Tuesday, January 29, 2013

God and man at HuffPo


Over at The Huffington Post, Rabbi Adam Jacobs defends the cosmological argument for the existence of God, kindly citing yours truly and The Last Superstition.  Give it a read, then sit back and watch as the tsunami of clueless objections rolls into the combox.

58 comments:

Brian said...

Is it really in the best interests of theists to argue their case with those who are not interested in rational and serious dialogue? I am inclined to think that such fruitless efforts only serve to prolong their skeptical attitude. Why not ignore such people until they grow up? In the mean time, we can work to marginalize them by reaching out to those who are interested in serious consideration of each other's views.

Anonymous said...

Is it really in the best interests of theists to argue their case with those who are not interested in rational and serious dialogue? I am inclined to think that such fruitless efforts only serve to prolong their skeptical attitude. Why not ignore such people until they grow up?

What is your criticism of? Putting such a defense on HuffPo, or just the comments section?

rank sophist said...

I enjoyed his bear/mirror example. Pretty solid article, particularly for the Huffington Post.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is there a steadily increasing number of Gnu Atheist types claiming that "science and philosophy are incompatible," in addition to their tired old "science and God are incompatible" shtick? Ever since philosophy was shown to be a hospitable environment for God, this seems to be their new move, since, to them, the idea that God is cannot be allowed to have a shred of credibility.

masterjedi747 said...

Only problem I can see (but which I cannot count as a great fault, all things considered!) is the author's concession that "even if there were an infinite series of contingent causes such as these, we would still need a final, un-caused cause to get the ball rolling."

...which is absolutely unnecessary, and makes no sense in the final analysis. Indeed, the whole point of this argument (or so I thought) was to deny the possibility of an infinite regress of (simultaneous) causes, and thereby demonstrate the need of a first mover in the series.

Starting from the motion of the ball and tracing it's chain of causes "backwards", that chain of (simultaneous) movers MUST be finite. An infinite series of "middle" causes is unintelligible, and an infinite series of "prior" causes would never be able to get off the ground (as the author himself correctly points out). To grant an infinite series of causes and STILL insist upon a first mover is just silly... you can't have it both ways.

TheOFloinn said...

A first actualizer is not first in sequence, but first in logical priority. That is why even if a series ordered per accidens is infinitely long, there must be a principle in virtue of which it exists. For example, one may imagine that an email may be forwarded infinitely, and has been forwarded since forever; but the act of forwarding, however extended, cannot account for the existence of the email. It had to get written.

Brian said...

Yup, Anon.

Papalinton, link in the OP should get you started. You have no idea what you are talking about.

Eduardo said...

Paps never does know wht he is talking about he doesn't care people.

Glenn said...

"...theists have noted that the model known as the Big Bang has a certain consistency with the Judeo-Christian notion of creation ex nihilo, a consistency not seen in other cosmologies that postulated an eternally existent universe. (In fact, when the astronomer-priest Georges LemaƮtre first postulated the theory, he was met with such skepticism by proponents of an eternal universe that the name 'Big Bang' was coined by his opponents--as a term of ridicule.)" -- The Folly of Scientism

Anonymous said...

"Is it just me, or is there a steadily increasing number of Gnu Atheist types claiming that "science and philosophy are incompatible,""

Well since the addition to the atheist bible of 'The Book of Krauss' and ' The book of hawking' where the authors stupidly argue against philosophy and then make bad philosophy of their own... I suppose gnu atheists are just parroting the positions of their more famous 'prophets'.

Ismael said...

Is it really in the best interests of theists to argue their case with those who are not interested in rational and serious dialogue? I am inclined to think that such fruitless efforts only serve to prolong their skeptical attitude. Why not ignore such people until they grow up? In the mean time, we can work to marginalize them by reaching out to those who are interested in serious consideration of each other's views.

Unlike Dawkins and co. the aim of theist thinkers is not to aggravate atheists but to explain to the world what are the reasons of their beliefs.

Unless you are a ‘fideist’, i.e. that faith is far above reason and is all that matters, it is only reasonable to explain your point of views.
“preaching to the choir” is hardly an intellectual endeavor worth doing, on the other hand. Debating something with someone who agrees with you is pointless.

Ismael said...

@ Papalinton

Dear sir, I see that the stupidity of Krauss’ work has carried well over... not surprisingly.

Let’s esamine some points.

I really do like his caveat, "for those who are willing to properly understand it" [A euphemism for excluding New Atheists, methodological naturalists, secularists etc etc.

All of the various interpretations of the Cosmological Argument [CA], be it Kalam, WLC's three models of the CA , or Aquinas's first three of his Five Ways, have been around the traps for centuries. They remain singularly uncompelling and unconvincing [unless one has an a priori disposition to it]. Why? Because the argument has largely failed to account sufficiently enough or expeditiously with any differing and diametric alternatives, in any substantial way. That is why the CA is redolent of what goes around comes around, pretty much as the pop music analogy infers.


This really begs the question. Such reasoning is flawed.

1- criticizing an argument based of those who misunderstood it and attacked a straw man instead is no real critique of such argument.
You do not criticize that evolution is wrong because some people who fail to understand it properly (like young earth creationists for example) say it is wrong.
If you criticize evolution you ought to do so after understanding it properly and, if indeed there are flaws in such theory, expose them. ((I am not saying evolution is wrong, I am just pointing out an example, lest you accuse me of denying evolution, which I do not))

2- Your argument is easily reversed. The fact that some find the C.A. not compelling and misunderstand it so easily is BECAUSE they are strongly biased against it.
They are no better, really, that young earth creationists who criticize a mock version of the theory of evolution, failing to understand it (or even seeking to understand it properly) because they are biased by their fideism.

3- Let’s look at the FACTS. Most of those who criticized the C.A. criticized a straw man. Going back to point 1, this does not reflect poorly on the C.A. but rather on those who criticized it.

On the other hand SEVERAL people who understood the C.A. properly did come to accept theism.

Also even if an argument is solid and compelling it does not mean people will accept it or change their mind.
Scientists think the theory of evolution is solid and compelling, yet many refute it. Does this say that the theory of evolution is really not that convicing? I think not.
The same goes for the C.A.

===================================

(CONT)

Ismael said...

But I am somewhat reminded of Mary Jean Irion, American theologist, poet and University of Connecticut professor:

"Christianity ... has been over for a hundred years, now ... When something ever so small as a lightbulb goes out, the eyes for a moment still see it; and a sound after it is made will have, in the right places, an echo. So it is not at all strange that when something so huge as a world religion goes out, there remains for a century or more in certain places some notion that it is still there." "Indeed, it may flare up brightly just before the end."

While I certainly don't fully subscribe to her position, societal trends in the West generally indicate this an inference that seems to be supported by the evidence over the longer term.


You know, atheists have been saying that religion is dead for centuries.
In the 60’s many atheist sociologists claimed that religion would have disappeared by the dawn of the XXI century.

The FACTS are smacking them in the face, however. Christianity is far from dead and even less religion, for that matter.

Sure organized religions are somewhat diminishing and have their crisis, but as a FACT religion in itself is thriving strongly.

In reality atheism is the ‘faith’ that is weakest and most troubled: most atheists (almost half) tend to leave their atheism for a different ‘creed’ that involves some sort of deity (not necessarily theism or Christianity itself).

Atheism is just very vocal, hooting about at the four winds and having ‘evangelists’ who are aggravating dicks, making a lot of noise with really little intellectual content (like Krauss or Dawkins).

===============

I think you're right, in the sense that many are not interested in arguing the toss over the existence of an immaterial entity with a propensity for divine hiddenness. It really is not a subject that lends itself to a rational and serious dialogue.

If I can add a little light-hearted persiflage into the discussion, I do very much agree with theists that their god is truly immaterial; that is, irrelevant,, inconsequential, incorporeal, disembodied, insubstantial


You PROVE MY POINT.

Here you are attacking straw men that exist in your mind.

First you just claim something is not worth it because you are to lazy or scared to understand it.

Second you shift the meaning of immaterial. Theists are not saying what you are saying, you are just agreeing with yourself in a form of sterile mental masturbation, really.

So your claims, ultimately are your own god: irrelevant and inconsequential, without any body of reason in them.

(CONT)

Maolsheachlann said...

As a religious believer, I wince a little at the mileage religious believers get out of that Thomas Nagel quotation, regarding his fear of theism and his desire to live in an atheist universe, as quoted in Rabbi Jacobs's post. It seems dishonourable to take such advantage out of such a gracious admission. It was one quotation by one atheist. As a matter of fact I do believe that it reflects the mentality of many atheists, but that's not the point.

Ismael said...

Laurence Krauss, in his book, "The Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing", notes with some judiciousness and a sense of caution:

""These issues [God, creation of the universe, the first humans, etc etc] have been debated and discussed for millennia, by brilliant and not-so-brilliant minds, many of the latter making their current living by debating them. We can return to these issues now because we are simply better informed by our knowledge of the nature of physical reality. Neither Aristotle nor Aquinas knew about the existence of our galaxy, much less the Big Bang or quantum physics. Hence the issues they and later medieval philosophers grappled with must be interpreted and understood in the light of new knowledge."


I would say rather that Krauss proves his ignorance and apparently is able to fool the feeble-minded.

His argument is flawed.

1- Aquinas and many others did not care to explain how exactly the universe formed but ‘WHY’. So the questions they asked is quite different.

2- I agree that science should be taken in account. The point is that science does not invalidate at all the C.A.. Actually some philosophers who do study science, are indeed coming back to the C.A. and essentialism BECAUSE of what science says.
Perhaps atheism is caused by ignorance of science and philosophy…?

3- Krauss is basically a liar in his book (either that or is so full of himself that he says moronic things). First he claims that he is going to explain why and how the universe came from “nothing” and the he
a- Claims there is no why at all (debatable and gives no proofs)
b- he does not really answer the question scientifically.

Regarding point ‘b’, Krauss claims that the universe came from a ‘vacuum state’ … which is not nothing and is not even empty. It has a defined energy which is non-zero. That is hardly nothing. It only shifts the question one notch without answering it.
In reality Krauss does not really answer ANYTHING. His own theory is debatable.

Krauss often criticizes String Theory (which also provides several theories for the origin of the universe!) but what makes his own, UNPROVEN, theory better? He does not really give any real compelling arguments, scientific or otherwise, WHY his ideas should be accepted.

So Krauss is swindling people: he claims to have an answer, but any serious and honest physicist will admit that we ‘still do not know’. We can guess, as Krauss does, albeit educated guesses, but nothing more for now.

Krauss just gave his idea of the origin of the universe claiming it surpasses philosophy, but ultimately it collapses under its own hubris.

Moreover Krauss really fails to deal with “the issues they and later medieval philosophers grappled”… maybe he does not even know what they are… maybe he cannot even understand them… or maybe he’s so busy grinding the axe and petting his own ego that he just mentions them to show that he’s ‘cooler and smarter’.


WHAT IS WORTHY NOTICING is how atheist eat Krauss’ bull up without critical thinking.
They criticize young earth creationists but they act in the very same way. They trust BLINDLY some “authority” just because it agrees with them and it claims he’s doing ‘science’ (which is also debatable) without even understanding the issues scientific or otherwise.

In the end, this form of atheism is just a form of fideism.

Ismael said...

It is unfortunate that many theological scholars and philosophers seem quite reluctant to embrace the widely and exponentially expanding scientific understanding and knowledge base per se into their day-to-day musings and deliberations, or only to the extent that they can be resized to fit the mould of Thomist scholasticism.

I think many theologians and philosophers are much more informed that you think.

Perhaps it’s the scientists like Krauss who ought to educate themselves a bit better

Increasingly, physics and cosmology are demonstrating, counterintuitively, that the universe can plausibly come from nothing, because the net energy of the universe is zero.


Ehm… This is NONSENSE.
1- It has not been even remotely been proven, it’s a hypothesis with no real substantial evidence to it. They are not even provING it… Krauss and some colleague theorized it, but most physicists would disagree.
2 – The REALITY that even in the ‘zero energy universe’ model, the absolute energy is not zero. Only by using a “ Landau–Lifshitz combined matter+gravitational stress–energy–momentum pseudotensor” than the relative energy is zero… but in total it is NOT ZERO.
Like in classical physics, even if the Lagrangian (L=T-V, T=kinetic energy, V= potential energy) is ZERO, the Hamiltonian (H= T+V) is NOT zero.
For example a particle who has a velocity equal to the escape velocity of a gravitational field has ‘net energy’ (the Lagrangian) equal to zero, but the absolute total energy (the Hamiltonian) is NOT zero.

Hence here as well: gravitational energy is often ‘set as negative’, but this has to do with the conservation of total momentum of the system, it does NOT, however, imply the system has absolute zero energy.

BTW the idea that the universe was formed by a quantum fluctuation was first proposed in 1969 in Dennis Sciama and later Edward Tryon… and often it was though as ridiculous by many scientists. Still is, actually.
Also it assumes that the cosmological constant is equal to 1… i.e. that space is FLAT… which is most probably NOT so.

Ismael said...

Just stop at the Big Bang. We know that occurred. We don't know how or why it occurred but we all know that occurred. Scientists, atheists and naturalists stop there. To go any further is superfluous, unwarranted and unneeded.


Riiight… so ‘just stop thinking’, turn your brain off when the question is too hard or when your principles of atheism and naturalism crumble down.

And I thought believers were the ‘unreasonable ones’.

PS: to be kind to Krauss, in all his flaws at least he is trying, I give him that.

We can give him a poodle prize.

JD said...

Quite a few comments about the Big Bang here, and how this scientific theory may or may not suggest a 'beginning' to the universe. But, unless I am mistaken (and I am not an expert in Philosophy of Religion) the Big Bang is all rather irrelevant to the cosmological argument. Having said that William Lane Craig also bangs on about the Big Bang, I think somewhat unhelpfully. The argument as proposed by Aquinas (so I understand it) is not to do with temporal priority, but ontological priority. The argument is not about what caused the Big Bang, but what causes all things to be in existence at any given time. Hence Aquinas did not give two hoots if the universe was eternal.

Blas said...

"Hence Aquinas did not give two hoots if the universe was eternal."

That is true, and I see many catholics give the big bang for granted, because is creation friendly, and I do not bet that big bang will still be the favourite scientific cosmogony for the end of this century.

Ismael said...

seems not to be even a view Pope Benedict would acknowledge. Indeed he saw the contrary quite some time ago. He is a very smart man albeit a misguided one. In part he notes:

"The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning….ETC”


What Pope Benedict says is not at all in conflict to what I said.

1- You are confusing ‘The Catholic Church’ with ‘Religion’ or even ‘Christianity’. They are not the same. Also ‘becoming small to start anew and thrive again’ is different than ‘disappearing into oblivion’.

I said, indeed, that many organized religions are diminishing or facing a crisis (this does not mean they are disappearing either).

2- You quote something Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 1969 and published in 1970 as a book. That’s over 40 years ago.
In those times some atheist sociologists were also making the claims that religion would be dead in a generation. They fell flat on their face.

Perhaps rather than religion, atheist myths have been often debunked in the last century, although some persist. (As… The Last Superstition? Ba-dum Tish!)

Atheism, or at least some forms of it (like New Atheism), are the godless counterpart of ‘young earth creationism’. (I do recognize that there are intelligent forms of atheism, of course)


But if religion does survive this century I think it is a reasonable bet, on the balance of probability, that it will be but a shadow of its former self in its halcyon days.

I think that’s fanciful wishful thinking on your part. Sentences like yours have been uttered by centuries… like ‘end of the world in X years prophets’ atheists have ‘end of religion in X years prophets’… and similarly they are always wrong.

Perhaps confiding that religion will end soon, and a naked Dawkins on a silvery chariot will usher you into the gates of golden godlessness keeps new atheists warm and secure at night. So much for being paragons of skepticism and rationality.

=======================

It really isn't a case of whether the CA is philosophically sagacious and linguistically defensible [in either form. meaning or context], it will live on or fade away fully contingent on the outcomes of continuing research and investigation in the various fields of sciences [physics, cosmology, astronomy etc etc]

This type of reasoning assumes empiricism and scientism, meaning that all questions can be answered by scientific research. Now both ideas are flatly wrong.

The very existence of mathematics puts naturalism itself in a crisis (see “Naturalism reconsidered” by S. Shapiro in “The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic”, or even a few papers by Nagel on naturalism, they are atheists, Nagel is at least, but they are, smart and honest enough to recognize the flaws in such philosophies that new atheists take as a dogmatic foundation).

Scientism and empiricism are even less defensible than naturalism, because they are self-refuting, since their basis and foundations are non-scientific and non-empirical.
They are only a spin-off of logical positivism… and the first proponents of logical positivism themselves recognized it was self-refuting (hence false).

In the end assuming that science CAN address and answer all questions even in theory (let alone in practice!) is a mere assumption… and not even an assumption made on scientific grounds… Hence the question “can science answer every question” cannot even be answered scientifically… so the answer is ‘NO’.


EXTRA CREDIT: can we safely say that science really describes the material world (not even talking about non-material things here) completely and correctly? Or is physics just a simplified mathematical model of reality, neglecting some issues that cannot, perhaps, be put in mathematical form? (I do not say the answer is yes or no, to these questions, but it is an important one and, as you can see, it cannot be answered by science itself)

Ismael said...

CONT:
To date, while there is some small resurgence in interest in the CA, as I noted earlier, there is no broad-based or wider general trend that would suggest a return of it to front and centre of either philosophy or science.

That’s irrelevant. A minority view is not necessarily false by default. Also the resurgence is obviously small: we live in an dogmatic academia (and the story of Nobel prize winner Dan Shechtman is a proof to that… and he only dared go against the dogmatism of crystallography!!), where naturalism and positivism (even if flawed) are seen as the standard where few dare to deviate from (lest be attacked by colleagues)… and where outrageous or even silly theories are accepted as long as they support naturalism and positivism.

The fact that there IS a resurgence, however, it means that essentialism and the CA are not as outdated or stupid as people like you think, but that, apparently it has something interesting to say.

This does not mean by itself that CA or essentialism is true or false… to determine that one must study it fairly, not dismiss it before hand.

======================
=======================

On a different note:

Although I attacked Kraus ‘Zero-Energy Universe’ theory I do not want to say it is necessarily wrong. Many scientists do not agree with it, but that does not mean it’s wrong, of course.
He can fight it out with Susskind (who also kicked Hawking’s ass in some scientific debates) and others whether the answer is what Krauss proposes or it lies in String Theory or even in a new theory still to be conceived.


Krauss theory could be true and I would have no problem with that. It would not really make any difference to Aquinas’ C.A. either and, more importantly, it fails to answer the questions that the C.A. addresses in the first place, which is not ‘how the universe was formed’ or even ‘how did the universe start’.


MOREOVER:
There are C.A.s that assume the universe has no beginning or that do not need the universe to have a beginning (Aquinas’ arguments work even in an infinite universe with no beginning or end… his argument is from causation per se, not accidental-temporal causation. As a matter of fact Aquinas did not believe he could prove the universe had a beginning (he did believe so by faith alone)… and indeed he did not try to prove from reason alone that the universe had a beginning. So his CA does NOT rest on that assumption.. For more info read Feser’s posts or books on the subject).

So I would see no problem with Hawking’s idea of ‘circular’ spacetime (i.e. with no real beginning) either. Such are details that are very important asking how exactly the universe started (if it did) but does not come into play into more fundamental questions, except in minor details.


Only SOME C.A., like the Kalaam CA used by Craig rests on a temporal beginning of the universe. Whether the Kalaam argument is still valid or not I do not know (not too familiar with it), but I would not be surprised if Krauss theory would not affect it either (but ask W.L. Craig about it if you are curious).

Ismael said...

Blas said...
"Hence Aquinas did not give two hoots if the universe was eternal."

That is true, and I see many catholics give the big bang for granted, because is creation friendly, and I do not bet that big bang will still be the favourite scientific cosmogony for the end of this century.



Well, the Big Bang is being for years now being proposed as a 'fact' and NOT by religious authorities, but by scientists themselves.

Also, there is a strong empirical and scientific basis for it (expansion of the universe, background radiation, data from supernovae, etc)

So I think this jab is really uncalled for.

I think most atheists take the Big Bang for granted as well because they saw it on the Discovery Channel... so what?



Of course the big bang itself does not imply a beginning in time... the universe might have been a bouncing universe (big bang, expanding, contracting, big bang again, etc...) although now we are almost sure that the universe will NOT contract again, but will keep expanding forever.

I do not bet that big bang will still be the favourite scientific cosmogony for the end of this century

Ehm… I think there is almost no question whether the Big bang occurred or not. I think there is sufficient empirical data that proves that it occurred.

The HOT TOPICs in cosmology are “what lead to the big bang in the first place” and “what will happen in the future to the universe”.

If the Big Bang theory is wrong (and there is no scientific basis to think it is) then new data might reveal it, but I doubt it.

see many catholics give the big bang for granted

Well, most scientists as well. Most scientists take general relativity and black holes from granted as well, although there ARE alternative theories that also fits the data (like "MoND-theory").

I think we can safely say, within reason, that the Big Bang occurred.

=========


BTW

Although the person who first proposed the Big Bang was a Catholic priest (George Lemaitre), he did not propose it because 'Genesis says so'.

Lemaitre was the one who first proposed the expansionary model of the universe, the first to propose Hubble's Law (2 years before Hubble) and made the first calculations on the Hubble Constant.

He did this based on EMPIRICAL DATA, not fantasies or blind faith.

LemaĆ®tre's theory changed the course of cosmology and found several important solutions to Einstein General Relativity equations… he had a HUGE impact on modern cosmology and physics. Hubble was given all the credit by the media and the colleagues, of course.

JD said...

With all due respect, Ismael, I think you have misunderstood. I am perfectly happy to concede that the Big Bang theory is the best theory we possess at present for how this universe began. Indeed Aquinas believed that the universe had a temporal beginning too (and thus he did not believe the universe was eternal. But even if he did it would not have altered his cosmological argument). The point, so I understand it, is that the Big Bang theory is irrelevant to the cosmological argument as Aquinas proposed it, because God has ONTOLOGICAL priority, not temporal priority over all things. He is the reason anything exists at all. To say God is the 'first cause' is really to say that He is the ultimate cause (of being itself), not literally the first one to start off a temporal chain of events. Hence Dawkins, when he insists that it is all rather silly to think of God as 'pushing the first domino', is absolutely right. It is rather silly. But it is not what Aquinas thought. Unfortunately Dawkins never grasps this.

dover_beach said...

It is amazing how easily detractors of CA fail to realize it is simply an argument which posits a necessary cause given our knowledge of the nature of contingent causes. This failure leads to all manner of oft-repeated misunderstandings like, but what created God? or, science will soon provide a further, or fundamental (?!), contingent cause, and so on. And these detractors fancy themselves as 'brights'.

DNW said...

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or is there a steadily increasing number of Gnu Atheist types claiming that "science and philosophy are incompatible," in addition to their tired old "science and God are incompatible" shtick? Ever since philosophy was shown to be a hospitable environment for God, this seems to be their new move, since, to them, the idea that God is cannot be allowed to have a shred of credibility.
January 29, 2013 at 7:12 PM "


It's not just you.

The history of these disputes show that the idea on the part of the doctrinaire materialist is to strike at what they conceive of as both root and branch.

The targets (tweak to suit) can thus be conceived of existing in the following and familiar hierarchy:

God; the validity of the concept of a natural order of ordinateness or fittingness; metaphysics, characterized as attenuated or disguised religion; metaphysics, characterized as socially wasteful or unproductive speculation as to unresolvable ultimate questions; philosophy, as impediment to the reign of directed collective consensus; reason, as arbiter of value questions; reason as anything more than an instrumental faculty to advance appetite; the apparatus of logic; the law of non-contradiction; being.


The motto of the modernist? To quote or paraphrase Vincent B. Leitch on the post modernist project, "It's better to huckster than to pester"

Blas said...

Ismael your faith in science is remarkable.

George R. said...

Ismael the physicist:
I think we can safely say, within reason, that the Big Bang occurred.

Yes, of course. . . except for the small fact that the thesis that the entire universe was once the diameter of a proton is completely and utterly ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

As a Jew, I'm unimpressed by this Rabbi's embrace of the weak sauce of philosophy.

"There are no proofs for the existence of the God of Abraham. There are only witnesses." -- Abraham J. Heschel

Tim said...

Anonymous said,

"as a Jew"....


Looks like we've got ourselves a legit source who speaks the truth.

BenYachov said...

>As a Jew, I'm unimpressed by this Rabbi's embrace of the weak sauce of philosophy.

>"There are no proofs for the existence of the God of Abraham. There are only witnesses." -- Abraham J. Heschel

So what was Maimonides then chop liver?

see here.
God Exists, I'll Prove It To You
Like many medieval Jewish thinkers, Maimonides formulated his own proofs for the existence of God.


http://www.myjewishlearning.com/beliefs/Theology/God/The_Middle_Ages/Maimonides_on_God/Proving_Gods_Existence.shtml

E.H. Munro said...

Ehm… I think there is almost no question whether the Big bang occurred or not.

Hey, hey, hey, don't be bringing me into this debate.

On an unrelated note, did anyone else read the hilarity that was the comments section there? Old fiend...errr...friend, Don Jindra was front and center to attack the mirror example.

John said...

I wish he had gone more into why it makes sense that God can be the Prime Mover but the universe can't. I foresee a lot of "Why does the universe have to be contingent? Why can't it exist necessarily?" or "Why can God be uncaused but the universe can't be? If anything can be without a cause, then why not use Occam's Razor and just make it the universe?" or "Why can't the universe have existed forever?" etc.

You go into the whole "pure actuality" "simple vs. composite" thing in your article that he linked to, but he didn't actually address it in his.

Still, all things considered, a pretty good article. Especially considering that it's on The Huffington Post.

TheOFloinn said...

Not one of us disagrees that the Big Bang occurred. However the Big Bang seems to have been able to materialize or come about of its own accord, without the need of 'a first actualizer', at least n the traditional or conventional goddy sense. Where it gets messy is when theists want to go just one step further [one that is both unwarranted and unnecessary], and posit that something outside of space and time must have started the universe.

See? There's that "first=first-in-time" thinking again, rather than first-in-logical-priority. Without a primary actualizer, none of the instrumental terms in a sequence have any power to actualize a thing, for the excellent reason that they themselves are at that point not yet actual. The Big Bang could not have come about "of its own accord" because, prior to the event the Big Bang did not actually exist; and something that does not [yet] actually exist has no power to do diddly-squat.

[In fact, the Big Bang was an event, not a thing, and so is a bit off the point anyway.]

That is why Aquinas et al. did not "posit" a God as having "started all this." Rather, they concluded from reason that a primary actualizer must exist as a matter of logic; and proceeding deductively from there concluded that it possessed the various divine attributes necessary to refer to it as "God." (Hence, Aquinas' phrase "hoc omnes intelligunt Deum.") This principle exists at all times, not just in the remote past, although people still stuck in a Newtonian world-view have a tough time with that.

TheOFloinn said...

Just stop at the Big Bang. We know that occurred. We don't know how or why it occurred but we all know that occurred. Scientists, atheists and naturalists stop there. To go any further is superfluous, unwarranted and unneeded.

This is simply an effort to discover just one more thing in the world "before" the Big Bang, and has nothing to do with the existence of the world itself. Note that in the example of the eternally-forwarded e-mail, the string of forwardings has no actual beginning at all, but is assumed as eternal. Yet, forwarding as such has no power to create content, so no matter how often the e-mail is forwarded, the forwarding cannot explain the actual existence of the e-mail itself. The content-provider is necessarily "outside" the universe of forwardings, in pretty much the same way as Shakespeare is not to be found in the play "Hamlet."
+ + +
On the other topic, as to whether religion diminishes (again) and fails to revive (for once), keep in mind that this will coincide with the collapse of Western Civilization, and there is a lot of other stuff that may fail to survive once its grounding is gone.

TheOFloinn said...

it will live on or fade away fully contingent on the outcomes of continuing research and investigation in the various fields of sciences [physics, cosmology, astronomy etc etc]

That's like saying the Big Bang will live on or fade away fully contingent on the outcomes of continuing research and investigation in the various fields of literary criticism and culinary arts.

rank sophist said...

I recognized our very own Sean Robsville in the comments, spamming links to his own site as always.

Even if you can prove that there was a first cause, how do you know that's it's Yahweh rather than Zeus, Thor, Brahma or Allah? How do you know that the God of your choice is still around? Maybe he's abandoned this universe as a failed experiment and moved into a more salubrious parallel reality, leaving Satan in charge here.

The God(s) of the Bible and Koran look suspiciously like Bronze Age warlords blown up to (pre-Copernican) cosmic proportions: http://seanrobsville.blogspot.com/2009/12/samsaric-worldly-gods.html


Seeing as he's posted on this blog, one would think that he would understand the infinite gap between a Zeus or Thor and an Allah, Brahma or Christian God. While the latter three are far from identical--and Allah, in post-Al-Ghazali formulations, runs into serious philosophical and theological issues--, all of them share the distinction of being more-or-less classical theist deities. All of them can be identified in varying degrees with the Neo-Platonic One. It should be obvious to anyone with a reasonable education that Zeus had nothing on the One--he was just one god among many, even if he was "the best god". The One, by contrast, was the ground of all being.

Now, I would argue that the Christian God is superior to any other classical theist formulation for a number of reasons; but that is an issue of big kid theology, which has left behind Zeus and Odin as the irrelevant fictions they are.

Anonymous said...

Lol those comments.

Anyways, I was leaving comments on some of Feser's older blogposts, but for some reason they were not going through. I then realized that moderation had been enabled. I now feel like a fool for attempting to post the same thing about 3 times. Anyways, it seems DJ has the same problem as Hallquist; turning the example into the argument.

Mr. Green said...

Anonymous: As a Jew, I'm unimpressed by this Rabbi's embrace of the weak sauce of philosophy.
"There are no proofs for the existence of the God of Abraham. There are only witnesses." -- Abraham J. Heschel


First, that is proof (although its strength depends on the reliability of the witness, which can be a difficult question).

Second, philosophy is neither weak, nor is it sauce. (Of course, one's grasp of philosophy can be very weak. We have a dispiriting example elsewhere in this very thread.)

Mr. Green said...

George R.:Yes, of course. . . except for the small fact that the thesis that the entire universe was once the diameter of a proton is completely and utterly ludicrous.

Is it indeed ludicrous; the epitome of ludic creativity. The universe is not only an exhibition of divine playfulness, but reflects Providence in its very growth and development. The irony of certain atheists latching on to evolution — both cosmological and biological — as some sort of way around God is also highly amusing. The concept of progress that is involved is remarkably Judeo-Christian. A world as grand as this one is truly a wonder to behold; that it could have unfolded itself in a meticulously ordered process from a pinpoint of lux is all the more so. Who but GOD could have conceived of such a universe?! It is truly a delight to contemplate the works of the Lord — and we have but begun to scratch the surface.

Anonymous said...

Furthering what the rank sophist said, what I find interesting is that the "naturalistic" religions such as Hinduism evolved from the polytheism common to Indo-Europeans into a profound negative theology regarding the One. In the same way, the Egyptians - albeit for political reasons - reached a similar, virtual monotheistic conclusion (I'm not talking about the abortive Atenist religion) with Ptah and Amun-Ra during the New Kingdom. The Greeks, of course, reached this conclusion with the Neo-Platonic One. As for the Hebrews, YHWH was for them the divinely revealed Name for Whom Abraham knew as El Shaddai, "God of the Udder" in some translations - referring to His role as a pastoral Provider. El was the Father of gods and men in Ugaritic theology from which Abram came, i.e., northern Mesopotamia in Ur Kasidim. Now, what we see in the Bible is the disappearance during the Exodus or at least by the 11th or 10th centuries B.C. when the Pentateuch was composed (cf. Prof. Gary Rendsburg) of a divine consort as well as the recognition that the other gods were created beings subservient to El and ruled as proxy the other nations besides Israel whom El would eventually take back (cf. Psalm 82 and Deuteronomy 32). Consequently, the names given to the First Principle is immaterial at least in terms of natural reason as opposed to revelation. As societies developed and produced enough leisure time for a certain class of people to reflect whether they be court scribes in Egypt or the writers of the Upanishads, I would suggest that the unity of the One became more evident in several cultures in parallel - the Indian subcontinent, Egypt, Israel, and Greece just to name a few. I would also venture to add Persian Iran if Zoroastrianism counts.

- Alcuin

monk68 said...

I have read the article as well as many of the comments that follow. The trouble with this kind of presentation is that one simply cannot bring the force of the classical CA argument home without taking the time to layout and defend the background metaphysics (form/matter, act/potency, principles of causality and proportionality, etc) as well as discuss the essentially inductive nature of the argument.

Almost all of the objecttions and dismissals (even if many are not in good faith) arise from one or another metaphysical misconception - not the least of which is the faulty philosophy of nature which underwrites both scientism and reductionism. Personally, I refuse to make the CA to persons who are unwilling to discuss the background metaphysics prior to the presentation. Defending the CA without that background usually results in wheel spinning - at least in my experience.

Anonymous said...

About an infinite series of received causality (caused causes) --

If I am not mistaken, Duns Scotus argued that even if there were an infinite series of things which have received their own agency (i.e., an infinite series of caused causes), then all the causality in the whole series have been received.

But if there is a receiver then there is a giver, and this implies that *outside* of the series there must be an agent which has not received its efficacy/agency/causality. That is, there must be a cause which has not itself been caused which has caused the infinite series of caused causes.

This is quite consistent with Aquinas' view as I see it.

machinephilosophy said...

monk68

"one simply cannot bring the force of the classical CA argument home without taking the time to layout and defend the background metaphysics (form/matter, act/potency, principles of causality and proportionality, etc) as well as discuss the essentially inductive nature of the argument.

Almost all of the objecttions and dismissals (even if many are not in good faith) arise from one or another metaphysical misconception - not the least of which is the faulty philosophy of nature which underwrites both scientism and reductionism. Personally, I refuse to make the CA to persons who are unwilling to discuss the background metaphysics prior to the presentation. Defending the CA without that background usually results in wheel spinning"


It's difficult to overemphasize the importance of your point. Background metaphysics, self-reference, and criterial issues are going to move to permanent center stage in the entire God debate.

Ed is point man here, and there are quite a few of us out here preparing reinforcements, But once these three areas are fully fleshed out and digested into a more widely understandable form for the ordinary reflective person, atheism's doomed.

Anonymous said...

atheism's doomed

Your're delusional. Feser and his "army" are going to do no more damage to atheism than Dawkins does to religious belief. People believe what they want and choose to accept the arguments that bolster those beliefs.

Brandon said...

Your're delusional. Feser and his "army" are going to do no more damage to atheism than Dawkins does to religious belief. People believe what they want and choose to accept the arguments that bolster those beliefs.

From which it would follow that these claims are also an example of believing what one wants and choosing to accept arguments that bolster those beliefs.

machinephilosophy said...

LOL Hey Brandon

And that makes the person's statement itself delusional---by its own assertion. Isn't self-exemption of one's own implicit universals fun?!

So in the objection itself, we see an obliviousness to self-reference, with no argument, no mention of criteria. Are they forgetting the commandments of reason, their invisible cognitively-obligating mind-God?

It's important to pay attention to what atheists ignore or dismiss when it gets down to the most basic assumptions of thought. The previous comment thread of the post, "Schliesser on the Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism" contains perfect examples of this.

In this current comment thread, Ismael pinpoints a key example of this type of thing:

"Scientism and empiricism are even less defensible than naturalism, because they are self-refuting, since their basis and foundations are non-scientific and non-empirical."

Rational theists are facing and dealing with each and ever criticism put out by atheists, while most atheists continue to pick and choose---and ignore.

If anything is flaring up brightly just before the end, it's atheism.

Anonymous said...

Let's put it this way -- argument is not entirely powerless. A strong argument can overthrow a weak position (hey, you started with the military metaphors, it's quite catching).

The problem is is that the atheists position is not weak (and I'm not here arguing for it, I am saying that they are strongly committed to it) and the arguments Feser and his army are offering are weak -- they are all based on assumptions and concepts that have no traction with those who are not already committed to them (like essences, potentiality/actuality, all that antiquated stuff).

So, this is not an argument but a prediction. Even if Feser's book becomes a bestseller and his army gets on the cover of TIme magazine, it's not going to overthrow atheism. You may win some converts from the muddled and undecided masses, but true believers will remain what they are.

BenYachov said...

@Anon January 31, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Your post can be simplified as follows by this old pagan saying.

"Against Stupidity even the gods Themselves contend in vain."

There will be some principled rational Atheists in the course f human events of course they will be the exception not the rule.

The majority OTOH will be uneducated louts whose non-belief stems from not getting the pony they prayed for or God not stopping their parents from divorce & these hair bags will live and die with the belief "Who created God?" is some show stopping argument akin to Young Earth Creationist who protest "Well since when does a Monkey give birth to a human?".

We can say the same for Christians. There will be Saint and then there are the rest of us slobs who will at best fill Purgatory to capacity.

Of course Feser's book won't do in Atheism but it might hurt New Atheism & general stupidity and that is a win for everyone including those rational Atheists I've brought up.

Eduardo said...

Anon, you didn't noticed that Machine is talking in a conditional. He is saying that incase people were to doubt the most fundamental assumption then atheism would be doomed

Strong statement, but he is not saying that atheism will be doomed because of arguments.

Overall I think you are right that one must accept the premises to accept the conclusion.

rank sophist said...

Just spotted djindra in there:

Rabbi Jacobs praises Feser for his "great job explaining...the argument as a whole." It's too bad Rabbi Jacobs didn't get into the background "metaphysics" outlined in Feser's book. I realize this wasn't the place to do it. But had he done so we would have been entertained by the rhetorical games that go on behind the scenes. We would have learned about "intentionality" "act/potency," and "final cause." We would have seen that this argument is based on a primitive animism. You see, the earth *intends* to rotate on its axis. Light *intends* to travel in straight lines. This is the sort of thing that passed for "explanation" before modern science. Feser's goal to undermine modern.science in order to serve his authoritarian, right-wing political agenda. That's what this "metaphysics" is for. It's all politics -- of the medieval kind.

It's strange to see how many people came out of the woodwork for this article.

Eduardo said...

Yep teleology equals having a soul and will of its own, way to go djindra, years pass and nothing changes.

Eduardo said...

So doctor how does it feel to have your plan to undermine modern science exposed so blatantly, I mean, where can I read your "why modern science must be destroyed" paper?*

*sarcasm...

Anonymous said...

You see, the earth *intends* to rotate on its axis. Light *intends* to travel in straight lines. This is the sort of thing that passed for "explanation" before modern science.

How silly those Medievals were. They thought of material things "intending". We're much, much smarter than that now.

No anthropomorphism for us!

Now we know that material things don't "intend", but simply "obey".

--Alt Numlock

Anonymous said...

Now we know that material things don't "intend", but simply "obey".

The "law" in "physical law" is strictly metaphorical. Physical laws are not like human laws, and "obeidience" to them is not at all similar to the sense in which humans obey human laws. For one thing, humans have the ability to disobey the law, but it is strictly impossible for a physical system to disobey physical law.

I would say 90% of the utter confusion that people here consider deep thought here is a result of not understanding that concepts and metaphors from everyday life apply imperfectly if at all when applied to things outside that ream (such as the universe as a whole).

Eduardo said...

Anon he is making fun that if you believe that matter obeys laws as you, you are pretty much using intention as well. If not, your inference that matter can never disobay rules is just wishful thinking and improper extrapolation of the data, at best it is bet that never be confirmed.

Wrong ano . 100% of your critiques is complete confusion because you don't umderstand what we are saying, and really... You wanna tell us what is deep thought? Sorry I don't see how anything that you said shows that you know what deep thinking is, and if deep thinking is subjective than your self-selling technique is pretty good, but a one more sign that dont give much of a crap about this talk, as it became obvious along the days.

BLS said...

90%? Show us your calculations. And I also think this is relevant:

http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/08/concretizing-abstract.html

John said...

This really doesn't concern the HuffoPo article mentioned (okay, maybe a little), but one thing I have noticed, at least with most conservative or Christianity blogs that are orthodox, is that there's usually someone who is the resident liberal even on the most obscure blog. Sometimes that resident reasonable, but most often than he's rather irritating, snarky and smug. Oh goodness the smugness.

It's like such people scope out these types of blogs. Because, ya know, "how can anyone be NOT be liberal or progressive these days!" Now non-believers on Christian blogs ... that's like a bomb on a plane.

E.H. Munro said...

I think I might be the resident radical around here. However I'm also a catholic and classical theist. So I'm not really welcome anywhere. ;-7