Thursday, January 30, 2014

Should God have made his existence perfectly evident? Should he have?

Many of the things that it is supposed that God could have done to make his existence perfectly evident could be passed off as the work of powerful (but evolved) aliens. And no matter how much evidence God provides, there is some additional piece of evidence that an atheist could say God didn't provide, and if God really cared for us, he would have provided. The amount of evidence God could have provided has no intrinsic maximum.

72 comments:

Crude said...

The amount of evidence God could have provided has no intrinsic maximum.

The amount of denial a determined atheist could engage in likewise has no maximum.

The mere fact that a number of prominent atheist leaders have gone on record saying that no evidence could convince them should help illustrate the problem. Even Dawkins recently talked about how his previous demands for evidence may well have been more 'going through the motions' than any sincere request on his part.

Ilíon said...

Exactly.

This is why it is written: "For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

This Biblical assertion is true or it is not true.

Now, if it is true, then one of the inescapably logical entailments of it is that there never has been and never will be a good argument for God-denial; that is, that no man, anywhere or anywhen, has any excuse either for denying the reality of God or for failing to worship him in gratitude.

Ilíon said...

... Likewise, were someone ever to *actually* provide a good argument for God-denial, then that fact itself would show the above Biblical assertion to be false.

But, no one has ever provided a good argument for God-denial.

jdhuey said...

Victor,

First off, this piece seems to me to have the strong flavor of a slippery slope argument: a theist doesn't have to produce ANY good evidence because atheists would just want more and more evidence, ad infinitum and since that is impossible there is no reason to even start. This shows a rather striking misunderstanding of the scientific mindset. All scientific theories are tentative and provisional, that is one reason why it sometimes argued that we should eschew the word "believe" and use the word "accept". It is never required to have complete evidence to accept a theory, just a reasonable amount.

jdhuey said...

"But, no one has ever provided a good argument for God-denial."


Other than that the some concepts of God are logically incoherent, some are just simply contrary to observed facts, some are just meaningless noise (not even wrong), and none of them have ever produce a shred of evidence that their concept of a deity reflects reality at all.

Marcus said...

I understand why this may seem like special pleading by nontheists but this post highlights why I think many of the omni traits are impossible burdens for theists.

The problem is with the concepts themselves. There is in fact nothing a being could do to prove omnipotence, omniscience, etc. because that being could just be very powerful or extremely knowledgeable. In such a case, where we are comparing god hypotheses with aliens or the Matrix, as plausible explanations for some evidence we see it is not unfair to point out these omni traits require infinite amounts of evidence to justify.

On the contrary, in general, if you find yourself reflecting on a concept that would demand an infinite amount of evidence to justify, the correct response is to discard that concept because it is inherently unjustifiable.

Crude said...

First off, this piece seems to me to have the strong flavor of a slippery slope argument: a theist doesn't have to produce ANY good evidence because atheists would just want more and more evidence

No, it's simply pointing out that "evidence that would convince all atheists" is not necessarily "reasonable evidence". Theists provide plenty of evidence for their beliefs. The atheist standard reply is, "There's not enough!"

But 'enough' is played as a subjective call, and for some people, no amount of evidence is ever enough. Hence, Dawkins, Myers, etc.

Other than that the some concepts of

He said good arguments. By all means, provide a good argument and we'll have a look at if it really is good, and how it applies. Glad to see someone acknowledging atheists have a burden of proof, however.

On the contrary, in general, if you find yourself reflecting on a concept that would demand an infinite amount of evidence to justify,

Luckily, it doesn't - not for any reasonable people. And any atheist who says 'I require an infinite amount of evidence to believe in God because I must eradicate all possibility of being wrong!' can be nicely exposed as insane. Also inconsistent, if they end up accepting any scientific theories as true - since it's entirely possible for those to be wrong as well, and apparently provisional acceptance is out of the picture.

Crude said...

By the by,

This shows a rather striking misunderstanding of the scientific mindset.

I think a striking misunderstanding of the scientific mindset is better evidenced by the fact that people treat entirely non-scientific discussions and arguments, particularly with regards to claims outside of the scope of science, as the sort of thing where 'a scientific mindset' can be present, or even desirable.

It reminds me of how Jerry Coyne thinks that a 900 foot Jesus appearing to him would not only be evidence of God's existence, but his decision to believe in God afterwords would be 'scientific!' Because he just slaps 'science' onto everything he likes or approves of.

Marcus said...

Crude,

...any atheist who says 'I require an infinite amount of evidence to believe in God because I must eradicate all possibility of being wrong!' can be nicely exposed as insane. Also inconsistent, if they end up accepting any scientific theories as true - since it's entirely possible for those to be wrong as well, and apparently provisional acceptance is out of the picture.

There are always many competing explanations for any given set of evidence. So when coming to accept one over others, it is not about demanding absolute proof and dismissing any possibility of being wrong (there's always the possibility of being wrong) but ensuring your belief is in line with the evidence.

For example, if you speak with a being who claims to be the omnipotent creator of all existence who then promptly destroys a star on command there are multiple possibilities to explain that evidence. The being genuinely could be omnipotent, it could be merely very powerful, it could be aliens or it could be you are in the Matrix. Even ignoring the first theory is, even in principle, unverifiable, given that the latter three theories require lesser assumptions (and are more consistent with the accumulated previous evidence of there being no creatures that can, say, create energy out of nothing) you would be wise to discard the first theory.

In other words, there is no empirical path to demonstrating infinite power or wisdom. Nothing in that statement implies rejecting all theories until you have absolute proof nor does it seem insane to me.

Crude said...

There are always many competing explanations for any given set of evidence. So when coming to accept one over others, it is not about demanding absolute proof and dismissing any possibility of being wrong (there's always the possibility of being wrong) but ensuring your belief is in line with the evidence.

'In line with the evidence' is trivial, and that wasn't your complaint. And yes, your whole thrust here has been that you would need absolute proof without the possibility of being wrong - if you just needed some evidence, which was compatible with being wrong, the limited amount of evidence for an infinite being would be A-OK. Precisely the conclusion you wish to avoid.

given that the latter three theories require lesser assumptions (and are more consistent with the accumulated previous evidence of there being no creatures that can, say, create energy out of nothing)

No, they don't obviously require 'lesser assumptions.' And if we were existing in a matrix, any observations about our environment wouldn't automatically apply to beings outside of the matrix - since we'd have no contact with their universe's laws. Nor would it be wise to discard the omnipotence theory - you'd just have to recognize that by embracing it you could in fact be wrong. But that's precisely what isn't a problem.

In other words, there is no empirical path to demonstrating infinite power or wisdom.

No empirical path is needed, remember? We only need evidence consistent with the truth of that matter. But if you want to go ahead and say that no empirical evidence is possible that could convince you of God's existence, fine - embrace whatever crazy or irrational belief you want. But at that point the focus will be on how you've mentally walled yourself up in a world where no evidence for God's existence is even possible, and the claims of inadequate evidence are insincere - because you've ruled out the very possibility of 'adequate' evidence to begin with.

But you have given a pretty fantastic demonstration of the limits of empirical evidence, and why it's irrational to rely on such exclusively as a means for understanding the world.

im-skeptical said...

"Because he just slaps 'science' onto everything he likes or approves of."

This shows a rather striking misunderstanding of the scientific mindset.

Crude said...

"Because he just slaps 'science' onto everything he likes or approves of."

This shows a rather striking misunderstanding of the scientific mindset.


No, just a good understanding of Jerry Coyne's striking misunderstanding of the scientific mindset. Then again, he's barely a scientist - his chosen profession is far closer to phrenology than physics, you know. ;)

Jim S. said...

I asked a friend of mine if the stars spelled out "I am God, believe in me" would he believe. He said no, because the stars presumably wouldn't spell out anything on the other side of them, it would just be a coincidence that they happened to spell something out from our perspective. I then asked him if anything would convince him. He said he couldn't think of anything. I said, "So your rejection of the existence of God is a priori. It doesn't really matter what the universe is like, it could be in any configuration, with miracles happening every day all around you, and you still wouldn't believe." He tried to walk it back after that. I ended up writing a very short story based on the idea here.

RD Miksa said...

This is just great.

In the Loftus thread, Skep. tells us that he--and other atheists--just need "sufficient" evidence in order to believe--which Skep, of course, takes to be empirical evidence in a scenario that he imagines would be widely convincing.

And now, not a few hours later, Marcus tells us:

There is in fact nothing a being could do to prove omnipotence, omniscience, etc. because that being could just be very powerful or extremely knowledgeable.

So one non-believer tells us that he just needs "sufficient" evidence, while another tells us that no evidence would satisfy him.

And all this proves two points that I have thought about recently:

1) The atheist demand for evidence truly is rooted in absolute subjectivism. What convinces one would be utterly unconvincing to another. No wonder God isn't fulfilling subjectively demanded miracles. All this would do is to have one atheist believe (maybe, if he did not then move the goal-posts, that is) while ten other atheists would say that the one converted atheist was hallucinating, or that Super-Aliens caused the "miracle", or that "these things just happen in a Multi-verse", or that we live in the Matrix. See, like I said, with atheists, it is so often: Tails I win, heads you lose.

2) And the second point that this discussion demonstrates is that the best evidence for God's existence is precisely the very evidence that he has provided us with: Potent philosophical arguments based on contingency, cosmology, act/potency, design of the universe as a whole, morality, etc.

Only these types of arguments serve to negate the atheist's attempts to use any naturalistic scenario possible to get them out of believing in God.

This is why I now find it laughable when atheists tell me that God should have given more evidence of his existence, for I now know exactly what they mean: evidence of some big miracle which they could then quickly dismiss by either 1) appealing to a lack of real witnesses (skeptics and scientists, of course), and/or 2) appealing to any naturalistic scenario that could account for the evidence (Super-Aliens, multi-verses, etc.), and/or 3) claiming that even if the miracle was real, it would not prove that the being that did the miracle was God, and/or 4) claiming that it is just a "gap" argument and thus that it is too weak to overcome their atheism, and/or 5) offering a note of promissory naturalism (Well, we cannot explain it now, but science will explain it some day, so no need for that God guy...wink, wink).

In essence, atheists talk out of both sides of their mouths: they ask for evidence, but they ask for the very type of evidence that they know they can deny if they are just willing to go far enough.

No wonder I find so many atheists so bloody disingenuous.

Take care,

RD Miksa

planks length said...

jdhuey,

"This shows a rather striking misunderstanding of the scientific mindset."

Who's talking about a "scientific mindset" here? (other than you) We're talking about an atheistic mindset - huge difference. Many, many great figures in science have been people of faith. Perhaps the real "scientific mindset" is a Christian one? Hmmm....

Crude said...

RD Miksa,

To piggyback off the point I think you're making - there's some comedy in the typical New Atheist declaration that there's no/not enough evidence to believe in God's existence. And then to notice that they can't even agree on what would constitute evidence for God's existence.

Samwell Barnes said...

I'm with Blaise Pascal on the evidence issue. In his Pensees, he writes the following:

"Willing to appear openly to those who seek him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from him with all their heart, God so regulates the knowledge of himself that he has given indications of himself which are visible to those who seek him and not to those who do not seek him. There is enough light for those to see who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition."

Papalinton said...

"I think a striking misunderstanding of the scientific mindset is better evidenced by the fact that people treat entirely non-scientific discussions and arguments, particularly with regards to claims outside of the scope of science, ...."

There it is. The last gap. The last bastion, the last theological bulwark against the intrusion of evidence and investigation, the punt to 'non-scientific' discussions and arguments while concurrently making claims about the capacity for this spectral numen to tangibly intervene, physically effect disruption and manipulate the laws of physics at will. And He does so because? Because he can. Apparently, omnipotence is the outright and unequivocal claim but he chooses not to. And apparently theists know all this because of evidence and proof and fact.

The mind of an immaterialist is that of Swiss cheese; full of holes in which to squirrel away their god-fairy from scrutiny. If 'insane' is ever to be used in context, one could not find a more fitting context than superstitious supernaturalists asserting the physicality of interrupted laws of physics on the whim of omnipotence. Claimed examples, like the revivification of Lazarus, walking on water, talking snakes, unearthly levitation, winged horses, humans with elephant heads and broken tusks, spirits, apparitions, ghost busters and other things that go bump in the night.

"The pretending-to-know-things-you-don't-know pandemic hurts us all. Believing things on the basis of something other than evidence and reason causes people to misconstrue what's good for them and what's good for their communities. Those who believe on the basis of insufficient evidence create external conditions based upon what they think is in their best interest, but this is actually counterproductive. In the United Sates, for example, public policies driven by people who pretend to know things they don't know continue to hurt people: abstinence-only sex education, prohibitions against gay marriage, bans on death with dignity, corporal punishment in schools, failure to fund international family planning organizations, and promoting the teaching of Creationism and other pseudosciences are but a few of the many misguided conclusions wrought by irrationality." Prof. P Boghossian

Papalinton said...

planks length
"Perhaps the real "scientific mindset" is a Christian one? Hmmm...."

No. The overwhelming and burgeoning evidence from common sense, from observing nature, from science and medicine, is that an actual three-day-old putrescent corpse, without access to a life-support machine, has as much chance of revivifying to full body functionality as a snowflake in hell :0)

I think even you would acknowledge that evidence, true?

A Christian who steadfastly clings to the notion that a three-day old putrescine cadaver actually not only revivified but physically levitated, testicles and all, into the blue beyond of the stratosphere, as steadfastly as soft shit clings to a blanket [imagery with all due respect], does not exhibit a 'scientific mindset'.

Sorry, planks length, I simply cannot buy that myth.

Martin said...

Marcus,

The reason God is said to have such attributes is not because we observe him doing things and hypothesize that he must be all-powerful, all-knowing, etc, but rather because the arguments for the existence of God argue for something fully actual and unchangeable, and therefore maxed out. If it were less than maxed out, it wouldn't be fully actual and thus would not be God.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Crude:

To piggyback off the point I think you're making - there's some comedy in the typical New Atheist declaration that there's no/not enough evidence to believe in God's existence. And then to notice that they can't even agree on what would constitute evidence for God's existence.

Absolutely. And while I completely agree, my point is even more damning. Namely, the more I deal with Gnu atheists, I more I realize that the "evidence" that they ask for to prove God's existence to them is precisely the type of evidence that they know and realize--whether consciously or unconsciously--that they could deny if such evidence was ever presented to them. I honestly believe that what they are doing is using a fail-safe mechanism. They know that, given their constant rhetoric about "show me the evidence", that they must show themselves as being "open" to some type of evidence. And yet the evidence that they are always "open" to is of a type that they could deny if ever pressed into a corner (and as long as they are willing to descend into absurdity).

EXAMPLE 1:

Atheist A: I would believe if a 15-foot tall Jesus appeared to me and screamed "I exist" and then disappeared in a puff of smoke.

15-foot tall Jesus appears, screams, and then disappears.

Atheist A: Wow, what a wacky hallucination.


EXAMPLE 2:

Atheist B: I would believe if the stars rearranged themselves to spell "Jesus is Lord."

The stars so re-arrange.

Atheist B: Ohhh, those tricky Super-Aliens.


And such examples could be endlessly multiplied.

Take care,

RD Miksa

im-skeptical said...

RD,

"So one non-believer tells us that he just needs "sufficient" evidence, while another tells us that no evidence would satisfy him."

You don't seem to realize that there is no incompatibility between the two positions you cited. I said I would need evidence to believe that supernatural beings exist, which says nothing about the logical ability to prove that a supernatural being, if it exists, is omnipotent. I agree completely with what he said.

"The atheist demand for evidence truly is rooted in absolute subjectivism."

That's your subjective view, and it is is exactly opposite to the idea that empirical evidence is objective. As I noted earlier, there is never universal agreement about anything. But it is theists above all who are resistant to evidence.

" best evidence for God's existence is precisely the very evidence that he has provided us with: Potent philosophical arguments based on contingency, cosmology, act/potency, design of the universe as a whole, morality, etc."

Now that's subjective stuff. A religion built upon an ancient understanding of the world is forced to remain impervious to objective evidence, which undermines those ancient understandings.

Martin said...

Skep, there is nothing "ancient" about act and potency. You use these concepts every day. Right now your computer is actually on but potentially off. If you shut it down, it will now become actually off but potentially back on again.

Marcus said...

Crude,

You were mistaken in your assumptions about what I meant by "in line with evidence" and much of your response depends on those incorrect assumptions. However, rather than get bogged down in that problem, I think it would be more productive to rearticulate my actual position in a different way.

My point is there are some concepts which, for whatever reason, are beyond empirical demonstration. These concepts don't just fall below some abstract idea of absolute proof, but necessarily fail when compared to alternative hypotheses. Most basically, I think omnipotence can not, even in principle, be demonstrated because the available evidence is never infinite and thus competing explanations requiring finite, if vast, amounts of power are necessarily better theories to explain the evidence as they all explain the evidence with less complex assumptions. To borrow a phrase from game theory, I think the omni trait theories would be strictly dominated by competing theories with finite limitations.

Let me be absolutely clear, this is not a special standard I'm applying to god concepts, this rule would apply to all proposed explanations that would need an infinite amount of evidence to justify. To take an example, you could likely* say the same things about a theory that there are an infinite amount of stars. Unless that theory has novel predictions which we wouldn't observe in a universe with a huge but finite amount of stars it too would be strictly dominated by its finite competitors.

"...the claims of inadequate evidence are insincere - because you've ruled out the very possibility of 'adequate' evidence to begin with."

Who said I was complaining about inadequate evidence? I don't speak for all atheists, nor would I hope to do so. Besides, in certain cases inadequate evidence may apply even if the theory can't be justified in principle. For example, if your version of god requires prayer to work and prayers don't in fact work (I suspect you may disagree, humor me for a moment) then that would count as a lack of evidence because it would be something your theory predicts but we do not observe.

"you have given a pretty fantastic demonstration of the limits of empirical evidence, and why it's irrational to rely on such exclusively as a means for understanding the world."

Maybe we are working on different definitions of empiricism. I mean that in the broadest sense of "epistemological systems that can reliably demonstrate their claims." I hold no allegiance to any specific epistemological approach other than to find what works best for understanding reality.

*I'm not an astrophysicist so if you think this example doesn't hold just replace stars with "cups", it is the principle I'm after.

RD Miksa said...

Dear Marcus,

My point is there are some concepts which, for whatever reason, are beyond empirical demonstration. These concepts don't just fall below some abstract idea of absolute proof, but necessarily fail when compared to alternative hypotheses. Most basically, I think omnipotence can not, even in principle, be demonstrated because the available evidence is never infinite and thus competing explanations requiring finite, if vast, amounts of power are necessarily better theories to explain the evidence as they all explain the evidence with less complex assumptions. To borrow a phrase from game theory, I think the omni trait theories would be strictly dominated by competing theories with finite limitations.

There is a good case to be made that you have this backwards.

1) First, in his Is There a God, Richard Swinburne argues quite persuasively that a God with the omni-traits is a simpler explanation than one without these traits, and thus that God, rather than god, is the simpler, and thus more preferable explanation if all other things are equal (the relevant section is four pages long, so I cannot reproduce it here).

2) Second, it is also generally regarded as an explanatory virtue for a hypothesis (or explanation) to be non-ad hoc, meaning that it should not be postulated simply to account for the evidence under consideration. Theism, having been posited as an explanation long before any current empirical evidence was considered for it, is thus non-ad hoc. But suddenly positing an entity that is just powerful enough to account for the phenomena in question, but not any more or less powerful, seems ad hoc, and thus it is not as good of an explanation as a non-ad hoc one (all other things being equal, of course).

So while your point has merit, it may be incorrect.

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

I might also add that arguments have been made to the effect that a Being who could create the universe from nothing--a la Kalam Cosmological Argument--would need to be omnipotent. For given the infinite gulf between being and non-being, only a Being with infinite power could create being from non-being.

RD Miksa

im-skeptical said...

"Right now your computer is actually on but potentially off. If you shut it down, it will now become actually off but potentially back on again. "

That's great, but it doesn't explain how things move.

Crude said...

Marcus,

Most basically, I think omnipotence can not, even in principle, be demonstrated because the available evidence is never infinite and thus competing explanations requiring finite,

Demonstration isn't necessary, which is part of the point here. The simple response to you is that it's entirely justifiable to provisionally accept 'Alright, I'm dealing with God here' when considering a particular act or state of affairs. Likewise, you're throwing around words like 'infinite' here, but infinity hasn't even been shown to be a relevant concept when discussing omnipotence and omniscience in these senses - and even if it did, the claim would still hold.

Now, what I find amusing is that prominent atheists can't even agree on this. The claim of 'there's not enough evidence! / there is no evidence!' is common, but then atheists go to battle with each other over what would even count as evidence to begin with.

Let me be absolutely clear, this is not a special standard I'm applying to god concepts, this rule would apply to all proposed explanations that would need an infinite amount of evidence to justify.

And I'm pointing out that you don't need 'an infinite amount of evidence' to justify the belief. You're in the position of arguing that no amount of evidence would ever convince you because you could always imagine an alternate explanation that you would prefer. You say 'oh but they would have less complex assumptions', but this is smoke - you'll have to start imagining hypothetical histories, brute facts, and more to explain your purported 'less powerful' being, and the comparative complexity is not going to be at all clear, and will arguably favor God once you get metaphysics involved.

Maybe we are working on different definitions of empiricism. I mean that in the broadest sense of "epistemological systems that can reliably demonstrate their claims."

Epistemology and empiricism ain't the same thing. And if we're getting into the swamp of epistemology, it's going to be all the worse for your claims. As I said, the moment you start admitting 'matrix' all bets are off in terms of scientific knowledge as is.

But all the same, this is useful. Right in this thread we have atheists playing the 'Of course we'd be convinced with the right evidence!' card, and others playing 'No evidence would ever work!' card. Rather bolsters the view that atheists have a bad idea of what would even constitute evidence for belief to begin with - empirical, logical, metaphysical or otherwise.

Martin said...

Skep,

Moving the goalposts. That was not your original objection.

Longstreet said...

"No. The overwhelming and burgeoning evidence from common sense, from observing nature, from science and medicine, is that an actual three-day-old putrescent corpse, without access to a life-support machine, has as much chance of revivifying to full body functionality as a snowflake in hell :0)

I think even you would acknowledge that evidence, true?

A Christian who steadfastly clings to the notion that a three-day old putrescine cadaver actually not only revivified but physically levitated, testicles and all, into the blue beyond of the stratosphere, as steadfastly as soft shit clings to a blanket [imagery with all due respect], does not exhibit a 'scientific mindset'."
Maybe, maybe not. As the definition of words like "science", "scientific method" and "scientific mindset" can change depending on how badly the science fetishist is doing in the discussion at hand, it's really hard to say.

If, however, one posits the existence of a creator God like the one described in the Bible, there is nothing logically incoherent in suggesting that He is capable of raising a 3 day old body, testicles and all, from the dead. That you demonstrate the reasoning ability of a spoiled 3 year old [imagery with all due respect] doesn't speak well of your ability to critically examine a proposition.

"Sorry, planks length, I simply cannot buy that myth."
Yes, well, you just approvingly quoted Peter Boghossian, so you'll have to pardon me if I doubt how honesty and openly-mindedly you've examined that myth.

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

Longstreet, you have missed the logic boat by a longchalk.

"Yes, well, you just approvingly quoted Peter Boghossian, so you'll have to pardon me if I doubt how honesty and openly-mindedly you've examined that myth."

And yes, you are correct. I don't spend any time at all examining myths, as you have rightly named it. You can't more honest and open-minded than that.

....'that myth' as you properly identified it. Many a slip twixt cup and lip.

Marcus said...

Crude,

"...you're throwing around words like 'infinite' here, but infinity hasn't even been shown to be a relevant concept when discussing omnipotence and omniscience in these senses - and even if it did, the claim would still hold.

So are you saying god's omnipotence is bounded? So god could make a universe literally out of nothing but couldn't make ten universes out of nothing? Unless you are proposing there is something god can't do, (at which point what kind of omnipotence is that?) omnipotence would necessarily be unlimited and hence give god the power to do literally anything that is logically possible, which is an infinite set. The same principle goes for omniscience. If god knows all things past and present including, for example, all decimal places in irrational constants, god's knowledge must be infinite. Simply, the set of logically possible things to know is infinite.

But let's assume for the moment that omni traits have nothing to do with infinity. Unless you are granting that in theory the abilities of beings that aren't god can equal that of god (at which point differentiates god from them?) the set of possible events that can be caused by god is necessarily larger than the set that could be caused by, say, advanced aliens or daemon overlords. For simplicity's sake, lets say we only ever witness events numbers 1-100,000. There are many explanations given for these event including god, aliens and or some type of daemons. We aren't sure how powerful any of the three are and we don't even have a guess at how how many events god can cause but we know it's at least larger than whatever the aliens or daemons can muster. So god's possible number of events is necessarily greater than there possible numbers. Given this information, what should we believe about the origin of the events we witness?

Well to borrow an analogy, this is like rolling dice. If the aliens and daemons can account for events 1-100,000 your options would be between two 100,000 sided dice and one die we know to be larger than 100,000. The first two are more likely simply because whatever we witness fits in the range of what they predict, and they necessarily give more weight to the outcomes we observe than a die with more sides. (This assumes we know nothing about the frequency at which each explanation would be likely to cause certain events but gaining that information wouldn't rescue god here). This isn't just my opinion, this is probability theory.

If, instead, god's power is infinite you are proposing an infinite sided die as the best explanation to explain events 1-100,000. This only gets the god theory further from being competitive. Again this isn't some personal bias against god as an explanation, it's an application of probability theory.

jdhuey said...

"We're talking about an atheistic mindset - huge difference."

I argue that there is no such thing, per se, as an "atheistic mindset". Atheism is not a worldview, it is not a philosophy - atheism is simply a conclusion that can be reached from a variety of worldviews. My own worldview is metaphysical naturalism and I approach the theistic/atheistic question from that perspective. Someone that holds to, say, dialectic materialism would approach it from that perspective.

Victor was referring to the evaluation of evidence which is the mainstay of science but he misconstrued how that evaluation would happen. I simply pointed that out.

jdhuey said...

No, it's simply pointing out that "evidence that would convince all atheists" is not necessarily "reasonable evidence". Theists provide plenty of evidence for their beliefs. The atheist standard reply is, "There's not enough!"

Perhaps you should refrain from trying to convince "all" atheists, and focus simply on the atheist that you are talking to.

Theist do provide plenty of evidence for there beliefs - so do the believers in Sasquatch, UFOs, and the Loch Ness Monster. The problem is that it is not good evidence. I've been reading this blog of sometime now and frankly I can't think of a single thing that has been presented that would constitute good evidence. The only argument that has even approached the level of 'good' is the fine tuning argument but even there the argument falls way short.

jdhuey said...

RD Miksa

"yet the evidence that they are always "open" to is of a type that they could deny if ever pressed into a corner"

In the examples that you used if you substitute Zeus for Jesus, would that convince you to become a pagan?

Given the long, long history of venal frauds, pious frauds, scam artists and hucksters that promote this or that hoax in support of a religion, a very healthy dose of skepticism is entirely warranted.

Marcus said...

RD Miksa,

...in his Is There a God, Richard Swinburne argues quite persuasively that a God with the omni-traits is a simpler explanation than one without these traits, and thus that God, rather than god, is the simpler, and thus more preferable explanation if all other things are equal

I have the book and have seen the passage in question and can say confidently Swinburne is working on a folk definition of simplicity. I don't mean to single him out as lots of philosophers, including many atheist philosophers, seem to have similar views but their idea has little to do with simplicity as it should be applied to comparing competing hypotheses.

For example he says:

"The ‘simplicity’ of a scientific theory is a matter of it having few component laws, each of which relates few variables by mathematically simple formulae (whose consequences for observation are derivable by mathematically simple steps)"

This is a good approximation in everyday language and usually would be fine but given he is building a case for theism on theism being the simpler explanation the more formal discussion of simplicity should have been used. A lay discussion of minimum message length (MML), Kolmogorov complexity or Solomonoff induction or would have been appropriate but I think if he accepted the principles behind those, for lack of a better term, formalisms of Occam's razor he wouldn't have a case for theism as simple. So when he begins building his case for theism he starts off by saying:

"Theism claims that every other object which exists is caused to exist and kept in existence by just one substance, God. And it claims that every property which every substance has is due to God causing or permitting it to exist. It is a hallmark of a simple explanation to postulate few causes. There could in this respect be no simpler explanation than one which postulated only one cause."

This is just wrong and reminiscent of Robert Heinlein's reply to a less formalized Occam's razor saying "The lady down the street is a witch; she did it." The point is, with regards to simplicity ascribing events to an agent just increases the message length without actually explaining how those events occur. If you say god caused the laws of physics, you still then have to explain the laws of physics. With respect to MML, you have not decreased the message length at all as you still have to describe every detail of how those laws function. That, qualitatively, theism would permit all of existence as we observe it isn't beneficial to theism as an explanation because theism would permit everything.

Martin said...

jdhuey,

>Theist do provide plenty of evidence for there beliefs - so do the believers in Sasquatch, UFOs, and the Loch Ness Monster. The problem is that it is not good evidence.

Those are not comparable at all. There is no evidence provided for Sasquatch that is comparable to, for example, the contingency argument or the argument from motion that is provided for the existence of God.

jdhuey said...

"Those are not comparable at all. There is no evidence provided for Sasquatch that is comparable to, for example, the contingency argument or the argument from motion that is provided for the existence of God."

Neither of those arguments are sound. They have been refuted many many times. Repeating refuted arguments can not be considered good evidence.

Martin said...

jdhuey,

>Neither of those arguments are sound. They have been refuted many many times.

Can you show me how they are unsound, specifically?

jdhuey said...

>Neither of those arguments are sound. They have been refuted many many times.

Can you show me how they are unsound, specifically?


Many others have refuted these arguments much more thoroughly than I can; however, this is my take. Both of those arguments basically say there is something, let's call it X, that has to exist for something else to exist. And then it says we call X God. But there is never any real reason given for calling X God other than that is the answer desired.

Consider that one of the current theories about how the Big Bang happened is called 'eternal inflation', if that theory is true then our universe is contingent on this process for it's existence. Thus 'eternal inflation' is X but really, why would anyone call 'eternal inflation' God? The same counter argument applies to the Motion argument. (Note that the soundness of the counter argument is not dependent on that specific theory being true - the mere existence of a possible alternative precludes those arguments from being sound.)

Martin said...

jdhuey,

>But there is never any real reason given for calling X God other than that is the answer desired.

I asked you the question because I guessed, correctly, that you would not have a proper understanding of these types of arguments.

First of all, you mention the Big Bang. But the argument for a beginning to the universe is called the "Kalam cosmological argument", and this is distinctly different from the two arguments I mentioned (contingency and motion), neither of which require the universe to have begun at all.

In brief, they argue that changeable things must be grounded in something unchangeable. This is because no changeable thing can be responsible for its own ongoing existence, because then it would have to exist prior to itself, which is a contradiction. In short, all changeable things are dependent on other factors for their existence (example: virtual particles change, and they are dependent on an energy field and physical laws that allow them to occur).

This begins a regress that terminates with something that is unchangeable. We are regressing, not back in time to the first event, but down in the present to more fundamental aspects of reality.

Once the unchangeable aspect of reality is successfully argued for, it is fairly trivial to show why it must have the attributes that people typically label "God."

You say that "there is no reason given for calling X god", but did you miss questions 3 through 26 of the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas? He starts with something unchangeable, and then carefully goes through and shows why it must be simple, eternal, immaterial, all-powerful, all-knowing, and everything else. And he responds to objections as well.

RD Miksa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RD Miksa said...

Dear Marcus,

I don't have much time, hence the reason for the quote below.

However, in response to your pointing to MML, Kolmogorov Complexity, etc., I refer you to this:

"Due to this, along with its generality and mathematical precision, some enthusiasts have claimed that Kolmogorov complexity solves the problem of defining and measuring simplicity.

A number of objections have been raised against this application of Kolmogorov complexity. First, finding K(x) is a non-computable problem: no algorithm exists to compute it. This is claimed to be a serious practical limitation of the measure. Another objection is that Kolmogorov complexity produces some counter-intuitive results. For instance, theories that make probabilistic rather than deterministic predictions about the data must have maximum Kolmogorov complexity. For example, a theory that says that a sequence of coin flips conforms to the probabilistic law, Pr(Heads) = ½, cannot be said to compress the data, since one cannot use this law to reconstruct the exact sequence of heads and tails, even though it offers an intuitively simple explanation of what we observe.

Other information-theoretic measures of simplicity, such as the Minimum Message Length (MML) and Minimum Description Length (MDL) measures, avoid some of the practical problems facing Kolmogorov Complexity. Though there are important differences in the details of these measures (see Wallace and Dowe, 1999), they all adopt the same basic idea that the simplicity of an empirical hypothesis can be measured in terms of the extent to which it provides a compact encoding of the data.

A general objection to all such measures of simplicity is that scientific theories generally aim to do more than specify patterns in the data. They also aim to explain why these patterns are there and it is in relation to how theories go about explaining the patterns in our observations that theories have often been thought to be simple or complex. Hence, it can be argued that mere data compression cannot, by itself, suffice as an explication of simplicity in relation to scientific theories. A further objection to the data compression approach is that theories can be viewed as compressing data sets in a very large number of different ways, many of which we do not consider appropriate contributions to simplicity. The problem raised by Goodman’s new riddle of induction can be seen as the problem of deciding which regularities to measure: for example, color regularities or grolor regularities? Formal information-theoretical measures do not discriminate between different kinds of pattern finding. Hence, any such measure can only be applied once we specify the sorts of patterns and regularities that should be taken into account. There is a general consensus in the philosophical literature that the project of articulating a precise general measure of theoretical simplicity faces very significant challenges."

AND...

RD Miksa said...

"The putative role of considerations of simplicity in the history and current practice of science gives rise to a number of philosophical problems, including the problem of precisely defining and measuring theoretical simplicity, and the problem of justifying preferences for simpler theories. As this survey of the literature on simplicity in the philosophy of science demonstrates, these problems have turned out to be surprisingly resistant to resolution, and there remains a live debate amongst philosophers of science about how to deal with them. On the other hand, there is no disputing the fact that practicing scientists continue to find it useful to appeal to various notions of simplicity in their work. Thus, in many ways, the debate over simplicity resembles other long-running debates in the philosophy science, such as that over the justification for induction (which, it turns out, is closely related to the problem of justifying preferences for simpler theories). Though there is arguably more skepticism within the scientific community about the legitimacy of choosing between rival theories on grounds of simplicity than there is about the legitimacy of inductive inference—the latter being a complete non-issue for practicing scientists—as is the case with induction, very many scientists continue to employ practices and methods that utilize notions of simplicity to great scientific effect, assuming that appropriate solutions to the philosophical problems that these practices give rise to do in fact exist, even though philosophers have so far failed to articulate them. However, as this survey has also shown, statisticians, information and learning theorists, and other scientists have been making increasingly important contributions to the debate over the philosophical underpinning for these practices."

http://www.iep.utm.edu/simplici/#SH3g


Perhaps this is the very reason that Swinburne uses the "folk" understanding of simplicity, because it is still the best, most used, and most justified understanding of simplicity that there is.

RD Miksa

RD Miksa said...

And Marcus,

Given that your quote from Swinburne omits the very next line ("Theism is simpler than polytheism."), it is actually out of context (or at least that is the impression I have). For in that section, Swinburne is arguing that theism (or monotheism) is a simpler explanation than polytheism. And when understood in that context, Swinburne's application of Occam's Razor is perfectly correct.

I would also add that that section in Swinburne's book is not, at that point, arguing that theism is simpler than a naturalist explanation, but rather that a monotheistic explanation (where God is omnipotent and omniscient), is actually a simpler explanation than postulating a "god" that is hyper-powerful, but not quite omnipotent. So the context of Swinburne's use of simplicity in that context is not between a theistic explanation and a naturalistic one, but rather between a monotheistic explanation and an explanation that postulates a "near-omnipotent-but-not-quite" god. And in that context, again, Swinburne makes a good case that simplicity points one in the direction of monotheism rather than not.

RD Miksa

grodrigues said...

Oh brother. Not the same pseudo-scientific argument of Dr. Logic now dressed up by invoking Kolmogorov complexity...

Papalinton said...

Martin
Kalam has been shot down, mortally.

See HERE from Dr Graham Oppy, Philosopher of Religion, and This from Dr Greg Scorzo, Philosopher, and THIS from Dr Wes Morrison, Professor of Philosophy, and THIS from Blake McAllister from Lipscomb University, along with J L Mackie, Paul Draper and many other internationally renowned philosophers that have seen off William Lane Craig's intuitive claims.

Martin said...

Paps,

Fascinating. And if you would read my comment instead of just feverishly thinking of what you want to say, you would notice that I was not talking about Kalam at all.

Papalinton said...

"Oh brother. Not the same pseudo-scientific argument of Dr. Logic now dressed up by invoking Kolmogorov complexity.."

So you haven't heard of the Kolmogorov complexity before, grod?

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

"There is no evidence provided for Sasquatch that is comparable to, for example, the contingency argument or the argument from motion that is provided for the existence of God. "

You have been discussing the argument from motion, but you accused me of moving the goalpost when I asked how motion is explained by act and potency. Let me repeat my question.

Aquinas asserts "Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved;" As I was saying, this is based on an ancient understanding that has been superseded by modern physics. Can you prove that Aquinas' assertion is actually true? Is there nothing in the universe that cjanges without being acted upon by some external force or body?

If it can't be proved, then the first way falls flat on its face.

Martin said...

Skep,

>Aquinas asserts "Now whatever is moved is moved by another, for nothing can be moved except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is moved;" As I was saying, this is based on an ancient understanding that has been superseded by modern physics.

There's nothing "ancient" about this principle. The principle is that no potency can actualize itself, because a potency doesn't even exist (yet). If you agree that non-existent unicorns cannot punch holes in your car, then you agree that a potency (which doesn't exist) cannot actualize itself. If it could, it would then exist before it exists, which is a logical contradiction. David Oderberg has a whole paper on this here.

Virtual particles, for example, are entirely dependent upon an energy field and the physical laws that allow them to happen According to this physicist, two passing particles cause a ripple in the energy field, which is what the popular media has dubbed "OMG! Virtual particles appear out of NOTHING without a CAUSE!! CAUSALITY IS OVER!!!!1!!!1!!!11!!"

To add yet further to this point, Aristotle has a much broader view of causation, which is called causal pluralism. This is a philosophical point and not a physical one, so you cannot appeal to modern physics to resist it; you must appeal to philosophical arguments to oppose it. Modern physics is completely silent on, and compatible with, both narrow and broad views of causation. Aristotle's view of causation includes more than just event causing another event. Sustaining causes are included as well, so for example the current state of the nuclear forces in your body are a cause of your body's continued existence from moment to moment. You aren't just caused by your parents; you are also caused from moment to moment by nuclear forces, bonds, the state of electrons, mass, etc. This notion of causation is one of dependence. This point is discussed further, with references, in this paper.

So taking the above into consideration, the existence of such objects as virtual particles is something that cannot be attributed to virtual particles themselves, as they would then exist ontologically prior to their existence, which is a contradiction. So they are dependent upon further conditions for their existence, and this can be seen with the energy field and passing electrons that are responsible for their existence and without which they would not exist. The same can then be applied to these states as well. For example, energy cannot exist without its force carriers, matter, etc. The chain continues.

So as you can see, there is no "ancient" understanding of physics here; people often get tricked because in talking about these things, Aristotle makes use of the known science of his day, which does include things we now know to be wrong. But his illustrations are just that: illustrations. They do not affect the points he is making.

Papalinton said...

Martin
"The reason God is said to have such attributes is not because we observe him doing things and hypothesize that he must be all-powerful, all-knowing, etc, but rather because the arguments for the existence of God argue for something fully actual and unchangeable, and therefore maxed out."

But you DO observe your god doing things and make such ludicrous claims. The apparent virgin birth, the apparent walking on water, the apparent revivifying and levitating of a corpse. These are precisely what Christians claim. of his 'observed' omnipotence. So it is extremely unctuous to continue to pretend that you know things that you really don't know.

im-skeptical said...

Martin,

" Aristotle makes use of the known science of his day, which does include things we now know to be wrong. "

Like the concept of act and potency, which can now only be seen to make sense in terms of formal or teleological causation. But those things are not part of modern physics because they play no role in explaining how things actually work.

Martin said...

Skep,

Perfect example. Aristotle may describe act and potency by referring to the turning of the crystal spheres around the Earth, but this has nothing to do with the theory of act and potency itself and does nothing to throw doubt on it. Your computer is actually on right now, but potentially off. And physics does not refute this principle either. Before an experiment at the LHC, a physicist has a potential paper he will submit for peer review in his head. Then he writes it, and the paper becomes actual (real).

jdhuey said...

First of all, you mention the Big Bang. But the argument for a beginning to the universe is called the "Kalam cosmological argument", and this is distinctly different from the two arguments I mentioned (contingency and motion), neither of which require the universe to have begun at all.

Martin,

I disagree that the arguments are "distinctly different". At their core the arguments are the same argument: that an infinite regress is impossible, ergo God is logically necessary where God is your uncreated creator, unmoved mover, uncaused caused. If God existence is logically necessary then any system of thought that does not need God to exist will be logically inconsistent. The eternal inflation theory may or may not be true, but it is logically consistent (i.e. the math works)and it does not need for God to exist to work. Therefore, God is not logically necessary which means that the arguments for that conclusion are unsound.

As I stated earlier, this is just my take on the argument. I'm pretty sure that Kant refuted these arguments in his Critique of Pure Reason in a much more head on way.

Martin said...

jdhuey,

There is a HUGE difference between trying to argue that the universe must have had a beginning, and allowing that the universe may not have had a beginning. They are, in fact, opposite.

The infinite regress in the Kalam argument is not the same as the one Aquinas speaks of. In Kalam, the argument is that an infinite regress is impossible because you could never traverse an infinite number of events and get to today, and that therefore there must have been a beginning.

Aquinas, in contrast, allowed such a regress to be infinite and this is why he rejected Kalam. In his own words:

"...it is not impossible to proceed to infinity 'accidentally' as regards efficient causes; for instance, if all the causes thus infinitely multiplied should have the order of only one cause, their multiplication being accidental, as an artificer acts by means of many hammers accidentally, because one after the other may be broken." - Summa Theologica, Question 46, Article 2

Rather, his regress could be infinitely long (despite his words), strictly speaking. What he is speaking of is more like this: if there is a receiver, there must be a source. If a lamp is receiving electricity, then there must be a source or giver of electricity. If there were no source of electricity, then the lamp would not be receiving any. His regress is "vertical" into deeper levels of the present, not "horizontal" into events in the past.

His regress is to account for existence here and now, not the beginning of the universe. Your body is held in existence here and now by molecular forces. It is dependent upon them. But, in turn, those forces are also dependent upon further conditions, such as the state of electrons and so forth. But a complete explanation of this current situation must involve something that is not dependent upon any further conditions. Since so many people have problems understanding what Aquinas is talking about when he rejects an infinite regress, I have taken the liberty of illustrating this point.

So a complete explanation of the current ongoing situation of your body's existence would involve forces that are dependent on yet more forces and so on, and finally something not dependent upon any further conditions. Because if it were dependent on yet further conditions, then it would not be the complete explanation of the ongoing existence of your body.

Another way to look at this is to look at Plotinus' argument for The One, which dovetails with and is very similar to the classical theism of Aquinas. I also have an illustrated version of this. The Platonic Forms are not necessary to the basic point Plotinus is trying to make: that the basic constituent of the universe must be something not composed of parts (neither physical nor metaphysical) because each part would then be more basic than it. So the MOST fundamental principle of the universe must be something non-composite. This is what Aquinas is getting at as well.

Here is yet another way to summarize all this, from Aristotle to Aquinas: all changeable things depend on further conditions for their ongoing existence, and (as you see in the Powerpoint above),
a complete explanation of this situation must involve something that is not changeable.

So you can see how your objection doesn't even touch Aquinas or Plotinus:

"The eternal inflation theory may or may not be true, but it is logically consistent (i.e. the math works)and it does not need for God to exist to work."

Forget "God." Get "God" out of your mind. The eternal inflation would be something that changes (as it inflates, collapses, and so on), and so it would be dependent on further explanations, the complete picture of which would still involve something unchangeable.

BenYachov said...

Skept

You are as useless as teats on a bull.

You have been corrected on this "ancient understanding that has been superseded by modern physics" nonsense before.

Really would it set your tits on fire if you got out of your Positivism bubble and actually tried to learn some philosophy?

im-skeptical said...

"Really would it set your tits on fire if you got out of your Positivism bubble and actually tried to learn some philosophy?"

I suppose you would have me join you in your Thomism bubble? No, thanks. Thomism is obsolete, dependent on an ancient world view that has long since been demonstrated to be incorrect, and replaced by observed evidence. You can insist that Thomism is all valid, but you can't demonstrate it. Any philosophy that runs counter to empirical observation is invalid. There are plenty of modern philosophers that embrace modern science. Their world view tends to be far more realistic than yours.

Martin said...

Skep, there is nothing "ancient" about act and potency. You use these concepts every day. Right now your computer is actually on but potentially off. If you shut it down, it will now become actually off but potentially back on again.

im-skeptical said...

"Right now your computer is actually on but potentially off. If you shut it down, it will now become actually off but potentially back on again."

Well, there's a little more to it than that. And you quickly get into the absurd aspects of it. Aristotelian potency is meaningless. Formal causation is meaningless. A tree is potentially a house, potentially a fence, potentially many different things, but it means nothing. What matters is what forces and processes act upon the tree, and those things alone determine what happens to it, or how it moves.

As I said, Thomism does not explain how things move. It doesn't explain anything. Physics does.

By the way, in reference to Plotinus's One, what is the ideal form of an elephant? Is it a particular species? There is a range of variation within a species - height, weight, coloration, etc. Is there a particular set of attributes that characterize the ideal form? Also, species evolve over time. So is this ideal form representative of modern elephants, or the ones that lived thousands of years ago, or perhaps the ones that elephants will evolve to be some time in the future?

Also, by what logic do you go from "Protons consist of quarks, and so on" to "the bottom-most layer of reality cannot consist of parts"? This seems to be a non-sequitur. But perhaps you can explain how the logic works.

planks length said...

im-skeptical,

Are you saying it's turtles all the way down? Or are you merely pushing Martin for further clarification?

im-skeptical said...

I'd like Martin to explain the logic, because it doesn't seem valid to me.

Martin said...

That's all there is to act and potency. They are just fancy technical terminology for "the way something is right now" and "the way something is able to be." In Christopher Martin's book chapter on the FIrst Way, he doesn't even use these terms. He uses "actually is" and "can be." Your computer actually is on, but can be turned off. That's it. Nothing more to it. Anything you think is there is just you being distracted by the technical terms.

A tree that actually is a tree now is indeed potentially a house, potentially a fence, potentially many things. And for it to become a tree or a house, some other factor needs to come into play, such as a woodsman chopping the tree down. There's nothing meaningless about it, and you use this concept all day, every day, without thinking about it.

Thomism doesn't explain how things move, and physics does, because physics is empirical science and Thomism is philosophy of nature. Philosophy of nature is the philosophy of changing things, regardless of their specific natures.. It is up to physics, biology, etc to explain the specifics of how these things change. But philosophy of nature is concerned with the much more abstract level of changing things in general. When Aristotle does philosophy of nature he might tell us that change occurs and consists of act and potency. Then Aristotle might go on to engage in physical science, and describe a particular instance of change: a falling stick and a falling rock. And then he concludes that the rock falls faster than the stick because it is heavier. He was wrong about the second case, but not about the first. He was correct that change occurs, but wrong about his physics. This is because philosophy of nature and physics are two separate topics operating on entirely different levels. For more in depth information on the difference between metaphysics, philosophy of nature, and empirical science, see my short article here, or Ed Feser's longer article here.

The point I was making with Plotinus had to do with the simplicity of the most fundamental principle; Plato's Forms are entirely irrelevant to my point, and I"m not going to defend that here. Suffice to say that Aristotle vehemently rejected the Forms.

As for the most fundamental layer of reality not consisting of parts, this is because if the most fundamental layer consisted of parts then each part would be more fundamental than it, and hence it wouldn't really be the most fundamental layer in the first place. Consider that the most fundamental layer of reality consists of an object A+B. But then A is more fundamental than A+B, because A must exist "before" (hierarchically before) A+B. So A by itself is more fundamental than the combo of A+B.

im-skeptical said...

" This is because philosophy of nature and physics are two separate topics operating on entirely different levels"

Only in your fantasy world, where philosophy is disconnected from nature, can you say they are entirely different. As I pointed out before, modern philosophers take scientific understanding into account in their philosophy. Any philosophy that is not fully informed by science is not worth studying.

" Plato's Forms are entirely irrelevant to my point"

Then why go to the trouble of discussing all that in your presentation?

"if the most fundamental layer consisted of parts then each part would be more fundamental than it"

That's hogwash. You speak of "layers" of reality as if they were physical things, but it's really nothing more than a conception. Physical things are composed of parts, and at some point (presumably), the parts no longer break down into more fundamental parts. Those things are the most fundamental particles. To claim that there is an underlying "layer" that is still more fundamental is sheer flight of fantasy, and not supported by anything you said, other than the bald assertion that it must exist.

Dan Gillson said...

Skep,

You said that you were all for understanding your opponent's argument, but you clearly don't understand Martin's point. You think you can exorcise Martin's point by waving your magic wand while reciting "Thomism!" Your attempt at hocus-pocus isn't a refutation.

I'll point it out for you once again that if you're going to seek for people to take your side, you might want to avoid saying things like, "Only in your fantasy world." You had no reason to insult Martin. None. I'm beginning to regret my resolution to treat you respectfully and seriously.

Ilíon said...

"... I'm beginning to regret my resolution to treat you respectfully and seriously."

A mistake mean ol' me knows better than to make.

Dan Gillson said...

I'm usually a man of infinite second chances, but skep's passive-aggressiveness and need for special treatment really irks me. He's got a bad case of special snowflake syndrome, or at least, the im-skeptical avatar does. I'll grant that the real life person responsible for im-skeptical may actually be a decent fellow.

Martin said...

Skep,

>Only in your fantasy world,

No, not in my fantasy world. In the real world there is a distinction between A) change in general, and B) specific changeable things. It might have turned out that reality consisted of some other particles other than quarks. Yet, change still occurs. Aristotle reasons that change occurs and that light objects fall slower than heavier ones. He was wrong about the second half, but right about the first: change does occur.

For empirical science to be possible at all, change must occur because you must do experiments, then afterwards reason about the results. Philosophy of nature is concerned with what must be the case for empirical science to even proceed in the first place. Another example. For empirical science, or even knowledge in general, to be possible there must be something stable over and above the changing things. If you gain knowledge of object 1, but then it changes completely, your knowledge is impotent now because the entire situation has changed. Since knowledge is possible, there must be some stable things that hold over and above the changing things. Volcanoes change, but in a sense they stay the same and so volcanology is possible: we can have knowledge of the conduit (the tube that transfer magma to the surface), the cone, pyroclastic flow, etc. Because even though change occurs, there is some stability as well and hence knowledge is possible.

The larger point is that this is the very abstract level at which something like Arisotelian-Thomistic thought is occurring. It is very different from modern theistic arguments, which try to make use of empirical science by pointing to things like the supposed fine-tuning of the universe.

>Physical things are composed of parts, and at some point (presumably), the parts no longer break down into more fundamental parts. Those things are the most fundamental particles.

That's exactly the point I just made. Whatever is most fundamental cannot be broken down more. I.e., cannot be composed of parts. That's what I just said.

>To claim that there is an underlying "layer" that is still more fundamental is sheer flight of fantasy, and not supported by anything you said, other than the bald assertion that it must exist.

This is just hostile name-calling, and not an actual argument. Calling it a "fantasy" does nothing to show that I'm wrong. Whatever the most fundamental principle is, it cannot be broken down anymore, and thus cannot be composed of parts or sub-principles. So the must fundamental thing cannot be changeable, because if it were, it would then consist of two principles: act and potency. So the most fundamental principle must be either just act, or just potency.

im-skeptical said...

Dan,

I would be more sympathetic to your complaint if I didn't know that you say absolutely nothing when people heap insults on me, and far worse than "in your fantasy world", I might add. Your umbrage seems extremely selective.

Dan Gillson said...

They haven't sought others to take their side against someone else. You have, and you've even criticized me for not taking your side against Crude. If Martin starts treating you as Crude does, don't get mad at me later for not taking your side. You will have earned the treatment which you deserve.

im-skeptical said...

I should be more careful about the things I say, particularly in response to people who have not been unkind to me. I hope I have not insulted Martin. Please understand that what seems mild to me may come across as insulting to someone else. It is generally not my intention to insult.