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Arguments for the existence of God

For topics that are more about faith, religion and religious organisations than anything else.
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mickeyd
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Arguments for the existence of God

#1 Postby mickeyd » September 6th, 2010, 6:49 pm

Dear fellow human beings,

Christianity cannot die because God lives, as the following proves:





RATIONAL PROOF OF GOD



Ontological Proof

Kant’s critique of this argument was effective because Anselm didn’t state it fully. It is true that Anselm only proved that the idea of a supreme being exists.

It is critical to note, in order to complete the proof, as Sproul et al point out, that once we conceive of a being that could not be more, that could not possess more being-ness, that exists infinitely and necessarily, we cannot then conceive of such a being not existing. This is the only being we cannot conceive of existing merely as an idea or by definition; if we do, we are not conceiving of a being whose being is infinite (unlimited in any and every respect).

The ultimate and most compelling proof of anything is that we cannot conceive of its non-existence. If the non-existence of something cannot be conceived, then it’s existence cannot be conceivably denied.

Suppose someone objects, “All of this is still just in your mind, it doesn’t prove at all that God actually exists.” The objection argues that the ontological proof is saying nothing more than this: “if something that exists necessarily exists, then it necessarily exists”, but it remains to be proven that something exists necessarily. However, as Sproul et al show, quoting Malcolm Diamond, in its clause “if something that exists necessarily exists” the objection is clearly self-contradictory and therefore self-refuting; if something exists necessarily then it cannot not exist and so the clause is nonsensical.

The ontological proof is a startling, vivid, somehow miraculous conception because it has come (and could only come) to our minds from the infinite being that it proves. The existence of the infinite is both the source and validation of the proof; it begins in God and ends in God (although self is the point of departure on the journey of the proof on the human side, because it is us who have to think it in order to be persuaded by it).

What if the concept of God is contradictory, as some maintain by asking questions of the type, “Could God create a rock too heavy for God to lift?” They then object that God is a nonsensical concept because if God could not create such a rock he could not be God (infinite), and if God could create such a rock he could not lift it and so could not be God in this case either. But it is the objection that is nonsensical rather than the concept of God. Any rock that God created would have a finite weight because being created it could by definition possess no infinite attributes. There is no such thing as an infinite created entity by the definition of the terms involved. So the objection is really asking, “can the infinite create the infinite?” which is a contradiction in terms and therefore nonsensical.




Cosmological Proof

Consider the universe or anything in it, a molecule for example. There are, say Sproul et al, four possibilities for the molecule:

1. It’s an illusion

2. It’s self-created

3. It’s self-existent

4. It’s ultimately created by something that is self-existent.


Discussion of Option 1

Doubt requires a doubter. So if the molecule is an illusion (Option 1), then is the illusioned-one an illusion, self-created, self-existent or ultimately created by something that is self-existent? If [the illusion of the illusioned-one] is an illusion, then is the illusion of [the illusion of the illusioned-one] an illusion, self-created, self-existent or ultimately created by something that is self-existent? And so on ad infinitum. So Option 1 is an intellectual dead end, it cannot progress beyond itself.


Discussion of Option 2

If the molecule created itself (Option 2), it would have to exist before it existed in order to effect creative power upon itself. This violates the law of non-contradiction, which says that A cannot be A and not-A at the same time and in the same sense. But is the law true? Everyone in fact believes that it is whatever they may say. All sane people stop at the road junction when they see a lorry coming because they do not believe there can be a lorry coming and not coming at the same time and in the same sense. Further, any denial of the law involves using it, because the denial can only be meaningful if the law cannot be true and untrue at the same time and in the same sense. To deny the law of non-contradiction is to affirm it. Indeed, any affirmation or denial can only be meaningful if the law is true, and so human life and knowledge is only possible if the law is true. Specifically, if reality was truly contradictory, then induction would be functionally impossible and deduction functionally useless. Induction requires individuation of phenomena, but if something and its contrary can both be affirmed then this would be impossible. Deduction would be useless because (a) no particulars can be inductively established from which to draw deductive inferences and (b) no such inferences could in any case be validly tested against a contradictory reality.

Could some, but not all, aspects of reality be contradictory? Could the law of non-contradiction only hold true partially? No, because all aspects of reality are ultimately connected, hence the well known observation that the flapping of butterfly wings in one location could potentially produce a storm in another location. If any single aspect of reality was contradictory (i.e. could be affirmed along with its contrary), then all of reality would be contradictory. For example, suppose the whole of reality is non-contradictory except this paper, which both exists and does not exist at the same time and in the same sense. But then you the reader of this paper would be reading it and not reading it at the same time and in the same sense.

What about scientific anomalies and indeterminacy? This is just a particularisation of the objection answered in the preceding paragraph. Indeterminacy is not non-determinacy. Indeterminacy is a way of saying that some aspect of reality is not fully understood, not that it is non-determinate, because if it was non-determinate it would be intrinsically non-understandable, and if that were true than all scientists would be redundant and looking for new jobs (see preceding paragraph). It cannot yet be determined how light can behave as both a wave and a particle, but if this question is intrinsically non-determinate then neither this aspect of reality nor the rest of connected reality is understandable, and so science is finished. The unpredictably that current theory in quantum mechanics maintains is not the same as causelessness. Saying that the appearance of a particle in a given volume of space in a given interval of time is not fully predictable, is not equivalent to saying that its appearance is causeless, because unpredictability and causelessness are not identical concepts.


Discussion of Option 3

If the molecule is self-existent (Option 3) then it is God, since, as Sproul et al observe, the transcendence of God is ontological rather than necessarily spatial or geographic. The distinction between the finite and infinite has to with contingency, the former contingent and the latter not. It is an ontic rather than linear distinction. Anyone who believes the molecule to be self-existent should properly bow down and worship it; or indeed the universe if that is self-existent (it would be time for the atheist to start hugging trees).


Discussion of Option 4

The existence of a self-existent (infinite) creator (Option 4) is not at all irrational, although it is necessarily incomprehensible by finite beings. It involves no dead end as in an illusionary reality, no contradiction as in a self-created reality, and requires no-one to ascribe deity to the material universe or anything in it.

But if God is uncaused then what caused God? Does the self-existence of God really escape contradiction? We say that it does escape contradiction but not incomprehensibility. Self-creation and self-existence are not equivalent concepts. Further, apart from a self-existent creative agency nothing could exist (see discussion below), and so no sceptics would exist to challenge the rationality of the concept of a self-existent agency. So their challenge disproves their challenge. Conan Doyle was right when Sherlock Holmes said “When you have eliminated the impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Well, almost right, in the context of the cosmological proof. We do not say, a priori, that the existence of a self-existent creative agency is either probable or improbable; this is a non-question from the human perspective since it relates to the probability or otherwise of the existence of a being on whose existence the existence of the questioner depends. There is no rational basis on which to even begin answering the question. We do reason, however, a posteriori, given the existence of contingent reality, that a self-existent creative agency most certainly exists because no other explanation of contingent reality is possible.

What about Bertrand Russell’s argument which says the universe is an infinite regress of finite causes and effects? As Russell remarked in his famous BBC debate with Father Copleston, “Every man who exists has a mother,… but obviously the human race hasn’t a mother”, seeking to demonstrate that if every event in the series has an explanation then no explanation for the series is required. But then we must ask, does the infinite series exist necessarily? Is it impossible for it not to exist? (Either it is impossible or possible, it cannot be both, since these are contraries). So, (a) if the answer is yes, and the series exists necessarily, then the series is God because self-existent (non-contingent); but Russell denies the existence of God and so his argument leads to a contradiction. To free himself from contradiction he must become a pantheist who worships the universe. (b) If the answer is no, then the infinite series is contingent, but contingent on what? Russell says the infinite series is self-explanatory (non-contingent) and all encompassing (so there’s nothing else for it to be contingent on), and so in this case his argument leads to a double contradiction. So whether the infinite series is necessary or contingent, either way Russell’s argument leads to contradiction. However, suppose Russell says that even though the infinite series does not exist necessarily, it could still exist non-contingently, causelessly, it “just is”. Then, it would be something from nothing, which would violate the law of non-contradiction, which cannot be denied without affirming it. Russell, in order to maintain his position, would be forced to deny the undeniable, which is clearly arbitrary and nonsensical. Let us elaborate on this conclusion. Russell, to be consistent with his own premises, is forced to argue that the infinite series is neither necessary nor contingent, because in the former case it would be God (which he denies) and in the latter case it would require explanation (which he denies). So he must argue, presumably, and somehow, that it is both necessary and contingent, which is impossible. So the argument is absurd.

We have said above that arguing for the causelessness of finite events is arguing for something from nothing and therefore breaks the law of non-contradiction. Specifically, it violates the law of causality which is an axiomatic corollary of the law of non-contradiction. Any denial of cause that has a cause demonstrates the law of cause. But what if the denial of cause is causeless? Then, as Sproul et al rightly observe, we must ask what causes satisfaction with the causeless denial of cause. If causelessness causes satisfaction with the causeless denial of cause, then even causelessness becomes employed to demonstrate the truth of the law of cause. Everyone believes in the law of causality whatever they may say. We pull up at the road junction before the lorry going past because we believe there to be a causal nexus by which our pulling out in front of a lorry that cannot stop before hitting us (cause), will involve some degree of injury to our car and perhaps ourselves (effect). All life and knowledge is dependent on the law of causality.

What if asking how existence came to exist is a non-question because the physical laws did not hold at the beginning of the universe? If this objection is saying that only reality that can be accounted for by physics can exist, then we must ask what accounts for physics? Can physics account for physics? If not, then physics cannot exist by the rationale of the objection. But this would mean that nothing exists, neither reality explainable by physics (because physics cannot exist) nor reality unexplainable by physics (the existence of which the objection disallows). So can physics account for physics? If it can then physics is God because it possesses sufficient ground of existence within itself; it is non-contingent (infinite). But since the objection denies the existence of God it cannot accept that physics is God, and so as shown above nothing exists, and so the objection reduces to absurdity because if nothing exists then neither does the objection. Therefore something not explainable by physics can exist and so at least to this extent asking how existence came to be is not a “non-question”. The cosmological proof stands. A variant of the objection might be that a reality not explainable by physics cannot be thought about, and so still the cosmological proof relies on asking a “non-question”. But if something not explainable by physics can exist (and we have shown above that it can) then it can be thought about. To conceive of the possible reality of something is to think about it; it is not inconceivable, and so again the cosmological proof does not rely on a “non-question”.






Teleological Proof

We note two facts:

1. The universe exhibits order: days, seasons, years etc. It is a cosmos (Greek word for order);

2. The organisms within the universe are fighters for ends, in particular survival and reproduction.

How do we account for these facts?

Could chance produce order? Suppose someone attempts to release a lock that opens with the 3 digit combination 123. Given enough attempts they’ll probably hit on 123, and the more attempts the higher the probability. But then the question goes back one stage further when we try to account for the existence of 123, or any other combination that represents order as oppose to disorder. If chance, given enough tries, can almost certainly make the potential of order become actual order, we still have to explain the existence of the potential (and, as the cosmological proof shows, the existence of chance itself – but we’ve already covered this proof above). Where does potential order come from? If order is not actual but nevertheless possible (i.e. potential), there must be some grounds for its possibility. Pure disorder can only remain disordered, because if disorder is total then order cannot exist even potentially. Total disorder contains nothing capable of being ordered, or it would not be total disorder; nor does it contain an ordered and therefore ordering-capable agency, not even to an infinitesimally small degree. So total disorder, for so long as it exists, must remain totally disordered. From this it follows that order can only come from order. But then where does order come from? If order can only come from order then it can only come from an ordered agency that possesses order of itself, an intrinsically ordered agency. That agency we call God. We have just proved the existence of God. We cannot understand how this God can exist necessarily or possess order intrinsically, but because we are not God we could hardly expect to.

What if some finite mechanism for producing order could be unequivocally demonstrated? This would only raise the question of what explains the finite mechanism, and then what explains the explanation of the finite mechanism, and so on ad infinitum. Any finite explanation itself requires explanation because being finite it is contingent. This is why we say that an intrinsically ordered agency must exist. The teleological proof proves the existence of an ordered, and therefore intelligent, and therefore personal, infinite being.

What about natural selection? In fact, natural selection is merely nature doing what nature does, hence the term natural selection. It is a false construct to argue that natural selection is more than nature. To account for natural selection we must account for a nature that is selective. Organisms are at the very least matter in organisation, and they seek to continue that organisation either in themselves and/or through progeny. Clearly this behaviour is structured, it exhibits pattern. (Indeed, it manifests itself so intensely sometimes that a person will voluntarily and spontaneously forfeit their own life in order to save not merely their progeny but the life of another whom they have never met, as we see in acts of altruistic self-sacrifice.) Hence the theologian RC Sproul, “Even the [atheistic] evolutionist … must assume some sort of design to explain his theory of evolution.” Reason to Believe, Zondervan 1982, p115




Personal addendum

I recently had a conversation with a friend who insisted that God cannot be proved by the use of rational laws (logic). We discussed the cosmological proof and whilst maintaining his insistence that God cannot be proved rationally, at the same time he admitted that the Big Bang must have come from something. As confirmation, I then asked him if he agreed that something cannot come from nothing. He insisted that he does not know, he has no answer to the question. When I asked him if he knows why he does not know he had no answer. So then I asked him how he knows he does not know, given that he will offer no reason why he does not know, and again he had no answer. Did we part company with him becoming a theist? No.

This shows, as all such conversations do, that the problem with accepting the theistic proofs is not, in the final analysis, an intellectual problem (my friend is highly rational in all other respects), but rather a motivational one. The problem is one of profoundly ingrained psychological prejudice. The Christian Gospel explains why this prejudice exists. Since the prejudice is against God, in people who are not otherwise given to prejudice, it must derive from the nature of our relationship with God. It is our relationship with God that is the focus of the Christian Gospel.

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Alan H
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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#2 Postby Alan H » September 6th, 2010, 7:00 pm

Sorry, Mickeyd.

None of that is proof. But rather than tackle it all at once, would you like to select out the one bit you find most convincing so we can discuss it?
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There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#3 Postby Dave B » September 6th, 2010, 7:03 pm

Is someone taking the mickey?
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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#4 Postby Alan C. » September 6th, 2010, 7:11 pm

:pointlaugh:

I must say it's a bit of a long rant for a first post, copy-pasted no doubt.
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Alan H
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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#5 Postby Alan H » September 6th, 2010, 7:26 pm

Alan C. wrote:I must say it's a bit of a long rant for a first post, copy-pasted no doubt.
I know it could look like that, but a quick search doesn't come up with anything.

Mickeyd: Can you tell us whether this is your own work?
Alan Henness

There are three fundamental questions for anyone advocating Brexit:

1. What, precisely, are the significant and tangible benefits of leaving the EU?
2. What damage to the UK and its citizens is an acceptable price to pay for those benefits?
3. Which ruling of the ECJ is most persuasive of the need to leave its jurisdiction?

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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#6 Postby Dave B » September 6th, 2010, 8:14 pm

Mickeyd: Can you tell us whether this is your own work?
Having passed on his gospel I wonder if he will deign to enter this den of sinners again to have his word challenged?
"Look forward; yesterday was a lesson, if you did not learn from it you wasted it."
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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#7 Postby Alan C. » September 6th, 2010, 10:24 pm

Looks like another drive by apologist who's scared to have his "beliefs" questioned.
Ah well, they come and they go but we soldier on. :)
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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#8 Postby Maria Mac » September 6th, 2010, 11:21 pm

Give him a chance, he only posted earlier this evening. If, in addition to the accusations of plagiarism, anyone would like to try addressing any of mickeyd arguments, don't hold back.

Personally, I skipped the first part because it looked boring. I tried to read the teleological argument but don't have a clue what mickeyd is trying to say. If there's an argument in there it isn't expressed in a way that is easy to understand. As it is, it doesn't sound like a proof that God exists.

Nor does the next bit:

What about natural selection? In fact, natural selection is merely nature doing what nature does, hence the term natural selection. It is a false construct to argue that natural selection is more than nature.

Nobody on this site would argue that 'natural selection is more than nature', surely?

To account for natural selection we must account for a nature that is selective.

The explanation is in the explanation.

Organisms are at the very least matter in organisation, and they seek to continue that organisation either in themselves and/or through progeny. Clearly this behaviour is structured, it exhibits pattern. (Indeed, it manifests itself so intensely sometimes that a person will voluntarily and spontaneously forfeit their own life in order to save not merely their progeny but the life of another whom they have never met, as we see in acts of altruistic self-sacrifice.) Hence the theologian RC Sproul, “Even the [atheistic] evolutionist … must assume some sort of design to explain his theory of evolution.” Reason to Believe, Zondervan 1982, p115

No, we don't need to "assume some sort of design" to explain evolution by natural selection. Have you read any serious books on evolution, mickeyd?

Personal addendum

I recently had a conversation with a friend who insisted that God cannot be proved by the use of rational laws (logic). We discussed the cosmological proof and whilst maintaining his insistence that God cannot be proved rationally, at the same time he admitted that the Big Bang must have come from something. As confirmation, I then asked him if he agreed that something cannot come from nothing. He insisted that he does not know, he has no answer to the question. When I asked him if he knows why he does not know he had no answer. So then I asked him how he knows he does not know, given that he will offer no reason why he does not know, and again he had no answer. Did we part company with him becoming a theist? No.

The Big Bang "must have come from something"? Why? If things must come from something, where did your God come from?

This shows, as all such conversations do, that the problem with accepting the theistic proofs is not, in the final analysis, an intellectual problem (my friend is highly rational in all other respects), but rather a motivational one.

Actually, your conversation with your friend doesn't show anything of a kind. What it shows is that there are some questions he doesn't know the answer to. Doesn't prove the existence of God either way.

The problem is one of profoundly ingrained psychological prejudice. The Christian Gospel explains why this prejudice exists.

Does it? I'd like to check that out. Chapter and verse, please?

Since the prejudice is against God, in people who are not otherwise given to prejudice, it must derive from the nature of our relationship with God. It is our relationship with God that is the focus of the Christian Gospel.

People who don't believe in God aren't prejudiced against God. We just don't believe in her and no quantity of obscurantist drivel posted on internet forums is going to change that.

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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#9 Postby mickeyd » September 7th, 2010, 1:10 am

Hi to everyone who's replied to my post.

No my post is not my own work in that the philosophy of theism has been around for as long as theism, associated with Aristotle, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Paly, Kant (in a limited way) and many others. You can Google any of the theistic proofs and find an abundance of material and historical references.

Classical Apologetics by Sproul, Gerstner and Lindsley is a well regarded modern statement of classical apologetics and some of the phraseology I take from their book (footnoted references in Microsoft Word didn't come out on this forum).

I think the comment that most caught my attention in the replies was from Maria who asked if you can't have something from nothing then how can God be explained?

If we can agree that by nothing we really mean nothing (no thing), and by something we really mean something (some thing), and also that some thing cannot come from no thing, but that some thing exists, then that some thing that exists must have come not from no thing, but from what? If someone objects "it (something) needs no explanation, it just is", I reply that they're not thinking deeply about that statement. How can something just be? How? Take a few moments to really consider this. To really conceive of such a notion is impossible, and with respect, I think anyone who says that they can and do is a fraud.

So, if something finds no explanation in nothing, but requires an explanation, there absolutely must be some agency that really exists but does not face this no-something-from-nothing limitation, for which we use the word infinite; that exists, somehow, outside of time and space, who is not an effect and therefore requires no cause, being eternally self-caused and able to exert a primary creative agency that breaks the impossibility (to us) of something coming from nothing.

The cosmological proof is is not, I repeat not, an explanation of God's existence, because no such explanation is possible by the nature of the case; but rather a reduction to absurdity of any rival conception. If every alternative to a proposition is shown to be nonsensical, inconceivable, then indirectly we arrive at what must be true.

Regards,

Mickeyd

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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#10 Postby Nick » September 7th, 2010, 9:54 am

First of all, welcome to the forum, Mickeyd :D

Thanks for your explanation about lack of footnotes. It did look a bit of a file-dump, which in not very conducive to discussions, so I'll take your discussions from your second post.

mickeyd wrote:I think the comment that most caught my attention in the replies was from Maria who asked if you can't have something from nothing then how can God be explained?

If we can agree that by nothing we really mean nothing (no thing), and by something we really mean something (some thing), and also that some thing cannot come from no thing, but that some thing exists, then that some thing that exists must have come not from no thing, but from what?
I'm afraid we can't agree on that, mickeyd.

For a start, I can't really get my head around there being a time when there was no time, somewhere where there was no space, that the universe has size but no edge and that time travels at different speeds. However, it seems that the greatest scientists believe this (or something like it :D ) to be true, so my, or your, personal incredulity does not get us very far.

It also appears that something can come from nothing. For an interesting view on this, just google "Laurence Krauss a universe from nothing" and watch the lecture. I can't justify the conclusions of course, but it gives an interesting perspective on 'nothing', so we can't even agree on nothing or (no thing). 'Something', therefore becomes problematical too.

If someone objects "it (something) needs no explanation, it just is", I reply that they're not thinking deeply about that statement. How can something just be? How? Take a few moments to really consider this. To really conceive of such a notion is impossible, and with respect, I think anyone who says that they can and do is a fraud.

But in your opinion, isn't the existence of God, something that just "is"? Doesn't that make you too "a fraud"?

So, if something finds no explanation in nothing, but requires an explanation, there absolutely must be some agency that really exists but does not face this no-something-from-nothing limitation, for which we use the word infinite; that exists, somehow, outside of time and space, who is not an effect and therefore requires no cause, being eternally self-caused and able to exert a primary creative agency that breaks the impossibility (to us) of something coming from nothing.
If your god can co-exist with our universe of time and space, doesn't that mean that time and space isn't everything? All it proves is that we don't understand. It doesn't prove, or even imply, a god.

The cosmological proof is is not, I repeat not, an explanation of God's existence, because no such explanation is possible by the nature of the case; but rather a reduction to absurdity of any rival conception. If every alternative to a proposition is shown to be nonsensical, inconceivable, then indirectly we arrive at what must be true.
Except that your solution is even more nonsensical and inconceivable!

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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#11 Postby philbo » September 7th, 2010, 1:39 pm

mickeyd wrote:The cosmological proof is is not, I repeat not, an explanation of God's existence, because no such explanation is possible by the nature of the case; but rather a reduction to absurdity of any rival conception. If every alternative to a proposition is shown to be nonsensical, inconceivable, then indirectly we arrive at what must be true.

Sorry, but that is simply the most magnificent bit of self-deception: "I don't believe anybody else's explanations, therefore mine is right"

Present me with a proposition of a creator deity who wants to be worshipped like he's some kind of spoilt child, who requires certain behaviour from his worshippers, yet can't be bothered to show up and give them an unambiguous definition of the behaviour that he thinks is required.. then try and make that proposition not nonsensical and truly inconceivable - because, let's face it, as propositions go it's got to be one of the stupidest ever invented. One of the real shames of history is that so many people have invested so much in this bullshit for so long.

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Re: The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity

#12 Postby Maria Mac » September 7th, 2010, 2:42 pm

Thanks for your response mickeyd
the comment that most caught my attention in the replies was from Maria who asked if you can't have something from nothing then how can God be explained?


I didn't ask that. I asked "If things must come from something, where did your God come from?"

Your response was a good illustration of how to avoid answering a simple question in 200 words. You could have said the same thing in about 30:

Everything that exists must have come from something that has existed.
Something must have existed first for everything else to exist.
The something that came first must have come from nothing.
The something that came first must be god.

Nick has very competently addressed the falsehood in the first statement from which all the other nonsense flows. I'm afraid this does not qualify as a "rational proof of god".

I had a read of the ontological case you present but didn't get very far. It would really help if you could dispense with the treacle and express your arguments concisely. In any event, the ontological proof argument is the worst of a bunch of bad arguments for the existence of gods.

The ultimate and most compelling proof of anything is that we cannot conceive of its non-existence. If the non-existence of something cannot be conceived, then it’s existence cannot be conceivably denied.


What constitutes proof is a highly subective matter and what's "ultimate and compelling" to one person may not be so persuasive to another. Personally, I don't consider 'being unable to conceive of something not existing' to be the ultimate and compelling proof because I don't believe the human imagination to be the measure of all things. What I consider to be compelling proof tends to be arrived at through the scientific method and not from the convoluted babblings of those who believe with their hearts and who are trying to find ways of persuading those who use their brains. This is the common weakness of all the classic arguments for the existence of God: they were devised by people who believed in the first place and serve only to confirm believers in their belief. They do not convince those of us who once believed but whose reasoning led us to abandon belief.

I am sure these arguments did not convince you to believe in God, so why don't you tell us what did?

By the way, Mickey, the title of this thread is "The Slow, Whining Death of British Christianity". Your posts have nothing to do with this topic so I will split off this diversion to make a new thread on arguments for the existence of God.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#13 Postby mickeyd » September 7th, 2010, 6:29 pm

Hi Maria,

“because I don't believe the human imagination to be the measure of all things”

The proof of anything takes place in the mind doesn’t it? Wherever else it also takes place it cannot involve less than the mind because the mind is the cognitive faculty.



“I am sure these arguments did not convince you to believe in God, so why don't you tell us what did”

On the contrary, anyone who experienced God must first know that God exists or they could not know that they were experiencing God. Awareness of God must be logically and temporally prior to experience of God. That does not mean that everyone who experiences God has studied the theistic proofs in detail; it does mean that experience of God presupposes cognitive awareness of God.



“It would really help if you could dispense with the treacle…”

One person’s treacle is another person’s bread!

Regards,

Mickey

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#14 Postby mickeyd » September 7th, 2010, 6:36 pm

(Sorry if I've already posted this - I thought I had but I can't find it anywhere, nor Nick's reply to which it responds)

Nick, thanks for your welcome and your considered reply.

“For a start, I can't really get my head around there being a time when there was no time, somewhere where there was no space”

Then we’ve established a point of common ground Nick, because neither can I (like anyone else) get my head round this, and that’s why I say the infinite aspects of God’s being are incomprehensible to finite beings. But incomprehensibility is by no means equivalent to non-existence.

Re Laurence Krauss, I have to lay my cards fully on the table. In terms of what cannot be true logic always beats cosmology (if they are in conflict). This is because we cannot think at all without using logic. If I say “that is a dog”, the statement has no meaning unless “dog” excludes its opposite, “not dog”. This has nothing to do with what a dog actually is, it’s about the form of arguments rather than their content. Logic is neutral referee therefore. If we would think and speak anything meaningful, we cannot but think logically, and this applies to the cosmologist as much as anyone else. Apart from logic no assertion or denial in cosmology can be meaningful.

I’ve never seen an intelligible proposition from a cosmologist as to how something could come from nothing. Paul Davies, in “God and the New Physics” (Penguin 1983) p.31, talks about the possibility of the universe arising from equally opposite quantities of positive and negative energy, that is zero energy, and seems to think that this refutes the cosmological proof. But his starting point is not zero, not nothing, but balanced positive and negative energy. This cannot be properly be called nothing, if nothing really means nothing at all.

It’s interesting that you can’t justify Krauss’s conclusions but apparently accept them. What is your criteria for knowledge that is authoritative?



“If your god can co-exist with our universe of time and space, doesn't that mean that time and space isn't everything?”

Yes it does, because God didn’t create the universe out of himself. That is pantheism, which says that which creates is also that which is created, which is self-contradictory nonsense.



“Except that your solution is even more nonsensical and inconceivable!”

This statement establishes something important. You think that a self-caused universe is nonsensical; you might think God is more nonsensical (although something being more nonsensical than something else I refute as illogical – nonsense is nonsense), but you do think non-contingent contingency is self-contradictory nonsense, and rightly so.

The problem you’ve got is that you’re left with nothing to believe at all, and no-one can believe nothing, rocks can do that but not rational entities like human beings. If a Creator and a self-caused universe are both absurd then what do you believe? There are no other possibilities, because either the universe is necessary or contingent, it can’t be both. If it’s contingent, but there’s no First Cause, then you agree that’s nonsense. But you say a First Cause is nonsense. So you must think the universe is necessary, but you’re not a pantheist. So however you look at it you’re in a bind.

The cosmological proof shows that there must be something, one unique exception, which is outside the constraint of the law of non-contradiction, not opposed to it but not bound by it, in the sense that God cannot be bound by his own attributes in the object-subject sense that we are used to, since they virtually or actually coincide with his being. God is both rational and the author of rationality so he cannot be irrational in any sense, but there must be some sense in which God is trans-rational else how could he be it’s author? These are deep things Nick, to me; in fact anything one might say would be an inescapable understatement by the nature of the case. You may think this is all nonsense, and I respect your right to your opinion, although I disagree with you.


Regards,

Mickeyd

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#15 Postby Maria Mac » September 7th, 2010, 9:01 pm

The proof of anything takes place in the mind doesn’t it? Wherever else it also takes place it cannot involve less than the mind because the mind is the cognitive faculty.

I have not suggested that it "involves less than the mind", I am saying that it involves more than the mind. The 'ontological proof' is proof only of what the mind can conjure up, it doesn't actually prove that what the human mind can conjure up exists. Evidence that something exists needs to be demonstrable, measurable and repeatable. Only then does it become compelling.

On the contrary, anyone who experienced God must first know that God exists or they could not know that they were experiencing God. Awareness of God must be logically and temporally prior to experience of God. That does not mean that everyone who experiences God has studied the theistic proofs in detail; it does mean that experience of God presupposes cognitive awareness of God.


In a nutshell, then, "to experience God you must already know God exists". Again, I have to wonder why you use so many words when so few would do. In any event, it's nonsense. The correct version is: "to experience God, you must first believe God exists, and to believe God exists, you must first have heard of the concept of God". IOW, the only necessary precondition of belief in God , is to have heard of God. You can then take what you've heard of God and selectively apply it so that it makes some kind of sense in your life and before you know it, you believe in God with all your head and all your heart. You want to believe it, you see some advantages in believing it, so you do believe it. But that doesn't make it true.

My question to you was what convinced you to believe in God? You have yet to answer that question.

Most people hear about God at the same time as they are told to believe in God and this usually happens at an age when they believe everything they are told. But sometimes people - once they're old enough to think for themselves - go from a position of consciously not believing in God to consciously believing in God because something convinces them God exists. (This happens to quite a lot of people in prison, so I'm told.) I would wager a goodly sum that most of these people are not convinced by the ontological argument but by something else - an emotional experience rather than an intellectual one.

Are you claiming you went from consciously not believing to consciously believing because of the ontological and teleological arguments? Or what?

One person’s treacle is another person’s bread!

My suggestion was intended to encourage you to think about the way you express your arguments. They are tiresome to read because they contain repetitions, anecdotes and much else that is superfluous. However, if your purpose is to write posts that few can be bothered to read and engage with, then continue as you are.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#16 Postby mickeyd » September 7th, 2010, 10:47 pm

Hi Maria,

“The 'ontological proof' is proof only of what the mind can conjure up”

You’re misunderstanding the proof because:

1. The proof asks us to conceive of a being that does not exist merely in the mind, i.e. an absolute being (in my dictionary it says “God”)

2. Everyone has a conception of God including atheists, otherwise they would be disbelieving in that which they’ve never even thought of (!)

3. Put steps 2 and 3 together: conceiving of a being that we can and do conceive of involves no contradiction.

4. Now can we conceive of an absolute being not being? No, we cannot.

5. Can we profess that which we cannot conceive? Only by a distorting act of psychological prejudice that exists in our fundamental motivations.



If you say, “this is merely in my mind therefore I don’t believe it” you’re actually saying this:

1. With my mind I believe that x exists

2. Because I believe merely with my mind that x exists, therefore with my mind I do not believe that x exists.

This is a hopeless contradiction, because the conclusion in step 2 destroys the premise in step 1.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#17 Postby Nick » September 7th, 2010, 11:01 pm

Thanks for the reply, Mickeyd. :D I've just broken my dongle, dammit, and I'm on an unfamiliar lap-top which keeps on jumping text out of vision. Grrrr! I will respond to your post when I can. Don't go away!

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Alan C.
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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#18 Postby Alan C. » September 7th, 2010, 11:12 pm

mickeyd
You’re misunderstanding the proof because:
Please point me to this "proof" of which you speak! And explain just how proof can be misunderstood.
Do you mean like how fundies misunderstand the proof of evolution? Or what?
Abstinence Makes the Church Grow Fondlers.

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#19 Postby Lord Muck oGentry » September 8th, 2010, 12:23 am

mickeyd wrote:What about Bertrand Russell’s argument which says the universe is an infinite regress of finite causes and effects? As Russell remarked in his famous BBC debate with Father Copleston, “Every man who exists has a mother,… but obviously the human race hasn’t a mother”, seeking to demonstrate that if every event in the series has an explanation then no explanation for the series is required.


There are many links to that debate. Here is one:
http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p20.htm

If it is a fair account, the relevant passage is this:
C: Well, why stop at one particular object? Why shouldn't one raise the question of the cause of the existence of all particular objects?

R: Because I see no reason to think there is any. The whole concept of cause is one we derive from our observation of particular things; I see no reason whatsoever to suppose that the total has any cause whatsoever.

[ C: Well, to say that there isn't any cause is not the same thing as saying that we shouldn't look for a cause. The statement that there isn't any cause should come, if it comes at all, at the end of the inquiry, not the beginning. In any case, if the total has no cause, then to my way of thinking it must be its own cause, which seems to me impossible. Moreover, the statement that the world is simply there if in answer to a question, presupposes that the question has meaning.

R: No, it doesn't need to be its own cause, what I'm saying is that the concept of cause is not applicable to the total.

C: Then you would agree with Sartre that the universe is what he calls "gratuitous"?

R: Well, the word "gratuitous" suggests that it might be something else; I should say that the universe is just there, and that's all.

A History of Philosophy: Modern Philosophy by Frederick Copleston, SJC: Well, I can't see how you can rule out the legitimacy of asking the question how the total, or anything at all comes to be there. Why something rather than nothing, that is the question? The fact that we gain our knowledge of causality empirically, from particular causes, does not rule out the possibility of asking what the cause of the series is. If the word "cause" were meaningless or if it could be shown that Kant's view of the matter were correct, the question would be illegitimate I agree; but you don't seem to hold that the word "cause" is meaningless, and I do not suppose you are a Kantian. ]

R: I can illustrate what seems to me your fallacy. Every man who exists has a mother, and it seems to me your argument is that therefore the human race must have a mother, but obviously the human race hasn't a mother -- that's a different logical sphere.

C: Well, I can't really see a parity. If I were saying "every object has a phenomenal cause, therefore, the whole series has a phenomenal cause," there would be a parity; but I'm not saying that; I'm saying, every object has a phenomenal cause if you insist on the infinity of the series -- but the series of phenomenal causes is an insufficient explanation of the series. Therefore, the series has not a phenomenal cause but a transcendent cause.


It is Copleston, not Russell, who brings up the question of the infinity of the series — and in a rather confusing fashion. Russell simply does not say that the universe is an infinite regress of causes and effects. Russell's point in this context is quite straightforward: what we can say truly of each member of a collection, we may be unable to say truly ( or indeed intelligibly) of the collection.

What Russell does is give an example illustrating the fallacy ( Fallacy of Composition or Quantifier-Shift Fallacy, as you wish).

As far as I can see, Copleston offers nothing like an adequate answer.
What we can't say, we can't say and we can't whistle it either. — Frank Ramsey

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Re: Arguments for the existence of God

#20 Postby Maria Mac » September 8th, 2010, 1:54 am

Alan C. wrote:Please point me to this "proof" of which you speak! And explain just how proof can be misunderstood.

Calm down, Alan. He's trying to point me to proof and I'm trying to explain to him why what he thinks is proof isn't proof.


mickeyd wrote:You’re misunderstanding the proof because:

1. The proof asks us to conceive of a being that does not exist merely in the mind, i.e. an absolute being (in my dictionary it says “God”).

IOW, conjure up an imaginary being and imagine it's real? Sorry, Mickey, this may not be what you mean but it is what you are saying.

2. Everyone has a conception of God including atheists, otherwise they would be disbelieving in that which they’ve never even thought of (!)

I agree. However, atheists' "conception" of God is merely their understanding of God-believers' conception of God. Furthermore, atheists recognise that believers have varying conceptions of God and we don't believe in any of them.

3. Put steps 2 and 3 together: conceiving of a being that we can and do conceive of involves no contradiction.

You have omitted to tell us what step 3 is but this is a typically superfluous sentence. Why would there be a contradiction in imagining something we imagine?

4. Now can we conceive of an absolute being not being? No, we cannot.

Speak for yourself. Because there is no demonstrable evidence of an "absolute being", some of us find it perfectly easy to conceive of one not being.

5. Can we profess that which we cannot conceive?

Nope. Another irrelevant question kicked to the kerb.

Only by a distorting act of psychological prejudice that exists in our fundamental motivations.

I'm afraid nothing you have said supports this conclusion. Try again.


If you say, “this is merely in my mind therefore I don’t believe it” you’re actually saying this:

1. With my mind I believe that x exists

2. Because I believe merely with my mind that x exists, therefore with my mind I do not believe that x exists.

This is a hopeless contradiction, because the conclusion in step 2 destroys the premise in step 1.

Hmm..let's just see how that works:

With my mind I believe leprechauns exist but because I believe they exist merely with my mind, I therefore do not believe with my mind that they exist.

You're right, it's a hopeless contradiction. I guess that leprechauns must exist then.

Actually, as nobody is saying “this is merely in my mind therefore I don’t believe it”, we don't need to concern ourselves with your hopeless contradiction. What we are saying is, "I can imagine something like what you are describing but I see no reason to believe it actually exists. I don't believe it because there is no evidence for it."

Simple as that.


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