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Dec 20 2010

How useful is faith for obtaining knowledge?

This is a typical conversation between a theist and an atheist, and in fact something very much like it occurred over a lengthy series of back-and-forth comments on this blog last week. Please excuse this paraphrase; I want to boil the conversation down to its most important features, and I hope I’ve portrayed the theist accurately.

Theist: “God must exist. Unless there is a god, many features of the universe are unexplainable.”

Atheist: “What’s your explanation for God?”

Theist: “Don’t be ridiculous! We can’t explain God. He is outside of time and space, and cannot be understood by mere human minds.”

Atheist: “But then how do you know that a god exists? Do you have evidence?”

Theist: “Of course I do! The universe is evidence for God.”

Atheist: “The universe definitely exists, but that’s got nothing to do with providing positive evidence for god. Your argument about having ‘no other explanation’ is just special pleading, granting yourself the authority to invent something that is also unexplained. Not only does it not solve the problem, it invents new ones. So again: Do you have evidence that there is any such thing as a god?”

Theist: “Don’t be absurd! Since God is beyond our understanding, we must rely on faith.”

Atheist: “That seems like a really bad strategy for actually finding out what is true.”

Theist: “Nonsense! Just think about all the other things that scientists accept without complete evidence.”

The theist then proceeds to list some of the usual suspects, starting with abstract concepts like “Love” and “Beauty,” and then including some of the vaguer outliers of speculative scientific theories such as aspects of quantum mechanics and string theory.

Let me set aside for a moment the issue of how some things are more or less firmly accepted within the scientific realm based on how good the evidence is; how there are “hard” sciences and “soft” sciences; and how the ideas that individual scientists hold to be true personally is often separate from what they claim as scientific knowledge. I just want to ask some stuff about applying faith to claim knowledge.

Is faith sufficient? If you hold a belief in something without evidence deeply, sincerely, and completely, then does it follow that it is true? Or do you require faith and some component of evidence in order to accept something as true? In what ratios do they apply?

If the answer is “Faith alone is sufficient to establish truth” then let me ask this. Suppose that a Muslim comes up to you and says the following:“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet. Allah has no son and there is no other god accompanying Him. All that we know of Him is revealed in the Qur’an. Believers in Christ are heretics and infidels who tell lies about the one true God. The reward for faith in Allah, Muhammad, and the Most Holy Qur’an is Jannah, an eternity of pleasure and sexual delights.”



Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this fellow is sincere and earnest in his belief, and holds his faith every bit as strongly as you hold yours.


My question is: What is it that would compel an outside observer to accept your faith as correct and his as wrong?

117 comments

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  1. 1
    Jemmer

    I've continued the discussion with Sungyak (to whom you referred) over the past week and I asked a variation on that very question. It has spawned a whole new set of blog posts which we are discussing. I'm still trying to get this answer out of him and have had to rephrase it as he has inadvertently (to give him the benefit of the doubt) circumnavigated the question.

  2. 2
    tsimpson1991

    The people of the Atheist Experience are much more articulate than I am, but I always catch myself debating friends and the few religious people of my family, and they always drive the discussion into a dead end. I was conversing with my sister in law who believes the bible literally. I would show her evidence of evolution, explain logical fallacies, and show her the contradictions and immoral acts/laws in the bible. I was doing actual investigating, and brought up all the opposing religions that have many confident followers, and asked her why she thinks they are mistaken for their beliefs. The conversation came to a stop when she said, “I know there is a god because he gave me my beautiful son”. Once her logic reached this point, I gave up. To me, someone accepting a religion as true without any evidence is comparable to someone who believes we are in the matrix. No one can technically prove we aren’t in the matrix, but that does not make the “matrix proposal” a sensible belief. In addition, I am not going to live my life “agnostic” towards the “matrix proposal” just because I can’t disprove it. Sorry, I went off topic.

  3. 3
    Peter Madsen

    My Intro to Physics professor tried to argue that evidence and faith were two separate paths to truth. I came up after class and offered him this:1. Faith is belief without evidence.2. People are capable of believing things to be true which actually aren't.3. Therefore, faith can lead to two "truths" which contradict each other.4. Therefore, faith alone isn't a reliable path to truth.And, just like in my Intro to Philosophy class when I asked, "What's the difference between Faith, confirmation bias, and wishful thinking?", my teacher just ignored me for the rest of the semester. Community colleges suck :P

  4. 4
    arensb

    Don't be ridiculous! Yes, the Muslim believes on faith, but he believes the wrong thing, so it can't be true!I'm pretty sure I've heard this argument used in real life.I also had a discussion in which my interlocutor said he believed in God by faith. I asked him whether faith was a useful way of distinguishing what's true from what isn't, and failed to get any kind of coherent answer. It was fascinating to watch.

  5. 5
    Sebastian

    Some people don't seem to get the difference between "accepting something without complete evidence" and "accepting something without evidence".The ability to believe things without 100% evidence is necessary for us to function in daily life, but ignoring the available evidence and believing something on faith alone is just a very bad way to use that thing between one's ears.

  6. 6
    Sungyak

    thanks for the post kazim. i cannot help but feel some of this is addressed to me. i will work on a response as soon as i get around to it, and attempt at a better understanding with one another than i have til now. in the meantime, merry christmas to you all.

  7. 7
    Cafeeine Addicted

    Isn't the thought process behind this question the same as that in John Loftus' Outsider's Test for Faith?

  8. 8
    Tyler Olsen

    Sometimes I get the feeling that many believers have trouble even imagining an "outside view" when it comes to comparing their faith with that of another. This notion came to me after several discussions I've shared over the past 18 months or so. I for one can not understand how or what people commonly think about other religions (many do not think at all I'm sure). I try to explain to them that if two believers of separate faith come to me to testify to supposed miracles that they witnessed, each claiming that it was a result of their belief in their own god, how can I discern which claim is true, if one even is at all? I throw a variant of this question out again and again and for me it seems like a really good point, but it just seems to gloss over the head of the believer I'm asking it to. Its like they can't even comprehend the outsider's view, because its just so durn "obvious" that -their- faith is true, meaning that every other one is false. Much facepalming has thus ensued…

  9. 9
    farmboy

    Love and beauty are in the eye of the beholder. For the sake of argument if we did not know what love was or how it worked or how it 'exists' in what way does that prove God? I find that such theists who bring up the 'love' element are trying to say we are doing the exact same thing they are doing: which is accepting things to exist without evidence for its existence, trying to make us look hypocrites…But even if this were the case it still wouldn't make believing things without evidence okay -just because atheists are doing it too. Because there's no such thing as an invisible pink flying unicorn or a tiny teapot orbiting the sun, is there?

  10. 10
    ernobius

    Nice post and great ending: calm and powerful at the same time.

  11. 11
    Alenius

    I feel really uncomfortable when you are talking about "correct beleifs". As far as I can see it a beleif is not a position that can neither be true nor false.

  12. 12
    JT

    @AleniusSo when you believe that the sun revolves around the Earth, you can't be wrong?And, when you believe that the Earth revolves around the Sun, you can't be right?The believe is correct when it's actually true.

  13. 13
    John K.

    Theist debates really have helped me in a lot of ways. How to determine if something is true, the amazing places that confirmation bias can take you, and of course the gambit of logical fallacies I can now name and categorize. I have a much more sophisticated view of what "truth" is now because of arguments.I more or less came to atheism by the example Kazim ended with, being a Christian and having a Jewish friend in school as a child made me argue about who was right. The following honest evaluation of both views helped us determine neither view was correct.

  14. 14
    mikekoz68

    "…an eternity of sexual delights." – does this apply to Muslim women as well? If not, why do women stay in these religions which are so obviously sexist?

  15. 15
    Kazim

    Sungyak, no need for me to be coy — yes, I mainly had you in mind with this post. I'll look forward to your reply. In the meantime, have a fun and stress-free holiday season.

  16. 16
    Kestra

    If you will indulge an off-topic aside in reference to "love" as an abstract concept: I've been increasingly annoyed as people throw "love" up there with "truth" and "beauty" as this amazing, deep, unknowable thing. It is not. Both "romantic love" and biological love for children can be detected and tracked in a human brain and body using MRI scans and chemical analysis of hormones in the blood stream. These emotions, just like fear or excitement, are characterized by physiological reactions in the body and brain. I do not say this to diminish these emotional states in any way; medical science is capable of telling us the *how* of these feelings, not the significance of them. But to classify "Love" as something that can't be analyzed or detected using modern science is simply incorrect. I blame this partly on the imprecise definition of the word, in that one can "love" your partner, your child, and your country using the same word, but the brain states for those three situations are all different.

  17. 17
    Tommykey

    The conversation came to a stop when she said, “I know there is a god because he gave me my beautiful son”. Once her logic reached this point, I gave up.tsimpson, it has been my observation (as well as based on my own reasons for believing many years ago) that much of religious belief can be explained by what I call human egocentrism. It fosters a belief in one's own self importance.For example, in the comments thread for another recent post on this blog, I clicked on the link for one of the commenters who turned out to be a Christian. In her Blogger profile, she declares "I am on a divinely ordained mission." Believing she is serving the creator of the universe is central to providing herself with a sense of identity and purpose. I once saw myself in the same light, and to give up one's religious belief is tantamount to saying to oneself "I'm not God's instrument after all." It's a deflating experience, but for me a very necessary one.

  18. 18
    Warren Grubb

    The Faith position is (in my experience) a dishonest one. Probably not intentionally dishonest, but I have never challenged a religious person (or seen on challenged) that didn't actually offer evidence for why they believe. They have always told me of the miracles, signs, historical accounts, etc, that prove their God or at least a god exists, and it is only when they feel their evidence isn't good enough that they crawl under the shield of "Faith." If they provide evidence that convinces them, they don't believe on faith. This explains why the Christian who thinks the Faithful Muslim is wrong- he/she has the wrong evidence.Even in the bible, everyone from Saul to Thomas believe because of intervention from God. This faith alone is such a crap invention to circumvent reason and thus challenges to authority.

  19. 19
    J. K. Jones

    Many things about God can be understood by finite humans. It's just that not everything about God can be understood by finite humans. The things we can know about God, and there are many things, do not require faith that is opposed to evidence.Atheists can be prone to confirmation bias as well. All humans are susceptible to that. Bias is something none of us are free of.

  20. 20
    Blake

    What are the many things that we can know about god?

  21. 21
    JT

    @JKYes, and that's why we have a process (Science) that is consistently demonstrably effective at overcoming that bias.The alternative is making up fantasies and sticking to them.

  22. 22
    Kazim

    And what evidence, if any, would we apply in order to know things about God?

  23. 23
    Warren Grubb

    @JKYou're really piling it up for such a short post. First, you make broad claims without providing any examples to back them up and then follow up with a non-sequitur. Regarding the former- you use the pronoun "things" 4 times. Please list some of the actual things you are referring to.And to the latter, I think JT put it best and it seems to me you are just trying to poison the well.

  24. 24
    Raymond

    I would just like to re-word slightly J.K.Jones last comment as follows;"Many things about Martians can be understood by finite humans. It's just that not everything about Martians can be understood by finite humans. The things we can know about Martians, and there are many things, do not require faith that is opposed to evidence."The above is just as logically valid as J.K.'s original statement.

  25. 25
    John K.

    @ JKJI am still waiting for someone, anyone, to tell me even one thing that can be understood about god. One thing that is not so vague as to be meaningless. One thing that actually has more evidence than Santa Claus. One thing that is distinguishable from something completely imagined.The whole "oh the evidence and good arguments are out there, but I am not going to tell you what they are" bit is really annoying. Come on, one single thing about god that has some evidence for it. Spit it out or get lost.

  26. 26
    DavidCT

    @JKBy stating that there are things we can know about god, you are making an assertion about the nature of god. Having made such an assertion, the burden of proof now rests with you. I challenge you to meet this burden and predict that you will fail. This is not something to be ashamed of since it is something the greatest theological minds of the last several thousand years have failed to do. Hopefully the effort will help you focus your beliefs, and give you a greater appreciation of the fact that when you look closely, there is nothing self evident about the nature of god.

  27. 27
    J. K. Jones

    One thing we can know about God: He exists.Another thing: He is super-powerful.Another thing: He is super-intelligent.Another thing: He is intentional.Another thing: He is personal.We know these things by reasoning from the effects all around us to the cause of those effects (science does this all of the time).We know much more from God’s specific revelation to us: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, love, holiness, justice and truth.

  28. 28
    JT

    @JKOne thing we can know about God: He exists.Of course. Once we can demonstrate that beyond a reasonable doubt, we can indeed know that.We know these things by reasoning from the effects all around us to the cause of those effects (science does this all of the time).That's odd. 100% of everything we've learned about how the universe works points towards natural mechanics. Is this a version of "just look at the birds and the trees"?Of course, there's areas that our current status is "We don't know", but you can't magically make the collosal jump from "We don't know" to "We know (God)" without being dishonest.We know much more from God’s specific revelation to us: God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, love, holiness, justice and truth.Do you have any evidence to back any of that up? I haven't observed one single shred of evidence that would support any supernatural claims, in the entirety of my life.

  29. 29
    JT

    Theistic mental process:1) We don't know how something happened.2) ???3) We know God done it.

  30. 30
    MAtheist

    @J.K. JonesYou get some credit because you did attempt to answer a question posed to you, unlike Sungyak who changes the subject and then seems to offer a refutation of an unrelated topic.All you have done though is make more assertions about the nature of god. Again, you have failed to offer any reasons behind these assertions. You have been given the challenge of applying rational thought to these assertions, I see no evidence so far.

  31. 31
    Scott

    Faith is the little kid with a "magic trick" that requires you to close your eyes. Then we're supposed to be really impressed by it. Sorry. (And all too often the trick is the amazing disappearing money trick. I've seen that one too many times.)

  32. 32
    J. K. Jones

    I will present evidence if you wish, but I want to know what kind of evidence will be accepted first.Can we reason from what we find in the universe to want must be necessary for those things to be? I say we can, and I say that science does this all the time. I will present evidence that moves from what we know to what must be.

  33. 33
    JT

    @JKWe (Or at least I, I don't want to speak for everyone) accept scientific evidence (as opposed to testimony or personal experience). In general, that evidence must be data that supports the claim, and has the following attributes:1) Repeatable – Without repeatability, we can't verify it.2) Logical Connection – The connection between the evidence and the claim must be well understood and understandable3) Exclusive – The more vague the evidence, the less useful it is. If it implicates 500,000 possibilities instead of 5, it's too broad. As a corollary, if your evidence equally (if not more) indicates a contradictory claim, the evidence is completely useless.An example of this would be pointing at the birds and trees and saying that it's evidence for a god, when it's equal and better evidence that nature happens. We've never witnessed the birds or trees being created. They have only been observed "happening" on their own.4) Objectively presentable to others – Humans are prone to error, whether it's lying or simply misinterpretation. Evidence that occurs outside a mind can be openly investigated and verified while minimizing subjective error.There's probably more details, but that's a good start for meeting the minimum requirements for the standards of evidence.

  34. 34
    J. K. Jones

    JT, okay.I’ll present three arguments in brief form: an argument from being, an argument from purpose, and an argument from the laws of logic. I will post them in turn, but I will pause between each to allow opportunities for interaction. Please keep in mind that each argument builds on the others.

  35. 35
    J. K. Jones

    From being:God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. This is foundational for a popular argument for God’s existence. Reason demonstrates that something in the past must have always existed.It is not possible to count to the end of the series of real numbers. You can always count one more. It is an infinite series of discrete things. You can’t count to the end of a series like that. It has no end. There is always one more.Similarly, we cannot expect that an infinite regress of finite causes of existence exists. That is, if we move backward from ourselves to the things that caused us, to the things that caused those things, to the things that caused those times, and so on, we must find something that did not have a beginning. Otherwise, the end of the infinite series of causes, namely us, would never have been reached. We would never have moved through the series of causes to get to ourselves.Whatever the first cause was, it must have always been. If it had no beginning, it would be able to start the series of causes. The series would not extend infinitely into the past.This first cause must also have the power and ability to bring about all we see in the universe. The universe came from something that has always existed. Something, or someone, has always been here. It was not caused to be by something that existed before it. It is self-existent; it has the power of being in itself.As J. P. Morland points out, nothing outside this first cause can cause it to either act or not act. There was a “time” when there was nothing outside it, so there was nothing to cause its actions. It acted independently of anything else. This is how we define the power of choice. Only a person has the power of choice.Now we have a being that has always existed, is super-powerful, and displays intention. This fits the Christian notion of God quite well, but not perfectly.I expand more on what this being must be like in my next argument.What are your thoughts?

  36. 36
    JT

    This is a more verbose version of the "First Mover" argument.God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. This is foundational for a popular argument for God’s existence. Reason demonstrates that something in the past must have always existed.What makes you think that? Oh, "Reason". You can deduce a likelyhood that this is true, however, the happenstance of the big bang, and other singularities, are bizarre enough that we cannot apply our common sense "reasoning" to it anymore. In fact, our current models of physics break down at singularities right now. Can you describe your reasoning process?At this point, you're starting out with a bald assertion.It is not possible to count to the end of the series of real numbers. You can always count one more. It is an infinite series of discrete things. You can’t count to the end of a series like that. It has no end. There is always one more.Numbers don't exist. It's a model we came up with to describe the universe. Math helps us with things, but you can't take the pristine purity of mathematics and simply apply it to reality. There's no such thing as a perfect circle in reality.

  37. 37
    JT

    Similarly, … we must find something that did not have a beginning.Another bald assertion. Why not? You just claim that it's needed. It's possible that there's an infinite chain of Big Bang -> Heat Death.Otherwise, the end of the infinite series of causes, namely us, would never have been reached. We would never have moved through the series of causes to get to ourselves.Not if time "starts over" each time. This is also a fallacy. It's like saying that we can't exist on a number line at X=4.5 because the x-axis extends infinitely in either direction. Once you understand that the 4th dimension (time) is basically the same as the first three, time doesn't "go". Our experience is based from sequential patterns of chemicals in our brains, but time isn't something that's "arrived at", any more than the first three dimensions.This first cause must also have the power and ability to bring about all we see in the universe. Not exactly. Once the Big Bang occurred, we had a large amount of energy that coalesced into quarks and other particles, eventually into hydrogen, that collected into balls and ignited under its own pressure, that fused together heavier elements, and nova'd those heavier elements around which collected into balls of rocks, water, gasses, which became the building blocks of amino acids, then proteins, and so on. After that initial 'spark', everything was on auto-pilot, step-by-step logically.

  38. 38
    JT

    The universe came from something that has always existed.Actually, it's possible that the universe came from nothing. I'd have to go do some research on those ideas.Why is it that the universe couldn't always have existed? If this other thing could, why not the universe (or the natural construct for which the universe sprang)? This is a fallacy known as "Special pleading". It's also in violation of the law of non-contradiction in logic. Either everything has a cause, or some things don't. You can't have it both ways at once without invoking the special pleading.It's like you said, "All whole numbers have a whole number before them. For instance 586 has 585 befor eit. Except 30. 30 is the only number to not have a whole number before it." It's arbitrary and unsupported by any kind of evidence whatsoever.That's sort of the point. This whole argument is a bunch of unsupported assumptions and claims.Something, or someone, has always been here. It was not caused to be by something that existed before it. It is self-existent; it has the power of being in itself.I agree. The universe could have the power of self-existence.

  39. 39
    JT

    As J. P. Morland points out, nothing outside this first cause can cause it to either act or not act. There was a “time” when there was nothing outside it, so there was nothing to cause its actions. It acted independently of anything else. This is how we define the power of choice. Only a person has the power of choice.And he's doing the same thing you are – making gargantuan assumptions about circumstances that are currently beyond our knowledge and understanding.Now we have a being that has always existed, is super-powerful, and displays intention. This fits the Christian notion of God quite well, but not perfectly.I expand more on what this being must be like in my next argument.You haven't provided any evidence. It doesn't meet ANY of the standards of evidence I brought up. 1) It cannot be repeated.2) It's not logical.3) Contradictory possibilities still exist for the data we see.4) There's no evidence to be objective. You can't "logic god into existence" unless all the premises are 100% true, and the logic is 100% sound and valid. That's why, ultimately, it comes down to emperical, objective evidence.

  40. 40
    JT

    While I have heard the "first mover" argument a million times, I haven't seen anyone make an argument as to why they think this first mover is an intelligent entity.So that was interesting.

  41. 41
    Jeremiah

    Infinite regress. This seems to be a popular topic with theists these days, at least on this blog. First of all I can't necessarily grant infinite regress is impossible despite it's seemingly logical impossibility simply because we currently have so little information on the origins of existence that making any statement other then "I don't know" is simply playing with bald assertions. It could be the universe is a a kind of perpetual motion machine (as JT hinted at). Of course that is just an assertion without proof, but that is kind of my point, we just don't know enough about events that far into past and out of our sphere of observation to be able to form any reasonable conclusions at this point. But for the sake of argument lets grant something has the property of 'just exists', there are still problems with the end of your argument. For instance:"There was a “time” when there was nothing outside it, so there was nothing to cause its actions. It acted independently of anything else. This is how we define the power of choice. Only a person has the power of choice."There are major problems here. You are jumping some gaps without explanation. You say that it acted independently which implies intention, but it is entirely possible that first cause was an inevitable consequence of it's own being or surroundings. A natural phenomenon. Like a hurricane. The weather doesn't 'decide' to kick up some winds, it is just a consequence of a certain set of conditions. We know that things that already exist (atmosphere and weather patterns) can cause (first cause) other things (hurricanes) without intention or choice or these other human qualities. I don't see how you have any basis to claim that whatever 'just exists' made any kind of decision at all or even that it would be cabable of such. I don't see how you can go from "something out there 'just exists'" to asribing it as acting independently and making choices. This leap requires further explanation.

  42. 42
    Jeremiah

    Also, choice is not a uniquely human trait anyways. Many animals species also exhibit this ability, but I doubt you would consider that the first cause was a german shepard.

  43. 43
    J. K. Jones

    JT,“… the happenstance of the big bang, and other singularities, are bizarre enough that we cannot apply our common sense "reasoning" to it anymore.”That is merely an assertion. “Numbers don't exist….”How does this help you? The argument depends on the string of causes being a series to which one more can always be added. You cannot ‘move’ (I am talking about a thought experiment here.) through infinity to get to the end when the infinite string can always have on more added to it. It is like (as in similar to) the integer sequence. If you cannot ‘move through’ infinity, you could not have ‘moved through the string to get to this point now.“It's possible that there's an infinite chain of Big Bang -> Heat Death.”Then we would not have ‘moved’ through the infinite series of Big Bang -> Heat Death to get to us.“It's like saying that we can't exist on a number line at X=4.5 because the x-axis extends infinitely in either direction.”You can if you start in the middle. The argument depends on moving through the entire sequence, not moving from someplace in the middle to another place in the middle. Xeon’s paradox will not help you here.“Once you understand that the 4th dimension (time) is basically the same as the first three, time doesn't "go".”Who said anything about time?“Our experience is based from sequential patterns of chemicals in our brains, but time isn't something that's "arrived at", any more than the first three dimensions.”Is that all our experience is based upon? If it is, we had better stop arguing because neither of us can change our minds.“Once the Big Bang occurred…”You are trying to describe the very sequence of causes I have been referring to.“Actually, it's possible that the universe came from nothing.”So now something comes from nothing.“Why is it that the universe couldn't always have existed? If this other thing could, why not the universe (or the natural construct for which the universe sprang)?”If a part of the universe has always existed, then it must have the attributes called for by the argument. Christian theology has always held that God is transcendent, but that is a transcendence of being, not of location. In one sense, God could be a part of the universe.“Either everything has a cause, or some things don't. You can't have it both ways at once without invoking the special pleading.”Something must have been uncaused or we could not have ‘moved’ through the sequence of causes to get to us.“I agree. The universe could have the power of self-existence.”Then the part of the universe that has self-existence had to have always been there, had to have acted independently of anything else, and had to have enough power to bring about everything that followed from it.“It cannot be repeated.”You can move through the argument as many times as you want inside your head, the answer does not change.“It's not logical.”Of course it is.“Contradictory possibilities still exist for the data we see.”Name one that I have not already addressed.“There's no evidence to be objective…it comes down to emperical, objective evidence.”Why does evidence have to be empirical (verifiable by our senses)?

  44. 44
    J. K. Jones

    Jeremiah,“… I can't necessarily grant infinite regress is impossible despite it's seemingly logical impossibility…”Then provide a logical alternative not addressed above.“… simply because we currently have so little information on the origins of existence that making any statement other then "I don't know" is simply playing with bald assertions…”The logic of the argument works. What is the other logical alternative?“…the universe is a a kind of perpetual motion machine (as JT hinted at).”Then it cannot have been running forever.“…out of our sphere of observation…”Why does it have to be observable? What is so magic about the senses that nothing we can learn can be learned without them?"…it is entirely possible that first cause was an inevitable consequence of it's own being or surroundings… it is just a consequence of a certain set of conditions…”No natural phenomenon ever acts without something else acting upon it. The phenomenon in question acted without anything acting on it. Nothing that does not have the power of free choice can do that.“Also, choice is not a uniquely human trait anyways. Many animals species also exhibit this ability, but I doubt you would consider that the first cause was a german shepard.”God is not a person like us anyway, but I am getting ahead of myself there. We will have to look at my second and third arguments to address that.

  45. 45
    Jeremiah

    "The logic of the argument works. What is the other logical alternative?"You brought up Xeon, by which I think you meant Zeno's paradoxes. And I think that is a good example of the limits of philosophy and even logic. Logically, Zeno's Achilles and the tortoise is sound, but we have observational confirmation that it is also without a doubt false. There needs to be something more than philosophical soundness for something to be considered true and your example so far doesn't provide us with anything more tangible.Why does it have to be observable? What is so magic about the senses that nothing we can learn can be learned without them?This is a question of epistemology basically. Really when you get down to the brass tacks our senses are our only interface with the world in which we exist. We simply have no other way to interact with the world.No natural phenomenon ever acts without something else acting upon it. The phenomenon in question acted without anything acting on it. Nothing that does not have the power of free choice can do that.Again, you are taking something (the initial state of existence) which we have almost no information about and ascribing to it a bunch of properties like cognition and free will, simply making assertions. We don't even know for sure if choice has the properties you claim, namely that choice is an action that occurs without something else acting upon it. We do know that choices I make are impacted by other things like my past experience, brain states, culture, current environment, the amount of alchohol I just ingested and so on. So you can't say that we are acting in a vaccum either which is what you are trying to equate here. "I don't know" doesn't have a burden of proof. My whole point is that given our limited knowledge about the origins of existence it is silly and irresponsible to be making any claims about it.God is not a person like us anyway, but I am getting ahead of myself there. We will have to look at my second and third arguments to address that.Yes, I figured that was getting ahead of the game but I imagine we aren't going to reach an agreement on this notion that a sentient presence necessarily had to exist so maybe we should move on to your next argument and see what it is all about.

  46. 46
    Jeremiah

    Just to clarify since I don't think I wrote or emphasized it very well. You dismissed natural phenomenon because they don't act without other things acting upon them and saying that the ability to make choices does. Essentially, hurricanes don't count because they don't occur in a vacuum. However the only observed instances of making a choice is in humans and animals and we know that those choices are impacted by other things such as the examples I listed. Quite clearly decision making doesn't occur in a vacuum either, therefore we don't have any reason to assume that the initial state of the universe requires any such thing. (hope that was a little bit more clear)

  47. 47
    JAFisher44

    "Then provide a logical alternative not addressed above.""The logic of the argument works. What is the other logical alternative?"With all this rhetoric I would think you might recognize an argument from ignorance when you see one. But, obviously, you don't.The possibility that we don't have an answer does not obligate us to accept your (bad) answer. It is ok to say we don't know. Even if infinite regress is impossible and there must have been a beginning, it is not necessarily true that there must have been a "god" to start it all. Perhaps what happens before time and space begin is governed by different laws that we have no concept of, but which are completely natural and automatic processes.

  48. 48
    J. K. Jones

    I am away from my computer and am typing this in on a maddening iPhone keypad. I will be back to my computer in a day or two. Sorry for the interruption in our conversation.

  49. 49
    John K.

    @ J. K. JonesThank you for actually stating some arguments, and remaining civil is also appreciated.That being said, you still have made only assertions with no evidence to back them up. JT laid out some excellent standards of evidence that you have failed to meet on even one occasion so far.If evidence does not have to be verifiable by our senses, what can it be? How can such evidence be different from pure imagination? Just because something can be imagined does not mean it actually exists.I am still waiting for a single thing to be known about god that is distinguishable from something that is imagined.

  50. 50
    Mark B

    On a side note from the debate, and back to the topic of this thread; I'd say that faith has absolutely nothing to do with obtaining knowledge but is instead a way of reinforcing a belief in knowledge already obtained.

  51. 51
    Lukas

    No natural phenomenon ever acts without something else acting upon it.I'm not a physicist, but I think radioactive decay would qualify. Radioactive atoms don't decay because of some influence of the environment, but because they are what they are. It is in their nature to decay at some point in future time.God is eternal. He has no beginning and no end. This is foundational for a popular argument for God’s existence. Reason demonstrates that something in the past must have always existed….Similarly, we cannot expect that an infinite regress of finite causes of existence exists. That is, if we move backward from ourselves to the things that caused us, to the things that caused those things, to the things that caused those times, and so on, we must find something that did not have a beginning. Otherwise, the end of the infinite series of causes, namely us, would never have been reached.Wouldn't the same problem apply to god? If god has always existed and the universe has not, then there must have been an infinite span of time before the creation of the universe. Therefore, we would never have gotten to the point of the universe being created.Ergo, the existence of the universe negates the possibility of an eternal god.

  52. 52
    JT

    @JK“… the happenstance of the big bang, and other singularities, are bizarre enough that we cannot apply our common sense "reasoning" to it anymore.”That is merely an assertion.We have an entire history of people making the same mistake you are now. Logical deduction is a useful guide for investigation, but it cannot come to an absolute conclusion in itself. It must be confirmed.An example of this would be the common person looking around at the horizon from atop a mountain, and reasoning that the world must be flat. The concept of a round Earth was afront to what we held to be true, and it took a lot of experimentation and emperical evidence to convince people that it was true.Before that, we were reasoning that the sun was pulled across the sky by a chariot, because we had no other concept of how things could move around. We reasoned that lightning was due to Zeus because we had no idea how it worked. Reasoning only gets you as far as you have empirical evidence. Without that data, the reasoning is only an educated guess. Right now, you're the guy gazing off into the distance, and assuming that what he sees is how it continues on, without change.“It's possible that there's an infinite chain of Big Bang -> Heat Death.”Then we would not have ‘moved’ through the infinite series of Big Bang -> Heat Death to get to us.

  53. 53
    JT

    This relates to the first point. There is no "before the big bang" as we understand it. It's so bizarre to us that our language can't even cope with the subject matter. "Before the big bang" is a non-sequitur. That's why I mentioned time "restarting" on every big bang. Outside of that, there's no time to "go through" that would inhibit us from "getting here".“It's like saying that we can't exist on a number line at X=4.5 because the x-axis extends infinitely in either direction.”You can if you start in the middle.Keep in mind that the "middle" here is arbitrary. We happened to set the origin relative to our perception. The argument depends on moving through the entire sequence, not moving from someplace in the middle to another place in the middle. Xeon’s paradox will not help you here.That's the point. We aren't "moving" through time. That's another assumption on your part. Time is a universal thing, and our subjective perception of "now" is constructed from the relationship changes in our brains from t=a and t=a+1There are interesting issues between the deterministic behavior of the macro world, and the non-deterministic behavior of the quantum level (which, by the way, the big bang sprung from), and the argument of free will arises. Ultimately, in order for this part of your argument to even remotely be valid, you have to show that there is some "temporal playhead" that "moves" through time, and isn't just an error of subjective perception.

  54. 54
    JT

    “Once you understand that the 4th dimension (time) is basically the same as the first three, time doesn't "go".”Who said anything about time?Without time, there is no casuality, which is at the core of this argument. This is why the "What caused the big bang?" question is so far out of our understanding and ability to accurately reason. If time started at the big bang, there is no "before" to have an cause happen, and our basic understanding of how the universe works breaks down.“Our experience is based from sequential patterns of chemicals in our brains, but time isn't something that's "arrived at", any more than the first three dimensions.”Is that all our experience is based upon? If it is, we had better stop arguing because neither of us can change our minds.Not all of it, but the concept of "now" that my 10-minute-ago self is experiencing runs on that.“Once the Big Bang occurred…”You are trying to describe the very sequence of causes I have been referring to.Yes, and I might even agree that there was a "first cause", but void of any actual evidence, there's no reason to come to that conclusion – much less that it's some kind of magical intelligent entity. Just like the other thousands and thousands of phenomenon we once thought was supernatural, but then investigated and found out they were perfectly natural, this could just be the next one.In terms of our ability to verify claims, so far the score is:Natural: 234,676,123Supernatural: 0

  55. 55
    JT

    “Actually, it's possible that the universe came from nothing.”So now something comes from nothing.Why not? The point is, you're starting with an assumption that it's not the case. You can't come to an accurate conclusion based from premises that are assumptions. They actually have to be demonstrated. You'd have to prove a negative.Of course, we observe that things come from things, and it's reasonable to carry that into this discussion. As I said before, this is useful as a guide for investigation, but cannot be a conclusion in itself. Otherwise, it starts to turn into an Argument from Ignorance – "We don't know how else it could have happened, so therefore it must be this." Devoid of any actual evidence, all we have is a bunch of conjecture, which atheists will readily admis is our current status on this question.“Why is it that the universe couldn't always have existed? If this other thing could, why not the universe (or the natural construct for which the universe sprang)?”If a part of the universe has always existed, then it must have the attributes called for by the argument. Christian theology has always held that God is transcendent, but that is a transcendence of being, not of location. In one sense, God could be a part of the universe.Be careful not to be redefining the concept of god too much. You could define god to be a borrito, and I would then be a theist, but the discussion would be useless at that point. Why must it have exactly the attributes called for by the argument? We've been finding that even the basic physical constance vary through the universe. We thought that time was a global universal thing. Now, we understand that time can stretch/compress at different 3D velocities. It could have been that the universe had that transcendent quality and then spawned time. And again, without that time "before it" there's no basis for causal links.

  56. 56
    JT

    “Either everything has a cause, or some things don't. You can't have it both ways at once without invoking the special pleading.”Something must have been uncaused or we could not have ‘moved’ through the sequence of causes to get to us.Why must have it been? You just keep making the same assertions void of any actual evidence. “I agree. The universe could have the power of self-existence.”Then the part of the universe that has self-existence had to have always been there, had to have acted independently of anything else, and had to have enough power to bring about everything that followed from it...which stops making sense to say once time is removed from the equation. What do you mean by power? As I explained before, all it needed was a spark, and everything else was on auto-pilot. The way you phrase it, you make it sound as though the universe would have had to specifically arrange the furnature in my livingroom. If someone carelessly flicks a cigarette butt into a forest, and it starts a fire, that cigarette isn't flying around burning everything. It started a chain reaction that took on a life of its own.“It cannot be repeated.”You can move through the argument as many times as you want inside your head, the answer does not change.That's rediculous. You have no idea what repeatability means in science. If we were go with your concept of repeatability, now 100% of every argument in existence is now repeatable, and now repeatability is 100% completely and utterly useless. There's a point to the requirement of repeatability.If Bob says he can predict the lottery numbers accuarely, the repeatability is asking him to do it again (and again). Your version is to re-listen to him claiming that he can predict lottery numbers.

  57. 57
    JT

    “It's not logical.”Of course it is.It's not. Part of the argument is basically this:1) Everything has a cause.2) There's an un-caused cause that started everything.The two premises cannot be true at the same time. The logic is not valid.Once you allow for one thing to be "uncaused", why not more? You then engage in a plethora of special pleading claims about whether this or that MUST have a cause or not.“Contradictory possibilities still exist for the data we see.”Name one that I have not already addressed.1) I'm not aware of them all.2) There are possibilities that humanity hasn't even imagined yet.3) You're engaging in an Argument from Ignorance.We only accept things as true when they're demonstrated. Your mishmash of assumptions doesn't make for a demonstration or evidence.Arguments aren't evidence. If it were, I could come up with thousands of arguments as to why god shouldn't exist, and the sheer quantity of those arguments would eventually prove that he doesn't. An argument is a construct for modelling. Evidence is data that supports a claim. A made-up model/conjecture is not data.

  58. 58
    JT

    The evidence in this case are observations such as:1) Every effect we've seen has a cause (which isn't actually true, once you get into quantum physics)2) The universe seems to have a starting point, as we can determine from doppler shifts and microwave background radiation patterns.3) Etc.But that's all emperical.“There's no evidence to be objective…it comes down to emperical, objective evidence.”Why does evidence have to be empirical (verifiable by our senses)?Emperical doesn't mean "Verifyable by our sense". It means measurable. You can measure magnetic fields without feeling or seeing them.Empericism is the step where we determine whether a claim actually is true. Without that, all we have is conjecture.It's Bob explaining some rationale as to how he's able to correctly predict lottery numbers, and we should just take his word for it. It's us asking him to actually do it.Without empericism, we have no ability to weed out the multitudes of quacks making crackpot claims from the people who actually are on to something.

  59. 59
    unphilosopher

    People are very fond of saying what faith is not based upon, which, by definition, is evidence, but what is it based upon? What if "faith" is just a word for "stuff I was brainwashed about"?We all have cultural affectations, things that we do, not for any reason, but only because it was delivered to us (usually at a young age) in finished form. Simple, generally harmless affectations include hand gestures or clothing standards that vary from culture to culture. More complex and much more damaging ones include belief in gods.We did not come to these affectations by any syllogism, and therefore, arguing with someone about the supposed underlying rationale of these issues gives those issues a credibility that they don't deserve. While debating with a theist can be as invigorating as playing chess, one should bear in mind that it's doing them harm. It's driving them deeper into their psychosis.

  60. 60
    JT

    While debating with a theist can be as invigorating as playing chess, one should bear in mind that it's doing them harm. It's driving them deeper into their psychosis.I'll never buy that. What's the alternative? Staying silent? All that does is allow the delusions to fester and spread.

  61. 61
    Justin B.

    Kudos to JT and JK for a stimulating and civil debate. Great points and counterpoints made, although I've heard them all made before, it's good to see them hashed out once again. Personally, I remain unconvinced by the arguments for god.

  62. 62
    MAtheist

    @unphilosopher – I'm with JT on this, by possibly getting someone to use critical thinking about their affectations, especially a damaging one, the hope is to put an end to the delusions.As to "things that we do, not for any reason", I would argue that there are reasons for everything we do. Even if something is taught to us as part of our culture, that would be the reason we do it.@J.K. JonesI'm not sure what I could add that JT or John K. hasn't said already. I have seen more assertions of the nature of god. This is then followed with the notion that god fits the definition of what could have caused the universe, and since we don't know what else could have done it, it is god.I will go out on a limb here and say that I don't think there was a first cause of anything. I agree that time as we perceive it seems to have started at the big bang, and all matter and energy observable would appear to have emerged at that same point. But, this only covers the 4 dimensions that are easily discernible to us. M-theory alone identifies 11 dimensions, and seems to have the most promise in tying other theories together.But what it boils down to is we still don't know exactly how the universe came to the state it is in now. It could have transitioned from something else, a simple twist in one dimension and you now have a lot of energy in another dimension that was not there before. I could be cyclic, heat death, collapse, and re-expansion. It could even be the combination of processes, but the fact is from what we have observed it appears to be a natural process.To make the claim that there is a cause outside the universe, and to then add that this cause is intelligent and acted with intent is unfounded and absurd.

  63. 63
    rrpostal

    I think JT said it much more eloquently than I could at the moment. But it seems really common for people to "talk" or "explain" god into existence. There become so many levels of assumptions and claims, any one of which sends the whole concept skittering into thought exercise oblivion. It's just very disappointing when someone says they will share some evidence or insight and then meander into a chapter from my philosophy 101 course. Even the Matt Slick's of the world have limits on what words offer as evidence. Rhetorical musings about the nature of thought, time, logic and gophers do not put anything into my box of evidence or tools for finding god.

  64. 64
    Ian

    I would like to address one last issue: that of whether or not something can come from nothing.It always baffles me when people claim that this is an "unscientific" belief. I think Victor Stenger addresses this issue best.What drives every process in the universe is the minimization of Gibbs free energy. This is essentially a human construct used to signify the interplay between two "goals" (I put this in quotes because they obviously aren't consciously thinking about them): the achievement of the lowest energy state, and the maximization of entropy. These two "goals" are often at odds with each other. For example, certain compounds will dissolve in water, even though it raises the energy state, because it increases the entropy.So what does this have to do with something coming from nothing? The point is that, for the sake of minimizing Gibbs free energy, local entropy can either increase or decrease (of course, global entropy always increases, but locally, it can either increase or decrease). Using Vic Stenger's example, take a snowflake. Our experience tells us that it will naturally tend to melt into the more symmetrical water droplet. However, this is only because we live in a high temperature environment; i.e. it takes energy to melt a snowflake. If we put a snowflake in the middle of outer space, it would stay that way forever, barring e.g. proton decay or cosmic ray strikes. In other words, "complex" (whatever that means) can exist locally and be perfectly natural simply for the sake of minimizing energy state.Now let's apply this to "nothing." Ignoring the fact that I cannot conceive of "nothing," one thing we can likely expect is that is simpler than any "something" imaginable. Thus, we can expect it to be locally unstable, and that it would decay to a lower energy state, namely something. Indeed, if you use what little we currently know about quantum gravity to figure this out, you can figure out that something has at least a 61% chance of existing rather than nothing.Indeed, before M-theory was discovered, one of the mainstream hypotheses of string theory was that a 10-dimensional universe of "nothingness" was unstable for this exact reason, and "cracked" (that word is so vague for this context) into a 4-dimensional universe and a 6-dimensional universe. The 4-D universe expanded in what we now call the Big Bang, while the 6-D universe remained curled up at the Planck scale.Another way you can think about it is by using basic probability. There are (as far as we know) an infinite number of ways in which something can exist, but only one way in which nothing can exist. Therefore, by definition, the probability of nothing is zero, regardless of the relative probabilities of all the other options.

  65. 65
    Lukas

    @IanSomething just came to mind when reading your post: How much entropy would "nothing" have? Well, none, of course. Given the fact that entropy always increases, "nothing" must turn into something, since it's the only possible way that this could happen.This does assume that "entropy increases" is a kind of meta-rule and not a quality of something.However, if we assume a starting condition of truly "nothing", i.e. no meta-rules either, then there would be no rule stating what "nothing" could or couldn't do. Nothing to prevent "nothing" from becoming something.In short, if we allow meta-rules, then "nothing" must turn into something. If we do not allow meta-rules, "nothing" is not required to turn into something, but there's nothing to prevent it either.

  66. 66
    J. K. Jones

    All,Sorry for the extended absence. I have had family visiting for the holidays.

  67. 67
    J. K. Jones

    Jeremiah,Thanks for the correction on Zeno. The problem with his paradox is that motion takes palce in finite increments. You cannot fit an infinite number of finite increments between two points. I might add that a string of finite causes follows the same path.“There needs to be something more than philosophical soundness for something to be considered true… Really when you get down to the brass tacks our senses are our only interface with the world in which we exist. We simply have no other way to interact with the world.”Then why should I accept the notion that ‘only what can be empirically verified is true?’ That is a philosophical statement of epistemology that can only be proven by abstract reasoning.“We do know that choices I make are impacted by other things like my past experience, brain states, culture, current environment, the amount of alchohol I just ingested and so on.”That’s my point exactly. There was nothing else around which could impact the First Cause. “"I don't know" doesn't have a burden of proof.”You have made many positive assertions in your counter-argument. Those must be defended. “..but I imagine we aren't going to reach an agreement on this notion that a sentient presence necessarily had to exist so maybe we should move on to your next argument and see what it is all about. “I agree, but I wanted this one more series of comments to weigh in. It is customary for the one with the burden of proof to have the last word in a debate.

  68. 68
    J. K. Jones

    JAFisher44,“ Even if infinite regress is impossible and there must have been a beginning, it is not necessarily true that there must have been a "god" to start it all. Perhaps what happens before time and space begin is governed by different laws that we have no concept of, but which are completely natural and automatic processes.”Reason requires that we state that there must have been a first cause that is without beginning, extremely powerful, without limit, and capable of ‘choosing.’ That sounds like God to me, but not a full picture of Him.

  69. 69
    J. K. Jones

    John K. ,“Thank you for actually stating some arguments, and remaining civil is also appreciated.”Thank you all for civility. I learn much from argument, and I have not been disappointed here.“ If evidence does not have to be verifiable by our senses, what can it be? How can such evidence be different from pure imagination? Just because something can be imagined does not mean it actually exists.”I am reasoning from the things that are, not just things in my head. I have a theory that covers the facts.

  70. 70
    J. K. Jones

    Lukas,“Radioactive atoms don't decay because of some influence of the environment, but because they are what they are. It is in their nature to decay at some point in future time.”Like many in the comments above, I can say I don’t know here. I think we will find a cause of radioactive decay one day. “If god has always existed and the universe has not, then there must have been an infinite span of time before the creation of the universe. Therefore, we would never have gotten to the point of the universe being created.”I am not sure what you mean by “time” here. The force of the entire argument is that something must be timeless and eternal. That something could have always existed. That something has the power to act or not act. That is not logically inconsistent; in fact, it is logically demanded. I would also like to point out that this is one way of arguing for the Holy Trinity from this. Three persons in one being could have been acting from eternity in their love and contemplation of each other. This is a weak argument, and I do not think the Trinity can be conclusively proven outside of revelation.

  71. 71
    J. K. Jones

    JT,“…Logical deduction is a useful guide for investigation, but it cannot come to an absolute conclusion in itself. It must be confirmed… Reasoning only gets you as far as you have empirical evidence. Without that data, the reasoning is only an educated guess.”I have reasoned from the things we see all around us, things we perceive from our senses. So in that sense, the reasoning is externally verifiable. I would like to come back to something I have repeated above. Why must I accept that something must be “confirmed” with the senses (empirically) before it can be known? The statement ‘Only what is empirically verifiable can be known’ is an abstract statement that can only be argued for in abstract, philosophical ways. It is self defeating.

  72. 72
    J. K. Jones

    JT,“There is no "before the big bang" as we understand it. It's so bizarre to us that our language can't even cope with the subject matter. "Before the big bang" is a non-sequitur. That's why I mentioned time "restarting" on every big bang. Outside of that, there's no time to "go through" that would inhibit us from "getting here"… We aren't "moving" through time.”When did I mention time? I am looking at a string of causality. I could care less about a theory of time or another theory of time. It’s about the cause (!) of all we see.“…If time started at the big bang, there is no "before" to have an cause happen, and our basic understanding of how the universe works breaks down.”Please present empirical, repeatable evidence that there was no “time” before the big bang. (I am attacking this idea that evidence must be “repeatable” here.)“…Be careful not to be redefining the concept of god too much.”Those attributes are consistent with the traditional concept of God. There is more to Him than that, but this argument proves things which cannot be ignored. “… all it needed was a spark, and everything else was on auto-pilot.”Granted. That’s why I did not say ‘all-powerful’ (But I should note that some use the same argument to show an unlimited being who must therefore be all powerful, but I do not use that formulation.)“… Everything has a cause…There's an un-caused cause that started everything.”The argument depends on the notion that not everything is caused. You are trying to knock down a miss-statement of a tradional form of the cosmological argument that I did not use. Even if I had used that form, your notion would have still been a mis-satement.“…Once you allow for one thing to be "uncaused", why not more? “Occam’s Razor would require the simplest explanation possible. “You're engaging in an Argument from Ignorance.”Ignorance of what? The things we see around us? The principle of causality? Logic?“…the sheer quantity of those arguments would eventually prove that he doesn't.”I have other arguments that add to the force of this one. As promised, and if allowed, I will share them both.Why should I accept the abstract concept that “A made-up model/conjecture is not data.?”

  73. 73
    J. K. Jones

    JT,“While debating with a theist can be as invigorating as playing chess, one should bear in mind that it's doing them harm. It's driving them deeper into their psychosis.”“I'll never buy that. What's the alternative? Staying silent? All that does is allow the delusions to fester and spread. “I agree whole-heartedly, JT. I learn more from argument than I do from study. I can learn, and I can change my mind if presented with convincing evidence.MAtheist,Has M-theory been verified through repeatable experimentation? (This is an honest question.)Rrpostal,“…It's just very disappointing when someone says they will share some evidence or insight and then meander into a chapter from my philosophy 101 course…Rhetorical musings about the nature of thought, time, logic and gophers do not put anything into my box of evidence or tools for finding god.”There are other evidences.

  74. 74
    J. K. Jones

    Ian and Lukas,Gibbs free energy is not nothing. Neither is an other imaginable quantum state. The whole concept of ‘nothing’ is indefinable. As soon as I tell you what nothing is, I have made it something.All,Realizing that I have typed in five pages on my Word document in this last string of comments, I think maybe we should break off at this point. What do you think Jeremiah and JT?

  75. 75
    Jeremiah

    "Then why should I accept the notion that ‘only what can be empirically verified is true?’"By process of elimination really. If not empirically, then by what measure could we really measure the truth of anything? Empiricism has a long track record of success unmatched by any other method we've discovered. Thanks to empiricism I am sitting here dry from the rain, warmed in the cold, sipping sanitary and healthy water, while entertaining myself on this thing called the internet."Reason requires that we state that there must have been a first cause that is without beginning, extremely powerful, without limit, and capable of ‘choosing.’ That sounds like God to me, but not a full picture of Him."I don't see what 'choosing' has to do with it and given the fact that the only instances of choice we have ever observed involved biological brains and choices themselves are results of previous causes I still don't see how you can justify your position that 'choosing' could occur without a biological brain or prior influences as would be necessary in a first cause situation."The statement ‘Only what is empirically verifiable can be known’ is an abstract statement that can only be argued for in abstract, philosophical ways. It is self defeating."IMHO you are splitting hairs here in the same manner as how some people try to use solipsism to claim that we can't be 100% certain of anything, therefore everything is invalid. I just can't take such a position seriously. We all use our senses and empiricism a thousand times a day without noticing. If our brains didn't we would be incapable of making any decisions, locked in paralysis, we wouldn't survive being unable to distinguish that walking off a cliff or eating poison is bad, in short we couldn't function at all. To throw out the tool that allows us to function, to survive, based on philosophical semantics seems absurd to me.

  76. 76
    MAtheist

    J.K. Jones,I hope the family visits were enjoyable, and in answer to your M-theory question.Has M-theory been verified through repeatable experimentation?I do not believe that M-theory has been verified at all, and in fact it may even prove to be untestable. I have never been a big fan of the word theory myself, because of the confusion its usage can cause. Maybe it should be named M-hypothesis? But the point I was trying to get at is that what happened "before" the big bang is unknown. To claim knowledge of what happened is just as absurd as claiming there was nothing "before" it.What JT was getting at, and what I am trying to get across, is that the term "before" loses meaning here, which is why I keep placing it in quotes. To try to simplify it a bit, it is like asking what time a clock displayed before the clock was assembled and working.I only mentioned M-theory to point out that a simple 4D view of the universe is very limiting.

  77. 77
    John K.

    @ J.K Jones"I am reasoning from the things that are, not just things in my head. I have a theory that covers the facts. "I have seen many assertions, but no actual evidence yet. God exists. God is super-powerful. God is super-intelligent. God is intentional. God is personal. God has no beginning and no end. All of these have been assertions with no evidence.If we can have no repeatable evidence, we may as well be arguing about if the Hulk could beat Superman. A theory that can explain some phenomena is a great start, but if it can make no other predictions it is not testable, and not useful.You are correct that M-theory is not yet testable, as such it remains a very weak theory, but as I understand it there are hopes that we may someday be able to test it. Only then will it be more than the wide speculation of reputable cosmologists.

  78. 78
    John K.

    On a side note, the explanation that makes the most sense to me about there being no time before the big bang is that with no mass or energy, time is not observable. With that in mind, time before the big bang is meaningless, and can be discarded.This kind of physics is only a hobby of mine, and I welcome any truly educated people on the subject to shoot me down and bolster my understanding.

  79. 79
    J. K. Jones

    All,I think we have beat my form of the kalaam cosmological argument to death. I have tried to address your concerns in the comments above. We should , at this point, agree to disagree. Besides, I promised two more arguments, really only one. I will argue from the teleological (an argument from purpose).Jeremiah,“…Empiricism has a long track record of success unmatched by any other method we've discovered…”I am not (!) questioning the success or the usefulness of science. I am merely pointing out that science and empiricism rest on assumptions that cannot be proven. David Hume would not even assume those assumptions, hence his skepticism.What are some of those assumptions? The basic reliability of sense perception, that we can depend on what we perceive most of the time, is one un-provable assumption. Another is the uniformity of nature, that things will behave in the future the same way they have in the past. Another is the viability of the abstract laws of logic / reason by which we interpret scientific experiments.The Christian has the right to assume those things. She can assume that God created the world and designed it in such a way as to allow for knowledge and logic and other un-provable assumptions like the ones above are met. (I have now shifted gears to argument number two, promised above.)Thanks to empiricism I am sitting here dry from the rain, warmed in the cold, sipping sanitary and healthy water, while entertaining myself on this thing called the internet.“…the only instances of choice we have ever observed involved biological brains and choices themselves are results of previous causes…”Then why argue with me? If my choices are determined by the chemistry / biology / physics of my brain, why would you think you can change my mind by argument? (Again, here the Christian has the right to assume that reason works, the atheist does not.)“…people try to use solipsism to claim that we can't be 100% certain of anything…”See David Humes’ writings on skepticism. Immanuel Kant is helpful at some points as well. “ To throw out the tool that allows us to function, to survive, based on philosophical semantics seems absurd to me.”It is completely absurd to through out science. The point is that the Christian has the right to assume it works. The atheist cannot present an argument that backs up her claim.MAtheist,“I hope the family visits were enjoyable…”I wish you all happy holidays as well.I think we should leave my version of the kalaam cosmological argument at this point. We must agree to disagree.John K.,Let’s move on, shall we. We are beginning to backtrack over the same ground and just repeat ourselves. I would like to get my second argument, introduced above and stated below.“This kind of physics is only a hobby of mine, and I welcome any truly educated people on the subject to shoot me down and bolster my understanding.”I am not formally trained in physics either.

  80. 80
    J. K. Jones

    Argument From Logic:God establishes reason, and without Him, we have no reason to be reasonable.We reason by the laws of logic combined with facts we observe. For example, the Law of Non-contradiction, that A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. These abstract, conceptual principles must be accounted for if any discussion on any topic is to take place. Only God can account for these laws. His thinking upholds ours.If the laws of logic are based on human thinking, then we have to realize that people are different and the laws may differ from person to person. They are no longer absolute. Some particular examples follow.If the laws of logic are just social conventions, then they are not absolute, and they can be ignored at will. My social network is, after all, different from yours.How do we avoid the conclusion that all of our thinking is not the result of mere instinctive reactions to our environment? Since our environments are all different, we would all reach different conclusions. We would have no basis to argue because we could not change each other’s environments to the degree required to change each other’s minds.If our thinking is a preconditioned response determined by our genetics, rational impulses would then be determined by genetics. There would be no decisions made in any traditional sense. We would all be pre-programmed to do what we do, and therefore there would be no sense in arguing. We could not change each other’s genetics, so no one could possibly win.The laws of logic cannot come from science because science is based on inductive reasoning from things we see in our environments. For example, we cannot see the law of non-contradiction in the world. We would have to see the properties of a non-existent things (non-A). The laws of logic are abstract constructions that exist only in the mind. We discover the laws of logic by thought, not observation.If Christians are wrong, we are left with no reason to think that we can have rational discourse. Atheists and agnostics cannot have an argument, because, in the ultimate sense, they do not have a position.

  81. 81
    MAtheist

    J.K. Jones: You initially said you would present an argument from being, an argument from purpose, and an argument from the laws of logic.You argument from being amounted to God exists because he is eternal.After driving around in circles about the logical weakness of that argument, why would you think we would go on to purpose and then logic itself?Sorry.

  82. 82
    Jeremiah

    I think we have beat my form of the kalaam cosmological argument to deathAt least that is one thing we can agree on. ~_^ Then why argue with me? If my choices are determined by the chemistry / biology / physics of my brain, why would you think you can change my mind by argument? (Again, here the Christian has the right to assume that reason works, the atheist does not.)The stuff like Hume and his assumptions are what I was basically hitting on when I brought up solipsism. It can make for interesting philosophy, but doesn’t hold much practical use IMHO. I claim the right to assume that reason works because I have seen no other viable alternatives. The fact that you don’t consider that philosophically justified is rather immaterial to me considering I view empiricism as a means to truth and not philosophy. Also in regards to the free will hinted at here, if you are incapable of changing your mind due to brain chemistry then I am equally unable to resist arguing with you over the matter. Whether I have chosen to argue of my own free will or I am condemned to it due to my own brain chemistry is rather moot.In any event, if you would like to share your version of the teleological argument I am all ears.

  83. 83
    Sungyak

    hey all. hope everyone had a great christmas. i was prompted by this post to write something in response, but what i wrote turned out not to be a direct response because i couldn't find any arguments to respond to in kazim's post. there were however some interesting questions, which i hope my post at least partially addresses. would appreciate all your thoughts. cheers.

  84. 84
    John K.

    Sadly, I do not feel like we even went past square one. I asked for something more than just untestable assertions and you have not presented anything besides untestable assertions.Science does make some assumptions, but they are models that must be thrown out in light of observation if they make incorrect predictions. Modern religion is carefully placed to avoid all testing, mostly because it seems to fail any repeatable test put to it, and remains only in the ever shrinking realms of the unknown and unobservable.If we fundamentally disagree about whether or not a belief requires evidence in order to have some truth to it, I see no point in continuing. Possibilities outside observation are very nearly limitless, and I maintain that the only honest answer about the truth of them is "I don't know".

  85. 85
    J. K. Jones

    MAtheist,“…the logical weakness of that argument…”You did not do a good job of convincing me that the argument is weak. Jeremiah,“…I view empiricism as a means to truth and not philosophy…”Empiricism as you describe it is a bankrupt philosophy. It cannot justify itself. “…Whether I have chosen to argue of my own free will or I am condemned to it due to my own brain chemistry is rather moot.”Only if you want to abandon the search for truth itself. John K.,“…I asked for something more than just untestable assertions and you have not presented anything besides untestable assertions.”I have questioned the reasoning behind the epistemology which requires a truth to be testable. “Science does make some assumptions…”Boy does it ever.“…models that must be thrown out in light of observation if they make incorrect predictions…”I question the capability of science to self-justify. “If we fundamentally disagree about whether or not a belief requires evidence in order to have some truth to it, I see no point in continuing.”My argument below will cover that.

  86. 86
    J. K. Jones

    I do not understand the acceptance of empiricism, really what J. P. Moreland calls a “hard scientism,” without being willing to question why empiricism works so well. With that, I offer the argument from logic:God establishes reason, and without Him, we have no reason to be reasonable.We reason by the laws of logic combined with facts we observe. For example, the Law of Non-contradiction, that A cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship. These abstract, conceptual principles must be accounted for if any discussion on any topic is to take place. Only God can account for these laws. His thinking upholds ours.If the laws of logic are based on human thinking, then we have to realize that people are different and the laws may differ from person to person. They are no longer absolute. If the laws of logic are just social conventions, then they are not absolute, and they can be ignored at will. My social network is, after all, different from yours.The laws of logic cannot come from science because science is based on inductive reasoning from things we see in our environments. For example, we cannot see the law of non-contradiction in the world. We would have to see the properties of a non-existent things (non-A). The laws of logic are abstract constructions that exist only in the mind. We discover the laws of logic by thought, not observation. I need not point out that science and empiricism assume the laws of logic to work. Proving logic from an empiricist perspective as you all describe it would be viciously circular.If Christians are wrong, we are left with no reason to think that we can have rational discourse.

  87. 87
    John K.

    Please explain in more detail what you mean by "self-justify". As I understand it now, the term seems to include a circular reasoning problem. Also, I see no problem in believing in something that requires outside information in order to be justified. Logic alone does not necessarily lead to truth. In order for a logical proof to produce a true result, all the logical rules must be followed AND all of the assertions must be true. Take the following example:1) If it is Tuesday, my name is Phil2) My name is not Phil and never is3) Therefore, it is never TuesdayThis argument is logically consistent, but it leads to an incorrect conclusion because statement 1 is not correct. Without any observation no honest evaluation of the truth of a claim can occur, and thus there is no guarantee of a true conclusion from a logical path without observation.I completely agree that the laws of logic "are abstract constructions that exist only in the mind." As such they do not "exist" in the traditional sense and "proof" does not correctly apply to them. Spiderman is a concept that exists only in peoples minds, but Spiderman does not exist in the traditional sense. Nobody can "prove" Spiderman.Science uses the laws of logic to remain consistent and useful, I have never heard anyone claim science created logical laws. I will also assert that logical laws are indeed social conventions, to assert that they are never ignored "at will" is very obtuse. Lastly, your untestable assertions continue. "God establishes reason", "Only God can account for these laws.", "His thinking upholds ours." For you conclusion to be considered valid, you need to demonstrate the truth of these claims, and if they are truly untestable this will be impossible.

  88. 88
    J. K. Jones

    John K.,I contend that God designed the universe in such a way as it behaves consistently, follows logical laws, and enables reason itself. What is your alternative? There must be a viable alternative, or I can logically assume that God worked in this fashion. I will go with this theory until you give me another theory that explains the situation we find ourselves in.If logical laws are merely social conventions, then how does science / empiricism reach conclusions? Inductive and deductive reasoning have to work together in order to enable us to gain knowledge. Of course some premises are dependent on deductive reasoning to establish them, but how does this help you justify the validity of logic itself?

  89. 89
    Justin B.

    "…I can logically assume that God worked in this fashion."What's the difference between this and "I can logically assume that the green troll under my bridge worked in this fashion."Oh, and what happened to faith?

  90. 90
    J. K. Jones

    Justin B.,The concept of God is much different from the concept of a green troll.An immutable, omniscient, personal God can in fact underpin the universe's logical properties.

  91. 91
    Justin B.

    My green troll has all those same properties. And it's green.

  92. 92
    John K.

    "If logical laws are merely social conventions, then how does science / empiricism reach conclusions?"You will notice different societies have reached different conclusions and are at different places in scientific understanding. There is no satisfying "final answer", but science reaches conclusions in light of hypothesis, experimentation and observation.Choosing a theory and deciding to take it as true until it can be contradicted is almost the very definition of an argument from ignorance. If that is all your god is, he is on equal footing with Justin's troll. Why not accept the troll as true until it can be disproved? Because it is a baseless assertion without any evidence for it.A "viable alternative" is also unnecessary. The ancient Greeks described lightning as the angry wrath of the god Zeus. The fact that the ancient people had no better explanation did not change how the poor this model was. A better answer to what lightning was at the time would have been "I do not know."And, as my last post stated, logic is only internally consistent. Without outside observation it is not a path to truth. I gave a clear and simple example of this. I have seen logic make accurate predictions when properly applied, no faith is required. It can be justified with observation.

  93. 93
    J. K. Jones

    John K.,Logic is not a social convention because science does not work unless the logical laws are followed. There is only one set of logical laws that works for science to work, and science does not justify them.You have not addressed the flaw in your epistemology. You have ignored the main point of my argument: science cannot prove itself.Establish your scientific naturalism by argument or stop insisting on it. I'll go right on assuming that science is a good method because God designed the universe to make it possible. You have to have an alternative to make an argument, and science is not one.Justin B.,A green troll would be physical. Nothing we see in the universe that is physical is unchanging. I have a deductive argument against your troll. There are similar arguments against all other concepts.

  94. 94
    Justin B.

    My green troll is intangible, transcendent and immaterial, whatever those words mean.

  95. 95
    Martin

    I contend that God designed the universe in such a way as it behaves consistently, follows logical laws, and enables reason itself.And I contend that God was capable of designing this universe in this way because Gus the Magic Cosmic Hippo designed God to do so.I'll go right on assuming that science is a good method because God designed the universe to make it possible.And I'll go right on assuming that your God was designed by Gus the Magic Cosmic Hippo.Man, this religion stuff is easy!

  96. 96
    John K.

    There have been many scientific models that did not work but were logically consistent. They did not work because they made predictions that did not line up with experiment, not because they were not internally consistent or illogical. I have already explained why more than logic alone is needed with multiple examples. The very nature of physics is to apply mathematical models to observation, it is no coincidence or great revelation that math must be applied correctly for the models to work. Logic alone does not guarantee a successful model. Your assertion that logic requires god is yet another baseless assumption. Physical models of the behavior of the universe are descriptive social norms, they do not cause anything, and are continuously changing to fit better with wider and wider observations.I stated quite clearly that the inability of something to prove itself is not a problem at all. If something can prove itself the reasoning seems like it must be circular, and in fact proves nothing at all. Outside evidence makes a theory stronger, and is not a problem or flaw. It is a strength that outside evidence is required.I gave you a clear example illustrating why an alternative is not needed, but you have not addressed it.You are making an untestable claim, assuming it is true, and then insisting on believing it until it is disproved. Of course an untestable claim cannot be disproved, and and thus you are doomed to forever believe in it. There are almost literally endless things that can be believed with this mindset. Other bloggers are comically showing you other examples of why this does not work, but you are ignoring them.You have been unable to address why you are not simply arguing from ignorance, and are starting to talk past people. I still have every reason to believe in Justin's troll and Martin's hippo as much as any god. "Scientific naturalism" can be shown to work by the computer you are using, religion has produced no such wonders.

  97. 97
    Justin B.

    Everyone knows it's turtles all the way down.John K.-umm…well said!

  98. 98
    J. K. Jones

    John K.,“…I have already explained why more than logic alone is needed with multiple examples.”For the second time: I agree. But logic is a pre-requisite for interpretation of what we see when we experiment. The epistemology you describe provides no justification for the laws of logic. It has no internal means of showing consistency. It is self-defeating.“…Your assertion that logic requires god is yet another baseless assumption.”Only if you accept the baseless epistemology you have been espousing. “…Physical models of the behavior of the universe… Outside evidence makes a theory stronger, and is not a problem or flaw. It is a strength that outside evidence is required.”This outside evidence cannot be interpreted without the laws of logic. “…descriptive social norms…”Wrong. The laws of logic are universal and absolute. No culture can interpret scientific evidence without using the same laws the other cultures do. There are not two or more ways to think that are consistent.“…the inability of something to prove itself is not a problem at all. If something can prove itself the reasoning seems like it must be circular, and in fact proves nothing at all.”Science must at least provide an internally consistent justification for the use of logic. I have. I can consistently use science just like all the countless, famous scientists who have claimed the Christian faith. “…insisting on believing it until it is disproved.”Not exactly. I am asking for an internally consistent way of seeing the world that is an alternative to Christian theism. I have not heard one from you, or anyone else around here.“…Other bloggers are comically showing you other examples of why this does not work, but you are ignoring them…Justin's troll and Martin's hippo as much as any god.”The only way they can use the examples they are giving is to smuggle in certain attributes of the Christian God. Insofar as they have described that God (changeless, capable of design, immaterial, transcendent, etc.) the basic attributes fit the Christian God. We are just arguing about the name. The other attributes added are either unnecessary or impossible.“ "Scientific naturalism" can be shown to work by the computer you are using, religion has produced no such wonders.”For every ‘miracle’ of science I can show the positively changed life of a Christian believer. That is something. I can also show from history great evidence for a few miracles, but that should be taken up on another post.

  99. 99
    Jeremiah

    If the laws of logic are based on human thinking, then we have to realize that people are different and the laws may differ from person to person. They are no longer absolute. This is not correct. The laws of logic are not based on human thinking, they are based on the physical nature of the universe. We are just observing those properties of the universe. While people may differ, the universe does not. It is what it is. And one of the main tenets of the scientific method is independent confirmation. We use that because we do recognize our flaws as individuals and in order to consider that some fact is indeed a property of the universe and not some individual persons subjective delusion we make sure that the same conclusion can be reached by everyone independently."science cannot prove itself.""There must be a viable alternative, or I can logically assume that God worked in this fashion."You are saying that logic or the nature of reality cannot be proven, yet are attempting to say that god exists via logic. Saying that there was a god (or green troll) that created logic does not provide us any more tools in which to evaluate logic. This claim, like any other, would still be subject to any and all flaws encapsulated in the logic in which we operate and that is why I find this kind of argument so strange.Logic really is just an observation about reality. We observe that one instance of an apple is one instance of an apple. If we saw two instances of the apple we would contend that they are not equal to one instance because that is what we observe. 1=1, 1 != 2. Logic is just the language we use to describe the properties of the reality that we inhabit. I don't see what is so difficult about that, I think you have just lost yourself in a philosophical morass. I don't see how simply putting a 'god did it' in front of everything suddenly makes logic any more feasible and trustworthy. I mean your god could have just been screwing with everyone and created a 'logic' that is 'wrong' and how would we know being trapped inside it as we are? To argue that logic cannot be trusted because we can't evaluate it from some outside position is a futile endeavor and positing a god doesn't really do anything to relieve you of that.I mean if you are basing your case on the idea that we can't know that 1=1 then I don't really know what to say to you Mr. Jones.

  100. 100
    J. K. Jones

    Jeremiah said… “… The laws of logic are not based on human thinking, they are based on the physical nature of the universe.” But why are they properties of the universe? What would be necessarily true if the universe behaves in the way we find it behaves.“You are saying that logic or the nature of reality cannot be proven…”I did not say that. I said that the crude form of epistemology being propogated here cannot prove logic. Science provides no answer to the question of why logic works.“Logic really is just an observation about reality…. Logic is just the language we use to describe the properties of the reality that we inhabit.”Right. But why is reality the way it is? “…I mean your god could have just been screwing with everyone and created a 'logic' that is 'wrong' and how would we know being trapped inside it as we are?”My point is that we have to assume logic works, and that in turn requires us to assume other things. Since logic undeniably works to help us evaluate the data we perceive, then God must exist.You have also done me a service here. I never thought that we must assume that God is benevolent in order for logic to be assumed, but based on your assertion we must assume exactly that. Thanks.“I mean if you are basing your case on the idea that we can't know that 1=1 then I don't really know what to say to you Mr. Jones.”Why does 1=1? The universe behaves that way.Why does the universe behave that way? God designed it to behave that way.

  101. 101
    Jeremiah

    Right. But why is reality the way it is?…Why does the universe behave that way? God designed it to behave that way. I don’t know why the universe has the properties it does, but saying that it does because god made it thus doesn’t really explain anything. Why would a god make the speed of light 186 thousand miles per second and not 185 thousand miles per second? Putting a ‘god did it’ out there doesn’t actually answer the question at all. Also it doesn’t address the issue of why the universe needs a god in order to be the way it is rather than just having those properties. It just is what it is.We seem to have gone in a circle here where you are saying that the proof that god exists is that the universe is the way that we currently observe it to be and that the reason the universe is the way we observe it to be is because god created it that way.I guess my main point is that any problems with the notion that the universe simply is what it is are not resolved by adding a sentient creator except in the most superficial sense. It is like saying that cars move because of gasoline. It answers the question in a very general sense but doesn’t really tell you anything about how combustion of fuels create force and powers the mechanical parts of an engine. A god wouldn’t tell us how a consciousness could exist outside of matter or by what parameters it must operate under or why those properties are they way they are or why a god would even exist at all. It doesn’t resolve the supposed issue of how something could exist ex nihlo with whatever properties it has, in my case the universe, in your case your god.

  102. 102
    John K.

    Why must science "provide an internally consistent justification for the use of logic"? A theory can make a hypothesis, an experiment can be preformed, and the theory can be evaluated based on the result of the experiment. The theory then works or does not, why does the logic need to be reconfirmed? The logical process used can be observed to work, it does not need to be self-proving. If something is logical it is internally consistent, that is all. There is no guarantee that something internally consistent has anything to do with observable reality. I can create a model for behavior with a rigorously logical tool like mathematics, and the only possible way I can check if it accounts for reality is by observation. The logic itself has no power over observation.Science is the ever changing model created by human beings that describes the universe, it is not a list of rules that all things must follow. Even a very good theory that always correctly predicts outcomes has no power over the outcomes themselves. If science was a list of rules, why would it ever have to change? Why would there ever be a disconnect between observation and established models? Science is always changing, because it is a purely human endeavor.Our observations of the universe seem to be that it behaves consistently and rules can be applied. I see no reason to ascribe an all powerful intelligence to this observation. It would describe and predict nothing to do so.Science is not baseless, it is based in repeatable observation. What is the basis for your god?

  103. 103
    Lukas

    My point is that we have to assume logic works… Since logic undeniably works…If logic undeniably works, then why do we have to assume anything?Since logic undeniably works to help us evaluate the data we perceive, then God must exist.How does that follow? This is sounding more and more like an argument from ignorance, i.e. "science can't answer this, therefore god."

  104. 104
    J. K. Jones

    Okay, Lucas, why does logic work?John K., you need logic to develop the theory and then to interpret the experiment. Jeremiah, I have no problem seeking out the answers to the specific causes of the things we see in the universe. My God made the universe basically uniform, established the laws of logic, and then designed my brain to enable me to observe and interpret. You are the one with the problem here.

  105. 105
    Lukas

    Short answer: Because if it didn't we would have changed it.Long answer: Logic is a human construct. It's an intellectual system that we've invented to help us make sense of the world. The world works a certain way. Human notice that the world works this way. Humans try to formally describe how the world works. Thus we get logic, science, mathematics and so on.Logic is simply a description of the world. We've noticed that certain things are true and that certain things are not. If the world worked a different way, any way, we would have come up with rules to describe that instead.We've noticed that some kinds of arguments give us correct answers. We call these arguments "sound logic". We've noticed that other kinds of arguments do not reliably give us the right answer. We've called these types of arguments "fallacies".I see no reason to conclude any kind of god from this, since this process remains true, in any conceivable world. Any world that contains sentient beings will have those beings invent a "logic" to describe how that world works.Now that I've answered your question, are you going to answer mine?

  106. 106
    J. K. Jones

    Lukas,If logic is a human construct, why does it not change in a universe where everything else is changing?

  107. 107
    Justin B.

    Who says logic doesn't change? A quick search turns up a couple of books on the evolution of logic. Why would anyone think that the logic we use today is identical to the logic of 100 or 1000 years ago?

  108. 108
    J. K. Jones

    Justin B. and Lukas,How have the laws of logic evolved? Have the fundamental rules such as the law of non-contradiction changed? The law of excluded middle? Have these laws changed or just their interpretation in select cases?Lukas,I am not disagreeing with you that the universe behaves in logical ways. I am just asking why it does. Consistency is a hallmark of design, and design needs a designer.

  109. 109
    Lukas

    What Justin said. Also, I don't agree that "everything" is changing. Most things have stayed pretty stable at least in the time period relevant for this point.Now, again, are you going to be answering my questions? I'll post them again:My point is that we have to assume logic works… Since logic undeniably works…You seem to be contradicting yourself here, first saying that we must assume that logic works, then that it undeniably works. Please clarify.Since logic undeniably works to help us evaluate the data we perceive, then God must exist.Allow me to rewrite that a bit. You seem to be making an argument along these lines:1. Logic undeniably works2. Therefore God must exist2 doesn't follow from 1, at least not without additional premises, so please expand on this. As it stands, this is not a sound argument.

  110. 110
    Lukas

    Hmm, technically that should be "not a valid argument", actually.

  111. 111
    J. K. Jones

    Consistency is a hallmark of design.The universe is consistent.The universe was designed.Design requires a designer.

  112. 112
    Justin B.

    Since we don't have a complete understanding of the universe, I think it makes sense to say that logic, an interpretation of our observations about the universe, has to evolve. Everything else humans have created does.

  113. 113
    Justin B.

    "Consistency is a hallmark of design."I don't really know what this means, how it's relevant, and whether or not it's true. I could just as easily say failure is a hallmark of design. What does that mean? I don't know.Failure is a hallmark of design.The universe has not failed.The universe was not designed.No design, no designer.

  114. 114
    Justin B.

    Oh yeah, and what happened to faith?

  115. 115
    Lukas

    Consistency is a hallmark of design"God is a spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in his being…", i.e. God is consistent.God was designed.Also, are you claiming that consistency (without qualifications, apparently) can only come from design? If yes, you need to back that up. If not, your argument fails.

  116. 116
    MAtheist

    @J. K. Jonesyou said,… why does it not change in a universe where everything else is changing?andThe universe is consistent.Which is it?

  117. 117
    Lukas

    I am not disagreeing with you that the universe behaves in logical ways. I am just asking why it doesThis sparked a thought, so let me just touch on this a bit.Short answer: Because things are what they are, no matter what they are.Long answer: It seems like you think there's some magical quality to the universe that makes it act in accordance with logic. That's completely backwards. That's what I tried to explain a few comments up.If the universe didn't behave the way it does, it would behave in some other fashion. And if human existed in that universe, they'd try to figure out what the rules of it were, no matter what they were. Logic conforms to the universe, not the other way around.There must be some sort of rules for the universe, since for something to truly follow no rules, it would have to break the most fundamental rules of logic: A=A and A!=not-ATry to imagine what it would mean for something to break those rules. It would mean that it is what it isn't. Think on what that really means. It's not just that things appear different than they are, it's that they truly are not what they are.If we reject that scenario, then some rules will apply to the universe and given the specific nature of each object (a nature which is now fixed, whatever it is), further rules would follow. Rules that sentient beings could discover and put into words.Thus, logic

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