Friday, January 20, 2012

Replying to the "Who Made God" argument against cosmological arguments

There are a couple of ways in which defenders of the cosmological argument can develop the argument so as to avoid the consequence of God having to also have been made. One way is to use a principle that whatever has a temporal beginning of its existence has to have a cause of its existence. God, as understood in the tradition, never had a beginning, but Big Bang Theory strongly suggests that the physical universe had to have had a beginning. Therefore, the universe had to have had a cause of its existence, but God doesn't need one.

The other way in which defenders of the argument avoid the problem is by saying that what needs a cause are the sorts of things that, if they do exist, might or might not exist. In other words, these things are called contingent beings. Physical things are contingent, but God, if God exist, is the sort of being who, if he exists, couldn't fail to exist. So physical things need causes, but God does not.

These are well-known maneuvers (though they certainly have rebuttals), but people like Dawkins seen to be unaware of them, and that weakens his case for atheism. 

179 comments:

Cristofer Urlaub said...

Thank you for posting this! The idea of contingent beings is my favorite defense, though you're right, it's not perfect.

Clayton said...

"...Big Bang Theory strongly suggests that the physical universe had to have had a beginning."

You and I had beginnings in the sense that there was a time prior to the times at which we existed when we did not exist. In this sense, BBT surely deosn't imply that the physical universe had a beginning.

finney said...

Clayton,
it's true that if there were a time prior to our existence in which we did not exist, then our existence had a beginning.

but it seems our existence would have a beginning even if there were no time prior to our existence; for example, if we were the first to exist in time. the first is a beginning.

Payton said...

I think it's better to just leave it where things like the Kalam Cosmological Argument and the Five Ways leave it. They go towards proving that the universe has a cause for its existence and that you cannot have an infinite regress of causes.

If the cause has a cause, so be it. Follow it out until you get to the first cause. That's the one we're calling our God.

Victor Reppert said...

Clayton: This is one of the important "rebuttals" that I mentioned in the OP. The critical issue is whether the intuition that what begins must have a cause is exhausted by cases where there was a prior time when the object did not exist. Intuitively, I think this is not correct. But that is where the debate lies, of course.

Even if this rebuttal works, it causes problems for the popular idea, echoed by such icons of nonbelief as Russell and Dawkins, that you can just ask "Who made God" and refute all cosmological arguments. The matter is more complicated than that, at least.

Cole said...

It's also an intuition for some that the principle of causality is a temporal concept. Consider this:

X - In our experience, causes always have a temporal relation to their effects. They are either temporally prior to, or perhaps simultaneous with, their effects.

X is constantly confirmed and never falsified by emperical observation. Even if one grants (as many philosophers do not) that some causes are simultanious with their effects, (as Craig does) those causes are themselves states of other things that pre-exist the effects in question.

Example:

Suppose that one thinks the pressure of a man's posterior is simultanious with the depression in that cussion. The pressure is due to the position and posture of the man's body, and this in turn is a state of something - the man's body - that existed before it was in that state. The total cause thus includes something - the man's body - that existed prior to the depression in the cushion.

If this intuition is right then:

1. If there is no time at the singularity there is no Cause.

BenYachov said...

The "Who made God?" argument is the New Atheist's lame version of "The Second Law of Thermodynamics refutes evolution" used by Fundamentalists.

It's pathetic.

BenYachov said...

I should also point out Aquinas' CA presupposes the Universe had an infinite past & had no beginning per say.

Indeed he didn't believe science or philosophy could prove Creation had a beginning. He believed you could only know that via Divine Revelation.

But his CA shows how the Universe can exist here and now. Before I learned any of this I thought a Universe that had no beginning in Time at best pointed to Pantheism.

Now I see an infinitely old universe would still need a Classic Theistic God to sustain it's existence for all eternity.

Atheism is only possible if the universe had no cause. Which Ascombie pointed out is not possible.

Clayton said...

Hi Victor,

"Even if this rebuttal works, it causes problems for the popular idea, echoed by such icons of nonbelief as Russell and Dawkins, that you can just ask "Who made God" and refute all cosmological arguments. The matter is more complicated than that, at least."

I don't know which Dawkins piece you're referring to, but this is a bit of a strawman of Russell. Here's Russell from _Why I'm not a Christian_:

I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: "My father taught me that the question 'Who made me?' cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?'" That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument.

Payton said...

Well, Russell's argument there is wrong. It is clear that the universe cannot exist necessarily. It has so many contingent features. Russell might say the same thing about the Christian God, but that misses the point.

The CA does not hold up the universe and the Christian God and ask which one of them is least likely to exist without a cause. Instead, it establishes that something must exist without a cause, and then deduces some of its properties.

Clayton said...

I'm not going to try to argue that Russell's point is right, but I think we have another instance of unfairly dismissing Russell's point.

"Well, Russell's argument there is wrong. It is clear that the universe cannot exist necessarily. It has so many contingent features."

If there's an argument here, it seems to be this:
P1. If x has contingent features, x is a contingent being.
P2. The universe has contingent features.
C. The universe is a contingent being.

What's the justification for P1? I can't think of one. Having some contingent feature is compatible with having other features necessarily. Existence isn't a feature, but you get the idea. You yourself out your finger on the counterexamples to P1 we need. Insofar as God is free and that freedom means that God could do otherwise, many features of God's mental life and God's biography are contingent but neither God's mental life nor God's biography exists contingently. Sorry, the reason that very, very smart people are still hashing this stuff out is that metaphysics is just much harder than you seem to think it is. Some respect for one of the founding figures of analytic philosophy isn't too much to ask, not even on a blog.

BenYachov said...

>If everything must have a cause.

It is a brute fact no single historic CA has ever had that as a starting premise. If anything many CA argued against the proposition.

>What's the justification for P1? I can't think of one. Having some contingent feature is compatible with having other features necessarily.

Rather the burden of proof is on you to produce a non-contingent feature of the Universe.

Logically you would need a non-contingent feature at the beginning of an essential causal chain(i.e. analogously you couldn't have an infinite series of un-powered boxcars pulling a Caboose. But you could have an infinite series of Locomotives on a train trax).

But OTOH any non-contingent thing you postulate at the beginning of an essential series we would take as God.

Clayton said...

Burden proof shifting? You've got to be kidding. If someone offers an argument, it's their responsibility to defend the premises.

I don't have to demonstrate that the universe has any features essentially because Payton has already done the work required to show that his own argument is unsound (i.e., by showing that P1 is false). Here's a suggestion and this is Russell's suggestion--the universe itself exists necessarily. Following Hume, he challenges the theist to show that this is false and suspects that this cannot be done.

I don't follow the bit about box cars, but you've put your finger on a real problem for some versions of the cosmological argument:
"But OTOH any non-contingent thing you postulate at the beginning of an essential series we would take as God."

If some non-contingent thing present at the first moment didn't have a mind, wasn't an agent, didn't have purposes, you'd still think that was God? That sounds mildly blasphemous.

BenYachov said...

@Clayton

>Burden proof shifting? You've got to be kidding. If someone offers an argument, it's their responsibility to defend the premises.

So why not simply produce the non-contingent natural feature? So far based on observation we only see contingent natural features.

>I don't have to demonstrate that the universe has any features essentially...

Maybe because there aren't any? I can show you a host of natural things that are contingent in the Universe you need only provide one that isn't.

>Here's a suggestion and this is Russell's suggestion--the universe itself exists necessarily.

Accept Russel is making a fallacy of composition. The Universe isn't so much a Thing but a set of things.

Aquinas CA doesn't required the universe to prove God. Just one atom will do.

>Following Hume, he challenges the theist to show that this is false and suspects that this cannot be done.

Then you have never read Elizabeth Anscombe's take down of Hume? Hume equates imagination with intellect. His whole philosophical system is flawed from the top down.

Imagining a Ball coming into existence without an apparent cause it not the same as conceiving it intellectually.

>If some non-contingent thing present at the first moment didn't have a mind, wasn't an agent, didn't have purposes, you'd still think that was God? That sounds mildly blasphemous.

Rather once you have the Non-Contingent Thing you grant the Classic Theist the lion's share of the argument.

The rest of the five ways lead us to the nature of the Uncaused Cause(like having intellect).

Since Russel's eternal universe still requires an Eternal Cause to keep it in existence here and now and the universe coming into existence without a cause is irrational.

>I don't follow the bit about box cars,

Motion or change(not to be confused with physical momentum as most inept critics of Aquinas 1st way among none philospher physicists are pron to do, Sean Caroll anyone?) is observed to be potencies being made actual.

Something has to account for the initial actuality.

If you explain the motion of a caboose by it being pulled by the boxcar you can't account for it by placing an infinite number of them before the caboose.


Still if the Universe has a "feature" that is non-contingent then let's see it.

OTOH a non-contingent "feature/cause" that produces all the contingent entities that make up the set we call the "Universe" we can take to be God.

It's logical existence is lion's share of the argument to the Classic Theist.

Clayton said...

I don't have time to go through the cosmological argument much longer. My point was initially that Russell was being straw-manned. I think that's obviously correct, but I don't know why Victor will just acknowledge the point.

"So why not simply produce the non-contingent natural feature?"

I offered one. I suggested that the universe is a necessary being. Perhaps it also has temporal and physical dimensions essentially.

"Then you have never read Elizabeth Anscombe's take down of Hume? Hume equates imagination with intellect. His whole philosophical system is flawed from the top down."

No, I haven't read that take-down. What is it? Hume's point had nothing to do with imagination and intellect, so I'm dubious.

"The rest of the five ways lead us to the nature of the Uncaused Cause(like having intellect)."

Right, I was assuming that nobody thought that the five ways succeeded. I guess I found Kenny's criticisms rather persuasive. I'd recommend reading Kenny and le Poidevin if you want to know why few place any stock in these arguments.

BenYachov said...

@Clayton

>My point was initially that Russell was being straw-manned. I think that's obviously correct, but I don't know why Victor will just acknowledge the point.

Might I suggest for your own edification you should be open to the possibility Russell is the one with the Straw man argument?

Just a thought.

>I suggested that the universe is a necessary being.

You haven't metaphysically defined the nature of the universe. You treated it as a Thing. I suggest it is not a thing but a set of things.

>Perhaps it also has temporal and physical dimensions essentially.

Not getting you here?

>No, I haven't read that take-down. What is it? Hume's point had nothing to do with imagination and intellect, so I'm dubious.

His entire view of causality is based on arguments from imagination also he was an anti-rationalist empiricist. It is part of this thought.

see GEM Anscombe"Whatever has a begining must have a cause, Hume's arguyment exposed" from her Collected Philosophical Papers Vol 1.(Basil blackwell 1981)

>Right, I was assuming that nobody thought that the five ways succeeded. I guess I found Kenny's criticisms rather persuasive.

Well I will give you Kudos for reading Kenny. It's better than reading Dawkins pathetic shit on Aquinas. But you should check out Oderberg's and Feser's responses to Kenny.

The five ways have a lot going for them.

Kenny's problem is he is assuming Aristotle was discussing momentum and giving an argument from the then observed incomplete view of physics.

No he wasn't he was giving a metaphysical description of change to reply to Parmenides.

Aristotle's metaphysics apply across the board to any brand of physics. Newton, Einstein Heisenberg etc...Hawking;-)

Check out the Last Superstition or Aquinas both by Feser.

Cheers.

BenYachov said...

Aristotle's erroneous physics postulated for an object to move from point A to point B it required something to keep it moving otherwise it would stop.

Newton overthrew this. Throw something in zero gravity it will keep going.

Parmenides would have agreed with this false view of physics except he would conclude the obvious motion was a mere illusion since all change is impossible.

But for Aristotle the metaphysical description of the motion was important. For Aristotle his senses where telling him something real was happening.

The motion/change was a Potency in act.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/01/video-of-science-and-faith-conference.html

Cheers again.

BeingItself said...

"One way is to use a principle that whatever has a temporal beginning of its existence has to have a cause of its existence."

Right. Things that have beginnings need causes, or contingent things need causes, or whatever.

By "use a principle" Reppert means "make something up".

So Reppert's strategy reduces to "make something up that will prove that my god exists".

Is it any wonder that these arguments have such a dismal history of being persuasive?

BenYachov said...

Clayton was giving us some high brow criticism of the CA.

Now Gnu crowd has to spoil it by talking.

Victor Reppert said...

That's actually the Russell passage that I had in mind as having problems, because I would expect him to know, at least, what the "contingency" based rebuttals are going to be, and he doesn't mention them at all. When I read the passage, I get the impression that defenders of the cosmological argument are people who are too dumb to ask the question "Who made God,"
a question that little kids have been known to ask. Without knowing what I know about how Thomists actually advance the argument, I would get the impression that defenders of the argument are either not very bright, or that they are so blinded by their desire to have an argument for the existence of God that they overlook the obvious objection. In fact, Russell, in numerous places engages in just this kind of an argument from motive. It kind of reminds me of the Loftus comment that defending religious belief makes otherwise intelligent people look stupid. There are intelligent responses to this line argument, and Russell ought to have mentioned them in order to be fair to the argument itself, even if it turns out that these responses are ultimately unsuccessful.

So, I question who is straw-manning who here.

Crude said...

Clayton brought up Anthony Kenny. Kenny, of course, rejects the Five Ways - but he also rejects atheism for agnosticism.

He's also not so glib about the Five Ways, even while disagreeing with them:

Feser also presents dense and plausible versions of the First and Second Ways [of Aquinas], but each of them, I believe, is ultimately fallacious…

But Feser has serious reasons for all of his assertions. Unlike many of the other contributors to the recent theism-atheism debate, he is always well worth arguing with.


That's from Kenny's review of Feser's book, which got into the Five Ways.

Feser also touches on le Poidevin here and here, among other places.

Papalinton said...

Clayton
"If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument."

This is the fundamental rebuttal of the first cause nonsense. The 'first cause' proposition falls into the same category of fallacy as to suggest that god is justice and that justice rules the universe. Because here in our neck of the woods, here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world.

If the only alternatives for humankind after death is heaven or hell, as christian tell us, one could also ask where is it in this universe that these two places reside, or does heaven and hell occupy that same area [for want of a better word] that this [putatively living] god is supposed to inhabit outside time and space, outside this universe? And does Fred Jones, a good christian who died a couple of years ago and now lives with god [heaven?], does he now live [for want of a better word] outside this universe in a place outside of time and space?

Christian theism: talk about inelegant presuppositions positing such inelegant 'solutions' replete with inelegant complexities, that are utterly antithetical to the knowledge base and growing understanding of the world and the universe and the human condition that we have gained from quarters outside theology, such as science, and anthropology and sociology and the neuro-sciences, etc.

Victor Reppert said...

"If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument."

This assumes, without proof, that you cannot produce a characteristic that the physical universe has but God does not have, which requires a cause for the physical universe but not for God.

BeingItself said...

"This assumes, without proof, that you cannot produce a characteristic that the physical universe has but God does not have, which requires a cause for the physical universe but not for God."

Sure, you can just point out some characteristic of the universe and then assert without proof that this characteristic requires a cause, and then assert without proof that god lacks this characteristic.

It is a silly word game. These arguments are a dismal failure.

Victor Reppert said...

Well, how do you decide what needs a cause, and what does not?

BenYachov said...

>It is a silly word game. These arguments are a dismal failure.

In psychology we call this projection.

Clayton said...

"Well, how do you decide what needs a cause, and what does not?"

Good question. If you think there's a chance for the cosmological arguments to work, I'd love to know what the feature is that the physical universe has that indicates that it needs a cause.

As for straw-men, I didn't say that Russell was innocent, virtuous, etc., I said that he was being straw-manned. Surely you realize that Russell can be straw-manned even if he himself is culpable of straw-manning others. Rather than perpetuate the low-road discussion, shouldn't you try to elevate the discussion?

Crude said...

If you think there's a chance for the cosmological arguments to work, I'd love to know what the feature is that the physical universe has that indicates that it needs a cause.

But I think Victor's response is that this is exactly the sort of question that the major proponents of cosmological arguments historically have addressed (again, even if you think their arguments were unsuccessful), and precisely what Russell was acting as if they either did not address, or really, didn't even think of.

"Everything must have a cause [therefore]" is a rank strawman of the cosmological argument, whether or not you agree that the actual arguments work. But that's the argument Russell gave in your own quote of him. It's not strawmanning him to point that out.

Crude said...

Above: I meant cosmological argument(s). There's not just one out there.

BenYachov said...

That is the problem there Clayton no historic CA ever used the formulation "everything has a cause".

Zach said...

Ben: for one, you are missing the punch of Clayton's argument, which is not the typical bromide.

Second, and less importantly, more people, in practice, trot out the 'everything has a cause' crap than you suggest.

From the ICR web site, the title is 'Everything has a cause'.

So you should really say that nobody that you agree with uses the argument.

Tons of people use it.

Another version, 'everything that comes into existenc has a cause' is more interesting. But now with crazy physics, we know the cause is natural for our universe. Despite Valicella's lame attempts to attack this view.

He should take a second-grade math class.

Crude good job you just reinforced his point. Kenny rejects the arguments. Can you ever just be wrong, or humble, or admit someone has made a good point.

Christ you people are the opposite of Christ. And I should know.

Crude said...

From the ICR web site, the title is 'Everything has a cause'.

Even that link doesn't provide a cosmological argument - look at the end, where it explicitly allows for a choice between infinite regresses of causes and an uncaused cause.

And really, if the response here was "Russell was referring to amateurs who mangle the cosmological arguments" it's not much of a response. When the ICR provides refutations of mangled versions of evolutionary theory, it does no good to say 'well some uninformed people think this is what evolutionary theory is'.

But now with crazy physics, we know the cause is natural for our universe.

No, we don't. We know that some people will interpret given physical data as "well it must have been utterly uncaused". We also know that some people will interpret said data as directly being caused by God. Not everything a physicist, or even a group of physicists says, is "science".

Crude good job you just reinforced his point. Kenny rejects the arguments. Can you ever just be wrong, or humble, or admit someone has made a good point.

What are you talking about? Clayton brought up that Kenny rejects the arguments - I explicitly *quoted* Kenny rejecting the arguments, because he did so alongside say that someone (Feser) who was *defending* these arguments was worth taking seriously and had serious reasons for saying what he did. My point was that one of the two people who Clayton referenced to support rejecting the Five Ways nevertheless had a high opinion of arguments being presented in their favor, even if he disagreed.

Did you think I was presenting Kenny as agreeing with the Five Ways, while quoting him explicitly saying he rejects (at least) the First and Second?

Victor Reppert said...

I'm not saying Russell is completely wrong, I'm calling a foul on him for acting as if cosmological arguments haven't been constructed so as to meet his kind of objection. I have consistently said that, at the end of the day, his type of objection might go through. The problem is that he is leaving a misleading impression of defenders of the CA, an impression that supports some claims he makes about the motives of people who present theistic arguments. If all you read was Russell, you would end up concluding that somehow defenders of the CA had forgotten to ask about the cause of the first cause. And that is demonstratably false, even if it turns out that they can't, in the final analysis, defend their claim that the universe needs a cause, but God needs no cause.

Crude said...

If all you read was Russell, you would end up concluding that somehow defenders of the CA had forgotten to ask about the cause of the first cause. And that is demonstratably false, even if it turns out that they can't, in the final analysis, defend their claim that the universe needs a cause, but God needs no cause.

I think that's really key. If someone provides refutations and arguments and you don't find them compelling, it's still a crappy move to just gloss over the fact that those refutations and arguments were made.

BenYachov Jim Scott 4th said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

>So you should really say that nobody that you agree with uses the argument.

Zack you really need to learn how to read English.

QUOTING MYSELF"It is a brute fact no single historic CA has ever had that as a starting premise.

Since when is the ICR a formulator of a historical CA?

That is like calling Chuck Shummer or Rick Santorium "Founding Fathers".

Whose Junior Varsity now?

Here's a quarter buy a clue!

>Second, and less importantly, more people, in practice, trot out the 'everything has a cause' crap than you suggest.

What does erroneous popular misconception have to do with historic CA's? None of which use the formulation "Everything has a cause".

Give it a rest Zack.

BeingItself said...

"Well, how do you decide what needs a cause, and what does not?"

I have no idea. But that is your job if you want to dust off a cosmological argument and try to make it work.

Russell addresses the contingency argument in his debate with Copleston BTW.

In my experience, cosmological arguments take this form:

The universe has some feature X which requires that it have a cause. So the universe is caused. The cause is God that does not have feature X.

That God does not have feature X is just asserted.

It should be obvious why such arguments are not persuasive.

Crude said...

The cause is God that does not have feature X.

Really? Not, "therefore the cause must be that which lacks this feature X"?

BeingItself said...

Crude,

OK. And then the CA proponent just asserts that the cause is God.

If the CA proponent just stopped at "therefore the cause must be that which lacks this feature X" I would have less of a problem with the argument.

For example, it might be the case that the quantum vacuum exists necessarily, or did not have a beginning.

But I doubt the quantum vacuum answers prayers.

Crude said...

And then the CA proponent just asserts that the cause is God.

I think what they do is, upon establishing what properties this cause does or could have, conclude that it is God.

For example, it might be the case that the quantum vacuum exists necessarily, or did not have a beginning.

And the CA proponents would have arguments about why this could not be the case. Which, as Victor says, doesn't mean they're right. But it's not like they overlook this, just as the older CA proponents didn't overlook questions like "Well why would the universe need a cause and God not?"

Steven Carr said...

Religion provides the answers to those questions that science does not answer.

For example, it provides the answer to the question 'Who made God?'

The answer is 'You can't ask that question.'

Of course, everything that begins to exist has a cause.

Atheists know this is true, because they know about everything.

Who doesn't know about everything?

Papalinton said...

"But now with crazy physics, we know the cause is natural for our universe.

No, we don't. We know that some people will interpret given physical data as "well it must have been utterly uncaused". We also know that some people will interpret said data as directly being caused by God."

Those 'some people' are called theologians.

B. Prokop said...

Wow. What a lot of (virtual) ink spilled over nonsense.

The question "Who made God?" is semantically null. It's like asking "How big is red?" or "How high is up?"

I'll worry about answering the atheists who ask "Who made God? when they answer "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

(Plus, to use someone else's favorite phrase on this website, the atheists are being intellectually dishonest when they pose the question, since they're not really interested in an answer. They're like Pilate asking Jesus "What is Truth?")

mattghg said...

If you think there's a chance for the cosmological arguments to work, I'd love to know what the feature is that the physical universe has that indicates that it needs a cause

Finitude with respect to the past.

Papalinton said...

"I'll worry about answering the atheists who ask "Who made God? when they answer "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nothingness/

B. Prokop said...

First of all, Papalinton, kudos to you for answering, even if it was only with a link.

But is that all you got? Good grief, I could have stopped at the first line (where he writes "Why not?") and saved myself some time.

No, I'll take that back. It was worth it, if only for the laughs. there are way too many ridiculous statements in that piece, so I'll limit myself to ridiculing just one - where the writer (I assume it's Roy Sorenson, since he's copyrighted it) says, "Creation out of nothing presupposes the possibility of total nothingness." What?!?!?!? No it doesn't - not in the least. there's still The Creator (thus preventing "total nothingness").

You'll have to do better than that google search, Papalinton. Till then, I'll be sleeping peacefully, in the knowledge that the atheists have truly demonstrated that "nothing" can indeed exist, 'cause they got nothing, as far as this discussion is concerned!

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

OK, I'll admit to being just a tad flippant in my last posting, but really... "Why not?" Is that supposed to be an answer to the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" Such might suffice prior to Creation, but now that there is indeed something, we no longer have the option to ask "Why not?" That boat has sailed.

I'm not calling existence itself a slam-dunk argument for God (although it is for me personally), but as a puzzle piece in a much larger galaxy of arguments, it becomes increasingly difficult for the die-hard skeptic to maintain his non-belief, other than by obstinacy.

It's the cumulative effect of the multiple evidences for the supernatural and for God Himself that in the end make the decisive case. The atheist is ultimately in the position of the proverbial man trying to keep a number of mice from jumping off a tabletop. The more effort he applies to keeping one on board, the more likely that others will leap off.

Crude said...

OK, I'll admit to being just a tad flippant in my last posting, but really...

Actually, if you get past the first lines (meant in jest, it seems) the rest of the entry proceeds to give an overview of the complexities involved with the question, rather than coming down on any one side. Linton gave you a non-answer, which is no surprise - when you tell him...

You'll have to do better than that google search, Papalinton.

...You're pretty much disarming him entirely by ruling out google scholarship. Not very sporting of you, Bob!

it becomes increasingly difficult for the die-hard skeptic to maintain his non-belief, other than by obstinacy.

To echo a sentiment I think Victor was going for - these arguments have force, the replies have counter-replies, and they haven't gone away. I think that goes some way towards backing up the spirit of what you're saying here. The problem is, the Cult of Gnu bases their game plan almost entirely on denying anyone other than themselves ever has an argument or a reason to stop and actually reflect on questions like this. Reasoning, reflecting and thinking things through is regarded as terrifying by them - why, what if you come up with a conclusion they dislike? Guillotines are harder to come by nowadays.

Though, as Ben would note, not every non-believer is part of the Cult of Gnu.

Papalinton said...

Bob says: "It's the cumulative effect of the multiple evidences for the supernatural and for God Himself that in the end make the decisive case. "

Your dismissal of the response I offered is symptomatic of the following:
"It doesn't matter what the particular problem is for a person's faith. Having an omniscient God concept solves it. It could be the intractable and unanswerable problem of ubiquitous suffering; or how a man could be 100% God and 100% man without anything leftover, or left out; or how the death of a man on a cross saves us from sins; or why God's failure to better communicate led to massive bloodshed between Christians themselves. It just doesn't matter. God is omniscient. He knows why. He knows best. Therefore punting to God's omniscience makes faith pretty much unfalsifiable, which allows believers to disregard what reason tells them by ignoring the probabilities.

I call this the Omniscience Escape Clause. There is only one way to convince believers in an omniscient God that their faith is false. They must be convinced their faith is impossible before they will consider it to be improbable, and that's an utterly unreasonable standard since the arguments to the contrary cannot hope to overcome the Omniscience Escape Clause. So think on this: Given that there are so many different faiths with the same escape clause let believers seriously entertain that their own God might equally be false. Sure, an omniscient God might exist (granted for the sake of argument), but how we judge whether or not he exists cannot rely over and over on his omniscience since that's exactly how other believers defend their own culturally inherited faith. Reasonable people must not have an unfalsifiable faith, and yet an omniscient concept of God makes one's faith pretty much unfalsifiable. But this is not all...

The concept of God's omniscience is not the only thing that makes a faith pretty much unfalsifiable. So also does the concept of hell, since believers must be certain there is no hell before they will abandon their faith, thus overcoming the force of Pascal's Wager. With an omniscient God concept and the threat of hell it is nearly impossible for believers to doubt their faith and then walk away from it.

Believers must be forced to acknowledge that other believers in different religions (or sects within their own) who have the same concepts have the same exact problems when it comes to reasonably evaluating their own faith. And they too must be convinced their faith is nearly impossible before they will consider it to be improbable, which is an utterly unreasonable standard of proof, making their faith pretty much unfalsifiable as well. This is something believers reject when it comes to evaluating the probability of other faiths. Why is it they don't reject this when it comes to their own?

My goal is to force believers to see this. They must approach their faith with open eyes given the nature of religious faith concepts. You must have a Gestalt Shift in the way you see your faith. Nothing less than that will do the trick. You must try seeing it differently. Try it. What are you afraid of? Do you really want to know the truth? Why wouldn't you? [John W Loftus]

Crude said...

Does anyone else get a grin out of Linton, in reference to cosmological arguments, not only trotting out the words of a fourth-rate evangelical atheist... but even managing to quote him concerning a different topic than the one at hand? A successful cosmological argument does not establish Christianity on its own, or anything other than the existence of a God apart from revelation. Nor is anyone discussing problems of evil or issues of revelation with an appeal to omniscience. In fact, omniscience hasn't even been brought up by anyone - save Linton. All this in reply to Bob 'dismissing the response he offered', which was a link to an online overview - not argument, overview - of the question of nothingness.

I mean, the google scholar stuff is one thing. But when the scholar wannabe can't even google on the right topic...

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton asks Christians to "try seeing it differently", and then proceeds to a taunt: "Try it. What are you afraid of?" (Loftus)

I have to conclude here that Papalinton is once again (with wearying repetition) referring to the so-called "Outsider test for Faith". Setting aside that I have (with wearying necessity) dealt with this issue on more occasions than I can now count, to include pointing out that, as an evangelizing faith, Christianity has from its earliest days "passed" the OTF by converting uncountable numbers of adherents (outsiders all), we can move on to another fundamental flaw in Papalinton's "reasoning".

Papalinton confuses his point by first asking Christians to "see [things] differently", but then asserting that all religions are the same. (They "have the same concepts [and] the same exact problems") Excuse me? Then how would a Mohammedan point of view, for example, be seeing things differently? I don't get it.

But the fact is that they (other religions) are indeed different. What Papalinton refuses to admit, despite the countless times I have reminded him of this fact, is that I (and others) have indeed "tried to see it differently". I have intensely studied Classical Paganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, and the Hopi religion of Arizona. There are many, many aspects of each of these faiths that I admire greatly (and some that appall me). But one thing in particular I have found unique to Christianity (and Judaism, which is in many respects the same religion) - the inextricable linking of Faith and Reason. Reason has always been a foundational pillar of the Church, and one of its greatest glories. From the Old Testament prophets ("Come, let us reason together") to C.S. Lewis and Pope Benedict, reason is an essential, inseparable, and consistent part of the Judeo-Christian Faith.

As Pope Benedict said just two days ago (speaking at the Almo Collegio Capranica), "Faith has its own intellectual and rational dimension that is essential". He went on to speak of "the synthesis between faith and reason that is peculiar to Christianity".

Amen to that.

BenYachov said...

Crude,

I have that same problem with religious fundamentalists. I'm debating Sola Scriptura & they misdirect when the argument goes against them & they want to talk about Mary, The Pope, Indulgences, the Inquisition etc.

Debate the CA with a Gnu & they want to debate the Problem of Evil, Inspiration of the Bible, how do you know Christianity is true among the other religions etc...

It's because they like their religious fundamentalist counterparts play lousy defense.

Let hear it from Linton/Paps how a Universe with an Eternal Past can sustain it's eternal existence without something purely actual behind it maintaining that existence.

Let's hear his philosophical argument how nothing can produce something "uncaused".

He can't do it. Dawkins didn't write a chapter on it. At least not a coherent one a competent Atheist Philosopher like Q. Smith or Jack Smart would be caught dead writing.

Clayton said...

In response to Mattghg:

"Finitude with respect to the past."

I don't know of any compelling argument for the finitude of the past. Even if there were one, I also don't know of any good objection to the general rule that says this:

C: If x has existed for a finite duration and was caused to come to be, x's cause either existed prior to x or existed at the same time as x.

I would have thought that if you were running the CA, you'd have to have a god outside of time. Such a being stands in no temporal relations. So, C would rule it out as the cause of the physical universe.

BenYachov said...

Do remember Clayton not every CA requires the Universe to have a definite beginning or a finite past.

>I would have thought that if you were running the CA, you'd have to have a god outside of time.

Till the Enlightenment that was the only God assumed to exist.

>Such a being stands in no temporal relations. So, C would rule it out as the cause of the physical universe.

But God is not "a being" alongside other beings. God is Being-Itself.

If creation where the color spectrum, God would not be some exotic super-color. God would be color-itself.

Enough of this Paley type god crap.

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2010/09/classical-theism.html

Cheers.

B. Prokop said...

Clayton writes: "I don't know of any compelling argument for the finitude of the past."

Here's one.

a. Imagine a point in time some finite number of years in the future. If you're patient (and long-lived) enough, eventually you'll experience that point of time as "now".

b. Next, imagine a point in time an infinite number of years into the future. In this case, no matter how long you wait, that point in time will never be "now". It will forever be an infinite distance into the future, and never reached.

c. (You probably already know where I'm headed, but stay with me.) Let's now imagine some point in time a huge, but still finite, number of years into the past. (For instance, let's pick 13.7 billion years ago; the current best estimate of the age of the universe.) No matter how large the number, eventually you will get from that point in time to the present, that is, "now".

d. Finally, let's posit a point in time an infinite number of year into the past. In order for that point in time to be real, and not just hypothetical, it must be experienced for an instant as "now", that is, at some point it must be "The Present".

d, part 2. So, from that point in time, what we are experiencing at this moment as "now" will forever and ever be an infinite number of years into the future, and never arrived at. What we know of as the present can never be now - a logical impossibility.

THEREFORE: There must be a first, earliest point in time for us to be here at all, instead of us forever occupying an unrealized present, an infinite amount of time into the future, never experienced as "now".

The past is finite.

BeingItself said...

"Next, imagine a point in time an infinite number of years into the future."

Are you kidding? You have no clue what infinite means.

Cole said...

I have a better way to come to know love here:

http://the-holy-god.blogspot.com/

B. Prokop said...

To "BeingItself",

If I don't, then kindly enlighten me. Otherwise, I'll have to assume that I do have a clue.

B. Prokop said...

What "BeingItself" did in his 4:58 PM posting is what happens all too often on the website (and far more often on others). That is, someone disagrees with another commenter (or thinks he does), and imagines that it suffices to just say so. Example here: "Are you kidding? You have no clue what infinite means."

Sorry, but that doesn't rise above the level of a schoolyard taunt (such as, "So's your mother!"). If you want someone to take your objection seriously, then you need to explain why they "have no clue".

Because you might even find yourself in "violent agreement" (look it up) with the other person. For all I know, BeingItself wants to point out that there can be no such thing as a point in time infinitely into the future. The idea is contrary to reason. If that's what he meant, then he is actually agreeing with my argument, because that is precisely what I was saying. Likewise, there can be no point in time an infinite number of years in the past. The idea is nonsensical.

Which is why I maintain that the universe cannot be infinitely old. A beginning point to time is mandatory, in order for us to occupy the present time ("now").

But because BeingItself did not explain himself or show any reason whatsoever why I should consider myself clueless, I have zero reason to alter or take back a single word that I wrote in the original posting (other than the one typo I've since noticed).

I am now going outdoors to observe the planet Mars for a few hours. I'll log in again tomorrow.

BenYachov said...

Bob,

Ironically there is a response to your argument on the impossibility of past infinite time I believe.
But to make it BeingItself would have to be familiar with Aquinas, Wes Morrison or Adler(all Theists, two Aristotelians & a Tillichian).

I doubt he will find it in Dawkins.;-)

B. Prokop said...

Ben,

I'm familiar with Aquinas's response. In fact, it was discussed at length right here on Dangerous Idea the last time the cosmological argument came up. Believe it or not, it's one of the few times where I feel confident enough to disagree with The Doctor. I'm pretty sure I understand his reasoning, but still think my argument is stronger. (Gasp! I can't believe I wrote that!)

But in any case, whether you agree with him or with me, St. Thomas's argument just proves that you don't require a finite past for the CA to work.

B. Prokop said...

The original Dangerous Idea discussion that I referred to in my last posting began on November 17th, 2009. It's in the website archives.

B. Prokop said...

Wow. I just finished strolling down memory lane and read through all the comments in the original 2009 thread. Now that was a great discussion! Solid points made. No infantile name calling. No insults thrown. No irrelevant asides. No trolls. Like Van Morrison sings, "Why can't it always be like this?"

By the way, I was dead wrong back then on the maximum size of the physical universe. It is actually far larger (by many orders of magnitude) than what I mistakenly believed in 2009. Just the visible universe alone is theoretically 90 billion light years across. (I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but it has to do with the expansion of space itself. It took someone with an astronomy PhD to finally get me to understand how this could be possible, but my head still hurts thinking about it.) And the whole sheebang is far larger.

BenYachov said...

>I'm familiar with Aquinas's response. In fact, it was discussed at length right here on Dangerous Idea the last time the cosmological argument came up.

I'm personally indifferent to wither or not the past infinite Argument is valid or not.

Tactically I prefer the opinion of Adler who said you shouldn't use Kalam type arguments that assume a beginning to the universe because in his experience most thoughtful Atheist have learned responses to it. He recommended using CA that assume an eternal universe because it often throws them for a loop.

Like I said till I learned more Aristotle & Aquinas I assumed with Russell that an eternal universe at best implied either Pantheism or Atheism.

Now I don't see either as logically possible even if we granted the Universe always existed.

OTOH Oderberg a Thomist does defend the Kalam CA.

Cheers Brother Bob.

BeingItself said...

"He recommended using CA that assume an eternal universe because it often throws them for a loop."

Follow his advice and run that argument now please. Thanks.

BenYachov said...

Adler's Cosmological Argument.

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1995/PSCF3-95Cramer.html

Of course BeingItself we know you won't reciprocate Bob's request you explain why he doesn't understand time.

That just goes against the grain of the Cult of the Gnu.

BeingItself said...

Ben,

I asked you to run the argument, not provide a link.

Bob was able to suss out on his own the essence of my objection. He then asserted this without argument "A beginning point to time is mandatory, in order for us to occupy the present time ("now")."

He needs to try and justify that. Good luck.

BenYachov said...

>I asked you to run the argument, not provide a link.

I knew you where not serious in your request. Which is why I don't bother to do any heavy lifting for lazy brain dead Gnus anymore.

If you can't read or simply feel too threatened to formulate an intelligent response that is hardly my problem.

BTW you said "Are you kidding? You have no clue what infinite means."

You haven't given us your meaning of "infinite". We both know you never will. You have neither the intelligence nor the inclination.

>He needs to try and justify that. Good luck.

Typical Cult of the Gnu tactic. Make the Theist prove everything to the n'th degree and refuse to justify your own views.

Why does Bob need to justify it? So you can just response with (pick one or more)

"You don't know what your are talking about! So's your old man!

You rely on philosophy which can't be tested scientifically!

You are just reading theology into everything! Your are a liar for Jesus destorting science! etc"

How do you know that's the same God as the Bible's God?

Try something original for a change Gnu. You are so boring.

BeingItself said...

Ben,

Read Bob's response. He accurately stated the essence of my objection.

Why am I not surprised you chickened out on making an actual argument? Because you always do.

BenYachov said...

Forgot to add "How do you know that's true? It could be wrong! Why are you defending superstition? I could use your argument to prove the existence of Faeries & unicorns!".

Gnu's!

What is the point of them?

BenYachov said...

>Why am I not surprised you chickened out on making an actual argument? Because you always do.

Still not my fault you can't or won't read. It's not a long paper and it's not overly technical.

>Read Bob's response. He accurately stated the essence of my objection.

He asked you to tell him how he misunderstood infinity?

You have not given an explanation.

We both know you never will.

Give it a rest Gnu. Your fundamentalist brand of Atheism is for teenagers and kids who wish for ponies & are disappointed.

B. Prokop said...

"He then asserted this without argument "A beginning point to time is mandatory, in order for us to occupy the present time ("now")."

He needs to try and justify that. Good luck.
"

I am genuinely confused by this objection. My original posting was the argument and the justification, and BeingItself has not articulated what his disagreement with it is, other than asserting that I am clueless.
Perhaps I should respond with "He needs to try and justify that. Good luck."

What am I missing here?

And I repeat what I said above about the 2009 thread. I miss the respectful tone and lack of "So's your mother" responses.

BenYachov said...

Bob we should thank God for rational religious skeptics, Agnostics, Questioners, Atheists etc

Like BDK or Clayton and other..

But the Cult of the Gnu is bend on breeding a whole generation of morons for whom arguing about religion is just an extension of politics.

BeingItself said...

Bob,

You wrote "For all I know, BeingItself wants to point out that there can be no such thing as a point in time infinitely into the future. The idea is contrary to reason."

Right, that was my point.

And then you say "Likewise, there can be no point in time an infinite number of years in the past. The idea is nonsensical."

I agree. But to say the past is infinite is not to say there is a point in time infinite years in the past.

BeingItself said...

In you original argument you wrote "let's posit a point in time an infinite number of year into the past".

Now by your own admission that makes no sense. I agree.

B. Prokop said...

"[T]o say the past is infinite is not to say there is a point in time infinite years in the past."

Yes it is. It says precisely that. In fact, it says that there are an infinite number of points of time an infinite number of years in the past.

By the logic of your above sentence, I could say something like, "Just because the grass is green is not to say that there is any particular blade of grass that is green."

B. Prokop said...

And since there can be no such thing (a point of time an infinite distance into the past), the past is therefore finite. Case closed.

BeingItself said...

Bob,

Lets set aside time for a moment.

Do you agree that

1. There are an infinite number of integers.

2. There is no highest integer.

BenYachov said...

I predict "BeingItself" will at some point equivocate between a potential infinity vs an actual infinity.

Let's see if I'm right.

BenYachov said...

One simple way to frame Bob's argument is to point out you can count from 0 to potential infinity.

That is you can keep counting and in theory(baring things like death or whatnot) never stop.

But if you encountered a person in the woods counting backwards ("10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Zero) if you asked him what number he was counting down from & he said "Infinity" you know he would be lying since that is not logically possible.

BeingItself said...

Bob's argument by his own admission contains statements that make no sense.

You lot set the bar so low for yourselves. You present an argument that you acknowledge is nonsensical, yet expect it to be persuasive. Weird.

BenYachov said...

>You present an argument that you acknowledge is nonsensical, yet expect it to be persuasive.

So you are oblivious to the fact Bob is arguing the concept of an infinite past is nonsensical?

He has presented some good arguments to the fact which you have to date chosen to ignore.

Typical Gnu.

@Bob

As we can see BeingItself is not trying to argue seriously here.

BeingItself said...

"So you are oblivious to the fact Bob is arguing the concept of an infinite past is nonsensical?"

No, I understand that.

Bob has tied himself up in knots here. It's not my job to untie him.

BenYachov said...

At least Paps on a rare good day would have google'ed something by now?

Like he did with the question "Why is there something rather then nothing?".

That was a rare display of non-Gnu behavior on his part. To bad it won't last.

BenYachov said...

>Bob has tied himself up in knots here. It's not my job to untie him.

Translation of Gnu Speak:""You don't know what your are talking about! So's your old man! etc"

PatrickH said...

There may not be a point an infinite amount of time in the past, but there are most assuredly an infinite number of such points in an infinite past. The countable infinity of the integers is genuinely infinite, even though there is no infinitely large integer.

If the past is infinite, then it is countably infinite, and in that sense would need an infinity the size of aleph null to describe its cardinality. The cardinality of the set of past moments would be aleph null, and so the past would have to contain an infinite number of members. An infinite past requires there to have been an infinite number of past moments. Which means those past moments would have to have been counted to infinity, since an infinite number of such moments must have elapsed if the past is infinite. An infinite number of moments cannot have elapsed, therefore the past is not infinite.

I think it is a mistake for Bob P to invoke an imaginary "infinitely distant" past moment. There is no such thing. But an infinite past must be an infinite multitude of finitely distant moments, and that is impossible. There are no infinite natural multitudes, there is no actual infinite multitude of moments, and therefore no actual infinite past.

BenYachov said...

PatrickH

Now that is an intelligent Criticism!!!!!!

Quite refreshing from BeingItself's weird John Cleese argument.

Watch as BeingItself now pretends that was his argument all along.

Gnus! Gotta love 'em, because it's Divine Law. Other then that I can't think of a reason.

BeingItself said...

"I think it is a mistake for Bob P to invoke an imaginary "infinitely distant" past moment. There is no such thing."

Ben, can you really not see that that is what I said?

BenYachov said...

>Ben, can you really not see that that is what I said?

You didn't say anything and as I just predicted you are taking credit for Patrick's insights!

You are full of it.

BeingItself said...

Ben,

You are truly hopeless. You are the type specimen of the irrational theist.

PatrickH said...

Apologies to Bob P. I meant it is a rhetorical mistake to invoke an infinitely past moment. Bob was clearly saying that the existence of such a moment is impossible but is required in an infinite past. And therefore an infinite past is impossible.

Bob P's main point is correct: an infinite past is impossible. His use of a reductio was counter-productive, in my opinion. But he is certainly right about the issue in question.

B. Prokop said...

" There is no such thing [as an] "infinitely distant" past moment."

Exactly. Therefore, the past is finite.

As for BeingItself's writing, "Bob's argument by his own admission contains statements that make no sense."...

Exactly. That's the Whole Point of the argument. To show that an infinite past MAKES NO SENSE! I'm glad you agree with me on that.

To PatrickH,

Yes, I admit to being linguistically sloppy on my use of the word "point". I wasn't referring to the divisibility of time, but rather to its extent. I am fully aware that you can (possibly) divide a time segment into an infinite number of points, but that was not the issue under discussion.

(I wrote "possibly" in the last paragraph, 'cause I've read some very interesting speculation recently about the idea of there being a theoretically minimum timespan. There's even a name for it - the chronon. Cool idea, if true.)

B. Prokop said...

To PatrickH,

Would you happen to be Patrick Hayden? And if so, are you the Patrick Hayden I knew in OSFFA back in the 1970's?

B. Prokop said...

By the way, in the earlier November 2009 thread on this exact same subject, I referenced two ways to get around the problem of a finite past for someone not wishing to believe in the Creation. Unfortunately for the atheist however, the first way requires one to convert to Hinduism, and the second requires one to take a purely speculative, untestable concept on Faith Alone. (And if you're gonna go that route, you might as well give in and become a Fundamentalist.)

I will not repeat them here. They're already available for reading in the website archives.

sunyavadin said...

Relevant article linked to an editorial piece in a recent New Scientist about this very question, The Genesis Problem. What interests me is that Hawkings et al are obliged to dispute certain types of ideas because they suggest Deity. I would have thought this amounted to simple prejudice.

BenYachov said...

@BeingItself
>You are truly hopeless. You are the type specimen of the irrational theist.

In addition to trying to pretend you where making Patricks' point (& as we see it turned out to be mere criticisms of rhetoric not argumentative content) you are trying to steal from my playbook?

Awesome!

BeingItself,

Would it kill ya to throw away your copy of THE GOD DELUSION and read some real Atheists(i.e. Philosophers) for once in your life?

Hey Clayton reads Kenny! That puts him light years ahead of the lame Scientism crap I've seen you regurgitate over at Feser's blog.

Here's a quarter buy a clue.

B. Prokop said...

BeingItself asks:

Let's set aside time for a moment.
Do you agree that
1. There are an infinite number of integers.
2. There is no highest integer.


My answer:

Yes, and yes. But that has no relevance to the topic under discussion. (Why do I get the feeling you're trying to trap me?) It is irrelevant because there is no requirement to traverse the infinite series of integers. But for there to have been an infinite past, there is a requirement to traverse an infinite interval of time in order to get to the present time.

Another difference which makes your question meaningless (in the present context) is that the word "integer" is a mathematical concept, whereas "time" is a real thing, in the same way that space is. Apples and oranges.

Papalinton said...

Victor's OP
""Replying to the "Who Made God" argument ...............".

Who made god? People did. Different people made up different gods right throughout history. All were powerful and dangerous enough to kill and be killed over just as is witnessed to this very day.
So much current research and investigation through the various sciences and social sciences are providing a consistent factual, historical and accurate narrative, clearly demonstrating that religion is a wholly derived subset of culture, and a social artifact that defines that culture. The origination of religion is fully embedded within the activities, and specific to the mores, of each cultural group.
The origin of religion is not divine and is not delivered from on high. It is completely earthbound. It was developed from the ground up, over time, by the communities it served, as a mechanism for social cohesion and protection. A fully man-made product.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PatrickH said...

No Bob, I'm not the Patrick H you knew. I'm Patrick Hadley, a Canadian doofus who is becoming increasingly aware of how easy it is to write sloppily about things like infinity. As I did in my first comment.

The key about the impossibility of an infinite past is that the past is actual. An infinite past has happened, and since an infinite set of happenings is impossible, so is an infinite past.

BeingItself is right about the precise issue of the impossibility of a point in time an infinity away. Nope. No way. Can't happen. But I believe him to be incorrect on the main point...which I take to be your main point...an infinite past is impossible.

As for Patrick Hayden, for some reason, I think I've heard of him. Dunno why though.

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton,

(Not that I agree with your statement in the least, but) what doesn't what you wrote come dangerously close to implying that all atheists are therefore entirely without culture?

(Serious question. I'm not trolling here.)

Actually, completely aside from the fundamental issue of the existence of God, I find it difficult to come up with many notable atheist achievements in the arts (unless you count Ayn Rand's potboiler novels as "art"), whereas all that is best in music, painting, drama, and architecture is inspired, even infused, by religion.

(I guess there's also T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, but I've never especially cared for that particular poem. Too deliberately obscure. I doubt that many people will be reading it (without its being assigned in some class) a century from now.)

B. Prokop said...

Patrick Hayden used to be a major figure in science fiction fandom. Don't know whether he still is. Last time we met was about 1975. I'm pretty sure Victor knew him as well, which is why I thought you and he might possibly be the same person.

B. Prokop said...

PatrickH,

There are actually two ways around the infinite past problem if you are determined to go that route. You can find them at the November 19, 2009 9:38 AM comment to the thread on this website, "The Kalam Cosmological Argument". The problem with them is that, in order to accept the first way, one might as well be a Hindu (not that there's anything wrong with that), and to go along with the second, one has to throw out the scientific method (and there's a whole lot wrong with that!).

PatrickH said...

Thanks for the pointer, Bob, though I'm not sure either of the twos ways works, even at the costs you adduced.

G Rodrigues made a superb comment at the very end of that thread that gets to the heart of why an infinite past is impossible. Says it way better than I ever have. Also worth checking out.

grodrigues said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
grodrigues said...

By mistake I posted this in the thread of November 2009 instead of the this one (slaps forehead). Here it is, slightly edited to add a few clarifications and correct some typos:

If I may interject, a few comments about the Kalam:

First, it is logically possible to postulate that the infinitude of the past is (the dual of) some ordinal strictly larger than the first infinite ordinal (or even some more bizarre linear, non well-founded order -- but then the successor of an element is not well-defined so this probably will not work). And for this case, it is literally true that if we pick some instant farther than the first infinite ordinal, no finite amount of steps can take us to the present. I am assuming no one is defending this, so we can advance to the KCA properly speaking.

There are two sub-arguments that now purport to establish the main premise of KCA. The first rules out the existence of actual infinities -- this is also one way to deal (but definitely not the only one) with suggestions like an appeal to a B-theory of time. Curiously, the *only* response I have ever seen to this line of argumentation is an appeal to mere logical possibility, which as a *positive* argument is completely useless. Mere logical possibility does not imply metaphysical or nomological possibility, and given the arguments against the existence of actual infinities, one would hope that something more substantial than just trying to refute the arguments or an appeal to logical possibility would be put forward.

The second, and the one that seems to be the center of controversy, purports to show that no collection formed by successive addition (e.g. time) can be actually infinite. By the way, note that this argument is independent of whether or not actual infinities exist; for the purposes of this sub-argument we can remain agnostic on that front. The metaphysical intuition at work here is that the past and the future are asymmetrical: that the future is potentially infinite and every future instant is at a finite time-distance from the present poses no problem, but this is not so with the past because the past is past and has already passed; if it was an infinitely long past then there would have been an actual infinite number of past instants and this contradicts the fact that no actual infinity can be formed by successive addition. And why is this so? The point is not that there must have been an instant infinitely distant in the past, but that whatever instant you choose in the (dual of the) first countable ordinal of the past it will be at a finite past-distance from the present. And since time flows by successive addition it follows we could never have reached the present -- run the Tristram Shandy paradox in reverse. Another way to see this is that if time was infinite-past then label the past events by -1, -2, etc. with 0 being the present. But then it is inexplicable why we are at time 0 instead of -1 or -2 or whatever point in the past you choose -- once again run the Tristram Shandy paradox in reverse -- and now you finish off by appealing to the PSR. Or still in another way, *without* a starting point, we cannot even put a numeric label in each day and put them in (order-preserving) bijection with a time line. More precisely, you have to pick an *arbitrary* moment as an origin and then label backwards; but since the choice is arbitrary it must be invariant under shifts of origin (left or right, does not matter) and then we are again at the paradoxical situation of being inexplicable of why exactly we are at instant n instead of m.

A more detailed consideration can be found in Prof. D. Oderberg's "Traversal of the infinite, the 'Big Bang', and the Kalam cosmological argument". You can find a link to the article in Prof. D. Oderberg's home page (just google). There you can also find replies to the objections of Oppy, Grunbaum, etc.

Papalinton said...

Bob
"(Not that I agree with your statement in the least, but) what doesn't what you wrote come dangerously close to implying that all atheists are therefore entirely without culture?
(Serious question. I'm not trolling here.)"

Cultures change over time, sometimes radically, oftentimes slowly, to reflect the changing sentiments of the group. The religion component, like any other part of a culture are no less subject to change as the cultural group's thoughts and attitudes change.

There are no religious universals or immutable objective truths that are immune to or beyond the agencies of social and societal change. Religion is no less influenced by these social forces than any other element or feature that defines a cultural tradition or identity. History is replete with innumerable examples of once inviolable religious markers that inexorably alter, modify or vary, or simply disappear as a result of the community revising its collective stance on any particular issue. I need not list these as they are known to all.

To suggest that love your neighbour, you shall not kill, steal or give false witness are religious fundamentals, and more particularly, as exclusive christian universals, is to have stuffed one's head deep in the sand. And while I and most people dearly hold them as universal ideals, there is far too much blood and travesty done in the name of christianity not to consider christians to have forfeited their claim to this universals. And again, these changing and ever evolving themes speak much more clearly and strongly about shifts in cultural sentiment than of any immutable, unchanging and invariable 'god-breathed' religious truth.

In the matter of 'atheists being entirely without culture', is a hurtful, unthinking and impetuous comment, seeking not only to besmirch people who do not subscribe to a particular brand of supernatural belief, but more to the point, it is simply a bully-boy put-down.
And the closing "(Serious question. I'm not trolling here.)", does not lighten the grievous attempt at sullying someone's character. Is such behaviour a characteristic of christian goodwill and humility?

BeingItself said...

"I find it difficult to come up with many notable atheist achievements in the arts"

Wow, what an appalling display of ignorance.

"All thinking men are atheists." -Ernest Hemingway

B. Prokop said...

In the matter of 'atheists being entirely without culture', is a hurtful, unthinking and impetuous comment, seeking not only to besmirch people who do not subscribe to a particular brand of supernatural belief, but more to the point, it is simply a bully-boy put-down.

It is not in the least any of those things, and if you feel that way then you're entirely too thin-skinned. It's a serious question, seriously asked. And, by the way, asked on your own terms. You still haven't addressed it. Your "answer" is like Newt Gingrich at the debate where he turned on the questioner, calling him "close to despicable" for daring to ask him a valid question.

So I will double-down and elaborate. Your opinion is that religion is a cultural artifact. To a large degree we are in agreement, as long as we carefully define our terms. Faith is from God. Religion is indeed largely a human construct. No argument there.

And out of that human construct has demonstrably come all that is best and most valued in history. And yes, I'll repeat that: all. I ransacked my library and the internet last night trying to find anything culturally significant that is a product of atheism, and can find virtually nothing. And what I do find is decidedly third-rate (e.g., the Ayn Rand novels). Perhaps the explanation for this gaping hole is the "a" in atheism. The entire philosophy is a negation. And it is a negation, not only of belief, but by your own admission, of human nature.

So this time, I will not ask. I will state. Atheism is an anticultural, antihuman philosphy that is born into this world barren. It has no ability to to inspire, to lead people to go beyond what they thought was their best, to produce tear-inducing beauty, to add to the human heritage of great art, music, and architecture. It does not build (and maintain) hospitals and missions to the poor. It does not infuse a culture with a sense of community. It does not imbue the very essence of craftsmanship. It does not flow with the grand rhythms of life, the (yes, man-made) liturgies and traditions punctuating our hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly lives. It has no feast days with their unique meals, traditions, and ceremonies.

It has no culture. It is rather (as we have amply seen in the Soviet Union and China) a destroyer of culture.

And this has nothing to do with upholding "a particular brand of supernatural belief". The contribution of religion to (rather than from) culture is across creedal lines. It can be said for Buddhism as well as Hinduism, for Islam as well as for Yoruba. Not just for Christianity.

B. Prokop said...

To "BeingItself":

Once again, you respond simply by name-calling. Only this time, instead of calling me "clueless", you've opted for "ignorance". But you don't meaningfully add to the conversation.

OK then, name a great atheist contribution to the arts or to culture. And I don't mean by an atheist, I mean inspired by atheism. To count, atheism must be the theme of the art, in the same manner that Protestant Christianity is the theme of, say, A Pilgrim's Progress, or Judaism is the inspiration for the Seder, or Hinduism is the inspiration for the great Indian temples.

BeingItself said...

Bob,

I'm not clear what "inspired by atheism" could really mean. I guess the book and movie "Contact" would qualify, although few would consider that great art.

I can't think of any great art inspired by lack of belief in Bigfoot, or lack of belief in astrology, or lack of belief in the healing power of magnets.

There are many examples of art inspired by science and by skepticism. But that's not what you are looking for.

B. Prokop said...

BeingItself:

I suspect you know exactly what I mean (but I'll admit that I only suspect so).

Contact hardly qualifies as Great Art; in fact, it hardly qualifies as a mediocre film.

Even I can come up with a few one-off examples of decent atheist art (Things To Come, by H.G. Wells comes to mind), but all of them combined do not equal the value of, say, Canterbury Tales all by itself.

But more importantly, your use of the quote "All thinking men are atheists" can't possibly be serious?!? Please say you don't really believe that! Because if that's true, then I guess I've really dodged a bullet here. For a minute I thought that Dante just might be a "thinking man", or Shakespeare, or even Homer, Aeschylus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Augustine, Lao Tse, Abraham Lincoln, Averroes, St. Thomas Aquinas, C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Charles Williams, Dorothy Day ("thinking woman", in her case), Nelson Mandela, Chaucer, Milton, Michelangelo, Gregor Mendel, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Sir Isaac Newton, Kepler, Copernicus, the author of the Book of Job, Hildegard of Bingen, the Lady Julian of Norwich, Anne Ridler, Dorothy Sayers, (I wanted to get a few more women onto this list) Galileo...

It's just amazing how all of these "unthinking" people have managed to come up with so many thoughtful achievements. How is that?

BeingItself said...

Bob,

You might possibly be one of the most dim-witted persons I have ever encountered.

I offered up the Hemingway quote as an off the top of my head example of a great artist who was an atheist.

But that in no way means that I endorse the idea expressed by the quotation.

Jesus you are thick.

B. Prokop said...

"[An] example of a great artist who was an atheist"

I realize you posted the reference to Hemingway prior to my writing, "I don't mean by an atheist, I mean inspired by atheism. To count, atheism must be the theme of the art". Using this criterion, Hemingway doesn't count. He wasn't writing about atheism - he wasn't even inspired by it.

H.G. Wells and Ayn Rand are both valid examples of "thinking people" who were also atheists as well as artists. But unfortunately for you, one of them is second-rate, and the other an embarrassment.

The early (pre-conversion) T.S. Eliot would count too, but the later (post-conversion) Eliot repudiated all his own earlier work. And besides, all his best stuff (such as Ash Wednesday or Four Quartets) is after he embraced Christianity, which supports my thesis.

B. Prokop said...

By the way, BeingItself, I guess I can now add "dim-witted" and "thick" to the epithets you've hurled at me. But be careful. Just because I've been polite to you (so far) doesn't mean that I am always above firing back (being human, after all). I don't think you'd care to have anything like this thrown in your direction:

"Papalinton and his fellow-travelers, who are forever going on about religion's so-called "Bronze Age thinking", were aiming at the wrong target. They should have set their sights on the Stone Age thinking of the likes of Ilion, "Gimli", et.al.

What nonsense! Worse, what slop, what filth! You people should crawl back under your rocks.

I'm sorry, but I can't muster up even a modicum of politeness here. These were the most insulting, degrading comments ever to grace this website - far worse than anything Loftus ever dreamed of spewing out. I felt sullied even reading them. I will not even try to engage with such idiots! What's the point when they have amply demonstrated that there's nothing to engage with?
"

That was me, to certain others on this website who dared insult my (deceased) wife and my daughters, a gratuitous offense they have yet to apologize for. You can check out the context in the archives.

But in the present circumstances, you really have no call to impute dim-wittedness to me. When you cite a quotation without a disclaimer, the default position for the reader must be to assume that you are in agreement with said quotation.

By the way, before I dim-wittedly called you out on it, I'm willing to bet that you did agree with the Hemingway quote, but are now unwilling to admit it after it's been pointed out just how foolish the quote actually is.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

Papa, disappointingly, in spite of being from Australia, you often lack a hide sufficient enough to carom the chidings of a moribund child.

However, I was impressed by the dramatic righteous indignation in your comment to Bob. I appreciate such a sickening display, in all the glorious amusement of the hide required to say it in the first instance.

Well done.

grodrigues said...

@B. Prokop:

"The early (pre-conversion) T.S. Eliot would count too, but the later (post-conversion) Eliot repudiated all his own earlier work. And besides, all his best stuff (such as Ash Wednesday or Four Quartets) is after he embraced Christianity, which supports my thesis."

I hardly think that T. S. Eliot can count as an atheist writer when he wrote masterpieces like "The Wasteland" or the "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (although I do agree that his best stuff is the "Four Quartets"). A more representative example would be Samuel Beckett, a writer of true and authentic genius. His best known work are his plays, especially "Waiting for Godot", although "Endgame" or "Krapp's Last Tape" are his masterpieces, not to mention his novels; his first, the gorgeous and very Joycean "Murphy", the trilogy and "How It Is". Like his master James Joyce, he definitely chose unbelief and exile -- although the case of James Joyce is more ambivalent, because as Harry Levin (among others) argued, cogently in my view, he lost his religion but never got rid of its categories.

My favorite all-time blasphemy comes from "Endgame": at some point the main character Hamm suggests to say a prayer; a moment of silence ensues and then he blurts out "He doesn't exist the bastard!" Is there a more telling witness of the somber deprivation that follows the awareness that He did not even deigned to come to be? Christianizing Beckett is a doomed enterprise. On the other hand, he is hardly understandable without the background of his rejection of God and this is the key point. As George Steiner argues in "Real Presences":

"What I affirm is the intuition that where God's presence is no longer a tenable supposition and where His absence no longer a felt, indeed overwhelming weight, certain dimensions of thought and creativity are no longer attainable. And I would vary Yeat's axiom so as to say: no man can read fully, can answer answeringly to the aesthetic, whose 'nerve and blood' are at peace in sceptical rationality, are now at home in immanence and verification. We must read *as if*."

He goes on to develop the argument, but this quote should be enough to prop my point. As a matter of history, of pragmatic inventory, almost all art of any stature has a direct inspiration or referral, explicit or implicit, to a transcendent dimension. Whatever authentic atheist art there is (and there is surprisingly little), qua atheistic art, it is inseparable from the religious cultural heritage, and in the proportion and measure that it rejects it, it just betrays how deeply influenced it is by it. A Beckett, a Kafka, a Celan are really the harbingers of negative theology. Most serious art is God-haunted -- this is no mere rhetorical ploy, as God as always been viewed as, at least in classical western theism, the One that imparts being, the ultimate giver of purpose and meaning. But what is a work of art but the imposing of a human, even humane, order, on the alien and hostile chaos of the universe?

I have used examples from literature, but the case of music is even more striking. I am responding to you as I have no patience for ignorant idiots, but what can the resident atheist yahoos (which fortunately do not exhaust the resident atheists) offer in response to the works of, and just sticking to the 20th century, Schoenberg, Messiaen, Britten, Arvo Part, Gorecki, Schnittke, Gubaidulina (and the list could go on)? Heavy metal? Shrug his shoulders?

B. Prokop said...

Groduiges,

I see what you mean about The Waste Land. Even in trying his best to present a vision of stark atheistic nihilism, bereft of all hope and meaning, Eliot still soaked his poetry in religious imagery, from Medieval Christianity (the Grail Quest) to Hinduism and Buddhism (the "Fire" stanzas).

Very good call on bringing up the French existentialists. They practically prove my premise all by themselves. Their entire point is that everything is pointless. If anything, they are anti-art and anticulture.

I can't say much about Joyce. I've read Ulysses (once), and have gotten as far as glancing through Finnegan's Wake, and long, long ago read Dubliners, but I've never cared for his over-the-top deliberately obscure style. Way too much effort for too little return. Maybe if I'm really bored (or perhaps drunk) enough someday, I may just have a second go at Ulysses, but there will have to be no other reading material at hand.

Shanti, shanti, shanti, my friend.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Bob
Bob, much intense vituperation and disparagement in your response looking for the emotional king-hit.

Newt Gingrich is an ardent deeply believing Catholic with a capital 'C' who will no doubt go to heaven according to Catholic ethics and morality; so I take it the comparison is a compliment.

You say, "Your opinion is that religion is a cultural artifact. To a large degree we are in agreement, as long as we carefully define our terms. Faith is from God."
Well, at least we are on the same page for everything about religion being a cultural construct but for one item, the faery-king itself. [Yes, yes. I know I am being little peevish. But then there is no evidence that the faery-king or elves or leprechauns exist] I understand the Hindu also has an immutable omniscient god in the form of an elephant with one broken tusk. The Australian Aborigine aver that the Great Water Snake of the dreamtime is the progenitor of the universe. So, tell me again, who has the correct and universally accepted definition of a god around which we can have a logical discussion?
The 'Faith is from god' line is incontrovertibly christian rhetoric with no substantive transfer value or meaningful worth. A very quick search of the internet identifies this phrase is little known, and simply swamped by the more accepted and recognized christophile concept of 'faith in god'. Even a good comprehensive dictionary entry does not acknowledge a general use of the aphorism:

World English Dictionary
faith (feɪθ)

— n
1. strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence
2. a specific system of religious beliefs: the Jewish faith
3. Christianity trust in God and in his actions and promises
4. a conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion, esp when this is not based on reason
5. complete confidence or trust in a person, remedy, etc
6. any set of firmly held principles or beliefs
7. allegiance or loyalty, as to a person or cause (esp in the phrases keep faith , break faith )
8. bad faith insincerity or dishonesty
9. good faith honesty or sincerity, as of intention in business (esp in the phrase in good faith )

— interj
10. archaic indeed; really (also in the phrases by my faith , in faith )

[C12: from Anglo-French feid , from Latin fidēs trust, confidence]

The word 'faith' has been abused, misused, conflated, misinterpreted and redefined by christian theism to render it worthless of any useful meaning. It is the stand of last resort against the inexorable encroachment of reason and logic in the challenge to the christian mythos.

Cont.

Papalinton said...

Cont.

Cont.

January 27, 2012 3:25 PM


Papalinton said...
Cont.
"I ransacked my library and the internet last night trying to find anything culturally significant that is a product of atheism, and can find virtually nothing."

Oh how one conveniently forgets the historical context of atheism in a christian world. One can only imagine the consequences, indeed the life expectancy, of a publicly declared atheist musician or artist or writer at the time of Aquinas. But I have little problem envisioning Aquinas at the forefront of that christian posse accosting that atheist artist or sculptor, given the nature of christian culture. Societal level atheism is a very recent phenomenon heralding the broad change in cultural priorities and sentiment. It is only in the last decades that people are beginning to understand the universality that atheism can bring to varying cultures and social mores. The US is unfortunately a late comer to this realization, but coming it is. Much of today's debate is precisely about the unwarranted role of religion in society.

And your statement, in full: "So this time, I will not ask. I will state. Atheism is an anticultural, antihuman philosphy that is born into this world barren. It has no ability to to inspire, to lead people to go beyond what they thought was their best, to produce tear-inducing beauty, to add to the human heritage of great art, music, and architecture. It does not build (and maintain) hospitals and missions to the poor. It does not infuse a culture with a sense of community. It does not imbue the very essence of craftsmanship. It does not flow with the grand rhythms of life, the (yes, man-made) liturgies and traditions punctuating our hourly, daily, weekly, and yearly lives. It has no feast days with their unique meals, traditions, and ceremonies."

Wonderful christian hyperbole. But then from your perspective this may be description of endtimes, John's apocalypse. Shouldn't you be greeting this change with open arms? After all it was prophesied. Tell me, when is this world going to cataclysmically end? Apart from the random, unguided and natural event of an asteroid or meteorite crash, I can only think of the other possibility of Andromeda colliding with the Milky Way. Is this what the Apostle John meant?
Today the greatest advances in human knowledge and understanding of the world is coming through scientists and science investigators, who increasingly, if not for the most part, are atheists/agnostics.

No Bob, a failure to recognize and understand the cultural change happening in your neighbourhood, in the denial of atheism as a useful cultural perspective for societies moving forward, is neither an appropriate nor informed response.

B. Prokop said...

Hmmm....

As for the definition of Faith, I'll go with your numbers 2, 3, 5, 7 and 9.

As for Gingrich, well... I won't try (too hard) to pry into his heart of hearts, but I suspect he is a fraud. The evidence seems to point in that direction.

As for who has "the correct and universally accepted definition of God", as I've said before numerous times, they all do. I happen to believe in Zeus, and Odin, and Ganesh, and Isis, etc, etc. They are all imperfect human attempts to understand that part of the Divine Truth which they have perceived. I am quite certain that my own conception of God is wildly inaccurate, and will laugh heartily at my present ignorance when I behold Him face to face (as will you). So when an atheist tries the "I'm just an atheist about one more God than you are", they're barking up the wrong tree!

Finally, as to "intense vituperation and disparagement", don't kid yourself. I have never on this website come even close to expressing my true feelings about atheism. Believe me, you'd know it if ever I did. It is civility and good manners that holds me back from speaking what I truly believe about atheism. (But don't worry, my mother raised me well, and I have no intention of doing so any time soon.)

Besides, I am surprised at your double standard. You seem to think it is perfectly all right for yourself to impugn all sorts of bad motivations, ignorance, brainwashing, mental disturbances to my own beliefs, you have no compunction from calling my Church a ring of pedophilia and cultural oppression, you tar me with inquisitions and world wars... but boy, if I so much as hit back with a relatively benign love tap about atheism's culture gap, then I'm being "vituperative". Hah! Gimme a break! You really can't see your double standard???

I'm off to the symphony (Beethoven's Sixth), and then it's out to observe Mars until the wee hours of the night. Good night all!

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

" I have never on this website come even close to expressing my true feelings about atheism. Believe me, you'd know it if ever I did. It is civility and good manners that holds me back from speaking what I truly believe about atheism. (But don't worry, my mother raised me well, and I have no intention of doing so any time soon.)"

Aahhh! So atheists are doing Satan's bidding then, right? Even the really, really good ones like Bill gates, even for the great humanitarian work he does is still going to hell.
There is but one true and illuminating statement in that paragraph; your mother raised you well, not one sniff of god need be mentioned or applied.

Jake Elwood XVI said...

I love Papa how you often changed your post by deleting an old one and posting a new one in its place. I would hope after four and half hours you would have done a better job then this.

Papalinton said...

Twice jake, twice.

Papalinton said...

It is either that or a run of posts one after another after another as Yachov employs. However, if you prefer that model of commentary, I'm happy top oblige. Whichever method is used, the cause of christian theism will not be enhanced, nor the tenuous fundaments of christian thought remain unchallenged.

B. Prokop said...

Aahhh! So atheists are doing Satan's bidding then, right? Even the really, really good ones like Bill gates, even for the great humanitarian work he does is still going to hell.

Sloppy thinking in your response, Papalinton, sloppy thinking, and lazy - even after two attempts. I was referring to my opinion of atheism, not of individual atheists. Nothing more need be said.

And no, I don't believe atheists necessarily "go to hell". I suspect that even Ayn Rand and Christopher Hitchens are right now enjoying a good laugh over their earthly misconceptions, having realized the error of their ways a millisecond after their deaths. That is an experience both you and I have to look forward to as well. You've once again mistaken me for an evangelical fundamentalist (the atheists' favorite strawman) instead of the Catholic with universalist leanings that I actually am. So your comment is wide of the mark, aimed at someone else.

BenYachov said...

Paps,

Your version of Atheism is still low-brow like BeingItself's version.

It's the Atheism of the Kid who prays/wishes for a pony and doesn't get one. It disbelieves in Cosmic anthropomorphic Santa "god" but wouldn't understand Ipsum Esse Subsistens from it's own arsehole.

It confuses liberal politics with non-belief which is stupid considering how Bob is a total liberal and a believer and someone like Ayn Rand is a non-believer and conservative.

It's simple minded trash and about as attractive intellectually as it's religious counterpart.

In short, lame.

Papalinton said...

Ben
You know that I now that you know that all this catholic tradition has little if anything to do with a god. It has all to do with institutional protection of a human edifice built to a tradition. God is not all that exists, god is all that does not exist.

Even your non-personalist descriptor of a 'Classic Theist' god is but the shoehorning of deism into catholic rhetoric, to distance your god-concept from diligent and rigorous analysis and criticism and to immunize it against falsifiability. The falsifiability test is the one test which gives us a shot at understanding what is real and what is false. Once unfalsifiability is permitted as a criterion, there is no avenue for testing truth. Revelation and personal testimony, as methods for affirmation of truth and reality, are inordinately lower orders of magnitude compared to the falsifiability test as to render them as useful as 'he says, she says'.

Humanity must move on. Catholicism has had its day in the sun. Even in Africa and China, christianity will never reach the halcyon levels of coverage once witnessed in say, South America, or in Europe in our early days of history. There are far too many competing religions, and of course, great, even exponential growth in our understanding of the the world, the universe, and the human condition from other quarters and sources of information, including the various sciences and social sciences and through reason dialogue. Religion grew out of ignorance and will recede into ignorance, as we are witnessing today in many countries and regions around the world and more recently, in the US.

That is not to say religion will die out. No, not at all. There will always people in the community with a disposition in need of a means of invisible support. Rather, it will recede to a significantly smaller sector of society roughly proportional to our increase in knowledge and as understanding improves.

Questions such as 'Who made god?' and "who is god?', while in themselves interesting and oftentimes animated, are largely shifting to the margins of the main game of exploring what it is to be a sentient life.

B. Prokop said...

"Religion grew out of ignorance and will recede into ignorance".

Once again, Papalinton, you make the most amazing, outlandish statements.

As for "growing out of ignorance", then how is it that the finest art and literature of the Ancient World is religious? How is it that, even in the earliest recorded times, men as unquestionably brilliant as Hesiod, Aeschylus, Moses, the Old Testament prophets, and the author of Gilgamesh (to name just a very few) were religious? Indeed, they are the source of much of our religious thought. No ignorance there!

How is it that the most brilliant minds of the Middle Ages were all religious? How is it that the undeniably vast wisdom of Asia, from Daoism to Hinduism to Buddhism, is overwhelmingly religious? No ignorance there! In our best moments (both you and I), we couldn't hold a candle to such wisdom!

How is it that believing Christians are at the forefront of scientific thought in every age since the invention of the scientific method (itself a product of Christianity)? I know you get many of your facts from Wikipedia. Try searching on "list of catholic scientists" or "list of christian thinkers in science" and be prepared to be impressed. And that's just Christians! The lists don't include the massive contributions to science from quite literally thousands of major Hindu scientists, mathematicians, and doctors.

Yet you continue to unthinkingly toss off such absurd statements like the quote that began this posting, statements that are embarrassingly ridiculous even on a first reading.

Why? I'd really like to know. You can't possibly believe what you wrote!

B. Prokop said...

Oh, and you also write about the "great, even exponential growth in our understanding of the the world, the universe, and the human condition from other quarters and sources of information, including the various sciences and social sciences and through reason dialogue" as a supposed threat to religious faith.

To get personal here, how do you explain me ??? I am admittedly obsessed with science. More than half the books I read (and I read a lot!) are on subjects like astronomy, biology, ecology, geology, and the human body. Just in the past few weeks I've devoured books on soil structure, weeds, forest habitats, planetary formation, cosmology, microorganisms, and galactic structure. And that's just the past month or so!

And yet, the more I learn about science, about the universe, about life, about the human being, the more convinced I am that I am on the right track in my Catholicism. Mine is not a "God of the Gaps"; He is most definitely a "God of the Filled-in spaces"!

Does not my personal testimony blow your thesis right out of the water?

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

... and then there is this. The March issue of Sky and Telescope magazine just arrived in my mailbox. Having visited Prague, I was drawn to an article about astronomical observatories in the Czech Republic. (By the way, there are more telescopes per capita in the Czech Republic than in any other country on Earth. That might have something to do with all the optics firms based there.)

But anyway, my eye was caught by this little throwaway line about halfway through the article: "Most observatories [in the Czech Republic] were built after World War II. The communist government thought that astronomy would help combat the Church's influence. It didn't."

See? The atheists never learn! They still (witness Paplinton's postings) are under the erroneous impression that science is on their side. But it's not! As St. Paul wrote, "Ever since the creation of the world God's invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made." (i.e., science!)

Papalinton said...

Bob: "Once again, Papalinton, you make the most amazing, outlandish statements."

Only to a catholic believer.

Bob: "....then how is it that the finest art and literature of the Ancient World is religious? "
Because religion was the pivotal feature of early cultures, the cultural mechanism around which the protection, control and group differentiation and solidarity operated. The religious impulse provided the narrative through which the ancients were able to ground meaning from the inexplicable nature of the world. Religion was the central binding force to their existence. And as we now have the privilege of knowing much of that narrative was based on the folkloric oral history handed down from generation to generation. Indeed the corpus of folkloric knowledge that forms the christian mythos is exactly the same as that which motivated the Egyptian religion, the Mesopotamian religions, the gods of and deities of the ancient Greeks and Romans; only the dramatis personnae of the fables have changed.

Bob: "How is it that, even in the earliest recorded times, men as unquestionably brilliant as Hesiod, Aeschylus, Moses, the Old Testament prophets, and the author of Gilgamesh (to name just a very few) were religious? "

They were a product of their times, ignorant of the what we understand today about the world, the universe and our relationship with the world. Even Moses, and Aeschylus believed that thunder and lightning were the angry remit of gods.

Interestingly, Moses was a henotheist. "The final editors of the Hebrew canon were fervent monotheists, but a remnant of the polytheistic basis of the pre-Mosaic religion can still be detected. Albrecht Alt has shown that divine titles such as 'El Bet' el (Gen. 31:13; 35:7); 'El 'Olam (Gen. 21:33); and 'El Ro'i (Gen. 16:13); 'El 'Elyon (Gen. 14:18); and 'El Saddai (Gen. 17:1); all later taken to be one God (Yahweh) after Moses, were all originally separate gods worshipped by the early Hebrews.3 The Catholic scholar Bruce Vawter concurs with Alt. According to Vawter, none of the available English translations does justice to the original Hebrew of Genesis 31:13, which quite simply reads "I am the god Bethel" ('El Bet'el), who was a member of the Canaanite pantheon along with the rest of the above.4 The original meaning is therefore quite different from the traditional understanding: this god at Bethel is not the universal Lord who appeared at Bethel but just one god among many – a local deity of a specific place."

http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/henotheism.htm

Cont.

Papalinton said...

Cont.

Bob: "How is it that the most brilliant minds of the Middle Ages were all religious? How is it that the undeniably vast wisdom of Asia, from Daoism to Hinduism to Buddhism, is overwhelmingly religious? "

During the Middle Ages, the cultural more most profoundly understood was heresy, blasphemy and apostasy. The church made it clear there were no brilliant minds that were not religious, an existential issue for those who did not subscribe. [Irony; Atheism was a recessive gene that rarely expressed itself among the survival of the fittest during the Middle Ages]. That which comes from any one of these religions is lost in the mire of religious conflict, contradictions, competing interests, geography and differing ideas. Those great universals that are common to all and which rise above the inherent provincialism and parochial nature of religions, are the great truths of humanity, irrespective of the trappings of the religions. They are the universal truths of humanism, humanity's common shared truths, truths that atheists fully subscribe to; you shall not kill, steal and bear false witness, do as you do to others what you would they do to you. These are the shining gems that transcend all religions. These are not religious truths. To understand these truths and to live by them, religion is superfluous.
The great commission of humanism is to disentangle and disengage these truths from the myriad of religions that have abused and misused them in the promulgation of their particular brand of theism.

Bob: "How is it that believing Christians are at the forefront of scientific thought in every age since the invention of the scientific method (itself a product of Christianity)? "

A wonderful christian revisionist re-write of history. Unable to be contained, the scientific method broke free of religious dogma and tracked out its own path despite religion. It is not unknown the catholic church attempted at great length over many centuries to subjugate scientific investigation as a dependent subset of catholic philosophy. The church tried hard to proscribe what could and could not be, in accordance with scripture. And it continues to do so this very day, re condom use in Africa.

And, "....believing Christians are at the forefront of scientific thought....", lovely christian hyperbole. I would characterize it as, more of a mixed bag, really. And if the membership of the American Academy of Science, as one august institution is any indicator, I would suggest a revising down of theist numbers. But then truth and evidence has never been a road bump in the road of christian thinking.

In reference to, "Religion grew out of ignorance and will recede into ignorance", the sentiment in this passage is not in the pejorative sense of the word; rather it refers to the the monumental deficiency of knowledge prevailing at the time these stories were written, the enormous lack of knowledge as we understand it today.

Since there are so many religions - and more every day - that are not only different from but contradictory to each other, it makes no sense to talk about better or true religion. The only thing that makes sense is to talk about local religions, the religion that people follow in one place or time as opposed to someplace or sometime else.

Cole said...

There's a much better argument for God based on the existence of broad logical necessary moral truths:

Swinburne's Argument For The Existence Of Necessary Moral Truths


We might say that acts of telling lies in such and such circumstances are bad. But it must be said that if there is a world W in which a certain action A having various non-moral properties is bad, there could not be another world W* which was exactly the same as W in all non-moral respects, but in which A was not bad. The concept of the moral is such that it makes no sense to suppose both that there is a world W in which A is wrong and a world W* exactly the same as W except that in W* A is good. It follows that there are logically necessary truths of the form "If an action has non-moral properties B, C, and D, it is morally good, if an action has the non-moral properties D, E, and F, it is morally wrong and so on. If there are moral truths some of them are necessary moral truths. - Richard Swinburne


My examples:

1) Necessarily, telling a lie in such and such circumstances is wrong

a) telling a lie just to see if you can get away with it when it would harm others is wrong.

2) Necessarily, cheating in such and such circumstances is wrong

a) Copying someones Ph.D. dissertation just to get a Ph.D. so you can look smart is wrong

3) Necessarily, killing in such and such circumstances is wrong

a) Murdering an innocent 13 year old girl in a drive by shooting is wrong

4) Necessarily, stealing in such and such circumstances is wrong

a) Stealing money from your mother to buy drugs just to get high
is wrong

To say it's necessarily true that "it's wrong to torture babies for fun" is to say there is no possible world where torturing babies for fun is okay. Can anyone give me a state of affairs where torturing babies for fun is okay? For instance. Suppose I tell you it's wrong to lie. Well, clearly this isn't true in all possible worlds. For there are cicumstances where it would be okay to lie. Maybe one where you had to lie to save yourself along with the lives of numerous innocent people. But is there a possible world where it's okay to torture babies for fun? How about raping little boys for fun? Is there such a world where this is okay? If not then we have two more necessary moral truths. It's wrong to rape little boys for fun. And it's wrong to torture babies for fun.


"Or again the moral argument roots morality and moral values in God. But moral values, at least some of them, seem to exist necessarily. There’s no possible world in which it is morally justified to torture little children because it’s fun. There are moral truths that hold in every possible world, and if morality is grounded in God, that implies therefore that God exists in every possible world, and is therefore a metaphysically necessary being.”-
William Lane Craig

Papalinton said...

"But anyway, my eye was caught by this little throwaway line about halfway through the article: "Most observatories [in the Czech Republic] were built after World War II. The communist government thought that astronomy would help combat the Church's influence. It didn't.""

Once again a somewhat skewed revisionist Apologetical re-write of history, an assertion. The battle between two religions, communism and christianity, out of which communism could not sustain the impetus for transfer of allegiance. Of course! communism was bound to fail, it was a religion without a tradition of two millennia of inculcation and indoctrination. Once communism fell over, of course people returned to their old religion to fill the void. This exact same historical event also occurred in Russia at the collapse of communism. People swapped allegiances back to the old religion that communism was unable to supplant.

Where one can freely practice religion as in the West, religion is imploding under its own inertia. There is no need to do anything other than to continue advocating science and demonstrating the case of the superfluous nature of religious faith. To ask the question of the meaning of life is gradually being understood as an inappropriate response; rather it is to find the meaning in life.

B. Prokop said...

Well, Papalinton, I believe we've both said our pieces now, and we'll just have to agree to disagree. See you in a future thread!

Papalinton said...

Cheers, Bob

BenYachov said...

@Paps
>You know that I now that you know that all this catholic tradition has little if anything to do with a god.

Actually what we do know is you are an ex-fundametalist Christian who still sees the world threw that prism. These days your a Protestant Fundamentalist Atheist.
Which is just so cute.

We also know what would you don't understand you make up whole cloth from your imagination.

>Even your non-personalist descriptor of a 'Classic Theist' god is but the shoehorning of deism into catholic rhetoric,

Then how is it that Augustine in the 4th Century and Philo in the first Century BC both taught it?

Deism is a post enlightenment mechanistic Theistic Personalist view of God. It's in essence a Paley type "deity" who is non-interventionist.

Paley's God is the late comer shoehorned into real Bible Christianity.

You just make up any shit you want regardless of actual objective history. Is that how you taught your classes?

>to distance your god-concept from diligent and rigorous analysis and criticism and to immunize it against falsifiability.

How would you falsify the fact there are an infinite number of Prime Numbers? Your mindless Scientism is showing leading to more category mistakes.

Your rejection of Philosophy is mindless fundie pablum. Even Atheist philosophers like Dennett, Migley and Nagel know better by light years.

There is really nothing to say Paps. You reject reason. You refuse to even try to become a rational Atheist.

Your version of Atheism is for 14 year olds who rebel against their religious parents.

It's not a thinking man's Atheism & thus I want nothing to do with it.

Give me rational Atheists like Smith or Smart anyday of the week over Paps & the Cult of the Gnu.

BenYachov said...

>which quite simply reads "I am the god Bethel"

The obvious problem with that is Bethel means "House of God" it's the clear name of a City.

So Genesis 31:13 is saying "I am the god House of God?"

That's kind of awk-weird.

That doesn't make sense. OTOH the Canaanites no doubt had a city deity for Bethel.

It is not a stretch that the author of Genesis is trying to take the functions of the Pagan deities and attribute them to the one God.

The Canaanite god of cities was Melqart( translates "King of the City"). If the liberal scholars you cite are trying to claim "I am the god Bethel" well that's an interesting speculation but absent hard proof I see no reason to believe it. Even if I become an Atheist tomorrow.

Besides the preposition "of" does not exist in Hebrew. So you can't definitively say "god Bethel" means "a god called bethel(House of God).

That makes no sense. Rather the writer of Genesis is trying to replace the functions of the Canaanite deities by making YHWH the all purpose deity.

You need to do more actual reading Paps before I take you seriously.

BenYachov said...

Regardless if one has a naturalistic view of the origin of OT monotheism or a religious one.

The fact remains it is unremarkable the writer(s?) of Torah would appropriate terms and titles of pagan deities to show YHWH is the true deity who has oput them out of the job.

King Cyrus was called "King of Kings" and used as a symbolic figure for the future Messiah the true King of Kings.

The OT warns against paying any respect to the "Queen of Heaven."

But the Kings of Judah didn't crown any of their wives Queen but their Mothers (called Guverah-Lady).

Jesus is the Final King of Judah do the Math & you will know why is is correct to call Mary Queen of Heaven.


Paps make a philosophical argument for Atheism or show me why moderate realism is false. Or give me an Atheist philosophy that accepts moderate realism & show me why that is true.

All this pablum misuse of Bible scholarship is tedious and a waste of time.

BenYachov said...

@Paps

Your failure as an Religious Fundamentalist is clear to me. You didn't know how to be a believer apart from a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.

In a like manner you don't know how do be an Atheist apart from Scientism. Which is why you fight so hard for it in the face of reason.

You don't know how to believe in Philosophy & Science and reject God.

That is just sad.

Jim S. said...

I wrote a post on this issue here.

B. Prokop said...

Ben,

Don't be so hard on Paplinton. He's actually slowly coming around to "our" point of view. Don't think so? Allow me to cite two recent examples of his slow-motion conversion:

1) On January 26th, 10:35 PM, he asked "Is such behaviour a characteristic of Christian goodwill and humility?", thus conceding the point that goodwill and humility are indeed Christian characteristics. So he's very close to finally admitting that without God, there is no morality.

2) On January 29th, 12:05 AM, he characterized the struggle between atheistic communism and the Czech Catholic Church as "the battle between two religions", thus finally acknowledging the fact that atheism is a religion, a very important concession.

So progress is being made! We must encourage this!

Ryan M said...

Cole,

You didn't really present a strong moral case for God since you didn't defend the following premise:

"Necessary moral truths if and only if God" or []M <-> G

Although you still might be correct depending on how one views the nature of morality.

But oddly enough, the first person you cited in your post would actually disagree with you. Given Swinburne's view of moral truths (Which Thomists such as Ben would disagree with), if moral truths are necessary then they do not depend on God for their being true. So one could not argue from necessary moral truths to God. However people could argue from a person's awareness of moral truths to God. I'm pretty sure this is Swinburne's view.

BenYachov said...

Ryan,

Well God is ontologically good and as such is the metaphysical ground for the goodness in morality.

Thought God himself is not unequivocally a moral agent as compared to a human moral agent.

Swinburne is a Theistic Personalist who believes God is a moral agent. He is still an important philosopher but odds are I would have little use for many of his arguments.

Papalinton said...

Jim S
"I wrote a post on this issue here."

Jim S : "Well I'm no cosmologist either, but that won't stop me from pontificating."

PapaL: Well said. Stick to pontificating. That is your strongest suit.

Papalinton said...

"Well God is ontologically good and as such is the metaphysical ground for the goodness in morality."

I love this word, metaphysics.
Metaphysics is just a euphemism for .......... thinking.

BenYachov said...

>I love this word, metaphysics.
Metaphysics is just a euphemism for .......... thinking.

You have only had it explained to you several times but you refuse to learn it.

Let's see "reductionist materialism" is a metaphysical view. Metaphysics means that which is beyond physics.

Specifically that which is the ultimate basis of reality.

One can have an Atheist metaphysical view or a Theistic. Naturalist, Idealist, Realist, conceptionalist etc...

That is it's meaning in philosophy. Fundamentalist New Atheist however define it as "magic" because THE GOD DELUSION doesn't tell them anything.

Metaphysics is the "study of being".

New Atheists who reject philosophy are just the infidels version of the Young Earth Creationist and about half as smart.

Cole said...

Ryan,

Since the moral truths are necessary and unchanging then they are eternal. Why? Well everything including the universe is in motion and therefore changing. Everything including the universe is evolving. Since these moral truths don't change then they are outside the universe making them eternal. They are not subject to decay. The necessary moral truth:

It's wrong to rape little boys just for fun

Was arround before there were people! They are are grounded in God because they contain meaning and complex specified information. There must be a Mind behind them. Otherwise they become meaningless.

Papalinton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Papalinton said...

Metaphysics:
"ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: representing medieval Latin metaphysica (neuter plural), based on Greek ta meta ta phusika ‘the things after the Physics,’ referring to the sequence of Aristotle's works: the title came to denote the branch of study treated in the books, later interpreted as meaning [the science of things transcending what is physical or natural.] (from All Reference Libraries)

[Note: 'the title came to denote the branch of study treated in the books, later interpreted as meaning.'

Interestingly, Wiki, refers to various types of metaphysics: "This article [Metaphysics] is about the branch of philosophy dealing with theories of existence and knowledge. For the work of Aristotle, see Metaphysics (Aristotle). For the definition relating to the supernatural, see Metaphysics (supernatural)."

Wiki was wise enough never to spuriously conflate the word into one, knowing full well that there is a distinct difference between them and while philosophical and Aristotelian metaphysics are less so, the christian supernatural metaphysics is founded on very different and disparate assumptions.

In theo-logical discourse, metaphysics is best characterized as a descriptor for god woo, certainly not your "Metaphysics means that which is beyond physics". From your definition one would think that metaphysics was a direct derivative of physics, the obverse of physics, like matter and anti-matter. Or do you mean metaphysics to be that which are inexplicable, magical, mysterious, nebulous, can't put a finger on it, beyond our knowledge and comprehension, omni-max? If that's the case than it is simply a definition for god woo.

BenYachov said...

Well Paps you still know how to google search.

But you skipped the whole first part of that article.

QUOTE"Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world,[1] although the term is not easily defined.[2] Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:

1. "What is there?"
2. "What is it like?"[3]

A person who studies metaphysics is called a metaphysicist[4] or a metaphysician.[5] The metaphysician attempts to clarify the fundamental notions by which people understand the world, e.g., existence, objects and their properties, space and time, cause and effect, and possibility. A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other.

Prior to the modern history of science, scientific questions were addressed as a part of metaphysics known as natural philosophy.

>For the definition relating to the supernatural, see Metaphysics (supernatural)."

That is merely a link to the wiki article on the Supernatural(which doesn't mention metaphysics). Apart from the link neither article associates metaphysics with the supernatural since you can have a natural metaphysics.

>Wiki was wise enough never to spuriously conflate the word into one, knowing full well that there is a distinct difference between them and while philosophical and Aristotelian metaphysics are less so, the christian supernatural metaphysics is founded on very different and disparate assumptions.

It amazes me how much bullshit you can read into one Hyper-link that uses the word "metaphysics" as a synonym for "supernatural" which is a modern linguistic convention nothing more.

You skimmed that whole article and learned nothing & you still conflate metaphysics with the supernatural.

You still reject philosophy in favor of science alone(which ironically is a philosophy and metaphysical world view).

Low brow fundie Gnu'atheism strikes again.

BenYachov said...

>there is a distinct difference between them and while philosophical and Aristotelian metaphysics are less so, the christian supernatural metaphysics is founded on very different and disparate assumptions.

No Thomism is founded clearly on Aristotelian metaphysics and many of the Church Fathers where Platonists.

Conflating the supernatural with metaphysics based on a hyperlink is a bit much especially those of us who read something about the history of philosophy.

Really Paps would it kill ya to learn some philosophy?

Shackleman said...

wikipedia should never, *ever*, be a definitive source of knowledge for anyone about anything. It's barely safe to use as a general introduction. It serves up fast pseudo-facts much like McDonald's serves up fast pseudo-food.

If you want your body to be properly nourished, you'll have to sit down to a proper meal, prepared by trained chefs.

As such, if you want your mind to be properly nourished, you'll have to sit down to a proper study of trained and authoritative experts.

The sort of drive-thru knowledge Wikipedia offers is killing our ability to think properly and thoroughly!

I've stopped arguing with my friends about metaphysics because not a *single* one of them has read a single thing other than Wikipedia and the Cliff's Notes to the God Delusion, yet, they truly think they're experts. It's appalling, really, and causes me quite a bit of concern for the future generations. Not because their opinions are different than mine, but because they've derived them from McDonald's like sources. Scary.

BenYachov said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BenYachov said...

>wikipedia should never, *ever*, be a definitive source of knowledge for anyone about anything.

That's true but sometimes is does contain useful & correct information and the references are worth a read.

Thought the bias of the wiki author and the works cited might be in conflict.

The definition of metaphysics in the wiki article is correct but trying to make hay from the notes at the beginning in italics "metaphysics(supernatural)" shows that Gnus can't even use the wiki correctly. Since the linked article isn't titled "metaphysics(supernatural)" but merely "Supernatural".

But Paps will make up any old shit then actually do any real homework.dreou

Papalinton said...

Yachov: "But you skipped the whole first part of that article.

QUOTE"Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world,[1] although the term is not easily defined.[2] Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:

1. "What is there?"
2. "What is it like?"[3]"

PapaL: I was looking for conciseness. The additional information you have provided does not contribute one jot to your argument for godism. And you'll note not one word of godism. Metaphyisics is concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world Even the questions that follow are earthbound and do not fly off into theology. Metaphyisics is a component of natural philosophy. Again, this is a clear example of how invasively religion has colonised everyday English. Today we cannot speak or think of metaphysics without conjuring overtones of godism.

Yachov quotes: "A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into the basic categories of being and how they relate to each other."

PapaL: No problem with that. Godism has not moved beyond hypothesis, even after 2,000 years. The argument remains unresolved. However research in recent times has identified that notions of god are synonymous with our evolutionary developed capacity to detect agency even in the most mundane of everyday settings. Natural events for which there is no obvious agent thus may be attributed to God.

Yachov: "No Thomism is founded clearly on Aristotelian metaphysics and many of the Church Fathers where Platonists."

PapaL: The irony of it. Catholic thomism founded on Pagan thoughts. Aquinas had to rely on the opus of a pre-christian era pagan philosopher for its very existence. Unable to garner revelational and direct god-breathed information from the bible itself, Aquinas had to go asearching elsewhere for a raison d'être, for something substantial, onto which he could hang the christian mythos, to make some semblance of sense to it. And he found it in pagan non-christian writings. Such an amalgam speaks volumes of christianity being little more than the product of accretions and agglomerations and appropriations of the various cultures extant at the time.

BenYachov said...

@Paps
>I was looking for conciseness.

That is not likely given your record to date.

>The additional information you have provided does not contribute one jot to your argument for godism.

I'm not arguing for "godism" I am trying to give an accurate understand of "What is philosophy & metaphysics?". You have a history of treating them as synonyms of "theology" and "the supernatural".

I am trying to disabuse you of that brand of ignorance.

BenYachov said...

>Metaphyisics is a component of natural philosophy. Again, this is a clear example of how invasively religion has colonised everyday English.

Your full of shit Paps. You don't know the history of philosophy or religious thought or science from your own arsehole.

You really believe there is no difference between the two do you?

Wow!

>Today we cannot speak or think of metaphysics without conjuring overtones of godism.

That is certainly news for metaphysical naturalists and materialists.

BenYachov said...

>Natural events for which there is no obvious agent thus may be attributed to God.

An argument that is significant if one postulates a Post-enlightenment mechanistic theistic personalist Deity. But a Classic view of God is not a product of empirical investigation. By definition it can't be a God-of-the-gabs. So this statement is a non-starter.

Still using the warmed over anti-ID polemics eh Paps?

Useless as teats on a bull.

>The irony of it. Catholic thomism founded on Pagan thoughts.

Ah yes the Fundamentalist Protestant dichotomy that everything in the world is either "Biblical" or "un-biblical/pagan"!

With each post you prove me right.

You are still a fundamentalist in your worldview Paps. Except these days you are a fundamentalist without god-belief.

As always your narrow brand of Atheism is not for the thinking man.

BenYachov said...

>Unable to garner revelational and direct god-breathed information from the bible itself,

Do I detect a whiff of Sola Scriptura?

Enough of the fundie crap Paps!

Geez!

BenYachov said...

>Even the questions that follow are earthbound and do not fly off into theology. Metaphyisics is a component of natural philosophy.

At this point if I bring up natural theology no doubt Paps' head will explode(which could only serve to improve his intelligence).

B. Prokop said...

Papalinton,

You remind me of the old story in which the atheist tells a Christian, "I don't believe in God", and the Christian replies, "Tell me about this God you don't believe in. I probably don't believe in him either."

Case in point: your inexplicable crowing (and not for the first time) over the fact that St. Thomas Aquinas got part of his inspiration from Aristotle, as though that should be something scandalous to any Christian. But remember, it is explicitly declared in the New Testament that all of creation has been redeemed by Christ. That all would naturally include Aristotle. If you bothered to read your Charles Williams, you'd understand that Aquinas was participating in the redemption of Aristotle in the same manner that Dante was in the redemption of Virgil, or Pope Gregory the First was in that of the Emperor Trajan. Such things can happen.

If you are intent on making a case against Christianity, first make sure that it is a Christianity which someone actually believes in. Otherwise, your darts will continue to fall wide of the mark. Because if you think that any Catholic is the tiniest bit disturbed by the glorious fact that the True Faith has enfolded its precursors into itself, you are sadly mistaken. Such parallels and echoes that are to be found in so many other creeds are not matters for concern, but for rejoicing.

You repeatedly do the same thing over your strange belief that there is some sort of conflict or tension between science and Christianity, despite the fact that I and many others have consistently shot so many holes in that argument that it leaks like a sieve.

Earlier in this very thread (January 28th, 3:55 PM) I challenged you to explain me, if there is supposedly such a conflict. (Read that posting again.) You can't explain me, because there isn't any conflict- none! Yet you insist on bringing up again and again the same old threadbare, thoroughly defeated arguments that impress no one (except possibly your fellow non-believers).

I believe you are capable of better (at least I hope so), but I often get the impression that you either don't try, or (worse) you just don't care. The perpetual quoting from Wikipedia is a case in point. It just makes you look stupid, which I know you are not.

Papalinton said...

"But remember, it is explicitly declared in the New Testament that all of creation has been redeemed by Christ."

Just because it is declared in the NT doesn't make it any less an assertion or wishful thinking. This form of retrojected catch-all pronouncement is of no substance and little more than christian embroidery. So which aspect of Egyptian and Mesopotamian religions was redeemed by christ? What about Mithraism, Gnosticism, and the myriad of other great histories and thinkers, all of which were in existence before the purported life of a jesus? It makes no sense that only Plato and Aristotle had been exonerated under this retrojected catch-all while leaving all the others out in the cold. Methinks selective universalism and redemption in play here.

An interesting note about Pope Gregory I, ("the Great"); Made his name getting the Patriarch of Constantinople burned at the stake for writing that the resurrection of the dead would be incorporeal. Well, I say, the Patriarch had it coming. Gregory famously says: "The bliss of the elect in heaven would not be perfect unless they were able to look across the abyss and enjoy the agonies of their brethren in eternal fire."


"If you are intent on making a case against Christianity, first make sure that it is a Christianity which someone actually believes in."

And which of the myriad of christianities do people actually believe in. Christianity has the feel of an eel. Even the word catholic has the feel of an eel.

In a challenge to explain yourme , personal testimony isn't worth diddly squat in the way of explanation.

The catholic mythos remains a mythos, it is but ignorance of natural causes reduced to a institutionalized system.

"In matters of religion it is very easy to deceive a man, and very hard to undeceive him." Pierre Bayle [French Philosopher]

BenYachov said...

Caught you in a lie Paps!

>Made his name getting the Patriarch of Constantinople burned at the stake for writing that the resurrection of the dead would be incorporeal.

Actually Pope St Gregory had Patriarch Eutychius' heretical book burned.

The Patriarch himself died of old age and recanted his book on his deathbed. Of course Pope St Gregory then dropped the matter.

Like I said Paps you just make shit up because you are too filled with pride to admit you re4ally don't know what you are talking about.

Or do you still retain a stack of Chick Comics from when you where a religious fundie?

Your low-brow fundie Atheism is not for thinking men sir.

BenYachov said...

>"The bliss of the elect in heaven would not be perfect unless they were able to look across the abyss and enjoy the agonies of their brethren in eternal fire."

Apart from a few Atheist websites and the claims of the anti-Catholic fundamentalist Henry Lea I can't find any reference to this quote from teh writings of Pope Gregory.

Where did Pope St Gregory allegedly say this?

Also I note it is a bit odd to refer to damned souls in Hell as "brethren"? Since when are the damned "Christian Brothers"?

I suspect the original quote this was mangled from was likely a refer to Purgatory & what the Blessed really enjoy is watching their brethren be purified of sin.

Fundies they never change.

B. Prokop said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
B. Prokop said...

personal testimony isn't worth diddly squat in the way of explanation

Hmmm... It would seem that it is you who are the real follower of pagan philosophers here, Papalinton. The above statement by you is the purest Platonism, as in "The specific has no reality, only the Ideal". Should you not now be scandalized to find that your own worldview is but a pastiche of older beliefs?... I thought not. The ol' double standard again.

The fact is that your line of argument has been proven to not match the "facts on the ground", but you can't bear to admit it. Rather than do so, you retreat into metaphysics (and into your own negative meaning of the term).

Additionally, you are guilty of the No True Scotsman fallacy. Faced with a Christian who loves science, you come back with what amounts to, "Well, no true believer in science would ever be a Christian".

By the way, you should try reading some of Pope Gregory's actual writings, rather than just google his name. He was a thinker of rare profundity, capable of delivering some truly inspiring sermons, many of which still have the power to move the reader even today by their depth of understanding and brilliance of exposition.

Ryan M said...

Cole,

Yeah you're not telling me anything interesting.

My post was just meant to show that is it ironic that you mention Swinburne since he would disagree that such a moral argument would work. His view of morality and possible worlds leads him to believe that necessary moral truths are not dependent on God.

Other than that I was not disputing anything. Although the claims you made don't really defend the conclusion that God is necessary for moral truths.

B. Prokop said...

Ryan,

The statement "God is necessary for there to be moral truth" is not a conclusion to be arrived at, but rather a fact to be observed, on the order of "I need light in order to be able to see".

Ryan M said...

B. Prokop,

That might be interesting if it was relevant. I'm not sure you understood what was going on. Cole seemed to imply that a better argument could be made for God than the cosmological argument. He said that the existence of necessary moral truths requires God, and since there are necessary moral truths then God exists. My comment was just meant to highlight that his comment was at least somewhat ironic considering he mentions Swinburne who would not agree with such a moral argument.

But even if your comment was relevant I still wouldn't know what you're trying to say.

B. Prokop said...

I was basically making a distinction between empirical knowledge and deductive reasoning.

Some things we know just by observing them (such as, "the grass is green", "the sky is blue"). Others we have to deduce by inference (the existence of certain subatomic particles, dark matter, the Republicans want to steal from the poor and give to the rich (Just kidding, Crude!)).

When it comes to non-material things, the same distinction exists. For instance, there is no need to infer the doctrine of the Fall; we just have to look around and see it for ourselves. The Doctrine of the Trinity, however, cannot be observed. It must be concluded from scriptural evidence and logical deduction.

The necessity of God's existence for there to be an objective morality in actuality straddles the line between the two types of knowledge, because I believe it is possible to infer it from observation, and not just conclude it from deduction alone. (The lines are a bit blurred there.)

Interesting: the verification word for this posting is "blerge".

Cole said...

Good point Prokop. I've been doing some thinking on this and I can't see how we can prove our moral intuitions. I can see how we can falsify them though. Suppose I said that lying is always wrong. All one has to do is give me circumstances where lying would be justified. Like saving yourself along with other people from being tortured by Hitler. Now take this moral statement:

It's wrong to abuse people just because of the color of their skin


The burden of proof isn't on me to prove that this is true. In fact the moral statement:

"It's wrong to believe in moral truths without an argument"


doesn't itself have an argument. So it's self defeating and irrational to demand proof as if I'm going against some duty. Our moral intuitions are innocent until proven guilty.

B. Prokop said...

Our moral intuitions are innocent until proven guilty.

I like that! Well-worded.