God and the cause of the universe

A large and powerful tradition within Christendom has always asserted that faith in God’s existence (and His revelation through Christ) is a rational belief based on evidence, i.e. grounded in the same way our beliefs about the natural world are.

Given that the large majority of Conservative Christians take this approach, it has always dumbstruck me to see the New Atheists always describing faith as “pretending to now what you don’t know” and completely ignoring the fact that very few Christians hold to that view.

R.D. Mika wrote an interesting post about such an attempt to prove God’s existence  by using the fact that our universe began to exist (at the Big Bang).

 

“It is without a doubt true that different people respond to arguments differently. In particular, the wayin which an argument is presented may make the difference in whether a person properly perceives and understands the argument or not. Now the Kalam Cosmological Argument—as formulated by William Lane Craig—is, at present, an incredibly popular argument for theism. Its premises have been attacked and defended multiple times over and from all sorts of different angles. Many people think that the Kalam argument, as it is popularly formulated, is sound, and many people think the opposite.

 
What I wish to offer in this post is one way that the Kalam argument can be reformulated in order to change its presentation and argumentative focus, which might, in turn, make it more appealing and understandable to certain people who might not appreciate it as much when it is presented in its popular formulation. In particular, what I propose is to change the argument structure from a straight deductive argument to a type of “trilemma” argument. Changing the argument in this way will thus force the argument’s opponent to positively select one option of the trilemma, rather than simply allowing him to search for and offer “possible” objections to the traditional premises of the argument. And this, in turn, means that the positive selection that the opponent makes can then be scrutinized and shown to be less reasonable (even irrational) in comparison to the other selections that are on offer. In addition, by forcing the opponent of the argument to actually make a choice as to which option he finds most reasonable, it also prevents the opponent from hiding behind a type intellectual agnosticism or selective skepticism, which he can do to a greater degree when the argument is formulated in the traditional way. Furthermore, by presenting the argument in a trilemma format, where the options are clearly presented and the consequences of accepting those options are absolutely clear as well, the trilemma option can, with absolute clarity, show the enormously steep price that needs to be paid in order to deny the option that supports the Kalam. Also, because it is an argument format that lays all the options out on the table before a person, and because those options can be readily and easily compared, the trilemma format further shows just how absurd it is to choose the options that go against the Kalam argument in comparison to the options that support the argument. Finally, because it shares the many strengths of an “inference to the best explanation” argument format, the trilemma method of presenting the Kalam argument is more natural and easily understandable for the common man. Consider that when a mother finds that the cookie jar on the top shelf of the kitchen has been raided, she will likely reason in the same way that this reformulation of the Kalam will use. She will, for example, consider that the only three individuals that could possibly be responsible for raiding the cookie jar are her three children: Billy, Bob, and Brent. But since Billy was sleeping at the time of the incident and Bob is just a baby and does not know where the cookie jar is (nor could he reach it), then the only candidate left, beyond a reasonable doubt, is Brent. So, the mother reasons, Brent is the only candidate of the three that could have taken the cookies. People often reason in such a manner, and it is simply a more instinctive way of reasoning than deductive reasoning is. Thus, when the Kalam argument is presented in such a manner, it may be more easily understood by the lay-person.

Now, before I offer this Kalam Trilemma Argument, let me do two things. First, I will point out that like the traditional formulation of the Kalam argument, this different formulation assumes the A-Theory of time. Second, let me just refresh your memory as to how the Kalam argument is traditionally formulated (from the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology):

 
Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

 

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.

 

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

Conceptual Analysis of the Cause of the Universe: An uncaused, personal, Creator of the universe exists, who without the universe is beginingless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.
So, with those two points stated, let us reformulate the Kalam argument in a trilemma-type format.
Fact: The universe (meaning all of space, matter, energy, and time itself) began to exist; in essence, at one point, there was no universe and then there was a universe. (We will, both for the sake of argument and because my goal is not to defend this particular premise in this blog post, just assume that it is the case that the universe began to exist.)
Now, given that the universe began to exist, then there are only three options that can account for its beginning to exist.
Option 1: The universe is uncaused and came out of absolute nothingness. In essence, something which began to exist—the universe—has no cause and came out of an absolute nothingness which has no potentials, no knowledge, no creative ability, no powers, no laws, no force, no nothing! Thus, even though “out of nothing, nothing comes” is a fact more certain than the fact that matter exists, to choose this option you would indeed need to believe that, actually, something can come from absolute nothingness. You would need to believe that out of absolutely nothingness, something does come.

 

 

 

Option 2: The universe was self-caused. In essence, the universe, which did not exist, somehow nevertheless caused itself to exist. A non-existent thing caused itself to exist. To believe this, you would need to believe something that was literally impossible: that a non-existent thing, which thus had no powers, no potential, no creative ability, no knowledge, no force, nothing at all because it did not exist, nevertheless had the power and ability to somehow cause itself to exist.
Option 3: The universe was caused by something which itself is not the universe or any part of the universe, and which is—given that the universe includes all matter—necessarily non-material. In essence, the universe has a cause that is distinct from itself. And to choose this option, all you would have to believe is precisely that: that the universe has a cause which is separate and distinct from the universe itself.
Now, when these three options are compared—and ultimately, as stated, they are indeed the only three options available—I contend that it is manifestly obvious that the third option is the more reasonable one to hold (and once that option is selected, then the Conceptual Analysis can be done). And note that it would be disingenuous for the opponent of the argument to avoid selecting this third option simply because he knows where the argument is leading. Rather, if he is genuinely seeking the truth (or seeking the most rational position to hold), then he must make his selection in this trilemma based on the three options before him as they stand, not on the basis of what they might lead to. Also note that if the opponent of the Kalam argument does select an option other than Option 3, then his choice can be mercilessly attacked and the absurdity of his selection can be readily exposed. Finally, in my view, it should be clear that the opponent of the argument cannot hide behind agnosticism, because when presented with these three options, I contend that all people will see one option as at least more likely than another, thus moving that person away from straight agnosticism and towards one of the three options available.

 

So presenting the Kalam argument in this manner has certain advantages that the traditional formulation does not have, and thus you may wish to consider this approach in the future when employing the Kalam argument.”

 

A large and powerful tradition within Christendom has always asserted that faith in God’s existence (and His revelation through Christ) is a rational belief based on evidence, i.e. grounded in the same way our beliefs about the natural world are.

Given the fact that the large majority of Conservative Christians take this approach, it has always dumbstruck me to see the New Atheists always describing faith as “pretending to now what you don’t know” and completely ignore the fact that very few Christians hold to that view.

 

R.D. Mika wrote an interesting post about such an attempt to prove God’s existence  by using the fact that our universe began to exist.

 

It is without a doubt true that different people respond to arguments differently. In particular, the wayin which an argument is presented may make the difference in whether a person properly perceives and understands the argument or not. Now the Kalam Cosmological Argument—as formulated by William Lane Craig—is, at present, an incredibly popular argument for theism. Its premises have been attacked and defended multiple times over and from all sorts of different angles. Many people think that the Kalam argument, as it is popularly formulated, is sound, and many people think the opposite.

 
What I wish to offer in this post is one way that the Kalam argument can be reformulated in order to change its presentation and argumentative focus, which might, in turn, make it more appealing and understandable to certain people who might not appreciate it as much when it is presented in its popular formulation. In particular, what I propose is to change the argument structure from a straight deductive argument to a type of “trilemma” argument. Changing the argument in this way will thus force the argument’s opponent to positively select one option of the trilemma, rather than simply allowing him to search for and offer “possible” objections to the traditional premises of the argument. And this, in turn, means that the positive selection that the opponent makes can then be scrutinized and shown to be less reasonable (even irrational) in comparison to the other selections that are on offer. In addition, by forcing the opponent of the argument to actually make a choice as to which option he finds most reasonable, it also prevents the opponent from hiding behind a type intellectual agnosticism or selective skepticism, which he can do to a greater degree when the argument is formulated in the traditional way. Furthermore, by presenting the argument in a trilemma format, where the options are clearly presented and the consequences of accepting those options are absolutely clear as well, the trilemma option can, with absolute clarity, show the enormously steep price that needs to be paid in order to deny the option that supports the Kalam. Also, because it is an argument format that lays all the options out on the table before a person, and because those options can be readily and easily compared, the trilemma format further shows just how absurd it is to choose the options that go against the Kalam argument in comparison to the options that support the argument. Finally, because it shares the many strengths of an “inference to the best explanation” argument format, the trilemma method of presenting the Kalam argument is more natural and easily understandable for the common man. Consider that when a mother finds that the cookie jar on the top shelf of the kitchen has been raided, she will likely reason in the same way that this reformulation of the Kalam will use. She will, for example, consider that the only three individuals that could possibly be responsible for raiding the cookie jar are her three children: Billy, Bob, and Brent. But since Billy was sleeping at the time of the incident and Bob is just a baby and does not know where the cookie jar is (nor could he reach it), then the only candidate left, beyond a reasonable doubt, is Brent. So, the mother reasons, Brent is the only candidate of the three that could have taken the cookies. People often reason in such a manner, and it is simply a more instinctive way of reasoning than deductive reasoning is. Thus, when the Kalam argument is presented in such a manner, it may be more easily understood by the lay-person.
Now, before I offer this Kalam Trilemma Argument, let me do two things. First, I will point out that like the traditional formulation of the Kalam argument, this different formulation assumes the A-Theory of time. Second, let me just refresh your memory as to how the Kalam argument is traditionally formulated (from the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology):

 
Premise 1: Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

 

Premise 2: The universe began to exist.

 

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause.

 

Conceptual Analysis of the Cause of the Universe: An uncaused, personal, Creator of the universe exists, who without the universe is beginingless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful.
So, with those two points stated, let us reformulate the Kalam argument in a trilemma-type format.
Fact: The universe (meaning all of space, matter, energy, and time itself) began to exist; in essence, at one point, there was no universe and then there was a universe. (We will, both for the sake of argument and because my goal is not to defend this particular premise in this blog post, just assume that it is the case that the universe began to exist.)
Now, given that the universe began to exist, then there are only three options that can account for its beginning to exist.
Option 1: The universe is uncaused and came out of absolute nothingness. In essence, something which began to exist—the universe—has no cause and came out of an absolute nothingness which has no potentials, no knowledge, no creative ability, no powers, no laws, no force, no nothing! Thus, even though “out of nothing, nothing comes” is a fact more certain than the fact that matter exists, to choose this option you would indeed need to believe that, actually, something can come from absolute nothingness. You would need to believe that out of absolutely nothingness, something does come.

 

 

Option 2: The universe was self-caused. In essence, the universe, which did not exist, somehow nevertheless caused itself to exist. A non-existent thing caused itself to exist. To believe this, you would need to believe something that was literally impossible: that a non-existent thing, which thus had no powers, no potential, no creative ability, no knowledge, no force, nothing at all because it did not exist, nevertheless had the power and ability to somehow cause itself to exist.
Option 3: The universe was caused by something which itself is not the universe or any part of the universe, and which is—given that the universe includes all matter—necessarily non-material. In essence, the universe has a cause that is distinct from itself. And to choose this option, all you would have to believe is precisely that: that the universe has a cause which is separate and distinct from the universe itself.
Now, when these three options are compared—and ultimately, as stated, they are indeed the only three options available—I contend that it is manifestly obvious that the third option is the more reasonable one to hold (and once that option is selected, then the Conceptual Analysis can be done). And note that it would be disingenuous for the opponent of the argument to avoid selecting this third option simply because he knows where the argument is leading. Rather, if he is genuinely seeking the truth (or seeking the most rational position to hold), then he must make his selection in this trilemma based on the three options before him as they stand, not on the basis of what they might lead to. Also note that if the opponent of the Kalam argument does select an option other than Option 3, then his choice can be mercilessly attacked and the absurdity of his selection can be readily exposed. Finally, in my view, it should be clear that the opponent of the argument cannot hide behind agnosticism, because when presented with these three options, I contend that all people will see one option as at least more likely than another, thus moving that person away from straight agnosticism and towards one of the three options available.
So presenting the Kalam argument in this manner has certain advantages that the traditional formulation does not have, and thus you may wish to consider this approach in the future when employing the Kalam argument.”

 

First of all I appreciate the rather humble tone he employed here.

The main problem I see here is that he forgot another vital option:

“Our universe began to exist and it is one member in an infinite chain of parallel universes giving birth to each others.”, as many cosmologists such as Lee Smolin see it.

The cosmological argument can only be valid if this possibility can be discarded. But I don’t see how this could be done.

To my mind, neither this scenario nor the creation from scratch through God’s spirit can be shown to be the most likely explanation to the satisfaction of those not already committed to the hypothesis.

 

 

27 thoughts on “God and the cause of the universe

  1. 0) The A-theory of time contradicts Einstein’s theory of Relativity, and there’s conclusive evidence that supports Relativity. There’s no evidence supporting the A-theory.

    1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

    We know that this is true within the universe. Saying this would apply with a cause outside the universe is pure speculation. The other problem is: how do we find evidence that would be outside our universe? Is that ever a possibility?

    2) The universe has a beginning.

    Anyone who claims that the Big Bang Theory says so doesn’t understand the theory. For one, as a classical theory, the BBT has no say in regard to the beginning of time as we would have a singularity, a point of infinite density. When a theory has a singularity it means either the theory is nonapplicable in that regime or it is used improperly – most physicists believe that BBT is invalid at those subatomic scales; two, the BBT is based on GR which is a classsical theory, not a quantum theory. At subatomic scale, quantum mechanics rules. And we don’t have a quantum theory of gravity.

    So, points 0,1, and 2 have no legs to stand on.

    • 0) Suppose I create a digital universe with sentient, sapient beings. Did that universe “begin to exist” from their perspective? How about from mine? Whose perspective matters?

      1) On this reasoning, attempting to apply anything we know, to “outside the universe[,] is pure speculation”. Correct?

      • 0) I suppose if they are smart and resourceful, they will find that they had a beginning from their POV. From yours, these digital sentient beings are just configurations from a bunch of on/off switches and laser lights.

        1) From what you are proposing, if I’m guessing right, your digital sentient beings cannot exist into your world. They can never understand who you (their creator) are and what you’re made of. But certainly, they can speculate.

        • @joseph palazzo

          0) But whose point of view actually matters? Also, it’s not at all clear that I would see the digital beings as “just X”. I view personhood as more than “just X”, except for very special “X”—like a soul. And I think that digital beings could easily have souls just as soulish as the souls we have.

          1) Why could such digital beings never exist in my world? I couldn’t give them android bodies? I couldn’t find a way to communicate to them? They couldn’t speak English? They couldn’t understand metaphor, per Lakoff’s Metaphors We Live By?

  2. Dear Lothar,

    First off, thank you for linking to my post. It is very greatly appreciated. Now I will need to be brief because I am writing from my cell-phone, but I just wanted to point out a number of things.

    By the universe, I meant all of material reality, so this would include any and all multi-verses, parallel universes, etc. Now I did say this in my post, but I was not as clear as I could have been, so I understand why it was missed.

    So, what this means is that if Smolin’s multiverse began to exist, then only my three options are available. But if Smolin’s multiverse is eternal, then there is no trilemma as the Kalam argument cannot even get started. Therefore, what this means is that Smolin’s multiverse does NOT provide us with a fourth option. If Smolin’s multiverse is eternal then it defeats the Kalam by showing that the universe did not begin to exist, but if Smolin’s multiverse began to exist, then my trilemma stands. So again, Smolin’s multiverse does not present us with a fourth option.

    I would also point out that if Smolin does claim that there are an infinite number of parallel universes, then his whole multiverse scenario can potentially be defeated through the philosophical arguments which show that there cannot be an actual infinite number of things.

    Anyway, more to follow when I can. Take care,

    RD Miksa
    http://www.idontgiveadamnapologetics.blogspot.com

    • Regardless of Smolin’s theory, which btw from a scientific POV is not testable, your Kalam argument fails from the starting gate (see my reply on the A-theory and premises 1 and 2). Your trilemma is standing on fictitious legs.

    • Hello. I think you should be clear about this, for most of your readers cannot guess that under “universe”, you mean “multiverse”.

      I am not convinced by argument against the physical existence of infinities. Which ones do you find compelling?

      Furthermore, are you open to the actual possibility that God created a huge number of parallel universes?

      Cheers.

  3. Dear joseph palazzo:

    If you actually read my post, you will notice that I clearly stated that I would assume the A-Theory of time, and I would assume that it was the case that the universe began to exist. I did so both for the sake of argument and because it was not my goal to defend those specific points in this particular post.

    Next, your “critique” of the two premises was a critique of the traditional formulation of the Kalam argument, which is precisely the formulation that I stated I wanted to avoid arguing for. I only presented the traditional formulation to refresh the reader’s memory of how the argument is normally presented. You would have realized this had you read the post in detail. And what this thus means is that all your objections are ultimately irrelevant to my specific blog post. They may be relevant to the Kalam argument as a whole, but not to the goal that I had for this particular post.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa
    http://www.idontgiveadamnapologetics.blogspot.com

    • I appreciate you having pointed out that your trilemma argument was designed to avoid the traditional objections to the Kalam argument. Unfortunately, you are trying to avoid the unavoidable. The same objections to the K argument apply to your T argument: an argument that has no empirical evidence supporting it cannot be presented as true. You lose from the starting gate.

      • Dear joseph palazzo,

        On the one hand, you are correct. When it comes to the issue of whether or not the universe began to exist, the same objections do apply to my trilemma formulation of the argument as to the traditional formulation of the argument. But those objections are all easily answerable as well, so it is not as if your objections knock the Kalam argument down for the count. Furthermore, I will point out that I tentatively hold to the Kalam on the basis of the philosophical arguments for the beginning of the universe, not on the basis of Big Bang or other scientific evidence. Given the weakness and provisionality of scientific evidence, I prefer solid philosophical argumentation to the weaker scientific approach.

        Next, you state that the “everything that begins to exist has a cause” principle applies only to things inside the universe, but possibly not to what is outside the universe (or to the universe itself). Now, apart from the fact that that objection not only misunderstands the nature of a metaphysical principle but also that it commits the “Taxi-Cab” fallacy, it is also precisely in light of people who offer objections like this one that I present the Kalam argument in a trilemma format. Why? Because if you really want to use that objection to defeat the Kalam, then you must believe one of the two other options that I present: either that the universe came uncaused from absolute nothingness or the universe was self-caused. And I submit that if you want to believe one of those two options over the option that the universe was caused, then feel free to do so, but please excuse me if I consider that strategy not only unreasonable, but quite absurd. In addition, I might point out that if you really think that things “outside” the universe might come from nothing or be self-caused, then I sincerely hope you are an agnostic rather than an atheist or a naturalist. After all, if a universe can come from nothing or be self-caused, then there is absolutely nothing preventing God from coming from nothing or being self-caused. Maybe God just popped into being out of nothingness 2 mins ago; or maybe God self-caused himself just now. Now, if you think that those ideas are ridiculous–which you probably do–then perhaps you realize why I believe it is ridiculous when you claim that the universe can do the same thing.

        Finally, you state that: …an argument that has no empirical evidence supporting it cannot be presented as true. I’m sorry, but this is just absurd. A sound a priori argument is more certain than any empirical argument. Consider that I have no empirical evidence that “I am thinking” or that “I am conscious” and yet I am astronomically more certain of these things than I am of any empirical fact.

        Take care,

        RD Miksa
        http://www.idontgiveadamnapologetics.blogspot.com

  4. I was never a huge fan of the Kalam argument, because I’m wary of any premises that rest on something completely unprovable, which I think the premise “the universe had a cause” is.

    This is why I prefer Aquinas’s arguments. He grants in advance that the universe, in theory, might have existed forever. To him that wasn’t actually relevant when discussing whether or not God exists.

    He DID believe the universe had a beginning, but he did not believe it was strictly provable, much like his beliefs about the Trinity.

  5. Fact: The universe (meaning all of space, matter, energy, and time itself) began to exist; in essence, at one point, there was no universe and then there was a universe.

    In no way, shape or form is this a fact.

    Option 1: The universe is uncaused and came out of absolute nothingness. In essence, something which began to exist—the universe—has no cause and came out of an absolute nothingness which has no potentials, no knowledge, no creative ability, no powers, no laws, no force, no nothing! Thus, even though “out of nothing, nothing comes” is a fact more certain than the fact that matter exists…

    Absolute nothingness? No laws at all? Not even this one: “out of nothing, nothing comes”?

  6. Dear Andy:

    You said:

    In no way, shape or form is this a fact.

    Please try to read everything before commenting.

    “Fact: The universe (meaning all of space, matter, energy, and time itself) began to exist; in essence, at one point, there was no universe and then there was a universe. (We will, both for the sake of argument and because my goal is not to defend this particular premise in this blog post, just assume that it is the case that the universe began to exist.)

    See, once you actually read the context, things become clear.

    And reference your “law” point, an abstract metaphysical truth (out of nothing, nothing comes) is different from a physical law (like the Law of Gravity). Although, given my lack of clarity, I can understand the confusion. So let this be a clarification.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa
    http://www.idontgiveadamnapologetics.blogspot.com

    • So, absolute nothingness doesn´t in fact mean absolute nothingness but rather nothing + “abstract metaphysical principles”. What is your evidence for that? And what other “abstract metaphysical principles” exist in “absolute” nothingness?

  7. rdmiksa says :April 18, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    “Because if you really want to use that objection to defeat the Kalam, then you must believe one of the two other options that I present: either that the universe came uncaused from absolute nothingness or the universe was self-caused. And I submit that if you want to believe one of those two options over the option that the universe was caused, then feel free to do so, but please excuse me if I consider that strategy not only unreasonable, but quite absurd.”

    It’s a false choice that you are presenting. Let me take you back to 1899. In that year, physicists had thought that they had resolved all the major problems in physics, what was left were a few minor problems that would need a few tinkering. Lord Kelvin famously said: “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement”. Little was known that in a few years, Relativity would radically change our notion of space, time and matter; that physicists would be faced with the paradoxical wave/particle nature of matter and would require a new type of physics, now known as Quantum Mechanics.

    You are asking that if I reject one of your three choices, I must choose one of the remaining two. Sorry, but reality is far more complex than that. There will be new discoveries, and that will the guiding light for scientific research. Not the kind of musings you are proposing. We know that philsophers like to speculate endlessly, but until science was firmly established after the Renaissance, very little advancement was made from philosophers. It took science to change our standard living to what it is today, not philosophy.

    On a side note: your suggestion that God could have popped out of nothing is cute. But we know very little how mind can arise. Perhaps the day we invent an Artificial Intelligent creature, we might have more to say on that, and that suggestion of yours will be another one that will find its way to the recycle bin.

    • @rdmiksa

      “Now, if you think that those ideas are ridiculous–which you probably do–then perhaps you realize why I believe it is ridiculous when you claim that the universe can do the same thing.”

      You shouldn’t take certain statements by physicists as gospel. The notion of quantum fluctuations is a difficult one even for physicts to grapple with. We certainly don’t know everything about the vacuum energy, though we do know certain properties as opposed to 100 years ago, when we knew nothing about it. Krauss and Hawkings have suggested that the universe could have popped out of nothing, but that is at this stage just a hypothesis far from being supported by any evidence. So I would take it with a grain of salt.

  8. Dear joseph palazzo:

    All your talk of science and “new” discoveries is absolutely irrelevant to the trilemma. Why? Because if the universe–meaning all matter, energy, etc., which would include all quantum vacuums, and quantum particles, and quantum blah, blah, blah–began to exist, then, logically, you only have three possible options: 1) the universe was caused by something external to it; 2) the universe was uncaused and came from nothing; or 3) the universe was self-caused. That’s it. That’s all. No new discovery will change those three options. The only premise that new discoveries will affect is whether or not the universe began to exist. That’s it. Apart from that, the trilemma stands. So if the universe began to exist, then you do need to choose one of those options.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa
    http://www.idontgiveadamnapologetics.blogspot.com

    • Thanks for your reply, and I appreciate that you took the trouble to enunciate your position clearly with an admirable brevity. What I’m concerned with is the “if the universe … began to exist”. Aside that we don’t have empirical evidence – the universe could be eternal – it remains to be determined as to what does it mean “to begin”. Take yourself as an example. When did you begin to exist? Well, before you were a sperm and an egg that hadn’t met yet. Can you really say that you began to exist when that sperm penetrated that egg that eventually became you? Yet, you’re just that sperm and egg, which can be traced all the way back to the Big Bang, transformed in the bosom of your mother. We can make similar arguments for a cat, a tree, the earth, our solar system, the Milky Way, etc. Each of these “objects”, for lack of a better word, came into existence due to some prior process, but in some strange way, they’re all linked – the carbon atoms in your body were once manufactured in some stars that explobed billions of years ago. And now we get to a bilionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth second( app.10^(-44 )seconds), we have no clue of what took place. You are proposing three scenarios. Perhaps you’re right, there are only those three options IF the universe began – four, if you take the universe has always existed, and I’m scratching my head for nothing. Perhaps the difference between the two of us is that I’m perfectly ok to say, “I really don’t know”. While you need to have an answer, or really a specific answer that is in accord with your religious beliefs.

  9. Labreuer says :April 23, 2014 at 3:24 am
    @joseph palazzo

    “0) But whose point of view actually matters? Also, it’s not at all clear that I would see the digital beings as “just X”. I view personhood as more than “just X”, except for very special “X”—like a soul. And I think that digital beings could easily have souls just as soulish as the souls we have.”

    When your computer prints a “1” as an output, or displays a “1” on your screen, it does that through the workings of switches. If you open your computer, you’re not going to see “1” anywhere. It is stored in the configuration of a bunch of open and closed switches. Similarly, when you think of “1”, that is also stored in the configuration made up of neurons and synapsis of your brain. With MRI, we can locate exactly where “1” is stored in your brain. We can probe that area so that “1” will automatically popped into your mind, we can even interfer with that location in your brain so that even if you try to recall “1”, you won’t be able to.

    Now, I have no idea what you are calling personhood, or soul, wrt your digital sentient beings(dsb). They may have characters – like generosity or short-fused temper, etc. – but likewise with “1” stored in the on/off switches of a computer, those attribute would be stored in the software that you’ve designed when you created those dsb.

    Labreuer said: “1) Why could such digital beings never exist in my world? I couldn’t give them android bodies? I couldn’t find a way to communicate to them? They couldn’t speak English? They couldn’t understand metaphor, per Lakoff’s Metaphors We Live By?”

    If you placed your software into androids, they are no longer dsb – we are looking at different creatures with different capabilities, a lot closer to what engineers are hoping to accomplish one day in Artificial Intelligent (AI). Ever heard of the tipping point called the singularity? The hope is that these AI’s will be able to communicate with us. How much will they comprehend, not only simple commands, but complex metaphors remains to be seen.

    • When your computer prints a “1″ as an output, or displays a “1″ on your screen, it does that through the workings of switches. If you open your computer, you’re not going to see “1″ anywhere.

      I happen to know quite a lot about computers, including some semiconductor theory. I’ve taken a lab in which I made an LED, a bipolar junction transistor, a Schottky diode, and a few others I don’t recall. And you know what? Your “1” is precisely as ‘real’ as the term “action potential“. Funnily enough, both can be detected with a voltmeter.

      With MRI, we can locate exactly where “1″ is stored in your brain. We can probe that area so that “1″ will automatically popped into your mind, we can even interfer with that location in your brain so that even if you try to recall “1″, you won’t be able to.

      Yep, and I can damage an antenna so that it has issues receiving some or all of the signals it was designed to receive. Your precious scientific evidence does not say nearly as much as you think it says. You fill in the gaps with mythology, or ‘dogma’. It’s ok, we all do it. It’s only really the scientism-ists who have trouble admitting this.

      Now, I have no idea what you are calling personhood, or soul, wrt your digital sentient beings(dsb). They may have characters – like generosity or short-fused temper, etc. – but likewise with “1″ stored in the on/off switches of a computer, those attribute would be stored in the software that you’ve designed when you created those dsb.

      Nobody I know of has a comprehensive, analytic definition of ‘soul’. That’s really the crux of the matter: you appear to hold to a reductionist philosophy that “It’s all just X”, as if reality really weren’t as mysterious or awesome as many claim. I can both acknowledge that reality is incredibly mysterious, and simultaneously claim that we can understand it more and more. I don’t have to arrogantly say that I will ever fully understand it, or even that humanity will ever fully understand it.

      It’s a bit humorous that you claim this important aspect of digital sentient beings only exists because an intelligence created them—unless I misunderstand?

      If you placed your software into androids, they are no longer dsb

      The line is much blurrier than you give it credit. Have you seen The Matrix? How about the characters Data and Moriarty in Star Trek: The Next Generation? How about the TV show Caprica, or the TV show Andromeda?

      Ever heard of the tipping point called the singularity?

      Yep, and I am incredibly skeptical that it’ll happen anytime soon, although the increasing stupidification of human beings will bring it more quickly. I am looking forward to seeing how morality evolves in beings more intelligent than humans, beings who can theoretically exist forever.

  10. Most of the above, including the Kalam argument has got me lost. I think I understand the underlying issues to some extent. There are those who find it hard to believe in God as we can’t see him, hear him or detect him in any particularly obvious way at the current time. So to misquote Schaeffer, “He does not appear to be there and we can’t hear him”. Although I do have faith and believe in him, I can understand this argument fairly well and agree with it. Unless the clouds actually part and a big hand comes from heaven, or whatever, this is the situation all of us really are in.

    “Doubting Thomas”, a week or so after the resurrection, was given physical evidence that Jesus was indeed raised from the dead. We do not have this and have to remain as they who are “blessed yet have not seen and have believed”. The big difficulty is that God has left no way of us proving his existence. So we could quite genuinely point out that belief in God has to be a matter of faith. It is not provable in any way manner or form that will convince those who need an undeniable physical” marker” of his existence.

    This seems to me a bit of a problem as I do believe that “belief in God” can actually be a “rational” thing. The problem is that this is rational in terms of how we exist as “experiential” beings and how much weight we give to human discourse and experience over time in relation to specific human endeavours to “scientifically” prove this, that or whatever.

    Those of us who believe in God can never “prove” He exists. Those of us who cannot believe in God, as we can’t prove he exists, will never find God if “proof” (at least in the materialist scientific method approach) is essential for this.

    We can only find God if we look for him as a direct personal approach and plea from our hearts. This is as true for the “Christian” as it is for the scientific materialist. (In fact I believe there are many “Christians” who have never really done this and they are probably as much atheists as “atheists” are).

    This may seem very unsatisfactory, but I think it is the state of reality. I would have to say that God is an objective and real person/entity, but in many ways unknowable and not subject to our ways of grasping him. It is not possible to shoot him, stick him on an examining table and dissect him.

    So to sum up, Those of us who believe cannot prove God exists, those who do not believe cannot prove he does not exist. There seems little point in trying to “prove” or “disprove” God, if we are going to discuss this issue we need to recognise this and see if there is any common ground outside of “God’s existence”, where we can discuss things.

  11. I Believe That God Is The Cause Of The Universe And Everything In Space Controls Everything In The Past Of The Creation Of The Heavens And The
    Earth Before Time Began In The Whole Entire Creation Of Space And Time!

    PS The Cause Of The Universe And Time Is Created And Perfectly Designed
    By God In Creating Space And Time To Reflect The Glory Of The Lord!!!

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