Thursday, April 26, 2018

J. L. Mackie and the bunny rabbit

This is from J. L. Mackie's The Miracle of Theism 

“…there is a priori no good reason why a sheer origination of things, not determined by anything, should be unacceptable, whereas the existence of a god with the power to create something out of nothing is acceptable.” 

 I usually reply to this with my bunny rabbit argument. Suppose you and I are eating lunch. You look away, and then, you notice a bunny rabbit is munching on your salad. You ask me how it got there, and I reply, that, funny thing, it just popped into existence without a cause. Would you take that seriously?

10 comments:

Dan Gillson said...

"If I am inclined to suppose that a mouse comes into being by spontaneous generation out of grey rags and dust, it's a good idea to examine those rags very closely to see how a mouse could have hidden in them, how it could have got there, and so on. But if I am convinced that a mouse cannot come into being from these things, then this investigation will perhaps be superfluous. But what it is in philosophy that resists such an examination of details, we have yet to understand." --Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 52.

The point here is that the investigation, i.e., skepticism, is only worth pursuing if you're inclined to believe that something like spontaneous generation could happen. If you do not believe it's possible, investigating such a point is fruitless. The examination of details to which the passage refers is the investigation of prior beliefs that makes skepticism relevant to philosophy. Thus, I wouldn't take your statement seriously because I don't know what it looks like to believe that rabbits spontaneously generate uncaused. And even though I can infer from analogy what supernatural causation could look like, the limitations of my intelligence provide a very poor picture for what it actually would be because I'm restricted to perceive only ordinary cases of causation. Thus I'm skeptical of the causal picture I'm left to form, even though I take the possibility of supernatural causation seriously.

John Moore said...

We certainly have the intuition that nothing happens without cause, but how can we expect our everyday intuitions to apply to things at the quantum scale? Why should we suppose our earthly experience tells us anything about conditions in the Big Bang?

Joe Hinman said...

Thus, I wouldn't take your statement seriously because I don't know what it looks like to believe that rabbits spontaneously generate uncased. And even though I can infer from analogy what supernatural causation could look like, the limitations of my intelligence provide a very poor picture for what it actually would be because I'm restricted to perceive only ordinary cases of causation. Thus I'm skeptical of the causal picture I'm left to form, even though I take the possibility of supernatural causation seriously.

We never see Rabbits pop out of nothing. We never see universes do it either, If fact we don't see subatomic particles do it either but some have convinced us we do see it. Thus we think it easier to believe that a universe could do that, But really there's no reawosn why it should be any eaiser, and no reaso to give that view presumption.

Joe Hinman said...

We certainly have the intuition that nothing happens without cause, but how can we expect our everyday intuitions to apply to things at the quantum scale? Why should we suppose our earthly experience tells us anything about conditions in the Big Bang?

that is no justification for the argument.We see nothing in nature do that why should be assume it can just because it's very small?

Reade my essay om CADRE blog No Proof Virtual Particles Come from nothing

Jimmy S. M. said...

if we trust our everyday experience and assume it rolls up to universe creation, then I'm going to have to ask about the material cause of the universe.

Starhopper said...

Number one: "Nothing will come of nothing" (Shakespeare, King Lear). Even when it appears that subatomic particles spontaneously emerge from a vacuum, what is really happening is that they are appearing due to preexistent physical laws, which is far from "nothing". To say otherwise is to believe in magic, and then literally anything is possible.

Number two: Even if (for the sake of argument) subatomic particles truly appear for no reason whatsoever, that tells us NOTHING about the origin of the universe. Every competent physicist will tell you that what occurs at the subatomic level has virtually no bearing on what happens at the macroscopic level.

One Brow said...

what is really happening is that they are appearing due to preexistent physical laws

Do you see physical laws as prescriptive, rather than descriptive? If so, what gives them the ability to limit behavior? If not, why should they apply when there is nothing physical for them to apply to?

Even if (for the sake of argument) subatomic particles truly appear for no reason whatsoever, that tells us NOTHING about the origin of the universe. Every competent physicist will tell you that what occurs at the subatomic level has virtually no bearing on what happens at the macroscopic level.

I agree with both of these statements, and would go further to say that we can't say anything about behavior at the macroscopic level at all in the absence of matter or the fields generated by matter.

Starhopper said...

"Do you see physical laws as prescriptive, rather than descriptive?"

Excellent question! I see them as prescriptive. We discover the laws by observing behavior.

By the way, the term "law" is a neat little anthropomorphism. Not much improvement over the Medievals, who would tell you that the universe was moved by love.

One Brow said...

I agree the notion of "law" almost builds a law-givers into the concept entirely.

I see them as descriptive. 'This is what we see, until we see something else' sort of thing.

So, what do you think gives physical laws the ability to proscribe behaviors? Is that an ineffable mystery?

Starhopper said...

Another great question! I've had similar wonderings about actions at the fundamental particle level. As I understand it, an electron has no internal structure and is an example of complete simplicity. It has no "parts" and cannot be divided. So how does it know how to react to the presence of a proton in its vicinity? What tells it to be attracted to it? And where is this information stored if there is no storage mechanism?

We are surrounded by ineffable mystery!