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a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

For topics that are more about faith, religion and religious organisations than anything else.
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animist
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a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#1 Post by animist » August 4th, 2010, 8:14 am

The cosmological argument for the existence of God (cosmo). I think this does have some force: it says that since all events must have a cause, and since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes and effects, there must be a first cause of the universe which can only be God. Richard Dawkins simply turns the argument on its head by applying the supposed absurdity of an infinite regress onto God himself. This may be unconvincing, as God by definition is uncaused, although of course it reminds us that there has to be a very strong reason to bring God in to the picture; to do so is effectively an admission of defeat in the attempt to explain the universe any other way. There are other arguments against cosmo, but I would like to focus on the past/future aspect of the question of whether the universe can be infinite in time.

Infinity is a difficult concept and it's true that there cannot actually be an infinity of any particular thing (people, chairs, atoms etc) in the universe at any given moment. I don't think it follows from this that infinity cannot apply to the events which are causes and effects of each other; arguments like Hilbert's paradox (on hotel rooms) are really analogies - and in this area, analogies do not work! BUT my main point now is that the cosmo argument ignores the symmetry between past and future by concentrating only on the past. We know that Einstein's four-dimensional universe of space and time does not distinguish between past and future, and we do not seem to have a problem in conceiving of a universe which continues indefinitely into the future, so why should we not in the same way conceive of an infinitely long past? If we consider the prospect of an infinitely extended future, this would mean that in fact there COULD be an infinity of hotel rooms since the future stretches out for infinity? And if so, why not the same in the past?

philbo
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#2 Post by philbo » August 4th, 2010, 2:25 pm

The logic of the cosmological argument for the existence of God has always been rather fuckwitted, IMO... but an infinite past is feasable: laws of physics as we know them don't work at the point of the big bang, so it's not a logical deduction to say that nothing existed beforehand, merely that we are not capable of saying what may or may not have been there.

Nick
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#3 Post by Nick » August 4th, 2010, 5:06 pm

Hi Animist, and welcome to the forum. :D Do feel free to introduce yourself more fully in the introductions thread, or indeed, start a thread of your own in the Community forum.

You may find this Laurence Krauss video interesting, though it may just liquidise your brain instead....

A Universe From Nothing

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Alan C.
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#4 Post by Alan C. » August 4th, 2010, 7:38 pm

I'd already watched that twice before Nick but just watched it again.
While I don't pretend to understand it all, I do find it fascinating.
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Dave B
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#5 Post by Dave B » August 4th, 2010, 7:55 pm

it says that since all events must have a cause
I agree that all events certainly must have a cause - but the fundamental religious view seems to be that they must also have a purpose - God intended them to happen, for some reason or other.

"Events" in physics, and physics rules all in the final analysis, need no reason, no purpose - they simply happen because the conditions are suitable, no entity with purpose needed. Even the Big Bang must have had a cause, but it could prove to be rather difficult to find.
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Alan H
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#6 Post by Alan H » August 4th, 2010, 10:18 pm

Dave B wrote:
it says that since all events must have a cause
I agree that all events certainly must have a cause...
This certainly is reinforced in out daily lives [---][/---] and we rely on it [---][/---] but we are beings suited to living in our very small corner of the Universe for a brief instant in time. That does not mean that an unimaginable 13.5 billion years ago under totally alien conditions where the Universe was compressed into an unimaginably small space, that everything has to have a cause.
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Dave B
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#7 Post by Dave B » August 5th, 2010, 12:23 pm

Alan H wrote:
Dave B wrote:
it says that since all events must have a cause
I agree that all events certainly must have a cause...
This certainly is reinforced in out daily lives [---][/---] and we rely on it [---][/---] but we are beings suited to living in our very small corner of the Universe for a brief instant in time. That does not mean that an unimaginable 13.5 billion years ago under totally alien conditions where the Universe was compressed into an unimaginably small space, that everything has to have a cause.
Good point. Did the laws of physics exist before the Big Bang I wonder, or were they "created" along with time and space?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#8 Post by Nick » August 5th, 2010, 2:55 pm

I find it more unlikely that there was a 'time' when neither time nor space existed, than that everything should have a 'cause'.

Dawkins talks about belief from "personal incredulity." I don't understand quantum physics or string theory, both of which seem to be counter-intuitive, but they do apparently make astonishingly accurate predictions which can be measured. An apparently causeless event seems child's play after that.

Even if there were a cause for the Big Bang, why should it be a thinking being like the christian god? And don't you think it is laughably absurd that such a being should be revealed through the bible? :hilarity:

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grammar king
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#9 Post by grammar king » August 5th, 2010, 3:05 pm

Not everything necessarily has a cause. There are (apparently) virtual particles which appear and disappear in a vacuum, with no cause.

But that's not why the cosmological argument (I refuse to call it a proof, it's only a proof in the same way that a homeopathic one is) is so terrible. The reason it's terrible is because:

a) It's an argument from ignorance to say that we don't know the cause of the Big Bang/Universe/Whatever, and that therefore it must have been God.

b) It is misleading to call the uncaused cause God (if there was one of course), because the word 'God' has baggage attached to it. If the uncaused cause is not any kind of consciousness, if it no longer exists, if it is not aware of our existence, if it didn't intend to create a universe, etc, then it really isn't appropriate to call it God. In the meantime it obfuscates the search for a real answer. What if the uncaused cause was a particle? Is God a particle? Because if so then I'm a theist.

c) Saying 'God did it' is a poor explanation because it has no explanatory power. It gives us no extra information about the phenomenon, and it's pretty much a tautology. It says "X created the universe, where X is defined as the thing that created the universe," and then it calls X God. That's just replacing one mystery with another, so it is a poor explanation.

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animist
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#10 Post by animist » August 5th, 2010, 7:24 pm

thanks for all these good reasons to reject poor cosmo - let's send them to Bill Craig. Anyone ever think about what I called (boastfully) (my) NEW argument? I suppose it is actually a psychological quirk that we can conceive the future existing ad infinitum yet not so easily the past. Maybe it is because we know we all as individuals had a point in time when we came into existence, but we do not know when we will cease to exist - or even whether we will cease to exist, given that research on longevity may well, for some future generation, lead to everlasting life. Gosh (I've said it again), this could sound religious.

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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#11 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » August 8th, 2010, 2:55 am

animist wrote: [...] since all events must have a cause, and since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes and effects, there must be a first cause of the universe [...]
If all events here means the same as every event, and the universe is to be counted as an event, the first premiss of the argument is inconsistent with the conclusion.

If, however, all events means the totality of events, we have not got — and can never get — any grounds for thinking that the totality has a cause. As C S Peirce ironically observed, universes are not as plentiful as blackberries.

I suppose I'd better add that there is a difference between event and effect.
Every effect has a cause is a truism. Every event has a cause may be true, but it isn't a truism.
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animist
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#12 Post by animist » August 8th, 2010, 8:48 pm

Lord Muck oGentry wrote:
animist wrote: [...] since all events must have a cause, and since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes and effects, there must be a first cause of the universe [...]
If all events here means the same as every event, and the universe is to be counted as an event, the first premiss of the argument is inconsistent with the conclusion.

If, however, all events means the totality of events, we have not got — and can never get — any grounds for thinking that the totality has a cause. As C S Peirce ironically observed, universes are not as plentiful as blackberries.

I suppose I'd better add that there is a difference between event and effect.
Every effect has a cause is a truism. Every event has a cause may be true, but it isn't a truism.
sorry, your first sentence just does not make sense to me

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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#13 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » August 8th, 2010, 10:00 pm

animist wrote:
Lord Muck oGentry wrote:
animist wrote: [...] since all events must have a cause, and since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes and effects, there must be a first cause of the universe [...]
If all events here means the same as every event, and the universe is to be counted as an event, the first premiss of the argument is inconsistent with the conclusion.

If, however, all events means the totality of events, we have not got — and can never get — any grounds for thinking that the totality has a cause. As C S Peirce ironically observed, universes are not as plentiful as blackberries.

I suppose I'd better add that there is a difference between event and effect.
Every effect has a cause is a truism. Every event has a cause may be true, but it isn't a truism.
sorry, your first sentence just does not make sense to me
Then let me try again. If every event ( the universe included) has a cause, there is no first cause, since it would have to be an event without a cause.
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

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Paolo
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#14 Post by Paolo » August 10th, 2010, 1:43 pm

Lord Muck oGentry wrote:If every event ( the universe included) has a cause, there is no first cause, since it would have to be an event without a cause.
There is the assumption here that the cause and the event could not be the same thing. If the event is the cause of itself then there's no problem.

I vaguely believe that the universe is an expanding bubble of virtual/actual particles that have by chance established an intrinsic dynamic stability that enables expansion through an energy gradient (until the bubble eventually pops or contracts as the energy gradient becomes too flat, compromising the dynamic stability). Being stuck on the inside of the bubble means that we have no idea of the laws governing things outside our bubble - even mathematics need not work in the same way in a different bubble or in the 'space' between bubbles (if there are different bubbles), so we have no way of knowing what external laws may be in place that brought our little bubble of reality into existence - the best we can do is try to understand the particular laws that have enabled the dynamic stability of our universe to become established.

This belief is not much better (but no worse) than invoking a god as an agent of causation, since it's impossible to observe, but at least it doesn't require me to adopt a pile of rubbish as additional baggage.

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animist
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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#15 Post by animist » August 10th, 2010, 6:49 pm

The first two sentences below are a reply to Lord Muck o'Gentry's last post -I cannot seem to get it loaded using the "Quote":

But that is the whole nub of cosmo! Yes there would indeed be a contradiction - if we could not rely on God as the missing first cause.

A few more thoughts - the fact that scientists now know that matter is being created all the time in the universe (watch the Laurence Krauss video that Nick mentions) is of course a more important undermining of cosmo than is my argument in my first post; this is because this spontaneous creation is in fact a disproof of the principle "nihil ex nihilo". And anyway, as someone already has said in the Topic, we simply rely on cause and effect as a working assumption in science and daily life - it is inductive reasoning, which is not logically necessary as deductive reasoning is.

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Re: a new argument against the cosmological proof for God?

#16 Post by Lord Muck oGentry » August 11th, 2010, 10:58 pm

Paolo wrote:There is the assumption here that the cause and the event could not be the same thing. If the event is the cause of itself then there's no problem.
Yes, indeed. There is an assumption in there, although I prefer to put it as a point about how far we can stretch words rather than a point about how the world wags. If there is a distinction in the argument between something uncaused and something selfcaused, it escapes me. Not that it makes much difference: if the first premiss of the argument had read All events ( bar one) have a cause, there wouldn't be anything to discuss.
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

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