerity. I studied libertarianism in depth for about 6 months, and used to be a libertarian myself. I know your position inside out, so all I can say here is that from my experience, O’Connor has written the most to defend agent-causal libertarianism (which seems to be the type you defend). He also wrote the SEP article on free will. If this doesn’t make him a leading proponent, I don’t know what does.

    Third, even if he was saying it, which he wasn’t, I know dozens of advocates for libertarian free will who do NOT believe that events of that kind are uncaused. I will just list three: Normal Geisler, William Craig Lane, and Peter Kreeft.

    Have any of these authors actually published peer-reviewed work specifically on the topic of libertarian free will? I have googled all three of them to try and find peer-reviewed publications on the topic and have found none. If you know of any, please show me. I have been trying to work out what type of libertarianism William Lane Craig defends for a while. He’s had Stewart Goetz on his Q&A section before (talking about the mind-body problem – see Q&A 119), and I know Goetz defends what is known as “non-causal” libertarianism, which very very clearly endorses uncaused events. (The other types do as well, but not in the same explicit way that Goetz’s view does). Having Goetz on, though, doesn’t mean that Craig also defends that view. In general, I get the impression that he hasn’t committed to a specific type of libertarianism (e.g. some of his comments in this article show that he is aware of the different strands, but hasn’t committed to a specific one of them: http://www.reasonablefaith.org.....38;id=5169).

    So I am unsure what Dr Craig’s view is on libertarianism. And as for Geisler and Kreeft, I am not aware of any peer-reviewed publications they have on the topic either. Are they aware of the 3 different categories of free will? Have they adopted a particular position? If they have, I would greatly appreciate you pointing me to their papers. As I’ve mentioned on here before, it is my experience that many people band about the term “free will” – but have absolutely no idea what they are saying or what they are committing to. If Norman Geisler says that he believes in both libertarianism and the law of causality, then I can only conlude that he is either equivocating over the term “cause” in the law of causality, or he is ignorant of what libertarianism entails. As you also seem to be.

    Your next few paragraphs are full of contradictions and equivocations (or perhaps just misunderstandings). You say that human beings are not unmoved movers because God created them. How can you not see that this does nothing to change the fact that they are still unmoved movers in the local sense?

    Further down you say that the self is the “instigator of self caused actions. Now you seem to be conceding that agents ARE unmoved movers in the local sense. If something instigates something, then it is the INITIAL event in that chain of cause and effect. Geisler says the same thing in the quote you gave: “The self is the FIRST-CAUSE of personal actions”. Here too he is saying that the self is an uncaused cause (in the local sense of the word).

    Basically: you think that God creating unmoved movers satisfies the law of causality (as does Geisler). Neither of you, however, have got around the problem of local uncaused events.

  275. Kairosfocus: I’m sorry, I don’t have the time to respond to your posts; they are so full of misunderstandings, non-sequiters and irrelevant information.

  276. PPS: As a physicist, I am utterly puzzled and even incensed by the bold claim that cause plays no material part in serious scientific work.

    NONSENSE!

    Let us start with the concept of dynamics: initial conditions, with certain constraints and driving forces lead through a change process and on to an end state. Those are causal factors at work, and the premise — cf how calculus works by assessing rates and accumulations of change — is that preceding circumstances drive changes in very predictable or at least model-able ways.

    That holds for Newtonian dynamics — force is the rate of change of momentum [takes in NLs 1 and 2] or F = d/dt[m*v], bodies interact in pairs by exerting equal sized, oppositely directed forces, bodies attract by mutual gravitation depending on their mass and separation at a particular rate tied to the geometry of 2-d space and the flux of a field, and all that — and it holds in Relativity. It holds in pure and applied aspects of physical science, which is foundational to all other sciences.

    And, where statistical, probabilistic behaviour is injected, there are always many necessary constraints that have causal effect. Notice how the statistical patterns are not capricious, they exhibit certain patterns that lead to particular distributions. Whether we see a gaussian distribution for lengths of bars cut by a machine, or a Weibull one for wind strength at a given site, or a Boltzmann type distribution for energy levels of molecular scale particles or whatever, we still see order, not utter caprice. And, radioactive decay shows a specific controlling constant that gives us the half-life of a given species. Think about how Einsein starts formt he premise that the speed od light will take the same meadsure in any interial frame of reference, and the laws of physics will take the same simplest form in such an IFR. Similarly, consider his equivalence between a gravity field and acceleration in the generalised relativity. Or simply how the space-time continuum is warped by a massive object so that light form a distant star is bent making it appear in a different location in the sky beyond what is predictable from any other theory, circa 1916 – 1919. Remember Eddington’s eclipse observations?

    In the applied side, when we design or troubleshoot a system that uses physical materials, structures, laws and processes organised to yield a function [e.g. to analyse a simple common-emitter, fixed bias bipolar junction transistor circuit in action], we are again looking at causal chains. That base region is lightly doped and thin so that charge carriers from the emitter will diffuse across the base into the collector to be swept up by the bias on the terminal. And, we select semiconductor materials and dope them in order to set up the required structures and effects.

    Speaking of which, NOTICE HOW THE WORD “EFFECT” IS EXTREMELY COMMON IN PHYSICAL ANALYSIS. (Peltier effect, Photoeffect, Hall effect, Kerr-Pockels effect, etc etc etc.)

    Let us look in a dictionary:

    ef·fect (-fkt)
    n. 1. Something brought about by a cause or agent; a result.

    cause (kôz) n.1.a. The producer of an effect, result, or consequence.
    b. The one, such as a person, event, or condition, that is responsible for an action or result.
    [AmHD]

    All of these and many many other circumstances are utterly riddled with cause-effect chains used in the heart of the analysis, and resting on identifying necessary factors, sufficient ones, contributory ones and where possible necessary and sufficient ones.

    I think that the claim that cause is absent in physical analysis or phenomena is utterly specious. If Monton means to say that, he is wrong, spectacularly wrong.

  277. I rarely dismiss opinions so readily but the nonsense propagated by monton are of a spectacular nature.

    First monton’s understanding of quantum physics is terrible if he thinks they are devoid of cause. His arguments against Craig are equally as bad. The existence of the club as a necessary condition is part of the cause. Without the existence of the club, there would obviously be no desire on his behalf to go and therefore no action initiated by him (the agent) to go. But of course, in his simplistic understanding he misses it. It’s a terrible example for analogy anyways…

    -“As Monton says, standard quantum theory states that there is no particular cause of certain quantum events.”

    That is nonsense. QM does not deny causality and never has. Just because we currently cannot determine all the necessary and sufficient causes in QM, that does not warrant his conclusion. What he’s trying to do here is hide behind our epistemic limitations and play linguistic games. Which is rather ironic in light of his criticisms.

    His second argument has already been refuted by many thinkers. One of them being Craig. Lol no wonder why he’s like that…

    His third criticism is hume all over again. That too has been refuted numerous times.

    Just because QM and relativity (m and string are not great theories… they are not even theories in fact) may not use causal language that does not mean anything. Science’s inability to penetrate the reality of causality is due to its own limitations and nothing more.

    Causality is a metaphysically necessary truth that without the world is unintelligible. But if he wants to believe that things just pop into and out of existence and that there is not real cause behind anything then I would like to hear a reason why I should even listen to his rubbish…

  278. Just to let you know: I will be away for a few days now so will be a couple of days before replying.

  279. Also in regards to the O ‘Connor quote Green presented, the author in the following paragraph states:

    “Agent-control – the type of immediate control we take ourselves to have over our own
    actions – is clearly causal in nature.”

    What Green is saying here is not as simple as he makes it out to be. For there is the nuance of event-causality and agent-causality in the discussion of that particular topic in the article. I’m not going to argue either way… The article is called “Agent Causation”. People can read it and interpret O ‘Connor as they wish.

  280. Green

    You have responded to a serious comment with what frankly comes across as a personalised insult: as if, if I fail to agree with you and raise points and cases to show why, I am so ignorant or stupid as to be utterly confused.

    And of course having trashed and dismissed, you need not answer on the merits, a la MF.

    That is sad.

    I think onlookers will be able to look at my specific cases and points and see who understands just what happens in e.g. scientific analysis, and who is dismissing without coming to grips with the issues and specific cases.

    Starting with a lighted match.

    Cho man, do betta dan dat!

    G’day.

    GEM of TKI

  281. @kairosfocus

    -”Speaking of which, NOTICE HOW THE WORD “EFFECT” IS EXTREMELY COMMON IN PHYSICAL ANALYSIS. (Peltier effect, Photoeffect, Hall effect, Kerr-Pockels effect, etc etc etc.)”

    Excellent point!!!
    And as we all know, an effect cannot be without a cause.

  282. @Kairosfocus

    I too noticed the comment he made and thought was out of line. I have seen Green post here before and have always thought he was very respectful to others. So naturally I surprized to see that myself.

  283. F/N; Onlookers, it is clear from his dismissive emphases on Craig in 272, that Green thinks that necessary causal factors are not causal factors, they are just mere conditions, as he cites approvingly from Monton.

    Pardon, that’s a distinction without a difference, meant to allow dismissal without addressing a serious point.

    Take away the fuel and see if you have a fire. Take away the oxidiser and see if you have a fire. Quench the heat and see if you have a fire.

    When he cited Craig, Green actually cited Craig’s remarks on how necessary causal factors are causal factors, as though Craig spoke nonsense, on the strength of Monton substituting “condition” for cause. But, cause, of course is not synonymous with sufficiency of a set of factors. As just seen, necessary factors too have a causal impact. They must be present or the effect CANNOT happen.

    (As Copi pointed out long ago now [and, pardon -- I cite this to show that his is 101 level basics stuff . . . but if you go wrong at the foundation, no amount of erudition will save you higher up in the structure: "little errors at he beginning . . . "], if you want to fight a fire, your concern is with necessity not sufficiency. So, you knock out one or more of the legs of the fire triangle.)

  284. -”Monton substituting “condition” for cause. But, cause, of course is not synonymous with sufficiency of a set of factors. As just seen, necessary factors too have a causal impact. They must be present or the effect CANNOT happen”

    Well said. That’s precisely the type of linguistic gimmicks that I mentioned earlier. The substitution of condition for cause and the consequent erection of a false dichotomy.

    What surprizes me though is how unscrupulous individuals like monton

  285. Above:

    This sort of game goes far back.

    I am looking at how Hume dismissed the concept of cause, using of course the fire example (Copi knew what he was doing!):

    ______________________

    >>Thus we remember to have seen that species of object we call *FLAME*, and to have felt that species of sensation we call *HEAT*. We likewise call to mind their constant conjunction in all past instances. Without any farther ceremony, we call the one *CAUSE* and the other *EFFECT*, and infer the existence of the one from that of the other.” [Treatise of Human nature] >>
    ________________________

    a –> Now, indeed, we do observe and remember that fire and heat are routinely connected, maybe starting with a bad encounter with a stove when we were 2 years old.

    b –> But the mere fact of our being involved does not destroy the truthfulness of the observation, memory and fact. Yes, we are finite, fallible and sometimes mistaken, but we are equally also sometimes correct.

    c –> And in this case, that we are correct is manifestly true and easily, routinely shown and relied on — e.g. how does a car engine work, but by the causal principles of fire; without serious counter-example. (Sounds familiar? This is how the design inference on observed cause of dFSCI in say DNA is dismissed.)

    d –> Now comes the selectively hyperskeptical word magic to dismiss the inconvenient line of reasoning: Without any farther ceremony, we call the one *CAUSE* and the other *EFFECT*, and infer the existence of the one from that of the other . . .

    e –> Just one minute! DISMISSIVE STRAWMAN MISREPRESENTATION.

    f –> What actually happens is that we recognise on experience that that fires — a common fact of experience — have beginnings, and that fires go out.

    g –> Moreover, they do so under particular recognisable chemico-physical circumstances [heat + fuel + oxidiser --> flame, a certain kind of exothermic chain reaction that then gives off heat (and often light) that tends to perpetuate itself]

    h –> From the first, the first principle of right reason that things that begin or may stop have causes, cues us to look for the factors and circumstances at work that contribute to or trigger the fire or help sustain it. (Notice, such factors may be contributory, necessary, sufficient or even both necessary and sufficient. That we label them causes is a convenience but that label attaches to a reality of experience. We don’t just willy nilly attach labels heat and flame and jump to conclusions about a link from one to the other, without seeing a pattern of connexion, a dynamic if you will.)

    i –> In this case we then observe empirically that heat is a particular necessary factor for fire [as is fuel, as is oxidiser]. Notice, Hume is not able to give a case of fire without heat! He is arguing in absence of facts, even in defiance of them, and he is dismising without even mentioning, how we go about identifying causal connexions from seeing just how such factors contribute to an effect.

    j –> Lack of counter example and strawmannising orf those whose thought he objects to are clues that objectors like Hume are fishing for a hyperskeptical dismissal. Of course observation does not demonstrate beyond all doubt relative to universally acceptable premises, but it often testifies to us accurately about what is real, and can deliver moral certainty sufficiently solid that only a madman would dismiss it; just check your friendly neighbourhood fire brigade! That is what our attention is being distracted from by the word magic above.

    k –> But the underlying issue is the principle of right reason: that which begins to exist or may cease from existing has a cause.

    l –> This means that first we are dealing with change in time, and with contingent phenomena: beginnings, endings, endurings, sustainings, intensifyings, diminishings, etc. And, we are saying that to begin or to sustain something which might not be but becomes and is, requires something else to be there to bring it about and to keep it going.

    m –> Is this something that we can see is so, and must be so on pain of absurdity on its rejection? YES

    n –> That which begins or may cease plainly has no necessary existence in all possible worlds. Beginning as process or event, and sustaining as process or event, then must have an answer to why, why then, why there. THE ANSWER TO THESE QUESTIONS IS THE CAUSE (WHICH MAY OF COURSE BE A COMPLEX OF FACTORS), and the consequence of the cause is the effect we observe.

    o –> Let us assert instead that there is no why, it just happens, anywhere, anytime, any-when, out of anything or nothing. Could such a world be possible, or intelligible? (Here I bring to bear the morally certain fact that we experience an intelligible world that permits the existence of C-chemistry, cell based intelligent beings.)

    p –> Were that the case, the world would not be intelligible, and science in particular would be impossible. Not even magic would be possible, for magic seeks to influence occult patterns of occurence. We would live in a chaos not a cosmos. And that would include our bodies and the universe that makes our bodies possible.

    q –> So, the rejection of cause would lead to a chaos, not a cosmos which are inconsistent with our own existence, while manifestly we live in a cosmos, a circumstance which is necessary for us to have even bodily existence. In short, causality and cosmos are necessary conditions for us to be here to even ask these questions. Rejection of causality leads to absurdity relative to morally certain facts that would be impossible if causality were false in general.

    r –> And that should have been plain in Hume’s day even before we knew as much chemistry, biochemistry and cosmology as we do today: food is food and poison is poison, and if there was no reliable distinction between the two, life would be impossible.

    s –> In the more restricted cases, quantum events such as radiodecay by alpha emission, beta emission or gamma emission etc, we see that there are always necessary antecedent conditions for the events to occur, which we often characterise in laws, models and theories. From repeated cases here at UD, the attempt to label such as causeless or acausal, consistently turns on the word magic of trying to make it out that a necessary causal factor is not a causal factor. Sorry, that is a gross error.

    t –> What about origin of our observed cosmos? On thermodynamic grounds and cosmological observations and inferences, it is very probable that the observed cosmos had a beginning, one that is extraordinarily fine-tuned in ways that facilitate the existence of C-chemistry, cell based life. That beginning points to cause, and that finetuning makes intentional cause by powerful, designing agent a reasonable option. [Notice we are here pointing to an issue that puts worldview level motives on the table: if you are hostile to this possibility you may take any steps "necessary" to drive it away from the circle of plausibility.]

    u –> We see speculations that the laws of physics made the cosmos appear, without a cause; and from an M-theory domain. But, in fact as explored yesterday, again the matter pivots on rejecting that necessary causal factors are causal factors. At no point has it been shown that the observed universe credibly came from nowhere, noting at any time or is eternal. And the speculative multiverses are locked away from observation. That is, these are worldview level faith commitments, not empirically observed facts or empirically based explanations.

    v –> If you are determined to be a materialist then you choose this and dismiss the significance of contrary evidence [e.g. the empirically based significance of functionally specific complex organisaton and associated information], it seems.

    w –> Worse, the universe is more or less the world in which we live, so if it popped out of nowhere, from nothing for no reason, then we are right back at the chaos beyond even magic. This one proposed exception chaotically swallows up everything, as already pointed out.

    x –> So the very intelligibility and lawful orderliness of the world we live in as a matter of moral certainty beyond rational dispute, is strong evidence that the existence of the universe is not a counter-example to the principle that that which begins to exist has a cause.

    y –> Underlying, is the intent to dismiss the person as a cause. Without getting into further debates, that is directly contradicted by our experience of ourselves as conscious, minded, enconscienced, morally bound creatures. We may suppress the significance of these first facts, but that simply comes at a price of further reductio ad absurdum; whether or no we admit it.

    _________________

    Okay, back to my constitution crisis.

    GEM of TKI

  286. Very well articulated kairosfocus. I thoroughly enjoyed your exposition.

    Two things became evidently clear in your analysis about the materialist:

    1. Rejection causality is imperative at all costs in order to salvage his belief system

    2. The rejection of agency and consequently the rejection of the self as a means to surrender to his/her idol

    I think Gabriel Marcel said it best when he explained that scientism/technology assume the role of the human subject and the human subject consequently becomes the object of investigation. Man (the materialist at least) does so because of the authority he has bestowed upon his idol (technology/scientism). In effect as Marcel states, scientism persuades man to rejoice in his own annihilation.

    Marcel’s words are so true and yet so disturbing…

  287. —Green: “SB, I quoted him directly, literally verbatim. Please be reasonable and acknowledge the facts. Don’t deny that someone has said something just because you don’t like what they say.”

    Green, I don’t read his words exactly the way you do. O’Connor says the “libertarian is free to” [do this or that] implying that the typical libertarian feels no hesitancy to take the view that he claims they take. I do not interpret that as a bald claim that ALL libertarians agree on the matter. Either way, though, O’Connor is wrong. Libertarians do not think that at all. It is a mischaracterization.

    —“[Connor] He also wrote the SEP article on free will. If this doesn’t make him a leading proponent, I don’t know what does.”

    As I pointed out on another thread, the SEP is not a reliable source on this question, having left out a number of important authors. At the time, you did not respond to the point or the new information I provided, choosing rather to come back here and repeat your talking points. I interpreted your failure to follow up as a lack of intellectual curiosity.

    [I suggested that Green begin to read Normal Geisler, William Craig Lane, and Peter Kreeft.]

    —“Have any of these authors actually published peer-reviewed work specifically on the topic of libertarian free will? I have googled all three of them to try and find peer-reviewed publications on the topic and have found none.”

    So, it appears that, even at this late date, you are less curious about their real position and more curious about whether they have written in a peer reviewed journal. Have you forgotten the context? You made the false claim that all advocates for libertarian free will acknowledge uncaused events. When I ask you to defend your false claim, listing a number of prominent authors who do not fit that mold, you promptly question their credentials [they have probably authored 50-100 books and volumes among them]. What is wrong with this picture?

    —“So I am unsure what Dr Craig’s view is on libertarianism. And as for Geisler and Kreeft, I am not aware of any peer-reviewed publications they have on the topic either. Are they aware of the 3 different categories of free will?”

    Yes, I know you that are unaware Dr. Craig’s views, just as I know that you are unaware of Geisler’s views, just as I know that you are unaware of Kreeft’s views, and the views of countless others, all who take a position similar to mine. If you were aware of what those outside your inner circle are saying, you would not take the position that you take.

    —“Have they adopted a particular position?”

    The time to ask that question is in advance of making your many claims, not after the fact.

    —As I’ve mentioned on here before, it is my experience that many people band about the term “free will” – but have absolutely no idea what they are saying or what they are committing to. If Norman Geisler says that he believes in both libertarianism and the law of causality, then I can only conlude that he is either equivocating over the term “cause” in the law of causality, or he is ignorant of what libertarianism entails. As you also seem to be.”

    Yes, I know that has been your experience, but your perceptions have mislead you.

    —Your next few paragraphs are full of contradictions and equivocations (or perhaps just misunderstandings). You say that human beings are not unmoved movers because God created them. How can you not see that this does nothing to change the fact that they are still unmoved movers in the local sense?”

    —“Further down you say that the self is the “instigator of self caused actions. Now you seem to be conceding that agents ARE unmoved movers in the local sense. If something instigates something, then it is the INITIAL event in that chain of cause and effect. Geisler says the same thing in the quote you gave: “The self is the FIRST-CAUSE of personal actions”. Here too he is saying that the self is an uncaused cause (in the local sense of the word).

    I provided an analogy that I hoped would help you. Somehow, perhaps under the influence of questionable sources, you have come to picture the human will as a kind of transformer that transmits the energy [power] it receives from a generator. The human will is not like that. It is a power, a faculty, a means for choosing. It is less of an unmoved mover and more of a new causal source, caused by a previous causal source.

    If you feel the need to connect God’s current activity with his creature’s current activity, if that is your hang up, then think of it this way: God did not simply create [cause] the human will, he continues to [cause] the will in the sense of maintaining it or keeping it in existence Thus, God’s causal influence is always present, yet the human self is free to make choices of his own. The law of causality is in force, and the human will is free.

    —“Neither of you, however, have got around the problem of local uncaused events.”

    A “local” causal event is simply one initiated by a causal agent that has been given the power to initiate local causes. A human being is not a transformer.

  288. Hmmm, lots to think about since I posted last. Let m try to organize my thoughts.

    I am interested in four topics here:

    1) The relationship between logic/math and reality
    2) Stephen’s claim that the effect must be present in the cause, and his claim that the law of casuality is violated if something emerges, as opposed from unfolds, from a earlier set of conditions.
    3) The issue of whether in theories of free will, human acts of free will constitute local uncaused causes, and
    4) Whether quantum events also constitute uncaused causes.

    I’ll start with 2), and then move on.

    In 271, Stephen writes, “The only time I mentioned final causes or other varieties of causes was to explain to Aleta the difference between emergence, which is not associated with any kind of causality, and a guided developmental process, which is. In no other context did I refer to anything other than efficient causes. Please make a note of it and please stop insinuating that it has anything to do with any discussion about the law of causality or the subject of free will. It doesn’t.”

    Well, it does, Stephen. How can you possible say that emergence is “not associated with any kind of causality.” Your distinction between emergence and unfolding was this, from 93:

    If the universe “unfolds,” the seeds of its development were already in place in the form of causal conditions. It can only become that which it was caused to become. If it “emerges,” there are no seeds to define its development, no program to direct its path, no cause. It it had a cause, the cause would define, shape, and sustain its development. Without the power or direction to develop, it has no cause.

    When I questioned this, in 155 you wrote,

    Also, you seem unaware of the fact that scientific causes [efficient] causes are not the only kinds of causes. On the contrary, there are also formal causes, material causes, and most important final causes. The law of causality is not restricted to efficient causes. Is that the problem you are having? …

    I am simply referring to the fact that only when something unfolds according to a pre-established pattern has its development been caused.”

    So your argument that emergence violates the law of causality was precisely that the thing that emergence was not planned – that what is being violated is some combination of first, final and material causes. If our discussion is limited to efficient causes, emergence does not violate the law of causality.

    You are combining causes in a similar way in respect to free will, as has been pointed out by Green and me. Your argument is that because God created the capability for us to have free will, our free will choices are also caused. But this again conflates other kinds of causes with efficient causes. As I pointed out earlier, the particular choice one makes is uncaused – that’s what free will means, even though the capability to make a free choice was caused. Our free will choice has no antecedent efficient cause.

    Here’s an analogy: God created the universe and gave it the capability (to unfold, if you like) to create galaxies, solar systems, planets, etc. Eventually a tornado forms in Oklahoma, whose immediate, proximate causes are a complex set of weather conditions. We could say that God was the cause because he gave the universe the capability to make tornadoes, but that would not address the issue of the actual efficient cause of the tornado. Similarly, the fact that God gave us the ability to make free will decisions doe not make him the efficient cause of the decisions we do make: those decisions, as free will acts, are uncaused.

    ==========
    A few notes to Green:

    You quote Craig as writing, “In the case of quantum events, there are any number of physically necessary conditions that must obtain for such an event to occur, and yet these conditions are not jointly sufficient for the occurrence of the event… The appearance of a particle in a quantum vacuum may thus be said to be spontaneous, but it cannot properly be said to be uncaused, since it has many physically necessary conditions.”

    I like the word spontaneous here to represent the random, uncaused nature of a quantum event. However, I’ll note tha Craig is, like Stephen, trying to get around the violations of causality by invoking a larger set of causes than just efficient causes. Of course, every cause has a larger content in which it happens, so that if that context were to change the efficient cause would not function in the same manner, or not at all. However, this does chaneg the fact that the quantum event appears to us to happen spontaneously, as a probabilitic buy not determined event.

    2) I concur with your post at 277

    ======
    At 279,above says, “-“As Monton says, standard quantum theory states that there is no particular cause of certain quantum events.”

    That is nonsense. QM does not deny causality and never has. Just because we currently cannot determine all the necessary and sufficient causes in QM, that does not warrant his conclusion.”

    No, this is an undecided issue: some believe that true randomness kies at the heart of QM, and other believe that there are causes, even though they may be forever beyond the reach of our investigation. Therefore, some interpretations wouuld deny causality, or in the language we have uses here, that quantum events are very small, local uncaused causes.

    ====

    Now back to the issue of logic and models.

    At 259, Stephen wrote,

    Aleta: “I’ve discussed that subject a number of times, explaining the difference between the laws of logic themselves and the application of them through a model,”

    No, actually you have presented no examples or models at all. You allude to their existence, but you do not specify.

    —and I’ve explained that sometimes the model doesn’t work and then we have to refine the model, and I’ve given examples.”

    You have provided no examples.

    First of all, the first sentence you quoted didn’t mean to say that I’d given examples, but just that my point was that we applied logic and math by creating models, but I can see how you might have interpreted it that way. FWIW, though, I did give models in a answer to Clive back at 171, concerning 2 + 2 = 4 and a bird giving live birth. I also discussed this with the example of quantum events at 198.

    You write, “If I begin with a sound premise [something true about the real world], and if I reason properly, I will draw a sound conclusion–a truth about the real world.

    No one, least of all myself, has ever suggested that a syllogism, or any other form of deductive logic can, without any sound input about the real world, teach us anything about the world. So please turn loose of that strawman. You are choking him to death.”

    This is not a strawman – this is the key point. You now say here that “if I begin with a sound premise [something true about the real world],…” Yes, but how do you know that you have a sound premise – something true about the real world? That is the point I’m making: that to apply logic to the world, you have to start with some statements about the world, and logic itself can’t provide those true statement. One starts with facts about the world that we have reached by induction, model them into a logical system, apply logic, and then go back and test our conclusions. If the conclusions appear correct in the real world, we have improved confidence that our starting premise was sound, and if not we strive to correct our premises.

    For instance, consider the statement “every event has an immediate, proximate efficient cause.” If we consider that a statement about the real world, it may or may not be true – only investigation can tell, and quantum mechanics has called it into question. It may or may not be a sound premise in all situations, in which case we need to revise our model of causality. And note, logic itself can’t help us decide whether the statement is true or not.

  289. aleta “One starts with facts about the world that we have reached by induction, model them into a logical system, apply logic, and then go back and test our conclusions.”

    Aleta one does not start with facts about the world. In any scientific investigation one starts with non emperical assumptions about the world.

    Vivid

  290. Yes, we do start with some assumptions – I agree with that. For instance, we assume that there is an external world, and that our sensory experience of it, (with certain caveats, checks, and balances) is reliable. I agree with your point.

    I don’t think that changes the basic outline of how we apply logic to the real world.

    And, out of curiosity, what do you consider the essential assumptions we do make? Do you agree with the one I mentioned, and do you have other?

  291. aleta “And, out of curiosity, what do you consider the essential assumptions we do make? Do you agree with the one I mentioned, and do you have other?”

    I do agree with the one you mentioned. The others would be the assumption that we live in a rational universe that is open to rational investigation, that physical laws are uniform, that there are causes for things that happen around us,evidence from the natural world can be used to determine those causes,there is consistency in causes that operate in the natural world. I am sure their are others.

    Vivid

  292. there not their

  293. 295

    I have one Aleta,

    The assumption that you’ll avoid your assumptions if you don’t like the conclusions that flow from the evidence.

  294. 296

    Perhaps it would be make more sense to take a mirror to the lab instead of defense.

  295. 297

    … a – defense.

  296. @aleta
    -“No, this is an undecided issue: some believe that true randomness kies at the heart of QM, and other believe that there are causes, even though they may be forever beyond the reach of our investigation. Therefore, some interpretations wouuld deny causality, or in the language we have uses here, that quantum events are very small, local uncaused causes.”

    Of course there are different interpretations. Isn’t that why we are conversing? :)

    I would just like you note one thing… Just because something is random (allegedly) that does not make it uncaused. A random event can be caused.

  297. Upright,

    That’s a little rough. It did make me laugh though. :)

  298. 300

    No, I’m serious Above.

    Perhaps humilty, and the historically-approrpiate response to contrary evidence, are in need of a boost across the board.

  299. To above – yes, random does not necessarily mean uncaused. I used the phrase “true randomness” to imply an uncaused randomness. The word random is used in a lot of ways, some colloquial and some technical.

    To Vivid – I imagine we could spend some time discussing what all those mean at 293, but they would be a starting point.

    I think it might make sense to distinguish between testable and non-testable assumptions, as testable assumptions might more correctly be called starting hypotheses. For instance, I agree that we assume that the laws of nature apply uniformly throughout the universe, but this is in fact a testable hypotheses that evidence supports. Also, investigation has shown us that there are times or places (first millisecond of the universe, black holes) that conditions are so different that the laws behave quite differently.

    On the other hand, the assumption that the external world really exists (non-solipsism) is not testable, but we all agree on it as an assumption.

  300. aleta re 301

    If I understand you correctly when you say “testable” you mean empirical confirmation. If we were to have empirical confirmation that that particles pop into existence without a cause this would mean, at least at the quantum level, our assumptions about causality would have to be discarded?

    For you, and correct me if I am wrong here, empirical ( testability)
    confirmation or disconfirmation is the only way we can know our assumptions are true? The only thing we can know to be objectively true is that which has been empiricaly confirmed?

    Vivid

  301. —Aleta: “That is the point I’m making: that to apply logic to the world, you have to start with some statements about the world, and logic itself can’t provide those true statement.”

    If you are applying the logical PROCESS to obtain a truth about the real world, that is, if you are moving from premises to a conclusion, you must include sound statements about the world.

    [Jupiter is smaller than the Sun.]

    [The Sun is smaller than the Milky]

    Therefore,

    [Jupiter is smaller than the Milky Way].

    Unless I know the first fact about the real world, I cannot reason my way to a sound conclusion. True enough.

    HOWEVER, in order to apply the law of non-contradiction, which UNDERLIES the logical process, you need not have that same kind of information.

    Two examples:

    [a]The law of non-contradiction [a thing cannot be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances] can immediately be applied to the world with no factual imput. [Jupiter cannot both exist and not exist].

    [b] The law of causality [nothing can begin to exist without a cause] can immediately be applied to the world world [concrete walls cannot just pop up in front your car on the highway without a cause].

    Please tell me that you understand the difference?

  302. —Aleta: “You are combining causes in a similar way in respect to free will, as has been pointed out by Green and me.”

    How?

    –”Your argument is that because God created the capability for us to have free will, our free will choices are also caused.”

    Correct.

    –”But this again conflates other kinds of causes with efficient causes.”

    How?

  303. vivid asks, “If I understand you correctly when you say “testable” you mean empirical confirmation.”

    Yes – ways that we can look to our experience (of all sorts: cognitive, emotional, inter-personal), and conclude that the experience confirms the assumption, to some degree our other.

    vivid writes, “If we were to have empirical confirmation that that particles pop into existence without a cause this would mean, at least at the quantum level, our assumptions about causality would have to be discarded?”

    Yes, although not sure that such could ever be empirically confirmed – this may “lie on the other side of the quantum curtain”, and forever stay in the realm of metaphysical speculation.

    vivid writes, “For you, and correct me if I am wrong here, empirical ( testability) confirmation or disconfirmation is the only way we can know our assumptions are true?”

    That is only true of testable assumptions (I prefer the word hypotheses) – as I mentioned there are untestable ones. There are lots of things that we believe because we choose to believe them for ourself even if others choose to believe otherwise. I choose to believe the external world is really there, even though I can test that at all. More controversially, I choose to not believe in such things as heaven and hell, or reincarnation. I see no evidence that they exist, and I see no reason to choose they believe they do without any evidence.

    Also, we make and test hypotheses in all realms of our life, not just about the nature of the physical world: emotional, inter-personal, moral, etc. All of these contain elements of choice: we are constantly testing who we are choosing to be, and adjusting accordingly, even though our conclusions are more “subjective”, about ourself as a person, than they are “objective”.

    Now, to Stephen.

    Stephen wrotes, “If you are applying the logical PROCESS to obtain a truth about the real world, that is, if you are moving from premises to a conclusion, you must include sound statements about the world.”

    Agreed. Good.

    Stephen writes, “HOWEVER, in order to apply the law of non-contradiction, which UNDERLIES the logical process, you need not have that same kind of information. Two examples: [a]The law of non-contradiction [a thing cannot be true and false at the same time and under the same formal circumstances] can immediately be applied to the world with no factual imput. [Jupiter cannot both exist and not exist].”

    Let’s take this one first. I could also write “Fluppel cannot both stoppel and not stoppel” and I would be logically correct: the law of non-contradiction applies to any statement that follows the correct form. I could also write “The ocean cannot both be proud and not proud” – again logically correct, but in this case meaningless because pride is a quality that applies to oceans.

    So, even in respect to the statement about Jupiter, we are using a model to move from something that is merely correct in logical form to something that is a meaningful statement about the world. Jupiter is a distinct, discrete entity that can all identify, and existence – having some duration in time and space, is also defined and applicable. So the statement is both logically correct and meaningful in respect to the world.

    However, we could have less clear situations in respect to both the identity or the meaning of existence. For instance, imagining looking at the sky – one moment it is completely clear, and then you notice a very little wisp of a cloud. At some point the cloud “came into existence” as a recognizable entity, but there is no clearcut criteria for when that happened in this case, our statement that the cloud cannot exist and not exist at the same time draws a line in reality, so to speak, that is not really there in the world – a line between when the cloud didn’t exist and when it did. So in cases like this, our logic imposes a form on the world that helps us understand and think – it’s an agreement about the concept of “existence” to which we then apply logic.

    Quantum events stretch this even further – in what sense does an electron “exist”? Or a quark, or a virtual anti-particle understood to be moving backwards in time?

    My point is that even in cases where the meanings are so clear and commonsensical, where are always appling our logic to a model of the world.

    And last, Stephen writes, “[b] The law of causality [nothing can begin to exist without a cause] can immediately be applied to the world world [concrete walls cannot just pop up in front your car on the highway without a cause].”

    The law of causality (I presume meaning every event has a proximate, efficient cause” is not a law of logic: it is not like the law of non-contradiction. Of course concrete walls don’t pop up out of nowhere, but there is some reason to believe that both in human free will and at the quantum level the law of causality is not true. That’s an empirical statement about the world. In both cases the hypothesis may be testable, or it may not: the question of whether both human free will and quantum events are caused or not may be untestable, and thus a metaphysical position that one can make a choice about. But there is no law that says, just because of the law, that human free will and quantum events have to be caused.

  304. Steohen writes, “—Aleta: “Your argument is that because God created the capability for us to have free will, our free will choices are also caused.” Correct.

    –”But this again conflates other kinds of causes with efficient causes.” How?”

    Because when I make a choice, there is no immediate, proximate efficient cause of the particular choice I made. God made the universe, but once made the efficient causes of the things that happen are not God, but rather the states immediately proceeding the event. We don’t say that God was the efficient cause of the tornado just because he made the universe.

    Simialrly, God made man’s ability to choose, but once that ability is given, the choices are man’s. My choice has no efficient cause – there is no set of prior events which caused my choice – that’s what free means. If I were making my choice because God willed it so – if he were the efficient cause, then it wouldn’t be my choice anymore – not free.

    If free will is genuine, then it must have the ability to be an uncaused cause – the ability to somehow move some particles in the world inside me without being caused itself by anything else.

  305. Correction in 305: a paragraph in there should say “The ocean cannot both be proud and not proud” – again logically correct, but in this case meaningless because pride is not a quality that applies to oceans.

    I apologize for all my mistakes. I spend what feels like too much time in these discussions, and then I neglect proofreading before I post.

  306. aleta “I see no evidence that they exist, and I see no reason to choose they believe they do without any evidence.”

    aleta how about empirically testing the above statement otherwise by your own standards you have no reason to believe it. Now I am not asking you to justify it I am asking for you to emperically test the concept itself. You know like how much does the above concept weigh? What is its width, depth and height? etc, etc.

    Vivid

  307. Aleta, I think the reason you might be missing stephen on the law of causality has to do with your definition and understanding of the law of causality, which is basically the water-down notion of causality that came out of the so called enlightenment.

    I became evident to me in the following statement: “states immediately proceeding the event.”

    Efficient cause is not based on prior state/event. Efficient cause in its traditional sense is rather different. I think the notion of cusality as it came to be namely by the influence of the era i mentioned is deplete!

  308. Above, I don’t understand what you wrote, especially the last paragraph, but if you or Stephen would like to be clearer about what you are meaning by “the law of causality”, that would be useful.

    I originally was using the word proximate, and sometime even immediate. Yes, throughout this discussion, and I think this has been clear in my language, I have been using cause to refer to the moment-by-moment changes of states in the world, whereby a previous state causes the current state.

    So, please explain what meaning you think Stephen is using, or what you think is correct.

  309. And vivid, I’m afraid I don’t understand your post either. Could you restate your question?

  310. aleta re 311

    I will try again.

    aleta “I see no evidence that they exist, and I see no reason to choose they believe they do without any evidence.”

    Unless you see evidence that something exists you see no reason to choose to believe something exists without evidence. When you speak of evidence, testability, etc you mean empirical evidence.

    It is your position that unless you see empirical evidence and empirical confirmation of something, whether that something is the law of causality, the law of non contradiction, God, angels, you fill in the blank you see no reason to believe things.

    I am simply asking you to empirically test your conceptualized statemtent that

    “I see no evidence that they exist, and I see no reason to choose they believe they do without any evidence.”

    I want you to apply your own standards to your self. I am not asking for reasons why the above may or may not be a sound way of determining what exists or does not exist rather I want to have empirical testing as to its existence. If your conceptualized statement is to be empirically tested it must be made of something that can be measured or detected, what are those measurements and how was it detected? What is it made of?

    If you cant do this then by your own words you have no reason to believe it, yet you do.

    Vivid

  311. —Aleta: “Because when I make a choice, there is no immediate, proximate efficient cause of the particular choice I made.”

    The self is the immediate proximate efficient cause of the act.

    –”God made the universe, but once made the efficient causes of the things that happen are not God, but rather the states immediately proceeding the event.”

    The subject matter is free will. Please stay on topic. God is the efficient cause of the self and the will. The self is the efficient cause of the human choice. You accused me of appealing to other kinds of causes and I asked you how. My question persists.

    –”We don’t say that God was the efficient cause of the tornado just because he made the universe.”

    Please stay on topic. God made man’s ability to choose, but once that ability is given, the choices are man’s. God makes man and man’s will, man makes the choices. I have explained this at least five times Your self is the cause of your choices.

    —”My choice has no efficient cause – there is no set of prior events which caused my choice – that’s what free means.”

    No, you have it exactly wrong. If your choices are caused by a set of prior events, then it is the prior events that are making the choice, not the self. Please try to grasp this. You falsely stated that I am appealing to causes other than efficient causes. Please indicate which other types of causes you think that I am using. Indicate them by type and name.

    —”If I were making my choice because God willed it so – if he were the efficient cause, then it wouldn’t be my choice anymore – not free.”

    Yes, so what. God is not the efficient cause of your choices.

    —”If free will is genuine, then it must have the ability to be an uncaused cause – the ability to somehow move some particles in the world inside me without being caused itself by anything else.”

    A free will agent is not an uncaused cause. The free will agent is the effect of prior cause, which is God’s creative act of producing it. I know that I have explained this at least five times. Now will you tell me which kinds of causes that you think I am mixing?

  312. –Aleta: “Of course concrete walls don’t pop up out of nowhere,…”

    Why cannot concrete walls pop up from out of nowhere? How do you know that it is not possible? Please answer.

  313. Let’s start by working backwards:

    Stephen writes, “Why cannot concrete walls pop up from out of nowhere? How do you know that it is not possible? Please answer.”

    That’s a deliberately provocative question that you don’t mean seriously – I’m inclined to call it a stupid question, but I know you are not asking it out of stupidity. I, like you and everyone else, now and throughout history, have had lots of experience and we know things like that don’t happen. What’s your point?

  314. 316

    Aleta,

    Experience that repeats is not an explanation like the explanation of why 2+2=4. We can see the reasonableness of the second, we don’t have the same insight into the first. So why don’t walls or any other macro-object just poof into existence? I ask with the intention of an actual explanation as an answer, not just a description of an experience.

  315. Stephen, you write, “A free will agent is not an uncaused cause. The free will agent is the effect of prior cause, which is God’s creative act of producing it.”

    Yes, I know that – God created our ability to make free will choices. We are in agreement about this.

    My point is that when I make a choice, such as to stay up writing this when I should be going to bed, the particulur choice I make (and I know I have bolded the word particular at least three times) does not have any antecedent cause. The existence of the self’s ability to make a choice was caused by God – I have the ability to make my choice effective in the world by acting on it, but my particular choice is free.

    I really can’t say it clearer than that, and there are obviously people agree with me (Green, and other that he has referenced) and those that don’t, so this probably needs to stay in the category of what view we choose to take – and I freely choose to take the view that I have described.

  316. Vivid, I think I see what you are getting at, but I think you are not doing it in a generous spirit, much like Stephen’s questions about the concrete wall popping into existence. We started off by talking about basic assumptions we make about the world. I’ve already told you that I think we all try to test the hypotheses we make in lots of ways, and that some place along the line we also have to make choices about what position we are going to take on things.

    My take on things is that I’m not going to believe in things like heaven and hell, reincarnation, etc, unless I see evidence. This is coupled with a lot of knowledge about religions in general, and about psychology, and a whole lifetime of learning. You’re trying to get me into what you think is a logical trap – that I can’t provide evidence that looking for evidence is the thing to do, or something like that. There isn’t much point in that: I’ve never claimed that I can somehow prove that my positions are true, but I can try to explain them to people and let each person decide for themselves whether they see something useful or not.

  317. Last post: Clive asks, “So why don’t walls or any other macro-object just poof into existence? I ask with the intention of an actual explanation as an answer, not just a description of an experience.”

    The world just isn’t like that. I don’t know why the world is as it is, and I don’t think anyone does.

    Newton made this same point, and Feynman has seconded it – at some point our ability to explain why things are the way they are comes to an end, and we must be content to just describe how they are. This is a position I subscribe to.

  318. aleta “Vivid, I think I see what you are getting at, but I think you are not doing it in a generous spirit, much like Stephen’s questions about the concrete wall popping into existence”

    aleta If my world view ends up denying the very thing I propose then that is a very big red flag that there is something fatally flawed with my assumptions. Rather than address the reducto adsurdum of your position you attack me as somehow not having a generous spirit. To be expected really since the only other choice to make is to recognize the absurdity your worldview entails. Better to attack me than face the truth.

    Vivid

  319. reducto ad absurdum

  320. aleta “The world just isn’t like that. I don’t know why the world is as it is, and I don’t think anyone does.”

    If you dont know why the world just isn’t like that you cant know the world isnt like that, you cant know walls cannot pop up out of no where.

    Vivid

  321. Why cannot concrete walls pop up from out of nowhere? How do you know that it is not possible?

    —Aleta: “That’s a deliberately provocative question that you don’t mean seriously”—

    I appreciate your attempt to read my mind, but I am quite serious.

    – “I’m inclined to call it a stupid question, but I know you are not asking it out of stupidity.”

    It is a very reasonable question for which a perfectly reasonable answer is available.

    —”I, like you and everyone else, now and throughout history, have had lots of experience and we know things like that don’t happen.”

    I am not asking you about your experience or whether or not it has happened. I am asking if you know whether or not it CAN happen–ever–and if so, how you know that.

    —”What’s your point?”

    I am hoping to illuminate your mind.

  322. –Aleta: “My point is that when I make a choice, such as to stay up writing this when I should be going to bed, the particulur choice I make (and I know I have bolded the word particular at least three times) does not have any antecedent cause.”

    Your particular choice to stay up late does have an antecedent cause, namely the self.

    Also, what about your numerous claims that I bootlegged numerous types of causes in my analysis on free will. Inasmuch as I asked you to identify them, and inasmuch as you refused to respond, I trust that you now understand that the charge was false and will not raise the issue again.

  323. Stephen asks, “I am not asking you about your experience or whether or not it [a concrete wall popping inot existence0 has happened. I am asking if you know whether or not it CAN happen–ever–and if so, how you know that.

    No, I don’t “know whether or not it CAN happen–ever–”. If an omnipotent God exists, as you folks believe, then theoretically he could pop one into existence. If that actually happened, I would have to seriously re-evaluate my worldview. :)

  324. Aleta you state:

    ‘If that actually happened, I would have to seriously re-evaluate my worldview. :)

    But Aleta have you not previously said that the entire universe could just pop into existence ‘uncaused’ just so to avoid Theistic implications? Then why in the world would a paltry brick wall cause you any less resolve in your determination to deny the obvious?

  325. Hi BA. I have never “said that the entire universe could just pop into existence ‘uncaused’” You must be thinking of someone else.

  326. 328

    BornAgain77, I hope this response is not too long…

    Re #58:

    I very much appreciate your personal story. And when you say “I could not control my desires in the least”, believe me when I say I know exactly what you are talking about, for I was enslaved to a most heinous desire myself. And I was so ensnared by this sin, I was willing to abandon anyone and anything to continue in it. And I mean ANYTHING.

    At one point, though, I thought my ability to indulge in this behavior was going to be taken from me, and I realized that if it was, I would be left with nothing; nothing in the sense that I had no desire for anything or anyone else. IT was the only thing I wanted. However, once I realized that, I started to have desires for other desires (any desire other than the one that had been at the root of every single decision I had been making). In addition, I eventually started to see that this wretched desire was itself the manifestation of other desires in my heart (I was full of covetousness, greedy and selfish). In short, I only cared about ME and my well being and pleasure. I could not be moved to act for the sake of anyone or anything unless it benefited ME in the end. I was utterly appalled by this, and this realization caused me to want the good desires instead (the desire to be kind, gentle, caring, responsible), to be moved to act for the sake of others, not for my sake. I wanted to be able to love anyone or anything besides just me, but how to go about making that happen I could not find within myself.

    So for me, it was the overwhelming desire for virtuous desires that cancelled out the wretched ones (not the virtuous desires themselves, but the desire for them). But not finding it within myself to conjure them up, I began to ask for them. Eventually, I found in scripture that this is exactly what we are supposed to do (Psalm 51:10, 119:36, 141:4, 1 Chron 29:18 ). It is God who works in us, to give us virtuous desires, thereby causing us to walk in his ways (Deut 30:6, Ezek 36:26-27, Jeremiah 32:39-40, 2 Chron 30:6-12, Phil 2:13). Thus, my personal experience has shown me not only that desires are what drive our every action, but that we are enslaved to them, unless some other desire arises and cancels them out. Or IOW, we are and always will be slaves to one thing or another (One cannot serve two masters, but rest assured, we will always have a master).

    Regarding speaking truth to your desires, this is an important point. But like I said before, truth awakens desire, and in your example, it would seem to me that reminding yourself that you look and act like a fool when drunken and carousing is enough to prevent it. But it is important to note that not wanting to look like a fool (which is a desire in and of itself) apparently outweighs your desire to drink and carouse. OR, I suppose, if your main desire is for women to think of you as suave and good looking, and then you learn that heavy drinking is NOT the way to accomplish that, it’s no wonder your drinking has come under control (I am speculating, I do not pretend to know you that well, I am only trying to illustrate my point). In this sense, truth can alter our behavior in that we learn what is and is not effective in fulfilling our will, or desire.

    However, I have found it possible to keep certain desires from being enflamed (like taking every thought captive). The desire is there (I can feel it, and it still calls to me to gratify it), but it is very much weakened, or “dormant”, sort of. But I know if it were to be enflamed again, it could very well enslave me, yet again. I greatly fear this possibility. I will therefore avoid certain things like the plague.

    And in regards to truth awakening certain desires, it is contingent on the hearer of the truth actually believing it. Consequently, I don’t think we can control what we truly believe, either.

  327. 329

    Re #60:

    William J. Murray, you say: “Do you not define intent the same way most dictionaries do? From dictionary.com:
    “1. to have in mind as something to be done or brought about.”
    Note that it can be about something to be done, or just something “to be brought about” … such as jupiter turnig blue.”

    The way you have used the word is in no way comparable to how the dictionary defines it, or how anyone would use it in everyday language. When I say “I intend to go to work in the morning”, that means I will indeed go to work unless something prevents me from carrying that out. Just thinking about doing something (turning Jupiter blue?) does not describe “intent” in any sense of the term, unless you knew how to actually do it, and you were consequently so inclined to put it on your list of things to ACTUALLY DO.

    - – - “Please note dictionary.com’s definition of the noun “will”:
    “1. the faculty of conscious and especially of deliberate action; the power of control the mind has over its own actions: the freedom of the will.”
    Please note the latter part of that definition: the power of control the mind has over it’s own actions. IOW, my consciousness has the power to control its own behavior before it manifests as physical actions.”

    Please note that this definition can be boiled down to this: “the power to deliberately do what I am so inclined to do”, which comports with what most people think of when they use the term “free will”. But what I am saying is that whatever we are inclined to do is outside of our control, and everything we actually DO is the result of the inclination. IOW, this definition is superficial, just like most people’s understanding of the issue. But the “will” is most certainly used to describe our desire. Our “will” is that which we want, or would like to see come about (Thy will be none), so I would profoundly disagree with this particular definition as it pertains to this discussion.

    - – - “How can the mind control itself, if mental actions like intent are caused by uncontrollable desires? How can one say that the mind controls itself at all if such “controls” are simply the effects of that which is not controlled by the conscious?”

    The mind certainly controls our actions, but the self is DEFINED by our inclinations (or will, or desire), which in turn directs our mind to this or that action.

    - – - “IMO, you are attempting to subvert the very essential meaning of free will by categorizing it as something caused by something else.” … “you seem to be seeking to define “intent” or “free will” conveniently so that it precludes my spot-on example from consideration.”

    If we are to discuss this issue, we must carefully define our terms, and I am saying that the “typical” use of the term “free will” is insufficient, and your use of the term “intent” is completely out of the ordinary. These sloppy usages misdirect and confuse the conversation.

  328. Sorry Aleta, ,,, As for the miracle of God creating a wall, I think it would be much more appropriate to pay proper appreciation to the miracle of the wall that God has tore down, than to demand that God erect a wall instantaneously. ,,, The wall God breeched that had separated infinite God from finite man. A impregnable wall that no mortal man could possibly have traversed by his own effort, nor is possible for man by his own effort today:

    ,,, The unification, into a ‘theory of everything’, between what is in essence the ‘infinite world of Quantum Mechanics’ and the ‘finite world of the space-time of General Relativity’ seems to be directly related to what Jesus apparently joined together with His resurrection, i.e. related to the unification of infinite God with finite man:

    The Center Of The Universe Is Life – General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy and The Shroud Of Turin – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/5070355

    While I agree with a criticism, from a Christian, that was leveled against the preceding Shroud of Turin video, that God indeed needed no help from the ‘universe’ in the resurrection event of Christ since all things are possible with God, I am none-the-less very happy to see that what is considered the number one problem facing Physicists and Mathematicians in physics today, of a ‘unification into a theory of everything’ for what is in essence the finite world of General Relativity and the infinite world of Quantum Mechanics, does in fact seem to find a successful resolution for ‘unification’ within the resurrection event of Jesus Christ Himself. It seems almost overwhelmingly apparent to me from the ‘scientific evidence’ we now have that Christ literally ripped a hole in the finite entropic space-time of this universe to reunite infinite God with finite man. That modern science would even offer such a almost tangible glimpse into the mechanics of what happened in the tomb of Christ should be a source of great wonder and comfort for the Christian heart. Though to be sure the video is not saying with 100% certainty whether God acted completely of His own free will at that specific moment in time of the resurrection, or whether it was a cumulative act of His free will spread over all time, and all eternity, from the foundation of the universe. Yet none-the-less there seems to be strong indication, from the empirical evidence itself, of it being a cumulative act of His free will spread over all time focused on that particular moment of time (i.e. A timeless act within time).

    That the resurrection event would fit so neatly within the number 1 problem of physics today, seems to mock, with a full belly laughter, those who would pretend ‘science’ has ‘liberated’ them from religious ‘superstitions.

  329. 331

    William J Murray, re #77, you say:

    - – - “I would like to add that, IMO, “desires” and other reasons are contextualized opportunities within which a person with free will can make meaningful intentions. A reason to “do” something, or intend something, is not the same as sufficient cause.”

    And yet “desire”, or “will”, is the only reason anybody does anything at all. Every single conscious decision or action anybody ever does can be traced back to a “desire” or “will”. Take it to the bank.

    - – - “Because apple pie exists, and I like the taste, is not the sufficient cause for an intent to eat apple pie.”

    Not per se, no. But when we eat apple pie, rest assured there is a reason for it, and the reason boils down to a desire on our part. Maybe we are hungry and that’s all there is (desire to eat), maybe we just like the taste (desire for pleasure), or maybe we have a gun to our head (eat this ,or else!), which would be a desire to preserve one’s own life.

    - – - “Such reasons do not coerce the intent of a free will agency, they just provide contextual opportunity for specified expression if one wishes to utilize them in that manner.”

    If “desire”, or “will” is not the drive behind our decisions or actions, then what is?

  330. 332

    William J. Murray, you say “Such reasons do not coerce the intent of a free will agency, they just provide contextual opportunity for specified expression ***IF ONE WISHES*** to utilize them in that manner”. (italics mine)

    I rest my case!

  331. [Can a brick wall just pop up in front of your moving vehicle as you are driving down the highway]

    —Aleta: “No, I don’t “know whether or not it CAN happen

    Earlier, you said things like that don’t happen, so I asked you how you can know that.

    Now you say that you don’t know if it can happen. So, can you tell me which position is the one you hold. Either [a] you know it can’t happen, in which case you could tell us why, or [b] you don’t know if it can happen, which means that you do not rule out the possibility. If you do not rule out the possibility, then you are open to the possibility.

    Please choose one position.

  332. —Aleta: “If an omnipotent God exists, as you folks believe, then theoretically he could pop one into existence.”

    Then the wall would not be coming into existence without a cause. God would be putting it there. The question is whether or not it can appear there WITHOUT a cause. You have taken two positions on the matter. I am asking you to narrow it down to one.

  333. I said that based on a huge amount of evidence I firmly believe, and so does every person on this planet, I imagine, that it [the concrete wall popping into existence] can’t happen. You then wrote, “I am not asking you about your experience or whether or not it has happened. I am asking if you know whether or not it CAN happen–ever.”

    To that, I answered that I don’t know that it couldn’t possibly happen. Given the world as I think it is, it couldn’t happen, but maybe the world is different than I think it is (God exists, and he would do this type of thing someday), in which case, as I said, I would have to change my mind about some major things.

    I am pretty much repeating what I’ve already said: it seems like a simple distinction, and a straightforward answer. Maybe you could be more explicit about what you think about whether concrete walls can pop into existence or not, and our your position differs from mine.

  334. I see. Looking back, I see that your original question said “without a cause”, but in 314 you wrote “Why cannot concrete walls pop up from out of nowhere? How do you know that it is not possible?”, which didn’t mention “without a cause” so I forgot that was part of the original question.

    No I don’t think concrete walls can pop into existence without a cause. In general, as I said way back up at the start of the thread, I believe that we live in a causally connected universe. This is one of those starting hypotheses that we have made, and which our experience continues to confirm. Looking for regular causes for hings has been a very succesful enterprise. At the time I stated my belief in a causal universe, I didn’t mention quantum events (for reasons I have explained upthread someplace), but from what I understand, even if quantum events are truly uncaused in a probabilistic fashion (and we don’t know whether that is true or not), there effect is very limited in time and space, and so the probability distributions create an “average” that functions causally, with regularity. Therefore, a macroscopic structure such as a concrete wall could not come about from a quantum event.

    I hope I have now answered the question you wanting me to answer.

  335. P.S I wrote 335 in response to 333, before I saw 334. 336 is in response to 334.

  336. Aleta, I found some quotes that made me think of you:

    “Certainly there was something that set it all off,,, I can’t think of a better theory of the origin of the universe to match Genesis”
    Robert Wilson – Nobel laureate – co-discover Cosmic Background Radiation

    The best data we have [concerning the Big Bang] are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the bible as a whole. Arno Penzias – Nobel laureate – co-discover Cosmic Background Radiation

    “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”
    George Smoot – Nobel laureate in 2006 for his work on COBE

    “,,,the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world,,, the essential element in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis is the same.”
    Robert Jastrow – Founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute – Pg.15 ‘God and the Astronomers’

    ——

    The following quotes are bit more on point:

    “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    “There is a strange ring of feeling and emotion in these reactions [of scientists to evidence that the universe had a sudden beginning]. They come from the heart whereas you would expect the judgements to come from the brain. Why? I think part of the answer is that scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon which cannot be explained, even with unlimited time and money. There is a kind of religion in science, it is the religion of a person who believes there is order and harmony in the universe, and every effect must have its cause, there is no first cause…

    “This religious faith of the scientist is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces or circumstances we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control…
    Jastrow

  337. —Aleta: “No I don’t think concrete walls can pop into existence without a cause. In general, as I said way back up at the start of the thread, I believe that we live in a causally connected universe.”

    I am not asking if you think that concrete walls cannot just pop into existence without a cause. I am asking if you know that concrete walls cannot just pop into existence without a cause.

    —”This is one of those starting hypotheses that we have made, and which our experience continues to confirm. Looking for regular causes for hings has been a very succesful enterprise.”

    The law of causality is not a “hypothesis,” it is an unchanging first principle of right reason that interpreets and informs evidence. A hypothesis, on the other hand, is a provisional proposition that can be informed and changed by the evidence. So, are you arguing for an unchanging law, a non-negotiable principle that informs evidence, or are you arguing for a hypothesis, a negotiable starting point that is informed and can be changed by the evidence?

    Inasmuch as you also hold that quantum events may be uncaused, you abviously do not, in spite of your earlier claim, fully embrace the proposition that we live in a causally connected universe, meaning that you think causality applies in some areas but not others.

    You write:

    —”At the time I stated my belief in a causal universe, I didn’t mention quantum events (for reasons I have explained upthread someplace), but from what I understand, even if quantum events are truly uncaused in a probabilistic fashion (and we don’t know whether that is true or not),..”

    So, in spite of your earlier claims, you don’t really except the assumption that the universe is causally connected, or, at least, you allow for exceptions. [Hence, your language of "hypothesis].

    On what principle do you make these exceptions and how many exceptions will you allow? You cannot justify these exceptiions by pointing to the evidence, because we are talking about the assumptions by which you interpret the evidence. Why do you assume, in some cases, that unknown causes are causes that have not yet been detected, while in other causes, you assume that unknown causes are causes that do not really exist?

  338. H’mm:

    Interesting . . .

    Those who evidently struggle with the idea of a wall emerging out of nothing, for no reason, anywhere, also seem to have no problem with a whole universe emerging out of nowhere, nothing, and for no reason.

    I also find it significant that those who actually experience being selves that make choices and carry out acts, struggle with the concept that the self is a causal force, a personal one: the self-acting soul or person or “I”, if you will. One that was created by the self who caused the cosmos.

    Interesting.

    G

    PS: V, last I checked, it is reductio . . .

  339. Stephen writes, “The law of causality is not a “hypothesis,” it is an unchanging first principle of right reason that interpreets and informs evidence. A hypothesis, on the other hand, is a provisional proposition that can be informed and changed by the evidence. So, are you arguing for an unchanging law, a non-negotiable principle that informs evidence, or are you arguing for a hypothesis, a negotiable starting point that is informed and can be changed by the evidence?”

    The latter. If the former, we have to assume that quantum events have a cause, and that may not be true.

    Stephen writes, “Inasmuch as you also hold that quantum events may be uncaused, you obviously do not, in spite of your earlier claim, fully embrace the proposition that we live in a causally connected universe, meaning that you think causality applies in some areas but not others.”

    I have explained, two or three times, why I omitted mentioning quantum events in the first place (in part because I don’t know whether they are uncaused or not, and neither does anyone else), and I’ve explained also that at the non quantum level, the probability distributions create causality as we normally think of it. Try reading QED by Feynman for more details

    Stephen writes, “So despite your earlier claims, you don’t really except the assumption that the universe is causally connected, or, at least, you allow for exceptions. [Hence, your language of "hypothesis].”

    Yes. I don’t know whether causality, as we know it, applies to everything that might possibly exist in the metaphysical realm. Both free will and quantum events may (this is a speculation at least worth considering) lie at the interface of the physical and the metaphysical, and true spontaneous freedom might be a property of the metaphysical. I’m not going to rule out considering that by declaring the law of causality an inviolable principle.

    You write, “On what principle do you make these exceptions and how many exceptions will you allow? You cannot justify these exceptiions by pointing to the evidence, because we are talking about the assumptions by which you interpret the evidence.”

    Sure, I can point to the evidence. You are claiming that the statement that everything has a cause is an “assumption by which you interpret the evidence,” but I’m not agreeing with that. You’re the one who can’t point to the evidence because you’ve limited yourself by the principle you have adopted as inviolable.

    And last, you write, “Why do you assume, in some cases, that unknown causes are causes that have not yet been detected, while in other causes, you assume that unknown causes are causes that do not really exist?”

    I don’t believe I’ve done that. I’ve said it’s possible that quantum events are truly uncaused, and it’s possible they have an unknown (and unknowable) cause. I base this on reading the works of physicists and others who have speculated on this. At the non quantum level, once the effects of large numbers of quantum events are averaged out, I believe everything is caused. (And for the record, I am talking about proximate, efficient causes that connect each moment in time to the next.)

    The root issue is the role of logic. The law of contradiction is a rule of logic. The law of causality is not. It is a statement about the real world in which both the words event and cause need to have meaning, and we are discovering that at some levels of the world, maybe the everyday meanings of those words break down, and the law of causality is not true.

    We’ve probably said, both of us, all there is to say about this for now. I understand your point, and disagree that it is the best way to look at things.

    Let me close with a quote from Einstein that summarizes my main point about logic:

    As far as the laws of mathematics [and logic] refer to reality, they are not certain, as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

    and my motto from Feymnan (paraphrased): “I would rather live with uncertainty than believe things that are not true.”

    This thread is on the subject of hyperskepticism, which is a pejorative term. I’m a skeptic, and proud of it – I see it as a virtue. not a vice. Unless I can see some evidence or other compelling argument for believing something, I will stay uncommitted.

    The thread also put hyperskepticism on the other end of a spectrum with gullibility, and that may apply to some, including some here on this forum. But I think a more reasonable counterpoint to hyperskepticism is hyperconfident certainty, which is a category I put many of you here in.

    So we differ significantly in how we see ourselves and how we see each other, and perhaps we gain something from discussing with each other (and perhaps not.) I have learned things from this thread – both understanding you guys better (although you would probably disagree with what I think I understand) and understanding myself better, both what I think and how to communicate what I think. So despite my nagging background feeling that I shouldn’t be spending my time coming here and getting involved in these discussions, there is obviously reasons why I come back occasionally and get involved again.

    So until the next time,
    Aleta

  340. Aleta,

    If I am not mistaken, your notion of causality of an efficient cause being a state prior to an event came out of hume and his problematic view on causality. In fact, the issue of causality was never an issue per se but rather was fabricated from this man’s false understanding.

    Think of a rock thrown at a window causing it to break. The immediate (emphasis on immediate for simplicity of example) efficient cause as per your view would be the state of affairs that is temporally prior to the window coming into contact with the rock.

    From a classical perspective however, the efficient cause simultaneous with its effect. The instant that the rock is in contact with the glass signified by the breaking is the efficient cause. It is only when cause and effect are divorced unnecessarily as in hume’s case that problems arise. I think Kairsofocus commented on the intimate relation of cause and effect earlier in his analysis of causality in physical theory and its centrality to physical effects. It is only when the two are divorced that problems arise.

  341. Aleta said:

    The root issue is the role of logic. The law of contradiction is a rule of logic. The law of causality is not. It is a statement about the real world in which both the words event and cause need to have meaning, and we are discovering that at some levels of the world, maybe the everyday meanings of those words break down, and the law of causality is not true.

    As I understand it, Aleta is correct. All statements about the world are empirical statements, and causal statements are always statements about the world. Therefore, all causal statements are empirical.

  342. 344

    Aleta,

    The world just isn’t like that. I don’t know why the world is as it is, and I don’t think anyone does.

    Exactly, but we do know why certain things follow from others, namely, with metaphysical reality, as with logic, reason, morality, and mathematics.

  343. Aleta + Pendant,

    There is nothing about QM that denies the law of causality.

    I think I was right to point out that the problems with your perspective stem from hume’s false conception of causality. Causality is not merely an inference we make about the world via our empirical investigations. It’s a reality whose denial leads to a reductio ad absurdum.

  344. Pedant:

    Is, “ALL statements about the world are empirical statements” itself empirical?

    In short reflect on the self-reference there and where it leads to since the number of statements about the world is indefinitely large, i.e. personally and institutionally infinite.

    Reductio . . .

    G

    PS: Aleta, a quantum event occurs such that it depends on certain prior conditions, e.g. no unstable atom, no radioactive decay (as has been repeatedly pointed out, and BTW that was the exact point Craig, very properly, was making and which Green missed). That is, WE CAN FAIRLY EASILY IDENTIFY NECESSARY CAUSAL FACTORS FOR QUANTUM EVENTS. Events constrained by necessary causal factors are caused, and that we do not know specific SUFFICIENT sets of causal factors does not make the events a-causal. They are not coming out of nothing, nowhere, any-time. Even “empty” space is seen as packed with a rich energy density! (And observe the veiled reference to causal factors — but too often unrecognised as such — in the discussion just linked.)

  345. [Are you arguing for an unchanging law, a non-negotiable principle that informs evidence, or are you arguing for a hypothesis, a negotiable starting point that is informed and can be changed by the evidence?”]

    —Aleta: The latter.

    Yes, which means that, in spite of your earlier claim, you employ no first principles that inform the evidence. With each new commentary, you change your story to fit the argument. On one of your previous posts, you acknowledged that nothing can be in the effect that was not first in the cause, which is a corollary of the law of causality. Now you say there is no law. It’s one contradiction after the other.

    That is why you cannot say with any degree of certainty that a concrete wall cannot come from out of nowhere. You cannot rule out the possibility because you commit to no rational principles that would provide that kind of guidance. That’s hyperskepticism.

    -=”I don’t know whether causality, as we know it, applies to everything that might possibly exist in the metaphysical realm.”

    You don’t even know if it applies to everything in the physical realm, as you have made clear.

    —I’m not going to rule out considering that by declaring the law of causality an inviolable principle.

    Right. For that same reason, you cannot rule out the possibility that a concrete wall will pop up from out of nowhere.

    —”Sure, I can point to the evidence. You are claiming that the statement that everything has a cause is an “assumption by which you interpret the evidence,” but I’m not agreeing with that.”

    Incorrect. You cannot point to evidence as a means of establishing causation, because you already evalute evidence on the basis that events you observe may not have been caused. Clearly, you don’t get that.

    Would this be Aleta in a courtroom?-

    – “Your honor, the law of causality is not really a law. The 27 wounds in the victim’s chest which appear to have been caused by my client’s knife may not have been caused at all. There are no first principles that would require us to say otherwise. Also, my client’s fingerprints may have just magically on the alleged murder weapon. I agree that they are there, but the way I interpret the evidence my client may not have even been present at the scene. While I don’t really BELIEVE that his fingerprints came from out of nowhere, I can’t be CERTAIN because I hold to no rational principles that would compel me to say that.”

    Would this be Aleta in the laboratory?

    —“As far as I am concerned, there is no reason why the effect cannot be greater than the cause.” There is no non-negotiable principles of right reason to suggest otherwise. The ocean became muddy because a frog jumped in.” The man was killed by a blanket which dropped from the second floor. The dish fell from the table because a fly landed on it.”

    All these things are possible because evidence can be interpreted according to the whims of the investigator and need not be informed by logical principles.

  346. kf PS: V, last I checked, it is reductio . . .

    ooops my bad. I could lie and say it was a typo :)

    Vivid

  347. It seems that there is a lot of confusion in part of those that defend uncaused states what it means when something is uncaused.

    Uncaused state is self-originating state from nothing or non-being i.e it is independent from the previous or any states and not initiated by them. Emergence of uncaused state’s don’t have any limits of what may or may not emerge either as non-being has no attributes that could limit the emerging state.

    It certainly doesn’t follow by any logic that if some quantum or other state’s seems to be or are non-deterministic that this randomness implies that the states in question are uncaused. For example the double slit experiment’s non-deterministic pattern of photons does not imply uncaused event because the state can be initiated i.e caused in a lab. It should be clear that the uncaused state couldn’t be initiated by anything because of it’s self-creating nature. Uncaused state’s would be a total science and knowledge stopper as well as there would be no way to research self-creating state that pops out of nothing for no reason.

    In short randomness != uncaused
    uncaused = end of knowledge

  348. kairosfocus @346:

    Pedant:

    Is, “ALL statements about the world are empirical statements” itself empirical?

    I don’t know. What do you think?

    Is it an incorrect proposition?

    Are there any statements one can make about the world that are not empirical?

  349. pendant “Is it an incorrect proposition?”

    That was not what kf asked you.

    Vivid

  350. pendant “I don’t know”

    If you dont know then contrary to your assertion you dont know that all statements about the world are empirical.

    Vivid

  351. Vividbleau @351:

    pendant “Is it an incorrect proposition?”

    That was not what kf asked you.

    Correct. It’s a question I asked kf.

    Vividbleau @352:

    pendant “I don’t know”

    If you dont know then contrary to your assertion you dont know that all statements about the world are empirical.

    My “I don’t know” was in answer to kf’s question:

    Is, “ALL statements about the world are empirical statements” itself empirical?

    I don’t know if it’s a statement about the world or about epistemology – about how we understand things. But as far as knowing that all statements about the world are empirical, I don’t know that, in the sense of being absolutely certain, but it seems correct to me. Is that OK?

  352. A further thought, Vividbleau:

    Maybe all epistemological statements are empirical. I suspect they are, but I’d like to see kf’s take on that.

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