Friday, October 11, 2013

Who created God?

As for who created God,  here  is an answer from a Catholic website. 

If something came into existence at a certain point in time—that is, if it had a beginning—then there needs to be a cause, an explanation, for why it came to be. But if something exists outside of time—like God—then it does not need an explanation for its beginning, because it does not have one.
The earth, indeed the universe, had a beginning point in time, and this is something that both the Big Bang Theory and the Book of Genesis agree on. 

138 comments:

Papalinton said...

For a little bit of light relief and a tad off-topic, this is from CBS News

It seems papal infallibility does not always apply.

B. Prokop said...

I just came across this wonderful quote on a Jewish website this morning:

"God is a personality known through experience, not a concept derived through logic."

Wow. Love it!

BenYachov said...

"Who created God?" makes about as much sense as saying "But I never saw an Ape give birth to a human so how can Evolution be true"?

"Who created the Uncreated?" is what the question literally means.

Like asking "Where do the married bachelors live"?*

BenYachov's Law: Reasoning is a learned skill. Just because you deny God, gods or faeries or whatever doesn't automatically make you rational.


*Answer:Obviously with the married spinsters right next store to the unemployed people with paying jobs!

Dan Gillson said...

Part of the AfR relies on the notion that physical causes can only have physical effects. If rational effects can be explained in terms of non-rational (physical) causes, so the argument goes, then mental phenomena such a beliefs aren't rationally inferred, they are physically caused. But, as the argument goes, we rationally infer our beliefs. Mental phenomena can't be explained in terms of physical causes; they must be explained on their own terms. Likewise, physical phenomenon must also be explained on their own terms.

The AfR introduces two categories of causation, the mental and the physical, and argues that the properties of one (the mental) cannot be reduced to the properties of the other (the physical). (I'm sure the argument works in the the other direction against idealism, but that's neither here nor there.) Interactionism, for all its problems, at least purports to explain how the mental and the physical work in conjunction with each other.

In case you were wondering why I'm going through this stuff that everyone here knows, I'm going to exploit a parallel. When it comes to God, theists introduce two categories, time and timelessness. Each have their own irreducible properties. God is atemporal, creation is temporal. Interactionism purports to explain how temporality and atemporality work in conjunction with each other. However, modern theology has challenged the supposed interactionism of time and eternity, I think that that challenge is legitimate. (The work of Robert Jenson cogently argues the point.)

Let's say that it turns out that the interactionist solution to the duality of time and eternity turned out to be invalid. It would seem to me that someone who supported the AfR, that is, someone who supported the irreducibility of the mental and the physical, would out of principle be forced to conclude that since time and timelessness can't interact, an uncreated God necessarily couldn't be involved in the world.

My question is: When it comes to the arguments for or against existence of God, are we really just arguing about interactionism?

Ilíon said...

"God is a personality known through experience, not a concept derived through logic."

But, in truth, one knows of God through logic, and knows God through experience.

Take care that you do not slip into fideism.

B. Prokop said...

Ilion,

I don't think that was the thrust of the comment's intent. It (despite its being Jewish) was more in line with James's comment in the New Testament that it was all well and good to believe in God, but then so do the demons. All the intellectualizing in the world, all the logical arguments in favor of the Faith (valid though they may me) are in the end irrelevant if one fails to keep in mind that we're talking about a Who here, and not a what.

Ilíon said...

And the thrust of my comment is that logic and experience are equally important.

"... All the intellectualizing in the world, all the logical arguments in favor of the Faith (valid though they may me) are in the end irrelevant if one fails to keep in mind that we're talking about a Who here, and not a what."

Ah! You mean in the manner of a certain Rah-Rah?

B. Prokop said...

"Ah! You mean in the manner of a certain Rah-Rah?"

Too subtle for me. Don't get the reference.

Walter said...

Too subtle for me. Don't get the reference.

He is referring to Yachov and his zeal for classical theism.

B. Prokop said...

Oh-h-h-h... Rather thick-headed of me there.

Well, I've always felt that classical theism needed to be understood in light of the necessity to not think of God as a "thing" (as I always get the feeling its proponents are trying to do). God doesn't not have less personality that human beings, but infinitely more.

That said, I have never understood what is meant by "theistic personalism", so I refuse to be lumped in with them. Just call me a simple Christian, who takes Jesus at His word, when He says "Qui videt me, videt et Patrem." (John 14:9) So whenever I want to know what God is like, I look at Jesus.

Ilíon said...

"He is referring to Yachov and his zeal for classical theism."

He is referring to Son-of-Confusion and what it pleases him to call "classical theism" ... which amounts to nothing more than:
1) denying the personhood of God, and
2) name-calling those who affirm the personhood of God.

Papalinton said...

"Who created God?"

The incalculable variations, permutations, commutations and combinations since the dawn of time, with the only single, common factor being the human mind, only one conclusion can be arrived at:

God is made in the image of man.

Humans of course. No doubt about it. Certainly not chimps or elephants. It is humanity that has conjured up these images over the length and breadth of both anecdotal and recorded history. Given the inexhaustible diversity of the range of images that fall under the rubric 'God' or ultimate supreme timeless being, this is the only reasonable and defensible explanation that satisfies any semblance of credibility and plausibility. The Muslim Allah is not an analogical christian jesusgod. The family of Vishnu does not align with the family of the christian Jesusgod. The reality of the great timeless dreamtime Water Serpent of the Australian Aborigines is not a conception that christians would even share let alone entertain as being a common but misidentified analogy of Jesus.

All those gods imagined, shaped and embellished over the centuries, those eternally-living entities of the past that are now no longer with us together with our current crop of timeless manifestations, have all been fashioned according to the cultural precepts and social imperatives of our particular group, the numbers and variations of which, collectively, far better reflect the uncountable numbers of groups, families, clans and tribes of humans that have ever lived rather than any timeless, unchanging being.

The talk of a what or a who, is an assertion not an explanation by any stretch. 'Classical Theism', 'Theistic Personalism' and all that is in-between are simply the products of an internal irresolvable bunfight between all stripes and brands of superstitious supernaturalists.

Step outside the highly prescriptive and clearly defined boundary of any one belief system [boundaries that necessarily must exist and be observed if the narrative of any one God story is to maintain its contrived consistency and cogency] for just one moment, and with the benefit of simple meta-analysis of all religions extant, Either, one only can be true [but which one?], Or, all of them are false. There is no seriously considered or viable cogent argument for a half-way house on this matter.

End of analysis. Who created Gods? Humans [without a shadow of doubt].

Ape in a Cape said...

Paps,

According to the first and last lines of your response, you started with one question (Victor's) and finished by answering another (your own).

Moreover, you admit that one religion could be true. This is a significant concession, Linton. As I read you, the plethora of conceptual and sacred entities in the world are made manifest as a result of humanity's search for the transcendent – a transcendent reality that you yourself grant as a possibility.

I'm not sure if it was your intention, but your reply seemingly encourages the continuation of the search. In fact, I'm now even less convinced that the search should not continue.

Ape.

Crude said...

Ape,

In fact, I'm now even less convinced that the search should not continue.

I like the way you put this, and it highlights a side of these discussions that is typically ignored. The usual debate is cast as 'between those who are (almost) utterly certain that God exists' and everyone else, or 'between those who are (almost) utterly certain God does not exist'.

But that leaves out a large slice of intellectual territory - such as people who aren't certain, but may be searching, or whose belief is tentative, or even pragmatic. That justification of 'searching' at all is damn important.

Papalinton said...

Ape
"Moreover, you admit that one religion could be true. This is a significant concession, Linton. As I read you, the plethora of conceptual and sacred entities in the world are made manifest as a result of humanity's search for the transcendent – a transcendent reality that you yourself grant as a possibility."

No that was not an admission, it was a concession in fairness to the possibility. But the possibility is so far short of the probability of any one of the current clutch of religions being true. As a person who seriously believes in scientifically-informed philosophy no evidence as yet has hinted let alone favoured any religion to be anything other than a human constructed cultural artifact.

You say: "I'm not sure if it was your intention, but your reply seemingly encourages the continuation of the search. In fact, I'm now even less convinced that the search should not continue."

It certainly does but it is doubtful that continued exploration into any religion extant is anything other than a route to a cul-de-sac. The Christian narrative is predicated on a model of ideas that has not advanced since it was consolidated between the 2nd and 4thC CE. The appropriation of earlier classical Greek philosophy, particularly that of Aristotle through which Aquinas married Christian supernaturalism with classical philosophy was a further turn into that cul-de-sac rather than towards elucidating reality. Thomism was a period of rationalization through which Aquinas sought to legitimate the myth of supernaturalism and accord it the imprimatur of Greek classical philosophy. I infer this because by far the bulk of contemporary 'mainstream philosophy' does not engage in, account for or utilize Thomist philosophy today in any substantive way. Why? Because it is a philosophy with a narrow band of general application. Indeed it is clear Thomist philosophy is much better suited to the pursuit of religion and theology but of very limited value in the broader picture of responding to the testing challenges for humanity going forward. An example of this misfit can be deduced from the little or no citation of Dr Feser's erudite work in Thomist philosophy in wider contemporary philosophy and his acknowledged frustration of the circumstance. It's impact in theological circles is formidable but it does not translate into the contemporary mainstream of philosophical activity.

The continuation of the search through religious and theological avenues does not account for the seismic shift in Western thought towards the strength and authority of science and away from theology as the principal explanatory tool and as a general principle. It is trending towards a much smaller role in contemporary philosophical deliberation.

If one does not properly engage in reading widely across the spectrum of philosophy today this trend will be inadvertently overlooked and consequently missed. Philosophy that is informed by, considers and accounts for the on-going discoveries in sociology, anthropology, socio-cultural studies, psychology, the neurosciences etc is beginning to join the dots of the role our predilection for imagining gods fits into the evolutionary and biological pattern underpinning the human psyche. The answers will not come from theology or theological philosophy.

B. Prokop said...

"In fact, I'm now even less convinced that the search should not continue."

Ape, while I agree with you that we must never be complacent in our thirst for Truth, another thing to keep in mind is C.S. Lewis's warning in The Great Divorce:

SPIRIT - For I will bring you to the land not of questions but of answers, and you shall see the face of God.

GHOST - Ah, but we must all interpret those beautiful words in our own way! For me there is no such thing as a final answer. The free wind of inquiry must always continue to blow through the mind, must it not? "Prove all things." To travel hopefully is better than to arrive.

SPIRIT - If that were true, and known to be true, how could anyone travel hopefully? There would be nothing to hope for.

To quote R.D. Miksa (it being appropriate to do so here), "Take care."

Ilíon said...

Ah! So the point of a "search for truth" is to actually find-and-know some truth? Why, that's practically a heresy these days, when all bien pensant persons know that the whole point of “searching” is, well, searching … and never finding, for to say that you know some truth is to prove that you do not! And that you’re “arrogant”.

BenYachov said...

I address Son-of-a-silly-person and everyone else.

>1) denying the personhood of God, and
>2) name-calling those who affirm the personhood of God.

I deny no such thing. I firmly believe God has an Intellect & Will & therefore is Personal.

I merely deny what Scripture also denies.

"God IS not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?" Numbers 23:19

"And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he IS not a man, that he should have regret." 1 Samuel 15:29

"I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath." Hosea 11:9

The Divine Nature is simply not human nature. God is not unequivocally comparable to a human person.

f God is such a thing then the Incarnation where the divine person of the word takes on a distinct human nature become redundant.

God is not an old man with a white beard with super duper faerie powers.

God is BeingItself, the Moral Law & Holiness Itself He is not a moral agent like some mere human being.


The God of Abraham, Anselm and Aquinas is the only True God.

Why waste you life worshiping some wannabe totally gay God?

Of course by gay I don't mean homosexual. I mean gay as in the DR. WHO anniversary special only having the last three Doctors and not all 12!!!!!

With CGI these days there is no excuse for such gayness!!!!

Classic Theism is the only true Theism.

Theistic Personalism blows chunks!

Cheers!

BenYachov said...

Well, I've always felt that classical theism needed to be understood in light of the necessity to not think of God as a "thing" (as I always get the feeling its proponents are trying to do).

100% correct my brother.


>God doesn't not have less personality that human beings, but infinitely more.

It is better to say the perfection of personhood in a human being exists formally, imminently, and infinitely in God.

But what you said is true as far as it goes.

>That said, I have never understood what is meant by "theistic personalism",

Treating God as if he where a disembodied non-material essentially human mind with unlimited supernatural power.

In essence the anthropomorphic magical Old man with the white beard Paps once believed in but with the body abstracted away.

Old Man White beard 2.0=Theistic personalism.

Otherwise known as a false god or idol or something faithful christians who don't know any better imagine God to be.


>so I refuse to be lumped in with them. Just call me a simple Christian, who takes Jesus at His word, when He says "Qui videt me, videt et Patrem." (John 14:9) So whenever I want to know what God is like, I look at Jesus.

In essence you choice to be Catholic & thus you can't be a Theistic Personalist!!!!!!!

Well done my brother pray for me a sinner!

Jim S. said...

I blogged about this before: But who made God?

im-skeptical said...

"The atheist objection would be "Why should this ratio equal pi?""

Give me a break. Here's a few questions for you: How do you know god always existed? How do you know the universe didn't?

Ilíon said...

B.P: "That said, I have never understood what is meant by "theistic personalism", so I refuse to be lumped in with them."

It's a strawman, much employed by a certain class of intellectually dishonest person, so as to (ahem) demonstrate the intellectual and theological inferiority of "fundamentalism", by which term the fools mean non-"liberal" Protestantism ... still not getting the point, even after the past decades we've all experienced, that to those with the goal of destroying Christianity, they, too, are "fundamentalists".

Ilíon said...

I-pretend-to-have-been-paying-attention-to-the-idea-I-hate: "Give me a break. Here's a few questions for you: How do you know god always existed? How do you know the universe didn't?"

By the AfR. If "the universe" were self-existent, then *we* cannot exist: for IF all-that-is is merely matter-in-motion, THEN our minds and thoughts and reasoning, (as we like to call the phenomenon), too, are merely matter-in-motion – that is, our “thoughts” (and the “minds” which “think” them) are caused by physical/material state-changes, rather than by a conscious and deliberate apprehension of the logical-and-truth-content, the “intentionality”, of some prior thought. But, clearly, we do exist and we do think real-and-true thoughts, which really are aimed at truth-content, and really are independent of matter-in-motion (and insupportable by it); therefore, "the universe" is not self-existent.

Hell! For that matter, there is no such thing as "the universe" unless there is a mind who is logically prior (and superior) to it, for "the universe" is itself a concept, an abstraction, a universal, a Platonic Form.

Ilíon said...

some twitty little fool: "God is BeingItself, the Moral Law & Holiness Itself He is not a moral agent … The God of Abraham, Anselm and Aquinas is the only True God."

Father Abraham, to his God:Shall not the Sovereign Lord of the universe do what is right?

B. Prokop said...

It's a good thing I don't consider myself a "philosopher" because I have little patience for arguments about, for instance, the Euthyphro dilemma. To me, the whole question is as silly (and as meaningless) as asking, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" I'm amazed that in the 2500 years since Plato first raised this so-called question, someone hasn't just laughed so hard that all the gas would go out of the balloon. So when Ben insists (usually with exclamation points) that "God is not a moral agent!", I can only shake my head. The question (as well as its answer) is without meaning.

There are times when we finite humans really ought to humbly admit that we cannot by our nature comprehend the infinite. It's where all the atheist demands for "evidence!" fall ludicrously flat.

For myself, two of the most awesome passages in the OT are:

1. when God tells Moses from out of the burning bush "I am who am" (Douay Rheims Translation)
2. when Isaiah hears the cherubim calling out "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of Hosts."

Both of these ideas are unobtainable to Man absent Divine Revelation. We could never have come up with them unaided. One: that God simply "is" (uncreated, eternal, self-sufficient, being itself and the source of all being). Two: that God is Holy. This last point especially is absolutely amazing. There is no reason for human beings to ascribe this quality to the divine. Power, yes. Wisdom, of course. Eternity, perhaps. But "Holy"? No, this we had to be told.

Ilíon said...

"Both of these ideas are unobtainable to Man absent Divine Revelation. We could never have come up with them unaided."

I disagree. Most of the Judeo-Christian conception of God's nature or essence is discoverable via reason without reference to the Divine Self-Revelation as recorded in the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Shoot, the pagans had even worked out the concept that God is three-in-one (admittedly, this was *after* we had been proclaiming it for centuries).

Somewhere in his 'The History of the Jews', Paul Johnson says something to the effect that the ancient Greeks hated the ancient Jews with a passion, and that that hatred thence passed into all of European civilization as anti-Semitism. It seems to me that if the ancient Greeks hated the ancient Jews with a such a civilization-encompassing passion, its roots must lie in wounded pride -- those "ignorant desert shepherds" understood important truths about God a thousand years and more before they did!

"One: that God simply "is" (uncreated, eternal, self-sufficient, being itself and the source of all being)."

The pagans were already groping their way to this realization long before Christianity became a social force. They would have openly understood it, eventually.

"Two: that God is Holy. This last point especially is absolutely amazing. There is no reason for human beings to ascribe this quality to the divine. Power, yes. Wisdom, of course. Eternity, perhaps. But "Holy"? No, this we had to be told."

'Holy' ('sacred') means "set apart". In this context, it means 'Separate' or 'Other' or 'Alone'.

We resist the knowledge, certainly. For the past 1500 years, the Judeo-Christian understanding that God is Other has been one of the foundationsstones of our whole continental civilization ... and yet people still insist upon understanding God in terms of Zeus.

Nevertheless, the understanding that God is Separate/Other/Alone logically follows from the understanding that God is "uncreated, eternal, self-sufficient, being itself and the source of all being".

B. Prokop said...

Ilion,

One question. Do you believe there are things unobtainable to human knowledge in the absence of revelation?

If you do so believe (as I do), then all we are quibbling about is where to draw the line.

Ape in a Cape said...

Bob,

To believe that the search itself constitutes the find is an absurdity of the will, and to believe that the find initiates the search is an abstention of the will.

My contention, simply put, was to not allow others to dissuade us from searching. If that which is sought gets found, then one would enter into an altogether different discussion.

Ape.

B. Prokop said...

"To believe that the search itself constitutes the find is an absurdity of the will, and to believe that the find initiates the search is an abstention of the will."

Wha'? Plain English, please. I can make no sense out of this.

Ilíon said...

"To believe that the search itself constitutes the find is an absurdity of the will ..."

"Plain English" translation: To believe/assert that 'searching' is superior (intellectually and/or morally) to 'finding' is a deliberate-and-willful absurdity.

I can't tell you how many times *explicit* materialists have derided me as intellectually (and morally!) inferior to themselves precisely because I believe-and-assert that I do know some true answers, and ended with some paeon to "Searching" aling these lines: "I don't claim to have *any* answers ... but at least I asked questions" ... as though there were some Cosmic Judge handing out medals for "asking questions".

"... and to believe that the find initiates the search is an abstention of the will."

"Plain English" translation: To believe/assert that one "has no choice" in believing the things one does believe is to deny-and-denegrate one's own essential nature, at least an inportant aspect of it.

Surely, we have *all* seen materialists/atheists foolishly-and-dishonsetly claiming that they don't choose to believe any of the things they assert are truths about the nature of reality and of men.

Ilíon said...

"One question. Do you believe there are things unobtainable to human knowledge in the absence of revelation?"

Absolutely ... but I don't know where that like is. However, I do know that it's not where you're drawing it.

"If you do so believe (as I do), then all we are quibbling about is where to draw the line."

Not *all*

Whether or not "reason alone" could ever have told us that is "uncreated, eternal, self-sufficient, being itself and the source of all being" or that "God is Holy" is not simply a quibble. Historical knowledge shows us that the pagans were already groping toward those two points of knowledge; reason instructs us that they likely would have arrived. Eventually.

At the same time, the pagan conception that God is impassive -- which I argue grows out of one of their unexamined cultural assumptions -- it *still* insisted upon by "classical theists" ... and even some Christians, despite that it is wholly contrary to the Divine Self-Revelation as recorded all through the Bible.

Ape in a Cape said...

Bob,

We are talking about the same thing, right? Humanity’s "search" for God?

The former is open to reductio-style argumentation and so makes no sense. The latter abstains the will by denying the find. Both approaches to searching are ultimately misguided.

Ape.

B. Prokop said...

"The former is open to reductio-style argumentation and so makes no sense. The latter abstains the will by denying the find."

I'm sorry. I am either incredibly dense (entirely possible), or we simply do not speak the same language. I have no idea what that even means.

Ape in a Cape said...

Bob,

No, I seriously doubt that. It is far more likely that I haven't explained myself well enough.

If the search for God (the means) becomes the find (the ends) then the means just IS the ends – and that makes no sense (it is an absurdity). Both perpetual searching and being perpetually disgruntled with one's find (abstaining from reasonable conclusions) is ultimately fruitless.

You sound as though you are content with your find – so congratulations. Others are still searching, and my point would be that I would not want to dissuade them.

Ape.

Papalinton said...

Ape
When you say, " ... the search for god ..." what do mean?

1. Is it a search to establish whether gods exist? Or,
2. Is it a search of a rationale for life, a euphemism for finding a meaning in life? Or,
3. Is it a reactive response to life's imponderables that merely being conscious of our own existence throws up into our face, by which we look to faith over fact to mitigate if not eliminate psychological cognitive dissonance and the painful awareness of our own mortality?

Ape in a Cape said...

Linton,

The search for God manifests itself in people's lives in various different ways. Why people search and how they search can be outlined in the few points you mentioned, though I suspect there are many more factors involved as well. Still, I know you know this already. For instance, the reasons for your own decade's long search and commitment within the foundry of your former faith may well be different than others who are either just beginning their search or presently maintaining their commitment.

Ape.

B. Prokop said...

Thanks, Ape. Alles klar!

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>Give me a break. Here's a few questions for you: How do you know god always existed? How do you know the universe didn't?

You should know the answer to that, since I've given you the First Way argument dozens of times.

Papalinton said...

Ape

And "For instance, the reasons for your own decade's long search and commitment within the foundry of your former faith may well be different than others who are either just beginning their search or presently maintaining their commitment. "

What does this mean? Now that I am no longer searching for God, not just any God but the Christian God specifically, are you suggesting that my search might either be a stalled 'work in progress' or a willful rejection of that particular God now that I have found and rejected him?
What meaning are you trying to convey in your sentence that would help in my not speculating?

As I read your "The search for God manifests itself in people's lives in various different ways", I must say it was not a surprise and indeed not an unexpected comment. For me a punt to 'yes! to all of them' is a singularly unhelpful answer because it reflects a level of disengagement or an unwillingness to seriously consider the important differences between the three points. I say unhelpful because it does not clearly illustrate nor shed any light on what you, personally, understand by the phrase, 'the search for God.' I am interested in what you mean when you utter the words, 'the search for God', not a generic one-size-fits-all response.

I say unhelpful because it resonates with so many other instances when pressed to be clear all that results is a largely meaningless catch-all response. And this is not an isolated instance by any means, even to the same question to different audiences. For example to the question asked, What was Jesus's last words from the Cross?

Was it:
In Matthew and Mark :
My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? (last words. He dies)

In Luke:
Father, into your hands I commit my spirit (last words. He dies)

In John:
It is finished (last words. He dies)

Can you anticipate what the response was? It was, 'Jesus said all of them'. A most unhelpful defense with little serious thought applied.

I would appreciate your response to what it is you mean when you say, "the search for God."

Ape in a Cape said...

Linton,

I'm not suggesting anything other than that your experience is not normative for all seekers. After all, how could it? You're just an individual.

Moreover, it seems to me that once again you are projecting the murmurings of your own mind onto others people's views. Why can't I think that the search for God be nuanced or multi-faceted? Because you don't like it, or don't get it? Because you don't understand, don't care for, or don't sanction the Gospel accounts? Because you don't receive the viewpoint you want from viewpoint questions? They "are" viewpoint questions, after all.

It's too bad that you find my views unhelpful or disengaging. If you really do want to engage distinctions rather than just views with those here, then pick one and just say so.

Ape.

Papalinton said...

Ape
You still seem to be extraordinarily reluctant to open up and make clear what you mean. All this stuff about 'nuanced or multi-faceted', 'don't like it', or 'don't get it' isn't the issue.

You say to Bob: "If the search for God (the means) becomes the find (the ends) then the means just IS the ends – and that makes no sense (it is an absurdity)."

As you would know or it would be a pretty astute observation that I consider 'the search for God' a meaningless and misguided concept. And I would have left it at that, which invariably would be followed by, in usual fashion, being discounted as not understanding what I read and all the usual epithets of about low-intellect etc. But what triggered my interest is after some platitudes to Bob your next statement was intriguing: "Others are still searching, and my point would be that I would not want to dissuade them.". What are they searching for, what is the holy grail you have in mind they are looking for as intended in your words, 'the search for God'.

It is known from confirmatory research in psychology, neurosciences, and mind studies across a broad range of disciplines, that within human and other primate species there is an all-consuming inquisitiveness, an unquenchable curiosity. By happenstance of history, religion and religious belief was the principal field of scholarship that captured and directed much of that curiosity. Since the Enlightenment, when science cleaved from theology as a stand-alone, independent discipline in its own right, whatever drove that existential curiosity was no longer adequately met by theology and theologically-informed philosophy :

"The dramatic success of the new science in explaining the natural world, in accounting for a wide variety of phenomena by appeal to a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae, promotes philosophy (in the broad sense of the time, which includes natural science) from a handmaiden of theology, constrained by its purposes and methods, to an independent force with the power and authority to challenge the old and construct the new, in the realms both of theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Over the next 300 years or so, accelerating almost exponentially during the 20thC, that drive or need for search has been directed almost totally away from theology towards science as the primary investigative methodology and the prime explanatory tool in finding out all there is about us, the world, the environment, the cosmos.

So it is with interest that I ask what it is that you are talking about when you say the phrase, 'the search for God'.

Papalinton said...

Corrigendum

".. religion and religious belief was the principal field of scholarship ..." should read: " .. religion and religious studies was the principal field of scholarship .. "

Ape in a Cape said...

Linton,

And you still seem to be extraordinarily recalcitrant to open up to the idea that I might just be attempting to be clear after all.

Here are a couple of dictionary definitions.

Search: To look at or examine (a person, object, etc.) carefully in order to find something concealed.

God: The one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.

Hopefully that clears things up.

Ape.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

I heard the first way long before I heard it from you. But it is based on certain premises that, as far as I'm concerned, are baseless. What if the universe exists necessarily. Can you say for sure that it doesn't? What if was created not by any god, but by some science experiment, or even by accident? How do you know it wasn't. The truth is, you don't. Every one of Aquinas' arguments are based on assumptions that people take for granted, without ever questioning whether they are true (mostly because they don't want to).

Martin said...

If you really were aware of the First Way, you would know the answer to every question you just asked.

For example, the universe is changeable. It was once a singularity and will eventually expand until it is heat dead. As something changeable, it consists of actuality and potentiality. Ergo, it cannot be the first principle. Perhaps our universe was created by alien scientists. But those scientists would themselves be changeable and hence actuality and potentiality. And so they too would not be the first principle.

Which premises of the argument are assumptions?

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another"

"nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion"

These assumptions claim without justification that nothing happens spontaneously, and that everything is directed toward some goal.

Prove it.

BenYachov said...

>These assumptions claim without justification that nothing happens spontaneously, and that everything is directed toward some goal.

>Prove it.

No it assumes realism & that our senses tell us something true about the nature of being that whatever changes is changed by another.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

So I presume your other questions have been satisfied, then?

>These assumptions claim without justification that nothing happens spontaneously

It doesn't claim that at all. What it claims is that something potential cannot make itself actual. The justification is that a potential is non-existent, so it can't very well do anything. I'm sure you agree that a non-existent unicorn cannot impale you on its horn. That is the justification for this premise.

Spontaneously-acting objects are entirely consistent with this, because the existence of spontaneously-acting objects is still a potential that must be made actual by further conditions. For example, "virtual particles" are fluctuations in the energy field in a vacuum, but for such fluctuations to occur, they must be made actual by further conditions, such as an actual energy field, actual physical laws that allow them, actual instability that leads to the fluctuation in the first place, and so on.

im-skeptical said...

Ok, so far we have:

To prove "Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another":
> "our senses tell us something true about the nature of being that whatever changes is changed by another."
> "a potential is non-existent, so it can't very well do anything. ... the existence of spontaneously-acting objects is still a potential that must be made actual by further conditions."

To prove "nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion"
> ""


Sorry, but I don't find this satisfactory as proof of those assertions.

Martin said...

>I don't find this satisfactory as proof of those assertions.

You don't find it satisfactory that a non-existent cannot do anything...?

So you go around worried that unicorns might punch holes in your car, or that superman will save you if you get in trouble.

Chris said...

I find it interesting that materialists always dismiss supernaturalism on the grounds that it's merely magic/myth/superstition.

But, when pressed with rational cosmological arguments, they reject them with an appeals to magic/myth/superstition.

im-skeptical said...

Chris,

"But, when pressed with rational cosmological arguments, they reject them with an appeals to magic/myth/superstition."

I merely asked for proof of the assertions in the argument. I haven't seen anything remotely resembling a proof yet. If you can prove them, feel free to do so.

Martin said...

I just did prove it to you. You have not responded as of yet. Namely, that something that does not exist cannot enter into causal relations with anything, and therefore cannot make itself become actual.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"something that does not exist cannot enter into causal relations with anything, and therefore cannot make itself become actual"

That statement is not something I take particular issue with. But to say that "a potential is non-existent" doesn't make sense. You need to define your terms better. Do you mean objects have no potential? Do you mean there is no such thing as potential? Would Aristotle agree with you?

Martin said...

If you don't know what a potential even is, then how can you possibly say that it is "baseless"? That's a neat trick: just knowing that an argument must be unsound even though you don't know how it works.

A potential is the future state something can be in, or even something that does not exist now but could exist in the future. The coffee cup is actually on your desk, but potentially spilled on the floor.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

I happen to agree that potential (in the Aristotelian sense) is non-existent. But I don't think that's what you mean. So why don't you clarify what you mean by 'non-existent'?

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

Chris said: 'I find it interesting that materialists always dismiss supernaturalism on the grounds that it's merely magic/myth/superstition."

Well it is. Supernaturalism is the ancient primitive lucky dip grab-bag in which all the boogie- and woo- gie-men live, such as seraphim. nephilim, devils, gods, ghosts, unicorns, behemoths imps and other things that go bump in the night. I can't see where the argument for the non-existence of these putatively live entities can be any clearer.

Do you believe in the reality of the elephant god, Ganesha? Or the flying horse of the Abrahamic god? Well then. Case closed.

So easy, really.

Papalinton said...

Ape
"And you still seem to be extraordinarily recalcitrant to open up to the idea that I might just be attempting to be clear after all."

Proves my point. You're not serious.

Martin said...

The state of your coffee cup on the floor does not exist yet. So it cannot make itself actual. It must be made actual by, e.g., your actual arm pushing it onto the floor.

Crude said...

Ape,

Hey there. Pardon me if you've read this (indeed, if you've read it dozens of times - I bring it up as needed, and I don't know how long you've lurked), but in your attempted engagement with Kilopapalinton, do keep one thing in mind.

He's a plagiarist who steals other's words in order to present himself as knowledgeable, among other things. If you want to engage him, that's more than fine - your call and all that. But you seem sincere and have interesting ideas, and I didn't want you to end up wasting your time on a guy who is, at the end of the day, pretty much on the same level as that 'kilopapa' guy who shows up here now and then - but merely more verbose. There's a reason most of us just laugh at and ignore him, save for some mockery here and there.

I take it by what you say that you're an agnostic who still searches for God or the godlike. Nice to see that approach, as I said.

Dan Gillson said...

Papalinton accuses someone of not being serious? Did he say it with a straight face? What a wanker.

Ape in a Cape said...

Be careful of those points, Linton. They can be sharp. ;)

Ape.

Ape in a Cape said...

Thanks for the advice, Crude.

Occasionally Linton comes out with something worth commenting on, but when his speech just reflects the irate ravings of a self-invested, nit-picking naysayer then I'm more than happy to leave him be. Ethicists and sociologists like Lonnie Kliever, Bryan Wilson, and Rodney Stark have examined the motifs and atrocity stories promulgated by religious defectors and apostates in great detail. Linton's experience is one that has been told several times over and his experience seems typical of someone who continually seeks to reaffirm their departure and disaffection through a process of intellectual rationalization. After all, leaving a religion based solely on intellectual grounds seems heroic – a triumph of post-enlightenment man. In reality, however, most leave-takers are embroiled by multiple motivations and intellectualize their departure only after their exit.

Of course, I can't say for sure where or how Linton currently stands, but I've seen enough of these types of folks to know that the research in this area is representative of the rule rather than the exception.

Ape.

Crude said...

Fair enough, Ape. Just so long as you know what you're getting into.

Ethicists and sociologists like Lonnie Kliever, Bryan Wilson, and Rodney Stark have examined the motifs and atrocity stories promulgated by religious defectors and apostates in great detail. Linton's experience is one that has been told several times over and his experience seems typical of someone who continually seeks to reaffirm their departure and disaffection through a process of intellectual rationalization. After all, leaving a religion based solely on intellectual grounds seems heroic – a triumph of post-enlightenment man. In reality, however, most leave-takers are embroiled by multiple motivations and intellectualize their departure only after their exit.

I'll have to read up on that some more. I have a crude (ha ha) understanding of what you're talking about, and experience bears it out, but I wasn't aware this was something discussed and studied beyond that Paul Vitz book I never read. I also know it's not exclusive to atheists, of course.

Anyway, back to work for me. Hopefully you find some productive dialogue around here.

Papalinton said...

Lonnie Kliever, Bryan Wilson, and Rodney Stark?

Now I know you really are not serious. What is the lowest common denominator in Klever, Wilson, Stark and Ape? They are all [pejoratively] woo-meisters. They all have a vested interest in inveigling religious superstitious and supernaturalist nonsense wherever it can be imprinted or drilled into the community. Quite unseemly, really.
Was I surprised Ape selected Christian apologists as his source for sociology and ethics? Hardly. But of course that is not much of a worry for me because religion is inexorably rightsizing to a marginal rump in society as we speak. The trend to humanism and secularism is well and truly approaching the break-even point when religion will no longer be accorded undeserved and unwarranted deference going forward.

I'm sorry Ape, but along with crude you are just another frumpy christian apparatchik peddling the same old same old christian ideology from one christian to the next in an ever decreasing circle of relevancy.

im-skeptical said...

"Hopefully you find some productive dialogue around here."

You know, because crude is always interested in nothing more than promoting productive discussion.

Ape in a Cape said...

Linton,

Sounds like you don't like the peer-review system unless you've had a chance to review the peers first. Ironically, disaffected religious folk are exactly the kinds of people that need to research this issue the most... It might just help you to play a bit nicer in the sandpit.

Ape.

Papalinton said...

"Ironically, disaffected religious folk are exactly the kinds of people that need to research this issue the most.. .."

No. What is ironic is that (1) I am certainly not disaffected, (2) I'm not religious in any sense of the word, and (3) it is precisely for the research I undertook that led be to a more all-encompassing naturalistic worldview away from the highly impounded, prescriptive, tribal and internecine nature of religious belief and its ingratiating obsequiousness.

I am a nice boy in the sandpit. I simply have no time for playing with bigots, woo-meisters, with supernaturalists and their coterie of unseeable little mates. I am not interested in conversing with supposed live entities that reside across the natural/supernatural divide nor have any need to extend that sociality beyond the human world to a [putative] realm of non-human agents who also apparently interact with us socially. It is just too bizarre that anyone in the 21stC could even imagine this a reality let alone converse with them, and not be suspect of having a screw loose.

Religion? Demons and gods and ghosts and spirits? Well, it's just not ..... kosher any more.

What I am interested in is mitigating the institutional shamanic features and practices of religious belief and its undue influence in today's community, features that rightly should be consigned to the pages of history. I want people to grow up and mature into adulthood, not be 'born again'.

Ilíon said...

Chris: "I find it interesting that materialists always dismiss supernaturalism on the grounds that it's merely magic/myth/superstition.

But, when pressed with rational cosmological arguments, they reject them with an appeals to magic/myth/superstition.
"

It doesn't have to be a cosmological argument ... *any* rational argument -- if the rational person will only hold his ground, no matter the shrieking and/or insults hurled his way -- will sooner or later, and generally sooner, prompt atheists (any of them!) to retreat into the fever swamps of irrationality.

Observe --
Martin: "Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another
...
nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion
"

To put that into more modern English -- "whatever is changing is being changed by something other than or 'outside of' itself" and "nothing can be changing except that it possesses the potential to be that to which it is changing"

I-pretend-to-be-scientifical: "These assumptions claim without justification that nothing happens spontaneously, and that everything is directed toward some goal."

And so as to reject these conclusions (which he pretends are purely presuppositions), 'I-pretend-to-value-Science!' appeals to the irrational-and-absurd (to say nothing of anti-scientific) presuppositions that things can happen without cause and that things can be changing without changing to.

Ilíon said...

Martin, to the 'Science!'-fetishist: "So you go around worried that unicorns might punch holes in your car, or that superman will save you if you get in trouble."

Oh! It's far worse than that, what these 'Science!'-fetish fools worry about. Just some of the things, non-exhaustivey, that their atheism, were it rational and they logically consistent, compels them to worry could happen at any time --
* Earth's gravity will spontaneously "stop working" for a few minutes;
* All the oxygen molecules (that is the correct term, foolish fetishist) in the crowded auditoriun in which they are presently trapped will spontaneously cluster at the ceiling, 20 feet overhead, for ten minutes.
* Water molecules on Earth will spontaneously begin to crystalize at 100F and vaporize at 101F.
* The Moon will spontaneously break into a dozen separate chunks, most of which will then fall to Earth.

After all, it's 'Science!'

Ape in a Cape said...

Linton,

Well, for someone who has no time for bigots and woo-meisters, you sure spend an awful lot of time trolling this forum. Anyone would think that you really don't mean what you say... Surely not.

Ape.

im-skeptical said...

"'I-pretend-to-value-Science!' appeals to the irrational-and-absurd (to say nothing of anti-scientific) presuppositions that things can happen without cause and that things can be changing without changing to."

So, master of the rational, you take Aquinas' assertions as being conclusions. Fine. Please tell us what logical argument he used to arrive at those 'conclusions'. What are the logical steps that led to them? Do you accept Martin's ever-so-logical explanation, which was nothing more than a restatement of the assertion?

Martin said...

I'm-skeptical

What are you talking about? I supplied support for that premise and you agreed with it, and offered no objections. Now suddenly it's guilty of some other problem....?

im-skeptical said...

Ilion,

"So, given what 'scientistes' believe and assert about the nature of reality [referring to relativity], how can their denial of, and refusal to believe, any of the miracles recorded in the Bible be anything other than selective hyper-skepticism, which is to say, intellectual dishonesty?"

Your ignorance comes across loud and clear. It speaks for itself.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

I said that Aquinas statement in the first way: "Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another" (for one) is an unsupported assertion.

Forgive me. Ben's response was a restatement of the assertion. Yours was the assertion that potential is non-existent, so it can't make itself actual. I repeatedly asked you to explain that, and so far you haven't.

What I agreed with is that something that doesn't exist can't actualize itself. I also agreed that Aristotelian 'potential' doesn't exist (because, like the rest of his woo, it's sheer fantasy). But that misses the real issue. Things can and do happen spontaneously. The non-existence of this 'potential' has nothing to do with the reality.

So if you would like to make a real logical argument, start with your premises, and provide justification for them. Why should I believe this crap about 'potential' and 'actualization' in the first place? Is there any rational justification for it, or is it merely an assertion that you buy? If you can justify those things, then by all means, use them as premises for further arguments like the cosmological argument. But I have never seen any real logical justification for them, nor any empirical evidence to support them. So don't expect me to swallow them the way you do.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

>I also agreed that Aristotelian 'potential' doesn't exist (because, like the rest of his woo, it's sheer fantasy).

It isn't fantasy at all. It simply means: the future state something can change to.

You surely believe that later you can go to sleep, right? So right now you are potentially asleep but not actually asleep. You use this concept daily, but you just don't label it with the word "potential". The concept is there, however.

>Things can and do happen spontaneously.

I already answered this, above:

Spontaneously-acting objects are entirely consistent with this, because the existence of spontaneously-acting objects is still a potential that must be made actual by further conditions. For example, "virtual particles" are fluctuations in the energy field in a vacuum, but for such fluctuations to occur, they must be made actual by further conditions, such as an actual energy field, actual physical laws that allow them, actual instability that leads to the fluctuation in the first place, and so on.

>I have never seen any real logical justification for them, nor any empirical evidence to support them.

Of course you do. All day long. You most likely transitioned from being potentially in the bathroom, to being actually in the bathroom.



Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

All you ever do is gainsay your opponent. Martin has explained to you what a potential is:

"A potential is the future state something can be in, or even something that does not exist now but could exist in the future."

"A potential is non-existent … something that does not exist cannot enter into causal relations with anything, and therefore cannot make itself become actual"

Martin even explained how spontaneity is compatible with the actuality/potentiality dichotomy:

"Spontaneously-acting objects are entirely consistent with this, because the existence of spontaneously-acting objects is still a potential that must be made actual by further conditions. For example, "virtual particles" are fluctuations in the energy field in a vacuum, but for such fluctuations to occur, they must be made actual by further conditions, such as an actual energy field, actual physical laws that allow them, actual instability that leads to the fluctuation in the first place, and so on."

The only thing you've said in response to Martin so far is, "Nuh-uh." You've said, "Nuh-uh, you haven't explained potentiality" (he did); you've said, "Nuh-uh, you haven't made a logical argument" (he did); you've said, "Nuh-uh, you haven't provided empirical evidence to support your claim" (again, he did). No wonder why people get frustrated with you.

im-skeptical said...

Dan, Martin,

OK, sure there's a philosophical view of potential and actuality, and then there's physics. I get it. Aristotle defined his physics in terms of these things, and they have stuck with some of us ever since. These days, some people try to reconcile our current understanding of physics with the ancient ideas, and they manage to keep the Aristotelian notions alive by explaining them in light of what we understand now. But modern physics is not dependent in any way on those notions. They are superfluous.

So if you say something has 'potential' to become something else, that's great, but it adds nothing to my understanding. A piece of mineral is potentially part of a ring, or a roadbed, or a machine, or murder weapon. Sure, any of those things could happen, but you never know what will become of something (actualization) until it happens, or until you work out what (real) physical forces and processes act upon it. So what value is there in the Aristotelian notion of potential? What does it really explain? It's not something you can detect or measure. It isn't useful in knowing what might happen in the future. It is nothing but part of an obsolete explanation of how things work.

Accuse me of gainsaying if you must. I can return the accusation. My contention is that when arguments are based on this ancient understanding, there must be some genuine justification for me to accept those assertions, because a modern view of the world has no such concepts.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

Don't move the goalposts.

Your contention was that "These assumptions claim without justification that nothing happens spontaneously, and that everything is directed toward some goal."

I have shown you how a potential future state of something cannot make itself actual because that state does not yet exist. And so to be made actual, the potential needs something already actual to make it so. To become part of a ring, the mineral needs an actual (real, existent) miner or whatever to do dig it out and make it so.

Your contention was never that "actual/potential" does not explain anything", nor was it that "modern physics is not dependent on these notions".

So I take it I have adequately addressed your "what caused God" objections, and your "the premise is unjustified" objection....?

Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

You're partly right: potentiality and actuality are superfluous scientific notions. What they aren't, though, are superfluous empirical notions. Insofar as our empirical notions supply our scientific notions with any content at all, something that Wilfred Sellars argues for in his essay, "Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man," notions like potentiality and actuality supply science with the requisite concepts to conduct enquiry:

"[T]he categories of theoretical science are logically dependent on categories pertaining to its methodological foundation in the manifest world of sophisticated common sense [i.e. empiricism] in such a way that there would be an absurdity in the notion of a world which illustrated its theoretical principles without also illustrating the categories and principles of the manifest world."

Meaning that without the sort of content supplied by the categories according to which we experience of the world, scientific theories would be detached from the world they purport to
explain. The notions of potentiality and actuality actually aren't superfluous because they help connect scientific our scientific explanations of the world to the world we experience.

Dan Gillson said...

This is an amusing little piece on Aristotle, evidence, science. Enjoy.

im-skeptical said...

"And so to be made actual, the potential needs something already actual to make it so."

Or you could say that physical forces acting on something make it move or change. There is no actualization, because that implies that there is some ultimate goal toward which a thing strives. But in reality, it's forces that push something one way or another, with no goal in mind. There is no 'actuality'. A person might be 'actualized' as a great teacher in one moment, a hospital patient in the next moment, and worm food after that. It's all driven by the forces of nature, not by potential becoming actualized.

As far as spontaneous events are concerned, even forces (as we understand them) don't apply. An atomic nucleus decays spontaneously, and emits a particle. There is no determinate causal factor - no way to predict when such an event might occur. It just happens spontaneously. You might speculate that there's still some particular thing making it happen. But that would be pure speculation.

Martin said...

> that implies that there is some ultimate goal toward which a thing strives. But in reality, it's forces that push something one way or another, with no goal in mind.

I never said anything about a goal, nor does the premise. That is the Fifth Way you are thinking of, which is not being argued here. What is being argued here is your objection that "it is based on certain premises that, as far as I'm concerned, are baseless."


I presume then that your objection has been satisfied. That the premise is fully supported by arguing that no potential can make itself actual, because a potential does not exist yet. You seemed to agree with this, and now you are again moving the goalposts.

Do not move the goalposts a third time.

Martin said...

Dan,

"There is no such thing as an afternoon without Aristotle."

Hee!

im-skeptical said...

Good article, Dan. I happen to believe that accommodation ought to be a two-way street, and there's very little of it to go around here.

I have an understanding of Aristotle's concepts, but I don't accept them. Others do, and that's fine. But I do like to have evidence before I believe something.

Martin, to me the term 'actualization' certainly does imply a goal. It is becoming. It is moving toward something. And if I understand Aristotle at all, that's his view. But in nature, I see little evidence that things move toward a goal. Rather, they are influenced by everything around them. They are pushed this way and that. Those two views are fundamentally different, and I'm not at all sure that they can be compatible.

In answer to your question, I'm sure it satisfies you because it fits your worldview, but it doesn't fit mine, so it doesn't satisfy me.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"I have an understanding of Aristotle's concepts, but I don't accept them."

Sorry to break it to you, no, you do not understand Aristotle.

And while I am at it:

"An atomic nucleus decays spontaneously, and emits a particle. There is no determinate causal factor - no way to predict when such an event might occur. It just happens spontaneously. You might speculate that there's still some particular thing making it happen. But that would be pure speculation."

First, "happening spontaneously" != "no determinate causal factor"; it is the latter that is relevant to the cosmological arguments, but QM only deals with the former -- sort of; I am just accepting it for the sake of argument, things are actually more complicated. Second, and as a corollary, you are likewise speculating much beyond what the current known science allows.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

Don't move the goalposts. The issue was not your acceptance/non-acceptance of Aristotle's metaphysics. The issue was concerning the premise that "whatever is actualized is actualized by something already actual", which you claimed was an unjustified assumption.

Now that I have showed you how that premise is justified, your objection has been answered...?

grodrigues said...

"Don't move the goalposts."

Fourth time and counting.

im-skeptical said...

"Don't move the goalposts. The issue was not your acceptance/non-acceptance of Aristotle's metaphysics. The issue was concerning the premise that "whatever is actualized is actualized by something already actual", which you claimed was an unjustified assumption."

Well, I tried to explain why I don't accept your explanation. I think it is in fact based on Aristotle's physics/metaphysics. "whatever is actualized is actualized by something already actual". That's an assumption based on Aristotle's concepts. It's your explanation, not mine. I'm not moving the goalposts. I'm trying (without success) to get you to understand why I don't buy your Aristotelian explanation.

Martin said...

Well, I tried.

I give up.

im-skeptical said...

" Second, and as a corollary, you are likewise speculating much beyond what the current known science allows."

Sorry, grodrigues, but the literature of physics is full of mentions of spontaneous events. It would be speculation to say you know what causes the events to happen when they do. Please don't try to emulate crude.

Crude said...

Martin,

Well, I tried.

I give up.


I've been staying out of this one largely to show something - it's not my attitude which makes Skep impossible to teach, or even converse with. When he first arrived, I went through these same motions of attempting to explain things to him so he could understand. I had about as much success.

The guy ignores points he doesn't like, and if he can't ignore them, he starts mangling them. Scientific, philosophical, historical - it doesn't really matter.

Nice attempt though. You were patient, you were fair, you were considerate. Fat lot of good that did, eh?

Martin said...

Yes, it's pretty frustrating. To be fair, I have the same issue with many Christians, such as on topics concerning global warming and evolution.

I think the problem is largely political. Politics leads to tribalism and tribalism leads to people's brains shutting down. I rarely agree with Less Wrong (ironic name), but I think this article is more or less correct.

Crude said...

Martin,

Yes, it's pretty frustrating. To be fair, I have the same issue with many Christians, such as on topics concerning global warming and evolution.

No argument there. I'm not pretending this is an exclusively atheist thing. But man, the Cult of Gnu in particular breeds a certain class of atheist, just as other subgroups breed other certain sorts.

I think the problem is largely political. Politics leads to tribalism and tribalism leads to people's brains shutting down.

Yep.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Sorry, grodrigues, but the literature of physics is full of mentions of spontaneous events. It would be speculation to say you know what causes the events to happen when they do."

You did not read what I said (hint: spontaneous events does not mean what you think it does).

Besides, I am going to pull rank here; you may be a skeptic, proficient and knowledgeable of all manner of things scientifick, with a high school education, a successful career and a strong google-fu, and untainted by that pestiferous thing called "Thomistic logic", but I have undergraduate studies in physics (with a strong experimental component) and a phd in mathematics. And before you complain, the title of my thesis was "homotopy quantum field theories". I have had discussions (plural) about QM with professional physicists (one in this very blog), so believe me, I do know what I am talking about, you don't.

im-skeptical said...

Is it just me, or does anyone else here agree that the concept of potential and actuality is Aristotelian? Just what are you trying to teach me, Martin? That this potential and actuality stuff is part of a modern framework of understanding and I just don't get it? Why don't you try looking it up for yourself. Type it into Google and see what comes up. And then tell me what part of it I'm not getting.

And grodrigues, please tell me what I think a spontaneous event is.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

Ugh.

I'm trying to teach you that the premise in question is not just assumed, but justified. A potential (WHETHER THERE IS SUCH A THING OR NOT) cannot make itself actual because then it would have to already exist (because only existent things can cause anything) and not exist (because it's merely a potential and not yet real), which is a logical contradiction.

Do you see how the premise in question is not just assumed, but in fact justified via logical argument?

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"And grodrigues, please tell me what I think a spontaneous event is."

Already did.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"A potential (WHETHER THERE IS SUCH A THING OR NOT) cannot make itself actual because then it would have to already exist (because only existent things can cause anything) and not exist (because it's merely a potential and not yet real), which is a logical contradiction."

OK. Let's assume you're attempting to communicate, and you're not talking about Aristotelian 'potential and actuality'. Then what on earth do you define as a 'potential'? And why do you refer to is as if it were a thing, if it doesn't exist? Perhaps if you just defined your terms in clear language and drop the A-T terminology, we'd be able to understand each other.

It is not a logical contradiction to say that something happens without a cause, although I agree that it is a contradiction (and very strange) to say that something that doesn't exist causes something to happen. That's not what I say. Consider a spontaneous nuclear decay event (Yes, grodrigues, there are such events, your undergraduate-level education in physics notwithstanding). There isn't anything called 'a potential' involved, especially if, as you say, these 'potential' things (whatever they are) don't even exist. The event simply happens. If you want to prove that something makes it happen, please explain that in terms of things that actually do exist, not things that don't exist, because that explanation is absurd. What makes a spontaneous event happen? If you can't explain that, then you have not proven your point.

If you think your logic is sound, perhaps expressing it as a syllogism would make it more clear to me (and everyone else, too). That way, I'd be able to see clearly that it is sound logic.

Papalinton said...

grodrigues
"... but I have undergraduate studies in physics (with a strong experimental component) and a phd in mathematics. And before you complain, the title of my thesis was "homotopy quantum field theories". I have had discussions (plural) about QM with professional physicists (one in this very blog), so believe me, I do know what I am talking about, you don't."

And still you doggedly persist in imagining a three-day-old dead putrescent cadaver magically revivified without any material physical effect and goes on to party with his cronies, imbibing a little grappa and munching chicken. What a way to waste an education. And you know what you're talking about?

Give us a break.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Yes, grodrigues, there are such events, your undergraduate-level education in physics notwithstanding."

For the third time, read what I said. Not that you do or you ever will.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

You said:

> "happening spontaneously" != "no determinate causal factor".

You also said: "but QM only deals with the former", so you agree that there are spontaneous events. The definition of spontaneous is "Happening or arising without apparent external cause; self-generated."

So go on to say: "it is the latter that is relevant to the cosmological arguments", but the first way of Thomas does say that things don't move themselves - that is, there are no self-caused or spontaneous events. So the 'former' is quite relevant to the argument. From that, I can only conclude that you are confused, even as you accuse me of "speculating much beyond what the current known science allows."

Exactly what speculation have I engaged in in this little discussion? I'm not the one who claims that there must be a cause for spontaneous events, without having any idea what that cause might be.

I have asked Martin to prove that assertion, and his best answer appears to be: "a non-existent potential can't actualize itself" or something to that effect, which sound to me like A-T mumbo-jumbo, and certainly doesn't prove his assertion in any caseeersuan 13.

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

@im-skeptical:

Sigh...

"The definition of spontaneous is "Happening or arising without apparent external cause; self-generated.""

You are equivocating. Badly. You do not know the technical meanings of the words, pull up google and think you have it figured out just to embarass yourself. Again and again. What you have to show is:

(A) QM events are a-causal in the *relevant* sense, relevant to Aquinas' arguments.

But you cannot show (A) purely on physical considerations alone, not even in principle. And in fact, at least in one sense, you *better* not show it, as it would be self-contradictory.

Of course, QM does *not* say that events are a-causal (in the relevant sense); what it can be plausibly construed to say is something else, irrelevant to the arguments, and when I say "plausibly construed", I mean that all sorts of qualifications must be added, loopholes mentioned, and philosophical considerations adduced (yes, the problem is philosophical), etc.

"I'm not the one who claims that there must be a cause for spontaneous events, without having any idea what that cause might be."

If you categorically pronounce that nobody has any "idea what that cause might be", then you *cannot* categorically pronounce that there is *no* cause. To not know what the cause is (not that this is the case, just accepting it for the sake of argument) does not entail that there is no cause -- but this whole shenanigan is just a massive case of equivocation, because "cause" has a specific technical meaning in the context of the cosmological arguments and that is what must be addressed.

Ilíon said...

Martin (to I-pretend-to-value-Reason!): "Do you see how the premise in question is not just assumed, but in fact justified via logical argument?"

Of course he "sees" it; the problem is that he cannot *admit* it.

im-skeptical said...

"What you have to show is: "

nothing.

I'm not making an assertion. I'm asking Martin to justify the assertion that he makes. HE says those events are caused. HE needs to show it. It's his assertion, not mine.

"Of course, QM does *not* say that events are a-causal (in the relevant sense)"

That's not the point.

"If you categorically pronounce that nobody has any "idea what that cause might be", then you *cannot* categorically pronounce that there is *no* cause."

I made no such claim. All I said was that Martin needs to prove what he claims. And he hasn't.

Martin's argument: "What it claims is that something potential cannot make itself actual. The justification is that a potential is non-existent, so it can't very well do anything."

1. A potential is non-existent.
2. That which is non-existent can't do anything.
3. Therefore something potential can't make itself actual.

Let's put this in more concrete terms. We'll use the example of a body in space that has heat, and it cools by radiating heat. (The warm body is potentially cool, and is actualized as a cool body.)

1. The potential cool body is non-existent.
2. That which is non-existent can't do anything.
3. Therefore the potential cool body can't make itself cool.

This is an absurd argument. It concludes that something that doesn't exist (a potential) can't be the cause of an event (the actuality). OK, but it doesn't conclude that all events must be caused by something. That would be a non-sequitur. (Any thoughts on that, Dan?)

The REAL warm, body radiates heat (all by itself), and becomes cool, without anything acting upon it. That's reality.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

I already answered your objection about spontaneously acting objects. See my response at October 15, 2013 8:17 AM

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"This is an absurd argument."

Congratulations, you managed to make an argument, albeit an absurd one.

Dan Gillson said...

You want my thoughts, Skep? I think you keep shifting the burden. You first asked Martin to prove what you thought to be one of Aquinas's assumptions, viz., that nothing happens spontaneously. Martin responded by saying that you misunderstood Aquinas's point. The premises "Whatever is in motion is put in motion by another" and "Nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that which it is in motion" assume that what an object potentially is isn't its current state, and that in order for the potential state of an object to be actualized, the preceding state of affairs which causes the potential state of the object to be actualized must be also be actual, i.e., the state of affairs can't be potential, i.e., the state of affairs must exist. Aristotle's account is entirely compatible with spontaneous events. The conditions under which things spontaneously occur aren't potential conditions, but actual ones, i.e., they are existing conditions.

From there you subtly shift the burden of argument from "Aquinas's premises assume that nothing happens spontaneously" to "Aquinas's premise, 'Whatever is in motion is put in option by another' is an unsupported assertion." Then you go on how potentiality and actuality are crap notions, how Aristotle's philosophy is "woo," and how you've never seen any logical justification for the cosmological argument. After that, the burden shifts from "Aquinas's premises are unsupported" to "You guys need to convince me to believe in Aristotelean woo." Well, that's impossible. You've set the bar too high. No one can convince you of Aristotelean woo because you clearly refuse to find any value in Aristotle's philosophy, which, despite what others may think here, is fine. But don't act like you're trying to argue in good faith about Aristotle when you really just want to smear shit on the walls. That's poor form.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

Thanks for replying. No goal shifting at all, at least in my view. All I asked for is a substantiation of the assertions in the first way. One of those was "Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another". I don't mind if they're based on Aristotelian principles, but I still think it's perfectly fair to question whether any assertion is justified by logic or evidence.

So Martin tells me that the justification is that a potential doesn't exist and so it can't move itself. By the very same logic I could say that a potential doesn't exist and so it can't be moved. What does that prove? Nothing. The question is: what justification is there to say that everything is moved by 'another'?

Now you tell me that "in order for the potential state of an object to be actualized, the preceding state of affairs which causes the potential state of the object to be actualized must be also be actual", which I take to mean that it is merely the the pre-existing state of an object that causes its movement. That seems, on its face, to contradict "Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another", but perhaps you meant something different.

At any rate, it doesn't sound at all like you're making the same argument that Martin is.


im-skeptical said...

"From there you subtly shift the burden of argument from "Aquinas's premises assume that nothing happens spontaneously" to "Aquinas's premise, 'Whatever is in motion is put in option by another' is an unsupported assertion." "

Again, no shifting there. To me, those two statements say exactly the same thing, the former being my interpretation of the latter. Something that is "moved by another" is not moved spontaneously. It is acted upon by something outside itself. That doesn't seem to agree with your view, but it is what the argument says. So I suppose my interpretation isn't correct in your view. Great. In your view (apparently), the thing's own state is what actualizes it. But that appears to be a direct contradiction of the argument.

Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

Firstly, my auto-correct really fucked things up when it turned 'motion' into 'option' in the phrase, "Whatever is in motion is put in option by another." (I type out my answers in a document before I paste them in the combox. It helps me to avoid making html or grammatical mistakes.)

Secondly, the evidence for the premise "Whatever is in motion is put in motion by another" is just the run-of-the-mill stuff that happens around us. We notice that things are in causal relations with other things. When something happens, usually another thing causes it. When something changes, there's usually a reason why. Aquinas is just taking for granted that our senses notice these things, meaning that he assumes that it doesn't need to be systematically explained (and in his day it didn't).

Thirdly, you aren't understanding potentiality correctly. A potential isn't itself an object, it is a state of affairs governing an object. The firewood currently in your woodstack is only potentially on fire. If it's currently on fire, then it is actually on fire, and you have a problem on your hands. Saying that potentials don't exist isn't saying that their objects don't exist in causal relations with other objects and events. It's just saying that a different state of affairs governing an object, a state of affairs which currently doesn't exist, could be actualized.

Fourthly, spontaneity doesn't imply creation ex nihilo. Things won't just appear out of thin air, as it were. There needs to be an actual condition which logically precedes (not necessarily chronologically precedes) the event.

Dan Gillson said...

I'd like to point out that none of this is "woo." It's just a sophisticated empirical account of causation. Things are caused to change from one state to another; potency and act. It's not scientific, but it certainly isn't theological.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

I appreciate your measured response.

"Aquinas is just taking for granted that our senses notice these things"

Sure, and he was justified in using that as substantion for the truth claim (originating from Aristotle) that "whatever is in motion is put in motion by another". In his day, there wasn't much evidence to refute it. I accept that, but these days, there is evidence to refute the claim, and we are within our rights to challenge its truth. That's what I was trying to do.

"you aren't understanding potentiality correctly"

I was not relating my own understanding of potential. I was replying to Martin, who seems to think potential is some kind of object. I said: "Then what on earth do you define as a 'potential'? And why do you refer to is as if it were a thing, if it doesn't exist?" I was trying to get him to clarify his statements. The logic that he presented seems particularly poor, but perhaps it wouldn't if I had a better understanding of what he was saying. I do have my own understanding of Aristotelian 'potential', but you must admit that not everyone has the same understanding of it.

In particular, I think that many people have a tendency to try to reconcile what someone like Aristotle has said with their own, more modern understanding of the world. For example, you can say that Aristotle's principles of act and potency are perfectly compatible with spontaneous events, but I'm not at all convinced that Aristotle would have agreed. It's like reading the bible. You have to ignore what it literally says, and find an alternative meaning in the words, to make it compatible with your modern-day beliefs. But is that what the author intended?

B. Prokop said...

"But is that what the author intended?"

In the case of The Bible, yes. It is precisely what they intended. The Old Testament was written by the guys who invented the midrash, for Heaven's sake! That's exactly how they read texts back then. This wooden-footed literalism is a late invention, and is the real deviation from authors' intent.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"I accept that, but these days, there is evidence to refute the claim, and we are within our rights to challenge its truth. That's what I was trying to do."

Was it? When I pointed out that there is exactly zero evidence to "challenge its truth", zero as in zilch, nada, puto, your response was (from October 17, 2013 10:14 AM):

"I'm not making an assertion. I'm asking Martin to justify the assertion that he makes. HE says those events are caused. HE needs to show it. It's his assertion, not mine."

For the umpteenth time, stop pretending that you understand Aristotle, St. Thomas, or physics for that matter, for *any* discussion with you is not about defending premises or the arguments, but it mostly revolves around pointing out how pig-ignorant you demonstrably are.

Ilíon said...

"For the umpteenth time, stop pretending that you understand Aristotle, St. Thomas, or physics for that matter ..."

... and that you're "not making an assertion"; that particular form of intellectual dishonesty is among your worst traits.

im-skeptical said...

grodrigues,

Stop pretending that you understand me or my arguments. You don't even respond to what I say. Just your misinterpretation of it.

Ape in a Cape said...

Gents,

This seems to be an interesting discussion.

Given that the emission of a virtual particle from a decaying isotope is dependent upon an atomic nucleus, what is the evidence that we have today that challenges the causal principle behind actuality?

In other words, if a decaying isotope is a an actual state of physical affairs, and a nucleus is an actual physical body, what reasons do we have for thinking that spontaneous particle emission is anything but evidence for the causal principle itself?

Ape.

im-skeptical said...

Ape,

"Given that the emission of a virtual particle from a decaying isotope is dependent upon an atomic nucleus, what is the evidence that we have today that challenges the causal principle behind actuality?"

I think you're confused about what virtual particles are. Virtual particles come from nothing. Radioactive decay is entirely different. Both are spontaneous. There is nothing you can identify as a cause. They just happen.

Martin said...

im-skeptical,

You are confused about what virtual particles are. Virtual particles are not true particles, but rather are momentary ripples in the quantum field caused by two passing electrons.

See a physicist clear up your confusion here.

Ape in a Cape said...

Skep,

So the discussion isn't about radioactive decay at all? Sorry Skep, I've come in too late.

I was thinking that because particle emission from a radioactive isotope is bound to the physical state of the isotope itself, then if the isotope isn't in decay, it wouldn't emit a particle (proton or neutron) either.

As for quantum fluctuations, is there any reason to think that perturbations aren't a result of changes within the vacuum energy itself? To argue that they come from nothing at all seems to equate the quantum vacuum with nothing, which would be a Kraussian misstep.

Is it fair to say that a quantum field contains the cause of a virtual particle but that there is no direct antecedent that can be identified from within a field itself?

Ape.

im-skeptical said...

"I was thinking that because particle emission from a radioactive isotope is bound to the physical state of the isotope itself, then if the isotope isn't in decay, it wouldn't emit a particle (proton or neutron) either."

It isn't bound to the state in the sense that the emission event can be predicted. It's simply a matter of probability. There is no trigger, no force that causes it to happen.

"is there any reason to think that perturbations aren't a result of changes within the vacuum energy itself?"

You might be able to say that if you could identify something called vacuum energy and then identify changes in it. But those things are nothing but speculation.

"Is it fair to say that a quantum field contains the cause of a virtual particle but that there is no direct antecedent that can be identified from within a field itself?"

It's fair to say that there is no direct antecedent that can be identified. Maybe there is some causal antecedent, and we just don't understand it or can't see it. But the fact is, we have no evidence of that.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"You don't even respond to what I say."

Respond to what? I will repeat what you said in your last post from October 17, 2013 10:14 AM:

"'m not making an assertion. I'm asking Martin to justify the assertion that he makes. HE says those events are caused. HE needs to show it. It's his assertion, not mine."

You are not making assertions; the burden of proof rests entirely on Martin's shoulders. Fine. So respond to what?

Intellectual dishonesty is not working out so great, is it?

"I think you're confused about what virtual particles are. Virtual particles come from nothing."

Wrong.

"Radioactive decay is entirely different. Both are spontaneous."

Depends on what you mean by spontaneous. As I have repeated I do not know how many times, the sense in which it can be taken to be spontaneous is irrelevant to the cosmological arguments.

Ape in a Cape said...

Skep,

Thanks for the clarification.

So let me see if I've got you right: You don't deny that a virtual particle must emerge from, or logically be preceded by, some physical state of affairs. Instead, you deny that we have a precise understanding of the physical state of affairs that gives rise to the perceived spontaneity of virtual particles?

Is the above a fair assessment of your view?

Ape.

im-skeptical said...

Ape,

I would deny that there is any known "physical state of affairs" that gives rise to these events. As best we can tell, these events are truly spontaneous.

Ape in a Cape said...

Skep,

Interesting. Allow me to probe further.

So do you then think that something can in fact come from nothing, or that our universe in which virtual particles appear is more than a "physical state of affairs"?

Ape.

Ilíon said...

Ape: "Instead, you deny that we have a precise understanding of the physical state of affairs that gives rise to the perceived spontaneity of virtual particles?

Is the above a fair assessment of your view?
"

Not exactly.

I-pretend-to-be-rational: "... There is nothing you can identify as a cause. They just happen."

I-pretend-to-be-rational: "It isn't bound to the state in the sense that the emission event can be predicted. It's simply a matter of probability. There is no trigger, no force that causes it to happen."

The absurdity that he has been asserting, all along, is that real-world events can-and-do happen without any cause whatsoever. This is a dogma, apparently necessarily so, of materialism/atheism.

===========
But, a "world" in which even one thing occurs without cause is no world at all, for such a "world" would be self-incoherent: it's not just that *we* would be unable to understand such a "world", it's that such a "world" would contradict itself at the most basic level. A "world" in which even one thing occurs without cause is a "world" in which there no cause-effect relationships, period; it is a world in which there is no rational relationship between *any* events, where *nothing* coheres.

Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

i. Your argument that these days there is evidence to refute the Aristotelean analysis assumes that there is a qualitatively different sort of evidence ('scientific' evidence) which refutes the evidence we glean from our senses. If you think that that's the case, it's logically necessary* that you also think that our experiences of, say, a red object can be refuted by the relevant sort of scientific evidence. I'm all for saying that science evaluates and criticizes the evidence gleaned from our senses, but we've run off the rails when we say that science refutes our ordinary experiences. (Sellars writes something to the same effect somewhere. I'll dig the relevant bit up.)

ii. I agree that Martin wasn't being too clear, but to my understanding Martin and I weren't saying anything different about potentiality. I certainly didn't take him to be speaking of potentiality as an object.

iii. No doubt interpretation is tricky business. (I know this from experience. I've translated much of the Bible into English from its original languages, plus a bunch of Hellenistic Jewish literature from the Second Temple period.) But one can be faithful to Aristotle's philosophy without being an originalist. (The same can be said of Christianity.) Maybe Aristotle wouldn't recognize the shape his philosophy took; he's still the source of much fruitful thinking.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

i. Science allows us to extend our senses so that we can observe things that we never could before. In that sense, it doesn't refute our senses so much as it gives us new ways of seeing things. Spontaneous subatomic events is a good example of that. On the other hand It certainly does refute many of our traditional ways of understanding things. Ilion thinks it's absurd that space and time can be distorted by relativistic effects. He has been proven wrong, whether he accepts it or not.

ii. Martin's argument: "a potential doesn't exist so it can't actualize itself" comes across as treating potential as some king of object. At the very least, he's equivocating, because the implication is that it must have some kind of substantive existence in order to have a substantive effect. I don't but his logic.

iii. I don't want to sound like I have no respect for Aristotle, and his works in general. But when it comes to physics - let's face it - he didn't have the benefit of our current knowledge, and the vast body of empirical observations we now have. I see nothing in his writing that indicates he thought events could be spontaneous. Indeed, we still have many people who cling to that belief dogmatically, because it has become a cornerstone of their religion. But you may see his writing as being compatible with spontaneous events, because you apply a liberal interpretation of it. There are different ways to interpret what Aristotle says.

grodrigues said...

@im-skeptical:

"Spontaneous subatomic events is a good example of that. On the other hand It certainly does refute many of our traditional ways of understanding things."

There is no such refutation, neither there are spontaneous subatomic events, not in the sense that you need. You are just equivocating and betraying your ignorance. In fact, if there were, you would refute yourself, but needless to say, you are too obtuse and ignorant to see it. Furthermore, when asked to prove *this* assertion, something you are always asking of your opponents, your answer was (October 17, 2013 10:14 AM): "I'm not making an assertion. I'm asking Martin to justify the assertion that he makes. HE says those events are caused. HE needs to show it. It's his assertion, not mine."

"At the very least, he's equivocating, because the implication is that it must have some kind of substantive existence in order to have a substantive effect."

Potency does not have the "substantive existence" that what actuality does, and thus cannot of itself have any effect, is *precisely* Martin's point. Besides, Aquinas, in the wake of Aristotle, is committed to say that potency does exist in some sense, because if it did not existed simpliciter, it would be nothing and there would be no need to coin a new word and Parmenides would come back with a revenge. But hey, go on pretending that you understand Aristotle. Or physics.

"I don't want to sound like I have no respect for Aristotle, and his works in general."

Examples from this thread alone: From October 16, 2013 8:10 AM: "What I agreed with is that something that doesn't exist can't actualize itself. I also agreed that Aristotelian 'potential' doesn't exist (because, like the rest of his woo, it's sheer fantasy)." From October 17, 2013 6:58 AM: "I have asked Martin to prove that assertion, and his best answer appears to be: "a non-existent potential can't actualize itself" or something to that effect, which sound to me like A-T mumbo-jumbo, and certainly doesn't prove his assertion in any caseeersuan 13."

Nobody cares whether you "respect" Aristotle or not, least of all the man himself, no longer being alive and all, so in the name of God why the bullshitting? Do you have no shame or decorum?

"I see nothing in his writing that indicates he thought events could be spontaneous."

"I see nothing in his writing" -- im-skeptical the Aristotelian exegete. Giggle. Bullshit like this is so transparently bad that only in real life can we find it. Define spontaneous. A-causal? There is no such thing. Indeterministic? Irrelevant to the arguments. Chance event? Most probably this is what you have in mind. For your information, Aristotle (and Aquinas as well) wrote at length about chance events. Here is the rough, crude definition: the intersection of two independent causal lines.

"But you may see his writing as being compatible with spontaneous events, because you apply a liberal interpretation of it. There are different ways to interpret what Aristotle says."

Let us assume that you were correct and that Aristotle's views are what you say they are. You are not disputing with Aristotle but with a specific argument that has a specific form. Exegetical issues may be interesting, but are neither here nor there to the substance. This is as stupid and intellectually dishonest as someone disputing Evolution theory by pointing out some choice morsels mine quoted from "The Origin of the Species" and conveniently forgetting everything else, including the 150 odd years of development of the theory.

Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

i. You see then that your scaling back from your previous statement that the evidence for Aquinas's premise "Whatever is in motion is put in motion by another" is refuted by a qualitatively different sort of evidence gleaned through scientific investigation: If the evidence for Aquinas's premise is gleaned from our senses, and if science doesn't refute our senses (as you've said), then science doesn't refute the evidence for Aquinas's premise (the logically necessary conclusion).

ii. Issues of interpretation aside, there's still the issue that you're implying that 'spontaneity' means something like 'creation ex nihilo.' The way I'm reading your argument, it seems as though you think that spontaneous events are causa sui, that is, that they happen without a logical antecedent. If that's the case, your advancing a rather novel view. A preceding state of affairs is a necessary condition for any event, meaning that events don't just happen ex nihilo. If something does appear to happen spontaneously, it could well be that our lack of epistemic or ontological information about the event in question deceives us into thinking that something just happened ex nihilo.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

The evidence available to Aquinas was not the same as the evidence we have now. So he may have been justified in making that statement, but I hold that it it no longer justified. The evidence does refute Aquinas' premise.

I said earlier that there may be some antecedent condition that gives rise to spontaneous events, but if there is, we have no way of knowing it (at present), and we have no justification for assuming that it exists.

"your advancing a rather novel view"

Hardly. Everyone who believes that there is some chain of causality must believe that something exists without cause. It's just a question of where the chain stops.

Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

To quote from Monty Python: "That isn't an argument … that's just contradiction! An argument is not the same as contradiction … a contradiction is just an automatic gainsay of anything the other person says!"

i. The evidence doesn't refute Aquinas's premise. If the evidence refutes Aquinas's premise, it also necessarily refutes all other evidences which we glean from our senses, which we use to establish other premises from which we derive conclusions. If things are as you say they are, we haven't a grip on the world. We know nothing about it. Science speaks of something completely alien to us.

ii. What do you mean that we don't have any way of knowing that a spontaneous event has an antecedent condition? Antecedent conditions are a logical necessity, meaning that spontaneous events can't happen without them.

iii. Causa sui means a cause itself. (A longer, more precise variation of the Latin would be cause sui ipsum, which would literally mean a cause of its own.) The chain of causation isn't the novelty here; it's the idea that a spontaneous event, such as the case of virtual particles, are cause sui ipsum; they are the cause which generates the effects, not a logically antecedent state of affairs.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

I guess we have to disagree on that. We see things in a different way.

im-skeptical said...

Let me add that you might very well be right. But I don't know.

Dan Gillson said...

Skep, at the end of the day I really don't know either. That's why I drink.