Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Evidence for God: Arguments 1-7 (Philosophy)

I've started reading "Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science" edited by William Dembski and Mike Licona. This is (as you might gather from the title) a Christian apologetic defence of God.

So I'll comment (briefly, I hope) on each of the 50 arguments presented, and let you know how compelling, or otherwise, I find them. Please comment, if you want. Here's section one: The Question of Philosophy...

1. The Cosmological Argument by David Beck
I've commented on this argument several times recently in the posts relating to the William Lane Craig debates (e.g. here). The argument is stated slightly differently here from how WLC says it, and it doesn't go as far in its implications as WLC's version. Here the argument is:
  1. What we observe and experience in our universe is contingent
  2. A network of causally dependent contingent things cannot be infinite
  3. A network of causally dependent contingent things must be finite
  4. Therefore, there must be a first cause.
The book doesn't really go on to try and demonstrate that the first cause must be personal, etc., that is left implied. The more I think about this argument, the more I realise it should have the clause 'in time and space' in all four points, thus:
  1. What we observe and experience in our universe in time and space is contingent
  2. A network of causally dependent contingent things in time and space cannot be infinite
  3. A network of causally dependent contingent things in time and space must be finite
  4. Therefore, there must be a first cause in time and space.
Points 1-3 cannot be applied to anything outside of time and space as it relies on our experience and observations, and it relies on the assumption of a temporal chain of events, which by definition must happen within time. So the conclusions of this argument must only apply within time and space. Thus, if he is the first cause, God must be within the temporal universe, not external to it, or the creator of it. This, I am sure, is not the point the apologists using this argument want to prove.

Having reflected on WLC's version of the argument for a few months now, I think there is another flaw in the argument which I hadn't got to grips with before. It assumes time and space are independent. Einstein explained how time and space are connected. It is only our perspective that puts the arrow of time onto reality. Viewed from other perspectives, there is not necessarily a time 'origin'.

Imagine all of 4D space-time as a bubble or a sphere (in much the same way as a 3D sphere can be drawn on paper as a 2D circle). The south-north axis is our 'arrow of time' as we perceive it. What we have at the pole is not a 'beginning' as WLC would have it, but only a boundary - the edge of the space-time bubble. Not everything that has a boundary requires a cause...

Another of my many (and varied) thoughts on this is that the cosmological argument assumes that the cause of an event must come before the effect in time. And yet, if we accept the argument of a timeless agent, this isn't necessarily the case. Many apologists, I'm sure, would accept the claim that the death and resurrection of Jesus is the central event in history. Now, consider the salvation of Godly people who lived in Old Testament times. Did Christ's saving act on the cross influence their salvation? Many would say 'yes' - so the cause of some effect does not necessarily happen before the effect in time. Similarly, what about OT prophecy regarding Jesus - surely Jesus was the cause and the prophecy the effect, even though the effect came first?

So in arguing that there was a first cause, we do not need to argue that the first cause was before the first effect, or indeed, has even happened yet. We could still be waiting for the 'first' cause to come around. Now if the first cause hasn't necessarily happened yet, why can't it be part of a cause and effect chain itself? Maybe something we do in the future will have cosmological effects which start the whole thing off in 'the past'?

I'm not saying that this is what I believe, I just think that there are holes in the cosmological argument, such that it isn't strong enough to stand alone. More evidence is needed. Maybe the other 49 bits of evidence will make a strong case...

2. The Moral Argument for God's Existence by Paul Copan
I've been over this ground in other posts recently, so I'll keep this brief. In my opinion, this line of reasoning only leads to the conclusion that there is something greater than the individual. Morality is defined relative to the greater 'entity' not to the individual. As far as I can tell, the argument cannot take us to conclude that the greater thing is God. In my opinion, it could be simply 'human society' - the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Things that are beneficial for society as a whole are deemed moral, things which are detrimental to society as a whole are deemed immoral.

Copan's argument is clearly aimed at bible-believing Christians and probably won't wash with unbelieving skeptics. He quotes bible verses all over the place. Once again, this confirms the suspicion that apologetics is not about winning new converts, but rather about boosting the confidence of already committed believers.

3. Near Death Experiences by Gary Habermas
This is an odd piece of 'evidence'. At no point does Habermas demonstrate that the existence of NDEs requires there to be a God. He seems to take it as read that any evidence for the 'supernatural' implies there must be a God.

I've heard Habermas in debate on this topic before. His 'killer' piece of evidence concerns 'Katie' an eleven year old girl who had an NDE and during this, amongst other things, saw an angel called 'Elizabeth' and a glimpse of her family many miles away - she was able to accurately state what it was her mother cooked for dinner and what toys her brother was playing with.

Having just Googled this, the odd thing is I can find no evidence for this story outside of apologetics. The only people who discuss or mention the case are using it as evidence for God, with no further citations. For me, that raises an alarm warning bell. But even if the story is true and accurately presented, what does it tell us? Only that weird and unexplainable things happen. Nothing at all about NDEs says anything about the existence (or otherwise) of God. I'm not even sure that NDEs are evidence for 'the supernatural' - at present, all we can say is that there is some weird psychology going on near death and NDEs have not yet managed to demonstrate any extra sensory perception to anyone who is not pre-inclined to believe in it anyway.

4. Naturalism by L. Russ Bush III
Another odd one. This offers no evidence for God, but only an argument why Naturalism isn't a coherent worldview. The chapter assumes there are only two possibilities: (i) there is a God, or, (ii) there is only Naturalism. It then assumes if it can pick holes in (ii) that (i) wins by default.

The author seems to think that the naturalist's reason for reason is basically chemical reactions in the brain, and if he says that often enough he will discredit naturalism. The main point here is that the human ability to think and reason is (in the naturalistic view) the result of a non-rational process of evolution and rests entirely on chemical processes and psychological processes which we have no reason to trust. Whereas the theist view starts off with rationality and reason, so it is only in the theistic worldview that we can actually trust our own reasoning.

The problem with this is that the author's case boils down to the belief that the pre-supposition of reason at the start of the process of creation is better than the evidence based observation that reason only came late on in the process of evolution. In other words, he asserts that "reason just is" has more explanatory power than "reason evolved". He also seems to assume that humans are reasonable and rational beings, rather than just appearing that way, but offers no evidence that we actually are reasonable. Many psychologists would disagree and point out that you actually can't trust your own reasoning, much of the time. Which actually makes the naturalist case more compelling.

5. Suffering for what? by Bruce A. Little
This is the first piece of 'evidence' in this book which actually provides no evidence at all, for anything. The author contends that the Christian experiences three different types of suffering:
  1. Suffering for righteousness
  2. Suffering in the same way as everyone else
  3. Suffering because of willful disobedience to God
He quotes many bible verses to explain why this should be. What he doesn't do at any point is demonstrate that Christians actually suffer in ways that are demonstrably different from non-Christians. Yes, Christians at times are persecuted because of their beliefs. But then again, so are Sikhs, so are Jews, so are Sunni Muslims, etc. Basically any group has, at times, suffered at the hands of another group who are different and more powerful than them. So point 1 is no evidence of anything. Neither is point 2, because it says there is no difference between Christians and anyone else, which is no evidence, once again. So we are left with point 3. He gives no testable examples. Certainly, some Christians interpret certain types of suffering as a punishment from God at various times in their lives. But, once again, so do Muslims, Jews, etc. Given there is nothing quantifiable about the difference between Christian suffering and the suffering experienced by anyone else, this is no evidence for any God, let alone the Christian God.

The thing I don't understand about this chapter is why it is even here? It doesn't even attempt to give evidence for God. The reasoning 'there is suffering, therefore there is God' is counter intuitive to the max, and would need some unpacking - which isn't even attempted. Literally pointless.

6. Responding to the argument from evil by David Wood
This chapter isn't evidence for God, but rather it gives a response to one of the stronger atheist arguments. The reasoning being that if it can be shown that an argument is flawed, the conclusions are therefore also flawed. Of course that is a fallacy, you can use a poor argument to try and defend a truth. Indeed, the whole point of this blog post is not to demonstrate that there is no God, but only to demonstrate that these apologetics arguments are flawed, whether or not there is a God. As this chapter points out, some of the atheist arguments have holes in them too.

The Argument from Evil (AE) is not perfect. To be honest, I've never come across a perfect argument for anything. All arguments have holes. Arguments are not the same as mathematical proofs. Mathematical proofs demonstrate that their conclusion must be the case. The best an argument can do is conclude something beyond reasonable doubt. Of course, what constitutes reasonable doubt is another debate...

So this chapter does, essentially, what I am doing to the other chapters in this book. Picks holes. It picks at the hole that assumes God wants a world free from suffering, it picks at the hole (which isn't there) that misunderstands what the Christian means by the word "faith". It also picks at the hole that misunderstands what the Christian means by the word "good", which is actually a rerun of the first hole picking, expressed in different words. The strongest part of this hole picking is the 'awareness assumption' that assumes that if God has reasons for allowing suffering that we must necessarily be able to comprehend these reasons. This is the hardest point for the atheist to defend.

But having made this point, the author basically says the best defence against the AE is to use the offence of the cosmological and moral arguments. Basically he admits he can't refute the AE, he can only cast some doubt on it and then change the subject by using multiple other arguments. I'm not sure this is good enough. I don't think this is sufficient to go 'beyond reasonable doubt'. But anyway, the author gets to say more in the next chapter...

7. God, Suffering and Santa Claus by David Wood
This chapter presents a direct contest between theism and atheism. Which worldview has the better explanatory power? The chapter uses the example of Santa. Where do the presents come from on Chrismas morning? When a child dismisses the notion that it was Santa who put them there, they don't jump to assuming 'the presents just are' but rather attribute the present giving to another agent, namely their parents. In doing this, he seems to be assuming that 'agency' as the best explanation for almost everything, which may be flawed thinking.

He asserts that if a theory can explain multiple observations, but not all observations, that the theory should not necessarily be dismissed. He explains that theism can explain: (a) the fact of existence, (b) the fine-tuning of the universe, (c) the origin of life, (d) the rise of consciousness, (e) moral values, and (f) miracles. The claim that theism can't explain (g) suffering shouldn't, by itself, be enough to dismiss theism. He then asserts that atheism can't explain any of the points (a) to (f) above, so theism shown to be a better explanation of reality than atheism.

The problem with this, is that it is a highly 'cherry picked' list of things. If there are only six things that theism can explain that atheism can't, then theism is in serious trouble. I'm sure that if I put my mind to it, I could find six things that atheism can explain which theism can't.

And I'm not sure theism actually does have a better answer to all of the above than atheism. (a) theism pre-supposes existence (the existence of God), it doesn't explain it. (b) the apparent fine-tuning of the universe is a necessary condition for our existence - the fact that we are able to ask the question pre-supposes the fine-tuning. It doesn't pre-suppose a fine-tuner. We have no idea how many universes with different tuning have been and gone with no life, or how many lifeless universes there currently are in the multiverse. All solutions to this question, whether theist or non-theist require the invocation of an unseen infinite, and so all arguments are equally flawed. (c) as with (a) this is a pre-supposition of theism, that God lives at the outset, so life is not explained, it is merely asserted. (d) is much like (a) and (c) a pre-supposition. (e) moral values - I've dealt with that above. And finally (f) miracles. The funny thing about this is that the author of the chapter claims that the resurrection of Jesus is more believable than the 'absurd phenomena' of mass hallucinations. Despite the fact that we have good hard evidence for mass hallucinations in recent history, and no hard evidence for resurrection.

The thing is, 'atheism' isn't a single explanatory theory, it is basically a rejection of the 'theism' theory which pre-supposes most of its own conclusions. So we're running around in circles here.

So that's the first selection of 'evidence' for God in this book. I must say that all the arguments presented either do not really pertain to the subject at hand, or have holes in them. Once again, that's not to say that there is no God, only to say that none of these arguments is good enough evidence to conclude his existence. The next section deals with science, so we'll see how I get on with that in a few days time...

18 comments:

Mike McQuaid said...

Agreed about apologetics being mostly about backing up believers than convincing atheists. As I've learnt many times there is a difference between winning a debate/argument and actually convincing someone.
Normally the latter requires relationship and direct experiences from both parties. The lack of acknowledgement of this I think is why there's so many people drifting away from theism: in terms of logical argument I think atheism often wins but that does not mean their claims are true.

Jake said...

Hi Ricky, long time no speak.

"Thus, if he is the first cause, God must be within the temporal universe, not external to it, or the creator of it."

I don't think this is true or implied by the Cosmological argument. This first cause is unlike any of the subsequent causes. Before the first effect there was nothing. No time no matter. I think it's poor logic to reason that the first cause must be like the rest of the causes (in time and space). Otherwise you're pretty much saying the universe is infinite. Any "first cause" must be in time, so time has always existed.

I also don't think there's any assumption that time and space are independent. The argument is looking for a creator of time and space together. Only God qualifies as he exists timeless and space-less.

Ricky Carvel said...

Hi Jake, welcome back.

Obviously, I disagree. ;o)

If the first cause is necessarily different to all the other causes, we cannot infer back from them to tell us anything about the first cause.

Thus the first premise of the cosmological argument cannot apply to the first cause.

So the argument fails.

And, outside of this argument, where is the evidence that God is timeless and spaceless? You can't invoke an assertion with no evidence to explain anything...

Jake said...

"If the first cause is necessarily different to all the other causes, we cannot infer back from them to tell us anything about the first cause."

The first cause MUST be unlike all subsequent causes because it is first! Expecting it to be like subsequent causes truly is absurd. The only reason it's worth discussing is its uniqueness.

Imagine me and my coffee maker. When i press the button, the coffee maker brews coffee. I'm unlike my coffee maker because I'm a causal agent. I make things happen. The coffee maker doesn't make decisions, it just does what it's told. It's turned on (by me) it makes coffee. It's turned off (by me) it cools down. So if you walked into my house and the coffee maker is on, you could rationally assume that I turned it on and I plan to have some coffee. So the effect, while having very little in common with me, tells you something about me. So the subsequent effects of the first cause can tell you something about it, while being fundamentally different.

"And, outside of this argument, where is the evidence that God is timeless and spaceless? You can't invoke an assertion with no evidence to explain anything..."

What do you mean by evidence? Not like you can have a picture of an immaterial being. However, you can deduce that an immaterial, timeless first cause is necessary if the universe began to exists, like the Cosmological quite plausibly shows.

Jake said...

"In my opinion, it could be simply 'human society' - the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. Things that are beneficial for society as a whole are deemed moral, things which are detrimental to society as a whole are deemed immoral."

I think this is a very flawed definition of morality. You could argue that executing people over 80 would be "beneficial to society as a whole". They're not working. We could use their savings to fund all kinds of scientific research. They cost a fortune in socially subsidized healthcare. They've had their chance to live life, time to sacrifice for the good of society.

I think it's impossible to come up with an alternative source for objective morality without God. Which is why the argument is so powerful.

Ricky Carvel said...

Jake,

Sorry, I wrote that last response when I was tired.

What I meant to say was that the first 'event' (not 'cause') must be different from all the events which follow it, thus the basic premises, based on observation of subsequent events, do not apply to the event. There is no way to demonstrate that the first event must have a first cause, as we have no analogous events to compare it with.

I understand the logic of the cosmological argument. If the premises are true, and we are legitimately able to extrapolate them back in time to the origin of all things, then the argument could be used to defend the notion that there must be a 'first cause'. However, to go beyond this and claim that the first cause is 'plausibly personal' (as WLC does) is to go far beyond the remit of the argument.

If we accept that there was a first cause, and that this first cause somehow 'initiated' time (in quotes, because 'initiated' is a temporal word, but you know what I mean), then it does follow that the first cause was timeless. If the first cause formed space and matter, then it follows that the first cause was immaterial.

Now, what do we know of that is timeless and immaterial? Nothing. Actually nothing. Literally nothing.

God, as presented in the holy books of all religions which have a god, acts within time, something a timeless thing cannot do. He (or they) also effect change in the material world, something an immaterial entity cannot do.

Until further evidence is found, I can see no other explanation for the first cause other than it was nothing. How this can be, I don't know, but anything else requires far more than the cosmological argument to get there.

Ricky Carvel said...

"I think this is a very flawed definition of morality. You could argue that executing people over 80 would be "beneficial to society as a whole". They're not working. We could use their savings to fund all kinds of scientific research. They cost a fortune in socially subsidized healthcare. They've had their chance to live life, time to sacrifice for the good of society.

I think it's impossible to come up with an alternative source for objective morality without God. Which is why the argument is so powerful."


For some reason, and I'll admit I don't know what it is, morals don't have speed limits.

What I mean by that is that the moral opinion is that 'human life is valuable' and it is not 'human life is valuable up until a certain point, after which it becomes worthless'.

This is why abortion is such a tricky issue, there is no clear line which is crossed somewhere between conception and birth. Is 'aborting' a collection of 8 splitting cells mere moments after conception wrong? I tend to think no. Is terminating a pregnancy after 6 months wrong? I tend to think yes. But there is no clear line between the two that marks the cutoff, so this is a moral conundrum.

The same applies to the 80 years old cutoff. I know two people (one a relative, one through work connections) who are both well into their 90s and are fully functioning members of society - one still 'works' to some extent and is no financial drain on society at all. The other still helps out in church, etc., and is a blessing to many people. Again, there is no clear cutoff. Human life has value.

Neither of those observations above relies on a God concept to drive it.

On the other hand, if morality does come from God, then why his he so biased in favour of humans? We have no in-built objective morality which prevents us from slaughtering animals for food, for clothing, as offerings to God or simply for fun.

Morals are very, very human-centric. Thus a human origin is implied.

Jake said...

WLC claims that we do know of two kinds of things that are immaterial and timeless: 1. a personal entity, God and 2. impersonal entities like propositions and numbers. I think one seems to be the obviously more plausible.

Isn't time just a 4th dimension? If you draw a picture of a snake on a piece of paper it exists only in 2 dimensions. Then if you form the paper into a circle and tape the ends together, now the picture of the snake is in three dimensions. But you can flatten the paper back down to be 2 dimensions again. Couldn't an all-powerful being choose to enter and exit into a dimension as he sees fit? I think you are putting unnecessary limitations on God.

Jake said...

The moral argument concerns moral ontology (is there right or wrong?) not moral epistemology (how do we know what is right or wrong). In your abortion example you are looking for what is right. You admit that you can't discern what the answer is. But by even looking for an answer you've admitted that right and wrong exist. Otherwise a line could be defensibly be drawn at any number of points.

The Bible explains that morals only apply to people because we are made in the image of God and in short, we're special. Animals were created to be our subjects.

If naturalism is true and there is no God, only then would it be necessary to apply morality to animals. Because on that world view we are just animals.

Ricky Carvel said...

Jake,

This is where WLC's argument is circular. He is using the cosmological argument to prove the existence of God, yet he needs to assume the existence of God (as one of the two possibilities) in order to make his case.

We don't 'know' of the existence of a timeless, spaceless, immaterial God outside of this argument, which is seeking to prove that a timeless, spaceless, immaterial God exists.

And round we go again...

Ricky Carvel said...

Re: morality

As I've said in other threads here, the question is not is there right and wrong, but is there objective right and wrong which requires an external (and personal) definer of morality.

Those defending the moral argument for God rarely use Biblical evidence (such as you just did, citing that we are made in the image of God) as it is such a minefield.

Is morality defined by God, or is he subject to it? If it is wrong to commit murder, why is it not wrong for God to destroy all of mankind and all animals (save a very few on a boat) in Genesis?

How about when God gets humans to kill other humans, as in the book of Joshua. God orders men to over-ride their built in (and objective?) morality. That is not a moral act.

If God is allowed to change his mind regarding morality, then nothing, absolutely nothing, can be considered an objective moral fact.

Then again, if God is subject to morality, then he is on record as doing immoral things.

To summarise: if God is the moral law giver, then the God described in the bible is not God.

To summarise the summary: the moral argument, if valid, undermines the bible.

Jake said...

WLC surely isn't circular. Though how I described it does appear to be.

I didn't need to say that "we do know of two kinds of things that are immaterial and timeless". The argument concludes the necessity of something that fits this description. Whether we can imagine it or not is irrelevant.

Though the next step in the argument is can a first cause be impersonal, (i.e. have no personality to base any decision to create)? If the universe is contingent, it requires a decision bring it into effect. This is just not something an impersonal entity could do.

So the argument concludes a timeless, immaterial, personal first cause. Again whether we can imagine what this may be, is irrelevant. You have to disprove one of the premises.

Ricky Carvel said...

"WLC surely isn't circular. Though how I described it does appear to be."

WLC isn't infallible. Maybe he does use circular reasoning. ;o)

"I didn't need to say that "we do know of two kinds of things that are immaterial and timeless". The argument concludes the necessity of something that fits this description. Whether we can imagine it or not is irrelevant."

Indeed. The question is whether or not we have evidence for it.

As I've said before, WLC's 'two kinds of things' argument is a deliberate sleight of hand. By setting up the 'straw man' of the "abstract object, like a number" he makes the other suggestion seem more plausible. I'd say the only things we know that are timeless, spaceless and immaterial are either:
(a) Impossible, or
(b) Imaginary.

Now we know that it can't be an impossible thing that is the first cause, so it must be an imaginary thing. QED.

Except that doesn't work, just by stating that there are only two options doesn't mean that one of them must be right. I don't think either are right, so the flaw must be in the premises of the argument. Just because you can't see the flaw, doesn't mean its not there.

"Though the next step in the argument is can a first cause be impersonal, (i.e. have no personality to base any decision to create)? If the universe is contingent, it requires a decision bring it into effect. This is just not something an impersonal entity could do."

But, as I've argued before, action requires time. There must be a transition from the time before the action was started to the time after it. A timeless entity cannot act. Cannot make a decision. Cannot be a cause.

Given this, is it not more plausible that the first cause occurred within time, but just not necessarily chronologically before the first event? Why should time be linear?

(NB, I don't necessarily believe that, but it does seem a simpler explanation than the impossible timeless entity.)

Jake said...

I didn't day that objective morality exists because the Bible said so.

You asked "if morality does come from God, then why his he so biased in favour of humans?" Presuming, for the sake of argument that God exists. I gave Biblical evidence why morality applies only to humans.

Had you not presumed that God exists, I couldn't answer your question because I believe morality just becomes a matter of opinion without God. You could apply it to humans, animals or plants, whatever you want.

I do agree that Joshua provides an interesting problem in Biblical moral epistemology. But this has no bearing on the moral argument. The argument says nothing of what is right or wrong, only that right and wrong objectively exist.

Jake said...

"WLC isn't infallible. Maybe he does use circular reasoning. ;o)"

Many of the people he's defeated in debates accuse him of way worse things!

"...just by stating that there are only two options doesn't mean that one of them must be right"

It does when they're mutually exhaustive like personal and impersonal. I think we've been around this block before. You say that it's possible there's some other impersonal entity that could be the first cause. But you can't come up with an example, so it's hard for me to take it seriously.

"But, as I've argued before, action requires time. There must be a transition from the time before the action was started to the time after it. A timeless entity cannot act."

I think I've argued before that actions don't necessarily take time. Some are timeless. Like the start of a foot race. The 100m dash takes 10 seconds. But how long does it take to start? No time. How long does the finish take? No time. Did the person start the race and finish? Yes and Yes, but those actions cannot be measured in time.

So think of God starting the universe like the start of a race. A necessary timeless begining.

Ricky Carvel said...

I said: "...just by stating that there are only two options doesn't mean that one of them must be right"

Jake said: "It does when they're mutually exhaustive like personal and impersonal."

But WLC doesn't offer those two possibilities, he offers "abstract object, like a number" or "plausibly personal entity" - these aren't mutually exclusive.

And your 100m race analogy doesn't work, because all the events happen within time. The start is the transition between the time before the race and the time during the race, it is a temporal transition, so not in any way analogous to the boundary between non-time and time.

Jake said...

"But WLC doesn't offer those two possibilities, he offers "abstract object, like a number" or "plausibly personal entity" - these aren't mutually exclusive."

I'm pretty sure he does. The argument continues:
4. The timeless immaterial first cause must be personal or impersonal.
5. Impersonal entities don't cause anything.
6. Therefore the universe has an timeless immaterial personal cause.

The support for premise 5 is that impersonal entities (whether material or immaterial) do not make decisions and therefore cannot bring contingent things into being. Maybe the example "number 7 doesn't cause anything" is a bit rhetorical. But the underlying argument isn't a false dichotomy or straw man. It's an exercise in testing the plausibility of premise 5. It's how philosophy is done.

"And your 100m race analogy doesn't work, because all the events happen within time."

You seem to be indicating that you think time has always existed. Based upon current understanding of cosmology, there was a first event in time. A race that started at time = 0, that there was no "before". A race that needs a timeless starter.

Ricky Carvel said...

Jake,

We're just running around in circles here. On the one hand you assert:

"5. Impersonal entities don't cause anything."

Meanwhile I assert:

"A timeless entity cannot act. Cannot make a decision. Cannot be a cause."

One of those must be wrong. You haven't convinced me its mine, I haven't convinced you its yours.

Of course, in Quantum Mechanics we find that radioactive decay apparently does happen without cause, but unfortunately I have to use the word 'apparently' in there, so I'm unlikely to win the argument on that one.

I actually think the problem with the argument is in point 1, that 'everything that begins has a cause', as the definition of 'begins' is problematic. But I said all that in the original post.

"You seem to be indicating that you think time has always existed. Based upon current understanding of cosmology, there was a first event in time. A race that started at time = 0, that there was no "before". A race that needs a timeless starter."

Yes. Time has always existed. Always is a temporal word and is meaningless outside of the concept of time. Just like 'start' and 'begin' and even 'cause', they are all meaningless outside of time. I'd go further and say that 'entity' and 'personal' are meaningless outside of time. I suppose you can consider a Narnia-esque 'different time from our own' as being outside of 'our' time, and then temporal words can work, but that doesn't solve anybody's problems.

I'll admit, I simply cannot get my head around the concept of a timeless, spaceless, yet personal entity. Only interaction makes someone personal, and interaction must occur within time.

Of course, just because I don't understand something doesn't make it impossible, but here we're talking about reasoning, so we're aiming for a comprehendable line of reasoning.