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Friday, 29 May 2015
The video is entitled "who created God?" and aims to overcome this (often argued by atheists) objection. The title ends with a rather ambitious phrase "the end of atheism". Curiously, the video fails to even address the objection, let alone rebut it. But more on this later.
A preliminary note on Causality
One more crucial matter to address is the Law of Causation. This is essential as all KCA arguments rely on it and our video is no exception. The premise is that "everything that has a beginning, has a cause". There are two points to be made about the Law of Causation.
Firstly, we derive the Law from our observations of what we see WITHIN our Universe. And what we observe is matter and energy changing states. We see matter and energy reacting and we observe that each reaction CAUSES a further reaction. These reactions always operate on PRE-EXISTING matter and energy. They NEVER (in our observations) involve the "creation of everything that exists". In fact, they never involve the creation of matter/energy that previously did not exist. We have observed that all these effects always seem to have causes. Since the Law of Causation (derived from empirical observation) is ALWAYS observed on pre-existing matter/energy, there is absolutely no reason to extrapolate it to apply to the GENERATION of matter and energy that did not previously exist.
The second objection is even more powerful. For us to say that the Law of Causation applied to the generation of "all that exist", we would have to first assume that The Law of Causation itself pre-existed everything else that exists. Thus, we would be making an assumption that "In the beginning, there was The Law of Causation (imagine a scripture starting with those words!)". And yet, there is absolutely no valid reason to make such an assumption. If, prior to the existence of the Universe (or the Multiverse, if that's the case), NOTHING existed, why would we assume that Causality did? The answer is: we can't.
This is crucial as, unless we first establish that Causality pre-existed everything else, there is no basis at all to claim that everything that begins to exist has a cause. And without this premise, all KCA arguments fail...including our video.
What follows is that the argument in the video fails before it even begins. What theists invariably take for granted is nothing but an unjustified assumption (surprised?).
On to the argument
Let’s now turn to the central premises of the argument in the video:
The argument attempts to arrive at this conclusion by eliminating “the alternative” (ie chance). The narrator tells us that chance is “random selection of an outcome from a set of possibilities”. He then goes on to say “When however there are no possibilities because nothing yet exists then how can there be a selection of them?”
Let's pause here for a brief moment. The author has just proposed that "nothing yet exists". He objects that since nothing exists, there are no possibilities and therefore no random selection is possible. But if he assumes that nothing exists, how can there be a design? There can't. Clearly then, whatever the author is saying, he can't be saying that nothing exists. Perhaps what he means is "nothing material exists (as in matter/energy)"? I will proceed on the basis that this is what he means. Thus, we'll assume he's saying no MATTER/ENERGY (as we know them) exists but some type of entities/objects/things may indeed exist.
Having eliminated chance (or so he thinks), the author then concludes that design is all that’s left. Here are the problems with this section of the argument:
It’s intellectually dishonest to propose one unexplained process while arbitrarily excluding the possibility of other unexplained processes (where there's no evidence for any of the processes at all).
It must be concluded that “random chance OR Designer” is a false dichotomy; a logical fallacy.
By claiming that nothing existed, the argument is contradicting its own conclusion (ie that there was a god).
Is it really far-fetched to propose that a universe was a possible outcome? Clearly not, because we KNOW that a universe IS AN ACTUAL OUTCOME. If the Universe were not a possible outcome, it WOULDN’T EXIST AT ALL. Is it far-fetched to propose that THE Universe was not the ONLY possible outcome? It wouldn't seem so either. There may well have been other possible outcomes, including other configurations of universes and perhaps other entities that couldn't be called universes at all.
To claim that an actual outcome is not a possible outcome is entirely irrational, if not dishonest.
The only way to overcome this objection would be to posit that the Universe was a possible outcome ONLY FOR GOD. But that’s a fallacy. It’s called Special Pleading. Given that we have no evidence as to what process God would undertake to create a universe, we can’t claim that God is the only possible initiator of that process. Nor is there any evidence that this process and this result were the only possible processes and results. The simple truth is WE DON’T KNOW.
It follows that the claim that the Universe could not be created by chance not only lacks a basis but is in fact contradictory to the observable facts: THE UNIVERSE EXISTS and therefore MUST HAVE BEEN a possible outcome.
It is at this point that we need to take a breather. Why? Because THIS IS THE REAL ASNWER TO THE QUESTION that the video proposes to address. Remember, the video is entitled “Who Created God?”
But before we congratulate the author on his “win”, we need to turn our mind to yet another fatal flaw here! This time the Logical Fallacy is: Strawman.
You see, the question “who created god?” is posed by atheists and sceptics IN RESPONSE TO a Teleological Argument. Teleological Arguments are arguments that theists pose, relying on the apparent complexity/design/organisation of the Universe/life/nature. Atheist response is “if, as you claim (in a Teleological Argument), an organised Universe requires a designer, God can’t be the answer unless he himself was designed”.
But our narrator at the very start of the video already told us he’s not interested in pursuing a Teleological Argument. Instead, he opts for a Cosmological Argument. And “who created god?” is not an answer to Cosmological Arguments. He’s responding to a criticism that doesn’t apply in the first place!
KCA does not EXCLUDE that an uncaused god may have existed. The only argument that does (on the atheist objection, in any event) exclude that is the Teleological Argument; one that the video cleverly (or dishonestly?) ignores!
Our video then goes on to discuss what philosophers call “Infinite Regression” (IR). Infinite Regression is the concept of a backward infinity of causes and effects. If IR is true, there may have been an infinite number of causes, each having its own cause, all the way into backward infinity.
Theists have a real problem with Infinite Regression. Why? Simply put, if IR is true, then the Universe’s Cause (let’s assume here that the Universe DID have a cause) may have had its own cause, preceded by an infinite number or previous causes. This would destroy their concept of God. God, by definition, must be the First Cause, the ultimate cause of everything, The Prime Mover. Theists hate Infinite Regression. Our video’s author is no exception. And indeed, the argument he uses to attempt to defeat Infinite Regression is one of the most common theist arguments around.
Essentially, it goes like this: “If there had been an infinite number of causes-and-effects in the past then we would have never gotten to where we are now”. There are two major problems with the theist approach to this issue.
Firstly, the argument is logically flawed as it ASSUMES a beginning and therefore fails to address Infinite Regression to start with. Secondly, the argument itself eliminates the possibility of a god existing. Let’s turn to these two problems in more detail.
A. Believe in an Uncaused Cause
B. “Believe that nothing – including yourself has a beginning”
C. Disbelieve in everything that exists
While I’m not too sure about the above (it appears to be a false dilemma as well; one could imagine SOME BUT NOT ALL things having no beginning but there being no “Uncaused Cause” in the sense of a creator of everything that exists), let’s give this part of the argument limited credibility. I say “limited” because it has to be qualified by all that’s been said above. Thus, what we would end up with is this:
(I) everything that begins to exists must have a cause (ie causality applies outside the Universe and was the first thing to exist); AND
(II) Infinite Regression is impossible,
then the only three options are:
A. To believe in an Uncaused Cause
B. To believe nothing has a beginning
C. To disbelieve everything that exists
Where do we end up? Well, clearly we don’t believe B or C. We therefore must accept A. But the Uncaused Cause in A cannot be an eternal entity such as God, as that would contradict (II), as discussed in “h” above.
Therefore, if we grant the above premises (I and II) – and there’s no reason to grant them, as discussed throughout this article – we can only conclude a First Cause (“Uncaused Cause”). This doesn’t entitle us to conclude that this First Cause is sentient or intelligent. And it can't be eternal, due to Infinite Regression. And of course if FC is not eternal then it's something that "begins to exist" and therefore (on the theist argument) must have a cause.
Wednesday, 13 August 2014
Essentially the argument in its simplest form looks like this:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe has begun to exist.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause.
There are problems with the first and second premises but I will not go into them here. Rather I want to focus on something else. So, for our purposes, let is grant the above argument and (again just for our purposes) agree that there's a cause of the universe. We can call it UC (Universe's Cause).
The obvious problem is that this doesn't prove a god. It only proves a cause of the universe. There's no proof here that UC is self-aware, intelligent or personal.
This is where it gets curious. The theist extension of the above argument often goes like this:
4. A backward infinity in time is logically impossible (ie time must have had a beginning)
5. Therefore the event causing the Universe to exist (often referring to the trigger of the Big Bang) must have been non-temporal.
6. The only conceivable non-temporal event is a CHOICE.
7. Therefore UC made a choice.
8. Therefore UC must have free will and be personal.
9. Hence, UC is God.
There are problems at many of the above steps but my issue here is with step 6. The apologists declare by fiat that the only conceivable non-temporal event is a choice.
What leads them to consider a non-temporal event is their rejection of infinite regression. The triggering event had to have no cause itself as otherwise there would be an infinite number of backwards causes and if that were the case we would never get to THIS point in time (current point; today). That's because, the argument goes, there would be an infinite number of preceding points, placing us at the end of infinity which is impossible.
Of course the above reasoning takes a shortcut. UC may have itself had a cause and may have been preceded by a sequence of 100000 causes that all follow a First Cause (the one and only UNCAUSED cause). But this shortcut is not the problem with the argument as, even if we avoid the shortcut (as I just did), we do end up with a First Cause. The apologist can turn around and call THAT cause "god".
Whether the First Cause is in fact the one that caused the universe immediately is not important. If we are to avoid infinite regression, we still have to end up with an Uncaused Cause, no matter how far it is causally removed from the Big Bang.
Thus the correct theist contention must be "the First Cause must have exercised a choice as there's no other conceivable uncaused action, except for a free-will-choice".
Let us consider this proposition.
A. Choice in the traditional sense
Choices, as we know them, don't appear out of nowhere. They are not uncaused and they are not non-temporal. They follow deliberations. There's input (emotions, data), there's processing (consideration of consequences, options, competing interests and emotions) and there's the final result; a choice, a decision.
If FC (First Cause) is said to make a choice in the sense that we know it (as in the above paragraph), then each step in that process must be preceded by another step. It's a causative sequence of events; each one leading to the next. This takes us back to infinite regression, unless the apologist can identify a first-ever event in the process.
Short breather to handle an anticipated objection
Note that it doesn't matter if we call this infinite regression "non-temporal". I say this because apologists are likely to pose that objection at this point. If the Law of Causality applies then we need a sequence of causes and effects. Each cause precedes its effect in SOME SENSE. Otherwise, there would be no telling between Effect "follows" (arises from) Cause and Cause follows (arises from) Effect. And if that were the case, we can't say the Law of Causality applies in the first place. In this sense, it must be possible to trace back Effects and their Causes to a first (sequentially, not temporally) Cause. Failing that, we are trapped in infinite regression (albeit in the causal and not in the temporal sense). Trying to escape that trap by saying "but all these Cause-Effects happen at the same instant as they're not temporal") might resolve that problem.
However, in that case the Choice Argument fails.
Once it's proposed that a reality can exist with an infinite sequence of Cause-Effects but in a non-temporal order, "choice" is no an attractive option even on the apologist's argument. For the claim would now amount to "Even though a non-temporal sequence of infinite Cause-Effects is possible, the creation of the Universe could only happen by choice". Such a statement of course makes no sense and, without its own support, would fail.
It amounts to saying that a non-temporal infinite sequence of events have lead to the choice. In these circumstances, there's no merit in saying "choice is the only conceivable option". Once an infinite number of Cause-Effects has been involved, the "Infinity+1st event" might simply be a mechanical effect of its own cause.
So, infinite number of steps in God's decision to make the Universe is out and there must be a first-ever step in this process.
Back to the argument
But how can there be a first-ever event in the process? What this would entail is a dormant entity (FC) who does absolutely nothing and then out of the blue, embarks on an uncaused process of deliberation. And what triggers THIS event? Apparently nothing. It's a random, uncaused event. But if we agree that the choice process was triggered by a random, uncaused event, what's the relevance of CHOICE in the process at all? How do we exclude the Big Bang itself being caused a random uncaused event (BBCE - Big Bang causing event)? Or how do we exclude some other event that CAUSED BBCE and itself was a random, uncaused event? Or how do we exclude a longer sequence of causes and effects all beginning with a random, uncaused event but NOT involving a choice? We can't exclude any of these propositions. And all of them are more economical (ie involve less unnecessary assumptions) than a random uncaused event in the so-far-dormant mind of a pre-existing self-aware entity. This makes God redundant.
B. A special kind of choice - no processes
What if the choice to create the Universe (or to cause the Big Bang as the case may be) was itself a special kind of choice? One that, unlike all the choices we have ever observed, is uncaused and is not preceded by deliberations/considerations/inputs?
Such a "choice" is so unlike any choices we know of, that it's difficult to even call it a choice.
But the problem gets worse. This event is itself random and uncaused. And again, once we propose a random and uncaused "choice", it would be more economical to consider a random uncaused trigger that does NOT involve a heretofore dormant and yet omniscient self-aware entity. Once again, God is redundant.
C. What if making that uncaused choice was in God's special nature?
Of course, that is special pleading.
And of course, the same question arises. What caused God to have in his nature the inexplicable tendency to make this sudden choice to create the universe (or trigger the Big Bang as the case may be)?
Of course the theist will answer that god's nature is uncaused. But if we are prepared to propose a special entity that has an uncaused nature leading it to make this sudden "choice" to create the Universe, it would be more economical to propose a non-sentient First Cause in whose inexplicable and uncaused nature it is to trigger the generation of the Universe.
In short, consider the two propositions:
1. An entity in whose nature it is to suddenly create the universe. We don't know how.
2. An entity in whose nature it is to suddenly make a conscious decision to create the universe AND who is self-aware, personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, capable of emotions and of will. We don't know how.
Both propositions are sufficient for a First Cause. But the the second proposition is MORE than sufficient. It contains a number of unnecessary attributes. It is therefore erroneous to propose it.
Occam's Razor shaves God away.
Saturday, 9 August 2014
@No_Drones says this:
The correct answer to this question is: no. Employing weasel words, this is the fallacy of false dilemma. An omnipotent God CAN create a stone of any weight AND He CAN lift any stone He creates. You are creating the square circle, not theism. An inability is not an ability. God can do anything that is logically possible and does not violate His own nature.
My opponent says above that an inability is not an ability. And yet, I am able to make a contraption that's too heavy for me to lift. That's an ability that I have. I am also able to grow in size. Can the Biblical God grow in size? I don't even know if he has a size to begin with. According to some, he's a spirit and has no physical attributes at all. According to others, he's omnipresent (exists everywhere and therefore it seems he can't grow in size).
If God can't make an object that's too heavy for him to lift, then there's something I can do and God can't do. It's not logically impossible for one to make something that's too heavy for oneself to lift. I can do something God can't do!
And yet, the Bible repeatedly tells us that there's NOTHING God can't do. Matthew 19:26 has Jesus saying "with God all things are possible". Genesis 18:14 has God himself saying to Abraham "Is anything impossible for the Lord?". This is in the context of making an infertile woman (Sarah) get pregnant. But again, the biblical claim is phrased in the absolute; NOTHING is impossible (or too hard) for God. There are many other verses in the Bible that imply God has ABSOLUTE power. And yet, absolute power is logically impossible.
What follows is that what my opponent attempts to do above is to limit the power that the Bible seeks to grant God. I'm not responsible for what the Bible says. My claim is simple: The BIBLICAL God (ie, the God described in the Bible) is logically impossible and therefore doesn't exist.
I will go further. The Bible claims that God is omniscient; he knows everything (1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chronicles 28:9; Psalms 139:1-6, 23; Jeremiah 17:10; Luke 16:15; Romans 8:27; Revelations 2:23). The Bible is full of these claims; nothing is hidden from the Lord, he knows your heart, knows everyone's heart, he's everywhere etc. See also a very nice article on this at http://churchlayman.wordpress.com/2007/10/09/god-is-omniscient-he-sees-and-knows-everything/.
And yet, in Genesis 18, God hears the outcry of the grave sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. His response to this news is:
20 “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
The Hebrew word in this verse for "will know" is "Yada" (transliteration - see Strong's Concordance) and it means "to know, learn, perceive, find out, discern, consider...."
The Bible tells us that this omniscient God, the one who KNOWS EVERYTHING, is planning on COMING DOWN to Sodom and Gomorrah to see things personally and then to FIND OUT if things are really as bad as he has been told. This is a logical contradiction on THREE GROUNDS.
1) A god who knows everything (and in particular, everyone's heart), as the Bible tells us, is not a god who would need to come down to Sodom and Gomorrah to find out if things are as bad as the cry told him.
2) A god who knows everything can't possibly use the word "Yada" (I will find out)! He can't find out that which he already knows. And since he knows EVERYTHING, there's NOTHING EVER for him to find out.
3) The god of the bible is declared to be EVERYWHERE. See, for instance, Jeremiah 23:
23 “Am I only a God nearby,”
declares the Lord,
“and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
so that I cannot see them?”
declares the Lord.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
declares the Lord.
Is it possible for a God who IS EVERYWHERE to "go down" (the Hebrew word is "Yarad" and means "to go down, descend, sink, be prostrated) to Sodom and Gomorrah? No, of course it's not. He's ALREADY THERE, as he's everywhere.
My opponent's argument fails on two grounds at this point. Firstly, he's attempting to limit the meaning of "omnipotence" beyond that which the Bible gives to God. The Bible is clear that there's NOTHING impossible for the Lord. It does NOT say "there's nothing impossible for the lord except for that which is impossible for the lord" (and that wouldn't be very helpful as a definition of omnipotence in any event; note that the concept is so unreal that philosophers have been struggling to coherently define it for centuries now).
Secondly, the God of Genesis 18:20 is NOT the God of the rest of the Bible. Taken in its entirety, the Bible therefore proposes a God that can't possibly exist. And if he can't possibly exist, the only rational conclusion is he DOES NOT exist.
Note that Genesis 18 is not the only example of this. The God of the Bible is self-contradictory in a large number of aspects. Therefore, he doesn't exist. He's made up by a number of writers, each with his own views and his own agenda and theology. This explains why each portrays this deity in a different light, often with contradicting characteristics.
Comments are welcome
@No_drones says this about claims of miracles:
"These events ARE documented in Scripture."
On related matters he also says this:
"Christians assert the Bible is historical evidence for such a God. You may not LIKE our evidence but that does not invalidate it."
Since both above declarations relate to the same claim, I will deal with them in a single post.
What my opponent is proposing is to ASSUME that the Judeo/Christian scriptures are factually correct.
This amounts to saying "what you're reading is true because those who believed it have written it down".
On this point, the fact that the beliefs were written down is irrelevant. Anyone could write their beliefs down. Thus, the only relevant issue is that somebody held those beliefs. In other words "this must be true because somebody believed it". Of course, this in itself is a fallacy.
If such an argument were allowed to succeed, we would be obliged to believe in Zeus, Shiva, Jupiter and 1000 other gods. We would have to believe that Caesar was divine, to name one. And what of the Book of Mormon? The Egyptian Book of the Dead? Ancient Slavic and Nordic beliefs? Other pagan beliefs? There have been thousands upon thousands of various religions and beliefs.
To claim that the Judeo/Christian tradition should be trusted is to claim that all other traditions (with deities markedly different in kind and number to the Abrahamic god) are wrong.
Unless a very compelling argument for this is presented, this simply isn't an intellectually honest approach. You can't just pick and choose a religious tradition and claim it's true to the exclusion of others.
So far I have seen no coherent argument that would in any way demonstrate the Bible to be true, let alone to be true to the exclusion of other religious beliefs.
If my opponent wants to use the Bible as evidence of supernatural events or entities, he must provide some solid evidence for why the supernatural claims of this particular culture ought to be accepted.
On the face of it, biblical claims are simply ludicrous.
In Exodus 7, Moses magically turns his staff into a snake which then eats the staffs of Egyptian priests (also magically turned into snakes). This is to convince us that the Jewish god is more powerful than Egyptian magic. Sound like something from 1001 nights? You bet.
In Numbers 22 we read about a donkey who has an argument with her owner. Cute. But I wouldn't expect a 6 year old to believe it. It's Alladin's lamp material.
What about the 42 teenaged mauled by 2 she-bears for the great crime of making fun of a bald man? (2 Kings 2). Are we believe these are the doings of an almighty creator of this enormous and wonderful universe? Nonsense.
Adam and Eve are tempted by a talking snake in Genesis. They then eat a fruit that has magic qualities; it allows them to understand the difference between right and wrong. Again, completely incredible. Also, the similarities with Pandora's box don't go unnoticed easily. Mythology by all standards.
These accounts are no different in their style and content to many other magical claims in other mythologies. On their face, that's exactly what they are; myths. The Bible talks about monsters and giants. It talks about creating a woman from a man's rib.
Christian theology would have us believe that he creator of the universe couldn't find it in himself to forgive people unless somebody (an innocent man; in fact God himself, who is his own son) is brutally killed. Perhaps "killed" is too strong a word as he apparently comes back to live after 2-3 days (depending on the scripture; they're quite inconsistent).
Christ is said to perform miracles too. He restores a man's sight by washing his eyes in mud; a practice that back in the day was indeed widely believed to have magical effects.
On the face of it, all these claims are nothing short of fantastic and mythological. They do not show the world as we know it. Are we to believe them just because somebody wrote them down? Such an approach appears extraordinarily naive.
The Bible is not evidence of its claims; the Bible IS THE CLAIM. To say "it's true because it's in the bible" is to ASSUME that, despite its fantastic and typically mythological nature, the bible is true in the first place.
Unless we are to immerse ourselves in a world of ancient myths, this approach simply cannot be allowed. If you want to rely on the Bible as evidence of extraordinary claims, you must first demonstrate that it is extraordinarily credible.