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The Contingency Argument for God

Contingency

Many consider the argument for God from contingency to be one of the strongest. The basic form is simple:

  1. If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.
  2. The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.
  3. Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.
  4. What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.
  5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.

Suppose you deny the first premise. Then if X exists, there need not exist what it takes for X to exist. But "what it takes for X to exist" means the immediate condition(s) for X's existence. You mean that X exists only if Y. Without Y, there can be no X. So the denial of premise 1 amounts to this: X exists; X can only exist if Y exists; and Y does not exist. This is absurd. So there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist. But what does it take?

We spoke of the universe as "the collection of beings in space and time." Consider one such being: yourself. You exist, and you are, in part at least, material. This means that you are a finite, limited and changing being, you know that right now, as you read this book, you are dependent for your existence on beings outside you. Not your parents or grandparents. They may no longer be alive, but you exist now. And right now you depend on many things in order to exist—for example, on the air you breathe. To be dependent in this way is to be contingent. You exist if something else right now exists.

But not everything can be like this. For then everything would need to be given being, but there would be nothing capable of giving it. There would not exist what it takes for anything to exist. So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself. What it takes for this thing to exist could only be this thing itself. Unlike changing material reality, there would be no distance, so to speak, between what this thing is and that it is. Obviously the collection of beings changing in space and time cannot be such a thing. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist cannot be identical with the universe itself or with a part of the universe.

Question: But why should we call this cause "God"? Maybe there is something unknown that grounds the universe of change we live in.

Reply: True. And this "unknown" is God. What we humans know directly is this sensible changing world. We also know that there must exist whatever it takes for something to exist. Therefore, we know that neither this changing universe as a whole nor any part of it can be itself what it takes for the universe to exist. But we have now such direct knowledge of the cause of changing things. We know that there must exist a cause; we know that this cause cannot be finite or material—that it must transcend such limitations. But what this ultimate cause is in itself remains, so far, a mystery.

There is more to be said by reason; and there is very much more God has made known about himself through revelation. But the proofs have given us some real knowledge as well: knowledge that the universe is created; knowledge that right now it is kept in being by a cause unbounded by any material limit, that transcends the kind of being we humans directly know. And that is surely knowledge worth having. We might figure out that someone's death was murder and no accident, without figuring out exactly who did it and why, and this might leave us frustrated and unsatisfied. But at least we would know what path of questioning to pursue; at least we would know that someone did it.

So it is with the proofs. They let us know that at every moment the being of the universe is the creative act of a Giver—a Giver transcending all material and spiritual limitations. Beyond that, they do not tell us much about what or who this Giver is—but they point in a very definite direction. We know that this Ultimate Reality—the Giver of being—cannot be material. And we know the gift which is given includes personal being: intelligence, will and spirit. The infinite transcendent cause of these things cannot be less than they are, but must be infinitely more. How and in what way we do not know. To some extent this Giver must always remain unknown to human reason. We should never expect otherwise. But reason can at least let us know that "someone did it." And that is of great value.

 
 
Excerpted from “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics", copyright 1994, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, published 2009 Ignatius Press, used with permission of the publisher. Text reproduced from PeterKreeft.com.

(Image credit: Unsplash)

Dr. Peter Kreeft

Written by

Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a noted Catholic apologist and philosopher. He is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 60 books including Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986); Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius, 1988); Catholic Christianity (Ignatius, 2001); The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 2002); and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005). Many of Peter's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Find dozens of audio talks, essays, and book excerpts at his website, PeterKreeft.com.

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  • Sylvain Aubé

    I am a
    believing and practicing Catholic, and yet this argument seems utterly
    senseless to me. Why should anything else than Nature (not only our universe,
    but the whole of spatial-temporal reality) be the self-existing being? Nature
    is not within time and space, Nature IS time and space. Everything in Nature
    needs conditions to exist but we have no clue that Nature itself needs any
    condition to exist. Everything in Nature changes but Nature itself does not
    change; it always remains to sum of all matter in time and space. If we claim that is one of the strongest arguments
    for the existence of God, I understand why there are so many atheists today…

    • Sylvain, thanks for the comment! Good to have you here.

      I detect lots of confusion and equivocation, however. You define Nature as "time and space", but then you ask, "Why should anything else than Nature...be the self-existing being?"

      Do you consider "Nature" a being or merely a collection, or set, of beings? I'm not sure I can determine your position.

      You then write:

      "Everything in Nature changes but Nature itself does not change"

      I'm curious how this can be possible. If everything in a set changes, surely the set changes, too. It is not what it once was, and therefore would be contingent.

      "If we claim that is one of the strongest arguments for the existence of God, I understand why there are so many atheists today."

      Again, it's not clear you fully understand the argument since you've dismissed it very casually and confusingly. But even if it were true that the contingency argument was a bad argument, that's no reason to embrace atheism. Surely you would agree there could be other strong reasons to believe in God (since you yourself are a Catholic).

      • Doug Shaver

        But even if it were true that the contingency argument was a bad argument, that's no reason to embrace atheism.

        I totally agree. It is distressing to observe how many atheists think that because they've shown some theistic argument to be fallacious, they have thereby proven God's nonexistence.

        • Mike

          If there is no "god" or "gods" then surely we are gods ourselves.

          • Doug Shaver

            Normally, when I talk about God, I am referring to that which is the object of worship by the world's major monotheistic religions. Some people call it the Abrahamic God. If you wish to argue for the existence of some other god, I have no objection, but I see no reason to think that if the Abrahamic God does not exist, then we are gods.

          • Mike

            So if no other god or gods exist then we still arent' gods? i am puzzled bc surely compared to all life on earth we are god like to it...strange reasoning seems illogical to me.

          • Doug Shaver

            To say that A is like B is not to say that A is B. There is nothing illogical about that. It is illogical to affirm the contrary.

          • Mike

            So you deny a particular conception of god not gods in general correct?

          • Doug Shaver

            I deny all the gods I've heard about. If you know of one that I haven't heard about, we can discuss it.

          • Mike

            Me, you, do you deny yourself your god-ness vis a vis your pet cat or dog or some ant?

          • Doug Shaver

            Yes, I deny it.

          • Mike

            Strange and equally puzzling...maybe your hang up is with god the concept not with "the mystery at the heart of existence" aka the christian god?

          • Doug Shaver

            My hangup is with using language to convey my actual thoughts. The words "mystery at the heart of existence" do not correspond to anything I regard as real.

          • Mike

            but hold on you surely must agree that there is some "mystery" at the heart of existence otherwise why all the philosophies, religions, beliefs? it doesn't add up otherwise.

          • Doug Shaver

            There will always be questions that we have not found the answers to. If you want to treat God as a three-letter code for "We don't know," go ahead. I don't see any point to it.

          • Mike

            any point? none at all? you mean the billions of ppl and nobel prize winning scientists and the inventors of the college system and science itself who were all believers got it somehow wrong? wow you seem very very sure of your personal choice of analysis...very puzzling reasoning your employ...seems more personal psychological therapeutic in nature to make yourself "feel" better about your beliefs than real logical deduction.

          • Doug Shaver

            seems more personal psychological therapeutic in nature to make yourself "feel" better about your beliefs than real logical deduction.

            Things aren't always what they seem.

          • Mike

            Ok i am confused...all the best.

          • Mike

            ps maybe you don't REGARD it as real but perhaps like pure math it is real even though you can't "see" it...see maybe you're applying the wrong "level" of analysis? Like trying to analyze the growth of algae in terms of quantum physics? or something like trying to find out why a cake was baked by analyzing it's chemical components instead of reading the inscription on top?

          • Doug Shaver

            I am applying a level of analysis that works for me. If another one works better for you, go for it, but don't see you getting anything that I'm missing.

          • Mike

            so the level of analysis is a personal choice..that is just illogical and weird thinking..i mean do chemists work that way or physicists or biologists or mathematicians...your reasoning is puzzling.

          • Doug Shaver

            so the level of analysis is a personal choice

            Not what I said.

          • Mike

            Ok.

            Thx. all the best.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Are you having in mind Nietzsche's quip "We have killed God. Must we not become gods because of it?"

            We are certainly the most god-like thing we are immediately aware of: intellect and reason and free will and the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus and all that groovy stuff. The book of Genesis says that God created humanity in his image; folks who don't like the idea of a real God claim that we created God in our image (or in the image of our parents, "sky-daddy"). They then proceed via materialistic reductionism to deny intellect, free will, consciousness, self-identity, etc. It is a strange result that in killing God we actually end up destroying what we believe we are.

          • Mike

            i was laying a trap for doug i was trying to see if he doesn't believe in the concept "god" or just in the christian god bc if there really is no gods then surely by any reasonable defn of the word we are gods.

            i think it is supremely more reasonable to assume God than to assume nothing but then again i am a revert.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            I suppose someone might expect that if we are to call ourselves "gods", then we should have some kind of super-power. I expect many would say we do not, but I cant answer for Doug. What sort of reversion?

          • Mike

            i was an agnostic hedonistic lefty urban dweller who never thought about weirdo religious folks and was very libertarian about social/fiscal issues until i grew up and changed my views and got interest in the catholic church and was blown to see just how rational and logical it was.

            Well thats my point to a dog we do have super powers, have you ever tried to explain basic algebraic functions to a dog before or basic geometry or abstract reasoning? plus we have airplanes and lasers and mri machines so aren't we gods?

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Good to hear, welcome aboard! Yes, the Catholics are all about Faith and Reason, emphasis on the "and". I can in all honesty say with complete certainty that I have never tried to explain algebra to a dog. Dogs do seem to adore their owners dont they?
            With the flying and lasers and xray vision we are kind of like Superman, who is pretty godlike in the old Apollo/Athena sense. Though a Christian would want to prove his god-like qualities not with technology or power, but with faith, hope and love.
            Have you familiarized yourself with Chesterton?

          • Mike

            thx...chesterton? YES! i read heretics and orthodoxy and was blown away by how "prophetic" it was written in the 1920s or 30s or whenever it was; yes love chesterton...really like'd the ball and the cross even though most ppl don't mention it.

            actually to be honest i was alittle embarrased to start reading him, steeped in urban lefty scorn for religious jesus freaks as i was i hid the book so ppl wouldn't recognize it and think me "gauche".

          • Garbanzo Bean

            I remember when I started to attend mass as a young man, I had to become accustomed to hearing the words "Jesus" and "Christ" in a context other than as a swearword. Keep on trucking!

          • Mike

            Yes i know what you mean. Seems to me that among secularists Jesus is either a punch line to a joke or a signal that you're not a part of the in crowd.

          • Michael Murray

            Why?

          • Mike

            bc otherwise the concept is meaningless

          • Doug Shaver

            You say so.

        • Mike

          Doug, what do you think are we gods if there are no real gods?

          • Doug Shaver

            I do not think we are gods, regardless of whether there are any real gods.

          • Mike

            but to a rat i am a god no? to my dog i am a god no? i mean if i am not my dog's god what does the word god mean?

          • Doug Shaver

            The word means nothing to a rat or a dog. To you, it can mean anything you like. To me, it means whatever people in general think they're talking about when they use the word.

          • Mike

            So do you believe in gods aka us?

          • Doug Shaver

            I've already answered that question.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            I went out with a goddess for 13 months, but that was over 25 years ago.

          • Mike

            Nice!

      • Sylvain Aubé

        Thanks for replying, Brandon

        Indeed, I agree that there are other strong reasons to believe, but I am wary when some weak or ambiguous arguments are presented as strong arguments. I am fully available to the notion that I largely misunderstand the argument from contingency, but Dr. Kreeft’s explanations are confusing to me despite my Catholic intellectual background; I dare not wonder how unpersuasive it might be to those who lack such a background. In the end, I guess my critique is more directed to Dr. Kreeft’s claim than to the argument itself (which, I readily admit, I probably do not grasp correctly).

        But, if you or any other contributor would be so kind, I would definitely like to understand this argument. I quote Dr. Kreeft’s :

        “And right now you depend on many things in order to exist—for example, on the air you breathe. To be dependent in this way is to be contingent. You exist if something else right now exists. But not everything can be like this.” “So there must be something that does not exist conditionally; something which does not exist only if something else exists; something which exists in itself.” “Obviously the collection of beings changing in space and time cannot be such a thing.”

        I do not find this obvious at all. There is no similarity, not even by analogy, between my need for air to exist and the universe’s hypothetical need for something else to exist. Why would the universe need anything else to exist? What characteristic of the universe indicates that it necessarily needs something else to exist? I see how changing things within a given causal system must be contingent but I don’t see how the whole causal system must be contingent. The universe, or Nature, is not a changing being within a causal system, it is a causal system.

        • TomD123

          To be contingent means to possibly exist. Since the universe exists, it is obviously possible to exist. However, unless the universe HAS to exist, it is not necessary, and then it is contingent. The only way then we can say that the universe is not contingent is if it has to exist.

          It seems to me for many reasons that this is not the case. I could get in to them, but for now, all I will say is unless you think it is impossible that our physical universe be any different (i.e. be another universe) or fail to exist (i.e. it must be eternal and necessarily eternal), then you think it is contingent.

          Contingent things need causes because they cannot explain their own existence.

          • Logike

            The universe is not a "thing" in the way that would allow your argument to work. So your above reasoning doesnt actually apply.

    • Tpr1976

      You just described Thomas Aquinas' second objection to the existence of God which he later refuted in his 'Summa Theologica'.

    • Gail Finke

      Your definition of Nature may make sense to you, but it is not the definition of Nature that most people would use, and is not the one that is being used in the contingency argument.

  • I concede Dr. Kreeft’s argument in broad outline: By experience we know this cat, whose nature is distinct from its existence, does exist. Therefore a being, beyond our experience, must exist whose nature is not distinct form its existence. I do not concur with what appears to be the same argument: The universe exists, therefore God exists. The universe is a collection of things. The universe is not an entity in itself. It is fundamentally logical, like any other set in mathematics.

    • Gail Finke

      Still the same argument. If the universe is a collection of things, then each one must have originally come from ... what? Whether you look at it as a set, or the individual members of an infinite set, I don't see the difference.

      • The argument, as you indicate, applies to each entity within the scope of our experience because it is an entity. The set, although a collection of entities, is not an entity, but a logical construct. Therefore, the argument does not apply to the set as such.

  • Mike

    This is by far the most powerful argument for me. Even before i became a catholic i thought it 100% more reasonable than to assume that because something exists it came from nothing.

    Now that we know about the Big Bang it makes this argument even stronger.

  • Logike

    Beware of Kreeft's slight-of-hand. The first half of the argument is ok, but premise 4 either begs the question or assumes something unestablished.

    The crucial support he offers from premise 4 can be found when he says, "But not everything can be like this [he means "contingent']. For then everything would need to be given being, but there would be nothing capable of giving it." Why does he think if everything were contingent nothing would be capable of giving being? Presumably because he thinks contingent things cannot give rise to other contingent things--but this is manifestly false. It happens all the time. So why would Kreeft think this? Well, either because he already thinks there exists a non-contingent being without which nothing is explained, or because he thinks an infinite regress of contingent explanations does not satisfy the principle of sufficient reason. The former would beg the question; the latter would be highly suspect. For, it is perfectly conceivable that each event or being within an infinite series explains, or is explained by, some other event or being within that same series. Everything, therefore, would be explained, and there would be no need for a transcendent creator.

    Either way, his argument doesn't work.

    • Mike

      I disagree i think it is the most powerful argument as it establishes that barring all evidence the default position should be theism.

      • Logike

        You are free to disagree all you want. Your challenge, however, is offering support for premise 4 that does not also assume the conclusion. Again, if each contingent event or being within an infinite
        series explains, or is explained by, some other contingent event or being within that same series, then everything gets explained and premise 4 is false. Therefore, there is no need for a transcendent creator. I think you and Kreeft need to do more work here.

        • Mike

          That sounds like some version of buddhism to me; an infinite cycle of reality...which simply means there is not real meaning in the world and hitler was no more no less moral than mother teresa, it's all a giant illusion with no end.

          • Logike

            Whether that sounds "buddhist" to you are not, an infinite regress of contingent explanations is still a logical possibility Kreeft needs to rule out, otherwise premise 4 is false and his argument unsound.

          • Mike

            How is it more logical when we know the universe is about 14 billion years old? barring any "hard" evidence to the contrary it is much more reasonable to assume a beginning...after by your standards you can never know anything bc even your existence could be a ruse some kind of a magic trick you might be in the matrix or what not.

          • Logike

            But even if the observable universe, as we know it, is only 14 billion years old, a non-contingent cause such as God still does not logically follow from that fact coupled with the principle of sufficient reason (premise 1). It is perfectly possible that what is outside the universe is another contingent universe, or a multiverse (which is the popular view among scientist today), responsible for our own. Theism is not the "default position."

          • Mike

            Theism makes way more sense than some thing that seems to almost all ppl regardless of beliefs strange namely that this is some grand infinite cycle rather than a matrix like world or a computer simulation or the holodeck ala star trek; your case is way less intuitive; therefore that's why most ppl STILL even in the rich white liberal west believe in god...it's very very hard to convince ppl that they are living in an infinite regression; not very hard to say the universe is 14 billions years old and was created by a god.

          • Logike

            Mathematics and mathematicians have no trouble with infinity. Why should scientists or philosophers? And in what sense is theism "more intuitive"? Please explain to me how God performed such an amazing feat as creating the universe "from nothing." Our past experience time and again shows matter getting rearranged from pre-existing matter, but nothing like things suddenly materializing from an unknown supernatural being. Therefore, it seems much more plausible that matter, in some form, always existed. Again, theism is not the default.

          • Mike

            ppl who believe the earth was flat were smart bc all evidence pointed in that direction in fact it would have been silly and unscientific to claim it was a sphere - that's why i say baring hard evidence it makes most sense to posit creator first.

            Math infinity is an abstract concept not a physical reality as far as we know ;ppl used to think the steady state was right but science proved it wrong.

            Matter is not most basic bc it has within itself possibilities potentials; take so and so many atoms and you get a gas; take so and so many more atoms and you get a hard sold with such and such properties; take away one proton and it "magically" appears to have new properties...SO how does it "know" that 7 protons 7 neutrons or whatever equals gas with such properties but 15 protons etc. equals something such and such with such and such properties? Where is the VTABLE look up for this? Do you get my drift? it must be REFERENCING some "table" out there for we know that matter can't think unless it is not actually just matter but has some properties that some how make it "conscious" and again the best explanation of that is some other intelligence aha God.

          • Logike

            Of course their evidence told them the earth was flat. The point is that consensus is not evidence. You were trying to show God existed based on mere consensus, not evidence.

            Yes, people, even scientists, can be shown to be mistaken in their beliefs. No one disagrees with that. But how does that mere possibility lend evidence to theism? It doesn't, anymore than it lends evidence for atheism.

            No, I don't get your "drift." You talked about protons and neutrons, and their various combinations giving rise to new properties. (The philosophical view is known as "emergentism"), by the way. But how is this evidence for God? If it were, I'd think most scientists and philosophers would certainly recognize that! But, ah, they don't. You don't have to believe in God to believe in metaphysical properties. Plato certainly didn't think belief in God was required to account for the existence of the Forms or consciousness, much less immaterial things like numbers, propositions, and sets. Beware of reducing this to a discussion about naturalism. Personally, I am not a naturalist. I don't think the physical world is "all there is." Many atheists in philosophy, unlike many atheists in science, don't either.

            Also, metaphysical properties emerging from matter or energy come from matter and energy. They don't come from "nothing." So I don't know why you bring this up as some form of "magic." The difference between your postulate of "god did it" and the postulate that "matter did it" is that the latter cause is KNOWN, even if the causal connection between the two is not entirely understood. Likewise, no one knows, for certain, what caused the origin of the universe. But it certainly doesn't follow by logic that we know that cause was God!

          • Mike

            Consensus IS evidence, albeit "weak" evidence it is evidence none the less, unless you think that just bc ppl agree that scotland voted to stay in the union doesn't mean that it did until you count all votes yourself; how do you know anything at this level of evidence?

            If matter has emergent properties which it does those properties must have been put there AND must know when to be activated otherwise there'd be chaos and yet there is this trend towards more complexity.

          • Logike

            First off, you are confusing evidence with causation. Scotland is still part of Britain because people caused, or made, it to be part of Britain through their vote. No one would say Scotland is a part of Britain merely because people believed it. These people had to do something physical, namely, cast a vote, to make their beliefs influence reality. I mean, look, suppose the majority of Americans in some massive educational disaster believed Scotland was NOT part of Britain. Would that have been evidence that Scotland was not, in fact, part of Britain? I seriously doubt it.

            Consensus is only evidence, albeit weak evidence, when the matter about which they agree is not something people are likely to be wrong about, like consensus on matters of what people have seen with their own eyes, for example. Consensus counts as evidence, here, ONLY because people's senses, as past experience continues to show, are more often reliable than unreliable.

            The same thing, however, cannot be said about religious belief, or political belief, or astrological belief, etc., because no third party has ever been able to verify which religion is correct! In fact, there is an incredible LACK of consensus in religious belief because there are thousands of religions, some polytheistic, others monotheistic, some atheistic, and others still animist. And they all disagree on the very points relevant to your case: transcendence vs. immanence. MOST religions throughout human history have NOT believed god existed apart from the natural order. Although subsequently immortal, their gods had a beginning in time, emerging out of a pre-existing "chaos" (see the Ancient Greeks).

            Suppose you have consensus within religion. So what? What does the consensus of 2000 years of Western Europeans believing in Christianity lend evidence for that the polytheistic consensus does not? Citing your favored consensus while excluding another's seems rather arbitrary.

          • Mike

            the overwhelming majority of civilizations people have believed in a transcendent aspect to reality; you are in a tiny tiny tiny minority even in the rich white west most ppl still believe in some spritiual realm; Look ultimately the choice to believe in anything is your all i am saying it that the evidence stacks up way high in favor of "something" more and the best historical logical option is christianity...all the best.

          • Logike

            "the overwhelming majority of civilizations people have believed in a transcendent aspect to reality; you are in a tiny minority"

            --But I believe a transcendent reality exists, if by "transcendent" you mean "outside space-time." I believe non-physical things like numbers, propositions, and sets exist--and that they exist outside space-time.

            However, I am not sure how common this belief is. You need to qualify the term "transcendent" because it could mean so many different things to different people. It could either mean some things in nature have superhuman powers--like gods and spirits--or it could mean some things exist entirely outside the realm of space-time--or both.

          • Mike

            Ok, interesting...let's catch up on another post.

            Thx for the exchange.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No, I don't get your "drift." You talked about protons and neutrons, and their various combinations giving rise to new properties.

            Perhaps he was trying to explain how the properties of physical bodies are not material, but formal. That is, an atom of sodium and an atom of chlorine are made of the same parts -- protons, neutrons, electrons -- but have different properties because of the number and arrangement of those parts; i.e., their form.

            The philosophical view is known as "emergentism", by the way.

            "Emergentism" is used all too often in place of "then a miracle happens." Giving it a scientificalistic-sounding name doesn't dodge the bullet. In the Olde Days, this was called "formal causation." It is the form of the atom that causes it to be chlorine rather than sodium, not the matter.

            To put it another way, form is the principle of actuality. It is what makes a thing some thing; and as the maxim has it, "Every thing is some thing." All physical bodies are specific physical bodies; for example, a racoon rather than a spool of dental floss.

            Unfortunately, Modern Science at its birth rejected formal causes of being (as well as final causes of becoming). This led to a certain incoherence in explanations, until the Santa Fe people came up with "emergent properties" as a way of saying "formal causes" without getting kicked off the Kool Kids table. (Ditto, for Hume's rejection of Efficient Causes: without Final Causes, efficient causation is incoherent, so he replaced it with mere correlation.)

            But how is this evidence for God?

            If a thing is actually a racoon, then it is not potentially a racoon. Matter is the principle of potency as form is the principle of act. It is what persists through change. Primary matter is matter lacking any form. It is formlessness.

            Now, actual existents, like a racoon, are compounds of matter and form. This compound was called in Greek a synole, and the properties of a synole are properly called "synolisitc," which we have abbreviated to "holisitc." The whole has properties not predicated of its parts.

            For example: two particles with like electrical charge will repel each other rather strongly, while two particles with opposite charge will attract each other and move toward each other. Yet, we are to believe that a dense pack of protons, all positively charged, will cluster together in a nucleus without repulsion. We explain this by positing a "strong force" that overcomes the electromagnetic force at short distances. But note that this behavior only arises in the whole (the nucleus) and not in the parts (the protons). Similarly, the electrons, instead of plunging to their death under the irresistible pull of the protons in the nucleus, gaily envelop them in a "cloud" of some nebulous sort. Thanks, we suppose to a weak force. The thing to notice is that the parts behave differently in the whole than they do as free particles.

            To be potentially anything, primary matter must be actually nothing. "Nothing" does not mean it is an empty room (there is still a "room" or a "quantum state" or something). It does not mean that there is this thing which we call "nothing" and particular things are made from it. That makes no more sense than on hearing that there is no one in the room, we were to ask "What does he look like?"

            So your always-existing matter is necessarily formless and hence does not actually exist. If it did, it would be some specific thing, like a racoon, which does not always-exist. But then, this potential stuff cannot make itself actual, because something that does not actually exist can't do diddly-squat, let alone make a potency something actual. Hence, there is a need for something actual to sustain things and, with a bit more noodling, we conclude that just as matter requires a primary matter that is pure potency, form requires a primary form that is pure actuality.

            And once you get a being of pure actuality, you are home free, since there are numerous powers and attributes that follow from that.

            If it were, I'd think most scientists and philosophers would certainly recognize that!

            cf. Thucydides, A History of the Peloponnesian Wars, Book IV, 108

          • Logike

            "Perhaps he was trying to explain how the properties of physical bodies are not material, but formal"

            --Or, "metaphysical." Yes, he was. You must not be reading my entire posts because I already acknowledged this.

            "Emergentism" is used all too often in place of "then a miracle happens."

            --No. That something appears to arise form something else, no matter how mysterious, doesn't mean it is a miracle. Our current science may currently lack the conceptual or empirical repertoire to explain the emergence of some things. But that doesn't mean the task is hopeless. Much of what we cited Aristotle as having explained we can now explain by recourse to material and efficient causes alone. For example, vitalism, the belief that life was animated by a single inorganic principle, has been since abandoned. During the 1850s, Helmholtz demonstrated that no energy is lost in muscle movement, suggesting that there were no "vital forces" necessary to move a muscle. Life is no longer conceived as some non-material principle, but rather a process which consists nothing more than the sub-processes of homeostasis, organization, metabolism, growth, adaptation, and reproduction. No principle or "form" needs to be cited to explain what life IS. Also, we don't need Aristotelian categories of "substantial form" and "accident" to account for the variety of species we see today either. We now have evolutionary theory which explains genetic diversity by the purely random forces of mutation and natural selection. Aristotle has become superfluous on many fronts, particularly in the attempt to account for the diversity of species. See below.

            "Giving it a scientificalistic-sounding name doesn't dodge the bullet. In
            the Olde Days, this was called "formal causation." It is the form of the atom that causes it to be chlorine rather than sodium, not the matter"

            --I am not dodging. Why do you speak of this development pejoratively? Aristotle is outdated for good reasons. The few mentioned above are enough. Notice, in pre-evolutionary theory scientists used to think the cause of giraffes evolving to grow a longer and longer necks was the "teleos" of needing to eat--a final cause. Now we have an equally viable explanation: random mutation coupled with natural selective pressures encountered in the giraffe's own environment--all material causes. Evolutionary theory is much simpler, broader in scope, and more explanatorily powerful than Aristotle's view was capable of.

            "So your always-existing matter is necessarily formless and hence does not actually exist."

            --"Not actually exist" meaning "without form." But you yourself admitted applying this Aristotelian concept tool does not mean the matter itself was nothing at all, or did not exist--which would be contradictory on your part. So what's the problem? It is still true to say matter always existed.

            In any case, I still fail to see how your history lesson in Aristotelian categories demonstrates the existence of God.

            "But then, this potential stuff cannot make itself actual, because
            something that does not actually exist can't do diddly-squat, let alone
            make a potency something actual."

            --I appreciate the lesson in Aristotelianism, but if Aristotle was correct, then evolution would never have happened because evolution would be an instance of potential stuff becoming actual. According to Aristotle, one Form cannot come from another distinct Form, and one species cannot come from another distinct species. But they have. Therefore, Aristotle was wrong.

            So, tell me, how do you even explain the origin and diversity of species? How, for example, do you get a human being from an orangutan? It does no good to say "different material stuffs took on different forms" because that is nothing more than restating what needs to be explained, genius. The question for you and your pet Aristotle is: WHY did THIS clump of matter rather than THAT matter inherit the form of a racoon rather than say the form of an elephant? Aristotle can't explain this, but scientists today can. Together with random mutation, we can explain the diversity of species, and even their exact geographical location, through population genetics, genetic drift, reproduction pressures, environmental changes, and the like. Aristotle had nothing of the sort.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Emergentism" is used all too often in place of "then a miracle happens."

            --No. That something appears to arise form something else, no matter how mysterious, doesn't mean it is a miracle.

            I tried to be precise. I said "used all to often" rather than "is" for the simple reason that formal causation is a given. But a vague notion that wholes are more than the sums of their parts is too often deployed as a bit of handwavium where a more precise account is called for.

            Much of what we cited Aristotle as having explained we can now explain by recourse to material and efficient causes alone.

            Even after Hume dispensed with efficient causes, too?
            I'm curious how to explain inheritance without recourse to the form of the DNA molecule, or to chemistry without reference to the form of the atoms involved in the reaction. Likewise, the very term ad-apt-ation indicates the necessity for final causation in evolutionary biology; and the concept has snuck back into physics under the guise of "attractor basins" and "potential functions." It is one thing to deny concepts, quite another to abandon clandestine reliance on them. Consider the following account of evolution:

            Four Causal Factors of Evolution
            1. Material Cause:
            The tendency to variation due to constant small random mutations in the genetic code; i. e., a variety of differing individuals within a species capable of transmitting their differences.
            2. Formal Cause: the tendency of an interbreeding population to reproduce itself in a stable manner and increase in numbers; i. e., the maintenance of type
            3. Efficient Cause: natural selection by the environment which eliminates those variants which are less effective in reproducing their kind; i. e., the agent determining in which direction species-change will take place
            4. Final Cause: the flexibility of living things by which they are able to occupy new niches in the changing environment; i. e., a feed-back mechanism which guides the selective process toward a new type which can exploit new environmental possibilities.

            Without final causes, efficient causes are incoherent. A→B makes no sense unless there is something in A that "points toward" B. Hence, "adaptation," which means "toward aptitude." Natural selection does not aim at ineptness, but at aptness. But what makes a trait "ad-vantageous"? It is what the animal or plant is trying to do: crack seeds or peck out insects. If a population reacts to a new environment by trying different strategies for living, then it shifts the goal posts on what natural selection will select for. The recent example of the Mediterranean wall lizard is a useful example.
            ++++

            For example, vitalism, the belief that life was animated by a single inorganic principle, has been since abandoned.

            Well phrased. It was abandoned as a metaphysical principle. That is, it was determined a priori not to employ it for reasons rooted in the intellectual concerns of the 19th century. This is quite a different thing from asserting it was disproven scientifically.

            Life is no longer conceived as some non-material principle, but rather a process which consists nothing more than the sub-processes of homeostasis, organization, meta bolism, growth, adaptation, and reproduction. No principle or "form" needs to be cited to explain what life IS.

            Aside from the fact that you have mixed categories, you have simply described in part the generic form of living things. It is difficult to assert that something you have partly described does not exist.

            Aristotle is outdated for good reasons. ... in pre-evolutionary theory scientists used to think the cause of giraffes evolving to grow a longer and longer necks was the "teleos" of needing to eat--a final cause. Now we have an equally viable explanation: random mutation coupled with natural selective pressures encountered in the giraffe's own environment--all material causes.

            Actually, they are not material causes. A material cause is literally the matter or stuff of which a thing is made. And since natural selection cannot distinguish between what is advantageous or disadvantageous independently of what the organism is trying to do, the final causes are still there, lurking in the nature of natural selection.
            ++++

            I still fail to see how your history lesson in Aristotelian categories demonstrates the existence of God.

            Oops. On topic. Reread, please: that which is only potential cannot make itself actual. That which is potential is not actual, and what is not actual cannot actually do anything. A series of actualizers of potentials must terminate in something perfectly actual and devoid of potential. Etc.
            ++++

            if Aristotle was correct, then evolution would never have happened because evolution would be an instance of potential stuff becoming actual. According to Aristotle, one Form cannot come from another distinct Form, and one species cannot come from another distinct species. But they have. Therefore, Aristotle was wrong.

            But Aristotle and the empirical school contended precisely that things in the world were in motion, where "motion" (kinesis) meant exactly potentials being actualized. A pile of building materials is potentially a house, potentially a bridge, potentially a gibbet, etc. It is not potentially an aardvark. Once construction begins on Socrates' house, the many potentials collapse onto a single potential ("to be a house") and motion (kinesis) begins. It moves toward the end (a house for Socrates) and when the end is achieved, the building materials are actually a house, and the kinesis stops. Motion is thus the "transition" between potency and act.
            Since the Aristotelians regarded the physical world as exactly the world in which things are in motion, your objection makes no sense. Perhaps you are relying on something Russell or Hume claimed that Aristotle had said rather than on what Aristotle claimed Aristotle had said.
            ++++

            How, for example, do you get a human being from an orangutan?

            You don't. Orangutans are on a separate evolutionary twig from humans. The one is not ancestral to the other.

            WHY did THIS clump of matter rather than THAT matter inherit the form of a racoon rather than say the form of an elephant?

            Easy. Because the form is encoded in its DNA. In the common course of nature, a raccoon possesses the form of a raccoon, not the form of an elephant.

            PS. as I entered this I noted that your comment differs in some places from the comment I received by email. I have not gone back to address any addenda.

          • Logike

            “Even after Hume dispensed with efficient causes, too?”

            --Hume didn’t dispense with causation. He reduced causation to perceived and predictable regularities. My points still hold under this Humean view of reductionism, and probably better articulated this way too. Call material causation “perceived statistical and functional regularities” if you want to.

            “I'm curious how to explain inheritance without recourse to the form of the DNA molecule, or to chemistry without reference to the form f the atoms involved in the reaction.”

            --These “forms” of the DNA molecule would be nothing over above the perceived statistical and functional regularities of the component parts of the DNA molecule and environment in which such molecules are to be found. It is the latter, not the former, which are ultimately explaining the diversity of species because the latter have predictive power, whereas the former do not.

            “Likewise, the very term ad-apt-ation indicates the necessity for final causation in evolutionary biology;”

            --No it doesn’t because the notion of "agency" in the old concept of adaptation is not doing any of the explanatory or predictive work. Statistical models do that. The adaptation of an organism to its environment, as evolutionary biologists understand it, is nothing more than the result of a series of purely random mutations, only a small few of which happen, also by chance, to be strongly correlated with likelihood of an organism sustaining itself in that particular environment it happens to find itself. It is very wrongheaded to think intentionality can be uncovered from randomness, because randomness excludes agency. After all, Darwinism dispensed with teleos entirely, which is why so many fundamentalist Christians find Darwinism so offensive. It removes the concept of design, purpose, and God’s guiding hand from the development of organisms. And they are right.

            “The concept has snuck back into physics under the guise of "attractor basins" and "potential functions."

            -- Yeah, well, I don’t know what physicists mean by these words and would prefer letting them, rather than you, speak on the matter because after reading your post, I can see you are already butchering scientific concepts.

            “1. Material Cause: The tendency to variation due to
            constant small random mutations in the genetic code; i. e., a variety of differing individuals within a species capable of transmitting their
            differences.
            2. Formal Cause: the tendency of an interbreeding population to reproduce itself in a stable manner and increase in
            numbers; i. e., the maintenance of type”

            --No. A “tendency” can be said to be nothing more than a
            statistical regularity. A statistical regularity is not a “cause” in any meaningful metaphysical sense of that term. Scientists use statistical regularities, not Aristotelian “tendencies,”
            to make predictions and offer explanations. You keep building these Old Magic notions of “propensity” or “power” into scientific concepts the former of which have already been dispensed with. No scientist makes use of them anymore because they have no use in measuring things and making predictions.

            “3. Efficient Cause: natural selection by the environment which eliminates those variants which are less effective in reproducing their kind; i. e., the agent determining in which
            direction species-change will take place”

            --What agent? Natural selection is not an agent. "It" is not even a "thing." And "it" doesn’t trigger anything in the animal to tell the animal “it’s time to adapt.” Natural selection is a set of environmental and reproductive variables which can be used to predict the evolutionary outcome of a species stochastically, and hence explain subsequent developments. The notion of “causal power” is totally superfluous, here, not to mention--missing!

            4. Final Cause: the flexibility of living things by which they are able to occupy new niches in the changing environment; i. e., a feed-back mechanism which guides the selective process
            toward a new type which can exploit new environmental possibilities....Hence, "adaptation," which means "toward aptitude. Natural selection does not aim at ineptness,
            but at aptness "

            --No. This is the old Lamarckian, pre-Darwinian way of talking about adaptation. I am convinced you lack an understanding of actual Darwinian mechanisms. Please look up the distinction. Let me illustrate how to go about explaining the change from a dog to a whale and the subsequent predominance of the whale over its ancestor without invoking any normative concept about “fitness,” without invoking any causally formal concepts about the animal “aiming to adapt,” and without invoking any causally efficient concepts about “the environment causing the animal to respond.”

            So how did this four-legged land mammal with paws evolve to have fins? Let’s start with describing the environmental
            conditions. When, due to a changing climate, these four-legged land mammals started to occupy a more sea-based environment, their main source of food became the sea. Well, we know animal with paws cannot swim to the same depth of water as animals with fins, and hence animals with paws have less chance of obtaining great numbers of fish at more shallow sea levels. In this environment as I have described it, there seems to be a “demand” (teleos) for a new swimming trait that this kind of mammal has to acquire but does not yet have. But does this demand actually exist? What happened? Here are two entirely different and competing
            explanations: You and Lamarck would say because the genetics of the mammal is “aimed” to survive (final cause), this mammalian species “changed in response” (efficient cause) to this change in the environment “in order to” (final cause)
            better (normative concept) accommodate the animal to its surroundings. But Darwin would thoroughly reject this explanation. He would deny that the mammal’s constitution, or genetic makeup, was “aimed” at anything. Also, there is no mechanism in the animal that gets triggered by the environment alerting the animal as to when it needs to start mutating. If you think there is, please tell me what that is! -No. The animal was always mutating, even before it
            inhabited a more sea-like environment. It’s just that not all mutations among the members of this species in the past allowed it to survive. Some mutations made it likely the animal would live; others did not, depending on the environment. So
            what explains the predominance of the fin-trait and absence of paws among these animals today is that when these animals with the mutation survived, they passed on their genetic information to future offspring, but those still stuck
            with the old-style paw were unable to survive long enough to pass on their genetic mutation to future generations and, so, eventually died out.—Again, notice I made no use of causal or intentional concepts in explaining the origin
            and predominance of whales. The explanation is entirely due to random stochastic processes measurable in purely numerical terms.

            “Without final causes, efficient causes are incoherent.”

            --This is not obviously true, unless you are trying to build the notion of intentionality into efficient causality, which is highly suspect.

            “A→B makes no sense
            unless there is something in A that "points toward" B.

            --Wrong, because the symbol "-->” is a material conditional, a logical operator, free of any causal notions at all. In any case, only intentional agents “point” to things. Statistical regularities, however, do not point to things because statistical regularities
            are not intentional agents. Again, your supposition that science cannot dispense with agency is not only groundless, it is also contrary to what has already happened in the scientific establishment.

            “But what makes a trait
            "ad-vantageous"?

            --“Advantageous,” “disadvantageous,” “fitness,” and “unfitness” are normative terms. The non-normative way of expressing the crux of the idea is to say there
            is a strong correlation between a particular trait and the number of deaths with some animals in some particular environments and a strong correlation between a particular trait and the number of animals continuing to survive in other environments.

            “It is what the animal or plant is trying to do: crack seeds or peck out insects.”

            --Ok, now you are talking about conscious organisms which DO have intentionality. But intentionality is not the mechanism of evolution. Behavior, not intention, is what gets “selected.” THINK, man.

            “If a population reacts to a new environment by trying different strategies for living, then it shifts the goal posts on what natural selection will select for.“

            --No. You mean to say that some behaviors are strongly correlated with survival in certain environments, and some are not. Again, the description is purely numeric. No need to invoke intentionality.

            “That is, it was determined a priori not to employ it for reasons
            rooted in the intellectual concerns of the 19th century.”

            --Well, now you are contradicting yourself. You clearly think (albeit incorrectly) scientists in biology still employ metaphysical concepts today. So is it you or the scientist that has changed his mind since the 19th
            century?

            “This is quite a different thing from asserting it was disproven
            scientifically.”

            --I’ve told you ad infinitum, the concepts of old are superfluous. That means “not needed,” in case, you didn’t know. That means the concepts of old are empty with respect to scientific explanatory power, scope, and predictability.

            “Aside from the fact that you have mixed categories, you have simply described in part the generic form of living things.”

            --I have already reduced these concepts to purely numerical ones on your behalf above. Stop being deceived by the colloquialism of a by-gone age.

            “Actually, they are not material causes.”

            --I keep forgetting you use material cause in a restricted Aristotelian sense. What I mean is purely statistical regularities that are material, without invoking causation (power, agency) at all. Neither I, nor scientists, require the notion of a cause, much less a material one.

            “And since natural selection cannot distinguish between what is advantageous or disadvantageous independently of what the organism is trying to do,”

            --But natural selection CAN distinguish what is “advantageous” and “disadvantageous” independent of the organism’s intentions because natural selection--again--
            “selects” behavior, not intentions. Nature simply doesn’t give a damn what an organism’s conscious intentions are! Again, an advantageous trait is a trait an organism possesses for which the organism is more likely to survive with than with out it (numerical description). And a disadvantageous trait is a trait an organism posses for which the organism is less likely to survive with than without it.

            “That which is potential is not actual, and what is not actual cannot actually
            do anything.”

            --Ok, matter is the subject of change, rather than being the agent of change, when it gains and loses forms. But its quantity never changes. It is also perfectly possible matter never did not persist. So it appears senseless to demand a cause for the persistence of matter because, though generation and corruption are instances of a change, persistence in existence is not. The question of why there is something rather than nothing makes no sense, then, because matter would be the first element of a per se series.

            “A series of actualizers of potentials must terminate in something perfectly actual and devoid of potential.”

            -- Why? This assertion is stipulated because it doesn’t’ follow from your premise above it.

            “WHY did THIS clump of matter rather than THAT matter inherit the form of a racoon rather than say the form of an elephant?”-Easy. Because the form is encoded in
            its DNA.”

            --But if the form just IS the DNA, you’re explanation is circular because I asked why this particular clump of matter received the form of Raccoon, not why this Racoon DNA received the form of the Racoon. On the other hand, if the form is not the DNA, then you still haven’t explained why one particular clump of matter becomes a Racoon rather than an Elephant. It would do no good to say “this clump of matter is potentially a Racoon, so it becomes a Racoon” because the same clump of matter is also potentially an Elephant, but for some inexplicable reason it does not become an Elephant.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Hume didn’t dispense with causation. He reduced causation to perceived and predictable regularities.

            That's called "correlation" in my profession and any client who acted on the supposition that correlation is causation would be called to account -- by the natural world if not by the consultant. This was exactly the error of al-Ghazali that reduced natural causation to merely "the habits of God" in The Incoherence of Philosophy and one of the factors that stifled the birth of modern science in the House of Sumbission

            Call material causation “perceived statistical and functional regularities” if you want to.

            I cannot call things what they are not. You are confusing material causation with a kind of "efficient causation." (And also questions involving organized simplicity with those involving disorganized complexity and organized complexity.) But a material cause is the material from which a thing is made. Bricks are the matter of a wall; clay is the matter of a brick; and so on. There is nothing statistical about it.

            These “forms” of the DNA molecule would be nothing over above the perceived statistical and functional regularities [sic] of the component parts of the DNA molecule ....

            So, the form has no predictive power but the sequence and arrangement of nucleotides does? You realize you are saying the same thing, right?

            “Likewise, the very term ad-apt-ation indicates the necessity for final causation in evolutionary biology;”
            --No it doesn’t because the notion of "agency" in the old concept of adaptation is not doing any of the explanatory or predictive work.

            Are you trying to convince me that natural selection does not result in greater adaptation to a niche? Or that it is not the agency that drives the adaptation?

            In Baconian-Cartesian science, the end is to "increase man's dominion over the universe." Naturally, for this you want to focus precisely on those elements that are metrical and controllable. But that doesn't mean that the non-metrical aspects of things have vanished. (Even Bacon realized that.) It only means that you will ignore them. My auto mechanic takes no cognizance of the statistical "laws" of thermodynamics when he repairs a transmission. If you are only interested in transmission repair, then you don't need anything deeper. Similarly, in Modern Science, where science becomes the handmaiden of engineering and industry.

            Statistical models do that.

            cough*cough*cough.
            Sorry about that. I nearly spit up on my keyboard.

            The adaptation of an organism to its environment, as evolutionary biologists understand it, is nothing more than the result of a series of purely random mutations, only a small few of which happen, also by chance, to be strongly correlated with likelihood of an organism sustaining itself in that particular environment it happens to find itself.

            It is very wrongheaded to think "randomness" is an explanation of anything, and the 19th century model you sketch doesn't hold up to 21st century genetics. There has not been enough time in the universe for this simple random model to reach the point it has. Physics and chemistry have a lot more to say than Darwin ever dreamed of.

            To be "strongly correlated" with "likelihood" of survival/reproduction depends in great measure on what the organism is trying to do. If it is cracking nuts, this kind of beak will aid it. If it is sucking nectar, then that kind of beak will aid it. But a yellow-bellied nut-cracker with the "wrong" sort of beak is also likely, in its struggle for existence [that word again] to cast about and try this or that other way of making a living, and perhaps discover that if its beak will no longer crack nuts, it can still munch fruit. It then becomes a yellow-bellied fruit-muncher and, if it is heredible, may start a new breed by moving over into a neighboring niche. IOW, the whole idea of "advantageous" and "harmful" traits requires a telos to distinguish them meaningfully.

            Darwinism dispensed with teleos entirely,

            He claimed to; but likely he had no idea what telos meant. Natural selection results in species becoming more adept, not less adept. In the long run, it points to the origin of species, not the origin of cupcakes. Perhaps you suppose that a generic cause like "evolution" has specific ends like "nut-cracking beak." But that confuses two levels: the generic and the specific.

            “The concept has snuck back into physics under the guise of "attractor basins" and "potential functions."
            -- Yeah, well, I don’t know what physicists mean by these words

            What's your line? Philosophy instructor? Don't know what background to aim at.
            Briefly, thus: A physical system governed by a potential function will naturally move toward equilibrium states by which the potential is minimized. A falling rock will move toward the point of lowest gravitational potential. A chemical reaction will move toward completion. Sometimes, these equilibria are single points -- for example, the Lagrange points in orbital dynamics -- sometimes they are cycles -- for example, Belusov reactions, planetary orbits, predator:prey ratios. The set of all such equilibria form a manifold (∂M) in state space over the parameter space. Now, any trajectory in state space will eventually end up at one of these equilibria, just as a raindrop falling on North America will eventually wind up in the Atlantic or the Pacific. These end-points are called "attractors" and their resemblance to teloi is obvious. The attractor basin is the region in state space from which initial conditions the system will eventually wind up on that attractor.
            http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Attractor
            http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Basin_of_attraction#Riddled_Basins_of_Attraction

            --What agent? Natural selection is not an agent.

            Of course it is. You don't suppose that "agency" requires "consciousness," do you? If a woman sitting at home is struck in the thigh by a meteorite -- this actually happened! -- the meteorite is the agent of her injury.

            And "it" doesn’t trigger anything in the animal to tell the animal “it’s time to adapt.”

            Well, no. Environmental factors are the trigger. Sometimes, being epigenetic, they don't even involve genetic change! (e.g., the famous experiment with helmeted water fleas)

            Natural selection is a set of environmental and reproductive variables which can be used to predict the evolutionary outcome of a species stochastically,

            Actually, it is the culling of those individuals less apt at reproduction. The "set of variables" has no causitive power unless something dies.

            This is the old Lamarckian, pre-Darwinian way of talking about adaptation. I am convinced you lack an understanding of actual Darwinian mechanisms.

            Lamarck had a point, as Darwin acknowledged in his Sixth Edition. But most folks today totally misunderstand what it was. If a bird is making its living cracking nuts, that will influence what sort of mutations to its beak are "advantageous" and which are not. Natural selection has to be selection "for" something. An organism is not a passive spectator to its own life. It is a part of its own environment.

            What has since replaced the concept of "aim," "intention," or "purpose"--none of which are measurable magnitude

            So what? Perhaps my background in general topology has accustomed me to thinking in terms of relationships rather than magnitudes; while my work in statistics has been just the opposite. I am always bemused to when folks insist on one exclusively.

            Let me illustrate how to go about explaining the change from a dog to a whale

            Or not:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_cetaceans

            When, due to a changing climate, these four-legged land mammals started to occupy a more sea-based environment

            But you said "without invoking any causally efficient concepts about 'the environment causing the animal to respond,'" complete with faux 'quote' marks. Unless you are misreading the term "feedback" in a complex system. The nature of final causes is that they are not causally efficient. They are not efficient causes, nor do they substitute for efficient causes. They are necessarily complementary. You cannot have A be an efficient cause of B unless B is a final cause of A. Now, I had quoted earlier:
            Final Cause: the flexibility of living things by which they are able to occupy new niches in the changing environment. Now here you say:
            due to a changing climate, these four-legged land mammals started to occupy a more sea-based environment
            which the patient observer is like to realize is exactly the same thing.

            Please look up the distinction. Let me illustrate how to go about explaining the change from a dog to a whale and the subsequent predominance of the whale over its ancestor without invoking any normative concept about “fitness,” without invoking any causally formal concepts about the animal “aiming to adapt,” and without invoking any causally efficient concepts about “the environment causing the animal to respond.”

            You and Lamarck would say because the genetics of the mammal is “aimed” to survive (final cause), thi s mammalian species “changed in response”

            No. As Darwin said, organisms have an inner drive to go on living. The change in environment does not cause the organism to "respond," although any "dog" [sic] finding itself at sea will certainly try to eat something and will try this or that as a matter of course. We are assured by naturalists observing real critters in real environments that this is so. What the environment interacting with the organism's behavior does do is redefine what is "advantageous."

            But Darwin would thoroughly reject this explanation. He would deny that the mammal’s constitution, or genetic makeup, was “aimed” at anything.

            He said that living things have a drive to go on living and to reproduce. How is this not "aimed" at? Darwin was silent on genetic make-up since he had no clue that genes even existed.

            Also, there is no mechanism in the animal that gets triggered by the environment alerting the animal as to when it needs to start mutating.

            There are a number of epigenetic factors, things like transposons, signals from the environment of which the organism is a part. Feedback, we say in system analysis. That is, not all mutations are random events. Microbiologists are learning that there are cause-specific changes induced by environmental stresses and the like. A good example is the acquired immunity of many bacteria to antibiotics. This did not happen by random mutation, but by horizontal transfer of genetic material reacting specifically to the chemicals involved.

            The animal was always mutating, even before it inhabited a more sea-like environment.

            Precisely. But the change of environment determined which traits and behaviors would henceforth be "advantageous." Mutation happens. If it doesn't effect the organism's ability to reproduce successfully -- and if it is inheritable -- it will simply get passed along. Eventually, the organism "figures out" what it might do with it. Why suppose there is a range of random mutations winnowed down by the environment and not suppose that an organism might display a range of random behaviors that get winnowed down by the environment?

            when these animals with the mutation surv ived, they passed on their genetic information to future offspring, but those still stuck with the old-style paw were unable to survive long enough to pass on their genetic mutation to future generations and, so, eventually died out.

            Either that or otter-like critters simply occupied a different niche.

            “Without final causes, efficient causes are incoherent.”
            --This is not obviously true, unless you are t rying to build the notion of intentionality into efficient causality, which is highly suspect.

            No. Where do you get "intention"? That is only one kind of telos. I'm only saying that sodium and chlorine combine to form salt. They do not combine to form thermite, oak trees, or a Pontiac Trans Am. There is something in the two material causes that "points toward" salt as an effect. It is why the reaction forms this compound and not some other random compound or no effect at all. The efficient cause describes how this is done, and if all one wants is to make salt and sell it at a profit, that is all one need bother one's pretty head about. Without the finality of the salt, you are stuck with the flabby notion that, "Welp, ayup, every time we combine these here two thangs we get salt. Yup, yup, yup. But that's just correlation based on experience. Tomorrow, we might get a cow."
            Three kinds of telos are:
            1. Terminus. Kinesis proceeds to a final point and stops. The reaction goes to completion. The telomeres divide a number of times then stop. The rock falls to the point of minimum gravitational potential.
            2. Perfection. Kinesis proceeds until all features proper to it have been achieved. The cub grows into a tiger, not a tiger lilly. The acorn grows into an oak, not a Scot.
            3. Intention. Kinesis is directed toward a specific goal, whether consciously selected or not. The lioness hunts the gazelle in order to eat. The bird gathers twigs in order to build a nest.

            “A→B makes no sense unless there is something in A that "points toward" B.
            --Wrong, because the symbol "-->” is a material conditional, a logical operator

            Unless it is used as here as a shorthand for "A causes B."

            --“Advantageous,” “disadvantageous,” “fitness,” and “unfitness” are normative terms.

            Oh, heavens. We can't have that!
            Of course, here I thought that "advantageous" in our context simply meant something that enabled an organism to survive.

            The non-normative way of expressing the crux of the idea is to say there
            is a strong correlation between a particular trait and the number of deaths with some animals in some particular environments and a strong correlation between a particular trait and the number of animals continuing to survive in other environments.

            You can always find a way to talk around something. I once heard a chicken described as an egg's way of making another egg. All part, I suppose of the post-modern collapse.

            But intentionality is not the mechanism of evolution. Behavior, not intention, is what gets “selected.” THINK, man.

            And the behaviors in these cases are intentional. Sheesh. THINK, man. Would you say, "I didn't shoot the sheriff, the revolver did!"

            I am honestly coming to believe that you think these different dimensions are somehow rival alternatives. That a final cause is actually some kind of weird efficient cause in competition with an efficient cause for being THE cause (or "correlation").

            You mean to say that some behaviors are strongly correlated with survival in certain environments, and some are not.

            You are begging the question by smuggling the final cause in under the radar. What does it mean to be "strongly correlated with survival in certain environments" unless either a) it is just dumb luck (in which case, kiss Darwin goodbye) or b) there is a causal mechanism lurking below the surface or c) that causal mechanism is annexed to the observed behavior (Gould's famous (though misattributed) "spandrels").

            --Well, now you are contradicting yourself. You clearly think (albeit incorrectly) scientists in biology still employ metaphysical concepts today.

            Of course they do. That their preconceptions are unexamined defaults learned at the knees of their trainers does not mean they are not there. Beside, in the 19th century scientists were far more aware of their intellectual contexts. We can even identify to some extent the last generation of scientists to be philosophically acute: Poisson, Mach, Einstein, down perhaps to Heisenberg. (It was Heisenberg who suggested mass-energy as the Aristotelian prime matter.) Since then, we have had intellectual barbarians.

            “This is quite a different thing from asserting it was disproven
            scientifically.”

            --I’ve told you ad infinitum, the concepts of old are superfluous.

            Yes, asserting, not disproving. And begging the question by restricting intellectual content to a specialized subset.

            --I keep forgetting you use material cause in a restricted Aristotelian sense. What I mean is purely statistical regularities that are material, without invoking causation (power, agency) at all. Neither I, nor scientists, require the notion of a cause, much less a material one.

            I wonder if that is the reason we have had the first generation of physicists in the Modern Ages that has not made a breakthrough discovery. No more causes, only "statistical" correlations. So much for gravity, electromagnetism, and all the rest.

            But natural selection CAN distinguish what is “advantageous” and “disadvantageous” independent of the organism’s intentions because natural selection--again--“selects” behavior, not intentions.

            So, the organism's behavior is independent of its intentions? Who knew. So the prehistoric "dog" [sic] went into the sea by accident and just sort of accidentally managed to swim. But you keep using the word "intention" as if it meant a conscious intention. That is not the case for petunias (unless the "neurobotanists" are correct!) but it probably is the case for poodles.

            Nature simply doesn’t give a damn what an organism’s conscious intentions are!

            It doesn't not give a damn, either. Nature is even less a conscious agent than a petunia, which at least has tropisms.
            However, if a "dog" intends to swim and eat krill, nature certainly does "give a damn" and will ruthlessly exterminate those who can't do it. The "dog" didn't go to sea for no reason.

            an advantageous trait is a trait an organism possesses for which the organism is more likely to survive with than with out it (numerical description). And a disadvantageous trait is a trait an organism posses for which the organism is less likely to survive with than without it.

            You realize that with such a formulation you are close to reducing Darwinian evolution to a tautology: "Survivors survive."

            “A series of actualizers of potentia ls must terminate in something perfectly actual and devoid of potential.”

            -- Why? This assertion is stipulated because it doesn’t’ follow from your premise above it.

            Try here: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieN3dGVkhNTi1SQUU/edit

            Coincidentally, this one is a hoot:
            https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieNV9tZkpobWVRWFE/edit

            --But if the form just IS the DNA,

            Not exactly. It is the pattern or arrangement of the nucleotides and possibly certain internal mechanisms only recently being recognized. But you may be beginning to recognize that the suppressed categories are not something new and radically different. They were always lurking there in the conceptual furniture.

            the same clump of matter is also potentially an Elephant, but for some inexplicable reason it does not become an Elephant.

            But it isn't potentially an elephant. That would be a different form, a different arrangement of nucleotides.

          • Logike

            "But it isn't potentially an elephant. That would be a different form, a different arrangement of nucleotides."

            --Ok. So why does THIS arrangement of nucleotides rather than THAT arrangement of nucleotides become potentially a Racoon rather than potentially an Elephant?

          • Logike

            "You realize that with such a formulation you are close to reducing Darwinian evolution to a tautology: "Survivors survive."

            --Please explain how that follows.

          • Logike

            "It doesn't not give a damn, either."

            --But that's a contradiction. To not give a damn just means to lack care. And nature cannot both care and not care. That makes no sense.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            So, are you an "evolutionary biologist" as you claim in this post, or an "Instructor of Philosophy" as claimed in your Disqus profile?

          • Logike

            I never claimed I was an evolutionary biologist.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            You: "I am not alone among evolutionary biologists in thinking this."

            That sounds like a claim to be an evolutionary biologist.

          • Logike

            Be charitable. It's not what I meant. I should have said "when among evolutionary biologists."

            Nice try to score a point, but no.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Score what points? Your original post was:

            "I never claimed I was an evolutionary biologist."

            While I was responding to that post pointing out where it seemed you were indeed implying that, you edited your post to:

            I never claimed I was an evolutionary biologist. I said I was not alone among them. I should have said "when among them".

            Am I wrong to point out, either way, that this looks like posing
            as something you are not? Either way, thank you for clarifying that you indeed are not an evolutionary biologist.

            May I suggest that you not edit your posts substantively after posting them? The original post is what is in the email notice, edits are not sent.

          • Logike

            The edit didn't change the point of my post. So what difference does it make? I went back to try to clarify because I didn't know what I said that made you think I was making such a claim. I had to look for it. You are grasping at straws, friend.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Not interested in straw; your dismissive rhetoric is tiresome. I am not the first to point out that your edits cause confusion. We have clarified the point that you are not an evolutionary biologist. I am able to move on if you are.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I did not draw that conclusion.

            Edit: The problem is that when false claims about the nature of evolution are repeatedly put forth, it is sometimes necessary to point out that that is not how evolutionary biologists understand evolution.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Actually, the problem is that when someone implies he is an evolutionary biologist while also stating he is an Instructor in Philosophy, then clarification is in order. I asked for clarification. Can you give some examples of some "false claims about the nature of evolution" from this thread? I am sure there are some or even many, I just wonder what you are referring to. My background is mathematics, physics, philosophy and classics... in biology I am relatively uneducated.

          • Logike

            True, like the claim that personal intentions and aims are foundational to evolutionary theory in explaining the origin of species. They are not. But heritability, variation, and differential reproduction are.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "personal intentions and aims are foundational to evolutionary theory"
            Who has made such a claim? I haven't seen it in this thread that I am aware.

          • Logike

            It can be taken that way. Or it can be taken in the way that I meant it: "when" among evolutionary biologists.

          • Logike

            "So, the organism's behavior is independent of its intentions?"

            --Different intentions can exhibit the same behavior, sure. I can run from a potentially threatening Lion because my intention is to escape a threat, or because my intention is to hug my long lost brother who is in the opposite direction. What matters for my survival is the running, not the reason why I ran. Get it now?

          • Garbanzo Bean

            LOL perhaps your long lost brother owns the lion and wants all the inheritance.
            Seriously, what matters is not the running, but running at the appropriate time. Or perhaps hiding at the appropriate time. Two good reasons to run at the very same time is just good luck.

          • Logike

            "So the prehistoric "dog" [sic] went into the sea by accident and just
            sort of accidentally managed to swim."

            --Dogs can swim with or without fins. They can swim faster and deeper when they evolve into whales.

            "But you keep using the word
            "intention" as if it meant a conscious intention."

            --How else do we understand intention without some form sentience, however minimal? I would acknowledge that all biological organisms have intentions, from the lowest grade of sentience found in plant life to the highest found in human animals. What I deny is that intention is an explanatory factor accounting for the evolutionary development of species.

          • Logike

            "You mean to say that some behaviors are strongly correlated with survival in certain environments, and some are not.--You
            are begging the question by smuggling the final cause in under the
            radar. "

            --What final cause? Explain.

            "What does it mean to be "strongly correlated with survival in
            certain environments" unless either a) it is just dumb luck (in which
            case, kiss Darwin goodbye)"

            --It means that you are more likely to survive in environment A with trait B than with trait C. Get it? No need to kiss Darwin goodbye.

          • Logike

            "That's called "correlation" in my profession and any client who acted on
            the supposition that correlation is causation would be called to
            account"

            --Duh! What do you think "reduction" means? It means causation has been "reduced" to being nothing over and above correlation, i.e., statistical regularities. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/laws-of-nature/#Ant

          • Logike

            "He said that living things have a drive to go on living and to
            reproduce. How is this not "aimed" at?"

            --It doesn't matter. The conscious intention doesn't play an explanatory role in the theory for the diversity of species. How could it? All species are alike in their drive to survive. So how does this explain descent with modification or diversity?? Intention is irrelevant.

          • Logike

            "There is something in the two material
            causes that "points toward" salt as an effect."

            --So let me get this straight: Sodium and Chlorine form salt because together they "point toward" salt. How informative! Forget electromagnetic forces. People, we've got a "pointing" going on! Sorry, this doesn't explain squat to me. Probably not for most scientists either. Yeah, you're right, science cannot dispense with teleos. Whatever. man.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            let me get this straight: Sodium and Chlorine form salt because together they "point toward" salt. How informative! Forget electromagnetic forces.

            Why would you want to forget electromagnetic forces? They tell you how you get to the end. Just because some aspects of reality are non-quantitative and we want to focus on extending Man's domination of the Universe doesn't mean those other aspects aren't there. It just means you don't make a lot of money with them. If your only tool is a hammer, the universe will testify to its sterling nail-like qualities. Or, more elegantly:

            What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.
            – Werner Karl Heisenberg
            Physics and Philosophy: The Revolution in Modern Science

            BTW, when I glanced at my in-box I saw like a gazillion email notifications, nearly all by you. But it is late at night and I simply don't have the time right now.

            I did notice in passing a comment that someone has shown the Copenhagen Interpretation to be logically flawed. That's kind of interesting. I recently read a book by an atheist philosopher pointing out how the Darwinian Interpretation is logically flawed. I've never been a big fan of Copenhagen. As my cosmologist friend once put it: when your theory produces singularities and paradoxes, it's a sign your theory is wrong. There is something to be said for Cramer's transactional theory and deBroglie's standing wave. Cramer thinks the Afshar Experiment favors transactionalism; but naturally members of other sects disagree. Interesting times.

            I still go with Einstein on the math vs physics thingie. In the end it is the physical phenomenon that matters. The math is not a causal explanation, though it is often an excellent description.

          • Logike

            "Why would you want to forget electromagnetic forces? They tell you how you get to the end"

            --It is also a story THAT they get to the end. Or do you now deny electromagnetic forces have causal power? See, the problem is that teleological explanations and mechanistic explanations would be incompatible on your story: Scientists need an explanation C for the existence of salt E, so they posit the existence of an electromagnetic force as a mechanistic explanation for it. It is reasonable to suppose that an instantiation of C necessitates E (--or is this what you deny?). Now take some supposed final cause F: if F is going to be part of your explanatory story C, "F" must be also listed as one of the multiple necessary conditions responsible for salt. But how can a final causes be necessary for the material instantiation of the mechanistic causes of things??

            Essentially, the problem is one of causal overdetermiism, more often discussed in philosophy of mind, but now cropping up here. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mental-causation/

            "Just because some aspects of reality are non-quantitative and we want to
            focus on extending Man's domination of the Universe doesn't mean those
            other aspects aren't there."

            --Huh? I made no such argument for the non-existence of immaterial causes. See above. The problem is one of explanatory overdetermination.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Scientists need an explanation C for the existence of salt E, so they
            posit the existence of an electromagnetic force as a mechanistic
            explanation for it. It is reasonable to suppose that an instantiation of
            C necessitates E (--or is this what you
            deny?).

            Well, no. E is the final cause.

            Now take some supposed final cause F: if F is going to be part of your
            explanatory story C, "F" must be also listed as one of the multiple
            necessary conditions responsible for salt.

            Sure, "salt" is definitely one of the necessary conditions for salt. You seem to think that a final cause is some sort of additional (and unnecessary) efficient cause, but it's simply what's at the end of the kinesis. When the hydrochloric acid is neutralized with sodium chloride, the end of the titration is salt (and water) and not something else. That is, the neutralization is "aimed at" salt. The dance of the electrons is simply the mechanics of how you get there. The final cause is where you got to.

            Obviously, there can be no natural laws of acid neutralization unless the neutralization moves toward the salt "always or for the most part." Otherwise, you have a Heraclidean free-for-all. That is:
            NaOH + HCl → H2 0 + NaCl
            not
            NaOH + HCl → ??????????

          • Logike

            "Sure, "salt" is definitely one of the necessary conditions for salt."

            --Surely you recognize this is tautology. It is not informative at all. Do you realize you are proving my point that final causes are superfluous?

            "You seem to think that a final cause is some sort of additional (and unnecessary) efficient cause,"

            --Um, no.

            "Obviously, there can be no natural laws of acid neutralization unless
            the neutralization moves toward the salt "always or for the most part."

            --Ya think? This isn't informative at all.

            "Well, no. E is the final cause."

            --Have it your way. This still doesn't answer my charge: If C is causally sufficent for E, then E as an explanation for E is not needed, i.e., E is superfluous. If E is necessary for E, then C is not causally sufficient for E, i.e., C is powerless--which is very counterintuitive indeed.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Sure, "salt" is definitely one of the necessary conditions for salt."

            --Surely you recognize this is tautology. It is not informative at all.

            Final causes are so deeply embedded in our thought that we don't realize that the tautology is only because we already recognize them in an inchoate manner in the end of the efficient cause. It is always an efficient cause of something. The neutralization of an acid with a base is for making salt, not for making marzipan or some other end point.

            "You seem to think that a final cause is some sort of additional (and unnecessary) efficient cause,"

            --Um, no.

            But then you would not have said that F was a "precondition" for E.

            "Obviously, there can be no natural laws of acid neutralization unless the neutralization moves toward the salt "always or for the most part."

            --Ya think? This isn't informative at all.

            Sure it is. It's just not metric and controllable information. It's a qualitative statement of what the efficient cause is effecting.

            "Well, no. E is the final cause."

            This still doesn't answer my charge: If C is causally sufficent for E, then E as an explanation for E is not needed, i.e., E is superfluous. If E is necessary for E, then C is not causally sufficient for E...

            Seems you can avoid talking in a teleological manner. All that "for E" talk is just "towardness" talk that says E is the end-point of the efficient causes.

          • Logike

            "Well, no. E is the final cause."

            This reminds me of Nietzsche's criticism: "People basically duplicate the action:when they see a lightning flash, that is an action of an action: they set up the same event first as the cause and the yet again as its effect."-- Genealogy of Morals

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "NaOH + HCl → H20 + NaCl"

            Screeeech! You left out the ΔH! The fact that the reaction produces energy helps bring into focus the fact that you do have a different kind of thing of thing on each side of the reaction expression... which could be called a "becoming expression". I note the arrow... kind of looks like a vector...

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Old high school chemistry text. It probably speaks an older dialect of reaction equations.
            You certainly get a clearer picture of material, formal, efficient, and final in a chemical reaction.
            Material causes: sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid
            Final causes: salt and water
            Formal causes: the arrangement of elements and valence electrons in the molecules
            Efficient cause: neutralization (titration)

          • Garbanzo Bean

            U did it again! The final causes would be salt, water, and heat. Everyone leaves that out when they are doing chemistry, because it is an easy one to not bother with. But in metaphysics, it is throwing the warm baby out with the salty water.

          • Logike

            "But the change of environment determined which traits and behaviors
            would henceforth be "advantageous."

            --Speaking causally. A Humean non-causal description could be offered that one or more traits are associated with the organism's survival in a given environmental context while other traits are associated with its demise.

            "Mutation happens. If it doesn't effect the organism's ability to reproduce successfully -- and if it is inheritable -- it will simply get passed along."

            --Or, if the trait is not associated with organisms survival, but rather with its demise, the next generation will not (likely) inherit the trait.

            "Why suppose there is a range of random mutations winnowed down by the environment"

            --Such a state of affairs would take place over successive generations, by the way. Therefore, non-causally-speaking we would say: the number of organisms over successive generations with those traits which are associated with an organism's survival increases as the number of organisms in the same population without those traits declines.

          • Logike

            "-What agent? Natural selection is not an agent.
            Of
            course it is. "

            --No it isn't. Because an agent is a thing. And natural selection is not a thing. Natural selection would be the durational set of occurances and things associated with other happenings. Is the set that included environments, trees, chance happenings, and reproductive variables over the course of successive generations a "thing"? It is not a "thing" even in most robust metaphysical systems. But maybe you really do think this set is a "thing"? Perhaps you do. But then wouldn't that contradict the very metaphysical foundations of the Aristotelian system your so rigidly adhere to?

            "You don't suppose that "agency" requires "consciousness,"
            do you?"

            --No, I do not, but you continue to use the word interchangeably with the words "intentionality" and "aim." These latter words, I believe, do imply consciousness.

            "If a woman sitting at home is struck in the thigh by a
            meteorite -- this actually happened! -- the meteorite is the agent of
            her injury."

            --Yes, but no would say the lightning "aimed" at her. That's crazy!

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            an agent is a thing. And natural selection is not a thing.

            Consider it shorthand for those things in the environment that aid reproductive success or not. I'm not entirely convinced however. Gravity is not a thing, yet it is surely an agency that causes motion.

            you continue to use the word [agency?] interchangeably with the words "intentionality" and "aim." These latter words, I believe, do imply consciousness.

            Sure, conscious agents exhibit intentionality. Birds gather twigs in order to build nests. I don't think "aim" requires consciousness. There may be entirely inanimate factors that channel kinesis toward specific ends. As in the way the neutralization NaOH + HCl "aims" at salt.

            "If a woman sitting at ho me is struck in the thigh by a meteorite -- this actually happened! -- the meteorite is the agent of her injury."

            --Yes, but no would say the lightning "aimed" at her. That's crazy!

            Especially as she was not struck by lightning. Where the meteorite was aimed was determined by the physics of motion and initial time and vector. The "aim" was toward the point of minimum gravitational potential. That she happened to be sitting there was just dumb luck. There is no need to hypothesize a reason for the intersection of two worldlines.

          • Logike

            "Where the meteorite was
            aimed was determined by the physics of motion and initial time and
            vector."

            --So the physics of motion is enough, and the final cause unnecessary. That's what the physics of motion "determining the location" means.

            "The "aim" was toward the point of minimum gravitational potential."

            --But you just said the location was determined by the physics of motion. You can't have it both ways because they are incompatible.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Why do you suppose there is no intimate relationship between the efficient cause and what it is an efficient cause of? It is always motion toward something: usually (but not always) the highest positively charged point on the ground below the thundercloud.

            Furthermore, the atmospheric conditions cause a lightning path, not a lightning bug or a footpath.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            This Logike fellow seems to think he is arguing with a proponent of modern ID, so he is fighting tooth and nail in ways that dont make sense simply to avoid "bending the knee to stupid ID." He could be commended for that, though it would probably be more commendable if he learned something instead. Alas, I suspect youth is in play, and fear too.
            I was thinking of asking him to recall the ideas of scalar and vector from early physics studies; vectors always have a direction while scalars do not. If I understand things correctly, you are saying something like "becoming is always a vector in the direction of the telos". He might take an analogical explanation from math/physics more calmly.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It is unclear to me what he might know of math or physics, but I had thought too of the vector analogy to being and becoming.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            True. We covered vectors in high school physics (1978), but I dont know when they introduce them now, if ever. The Educating Class doesnt even want to do times tables.
            Many of the online rationalists of today seem to have some grasp of physics, or at least are able to google things. Whatever they find, we know that "telos" is stinky while "vector" sits with the cool kids.

          • Logike

            "Sure, conscious agents exhibit intentionality. Birds gather twigs in order to build nests." "I don't think "aim" requires consciousness."

            --I think it does. And I think that is obvious to most contemporary philosophers. You anthropomorphize non-intentional agents. But doing so doesn't explain anything because it is self-admittedly tautologous. Proof of this is in the fact that you duplicate the same event twice by calling the effect "cause." "The lightning strikes because the lightning strikes," and you call this "aiming."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "I don't think "aim" requires consciousness."
            --I think it does.

            What consciousness aims NaOH + HCl at NaCl + H2 O?

            In a classroom exercise, we used to challenge students to put a golf ball into a cup from a certain distance more consistently. There were scores for rest points at various removes from the cup. They were to maximize the score and minimize the standard deviation. Soft people usually focused on better training of the golfer and use of the putter -- and often succeeded.

            But you could always tell when there were engineers in the class. Once, they used the shipper tube in which the golf clubs and stuff had been delivered to the seminar room as a chute. They propped it at one end on a chair rung and lined up the spines of their textbooks to form a channel at the output of the shipper leading to the cup. They achieved perfect scores. Now, what intention did the tube have? What intention did the "canyon of books" have?

            And I think that is obvious to most contemporary philosophers.

            Hmm. You may have pinpointed the problem with contemporary philosophy.

            You anthropomorphize non-intentional agents.

            Point to where I have done that, as opposed to you reading double-secret subtext into things.

          • Logike

            "So, the form has no predictive power but the sequence and arrangement of
            nucleotides does? You realize you are saying the same thing, right?"

            --No, look, having predictability would be a feature of the system or theory with which you are working. Having causal power would be a feature of the world. Some might think causal powers make it possible to predict what will happen in the future. But this is a mistake. Here is proof: What licenses the inference that the future will be like the past based on a single observed occurence of two events paired in the past? It can't be anything found in your experience or by introducing the notion of causal power. If I roll a die, and the face turns up 4, does that license me to infer the next time I roll the die, it will turn up 4 again? No, because there is only a 1/6 chance of the die turning up 4. I could say "But I caused the die to turn up 4"--But still, that's not right, because there is nothing about me rolling the die that guarantees it must come up a particular number! So causal powers have no predictive power. The situation is different when throwing a bar of iron for the first time into a swimming pool and being pretty confident it will sink. What makes the effect predictable in this example but not in the former example? Answer: the postulate of a scientific law that gurantees that stuff of a particular density and weight will always sink when placed in a container of stuff with less density and weight. It is a laws--not causal powers--which account for predictability, and predictability is a feature of the theory, not the world, because predictability is an epistemic notion

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So, the form has no predictive power but the sequence and arrangement of nucleotides does? You realize you are saying the same thing, right?"
            --Some might think causal powers make it possible to predict what will happen in the future.

            I'm sorry. The gist of my statement was that you denied the efficacy of the formal cause and then touted the sequence and arrangement of nucleotides as if it were something different. But the sequence and arrangement of nucleotides just is the form of a particular DNA molecule.

          • Logike

            I'm sorry, I don't recall saying anything about particular sequences. I believe I referred to statistical and functional regularities. Regularities are expressed in law-like statements.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Ja, doch. Al-Ghazali lives! There are no natural causes, only regularities and the "habits of God."

            Statistical regularities don't cut the mustard. I once noted a statistical regularity that there were more string breaks on the winding spools #7-#12 compared to #1-#6; but renumbering the spools and giving them lower numbers was no answer to the problem. An actual physical cause must be found and addressed. (Which turned out to be wear on the guide rings caused by the string running through them. The cutting action of the string raised a burr, and the string would then occasionally catch on the burr. Once the eye-bolts were replaced, the breaks stopped. A program of regular CBR was implemented to prevent recurrence.

            Statistical regularities are only useful in cases of disorganized complexity, like thermodynamics or life insurance. There, the mean (or other relevant measure) can be used to characterize the whole because the units are essentially identical and independent of one another for the purposes under study. But the method falters in the face of organized complexity and is not useful in cases of organized simplicity.

            http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2014/02/americas-next-top-model-part-i.html

          • Logike

            "You cannot have A be an efficient cause of B unless B is a final cause of A."

            --So the lightning "aimed" at Bob when it struck him? Doesn't that sound crazy to you? Further, a final cause is not needed to explain the striking. Describing the atmospheric conditions is enough.

            "Now, I had quoted earlier:
            Final Cause: the flexibility of living things by which they are able to occupy new niches in the changing environment."

            --But "flexibility" can be described as nothing more than the likelihood of an organism to stay alive in diverse sorts of environments. I'm laughing because you continue to think there is something magical about words like "flexibility."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So the lightning "aimed" at Bob when it struck him? Doesn't that sound
            crazy to you?

            Sure does. Lightning is aimed at regions of positive charge on the ground. (There are also lightnings within clouds, cloud-to-cloud, and even upward into space. But these are different mechanisms, iirc.) The lightning is aimed at Bob only incidentally, as we would say our nose is moving down the street because we are walking down the street and our nose is going with us. When this happens in natural selection, Gould called it a "spandrel."

            a final cause is not needed to explain the
            striking. Describing the atmospheric conditions is enough.

            And ground conditions. Lightning doesn't strike nowhere, after all. You need a positive charge to attract the lightning. Lightning always follows laws of electrical discharge and it will always be from point A to point B (or suite of points B).

            The end point of a lightning strike is not a big mysterious thing.

          • Logike

            a final cause is not needed to explain the
            striking. Describing the atmospheric conditions is enough.And ground conditions."

            --Sure, but I just don't know what would be distinctively "final" about ground conditions. They seem like efficient causes to me because this time they lie prior to the effect rather than after.

            You seem to be choosing whatever effect of a given causal sequence you want and labeling it as "final cause." I think that is the poverty of your metaphysics, rather a virtue.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Lightning does not strike just anywhere. It strikes generically at the positive ground, like any short circuit. Of course, a lightning strike is not a "thing" but a "doing," so I'm not building any barricades here. Lightning per se is the final cause of the atmospheric conditions. That is, one tries to describe the efficient cause of lightning, not of a chocolate eclair.

            You seem to be choosing whatever effect of a given causal sequence you want and labeling it as "final cause."

            Close. What do you suppose that a final cause is? Remember, there are three kinds:

            1. Termination, which covers what we've been talking about.

            2. Perfection, as the motion of an acorn toward an oak.

            3. Intention, as when the lioness hunts a gazelle.

            What is so bizarre about the notion that there is something on the right side of the causal arrow?

            NaOH + HCl NaCl + H2 O

          • Logike

            ""And ground conditions. Lightning doesn't strike nowhere, after all."

            --Right, but that doesn't mean the lightning "aims" as if it had an intention. The ground conditions determine the location of a possible discharge--not the lightning!--and when atmospheric conditions are right, a discharge occurs. It seems you are introducing agents and intentions where none exist.

            "Lightning is aimed at regions of positive charge on the ground"

            --I'm sorry, this notion of lightning "aiming" sounds way too anthropomorphic to me. Isn't the description above more apt?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            that doesn't mean the lightning "aims" as if it had an intention.

            Of course not. As Aquinas said, there is no intention in nature. Not every case of natural telos is an example of "intention" although intentions are a case of natural telos: e.g., the lioness stalking the gazelle.

            The ground conditions determine the location of a possible discharge--not the lightning!

            I certainly wouldn't think so. After all, the lightning is the effect.

            It seems you are introducing agents [sic] and intentions [sic] where none exist.

            Again there is that confusion of final cause with agency! Final causes are not efficient causes. Would it help if we started using the term aitia instead of "cause," since the latter word has been poisoned by a couple hundred years of philosophical squid ink. I've been told that a better translation of the Greek aitia is "becauses."

            And of course, as already pointed out, "intentions" are a particular subset of final aitia, not the whole ball of wax. Natural laws are simply evidences of telos: this cause (or suite of causes) leads to this effect (or suite of effects) "always or for the most part." There cannot be a cause without an effect.

          • Logike

            "The end point of a lightning strike is not a big mysterious thing."

            --Wait a minute. Is it the end point on the ground or the lightning itself that is final cause? First, you say lightning "aims" to get a good idea on location before it strikes, which would mean it existed as cause--before it existed. Then you speak as if lightning were the effect of other atmospheric conditions. And now lightning is between cause and effect; it is the the section between A and B.

            Gotcha. Perfectly clear.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Addendum.

            I keep forgetting you use material cause in a restricted Aristotelian sense.

            It's not a restricted sense. You are wanting to use "material cause" to mean an "efficient cause made of matter" which is rather more restrictive than less.

          • Logike

            It is too a restricted sense because material causation, as Aristotle understood it, involved potentiality.

            As for Aristotle's concept of efficient cause, do I intend this? I don't know. Does this notion imply that cause and effect are, or can be, simultaneous? I don't know. But supposing it did, then I would reject it, because I don't think the concept of simultaneous causation holds under further analysis.

            See, this is the frustration I have with your metaphysics. I have to adapt to notions you take for granted and for which I either reject, or regard as unestablished and suspect.

            What I mean by "causality" is nothing more than causal sufficiency. This is the contemporary notion. And when I say "material cause" I mean a material event or being that is causally sufficient for its effect

          • Ignatius Reilly

            For example: two particles with like electrical charge will repel each other rather strongly, while two particles with opposite charge will attract each other and move toward each other. Yet, we are to believe that a dense pack of protons, all positively charged, will cluster together in a nucleus without repulsion. We explain this by positing a "strong force" that overcomes the electromagnetic force at short distances. But note that this behavior only arises in the whole (the nucleus) and not in the parts (the protons).

            Yes, it is called nucleosynthesis.

            Similarly, the electrons, instead of plunging to their death under the irresistible pull of the protons in the nucleus, gaily envelop them in a "cloud" of some nebulous sort. Thanks, we suppose to a weak force. The thing to notice is that the parts behave differently in the whole than they do as free particles.

            Why doesn't the moon come crashing into the earth? Just because two objects are attracted does not mean that they will collide. Obviously the reasons at the Quantum level are more complex, but they are still there.

            To be potentially anything, primary matter must be actually nothing. "Nothing" does not mean it is an empty room (there is still a "room" or a "quantum state" or something). It does not mean that there is this thing which we call "nothing" and particular things are made from it. That makes no more sense than on hearing that there is no one in the room, we were to ask "What does he look like?"

            So you are defining nothing (or potentiality) as particles that are not yet formed into atoms. And something (actuality) is actual elements. We don't need any transcendent first cause to explain the formation of atoms - it is well understood under current models.

            So your always-existing matter is necessarily formless and hence does not actually exist. If it did, it would be some specific thing, like a racoon, which does not always-exist. But then, this potential stuff cannot make itself actual, because something that does not actually exist can't do diddly-squat, let alone make a potency something actual.

            No, these nonexistent protons formed more stable bonds, when the temperature of the universe cooled sufficiently to allow it. They composed themselves!

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Why doesn't the moon come crashing into the earth?
            Tangential velocity.

            Just because two objects are attracted does not mean that they will collide. Obviously the reasons at the Quantum level are more complex, but they are still there.

            Right. Electromagnetic attraction works differently from gravity. The two remain stubbornly separate in field theory so far (and it may be that gravity is a different kind of power than the other three.) Electrons do not stay out of the nucleus because they have a tangential orbital velocity. Electrons are not little bee-bees spinning around a nucleus like planets around a sun. It is quite obvious that they don't collide. That's what the strong and weak force are for. D'uh? That was the whole thrust of the comment. Charged particles formed into an atom behave differently than changed particles qua charged particles. It's called "emergent properties" or "formal causation," depending on whether you want to sit at the kool kids table.

            (Now and then the electomagnetic repulsion of the protons overcomes the strong force and we get a bit of nuclear decay. Ditto for electrons and the weak force.)

            So you are defining nothing (or potentiality) as particles that are not yet formed into atoms.

            No.

            these nonexistent protons formed more stable bonds, when the temperature of the universe cooled sufficiently to allow it. They composed themselves!

            But you just said the dropping temperature of the universe is what formed them. (How something can "compose" itself before it has been composed is a grand mystery rivaling invisible sky fairies. In the current model, protons were formed by the energetic properties of Baby Universe -- at this point about the size of a large star -- acting on the "quark soup". Carriers of the weak force (the gage bosons, iirc) became scarce so the wild transmutations slowed down and the quarks became slow enough that they were no longer able to escape one another's embrace and the strong force nailed them together at about 10^-6 seconds after the beginning of time. But protons did not compose themselves. They weren't there to do any composing yet. Quarks were.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I was not talking about the formation of protons. Before you were talking about the form of atoms and how the different elements are different compositions of protons, neutrons, and electrons.
            The first elements formed, when the universe cooled sufficiently for the protons and neutrons to bond. The protons and neutrons "wanted" to bond, but could not until the temperature dropped. To me this seems like self-composition.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            To me this seems like self-composition.
            Except it's not. The proton cannot compose itself if it is not there yet. What you are describing is simply natural kinesis ("motion"), no different in principle from the ripening of an apple or the growth of a puppy dog. Who needs quarks? In fact, Aquinas described such "self-composition" in comparing nature to art(ifice).

            Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
            -- Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

            Of course nature acts immanently. It was the Modern revolution that stripped nature of her immanence and IDers and you guys find yourselves groping for watchmakers, blind or otherwise. But the major premise of Aquinas' fifth way precisely is (in modern terms) that nature does follow natural laws.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Except it's not. The proton cannot compose itself if it is not there yet. What you are describing is simply natural kinesis ("motion"), no different in principle from the ripening of an apple or the growth of a puppy dog.

            What actualizes the quarks so they can realize their potential of being protons?
            What actualizes the protons so they can realize their potential of being helium?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            What actualizes the quarks so they can realize their potential of being protons?

            If the Standard Model is correct, it was the expansion (and hence cooling) of the early universe that slowed the motion of the "quark soup" so that their attractions were no longer cancelled out by their velocities. Hence they came together as their forms dictated: two ups and one down, each of a different color. The "gluon" gauge bosons carried the strong force that is supposed to account for this. But it is not entirely clear if quarks are physical things or only mathematical terms in equations that work. The epicycles in the Ptolemaic, Copernican, and Tychonic systems all worked, too. But they weren't real.

            What actualizes the protons so they can realize their potential of being helium?

            The gravitational pressure in the heart of a star compresses the hydrogen nuclei to the point where the strong force overcomes electromagnetic repulsion. The radiation pressure from the fusion causes the star to expand while the gravitational pressure wants it to collapse. When enough "fuel" gets used up, the star contracts igniting the next phase of nuclear fusion, which IIRC is helium to beryllium.

            Geez. It's been many a year since I took astrophysics, and I no longer have the textbook; but now I kinda wish I did.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This is how we see it differently. The quarks actualized their own potential to become protons. The temperature of the universe was a barrier to them actualizing that potential, but it was not an actualizer. Without the strong force attraction between the quarks, the temperature of the universe would have been irrelevant.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So you suppose the gluons to be irrelevant?

          • Abe Rosenzweig

            Nay, sir! I INSIST that the gluons be irrelevant. Irrelevant, gluons, be thou irrelevant! SO LET IT BE WRITTEN, SO LET IT BE DONE: THE GLUONS WILL BE IRRELEVANT!!!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Gluons are the exchange particle for the strong force. If you want to include gluons that does not change my point. Gluons and quarks have the potential to become protons and they actualize this potential without an outside actualizer.

            I am uncomfortable (i.e. do not believe it has been adequately justified) that every potential that is actualized is actualized by an actualizer distinct from the potential. I think both the formation of quarks and the formation of elements in big bang nucleosynthesis is a case of the self actualization of the potential of composition.

            Another example that I have not yet heard an explanation for is a human Zygote. A Zygote has the potential to become a single embryo, two embryos, or spontaneously abort. What actualizes that potential?

            Also, it seems that a linear chain (i.e. like dominos knocking each other over) is implied whenever we discuss these chains of actualization, at the expense of times when two potentialities actualize each other. One quark only has the potential to from a proton with two other quarks. All three quarks are potentially a proton, but they do not seem to need an outside actualizer.

            I am not convinced that if infinite regress is impossible, we must have a being of pure actuality. I think it may be possible for potentialities to actualize each other.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Gluons and quarks have the potential to become protons and they actualize this potential without an outside actualizer.

            Certainly not if you lump the gauge bosons in with the quarks that are supposed to make up the proton. This is a bit like saying that the clay and the potter actualize the potential to become a pot without an outside actualizer.

            I am uncomfortable (i.e. do not believe it has been adequately justified) that every potential that is actualized is actualized by an actualizer distinct from the potential.

            Why bother with quarks, then? What about a cat on the other side of the room actualizing its potential to be on this side of the room lapping milk from its dish? But then, as Aristotle pointed out, a body cannot move itself as a whole, but the cat is moved by its legs. That is, the legs move the cat, the muscles move the legs, the nerves move the muscles, the motor neurons move the nerves, the cat's appetites move the motor neurons, the cat's perceptions move the appetites, the cat's sensations move the perception (IOW, we are back into the cat's psyche). The "something else" may well be a part that is already being actualized actualizing in turn the whole. That's why one of the preliminary lemmas is that everything that moves as a whole consists of parts.

            I think both the formation of quarks and the formation of elements in big bang nucleosynthesis is a case of the self actualization of the potential of composition.

            Nature is defined as that which self-organizes, so that is no big deal. But the composition does not compose itself because it is not yet composed and therefore does not actually exist. Something that doesn't (yet) exist can't actually do anything.

            You are ascribing agency to quarks and gluons, which would drive our friend Logike up the wall, since he believe agency requires consciousness. However, the idea that natural bodies possess immanent powers -- gravity, electrical charge, strong force, weak force, for example -- is an Aristotelian one. Nature is as if, wrote Aquinas, a shipbuilder could give to the lumber the power to self-organize into the form of a ship. Welcome to the club.

            Also, it seems that a linear chain (i.e. like dominos knocking each other over) is implied whenever we discuss these chains of actualization

            Actually, the chain of dominoes is an accidentally-ordered series and could in principle regress infinitely-- as both Aristotle and Aquinas pointed out. (Although the Scotists made an important point about accidentally-ordered series, too.) That is because in an accidentally-ordered series, each unit in the series, once it receives its power to actualize, is ontologically independent of its own actualizer. Thus, once a domino is knocked, the previous domino can vanish from the universe and it will not affect the succeeding dominoes.

            An essentially-ordered series is different. There, the power of Y to actualize Z depends ontologically on the concurrent actualization of Y by X and all its predecessors. See the example of the cat heading for the milk, above. If any of the links in that chain were to vanish, the entire chain would lose its power to actualize. You can apply this to a hand pushing a stick to move a stone, the classic example, or to a musician playing an instrument, golfer driving a golf ball, and so on. The stick, the piano, the golf club have in themselves not power to move the stone, the air waves, the golf ball. There must be something from which the intermediate instrumental actualizers receive their power concurrently.

            This has been described variously as
            a series regressing backward in time versus a series drilling down in the present
            a horizontal series versus a vertical series
            or schematically by Gaven Kerr
            (w→x)→(x→y)→(y→z)
            versus
            (w→(x→(y→z)))
            except that Logike objects to the use of the symbol → in any way but the way used within his school. (Chemists and mathematicians, be warned!) Here a→b means that b is ontologically dependent on a.

            I think it may be possible for potentialities to actualize each other.

            Potentialities cannot actualize anything, since they only potentially exist; they do not actually exist. A rock's potential to fall does not cause the rock actually to fall. That requires a wind, an earthquake, another rock, or some other "force" (as Newton put it in "his" First Law). The quarks you credit with assembling a proton actually exist (assuming the standard model is true and they are not simply terms in a mathematical model). It is the proton -- the final cause in this nucleosynthesis -- that cannot cause itself to come into being. Quarks, once they actually exist, can do anything within their powers, including forming a proton.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "(Although the Scotists made an important point about accidentally-ordered series, too.) "

            Can you say what that point was please? You might be thinking of something else, but I found this:

            "Secondly, in an accidentally ordered series, the causes may be of the same nature (ratio) and order (ordo), while in an essentially ordered series the causes belong to a different nature and order."

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Ja. An accidentally ordered series like the aforesaid toppling dominoes even if it proceeds backward to infinity still needs an essential cause to set up the dominoes in the first place. Note that this is a) not a "first domino" nor b) in the same order as "toppling." Rather is it a cause in virtue of which the toppling can actually take place. Similarly, you may have knowledge of the Pythagorean theorem because you were taught the theorem by a teacher who was also taught the theorem. The series of taught teachers must terminate in a teacher who was not taught the theorem -- an untaught teacher -- who proved the theorem from basic principles. Presumably Pythagoras, although who knows? But the proofing is of a different order than teaching.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It seems there are two different sentences about potentiality that we can write protons. We could say that Gluons and Quarks have the potential to from protons or we could say that protons have the potential to be composed. In the second case it seem to make sense to say that a thing with potential (in this case a proton) cannot actualize itself, because it does not exist. However, if I say quarks and gluons compose themselves into protons, it seems we have a case of a potentiality being self-actualized.

            The third way that we could compose the sentence is that gluons actualize quarks to realize their proton potential. However, I do not think gluons can exist without quarks. I'm not a particle physicist, so I could be wrong on this point.

            What about cyclic events like the water cycle that once started self-actualizes? Is this an accidentally ordered series?

            You can apply this to a hand pushing a stick to move a stone, the classic example, or to a musician playing an instrument, golfer driving a golf ball, and so on. The stick, the piano, the golf club have in themselves not power to move the stone, the air waves, the golf ball. There must be something from which the intermediate instrumental actualizers receive their power concurrently.

            But why wouldn't we include the human? I would never say that the stick causes the golf ball to fly. I would say that the human causes the golf ball to fly. It seems we are breaking a system into parts without justification.

            That is, the legs move the cat, the muscles move the legs, the nerves move the muscles, the motor neurons move the nerves, the cat's appetites move the motor neurons, the cat's perceptions move the appetites, the
            cat's sensations move the perception

            In this case, if I remove one of the parts, the cat will no longer be able to walk. However, I could also consider the system (legs, muscles, motor neurons, or just the cat) as having the potential to walk. Sure, muscles have the potential to cause motion, but what a muscle does is dependent on the context. A heart muscle pumps blood, but it does not have the potential to cause legs to walk. Does it make sense to say that muscle has the potential to actualize legs, when some muscles clearly do not? The potential seems to be reliant on the type of muscle, so even though leg muscles have the potential to move legs, the existence of leg muscles is dependent on the existence of legs.

            Perhaps every time we break something into parts, we are not necessarily breaking them into parts that have philosophical significance.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There is a discussion of the water cycle here:
            https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieVTFjS21PNHc3TjA/edit?pli=1

            It's probably bootless to agonize over whether actual gluons actualize potentials in quarks because the whole ontological mess is unsettled. Quarks may be nothing more than terms in a mathematical model and, as Feynmann and Hawking both noted, that does not obligate the physical world to pony up. After all, epicycles worked in astronomy.

            Of course it is the human who pushes the stone. That's the whole difference between an instrumental and essential cause. Ditto for parts of animals etc. Many people suppose that a cat moves itself without realizing that what Aristotle was talking about was 'moving itself as a whole.'

            For a discussion of the first premise, see here:
            https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieN3dGVkhNTi1SQUU/edit

          • Mike

            Another ex: take the letters on your screen right now; is it the black strokes that have meaning inside themselves or is it bc in a certain arrangement they reference a language which decodes the random looking strokes?

            What you're saying is that the thickness of the strokes or the shade of the color or the type of font somehow is primary, which i am sorry to say is not the most logical conclusion.

          • Logike

            I am not giving primacy to anything. Again, I said when matter becomes sufficiently complex (meaning organized and arranged in a certain way), properties emerge. The organization itself is a metaphysical property of material things. I find this very interesting, for sure. But I don't for a minute see why anyone would think this is evidence for God. After all, evolution has shown that nature, time and again, can produce organization out of randomness as a result of the forces of randomness and natural selection. If you think these forces are not sufficient to explain organized complexity because "intelligent design" is better, then that is your prerogative. But I have yet to see a good argument for it because we already have a natural explanation up for grabs.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            After all, evolution has shown that nature, time and again, can produce
            organization out of randomness as a result of the forces of randomness
            and natural selection.

            Actually, evolution presupposes an order to begin with. New species do not come about by poofing into existence from a cloud of quarks. They come from modification of existing species, which are already organized. As Aquinas once said, if any new species ever did come into existence, it would be through the powers given to nature in the beginning.

            But one may as well say that because the statue can be shown to "emerge" from the marble by means of the hammer and chisel, that there is no need to postulate a sculptor. There may or may not be a sculptor; but the scientific study of chisels says nothing one way or another.

          • Logike

            "Actually, evolution presupposes an order to begin with. New species do not come about by poofing into existence from a cloud of quarks. They come from modification of existing species, which are already organized"

            --You are talking about the transmission of life, not the origin of species. First off, the organization characteristic of all biological organisms is explained by the complexity of biochemistry which in turn is explained by simpler chemical combinations. Second, the current species we have are the result of a long series of speciation and extinction
            events--all of which are entirely random.

            "But one may as well say that because the statue can be shown to "emerge" from the marble by means of the hammer and chisel, that there is no need to postulate a sculptor"

            --Oh my. I am not excluding formal and final causation in principle. I am saying that any argument resting on these notions to demonstrate the existence of God is suspect because the number of historical instances of purely functional and statistical explanations in science replacing what used to be metaphysical explanation for the existence of things in the natural world are too numerous to count. Aristotelian metaphysics is just as unreliable as astrology in explanatory power, scope, and comprehensiveness.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            "Actually, evolution presupposes an order to begin with. New species do
            not come about by poofing into existence from a cloud of quarks. They
            come from modification of existing species, which are already organized"

            --You are talking about the transmission of life, not the origin of species.

            ??? You had claimed that
            "evolution has shown that nature... can produce organization out of randomness as a result of the forces of randomness and natural selection."
            I simply pointed out that "randomness" is not a "force" and natural selection starts with an existing species, which is not a random agglomeration but itself already an organized whole.

            First off, the organization characteristic of all biological organisms is explained by the complexity of biochemistry which in trun is explained by simpler chemical combinations.

            Actually, not quite. Physics does not exhaust chemistry; and chemistry does not exhaust biology. You seem to have forgotten those "emergent properties" you were touting a while ago. These are precisely characteristics of a whole that are not predicated of the constituent parts. Remember the "fallacy of composition"? (Although I think that was one of your co-religionists.)
            But it is not sufficient to say "organisms are complex because biochemistry is complex because further chemistry is simple." Besides, no one is arguing the source of complexity; only that natural selection does not create complexity from randomness but rather from a prior complexity.

            Second, the current species we have are the result of a long series of speciation and extinction events--all of which are entirely random.

            When creationists play the random card, we are quick to point out that natural selection is not random.

            any argument resting on these notions [formal, final causes] to demonstrate the existence of God is suspect because the number of historical instances of purely functional and statistical explanations in science replacing what used to be metaphysical explanation for the existence of species are too numerous to count.

            You seem to be conflating the existence of species with the existence of God. What have physical explanations of the existence of species got to do with proofs of the existence of God?
            And why do you think statistics is an "explanation" of anything. I made my living for thirty years in stastistical engineering and never once saw it "explain" anything. It quite often indicated where one might look for a cause; but it was the cause that explained matters. The statistical analyses were only a way of beating the bushes to flush out the game.

            Aristotelian metaphysics is just as unreliable as ...

            You may be confusing Aristotle's metaphysics with Aristotle's physics. Only physics can unseat physics. The reliabiltiy of metaphysics does not lie in its ability to perform physics any more than the reliability of chemistry lies in the chemists ability to bake a souffle. As the name implies, metaphysics studies those concepts that must be assumed for physics to work. Any physics. For example, Modern physics (in the restricted academic sense) takes "motion" as a given and studies how motion is initiated, altered, deflected, etc. But it does not study what motion is. Newton was quite right when he decided this. No science can investigate its own axioms.

          • Logike

            "And why do you think statistics is an "explanation" of anything. I made
            my living for thirty years in stastistical engineering and never once
            saw it "explain" anything."

            --Well, I don't know whether you had
            your head in the sand all those years, but check out this link from
            Stanford Philosophy dealing with Inductive Statistical Explanations and
            Hempel's Deductive Nomological Model of Explanation.
            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/scientific-explanation/

            "Only physics can unseat physics."

            --This
            is false. Any physical theory which entailed an inconsistency would be
            "unseated" by logical demonstration--not physics. For instance, I know a
            peer-reviewed philosopher by the name of Michael Huemer who
            demonstrated that the Copenhagen Interpretation is inconsistent with the
            axioms of probability. This is possible because physical possibiity is a
            subset of logical possibility.
            http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/qm3.htm
            http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/qm.htm

            "The reliabiltiy of metaphysics does not lie in its ability to perform physics"

            --That
            depends on what you mean, here. Do you mean that metaphysics should
            never be held up to the standards of science? Maybe not held up to the
            standard of verifiability. But certainly metaphysics needs SOME
            standards, yes? What are those? Perhaps in the very least explanatory
            power and scope and a consistency with the widespread consensus on other
            matters?

            Or, do you mean that metaphysical notions can never,
            in principle, be shown to be inadequate by empirical science or by other
            considerations? This is simply not true. Though not really testable,
            metaphysical notions can still be shown to be inadequate because
            metaphysical notions are used to account for the origin and behavior of
            the very same physical things that physical theories are used to
            describe--which would make the two competitors. In the minds of many
            theists, for example, "God" is a hypothesis which competes with other
            physical hypotheses concerning the origin of the universe. And
            Aristotelian notions of "teleos" and "final cause" compete with
            non-telelogical notions of "random mutation" and "natural selection." So
            the boundary between physics and metaphysics is not so cut-and-dry as
            you suppose. Metaphysics can and does compete with science and should be
            held to some, but not all, of the same standards.

            "You may be confusing Aristotle's metaphysics with Aristotle's physics."

            --No,
            I am not. I recognize the conceptual distinction, but the reality is
            that sometimes metaphysical concepts historically HAVE been unseated by
            physical concepts as a matter of fact, and for various reasons, some of
            which might be (1) because the metaphysical concept was successfully
            reduced to a physical one, (2) a physical concept possessed more
            explanatory power than its metaphysical competitor, or (3) the
            metaphysical concept was shown to predict unlikely consequences contrary to the empirical findings.

            "You
            seem to have forgotten those "emergent properties" you were touting a
            while ago. These are precisely characteristics of a whole that are not
            predicated of the constituent parts"

            --I recognize emergent
            properties. I am not saying every metaphysical concept can be educed to a
            physical one. I am saying some metaphysical concepts have, in fact,
            been so reduced. So there is nothing in principle barring it. I already
            listed some examples of
            metaphysical concepts which were reduced to physical ones (none of which
            you acknowledged): the biological notions of "adaptation,"
            "selection," "fitness," and "advantage" all can, and have been, reduced
            to physical descriptions involving various quantifiable relationships
            between the population of a species and its changing environment.

            For
            some reason, though, you will either not accept the historical reality
            of this, or, if you do, you will charge instead that the scientific
            community had no good justification for doing so because their decisions
            were a result of anti-metaphysical bias. But this is exactly where I
            part ways with you. You need to look at certain fields of science on a
            case by case basis. Sometimes there IS good reason to abandon
            metaphysical notions in certain areas, particularly for the reasons
            listed above.

            And "Vitalism," the view that ascribed a "life principle" to the
            behavior of organisms, failed because it explained nothing by
            way of the various functions of the organism. It was unseated by the
            view of "life as a process," a more robust and quantifiable description
            of the behavior of an organism.

            "As the name implies, metaphysics studies those concepts that must be assumed for physics to work."

            --I
            am not confident I know which metaphysical concepts are indispensable
            for physics. Causation maybe? But a Humean scientist would probably fare
            no worse by adopting a Humean reductionist law-like regularity view of
            causation. So not all metaphysical assumptions need to be made before
            practicing science. In fact, not all metaphysical assumptions should be
            made, because there are competing metaphysical theories which cannot
            simultaneously be true: 3-dimenstionalism vs. 4-dimensionalism, for
            example.

            "When creationists play the random card, we are quick to point out that natural selection is not random."

            --It's
            not random in the sense of total unpredictability. Of course there are
            conditions in the environment, or Humean perceived law-like regularities
            which, in part, explain the existence of species. My point toward you
            was that there is NO TELEOS in the theory of natural selection. You
            allow the semantics of the word "selecting" to deceive you into thinking
            there is conscious intentional agency everywhere. But evolutionary
            biology gets along just fine without supposing intentional agency. The
            fact that it COULD was the whole revolutionary thrust of Darwinism!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            --This is false. Any physical theory which entailed an inconsistency would be "unseated" by logical demonstration--not physics. For instance, I know a peer-reviewed philosopher by the name of Michael Huemer who demonstrated that the Copenhagen Interpretation is inconsistent with the axioms of probability. This is possible because physical possibiity is a subset of logical possibility.
            http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/...
            http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/...

            Very interesting. Thanks!

          • Logike

            By the way, it just now dawned on me why teleos fundamentally cannot be guiding the hand of evolution. There is solid proof of it. If we could somehow reverse time and rewind the evolutionary tape, and then play the tape forward again, we would get an entirely new set of species. But if teleos were guiding evolution we should get the same species when playing the tape back again because the same final causes would be operating, "drawing," as it were, the development of organisms into the same future results. But this wouldn't happen (because of random mutation). Therefore, fundamentally, evolutionary development is random, not guided.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            There is solid proof of [why teleos fundamentally cannot be guiding the hand of evolution]. If we could somehow reverse time and rewind the evolutionary tape, and then play the tape forward again, we would get an entirely new set of species.

            Wow. I didn't know you had run that experiment! That must be some tape deck. Perhaps you have a different notion of "solid" or a different notion of "proof"?

            First of all, how do you know this would happen?

            But second....

            if teleos were guiding evolution we should get the same species when playing the tape back again because the same final causes would be operating, "drawing," as it were, the development of organisms into the same future results.

            Second, this is a fundamental misapprehension. Why do you suppose generic causes would have specific effects? That is, why would "evolution" [sic: actually "natural selection"], which is a generic cause, point toward red-tailed hawks, which is a specific effect? At the generic level, natural selection aims at "greater fitness for a niche." But it does not specify what geology, meteorology, astrophysics, etc. have created as potential niche space. Why do you suppose the same final causes are operating?

            However, we do notice that in the late Triassic, the tritylodonts evolved among the mammal-like reptiles. They possessed enlarged incisors and multicusped back teeth and a size range from mice to rabbits, and thrived for 50 million years until mid-Jurassic. At that time they were replaced by an order of mammals, the multituberculates, which had the same dentition pattern and range of sizes. These thrived until late Eocene times. As they declined, they were replaced by a different order of mammals, the rodents, who replicated (for the third time) the same tooth-and-body plan of the tritylodonts and multituberculates. IOW, ever since the appearance of seed-bearing plants in the Triassic, there have always been critters "like" rodents around to gnaw at the hard parts of plants. They evolved independently three separate times.
            (cf. Savage and Long, Mammal Evolution, (Facts on File/British Museum of Natural History, 1986)
            http://www.amazon.com/Mammal-Evolution-An-Illustrated-Guide/dp/081601194X

            So natural selection remains aimed at greater aptness; and a niche of gnawing will eventually be filled by gnawers: tritylodonts, multituberculates, or rodents.

            There is also the example of the two sabre tooth "cats," one a true cat, the other a marsupial "cat" on old Gondwanaland virtually indistinguishable.

            Among those species that go to sea, we note the similarity of profile of the ichthyosaur (a reptile), dolphin (mammal), and penguin (bird). The knife of natural selection whittles well, and the same conditions are likely to select for the same kinds of critters.

            So it is not entirely clear on the evidence whether the tape would indeed provide utterly different outcomes. Details may vary, and we can redefine species so that any two populations can be considered different species, but the same kinds of species seem to arise when conditions are similar. We can't say that evolution repeats itself, but it sure does seem to rhyme.

            But this wouldn't happen (because of random mutation).

            I'm not convinced mutation is random. There are a number of cellular mechanisms that repair copying errors or accomodate errors by patching around them. Often this is in response to environmental stresses. As a result, mutations are likely to be massive and specific, neatly pulling the rug out from under the ID presuppositions. (Too many people use "random" as a throwaway word, and do not give sufficient thought to what it actually means.)

            Therefore, fundamentally, evolutionary development is random, not guided.

            Actually, it's guided by natural selection. At least that's what we tell creationists when they claim there hasn't been enough time for the quantity of fortuitous mutations required to have arisen.

            These are exciting times not only in cybernetics but also in microbiology, and a paradigm shift is long overdue.
            http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.edu/Shapiro.2013.Rethinking_the_%28Im%29Possible_in_Evolution.html

          • Garbanzo Bean

            If you take a bag of 100 marbles and dump them on the ground, each will end up in a particular place. If you do it again, each marble will end up in a different place. Therefore, they are not guided by gravity, nor is the study of ellastic or inellastic collisions valid.

          • Logike

            "If you take a bag of 100 marbles and dump them on the ground, each will end up in a particular place. If you do it again, each marble will end up in a different place. Therefore, they are not guided by gravity, nor is the study of ellastic or inellastic collisions valid."

            --You are unwittingly proving my point. Gravity and the interaction of the marbles together are each necessary and together jointly sufficient for how the marbles end up. But if final causes were operating, we should expect the placement of the marbles to end up the same.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Well I think the object which provides the gravity (the earth, presumably) would be the final cause of the marbles falling, since that is their destination.
            Sorry for all the late replies... finally came into a few spare minutes.

          • Logike

            How can gravity be the final cause, when the particular place each marble ends up will be different every time? If final causes were operating, shouldn't we expect the exact same results?

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Gravity is not the final cause, the object which provides the gravity is the final cause because that is a falling object's destination. In any situation of a "becoming", the final cause is simply that which is going to be.

          • Logike

            Also, why should we think gravity is final cause rather than efficient cause?

          • Mike

            "properties emerge" so you'd rather posit "magic"? that's not science; what science says is let's see what the patterns are how physically it's possible for these properties to emerge; see my alphabet ex. again i think you don't realize that you are arguing that thickness or font are language whereas the code needs a vtable lookup namely a language created by intelligence.

            Forget "god" what i am saying is "logos" intelligence non-physical information "somewhere" embedded in basic matter; see that article about super symmetry by stephen m barr to see what i mean; then all i am saying is that some intelligence is MUCH better metaphysical explanation or description that atheism's "nothing".

          • Logike

            "properties emerge" so you'd rather posit "magic"? that's not science;"

            --Right. It's metaphysics. But positing Emergentism is no less "magical" than the positing an immaterial God who is supposed to be responsible for creating an material universe "ex nihilo"! In fact, we have tons of the evidence for the former and no evidence for the latter. There is a very strong correlation between matter and higher level phenomena everywhere. Take the physical brain and the mind, for example. There is no change in consciousness without an underlying change in the neurology of the brain. Whatever I do to your brain I do to the mind, and vice versa. Smash your brain, and the lights go out. The correlation is so strong, in fact, that some philosophers like Daniel Dennett have said the mind is nothing over the brain (eliminativism).

            "Forget "god" what i am saying is "logos" intelligence non-physical information "somewhere" embedded in basic matter; . . . MUCH better metaphysical explanation
            or description that atheism's "nothing".

            --Huh? But many atheists believe in pansychism, that view that everything in the world is conscious. Roger Penrose, renowned physicist, believes this. Neither pansychism, nor hylomorphism, nor dualism, is evidence for God. This is a HUGE jump that needs to be defended.
            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/panpsychism/

            I think you're trying to put me in a box I don't belong. Like many philosophers, I am willing to entertain the idea of logos over a glass of wine and a cigar. So any scruples I have with the idea of logos has nothing to do with my scruples about the existence of God. For you, on the other hand, it seems the belief in the "universe's intelligence" is strongly connected to your belief in God. I just don't share that sentiment that there is a very strong connection between logos and the existence of a transcendent god. My views are more pantheistic than anything else. So discussions of spirituality and immaterial things does not bother me whatsoever

          • Mike

            actually there are ppl alive with intellect who don't have almost any brains, for real there's a guy in france who's missing like 90% of his brain but is alive and conscious.

          • Logike

            Well, the brain is known to be very adaptable. It will pick up the roles of parts that got damaged or lost. If that guy lost the remaining 10% of his brain, I guarantee he wouldn't be alive.

            I read about a lady who has no cerebellum which is partly responsible for one's sense of balance and direction. But she could still do things like a normal person could.

          • Mike

            yeah it's weird the brain seems to be capable to adjusting/reforming itself...ps i think that we'll find out in the future that addicts reshape their physical brains or that ppl who say watch lots of movies or read alot have a real physical impact on their brain tissues or whatever.

            what i do predict is that we'll never or at least not in the next 10,000 years find our "self" in our brains or our "souls' bc materialism is pretty obviously false.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Mathematics and mathematicians have no trouble with infinity. ... Theists think God is infinite, after all, so what's the problem?

            It's an equivocation on the term "infinite." Infinity in mathematics is an infinity of quantity or magnitude, but it is not said of God that there are infinitely many of him, or that he is infinite in extent. (As a non-material being, he has no extension. How many thoughts can focus on the tip of a ball-point pen?)

            For example, in reliability engineering, equipment time-to-failure during the wear-out phase can be adequately modeled by a normal distribution, as can be gender-specific adult height. But the normal distribution runs to infinity in both directions, and no equipment will last forever and no person will be infinitely tall. That is, what is true in mathematics is not necessarily true in physics. "All models are false," the statistician George E.P. Box once wrote in a seminal paper on modeling, "but some are useful." The question is how far wrong they can be before they cease being useful. There is always something outside the model.

            Our past experience time and again shows matter getting rearranged from pre-existing matter, but nothing like things suddenly materializing from an unknown supernatural being.

            Even the virtual "particles" of quantum mechanics are supposedly caused by the superposition of quantum fields; at least until the First Cause argument is deployed, when they suddenly become "uncaused." But the very phrase "suddenly materializing" is an inadequate description of creatio ex nihilo. We typically imagine an empty space and then -presto!- there's a buffalo (or something). But it is exactly under such circumstance we would say, "WTF? Where did that come from? Nothing "poofs" into existence.

            For a look at how your objection is actually an argument for the existence of a necessary being, see here:
            http://thomism.wordpress.com/2013/11/16/creatio-ex-nihilo-ii/

          • Michael Murray

            It's an equivocation on the term "infinite." Infinity in mathematics is an infinity of quantity or magnitude, but it is not said of God that there are infinitely many of him, or that he is infinite in extent. (As a non-material being, he has no extension. How many thoughts can focus on the tip of a ball-point pen?)

            Ah thanks. This was what I was trying to say in my there post. God being infinite for theists means something like God being unable to be constrained in my experience.

          • Logike

            "It's an equivocation on the term "infinite.""

            --I am familiar with this “equivocation” theist allege. But
            you are missing my rhetorical point. My question is: what is so implausible about the concept, more specifically, of an infinite magnitude? No mathematician thinks there is something inherently "wrong" with it; not even George E.P. Box. You need to draw a distinction between statistical models and pure mathematics because I am talking about the latter. True, statistical models can sometimes make false predictions because statistical models are empirical generalizations which might specify a certain relationship that does not actually exist between two or more physical quantities, or because there are other variables not taken into account by the model. You yourself admitted this in your post. But this is the fault of the model, the application of the math, not the math itself. No empirical observation, not even in principle, will ever be able
            to falsify a necessary mathematical truth such as "2+2=4" with an observation that "2+2=5." To suppose otherwise, would turn all math and science on its head. So, contrary to what you said, all mathematical truths are true in the physical world.
            However, this same generalization does not hold for statistical models, which, again, is why you need to draw the distinction between the two.

            An important point falls out of this distinction related to the concept of infinity. Infinity is a non-empirical concept, like the concepts of functions, equalities, and squares. There is nothing logically problematic about these concepts, nothing entailing any inconsistencies. Mathematicians discuss them
            all the time. But to suppose, like William Lane Craig does, to have demonstrated the logical impossibility of an actual (or physical) infinite, you have also demonstrated, whether you know it or not, the logical impossibility of mathematical infinity as well, which is absurd. Every logician and mathematician
            worth his salt knows that physical possibility is a subset of logical and mathematical possibility. This means that if you can show a concept (like infinity) is logically impossible in the physical or actual world, then you have, a fortiori, also shown the same concept is logically impossible in ALL worlds, including the mathematical world, because logical possibility is the broadest, all-encompassing, form of "possibility" there is!

            "Even the virtual "particles" of quantum mechanics are supposedly caused by the superposition of quantum fields; at least until the First Cause argument is deployed, when they suddenly become "uncaused." "

            --There is nothing wrong with that. The buck stops there. The concept of causation, as it is being employed here, is a temporal concept, but the quantum field is a timeless state of affairs (just as your God would be timeless). Therefore, just as it would be inappropriate to request a cause of your timeless God, it would be equally inappropriate to request a cause of a timeless quantum field.

            "But the very phrase "suddenly materializing" is an inadequate description of creatio ex nihilo."

            --You conveniently ignored the rest of my sentence, namely “. . . from an unknown supernatural being.” I have not mischaracterized what you believe. I articulate exactly what it says. “Creation ex nihilo” by God means God created without the aid of any pre-existing material. The event, therefore, would qualify as an instance of a universe “suddenly
            materializing from a supernatural being.”

            “For a look at how your objection is actually an argument for the existence of a necessary being, see here:”

            --Um, I read the article, I can’t seem to find my central objection to Kreeft’s argument mentioned there. My objection is that a transcendent being is superfluous because an infinite regress of contingent explanations explaining every other contingent event suffices to explain all contingent beings.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The concept of causation, as it is being employed here, is a temporal concept

            But to Aristotle, Maimonides, ibn Rushd, Aquinas, and the rest, causation as it was being employed in these arguments is not a temporal concept. That is why they could regard an eternal world as being created. "Prior" meant "logically prior," not necessarily "temporally prior." Aristotle regarded the world as eternal. Philoponus and his muslim successors regarded the world as provably finite in time. Aquinas believed the world had a beginning in time but did not think it could be proven in philosophy and so assumed the world as eternal for the sake of the argument. (This is why he rejected the muslims' "kalam" argument. Kalam is the muslim equivalent of theology.)

            “Creation ex nihilo” by God means God created without the aid of any pre-existing material. The event, therefore, would qualify as an instance of a universe “sudd enly
            materializing from a supernatural being.”

            The word "suddenly" implies the existence of time; but matter is prior to time in the sense that time does not exist independently of matter. Creation is the joining of an essence to an act of existence. That might happen eternally or it might happen at some remote time or as creatio continuo happen continually right now.

            My objection is that a transcendent being is superfluous because an infinite regress of contingent explanations explaining every other contingent event suffices to explain all contingent beings.

            And that is simply logically incoherent. The act of forwarding an email does not account for the existence of the email even if it has been forwarded an infinite number of times. A series ordered per se must have an first element (whether temporally first or not) simply because even an infinite series of instrumental causes cannot produce the effect. Instrumental causes by their nature can only transmit an effect. Much of the High to Late Modern misconstrual of these arguments comes from a failure to apprehend the distinction between series ordered per se and per accidens.
            http://www.academia.edu/4415427/There_Must_Be_A_First_Why_Thomas_Aquinas_Rejects_Infinite_Essentially_Ordered_Causal_Series

            ++++

            You are correct that many arguments against the existence of God are also arguments against the existence of mathematicals. It has, I admit, been many years since I took my masters in mathematics, but every mathematician is in his heart at least a little bit of a Platonist. However, mathematical models suffer the same defects as statistical models; perhaps more so, since they may not recognize the uncertainties inherent in physical existence, and it is physical existence that we non-Platonists must ultimately come to terms with. That is, the perfections of mathematics, though pooh-poohed by your co-religionists in other circumstances, is to the side of the metaphysical proofs discussed here. Physics, mathematics, and metaphysics are three distinct realms and employ distinct methods.

          • Logike

            "But to Aristotle, Maimonides, ibn Rushd, Aquinas, and
            the rest, causation as it was being employed in these arguments is not a temporal concept"

            --I realize that. But you, not me, were using the concept temporally because you found the notion of an uncaused timelessness of a quantum field repugnant. It can only be repugnant when using causation temporally.

            "And that is simply logically incoherent."

            --Where is the alleged inconsistency? An actual proof by contradiction is lacking here.

            "The act of forwarding an email does not account for the existence of the email"

            --Of course, because the act of forwarding an email is an instrumental, not the essential, cause of the email, like you say. The writer is the essential cause of the email (its form and content). But notice: the writer himself, vis-a-vis his human form, is contingent. So your analogy is a bad analogy to put on par with God, particularly when this anecdote does nothing to shed light on the question of whether the existence of matter composing the things in question even needs an explanation at all.

            "A series ordered per se must have an first element (whether temporally first or not)"

            --The obvious question is whether the infinite series of contingent beings in the universe is so ordered. If they are ordered per accidens instead, there would be no need of a first element. But this is only one possibility.

            You also fail to take into account the possibility of matter being the first principle of the series with respect to the existence (not the form!) of every item in the series. You deny this is possible because matter without form has only "potential," not "actual," existence. But you are confusing its explanatory role with respect to the existence (not the form) of every other item in the series. Though the material components of the universe are contingent via
            their form, it is perfectly possible, and conceivable, that they are
            necessary via their existence. Hence, the question of why there is
            something at all rather than nothing makes no sense. Matter, though it
            undergoes change, its given volume persists and is unalterable, and as
            persisting matter it does not have or need a cause. This accords with
            the Principle of Conservation of Mass-Energy, which says that matter
            and energy are neither created nor destroyed but rather transmuted into each other. As
            indestructible, then, matter is the first principle, the necessary "being."

            "Much of the High to Late Modern misconstrual of these arguments comes
            from a failure to apprehend the distinction between series ordered per se and per accidens."

            --Even still, contrary to Aquinas, persistence in existence is not change, and hence there is no reason to ask for a sustaining cause of what exists.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            you, not me, were using the concept temporally because you found the notion of an uncaused timelessness of a quantum field repugnant.

            Where did I find it "repugnant"? I only commented that something eternal may nonetheless be caused explicitly because the cause need not be temporally prior to the effect. The alleged "uncaused" effect of the timelessness of a quantum field is simply an assertion. That t does not appear in the equations of quantum mechanics is no more significant than that it does not appear in Newton's equations of gravitation. People seem to use "uncaused" with "we can't predict when and where the effect."

            As a more technically-minded person commented in another discussion entirely:

            The cause of the decay of an atom is quantum mechanical tunneling, and it is governed by the time evolution of the atom's wave function. Over time the undecayed atom evolves into a superposition of decayed and undecayed states. According to the Copenhagen Interpreter, the decay (or non-decay) of the atom is then caused by an observer looking at it.

            There are, of course, other interpreters who are not Copenhagen Interpreters, who can give different causes, but they all give causes.

            ++++
            Again, we find comments on the site that are missing in the email notification. Does this mean you edited the comment after the fact? I'm composing off-line and then pasting, but I will insert a thought here:

            "creation ex nihilo" is the concept of the material being created at all

            So "creation" is the concept of "being created." Glad we cleared that up.

            The only kinds of changes anyone is acquainted with are accidental changes and the generation and corruption of material things by means of other material things.

            But creation is not a kind of change.

            One might charge that emergentism is equally inexplicable

            Only if you deny formal causation.

            neuroscience is rife with bridge laws connecting the brain with the mind.

            I bet you can find "laws" connecting the hands with piano music, too. You can't suppose this would surprise anyone using hylomorphism. A synole is exactly a synole, that is a compound of matter and form. In fact, I've been recently reading an old 1940 text in Thomistic psychology that makes some of the same points.

            Nothing in the annals of your Scholastic books even comes close to bridging the material with the immaterial with an degree of predictability like neuroscience can.

            Sure. Lots of facts have been discovered in the meantime. But formal causation being relabled "emergentism" does not exactly dispense with formal causation.
            This should also be interesting:
            http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/wjf/CR%20FreemanAquinas.pdf

            "Creation is the joining of an essence to an act of existence."
            Admittedly, I don't understand what this means

            If you can grasp what a classical unicorn is, its horselike shape and internal arrangements, its relationship to virgins, and all the rest, you have grasped the essence of a unicorn. (This can be grasped on a number of different levels. A farmer, a connaisseur, a chemist, a poet and a broker may all have exact knowledge of a grape, but in several different ways.)
            However, unlike grapes, unicorns do not in fact physically exist. So it is entirely possible to have an essence without having an existence. (The conjoining of an essence to an act of existence no more requires time than does the quantum foam.) Nor do formal causes preclude material, efficient, or final causes. Of course, there will be some physical footprint.
            You may be thinking of "creation" as something like an artisan in a workshop busily turning out petunias and parakeets and people; but it more akin to thought as creative.

            You forgot the third, and most plausible, possibility: Maybe never?

            Unlikely. If there never was a joining of existence to an essence, then nothing would exist.

            -Where is the alleged inconsistency?

            Just that a series of beings that do not contain within themselves the reason for their own existence does not in the final analysis account for their existence even if the series is really, really long. If you ask someone, "Why do you keep a hammer in the freezer?" It is no answer to say, "We have always kept a hammer in the freezer." Infinity, eternity, and the like do not address the ontological question any more than the infinite series of emails addresses the content. The existence, the creation, is on another order.
            This may help:
            http://www.academia.edu/4415427/There_Must_Be_A_First_Why_Thomas_Aquinas_Rejects_Infinite_Essentially_Ordered_Causal_Series

            The obvious question is whether the infinite series of contingent beings in the universe is [essentially] ordered. If they are ordered per accidens instead, there would be no need of a first element.

            But a contingent being is one which does not contain within itself the reason for its own existence. That is, it is ontologically dependent on another being for its existence -- not just for its coming-into-existence, but for remaining-in-existence. A cloud may come into existence because of some combination of atmospheric conditions. Once those conditions change, the cloud will dissipate. But the atmospheric conditions do not explain themselves. They are brought into existence by the rotation of the earth, the temperature of the air, and sundry other matters. Once these drivers cease, the atmospheric conditions will fade. But these drivers too are contingent: we must refer to the sun and to astrophysical principles. But even the sun is contingent. And so it goes.

            It is no answer to say, "It's turtles all the way down," because that amounts to "there is no reason."

          • Logike

            "But creation is not a kind of change."

            --You're missing the point. The point is that creation ex nihilo is not anything we are aquainted with in our experience, as I explained at length.

            "One might charge that emergentism is equally inexplicable" -Only if you deny formal causation."

            --But then your explanation for the existence of fomral properties would be circular, explaining nothing.

            "Creation is the joining of an essence to an act of existence."
            -Admittedly, I don't understand what this means
            If you can grasp what a classical unicorn is, its horselike shape and internal arrangements, its relationship to virgins, and all the rest, you have grasped the essence of a unicorn."

            --I'm sorry, I don't understand what relevance the conceiving of the essence of a unicorn has to do with my complaint here. I don't have a problem conceiving essences. I don't have a problem conceiving things existing. And I don't have a problem conceving essence and existence being characteristic of one and the same entitty. Rather, it is the "joining" or "coming together" of essence and existence that I don't understand because I don't understand the notion of matter "coming to be ex nihilo" at all. I can't quantify it logically. I've already tried. It's impossible to do so without making use of temporal points, which renders the notion even more incoherent because one would assigning temporal points to the very origin of time.

            "(The conjoining of an essence to an act of
            existence no more requires time than does the quantum foam.)"

            --This is nonsense. The notion of "cojoining," whether you think so or not, implies time.

            "but it more akin to thought as creative."

            --Nope, that doesnt help either. My experience shows that thoughts get translated into physical reality only by means of an already existing physical mechanism. But creation ex nihilo is not like this because it denies "pre-existing" material.

            "You forgot the third, and most plausible, possibility: Maybe never? -Unlikely. If there never was a joining of existence to an essence, then nothing would exist."

            --Huh? This is pure stipulation. Where does "unlikely" pass come from? Is this an inductive generalization or what? It can't be, because nothing in your past experience has shown you that "coming to be" is necessary for the existence of things. Neither have you ever witnessed such an event happening. Speaking in terms of conceptual possibility again, it is perfectly possible that the matter and the whole of space-time always existed. You scholastics are rampant begging-the-question mongrels. I am done explaing this notion to you.

            "But a contingent being is one which does not contain within itself the reason for its own existence."

            --Yes, and I noticed you conveniently ignored my more favored argument that matter happens to be necessary, along with my charge that Aquinas made a mistake supposing persistence a form of change and hence needing a cause. Nice dodge, but moving on. . .

            "It is no answer to say, "It's turtles all the way down," because that amounts to "there is no reason."

            --I don't think so. The first turtle is explained by the second turtle, the second turtle is explained by the third, and so on. Each member in the series gets explained by the member adjacent to it (construed temporally or not), and hence each member in the series is explained. Contrary to your contention.

            "Why do you keep a hammer in the freezer?" It is no answer
            to say, "We have always kept a hammer in the freezer."
            --You are again strawmanning your opponent's position by offering citing causes which do not actually explain the state-of-affairs in question, genius. The example could easily be thrown back at you: "Why does God exist"? "Because he has always existed" is equally a non-answer. So let's change the example to suit what I would say: "Why is the refrigerator in your home?" --Because delivery man brought it. "Why did the delivery man bring it?" --Because I wanted a way chill my food...and so on. Some strings of explanations, particularly teleological ones, are finite and will bottom out in explanations for which no other explanation is basic. Personal intentions are this way. Your "God" hypothesis is also an instance of this. But that obviously doesn't bother you much. Why should it bother a person who believed matter were necessary? If matter is indeed necessary, as my analysis in my other post shows, it's because no cause is required to explain the persistence of matters, since persistence is not a kind of change.

            "and the like do not address the ontological question any more
            than the infinite series of emails addresses the content. The existence,
            the creation, is on another order."

            --What "creation"? Do you have any evidence the material universe "came to be" at all? --No, because the notion is not even coherent.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Mathematics and mathematicians have no trouble with infinity.

            Perhaps, but infinity can be counterintuitive. Banach-Tarski is an example. I think we should be very wary, when someone takes things that are true when we are dealing with the finite, and then extending it to the infinite. The cosmological argument does this every time.

          • Logike

            The concept of infinity is counterintuitive only when you try to bring in finite/physical concepts like "hotels" and "rooms" to describe it as is found in the paradox of "Hilbert's Hotel." But there is nothing about the MATH that is logically inconsistent.

          • Michael Murray

            But infinity applied to God is not mathematical infinity. If I am wrong in this perhaps you can explain what it is about God that is infinite in the mathematical sense. Define God of course.

          • Logike

            I wasn't applying mathematical infinity to your notion god. Do you seen any mention of "god" in that post?

            For what it's worth, I don't understand a concept of infinity without some kind of concept of magnitude. "Intensional infinity" is empty to me.

          • Michael Murray

            For what it's worth, I don't understand a concept of infinity without some kind of concept of magnitude.

            Yes that's my problem as well.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think they think of God as the maximal element of various partial orderings on the set of all possible beings.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes that is my guess as well. I have asked in the past for answers to

            (1) what is the set of things

            (2) what is the ordering

            (3) proof it has a maximal element

            (4) proof the maximal element is unique

            I haven't had an answer yet.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            My point is that mathematical results can be counterintuitive. As time passes and we become more familiar with the results our intuition can adjust. There is a difference between mathematics being consistent and mathematics being counterintuitive, true, or descriptive of the real world.

            We can find counterintuitive results in physics as well. For instance, before I took freshman physics, it seemed intuitively "obvious" that a 16 pound bowling ball will hit the ground twice as fast as a 8 pound bowling ball. Of course, Quantum Mechanics is so counterintuitive that it is best to just "shut up and calculate."

            I don't think we actually disagree. My problem is when someone says that an infinite regress is counterintuitive and therefore impossible.

          • Michael Murray

            Mathematics and mathematicians have no trouble with infinity. Why should scientists or philosophers? Theists think God is infinite, after all, so what's the problem?

            The first problem is that mathematicians work with completely precise definitions and complete rigour. That's what enables them to deal with infinity. Theists do neither of these things when discussing God. I've had discussions here in the past with theists about God and infinity and they can't define God precisely (hardly at all in fact) and they wander all over the shop with infinity. They usually take God being infinite to mean God not being able to be constrained by anything. This is not the mathematicians definition.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            This is not the mathematicians definition.

            Precisely! You are getting there. The existence of God is not a mathematical problem. Excellent. Perhaps it is a metaphysical problem instead?

            http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm#43

          • Michael Murray

            Why would the existence of God be a mathematical problem ? It's a statement about the real world not the mathematical world. I'd just like to see something like the level of rigour and precise argument used in mathematics or even just physics applied to the problem. This current contingency argument fails for a number of reasons that have been discussed here repeatedly. Fallacy of composition for example. But still it comes up again and again. In mathematics and science if you lose the argument enough times you accept you are wrong. But not in theology because you know you are right and the argument is just advertising spin.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Fallacy of composition for example.

            Granted, Modern attempts to improve on the old arguments are usually flawed, but what is the composition fallacy here? And composition is a fallacy in material logic, not formal logic. That is, whether it is a fallacy at all depends on the matter under discussion. It is not automatically a fallacy like asserting the consequent.

          • Michael Murray

            We are discussing something material. The fallacy is the assumption that the collection of all things (the universe) shares a property that some of the things in the universe have.

          • Logike

            Nicely stated, Michael. Yes, what is problematic is not that a fallacy of composition has, in fact, occurred. The problem is that no one knows whether such a fallacy has occurred. The theist is dealing with an unstated assumption that his inference from parts to wholes, from members of the class to the class itself, is legitimate.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I actually tend to agree with you, which is why I don't credit the muslim "kalam" argument. The universe is not a "thing" (ousia) but rather a collection of things: {X|X exists physically}. But a collection takes its existence from the existence of its members, and the set of everything that exists physically exists if at least one thing (ousia) exists. This may be a different order of existence, but nonetheless there it is. Once this is understood, nonsense about "multiverses" can be dispensed with, since there can only be multiple things if there are things to begin with.

            Compare "universe" to the Moonmurray, which is the mereological sum of the Moon and Michael Murray. Because it is not a "thing" but two things, there is no need to postulate the reason for the Moonmurray. It exists iff the Moon exists and Michael Murray exists. It is the latter two whose existence wants reason.

            We cannot say that a crowd is Christian even though every member of the crowd is a Christian any more than we can say the beach is a crystal even though every grain of sand is. But we may say that a floor is green when every tile comprising the floor is green or a tea kettle is hot when every part of it is hot, which is why composition is not a formal fallacy but depends the matter of the argument. So the challenge here is to demonstrate that with respect to the property involved, universe-parts is more like a beach than a tiled floor.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            What is your opinion, then, of premise 4 in the argument above? I find generally that the author is not as careful as he should be, and here has misstated the argument from contingency (if he intends to do something like the "Third Way"). It other articles it has not been obvious that he understands himself the distinction between accidentally and essentially ordered causal series. He sure puts himself out there though, I will give him that!

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It's a fairly ordinary statement that a contingent being by definition does not contain the principle of its own existence. For example, a proton does not compose itself because, until it has been composed, it does not actually exist. We must refer instead to something outside the proton, such as the energetic state of a universe in which matter and energy have just separated out.

            What I don't care for is regarding the universe as a thing in the same manner that a star or proton is a thing.

          • Logike

            But the matter and energy composing any given contingent being could be necessary.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I had thought that the matter and energy was contingent upon the Hot Big Bang.

          • Logike

            Four times now, you have deliberately missed the point on this very issue in order to evade contending with my following reasoning:. The "stuff" of the universe, call it what you will, was present at the Hot Big Bang. And there was no time at which this stuff was not. It's persistence is unchangeable, therefore requiring no cause. --So, the persistence of this stuff is necessary.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            You do know that Aristotle believed the world was eternal and that Aquinas accepted this sec. arg. because he did not think he could falsify it. IOW, the eternity of prime matter was not a problem. Persistence is not necessity. Something may be eternal and still be contingent, if it does not contain within itself the principle of its own being. IOW, if its existence were not the same thing as its essence.

            The Hot Big Bang, according to current models, took place at 10^-35 seconds after the universe commenced. It was at this point that quarks came into being. (Protons were formed at 10^-6 sec.) Thus, matter was not present before the hot big bang. The energies thought to have been present have been described as having an "intangible, obverse form, like that of a hole waiting for things to fall into it, and the universe remained momentarily dark and empty."

            I'm not sure how perdurable the standard model will be in the long run; but this is the best we can do for now.

          • Aquinasbot

            You should check Edward Fesers work on this. His argument (very similar to this) assumes that everything is eternal so as to avoid the typical retort of an infinite regress of other causes.

          • Logike

            I am already familiar with Fesser. His argument rests on the assumption that an eternal universe is an essentially-ordered series to which the catogories of "potentiality" and "act" would apply. But I see no reason for not supposing such a universe is accidentally ordered instead.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            When did Fesser become the go to guy for Catholic theists? I had never heard of him till I came to this site.

          • Logike

            Same here. And I am not impressed by what I have read so far. Something tells me you will not find anything in his work resembling the rigor of contemporary analytic philosophers. He's a scholastic, meaning, you can't expect much by way of a careful and thorough analysis of the concepts he uses to express his ideas. --I say that with regret, not disdain.

          • Aquinasbot

            What would you mean by accidentally ordered? My limited understanding in philosophy would lead me to believe that a thing is accidental TO the essence of a thing in which case essence would precede accidents.

          • Logike

            "What would you mean by accidentally ordered?"

            --A causal series ordered by causes that do not require being acted upon while acting on something else. For example, a a man's ability to be a father is not dependent on the fact that he is the son of his own father. He can be a father to his son independent of the fact that he is the son of his own father. This series does not require a first cause. So the connection between causes is accidental.

            An essential series is one where the causes DO require being acted upon in their acting. For example a hand pushing a stick pushing a ball. The stick would not be able to move the ball without also being concurrently moved by the stick. You cannot go indefinitely in this series. A first cause is required otherwise the ball would never move. So the connection between causes is essential.

            I see no reason for supposing the totality of all events in the universe are ordered essentially rather than accidentally. This is my main problem with all cosmological arguments of Aquinas' style.

          • Aquinasbot

            Far be it from me to put words in Prof. Feser's mouth, but I don't think that applies to the argument. The question is not so much was a thing was dependent upon for its being when it was created but what that thing is depended upon NOW for its being.

            See for example what he says here:

            "I argue that whatever the fundamental natural substances that exist at any given moment turn out to be (fermions and bosons, or whatever) they will as composites of form and matter and essence and existence necessarily depend for their very being at that moment on a purely actual conserving cause."

            and

            "For its very existence will at any instant be merely potential apart from its actualization by that which is pure actuality and thus does not need to be actualized by anything else."

            I got that from this blog post:

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-incompetent-hack.html

          • Logike

            "The question is not so much was a thing was dependent upon for its being when it was created but what that thing is depended upon NOW for its being."

            --That is just saying the same thing. Past or present, it doesn't matter "when." It only matters that a thing be concurrently acted upon in its acting on something else. But again, I see no reason for supposing the universe is, in fact, ordered this way.

            ""I argue that whatever the fundamental natural substances that exist at any given moment turn out to be (fermions and bosons, or whatever) they will as composites of form and matter and essence and existence necessarily depend for their very being at that moment on a purely actual conserving cause."

            --This is not an argument, but a statement of his conclusion. I want to know how he arrives at this conclusion by non-question-begging premises. Again, his premises rely on the supposition that the universe is essentially-ordered rather than accidentally-ordered, but I see no reason for supposing this is true. Nor do I see any reason supposing the existence of matter requires anything to "keep it existing."

            "For its very existence will at any instant be merely potential"

            -Whose existence? The existence of matter or the existence of material beings? These are not the same thing, and the distinction between them needs to be drawn. When we talk about the "actualization of matter," we are talking about matter taking on new Form, not matter taking on existence. The latter notion makes no sense, because then we would be saying Form acts on non-existent matter (a contradiction), causing matter to exist, which is patently false. When I reshape this cookie dough from the shape of a sphere to a pyramid, though a new cookie comes to be, new matter doesn't suddenly materialize! Instead, I simply reshape matter that is already existing. Form gives matter form. Form doesn't give matter existence. Form only gives existence to material beings which are composites of matter and Form, like the cookie above.

            "is pure actuality and thus does not
            need to be actualized by anything else."

            --This only follows if all the matter in the universe requires something to be purely actual sustaining its existence. But I see no reason for supposing this is true. It could be that matter just is.

    • Gail Finke

      "it is perfectly conceivable that each event or being within an infinite series explains, or is explained by, some other event or being within that same series." Is it? I don't agree.

      • Logike

        Your opinion counts little unless you can show something problematic about infinity. Mathematicians have no problem with it. Why should scientists or philosophers?

    • Christy D

      Kreeft's answer to her infinite regress objection is:"Fourth, it is often asked why there can't be infinite regress, with no first being. Infinite regress is perfectly acceptable in mathematics: negative numbers go on to infinity just as positive numbers do. So why can't time be like the number series, with no highest number either negatively (no first in the past) or positively (no last in the future)? The answer is that real beings are not like numbers: they need causes, for the chain of real beings moves in one direction only, from past to future, and the future is caused by the past. Positive numbers are not caused by negative numbers. There is, in fact, a parallel in the number series for a first cause: the number one. If there were no first positive integer, no unit one, there could be no subsequent addition of units. Two is two ones, three is three ones, and so on. If there were no first, there could be no second or third."
      (Ref: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/first-cause.htm)

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        There is, in fact, a parallel in the number series for a first cause: the number one.

        This takes my back to Number Theory class, back in the day. It also nicely illustrates the fact that a "First" cause does not need to occur at the beginning of a sequence.

      • Logike

        The fact that existent beings "need" causes does not explain why there cannot be an infinite regress of . . . causes.

        "for the chain of real beings moves in one direction only, from past to future, and the future is caused by the past"

        --Only if time travel is impossible. But is it? Some people think time-travel is paradoxical. For instance, suppose you were to travel back in time to kill your father before you were born. Your very act of killing him would make it impossible to travel back in time to begin with because you wouldn't even exist in the future to be able to travel back in time to do this. But if time branches, so that the time-line to which you travelled to kill your father is distinct from the time-line from whence you departed, there is no paradox.

        • Michael Murray

          I have never understood this problem with infinite regression. For example

          The answer is that real beings are not like numbers: they need causes, for the chain of real beings moves in one direction only, from past to future, and the future is caused by the past.

          seems like no argument at all to me. If we have an infinite chain of dominoes with each falling and hitting the next then every thing has a cause. The cause of a domino falling is the cause of the domino before it falling.

          Positive numbers are not caused by negative numbers. There is, in fact, a parallel in the number series for a first cause: the number one. If there were no first positive integer, no unit one, there could be no subsequent addition of units. Two is two ones, three is three ones, and so on. If there were no first, there could be no second or third."

          This is what happens when people dabble in things they don't understand. One of the standard models in ZF set theory of the integers is to take

          0 = emptyset
          1 = { emptyset }
          2 = { emptyset {emptyset }}
          etc

          so everything depends on the empty set. The integers come from nothing !

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "The cause of a domino falling is the cause of the domino before it falling."
            And what is the cause of the existence of the dominoes?

          • Michael Murray

            And what is the cause of the existence of the dominoes?

            That's a different question. I'm just replying the claim that you can't have an infinite causal chain on logical grounds. One domino by itself raises the question of what caused the existence of the domino.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "I'm just replying to the claim that you can't have an infinite causal chain on logical grounds. One domino by itself raises the question of what caused the existence of the domino."

            As I understand things, an accidentally ordered causal series of infinite length/duration, such as your domino thought experiment, is not considered logically impossible. However an essentially ordered causal chain cannot regress to infinity. Take the example of an artist producing a painting. Regardless of how long you make the paintbrush, you cannot get rid of the painter. An infinitely long paintbrush doesn't help: no painter, no painting.

            Regarding your thought experiment with the dominoes, one might say that Michael Murray is the cause of the existence of the dominoes. However, they exist only in his supposition (and now your readers', because you shared the thought experiment). Of course this type of hypothetical existence is not the sort of thing one generally means by "exist". This is where folks really confuse themselves when they start talking about "all possible worlds" as if they were real.

          • Logike

            "Take the example of an artist
            producing a painting. Regardless of how long you make the paintbrush,
            you cannot get rid of the painter. "

            --True. But it's still possible your paint brush is infinitely long, yes? The fact that it's infinite is just not doing the explanatory work. So the ideas is not that an infinity of essentially ordered causes is impossible, but rather the idea that an infinity of essentially ordered causes without a painter (or the first ordering element) is impossible.

            So why can't the persistence of matter fit this bill? Though matter is the subject of change because its parts get rearranged into various combinations, the persistence of matter does not change, and hence the persistence of matter does not require a cause or explanation for its existence. It seems the persistence of matter would qualify as the "first element" which ordered and sustained everything else down the causal chain.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Right, regardless of the length of the paintbrush, the painter is an indispensable cause in the causal series of which the painting is an effect. This is the nature of an essentially ordered causal series.

            With regard to the "persistence of matter", are you thinking of Lavoisier's "conservation of mass", or are you thinking of prime matter as the substrate of substantial change?

            An aside: Poor Lavoisier, decapitated by rationalistic atheists at the age of 51. We could have gotten another 20 years out of him; who knows how much farther science would now be ahead. Sigh.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "One domino by itself raises the question of what caused the existence of the domino."
            Meant to add, yes! The existence, the real existence of "this particular thing", this domino or this grain of sand or this sodium atom... this is what is truly puzzling. The question of how it came about, circumstantially, is irrelevant here. I think this bepuzzlement with existence is what Jacques Maritain maybe meant by the "intuition of being".

        • Christy D

          The thing that makes the most sense to me is that matter is finite. Also it can either exist or not exist, making the possibility of its existence finite also. If you consider all possible combinations of all matter existing or not existing, at some point one possibility is that no matter exists. Now if it is possible for no matter to exist then through infinite regress that possibility will eventually be reached even if it is a tremendously long time period ago. Once the no matter existing possibility is reached, then there cannot be some other matter that caused it to exist since no matter exists. Yet matter does exist now which means something other than matter that is not finite had to be the first cause.

          • Logike

            By "finite" I suppose you mean there is an extensional limit to the amount of matter in the whole of space-time. Even if this were true, what makes you think the existence of matter is contingent? Though matter is the subject of change because it rearranges parts and into various combinations, the persistence of matter does not change, meaning at no time was it not, and hence does not require a cause or explanation for its existence. After all, the Law of the Conservation of Energy says that matter is neither created nor destroyed, so in a very crucial respect, matter is the necessary, first element explaining the series of all contingently existing beings.

          • Christy D

            The first law of thermodynamics doesn't actually specify that matter can neither be created nor destroyed, but instead that the total amount of energy in a closed system cannot be created nor destroyed (though it can be changed from one form to another). Quantum mechanics states that, on a very, very tiny scale and for very, very, very short lengths of time, energy can be spontaneously be created and destroyed.

          • Garbanzo Bean

            "Quantum mechanics states that, on a very, very tiny scale and for very, very, very short lengths of time, energy can be spontaneously be created and destroyed."

            On the contrary:

            "When physicists first formulated quantum theory they realized that an electron in an atom can jump from one energy level to another, giving off or absorbing light. In 1924 Niels Bohr, Hans Kramers, and John Slater proposed that these quantum jumps temporarily violated energy conservation. According to the physicists, each quantum jump would liberate or absorb energy, and only on average would energy be conserved.

            Einstein objected fervently to the idea that quantum mechanics defied energy conservation. And it turns out he was right. After physicists refined quantum mechanics a few years later, scientists understood that although the energy of each electron might fluctuate in a probabilistic haze, the total energy of the electron and its radiation remained constant at every moment of the process. Energy was conserved."

            Scientific American, Aug 5 2014

            http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/energy-can-neither-be-created-nor-destroyed/

          • Logike

            "Now if it is possible for no matter to exist"

            --I see no reason for thinking that it is possible for matter not to exist. In fact, there are good reasons for thinking the existence of matter is necessary. See post below.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      it is perfectly conceivable that each event or being within an infinite
      series explains, or is explained by, some other event or being within
      that same series. Everything, therefore, would be explained

      Actually, that is precisely what would not happen. In problem-solving, we recognize the difference between an immediate cause and a root cause, but mostly we will stop at a cause that gives us the greatest leverage over a specific problem. For example, the water on the kitchen floor is brought into being by a leak in a pipe. The leak in the pipe occurred because the pipe rusted through. The corrosion happened because of the hardness of the water and so on. Whether or not one is satisfied with duct tape depends on one's depth of vision.

      To "explain" one transient being by reference to another transient being is ultimately to "explain" only on the duct tape level. This may be sufficient to earn immediate relief from the bother, but does not get to the root of things. It's the old shell game, only with a lot more shells under which the pea may be said to lie.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        You are using what is true for finite things and extending it to the infinite. This is a fallacy.
        Suppose I have a frictionless pool table and all of the balls on the table are in motion. If ball one collides with ball two, ball one is necessary for ball two's change in momentum and ball two is necessary for ball one's change in momentum. There is not reason to assume that contingent beings cannot change each other.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Suppose I have a frictionless pool table and all of the balls on the
          table are in motion. If ball one collides with ball two, ball one is
          necessary for ball two's change in momentum and ball two is necessary
          for ball one's change in momentum. There is not reason to assume that
          contingent beings cannot change each other.

          Of course not. It happens all the time. It just cannot regress without limit. But be careful when you say "necessary." The sense here is not the same as in "necessary being." Dealing with changes in impetus belongs to the "first way," not the "third way."
          Where'd the balls come from?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The series just cannot regress without limit.

            Why not?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In the case of this post: a contingent being is one which does not possess within itself the principle of its own being. It must receive its being from another, already actual being. A cloud receives its being from atmospheric conditions: moisture, temperature, pressure, wind, etc. And it will persist only so long as those conditions persist. But these do not explain the cloud, because these conditions are themselves contingent. They do not cause themselves to come about. We must refer to the sun and other geophysical principles. But the sun is also contingent, and was brought into being by gravitational forces and nuclear fusion. And so on.

            There are series that Aristotle (and Aquinas) thought could regress to infinity. (Aquinas believed the world had a beginning in time, but did not think it could be proven in philosophy; so he assumed s.c. that the world was eternal, since he did not allow religious assumptions into his philosophical proofs. The Arabs believed they could prove the finitude of the World, which is why they accepted the "kalam" argument and Aquinas did not.) These are the accidentally ordered series. It is only the essentially ordered series that Aristotle said must have a first element. A series of instruments cannot play a tune, even if there are infinitely many of them.

            This should help:
            http://www.academia.edu/4415427/There_Must_Be_A_First_Why_Thomas_Aquinas_Rejects_Infinite_Essentially_Ordered_Causal_Series

          • Logike

            "But these do not explain the cloud, because these conditions are themselves contingent"

            --So, contingent things cannot explain other contingent things. This doesn't seem right to me. It's like saying gravity doesn't explain why things fall to the ground. Of course it does. If there were something so obviously missing in the current scientific account of the object's trajectory toward the earth, I think physicists might notice that. Your view entails physics should include "God" in all its explanations because scientific explanations, to everyone's surprise, do not actually explain anything.

      • Logike

        Your analogy doesn't work, though, because duct tape was not intended to be used to explain the leaky pipe in the first place. It is intended to repair it (however poorly).

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Are you correct when you assume an actual infinite series of contingent beings could exist? You say assuming there cannot be an infinite regress is highly suspect. Why do you think that?

      • Logike

        I am not saying the universe is ordered contingently. I am saying there is no reason to suppose it is not. You need a proof that it is not contingently ordered for the argument to be valid.

    • Garbanzo Bean

      Because you cant fire the artist, just by making his paintbrush longer. Or even infinitely long. No painter, no painting.

      • Logike

        But what evidence is there that the universe is ordered essentially like you say? Why not ordered like the infinite set of integers with no largest number?

  • Eriktb

    The OP is discussing Time and Space as being separate from the Universe not that either require a god to exist. The argument could easily be made that Time and Space are what are required for beings to exist.

    Also the jump from the Cosmological Argument to the Christian God existing is just silly. If you want I'll go into but that should be fairly simple to figure out since the OP jumps immediately toward the Christian God as a given.

    On a side note, how many more times are we going to argue about the 5 ways before the theists on this site recognize that those of us in non-believing camp don't find them compelling? And yes, we do understand them. And no, they really aren't that compelling and they certainly don't lead to the existence of any particular god.

    • Mike

      Ya but only Christians have claimed that their god is existence itself is the "word" ie "ideas or logos" itself is rationality itself is outside all space time is one and created the world through his will alone...all other religions do not make such strong verifiable in theory claims...they are mushy like folk myths about creation but nothing nearly as concrete and really daring as the christians...it's a very peculiar claim.

      • Eriktb

        Christians don't claim their god is existence itself. Why on earth would you think that. Christians claim god is a specific entity with a bunch of human traits they imagined god to have because why invent something novel when you can reconcile a mundane contradictory story instead?

        All religions make the same whacky claims. If you actually believe Christians claims are concrete, or different in any meaningful way from other religions, then we don't have much to discuss.

        • Mike

          "whacky claims"? positing 3,000 years ago that the universe was created only to have it proved in the 60s is anything but whacky.

          • Eriktb

            And how was that done exactly?

          • Mike

            Cosmic microwave background radiation; the "big bang" as it was coined in order to demean the theory bc it would lend support to theists and hundreds of cosmological experiments since then.

          • Eriktb

            Big Bang Theory was coined by a creationist to demean the theory presented as an explosion out of nothing. In reality Big Bang Theory describes an expansion of a singularity. How you have taken that to be evidence of a creation story is incredibly odd to me.

          • Mike

            I don't understand how you seem to see a connection between the standard model of cosmology/big bang and creationism...puzzling....i am making metaphysical claims based on real science that science discoveries seem to be piling up in favor of a creator; the very fact that there is something instead of nothing "points" to a creator, author, flying spagehti monster, the force, an alien whatever; but most certainly not to NOTHING.

          • Eriktb

            If you believe that the universe was created, then that would be a creationist stance by definition. Also, I've never claimed that the Universe came from nothing. I've made claims about whether or not that singularity, or more to the point that which makes it up, has always existed but that's not what you're talking about. And no, the fact that there is something instead nothing doesn't point to a creator.

          • Mike

            Everything you know of was created: you by your parents; plants and animals by nature the earth by condensing gases the universe by ---- oh ok here you so no creator? how reasonable does that sound to you?

            Oh yes i believe on pure materialist grounds that the universe was created by some super intelligence totally aside from my religious convictions.

          • Eriktb

            Sounds fairly reasonable as there is no evidence of such a creator. Again, there is reason to believe that that singularity could've existed forever in some form or another(there are multiple theories with varying degrees of evidence feel free to look them up). A creator seems to little more than a few arguments that are highly suspect and even accepting those you can only get as far as a deistic god before you cross into wishful thinking.

          • Mike

            There is overwhelming evidence for creation; stop and look around you right now; there is an immense order and beauty in the tip of the finger you're using to type; there is more math, logic physics information in your eye lid than any human will ever know.

            Yes christianity is personal if you want justice for millions of ppl who only know strife and injustice you'll believe in your heart that death is not the end that those ppl who starved to death in concentration camps will get justice and that this is not a meaingless evil world.

            PS IF the christian god doesn't exist then the next most plausible theory is an evil god.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            There is overwhelming evidence for creation; stop and look around you right now; there is an immense order and beauty

            There is also immense amounts of chaos, ugliness, suffering, fear, and waste.

          • Mike

            EXACTLY and the only reason you can distinguish is bc you know one from the other; you have an innate sense of beauty/order/harmony and the opposite; without creation you wouldn't even be able to sense the 2 bc they would seem identical.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Or because those distinctions are to our evolutionary advantage.

          • Mike

            LOL Of course they are but the very fact that there is 'advantage' to speak of is surely telos, direction, a pointing towards someting otherwise why advantage at all why survival at all why not a general evolutionary drift towards purple hairy fishy ness or whatever why of all things towards life...seems like the most reasonable assumption is there is some kind of purpose.

          • Logike

            "'advantage' to speak of is surely telos,"

            --Not necessarily. To possess an advantage surviving just means "to have a greater chance than your competitors of staying alive." There is nothing in this word that indicates "pointing." Notice, I am not denying organisms have intentions and aims, in fact. What I am denying is that the word "advantage" indicates what you think it does.

          • Mike

            I hear you 100% and i agree that i doesn't "necessarily" but "necessarily" is way too strong for anything but pure math...all i am saying is that it's weird "to begin with"that survival/life should be the "goal" or what evolution seems to be driving at; but why not quick death why not no life at all but crystals that form and expand why not just explosions why not just gases why solids why not just abstract concepts in air why not the color purple only why etc. etc....all of this points imho definitively AT LEAST away from atheism.

          • Michael Murray

            Yes christianity is personal if you want justice for millions of ppl who only know strife and injustice you'll believe in your heart that death is not the end that those ppl who starved to death in concentration camps will get justice and that this is not a meaingless evil world.

            So I should believe in God because I want it to be true. That's not really an argument for God's existence. I could believe in a cold beer in the fridge because I want it to be true but the fridge might still be empty.

          • Mike

            It's one among many reasons and the most "humane" of all.

          • Michael Murray

            Wanting something to be true, needing something to be true doesn't make it true.

          • Mike

            of course not but imho if you don't want it to be true there is something missing.

          • Michael Murray

            Where is the something missing?

          • Mike

            If a person doesn't thirst for justice for the innocent there is something missing in them.

            what first brought me to religion was a simple question: did i believe that ppl like hitler "got away" with it? i had to dwell on this simple q for a while and start from there; now mind you it didn't matter at that point whether it was true or not just whether it was Just that hitler or whomever got away with it...and so i decided that i simply wanted justice and when searching for it; the atheists have all denied the possibility of justice w/o definitive proof so i've always thought their position 1. unjust 2. closed minded.

            anyway have you ever asked yourself if you "want" you atheism to be true; don't you ever hope that those innocent ppl who are being slaugthered by isis those little innocent girls and boys and their moms and dads that they will one day be reunited or that they will see justice done? Pls don't reply with "well blame god since you say he created this world full of evil"...just answer me honestly from the "bottom of your heart" don't you want some afterlife some ultimate justice for them?

          • Michael Murray

            If a person doesn't thirst for justice for the innocent there is something missing in them.

            Of course. Everybody does. We are social primates after all. Natural selection has bred into us a desire for fairness and an ability to empathise.

            .just answer me honestly from the "bottom of your heart" don't you want some afterlife some ultimate justice for them?

            Sure. Doesn't make it true. Nor does it mean I want to sign up for your particular Catholic version of justice. Burn in hell for all eternity because I used a condom. That's justice ? An essential part of justice is that the punishment fits the crime. I advise you to look at Catholicism a bit closer. I grew up with it so I know what you are signing up to. Have a good look at the fine print.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Burn in hell for all eternity because I used a condom. That's justice ?

            Well said, dear sir.

            Although you are forgetting that trivial offenses against an infinitely good God are infinitely serious and deserving of infinite punishment.

          • Logike

            Only narcissists interpret such slight offenses as "infinitely grave." In terms of diminishing marginal utility, any marginal decrease in wealth will be felt less by a king than by a pauper. And a king who is infinitely rich, should feel the offense not at all. Therefore, the Judeo-Christian King must be infinitely poor.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So it would seem. I read that explanation for why an infinitely good God still sends people to hell in "The Faith Explained" by Leo J. Trese. A book I wish I had never read....

          • Logike

            I will probably not read that book, then. But I'm curious, do you remember how Trese retorts to that explanation?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Trese says something along the lines of:

            Trivial offenses against an infinitely good God are infinitely serious and deserving of infinite punishment.

            He brings it up, because some argue that a finite being cannot do anything to deserve infinite punishment.

            He doesn't mention any objections to his statement. It was a book steeped in tradition - given to me to explain my doubts away.

          • Logike

            I read pieces of it from Amazon just now. Yuck.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Sadly, that book is passed off as the truth on "faith and morals."

          • Mike

            thanks for your honest answer...you are well on your way to actually making some progress in figuring out what all of this strange existence is all about.
            All the best.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            That something has "always existed" does not preclude its being created. Creation is not simply an "event" that occurs at the "beginning of time" or such thing.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The theory was derived by a Belgian mathematician and astronomer, Fr. Georges Lemaître, as a dynamic solution to the field equations of general relativity. Einstein and others had been insistent on the static, eternal universe of Newton, but Lemaître showed that this was unstable and Einstein’s static model and Willem de Sitter’s “empty” model were just two extremes of a dynamic expanding model of the universe. He predicted not only the expansion, but irritated Einstein by using the cosmological constant (which Einstein had invented to ensure a static universe) to show that the rate of expansion would actually be increasing. He predicted the cosmic background radiation and Hubble's law (two years before Hubble, though Hubble did not know it).

            The name "Big Bang" was given the theory in derision by an atheist physicist, Fred Hoyle, who turned to a neighbor at a physics conference (in CA, 1930s, iirc) "Here comes the 'big bang' man" when Lemaître entered the room. Atheist scientists in general resisted the theory, generally for anti-theistic reasons. Hoyle however became good friends with Lemaître.

            But Lemaître was also adamant that the beginning of a space-time continuum was not the same thing as creation. He wrote in response to Eddington (his former teacher)

            If the world has begun with a single quantum, the notions of space and time would altogether fail to have any meaning at the beginning; they would only begin to have a sensible meaning when the original quantum had been divided into a sufficient number of quanta. If this suggestion is correct, the beginning of the world happened a little before the beginning of space and time.
            -- Nature, May 9, 1931

            and in an unpublished article intended for a Japanese Catholic publication, he wrote:

            The question if it was really a beginning or rather a creation, something starting from nothing, is a philosophical question which cannot be settled by physical or astronomical considerations.

            In fact, he admonished the Pope on this very point, when the latter had made some enthusiastic statements about the theory.

            Paul M. Dirac recalled:

            When I was talking with Lemaitre about this subject and feeling stimulated by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion. However, Lemaitre did not agree with me. After thinking it over he suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.”

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It was also posited that the earth was created before the stars.

            The big bang does not prove creation.

          • Mike

            the big bang was posited by a catholic priest and even einstein didn't like it bc it let a divine foot in the door; i am talking metaphysical conclusions.

            Don't worry i don't believe that strict good science CAN EVERprove god exists but neither that you actually exist or that i exist as those are metaphysical conclusions...for ex science can never "prove" that this is all an illusion.

          • David Nickol

            the big bang was posited by a catholic priest and even einstein didn't like it bc it let a divine foot in the door . . .

            Can you document your claim that Einstein "didn't like" the big bang? What does that even mean?

          • Mike

            i remember reading somewhere that einstein thought it was a doomed theory but i don't remember where i read it or heard it as i've listend to many many veritas forum and john lennox and stephen m barr lectures and read many articles so i can't remember...but overall the scientific community didn't want it to be true bc it undermined their belief in atheism.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Christians don't claim their god is existence itself.

          See http://dhspriory.org/thomas/ContraGentiles1.htm#22 for details.
          Or on video, here:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_Yjue8MXAI

          The Catholic and Orthodox churches teach that God is Existence Itself ("I Am") and between them they account for two-thirds of the world's Christians. (And since the teaching pre-dates the splits, the Coptic and Syriac churches can be added as well.) This does not mean your Pastor Bob down at the storefront understands matters, or for that matter your typical pew-sitter. But then, your average man-on-the-street does not grasp the Copenhagen interpretation, even those who accept it on faith.

          • Eriktb

            Yes, so not all Christians claim their god to be existence itself.

            Quick question, this is very general, I'm sure you've seen multiple times that those of us in non-believing camp don't think all that much of Aquinas' arguments, so why do Catholics constantly bring him up?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Hope in the ultimate triumph of reason over the will.

          • Eriktb

            Funny that's reason we always argue against the five ways.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But if that were the case you would bring objections that were actually pertinent to the terms of the argument instead of emotional reaction and flails for beating straw men.

    • Gail Finke

      "The argument could easily be made that Time and Space are what are required for beings to exist."

      Time and Space are "things," according to this way of thinking about being and non-being. So no, that argument could not be made. And thus, you do not understand the argument. Also, you confuse "I do not find this argument to be compelling" with "it is therefore not true." I don't find a lot of arguments to be compelling, but whether or not they are true is a different matter. For instance, I don't find the arguments of Existentialism and a great many other philosophies to be compelling. But they may well be true. I just don't care whether or not they are true, which is a very different thing.

      • Eriktb

        In what way are Time and Space things? I'm not confusing anything. I stated quite clearly that I don't find it compelling and nothing more.

        • Gail Finke

          In the same way that "gravity" is a thing, or "love" is a thing, or "the future" is a thing. An abstract concept is still a thing, according to Aristotelian thinking. You are mistaking the word "thing" for a "thing that has matter," which is only one kind of thing. These arguments are complicated. To say, as you did, that you could just as easily say that Time and Space are what are required for beings to exist really does show that you don't understand the argument, because you could NOT just as easily say that. They are not similar propositions.

          It doesn't bother me if you say you don't care about these arguments enough to take the time to understand them. Why would it? But to dismiss them because you don't care enough about them to notice that you are objecting to things they don't actually say is not honest. A great many people have found these arguments compelling for a very long time. You might be smarter than all of them, or you might possibly be too interested in other things to bother with them and yet think you understand them. I don't care about jazz. I don't like jazz. I've tried to, but even when I learned a little more about it to try to enjoy it, I never did. But I also don't argue music theory with people who do like jazz, because I'm aware that I neither understand it nor care to.

          • Eriktb

            "In the same way that "gravity" is a thing, or "love" is a thing, or "the future" is a thing."

            Following that reasoning a god would also be a thing. If you are going to argue that things must be created by something else that would also go for god. Simply claiming god to be necessary doesn't make it so. I do understand the argument. I also understand it's implications and that fact that you have to invent special properties for god to make that god exempt from being contingent without any good reason.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Simply claiming god to be necessary doesn't make it so

            That's why it's not a claim, but a conclusion. The argument from contingency concludes to the necessary existence of a being whose essence just is its existence. One needs further deductions to begin equating this with the God of Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, etc.

          • Eriktb

            Yes it's a conclusion to what amounts to a claim about a god.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Conclusions are not claims.

          • Eriktb

            The entire argument is a claim. That includes the conclusion.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Really. Then that the square constructed upon the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares constructed on the other two sides is only a "claim." Okay, but that sucks all the intended pejorative out of the word "claim."

          • Guest

            Wait, apologetics is as solid as math?

          • Garbanzo Bean

            Metaphysics is not apologetics. And yes, metaphysics is just as solid as math, but considerably more difficult.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            No. Where do you get that?

          • "Wait, apologetics is as solid as math?"

            No, but logical deduction is. The logical conclusion that "the square constructed upon the hypotenuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares constructed on the other two sides" is every bit as solid as the conclusion of "the necessary existence of a being whose essence just is its existence" that follows from the argument from contingency.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I agree that logical deduction will allow you to generate new truth statements from existing truth statements, and that it will allow you to test the coherency of a philosophical system. However, mathematics has very precise definitions and self-evident axioms (at least fairly self-evident). Philosophy has neither of these. In the original post, I do not think premise 1 or premise 4 has been adequately justified (nor are they self-evident), and we could disagree on the definition of the universe in premise 2.

          • Michael Murray

            Indeed. Plus at the end of the day you need to find some reason to think that right angled triangles and beings whose essence is just existence exist in the real world outside the mathematical model.

          • Eriktb

            Ya know, let me present my problems with this a bit differently. There are two basic cosmological arguments, Kalam and the Argument from Contingency. Each of them deal with the problem of "does god's existence have a cause?" in slightly different ways.

            Kalam claims that things which begin must be caused and those that do not begin to exist are uncaused. The proponent of the argument then states that god is not caused. They don't do it because they can demonstrate god to be an uncaused cause, but because for their argument to work god must be uncaused. They have no other option but to make that claim.

            The Argument from Contingency relies on necessary and contingent beings. Much like the Kalam argument, the proponent omnstrat go ent won't do anything to actually demonstrate that god is in fact necessary, instead they simply claim it as it's the only way the argument can work without massive problems.

            And that's the problem I have with these arguments. They aren't expected to actually demonstrate the nature of the supposed god, they simply make claims about it and expect the person hearing the argument to accept it's validity at face value.

            Sure the argument's themselves are logically sound but whether or not they are true or actually describe reality is a completely different matter. The point that I want to get across is that the reality is that the constant regress of creators, or a never ending cycle of an expanding and contracting universe are just as likely when we realize that these are arguments of convenience not reality.

          • GCBill

            I thought there were three types of cosmological arguments (broadly speaking): Kalaam, Thomistic, and Leibnizian. What's confusing is that the LCA actually makes use of a concept of contingency. I don't think this argument (Aquinas' 3rd) is normally lumped in with the cosmological arguments, but I could be mistaken.

            Other than that, it's certainly true that these arguments don't show that God exists by themselves. Fortunately, most fair-minded theists I've talked to are, when questioned, willing to expand on why God is entailed in the conclusions of these types of arguments. I simply haven't found their additional efforts persuasive.

          • Eriktb

            Technically there's an argument based on the dependency of things, which eventually is elaborated upon and refined into the Kalaam Cosmological Argument. Thomas' 5 ways are considered their own arguments in support of the Cosmological Argument conceptually though they all boil down to insisting a god is necessary. Then the next big contribution would probably be Leibniz and Clarke with the principle of sufficient reason which changes it to discussing the reason for the Universe's existence which I'm not entirely certain if it would really be included as a Comological Argument or something else entirely.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The arguments are not making claims about God. The arguments conclude to the existence of a being whose essence just is its existence (or to a being of pure actuality, or to a primary rather than instrumental cause, et al.) Subsequent deductions are necessary to equate these beings with one another and with God. That is, first you get (say) an "uncaused cause." Then you show by reason that this is God. You do not start with God as a premise and then try to show that he is uncaused. That's getting Aristotle's reasoning backward.

          • Eriktb

            But the purpose of the five ways was to defend their beliefs in the face of Islam and Judaism. They were starting with a premise that a god existed. So all that was necessary was to get theists to agree to basic premises they could all agree with, then slowly shape the argument to fit a particular god. That particular god was the starting point. At least belief in that god was.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            the purpose of the five ways was to defend their beliefs in the face of Islam and Judaism.

            Really? How clever of Aristotle.

            Not to mention Moses Maimonides and ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad ibn ʾAḥmad ibn Rušd, who also made most of the same arguments.

            The starting point in the first way was that "some things in the world are changing." In the second way, "there is an ordering of efficient causes." And so on.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If "thing" is used in the sense of ousia or substantia, this is not so. In fact, Einstein famously contended that the existence of space and time were dependent on matter, and not the other way around.

          • Logike

            This is an interesting point you bring up because, if space-time is dependent on matter in a "substantia" or "ousia" kind of way, it is not obvious that matter in turn must be ontologically dependent on anything else. With respect to Aquinas' argument, it is not clear why the persistence of matter cannot perform the role that God is supposed to provide being the first cause of the series. On the level of persistence, matter does not change; it changes only when it gets reorganized and combined. Therefore, the series of events ordered by a "continual becoming" each of which is "ontologically dependent" on the other only applies to arising and passing away of things within the universe. It doesn't apply to the existence of matter as such--at least not obviously so. THIS, I believe, is the strongest objection to Aquinas' argument.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            it is not clear why the persistence of matter cannot perform the role
            that God is supposed to provide being the first cause of the series.

            The primary actualizer (or prime mover or first cause or whatever) can be shown to be purely actual and to be unchanging. Matter is not purely actual; in fact prime matter is purely potential. It is, as it were, at the other end of the spectrum. (Prime matter has been characterized as "the closest thing to nothing without being nothing." It also seems to be related to dark matter, aether, and zero-point quantum vacuum.) Potentials can be actuated only by things that are already actual, so prime matter cannot fill this role.

          • Logike

            "The primary actualizer (or prime mover or first cause or whatever) can be shown to be purely actual and to be unchanging. Matter is not purely actual"

            --According to your system. But you are ignoring the evidence I offered for believing differently, namely, the unchanging persistence of matter. Matter is neither created nor destroyed and sustains the existence of everything that does change in time. Matter can indeed fill this roll.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Matter is neither created nor destroyed

            So what was it that happened when spacetime was "smaller than a pinprick" and "appeared empty" but "shimmered with possibilities"? This would be ca. 10^-43 sec.

            Heisenberg must have had some reason for identifying mass-energy with Aristotle's prime matter, which is also said to shimmer with possibilities; i.e., be purely potential.

            Material causes are not efficient causes. Various matters can take on different forms. The same subject matter can become a textbook on psychological obsession or Moby Dick. It is not the matter that determines what it is to become.

      • Logike

        Gail, Eriktb is correct to press Kreeft's argument right where it needs to be challenged. Kreeft has not excluded the possibility of an infinite regress of contingent explanations, or something other than god, satisfying the first half of his argument. Whether Space and Time qualify as "things" is not the point.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          There is some discussion here:
          http://www.academia.edu/4415427/There_Must_Be_A_First_Why_Thomas_Aquinas_Rejects_Infinite_Essentially_Ordered_Causal_Series
          and here:
          http://www.phc.edu/gj_6_martin_e_aquinas.php

          One simply cannot wave one's hands, cry "infinity!", and magically resolve the issue.

          • Logike

            But infinity WOULD resolve the issue on the order of ordinary conceptions of causality without the embellished metaphysics of Aquinas and Aristotle, which is precisely why Russell and so many other philosophers think "infinity" as their first reply to the argument. It is not our fault that most of us don't think of causality in terms of "act" and "potentia." The "sustaining role" Aristotle and Aquinas attributed to causality doesn't show up in contemporary conceptions of causality. Why? Because of Newton's account of inertia. Aristotle had no concept of "inertia" in his accounts of motion. He thought the natural place for objects was at rest, which is why he thought that any object in motion had to have some efficient cause sustaining it throughout its trajectory. But today, most of us, including Russell, believe an object can remain in motion A-CAUSALLY. This is important because it doesn't seem that a cause must always perform this sustaining work that Aquinas and Aristotle thought it had to. This has huge repercussions for Aquinas' Contingency Argument

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            [Aristotle] thought that any object in motion had to have some efficient cause sustaining it throughout its trajectory.

            Maybe. And Newton thought space and time were absolute. That's the way physics works. However, it's not always easy to tease out what Aristotle's ancient Greek meant in terms of modern categories.

            Aristotle regarded things in uniform, on-going motion as being "at rest." His word usually translated as "motion" was "kinesis," which more properly means "change" or alteration. It is an alteration to something the body already has.

            So "at rest" means "not changing," a/k/a "equilibrium state."

            The medieval Aristotelians were aware of the principle of relativity: a thing may seem at rest from one POV while as moving from another. The usual illustration is the man on a boat moving smoothly downstream: the boat seems stationary, but the shoreline moves aft. Oresme applied this to the motion of the earth vs. the heavens and decided that one could not decide by observation which one was actually turning.

            Oresme's instructor, Jean Buridan, who perfected the concept of impetus (which we call "momentum") decided that it was something given permanently to a body, until it was diminished or corrupted by a contrary force:

            Possem enit dici quod quando deus creavit sphaeras coelestes, ipse incepit movere unamquamque earum sicut voluit; et tunc ab impetus quam dedit eis, moventur adhuc, quia ille impetus non corrumpitur nec diminuitur, cum non habent resistentiam.
            -- Quaestiones super caelo et mundo

            In effect, Newton's first law.

            This means that a body in local motion has two sorts of kinesis to be considered: a) its rectilinear "inertial" motion and b) changes to that motion.

            Inertia is not a principle of motion, but a resistance to changes of motion. If a body already has motion, the kinesis would be a "change in motion." That is, kinesis is closer to "acceleration" than to "velocity." Newton assures us that any such acceleration requires an outside force, and his first law is more or less the major premise in Aquinas "first way."

            There remains the question of the moving body's "change of location." It is not of course causeless. The cause is whatever set it in motion in the first place and imposed the impetus (momentum) to it. The kinesis was the change in momentum (impetus).

            "When you shove a millstone, the motion or change is that
            of imparting momentum to the millstone. When the millstone moves, or
            continues to move after that, the motion is change of position owing to
            momentum [already] possessed by the millstone. Something that has momentum will
            continue to change its position until acted upon by some force (that's
            what momentum is). Something that does not have momentum will not
            suddenly get it out of nowhere. That's as true for modern physics as for
            the Aristotelian variety. Indeed, the continued motion of the millstone
            in empty space is the very same principle at work: the millstone will
            not undergo change (such as losing momentum it already has) without some
            cause (e.g. friction) continuing to act on it. Remov[e] the pushing
            cause, and the effect of getting more momentum does indeed cease; remove
            the retarding cause (friction), and the effect of losing momentum will
            likewise cease."
            [Feser, 2014, emph. added]

          • Logike

            Yes, this is good. Thank you.

            Since the persistence of matter does not change, this persistence must be a kind of inertia, or momentum, not requiring anything to sustain its persisting. Therefore, it makes no sense to ask why it persists, and thus, the "pure act" of god thought needed to sustain it is superfluous. Matter just is.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Inertia is not momentum.

            The question of existential inertia is discussed here:
            http://www.pdcnet.org/collection/show?id=acpq_2011_0085_0002_0237_0267&file_type=pdf

            There is a nice summary of teleology here:
            http://www.epsociety.org/library/articles.asp?pid=81

            There are also brief outlines of the issues here:
            http://home.comcast.net/~icuweb/c02002.htm
            although this was written by a physicist.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      And yes, we do understand them.

      Then why do the objections so often address straw men? And repeat misconceptions 240-years old?

      The complaint that the Christian (Jewish, muslim, Vedantic, etc.) God does not pop out from the conclusions of the three cosmological arguments is like complaining that spherical trigonometry does not pop out of the proof of Euclid's fourth* proposition. There are a host of further "theorems" that follow on from the existence proof. A little patience is called for. You can't learn everything at once, so you have to learn something first.

      (*) fourth. Technically, the first three propositions are constructions.

      • Eriktb

        The initial isn't nearly as strong as it is presented to be. To me, you have to deal with those problems long before attempting to argue for a specific god. So let's focus on the initial argument then we can see the rest. The reason it's brought up so often is that many atheists probably wouldn't mind conceding some points for arguments sake but the Cosmological Argument still has problems that need to be addressed whether you want to admit to it or not.

      • Logike

        "Then why do the objections so often address straw men? And repeat misconceptions 240-years old?"

        --I wonder if you have read the following authors all of whom charitably take Aquinas' contingency argument to task:

        http://bookzz.org/book/855519/8cf5de
        http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/0198239637.001.0001/acprof-9780198239635
        http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1475-4975.1997.tb00523.x/abstract

        • Roman

          I would love to read the references because I am curious, but short on time. Could you briefly summarize their objections to Aquinas' contingency argument? I'll put the references on my "to read" list for future reference.

          • Logike

            I am articulating their objections in these posts--in my own words, of course. But the ideas I am expressing are the same.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Then why do the objections so often address straw men? And repeat misconceptions 240-years old?

        As presented in this article, the question is begged in the first premise. Did Kreeft present a straw man as an argument for the existence of God?

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          the question is begged in the first premise.

          The first premise reads:
          If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.

          The conclusion is:
          Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.

          How is this begging the question?

          What about the traditional barbara:
          M. All men are mortal
          m. Socrates is a man
          /.:Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
          Do you regard that as begging the question as well?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Begging the question is not a formal fallacy. It has nothing to do with the syllogism employed.

            His conclusion is just a stronger statement than what it takes for the universe to exist, exists . This is very similar to premise one.So, he has basically assumed, with misleading justification, what he is trying to prove.

            Premise one says that for every X that exists, there exists a Y unique from X (thanks Doug!), which is necessary for X’s existence. The negation of the premise is there exists
            an X such that no such Y exists. In order to demonstrate that the negation is absurd, Kreeft assumes premise one. Obviously, if we assume P and ~P, we will have an absurdity.

            So, the argument, as Kreeft states it, is a straw man?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Begging the question is not a formal fallacy.
            http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html

            His conclusion is just a stronger statement than what it takes for the universe to exist, exists .

            That is generally the case in modus ponens. "Socrates is mortal" is a stronger, more specific statement than "All men are mortal."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Begging the question is not a formal fallacy.
            http://www.nizkor.org/features...

            What it the point of that link? The fallacy is still not a formal fallacy. A syllogism that begs the question can still be a valid syllogism.

            That is generally the case in modus ponens. "Socrates is mortal" is a stronger, more specific statement than "All men are mortal."

            That's fine. Kreeft failed to provide justification for his first premise. It would be like if I tried to prove the false statement Pi is algebraic, by stating all reals are algebraic as my first premise.

          • Doug Shaver

            With all due respect to Nizkor, it is not, very strictly speaking, a fallacy to assume the conclusion. It is dialectically useless, but it is valid reasoning.

    • Doug Shaver

      how many more times are we going to argue about the 5 ways before the theists on this site recognize that those of us in non-believing camp don't find them compelling?

      How many more times will we have to tell creationists that we have found plenty of transitional fossils? Or that the theory of evolution implies nothing at all about how many of them we should expect to find?

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Premise 1 is false and begs the question.

    Everything that we know exists presupposes the existence of the universe. It does not follow that the universe also relies on its existence from something else.

    When Kreeft "proves" that the negation of premise one is absurd, he assumes that the premise is in fact true to do so. Of course if we consider both P and ~P to be true we will have a contradiction!

  • Doug Shaver

    When I began writing this response, there were only 5 comments showing. Now there are 51. My apologies if I'm repeating any points already made.

    Many consider the argument for God from contingency to be one of the strongest. The basic form is simple:

    Simple, maybe, but I don't find it well formulated.

    1. If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.

    I take this to mean: For all X, if X exists, then there exists Y such that Y is necessary for X to exist. We'll consider an alternative later.

    2. The universe—the collection of beings in space and time—exists.

    I understand the universe to be, by definition, everything that exists. Obviously, everything that exists does exist. However, Kreeft seems to be using a somewhat different definition: "the collection of beings in space and time." We'll get back to this in due course.

    3. Therefore, there must exist what it takes for the universe to exist.

    This is almost just restating the first premise. Given that the universe exists, it follows from premise 1 that there exists something that is necessary for the universe to exist.

    4. What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

    This does not follow unless we make premise 1 more explicit: For all X, if X exists, then there exists Y such that Y is necessary for X to exist and Y is not identical with X.

    5. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist must transcend both space and time.

    Agreed, if we accept Kreeft's definition of the universe and we accept premise 1 as revised. I feel no compulsion to accept either.

    Perhaps Kreeft intends the referent of universe to be what some people call the natural universe, as opposed to some supernatural universe in which there exist beings ordinarily undetectable by the sensory methods we employ for learning about the natural universe. Very well. I'll admit to believing that the natural universe is the only universe there is. And, since space and time are properties of the natural universe, if there is any other universe, then any entities within it must transcend space and time.

    In that case, our disagreement rests on premise 1. To that issue, Kreeft says, "Suppose you deny the first premise. Then if X exists, there need not exist what it takes for X to exist." I restated the premise as: "For all X, if X exists, then there exists Y such that Y is necessary for X to exist." Its denial would be: "For some X, X exists and there does not exist Y such that Y is necessary for X to exist." All these statements are problematic because they treat existence as a logical predicate. Competent philosophers have denied that this is justified.

    To avoid digression, I'll assume that those objections can be dismissed. This is to stipulate that, as some logic textbooks would put it, "For all X, if X exists, then there exists Y such that Y is necessary for X to exist" is a well formed formula. This is just to say that X cannot exist unless Y exists. If we allow that X may be identical to Y, then this is just a tautology, saying that X cannot exist unless X exists. Thus, Kreeft's argument depends on construing the premise so as to exclude the possibility of Y being identical with X. Thus my subsequent reformulation: For all X, if X exists, then there exists Y such that Y is necessary for X to exist and Y is not identical with X.

    Kreeft again: "So the denial of premise 1 amounts to this: X exists; X can only exist if Y exists; and Y does not exist. This is absurd." No, because that is not the denial of premise 1. Yes, it is absurd, but it is absurd because it both affirms and denies the premise. To say "X can only exist if Y exists" to beg the question. When I deny the premise, I say it is not true that every X depends for its existence on some Y that is not X itself. In other words, for some X, it is not the case that X exists contingently.

    Kreeft responds:

    What it takes for this thing to exist could only be this thing itself. Unlike changing material reality, there would be no distance, so to speak, between what this thing is and that it is. Obviously the collection of beings changing in space and time cannot be such a thing. Therefore, what it takes for the universe to exist cannot be identical with the universe itself or with a part of the universe.

    As we have seen, everything that exists is necessary for its own existence. The question is whether there can be some things that don't need anything distinct from themselves in order to exist. Is there something that is sufficient for its own existence?

    Logically speaking, yes. Logically, everything is both necessary and sufficient for its own existence. "X exists if and only if X exists" is necessarily true for all X. Assuming that Kreeft is aware of this, perhaps his premise 1 should be restated as: "For all X, if X exists, then there exists Y such that Y is not identical with X and Y causes X to exist."

    I admit that I can make no sense of any notion of self-causation, not because I find it impossible but because I find it meaningless. But must I therefore affirm that everything has a cause? What mistake am I making if I say, "For some X, X exists and there does not exist Y such that Y causes X"? Kreeft insists that the universe itself cannot be that X, but why can't it? I agree that the universe did not cause itself, because it makes no sense to say that anything causes itself. And I agree that the universe was not caused by any part of itself. But what is wrong with my believing that the universe just did not have a cause? In all my reading about first-cause arguments, I have yet to find a good answer to this question.

    Now, if Kreeft's first premise was referring to neither a logical relationship nor a causal relationship, then I have failed to address his argument, and I apologize to anyone who thinks I've been wasting their time with these reflections.

  • Nicolas Burbach

    I'm not convinced: I think he neglects some basic considerations re modality... I was going to write my problems here, but it became a bit long so I turned it into a blog article.

    http://pondr.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/strange-notions-of-contingency_19.html

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I read through this at 120 comments. I just want to say, great discussion, guys.

  • Why accept Premiss 4?

    4. What it takes for the universe to exist cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time.

    • Roman

      Before I get to the explanation, its important to establish what Dr. Kreeft means by "universe". He is using the word, universe, to mean all of the material word. The reason the cause of the universe cannot exist within the universe or be bounded by space and time is because the ultimate cause of everything must be Pure Act, or incapable of change. If not, then it depends on something else for its existence and then we have to look to another for its cause, and on and on. We end up with a never ending chain of second causes, i.e., something that relies on another for its cause. The material world is in a constant state of change and consequently has potential, so it cannot be pure Act. Likewise, time cannot exist apart from change. I recall you had a problem with this concept before and I believe you posited that something that was part act and part potency could cause the world to exist. But that misunderstands what pure Act means. A cause that is pure Act can by definition cause everything in the universe to exist. Something that is a compound of Act and potency, cannot. We also violate the principle of non-contradiction if we say that the universe can cause itself to exist. Nothing can cause itself to exist. In order to cause yourself to exist, you would have to exist before you existed - clearly contradictory.

      • Nothing can cause itself to exist. In order to cause yourself to exist, you would have to exist before you existed - clearly contradictory.

        Or maybe you can move backwards in time.

        • Peter

          Moving backwards in time is nothing more than the arrow of time moving backwards with respect to ourselves who experience the arrow of time moving forward.

          In both cases the arrow of time must have a low entropy point from which it begins to move into the past (with respect to us) and into the future. It is that requires an explanation.

          • But the arrow of time isn't fundamental to nature. It's a fact about probabilities applied to the laws of physics and specific states at specific times.

            What's the matter with part of the universe going backwards in time to start off the universe?

          • Peter

            Backwards in time with respect to whom? To us of course, but not to observers who inhabit that part of the universe. They will experience time going forward while perceiving ours as going backwards, and they will use that perception to argue, as we do, that the universe retrospectively creates itself.

          • To repeat what I just now said to Roman, but including the entropy flow:

            There are two events, A and B. A and B are related on the time-axis such that, for an arrow drawn from A to B, the arrow points in the direction of increasing entropy. A propagates in the same direction as the arrow, and B propagates in the opposite direction.

            A exists before B. For A, cause comes before effect.

            B exists after A. For B, cause comes after effect.

          • Michael Murray

            So what happens when we go far enough back that quantum effects destroy space and time ?

          • Peter

            To observers in the backward expanding universe, that point hasn't yet been reached.

          • Michael Murray

            What backward expanding universe ?

            The point is that space-time is a model that we know breaks down in the early universe. Space and time are notions that only work in the approximation where quantum effects don't dominate. So all this contemplation of causality is a discussion about a collection of models that don't apply to the real world.

          • Peter

            Then you have to explain why these quantum effects coalesce into such a highly improbable perfectly balanced early universe so uniquely configured for life not just on earth but potentially across the entire cosmos.

          • Michael Murray

            No I don't. The onus lies with those who think they can draw metaphysical conclusions about the real world from concepts like space and time which only exist in approximate models.

        • Roman

          Even if its possible to move backwards in time (and that's highly unlikely for a variety of reasons), that doesn't change the fact that nothing can cause itself to exist. Something could not move backwards in time unless it existed in the first place.

          • If A can cause B, and B goes back in time to cause A, it seems to work.

            A exists before B. For A, cause comes before effect.

            B exists after A. For B, cause comes after effect.

            So A can cause B and B can turn around and cause A.

          • Roman

            If by cause you mean effect some change, I would agree with you that your scenario is at least theoretically possible. The problem is that you quickly run into a practical limitation or contradiction. I don't know if you're familiar with the Grandfather Paradox. I'll summarize...You exist and you go back in time and kill your Grandfather. As a result you are never born. But if you were never born, how did you go back in time to kill your Grandfather? There are an infinite number of scenarios analogous to this that you could think up that would have the same logical contradiction. Now back to your original scenario. If by cause, you mean bring into existence, then there is still the same obvious problem. If A exists before B, then there is no way that B can go back in time to cause A to exists because A already existed before B.

          • But B's cause comes before its effect. There's no contradiction there. It just works backwards from the way we are used to it.

          • Logike

            The paradox is resolvable by adopting a "branched" view of time, so that you kill your grandfather on a timeline distinct from the one from which you came.

          • Logike

            And by the way, there is no logical contradiction in this paradox. It is only counterintuitive to a robust sense of causality. It could be the case, for example, that my grandfather was not a link in the chain necessary for my existence, which later enabled me to go back in time and kill him. That my grandfather was not needed for me to exist is deeply counterintuitive. But it isn't logically impossible.

          • Roman

            I disagree. It is logically impossible. In order to prove, for example that your grandfather was not needed for you to exist, you would have to invent some imaginary view of time. As far as I know, no one has actually proven that there is such a thing as "branched" view of time you mention below. In fact the very notion of going back in time is highly problematic for various reasons.

            It could be the case, for example, that my grandfather was not a link in the chain necessary for my existence

            By definition, your grandfather is the father of one of your parents. How could he not be a link in the chain necessary for your existence?

          • Logike

            "By definition, your grandfather is the father of one of your parents."

            --But the question is not whether, as the grandson of your father's father, you might not have been the grandson of your father's father. Of course, by definition this is the impossible. The question is what is stopping you from killing your grandfather if you were to travel back in time. Nothing is stopping you, on the face of it. Suppose you were to travel back to in time to kill your grandfather before your father was born. Before you kill him, it's perfectly possible for God, for example, to harvest the DNA from your grandfather and your grandmother of what would have been your father, and then sample the DNA from what would have been your mother, mixing them together to make the composition of what is your present DNA. Surely, if this is possible, then there is nothing logically impossible about traveling back in time to kill your grandfather. It's not clear what it is that makes this so counterintuitve, but whatever it is, it's not due to a logical inconsistency.

      • Logike

        "The reason the cause of the universe cannot exist within the universe or
        be bounded by space and time is because the ultimate cause of
        everything must be Pure Act, or incapable of change."

        --Being "pure act" and "incapable of change" are not synonymous. The reason premise 4 in Kreefts argument is so dubious is because it is not clear why the persistence of matter cannot perform the role
        that God is supposed to provide being the first cause of the series. On the level of persistence, matter does not change; it changes only when it gets reorganized and combined. Therefore, the series of events ordered by a "continual becoming" each of which is "ontologically dependent" on the other only applies to arising and passing away of things within the universe. It does not apply to the existence of matter as such--at least not obviously so, unless we could show the existence of matter might not have been, or was not. But this is very questionable too. --THIS, I believe, is the strongest objection to this style of contingency argument

        • Roman

          Being "pure act" and "incapable of change" are not synonymous

          I did not say that one is synonymous with the other. However, it is true that a being that is pure act has the attribute of immutability, at least with respect to time and space. This follows directly from the fact that if something has the potential to change, by definition it has potency and cannot be pure act. This is not a matter of debate. You can find this in any good book on classical philosophy See for example the definition of Pure Act under Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actus_purus

          • Logike

            "However, it is true that a being that is pure act has the attribute of immutability,"

            --Right, and the existence of numbers and Platonic Forms are immutable (just like the existence of matter), which is why most metaphysicians think numbers and Platonic Forms are necessary. Possessing the feature of "pure act" may be a enough to qualify as as a necessary being. But nothing tells me that having this feature is required.

            "So, we can say that matter is contingent on the particles and forces in the nucleus and that the attributes of the particles and the forces within the nucleus in turn are contingent on something yet unidentified."

            --Only the form of matter is obviously contingent. It's existence is not obviously contingent.

            "This follows directly from the fact that if something has the potential to change, by definition it has potency and cannot be pure act."

            --Matter only changes vis-a-vis its form, not its existence, so whether matter is potential or not, this is irrelevant to my argument.

        • Roman

          The reason premise 4 in Kreefts argument is so dubious is because it is not clear why the persistence of matter cannot perform the role that God is supposed to provide

          Premise 4 is actually two different premises. The first part of the sentence is just saying what I said above using different words, i.e., nothing can cause itself to exist. Our universe is a good example of that. Whatever caused the big bang existed prior to and outside of our universe (I'm not claiming God necessarily in this example just something outside of our universe). The second part which says that the cause of the universe must be eternal and unbounded by space is necessary because all material things are dependent on something for their existence. To be dependent in this way is to be contingent. But not everything can be contingent otherwise everything would need to be given "being" but there would be nothing capable of giving it, .e.g, an endless number of train cars pulling each other but no locomotive pulling the whole train.

          the series of events ordered by a "continual becoming" whose members each of which are "ontologically dependent" on the other only applies to the arising and passing away of things within the universe. It does not apply to the existence of matter

          I admit this is harder to see but here is my thought on this. We know that matter is made of particles (e.g., quarks, leptons) that have certain properties and we know that the particles are directly affected by the forces within an atom, e.g., the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force, etc. We know these forces exist. We can measure them, however, we don't know why or how these forces are being generated or why certain particles should have a positive charge or a negative charge. Something is causing the forces and the charges that has not yet been identified. So, we can say that matter is contingent on the particles and forces in the nucleus and that the attributes of the particles and the forces within the nucleus in turn are contingent on something yet unidentified. This is true for all matter that simply exists. Same thing can be said about gravity. We know it exists and we can measure it but no one knows what is actually causing the gravitational force that material bodies exert on one another. This is another example of the contingency of existing matter on a force which in turn is contingent on something not yet identified.

          • Logike

            "Our universe is a good example of that."

            --The universe never "began" to exist, even if time is finite. For, anything that begin to exist at a certain moment of time, there must be a time before that time when it was not. But, ex hypothesi, there was no time before the first moment of time. To suppose otherwise is self-contradictory.

            "Whatever caused the big bang existed prior to and outside of our universe"

            --Since the universe never began to exist, there was no change, and since there was no change, there was no need for a cause.

            "(I'm not claiming God necessarily in this example just something outside of our universe)."

            --But this doesn't logically follow, because we only know that the causal principle "everything that began to exist must have a cause" applies to things within time, not outside time. Whether it applies to beings outside time is not something you can know.

          • Roman

            the causal principle "everything that began to exist must have a cause" applies to things within time, not outside time

            Not necessarily. The cause of an effect can be simultaneous with it, not temporally prior to it. Take for example the potter making a pot, where the potter's positioning his hand in such and such a way and the pot taking on such and such a shape are simultaneous. The cause and the effect themselves are distinct but they are both part of the same event.

          • Logike

            "Simultaneous" means "happening at the same time." So, even if simultaneous with the effect, the cause would still have to be in time. But, by hypothesis, God is outside time. So, this doesn't work.

            Your potter example is an example happening in time.

          • Logike

            "Whatever caused the big bang existed prior to and outside of our universe"

            --"Prior to?" You realize this implies a time before the first moment of time, right? --which is nonsense.

  • Here is something (paraphrased) from lay apologist Frank Sheed. Try to imagine a universe where everything is a receiver of existence and
    nothing is a sender. If you showed someone from the far past a television set
    and explained that it receives signals and turns them into pictures and sound,
    the time traveler can logically conclude that there must be, somehow, a “sender”
    of the signal.

  • Craig

    Flawed logic.

  • Vicq_Ruiz

    1. If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.

    2. God exists.

    3. ??

    • 1. If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.

      2. God exists.

      3. ??"

      The logic seems quite clear:

      1. If something exists, there must exist what it takes for that thing to exist.

      2. God exists.

      3. Therefore, what it takes for God exist must exist.

      But in God's case, what's required is God himself. Since God is a necessarily self-existent being, he exists because he exists! Or as he identifies himself in the Bible, "I am who I am."

    • Garbanzo Bean

      The premise does not suppose that the "what it takes" is necessarily different from the "thing".

  • Maxximiliann

    “Ex nihilo nihil fit .” Put plainly , something can't originate from absolutely nothing . ( Not Hawking’s as well as Krauss’ mendacious pseudo-definition of “nothing,” ( “The Grand Design”/ ”A Universe From Nothing“ ) however the notion that signifies no state of affairs , interactions , potentialities , qualities , that is, stated more forcefully , no “anything” . ) If it actually could , why don’t all kinds of things come from nothingness ? Just why aren't dinosaurs , for example , popping out of thin air , devouring everybody in sight ? Why aren't we terrified of elephants suddenly popping into being and crushing us while they rained down from the skies ? If nothing can in fact yield anything exactly why would it discriminate ? Conspicuously , then , this contravention of the laws of nature is exposed as misguided special pleading .

    Additionally , from the entirety of human experience , knowledge , wisdom , empiricism as well as findings we’ve distilled many other explicit , irrefragable realities including :

    - A posteriori causality

    - Being does not emerge from nonbeing

    - Whatsoever begins to exist has a cause

    - Information cannot spring from disarray

    - Fine-tuning does not emanate from randomness

    Presented with such unshakable abecedarian truths , the natural questions that follow are , “Where did the universe originate from 13 .70 billion years ago ?” or “What triggered it to come into existence to begin with ?” No matter the cause , it needs to possess a number of key characteristics .

    Which means that -

    ( 1 ) Whatsoever begins to exist has a cause .

    ( 2 ) The space-time universe began to exist 13 .70 billion years ago .

    ( 3 ) Thus , the space-time universe has a cause .

    ( 4 ) The cause of the universe is a transcendent , beginningless , spaceless , immaterial , timeless , unchanging , omnipotent good personal being .

    ( 5 ) A transcendent , beginningless , spaceless , immaterial , timeless , unchanging , omnipotent good personal being is the definition of God Almighty.

    ( 6 ) Hence , God Almighty caused the universe to exist 13 .70 billion years ago .

    Now , let’s take a more detailed look at each one of the premisses of this elegant syllogism . Foremost , this cause must per se be uncaused . Why ? Simply because an infinite regress of causes does not have any basis in reality ; it can’t be turtles all the way down . ( http://bit.ly/1o2W0vq )

    Next , this uncaused cause needs to transcend space-time since it itself created space-time . It is , as a result , spaceless .

    Third , considering the fact that this uncaused cause exists beyond space and time it is must be a non-physical or immaterial cause . Why ? Because physical stuff exists only in space – they possess dimension .

    Fourth , this uncaused cause must invariably also be timeless for the simple fact that it itself doesn't exist in space-time .

    Fifth , it must likewise be changeless . As I'm sure you're well aware , all of matter is present in a state of continuous flux . This is particularly observable at the atomic level . Given that this uncaused cause is immaterial it is not governed by the same forces that alter matter , and so , is unchanging .

    Sixth , this uncaused cause is without a doubt unimaginably powerful , if not omnipotent , for it produced matter , energy , space and time into existence entirely on its own .

    So , to sum up , whatever it is that brought about the universe to come into existence 13 .70 billion years ago it needs to be beginningless , spaceless , immaterial , timeless , unchanging and omnipotent .

    Still we're not done for there are two more attributes of this uncaused cause that we are able to ascertain from what we perceive of the universe . Before we identify these , though , we first want to take a finer look at cause and effect . Here's exactly what I mean : if a cause is sufficient to yield it's effect then the effect also needs to be present . The pair are joined at the hip , so to speak ; you can't have one without the other .

    Permit me to borrow from an illustration to help make this sharper . “Suppose that the cause of water’s freezing is the temperature’s being below 0°C . If the temperature were below 0°C from eternity past , then any water that was around would be frozen from eternity . It would be impossible for the water to just begin to freeze a finite time ago . Once the cause is given , the effect must be given as well .” ( http://bit.ly/WQtgZY )

    The problem is , if we have indeed a timeless , transcendent cause how come the effect isn’t permanent as well ? Stated another way , if this timeless , transcendent cause in fact brought the universe into being , why hasn't the universe always been ? Just how can a cause be eternal yet its effect commence a finite time ago ? We are aware the universe is roughly about 13 .70 billion years old but as you see we've further deduced that whatsoever brought about the universe has to be transcendent as well as timeless .

    The one and only way that is feasible is if this timeless , transcendent , uncaused cause were at the same time a free agent – a being with free will who is able to operate of its own volition . Naturally we all know free will is the hallmark of personhood .

    Last but certainly not least , this beginningless , spaceless , immaterial , timeless , unchanging , omnipotent being must be unimaginably good . Why ? Suppose we admit for the sake of argument that he’s evil . As this being is evil , that suggests he fails to discharge his moral duties . But then exactly where do those originate from ? Just how can this evil being have obligations he is violating ? Who forbids him to do the immoral things he does ? Right away , we discover such an evil being simply cannot be supreme . There needs to be a being who is even greater , one who is absolute goodness himself and thus the source of the moral responsibilities this other prefers to shirk . Therefore , there must necessarily exist a supreme being who is all powerful , all good and all loving ; One who is the very paradigm of good .

    So here we arrive at this uncaused cause of the universe 13 .70 billion years ago that is beginningless , spaceless , immaterial , timeless , unchanging , omnipotent and personal being who is all good and all loving .

    This is to say - God Almighty.

    • Logike

      Let's analyze what you could possibly mean by "creation ex nihilo" at the first moment of time and "the universe began to exist" shall we?

      (I) "The universe came to be"

      (A) "At time t1when the universe existed, there was a time t0, prior to time t1 when the universe did not exist."
      --But there was no time when the universe did not exist (Einstein). So (A) is false

      (B) "At time t1, there was no time prior to t1 at which the universe was
      not, but the universe both was an was not at time t1."--but (B) is a
      logical contradiction

      (II) "God created the universe ex nihilo"

      (C) "God created the universe at time t"
      --But creation at the first moment of time implies this timeless being would
      be inside, not outside, time--so, (C) is a logical contradiction.

      (D) "God created the universe outside time"
      --But then the universe, and time itself, would be outside time--so, (D) is also logical contradiction.

      (E) "God create the universe at the same time the universe began to exist."
      --But, like (C) above, this implies a timeless being is temporal--another contradiction.

      In spite of its shortcomings otherwise, at least the mathematics and
      physics of the Hartle-Hawking model of finite time is coherent. But
      "creation ex nihilo " is not even logically consistent at the singularity. I would say Hawking is right to reject this notion. And I challenge you to pony up an analysis that even makes sense.

      Also, I noticed you just conveniently ignored the other models of the universe as competitors which try to answer the irresolvable flatness problem and the horizon problem found with the Big Bang Model--like eternally inflating models, or the multiverse hypothesis, or the "biverse" model. Even if you are not fond of any particular model, at least these models are consistent. Creation ex nihilo does not even pass the bare consistency standard.

      • Maxximiliann

        This conclusion obtains if and only if we equate the perception of time with analytical measures of time . This reductionistic perspective is glaringly misguided for a succession of mental events by itself is sufficient to establish relations of before and afterwards , entirely devoid of any kind of material occurrence . Which means that there could be a point in time in which God Almighty fashioned the original cosmological singularity , regardless of whether that instance is not in material time .

        "Even if God is timeless sans creation, His creating the universe can be simultaneous with the cosmic singularity. Such an appeal to metaphysics is not illicit because Hawking makes the metaphysical claim that God cannot create the universe because the singularity is not in physical time. In any case, even if we do accept this reductionistic move, all that follows is that God did not create the universe at a time. We can still say that God’s creating the universe was coincident with the singularity (that is, they occur together at the boundary of spacetime), and by creating the singularity God created the universe."

        & http://bit.ly/1nCfYye

        • Logike

          Humorously enough, the post of mine to which you just replied already demonstrated that "creation ex nihilo" is a logical contradiction. So you need to catch up.

          Please stop cut-and-pasting the same post to which I already responded.

        • Logike

          "This reductionistic perspective is glaringly misguided for a succession of mental events by itself is sufficient to establish relations of before and afterwards."

          --In referencing time, I used the words "earlier than" and "later than." How is that any different than saying "before" and "after"? It's not clear how your plagiarized post from Craig addresses what I said.

          You are clearly a troll not interested in engaging with the actual dialogue at hand.

          • Maxximiliann

            Again, our prehension of time is the perception of time as a continual stream which is without interlude and is as a result immeasurable . It is the perception of movements and of time’s flow (Ever hear the expression "a watched pot doesn't boil"?) .

            In effect, timepieces really do not detect time . “Time” per se is a metaphysical conception which means it simply cannot be identified by any physical measurement neither is it be modified in any form or manner by a physical effect . Clocks operate by simply monitoring the perpetual relationship between mass and space termed the conservation of momentum together with angular momentum . Time absolutely does not move the universe , but as you see the movement of the universe can be quite beautifully universalized into the metaphysical perception of time .

  • Milton Platt

    I reject premises 4 and 5. We cannot know these things.

  • igor

    Try this:

    (1) energy/matter plus the laws of physics have existed for eternity.
    (2) the laws of physics allow for the conditions that result in the coming into existence of a universe.
    (3) hence there would seem to be no requirement for a sentient/personal supernatural entity.

    If this is plausible, why do we need a God invloved?

    In any case, if the energy/matter content of the universe had reached a "critical mass" situation that became the Big Bang, statement 4 would seem to be incorrect. Especially if a space/time instance different from ours existed/exists outside the universe.

  • Jason Lem

    The problem for arguments like this, well one of them, is that even assuming a "cause" of the universe, how you get that to that something in the general direction of a God, you gonna need more than just immaterial and spaceless.

    For example how do you justify that the cause of the universe must be a person ?

    Sorry claims of "ultimate reality" and mere assertion about the giver, presumed to be an intelligent among other things are not going to justify that.

    Also consider..."The infinite transcendent cause of these things cannot be less than they are, but must be infinitely more"

    Humans have created machines that can beat humans in a game of chess, and/or process calculations faster than any human mind or bunch of humans minds can. So if an alien came along and found such machines, should they now deduce that the machine creators are better at chess and calculations based on the logic of well the "giver/creators" must be greater....well they could, but they would be wrong, cause they reasoned on faulty logic of X creates Y, so X must be greater than Y.

    Something to keep in mind when you come across claims for God or whatever is greater because it "caused" or "created" or "gave" xyz.