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Who Has the Burden of Proof When Discussing God?

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The subject of who has the burden of proof frequently comes up in discussions between Christians and atheists.

Both parties sometimes try to put the burden of proof on the other.

At times, Christians claim that atheists have the burden of proof.

At times, atheists claim that Christians have the burden of proof.

Somewhat surprisingly, both parties are sometimes right . . . and sometimes wrong.

 

The Burden of Proof

The basic idea of the “burden of proof” is that a particular party has an obligation to provide proof of a claim that is being disputed.

This principle is applied in a variety of settings—in courtrooms, in science, in philosophical discussion, and in debates.

When used rightly, it can help keep discussions on track.

When used wrongly, it can cause discussions to descend into squabbles that cause the discussion to go off track.

So let’s look at the ways the burden of proof is assigned and see how it applies to the existence of God.

 

The Legal Burden of Proof

In legal settings, the burden of proof is linked to the presumption of innocence.

In a criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent until the prosecution shows otherwise. The prosecutor thus has the legal burden of proof.

The reasons for this are practical. History shows that if the defendant is not presumed innocent then, when the machinery of the state is pitted against an individual, tyranny results.

Many modern legal systems thus incorporate the presumption of innocence.

In fact, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 11, states:

Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.

This does not apply on Cardassia, however, where they apparently like tyranny.

 

The Scientific Burden of Proof

In the sciences, the burden of proof falls to the one proposing a hypothesis.

It doesn’t matter what the hypothesis is:

  • If you want to propose that Particle X exists, the burden of proof falls to you.
  • If you want to propose that Particle X does not exist, the burden again falls to you.

Either way, in science the person proposing a hypothesis needs to provide evidence for it by using the scientific method (i.e., making a prediction based on the hypothesis and then seeing whether the prediction is fulfilled when a test is run).

Only by doing this can the hypothesis be scientifically established (to the extent that anything can ever be scientifically established).

 

Scientific Proof of God’s Existence/Non-Existence?

If someone wanted to claim that the existence of God is scientifically provable then he would need to formulate a testable prediction based on the hypothesis that God exists and then run the test and see if the prediction is fulfilled.

In the same way, if someone wanted to claim that the non-existence of God is scientifically provable then he would need to formulate the same kind of testable prediction, run the test, and see if the prediction is fulfilled.

Either way, the test would need to be well-designed, replicable, etc., etc., for the matter to be considered scientifically proved.

There are difficulties involved in running tests involving a Being who is not detectable by the senses and who may or may not choose to act in ways that are detectable by the senses.

These difficulties have convinced many that it is not easy to use the scientific method to either prove or disprove the existence of God. Some hold that it is simply impossible.

Our point, though, is that the burden of proof falls equally on the one wanting to assert and the one wanting to deny the existence of God.

In science, you shoulder the burden of proof to sustain your hypothesis, whatever it happens to be.

 

The Philosophical Burden of Proof

Most discussions about the existence of God are not scientific ones. They may involve observations about the universe and things that science studies (e.g., order, design, etc.).

However, they also involve premises that cannot be verified scientifically.

Many of them involve premises of a philosophical nature, and so the discussion of God’s existence is often regarded as a philosophical matter rather than a scientific one.

Who holds the burden of proof in philosophy?

As in science, it’s whoever is making a claim.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re:

  • asserting the existence or non-existence of Plato’s Forms,
  • claiming the truth or falsity of a particular view of epistemology, or
  • asserting that moral judgments are just expressions of emotion or something else.

The principle remains the same: The burden is on you to argue for your own claims.

Philosophy may use a different method than science, but its assignation of the burden of proof is the same.

 

Why Discussions Go Wrong

If the existence of God can be treated (largely) as a philosophical matter, and if the burden of proof is clear in philosophy, why do discussions on the subject go wrong?

Because we’re human, and we often don’t keep things clearly in focus.

One way we do this is when we are making  a claim but then try to shift the burden of proof to our opponent.

For example, if a person is asserting the existence of God to an atheist, he might at some point say, “Well, there’s no evidence that he doesn’t exist!”

Or, if a person is asserting that God does not exist to a theist, he might at some point say, “Well, there’s no proof that he does exist!”

In both cases, a logical fallacy known as the argument from ignorance (Latin, argumentum ad ignorantiam) is being committed.

 

A Natural Temptation

It’s easy to see why the parties in these discussions would want to do this: If you can relieve yourself of the burden of proof then that makes your job in the discussion vastly easier.

It’s thus a natural temptation for people—whatever their view—to try to shift the burden of proof to others.

And it’s a temptation that we need to resist in ourselves.

It doesn’t help the discussion, and it leaves us open to a very plausible rejoinder . . .

 

“Hey, Wait a Minute!”

If we try to shift the burden of proof onto a person we are trying to convince of our view, it is entirely appropriate for them to say, “Hey! Wait a minute! You are the one who wants me to change my view! It’s up to you to give me reasons why I should do that.”

Thus, if a Christian is trying to convince an atheist that he should change his view of the existence of God, the Christian needs to give the atheist reasons to do so.

In the same way, if an atheist is trying to convince a Christian that he should change his view, the atheist needs to give the Christian reasons to do so.

There is no innately privileged position on this question, just as there is no innately privileged position on any other.

“X is true” and “X is false” are logically equivalent propositions.

If you want to convince a person of one, it’s up to you to give reasons why he should believe it.

 

Who’s Right and When

Atheists are thus right to say that Christians shoulder the burden of proof when Christians are trying to convince others of their view of God’s existence.

Similarly, Christians are right to say that atheists shoulder the burden of proof when atheists is trying to convince others of their view of God’s existence.

Neither atheists nor Christians are right to say that the other always has the burden of proof.

They don’t.

It depends on who’s trying to do the convincing.

 

How Heavy the Burden?

It’s also worth noting that how heavy the burden of proof is varies.

How much evidence a person needs to change his view will depend on how committed he is to it.

A person highly committed to the existence or non-existence of God will naturally demand more proof than a person who is only weakly committed.

It will also depend on the situation in which the person finds himself and how urgent he feels the question to be.

A person who is 21 and who thinks himself immortal may not feel the urgency to decide the issue that a person who is 95 and is acutely aware of his mortality.

  • The 21-year old thus might feel more comfortable remaining undecided and might want more evidence before deciding one way or the other.
  • A 95-year old, by contrast, might be willing to settle for much less evidence, one way or the other, to resolve the tension generated by the approach of death.

The point is that the weight of the burden of proof can vary depending on the circumstances, inclinations, and commitments of the person who is being asked to change his view.

 

No Magical Level of Evidence

There is no magical level of evidence where something can be considered objectively proved.

At least, there is no such level that we have access to (certainly not outside of pure mathematics or logic, and often not even then).

In our discussions, we are not trying to convince objects but subjects—other people—and how much proof they need to change their view will vary from person to person.

Giving  them the proof that they feel they need may or may not be within our powers, but we should recognize the subjective dimension of the burden of proof.

Remembering that can help us avoid frustration and keep the discussion productive.

 

More to Come?

The question of the burden of proof is related to a number of other discussions that occur in these waters:

  • Occam’s Razor
  • Russell’s Teapot
  • Pascal’s Wager
  • Inertia in Belief
  • Extraordinary claims and extraordinary evidence
  • Evidence of absence and absence of evidence
  • And more!

Hopefully, I’ll be able to treat some of these in future posts.

For now, what do you think?

 

What Now?

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Jimmy Akin

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Jimmy Akin is a Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers, a member on the Catholic Answers Speakers Bureau, a weekly guest on the global radio program, Catholic Answers LIVE, and a contributing editor for Catholic Answers Magazine. He's the author of numerous publications, including the books The Fathers Know Best (Catholic Answers, 2010); The Salvation Controversy (Catholic Answers, 2001); and Mass Confusion: The Do's & Don'ts of Catholic Worship (Catholic Answers, 1999). Many of Jimmy's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Follow Jimmy's writing at JimmyAkin.com.

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  • GreatSilence

    I do not believe that the burden of proof is a helpful requirement in discussions like these. While it works fine, and is in fact indispensable in a setting like a courtroom, it is rather meaningless in internet discussions on faith.

    Parties believe what they want to, and the burden of proof presupposes an arbiter, a judge. In discussions like these this "burden" really just adds more drama and grist to the mill.

    But the main reason why I believe that the requirement is a silly one, is that believers, if they want to be consistent, must admit that there is no proof, that our position is reached by faith. The "evidences", such as they may be, are all merely tools that guide us into one position or another. In a courtroom, if evidence ever becomes sufficient to shift the burden of proof it is regarded as that fact(s) proven, no need for faith at all.

    Lastly, I find that this burden seems to be more of a tacit admission, by both sides, that their own arguments may not be as conclusive as they may want it to be, and that we are in need of some legal construct such as this burden in order to achieve a "winner".

    It is a silliness, nothing more.

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      "[B]elievers, if they want to be consistent, must admit that there is no proof, that our position is reached by faith."

      I'm not sure how you're defining "proof" and "faith" here, but if I understand those words as I think you're proposing them, namely to mean:

      Proof - Any factual evidence that helps to establish the truth of something

      Faith - Belief without factual evidence

      .....then I would disagree with your assertion. There is plenty of factual evidence to help establish the existence of God, and therefore the believer, unless he is a fideist, leans on real proof for God.

      • GreatSilence

        There is evidence that may lead one to accept that God exists. There is not sufficient evidence to establish that God's existence has been proven.

        Does that make my distinction clearer?

        If God's existence has been proven in the proper, legal sense of that word we would not be having this discussion.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          Thanks for the reply! A few things in response:

          First, I'm still confused how you're defining "proof" and "faith". Can you tell me how you're using those words here?

          Second, what do you mean by proof "in the proper, legal" sense"? I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion that if something is proved in that sense, the discussion is over (i.e. everyone will agree.) We only have to turn to the litany of court cases where a definitive, legal judgment has been "proved" yet millions of people still disagree over the evidence (e.g. the O.J. Simpson or Casey Anthony trials.)

          Third, we must distinguish between "proof" (factual evidence that helps to establish the truth of something) and "proven" (established beyond doubt.) Your original claim, which I questioned, was that "believers, if they want to be consistent, must admit that there is no proof [for God.]"

          I disagreed, and still do. As this website reveals, there is plenty of factual evidence that can lead to the truth of God's existence.

          • GreatSilence

            I think that we are overburdening the legal metaphor here. If something is proven in court, then that is the end of the argument (at least for that trial). We do that by way of evidence.I believe that a lot of evidence exists for the existence of God, and that is why I am a believer.

            By that understanding I do not believe however that such evidence is sufficient to be able to say that we have proven the existence of God. We have adduced great evidence. If it was proven then the courtroom would be empty.

            As such, we who presented the evidence, the ones who accepted it, take the rest of the way on faith. If it was all done and proven, no faith would have been necessary. You need not disagree that the evidence can lead to God, of course it can and to most of us it does just that, but we cannot say that it has been proven.

            At best our discussion here shows how murky and imprecise the use of a construct such as the onus is when we get to faith. Who is to decide, who values the evidence, who decides what is permissible and so on.

          • BenS

            As this website reveals, there is plenty of factual evidence that can lead to the truth of God's existence.

            Not evidence that conforms to the quality required in scientific endeavours. I've seen people claim that anecdote is evidence, word play is evidence and gut feeling is evidence but they're not anything that I would consider credible evidence and most of the time it's not even what the proposer would consider evidence if it was used to help make a decision about medical treatment for their children.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            "Not evidence that conforms to the quality required in scientific endeavours."

            The problem you've falled into, which I've pointed out again and again, is reducing "factual evidence" (which is what I actually said) to "scientific evidence."

            "I've seen people claim that anecdote is evidence"

            They are right. Anecdotes are evidence. However, they form subjective evidence, not objective.

            "[M]ost of the time...the proposer would [not] consider [anecdotal] evidence if it was used to help make a decision about medical treatment for their children."

            I disagree. Supposed your child had a terminal disease and the doctor said she had two days to live. There's no know treatments for the disease. Now suppose you meet a friend who says, "My daughter had the exact same disease, and even though the doctor's adamantly confirmed that there was no medical cure, I met someone who suggested she grind up the leaves of a crimson clover plant and drink it. She did, and she was immediately healed."

            Now, you don't have time to medically or scientifically verify that claim. Your daughter only has hours to live. So what would you do? Would you accept that anecdotal evidence enough to try the clover leaves? I know I would.

            Therefore it seems there are cases where, in the absence of empirical verification--or in cases where non-empirical phenomena prevent empirical verification--anecdotal evidence *can*, though not always, carries some weight.

          • BenS

            The problem you've falled into, which I've pointed out again and again, is reducing "factual evidence" (which is what I actually said) to "scientific evidence."

            I haven't 'falled' into any problem, I made it quite clear that theists and scientists have totally different ideas about what constitutes evidence. This was my point - what you consider 'evidence' for your god, I would reject out of hand and you would probably also reject this evidence when weighing up options about healthcare for your children.

            They are right. Anecdotes are evidence. However, they form subjective evidence, not objective.

            Hence, not scientific evidence and largely useless for determining whether a claim is actually true.

            Now, you don't have time to medically or scientifically verify that claim. Your daughter only has hours to live. So what would you do? Would you accept that anecdotal evidence enough to try the clover leaves? I know I would.

            Only because you've set up a flawed question by positing that there is no known treatment for the disease (putting to one side that your friend actually DOES have a treatment in this crimson clover plant).

            Run yourself through that question again with the options that medical science shows there is a treatment with a 70% cure rate... and your mate says crimson clover plants is 100% because he knows three people who got better by taking it.

            Which do you take? Science or anecdote?

          • http://shackra.bitbucket.org/ shackra sislock

            Modern Science rests on "words play"-- I mean, in philosophical claims.

          • BenS

            Got evidence?

          • Ignorant Amos

            Yet here you are typing "word play" on a piece of modern science...flabbergasting isn't it?

          • Max Driffill

            Ben, Brandon,

            I think this point really is key:

            Hence, not scientific evidence and largely useless for determining whether a claim is actually true.

            As James Randi has said, "The plural of anecdote is not data." At best anecdote can hint at a real thing. It can never be proof of a real thing. That comes after you figure out what kinds of predictions you think you can make based on anecdotes about something.

            Consider prayer. The largest two studies on the efficacy of prayer started with an examination of claims about prayer, by theologians, and by people who claimed positive health outcomes from intercessory prayer. The researchers (all favorable to the notion that prayer worked) made some predictions based on these anecdotes and developed an extensive experiment to test these predictions. I won't bore you over much with the details of the study (they found that intercessory prayer had no effect on people who didn't know they were being prayed for, and that people who knew they were being prayed for actually had more complications after treatment). For more details you can go here.
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567

            The main point I want to make is that prior to the experiment the researchers didn't have any data that allowed them to reject the null hypothesis (prayer doesn't work) and accept the hypothesis that prayer positively affected health outcomes in patients recovering from surgery. Anecdotes don't allow us to say much about any claim. They can hint at a real phenomenon, but they can also lead nowhere, and often do. Anecdotes don't tell us much about the world.

            This brings me to Brandon's anecdotal cure. For myself I tend to dismiss medical stories about personal illness. Patients, on the whole, tend to not know what they are talking about. Second hand stories I pay attention too even less. I've watched people be given medical explanations by a doctor and then demonstrate that the totally didn't understand what the doctor was telling them. So when if I heard someone tell me about a 1/(a very large number) miracle cure I would probably dismiss it. If the source were particularly trustworthy I might not dismiss it outright, but I would try to discover all the details of the case to see if was reasonable. But even if I tried the alleged cure, that still wouldn't mean that I thought my friend's anecdote constituted data about the real world.
            Even if I did it, and my child got better that would not demonstrate the efficacy of the miracle treatment. It might mean that the treatment was worth some research, or maybe not even that if the proposed treatment violated a lot of what we know about physiology, biology, chemistry, and physics. An n of 2 is not a compelling data set.

          • severalspeciesof

            They are right. Anecdotes are evidence. However, they form subjective evidence, not objective.

            Anecdotes are the worst kind of evidence because they are subjective. If one allows anecdotal evidence from someone else sway your belief, you would have to believe that homeopathy actually works, that astrology is a worthwhile subject, that the stories of other religions are as true (metaphorically or not) as everyone else's. Anecdotes are only useful as a pointer (not as evidence) to see if studying a situation is worthwhile if and only if the anecdotes do not have other more reasonable explanations for their existence...

            Glen

          • Ben

            Uh...yeah, lacking any time to seek out or evaluate other evidence, and knowing it couldn't very well make things worse, I might give my daughter clover leaves (though I still would likely consult the doctors). But that's about as weak a case for the evidential value of anecdotes I can imagine. Imagine the marketing: "Try anecdotes: because when you're falling off a cliff, it feels better to grasp at straws then nothing!"

          • Joseph R.

            "Not evidence that conforms to the quality required in scientific endeavours."

            1) It would be helpful if you will explain how one should interpret your use of "quality required," since this appears to be a qualitative judgement yet to be demonstrated by a scientific experiment.

            2) If this comment is to be taken at face value, well, I think that nobody here has claimed that the evidence for theism can be reduced to scientific evidence. So your point would have more thrust if one could explain the premise that the only evidence worthy of consideration is scientific evidence: even more thrust would be granted if one could prove said premise with a scientific experiment. However, because such an experiment would necessarily presuppose the truth of the scientific-evidence-only reasoning, it would be analogous to an experimenter who uses a voltmeter to scientifically prove the existence of electricity. Please explain why such an experiment/argument avoids the fallacy of begging the question.

            "it's not even what the proposer would consider evidence if it was used to help make a decision about medical treatment for their children"

            Fair point! People, especially those in first-world nations, generally take it for granted that any medical treatment is founded on scientific evidence; however, there is still risk-taking involved in those cases where the proposed medical treatment has less than ~50% chance of success. Can such instances be described as hope- or "faith-" based? When considering proposers from people in less-developed nations, doesn't your point fail to account for those tribes which rely on their members who are known to us as witch doctors?

          • BenS

            It would be helpful if you will explain how one should interpret your use of "quality required,"

            Evidence gathered using the scientific method with all that entails. I won't outline the scientific method here or how to assess quality of findings as there are numerous articles on t'internet about it.

            If this comment is to be taken at face value, well, I think that nobody here has claimed that the evidence for theism can be reduced to scientific evidence.

            And yet they do claim that their god exists and is an active agent in the world whilst still maintaining that it's outside the remit of science. This is rubbish. If it has an effect in the world, we can deploy science against it. The only time we can't is if it has no effect at all in the real world... in which case whether it exists or not is irrelevant. We have no way of knowing and it doesn't matter a jot.

            however, there is still risk-taking involved in those cases where the proposed medical treatment has less than ~50% chance of success. Can such instances be described as hope- or "faith-" based?

            There's risk taking even if it's 99.9% chance of success - and almost all interventions have at least some side effects. That's not the same, though, as relying on gut feeling or anecdote. You've generally got a figure for success - in 100 cases, 50% have been successful, 50% not - so you have something to base your decision on that has been tested and recorded and validated.

            When considering proposers from people in less-developed nations, doesn't your point fail to account for those tribes which rely on their members who are known to us as witch doctors?

            No, because they're not basing their decisions on information provided by science either - unless you think witch doctors use the scientific method to put a figure on the success rate of their chanting and bone throwing?

          • Joseph R.

            If it has an effect in the world, we can deploy science against it.

            Sure. The looming challenge for your science would be to deploy such a closed system that could repeatedly re-create the cause which intends to observe the hypothesized effect. I'll grant the hypothetical possibility of some high-tech instrumentation that could pull it off, but what I won't grant is the starting presupposition that God's "effect in the world," can be reduced to a closed-system analysis. Your charge of rubbish doesn't hold water since your approach is epistemologically incompatible with the theists.

            ...so you have something to base your decision on that has been tested and recorded and validated.

            Ok so by your reasoning, using the ~50% case as the example, then one's decision not to obtain medical treatment is equally valid scientifically. Still, the tests and recordings haven't shown us which decision to make. Please explain how the scientific findings tell us which medical decision is the one we ought to make because I fail to understand how you can arrive at it without the presumption of hope or a presumption of defeat?

            No, because they're not basing their decisions on information provided by science either.

            Agreed.

            ...unless you think witch doctors use the scientific method to put a figure on the success rate of their chanting and bone throwing?

            No, but he could and so could you and I! Would our experiment incorporate the controlled use of the doctor's supernatural claims, or would it neglect said claims because they: a) are scientifically (given current state of technology) uncontrollable; b) are simply dismissed as false; or c) have been or could be scientifically proven to be false?

          • BenS

            The looming challenge for your science would be to deploy such a closed system that could repeatedly re-create the cause which intends to observe the hypothesized effect.

            I might be thick as a whale omelette but I don't think I follow. Who says you need to make a closed system to test things? Science doesn't have to perform experiments in closed systems, experiments done in the real and dirty world are valid as long as their failings are identified and, where possible, mitigated against. Or did you mean something else?

            Your charge of rubbish doesn't hold water since your approach is epistemologically incompatible with the theists.

            Frankly, I don't care if it's incompatible with theists' views. Either god has an effect on the real world or he doesn't. If he does, we can test for it. If he doesn't, the whole concept is irrelevant.

            Ok so by your reasoning, using the ~50% case as the example, then one's decision not to obtain medical treatment is equally valid scientifically. Please explain how the scientific findings tell us which medical decision is the one we ought to make because I fail to understand how you can arrive at it without the presumption of hope or a presumption of defeat?

            It doesn't, nor does it seek to. It simply provides the information. What you do with it is up to you.

            Would our experiment incorporate the controlled use of the doctor's supernatural claims,

            His claims could all be tested with the scientific method. If he claims chanting and bone shaking can cure an ailment then off we go with a double blind, placebo controlled study. Even if we can't explain the mechanism with current understanding, we can certainly test to see if the results are there. If we find that ailments are repeatedly and reliably alleviated in a body of methodologically sound tests of the efficacy of chanting and bone shaking (over that of placebo) then we can say there's something to said chanting and bone shaking, even if we can't describe its method of action.

          • Joseph R.

            Science doesn't have to perform experiments in closed systems, experiments done in the real and dirty world are valid as long as their failings are identified and, where possible, mitigated against. Or did you mean something else?

            I agree that scientific experiments are not required to perform experiments with closed systems. Open-systems are, by definition, "open" to the environment, i.e. some unaccounted interaction. Thus any results are, as you said, "valid as long as [the experiment's] failings are identified and, where possible, mitigated against." That is the long way of saying the conclusions are probabilistic, and the errors were mitigated against as much as possible. See next.

            Either god has an effect on the real world or he doesn't. If he does, we can test for it. If he doesn't, the whole concept is irrelevant.

            This is the key point in our discussion. In any experiment intending to prove or disprove a "God effect" on the real world, the will of God would always be an unknown variable on the hypothesized result (in a closed-system it would be irrelevant because it wouldn't be a variable!). So at best one would have a giant collection of data that indicates the "God effect" was identified in X% of the experimental trials. Even if X=0, the [God] concept is not necessarily nullified or made "irrelevant." In fact, X=0 may indicate that the scientific model had a limitation to begin with. Indeed, the limitation was the presupposition that God's will could be determined via scientific experiment. It is as though one is trying to scientifically determine whether the "God of the Gaps" exists. Our epistemological differences are the pivot-point of disagreement right now, so please care.

            Even if we can't explain the mechanism with current understanding...

            Yes, I agree our study would show exactly as you have described. And so at best, we will conclude that the doctor's methodology had such-and-such material effect in X% of the trials. If X=0, we can either conclude the proposed mechanism was not the result of the supernatural, or we can conclude there was a limitation with our model that we did not consider and need more study/instruments to investigate unknown material causes/correlations.

          • BenS

            So at best one would have a giant collection of data that indicates the "God effect" was identified in X% of the experimental trials. Even if X=0, the [God] concept is not necessarily nullified or made "irrelevant."

            This is where I disagree. If x=0 - i.e. if there was no probability of a godlike being interfering - then the concept of god is irrelevant. It doesn't matter one jot if it exists or what its motives are, if it's completely indistiguishable from random chance / the way we expect things to occur using just the natural laws, then to all intents and purposes, the hypothesised god simply doesn't exist.

            To put it simply, if you can't tell the difference between god and natural working, why bother with god? Just Occam him out.

            And so at best, we will conclude that the doctor's methodology had such-and-such material effect in X% of the trials. If X=0...

            If X=0 in this case then chanting and bone waving had 0 discernable effect on the patients' ailment. That is, it didn't do what it claimed to do. That's the long and short of it. If X=0 then the chanting makes no difference. It doesn't work. Given that the scientific method is robust and proven, I don't see what other conclusion you could draw.

          • Joseph R.

            This is where I disagree. If x=0 - i.e. if there was no probability of a godlike being interfering - then the concept of god is irrelevant.

            I think this is the essence of where the confusion is for me because we agree that X=0%, but then you shift to a notion of probability. Wasn't the probability of G (God effect evident) assumed to be 50% in the experiment [either G does happen (1) or G does not happen (2)] when you said that we could test for it? How does the probability change to 0%? I get that the experimental trials show that (1) was instantiated in X=0% of the trials, but please walk me through how that changed the probability of (1) to 0%.

            It doesn't matter one jot if it exists or what its motives are, if it's completely indistinguishable from random chance / the way we expect things to occur using just the natural laws...the [hypothesized] god simply doesn't exist.

            One has yet to demonstrate the scientific grounds for figuring that G is physically distinguishable from random chance. How do you propose to differentiate between the two since neither has physical mass nor physical dimension and therefore cannot be empirically proven to exist? From what I understand, "random chance" is a term used very loosely to account for the unknown causes that had noticeable effects on experimental results. Random chance is not a material thing in and of itself, and merely pointing to it leaves open the question of what unknown cause is contributing to the observed effects.

            The above is another sticking point for me, because if science, by definition, cannot distinguish between G and random chance effects, then it can't even make a valid scientific observation as to whether G may have been the cause of the random chance in the first place.

            I know that both of us appreciate the scientific conclusions that do not propose God as a cause for unknown effects, but there remains an epistemological gap between you and me as to what constitutes a valid experiment. Perhaps we should simply start by discussing what the purpose of science is?

          • BenS

            Wasn't the probability of G (God effect evident) assumed to be 50% in the experiment [either G does happen (1) or G does not happen (2)] when you said that we could test for it?

            Ehh, no. That's like saying the probability of me leaping from my office, many floors up, and landing safely on a trampoline is 50%. It either will happen, or it won't.

            Anyway, perhaps probability was the wrong word and I'm not making myself clear. How should I rephrase it? If X=0 then there is no evidence of a godlike being interfering? So if there's absolutely no evidence of said god interfering why would you then cling to the notion that it is?

            One has yet to demonstrate the scientific grounds for figuring that G is physically distinguishable from random chance

            I think you're just being deliberately awkward now because I also included 'the way we expect things to occur using just the natural laws'. You seem to be pissing about more with the way I'm phrasing things rather than using a bit of intellect and accepting what it's clear that I mean.

            Ok, fine, fuck the phrase 'random chance' seeing as you're getting hung up on it. Let me rephrase it again.

            It doesn't matter one jot if it exists or what its motives are, if it's completely indistinguishable from the way we'd expect things to work naturally with our current understanding of nature then the hypothesised god is not required.

            That better?

            For reference, few things irk me more than deliberatly messing around with words and phrases and ignoring what it's clear a poster means in order to make arguments that go nowhere or wander off at an irrelevant tangent. Most of the time, it's clear what is meant and what argument needs to be addressed so pissing about only delays the issue. If you take issue with my phrasing I will simply keep refining my phrasing until eventually there is no wiggle room and you will have to respond to the actual point or give up. It would save us all a lot of time and effort if you simply addressed the issues that you can see are being raised right at the beginning.

          • Joseph R.

            That's like saying the probability of me leaping from my office, many floors up, and landing safely on a trampoline is 50%. It either will happen, or it won't.

            Yep, thank your for the example. I agree it sounds absurd, but the probability is correct (assuming the trampoline is in fact there) and you will be jumping. This is where knowing the motive of the subject under test comes back into our discussion - do you see?

            Anyway, perhaps probability was the wrong word and I'm not making myself clear. How should I rephrase it? If X=0 then there is no evidence of a godlike being interfering?

            Perhaps, which is why I asked questions so you could clarify rather than just declare you were pissing about and making things awkward on purpose.

            The key point here is this: If X=0 there was no evidence of a "godlike being interfering," but it would be failure of logic to then conclude that a "godlike being" could never interfere, only that it didn't during your experimental trials: the scientific experiment simply did not fill the epistemological gap.

            So if there's absolutely no evidence of said god interfering why would you then cling to the notion that it is?

            It still hasn't been disproven, but it was shown not to have happened during the trials, and then your non sequitur conclusion was that it couldn't happen. Whether or not I'm clinging to the notion is irrelevant to our hypothetical study; the point of our exchange is to make sure we are on the same page.

            I think you're just being deliberately awkward now because I also included 'the way we expect things to occur using just the natural laws'.

            You included that special language which is why I asked for the scientific grounds to distinguish between the so-called god effect and "random chance." When you correctly limited yourself to natural laws, it is thus epistemologically inconsistent for you to be making claims about how the so-called god effect should distinguish itself from random chance (or the way we expect things to work naturally). I think the epistemological gap is becoming clearer for you now.

            Your re-phrasal does not detract from my point.

            For reference, few things irk me more than deliberatly messing around with words and phrases and ignoring what it's clear a poster means in order to make arguments that go nowhere or wander off at an irrelevant tangent. Most of the time, it's clear what is meant and what argument needs to be addressed so pissing about only delays the issue. If you take issue with my phrasing I will simply keep refining my phrasing until eventually there is no wiggle room and you will have to respond to the actual point or give up. It would save us all a lot of time and effort if you simply addressed the issues that you can see are being raised right at the beginning.

            That rant is the definition of an irrelevant tangent; please focus your efforts on the discussion rather than what you believe me to be doing.

          • stanz2reason

            Yikes dude...

            I agree it sounds absurd, but the probability is correct (assuming the trampoline is in fact there) and you will be jumping

            If you play the lottery you either win or you don't. If I blindfold myself and take a half-court shot in basketball, the ball either goes in, or it does not. That doesn't mean that the odds of such things happening are 50:50.

          • Joseph R.

            If you play the lottery...If I blindfold myself and take a half-court shot in basketball...doesn't mean that the odds...

            You could take that shot and miss 100,000 times (X=0%). what does your experiment say about it's probability?

          • stanz2reason

            That it's exceedingly low?

          • Joseph R.

            Ok. If I turn around and make a shot in four attempts, what does that say about it's probability?

          • stanz2reason

            That you might consider a larger sample size than 4 shots before making probability claims in such a case?

          • Joseph R.

            Yes. At what point or what sample size would I consider the probability that I make a shot to equal zero?

          • stanz2reason

            Were we to place you far enough away from the hoop where the force needed to project the ball to the hoop was greater than that force you might generate from your body would be a good place to start (ie. where it was physically impossible vs. physically unlikely).

            This is an unbelievably dull line of questioning. There only relevant point, which I've already made in my original post, is that having two outcomes in a scenario doesn't necessarily equate to an equivalency of likelyhood for each as you incorrectly suggested in your post.

          • BenS

            I agree it sounds absurd, but the probability is correct (assuming the trampoline is in fact there) and you will be jumping.

            It sounds absurd because it's absurd. I don't think you know what a probability is.

            If X=0 there was no evidence of a "godlike being interfering," but it would be failure of logic to then conclude that a "godlike being" could never interfere, only that it didn't during your experimental trials: the scientific experiment simply did not fill the epistemological gap.

            But the thing we're testing is that SOMEONE claimed a god (or bone shaking) was having an effect on the process. If someone says "my god acts on prayers" and we can find no evidence that their god does then their claim - as they made it - is false.

            Look at this way, what you're saying is the same as someone saying "gravity works by pushing things away" and when all the tests show that it doesn't, turning round and saying 'well, it didn't THEN'. This is idiocy.

            It still hasn't been disproven, but it was shown not to have happened during the trials, and then your non sequitur conclusion was that it couldn't happen.

            I don't recall saying it 'couldn't' happen but disqus is playing silly buggers so I can't seem to go back and check. I wouldn't have thought I'd have made the logical leap from 'not been seen' to happen to 'couldn't possibly' happen because that's not the I think. I'd have stuck with 'not been shown to happen and therefore can be assumed doesn't happen until shown otherwise'. If that's not what I said originally (which I can't check), then that's what I mean.

            You included that special language which is why I asked for the scientific grounds to distinguish between the so-called god effect and "random chance."

            I used 'random chance' as a kind of verbal shorthand for the way things unfold that aren't guided by some intelligence. Like I said, ditch the words random chance if you don't like them, you're clearly reading far too much into it (or clinging to them desperately).

            it is thus epistemologically inconsistent for you to be making claims about how the so-called god effect should distinguish itself from random chance (or the way we expect things to work naturally)

            I'm not making such claims. I'm saying if a god CANNOT be distinguished from the general workings of the universe then why even bother to posit the existence of one? It makes no difference if there is a god that cannot be detected or whether there simply isn't a god at all.

          • Joseph R.

            On a side note, you said, "Given that the scientific method is robust and proven..." but the scientific method has not been scientifically proven - again that's like trying to use a voltmeter to prove electricity exists - but it has been shown to be an effective way to obtain scientific knowledge and nobody here is disputing this.

          • BenS

            It has been pragmatically shown to be the best method we have for gathering evidence. It consistently and reliably outperforms gut feeling, guesswork, revelation, reading entrails, studying holy books, going into a trance and flogging your own bottom until the answer comes to you.

            That's what I meant, in this case, by proven.

          • Joseph R.

            It has been pragmatically shown to be the best method we have for gathering evidence

            I take this to mean that the scientific method is the best for gathering empirical evidence over and above all the many ways you mentioned. In this case I agree, and thank you for clarifying, because our discussion needs to be on the same page.

          • BenS

            Well, exactly what else would you be using to determine the existence and properties of things that have an effect in the world?

          • Joseph R.

            Logic?

          • BenS

            You would use logic to determine the existence of an apple rather than observation?

          • epeeist

            but the scientific method has not been scientifically proven

            You hold science to a strong requirement to justify its methods and findings. Quite right too.

            But unless you hold other domains of discourse to the same requirements you are being disingenuous.

            To use the analogy I have used before, it is all very well making science pole vault over a high bar, but you can't then put the bar on the floor for other disciplines to simply step over.

          • Joseph R.

            But unless you hold other domains of discourse to the same requirements you are being disingenuous

            Yes because, at the very least, internal consistency seems like a reasonable concept for which to ask. BenS asserted that the scientific method has been proven, and I simply wanted to make sure he was holding himself to the standard that he represents, i.e. if [scientific method] can't be scientifically proven, the [scientific method] concept is irrelevant. Besides, questions about my motives or other domains are not the point of the discussion BenS and I are having right now, but thanks for the red herring.

      • primenumbers

        "Faith - Belief without factual evidence" - I don't think it's that faith is seen as belief without evidence, but that faith puts vastly more weight towards evidence than the evidence can hold and similarly applies much less weight towards disconfirming evidence than the strength of the disconfirming evidence would suggest.

    • http://backroomcatholic.com/ Daniel McGiffin

      I agree, though I wouldn't characterize it as silliness. If anything, this article should get people to stop finger-pointing the burden of proof around, and just provide actual, well-reasoned arguments.

  • primenumbers

    "There are difficulties involved in running tests involving a Being who is not detectable by the senses and who may or may not choose to act in ways that are detectable by the senses." - sure, it's tricky, but science is now at the point where what would have seen inconceivably undetectable a few decades ago is now within the realm of the possible. And this makes it unconceivable that a being so supposedly fundamentally involved and everywhere in the universe exists at all.

    "These difficulties have convinced many that it is not easy to use the scientific method to either prove or disprove the existence of God. Some hold that it is simply impossible." - but when they've tried, as with the intercessory prayer experiments the result was a failure for the theists. This doesn't mean that scientific method is the wrong tool for the job, but that at the very least that intercessory prayer is not valid.

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      This doesn't mean that scientific method is the wrong tool for the job,
      but that at the very least that intercessory prayer is not valid.

      Exactly how many well designed scientific studies of intercessory prayer can you cite? And what does it mean to say that intercessory prayer is or is not "valid"? Is the point of intercessory prayer necessarily to get what you pray for? I think the idea of scientifically studying prayer is misguided, but certainly you can't assert that intercessory prayer is "not valid" based on a few studies that simply try to determine if it "works."

      • primenumbers

        The point of intercessory prayer is that it works - that's what it's done for and that's the claim that is being tested. If studies cannot show that it works, then that's what I mean about such prayers not being valid.

        Of course, for any negative result you could say "but we need more tests, more data, more experiments", but you could say that about anything....

        "I think the idea of scientifically studying prayer is misguided," so do I but because the theory it's rested upon, God, is either logically contradictory or un-falsifyable or so ill-defined that it's just not testable.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          Of course, for any negative result you could say "but we need more tests, more data, more experiments", but you could say that about anything....

          But surely the scientific approach to anything requires more than a few studies. If the studies you are relying on had produced positive results, would you have accepted them without saying there should be further studies? Even some of the best-designed scientific studies have yielded results that had to be discarded when further studies could not replicate the results. So first I would say you have set the bar much lower to "invalidate" intercessory prayer than you would for other phenomena.

          The point of intercessory prayer is that it works - that's what it's done for and that's the claim that is being tested.

          I think it is a very naive view of Christianity or any other theistic religion to believe that a deity is expected to grant requests just because people make them. Leaving God out of it, what kind of world would it be if, when you requested something, you always got what you requested? That would mean other people had to grant your requests, and you had to grant theirs.

          • primenumbers

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Studies_on_intercessory_prayer shows a number of studies. If there were not anecdotal reports from believers that intercessory prayer works, then perhaps you'd be right that vastly more studies are needed to reach good statistical significance for the effect that is being studied. However with the vast amount of anecdotal evidence to the positive effects of prayer, do you think that the studies that have been done are enough?

            "I think it is a very naive view of Christianity " - it could very well be, but it's not my view, but that of the believers that tell us anecdotally that intercessory prayer works.

        • msmischief

          No, you are not. You are testing for whether it "work" -- by which you mean you get what you ask for. But you are asking dishonestly, not to get it but to see what will happen, and to a Being who knows what will happen.

          If two third-graders decided to perform an experiment for getting more dessert from Mom, and made all their plans within earshot of Mom, do you think it more likely they will get more dessert, or they will get sent to bed without their supper as they deserve for such a stunt?

          • primenumbers

            I'm not doing the testing. I'm not praying dishonestly. And the prayers in the tests don't know their prayer is being tested either.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Furthermore...Mum has promised whatever that is prayed for will be had.

            This is the promise made in the gospels. No wishy washy caveats are mentioned...simple enough even for the most simple to understand...and that's exactly how the simple understood it.

            Mathew 7:7

            "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!"

            More dessert please Mum...no experiments required.

          • msmischief

            Except that if the dessert is not good for you, Mom will not give it.

            Furthermore, you do not know what, ultimately, is good for you, so you do not know whether you are asking for bread and fish or a rock and a scorpion.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Except that if the dessert is not good for you, Mom will not give it.

            Furthermore, you do not know what, ultimately, is good for you, so you do not know whether you are asking for bread and fish or a rock and a scorpion.

            These are non sequiters...they are theological caveats made up after the fact to excuse the erroneous claim made in the name of Jesus by the gospel writers.

            The bible makes promises of mountain moving proportions, that are most certainly will not be good for someone.

            If I don't know what is good for me, what is the point of giving me the option to ask?

            "Ask and you will receive". What could be simpler than that?

            Not knowing what is ultimately good for me just gets God of the hook.

            So prayer is answered or not depending on what God deems good for me, or in other words, if what I ask for is received, God deemed it good for me. But if what I ask for is not received, it mustn't have been deemed good for me by God.

            But this isn't in scriptures, what is, is...

            "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." [Matthew 21:21]

            "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it." [John 14:14]

            "Ask, and it will be given you." [Matthew 7:7]

            "Nothing will be impossible to you." [Matthew 17:20]

            "Believe that you have received it, and it will be yours." [Mark 11:24]

            The gospel writers would have been better saying...

            "If you believe, you may or may not receive whatever you ask for in prayer depending on whether God deems it good or bad for you."

            Of course, the gospels are inerrant and divinely inspired, are they not?

          • msmischief

            Yes, you are praying dishonestly: to find out what would happen, not to obtain the purported object of your prayer.

  • Michael Murray

    Or you could forget about burden of proof and you could just ask "what would the universe look like if it was created and overseen by a loving, benevolent, intercessionary god".

    Well obviously it would be full of suffering, pain, appalling design, random chaos and innocents suffering and dying.

    I rest my case, m'lud.

    • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

      "what would the universe look like if it was created and overseen by a loving, benevolent, intercessionary god"

      What is your answer? You can't rest your case without answering the question you raised! It's easy to say what it would not look like. But what would it look like?

      • Michael Murray

        Well if it was a court of law I would rest my case with a rhetorical flourish of course!

        I've no idea what the universe would look like if there was such god. I'm just certain it wouldn't look like the one we have. That settles the question of the existence of gods and I get on with the rest of my life.

        • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

          I've no idea what the universe would look like if there was such god. I'm just certain it wouldn't look like the one we have.

          I don't know how you have arrived at such a certainty. Perhaps if you had some idea—sketchy or vague as it might be—of what a "Godly" universe would look like, you would have a basis for saying ours isn't one. But you (and others) seem to put a heavy emphasis on the fact that there is suffering in the world. You must have some idea what a world without suffering would be like.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm certain because in the last few 100 years science has decreased the suffering in the world dramatically. So why couldn't God start it out that way?

            Sorry it's bedtime here. I'll be back tomorrow if my posts aren't all deleted.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            I'm certain because in the last few 100 years science has decreased the suffering in the world dramatically.

            That is by no means self-evident. How do you measure such a thing? Also, why assume that in the next 100, or 1000, or 10,000 years, science will not increase the totality of suffering, or lead to the end of the human race entirely?

          • stanz2reason

            That efforts made through modern medicine over the last century or so decreased the suffering the world is self-evident. You could argue that efforts to combat Polio, smallpox & malaria are enough for this. Add in advances in screening for and fighting cancer, organ transplants and a general increase in knowledge of how our bodies work allowing us to better care for ourselves this seems beyond doubt. If you doubt these things then we're wasting our time here as we're clearly then not reasoning in the same reality.

            Were you to include the cumulative efforts of all mankind as 'science', you could make the argument that certain endeavors, such as our our increased ability to wage destructive wars have increased suffering. In addition, and you are correct to note this, there is no guarantee that continued advances will further diminish suffering, though there is good reason to believe so. Whether or not this is a net increase or decrease or decrease is a matter for another discussion.

            The point here is that through our efforts we have, perhaps small, but measurable amounts made the world better than God did. Were the God Christians suggest exists actually exist, we should not have been able to improve on God's creation. In that respect we can say that the universe does not in fact look like the one where we were unable to improve ourselves beyond God's design.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Don't forget Gods dietary rules though, surely they must count for something?

            In second thoughts, deaths that used to be caused by childbirth and tooth decay tend to counter that nonsense,

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            The point here is that through our efforts we have, perhaps small, but measurable amounts made the world better than God did.

            It is a rather bold, and also vague, claim that the world is "better" now than it was in 1913 or 1813. It's not that I would necessarily agree. But it is the kind of sweeping assertion that, if made by the believers here, would be dismissed by the nonbelievers with two words—"Got evidence?" I think there is a double standard here in that regard.

            Has there been a net decrease in human suffering in the past hundred or two hundred years? My inclination would be to answer yes. But your and my impressions in no way constitute proof, or even evidence. If would be very difficult to come up with a way of objectively measuring the amount of suffering in the world. And of course you would have to weigh the suffering caused by science, not just the suffering alleviated by science. And even then, if you could come up with correct criteria and make reasonable measurements, you would have to make a convincing case that whatever your findings were proved that the world, even if it currently has less suffering, is better than a world with more suffering. The amount of suffering can't be the sole measure.

          • stanz2reason

            I'm not referring to a net increase vs. net decrease. That is a topic for another day. What I was referring to is improvements simply regarding modern medicine and the results of which are an undeniable improvement in quality and length of life.

            'Got Evidence'? Are you serious? Did you read what I wrote? Polio, Small Pox, Malaria, Cancer, etc. I mentioned them all. How many people are rolling around in their wheel chairs due to Polio? A lot of people dropping dead of smallpox in your neighborhood? How much more evidence do you need? It's not impressions. It's simple math.

          • Michael Murray

            I didn't assume that science wasn't going to increase the suffering or lead to the extinction of the human in the future. Where did I say that ?

            I should have been a little more precise in saying that science has increase the potential to relieve suffering. It hasn't always been applied. That is my point. If science can find way so to relieve suffering why can't God ? Has science compromised free will be eliminating small pox ? Apparently not. So why did God need to introduce small pox in the first place.

            I would go for reduced infant mortality, reduction in disease, longer life expectancy with higher quality of life during old-age, contraception as a few reasons for arguing science has increased our ability to reduce suffering.

          • Luke Meyer

            In fairness, the world DID start out that way. Mankind worked an average of 20 hours a week towards hunting/gathering, and used the rest of the time however he pleased.

          • Michael Murray

            And infant mortality was low, life expectancy high, common infections and parasites easily treated, ... I doubt it. Our hunger gatherers evolved where the African eye worm is now common -- I would imagine they suffered from them then as they do now.

            I'm not convinced the Garden of Eden was quite as nice as you seem to think.

          • Luke Meyer

            Well, infanticides were rare for a long time, life expectancy actually was high in non-violent scenarios, but you've got me on the infections thing.

          • Max Driffill

            This simply isn't a fair representation of life in the environment of our evolutionary development. The amount hunter/gathers had to work probably depended a great deal on the ecology in which they were embedded. Hunter gatherers work very hard indeed today (though since they have been pushed far into the margins of once larger territories its hard to know exactly how well they represent the average historic experience of our hunter gatherer ancestors.

            Its also important to remember that our state in nature was (and remains for extant hunter gathers) a very dangerous life indeed. A male in a hunter gather society has a much greater chance of being murdered than a male in any Western Industrialized nation. Males in hunter gather societies have a greater chance of dying in warfare than do people in modern industrialized nations. If you measure better by life expectancy, infant mortality, maternal mortality, freedom from disease, safety from violent death and crime the modern era has all other eras beat. Hands down.
            See Pinker The Better Angels of Our Nature for a detailed account of these facts, as well as his hypotheses for why it should be so. He will link you to the primary literature.

          • Chicagoish

            One could make the argument that "science" has also increased suffering dramatically. Within the last 100 years we've seen the creation of the atomic bomb, killing on a mass scale, modern abortion procedures, etc. I wouldn't say that because that would be stupid to say. "Science" is "neutral". There isn't anything inherently good or bad about it.

          • Max Driffill

            You would have to establish some base lines, and decide what you were trying to compare between modern eras and past ones.

          • Chicagoish

            So you believe that a concept (like science) can have agency?

          • Max Driffill

            I'm not suggesting that, no.

          • Chicagoish

            Sorry its just my snarky way of suggesting that @michael murray's language was imprecise. "Science" didn't do anything in the last few 100 years. Only beings with agency can do things positive or negative. :)

          • Max Driffill

            No problem.

          • Sid_Collins

            A world without suffering would not consist mainly of creatures designed so that they can survive only by eating each other alive.

          • josh

            He only has to know that a 'better' or 'kinder' or 'created by a more powerful or loving being than would have to be responsible for this one' is conceivable, which it clearly is. Michael doesn't have to propound a perfect world, that's not his assumption.

        • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

          "I've no idea what the universe would look like if there was such god. I'm just certain it wouldn't look like the one we have."

          In your own favorite words: show me the evidence. What evidence do you have to support such shocking certainty?

          • Michael Murray

            See my response to David about decreasing suffering.

          • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

            I'm still not clear. Your certainty that this is not a God-created world is that suffering has decreased over the last century? I don't see how that conclusion follows.

          • Michael Murray

            Well before you deleted my comment because it didn't add anything to the discussion and which is no adding something to the discussion it said something about "loving, benevolent, intercessionary god" (thanks David for saving that bit). So not just God-created but a particular kind of God. So my argument remains just the problem of suffering. Why is there so much ? Most of the answers I see involve God for some reason not being able to reduce suffering. So why is God unable to reduce suffering but man is able ? At this point we wander off into a discussion of God's ability to stop Himself doing things or God's ability to contradict the laws of nature etc, etc. Or we realise there is a far simpler solution that fits the facts simply and elegantly. There is no God of the kind conjectured.

          • http://shackra.bitbucket.org/ shackra sislock

            Most of the answers I see involve God for some reason not being able to reduce suffering

            Not "being able to reduce suffering" or the answers involves God not willing to stop suffering? Which is different...

          • Michael Murray

            Well some do it one way and some do it the other as far as I can see. But the discussion is "what would the universe look like if it was created and overseen by a loving, benevolent, intercessionary god". If you are going to argue that your god isn't willing to stop suffering then you've lost loving and benevolent already and intercessionary isn't looking to god.

          • http://shackra.bitbucket.org/ shackra sislock

            if you demonstrate that God have no sufficient moral reasons to *don't stop suffering, or have evil reasons to keep suffering in this world, making Him an evil being, yes.

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not out to prove God is evil. I'm just explaining why so many people find the idea of the existence of the Christian god absurd.

          • http://shackra.bitbucket.org/ shackra sislock

            They may, but those reasons may be more emotional (because they suffer from a horrible pain, i.e: the death of a belove one) than intellectuals, thus, a pastoral work will be necessary rather than explaining to those people the contingent argument for God existence (or any other argument)...

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra,
            How do you know that it isn't Satan who is trying to alleviate suffering and it is the Christian god who is thwarting the noble, well meaning efforts of a fallen angel who could no longer stand idly by while his boss affected immoral act after immoral act on the beings of the universe?

          • Michael Murray

            Seriously ? You really think the only reason people are atheists are because they are emotional over the loss of a loved one. That's so quaint. You need to get out more. Visit http://www.richarddawkins.net and ask people why they are atheists.

          • Max Driffill

            Michael,
            I guess it helps in supporting the belief that arguments for faith are good and that people in their right minds would never reject them.

          • Max Driffill

            Shackra,
            I stopped believing in the RCC brand of gods largely because the doctrines are so clearly man made. The more I learned and saw, the less I was able to hold on to those beliefs until they eventually became untenable they became things I could not convince myself of any longer. It must be stressed here too, I am not one for whom the childhood experience of Catholic schools was especially trying. With one exception, I had no conflicts with priests, was never abused by a priest, never smacked by a nun (though there was a nun, Sister Annette who once lamented that smacking kids with rulers was no longer allowed-she had not been joking). It was on the basis of ideas alone.

            I lingered a bit in belief in the supernatural. But having done the most extravagant form of Christianity and finding it wanting I was not especially eager to try another sect of that religion. I dabbled in Wicca, but mostly because I was also dabbling in a very attractive wiccan. However the more I read and learned about ecology, evolution and astronomy the more I realized that gods just weren't necessary to explain anything. I was ever so briefly leaning toward an agnostic deism, but the more I thought about that, the less sense that made, and it did not long survive the full development of the Occam's razor that now rumbles around in my brain that hungrily seems to always be trying to satisfy parsimony. Any supernatural beliefs I had simply slipped away with my understanding of the world. This journey was, I will be honest not always pleasant, but subtle enough that even I was kind of shocked when I answered a friend who had asked, upon hearing me talk about evolutionary biology, "well you still be in a god don't you?"
            "No, I don't believe in any of that. The evidence," I said, "just doesn't support it."

            I know countless atheists who ended up in the camp of unbelief in just such a way. That is to say, not via the pathway of the emotional basket case.

        • BenS

          Well if it was a court of law I would rest my case with a rhetorical flourish of course!

          If it is an American court of law, you would give an incredibly long closing argument and I would randomly fire guns into the ceiling.

          I got all my knowledge of the American judicial system from watching Boston Legal.

      • Michael Murray

        I do share a suspicion with with Richard Feynman that the universe is too big for the Christian God.

        “It doesn't seem to me that this fantastically marvelous universe, this tremendous range of time and space and different kinds of animals, and all the different planets, and all these atoms with all their motions, and so on, all this complicated thing can merely be a stage so that God can watch human beings struggle for good and evil - which is the view that religion has. The stage is too big for the drama.”

  • Michael Murray

    Burden of proof for dragons in the garage

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/Dragon.htm

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      Per our Commenting Rules, "The comment boxes are for discussing the corresponding posts, videos, and comments." Instead of just throwing up an outside link, please explain how it ties into the conversation. Thanks!

    • http://shackra.bitbucket.org/ shackra sislock

      «And this is true. There is no flour we can throw on the floor to show the footprints of God, no paint to spray that would reveal his form, and so the Christian weeps and the atheist rejoices. But here’s where the metaphor fails to satisfy, intellectually. If there were an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon, he would have been created by God. He would be a ‘natural’ being. “What, natural? An invisible dragon?” Yes, moron, not in the sense of being normal but in the sense of being a part of the universe, and thus obeying it’s laws. After all, Sagan placed him in a garage, creating the absolutely sensible expectation that this dragon should obey the same laws that everything else in the garage obeys, the car, the tool-box, the whiskey your teenager has been hiding for 5 years, etc.

      But the theist’s claim has never been that there is God in their garage, and you can’t see him because he’s a very special thing that has all sorts of really cool qualities that make him hard to see, but OK believe him, HAHA K?!! cuz hes aaawesome, OMG, K?!?!? OMG LOL!!! Alright, maybe some Christians do argue like that, and for them Catholics have been redfacedly apologizing for a quite a while. No, God is supernatural.

      I understand this word makes many atheist’s jaws clench, bringing to mind ghost-hunting reality T.V shows, so let me remind everyone that all supernatural means is ‘outside of nature’. The universe, good science has shown, is finite. We believe God is outside of this finite universe, which encompasses the laws of nature. So to submit God to the experiments that test if He follows the laws of nature, and thus exists, seems a little stupid. If Sagan had been told that this dragon’s nature was outside of the universe, and thus outside of the laws of the universe, would he really have been pissed to find his tests based on the laws of the universe - like mass, visibility etc. – failed?» from BadCatholic, Because God Is An Invisible Dragon

      • BenS

        No, God is supernatural.

        Good, that means it either doesn't exist or we can ignore it utterly because it can't influence us.

        If your god is outside of nature and doesn't interact with nature it's a useless concept. It doesn't do anything.

        I find theists want to claim their god is outside of nature when we come to test for it scientifically but magically it's back in nature when it comes to prayers and miracles and souls and suchlike.

        You can't have it both ways. Either your god has an effect in the real world (nature) and therefore we can test for it or it doesn't and therefore it can be disregarded like other non-existent things. Decide which.

      • stanz2reason

        But here’s where the metaphor fails to satisfy, intellectually. If there were an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon, he would have been created by God.

        Actually the dragon in question not only created God but can exist both part of and apart from the natural world. It is both natural (though invisible and otherwise undetectable) and supernatural, thus being superior to God who is of course only supernatural. Sagan didn't place the dragon in the garage. The dragon has always been in the garage and only revealed itself to Sagan's subconscious. Hope that clears everything up.

      • Ignorant Amos

        Yes, moron, not in the sense of being normal but in the sense of being a part of the universe, and thus obeying it’s laws.

        Well that's not really very nice is it? People in glass houses shouldn't chuck boulders....I'm sure I've been deleted for a lesser offence.

  • Michael Murray

    Why is my comment deleted ?

    • http://www.brandonvogt.com/ Brandon Vogt

      It was needlessly sarcastic and didn't contribute to the discussion.

      • Michael Murray

        And yet it generated quite some interest including a question from you ?

  • clod

    Atheists tend to be more comfortable with 'I don't know', until such time as the evidence rolls in to shift that to a 'possibly' or, 'I'm fairly sure', or something stronger. Psychologically, humans don't like to have their beliefs or illusions shattered, so being comfortable with uncertainty and being open to truth, whatever it is, is tricky for a lot of people. Since, mostly, the positive claim comes from the theists, the burden of proof lies with them imo.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      According to Jimmy A, the issue is not whether the claim is positive or negative, it is that it is a claim.

  • clod

    As for 'original sin'....wasn't me guv....wasn't even on the planet....not guilty... unless you can prove otherwise?

  • GreatSilence

    Where Mr Akin is correct is that the onus can differ from situation to situation. In a legal scenario the party which avers the point may pick up the onus (normally the plaintiff), or the way and manner in which a proposition is phrased may very well have a bearing on who attracts that onus. Again, these are additional reasons why I see no real benefit in using the onus in discussions like these.

  • Rationalist1

    "Who Has the Burden of Proof When Discussing God?" The same people who have the burden of proof when discussing astrology, homeopathy and Elvis still being alive.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      You have just given yourself the burden of proof of showing that any discussion of God is at the same level of quack-pottery as your examples (except for Elvis: he *is* alive).

      • BenS

        You've managed to miss the point quite spectularly. Anyone claiming homeopathy works has the burden of proof. Anyone claiming their god works has the burden of proof. Does it not cause you to stop and think that your belief in your god has the same level of evidential support as these things you deem 'quack-pottery'?

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Have I missed it?

          You've implied that people who discuss God are nutty. You were not saying that anyone who makes a claim must support it.

          • BenS

            I didn't make the original comment, that was R1. (S)he also didn't say nutty, crazy or imply anything of the sort. What (s)he DID do is draw a direct comparison between belief in a god and those topics. The fact that YOU think they are nutty topics an yet they share EXACTLY the same evidential support as is available for a god should really be making you stop and think.

          • stanz2reason

            I don't think the intent was to mock people who believe in God or to imply that people who believe are nutty. However, and maybe this just isn't clear to the believing community, you need to recognize that you're bringing to the table similar levels of evidences as people have for Elvis being alive and suggestions of a burden of proof being on the skeptic community on issues of God's existence sound as silly to us as demands for you to prove the non-existence of a living Elvis.

      • Rationalist1

        Actually of the three I mentioned, Elvis being alive is the most probable.

        • BenS

          My dream is to see Elvis, piloting a UFO, crash-landing in Scotland and waking up the Loch Ness monster.

      • Rationalist1

        Also Astrology and Homeopathy have been believed by millions of people and in the case of astrology for thousands of years. Almost every major newspaper carries a horoscope, many famous intelligent people followed astrology. Homeopathy products are available in major drug store chains, they account for billions of dollars of sales each year. and of astrology and homeopathy there is no one iota of scientific evidence that they are valid, only personal, anecdotal testimony. Sounds familiar.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Still, you merely assert.

          > People believe in astrology and everyone knows it's not true (except crackpots).

          > People believe in homeopathy and everyone knows it doesn't work (except crackpots).

          > People believe in God and everyone knows it's not true and doesn't work (except crackpots).

          That is as valid as the ontological argument.

  • stanz2reason

    In what other avenue of your lives would you assume the existence of anything without the slightest bit of credible evidence and shift the burden of proof to an unfalsifiable position of proving non-existence. If I suggest the existence of papa smurf and smurfette, would we consider it a rational position to say that a burden of proof lies with someone claiming smurfs do not infact exist? Did the scientific community say it was up to everyone else to prove the non-existence of the higgs-boson?

    ... if someone wanted to claim that the non-existence of God is scientifically provable then he would need to formulate the same kind of testable prediction, run the test, and see if the prediction is fulfilled.

    Who exactly wants to claim that the non-existence of God is scientifically provable? It's not really a matter of provability, rather that the position of non-existence (of anything really) until sufficient evidence presents itself is the far more rational position to take.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      >Who exactly wants to claim that the non-existence of God is
      scientifically provable?

      I'm glad you say that. Lots of people demand empirical evidence for the existence of God, claim belief in God is unscientific, and cite as evidence the percentage of members of the National Academy of Science or the Royal Academy of Science who are atheists.

      • BenS

        Lots of people demand empirical evidence for the existence of God

        Yep.

        claim belief in God is unscientific

        Unsupported by science, certainly.

        and cite as evidence the percentage of members of the National Academy
        of Science or the Royal Academy of Science who are atheists

        The number of non-believers is not evidence that a god doesn't exist, but it IS telling that the more educated someone is, the less likely they are to believe in a god - especially when the field they're educated in speaks directly against one or more necessary beliefs.

        The percentage of biologists and geologists, for example, who don't believe in evolution is vanishingly small.

        These days, the majority of the great scientists are atheists - a trend I expect to continue and become more pronounced. Again, whilst not evidence against a god, it's telling.

      • stanz2reason

        Yes. Empirical evidence for the existence of God. Making claims for God's existence without such evidence is of course unscientific. I'm uncertain what bringing up the NAS or RAS was supposed to accomplish.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      >The percentage of biologists and geologists, for example, who don't believe in evolution is vanishingly small.

      Did you mean "believe in God"? I'd hope virtually all biologists would believe in evolution.

      • stanz2reason

        I didn't write that, I think BenS did.

        • BenS

          I think disqus is playing silly buggers.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Disqus is the capricious god of this website.

      • BenS

        No, I meant evolution. My point is that the more people understand about a subject, the less likely they are to believe in things that conflict in it. Of those who understand evolution, again, only a vanishingly small percentage believe that Adam and Eve was literal. As you move away from those who are educated on the subject, the belief rate goes up.

        It's a trend that applies everywhere in the sciences. Where myth comes into conflict with science, belief in the myth decreases as education increases.

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    There is no magical level of evidence where something can be considered objectively proved.

    The problem with this statement is the misleading, maybe disingenuous, rhetorical use of the word "magical". All you have to do is strike that word, and then the claim becomes objectively false. There *is* a level of evidence where something is objectively proved. Hypothesis H1 is proved versus hypothesis H2 on evidence E when P(H1|E)>P(H2|E).

    The burden of proof depends on your goals. For instance, Blackstone's formulation ("It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer") is put into legal practice by having a high burden of proof for criminal prosecution, something like P(guilty|evidence)≥10*P(not guilty|evidence). Scientists to some extent, and engineers to a much greater extent, will use different sizes of burdens of proof depending on how big a claim a claim they are making or how critical a failure is. I personally think it's a mistake to imagine that philosophers acting as philosophers have any comparable record of demonstrating truths.

    An essential component of the burden of proof is the prior probability of a claim. Before you even go looking for new evidence, how likely is the claim? The rigorous ways to find the answer are based on natural frequencies, or on counting the number of options, or on the betting odds. So I can make a claim like "Someone in Mumbai is wearing red tonight", and without seeking any evidence consider it practically proven, because the probability that someone is wearing red in Mumbai tonight is so much higher than the probability that no one at all in Mumbai is wearing red tonight. In court, you'll rightly face more skepticism if you claim that you were framed than if you claim you were vicitim of a series of unlucky events, because the former is a more complicated story.

    If you are making a claim that is the conjunction of all statements in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, then you are making a claim that is probably, in all literalness, the most complicated and extraordinary claim ever seriously proposed. The prior probability of stories like that is exceedingly low -- imagine how rightly skeptical you would be if I changed out all the Catechism's key words and recast it as a story that supposedly happened in China. That's why the Faith is viewed by rationalists as having the burden of proof. That's also why it's accepted by believers on faith, not on a rational basis.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It would be good to read the Catechism before claiming that it requires an extraordinary level of evidence to accept it as true.

      As for your test, it is meaningless.

      Try applying it to a point I found at random:

      1835 Prudence disposes the practical reason to discern, in every circumstance, our true good and to choose the right means for achieving
      it.

      How does adding the word "China" do anything but render it incomprehensible?

      Not only that but the point is a natural truth knowable perfectly well by reason.

      • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

        I have read the Catechism in full several times.

        Also, you're a troll.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Calling me a troll is not only false it is abusive, something not allowed on this website.

          Please show us what you mean by inserting the word "China" into the Catechism to demonstrate whatever it is you think is wrong about it.

        • stanz2reason

          There are trolls on this board. In my opinion, if that matters, Kevin is not one. I feel you're off base.

          • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

            Hm, OK. For my part I became annoyed by his many responses to me today which appeared designed to provoke rather than edify, as they mangled language, raised questions that were already answered in parent comments, and engaged in an informal fallacy I call the "straw golem" that is typical of reddit.

            An ordinary straw man argument is like this: http://www.logicalfallacies.info/ambiguity/straw-man/ . What I call a "straw golem" is when a person straw-mans an argument that nobody was making in the first place. Academic friends of mine noticed "straw golems" becoming extremely column in student work in the last few years, perhaps because teaching standards require students to write persuasive essays that represent contrary views, but not to research what the actual other views are. To my mind this is the same lack of engagement that has lead to the crassness of the sort of New Atheists that I used to meet at university, the ignorant pride of stereotypical Tea Party members, and many other such cases.

            So the "straw golem" is part of big social divisions. But I weary of pointing out, in effect, "That's not what I wrote. Go back, re-read it, and try again."

          • stanz2reason

            There is persistence in Kevin's posting, but, for me at least, he hasn't said anything that warrants being ignored & dismissed as a troll. Incorrect, sure. I think the whole bit about China (and for the record I agree with you here and pretty much your whole parent post) was misunderstood by Kevin making his response a little difficult to comprehend. I believe you were suggesting how skeptical Christians would be of the biblical story were you to change incidentals (names, places, etc.) but keep the core of the story in tact. I believe Kevin interpreted it as referring to the entirety of church doctrine, which includes countless ethical or social doctrines which aren't really dependent on the primary Christ story. In fairness to him the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more broad than just biblical stories, though I felt the point you were making, you were clearly talking about the subset of the biblical stories.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thank you both, s2r and AB.

          • Michael Murray

            Agreed. He should stop posting and help his wife make the dinner more often though :-)

        • Andre Boillot

          Kevin is prone, in my opinion, to some far-fetched statements, but I don't doubt his sincerity for a moment.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Guess I fooled you!

      • Andre Boillot

        "As for your test, it is meaningless."

        I would suggest that your inability to discern the meaning is not the test of his test's meaningfulness.

        To be fair, and at the risk of putting words into Noah's mouth, I think the point is that you would likely dismiss out of hand the miracle accounts, no matter how similar, of other religions/traditions.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          That is largely true about the miracle accounts.

          I think that would be because they are fabulous (i.e., fable-like) accounts, which is how I tend to see Greek and Norse myths.

          However, it was interesting to read about this goddess in Taiwan named Mazu. a maiden goddess who performs miracles for people including people at sea.

          If people's prayers could really be shown to have been answered, I wouldn't dismiss that and could figure out a way to account for it.

          • Andre Boillot

            "I wouldn't dismiss that and could figure out a way to account for it."

            I have no doubt you'd manage to insert your preferred deity into the picture :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Exactly. Or if it was black magic, the devil.

          • Andre Boillot

            Why be so negative? Perhaps those prayers were being re-routed to one of the patron saints of sailors?

            http://www.luckymojo.com/patronsaints.html

  • severalspeciesof

    Atheists are thus right to say that Christians shoulder
    the burden of proof when Christians are trying to convince others of
    their view of God’s existence.

    I agree wholeheartedly, especially when the Christian’s belief in god is
    thrust into a political setting, and infringes on others…

    Similarly, Christians are right to say that atheists
    shoulder the burden of proof when atheists is trying to convince others
    of their view of God’s existence.

    If atheists try to tell Christians (or any other religion) that Christians
    can’t believe, then the burden of proof would be on the shoulders of the
    atheist, but, IMO, not until then…

    Glen

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I agree with you. And in both cases the only valid arguments are rational ones.

  • Sanity_Inspector

    The scientific method does not prove hypotheses by testing whether their predictions are fulfilled. It seeks to DISprove them by finding instances where they are NOT fulfilled. The more tests that a hypothesis survives, the better-established it is taken to be- but it is never proved. It takes only one replicable test which it fails, to disprove it.

    To test the hypothesis that there is NO god (call it the 'NotG' hypothesis), you would have to look for instances of things happening which could only happen if God were to exist. If you fail to find them after enough tests you can legitimately begin to suspect that he doesn't.

    Similarly, to test the hypothesis (call it the 'G' hypothesis) that God exists, you would have to look for instances of things happening which could not happen if there were a god. If you failed to find them after enough tests you could legitimately begin to suspect that he does. If you found even one, G is disproved.

    But in neither case would the hypothesis be proved. It would only have have been found more likely. But a single replicable failure would disprove it.

    NotG is tested all the time. It invariably survives the test. Nothing ever seems to happen which could only happen if there were a God.

    G is untestable, because there seems to be no event, which its proponents can admit God's existence would rule out.

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      "The scientific method does not prove hypotheses by testing whether their predictions are fulfilled. It seeks to DISprove them by finding instances where they are NOT fulfilled. The more tests that a hypothesis survives, the better-established it is taken to be- but it is never proved. It takes only one replicable test which it fails, to disprove it."

      >> Bravo! Every syllable above is resplendently truthful.

      "To test the hypothesis that there is NO god (call it the 'NotG' hypothesis), you would have to look for instances of things happening which could only happen if God were to exist. If you fail to find them after enough tests you can legitimately begin to suspect that he doesn't"

      >> The above two sentences are catastrophically wrong. God is not an object of experimental scientific hypothesis, or of experimental scientific test.

      This is because science is competent only in the domain of material aspects of reality.

      This is why science is presently engaged in a struggle for its own integrity of method, against those who would pervert it into a false metaphysics, or even theology.

      • Loreen Lee

        Hopefully, this is an appropriate place to ask this question. It is a response to your closing paragraph.
        Have been in a discussion, and have seen many other remarks which raise the thesis of 'a mind independent evidence'. Is this a scientific or a philosophical hypothesis. I took it to be the latter, and have read enough to know that 'modernism', including the positivist's 'sense data' assume that 'the world' is seen through a human perspective, (and possibly can't be seen 'any other way'). The extreme 'evidence' of this is the Shroeder? cat illustration.

        The other alternative interpretation of 'mind independence' was just that it was a realist position regarding 'all' empirical evidence generally.
        But yesterday I googled an article on Stanford encyclopedia's Philosophical Encyclopedia, and find that yes, it is a realist position, and although I couldn't understand all the (x -0(xo)-p arguments!!!which I couldn't understand, I am left with the incredible hypothesis, that this mind-independence could serve as a radical argument for a scientific/atheist philosophical notion of what might constitute a 'modern 'g/G-od'. Any comments. Can someone clarify this. Please make your argument/explanation simple so that I understaqnd. Is 'evidence' for the Christian God mind-independent. Is it for this reason that his existence cannot be substantiated by argument.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          'a mind independent evidence'. Is this a scientific or a philosophical hypothesis."

          >> It is a metaphysical/philosophical hypothesis.

          "I took it to be the latter, and have read enough to know that 'modernism', including the positivist's 'sense data' assume that 'the world' is seen through a human perspective, (and possibly can't be seen 'any other way'). The extreme 'evidence' of this is the Shroeder? cat illustration."

          >> Schroedinger's cat requires an observer. Not necessarily a human observer. It is a metaphysical/philosophical, not a scientific, hypothesis.

          "The other alternative interpretation of 'mind independence' was just that it was a realist position regarding 'all' empirical evidence generally.
          But yesterday I googled an article on Stanford University's Philosophical Encyclopedia, and find that yes, it is a realist position, and although I couldn't understand all the (x -0(xo)-p arguments!!!, I am left with the incredible hypothesis, that this mind-independence could serve as a radical argument for a scientific/atheist philosophical notion of what might constitute a 'modern 'g/G-od'. Any comments. Can someone clarify this. Please make your argument/explanation simple so that I understand. Could mind independence be 'evidence' even for the Christian God" Is it for this reason that his existence cannot be substantiated by argument or 'visual proof'?."

          >> Either there is a real universe "out there", existing independently of our ability to observe it, or there isn't.

          If there is, then science has excellent prospects for applying its method to determining the actually operative principles governing its observed motions.

          If there isn't, then science, logic, reason, and everything else, are a cynical joke.

          One position leads us somewhere.

          The other, like atheism, leads us nowhere.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks. My understanding on these issues is buttressed primarily by my 'reading' of Kant.

            I thus accept that because of his demonstration that the antinomies are arguments that can be proven and refuted, that any position taken by theist or atheist, would perhaps be more convincing if they rested on individual experience, and life lived, but I realize that this too is just another 'argument'.

            You did say: This is why science is presently engaged in a struggle for its own integrity of method, against those who would pervert it into a false metaphysics, or even theology.

            On this then too I will go with Kant's realist position with respect to the external world, and his idealism, with respect to metaphysical postulates. You seem to take the position that the 'mind-independence' postulate falls within the latter category. Then I would hope, and expect, if this comment is even read, that future arguments that put forward this position will be based as much on the 'onus of proof' is on the person who has the thesis, as that responsibility is held to be part of the requirement for the theist postulate.

            It does seem to me though that 'mind independence' does put scientific postulates into some kind of theological domain. Thank you.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I am definitely opposed to Kant.

            I deny that metaphysics is composed of postulates.

            I affirm that metaphysics proceeds on the basis of logic, and that logic is an actually-existing component of reality, such that it is impossible for a thing to both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect, either as a matter of physical reality, or as a matter of metaphysical truth.

            I agree that the scientific method itself is predicated upon metaphysical assumptions, including:

            1. There is a universe "out there" to observe
            2. The universe is composed by lawful principles
            3. The principles can be discovered by right reason
            4. Those principles involving material relationships of bodies can be discovered by the scientific method

            But the scientific method itself is adequate to establish valid knowledge (provisional knowledge, but valid knowledge) entirely apart from additional metaphysical or theological assumptions *within its legitimate operational domain*.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you for the Catholic perspective. It is an ongoing struggle to reconcile my reading of Kant, with the realism of metaphysics in the Catholic faith.

            I take it that the scientific method itself is 'IN-adequate' to establish 'valid' knowledge.

            My argument was that 'mind-independent' evidence could be regarded as a metaphysical thesis, and I merely wanted to speak to the paragraph that pointed this out.

            The realism thesis of Catholicism is very relevent to me, especially in this age of the objectification of the 'personal'. That is why I am back to studying Aquinas, etc. But this is an on-going problematic.

            For the time being, I shall just hope that postulates such as mind-independence are seen to be 'idealizations'? 'metaphysics'? 'theological positions'? which give evidence that even the best of scientists 'cannot help' as Kant demonstrated' to make such postulates/idealizations and that although we cannot 'prove' their reality, are held to be so, not only by Catholics, but by scientists. Reflection on such propensities held by humanity generally, I merely hope, would give credibility or at least allow a charitable understanding when applied to the 'realism' of another's 'meta-physic', specifically Catholic 'belief'.

            The distinction between faith, and reason, however, does support the distinction Kant made between the real and the ideal. I do understand therefore the need for 'revelation', as when I come to a sudden insight or understanding, or knowledge of why I am doing what I am doing.

            I have recently come therefore to understand the distinction between the gifts of the Holy Ghost which could be considered to contrast metaphysical, or personal issues, with the 'objectivity' demanded by scientific knowledge. "Long live, subjectivity, and 'person'hood!'...

            But I consider to ponder, and scientifically test these 'thesis'.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Sorry I missed this earlier.

            Yes, it is impossible to be a Catholic and a Kantian at one and the same time.

            For proof, look at the incredible disorientation afflicting Catholics these days :-)

            "I take it that the scientific method itself is 'IN-adequate' to establish 'valid' knowledge."

            >> To the contrary. The scientific method itself is adequate to establish valid *scientific* knowledge; that is, provisional knowledge which is valid to the extent that it adequately accounts for observations within a theoretical framework which, of course, will ultimately prove to be inadequate, but which is nonetheless *valid*, until such time as observations are verified which prove unable to be accounted for within the deductively-consistent theorem lattice of the theory.

            This is valid knowledge, but it is of a comparatively lower order than the higher domains of metaphysics, and of course theology, which is the highest domain of knowledge.

            Another way of saying this is that knowledge consists in a hierarchy of domains, proceeding downward from theology to metaphysics to philosophy, of which latter science is the Wonder Child which grew up to be seven feet tall.

            The reason science is going completely crazy just now is that it has almost succeeded in convincing itself that its method is the absolute method, and its domain is the absolute domain.

            This is absurd.

            So, of course, is the multiverse, inflation, dark matter, dark energy, curved space time, gravitons, curvatons, and all the other tons which shall be trotted out in the face of the drastic refusal of the universe to obey the LCDM rubrics.

            But it is a good thing in the end....enough curvatons and ultimately scientists start noticing that the theory is looking distressingly baroque, and ultimately somebody comes along with a better theory.

            "Reflection on such propensities held by humanity generally, I merely hope, would give credibility or at least allow a charitable understanding when applied to the 'realism' of another's 'meta-physic', specifically Catholic 'belief'.

            >> I honor your hope. I am afraid the truth is we are engaged in a culture war between two fundamentally irreconcilable metaphysical world views.

            One has all the money, power, prestige, academia, peer review, and clout.

            The other is Catholicism :-)

            Guess which one wins?

            Easiest bet in history, since history already gives us the answer.

            "The distinction between faith, and reason, however, does support the distinction Kant made between the real and the ideal."

            >> I reiterate my detestation of Kant, meaning no offense of course :-)

            Reality is not divided.

            There are legitimate domains of knowledge, but all are consistent with the Truth- the Author of them all.

            There is no "real" apart from the "ideal".

            There is only the "real"-which comprises domains of knowledge extending top down from theology to sense certainty.

            The Catholic world view insists that there is a unity between the truths of Faith and the truths of reason, such that, while Faith is above reason, it is never in contradiction to right reason.

            A very good example of this is the present, slowly-dawning realization on the part of the scientists that:

            1. The Copernican Principle is wrong

            2. The cosmological principle is wrong

            3. Quantum events exhibit periodicities related to cosmological/cosmogonical factors (Simon Schnoll).

            4. The universe had a beginning

            In other words, things are beginning to look positively medieval out there.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks Mr. DeLano. I have spent a 'lifetime' reading philosophy and exploring different religions, from the convention vs. ultimate truth of Buddhism, to the possible hypocritical 'contract' of mutual guarantee found in the Kaballa search to be like, or be God conceived as He who gives without expecting to receive. I have been unable to 'believe' in dark matter, and unable to understand some of the other theories of cosmology.

            Various factors brought me back to the faith, including an atheist, Jurgen Habermas, whose Frankfurt school teachings the Church condemns. I also understand that if Aristotelian philosophy etc. have allowed for rational explanation, although not accepted totally, why cannot the same perspective be applied to Immanuel Kant. He does make very sound distinctions, although you would probably condone my final appraisal of the categorical imperative .

            I learn especially from attempting to integrate even newly acquired insights into Catholicism, with my life experience in attempting to come to terms with the modern world. Your reply has given me more data to 'google'.and assimilate. I am not finding it difficult to be both an idealist and a realist however. After all, even for the psychotic, the ideas/ideals are 'real'. Angels, the intelligibles are also 'real'. (I came to the conclusions many years ago that my thoughts had 'being'). And so it goes. There are revelations, I believe, in all fields of knowledge, from science to Theology.....Thanks.

          • Loreen Lee

            One thing that I was disappointed in however, with regard to our conversation, is that I don't believe I ever obtained a response to my question as to whether you consider 'mind independence' to be a metaphysical, or perhaps even a theological position. It seemed the argument got side-tracked, into an examination of the acceptability of Kant's critiques. I have often 'felt' that some cosmological theories are metaphysical, but have never had my opinion 'validated'.

            With respect to the antimonies, I 'believe:

            l. on first cause: that indeed the external, empirical world is contingent, and all the other factors that weigh into the arguments for God' existence, but that 'causation' itself, as Kant holds, is itself a metaphysical construct, like freedom. Conclusion: our perception/theories of the world basically 'evolve' from our ability to 'rationalize'.
            2. On simplicity vs. complexity. I hold: two viewpoints. Leibniz's monadoloy is a rationalist statement which I believe stands against 'contradiction'. I also accept the complexities of both thought and the 'cosmos'.
            3. On beginning of the universe. I hold that the Buddhists may be correct and that the cosmos has always been a 'temporal' existent. Does first cause necessarily have to refer to an empirical beginning? Can it not refer to a foundation within a 'consciousness', and or the argument that beyond space and time there is an 'eternal' order: the eternity concept being recognized in the abstract, for example in the empty tautologies, etc. put forward by philosophers.
            4. On God. That's what this argument is about. Epistemological, I have stated already, I can accept within context all positions. From God's point of view, however, in the "I am 'that' I am' we can regard the 'that' possibly as an encapulation of all the (20 proofs) as for example, I am 'the reason' that I am. I am the 'cause' that I am. I am the 'perfection' that I am. I am the purpose, that I am. etc. etc.

            I know philoophers are at the moment opposed to foundationalism, with the rejection of Descartes, but I also know that philosophy, like other human endeavors has its fashions and short-term interests. Yet even the scientists, search for the 'unified field theory', and an 'ultimate explanation'. Thanks for all of your posts.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thank you for this post, Loreen, I especially appreciate this :

            "I also understand that if Aristotelian philosophy etc. have allowed for rational explanation, although not accepted totally, why cannot the same perspective be applied to Immanuel Kant?"

            It is true that everything true in Kant is perfectly amenable with Catholic theology and metaphysics.

            It's just that Kant's assumption of a categorical imperative isn't, and you are quite aware of this.

            Cheers!

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          Sorry I somehow missed this, Loreen.

          "The extreme 'evidence' of this is the Shroeder? cat illustration."

          >> There is no evidence that a cat is both alive and dead until someone opens the box.

          This is a metaphysical assertion based upon certain assumptions about the nature of quantum phenomena.

          Since we now have experimentally-duplicated evidence that quantum events are *not* random, but instead exhibit periodicities, and these periodicities are related, very interestingly, to periods of astrophysical cycles in the local system......

          The underlying metaphysical assumption of Schroedinger's Cat faces a serious experimental challenge.

          "The other alternative interpretation of 'mind independence' was just that it was a realist position regarding 'all' empirical evidence generally."

          >> The shatteringly conclusive fact that a universe which includes quantum phenomena yields perfectly predictable results- say, the time of sunrise in LA tomorrow morning- ought to have been sufficient to demolish any metaphysical assertion of the universe as stochastically organized.

          But the metaphysics of random chance are the basis of the post-Christian worldview and of course cannot be surrendered without conclusively falsifying that worldview.

          " Is it for this reason that his existence cannot be substantiated by argument or 'visual proof'?."

          >> The certain and necessary existence of God has been known for millenia, from the simple fact of the existence of the cosmos, which cannot have brought itself into existence.

          The various forms of mental illness which are often referred to as "phenomenology", "logical positivism", "materialism", "empiricism", "categorical imperative", etc, have knocked themselves out trying to overthrow this resplendently irrefutable truth.

          Vilenkin has just shot them all in the head:

          http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks Rick. Am still following your comments, but have decided to 'keep out of the conversation'. All the best.

      • Sanity_Inspector

        That doesn't make my statement wrong- It just means that you don't accept that propositions about God are testable. Which is fair enough. Note my use of the subjunctive. IF you wanted to test them, this is what you would have to do.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          Thanks for the clarification.

          I wish to also clarify:

          I did not say propositions about God are not testable.

          I said they are not testable via the scientific method.

          These questions are properly matter for the sciences of theology and metaphysics.

  • Sid_Collins

    Mr. Akins's perspective is helpful when you're arguing in an online forum. When I am trying to change someone's mind, I accept the responsibility to provide evidence and argument. But . . .

    What about, for example, when you are in court attacking (or defending) the requirement that money in the U.S.A. be imprinted with the phrase "In God We Trust"? Of course I know that that is not how the court approaches the issue. It avoids getting into that question and focuses on what is traditional and whether one reigion is being favored over another. But the fact is, the practice favors religion over no religion, and that is getting down to the question: Whose burden is it to "prove" that the God referenced is a real being--or a mythological creature?

    Another interesting situation is the one where parents who believe in faith-healing are forced against their will to provide medical treatment for their children. Atheist parents are never forced to provide prayers, in addition to medical treatment, for their ill children. Is it fair to believers in faith-healing that the law assumes there is no God who will answer their prayers by providing the outcome that is best for their child, whether that is death or recovery?

  • Sage McCarey

    Boring, boring, boring. This is turning into just another male p...sg contest. "My daddy can beat up your daddy". "oh no, you don't even have a daddy." Yes I do! No you don't! Yes, I do! NO YOU DON"T! Believers are not going to convince any non-belivers of their point of view and vice versa. That's not even important to me. What is important is to keep the church out of our government. It is a totalitarian organization and there's no place in 2013 for its bronze age views in our civil discourse. It is so patriarchal. The RCC missed the whole women's movement. The RCC missed the Masters & Johnson study which showed that many, many women cannot orgasm through intercourse but who cares about the pleasure of women. Why should a an organization that's always been run by men care about that? The only important thing is for women to keep having babies; they must keep having babies whether they want them or not, whether they are fit parents or not, whether they can afford to give them a good life or not. Women make up half the human population but they are not allowed any voice in what the church teaches. They never have and they never will. It spends millions to fight a woman's right to choose, gay rights, the right of all women to have access to contraception. It's an anachronism.

    • Loreen Lee

      I'm giggling away here. I addressed this issue yesterday, in a 'fictional portrayal' of a woman, who feels oppressed by the 'arguments', and goes on to 'speculate' between various thesis, etc. etc. I don't think my 'purpose' was understood. I even had response(s) which said that I shouldn't be thinking I'm inadequate because I'm a woman. Oh! Dear! I'm a retired 'person', so I have lived through many interpretqtions of 'feminism'. I therefore claim my 'right' to parody, satire, irony, etc. etc. etc. This after a lifetime of learning that the best way to become educated if you are a woman, is to be open to the day-to-day opportunities. Thanks for a very 'true' post.

      • Sage McCarey

        High five LL!

  • Octavo

    "This does not apply on Cardassia, however, where they apparently like tyranny."

    So true. As Gul Dukat put it: "They enjoy watching justice triumph over evil, every time. They find it comforting. "

    • BenS

      Never was a fan of Keeping up with the Cardassians...

  • http://weighandconsider.wordpress.com/ Noah Luck

    It depends on who’s trying to do the convincing.

    Despite what I wrote earlier, I think Mr. Akin is making an excellent point here. I focused before on the correct technical aspects of finding truth, but oftentimes the social aspect of discussions and arguments can override strict correctness. When you want someone to listen to you, and they are not especially motivated to do so, that can make for a new and different kind of "burden of proof".

    This is probably part of why many, maybe most, atheists are agnostic atheists and simply say they don't believe in God, rather than a flat-out "There is no God". "I don't believe God exists" either isn't a claim about God or is one only weakly and indirectly. That leaves a theist with the social burden of proof when the theist insists that God exists, let alone when the theist further insists that God has authorized the theist to deny you human rights and run your country into the ground.

    • BenS

      This is probably part of why many, maybe most, atheists are agnostic
      atheists and simply say they don't believe in God, rather than a
      flat-out "There is no God".

      Well, I can only speak for me but I say "I don't believe in a god" rather than "I believe there is no god" because the former position is the most accurate and intellectually honest.

      If the theist gives a proper definition of their god I can almost certainly say I don't believe it exists (and state why) because the definitions are almost always logically contradictory. A vague deist god, though, is so ill defined you generally can't say you believe it doesn't exist so you simply say don't believe it exists.

      Honesty and integrity at all times, that's my motto. Well, my other motto after 'don't over tip the hookers'.

      • Loreen Lee

        I believe it is possible for the 'highest truths', or even 'an absolute Truth' to be a contradiction. Godel points this possibility out, in the 'Incompleteness theorem'. Seems like you take a 'subjective' approach to the God issue, though as the objectivity that there is definitely 'no God', is left open. Perhaps you should, however, keep the same honesty and integrity when you're dealing with the 'hookers'. (They are friends of mine.)
        Many (the poor ones) are often where they are because of abuse, sexual and otherwise in their childhood, etc. which ends up in such things as drug addiction, etc. etc. etc. They need our love. Perhaps the Pride Day of the homosexuals, recently extended to those with mental health issues should also be extended to the 'whores'. After all the only difference between whole and whore, is a single letter!!!!! R. are being.......

        • epeeist

          Godel points this possibility out, in the 'Incompleteness theorem'.

          I wish people wouldn't do this. Gödel's incompleteness theorems specifically apply to axiomatic systems strong enough to include arithmetic. As such they provide a negative answer to Hilbert's second problem.

          You can't just extrapolate from the theorems willy-nilly without showing that what you are applying them to is such an axiomatic system.

          • Loreen Lee

            Hi again epeeist. I am not a physicist. I am aware that the theorem has been applied philosophically, particularly to the problem of self-reference. I don't know whether this originated with Godel. I believe it did. It is described as a paradox/contradiction within the parameters given. Although I am not an expert, I do 'believe' that truths taken from a particular field, say theoretical science, if they can be demonstrated to hold within another context, can be considered to be 'true' within that other context as well. I am going to look up now what 'axiomatic' means, to confirm whether it would indeed apply to the problem of self-referential thought. Thank you. (P.S. I am biased and think it would).

          • Michael Murray

            Ah wikipedia again. Why not just give the link we can all click.

          • Loreen Lee

            Teach me how!!!!

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Just go the page you want to link to, copy the url in the top window, and paste it here.

            Like this:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gödel's_incompleteness_theorems

          • Loreen Lee

            What does URL mean!!!! That's the stumbler!!!! Like this? (From the tool bar?)

            http://www.strangenotions.com/who-has-the-burden-of-proof-when-discussing-god/#comment-948633584

            Nope. It's not 'blue'!!!! See what I mean?
            P.S. checked the top of this page, didn't see anything- or only Jimmy Atkin's address.

          • Loreen Lee

            Wow. It worked! You can go back to sleep now, I guess!!!!

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I think Godel's analysis of Principia Mathematica came up with the Incompleteness Theorem on the demonstration that a self-referential relationship of the principles, or elements obtained with demonstrated that such a system could not be both complete and without contradiction"

            >> That is beautifully stated and correct.

            There is a deeper truth here.

            Consider scientific knowledge.

            It consists, also, in a set of principles, which are elaborated as sets of deductively-consistent theorems.

            An anomaly is observed, and confirmed to exist.

            Now.

            The anomaly cannot be accounted for under any of the principles, or deductively-consistent theorems.

            It represents something "outside" of the system.

            This happens quite often in science, and every time it does, we are about to learn something.

            But notice- there is absolutely no way for the anomaly to "fit" within the existing set of principles and deductively consistent theorems.

            It has to be accounted for, somehow, from *outside* that system.

            There is no possibility, in other words, for the anomaly to be resolved into the system by any logical-deductive or algorithmic process.

            This is why scientific discoverers speak so often of "intuition", "leap of faith", "flash of insight".

            Discoverers are employing a mental faculty which is above and outside of logical deductive or inductive thinking.

            It is creative.

            This is why Artificial Intelligence is even more of an oxymoron than is Military Intelligence.

          • epeeist

            I got an email telling me of your responses to my post above.

            When I click on the URLs I can get your copy-paste from Wikipedia but not the above post. I can't see it on the thread either. In fact the only way I can get at it is by clicking on your profile and then selecting the post. One would almost think that posts had been memory holed if one didn't know better.

            If there was a good way of discouraging conversation it would seem that Disqus is it.

            I am aware that the theorem has been applied philosophically, particularly to the problem of self-reference. I don't know whether this originated with Godel. I believe it did.

            No, it has been around for a long time. Socrates uses it in the argument against Protagoras in the Thaetetus for example.

            I believe it did. It is described as a paradox/contradiction within the parameters given.

            The more interesting aspect of Gödel's proofs is that they are done within the system. It uses arithmetic to show that arithmetic is incomplete.

            There is a nice little book on the proofs by Nagel and Newman. The most fun use of it can be found in this classic though.

          • Loreen Lee

            You know of Hofstadtler's I AM A STRANGE LOOP then. He's a friend of Dennet. I guess you are on the a-theist side of the dialogue!!!! I am just happy to find that I can often 'keep up with you guys', and at the same time, hopefully, avoid giving offense when this is possibly an 'issue'. The paradox/contradiction I think all goes back to Zeno and the Liar paradox!!!!!!

          • Loreen Lee

            Gödel's incompleteness theorems are two theorems of mathematical logic that establish inherent limitations of all but the most trivial axiomatic systems capable of doing arithmetic. The theorems, proven by Kurt Gödel in 1931, are important both in mathematical logic and in the philosophy of mathematics. The two results are widely, but not universally, interpreted as showing that Hilbert's program to find a complete and consistent set of axioms for all mathematics is impossible, giving a negative answer to Hilbert's second problem.

            The first incompleteness theorem states that no consistent system of axioms whose theorems can be listed by an "effective procedure" (e.g., a computer program, but it could be any sort of algorithm) is capable of proving all truths about the relations of the natural numbers (arithmetic).
            For any such system, there will always be statements about the natural numbers that are true, but that are unprovable within the system. The second incompleteness theorem, an extension of the first, shows that such a system cannot demonstrate its own consistency.

          • Andrew G.

            There are some interesting axiomatic systems that are complete - notably the first-order theory of the real numbers, and the axiom system of elementary Euclidean geometry; both are both complete and decidable (in fact they are models of the same theory).

            (It may not be obvious how arithmetic on the reals can be complete where arithmetic on the integers is not, but it's related to the fact that in the first-order reals, there is no way to express the question "is X an integer", and therefore no way to do factorization or define prime numbers.)

          • Loreen Lee

            Someone else is sure to be able to follow the argument further. This last comment is 'way beyond my ken'. I might have confused 'contradictory' with 'consistent', also. But the liar paradox from Zeno to the self-referential model, I take to be contradictions. Wish I could follow you. Thanks.

          • Andrew G.

            Perhaps you shouldn't be quite so quick to throw around Gödel's name and theorems if you don't actually understand them?

          • Loreen Lee

            It depends on what you mean by 'understanding'. Perhaps you feel free to make this comment following my admission of my limittions with respect to mathematics etc. That merely proves that, (on this website) it is perhaps dangerous to profess any degree of 'humility' or 'honest self-assessment'. (grin grin) I have already done a satire in yesterday's post, regarding the limitations of the 'woman's power of thought', which I am sure are contrary to the current ideology of feminism.

            Be that as it may, I have a 'personal' understanding, not only definitive of what constitutes Godel's theorem, (my presentation being given a compliment by another commentator), but what I am especially interested in, is its application to the self-referential paradox and through that to the problematic of what constitutes 'consciousness'.

            There is no one on this site whose 'understanding' is comprehensive to the point where they can understand all of philosophy, mathematics, theology, science, etc. etc.

            Indeed, philosophers have come to accept the limitations of any individual when it comes to having a complete overview of any subject. In today's world, such complete knowledge is 'impossible'. That should make us all a bit humble. The answer I find is to make it priority to relate what I examine to my own limitations, and my purpose to grow as a human being, both 'epistemologically', and 'spiritually' (i.e. in my life/being, or as a person.

            I am here to learn, not to boast of my knowledge. I am here to question when I discern such, the contradictions within arguments that interest me, and which therefore, I can deal with accouding to my limitations. I think therefore, it is no 'condemnation' of my efforts, my experience, or the scope of my knowledge, when I am able to perceive that certain arguments, or areas of knowledge, are beyond my ken. Thank you.

          • Michael Murray

            Please don't just quote large slabs of wikipedia without reference.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gödel's_incompleteness_theorems

          • Loreen Lee

            Sorry, I said in the following comment what I was going to do. But will be 'better behaved' in the future. Don't know how to make 'links' though. Can only copy and paste.

          • Michael Murray

            No problem. I shouldn't post in the morning I wake up too grumpy. If you just copy a link address (URL) from your browser and paste it iin it should appear as a link you can click on. Another

          • Loreen Lee

            Thanks for trying Michael. Hope you can go back to sleep.
            But this is 'abstract theory' as far as I'm concerned. Am 7l years of age, and am lucky to do as much 'computing' as I do. Don't 'know' URL. Would have to have hands on 'instruction'. But I don't feel too bad, because that may be an explanation why some people can't understand the God thesis!!!! grin grin.

          • Joe Ser

            Boiled down:

            Anything you can draw a circle around cannot explain itself without referring to something outside the circle – something you have to assume but cannot prove.”

          • Loreen Lee

            In other words, the best way to avoid Godel's incompleteness theorem, which comes from a closed systemj, is to keep an open mind. Then you might also not be involved in self-reference because an 'other' is involved.

    • Christian Stillings

      ...further insists that God has authorized the theist to deny you human rights and run your country into the ground.

      You're usually so sensible, Noah, but you ruined it on the last sentence of this one. What do you mean when you use the term "human rights" here, and one what philosophical grounds would you defend your definition? You're also expressing that there are "better" and "worse" conditions in which a country may exist; where are you getting your standard from?

  • ZenDruid

    The Scientific Burden of Proof --- Mr Akin, you neglected to mention the 'null hypothesis', which sits at the core of the scientific/skeptic/atheistic model of proof.

    I think it's important that our theist correspondents recognize that when anyone says " ____ exists", the formal scientific null hypothesis states, "There is no ____, unless you can give evidence".

    "Got evidence?" There are two definitions of evidence at play in the theist-skeptic debate about gods; the theists base theirs on sacred revelation, whereas the typical skeptic will recognize any and every real-life phenomenon, substance or object as evidence of one thing or another.

    "Absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence." This is a counter-argument that I've seen used more than once by theists. I've wracked my brain for a good example of how this wretched bit of sophist wordplay pans out in the real world. Exclusive of the god argument, of course. Anyway, not having found anything, I invite anyone to elucidate.

    • Luke Meyer

      To decry the Christian God, you must first decry Christ himself. To a theist, Christ was indisputably the Son of God, and so all of his teachings, especially, but not limited to, his teachings on God, are credible.

      Basically, I'd say that the evidence of God lies in the credibility of Jesus' teachings.

      • ZenDruid

        ...the evidence of God lies in the credibility of Jesus' teachings.

        I will argue that Jesus was a latecomer with his teachings. Prior to Jesus' time, philosophies and religions sprang up during the Achsenzeit [Axial Age thesis of Carl Jaspers] which happened roughly between 800BC and 200BC. In China, Confucius, Mencius, Lao-tse; in India, Buddha and Mahavira; in Persia, Zoroaster; in Hellas, the Seven Sages and later generations to include the Socratics.

        These philosophies, which Jaspers says propagated without any apparent interaction between cultures, had some significant common points, the golden rule being prominent.

        BTW, thanks to Ashoka the Great, Buddhism reached Alexandria by about 200BC.

        • Luke Meyer

          So you're saying that much of what Jesus taught was already being proven true worldwide?

          • ZenDruid

            I wouldn't say proven, but the good ideas were certainly spreading. It's debatable how much of that filtered into Hebrew culture during the Achsenzeit, as I understand they were belligerent goat-herding itinerant renegades at the time....

          • Luke Meyer

            In any case, Jesus at least seemed to be on the right track. Unlike the Confucian, Buddhist, Zorastrian, etc., religions you mentioned, however, Christ was the only one to claim divinity, unless I am mistaken.

            Because Jesus' teachings and miracles have been proven sound, theists (myself included) find that the rest of his teachings can be believed true.

          • Michael Murray

            So remind me where it is soundly proven that Jesus raised people from the dead ?

          • Luke Meyer

            That's a discussion for a whole 'nother thread :)

          • Michael Murray

            So I assume it hasn't been soundly proved. That's what I thought.

          • Luke Meyer

            In saying that the Lazarus incident may be false, you do not throw the entirety of Jesus' teachings into doubt.

          • Michael Murray

            I guess I'm not sure what you mean by teaching? There are the moral teachings which I see an an attempt to increase the "in group" that we should be treat well. I think these are interesting. There are the teachings about his imminent return in glory etc which never happened. There is the teaching that we can raise from the dead if we do it in his name which is manifestly false.

            What did you have in mind by teachings ?

          • Luke Meyer

            Who taught that we may rise from the dead?

          • Michael Murray

            I meant "raise others from the dead". I thought Jesus said that we could do that in his name ? I can't find the exact reference but Google gives me

            Matthew 10:8

            New International Version (NIV)

            8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

            Coming back to my point. What do you mean by Jesus' teachings ?

          • Luke Meyer

            Before answering, I'd like to point out that Matthew chapter 10 is all about Jesus giving his disciples their mission. The apostles are different from us; they were given an entirely different mission than our more mundane one. In fact, there are two examples of disciples raising people from the dead in Acts (9:36-42 and 20:9-12). Again, they can do this because their charges were a bit more drastic than ours.

            When I say "Jesus' Teachings", I mean whatever is documented that he said or did in the New Testament.

          • Michael Murray

            OK thanks for the clarification on Matthew.

            When I say "Jesus' Teachings", I mean whatever is documented that he said or did in the New Testament.

            Right. "Said or did". That was what I was wondering about .

          • Luke Meyer

            Alright, what's the problem?

          • Michael Murray

            I'm not sure to be honest. It has been awhile since I made that first post. I think I was just wondering what you meant by teaching and if that included miracles. Thanks.

          • epeeist

            There is the teaching that we can raise from the dead if we do it in his name which is manifestly false.

            And the snakes, don't forget the snakes:

            And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            That passage is a good example of interpolations which have killed people. (Of course, you don't need interpolations when you have the "Thou shall not suffer a witch to live." part.)

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Lazarus incident is certainly true.

            We have God's Word for it.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Christ was the only one to claim divinity, unless I am mistaken.

            Yep...you are mistaken.

            First of all, there is no contemporary writings from the alleged person of Jesus or anyone else for that matter.

            Any Jew claiming divinity would have been dealt with in short shrift.

            The divinity stuff comes later. It is literary mechanism to coerce the sheeple.

            Of course many will quote later writing as Jesus claiming divinity, but there is plenty to show the opposite in there too. Unless Jesus was a schizo who talked to himself, I think it is safer to say that the writings of Paul and of the gospels made the error through the need for embellishment and ingratiation.

            "Christianity...[has become] the most perverted system that ever shone on man....Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and imposters led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus." --- Thomas Jefferson

          • Christian Stillings

            First of all, there is no contemporary writings from the alleged person of Jesus or anyone else for that matter.

            It depends on how we use the word "contemporary". For ancient history, the proximity of writers-about-Jesus to Jesus is very close. Serious NT scholars agree across the board that St. Paul was writing about Jesus' existence and at least some aspects of His life during the lifetime of those who knew Jesus personally.

            Any Jew claiming divinity would have been dealt with in short shrift.

            Well, Jesus was crucified, hypothetically over His reputation as "the king of the Jews". Jesus' crucifixion is as certain as any event in the ancient world, and it fits the theory nicely.

            The divinity stuff comes later. It is literary mechanism to coerce the sheeple.

            Pardon my language, but how the hell could anyone state as much with this level of certainty? You could justifiably say "it seems likely to me that the 'divinity stuff' was a later addition to the original truth about Jesus," but you're way overshooting here.

            I honestly don't understand most of your second-to-last paragraph. How do you propose that the content of the Gospels demonstrates against Jesus' divinity claims? You're not being very clear here.

            Thomas Jefferson way overstates any justifiable knowledge, as you did earlier. There's literally no way that someone could know what he said at a distance of well over 1.5 millenia away.

            "Jesus Mythicism is the Creation Science of pop atheism." - James F. McGrath

          • Ignorant Amos

            It depends on how we use the word "contemporary".

            FFS...ya sound like Rick. How do ya want to use it in this context? I'm giving you a piece of the action here.

            For ancient history, the proximity of writers-about-Jesus to Jesus is very close.

            Very close....hmmmm....wise up please.

            Serious NT scholars agree across the board that St. Paul was writing about Jesus' existence and at least some aspects of His life during the lifetime of those who knew Jesus personally.

            Who? Who are these serious scholars and please cite some evidence. Scholars agree that some Pauline epistles are forgery, do you agree?

            Well, Jesus was crucified, hypothetically over His reputation as "the king of the Jews". Jesus' crucifixion is as certain as any event in the ancient world, and it fits the theory nicely.

            No, it doesn't fit the theory nicely at all. I thought the Jesus character was crucified for the sins of man. Anyone can make up a story...ask Smith or Hubbard.

            Who says Jesus was crucified? Jesus was a blasphemer...blasphemers were not crucified...they got the Jewish punishment. This isn't rocket science. There is no more empirical proof for Jesus crucifixion than that for Holmes death at the Reichenbach Falls.

            Pardon my language, but how the hell could anyone state as much with this level of certainty?

            Someone that has read up on the stuff from an non-bias perspective might make just such a claim. There is no certainty, just high probability.

            You could justifiably say "it seems likely to me that the 'divinity stuff' was a later addition to the original truth about Jesus," but you're way overshooting here.

            Not me....just the scholarship...but employ your common sense a wee bit and read something...

            http://hwarmstrong.com/historisity-of-jesus.htm

            ...if ya want direct examples from the gospels....alright,

            read them first though.

            I honestly don't understand most of your second-to-last paragraph. How do you propose that the content of the Gospels demonstrates against Jesus' divinity claims? You're not being very clear here.

            Read what I said again. The canonical gospels and the Pauline epistles made the cut some 3 CENTURIES after the story broke...you must be aware of all those gospels used by all those Christians prior to the 325 council, right? All those Christian sects that were fighting for supremacy for 300 years before the orthodoxy won out, right? Not all of which seen Jesus as divine, even up to the present, right?

            Thomas Jefferson way overstates any justifiable knowledge, as you did earlier.

            Says you, just as well I don't take you as an authority....specially given your ignorance.

            There's literally no way that someone couldknow what he said at a distance of well over 1.5 millenia away.

            Bingo!!! I'm glad we agree on something....just a pity ya don't live up to that comment.

            "Jesus Mythicism is the Creation Science of pop atheism." - James F. McGrath

            Who? James also has the same capability as you and I to talk bollocks.

            Anyway, yer man McGrath gave a positive review of "Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)"....

            "McGrath wrote that "The information Ehrman presents is not at odds with Christian faith, although it is at odds with the claims that some Christians make about the Bible,"

            ...so check yer references.

          • Christian Stillings

            By "contemporary", I assumed we were talking about the proximity of the pertinent writings to the supposed events in history. The number of documents we have which talk about Jesus (and as a real, earthly person at that) within a few decades of Jesus' reputed life is more than enough to convince credible scholars that Jesus actually, y'know, existed.

            The problem of Jesus Mythicism is that it fails to provide a more probable reason for the first-century New Testament writings about Jesus. The attempts to sort all the NT historical content as "purely mythological" is actually very similar to Creation Science- the majority of the evidence points in one direction, but you can't prove that it's right!!! How different is "the historical-sounding content of the New Testament is probably all pure mythology" from "God created everything 6000 years and and just made the universe look older than that"? If you're willing to shift any quality or quantity of data in order to end up at a pre-determined conclusion, you're going to look silly. Please don't.

            Alas, I digress.

            Who? Who are these serious scholars and please cite some evidence. Scholars agree that some Pauline epistles are forgery, do you agree?

            For the present time, I'll go with Bart Ehrman, J.D. Crossan, Geza Vermes, Bruce Metzger, and Robert W. Funk for my cast of "serious scholars". Some scholars agree that letters which are traditionally attributed to St. Paul may have been written by other authors; however, when a letter says something like "salutations from Paul, a servant of Christ," it's probably a fair bet that St. Paul wrote it. So it depends on what you mean by "Pauline epistles" in this particular context.

            No, it doesn't fit the theory nicely at all. I thought the Jesus character was crucified for the sins of man.

            Jesus may have been crucified by the authorities for a political/theological-political reason while His death also played a significant theological role. It's perfectly possible that Jesus' death could have happened for multiple reasons and/or fulfilled multiple purposes

            Who says Jesus was crucified?

            Crossan calls the Crucifixion "as certain as any fact in history". Ehrman and Vermes agree that it's as certain as any aspect of Jesus' life. Eddy and Boyd conclude that even secular historians and scholars unanimously assent to the crucifixion as a historical event. As to "empirical proof", there's no way to empirically prove anything in history, so your comment there is pointless. (Hume would remark that trying to "empirically prove" anything is pretty silly either way.)

            Your next few bits aren't worth addressing; I'll skip them.

            Read what I said again. The canonical gospels and the Pauline epistles made the cut some 3 CENTURIES after the story broke...you must be aware of all those gospels used by all those Christians prior to the 325 council, right? All those Christian sects that were fighting for supremacy for 300 years before the orthodoxy won out, right? Not all of which seen Jesus as divine, even up to the present, right?

            You've handled the details poorly here.The canonical materials of the New Testament were effectively settled at a few local councils in the fourth century and more or less left alone until Protestants started taking books out, at which time the Council of Trent dogmatized the canon of Scripture. However, scholars agree that these materials represent the earliest known expression of Christian faith- even Bart "Lost Christianities" Ehrman acknowledges that other belief systems (such as gnosticism) were later developments. Clear demonstrations of belief in Christ's divinity are present in St. Paul's mid-first-century letters to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 16:21-24) and the Philippians (Philippians 2:5-11). The first writing about Jesus is squarely planted in the "He is God" camp.

            Says you, just as well I don't take you as an authority....specially given your ignorance.

            *especially. I don't expect you to take me as an authority, but I don't know from what grounds you're deriving my "ignorance", but at least I'm not the one going and flaunting it with my name. :-P Also, it's a tangential note, but fixing up your grammar would make your writing much more pleasant to read.

            Who? James also has the same capability as you and I to talk bollocks.

            I agree that anyone "could talk bollocks", but I think McGrath was being quite serious with that remark. I was appealing to him as an expert, despite (or perhaps because of) the delightful snark of this particular remark. He and I are on very different theological pages regarding many issues (and more so with Ehrman), but I appreciate what he proffers in the way of remarks on Biblical scholarship.

          • Michael Murray

            For the present time, I'll go with Bart Ehrman,

            So you are an agnostic who has rejected the idea of gods due to the problem of suffering. Fair enough.

          • Andrew G.

            however, when a letter says something like "salutations from Paul, a servant of Christ," it's probably a fair bet that St. Paul wrote it

            How mindbogglingly naïve.

          • Michael Murray

            What do you mean by proven ? I think ZenDruid is just pointing out that many of Jesus' moral teachings where not new at the time.

          • Luke Meyer

            Thank you for putting it better than I. All I meant was that Jesus' philosophies were coming from a mind similar to those "sages" who were influencing the world around them. The only difference is that he claimed divinity.

          • epeeist

            So you're saying that much of what Jesus taught was already being proven true worldwide?

            Again, like ZenDruid I wouldn't say proven or even true. But have a look at religion during the Hellenistic period of the Roman Empire and see what commonalities there are.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          What you point out is perfectly consistent with Christ's ethical teachings.

          If God created human nature and if morality is based on human nature (not arbitrary divine decrees), one could predict that many cultures would reason themselves to not do to others what you would not like done to yourself.

      • primenumbers

        So let's look at the character of Jesus as described in the NT:

        “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” —Luke 12:47 - condones slavery and the beating of slaves.

        “I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother” - Matthew 10:35 - rather anti-family.

        “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” —Luke 14:26 - teaching of hatred against family.

        His use of violence to kick out the tax collectors. His anger at a fig tree is just plain bonkers.

        And of course, you were not there, and neither were the Gospel writers, so we have no way of knowing if what we have as a record is in any way reliable or not. We do know that what record we have is at least somewhat unreliable due to the forged Pauls, the interpolations into the text that were not there originally and the textual variances that litter the entire contents of the NT.

        So yes, if you have a pre-existing Christian belief, I'm sure all is cosy and light, but really, what you say is not exactly a convincing argument to anyone else.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          A bunch of erroneous examples do not an argument make.

          Just to examine your first example, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”

          This does *not* condone slavery or the beating of slaves. Jesus is warning his own apostles who are his stewards that if they act irresponsibly and immorally they will be punished.

          Do you seriously think the Catholics who read this blog never actually read the Gospels and understand context?

          • primenumbers

            "This does *not* condone slavery or the beating of slaves. Jesus is warning his own apostles who are his stewards that if they act irresponsibly and immorally they will be punished." - that's just your incorrect and self-serving interpretation of this, no doubt to avoid the cognitive dissonance that your Jesus does indeed condone beating slaves. Yes, I'm aware he's not saying this actually happened and that he's telling a story with a message to get a point across. You could very well be right on what the message he's trying to get across it, but when you look only at that aspect of what is written, you ignore the actual words used and what they mean. Let me give you an example - what if I told a very similar story about beating slaves with the underlying message that my employees would be punished if they acted immorally? You can be utterly sure I'd be admonished for condoning slavery and the beating of slaves.

            But even your rationalization of "that if they act irresponsibly and immorally they will be punished" doesn't fit the story because it is the slave owner that is acting immorally and yet it's the slave that gets punished.

            "Do you seriously think the Catholics who read this blog never actually read the Gospels and understand context?" - I seriously believe you invent contexts to serve your religious needs and in doing so ignore the actual words, and your rationalizations that you claim to be reading "in context" are not even in context as I demonstrate above.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You haven't convinced me of anything. The context in this discourse is judgment for bad behavior.

            Some partisans "invent contexts" to try to discredit *everything* about something they oppose. It can't be wrong on one ground or a few. It has to be utterly wrong. Utterly disproven. Utterly ridiculous.

          • primenumbers

            Your context only works if slavery is just fine and good and hence the slave can act bad against the good master. But we know that slavery is not good, that a master holding slaves bad and hence a slave acting against a master is not acting immorally at all.

            You seem to think it's wrong for a slave to act against their master.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The parable addresses the return of Christ, at the end of time.

            There is absolutely no question that the modern mind rebels at the concept of punishment for evildoing; it is one of the forms of insanity which follows along with "equalitarian" liberal democracy, and which, over time, lawfully renders the liberal democracy unable to defend itself against criminality- without, in the end, abandoning its liberal democratic pretensions, and beating the criminals with many stripes, or, alternatively, riddling them with many bullets.

            Christ, of course, will not riddle with bullets.

            He will simply turn the evildoers over to suffer in hell for all eternity.

            In this way they will be definitively and eternally separated from the just, whom they have persecuted in this world, as they have in the parable.

            After all, He is Just.

            He won't let the wicked rule in eternity.

          • primenumbers

            Su you support the beating of slaves then?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I support the punishment of the wicked, which is the point of the parable.

            Slavery existed at the time Our Lord taught His parables, and slavery exists today.

            In fact, in the parable in view, "servants", is the term employed, and "servants" can be rendered into contemporary terms as "employees".

            We can address whether an employee is any more or less a slave, than a servant is, if you like......

          • primenumbers

            No, the word is slaves, not servants or employees. Either way, we don't beat servants and we don't beat employees. We certainly don't kill them by cutting them into pieces.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Interesting.

            First, the meaning of "slave", "servant", and "employee"is interchangeable for the purposes of the parable; that is to say, the parable works in any or all of the categories, since the parable addresses abuse of authority.

            Second, you say we don't beat slaves/servant/employees but this is instantly falsifiable.

            http://avondalelogansquarecrime.blogspot.com/2011/09/employer-assaults-employee-on-addison.html

            Third, killing them by cutting them into pieces is not in view in the parable.

            Fourth, that is nothing compared to what the Lord will actually do to these evildoers.

            Hell is forever, cut into pieces only a brief time.

            Finally, we see that the parable warns those who abuse their authority over slaves/servants/employees that they will answer to a Lord, Who, when He judges, will not bring a terrible retribution upon them.

            An excellent parable.

            One that should be taken to heart.

          • primenumbers

            SO you think the parable addresses abuse of authority - the master (in authority) beating the slaves? Yet Kevin thinks the master is reference to Jesus "Christ is making an analogy between the master (Christ) who is owed service by his servants" - I think you two need to sort it out between you what you think it all means.....

            "He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers." - is indeed referring to killing someone by cutting them into pieces.

            "Finally, we see that the parable warns those who abuse their authority over slaves/servants/employees" and Kevin tells us that the master in the story, the one who beats the slaves is reference to Jesus. Please Catholics get your story straight.

            None of you even address the issue of telling parables about slavery at all though. Telling any story about slavery without addressing the wrong that is slavery (and your rationalization Rick just enforces the view that in this story the master was right to beat the slaves) shows that not only does Jesus condone slavery, but the beating of slaves.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I believe Kevin speaks for himself, and I speak for myself, so the question arises:

            why conflate the two?

            I often engage in discussions with three, four, or even more different points of view being developed.

            Can't you?

          • primenumbers

            Why conflate the two? Because you're both believers and can't agree on the simple interpretation of a Bible passage. This demonstrates the problem with faith as an epistemology.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            To the contrary.

            Your discussion is not with an epistemology.

            Your discussion is with me.

            It would seem to be reasonable to request that you address my points.

          • primenumbers

            The discussion is knowledge of what a Bible passage means, or knowledge of the proper interpretation of a Bible passage.

            "It would seem to be reasonable to request that you address my points." - you're not making properly substantive points. You have shown no method by which I can follow that your interpretations are correct. I can demonstrate that even in this thread we have competing interpretations. I suggest you sort it out amongst yourselves and come back when you've decided what the passage actually means, and then I will discuss that meaning with you and the methods by which you reached it.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            But I have made the points, prime, and since you cannot or will not address them, and since you continue to obfuscate them by conflating them with some other discussion in which you are engaged, I believe we have reached the logical conclusion of our discussion.

          • primenumbers

            You're not making substantive points. You're making irrelevant points. The basic reading of the story condones slavery and the beating of slaves.

            The secondary argument is a disagreement in Christian interpretation over the passages in question as evidenced in this discussion.

            We have reached the end of discussion because you support slavery and the beating of slaves.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The basic reading of the story condones slavery and the beating of slaves.

            >> The correct reading of the story involves recognition of the fact that it is a parable; that is, it is intended to deliver a general lesson deriving from a particular circumstance.

            The parable addresses, exactly, the consequences of abuse of authority, specifically with regard to the stewards whom Jesus is preparing to oversee His affairs while He takes His journey to the Father.

            There is no secondary argument.

          • primenumbers

            "The parable addresses, exactly, the consequences of abuse of authority," - no it doesn't. The slaves get punished, not the master. And they get beaten even if they didn't know their master's wishes, and beaten even stronger if they knew their master's wishes.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "The slaves get punished, not the master."

            >> By the wicked servant, not the master.

            "And they get beaten even if they didn't know their master's wishes"

            >> Only if they have done something deserving of punishment.

            "beaten even stronger if they knew their master's wishes."

            >> As is perfectly just. Knowing, willful wickedness in positions of authority is more deserving of punishment than is mere wrongdoing.

          • primenumbers

            ">> By the wicked servant, not the master.", no that is the earlier section about the drunk slave. It's clear that the next slave that it's talking about gets beaten by the master, more or less depending on their knowledge of the masters wishes.

            "Only if they have done something deserving of punishment." - so you think beating slaves with stripes is a reasonable punishment for a slave then?

            "willful wickedness in positions of authority" - the slave in question is not a slave in authority. The slave in authority was cut into pieces. This is a different slave that either knew or knew not the masters wishes and gets beaten either way.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "By the wicked servant, not the master.", no that is the earlier section about the drunk slave.

            >> The wicked servant punishes the slaves. We agree on that much.

            "It's clear that the next slave that it's talking about gets beaten by the master"

            >> No. The servant is punished, because he has unjustly punished the slaves.

            "more or less depending on their knowledge of the masters wishes."

            >> As is perfectly just. Knowing wickedness is more deserving of punishment, than is simple wrongdoing.

          • primenumbers

            There are multiple slaves being talked about. You want to talk about the drunk slave, but I'm talking about the one that either knew or knew not the masters wishes and got beaten by the master.

            "As is perfectly just" - to beat slaves? Until they have many stripes? Not only is it wrong to beat slaves it's wrong to own slaves.

          • Max Driffill

            Though I have had a couple of bosses who seemed like that might be a course of action they wouldn't rule out!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The "context" is the steward who gets drunk and gluts himself and beats the servants under his authority!

          • primenumbers

            Multiple slaves are discussed - the one that gets drunk and beats other slaves is " He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers.". That's not the same slave mentioned in 47-48.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Christ is making an analogy between the master (Christ) who is owed service by his servants - a steward (the Apostles) and lesser servants (the disciples) - and how they will be judged for services rendered.

          • primenumbers

            So Christ is a slave master? That's not so useful an analogy to show the moral superiority of Christ is it? Obviously Christ thought nothing immoral about owning slaves did he? You're basically making my point for me....

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Christ is without any question a Master, and we are certainly His slaves, since we are His creation and hence, His property.

            The fact that He chooses to make us, instead, His friends, is one of the glories of the Catholic religion.

          • primenumbers

            Rick - brilliant! You agree with slavery and the beating of slaves. That is wonderful.

          • severalspeciesof

            That's actually scary... ;-)

          • severalspeciesof

            This whole exchange about 'interpretation/context' is a good portion of why I no longer believe in a omnipotent and omniscient god. IMO, the very fact that Interpretation/context has to be used just doesn't fit the omnipotent/omniscient paradigm. The fact that there are multiple languages (which ironically was caused by the Jewish/Christian god according to their writings), which compounds problems of interpretations, and the fact that context from history can also be a rather unstable aspect, makes the whole notion of getting to an absolute true fix on the 'truth' of a parable' rather unwieldy and suspect...

            Glen

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In other words, if God exists he must be perspicuous. Since he is not, God does not exist.

            Who was it here who argued that if God didn't want men to commit sodomy he would have put some kind of anti-junk mechanism on the anus?

          • severalspeciesof

            Kevin,

            In other words, if God exists he must be perspicuous. Since he is not, God does not exist.

            No, let me add: only that if god has both qualities that I spoke of, and truly wants all of us to know of it, then that god would be perspicuous in its relating to us. This isn't the case, therefore god (if it exists) doesn't have those qualities...

            Is this clearer?

            Glen

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let me see if I can put this in a syllogism.

            Major premise: If God exists, he would want to be easily known by human beings.

            Minor premise: If God is omniscient and omnipotent his desire will be easily carried out.

            Conclusion: If God is not easily known he is either not omniscient, not omnipotent, or neither, or doesn't exist.

            As I see it, the major premise is a whopping assumption.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I would say that, if God wanted to be hard to know by humans, He did a piss poor job of it.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism

            Excerpt:

            "Atheists comprised an estimated 2.01% of the world population, according to The World Factbook in 2010."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yeah, but this is easily answered by the fact that most people are morons.

            People who believe in God are morons.
            98% of people believe in God.
            98% of people are morons.

          • severalspeciesof

            You have my premise (major/minor, it matters not) wrong.

            Not: If god exists, he would want to be easily known

            but rather:

            If god exists and he wants to be easily known by human beings

            Glen

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The problem is resolved by the provision of an infallible interpreter, also a part of God's plan, but one only available to Catholics.

          • severalspeciesof

            How convenient for Catholics, but inconvenient for god and its wishes...

            An all knowing and all powerful god wouldn't need an interpreter. Period.

          • Max Driffill

            The bible does condone slavery. It has rules for how you should be your slaves, My favorite bit, is how if you beat your slave they should not day directly as a result of that beating, but its okay if if they kick off a day or two later. because, well, they are your money. Keeping it classy and moral.

            Here is everything the bible says about slavery. And this is condoning:

            Exodus 21:2If thou buy an Hebrew servant....

            Exodus 21:7If a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant....

            Exodus 21:20-21And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.

            Exodus 22:3If he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

            Leviticus 22:11If the priest buy any soul with his money....

            Leviticus 25:39And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee....

            Leviticus 25:44-46Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your land: and they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever.

            Ephesians 6:5Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.

            Colossians 3:22Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God.

            1 Timothy 6:1Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

            Titus 2:9-10Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things; not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.

            1 Peter 2:18Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

            From http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/says_about/slavery.html

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is irrelevant to primenumber's attack on the character of Jesus Christ.

          • Max Driffill

            But you agree then,the bible condones slavery?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am not a student of Old Testament slavery but it *does* seems to condone it.

            The New Testament does not condone slavery. It just looks at it as a reality of life and offers counsel on how to bring good out of it.

            Max, I'm curious why you left out any quotes from Philemon? That's the letter Paul wrote to the Christian slave owner suggesting that he treat the runaway slave Onesimus as Paul's equal and to receive him "no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother" (v. 16).

          • Max Driffill

            Kevin,
            I'm not sure what he said to Philemon matters with regard to slavery. Does he ever outright condemn it? I don't think so. Does he ever say, slavery is a moral evil that we should, daily argue and agitate against it? No. The bible gets slavery wrong. Doesn't this bother you?

            This is a terrible moral omission for a book that is supposed to contain the most sublime moral teaching in the history of ever. And yet....no commandments against the abuse of children, none against slavery, and none against rape or genocide.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I'm not sure what he said to Philemon matters with regard to slavery."

            >> Really? Not even when he returns a slave, with the admonition to treat him no more like a slave, precisely *because* he is now a brother in Christ?

            That doesn't matter at all with regard to slavery?

            Really?

            "Does he ever outright condemn it? I don't think so. Does he ever say, slavery is a moral evil that we should, daily argue and agitate against it? No."

            >> The seeds were hardly planted yet, and you want the harvest?

            "The bible gets slavery wrong. Doesn't this bother you?"

            >> Slavery was a universal human practice, and involved social conditions quite acceptable to very many slaves. The word "slave" in Scripture, often means something along the line of "indentured servant", or even "employee" in modern usage.

            The Bible does not "get" slavery wrong. The Bible "makes" slaves brothers, and it shouldn't have taken as long as it did for that to work through the civilization of the Gospel, but it eventually did.

            "This is a terrible moral omission for a book that is supposed to contain the most sublime moral teaching in the history of ever."

            >> No. Indentured servitude might seem a great evil to some future civilization guided by the light of Christ. Even contractual employment might conceivably be retroactively viewed with horror, as an imposition of the power of the employer upon the whole life of servitude forced on the employee.

            But in no case can the Bible be faulted for getting at the *real* root of the problem- the exclusion of some from the fellowship of the blessed.

            After all, we are all slaves here.

            Not there.

            That the slaves have always understood, which is why they were consoled by the Faith.

            "And yet....no commandments against the abuse of children"

            >> Abuse? Oh. Right. Spanking is abuse now. Right.

            "none against slavery, and none against rape or genocid"

            >> Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery.

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            Whatever Paul said to Philemon is irrelevant to the general point I was making, which was, the BIble condones slavery.

            Paul does nothing to counter that, or try to alter the cultural consensus in any meaningful. Certainly from Paul, what we get, is yeah, why don't you treat your christian brother like a brother and not like a slave, you know, if you want.

            No talk of the general immorality of slavery.

            Also, the bible doesn't care that much about the thou shalt not kill, because it is okay to beat your slave to death, so long as they don't die instantly, but may be linger a couple days at least. And I guess, the rape of women by moses' army was pretty much cool, murder of all men and all males among the little ones, and non-virgin females, that Moses' army perpetrated.

            Thou shalt not kill indeed.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "No talk of the general immorality of slavery."

            >> No acknowledgement of the distinction between slavery, indentured servitude, and contract employment, or of the common principle that underlies them all.

            Is IT moral?

            Is it moral for one human being to serve another, to place the fruits of one human being's labor under the disposition of another?

            If it is, then the question is not absolute.

            As you seek to make it.

            This might work with the choir, but it is not an adequate examination of the issue.

            "Also, the bible doesn't care that much about the thou shalt not kill, because it is okay to beat your slave to death, so long as they don't die instantly, but may be linger a couple days at least."

            >> False. Both outcomes result in a penalty assessed to the master who has beaten the slave; the distinction concerns the penalty's severity.

            " And I guess, the rape of women by moses' army was pretty much cool, murder of all men and all males among the little ones, and non-virgin females, that Moses' army perpetrated."

            >> Is it somehow better, perhaps, to compassionately exterminate them by atomic bomb instead?

            Or is such an action only immoral when perpetrated by theists, and morally neutral, or perhaps even praiseworthy, when perpetrated by non-theists?

            If it is always immoral to exterminate one's enemies.....

            I should like to know why.

          • severalspeciesof

            The New Testament does not condone slavery. It just looks at it as a
            reality of life and offers counsel on how to bring good out of it.

            This is true in a general sense (though I'm not sure how it offers counsel to bring good out of it), but neither does it condemn it. For something that Christians generally hold to be a pinnacle of moral teaching, that's astonishing. Sam Harris is right in pointing out that in the US civil war, the South had better theological grounds in preserving slavery than the North had in getting rid of it...

            Glen

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The Old Covenant recognizes slavery, and condones it to the extent that it recognizes that slaves are part of the covenant.

            The term "slave" in the Old Covenant, can also refer to an office and status more akin to "indentured servant", in the modern sense, or even "employee".

            The New Covenant recognizes slavery as well, although the inclusion of slaves in the New Covenant is more radical, since "there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

          • Max Driffill

            Rick,

            Well, people may be one in Christ, but in the only world that counts distinctions like slave and free, are probably distinctions that matter. They certainly seemed to matter to Africans who were taken as slaves in the US.

            Slave also simply means someone who is bought and sold as property, as in:
            Exodus 21:20-21And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money.
            Pretty immoral that bit. Also way to dodge the meaning of the text.
            You do realize that a moral god might have added an important anti-slavery commandment, you know, maybe instead of the thought crimes commandments? Also why should slavery have ever been condoned?

          • severalspeciesof

            Also why should slavery have ever been condoned?

            Good question. If anyone counters with the idea of context and 'reality' of the times, IMO it would seem to me to be a classic example of moral relativism...

          • Michael Murray

            Leaving open the possibility that condoms and the contraceptive pill might one day be morally acceptable.

          • severalspeciesof

            I think some haven't got the memo on this... ;-)

          • Michael Murray

            I think some haven't got the memo on this... ;-)

            They probably read it out at Mass. That misses 90% of them in Australia.

      • Max Driffill

        In what way are they credible?

        • Luke Meyer

          As Zen Druid says, most of his teachings were echoed by teachers of many different religions/philosophies.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I'm trying to understand how the null hypotheses applies to skepticism and atheism.

      Science investigates the physical world. For example, you want to see if of drug x has an effect on condition y, you devise a test and then examine the results in terms of the null hypothesis, "Drug x has no effect on condition y."

      How does the idea of a null hypothesis applies in deductive argumentation? What would be a null hypothesis about say, justice? How would you test it?

      • Max Driffill

        Kevin,
        Is justice a product of deductive argumentation?

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          Justice is a product of creative reasoning, of resolving apparent anomalies.

          The example "par excellence" can be found here:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgment_of_Solomon

          • Max Driffill

            I think that our experience of a desire for justice (to be treated fairly) is also an offshoot of very real human desires and needs. But addressing this need is sometimes more difficult than first appearances might imply

            Justice certainly requires a complex and creative discussion.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I can't believe it.

            Max and I agree on something.

            It is certainly a Sign of the End.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I don't think it can be understood through inductive, empirical investigation, so I'm trying to see how a null hypothesis could apply to it.

  • http://shackra.bitbucket.org/ shackra sislock

    «For now, what do you think?»

    I think is great if you are willing to cover those famous phrases! :D

  • Sacerdotus

    Great post!

  • Paul K. Sulkowski

    One argument which I have stumbled across is what I call the "issue of the God detector." This is to reply to those who argue that if God did exist, then he would be identifiable by one or more of our five senses, or by some other scientific means.

    My response to this is the burden of proof would be on them to show that such a "God detector" is giving a negative result specifically because God does not exist. This must be done while conclusively eliminating the possibility that the negative result is because it is mis-calibrated while God does exist.

    • Michael Murray

      If God cannot be detected by any physical means then God cannot interact with us in anyway. To me that sounds synonymous to "does not exist".

      • BenS

        I don't think this can be stated often enough.

      • msmischief

        On what grounds do you make this assertion?

        • Max Driffill

          If God can not be detected by any physical means, in what way could god interact with the physical world?

          • msmischief

            You assume what you claim to argue for in that.

          • Michael Murray

            We aren't arguing anything. We are pointing out what follows from what many theists claim. Sure it's a tautology that's the point. If God cannot be detected by physical means then God cannot interact with us. Or if you want your God to be able to interact with us then He is detectable by physical means. You can't go hiding Him in the supernatural and metaphysical.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Isn't justice "hidden" in the metaphysical? Justice cannot be detected by physical means. Do you think justice is therefore unreal?

          • Michael Murray

            I think there is reality and there are ideas. Justice is just an idea. Are you saying god is just an idea ? I thought god was supposed to be real not just an idea.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            God can certainly interact with us, and does quite often.

            He interacted with us, notably, in creating our first parents, expelling them from Eden, imposing upon them the sentence of death, sending prophets to prepare His people to bring forth the Redeemer, sending His Son as that Redeemer, performing prophesied miracles to establish His credentials as that Redeemer, suffering and dying to fulfill those prophecies which had been foolishly misunderstood by His people, and rising from the dead in the presence of many eyewitnesses, whose testimonies are preserved to this day in Scripture, as the supreme Sign of His victory over death.

            The detectable consequences include, for example, European civilization itself.

          • Max Driffill

            msmischief,
            Actually no, I am asking you a question.

    • primenumbers

      It's the theist who must tell us precisely how they know their God exists. It is not up to the atheist to propose methods of detection. We will of course seek to show that the proposed method doesn't actually work.

      Theists may claim what appears to be a detectible property for their God - he answers prayers, heals people etc. and at that point we can test that claim to see if it's true or not.

  • clod

    A brain is the best sort of God detector: it can be programmed to detect any number of Gods. It's 'detected' millions of them already. If your brain is programmed to detect Vishnu, that's what it will detect.

  • clod

    Each persons 'God' is the one they hold in their head...so there are billions of them.

  • 42Oolon

    It really is not very complicated. The person advancing a claim should accept the burden of justifying it. I agree that there are annoying discussions in which theists presume atheists are asserting positive atheism ("no god exists") and impose a burden of proof.

    The presumption of innocence has nothing to do with the burden of proof. In criminal cases the government has the burden to prove the elements of the criminal offence to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Mike Hitchcock

    "Our point, though, is that the burden of proof falls equally on the one wanting to assert and the one wanting to deny the existence of God."

    I disagree. As it is logically impossible to disprove the existence of ANYTHING (unless it is logically impossible for that thing to exist) the burden of proof must always lie with the person proposing existence.

    If I want to prove that unicorns exist, I can produce one - or at least some evidence, such as rainbow-coloured poo or a discarded horn. If you want to argue that they don't, there is no way you can prove this.

    Existence / non-existence is an exception to the usual rule. The burden must always lie with proof of existence.

    • msmischief

      Quite true. This is why you would be very foolish to state categorically there are no such things as unicorns. The universe is wide and might contain much.

      No, there is no exception. That it is difficult to prove non-existence does not mean you are entitled to provide no proof.

      • Max Driffill

        Ms Mischief
        Quite true. This is why you would be very foolish to state categorically there are no such things as unicorns. The universe is wide and might contain much.
        So what?
        The universe might contain much, but as yet it doesn't contain any evidence for The Unicorn Hypothesis. As such we cannot reject the null hypothesis, which is, "unicorns do not exist." In any event, no matter how generous we may feel toward the people positing the unicorn hypothesis, we certainly cannot grant as plausible anything they say about the biology and ecology of unicorns. They haven't even provided a type specimen, or fossils, etc. We can, at present reject the idea. You will note I haven't made a positive claim on the non-existence of unicorns, I am technically agnostic on the question, though functionally a-unicornist because of the paucity of positive evidence for such unique equines.

        No, there is no exception. That it is difficult to prove non-existence does not mean you are entitled to provide no proof.

        Actually as the skeptic who isn't offering a positive claim, I am not required to provide proof of non-existence of unicorns.

        Here is a thing you cannot prove doesn't exist. (Example borrowed from Penn Gillette) You cannot prove there is no elephant in my trunk. Go ahead try.

        • msmischief

          Why should I? I am not an anelephantist. I am not claiming exemption for the rule that the burden of proof is on me for making any assertion.

          • Max Driffill

            Really,
            It did seem as if you were saying the skeptic had the burden to prove a negative. If I have mis-interpreted your position, apologies.

      • Michael Murray

        Unicorns on the other side of the universe aren't quite the right example. What is being argued for is a god that has an interest in and interacts with humans on earth. Not a god that has nothing to do with us. Better would be unicorns on earth.

      • Mike Hitchcock

        It's not difficult to provide proof of non-existence - it's impossible. The best that can be done is to deduce what SHOULD be seen if something DOES exist, but even then, we just might not have seen it - yet.

        If unicorns exist, for example, we should be able to find some unicorn poo. None to date, but that's not proof. The Unicornist could point to several possibilities as to why that might be - unicorns are very tidy animals; unicorns are magic and don't actually poo; unicorn poo is magic and vanishes the moment it hits the ground, etc., etc.

        Whatever the Aunicornist proposes, there is always a counter-argument - which is what makes it a logical impossibility to prove unicorns don't exist. Hence the burden MUST lie with the Unicornist.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Akins' point is that if you assert anything the burden of proof is on you. If you say, "God does not exist," I have a perfect right to ask, "Why do you think that?" Surely, you ought to have reasons that can be examined.

      • Mike Hitchcock

        Sure. But I hope I'd never be stupid enough to assert 100% that anything doesn't exist. And if anyone asks me to PROVE something doesn't exist I'll point out it's a logically impossibility. You'd be surprised how many times I get asked this by ignorant theists (the smart ones know better) as if it's some kind of slam-dunk proof of the existence of their particular brand of sky-daddy that I can't.

        I have plenty of reasons for not believing in God, and you are quite correct that these can be examined and falsified - they have no value if they cannot. But this is not PROOF - it's reasons, and these are not the same thing.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          It would be better if you were more respectful of the people you are talking to and didn't refer to God as a "sky-daddy."

          What I am hoping to get to is a better understanding of the kind of arguments we are advancing to see if the same criteria apply.

          Whether or not God exists is not going to be argued based on observable, measurable physical evidence but some kind of argument, so I wonder if it is relevant to apply a null hypothesis at all.

          However what are some of your reasons that can be falsified? I just want to see how they can be falsified and tested.

          • Mike Hitchcock

            Well for example I claim there is no evidence for God. This can be tested and falsified simply by producing some. There are also many philosophical arguments for God - if someone produced one that stood up to examination, that would falsify my belief.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Hi Mike.

            Buckle up.

            Your belief will be falsified.

            1. Every thing that begins to exist has a cause.
            2. The cosmos began to exist.
            3. The cosmos had a cause
            4. That cause cannot have been natural; that is, the cause cannot have proceeded from any part of the cosmos (see #2).

            Therefore, the cosmos had a supernatural cause.

            Shall I introduce you to a good, solid, Traditional priest for instruction?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Rick:

            As I fear I have said here before, proofs such as yours at best substantiate a sort of indeterminate deism.

            Which from the standpoint of how we conduct ourselves within the cosmos appears, to me, to be as close to atheism as to make no difference.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I can get us the rest of the way from indeterminate deism, Vicq.

            One step at a time.

            Mike, you still out there?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Vicq- Mike seems otherwise occupied.

            Want to get the rest of the way from indeterminate deism?

            OK. You probably don't need these steps, since you are already prepared, it seems, to accept a necessary Being, but let's be sure.

            6. The supernatural cause must, itself, either have begun to exist, or else it did not begin to exist.

            7. If it began to exist, see 1-3 above.

            8. Proceeding along these lines, we arrive at a Cause which is necessary; that is, a Cause which is itself uncaused, and which does not derive its being from another cause, but instead is the Being from which all other causes derive their existence.

            Good so far?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Nice little elision from "cause" into "Being", there Rick. But I'll assume your point 8 for argument's sake.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Cool!

            Sure you don't want to fight over the elision?

            Let me know if you do.

            Pending a review of that point, we proceed:

            1. Every thing that begins to exist has a cause.
            2. The cosmos began to exist.
            3. The cosmos had a cause
            4. That cause cannot have been natural; that is, the cause cannot have proceeded from any part of the cosmos (see #2).

            Therefore,

            5. The cosmos had a supernatural cause.

            6. The supernatural cause must, itself, either have begun to exist, or else it did not begin to exist.

            7. If it began to exist, see 1-3 above.

            8. Proceeding along these lines, we arrive at a Cause which is necessary; that is, a Cause which is itself uncaused, and which does not derive its being from another cause, but instead is the Being from which all other causes derive their existence.

            ALL STIPULATED TO BY VICQ, reservations concerning "Being" excepted, and so this one element might come up again.

            ******************

            9. We know certain things concerning this Being, by negation; that is, we can say what the Being is not.

            10. We know the Being is not a body, since any thing that passes from potential to actuality, is potential before it is actual, and must be reduced from potential to actual by some being in actuality. The Being has already been shown to be the first actuality, and therefore there cannot be any potentiality in the Being, only actuality. But every body is divisible, and so potentially another body, so the Being is not a body.

            11. The Being is perfect, that is, there can be nothing that is perfectible about pure actuality, since perfectibility involves potential, and we have established that there is no potentiality in the Being. So the Being is perfect.

            12. The Being is Intelligent, since some created beings exhibit intelligence, and the Being is the cause and perfect actuality of all potential intelligence (this settles the "Cause versus Being" issue).

            OK now we have gone from indeterminate deism, to Intelligent and Perfect Being.

            OK so far?

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            We diverge with steps ten and eleven. I see no reason why "potential" and "actual" are states with no possible point of intersection. I see no reason why having existed before the beginning of the cosmos is a prohibition to the "Being"'s continuing to develop after that event.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thanks, Vicq, let's focus in here.

            You pose two objections:

            1." I see no reason why "potential" and "actual" are states with no possible point of intersection."

            This is found in Point 10, here:

            "any thing that passes from potential to actuality, is potential before it is actual, and must be reduced from potential to actual by some being in actuality."

            But this has laready been agreed to by you, it seems, in Point One:

            "Every thing that begins to exist has a cause."

            There is, therefore, no possible point of intersection between "potential" and "actual", absent a Cause that reduces the potentiality to actuality; in other words, everything that begins to exist has a cause.

            2."I see no reason why having existed before the beginning of the cosmos is a prohibition to the "Being"'s continuing to develop after that event."

            >> This would be true if the cause of the cosmos was some other being, itself caused.

            If, however, the cosmos is caused by the Being; that is, the Being responsible for causing all other beings (see points 6, 7, and 8), then the Being cannot have continued to develop after the event, since development involves the actualization of potential in the Being, which is contrary to Point 10:

            "he Being has already been shown to be the first actuality, and therefore there cannot be any potentiality in the Being, only actuality".

            If the Being exhibits potentiality, then the Being must have its potential reduced to actuality; that is, the Being cannot be the cause of its own actuality.

            Which is contrary to 8.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            The Being may have no potential relative to the created cosmos. However, we have already defined that Being as existing outside the created cosmos, and in whatever that "outside" is, undetectable to our senses it may be, there may be a frame of reference within which the nature of the Being is not static.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            If that were the case, then the Being is actually only a being, with respect to the frame you specify.

            The being, having been shown to involve potential, cannot have actualized itself, from Point 10 again:

            "any thing that passes from potential to actuality, is potential before it is actual, and must be reduced from potential to actual by some being in actuality"

            So, in your case above, we have only shown that the Being is instead a being, as in 6-8 above.

            We still must proceed on the basis of 8, to which we have mutually stipulated:

            "8. Proceeding along these lines, we arrive at a Cause which is necessary; that is, a Cause which is itself uncaused, and which does not derive its being from another cause, but instead is the Being from which all other causes derive their existence."

            That Being cannot develop with respect to any frame, since the Being is pure actuality.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I believe I will concede to you that we in fact differ at an earlier point than #10.

            Looking back on my previous posts here, I have often remarked that there is no difference I can ascertain between a cosmos with no god and a cosmos with a deist's God. And I'm going to limit my discussion of God's presence or absence to God as evinced in the cosmos.

            I think that a creator outside our cosmos who becomes apparent to we humans, would become apparent as did the sphere to the inhabitants of Flatland, as a tiny aspect of an otherwise unknowable entity. And I decline to speculate about the characteristics of the unknowable portion.

            You may well reply "But Vicq, that just kicks the creator back a level. You are opening yourself up to the 'turtles all the way down' model."

            To which I reply "Yes. I suppose so."

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thanks, Vicq.

            You had previously mentioned some reservations before 8, so it is not out of order for you to double back to them.

            "Looking back on my previous posts here, I have often remarked that there is no difference I can ascertain between a cosmos with no god and a cosmos with a deist's God."

            >> That might be true, but it is actually not relevant to the argument *thus far*. The argument thus far is not inductive, but deductive.

            Whether the God is a Watchmaker, or Father Son and Holy Ghost, has not been addressed yet, because we have not gotten that far.

            We *have* gotten far enough to show that there is a Being, that Being is supernatural, and that Being is necessary.

            "And I'm going to limit my discussion of God's presence or absence to God as evinced in the cosmos."

            >> Interestingly, this choice does not affect the argument in any way at all, other than to show that induction supports the same points.

            Here's how:

            A. God's existence can only be known from effects observable within the cosmos.

            B. It is observed from within the cosmos that the universe is expanding.

            C. It is impossible for a universe which is expanding on average to be past eternal.

            These three points lead us directly to:

            1. Every thing that begins to exist has a cause.
            2. The cosmos began to exist.
            3. The cosmos had a cause
            4. That cause cannot have been natural; that is, the cause cannot have proceeded from any part of the cosmos (see #2).

            Therefore,

            5. The cosmos had a supernatural cause.

            6. The supernatural cause must, itself, either have begun to exist, or else it did not begin to exist.

            7. If it began to exist, see 1-3 above.

            8. Proceeding along these lines, we arrive at a Cause which is necessary; that is, a Cause which is itself uncaused, and which does not derive its being from another cause, but instead is the Being from which all other causes derive their existence.

            Over to you.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            I'd like to try a slightly different tack here.

            (1) Imagine the Being as it existed prior to the creation of the cosmos.

            (2) Imagine the Being as it existed subsequent to the creation of the cosmos, but before the creation of mankind.

            (3) Imagine the Being subsequent to the creation of mankind.

            Is it your contention that the Being, since by definition possessing no potential, is identical in nature and attributes at all three of the above states?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is certain the Being is identical in nature and attributes at all three of the above events.

            He is, after all, pure actuality, with no unactualized potential whatever, see #10.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Since the Being has no unactualized potential, can we therefore say that his nature would remain unchanged irrespective of the action or inaction, of any possible future state, of his created cosmos or any part thereof?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Yes. That would be certain, from Point #10.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Then perhaps I am jumping ahead to a later point in your argument, but..... to what extent can the Being then be said to "love" his creation or to "desire" any particular outcome for it???

            Surely the Being cannot be said to "love" the cosmos unless at some time prior to its creation he was in a state of not loving it, or of loving something different (and unknown to us). The potential for change on the Being's part seems unavoidable here.

            And to say that the Being "desires" that Vicq Ruiz come to believe in him and worship him likewise implies a possible change in potential. A Being worshiped by Ruiz must have a more fully realized potential than a Being despised or ignored by Ruiz, otherwise the Being would be indifferent to Ruiz' opinions.

            Unless of course we posit that the words "love" and "desire" mean something significantly different when applied to the Being, than when applied to you and me. A possibility that I am willing to entertain.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thanks Vicq, I did not see this Friday.

            "Then perhaps I am jumping ahead to a later point in your argument, but..... to what extent can the Being then be said to "love" his creation or to "desire" any particular outcome for it???"

            >> It is in fact jumping ahead, but can be answered now. All such terms applied to the Being would of course be anagogical; that is, we would, of necessity, be employing the language of a contingent, created being, to apply to the Being.

            The first steps in this direction are outlined in Point #12:

            12. The Being is Intelligent, since some created beings exhibit intelligence, and the Being is the cause and perfect actuality of all potential intelligence (this settles the "Cause versus Being" issue).

            "Surely the Being cannot be said to "love" the cosmos unless at some time prior to its creation he was in a state of not loving it, or of loving something different (and unknown to us)."

            >> To the contrary. For the Being, all is actuality. There is no potential at all in HIm. All potentiality exists only in beings caused by Him. His Love, His Intelligence, His Creation, all of these things are completely actualized in Him from all eternity. It is only in His bringing other beings into existence; the act of creation itself, that involves actualizing *their* potentiality.

            "The potential for change on the Being's part seems unavoidable here."

            >> This does not follow.

            The change occurs in the created beings. *They* move from potential to actual. The Being does not. He actualizes *their* potential, He has no potential, but is pure actuality.

            "And to say that the Being "desires" that Vicq Ruiz come to believe in him and worship him likewise implies a possible change in potential."

            >> This is just an anthropomorphism, as far as the argument at this stage is concerned. We have no logical basis, this far, to assert that He desires any such thing.

            We must first establish the Points already at issue.

            "A Being worshiped by Ruiz must have a more fully realized potential than a Being despised or ignored by Ruiz, otherwise the Being would be indifferent to Ruiz' opinions."

            >> The Being is certainly indifferent to Ruiz' opinions. It will be established at the proper stage whether it is correct to say, in anthropomorphic language, that God "desires Ruiz" to do any particular thing.

            "Unless of course we posit that the words "love" and "desire" mean something significantly different when applied to the Being, than when applied to you and me. A possibility that I am willing to entertain."

            >> I think it is necessary to acknowledge that whatever we know about the Being in Himself, we can know in only two ways: by negation, as in Point #10, or by revelation, of which we have as yet established no evidence, but will.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            This is just an anthropomorphism, as far as the argument at this stage is concerned. We have no logical basis, this far, to assert that He desires any such thing.

            Nor will we ever be able to assert anything like an emotion or a motivation on the part of the Being, as long as we assert that said Being is perfect, and perfectly unchanging.

            The Being is certainly indifferent to Ruiz' opinions

            Indeed so, as any Deist would agree, and as my personal life experience testifies.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Nor will we ever be able to assert anything like an emotion or a motivation on the part of the Being, as long as we assert that said Being is perfect, and perfectly unchanging."

            >> Wrong. We will be able to show, in due course, that the anthropomorphic concepts "desire", "emotion", "motivation" can be legitimately applied with respect to the Being, given certain constraints, but we have not arrived at this stage of the argument yet.

            "Indeed so, as any Deist would agree [the Being is indifferent], and as my personal life experience testifies."

            >> Fine and dandy. At this stage the argument is perfectly consistent with that assumption.

            But then again, that assumption does nothing whatever either to refute the argument, or to prevent its development so as to address the proper understanding of Ruiz' relationship to the Being, if any.

            Brick by brick, Vicq.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Rick, I think we've reached an impasse.

            My original contention was that you had demonstrated a deist God, one which does not intervene in the cosmos.

            But if your God is never affected in any way by events that occur in the cosmos, he cannot logically desire one outcome within the cosmos over another.

            I love my family because it strengthens my character to do so, and because their love in return delights me. If my nature were such that I was unaffected by the absence of this love, I would indeed be a "deist" husband and father - treating them at best as subjects of observation.

            God must be equally contented if all men come to Christ, or if none do, for otherwise you would have a God whose state of satisfaction is changeable, and changeable by things happening within his creation.

            Only a deist God, one who winds up the machine and sets it running unattended, can be truly unmoved by how the machine runs. And we must ask even of that God, if he is perfectly content and perfectly self-sufficient in the timeless Before, why create a cosmos in the first place? What's his motivation?

            I'll be interested in looking at your points 13, 14, 15..., but I don't see us coming to agreement on this.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thanks, Vicq.

            The points stand.

            They are unrefuted.

            Logical arguments do not compel the will, only the intellect.

            They can be willfully ignored, and they can be willfully dismissed.

            I promised to take you all the way there, and that promise stands, and will never be withdrawn.

            Let me know if you would ever like to continue.

            But as a matter of record, the points to this stage stand, and you chose to declare an impasse without establishing one in the argument itself.

            Thanks for the exchange, let me know if you change your mind.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            The pleasure's been mine Rick, and I'll be seeing ya around.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Rick, just wondering if you had overlooked my Friday reply in our discussion. It's near here, begins with "Then perhaps I am jumping ahead'

          • FairPlay

            As a newcomer to this site, I have been reading Rick's posts, and have come to the conclusion that he is trying to recruit for the atheist cause. It may not be intentional, but he is doing an excellent job of it nevertheless.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I take it, Fair, that you have no intellectual rejoinder to my argument, so you would rather engage in an argumentum ad hominem.

            Is this what we can expect in our science classes these days?

          • FairPlay

            Rick, you have posted offensive comments to me on previous posts, and whilst I find your views interesting as an outside observer, I have no wish to engage directly.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            But yet you engaged, directly, in an ad hominem, concerning me.

            So I ask again, do you hit and run like this with your students also?

            They, of course, would have no way to object.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It's a nice screen name there, FairPlay.

            Try and live up to it sometime.

          • FairPlay

            I said you were doing an excellent job....is that an attack? Still, I shouldn't worry. Going on what I've seen so far I'm sure my post will be deleted.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I doubt it will be deleted.

            I would hope it would not be deleted.

            I await your response to Point One.

          • Vicq_Ruiz

            Really, I'm not sure I agree.

            Rick is as far as I can tell a Catholic committed to the faith as it existed circa 1550 AD.

            And I frankly enjoy seeing him go head to head with the "contemporary" Catholics here, who are all too ready to sand down the harder edges of their church in order to tempt the potential convert.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            You got sand, Vicq.

            You are almost right about me, close enough for rock and roll.

          • Ignorant Amos

            Jesus wants Rick as a Moonbeam....sorry, Sunbeam...

            Jesus wants me [Rick] for a sunbeam,

            To shine for him each day;

            In ev'ry way try to please him,

            At home, at school, at play.

            Chorus

            A sunbeam, a sunbeam,

            Jesus wants me [Rick] for a sunbeam.

            A sunbeam, a sunbeam,

            I'll [Rick] be a sunbeam for him.

            Jesus wants me [Rick] to be loving

            And kind to all I [Rick] see,

            Showing how pleasant and happy

            His little one can be.

            That'll be an Earth orbiting Sunbeam mind.

          • Michael Murray

            Agreed. I always thought it was accidental but I wonder if it's a very devious false flag operation. Notice that Rick is an abbreviation for Richard and Richard is the name of the atheist in chief himself!

          • primenumbers

            They only demonstrate that believers are blind to the flaws in such fallacious proofs.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Why, prime, it would seem to be incumbent upon you to address the specific element of my argument (they are numbered, for convenience in this regard) which you are prepared to demonstrate is fallacious.

            Otherwise, you are simply.......

            blustering.

          • primenumbers

            The flaws have been pointed out to you previously. But you're not interested other than to repeat what has already been shown to be flawed.

            To be specific, your premise 1 has not been demonstrated. There are more flaws, but you can start with that one.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Certainly.

            It is shown in the linked paper that no expanding universe can be past-eternal.

            http://arxiv.org/pdf/grqc/0110012.pdf

            Excerpt:

            "Inflationary cosmological models [1, 2, 3]
            are generically eternal to the future [4, 5]. In these mod-
            els, the Universe consists of post-inflationary, thermal-
            ized regions coexisting with still-inflating ones. In co-
            moving coordinates the thermalized regions grow in time
            and are joined by new thermalized regions, so the comov-
            ing volume of the inflating regions vanishes as t → ∞.
            Nonetheless, the inflating regions expand so fast that
            their physical volume grows exponentially with time. As
            a result, there is never a time when the Universe is com-
            pletely thermalized. In such spacetimes, it is natural
            to ask if the Universe could also be past-eternal. If it
            could, eternal inflation would provide a viable model of
            the Universe with no initial singularity. The Universe
            would never come into existence. It would simply exist.

            "....These violations appear to open the door again to
            the possibility that inflation, by itself, can eliminate the
            need for an initial singularity. Here we argue that this is
            not the case.

            ".... Again we see that if Hav > 0 along any null or non-
            comoving timelike geodesic, then the geodesic is neces-
            sarily past-incomplete."

            Hav>0 is a condition satisfied by direct observation of the cosmos.

            It cannot have been past-eternal.

            Point One stands

          • primenumbers

            That paper doesn't demonstrate what you claim. You miss where it says "Thus inflationary models require physics
            other than inflation to describe the past boundary of the inflating region of spacetime." and "inflation alone is not sufficient to provide a complete description of the Universe, and some new physics is necessary in order to determine the correct conditions at the boundary [20]. This is the chief result of our paper."

            And of course, none of this paper addresses your point 1 above, which is what I was talking about. You've tried to jump directly to your point 2, and that paper doesn't demonstrate that either.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            In other words, you admit that physics cannot provide us evidence of any singularity-free inflationary solution.

            You propose that new physics might.

            There is a problem for you here as well.

            Others did try to do exactly what you suggest.

            Nine years later, one of the authors addressed these attempts.

            The link is below:

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

            Excerpt:

            "One of the most basic questions in cosmology is whether the universe had a
            beginning or has simply existed forever. It was addressed in the singularity
            theorems of Penrose and Hawking [1], with the conclusion that the initial singularity is not avoidable. These theorems rely on the strong energy condition
            and on certain assumptions about the global structure of spacetime. There are, however, three popular scenarios which circumvent these theorems: eternal inflation, a cyclic universe, and an “emergent” universe which exists for eternity as a static seed before expanding. Here we shall argue that none of these scenarios can actually be past-eternal.

            "...Here we
            have addressed three scenarios which seemed to offer a way to avoid a beginning,
            and have found that none of them can actually be eternal in the past. Both
            eternal inflation and cyclic universe scenarios have Hav > 0, which means that
            they must be past-geodesically incomplete. We have also examined a simple
            emergent universe model, and concluded that it cannot escape quantum collapse.
            Even considering more general emergent universe models, there do not seem to
            be any matter sources that admit solutions that are immune to collapse."

            Eternal inflation universes satisfy the condition Hav>0.

            These cannot be past-eternal.

            Cyclical universes satisfy the condition Hav>0.

            These cannot be past-eternal.

            Emergent universes cannot escape quantum collapse, and so these universes also cannot be past eternal.

            Point One stands.

          • primenumbers

            Again, you utterly miss the point that you're talking about point 2, not point 1, and that what you're saying doesn't even support your case on point 2. Why don't you read your point 1 and point 2 again and come back when you've got your argument figured out.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            My apologies.

            Point Two, as you correctly note, is the one addressed by the citations.

            As to Point One, there is no evidence at all that anything has ever begun to exist without a cause, and so if you have any, please post it.

          • primenumbers

            Thanks. That is why I asked you to discuss point 1 because without it, point 2 is pointless :-)

            As to point 1, you cannot shift the burden of proof like that, especially in a thread about shifting the burden of proof. You've made a positive statement that you need to prove. And be careful here, because you've got to use the very same meaning of "exist" and "cause" that you may want to use elsewhere.

            As for you point 2, you need for your God theory to show creation from nothing, and a singularity is not nothing, and due to the nature of the singularity we have no idea what came before it. Thus the paper doesn't show a beginning in the sense of one moment their being nothing and the next a universe expanding out from a singularity. But it's a beginning in that very sense that you need.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Welcome. As to point one, I assert it as self-evident. I will, perhaps, add a point Zero:

            0. No thing that begins to exist can precede its own existence; that is, no thing that begins to exist can be its own cause.

            See if that works for you.

            As to Point Two, I do not agree with your objection, since Point Two states:

            "The cosmos began to exist"

            If a singularity is not nothing, then it began to exist. It cannot have been past-eternal, as Hawking and Penrose have shown even long before Valentin, et al.

            So I conclude that Point Two stands.

          • primenumbers

            For your assertion as self-evident, I'll just say that you have not shown evidence for it's truth, and your point zero is similarly dismissed.

            So now you've moved from trying and failing to evidence point 2 by falling back to trying to prove it from your 1 and 0, which are just asserted without proof and hence dismissed.

            So no, your 2 doesn't stand.

            Of course I'll also add in a point -1 that "only things that begin to exist actually do exist".

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            For your assertion as self-evident, I'll just say that you have not shown evidence for it's truth,

            >> OK. The evidence for it's truth is that the contrary proposition renders logic impossible in the first place.

            Supporting evidence in favor of this proposition is to be had by recourse to induction:

            we never observe anything to begin to exist without a cause.

            "and your point zero is similarly dismissed."

            >> Dismissed? To the contrary. It is ignored, but it is not addressed, nor is it refuted.

            Point Zero stands.

            "So now you've moved from trying and failing to evidence point 2"

            >> Point Two stands. You have not refuted a syllable of it.

            " by falling back to trying to prove it from your 1 and 0, which are just asserted without proof and hence dismissed."

            >> Point Zero stands on logical grounds, and it is bulletproof.

            Point One stands on both logical and inductive grounds, and seems quite strong to me.

            You have certainly not refuted it.

            "So no, your 2 doesn't stand."

            Seems to me that 0, 1, and 2 stand.

            "Of course I'll also add in a point -1 that "only things that begin to exist actually do exist".

            >> Redundant, don't see the need.

          • primenumbers

            Point -1 : "only things that begin to exist actually do exist".

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            ""only things that begin to exist actually do exist".

            >> I reply, this is impossible.

            From Point 0 we have:

            "No thing that begins to exist can precede its own existence; that is, no thing that begins to exist can be its own cause."

            This is completely bulletproof, by the way, and is the total refutation of your claim above.

            We know the universe began to exist.

            We know it cannot have preceded its own existence.

            We know it cannot have been its own cause.

            Therefore, Point 1:

            Everything that begins to exist, has a cause.

            Point 2:

            The cosmos began to exist

            And this is bulletproof.

          • primenumbers

            ">> I reply, this is impossible." - a mere assertion to something utterly obviously true.

            I say Point - 1: only things that begin to exist actually do exist

            The more you say "bulletproof" the more you're engaging in "argument by force of assertion"

            "We know the universe began to exist." - no we don't.

            "We know it cannot have preceded its own existence." - not only do we do not know this, the statement doesn't even make sense.

            "We know it cannot have been its own cause." again we don't know this.

            Of course if you insist on this line: "Everything that begins to exist, has a cause." then this follows through nicely:

            God began to exist therefore God has a cause.

            Or

            God didn't begin to exist therefore God does not exist.

            And you can't just define God into not beginning to exist, or just existing or having no cause. You have to demonstrate this. Which of course not only do you never do, you cannot do.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            1. Every thing that begins to exist has a cause.

            I think you are right. It is self-evident.

          • primenumbers

            If it's self-evident to you that it's true, then prove it because it's self-evident to me it's false.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            For something to begin to exist, it must be begun by something other than itself, because it didn't exist. Things don't just pop into existence out of nowhere.

            A true self-evident claim is one in which once you understand the claim you can see it is true. It is comprehended, not proved.

          • primenumbers

            Yes, that's what you keep asserting.

            "It is comprehended, not proved." - that's just it - there's a lot to comprehend and a lot to prove. It's certainly not self evident. You also need to address the same point that I'm making to Rick: "only things that begin to exist actually do exist".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you assert that "only things that begin to exist actually do exist" *that* is not self-evident and so the burden of proof is on you to show that no thing can exist without a cause.

            I'd say that claim, if I've stated it correctly, is self-refuting. Here's how. If everything is required to begin to exist in order to actually exist, then nothing would actually exist, because something would either have to bring itself into existence (which is impossible) or it would have to be something which exists which doesn't need a cause to exist, namely the Uncaused Cause.

          • primenumbers

            "that no thing can exist without a cause" - ok, show me how your God exists without a cause and I'll use that argument you present.

            " If everything is required to begin to exist in order to actually exist" - mere assertion, lacking proof and denied by you in the case of your God.

            "something which exists which doesn't need a cause to exist, namely the Uncaused Cause" - which denies your premise "that no thing can exist without a cause"

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There is some confusion here.

            I thought paragraph 2 of your comment was *your* claim. I'm not making it. That is why I refuted it.

            In paragraph one of your comment, I am not arguing "no thing can exist without a cause." The argument is 1. Every thing that *begins* to exist has a cause. The conclusion of the argument is that something must exist which does not have a cause.

          • primenumbers

            "Every thing that *begins* to exist has a cause" - that is your unproven assertion.

            "The conclusion of the argument is that something must exist which does not have a cause" and because things that exist must have began to exist (or they wouldn't exist, would they), we're left with an issue.... (or should I say you're left with an issue - we've not proven your God, but none of us deny the existence of the universe, so I have no need to prove it's here).

            You reject things "always existing" or "being able to exist without prior cause" and allow only the case of your God to have that property, and you do so purely by definition. You define your God into existence by saying he exists, but he never began to exist. Of course, none of that makes the remotest bit of sense what-so-ever, as you destroy the meaning of "exists" and "cause" in doing so.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'll reply to this in the morning but I think you are playing sleight of hand.

          • primenumbers

            Well, that's a very interesting comment. By asserting what is painfully obvious that only things that have began to exist actually do exist, we have ground your argument to a halt. If I'm engaging in slight-of-hand it's only by using the KCA premise 1 trick back at you. The trick being that the arguer of the KCA knows that they can't openly say "everything but God needs a cause", or else their game-play would be out in the open and their argument painfully circular. So they create (effectively via their argument's premises) two sets of things, "those that begin to exist" and "those that don't begin to exist", and place God, by definition, into the "doesn't begin to exist" set, and everything else that they want the argument to say "and God created..." in that first set. As a proof for God it's utterly circular, and hence not acceptable to any reasonable person. That the circularity is well hidden is credit to the theists who use it, as a grudging admiration on how it's done, but it's hardly honest or reasonable and certainly does fit "slight of hand" rather well.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            To the contrary.

            The argument from First Cause is rigorously honest.

            It requires of us only the belief that logic is an adequate means to distinguish between truth and falsehood.

            Which we all do, anyway.

            Even atheists.

            The alternative can be asserted, but it cannot be lived.

            Not even atheists can live the principles of atheism.

            And it's a good thing for them, too.

          • primenumbers

            "The argument from First Cause is rigorously honest." which in typical Rick style, you merely assert never prove. Fact is the argument is circular. Are you thinking that circular arguments are honest?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I have made an argument, prime.

            You have failed to refute it.

            It stands. Your best bet at this point is to gum up the combox as best you can, because you have nothing else.

          • primenumbers

            You have made repeated, bold, un-proven and un-evidenced assertions. A mere assertion doesn't need to be refuted other than by the means it was asserted. In other words, by mere assertion are your assertions rightfully dismissed.

            ". Your best bet at this point is to gum up the combox as best you can, because you have nothing else." - so you're giving up.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Okay. Here goes.

            When something did not once exist and it now exists it must have had a cause outside itself to bring it into existence.

            I think this statement is self-evident once you understand the words. Don’t you agree that we see things all around us that exist now but didn’t before, including ourselves? We have begun to exist and we did not bring ourselves into existence. The negation of this claim “Nothing that begins to exist has a
            cause” appears to me to be absurd.

            I think the weak link in this argument is that the universe began to exist. However, I’ve read convincing arguments based on current scientific
            cosmological arguments that the universe did begin to exist.

            If things that begin to exist must have a cause outside themselves and if the universe itself began to exist, then we are left with the problem of accounting for the universe. The only logical solution is something which did not begin to exist which could make the universe begin to exist.

            We don’t understand how this being can exist without a cause or how it can cause other things to exist but it accounts for the beginning of the universe.

            I don’t see anything “circular” in this argument. It is linear, actually. I don’t see how it destroys the meaning of “exist” or “cause.”

            The argument does not assert that “only things that have begun to exist actually do exist.” Rather, it asserts that things that begin to exist must have a cause so they *can* exist. It doesn’t begin by making two sets of things (those which begin and those which don’t). Rather, it discovers there must be these two kinds of beings, the first we can see in the universe, the second we reason ourselves to.

          • Michael Murray

            Let me ignore the logical problems which Max has highlighted and point out some of the physical problems with this argument:

            (1) What's a "something" ? The world is built from quantum fields. Don't say particles because particles can pop in out and of existence.

            (2) The negation of "Everything that exists has a cause" is not "Nothing that exists has a cause" it is "At least one thing that exists does not have a cause". (Sorry that was a logical problem.)

            (3) Cause is intimately bound up with time and hence space-time. We don't know if time makes sense when you go backwards in time to the point of the Planck epoch. So we don't know that causality makes sense when you go back in time to the Planck epoch.

            (4) Similarly if you go outside space-time there is no time. So no causality.

            (5) There is no reason for the cause of the universe, if there is one, to be a "being". If you want base you arguments on "everything we have seen" then don't forget that every being we have ever seen existed within space-time and was built of elementary particles.

            The fundamental problem here is that you are arguing with concepts and relationships between them like "something", "cause" "exist" etc which are based on our everyday experience of the relay. It's reality as Aristotle knew it. But we now know that these are not fundamental concepts. Fundamental concepts are (probably) quantum fields, energy, momentum etc.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let’s begin with your clincher, which is that “no physicist takes this sort of argument seriously.” That is a whopping unevidenced claim. I personally know three men with Ph.D’s in physics who take cosmological arguments seriously. Neither claim means anything, however. To properly assess why any physicist considers a philosophical argument serious or unserious requires looking at what he actually says.

            In your response, I see you playing sleight of hand. You are not addressing the actual argument which is based on the idea of something which begins to be. A quantum field, which can be expressed as a wave or particle, is already something.

            I think I understand how time only makes sense in terms of space-time, but I don’t think that is a problem for metaphysics. If God exists he could be outside time, since time would be part of his creation. Although it is impossible to imagine anything outside of time or space, it is quite possible to conceive of it.

            I think we need to hear from some physicists who also know something about philosophy to see how the philosophical concept of causality and notions of causality in quantum physics relate and am very open to hearing that.

          • Michael Murray

            Let’s begin with your clincher, which is that “no physicist takes this sort of argument seriously.” That is a whopping unevidenced claim. I personally know three men with Ph.D’s in physics who take cosmological arguments seriously.

            OK call it "hardly any" I'm not sure what that changes. Are these guys published researchers by the way? Do they publish metaphysical cosmological arguments in physics journals ?

            Although it is impossible to imagine anything outside of time or space, it is quite possible to conceive of it.

            Is it ? What does conceive mean in this context ? You can type the words sure but can you write down a physical model with two types of time like our time and gods time ?

            I think we need to hear from some physicists who also know something about philosophy to see how the philosophical concept of causality and notions of causality in quantum physics relate and am very open to hearing that.

            Well we had one called physicistdave but the moderators drove him away.

            My point though remains. Why aren't you hearing from physicists ? Why are they building LHCs and renormalising quantum field theories instead of doing metaphysics. Metaphysics would be a lot cheaper.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/causation-process/

            It's very hard to find articles about important scientific concepts like causality anywhere.

          • http://twitter.com/david_nickol David Nickol

            One reason is that most scientists couldn't care less about the philosophy of science.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you think that is because you don't need to know the philosophy of science to do science? Artigas argues that the philosophy of science is an underdeveloped field.

          • Michael Murray

            Do you think that is because you don't need to know the philosophy of science to do science?

            I think it's slightly stronger than this. I think it's because scientists don't find philosophy contributes anything useful to doing science. If it was useful they would go and learn it. Physicists are quite happy to learn some amazingly advanced and esoteric mathematics when they think it helps them. I don't see any reason they would reject philosophy if they thought it would help.

            There was a time when people worried and argued about the interpretation of quantum mechanics and there was more interest in philosophy amongst leaders in the field like Einstein, Heisenberg etc.

          • Max Driffill

            I think there is also a bit of an assumption that scientist don't think about epistemology, but this simply isn't true. Scientists spend a great deal of time thinking about how they know what they know. I think it is clear that science has done this work in a pretty dramatic way, in that it produces very tangible results. Theology, I don't think, has really done this, which is why theology hasn't really progressed.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes I agree Max. There is a nice account here

            http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2013/07/03/what-is-science/

            of how scientists think about this things.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Very good link, Michael.

          • epeeist

            Artigas argues that the philosophy of science is an underdeveloped field.

            Can you point us to a reference for this. I for one would be interested to see his argument.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is my summary of what he says in the introduction to this book:

            http://www.amazon.com/Knowing-Things-Sure-Science-Truth/dp/0761835113

          • epeeist

            One reason is that most scientists couldn't care less about the philosophy of science.

            I would agree that this is true for most scientists who are working in what Kuhn called "normal science". However I am not so sure it is true when it comes to those working at the limits of our current understanding.

          • Michael Murray

            Are you thinking of interpretations of quantum mechanics ?

          • epeeist

            Are you thinking of interpretations of quantum mechanics ?

            That would be one example. Others might be those working at the foundation of physics such as Chris Isham, Carlo Rovelli, Gordon Belot or Sheldon Goldstein. A popular example, though I find his writing style somewhat turgid, might be Julian Barbour whose position would seem to stem from that of Parmenides, namely that time does not exist. Lee Smolin is another, his position is taken from that of Paul Feyerabend.

            One field where there does appear to be a fair amount of overlap is in philosophy of mind and neuroscience. Whether this will continue as the capabilities of the neuroscientists improve will be interesting to see.

          • Michael Murray

            It's easy to find scientific articles on causality. But hard to understand them without the mathematics and physics you get from doing about 10 years of study post high school.

            http://arxiv.org/find/all/1/all:+causality/0/1/0/all/0/1

            It's harder to find philosophical ones because as David says physicists usually couldn't care less about the philosophy of science.

          • Susan

            Although it is impossible to imagine anything outside of time or space, it is quite possible to conceive of it.

            This is where I always get confused. What do you mean by "conceive" of it? Does it mean anything other than the utterance of language? Other than the insistence that whatever timespace is, there is something "beyond" it? I find this an incoherent idea as I have no idea what the limits and implications of time and space and/or timespace are. What does it mean to be beyond it?

            Also, what specifically is the philosophical concept of causality? It seems to switch definitions in these conversations. I could use some clarification.

          • Max Driffill

            Being able to conceive of something doesn't mean that much does it?

            I just conceived of a giant cheeseburger that sits outside of space and time, it has two great eye-balls, and lettuce mustache. I conceive that it could talk to me if it so desired.
            And care about me. It is surrounded by singing freedom fries.
            What a conception! Compelling too, no doubt.

            Also, isn't conceive a synonym of imagine?

          • Susan

            Also, isn't conceive a synonym of imagine?

            It might be. I'm not sure that it is. The truth is that I can imagine a giant cheeseburger with two great eyeballs and a lettuce moustache that could talk to me if it so desired. Also that it could care about me and be surrounded by singing freedom fries.

            But I still have no idea what it means for it to exist outside of time and space. That part just sounds like words.
            Maybe Kevin or someone else here can explain.

          • Max Driffill

            But Susan!

            I just conceived of it!

            Also synonyms of conceive:

            understandSynonyms:accept, appreciate, apprehend, assume, believe,catch, compass, comprehend, deem, dig, envisage,expect, fancy, feel, follow, gather, get, grasp, imagine, judge, perceive, realize, reckon, suppose,suspect, take, twig

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            It's the failure of the original ontological argument which depended on the conception of a "perfect" being.

          • Susan

            I don't understand outside of timespace nor do I accept it, appreciate it, apprehend it, believe it, catch it, compass it, comprehend it.... you get the idea.

            I simply have no idea what it means for something to exist outside of it. It's as though timespace is a Niagara Falls snowglobe that can be stood "outside" of. What am I supposed to conceive of? It just doesn't make any sense to me.

            It's so often alluded to and never clarified.

            We have lots of concepts that we don't measure temporally or spatially but how would any of them "exist" without time/space?

            This word "beyond" is very vague. What does it mean to exist beyond time/space and how does that work?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Susan, the more important thing is that even if you could imagine it, what evidence is there that it is true?

          • Susan

            the more important thing is that even if you could imagine it, what evidence is there that it is true?

            I agree. Evidence for it is more important.

            But I can't help but wonder what the heck is meant by it in the first place.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Keep in mind that mental conception is a map of reality. The map is not the territory. Often, the map isn't that accurate, either.

          • Susan

            I do try to keep that in mind but it never hurts to remind me.
            I still hope Kevin will explain what he means and how it works.

            I would be happy for now to know exactly what he's talking about.

            Of course, the dirty trick about placing something outside of time and space is that you become magically free of any responsibility to provide evidence as there can't be any.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Of course, the dirty trick about placing something outside of time and space is that you become magically free of any responsibility to provide evidence as there can't be any.

            It's worse than that. Without hiding a deity "outside time and space" you can't answer how a being that has been around for all eternity gets around to creating our universe. After all, an infinite amount of time would have to pass, first.

          • Susan

            Without hiding a deity "outside time and space" you can't answer how a being that has been around for all eternity gets around to creating our universe

            So, no responsibility to provide evidence and no requirement to make sense out of something that makes no sense at all.

            Nice.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Oh well, ...

          • Michael Murray

            An infinite amount of god-time of course as human-time is inside space-time.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Huh?

          • Michael Murray

            Time as you, Aristotle, Aquinas and I understand it is part of space-time. So god must have his own time. To borrow an analogy I heard somewhere it's like sitting with a can of film in front of you. Time passes for you and there is a separate time for the people in the film.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            But a deity who is perfect can't be subject to change, so can't have time at all because change is how we measure time.

          • Michael Murray

            Indeed. It's very confusing!

          • Susan

            Someone should be along to explain it any minute now.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Susan,

            What I mean is that using reason we can understand mental concepts, which are not attached to sensible images. For example, we can grasp the concept of justice (giving what is owed) and this is an idea which cannot be seen, smelled, tasted, touched, or heard, yet it's completely evident.

            We can also imagine the Temple of Gaza. If you have seen a photograph of it, you can call it back up in your imagination.

            One example of the difference if I don't garble it too badly is that I can imagine a triangle clearly. I can't imagine a thousand sided object but I can easily conceive of it.

            When we talk about the universe and God our imaginations keep getting in the way. For example, if we think of "before time began" using our imagination, it is absurd because there can't be a time before time; all time is within time. However, it is possible to conceive of a condition completely outside of time.

            Feel free to shred me on this.

          • Michael Murray

            When we talk about the universe and God our imaginations keep getting in the way. For example, if we think of "before time began" using our imagination, it is absurd because there can't be a time before time; all time is within time. However, it is possible to conceive of a condition completely outside of time.

            Can you conceive of a four-sided triangle ? Is what stops you just your imagination getting in the way or the logical contradiction in the actual statement ?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The logical contradiction makes it impossible. It can't be imagined or conceived.

          • Michael Murray

            The logical contradiction makes it impossible. It can't be imagined or conceived.

            So there is your first problem in conceiving of a god outside of space-time. Have you stated a logical contradiction ? Hard to be sure when you can't even define god or what outside space-time would mean.

            Your second problem is that even if you can conceive of god you have to connect it to reality. If god doesn't connect to reality then it might as well not exist. I can conceive of wizarding world with Harry Potter in it but I can't connect it to reality. I can conceive of all kinds of wonderful mathematical structures which I know are not logically impossible because it's what I do for a living, but connecting them to reality is a whole different challenge.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Philosophers have been defining God for a couple of thousand years. Why's this a problem?

          • Michael Murray

            Because the definitions are barely definitions. People are still arguing over how many omni's a god can have.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What is a "barely" definition?

          • Michael Murray

            One that is so vague we don't even know if it makes sense. Or one that just strings words together without defining them. "Ultimate cause", "Ultimate being", "God is love", "The fullness of thingness", "Being itself" "Infinite goodness"

            Infinite and ultimate are really bad signs.

          • Susan

            Hi Kevin,

            it is possible to conceive of a condition completely outside of time.

            What does it mean and how would it work?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Here is an analogy.

            Mozart reports that his compositions would occur to him in an instant- he would conceive of the entire work instantaneously, and hold that object in his mind, while he attempted to make his pen work quickly enough to write it down as a linear sequence of instruction to orchestra and singers.

            Socrates the Wise also grasped the implication, when he chose to refer to God as "The Composer".

          • Susan

            I already understand that we can conceptualize things.
            It doesn't answer my question.

            What does it mean and how does it work? To be outside of time, that is?

            It's a simple question about a frequent assertion.

          • Max Driffill

            If I may piggy back here,
            And if the thing you posit is outside space and time, how could you detect it? How would you know that this thing you posited existed?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Your request- what does it mean and how does it work- is answered, by analogy, directly above.

          • Susan

            I'm afraid it isn't answered at all.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            But you do not address the analogy, in order to show how it does not apply in any way at all.

            You are under no obligation to do so, of course, but should you decline to do so, the point stands unrefuted.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think is involves something like positing attributes of God by negation. We are finite and God is not finite so we say he is infinite.

            So, I think we conceive God as atemporal and aspacial.

          • Susan

            Atemporal and aspacial is just another way of saying "outside time and space".

            It doesn't answer my question.

            What does it mean and how does it work?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Actually "outside time and space" captures the concepts.

            How does it work? Here might be two ways.

            If you try to imagine God as existing forever you brain gets tied up in knots because. But if you think of time as something created you can conceive of creator of time who is not limited by it.

            If you try to imagine God as bigger than the universe you have a similar problem. But if space is also a creation, then you can conceive of God as outside it and not conditioned by it.

          • Susan

            Actually "outside time and space" captures the concepts

            It doesn't. I'm sorry. You haven't explained in any sense what "outside" time and space means.

            I'm not trying to be difficult. I honestly don't understand what "outside" time or space means and you haven't demonstrated that you do either.

          • Max Driffill

            Whatever,
            It is just assertion though until some evidence could demonstrate it to be true. It might be clever assertion (or not) but it that isn't germane.

          • primenumbers

            "How does it work? Here might be two ways." - we're all clever people here, we can come up with many many ways "something could work", but what we actually care about is "does something work, and if so, how". Speculation is almost pointless.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Well, the discussion began as the difference between imagining and conceiving. Can you weigh in on that?

          • primenumbers

            Seems like semantic trickery to me.... I can conceive of the abstract of something wildly imaginary, but to me a concept itself (as in something I actually conceive) is something vastly more solid.

            I think that the issue is that we can understand words such as "outside" and "time" and hence we can grasp the concept articulated by of "outside time", but we cannot actually conceive "outside time" itself. The words make sense, we apply outside analogously to how we use it for houses to time, and hence we can "get" the idea behind the concept, but the very concept itself (rather than the mental abstraction of it that we think of when we parse the words) eludes us.

          • severalspeciesof

            However, it is possible to conceive of a condition completely outside of time.

            About the only way I can even remotely conceive of that is: "nothing". The same "nothing" that I "experienced" before I was born, which is to actually say "I am making this 'conceiving' up"...

            Glen

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            However, it is possible to conceive of a condition completely outside of time.

            Okay, so you have something in your mind that you attache (associate) with those words. Now, how are you going to get that same thing attached to those words in my mind? Then, how are you going to show that it is anything more real than, say, the Harry Potter Room of Requirement?

            Got evidence?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Sure.

            Consider the state of the universe at t=0.

            This state is outside of time, but is certainly a condition- even one, perhaps, accessible to the scientific method, if we are to believe the eternal inflation cosmologists.

            After all, if inflation is eternal, yet t=0......

            Voila!

            We have a condition completely outside of time.

          • primenumbers

            "The negation of this claim “Nothing that begins to exist has acause” appears to me to be absurd." - now you know how I feel about your claim. It's absurd. It's certainly not self evident as you claim.

            "Don’t you agree that we see things all around us that exist now but didn’t before" - no, I don't see new things just pop into existence at all. I just see re-arrangements of previously existing stuff.

            What you aim to prove is not that "stuff got re-arranged to make a universe", but that the whole universe was caused by a being from nothing. We don't ever see this happen though, so no analogy made from what we observe is remotely like what you want to demonstrate.

            Next up is "cause". The "causes" we see around us are just human level abstractions we use to describe things (if they're a physical cause operating in space and time) or they are agents causing things to happen and we can ask that agent "what's your reason for doing that". The argument is based on physical causes in space and time, yet the cause you want to occur doesn't happen in space or time and yet is an agent cause. The cause obeys no known laws of physics, nor does it obey the rules of causality you're trying to use to demonstrate it did occur. What you are suggesting occurred is not a physical cause, but a metaphysical cause. So yet again, at the start of the argument you're talking about a very different "cause" than that you wish to prove.

            And let's go for "exists" next. When you say "When something did not once exist and it now exists " you're talking about a real existence in space and time, a physical existence. But you want to prove God exists, and when you say "God exists" you're not talking about a real physical existence in space and time, but a completely different meaning of the word exists that only applies to God.

            On a universe beginning to exist, take a watch of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZUCc5m8sE as it addresses the issue sufficiently.

            "then we are left with the problem of accounting for the universe" - no, you've got it the wrong way around. We have no problem with the universe existing and what we have problems with is the conceptual framework of cause and existence that you've set up because it needs (and not least this issue as of the problems described above) an un-evidenced God to work, and that God neither exists in the ways that the start of the argument uses the word exists, nor causes in the way the argument starts off by talking of cause.

            "I don’t see anything “circular” in this argument. It is linear, actually. I don’t see how it destroys the meaning of “exist” or “cause.”" - it's circular because you define your God as existing, and hence you cannot use an argument to show God exists without it being circular. This is not explicitly done in the presentation of the KCA for obvious reasons, but any rigorous parsing of the argument will demonstrate where this insertion of existence occurs in a premise. You cannot argue something into existence without incurring circularity and hence making the argument fallacious. What the argument does with "exists" and "cause" is what I talk about above, it uses multiple definitions and equivocates between them as it sees fit. If that is not slight-of-hand I don't know what is. It's plainly clear that the definition of exists as used for the things that begin to exist is not the definition of exists that applies to God, and similarly with the cause.

            "The argument does not assert that “only things that have begun to exist actually do exist.”" - not it doesn't assert that. That is my retort. But it does at least use the same definition of exist that you're using in your first premise and hence doesn't equivocate on exist. I see it as the obvious corollary to your first premise and if you're going to assert that "Everything that begins to exist has a cause." it is up to you to demonstrate and show a thing that exists that doesn't begin to exist. You've basically made a claim that everything we see around us, everything we have direct knowledge of began to exist, and they are also the only things we know exist. You propose one outlier - God, that goes against this rule you've set up, because God doesn't begin to exist. You can't just assume that, you must evidence it. And you can't evidence a property of God until you've shown God exists (because non-existing things don't have actual properties), so you can't use a property of God until existence is proven, and hence you can't use a property of God to prove existence. Existence is not a property, so any definition of God you use cannot contain existence or you've engaged in circular reasoning. In the end, we come to the conclusion you cannot use a logical argument to prove existence that is non-fallacious because all logical arguments that prove existence are circular.

            " It doesn’t begin by making two sets of things (those which begin and those which don’t). Rather, it discovers there must be these two kinds of beings, the first we can see in the universe, the second we reason ourselves to." - No, it doesn't explicitly define sets, but in actuality what is what the premise does. It splits all things into two piles. When it says things that begin to exist go into the "caused" pile, then it's an obvious corollary that "all things that don't begin to exist go into the non-caused pile". Of course the arguer isn't going to be explicit on their slight-of-hand, that is why we must parse through the argument to see where the flaws are.

            "the second we reason ourselves to." - yes, but you can't reason to the existence of something without engaging in circularity. Now again, the language used in the argument hides that from you, but we can also see why it must be circular.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for the elaborate response.

            I've been reading and looking at the links you included, including the 30 minute video.

            I don't think your reply is "devastating" but it reminds me of levels of complexity I'd set aside.

            I'll go back studying the issue: (1) how the concepts being, existence, and cause relate in science and philosophy, (2) whether deductive arguments are circular in nature, and (3) what can reasonably be said about "beginnings."

          • primenumbers

            Thanks Kevin.

            The key thing in 1) is to use definitions that work. Typically a lot of theistic arguers like to have existence as a property of a thing. This is not a good way to go as you can see how that instantly leads to circularity. Far better to think of existence as that which we call something that is real so it can actually have properties. Also, whatever definitions are used they've got to be explicit and consistently used throughout an argument, with no shifting from a physical cause to an agent cause to a metaphysical cause all called "cause".

            2) if you can find any prior work in this area, please inform me. I'm working on something in this field, but even with a good bit of googling I'm not actually finding what I'm looking for and that's quite rare for me.

            3) beginnings do need to be well defined and again consistently used. Time also comes into any word like beginning (or cause for that matter) and the temporal aspect of this argument cannot be avoided. Remember that WLC tells us KCA fails if we take B-theory of time, for instance.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I contacted a friend who is a doctoral candidate in philosophy and who knows a lot about science (for example, he has taught high school chemistry) about your longer post above and I'm copying his response here. I think it's very interesting.

            My basic response is that he does not allow a sufficient range of predicates to account for our ability to explain anything, especially systematic and scientific explanations. On his account, either "existence" has one meaning for God and creatures in space time, or it is equivocal. But this is far too restrictive. Consider finding a guy with a knife in his back. The detective walks in and says "well I guess the knife is responsible for this". He's right, of course - the knife was responsible for his death, but not in such a way that makes one stop looking for the one who is responsible. Instruments and persons are both responsible, and this in a non-equivocal way, but in an ordered way: the instrument is responsible only because it takes part in or participates in the responsibility of the agent. This example is from agent causality, but there is a similar order in all the orders of causality: we choose means, but only because they take part in the choice worthiness of goal; we can speak of sweet coffee or sweet sugar, but the one takes part in the sweetness of the other, etc. All of these involve a difference of predication that is not purely equivocal, but involves the same thing said in different modes or ways: one way "in itself" and another way "by taking part in". This sort of predication can generalize to include predicates said primarily and those said secondarily.

            Again, to approach things from a different angle, when you say "a knife was responsible for Nicole Brown's death" is it the same sense of "responsible" as when you say "O.J. was responsible for Nicole Brown's death"? In one sense, yes - absent the action of the knife, she would not have died; and all of her wounds corresponded exactly to the shape of the knife. But in another sense, no, since one does not stop looking for the one responsible after finding the knife. Again, when you say "his face is red" and "light with a wavelength of 620 to 740 nm is red" then is "red" said in exactly the same way? Here again, not exactly, for the one is only red because it takes part in the other. A face is not red qua face but qua radiating at a certain wavelength. Notice that in all these examples the participated thing was manifest to sense, and the non-participated thing took some amount of discourse, investigation, and theory to discover. This is the usual way things work - we find something that occurs in a secondary or participated way and we try to find the primary instance of it.

            This is exactly the sort of explanation that you are giving of existence, finding it first in things that can either exist or not, and discovering that this can only be existence in a secondary sense. God alone exists in a primary sense, or rather, when we discover that reality which exists primarily we recognize that it can only be God. If it is true that the universe is a contingent being, then it cannot be first of all what exists. We are here taking "existence" in the order of formal causality, i.e. it is not the case that existence can be predicated of the universe the way that circles are round or hydrogen is diatomic. One possible proof of this would be a proof that the universe did not exist, which you do not prove but take for granted from the work of others. Your interlocutor never disputes this.

            Again, your claim is that existence, though it is known first in its space-time concretion, is only known first in a participated mode, and thus presupposes a sort of existence not in space-time. This is not equivocation, but the usual way we come to know things by science and investigation. The secondary realities are always apparent - it's the primary ones that require argument, inquiry, theoretical structures, rational methods, and science.

            Now it is very much an open question among even those of us who accept the cosmological argument whether one can truly say that it concludes to God immediately or only after we develop the account of the being we discover by it. True, we can conclude to a being that exists by nature, but is this enough, all by itself, to tell us that such a being is God? Some, for example, say that we need to go further and show that such a being is, for example, intelligent, which is not contained immediately in the idea of a being that exists by nature. For my own part, this is why cosmological arguments need to be multiplied. There are multiple points of departure for cosmological arguments, and each give a partial vision of God which also needs to be itself more fully developed. The cosmological argument is really more of a starting point than a goal. It only participates in a larger and fuller science which can really only be complete in the beatific vision.

          • primenumbers

            Sorry, your friend writes a lot of words and doesn't make much in the way of sense.

            Looking at existence in the argument, the equivocation is on how the word is used. In one place in the argument it is used specifically with respect to a physical existence in time and space. When we get to God, the same word is used rather differently. This is not a claim "that existence, though it is known first in its space-time concretion, is only known first in a participated mode, and thus presupposes a sort of existence not in space-time", but that if there are other modes of existence they cannot rightly be said to be the same thing as our normal time and space existence, and hence using the very same word for them in the argument is indeed equivocation. TO be specific I'm not making the argument that there are no other modes of existence, but that two modes sharing the same word in the argument is equivocation.

            As to this non-spatial, non-temporal mode of existence, that's a conceptual mode until it's demonstrated that it has any thing actually has such a mode. Such a mode sounds rather like the mode of existence we use to refer to abstract concepts, but on their own abstract concepts do nothing. Now I certainly agree your God exists as an abstract concept but you also want your God to be vastly more than such an abstract concept.

          • primenumbers

            And I don't know where my earlier reply has gone, but it's worth pointing out that existence is not a real predicate.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That was a particular question I had for you.

            I think you were claiming that I was using a property of God to prove God exists.

            I don't see how the argument I made did that.

          • primenumbers

            Essential to the presentation of the KCA is the first premise that everything that begins to exist has a cause, and thus the logical follow on we are expected to make is that things that don't begin to exist don't have a cause. Except the premise doesn't even say that. God is defined as causeless and given to us as the solution to the problem.

            God can only have the property "causeless" if God exists. If God does not exist then all we have is the abstract concept of God with the abstract property of "causless". The concept of God does not have the property of "causeless" and we can only say God has the actual property of "causless" if God actually exists. Any attempt to use that "causless" property before existence is demonstrate is wrong.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If the universe began to exist, then it needed a cause which didn't begin to exist.

            The three letter term we use to designate "that cause which didn't begin to exist" is God.

          • primenumbers

            But you're already open to at least one uncaused cause, so such a thing is obviously not logically absurd to you. Since we have no proof the universe began to exist or that causes are essential to things existing (and we already have one confounder to that proposition - your God concept), what exactly is left to discuss with cosmological arguments?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I think Disqus thinks it is a quantum field. Comments appear and disappear randomly.

            What's logically absurd is not an uncaused cause but an uncaused effect.

            I said premise two was the weakest of the three, but Spitzer thoroughly surveys both the standard, inflationary, and string models and shows how all of them imply a beginning point.

          • primenumbers

            I see nothing problematic with an un-caused effect, especially if you have any belief in free will, which to be free must be un-constrained. If there was a deterministic link from cause to effect free-will would have no place to go. Similarly I have no problem with emergent phenomena or randomness, neither of which fit a causal model. But essentially causes are just abstract concepts that help us think and process the world on our human scale - it's not as if a cause actually exists in of itself. We can certainly talk about causes - but what did cause the accident? Human error? Or a spiked drink the night before? Or the girlfriend who left him last week so that he went to nightclub? Causes are just human level explanations

            "shows how all of them imply a beginning point" - at best an inflection point with no knowledge on what was happening before that point. That's not a beginning, but a transition point along a journey that we cannot see the other side of. To speculate on what occurred before is just that - to speculate. It's not knowledge.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "I see nothing problematic with an un-caused effect, especially if you have any belief in free will, which to be free must be un-constrained."

            >> Huh? A will is free to choose even if constrained to only two choices.

            The act of making the choice is the cause of the subsequent selection.

            That is no evidence of an uncaused effect.

            The opposite is true.

          • primenumbers

            You posted your words Rick. Either they're caused by something external to you, or you exercised free-will to produce those words. Your choice (or cause).

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            In fact they are the effect of my causing them to appear, and my choice to make them appear was completely free.

            No uncaused effect here.

            No lack of free will either.

          • primenumbers

            No, you causing something is you exercising your free-will. As there is no external cause, there is no cause for what you wrote.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            LOL!

            I get it now- you're joking :-)

            Good one!

          • primenumbers

            You can take it as a joke if you want, but there's a real issue for you here. We have something - Rick, that produces effects (text on a website) and Rick lacks external causes for his actions because he employs free will.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Human free will exists within a limited context. We can choose means to happiness. Free will doesn't invent itself. Happiness is its end. It can only choose the means to happiness that exist in front of it. Therefore, I don't see what bearing it has on an uncaused effect.

            Emergent phenomena emerges from preexisting living things and randomness is an effect of an existing thing.

            Without cause and effect we can't explain anything. Science relies on it even when it is difficulty to pin down and is part of a complicated process.

            As I've mentioned elsewhere, all the cosmic models Spitzer examines point to a beginning.

          • primenumbers

            "Without cause and effect we can't explain anything. " - as I say, they're used as human level explanations - they're useful abstract concepts, but you talk of them as if they actually are things.

            ", all the cosmic models Spitzer examines point to a beginning." - that is merely your (and Spitzers) interpretation based on your theistic presuppositions. Fact is that if we lack knowledge of what came before, we cannot say an event is a beginning, can we?

            And say it is a beginning, there cannot have been "nothing" beforehand as to say so leads almost immediately to incoherency.

            "Therefore, I don't see what bearing it has on an uncaused effect." - the effect being what you decide to do, and your choice to do it is either free-will and hence lacks external cause, or it's not free-will (something external to you is cause of it).

          • BenS

            If the universe began to exist, then it needed a cause which didn't begin to exist.

            But then if god began to exist then it needed a cause that didn't begin to exist.

            If god didn't begin to exist then why did the universe need to begin to exist?

            It's just special pleading.

            Why not cut out the middle man and say the universe didn't begin to exist?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            It's not special pleading.

            If God is an uncaused cause, he didn't begin to exist.

            Spitzer argues that all the contemporary models of the universe point to a beginning.

          • BenS

            It's not special pleading.

            If God is an uncaused cause, he didn't begin to exist.

            And if the universe is uncaused then it didn't begin to exist. Saying the universe HAS to have a cause and yet your god doesn't is the very definition of special pleading.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If the universe does not have a beginning, then it evidently does not need any cause. If it does have a beginning, then it evidently does need a cause.

          • BenS

            In fact, I could probably have responded to this in a much more Spartan style.

            If the universe began to exist, then it needed a cause which didn't begin to exist.

            'If'.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So, "if" the universe began to exist, would you accept the rest of the argument?

          • BenS

            'Fraid not. After you'd shown the universe began to exist, you'd then also have to show that it needed a cause which didn't begin to exist. Unless you can show otherwise, it could be turtles all the way down.

            The whole argument is built on really flimsy foundations.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If the universe began to exist, then the conclusion follows. You'd have reach the bottom of the stack of turtles.

          • BenS

            You'd have reach the bottom of the stack of turtles.

            No. You don't. If you can put forward a being without cause then you can put forward a turtle stack without end. That's the point.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            That is weird. I read your response and it has gone away.

          • primenumbers

            Weird - I saw both responses got posted and they've vanished. Ghost in the machine? They're there on my disqus if you look though....

          • epeeist

            but it's worth pointing out that existence is not a real predicate.

            I don't think they have a lot of time for Kant here.

          • http://bywayofbeauty.com/ Matthew Becklo

            Hey epeeist - It's worth noting that Aquinas rejected the ontological argument for much the same reason Kant did, and that Catholic philosophers to this day tend not to champion it due to the faulty logic and misconception of God as the maximal being. That doesn't mean we should swipe it aside blithely like a Dawkins does (he calls it "infantile") - Bertrand Russell, I understand, spent long years as a young man wrestling with it, convinced at one point it was "sound" - but neither should we act as if this isn't well-worn territory.

          • Michael Murray

            One possible proof of this would be a proof that the universe did not exist, which you do not prove but take for granted from the work of others. Your interlocutor never disputes this.

            "Did not" implies time. The only time we know of is in the universe and in our experience of it. To say there is a time when the universe did not exist is absurd.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            It is indeed absurd, but not necessarily false.

            For example, it is asserted that there is a multiverse, causally-separated domains which emerge- distinctly and separately!- from a quantum field.

            Now let us suppose for a moment this were possible.

            In such a case there would be a t=0 for each such domain, which would equate to the moment of its emergence from the quantum field.

            But the quantum field is *ontologically* prior to the causally-separated domain, however one might wish to define t=0.

            Now it is true that such a scenario is certainly false, since eternal inflation involves the proposition that the quantum field is eternal, and it isn't, as Vilenkin has shown.

            But it is usefully false, in that it allows us to distinguish between temporal priority, and ontological priority, in such a way that we are delivered from illogical arguments that would attempt to deny the logically certain distinction between them, which has been known since Aquinas.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. We can conceive of "outside time and space."

            In addition, if the "bouncing" big bang model is correct, then eons of time in other instantiations of the universe which once existed are now annihilated.

          • Michael Murray

            No. We can conceive of "outside time and space."

            You can imagine it sure. But that doesn't mean it is sensible. I strongly suspect that most people imagine space-time as a funnel like in the usual big-bang pictures and think it is floating inside some bigger "thing". But that is an artifact of how you are thinking of it. Not all manifolds are embedded in bigger manifolds. It's the usual mistake of thinking that because space-time is expanding it has to be expanding into something.

            Alternatively you can try and write down actual physical models where our 4d space-time is in a bigger space-time with a different time for god. But I doubt very much that is what most people have in mind when they say "before the universe existed". That's because most people don't understand the physics.

            In addition, if the "bouncing" big bang model is correct, then eons of time in other instantiations of the universe which once existed are now annihilated.

            No that's different. That would mean that our time just extends back through the bounce at the big bang and every preceding big bangs. That doesn't need our space-time to be existing in some bigger space-time. In any case there would be no before as the universe would just extend into an infinite past.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not to be pedantic but I think conceiving refers to grasping abstract concepts and imagining refers to sensible images (in this case, visual).

            If some cosmologists can conceive of an eleven dimensional universe (I can't!) it shouldn't be impossible for a regular person to either imagine or conceive of "outside space and time."

          • Susan

            If some cosmologists can conceive of an eleven dimensional universe (I can't!) it shouldn't be impossible for a regular person to either imagine or conceive of "outside space and time."

            I don't think you're conceiving of or imagining anything that has anything to do with the implications of space and time.
            You are simply repeating the phrase "outside of space and time" as though it made some sort of sense.

            "Space? Time? Oh, THAT. Well, this is OUTSIDE of that."
            You haven't demonstrated that you have any idea what that could mean.

            You should read Michael's comment and again and try to think about what he's saying. It's important.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Can you explain to me in your own words why it's important?

          • Susan

            Can you explain to me in your own words why it's important?

            That should be obvious, Kevin. It's important to a discussion in which you continue to claim that your choice of deity exists "outside of time and space".
            If you are making the claim, it's important that you demonstrate that you understand the implications of the concept you continue to put forth.
            So far, it's just words.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Take a look at section 3 of this article on Eternity in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

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

          • Susan

            OK. I read it (not for the first time).

            In what way does it explain that existing outside of time and space is a sensible concept?

            This section begins with the assumption that Yahweh exists and places him outside of time and space. It doesn't seem to explain how a being can "exist" "outside of time and space" any better than you have.

            What is timespace? What does it mean to exist outside of it?
            I am honestly not trying to be difficult, Kevin.

            I would just like someone to explain this oft-repeated assertion in a way that makes sense.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ... What does it mean to exist outside of it? I am honestly not trying to be difficult, Kevin.

            Susan, have you considered that it might mean, "What I am talking about makes no sense in the reality we know about, so I will make up one (sans evidence) where that is not such a problem."?

          • Susan

            have you considered that it might mean, "What I am talking about makes no sense in the reality we know about, so I will make up one (sans evidence) where that is not such a problem."?

            That is all I can consider until someone explains to me that it is any different than that.

            That's why I'm trying to give Kevin (or any catholic here) the opportunity to explain that it's more than that.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Oh, well, in that case, ah, ... never mind.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This is some heavy philosophy about which I have no claim to fame, but . . .

            If God is incorporeal he doesn't occupy space, rather space is something he created.

            The way people usually explain God's atemporality is that God sees all of created time the way we would see one moment. That is, he sees all time as a simultaneous event.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Not to be pedantic but I think conceiving refers to grasping abstract concepts ...

            Always remember that this "conceive" thing means something like "make a mental analogy of." That says nothing about the level of true correspondence of that analogy, and therefore, what that analogy would allow you to conclude about reality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not to be pedantic again but what you say applies to the use of every concept.

            When we use the concept "justice" we hope it corresponds to something real in human duties and responsibilities.

          • primenumbers

            I'll also add that it's not just atheists who attack the KCA. Here's some Christians that do so also. You may recognize some of their objections as familiar....

            http://spot.colorado.edu/~morristo/selected-papers.html - has a number of papers on various aspects of KCA

            http://dovetheology.com/2013/06/04/some-concerns-about-kalam/

            I don't necessarily agree with all they've written, (for instance: "It seems to me that a KCA could just as easily be made using a B-theory of time." - well no, it can't, and WLC can't make it work with B-theory either) but it should give you food for thought. (Isn't food for thought what these forums are about).

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Then you insist that logic itself were inadequate to describe reality.

            If any thing can begin to exist without a cause, then there is absolutely no basis upon which to argue in the first place.

            That is because nothing is knowable at all.

            Whatever we think we know might simply have begun to exist without a cause.

            It might have existed for two nanoseconds but we will think it existed for thirteen point eight billion years, and this belief will simply have begun to exist without a cause, until some other thing occurs without a cause to make us change our minds without a cause.

            Then the city of San Francisco will will disappear without a cause and cease to exist, and be replaced by a gigantic, bowl of Count Chockula which will begin to exist without a cause.

            Now there are two possibilities here, prime.

            Either you are right, or you are insane.

            Logic tells us you are insane.

            I'll go with logic.

          • primenumbers

            The problem is you posit, without evidence, a thing that not only doesn't require a cause to exist, but exists without even beginning to to exist. Put your own house in order first before you criticize others.

            If you're going to go with logic, your God is utterly logically contradictory in practically all defined aspects. If you're going to go with logic you cannot go with God.

          • epeeist

            I think you are right. It is self-evident.

            Tell me, have you examined the cause for coming into existence of IOK-1?

            Could you tell us what it was?

            Let us suppose that two weeks next Tuesday at 12:45PM there is a tornado in the rural delta of Arkansas, can you tell us what the cause of it is?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            These are strange questions.

            The cause of the formation of that galaxy would be the same as whatever the cause of the other early galaxies.

            The cause if the tornado would be the same as the cause of any other tornado.

          • epeeist

            The cause of the formation of that galaxy would be the same as whatever the cause of the other early galaxies.

            The cause if the tornado would be the same as the cause of any other tornado.

            You mistake me. I wasn't asking you the possible causes of these events, I am asking you what the actual causes were or are for these particular events.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why?

          • epeeist

            Why?

            Your claim is that "[e]very thing that begins to exist has a cause." Now if this is so then this implies that for each and every event that causes something to exist whenever or wherever this is one is able to assign a certain and necessary cause.

            Now if you cannot say what the cases of these events are I would ask whether you know, again with certainty, that they did have a cause?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Do you really doubt that they do not have a natural cause that can be investigated?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            They seem to be autocatalytic emergent phenomena out of a chaotic context. As such, the classic definition of "cause" breaks down, as it always does anyway, for everything on the quantum level. The idea that "everything that begins has a cause" is a generalization (extrapolation) from observations ancient people made of a limited number of events they could directly see happen on their own size scale. We have since learned that it is not so simple, and that that generalization does not hold.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So you are saying that an autocatalytic chemical reaction is *not* an example of cause and effect? Why would a vast system of such reactions be any different?

            Cause and effect is something science must assume and it has more basis than ancient observations. As the philosopher of science Mariano Artigas argues, "Difficulties in determining quantum mechanics spring from confusing causality with trajectory determinism" (Knowing Things for Sure, p. 21).

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            No, Kevin, I did not write "autocatalytic chemical reaction" although that does happen in other contexts where uncaused molecules can come into existence from simpler precursors. I used the term more generally as in the condition where cyclonic activity in atmospheric systems promotes more cyclonic activity (see here). To get a better understanding of how this kind of thing happens all around us, I suggest you read "The Origins of Order" by Stuart A. Kauffman.

            Cause and effect is something science must assume and it has more basis than ancient observations.

            No, the whole point of the Scientific Method is not to "assume" but to test against empirical evidence. When someone asserts that a cause and effect relationship is happening in some physical system, the burden of proof (glad to get back on topic, here) falls upon the one making the assertion. If you want us to believe that "everything that begins to exist has a cause" you are going to have to prove it. A single example of anything that may not have a cause is a defeater for the proposition that everything must have a cause.

            The burden is upon you.

            Got evidence?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I'm semi-astonished actually. The link on cyclonic activity was basically: this leads to this leads to this leads to this. All cause and effect. What does it matter how complex either weather phenomena or chemical reactions are except that the causes and effects are complex? In regard to Kauffman's very expensive book, if things self-organize, aren't there reasons inherent in the things themselves that make that happen?

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            ... this leads to this leads to this leads to this.

            Once cyclonic activity gets started, yes, the issue we are discussing is the question of cause re "begins to exist." It does not help your argument to assert, without evidence, that the complexity hides the cause, you still have the burden to show that everything that begins to exist, has a cause.

            ... aren't there reasons inherent in the things themselves ...

            "Reasons" are not causes, they are explanations we construct to help us understand what is going on. Back to causes, and your burden:

            Got evidence?

          • epeeist

            Do you really doubt that they do not have a natural cause that can be investigated?

            You want to respond to my question with a question?

            I see Quine has chipped in, essentially making the point I was leading you to.

            The idea that "everything that begins to exist has a cause" is as he says a generalisation from observation. And as Hume showed such we are not justified in reasoning from cases we have experience of to other instances of which we have no experience.

            The universal quantifier ("everything") in your proposition cannot therefore be justified, and hence the proposition is not "self-evident".

          • Susan

            The cause if the tornado would be the same as the cause of any other tornado.

            Which is what?

          • primenumbers

            When you say "Every thing that begins to exist has a cause" do you mean "Everything that begins to exist has a cause" as everything is just synonymous with "universe" making your premise just a way of premising your desired conclusion by stating "the universe that begins to exist has a cause".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes, in the sense that the argument goes from particulars that are familiar to us (like sex and babies) to whatever "began" the universe itself, if it began. No, in the sense that it is not an attempt to assume the conclusion in the premise.

            If science indicates the universe began to exist, really began, then it would need a cause. But as you and other have sown, there are lots of arguments out there saying we don't have a clue about the beginning of the beginning, or that time and space and cause and effect don't have the same meaning at the singularity as they generally do for us, or that the universe can tunnel out of a zero energy state, etc.

          • primenumbers

            Exactly - the analogy to go from sex and babies through to a universe which isn't just a thing, but space-time itself and all contents is probably about as weak an analogy as one can get :-)

            Even a beginning is problematic as we don't have a good notion of "nothing", certainly not the total nothing a theist would need to complete their argument. Not least that a total nothing is very logically incoherent.

            Indeed, we (as in science) doesn't have a clue about the beginning of the universe, etc.

            Good discussion Kevin.

          • Ignorant Amos

            0. No thing that begins to exist can precede its own existence; that is, no thing that begins to exist can be its own cause.

            Ex-Ni....what is it again Rickster?

            Which deity was the first cause again Rickster?

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            That would be God, Iggy.

            The necessary Being, Whose necessary existence can, has, and will be demonstrated.

            The logic is bulletproof, though of course that will do nothing for the atheist, who could not have arrived at atheism in the first place if logic were the guide.

            It is important to work these things through for the simple pleasure and joy of doing so, and also to demonstrate the foundational impossibility of constructing a world based on reason by the procedures and premises of atheism.

          • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

            Prime, I may have given this before, but here is a very useful video for debunking the misuse of the BGV theorem.

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=baZUCc5m8sE

          • primenumbers

            Great video - thanks!

          • Mike Hitchcock

            Oh dear - that tired and unoriginal WLC version of the long-discredited cosmological argument the best you can do?

            All 4 of your premises can and have been challenged, and all fail. What they boil down to is no more than your lack of knowledge and imagination.

            Try again - with something I haven't heard a hundred times before, please.

          • FairPlay

            As a science teacher, I train my students to use the null hypothesis when testing any scientific question. We always must accept the null hypothesis unless there is adequate statistical proof to the contrary. This is the scientific method, and explains why the vast majority of scientists do not believe in the existence of God. The null hypothesis says there is no God unless there is enough evidence to the contrary. By the way, why do you consider sky-daddy to be an offensive term? You refer to 'our father, who art in heaven'. I could think of far worse terms. It just stiles me as a bit sensitive.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            The null hypothesis, in its application to the question of the necessary existence of God, is in the process of being dealt with below.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            (1) You have made a huge leap from testing null hypotheses in science with statistical measures to assuming the same kind of testing applies to metaphysics, a branch of philosophy.

            (2) You have also made a huge unsupported leap to claim that because a scientist uses the scientific method he or she will become an atheist.

            (3) The vast majority of scientists do *not* disbelieve in God. According to the Pew Research Center, 41% of scientists do not believe in God or a higher power. Using my deductive logical powers, that means that 59% either believe in God, a higher power, or don't know. Here is my source:

            http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/god-less-science/

            What is to be gained by being coy about what is offensive? It's not offensive just because you can think of something worse to say?

          • FairPlay

            I'm from the UK. As your source points out, the US has a higher proportion of believers in the population, yet amongst scientists the statistics are very different. I have a Eurocentric view, where you will find very few religious scientists. Our UK census shows that atheism is the fastest growing group, but does not break it down into scientists and non scientists. People can use scientific method without being professional scientists, and it helps to promote rationalism. Of course there will always be people who like to believe that things exist without proof. Look at all the people who pay good money for homeopathy. The point is that even using the discipline of philosophy, you must start with the premise that existence of an entity is easier to prove than the non existence. Therefore that is where the burden of proof lies.
            Actually, I would still like you to explain why you find sky daddy offensive.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Where is your reasoned response? You said the vast majority of scientists reject belief in God. I gave you statistical evidence that the number is only 41%. You respond with nothing and then wandered off into homeopathy.

          • FairPlay

            When surveyed in 2008, 85% of members of the National Academy of Science expressed a disbelief in a personal god.
            Do you think you could answer my question now?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The National Academy of Sciences has 2200 members and is a self-selecting group. So there is a problem with sample size and selection bias.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            I was very happy to read that Pew Research report, Kevin. 41% of scientists professing a belief in God is quite refreshing, at this stage of the game.

            I was also very encouraged to see that the proportion of believers is even higher among younger scientists, and this would concur with my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right. And higher among chemists, for some reason.

          • FairPlay

            As a science teacher I always train my students to use the null hypothesis when investigating any scientific question. Rejecting the null hypothesis does require statistically significant data to the contrary. This is the scientific method, and explains why the vast majority of scientist do not believe in the existence of God. You say that the null hypothesis is not relevant here, but the question of who has the burden of proof will always start from the point of the null hypothesis.
            By the way, why do you find the term sky-daddy offensive? After all, you say 'our father, who art in heaven'. It strikes me as a bit sensitive.

  • Roger Hane

    A good overview of the burden of proof problem. But I can't help wondering how a being so omnipresent and omnipotent can be so undetectable.

    • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

      Perhaps He is very easily detected, by the things that could not have come to be without Him having brought them to be.

      • Mike Hitchcock

        This is just an "I don't know how it could happen, therefore God did it" argument. Your ignorance (nor mine) does not determine the truth. Not THAT many years ago, rainbows were put down to a sign from God, because no-one knew better. Science just keeps pushing your God-of-the-gaps further and further into a corner.

        • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

          Quite to the contrary.

          It is logically certain that the universe itself had an external; cause.

          This has been established as a matter of theology, as a matter of philosophy, as a matter of logic, and now...

          As a matter of science.

          The atheist position is drastically impacted by this, and the mere fact that some atheists are willing to argue that something can precede its own existence, does nothing to help them.

          http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

          • Mike Hitchcock

            It is not logically certain - a possibility, but just one among many.

            It has not been established theologically - many Christians disagree with the KCA. It has not been established philosophically, most philosophers laugh at the argument. And it certainly has not been established scientifically. Hawking, Stener and Kraus all have alternative explanations, and while none of these have gone beyond hypothesis, the fact that there are possible alternatives completely destroys your 'it must be this way' argument.

            The point you seem to be completely missing is that the origin of the universe falls outside our experience and our existing physics, and statements like 'Everything has a cause' may not apply at this level. The quantum physics we do understand has weird enough properties to make what appear as common sense statements completely meaningless - even general relativity has consequences we can only comprehend mathematically and only say are proven because they agree with observation. To try to impose our 3-dimensional, linear time experience onto the beginnings of the cosmos is frankly ludicrous.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "It is not logically certain - a possibility, but just one among many."

            >> To the contrary, it is logically certain. Scientific propositions involve one possibility among many.

            Logical propositions do not.

            "It has not been established theologically - many Christians disagree with the KCA."

            >> Irrelevant. The mere fact that someone disagrees with something, does not in any way establish whether the objection is itself logical.

            In the present instance, since logic requires that no thing can precede its own existence, any objection is irrelevant, in the absence of rigorous demonstration.

            Obviously, there is no logical basis upon which to deminstrate that something precedes its own existence.

            The proposal refutes itself, as a matter of logic, and this conclusion does not depend upon 51%, or even 100% of the vote.

            "It has not been established philosophically, most philosophers laugh at the argument."

            >> Laughter is not a refutation either.

            "And it certainly has not been established scientifically. Hawking, Stener and Kraus all have alternative explanations, and while none of these have gone beyond hypothesis, the fact that there are possible alternatives completely destroys your 'it must be this way' argument."

            >> Hawking and Krauss are explicitly refuted here:

            http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.4658

            Excerpt:

            "We discuss three candidate scenarios which seem to allow the possibility that the universe could have existed forever with no initial singularity: eternal infation, cyclic evolution, and the emergent universe. The first two of these scenarios are geodesically incomplete to the past, and thus cannot describe a universe without a beginning. The third, although it is stable with respect to classical perturbations, can collapse quantum mechanically, and therefore cannot have an eternal past."

            A point of interest:

            No atheist has so much as engaged, much less attempted a refutation, of Vilenkin's argument.

            It stands unrefuted.

            "The point you seem to be completely missing is that the origin of the universe falls outside our experience and our existing physics, and statements like 'Everything has a cause' may not apply at this level."

            >> To then contrary. Our physics has grappled for a very long time with the mathematically-certain existence of a past-singularity in all our models.

            Vilenkin shows the recent attempts of Krauss and Hawking fail to resolve this; that is, the Universe From Nothing of Krauss and Hawking can be shown *not* to be past-infinite, by the mathematics of the models themselves.

            This is a crushing blow to the atheist worldview, and it will not go away simply by laughing or saying some Christians disagree with it.

            It must be refuted.

            It has not been.

          • Mike Hitchcock

            "It is logically certain."

            Well it then has to be logically demonstrated, which I have yet to see. Certainly the KCA does not do so.

            "Irrelevant. The mere fact that someone disagrees with something, does not in any way establish whether the objection is itself logical."

            But you are claiming it has been established THEOLOGICALLY. It hasn't.

            "In the present instance, since logic requires that no thing can precede its own existence, any objection is irrelevant, in the absence of rigorous demonstration."

            Indeed - in a 3-d linear time framework. But it is by no means certain that at the level we are discussing this framework applies. There have been many discussion (granted, not agreement) on retrocausality. From the Wiki article on the subject -

            "Open topics in physics, especially involving the reconciliation of gravity with quantum physics, suggest that retrocausality may be possible under certain circumstances.

            Closed timelike curves, in which the world line of an object returns to its origin, arise from some exact solutions to the Einstein field equation. Although closed timelike curves do not appear to exist under normal conditions, extreme environments of spacetime, such as a traversable wormhole[18] or the region near certain cosmic strings,[19] may allow their formation, implying a theoretical possibility of retrocausality."

            Now if there is even the tiniest possibility of retrocausality, the whole basis of the KCA collapses, because it relies entirely on the logic (perfectly reasonable in our personal experience) that effect absolutely cannot precede cause. OK, retrocausality has not been proven, but it doesn't have to be - the theoretical possibility is sufficient.

            Until it can be demonstrated the retrocausality IS impossible, the KCA fails on this alone, never mind the dozen or so powerful arguments against it.

            I do not have the physics to refute Vilenkin, but I have read his 'Many Worlds in One', and particularly remember one point he makes -

            "Theologians have often welcomed any evidence for the beginning of the universe, regarding it as evidence for the existence of God … So what do we make of a proof that the beginning is unavoidable? Is it a proof of the existence of God? This view would be far too simplistic. Anyone who attempts to understand the origin of the universe should be prepared to address its logical paradoxes. In this regard, the theorem that I proved with my colleagues does not give much of an advantage to the theologian over the scientist."

            So in the words of the scientist you are quoting - your view is far too simplistic.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "Well it then has to be logically demonstrated, which I have yet to see. Certainly the KCA does not do so."

            >> The demonstration:

            1. Suppose something could exist before it exists.
            2. But then we should have to say that it exists, and does not exist, at one and the same time (that is, the time before it exists).
            3. But this is a direct contradiction- a thing is asserted both to be, and not to be, at the same time and in the same aspect.

            A contradiction having been established, it is logically certain that the proposition:

            "a thing can exist before it exists" has been shown to be false as a matter of logic.

            "But you are claiming it has been established THEOLOGICALLY. It hasn't."

            >> But it has. It has been shown that everything that begins to exist must have been brought from potentiality to actuality, and that some necessary Being must exist, in pure actuality, in order for *any* being to begin to exist.

            This is logically certain, and it is, unsurprisingly, also theologically certain.

            Rick earlier: "In the present instance, since logic requires that no thing can precede its own existence, any objection is irrelevant, in the absence of rigorous demonstration."

            Mike new: Indeed - in a 3-d linear time framework. But it is by no means certain that at the level we are discussing this framework applies. There have been many discussion (granted, not agreement) on retrocausality. From the Wiki article on the subject -

            "Open topics in physics, especially involving the reconciliation of gravity with quantum physics, suggest that retrocausality may be possible under certain circumstances.

            Closed timelike curves, in which the world line of an object returns to its origin, arise from some exact solutions to the Einstein field equation. Although closed timelike curves do not appear to exist under normal conditions, extreme environments of spacetime, such as a traversable wormhole[18] or the region near certain cosmic strings,[19] may allow their formation, implying a theoretical possibility of retrocausality."

            >> Thanks for bringing this up- I am a big fan of Godel, and have had the privilege of recently discussing this question with the great physicist and philosopher of science George F. R. W. Ellis.

            It is true that Einstein's equations allow such a universe, and Ellis proposes that this might result in a case where we are seeing the same galaxies, over and over, at different times when we observe the sky- the technical term is that the universe is closed on a scale smaller than the Hubble horizon.

            This is quite a congenial proposition to me theologically, although I am not a Relativist, and George F. R. W Ellis is the most stupendously committed Relativist I have ever met.

            But this does not in any way contradict the logical truth that no thing can precede its own existence.

            If it were shown to be true, that we live in a universe closed on a scale smaller than the Hubble horizon, then we would indeed observe the same galaxy over and over and over again, at different times in its development.

            But this does nothing to change the fact that it is a thing- a galaxy- which we are observing, and that this thing- this galaxy- cannot have preceded its own existence.

            In such a universe, time would be a loop, but beginning to exist wuld still be required.

            Priority in such a universe would be a matter of ontology, not of temporality.

            Since time would not disclose itself to us as a constant flow in one direction, we would have to reject it is an absolute measure of priority.

            Ontology would be the measure of priority.

            And it is logically certain that no thing can precede its own existence as a matter of ontological priority.

            Therefore KCA stands, even in a Godel universe closed on a scale smaller than the Hubble horizon.

            I agree that Vilenkin does not establish God's existence, but then he is not adduced by me in order to do so.

            He is adduced by me to establish that the universe had a beginning, and this he does very well.

            There is a way around Vilenkin, and perhaps I shall show it to you.

          • Mike Hitchcock

            This is a lovely and well-constructed argument, but you keep getting stuck on the same point.

            "And it is logically certain that no thing can precede its own existence as a matter of ontological priority."

            This has been shown to be incorrect. It IS correct in a 3-d universe with linear time, but it does not appear that this is the universe we are living in, and even the possibility that it is incorrect destroys the KCA.

            I suspect we are just going to go round in circles on this one, and in all honesty I think the answer is going to have to wait a while - sadly I think not in my lifetime.

            Let's then grant that, all the other weaknesses of the KCA aside, there is some intelligent force behind the Universe, and I do indeed accept this possibility even if I think a naturalistic explanation is far more probable. How does the theist get form this to his particular version of God?

            WLC's bald and totally unsupported assertion that "this first cause is the God of the Bible" (or words to that effect) is so ridiculous as not to even merit an answer. But given all the different creation myths, how can a theist, even in theory, make the leap from 'intelligent agent' to 'my particular god'?

            I would be interested in your 'way around Vilenkin' too.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Thanks for your kind words at the beginning above.

            Rick earlier:

            "And it is logically certain that no thing can precede its own existence as a matter of ontological priority."

            Mike new: "This has been shown to be incorrect."

            >> It has not been so shown. No counter argument has even been advanced here for assessment. The mere assertion "this has been shown to be incorrect", when unaccompanied by the referenced demonstration, does not constitute an accurate description of the state of the argument.

            I request you to provide the demonstration which accompanies your assertion, so that it can be examined here.

            "It IS correct in a 3-d universe with linear time,"

            >> It is correct even in a Godel universe with closed timelike curves.

            "but it does not appear that this is the universe we are living in,"

            >> It is possible we are living in a Godel universe with closed timelike curves.

            It is not possible that the KCA is falsified in any such universe, since all such universes involve a singularity which renders it impossible for them to be past-infinite.

            "and even the possibility that it is incorrect destroys the KCA."

            >> To the contrary. As has been demonstrated, and not merely asserted, above, a Godel universe with closed timelike curves (that is, a universe closed on a scale smaller than the Hubble horizon) does not in any way resolve the singularity problem derived from its mathematical elaboration.

            The singularity exists in all Einstein universes which, on average, are expanding.

            The Godel universe is, on average, expanding.

            It cannot, even in theory, possible be past-infinite.

            The KCA stands for a Godel universe with closed timelike curvature.

            "I suspect we are just going to go round in circles on this one, and in all honesty I think the answer is going to have to wait a while - sadly I think not in my lifetime."

            >> Mike, I like you and I have enjoyed this, and so I will not pull any punches in the face of this assertion.

            The truth is we are not going around in circles.

            The truth is that I am addressing your objections, and you are not addressing mine.

            In short, fair and square, I am winning this debate and you are losing it.

            No offense- *at all*- intended.

            Fair is fair.

            If you kick my ass, fair and square, on something, then may God forbid I should fail to acknowledge this.

            I should have to go to confession otherwise.

            "Let's then grant that, all the other weaknesses of the KCA aside, there is some intelligent force behind the Universe, and I do indeed accept this possibility even if I think a naturalistic explanation is far more probable. How does the theist get form this to his particular version of God?"

            >> We are only, thus far, to Intelligent and Perfect Being- see point 10-12 above in my argument to Vicq.

            We can get the rest of the way.

            But first we have to establish the validity of 8-12 to Vicq's satisfaction.

            "WLC's bald and totally unsupported assertion that "this first cause is the God of the Bible" (or words to that effect) is so ridiculous as not to even merit an answer."

            >> There is nothing immediately ridiculous about the assertion, though I have not rigorously exmained how WLC arrives at it. If you consider it ridiculous, you kust show us the precise point in his argumentation which falsifies it.

            You have not done this.

            "But given all the different creation myths, how can a theist, even in theory, make the leap from 'intelligent agent' to 'my particular god'?"

            >> Because all religions are false, or else are but one are, the existence of many creation myths is not relevant to the examination of the KCA.

            The KCA is not a creation myth, nor is it a theological entity.

            It is a logical entity, and can be only refuted on logical grounds.

            So far it has not been.

            "I would be interested in your 'way around Vilenkin' too."

            >> If I wanted to refute Vilenkin I would focus in on the key element in his argument, and the key element in his argument is:

            Any universe which satisfies the condition Ha0 > 0 cannot be past infinite.

            The challenge to one who wishes to refute Vilenkin is to overcome the massive evidence we have of an expanding universe.

            It can be done quite easily.

            But I do not want to argue for my atheist friends, even the ones I like,unless the intellectual rigor I bring to the table is reciprocated.

            Fair is fair.

          • Mike Hitchcock

            The reason I believe we are going around in circles is this.

            The KCA is based in the impossibility of retrocausation. There have been indications that it is in fact possible. (
            The Wheeler-Feynman Absorber theory the Delayed Choice Quantum Eraser experiment designed by Yoon-Ho Kim et. al, etc) and while none of these have conclusively demonstrated retrocausality, neither has it been shown to be logically or physically impossible. Ebhard and Roos' theorem in the late 80's came close to establishing that quantum effects could not cause it, and so far as I know that's the closest anyone has got.

            To my mind this (at least for the moment) destroys the KCA, because regardless of which type of universe we live in, the KCA is firmly rooted in one of common experience. Unless and until retrocausality is proven impossible, the best that can be said for the KCA is that it is provisional.

            You keep insisting retrocausality is impossible. I believe it has been demonstrated that - given our current knowledge - that this is incorrect. We are going in circles because I feel I have provided a sufficient argument to undermine the KCA, while you are repeating retrocausality is impossible and that I have not.

            I am not prepared to concede the argument until you can demonstrate retrocausality is impossible which I do not think you can do given our current state of knowledge. In fact, I think such a demonstration would be of Nobel-winning quality.

            "The truth is that I am addressing your objections, and you are not addressing mine."

            I think I have, but you have not. This tends to be the nature of arguments, and I have been in sufficient to recognise the point at which things simply start going round in circles and become a waste of time. As I am actually learning something from this conversation, I do not want to continue labouring the same point - can we, without either of us claiming to have 'won', agree to disagree and move on?

            Thank you for your comment on Vilenkin - I don't think I'll be trying to argue that Ha0 is not >0 thanks! Unless a future discovery turns the whole of cosmology on its head, I think the jury is in on that one.

            I do note that you do not address Vilenkin's view that your argument is "far too simplistic". Care to take that one up?

            Also I would be genuinely interested to talk about whether a past-finite universe (ignoring the possibility of retocausation) leads inevitably to the conclusion of a creator. You can probably guess my position on this one, but it's always good to have one's views challenged.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            Mike:

            I am sorry. You have raised now for the third time the issue of retrocausality.

            This *does not address the fact that the universe is expanding*.

            I am sure you simply don;t get this, and I am unable to assist you further, my sincere hope is that you will read Vilenkin and understand *exactly* what this means:

            Any universe which satisfies the condition Hao> 0 *cannot be past infinite*.

            This includes universes with closed timelike curves.

            This point having been established, and standing unrefuted, I believe this brings us to the logical conclusion of our exchange.

            KCA stands in a Godel universe that expands on average.

            Retrocausality has *nothing whatsoever to do* with KCA in such a universe.

            KCA *stands* in such a universe.

            All the best to you, it was fun.

          • Mike Hitchcock

            "This *does not address the fact that the universe is expanding*."

            Indeed it does not - nor does it have to. I get this just fine, thanks - what you don't seem to be getting is that it DOES address the fact that the universe COULD be self-causing and as such has EVERYTHING to do with the KCA.

            As I said, I cannot see us agreeing on this, but I would still be interested on your input on the other points I mentioned. Or are you afraid to go there?

            Sauce for the goose... ;-)

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            "what you don't seem to be getting is that it DOES address
            the fact that the universe COULD be self-causing and as such has EVERYTHING to do with the KCA"

            >> This is, for the fourth time, FALSE.

            It *cannot be self-causing, because it *cannot* have always existed.

            It *definitely* had to begin to exist.

            I have explained, above, that in your closed-timelike-curve universe, we might see the same galaxy over and over again; in other words, we would establish that not every light we see in the sky would have been *caused* to occur at a given time in the past.

            Some of the lights we see in the sky would have been *caused* by a retrocausative iteration of the *same* galaxy.

            There is your retrocausation in cosmological terms.

            I reiterate:

            1. This has no impact whatsoever on KCA.

            2. Each iteration would have been caused by the same galaxy- that is, every iteration of the galaxy we see in a Giodel universe would have, exactly, *one cause*, that is, *the galaxy* which is not n galaxies, but one galaxy, appearing n times.

            3. KCA stands for the galaxy, just as it does for every other observation in such a universe; that is, the phenomenon observed are caused by actual objects, they simply appear at multiple times, and time does not flow linearly in such a universe, so we cannot establish *cause* by sole recourse to *temporal priority*.

            4. In such a universe, *cause* just be established by *ontological priority*; that is- we see the same galaxy n times. Each image is caused by the galaxy, and something had to cause that galaxy to begin to exist.

            5. "Begin" to exist, in such a universe, has nothing to do with temporal priority, and everything to do with ontological priority.

            7. As for the galaxy, so for the cosmos itself. We *know* that the Godel universe has a beginning, even though that beginning cannot be established *in time*, since time does not flow linearly in such a universe.

            8. We know #7 because this Godel, closed-timelike-curvature universe, is expanding on average.

            9. That is, it satisfies the condition Hao>0.

            10. That condition establishes the impossibility of this Godel-closed-timelike-curvature universe being past-infinite.

            11. In other words, the Goldel universe has a beginning, it begins to exist, and KCA stands in such a universe.

            Causality is not merely temporal.

            It is also ontological.

            This is the basis of your misunderstanding, and the reason why retrocausality does not so much as address, much less refute, KCA, in any closed-timelike-curvature universe which is expanding.

          • Mike Hitchcock

            May I add - most conversations of this kind have me banging my head against the desk. I am enjoying this one. Thank you.

          • http://magisterialfundies.blogspot.com/ Rick DeLano

            :-)

            Liking it myself, thanks.

    • Ararxos

      Universe is not detectable? The whole Universe is a proof of an omnipotent God because it is not random nor it could came out of complete Nothingness not is Eternal. If a Mind that created the Universe didn't exist then it was popped out of Nothingness, assembled itself through Randomness and we are here by Pure Luck. The last time i checked my science books Randomness Nothingness and Luck weren't included.

  • Joe McCarron
  • Anthony Edwards

    "It doesn’t matter what the hypothesis is:

    If you want to propose that Particle X exists, the burden of proof falls to you.

    If you want to propose that Particle X does not exist, the burden again falls to you.

    Either way, in science the person proposing a hypothesis needs to provide evidence for it by using the scientific method (i.e., making a prediction based on the hypothesis and then seeing whether the prediction is fulfilled when a test is run)."

    Evidence of absence. Now often people say that you can't prove a negative, and while that isn't wholly true, the scientific "Best Bet" isn't exactly the most notably reliable way of doing things, especially where God is concerned.

    Let us take Wittgenstein's example of the rhinoceros. When Wittgenstein says that the phrase "There is no rhinoceros in the room" is meaningless (or more accurately unprovable), he is being accurate. If you give no qualities to the rhinoceros except that it is a rhinoceros, then it can never be disproved or proved whether it is found or not.

    The person making the claim must have pinpointed it, or at least have a notion of how we can find out if the claim is true, or else we are (as Descartes meditations imply) wasting our time.

    To imply that we just have to look for God to find God ignores the last three thousand years of scientific inquiry - most of which was done by clergy trying to either decode God's will or prove God (to the point that people like Augustine and Aquinus actually claimed that their philosophical proof was inscrutable).

    In the case of the Atheist, the Atheist here is making no claim. The Atheist is simply disagreeing. Imagine this in terms of a hunter-gatherer society that has never had the notion of God or Gods. Imagine that, one of their group leaves for a long time and then comes back and says "There is a God, and..." goes on to ascribe qualities to this God. The tribe believes him, simply because he has been gone for so long to places they have never been.

    A traveler enters the village and finds their acceptance of a God as absurd. For the next thousand years they torture him, his children, and anyone else who questions the previous claim. Even though he has also been gone for a long time, and may or may not have knowledge they lack, they simply agreed with the first man first.

    This does not legitimize the claim of God. It simply normalizes it. To great effort I might add. Demanding the burden of proof from the second man when neither person has special knowledge gives special status to the first man. It does not make his argument more true, it just makes it so he doesn't have to defend his argument.