#184 Infinite Regress

#184 Infinite Regress

Look, it’s a new comic!

And before someone points it out – yes, I know there are more sophisticated versions of the Cosmological Argument that don’t rely on this sort of reasoning (like Leibniz’s appeal to the Principle of Sufficient Reason, etc). There’s only so much one can take on in the format of a brief stick figure comic, I’m afraid.

Oh and hey look! We are now featured in the newest Philosopher’s Carnival, which you should go and check out! Now!


Discussion (49)¬

  1. wm tanksley says:

    I don’t think this is so much an unsophisticated version as simply a wrong version — its premises are irrelevant to each other, making the argument incomplete. I can’t state a complete argument, but try replacing “anything that doesn’t have a beginning cannot exist” with the pair (a) “anything that begins to exist must have a cause”, and (b) “the universe began to exist”.

    The premise I just replaced sounds like part of a syllogism that’s sometimes posited in support of (b), but it’s not a necessary part of the Kalaam argument itself (and isn’t sufficient).

    The challenge then becomes demonstrating that those two premises should be accepted. I’m told that physics says (a) is not tautologically true with more than one time dimension, while (b) is certainly true if there are singularities (which few physicists doubt, but there are some). Proving that black holes exist and “contain” singularities would remove one possible doubt from the premise that the universe began to exist; and proving that time has only one dimension would remove the other possible doubt.

    Of course, the other premises can be called into question as well, obviously, including the hidden one that once one has proven the First Cause one must have proven “God”.

  2. chaospet says:

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say the premises are irrelevant to each other. Let me put it in clear syllogistic form:

    P1: Nothing without a beginning exists.
    P2: Infinite chains extending back forever have no beginning.
    C: No infinite chain extending back forever exists.

    It looks perfectly valid to me, and as far as I understand it, it is one of the ways that supporters of Kalam-style Cosmological arguments have argued against the possibility of an infinitely-old universe, which is needed to support one of the key premises of their argument (what you have as b). You’re right it’s not a necessary part of the Kalam argument, it’s just one of the ways of supporting it. Now of course, supporters of Kalam arguments who use this reasoning will have something to say about why this reasoning applies only to temporal causal chains and not to God, but again, I haven’t gone after anything too sophisticated here.

  3. chaospet says:

    I suppose if I wanted to make the comic more relevant, I should have drawn on William Craig’s argument against the possibility of an actual infinite to argue against a causal chain that extends infinitely into the past…

  4. Canuovea says:

    HAhahaha… hehehe. Ahem.

    Ah. Logic.

  5. Ben says:

    You totally should have done that, Ryan. I’d have liked to see your drawings of infinite libraries and infinite hotels.

  6. wm tanksley says:

    Sorry, chaospet — I meant that the premises are irrelevant to the conclusion. Ouch. The premises are part of a subargument (which isn’t sufficient for the task it’s normally given, as I hinted by talking about 2-dimensional time) that’s often used with Kalaam, but it’s not Kalaam itself and has nothing to do with God.

    I should add that the “forever” spoken in the cartoon implies “since the beginning of time”, and since the argument he’s making requires a beginning of time, this doesn’t contradict the argument. Of course, monotheists add that God existed prior to the beginning of time.

    Ben, Canuovea and I can attempt to construct an actually infinite discussion thread, if you’d like. I don’t think it’d be as FUNNY as a cartoon.

  7. Canuovea says:

    Ah, wm tanksley, infinite discussion thread, good times!

  8. chaospet says:

    I am totally a fan of this plan. Infinite discussion thread, begin!

  9. Canuovea says:

    What shall we discuss this time? Shall we stay on topic?

    Hey, I have an idea, it doesn’t work, but I’m gonna say it anyway.

    Lets say that God hasn’t really existed forever, per se, but rather came into being at some point in the future. Then, God, using it’s all powerfulness, sent itself “back in time” to before anything ever existed and created it all and made sure that God would appear again sometime in the future. Essentially ensuring it’s own existence. Then it could pop back to when it came from and go from there.

  10. Ken says:

    Canuovea just arrived at the plot of the season finale of Dr Who by non-empirical means.

  11. Canuovea says:

    Really? Wow. Creepy.

    Never saw the season finale of Dr. Who… or did I?

  12. wm tanksley says:

    Canuovea, good start.

    But if God hadn’t existed forever, then God isn’t the ground of existence, and hence isn’t the God of the world in which he/she/it appeared. It would simply be a powerful being native to that universe. And, of course, there would be no need for this God to go back in time to assure its own existence; such an effort is a waste of … time?. What such a God could do, it seems to me, is create a new universe, of which it would therefore be the ground of existence.

    And presto, voila, viola, al-la-kalaam! A theological argument.

    A friend of mine presented an argument against the knowability of God, as follows: supposing that God exists, His origin is entirely outside the universe (of necessity, since He entirely created it). But this means His grounding is entirely Other than anything we can know. Thus, His actions will appear random to us — essentially and completely a thing we don’t yet understand, forever. Therefore, God (if He exists) will be lost in the noise of things we don’t understand. My response is that this is irrefutably true for a God who didn’t create this universe, but for one who did it MIGHT not be true; the creator would have created in ways that reflect Its own nature, and this nature would therefore be familiar to us.

    -Wm

  13. chaospet says:

    Actually I think Canuovea is right. There is no reason in principle that a being from the future couldn’t go back in time to the start of his/her own universe and cause that universe to come into being. That universe would just contain a Terminator-style causal loop. It wouldn’t be pointless or a waste of time for that “god” to go back in time and create the universe (thereby ensuring its own future existence) since, after, its doing so is a part of the causal loop that is a necessary condition of its existence.

  14. Canuovea says:

    Thanks Chaospet.

    I think that wm tanksley’s idea about God coming from a different universe to create this one (or whichever) also works, sorta. Except that means God had to be a resident of some other universe (“is create a new universe” implies that there is an old one), before He created this one. Which means our God and/or our universe haven’t been around forever… Unless time is relative to it’s own universe specifically. And that does make a kind of sense, as time is relative even to us.

    And this other universe where God came from… where did that come from? The same thing happened? Did that other… and we have the same problem again. If there was no other universe then the question about where God comes from is still unanswered.

    As for my idea, God would still be the basis of all existence, and He is understandable because he would be part of the universe, but He will also have created the universe. I still think it’s possible. Think of this timeline: God creates universe, God ensures self will be created or creates self, “one” God goes back in time (being omnipotent) to create the universe and start the cycle again, the “other” God stays on or disappears when the other God is created and reappears when that one goes back in time. This would mean that God literally created Himself (or itself, whatever) as well as the universe without causing a paradox. And depending on who you ask this could mean that there are other identical worlds/universes out there because that may happen when we mess with time.

    At first I thought that there was no way that this would work, but it might just!

  15. wm tanksley says:

    There is no reason in principle that a being from the future couldn’t go back in time to the start of his/her own universe and cause that universe to come into being.

    There are many reasons “in principle” why that wouldn’t happen.

    Time travel isn’t sufficient — you’re not traveling to the beginning of time, but rather PRIOR to the beginning (at least logically prior). Omnipotence can’t be measured, of course, but if a being gained power within this universe, it would seem likely that the power would be native to the universe, and therefore not capable of transcending it. We can suppose for the sake of argument that this is avoidable (but I don’t think it is)…

    More seriously, the requirement to transcend causality is not covered by ANY theory or imaginative concept of power. Creating yourself? That means you didn’t exist, and if you didn’t exist you didn’t cause anything. No matter how powerful you would have been if you’d existed.

    The big deal is that causing a universe isn’t like time travel — it takes influence from outside the universe (including outside the universe’s timeline).

    -Wm

  16. wm tanksley says:

    I think that wm tanksley’s idea about God coming from a different universe to create this one (or whichever) also works, sorta. Except that means God had to be a resident of some other universe (“is create a new universe” implies that there is an old one), before He created this one.

    Yes, you read me right. Sorry I didn’t make that clear.

    Which means our God and/or our universe haven’t been around forever… Unless time is relative to it’s own universe specifically. And that does make a kind of sense, as time is relative even to us.

    All time is relative; lunchtime doubly so.

    The word “relative” isn’t quite accurate. Time in the two universes has to be either _independent_ (completely unrelated) or _orthogonal_ (time proceeds here without it proceeding there at all). Otherwise they’re not distinct universes, and they have a common cause.

    And this other universe where God came from… where did that come from? The same thing happened? Did that other… and we have the same problem again. If there was no other universe then the question about where God comes from is still unanswered.

    The little doubts I mentioned about the Kalaam argument, although they don’t appear true in our universe, could possibly apply in a different one. I don’t see how it’s possible to avoid singularities (who knows), but in a universe with two-dimensional time it would BOTH be possible to avoid the need to have a beginning, AND be possible to exist eternally without instantiating an actual infinity. (Or so I’ve been shown — I can’t possibly recreate THAT proof.) So if the other universe — or one of the other universes — were like THAT, then that would be a possible origin.

    (The trouble is that this gives us no possible conclusions about any deity… Our universe could be caused by natural processes in that bizarre universe.)

    I’ll stick to my opposition to Canuovea’s argument, since opposition to him is part of my ontological grounding.

    -Wm

  17. wm tanksley says:

    Hey, I noticed the tagline for this website: “Now updated every day that it is updated”. What happened before you had that tagline?

  18. Canuovea says:

    Lets rock and roll!

    “if a being gained power within this universe, it would seem likely that the power would be native to the universe, and therefore not capable of transcending it.”

    Nah. Why not? I see no reason for it.

    “Creating yourself? That means you didn’t exist, and if you didn’t exist you didn’t cause anything. No matter how powerful you would have been if you’d existed.”

    -In the first Terminator John Connor sent his father back in time… causing himself to be created. If it can happen in Terminator it can happen with God. Also, they say Chuck Norris went back in time and fathered himself because he couldn’t possibly be the son of a mere mortal. I think I know what you mean though, see my second last paragraph.

    “The big deal is that causing a universe isn’t like time travel — it takes influence from outside the universe (including outside the universe’s timeline).”

    -Why? And technically, once God went to when/where/whatever before the universe began He would be apart from that universe when he creates it anyway… provided He could exist outside His own Universe, which it seems we are assuming is the case (as it would have to be for your own idea).

    “All time is relative; lunchtime doubly so.”

    -Ha!

    “BOTH be possible to avoid the need to have a beginning, AND be possible to exist eternally without instantiating an actual infinity.”

    So God came from a universe where He, and the universe, have existed eternally, but never started existing, to start His own universe? The idea seems far fetched. Why can’t we just say that we are in such a universe? We could just be having a series of big bangs forever… and God there the entire time and we would be none the wiser.

    The thing that bugs me about my own argument you already pointed out. How did the cycle of God going back in time to create the universe and Himself start in the first place? The thing is that the cycle would have to be infinite (hence me saying the possibility for there being several universes existing at once, but with some time lag). But… it can’t be! It has to have started somehow. Or does it? Being omnipotent, does that include willing yourself into existence? No, maybe? I dunno. Does it mean allowing for such an infinite loop? And so the infinity goes on.

    Also, maybe we live in one of those infinite universes you mentioned and what was needed to create God just happened by accident and bam. God could still go back in time and do what it wanted, or this could have happened before us etc… who knows?

  19. wm tanksley says:

    Lets rock and roll!

    Bring it!

    “if a being gained power within this universe, it would seem likely that the power would be native to the universe, and therefore not capable of transcending it.”
    Nah. Why not? I see no reason for it.

    Well… I admit that I don’t see an impossibility, but there’s certainly a strong implausibility. You’re talking about an ordinary physical action causing something _outside your universe_. Under known physical law, it’s not possible to cause something even outside of your light cone.

    “Creating yourself? That means you didn’t exist, and if you didn’t exist you didn’t cause anything. No matter how powerful you would have been if you’d existed.”
    -In the first Terminator John Connor sent his father back in time… causing himself to be created. If it can happen in Terminator it can happen with God.

    Unconvincing, sir. Now if you were to cite the Matrix I’d be impressed. (The first movie, not the alleged sequels.)

    Also, they say Chuck Norris went back in time and fathered himself because he couldn’t possibly be the son of a mere mortal.

    Your argument is irrefutable here … I can’t deny it.

    “The big deal is that causing a universe isn’t like time travel — it takes influence from outside the universe (including outside the universe’s timeline).”
    -Why?

    Because the timeline is part of the universe; space and time are a single, 4-dimensional entity.

    “All time is relative; lunchtime doubly so.”
    -Ha!

    Some advice from me: Remember, to look original, NEVER attribute stolen quotes.

    So God came from a universe where He, and the universe, have existed eternally, but never started existing, to start His own universe?

    Yup. By the way, “eternal” means essentially without beginning or end.

    The idea seems far fetched. Why can’t we just say that we are in such a universe?

    A number of physicists have attempted to build models that incorporated 2-dimensional time (which is required for what I was suggesting), Steven Hawking among them (he used imaginary time). There are many interesting results, but nothing compatible with our universe at all. If such a universe existed, it doesn’t share any axis with ours.

    We could just be having a series of big bangs forever… and God there the entire time and we would be none the wiser.

    Now that specifically is impossible. The BB is a singularity, and a universe with singularities must begin in a singularity — it can’t be infinite in time.

    The thing that bugs me about my own argument you already pointed out. How did the cycle of God going back in time to create the universe and Himself start in the first place? The thing is that the cycle would have to be infinite (hence me saying the possibility for there being several universes existing at once, but with some time lag). But… it can’t be! It has to have started somehow. Or does it? Being omnipotent, does that include willing yourself into existence? No, maybe? I dunno. Does it mean allowing for such an infinite loop? And so the infinity goes on.

    I don’t see how you can “be infinite” if you can’t “be”.

    Also, maybe we live in one of those infinite universes you mentioned and what was needed to create God just happened by accident and bam. God could still go back in time and do what it wanted, or this could have happened before us etc… who knows?

    Or the First Cause of our universe could have been impersonal forces in one of those 2D-time universes — we simply know nothing of such things, except that if you can bend a timeline you don’t need causation.

    IMO, monotheists shouldn’t work too hard to argue for God from a First Cause. We simply don’t know enough. Anthony Flew converted from being an atheist (although not purely by “first cause” arguments) — but he couldn’t honestly become a Christian based on those arguments.

    -Wm

  20. Canuovea says:

    “Under known physical law, it’s not possible to cause something even outside of your light cone.”

    – One word: Omnipotent. Besides, even your theory about God coming out of a different, eternal, universe means God does something outside of His own universe.

    “Your argument is irrefutable here … I can’t deny it.”

    -That is just the power of Chuck Norris

    “Because the timeline is part of the universe; space and time are a single, 4-dimensional entity.”

    -Again. Omnipotent. But it doesn’t matter because I explained that this was irrelevant anyway “once God went to when/where/whatever before the universe began He would be apart from that universe when he creates it anyway.” This applies to both your concept and mine.

    “Some advice from me: Remember, to look original, NEVER attribute stolen quotes.”

    -HaHa!

    “Yup. By the way, “eternal” means essentially without beginning or end.”

    -I know what eternal means… now. Just kidding. I’d have to see such a universe to believe it. Though we still might be in one… More on that later.

    We could just be having a series of big bangs forever… and God there the entire time and we would be none the wiser.

    “Now that specifically is impossible. The BB is a singularity, and a universe with singularities must begin in a singularity — it can’t be infinite in time.”

    I remember reading a theory that stated the universe might expand (a la big bang), then contract again to the point of being pre-big bang, then have another big bang, then go on and on and on again, repeating, eternally (Or not, but who knows?). And we have no way to know if this is true or not because we cannot know anything about before the big bang. Hells, it all might be linked to the heat death of the universe, we don’t know!

    “I don’t see how you can “be infinite” if you can’t “be”.”

    That is exactly the dilemma I have. However, and this may be the greatest crackpottery ever spewed, what if you actually can be? It completely defies all logic… but… Omnipotent? Of course this sounds like just the thing a creationist would fall back on if pushed; but that’s what we’re dealing with here.

    But hey, otherwise we can just say God willed Himself into existence, right? That’s easy!

    “Or the First Cause of our universe could have been impersonal forces in one of those 2D-time universes — we simply know nothing of such things, except that if you can bend a timeline you don’t need causation.”

    – So true. It could have been given what we know and theorize about. Except I have no idea what that means, but it probably is true. But hey, maybe God is caused by the same thing?

    In the comic 8-bit Theater some (Omnipotent… almost) wizard tries to go back in time to give suggestions to the universe before it got created (apparently thoughts or words simply caused things to be… anyone’s thoughts or words). Unfortunately he sent someone else by accident and that persons first words were… “This place could use some light…” and things took off from there.

    “IMO, monotheists shouldn’t work too hard to argue for God from a First Cause. We simply don’t know enough. Anthony Flew converted from being an atheist (although not purely by “first cause” arguments) — but he couldn’t honestly become a Christian based on those arguments.”

    – Oh, I agree with this. Maybe monotheists shouldn’t work very hard to argue for God at all. At least from a layman’s perspective; I haven’t heard an argument for God convincing enough to prove His existence to me… I haven’t heard the contrary either… And this includes the burden of proof arguments as well, by the way. “Atheists” can’t disprove God’s existence, but that doesn’t mean the Theists have to prove it, and vice versa. Makes no sense.

    I will concede that IF there is an eternal universe with an eternal God then yes, that God would be eternal (at least according to itself) and could come and make our universe etc. That does work. I just find it bemusing and crazy that there would actually be anything eternal. Sure, it’s possible, I did say that we could almost be living in one, but that doesn’t make it any less bemusing and crazy to me. It works just fine though.

    And if time is subjective than God isn’t eternal… to us! Nyah!
    Or, all any God would need to do to be eternal would be to exist before or outside our universe before or at some point in our universe’s existence… Then again, you could also argue that existing outside our universe means it doesn’t really exist. Huh?

  21. wm tanksley says:

    “Under known physical law, it’s not possible to cause something even outside of your light cone.”
    – One word: Omnipotent.

    No, the crucial point is two words: become omnipotent. Whatever restrictions may be on omnipotence, it’s certain that if a godling “became” omnipotent, that means that something happened to cause the omnipotence, and the effect of that cause _should_, by well-established physical law, remain inside the lightcone of the causal event.

    Besides, even your theory about God coming out of a different, eternal, universe means God does something outside of His own universe.

    The fact that the new universe is created from the original one makes it a branch universe, not fully “outside”. This is a distinction we’ve had to make with the idea of the multiverse.

    “Because the timeline is part of the universe; space and time are a single, 4-dimensional entity.”
    -Again. Omnipotent.

    That word doesn’t render philosophy impotent — you still have to explain how the concepts fit together. If the concepts are incoherent together, then “omnipotent” doesn’t explain anything.

    I remember reading a theory that stated the universe might expand (a la big bang), then contract again to the point of being pre-big bang, then have another big bang, then go on and on and on again, repeating, eternally (Or not, but who knows?). And we have no way to know if this is true or not because we cannot know anything about before the big bang. Hells, it all might be linked to the heat death of the universe, we don’t know!

    Science has come a long way since that theory was propounded. There are two major problems: first, the universe isn’t “bouncy” enough (it loses energy with every bounce, at least 90% loss, so that even if repeated bounces are otherwise possible, eventually you won’t have enough energy to re-form the singularity); and second, as long as there’s inflation (which is observed and confirmed), there must be a singularity where physics breaks down (proved in 2001).

    – Oh, I agree with this. Maybe monotheists shouldn’t work very hard to argue for God at all. At least from a layman’s perspective; I haven’t heard an argument for God convincing enough to prove His existence to me…

    Sounds like you’re making an argument for us monotheists needing to try HARDER :-).

    “Atheists” can’t disprove God’s existence, but that doesn’t mean the Theists have to prove it, and vice versa. Makes no sense.

    I think it’s good to think about these things… Even if you’re convinced about the need for a First Cause, or perhaps even a personal First Cause, it seems that you can’t conclude for a (specific) God without revelation of some kind. But you can’t look for revelation without knowing what you’re looking for…

    I will concede that IF there is an eternal universe with an eternal God then yes, that God would be eternal (at least according to itself) and could come and make our universe etc. That does work. I just find it bemusing and crazy that there would actually be anything eternal. Sure, it’s possible, I did say that we could almost be living in one, but that doesn’t make it any less bemusing and crazy to me. It works just fine though.

    Nothing else seems possible, at this point. It may be confusing, but it’s perfectly consistent and fits with the evidence. I don’t mean “God”, I just mean “something eternal causing our universe”.

    And if time is subjective than God isn’t eternal… to us! Nyah!

    I think you meant to use a word different from “subjective”. Time certainly isn’t subjective.

    Or, all any God would need to do to be eternal would be to exist before or outside our universe before or at some point in our universe’s existence… Then again, you could also argue that existing outside our universe means it doesn’t really exist. Huh?

    True. “Existing outside our universe” (AKA being “transcendent”), however, is different from “existing ONLY outside our universe” (being “wholly transcendent”). If God were wholly transcendent, we couldn’t experience any effect of His existence or nonexistence (including the effect of creation). If he weren’t transcendent at all, He couldn’t have created.

    -Wm

  22. Canuovea says:

    “become omnipotent”

    Maybe being God is enough to be omnipotent. And, if it is possible to be omnipotent enough to completely ignore logic, couldn’t a theoretical God just make itself eternal and it would be so? No matter where it came from?

    “The fact that the new universe is created from the original one makes it a branch universe, not fully “outside”. This is a distinction we’ve had to make with the idea of the multiverse.”

    I seem to have missed the whole thing about being part of a branch of another universe, I just thought you meant a God leaving one universe to create another. Interesting concept.

    “If the concepts are incoherent together, then “omnipotent” doesn’t explain anything.”

    Concepts that are logically incoherent you mean. A being so powerful it can do anything at all can literally do that.

    “Science has come a long way since that theory was propounded”

    Most interesting. But now I’m curious about what happens when the heat death of the universe occurs. Of course we cannot quite answer that.

    “Sounds like you’re making an argument for us monotheists needing to try HARDER”

    Good. Gooooood. Please do try. That should keep this thread going on for a loooong time.

    “Nothing else seems possible, at this point”

    At this point? Well, that’s that then isn’t it?

    “I think you meant to use a word different from “subjective”. Time certainly isn’t subjective.”

    Er. Relative, like Einstein said.

    “True. “Existing outside our universe” (AKA being “transcendent”), however, is different from “existing ONLY outside our universe” (being “wholly transcendent”). If God were wholly transcendent, we couldn’t experience any effect of His existence or nonexistence (including the effect of creation). If he weren’t transcendent at all, He couldn’t have created.”

    Ah, that makes sense.

    Now, I need to go eat.

  23. chaospet says:

    You’re off to a good start here, fellas. We’ll have an actual infinity in no time!

  24. wm tanksley says:

    chaospet: thank you. I think the phrase “in no time” is going to figure heavily into the production of the actual infinity…

  25. wm tanksley says:

    Maybe being God is enough to be omnipotent.

    That’s the idea behind/under monotheism… The power of God is part of His nature, not something He gained. As far as I can tell, it’s precisely the point that your hypothesis is denying: “what if God didn’t ‘always’ have omnipotence?”

    (By the way, interestingly, this is one of the central distinctives of Mormonism: that God was once like us, and we can become what God is. The difference is that in Mormonism, this universe is itself fundamentally eternal, and contains a principle/force which leads to the bringing about of all these gods.)

    And, if it is possible to be omnipotent enough to completely ignore logic, couldn’t a theoretical God just make itself eternal and it would be so? No matter where it came from?

    I don’t know. Is it possible to be omnipotent in that way? (Chaospet made a cartoon about it, so it must be true.) More to the point, is it possible to BECOME omnipotent in that way? I find both highly dubious — but the second seems most unlikely, since it involves breaking logic when you’re not yet omnipotent.

    I seem to have missed the whole thing about being part of a branch of another universe, I just thought you meant a God leaving one universe to create another. Interesting concept.

    You didn’t miss it — I simply failed to say it before. It’s incoherent to talk about leaving your universe; once you’re in it, you can’t leave, by definition.

    Concepts that are logically incoherent you mean. A being so powerful it can do anything at all can literally do that.

    Yes. But as we all know, it’s not certain that the logical concept of “power” has this within its definition. Any more than we can build a machine that can produce ANYTHING that starts with the letter ‘n’. (This short story is very worth reading.)

    Most interesting. But now I’m curious about what happens when the heat death of the universe occurs. Of course we cannot quite answer that.

    Well… “What happens” is pretty simple… All motion and possibility of motion ends, and time becomes irrelevant.

    “Sounds like you’re making an argument for us monotheists needing to try HARDER”
    Good. Gooooood. Please do try. That should keep this thread going on for a loooong time.

    Heh… I’m hearing the Sith Emperor’s voice there.

    [I deleted my babble about “transcendent”]
    Ah, that makes sense.

    Then I was doing it WRONG. 🙂

    -Wm

  26. Canuovea says:

    ” As far as I can tell, it’s precisely the point that your hypothesis is denying: “what if God didn’t ‘always’ have omnipotence?””

    I didn’t meant that at all, I’m not Mormon (though I find the idea of “one of us” becoming Omnipotent pretty interesting), I’m just wondering where God could have logically come from. I was assuming that God’s nature is both Omnipotent and Omniscient here, since day one, or whenever if there ever was a day one. Say God was made to just pop into existence, instantly there, maybe even willing itself there, and Omnipotent and Omniscient. Though I suppose my 8 bit theater wizard example was a bit misleading there.

    “Is it possible to be omnipotent in that way? (Chaospet made a cartoon about it, so it must be true.) More to the point, is it possible to BECOME omnipotent in that way? I find both highly dubious”

    Arguing from the point of being naturally omnipotent, then why not? I am willing to make a distinction between two different types of Omnipotent (and maybe Omniscient too), one that follows logic and one that can do whatever, even against logic. I recognize that for many God arguments the requirement is a God that can defy logic.

    Maybe… God is a contradiction, an existing contradiction, and anything at all can follow from a contradiction. For example, God being eternal but having a beginning before making Itself eternal is a contradiction. But anything follows from a contradiction, even another one. If you’re premises are a contradiction you can say anything at all… Hence my opinion about not being able to prove God exists/doesn’t exist via logic.

    I had another point but forgot it, it wasn’t all that importent then, eh?

    “It’s incoherent to talk about leaving your universe; once you’re in it, you can’t leave, by definition.”

    Unless you’re Omnipotent in the “I can ignore logic” way…

    “it’s not certain that the logical concept of “power” has this within its definition”

    Ah, yes. Well, this is what happens when Omniscience comes into play then, isn’t it? Isn’t that the problem that the machine had? It didn’t know everything (even if it did know a lot).

    I did like the short story though. Really good.

    And for the books I define power thusly: “The ability to do.” There are just many different types of power. A being that can do anything it can conceive of (logic or no logic) is as powerful as can be. And a being that can conceive of anything, that knows everything, in conjunction with that, is almost beyond comprehension. Maybe it is beyond comprehension, except maybe little word concepts that we do not really understand.

    “Well… “What happens” is pretty simple… All motion and possibility of motion ends, and time becomes irrelevant.”

    Thanks. Interesting…

    “Heh… I’m hearing the Sith Emperor’s voice there.”

    Excellent. That was exactly my intention.

    “[I deleted my babble about “transcendent”]
    Ah, that makes sense.
    Then I was doing it WRONG. 🙂 ”

    That also makes sense…

  27. wm tanksley says:

    I’m just wondering where God could have logically come from. I was assuming that God’s nature is both Omnipotent and Omniscient here, since day one, or whenever if there ever was a day one.

    I misread your argument, then. Thanks for the clarification — but keep in mind that misreading arguments is a VITAL skill if a debate is ever going to reach an infinite length! So you should really be thanking me.

    Anyhow, I do think your assumption is a necessary one. The ability to grant oneself omnipotence is itself omnipotence, it seems.

    Say God was made to just pop into existence, instantly there, maybe even willing itself there, and Omnipotent and Omniscient.

    Okay. Although “willing itself there” isn’t possible — remember, one can’t act when one doesn’t exist.

    Arguing from the point of being naturally omnipotent, then why not? I am willing to make a distinction between two different types of Omnipotent (and maybe Omniscient too), one that follows logic and one that can do whatever, even against logic. I recognize that for many God arguments the requirement is a God that can defy logic.

    I’m not familiar with any of those arguments. (I don’t mean that I don’t believe they exist, merely that I haven’t read them in any detail. They fail to interest me.) I also don’t believe they receive any use in religious circles, outside of people attributing unbelievable positions to their opponents (I’ve read one group that included their opposition in a secret religious ceremony saying self-contradictory things about their god).

    Maybe… God is a contradiction, an existing contradiction, and anything at all can follow from a contradiction.

    Maybe, but you’d have to show first that there’s a contradiction, and second that it actually exists. The fact that your “maybe” about God contains a contradiction simply seems to indicate that your “maybe” is actually a “not”.

    For example, God being eternal but having a beginning before making Itself eternal is a contradiction. But anything follows from a contradiction, even another one. If you’re premises are a contradiction you can say anything at all… Hence my opinion about not being able to prove God exists/doesn’t exist via logic.

    Actual logics that are based on allowing contradictions seem to have tougher rules to them. I don’t know enough about them, but I read THAT much :-). One of the goals of those logics is to prevent the infectious spread of contradictions. In reality, contradictions DON’T actually spread in the way that they do if we assume them in “normal” logic; thus, if a dialethic logic actually models the real world, its contradictions must not spread.

    “it’s not certain that the logical concept of “power” has this within its definition”
    And for the books I define power thusly: “The ability to do.” There are just many different types of power. A being that can do anything it can conceive of (logic or no logic) is as powerful as can be. And a being that can conceive of anything, that knows everything, in conjunction with that, is almost beyond comprehension. Maybe it is beyond comprehension, except maybe little word concepts that we do not really understand.

    “Beyond comprehension” doesn’t mean “obviously contradictory”. It’s got to be a _little_ deeper than that. It’s one thing to have a koan; but koans teach a deeper truth, they don’t actually affirm the apparent contradiction.

    -Wm

  28. hallogallo says:

    Yo, this is maybe a digression, but what keeps God a continuous being? If God’s exempt from normal physical causation then what makes God1 continuous with God2?

  29. hallogallo says:

    Actually, is it even coherent to propose time-slices of God? If not, what the hell kind of being is this guy???

  30. wm tanksley says:

    hallogallo, if God were discontinuous then it would seem that digressing from a topic would be a proper form of worship. So it seems apt to bring up the issue. QED.

    But aside from that… An eternal being … timesliced? An eternal creator must be present in the timeline (since it allegedly caused the timeline), but it seems that it would have to be the same throughout it (since its own time is independent of the timeline’s own). Not merely the same being, but actually unchanging as a being (i.e. not developing or experiencing cause and effect with respect to the created universe, even if it still experienced all that in its own universe).

    So it seems to me.

    -Wm

  31. Canuovea says:

    “misreading arguments is a VITAL skill if a debate is ever going to reach an infinite length! So you should really be thanking me.”

    Well then. Thank you. Thank you very much!

    “Although “willing itself there” isn’t possible — remember, one can’t act when one doesn’t exist.”

    That sounds reasonable. Then again, God isn’t always reasonable is it?

    “I’m not familiar with any of those arguments. (I don’t mean that I don’t believe they exist, merely that I haven’t read them in any detail. They fail to interest me.) I also don’t believe they receive any use in religious circles, outside of people attributing unbelievable positions to their opponents (I’ve read one group that included their opposition in a secret religious ceremony saying self-contradictory things about their god).”

    Eh. What’s the point of being Omnipotent if you can’t screw around with logic?

    “Maybe, but you’d have to show first that there’s a contradiction, and second that it actually exists. The fact that your “maybe” about God contains a contradiction simply seems to indicate that your “maybe” is actually a “not”.”

    Yeah. Maybe. I was just laying out possibilities there.

    “One of the goals of those logics is to prevent the infectious spread of contradictions. In reality, contradictions DON’T actually spread in the way that they do if we assume them in “normal” logic; thus, if a dialethic logic actually models the real world, its contradictions must not spread.”

    In symbolic logic you want contradictions… in your assumptions because then you can say that assumption is wrong (or other important things). You cannot really use a contradiction in the main line of reasoning though, and in all honesty that would mean there is a contradiction in the premises. A contradiction in the premises just makes things messy and worthless.

    ““Beyond comprehension” doesn’t mean “obviously contradictory””

    Oh goodness no, I never said it was! It just seems like we have a long way to go before we can claim to understand the nature of God (if there is such a thing). I wasn’t saying that there is an inherent contradiction because of it.

    “what the hell kind of being is this guy???”

    Good question Hallogallo, very good.

    “Yo, this is maybe a digression, but what keeps God a continuous being? If God’s exempt from normal physical causation then what makes God1 continuous with God2?”

    I remember hearing an explanation about time by saying that God observes things and so they happen and progress through time. It’s like saying time is relative (a la Einstein) but since God is observing time is more objective because God is watching everything! This means it’s still relative to God though.

    “what makes God1 continuous with God2?”

    Maybe God makes God 1 continuous with God2. In which case… well… God is self contained in a time-slice way… and so, perhaps, eternal. I am not entirely sure though. And I find it difficult to believe that God is the same throughout our time line. It’s attitude definitely seems to have changed! Unless you ignore the seemingly vast personality changes that occur in almost every holy book in existence, particularly in comparison to the present.

    I wonder… will they ever have a holy blog? You, know, where the word of God is revealed? An internet version of the bible in progress? If any new religions pop up, will they use digital rather than physical media to write down scriptures etc?

  32. wm tanksley says:

    “Although “willing itself there” isn’t possible — remember, one can’t act when one doesn’t exist.”
    That sounds reasonable. Then again, God isn’t always reasonable is it?

    First, a god that doesn’t exist behaves like anything else that doesn’t exist. Second, to assert that “God isn’t always reasonable” you must have positive knowledge of what God is sometimes like — which gives you a burden of proof. How do you know that God isn’t always reasonable?

    “I also don’t believe they receive any use in religious circles, outside of people attributing unbelievable positions to their opponents (I’ve read one group that included their opposition in a secret religious ceremony saying self-contradictory things about their god).”
    Eh. What’s the point of being Omnipotent if you can’t screw around with logic?

    If one didn’t have that type of omnipotence (and I don’t see how such a kind of omnipotence can exist) then one wouldn’t be missing the point at all; one would be fully using the type of omnipotence one actually had.

    Yeah. Maybe. I was just laying out possibilities there.

    But if I didn’t disagree with you at every opportunity, this discussion would only be half as long, thereby making it only half-infinite! Wait, um… Half an infinity is still infinity. Never mind. I’m just being disagreeable again.

    “One of the goals of those logics is to prevent the infectious spread of contradictions. In reality, contradictions DON’T actually spread in the way that they do if we assume them in “normal” logic; thus, if a dialethic logic actually models the real world, its contradictions must not spread.”
    In symbolic logic you want contradictions…

    Only if it’s either not a REAL contradiction (allowing you to deny its containing statement), OR if you can assure that it won’t spread (because your logic is constructed aptly). By the way, have you seen dialethic logic reasoning? It’s VERY complex, because (for example) you can’t assume that not-not-A equals A.

    And I find it difficult to believe that God is the same throughout our time line. It’s attitude definitely seems to have changed!

    Now you’re certainly talking about evidential theology… I think the most important part of theology, since without a revelation it’s impossible to say anything at all about any god. We’re left with nothing more than some kind of need for a First Cause (and as I mentioned above, the first cause might be anchored in the nature of some 2D-time universe from which this one originated, rather than being a personal being).

    So the presence and nature of revelation is a crucial chunk of evidence.

    -Wm

  33. Canuovea says:

    “which gives you a burden of proof. How do you know that God isn’t always reasonable?”

    I’ve read bits of the bible, specifically the old testament. And yes, I know this is being both picky and is entirely subjective to my definition of “reasonable.”

    “If one didn’t have that type of omnipotence (and I don’t see how such a kind of omnipotence can exist) then one wouldn’t be missing the point at all; one would be fully using the type of omnipotence one actually had.”

    Yes. But at the same time, I bet if you asked the Pope (or someone else important on the religious ladder of another religion), he would say that God was omnipotent enough (sounds silly though, Omnipotent “enough?” Ha!) to ignore logic. The question is, why not? Why can God not be so omnipotent?

    “But if I didn’t disagree with you at every opportunity, this discussion would only be half as long, thereby making it only half-infinite! Wait, um… Half an infinity is still infinity. Never mind. I’m just being disagreeable again.”

    Hmm. Well, you know, an infinity that includes integers is longer than an infinity that doesn’t.

    “Only if it’s either not a REAL contradiction (allowing you to deny its containing statement), OR if you can assure that it won’t spread (because your logic is constructed aptly). By the way, have you seen dialethic logic reasoning? It’s VERY complex, because (for example) you can’t assume that not-not-A equals A.”

    We just haven’t run into a real contradiction… though I don’t think that there should be. Who knows?

    I haven’t seen dialethic logic reasoning, but I can understand the shear horror of such a thing.

    “So the presence and nature of revelation is a crucial chunk of evidence.”

    Personally I put little stock in revelation. Then again, I haven’t experienced it. But I could always have a revelation that my toast is made of human pancreatic cells in disguise… it doesn’t mean it’s true.

  34. wm tanksley says:

    “which gives you a burden of proof. How do you know that God isn’t always reasonable?”
    I’ve read bits of the bible, specifically the old testament.

    Zing! Well put. 🙂

    And yes, I know this is being both picky and is entirely subjective to my definition of “reasonable.”

    Actually, you’re guilty of equivocation at this point. A funny equivocation, but still an equivocation! The problem is that you defined “reasonable” in the message I’m replying to as “being unable to do things while nonexistent”, and now you’re defining it as “containing contradictions that are apparent to reason”. Both are perfectly good definitions, but only one at a time.

    Taking your first definition, the one I was responding to, I have to respond that the Old Testament doesn’t say whether God could create anything while not existing, because the OT doesn’t admit that possibility in any way.

    Taking it the second way… Well, that’s a much longer discussion than we have room for in a merely infinite thread; we’d have to go to a forum. (Chaospet, are we shooting for aleph-0 or aleph-1 infinity? I’m not sure I can handle anything more while typing.)

    Yes. But at the same time, I bet if you asked the Pope (or someone else important on the religious ladder of another religion), he would say that God was omnipotent enough (sounds silly though, Omnipotent “enough?” Ha!) to ignore logic.

    The pope isn’t actually the standard of Catholic doctrine; the collected teachings of the Church are. And they actually are pretty clear — the Catholic version of God, and the Protestant one, do not and cannot ignore logic. The Islamic version can ignore chronological consistency (so that Allah can declare something to be true that He had previously declared to be false, and speak the truth both times), but can’t ignore logic. Hegelian dialectic can have two opposite things true at the same time, but only to different people (thesis-antithesis). Engels promoted this to a formal principle of history, essential to understanding Marxism proper.

    The question is, why not? Why can God not be so omnipotent?

    Because it’s an incoherent concept. It’s like asking why God can’t be a colorless green idea that sleeps furiously.

    Well, you know, an infinity that includes integers is longer than an infinity that doesn’t.

    Nope — the integers aren’t compact; they have no length. Here’s a mind-picture proof: suppose you have a number line. Imagine the space above the numberline filled with water (as deep as you want it). Now remove all the integers from the numberline. No water leaks through — because integers are just isolated 0-dimensional points, they can’t let water through.

    The odd thing is… That can be repeated. If you remove all the rational numbers (fractions), no water leaks. If you remove all the algebraic numbers (like the square root or third root of a rational number), no water leaks through. Even removing the numbers that can be described by ANY program or formula leaves no leaks.

    The only numbers that actually take up space on the number line, it turns out, are the “un-name-able” numbers. These numbers can’t individually be computed by any function, can’t be described in any way… And there are infinitely more of them than anything else.

    “So the presence and nature of revelation is a crucial chunk of evidence.”
    Personally I put little stock in revelation. Then again, I haven’t experienced it. But I could always have a revelation that my toast is made of human pancreatic cells in disguise… it doesn’t mean it’s true.

    I’m not saying you have to believe anyone’s ever actually heard revelation. I’m saying that even if there’s a God, there’d be no way we could know anything about Him/Her/It unless it communicated with us with the intent and capability of revealing that fact.

    There’s a difference between disbelieving any story about alleged revelation you’ve heard, and disbelieving that it could happen at all. And, for that matter, both are very different from believing that it wouldn’t matter if it DID happen.

    My point was that even the most careful philosophic consideration together with the best understanding of natural science can’t in principle tell us anything about whether or not God exists. Even if we proved that there was a metaphysical First Cause, we still couldn’t say whether God existed.

    At some point we’d have to ask whether we should be looking for whether God might have communicated — and if not, we don’t need to be looking.

    -Wm

  35. Canuovea says:

    “Old Testament doesn’t say whether God could create anything while not existing, because the OT doesn’t admit that possibility in any way.”

    Very true. I find that in the OT God seems far more limited than in later incarnations.

    “The pope isn’t actually the standard of Catholic doctrine; the collected teachings of the Church are. And they actually are pretty clear — the Catholic version of God, and the Protestant one, do not and cannot ignore logic.”

    I’d still want to ask the Pope. It’s be funny.

    “so that Allah can declare something to be true that He had previously declared to be false, and speak the truth both times”

    That does defy logic.

    As for Hegel… the thesis and anti-thesis merge to form the synthesis (different from both) and that has to happen somehow. So it seems that the thesis and anti-thesis can be held by one person at the same time… as a synthesis… and I haven’t read all that much Hegel, because it’s painful, but I got that much.

    “Nope — the integers aren’t compact; they have no length.”

    Interesting, but I have heard of infinities being longer than another one. I don’t remember for sure. But if an infinity could start at one and go on for infinity it would be, potentially, shorter than an infinity that began at zero.

    “even if there’s a God, there’d be no way we could know anything about Him/Her/It unless it communicated with us with the intent and capability of revealing that fact.”

    Agreed.

    “My point was that even the most careful philosophic consideration together with the best understanding of natural science can’t in principle tell us anything about whether or not God exists”

    Double agreed. Which means you monotheists are gonna have to try really hard to convince me there is a God. Or even to convince me that if there is a God that that’s a good thing.

    “Even if we proved that there was a metaphysical First Cause, we still couldn’t say whether God existed.”

    I agree with you on three things in a row. Amazing.

  36. hallogallo says:

    “Interesting, but I have heard of infinities being longer than another one. I don’t remember for sure. But if an infinity could start at one and go on for infinity it would be, potentially, shorter than an infinity that began at zero.”

    Actually, weirdly enough, these two infinities are the same number. An intuitive way of thinking about it is this: for each number on the “1 infinity” number line there’s also a number on the “0 infinity” number line. So if you were to say “1” I could say “0”. You say “2”, I say “1”. So on and so on. Neither of us will ever hit a point where one of us has a number and the other doesn’t. This is called one-to-one correspondence and establishing this is how you tell two sets of things are the same size. (It’s what you are doing when you count; you are finding that the number of sounds you’ve produced is the same number as the number of objects in front of you.)

    There are infinities that are bigger than other ones though. For example, the number of real numbers is larger than the number of integers. I’m assuming there are an infinity of infinities, but which infinity I have no idea. Do you know, tanksley? I’m not savvy enough to be able to get through the wiki articles on it. I really do wish I understood more set theory stuff. I had to learn this business for a philosophy class I helped with, but since I don’t have a math background beyond calculus or a logic background beyond symbolic 101 it doesn’t really connect up with anything.

  37. hallogallo says:

    On continuity and such:

    from wm tanksley:
    “But aside from that… An eternal being … timesliced? An eternal creator must be present in the timeline (since it allegedly caused the timeline), but it seems that it would have to be the same throughout it (since its own time is independent of the timeline’s own). Not merely the same being, but actually unchanging as a being (i.e. not developing or experiencing cause and effect with respect to the created universe, even if it still experienced all that in its own universe).”

    from Canuovea:
    “Maybe God makes God 1 continuous with God2. In which case… well… God is self contained in a time-slice way… and so, perhaps, eternal. I am not entirely sure though. And I find it difficult to believe that God is the same throughout our time line. It’s attitude definitely seems to have changed! Unless you ignore the seemingly vast personality changes that occur in almost every holy book in existence, particularly in comparison to the present.”

    I’m tempted to say something similar, that omnipotent et al. God has to be completely unchanging if he’s to be exempt from the rules of cause and effect in our universe. I think this presents some completely ridiculous problems though. I’ll try to explain concisely (fat chance).

    1. This means God can’t interfere with stuff after he’s created our universe and its timeline. No zapping infidels or nothing. He’d have to change in order to do that, from “God who is hangin’ out all chillin'” to “God who just got angry and fried some poor sap”. Since most theological traditions propose these sorts of interventions (and even changes in God’s nature itself as Canouvea notes) this kind of requirement rules them all out. It doesn’t seem like God can interfere in our timeline without being/becoming part of it. I guess deists and pantheists and stuff would be okay with “no interventions” though.

    2. God existing unchanged throughout time seems problematic, because something about God would always be changing from our perspective: his position in time. I’m assuming most theological traditions don’t propose that God is a space alien living in an adjacent universe who popped in to create ours, so proposing that God has his own “normal” timeline (with normal causation etc.) but merely separated from ours seems silly. I think most theological arguments are genuinely proposing that God is exempt from certain rules about causation (causin’ stuff, being caused, etc.). So God moving through his own personal timeline is out because he has to exist totally unchanged. It seems like God doesn’t move through time at all; time is inapplicable to God. I guess that’s why he can know everything?

    Anyway I think this roughly amounts to God having to be both in the causal chain and outside of it to create the universe, which is obviously silly. Unless God maybe created himself simultaneously (if “simultaneous” even applies) with creating the universe? I think the only way to preserve theism and resolve this in any way approaching reasonableness is to pull a Spinoza about it and be like, WELL THAT’S BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS GOD! Except without all that “being exiled” and “dying from inhaling too much glass” business.

    Either that or divine revelation, as wm tanksley said, but if God is Wacky-Pantheist-Philosophical-Solution-to-Problems-of-Being God then maybe he can’t revelate at all and we’re stuck in the shittiest epistemic position ever. Hoooooooooray

  38. wm tanksley says:

    I’m assuming there are an infinity of infinities, but which infinity I have no idea. Do you know, tanksley?

    Sadly, nobody does. Unless God does, and he didn’t Reveal it. 🙂

    To be able to answer it, we’d have to be able to prove the Continuum hypothesis, and all we know about it is that it’s impossible to prove using conventional definitions of set theory (ZFC).

    We can define a countably infinite number of infinities (named “aleph-0”, “aleph-1”, and so on), but we don’t know whether it’s possible for those infinities to describe anything except the integers and the reals (and we don’t even know for sure which one describes the reals). And some mathematicians doubt that infinities are even relevant, since they can’t be constructed.

    -Wm (It’s been proven that I can’t earn money using a BA in mathematics. But I can sound like a mathematician in comment threads, so it’s all good.)

  39. Canuovea says:

    ““God who is hangin’ out all chillin’” to “God who just got angry and fried some poor sap”. ”

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    This could all be solved by saying that the books are all wrong and that God created the universe etc but didn’t touch it after that. But then why should we bother with God if that’s the case?

    Or maybe God can change and this whole thing about It not being able to is utterly useless… except for extending the thread.

    “Actually, weirdly enough, these two infinities are the same number”

    Okay. I’m no mathematician.

    “God existing unchanged throughout time seems problematic, because something about God would always be changing from our perspective: his position in time”

    Unless he doesn’t actually have a position in time. And maybe we need to be careful about what we mean by “change.”

    “Unless God maybe created himself simultaneously (if “simultaneous” even applies) with creating the universe?”

    That’s sorta what I said. Different but similar. Problem is, that unless God can ignore logic completely, it doesn’t matter if God is omnipotent if he doesn’t exist to create himself in the first place. If you don’t exist then you can’t do anything.

    Again, unless you can ignore logic entirely or maybe the simple potential of God existing is enough for God to exist, or appear, or whatever.

    “It seems like God doesn’t move through time at all; time is inapplicable to God. I guess that’s why he can know everything?”

    Knowing anything doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with time. Also, if time is inapplicable to God… who and why?

    I have heard of an interesting theory about “dimensions” so a fourth or fifth dimensional creature would be able to live any part of it’s existence at once. etc. The fellow who told me about it may have been playing too much D&D though.

    “I think the only way to preserve theism and resolve this in any way approaching reasonableness is to pull a Spinoza”

    Or say God can completely ignore logic. That works too. Then again, that’s about as reasonable as God in the Old testament.

    “WELL THAT’S BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS GOD! Except without all that “being exiled” and “dying from inhaling too much glass” business.”

    …Okay… Doesn’t sound like it preserves monotheism as most see it. Theism sorta.

    “Either that or divine revelation, as wm tanksley said, but if God is Wacky-Pantheist-Philosophical-Solution-to-Problems-of-Being God then maybe he can’t revelate at all and we’re stuck in the shittiest epistemic position ever. Hoooooooooray”

    Nah, it’s not the worst epistemic position ever. I’m sure we can think of worse. Eventually.

    “It’s been proven that I can’t earn money using a BA in mathematics. But I can sound like a mathematician in comment threads, so it’s all good”

    Ah. It seems that no one can earn money with a BA in anything.

    We can continue arguing about this stuff, but as wm and I have come to an agreement of a type (I agreed three times in a row!), we may consider moving on…

    For topics I propose the following. Convince me God does/doesn’t exist. Convince me it would be a good thing for God to exist; after all, I find people believe in God because they want to and for no other reason. That tips the balance for some it seems, simply because a choice between believing something you want to be true vs something you don’t want to be true, many will believe in what they want. Or so it seems.

  40. Canuovea says:

    Heh, a few mistakes on the typing for the above comment.

    “Knowing anything doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with time. Also, if time is inapplicable to God… who and why?”

    I meant, “how and why.”

    “Again, unless you can ignore logic entirely or maybe the simple potential of God existing is enough for God to exist, or appear, or whatever”

    Although it is true that if you can ignore logic you’ll think everything works fine, I meant “unless God can ignore logic entirely.”

  41. wm tanksley says:

    No time lately, but I wanted to make one comment…

    The question is whether an outside-of-time (transcendent) God can insert effects into time. It seems to me that it’s possible; the deity simply must preplan the intervention — know about it as part of creation. It can’t be something that’s done “off the cuff”, since the deity isn’t part of our timeline and can’t be causally affected by events within our timeline.

    This is actually a previously existing part of theology. In Christianity it’s called the ‘eternal decree’; the idea is that (logically) prior to creating anything, including time itself, God had to decide what to create, and that decision/willing was detailed enough to completely acheive His purposes. It therefore had to include all the interventions.

    -Wm

  42. Canuovea says:

    So… what that means is that God would have had to plan to be a jerk then become a not-jerk all ahead of time?

    Well, it does technically work… and it doesn’t meant that God was being mean for no reason… maybe looking like a jerk was necessary…

    But then the whole concept of free will is a bit twitchy. If god already knows what’s gonna happen, why bother doing anything? It’s like those stupid Greek prophets who give a warning and the person being warned tries to do something about it and ends up making the prophesy come true.

  43. wm tanksley says:

    Well, I just finished my presentation and paper for my Master’s degree; based on the rest of the class, the prof said I’d be getting at least an A-, so I get my degree! Whew.

    Now… With all my free time… I can finally get down to the IMPORTANT stuff. But first I’ll spend some time with you guys.

    Canuovea, there are a lot of odd things about free will. But although it’s possible that this would spell doom for some versions of free will, others could possibly be perfectly fine. It depends on HOW this creator-deity created. Several possibilities:

    1. All is determined by the Creator, including your will (i.e. what you want). In this case you have free will, since you can choose to do anything you want to do, but you don’t have libertarian free will, since you can’t choose anything you don’t want to do. This is Compatiblism.

    1.5. The Creator determines the environment and where souls get placed, but doesn’t determine the souls; but souls will always choose based on their innate desires and environment. Therefore, God’s arrangement of souls is how he builds the world. (This is Molinism, an originally Roman Catholic doctrine that’s now fairly popular in Protestantism — another area where William Lane Craig is an expert. It’s neither strict compatibilism nor strict libertarian free will.)

    2. Just enough is determined to complete the Creator’s decree. What that implies for free will depends on the decree. It may conceivably be impossible to distinguish this from any of the other choices, of course.

    3. The ends are controlled, but not the means. This means that you might WANT not to kill your father and marry your mother, but too bad — that’s what the Fates decreed, and that’s what’s going to happen, no matter what. This is called fatalism, and usually isn’t seen along with monotheism; it’s not incompatible, but it’s a bit odd because it seems odd to have a personal deity creating a universe in which persons are so completely irrelevant.

    I’m a compatibilist myself– which means that I define free will in a way that makes it compatible with determinism, both theistic determinism and naturalistic determinism.

    Anyhow, the only way that you’d have to ask “why do anything” would be if the creator were fatalistic, and that seems to be contrary to the evidence. The evidence is that much of the time, when we express our will, we can manage to bend the world at least towards it, and it’s possible to become more skilled and make the world bend still more.

    -Wm

  44. wm tanksley says:

    “so that Allah can declare something to be true that He had previously declared to be false, and speak the truth both times”
    That does defy logic.

    Only bourgeoisie logic! Okay, seriously, though… It doesn’t strictly defy logic; it indicates that Allah’s omnipotent will is more powerful than Allah’s omniscient mind. Thus, Allah only speaks truth and knows all things; yet if Allah wills something in His creation to be different, it changes.

    I do see problems within that… But Moslem theologians have probably seen those problems and detailed answers far better than any I could produce, back in the golden age of Islam.

    “My point was that even the most careful philosophic consideration together with the best understanding of natural science can’t in principle tell us anything about whether or not God exists”
    Double agreed. Which means you monotheists are gonna have to try really hard to convince me there is a God. Or even to convince me that if there is a God that that’s a good thing.

    I think the underlying assumption of your response is that the only possible source of truth is “the most careful philosophic consideration together with the best understanding of natural science”. I wasn’t assuming that; I was simply ruling out some of the possible avenues.

    Revelation, whether historically accomplished or personally accomplished, are two other avenues through which the existence of a deity could be shown. Those won’t tell you merely whether a deity exists, but also what said deity is like. The trouble is that there’s a lot of chaff in the air when it comes to revelation; clearly revelation is inherently noisy (and therefore every source contains huge amounts of irrelevancies) or inherently rare (and therefore most sources are pure fabrications). Of course, even fabrications and noise can be informative, since they give information about their sources.

    And finally, there’s a combination of reason and evidence that can provide practical results called “inference to the best explanation”, or “abductive reasoning” — also known as “finding the best guess that fits the data”. Into that category goes the so-called “transcendental argument for God” (TAG), which distinguishes itself by claiming that a core element of any argument, the assumption that reason is reliable, is itself evidence that needs to be explained.

    I agree with you on three things in a row. Amazing.

    Almost depressing. 🙂

    -Wm

  45. wm tanksley says:

    Sorry for the delay. New job.

    ““God who is hangin’ out all chillin’” to “God who just got angry and fried some poor sap”. ”
    This could all be solved by saying that the books are all wrong and that God created the universe etc but didn’t touch it after that. But then why should we bother with God if that’s the case?

    I’d have to agree — such a god wouldn’t and couldn’t communicate with us, so there’s no point in doing anything about it except wait for a possible communication in the possible afterlife, and don’t worry otherwise.

    Or maybe God can change and this whole thing about It not being able to is utterly useless… except for extending the thread.

    I think I’ve explained the “loophole”, which only requires the two attributes a monotheistic god is supposed to have anyhow: omniscience and omnipotence. The only thing this god cannot have is arbitrariness: all of its actions would have to be based on the same singular plan for the universe. No creating, observing, and meddling; rather, all the interventions would be planned as part of the original creation.

    “God existing unchanged throughout time seems problematic, because something about God would always be changing from our perspective: his position in time”
    Unless he doesn’t actually have a position in time. And maybe we need to be careful about what we mean by “change.”

    Exactly — the monotheistic god can’t have a position in time. If it EVER intervenes, it’s the same god in every detail every time. Any apparent change is only in the type of intervention, not in the entity intervening.

    Again, unless you can ignore logic entirely or maybe the simple potential of God existing is enough for God to exist, or appear, or whatever.

    That sounds similar to the idea of Necessary Existence.

    I have heard of an interesting theory about “dimensions” so a fourth or fifth dimensional creature would be able to live any part of it’s existence at once. etc. The fellow who told me about it may have been playing too much D&D though.

    As I mentioned, I heard that the Kalaam argument falls down mathematically when there’s more than one time dimension, so that a being existing on that timeplane could have an infinite past. That resembles what your friend was saying.

    For topics I propose the following. Convince me God does/doesn’t exist.

    It seems you’ve already conceded that point — you think it’s probably philosophically necessary, and just a matter for revelation.

    Convince me it would be a good thing for God to exist; after all, I find people believe in God because they want to and for no other reason. That tips the balance for some it seems, simply because a choice between believing something you want to be true vs something you don’t want to be true, many will believe in what they want. Or so it seems.

    That’s a non sequitur for both you and them. You’re right that the fact that (say) Christians want God doesn’t prove His existence; but contrary to your implication above, neither it is negative evidence, and it’s not obviously neutral evidence either — it may well be positive evidence, although nothing close to sufficient. The fact that humanity overwhelmingly wants a god to exist may be a revelation, or the remains of a revelation, from a deity.

    Now, there has to be more; that’s hopelessly insufficient by itself; on the other hand, it’s NEVER true that this is the ONLY reason people believe God exists. At the very least the additionally inadequate reason is provided that they heard from their society that God exists (in fact, some people believe that God exists because they were raised that way and do not _want_ Him to exist; I’ve met a few).

    However interesting these reasons are, they’re also admittedly inadequate. But they can be strengthened (or destroyed) by looking at evidence, primarily historical evidence. It seems to me that the first line of inquiry — looking at how people want God to exists — winds up being subjective and difficult, largely because it’s shaped by what people already believe about God by what they’ve heard from their society. Therefore it seems to me that the best place to start is looking at how people learn about the deities that they (almost universally) believe in. The answer, of course, is tradition. Written, spoken; taught, trained; propositional, narrative… All categories of tradition.

    But let’s see if my post makes sense, and anyone agrees or disagrees with what I’ve said so far.

    -Wm

  46. Canuovea says:

    Oh boy. And Congrats by the way.

    Wow. Free will is messed up.

    “Allah’s omnipotent will is more powerful than Allah’s omniscient mind”

    Thats worrying, but it does make sense… It would be interesting to get a Muslim Theologians perspective on this I think…

    “I think the underlying assumption of your response is that the only possible source of truth is “the most careful philosophic consideration together with the best understanding of natural science”. I wasn’t assuming that; I was simply ruling out some of the possible avenues.”

    I said that you monotheists are gonna have trouble convincing me… not that God, if God exists and wishes to convince me, would have trouble. I think that rational and logical discussion will be able to convince me… but we just asserted that philosophical consideration won’t be able to convince me… so… unless you have a revelation up your sleeve for me… Good luck.

    “The trouble is that there’s a lot of chaff in the air when it comes to revelation”

    Oh yes, indeed there is, in fact… it might all be chaff, eh?

    ““abductive reasoning”” It’s really called that? Like, the best explanation for the person going missing is UFO abduction? Harharhar… but really. Best explanation? Best explanation given our current knowledge base you mean? This is essentially guesswork, if educated guesswork, and I wouldn’t stack either my life or undying soul on it. But it has a more logical base though, I’ll give it that.

    “I’d have to agree — such a god wouldn’t and couldn’t communicate with us, so there’s no point in doing anything about it except wait for a possible communication in the possible afterlife, and don’t worry otherwise.”

    And while I’m waiting I won’t take sides, thanks!

    “The only thing this god cannot have is arbitrariness: all of its actions would have to be based on the same singular plan for the universe. No creating, observing, and meddling; rather, all the interventions would be planned as part of the original creation.”

    I like this loophole, it’s interesting… and plausible given the premise that God exists outside of time etc. Maybe God set the whole thing up as a kind of Chess playing computer… If (insert human here) chooses (insert action needing punishment) then (insert proper smiting technique) unless years existed is (insert time here, ex 33AD). It could go on and on and still preserve “free will” in one of it’s better forms… I’m just tossing random junk out here now.

    “That sounds similar to the idea of Necessary Existence.”

    Never heard of it.

    “That resembles what your friend was saying.”

    Ah. I just found it an intriguing idea.

    “It seems you’ve already conceded that point — you think it’s probably philosophically necessary, and just a matter for revelation.”

    Whaaaat? If there is actually a God it’s a matter for revelation… if there isn’t than… well… there isn’t going to be any actual revelation. There doesn’t have to be a God at all. If there is a God, fine… and I’ve said it is technically possible, but where did I say it was a “Philosophical necessity?”

    “contrary to your implication above, neither it is negative evidence,”

    Never said it was, just said it’s wishful thinking. Wishful thinking never proved anything to me.

    “it may well be positive evidence, although nothing close to sufficient. The fact that humanity overwhelmingly wants a god to exist may be a revelation, or the remains of a revelation, from a deity.”

    Or it could also, once again, demonstrate that humans, from a young age etc etc etc, have a tendency to attribute purpose and… a kind of intelligence or will… to things that are inanimate… like wind and trees and other things… This is as easily evidence for a number of other things…

    “it’s NEVER true that this is the ONLY reason people believe God exists”

    Uh… careful with the generalizations there… but, essentially… yes, I agree (after thinking more clearly about it, I am revising my original opinion)… and if there are people who are like that… well, no reason to actually bring them into the discussion. There is also how people are brought up, or “Brainwashed” at a young age… (I know brainwashed sounds harsh, but it happens to everyone as a child, religious or not, how else do we get what we believe in? Okay, there are more ways, but…). You live in a religious household then you will be swayed early on to believe in a God. But you already mentioned this and society. Totally “inadequate” as you say… now… on to the good stuff…

    Tradition… well… Machiavelli had a few things to say about tradition and religion. Best way to control someone. Ever. Worked for the early Romans, and it certainly worked for Moses (so says Old Nick anyway). And in “On the Geneology of Morality” Nietzche had some interesting ideas about how religion and deities arose (not that those ideas are necessarily accurate).

    Perhaps I should outline my own particular beliefs first (though you have probably gathered as much so far anyway, I may have even explicitly stated them, but I don’t wanna check): Technically I am an agnostic I suppose. I don’t believe God (or some indescribable thing out there), necessarily exists, but I see no clear evidence that states God does not. Furthermore, I believe that, even if God does exist, then it would be difficult to be sure of God’s particular attributes, so I’m not gonna bother worshiping the wrong thing.

    Anyway, let us continue

  47. Canuovea says:

    I’ve had a thought. This could be an infinite discussion thread without anyone posting anything on it! How? Well, it’ll probably be around for a long time, won’t it? And if someone were to transmit this into space it could keep going on and on forever! Provided the universe is infinite… Okay, maybe not exactly, but a pretty damn long time.

  48. wm tanksley says:

    Yeah, sorry. I’m kinda discouraged… I wrote an entire reply, forgot to send it, and my computer crashed. I need to write shorter replies so that I don’t have to worry about that.

  49. Canuovea says:

    Yeah, I’ve done something similar, only stupider because it was my fault. See, I wrote this reply once, and then I decided to click on something, thinking that the back button would bring everything I wrote back when I clicked it. I was wrong.