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February 18, 2014

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The standard Christian answer, of course, is that God does not "come from." In other words, God has already existed and did not start to exist, so it's not possible to ask where God came from.

A more interesting challenge to the idea that nothing comes from nothing is modern quantum physics. I hope you'll also address this idea in your video response. In quantum physics, stuff seems to appear randomly from nothing. Our everyday intuition tells us nothing comes from nothing, but our intuition is totally useless at the quantum scale.

There has never been “nothing” because there has always been God. Thus, “nothing comes from nothing” is a statement that cannot exist. There has never been a “nothing” for nothing to come from. There has only been an eternal God who has created everything. When Christians say, “From nothing, nothing comes,” they are only using the terminology to describe the ludicrous nature of the opposing side. They are saying “you say that the universe sprang into being from ‘nothing.’ We say that is impossible. If you only have ‘nothing,’ you will always have nothing.” But the Christian never says the universe came into being from nothing. The Christian says the universe came into being by the Word of the eternal God.

John, quantum physics has yet to show us that something appears randomly from non-being. Quantum physics shows us that things randomly happen in a vacuum (which is a group of negatively charged particles). I'm no scientist, but that is my understanding. There is no such thing in the physical world according to the laws which we experience, subatomic or otherwise, that pops into existence from non-being. Non-being is a state of complete nothingness, no laws, no physical world, nothing. So far scientists have been unable to find something that pops into being from a state of non-being (although admittedly it would be hard to create an environment of non-being to test).

Also, due to the big bang, and other evidences, we know that the universe had a beginning.

So if the universe had a beginning, and something came into existence from a state of non-being, then you would have to have a metaphysical cause that breaks the physical laws we know. And it would have had to always been there, since non-being is state where there are no laws in place to govern a nonexistent physical world.

Barker's argument limps from ambivalence. It sees God as not nothing, validating Him as "something."

But here's the failing of the whole assumption. God is not that "something" but the "why something is." The confusion of the material universe with the immaterial Maker has been the downfall of this entire line of argumentation.

Nothing Comes from Nothing
is an extrapolation from experience to ultimate knowledge.

RonH

Something cannot come from nothing. God is not ‘something’ as we typically define something. God possesses certain qualities that exclude Him from the restriction set forth in ‘something cannot come from nothing’.

God does not come from anything. God is defined that way. In other words, if God is accurately described, you see that the question is incoherent.

Now, the person making the challenge has to give the universe or life or the earth, etc. qualities that would exclude those things from the restriction ‘something cannot come from nothing’. Good luck with that.

In quantum physics, stuff seems to appear randomly from nothing. Our everyday intuition tells us nothing comes from nothing, but our intuition is totally useless at the quantum scale.

From nothing? Really? Where did that take place? In Nothingville?


Recently there has been some talk that the universe is a hologram. This fascinates me because it seems to harmonize quite well with the Bible account of all things. If this theory is true, would not God be the "projector"? And thereby removed from the laws He projects?

If nothing comes from nothing, then God cannot exist, because God is not nothing. If that premise is true that “nothing comes from nothing,” and if God is something, then you have just shot yourself in the foot.

The problem here is that he just demonstrated the very point we are trying to make: If nothing comes from nothing, then there had to be something to give being to something, i.e. the universe. This does not show that God doesn't exist, but rather that the universe cannot come into being from nothing. It's a statement about the physical laws of the universe, not the existence of God. It demonstrates that the universe could not have come into being through natural processes. He is also still left with explaining how it is the universe exists if nothing comes from nothing.

And since whatever caused the universe to come into being must be spaceless, timeless and immaterial, that cause would be the uncaused cause or the First Cause.

So again, in order for the universe to exist, something had to cause it.

Barker is appealing to the philosophical "prime mover" problem-- a valid consideration. However, I believe that associating this with the Big Bang Theory may be a bit of a stretch. That is, I am not certain that the BBT assumed or requires a nothingness.

That is not to say that there is not a physical reality to the "tohu wa bohu" (chaotic vacuousness or "without form and void") prior to the Bang, but is not to be assumed as nothingness at the quantum level.

If it is important to attempt reconciliation with Genesis and modern science, than why not just consider what matter may have existed as the mystical, "face of the deep?"

See, this kind of nonsense is what comes from obfuscation. Nobody thinks the universe came from nothing is any literal sense. Well, maybe you can find a few crazies on the net, but let's not count them, lol. When someone like, say, William Lane Craig talks about the universe coming into being out of nothing, he means that the universe came into being, but not out of anything. In contrast, he is not talking about a state of nothingness out of which the universe comes into being. That would be incoherent, whereas it is not the least bit incoherent to talk about something coming into being without it having come from something.

If this seems confusing and ridiculous, I agree. The language employed here is decidedly unhelpful. It would be far better just to say "X begins to exist uncaused" instead of "X comes into being out of nothing." The former is clear, whereas the latter is maddeningly misleading.

As for Barker, his assertion is true but not very relevant. Put into clearer language as described above, he is saying that theists cannot assert nothing is uncaused, because God is uncaused. Luckily, most theists don't assert that nothing is uncaused. Instead, they will invent criteria which they believe permits God to be uncaused but does not permit the universe to be uncaused, e.g. Craig's infamous principle that "everything that begins to exist has a cause." Since God doesn't begin to exist, theists are off the hook. Unfortunately, Craig's causal principle is not obviously true, and his arguments in its support hold no water.

As for quantum physics, it is true that the quantum vacuum is not nothingness in the philosophical sense. So, virtual particles that begin to exist uncaused are not coming from a state of nothingness. But, of course, that is not what a good (i.e., nontrivial) causal principle requires. Craig's principle again makes a good example. We only need the virtual particles to begin to exist uncaused. That is, it doesn't matter if they appear in a quantum vacuum as long as they had no cause.

Notice also that if a "cause" for virtual particles can be so broadly construed as something like the quantum vacuum which precedes their appearance, that's going to seriously undermine Craig's already-shaky inductive case for his causal principle. This is because, so construed, it would be utterly impossible to ever observe something beginning to exist uncaused. Since inductive evidence relies on the principle that we should have observed it if it had occurred, this undercuts his inductive argument.

A more interesting challenge to the idea that nothing comes from nothing is modern quantum physics. I hope you'll also address this idea in your video response.

That really is a different question altogether, so I suspect it won't be addressed in the response. This is about whether or not Christians are being consistent, not whether or not nothing comes from nothing.

The problem with many of the lines of reasoning in response to this is that it ignores the first premise of the KCM (which is not Craig's as is falsely claimed time and time again.) which states that whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Now implicit in the first premise is time. Beginning to exist denotes a period when something didn't exist. Since time itself began to exist at the point of the BB, that means that had a cause. Otherwise, you will have to explain how the space, time, matter and energy just suddenly popped into existence for no reason at all. And then you will have to explain why other things don't just pop into existence as well such as trees or whales or mountains.

But since we would never conclude that these things just pop into existence but are, instead, caused, we would then have to conclude that the universe itself has a cause. But this cause would be by definition timeless. So the idea of God being uncaused is not merely a dodge, but a necessary inference from the evidence.

"Now implicit in the first premise is time. Beginning to exist denotes a period when something didn't exist. Since time itself began to exist at the point of the BB, that means that had a cause."

Robby, how can something happen prior to the existence of time?

This is really just a sophomoric attempt to respond to a self-evident metaphysical truth. God has always existed. God did not begin, so God did not come from anything. Only things which began to exist require a cause, as something cannot come from nothing without a cause.

God isn't the type of something that can come from either something else or nothing. Barker's premise is flawed because of a category error.

When we talk about God, we are talking about an entity that necessarily is uncaused. Therefore the words "come from" are nonsensical when applied to God.

Robby,

A couple things.

First, "begins to exist" actually does not require a period when the object in question did not exist. Otherwise the universe need not have began to exist, since as you observe, time itself began to exist along with the universe.

Second, nobody has to explain anything. It could very well be a brute fact (i.e., true without explanation) that the universe began to exist when it did.

Third, and finally, you seem to think that an object cannot be both timeless and caused. But the only reason I can see for thinking this is that causation itself is a phenomenon situated in time. If that is so, and if time really did begin to exist along with the universe, then the causal principle MUST be false, in particular the universe could not have had a cause. That's why Craig an others go to great lengths to defend timeless causation.

@ John, JBerr, KWM, and anyone else talking about quantum mechanics,

Quantum mechanics does not claim that anything appears from nothing, though that's the unfortunate shorthand that often gets used in the media. QM does observe that, even in the complete absence of matter, there is still a field of energy referred to as the quantum foam, out of which particles (matter) can appear spontaneously. This isn't a 'something from nothing' situation because energy is a something, and matter is a particular form of energy (which is what E=mc^2 means, and why it's so important in modern physics).

However, though this apparently happens 'all the time' on the scale of subatomic particles, extrapolating to the macro-universe does not good because the likelihood of that many particles spontaneously appearing all at once, all at the same time is, for all reasonable intents, statistically impossible. 1 qram of Hydrogen popping into existence in this way would require roughly 10^24 particles arising out of the quantum foam, without any of the 10^24 simultaneously-produced antiparticles interacting with any of them. (This is an over-simplification, but it serves to illustrate pretty well)

The principle difficulty is that atheists consistently fail to distinguish that which is logically necessary from that which is logically contingent.

That's what, I think, is going on with Barker's oh-so-clever remark. We theists have presumably shot ourselves in the collective foot because he thinks we need to explain how God came from nothing just as much as atheists have to explain how matter came from nothing.

But God, if He exists at all, exists necessarily. You're simply not addressing the conception of God from the Judeo-Christian tradition if you don't recognize that. The claim is not that God's existence is just a brute fact about the universe. The claim is that any description of the universe that does not include the existence of God implies logical impossibility.

A being like that could not have failed to exist. The explanation for His existence is the Law of Contradiction.

In contrast, you and I and all that stuff we refer to as matter and a whole lot of other stuff as well is logically contingent. It might have existed, it might not have existed. But if it does exist you have two options

  1. Explain its existence (or at least promise to do so eventually).
  2. Declare its existence a 'brute fact' that can't be explained.
If you think that the existence of a contingent thing can be explained, you may try to explain it in terms of other contingent things. But then we just ask for an explanation of those things (or declare them brute facts).

And If you think that the existence of every contingent thing can be explained, then those explanations will ultimately have to terminate in something non-contingent (i.e. necessary). That is to say, in something like God.

But Ben is right that atheists do have option 2.

However, I think that we should be very clear on what option 2 is saying. It is saying that the 'brute' existence of at least some contingent things is a mystery that we cannot understand. That's what it means to say that a thing cannot be explained...we can't understand it. It is a mystery of the atheist religion. Atheists need to embrace their mysteries in order to avoid the cosmological argument.

The arrogance of people who deny God just astounds me. The Biblical record has stood for thousands of years and, sadly, many brilliant minds have vainly tried to discredit it. Every year, another atheist comes along claiming to have the philosophical argument that will supposedly be the downfall of Christianity. It will never happen. God's Word will never fail.

While that isn't an answer to the challenge, I just wanted to throw that out there. As Christians, we can argue someone and defend the faith until we are blue in the face, but if they aren't going to believe, they aren't going to believe. The natural person cannot accept the things of God because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). They suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). Following the advice of our Lord, we are not to continue proclaiming the Gospel to people who hold it in contempt, but we are to move on and try to find those who are called to believe in the message (Matt. 7:6).

Sometimes I believe that Christians think that they need an answer for every argument out there and that is a bad way to think. If someone is opposed to Christianity, they will find another argument that they will hide behind. The fault isn't with Christianity, the fault lies with the unbeliever.

I think the whole underlying point of this argument is that can it be considered more irrational to believe that the universe simply exists rather then God simply exists and then created the universe?

Personally I think the whole question why is there something rather then nothing to be unanswerable. We can not simply imagine "nothing". Sort of like infinity, we can understand it as abstract concept, but not as a factual reality.

This is about whether or not Christians are being consistent, not whether or not nothing comes from nothing.
Sure, you can say that 'nothing comes from nothing' and also say 'God exists' with consistency.

That is, I think Dan is wrong too.

The real problem is that you haven't taken any risk with your consistent propositions because they are untestable.

At least, you haven't tested them.

You don't know these things are true; you pretend.

John,

But the Bible has been successfully discredited. Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there aren't still lots of Christians in the world who think the Bible is the inspired Word of God. But then there are also lots of ex-Christians out there who have been awakened by the criticisms of people like Sam Harris, Julian Baginni, Peter Slezak, and many other counter-apologists. They have been quite successful in attracting many converts, so to speak, to their skeptical view of the Christian religion.

Perhaps you mean to say that the Bible has not been completely discredited. In other words, there are still many, many Christians in the world today who trust in the Bible. But that's no indicator of truth. There are lots of Muslims too, and Hindus, and Buddhists, etc., despite the fact that skeptics are hard at work criticizing, say, the Koran. Shall we declare that the Koran has failed to be discredited just because there are still lots of Muslims in the world? I think not. The Koran---like the Bible---has been discredited plenty. But religion is a strange beast. It will persist despite skeptical criticisms.

I think the whole underlying point of this argument is that can it be considered more irrational to believe that the universe simply exists rather then God simply exists and then created the universe?
Yet another refusal to recognize the distinction between necessary and contingent.

The Christian claim is not that God simply exists. It's not our brute fact vs. the atheist's brute fact.

But the Bible has been successfully discredited.
Ben, honestly, you're giving me an excellent reason not to pay attention to anything you say. What utter drivel.

    Yet another refusal to recognize the distinction between necessary and contingent.
    The Christian claim is not that God simply exists. It's not our brute fact vs. the atheist's brute fact.

The whole underlying problem with this answer is that the Christian simply assumes God as a necessary being. Whether God actually IS a necessary being is left hanging in the air. In fact, I really can not imagine how it could even be proven that God truly is a necessary being.

Obviously anyone can construct these sort of logic games, that if X exists, X cannot exist without Y, then Y necessarily exists. Reminds me of the old joke about the physicist who claims he can know how everyone will hook romantically at a party: "First thing we need to do is to assume everyone is a perfectly round object..."

>> despite the fact that skeptics are hard at work criticizing ...

Ah yes, that appears to be the problem, not the solution. The trend towards skepticism may yet prove to be the modern sophistry.

The energies and intellectual ponderings that would discount and discredit the historical Jesus of Nazareth could be extended to question the historicity of Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar (using the same apparatus that discounted Homer).

The logical apparatus that skepticism created such as the fallacies of "No True Scotsman" (advanced to illegitimatize the possibilities of authentic and nominal Christians), the "Slippery Slope" (to avoid the issues of moral consequences), the notions of anecdotal evidence and confirmation bias (to dodge the discussion of individual responses made by apologetes).

That offers the use of bullhorns and noise-makers in formal debate with Christian spokesmen, resorting to appeals to ridicule, and ever boorish straw-man arguments?

Can we become skeptical of this skepticism? If it advances such outrageous whims as "the Bible has been successfully discredited," you betcha!

the Christian simply assumes God as a necessary being

Erkki, the existence of contingent beings requires the existence of a necessary being. That necessary being is what we call God. That necessary being is not part of the contingent universe. That necessary being is the source of everything else. In other words, it's not that we're assuming God is a necessary being, it's that we're reasoning to the existence of a necessary being from the existence of contingent beings.

    Erkki, the existence of contingent beings requires the existence of a necessary being. That necessary being is what we call God. That necessary being is not part of the contingent universe. That necessary being is the source of everything else. In other words, it's not that we're assuming God is a necessary being, it's that we're reasoning to the existence of a necessary being from the existence of contingent beings.

The way I have understood the argument is that the Christian assumes God to be necessary being because they reason that the universe can only exist with the properties it has because A: it requires intelligence B: it requires personality, and some sort of artistic vision.

While I can understand the logic behind this, these are simply put, huge leaps in reasoning. How exactly can we KNOW that the universe can only exist if created by personal, intelligent entity? Maybe we have simply HUGELY misunderstood the properties of the universe. Maybe we are imagining teleology where there actually is not any, sort of like we imagine trees to produce fruit to feed us, when in fact trees produce fruit to reproduce themselves.

Also, the problem of these sort of logical chains of reasoning are that they always cut both ways. Let's assume that there can not exist mind without matter, or immaterial beings with personality, or immaterial beings at all. This already disproves God as necessary being because he is logically impossible, so the idea that he can be responsible for contingent beings is also bunk.

Obviously, the Christian does not have to acknowledge this logical chain of reasoning as true. But this is exactly why it cuts both ways: neither does the non-theist have to acknowledge that universe contains teleological properties.

Let's assume that there can not exist mind without matter, or immaterial beings with personality, or immaterial beings at all. This already disproves God as necessary being because he is logically impossible, so the idea that he can be responsible for contingent beings is also bunk.

That's not comparable to the reasoning I explained, because you're starting with an assumption that rules out what reason requires--that is, a non-contingent being as the ground of contingent beings. Since the universe is contingent, any necessary being must be non-material. That's coming to a conclusion through reasoning, not through assumption. And that particular argument doesn't depend on teleological properties. It depends only on the existence of contingent things, which is undeniable. (William Lane Craig explains the argument from contingency here.)

In your reasoning, God is only impossible because you ruled Him out before starting your reasoning.

As to your challenge that "maybe we have hugely misunderstood the properties of the universe," I can only say that we reason based on what we have observed and/or known as a first principle to be true about the universe. Maybe, we're really just in a giant's snow globe. Maybe we're just the dream of a goat. All right. We can "maybe, maybe, maybe" all day, imagining that nothing we know to be true is true, but to me that seems a very shaky way of reasoning to a conclusion. Wild "maybes" don't excuse us from reasoning about what we now seemingly know.

    Since the universe is contingent, any necessary being must be non-material.

But the whole point is that we don't know if the universe is or is not contingent, or cannot exist in itself. Craig's objection to this seems to boil down to "I don't think so". In fact, if one assumes the concept "universe" to mean "everything that exists" it is in fact quite logically inevitable for universe to exist necessarily. The only reason the Craig's argument from cosmology works is because he makes arbitrary distinction between the concept of "God" and "the universe". So we are back to teleology: matter can only exist if it has a reason to exist.

    In your reasoning, God is only impossible because you ruled Him out before starting your reasoning.

No, what I am doing is reasoning that God is impossible not as a default position, but because mind can not exist without matter. One might of course object to this by saying that minds do exist without matter, but is this really more reasonable assumption? Is it necessarily true? How would one prove this claim?

    We can "maybe, maybe, maybe" all day, imagining that nothing we know to be true is true, but to me that seems a very shaky way of reasoning to a conclusion. Wild "maybes" don't excuse us from reasoning about what we now seemingly know.

That's really the whole point actually, especially if you accept supernatural claims as valid, one can construct infinite amount of scenarios about things that may or may not exist, or things that may or may not be necessary for universe to exist. That's why sooner or later you need actual, measurable data to make some sort of definitive claim about universe. Simply playing logic games all day is not really sufficient.

I tried once more reading WLC's argument for why the universe can not be an explanation for itself or exist necessarily, and I have a really hard time following his logic. Basically his point seems to be that we could imagine a different sort of universe, or no universe at all, so it can not be possible that the universe simply exists in itself. But this really doesn't seem to make whole lot of sense. "Universe" is simply a concept which we use to refer to the cosmos that we live in. If it were different it would simply be a different sort of cosmos, and we would also be different sorts of beings, asking the very same question. Or something. To follow his analogy about my desk being ice, "desk" is not anything solid that "has" to be something, it is simply a concept that I use when referring to the piece of furniture I use to place my work-related things.

If it were different it would simply be a different sort of cosmos, and we would also be different sorts of beings

Yes, contingent beings. The fact that we could be different shows that we're contingent beings. That's what he was trying to explain. (Here's a little more on what a necessary being is.)

Logic isn't a game. It's the rules that govern accurate reasoning.

Erkki, the existence of contingent beings requires the existence of a necessary being.
Oh, the things we can 'know' from our armchairs!

Here's just one example: that it's ultimately correct to carve up the actual world using concepts like necessary and contingent beings.

    The fact that we could be different shows that we're contingent beings. That's what he was trying to explain.

But WLC does not give any reason to assume that "we" could be different. Such because one can imaginarily go "back in time" and speculate about different sorts of ways the universe could arrange itself does not prove that this is actually possible or anything about contingency of the universe. In fact, because of the whole fact that we are who "we" are proves exactly in itself that this IS the way universe had to arrange itself, because if it could have arranged itself differently, then WE would be living in THAT universe. Could the universe have failed to exist? Well it didn't so A. this is not possible, or B. it's possible only in theory. Is there a truly random component in the universe? Hard to say, we can not simulate the entire universe as the simulation would be universe in itself, so we have to theorize.

Erkki, you're still misunderstanding. I think you still might be confusing this with a sort of teleological argument somehow. A necessary being is self-existent, not dependent on anything else, not a product of anything else, not grounded in anything else, not the result of anything else. It exists by necessity. That is just not the kind of being anything in this universe is. No thing in the universe exists by necessity. Everything we see around us is contingent, dependent on something else.

You could try to argue that there's no necessary being, but there's no arguing that you and I are necessary beings. Matter changes, and things that change aren't necessary beings.

This is where WLC's illustration of the ball comes in (I encourage everyone to read his post I linked to in a comment above, since I probably need to move on to other things at this point). You can't add all the contingent things in the universe together and come up with something necessary. It's just not possible.

Oh, the things we can 'know' from our armchairs!

And suddenly, logic and reason are declared useless.

And suddenly, logic and reason are declared useless.

No, that's a declaration that metaphysics is useless in some situations.

You cant have it both ways Amy. Craig plays fast and loose with logic - take this pearler:

"So it seems to me that premise 1 is more plausibly true than false, which is all we need for a good argument.

A 'good argument'? What's one of them? One that WLC likes?

The way he finishes up is also a peach:

"Moreover, the argument implies that God is an uncaused, unembodied Mind who transcends the physical universe and even space and time themselves and who exists necessarily. i.e entirely undetectable. All this does is beg more questions. Lets assume Craig's right for a second - so HOW did God do it? And how do we go about finding out?

If your answer is "well we should continue to do science" then how useful is WLCs argument? Ans: not at all. We haven't moved anywhere.

If your answer is "We should do some metaphysics" then we dont have any way of assessing the how accurate the resultant models would be.

Since the universe is contingent, any necessary being must be non-material.
Those amazing armchairs again. What knowledge-givers they are.
"All this does is beg more questions.
TGS, beg more questions[?], I wonder what you mean by this charge. I would think that if you believe that Craig is question begging in the first place, you might disprove premise 1 or 2 instead of just slinging charges of false reasoning with no support.

All atheists in this thread continue to fail to distinguish necessary from contingent. We won't get far until we get past that.

The term "God" has a particular meaning to Christians. It's no good for atheists to cavil on about the sentences "God exists" and "God does not exist" unless they are willing to use the term "God" as Christians do.

The Christian meaning of the term God includes a number of attributes, e.g. Omnipotence, Omniscience, Perfect Rationality, Eternality and so on. These attributes are of a character that it simply would not be possible for a contingent being to have them all. Now you might argue that these attributes somehow come into logical conflict...so that it's not possible for any being, contingent or non-contingent, to have them. But it's just not on the table that there might have been some being that has all these properties, but it doesn't happen to exist. If you want to address the proposition "God exists" and either affirm or deny it, you're going to have to leave that thought behind.

All talk about armchairs, and logic games and so on is either a ham-fisted effort at evasion or evidence of a real lack of understanding. Either way, it does absolutely nothing to address the Christian claim.

Another way to put this is that the point of the argument is that the existence of God is so painfully obvious that you don't have to get out of your armchair to see it.

In the end the 'armchair' objection is just noting the fact that the Cosmological Argument (along with most of the other existence proofs in the field of natural theology) is no more nor less than what it presents itself as: an a priori argument. Did you think Thomas was trying to do experimental physics?

So what does the 'armchair' objection do...it simply insults a priori arguments. Nothing more. It does not say a word about what supposedly makes such arguments bad. Is it simply the fact that they are a priori? If that's it, then kiss mathematics good-bye. But if it's not that, then what exactly is it?

    Erkki, you're still misunderstanding. I think you still might be confusing this with a sort of teleological argument somehow.

Well yeah, the only way to really make the cosmological argument work is to assume some sort of teleological properties in the universe. I'm somewhat sympathetic, if not exactly convinced, to the idea that universe might be seen to have "purposes" and "functionality" which can only come from intelligent source, but cosmological argument in its bare self is really making assumptions out of thin air.

    You can't add all the contingent things in the universe together and come up with something necessary. It's just not possible.

But again this is simply making huge leaps in logic with very little data. How exactly do you know that you can't add everything in the universe up and come to the conclusion that it exists in itself, by necessity? I mean, if we assume the word "universe" to mean LITERALLY everything, then it is by definition logical inevitability that the universe exists in itself. The only reason the cosmological argument even sort of works because it's proponents arbitrarily divide the universe in two categories "God", which apparently means some sort of necessary immaterial component, and "universe" which means matter as understood in physical terms. But exactly why universe is divided to these components, or what this distinction even means in practice, or what exactly gives the "immaterial" (magic, essentially) the power to influence matter is left unanswered.

So what does the 'armchair' objection do...it simply insults a priori arguments.
Maybe, maybe not. I certainly didn't mean to.

Suppose I were to insult them.

Would that make a particular one good?

You can give your invisible dragon all the properties you want.

Give him a completely consistent set for that matter.

Does it make your dragon real?

And suddenly, logic and reason are declared useless.

I certainly didn't mean to.

I can't see how you got that idea.

I hope we can just drop it without further discussion.

All atheists in this thread continue to fail to distinguish necessary from contingent. We won't get far until we get past that.

I have no problem distinguishing the concepts 'necessary' and 'contingent'.

That doesn't mean those concepts govern anything in the world.

So, yeah: Let's get past this.

I have no problem distinguishing the concepts 'necessary' and 'contingent'.

That doesn't mean those concepts govern anything in the world.

That's just it Ron. They govern everything in the world. If a proposition is necessary then it is presupposed in virtually all arguments (even the arguments of those who deny it). If the definition of my invisible dragon has the consequence that "My invisible dragon cannot fail to exist in any possible world", then we must say one of these two things about my invisible dragon:
  1. My invisible dragon exists (in every possible world including the actual one). OR
  2. It is logically impossible for my invisible dragon to exist.
The immediate question is whether you are you prepared to say the second one about my invisible dragon? While many atheists give it a noble effort, you really cannot argue that way...thus the ontological argument.

As for the cosmological argument, the point is that there is a fact in the world, the existence of contingent beings, that can only be explained by the existence of a Necessary Being, i.e. a being for which item 1 above is true. It makes not a lick of sense to ask what explains the existence of the Necessary Being in the question "Who created God?" That's to behave as if He were one of the contingent beings.

Suppose I were to insult them.

Would that make a particular one good?

No. But it also wouldn't make any of them bad...and that was obviously my point.

The charge that something is a logical game, or an armchair argument is nothing more than a (rather weak) insult to the argument. It has no bearing whatsoever on whether the argument is good.

And some a priori arguments manifestly are good (thus math).

As for the cosmological argument, the point is that there is a fact in the world, the existence of contingent beings, that can only be explained by the existence of a Necessary Being...
You've put 'contingent beings' and 'necessary beings' in your theory. That's different from knowing these things exist in the world.
The immediate question is whether you are you prepared to say the second one about my invisible dragon?
The dragon is logically possible. I already said Dan is wrong.
And some a priori arguments manifestly are good (thus math).
There should no need for me to repeat this: there are good a priori arguments.

They are very informative for things like math and married bachelors.

And yet, there are things you can't learn in your armchair.

History and physics come to mind.


And yet, there are things you can't learn in your armchair.

History and physics come to mind.

True enough.

But it seems that the existence of God is something you can learn in your armchair. Indeed, you don't even have to know that your armchair exists, but you can still know that God exists.

In fact, since you believe my dragon is logically possible, and since "my dragon" is, in the context of this thread, simply a totem for, "God as Christians conceive Him", I'm not sure what argument you have left.

If you weren't going to deny the possibility of God, the only other option you have left is that God exists in every logically possible world (including the actual one).

So why aren't you a theist Ron?

WL:

As for the cosmological argument, the point is that there is a fact in the world, the existence of contingent beings, that can only be explained by the existence of a Necessary Being...
Ron
You've put 'contingent beings' and 'necessary beings' in your theory. That's different from knowing these things exist in the world.
I didn't exactly 'put' contingent and necessary beings in my 'theory' I just noted that for any X, "X exists" is either necessary, contingent, or impossible. And that is because every proposition is either necessary, contingent, or impossible. A being, X, is a necessary being just in case "X exists" is necessary. A being, X, is a contingent being just in case "X exists" is contingent. There is no impossible being, X, because if "X exists" is impossible, then (of course) X does not exist.

So it's not just something I made up that every being is necessary or contingent. Logic requires it.

Now, if we are just talking about the cosmological argument, and ignoring the ontological consequences of saying that "God exists" is not impossible, its point is that the explanation for the existence of contingent beings will ultimately have to terminate with a reference to a necessary being.

But Ben is right in this: the atheist still has the option of saying that there can be no ultimate explanation for the existence of contingent beings. And, as such, the atheist does not need to accept that there is a Necessary Being based merely on the existence of contingent beings. So long as the existence of contingent beings is just a mystery of the atheist religion that we can't understand brute fact.

@ Ben,

"But the Bible has been successfully discredited."

Nonsense.

That is why you provided zero evidence for your assertion.

Speaking of necessary beings, there's a quiz online you can take that will tell you whether your current beliefs logically entail that a necessary being exists.

http://www.necessarybeing.net/

WisdomLover is correct that beings are either and exclusively necessary or contingent. So Ron, I don't think you want to attack that.

But Ron has hit upon a point which I think is fairly important. Unlike other disciplines, philosophy rarely if ever leads experts uniformly to a single conclusion on any given issue. Instead, we have, for each issue in philosophy, a myriad of different positions to which one can hold and still be considered a respectable and competent philosopher. So, for instance, one can be a realist or antirealist about morality. If you hold to coherence theory of truth, it is all well and good; or you can reject coherence theory and adopt a form of foundationalism. The list goes on. For none of these issues have we any consensus as to what is the correct or proper view to hold. And only occasionally (e.g. logical positivism) can anyone agree even on just the falsity of a view! Analytic philosophy, then, begets wide variation in the conclusions of its practitioners.

Why is this such a bad thing? Well, for a given issue, whichever view is correct, all the other views must be wrong. In particular, it means that philosophers are wrong about their philosophy a lot more than, say, chemists are wrong about their chemistry. (I say this assuming that the field of chemistry has not run off the rails!) One possible explanation for this extraordinarily high rate of wrongness is that we need empirical testing to set us on the correct path, whereas empirical testing is rarely if ever possible for matters of philosophy. But whatever the reason, since philosophers are so often wrong---even spectacularly wrong---it makes sense to regard philosophy with some measure of skepticism or even scorn.

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