When Theism Cannot Explain Anything (Origins Especially)

In having a bit of a debate with blogger Eric Kemp, we hit an impasse at which he declared that “God” is a sensible explanation for an otherwise presently inexplicable event (in this case, the nature and/or origin of the universe). It seems like as good a time as any to explore what I see as the intellectual impotence of theistic “explanations.”

Just what is it to explain something, anyhow? It is to come away with more information than you began. To have a set of distinct causes, effects, and overall processes, in place of what was once complete ignorance. It means being able to state what needs to be done for some event to happen: what specific capacities are necessary for something to do it.

To say that the standard theistic God has caused phenomenon X is essentially to say that it was done by a being that is hypothetically capable of doing anything. In short, it is a truly ingenious means of avoiding having to give any specific explanation for how X happens. No ignorance is dispelled.

Using God in this way is much like answering a multiple choice question by filling in every option, and then claiming that you have answered the question correctly. But while you are indeed sure to have filled in the correct bubble at some point in the process (unless of course, we’ve tricked you by simply not offerring the right answer there at all), your “answer” doesn’t actually tell you or anyone else which option was the correct one.

That is to say: we may indeed credit God with X, but in doing so, we have learned nothing about either X or God. Indeed, because the actual nature of God is essentially beyond our understanding in any case, saying that God has done something is really no different than saying that “some cause that we do not understand did it in a way that we don’t understand.” Which is really just a creative way of saying “we don’t what caused it or how.”

We don’t generally encounter this dodge when looking to other sorts of causes. Avalanches, for instance, are capable of crushing hikers under rocks and snow through a fairly predictable and intelligible sequence of events. Knowing that, when we find a hiker crushed in such a way, avalanches are likely suspects. An avalanche is not, however, capable of writing a sonnet.

A hypothetical God, on the other hand, would, however, be capable of both. Not because we know anything about how these things happen, but simply by definition: God can do anything (including doing any particular in nearly any way at all).

So when we find a sonnet, or a crushed hiker, or whatever else, we could claim that it was caused by God: nothing can ever preclude the philosophical possibility. But this claim wouldn’t help us understand what, specifically, happened… and it is absurdly gratuitous to boot. In order to explain a single specific event like the results of an avalanche, we are resorting to imagining something possessing every single possible causal capacity, including a nearly infinite number of things that have nothing at all to do with what is necessary to cause the effects of an avalanche.

This is why scientists, even religious scientists, aren’t particularly satisfied with theism as an explanation for any specific scientific question. They want parsimonious, targeted explanations, not indiscriminate atom bombs.

But what about questions beyond the range of empirical science? What about philosophy in general? What happens when we encounter an event so outside our experience that we do not know, and can barely even begin to conceptualize, the possible causes? Is God a more plausible answer in that case?

No.

It’s true that the cause of, say, the universe (if it had an ultimate cause) might be something totally beyond our current understanding, or perhaps even our capabilities for ever understanding. But whatever capacity is necessary to cause a universe (and perhaps also to be uncaused), there’s no reason to think that the thing that has this capacity has every other capacity as well. There’s no more reason to think that a “universe causer” could write a sonnet than to think that an avalanche could.

We don’t know how, or even if, the universe had its ontological beginning. We aren’t even sure we’re asking the right questions in regards to how to conceptualize the problem. All we do have is knowledge of the Big Bang and the beginning of the universe as we are familiar with it. And while it’s true that most of the natural laws we are familiar with likely were shaped by the particular nature of the Big Bang, we have no way to discerning how or why things are that way: i.e. if there were simply more basic, underlying laws. You could call them “natural” or not depending on how you define natural. But it’s clear that philosophically, there is no justification for calling whatever they are “guiders” or asserting that they must be God. The field of possibility remains wide open.

We are left with a simple reality: we have some stuff here (a universe) and we want to explain it. But we don’t seem to have enough evidence at present to really understand what we need to understand. So we’re left with the observable, conventional universe, and lots of unanswered questions.

What theists are generally advocating is a doubly disappointing “answer” to these questions. It means jumping to a particular conclusion despite the fact that it a) doesn’t actually explain anything and that also b) basically smuggles in all the other capacities and characteristics of God (i.e. sentience, omniscience, etc.) along with whatever still unknown capacities were actually necessary to cause our universe (if it was caused at all).

It’s an assumption that demands a huge price for no discernable benefit: paying out your entire life savings for nothing in return. It’s simply not worth it.

Advertisements

35 Responses to When Theism Cannot Explain Anything (Origins Especially)

  1. kevinboatang says:

    I have recently had a similar ‘debate’ on a well known blog (well, sought of, he is known) and have had a similar reposnse from others.
    Most ly hard right bible freaks who refuse to acknowledge anything to do with Science is not caused by God.

    My view would be that if it makes you happy then fine, but when it starts dictating you entire life you have gone too far. God is a nice simple way of looking at things, but we have moved on.

    But there is no talking to them, it’s better arguing with a brick.

    http://boatangdemetriou.wordpress.com/

  2. leftcoastlibrul says:

    At least it’s recognized that once you have all the other arguments covered, the only thing theists can fall back on is “god of the gaps.” I think even they know that isn’t really an argument so much as a defense, as it’s clear the gaps are getting smaller and smaller the more we uncover.

  3. Grendel The Martyr says:

    It’s just a basic logic fallacy, the argument from ignorance [argumentum ad ignorantiam].

    Theists feel justified in plugging a gap in human knowledge – creation of the universe – with God, based on the fact that no one has proved God did not create the universe.
    This is fallacious because any natural explanation for the creation of the universe is completely consistent with the fact that no one has proved God did not create the universe.

    You need a good reason to employ a given cause to explain an observed effect and blind faith isn’t a good reason. It’s a sure pathway to error, in fact.

    Ironically, the longer and the more often theists employ God of the Gaps-type arguments from ignorance, the more they undermine their own religions by establishing that religious belief and God are what humans use to tolerate ignorance, in other words: God = Ignorance.

    Why is it so hard for so many to simply acknowledge the obvious – we don’t know?

    (Yet).

  4. Mike says:

    After reading atheist blogs for so long, I’m always surprised to come across a new idea.. Well, in this case, it’s an old idea but I had never considered it explicitly.. The fact that by claiming “God did X”, you assume much much more than is necessary for just X (all the omnimax properties, generally). As you put it, this explanation can “smuggle in” any property of God you want to be present. Why had I never noticed this before? Nice post!

  5. Eric Kemp says:

    Wow, I’m honored to have warranted a post. Honestly.

    But, unfortunately, you strawmanned my argument. As I told you on my blog, I made no cosmological arguments for the existence of God. Perhaps you are used to theistic bloggers doing so and responded out of habit. My main point was not to “prove” or “provide evidence for” the existence of God. My main point was to show that science depends upon the uniformity of nature in order to be a viable practice, and the atheist has no reason or explanation to think that nature is uniform. This is a position that you have not responded to…but more on that later.

    However, I AM implying that God is an explanation for the uniformity of nature. You admit that God COULD BE the explanation for everything but because of this ability He is an explanation for NOTHING? Come again?

    1. “We may indeed now be able to credit God with X, but we have learned nothing about either X or God.”

    Saying something doesn’t make it so. Let’s take the beginning of the universe as an example. Let’s start with, “God created the Universe”. What did we just learn? We learned the Universe had a cause. There’s some dispelled ignorance right there. We also learned that God must be ridiculously powerful in order to create all we see around us. We learned that God must also be ridiculously knowledgable in order to know HOW to do such a thing and make it work. Since God must have knowledge in order to create the universe, we learn that God must be sentient. If God is sentient, then we learn that God could have chosen NOT to create the Universe. If God chose TO create the Universe, we learn that the Universe had/has a purpose. If the Universe has a purpose, and you and I are sentient enough to discuss anything, then we must have a purpose too.

    Learning that the Universe has a purpose doesn’t dispell ignorance?

    So, God IS an explanation. The all-powerful, all-knowing Creator God of the Christian world-view created the Universe, as he said He did, and maintains the universe as it is right now, as He said He does, absolutely explains why we can know that nature is uniform.

    2. “Indeed, because the actual nature of God is essentially beyond our understanding in any case, saying that God has done something is really no different than saying that “some cause that we do not understand did it in a way that we don’t understand.” ”

    This is EXACTLY what YOU are saying, that some unknown force that you don’t/can’t understand caused or non-caused the universe in a way you can’t understand. I’m including God, you’re excluding Him. . . what’s the difference?

    “A hypothetical God, on the other hand, would, however, be capable of both. Not because we know anything about how these things happen, but simply by definition: God can do anything (including doing any particular in nearly any way at all).”

    Yup…and? So it’s not so much God that you have a problem with but you have a problem that He is capable of anything? A God with limitations would be a better explanation for the beginning of the Universe?

    3. “This is why scientists, even religious scientists, aren’t particularly satisfied with theism as an explanation for any specific scientific question. They want parsimonious, targeted explanations, not indiscriminate atom bombs.”

    So Newton, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Descartes, Bacon etc. who believed exactly that “Godidit” (many of them wrote more about theology than about science); that belief stopped them from coming up with targeted explanations and inventing modern science?

    4. “We don’t know how, or even if, the universe had its ontological beginning. We aren’t even sure we’re asking the right questions in regards to how to conceptualize the problem.”

    And this is the ironic part. You are admitting your limitations in explaining the beginning of the universe, and yet you make a case for what CAN’T explain the Universe. When I say, “You believe that the beginning of the Universe was random” you say, “Not necessarily because we can’t/don’t know…”. But when I say, “God created the Universe”, you say, “Well I know THAT’S not an explanation.” Come again?

    And here’s the other ironic part. You have yet to acknowledge the implications of this “We can’t know” position. If you can’t know what the beginning of the universe looked like, or if it had one, then you can’t know if the laws of nature are laws at all. For all you know, how nature works could change five minutes from now and all our scientific data gathered over the last 400 years would be meaningless. You have no explanation for why you trust that nature is uniform, you just believe it to be true.

  6. Bad says:

    You repeat “strawman” a lot, but there’s more to fallacies than merely alleging them left and right.

    First of all, I never said anything about you using cosmological arguments. My point is simply that you offerred God as explaining something that the lack of God, supposedly, cannot. But as I have argued, your “explanation” isn’t: it doesn’t actually explain anything. When I say that you can offer it, I am noting that it is not contradicted by anything (indeed, you could claim that God does everything all the time: how can this be contradicted?). But it also does not accomplish anything.

    You now go on to confuse bare assertions with “learning something.” I can assert that sonnets have causes, even if they don’t, and that porcupines caused them, even if they have not. I can make all sorts of wordy assertions about things I don’t actually know. This is not, however, in any sense actually telling anyone HOW a sonnet comes to exist: the particular means employed as opposed to anything else.

    Likewise, your “God causes” is quite litterally nothing more than a restatement of the original question, with all sorts of tacked on propositions, none of which have any actual necessity, because you’ve left all the core questions unanswered. How do you know that causing a universe requires knowledge? Have you created one recently? Are you going to let us all in on the process, and the specific steps, including how and when forethought is necessary to do it? What are the constraints one faces when creating a universe? What are the ranges of possibility? Can things simply exist uncaused, or not?

    Again, asserting God allows you to simply bypass every single substantive question about how the universe came to be the way it is (nor does it answer the question of whether it even came to be in the first place). The philosophical idea of God has any and every capacity you can imagine, and so of course can simply be presented as an answer to every question. But it is not, in reality, an answer to any of those questions.

    It’s as if you were given a multiple choice question, and you claimed that you’d gotten it right because you’d chosen EVERY option, and thus, chosen the right answer in the process. That still doesn’t tell us anything about which answer was, in fact, the right one.

    The difference between you and I is simple: you are jumping to a very particular and extremely extravagant philosophical assumption on how and if the universe came to be, while I am remaining honest in admitting that we don’t know. I’m not “excluding” anything. What I’m demanding is that explanations actually get around to explaining things, instead of simply leaving the original subject a mystery and adding an even bigger and more inexplicable being (God) into the picture.

    There is no irony in my stunned silence over your naked Emperor. I am pointing out that your profferred explanations don’t do any of the things explanations are supposed to do. That’s not to say that they couldn’t. It’s to say that when they take the form you’ve put them in, they don’t (hence the title of the post).

    Your “come again” makes little sense. There’s nothing inconsistent with asking for an answer to a question, seeing you present what you claim is an answer, and pointing out that it does not, in fact, answer the question at all.

    And there’s further nothing ironic about my views on natural laws. I fully agree that we cannot say more than we can legitimately say about them: natural laws are, after all, merely (so far) universally observed relationships and regularities. If natural laws tommorow change radically, then we most definately will have to adjust our understanding of them. If you have good cause to assert that they’ve done so: by all means: win your Nobel Prize by offering this insight to the world.

    But talking about anyone “trusting” that nature is uniform is to completely misunderstand things. We don’t trust this at all: I don’t at least.

    It’s an axiom: an assumption we inevitably make because without some basic assumptions we cannot even acknowledge the existence of our common reality, much less learn anything about it. But we do not have to believe that this assumption is actually true: in fact, that’s irrelevant. It’s simply a precondition for us having any sort of discussion about reality in the first place. And because these assumptions are ultimately unfoundable, we try to make as few as necessary. Science, luckily, just so happens to work on the same set that our everyday appreciation of reality requires, and so adds no additional assumptions to the mix. Your theism, on the other hand, is a take or leave proposition, meaning that we can get along fine with or without it: it has no necessity (at least none you’ve convinced anyone of yet)

    Now, you are welcome to deny the basic assumptions of empirical reality and claim that we are all brains in jars hooked up to VR machines. I can’t contradict this with evidence, because all possible evidence would beg the question. Nevertheless, if we want to get on with the business of actually finding things about about this apparently nevertheless consistent and coherent reality, we have no choice but to leave such untestable possibilities at the wayside and get on with things.

    Again: you can deny these assumptions: I fully admit that you can. But you have already demonstrated by your very participation in a discussion happening in the “real world,” that you in fact do not deny them, and take them as much for granted as anyone else.

  7. Grendel The Martyr says:

    1. Declaring that the universe had a cause isn’t made so by you saying it. We don’t know this. The universe may have always been and the reason that sounds counterintuitive (it MUST have had a beginning sometime!) may be due to limitations in human thought. But declaring the universe had a cause, a beginning, is at present a blind assumption. ‘God’ is no explanation because explaining one mystery (did the universe have a begining, a cause?) with another mystery (God) is no explanation at all, except, of course, for theists. This renders the non-explanation of ‘God’ as theological apologetics, not a cosmological theory.

    As for the twisted chain of apologetics to get God into the picture, you are basically taking your theistic beliefs and treating them as if they are a reality for all, whether they believe in God or not.

    If I were to posit that an invisible, omnipotent, all-knowing, all-powerful purple alpaca living in my garage COULD have created the universe, my hypothesis would employ the exact same logic and enjoy the exact same amount of evidence as does your God hypothesis, that is, none. Nor would it explain anything. You are essentially attributing the creation of the universe to magic, the only difference being you happen to believe in magic, so it makes perfect sense, in fact, it validates your belief in this magic. Doesn’t do diddly for anyone else, however.

    Quoting God as the creator of the universe because he said he’s the creator of the universe? C’mon. My purple alpaca says the same thing.

    2. God is on a long, long list of possible causes for the creation of the universe. In that there is zero empirical evidence for any God, let alone your particular God, as a theory of creation it is worthless in the empirical sense. It cannot be falsified. It doesn’t allow testable predictions. It cannot be proved or disproved. This places God very very low on the list in terms of probability. It’s a matter of belief. Go ahead and believe it if you like, but don’t expect to be able to export it to anyone who doesn’t likewise rely on blind faith to stand in for actual knowledge. And look up the term “credo consolans”.

    3. The religious beliefs or absence thereof of historical scientific greats is irrelevant to the science they did. Their findings were confirmed by scientific methodologies and values of evidence, testing, replication, etc., not by declarations from their religious positions. It is curious you haven’t mentioned any religious believing historical scientists who were dead wrong on scientific questions. You’ve cherry picked Newton, but fail to note his religiosity didn’t prevent him from being dead wrong on all his work in alchemy. Shame on you.

    4. Belief in a theological cause (God) for the creation of the universe is not explanation. It is a statement of religious belief, plain and simple. Provide scientific evidence for it if you want it to enjoy scientific recognition.

    As for ‘laws of nature’, we most certainly can know if they are laws – we’ve tested them, over and over and over. They work. They haven’t changed. When we look far out into space we see they work exactly the same out there. When we use our telescopes to look millions and billions of years into the past (light we see coming from far distant suns has been traveling that long to get to our telescopes – it’s a glimpse at the distant past) we see they worked just the same then too. Once again, the scientific ignorance of a theist is augmented by plugging God into the holes of his ignorance.

    If the laws of physics change five minutes from now, science already has a mechanism for making its corrections. Science has always held all knowledge to be tentative, and fully respects the possibility of the emergence of new knowledge. The history of science is one long constant revision of its knowledge base. Science is fluid in this way. It is religion that is rigid and never changing, because theists are stuck with the dictates of the holy texts of their given religions. When proven to be wrong (and that is a common and frequent occurence), the theist cannot change the holy text and so, must make increasingly frantic and ludricrous arguments and apologetics.

    The main problem is that, unlike scientists, theists simply cannot bear to admit they have no idea if God exists, let alone if god created the universe. They believe so, but any fool can believe a thing. That’s not to call theists fools. I’m just saying that religous beliefs don’t screen out fools.

  8. Grendel The Martyr says:

    Does this guy know that Jesus hates spammers?

  9. Efrique says:

    For an explanation of some particular thing to have value, I think we need that explanation to allow us to infer things other than the observation itself. Anything else is only as useful as “it happened because it happened”.

    As an example, if I find two large boulders piled improbably one atop another. It causes people to wonder as to how it came about.

    I may come up with several explanations:
    (i) it’s a monomuent constructed by the ancestors of the local people
    (ii) it’s caused by weathering away of the softer parts of a rock column.
    (iii) there was an *incredible* flood that piled up boulders against some bank of earth, which itself has weathered away, leaving some boulders in the observed position.
    (iv) goddidit.

    Explanations (i)-(iii) have potential value, because (in part) they give me some sense of where to look for more such boulders, and for related confirmatory information. For example, explanation (iii) would suggest that if the current pile of boulders lies on some ancient watercourse that could have been part of the posited incredible flood, that there may be more such boulders further up or down the same watercourse – and it would tell me to look for various other things that might be associated with such an event.

    Explanation (iv) gives me no sense of where or even whether to look for more such, nor and idea of what else might be involved in the phenomenon. There is no further understanding to be gained – I will understand nothing about the mechanism of boulder-stacking, nothing further about this hypothesized being (other than on at least one occasion, boulders were stacked for no readily apparent reason), nor about any other phenomena. The fact that the observation is consistent with an infinity of different such beings makes it all the more useless – data can’t even help you distinguish between two similar such non-explanations, because nothing is (supposedly) impossible to such beings.

  10. Bad says:

    Exactly. “Explanation” iv basically leaves you exactly where you started: you have some boulders. And you have the possibility that a being that could do anything could, well, do any specific thing, like this. But trying to pretend that by simply repeating an omnipresent philosophical possibility in the face of an actual thing that you’ve offered an explanation is ridiculous.

    And trying to contrast that as somehow an advantage on simply not knowing and not having an explanation is to have a real double standard.

  11. Terry says:

    The medieval scholastics knew that simply attributing a cause to God was a fallacy. So much intellectual tradition is ignored that would keep people from making fools of themselves. To explain any causality you have to have recourse to natural causes. Quite simply, it is the only thing that can be measured, argued and proven.

    As religious believers, the medieval scholastics of course held that God is the alpha and omega of all things. They also held it up as a dogma and thus as “Truth”. However, it doesn’t really prove anything empirically or really give you a basis to confirm your belief.

    What Eric is trying to do is a badly mangled version of one of Thomas Aquinas’ arguments. Basically, it goes like this. Nothing material is the cause of itself. (An observation, unless I’ve missed something major, that still holds true today). As nothing material is the cause of itself you need something that is self-caused to start the chain of causality. That something would have to be infinite (since it has both being and is non-material), outside of linear time (since scholastics held that time cannot exist without causality), and possessed of a will (since otherwise it would need a prior cause). It was this theoretical being that Aquinas held had the attributes that could be attributed to God, heavily influenced by Aristotle’s notion of the unmoved mover.

    Now, this is a pretty solid theory, the best of his famous five proofs (though I contend he did better philosophy outside of this that deserves attention). He certainly thought he had made a discovery of the nature of God, and a means that could practically prove that God had a necessary place in the universe. As much as I revere the man, I wouldn’t go that far myself. There are some serious objections that can be made to the argument, mostly metaphysical dealing with the nature of time and causality. They haven’t disproved the argument, but other plausible models have been suggested.

    What differentiates the Angelic Doctor from Eric Kemp though is that Thomas Aquinas would have never considered God as a starting point to understand the world. You instead look to natural causes to try and understand nature, because simply by positing that God did it doesn’t actually explain anything that you can look for evidence for. An unmoved mover and all the other paradoxes to try to explain a being without a material nature isn’t going to leave evidence that can be empirically proven. That is what differentiates Aquinas’s proof from Charles Darwin’s SCIENTIFIC theory of evolution, which can be examined and collaborated by means of scientific analysis.

    The simple fact of the matter is that theology is always going to be about interpreting revealed literature and tradition and reconciling it with history, ethics, and empirical science. Bad is completely correct that theology is about holding positions of faith and shifting those beliefs as necessary when evidence to the contrary presents itself. Logic and Inductive reasoning is used to make a theological system consistent, but a theological source can never be a demonstrated fact. If something fell under the purview of demonstrated fact, it wouldn’t be a theological issue anymore.

    The sad fact of the matter that I could have written this post 800 years ago. However, people generally figure that religious thought shouldn’t involve mentorship, logic, consideration of contrary empirical evidence, or respect the place of natural philosophy (science). Forget Credo Consolans, why can’t anyone learn and understand Fides quaerens intellectum?

  12. Thomist says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I must admit that i am beginning to find some of these critiques (not only yours) of theism well to be rather poor and tiresome. If you want a starting point to see how your views might be weak (Eric Kemp was onto it a little bit) why not try reading the works of one of the greatest and unfortunately ignored but totally relevant 20th century philosophers, the Jesuit Bernard Lonergan, and in particular his seminal and magnificent philosophical tome “Insight: A Study of Human Understanding.” Read it and take note of his exploration of scientific inquiry and how it leads to transcendent knowledge and the affirmation of transcendent being who has the classical attributes of God and which in turn ontologically and necessarily grounds everything else. In the end his argument amounts to this: “The affirmation of reason is an affirmation of God.” This is a great foundation for discussion because it helps get rid of much philosophical nonsense and fluff found in numerous atheistic blogs and more importantly works like “The God Delusion” etc. Anyway, just a thought and a suggestion.

  13. Bad says:

    I must admit Thomist, that you fit the mold to near perfection when it comes to a certain sort of blithely dismissive critic.

    You have no a single word of actual substantive argument in the face of anything I’ve said, but you are completely assured that the problem is not your own inability to do others the courtesy of reading and answering their opinions, but rather merely the fact that I have not anticipated whatever obscure homework assignment you feel delighted to bestow upon me.

    And it is always, of course, yet another of the countless dense theologians with the 100th variation on the same old equivocal ontological meanderings that I of course must set myself to tracking down before I can possibly have the audacity to express a thought or make an argument in regards to theistic “explanation.”

    I assure you, however, that while I’m not familiar with Bernard Lonergan, I am familiar with the sort of approach you describe, and generally find it to be without much merit. If you would like to discuss the matter (which, as you may have failed to notice, is NOT the matter I discuss in my post) in detail, I’d be happy to, but I’m afraid that you’ll have to hold up at least one side of the discussion, as Fr. Lonergan is, sadly, unable to join in himself.

    It’s a pity though, because from what I read of Lonergan, he at least would have the decency to bother making some specific arguments before calling an entire swath of different arguments by different people with different views “nonsense.”

  14. […] It started on “Response to ‘The Atheist Is A Thief’” and continued on his blog.  It has taken me several days to respond to him because, frankly, I didn’t want to debate […]

  15. Eric Kemp says:

    Bad

    As you can see, I finally responded to you on my blog (intelligentscience.org).

    Eric Kemp

  16. Bad says:

    My response to your blog post:

    I would love to have an “entire readership!” :)

    I would put “uniformity of nature” down as simply a subset of the ontological nature of the universe. All my criticisms are exactly the same for all such claims: there’s no actually explanation going on in this explanation. You keep getting hung up on me calling it an “explanation” and then saying that it’s not really one: my meaning is that it is an alleged explanation (i.e. you call it an explanation, and I refer to it like that), but one that does not actually do what an explanation needs to do. It fails as an explanation of anything.

    Yes, you list all sorts of various hypothetical motives behind your purported cause of uniformity, and further implications of that cause existing. But that’s just fleshing out your story: none of that actually explains the nature of uniformity or how it came to be in a way that parallels what you are demanding of “natural” explanation. It doesn’t even answer the question whether or not it’s even possible to NOT have uniformity. Nor is your story anything but arbitrary. Maybe God’s purpose for uniformity is entirely different than you think. Maybe there is no actually uniformity at all: it’s just a trick played on you by a god you can’t, in fact, trust.

    If “these are not the questions” you are asking, then it looks to me that you aren’t really even asking for an explanation of anything in the first place. You are just giving answers to outstanding questions like “does the apparent uniformity of the universe have a cause?” You say yes. But so what? Anyone else can say no. Neither of you are shedding any light on the question by saying so. How does that “explain” anything in terms of the nature of uniformity?

    But I thought you stated that we CANNOT know anything substantative about the beginning of the universe, period. So which is it, can we know something substantative and the God answer is hindering us? Or is it that we can’t know anything about the beginning but God is an explanation? How does the God answer NOT tell us that the universe exists?

    You keep posing these questions that allege a contradiction, but they never make any sense. What I said is that we don’t know the answers to those questions, and we don’t even know if we can know. That’s not the same thing as definitively saying that we cannot know, and it’s not any sort of contradiction in any case.

    And what I argued was not that the God explanation is hindering us, but that it isn’t accomplishing anything: it isn’t actually explaining how the universe came to be, if it came to be, and so on. It doesn’t explain uniformity. It just restates that uniformity exists (which just assumes, without warrant, that it could be some other way), which we already knew, and says that a being that can make anything happen made it happen (after which you go on to tell some stories about why it might have wanted things that way, all of which are utterly arbitrary). Well, how does that inform us about anything? We already know that the universe exists, and that it appears uniform in the sense we are talking about. We want to know how these things came to be the way they are, or even if they came to be at all. If it was caused, then it must have had a particular cause.

    But “God” is the very opposite of a particular cause: it’s potentially every and any cause. It’s a way of getting out of having to explain which cause, not an answer in and of itself.

    And no: I am NOT assuming that there is a “naturalistic” answer to these questions. In fact, I don’t even recognize that “naturalistic/non-naturalistic” means anything as a distinction amongst types of answers. I just want an answer, period. Ideally, it would be the right answer (something we haven’t even touched on yet), but even just some hypothetical insight into the issues would be nice as a start.

    Let’s use another example to illustrate: I want to know how it is that parasites like liver flukes can navigate around a host. How does something with almost no brain and very few sensory abilities map out where to go and thus travel to where it needs to get to?

    Your answer? “God does it.” To which I say: “uh, what?” Well, you say, God just does it: there is no possible other explanation (since it seems like a mystery to us), and God can do anything, so He just makes them go where they need to go. “Uh, how?” And you reply “don’t bother me with such questions, that’s not relevant. But I have greatly enhanced our knowledge, because God loves liver flukes, as it happens, which explains why they get to where they need to go, right?”

    But later on, we find out what’s actually going on with liver flukes. And, as it turns out, the original question was wrong. Liver flukes DON’T navigate at all: they don’t need to know where they are going. Instead, they react instinctively to certain environmental triggers that cause them to move in a certain fashion that, since all hosts are basically laid out the same, ends up getting them to where they need to get to.

    THAT is what a real explanation does: clears up a mystery, maybe even disabuses us of some unnoticed assumptions we had been making in our very questions.

    By saying that every answer in a multiple choice question is the right answer is to violate the Law of Non-Contradiction. To say that the only way to explain the uniformity of nature is through God who created nature uniform, and sustains it uniform, does NOT violate the Law of Non-Contradiction.

    You quite misrepresented the point here. I didn’t say that every answer was the right answer at all. I said instead that there is only one right answer, and marking every answer is not the same thing as identifying which one is the correct one. “God” as an answer is like marking every choice (because God is defined as being able to do anything at all), and then saying that you got the answer correct because, by definition, the bubble next to the right answer is filled in. It’s a rhetorical trick, not a passing grade.

    The problem remains: we still don’t know what the actual right answer is. We haven’t learned anything about the phenomenon we were trying to explain. We don’t know how uniformity is brought about: what specific capacity is necessary. Saying “by God” isn’t an answer: how does God bring it about? What specific capacity is god exercising to do it? Your answer is “The power to do anything at all” which isn’t actually an answer to the question.

    Let’s say that the universe wasn’t uniform. I have no idea how to imagine that, but you seem to assume that it could have been non-uniform (and thus we should be surprised that it is), so let’s run with that. We could then ask “why isn’t the universe uniform?”

    And your answer could just as easily be “because God wants it that way and thus makes it so”: the very same answer you are giving here in our uniform universe! Still not knowing anything about how or why or even what this uniformity is, you have an answer that basically works no matter what the question is. That’s a sure sign that your explanation… well, isn’t one.

    We are comparing worldviews here, that’s all we are doing.

    You are trying to make a case that your worldview explains something better than any other. But you can’t deliver the goods, because your explanation has no content, and no explanatory advantage over simply asserting that “that’s just the way things are, apparently.”

    I have a simple premise; Science requires that nature is uniform.

    Only in the sense that we could not do science without that being true. But if it wasn’t true, then we couldn’t do science. So what?

    I have a simple question; Which worldview is able to explain this uniformity?

    No one has explained it period, so how can we judge which “worldview” fits the explanation better?

    In any case, I don’t concede that your beliefs are a “worldview.” They are simply your beliefs: a hypothetical assertion that you a) can’t provide any reason to believe is true and b) can’t provide any reason to believe is useful for explaining any mysteries about the natural world.
    Here I am, sitting here, looking at the world around me. I want to understand it. Not just sum it all up with “a being that can do anything for any reason did it, and I’ll just imagine a reason for it doing it after the fact.”

    A naturalistic atheistic worldview definetly cannot explain it, only have faith that it is so

    Either it is so or it isn’t. Neither “worldview” demonstrates THAT it is so. Your worldview merely claims that it is so, but so what? Anyone else can make equally baseless claims. The only real difference is that everyone else but yourself refrains from doing so, because they don’t see the point. But if you insist that we play by your rules, then, sure, okay. We’ll play by them too.

    while the Christian worldview is able to explain why we expect and believe nature to be uniform.

    Telling a story about God’s motives for causing uniformity and explaining what uniformity is and how it comes to be are two very different things. I could tell a story in a “non-Christian worldview” that simply says that a non-sentient uniformity engine exists which produces uniformity. So what? If you want to play the game with a being that can do anything, I’ll just counter with a universe in which anything can happen. So what? That doesn’t really explain anything either.

    What you are doing is no different than people who cited God to explain when and why it rained. But this belief didn’t actually explain how rain works or is formed, or what influences when it falls. All it does is add yet another inexplicable entity on top of not explaining rain, and then tells an arbitrary story about its motives and hopes and dreams, all of which are just tagged on pointlessly.

    But you’re situation is worse than that. If you followed our your “we can’t know anything for sure about the laws of nature” position to it’s logical conclusion, you’d actually have to expect that nature would NOT be uniform.

    You seem to be using “logical conclusion” as a synonym for “non-sequitur” here. The only logical conclusion from “we don’t know,” or even “we can’t know,” is that we wouldn’t have any idea what to expect, not that we could then jump to the conclusion that we should expect this or that.

    Let me ask you a question: Why were the early scientific fathers able to assume that nature was uniform without anyone having assumed it before them and without any testing done to suggest it might be?

    Nearly every human being on earth makes the same basic assumptions as a matter of basic functioning. The early scientists essentially formalized this basic, and frankly unavoidable, assumption.

    Also, did their old-world, dogmatic, YEC belief in God hinder them from doing great science?

    Nope. But neither does their science validate their other dogmatic beliefs, anymore than Newtons math validates his belief in alchemy. Nor does the fact that those beliefs sometimes motivated them or gave them associative insights into things validate those beliefs either. Since you’re fond of quoting fallacies, I’ll leave it to you as an exercise to note which logical fallacy that asserting otherwise would be.

    An assumption is something you believe to be true without evidence.

    No, that’s not what an assumption is at all. Assumptions can perfectly well be provisional or even hypothetical. We don’t need to think they are true to use them.

    Christianity can explain that assumption while atheism cannot.

    No, Christianity can do nothing more than simply assume it as well. You can tell a story about why you think an all-powerful God would have chosen to make it that way, but that’s just another assumption on top of the first. Anyone can tell such a story. In fact, you need to make the original assumption even to get to your “worldview” in the first place. Unless you assume uniformity, then there’s no necessary reason why there’s any world out there to have questions about in the first place: there’s no longer anything that has to be explained.

  17. Jason says:

    I posted in June about how I ‘god did it’ is unacceptable as an explanation.

    http://ljasonl.wordpress.com/2008/06/06/supernatural-explanations-are-always-unacceptable/

  18. Jason S. says:

    Bad –

    Do you realize you are in a debate over a Christian Presuppostionalist, or at least one who uses Christian Presuppostionalist arguments? In this case, you are indeed dealing with a simple God of the Gaps argument applied to a fundamental issue of epistemology. While I agree entirely with your replies, knowing what your interlocutor is likely to go with this might help sharpen your focus.

    Here’s a different tack you might take: Ask him how he knows that God is a regular being who will not change the rules of nature willy nilly. After all, the God of the Bible is a rather unpredictable fellow and it is metaphysically possible he might not obey a regular nature to the extent that this is metaphysically possible of the universe qua the aggregate of all things. He’ll reply in some way that demonstrates that he simply presupposed it in the definition of his God. At that point, you can again ask what that gains over presupposing that brute fact by itself without attaching it to the properties of God.

  19. Eric Kemp says:

    Jason S.

    The problem with your approach is this . . . I AM presupposing that what God told us about Himself in Scripture is true, namely that “In Him all things hold together” and He “upholds all things by the Word of His power”. (That doesn’t point to a willy nilly God). And that if He DOES change it will be at the predetermined time of fulfilled prophecy to bring about His Kingdom on this Earth, all per faith in the Scriptures.

    However, and this is your problem and my argument, a randomly formed/created/begun universe is NOT law-like. It cannot account for the existence of natural laws (which are immaterial in nature), and it cannot account for universals in general. An orderly universe is absolutely necessary for science to be viable/valid. The atheistic worldview cannot explain how they believe nature behaves law-like in order to give science credibility, simply because random is the opposite of law-like.

  20. Tora Kiyoshi says:

    So, are you saying it’s just turtles all the way down?

    1) Everything in the universe happens by a cause.
    2) There cannot be an infinite regress of causes.
    3) Therefore, there must be a first, uncaused cause.

    Can science explain the first cause? Or do we simply deny it because you cannot measure it? There are things which cannot be empirically measured.

    -=TK

  21. Tora Kiyoshi says:

    Jason S.

    YHWH is hardly unpredictable. His nature throughout the text is immutable and constant, and all of his actions work together towards a specific purpose, which is clearly stated frequently throughout the text.

    The problem is that you’re clashing apples against oranges. Science answers how. Theism answers why.

    -=TK

  22. Jason S. says:

    Eric –

    God could be a liar. God could simply change what he said in the Bible, even if he said he wouldn’t. Saying he won’t begs the question of whether God behaves in a law-like fashion. You can’t simply assume otherwise without simply assuming God has the property of always telling the truth and that the truth won’t change. That is what allows you to then assume that God is a regular entity – meaning that he will behave in such a way that the past will resemble the present and future. You could get around that by showing that God is a necessary entity that necessarily tells a consistent, perfect truth, but if you had an argument for that, you wouldn’t need something as tenuous as your presuppositionalist argument in the first place.

    That gains you nothing over assuming the universe – as in the fundamental reality of nature – is law-like. It is actually worse, since it making that assumption of the universe is more metaphysically parsimonious.

  23. Jason S. says:

    Put in a more cute way by me here:

    http://pacumenispages.yuku.com/topic/10804

    Let’s take the TAG [transcendental argument for God] a bit further. David is right that one doesn’t need to presuppose a Christian God like the typical TAG’er will argue. For example, I have discovered epistemological man. E man, unlike the Christian God, is not much of a creator, is malevolent, and is highly limited. Like God, we cannot fully account for E man’s immortal nature, but his nature causes epistemological foundations to exist. He is the reason for the universes non-chaotic invariance. Upon my discovery someone else pointed out that even if E man exists, we don’t need to posit E man. He doesn’t need to be a “man” at all. The lesson E man bears is we can just ascribe things like casual regularity as the brute fact nature of many different kinds of objects and be in no worse a position. More importantly, holding the presuppostion that the universe is casually regular by brute fact posits one less entity than using God to say the very same thing. Why presuppose a regular God to presuppose the universe is regular when you can just presuppose the universe is regular?

  24. Jason S. says:

    P.S. Calling the atheist universe “random” because it does not propose that it was created by an intelligent entity and saying that means it is “random” in the sense of not being law-like is a rather obvious fallacy of equivocation. Those are two different meanings of the word random.

  25. Bad says:

    Eric: as I pointed out, you have no basis at all to claim that our universe should or should not be law-like, regardless of whatever you think it means to say that the universe is “random” (as people have tried to explain to you, “random” doesn’t really make much sense in the context you are using it, and one cannot generalize about the outcomes of randomness in any case without some knowledge about the odds of various outcomes, which you simply do not know).

    All of the things you say that we cannot account for, you cannot provide a theistic account for either. All you end up saying is that God made them happen (somehow: i.e. how is unexplained) for some motive you, again, simply arbitrarily make up to fit whatever you observe.

  26. Jason S. says:

    Bad –

    I think the case can be made more compelling. When he says that the atheist universe – meaning one where his particular notion of God hasn’t created it – is random and also asserts that random universes cannot be law-like, he is begging the question. More accurately, to the extent that he isn’t simply equivocating the word random, he is just asserting the point of dispute. He’s just saying that an uncreated universe cannot be law-like because uncreated universes cannot be law-like. Since that does not logically follow, he’s not really saying anything worthwhile. You might as well just parody his reasoning and say God, being uncreated, cannot be law-like.

    His particular argument here is just an old-fashioned God of the Gaps that could’ve been used by the ancient Greek to support Zeus, only instead applied to some fundamental, vexing problems of epistemology. And here, he is just saying that lightening cannot happen randomly – meaning not created by Zeus. Holy tautology batman.

  27. Eric Kemp says:

    Bad

    Our conversation ended with me explaining to you that you are expecting empirical explanations to metaphysical questions. You have a metaphysical belief that somehow matter created and/or formed itself into the universe we see around us, that somehow non-life became life and non-intelligence became intelligence. My belief is that this isn’t possible, and not only that, but that your belief about the beginning of the universe cannot explain our sense experience. All of our sense experience tells us that nature is uniform, a pure chance beginning to the universe is not conducive to a law-like universe.

    That is why I’m confused about the comment of yours above, are you saying that the universe isn’t law-like? Or that our sense expereince doesn’t tell us it is? My point is that God is law-like, based on what He has told about Himself per faith in the Scriptures. The nature of a law-like God explains why He created the universe law-like, because it’s in His nature. You have faith that some how a pure chance (since you don’t like the word “random”) universe became law-like all by itself. If you prefer to violate reason and believe that pure chance can create order/laws all by itself with no cause then be my guest, however to believe so and claim that a belief in God is LESS reasonable or LESS explanatory is a bit hypocritical.

  28. Eric Kemp says:

    Jason

    ” You can’t simply assume otherwise without simply assuming God has the property of always telling the truth and that the truth won’t change. That is what allows you to then assume that God is a regular entity – meaning that he will behave in such a way that the past will resemble the present and future.”

    Jason, you can stop trying to point out that I’m assuming things because I’ve already admitted that I’m assuming things.

    “That gains you nothing over assuming the universe – as in the fundamental reality of nature – is law-like.”

    You are begging the question. The question is, “What explains the uniformity of nature?”, your answer here is “The fact that nature is uniform explains the uniformity of nature”. You are basically saying, “It is because it is.”

    I’m confused. I thought that the beginning of the universe was uncaused, unplanned, unguided, had no purpose and was a chance occurance? Isn’t this so? So if the beginning of the universe wasn’t “random”, are you saying that it was guided? Guided by what? What’s your alternative to “random”?

    “When he says that the atheist universe – meaning one where his particular notion of God hasn’t created it – is random and also asserts that random universes cannot be law-like, he is begging the question.”

    The atheistic universe is one in which no god created anything. All of matter created itself or always existed and just creates new forms of itself. To say that some god could have created the universe is to not be an atheist. Are you saying that random can create order all by itself?

    “He’s just saying that an uncreated universe cannot be law-like because uncreated universes cannot be law-like.”

    Strawman. I’m saying that random is the opposite of law-like. Please show how I’m equivocating the word “random”, claiming a fallacy doesn’t make it true. You also have yet to provide a reason for why I should think that the universe wasn’t the product of pure chance (random).

  29. Jason S. says:

    As you are using the term, existence need not “random” if not created. It can simply be a regularity. There’s nothing incoherent about something just existing with order. If you think there is, the solution you propose doesn’t escape the same problem. I’m not sure if you are up to proposing that God was created in an infinite chain of regress or saying something incoherent like God created himself, but presumably you think God exists, with a law-like nature, despite not being created. You haven’t accounted for the uniformity of nature by saying “God did it” and then failing to account for how God has a uniform nature in a way the universe qua the aggregate of all things cannot. You fundamentally haven’t explained uniformity of nature, because you are just assuming it in the definition of God. In other words, you haven’t managed to explain the very thing you fault the atheist for not explaining. If you want to simply declare uniformity a property of god, the atheist can just as easily declare the same of the universe. Saying it can’t be because it is “random” – in this sense just meaning uncreated – flat begs the question.

  30. Bad says:

    Our conversation ended with me explaining to you that you are expecting empirical explanations to metaphysical questions.

    So, in other words, it ended with you making stuff up.

    You have a metaphysical belief that somehow matter created and/or formed itself into the universe we see around us, that somehow non-life became life and non-intelligence became intelligence.

    I don’t have any such belief. I do think we know plenty of important things about how the matter and energy of the BB formed the universe we see, some things about the origin of life, and even more about the development of intelligence. Your use of near Platonic reverence for terms like “life” and “intelligence” is, I think probably misguided. But I don’t claim to know everything when in fact I can only know what I can know. That, it appears, is your department.

    My belief is that this isn’t possible, and not only that, but that your belief about the beginning of the universe cannot explain our sense experience.

    The problem is that you have no real basis for asserting this. You’ve offered nothing at all to explain what our sense experience even is, much less described how it can be explained. As such, you are in no position at all to say that this or that cannot explain it.

    All of our sense experience tells us that nature is uniform, a pure chance beginning to the universe is not conducive to a law-like universe.

    Again, you have no basis for this claim. You don’t know if the start of the universe involved “pure chance” or not, and it’s not even clear what that would mean (because that is a use of the word chance that’s taken out of the very context in which such a concept makes sense), and further you cannot say that a uniform universe is likely or unlikely. What is your frame of reference on the universe? What other universes are you experienced with so that you know ours is so peculiar?

    That is why I’m confused about the comment of yours above, are you saying that the universe isn’t law-like? Or that our sense expereince doesn’t tell us it is?

    I certainly treat the universe as if it is uniform (“law-like” is, I think a source of confusion for you, because you seem to think of natural law as like a law passed by a ruler, when in fact laws are universally observed regularities, nothing more, nothing less), but we can only do this by simply assuming certain things.

    My point is that God is law-like, based on what He has told about Himself per faith in the Scriptures.

    But you can’t even read those scriptures or treat them as real without first conceding everything necessary to empiricism. Once you do, you’re left with a holy book that makes some vague claims, written by people that envisioned a powerful being.

    The nature of a law-like God explains why He created the universe law-like, because it’s in His nature.

    This is simply arbitrary though. If the universe were not whatever you mean by “law-like” then you (and people that envision God as a cause of something) would simply be here that God created some other way because THAT is his nature.

    You have faith that some how a pure chance (since you don’t like the word “random”) universe became law-like all by itself.

    It’s not that I don’t like the word. It’s that you are using the concept in a way that doesn’t really make any sense. How can you call something “random” when you have no idea what it’s like, and only one example of it, at best, to go on?

    If you prefer to violate reason and believe that pure chance can create order/laws all by itself with no cause then be my guest, however to believe so and claim that a belief in God is LESS reasonable or LESS explanatory is a bit hypocritical.

    Again, you’re just mangling the issues here. Simply, you have no basis to make your claims about how the universe is likely to be or not be. You have no actual explanation for why it is the way it is other than an arbitrary an infinitely adaptable tautology. You’ve revealed no secrets about the nature of the universe. All you’ve done is try to claim that your ideology is somehow connected to, or necessary to it all, despite a complete lack of demonstrating that it is so.

  31. Eric Kemp says:

    Jason

    “There’s nothing incoherent about something just existing with order.”

    Sure it is. When the beginning of that something is a product of pure chance (the universe isn’t guided by anything right?), then it’s illogical to think it would develop order from that chance beginning. Even so, you are AGAIN saying, “The universe is uniform because that’s just how it formed.” That’s not an explanation or a reason, you’re begging the question.

    “You fundamentally haven’t explained uniformity of nature, because you are just assuming it in the definition of God.”

    All of our sense experience tells us that nature is uniform. Only a God with a law-like nature can account for/explain what our sense experience is telling us, a pure chance begun universe cannot. Any fickle god of pagan traditions (and even the Mormon religion) couldn’t explain/account for a uniform universe. The Christian God is a law-like, rational God, that’s the worldview you’re arguing against.

    “If you want to simply declare uniformity a property of god, the atheist can just as easily declare the same of the universe.”

    Actually no you cannot. Even Bertrand Russell would agree with me. In the atheistic universe, since spiritual things don’t exist, the only way to actually know something is to observe it empirically. In order to say, “uniformity is a property of the universe” you’d have to test every single square inch of the universe to find if it all acts the same way. Again, even so, saying “The universe is uniform because it just is” doesn’t answer anything.

    You can claim all you want that a pure chance beginning doesn’t necessarily mean that the universe couldn’t form order, but that is a statement of faith since a similar occurance (chance becoming orderly all by itself) has never been observed. Your statement of faith is that chance can form order with no cause and my statement of faith is that God exists, what’s the difference?

  32. Eric Kemp says:

    Bad

    I had said: “Our conversation ended with me explaining to you that you are expecting empirical explanations to metaphysical questions.”

    You replied: “So, in other words, it ended with you making stuff up.”

    Actually, if you would go back in our discussion on “Response to Bad Idea” you would see that I laid it our pretty clearly and can argue with me there if you disagree. Or I can repost it here, whichever you like.

    “I don’t have any such belief. I do think we know plenty of important things about how the matter and energy of the BB formed the universe we see, some things about the origin of life, and even more about the development of intelligence.”

    Wait, I’m confused. Are you saying that matter DIDN’T form itself into the universe we see around us? Meaning that some outside force or being acted upon matter and created it or changed it? If you are attempting to use the “well we just don’t know yet” cop-out, I would then say to you: without God creating the universe, you MUST believe that it’s possible that matter can create itself and/or formed itself into what we see around us without cause or without a knowable cause. There’s no way you can get around it.

    I’m not saying that you have to “know” anything. In fact, I don’t recall using that word. I’m talking about the metaphysical beliefs you must have since God didn’t create the universe.

    “You don’t know if the start of the universe involved “pure chance” or not, and it’s not even clear what that would mean (because that is a use of the word chance that’s taken out of the very context in which such a concept makes sense), and further you cannot say that a uniform universe is likely or unlikely.”

    The American Heritage Dictionary defines chance as:

    1a. “The unknown and unpredictable element in happenings that seems to have no assignable cause.”

    So, in your belief, what “caused” the universe so that it’s beginning wasn’t a chance occurance?

    “But you can’t even read those scriptures or treat them as real without first conceding everything necessary to empiricism.”

    Explain.

    “This is simply arbitrary though. If the universe were not whatever you mean by “law-like” then you (and people that envision God as a cause of something) would simply be here that God created some other way because THAT is his nature.”

    Ok, but nature IS uniform and a rational God DOES explain it.

    ” How can you call something “random” when you have no idea what it’s like, and only one example of it, at best, to go on?”

    I mean random and chance in the sense that the universe came about without cause or reason.

    ” Simply, you have no basis to make your claims about how the universe is likely to be or not be.”

    I’m not doing anything of the sort. I’m claiming something very obvious, which is that nature appears to be uniform. And that a universe which is guided by a rational God explains this uniformity. And that since your view is that nature is unguided (there is no God), then the universe was brought about by pure chance, and still operates on this principle. A pure chance universe does not explain uniformity

  33. Anonomouse says:

    “Again, even so, saying “The universe is uniform because it just is” doesn’t answer anything.”

    Just like saying “The universe is uniform because god made it.” doesn’t answer anything either.

  34. Bad says:

    Eric: how are you going to go about hearing anyone tell you about Scripture if you don’t accept the reality of the world around you? How are you going to get from your living room chair over to the bookshelf without conceding empirical reality? How could you take yoru first step, or even know that taking a step towards the bookshelf is more likely to be effective than a step away? Or poking yourself in the ear? Or even having a body to do anything with?

    You still seem deeply confused about the difference between knowing the cause of something, and there not being a cause of something.

    Once again: we don’t know if the universe had or needs a cause to explain it. And if it needed, and had, a cause, then we don’t have any idea what the capacities of this cause would need to be. There’s no particular reason to assume that it was a God, or that only God could be such a cause. We can’t make any such presumptions without first knowing what it is we’re talking about.

    So simply saying that “God caused it” first off simply ignores our continued ignorance about the nature of the universe (did it have to be caused? Not? Is it even like anything we have any experience with at all anyway?), and second of all, for the reasons I outlined in the post, doesn’t actually explain anything about what is required to cause a universe (i.e. what we were trying to explain). Saying that God did something is, with the way you’ve defined it, about as far from saying specifically what was done as you can get. It’s litterally no better than if I went around explaining everything with “it’s magic.” or “Of course the universe had a cause: it was magic !”

    You also don’t seem to understand why the arbitrary nature of your explanation makes it worthless. As I said, if the universe even could be non-uniform (and you still haven’t explained how you know that it could), and was, your explaination would work equally as well. This is like saying that if it rains, my magic, invisible elf made that happen, and if it doesn’t rain, my magic eld made that happen too. And your retort is like me saying “Ah, but it did rain, thus proving the power of my elf.” There’s nothing in those “explanations” that has any _necessity_ or really any connection at all to what they are explaining. There is no state of affairs that, by how you define God, you could agree that this state of affairs implies the lack of a God.

    As to your confusion about the origin of the universe as we know it, note that matter did not always exist: it came relatively late in the process of the formation of the universe as we know it. When I talk about matter, I mean matter specifically.

    As for your “There’s no way you can get around it.” bit, I’m a bit amused. You said that: I “MUST believe that it’s possible that matter can create itself and/or formed itself into what we see around us without cause or without a knowable cause.” Now, lets ignore the part about matter, given that we DO know most of how and why matter formed (talking about “itself” doing it is sort of goofy, but whatever), and assume you just mean the origin of the universe itself, whatever it is. What you’ve just said that, given that I don’t claim to know if there was and if so what the origin of the universe was (or whether or not it’s knowable), what I MUST believe is essentially that it’s either caused or uncaused. Which, as it happens, exhausts ALL LOGICAL POSSIBILITY. That “MUST” doesn’t limit me very much, given that it encompasses litterally anything.

    Note that I don’t even have to posit, and haven’t, the claim that God didn’t cause the universe. I don’t claim to know that, and don’t have to to merely not see any compelling reason to believe it. I’m just pointing out that you can’t possibly claim to “know” that either, based on your arguments, which don’t hold up to scrutiny.

    As to your definition of chance, I don’t know how many ways it can be explained: you are trying to use concepts of “unpredictable” in a context where they have no real meaning. How can you possibly “predict” or not what is likely for a universe to be like? You keep equivocating around this issue by pointing to the “no assignable cause” part of the definition, but this part is immaterial. Yes: we don’t know if there was a cause or not, what it was, or if there even had to be or not. But this has nothing to do with whether or not something is actually a chance occurrence in the sense you are trying to use it in your argument: i.e. that it is somehow unlikely to expect the universe to be uniform. Whether we know the cause of something or not has nothing to do with whether or not it was all up to pure, infinite possibility metaphysical chance in the sense your argument employs the idea.

  35. Anonomouse says:

    Around and around and around we go on Eric Kemp’s logic wheel.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: