Evidence for God

wrong-direction

Part of me would say that I’m not sure what people mean when they assert that there is no evidence that God exists. A more blunt part of me feels that most of the people making the assertion don’t themselves know what they mean.

In fact, this is not so much a suspicion as what more than a dozen proponents of the claim have personally told me. The overwhelming response to “what standard (or definition) of evidence is attached to that claim?” is “I don’t know; you tell me”.

This makes the assertion literally nonsense. That is, a statement doesn’t have content if its key terms simply aren’t defined. They may as well be meaningless strings of letters, and stating “there is no [undefined term here] for God” shouldn’t strike anyone as much of an argument.

But I think the theist can do even better here. I think she can show that the statement is either irrelevantly true or demonstrably false.

When the statement is made, it would seem to mean that there is no scientific evidence that God exists. Whether or not that is true, the idea that there is no physical evidence for the non-physical is hardly mind-blowing. Rather, it is a simple category error. It has no more weight than saying that there is no mathematical proof that Winston Churchill was the Prime minister of Great Britain, or that there is no grammatical evidence of cosmic expansion.

But, taken more broadly, the claim is simply false. That is, if the claim is taken broadly enough to be relevant to metaphysical issues such as God’s existence, then the metaphysical arguments for God’s existence is such evidence.

We can debate whether or not the evidence is sufficient, but the bold declaration that there is no evidence for God’s existence is simply out of touch with the facts.

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81 responses to “Evidence for God

  • Alexander

    I can’t directly disagree with much you say here. However, the whole point of evidence is to provide some that all parties *agree* are evidence, while I feel you’re just making a semantically correct yet irrelevant observation about the definition of the word “evidence.”.

    You may offer “metaphysical arguments” as evidence for your position in which “talking about metaphysical stuff is evidence that metaphysical stuff exists” (just like talking about Santa makes him true). However, the point is to show me that your position actually is true, and not just assert it to be so.

    There’s a good reason that empiric evidence has been so successful; it works. I could provide a smashed window and a rock next to it as evidence of some event, and we’d agree that it looks like the rock smashed the window. It’s just more evident.

    So we can make predictions;

    1. You can pray to your god about getting some result. The harder it is for that to be pure chance, the more evident it is that your praying seem to be working.

    2. I can throw rocks at windows in order to see if I can smash them.

    I can predict with almost 100% certainty that the windows will be smashed. Yours are a lot more flakey, depending on a number of factors and circumstances. I don’t think it’s controversial to say I have better evidence for my theory over yours.

    Ok, so maybe that was a bit much apples vs. oranges. So how about we come up with a test for your theory of a deity that can be empirically tested? We can test miracles, for example, if you agree that some crying figurine somewhere is truly a miracle? Or the power of praying? Or some specific influence on your life?

    This is really the hard bit. What is it about your god that makes it stand out from the noise of random events? If you truly believe in the power of your god, evidence should be somewhere for us to see, so actual super-natural interference in our current natural world. Something beyond happenstance, social models and what we know of human behavior as an evolved specie of ape?

    “the bold declaration that there is no evidence for God’s existence is simply out of touch with the facts”

    The declaration that you base your belief in god on facts is equally, umm, bold. And you haven’t defined what you consider evidence, either.

    • Debilis

      “the whole point of evidence is to provide some that all parties *agree* are evidence”
      I don’t agree on this. It would be a simple matter to reject almost any proposition simply by refusing to agree that the evidence for it is evidence.

      “You may offer ‘metaphysical arguments’ as evidence for your position in which ‘talking about metaphysical stuff is evidence that metaphysical stuff exists'”
      There is a world of difference between “metaphysical arguments” and “talking about metaphysical stuff”. A failure to recognize this difference will indeed lead one to reject such arguments, but this is not the fault of the arguments.

      “So how about we come up with a test for your theory of a deity that can be empirically tested?”
      Why? What reason is there to demand that deities are empirical objects? This strikes me as a category error.

      Are you familiar with the adage “he who defines unchallenged wins the debate”? The right to insist that one particular form of evidence is all that is allowed on the table does not belong to any party. Rather, a reason must be given.

      “And you haven’t defined what you consider evidence, either.”
      This is fair.
      I define evidence as anything which raises the probability of a given proposition’s being true.

      To toss off an example: God is more likely to exist given that people have spiritual experiences than he would have been in the absence of those experiences.

      Many seem to equate “evidence” with “sufficient evidence” or “overwhelming evidence”. Let us be careful to not do that here. Whether the evidence is sufficient is a separate point.

  • Mark Hamilton

    “There’s a good reason that empiric evidence has been so successful; it works. I could provide a smashed window and a rock next to it as evidence of some event, and we’d agree that it looks like the rock smashed the window. It’s just more evident.”

    But that is not an example of empirical evidence. There is no scientific test we could perform to prove that the rock broke the window. We could test the window to see if there are trace elements of rock that match the rock next to the window, and we could test the rock to see if it has glass particles on it. We could also throw rocks against similar windows to see whether they would break as well. But none of that proves that that particular rock broke that window. Someone has to take all those tests and create a logical argument out of them.

    Now I find that when I perform perform tests and use logical reasoning, I tend to make more accurate judgements than when I guess randomly. I have also found that when certian scientists (such as Einstien) make specific predictions about the world that seem contrary to how it seems that the world should work (like the theory of General Reletivity) their predictions tend to be accurate. Because of all that I reason that our minds must be capable of understanding the world around us and that our thoughts refer to real things. However, if our minds are nothing more than a collection of atoms, and our thoughts are nothing more than chemical reactions, then why should those chemical reactions be about anything? Why should those chemical reactions be able to make specific predictions about the world that turn out to be accurate? It seems far more likely to me that there is something more to my mind than my brain: something more than atoms and electricity. I believe that I have a rational mind that is seperate from nature, and I reason from there that because my mind could not have created itself then it must have come from a greater mind that has always existed: namely God.

    Now I don’t expect you to agree with everything I just said, but it is an example of evidence (in the metaphysical sense) for the existance of God, and it is just as valid as inferring that a rock standing next to a broken window must have broken that window. Both start with observations about the world around us and lead us to infer what may or may not be true.

    • Alexander

      Hmm. No, seeing the rock and the broken glass in front of you is almost as close to the definition of empiricism you can get. Remember empiricism is rooted in observation *and* experimentation. Are you talking about something else?

      “However, if our minds are nothing more than a collection of atoms, and our thoughts are nothing more than chemical reactions, then why should those chemical reactions be about anything?”

      Nothing more? Why not ask why you need more?

      “Why should those chemical reactions be able to make specific predictions about the world that turn out to be accurate?”

      Why should they not?

      “It seems far more likely to me that there is something more to my mind than my brain”

      That may well be, but that doesn’t make it true, nor make it rooted in empiricism as in this discussion.

      “evidence (in the metaphysical sense) for the existance of God”

      What, your belief in a god is evidence for the existence of that god? Surely you jest?

      “Both start with observations about the world around us and lead us to infer what may or may not be true.”

      Only one of them are visible by not only me but others, I can share pictures of it, have parameters that can be tested, physicality that can be measured and weighed, experiments can be done in order to replicate the result (by me, but more importantly by others), and so on.

      Comparing these two are simply wrong. They are not the same. And, as a corollary to this, your own observations aren’t evidence if others can’t observe it, too. That’s more or less what empiricism is about; shared observations.

      • Mark Hamilton

        Observing the rock and glass is empirical. Saying that the rock must have broken the glass is not empirical. You did not observe the rock breaking the glass, and you cannot experiment on events that happened in the past.

        Similarly, I observe that when people make predictions about the world using observations and reason they tend to be more accurate than random chance. This is an empirical observation. I can test it and measure it, just as the rock and glass can be tested and measured. I also observe that chemical reactions and physical matter appear to be subject to certain natural laws. When one chemical reacts with another it is not because that chemical thought it was right to do so, or reasoned out that it was the correct action to take. it just happens that way because it could not happen any other way, following the laws of nature. If our thoughts are nothing more than physical reactions then we have no reason to believe that our thoughts are true, right, or about anything in particular. From there I can infer an argument that the mind must be more than atoms and electrons. Now I may be completely incorrect in that conclusion, but I am still inferring from empirical evidence.

        We can share pictures of the rock, and share data about physical reactions, and share records of scientific theories that were proven to match reality. But from these sharable, testable, and observable (ie, empirical) facts we infer what they might mean. Nobody saw the rock breaking the window, just as no one has seen a soul, or God. These inferences may be incorrect, of course. Maybe there is no need for a supernatural explanation for the mind, and maybe somebody broke the window with a baseball bat and the rock just happened to be lying there. But all of those things can be inferred from the evidence at hand.

        • Alexander

          “Observing the rock and glass is empirical. Saying that the rock must have broken the glass is not empirical. You did not observe the rock breaking the glass, and you cannot experiment on events that happened in the past.”

          Hmm, now you’re just deciding what goes in and out of the box. Most experiments are done to *recreate* the past. Take another piece of rock, another piece of glass, theorize as to their starting positions, release the rock, and if the result looks really close to the first observation, then you’ve got empirical evidence to lean on. Do more experiments until errors are rooted out, and consensus are built. Science is not the same as a crime-scene.

          “then we have no reason to believe that our thoughts are true, right, or about anything in particular”

          You’re here just declaring that thoughts need to be “true” (whatever that means), “right” (whatever that means), or “about” something (whatever that means), so I need to ask you to clarify what that means.

          “Nobody saw the rock breaking the window, just as no one has seen a soul, or God”

          I find this sort of reasoning fascinating. Look, with the rock and the window you have the actual things to observe; the rock, and the window. These are objects we all agree exists. They are right there. We can agree to how they feel, how the operate, how other rocks, windows and similar objects work in this world. We can agree that glass is fragile, and that rocks are not, and that the objects in front of us – touchable, seeable, tasteable – is of the a) breaks b) if force is given kind.

          With your chosen god, there is no such thing. Stop comparing the minutes of brain activities based on very different sensory inputs. You may still proclaim to have that extra sensory input that is your god, but, sadly, there is no consensus since others clearly have not got it, and worse, it’s a sensory input that you absolutely can’t document, share or meaningfully talk about.

          There is also a disconnect in the claims being made; if there’s a baseball bat which broke the window and the rock is “innocent” as such, that’s a trivial error. If the claims of your religion is true, then my rejection of it is not trivial (which is why you mission with such passion); it’s devastating beyond imagination to me, my family and loved ones. Shouldn’t there be more evidence or convincing arguments if the stakes are such high? Because there’s more evidence for the window and rock scenario, and the consequences of that are trivial. I don’t know how this situation is justified by believers?

        • Mark Hamilton

          Experiments can be performed to try and “recreate” what we theorize the past to be like, but no experiment can be performed on the unobserved past itself. The more evidence we gather from experimentation the more likely (presumably) we will be to deduce what actually happened, but we cannot prove what happened empirically. It is the same for my argument for God. You agree with me that the rock and window are things we can observe. Do you disagree with me that logical reasoning being more accurate than random guesses is also something we can observe? Do you disagree with me that we can observe that matter and energy react to each other in ways that conform to fixed natural laws? Those two pieces of “evidence” are all that I’m comparing to the rock and the glass. They are observable and testable. You seem to have misinterpreted my words in this respect. I never said that my “chosen god,” as you put it, is something that we can all observe and test like the rock or glass. I certainly never said that I had “extra sensory input that is your god.” I’m actually a little insulted that you would put those words in my mouth, as it makes me believe that instead of reading what I’m writing you’re assuming I’ll make the same “God is real because I can feel him inside!” argument that less logical (though no doubt sincere) Christians might make. All I said is that God could reasonably be inferred from the empirical evidence of (a) reasoning being more accurate than guessing and (b) matter following the laws of nature with. Now I also said that I could be wrong in that inference, just as someone could be mistaken about the rock breaking the window. The point is that both the idea “There is a God” and the idea “That rock broke that window” are non-empirical, though they are based on empirical evidence. The argument for either idea (whether it’s the rock breaking the window or God existing) relies on us using reasoning to create an explanation that fits all the empirical evidence.

        • Alexander

          “no experiment can be performed on the unobserved past itself”

          That’s an understatement, of course. 🙂 But I’m finding your insistence on empiricism and science here to be rather strange, to the point where no science, in fact, can take place because “were you there?” is a clever protection against claims of anything older than a life-time.

          Not accusing you of anything here (but I’m suspicious in the way you use the word “prove” here; science doesn’t prove anything), just pointing out that observation, experimentation, modeling, deduction, analysis, projection, probabilities and reduction are all part of the acceptable tools of science. (Not that I’m saying you dispute that, but hang on …) You proclamation that we cannot do experiments on the past (and I’m exempting quantum mechanics here, in which your statement is false) has nothing to do with the merits of empiricism; observation and experimentation is *still* empiric evidence, no matter if they come from the original event or reproduced events. If your argument is the validity of said empiric evidence, go right ahead, but that sounds like a different argument.

          “I never said that my “chosen god,” as you put it”

          I wasn’t being facetious here; I’m assuming the Christian god, in which part of the creed of faith is that you’ve chose to follow Jesus Christ as your god and saviour. Sorry, I may be an atheist, but I know the Christian world from the inside, and maybe I should be more specific (my writing was trying to separate issues, not to mock the “chosen” part).

          “I’m actually a little insulted that you would put those words in my mouth, as it makes me believe that instead of reading what I’m writing you’re assuming I’ll make the same “God is real because I can feel him inside!” argument that less logical (though no doubt sincere) Christians might make.”

          My apologies; I was referring to the holy ghost, who is supposed to be that link between your soul and god (proper). I was merely trying to say that “feelings” or “guidance” or “holy ghost” or “connectedness” or some other somewhat vague means of knowing is, well, a weak means of knowing. I meant no offense here; this was in context of empiricism, where observations can be shared.

          “both the idea “There is a God” and the idea “That rock broke that window” are non-empirical, though they are based on empirical evidence”

          Where do you get empirical evidence for you god from? I must have missed that part?

          “The argument for either idea (…) relies on us using reasoning to create an explanation that fits all the empirical evidence”

          Sure. There’s good and bad evidence, counter evidence, evidence we interpret wrongly, and so on. That’s science in a nutshell, trying to get as good evidence as possible, but not ignoring that that works against our theory.

          Logic, though, I feel does not come into it. One can make perfectly valid logical arguments that are completely bunk. Symbolic language is not empirical evidence for whatever they try to describe, but maybe I’m missing your point here.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Sadly, I am afraid that you are completely missing my point here. I’m not sure how I can make it much clearer, with all due respect. I am not always as good at communicating my ideas as I’d like to think I am. Let me try to point out the relevant sections.

          “Where do you get empirical evidence for you god from? I must have missed that part?”

          That part was here: “Do you disagree with me that logical reasoning being more accurate than random guesses is also something we can observe? Do you disagree with me that we can observe that matter and energy react to each other in ways that conform to fixed natural laws? Those two pieces of “evidence” are all that I’m comparing to the rock and the glass. They are observable and testable. ”

          Also, here: “Similarly, I observe that when people make predictions about the world using observations and reason they tend to be more accurate than random chance. This is an empirical observation. I can test it and measure it, just as the rock and glass can be tested and measured. I also observe that chemical reactions and physical matter appear to be subject to certain natural laws.”

          What I keep trying to say is that empirical evidence can only take us so far. There are many things that cannot be proven empirically. For example, there is no way to empirically prove an event that happened in the unobserved past. Similarly there is no way to empirically prove the existence of an unobserved God. However, just because we can’t empirically prove that a certain rock broke a certain window in the past that does not mean we can’t reasonably believe that was what happened, if the empirical evidence we have at hand seems to point to that conclusion. In the same vein, just because God cannot be proven empirically does not mean that we cannot have good reason to believe in his existence based on what we do know empirically.

          To put it another way, we can’t empirically prove that the past happened but we have good reason to believe that it happened anyway. Empirical evidence is excellent but limited in explaining the world around us. If you will only accept empirical evidence for God, then it is inconsistent to accept the existence of other things that also can’t be proven empirically, such as unobserved past events.

        • Alexander

          Sorry, I need to make this shorter;

          What I keep trying to say is that empirical evidence can only take us so far”

          For the concept of “so far” to be true, you must define why there is anything more. Apart from “someone told me that there is this thing”, which is a linguistic construct uttered and perhaps there’s a mental model to go with it, you need to demonstrate that this thing is really there as opposed to something you feel is there, or think is there, or want to be there, or hope is there, or you think is there even if you think it should not be there. In other words, there needs to be something *there* to talk about meaningfully beyond linguistic constructs.

        • Mark Hamilton

          “For the concept of “so far” to be true, you must define why there is anything more. ”

          Anything more than what can be proven with empirical evidence? I believe I have demonstrated that already. Unobserved events in the past cannot be proven with empirical evidence, yet we can reasonably believe that they exist. If we find a fallen tree in the middle of an uninhabited forest we can reasonably believe that it was once a standing tree, even though we have no empirical evidence of that fact.

        • Alexander

          ??? I’m giving up at this point; if you can’t even talk about what “so far” is supposed to mean, then this conversations is a bit pointless. Hmm.

        • Mark Hamilton

          I believe I have been talking about what “so far” means this entire conversation. I gues I’m not as good as communicating as I think I am. By saying “empirical evidence can only take us so far” I mean that empirical evidence can only conclusively tell us about things we can observe and test ourselves. However all of us believe things that can’t be directly observed or tested. I believe that Cicero existed, even though I can’t observe or test him. I believe that other people have emotions, even though I can’t observe or test that either. That’s all I mean by “so far.” I mean that there is a point when one must move past empirical evidence into other kinds of evidence.

        • Alexander

          Since we’re trampling all over epistemological definitions, I feel I need to point out that Cicero and others indeed have empirical evidence for them, otherwise only the model of ideas are left for philosophers to pick at the carcass.

          This is the thing; where does knowledge start and end? With people like me, folks who require empirical foundations and study perhaps epistemology a bit deeper than most, I say knowledge falls within the epistemologically most know definition of “justified true beliefs” (even though I have reservations against the simplistic model of this, but that would be nitpicking in this context). The difference seems to be when people like me meet people who think Quinean epistemology is something to embrace, where mere thought somehow enters the realm of being “true” by non-consensus means. And that’s where I recoil; that means you’re just building a definition of “true” that matches some mental model of sorts; it’s building evidence out of the material you provide, rather than taking a clear slate approach and see what you can build from available evidence.

          “I believe that other people have emotions, even though I can’t observe or test that either”

          Odd statement. Of course you can observe it, and you most definitely can measure it by means of several physiological responses and, you know, them telling you. 🙂

          “I mean that there is a point when one must move past empirical evidence into other kinds of evidence”

          Again; for what reason?

        • Mark Hamilton

          No, unless you have seen Cicero yourself (or know someone who has) you have no empirical evidence for Cicero’s existence. Empircial evidence is what can be directly observed and interacted with, and nobody can directly observe or interact with Cicero. Now there is plenty of historical evidence for Cicero’s existence, but no empirical evidence.

          As far as emotions go, it is the same. I can’t directly observe somebody’s emotions. I can observe their facial expression, and I can observe their physiological state, and those have been correlated to emotions, but they are not emotions themselves.

          So whats the reason for moving past empirical evidence to other kinds of evidence? So we can believe in things we cannot directly observe, like Cicero, emotions, and what you ate for breakfast two weeks ago. 🙂

  • The Great Antagonizer

    That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    • Debilis

      What is the evidence in support of that principle?

      And the entire point here is that no one has remotely shown that God has been asserted without evidence. This slogan simply assumes what it should be trying to prove.

    • Debilis

      It seems we have a communication issue here. I maintain that there is good evidence for God’s existence.

      For the quotation from Hitchens to have any bearing whatsoever on the discussion, then, it would have to be established that my position is false. No one has ever been able to do that.

      That being the case, there is no grounds whatsoever to dismiss the idea “without evidence”. Doing so would be a straightforward example of anti-intellectualism.

    • Debilis

      I haven’t disagreed with that. I’ve only wondered what your reason is for thinking that theism hasn’t presented evidence.

      At least, you seem to be taking that position. Please let me know what reason you have for thinking this, or clarify what your point is if you don’t claim that there is no evidence for theism.

      And, of course, please let me know what your standard of evidence is.

      • The Great Antagonizer

        Anything which we claim based on faith is not evidence because people can and do have contrary faiths. While there are examples in science of this, eventually, one is proven to be correct while the other is disproven. Any belief not based on scientific evidence can never be supported or refuted.

        Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot example exemplifies this. If I believe that there is a teapot floating in space which cannot be detected by any scientific means, then the discussion is over. You cannot provide evidence to prove something to someone who doesn’t accept the concept of evidence.

    • Debilis

      Who here has claimed anything based on faith?

      I’ve provided evidence on many of the posts on this blog. You’ll have to go to them to find it–as I was simply discussing the definition of the term here.

      As to Russell’s teapot, there is good evidence that such a thing does not exist. If one can show comparable evidence that a transcendent God does not exist, that would be a very powerful argument.

    • Debilis

      Given the topic of this page, and the fact that I’ve seen the concept of evidence so frequently abused, could you at least let me know what standard of evidence you are using first?

      Also, as you are claiming that there is no evidence, shouldn’t you also tell us how you know this?

      After that, I’ll be happy to present evidence of the form you require (or you could simply browse the blog).

    • Debilis

      No, really. What sort of evidence do you want? Usually, I’m dealing with someone who demands empirical evidence of the non-empirical, which is simply a contradiction in terms.

      Take the existence of contingent objects (which require a necessary entity like God), for instance. Would you accept that as evidence? I’m guessing “no”.

      But is that because you have a definition that it doesn’t fit? Then let me know what that definition is. Or, is it simply because anything that supports my point will be declared not-evidence? Then this is purely assertion.

  • It’s “Just” One More God | Fide Dubitandum

    […] The first thing to note here is that this makes the whole “one more God” point moot. It really doesn’t add anything to the discussion, and we should just skip to the “no evidence for God” argument (and discuss why it is a demonstrably bad one). […]

  • makagutu

    My question to you is what do you mean by god?

    • Debilis

      In this post (and usually unless stipulated otherwise), the God of classical theism.

      That is, a metaphysically necessary object that is itself (himself) metaphysical (as opposed to physical), has will, created (and sustains) physical reality, has a set nature, and is not bound by any lack of power or knowledge.

      Does that answer your question?

      • makagutu

        If you mean the god of classical theism, then this is a god so incoherent as to exist and I don’t see, in all honesty, why we should continue with this discussion.

        • Debilis

          Yes, I mean the God of classical theism.
          I’ve heard many accusations of incoherence, but not yet one that hasn’t been adequately answered for those who are patient in reading the material.

          I certainly respect your freedom to leave the discussion if you wish. But, if you stay, please let me know what incoherencies you are referencing.

        • The Great Antagonizer

          The problem is that few theists believe all the same things. Some take the bible literally, some believe in praying, the rapture, the trinity, the divinity of Mary, young earth creationism, old earth creationism, guided evolution, scientific evolution, etc.

          Where do you stand? Which of these do you believe? Then we can say where the contradictions lie.

          For example, if you believe in God’s Plan, then praying is a contradiction.

        • Debilis

          Why is this a problem? Few atheists believe the same things, either.

          I believe in classical theism, as I’ve said. That concept has been well defined and known to philosophers for centuries. Where do you find contradictions in it?

      • The Great Antagonizer

        This is something that I’ve never heard explained intelligently: what is “metaphysical”?

        The best answer I’ve ever heard is “beyond physical.” Well, this is just nonsense, to say the least. Why can’t I just add meta to anything then? I’m metaintellectual or metafast or metahungry. These are all equally silly. How can we distinguish “metaphysical” from these nonsense words? I don’t think we can.

        • Debilis

          According to Funk & Wagnalls Standard College Dictionary, Funk & Wagnalls, NY, 1973 metaphysics is: The branch of philosophy that investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science, traditionally including ontology and speculative philosophy.

          Or you could read the the Wikipedia article on it.

        • The Great Antagonizer

          That’s a paraphrase of “beyond physical”.

        • Debilis

          It is a more specific description of the term, yes.

          Do you have any reason to think there isn’t anything other than the physical?

        • The Great Antagonizer

          Check out my latest blog entry. Actually, I was spurred on to write it because of our conversation.

        • Debilis

          I did read it. As for a reaction:

          I agree that simply using the term “metaphysics” does not support itself, but neither does claiming that all our information comes from the physical universe refute it. This is the case because:

          1. That is not true unless we assume from the beginning that everything is physical (in which case, we’re reasoning in a circle). Mind, logic, meaning, etc. are not physical.

          2. Contingent, physical reality requires other things to exist in order to explain its existence. The physical is itself evidence that there is something more than the physical.

          So, to answer your questions:

          Metaphysical objects are those things which are not part of the physical world. Platonic forms are probably the most famous example.

          I know that God is metaphysical because that is part of the definition of “God”. Western monotheists have always believed that God precedes the physical, and is therefore not physical.

        • The Great Antagonizer

          Point 1: actually, if you consider it deeply, you’ll realize that ideas such as mind, logic, meaning, etc ARE physical things. How could they be anything else? They are data that are encoded into certain patterns of flarings of neurons in our brains or 1s and 0s on a hard drive. Just because we laymen in this subject don’t really understand how this data is physically encoded doesn’t make it beyond the physical realm.

          Point 2: there’s no reason to believe this. Just because you say something doesn’t make it true. This also creates an infinite regress: physical requires metaphysical, metaphysical then requires metametaphysical, and so on.

          Answer 1: rephrase of “beyond physical”

          Answer 2: Just because someone defined God as metaphysical doesn’t make it true.

        • Debilis

          1. There are many ways they could be something else. I’d first want a reason to believe that they are physical before concluding that all things are physical.

          There is a world of difference between the algorithms run by computers and genuine rationality.

          2. There is every reason to believe this. Science is based on the idea that contingent things require explanations outside of themselves.

          Moreover, there is only an infinite regress if one assumes that everything is contingent. This is one more reason to believe in metaphysical objects.

          Answer 1: Yes, exactly.

          Answer 2: It makes that the definition. Whether or not a God, so defined, exists is a different conversation.

        • The Great Antagonizer

          “There is a world of difference between the algorithms run by computers and genuine rationality.”

          Again, just because you assert something that doesn’t make it true. You need to prove this “world of difference” because some people, including myself, don’t see a difference between algorithms and genuine rationality.

          The second answer you give requires contingency for the first half and no contingency for the second half. You can’t have it both ways.

        • Debilis

          I agree that assertion doesn’t make it true, but are you seriously asserting that computers are conscious creatures?

          And my answer is not remotely trying to have it both ways. Some things are contingent (such as physical objects), some are necessary (such as God). There is no contradiction in saying that different things can have different properties.

        • The Great Antagonizer

          I never said computers are conscious creatures. Take a look. If anything I was asserting that memory exists in both human brains and computer discs. What does this mean? It means that humans are not special magical beings. Everything about a human is explainable by science. Just because we don’t know everything about the brain doesn’t mean it has something metaphysical about it.

        • Debilis

          I never referred to memory (and certainly not in the sense a computer has it). I referred to rationality. Are you arguing that computer-like algorithms fully explain consciousness and rationality?

          If so, how do they do this? If not, comments about memory are beside the point.

        • The Great Antagonizer

          There is nothing magical about something we don’t understand. We don’t fully understand consciousness, but this doesn’t mean we should just ASSUME that it is from another realm or metaphysical or supernatural or any such jumps to conclusions. There was a time when people couldn’t understand how the sky seemed to go on forever and therefore assumed that it was the realm of God or the Gods, since it was so incomprehensible. We don’t do that anymore. In time, we will learn the secrets of consciousness and it will be just another discovery, like every other discovery in human history.

          So, in short, there is no fundamental difference between computer algorithms and the human mind. There is a difference in complexity and mode of function, but both are equally corporeal.

        • Debilis

          I’m not claiming that there is something magical about anything, whether we understand it or not.

          But it is what we do understand about minds (not what we don’t) that leads me to reject this idea that they are purely physical.

          If you are insisting that all things are physical, you need to present some reason to think that this is so (i.e. give a physical explanation of consciousness).

          I’ve already discussed this in another post. The short version is that the mind is where science has been moving all the subjective elements we see in things. That is, the mind is itself the holding bin for all the things that science can’t study.

          Simply saying that the mind can be fully explained by science, without any support other than pointing out that physical things are studied by science, does nothing to lessen the force of this argument.

          Or, even more briefly, we have no good reason to think that everything is physical.

        • The Great Antagonizer

          There is nothing that we know of that is not physical. Ergo, until we discover something beyond the physical, everything must be assumed to lie within this realm.

        • Debilis

          You can’t simply claim this after I’ve been discussing specific reasons why something that we all know (minds) are not physical.

          This is pure assertion in the face of clear reasons to reject that assertion.

        • Alexander

          ” I’ve been discussing specific reasons why something that we all know (minds) are not physical”

          Sorry, but you have not demonstrated that the mind isn’t physical. You’ve put forth “qualia” as something that supposedly is the smoking gun, but there is no consensus that qualia even exists, and even if it did exist is there any reason whatsoever to think that is not embedded in physicalia.

        • Debilis

          Whether or not I’ve demonstrated this, it has not been demonstrated that the mind is physical.

          That being the case, I am not being given a reason to accept the claim “there is nothing we know that is not physical”.

  • Empirical and “Evidence” | The Page Nebula

    […] Dubitandum (the blog I highlighted on Monday) dealt with this issue a few days ago. That post, and the discussion that followed in the comments, got me thinking about evidence. What […]

  • Persto

    I am a bit tardy to this discussion. Even so, I want to reproduce an exchange I had with makagutu on his blog a few weeks back that I think is pertinent to this discussion. Apologies for the length.

    Persto: I think this issue is a bit more complex than people want to admit and, as such, not easily resolved by a simple argument or objection. I’ll try and outline my concerns.

    A bit unrelatedly, the idea behind one version of the cosmological argument is one that is the backbone of the naturalistic philosophy: ‘every event has its cause(s).’ In light of this, I don’t see how any naturalist can say that an event does not require a cause. It seems contradictory. Just an observation. Getting back on topic, suppose:

    1) There exist things that are caused.
    2) Nothing can be the cause of itself.
    3) There cannot be an infinite regress of causes.
    4) There exists an uncaused first cause.
    5) The word God means uncaused first cause.
    6) Therefore, God exists.

    Premise 1 seems correct because we generally believe that every event has a cause that explains why the event happened. Premise 2 also seems correct. Nothing can cause itself to come into existence(causa sui), for it would have had to exist before it caused anything at all. To cause anything to happen implies that a thing has causal power, but nonexistent things have no power at all. (Quickly, about Krauss’ argument from nothing it is equivocation. Krauss is using nothing as a noun when its function is to negate predicates. For instance, when I say nothing is more lovely than a rose I mean not anything is more lovely than a rose. Krauss takes nothing turns it into a noun, and then uses that nothing, which is not nothing because the Quantum Vacuum is most certainly something–virtual particles are real particles and interact with other particles. This is happening in the quantum vacuum and it is most undoubtedly something–as a something to make the point that something can come from nothing, where nothing is the quantum vacuum, and that is just equivocation. It is not logically possible that something can come from nothing where nothing means not anything.)

    One should remember there is nothing contradictory about premises 2 and 4. There is nothing incoherent about the idea that something or someone existed from eternity and so is uncaused, whereas there is a great deal incoherent about the idea that something nonexistent caused itself to come into being.

    (Also, perhaps, I should address the law of conservation of mass here. It simply states: In a chemical reaction, matter is neither created or destroyed. In other words, when a chemical reaction occurs, the total mass of the substances involved in the reaction does not change. For instance, when a small log completely burns, the mass of the ash is much less than the mass of the log. What happened? Well, most of the matter underwent a chemical change by reacting with oxygen molecules in the air. The products of the reaction were released as gases into the air.

    However, in all of this, I haven’t said anything that justifies matter creating itself, but I have said something that necessitates a first cause if the pre-existent Universe was nothing, meaning not anything. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, if matter already exists. However, the pre-existent abyss was nothing, not anything; no matter, so the law of conservation of mass would indicate that no universe should exist because the law only states that small, indestructible particles rearrange during a chemical reaction and the amount of matter is conserved, but the pre-existent abyss was not composed of matter, which is why something, seemingly non-temporal, must have caused it to come into existence. There were no small, indestructible particles in order for the law of conservation of mass to be applicable to the Nothing.)

    The problem with this argument is premise 3. Aquinas acknowledged this was the weakness of his First cause argument. How does one exclude as impossible an endless regress of events, requiring no first cause? Hume even noted that there is nothing logically impossible about an infinite regress. I am sure the Thomist interpretation would be to suggest that the endless series is not a regress of events back in time, but is an endless and therefore eternally inconclusive regress of explanations. So, what is created by this interpretation is if no first cause exists, then the universe is a mere unintelligible brute fact. Although, couldn’t the universe be an unintelligible brute fact? Sure, and, in fact, that is what a number of atheists believe, and to exclude this possibility seems to be begging the question. Not to mention, this interpretation depends on a view of causality that is not at all definite. It is true in some situations, but not others. Some aspects of contemporary science assume that causal laws state statistical probabilities; Hume believed causal connections represent mere observed sequences; Kant argued they were projections of the structure of the human mind; and if any of these are true the argument more than likely fails.

    However, I should note that Craig’s Kalam Argument seems to make an actual infinity of events absurd. Craig says:
    1) An actual infinite number of events cannot exist.
    2) A beginningless series of events in time entails an actual infinite number of things.
    3) Therefore, a beginningless series of events in time cannot exist.

    Premise 1 is integral to the argument. Craig distinguishes between actual and potential infinite. The potential infinite is used in math all the time. It just increases in number toward infinity as a limit but never gets there. It just represents an indefinite number of things. For example, one can subdivide any distance into a potential infinity of parts but never be able to reach an actual infinite number of parts.

    Hilbert’s Hotel is a great thought experiment for this. Hilbert explains that if a hotel was full and an infinite number of guests applied for rooms one could potentially accommodate them. If he moved every guest to a room twice the number of their previous room. The reason being that any natural number multiplied by two is always an even number, all the present guests are able to move into rooms with even numbers, leaving the odd-numbered rooms available for the infinite number of guests that applied. But, before they arrived the hotel’s rooms were full. It suggests, essentially, that the idea that a hotel can be full, but still have an infinite amount of vacancies is absurd. It is not possible to have a full hotel and infinite number of vacant rooms. These absurdities indicate the impossibility of an infinite regress of events. Not to mention, in Aquinas’ mind, even if there was an infinite regress the beginning of the universe would have still required an act, which means that the universe could not have caused itself.

    Of course, pertinent questions follow: does it prove the First Cause still exists? Has it moved away from our Universe? Why is there only one prime mover instead of multiple prime movers? Does it prove the first cause is benevolent, or better yet, omni-benevolent? What caused God? Couldn’t the Universe be the uncaused entity? Furthermore, maybe humans cannot understand the origin of the universe any more than they can understand God’s self-sufficiency.

    Some of these questions are answered by the contingency argument, which suggests:
    1)Every being that exists is either contingent or necessary.
    2) Not every being can be contingent.
    3) Therefore, there exists a necessary being on which the contingent beings depend.
    4) A necessary being on which all contingent being exist is what we mean by God.
    5) Therefore, God exists.

    A necessary being is a self-existing and independent being that has its explanation in itself, whereas contingent beings do not, but rather depend on other beings. One prominent advantage of the contingency argument is that the First Cause cannot cease to exist because the world depends upon its existence. It is really like a set of chains that are supported in midair. You can count the links backward, but at some point one must reach a being sufficient to maintain the whole chain of dependent beings. So, only something outside the contingent reality, a self-existing reality, can constitute the ultimate ground of existence for anything else. God becomes the logical connection between the contingent world and the noncontingent world.

    Of course, the argument has a problem with premises 2 and 3. Just because not every being is contingent it doesn’t seem to follow that there must be an independent existing being. It seems fallacious. Suppose:
    1) Every human being has a father.
    2) Therefore, every human being has the same father.

    This seems absurd to infer one father from all the children ever born. So, it still remains unanswered why there couldn’t be more than one necessary being? If I am not mistaken Aristotle allowed for multiple prime movers?

    And of course it has not been established that, if there were one Prime Mover, it is omnibenevolent or personal. Also, why couldn’t the universe just be a self-existing eternally brute fact? However, if the universe is a brute fact, which means not needing further explanation, then we have accepted that the universe is unintelligible. It appears to me that there is either: a necessary being or the universe is ultimately unintelligible.

    Strangely, modern astronomy seems to confirm the Christian doctrine of creatio ex nihilo. From my understanding, the universe began in a state of infinite density and all space, time, and matter were created in the big bang event. The big bang was the entire universe at the moment it happened. There was nothing before the big bang; no matter; no space; no time; nothing temporal. From this, it appears that the early universe is reducible to an extentionless point, which somehow exploded from nothing. This seems to fit nicely with creatio ex nihilo.

    Of course, there are the multi-verse theories and the idea, although I don’t know if it is still operational, that the universe oscillates between expansion and contraction in an eternal process repeating itself about every 80 billion years. However, the contingency argument is indifferent to whether the universe had a beginning, so these things really seem irrelevant because, according to the contingency argument, even if the universe is eternal it would still require God to keep it in motion or sustained.

    The most alarming possibility, if it is a possibility, for the theist is if a natural explanation is provided for what caused the big bang–considering the recent advancements in science, perhaps, this is not an unreasonable expectation–but, as of yet, that has not occurred and maybe a natural explanation cannot be provided or can but never will.

    Finally, the primary problem for the cosmological argument is that it requires a bit of a leap in logic to get from the First Cause to a personal, completely good Creator. The cosmological argument may lead one to accept that the world was created in time and it may offer a solid foundation for a divine creator, but more is needed before one gets to the God of theism. In the spirit of more evidence, many theists find Plantinga’s modal ontological argument–which maneuvers past Kant’s criticism that existence is not a real property. Or does it? In my mind, Plantinga still seems to be defining God into existence–combined with the cosmological argument is a persuasive argument to get from the First Cause to the maximally great being of theism. Plantinga’s argument just shows that if God exists, he is perfect, but it does not prove God exists, particularly since possible worlds don’t exist. However, if one can prove God exists, then Plantinga’s argument can, though controversial, get one to the maximally great properties of the God of theism, which is why the combination of the cosmological argument and Plantinga’s modal ontological argument is so convincing for many. However, considering Plantinga’s argument fails to establish the existence of God; only his perfection, if he does exist, then the entire ability to move from the First Cause to a perfect God resides on the strength of the cosmological argument to prove God’s existence, which as of yet has failed to establish with any abundant persuasiveness the existence of God.

    Concerning myself, I remain unconvinced by either side, intellectually. In fact, from an intellectual perspective, if someone asked if I believed in God, I would respond, “No and yes.” Why would I respond that way? Because it is good to look at both sides of a question. Even still, I am emotional as well as rational, as Asimov once remarked. Despite my intellectual reservations, I so thoroughly believe God, in the theistic sense, does not exist that I just don’t want to fuck around about it. To put it a little differently, I see the non-being of God rather than the being, which makes God nonexistent, for me at least. That is why I am an atheist. Of course, I could trot out the problem of evil or the hiddenness of God or flaws in religion or the superfluity of god concerning natural phenomena, but, while all those things play a part in my atheism, when I look to where the theist says he sees the divine; I see nothing. That is why I am an atheist.

    Makagutu: Hello mate, you need not apologise for the length of the response, I don’t think it could be made any shorter. That said, I must first say it is such a good response and thanks for the clarification on Krauss equivocation in the use of nothing.
    Whereas I agree with you mostly, I have some objections.
    It is possible that the premise 4 in the first argument appears correct, if god or whatever first cause is posited, to create the universe they must have willed it. What could have influenced this willing? Was there something else that made the whatever first cause to will the universe in place, something out of itself?

    However, in all of this, I haven’t said anything that justifies matter creating itself, but I have said something that necessitates a first cause if the pre-existent Universe was nothing, meaning not anything. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, if matter already exists

    My problem with this is if we posit a first cause for matter and also hold there was nothing, how then did this first cause create matter and where did it fetch the raw material to create matter?

    then the universe is a mere unintelligible brute fact.

    I don’t think so. By considering the universe as natural and intelligible we are able to make inferences about the universe. So I think we should rephrase the statement to read that the universe is a brute fact.

    An actual infinite number of events cannot exist.

    I think Craig’s argument suffers the same fate as all others. Is he saying an actual infinite number of events cannot exist because he can’t count to infinity or what does he use to come to this conclusion? The premise 2 and 3 depend on their strength on the truth of premise 1. And I think premise one is not true so the conclusion he makes in 3 based on it is wrong.

    Every being that exists is either contingent or necessary.

    This premise is true but why can’t the necessary being be the universe? Nature contains everything and supports everything. Why posit god as necessary while the universe can be said to be necessary. It appears to me to be a sufficient cause in and of itself. I therefore see no need for the god hypotheis.
    In Atheism Explained, David S. Ramsey advances this argument about the totality of the universe

    In order to maintain clarity, it would be useful to have a word that is defined to mean everything that exists, and I propose the word ‘metaverse’. It’s part of the definition of ‘metaverse’ that there can never be more than one metaverse, and there can never be anything outside the metaverse . If there are many universes, they are all by definition parts of the metaverse. If there’s a God, then by definition either he is the metaverse or he is part of the metaverse [pg 92].

    in this sense therefore it would be absurd to posit a first cause of the totality of everything that exists and say that thing first cause is part of everything that exists.
    I leave a god a very slim chance of existing. I leave my life as if there is none and if one were to show itself in future when am still alive, I would alter my position on its existence.
    I hope to hear what you think.

    Persto: Thank you for the courteous and thoughtful response. Also, I am sorry for the late reply. I have been quite busy the last couple of days.

    “Was there something else that made the whatever first cause to will the universe in place, something out of itself?”

    Perhaps, but one would have to prove, logically, this something’s existence is more likely or equally as likely as God’s existence. And, additionally, one would have to prove that this something’s existence is necessary for the world’s and God’s existence. Not to mention, following Anslem, if there exists a being/thing for which nothing greater can be conceived, as you seem to be getting at, then that being/thing is God itself; not something outside of God.

    “how then did this first cause create matter and where did it fetch the raw material to create matter?”

    I would think in a mighty explosion and from the heat produced by processes associated with the birth and death of stars, all the basic elements known to man were generated from vast amounts of hydrogen, the first and simplest product of cosmic evolution.

    As for the metaphysical aspects, if the Creator of the Universe were capable of creating the Universe, then he should be capable of creating the processes that allowed for the creation of the Universe.

    “So I think we should rephrase the statement to read that the universe is a brute fact.”

    A brute fact is a fact that does not depend on other facts. It needs no further explanation than itself. The Universe could only be a brute fact if it is an unintelligible brute fact. Which is to say, the Universe depends on other basic facts for its truth. So, it cannot be a mere brute fact, but, if the Universe was said to need no further explanation than itself, then the Universe would be an unintelligible brute fact because the Universe, as we currently understand it, would truly be impossible to understand without further explanation.

    “Is he saying an actual infinite number of events cannot exist because he can’t count to infinity or what does he use to come to this conclusion?”

    Craig is pointing out the absurdity of an actual infinite number.

    For example, imagine a hotel with a finite number of rooms. Suppose, furthermore, that all the rooms are occupied. Let us say a guest arrives, asking for a new room, the manager responds, “Sorry, we are full; no vacancies.” Makes sense.

    Now, imagine that the hotel has an infinite number of rooms and that they are full. The guest asks for a room and the manager signs him in a room. Now, even though the guest was signed in, no more people are at the hotel after the guest arrived than before the guest arrived. That seems absurd.

    Now, suppose an infinite number of guests apply for rooms at the hotel with an infinite number of rooms that are full. The infinite number of guests are signed in. How? Just move every former occupant to a room twice their previous room number. Because any natural number multiplied by two is always an even number, all the present guests are able to move into rooms with even numbers, leaving an infinite number of odd-numbered rooms for the infinite number of new guests. Yet, there are just as many guests as there were before the new guests arrived. Absurd, no doubt. I mean, the hotel is full, but has an infinite number of vacancies. Seems quite absurd.

    In Craig’s mind, these absurdities indicate the impossibility of an actual infinite series of events, including an infinite regress of events or causes.

    “Why posit god as necessary while the universe can be said to be necessary.”

    Firstly, a thing cannot be both necessary and contingent. Now, for most theists, the idea of a necessary being is that it must exist in all logically possible worlds, following Leibniz. That is to say, a necessary being is one that must exist everywhere; a contingent being is one that just so happens to exist, but did not have to exist. The Universe did not have to exist and, in that sense, it must be contingent. Not to mention that, in my mind, every person and every object in the world is contingent. Seeing as how those contingent things are the Universe I don’t know how the Universe could be anything but contingent.

    “It appears to me to be a sufficient cause in and of itself. I therefore see no need for the god hypotheis.”

    Are you advocating causa sui? That something can cause its own existence? The Universe, as contemporary cosmology indicates, began at a single point–singularity–from which it exploded and rapidly expanded, an event called the Big Bang. It seems, then, that the primordial universe is reducible to an extensionless point, which somehow exploded from nothing. (Creatio ex nihilo, apparently) So, within our current understanding of the Universe, if humans accept that the Universe caused its own existence. We are saying: something can come from nothing and something can cause itself to exist. Accepting these things as well-founded seems like a larger leap of faith than God did it. Of course, that could change as the evaluation of natural phenomena offers new insights about the structure and, possibly, the origin of the Universe.

    “in this sense therefore it would be absurd to posit a first cause of the totality of everything that exists and say that thing first cause is part of everything that exists.”

    Only within the context of Ramsey’s definition. It seems this is just a verbal trick. It appears Ramsey suggests God doesn’t exist because, by his definition, God would be contradictory. Well, what if I were to make a unicorn’s non-existence contradictory by definition. Suppose I define a unicorn as a horse with horns. No unicorns exist. But suppose I define a unicorn as a unicorn exists. Now, unicorns exist because unicorns exist by definition. Ramsey is guilty of Kant’s criticism of defining something into existence. Also, Ramsey fails to demonstrate how God would be part of the ‘metaverse,’ if he created the ‘metaverse.’ The only thing he said that supports this claim is that the ‘metaverse’ means everything that exists. Therefore, by his definition, if God exists, then he would be part of the ‘metaverse’ because, as his definition requires, nothing can be outside of the metaverse. How does he justify this claim without appealing to his own fabricated definition?

    Existence is an odd kind of property that has no meaning without first-order properties. This is why we label it a second-order property. It tells us whether the other properties are actualized or exemplified. All Ramsey has done is define a ‘metaverse’ into existence by simply building the concept of existence into the definition. Not to mention his statement is tautologous. His statement is “constructed in such a way that the truth of the proposition is guaranteed and that, by defining a dissimilar or synonymous term in terms of another self-referentially, the truth of the proposition or explanation cannot be disputed.” There are other problems as well, but I am limited by time.

    “I leave a god a very slim chance of existing.”

    I agree, the existence of a theistic god seems less likely than his non-existence, but I think the cosmological and ontological arguments, when combined, are a stronger argument for God than is assumed by many atheists. At the very least, they make the discussion about the existence and non-existence of God more complicated than and, not nearly, as elementary as ‘God is stupid.’ (Of course, I am not implying this is your intellectual approach. Just the approach of many atheists.)

    Makagutu: Thanks mate for the several insights. There is no need to apologise for a late response. I checked your blog and it says you are a student so I understand you can be short for time.

    Not to mention, following Anslem, if there exists a being/thing for which nothing greater can be conceived, as you seem to be getting at, then that being/thing is God itself; not something outside of God.

    I think it is always possible to think of a greater being so I wouldn’t allude to this position and if I led you to this conclusion it couldn’t have been intentional.

    Do you think the universe needs further explanation other than itself?

    I agree with you on Craig’s example though I don’t think the idea of infinite numbers is absurd since there will always be a prime number greater than 1. I don’t see any absurdity. It only becomes absurd when he tries to apply it to human constructions like hotels and so on, applied to the universe I see no absurdity whatsoever. Maybe am wrong, but that is how it appears to me.

    From the Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, they say this

    It is commonly accepted that there are two sorts of existent entities: those that exist but could have failed to exist, and those that could not have failed to exist. Entities of the first sort are contingent beings; entities of the second sort are necessary beings.

    and I think the universe is a necessary thing. It couldn’t have failed to exist.

    If as cosmologists posit the existence of parallel multiverses from where our universe could have come as a natural product, then that singularity leading to the big bang is not nothing. Tell me if am confusing terms here.

    Ramsey is not saying god doesn’t exist. He is saying even if one were to exist, it would be part of everything that exists which he calls the metaverse. He says talking about universe and multiverse leaves people with room for thinking there could be a different place apart from the universe where god could exist, a god above nature. So I agree it is a word he has coined but if you accept the idea of multiverses, then a term that includes all possible universes is really not out of place. I see no contradiction unless you can point one out for me.

    but I think the cosmological and ontological arguments, when combined, are a stronger argument for God than is assumed by many atheists.

    I don’t think so. The cosmological argument has a problem with it’s premises and the ontological argument can be used on anything. What stops you from applying it to let us say the devil or an island or anything for that matter?

    here is a look at ontological arguments and their problems[ I haven’t read the whole article] Persto:(The link is fucked up. If you want to examine some of the problems just peruse the SEP(Stanford) on Ontological Arguments.)

    Regards and look forward to hearing from you whenever you got time.

    Persto: Thank you for your assessment and politeness.

    A challenge similar to this was posed to me once(note the attributes of a necessary being at the bottom of the reply): Try to think of some thing which exists in all logically possible worlds (i.e., is a necessary being), and which isn’t identical to what the Theist refers to as ‘God’. To say it another way, what being’s essence involves existence without that being’s being the being that theists refer to as ‘God?’

    “Do you think the universe needs further explanation other than itself?”

    Not necessarily, but I think that something coming from nothing and something causing itself to exist are logically confused and empirically unverified.

    “It only becomes absurd when he tries to apply it to human constructions like hotels and so on, applied to the universe…”

    Ahhh, now I see your objection. Yes, but that is why Criag’s argument is so convincing. He distinguishes between an actual infinite and a potential infinite. Your objections, that he can’t count to infinity and that there are an infinite number of prime numbers and Craig shouldn’t apply infinity to real world things, would be valid if Craig were talking about a potential infinite. He is not. Craig is talking about an actual infinite number, which would have to be coherent when applied to real world material. A potential infinite is better called an indefinite number of things rather than an infinite. It’s duty is too increase towards infinity as a limit but never get there. An actual infinite must get there. I should mention that in the case of the argument of contingency a beginning point is irrelevant. As Copleston said, “An infinite series of contingent beings will be, to my way of thinking, as unable to cause itself as one contingent being.”

    “It couldn’t have failed to exist.”

    I am confused. The existence of the Universe was guaranteed? In what way? This opinion seems to run counter to the way in which natural phenomena operates. Do you think the appearance of not-so-different humans 200,000 years ago was guaranteed?

    “then that singularity leading to the big bang is not nothing. Tell me if am confusing terms here.”

    With respect, yes, you are confusing terms. Big Bang cosmology does not posit multi-verses, but says space and time were created in the Big Bang event and so was all the matter in the universe. It is not meaningful, in an empirical sense, to ask what happened before the Big Bang, any more than it is meaningful to ask what is north of the North Pole. Relatedly, it is not sensible to ask where it took place. The event was not a point or object isolated in space, but was the entire universe. From the viewpoint of Big Bang cosmology, the Big Bang happened everywhere. So, within Big Bang cosmology, the Big Bang was a first point-universe and there is nothing material outside of it. No quantum vacuum. No multi-verse.

    Of course, if there is some multi-verse ensemble spawning new universes, then the argument of causality fails. However, the multi-verse notion, I should add, falls remarkably short of proving its essential claims, it is way outside the precepts of empirical study, and it is not a mainstream scientific opinion.

    Additionally, as I mentioned above, the argument of contingency is unconcerned with an infinite regress of causes because so long as there is one contingent being then there must be, at least, one necessary being.

    “I see no contradiction unless you can point one out for me.”

    Ramsey is merely saying that existing, by definition, makes whatever exists a part of the ‘metaverse.’ Fine. But he has not shown how God would be part of this metaverse other than by appealing to his own definition, which, falls prey to Kant’s criticism, because he builds existence into his definition. Not to mention it is tautologous.

    Ramsey indicates that nothing can be outside the metaverse. How does he arrive at this conclusion? What if I said: everything that exists is part of the metaverse except God because he is outside of the metaverse. Therefore, God is not part of the metaverse. You would, rightfully and quickly, point out the problem with that argument. The only difference with Ramsey’s argument is that, instead of placing God outside the metaverse, Ramsey places god within the metaverse. Both arguments are irrevocably unsound and unconvincing because they are prejudiced from the get-go.

    “The cosmological argument has a problem with it’s premises and the ontological argument can be used on anything.”

    Yes, the cosmological argument has problems that I pointed out–they don’t provide one with a personal or benevolent god and they do not, entirely, rule out the possibility of an eternal universe–but these problems are not so great as to make the argument invalid and unconvincing. For one they establish, in my opinion, as incoherent the notions of an uncaused caused and an infinite regress and the contingency argument establishes with somewhat less certainty the idea that there are contingent beings to the necessity of an independent or necessary being.

    As for the ontological argument, it is difficult to assess in all its multifarious ramifications and no version has been successful in proving the existence of God. However, it does appear to provide one with an idea of an adequate God, one who is maximally powerful and benevolent. Although, the issue is controversial.

    Having said that, the strength of these two arguments is most apparent when they are combined. For one establishes, with some persuasiveness, the existence of God and the other attempts to establish, with some power both in Anslem and Plantinga, the god of theism.

    “the devil or an island or anything for that matter?”

    Quickly, these are pertinent objections. As for the Devil, some might say it is contradictory to suppose a best possible being and a worst possible being both exist, for they could not be both all-powerful, so something must be wrong with this form of the argument. As for the island, well that is Gaunilo, and–read this before you answer the first question–as others have noted, some properties do and some properties don’t have intrinsic maximums. So, in other words, one could always imagine a more wonderful island. On the other hand, the properties of God have intrinsic maximums. For instance, one could define perfect knowledge this way. For any proposition, an omniscient being knows whether is is true or false. An omnipotent being can do anything that is logically possible. An omnibenevolent being will always do what is right in terms of maximizing the good.

    However, the objections provided only object to proving that a being exists or necessarily exists. Not any objection, that I know of, disputes the logical flow from necessary entity to maximally great entity. So, if the cosmological arguments appears to prove the existence of God, one could, reasonably, employ the ontological argument to get to the Theistgod.

    Regards

    • Debilis

      I’m still working through this one. But, so far, it is an extremely thoughtful approach. I’ll try to get back to this as I have time.

      Best to you until then.

      • Persto

        Not a problem. It is quite long.

        Btw, you should point out to Alexander that Big Bang cosmology states, as I say in the above comment, “that space and time were created in the Big Bang event and so was all the matter in the universe. It is not meaningful, in an empirical sense, to ask what happened before the Big Bang, any more than it is meaningful to ask what is north of the North Pole. Relatedly, it is not sensible to ask where it took place. The event was not a point or object isolated in space, but was the entire universe. From the viewpoint of Big Bang cosmology, the Big Bang happened everywhere. So, within Big Bang cosmology, the Big Bang was a first point-universe and there is nothing material outside of it.” It was creatio ex nihilo apparently.

        I would also recommend using Hilbert’s Hotel to point out the absurdity of an infinite regress of causes or events.

        I might jump in if I get time.

        Regards

    • Debilis

      Thanks!
      And I will do that.

      I’d actually meant to bring up infinity paradoxes. I’m trying now to remember why I didn’t (paradox fried my mind, I suppose).

      But best to you either way.

  • What is evidence? | Random thoughts

    […] in contention until a few days ago. The great antagonizer has asked this question on his blog.  Debilis, who we have already met and Mark Hamilton have also written articles on the same and the two of […]

  • Arkenaten

    Absolute garbage.
    There is no procedure available to us which could possibly establish the existence or non-existence of such an unscientific entity.

    • Mark Hamilton

      I agree with you, and I’d say Dibilis does as well. There is no (I assume you mean scientific?) procedure that could establish the existence of an unscientific entity like God. That is the point of the post: that scientific evidence will not prove God’s existence. However it is a large leap to go from “Science cannot prove something exists.” to “That thing does not exist.”

      • Arkenaten

        because there is no way to establish the existence such an entity it is, therefore, utterly ridiculous, and wrong, for religious folk – and in this case Christians – to say it exists, especially as their only source is the Bible, as erroneous a collection of ‘books’one is likely to find.

        • Mark Hamilton

          “there is no way to establish the existence of such an entity”? I’d say that’s quite a claim. How do you know that there is no way to establish the existence of God? And how do you know that Christians only source for their belief in God is the Bible? I am a Christian myself, and I can tell you right now that your assertion is incorrect. I believe the Bible is trustworthy because I believe in God, not the other way around. What makes you an expert on why Christians believe what they believe?

        • Arkenaten

          The assertion is correct.
          For several reasons.
          First and foremost is the Christian claim that their god is perfect.
          A perfect being, deity, entity would not require worship, but this is a prerequisite, thus rendering the other claim of a divinely inspired text as fallacious.
          It is this simple. You are mistaken.

        • Mark Hamilton

          I can find two huge problems with your argument. The first is that you assume that God requires worship. Why do you believe that? What evidence do you have to back up that statement? Secondly, you assert that a perfect being would not require worship. Why is that true? All I can see here is you making two completely unsubstantiated claims about the nature of God.

        • Arkenaten

          Smile
          Well, it’s obvious that we are dealing with a fundamental or at least reborn christian, thus you are unable or unwilling to rationalize why a perfect entity/god would not need to be worshiped.This is one unfortunate aspect of inculcation.
          Also, your knowledge of the bible is somewhat lacking or at least a bit biased, if you are unaware of Exodus 20 verse 5, which clearly demonstrates all too human qualities, or at least qualities one would expect from a human author.
          Your belief is your belief.
          If it makes you happy, and you consider it is truth, so be it.

          Be at peace.

        • Mark Hamilton

          If I am such a foolish and indoctronated Christian, then why can’t you be bothered to answer my questions? Surely it would be simple for you to show me where I am wrong. Maybe I am too unable or unwilling to rationalize on my own why a perfect God would not need to be worshipped. If so explain it to me.

          What’s more, you haven’t explained how you know that the Christian God requires worship. Where did you get this idea? Why is it true? I was being polite, but as a follower of the Christian God for my entire life you are the first person I’ve ever met who claims that God requires our worship. So where did you get this idea from, and why should I believe what you say about the God I follow?

        • Mark Hamilton

          Also, and more importantly, your argument does nothing to back up your assertion that there is no way to establish the existence of God.

        • Arkenaten

          This has already been firmly established as there is no way to even demonstrate such an entity.
          You are entitled to argue til you are blue in the face – this is fine by me- it wont alter the fact that you will be in exactly the same position as every Christian – namely, all you have is faith. Which is fine, but it is not evidence of and never can be.

        • Mark Hamilton

          So let me get this straight:

          You claim that “there is no way to establish the existence of such an entity”.

          I ask you to explain how you came to such a conclusion, and what evidence supports such an assertation.

          You avoid the question with a random argument against God’s existence.

          I point out that you argument does not support your assertation.

          You then tell me “This has already been firmly established as there is no way to even demonstrate such an entity”

          So you know your assertation is true, because you know your assertation is true? That sounds more like blind faith than reason to me. When has this been established? By who? Using what evidence? If your assertion is something more than blind faith then prove it!

        • Arkenaten

          See below…this thread is too stringy

  • Arkenaten

    The obtuseness of the way you rationalize is the hallmark of Christian apologists the world over. It is so silly. But this is fine, you are perfectly at liberty to believe whatever you wish.
    1.I am asserting that, there is nothing currently available to establish the existence or non existence of an unscientific entity.
    There is no further explanation required. However, I may be wrong, of course. So, if you do know of a way of establishing the existence of your deity then please tell me.

    2. A perfect being, as the biblical text claims your god is, be that God, or Yahweh would not require to be worshiped. That the biblical text clearly states that worship is required as per the quoted verse, and also to a lessor extent the first commandment, quite clearly demonstrates that the biblical god is not perfect and thus a narrative construct.

    It is this simple. You are clearly mistaken.
    But this is fine too.
    Be at peace.

    • Debilis

      Greetings!

      1. If one accepts the reality of the mental as distinct from the physical, then it is established.

      If one refuses to accept this, then this is no different from a solipsist arguing that all evidence for the physical is simply an illusion.

      Even then, there is the contingency of matter, the problems with an infinite chain of efficient causes, the existence of qualia, consciousness, and free will, and the fact that insisting upon physical evidence is a self-contradictory statement.

      2. In what sense of “require”. To insist? That seems only fair, given that the being has created everything and is perfect–and (given the existence of such a being) is in the subjects’ own best interests. To force? The being isn’t doing that.

      What makes you think that a perfect being wouldn’t “require” worship?

      • Arkenaten

        You are mistaken.Please read carefully.
        There is currently no procedure available to us to establish the existence or non existence of such an unscientific entity.

        This renders all further argument moot.

        It is this simple.

    • Debilis

      I did read carefully; I understand that this is your claim.

      I’m not sure why you want to stop thinking after that statement. I offered reasons why this same argument applies equally to the physical, and is wrong in any case.

      Simply repeating the claim does not change this.

      • Arkenaten

        You are, of course, perfectly entitled to believe what ever you wish.
        Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and I am content with this and have no argument with you or anyone else over such issues.
        But people are not entitled to their own facts.

        Therefore, statement is not only self-explanatory, completely valid and quite able to stand on its own two feet.

        If, however, you have any scientific evidence to the contrary then please, present it.

    • Debilis

      No statement “stands on its own two feet” if, by that, you mean you don’t have to address the reasons why it is wrong.

      I’ve pointed out the reasons why the demand does not make sense. Simply declaring it correct in the face of this strikes me as trying to “have one’s own facts”.

      • Arkenaten

        Fair enough, you may disagree. As I have already stated quite succinctly, I have no problem with this as we are all entitled to our own opinion, just not our own facts.This would merely be disingenuous.
        So, once more, please present the scientific evidence you have for the existence of the supernatural entity you call God.

    • Debilis

      I disagree with the very notion that scientific evidence is relevant here. We should be looking at other forms of evidence.

      That has been shown, and nothing has been said to support the demand for scientific evidence.

      I genuinely don’t understand how you can simply restate the request for scientific evidence when it has been shown that we aren’t discussing science.

      This is like demanding a mathematical proof that Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of Great Britain and, after being told that it isn’t a mathematical topic, simply repeating the request for a mathematical proof.

      • Arkenaten

        I still maintain you are genuinely mistaken..
        But this is fine. It is your post.
        So, please present what evidence you have for your god, in a succinct and un-convoluted fashion, without resorting to analogy,
        comparison, or rhetoric.

    • Debilis

      Apologies, but the issue is complex; I genuinely wish it wasn’t.
      But, no one would demand that a particle physicist present evidence in “a succinct and un-convoluted fashion”.

      You are free to maintain anything you’d like, of course, but you should research the history of the Verification Principle. This is the line you are taking, and it has been shown to be self-defeating.

      I’ve already given the roughest summary of the cosmological argument I could manage. But you’ll also find the argument from mind elsewhere on this blog. This is the position that some form of dualism is true on the grounds that there are elements to the mind that cannot (even in principle) be reduced to physical processes.

      The chain of reasoning that leads from dualism to the God of classical theism is long. There isn’t much I can do about that, however. So, if it is more than you find you have patience for, I’ll simplify it to “dualism entails God”.

  • The Most Straightforward of Evasive Arguments | Fide Dubitandum

    […] a case in point, just over three weeks ago, I wrote a post pointing out that those who demand evidence for God are consistently unable to provide a standard […]

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