God is...a very specific nothing?
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26-09-2016, 10:27 AM
God is...a very specific nothing?
So a theist I'm talking to is claiming that God MUST exist, as he is the only option other than

a. The universe came from nothing(everything must have a cause)
or
b. The universe has always existed(which he's still trying to prove as impossible on the grounds that if time was infinite we could never get here because we would have to have traversed an infinite past)

And then he goes on to say that a First Cause is exempt from these rules because it is outside time and space. Dimensionless, timeless, simple, indivisible. When I try to tell him that doesn't make much sense, he just tells me to imagine it, and then when I say I can't, he says that my imagination is at fault and HE can imagine it. That I need to "work on my imagination".

Now it seems to me like that description is just another way of saying 'nothing at all', and then calling it God. Thinking up a supposed solution to a problem without providing any evidence that it is the correct solution and then conveniently exempting it from the rules that were already set up. Would this be an accurate assessment?

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26-09-2016, 10:33 AM
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 10:27 AM)ErinRH2342 Wrote:  So a theist I'm talking to is claiming that God MUST exist, as he is the only option other than

a. The universe came from nothing(everything must have a cause)
or
b. The universe has always existed(which he's still trying to prove as impossible on the grounds that if time was infinite we could never get here because we would have to have traversed an infinite past)

And then he goes on to say that a First Cause is exempt from these rules because it is outside time and space. Dimensionless, timeless, simple, indivisible. When I try to tell him that doesn't make much sense, he just tells me to imagine it, and then when I say I can't, he says that my imagination is at fault and HE can imagine it. That I need to "work on my imagination".

Now it seems to me like that description is just another way of saying 'nothing at all', and then calling it God. Thinking up a supposed solution to a problem without providing any evidence that it is the correct solution and then conveniently exempting it from the rules that were already set up. Would this be an accurate assessment?

Of course he is right. Those of us who cannot imagine a God could if we had a more wild imagination. That is what it takes to believe the impossible and unprovable.
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26-09-2016, 11:05 AM (This post was last modified: 26-09-2016 11:24 AM by Reltzik.)
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 10:27 AM)ErinRH2342 Wrote:  So a theist I'm talking to is claiming that God MUST exist, as he is the only option other than

a. The universe came from nothing(everything must have a cause)
or
b. The universe has always existed(which he's still trying to prove as impossible on the grounds that if time was infinite we could never get here because we would have to have traversed an infinite past)

This line of, erm, reasoning always gets an eyeroll from me. RolleyesNo

We would never have gotten here? (Er, we would never have gotten now?)

We would never have gotten here FROM WHERE? (We would never have gotten now from when?)

We certainly would have gotten to this moment from, say, five minutes ago. Or ten. Or fifty. Or a billion billion billion years. So exactly what moment would we NOT have gotten here from?

What your conversational partner is doing (almost certainly unconsciously) is assuming the consequent, aka begging the question. This criticism only makes sense with the assumption of a beginning moment which we must arrive in the present day from. It smuggles in the very idea it wishes to prove.

This is like saying negative numbers don't exist, because then you'd never be able to count to seven. Of course you can count to seven. You do so by not starting at negative-infinity.

Now, I hear from astrophysicists and the like that there is good and solid evidence that the universe as we know it had its origins in the Big Bang roughly 13-15 billion years ago. And if your conversational partner wants to have that discussion, GREAT. Anything that gets him in the mindset of working from evidence rather than just faith or pure reasoning is a step in the right direction.

(26-09-2016 10:27 AM)ErinRH2342 Wrote:  And then he goes on to say that a First Cause is exempt from these rules because it is outside time and space. Dimensionless, timeless, simple, indivisible. When I try to tell him that doesn't make much sense, he just tells me to imagine it, and then when I say I can't, he says that my imagination is at fault and HE can imagine it. That I need to "work on my imagination".

If not being able to see something constitutes a failure of imagination, then the thing you are failing to see is imaginary.

(26-09-2016 10:27 AM)ErinRH2342 Wrote:  Now it seems to me like that description is just another way of saying 'nothing at all', and then calling it God. Thinking up a supposed solution to a problem without providing any evidence that it is the correct solution and then conveniently exempting it from the rules that were already set up. Would this be an accurate assessment?

It could be, in his individual case, but I'd guess not. I'd guess that what's more likely at work here is a matter of poorly defined and poorly expressed concepts, coupled with a bunch of initially-ad-hoc rationalizations that have been incorporated willy-nilly into the belief system. They're not coherent... but they're coherent enough for the moment, until someone examines the kluge in more detail, with enough persistence, that they're forced to jury rig yet another adaptation into it.

They certainly don't regard this as "nothing at all", and that's not what they're trying to communicate with their words, much as it is an unintentionally accurate description of what's actually there when it comes to gods. Instead, this person is regarding his God as exempt from the normal limits of space, time, causality, and even logic. (EDIT: Rereading your original post, yes, this is just thinking up a supposed solution -- using a supposed solution that someone else thought up, rather -- and exempting it from the rules they applied elsewhere. Except perhaps it's a case of just supposing there is a solution, somewhere, to this and all other existential questions, labeling it God, and walking away without actually finding out what the solution is.)

Let me recommend the philosophy of pragmatism to you for these discussions. Pragmatism approaches knowledge and our understanding of the world by the way in which we interact with objects, deeming these interactions as the whole of our understanding of the objects. For example, I've got a black mug on my desk at the moment. I can see it (via photons redirected to my eyes, no, it's not perfectly black) and register that it occludes other objects. If I pick it up, I can register its weight and temperature. If I were to, say, throw it at the wall and observe the results, this would tell me how fragile or tough it is. I might remember buying it and how much I paid for it. All these things put together represent my entire concept of the thing. There might be more to it in reality -- for example, I don't know what color the ceramic is under the exterior coloration, and won't unless I break it -- but my own mental model of it is limited to how I've interacted with it. I might make assumptions about, say, what would happen if I hurled the mug at the wall by extrapolating from what I know about mugs I've dropped on the floor in the past, which is in a way just taking it up one level, to the concept formed by interactions with the class of mugs. But we know a thing only in how we've interacted with it, and those interactions define our knowledge of the thing.

So, your conversational partner knows that God is dimensionless, does he? How? What manner of interaction has he had with God that revealed this to him? Timeless? What set of experiences did he have to convince him that He was beyond time? Indivisible? How does he know that God is indivisible? Did he even try to divide Him? How hard? Where does this, erm, knowledge come from?

He's already told you, of course. He just imagined it. The trouble is to get him to admit what that really means.
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26-09-2016, 12:09 PM
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 10:27 AM)ErinRH2342 Wrote:  So a theist I'm talking to is claiming that God MUST exist, as he is the only option other than

a. The universe came from nothing(everything must have a cause)
or
b. The universe has always existed(which he's still trying to prove as impossible on the grounds that if time was infinite we could never get here because we would have to have traversed an infinite past)

And then he goes on to say that a First Cause is exempt from these rules because it is outside time and space. Dimensionless, timeless, simple, indivisible. When I try to tell him that doesn't make much sense, he just tells me to imagine it, and then when I say I can't, he says that my imagination is at fault and HE can imagine it. That I need to "work on my imagination".

Now it seems to me like that description is just another way of saying 'nothing at all', and then calling it God. Thinking up a supposed solution to a problem without providing any evidence that it is the correct solution and then conveniently exempting it from the rules that were already set up. Would this be an accurate assessment?

Tell him that he needs to work on his imagination if he can't imagine the universe "coming from nothing" or always existing -- because neither of those is any harder to imagine than what he's proposing in their place.
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26-09-2016, 01:01 PM
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 10:27 AM)ErinRH2342 Wrote:  So a theist I'm talking to is claiming that God MUST exist, as he is the only option other than

a. The universe came from nothing(everything must have a cause)
or
b. The universe has always existed(which he's still trying to prove as impossible on the grounds that if time was infinite we could never get here because we would have to have traversed an infinite past)

And then he goes on to say that a First Cause is exempt from these rules because it is outside time and space. Dimensionless, timeless, simple, indivisible. When I try to tell him that doesn't make much sense, he just tells me to imagine it, and then when I say I can't, he says that my imagination is at fault and HE can imagine it. That I need to "work on my imagination".

Now it seems to me like that description is just another way of saying 'nothing at all', and then calling it God. Thinking up a supposed solution to a problem without providing any evidence that it is the correct solution and then conveniently exempting it from the rules that were already set up. Would this be an accurate assessment?
Two thoughts:
1. A first cause that itself has no cause negates the premise that everything must have a cause. It's simply arbitrary to claim out of convenience, that this "rule" doesn't apply to a first cause. And if one exception is allowed, it's also arbitrary to claim that there can only be one exception.
2. Even if we accept that everything must have a cause and also that a first cause can be exempt (which we shouldn't...), it's a huge leap to then conclude that first cause must be "God". Which also begs the question, what is "God"?

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26-09-2016, 01:14 PM
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 01:01 PM)Impulse Wrote:  
(26-09-2016 10:27 AM)ErinRH2342 Wrote:  So a theist I'm talking to is claiming that God MUST exist, as he is the only option other than

a. The universe came from nothing(everything must have a cause)
or
b. The universe has always existed(which he's still trying to prove as impossible on the grounds that if time was infinite we could never get here because we would have to have traversed an infinite past)

And then he goes on to say that a First Cause is exempt from these rules because it is outside time and space. Dimensionless, timeless, simple, indivisible. When I try to tell him that doesn't make much sense, he just tells me to imagine it, and then when I say I can't, he says that my imagination is at fault and HE can imagine it. That I need to "work on my imagination".

Now it seems to me like that description is just another way of saying 'nothing at all', and then calling it God. Thinking up a supposed solution to a problem without providing any evidence that it is the correct solution and then conveniently exempting it from the rules that were already set up. Would this be an accurate assessment?
Two thoughts:
1. A first cause that itself has no cause negates the premise that everything must have a cause. It's simply arbitrary to claim out of convenience, that this "rule" doesn't apply to a first cause. And if one exception is allowed, it's also arbitrary to claim that there can only be one exception.
2. Even if we accept that everything must have a cause and also that a first cause can be exempt (which we shouldn't...), it's a huge leap to then conclude that first cause must be "God". Which also begs the question, what is "God"?

I agree with your second point, but the first one isn't quite fair, because the argument as usually phrased is a bit subtler than that. They don't say that everything must have a cause -- they say that every contingent thing must have a cause, and since there can't be an infinite regress of causation (either temporal or logical), there must be a "first cause" which is not contingent -- i.e., it is necessary. I still don't buy the argument (Who says every contingent thing must have a cause? And who says there can't be an infinite regress of causation?), but the refutation isn't as simple as your first point implies.
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26-09-2016, 01:38 PM
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 01:14 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  
(26-09-2016 01:01 PM)Impulse Wrote:  Two thoughts:
1. A first cause that itself has no cause negates the premise that everything must have a cause. It's simply arbitrary to claim out of convenience, that this "rule" doesn't apply to a first cause. And if one exception is allowed, it's also arbitrary to claim that there can only be one exception.
2. Even if we accept that everything must have a cause and also that a first cause can be exempt (which we shouldn't...), it's a huge leap to then conclude that first cause must be "God". Which also begs the question, what is "God"?

I agree with your second point, but the first one isn't quite fair, because the argument as usually phrased is a bit subtler than that. They don't say that everything must have a cause -- they say that every contingent thing must have a cause, and since there can't be an infinite regress of causation (either temporal or logical), there must be a "first cause" which is not contingent -- i.e., it is necessary. I still don't buy the argument (Who says every contingent thing must have a cause? And who says there can't be an infinite regress of causation?), but the refutation isn't as simple as your first point implies.

IMO a contingent thing (WTF?), like the other variant I've head "things that begin to exist", is a definition invented solely for the purpose of obfuscating the argument.

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26-09-2016, 01:53 PM
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 01:38 PM)morondog Wrote:  
(26-09-2016 01:14 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  I agree with your second point, but the first one isn't quite fair, because the argument as usually phrased is a bit subtler than that. They don't say that everything must have a cause -- they say that every contingent thing must have a cause, and since there can't be an infinite regress of causation (either temporal or logical), there must be a "first cause" which is not contingent -- i.e., it is necessary. I still don't buy the argument (Who says every contingent thing must have a cause? And who says there can't be an infinite regress of causation?), but the refutation isn't as simple as your first point implies.

IMO a contingent thing (WTF?), like the other variant I've head "things that begin to exist", is a definition invented solely for the purpose of obfuscating the argument.

I would say that it's a definition that slips their conclusion into the premise, so yes, it's basically cheating. But you can't just say "If everything has a cause, what caused the first cause?" -- because that refutes a claim that they aren't making.

They will claim that the distinction between contingent things and necessary things is an important and valid philosophical distinction. I'm not so sure about that, but if you want to refute them, you have to deal with the claims that they actually make, and I've never seen anyone present a cosmological argument claiming that everything must have a cause.
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26-09-2016, 01:54 PM
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 01:14 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  I agree with your second point, but the first one isn't quite fair, because the argument as usually phrased is a bit subtler than that. They don't say that everything must have a cause -- they say that every contingent thing must have a cause, and since there can't be an infinite regress of causation (either temporal or logical), there must be a "first cause" which is not contingent -- i.e., it is necessary. I still don't buy the argument (Who says every contingent thing must have a cause? And who says there can't be an infinite regress of causation?), but the refutation isn't as simple as your first point implies.
I never heard that one before, but I hold to my argument. Either everything must have a cause or there are exceptions. Adding the word contingent translates to the first cause being an exception because it isn't contingent, by definition. But, if the first cause is an exception, then it doesn't have to be caused. That means it's possible for something not to have a cause. There is nothing in this logic that rules out multiple "first" (without contingency) causes each having their own contingent offspring. There could literally be millions, billions, or more. Pretty soon, it becomes almost pointless to even be discussing caused vs. not caused. But regardless, none of it leads to "god", whatever that is.

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26-09-2016, 01:58 PM
RE: God is...a very specific nothing?
(26-09-2016 01:53 PM)Grasshopper Wrote:  They will claim that the distinction between contingent things and necessary things is an important and valid philosophical distinction. I'm not so sure about that, but if you want to refute them, you have to deal with the claims that they actually make, and I've never seen anyone present a cosmological argument claiming that everything must have a cause.

"Contingent" really just seems to be a substitute word for "caused by". You have never heard a cosmological argument that says everything must have a cause because the ones making the argument know that it can't apply to "god" or the whole argument would become pointless. But that doesn't make their thought process sensible.

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