Atheism, theism and jelly beans

Discussion in 'Religion' started by James R, Aug 3, 2019.

  1. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Can't be ruled out then. Right? How about God? Is God testable, even in principle?

    Alternatively, maybe you believe that infinite regress is ruled out by logical reasoning of some kind? (That's not what the article that you linked says, if I read it correctly.)

    We only have evidence for one universe, so far. This is the one we most need to account for, right now. I'll be perfectly content if you can make a solid argument to show that God is the cause of just this one universe, for now.

    I don't believe I've argued for infinite regress.

    Say, for example, that our universe is the uncaused cause. What's the problem with that, that isn't also a problem for your God?

    Can you answer your "why now rather than earlier or later" question with reference to your God?

    For myself, I can't even say that question makes much sense when you're talking about the universe as a whole. What are you even asking? Why is our universe 13 billion years old? Or why that 13 billion years started 13 billion years ago, rather than ... 1000 trillion years ago, or yesterday, or ... what?

    Woah! Hold your horses.

    You can't pretend that when you wrote this you hadn't seen where I explicitly wrote "I don't believe there is a multiverse...."

    Please don't create straw men. Try to engage in good faith.

    As for my belief in subjective experience arising solely from our physical bodies, that's not unjustified. On the contrary, I gave you part of a justification - enough to get you thinking - in my previous comments on that matter.

    Is it your belief that consciousness is not a function of the brain? Do you believe in the soul, spirit or something similar? If so, I guess that's another discussion we can have after we've sorted the God issue out.

    I thought it was polite to respond to your argument about free will. I won't mention my views on free will again in this discussion again unless you want to continue to discuss that topic.

    I agree with all but your last sentence.

    Who debunked them? Got a handy link?

    It's obviously upsetting you, so let's drop the free will discussion for now, okay?

    I agree.

    God, on the other hand, is limitless magic.

    It's a good thing I haven't tried to do that, then.

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    Last edited: Jan 27, 2020
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  3. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

    That certainly is the $64,000,000 question! Perhaps though what should be asked is, "is our strict definition of nothing correct?" Perhaps the quantum foam from whence the BB evolved from is either as close to nothing that we can get, and perhaps it is what nothing is?
    I mean while certainly speculative at this time, the fact that science can take us back as far as t+10-43 seconds with reasonable explanations on the nature of the universe/spacetime, and the fact that even the Catholic Church recognises both the evolution of life and the evolution of the universe/spacetime [the BB] tells me that it is far more likely that any observable QGT or uncovering of knowledge, would explain that first instant and before, in a far more likely scenario then some magical all encompassing deity.
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  5. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    Imagine the following scenario: Why A? Because of B... so why B? Because of C... so why C? Because of D... etc. An infinite regress, I’m sure you’ll agree.
    The issue here is that we are relying on B to give us the truth of A... i.e. A is to be accepted as true if, and only if, B is true. And B is true if, and only if, we accept C as true. So each step in the chain of reasoning is contingent upon the preceding premise. And the entire chain is therefore contingent upon the originating premise, the one that we accept without reliance on any preceding premise. But in an infinite regress there is no such originating premise (or else it would not be an infinite regress) that we can reach. Thus the entire chain contains no reason to accept the final conclusion.

    I.e. it is an informal fallacy. It is not a fallacy in form such that the logic is invalid, just a fallacy in that it offers nothing by way of actual substance. Much like question-begging is perfectly valid logic (if X then X) it doesn’t actually offer anything of substance about X, other than that it is, indeed, X.
    So ideally to be avoided.
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I wasn’t asking about JamesR’s argument, only about your apparent surprise that if the universe started by accident that the evidence could possibly point to it beginning a finite time ago? So nothing to do with infinite regress, just me not understanding how you jump from the idea of a universe beginning by accident to that universe having to begin an infinite time ago (or at least that being where you think the evidence should point).
    I’m just struggling to understand your thought process that leads you from one to the other.
  8. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    Just curious. He is probably my favourite scientist.

    I know how hard it is to deal with mental illness and he had schizophrenia, remarkable.

  9. davewhite04 Valued Senior Member

    I cannot understand how easy it is to create something out of nothing. It happens everyday. You came from nothing, the universe is now a young frog.
  10. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    This only seems to be an attempt to poison the well. I detailed where and why I thought you may be being disingenuous, and it seems you've chosen to distract rather than refute that appearance. If the word "disingenuous" triggers you (making this protest mere projection), I'm sorry, but it is fitting language in the circumstance. And why you would find it especially uncivil is beyond me. Would you prefer "hypocritical"?

    Or you simply could have taken it in good faith, not made erroneous assumptions, and saved us both a lot of time. But then, the internet is best at killing time.

    They were actually takes on a single question, but that's okay.
    It wasn't a trick question, so no need to talk about the air, particles, etc.. If you recognize it as nothing, that is sufficient. But like most people, you don't seem to identify nothing any better than by its opposite. Similar to atheism in that respect, I guess. So those are negative definitions of nothing, defining it by what it is not.

    Nothing is a potential defined by the context. The context of your empty pocket defines a potential of the sorts of things a pocket can hold. Your empty hand defines the potential for the sorts of things, weight, size, etc., you are capable of holding in your hand. Your recognition of nothing is the recognition of this potential, nothing more or less.

    Would you accept/agree with this as a positive definition of nothing?
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  11. Vociferous Valued Senior Member


    Like I said, I think God exists as mono-, poly-, pan-, deist, etc. from different perspectives.
    I don't believe that I am God. I think that my higher self, that which I attain to, is God, akin to Buddhists seeking oneness or pantheists believing God is identified with everything.
    Most religious people regard God as separate from themselves solely due to their own sinful nature. IOW, the separation is self-induced. While I do think our native state is one separate from such ideals, I don't maintain that such distinction is insurmountable.

    I didn't imply anything of the sort. You mistook my questioning of your "reasoned it out for myself" to be about your atheism, when it was about your recognition of nothing. So I literally didn't ask about your reasons for being an atheist. You have your reasons, and I'm sure I've heard them all before. You're free to reiterate them, but since no one asked, it may be superfluous. When your reasoning is relevant to a particular point, by all means, share.

    You can answer unasked questions all you like. But like any specifics of a religion, they do not necessarily speak to theism itself. Like I've said, I'm willing to participate in Christian apologetics, but it seems a bit far afield in this thread.

    I start with nothing as the least assumptions that can be made. Every other initial assumption immediately raises the question of its own origin, infinite regresses, etc.. I had the same problems with the idea of God as you express, but I also saw the same problems in every other explanation. My assumptions depend on whether you agree that everyday nothing is just a potential defined by a context.

    Again, I never said you couldn't express you reasoning/objections. Maybe your impression of testiness was largely a product of such assumptions.

    I arrived at nothing, in part, because I rejected the "nothing comes from nothing" argument. It either presumes that there could never be absolutely nothing, or is just a rather weak argument for the existence of God.

    When it took so long to simply get a response to the good faith question of recognizing nothing, it seemed that you hadn't given it any significant thought. The only frustration was in trying to guess in the lack of any answer from you. Now that you've answered, my presumptions are moot.

    If the universe, itself, is an uncaused cause, that makes it necessary (as opposed to contingent). Since you've already seemed to reject an argument for God based on it being a necessary being, making the same argument for the universe would seem to garner the same objection. I say it is an equal problem in both cases. Are you saying there's a double standard in which it is less of a problem in one case than the other?

    I believe I've already cited this as my reasoning for rejecting an infinite regress as fallacious:

    So I fail to see how your argument is not either the same "necessary" argument as people make for a God or a fallacious infinite regress. If it's something else, please expound.

    Yeah, I should have put "something" in scare quotes. Just like saying there is nothing in your pocket can be rather arbitrary, considering the lint, air, etc., other something/nothing distinctions may be just as arbitrary. But that's jumping ahead of ourselves.

    I think that there was no choice in becoming. It was natural and unavoidable. But the start of our universe is fairly removed from that uncaused cause. It could have (or in the case of a possible multiverse, did) happened many different ways.
  12. Vociferous Valued Senior Member


    Not "of indeterminate religion", no religion at all. Just a theist.
    God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc.. As such God does everything attributed to anything else. People communicate, have plans and goals, and have realizations that are not reducible to the natural world. You've already expressed your objection to these being indistinguishable from natural occurrences. But then, I don't claim these are by any means compelling. It fits the traits of a God, but may not be extraordinary enough for you to accept as God. That's okay.

    Yes, if you cannot refute the null hypothesis, like the notion of God being related to Judeo-Christian values, it is accepted by default. I think you've already agree with that.

    Depends on how literally you read a book replete with parable and allegory.

    The human ability of discernment (knowledge of good and evil) is innate but apparently not automatic. As such it often does take teaching to fully appreciate. Some things can be good or useful primers without being everything a devotee may claim of it. But then, some things also don't work as well without a genuine belief, like placebos.

    If you are willing to argue something you can neither justify nor rule out, I can only assume you must take it on some degree of faith.

    No, I just assumed that you would not put forward an argument you hadn't justified yourself. That sort of lack of justification seems to be a fairly big objection of yours to many arguments about God. Again, considering an infinite regress is not a null hypothesis, if you have any real reason to think there may have been one, the onus is yours. Just as the onus is mine for the existence of God.

    But if you don't have time to skim the reasons infinite regresses are fallacious, I'll cease taking that as a serious argument/alternative from you.

    Wouldn't you equally assume that I "wouldn't be arguing something had not at least tried to falsify" myself? Isn't that a reasonable assumption to make of anyone acting as if they want to forward any argument?

    I can only speak to what I'm able to gather from your posts. You seem to have repeatedly forwarded an infinite regress as an (the only?) alternative to God. As such, I think it's only fair to pose the same kind of skepticism to your arguments that you express of mine.

    Instead of seeming to poison the well with comments about how what I wrote made you feel, perhaps simply correcting my impressions would be more useful?
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2020
  13. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Yes, God is, in principle, just as testable as any alternatives. If you can prove a natural origin for the universe, you've equally tested the hypothesis of God (falsified). Same for free will, the origin of religion, etc.. You are right to object to a God invoking an infinite regress, but then rather hypocritical for invoking a natural one. Denying one for God, I can just as readily deny a natural infinite regress.

    Sometimes it is uncontroversial that a theory that generates an infinite regress is objectionable, because the regress reveals that the theory suffers from some kind of theoretical vice that is a reason to reject the theory independently of it yielding an infinite regress. In these cases, an infinite regress argument can show us that we have reason to reject a theory, but it is not because the theory yields a regress per se, but rather because it has this other bad feature, and the regress has revealed that.

    A hypothesis that purports to explain the origin of existence fails on its face when it employs an infinite regress to avoid explaining its central claim. IOW, an infinite regress of multiple universes fails, not because of the regress itself but because the regress is just obfuscating weakness of the entire hypothesis. Now, if the hypothesis of a multiverse is not an alternative explanation of the origin of existence, then there is no objection to the regress on the grounds of a weakness of the hypothesis. It's just a hypothesis attempting to explain some observation, like the now debunked evidence for "bumping" bubble universes in the CMB. In which case, the hypothesis is more agnostic as to any infinite regress than it actually asserts one. A multiverse is, by itself, a hypothesis on existence, not on the origin of existence.

    It makes me question your former Christian understanding if you think that God may account for one universe byt somehow fail to account for a possible multiverse. I would be equally content if you can make a solid argument to show that a multiverse, or anything else natural, is the cause of this one universe.

    I've already agreed that the bare assertion that something is "necessary" is equally a problem for both.

    As an explanation for our universe, a multiverse is an infinite regress, as it does not explain what it purports to. I've yet to see you forward any other alternative. Did I miss it?

    Yes, why does our universe appear to be one age rather than any other?
    Just like asking why you've owned your car for that long. Because that's how long ago you made that choice.

    Then it's not a genuine alternative you've been forwarding. Just some rhetorical hypothetical. Sorry if I took that more seriously than it warranted.
    So I say "God" and you're only rebut seems to be "what if". Okay. That's your prerogative, I guess, but no grounds upon which to form a real objection to my argument. And I've already addressed how Libet-like experiments have been debunked.

    Yes, another discussion.

    I don't know what to tell you if you think you can make a drive-by argument, without any rebuttal, just by claiming you want to avoid the topic. That would seem to open the topic to more discussion.

    Nothing in this universe is absolute.

    Quit presuming emotional state to poison the well. That's beneath you.
    I'm only telling you what you claimed you didn't want to discuss. If you don't like being reminded, quit trying to run the discussion, like you previously claiming discussing God was off-topic in a thread titled with the word "theism".

    I certainly never said so. I've actually mentioned several limits on God, in this and other threads.

    Only scientism would lead someone to claim they know otherwise without actual evidence.
  14. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    Whereas you may have owned a car this long because you made a choice that long ago, accidentally owning a car (without any choice of another, like a gift) only raises the further question of how. It does nothing to tell us how you came to own a car, supposedly by accident. Now, maybe that's a function of the ambiguity in the word "accident", especially in a causally deterministic universe. Either way, "accident" only raises more questions, where some determined cause would purportedly explain the timing.
    If that still seems like a leap, I really don't know what else to tell you.
  15. Michael 345 New year. PRESENT is 72 years oldl Valued Senior Member

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  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    I'm reply to your posts in full at a later time, because it will take me some time to do justice to them.

    However, since your post to Sarkus, above, puts one of your question in a nutshell, I will take a little time now to respond to that matter, which you also raised in your posts to me.

    This example with the car seems to me to be as strange as your one about the universe as a whole.

    If you ask me, say, "why have you owned your current car for 6 years?" then, as you say, one answer would be that I chose to buy a new car 6 years ago. If that answer is insufficient to satisfy your curiosity as to why I haven't owned my car for 1 million years, or 3 minutes then it's your prerogative to drill deeper, I suppose.

    Another question you might ask might be "Why is the 6 year period of owning your current car happening now? Why didn't you own your current car for 6 years starting in 1958? Why didn't you own it for 6 years starting in the year 1 million B.C.E." One answer to those questions would be that it would have been impossible for me to own my current car in 1978, because (a) my current car wasn't invented by 1958, and (b) I didn't exist in 1958.

    This second question only goes to highlighting the linear nature of time and the causal contingency of events that occur in time. I don't find the answer to that question at all mysterious, as long as we agree on what time is.

    Returning to the first question, you might decide that my first answer was insufficient. You might then ask "Why did you choose to buy your current car 6 years ago?" and there would be a series of explanations including such elements as the operation of my will, the existence and ready availability of the car itself, the fact of my having the capacities and resources necessary to purchase it, and so on.

    You might drill further down into any of the separate elements of that explanation, looking for prior causes. Why was the car readily available for my purchase? It was a car that was manufactured near that date. What events led to its manufacture? etc. etc. You could, if you wished, start tracing back where the raw materials came from that make up the car. They were mined out of the ground, etc. etc. How did they get in the ground? Well, the Earth was formed from the debris of a generation II star several billion years ago, blah blah blah.

    If you continue to trace causes back, eventually you'll discover that the reason I have owned my current car for 6 years, between the years we call 2014 and 2020, say, is that there was a big bang 13.7 billion years ago.

    Obviously, the "reason" for any event occurring at any given time within our universe can in principle be traced back to the big bang. At that point, we run into difficulties. Partly this is because our scientific understanding of the big bang is incomplete. Partly it is is because we know nothing about any time existing before the big bang. In fact our best current theories - admittedly incomplete - suggest that time as we know it might not have existed before the big bang.

    It seems therefore that your question about "why is the universe 13 billion years old?" has two possible formulations. Formulation 2 is the uninteresting one ("Why 13 billions years now rather than 13 billion years 1 trillion years ago, or 3 minutes ago?"). The answer is that time is linear and events are causally contingent. We measure the age of our universe according to events in our universe and the causes that link them. All this is done within the universe. There is no external metric of time - or at the very least there isn't one that we have any access to.

    Formulation 1 is the big question of "Why is there something rather than nothing?", which is equivalent to "Why does our universe exist in the first place?" or "What caused the universe to start?" Your answer is "God did it". My answer is "I don't know."

    If we're discussing the origin of the universe and somebody claims it was an "accident", then I agree with you that we probably need a definition of what "accident" means in that context. What kind of accident was it? Maybe it was God's accident, for all we know.

    If your asking "Why is the universe 13 billion years old?" is just code for "What caused the universe?" then framing your question as if the timing is somehow problematic strikes me as an irrelevant distraction. That's not to say that a consideration of the nature of time itself will necessarily be unimportant in answering the big question.
  17. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    It does seem like a leap, especially when what began (whether by accident or not) was the start of our notion of time. It only goes back to that moment. Whether it began by accident or on purpose, the evidence will only ever go back as far as that moment. Thus time itself is no indication of the "cause" of the start (accident or otherwise), and there should similarly be no surprise that the evidence points to a start a finite time ago, irrespective of what the cause was.
    I'm also not sure there has been any assumption of a deterministic universe here. If that has been stipulated in this thread, then apologies but I missed it.
    As it is, "accident" or "on purpose" both equally explain the timing. They merely don't explain the nature of the specific cause. Whether a bucket hits someone on the head by accident or on purpose, the timing is the same. Whether radioactive decay of a single atom is on purpose or by accident (i.e. uncaused) it still happens when it happens.
    I just don't see "accident" or "on purpose" being in any way related to the timing, or to the evidence we should expect to see regarding such timing.
    Something happened. That much we can establish. That is where the evidence points. Whether it happened by accident, or on purpose... that's an entirely different matter.
    So while it indeed remains a leap, it seems to be a leap that is unwarranted and unsupported by argument.
  18. Vociferous Valued Senior Member

    That answer is more than sufficient. It completely explains why you've own your car for as long as you have. Because you chose to. That's my point.

    Yeah, I assumed you'd still see it as a leap. That's okay.
  19. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    I take it the argument you want to make is that God chose to create the universe.

    Now it only remains for you to actually make an argument to that effect.

    On another matter: you have no thoughts on anything else I wrote in my previous post to you? Just that one sentence? Maybe your focus is too narrow.
  20. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    In the first place, you never remember.

    From about a year ago:

    An interesting point about a lack of links is your admonition that one read your own thoughtful posts°, but continuing either inability or unwillingness to point them out.

    We reconsidered this↑ earlier in this thread↑: When I said you're an antireligious bigot who doesn't appear to know much about the religions he criticizes, I recalled two of your threads as examples, and explained what stands out about those threads is that you don't really ever show any knowledge of the subject matter that isn't recycled through other atheists.

    Your response was another excuse to skip out:

    Yeah, you and your memory. You never do remember, do you?

    Like the quote from a year ago; you probably don't remember how that came about, do you? That you decided to move a policy dispute into the Religion subforum? Because here's the really interesting thing about that policy dispute: Not only was it riddled through with your inability to remember basic stuff, like the topic of a thread, or even your own posts from one to the next over the course of less than a day, but one of the mileposts is you demanding evidence, editing your post to call off that demand, and then pretending some sort of useful to short-cut the process in order to save time and effort°°.

    Can we safely predict you don't remember that one, either?


    Part of the problem, James, is an appearance of perpetually playing to the fourth wall, as if you're essentially gambling that people don't want to be bothered with the detail, or the effort of accommodating your extraordinary needs. It's never been clear why you behave this way, but it is, I assure you, disruptive.

    At Sciforums, and in life, I've been known to use the phrase, square zero. I actually think the meaning obvious, but the years have convinced me to occasionally make the note; while it is not uncommon to find ourselves stumbling back to square one, as such, that's not necessarily how it goes, and on many occasions we can find ourselves worse off than where we started. It's not just running in circles, but treading a trench and spiraling downward.

    That is what it is. People are human. It happens. Within human frailty, it also sometimes occurs that some people, for whatever reasons, behave in manners that would appear to seek such sprialing entrenchment in deepening futility.

    What does it have to do with Sciforums? Well, sure, there's been a lot of it, over the years. What does it have to do with you? Well, here we are.


    I have a joke, actually scribbled in some unposted notes from one or another occasion, but it goes, approximately, that you're not a bot or AI, or some such. It's not even funny, actually, but here's why it exists:

    Poe's Law, in common recitation, is insufficient. These days, it's not simply true believer versus parody thereof, but we must also account for bots, farm trolls, and basket cases, at least. Meanwhile, and particularly: You're not a bot, so it's not like you hit a thirty- or sixty-day threshold and suddenly your cache is cleared of all reference to the subject we're discussing. And, to be certain, an errant cache erasure—e.g., string syntax bug—didn't make you forget your own post hours earlier.

    Still, it's true, we know, you're not a bot; you are a human. In the spectrum of human frailty, sure, I mean, yeah, whatever, but still, seriously and genuinely, it is disruptive.

    And the thing is, if there's a reason for it, then there's a reason for it. But in all the years I've known you, yes, you've always been guarded in certain ways, so, sure, again, whatever. One of the results, though, is that you don't seem to actually know what people are saying. And that's not simply a product of your pandering to an audience; some days you really don't seem to know.

    It wasn't just a potshot, last year↗, when I said that an interesting thing about knowing you, better, is that it's actually hard to do. I didn't call you duplicitous and manipulative and petty, to the point clownish self-defeat, just to zing you or hurt your feelings, or even to feel better about myself. It's really hard to talk to you about anything, James. Another joke I have is that it's these years later and you still never answered the question, but that's another story, a different point on the arc of Sciforums history. And, sure, part of it is that you always seem to be playing to the audience instead of dealing with the discussion before you, but what you don't remember, and don't seem to know, really are disruptive.

    Like in this thread, when you wrote—

    —the problem could be that you're performing for the audience, or that you really don't know because you don't pay attention. And toward that latter, it's been seventeen years, so accepting you really don't know presents curious questions. As with so many things that defy your imposed boundaries, you address caricatures that only really make any sense to you, and you often seem offended at the prospect of needing to explain what they mean and how they are supposed to work.


    Here's an interesting example, from some months ago:

    If I take the moment to pick and parse and then resolve at, sure, twenty, at least in a quasi-biblical context inasmuch as twenty or seventeen, I still get what you mean, that's stills probably too much effort given to a distraction. To the other, it shouldn't be too hard to remember that the first fifteen years of those messages are already gone, but even that isn't the whole of the consideration, since the member had been around, at the time, for about eighteen months. The difference 'twixt twenty and seventeen years is a distraction compared to the difference 'twixt twenty years and eighteen months.

    Still, though, you and your memory.


    The longer versions with lots of links, we should remember, seem to offend you.

    And it's not that there's no need for more, especially given poor showing by others. If you have precisely one fact pertaining to a discursive subject, and must drag any and every discussion within that range back to your one fact, there will be a lot you're not discussing. Your argument seems to be not really about facts or outcomes, but personal satisfaction.

    There's a weird job security joke for such occasions that people would pretend opposition to something but conduct themselves in a manner that would entrench what one opposes, that there will always be someone to fight with, and therefore a need to fight. And, in truth, I wonder that such explanations might be needed; to the other, it really does look like neurotic behavior. Which, just to remind, is perfectly human.


    Your behavior is what it is, and whatever you might think you're accomplishing, it just doesn't help to say things like, "If you'd read enough of my posts on such matters, then you'd be aware that I'm a pretty evidence-focused person when it comes to accepting the reality of things", when you're already on the record to the other. And the contrast is something that actually bears shaping influnence at Sciforums.

    I will confess, "agnostic atheist" isn't the two-word punch line I would use, but it's also true you wouldn't understand the two-word joke describing your behavior in its post-Christian, agnostic-atheistic context; it involves remembering a few things at once.

    The upshot, James, is that what you do matters.


    ° We should also acknowledge that you mentioned Yazata's posts, and, again, your point about not linking to examples reminds, but toward that, we should remember that Yazata's↗ one post in the thread about what people know about what they pretend to discuss actually answers the topic. Clearly, we see why you wouldn't want to point to that example, but the contrast does stand out.

    °° Which says nothing of the political screed you managed in between.
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  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Wow. I'm not exactly sure what your post was all about, Tiassa, but I suppose it's good you got it off your chest.

    I don't see that there's anything there that's on topic or that I particularly need to address. It looks like an irrelevant personal attack, mostly.
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
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  22. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    Right, like most people.

    It sounds like you need to introduce a "something" before you're able to contextualise "nothing". Most people would say a "potential" is not "nothing", I think. But maybe I'm splitting hairs unnecessarily.

    I'm happy, for now, to follow your definition to see where it leads you. I'm guessing it might turn out to be problematic at some later stage in your argument, but I'll take that as it comes.

    To me, that just sounds like God is whatever you need it to be to suit whatever you're trying to argue at the time. It's just one more thing that makes the god unfalsifiable.

    Theism begets religion of one type or another. I think you'll have a hard time divorcing your theism from whatever other beliefs you have that follow from that theism; those would be your particular religion. But again, I don't think we need to quibble over these definitions too much. I agree with you that we don't need to discuss Christian apologetics here. You tell me you're not a Christian, so presumably they are irrelevant. That is, unless you share some of the religiously-inspired opinions of Christians for essentially the same reasons they give. I very much doubt that your own religious beliefs were formed in a vacuum.

    Can you please spell them out for me, to avoid us wasting time as the conversation progresses due to my misunderstanding? Thanks.

    I'm happy to follow you where you're leading, for the moment. Please continue.

    It looks like we agree on that.

    No, I don't think one is less of a problem than the other.

    Are you about to make some kind of Cosmological Argument for God here? If so, could we perhaps skip to the chase? You can tell me which version of that argument you approve of and we can continue the discussion from there.

    Have a I put an argument? I don't believe that I've made an argument that there is no God. All I have said is that you haven't yet persuaded me that there is one. You haven't persuaded me that an infinite regress is impossible or fallacious, either, but I don't think that's particularly important unless you need to rely on the fallacy of infinite regress as an essential pillar in developing your argument for God.

    Tell me why you think there was no choice. And what do you mean by "becoming"?
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2020
  23. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    There's another thing you have not yet established to my satisfaction. Can you perhaps give a few examples of specific things you believe are not reducible to the natural world? I assume by that you mean there are things that have no natural causes (?). Although, that seems inconsistent with things you've told me before.

    When it comes to those things, I don't need to be convinced of a God at the start. Why don't you just start by showing me that communications, plans and goals are not reducible to the natural world? Right now, I'm not even sure what you mean when you make such a claim. Can you give me some examples? I think that being shown that there are things that aren't reducible to the natural world might help me to make progress towards accepting the God hypothesis.

    You're using the term "null hypothesis" in a way that doesn't make much sense to me. The null hypothesis is usually that there is no significant effect or correlation, or something along those lines. The notion that Judeo-Christian values come from God is a positive hypothesis, not a null hypothesis. The null hypothesis there would be the opposite: that Judeo-Christian values have nothing to do with God.

    To be clear regarding that particular example, I think that Judeo-Christian people tend to refer to their God beliefs in order to justify their values. That doesn't necessarily mean that their God beliefs are true, in the sense of implying that a Judeo-Christian God actually exists.

    Yes, agreed.

    Okay. Again, I agree.

    Only if I believe it to be the truth.

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    I agree. I'm not arguing for infinite regress here. I'm sorry if somewhere along the line you decided that I was making such an argument. I thought that you were going to show me why God exists. It sounds like you expect me to prove the opposite to you. But you're the one making the positive claim, not me. I'm not telling you your God isn't real. I'm only saying that you haven't convinced me yet.

    Fine! I considered that part of the discussion to be an irrelevant distraction from the start. Let's move on.

    The alternative to God is no God, for whatever reason. I'm not trying to disprove your God here. I don't even have all the details about what it is yet.

  24. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member


    If existence is infinite, then there is no origin that requires an explanation. Granted, you can still ask the question "why is there something rather than nothing", but the question will no longer be tied to any particular notion of time.

    That sounds like a sort of long-winded way of saying that while a multiverse might account for our universe, that only bumps the problem back a step, so that we need to ask "what accounts for the multiverse?" I agree with that.

    I think that for the sake of avoiding unnecessary complication, maybe we should restrict our discussion to looking for an origin of our universe. Our universe is, after all, the only thing we actually have any observational evidence for. I think I said before, I'll be content if you can establish that your God made our universe. For now, I'm not worried about whether God made a multiverse.

    I'll concede your point, for now. Let's say that if your God (or the Christian God, if you prefer) can account for one universe then it can equally account for a multiverse that our universe might be embedded in.

    I'm not quite sure what you're looking for when you ask me for a "solid" argument for a multiverse making our universe. You're probably aware that scientific theories of multiverses and how they might create universes are in their infancy right now. Another way to say that is they are speculative. It follows that I have no proof - or even persuasive evidence - (a) that any multiverse exists, or (b) that our universe is part of one, or (c) that the multiverse was any sort of "cause" of the big bang that started our universe. I freely admit that. On the other hand, I am not aware of any proof or evidence or theoretical reason why a multiverse, if one exists, could not have been a reason for our universe. Are you?

    But your claim is that you know that your God is the reason for not only our universe but all of existence. It only remains for you to show me your proof, or at least make a persuasive argument to that effect. Something obviously convinced you of the truth of that proposition.

    Sorry? The idea that our subjective experience arises solely from our physical brains is not a genuine alternative to the idea that there is a God and we all have immortal souls, or whatever? Why not?

    What argument?

    As far as I can tell, you've made a negative argument that goes like this:

    The universe can't be an uncaused cause. [No reason given so far that would not also defeat God as the uncaused cause, as far as I can tell.]
    The multiverse can't explain why there is something rather than nothing because infinite regress. [I still don't understand why infinite regress is necessarily "fallacious" as you claim.]

    You have spent most of your time arguing that if I can't explain why there's something rather than nothing, then God. But you don't get your God by default. God isn't the null hypothesis.

    You started advancing your own argument, but so far you've only got as far as trying to define "nothing". Maybe you should give me the rest of your argument for God and we'll see how you go with that.

    Okay. Let's agree they've been debunked. I never relied on them in the first place; you introduced them into this conversation. What follows from their debunking?

    As I said before, I'm quite happy to have the discussion about souls and the like separately from the one where you prove God is real, if that makes it easier. I think it might save us both some time and effort if we agree to park that argument until later. I'm assuming the existence of souls won't be a central plank of your proof of God, here. Correct me if I'm mistaken.

    It looks to me that you've already agreed that we can have that discussion separately, so I don't need to ask again, I assume. I would appreciate a one-line answer to the question I've just asked you here, though, out of interest.

    God is bound by logic? That sort of thing? Okay, granted. That seems sensible. It would be hard for us to have any meaningful discussion about God if that were not true.

    Agreed. Or faith.
  25. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I refer the honourable gentleman to post #323 above. Note that I’m not sure that it is “necessarily” fallacious, only most of the time. And quite often it depends upon the nature of what is being regressed.
    In this case, regressing along the chain of cause and effect is fallacious in trying to further understanding of what any ultimate cause might be. For the reasons given. The only argument in this arena I can imagine being supported by an infinite regress would be the notion that there was thus no initial cause, precisely due to the infinite regress.
    But then if there was no initial cause, existence must be uncaused. I.e. the infinite regress supports the origin being uncaused. And this also means that it could have begun not infinitely far back in the chain but at any point in the chain, because an uncaused event breaks the infinite regress whether an infinitely long time ago or yesterday.
    Thus the infinite regress is objectionable because it no longer supports what it aims to support. It can no longer be used to question the existence of God on the grounds of “what caused God” but then allow existence itself to be uncaused due to the infinite regress. It is, therefore, a fallacious argument.

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