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Ex nihilo

Here’s a quick one: young earth creationism likes to claim that God created everything out of nothing, but that’s actually a self-refuting claim. Before you can create anything out of nothing, you must first have nothing, and there has never been a time when God had nothing besides Himself. “Nothing” means nothing else existed, not even time. But there has never been a time when time did not exist, obviously. Therefore there has never been a “nothing” out of which God could create anything.

That’s the short-short version. The slightly longer follow-up is to point out that time is just one inherent aspect of material reality, which is composed of the space/time continuum and the matter/energy duality. In other words, we know that at least part of the material universe has existed for all of time, uncreated. It cannot come from nothing, because there has never been a time when it did not already exist (since part of it is time itself).

Creationists like to brag that the biblical account of creation is unique, in that it’s the only creation story in which God creates everything ex nihilo. And they’re right: other myths portray God as creating in the context of a pre-existing material universe. Biblical creationism is the only story build directly on creation ex nihilo, which means it’s the only myth to make the mistake of refuting itself right out of the gate.

Good one, Moses.

Comments

  1. Nick Gotts says

    The more sophisticated theists may try shifting their position by claiming that their god created the universe from its own substance, is “outside time”, or has its own time, (though I don’t think the latter is used by Abrahamists, since they insist God is unchanging), but then they lose the compelling nature of their “gotcha”: the intuition many people have that “something cannot come out of nothing”.

    • says

      Augustine (not exactly a marginal figure in Abrahamic religion ;-)) argued that time came into being at the Creation. In this view, “eternity” doesn’t just mean “infinite time”, it means “outside time”.

      No, I can’t make sense of that, but then I can’t personally make sense of what physicists say on the subject either, and Augustine’s view does appear consonant with at least some current scientific views. Not that I think he’s right about anything else, of course ;-).

      • rapiddominance says

        I’m kinda like you, Eamon. I can’t make sense of an eternity outside of time nor can I make detailed sense of what physicists say on the matter, either. And where I have to admit that Augustine’s views weren’t particularly scientific, they’re not at odds with science on THIS particular issue.

        Another thing that I think is interesting about Augustine (if my understanding is correct) is that he is one of the earliest Christian theologians to seriously question the notion of a literal “7-day-creation”. I don’t give him any points as a scientist, but I will give him at least SOME credit as a freethinker.

    • rapiddominance says

      I’ve got to admit–as a christian– that the idea that “something cannot come out of nothing” is purely intuitive. In using my limited freethought ability, if one can allow for an eternal deity (which is in itself mindbending) why can’t another person hold the position that the universe simply did arive on its own (also difficult to comprehend)?

      I THINK I understood your comment properly.

      • Nick Gotts says

        Not really: as Deacon Duncan says, if the current scientific ideas about how time is related to space and energy/matter are correct, the universe didn’t “arrive” at all, since there was no time at which it wasn’t. But at least until general relativity and quantum mechanics have been subsumed into/replaced by a quantum theory of gravity, or something else, other possibilities remain open.

      • rapiddominance says

        Nick, I think you clarified things for me. “Arrival” is an event that happens within time, like all other occurences.. So instead of the describing the big bang as “the arrival of the universe”, it might simply be thought of as “a happening”.

        Intuitively, it FEELS like an arrival–but science, often above my head, can defy intuition.

        Thank you.

        Scott

    • Deacon Duncan says

      And they’re also making a testable claim. If God were to reside in some kind of “outside time” independent of material time, then all mortal times would be equally accessible to Him, and we could assess His ability to alter the future by praying that He alter the past. Since He resides outside of mortal time, the only way He could lack the ability to alter the past would be if He has no ability to intervene in mortal time. But if that were the case, then it would rule out every purported intervention in the Bible, so all the Abrahamic religions would be ruled out too.

      • rapiddominance says

        If God were to reside in some kind of “outside time” independent of material time, then all mortal times would be equally accessible to Him, and we could assess His ability to alter the future by praying that He alter the past.

        (Matthew 4: 5 – 7) — I refuse to conduct this test.

        Besides, the test can’t be conducted anyway. Since we don’t know what the future holds, we don’t know what an alteration of the future would look like.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Which is why we measure His impact on the past, as determined from the future, instead. To put God outside of time means giving Him the ability to alter the past as readily as He can alter the future, since “past” and “future” only exist relative to our current location inside time, and would thus be completely irrelevant to Him.

        As for refusing to “test” God, if God is outside of time, then it “tests” God just as much no matter what you pray for, past, present or future.

        But that aside, there’s no real need to actually do the test. It’s mostly a thought experiment, because we know God cannot change the past. Otherwise He could simply retroactively undo everybody’s sins, and then there would be no need for Jesus to die. The point is that the paradoxes involved help us to see why it’s not meaningful to declare God “outside” of time.

        God is an imaginary character, and we can ascribe to Him all sorts of contradictory or meaningless attributes and behaviors, precisely because He is not real. And that’s what we do: whenever we encounter a contradiction in our stories about Him, we simply invent a new myth to account for the contradiction. But there’s no end to the contradictions and internal inconsistencies, because we are not, in fact, describing reality. Ultimate, faith reaches a point where it must simply refuse to check whether the stories are true or not, and thus you end up with prohibitions like Matthew 4.

      • rapiddominance says

        Otherwise He could simply retroactively undo everybody’s sins, and then there would be no need for Jesus to die. The point is that the paradoxes involved help us to see why it’s not meaningful to declare God “outside” of time.

        If God undid everybody’s sin by changing the past, wouldn’t he be taking away from humans the ability to make consequential decisions for themselves?

        Another thing I’ll add is this: If an omnipotent, omniscent, omnipresent being is orchestrating events, why would he allow for situations that require fixing the past? Complete control of the present IS complete control of the past.

        From Orwell’s “1984”– “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” (This citation is more of a random thought than a deliberate parallel. I just like the quote.)

      • Deacon Duncan says

        If God undid everybody’s sin by changing the past, wouldn’t he be taking away from humans the ability to make consequential decisions for themselves?

        Not necessarily. I can think of a few possibilities, so presumably an all-wise God could come up with something even better, that would allow people to make consequential decisions without ever having to sin and thereby go to hell. For example, God could use His power over time to enable save-restore points, like in video games. Let people make their choices, but then, when they realize the consequences aren’t what they want, rewind time and let them start over. By the time history makes it to the Game Over point, everyone can have made it to heaven by making consecutive good choices, freely. The bad choices, and resultant guilt and sin, were wiped out by the reload.

        In fact, of course, sin need never enter into the picture at all. Let people use all the free will they want, and just reload/rewind whenever they make a choice that might lead to sin. End result would be the same: all of God’s “beloved” children end up in heaven without God needing to resort to sin and evil as essential parts of His plan for glory.

        Another thing I’ll add is this: If an omnipotent, omniscent, omnipresent being is orchestrating events, why would he allow for situations that require fixing the past? Complete control of the present IS complete control of the past.

        Indeed, that’s a huge problem. If God were omnipotent and all-wise, His control over all things would prevent us from having the kind of world we’ve clearly got. That means the story men tell in the Bible is a story that has major inconsistencies with reality as we actually experience it.

      • rapiddominance says

        To believe in God, one has to believe that he allowed the world to get the way it did. Some insist a loving God would never allow as such. The sufferings in this world, along with the concept of “hell”, seem to cause tremendous difficulties for people to have hope in a loving God. These things are painful for me to think about.

        So I understand your sentiments.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        It’s the big gotcha for all man-made gods. As soon as we imagine a being capable of doing good on a miraculous scale, we have a being who is responsible for much evil. And should we imagine a being that was all-powerful, we have a being who is responsible for all evil. He/she/it/they could have done something to prevent and/or undo the evil, but did not. And there’s no escaping this curse. Man-made deities are fictional characters. No matter how much we give them credit for being able to do great things, they have no real power to do anything. They are purely passive entities who can only receive our faith and hope and attributions of great works, while things we call “evil” endure despite the gods’ fictional powers to oppose them. The so-called “problem of evil” is a direct result of God’s fictional nature.

      • jagwired says

        Exactly. Even if I could bring myself to believe in God, there’s another huge barrier to overcome, to start calling a being that created hell as a default option, a loving God. If I’m being given the option, during my infinitesimally small amount of time here on Earth, of eternity with this “loving” God or eternity in the hell it created, I honestly don’t know which one I’d prefer; I’m leaning toward the option that might give me some distance from the thing that created hell in the first place.

        Then again… the most disagreeable part of either of those options, for me, would be the eternity part.

  2. A Masked Avenger says

    The Genesis creation myth does not portray God as creating ex nihilo. It clearly describes a watery chaos that is tamed; not a state of nothingness that is filled with stuff. It exactly parallels other ancient near-eastern creation myths, in which the gods overcome chaos, represented as a watery universe ruled by a sea monster, and established order (starting with atmosphere and dry land).

    Creation ex nihilo is a belief of people who fail the basic literacy test of reading their own sacred text, let alone bothering to put it in context of comparative literature.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      You might find some who would argue the point with you, since the first words of the text are “In the beginning gods created the heavens and the earth” (literal translation). Creationists and others assume that the lack of reference to any prior state is an implication that there was no prior state other than God Himself. It’s true that the text does not say there was no pre-existent stuff for Him to create the cosmos out of, but by the same token it does not say there was any stuff there either.

      • A Masked Avenger says

        Deacon, this isn’t really an arguable point. It doesn’t just “not say there was no pre-existent stuff.” It explicitly states that the universe was a dark, watery chaos. “The earth was waste and wild, and darkness covered the water,” is a half-decent translation. This is consistent with other creation literature, like the Enuma Elish: throughout the ancient near-east, creation was generally depicted as a battle between the gods and the forces of chaos, often depicted as a sea monster, and the primordial state of the universe was a watery chaos.

        Unsurprisingly, fundies are not only believing fairy tales; they’re also failing to read their own fairy tales competently, nor literally, nor in light of comparative literature.

        I’m not putting this forward as exegesis here (which it looks like you thought, though I’m not sure). I’m telling you that as a piece of literature, it’s a bog-standard ANE creation story, despite some distinctive features relating to monolatry or monotheism. And it’s indisputable that it reflects a subduing of a watery chaos, and creation of a solid, domed sky, with more water above it, the sun on its surface, and a flat earth underneath.

        If fundies want to read it literally, they need to believe in a primordial ocean and a solid sky, among other things.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        Go back and re-read the text. It was a vast, watery chaos after God created the heavens and the earth. But you’re exactly right: the solid water-tight sky and primordial ocean are just as much part of the literal story as talking snakes and magic trees that make you immortal. And if you include the Noah story, you also have to add the doors in the sky to let rainwater fall through, and corresponding fountains at the bottom of the ocean, as literal properties of the world.

      • A Masked Avenger says

        No. Verse 1 and 2 are not describing a sequence of events. The English in the King James Version ALLOWS that reading, because it’s ambiguous, but the King James Version is irrelevant to a discussion of an ANE story written some 2,000 years prior.

        The text itself is unambiguous. The first verse is introductory, and summarizes the story that’s about to be told. The second verse is the beginning of the story. I’m not taking a position in a debate here; I’m informing you of a fact.

        One of the ways we know this is that Biblical Hebrew has a specific grammatical construction fed narrating a sequence of events. It’s really quite odd: the first event is narrated in the perfective (roughly, past) tense, and subsequent events are narrated in the I perfective (roughly, future) tense. It’s how we know that Genesis 2 contradicts Genesis 1: the same grammatical construction tells us that in Genesis 2, God made Adam, then animals, then Eve, in direct contradiction to the previous chapter. In Genesis 1, it tells us unambiguously that verse 2 is the first event in the narrative, not the second.

        Christians do believe in creation ex nihilo, and your argument is sound, but there’s no creation ex nihilo in the Bible itself. There’s a standard ANE creation myth, in which a watery chaos is tamed.

      • Deacon Duncan says

        I can see that you are convinced that what you say is true, and I certainly agree that your interpretation is both legitimate and highly probable. I’m even inclined to think that it is probably correct. But I am not buying the claim that it is the only interpretation that could possibly be understood or intended by that particular wording. I think that imputes a degree of infallible precision to the Hebrew tongue that no language is capable of supporting.

      • John Morales says

        A Masked Avenger:

         
        [@2.1.1] If fundies want to read it literally, they need to believe in a primordial ocean and a solid sky, among other things.
         
        [...]
         
        [@2.1.3] The English in the King James Version ALLOWS that reading, because it’s ambiguous, but the King James Version is irrelevant to a discussion of an ANE story written some 2,000 years prior.

        Has escaped your notice that it is precisely the “fundies” who revere the KJV?

        (Whence the purported irrelevance, when it is that version which is being read literally?)

      • rapiddominance says

        I use the NIV myself and go along with the “sequence interpretation”. I haven’t read a KJV in a very, very long time. One of the clues that caused me to reconsider the church I was “saved” in was my preacher’s total dependence on the KJV. I wanted to argue with him on it, but I was about 15 years old and wasn’t comfortable with confronting this highly esteemed 50 year old man who everybody else in the church seemed to agree with on every interpretation he said..

        I figure that if the KJV is the only reliable translation, then not only do english speakers have to adapt to antiquated language but everybody else in the world has to learn english to read it.

      • John Morales says

        rapiddominance @2.1.6, is it not the case that there is no such thing as an “only reliable translation” of a Christian Bible, since at best it is a consensus of the selected (and translated) collection of works incorporated into any given version?

      • rapiddominance says

        Hey John, its been a while.

        I agree there’s not an “only reliable translation” of the bible. I also seriously doubt that ANY of them are perfectly translated. So, I don’t think the KJV is useless–but I was (and am) interested in how Masked Avenger developed his notion of creation.

        Scott Morgan

  3. khms says

    I remember from previous discussions that the main problem with talking about what is or is not possible to happen with “nothing” is that what philosophers and theologians call “nothing” is something we have no way of knowing if it can even exist at all, much less if it has ever existed. It is a purely hypothetical construct, and I for one doubt it is possible.

    We do know vacuum exists – well, at least almost vacuum. We know what rules it follows. We have at least some ideas how a universe could come out of it.

    We know nothing about this “nothing”. Why are we assuming science needs to explain how to come to a universe from a purely hypothetical state, that we have no idea if it is or ever was in any sensible way real? First, please prove that this artificial problem needs solving in the first place. As far as I can tell, science certainly does not claim there ever was this philosophical “nothing”.

    • rapiddominance says

      We do know vacuum exists – well, at least almost vacuum. We know what rules it follows. We have at least some ideas how a universe could come out of it.

      And of course, even a vacuum can exist only in space and within the realm of time. As for ideas about how a universe can pop out of a vacuum, I think we need to be weary of those. Whereas we understand that miniscule particles of matter can come into being within a vacuum (or near vacuum) we’ve never seen anything massive jump out of one. Besides, vacuums aren’t known to exist outside of the universe.

      • jagwired says

        Besides, vacuums aren’t known to exist outside of the universe.

        To be fair, neither are eternal, all powerful, all knowing beings.

      • rapiddominance says

        jagwired,

        Well served.

        People like me who believe they know God can’t prove that he lives somewhere outside of the universe or that he started the big bang.

        Thanks! Scott.

  4. Menyambal --- making sambal a food group. says

    The universe, as it is, is still pretty much nothing. It averages out to one hydrogen atom per cubic meter or so, and inside that atom is mostly nothing.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      Ah, but it’s a different kind of nothing: it’s the physical emptiness of a vast expanse of spacetime. The emptiness of space is something different from what “nothing” would mean if space, time, matter, and energy did not exist. (Though personally, I suspect that the words “if space/time/matter/energy did not exist” might mean precisely the same thing as the words “if existence did not exist.”)

  5. khms says

    Theologians argue on philosophical grounds that everything must have come from a state of nothing, and then that stuff cannot come from nothing, therefore god. The problem is, of course, that then they do not actually start from nothing, they start from nothing plus god, which is not nothing. So the argument either breaks down right there, or it leaves them to explain how god can come from nothing.

    My own training in logic tells me that if your premise leads to a contradictory solution, then your premise is bad. In this case, I’d claim that theology has just proven that everything did not actually come from nothing, because not even goddidit can resolve the problem here. Theologians claim a host of irrational solutions, such as logic not existing back then so no need to explain the impossible (so why you think you can reason about this pseudo-nothing at all, huh?).

    “What was before the big bang” is a legitimate question for science to look into. Of course, it’s possible that the answer is that there is no such thing as before the big bang – or it may be entirely different. We can’t know until we understand things a whole lot better.

    “How did the universe arise out of nothing” is not. It presumes facts not in evidence, as a different profession would describe it. And I strongly suspect if science ever comes to the conclusion that before the big bang there was something like this “nothing”, it will be because the relevant theory for explaining the universe requires it to be there -in other words, they’ll have the “how” answer before they even arrive at the “nothing” postulate.

    • rapiddominance says

      Theologians argue on philosophical grounds that everything must have come from a state of nothing, and then that stuff cannot come from nothing, therefore god. The problem is, of course, that then they do not actually start from nothing, they start from nothing plus god, which is not nothing.

      Theologians start with God. “Nothing”, in theory, is an absence of “something” and so the equation works like this: God + 0 = God.

      Essentially, the argument is simply that an incomprehensibly eternal deity created something (time, space, matter, energy) where originally there was nothing.

      However, I do have to give it to you that ASSUMING a creator from what we know about the big bang isn’t science.

      • Nick Gotts says

        an incomprehensibly eternal deity created something (time, space, matter, energy) where originally there was nothing.

        But what could “either “created” or originally” possibly mean there? Both terms already assume temporal sequence. There is no way to formulate this assertion coherently, so it can’t be true.

      • rapiddominance says

        I have to admit that it requires faith and trust in God to accept the “ex nihilo” possibility. You and Deacon have made logical points.

      • John Morales says

        rapiddominance, I note you don’t dispute Nick’s proposition that “Both terms already assume temporal sequence.”, and consequently that his corollary therefore stands.

        (Do you experience cognitive dissonance thereby?)

      • corwyn says

        I have to admit that it requires faith and trust in God to accept the “ex nihilo” possibility. You and Deacon have made logical points.

        And how does one acquire ‘faith and trust in god’ from nothing? I am using ‘nothing’ here to designate a state of no knowledge or evidence.

      • rapiddominance says

        John,
        I don’t experience cognitive dissonance with the big bang. Not at all. I understand Nick’s proposition on its own terms and believe on faith that God can function outside of our “rules”. Do I EVER experience cognitive dissonance? Yes. One example is that Genesis 1 and 2 seem in conflict without science’s intervention. In fact, the conflict is so glaring that one might wonder if the author was actively trying to cause confusion. Also, the Noah’s Ark story is historically and logistically difficult for me to rectify. In trying to do so, I go into this mode of “maybe this happened, maybe that happened”. Yet, I still believe.

        corwyn,
        I can’t tell you how to acquire such faith and I therefore don’t fault you if you haven’t found it For me, it was in the personality and teachings of Jesus and the apolistic letters. You might say I was “poor in spirit”–I saw in myself the way I’ve hurt people in my life along with the way others have hurt me. I saw what I considered truth and wisdom in scripture, and I experienced a sense of “encounter” with Christ. In listening to him within the context of the 4 stories, it was as if I was being spoken to. I also experienced changes in the things I liked and disliked and this has transfered into behavioral changes (though I still have so much growing to do). These things I experienced a little over a year ago. Before, though I called myself a theist, I was probably more of an agnostic with a lean towards the existence of a deity. On the one hand, I thought there almost HAD to be a god; on the other hand, I sometimes thought, “Screw this”.
        But let me be honest with you about a difficult thing: Though I experienced “a certainty of Christ”, I’ve had times afterwards of “unbelief” and lapses of faith. I also experience a conflict in myself daily where I see that the person that I am isn’t the person I want to be.

        Sorry I didn’t get back with you guys sooner, but I thought the discussions were probably over and I didn’t really want to blog yesterday.

  6. says

    I always injure myself facepalming when believers say that.

    Because if what you have is a god floating in timeless space – that’s not nothing.

    If you have a god floating in timeless space, what came before god was “nothing”! Now explain to me again how god couldn’t have come from nothing?

    • rapiddominance says

      Because if what you have is a god floating in timeless space – that’s not nothing.

      That’s true. But notice you said “timeless space”. Believers cite God as the origin of creation, of which space is a part of, but they don’t say where he was locationially or require that he needs space (or “time”).

      Incomprehensible, I agree. Though I’m a believer, I can definitely identify with you on the facepalming thing.

      • says

        You’re right, I should have omitted the “timeless” and the “space” for that matter.

        If all you have is god, then you don’t have nothing. You have “nothing plus god” – and that’s not “nothing”…

        The talk of multiverses and branes and whatnot are all very good, but when we add multiverses and manifolds we just step back further and adjust our perspective – if we have a multiverse in which there’s a god that creates a new universe using his fiat-lux-o-matic, we didn’t have “nothing” we had a multiverse… etc.

        Indeed the only way we can have god is if something (god!) can come from nothing. And, if something can come from nothing, then why not a universe while we’re at it?

      • rapiddominance says

        Marcus, you wrote:

        And, if something can come from nothing, then why not a universe while we’re at it?

        You’ve probably heard theists insist, “God didn’t come from nothing–he always has been.” Acknowledging the intellectual difficulty of comprehending such a thing, I won’t insist on arguing it with you.

        However, I HAVE TO AGREE with you that a universe originating out of nothing is no more difficult of a proposition to understand and its certainly viable for scientific speculation and study.. Personally, I don’t insist that the “big bang” proves God.

        Thanks Marcus.

        Scott

  7. sqlrob says

    But there has never been a time when time did not exist

    [Citation Needed].

    Might be a semantics issue, but that seems to imply that time is unbounded when it may very well be bounded.

    • Aaron says

      It’s not that time is bounded/unbounded. It’s that there is no “before” without time, nor an “after”. You cannot sensibly talk about a point in time where time exists, any more than you can sensibly talk about a point in “1” where “1” exists. This doesn’t necessarily imply that there are (or aren’t) boundaries to time, merely that we cannot use the concept of time to talk about its own boundaries.

    • rapiddominance says

      What the blogger is pointing out is that time is inseparably BOUND to space, matter, energy, etc. Its an inherent part of the universe unknown to exist outside of it.

      To put it another way, if nothing existed, then time didn’t exist either–and by all human experience, time is a prerequisite for OPPORTUNITY.

      I hope this was helpful.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      It works just as well with or without bounds, since it is self-evident. Let X be some point in time where time does not exist. In other words, X must satisfy two criteria: time must exist at point X so that X can be “a point in time,” and time must not exist, in order to satisfy the second half of the statement. Since the “time exists” requirement is mutually exclusive with the “time does not exist” requirement, there can be no point in time, X, that satisfies both criteria.

      Or, as I said before, there can never be a time where time does not exist.

    • Nepenthe says

      I believe the traditional way of explaining this is “There’s no point (on the surface of the earth) north of the North Pole”.

    • julial says

      Nepenthe @ 7.4
      My answer to “What’s north of the north pole?” is up.
      And similarly, in my mental model of the creation event of spacetime, whether that be deity or naturally caused, is that the causal agent exists in a dimension outside of time and so can be causally prior, though not temporally prior.
      In my imagination, the universe originated in a fashion similar to that which produces the tiny streams of bubbles at the bottom of a glass of beer. They come from nothing (spatially speaking,) rise and expand and finally coalesce with other bubbles in the head, finally bursting and mixing with the atmosphere over the glass.
      I find it comforting to think that outside of our universe there is nothing but beer.

      “Beer is Gods way of telling us he loves us and wants us to be happy”
      ~Ben Franklin

  8. A Masked Avenger says

    Might be a semantics issue, but that seems to imply that time is unbounded when it may very well be bounded.

    It’s kind of the definition. If time had a beginning, then “before time began” is a meaningless expression. When there wasn’t time, time didn’t exist–so “before” and “after” also didn’t exist.

  9. aziraphale says

    I think you’re making too much of this. “God created the universe out of nothing” is shorthand for “God created the universe without needing any pre-existing material”, and its function is, as you point out, to distinguish God from other, inferior gods. Whether time is a thing, and whether it existed before the creation, are questions that would not have occurred to the authors of Genesis or its early readers.

    • rapiddominance says

      The blogger,s focus isn’t so much on the “ex-nihlo” as it is on the necessity for a deity to have time (as an opportunity) to create the universe. And as he points out,

      “Nothing” means nothing else existed, not even time.

      Does that make sense?

  10. J. Simonov says

    @aziraphale

    Yes, but if we understand time to be an aspect of the universe, we can identify what can fairly be considered insuperable difficulties for Abrahamic creation myths, in that they presume the existence of a thing that is claimed to be created. Either that, or time is an uncreated aspect of a larger reality in which God/our universe are situated, but I don’t think theists want to concede anything as being beyond God in any sense.

  11. J. Simonov says

    @sqlrob

    I think Deacon Duncan is referring to the fact that time is a dimension of our universe, and so there has been time for the entirety of the universe, and a universe for the entirety of time. It’s analogous to the way that the length and width of a 3D object are joined at the hip, as it were, and there is no quantity of the one absent the other, necessarily.

  12. rapiddominance says

    “The whole universe was in a hot, dense state . . . ” — Bare Naked Ladies

    Anyway, from where did this hot, dense state of a universe originate? What caused it to expand?
    Some assume.
    Some conjecture.
    Some attempt to study it further and hope to find out more.

    An interesting read.

    • Deacon Duncan says

      It was already there at the very first moment of time—no prior “where” existed from which it could have originated. And it may also be true that it was already expanding from the very earliest moment of time, in which case there is no prior “where” to begin to cause it to grow.

      Growth is a bit trickier to talk about, since growth is a change in state relative to a change in time, so there’s more to it than can be derived just by looking at a single point in time (i.e. the very first moment of time). But look at momentum: if something is already moving, we don’t ask what causes it to continue moving. Any causative force applied to a moving object would act on it to change the direction and/or speed of its motion. But if it’s already moving, it can continue to move, unaltered, in the absence of any external causes. Since the universe has been “moving” from the beginning of time, we can’t assume that this “motion” represents any kind of change from what would occur in the absence of an extrinsic cause.

      • rapiddominance says

        And it may also be true that it was already expanding from the very earliest moment of time, in which case there is no prior “where” to begin to cause it to grow.

        Good call. The way I had it worded, there was an assumption that the “hot, dense state” sat around stable for some period of time and that, somehow, the ball had to be kicked. From what we know about the big bang, we cannot assume this.

        Scott

  13. sailor1031 says

    Time as we know it is a facet of our universe. We don’t know anything about what is or is not outside our universe. Maybe Science will one day find out. In the meantime we just don’t know if the Universe always existed or was formed onetime from something else or is something that just happens often or rarely. In any case, why do we care what the writers of genesis state? As fundies love to ask to confound those who do not agree with them – “how do you know, were you there?” – so the writers of genesis were not there. They didn’t know either. It’s all just a story no more to be taken literally than the story of Glooskap creating the world.

  14. Nightshade says

    To say “something cannot come from nothing” is to speak of what we can infer from our experience is true of the empirical world , not to speak of what is logically possible. Everything which we experience is contingent in the sense that it is dependent upon something else for its’ existence.
    If the universe is the set (or a set) of contingent things then it is reasonable to assume that it (the universe ) is itself contingent upon something else. What this might be is open to question.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade:

      If the universe is the set (or a set) of contingent things then it is reasonable to assume that it (the universe ) is itself contingent upon something else.

      No; at least, not without additional premises.

      (That’s the fallacy of composition)

  15. Nightshade says

    John [email protected]: That’s the fallacy of composition

    It’s only a fallacy if we assume it is necessarily true.
    In real life all we often have is probable knowledge inferred from experience.

    • John Morales says

      Heh. Since you think it’s reasonable to assume that is true, and you don’t dispute it would be fallacious to assume it’s necessarily true, it follows you must think it’s reasonable to assume it’s contingently true.

      So: upon what do you imagine it is contingent, and how do you avoid endless regress?

  16. Nightshade says

    John [email protected]:…upon what do you imagine it is contingent, and how do you avoid endless regress?

    I believe it more reasonable to assume, on the basis of our current knowledge, that the proposition: “The universe is contingent upon something.” is more likely to be true(inference to best explanation)than are the propositions 1. ” The universe has always existed because its’ existence is necessary.” or 2. “The universe came into existence out of nothing without a cause.” or 3.”the universe,while not necessarily existing, simply has always existed without reason,cause or explanation”.
    I believe which ever Metaphysical Worldview we accept we come to something which exist either necessarily (it cannot not exist) or to something which simply exist (though not necessarily) , its’ existence being an inexplicable brute fact.On current evidence I don’t believe this to be the universe itself.

  17. Nightshade says

    John [email protected]:…upon what do you imagine it is contingent, and how do you avoid endless regress?

    It seems to me we have four options to choose from as ‘working hypothesis’.All of which require premises which are not known to be true.

    P1: All sets of contingent things are contingent.
    P2: The universe is a set of contingent things.

  18. Nightshade says

    John [email protected]:…upon what do you imagine it is contingent, and how do you avoid endless regress?

    It seems to me we have four options to choose from as ‘working hypothesis’.All of which require premises which are not known to be true.For instance, the formal form of the argument I am making might go like this:

    P1: All sets of contingent things are contingent.
    P2: The universe is a set of contingent things.
    C : Therefore,the universe is contingent.
    This argument is logically valid as the conclusion follows from the premises. But it is not necessarily sound because the premises are assumed to be true when in fact they may be false.This is the fallacy of composition assuming what is true for the parts is true for the whole which the parts compose. We don’t know P1 is true.And while P2 seems to be true of everything we know from experience we may one day experience something for which it is not true. Therefore C is not NECESSARILY TRUE.
    But I was not making the argument that it is.I was making the far less ambitious argument that it is the best
    (most reasonable) assumption (working hypothesis) given current interpretations of the scientific evidence and given our experiences in everyday life.
    We don’t experience something coming from literally nothing,not even “virtual particles”. If we ever detect, measure ,or observe in some manner what appears to be something coming from nothing the explanation we should first reach for is that something we can detect,etc. is being caused by something we can’t detect,etc.
    On current knowledge we can’t eliminate infinite regress.However we should not assume the cause of a contingent set is itself contingent.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade,

      But I was not making the argument that it is.I was making the far less ambitious argument that it is the best (most reasonable) assumption (working hypothesis) given current interpretations of the scientific evidence and given our experiences in everyday life.

      Again, no: it’s not reasonable.

      You can’t use deductive reasoning, since the premises are uncertain, you can’t use inductive reasoning, since there are no other Universes known, and you can’t use abductive reasoning, since it requires the introduction of something unknown to explain an unknown.

      In passing, your P2 seems to me to be ad hoc (the normal definition is that the universe is all that exists).

  19. rapiddominance says

    Nightshade,
    I’ve been looking at your conversation with John more holistically rather than analytically, so I can’t really judge which one of you is getting the better end. I have to compliment John on something I’ve experienced in the past with him: He’s able to make big points with few words. He also strikes me as fairly intuitive as well as analytical. What I think he does best is that he advances conversations with good questions rather than counter-arguments. He’s an intelligent and interesting commenter.

    That said, your arguments don’t seem bad or worse than his–sometimes, more words are needed to make a point. He made a good point about “endless regression” in my opinion, But I liked your defense of your perspecitve.

    An interesting conversation.

    • John Morales says

      [meta]

      It’s but word-games.

      „Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.“

      Proposition 7 – Ludwig Wittgenstein

  20. Nightshade says

    John [email protected] Again, no: it’s not reasonable.

    You can’t use deductive reasoning, since the premises are uncertain, you can’t use inductive reasoning, since there are no other Universes known, and you can’t use abductive reasoning, since it requires the introduction of something unknown to explain an unknown.

    That would be true for any argument we make concerning the origin of the universe, leaving us with Metaphysical Skepticism and philosophically that’s fine.

    John [email protected]:In passing, your P2 seems to me to be ad hoc (the normal definition is that the universe is all that exists).
    That would make the term ‘universe’ and the term ‘reality’ synonyms. Proponents of Theism or the multiverse theory might disagree.

    rapidominance@20: I agree with your assessment of John.

    John [email protected]: It’s but word-games.
    And where do words and games exist but in a mind!

  21. Nightshade says

    John, If you reject my conclusion that accepting the proposition that the universe is contingent is more reasonable than the proposition that it isn’t ( i.e that it came from nothing, that it exist eternally and non-contingently,either necessarily or as a brute fact) then you must accept that accepting the alternatives is equally unreasonable and for the same reasons you listed namely:
    “You can’t use deductive reasoning, since the premises are uncertain, you can’t use inductive reasoning, since there are no other Universes known, and you can’t use abductive reasoning, since it requires the introduction of something unknown to explain an unknown.”

    If you disagree would you give me an argument for the view you do find reasonable?

    If you don’t disagree would you tell me if you find the following propositions to be equally unreasonable?
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>”The universe began as a thought in a non-embodied mind.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>”The universe began as a quantum fluctuation.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>”or both(after all quantum particles might be the “stuff that dreams and other thoughts >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> are made of )

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade, the view I find reasonable is that “it is not known whether it can be known whether the universe had a beginning”.

      I also suspect that any reasonable answer to that will come from physics, not metaphysics; indeed, metaphysically, it is unclear whether the proposition that the universe had a beginning is even a meaningful one for multiple reasons, some of which have been discussed above (e.g. the incoherence of the concept of time itself beginning).

  22. Nightshade says

    John [email protected]… “it is not known whether it can be known whether the universe had a beginning”.

    I agree.I was talking of working hypothesis, not justified true belief.

    John [email protected]: I also suspect that any reasonable answer to that will come from physics, not metaphysics; indeed, metaphysically, it is unclear whether the proposition that the universe had a beginning is even a meaningful one for multiple reasons, some of which have been discussed above (e.g. the incoherence of the concept of time itself beginning).

    If the phenomena which are studied by physicist had a beginning then can the ‘laws of physics” have existed before the phenomena they describe?If not I don’t see how physics can answer the question of the universes origin, as the “laws of physics” would suddenly appear as mysteriously as the phenomena which they describe.
    If math allows us to extrapolate new physics laws from known laws it’s uncertain that we are describing the reality before the universe or just an earlier state of the universe.Leading us back to your observation in the first paragraph.
    As for time having a beginning, I think time only exist where change occurs.In a world where nothing changed there would be no time.So if the universe came out of literally nothing (which I doubt) and the universe is all that exist then time would have a beginning there being a time before the universe began and a time after it began.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade,

      I was talking of working hypothesis, not justified true belief.

      An untestable hypothesis is not a “working hypothesis”; it’s a speculative guess.

      If the phenomena which are studied by physicist had a beginning then can the ‘laws of physics” have existed before the phenomena they describe?If not I don’t see how physics can answer the question of the universes origin [...]

      This is an issue upon which induction can be brought to bear: it is the case that physics (and not metaphysics) is what has advanced knowledge about reality. Empiricism, not idealism.

      (In fact, current physical theory holds that the current regime was not always in place; cf. the grand unification epoch; that is, there now exist phenomena that did not exist during that epoch)

      As for time having a beginning, I think time only exist where change occurs.In a world where nothing changed there would be no time.So if the universe came out of literally nothing (which I doubt) and the universe is all that exist then time would have a beginning there being a time before the universe began and a time after it began.

      That’s incoherent. If there’s nothing, then there can be no change and therefore no time, by your own definition.

      In passing, it amuses me how some people imagine that if the universe somehow came about from a non-universe the possibility of non-material minds is somehow strengthened.

  23. Nightshade says

    John [email protected]: An untestable hypothesis is not a “working hypothesis”; it’s a speculative guess.

    I believe most cosmologist,astronomers and quantum physicist think the universe had a beginning. At least it seems so judging from the titles of books which they write.They must consider the assumption that the universe had a beginning a reasonable working hypothesis.

    John: This is an issue upon which induction can be brought to bear:

    How?

    John: it is the case that physics (and not metaphysics) is what has advanced knowledge about reality. Empiricism, not idealism.

    Idealism is not in conflict with empiricism. George Berkeley was both an Idealist and an Empiricist.
    Idealism is opposed to Materialism itself a metaphysical position.

    John: (In fact, current physical theory holds that the current regime was not always in place; cf. the grand unification epoch; that is, there now exist phenomena that did not exist during that epoch)

    I don’t see how this counters anything I said in the referenced passage.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade:

      I believe most cosmologist,astronomers and quantum physicist think the universe had a beginning.

      The universe as it now exists, yes. The stuff that makes up the universe, not-so-much.

      (Did you peruse the contents of the link I adduced @21.1?)

      How?

      How not?

      Idealism is not in conflict with empiricism.

      That’s like claiming science is not in conflict with religion; they employ mutually-exclusive epistemologies, because the one investigates what exists and the other what might exist.

      George Berkeley was both an Idealist and an Empiricist.

      No, he employed both: a classic case of compartmentalisation, just like a Christian scientist.

      (Unlike Laplace, he did have need of that hypothesis :) )

      I don’t see how this counters anything I said in the referenced passage.

      You wondered “can the ‘laws of physics” have existed before the phenomena they describe?”, and I noted that in that epoch the applicable ‘laws of physics’ were different to the current ones (e.g. the concept of ‘mass’ was not applicable). Essentially, you are confusing the map (the ‘laws of physics’) with the territory (the phenomena they describe).

      (You’re not a Platonist, are you?)

  24. Nightshade says

    John: That’s incoherent. If there’s nothing, then there can be no change and therefore no time, by your own definition.

    We ,from our perspective now, can coherently speak of a time ( a given state of things; in this case nothing) before the universe started to exist.

    John:in passing, it amuses me how some people imagine that if the universe somehow came about from a non-universe the possibility of non-material minds is somehow strengthened.

    On another post you said that ‘solidity’ and ‘wetness’ are predicates of matter that need not be universal.
    I said that if they need not be universal then ‘mass’ and ‘extension’ need not be universal either.
    What implications does this have for Materialism?It certainly leaves room for a non-material substance.

    Do thoughts,feelings,dreams,consciousness and other mental properties possess mass and extension?
    If not then Mind is as good a candidate for being a fundamental component (if not the fundamental component) of the universe as ‘matter’.

    I’ll take this opportunity to remind you the only universe you know of is in your MIND.
    MIND is the one thing we KNOW exist.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade:

      We ,from our perspective now, can coherently speak of a time ( a given state of things; in this case nothing) before the universe started to exist.

      Only by either discounting the very definition you provided or by assuming that there was something in existence before the universe, which contradicts your counterfactual conditional. You think you’re reasoning, but you’re actually using a semantic shift between polysemes of ‘time’ (that is, equivocating between a state and the concept of changes in state).

      So yes, incoherent.

      On another post you said that ‘solidity’ and ‘wetness’ are predicates of matter that need not be universal.
      I said that if they need not be universal then ‘mass’ and ‘extension’ need not be universal either.
      What implications does this have for Materialism?It certainly leaves room for a non-material substance.

      “a non-material substance” is an oxymoron.

      I’ll take this opportunity to remind you the only universe you know of is in your MIND.
      MIND is the one thing we KNOW exist.

      Fine; I’m a figment of your imagination.

      (So, this must be a Socratic dialogue!)

  25. Nightshade says

    [email protected] The universe as it now exists, yes. The stuff that makes up the universe, not-so-much.

    The proposition “The stuff “that makes up the universe” has always existed.” would seem to be as unreasonable as you found my proposition that “The universe is contingent.” to be ,and for the same reasons.

    John : How not?

    If you were claiming this question:” If the phenomena which are studied by physicist had a beginning then can the ‘laws of physics” have existed before the phenomena they describe?” can be reasonably answered by induction,then ,How?

    If you meant this statement,”If not I don’t see how physics can answer the question of the universes origin…”,
    then you’re assuming that the state of things before the universes’ origin was similar in some ways to the state of things after it. Fallacy of composition.

    John:That’s like claiming science is not in conflict with religion; they employ mutually-exclusive epistemologies, because the one investigates what exists and the other what might exist.

    WRONG! You’re equating Idealism with Metaphysics.
    Idealism accepts the existence of the phenomenal world,the world as given to us by our EXPERIENCES.
    It simply explains those experiences (there nature and cause) differently than Materialism ,itself a metaphysical view and not necessarily the correct one.

    John: No, he employed both: a classic case of compartmentalisation, just like a Christian scientist.

    (Unlike Laplace, he did have need of that hypothesis :) )

    You believe that Empiricism and Idealism are logically incompatible, I honestly don’t see why you believe that.
    Empiricism is the epistemological position that all we can know of the phenomenal world we know through experience.Idealism and Materialism are Metaphysical positions about the nature and cause of that experienced phenomena.

    Unlike Berkeley, Laplace had need of the hypothesis of a non-mind dependent substance:)

    John:Essentially, you are confusing the map (the ‘laws of physics’) with the territory (the phenomena they describe).
    The ‘map’ is our description of observed phenomena.We have no observations of the epoch before the “laws of physics” we know came into existence, and a large number of possible hypothesized “maps” might describe that epoch.Only some of which would be compatible with Materialism, all of which would be compatible with Idealism.

    John:(You’re not a Platonist, are you?)
    Funny you should say that. I do believe our position with respect to the phenomenal world is like that of the prisoners in Plato”s cave allegory.

    Logically it seems to me that you should be a Phenomenalist and not a Materialist.

    John:Only by either discounting the very definition you provided or by assuming that there was something in existence before the universe, which contradicts your counterfactual conditional. You think you’re reasoning, but you’re actually using a semantic shift between polysemes of ‘time’ (that is, equivocating between a state and the concept of changes in state).

    So yes, incoherent.

    I believe this is a good point.But certainly you understand the statement “before the origin of the universe”
    would be (in the current case) speaking of a period without time as a subset of an “absolute time” containing both the period before the universe’s origin and after it.

    John:“a non-material substance” is an oxymoron.

    A number of prominent philosophers would disagree. Ever heard of Substance Dualism?

    John:Fine; I’m a figment of your imagination.

    (So, this must be a Socratic dialogue!)
    Funny! I didn’t know you had it in you!

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade:

      The proposition “The stuff “that makes up the universe” has always existed.” would seem to be as unreasonable as you found my proposition that “The universe is contingent.” to be ,and for the same reasons.

      Perhaps it would, until it were examined, whenceupon one would realise that it requires at least one less entity than its alternative without losing explanatory power and that therefore it is less unreasonable.

      If you were claiming this question:” If the phenomena which are studied by physicist had a beginning then can the ‘laws of physics” have existed before the phenomena they describe?” can be reasonably answered by induction,then ,How?

      If you meant this statement,”If not I don’t see how physics can answer the question of the universes origin…”, then you’re assuming that the state of things before the universes’ origin was similar in some ways to the state of things after it. Fallacy of composition.

      I meant what I wrote. To what do you understand the process of inductive reasoning refers?

      WRONG! You’re equating Idealism with Metaphysics.
      Idealism accepts the existence of the phenomenal world,the world as given to us by our EXPERIENCES.
      It simply explains those experiences (there nature and cause) differently than Materialism ,itself a metaphysical view and not necessarily the correct one.

      If you disagree that Idealism is a metaphysical concept, then we are at an impasse.

      Funny you should say that. I do believe our position with respect to the phenomenal world is like that of the prisoners in Plato”s cave allegory.

      I actually alluded to Platonism, the belief that there is a realm of abstraction where pure forms are the template for the instantiations of them which are what we perceive (and that this realm is supposedly separate both from those of phenomena and of consciousness means it is but another way of introducing a redundant premise).

      Logically it seems to me that you should be a Phenomenalist and not a Materialist.

      I have no need for that supposition, for it adds no explanatory power; the conceit that what we perceive as material is not in fact material is otiose (as I’ve repeatedly noted).

      You believe that Empiricism and Idealism are logically incompatible, I honestly don’t see why you believe that.

      They’re incompatible in an epistemological sense.

      (<clickety-click click … here: Idealism)

      It simply explains those experiences (there nature and cause) differently than Materialism ,itself a metaphysical view and not necessarily the correct one.

      It “explains” them much like claiming that gravity is the effect of tiny invisible elves moving things around explains gravity.

      The ‘map’ is our description of observed phenomena.We have no observations of the epoch before the “laws of physics” we know came into existence, and a large number of possible hypothesized “maps” might describe that epoch.Only some of which would be compatible with Materialism, all of which would be compatible with Idealism.

      Of course we have observations: have you heard about the cosmic microwave background mapping?

      (Did you imagine cosmologists are just guessing about the Big Bang?)

      I believe this is a good point.But certainly you understand the statement “before the origin of the universe” would be (in the current case) speaking of a period without time as a subset of an “absolute time” containing both the period before the universe’s origin and after it.

      I understand what it is that you imagine; what I don’t understand is how you think you reconcile that with your own definition of what ‘time’ is.

      Only some of which would be compatible with Materialism, all of which would be compatible with Idealism.

      <snicker>

      I quote Karl Popper: “A theory that explains everything, explains nothing”.

      A number of prominent philosophers would disagree. Ever heard of Substance Dualism?

      Of course; I am familiar with most of the inchoate conceits the ancient philosophers considered.

      (There’s been a bit of progress since then)

  26. Nightshade says

    [email protected] … that it requires at least one less entity than its alternative without losing explanatory power and that therefore it is less unreasonable.

    It is true that a Materialism which postulates the eternal/uncaused existence of matter requires one less entity than conventional Theism which postulates a cause(matter) of mental sensations as well as a cause of the cause.Giving us :mental sensations+matter+cause of matter.

    Your form of Materialism assumes matter causes mental sensations and that matter simply exist needing no cause. Giving us :mental sensations + matter. Two entities ,simple.

    However Idealism gets rid of an unknowable non-mind dependent substance,matter,yet still postulates a cause of mental sensations based on what a mind can be most certain exist ,Minds.
    Giving us: Causing mind + perceiving mind. Two entities ,just as simple.

    John:If you disagree that Idealism is a metaphysical concept, then we are at an impasse.
    .What I meant was the terms Idealism and Metaphysics are not identical.Idealism is a metaphysical viewpoint, but so is Materialism.
    Idealist don’t ignore experience they can be Empiricist,like Berkeley.
    The existence of an objective shared world of EXPERIENCE is accepted by them as the most reasonable explanation of our EMPIRICAL observations.It is the nature of this world which they dispute with Materialist.

    John: I actually alluded to Platonism, the belief that there is a realm of abstraction where pure forms are the template for the instantiations of them which are what we perceive (and that this realm is supposedly separate both from those of phenomena and of consciousness means it is but another way of introducing a redundant premise).

    What we encounter in nature are ideas in/of a consciousness..

    John:…the conceit that what we perceive as material is not in fact material is otiose (as I’ve repeatedly noted).

    What you perceive are ideas/sensations in your mind.Matter is a MENTAL CONSTRUCT.

    John:They’re(Empiricism and Idealism) incompatible in an epistemological sense.

    Anything which can be known about the phenomenal world must be based on experience.(Empiricism)
    The only thing that can experience is a mind.All That minds experience are ideas.Therefore,all we know of the phenomenal world are ideas.All we know exist are minds and their ideas. (VOILA! the happy marriage of empiricism and idealism)
    .
    John:It “explains” them much like claiming that gravity is the effect of tiny invisible elves moving things around explains gravity.

    While I certainly don’t believe elves are at work in the universe, the only difference between the elves and forces / fields is that the former are conscious and acts purposely while the latter are unconscious and act accidentally. Both could be used to describe our observations accurately.And both are equally mysterious.
    Remember to describe is not to explain.

    John:Of course we have observations: have you heard about the cosmic microwave background mapping?

    That map would be of a time after the “laws of physics existed.
    And remember not all cosmologist are in agreement with what the CBR represents.

    Of course a complete and accurate theory of Reality WOULD explain EVERYTHING.

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade:

      It is true that a Materialism which postulates the eternal/uncaused existence of matter requires one less entity than conventional Theism which postulates a cause(matter) of mental sensations as well as a cause of the cause.Giving us :mental sensations+matter+cause of matter.

      This is irrelevant, for there is no such postulation in what I’ve written; rather, I’ve claimed it is something that can’t (yet) be ruled out.

      Your form of Materialism assumes matter causes mental sensations and that matter simply exist needing no cause.

      Again, I’ve made no such assumption; remember [@22.1] “it is not known whether it can be known whether the universe had a beginning”?

      (It would serve you better to address what I’ve written than what you wish I’d written)

      Also, that matter (brains) cause mental sensations is not assumed, it is inferred: damage or destroy the brain, damage or destroy mental sensations. We’ve already discussed this!

      However Idealism gets rid of an unknowable non-mind dependent substance,matter,yet still postulates a cause of mental sensations based on what a mind can be most certain exist ,Minds.

      Everything is but minds sensing minds, right. Very explanatory.

      (That car crash on the freeway? Purely imaginary.
      That pimple on your chin? Purely imaginary.
      Your chin? Purely imaginary!)

      Giving us: Causing mind + perceiving mind. Two entities ,just as simple.

      <snicker>

      “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
      Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t — because there are no trees, there are no forests, and there are no sounds — only ideas within minds!

      (Good luck extending that simplistic ontology)

      What I meant was the terms Idealism and Metaphysics are not identical.Idealism is a metaphysical viewpoint, but so is Materialism.

      Then it was a non sequitur.

      Idealist don’t ignore experience they can be Empiricist,like Berkeley.
      The existence of an objective shared world of EXPERIENCE is accepted by them as the most reasonable explanation of our EMPIRICAL observations.It is the nature of this world which they dispute with Materialist.

      What exactly is this “objective shared world” where everything is but an idea within a mind? That’s the very definition of subjectivity!

      (Note that materialists don’t deny the existence of abstracta, rather, we hold that only concreta are material; that is, idealists such as you deny the existence of matter, but materialists such as I don’t deny the existence of ideas, only that they are not the substratum of reality)

      What we encounter in nature are ideas in/of a consciousness..

      You keep repeating that, apparently oblivious to the fact that you have previously claimed that ‘nature’ is itself but an idea.

      (So, you say that what minds encounter in ideas are ideas in/of a mind. Not really very informative, is it?)

      What you perceive are ideas/sensations in your mind.Matter is a MENTAL CONSTRUCT.

      Yes, thank you. I know what it is you claim.

      Now, care to actually respond to what you actually quoted? To wit: “the conceit that what we perceive as material is not in fact material is otiose”.

      Anything which can be known about the phenomenal world must be based on experience.(Empiricism)
      The only thing that can experience is a mind.All That minds experience are ideas.Therefore,all we know of the phenomenal world are ideas.All we know exist are minds and their ideas. (VOILA! the happy marriage of empiricism and idealism)

      Perhaps happy, but certainly a sham marriage and childless to boot.

      (Also confused, since you have (repeatedly!) claimed this ‘phenomenal world’ (AKA ‘nature’) is but an idea within minds)

      While I certainly don’t believe elves are at work in the universe, the only difference between the elves and forces / fields is that the former are conscious and acts purposely while the latter are unconscious and act accidentally. Both could be used to describe our observations accurately.And both are equally mysterious.

      <Sigh>

      (I guess I should have instead written “goddiddit” to make my meaning clear enough for you)

      Remember to describe is not to explain.

      They are inextricably linked; it is true that one cannot explain without a description, but one can describe without an explanation. At heart, all explanations are descriptions involving a domain of applicability, an antecedent state and a consequent state.

      That map would be of a time after the “laws of physics existed.
      And remember not all cosmologist are in agreement with what the CBR represents.

      And a trilobite fossil is the relic of a time after that species existed; does that mean it’s not an observation?

      (And remember not all ‎paleontologists are in agreement with what the fossils represent)

      Of course a complete and accurate theory of Reality WOULD explain EVERYTHING.

      Goddiddit! :)

      • John Morales says

        PS Nightshade, I suggest that you would enhance the readability of your comments if you used the built-in quotation markup on this platform; failing that, the employment of quotation marks would also be an improvement.

        <blockquote>What is quoted</blockquote>

        yields

        What is quoted

  27. Nightshade says

    John, in response to my statement “The stuff “that makes up the universe” has always existed.” would seem to be as unreasonable as you found my proposition that “The universe is contingent.” to be ,and for the same reasons.”
    you said “Perhaps it (the statement ” “The stuff “that makes up the universe” has always existed.”) would, until it (the statement ” “The stuff “that makes up the universe” has always existed.”) were examined, whenceupon one would realise that it (The statement “The stuff “that makes up the universe” has always existed.” requires at least one less entity than its (The statement “The stuff “that makes up the universe” has always existed”) alternative without losing explanatory power and that therefore it(need I do it again?) is less unreasonable.

    I thought you were assuming the truth of the statement “The stuff that makes up the universe has always existed.” for the sake of argument.Not that you in fact hold that view. I understand you don’t even know that the question of the origin of matter can be answered. I also know you’re only “provisionally “a materialist.

    [email protected]:Also, that matter (brains) cause mental sensations is not assumed, it is inferred: damage or destroy the brain, damage or destroy mental sensations. We’ve already discussed this!

    The belief that Matter exist is an inference as well.The belief that the causal arrow runs from material phenomena to mental phenomena and not the reverse is an inference as well.

    I don’t have the time now to finish this. I’ll be back

    • John Morales says

      Nightshade,

      The belief that the causal arrow runs from material phenomena to mental phenomena and not the reverse is an inference as well.

      At this level of discourse, I think of it more in terms of ontological dependence than of causality, thus avoiding problems in considering proximate versus ultimate causality.

      I don’t have the time now to finish this. I’ll be back

      I’m considering leaving you with the last word on this, because I think we’re probably testing DD’s patience with this freewheeling discussion.

  28. Nightshade says

    Yeah, I can be a bit obsessive,trust me I know! I’ve enjoyed our discussion John.
    Mr. Deacon Duncan THANKS for being such a gracious, and patient, Host!

  29. julial says

    Nepenthe @ 7.4
    My answer to “What’s north of the north pole?” is up.
    And similarly, in my mental model of the creation event of spacetime, whether that be deity or naturally caused, is that the causal agent exists in a dimension outside of time and so can be causally prior, though not temporally prior.
    In my imagination, the universe originated in a fashion similar to that which produces the tiny streams of bubbles at the bottom of a glass of beer. They come from nothing (spatially speaking,) rise and expand and finally coalesce with other bubbles in the head, finally bursting and mixing with the atmosphere over the glass.
    I find it comforting to think that outside of our universe there is nothing but beer.

    “Beer is Gods way of telling us he loves us and wants us to be happy”
    ~Ben Franklin

    • John Morales says

      julial:

      My answer to “What’s north of the north pole?” is up.

      That is a non sequitur, but to play along: what’s on top of up?

      And similarly, in my mental model of the creation event of spacetime, whether that be deity or naturally caused, is that the causal agent exists in a dimension outside of time and so can be causally prior, though not temporally prior.

      Such oblivious ignorance!

      In my imagination, the universe originated in a fashion similar to that which produces the tiny streams of bubbles at the bottom of a glass of beer. They come from nothing (spatially speaking,) rise and expand and finally coalesce with other bubbles in the head, finally bursting and mixing with the atmosphere over the glass.

      A natural process, then. No supernatural causes required, and certainly no god(s).

      “Beer is Gods way of telling us he loves us and wants us to be happy”
      ~Ben Franklin

      “A feast is made for laughter, and wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things”
      ~Ecclesiastes

      (Wow!)

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