Moving on to the Beginning

science-cosmology-revolution-astrophysicist-13.7-cosmos-culture-blog-multiverse-big-bangThere usually comes a time, when pointing out that materialism is based on a self-contradiction and otherwise unsupported enough to be called a superstition, when some defenders of materialism drop the issue and start to complain that this doesn’t prove the existence of God.

I suppose that’s true, though it should be obvious that it is an important step in the reasoning that will get us there. One is left fighting the temptation to respond with “patience, Grasshopper”.

Though these complaints strike me as entirely weird non-sequiturs, they are probably the closest thing to a concession one is likely to get from a hostile debater. Therefore, I usually take that as my sign that it is time to move on to the cosmological argument for the existence of God.

There are actually several cosmological arguments, only one of which requires the beginning of the universe. As it is the easiest for modern people to understand, I’ll start there:

The Kalam Cosmological Argument takes the intuitively reasonable position the universe had a cause which brought it into existence. Traditionally, it has been dismissed on the grounds that the universe was simply eternal. Now that modern cosmology is closing off that route, many are trying to deny the principle that things require a cause in order to come into existence.

Of course, that last position is a denial of the very foundation of science (the idea that things have causes). If one is willing to go that route, simply denying cosmic expansion seems trivial.

I’m always surprised that some spend so much time arguing that there wasn’t a cause to the beginning of the universe. It is a reasonable conclusion, and we still need to examine what that cause is. Perhaps some have the sense that, in agreeing that there was a cause of the universe’s beginning, they are already starting to let their materialism slip away.

But, whatever the motivation, there’s no good reason to deny that the universe has a cause. And I’ll discuss what that cause might be next time.

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61 responses to “Moving on to the Beginning

  • Alexander

    Hmm, it sounds like you’re not so up to date on modern cosmology as you make out to be to make this argument. I’m not saying that in a mean way, but there’s nothing in the cards for the known universe that dictates that it isn’t part of an eternal universe. The *known* universe (often called the observable universe, except the first 300.000 years or so) had a cause some 13.7 billion years ago, however there is nothing in no cosmological theory that states that there was nothing before that time (even though there are good grounds to believe there was a zero energy state before quantum fluctuations caused an instability, but that’s a different argument), nor that the cause of that event isn’t grounded in natural law.

    The whole Kalam cosmological argument is flawed in a number of ways, the primary one being an a priori assumption about the prime mover (ala Aquinas) being a) a mover, and b) existing. In fact, the argument only makes sense if you already believe in a prime mover, and hence is pointless to the rest of the world and, uh, as a sound argument. It’s, in fact, a bad argument; it makes people who push it look silly.

    “And I’ll discuss what that cause might be next time”

    Can’t wait to see what surprise you’ve got for us … 🙂

    • Debilis

      Yes, I’m aware of the concept of a larger “eternal universe”, but, by by reading, it is purely speculative. Definitely, we’ve abandoned any reason to adhere to materialism at this point.

      But I agree that cosmology only gives us reason to think that the elements of this universe came into being at a certain point. I agree that other things could have existed “previously”.

      The Kalam, however, is an argument for something akin to a prime mover. It is a reason to think such a thing exists; it doesn’t assume one. That is, I’ve never heard “because the prime mover exists” as support for either of the premises.

      The argument is a straightforward modus ponens syllogism. As such, to show that there is a problem with it, one needs to show that one or both the of the premises is most plausibly false.

      • Alexander

        “it is purely speculative”

        Sorry, but the existence of a universe behind the observable universe – which, frankly, is highly likely – is somehow speculative, but the concept of a god that creates all of the universe in a blink and has a special interest in a specie of ape on a specific planet in the most vastness of space is, eh, not?

        “The Kalam, however, is an argument for something akin to a prime mover”

        No, it doesn’t. All it does it say the first mover is needed, and that instead that it could be a god, it must be a god, without a single argument to why that is. Look up anthropomorphism if you somehow think the first mover argument somehow makes universal sense.

        “one needs to show that one or both the of the premises is most plausibly false”

        Yes, indeed; the universe didn’t begin to exist. That was my point. People who still push Kalam seem to have gotten stuck in a semantic issue of the observable universe not being the universe at all. And this is only the *first* premise. Further premises can be deconstructed to be unsatisfactory, but we only have to deal with the first one as it suffices.

        • archaeopteryx1

          What’s really sad, is this:

          For millennia, Humans believed the sun revolved around the earth – after all, it was seen to move from horizon to horizon daily. Then, our knowledge evolved, and we realized that not only did the earth revolve around the sun, but that there was an entire galaxy out there, and we were only a minute part of it, but that was all there was, at least before we realized that all of those fuzzy specks were in fact not stars, but other galaxies, easily as great as our own.

          With the movement of the galaxies away from each other, propelled by dark energy, the time will come, still more millennia from now, when our own galaxy will be the only one observable, and if there are any of us left, in whatever form we may have evolved, we will believe as those did, a hundred or more years ago, that our own galaxy is the only one there is, and by all observable empirical evidence, all there has ever been.

          Then indeed, we may be in a defensible position to observe that we, on Earth, are special, and created by a particular god to be under his special protection. Hopefully, long before that time, we will have put aside such childish things.

          archaeopteryx

        • Mark Hamilton

          I must take issue with your claim that it was only after we discovered that the Earth revolved around the sun that we found out we were only a minute part of the galaxy. Medieval astronomy was based off of the work of the Greek philosopher Ptolemy. Ptolemy believed (and so did the “primitive” medievals after him) that the Earth was so small compared to the rest of the universe that it was a mathematical point of no significance, too small to be seen. The medieval scholars believed that the Earth was unimaginably tiny and, what’s more, unimaginably unimportant compared to the stars and planets. Yet they never dreamed that Earth’s insignificance was any argument against the existence of God. It has only been in the last two hundred years or so that people have used the massive size of the universe as an argument against Him, even though we have known the universe was massive for over a thousand years prior. So tell me: why should the size of the Earth be an objection against the Christian God?

        • archaeopteryx1

          RE: “we have known the universe was massive” – and “we” would be? Whatever Ptolemy knew, he didn’t share it with the Hebrews who wrote the Bible. I’ve no interest in the Greek, Zeus-Pater, only in the Judeo/Christian god, and those who invented him, who clearly held no scientific discussions with Ptolemy.l

        • Mark Hamilton

          “We” meaning Western civilization, including the vast majority of Christian theologians and church leaders for over a thousand years. None of those Christians seemed to see any incompatability between the Earth’s physical insignificance and the existance of God. So answer the question: why should the size of the Earth be an objection against the Christian God?

        • archaeopteryx1

          We’re not looking at 1000 years, concerning the invention of the Judeo/Christian god, we’re discussing 950 BCE, when the first part of the Torah was written, to much earlier than that, when Amurru (El Shaddai) was first brought from Mesopotamia, at least a thousand years before the Hebrews merged him with Yahweh, an obscure desert god, so at that point, “Christians” wouldn’t have even been a glint in their great, great, great, great, great (x 10) granddaddy’s eye.

        • Mark Hamilton

          I am quite aware. I’m not trying to claim that the ancient Hebrews knew that. What I am trying to point out is that you statement (“Then, our knowledge evolved, and we realized that not only did the earth revolve around the sun, but that there was an entire galaxy out there, and we were only a minute part of it,”) is historically incorrect. We have known for well over a thousand years (closer to two thousand now, actually) that the Earth is insignificant compared to the rest of the universe. There was no great enlightenment where we all realized that the Earth wasn’t the most important thing in existance and that God couldn’t possibly be concerned with us. Christians have known about this fact for ages, and yet it only became an argument against God recently. So, I ask you a third time: why should the size of the Earth be an objection against the Christian God?

        • archaeopteryx1

          Where did I say Mark, that the size of the Earth should be an objection against the Christian God? Unless you’re saying the “Christian” god is a different god from the Hebrew god, then I’d have to say that the Bible is it’s own objection against the Judeo/Christian/Islamic god.

        • SteveInCO

          I believe the objection is more that the earth was falsely placed at the center of the universe. Regardless of its relative size (I recall reading somewhere the estimate of the universe’s size under the Greeks was equivalent to a radius of 12 trillion miles, only half the distance to Alpha Centauri and puny compared to what we know today). The Greeks had no notion of stars at vastly differing distances, did not know the Milky Way they saw in the night sky was actually the light from millions if not billions of stars individually too dim to be seen, and had no suspicion whatsoever that whatever the milky way was, there were others like it in the universe.

          As archaeopteryx correctly points out though the Hebrew cosmology was far less sophisticated than this one

        • makagutu

          Mark, did your christian god create Ptolemy and the Greeks and Egyptians before that? It could have been known for whatever number of years that the earth is insignificant, the question why do humans think themselves so special in the schemes of things?
          And another question by asking about the christian god specifically, do you indirectly acknowledge the existence of other gods?

        • archaeopteryx1

          Whoever wrote the ten commandments clearly believed so, otherwise the first one wouldn’t have been felt necessary, and we would have had only nine.

          When you think about it, Jerry Springer’s commandment is all that’s really needed: “Be good to yourselves, and each other.”

        • makagutu

          Oh yes, I think that commandment is sufficient

        • Mark Hamilton

          Well excuse me then. I must have taken your words to mean the wrong thing. If we both agree that the size of the Earth in comparison to the universe isn’t an objection against the Christian God then we don’t have much to argue about.

          And I do consider the Christian God to be the same as the Hebrew God. I have never met a fellow Christian who believes differently on that.

        • archaeopteryx1

          You were so specific about saying “the Christian god,” that rather than assume, I needed to be sure.

          I’ve re-read my earlier comment and can find no reference to the size of the earth determining the validity of any god, Christian or otherwise. I was merely stating that there was a point in time when Mankind believed earth to be the center of the universe, and that in time, dark energy will have pushed the galaxies so completely out of sight, that all available evidence will one day point to that exact, same conclusion. Earth size +/- = god was not an intended part of that equation.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Perhaps I was wrong; but when I go back to investigate your initial comment I can’t help but notice that you ended with this:

          “Then indeed, we may be in a defensible position to observe that we, on Earth, are special, and created by a particular god to be under his special protection. ”

          This seems to imply that, knowing what we know right now, it is an indefensible position to believe that we on Earth were created by a particular God and are under his special protection. Christianity (and Judaism) holds that we were created by a particular God, and (though we may or may not be under his protection) that he is concerned with our affairs here on Earth. That seems to me to be saying that the size of the Earth compared to the universe is an argument against the Christian (and Jewish) conception of a personal and involved creator God. Am I off base on this? I’ll admit I can be rather stubborn, and I might just be putting arguments in your mouth. If that is the case, I apologize.

        • archaeopteryx1

          Actually Mark, you’re correct about everything, except the size of the earth bearing any relationship to anything I said. In this case, size doesn’t matter —

          archaeopteryx

        • Mark Hamilton

          Alright. Then on what basis do you assert that the idea that we were created by a particular God who is concerned about our affairs is indefensible?

        • archaeopteryx1

          Simple, to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever presented any verifiable evidence of the existence of the supernatural.

        • Mark Hamilton

          From the comments I have seen of yours on other posts, I assume by “verifiable evidence” you mean either scientific evidence or some kind of conclusive evidence. Is that correct?

        • archaeopteryx1

          Scientific? Of course. Some other kind? That depends on what you mean.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Would you accept evidence that is based on other people’s testimonies, or evidence that comes from logical deduction or induction?

        • archaeopteryx1

          Is it testable, reproducible and peer-reviewed? If not, then it belongs in the anecdotal evidence pile, right between the, “I still believe in Santa Clause” pile and the, “I DO believe in Fairies, I DO, I DO!” pile.

        • SteveInCO

          Eyewitness accounts are notoriously unreliable. Testimonials about ones spiritual experiences are also inherently unreliable. Even a religious person who can testify to his own experience should be able to see the latter point as people of other religions will attest that THEY had spiritual experiences that “prove” their religion is true. The religious person and this person of the other faith cannot both be right.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Alright then. Just so I am clear, you are saying that unless your evidence for something’s existance is testable, reproducible, and peer reviewed then it is indefensible to believe in it. Is that correct?

        • moonshinestill

          You missed “definable”

        • Mark Hamilton

          He never said that, so I can’t hold him to that.

        • archaeopteryx1

          There are a number of things we human swear on, that are not testable, reproducible, or peer reviewed, such as love, hate, etc., that are brought about by electro-chemical changes in the brain, and while they may seem real, and while believing that they are in fact, real, can, to a great extent, govern our behavior, they, as well as the magnitude of them, are actually subjective, and can’t actually be more than assumed to exist.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Alright. I would agree that, if you believe it’s indefensible to believe in something without testable, reproducible, and peer reviewed evidence, then it would be indefensible to believe in love and hate.

          However, if you set that as your standard, there are many other things you cannot believe in. You can’t believe in the prior existence of any historical figure who is dead and whose body has been lost. We believe that Julius Caesar existed, for example, because of the testimony of others and himself that was written down over a thousand years ago. We cannot test Julius Caesar, we cannot reproduce his historical actions, and there is no option for peer review. So from your point of view it is indefensible for any person, even if they’re a professor of antiquity, to claim that Julius Caesar existed.

          What’s more, from your point of view it is indefensible to believe that the universe consists entirely of matter and energy (ie, that the supernatural does not exist). You cannot test this idea, nor is there any effect for you to reproduce that would prove such a theory to be correct. Therefore, from your point of view, it is indefensible to say that the supernatural does not exist.

          Finally, from your point of view, it is indefensible for you to claim that it is indefensible to believe in something unless we have testable, reproducible, and peer reviewed evidence. That claim itself cannot be tested, reproduced, or peer reviewed. By your own words, this idea belongs “right between the, ‘I still believe in Santa Clause’ pile and the, ‘I DO believe in Fairies, I DO, I DO!’ pile.”

        • archaeopteryx1

          RE: “from your point of view it is indefensible to believe…that the supernatural does not exist” – I don’t need to, if you assert that it does, it’s your responsibility to substantiate it.

          “That which is called the supernatural is often the figment of a
          disordered, undisciplined or undeveloped imagination.”
          — Elbert Hubbard —

        • Mark Hamilton

          I’m sorry, I must have been mistaken. Are you not really a materialist? Are you open to the idea that the supernatural exists?

        • archaeopteryx1

          RE: “Are you open to the idea that the supernatural exists?” – not in any sense of the word. To paraphrase Neil Degrasse Tyson, superstition, which includes belief in the supernatural, is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance, that gets smaller and smaller as time goes on.

        • Mark Hamilton

          Ah. Well, you see, that seems contradictory. You told me that if I assert that the supernatural exists, then I must provide evidence to support that assertion. Earlier when I asked you what evidence you would accept you told me that only evidence which is testable, reproducible, and peer reviewed would be acceptable. Yet now you tell me that belief in the supernatural is superstition, and that superstition “is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance”. However, this statement cannot be tested, reproduced, or peer reviewed. You also say that you are not open to the existence of the supernatural. However the belief that the supernatural does not exist (namely, materialism) cannot be tested, reproduced, or peer reviewed. I admit that I cannot at this moment provide testable, reproducible, and peer reviewed evidence for the existence of God. However, you also cannot provide testable, reproducible, and peer reviewed evidence for materialism. It seems that our beliefs are equally indefensible by your own definitions.

          Now I do have good reasons for my belief in God, and those reasons are supported by evidence. The only problem is that you will not accept the kinds of evidence I have to provide: namely logical deduction and the historical record. It is fine if you won’t accept that kind of evidence, but you can’t hold my belief in God to a standard that your own belief in materialism cannot pass.

        • archaeopteryx1

          Hold on to your delusions tightly, Mark – don’t ever let them go —

        • Mark Hamilton

          I was not aware that I had delusions, but if I do have any I would like to be freed from them. The last thing I would want to do is hold tightly to a delusion. Please, point out where I’m wrong. I’d rather believe what is true than what makes me happy. So if you see a problem with my argument (other than an emotional reaction that I must be deluded), let me know.

        • archaeopteryx1

          That’s it, cling tightly —

        • Debilis

          Appeals to being rational that don’t rely, in any way, on logic or evidence always strike me as strange.

          If you are actually trying to convince anyone that theism is a delusion, wouldn’t it make sense to address the logic of the arguments theists give, rather than simply make accusations?

    • Debilis

      The idea that there is more to the universe than the observable is indeed highly likely. What is speculative is the idea that this refutes the notion that the universe began to exist.

      More fundamentally, what information is there about the unobservable universe?
      Are you talking about dark energy?

      While I’m certain that someone has claimed that the Kalam argues that the cause of the universe must be God, I’ve never actually heard anyone say this.

      Could you please point me to a scientific discussion of the idea that the unobservable universe is eternal–or summarize the argument to that end? I’m not aware of any evidence that this is the case.

      • Alexander

        “What is speculative is the idea that this refutes the notion that the universe began to exist”

        I think you missed my point here; you have no more reason to claim something speculative than looking at your own equally speculative solution. It’s an unknown, so anything is speculative, including all assumptions on it.

        “what information is there about the unobservable universe Are you talking about dark energy?”

        Dark energy is part of the observable universe, so no. No, when you measure out and account for all things in the observable universe, you can tell something about what surrounds it. We can’t prod it directly, but just like we prod anything of the big bang beyond 300.000 years, recreating and simulating and projecting and deducing, we can say things about it with some degree of certainty without claiming absolute knowledge (which would be bad in any case).

        “While I’m certain that someone has claimed that the Kalam argues that the cause of the universe must be God, I’ve never actually heard anyone say this”

        WL Craig is obviously the most pushy proponent of this of late, and he ends his argument with “and that entity we call God” after describing this all-powerful, transcendental first mover, and I’d say it would be dishonest to claim that the Kalam argument in any way or form isn’t supposed to be an argument about the existence of your god. But that’s almost besides the point as the first premise fails; if you can’t get beyond that, then what’s left of your argument?

        “please point me to a scientific discussion of the idea that the unobservable universe is eternal”

        Krauss’ “A universe from nothing” contain all the references and discussions you’re asking for.

    • Debilis

      My notion isn’t speculative. There is good evidence that all space-time is expanding and, as far as I know, no evidence at all that some part of the unobservable universe is both eternal and created the observable universe.

      I’m open to being corrected, but, so far, there is a key difference here.

      If Craig has said this (I haven’t heard it from him), then there could be an equivocation going on. But, I don’t see how this applies to anything I’ve said.

      But Krauss does not explain how the unobservable universe is eternal in “A Universe From Nothing” or anywhere else I’ve encountered him. He attempts to explain how the quantum vacuum, which is not unobservable, might have expanded into the large area we experience.

      • archaeopteryx1

        RE: “the quantum vacuum, which is not unobservable” – and the last time you observed it was –?

        archaeopteryx

        • Debilis

          As I’m not a quantum physicist, it’s been a while.
          “Observable” refers to anything that is detectible (directly or indirectly) with instruments.

      • Alexander

        “My notion isn’t speculative”

        Your notion is God ex nullius, not some vague notion from cosmology.

        “I haven’t heard it from him”

        He use it in Rational Belief, and I’ve heard him use it in a few debates, as well. However, regardless of nitpicking at the wordings he uses, I’m sure you agree that’s what he’s getting at, right? He’s not making a case for Cuthulu?

        “But Krauss does not explain”

        Have you read the book?

        • Debilis

          The notion I’m defending here is that the universe has a cause that exists beyond the universe. That is not speculative.

          Yes, Craig is clearly making a case for the Christian God. That, however, does not mean that he claims that every argument he raises applies to that God alone. I’ve specifically heard him deny this, and (regardless of Craig personally) this objection still doesn’t apply to anything I’ve said.

          Any time I’ve heard from him, Krauss has always defended the position that the universe was created (out of the quantum vacuum) in the finite past.

          But I’ve only read parts of the book (and quite a few reviews). Perhaps you could summarize the explanation you feel that I’ve missed?

        • Alexander

          “Krauss has always defended the position that the universe was created (out of the quantum vacuum) in the finite past”

          Nope. He has the same distinction between the observable universe and the cosmos, just like Sagan and Feynman and countless other cosmologists and physicists who care about what the universe is and how it works. This distinction is rather unremarkable and uncontroversial, and more a result of a generic misunderstanding of terms like “universe” being clearly multi-faceted.

          “But I’ve only read parts of the book (and quite a few reviews). ”

          Could I kindly ask you to read the book? If this is interesting to you, I would love you to go through it and read the various models of “nothing” we can come up with, and see it for the lack of definitional framework that somehow has driven “intellectual” arguments through the years.

    • Debilis

      I don’t see how speculations about the truly unobservable can be called science. Could you explain this?

      If I am wrong on this point, please let me know what conclusions have been reached about the unobservable universe, and on what basis.

      I will get around to the book, but I have a rather large stack of reading that I’m working through.

      If you’re willing to wait a few moths to discuss this, we can do that. If not, could you simply summarize the parts of Krauss’ argument that you feel I’ve misrepresented?

      • shelterit

        “I don’t see how speculations about the truly unobservable can be called science. Could you explain this?”

        Um, this is either a disingenuous question, or muddled by some other factor. “Speculation” is a loaded word, and is one of the reasons I reacted to you using it to begin with.

        But let’s assume for the argument sake that you meant something closer to using your imagination to explore other possibilities, or something like that. I have explained before that all of that (and, heck, including speculation, who am I kidding?) is part of science; theorizing about stuff is an important part of how science moves forward. The problem isn’t the speculations and creative thinking at all. The problem is linking empirical data *to* that theory, supporting said theory. This is where falsification enters the empirical debate as a framework for how we can avoid proving a negative (which is impossible).

        “If you’re willing to wait a few moths to discuss this”

        Happy to wait. I’m sure we can talk about other things in the mean-time. 🙂

    • Debilis

      That makes much more sense (and apologies, the connotation of “speculation” was unintended).

      But I agree that scientists can theorize (or, rather, hypothesize) without data. My objection would be to the implication here that the only way to draw any certainty in a conclusion would be by linking the concept to empirical data. To insist on this is to presume materialism.

      In fact, it would be to presume the verification principle, which is demonstrably fallacious.

      Rather, I’d say that there are good philosophical arguments showing that the “unobservable universe” contains more than the physical. Clearly, we should not expect this to be a question to which “linking empirical data” can speak.

      But I’ll let you know when I get to the book. I’m hoping the reviews I read were unfairly harsh, but, if so, I wish that Krauss would make a statement pointing out the problems with them.

      Either way, best to you.

      • shelterit

        “My objection would be to the implication here that the only way to draw any certainty in a conclusion would be by linking the concept to empirical data. To insist on this is to presume materialism”

        … which science does. And, I might add, does so very successfully.

        “In fact, it would be to presume the verification principle”

        What, now? Verificationism and logical positivism has no standing on empiricism, so I’m not sure why you’re pushing that point? They share a common ancestor, but so do we and pigeons, and so I’m not sure what the relevance of that is.

        “I’d say that there are good philosophical arguments showing that the “unobservable universe” contains more than the physical”

        And I call nonsense. You can play any metaphysical card you’ll like, but those arguments will not be taken seriously when you want to get to a true or false answer. We’ve spent the last 3000 years playing with them, and have gotten very little traction on where they’re even suppose to take us, even less some yardstick definitions of the things we should be concerned with. I understand the lure and excitement about many such philosophical ponderings, but they are mostly and ultimately sophistry. Heck, I’ll go further and just point to the anthropological principle as a kind of Occam’s razor slicing through a lot of them. You cannot get to what is true by the mind alone, and empiricism is, at least, trying to do it through a framework of agreement rather than the lone and possibly insane brain. It may not be perfect, but from my viewpoint it’s the best we’ve ever come up with in reaching some definition of what is true.

        I could again point back to Hume and say that there is no such thing, even, as a natural law, only our perceptions that verify that the label “natural law” makes confirming sense. But you have to realize that this even kills the human perception of causality, and and I think Hume was absolutely right on this, especially as we venture down the neuroscientific path of knowledge; I think it changes everything, including philosophy itself.

    • Debilis

      “My objection would be to the implication here that the only way to draw any certainty in a conclusion would be by linking the concept to empirical data. To insist on this is to presume materialism”
      … which science does. And, I might add, does so very successfully.
      I agree that science does this. I don’t object to the idea that this is a source of knowledge, but to the idea that it is the only source of knowledge.

      What, now? Verificationism and logical positivism has no standing on empiricism, so I’m not sure why you’re pushing that point?
      Do you agree that we should reject Verificationism, then?
      If so, I don’t understand several of your comments.

      What is your defense of empiricism? Does it not rely on the idea that ideas should be supported with empirical evidence?

      You can play any metaphysical card you’ll like, but those arguments will not be taken seriously when you want to get to a true or false answer.
      This is almost synonymous with Verificationism.
      Metaphysical arguments cannot simply be rejected on the grounds that there is dispute over issues. Rather, they must be shown to be false.

      Heck, I’ll go further and just point to the anthropological principle as a kind of Occam’s razor slicing through a lot of them.
      But that would, itself, be a metaphysical argument (and not a very strong one).

      You cannot get to what is true by the mind alone
      I’ve never proposed this. I’ve been proposing looking into both the mental and the physical, rather than the physical alone.

      empiricism is, at least, trying to do it through a framework of agreement rather than the lone and possibly insane brain
      There is much more agreement on the mental than this implies.
      The support of empiricism itself (which is what we are discussing) is just as much an act of a “lone and possibly insane” mind as anything I’ve defended.

      It may not be perfect, but from my viewpoint it’s the best we’ve ever come up with in reaching some definition of what is true.
      Whether or not this is true, I’ve not actually been arguing that it is not. All I’ve claimed is that it is not the only valid source of knowledge.

      This keeps coming up, so let me be clear on this:
      1. I’m not claiming that we look to the mind alone.
      2. I’m not claiming that there is a superior form of knowledge to science
      3. I’m not claiming that we find information without consulting others.

      * Rather, I am claiming that there are other basically (but not perfect) sources of knowledge than the senses.

      I could again point back to Hume and say that there is no such thing
      You can if you’d like. But, if you choose to do so, don’t simply reference Hume. I reject his position, and will expect a defense of his arguments.

      Okay, one more down; I think I’ll get to the next very soon.

      Best to you until then.

      • shelterit

        “Do you agree that we should reject Verificationism, then?”

        No, there’s merit to it even though there’s problems here and there, I’m just pointing out that empiricism in scientific terms relates to falsification, not verification. As you might know, pragmatism has risen to contain verificationism without embracing logical positivism. And I’m only saying these things to point out that this is more complex than something we outright can reject or accept.

        “What is your defense of empiricism? Does it not rely on the idea that ideas should be supported with empirical evidence?”

        First, science in a nutshell;

        1. Imagine how something works
        2. Make a predicted guess
        3. Test the guess
        4. If guess wasn’t expected, change 1 or 2; repeat

        How we now interpret various parts of this is of course debatable, but where do you think empiricism enters the loop? Well, the answer is, it depends. It depends on the scientist, on the methods used, on the theories proposed, on the field, on the value, on the money, etc.

        But the real defense of empiricism (as if it need me to defend it?) is, of course, that it seems to be working, it gives reliable results, it removes certain bias, and makes sure that we root things in reality rather than fiction, beliefs, hopes, dreams and falsehood.

        But again, I must point out; empiricism leads to naturalism, but there is no artificial border there; there might perfectly fine be a super-natural level above the natural one. But since we can’t make easy tests for it, we assume materialism to be true and go on our testing ways. When our tests show results that we can’t explain with our current understanding of the natural world look for further understanding. And this – right here! – is where I suspect some of our disagreements come in; I’m happy to keep looking, even if it seems incredibly hard to do so. You want to stop and claim those things super-natural. You’ve decided that science must stop here. I don’t.

        Does that seem like a reasonable summary of our positions so far?

    • Debilis

      To make the case against Verificationism, then:
      While I agree that, all things being equal, it is preferred to have sensory verification, a direct contradiction at the core of the idea is more than problems “here and there”.

      If you want to support the idea of Verificationism, you would need to explain why it is more reasonable than the idea that each realm (physical, mental, etc.) has it’s own type of relevant evidence.

      How we now interpret various parts of this is of course debatable, but where do you think empiricism enters the loop?
      In steps 2 & 3. Science stipulates that predictions and tests must regard physical things. This is why it doesn’t address every question.

      But the real defense of empiricism (as if it need me to defend it?) is, of course, that it seems to be working,
      Science is working. Simply equating it with empiricism (or materialism, or metaphysical naturalism, or…) will not do. Methodological naturalism is a very useful part of science, but this doesn’t mean that empiricism can borrow validity from the success of science. All philosophies compatible with science are equally supported by it. Empiricism (which post-dates science by many years) needs to make it on its own steam.

      here might perfectly fine be a super-natural level above the natural one. But since we can’t make easy tests for it, we assume materialism to be true and go on our testing ways.
      This is simply an argument for agnosticism, not empiricism (and certainly not materialism).

      Even setting aside any positive reasons to believe in more than the physical, there are a great many decisions we make on a daily basis that depend on having a working answer to questions like “does God exist”. We can’t simply “go on our testing ways”.

      Science can ignore these questions because science isn’t a human being, and doesn’t have to make moral decisions or develop a life philosophy. Simply dismissing the question, however, isn’t an option for a person.

      You want to stop and claim those things super-natural.
      Is it polite for me to shout “No!” here?
      I want to move forward! In recognizing that there is more to reality than the physical, I’m interested in exploring further! There’s a world further to go there and, in my view, its a waste to spend our time looking in the wrong place.

      You’ve decided that science must stop here. I don’t.
      This is closer to true, but I haven’t decided this. Rather, that is how science has always been defined.

      But please don’t think that, because I think that there are defined limits to science, that I think that there are limits to inquiry. I only want us to inquire using the correct method.

      Okay, I’ll get to the others later; I’m off to spend some time with my wife.

      Best to you out there.

      • Alexander

        Ok, time to cut short, and clean up. 🙂

        “why it is more reasonable than the idea that each realm (physical, mental, etc.) has it’s own type of relevant evidence”

        For this to work, we need a framework and agreement on that framework of how we divvy up the world. The reason science focus so much on the epistemic real is that it is the thing that we the most agree on. As soon as we go into the mental, there’s tons of issues in reaching consensus or agreement on much of anything. Even logic fails outside the real of logic (I’m sure you would agree).

        “Methodological naturalism is a very useful part of science, but this doesn’t mean that empiricism can borrow validity from the success of science. All philosophies compatible with science are equally supported by it.”

        That simply does not follow. I can create a philosophical model that is compatible with science (whatever that means; I’m not actually sure what you mean by that, but I’m assuming something like part of the tool-kit rather than process?) which is false. And of course empiricism is the very reason science is successful, but we need to mention here that falsification on empirical grounds is really what we’re talking about; the consensus of the reality we seem to share.

        “Science can ignore these questions because science isn’t a human being, and doesn’t have to make moral decisions or develop a life philosophy”

        You have to be careful with statements like this; scientists – humans, just like you and me – are as much part of the scientific model as any of its tools. Scientists are fallible, but they most certainly don’t ignore any important questions about what it is that they’re doing. Science isn’t a thing separated from scientists; they exists in duality (a bit like the trinity).

        “Is it polite for me to shout “No!” here?”

        Of course! When I say “you want to […]” I’m just making guessed assertions on how I understand your arguments. Of course I will be wrong, and I sometimes push opinions on to others in this way to solicit a clarification on things I find important. 🙂

        However, I didn’t mean you want to stop anything, just that you seem to define the threshold for where you think something goes from one category into another. I think the second category is an error as I don’t see the point nor evidence for it, but that’s is the summa summarum of our positions, I think.

        “This is closer to true, but I haven’t decided this. Rather, that is how science has always been defined”

        Well, again this goes back to the definition of natural vs. super-natural world, and where you draw the line. If what we often call “super-natural” truly exists, then it isn’t “super” in any way, but a part of the natural world. Again, I think this part of the argument is a bit misleading. What you seem to be saying is that there is stuff that by its very nature can’t be natural by virtue of what science can investigate, however I don’t see the constraints you’ve imposed on science’s domain of investigation. Even with empiricism on your side, you can investigate things of the mind by translating your experiences to data we can look at. It’s not as impossible as you claim; keep a roster spreadsheet of prayers, their probabilities and the outcomes, and you’ve converted something of the mind, something of the super-natural to at least correlational statistics.

        “I only want us to inquire using the correct method”

        As long as you get to choose what is correct? 🙂

    • Debilis

      The reason science focus so much on the epistemic real is that it is the thing that we the most agree on.
      I think we all agree on the fact that we have thoughts and consciousness, which is all that is required for my argument to work.
      And, whether or not this is true, we aren’t trying to get a cooperative project done just now, but discuss what is real. “What the most agree on” isn’t the issue, and definitely isn’t the bottom line.
      Last, science requires belief in the mind, as I’ve argued elsewhere.

      I can create a philosophical model that is compatible with science … which is false.
      I agree that you could.
      I was not arguing that all positions which are compatible with science are true; I was arguing that they are all equally supported by science. We’ll have to look to something other than science to figure out which of them is most likely to be true.

      “Science can ignore these questions because science isn’t a human being, and doesn’t have to make moral decisions or develop a life philosophy”
      You have to be careful with statements like this; scientists – humans, just like you and me – are as much part of the scientific model as any of its tools.
      No, scientists are not part of the scientific method. They use the scientific method. The personal philosophies of scientists are not part of science, even if they happen to influence its practice, in the same way that politics are not science simply because it influences where grant money is given.

      But, if it were true that scientists are part of the scientific method, then science would indeed have moral beliefs and life philosophies. Humans (including scientists) cannot live without these.

      If what we often call “super-natural” truly exists, then it isn’t “super” in any way, but a part of the natural world.
      I’m not sure how you know this. I’ve not heard any argumentation for it.
      While I agree that the term is inaccurate (it is a strange archaism, actually), there is no way to claim this without simply assuming that anything is real would be natural.

      I don’t see the constraints you’ve imposed on science’s domain of investigation.
      If you could name any time in the history of science when anything that was not physical was tested for (not found, but tested for), this would go a long way to convincing me.

      If science has never tested for the non-physical, then it has nothing to say on the matter.

      Even with empiricism on your side, you can investigate things of the mind by translating your experiences to data we can look at.
      Actually, one can’t. I’ve pointed out the reasons why in several posts. Science does not describe first person perspectives. We may recognize them when we see them, but that is only because human perception is not scientific description.

      It’s not as impossible as you claim; keep a roster spreadsheet of prayers, their probabilities and the outcomes, and you’ve converted something of the mind, something of the super-natural to at least correlational statistics.
      This is an attempt to correlate the mental with the physical; it does not investigate the mental (but only the effects on the physical). That is fine, if investigating effects on the physical is what one wants to do. It is not, however, a test on the mental.

      There is simply no scientific description (at all) of first person mental experiences.

      “I only want us to inquire using the correct method”
      As long as you get to choose what is correct? 🙂
      I’d have to agree that it was correct before I agree that we’re using the correct method, yes.

      I need an argument against my position here. Really, if science were investigating the non-physical, it should be easy to point to the experiments that have done this. If it hasn’t, then (even if it could) there is no scientific reason to believe in materialism.

      But, of course, any test which is not based in measuring physical changes is not scientific, meaning that science only tests the physical.

      Okay, I think that’s enough rambling for now.
      I hope all is well out there.

  • archaeopteryx1

    I thought I had a comment, but Alexander phrased it so well, anything I said would be redundant, and I hate redundancy, I hate redundancy.

    Except to ask, what kind of nonsense is this: “There usually comes a time, when pointing out that materialism is based on a self-contradiction and otherwise unsupported enough to be called a superstition“?

    archaeopteryx

    • Debilis

      I know the feeling; feel free to jump in to the discussion there, if you find that makes more sense.

      But the quoted phrase there isn’t the whole sentence. By itself, it doesn’t express a clear thought.

      Or, were you asking why I thought this was true of materialism?
      If so, it is for two reasons:

      1. Materialism almost always based on verificationism (i.e. “one shouldn’t accept any ideas that aren’t physically verifiable”), which is self-contradictory.

      2. In spite of years of asking, I’ve never received a defense of materialism which isn’t based in verificationism. That being the case, I think it is fair to call it groundless.

      • makagutu

        I have had to look at articles on materialism and am afraid the two claims you make about it are false. On the contrary what have seenfound on materialism is

        1. from the Catholic Encyclopedia

        Materialism is a philosophical system which regards matter as the only reality in the world, which undertakes to explain every event in the universe as resulting from the conditions and activity of matter, and which thus denies the existence of god and the soul.

        2. from M & W dictionary

        a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter

        3. From wikipedia

        In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter or energy; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance, and reality is identical with the actually occurring states of energy and matter.

        So, unless you create your own working definitions for terms as you go along, stop creating strawmen to attack.
        And following from these observations, how is it groundless?

        • Debilis

          I don’t see how I have done this. I did not claim that verificationism was part of the definition of materialism; I claimed that it is almost always defended on verificationist grounds (which is true).

          If, however, you have a defense of materialism which is not verificationist, I’d be very interested to hear it.

        • makagutu

          Hi,
          First on materialism, what is your problem with it is as a philosophical position? I haven’t seen where it requires to be defended, unless you know of some other reality that ain’t related to matter.

          Two I think you lose me on this post. Is it a defense of KCA or is it a critique of materialism as a philosophical position?

        • Debilis

          Greetings!

          Let’s see:

          1.
          I’d say that all positions should be defended, materialism included.

          In addition to that, the traditional cosmological arguments, the irreducibility of mind to the physical, and moral realism are all positive reasons to reject materialism.

          Personally, I’ve never encountered any arguments for materialism that don’t reduce to the assumption of its truth, or the simple denial of what it cannot explain. Even then, most of these arguments turn out to be either highly problematic or downright incoherent (i.e. the verification principle).

          As such, I’m inclined to reject it.

          2.
          It is essentially using the KCA as a reason to reject materialism. So, I suppose that makes it both. I’m trying to chart an argument from materialism to theism. This is one in that series.

          So, apologies if that makes it a bit unfocused.

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