Infinite Regress
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24-08-2011, 07:31 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
My issue with both ideas, that God is impossible because of infinite regress and that God is infinite, make assumptions about the nature of time that I don't think we can make.

The primary assumption is that time exists and or has a meaning prior to the big bang and or outside of space-time.

As far as I understand it, time is only time within space-time. In space time, because of the increasing amount of entropy in the universe, there is a point we can never return to where I did not exist, the point now where I do exist, and a point later, when there is more entropy than now, where I will have ceased to exist. In space time, occurences have to be linear.

Outside of space-time or even before space-time, there is no reason to assume that time even exists. There is no reason to assume that there was a point where God, by any definition, didn't exist, a time when he does, and a time when he does not. There's no reason to assume there is linear time outside of space-time or that there is even anything even resembling time... Or existence for that matter... Or matter...

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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24-08-2011, 08:17 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
I'm not too clear on what you meant, Matt, but here's my best crack at it.

No-one is saying that god is impossible because of the infinite regress, I think. I'm perfectly willing to accept that there might exist an 'outside of time' that would fulfill this solution to infinite regress.

However, two things. First off, I don't think it's been proven that an infinite regress is impossible. As absurd as it is to our minds, modern physics should have served to teach we do not view the universe even close to the way it really works. So I'm not going to dismiss anything just because it seems absurd.

Second, anyone who is willing to say that god can exist outside of time, must also be willing to admit that some natural, unintelligent laws can exist outside of time. Theist proponents of 'first cause' style arguments never explain why the first cause must be an intelligent person, rather than some impersonal force or matter/energy, or something stranger still.

While I don't feel that first cause arguments hold water, because they underestimate the ability of nature to surprise us, they fail more spectacularly when they get to the point of trying to give this first cause any attributes what-so-ever.
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24-08-2011, 09:24 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
Hey, Sines.

I'm glad that you're open minded like that. Straight up. Good stuff.

I agree. The universe could just as easily have been created by be;sj;plox, a "natural" force residing outside of space-time (assuming natural has meaning outside of space-time) as it could have been by an intelligent entity (assuming intelligence and entity have meaning outside of space-time). But the odds of us knowing which are vanishingly small because as far as we know, we can’t actually observe beyond space-time and even if we could, we have no reason to believe that observation will yield any meaningful data.

I don't think people are saying that God is impossible because of infinite regress, but that he needed to be created by something. But like I said, that assumes linear time. "He wasn't, then he was, then he created." Also, it might very well be impossible to cross half of an infinite distance, but that only makes sense if time, physics and infinity have any meaning.

I'm not sure what you're saying about first cause not holding water. Could you elaborate?

Here's the thing about attributing characteristics to God. Revelation. God either revealed himself, or revealed truths, or was observed doing things by mortals and this was either transmitted orally or in books like the Bible. The problem with these stories and books is that they're unverifiable. The further problem is that some jackass might have made it all up, but we can't verify that either (well, we might be able to verify that, but we haven't). So all they're saying is, "we got it figured out cause he told us, trust us." The further problem is, maybe he did reveal things but he's a dick and likes fucking with us and giving us disinformation. The further problem is, maybe some jackass made it all up, but God exists anyway, we just don't know fuckall about him because he's the strong silent type.

So we need to begin with the premise that there is nothing scientific about any claim about the nature of God(s). It’s all either revelation, or fantasy, or intuition, or coincidence, or some weird combination of any of them. We can then ask, is God even plausible? If someone tells me they ate five Buicks, I can comfortably dismiss the claim because it’s implausible for about fifty different reasons. Right now, thanks to our scientific understanding of the universe and more specifically, what lies beyond it, my interpretation is that God’s at least plausible. So what do we do with that? Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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24-08-2011, 10:06 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
(24-08-2011 09:24 PM)Ghost Wrote:  Hey, Sines.

I'm glad that you're open minded like that. Straight up. Good stuff.

I think most people here are. They're just less likely to elaborate on it. I could be wrong though. I'm open minded about that Tongue

Quote:I agree. The universe could just as easily have been created by be;sj;plox, a "natural" force residing outside of space-time (assuming natural has meaning outside of space-time) as it could have been by an intelligent entity (assuming intelligence and entity have meaning outside of space-time). But the odds of us knowing which are vanishingly small because as far as we know, we can’t actually observe beyond space-time and even if we could, we have no reason to believe that observation will yield any meaningful data.

Right, so, no evidence. I'll agree. I will also say that I suspect there is at least one thing about our universe that is truly unknowable. I won't get into it, but if we encounter the 'first thing' then it won't have any cause we'll be able to discern, but we will never be able to know if that's because it had no cause (or eternally existed) or if we just haven't figured it out yet. The only way out of this problem is that if the universe is logically necessary. That is to say, starting with basic laws of logic, we will find out that this is the only way existence could be. That not even no existence at all was an option. While I like the poetic beauty of such a notion, I obviously have no evidence for it.

Quote:I don't think people are saying that God is impossible because of infinite regress, but that he needed to be created by something. But like I said, that assumes linear time. "He wasn't, then he was, then he created." Also, it might very well be impossible to cross half of an infinite distance, but that only makes sense if time, physics and infinity have any meaning.

A common mistake. Except when I hear it out of Dr. Craig, he has no excuse for being mistaken (Sorry for the cheap shot, I just do not like that man...). When an atheist asks 'who created god' we're not saying that god has to have a creator, or he doesn't make sense. Rather, it's usually a rebuttal to the claim that something must have made the universe or life. That everything has a cause for it's existence, therefore God. "Then who made god?" is put forth simply because it necessarily follows from the premise "Complex things require a designer" for Intelligent Design, and similar phrases for other arguments (Such as the Cosmological Argument). At this point, the theist / creationist declares that god is the exception for no reason.

There's nothing wrong with a designer that needs no designer in principle, however, their argument included as a premise that "X must have a designer", and thus their conclusion falls apart because it refutes the premise. If not EVERYTHING requires a designer, then the first premise becomes "Some complex things have designers," and we're left only with the conclusion that "X might be designed", which is pretty weak.

tl;dr version. "Who designed the designer" is not an argument, it is only a counter argument. It exists to point out the flaw in the original argument (Unless the person is willing to admit their intelligent designer must have been designed, and that designer must have been designed, in a case of infinite regress, which no theist is willing to do).

Quote:I'm not sure what you're saying about first cause not holding water. Could you elaborate?

This is more complex than some other things. But let's take the most well footed of the first cause arguments, and it's first premise. From the Kalam Cosmological Argument, premise one is that whatever begins to exist has a cause. This has two problems, but they kind of overlap.

You see, 'begins to exist' has two meanings. I began to exist sometime between the birth of my father and now. Can you pinpoint when the atoms that make me up became 'me'? If you believe in the soul, then we can simply talk about the meat I happen to be wearing. Because that's the thing, my atoms didn't pop into existence as me. They were always there. I began to exist as an assemblage of pre-existing stuff. Until recently, this was the only 'begin to exist' we have ever observed, whereas the first cause argument is talking about something coming into existence from nothing.

The second problem is that we have witnessed things coming into existence from nothing. Quantum mechanics is a very strange thing, and I won't get into it here, but here's a fascinating discourse on it (http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/..._phi.php). The simple fact of the matter is, you can get something for nothing, and for no observable reason at all. There might be a reason we can't see, but until we can confirm it's existence, we must at least be open to the possibility that these kind of things really do have no cause.

Now, Dr. Craig has responded to this, saying that the quantum vacuum isn't really nothing. I s'pose that's fair. But then we simply regress to the first problem. We have never witnessed something come into existence from nothing. And therefore, we have no basis to determine how such an event might come about.

Quote:Here's the thing about attributing characteristics to God. Revelation. God either revealed himself, or revealed truths, or was observed doing things by mortals and this was either transmitted orally or in books like the Bible. The problem with these stories and books is that they're unverifiable. The further problem is that some jackass might have made it all up, but we can't verify that either (well, we might be able to verify that, but we haven't). So all they're saying is, "we got it figured out cause he told us, trust us." The further problem is, maybe he did reveal things but he's a dick and likes fucking with us and giving us disinformation. The further problem is, maybe some jackass made it all up, but God exists anyway, we just don't know fuckall about him because he's the strong silent type.

There is nothing in reality that disproves a God that isn't interested in us. The deist god may be completely un-disprovable (Ugh, may the ghost of the english language forgive me for that word). However, in science, something that can't be disproved is meaningless, and is safe to act as though it doesn't exist. And since not even scientists talk in rigid technical language all the time, it's safe to say that it doesn't exist.

Quote:So we need to begin with the premise that there is nothing scientific about any claim about the nature of God(s). It’s all either revelation, or fantasy, or intuition, or coincidence, or some weird combination of any of them. We can then ask, is God even plausible? If someone tells me they ate five Buicks, I can comfortably dismiss the claim because it’s implausible for about fifty different reasons. Right now, thanks to our scientific understanding of the universe and more specifically, what lies beyond it, my interpretation is that God’s at least plausible. So what do we do with that? Six of one, half a dozen of the other.

Well, if you have no evidence, you can't say it exists. There are a lot of things I find plausible. It's plausible my brother has won $1,000 in some local contest recently. But until he calls me up, I have no reason to even begin to think it's true.

That being said, there are many things that make the various gods proposed by humanity not just implausible, but impossible (Or next to it). The simple fact of the matter is, any god that wants worship, and has infinite power, would have everyone in the world worshipping him. That there is any doubt at all is a disproof of such a god. Before you say something like "But he wants us to worship him freely, so he won't mind control us," remember that "Make people worship you freely" is one power in the subset of "All-power". Surely an all-knowing, all-powerful god would be able to figure out how to convince everyone to worship him without coercion.

There might be an all-powerful god. There might be a god who desires worship. But there cannot be an all-powerful god who desires worship. This removes the possibility of the god of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The gods of the Egyptians, Hindus, Greeks/Romans and Norse are not all-powerful, but they had no problem making their prescense known. If they existed, we'd at least have scientists trying to study these incredible creatures that can change shape, speak clearly with a dogs head, or call upon lightning. We may not recognize them as gods, but they would at least be beyond current scientific understanding.

The simple fact of the matter is, we see nothing like this. Nothing that would indicate the gods of mankinds past, despite their great love to be recognized. Maybe something LIKE the christian god exists. Perhaps he is finite, and is locked in a battle with an equally powerful Satan, who counters all his divine revelations with his own trickery. Maybe the act of creation has drained his power (He did have to rest on the seventh day, after all), and he can never work on so grand a scale again. Whatever the case, these possibilities all depend on the deity in question being finite. Which means the infinite god of Abraham (though he wasn't infinite back in those days, go fig) does not exist.

Quote:Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt

You do know there are signatures on this board, right? You finish every post with that. I'm just saying it'd save you time ^_^
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24-08-2011, 11:31 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
Hey, Sines.

It would save me time. But I'm not interested in it being automatic. The act of typing it is important to me.

On logically necessary... way to break my brain lol

On Dr. Craig... Who dat?

On counter argument... Ok. That seems reasonable. I don't think complex things require a designer either, the operative word being require. To be fair though, again with the linear time assumption, there's nothing saying that God's designer had to come before God or that God creating his own designer is a paradox because there's no reason to assume that paradoxes exist outside of space-time.

On Kalam... Is not the point of the Big Bang that it is the precise moment that the universe came into being, or began to exist? So do we not know that there was an act of creation? I think that my confusion about that is confusing me about the quantum mechanic something from nothing point you're raising.

Quote:However, in science, something that can't be disproved is meaningless, and is safe to act as though it doesn't exist.

I have issue with this… more or less.

Science is based on methodological naturalism. The premise is, everything has a natural explanation, which is of course indemonstrable. So by your rationale, science's basic premise is meaningless. But science proceeds methodologically as if it were true (forgive my speaking as if science is an entity). Science will never stop looking for the natural answer because it assumes that it's there. Science has to proceed as if the indemonstrable "doesn't exist" otherwise science's basic premise is challenged. Any non-natural explanation is indemonstrable. Science can afford to act as if the non-natural is irrelevant because it can't comment on it and because it's effects are immeasurable, unique, unpredictable and irreproducible anyway. So I can be down with "acting" as though it's irrelevant to science because it is, but I have issue with the leap to assuming it doesn't exist at all, because there's no scientific reason to think that.

Quote:Well, if you have no evidence, you can't say it exists.

Scientifically speaking, sure. Which is why I say that one has to begin with the premise that there is nothing scientific about knowledge about the nature of God. They aren't basing its truth on science; they're basing it on revelation.

On your brother.... did that sound wrong.... It is plausible that he won that money. But it's also testable. Possible and you can know. The Buick eating thing is also testable, but why bother? It's completely implausible. Impossible and you can know. But God is plausible and untestable. Possible but you can’t know (scientifically anyway, who’s to say you didn’t see a flaming bush once). So there's no reason to dismiss it.

On infinite power... having infinite power does not oblige an entity to use their infinite power. For example, scientists that design evolution simulators have infinite power over the parameters of the simulation. They can intervene at any time. They can arbitrarily decide what the outcome is. But they don't have to do anything. By and large, they set the parameters and let it run. There's no reason to assume that a God that desires worship wouldn't create a universe where creatures can decide willingly to worship. Perhaps that has more value than a universe of zombies. Maybe it's more gratifying. We can assume that part of being all powerful is having agency and the ability to use discretion.

That being said, every single account of the nature of God might be utter invention. But even if we prove that empirically, it says nothing about the existence or non-existence of God(s).

So I'll never defend an individual religion or an individual description of God(s) because they're indemonstrable for the most part. Some stuff is debunkable and when it's debunked, I accept it. I’ll also never state that God does or does not exist, because that's indemonstrable too. The only thing I can do, is look at what we do know and at our gaps in knowledge and at our theories and assumptions and ask, within that framework, is there room for God(s). Right now, for me, the answer is yes.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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25-08-2011, 11:19 AM
RE: Infinite Regress
Hey Ghost,

It sounds like you're hung up on the question of whether gods are plausible. I don't think the question of plausibility is as important to science as to whether they are likely. This planet contains a finite number of scientists with a finite amount of time in which to study the universe they find themselves in. Within this window, they must "pick their battles." If a plausible concept is simply unlikely, how much effort should be spent studying it?

He's not the Messiah. He's a very naughty boy! -Brian's mum
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25-08-2011, 11:35 AM
RE: Infinite Regress
Hey, CS.

I disagree. They could dedicate every second of every waking hour to studying it and they'd never get anywhere because it's indemonstrable. So there is no actual way to determine the likelihood of God. The mistake, as I perceive it, is that with questions of science, one can say, if there's no evidence, it doesn't exist. "I saw a 100 foot tall elephant!" "Got evidence?" "No." "Then there's no reason to believe you. In fact, it's not even plausible because a mammal that size would be crushed under its own weight." So in terms of science, no evidence for God, no existing. But the existence of God is not a scientific question. Never will be because it's indemonstrable. The only thing we can actually say with any confidence is that God is plausible but that we have no way of knowing.

Just for shits and giggles, here's an example of what life outside of space-time might be like.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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26-08-2011, 09:28 PM
RE: Infinite Regress
First off, I s'pose you're right about naturalism being unprovable. I'm pretty sure there's a better response, but for now, I'll settle by saying that it's a practical assumption. And it is disprovable that it's practical. Because, y'know, religion for years went on the whole non-naturalism, and that proved much less practical than naturalism.

Second, you think eating a buick is implausible, but god isn't? First off, sure, with an entity so poorly defined as god, I guess it can be plausible. After all, people say 'God is Love' and 'God is Energy'.

However, just to show you have some problems on what is plausible and what is implausible...

http://flickeringpictures.com/2009/01/02...-airplane/

It's not a Buick. It's bigger.
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27-08-2011, 07:17 AM (This post was last modified: 28-08-2011 07:42 AM by Ghost.)
RE: Infinite Regress
Hey, Sines.

...uhhh....er....OK, that's fucked up.

On first... Yeah. It's called methodological naturalism. Not sure what you're getting into with practical though.

On second... I still think eating five Buicks is implausible, even though buddy at a cessna over two years. I had made the assumption that the consumption of five Buicks occured in a day, but, more than anything, this demonstrates exactly what I was talking about. It's implausible, but you can check. You can test to see if it's possible. You can find evidence for and against, like Mr. Eats All. You can do none of that with God.

I've detailed why I think God is plausible. My question to you is, why is God implausible?

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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27-08-2011, 09:55 AM
RE: Infinite Regress
The issue with an outside of time is actually that its mere existence is a paradox. If something exists outside of time then time is completely relative. There can be no finite beginning to anything if there exists something outside of linear regression. If things exist beyond cause and effect then no amount of cause and effect can truly conclude anything. If a force outside of time happens to create a universe, then that force outside of time can happen to renew that universe. In the event that there is an outside time, then our universe is much less finite than you might think. Quantum mechanics looks a little at the possibility of the world having sources of renewal, but it's still primarily speculation.

On the idea of unknowable I can never agree that it's an acceptable word. Many unknowable things have become known, what this proves is that just because it is inconceivable doesn't mean it can't be known.

The simple fact of infinite regression is that it's observable. You can take a microscope and look inside of a cell and see inside of this cell smaller pieces making it up, and every time you increase the magnitude you'll see even smaller pieces. You can turn to math and look at products like fractions and see a number which is completely fluid. While humans dislike the idea of something going on forever they can see examples of it existing.

Both things are completely plausible and in truth not even contradictory of each other, there are just people who feel that pitting the two up against each other can make a point. It's like pro-life and pro-choice the argument made by pro-life advocates is moderated by pro-choice advocates, but they are not two opposing sides. Both hold many of the same values in the subject, there are just those who see inevitable needs and those who believe nothing is inevitable.

I'm not a non believer, I believe in the possibility of anything. I just don't let the actuality of something be determined by a 3rd party.
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