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August 29, 2016

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A segue or two: http://www.wall.org/~aron/blog/is-divine-simplicity-compatible-with-other-doctrines/

And also divine simplicity, right? God isn't contingent (and therefore doesn't need a cause) because God isn't made up of parts.

Aaannnndd bring on the Platonism.

If God has a designer or designed himself we are in big trouble because there is nothing to base faith on when it is subject to change. It is because God's essence, will, and attributes are one simple indivisible essence that we have faith.

All events do not require a cause. Radioactive decay doesn't require a cause unless you're going to say that the mere existence of radioactive material is the cause.

Why posit a god that cannot be detected as the cause of a universe that can be detected? Why not stop at the universe as the "uncaused cause"? It seems illogical to introduce a creator that is completely hidden as the explanation for the self-evident.

@Aaron - what exactly do you mean by the universe as the "uncaused cause"? Are you suggesting that the universe created itself?

Nathan, I'm suggesting that the universe was never created. Certainly, it seems to have come into existence 14 billion years ago, but there are many theories about how that came about, none of which requires a god.

Clearly, the universe exists (at least as far as we can be sure that anything exists). There is no evidence that a god exists, so there's no need to introduce one to explain why the universe exists.

Certainly, [the universe] seems to have come into existence 14 billion years ago

No.

There is no physics about something becoming nothing.

There is no physics about nothing becoming something.

Furthermore, there is no physics about nothing becoming everything there is.

Quote:

“Divine simplicity is not the doctrine that God has no features, an infinite tabula rasa. Nevertheless He has no parts and so is not divisible. But what of the Trinity? Christian theologians have routinely stated that the threefoldness of the Trinity—that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each person being wholly divine—refers to distinctions in the Godhead, not to divisions in it. All divisions involve distinctions, but not vice versa. This distinction between distinctions and divisions has been in service in trinitarian thinking a long time; it can be found, for example, in Tertullian. To suppose that the distinction between the Father and the Son, for example, is a division between them is to suppose that the terms “Father” and “Son” denote different parts in God, each of which is separable from the other. A triune Godhead that consists of a divisible threeness would thus be made up of three parts—Father, Son, and Spirit—who together comprise it……

…..As for the Trinity, the DDS was used to prove the indivisible singularity of the divine essence and thus refute the accusations of tri-theism. Lewis Ayres remarks, “[T]he deepest concern of pro-Nicene Trinitarian theology is shaping our attention to the union of the irreducible persons in the simple and unitary Godhead.” It is the DDS that ensures this is not a union of three gods. Following the Cappadocian fathers, Augustine appeals to divine simplicity in his De civitate Dei to argue for the unchangeableness of each person of the Godhead: “It is for this reason, then, that the nature of the Trinity is called simple, because it has not anything which it can lose, and because it is not one thing and its contents another, as a cup and the liquor, or a body and its color, or the air and the light or heat of it, or a mind and its wisdom. For none of these is what it has.” In De trinitate he further elaborates on the DDS in his attempt to establish the uniqueness, independence, and singularity of the divine nature:

“But it is impious to say that God subsists to and underlies his goodness, and that goodness is not his substance, or rather his being, nor is God his goodness, but it is in him as an underlying subject. So it is clear that God is improperly called substance, in order to signify being by a more usual word. He is called being truly and properly in such a way that perhaps only God ought to be called being . . . But in any case, whether he is called being, which he is called properly, or substance, which he is called improperly, either word is predicated with reference to self, not by way of relationship with reference to something else. So for God to be is the same as to subsist, and therefore if the Trinity is one being, it is also one substance.”

This passage affirms the identity of God’s existence and essence and denies that God’s attributes are in any way separable from his essence. God simply is whatever is predicated of him and none of his essential attributes is really or conceptually separable from him. The denial that God is identified “with reference to something else” is surely calculated to express God’s absoluteness in contrast to those beings that have their existence and substance with reference to him. God is not correlative to any non-divine thing.”

Dolezal, James E., “God without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God's Absoluteness

End quotes.

Also, distinction is not division:

Simplicity reminds us that distinction is not division, not amid Logos in God, nor Logos with God, nor Logos God. The Divine Mind carries us there into the Divine Communique just as the Divine Communique carries us into love’s elemental diffusiveness of the good wherein, again, distinction is not division. Truly it is the case that Pure Act void of both formal and final causes, void of potentiality, constitutes all such distinctions – necessarily void of division.


Aaron -

As I understand it there are only two possibilities. Either the universe is eternal or it had a beginning and that beginning needs a cause. Most physics theories trying to explain this require laws of physics for the universe to be created, but don't address where the laws of physics come from. Those theories that propose an infinite set of universes (all with different laws of physics) would require meta-physics on top of that to get that process going. So, in a sense, it's elephants all of the way down, unless you stop the process and claim that the laws of physics are the uncaused cause.

Turning to evidence, a set of theories implying that a god isn't required isn't evidence that there isn't a god.

Do you think there is a possibility that there could be evidence in the universe that God exists? (Therefore we would not have to work to introduce it - it would just be there to discover.)

If there is that possibility, what would that evidence look like?

Nathan, God could certainly make himself known. He could appear in the same dream to everyone in the world; he could write his name across the heavens; he could do a number of things that would undeniably point to him. Instead, his plan was supposedly to leave evidence in the form of ancient texts of dubious origins and allow humans to argue over the details for thousands of years. This seems like the worst possible plan to reveal himself. If that's the best he could do, he seems to not really be interested in getting the message across.

RonH, I'm not talking about creation ex nihilo. Are you familiar with Lee Smolin's theory of cosmological natural selection? When I say created, I'm referring to something along those lines.

Rather than "created" I meant "come into being". Sorry about that.

Aaron -

The theory of cosmological natural selection has similar creation issues, it's just one step removed. If our universe came from a black hole in another universe, where did that other universe come from? (Another black hole in another universe.) Either this process has been going on infinitely, or some original universe was created at some time.

As for evidence of God, there is a common line of reasoning (see many challenge/responses posted on this blog). The argument is:

1. God should do X.
2. God didn't do X.
3. Therefore there is no God.

In this case X is to provide what you think would be incontrovertible evidence.

But, this is a logical fallacy. The first sentence is actually "I think God should do X" or "If I were God I'd do X". So, the only proof in the end is that you are not God or that God does not do what you think God should do.

Imagine that you were alive around 35 AD and that you had seen and experienced incontrovertible evidence of God through Jesus. What would you do to make sure others would know about this after you died? Writing a record of events would probably be the best possible option.

Passages like John 20:30-31 and Luke 1:1-4 suggest these books were written with the express purpose of giving evidence that you could believe. Although this may not be the form of evidence you want or accept, it is still evidence.

Have you ever watched someone who was truly an expert at their craft? So much so that you couldn't understand what they were doing -- but eventually as you continue to watch, everything they are doing finally makes sense.

If the God of the Bible exists, that God is an expert in the universe and is working in a way that is the best way to reach mankind.

From what I've seen of your presence here, it seems that you have gotten the message. You know something about the Bible and Jesus. Is there something that you don't like the message that you hear?

If God really wanted to reveal Himself He could’ve created organisms that created internet forums to discuss His existence. If He really wanted to get fancy, He could’ve written stuff directly on those organisms’ hearts/minds (lets assume the heart/mind are extra fancy organs) and given them a conscience. It really could’ve been something. Then everyone would’ve believed.

Nathan, you claim that God has always existed and was never created. I claim that it's just as likely (more so, actually) that the universe has always existed. The universe exists right now at this moment. It doesn't require faith to believe that the universe exists; it is self-evident. This is not true with God, and even less so the Christian God. There is simply no need to introduce a god to explain the reality we experience. If one wants to introduce an unneeded explanation that is also undetectable, I would think that would require extraordinary evidence. Saying "I can't imagine how this happened without God" isn't good enough. That sentence has been uttered many times in history only to eventually reveal that God wasn't necessary at all.

In response to your final paragraph, I was an evangelical Christian for about 30 years. I've read the Bible cover to cover twice, and I've read and studied the "essential" bits too many times to count. It's this understanding of Christianity that ultimately led me to reject it entirely. It's not that I don't like the message (although, admittedly, I don't like the message), it's that the message is an incoherent mess, IMO.

BTW, I don't claim to know what God should do to reveal himself; I was simply offering a few ways in which he could indisputably reveal himself. You asked for what the evidence would look like if God existed and I responded with examples.

That such evidence is not available (people can reject the existence of God on reasonable grounds), one can only draw two conclusions. A) God exists but doesn't want to indisputably reveal himself or B) God doesn't exist. A God who is undetectable doesn't look any different than a God who is non-existent.

Aaron Ginn,

OK, I see what you meant.

Here's a better way to talk about it.

If Lee Smolin's theory of cosmological natural selection is true, then the universe didn't come into being 14 billion years ago.

The universe is everything there is.

If Lee Smolin's theory of cosmological natural selection is true, then whatever came into existence 14 billion years ago is some kind of subset of the universe.

Nathan, you claim that God has always existed and was never created. I claim that it's just as likely (more so, actually) that the universe has always existed....
OH yeah.

If Lee Smolin's theory of cosmological natural selection is true, then whatever came into existence 14 billion years ago is some kind of subset of the universe.

The theory is also called the theory of fecund universes (note the plural) indicating that our universe is one of many. It's encompasses everything we know of so in that sense it is our entire universe.

“I claim that it's just as likely (more so, actually) that the universe has always existed....”

“The theory is also called the theory of fecund universes (note the plural) indicating that our universe is one of many.”

Hi RonH,

These sound like extraordinary claims. Is there extraordinary evidence to support them?

Well.... extraordinary evidence is fuzzy. For example, given Non-Theism, it is in principle that we can build a man on the bench top. So it's only one's a priori about what sorts of Person/Persons exist and in what time/space/place they exist which can rationally lead one to, you know, "rule it out because science". 500 years ago what we do today would be called a miracle. "Extraordinary" evidence is only relevant when we begin to offend science and observational reality. Hence Searle's silicon brain and resurrection and today's miracle-level-medicine wrt 500 years ago is all quite cozy. We're just catching up to Scripture. Man never will be reducible to covalent bonds and so it all washes out. Easy. Clean.

Now, when it comes to motion, causation, and contingency, well OH MY.

The Non-Theist at every level races for the illusory. Even worse, in his flight from contingency and causation he marvels us all as he foists the illusion as evidence of the reality even as he foists the reality as evidence of the illusion.

It's impressive.

And all just so he can say that there isn't *really* a car and it didn't *really* "roll* down the hill.

Some see the absurdity and pull of short of what they will ultimately have to pay if they mean to do a full work and push it through. This group, in pulling up short, posits many universes, and, that they are quite special such that the anthology of physics really need not apply (else they can't pull up short).

"Evidence" here is, again, immaterial (literally).

But the immaterial is less dangerous (the Non-Theist thinks) than the alternative of absurdity which we find in the likes of Sean Carroll and others wherein the illusion is foisted as evidence of the reality even as the reality is foisted as evidence of the illusion such that the evidence for the evidence is the evidence of the evidence, which is evidenced by the evidence that is the evidenced.

Hhmm....

This: "... it is in principle that we can build..."

Should be: "....it is possible in principle that we can build....."

I wrote those things Blanco, not RonH. The theory of fecund universes does not have sufficient evidence. I wouldn't even classify it as a theory so much as a hypothesis. Some evidence from research in loop quantum gravity seems to support Smolin's argument, but nowhere near enough to establish it as a consensus view.

Regardless, any evidence is more evidence that the available evidence for God, so it's a more compelling line of inquiry than theology.

"Clearly, the universe exists (at least as far as we can be sure that anything exists)..." A. Ginn

Classic hyperskepticism's escape hatch into bizarre sorts of Wittgenstein-esc language games lest the taxes and fees become...extraordinary.

Hi Aaron,

I know that those quotes are yours. My question was directed to RonH because he supports the principal that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. I suspected that this principal is only applicable towards the claims of an extraordinary God.

You are a little more honest with your presupposition by saying, “any evidence is more evidence that the available evidence for God”.

What you see is not what you see and any theory to the contrary is proof. Objective morality does not exist, the universe did not have a beginning, life has no true meaning, and Christ did not rise from the dead.

I support that principle as well. Smolin's hypothesis doesn't meet the standard.

I don't think the claim that the universe has always existed is an extraordinary one, it's certainly less extraordinary than the claim that Yahweh always existed and created the universe. The universe exists; we have no evidence God does.

Anyway, I think it's fine (and truthful) to say "I don't know" whether the universe has always existed. It's more of a proposal than a claim However, the Christian doesn't say "I don't know" if God has always existed; he simply states it as fact despite a complete lack of evidence to support it. His justification for stating it as fact is a collection of passages in an ancient text. That's not evidence much less extraordinary evidence.

"His justification for stating it as fact is a collection of passages in an ancient text.."

Classic.

Hi Aaron,

The universe having a beginning is one of many evidences for God’s existence.

As RonH pointed out,"there is no physics about nothing becoming everything there is.”

You said, “it seems to have come into existence 14 billion years ago”

What evidence led you to believe that the universe “seems” to have come into existence? 14 billion years is pretty specific for an ad hoc assertion. And, what is the counter evidence to make you not trust that evidence?

The universe having a beginning is one of many evidences for God’s existence.

How is that evidence for God? Maybe it's evidence for a software designer who started up a program. Maybe you're just living in a simulation. There's no good reason to pick the former choice over the latter.

As RonH pointed out,"there is no physics about nothing becoming everything there is.”

Maybe not yet. Maybe there will be some day. We've only begun to understand how the universe functions. But it's fine to say I don't know how the universe came into being.

You said, “it seems to have come into existence 14 billion years ago”

What evidence led you to believe that the universe “seems” to have come into existence? 14 billion years is pretty specific for an ad hoc assertion. And, what is the counter evidence to make you not trust that evidence?

Everything we understand about modern physics points to that date. Cosmic Inflation, the afterglow of the Big Bang, etc. It's possible some new information will be discovered that points to some other date. If that happens, we'll reassess. Scientists, unlike theologians, aren't afraid of new information that causes them to admit they were wrong previously. In fact, they welcome it.

Hi Aaron,

I asked, “What evidence led you to believe that the universe “seems” to have come into existence?”

You replied, “Everything we understand about modern physics points to that date.”

Yet

You, “don't think the claim that the universe has always existed is an extraordinary one”


“Scientists, unlike theologians, aren't afraid of new information that causes them to admit they were wrong previously.”

I don’t think theologians are afraid of new information, I just think they believe, as well most scientist, that decisions are better made towards “Everything we understand...points” rather than “It's possible some new information will be discovered”.

“Maybe it's evidence for a software designer who started up a program. Maybe you're just living in a simulation. There's no good reason to pick the former choice over the latter.”

I’m sorry, are you saying that you are as likely to believe you are living in a software program or a living simulation as you are to believe there is a God? If not, please explain this comment.

I’m sorry, are you saying that you are as likely to believe you are living in a software program or a living simulation as you are to believe there is a God? If not, please explain this comment.

That's exactly what I'm saying although I personally don't believe either is true. There is no evidence for either case yet you assume one is absurd and the other is self-evident.

How would you know if you were living in a computer simulation if it were true? You wouldn't. This reality is the only one you know so you have no alternative reality to compare it to. This is an age-old question of metaphysics. I'm not introducing anything new.

Hi Aaron,

“I’m sorry, are you saying that you are as likely to believe you are living in a software program or a living simulation as you are to believe there is a God?”

“That's exactly what I'm saying although I personally don't believe either is true.”

So if He, “appeared in the same dream to everyone in the world” or “wrote his name across the heavens” or “do a number of things that would undeniably point to him.”

Your just as likely to believe it be part of the software program?


Quote:

The thing is, if one really wants to reap the fruits of our intellectual heritage, one has to engage the intellectual tradition on its own terms, making an effort to work within the semantic ecosystems in which ideas were put forward and developed, and not just within the narrow parochial semantics of contemporary colloquial usage.

What really puts the frosting on the cake for me is when someone:

[1] Decides that a naive contemporary interpretation of a classical statement is "just reading the plain meaning of the words", and then

[2] Declares the idea to be silly (which in fact it probably is, according to the semantics they have applied), and then

[3] When guided toward a more historically grounded interpretation, dismisses that more correct interpretation off as "playing word games" and "twisting the meaning of words". The irony at that point is just too much to bear ...

End quote.


And,


Quote:

We theists get ourselves into trouble when use physical and temporal analogies to address ultimate questions, because "outside" and "before" are now generally understood univocally, on which understanding it becomes nonsense to speak of reality "outside" of space, or "before" time.

An alternative, more unavoidably analogical manner of speaking that preempts the off-target objections of the univocalists is to speak of the condition or the context of space and time.

With the words "condition" and "context" we are using language itself as the root metaphor for understanding reality: space and time are likened to "that which is spoken" (diction) or "that which is written" (text), and that only makes sense within a semantic ecosystem, which we call the condition ("con-diction") or context.

In that vein, one can argue that change (or "time") ultimately only makes sense if there is ultimately an unchanging (or "eternal") context in which that change occurs. Similarly, the concept of metaphysical possibility only makes sense if there is a necessary metaphysical condition in which those possibilities can arise. According to this line of reasoning, if there was a contingent reality that preceded our own space-time, that reality itself must have arisen from some necessary condition and/or within some necessary context.

End quote.

(quotes by "j.hillclimber")

A brief excerpt from: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/03/an-exchange-with-keith-parsons-part-iv.html


“Keith, as we near the end of our first exchange, I want to thank you again for taking the time to respond to the questions I raised, and as graciously as you have. You maintain in your most recent post that explanations legitimately can and indeed must ultimately trace to an unexplained “brute fact,” and that philosophers who think otherwise have failed to give a convincing account of what it would be for the deepest level of reality to be self-explanatory and thus other than such a “brute fact.” Unsurprisingly, I disagree on both counts. I would say that appeals to “brute facts” are incoherent, and that the nature of an ultimate self-explanatory principle can be made intelligible by reference to notions that are well understood and independently motivated……”

Our Non-Theist friend’s missing-of-the-point is, though droll, impressive as his perseveration on the irrelevant forever mistakes the temporal or eternal cosmos as relevant to the question of God/No-God. His hyper-skepticism is simply Non-Theism's generic intellectual posture towards both old and new information overall. It compels the Non-Theist to not merely open up the escape hatch into the only safe house which can provide him shelter from reason's demands for lucidity, but to in fact unhinge the door altogether and toss it away.

The Christian is left trying to converse with someone (the Non-Theist) who uses what is at best a kind of Wittgenstein-esc language game of self-refusal which maps to foci termed we know not where all awash in an ultimate unintelligibility amidst a self-negating presuppositionalism soaked through with the curious flavor of an indecipherable solipsism.

The metaphysical baggage rendering philosophical naturalism the philosophy of boys isn't gaps within this or that strata of physicalism, but its ever widening arrays of the forced reductio ad absurdum at all foci. The Non-Theist's complete unawareness of the problem on the table combined with what sums to some odd flavor of a fallacious scientism amalgamated with the irrational chasing of ever more deflationary truth values is all, factually speaking, irrelevant to Christendom. As they say, "Reason's impossibly extravagant appetite...."

".....if reason’s primordial orientation is indeed toward total intelligibility and perfect truth, then it is essentially a kind of ecstasy of the mind toward an end beyond the limits of nature. It is an impossibly extravagant appetite, a longing that can be sated only by a fullness that can never be reached in the world, but that ceaselessly opens up the world to consciousness. To speak of God, however, as infinite consciousness, which is identical to infinite being, is to say that in Him the ecstasy of mind is also the perfect satiety of achieved knowledge, of perfect wisdom. God is both the knower and the known, infinite intelligence and infinite intelligibility. This is to say that, in Him, rational appetite is perfectly fulfilled, and consciousness perfectly possesses the end it desires. And this, of course, is perfect bliss.” (David Bentley Hart – The Experience of God)

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