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How Cosmic Existence Reveals God’s Reality

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) famously posed the ultimate question: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” To this, theoretical physicist Sean Carroll replies: “The universe can simply exist, end of story.”

Still, as I have shown elsewhere, everything must have a reason for its being or coming-to-be, including the cosmos. This metaphysical first principle is ably defended by others as well.1 One distinction must be added: either a thing is its own reason or not. To the extent it fails to fully explain itself, something else must be posited as an extrinsic sufficient reason: a cause. So, does the cosmos “simply exist” – or does it need a cause?

The leading philosophers of ancient Greece showed no inkling of the concept of creation ex nihilo in time. For Leucippus (c. 490-430 B.C.) and Democritus (c. 460-360 B.C.), indivisible atoms were eternal in the void and creation of the world simply entailed them becoming packed or scattered, thus producing the world of things about us. For Plato (c. 428-348 B.C.), the creation myth of the Timaeus entailed the demiurge looking up to the eternal forms and patterning the pre-existing unordered material chaos according to them to produce the orderly cosmos. Even Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) appears to argue in his Physics, book one, that matter must have always existed as the substratum for the endless change of forms.

Unique to Western thought was the Jewish and Christian belief in a free creation of the world by God in time – ex nihilo et utens nihilo: out of nothing and presupposing no pre-existent material. Neo-Platonists, beginning with Plotinus (c. 204-270), did have a notion of creation ex nihilo, but solely as a necessary emanation from God, not the free creation of Christian thought.

Flash forward to the seventeenth century and we see a resurgence of philosophical atomism by theists Descartes, Gassendi, Boyle, and others. This later begot scientific atomism in nineteenth century chemistry and physics, which then invited the atheistic interpretations of scientific materialism and naturalism. For centuries, atheistic materialists had assumed the eternity of the material world, a view seemingly harmonious with the “new atomism.” All of this also fit well with twentieth century astronomy’s standard “steady state” theory.

The advent of the “Big Bang” theory of cosmic origins by Belgian priest and astronomer Georges Lemaitre (1894-1966) thus met opposition for proposing a scientific hypothesis that the cosmos actually had a temporal beginning. Among the first to complain was Albert Einstein himself. Science had seemed squarely in the atheist’s corner, until this upstart theory was proposed – a theory that sounded too much like what atheists viewed as the “Christian mythology” of creation in time. As astronomer Robert Jastrow observed, this led to a peculiar reaction by scientists in which they opposed a promising new theory – possibly on grounds more philosophical than scientific. It wasn’t until the 1964 cosmic microwave background radiation discovery by Penzias and Wilson that the Big Bang theory became generally accepted as correct.

In the final two sentences of his 1978 book, God and the Astronomers, Dr. Jastrow writes: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

Battle Over the “Big Bang’s” Significance

Atheistic scientists, like physicist Stephen Hawking, seek to avoid any possible theological implications of the Big Bang by redefining the meaning of this absolute beginning in time in terms that would avoid any need for God. He posits an imaginary time in which there would be no boundaries to space-time just as there are no boundaries to earth’s surface, concluding: “Thus, the universe would be a completely self-contained system. It would not be determined by anything outside the physical universe that we observe.”

Today we see atheists doing all they can to eliminate a cosmos instantly created by an all-powerful God, either by (1) alleging that something can, indeed, be made out of nothing, in light of quantum mechanics, or (2) by claiming, like Dr. Hawking, that the beginning somehow does not really need a metaphysical explanation.

Still, it turns out that the “nothing” that atheists claim can be used to make an entire cosmos from is not really “nothing” at all, but simply the actual something of a quantum vacuum, which entails a lot of matter-antimatter potential that “crackles with energy.” Empty space is not nothing, but something very physically real.

Everyone truthfully knows that you simply cannot get something from absolutely nothing. Even Dr. Hawking tries to evade an absolute beginning in time for the cosmos by his “no boundary” explanation offered above. This also why materialists who would evade a Creator feel forced to affirm the endless past existence of something -- be it physical matter as such, or some kind of minimal energy field from which the Big Bang exploded, or at least, certain laws of physics. Indeed, one method used to defeat the Kalam cosmological argument for God is to claim that the premise that the universe must have had a beginning in time is false.

The fact that such mental gymnastics are engaged in so as to evade precisely an absolute cosmic beginning bespeaks the massive problems it would present to atheistic materialism.

What is there about the very thought of the cosmos suddenly popping into existence out of absolutely nothing that so instantly moves the mind of most sane men to say, “Then, God must exist!’? What is there about such instantaneous creation ex nihilo that bespeaks so unequivocally to the human mind the exclusive mark of true divinity?

Why Infinite Power is Required

Both atheist and theist alike see in the “out-of-nothing” explosive instant appearance of a Big Bang the manifestation of unlimited raw power, infinite power. Just as clear is the fact that infinite power could reside solely in an infinite being that fulfills the classical definition of God. This is precisely why atheists go to great lengths to deny that any such “creation event” could have ever occurred at the beginning of time.

Still, is such instinctive inference rationally justified? What first stands out is the fact that absolutely no one claims that the cosmos actually appeared out of nowhere and from absolutely nothing. Atheists either claim it always existed in some physical form or other, or else, attempt the bait and switch of claiming it came from nothing – but the “nothing” turns out to be the actual something of the quantum vacuum as explained above. In proclaiming the Christian doctrine of true creation in time, theists do not hold that the cosmos arose from absolutely nothing either. Rather, they say the world was made by the power of the eternal God.

Thus, all explicitly or implicitly concur (1) that something has always existed and (2) that you do not get something from absolutely nothing.

But then, why does it take infinite power to create ex nihilo et utens nihilo? After all, the cosmos which is created, though immense, is still existentially limited. So, why would unlimited power be required to create what is itself limited in being?

Well, as St. Thomas Aquinas points out2, “… the power of the maker is measured not only by substance of the thing made but also from the manner of its making ….” To build the Empire State Building in one year is impressive. But to build it in a single day would defy belief. To make a chicken from another chicken by cloning is impressive. To evolve a chicken from random subatomic particles is nearly unimaginable – since the distance between what there is to work with and the produced chicken is even greater than in the cloning example. But to produce a chicken from no preexisting matter requires immeasurable power, since there is no proportion at all between nothing and something. Since immeasurable power is the same as unlimited or infinite power, it would take infinite power for God to create the cosmos ex nihilo.

The Real Meaning of “Being Created”

Thus, on the hypothesis that the cosmos did begin in time, it would depend on the infinite power of God to have created it. Now what depends on another to bring it into existence clearly does not account for its own existence, but rather depends on another for the existence it has received. The creature that “pops into existence” is an effect, that is, a being that does not adequately explain its own existence. As such, it depends on an extrinsic cause for its existence.

So, if God exercises his infinite power to bring the cosmos into being, what happens the next moment after he has created it? Can God cease his causal activity in relation to the world, and yet, the world still exists? As St. Thomas observes3, “When the cause ceases causing, the effect ceases.” Were God to withdraw his creative causality from the cosmos, the cosmos would cease to exist. God must continue to create the universe in order for the universe to continue to exist. This creatio continua or “conservation” must continue for as long as the world continues to exist. Thus, God is said, not only to create the world, but also to conserve it in existence.

Moreover, for St. Thomas, there is a real distinction between the world having a beginning in time and its being created ex nihilo. This is clear from the fact that, while St. Thomas maintains that the belief that the world was created with a temporal beginning is a doctrine of Catholic Faith, he does not maintain that this is possible to prove from natural reason. Indeed, in his short work On the Eternity of the World, St. Thomas explicitly argues for the philosophical possibility of the world’s eternity. After all, God could have been creating (conserving) the world from all eternity: it would have no beginning in time, yet still be created.

This means that the concept of the world beginning in time is distinct from the concept of its being created by the power of God. Even if God did not create the world with a beginning in time, the world would still be the object of his creative act in order to sustain it in being throughout eternity.

For the same reason that it would take infinite power to create the world at the beginning of time, it takes infinite power to keep it in existence even if it existed from all eternity. This is because the real meaning of “being created” is not tied to having a temporal beginning, but rather to the fact that anything exists as opposed to non-existence. It takes infinite power to explain why anything simply exists – even the least subatomic particle “popping into existence” for a nanosecond in a quantum vacuum.

In other words, the creative act is not measured by the fact that something goes from non-being to being at the beginning of its existence, but simply by the fact that it manifests the act of existing as opposed to non-being during its existence. Both acts require exactly the same power to explain fully: infinite power.

The key insight here is that existence itself is an act – the most basic of all acts: that by which a thing is constituted as real as opposed to being nothing at all. This act “does something.” It keeps every creature in being. And the power needed to do this is measured by the same criteria we discussed earlier. Since there is no proportion at all between non-being and being, there is no way to measure the power required to posit this act by which a finite being is being continually created, that is, “standing outside of nothingness,” even if it had no beginning in time.

Infinite power is required to explain the existence of every finite being and of that whole collectivity of finite bodies known as the cosmos. It takes infinite power to explain the existence of the cosmos. But infinite power cannot reside in a finite being or even in a collectivity of finite beings.

Therefore there must exist an Infinite Being, God, who alone can possess and manifest the infinite power required to create and conserve in existence the finite cosmos.

“Why is there something rather than nothing?” The answer to this ultimate question is simply “because God exists and creates it.” God’s infinite power is the reason for his own existence. My argument here is a redacted version of a formal paper that I have published elsewhere.

Postscript

Given the difficulty that some viewers of Strange Notions have had in grasping the insight that physical laws like inertia fail to fully explain the continued motion of heavenly bodies, I suspect that they may find the argument presented herein demanding full explanation of cosmic existence to be even less compelling. Still, it is curious that these same minds that are so skeptical of any rational explanation of our incredible universe should so easily be intellectually satisfied with the “just so” explanation of a cosmos that has always “just happened to exist” without any real explanation either in itself or from an extrinsic cause.

Notes:

  1. Among the traditional Thomistic understanding of the principle of sufficient reason’s best defenses is this passage from Bro. Benignus Gerrity’s Nature, Knowledge, and God (1947), pp. 400-401: "But is the principle objectively valid? Is it a principle primarily of being, and a principle of thought only because thought is about being? The answer is found through the intellect's reflection upon itself and its act. The intellect, reflecting upon its own nature, sees that it is an appetite and a power for conforming itself to being; and reflecting upon its acts and the relation to these acts to being, it sees that, when it judges with certitude that something is, it does so by reason of compulsion of being itself. The intellect cannot think anything without a reason; whatever it thinks with certitude, it thinks by compulsion of the principle of sufficient reason. When it withholds judgment, it does so because it has no sufficient reason for an assertion. But thought - true thought - is being in the intellect. The intellect is actual as thought only by virtue of some being in it conforming it to what is; whatever the intellect knows as certainly and necessarily known, it knows as the self-assertion of a being in it. This being which compels the intellect to judge does so as a sufficient reason of judgment. Nothing, therefore, is more certainly known than the principle of sufficient reason, because this is the principle of thought itself, without which there can be no thought. But by the same token the intellect knows that the principle of sufficient reason is a principle of being because it is being, asserting itself in thought, which compels thought to conform to this principle."
  2. Summa Theologiae, I, q. 45, a. 5, ad. 3.
  3. Ibid., q. 96, a. 3, ob. 3.
Dr. Dennis Bonnette

Written by

Dr. Dennis Bonnette retired as a Full Professor of Philosophy in 2003 from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. He taught philosophy there for thirty-six years and served as Chairman of the Philosophy Department from 1992 to 2002. He lives in Youngstown, New York, with his wife, Lois. They have seven adult children and twenty-five grandchildren. He received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame in 1970. Dr. Bonnette taught philosophy at the college level for 40 years, and is now teaching free courses at the Aquinas School of Philosophy in Lewiston, New York. He is the author of two books, Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence (The Hague: Martinus-Nijhoff, 1972) and Origin of the Human Species (Ave Maria, FL: Sapientia Press, third edition, 2014), and many scholarly articles.

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  • Jim (hillclimber)

    I think Sean Carroll's wording kind of gives it away. Even if it is true that "the universe can simply exist", that only acknowledges the logical possibility of the universe "simply existing". The nature of possibility is that there is always a context in which the possible thing could occur or not occur. Unless one believes that the universe must logically exist, one should acknowledge that there seems to be a universe-transcending context in which the universe might or might not exist.

    • Raymond

      Of course that also means that "God created the universe of his own volition out of nothing" only acknowledges the logical possibility of the universe coming to be through supernatural means. Unless one believes that God exists, one should acknowledge that there is a logical possibility that the universe has always existed.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        Let's please leave aside the word "supernatural", unless you can propose a definition for that. (And please, no suggestions along the lines of, "something that is not natural", unless you have an approximate definition of "nature".)

        All I am saying is that:

        1. If the existing universe were existing within an absolutely necessary, universe-transcending context, then it would be logically possible for the universe to not exist.
        2. If the existing universe were existing outside of any absolutely necessary, universe-transcending context, then it would not be logically possible for the universe to not exist. That is, the existing universe would not be a possibility but would instead be an absolute necessity.

        For my part, I can only say that the existing universe seem logically unnecessary. That seems sufficient for me to me to infer that we are in scenario 1, i.e. that there is an absolutely necessary, universe-transcending context.

        • Raymond

          My definition of "supernatural" is anything the exists outside of existing universe that can affect the existing universe. Gods, demons, ghosts, angels, sorcerers, faith healing, and other entities or effects for which there are claims of a power that can reach from "some where else" into our universe, but have no evidence or logic behind their existence, but are accepted because of a faith proposition.

          And just because the existing universe IS logically unnecessary, it does not follow at all that there is a universe-transcending "context", whatever THAT means.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Are you saying that you don't know what it means to speak of a context of possibility? I think I am just using normal English here.

            If you are asking me to get more precise about it, I suppose we could formalize it mathematically. If we agree that possibility means the same thing as "probability greater than zero", we can use the standard formalization of probability as a measure on a sigma algebra. The measure space (i.e. the underlying set and the sigma algebra defined on it) provide the context wherein we can speak of certain events as being possible or not possible.

            Absent a context, I don't know how you can possibly define probability or possibility. What do those words even mean, without a context in which to operate?

          • michael

            That's not what supernatural means. Supernatural = no space or matter. Matter is that which occupies space. A soul would be supernatural by definition, but would still be part of the created existing universe. And I don't see the universe s logically unnecessary, since then it would be brute fact.

          • Raymond

            "A soul would be supernatural by definition, but..."

            But me no buts. Since a soul has no space or matter, it is supernatural and my thesis is that it doesn't exist.

          • michael

            I didn't say a soul isn't supernaturla. It is, by definition.

          • Raymond

            OK. Then by the definition of supernatural that i gave, it is not part of the existing universe and therefore is non-existent.

          • michael

            Supernatural means immaterial. A soul doesn't take up a space, by definition. It can't bump against things or be bumped against.

          • Raymond

            So are you making a distinction between immaterial and non-existent? That's nice.

    • Might or might not, you say? Yes, it does seem that way.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        OK, so if it seems possible that the universe might not exist, then what is the context of that possibility of non-existence?

        • My apologies. In a moment of carelessness I misread your comment. Where you wrote "might or might not exist" I saw "might or might not have existed." That the universe might, in actual fact, not exist is a notion I can make no sense of. Even taking solipsism to its extreme, if I am all that exists, then I am the universe, and I can't deny my own existence.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No worries, the verb tenses are confusing here. You interpreted me correctly the first time. I mean, essentially, "the universe might never have existed" (in which case it also would not exist now). I am not talking about what is, in actual fact, the case. I am talking about what is possible.

            ETA: To belabor it even more: obviously, if we condition on the known fact that the universe exists, then it is conditionally impossible for the universe not to exist. So when we acknowledge the possibility of the non-existence of the universe, we obviously are talking about "marginal" possibility that hasn't conditioned on the universe's existence.

  • What kind of 'power' are you talking about that can make physical stuff out of nothing? I re-read several times and I don't see a definition.

    • Vincent Herzog

      Hi Jimmy. “Power” is indeed used in confusing ways nowadays. People seem to invoke this word, along with “energy” as pseudo-explanations of just about anything. However, that is not what Dr. Bonnette is doing here. Rather, he trying to be modest, careful, and precise. Regarding “power,” I think he means it in the most basic way: the ability to do something. But we must pay close attention to the “something” that is done in order to really get ahold the specific ability being referenced! Whenever you posit an explanation, that explanation must, well... explain! For a proposed causal explanation to have explanatory power, we have to see that it has the ability (power) to bring about the explanandum (what is being explained) *as we first set out to explain it* (that is, that it “preserves the phenomenon”). What Dr. Bonnette is emphasizing needs to be explained is this: anything’s and everything’s existing-rather-than-not. As he claims about halfway through the article, due to the lack of proportionality between existence and utter non-existence (no existence-flavored “nothings” here!) creation ex nihilo can only be explained by an in-principle immeasurable power. So, you might see the whole article as a defining of the power being referenced. It’s what you would call an abduction (a search for higher principles, or an argument to the best explanation), but one that is supposed to have deductive force (if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true, out of logical necessity).

      • The problem here then is an equivocation on "power". If what is meant is explanatory power, this is not infinite. It is a finite explaniton: god brought it about. And explanitory power cannot "do" things, it is descriptive. Nothing has been brought about by explaination alone.

        This is a huge problem for those advancing a purely efficient cause of matter. We have no evidence or intuition to support the idea that an efficient cause absent a material cause can do anything.

        Dr Bonette invokes this idea of "power"in the sense of doing things, but this power only makes sense in material terms. But this use is unavailable to him in an utterly non material realm.

        If we grant ontological status the the immaterial we see they have no capacity to do anything. E.g. the number 2 doesn't do anything, it doesn't bring anything about. No immaterial concept does.

        • Vincent Herzog

          Hi Brian. I'm having trouble seeing your first point. Can you objectively establish that I or the author equivocate? Can you please name specifically which instances "power" is used in a different senses in a way that affects the argument? I don't believe I or the author referred to explanatory power, but rather a power that explains.

          Also, it is a result of the argument that the power needed must be immaterial. So, if that's necessary for the actual, then it must be not only possible, but actual.

          Finally, we can distinguish between the immaterial and the merely abstract. I agree with you that the number 2 is causally inert, but that is not because it is immaterial, but because it is an abstraction. God is immaterial, but not an abstraction.

          • If Dr Bonette is not talking about explainatory power to bring matter into existence with no material precursor then what is this "power" how can you know how much is needed? Aren't you and he just guessing?

            No I see no demonstration in this argument that there need be an external cause for the Big Bang or that any such cause must be immaterial.

            We have zero experience of an efficient cause alone doing ANYTHING EVER. Our intuitions also rebel against it thoroughly.

            I do not accept that there is a distinction between abstraction and immaterial. That is exactly what the immaterial is, and the extent one can say it exists.

          • Vincent Herzog

            Hi Brian, you didn't help me in the way I asked. Instead of a demonstration of the problematic misstep, you gave what reads as a rhetorical question which implied your initial assertion. Can you show me in clear steps where the equivocation takes place? Sorry if I missed it. I can be dense.

            Given your repeated appeal to experience and your dogmatic denial of the immaterial, is it safe to say you are a strict empiricist? (Real question, not rhetorical.)

          • I would say the equivocation is using material ideas of causation and power, with respect to chickens, and extrapolating that to a completely different kind of causation and power, this undefined unknown immaterial creative power, and between "create" in the sense of rearranging matter, to make a chicken and "create", to bring matter into existence

            What do you mean by "strict" empiricist? I would describe myself as a skeptical empiricist generally and obviously for empirical issues. But not for non empirical issues such as mathematics or abstract philosophy.

          • Vincent Herzog

            Brian, it seems to me that by defining these issues as empirical and dogmatically declaring that that what is empirically observable cannot have an in-principle unobservable cause, you have begged the question and rendered your hypothesis problematically unfalsifiable.

          • But I certainly have not limited this to empiry, I specifically opt for whether this could be justified on a non-empirical basis, by some reference to an intuitive sense.

            As I've pointed out a number of times here I am not advancing a hypothesis, I am criticizing an argument. If this argument is to be accepted it need be not only valid but have sound premises.

            I've not heard a defense of this premise, which frankly is extremely bold. Dr Bonnette is making inferences about a not only the possibility of creation extra nihilo, but that something that could reasonably bear the label "power" us required and he makes inferences on the amount of power required. He doesn't state the basis for these inferences other than another specious premise that where cause and effect are of fundamentally different metaphysical substances the power must be infinte. Please advance any justification for these claims, empirical or otherwise .

          • BCE

            I'm confused. Before cosmic inflation, per Hawking the laws of physics breakdown.So you can't quantify, describe, or hold it to have the same laws of the material universe. The state of the universe now will not depend on anything that happened before.
            Given that, why insist on your definition of power?

  • ZM

    "Everyone truthfully knows that you
    simply cannot get something from
    absolutely nothing."

    This reminded me of a joke in Spanish that sums it up perfectly (translation is mine) :

    Two scientists die and finally meet God in Heaven. Very excitedly, they tell Him:
    "God! God! Before dying, we discovered how to make something out of nothing, just like You did!"
    God responds: "Are you certain it is made absolutely from nothing?"
    S: "Yes! Yes!"
    G: "Are you absolutely sure that it comes from nothing at all? You can't use anything I've created."
    S: "Yes! We're certain!"
    G: "OK then. Go ahead and show Me".
    S: "OK! So first, you grab a handful of soil..."
    ...

    I hope you appreciate the irony in this one. Sometimes when telling the joke (not written) for some people it takes time for them to grasp that THAT was the punchline.

  • Raymond

    What is there about the very thought of the cosmos suddenly popping into existence out of absolutely nothing that so instantly moves the mind of most sane men to say, “Then, God must exist!’? What is there about such instantaneous creation ex nihilo that bespeaks so unequivocally to the human mind the exclusive mark of true divinity?

    Belief/faith in the existence of the supernatural.

  • David Nickol

    So, if God exercises his infinite power to bring the cosmos into being, what happens the next moment after he has created it?

    This is a little confusing, since as I understand it, for God the concept of "the moment after he created the cosmos" has no meaning. God does not exist in a succession of moments. So what exactly does it mean to claim that God continuously keeps things in existence, and what would it mean to say that if he did not, things would cease to exist? God can't start doing something and then stop doing it, because that would require God to be a temporal being.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Obviously, the succession of moments is on the part of the created world, not the Creator.

      • David Nickol

        I won't quote the whole paragraph, but I think any fair reader would acknowledge that it speaks of God doing something and then (hypothetically) "ceasing." Obviously it is extremely difficult to write about the actions of a being outside of time, but even so, if God must "continue" to do something, or not "cease" doing something, then that implies a temporal sequence.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          The entire natural theology of God's relation to a world in time takes some insight. It isn't just a matter of the "time" of God starting things vs. him keeping them going. Every single change in the created world entails its progression through time. If you understand what it means for God to be entirely outside of time (eternal life), then all changes must be on the part of the creature; none on the part of the Creator. There can be no changes at all on God's part.

          • David Nickol

            There can be no changes at all on God's part.

            I understand the assertion, and far be it from me to claim it is or isn't true. My concern is that in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as in our everyday speech about God, no attempt is made speak as if God does not change. What does it mean, for example to pray for God's forgiveness if God cannot change. Here is a dictionary definition of forgive:

            to cease to feel resentment against on account of wrong committed : give up claim to requital from or retribution upon (an offender) : absolve, pardon

            <Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing — Luke 23:34 (New Catholic Edition)>

            Praying is clearly seen by almost everyone as an attempt to persuade God to do something he would not otherwise do—that is, to change God's mind. Catholics even pray to the saints to intercede with God so he will accede to requests. The Blessed Virgin is considered to be a most powerful intercessor, for how could God turn down any request she made! (Neither you nor the Catholic Church need to account for this, but it seems to be a theme in alleged "private revelations" that Mary warns she cannot stay Jesus's hand much longer if people don't mend their ways!)

            The Old Testament is filled with instances of God getting angry, calming down, hardening people's hearts, enjoying smells, having regrets, and so on, all of which would seem to be impossible for a being outside of time who cannot change.

            I know a little about what Aquinas had to say on the matter, but even if he resolved the issue perfectly, it still seems to remain the case that almost no one (except maybe a few philosophers) attempts to speak of God as outside of time and unchanging.

          • David Nickol

            I am of course aware that by googling "does prayer change God's mind" one can find a great deal of commentary on this issue, with all Catholic sources answering "no." Nevertheless, nobody seems to attempt to speak of prayer in everyday life (including in most religious services and the like) in anything but terms that make it sound like prayer is an attempt to change God's mind.

          • Jim the Scott

            So the lesson from that is to speak more accurately. Prayer doesn't "change" God's mind but God can will from all eternity to grant your prayer only if you metaphorically speaking "bother the heck out of him".

            Someone once asked CS Lewis "Do you really think you can change things by praying?" He responded "I don't pray to change things I pray because it changes me".

          • Ben Champagne

            Why do we use analogies in general?

          • David Nickol

            We use analogies to make things clear, not to create confusion. Are you suggesting that every time we read in the Old Testament that God did something "temporal," it is an analogy?

            Explain the story of Noah and the Arc completely in terms of analogies. Was there a Noah? Or is the whole story "true" because it is truth contained in a myth? I think Catholics pretty much universally believe the story of creation in six days is a myth that nevertheless is true because it teaches us the God is the Creator. But then there is the story of Adam and Eve, which is not a myth, at least insofar as Adam and Eve are taken to represent two human individuals.

          • Ben Champagne

            "We use analogies to make things clear, not to create confusion." If they are good analogies yes, that is one part. The point of analogies is to make things more clear to the less experienced, otherwise the analogy would not be necessary. A lot of times I see commentary like this, I laugh. I don't mean that to be disparaging, but the whole line of thought completely leaves out the human condition, and substitutes a false stasis. If you read my comment below, I don't deride my mother because she is not as intellectually astute as I am (In fact, in most ways I would consider her prowess far beyond my ability). It may be beyond her reasoning at this point to understand why I don't ask God to supplant my will for His, and tangentially, it is also outside of my capacity to judge her reasoning and demand she practice 'properly' because of it. That doesn't in any way lessen her faith or mine, though it would be an admonishment of mine if I were to ignore that knowledge out of personal desire.

            I don't speak on the historicity of the Old Testament in general, as I see it as the most fruitless discussion possible (personally), as much like my mother's depth of faith and wisdom, it is not for me to reckon. Ontological truth does not lean on the necessity of the historical accuracy of the Old Testament (The New Testament is a different story with regard to Christianity). At best, such discussions of Adam and Eve are a mind exercise in reasoning, but don't speak to Ontology directly, especially temporally, as such an endeavor is impossible to achieve even from an event five minutes prior. Ontology won't bear it upon the closest scrutiny (though a human metastasis of it will suffice by necessity).

            The point of bringing up analogies, is that it is a necessary form from which we can provide wisdom. An individual lacking in wisdom (even in aggregate) does not mean that that wisdom is not there or that it is without delineations.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Reading your comment above makes me understand how puzzling it must be to you that anyone would claim God's immutability in light of all the examples you can cite of him "changing his mind" or "calming down" or of Mary not being able to "stay Jesus' hand much longer."

            Yet, I must be frank in saying that I really do not find this whole matter disquieting to me personally at all.

            It isn't just a few Thomistic philosophers who claim God's immutability. The Church has defined this both in the Fourth Lateran Council and at Vatican I: Denzinger 428, 1782.

            Scripture is also clear, referring to God "with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration." James I: 17, and multiple other texts.

            One must always remember that Scripture is written in a manner suited to the understanding of the reader. So that when we speak of feeling the wrath of God's justice, this does not mean that God is subject to passion, but merely that the effect of his punishment for our sins "feels" like his wrath to us.

            So, too, when it appears that God relents or changes his mind about punishing man for sin, this does not mean a true change on God's part, but merely that man has changed his wicked ways so that God, who knew this would happen from all eternity, has foreseen and arranged his unchanging providence so as to not enforce an otherwise warned prophesy of sanction. Nor does it mean a warning was fictitious, since failing to repent would also have been foreseen by God and thus providence would have already arranged to impose the threatened penalty on man.

            (Please "fix" all the needed tenses in my grammar to reflect the truth that God is totally outside of time, and thus, human speech errs in constantly thrusting him into time by our necessarily temporal predications!)

            So, too, also, with prayers to Mary in fulfillment of threatened sanctions, such as she foretold at Fatima. These are not either entailing changes on God's part, nor wasted words on Mary's part, not wasted prayers on man's part -- should something like World War III ensue. God knows from all eternity the response of mankind to such warnings, and the resultant "response" by God is known to him before Mary even speaks to the children at Fatima. Mary's words are not in vain since our response does condition the divine action or inaction. We needed the warning, since mankind's behavior required correction. If it is heeded, God's correlative action is eternally set and executed, but conditioned on man's response to the warning. Even if the outcome is disastrous for mankind, those who heed the warning and reform their personal lives benefit by attaining peace of soul and the reward of the Beatific Vision. Nothing is lost; nothing is wasted; nothing requires any change on God's part.

            All change is on the part of creatures living in and acting in the limited existential condition we call time. God is eternally changeless and utterly outside of time -- although this in no way prevents him from acting on creatures living in time in such fashion as to produce the needed effects in proper temporal sequence for the expectations of his temporally-conditioned creatures.

          • BCE

            Good day.
            Whether we are aware or not, sometimes when we state a position, we often create an overt or implied syllogism.
            And those should follow the rules for sets. (Even a single thing can be a set) i.e. ...All of Mankind is and remains a single unit whether it once contained 1 billion people or grows to 10 billion, it remains the set of ALL.
            It may seem illogical, since we might think if the number of individuals changed then what constitutes ALL changed, but set paradox says no.
            It helps me think of God as unchanging, and outside time.

          • Jim the Scott

            I might as well chime in.

            >My concern is that in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as in our everyday speech about God, no attempt is made speak as if God does not change.

            It actually says rather explicitly God does not change Malachi 3:6. Also sometimes the Bible speaks metaphorically & not literally. Come on David do I REALLY have to make the Cosmic Chicken analogy again?

            >What does it mean, for example to pray for God's forgiveness if God cannot change.

            God can will conditionally. God can from all eternity will if you do X He will do Y from all eternity. Why does God have to exist in time or change to do that? I don't get it?

            >Praying is clearly seen by almost everyone as an attempt to persuade God to do something he would not otherwise do—that is, to change God's mind.

            Or God can Will conditionally without change from all eternity if you do X He will do Y. If you don't do X then He won't do Y.

            >Catholics even pray to the saints to intercede with God so he will accede to requests.

            Same principle just more elaborate mechanics.

            >The Old Testament is filled with instances of God getting angry, calming down, hardening people's hearts, enjoying smells, having regrets, and so on, all of which would seem to be impossible for a being outside of time who cannot change.

            Again do I have to snark at you with my Cosmic Chicken crack? I am certain you have heard it before.

            (i.e. Bible says God "enfolds us in His Wings"? Does that mean God is literally a giant Cosmic Chicken....etc...stole that from Norman Geisler BTW)

            >I know a little about what Aquinas had to say on the matter, but even if he resolved the issue perfectly, it still seems to remain the case that almost no one (except maybe a few philosophers) attempts to speak of God as outside of time and unchanging.

            Well popular ignorance is common across the board. How many people think Big Bang was a literal "explosion" that occurred at a literal "center of the universe"?

            Short response to that is that is wrong. Anyway It is the duty of people in the know to educate those who are not in the know. That is true across the board.

            Cheers.

        • Rob Abney

          That is a very succint proof that God can't exist, if ANYTHING changes then God is not immutable and therefore false.

          • Ben Champagne

            How do you propose to prove anything has actually 'changed', in the sense you mean it?

            I honestly think this is one of the shortcomings of christian thought, (I recently had a long argument with my mom because I don't pray to God to ask him for anything, on these grounds, but it was a little above her head) it doesn't change the reality of what prayer is or means ultimately, but it does/can change how/why people practice it, for better or worse.

            I have a hard time seeing how you come to the conclusion that intercession dictates proof against God. It is the basic paradox of predestination, and I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone that actually proposes something 'changed' because of intercession.

          • Rob Abney

            Ben, if you were in pitch black darkness without any device for creating light and then you saw a light in the far off distance and started moving toward that light would you say that you are changing? Would you say that the light is changing? The light was there all along and as soon as you noticed it you were attracted to it.
            It is pleasing to God when we pray, not because He changed from being unpleased but because He attracted us to do it.

          • Ben Champagne

            Maybe I misunderstood what you said above, but what you are now saying seems to be in conflict with the previous statement. Please provide clarity.

            The last sentence is tangential to the purpose of the discussion, so I will leave you with that belief unquestioned.

          • Rob Abney

            My first comment was intended to be sarcastic, sorry for the confusion.
            I hope you keep praying and also that you realize during prayer that you can ask God for anything, if He can't do it for you no one can.

          • Ben Champagne

            Yes, And I hope you realize that your supposition that prayer that asks for your own will supposed onto God is not prayer at all. It's not a matter of can, it's a matter of reverence.

          • Rob Abney

            Is it my will or God’s will if I pray for my daily bread or if I ask to be delivered from evil? Reverence is just one form of prayer, just listen to Mom.

          • Ben Champagne

            Or, if you believe in the saving grace of God, and the nature of free will itself, a gift already given, you refute yourself by your statement. God gave you a will outside of his, deferment is reverence, presupposing your own will as superior is the height of vanity.

          • Rob Abney

            Ben, I appreciate your advice, I do not want to be in competition with God. But I consider it reverent to say God can do anything, and I believe that He wants me to acknowledge that, one way to do that is to ask Him for anything and everything, He always delivers.
            My advice to you is to keep practicing reverence.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "If you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you." John 16:23.

          • Ben Champagne

            Not sure what you are trying to infer with the quote.

          • Rob Abney
          • Ben Champagne

            It's fine, but it has little to do with what I was talking about. The only approximation is "which is the unconditional hope of obtaining all that is helpful toward salvation" with an emphasis on the salvation part. Maybe I did not do the best job of making the idea plain, but this article is not speaking on the same topic.

            Edit: To be more clear, Dr. Bonnette's quote above gives more credence to my sentiment, not less. Jesus saying 'in my name' is reference to being a subject of Jesus, not as a petitioner for you. If one were to say 'in the name of the king' it is not inferred that they are acting of their own accord, but carrying out the will of the one 'named'.

            Maybe the confusion came in from the blunt use of 'anything' when I said 'I don't pray to God to ask (H)im for anything' and should have elaborated that by 'anything', I meant 'anything towards my exclusive personal satisfaction' or some derivation (Though seeing it written, I still find it wanting).

            This was was a tangential analogy in the first place, to express an idea about the shortcoming of any substantial method from which one could suppose 'change' on the part of God (especially by way of a lack of human perfection in understanding), and I would surmise that this analogy did not further that intention as written.

          • David Nickol

            I think I agree with you here (much as it pains me to admit it).

            If the only way to pray was to say, "Thy will be done," why would the Lord's Prayer, direct from Jesus, include, "Give us this day our daily bread?" Why would Jesus say things like, "Ask the Father anything in my name, and he will give it to you"? Or

            Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

            “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

            It seems to me a core element of Christianity that people are supposed to engage in prayer of petition. Of course, it also goes without saying that praying is asking, not demanding. And if God is omniscient, omnipotent, and all good, if what one asks for is in reality bad and not good, then God is not going to grant it, and one would not want him to. Praying should not be like all of the many stories in which a person gets three wishes, and catastrophe ensues.

          • Stephen Edwards

            God can have decided from all eternity that He will carry out certain actions if people pray for them. He is not "changed" by the prayer, rather He decides 'If x occurs, then I carry out y'. But this is an eternal choice that God has already made. God is not changed by the prayer, He has already decided to respond how He will to those prayers. So I don't think immutability is incompatible with prayers of petition.

          • Ben Champagne

            I wasn't suggesting that it was. Also not sure if I am missing something in your reply as well as Rob's (or if something wasn't clear in what I said), as you are rephrasing what I was saying.

          • Stephen Edwards

            It seemed you were arguing against the efficacy of prayer.

          • Ben Champagne

            Nope.

  • David Nickol

    Both atheist and theist alike see in the “out-of-nothing” explosive instant appearance of a Big Bang the manifestation of unlimited raw power, infinite power.

    Don't we know that Lemaitre himself discouraged Pope Pius XII from trying to claim the Big Bang was the moment of creation?

    • Dennis Bonnette

      Again, from the OP.

      "Indeed, in his short work On the Eternity of the World, St. Thomas explicitly argues for the philosophical possibility of the world’s eternity. "

      • David Nickol

        But you say earlier:

        What is there about the very thought of the cosmos suddenly popping into existence out of absolutely nothing that so instantly moves the mind of most sane men to say, “Then, God must exist!’? What is there about such instantaneous creation ex nihilo that bespeaks so unequivocally to the human mind the exclusive mark of true divinity?

        The point of people like Lawrence Krauss is that the universe didn't pop into existence "out of absolutely nothing." It came into existence from what prior to the 21st century might have been thought of as nothing. You seem to be arguing the Big Bang was God creating the universe from nothing, but then establish a fall-back position that the universe could have existed from all eternity and you could still make the same arguments about the necessity of it being created. I understand the argument, but it seems to me you are still heavily reliant on the idea that the Big Bang was creation from nothing rather than a phenomenon involving some pre-existing "something."

        • Dennis Bonnette

          "What first stands out is the fact that absolutely no one claims that the cosmos actually appeared out of nowhere and from absolutely nothing. Atheists either claim it always existed in some physical form or other, or else, attempt the bait and switch of claiming it came from nothing – but the “nothing” turns out to be the actual something of the quantum vacuum as explained above." OP

          If you read the argument carefully, you will see that it is simply an analysis of why the human mind cannot conceive of something coming from absolutely nothing. The "Big Bang" is of historical interest only. It is merely a way to get us thinking about the concepts involved. The key is the shift from the meaning of creation as a "beginning" to creation as a "continuous phenomenon."

  • David Nickol

    I acknowledge my reading of the above may be a bit distorted by personal biases, but I do feel that there is an implication that any scientists who attempt to explain the Big Bang as something other than the moment of creation are simply trying to further their atheist agenda. But of course it is the very nature of science, and the job of scientists, to look for "naturalistic" explanations. And while it is true that scientists who have attempted to "explain away" the Big Bang (for example, Lawrence Krauss in A Universe from Nothing) do not in reality explain the universe coming from "philosophical nothing," they do advance theories of things "popping into existence" that allow the Big Bang to be interpreted as something other than the moment God created the universe from nothing.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      "Indeed, in his short work On the Eternity of the World, St. Thomas explicitly argues for the philosophical possibility of the world’s eternity."

      From the OP.

    • Raymond

      Any implication of the Big Bang being a supernatural event of creation is simply trying to further your theist agenda.

      We can play that game too.

  • Stephen Edwards

    What I understand from this is that the universe does not have to exist (we can imagine it not existing) so it needs something which makes it exist, which would have to be infinite power because something can only make something else exist if it has the power to 'give' existence. A finite thing with finite power, cannot give existence to something else. Only an infinite thing, with infinite power.

  • Everyone truthfully knows that you simply cannot get something from absolutely nothing.

    I'll tentatively agree that things that don't exist should not be rationally accepted as causes. I don't know that I can agree with the statement above because:
    1. I don't know that everything must have a cause, no matter how intuitively appealing it may seem
    2. We've never had a chance to examine the properties of "absolutely nothing"
    3. I don't even think it's meaningful to talk about the existence of nothing

    Let's try to remember that we're talking about the earliest moments of the universe when our intuitive understanding of reality breaks down. The very scientists who are trying to investigate this mystery have to dedicate years of their lives, getting enough of an education in mathematics and physics, just to be able to sit at the discussion table, much less be able to make any actual contributions.

    You'll have to forgive me if I don't think that trying to use our intuition is sufficient to solve the problems of cosmic origins, and [believe] that most of us are unqualified to even speak about the topic.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      It's true that most of us are not qualified to describe the current state of cosmology, much less anticipate its likely future deliverances. Nonetheless, I think that almost all of us are qualified to say generally what types of project cosmology and physics are. A moment's reflection reveals that they are not projects that are seeking to explain why there is something rather than nothing. When a physicist is hypothesizing, or experimenting, or critiquing and theorizing, he or she is always presupposing that there is something rather than nothing.

      No methodology that presupposes X has any hope of explaining why X is true. So, it's not that cosmologists have come part way toward understanding why there is something rather than nothing, and maybe if we do cosmology for another ten thousand years we will get all the way there. Hundreds of thousands of years of productive and insightful cosmology cannot even in principle touch on the question of why there is something rather than nothing.

      • No methodology that presupposes X has any hope of explaining why X is true.

        Sure, but so what? Science presupposes consistency, and natural causes. Science investigates natural causes.

        Hundreds of thousands of years of productive and insightful cosmology cannot even in principle touch on the question of why there is something rather than nothing.

        As I've indirectly stated, we don't know that there ever was "nothing." I think this idea itself is rather dubious, and isn't supported by evidence. My experience is that the people who assert "nothing" before the universe (whatever that means) tend to be the very people who wish to assert a god into the picture using dubious philosophical arguments.

        Besides, how exactly does an "infinitely powerful" non-physical mind help us to solve this problem? How is this even a reasonable idea? I've never been able to will things into existence, so I don't see the will of God as a reasonable explanation.

        • Jim (hillclimber)

          we don't know that there ever was "nothing."

          There wasn't ever nothing, at least not in time. We use temporal analogy when describing creation ex nihilo, but time implies change and change implies something doing the changing. In any case: you don't need to posit a default state of "nothing" that God has overcome. You just need to recognize that "something" is not necessary, and then ask, "If something is not necessary, if something is merely a possibility, then why is there something?"

          Besides, how exactly does an "infinitely powerful" non-physical mind help us to solve this problem?

          In a sense it doesn't solve the problem so much as it recognizes and names the mystery. What is being said is that there is some mystery (we don't need to call it God) that transcends the universe and provides the context of possibility for the existence (or non-existence) of the universe.

        • SpokenMind

          Hi Herald,

          [we don't know that there ever was "nothing."]

          I would recommend reading up on the the Borde-Vilenkin Guth (BVG) Theorem, which for the type of universe we live in, points to it having a beginning – meaning at one point, there was not a thing.

          “It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape: they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.” - Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds In One: The Search for Other Universes (Hill and Wang 2006), pg. 176

          • Even if our universe had a beginning, it does not follow that the universe came out of "nothing." It's a giant non-sequitur.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree on that specific point:

            Even if our universe had a beginning, it would not follow from that fact that the universe "came from nothing".

            However, this is also true:

            Even if our universe had no beginning, it would still follow from the argument laid out in the OP that our universe is coming, in every moment, from nothing. To use the phrasing in the OP, an existing thing needs to be "'standing outside of nothingness' even if it [has] no beginning in time". (Side note: the root meaning of "existence" is more or less literally, "to stand out", which nicely conveys the sense in which "to exist" is an action verb).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Even if our universe had no beginning, it would still follow from the argument laid out in the OP that our universe is coming, in every moment, from nothing.

            I thought the argument from the OP was that it takes infinite power to sustain the universe.

            If the eternal multi-verse is being sustained by Being Itself, I don't see how that means that the universe is being continually created from nothing. Sustaining is not creating. If God exists, metaphysical nothing never existed. God is not metaphysical nothing.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If you create piece of art and I maintain it, then you do the active stuff required to bring it into existence initially, and I do the active stuff required to keep it in existence from there on out. In that case, you get more credit, because typically paintings get carried forward in existence mostly inertially, or "on auto-pilot".

            But if we stop taking inertia as a given and take it instead as an explanandum, then the difference between the initial creative act and the subsequent sustaining is not so clear. To sustain something in existence is to continually create it. To sustain something in existence is to cause the continual existence of that thing, and to cause the existence of a thing is to create it.

            And there is a sense in which God is nothing. God is no thing. God is "that which creates things", but "that which creates things" is not itself a thing.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            To sustain something in existence is to continually create it. To sustain something in existence is to cause the continual existence of that thing, and to cause the existence of a thing is to create it.

            So, if being-itself is sustaining an eternal universe (or multiverse), do you think it is accurate to describe this as continual creation from nothing?

            And there is a sense in which God is nothing. God is no thing. God is "that which creates things", but "that which creates things" is not itself a thing.

            I have to disagree here. Being-itself is everything.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            So, if being-itself is sustaining an eternal universe (or multiverse), do you think it is accurate to describe this as continual creation from nothing?

            Yes.

            Being-itself is everything.

            I can basically agree with that, though for some additional clarity (maybe?) I would want to say that being-itself is the fullness of all things. For example, I am not being-itself. I am somehow incomplete. But being-itself is in me, and I am in being-itself. (I suspect you would say something similar, but correct me if I'm wrong.) But here again: the fullness of all things is not a thing (again, depending on what one means by "thing"/ousia).

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I think on the continual creation thing we will have to just agree to disagree. If I was to accept a theistic philosophy I would see the universe and God existing eternally together. Atheistically, I just think of the universe or multi-verse as existing eternally.

            I would agree. Being-itself is everything and everything is (partakes in) being-itself. Nothing is ever lost or ceases to exist. Being-itself cannot stop sustaining. The universe (or multiverse) always was and always will be.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well, I can't speak to the multiverse, but all indications are that the universe will at some point cease to exist. So here is where, if you want to hang on to your fundamental (and, in my view correct) insight that "nothing is ever lost", it seems that you need to differentiate between existence and being, and between the universe and something indestructible that perdures beyond time.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The universe could be cyclic.
            If being-itself is necessary than everything that being-itself sustains is necessary. The material universe or multiverse must also be eternal.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If being-itself is necessary than everything that being-itself sustains is necessary.

            I don't see how that follows. If there is any freedom at all in reality, then that freedom must exist (maximally) in being-itself.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Idk. But can God do other than what he does?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I vote "yes".

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would vote no. :-) I would say that a maximal being must act according to his essence. God will always do the maximally good thing.

          • Rob Abney

            I vote no also.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This in effect denies God's freedom. There is only one maximally good thing, and that is God himself, which he necessarily wills. But with respect to lesser goods, God is free to will this or that or nothing at all.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I am denying Being-Itself's freedom. That being-itself is maximally good has not yet been established. but if it is established then whatever God does is already determined by his maximally good nature. Just as when the Catholics say that to be perfectly free is to act according to Gods Will. Since God cannot deviate from his own will he is perfectly determined.

            Or argued a different way. If God is necessary than everything he creates is necessary. Otherwise imagining a possible universe in which God wills something different than he wills in this universe that would make his will contingent, which would then make God contingent. Therefore if God is necessary everything he creates is necessary.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is the same error we had on this site some months back -- and the refutation of it remains the same.

            This view assumes that whatever God wills he wills of necessity because he is the Necessary Being. But God's necessity pertains solely to the necessity of his existence and certain essential properties, since his essence and his existence are identical.

            This view also arises from the belief that God's unchangeable eternity is identified with his own will and will act, such that if his will were otherwise he would be a different God.

            But, as I said above and as St. Thomas also says, God's necessity pertains solely to those things that are essential to his nature, such as his own goodness. Thus, God wills his own goodness of necessity, while lesser goods are the object of his free choice, such as to create this world or some other world or no finite world at all.

            It is true that God is eternal and unchangeable. But what the critics miss is that he is identical with his own eternal free choice, including the choice to create this world and no other. I find Christians have little trouble understanding this simple truth, while atheists find it a mortal stumbling block.

            While it is true that God cannot change his will to create this specific world, it is, as St. Thomas points out, a suppositional necessity. That is to say, given that God chose to make this particular world, it is true that he must make this particular world. But nothing makes him have to have chosen as he did. (Note here the misunderstandings that can arise from our need to speak in tensed predication, while God is entirely outside of time in his eternal now in which all his activity is timeless.)

            Suppositional necessity means no more than something like the fact that I have chosen to rob a bank means that I now necessarily am choosing to rob this bank -- but nothing makes me rob the bank in the first place. So, too, once God in timeless fashion chooses to create this world, it is true that he must choose to create this world -- simply a matter of the principle of identity.

            Still, Christians easily grasp that God is his own eternal absolutely free choice and that whatever he chooses less than his own goodness can be chosen freely by him.

            God remains absolutely free with respect to his having created and continuing to create this world.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This is the same error we had on this site some months back -- and the refutation of it remains the same.

            If you are talking about your little back and forth with the Thinker, I hardly paid attention. I don't know how either of you had the time for all of that.

            This view also arises from the belief that God's unchangeable eternity is identified with his own will and will act, such that if his will were otherwise he would be a different God.

            I don't see how this view is demonstrably wrong. You may have theological reasons to view this as incorrect, but I don't see philosophical reasons.

            But, as I said above and as St. Thomas also says, God's necessity pertains solely to those things that are essential to his nature, such as his own goodness.

            But God has not accidental properties, so his will is also essential to his nature?!?1?

            I find Christians have little trouble understanding this simple truth, while atheists find it a mortal stumbling block.

            Of course Christians accept as true things that fit within their preconceived world-view. This isn't remotely surprising.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are correct in pointing out that God has no accidental properties.

            But the distinction respecting what he is free to choose is with respect to the objects of his choice, not his act of free choice in itself, which is identical with the divine substance.

            In one and the same act, God wills those things that he wills necessarily in a necessary manner, such as his own goodness, but in a non-neccessary manner those objects which are not necessary, such as the creation of this or some other world or no world at all.

            You may well be thinking, "Well, it is easy for him to say all this as a mere matter of faith, which has no basis in reality," But, the analysis I offer is actually a part of natural theology, which is the part of metaphysics which works out the logical details of God's nature. So, this is rational science, not faith. You may still object that such science is incorrectly reasoned, and therefore, false in its conclusions. The only way to determine that would be to go through all the reasoning involved, of course.

            As for the claim that God with a different choice to create would be "another God," the error involved is to assume that there were somehow alternative possible Gods. In fact, there is only one God -- and the choice(s) he makes is eternally identified with his substantial being. Given that he has made this choice, it cannot be otherwise. This is what St. Thomas points out is a "suppositional necessity," that is, given that he did this, he must have done this -- which is self-evident. But it neither makes the choice a matter of intrinsic necessity nor sustains the claim that there was ever an alternative possible God in reality.

            Rather, the one and only possible God has from all eternity made whatever choice(s) he has made and done so irrevocably, yet also with perfect freedom respecting the non-necessary objects of his choice, such as the creation of this world as opposed to any other.

          • Rob Abney

            You may still object that such science is incorrectly reasoned, and therefore, false in its conclusions. The only way to determine that would be to go through all the reasoning involved, of course.

            Ignatius may be considering going through all the reasoning involved, your charitable responses should help him. At this point, doing the hard work required seems to be the best way for him, and many of us, to become aware of God and His sustaining Grace.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You may still object that such science is incorrectly reasoned, and therefore, false in its conclusions

            Which is what I am saying.

            In one and the same act, God wills those things that he wills
            necessarily in a necessary manner, such as his own goodness, but in a
            non-neccessary manner those objects which are not necessary, such as the
            creation of this or some other world or no world at all.

            If God is identified with his properties, like his will, I don't see how he could do anything non-necessarily. I understand what you are saying (in a broad sense), but I don't see the error if I reason by identifying God with his will.

            Also, would you say what I am arguing is metaphysically impossible; or possible, but obviously not the Thomistic conception of God.

            Or in other words, can you demonstrate that God is free?

            This is what St. Thomas points out is a "suppositional necessity," that
            is, given that he did this, he must have done this -- which is
            self-evident

            Is the argument I raised an objection in the Summa?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, that objection has been considered. http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1019.htm#article3

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I cannot top St. Thomas' analysis of this topic from the Summa Theologiae as cited by Rob Abney above.

            The only point I might emphasize is that, while God's free act is perfectly one with his essence, it is the "objects" of that act that have a distinction between the necessary and non-necessary. All that is really necessary for God is that he act in accord with his nature and, as shown in my next paragraph, his nature entails a distinction between objects willed by him which permits freedom.

            The reason such a distinction can be held is the same reason that God is free, namely, because God is an intellectual being. The will Is the intellectual appetite. As such, it is moved by the good. God cannot but will the infinite good which is his own goodness. Yet, like even a finite intellect (angelic or human), the intellectual appetite is not necessarily moved by any good less than the infinite good, since other goods may be preferred insofar as they contain goodness not contained in a given particular good. This even frees God from the necessity to create any finite world at all, since any creation is a lesser good than his own infinite goodness.

            God is also free because, as the First Cause, there is nothing that can coerce his acts in reference to various goods.

            For the rest of the objection, I defer to the text of St. Thomas cited above.

          • Dr. Bonnette,

            On the Necessity of Creation as opposed to God's Freedom to Not-Create, do you have any references which may be helpful? I've the following items for context:

            God is Free in the Creative Act such that God can Not-Create, such that the claim that [God Necessarily Creates any Contingent X] ends in a contradiction. That is looked at in the following:

            “Divine Necessity And Created Contingence In Aquinas” by Peter Laughlin – at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00476.x

            “The Abundance Theory of Creation” by W.L. Craig – at https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/the-abundance-theory-of-creation/

            http://disq.us/p/1lpy1cn which is also at https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/are_metaphysical_first_principles_universally_true/#comment-3490150487

            http://disq.us/p/1lz8b5h which is also at https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/what_is_the_true_understanding_of_causality/#comment-3505746293

            http://disq.us/p/1nccip3 which is also at https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/brute_facts_vs_sufficient_reasons/#comment-3588243879

            http://disq.us/p/1qskyk5 which is also at https://strangenotions.com/how-cosmic-existence-reveals-gods-reality/#comment-3796910069

            Curious of you could point to something else etc...

            Thank you ~~

          • Nova Conceptum

            God cannot be free and omniscient.

            God is Free

            If god already knows everything then he already knows that in the future he will do X.

            If, when the time comes he chooses to do Y then he was not omniscient.

            If he knows now that he will later do Y instead of X and then he does Y he is not free, as he can only do the thing he already knows he will do..

            Since god has always known everything there has never been a time when he ever did change his mind or could change his mind. If god is omniscient he always has been and always will be locked into a single set of actions,

            The omniscient god is a slave to his own perfect knowledge, just a robot operating a single predetermined sequence for eternity without any freedom whatsoever.

          • I’ll wait for Dr. Bonnett please. Too many comments seems to trigger spam-box thing-y’s.

            Briefly wrt your conclusion: The Metaphysical Wellspring of all ontological possibility is Pure Act v. Being Itself. You’re enslaving [Pure Act in Ceaseless Choice Amid All ontological possibility] to [Foreknowledge] when in fact [Foreknowledge] is enslaved to (echoes) [Pure Act in Ceaseless Choice amid all ontological possibility].

            Obviously “Fore” in foreknowledge is shorthand — but that doesn’t matter wrt the point.

            Timelessness v. Pure Act isn’t constrained by ANY vector of [The Created X].

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think the main error here is inadvertently thrusting God into time, which you carefully avoid by realizing that the foreknowledge isn't really "fore," but absolutely simultaneous in the eternal present which eternity.

            In that eternal now, God knows both what he does and does not do through time, whose passage takes place for creatures, but not for God since, while he creates time, he is not in time.

            Creatures who act out of necessity and creatures who act contingently or even freely are all eternally known to God as such, while his own creative choices are in no way determined by his actions. The only necessity here is what St. Thomas calls "suppositional" necessity. That is, on the suppostion that God does something, then it is necessary that he do it. Much like, given that I have robbed a bank, it cannot be that I not have robbed the bank. Still, I was free to rob the bank.

            Give that what God creates, he must have created, this in no way dictates that he lacked freedom in so choosing to act. Always remember that God is utterly outside of time.

          • Nova Conceptum

            The Thomist god must be in time, since he must act in a time sequence of events on a universal scale over billions of years.

            Always remember that God is utterly outside of time.

            The asserted unchanging changer is said to be the cause of moment to moment existence of all that exists, in some sense, pushing each particle into existence continuously, lest each particle change itself into nothingness.

            So, at one time god is pushing an electron into existence at location x,y,z. Then, later, since the electron moved, god is only pushing space into existence at location x,y,z.

            By making god the low level cause of existence for each and every bit of the universe one has given god the unenviable task of doing some 10^86 different things at different locations continuously in an eternal chore of time sequence spatial actions.

            Always remember that God is utterly outside of time.

            That assertion is clearly identified as incoherent upon further analysis of god's other asserted properties.

            There are many other incoherent terms used by theists. The pattern is the same. God is attributed a large set of attributes. Upon analysis those attributes are found to contradict each other in various ways and circumstances.

            The "solution" is to simply combine incompatible terms into single terms, attribute these combinatorial terms to god, and ignore their fundamental incoherence with each other.

            Here is a non-comprehensive list of such terms.
            Exists outside of time.
            Immaterial existence.
            God is the good.
            Exists outside of space.
            Omniscience and free will.
            Unchanging changer.
            Eternal now.
            Edit:
            Being itself
            Pure act
            Omniscient simplicity

            That's a lot right there, volumes can be written on the items in that list, but specifically with respect to the assertion that "god is utterly outside of time" there is no way to rationally reconcile the further claims that have god doing different things at different times and in different places.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are voicing some of the standard objections to the metaphysical concept of the God of classical theism.

            Since it appears you come a bit late to this site, and since one could write a book responding to all the errors you propose, let me just refer you back to one of my earlier articles on Strange Notions in which I address your concerns about God being outside of time. Scroll down in the article and relevant material will appear concerning how God's eternity relates to the temporal world he creates:

            https://strangenotions.com/god-eternity-free-will-and-the-world/

          • Nova Conceptum

            The "explanation" offered is nothing more than a plea to allow a special case of the unintelligible to somehow be real.

            Physical agents change as they cause effects. But to think that this also applies to spiritual agents is absurd and illogical.

            Quite the contrary. To assert some sort of incomprehensible "spirit" that can do one thing over here now, and do something over there later, without itself doing different things at different times is "absurd and illogical".

            That "explanation", in fact, has no explanatory value whatever, and is merely a disjoint set of words formed into unintelligible sentences.

            Since whatever is in motion or is changed must be moved or changed by another, maintaining that a cause cannot cause change without itself changing would entail an infinite regress among simultaneous caused causes and make impossible an Uncaused First Cause.

            Only if one neglects mutual causation.

            Once we realize that X causes Y at the same time that Y causes X the asserted necessity for an otherwise infinite regress absent a first cause, vanishes.

            So, Dr. Bonnette, pointing off into the distance and asserting that answers to my "errors" are out there has no explanatory value.

            The "explanation" provided at the link you give is simply that spirits can do the incomprehensible, and illogical, and incoherent. That assertion has no explanatory value, and is simply special pleading that somehow there is some kind of something out there that does what is completely irrational and incoherent to us.

            So, my assertion stands, clearly unrefuted in any way. It is irrational, and incomprehensible, and unintelligible, and incoherent that god would act to push things into existence over here now, then later push different things into existence, yet remain unchanging. That simply makes no sense of any kind, and asserting that spirits are allowed to not make sense is not an explanation of any merit.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            >"It is irrational, and incomprehensible, and unintelligible, and incoherent that god would act to push things into existence over here now, then later push different things into existence, yet remain unchanging."

            You are missing the simple fact that change in an effect takes place in the thing effected, not in its cause.

            You can make no logical inference about the agent or cause from the effect produced except that the cause was adequate to produce the effect.

            If the Cause is eternal and unchanging, but wills to cause effects which take place in time and space sequentially and in different places, this tells you nothing at all about changes in the Cause, since all the changing and being effected takes place in the effect, not in the Cause.

            This is analogous to the fact that motion takes place in the thing moved, not in the mover. Basic metaphysics and cosmology.

            What you are saying would be true if you were dealing with material causes, since they must change in order to cause anything. But that is question begging, since we are talking here about a Spiritual, Eternal, Infinite Being: God.

          • Nova Conceptum

            If the Cause is eternal and unchanging, but wills to cause effects which
            take place in time and space sequentially and in different places, this
            tells you nothing at all about changes in the Cause,

            The cause is causing different things at different times, so of course the cause is changing, it is doing different things, which is different from doing the same things.

            Sorry Dr. Bonnette, to assert a cause is doing different things at different times yet is not changing is in no way a coherent assertion.

            Can you provide any specific, observable, repeatable example?

            You are missing the simple fact that change in an effect takes place in the thing effected, not in its cause.

            Can you provide an observable example of this? That assertion is entirely imaginary and unrealistic in all I know of.

            Real change is always mutual in every instance we know of.

            This is analogous to the fact that motion takes place in the thing moved, not in the mover.

            A change in motion of the moved never happens without a corresponding change in motion of the mover.

            Please provide an observable counterexample.

            But that is question begging, since we are talking here about a Spiritual, Eternal, Infinite Being: God.

            Merely asserting a mystical something that is allowed to be irrational, unintelligible, and incoherent has no explanatory value.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The only thing you have proven is that you cannot think or imagine in terms other than materialistic ones. Every example and conception you describe is in the physical world. You are entirely intellectually blind even to the possibility of something existing that is non-material.

            Here is the proof: "A change in motion of the moved never happens without a corresponding change in motion of the mover."

            I clearly granted that this is true -- for material causation and motion. In the physical world, any time an object is moved by another physical object, it entails a motion on the part of the mover as well as the thing moved.

            But, if you consider motion in itself, when something is moved, the motion is entirely in the thing moved, not in the mover.

            Consider the general principle of causing motion: "Whatever is in motion must be moved by another." All that this says is that when something is itself being moved or is in motion, something else moves it.

            Note that the motion is defined as entirely in the thing moved, NOT IN THE MOVER. You are ASSUMING that the mover is itself in motion because every example you can think of is one of one physical thing moving another physical thing, where indeed the mover is also in motion.

            But, if, for one moment, you grant the premise of the argument, namely that God is NOT A PHYSICAL THING, it is immediately evident that your examples and preconceived notions have no application.

            All you have demonstrated is that you are a complete materialist, which we knew to begin with.

          • Ficino

            I think Nova Conceptum is talking about antikinesis:

            When one corporeal thing acts on another, the agent is also affected in return by the patient, as when a cutting implement gets dull from cutting, or something that makes something else hot or cold changes temperature itself. The patient sets up an antikinesis. But this does not apply to the first mover. ~ Aristotle, GA IV.3 768b15-25.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I agree. Or, put in more Newtonian terms: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

            Perfectly applicable, but solely to physical agents.

          • Nova Conceptum

            But this does not apply to the first mover. ~ Aristotle, GA IV.3 768b15-25.

            Which makes the first mover unintelligible, incoherent, entirely speculative, and therefor without explanatory value.

            Further, the argument for the first mover fails, most apparently for its false premise of Aristotelian motion. Please see below.

          • Nova Conceptum

            You are missing the simple fact that change in an effect takes place in the thing effected, not in its cause.

            Not in any real example ever observed. When a change takes place in the thing effected there is always a corresponding change in the cause. Can you cite an example of your claim?

            If the Cause is eternal and unchanging, but wills to cause effects which take place in time and space sequentially and in different places, this tells you nothing at all about changes in the Cause, since all the changing and being effected takes place in the effect, not in the Cause.

            Begging the question. Sure, if an unintelligible being is imagined to exist then we can just as well imagine that unintelligible processes are being caused by this imaginary being.

            I don't see the value in all that imagining and speculation.

            This is analogous to the fact that motion takes place in the thing moved, not in the mover. Basic metaphysics and cosmology.

            Can you cite a cosmologist who claims this? I have never encountered such an assertion in any cosmology I am aware of.

            In all cosmologies I am aware of the constituents of the cosmos move each other, always.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I fear you are starting out all your thinking with the materialist assumption that to be is to be material. You may base this on the fact that all you directly experience in sensation is material, but that does not logically entail that to be is to be material.

            In fact, most of the material cosmos and its physical forces that you believe in are only detectable by instruments, not directly by the senses. That includes "dark matter," which composes most of the cosmos.

            Because of your assumed materialism hypothesis, you naturally observe causality in the world and in it find only mutual causation or agents changing in order to cause effects.

            But that makes the assumption that to be must be to be material -- something you have not proven.

            Looked at from the perspective of a thing in motion, it is clear that something must cause the motion and that whatever does it is able to do it. That is, the cause or mover is adequate to the effect produced. You know this because whatever is in motion is being moved by another.

            Now you think I am naive not to realize that inertia can explain continued motion. I suggest you make a careful read on this SN article by me: https://strangenotions.com/whatever-is-moved-is-moved-by-another/

            In it, I answer the common claim that inertia needs no mover once a body is "in motion."

            But mainly note that when you observe motion, that is the effect produced. It tells you nothing about the cause or mover except that it could produce the motion observed.

            The mere fact that every case you have observed entails the mover itself moving merely shows that your observations pertain solely to the physical world.

            I know. You assume materialism to be true because you have never seen something immaterial nor have you ever reasoned to the reality of something non-material. But that is not a logical position, since you have no way of knowing whether or not something non-material is real.

            Your reference to cosmology is to the modern part of physics that studies the origin and nature of the cosmos. That is not what a philosopher means by the term. We mean the philosophy of nature, or philosophical physics.

            I wish I had time to explain all your misunderstandings of philosophy and metaphysics, but I don't. Perhaps my article linked above will be of help.

            Edit: One point you might consider is that since most of the cosmos is not directly known to the senses, you must observe phenomena and then reason back to its cause. In so doing, you are doing exactly what the metaphysician does in reasoning from effect back to cause. The only difference is that you assume that all causes must be physical in nature (because you assume materialism), whereas the metaphysician makes no such assumption and lets the logic lead him back to whatever kind of cause is ultimately needed to explain the observed phenomena.

            If the reasoning leads to a cause that must be physical, he accepts that fact. But, if the reasoning leads back to a cause that cannot be physical, he accepts that fact also.

            Which one is more open minded?

          • Nova Conceptum

            It is true that whatever is (present tense) in motion was (past tense) moved by another.
            It is false that whatever is (present tense) in motion is being (present tense) moved by another.

            You know this because whatever is in motion is being moved by another.

            Aristotle was wrong about this as are all who have repeated his error, such as Aquinas and present day adherents to A-T philosophy.

            An object in uniform linear motion is not being moved by another.

            The mere fact that every case you have observed entails the mover itself moving merely shows that your observations pertain solely to the physical world.

            I applaud Aquinas for at least this:
            "The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion."
            That is a fine basis indeed, what is manifest, what is evident to our senses.

            Since observations of the non-physical are not manifest and are not evident to our senses any such assertions have no place in a realistic argument.

            I wish I had time to explain all your misunderstandings of philosophy and metaphysics, but I don't. Perhaps my article linked above will be of help.

            Asserting that I cannot disprove your unevidenced assertion is hardly a sound basis for a positive argument, such as the First Way, I know at least that much about philosophy, although I have my doubts as to your understanding of the value of induction based on universally confirmed observation, as opposed to the lack of value for an unevidenced assertion that the unintelligible is the case because, like Russel's teapot, it cannot be strictly disproved.

            The reason everything in motion needs a mover is simple. A thing cannot reduce itself from potency to act

            Begging the question, ad hoc, tautology. Take your pick.

            Uniform linear motion is not a change in kinetic energy for the object, therefore no changer is required.

            In frame of reference A the object is not moving.
            In frame of reference B the object is moving with V=1.
            In frame of reference C the object is moving with V=1000000.
            And so forth for an arbitrarily large number of frames of reference.

            How can a single object be changing not at all, and a little, and a lot, all simultaneously? The answer is uniform linear motion is not a change for the object in motion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "Uniform linear motion is not a change in kinetic energy for the object, therefore no changer is required."

            You are obviously thinking only in terms of certain physical abstractions, but not the actuality of real change or motion.

            While it may not be possible to determine which object is in motion relative to another one, the reality of change is evident in that the relative distances or positions differ between the before and after of time frames.

            These differences are real. As such, they need explanation. Merely declaring that a body in motion tends to remain in motion describes what is taking place, but does not explain why it is taking place.

            Unless you deny the need for a reason for real differences, there is need for a reason as to why the real difference between the before and after of a change in spatial relationships occurs. If there is no real difference between the before and after, then no reason for a difference is needed. But also, then, there is no difference between the before and after.

            That "reason" serves as a cause for why the body in motion changes its spatial relationship to other bodies. Which body or bodies are actually in motion relative to others is not the issue. What matters is that there is a real difference of some kind and real differences require real reasons for being different, which is where causes become necessary.

            There may be no change in kinetic energy, but there is a real change in the reality which is the spatial relations between bodies -- and that is what must be explained.

            Edit: Perhaps, this article can get you to begin to think in terms of "being" a little bit, rather than mere mathematical descriptions of phenomena, which abstract from real causation and things:
            https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

            Edit: Despite your pen name, you seem to have difficulty handling this new concept.

          • Ficino

            As such, they need explanation. Merely declaring that a body in motion tends to remain in motion describes what is taking place, but does not explain why it is taking place.

            It's taking place because of prior efficient and material causes.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            By "prior," do you mean ontologically or temporally prior?

            My suspicion is that you mean temporally prior, which is the standard understanding of causation among those who follow physics, rather than metaphysics.

            For the metaphysician, the only true causality must be such that the influence of the cause on the effect is immediate, which means that anything happening at a time prior to the effect cannot actually be the cause. Generally speaking, the cause is said to have to be simultaneous with its effect.

            If that is the case, then prior efficient and material causes are not true causes of the effect needing explanation.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Ficino is quite capable of expressing his own position, so speaking strictly for myself I would say prior in a temporal sense somewhat like per accidens in A-T parlance.

            anything happening at a time prior to the effect cannot actually be the
            cause. Generally speaking, the cause is said to have to be simultaneous
            with its effect.

            Right, hence mutual causality, or what Russel succinctly stated "there is only the formula", meaning, there is only the mutual simultaneous interaction of material described by a formula.

            So, the explanation as to how or why an object was set in motion is its mutual, simultaneous interactions with other material at some time in the past.

            The explanation for its continued motion is that to change motion requires a changer. Absent a changer of motion then motion does not change. We all know this experientially, to stop a moving object we must change it, but if we do not stop it then it will continue to move.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are merely describing what we already know. A body in motion tends to remain in motion.

            But you completely ignore the rational analysis as to why and how it is able to remain in motion, which I have given in detail above and in the article to which I gave you the link.

            Even Newton himself, as I referenced in my article, held that some other force had to keep a body in motion moving.

          • Ficino

            I mean temporally prior, as when Ari and Aq say that the father is the efficient cause of the offspring (e.g. at Meta. 1032a24).

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There are two types of causality described: per accidens, which does go back in time, as in the generation of offspring, and (2) per se or proper, which is simultaneous with the effect. That is why in the secunda via, St. Thomas says, "To take away the cause is to take away the effect." Now a father can die while the son remains alive -- so it is evident that this text does not apply to per accidens causality.

            Again, he also says, "... with the cessation of the cause, the effect also ceases ....." S.T., 1, 96, 3, ob. 3. Note that this refers to what he calls "proper" causality -- so that per accidens causation should be understood not to be the truest form of causality for the philosopher. The reason is that, while the father may be a causal factor in bringing his son into existence, he is not the real reason his son continues to exist.

            Edit: The entire efficacy of the causality analysed in the Five Ways must be understood to depend exclusively as based on proper causality, where the cause must be simultaneous with its effect, not on causality that goes back in time. Per accidens causality will never get you back to a First Cause Uncaused.

            Edit: Just to be clear, the causality I am speaking about with respect to Newtonian inertia is NOT one entailing temporal priority, but rather proper causality in which the cause must be simultaneous with its effect.

          • Ficino

            Yes, the above distinction and the work to which defenders of cosmological arguments put it have been discussed many times on here, so I will not add anything more. I suspect that Nova Conceptum knows more physics than I, and he may have further responses to make.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Physicists view causality as going back in time, as a series of sequential events -- subject to mathematically precise analysis. I have no problem with that -- in physics.

            It just happens that metaphysicians are not talking about that meaning of causality at all, as you well understand.

          • Ficino

            Again, he also says, "... with the cessation of the cause, the effect also ceases ....." S.T., 1, 96, 3, ob. 3. Note that this refers to what he calls "proper" causality -- so that per accidens causation should be understood not to be the truest form of causality for the philosopher.

            Here I go adding something after all, really in response to your last, but I'm replying directly to the above and then folding in the distinction you made in your last between how physicists view causality and how "metaphysicians" view causality.

            One might think from your wording ("the philosopher") that all or most philosophers and metaphysicians, when they work on causality in nature, concern themselves primarily with hierarchical series of causes ordered per se and NOT with series of causes ordered per accidens. I have never seen anyone but Thomists appeal to this distinction in discussions of causality in nature. And it's only Thomists whom I see insisting on keeping conclusions of research in physics out of metaphysical discussions of causality in nature. Some metaphysicians do the opposite, urging their colleagues to apply the fruits of scientific investigation to their work in metaphysics. I have seen James Ladyman criticized on Thomist discussion boards, but he's someone I've read who urges metaphysicians to inform their investigations of notions like cause, space, time, etc., with up-to-date science.

            I say "causality in nature" because the milieu in which I do see emphasis put on the per se / per accidens distinction in causal series is Thomistic defenses of cosmological arguments that work from changes undergone by bodies.

            And where I see per se causal hierarchies put to work is in arguments for the existence of the god of classical theism. I never see the notion put to other work, esp. by people seeking new knowledge. Perhaps it is found in moral or political philosophy (e.g. re a hierarchy of ministers who are instrumental in carrying out the command of their sovereign). I do see non-Thomists contend that causal series ordered per se collapse in the end into accidental/linear causal series anyway. I don't know enough to have convictions about that, but when I see such contentions opposed, it's usually from the angle, "Now you're dragging science in again, and scientism refutes itself." I'm suspicious when empirical evidence is ruled out of court for explanations of change in nature.

            I may be unfair in the above observations, but I really don't think so. I see these tactics a lot.

            It doesn't follow from this that those who use these tactics are in error. But the tactics do give me a lot of pause about the A-T enterprise. Sextus Empiricus likes to point out that people don't disagree over what is fact by nature (at least, I'd note, on the macro level, e.g. stare into the sun and you're likely to damage your eyes), so that the centuries-long disagreements of his dogmatic opponents suggest that their theses are not expressions of what is just fact by nature.

            OK, gents, carry on.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I have neither the time nor inclination to reply to that lengthy comment, but might make a couple points.

            First, I can see why per accidens causality is important, not only in physics and other natural sciences, but also in historical, sociological, and psychological contexts.

            The reason is simple. Per accidens causes are also per se causes of coming to be. For example, John, in the act of conceiving, James, is here and now acting on Jill to produce embryonic James. Celestial bodies, acting here and now as per se causes, change the orbits or vectors of other celestial bodies, so that they proceed in new directions. But once the new directions and momentum are produced, the bodies that produced those changes are no longer "in the picture," but they have changed the history of the planets involved.

            Now their per se causality is in the past and is per accidens with respect to events that happen later on in the history of the bodies involved.

            Since most events we study in history, astronomy, politics, and physics take place as described above, the sciences that study them are vitally concerned with understanding the causes that change the course of history or produce changes in the physical world whose effects we study today.

            So, I have no problem with all that, nor with your observation that the bulk of our understanding of the world is wrapped up in per accidens causal processes.

            But the central importance of per se causality to metaphysicians -- mostly Thomists if you insist! -- is that understanding why the world exists as it does at this moment in time must be explained by causes, not existing in the past, but existing in the present to cause effects in the present.

            Causes in the past are critical to understand the coming to be of the world as it exists right now. But solely causes existing right now can explain why the world exists as it does at this moment, why it is changing as it is at this time, and why it exists at all.

            Since those questions are primarily of concern to those whose study of being leads to the conclusion of the existence of the First Cause Uncaused, existing here and now to create and sustain the cosmos existing right now, that is why mostly Thomist metaphysicians may be the only folks you notice so concerned with per se causality.

          • Ficino

            I think we both often wind up writing more than we expect to in a given combox!

            I am fine with most of yours above, but I think that beyond the macro level -- e.g. Edward Feser's coffee becoming cold in the cup -- the Thomistic appeal to hierarchical series of causes ordered per se will yield less robust accounts of natural change than its exponents hope. Others will have worked on the following in much more depth, but I suspect that at least two of the natural effects to which you refer, sc. "the event" and "the present," will cash out as artifacts of our analysis and abstraction, as features of models.

            For example, John, in the act of conceiving, James, is here and now acting on Jill to produce embryonic James.

            My undersanding is, what you represent in this example as an "event" in the "present," the "act" of conceiving, is in fact a process that on the micro level goes through a plethora of steps and lasts c. 12 hours. This is why I suggested earlier that per se series of causes will at least often collapse into series ordered per accidens. It is on the observer to denominate the event measured/studied. And when the observer opens his/her mouth to define the event, the present has already receded into the past before the observer can complete the sentence. It is the intellect that grasps the continuum of time; nothing of time is actual except NOW (Aq. In III Phys. l. 12 C394, l. 13 C404), and the NOW that was actual when I started typing this sentence is no longer actual. My fingers didn't even move continuously, though my intellect bundles together their movements in connection to the finished text so as to represent a single "action" for analysis. There's propagation delay, and the end may well be achieved in stages over time.

            I am thinking that we may know better how we model and talk about reality than know reality in itself. So I reserve judgment about a posteriori proofs of God (or other constituents of speculative metaphysical systems), when the empirical facts to which their exponents appeal may not match up to the schemes of organizing those facts (i.e. skeptical about the certainty that appeals to per se series can impart).

            As I read Aquinas, the important thing about causal series ordered hierarchically per se is not simultaneity but rather, the purely instrumental status of all the subordinate causes. The first cause controls "all the way down." But that's a different sort of claim.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            What you properly discern here is that we have problems picking good examples. The metaphysics is fine, but the examples can be bad. But we must remember that bad examples do not disprove the thesis. They only muddle it for onlookers.

            I plead guilty to a bad example on the micro level. But my only defense is that we often seek examples people can relate to and the idea of someone causing a pregnancy here and now is sufficiently graphic to contrast it with successive generations of per accidens causes from grandfather to father to son.

            If you insist on a perfect micro example, we might do better to think of the direct influence of one planet on another as it changes its vector or velocity. Metaphysics does not live or die by its examples.

            The intelligibility of the principles is defensible. If a thing is dependent here and now on some extrinsic sufficient reason, that thing is an effect and that on which it depends is a proper cause.

            Now you are permitted to find me a better example that fulfills the ontological concepts I just defined.

            I am well aware that at the micro level, causality takes place through time. Still, even at that level there must be force fields between engaging atoms that are colliding at the same moment, which gives rise to effected behaviors.

            No, I don't buy that proper causes are merely instrumental ones, even though they may be such. What makes them proper is immediate dependence of effect upon the cause. Physicists will forever be looking for micro events that concatenate backward through time. But that does not mean that some things do not depend here and now on others, since a cause existing in the past simply does not exist in the present to be causing whatever quality in something is not explained by itself as its own sufficient reason.

          • Nova Conceptum

            While it may not be possible to determine which object is in motion relative to another one, the reality of change is evident in that the relative distances or positions differ between the before and after of time frames.

            That is not a change in the object itself, only a change in its relationship to other objects.

            There simply is no requirement that no change to the object itself requires a changer of that object. To assert that is does is merely ad hoc speculation unsupported by evidence.

            Merely declaring that a body in motion tends to remain in motion describes what is taking place, but does not explain why it is taking place

            Because continued motion is not a change for the object in motion.

            I realize that might seem counterintuitive, but it can be shown in a variety of ways.
            If motion were a change then more motion would be more change. 10 times the rate of motion ten times the rate of change. 1000 times the rate of motion, a thousand times the rate of change.

            But a single object is moving 0m/s, and 10m/s, and 1000m/s all at the same time depending on the frame of reference chosen. How could a single object be changing at all these different rates simultaneously? The very idea is incoherent and unintelligible.

            It must then be the case that the object in uniform linear motion is not itself changing at all, and thus no changer is called for at all.

            What matters is that there is a real difference of some kind and real differences require real reasons for being different, which is where causes become necessary.

            Fair enough. The real difference is with the relationships within a reference frame. The real reasons are mutual interactions with other bodies in the past.

            Motion, like existence, persists. To change motion requires a changer. To change existence requires a changer. Persistent motion is no change in motion and therefor requires no changer. Persistent existence is no change in existence and therefor requires no changer.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You really do not "get it."

            Any change in relation in space between two or more objects is real, or else, nothing happens to differentiate the before and after. Motion is not a thing in itself. It entails a change in a real relation between two objects. It makes a difference to the objects. If you doubt this, take two slightly subcritical masses of U-238 and decrease the distance between them to nearly touching. But do it far from me, please.

            Motion entails a constant or inconstant change in the spatial relation between objects. It is not a thing in itself, but a really progressing change in an accidental mode of existence of the objects involved.

            It needs a reason, or else, there would be no difference between before and after. That reason is what we call a cause. It is not something that happened in the past because the past no longer exists.

            If progressive alterations in the spatial relations between two objects is taking place, and it cannot be explained by what happened in the past because the past no longer exists, then the reason that progressive change in relations is taking place here and now must exist here and now.

            Something that happened in the past may have initiated the changes that are now taking place, but it cannot account for the fact that continuing "new existence" is manifested by the continuing change in spatial relationships between the objects involved.

            That is to say, there must be a cause operating here and now to account for these ever-new accidental changes in the spatial relational modes of existence accidentally modifying the objects involved.

            Here you will revert to saying that inertia explains it all. But what you don't grasp is that inertia merely describes how the objects in motion behave. It does not explain how such behavior is possible, given the need for some explanation of the ever-changing relations between the objects involved.

            Physics does a good job of explaining how things behave, but it is hopelessly inept at explaining how to apply the principles of being applicable to reality, such as, the principle of sufficient reason.

            A cause is simply an extrinsic reason that explains something that the effect itself cannot explain. And objects in motion cannot explain their own motion, since it entails progressively new modes of existence (changing spatial relationships) which the objects in motion do not possess, since in the before state of their being they lacked the exact spatial locations qualities of being that they acquire in the after state of their being.

            Try reading my article on "new existence" again.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Let's look at Aristotle's explanation in Physics IV, some old ideas, perhaps as a precursor to some new ideas.

            Merely declaring that a body in motion tends to remain in motion describes what is taking place, but does not explain why it is taking place.

            "Further, no one could say why a thing once set in motion should stop anywhere; for why should it stop here rather than there? So that a thing will either be at rest or must be moved ad infinitum, unless something more powerful get in its way.

            Further, things are now thought to move into the void because it yields; but in a void this quality is present equally everywhere, so that things should move in all directions."

            Here Aristotle was discussing the void at length, and having noted that moving objects slow down in a denser medium he reasoned that in a void speed would therefore become infinite, which is, I think, some very strong reasoning, and we may find out that since the vacuum is not an absolute void that Aristotle had the correct basic idea with respect to the speed of light in a vacuum not being infinite.

            He reasoned that since speed could not be infinite there can be no void, and perhaps he was basically correct about that, since no absolute void has been observed.

            However, Aristotle also allowed for continued motions in a void. His reasoning was simple, there is nothing to stop a moving object once it is set in motion, and the choice of a stopping point would be arbitrary in a void, hence Aristotle reasoned the object would just keep going.

            For Aristotle sub-lunary motion was different than motion in a void. Sub-lunary motion is always through a medium, so motion will cease. The core of Aristotle's error is that motion does not cease, it becomes invisible to the human eye when transferred to submicroscopic objects. Motion continues here on Earth just as it does in space because we are all in space, everything is in space, it's just that we have a lot of neighbors right next to us in this region of space, but the same basic processes apply.

            Motion continues here on Earth for the same reasons Aristotle said motion continues in a void, there is nothing to stop it.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            That is all very interesting, but none of it addresses the logic of my arguments regarding how to explain the "newness" found in things in motion.

            Aristotle sounds like a fairly good scientist, does he not. In fact, he was. In fact, he discovered that the octopus has an "arm" that is used in mating -- a fact denied by scientists until they finally noticed it themselves about a hundred years ago.

            Again, we know that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion unless some medium slows or stops them. That is nothing but to restate Newton's thesis. But, in no way does it explain how this is possible without recourse to a continuing cause acting on the object in motion.

            Edit: When you say that motion continues in a void because there is nothing to stop it, you ignore the fact that any type of motion manifests, as I put it in my article, "new existence," which needs to be explained. Precisely because it is "new," the "old" previous states of that which is in motion cannot explain it.

            Either the new is really different from the old or not. If not, then change is, as Parmenides insisted, an illusion. But if it really is different, where does the "newness" come from. It cannot come from the "old," since the "old" is old precisely because it fails to contain that which distinguished the new from the old, the "after" from the"before." It is all in my article about "new existence."

          • Nova Conceptum

            Again, we know that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion unless some medium slows or stops them. That is nothing but to restate Newton's thesis.

            The call for a first mover stems from observing continued motion in a medium. Since an inanimate object slows and stops in a medium if we observe continued motion in a medium we are logically required to attribute that motion to a mover.

            That is the core of act/pot analysis of motion that leads to the first way and the assertion of the necessity of an unmoving first mover to terminate a hierarchical causal regress of motions.

            Aristotle recognized that no such mover is called for in the case of motion in a void. For Aristotle simply moving from here to there was not a case of act/pot that called for a changer or mover. He did not see motion in a void as a case of change for the object in motion that would call for a changer.

            Therefore, the first way is entirely based on motion in a medium, and has no logical force whatever when considering motion in a void.

            Where both A and T went wrong is in not realizing all motion is in the functional equivalent of the void, the vacuum, space.

            Therefore, we can say, the first way is null and void :-)

            you ignore the fact that any type of motion manifests, as I put it in my article, "new existence," which needs to be explained. Precisely because it is "new," the "old" previous states of that which is in motion cannot explain it.

            I read that article and am working on a critique of it, so I am sure you are now anxiously awaiting that post!

            In short, nothing existentially new comes into being in the process of motion. Form changes, existence does not.

            If we were to observe the disappearance of material into nothing that would be a change calling for an existential changer.

            If we were to observe the appearance of material from nothing that would be a change calling for an existential changer.

            If we observe the same amount of material in a different form that is not an existential change so no existential changer is called for, however, a changer of form is called for.

            All change is mutual and temporal. The designation of the being changed and the being that is changer is arbitrary. The designation of cause and effect is arbitrary.

            Zero change occurs in zero time, so a moment of zero time cannot be the simultaneity of change. An extended period of time cannot be the moment of simultaneity either, since any particular finite period can be further divided.

            That leaves us with the limit function, or what might be somewhat onerously called the infinitesimal as the definition for the moment of simultaneity of change, in the case time is not quantized. If time is quantized then the smallest unit of time is the moment of simultaneity of change.

            In all this there simply is no "new existence" associated with change. Change is only a change of form, not a change of existent material, existent material being conserved because conservation of material is no change in the being of material.

            Change of form is continuous if time is continuous, continual if time is quantized, mutual, and temporal. "New existence" simply does not enter into the process of change.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            When I started college, I thought that the "hard sciences" were the only real sciences, and that physics was the basis for all the other hard sciences. This convinced me that physics was the ultimate genuine science.

            I know it is hard for those devoted to physics to conceive or admit that another distinct rational science like metaphysics can be legitimate, especially when its claimed inferences appear not to be empirically verifiable.

            Nonetheless, metaphysics does exist. And it is the rational science, not merely of movable being as physics is, but of being as being, which includes both physics and the study of those substances that are real, but are not material.

            You tell me a lot about what you think Aristotle held about the first way and why things in motion need no cause for their continued motion. Frankly, even if what you say were true, it does not concern me, because I am not an Aristotelian, but a Thomist. And, as a modern Thomist, I don't care even if St. Thomas was wrong about bodies in motion staying in motion either in a medium or not in a medium.

            What matters is the argument I put forth in the SN article you intend to refute. And there, I argue that any change in spatio-temporal reality needs an extrinsic cause or mover to explain it. You need to answer the arguments I gave in that article, which you do not do by rebutting an argument you glean from Aristotle's physics, which is based on an outdated cosmology anyway.

            >"In all this there simply is no "new existence" associated with change. Change is only a change of form, not a change of existent material, existent material being conserved because conservation of material is no change in the being of material."

            The rest of your comment is summarized in the above quote, which shows that you may know some physics, but you do not grasp metaphysics.

            "New existence" need not mean new substantial existence, but can merely mean a change in any form of existence, such as position in space-time -- precisely in contradiction to your claim above.

            Of course a change of form is a "change of existent material." What you seem to be confusing here is substantial change with accidental change.

            In Thomism, a change of form may be either a change in the accidental or substantial existence of a substance.

            Thus, even a merely accidental change in form that brings about some new quality or mode of being, such as a mere change in spatio-temporal condition or position -- even if the thing changed does not cease to be or come into being -- is precisely a form of "new existence," which needs to be causally explained.

            While not identical to existence, form is not divorced from existence, since form is merely the principle that limits or determines the manner in which existence is manifested in act.

            It is all contained in my article, which you seek to refute.
            https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

          • Ficino

            Am I right to think that if a body is in linear motion at constant velocity through no medium, and it passes from point B in relation to A to point C in relation to A, the "newness" of its location at C requires that the change from potentially at C to actually at C be caused by a First Unmoved Mover? In other words, even if the continuance of the body's locomotion on Newtonian mechanics needs no efficient cause, the "newness" of location at C can only be caused by a chain of movers moved by the UM?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There might be some steps needed to get from the initial data to a First Mover, but the essential datum is that something is undergoing a change that it cannot itself explain, and thus, something else must be causing such change. You don't even have to know which body is moving in order to make the argument, since one or more bodies must be undergoing an accidental change.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Frankly, even if what you say were true, it does not concern me, because I am not an Aristotelian, but a Thomist. And, as a modern Thomist, I don't care even if St. Thomas was wrong about bodies in motion staying
            in motion either in a medium or not in a medium.

            Fair enough, argument from authority is not a valid method of logical proof. But I have noticed you do give a degree of greater serious consideration to certain individuals, such as Popper. Some degree of weighted consideration is a practical approach, for example I consider the medical advice of my medical doctor more seriously than that of the person next to me in the checkout line.

            So, given that Aristotle showed no need to invoke an act/pot analysis for motion in a void, whereas his act/pot view of motion in a medium is the core of the First Way, I just thought that might be taken a bit more seriously than some guy posting on a blog.

            As always, thank you for taking the time to engage on these interesting subjects, I posted an initial response at the above provided link.

          • Nova Conceptum

            Here are some brief expansions on the items listed in my previous post.

            Exists outside of time.
            God is also asserted to do different things at different times. To simultaneously assert god is doing different things at different times and is also utterly outside of time is incoherent.

            Immaterial existence.
            If an existent thing is not material then it does not actually exist. There is no observed necessity for material other than what is actually observed, but if anglestuff or godstuff or spiritstuff is ever discovered it will simply be another sort of material. If spiritstuff has no properties then it does not exist, so the very notion of an immaterial existence is incoherent.

            God is the good.
            Good and bad are individual judgements, thought processes, sensibilities, brain functions. Good is not a thing or an object, or a substance that a thing can be made of, so to say god is the good is incoherent.

            Exists outside of space.
            God is said to do different things at different locations. To assert god does things at different spatial coordinates and is also utterly outside of space is incoherent.

            Omniscience and free will.
            If any being anywhere is omniscient then all future events are strictly determined since all beings can only do what the omniscient being knows will be done. An assertion requiring strict determinism in conjunction with free will is incoherent.

            Unchanging changer.
            God is said to do different things and different places and at different times which are necessarily changes in what god is doing so to simultaneously assert god is unchanging while he changes his actions is incoherent.

            Eternal now.
            These a simply two disjoint word put together into an incoherent term, a combination of opposites as though they were they were simultaneously compatible is incoherent.

            Being itself
            Being is always of a thing. This term is as incoherent as left itself.

            Pure act
            Actuality is always of a thing. To assert an actualization of nothing is incoherent.

            Omniscient simplicity
            Knowledge requires differentiation, information storage and processing, a state of orientation change, marks on paper, brain cell states. To assert a homogeneous yet knowledgeable being is incoherent.

          • You raised your list of objections and they were addressed in the earlier comments, much of which had to do with pointing out the fact that you didn’t really address the premises given but merely went about changing the definitions given with respect to Being Itself and Etc. Then, based on your new definitions, you now again merely re-assert your objections. You’ve a strict Materialist’s / Physicalist’s mode of thinking. And yet you’re attempting to interact with the contingent abstractions of contingent minds vis-à-vis the perception that in fact To Be is not the equivalent of To-Be-Material.

            Dr. Bonnette pointed out that key flaw in your approach and your own bizarre treatment of Pure Act is an easy example. In the same way your own treatment of Time as an Absolute violates BOTH the Christian terms with respect to Being Itself / Pure Act Etc. AND the natural sciences v. physics whereby we find convergence in the affirmation that Time is neither an Absolute Reference Frame nor the Absolute's Own Frame of Reference. The evidence weights heavily towards Eternalism over Presentism such that Time is ontologically emergent — it is not an irreducible feature of reality’s fundamental nature. Yet you cannot get your own physicalist’s thinking beyond it.

            BTW:

            BOTH Eternalism/Presentism force reductions to absurdity within Metaphysical Naturalism.
            BOTH comport with the Christian Metaphysic.

            Therefore:

            The Ontological History of Becoming vis-à-vis Cosmos & Conscious Observer is not satisfied with, and even scoffs at, the Non-Theistic insistence upon Time with respect to 1 Nanosecond and/or 1 Day and/or 1000 Years – and even with its attempt at owning Timelessness.

            Dr. Carroll looks at such things in “Something Deeply Hidden: Quantum Worlds and the Emergence of Spacetime” which is at https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B07NTYJJDX/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr= …..and his break down of that same topic can be seen also in “Is the Passage of Time Real or Just an Illusion?” which is at https://strangenotions.com/is-the-passage-of-time-real-or-just-an-illusion/ — Time is at bottom emergent and is not an ontological (fundamental) feature of reality’s concrete furniture and while physics there affirms the Metanarrative which the Christian Metaphysic has affirmed for eons, it is elegant to observe Modernity converging with such syntax.

            ‪So “Time” vis-à-vis “Change” becomes a Currency devoid of value & Metaphysical Naturalism becomes Allegorical / Metaphorical. The [Beginning Of Time] just is the [Beginning of Change]. Therefore we ask: Is Genesis 1—3 Allegorical / Metaphorical? Or is Metaphysical Naturalism the real Allegory / Metaphor? Well it’s the later of course but then what do we do with Genesis 1, 2, & 3? See the following:‬

            Divine Communique vs. Divine Scripture vs. Allegory vs. Metaphor:

            Part 1 – http://disq.us/p/1te6iow
            Part 2 – http://disq.us/p/20bquai

            Question: The Greatest Allegory Ever??
            Answer: Non-Theism / Metaphysical Naturalism.

          • In part (not entirely) a follow up to the content in my reply to you in http://disq.us/p/22rjuaq is the following as it has relevant content as well:

            The Necessity of God’s Freedom In The Creative Act
            ...&...
            Segues Into The Freedom Of The Imago Dei

            [1] “Divine Necessity And Created Contingence In Aquinas” by Peter Laughlin – at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1468-2265.2009.00476.x

            [2] “The Abundance Theory of Creation” by W.L. Craig – at https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/the-abundance-theory-of-creation/

            [3] http://disq.us/p/1lpy1cn which is also at https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/are_metaphysical_first_principles_universally_true/#comment-3490150487

            [4] http://disq.us/p/1lz8b5h which is also at https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/what_is_the_true_understanding_of_causality/#comment-3505746293

            [5] http://disq.us/p/1nccip3 which is also at https://disqus.com/home/discussion/strangenotions/brute_facts_vs_sufficient_reasons/#comment-3588243879

            [6] http://disq.us/p/1qskyk5 which is also at https://strangenotions.com/how-cosmic-existence-reveals-gods-reality/#comment-3796910069

            [7] How Human Free Will Harmonizes with “Sufficient Reason” – at https://strangenotions.com/how-human-free-will-harmonizes-with-sufficient-reason/

            [8] How “New Existence” Implies God – at https://strangenotions.com/how-new-existence-implies-god/

            [9] See also: Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, God: His Existence and His Nature, Volume II (B. Herder Book Co., 1936), 268-365, 465-562 (https://www.amazon.com/God-Existence-Nature-Thomistic-Solution/dp/1537718975/?tag=stno-20).

            [10] Being’s Superseding Ontic Over Both Material And Non-Being – at https://metachristianity.com/beings-superseding-ontic-over-both-material-and-non-being/

            A Challenge:

            If god already knows everything then he already knows that in the future he will do X.

            If, when the time comes he chooses to do Y then he was not omniscient.

            If he knows now that he will later do Y instead of X and then he does Y he is not free, as he can only do the thing he already knows he will do..

            Since god has always known everything there has never been a time when he ever did change his mind or could change his mind. If god is omniscient he always has been and always will be locked into a single set of actions,

            The omniscient god is a slave to his own perfect knowledge, just a robot operating a single predetermined sequence for eternity without any freedom whatsoever. (from http://disq.us/p/22kst8j )

            Reply:

            Regarding your conclusion: Your syntax doesn’t allow for the Ultimate Singularity – namely what D.B. Hart terms the Metaphysical Wellspring of all ontological possibility – and that of course is Pure Act vis-à-vis Being Itself. You’re enslaving [Pure Act in Ceaseless Choice Amid All ontological possibility] to [Foreknowledge] when in fact [Foreknowledge] is enslaved to (echoes) [Pure Act in Ceaseless Choice amid all ontological possibility]. You’re also equating Pure Act to this or that ontological possibility which equates The Necessary to the contingent. Pure Act does not “Become” with respect to Time & Timelessness. Pure Act does not “Become” with respect to the First Adam. Pure Act does not “Become” with respect to the Last Adam. To attempt the claim of, “Pure Act Becomes” entails an Uphill Ontic with respect to Pure Act (…which is a metaphysical absurdity…). Instead we find the Principle of Proportionate Causality even as we find Pure Act in the Downhill Ontic revealing – Communicating – all ontic possibility. Logos in descent.

            On the content of the principle of proportionate causality the content at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html is insightful. A brief excerpt:

            “…The idea is perhaps best stated in Platonic terms of the sort Aquinas uses (in an Aristotelianized form) in the Fourth Way. To be a tree or to be a stone is merely to participate in “treeness” or “stoneness.” But to be at all – which is the characteristic effect of an act of creation out of nothing – is to participate in Being Itself. Now the principle of proportionate causality tells us that whatever is in an effect must be in some way in its cause. And only that which just is Being Itself can, in this case, be a cause proportionate to the effect, since the effect is not merely to be a tree or to be a stone, but to be at all.…”

            Obviously “Fore” in foreknowledge is shorthand — but that doesn’t matter wrt the point. Timelessness v. Pure Act isn’t constrained by ANY vector of [The Created X].

            Another reply by Dr. Bonnette: http://disq.us/p/22laljv

            That conversation continues:
            [1] http://disq.us/p/22lcewi
            [2] http://disq.us/p/22lnpts
            [3] http://disq.us/p/22m2mmm
            [4] http://disq.us/p/22m3e1h

            Etc… Etc… in that thread…. For the sake of reference several helpful comments from there are listed here:

            http://disq.us/p/22mb75v
            http://disq.us/p/22mc3kn
            http://disq.us/p/22mln5o
            http://disq.us/p/22mncbl
            http://disq.us/p/22mohdr
            http://disq.us/p/22mv02k
            http://disq.us/p/22mxer2
            http://disq.us/p/22n3e20
            http://disq.us/p/22n4mdu
            http://disq.us/p/22nbr82
            http://disq.us/p/22mq1zn
            http://disq.us/p/22nbuli
            http://disq.us/p/22olulv
            http://disq.us/p/22lafgm
            http://disq.us/p/22rjuaq

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Sorry, off hand I think the subject has been covered rather completely by the sources your cite. With respect to goods less than his own being and goodness, God is completely free to create or not create. Is there a particular problem? The whole point of divine freedom is that it is not necessitated!

            It was the Neo-Platonists that got involved in God having to create by some sort of necessary emanation. As you know, that logically entails forms of pantheism, since you cannot then define God without reference to creatures on whose creation his very nature depends.

          • The Necessity of God’s Freedom In The Creative Act
            …&…
            Segues Into The Freedom Of The Imago Dei

            Part 1— http://disq.us/p/22rjuaq
            Part 2— http://disq.us/p/22rk7r9

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Sorry, I was off finishing off our basketball season :-)

            What if the maximally good thing to do is to allow the existence and foster the creativity of that which is not you? (And, if you are God, then "that which is not you" is necessarily imperfect.)

            Does a perfect father compel the maximal goodness of his children? Or does he give up some control so that the children are free to develop their own identities?

            If perfect being expresses itself through a gratuitous, free, other-than-itself, imperfect creation, are there not many imperfect options from which to choose with respect to that creation?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Enough philosophizing for now. What do you think of Sigur Ros?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I like them. I really enjoy the post-metal side of post rock. Have you heard any Agalloch?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Hadn't heard of them, but gave them a listen over the last couple days. I can get into the instrumental side of their music, but I would like them better without the big scary voice thing. This probably just means I'm getting old and crotchety, but whenever anyone other than Metallica has adopted that singing style, it has always seemed a bit self-parodic and not-quite-authentic to me. I can get into pretty dark music, but that voice thing wrecks it for me.

            No offense I hope :-) Still love to get the new recommendations!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I hear you. How I feel about he growling and screaming depends on the band. Graveworm's cover of Bon Jovi's Runaway is parodic. Pretty sure I started laughing the first time I heard it. On the other hand, if you are singing about despair, alienation, death, war, etc the screaming and growling can be pretty appropriate. Especially post-black metal. (I didn't think I would ever mention black metal on a Catholic website.)

            If you like clean vocals, there are quite a few bands that keep the vocals clean. You might like Lord Vicar. They are one of my favorite underground metal bands. Their last album Gates of Flesh is really good. My brother prefers the album before it, Fear no Pain which is also really good.

            No offense, of course. If we all liked the exact same music it would be boring.

            Happy Easter!!!

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Happy Easter to you, Ignatius Reilly.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are perfect beings free or do they do what perfect beings must do?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            If perfect being is not free than it doesn't sound very perfect to me.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Regarding whether "being itself" is a thing, here is an interesting tidbit from Wikipedia:

            Martin Heidegger said that the original meaning of the word ousia was lost in its translation to the Latin, and, subsequently, in its translation to modern languages. For him, ousia means Being, not substance, that is, not some thing or some being that "stood" (-stance) "under" (sub-).

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ousia

            So, I guess it comes down to whether "thing" is an adequate translation of "ousia".

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Harold,

            Thanks for the reply.

            [Even if our universe had a beginning, it does not follow that the universe came out of "nothing." It's a giant non-sequitur.]

            I agree.

            If our universe had a beginning - as all the evidence we have points to - what do you think caused it?

          • If our universe had a beginning - as all the evidence we have points to - what do you think caused it?

            Did you read any of my earlier comments? I quite literally addressed this already: I don't know, and neither do you.

          • SpokenMind

            Hi Harold,

            [Did you read any of my earlier comments? I quite literally addressed this already: I don't know, and neither do you.]

            Forgive me – I hopped in mid-conversation and didn’t read your earlier comments.

            I believe God is the cause of this universe. That being said, I think we both would agree God has not been logically proven to have created the universe and that it would be a non-sequitur to say so. You seem like an intelligent person and have reasonably concluded that you don’t know how the universe was created. That is of course a legitimate answer.

            In my opinion, there is never going to be an argument and/or proof that definitively explains how the universe was created, though I do think that the universe having a beginning is a place where one could apply faith.

            To me, there has to be a reason why the stuff of our universe (space, time, matter, etc.) comes out of nothing (no space, no time, no matter, etc.) Seems like a miracle. Something like this doesn’t just happen. I say it is more plausible that an intelligent, supernatural power caused the universe, though I completely respect anyone who thinks differently than I.

            I think it’s possible for two intelligent, reasonable people to draw different conclusions from the same evidence.

            All the best!

          • I believe God is the cause of this universe.

            Okay. That's nice.

            ...though I do think that the universe having a beginning is a place where one could apply faith.

            Why should one apply "faith" to this area? It seems to me that this just becomes another god of the gaps style argument from ignorance. I don't see how we know enough that we can make a rational, positive, statement about the origin of the universe, even assuming that it makes sense to talk about.

            To me, there has to be a reason why the stuff of our universe (space, time, matter, etc.) comes out of nothing (no space, no time, no matter, etc.)

            There may be a reason, there may not be a reason. I'm not the one making claims that our universe requires a necessary being to make it so (a position I see as far from justified.)

            Seems like a miracle. Something like this doesn’t just happen.

            How do you know? People said the same about lots of other events in the past, until we actually understood the mechanism behind the event. The fact that you cannot explain the possible origins of the universe doesn't justify belief that a "miracle" (as in a divine act) actually happened.

            I say it is more plausible that an intelligent, supernatural power caused the universe

            Wow... What exactly is the "supernatural"? Can you define it in positive terms? Can you actually establish anything that falls into this "supernatural" category, or is it just a placeholder for stuff we don't understand?

            The simple fact remains a problem for saying that a "supernatural power caused the universe": We cannot establish supernatural causation!

            From an inductive point of view, you have absolutely no basis to assume an intelligent being that is not material. All of our experience tells us that minds are the products of physical brains, and only physical brains (note that the brain doesn't have to be organic.) I simply fail to see how such a belief can be justified.

            I think it’s possible for two intelligent, reasonable people to draw different conclusions from the same evidence.

            Sure, when you start with different assumptions, you can get to different conclusions. It's doesn't mean that both conclusions are rational! You seem to believe that "supernatural" is a meaningful term, and that it's rational to accept supernatural causes. I don't share these assumptions, As far as I'm concerned, it's not rational to solve a mystery by appealing to an even bigger mystery.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This was already covered in the OP:

            "What first stands out is the fact that absolutely no one claims that the cosmos actually appeared out of nowhere and from absolutely nothing. Atheists either claim it always existed in some physical form or other, or else, attempt the bait and switch of claiming it came from nothing – but the “nothing” turns out to be the actual something of the quantum vacuum as explained above. In proclaiming the Christian doctrine of true creation in time, theists do not hold that the cosmos arose from absolutely nothing either. Rather, they say the world was made by the power of the eternal God."

    • We are using reason, not intuition.

      • Reason doesn't operate in a vacuum. Many of the premises used in cosmological arguments are formed from our intuition, particularly the nature of causality.

        • Dennis Bonnette

          It sounds to me like what you call intuition is actually some of our most basic rational certitudes, such as that you cannot get being from non-being. If these are mere intuitions, then what do you make of the far less certain and less universal scientific theorems that are based on mere repetition of associations of phenomena?

          • It sounds to me like what you call intuition is actually some of our most basic rational certitudes, such as that you cannot get being from non-being

            I've stated earlier that: "I'll tentatively agree that things that don't exist should not be rationally accepted as causes." If this is what you mean, fine. I do not accept that "you cannot get being from non-being", whatever this statement means.

            If these are mere intuitions, then what do you make of the far less certain and less universal scientific theorems that are based on mere repetition of associations of phenomena?

            First off, science doesn't produce theorems, mathematics does. Science produces theories, and there is a significant difference between a theorem and a theory. A theorem is deductively derived from axioms and can be proven based on those axioms. A theory is inductively derived from empirical data to explain a given phenomena.

            Theories are also not universal, nor are they certain. Everything produced by science is tentative, and subject to revision with further data. There is no "universal certitude" about anything in science as there are no true synthetic propositions.

            Now, let me offer you an example of how our intuition sometimes goes awry:

            1. All things that are caused are caused by a rearrangement of existing material (what Aristotle would have called the material cause)

            2. If the universe was caused, then it must have been caused from already existing stuff

            3. Therefore there could never have been a creation ex nihilo

            If you can't point me to something that we can confirm is a creation ex nihilo, our intuition surely tells us that premise 1 is true, and we have a near universal certitude of it. And further, if the above doesn't highlight the problems with intuitive arguments, I don't know if anything will.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I hate to defuse what appears to be an excellent point about the difference between theorems and theories, but I already do know that distinction. My use of "theorems" above can be explained easily. It was a simple typo that I did not catch. I should have said "theories."

            But as to your premise that "All things that are caused are caused by a rearrangement of existing material," that is simply the assumption of materialism -- an assumption that you cannot prove from mere inductive observation.

            You admit that it has only "near universal certitude." But it is worse than that. You are actually employing the very principle that you claim is a mere intuition, namely, that you cannot get being from non-being -- in order to get your "near certitude." All you can really say about your premise is that your prior experience appears to support your claim. Hume makes short work of such claims when you try to make them universal, since he points out that you cannot go logically from the particular to the universal.

            But the intellect can and does form a universal with certitude when it sees that being and non-being are so opposed that you cannot get the former from the latter. And that is what you actually are doing when you universalize your claim that you cannot get new "things" except by rearranging matter.

            What this really means is that you cannot get the "rearrangement" from what has not yet been "rearranged," which is simply an application of the principle that you cannot get something from what lacks it, or, you cannot get being from non-being.

            Thus, your "near universal certitude" is derived from a finite number of observations (which could never lead to universality), which are then boosted to "near universal certitude" by applying to them the insight of the very principle you claim to deny as a mere "intuition," namely, that you cannot get being from non-being.

            As for mere rearrangement actually explaining any really new things or aspects of reality in the cosmos, I actually addressed this claim in a prior OP, entitled: "Whatever is moved is moved by another." https://strangenotions.com/whatever-is-moved-is-moved-by-another/
            Of course, in that prior OP, I did employ the principle that you cannot get being from non-being.

            P.S. If you claim that I fail to prove my arguments, then you are again employing the same principle, namely, by trying to show that the "being" of my conclusion is not supported by the "being" of my starting points and reasoning, that is, my argument lacks the "being" to sustain my conclusion. In a word, it is "non-being" with respect to my conclusion's "being," and you are assuming that I cannot licitly get that "being" from the "non-being" of my argument.

          • Jim the Scott

            It is fun watching a professor debate a laymen. ;-)

  • George

    Is the universe also intelligently designed to evenly disperse into a heat death?

    • Rob Abney

      Did you mistake this OP for a defense of Intelligent Design?

      • Dennis Bonnette

        Some people say, "I can't believe that God exists."

        In light of the force of argument in my OP, I am tempted to say, "I can't believe that the cosmos exists."

        Of course, it does. And thus, so must God.

        • Ben

          I here you.
          A deist might ask an atheist, "What would it take to convince you that God does exist?" then an atheist might ask the deist, "What would it take to convince you that God does NOT exist?"

          For me, if God is the ground of all being or being itself, it's like asking me “What would it take to convince you that being itself does not exist?” or perhaps like asking “What would it take to convince you that existence does not exist?”

          Of course, it does. And thus, so must God.

      • George

        No.

    • ClayJames

      This reminds me of the New Atheist argument saying that if God is such a good designer, why do we break down and eventually die.

      Almost as if us not dying would be part of God´s design.

      • David Nickol

        Almost as if us not dying would be part of God´s design.

        But that is the Christian belief—that Adam and Eve were created to live forever, but their disobedience brought death upon them and all their descendants. Here is the pertinent paragraph from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

        1008 Death is a consequence of sin. the Church's Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man's sin. Even though man's nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. "Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned" is thus "the last enemy" of man left to be conquered.

  • Pandeism Is Possible

    The most parsimonious explanation supported by the facts set forth here is Pandeism. Any Creator able to create ex nihilo must have the power to create ex materia. If it didn't, how could it lack power over its own substance? And yet, if all the proof presented can be accounted for by creation ex materia, what use remains of the additional presumption of creation ex nihilo, with no proof remaining for adding this?

    • Rob Abney

      Can you explain this? Are you suggesting that God would have to create Himself?

      • Pandeism Is Possible

        Since we now know that time is nonlinear at large high-gravity scales, that is entirely possible. The entire Universe might be a big curve in time, which ends by creating its own Creator, which then creates its beginning of time.

        • Rob Abney

          Can you support your position with reasoning rather than just possibility? For instance can you explain how how a creator could create himself, that seems to violate the principle of non-contradiction since the creator would have to exist and not exist at the same time.

          • Pandeism Is Possible

            It never has to both exist and not exist, it exists, and when the end of time loops around, it ends its own end-of-time self in the same act as at creates its new (beginning-of-time) self.

    • The most parsimonious explanation supported by the facts set forth here is Pandeism

      How exactly is Pandeism the most parsimonious explanation? How is any kind of deity ever the most simple explanation for any set of facts?

      • Pandeism Is Possible

        It is where no scenario without a Creator is explanatory. "There is no Creator" is a denial of an explanation, but is not an explanation in itself. "Everything happened without a Creator" is just a rewording of that denial until the alternative mechanism is demonstrated to be effective.

  • nbtac42

    'the universe can simply exist' - does Carroll mean that the universe is eternal? if that is so, then why life needs to get a humble beginning? why no life exists in other corners of the universe?

  • Dr Bonnette does not have any basis to assert how much "power" it would take to create a chicken from no material. He has no clue of what is required to do this even if it is possible. His invoking of the concept of power to do this engages materialistic intuitions of energy and work.

    What is immaterial or divine "power" does it make sense to call this "power"? We can't really even speculate. This is like Hawkings imaginary time speculation.

    We might say only that if material reality were created by something non-material, the creator would need the capacity to do this. What this capacity would be or any ability to quantify it is utterly unknown to us.

    We don't know the origins of the big bang, material or otherwise.

    • Rob Abney

      What this capacity would be or any ability to quantify it is utterly unknown to us.

      there is no proportion at all between non-being and being, there is no way to measure the power required to posit this act

      Those two statements seem to say the same thing, yet you disagree with Dr Bonnette's statement. Did you actually read the article or did you just not understand it?

      • He says infinite power is required. I am saying there is no basis for this statement .

        No one knows what is required to bring matter into existence, if it is even possible. He cannot say it's infinite or finite. Indeed we have no idea what he means by power. So why cannot we say it could take only a small amount of immaterial power. Or none at all. The entire section is baseless speculation .

        • Rob Abney

          He cannot say it's infinite or finite.

          He explained why it cannot be finite, that only leaves the one other option - infinite.

          Indeed we have no idea what he means by power.

          Yes, that is obvious, why don't you suggest a definition.

          So why cannot we say it could take only a small amount of immaterial power. Or none at all. The entire section is baseless speculation

          Why do you object so much when you don't understand any of it, consider asking for clarification instead.

          • He did not explain why it cannot be finite, he has no way of determining this. For example why not say "But to produce a chicken from no preexisting matter requires VERY LITTLE power, since there is no proportion at all between nothing and something." OR "But to produce a chicken from no preexisting matter requires NO power, since there is no proportion at all between nothing and something."

            I cannot suggest a definition because he is speculating about a cosmology for which we have zero information. I have no idea what he means by power or what concept he is trying to invoke.

            I understand the Big Bang and that is why I know he is just making stuff up. He has given no basis to substantiate his claims. Nor can he if he is applying big Bang cosmology. The singularity by definition precludes any inferences about causation.

          • Rob Abney

            You may understand this better than Dr. Bonnette but you are not very persuasive.

          • I'm not the one with the burden of persuasion here. But I am actually very persuasive.

          • Jim the Scott

            That is a matter of opinion.

          • Yes and my opinion is the correct one.

          • Jim the Scott

            What I said before.

          • Jim the Scott

            >The singularity by definition precludes any inferences about causation.

            HA! The singularity causes the Laws of Physics to break down and the Humean objections to causality and "breaking the immutable laws of physics" go with it. Which is why Hawking is trying to get rid of it with his "no boundary" speculation.

            Philosophically and logically it seems it would take infinity to produce something from nothing. However, your problem is obvious.

            "But to produce a chicken from no preexisting matter requires NO power, since there is no proportion at all between nothing and something."

            I think Dr. B is enough of a Thomist to realize Aquinas nowhere argues "nothing" is some type of pseudo-substance that can be changed into something with infinite power. Since he does accept the maxim "From nothing, nothing comes".

          • George

            If we don't accept the premise that "nothing" was ever a state of affairs, do we still need an infinite being?

          • Jim the Scott

            Yes since with the exception of the Kalam Cosmological Argument almost all historical cosmological arguments presuppose God sustains the existence of a past eternal universe that had no formal beginning.

          • Hawking wasn't trying to.get around it. He was clear that he was speculating, or warning that any such guessing is just that. At least in the piece I read.

            The singularity doesn't cause anything. "Singularity" refers to situations where infinities are involved and thus it is very difficult if not impossible to understand.

            "Philosophically and logically it seems it would take infinity to produce something from nothing"

            Why? Why not say just the opposite?

            The problem isn't for me others to explain how something can come from nothing. Rather why anyone should believe something immaterial can cause something material to exist from no prior material.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Hawking wasn't trying to.get around it. He was clear that he was speculating, or warning that any such guessing is just that. At least in the piece I read.

            Actually he is theorizing. I did read BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME.

            >The singularity doesn't cause anything.

            Not in the sense of efficient causality but formal causality OTOH.......

            > "Singularity" refers to situations where infinities are involved and thus it is very difficult if not impossible to understand.

            In other words the Laws of Physics as we understand them do not apply. They break down.

            >"Philosophically and logically it seems it would take infinity to produce something from nothing"

            You should have followed the link in the article. Allow me.
            I @ in a post to Rob. I'll re-post it.

            >The problem isn't for me others to explain how something can come from nothing. Rather why anyone should believe something immaterial can cause something material to exist from no prior material.

            That is the wrong question. Why should we believe Being can come from non-being. What does being "material" or not have too do with it?

          • It's more like mathmamatics we use to describe very hot dense matter break down when density is infinite. But sure laws of ohysiph break down .

            I'm not saying being came from non being. I don't have any beliefs about ultimate origins. I don't see how anyone can justify such a belief to any stamdard of proof other than conjecture if that.

            However Thomism states that one can and should adopt the belief that some immaterial entity sonehow caused material to exist. I'm saying there is insufficient reason to accept this as true.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm not saying being came from non being. I don't have any beliefs about ultimate origins. I don't see how anyone can justify such a belief to any stamdard of proof other than conjecture if that.

            How is philosophical proof conjecture? It's is as certain as 1+Googolplex being greater then a Googolplex even thought it is impossible to count that high to confirm it.

            I think your problem is your understanding of material vs immaterial.

            I will answer you more precisely in your other post.

          • It is not at all certain. There is no proof here, not even an argument. He just states the completely unjustified premise that it takes infinite power to generate material.

          • Jim the Scott

            Here is the argument Dr. B keeps pointing too(that you refuse to deal with)...btw could you stop doing this semi-Billy Crystal impression. It's getting old.

            https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/b309c1af-b14e-4cb8-a984-5ec96fffa9b3

            "It must be said that the power of the maker is measured not only from the substance of the thing made but also from the way of its making; for a greater heat not only heats more, but also heats more swiftly. Thus, although to create some finite effect does not demonstrate infinite power, nevertheless to create it from nothing does demonstrate infinite power.... For if a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act, it must be that the power of an agent (which produces) from no presupposed potency, such as a creating agent does, would be infinite; because there is no proportion of no potency to some potency, as is presupposed by the power of a natural agent, just as there is no proportion of non-being to being.22

            The principle which St. Thomas employs here is laid down when he says, “…a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act…“ For as power means the ability to produce being or to act, its measure is taken not merely from the effect produced but also from the proportion between what is presupposed by the agent in order to produce the effect and the effect produced. Thus, to make a chicken from pre-existing chickens requires a certain measure of power. But to produce a chicken from merely vegetative life would require even greater power; and to produce a chicken from non-living matter yet greater power. But to produce a chicken while presupposing no pre-existent matter at all clearly would require immeasurably greater power. It is immeasurable, as St. Thomas points out, precisely because”…there is no proportion of non-being to being.”

            Note that this argument does not rest upon an attempt to measure any supposed infinite relation between non-being and being. Rather, it is precisely the absolute lack of any relation whatever between non-being and being which demands an infinite power to create. For it is precisely the proportion of the potency to act which is measurable. The greater the distance (not physical distance, but remoteness or distinction in existence) between the potentiality and its act, the greater the power needed to actualize that potency. But such a proportion between some presupposed potentiality and its act is always measurable (in some sense), and therefore, is finite—since it is of the essence of the measurable to be finite and since a thing is measured only by its limits. But where there is no proportion, as between non-being and being, there can be no measure, and thus, no limit.23 The power required in that case knows no measure and no limit. It is therefore infinite."END QUOTE

            All I have seen from you so far is a dismissal. Not a counter argument. If you don't have one that is fine. If you don't understand the argument that is fine.

          • Ok let's start with the first sentence. This is extremely vague. He is talking a bout measuring power an he says this is done in two ways. By an assessment of the thing made and the way of making.

            So here what is the thing made? All of material reality. What is its "power"? Unknown since power is undefined.

            However he uses analogy to heat, an entirely material thing, but heat does not create anything new in the way we are talking about creating material from no material. Heat is energy. When heat heats something else it transfers the energy from material to another. This is not at all what is being described here.

            The crestion of a new metaphysical substance from no precursor is something we cannot use induction to assist us with and this anology is accordingly of no assistance.

            Can we use intuition alone? I suppose intuitively the idea that a creator should have more power than the created makes sense. But this doesn't get me to infinite power.

            But when I think of what this means, I run into a problem. How do we compare power of the material universe to the power of the non material? What is the common denominator? It seems there cannot be one. They are completely different.

            For example we do have some examples of the immaterial. Say the number 4. What is its power compared to that of a star? Well it just seems you can't compare them.

            Dr Bonette seems to use this gap to suggest that there is an infinite difference in power. By this way if thinking the number 4 is infinitely more powerful than a star. So does the number 4 possess the power to create the universe? The same gap exists between a pea and all of all mathematical theorems proven to date. Does this mean a pea is infinitely more powerful.

            What this draws out is it is clear that we really have no idea what we are talking about in this context.

          • Jim the Scott

            The analogy seems rather straight forward and you seem to be going out of your way to not understand it? More heat is required to make something hotter. Thus more power is needed to make something exist that previously did not exist.

            But there is a real relation between a cooler object vs a hotter one. There is no real relation or measurable proportion between Being vs Non-Being since the later isn't really real there can be no measure, and thus, no limit. If there is no limit then it is infinite.

            This seems rather straight forward unless you can give me at least one example of a finite amount of energy really producing being from non-being?
            I don't see how you could make such an argument without incoherence?

          • I understand the attempt analogy, but it doesn't apply since we have know way of knowing if what is going on is anything like heat in any way. But definition it is categorically different. An apt analogy would be to something immaterial.

            I see zero reason to infer from how matter is rearranged to anything about how it is brought into existence.

            No matter how much power we have ever seen used from boiling water to a supernova is anything ever brought into existence from no precursor.

            I would agree that the immaterial as defined is a different metaphysical substance than the material. But when you define the power needed as infinite, this causes a philosophical singularity. If infinite power were needed to create a single quark, then it is also the case that no matter how much power is expended in the creation, is will never be enough.

            Sure, the universe itself was created by a finite amount of power, the exact amount needed, which is seven immaterial power units.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I understand the attempt analogy, but it doesn't apply since we have know way of knowing if what is going on is anything like heat in any way. But definition it is categorically different. An apt analogy would be to something immaterial.

            Rather it is immeasurable & thus infinite since the finite can be ruled out.

            >I see zero reason to infer from how matter is rearranged to anything about how it is brought into existence.

            One requires finite energy which is beyond dispute but the other is immeasurable thus infinite.

            >No matter how much power we have ever seen used from boiling water to a supernova is anything ever brought into existence from no precursor.

            None comes to mind therefore without proof to the contrary it must be ruled out.

            >I would agree that the immaterial as defined is a different metaphysical substance than the material.

            That is your problem. Immaterial here should be understood negatively as "a lack of the material". We don't have to know what it is rather what it is not.

            >But when you define the power needed as infinite, this causes a philosophical singularity. If infinite power were needed to create a single quark, then it is also the case that no matter how much power is expended in the creation, is will never be enough.

            If you have infinite power to wield then how can you not have enough?

            >Sure, the universe itself was created by a finite amount of power, the exact amount needed, which is seven immaterial power units.

            So you are not taking this seriously?

          • If you need infinite power you can never have enough.

            The criticism remains uncontroverted: there is no basis for the premise that if something immaterial could bring material into existence it would take infinite power.

            Similarly you seem to have no way to object to.my equally unjustified premise that it would take seven immaterial power units.

          • Jim the Scott

            >If you need infinite power you can never have enough.

            That doesn't really make sense? If you have infinite power and you need infinite power then by definition you have enough.

            >The criticism remains uncontroverted: there is no basis for the premise that if something immaterial could bring material into existence it would take infinite power.

            The dichotomy is between created being vs non-being and created being requiring infinite Being Itself for it's existence.

            NOT immaterial vs material. As I keep telling you "immaterial" is a negative descriptive.

            >Similarly you seem to have no way to object to.my equally unjustified premise that it would take seven immaterial power units.

            Your Cartesian thinking runs deep.

          • And by definition you can never expend enough power to create a single electron. But in fairness this is basically Xenos paradox. But it shows how dicey it is when you try to use infinities in your arguments. Because as also demonstrated therein, a finite entity can cross an infinity in a finite time with finite power.

            "The dichotomy is between created being vs non-being and created being requiring infinite Being Itself for it's existence."

            I know this is the premise I'm challenging it's soundness. Why accept this as true?

            Since you refuse to defend the premise after several opportunities, I now make an advese inference.

          • Jim the Scott

            >And by definition you can never expend enough power to create a single electron.

            You cannot expend any amount of energy to turn "non-being" into being as if "non-being" was some sort of substance in it's own right that would be impossible because non-being isn't a substance. It's a lack of being. There isn't anything to change into anything.

            Also energy is itself a state of matter thus a material cause. Power here is not "energy" in the literal sense.(I guess I too equivocate from time to time. Sorry about that.)

            Creation is not changing nothing into something. It's causing something to be from nothing. It is immeasurable & as such is infinite.

            Aquinas makes a distinction between creation vs change.

            I think during this whole thing you are thinking of creation from nothing as a species of change? Am I right? Creation is not change for Aquinas.

            Maybe some William Carrol will help?

            https://www3.nd.edu/~afreddos/courses/43150/carroll3.htm

            (skip on down to the "Thomas Aquinas' Understanding of Creation"
            bit).

            > But in fairness this is basically Xenos paradox. But it shows how dicey it is when you try to use infinities in your arguments. Because as also demonstrated therein, a finite entity can cross an infinity in a finite time with finite power.

            Well that's Hawking's "no boundary" Universe in a nutshell(pun intended) but you would still need the Infinite Power of the Creator to cause there to be a Hartle/Hawking State from which our Universe comes.

            >>"The dichotomy is between created being vs non-being and created being requiring infinite Being Itself for it's existence."

            >I know this is the premise I'm challenging it's soundness. Why accept this as true?

            At this point I am at a loss trying to understand what your standard for belief or disbelief? It seems like skepticism for it's own sake? We can eliminate the competing views and you already conceded the logic of the argument.

            >Since you refuse to defend the premise after several opportunities, I now make an advese inference.

            Maybe if you spell out what it is you are looking for maybe I can help you better?

          • But I didn't say "energy". Nor did I come up with the idea of needing some kind of power to bring matter into existence. I'm dealing with Bonnette's requirement of sone undefined power of divine creation.

            I get what is being asserted. My contention is that a conclusion that a non material mind can create material without a material cause is not just unjustified, but that we have evidence to the contrary.

            I am indeed saying the only "creation" of matter we have empirical evidence for is change, and we have none for it coming into existence, so we can't use any of that evidence to support any argument about the ultimate origin of matter.

            If you have no empirical evidence, what are you left with? At best some sense of intuition. But unless you think it's plausible in general that things can be brought into existence from nothing, you don't have this either. In fact both lines of evidence support the need for any material effect to have at minimum a material cause.

            No Craig doesn't help!

            "You would still need the Infinite Power of the Creator to cause there to be a Hartle/HawkinHa State from which our Universe comes."

            Why?

            My standard if proof here is that something be more likely than not the case. A simple balance of balance of probabilities.

            You haven't eliminated competing views. There aren't competing theories here, there's just wild unjustified speculation.

            Spelled out: what is the justification for accepting as true that, if something non-material were to bring all matter into existence that the power required would be infinite. Further what is meant by "power"if not the material concept?

          • Rob Abney

            what is the justification for accepting as true that, if something non-material were to bring all matter into existence that the power required would be infinite

            Do you accept that such an act would be immeasurable?
            From the OP: "But to produce a chicken from no preexisting matter requires immeasurable power, since there is no proportion at all between nothing and something. Since immeasurable power is the same as unlimited or infinite power, it would take infinite power for God to create the cosmos ex nihilo."
            Power = the ability of an effect to cause an outcome, doesn't have to be material.

          • "Do you accept that such an act would be immeasurable?"

            No, nor do I accept it is measurable. I could not justify either position.

            The question remains, what is the justification for this premise: that "no proportion" between a creator and created means it takes infinite "power" to achieve. This lack of proportion signals to me that such an act would be impossible .

          • Rob Abney

            You cannot justify it yourself but higher level thinking can. You have only two choices to choose from measurable or immeasurable, you reject both. You also couldn't previously agree that a being had to be either material or immaterial. When you reject dichotomies you need to offer an alternative.
            Vincent Herzog summarized the issue with one of the first comments on this OP,
            "you might see the whole article as a defining of the power being referenced. It’s what you would call an abduction (a search for higher principles, or an argument to the best explanation), but one that is supposed to have deductive force (if the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true, out of logical necessity)."

          • I neither accept or reject either because I don't have any way to choose between the two. Either the cat is alive or dead, but I'm not going to take a position until I can see in the box, or get some info about the contents.

            No, I can accept that there is a binary distinction between material or not, I was saying there could be more than one non material fundamental substance.

            I don't reject the dichotomy. I refuse to chose before there is reason to.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I get what is being asserted. My contention is that a conclusion that a non material mind can create material without a material cause is not just unjustified, but that we have evidence to the contrary.

            As I pointed out traditionally Aquinas didn't use Kalam arguments. He didn't believe either science or philosophy could prove the universe had a formal beginning. As I already told you Aquinas based his belief on Genesis.
            But having concluded from divine revelation God created from nothing at the beginning he concluded "the fact that between non-being and being there is no middle ground. Hence the act which transcends this “gap” between non-being and being must be considered as literally immeasurable."

            If it cannot be measured therefore it is infinite.

            >I am indeed saying the only "creation" of matter we have empirical evidence for is change, and we have none for it coming into existence, so we can't use any of that evidence to support any argument about the ultimate origin of matter.

            Given the presuppositions of Scholastic Metaphysics the above statement you made would validate Aquinas' belief you can't prove scientifically or philosophically that creation had a formal beginning(or even a no boundary as Hawking proposed).

            >If you have no empirical evidence, what are you left with? At best some sense of intuition. But unless you think it's plausible in general that things can be brought into existence from nothing, you don't have this either. In fact both lines of evidence support the need for any material effect to have at minimum a material cause.

            Well as I keep pointing out. Aquinas based this belief on the Traditional interpretation of Genesis 1:1 not philosophy or science. Empirical Evidence doesn't rule out creation from nothing & you can't disprove a negative. The intuition here seems valid.

            >No Craig doesn't help!

            I am indifferent and Feser is Agnostic toward Craig on the Kalam. Oderberg defends it.

            Here if you want to have fun with it.
            https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B7SKlRTfkUieeDhsU0Q5cmdFOWc/edit

            "You would still need the Infinite Power of the Creator to cause there to be a Hartle/HawkinHa State from which our Universe comes."

            >Why?

            The Five Ways.

            >My standard if proof here is that something be more likely than not the case. A simple balance of balance of probabilities.

            Which is just using science & thus leaves you open to my traditional rants against Scientism.

            >You haven't eliminated competing views. There aren't competing theories here, there's just wild unjustified speculation.

            The other ways are incoherent that is beyond dispute.

            >Spelled out: what is the justification for accepting as true that, if something non-material were to bring all matter into existence that the power required would be infinite.

            The gap between being and non-being is immeasurable. It cannot be finite and immeasurable thus it must be infinite.

            >Further what is meant by "power"if not the material concept?

            So you suffer from a knee-material view of the world?

            Anyway Power in this case refers to an Active Potency.

          • I don't see that it makes sense to speak of a "gap" or measurabity. There is a fundamental metaphysical difference between the material and non material. I don't see why the idea of measurement is being invoked to describe this difference. It would seem to me that the description above is more apt.

            Nor do I see why something that is not measurable should be called infinite.

            I can give reasons for why the natural numbers are infinite, and this depends ony understanding of what natural numbers are. We cannot say anything like this for this deity.

            Yes I would tend to agree we cannot scientifically or philosophically an absolute origin of the cosmos. This is not what Big Bang cosmology claims. It claims we can trace time,space and matter back to a singularity, beyond which we cannot make inferences.

            My standard of proof is not that of science. Science has a much higher standard of proof. There are few lower standards, maybe reasonable suspucion?

            I would actually be willing to consider this question on a standard of best explanation. But I we'd need to first agree on what is being explained. That isnt how dr Bonette has framed this, but rather as an argument he has taken the burden of demonstrating.

            No, as I've noted, there are other speculations which are not incoherent. For example that there is a material precursor to this universe. With an immaterial efficient cause, without one. A completely materialistic account. Since youve declined to point out logical contradictions in these, please stop asserting they are incoherent.

            Even if this "gap" is not measurable, why does that mean that infinite power is needed? You know nothing about what this non material is or how is brings matter into existence, I don't see how you can say you know what it takes.

            It is indeed true that to me the word power invokes the energy to do work in a material sense. I could think of it in an immaterial sense like, the Pythagorean theorem is very powerful, indeed I see no way to measure its power, would you then say it can bring matter into existence?

          • Jim the Scott

            >I don't see that it makes sense to speak of a "gap" or measurabity.

            That is the analogy he uses. He is not being unequivocal with this description.

            >There is a fundamental metaphysical difference between the material and non material.

            Yes it is the same as the difference between X vs Not X & it is that simple too.

            >I don't see why the idea of measurement is being invoked to describe this difference. It would seem to me that the description above is more apt.

            Well intuitively it seems there is an infinite difference between nothing vs something.

            >Nor do I see why something that is not measurable should be called infinite.

            If it is vast and immeasurable what else can it be?

            >I can give reasons for why the natural numbers are infinite, and this depends ony understanding of what natural numbers are. We cannot say anything like this for this deity.

            We can make a lot of positive analogous statements about deity and we can define deity negatively which is how you do scholasticism.

            >Yes I would tend to agree we cannot scientifically or philosophically an absolute origin of the cosmos. This is not what Big Bang cosmology claims. It claims we can trace time,space and matter back to a singularity, beyond which we cannot make inferences.

            Event the Priest-Physicist who discovered the big Bang corrected Pius XII himself on the matter.

            >My standard of proof is not that of science. Science has a much higher standard of proof. There are few lower standards, maybe reasonable suspucion?

            Given the truth of revelation I see no reason why I can't conclude Dr. B is right here. But he is not giving some Kalam argument. I am indifferent or agnostic to Kalam arguments.

            >I would actually be willing to consider this question on a standard of best explanation. But I we'd need to first agree on what is being explained. That isnt how dr Bonette has framed this, but rather as an argument he has taken the burden of demonstrating.

            Well said.

            >No, as I've noted, there are other speculations which are not incoherent. For example that there is a material precursor to this universe. With an immaterial efficient cause, without one. A completely materialistic account. Since youve declined to point out logical contradictions in these, please stop asserting they are incoherent.

            One discussion at a time.

            >Even if this "gap" is not measurable, why does that mean that infinite power is needed? You know nothing about what this non material is or how is brings matter into existence, I don't see how you can say you know what it takes.

            I really have only two choices and immeasurable doesn't lend itself to the finite.

            >It is indeed true that to me the word power invokes the energy to do work in a material sense. I could think of it in an immaterial sense like, the Pythagorean theorem is very powerful, indeed I see no way to measure its power, would you then say it can bring matter into existence?

            I am not sure I understand you here but others who might can comment.

            I tag in Rob.

            Cheers your Green'ness.

            Peace.

          • "Well intuitively it seems there is an infinite difference between nothing vs something"

            Not to me. Measurement is a term used to describe some kind of quantification. Since nothing does not exist obviously quantifying it or its relationship to things that exist is incoherent. But this fact in no way entails anything about what it takes to bring about the existence of matter. I have no intuitions about the relationship between existence and non existence because there is no relationship, there is literally nothing for existence to be compared to.

            Immeasurability does not imply ""vast". For example, infinitely small. What can it be? No one can say anything about this "power" we can't even say it exists.

            "We can make a lot of positive analogous statements about deity and we can define deity negatively which is how you do scholasticism"

            So can we about Voldemort the question is there an reason to believe this fantasy is true.

            There has been no divine revelation. If that is your basis for this defense, please tell me. If divine revelation were demonstrably true there would be no need for these arguments.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Not to me. Measurement is a term used to describe some kind of quantification. Since nothing does not exist obviously quantifying it or its relationship to things that exist is incoherent.

            I think part of the problem is as a Thomist I tend to think in analogous terms sometimes and not unequivocal terms.

            Dr. B has already excluded the idea this is unequivocal in stating there is no real relationship between being vs non-being.

            >But this fact in no way entails anything about what it takes to bring about the existence of matter.

            Well we are not coming up with a scientific mechanism or model literally measuring God's Power in creating something from nothing.

            >I have no intuitions about the relationship between existence and non existence because there is no relationship, there is literally nothing for existence to be compared to.

            My spider senses tell me you might be thinking of this in unequivocal terms vs analogous terms?

            >Immeasurability does not imply ""vast". For example, infinitely small. What can it be? No one can say anything about this "power" we can't even say it exists.

            Except something is at least 0+1 over nothing so a macro analogy is what is needed not a micro one.

            >>"We can make a lot of positive analogous statements about deity and we can define deity negatively which is how you do scholasticism"

            >So can we about Voldemort the question is there an reason to believe this fantasy is true.

            Only if you are a Theistic Personalist. Pure Act is nothing like Voldemort. Indeed even if such a being like Voldemort existed in another space/time continuum (channeling my inner mutliverse meme) he would still be nothing like Pure Act.

            I keep telling ya Green old boy. Go Classic Theism or go home.

            Theistic Personalist deities are just gay. Of course by "gay" I don' t mean in the sassy entertaining way of the Starship Discovery' s chief engineer(Luv him) but in the pathetic creepy way of Kevin Spacey.

            >There has been no divine revelation. If that is your basis for this defense, please tell me. If divine revelation were demonstrably true there would be no need for these arguments.

            I don't agree with your claims about the non-existence of divine revelations BUT yes this is based on it to some degree. We cannot prove scientifically or philosophically the universe had a formal beginning if we believe Aquinas. If you don't believe him go read St. Bonaventure.

            Oderberg may defend the validity of Kalam arguments to say the universe was "caused" but as Feser points out you can't get the God of Classic Theism out of a Kalam argument.

            Cheers.

          • Rob Abney

            I could think of it in an immaterial sense like, the Pythagorean theorem is very powerful, indeed I see no way to measure its power, would you then say it can bring matter into existence?

            Thomas Aquinas answers: It sufficiently appears at the first glance, according to what precedes (Article 1), that to create can be the action of God alone. For the more universal effects must be reduced to the more universal and prior causes. Now among all effects the most universal is being itself: and hence it must be the proper effect of the first and most universal cause, and that is God.

            So, the Pythagorean theorem is powerful but it can only produce triangles because it has nothing else to give.

          • But would you say the power of the Pythagorean theorem is measurable?

            If not that it has sufficient power to bring things into existence. This it's not the power here that is the unique attribute of God, but some other attribute, some creative ability.

            Which means this whole idea of the power being infinite because of the immeasurable gap is irrelevant.

            Really the argument simply is how Aquinas presented it:that which can create material ex nihilo is something we call God.

          • Rob Abney

            I agree, the power of the Pythagorean theorem is not measurable.

            God's unique ability to create is due to His universality, He has "being' that He can share to cause the effect. The Pythagorean theorem , though immeasurable, has no materialty to share, it can't give what it doesn't have.

            A little more nuance to Aquinas' argument would be, "that which has universality can share universality, which is being, and if we are going to call something God then He should be able to do this"!

          • Sure but this means that it is a specific deity power or ability to bring matter into existence. The gap between material and non isn't what affords the power to create matter.

          • Rob Abney

            True, it is a power of a deity that has universal being, and thus the ability to share an attribute that is common to all of creation, the act of being. But it also requires immeasurable power.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Sure but this means that it is a specific deity power or ability to bring matter into existence.

            If I might interject. It is better to speak of a specific conception of Deity then a "specific deity".

            Because if it could be shown a Theistic Personalist conception of Deity can't be immutable, timeless or create from nothing well.....I would not be surprised and it would be further justification for me not wasting time worshiping such a twit of a "deity".

            Carry on your conversation with Rob.

            Cheers.

          • I'm not talking about a specific deity, but a specific power associated with that deity concept.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I'm not talking about a specific deity, but a specific power associated with that deity concept.

            Got it. Peace out guy.

          • Jim the Scott

            I posted this too Rob a week ago. I @ at you but I guess you missed it.

            Here is a re-post. Enjoy.

            @briangreenadams:disqus

            I think Green should have followed the link Dr. B gave in the article above. It answers his question.

            http://www.godandscience.org/evolution/creation_implies_god.html

            Quote"While there appears to exist a nearly universal intuitive recognition that the act of creating requires the infinite power of a Supreme Being, the attempt to give intellectual justification to this primordial insight is fraught with difficulty. For even if one grants that the existence of the world had an absolute beginning in time and that this beginning must have an adequate explanation, it is not at once clear precisely why this phenomenon requires an infinitely powerful cause.

            Is it because being infinitely transcends non-being? But then, the being of the world is itself only finite.20 Perhaps, alternatively, one should focus upon the fact that between non-being and being there is no middle ground. Hence the act which transcends this “gap” between non-being and being must be considered as literally immeasurable. Yet, no reputable thinker would dare to refer to a real relation between non-being and being—since a real relation always requires two real terms, and non-being is not real.21 Hence, the metaphors about “transcending an infinite gap” from non-being to being begin to sound suspiciously poetic or mystical.

            It is necessary to turn to the Common Doctor of the Church for illumination of a precise, scientific conception of exactly why creation requires infinite power. The following is neither poetry nor mysticism:

            It must be said that the power of the maker is measured not only from the substance of the thing made but also from the way of its making; for a greater heat not only heats more, but also heats more swiftly. Thus, although to create some finite effect does not demonstrate infinite power, nevertheless to create it from nothing does demonstrate infinite power.... For if a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act, it must be that the power of an agent (which produces) from no presupposed potency, such as a creating agent does, would be infinite; because there is no proportion of no potency to some potency, as is presupposed by the power of a natural agent, just as there is no proportion of non-being to being.22

            The principle which St. Thomas employs here is laid down when he says, “…a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act…“ For as power means the ability to produce being or to act, its measure is taken not merely from the effect produced but also from the proportion between what is presupposed by the agent in order to produce the effect and the effect produced. Thus, to make a chicken from pre-existing chickens requires a certain measure of power. But to produce a chicken from merely vegetative life would require even greater power; and to produce a chicken from non-living matter yet greater power. But to produce a chicken while presupposing no pre-existent matter at all clearly would require immeasurably greater power. It is immeasurable, as St. Thomas points out, precisely because”…there is no proportion of non-being to being.”

            Note that this argument does not rest upon an attempt to measure any supposed infinite relation between non-being and being. Rather, it is precisely the absolute lack of any relation whatever between non-being and being which demands an infinite power to create. For it is precisely the proportion of the potency to act which is measurable. The greater the distance (not physical distance, but remoteness or distinction in existence) between the potentiality and its act, the greater the power needed to actualize that potency. But such a proportion between some presupposed potentiality and its act is always measurable (in some sense), and therefore, is finite—since it is of the essence of the measurable to be finite and since a thing is measured only by its limits. But where there is no proportion, as between non-being and being, there can be no measure, and thus, no limit.23 The power required in that case knows no measure and no limit. It is therefore infinite.

            Thus we have the rational explanation for the universal metaphysical intuition that it would require infinite power to create ex nihilo."END QUOTE

            Geez give Dr. B some credit and follow my advice. Always read the footnotes and follow the links.

          • Rob Abney

            why anyone should believe something immaterial can cause something material to exist from no prior material.

            There are only two options, something immaterial was the cause or something material was the cause; it can't be something material because that is self refuting, so it has to be immaterial!

          • No I don't know that these are the only options. Brute facts and infinite regress have not been ruled out. And I see no reason to accept that a something self caused material is more implausible than something self caused immaterial

            Moreover dualism need not be true. For all we know there are billions of fundamental substances.

          • Rob Abney

            In fact brute fact and infinite regress have been ruled out by most rstional people. I'm not sure what other fundamental substances there could be that would not fall within either material or immaterial category, sounds more like wishful thinking.

          • No they haven't.

            I don't even know that there are two fundamental substances. But why can't there be more than 2?

          • David Nickol

            I'm not sure what other fundamental substances there could be that would not fall within either material or immaterial category . . . .

            Isn't it a little arrogant to maintain that if you can't think of something, then God can't either? Is it your belief that if an omniscient, omnipotent being wanted to create something, it had to be either material (and material in the way our universe is material) or immaterial?

          • Rob Abney

            The answer to your imaginative proposition can be found at question 86 in the first part of the summa: Whether our intellect can know the infinite? (It’s too lengthy to excerpt here). I hope another Aquinas answer doesn’t offend you but he has considered nearly every objection, he is like Google!

          • David Nickol

            I don't see how Aquinas answers the question of whether there can be more than a material realm and a spiritual realm. Are you conceding my point—that is, just because you can't think of other realms doesn't mean God can't?

          • Rob Abney

            I can't concede that point, it seems similar but not exactly like the type of argument as "can God make a round square". I don't arrogantly say that we can know everything that God can know. But I do claim that there are no categories other than material or immaterial. There may be substances that we don't know but those substances will be either material or immaterial or a combination of the two.

          • David Nickol

            But I do claim that there are no categories other than material or immaterial.

            Note that you have answered a question that I did not ask. Basically, by definition, there can't be something that is neither material nor immaterial (except for something that is a combination of both). But I was speaking of a spiritual realm and a material realm.

            It seems to me that to dig deeper into the issue would require defining material, which you are welcome to try if you like!

          • Rob Abney

            Your initial question: “Is it your belief that if an omniscient, omnipotent being wanted to create something, it had to be either material (and material in the way our universe is material) or immaterial?“
            Your subsequent question: “I don't see how Aquinas answers the question of whether there can be more than a material realm and a spiritual realm.“
            So you changed immaterial to spiritual. That’s no problem because the terms are interchangeable. But why do you now object to the term immaterial?

          • David Nickol

            So you changed immaterial to spiritual.

            Apologies for the confusion, but as your quote from my message shows, I changed from "material in the way our universe is material" and "immaterial" to "material" and spiritual." I am still not perfectly happy with the expressions.

            So you changed immaterial to spiritual. That’s no problem because the terms are interchangeable.

            No, I don't believe so. Pure numbers—say, the numbers 3 and 9—are immaterial, are they not? But they are not spiritual, or spirits. God, angels, and human souls are all classified as spiritual or spirit, but I can't think of anything else that is.

          • Jim the Scott

            @briangreenadams:disqus

            I think Green should have followed the link Dr. B gave in the article above. It answers his question.

            http://www.godandscience.org/evolution/creation_implies_god.html

            Quote"While there appears to exist a nearly universal intuitive recognition that the act of creating requires the infinite power of a Supreme Being, the attempt to give intellectual justification to this primordial insight is fraught with difficulty. For even if one grants that the existence of the world had an absolute beginning in time and that this beginning must have an adequate explanation, it is not at once clear precisely why this phenomenon requires an infinitely powerful cause.

            Is it because being infinitely transcends non-being? But then, the being of the world is itself only finite.20 Perhaps, alternatively, one should focus upon the fact that between non-being and being there is no middle ground. Hence the act which transcends this “gap” between non-being and being must be considered as literally immeasurable. Yet, no reputable thinker would dare to refer to a real relation between non-being and being—since a real relation always requires two real terms, and non-being is not real.21 Hence, the metaphors about “transcending an infinite gap” from non-being to being begin to sound suspiciously poetic or mystical.

            It is necessary to turn to the Common Doctor of the Church for illumination of a precise, scientific conception of exactly why creation requires infinite power. The following is neither poetry nor mysticism:

            It must be said that the power of the maker is measured not only from the substance of the thing made but also from the way of its making; for a greater heat not only heats more, but also heats more swiftly. Thus, although to create some finite effect does not demonstrate infinite power, nevertheless to create it from nothing does demonstrate infinite power.... For if a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act, it must be that the power of an agent (which produces) from no presupposed potency, such as a creating agent does, would be infinite; because there is no proportion of no potency to some potency, as is presupposed by the power of a natural agent, just as there is no proportion of non-being to being.22

            The principle which St. Thomas employs here is laid down when he says, “…a greater power is required in the agent insofar as the potency is more remote from the act…“ For as power means the ability to produce being or to act, its measure is taken not merely from the effect produced but also from the proportion between what is presupposed by the agent in order to produce the effect and the effect produced. Thus, to make a chicken from pre-existing chickens requires a certain measure of power. But to produce a chicken from merely vegetative life would require even greater power; and to produce a chicken from non-living matter yet greater power. But to produce a chicken while presupposing no pre-existent matter at all clearly would require immeasurably greater power. It is immeasurable, as St. Thomas points out, precisely because”…there is no proportion of non-being to being.”

            Note that this argument does not rest upon an attempt to measure any supposed infinite relation between non-being and being. Rather, it is precisely the absolute lack of any relation whatever between non-being and being which demands an infinite power to create. For it is precisely the proportion of the potency to act which is measurable. The greater the distance (not physical distance, but remoteness or distinction in existence) between the potentiality and its act, the greater the power needed to actualize that potency. But such a proportion between some presupposed potentiality and its act is always measurable (in some sense), and therefore, is finite—since it is of the essence of the measurable to be finite and since a thing is measured only by its limits. But where there is no proportion, as between non-being and being, there can be no measure, and thus, no limit.23 The power required in that case knows no measure and no limit. It is therefore infinite.

            Thus we have the rational explanation for the universal metaphysical intuition that it would require infinite power to create ex nihilo."END QUOTE

            Geez give Dr. B some credit and follow my advice. Always read the footnotes and follow the links.

          • Rob Abney

            Wow, great explanation! However, it is only useful to those who read it and understand it.

          • Sure it's rational, but it's not at all intuitive, quite the opposite.

            There is no reason to accept it as true.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Sure it's rational, but it's not at all intuitive, quite the opposite.
            >There is no reason to accept it as true.

            This is not so much a response as it is a dismissal.

          • My response is above, I'm dealing with your defense that it's rational, but just being rational or logical is not a reason to believe something is true.

            All of our experience with causation is material sometimes there is a material efficient cause but not always.

            We have no experience of immaterial causation or at least none with immaterial causing material., certainly none with any efficient cause doing anything without a material cause.

            Not only this but our intuition rebel and treat as absurd any claim that something material was caused to exist absent pre-existing material.

            So the conclusion here that all material arose from something immaterial not only has no support, but is counter intuitive.

            All that is left is this argument from ignorance. This pure speculation based on the unjustified idea that only something non material can cause something material to exist. Not only that but that we can determine that there is something we should call power that is used for this creation and that this must be infinite.

            This is simply making statements to fill in the lack basis to make inferences about ultimate origins.

          • Jim the Scott

            "Immaterial" here is a negative descriptive in terms of "not material". The arguments exclude a material cause so whatever is left is "not material" or immaterial. One gets the impression you are channeling your inner Descartes imagining some sort of "Ghost Matter" or whatever or Descartes "immaterial substance" concept.

            >My response is above, I'm dealing with your defense that it's rational, but just being rational or logical is not a reason to believe something is true.

            Then we have no basis to know anything which is incoherent because then we cannot even know that we don't know.

            >All of our experience with causation is material sometimes there is a material efficient cause but not always.

            There are only the four causes & the uncaused cause.

            >We have no experience of immaterial causation or at least none with immaterial causing material., certainly none with any efficient cause doing anything without a material cause.

            We don't need experience we can logically and philosophically infer it's existence.

            >Not only this but our intuition rebel and treat as absurd any claim that something material was caused to exist absent pre-existing material.

            I don't see why? I can with ease conceive of an endless accidental causal series. It's the essential causal series which is the problem.

            >So the conclusion here that all material arose from something immaterial not only has no support, but is counter intuitive.

            Again classic arguments for the existence of God presuppose a past eternal universe and a past infinite accidental causal series. It's just that it is counter intuitive to have a lamp hanging from an infinite rope that doesn't terminate with a celling.

            >All that is left is this argument from ignorance. This pure speculation based on the unjustified idea that only something non material can cause something material to exist.

            Rather what is "material" is eliminated as an ultimate cause and ultimate metaphysical origin. So negatively what is left is "not material" or immaterial. We are not doing Descartes here. We are Thomists we will have none of his blithering nonsense.

            > Not only that but that we can determine that there is something we should call power that is used for this creation and that this must be infinite.

            The logic is inescapable.

            >This is simply making statements to fill in the lack basis to make inferences about ultimate origins.

            Rather we use philosophy to make statements about ultimate origins and physicalism and materialism false as they lead to incoherence.

          • If I were to tell you I built a log cabin out of no prexisting material would you accept that as even plausible?

            If not, why not?

          • Jim the Scott

            >If I were to tell you I built a log cabin out of no prexisting material would you accept that as even plausible?

            A log cabin is an artifact not a natural entity. I don't do idiot Intelligent Design Theistic Personalist Paley crap dude. How many times do I have to tell ya that? Go Classic Theism or go home.

            So already we are not on the same page and you are re-serving contra Theistic polemics for a god concept I am a total Atheist toward.

            But....I will try to answer you but I will only do so presuposing classic theism.

            >If not, why not?

            Well you are composite and obviously finite and as such not infinite or simple in substance thus in principle how could you create ex ex nihilo?

            Where are you going to get the infinite power? Plus you are not Being Itself but merely "a being" so how do you cause something to be? Given your nature it would be easy to conceive of you building it out of pre-existing material then causing it to be ex nihilo.

            In short I don't believe you are God dude.

          • But this is just it. What is the justification for the premise that something infinite is required? Or that infoninf power is required? Why is "being itself" required.

            The only reference you make above is to empirical induction. You have evidence of finite material beings rearrannging matter and the reason you think it is more likely that this is what happened is because you have no such evidence of such material being caused to exist absent a material cause.

            But if we turn to ultimate origins we again have zero evidence to make inductive inferences.

            There is no justification advanced for these premises which are fundamental to the argument.

            I guess I am supposed to just accept it as true that a material cause is impossible and that because the substances are fundamentally different then this undefined and non intuitive creative power must be, again non-intuitivelt infinite.

            Forgive me but I don't accept these premises as being more limell true than not.

          • Jim the Scott

            >But this is just it. What is the justification for the premise that something infinite is required? Or that infoninf power is required? Why is "being itself" required.

            What is your justification for Being coming from non-being with finite power or no power? Both are incoherent and you admit this argument is logically consistent so there you go.

            >The only reference you make above is to empirical induction. You have evidence of finite material beings rearrannging matter and the reason you think it is more likely that this is what happened is because you have no such evidence of such material being caused to exist absent a material cause.

            You are trying to make this a scientific argument it seems? You know how I bash Scientism/Positivism. You should know better Green old boy.

            The arguments as to why composite things exist is at issue and the philosophical arguments are sound.

            >But if we turn to ultimate origins we again have zero evidence to make inductive inferences.

            >There is no justification advanced for these premises which are fundamental to the argument.

            Aquinas and Aristotle have spilled a ton of ink showing otherwise. Go back re-familiarize yourself with their argument and start coming up with more convincing defeaters.

            >I guess I am supposed to just accept it as true that a material cause is impossible and that because the substances are fundamentally different then this undefined and non intuitive creative power must be, again non-intuitivelt infinite.

            Well you treat "non-material" as a positive descriptive and one wonders if you are equivocating on "material causes" as well?

            >Forgive me but I don't accept these premises as being more limell true than not.

            Why what is your alternative other than knee jerk skepticism for it's own sake?

          • "What is your justification for Being coming from non-being with finite power or no power?"

            I never took that position. The ultimate origins of material are unknown

            Goodness no I'm not making a scientific argument.

            I am familiar with Thomism. I'm not seeing a defense here just personal attacks.

            Sure I can speculate on some the alternatives to some unknown unobserved underdefined non-material infinite entity bringing all material into existence with no material cause.

            1) some unknown unobserved underdefined non-material infinite entity bringing all material into existence from an unknown material precursor .

            2) there is an infinite regress of natural material causes.

            3) material exists as a brute fact,

            4) material exists in some way necessarily.

            I have no way to which if any is correct .

          • Jim the Scott

            >I never took that position. The ultimate origins of material are unknown

            Fair enough but that is your only other choice and it has problems.

            >Goodness no I'm not making a scientific argument.

            Well that is a relief.

            >I am familiar with Thomism. I'm not seeing a defense here just personal attacks.

            It's not personal.

            >Sure I can speculate on some the alternatives to some unknown unobserved underdefined non-material infinite entity bringing all material into existence with no material cause.

            K'ay.

            >1) some unknown unobserved underdefined non-material infinite entity bringing all material into existence from an unknown material precursor .

            I rule this out on the grounds it sounds like Theistic Personalism and Brian Davies has already done the heavy lifting on why that is bullocks and I would agree with most Atheist philosophical polemics against Theistic Personalist deities. Thinking of God as a singular "entity" is repulsive to me both intellectually and aesthetically. Go classic or go home.

            >2) there is an infinite regress of natural material causes.

            We can have an infinite regress of natural processes as long as it is an accidental causal series and not an essential causal series.

            I wonder now if this is part of your confusion here? Aquinas concluded the universe had a beginning because Genesis said so. He did not believe science nor philosophy could prove creation had a beginning. He took creation having a beginning as a given informed by divine revelation and worked from there concluding an infinite cause was needed to cause being to be created from non-being. Are you reacting to this as if it was some sort of KALAM argument? Aquinas never uses such an argument and I know Feser is Agnostic on Kalam arguments. I am indifferent since I don't think I have to appeal to it. This could be your problem?

            >3) material exists as a brute fact,

            Which inherits the philosophical incoherences associated with metaphysical brute facts.

            >4) material exists in some way necessarily.

            Which inherits the philosophical incoherencies associated with materialism.

            >I have no way to which if any is correct .

            Since I can eliminate the above I take what is left.

            Cheers.

          • Not much to respond to here. I can point out that brute facts are not logically incoherent, neither is materialism. As noted above and not disputed by you both induction and intuition support a material precursor to the universe.

            You've ruled out nothing.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Not much to respond to here. I can point out that brute facts are not logically incoherent, neither is materialism.

            Metaphysical brute facts are in fact incoherent & materialism leads to all sorts of incoherencies such as the idea the mind is an illusion.

            Not all types of brute facts are incoherent but they are not relevant to the issues we are dealing with here.

            >As noted above and not disputed by you both induction and intuition support a material precursor to the universe.

            As I told you there is no reason why the Universe could not be a past infinite accidental series of material causes. It's an essential series that is impossible.

            >You've ruled out nothing.

            I have to my own satisfaction. You can believe & will believe what you want.

            Peace.

          • Again, I am seeing you state conclusions but offer no argument in support of them.

            Needless to say you've stated brute facts both are and are not incoherent.

            If you accept that a material precursor to the universe is possible, it would seem you are not defending Bonnette's argument which rules this out. For then we have no need of a deity to account for the big bang.

            I'm not sure what the distinction of accidental to essential here is in terms of material regress. I ask you, of you have a material series of causes this would be an explanation for the universe that needs no divine origin? Though I expect you mean by "accidental" "that which is caused by another" in which I'd ask for the logical contradiction in an essential material regress.

            Not to mention in materialism. Note materialism does not deny the immaterial, it just does not take it to be fundamental.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Again, I am seeing you state conclusions but offer no argument in support of them.

            Dude how many times do I have to tell you Aquinas didn't believe you can scientifically or philosophically prove creation had a beginning.

            Don't you believe me?

            >Needless to say you've stated brute facts both are and are not incoherent.

            No equivocating please. Feser makes a clear unambiguous distinction between metaphysical brute facts vs epistemological ones. Treating them as inter-changable will not do.

            Thus to talk about "brute facts" without qualifying it is not legitimate.

            >If you accept that a material precursor to the universe is possible, it would seem you are not defending Bonnette's argument which rules this out. For then we have no need of a deity to account for the big bang.

            Dr B is a Thomist. The five ways still show us the universe requires Pure Act for it too exist even if it had no formal absolute beginning or a no-boundary beginning.

            >I'm not sure what the distinction of accidental to essential here is in terms of material regress.

            Well a past eternal universe could exist with an infinite accidental series of causes. That is a no brainer.

            >I ask you, of you have a material series of causes this would be an explanation for the universe that needs no divine origin?

            Before I learned about Thomism I thought that but now I see even a past eternal universe or a bouncing universe etc would still need a first cause.

            A bouncing universe would be possible but based on the five ways it would still need pure act behind it keeping it going.

            >Though I expect you mean by "accidental" "that which is caused by another" in which I'd ask for the logical contradiction in an essential material regress.

            I guess so.

            >Not to mention in materialism. Note materialism does not deny the immaterial, it just does not take it to be fundamental.

            I have never heard of this? But.....I once heard of "Christian Materialism" so that there is a species of materialism I have not heard of doesn't mean it's not a thing.

            Cheers.

          • It's fine if you think one cannot defend Dr Bonette's argument. Just say so. I don't see any other way to have a discussion here, if your basis for defending this is not that the evidence logically supports the position but rather it's based on divine revelation, that's fine, but it really is a concession of the argument. I guess you seem to be doing that by repeating Aquinas' admission.

            I'm not aware of this distinction in brute facts. The kind I'm talking about would be, the existence of some kind of material reality and laws of nature as brute facts. Would you consider these incoherent?

            Well, if you accept an infinite regress, then there is an alternative to creation ex nihilo by deity that is not ruled out .

            Then you contradict yourself by saying an infinite regress needs a first cause. Now that's incoherent!

            A maintaining cause is not a first cause.

          • Jim the Scott

            >It's fine if you think one cannot defend Dr Bonette's argument. Just say so.

            This assumes how you understand his argument. It seems you understand it to be some sort of Kalam cosmological argument. It's not and if it was via Aquinas & Feser I would say it fails.

            If he is making a logical inference based on the presupposition God creates from nothing then I would say it is logically consistent. Something I think you conceded.

            >I don't see any other way to have a discussion here, if your basis for defending this is not that the evidence logically supports the position but rather it's based on divine revelation, that's fine, but it really is a concession of the argument. I guess you seem to be doing that by repeating Aquinas' admission.

            Green when explaining theological concepts we don't always use natural theology.

            >I'm not aware of this distinction in brute facts. The kind I'm talking about would be, the existence of some kind of material reality and laws of nature as brute facts. Would you consider these incoherent?

            Yes.

            >Well, if you accept an infinite regress, then there is an alternative to creation ex nihilo by deity that is not ruled out .

            Nope because an infinite regress would still be changing and as such the first way applies to account for it's existence from eternity.

            >Then you contradict yourself by saying an infinite regress needs a first cause. Now that's incoherent!

            Seriously Green I thought you said you knew Aquinas? Are you like Dawkins who erroneously thinks the First Way is just another Kalam argument?

            Tell me that is not so? I thought you of all people would be paying attention.

            >A maintaining cause is not a first cause.

            Semantics! It is metaphysically prior that is how it is first.

            PS. You scared me there. I thought you didn't understand the first cause.

            You are just being cute? Well I respect that.

          • "The kind I'm talking about would be, the existence of some kind of material reality and laws of nature as brute facts. Would you consider these incoherent?

            Yes."

            Please show me the logical contradiction.

            An infinite regress may be changing but cannot have a first cause, because if it did it would terminate with that cause and could not be an infinite regress.

            No I've not introduced the Kalaam. I know it is different from Aquinas.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Please show me the logical contradiction.

            What would be the point in that? I would rather show you why it is incoherent.

            >An infinite regress may be changing but cannot have a first cause, because if it did it would terminate with that cause and could not be an infinite regress.

            That would only apply to an accidental causal series not an essential one. An Essential series would require a first cause or if you prefer ultimate cause that causes the infinite accidental series to exist.

            A First without a Second Cause
            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html#more

            Anyway If Laws of nature are brute facts then they don't explain anything at all.

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/03/can-you-explain-something-by-appealing.html#more

            http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/03/an-exchange-with-keith-parsons-part-iv.html#more

            To sum:
            " You want to endorse a form of naturalism according to which real explanations are possible at levels of physical reality higher than the level of the fundamental laws of nature, yet where these explanations rest on a bottom level of physical laws that have no explanation at all but are “brute facts.” But this view is, I maintain, incoherent.

            For if you endorse a regularity view of laws, then you will have no genuine explanations at all anywhere in the system. All of reality, and not just the level of fundamental physical laws, will amount to a “brute fact.”

            Whereas if you endorse instead an Aristotelian, Platonic, or theological view of laws, then you would be acknowledging that all laws of nature, including even the fundamental laws, are dependent on something else and thus cannot provide ultimate explanations -- and you would also in each case be taking on other commitments incompatible with your naturalism."

            I hope this helps. Cheers man.

          • >Please show me the logical contradiction.

            "What would be the point in that? I would rather show you why it is incoherent."

            That is what it means to be "incoherent". Perhaps you're using the term in a different way.

            "Anyway If Laws of nature are brute facts then they don't explain anything at all."

            Correct .

            "For if you endorse a regularity view of laws, then you will have no genuine explanations at all anywhere in the system. All of reality, and not just the level of fundamental physical laws, will amount to a “brute fact.”"

            Yes, but of course I'm not endorsing anything. This is unknown. I'm saying these claims lack sufficient basis to accept as true.

            It doesn't help Bonnette justify his premises .

          • Jim the Scott

            >That is what it means to be "incoherent". Perhaps you're using the term in a different way.

            Good because it could mean something else.

            >Correct .

            Indeed. Glad we are on the same page.

            >Yes, but of course I'm not endorsing anything. This is unknown. I'm saying these claims lack sufficient basis to accept as true.

            So basically your default is skepticism. Ok but you need positive justification for that view....just saying. ;-)

            Cheers guy & peace.

          • Ok, so no, you don't think brute facts are incoherent?

            Of course I am a skeptic and I do have a positive justification for it. But it's not my epistemology we are discussing.

            Your failure to justify your beliefs and deflection is telling but no longer interesting to me .

          • Jim the Scott

            >Ok, so no, you don't think brute facts are incoherent?

            Why do you insist on not qualifying the type of "Brute facts" you are talking about?

            Metaphysical brute facts are incoherent. Epistemological ones are not.

            >Of course I am a skeptic and I do have a positive justification for it. But it's not my epistemology we are discussing.

            Fair enough & I am glad to know were you stand. It helps for fruitful dialog.

            >Your failure to justify your beliefs and deflection is telling but no longer interesting to me .

            Well to be fair I DID mention often that Dr. B wasn't giving any type of Kalam argument. But we will have to agree to disagree.

            Peace out again. I found this exchange enlightening.

          • Jim the Scott

            additional clarification.

            >>I'm not aware of this distinction in brute facts. The kind I'm talking about would be, the existence of some kind of material reality and laws of nature as brute facts. Would you consider these incoherent?

            As metaphysical brute facts they would be incoherent. Epistemological ones not so much if at all.

          • BCE

            You are arguing for a creator.
            The log cabin is built from prexisting material.
            Let's skip the regression, we know that story.
            Every event had causation, gravity, every atom fusion etc.
            Ultimately go back to the so called "singularity"
            it is actually not no-thing, it is the only thing with no other thing
            by which to quantify a consequence, no border, no direction, space, elements, speed, or time.
            Let's call the singularity * your imaginary log cabin *
            and at a moment BANG
            and there was hydrogen, then helium, later carbon, fusion
            It's a closed system, all the energy is there, stored energy releases
            gravity expands it.
            Now where did the singularity come from?
            since before the bang there was yet no fusion process, no elements.
            So you can't explain it by anything part of the known universe, or known laws.
            It being caused by something completely outside and exceptional
            to the universe and its laws.

          • >The log cabin is built from prexisting material.

            I've just explained this one is not.

            >Every event had causation, gravity, every atom fusion etc.

            Unknown, but in this hypo, I am not disagreeing that there was causation, just no material cause. Anything implausible about that in your view?

            By definition the singularity is indescribable, but also not relevant to this thought experiment.

            >Let's call the singularity * your imaginary log cabin *

            No thanks, lets deal with the question I asked. Which is: is there anything implausible about a claim, in general, that something material was created with no material precursor?

            If it is implausible to you, please explain why.

            You say that "Every event had causation, gravity, every atom fusion etc. Ultimately go back to the so called "singularity""

            And I would agree with this. But this is every material event having a material cause. And we have no evidence of a material even absent a material cause. By induction this leads to the overwhelming inference that all material events have a material cause. The universe is a material thing, the Big Bang was a material event, therefore it must have had a material cause.

            If you want to disregard all this evidence as categorically irrelevant to the creation of matter itself, rather than a re-arrangement of it, I ask again, what does intuition alone tell you about the claim that some agent, has brought something into existence with no material precursor?

          • BCE

            It's obvious everything relies on a process outside itself.
            Life depends on carbon, carbon on fusion, fusion on (gluons ?).....
            Eventually you hit a wall, perhaps why physics can't explain the universe before cosmic inflation; and can only speculate what the process was
            in the moment after.
            So the answer is not that science can't acknowledge a creator, external to the universe, since what they speculate is that the known universe,
            from its beginning, is nothing (like what was before the bang)
            Remember they interjected the term "nothing" (nothing explained by anything known )

          • "It's obvious everything relies on a process outside itself."

            Everything?

            But other than that I don't disagree .

            I take it then that you agree it is counter intuitive to say that, in general, any material has been brought into existence by an efficient cause alone?

            I further take it that you agree that all experience if causation involves at least a material cause?

            From these we are left with no justification for the inference that the universe was brought about by an efficient cause alone.

            It would be a fallacious argument from ignorance to say we can infer an efficient cause absent a material cause for the universe.

          • BCE

            I'm presuming you do not mean "fallacious....absent a material cause"
            because scientists don't necessarily define the unknown (before any hydrogen) as matter. Likely why some call it a field, or plasma
            to distinguish it from the material universe.
            That aside
            Sorry if I am not clear but am ignorant.
            Absolutely the universe needs cause. The wall is the final
            thing for which there is no explanation known for its being.
            If after reduction, and reduction you have your most primordial bit, or
            first wave and nothing that is older, then its being could only come from outside of it, and not some material thing because then that first
            primordial bit or first wave, wasn't the first.
            What is that dynamic first cause, science doesn't know, you can't answer your own question. Hawking didn't.
            Deists say God

          • No, I meant what I said.

            How do you know the universe needs a cause?

            I certainly can answer the question, it is not at all intuitive to think an efficient cause alone can bring matter into existence.

    • His argument assumes nothing should be the ontological default, which he never seems to justify. This is a common claim among the religious.

  • The Observer

    Context, context, context.

    The first recorded reference to creatio ex nihilo (that I am aware of) is found in 2 Maccabees 7:28. "Look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed."

    But pay attention to exactly where and when this remarkable statement was made, and by whom. The mother of seven sons is forced to watch each of them suffer appalling torture and merciless death at the hands of cruel oppressors of Israel. The first six have already been executed, and immediately before they kill her seventh, she speaks to him. Here is the declaration of creation from nothing in its full context:

    "My son, have pity on me. I carried you nine months in my womb, and nursed you for three years, and have reared you and brought you up to this point in your life, and have taken care of you. I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers."

    Psalm 100 says pretty much the same thing: "It is [God] that hath made us, and not we ourselves." (Coverdale trans.)

    The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is first and foremost an expression of defiance in the face of tyranny. It is saying to corrupt power, "You are not responsible for my being. I do not belong to you." It is perhaps the most revolutionary concept of all time - a declaration of the inherent dignity of each person.

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I have always been in awe at that recounting from Maccabees of the horrendous butchering of that poor mother's seven sons and of her amazing courage and faith -- but I had not noticed the text about God's creation of heaven and earth from no pre-existing matter. My thanks to you for bringing it to our attention.

  • "Thus, on the hypothesis that the cosmos did begin in time, it would depend on the infinite power of God to have created it."

    But this is contradicted by Big Bang cosmology in which time arises with the expansion. This is why Hawking says that if you're talking about "before" the big bang it can't be in the dimension of time, you need something different that acts somehow like time, which Bonnette mocks as imaginary.

    • Rob Abney

      you need something different that acts somehow like time, which Bonnette mocks as imaginary.

      Dr. Bonnette isn't "mocking" it, he is calling it exactly as you described - an image of something that is not actual to represent something that is non-existent.

      • He is mocking Hawking.

        • Jim the Scott

          Dude I know mockery and that is not it.

      • Michael Murray

        Hawking's imaginary time is imaginary in the sense of so-called imaginary complex numbers. Physicists and mathematicians, like Catholic theologians, sometimes give words definitions that have nothing to do with their everyday definitions !

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imaginary_number

        • Rob Abney

          Wikipedia says that imaginary numbers were originally a derogatory term but now widely accepted, so was the description "mocking" Hawking?

        • Jim the Scott

          Imaginary Time is a metaphysical concept not a scientific one.

          Hawking should stick with Physics and leave the Philosophy to the professionals.

          • Michael Murray

            I've no idea what you are trying to convey by the capital I and capital T but there is a mathematical model that physicists use that involves letting the time co-ordinate t be a complex number rather than just a real one. This definition of imaginary time is definitely a scientific one. Does it apply the real world ? Hawking claims

            It turns out that a mathematical model involving imaginary time predicts not only effects we have already observed but also effects we have not been able to measure yet nevertheless believe in for other reasons.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imaginary_time

          • Jim the Scott

            >I've no idea what you are trying to convey by the capital I and capital T

            I have no idea why you complain about petty nonsense? So there you go....

            You can call Imaginary Time "scientific" but Vilenkin still calls it metaphysical cosmology.

            Here is the full quote from your citation of Hawking:

            One might think this means that imaginary numbers are just a mathematical game having nothing to do with the real world. From the viewpoint of positivist philosophy, however, one cannot determine what is real. All one can do is find which mathematical models describe the universe we live in. It turns out that a mathematical model involving imaginary time predicts not only effects we have already observed but also effects we have not been able to measure yet nevertheless believe in for other reasons. So what is real and what is imaginary? Is the distinction just in our minds? ”
            — Stephen Hawking[1]END QUOTE

            I repeat my charge. He is doing philosophy not science.

          • Michael Murray

            I repeat my charge. He is doing philosophy not science.

            Of course a discussion of whether a scientific model is in any sense real and the consequent discussion of what real means would be philosophy. But that wasn't your charge. You said

            Imaginary Time is a metaphysical concept not a scientific one.

            I pointed it that it didn't have to be. You moved the goalposts. Such is the usual approach to trying to have a discussion at Strange Notions and the reason I come here so rarely these days.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Of course a discussion of whether a scientific model is in any sense real and the consequent discussion of what real means would be philosophy. But that wasn't your charge.

            It pretty much was my charge.

            >You said:
            >Imaginary Time is a metaphysical concept not a scientific one.

            I also said in this same thread "Hawking is the guy who is plugging imaginary numbers into Einstein's gravity equations in order to get rid of the Singularity and eliminate the beginning point of the universe. In real world physics engineers can do this but would still have to convert back to real numbers."

            Thus I noted the use of imaginary numbers in scientific models vs ontological claims the Universe has no beginning point and no boundary. But the concept of Imaginary Time as "real" is clearly a metaphysical claim.

            >I pointed it that it didn't have to be. You moved the goalposts. Such is the usual approach to trying to have a discussion at Strange Notions and the reason I come here so rarely these days.

            No you are selectively reading what I wrote. In my initial response to Green in this very thread I noted the use of imaginary numbers in scientific calculations (specifically engineering) and for real world results they had to be converted back into real numbers.

            But the ontological claim Hawking makes that Imaginary Time is somehow "real" and as such eliminates the beginning point of the universe leaving it finite in the past but without a formal beginning point is clearly a metaphysical claim.

            I don't see how that wasn't clear too you? Maybe if you read what I wrote and ignored my use of capitals vs lower case it might work out better for you?

            Anyway, cheers.

    • Jim the Scott

      Mr. Green what's with this treating Hawking as if he was some holy figure who can't be mocked? What is up with that?

      >you need something different that acts somehow like time, which Bonnette mocks as imaginary.

      Hawking is the guy who is plugging imaginary numbers into Einstein's gravity equations in order to get rid of the Singularity and eliminate the beginning point of the universe. In real world physics engineers can do this but would still have to convert back to real numbers. The problem here is if Hawking does that then the Singularity he is trying to get rid of comes back! Cosmologist Vilenkin candidly calls this an exercises in “metaphysical cosmology". You can't really use imaginary or negative numbers to count real world objects or measure physical phenomena. There is no such thing as 3i cars in a parking lot or -6 cars in the same. Here we have the old problem of treating Math as literal reality.

      As for "mocking" Hawking the man is a big boy and has been "mocked"(that is he has been criticized) by Atheist and Theistic philosophers & Scientists for his apparent ignorance of philosophy.

      Cosmologist Martin Rees who is an Atheist of Hawking said ""Stephen Hawking is a remarkable person whom I've know for 40 years and for that reason any oracular statement he makes gets exaggerated publicity. I know Stephen Hawking well enough to know that he has read very little philosophy and even less theology, so I don't think we should attach any weight to his views on this topic,".

      Ouch!

      Anyway Physicist Stephen Barr (who is Catholic) and Physicist Robert T Russell (who is a devout Protestant Christian) have argued getting rid of the Singularity doesn't really get rid of God. William Lane Craig argues doing so doesn't even effect the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

      Barr called Hawking's cosmology "elegant" but maintains it doesn't really get rid of God. With the exception of the Kalam all ancient Cosmological Arguments for the existence of God presuppose a past eternal universe.

      In Hawking's scheme if I was Dr. Who I could never get my TARDIS to go back in time to watch the Big Bang (thus invalidating the 11th(12th) Doctor's Akhaten speech)........
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoVLhUxhdSw

      .....because he could never get to time Zero in some Zeno Turtle argument scheme applied to time. He could travel to the time of trillions' or quadrillions of a second and never get to Zero. The opposite how we can get to 99.9999999% etc the speed of light (keep adding decimals) and never obtain 1.0c.

      Hawking should just stick with physics and not get ideas above his pay grade. You can't use physics to get rid of God.

  • Sample1

    Atheistic scientists, like physicist Stephen Hawking, seek to avoid any possible theological implications of the Big Bang by redefining the meaning of this absolute beginning in time in terms that would avoid any need for God

    Horseshit! I exclaim for emphasis like one might do in friendly banter. Am I far off the mark when I say that what animates your resistance to methodical naturalism is your bias that the angel Satan is directly or indirectly responsible for removing your God from scientific models of reality?

    Mike

    • Jim the Scott

      >Am I far off the mark when I say that what animates your resistance to methodical naturalism is your bias that the angel Satan is directly or indirectly responsible for removing your God from scientific models of reality?

      You are up your own horse's.....um....noise. ;-)

      (I filled my quota for cursing today)

      Methodological naturalism is a strategy for studying the world, by which scientists choose not to consider supernatural causes - even as a remote possibility.

      Now I am absolutely no fan of "scientific" arguments for the Existence of God since God is a philosophical question not a scientific one. But that having been said methodological naturalism is just deciding the outcome before hand by A Priori fiat not by doing actual science.

      Of course I doubt the practitioners of this method have a coherent philosophical understanding of what constitutes "natural" vs "supernatural" so it is kind of moot.

      I think Classic Philosophical Theism has a better argument against Scientific so called "Theism" then this nonsense. Just as I think Thomists have a better argument against the Ontological one then most Atheists.

      • Sample1

        How confident are you in your understanding of methodological naturalism?

        100%?

        Mike

        • Jim the Scott

          One must use reason. Denying God because you prayed for a pony & didn't get it as a child is a bit daft.

    • Rob Abney

      Satan, who knows far more science and theology than any of us ever will, has a strong influence on any human who does not actively resist him. I say “to hell with you Satan!”.

      • Sample1

        Two questions.

        1. How often would you say do you think about Satan the angel in Christian lore?

        2. Can you provide names of scientists and their models of reality that you claim are lies?

        Thanks.

        Mike

        • Rob Abney

          1. Rarely. I think of God much more often. But I wouldn't say never because then Satan would find a way to influence me.
          2. I never accused anyone of lying. But the father of lies enjoys influencing us to ignore parts of reality.

          • Sample1

            Thanks for your thoughts. Do you think a longer conversation can materialize from these answers?

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Sure. Would you read this Thomistic explanation of the temptation by the demons?
            I answer that, The angels in their own nature stand midway between God and men. Now the order of Divine providence so disposes, that it procures the welfare of the inferior orders through the superior. But man's welfare is disposed by Divine providence in two ways: first of all, directly, when a man is brought unto good and withheld from evil; and this is fittingly done through the good angels. In another way, indirectly, as when anyone assailed is exercised by fighting against opposition. It was fitting for this procuring of man's welfare to be brought about through the wicked spirits, lest they should cease to be of service in the natural order. Consequently a twofold place of punishment is due to the demons: one, by reason of their sin, and this is hell; and another, in order that they may tempt men, and thus the darksome atmosphere is their due place of punishment.

            Now the procuring of men's salvation is prolonged even to the judgment day: consequently, the ministry of the angels and wrestling with demons endure until then. Hence until then the good angels are sent to us here; and the demons are in this dark atmosphere for our trial: although some of them are even now in hell, to torment those whom they have led astray; just as some of the good angels are with the holy souls in heaven. But after the judgment day all the wicked, both men and angels, will be in hell, and the good in heaven.

  • Vincent Herzog

    Hi, Tommy. Dr. Bonnette is presenting a demonstration. If you think it doesn't work, then you should say where it falls apart, but you can't simply deny the conclusion or uncharitably dismiss the demonstration without begging the question.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    You sound like you think time was running before God created the world. The Christian doctrine is that the world had a beginning in time. This does not mean that God was in time before he created the world or that time existed before God created the world. In the very act of creating the world, God created time as a necessary property of physical reality. As Aristotle defines time, it is the measure of motion in reference to before and after. His Physics studies ens mobile, that is, movable being. Physical being is primarily understood in terms of it being subject to motion. Thus, in creating a physical world, God simultaneously created it with the property of time. Time had a beginning because the world had a beginning. The beginning is a temporal limitation on the world, meaning that it did not exist through endless duration. It was a "change" for the world to have a temporal beginning; it was not a change for God. Nor was it a "first moment" for God, who is utterly outside of time. So, the first moment in time was a moment for the world, not for God.

    • David Nickol

      I see a couple of problems. First, it is claimed that God created the universe and keeps it in existence. That, to me, implies two acts in sequence. God first created the world, and after the creation was completed, God acted (acts) to keep the world in existence. And should he ever cease that action, the world would cease to exist. So there we have a (hypothetical) third sequenced act of God. God creates; God sustains; God "uncreates." It would seem that creation can be only one act, not two (creating and sustaining).

      Second, there are references (e.g., in discussions of God answering prayers) about God willing things "from all eternity." But that sounds very much to my ear to imply God willed something long, long ago, before it happened. Suppose my Aunt Mary went to Lourdes and prayed to God that she would be cured of her arthritis. And so it happens. As I understand the argument, God willed "from all eternity" that if Aunt Mary went to Lourdes, she would be cured of her arthritis. It's a part of the overall plan of creation. But then there is the problem of God knowing "beforehand" that Aunt Mary was going to go to Lourdes. I understand the idea that God knowing that something will happen need not be interpreted to mean that God causes it to happen. But nevertheless one is left with the impression that everything is known (and planned) beforehand, and God has designated winners and losers.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        I can understand how difficult it is to really grasp what is meant when we say that God is simply “outside of time.” It is very hard not to surreptitiously insert him back into time in ways we do not notice. The answer to both your questions is essentially the same. The problems you see arise from thinking of God as though he were in time, even though you know he cannot be.

        Eternity is not a form of endless duration. Endless duration is something like time, but it is not God’s eternity. God’s eternity is “all at once.” So, he does not, from his end of things, engage in three separate acts: create, sustain, uncreate. Nonetheless, from the standpoint of creatures, God’s creative act is received as three successive stages (on your hypothetical scenario).

        It took me some time to understand how it is possible for something which is immaterial to have multiple, discrete objects for its simple acts. But, for openers, here is an example to ponder: Consider the lowly sentient act of seeing an image on a TV screen. The hundreds of thousands of pixels illuminated are all discrete, precisely because they are on a surface that is extended in space.

        But the image is experienced as a simple whole by any sentient organism with the sense of sight. The TV set cannot see its own image. Other than the obvious fact that it lacks sense receptors, the deeper reason for this is that what is extended in space always “displays” content over surfaces extended in space, so that one part represents one part of the “image” and another part represents another part. Nothing “grasps” the whole as such. But the sensation of sight does precisely that. It apprehends the whole as one thing.

        Thus a tree on a TV screen has its top “represented” on the top of the screen and its bottom “represented” on the bottom of the screen. But a dog looking at the screen sees the whole in a single act of perception. The reason this is possible is because the dog has a sense faculty (not his brain) which is an immaterial property of his soul (substantial form). Because this sense faculty is NOT extended in space, it can apprehend in a single act objects which are necessarily extended in space (over the surface of the TV screen) precisely because they are multiple, whereas on the part of the dog sensing, the multiple are apprehended in a single, unified act which is not extended in space. Were it itself extended in space, it would have the same problem as the TV screen, namely, that no part could represent the whole of the object sensed, but only a part of it.
        .
        All this is but a slight hint as to how God, in a simple act, can create and sustain what is in creatures separate and distinct receptive acts, while in him the whole is a single act whose object is multiple effects.

        So, too, with respect to your second problem, that is, how God can order the appropriate needed effects in lives whose duration is extended, on the part of the creatures, through time – whereas in God all these separated objects are known, willed, and caused in a single eternal act, which is his very being.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Something tells me that, in your case, it would always be granted. ;-)

  • Vincent Herzog

    I’m not claiming it’s the best way, but here’s one way to represent Dr. Bonnette‘ s argument (and I welcome Dr. Bonnette to refine it):
    (1) If something exists, then it must have a reason for its being (including the cosmos). [Argued here: https://strangenotions.com/are-metaphysical-first-principles-universally-true/%5D
    (2) Either a thing is its own reason-for-being, or not. [Law of excluded middle.]
    (3) It is not the case that the reason for a thing’s being is absolutely nothing; rather, all causes are actual.
    (4) If something is not its own reason, then the reason for its being is in something else. [Follows from premises 1, 2, and 3]
    (5) The reason for a thing must *be able* to be the reason for that thing, that is, must *be sufficiently powerful* to explain it.
    (6) The power to be the reason of a thing’s being is measured by (a) the being explained and (b) the activity required for accomplishing its being, such that the greater (a) the thing and (b) the activity required for it to be, then the greater the power.
    (7) The activity required to explain a being is determined by the proportionality between its existing and its not.
    (8) If there is no proportionality, the power required is actual, but in-principle immeasurable.
    (9) What is actual, but in-principle immeasurable is infinite, and vice-versa.
    (10) For any and all being, finite or infinite, there is no proportionality between existence and non-existence.
    (11) Therefore, the being of each and every thing has its reason in something infinitely powerful.
    (12) The cosmos and everything in it exists (at some time or another).
    (13) Neither the cosmos nor anything confined to it is of in-principle immeasurable power.
    (14) Therefore, neither the cosmos, nor anything confined to it is of infinite power. [9,13]
    (15) All material things are confined to the cosmos.
    (16) Therefore, the reason for the cosmos and for anything it it, is neither the cosmos, nor anything in it, nor any material thing. [5, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15]
    (17) Therefore, the reason for the cosmos necessarily transcends the cosmos and all things in it and all material. [4, 16]
    (18) “Therefore, there must exist an Infinite Being, God, who alone can possess and manifest the infinite power required to create and conserve in existence the finite cosmos.” [11, 17]

    • The problem is that not even god can satisfy the PSR, as the question to why god eternally existed with the desire/intention to create our specific contingent universe, and not a universe slightly different, or no universe at all, will not have a logically necessary answer, since there is no logically necessary reason god had to create this specific universe (another one was logically possible). That means the answer(s) must be contingent, as a necessary option is off the table for you. That leads to only 2 options, an infinite regress of contingent answers, or a brute fact. Since you deny brute facts can exist, your only choice is an an infinite regress of contingent answers.

      And thus the problem the Thomist/theist faces is as such:

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e7421a9fa0355b67b2d1dd11b20309d3e04d29af045611d89a38135ede7b17e4.png

      • Vincent Herzog

        Thanks! I’ve always enjoyed this objection, but it has been a few years since I’ve thought carefully about it. I agree that, if the criticism succeeds, then it causes trouble for the defender of cosmological arguments in this way: if successful, it would at least make the inference from cosmological arguments less certain.

        Can you refresh my memory of who put it forward and/or who has taken it up? (Can you remind me of where we can find it in the philosophical literature?) If you don’t know, then I can go digging, but if you do know, that would save me some trouble! The reason I want to dig and think about it carefully is that it is not clear to me that equivocation on “reason” has been avoided; specifically, I’m worried that there has been a conflation of explanatory reasons and justificatory reasons, and it would seem that what we need for the PSR is explanatory reasons (and God himself could be that), whereas what seems to generate the reductio is a demand a justificatory reason on God’s part. Surely, I would not be the first to have this worry; so I’m sure it’s been addressed (probably ad nauseam) in the literature. Seems like we should avail ourselves of that discussion.

        • I'm not sure who may have originally came up with this objection, I sort of "discovered" it on my own while analyzing the PSR in the context of theism (which is where it almost always comes up.) I certainly can't say I came up with it.

          I'm not sure what you mean by an equivocation on “reason.” Care to explain? I'm simply saying: 1) Everything needs a reason (that's the point of the PSR), 2) Reasons can only be explained the thing itself (ie, they are necessary reasons), or contingent (explained by something else), 3) There is no necessary reason why god eternally existed with the desire/intention to create our specific contingent universe, hence a necessary reason is not an option for the theist, 4) That leaves him with only an infinite regress of contingent reasons, or a brute fact, 5) Brute facts are not an option given the PSR, therefore 6) The infinite regress is the only option.

          Furthermore, the specific infinite regress chain itself won't be logically necessary, as a different chain of infinite regressions is possible. Do you see a way out of this dilemma that doesn't involve special pleading? I have not heard one yet.

          • Vincent Herzog

            Sure, I can elaborate on the explanation of my worry that I provided above. Which part confuses you? Are you familiar with the distinction between explanatory reasons and justificatory reasons?

          • I've heard the claim that god is his own reason, but that of course doesn't explain anything on why god eternally wanted to create a specific universe that is not necessarily. Regarding the distinction between explanatory reasons and justificatory reasons, you're saying god alone provides the former, but not the latter. I'm saying the PSR would demand answers to both kinds of reasons, since it demands everything have a reason. "God is his own reason" does not satisfy the PSR.

            In other words, the view that god "is his own reason" still leaves the "why" question that I originally asked above unanswered. And that question either has an answer or not, and if it has an answer it will either be a necessary one or a contingent one. Any attempt to say it has no answer admits that god can't ultimately satisfy the PSR (as there would be a "why?" question that has no answer). I've seen no literature on this being fully addressed. I've seen plenty of special pleading. I was wondering if you knew of an answer since you seem fairly knowledgeable.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Your careful and constructive approach to philosophical analysis is evident from your previous comments above.

            You are correct to wonder about the possibility of equivocation of terms in this argument posed against the Thomistic understanding of God. This argument is not new to this site and has been refuted multiple times.

            Without wishing to reprise lengthy debate, I would simply draw your attention to one of the premises proposed: “3) There is no necessary reason why god eternally existed with the desire/intention to create our specific contingent universe, hence a necessary reason is not an option for the theist.”

            This premise illicitly conflates the fact that God necessarily exists with some sort of necessity in his free act of creating the world. While God is the necessary being, this refers only to the necessity of his act of existence, which necessarily follows from his essence being identical with his act of existence.

            But St. Thomas, in his Summa Theologiae I, q. 19, a. 3, c, points out that God necessarily wills “something of absolute necessity; but that this is not true of all that he wills.” God wills his own goodness necessarily, since that is the proper object of the divine will. But lesser goods, such as the creation of this particular world, are not willed necessarily, since the divine perfection and goodness are fully possessed without relation to any such lesser goods.

            Hence, there is no need for a necessary reason why this particular world was created, even though there is a necessary reason why God exists – given that his essence is one with his existence.

            Thus, to conflate a necessary reason for God existing with a necessary reason for him eternally choosing to create this particular world is to illicitly mix two distinct concepts of necessity as if they were one and the same thing, which they are not.

            What is also not understood is that God is his own eternal free choice to create this particular world. There is not some other actually possible God who might have made some other choice. There is only the one God who exists eternally identical with his free choice to make this creation and none other. For some reason, some people simply cannot grasp this insight.

            As St. Thomas points out, the only necessity about this choice is a suppositional necessity, that is, given that God has eternally made this choice, it is impossible that he have made a different choice – just as if I choose to rob this bank, I cannot undo the fact that I have so chosen.

            As to the need for a sufficient reason here, God is his own sufficient reason because his essence is one with his existence. And, since his free choice is also one with his existence, it is its own sufficient reason for being and acting.

            Free choice in God is not a brute fact, since is not the denial of a reason, but rather is simply the exercise of the above-explained proper freedom of God to exist and to act in accord with his free nature. Just as God is his own sufficient reason for existing, he is also his own sufficient reason for eternally choosing as he does.

          • This argument is not new to this site and has been refuted multiple times.

            I beg to differ.

            But lesser goods, such as the creation of this particular world, are not willed necessarily, since the divine perfection and goodness are fully possessed without relation to any such lesser goods.

            That's the whole point. God's eternal desire to create this specific world isn't logically necessary, and any explanation or reason as to why god eternally exists with the intent/desire of creating this specific universe must therefore be a contingent one, since that is your only other option given the PSR.

            Hence, there is no need for a necessary reason why this particular world was created, even though there is a necessary reason why God exists – given that his essence is one with his existence.

            Then there must be a contingent reason, and that's where you face the dilemma. Also, this very fact undermines god's necessity, since it is the case that god's will is identical with his essence, and his essence is one with his existence. That means god's will is identical with his existence, and since his will has no necessary reason why it is what it is (regarding the desire/intent to create our specific universe) then his existence isn't necessary.

            Thus, to conflate a necessary reason for God existing with a necessary reason for him eternally choosing to create this particular world is to illicitly mix two distinct concepts of necessity as if they were one and the same thing, which they are not.

            I'm not making that conflation. You are. By saying god's will is identical with his essence, and his essence is identical with his existence, that means god's will is identical with his existence. Since his will regarding the intent/desire to create our specific universe is not logically necessary, his existence is not logically necessary. You are smuggling in a step in your conclusion that you are overlooking.

            What is also not understood is that God is his own eternal free choice to create this particular world. There is not some other actually possible God who might have made some other choice. There is only the one God who exists eternally identical with his free choice to make this creation and none other. For some reason, some people simply cannot grasp this insight.

            Because it is illogical. Saying "God is his own eternal free choice to create this particular world" explains absolutely nothing; it's explanatorily defective, a mere assertion devoid of content. If there is not some other actual possible god who might have made some other choice, then (1) god isn't free in his choices, and (2) that would imply god's choice was logically necessary, and that another choice would entail a contradiction, preventing a god with that intention from being able to exist.

            As St. Thomas points out, the only necessity about this choice is a suppositional necessity, that is, given that God has eternally made this choice, it is impossible that he have made a different choice – just as if I choose to rob this bank, I cannot undo the fact that I have so chosen.

            This is a very weak argument because suppositional necessity is a farce. It just says that whatever happened or exists had to happen or exist, even though it admits there is no logically necessary reason why X happened or exists, but just because it did it was necessary. This like claiming necessitarianism, but without a justification for it.

            As to the need for a sufficient reason here, God is his own sufficient reason because his essence is one with his existence. And, since his free choice is also one with his existence, it is its own sufficient reason for being and acting.

            That's totally incoherent. Again, by saying god's will is identical with his essence, and his essence is identical with his existence, that means god's will is identical with his existence. Since his will regarding the intent/desire to create our specific universe is not logically necessary, his existence is not logically necessary. You are smuggling in a step in your conclusion that you are overlooking.

            The sufficient reason must either be necessary or contingent, since you admit there is no necessary one, an infinite regress of contingent reasons is your only hope, lest you accept brute facts. Speaking of which...

            Free choice in God is not a brute fact, since is not the denial of a reason, but rather is simply the exercise of the above-explained proper freedom of God to exist and to act in accord with his free nature. Just as God is his own sufficient reason for existing, he is also his own sufficient reason for eternally choosing as he does.

            The above explanations are not coherent. The reason for god's choices either have to be logically necessary or contingent, and since logical necessity is off the table, contingency is the only option. In the past you've said this is a false dichotomy, but this comes directly from the PSR, which you have to either modify or jettison altogether to maintain your stance.

          • Stephen Edwards

            God is identical to His will because His will is not a separate thing apart from Him, but that does not mean that God is identical to what He wills to exist.

          • That doesn't follow. God is identical to his will because his will is identical with his essence, and his essence is identical with his existence. His will is identical to what he wills, which is identical to god's essence. You're still going to have to admit that some of god's will is not necessary (which means it has to be contingent, given the PSR) and claiming that his essence is necessary cannot be derived as a result of that.

          • Stephen Edwards

            "God is identical to his will because his will is identical with his essence, and his essence is identical with his existence. His will is identical to what he wills, which is identical to god's essence."

            I agree with this.

            What I disagree with is the conclusion of equating God's will with how God uses His will. God's will is necessary, but His choices are not necessary. His choices proceed from His will contingently.

          • God's will has to have a reason why it is what it is, according to the PSR. And that means the reasons can either be necessary or contingent, since necessary reasons are off the table, that means the reasons can only be contingent. And that means god cannot be necessary since his will is his essence and his will is contingent.

          • Stephen Edwards

            I agree that God's will has to be necessary, but what I am objecting to is the consideration that this entails that 'what' God wills is therefore necessary.

          • That is the same thing. No meaningful difference at all.

          • Stephen Edwards

            No, I don't see it as the same thing.

          • I do. I also see no justification that god's will is necessary. That would entail that if anything in his will were even slightly different, there would be a contradiction.

          • Wrong. God's will, at least some of it, is not necessary, and that's where the problem lies. The PSR demands that god's non-necessary will has an explanation. Whether we can know what this will is is not the important part. The important part is that any reason for why god's non-necessary will is what it is cannot be a necessary reason, and that forces you into a dilemma: your only options are an infinite regress of contingent reasons or a brute fact.

          • Rob Abney

            Wrong

            You should consider starting all of your explanations with this same title!

          • Thomists should, because they have no actual arguments that work!

          • Jim the Scott

            >Thomists should, because they have no actual arguments that work!

            Says the guy who doesn't know the difference between a formal cause vs an efficient cause.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Again though, I think God's reasons are contingent. But His will is not equivalent to His reasons. Again, I think there is a meaningful distinction between God's will and what God wills.

          • That's not a meaningful distinction, and you'd be opening up the possibility that the reasons are external to god, which would challenge god's sovereignty.

          • Stephen Edwards

            I don't think that the reasons are 'things' though. Reasons are just what God chooses to do.

          • Every ontological state has to have a reason why it is so according to the PSR, including god's will, since god is his will and essence.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Yes, and I think the reason why God chooses things is explained by itself. However, I don't think this entails that the reasons need to be equated with God's essence nor do I think this entails that the reasons are extrinsic platonic objects. Rather, the reasons are the contingent results of what God chooses to do. They are neither equivalent to God's will or equivalent to abstract objects, rather they are simply the result of how God freely uses His will.

          • Jim the Scott

            I should warn you. The Person you are arguing with refuses to learn the difference between the Scholastic PSR and Liebniz's Rationalist version and he makes up his own definitions at the drop of a hat. Oh and he CANNOT be educated on the different. He has little or no concept of a non-starter objection.

            That having been said.

            Carry on........

          • Jim the Scott

            You will have to forgive Thoughtless he is making this all up as he goes along. He doesn't even know formal causes from efficient causes from a hole in the head. He doesn't want to offer polemics for the God we believe in but for the God he wishes we believed in. It helps his straw-man.

            Look at this mess.

            >Wrong. God's will, at least some of it, is not necessary, and that's where the problem lies.

            A Will by nature discriminates between different choices. If it doesn't do that how is it a will? Choices not pertaining to God's own good (those of which He must will by necessity) don't need to be necessary since He wills them out of the good for the things He creates not for himself.

            It doesn't make His divine essence contingent. Thoughtless doesn't get that since he needs to hold fast to his bad argument and sophistic reasoning.

            >The PSR demands that god's non-necessary will has an explanation.

            God is His own explanation and we cannot know what God reasons are for willing particular goods for creatures apart from rational speculation or being told by Him via divine revelation.

            This is unremarkable.

            >Whether we can know what this will is is not the important part. The important part is that any reason for why god's non-necessary will

            Interesting linguistic fudge. You will find Thoughtless an accomplished sophist and language murderer. The object of God's choice is not necessary but if God will's X then He must necessarily do X.

            >is what it is cannot be a necessary reason, and that forces you into a dilemma: your only options are an infinite regress of contingent reasons or a brute fact.

            This doesn't logically follow. OTOH God is omniscient so why would it be impossible for an Infinite Mind to have an Infinite number of reasons for willing X for creatures?

            Thoughtless doesn't think of these things because he is just trying to toss word salads.

            If anything he is amusing.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You are correct in saying that since God is necessary, he must necessarily exist in accordance with his nature which is his existence which is also his free will.

            But the necessity of his nature entails a two-fold relation to objects willed: (1) objects that are necessarily willed, e.g., his own goodness, and (2) objects that are not necessarily willed, that is, objects less than his own goodness, such as the finite world.

            De facto, God does will his own goodness necessarily, and the finite world non-necessarily – in one and the same eternal act.

            You are conflating the necessity of his nature with the erroneous inference that the necessity of his nature also extends to all that he can will, despite the real distinction between necessary and non-necessary objects of his will.

            I will not rehash all the other points which I think were made with sufficient clarity for those who want to understand them.

          • Jim the Scott

            I see the silly Thoughtless person who doesn't know the difference between a formal cause and an efficient cause is repeating his old nonsense.

            >That's the whole point. God's eternal desire to create this specific world isn't logically necessary, and any explanation or reason as to why god eternally exists with the intent/desire of creating this specific universe must therefore be a contingent one, since that is your only other option given the PSR.

            Note Thoughtless doesn't bother to mention which version of the PSR he is channeling "PSR has been formulated in many ways by philosophers of diverse metaphysical commitments"(Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics page 118). Also does he even make the distinction between metaphysical vs epistemological brute facts?
            Tedious!

            God's only desire is His Will and God's will is not contingent in that if God wills X from all eternity He cannot will Not X from all eternity. Logically & notionally prior to willing X God could have willed Not X.
            God is free to choose either from all eternity and no passive potency in His divine essence d moves His will to choose X or Not X & nothing external to His essence can compel that same Will to choose. What He will from all eternity He must do. Thus His choice is both free and immutable.
            A Will by nature discriminates between choices. God has a Will thus He can discriminate between choices.
            God Wills in one Pure Act from eternity. I think somebody should explain Cambridge properties to Thoughtless & I think He thinks you have to exist in Time to will(also as an Atheist materialist does he even believe in Free Will in the first place? Because he reads his own incompatible presuppositions into our philosophy which we don’t presuppose “formal cause vs efficient” ).
            Correcting him is 90% of arguing with him and he refuses correction.
            God’s unknown reasons for choosing X or Not X are epistemological brute facts(i.e. we can’t know them unless He tells us & no amount of natural theology can figure it out) but not metaphysical ones.
            To be a metaphysical brute fact means God has no reason even known to Himself why he might choose X or Not X.

            It’s that simple and Thoughtless has to muddy the waters to avoid the simple. The rest of his blather we can ignore.

          • Oh look, it's Jim the Idiot keeping the stupidity of this combox down at the middle school level!

            Note Thoughtless doesn't bother to mention which version of the PSR he is channeling "PSR has been formulated in many ways by philosophers of diverse metaphysical commitments"(Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics page 118). Also does he even make the distinction between metaphysical vs epistemological brute facts?
            Tedious!

            The versions of the PSR that avoid the dilemma are the ones that effectively make the PSR pointless. Also, I'm reiterating the same version the theist claims is necessary to make sense of anything. The distinction between metaphysical vs epistemological brute facts here is irrelevant.

            God's only desire is His Will and God's will is not contingent in that if God wills X from all eternity He cannot will Not X from all eternity. Logically & notionally prior to willing X God could have willed Not X.

            First sentence makes little sense. It should be "God's only desire is His Will and God's will is not necessary in that if God wills X from all eternity He cannot will Not X from all eternity." The whole point is that god's will is not logically necessary, which is exactly where the problem lies.

            God is free to choose either from all eternity and no passive potency in His divine essence d moves His will to choose X or Not X & nothing external to His essence can compel that same Will to choose. What He will from all eternity He must do. Thus His choice is both free and immutable.

            "Free" to choose from all eternity is an oxymoron. God's will to choose X or not X must have a reason, and since god's divine essence doesn't logically necessitate X vs not X, the reason must be contingent as that is your only option given the PSR, which is the same dichotomy every theist has given an atheist when he tries to argue to the atheist that the universe is contingent and therefore "must" have a necessary god as its explanation. So this is more word salad with a really tasty dressing on top.

            A Will by nature discriminates between choices. God has a Will thus He can discriminate between choices.

            Not an eternal will. But again the main issue here is that the reason behind god's will can't be necessary, so contingency is your only option.

            God Wills in one Pure Act from eternity. I think somebody should explain Cambridge properties to Thoughtless & I think He thinks you have to exist in Time to will(also as an Atheist materialist does he even believe in Free Will in the first place? Because he reads his own incompatible presuppositions into our philosophy which we don’t presuppose “formal cause vs efficient” ).

            Cambridge properties are basically irrelevant here. I'm taking god's timeless eternal will as a given for the sake of argument, and just giving you the logical consequence of it. And since why god's eternal timeless will is what it is isn't necessary, it isn't explained in the thing itself, and it has to be contingent.

            Correcting him is 90% of arguing with him and he refuses correction.

            That's because you never correct me, you just assert your Thomistic dogma. Same thing happened in our lovely debate where I showed you to be incorrect in your claim that metaphysical claims can't be falsified by science.

            God’s unknown reasons for choosing X or Not X are epistemological brute facts(i.e. we can’t know them unless He tells us & no amount of natural theology can figure it out) but not metaphysical ones.

            To be a metaphysical brute fact means God has no reason even known to Himself why he might choose X or Not X.

            Which is irrelevant. The problem isn't on what is the exact reason for god's will of X, it is the fact that god's reason for willing X rather than not Xisn't logically necessary, and that means its reason (whatever the heck it may be) must be contingent. That's what throws you into the theist's dilemma.

            It’s that simple and Thoughtless has to muddy the waters to avoid the simple. The rest of his blather we can ignore....

            Once again, attacking a straw man is your most potent tool.

          • I'm only saying if god is necessary, I certainly don't concede god is necessary, in fact, I'm arguing god isn't.

            You are conflating the necessity of his nature with the erroneous inference that the necessity of his nature also extends to all that he can will, despite the real distinction between necessary and non-necessary objects of his will.

            I'm not conflating anything. I am perfectly aware that it is claimed that god has wills that are necessary and wills that are not. The issue is with the wills that are not necessary. That is what leads to the dilemma and prevents you from claiming god is a necessary being. The conflation is made by you who claims god is his will. That means everything he wills, not just the necessary ones.

            You claim that god's essence/nature is his will, yet some of his will isn't necessary, but just so happens to be a certain way. This is why you have no justification for claiming god is necessary in the first place.

            The wills that are not necessary are what require an infinite regress of contingent reasons for existing, since a necessary reason is off the table. This is not that complicated.

          • Rob Abney

            Question 20. God's love. To love a thing is to will it good, in a twofold way anything may be loved more, or less. In one way on the part of the act of the will itself, which is more or less intense. In this way God does not love some things more than others, because He loves all things by an act of the will that is one, simple, and always the same. In another way on the part of the good itself that a person wills for the beloved. In this way we are said to love that one more than another, for whom we will a greater good, though our will is not more intense. In this way we must needs say that God loves some things more than others. For since God's love is the cause of goodness in things, as has been said, no one thing would be better than another, if God did not will greater good for one than for another.

          • Sorry, but that's just Christian gibberish. It tells me absolutely nothing about any of the questions or problems I proposed.

          • Rob Abney

            I was afraid that you wouldn't understand it. Love and will are the same. Try considering a new way of reading about the will. Try reading this page: http://newadvent.org/summa/1020.htm#article3
            Nearly everyone who considers God's will disagrees with your interpretation.

          • Nothing in your response rebuts anything I wrote in my comment. You assume that disagreeing = not understanding. That is not the case. Consider that you might not actually have a coherent claim on this.

          • Jim the Scott

            >"Sorry, but that's just Christian gibberish. It tells me absolutely nothing about any of the questions or problems I proposed."

            Translation: I don't know enough about your philosophical theology to give a rational rejoinder so I am just going to repeat my ignorant blather.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I think you are focusing on the right point by considering the question as to why God freely wills certain non-necessary goods.

            You are using what appears to be a legitimate logical dichotomy based on the opposition of the necessary vs. the contingent. Applying this division to God appears to render him unintelligible as a free agent in your argument.

            And yet, considered in itself, there is nothing whatever unintelligible about the concept of the Christian God as an eternal free substantial act who freely choses among options that are not necessary to his being.

            This in itself is an adequate defense of God’s intelligibility against your argument. Still, I will directly address your logic.

            You understandably argue against that intelligibility by saying that it is impaled on the horns of a dilemma: the necessary vs. the contingent.

            I am taking necessary here to mean that which must be as it is and cannot be otherwise. I take contingent to mean that which could be otherwise than it is.

            On this supposition, God’s nature is necessary, but his choice “appears” contingent, since it was not necessary that he choose this versus that. (I am assuming we agree, for the sake of argument, that God need not will those non-necessary goods.)

            But, since God’s free choice is identical to his nature, it cannot be other than it is, since God is immutable. Nor can his choice be other than it has been for all eternity, since he is eternally his own act of choosing.

            What is logically possible is not always ontologically possible, and, since there never was another God nor this God with any other choice(s), his choice could never have been or be other than it is.

            Therefore, God turns out to be the unique case in that he is the one and only being in which his choice is already made from all eternity, and hence is, as St. Thomas says, suppositionally necessary. (S.T. I, 19, 3, c.)

            That is to say, not only is God necessary, but also his choice for non-necessary goods is suppositionally necessary. Given that he has eternally made the choices he makes, there is no actual possibility, nor was there ever such, that some other choice be made. Notice that this meets the definition of necessary given above.

            Now I know you think that suppositional necessity is a farce, but in God’s case it just so happens to fulfill the definition of something truly necessary, since it never could have been other than it is, given the actually existing God we have -- even though God’s choice itself remains absolutely free with respect to non-necessary goods.

            And, since God is his own reason for being and his own reason for choosing, his choice is not a brute fact.

            Thus the necessary vs. contingent dilemma is answered, since God necessarily, but absolutely freely, chooses non-necessary goods in an eternal unchanging free act – and is his own reason both for existing and for choosing as he does.

            Nor is this special pleading, given the traditional unique properties of the Christian concept of God.

          • Jim the Scott

            The only problem here Doc is Thoughtless loves his dumb non-starter argument more then making a substantive point.

            He needs to make up a "God" he can take on based on his limited understanding of philosophy and theology rather then do the leg work and address the God we actually believe in as Catholics and followers of Aquinas.

            Why he feels he needs to waste our time with non-starters is an epistemological brute fact which I don't think even he knows the answer too.;-)

          • And yet, considered in itself, there is nothing whatever unintelligible about the concept of the Christian God as an eternal free substantial act who freely choses among options that are not necessary to his being.

            It's not god's alleged free will that I'm mostly concerned about. But let me just respond to this by saying that I think it's absurd to claim an act or choice is "free" if it is technically eternal and could not have been otherwise. You must be working from a watered down version of free will.

            I am taking necessary here to mean that which must be as it is and cannot be otherwise. I take contingent to mean that which could be otherwise than it is.

            I agree about the necessary. For something to be necessary would mean that for it not to be or exist it would entail a contradiction. But for contingent it means more than just could be otherwise, it means that it is explained by something else. For example, theists will argue that the universe is contingent and therefore needs an explanation that is not found in the universe itself, but something else. What you're doing is acknowledging god's will is in part contingent, his will is his essence, but then special pleading that his contingent will doesn't need an explanation outside of god.

            On this supposition, God’s nature is necessary, but his choice “appears” contingent, since it was not necessary that he choose this versus that. (I am assuming we agree, for the sake of argument, that God need not will those non-necessary goods.)

            No. On this supposition, god's nature is not necessary, because his will is in part non-necessary, and his will is his essence. You can't continually claim god's essence or nature is necessary, if you're also going to be telling me that his nature/essence is his will and his will is not necessary.

            So again, you're just assuming and asserting the very things my argument shows to be false, in order to try and show my argument is false. This is not rational. So right from the start I need not accept anything you say after this.

            But, since God’s free choice is identical to his nature, it cannot be other than it is, since God is immutable. Nor can his choice be other than it has been for all eternity, since he is eternally his own act of choosing.

            This is precisely why god isn't necessary. The unbreakable pairing of god's essence with his will is pivotal in why his non-necessary will entails his essence is not necessary.

            What is logically possible is not always ontologically possible, and, since there never was another God nor this God with any other choice(s), his choice could never have been or be other than it is.

            I can say the same exact thing about an eternal universe. Since our specific universe exists, and since there never was another universe, this universe and existence could never have been or be other than it is. You would of course object and say that the universe isn't necessary and god is, but that is precisely the claim you cannot demonstrate because god's essence is a contingent will that didn't have to be what it is. Hence it isn't necessary.

            Therefore, God turns out to be the unique case in that he is the one and only being in which his choice is already made from all eternity, and hence is, as St. Thomas says, suppositionally necessary. (S.T. I, 19, 3, c.)

            Sorry, but nothing you said above allows you to logically demonstrate this. You just assumed god's necessary in your argument, when the challenge you face is demonstrating that god is necessary to begin with. I think you've spent so much time in your belief system that your assumptions have become indisputable fact to you. But you have to justify your assumptions.

            That is to say, not only is God necessary, but also his choice for non-necessary goods is suppositionally necessary. Given that he has eternally made the choices he makes, there is no actual possibility, nor was there ever such, that some other choice be made. Notice that this meets the definition of necessary given above.

            You have not demonstrated god is necessary. You literally started with the claim that god is necessary and concluded that he's necessary. There is absolutely nothing in your argument that proves god is necessary.

            Now I know you think that suppositional necessity is a farce, but in God’s case it just so happens to fulfill the definition of something truly necessary, since it never could have been other than it is, given the actually existing God we have -- even though God’s choice itself remains absolutely free with respect to non-necessary goods.

            But I can't see how you don't see this as special pleading for god. You're saying god is unique in that his essence is necessary, even though his essence is his non-necessary will, but because god is eternal and couldn't be any other way, it is "suppositionally necessary." I can apply that exact same logic to the universe, since it is eternal, and couldn't be any other way, it is suppositionally necessary. You will of course object, but I will find a flaw in your objection.

            And, since God is his own reason for being and his own reason for choosing, his choice is not a brute fact.

            God can't be his own reason for being, because his essence is his non-necessary will. You can't claim he's necessary. Saying "God is his own reason for being" is a meaningless claim. What is the reason for why god's non-necessary will is the way it is? Suppositional necessity is not logical necessity and without logical necessity your case for god's necessary existence is much weaker than it is claimed to be.

            Thus the necessary vs. contingent dilemma is answered, since God necessarily, but absolutely freely, chooses non-necessary goods in an eternal unchanging free act – and is his own reason both for existing and for choosing as he does.

            But by this logic the universe itself is necessary, since it eternally exists the way it is, and could not exist in another state, or not at all, it is suppositionally necessary, and that satisfies your own criteria for an explanation in itself.

            Also, nothing in your above comment answers the necessary vs. contingent dilemma. Why god "freely" chooses a specific non-necessary good is still not answered. You're admitting it isn't logically necessary, and that means it must be contingent, else you have to modify the PSR to include more than 2 categories, which would effectively make it pointless.

            Nor is this special pleading, given the traditional unique properties of the Christian concept of God.

            Totally special pleading. This dilemma exposes the inherent flaw and weakness in the Thomist's claim that god is a necessary being. It shows that he really can't prove that logically. He must resort to a claim that god is the way he is and couldn't be otherwise, even though that way isn't logically necessary. Hence the theist is making a much stronger claim than they can actually demonstrate, and that's why no critic of Thomism need accept the claim that god is a necessary being. God doesn't satisfy that quality, since we can imagine another god eternally existing with a different non-necessary will and that would entail no logical contradiction.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            It is clear that the only way you could back out of my logic was to claim that God himself is not necessary -- on the allegation that his will is not necessary, and thus he must not be either.

            But you have it backward. Since I have shown that God's free will is suppositionally necessary, this conforms perfectly with God being a necessary being by nature.

            The proof that God is necessary is derived from the findings of metaphysics in which his essence is demonstrated to identify with his own act of existence. That fact was assumed for purposes of this debate about your necessary vs. contingent objection to the Thomistic conception of God.

            If you are forced to reframe the parameters of this discussion by challenging the basic metaphysical premise of my explanation (namely, that God is a necessary being), then you implicitly concede that I have refuted your necessary vs. contingency claim.

            As for the alleged necessity of the cosmos, that is the whole point of all proofs for God's existence, namely, that the cosmos does not explain itself, whereas its First Cause does because God's essence includes his existence. That was also the whole point of my article showing how cosmic existence requires infinite power that can solely be found in God.

            As I have stated before, for some reason atheists simply find it extremely difficult to understand how the Christian God can be an eternal immutable substantial act which is also "simultaneously" a perfectly free act. Christians don't.

          • But you have it backward. Since I have shown that God's free will is suppositionally necessary, this conforms perfectly with God being a necessary being by nature.

            Sorry, you have not shown god's will is free, nor have you shown that suppositional necessity is a thing that avoids the dilemma or that can't be used by the atheist with regard to the universe. When you say god is a "necessary" being, the implication there is that god is logically necessary. But you're admitting god isn't really logically necessary, but only a "suppositionally necessary" being.

            The proof that God is necessary is derived from the findings of metaphysics in which his essence is demonstrated to identify with his own act of existence. That fact was assumed for purposes of this debate about your necessary vs. contingent objection to the Thomistic conception of God.

            But it is false, since the crux of your argument — that demonstrates its Achilles' heel — is that all you can at most argue for is that your specific god is "suppositionally necessary," ie., it eternally exists in this contingent way that is not logically necessary, so it had to be that way. That is hardly a demonstration god is necessary. It fails to show god is logically necessary since it works backwards.

            If you are forced to reframe the perimeters of this discussion by challenging the basic metaphysical premise of my explanation (namely, that God is a necessary being), then you implicitly concede that I have refuted your necessary vs. contingency claim.

            In other words, if I'm forced to ignore the flaw in your argument that makes its conclusion unwarranted, then your conclusion is warranted. That's true of all such cases. Obviously, you cannot demonstrate god is necessary because you're not able to demonstrate that logically. The weakness of it is that you have this suppositional necessity at the core of your claim. You implicitly concede that you cannot prove god is logically necessary.

            As for the alleged necessity of the cosmos, that is the whole point of all proofs for God's existence, namely, that the cosmos does not explain itself, whereas its First Cause does because God's essence includes his existence. That was also the whole point of my article showing how cosmic existence requires infinite power that can solely be found in God.

            God does not explain itself, since you admit the reason why god eternally exists with a specific contingent will (that is also identical to his essence) is because it just so happened that god "freely" willed it that way, and therefore it must have been that way. Since a logically necessary explanation of god's will is not available to you, an infinite regress of contingent reasons is your only choice. Hence, god's essence is his contingent will, and therefore god's essence is contingent.

            As I have stated before, for some reason atheists simply find it extremely difficult to understand how the Christian God can be an eternal immutable substantial act which is also "simultaneously" a perfectly free act. Christians don't.

            That's because most Christians don't think critically enough about their own beliefs, and the ones who do, like apologists, are heavily invested in their religious beliefs being true. Some of those however do find their religious beliefs, including the nature of god, to be based on faulty reasoning and incoherent, and so they leave.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I hope this does not encourage you to take a much undeserved victory lap, but it is evident that you do not understand enough metaphysics to know when your position has been refuted.

            I understand one of the debating techniques you take so much pride in on your militant atheist web site is to never stop making more and more claims that make it nearly impossible for an opponent to pin down a single line of reasoning and refute it. I defined my terms carefully in the preceding comment in which I refuted your necessary vs. contingent argument and am comfortable standing on its logic.

            So, you may have the last word.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Sorry, you have not shown god's will is free, nor have you..

            He ignores your refutation & He moves the goal posts, shifts the burden of proof & changes the subject and multiplies tangents ad infinitum.

            In other words he is not arguing against the God we believe in but the God he wishes we believed in.

            God's nature is immutable and that nature is not made mutable by the fact He can create contingent things.

            He hasn't made that case he just offers word salads of nonsense.

            >to never stop making more and more claims that make it nearly impossible for an opponent to pin down a single line of reasoning and refute it.

            The reason for this is he has not made even one intelligent argument against Classic Theism.

            He can't even tell the difference between Formal Causes vs Efficient causes.

          • I understand the concepts, and I understand that they do not demonstrate what you think they do. A reasonable person can see that your case for god's necessity is flawed. There are leaps in your logic that cannot be bridged. A single line of reasoning could be like this: suppositional necessity, even if granted, does not show logical necessity, and Thomism's claim is that god is logically necessary.

            Or "why did god will X not Y?" The reason cannot be a necessary one. Therefore the kind of reasons you have to give must be ones that depend on some other explanation for its explanation, which in turn will depend on some other explanation for its explanation, and the reason chain must be infinite or terminate in a brute fact.

            That's why god can't satisfy the PSR. "God is his own sufficient reason" does not answer this dilemma.

          • Jim the Scott

            >I understand the concepts,

            How many dozens of posts did he waste confusing formal with efficient causes last time?

          • None. How many posts did you waste claiming science can't disprove a metaphysical claim? A lot.

          • Jim the Scott

            >>How many dozens of posts did he waste confusing formal with efficient causes last time?

            >None.

            He is also a blatant fibber either that or he is super forgetful.

            But some good came out of it last time.

            We both learned why SR can't scientifically prove or disprove externalism.

            On the Reality of Temporal Succession
            Past, Present and Future in Light of Relativity
            Daniel J. Castellano (2018)

            http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/philtheo/temporal/temporal.htm

            BTW Doc I found these criticisms of Weak Scientism.

            They are gold.

            https://social-epistemology.com/2018/01/30/defending-some-objections-to-moti-mizrahis-arguments-for-weak-scientism-part-1-christopher-brown/

            Quote", I argue that Weak Scientism is not really strong enough to count as scientism. For, given Weak Scientism, philosophical knowledge may be nearly as valuable as scientific knowledge. In fact, given that Weak Scientism claims only that scientific knowledge is better than non-scientific academic knowledge (see, e.g., Mizrahi 2017a, 354; 356), Weak Scientism is compatible with the claim that non-academic personal knowledge, moral knowledge, and religious knowledge are all better than scientific knowledge. Certainly, Mizrahi’s defenses of Weak Scientism in 2017a and 2017b don’t show that scientific knowledge is better than non-academic forms of knowledge acquisition. Traditional advocates of scientism, therefore, will not endorse Weak Scientism, given their philosophical presuppositions."

            Good stuff. Follow the other links.

          • Another way of looking at it is asking "Why does god will the non-necessary things he wills?" If you hold to the PSR, you believe there must be an answer. Whether or not we can know that answer is not the point. The point is that the reason can only be necessary or contingent, as the PSR demands, and since a necessary reason is not an option, you only have an infinite regress of contingent ones or a brute fact.

          • Jim the Scott

            Note the silliness we must deal with?

            > If you hold to the PSR, you believe there must be an answer.

            I have no reason to believe he is thinking of the Scholastic version of the PSR indeed given his profound ignorance on a wide range of subject matters & often dogmatic insistence on not making such distinctions (i.e epistemological vs metaphysical brute facts doesn't matter.) I would not be surprised he is equivocating yet again.

            >Whether or not we can know that answer is not the point.

            It pretty much is since there is a fundamental difference between not knowing what the reason is vs claiming there is no reason even in principle. Not all "brute facts" are the same by reason of substantially different definitions.

            > The point is that the reason can only be necessary or contingent, as the PSR demands, and since a necessary reason is not an option, you only have an infinite regress of contingent ones or a brute fact.

            Yeh this is a word salad at worst or a non-sequitur at best. I should get the bacon chipolte ranch I have in the fridge.

            What is an "infinite regress of contingent reasons"? Is that like saying "The tree bark kept me up all night as it was too loud" or "Spot's bark was rotten with termites"?

            Well Thoughtless is entertaining even if he is not at all profound.

  • Vincent Herzog

    By the way, to be sure, my representation of the demonstration is not to end discussion but to help it along! And I not only invite Dr. Bonnette to refine the representation of the argument, but anyone at all.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I suggest you read the Postscript.

  • David Nickol

    I recall reading a couple of comments about the "laws of physics breaking down." As I understand that, it is a figure of speech, not a scientific statement. It doesn't mean that the laws of physics fail to do what they are "supposed" to do. It means (as with a singularity) we don't understand physics well enough to formulate them to cover what is happening in certain situations. If the world is as we think it is, the laws of physics can't break down.

    • ClayJames

      If the world is as we think it is, the laws of physics can't break down.

      I disagree, it means that there are no laws of physics at all.

      The laws of physics do break down in that there is no physical law that could possibly explain the ontological cause of the expansion of the universe. The expansion of the universe was caused to happen. Therefore, there was a point in the causal chain where the laws of physics did not exist.

      • David Nickol

        My statement was qualified with the phrase "if the world is as we think it is." I intended the "we" to refer to physicists such as Hawking who maintain that the origin of the universe can be explained by physics. For scientists in that camp, it is not that special relativity "breaks down," any more than Newtonian physics "breaks down" as objects approach the speed of light. Physical laws have not "broken down" as knowledge of physics has deepened from Galileo to Einstein and beyond. They get replaced by new and more comprehensive laws.

        Therefore, there was a point in the causal chain where the laws of physics did not exist.

        I think it is important to remember that nobody yet knows with any certainty if the universe had a beginning. What we do know is that our understanding of physical laws cannot explain events before about one second after the Big Gang. Nobody knows if further progress will be made, although I personally expect it to be.

        In any case, as I understand the arguments of Aquinas as presented here, God could have created a universe which had no beginning and no end. So I take that to imply that God could have created a universe that always has obeyed and always will obey the laws of physics. God could have created something like a quantum field in which time has no meaning, and from which everything we observe arose from some kind of quantum phenomenon. In that case, the universe (including the quantum field) could have existed without beginning, although what we call "our" universe could have started with the Big Bang.

        As has been pointed out a number of times, Lemaitre himself warned people not to claim the Big Bang was God creating the universe.

        • SpokenMind

          Hi David,

          [nobody yet knows with any certainty if the universe had a beginning.]

          I agree.

          “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.” - Alexander Vilenkin

          Do you think the universe had a beginning?

          • David Nickol

            I would make a distinction between "the" Universe (everything of matter and energy that exists) and "our" universe, which appears to have begun with the Big Bang. It is my feeling (and nothing more than a feeling) that physicists will eventually understand why there was this Big Bang, new laws of physics will be formulated to replace those that are said to "break down" at certain extreme points, and that the origin of "our" universe will be scientifically explained. But I think it is fair to say right now that nobody knows.

            I know that some Alexander Vilenkin quotes are very popular with people who argue that our universe had a beginning and was created by God. But I am not sure Vilenkin always supports such a view. What is he saying in this clip, for example? It sounds to me like he is allowing for a universe to come into existence from nothing, or at least from a kind of nothing in which the laws of physics (like the truths of mathematics) exist. Maybe you can explain it to me!

            As I said above, as far as I understand what Dr. Bonnette has been saying, Aquinas had no problem with the idea of a universe with no beginning, and his arguments about an unmoved mover (or whatever) hold equally for an eternal universe as for one created 14 billion years ago. If God can create a universe from nothing in a Big Bang, I wouldn't underestimate what else he can do! Compared to some scientific conjectures (e.g., the multiverse), creating one and only one universe from a Big Bang 14 billion years ago doesn't seem very grand. In other contexts and for other reasons, people have used the phrase "your God is too small." Maybe the people who think everything that was or will be came into existence in the Big Bang 14 billion years ago and will eventually die of "heat death" are underestimating God's creativity.

          • Rob Abney

            Maybe the people who think everything that was or will be came into existence in the Big Bang 14 billion years ago and will eventually die of "heat death" are underestimating God's creativity.

            Great point David!

          • Michael Murray

            Interesting article here by Vilenkin

            THE ANSWER to the question, “Did the universe have a beginning?” is, “It probably did.” We have no viable models of an eternal universe. The BGV theorem gives us reason to believe that such models simply cannot be constructed.

            When physicists or theologians ask me about the BGV theorem, I am happy to oblige. But my own view is that the theorem does not tell us anything about the existence of God. A deep mystery remains. The laws of physics that describe the quantum creation of the universe also describe its evolution. This seems to suggest that they have some independent existence.

            http://inference-review.com/article/the-beginning-of-the-universe

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            He touches the really fundamental issue just a few sentences down from there:

            And why are these laws the ones we have? Why not other laws?We have no way to begin to address this mystery.

            So, the laws themselves are rooted in some mystery.

            And then one simply needs to reflect on the fact that "God" is the name that we have classically given to that "root mystery". This is not a matter of inserting an explanation to answer a question. It is a matter of recognizing and naming the mystery. This mystery just is what God is. That is the fundamental classical definition of God: the mystery that ultimately gives rise to all things.

            Having identified and named that mystery, one can of course go on to make positive and negative assertions and analogies such as, "that root mystery appears to be analogous to a mind, because the these laws and logics are rooted in it". But that is all secondary. The main thing is simply to identify and name the mystery. And its name, in the classic Anglophone tradition, is "God".

          • SpokenMind

            Great article.

            Pivoting slightly in a new direction . . .

            “We have a lot of really, really strange coincidences, and all of these coincidences are such that they make life possible.” - Andrei Linde, physicist

            I find it fascinating how finely tuned our universe is. The odds of us being here now are about 1 in infinity. If any one of several cosmological constants were off by just a hair, we wouldn’t be having this exchange.

  • Vincent Herzog

    So, since you move right to criticism, I'll have to assume you went from seeing no demonstration whatsoever to thinking this a fair one. You might consider, however, that abiding by the Principle of Charity not only keeps us from being impolite, it ensures that we won't commit the Straw Man Fallacy.

    Regarding the truth of (15), I could indeed have been more precise, but please remember that we are discussing all material things possibly causally connected to this universe. That would make them part of the cosmos. Hence, if they are not part of the cosmos, neither are they in the running as candidates for a material explanation of this universe.

    This applies to your black hole contingency, and Dr. Bonnette takes up the eternal universe option in the piece. Thoughts on that?

    There's nothing of substance to respond to in your last comment; so we'll leave it at the above.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    You might try carefully reading the original published article from which the OP is redacted.

    http://www.godandscience.org/evolution/creation_implies_god.html

    But, I suspect that what I said in the OP describes what is going on here.

    If I proved to you that the Moon is made out of green cheese, would you eat it?

  • Ben

    Consider double negatives and then re-read what you wrote.

  • BCE

    I don't have a problem with imaginary time.
    I thinks it's a problem for atheists.
    We have all read over and over arguments (like from *The Thinker)
    refuting metaphysical concepts about numbers.
    We might say ...even if no human existed 2+2=4, it's a "truth".
    Whereas the atheist argues 2 does not exist as an immaterial truth but
    only when you have 2 oranges.
    So accepting Imaginary time is a concession by atheists that there are metaphysical principles.

    The other error you are making is in set theory when you include
    God. That's why Dr Bonnette can keep reminding you not to include the Creator with the created. Even an atheist should follow the rules of
    proper sets.

  • Vincent Herzog

    Tommy, “your black hole contingency” was not meant in a negative way, but yes, we can keep to calling it a hypothesis, as you prefer. That is indeed how I was seeing it, too. However, as a hypothesis, it must be evaluated according to its ability to explain and preserve the phenomena. Dr. Bonnette gives us a demonstration of the failure of hypotheses such as the black hole hypothesis. I understand that you believe the demonstration doesn’t work, but you actually have to take up his argument. Premise 16 above is an intermediate conclusion, the result of argument. If you would like not to beg the question, you need to take up the argument. I gave you reason to think your response to 15 did not do this successfully.

    You claim that black holes are actually confirmed to exist. I don’t want to debate this point at all, but to remind you of *how* black holes are confirmed to exist. Here’s a quotation from NASA’s page on black holes: “Scientists can't directly observe black holes with telescopes that detect x-rays, light, or other forms of electromagnetic radiation. We can, however, infer the presence of black holes and study them by detecting their effect on other matter nearby” (https://science.nasa.gov/astrophysics/focus-areas/black-holes). That is, the existence of black holes is inferred from their effects. Likewise, Dr. Bonnette is offering a demonstration from which, he claims, we could infer the existence of God from his effects. I think it’s great to give his demonstration a run for the money, but (as I have shown above) I haven’t seen you do that yet.

    • Tom

      I do not have the background to debate philosophical arguments at the level raised on this website but I have seen enough evidence to accept that something which we call black holes actually exists. I attended a meeting where astronomers from UCLA presented a slide show of pictures taken over a number of years of the stars at the very center of our galaxy. By definition, a black hole is a massive object where gravity is so intense that light cannot be emitted from the object. Black holes therefore cannot be observed visually but are theoretically detectable by their gravitational effect on other objects. The presentation showed that stars at the center were basically slingshotting around an invisible point at the center of our galaxy. Based upon the motions of the stars moving around that point, the astronomers were able to calculate the mass of the invisible object which was over a million times greater than the mass of our sun. As far as astronomers are concerned, black holes have been proven to exist.

      • Vincent Herzog

        Thanks, Tom. I was not casting doubt on the existence black holes. Only pointing out the kind of posit they are. Hypotheses can be very well evidenced. Also, I was trying to show that, just as the existence of black holes cannot now be observed directly but can be safely inferred from their effects, so can we infer the existence of other things not directly experienced through the senses, such as God.

  • Vincent Herzog

    Tommy, now you’ve painted yourself into a corner: is there an argument, or isn’t there? If there’s an argument to evaluate (as the first part of your paragraph admits) then don’t go on to claim that the conclusion is merely assumed. If the conclusion is merely assumed; what argument and premises are you talking about?

  • BCE

    What part, that there are atheists that dispute metaphysics,
    or their arguments about numbers and forms and Platonic realism
    or the poor use of syllogism when not following sets
    Since to be a strawman I had to have had a lapse of memory

  • Vincent Herzog

    Tommy, it would be great if you would actually respond to what came before. Is there an argument, or isn’t there? Is Dr. Bonnette trading is assumptions, or arguments? You’ve contradicted yourself on this point a few times. You should bite the bullet, admit some mistakes, and move forward with some clear commitments on the table.

    However, I agree with you when you say that if any god will do, none will. But we what we are agreeing on is a conditional. You have not actually shown the antecedent (that any god will do) to be true, and therefore are not licensed to conclude the consequent (that none do). It is you who are operating under assumptions. It is quite reasonable to say that when Muslims and Christians speak of God, in each case the term has the same referent. It is possible for two parties to refer to the same thing, yet have different beliefs about that one thing.

    I’m not the biggest fan of the Kalaam argument, but it proposes to prove the same God. If you have the patience to try to actually understand what you don’t agree with, you might check out the basics of Classical Theism. There’s a helpful series of videos on Wifi Philosophy you can find on YouTube.

    Finally, no, the conclusion of Dr. Bonnette’s Argument is not hypothetical. The argument concludes by asserting that God’s existence is shown to be necessary given certain facts about the world. Black holes, however, are hypothetical posits.

    I think you’ve been pretty unfair and uncharitable, not a good partner in dialogue, and that’s a shame. I think I’m done for now. I welcome you to have the last word.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Your expected questions about my article are precisely why I referred you to the Postscript, since scientific materialists have no willingness to confront the need for a sufficient reason for cosmic existence, and yet are " satisfied with the “just so” explanation of a cosmos that has always “just happened to exist” without any real explanation either in itself or from an extrinsic cause." This is simply an atheistic form of special pleading.

    As to my point about the hypothesis of the Moon being made out of green cheese, this was simply to show that your suggestion "that Aquinas and Aristotle were completely wrong about their musings about God" is what we call a contrary-to-fact conditional not meriting a response.

  • BCE

    I think a good lawyer, who understood the trinity might make an effective argument for one God, and the Trinity being one God

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I am perfectly comfortable standing on the premises and rational arguments presented the OP itself as well as the even more complete formal argument of the original article published in the scholarly journal, Faith & Reason.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    My goodness! I wonder what the term, "scientism," means!

  • Dennis Bonnette

    You are right. I did not answer your hypothetical question.

    Rather, I pointed out why it did not merit a response.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    Here is your question: "If I convinced you that Aquinas and Aristotle were completely wrong about their musings about God, would you still believe that a nonphysical being who exists in no time or space created the universe out of nothing?"

    Right now I cannot find my initial response to your question on the thread.

    Still, I have spent forty years teaching and telling my students that there is no such thing as a stupid question. I fear you have just proven me wrong.

    In its simplest form, your question says, "If I no longer thought I was right, would I still believe I was right?"

    That is why I said it does not merit a response.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      In its simplest form, your question says, "If I no longer thought I was right, would I still believe I was right?"

      Then it seems to me that you have misunderstood Tommy's question. If you discovered that your Thomistic demonstrations for God's existence were wrong, then would you still believe in God for other reasons, or would you become an atheist? That is how I understood his question.

      • Dennis Bonnette

        I was responding strictly as a philosopher.

        The way you put the question is more complex -- for the simple reason that most people who believe in God do so for a variety of reasons, some of which are implicitly philosophical and others of which presuppose certain unnoticed philosophical principles. That is, some people simply ask themselves, for example, why the world exists or has the apparent order it manifests, and then make a shortcut philosophical inference to the existence of some sort of Supreme Being. Others appeal to the miracles which abound in Christian history as evidence -- but even these presuppose such philosophical positions as extramental realism (or else, one could not know the history at all) and proportionate causality inter alia.

        If you ask me what I would do, first you had better get Tommy to convince me I am wrong about what I have concluded from some fifty years of studying philosophy. It still remains a pointless question, since I could pose just as inane a question by asking him if he would immediately become a theist if I convinced him that the proofs for God are valid. Neither "question" demonstrates anything unless and until its highly speculative antecedent is fulfilled. My experience with atheists leads me to strongly suspect that they are atheists for more reasons than merely because of some theoretical objections to God's proofs or his properties. You and he appear to suspect that I would still cling to my beliefs in spite of the destruction of the entire philosophical edifice on which they are built -- but you fail to notice, as I just noted above, that the Catholic faith presupposes the preambula fidei, which are themselves philosophical presuppositions to the act of faith. The two approaches, in a word, are of one cloth -- so the distinction you made earlier about a difference between the philosophical demonstrations and my belief system is not so clear cut at all.

        After all, how could one trust religious revelation at all if one did not first know that there is a God to reveal it and second that that God must be truthful, lest his very word deceives us?

        Thus, the question still resolves to the pointless tautological form, "If I no longer thought I was right, would I still think I was right?"

        • Ignatius Reilly

          It still remains a pointless question, since I could pose just as inane a question by asking him if he would immediately become a theist if I convinced him that the proofs for God are valid. Neither "question" demonstrates anything unless and until its highly speculative antecedent is fulfilled.

          Well, I can't speak for Tommy, but I wouldn't have a problem labeling myself a theist if you convinced me that the arguments for God are sound. I identify more as a non-believer than an atheist anyway. I'm an agnostic atheist about being-itself and philosopher deities.

          My experience with atheists leads me to strongly suspect that they are atheists for more reasons than merely because of some theoretical objections to God's proofs or his properties.

          Of course. The objections still remain. I'm not sure what you are trying to imply by calling them theoretical.

          You and he appear to suspect that I would still cling to my beliefs in spite of the destruction of the entire philosophical edifice on which they are built

          I have no idea what you would do if you were to discover that Aquinas's 5 ways were not sound arguments. Plenty of theists believe in God and think that the five ways are not sound. I only commented, because in my opinion, you read Tommy's comment in the least charitable way possible, and then called it stupid.

          After all, how could one trust religious revelation at all if one did not first know that there is a God to reveal it and second that that God must be truthful, lest his very word deceives us?

          Knowing that there is a God is completely unrelated to knowing that a piece of literature is inspired by God. Pascal didn't seem to have your problem.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, my reading was apparently not entirely inaccurate, since, in a later comment, Tommy repeated my own interpretation of his question, and again said he thought it important that I answer it.

            But you are quite correct. One should always give any author the best possible reading before adversely judging his intentions. And so should I have.

            If you check the comments thread, you will see that I did subsequently reply to the substance of his question.

        • Others appeal to the miracles which abound in Christian history as evidence -- but even these presuppose such philosophical positions as extramental realism

          We have to presuppose something of the sort to explain how they happen. To just believe they happen, though, all we have to presuppose is that we're somehow obliged to trust the people who say they happened.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            People underestimate the degree to which even natural science presupposes trust in the entire body of scientific knowledge, all of which rests on trust in the veracity and competence of all the researchers and experimenters who did all the work. We assume their ethical integrity, when it has been shown multiple times that outright fraud and cooking of the data has occurred.

            See this: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/one-in-eight-uk-scientists-has-witnessed-research-fraud/418691.article?sectioncode=26&storycode=418691&c=1

            Some scientific researchers are motivated by such factors as greed for grant money. And did not we just hear of the large number of papers in peer reviewed journals whose finding could not be replicated by other studies -- raising questions about the entire peer review process? Worse than that, what about the fraudulent data that does not get retracted and continues to contaminate the research findings of many other legitimate papers that use this "infected" information in their own findings.

            As to the belief in miracles or private revelations, I think the reason skeptics reject them is because (1) they violate the preconceived prejudices of the skeptics, and (2) they fail to understand the cultural factors that make misreporting unlikely, and (3) they fail to take into account the large number of such reports, all of which would have to be false for the entire body of evidence to be dismissed.

            With respect to number 2, bear in mind that the reports come from people who follow a belief system that tells them that lying in grave matters is a mortal sin that could lead to eternal damnation. In other words, the witnesses are largely constrained not to fabricate such stories by their own consciences. Moreover, the large number of cases make the easy explanations of mental illness or lying not credible.

            It is much like the absurd explanation of the Fatima miracle as being a mass hallucination. Anyone who knows anything about hallucinations knows that they occur on an individual basis, not on the part of tens of thousands of witnesses -- many of which offered recorded similar testimonies. Even the Masonic paper, O Seculo, in Lisbon reported the next day that the "sun danced" in the sky.

            See here the Washington Post's (!) story on what happened that day in 1917: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/10/13/our-lady-of-fatima-the-virgin-mary-promised-three-kids-a-miracle-that-70000-gathered-to-see/?utm_term=.a6c874fee0a3

          • People underestimate the degree to which even natural science presupposes trust in the entire body of scientific knowledge

            Maybe. Or maybe some religious apologists overestimate it. That’s how it looks to me, after a lifetime of studying how science is actually done.

            all of which rests on trust in the veracity and competence of all the researchers and experimenters who did all the work.

            The body of scientific knowledge rests on no such thing. No scientific fact or theory is accepted on the basis of anyone’s testimony, at least not by people who know how the scientific enterprise actually works.

            We assume their ethical integrity, when it has been shown multiple times that outright fraud and cooking of the data has occurred.

            I see. So, in the face of incontrovertible evidence that scientists can’t be trusted, we trust them anyway, is that it?

            As to the belief in miracles or private revelations, I think the reason skeptics reject them is because (1) they violate the preconceived prejudices of the skeptics,

            But the fact that they reinforce the preconceived prejudices of religious believers is irrelevant?

            they fail to understand the cultural factors that make misreporting unlikely

            If by “misreporting” you mean “fraudulent reporting,” that isn’t what I think is going on when people tell stories about miracles. I get it that some skeptics do think so, but I’m not defending that kind of skepticism.

            they fail to take into account the large number of such reports, all of which would have to be false for the entire body of evidence to be dismissed.

            I don’t need to prove any of them false. Those who think I should believe in miracles need to show me one report that I cannot reasonably doubt. More than one would be great, but without even one, my doubts are reasonable.

            With respect to number 2, bear in mind that the reports come from people who follow a belief system that tells them that lying in grave matters is a mortal sin that could lead to eternal damnation.

            My skepticism is not based on any assumptions about anybody lying. It is based on assumptions, which in turn are based on empirical observations, about the fallibility of ordinary human minds. The fact that someone who thinks they will burn in hell for lying tells me they saw a miracle means only that they honestly believe they saw a miracle. It doesn’t mean they really saw a miracle.

            Moreover, the large number of cases make the easy explanations of mental illness or lying not credible.

            What matters is the number of credible cases, and I have yet to see one. Of course, when it comes to issues relating to your faith, your criteria for credibility are obviously different from mine.

            It is much like the absurd explanation of the Fatima miracle as being a mass hallucination.

            I hope you’re not under the impression that we skeptics have failed to think of any other explanation.

            See here the Washington Post's (!) story on what happened that day in 1917

            I used to be a newspaperman. I know just how much newspaper reporters should be trusted with stories of this kind.

          • Paul Vinci

            Doug Shaver the skeptiks accept every possability except the supernatural .

            That doesn't make the skeptik credible if he rejects any possability .

            It seems he/she will only accept the evidences that fit his worldview .

            That's why skeptiks reject miracles . They have no recourse but to accept anything that will satisfy their non belief and their bias against the POSSABILITY of a divine realm

            Thats why they are called skeptiks

          • The problem is that the believer cannot actually establish that what they will call a miracle is anything other than a natural event. All you have is the say-so of others that something miraculous happened and no way to actually establish "supernatural" causation.

            When you have a reliable methodology to actually establish that some event was not actually natural, come talk to me. Until then, you really don't have much except "explain this smart guys."

            Even if I can't offer a credible natural explanation, it's simply that you, and Dr Bonnette, are arguing from ignorance that any event is a miracle.

          • Paul Vinci

            Herald , of course a miracle cannot be explained naturally , that's why its called a miracle . Therefore this future conversation you seek to establish with me will never happen .since there is nothing within the established scientific method that can explain a miracle "NATURALLY" .

            Your point is therefore moot

            You are correct though in saying that you cannot offer a credible natural explanation for miracles , but you insist that i must explain miracles naturally before you will continue to further discuss this ???

            All we have is the say so of others ???
            So therefore you eliminate the tesimony of others .
            How then do you decide what is historically true or not , or scientifically true or not for that matter

            As Dr Bonnette explained , you also must accept the testimony of the scientists who you place your trust in since you have not conducted the experiments yourself . You accept as true their word .. IN FAITH

            Arguing from ignorance ???

            Are we really ??
            I would hardly call the shroud of Turin , the greatest PHYSICAL enigma known to mankind which has completely baffled scientists and has NO POSSIBLE NATURAL explanation an argument from ignorance .

            Isn't it fascinating that the shroud would have such a startling correlation to the biblical account of the crucified Jesus : the very same man we belief has risen .

            Why would this even exist at all if not to arouse faith in God

            I will throw this back at you .

            When you can come to terms with the fact the science is simply incapable of explaining everything , then come and talk to me

          • David Nickol

            As I understand the way the Vatican verifies miracles, or more specifically, miraculous healings, the medical facts are investigated by physicians, who report their findings to theologians, and the theologians decide whether the healings are miraculous or not. The doctors must find that there is no medical explanation for the cure, but they do not classify cures as miraculous. So in a very real sense, the decision as to whether there is a miracle or not, in the Catholic Church, is reserved people of faith (theologians).

            There are also certain maladies (for example, certain cancers) inexplicable cures for which are not investigated as potential miracles, because spontaneous remissions occur too frequently without any reason to suspect a miraculous cure.

            Also, or so it seems to me, miracles do not necessarily have to violate the laws of nature to be considered miraculous. If I buy a ticket for Powerball, MegaMillions, and the New York State Lottery and announced in advance that I have prayed and been assured I will win all three when the next drawings are made, if I do indeed win all three, I would count that as a miracle, even though the odds of it happening by chance don't exclude it from the realm of the possible. Presumably someone who believes miracles are impossible would maintain it was a wild coincidence, but it seems to me that if the odds of something happening are infinitesimal enough, it should count as a miracle. It is not at all "miraculous," though, for a lottery player to win a major jackpot a second time. I can't really do the math, but miraculous-seeming or bizarre coincidences happen all the time.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I agree with all of your comments there, and I would just add:

            It seems to me that it simply is not worth arguing about what is and isn't miraculous or supernatural unless and until some common understanding is developed as to what "nature" is.

            Is "nature" simply that which is "ordinary"? In that case, the extra-ordinary event of winning the Powerball would be definitionally super-natural (probably an unacceptable conclusion for most). Or would that actually be the case, since extraordinariness depends on a frame of reference: it is extraordinary for me to win the Powerball, but it is not extraordinary for someone to win the Powerball. Is there anything that is extraordinary from every frame of reference?

            Or, is "nature" that which can be investigated through replicable experiments? That would imply that any non-replicable phenomena are not part of "nature". I would be OK with this definition and its implication, but I suspect that many "naturalists" would not want to cede that non-replicable territory from the domain of nature.

            Is there any reasonably precise definition of "nature" that theists and non-theists could both agree on? I suspect that there isn't.

          • Your point is therefore moot

            My point, why you seem so deft at missing,is that you cannot know that something is a miracle except by appealing to our ignorance of a natural explanation. You cannot actually investigate the supernatural, so you must rely on our ignorance of natural explanation to come to the conclusion that something is supernatural. Such reasoning is fallacious.

            but you insist that i must explain miracles naturally before you will continue to further discuss this ???

            No, I insist that you offer a credible explanation for you miracle and be able to demonstrate your claim. When scientists work on establishing causation they don't get to sit in an armchair, wave their hands, and say "oh yeah, caused naturally [whatever]." Why do you get it so easy to declare that something is a miracle from a god that we don't even know exists?

            All we have is the say so of others ???
            So therefore you eliminate the tesimony of others.

            For miracle claims, yes. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary levels of evidence. If you want me to buy a time traveling car, you're going to have to demonstrate that it will actually perform the time travel that you claim it does!

            As Dr Bonnette explained , you also must accept the testimony of the scientists who you place your trust in since you have not conducted the experiments yourself . You accept as true their word .. IN FAITH

            Oh please stop this nonsense! There is no "faith" in science, as I explained about a week ago. All findings are tentative until new data comes along that disconfirms the hypothesis.

            I would hardly call the shroud of Turin , the greatest PHYSICAL enigma known to mankind which has completely baffled scientists and has NO POSSIBLE NATURAL explanation an argument from ignorance.

            How do you know that the shroud has "NO POSSIBLE NATURAL explanation"? How exactly did you determine this? Did you sit in your philosophical armchair again and determine this, or maybe you had a revelation from God. Either way, I don't believe you, and you cannot establish the truth of your universally negative claim.

            EDIT: Here's a video I found of somebody who can produce effects that look very similar to the shroud: How to Fake the Shroud of Turin

            Isn't it fascinating that the shroud would have such a startling correlation to the biblical account of the crucified Jesus

            Please don't bring up your 13th century relic again unless you can establish that it is the burial cloth of Jesus and can establish how the image was caused. The weaving is consistent with the 13th century, and inconsistent with the 1st century. It's very likely a fake and the overwhelming evidence suggest that it isn't what you want to believe it is.

            When you can come to terms with the fact the science is simply incapable of explaining everything , then come and talk to me

            I accept that science won't explain everything, but that doesn't mean that you're justified holding the beliefs that you do. You have no good reason to believe that the shroud of Turin is really the burial cloth of Jesus, that the supernatural exists, or that any unexplained event was supernatural caused. All of these are arrived at by appealing to our ignorance of a natural explanation.

            When you can demonstrate that all possible (not just known) natural explanations are exhausted, then we can start talking about the supernatural. Unfortunately, I don't know how to know that we've exhausted all possible natural explanations.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you will forgive me dropping back into this discussion just for a moment, I want to clarify how exactly Catholic theologians discern the instance of a true miracle. Now, I am not a theologian, but as a philosopher, I can understand at least a couple points.

            First, since a miracle is something attributed to God, one way to discern one would be if the effect produced could only be caused by God as to its very substance. For example, raising the dead to life could only be caused by the power of God.

            Now there are two presuppositions here, and ones you will doubtless reject. First you need to know that God exists. The reason for this is actually in order to grasp the force of the second point, namely, that God alone can infuse a living soul into non-living organic matter. You may not accept either presupposition here, but these are conditions that would make very clear the nature of raising someone from the dead.

            Second. a miracle could be discerned if the effect produced was clearly contrary to the manner in which nature is known to act by science. For example, it is reported that the water sodden clothes and very earth itself at Fatima dried completely in the ten minutes of the miracle of the Sun in 1917. (Ignore the matter of the Sun's behavior for this consideration.)

            It isn't that there might be some natural explanation unknown to science that is at issue here. The problem is that science knows very well just how long it takes to dry out woolens and wet mud and this just happened much too fast to be possible by natural means on Earth and under conditions in which human beings could survive! That is, you could blast such items with excessive heat and dry them out, but all the people would have died in the process!

            This second criterion also would apply in the case of instantaneous cures of diseases known to be treatable and to heal over time, but never in an instant.

            Now you can still maintain your skepticism about miracles in spite of the criteria I just described -- simply by arguing that such things never occur. I am not presently arguing that they do, but merely explaining the philosophical basis for their significance if they should be proven to have occurred.

          • For example, raising the dead to life could only be caused by the power of God.

            You don't know this!

            Second. a miracle could be discerned if the effect produced was clearly contrary to the manner in which nature is known to act by science.

            This fundamentally assume that science is complete, and that we know everything about how nature operates. It also assumes that supposed facts are indisputable.

            For example, it is reported that the water sodden clothes and very earth itself at Fatima dried completely in the ten minutes of the miracle of the Sun in 1917. (Ignore the matter of the Sun's behavior for this consideration.)

            Have we actually established that the clothes were actually water soaked? Do we know how much water these clothes were carrying? No, all we have are anecdotal stories that their "soaked" clothes dried very quickly. How can you possibly say that this was a miracle given how imprecise the claims are. It's far more likely that people exaggerated just how wet everything was than a miracle really occurred.

            This second criterion also would apply in the case of instantaneous cures of diseases known to be treatable and to heal over time, but never in an instant.

            Again, appeals to ignorance. ALS is expected to kill people within a decade or two, yet Hawking lived with the condition for over half a century, a considerable record! Was it a "miracle" that Hawking lived with ALS so long? I doubt it. More likely our knowledge is incomplete, or the doctors made a mistake in diagnosis.

            All of this fundamentally assumes that we're so smart, and we know exactly what is natural, and what is not. If you cannot understand the fallacy at work with this, I doubt I can ever explain it to you.

            I am not presently arguing that they do, but merely explaining the philosophical basis for their significance if they should be proven to have occurred.

            And I think your philosophical basis is unsound. There's a good reason that scientists have to work hard to establish natural causation. Why do you think it should be so easy to assert a cause to as something that we don't even know exists?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            A lot of your objections arise from not reading what I wrote carefully. I carefully explained the philosophical presuppositions that lead to the inference that raising from the dead requires the power of God. You need not share those presuppositions, but given them, my statement would be true.

            You are challenging the factual claims about the Fatima "soaking," but I stated you could do so. My only point was that the science was already clear.

            As for the ALS, that would not apply to my statement about an instantaneous cure. Merely living a long time is not an instantaneous cure. Moreover, as you point out, his atypical ALS would not fit the classical disease criteria.

            In general, you are just using the old claim that maybe all alleged miracles could be explained if only we knew things about science we do not presently know. That itself sounds like an ignoramus argument to me -- what you call an "appeal to ignorance."

            I confess that I simply would not have enough faith in skepticism to believe that someone raised from the dead before my eyes or the instantaneous drying of a whole landscape could be explained by natural causes. While skepticism sounds like a good operating principle for things that appear unusual, there is still such a thing as an irrational, excessive skepticism. It reminds me of the skeptic who was traveling to Lourdes and was quoted by Nobel Prize winner, Dr. Alexis Carrel, as saying, "I would not believe a miracle even if I saw one."

          • I carefully explained the philosophical presuppositions that lead to the inference that raising from the dead requires the power of God. You need not share those presuppositions, but given them, my statement would be true.

            Sure. Any valid deductive argument will reach a true conclusion if the premises (assumptions) are true. Since you're a philosopher I shouldn't have to explain what soundness is in regards to deductive arguments. Deductive arguments are only as good as the premises that go into them, and I have no reason to accept the soundness of your premises, and frankly neither do you!

            You cannot show that only the power of God can raise the dead. You can't show that other "supernatural" causes cannot raise the dead. You cannot even show that anything supernatural can raise the dead. All you have are arguments.

            While skepticism sounds like a good operating principle for things that appear unusual, there is still such a thing as an irrational, excessive skepticism

            And I think you engage in excessive credulity! It doesn't surprise me given that you're willing to accept that Jesus was God because people claim he was rose from the dead. I don't think you engage your skepticism on certain areas of your life.

            Assuming we could actually rule out all natural causes, the best we could say is that the event was not natural. We could not, however, ever be justified in accepting any particular supernatural explanation, because causation needs to be demonstrated, and you cannot do that with supernatural causes.

            It reminds me of the skeptic who was traveling to Lourdes and was quoted as saying, "I would not believe a miracle even if I saw one."

            There are stage magicians who do a very good job at fooling people, and can convince them that they've seen magic. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was convinced that Harry Houdini had supernatural powers even though Houdini insisted that everything he did was not just a trick.

            Is it really that much more probable to you that if you witnessed, what you thought to be, a miracle that the event was actually a miracle, or that you were somehow wrong in your perceptions and understanding? If you don't understand this then you clearly don't understand skepticism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "causation needs to be demonstrated, and you cannot do that with supernatural causes."

            The basic problem is that we have very different concepts as to what constitutes a "demonstration." I infer that what you want is something that can be empirically verified in every instance -- or you will simply not accept it. That is an essential postulate of scientism and empiricism.

            Unfortunately, there is no empirical way to demonstrate that all truth must be empirically demonstrated.

            Yes, I do admit the validity of rational arguments. Philosophers do use rational principles that cannot be empirically demonstrated, such as the principles of non-contradiction and sufficient reason. Those are precisely what are employed in such arguments as those demonstrating God's existence. The principles are certain and the arguments are sound, but you will not accept them because of your philosophical presuppositions of empiricism and scientism.

            Some years back some skeptical philosophers made the claim that, even if they died and went to Hell, they could not be convinced of the reality of their new existential state.

            My response to that claim is that before God allows anyone to send himself to Hell, He first gives him a splendid course in realistic epistemology.

          • Unfortunately, there is no empirical way to demonstrate that all truth must be empirically demonstrated.

            I don't need empiricism to establish that empiricism is useful. I'm a pragmatist. I accept empiricism because empiricism works and gets very good results!

            If you want to talk about something in the external world, you will either:
            1. need to verify your claim with empirical results
            2. Show me that some other method [of investigation] is more reliable and than empiricism.

            Good luck!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Pragmatism itself is a non-empirically verifiable philosophical position.

            Empiricism itself presupposes the principle of non-contradiction in order to know whether one affirms or denies judgments about the external world without the possibility of the contradictory judgment being true -- which would render any and all such judgments meaningless and unintelligible.

            The principle of non-contradiction itself cannot be empirically verified.

          • Miracle claims are, fundamentally, empirical claims and empirical claims require empirical evidence.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Of course, miracles are, by definition, sensible events. But their miraculous nature must be determined through philosophical and theological evaluation. Obviously, many events claimed to be miraculous turn out not to be so. What is in dispute is whether any are actually true miracles. On that judgment, we clearly disagree.

          • Paul Vinci

            Hi Dr Bonnette , I am correct in hearing you say that impericism , as an investigative tool , must appeal to philosophy in order for it to be applied .

            That would mean then that emperecism by itself would be utterly useless .

            Just wanting to clarify .

            i have heard this argument before

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Actually, one of my earlier articles on Strange Notions directly addressed the fundamental problem of empiricism in this regard. See "Naturalism's Epistemological Nightmare" at https://strangenotions.com/naturalisms-epistemological-nightmare/

            Among the points I make there is this: "Empirical verification presupposes epistemological realism—meaning that through sensation we know directly the exterior physical world around us."

            Absent the philosophical and common sense presupposition of epistemological realism, natural science itself cannot work -- and yet there is no possible way to empirically verify the fact that we directly know the external world. As my article proves, the logic of a materialistic interpretation of the process of sensation forces one to conclude that what we really know is images or neural patterns inside the brain.

            Yet, natural science operates on the conviction that it is telling us about the real external world outside of us in every scientific judgment. Even claims about what is actually going on inside the brain are made on the basis of objective external observations of the brain and its physical processes.

            In my comment above, I am simply pointing out that every judgment, including those about the external world, presupposes the principle of non-contradiction, which principle can in no manner be empirically verified.

            The problem with scientific empiricists is that they either do not realize that they are assuming philosophical positions they simply cannot empirically verify, or else, they simply refuse to admit that fact and pretend it does not exist.

            As an epistemological realist myself (which just means I accept the immediate evidence of my senses), I have no problem with the empirical method employed by natural science. But I am also aware that empiricists are forced to presuppose philosophical positions which are inherently incoherent and logically indefensible.

          • The problem with scientific empiricists is that they either do not
            realize that they are assuming philosophical positions they simply
            cannot empirically verify, or else, they simply refuse to admit that
            fact and pretend it does not exist.

            SMH! None of us are claiming that, quite literally, everything has to be empirically verified, and we realize that some things simply must be assumed (I've stated many times that non-contradiction is an axiom of propositions), but they are assumed for pragmatic reasons. Without certain assumptions, you simply cannot build an epistemology. All of this can't be news to you Dennis, as I can't believe that a retired Philosophy professor could actually be ignorant about such things.

            Goodbye Dennis. I grow tired of your games, and what I see as dishonesty. I'm blocking you, and maybe in 6 months I'll bring you out to see if you've decided to stop being an apologist.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Herald, I've been here for (I think) about 4 years now, and I can assure you that there are still plenty of positivists living in the world. If you aren't one, then just relax, Dr. Bonnette's criticism is not directed at you. But if you think that positivism is a thing of the past, I would suggest just reading more of the critiques of theism that come through these comboxes.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            There is nothing personal about defending philosophical truth. My "job" as a philosopher is to seek and defend it. That means criticizing any system that is inadequate.

            Any philosophical system that admits that it is built on certain "pragmatic assumptions" is revealing that it is an inadequate philosophical system.

            Thomistic philosophy makes no such admissions.

            The principle of non-contradiction is so universally necessary that one cannot make any declarative statement or intellectual judgment without presupposing its truth. Otherwise, the judgment itself could just a well express its own contradiction, and thus, be meaningless and unintelligible.

            But the actual basis for this universal certitude is the concept of being that is formed by the intellect upon our first cognitive encounter with any reality at all. It is in the affirmation that there is "something there" that we simultaneously realize the impossibility of it not being there or its negation. Being cannot be non-being is not mere assumption, but immediately known truth of the very nature of being.

            As for the knowledge of extramental reality, this goes back to a major mistake made by Rene Descartes when he said that what we know immediately is solely mental images or ideas. That was an incomplete and false description of the noetic act, since it omitted the fact that most of our acts of knowledge have as their primary object or content an extramentally-given thing.

            In fact, the content of an image could not even be known as an image did we not first know the external thing of which it is an image! Thus, the image or idea of a cow exists in the imagination or intellect solely because we first encountered an externally existing cow. In fact, we could not even know the image was an image unless we first form the concept of an image as something representative of some external thing!

            While this thread does not permit giving a full course in epistemology, at least note that it is psychologically impossible to doubt any object directly apprehended. Thus, we can doubt the reality of a snarling wolf at our door when we merely imagine the possibility of such an encounter. But, should we actually open our door and be confronted by such a real snarling beast, there would be no doubt as to its reality. We can doubt it right now because there is no wolf before our apprehension, but merely the image of a possible one that does not presently confront us.

            The truth is that the immediate content of experience contains both extramental objects and also intramental representations of them that we have formed consequent upon their immediate extramental experience.

            Descartes was wrong. Extramental objects are not mere assumptions. The actual epistemology is a bit more complex than these initial observations, but it remains true that if empiricism is forced to think of external reality as a mere assumption, then it has no basis for claiming that science is about the real external world. Claiming the assumption "works" would only mean that there is internal self-consistency in the subjective experiences -- not a proof that external reality actually conforms to our "scientific laws."

            Immanuel Kant tried to save the appearances of Newtonian science by making the laws of science hold good for all possible experience -- but only of the phenomena, not the noumena or thing-in-itself. In the process, he so subjectivized science that it was no longer about the external world.

            Modern day empiricism risks the same fate.

          • Rob Abney

            Any philosophical system that admits that it is built on certain "pragmatic assumptions" is revealing that it is an inadequate philosophical system.

            I could see how Herald could be upset with this, many people can spend a lifetime in academia or a technological industry and never have their axioms questioned!

          • Paul Vinci

            None of us are claiming that .

            Yes some of you are .

            I have heard it from many atheists I have debated .

            So for you to say that "none of you are" is categorically false .

            So please leave leave the forum , your own arguments are tired and boring

            Denise , if he blocks you then I suggest that the admins remove him from this forum

          • Sample1

            The problem with scientific empiricists is that they either do not realize that they are assuming philosophical positions they simply cannot empirically verify, or else, they simply refuse to admit that fact and pretend it does not exist.

            This may be accurate for some. My question, and your burden, is to ask what are the negative consequences of that?

            One thing I’ve noticed from you (but you aren’t alone, it’s pervasive), is thinking your questions deserve some kind of reaction beyond simple recognition that they exist within the field of philosophy. Today science is hemmed into the argument that because the Big Bang isn’t understood, it’s the most important unknown to solve. Hundreds of years ago scientists thought knowing the exact number of planets was the most important topic of the day. Now we don’t really care how many planets there are. The hot, popular, controversial topics of today will be different in a century.

            However, we know direct negative consequences when scientific facts are ignored. Let your imagination fill in those blanks. So I repeat my question, what are the negative consequences of not accepting your philosophical thoughts?

            If there aren’t any, why should anyone pay attention? And if there are negative consequences, you should be able to show them.

            Got evidence?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            First, of course, you must realize from reading the OP that the scientific discussion of the Big Bang is totally irrelevant to the force of the argument given for God's existence.

            Second, the relevance of philosophical assumptions by scientific empiricists is that they make philosophical claims based on those assumptions, for example, that there is no evidence for God's existence. Since they arbitrarily limit all rational inferences to what is empirically verifiable, it is perfectly licit to criticize the philosophical assumptions they are making in the process.

            The negative consequence of scientific empiricists making philosophical assumptions which they cannot empirically verify is that their own intellectual position thereby becomes inconsistent with itself, and thus, incoherent.

          • Sample1

            I don’t care if a scientist is violating a philosophical position per se, as long as the science works. If you do, that’s fine.

            You need to demonstrate that science does not work when your philosophical claims are not understood. Then I’ll care.

            Got evidence?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I presume then that you are perfectly happy just doing natural science and making absolutely no claims of a philosophical nature, such as claiming that there is no rational evidence for the existence of God or the spirituality of the human soul?

          • Sample1

            If so, are there negative consequences you could describe to me which would make me reconsider incorporating your philosophical claims into my dog walking, service providing, Coca Cola drinking worldview?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            None that are empirically verifiable in THIS world!

          • Sample1

            That’s ok. I’m asking for your example whatever it may be. I didn’t say it had to be empirical.

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Well, I could say that living an unethical life could lead to failure to attain one's last end in an afterlife. I suspect we would agree that such a claim is not empirically verifiable in this world.

          • Sample1

            I agree one can live an unethical life. How do we determine what is unethical? Do we only appeal to your philosophy or do we recognize how being unethical results in observational facts? Or do you think it is both? If it is both, is it necessary to hold your philosophical claims to determine an action is unethical?

            As to your suspicion on us agreeing that such a claim is not empiricaly verifiable in this world I would say that I don’t know. How do you know?

            Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            "I agree one can live an unethical life." Now you need to tell me how you come to that judgment.

            Since ethics pertains to judgments of right and wrong about human acts, would you please tell me how you empirically verify whether an action is right or wrong -- since an unethical life would appear to entail doing wrong actions?

            If you tell me it is because it produces good results or not, then you must define the meaning of good in terms that are empirically verifiable. How do you detect "wrongness" by empirical measurements?

            Moreover, the criterion of judging the rightness or wrongness of an act by its results is the ethical theory of utilitarianism, which is universally recognized as a philosophical theory.

            Can you tell me how the atomistic foundation of scientific theory is any basis for ethical judgments at all?

            Or, are you just basing all judgments on societal norms as established by sociological measurements? If so, is what is normal merely what most people do? Would that mean that in Aztec society, tearing the hearts out of human sacrificial victims was normal, and thus, morally good?

          • Sample1

            1. I prefer framework over judgment. Ethical frameworks are diverse. Professions have their own constructed norms, for instance. Veterinary medical ethics has evolved over the last century and didn’t even exist not long ago. I don’t think I have a meta-framework that can answer, to my satisfaction, what I take to be your question. A case by case approach regarding actions and consequences seems a good place to start for me.
            2. I’m still learning about the relationship between ought and empiricism. I’d like to see a debate between Edgies, Sam Harris and Steven Weinberg. I’m of the opinion that theistic philosophy is not the only way to construct a morality.
            3. If you’re allowing me to define good, then I don’t think you would have a detractive standing by asking therefore if it’s empirical. I could simply present an assumption and derive empirically good acts from there, likewise with wrongness.
            4. You seem to infer I discount the term philosophy. I don’t. I’ve been interested in why your philosophical claims are something I should care about. So far you’ve told me that there would be negative, non-empirical consequences in an afterlife.
            5. See 2.
            6. I usually make distinctions between the words normal and moral. If Yahweh was making a special, hidden, revelation to the Aztecs someone like WLC would no doubt try to argue that it was morally good to remove hearts. I would disagree with that god, just as I disagree with Yahweh’s/Jesus’ acceptance of owning other people as property.

            Mike
            Edit done, removed questions and added last sentence in #2.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Welcome to the world of the “is” – “ought” dichotomy. This is Hume’s objection to normative ethics. “Is” statements are descriptive, but “ought” statements are prescriptive – and Hume objected that there is no logical way to get from the former to the latter.

            The problem with all professional “frameworks” is that there still must be some objective basis for making normative judgments. Otherwise, all codes of conduct are merely based on customs and traditions or some other more or less arbitrary criteria. Ethics needs some objective standards that are not merely invented by man.

            Most ethical systems that come out of a positivistic mindset fall into the category of some form of utilitarianism, meaning that one does whatever will produce the greatest good for the greatest number.

            Even assuming that one can agree on what is a true good, this consequentialist approach could justify any act at all, no matter how inherently evil.

            For example, given the premises on which the Nazis were operating, they could justify their “final solution” to the “Jewish problem.” The objective fact that such actions violated the essential rights and dignity of the Jewish people would not be admitted as a factor in forming the moral judgment. Similar reasoning is used today to justify abortions for many “good reasons,” without considering the inherent right to life of an unborn human being.

            Natural law ethics avoids this relativism and subjectivism by looking to human nature adequately considered as an objective guideline for what is morally right or wrong. But such a system presupposes the philosophical truths of (1) God’s existence as Creator of human nature as well as (2) the spirituality and immortality of the human soul as giving man a true last end in God beyond this mortal life. Nor are God’s standards arbitrary, since they are in keeping with his intention in framing human nature as the standard of its own moral good, and he would not contradict his own creative intention.

            Absent natural law, every ethical “system” suffers the problem that its acceptance is ultimately a matter of subjective choice, no matter how noble it may appear to be. Without human nature or God, no one is obliged to conform to an objective norm of what is right for man, nor is he answerable to a God above should he decide to embrace some “other” ethical system.

            Every atheist feels insulted if told that he has no ethical principles. He DOES have his OWN set of standards. But the problem is that without some external authority to which he is responsible, he is perfectly free to change the “system” he chooses to embrace and to opt for a different one at will. He is free to define and to change his own concept of good and evil, since there is no other intellectual arbiter of morality in existence.

          • Jim the Scott

            @drdennisbonnette:disqus

            You know Special Rrelativity doesn't help me program my DVR so it must be unimportant.

          • Sample1

            That analogy doesn’t work for me unless you are claiming SR has no empirical findings. If you can demonstrate the latter I’ll accept the former.

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            SR has empirical findings & It still doesn't help me program my DVR so it still must be unimportant.

          • Sample1

            Are you saying the negative consequences of you not understanding SR is not being able to program your DVR?

            Mike

          • Jim the Scott

            Have trouble reading English do you?

            I said"SR has empirical findings & It still doesn't help me program my DVR so it still must be unimportant. "

            This is true unless you can show me how SR is needed for me to program my DVR?

          • Rob Abney

            Why would science work or not work depending upon your understanding?!
            It works even if you don't understand cause and effect, or the principle of non contradiction, or other first principles. It works when you accept axioms without questioning their absolute validity.
            But it seems to me that to not acknowledge the foundations that support scientific and technological advances is to be ungrateful rather than just apathetic.
            Could you please explain to me why you are walking your dog? I'll be surprised if you can explain the metaphysical reasons, although without those reasons your dog and many others would suffer needlessly.

          • Sample1

            But it seems to me that to not acknowledge the foundations that support scientific and technological advances is to be ungrateful rather than just apathetic.

            What are the negative consequences for being, as you say, ungrateful for Dr. Bonnette’s philosophical claims?

            although without those reasons your dog and many others would suffer needlessly.

            Please demonstrate how my dog could suffer needlessly because his dad does not accept Dr. Bonnette’s philosophical claims.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Your dog could suffer if you are lost without even knowing it. If you don't know where you're going then you'll end up going nowhere and you'll take your dog with you.

          • Rob Abney

            Also: "You want to have a meaningful life? Everything you do matters. That's the definition of a meaningful life. You're gonna carry that with you. Or do you just want to forget about the whole meaning thing, then you don’t have any responsibility, because who the hell cares, you can wander through life doing whatever you want, gratifying impulsive desires for how long useful that’s going to be, and you’re stuck in meaninglessness, but you don’t have any responsibility, which one do you want? Well, ask yourself, which one are you pursuing?" Dr.Jordan Peterson

          • Paul Vinci

            Henry Newman

            I will reply to the rest of your comment later , but i want to reply mostly to your youtube clip .

            Firstly . no person has ever replicated the the shroud to include all the data contained within the real one .

            This youtube clip is farce of stupendous proportions .

            Perhaps you could take some time and watch this youtube clip with demonstrates the the inadequacy of the fakers claims to have replicated the shroud .

            They simply have not . And those that claim otherwise are wrong

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0JBberCqw4

          • Firstly. no person has ever replicated the the shroud to include all the data contained within the real one

            So what? How does this establish that the Shroud was created supernaturally? Our ignorance of how it was created doesn't justify any other position that "we don't know."

            The man produced a reasonable facsimile, even if it's not complete. Skeptics are not the ones making the extraordinary claim of supernatural causation, and the burden of proof should rest with anyone who wants to convince others that this was anything other than natural.

            When you can actually demonstrate, or reliably establish, that the Shroud was supernaturally caused, come talk to me.

          • Paul Vinci

            YOU SAID :
            So what? How does this establish that the Shroud was
            created supernaturally? Our ignorance of how it was
            created
            doesn't justify any other position that "we don't know."

            MY RESPONSE :
            And Yet you posted a youtube clip supposedly demonstrating how the shroud could be replicated , which actually is incorrect , isn't it .

            It seems like you are hedging your bets . You on one hand try to claim that it could be replicated , but when I called you out on it , you simply retreat into this " WE SIMPLY DON'T KNOW "

            Which is it ??.. Can it be replicated or not .?? What is your actual stance

            When I said that the shroud wasn't made naturally , I simply meant that there is nothing within the known natural order that could explain it , and there isn't . Science simply cannot explain everything

            There is nothing like the shroud ....... nowhere . And it all points the man Jesus , the very man we claim to be God incarnate.

            Why would this shroud even exist at all . The shroud consolidates the great hope Christians have already since the man it depicts is analogous to the crucified Christ as depicted in the Gospels

            YOU SAID :
            The man produced a reasonable facsimile, even if it's not
            complete. Skeptics are not the ones making the
            extraordinary claim of supernatural causation, and the
            burden of proof should rest with anyone who wants to
            convince others that this was anything other than natural

            MY RESPONSE :
            First of all , the image you presented isn't a reasonable facsimile because its image saturation points are not analogous to the shroud and neither does it contain the data that shroud does . The shroud is vastly more than just an image .

            Saying that Skeptics do not make claims of supernatural is stating the obvious , but skeptics will believe anything except the supernatural , so even they have their bias , and many prefer to rest their hopes on science to explain everything for them .

            Atheist simply cannot disprove the existence of God , so they must hold on their belief in PURE FAITH

            The Atheist is every bit a man of faith as is a Theist

          • Which is it ??.. Can it be replicated or not .?? What is your actual stance

            I think we have a plausible replication method, or at least partial replication. Even if we cannot figure out how we can replicate it it doesn't justify any other position than "we don't know."

            When I said that the shroud wasn't made naturally , I simply meant that there is nothing within the known natural order that could explain it , and there isn't . Science simply cannot explain everything

            Sure, science cannot explain everything, but that doesn't justify the claim that the Shroud wasn't made naturally. You cannot possibly justify such a position. To say "[something] wasn't made naturally" is a claim that natural processes can never explain [something].

            but skeptics will believe anything except the supernatural

            Because you cannot establish that the "supernatural" exists, and supernatural explanations are of no pragmatic value. A magical realm that can do anything at any time doesn't give me any predictive power.

            Atheist simply cannot disprove the existence of God , so they must hold on their belief in PURE FAITH
            The Atheist is every bit a man of faith as is a Theist

            Oh please stop this nonsense or I'll just block you! I don't need to disprove something in order to assert that you have no reasonable justification for belief.

            Edited to make some points more clear.

          • Rob Abney

            A magical realm that can do anything at any time doesn't give me any predictive power.

            That sounds accurate but where else do you find that you do get "predictive power"?

          • Paul Vinci

            YOU SAID :
            It doesn't justify any other position than WE DON'T KNOW

            MY RESPONSE
            Rubbish : the data from the shroud is far more justifiably deemed the very shroud that covered the man Christ , than does any incredulous position of any atheist .

            The properties of the image have no correlation to any known subject matter in history .....none .

            It seems to me that many atheists , though not all , want God to appear out of nowhere and tap them on shoulder and give them the clarity and absolute certainty of his existence that doesn't require any faith .

            But even when gifts are given ,like the shroud , the evidence is dismissed and simply filed under the "WE DONT KNOW" category .

            I find that to be a cop out

            YOU SAID :
            A magical realm that can do anything at any time doesn't give me any predictive power.

            MY RESPONSE :
            These facile caricatures ("MAGICAL RERALM") are typical of many atheists and are not analogous to the nature of which we understand God to possess

            So Then you go right ahead and block me . If you do then I will have to talk to admins about that because It seems rather ironic that you , who is an atheist , and has been allowed to assert his opinions on a Catholic forum , would even have the audacity to consider blocking someone who dared to challenge your views .

            I have every right to challenge your incredulity , since you feel that you can come here and challenge us .

            If you don't like your position challenged , and are threatened by mine , then perhaps you are not here for the right reasons .

          • The properties of the image have no correlation to any known subject matter in history .....none .

            It also doesn't line up with what we would expect a burial shroud to look like either. Bob Sidensticker has wrote about this before

            It seems to me that many atheists , though not all , want God to appear
            out of nowhere and tap them on shoulder and give them the clarity and
            absolute certainty of his existence that doesn't require any faith.

            Why can't God do this? Is God not all powerful? Why is faith required? This just seems absurd to me.

            But even when gifts are given ,like the shroud , the evidence is
            dismissed and simply filed under the "WE DONT KNOW" category .

            Because you cannot establish that the Shroud is actually what you claim it is. You assume that it was created miraculously, but you cannot establish the truth of the claim. The only thing you can do is appeal to our ignorance and claim that it is definitely not naturally produced.

            These facile caricatures ("MAGICAL RERALM") are typical of many atheists
            and are not analogous to the nature of which we understand God to
            possess

            To talk of miracles is to talk of magic, period.

            If you don't like your position challenged

            I have no problem with people who challenge my position. I do have a problem with people who do it dishonestly, and who should know better, or make outright stupid claims about other people. I would put your "Atheist simply cannot disprove the existence of God , so they must hold on their belief in PURE FAITH" into the latter category.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Much of my reply to you is taken from my reply to Herald Newman posted yesterday – since many of your objections are similar.

            My point about trusting the entire body of scientific research is simply that the idea that human trust is not needed in science is a bit naive. No one does all the research himself. Everything every scientist knows or does depends on "scientific truths" he takes on faith in the work of millions of others. You may properly trust that basis. My only point is that the claim that one can verify everything for himself is untrue. For example, even doing our own research we are using instruments made and calibrated by others.

            “My skepticism is not based on any assumptions about anybody lying. It is based on assumptions, which in turn are based on empirical observations, about the fallibility of ordinary human minds.”

            This is why I mentioned the large numbers of private revelations, made by people of strict conscience, that are, for example, of the Blessed Virgin or Jesus or one of the saints. This is not a matter of merely thinking they are vaguely being “told something by God,” but very explicit visual or even tactile as well as auditory experiences. Could some be “mistaken?” The answer to this is the size of the number of such recorded events. Skeptics may still doubt anything. But credibility builds with numbers and the conscience values of those reporting them.

            Finally, I know that skeptics have try to offer alternative explanations to what happened at Fatima in 1917. Still, if you were as skeptical of your alternative explanations as you are of Fatima itself, I think you would realize that most of these explanations really struggle for they own credibility.

            Just plain common sense is all that is needed in order to know something truly extraordinary happened at Fatima on October 13, 1917 -- because of three simple facts:

            (1) Something really, really strange happened on that day at Fatima. No one says "nothing happened at all." Check any source you want on the internet and you find that even the skeptics know they have to come up with some sort of explanation for some very odd reports from tens of thousands of people.

            (2) No matter how you count those present -- be it 40 or 100 thousand, it was a heck of a lot of witnesses.

            (3) It was predicted by the children that something amazing would happen on that date at that site. (And in a hugely Catholic context, by the way.) If there was no prediction made ahead of time, then explain why so many people showed up to the same place at the same time. Were they planning a picnic? Or was it because something extraordinary was predicted to occur at that exact time and place?

            Finally, the only reason I gave you the reference to the Washington Post story was to document my immediately preceding statement that the Masonic O Seculo newspaper in Lisbon had actually reported that the sun had “danced” in the sky at Fatima the preceding day. I assure you that I know enough not to trust the biases of reporters, especially in today’s media.

          • My point about trusting the entire body of scientific research is simply that the idea that human trust is not needed in science is a bit naive.

            I never said it wasn’t needed. I am denying that trust is foundational to science. You can’t build a house, nor can you even lay its foundation, without nails, but nails are not a component of the foundation.

            “My skepticism is not based on any assumptions about anybody lying. It is based on assumptions, which in turn are based on empirical observations, about the fallibility of ordinary human minds.”

            This is why I mentioned the large numbers of private revelations, made by people of strict conscience,

            There may be strength in numbers, but not infallibility.

            But credibility builds with numbers

            Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on what we’re being asked to believe. Suppose a hundred people told you that they had time-traveled back to early-first-century Judea looking for a charismatic preacher named Jesus who was famous for his exorcisms and healings, and couldn’t find a single person who had ever heard of such a man. Would you believe them? Would you believe if you heard the same story from a thousand people?

            and the conscience values of those reporting them.

            My skepticism does not depend on supposing that anybody is trashing their conscience.

            Still, if you were as skeptical of your alternative explanations as you are of Fatima itself, I think you would realize that most of these explanations really struggle for they own credibility.

            You have referred to one particular explanation and I’ve told you that I don’t accept it. When I’m ready to tell you about an explanation that I do accept, then we can discuss how much skepticism it might warrant.

            Just plain common sense is all that is needed in order to know something truly extraordinary happened at Fatima on October 13, 1917

            Yes, if we are to believe any of the canonical accounts. But the canonical accounts of quite a few historical events that have nothing to do with religion are wrong.

            No one says "nothing happened at all."

            I know I’ve never said it. I don’t care whether anybody else has.

            Check any source you want on the internet

            Are you assuming I haven’t already? I think it was a year or two ago in this same forum when somebody, a firm believer in the Fatima miracle, responded to my request for solid evidence by recommending a site, and I read it carefully. I can no longer find the article that my interlocutor linked to, but its author obviously convinced quite firmly that something extraordinary had happened. However, they reported no fact asserted by any eyewitness that was out of the ordinary. Some of those witnesses talked about what other people, almost all of them unidentified, claimed to have seen, but I have yet to find any account of the Fatima event containing any report, by an identifiable eyewitness, of anything for which a pedestrian explanation would be hard to anyone to think of.

            No matter how you count those present -- be it 40 or 100 thousand, it was a heck of a lot of witnesses.

            Let’s go with 100 thousand. I don’t know what all of them witnessed. I have not seen 100 thousand eyewitness reports. I could probably count on one hand the reports I have seen by identifiable eyewitnesses, and none of those people claimed to have seen anything extraordinary.

            It was predicted by the children that something amazing would happen on that date at that site.

            And I don’t doubt that many of the people who showed up on that date at that site were amazed by whatever happened. That’s the neat thing about a prophecy as vague as “something amazing will happen.” It’s awfully hard for such a prediction not to come true.

            If there was no prediction made ahead of time, then explain why so many people showed up to the same place at the same time.

            There is nothing to explain. So far as I am aware, no skeptic has ever claimed that no prediction was made.

            Finally, the only reason I gave you the reference to the Washington Post story was to document my immediately preceding statement that the Masonic O Seculo newspaper in Lisbon had actually reported that the sun had “danced” in the sky at Fatima the preceding day.

            Well, thanks, but I would have taken your word for it that some newspaper in the region reported that the sun actually danced. A claim of that sort doesn’t trigger my skepticism.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Although it seems an ironic citation in this context, the thought comes to mind that “the devil is in the details.”

            It seems that, aside from the standard philosophical skepticism of all things miraculous, both you and Harold Newman share the general response that you are not contesting the general veracity of Fatima’s witnesses, but that nothing all that extraordinary occurred there, and that there are reasonable explanations for whatever was claimed somewhat vaguely by actual eyewitnesses. I think that given the citations I am about to give you, you will find that you will be forced to attack the veracity of the witnesses, or else, to claim that only a few witnesses were specific.

            A decisive evidence to take note of here is that what happened that fateful day was NOT MERELY VISUAL, but also that an UNMISTAKABLE PHYSICAL SIGN OCCURRED AS WELL.

            Fortunately, someone had the foresight to re-interview a few of the surviving witnesses of Fatima some forty years after 1917. There is no room here for much detail, but the following quotes are from named witnesses cited in the book, “Meet the Witnesses,” by John M. Haffert – still available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Meet-Witnesses-John-M-Haffert/dp/1890137561

            Starting p. 4, from a televised interview with Dominic Reis of Holyoke, MA:

            “Now it was raining like an open faucet at your house. Rain! And then suddenly the rain stopped. The sun started to roll from one place to another place, and changed blue, yellow, all colors! Then we see the sun come toward the children, toward the tree. Everybody was hollering out. Some start to confess their sins, ‘cause there were no Priests around there.”
            … “As soon as the sun went back into the right place, the wind started to blow real hard, the trees didn’t move at all. The wind was blow, blow and in few minutes the ground was as dry as this floor here. Even our clothes had dried. … The clothes were dry and looked as though they had just come from the laundry. I believed. I thought: Either I’m out of my mind or this was a miracle, a real miracle.”

            P. 65, from Maria do Carmo Menezes near Leira, Portugal:
            “Suddenly the sun appeared so that we could look at it as though it were the moon. It began spinning like a firework wheel, making us all turn into the colors of the rainbow, even the ground itself.” Was she wet and then dry afterward? “Yes.”

            There are many other personally identified similar witnesses in this book. I suggest that it is not credible to say these events were merely natural, precisely because they were not merely visual – since the crowd, soaked in wet woolen 1917 clothing, were suddenly “dry cleaned” by the event. These two witnesses are a mere sample, but the essential visual sign and sudden dryness of soaked woolen clothing makes impossible facile dismissal.

            I think you will be forced to start saying people are lying in order to save your habitual skepticism.

            I doubt more speculative debate will serve further purpose.

          • I think you will be forced to start saying people are lying in order to save your habitual skepticism.

            Keep on thinking that. But just watch me.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You make a legitimate point. "Habitual skepticism" is a licit attitude toward claims that flatly contradict one's most closely held views. The problem is in the nuance of the words, and saying "habitual" may be taken to imply a non-reflective attitude, which no one should be presumed to have. A "reflective" skepticism is needed at times in order not to fall prey easily to erroneous claims against what one holds strongly for what one thinks are good reasons. Perhaps, the term, "skepticism," is itself unproductive. The original skeptics largely doubted everything, whereas you and other naturalists have strong views that exclude belief in a transcendent deity (if I understand your position correctly). Needless to say, I am very skeptical of your view! ;-)

            Probably a better way to make the point I was making would be to say that I do not see how you can maintain your objections to the Fatima miracle without questioning the veracity of witnesses whose statements appear to me to defy any explanation other than the admission that something miraculous occurred. You are always, of course, free to make your case.

          • I’ve tried again to find that article that was recommended to me, but still without success, so I’m going to have to do the best I can with what I can remember.

            I recall only two events being reported that would, if authenticated, present a challenge to naturalists. The dancing sun is obviously the main one and certainly the more famous. The other, less often mentioned, was the apparently sudden drying of the ground and people’s clothing.

            If the sun had actually moved as reported, the event would not have been witnessed only by people in that particular crowd. Furthermore, according to the accounts I have seen, not all of those people claimed to see it. That being so, I think it reasonable to doubt that the sun actually moved in any unusual way. The only thing therefore requiring any explanation is the fact that some people thought they saw it move. And at this point, I have no idea how many people we’re talking about. I have seen no reliable figures on the number of identifiable witnesses who are on record as saying, “I saw the sun _____.” I therefore do not know exactly what, in terms what was perceived by how many people, even needs an explanation. We need to keep in mind that if one person in a group of 10 says, “I saw X, and so did everyone around me,” then we don’t have 10 eyewitness accounts of X. We have one eyewitness account with a claim that nine other people saw the same thing.

            We have a similar situation with the drying-out phenomenon. Several minutes of googling failed to turn up any references to how many people reported that event or, just as crucial, when they reported it. I did find one skeptical website that alleged those stories did not even surface until some years after the event itself. I’m not taking their word for that, but I must note that I found nothing even on believers’ websites that contradicted it. So again, I must ask, exactly what extraordinary event am I obliged to explain?

          • Dennis Bonnette

            This is something on which each of us has to do his own honest research and come to his own conclusion. It is not like proofs for God’s existence, where the factual evidence is pretty much the same for all, and it is merely a matter of reasoning validly to the conclusions.

            Here we have a large crowd (realistically, about one hundred thousand it now seems) and therein lies the problem. There is no way to get an actual count of exactly how many saw what. And they are all dead to boot! What we have is a number of reports from eye witnesses, which, no matter how large, will be but a fraction of the total. A sampling at best.

            Therefore, anyone today is forced to engage in a kind of inductive reasoning, combined with common sense. So as not to rehash everything said before, I would focus on just a couple points.

            First, my reading of the reports is that most people did see the generally reported “dance” of the sun. This isn’t just a matter of the sun “appearing to move” as doubters usually put it. The stark reports of many say the same thing. They saw the sun dance in the sky and appear to fall to earth so that they feared for their lives and many called out their personal sins thinking they were about to die. This shocking detail is not so easy for me to dismiss with some “optical illusion” explanation as most doubters suggest. People miles away, not even expecting anything to happen, report seeing the same kind of phenomenon.

            Perhaps the most stunning reports are those published in two anti-religious prominent papers, Diario de Noticias and O Seculo (Lisbon), whose reporters and editors themselves eye-witnessed events. There is no way to cite them all here, but they are quoted at length in John M. Haffert’s book, “Meet the Witnesses,” still available on Amazon books:

            Dario de Noticias: “The sun seemed veiled in gauze. We could look at it without strain. The gray tint of mother-of-pearl began changing as if into a silver disc that was growing and growing … until it broke the clouds! Then the silvery sun, still shrouded in that grayish light, began to rotate and wander within the circle of the receded clouds!

            O Seculo: “… the sun which trembled and made brusque and unheard of movement beyond all cosmic laws, the sun seemed literally to dance in the sky.” … “The greatest number avowed that they saw the sun trembling and dancing: others declared they saw the smiling face of the Blessed Virgin herself. They swore that the sun turned around on itself as if it were a wheel of fireworks and had fallen almost to the point of burning the earth with its rays…..” Although one can claim it is not a scientific poll, notice the phrase "greatest number."

            It is perhaps noteworthy that these two papers returned to their anti-religious themes after the dates of these reports.

            I do not think this phenomenon was movement of the actual physical sun, but rather a kind of near universal vision with variations beheld by some and not others. Recall that the Masonic bias of these papers would be like sending a CNN reporter to report on a NRA convention.

            As to the recency of the reports of sudden dryness after pouring rain, you will find them attested to in Haffert’s book by living witnesses reporting about 1960. I would urge anyone in doubt to read this book, since it appears written with great care for accuracy and with many photos of still living witnesses (at time of its publication).

            All this can be rejected, of course – but I do not see how it can be done without directly challenging the veracity of a lot of good people.

          • Thank you for a thoughtful response. I will consider getting Haffert's book. I understand that if I don't, I will be accused of refusing to examine any evidence contrary to my worldview. But then, if I do get it and read it but remain unconvinced, then the accusation will be that I am so closed-minded that nothing could convince me, so it seems I have little to lose no matter what I decide.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I would say it sounds as if you are damned if you do or damned if you don't -- but someone might read a theological inference into those words that I don't intend! ;-)

            I just saw that book selling for $140 on Amazon in hardback! If you look around there is also a $6 paperback version. I think I know which one I would choose. In fact, I own the paperback version -- proving I am a cheapskate, but not bankrupt.

            I hope and think you might find it interesting at least. I don't think anyone should call you close-minded for actually looking at evidence against your own position. Quite the opposite.

          • I would say it sounds as if you are damned if you do or damned if you don't -- but someone might read a theological inference into those words that I don't intend!

            It’s actually just what I meant, but of course without any intended theological implications.

            If you look around there is also a $6 paperback version.

            I saw it, and decided to get it. My wife would have a fit if I spent much more for a book promoting religion.

            I don't think anyone should call you close-minded for actually looking at evidence against your own position.

            Not for looking at the evidence. For failing to be convinced despite looking at the evidence. That was the accusation I was concerned about.

            But not very concerned. In the final analysis, it is my own judgment I must ultimately live with. I am being as open-minded as I know how to be, insofar as I am capable of judging my own thinking. If the True Believers remain convinced of the contrary, I can live with that, whether they be believers in Christianity, UFOs, conspiracies, astrology, or whatever. I just can’t live my life trying to please them all -- or any of them, if it comes to that.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            We may have to end this for the simple reason that it is so buried in the thread that I can barely find it anymore! I don't like doing my comments in Disqus particularly -- and I missed your comment in the comment column before it disappeared!

            But I did want to tell you that one of my very favorite books I own is Antony Flew's "God: A Critical Enquiry." Of course, I did not agree with his atheism, but he has a wonderful grasp of the Thomistic arguments that most atheists do not manifest. In fact, for anyone not really familiar with the details of the Five Ways of St. Thomas, he attacks a point that most people would likely not know how to answer. I not only read the book, but I would reread parts of it many times just to keep current with his arguments and my own responses. Truthfully, I just enjoy reading its often tight logic.

            Of course, having written a book on the Five Ways myself, this was a labor of love. In the latter parts of the book, he unfortunately turned to the sort of attacks on "organized religion" too typical of many atheists. But I really did not mind that, since the early parts were so substantive. And frankly, his late life alleged conversion to deism based of a variation of ID theory left me a bit puzzled, since it did not sound like the acute reasoning he offered when he wrote this book.

            I guess my point is that even if you find the proofs wanting in the Haffert book, at least you may get your six bucks worth by having it around as good resource material for your later arguments against Fatima.

            You will find it, of course, written from a thoroughly Catholic perspective. I trust that will not deter you from sorting through the actual evidences it presents which I hope you will see as having objective value. When it is not "editorializing," the arguments and evidence stands for itself.

            Obviously, it is not the only book "out there" of this type, but it is only about 120 pages, which beats another one I could have recommended (but wouldn't) that is over 800 pages!

            Even if we let this topic drop, I have enjoyed our exchanges on this one and trust we shall "cross swords" in some other area shortly! I do sense that you are trying to be open minded in evaluating arguments and evidence. And I thank you for that.

          • People underestimate the degree to which even natural science presupposes trust in the entire body of scientific knowledge

            This, quite simply, is not a presupposition of science. I don't know where you got this idea from?!

            all of which rests on trust in the veracity and competence of all the researchers and experimenters who did all the work.

            On one hand there's pressure to cheat, but on the other hand there's also a massive pressure to not cheat, as it will likely mean the entire loss of career and status. Scientists who are shown to be dishonest become discredited and have a hard time doing any more research.

            Contrast this with the world of religious apologetics where one can be completely dishonest (see people like William Lane Craig) with facts because there are always religious suckers willing to pay money for something that "confirms" what they really want to believe.

            We assume their ethical integrity, when it has been shown multiple times that outright fraud and cooking of the data has occurred.

            And you know who discovered these frauds? Scientists, working in peer review. That what science does, and why science is so reliable. I have a hard time understanding why you aren't aware of this...

            As to the belief in miracles or private revelations, I think the reason skeptics reject them is because (1) they violate the preconceived prejudices of the skeptics

            No, I reject them because none of them have ever been shown to be truthful. Never has somebody demonstrated anything from revelation that couldn't have been made up, or (at best) be a lucky guess. Never do we see anybody claiming to have had a reliable revelation showing that they know when the next major earthquake will strike. It's always wishy-washy stuff that anybody could claim and often has no way to falsify. If they can be falsified they've always been shown to be wrong!

            (2) They fail to understand the cultural factors that make misreporting unlikely

            This assume a dichotomy that everyone is either being entirely truthful, or knowingly lying. People can sincerely believe that they've had a revelation, but until we have a way to verify any of their claims the claims themselves are useless. Anybody can claim to have had a message from God, but I've yet to heard of anybody who could demonstrate it.

            3) they fail to take into account the large number of such reports, all of which would have to be false for the entire body of evidence to be dismissed.

            The null hypothesis says we can treat them as false until they can establish that their claims are true! I don't care if a billion people claim to have had revelations from a cosmic superbeing if their claims aren't falsifiable or stand up to scrutiny.

            After all, what's more likely: That some cosmic superbeing is actually communicating to us, or that people have brains that make them think they got a message from a cosmic superbeing? Some people have overactive imaginations.

            Moreover, the large number of cases make the easy explanations of mental illness or lying not credible.

            There are plenty of plausible explanations for why people believe they have had revelation, and they don't all boil down to "mental illness" and "lying."

            It is much like the absurd explanation of the Fatima miracle as being a mass hallucination

            Who is claiming that it was a mass hallucination? I know that's not my explanation. Staring at the sun does very weird things to your perception and is a good explanation for Fatima. No supernatural needed!

            Even the Masonic paper, O Seculo, in Lisbon reported the next day that the "sun danced" in the sky.

            So? These stories almost certainly came from the reports of the people who were there. Why wasn't this independently reported in England, France, or anywhere else the sun would have been shinning? Surely people would have noticed their shadows moving all over the place if the sun really moved all over the sky!!!

          • Dennis Bonnette

            If you checked even the single source I linked in my comment you would see that the problem of fraud among scientists is not trivial.

            My point about trusting the entire body of scientific research is simply that the idea that human trust is not needed in science is a bit naive. No one does all the research himself. Everything every scientist knows or does depends on "scientific truths" he takes on faith in the work of millions of others. You may properly trust that basis. My only point is that the claim that one can verify everything for himself is untrue. For example, even doing our own research we are using instruments made and calibrated by others.

            I detect your skepticism running strong when you say that you "don't care if a billion people claim to have had revelations from a cosmic superbeing if their claims aren't falsifiable or stand up to scrutiny." If they are telling of immediate visions about truths concerning an afterlife, they cannot meet your standards of earthly falsifiability or scrutiny, but can still be speaking truth about the hereafter.

            Similarly, the problem you have for private revelations is that they really would have to be hallucinating or lying, since they do not merely report "messages from God," but very specific apparitions of Catholic holy persons. That is why the number of them reported and the conscience values of those reporting them is critical.

            Your explanation of the events at Fatima needs to be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny you would demand for the events themselves. I don't think your explanation meets the criteria of what the actual witnesses said they saw the sun do -- and more importantly would not explain the number of people saying they also saw visions of Jesus or St. Joseph or the Blessed Virgin. Indeed, I recall that one of the observers was a professor of optics at the University of Coimbra who tested the observations himself while they occurred to make certain they were authentic.

            Finally, you don't have to depend on your explanation of what the people at Fatima saw to know something truly extraordinary happened there -- because of three simple facts:

            (1) Something really, really strange happened on that day at Fatima. No one says "nothing happened at all." Check any source you want on the internet and you find that even the skeptics know they have to come up with some sort of explanation for some very odd reports from tens of thousands of people.

            (2) No matter how you count those present -- be it 40 or 100 thousand, it was a heck of a lot of witnesses.

            (3) It was predicted by the children that something amazing would happen on that date at that site. (And in a hugely Catholic context, by the way.) If there was no prediction made ahead of time, then explain why so many people showed up to the same place at the same time. Were they planning a picnic? Or was it prophetic?

            Finally, although you make the common objection that the odd behavior of the sun could not be real, since distant observers failed to observe anything. This objection is absurd, since if such behavior were observed at a distance, then the phenomenon would properly be described as natural. It is precisely because that it was experienced only at Fatima (and in a couple villages a few miles away) and not as a genuine celestial phenomenon that it had to be something which suspended the laws of nature as some sort of apparition or vision witnessed by tens of thousands of people.

          • If you checked even the single source I linked in my comment you would see that the problem of fraud among scientists is not trivial.

            I'm not claiming it's trivial, but this is why peer review exists. You can make an argument that there isn't enough peer review (and I'd tend to agree with you), but don't give me the impression that science is broken, or isn't generally reliable.

            My point about trusting the entire body of scientific research is simply that the idea that human trust is not needed in science is a bit naive.

            There is no "trust" in science, and it literally never comes into the equation. Skepticism is implicit within the scientific community, and nobody assumes that previous findings are accurate. Nobody assumes that any particular scientific finding is accurate, and all models are tentative, and subject to revision with new data. It's a rigorous process that has processed some of the most reliable findings we have ever made, but trust never once entered into the equation.

            I detect your skepticism running strong when you say that you "don't care if a billion people claim to have had revelations from a cosmic superbeing if their claims aren't falsifiable or stand up to scrutiny." If they are telling of immediate visions about truths concerning an afterlife, they cannot meet your standards of earthly falsifiability or scrutiny, but can still be speaking truth about the hereafter.

            Of course my skepticism is running strong! As it should be! You make skepticism sound like a bad thing, which seems to be very typical of the religious, and religious apologists. We should all be more skeptical, but alas, this is why we have 2.5 billion Christians, another 1.5 billion Muslims, a billion Hindus, and everyone else under the Sun. They can't all be right, but they can all be wrong!

            I start all investigations with the null hypothesis on the claims. That is, all [positive] claims are presumed false until such time that they can provide sufficient evidence to establish the truth of their claim. If a claim makes no empirical predictions, how do I tell the difference between a true claim and a false claim?

            (2) No matter how you count those present -- be it 40 or 100 thousand, it was a heck of a lot of witnesses.

            So what? We have a reasonably good explanation for the reported claims of miracle, and they do not involve anything beyond nature. In fact, as I've stated, the effects can be explained very simply. It's only Catholic apologists who wish to assert that people looking at the sun and seeing the sun dance around is somehow evidence of God.

            Your explanation of the events at Fatima needs to be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny you would demand for the events themselves.

            I'm not claiming this is the definite explanation, but it is sufficient, and requires no assumptions involving magic. There may be better natural explanations, but mine is sufficient.

            (3) It was predicted by the children that something amazing would happen on that date at that site. (And in a hugely Catholic context, by the way.) If there was no prediction made ahead of time, then explain why so many people showed up to the same place at the same time. Were they planning a picnic? Or was it prophetic?

            Yes, 3 school age girls claim they were visited by the virgin Mary, and that 'something miraculous" would happen at that location. No specification of what the miracle would be was ever given, and I'm supposed to be surprised that many thousands of people show up and that some of them (in a desperate attempt to find a miracle) start starring at the Sun and start seeing it move around in front of them? Just look at home many people travel to Lourdes every year to get a bit of water put on them?!

            How you can possibly call this a "prediction" is way beyond me. It's very much like the psychics who offer vague questions and statements and have people fill in the details with what they want.

            Frankly, the fact that it was a Sun event, localized to a few kilometers in Portugal, makes the entire claim all the more dubious. At best you have God performing some optical illusion for a few thousand people, some of whom didn't even notice.

            his objection is absurd, since if such behavior were observed at a distance, then the phenomenon would properly be described as natural.

            Seriously?!?! Seriously!?! If the Sun started moving about the sky in an irregular fashion, this would be absolutely incredible, and would defy everything we know about celestial mechanics.

            Some people stare at the Sun, see it moving around, or start seeing colors spin out of the sun in a psychedelic, pinwheel pattern, and I'm supposed to believe that a miracle occurred?

            Here is what LiveScience has to say about the event:

            This suggests that the experience was something else. In his book, Nickell suggested that the crowd saw a sundog, a patch of light that sometimes appears beside the sun. Sundogs are stationary, however, so that doesn't explain why people thought they saw the sun moving. So perhaps the "sun dance" appeared in the minds and perceptions of those pilgrims present — not in the skies above them. There must, therefore, be a psychological explanation, and indeed we can find one: an optical illusion caused by thousands of people looking up at the sky, hoping, expecting, and even praying for some sign from God. It is of course dangerous to stare directly at the sun, and to avoid permanently damaging their eyesight, those at Fátima that day were looking up in the sky around the sun, which, if you do it long enough, can give the illusion of the sun moving as the eye muscles tire.

            Unless you have a bias for the supernatural, this natural explanation is sufficient for me.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Since you and Doug Shaver are presenting somewhat parallel arguments against the Fatima events, please look at my reply to him four comments below.

            I believe that the devil is in the details and that a careful analysis of the visual testimony simply does not meet the criteria for natural optical illusions. One must consider that a professor of optics from the University of Coimbra was present and carefully observed and considered such possibilities as he was actually seeing what was happening with the appearance of the Sun -- and he concluded that no natural phenomenon would explain it.

            But that is largely aside the point, since (1) it was clear people were actually in fear for their lives at the phenomenon, which suggests that you really had to be there to appreciate the fearsome nature of what was seen, and (2), decisively, the phenomenon was not merely visual, since it had been raining all morning and when the event occurred the rain-sodden wool clothing of all present suddenly was dried like it went to the laundry. This latter fact makes all psychological or merely visual hypotheses irrelevant, since a simultaneous physical "miracle" occurred to verify the objectivity of the event.

            That is why I suggested to Doug Shaver that it appears to me that the only way to continue to challenge the Fatima miracle claim would be to challenge the veracity of the witness evidence. Anyone is free to do so, or to find some other way of claiming it was not a miracle. It's a free country! I am just saying the above line of reasoning is why I am convinced that this was the most widely seen miracle in religious history to date. You may think God could have done it better, but, as you probably know, it is recorded that events occurred that were said to have lessened the miracle. (See the history of the Fatima story.)

            I suspect the Second Coming will be on a grander scale.

          • I'll say exactly what I said to somebody else:

            The problem is that the believer cannot actually establish that what they
            will call a miracle is anything other than a natural event. All you have is the say-so of others that something miraculous happened and no way to actually establish "supernatural" causation.

            When you have a reliable methodology to actually establish that some event was not actually natural, come talk to me. Until then, you really don't have much except "explain this smart guys, I think it's a miracle."

            Even if I can't offer a credible natural explanation, it's simply that you are arguing from ignorance that any event is a miracle. We cannot establish the truth of ANY supernatural claims.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I would be happy with you merely to get you to see that certain events occurred at Fatima that depart clearly from the established order of nature. If you want to get into a debate over what is a miracle and make the claim that miracles simply cannot ever be demonstrated ala David Hume, that is quite another matter and one I am not particularly interested in at the moment.

            Clearly, the point of a miracle is to show that it could be caused by God alone. But as long as some of you are maintaining that the events at Fatima are entirely explainable by ordinary rules of scientific expectation, that hurdle is the one that is logically at issue presently. What I am saying is that a reasonable person cannot comport the witness testimony in its specific detail with the ordinary rules of science.

            As to your last statement that "we cannot establish the truth of ANY supernatural claims," I would hope that you are not applying that universally -- since that would extend to the metaphysical proofs for God's existence. Are you suggesting that they are a non-starter as well?

            I would hope that you can at least see the difference between general demonstrations from the established order of nature to the existence of a Supreme Being, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, directly proving God's existence through some individual historical incident, called a miracle.

          • I would be happy with you merely to get you to see that certain events occurred at Fatima that depart clearly from the established order of nature.

            And how exactly do you plan to establish this?

            Clearly, the point of a miracle is to show that it could be caused by God alone.

            You have no method for establishing miracles without appealing to ignorance/incredulity.

            But as long as some of you are maintaining that the events at Fatima are entirely explainable by ordinary rules of scientific expectation

            I maintain that Fatima is likely explained by my explanation, but I wasn't there so I can't tell you, and all of the witnesses are almost certainly dead. I also maintain that you cannot establish that this event was "supernatural"

            As to your last statement that "we cannot establish the truth of ANY supernatural claims," I would hope that you are not applying that universally -- since that would extend to the metaphysical proofs for God's existence. Are you suggesting that they are a non-starter as well?

            The kind of arguments you provide are a starting point. If the conclusions cannot be verified the arguments are worthless words.

            We are cut off from the supernatural if it even exist. We have no method to investigate it, or confirm that it exists. The fact of life we have to deal with is we cannot be rationally justified in accepting the supernatural.

            and, on the other hand, directly proving God's existence through some individual historical incident, called a miracle.

            Well, given that nobody has ever established that there have ever been any miracles, you're not going to get very far! Even if we could show a miracle happened (that is we could show that there is no natural cause for an event) you still cannot justify the belief in a god because you would have to actually shown that any god was the cause for the miracle, and you lack a methodology to do that. Appealing to ignorance and incredulity is still a fallacy.

            Without a methodology that allows us to investigate and determine supernatural causation, you're offering exactly nothing.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            How do I know the order of nature that appears to be violated here?

            Consider the children's prediction. Were it an ordinary type of miracle, such as healing the blind, I could see how one might make a lucky guess -- or at least claim one was made. The problem here was the event was hyped to be something that would make all believe -- although it was "lessened" by the officials imprisoning the children. But the event that did occur could hardly have been anticipated in the extent it occurred. You can try to explain it away, but the fact remains that here we are, over a century later, still discussing and debating the event on a broad scale. I know you will scoff at my point here, but the fact remains that ordinary mortals are not expected to know the future -- and the enormity of the miracle that took place far exceeded what one would dare to have promised by a mere lucky guess.

            And yes, the miracle far exceeded the order of nature. That is why I said the devil is in the details. What happened was not something explainable by ordinary optics or physics. This was not the sun actually moving in spatial position. Nor was it mass hallucination. It was some sort of mass vision with just enough variation to escape an univocal explanation. Such a mass vision cannot be explained by the rules of science.

            You would have to employ the old canard of suggesting there is some "scientific" explanation that maybe we don't know about., since the science we do know about does not fit the exact details of the witness testimony. Now you might make the claim that some aliens from outer space used unknown technology back then to create this mass vision, but I have to ask you then who among us is pushing the edges of reasonable skepticism?

            Finally, and most importantly from the standpoint of violating physical laws, we have the sudden drying of the sodden wool clothes and the muddy landscape. What credulity would make you think this could be explained by the laws of science? It isn't that there might be some unknown law that suddenly applies here. Rather, we know well the scientific laws of how long it take to dry out woolens and mud and this simply does not fit what happened.

            And when you put all three phenomena (the prediction, the visions, and the "drycleaning") into the same historical event, I submit it takes more faith in atheism and naturalism to believe this unimaginable convergence of evidence can be accounted for by natural causes than is required to see the evident truth that something "outside the rules of nature" took place at Fatima on October 13, 1917.

            I just don't have that much credulity myself. Do you?

          • Further, there are plenty of people who accept the supernatural but deny that Fatima is a miracle. Talk to many Muslims, and many Protestants, and I'm sure they're skeptical of the claim.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            The only way to lessen one's skepticism is to study the exact details of the case. This is private revelation, and so even Catholics are not bound to accept it. Still, the skeptical explanations of what the people saw of the sun do not, in my judgment, really fit what the witnesses described. They sound like the hypotheses people make when they want to disbelieve and do not look closely to compare the details of their hypotheses with the actual data they are trying to explain away.

            Then we have the fact that something amazing was clearly predicted ahead of time, and that so many people came to see it -- and then that it actually did occur. This needs explanation.

            Still, the icing on the cake is the well-attested fact that it was raining all morning, everyone's wool clothing was soaking wet, and yet it was dried and "cleaned" totally in the space of a few minutes -- including the muddy ground itself.

            This last item removes the whole event from the realm of the purely subjective and psychological.

            Again, it is private revelation. Anyone is free to believe as he wishes. But the nature of a miracle is something outside the order of nature which is attributable to God. Without pressing the definition, I would say that the prediction is outside the order of nature, since there is no way the children could have naturally known of such an amazing event to predict the date and time and place.

            The movements and colors of the Sun described by so many witnesses attest to a general vision simultaneously had by many thousands of people which, though obviously not a solar phenomenon physically taking place (which would have disturbed the stability of Earth itself!), is also outside the order of nature.

            Finally, the near instantaneous drying of both clothes and ground, although naturally possible over time, could not take place according to the order of nature in so short a time.

            I will let the readers decide for themselves whether this event warrants the designation of "miraculous."

            If I were merely trying to prove God's existence, I have no need for belief in this event at Fatima to do so -- as you must realize. This has been merely an interesting side discussion.

          • Without pressing the definition, I would say that the prediction is outside the order of nature

            How did you determine this? How do you know the boundaries of nature? This is just an argument from ignorance/incredulity.

            since there is no way the children could have naturally known of such an amazing event to predict the date and time and place.

            Bald assertion and assume that nobody was trying to "look" for a miracle. Again, argument from ignorance/incredulity.

            The movements and colors of the Sun described by so many witnesses... is also outside the order of nature.

            Again, how do you know the boundaries of nature and that this falls outside of it? Again, argument from ignorance/incredulity.

            Finally, the near instantaneous drying of both clothes and ground, although naturally possible over time, could not take place according to the order of nature in so short a time.

            Again, how do you know the boundaries of nature? Once again, I see a giant argument from ignorance/incredulity.

            I will let the readers decide for themselves whether this event warrants the designation of "miraculous."

            Based on nothing more than your incredulity that the event couldn't possibly have a natural explanation.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    "In its simplest form, your question says, "If I no longer thought I was right, would I still believe I was right?"

    Do you realize that you just affirmed my reading of your question in its most absurd tautologous form?

    Rational people do not answer irrational questions.

    At least Ignatius Reilly tried to restate it for you in a more palatable form!

  • Rob Abney

    If I convinced you that Aquinas and Aristotle were completely wrong about their musings about God...I'm not sure how I would act if this happened but I am sure that schoolboy assertions cannot demonstrate that the greatest of the schoolmen is completely wrong.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    What you don't seem to understand is that belief in a Supreme Being is pretty universal to mankind. Even the most primitive tribes first encountered by missionaries in the early part of the nineteenth century were found to have a some sort of supreme being, even over polytheistic gods. And such belief arises primarily from a sort of "natural metaphysics of human intelligence" that seeks some ultimate explanation behind the world, both in terms of something that made the world and something that put order into the world.

    What Aristotle and St. Thomas do is to offer sophisticated intellectual formulations of these natural intuitions. Now this means that if you remove the formal demonstrations proposed by these great thinkers, you still would have the natural arguments remaining in some rudimentary form in most people -- probably including myself.

    Your problem is that I believed in God long before I studied Thomistic philosophy -- and at least in part for rational reasons that were not entirely based on revealed religion. Yes, doubtless I was told about God by those around me. But any farmer in the field can give a rational argument to support his Biblical belief. As Kant himself observes, we get impressed by those starry heavens at night. The plain fact is that we often believe in the same truths for many and diverse reasons -- just as Catholics may give you many reasons why they believe that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ.

    This is the same reason that, even if I could remove all your specific objections to the proofs for God's existence, you probably would continue to be an atheist "for other reasons."

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I think you need to start making a distinction between knowledge and belief. I believe in things that I do not know by direct experience or sound reasoning. I believe my car is in my garage right now, but were I to go into the garage and see the car, it would no longer be belief, but direct experience.

    I do not believe in God through philosophical demonstration. Such demonstration is a form of rational knowledge. So, whether or not I believed in God before studying Thomistic proofs is not an issue relevant to my knowledge of the truth of the proofs. You do not have the same knowledge that I do, of course, nor do you believe in God. But I am in a different position.

    This may not impress you, but I would remind you that I actually wrote a well-reviewed scholarly book entitled: "Aquinas' Proofs for God's Existence." I am not arguing from authority that you should believe me about what I know of this subject matter. On the other hand, I do know what I know about it.

    So, I am not particularly interested in who believed what or when in this matter.

  • SynerGenetics

    Why do I think this is just a big red herring?

    1. Christian preachers who claim to heal the sick with the power of god are scam artists.

    2. Jesus the 1st Christian claims he healed the sick.

    3. Therefore, Jesus is scam artist.

    Any religion whose progeny is Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and the Roman Catholic for examples is mythology plain and simple. You can dress the argument with all the fancy words you want, but to argue about whether or not the universe was created or was always here is a big red herring.

    • BCE

      Scientists don't say "the universe"...."was always here"

      • SynerGenetics

        No Big Bang? Quantum equation predicts universe has no beginning
        https://phys.org/news/2015-02-big-quantum-equation-universe.html

        Is a red Herring to make predictions of what occurred 13 billions years ago when Christians can't argue from happened 2000 years ago.

        If the universe was created it doesn't mean the hybrid Yahweh / Jewish god created it, it could of been a Roman, Greek, Chinese, Japanese god, it could be a god from another universe, or very advanced life forms. Its hubris that Christians know about the orgins of the universe but debate what Jesus believed considering how many Denominations exist today.

        If you religion produces The Roman Catholic Church, Benny Hinn, Billy & Franklin Graham, Joel Olsteen, you in no position to argue what happened 13 billion years ago.

        Total Red Herring.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    I have no problem telling anyone that I believed in God from too young to even know where that belief came from. I presume it is the duty of Christian parents to teach their children these basic truths.

    But that is an entirely separate question of how and when one develops a rational foundation for that belief. The only issue of relevance I see to the purpose of this web site is the validity of the rational evidence for and against God.

    And that is quite independent of anyone's personal faith or lack thereof. Moreover, whatever one personally does with his belief system is governed, not only by the information he possesses, but also by his free will, which, in turn, is influenced by many factors outside of rationally held truths.

    That is why I do not think that one's belief system has much relevance to the objective validity of philosophical disputes over God's existence, nature, and relation to the world.

    The most important element about a faith system is that it might illuminate rational enquiry, assuming it is the truth. But, just like a road map, its guidance is only as good as its information is accurate. If a map says there is a bridge at a certain point, and when you drive there, you find no bridge, only a fool would try to drive across the river.

  • Dennis Bonnette

    This is precisely why I said you needed to distinguish between belief and knowledge.

    By your criteria, the only people whose rational knowledge of God could be believed would be converted atheists!

    What you miss is that it is the natural and normal progression of growing up to move from belief to knowledge. Good parents would, and should, tell their children that God exists. This is no different than a lot of other information that parents teach their children-- knowing that as they grow and are better educated, they will see for themselves the truth and wisdom of the knowledge they had imparted to them in their younger years by loving parents.

    To cut to the chase, did not your parents and teachers "indoctrinate" you with the "belief" that two plus two equals four? So, why do you now "believe" it is true? You do not "believe" it is true now. You "know" it is true because you now can see the truth for yourself.

    While I was taught that God existed and given non-philosophical evidences when I was younger, as I matured and could learn the philosophical reasons for this belief. My belief slowly turned into intellectual knowledge of this same truth.

    I would be glad to tell you that one of the experiences that made me take God and religion seriously while growing up was the nuns I had in middle school who taught us about what happened at Fatima in 1917 when the Sun danced for the Mother of God before 70,000 witnesses. I learned the details of the events there and was convinced by evidence even at that young age that the credibility was overwhelming to any objective observer. (70,000 people don't hallucinate or have their soaking wool clothes dry instantly). The skeptics will always try to explain away every miraculous event from the events of the New Testament until today, but the evidences keep rolling in -- and not every observer is crazy, indoctrinated, or medically naive.

    Nonetheless, philosophical evidence is an entirely different category of knowledge, and one I came to respect for intellectual rigor in itself. It isn't just a matter of learning historical positions that sound good at a dinner party, but are not understood to be true in themselves. I have constantly taught my students that you have no philosophical knowledge except for that which you yourself understand to be true -- just like two plus two equals four.

    In a word, knowledge eventually supplants and even replaces belief. Proofs for God's existence -- IF understood properly -- provide knowledge, not mere belief, of God's existence. That God is of a triune nature, I believe as an article of Catholic faith. Again, the difference between belief and knowledge.

    If my belief in God were still merely a belief, I would say, as many do, that I have a hard time understanding the proofs for God in metaphysics, but I still believe in him for other reasons. As you should know by now, that is not my position. Any honest person knows the difference between what he believes by faith and what he knows by reason.

    Lest we malign apologetics, it has a proper role in opening eyes to the possibility of belief, of showing believers stronger evidence for their beliefs, and in demonstrating to all the rational foundations for acceptance of authentic revelation. And yes, even presenting proofs for God that some, if not all, will understand to be true.

    The analysis you give above sounds to me like a rationalization for atheists to be psychologically more comfortable in their continued atheism. As human beings, we all need to address the actual logical force of the rational need for some sort of ultimate explanation for the world in which we live. Adult reasoning does not allow me to keep accepting the "just so" claims of atheists that this cosmos "just happened" to have always been here in some form or other and that it fully explains itself. Blind belief needs to be replaced by real explanations that penetrate beyond mere descriptions of "physical laws" -- laws amenable to eloquent mathematical formulation -- that "just happened" to exist without any reason but themselves.

    • To cut to the chase, did not your parents and teachers "indoctrinate" you with the "belief" that two plus two equals four? So, why do you now "believe" it is true? You do not "believe" it is true now. You "know" it is true because you now can see the truth for yourself.

      2+2=4 is an analytic proposition that can be evaluated in a purely a priori fashion. We can know that the statement is true from the very definitions of 2, +, =, and 4. The statement is true and everyone can know it.

      Existential propositions are fundamentally not analytic in nature (which is why I hold contempt for any who uses the ontological argument for God). I think you do yourself a disservice by using this comparison.

      Franky, even if you manage to convince me that a god of some kind exists (which could happen, but I think is pretty unlikely), at best you've converted me to some kind of weak deism. You've got an even harder task ahead if you want to convince me that your Catholic/Christian beliefs are true, as they require many more assumptions that I cannot accept, and go far beyond the available evidence.

      I would be glad to tell you that one of the experiences that made me take God and religion seriously while growing up was the nuns I had in middle school who taught us about what happened at Fatima in 1917 when the Sun danced for the Mother of God before 70,000 witnesses.

      Catholics seems to absolutely LOVE this supposed miracle, and I really don't understand why. The claim is that Mary herself told some young girls that a miracle was going to happen in a field in Fatima. There are lots of problems with this miracle claim. My main complaints are:

      1. The claim that the sun danced around is not universal among the people who were there, and not everyone claims they actually witnessed this take place.
      2. Even if everyone at the location did claim to see this, you've got the problem that if the Sun actually danced around it should have been noticed by somebody else somewhere on the rest of the planet, yet nowhere else was this kind of thing reported. Nobody else noticed the Sun moving other than as expected. Seems very suspicious to me!

      I know Christians love to point to testimony, and say "look a miracle!", but you cannot actually establish this event as a miracle. At best the miracle claim is that some people around one location were made to think that the sun was dancing around. Not exactly compelling evidence for a miracle.

      All told it seems that that this was not a miracle that took place, and that this can be explained by people starring at the sun. Starring at the sun causes all kinds of weird effects on perception, including the effects reported.

      The only other slightly interesting claim is that wet clothing dried very quickly. Frankly, there's no way to establish the truth of this claim. I don't see how this testimony is sufficient to establish the truth of the claim.

      Adult reasoning does not allow me to keep accepting the "just so" claims of atheists that this cosmos "just happened" to have always been here in some form or other and that it fully explains itself.

      And you would claim that it's rational to believe the just so claims that an infinitely powerful, non material, mind somehow wills the universe into existence? Why appeal to an even bigger mystery to solve our current mystery?

      • Dennis Bonnette

        All right: Try the principle of non-contradiction as an existential proposition, evinced by the impossibility of its rational denial.

        As for Fatima, I know some will debate it. I could reply to your objections, but that was merely a stepping stone on my way to philosophical science.

        And the whole point of philosophical demonstrations of God's existence is precisely to remove them from the "just so" claims of atheists who have to deny the principle of sufficient reason in order to believe in the intelligible cosmos as "just a brute fact." I am not able to muster up enough faith to be an atheist.

        • All right: Try the principle of non-contradiction as an existential
          proposition, evinced by the impossibility of its rational denial.

          Are you actually arguing for a real ontology for the principle of non-contradiction? It seems to me that the principle of non-contradiction is based on the law of non-contradiction, which is simply a tautology. I hold it as useful conceptual tool, rather than something that really exists.

          I am not able to muster up enough faith to be an atheist.

          It takes no "faith" to be skeptical of dubious philosophical arguments for the existence of a dubious, if not incoherent, concept.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Many make the mistake of thinking that non-contradiction is merely a convention of logic. But even logic presupposes it in every statement. You cannot even say, "let p imply q," without presupposing that this affirmation cannot be contradicted without destroying the intelligibility of your statement. The problem for skeptics is that this principle is absolutely unavoidable, absolutely universal, absolutely certain, and absolutely impossible to explain where it came from -- since all purely empirical scientific statements are neither certain nor universal.

            The problem of faith for the atheistic materialist is that he is betting his whole existence on a "just so" story of a cosmos that accepts the "brute fact" of its eternal existence without real intellectual challenge. Are you really so sure that your lack of explanation is satisfactory to the extent that you need not fear that the theist just might be right? What if he is? What I am saying is that to me the atheist belief that the cosmos just is here with no further explanation sounds like the greater fairy tale. This is the straw I am handed as the alternative to the proofs for God with which I am extremely familiar? No thanks.

          • Many make the mistake of thinking that non-contradiction is merely a convention of logic.

            Non-contradiction isn't some "convention of logic", it's a tautology. Non-contradiction can be stated as NOT (P AND NOT P). I don't know what it would mean for this statement to ever possibly be false.

            The problem of faith for the atheistic materialist is that he is betting his whole existence on a "just so" story of a cosmos that accepts the "brute fact" of its eternal existence without real intellectual challenge

            "Betting my whole existence" you say? Please stop appealing to emotions! As a professional philosopher, you really should be able to make better arguments.

            I would also say that this is only true of your strawman atheist. I don't know how the universe started, or if it's even meaningful to talk about such a thing. You're the one making the claims about it and I fail to see sufficient justification for your claims.

            Are you really so sure that your lack of explanation is satisfactory to the extent that you need not fear that the theist just might be right? What if he is?

            My lack of explanation is only that. I don't claim to have any answers on this subject, but I will say that anybody who is making claims about it is jumping far beyond what the evidence can possibly support. Nobody knows the answer to this problem Dennis. Not you, not the Catholic church, not the community of scientists.

            Now, suppose that there is a god? Do I really have anything to fear? How does anything in my life change if there actually is a god? Life after death is still extremely unlikely. The idea that "correct" thoughts, and beliefs, and will be rewarded is an absurdity. Honestly, are you a Catholic out of fear of the possibility that there is no God? I got over that fear decades ago when I walked away from the Catholic church.

            This is the straw I am handed as the alternative to the proofs for God with which I am extremely familiar?

            I don't think claims that the universe is a brute fact are justified, but we also do not know that it is false either. We simply do not have sufficient information to make any justified claim about the possible origins of the universe. Yet, here we are, arguing about whether the universe was caused by the will of God. I find it almost surreal that otherwise rational people need to discuss this, as if it was ever a plausible option.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't know what it would mean for this statement to ever possibly be false.

            There are logicians who work in para-consistent logic which I think is related to this.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraconsistent_logic

          • Yes, I'm familiar with paraconsistent logic. Still, if we're talking about a proposition, I don't know what it would mean for a proposition to be true, and its negation to also be true. I don't see that it's effective at describing the classical reality we experience. It may be effective in areas like quantum physics if it gives rise to useful predictions.

          • Rob Abney

            How does anything in my life change if there actually is a god?

            There is a God, if you get to know Him then your life will change in the same way it would change if you met a new friend. How exactly it would change would depend upon how you interact with a new friend.

          • Frankly, these are all assertions, and ones I'm well familiar with as a former Catholic. Nobody has ever establish that a necessary god is also personal, or even cares even one iota about humanity, and frankly I don't know how you could. This represents the massive challenge to any Christian who would like to convince me that Christianity is rational.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            When you say that no one has ever established that, do you mean that no one has put forward a compelling demonstration in terms of the physical and natural sciences? Because if that's what you mean, I'm wondering: has anyone ever established that anything at all is personal?

          • If I told you that I cared about you, and was supposed to be loving, would you not expect me to act in ways that are consistent with that claim? If God is supposed to be all knowing, and all powerful, and all loving, then we should expect people in a relationship with God should get some kind of warnings from God about imminent dangers. Yet this is exactly the opposite of what we see. People die in accidents because somebody became careless, and could have been warned of the oncoming danger. I see no inherent conflict between warning people of oncoming danger, and free will. I don't violate somebodies free will by warning them that storing gasoline next to an ignition source is dangerous.

            If God exists, God either doesn't care, or is powerless to warn us. It seems far more likely that the supposed relationships that people claim they have simply aren't real.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I see no inherent conflict between warning people of oncoming danger, and free will.

            I agree.

            However, I am not sure that the ability to anticipate my mortality completely would be a gift or an expression of love. The fragility of our lives, the incomplete knowability of the future and our precarious contingency, is the very thing that forces us, or at least invites us, to cherish the present. You can't really be fully alive unless you have "death before your eyes" (to use the Benedictine phrase).

          • BCE

            I am not debating god but the syllogism; if god is all loving all powerful all knowing ....but people die in fires...then god isn't or doesn't....

            Though developed in ancient philosophy, repeated often, and appealing ( especially, I think, to activist atheist ) it is not a good logic argument.
            Even atheist Russell recognized the problem with such statements.

            You might be familiar with Russell's paradox and set theory.
            It might seem as though it has nothing to do with sets, but it does.
            It starts with a set of attributes for god, moves to a set of human experiences and then expectations we have, then back to a conclusion
            about god

            It is an emotional plea with the syntax of a syllogism, not logic.

          • Rob Abney

            After reading your comments, I don't think that you could be convinced that Christianity is rational, you probably made up your mind a long time ago. But when life circumstances change it often makes your own outlook on history change also.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            Even paraconsistent logic presupposes the principle of non-contradiction insofar as a logician cannot even write down a statement without assuming that its contradictory does not mean the same thing, or else, his initial statement would be unintelligible.

            Non-contradiction is a metaphysical truth that every mind presupposes in its every thought, not merely a postulate of logic and natural science. It is a principle whose force comes from the first encounter of the mind with the concept of being and which necessarily affirms that being cannot be non-being as long as the same exact aspect of being is considered. In a word, logic presupposes metaphysics – as it did for Aristotle.

            The rest of your comment merely affirms that you are adrift in a sea of uncertainty in which your only certainty seems to be that no one knows any more than do you about these contested matters.

            I am sure you will tell me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that you have a dispute, not only with the Church, but also with any God who demands that we have “‘correct’ thoughts and beliefs.”

            And yes, it does sound to me like you are betting your whole existence on there being no God, no afterlife, not judgment with eternal consequences. That is not mere emotion. It is the logic of what you tell me yourself.

            Socrates famously said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We get only a single chance to get it right.

            You said, “Now suppose that there is a god.” Well, let’s do so. Classical proofs for God have not rested on any assumptions about the “Big Bang,” since they were proposed when many thinkers, like St. Thomas, argued that reason alone cannot prove that the world had a beginning.

            And yes, if God exists and causes human persons -- since you cannot give what you do not have -- God must have the perfection of being a person, too.

            This is where natural law ethics comes in. It infers that an intelligent and good God would not give us free will and an urge for immortality without life meaning something and having an outcome beyond the grave. It is not the “thoughts and beliefs” that are crucial in themselves, but rather how we use our free will to become good or evil persons that determines how we do on this “entrance exam” we call life.

            This is why some eighteen centuries of classical philosophy examined the meaning and purpose of human life and slowly developed certain constant themes on which much was held in common – at least until Descartes deliberately ignored all that came before him and made the catastrophic error of assuming that the internal image was the only and immediate object of cognition. This and other intentionally-novice mistakes cast modern thought into chasms of idealism, subjectivism, relativism, historicism, extreme dualism, and other unrealistic directions.

            And yes, good old atheistic materialism re-emerged pretending to be “just good natural science” – instead of the philosophical assumption of materialism which it actually is.

            Since you explicitly affirm that “nobody knows the answer to this problem” of “how the universe started,” just consider the possibility that the classical philosophers might not have been as ignorant as you assume. Have you really spent as much time reading them as you have your fellow atheists? Patting each other on the back isn’t always the best way to find the truth.

            It might just turn out that the world does make sense after all -- and that it isn’t all that hard to find the true God you once believed in -- using a little common sense and sound reasoning. Perhaps life does have an inbuilt purpose -- one that can be known by reason alone or even by God telling us about it.

          • Non-contradiction is a metaphysical truth that every mind presupposes in its every thought, not merely a postulate of logic and natural science. It is a principle whose force comes from the first encounter of the mind with the concept of being and which necessarily affirms that being cannot be non-being as long as the same exact aspect of being is considered. In a word, logic presupposes metaphysics – as it did for Aristotle.

            Non-contradiction is an axiom of propositions, and a rule of language. If your proposition contains contradictions then you're literally not using language correctly. I will, by axiom, assert that your nonsense statement is useless as a proposition. Show me that contradictions are meaningful and I'll start to allow them in propositions.

            The rest of your comment merely affirms that you are adrift in a sea of uncertainty in which your only certainty seems to be that no one knows any more than do you about these contested matters.

            Nobody seems to have any good justification for knowledge about these subjects, nor do I understand how anyone can just leap forward claiming "I know the answer, the answer is a non-material, spaceless, timeless, grounding of being, that willed the universe into being, who loves you and wants your worship", as if such a statement has any real meaning.

            And yes, it does sound to me like you are betting your whole existence on there being no God, no afterlife, not judgment with eternal consequences. That is not mere emotion. It is the logic of what you tell me yourself.

            Your language has the ring of Pascals wager to it. The idea that I'm betting my afterlife on their not being one, and that I might lose out (or worse) if I happen to be wrong. What if you're wrong Dennis? What if what you've put your hope into turns out to not be there? Will you not have wasted the one precious life that you know you have on superstitions?

            The fact is that there have been thousands of humans religions that have popped up over time, some more successful than others, but they all have one thing in common: They cannot even come close to demonstrating the truth of what they claim!

            Socrates famously said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” We get only a single chance to get it right.

            Exactly. So why would I want to waste the one life that I know I have believing things that cannot be shown to be true, and seem quite likely to be false?

            And yes, if God exists and causes human persons -- since you cannot give what you do not have -- God must have the perfection of being a person, too.

            I've heard apologists make this claim before, but I believe this to be a fallacy. It is fallacious to assume that if something has a particular property that this property must have come from something else that had this property. This is a very Aristotelean way of thinking, and it's one more reason why I reject Thomism as overly simplistic thinking.

            This is where natural law ethics comes in. It infers that an intelligent and good God would not give us free will and an urge for immortality without life meaning something and having an outcome beyond the grave.

            A few problems:
            1. Free will (as in libertarian free will) is incoherent. As far as I can tell, there is no free will. Given a choice in a particular situation I see no reason to believe that I could ever act otherwise if the situation was repeated. This kills conservative Christianity in my books, but not liberal "everyone goes to heaven" Christianity.
            2. The urge for immortality doesn't need a god to be explained. Humans are greedy. End of story.
            3. I reject the claim that there is any "natural law." This seems to be more nonsense that should have died a long time ago.
            4. I think your idea of any outcome for us beyond our grave is nothing more than wishful thinking based on poor assumptions.

            It is not the “thoughts and beliefs” that are crucial in themselves, but rather how we use our free will to become good or evil persons that determines how we do on this “entrance exam” we call life.

            Aside from the free will problem I pointed out earlier, comparing a finite, mortal life to an "entrance exam" to an eternal afterlife is like offering unlimited length baseball contracts to anybody who can throw a 90 MPH fast ball and hit a 3'x3' board at 66' away. It just doesn't make sense that anybody should be rewarded forever for making some particular "choice" with only a few decades of life.

            Since you explicitly affirm that “nobody knows the answer to this problem” of “how the universe started,” just consider the possibility that the classical philosophers might not have been as ignorant as you assume.

            Because it seems they were, for the most part, ignorant.

            Here's a serious question for you: Why is it that a good majority of your peers are atheists? Why do a majority of philosophers reject the kinds of arguments that you make for God's existence and affirm themselves as atheists? It seems to me if you had good philosophy on your side that you should convince many many more philosophers to become theists.

            Maybe, just maybe, these philosophers also see the problems with your arguments. Surely most philosophers would have come across these arguments, so why are they not compelled by what you think should be compelling?

            Perhaps life does have an inbuilt purpose -- one that can be known by reason alone or even by God telling us about it.

            Purpose is, ultimately, subjective. If life has a purpose it is for us to make.

  • BCE

    Other then on " that" I didn't comment.

  • First you note that the ancient Greeks and many moderns don't believe in creation ex nihilo. Then it turns out "ex nihilo" isn't that. Just like Krauss's "nothing" isn't, no? How then can you rake them over the coals? As for what the Big Bang proves, even Fr. Lemaitre didn't believe this was proof of God's existence, and also cautioned the Pope against saying so. You say that only God can be his own explanation, but it seems equally plausible simpler things could too. That need not be the universe now. You seem to be positing a brute fact yourself, whether or not it's called so. I find that God is not the best one.

    • Rob Abney

      You say that only God can be his own explanation, but it seems equally plausible simpler things could too.

      Can you give example of other things that can be their own explanation?

      • I'm sure you know: the universe, matter, likely more. Why only God can be its own reason for existence is unclear.

        • Stephen Edwards

          There could always be more universes, matter, etc. But there could only be 1 ground of existence, which is named God.

          • Why? This is just an assertion.

          • Dennis Bonnette

            You mean the entire OP is just an assertion?

            I know your answer.

          • No, I don't think you do. That was referring to the comment by Stephen. You argued for your view.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Well scientists speculate about the multiverse, so it seems a plausible consideration. There could conceivably be more space, time, and matter which are the things that make up the universe.

          • Okay. I don't think we disagree on that, but I'm not sure how that shows God is the "ground of existence" then.

          • Stephen Edwards

            God is the name of the ground of existence. The ground of existence must be something singular, without parts, and timeless. Those are some of God's attributes. More argumentation can then be given why the ground of existence must be a personal being.

          • Did it tell you that? I fail to see why this is the case, or equals God.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Why would it need to tell me? Understanding what the ground of existence is understanding what God is. It is like understanding what the red planet is entails understanding what Mars is. They are different names for the same thing.

          • It was a rhetorical way of saying that's hardly clear to me.

          • Stephen Edwards

            It logically follows. The ground of existence is not contingent and therefore cannot have parts or be time bound or be something which is 'one of many.' All of those features would entail something is contingent (doesn't have to exist).

          • God is assigned more attributes than that, even assuming you're right.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Well I wasn't listing all of God's attributes, but some of the ones that can be logically proven.

          • Can the others be logically proven?

          • Stephen Edwards

            I think the generic attributes can be logically proven, but that God is a Trinity had to be revealed to us.

            The ground of existence must be supremely intelligent/conscious and have other personal attributes like justice and mercy in a supreme degree because something can't give existence to something that it does not itself have.

            So, logically speaking the ground of existence must be: singular, without parts, timeless, supremely intelligent/conscious/personal.

          • By that logic, how is God immaterial and infinite, since he has given things the opposite features?

          • Stephen Edwards

            Finitude and materiality are lesser versions of infinitude and immateriality. To use an analogy a lake can give a droplet of water, not because it is a droplet of water but because it is more than that. To be finite is to be constricted in some way, but the ground of existence is unconstricted. To be material is basically the same thing, to be contricted within space, but God is unconstricted by space. So He gives less than what He has to other things.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Great answer.

            I think this is frequently a stumbling block. Immateriality and eternality are often conceived of as a lack of something. As you point out, what is actually meant in the Christian tradition is that God is immaterial because the fullness of materiality is in God. He is likewise eternal not in the sense of being "outside" of time, but rather in the sense of integrating "the fullness of time".

            As I understand it, this "integral" conception of immateriality and eternality was developed substantially by Augustine, who recognized that he needed to adjust Platonic conceptions of immateriality and eternality in light of the Incarnation.

            I've noticed that some theologians have moved to using the word "transmaterial" rather than "immaterial" in order to avoid this confusion.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Right. God is outside of time, but time and matter are more like categories that God is the fullness of.

          • I don't think that analogy works, as a droplet and a lake are both water. God though is a different being fundamentally from these created things according to the concept.

          • Stephen Edwards

            But things are variations of being. God is the fullness of being. Matter/finitude are not the fullness of being, but rather finite amounts of being.

          • So you say.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Well yes, but I think it makes sense.

          • Obviously I disagree.

          • Stephen Edwards

            God is the fullness of being, while matter/finitude are not. I assume you could argue that matter has specific properties that God must lack, but God actually does have greater forms of those properties. Privations (as in lackings) are not true properties.

          • David Nickol

            God is the fullness of being, while matter/finitude are not.

            Are you saying that finitude is to infinitude as matter is to spirit? That doesn't make any sense to me.

            I assume you could argue that matter has specific properties that God must lack, but God actually does have greater forms of those properties.

            Matter has location, volume, and density. What are the greater forms of such properties that God possesses?

            I have always understood the creation of the physical realm to have been a true act of creation by God. God did not merely create matter, he created the concept of matter. Are you saying that the physical realm is somehow "based on" some kind of nonmaterial realm?

            In the act of creation, was a physical realm the only thing that God could have created? Are there only two "realms" available to God—the spiritual realm and the physical realm? It is, of course difficult or impossible for us to conceive of anything besides matter and spirit, but why wouldn't that be due to human limitations? Why could not God have created realms that were neither spiritual nor physical. Is not it limiting God's creative powers to assume he could not create something other than matter?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Are you saying that finitude is to infinitude as matter is to spirit?

            I think it's more like finitude is to infinitude as matter is to fulfillment. Matter, at least such as we know it in this world (we can leave aside the category of the "glorified" or pneumatic matter of the Resurrection), is fundamentally characterized by being changeable, and therefore improve-able, and therefore in a state of less-than-complete fulfillment. If and when matter reaches its telos of fulfillment, we call that "communion with God", and this completion/fulfillment of matter is understood to be "in God", even though God Himself is not material (because to be material is definitionally to be unfulfilled, which cannot be said of God).

            Matter has location, volume, and density.

            To have location in a finite and limited way is to be in one place and not in another. If we try to generalize what that would mean in an unlimited context, having an "ulimited location" would amount to being present everywhere, which is said of God. Similarly, to have finite volume is to encompass a finite amount of space. Since God is omnipresent, He encompasses all space and would have to be said to have infinite volume.

            It is, of course difficult or impossible for us to conceive of anything besides matter and spirit, but why wouldn't that be due to human limitations?

            Agreed. This is perhaps why there are so many debates about the meaning of the "pneumatic bodies" that Paul refers to.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Well I am not trying to suggest that spirit and matter are the only conceptual possibilities per se. What I am saying is that fullness of being is 'being' at its maximized. Finite things are finite amounts of being, while the fullness of being is the maximized amount of being. Matter is a spatially defined amount of being. While something finite is anything less than the fullness of being (be it matter or spirit or anything else).

          • I disagree that God has such properties, as time and space. They are things, not privations.

          • Stephen Edwards

            Well I am arguing that all things (other than the fullness of being) are privations of the fullness of being.

          • I know.

        • BCE

          I don't know that scientists think that the universe, or matter does not have a reason, a catalyst, a cause, an explanation other than itself.
          They have continually sought a reason.
          While Russell might say the universe doesn't need a reason, that is
          more quip then science, more a rhetorical anthropomorphic "why does it need a reason?"
          But in fact there are reasons, just as fusion is the reason we have helium, or carbon...but you first need hydrogen but where does hydrogen come from? And then we need gravity and the strong force...
          bosons, gluons, gravitons? and Higg's( heirs) will continue to search
          The singularity Hawking describes, is not the universe or matter, the
          universe and matter came to be. What Hawking suggests is that the laws governing the universe break-down and only explain the micro second from Bang and forward, it doesn't explain away a cause (that was not material and not quantifiable)

          • I don't know whether they do or not. However, we agree things must bottom out somewhere. I'm not seeing why that had to be God. As for it being immaterial and unquantifiable, that isn't clear either.

          • Rob Abney

            we agree things must bottom out somewhere. I'm not seeing why that had to be God

            It doesn't have to be God, but it has to have unique and singular attributes that could only belong to one "source" and this is what all men call God. And then there are other unique and singular attributes that we have concluded from reasonable arguments that also could only exist in what all men call God, then with some precision we have a list of attributes that could only belong to what all men call God. So we can confidently and reasonably say that is God.

          • It doesn't, but does? Which attributes? "All men" call this God? You sure about that?

          • Rob Abney

            If you'll put a little more clarity in your response it will be easier to understand your objections. Maybe try to use the blockquote function.

          • Okay. Well, this sentence seems to be contradictory:

            "It doesn't have to be God, but it has to have unique and singular attributes that could only belong to one "source" and this is what all men call God."

          • Rob Abney

            If things have to bottom out somewhere, what would you call that place/thing?

          • Well, not God, unless I thought it had those properties. Maybe "the primordial"? I don't claim to know exactly what it is, but an eternal mind doesn't seem likely.

          • Rob Abney

            We hadn't introduced any discussion of a mind, we were trying to agree on what all men would call the point/place/thing where "it all bottoms out" and can be its own explanation. You can call it primordial but when you then reason to the facts that there has to be an uncaused cause and an unmoved mover and your reasoning tells you those must be the same then you might consider a name that is more appropo to both.

          • That was my point-God is given attributes of mind. You assume I will reason to such a conclusion, and that the right name for this would be God. However as I've said there is far more to it than that.

          • Rob Abney

            I do assume that you will reason to such a conclusion IF you follow the reasoning accurately and avoid moving on to other objections you may have prior to understanding the more foundational proofs.
            This is from the preamble/introduction to Aquinas' Summa Theologia,
            he anticipated the same problem since his students already had pre-conceived notions of the attributes of God.

            students in this doctrine have not seldom been hampered by what they have found written...because those things that are needful for them to know are not taught according to the order of the subject matter

            The "right" name is not the point, there have been many names given but the one we are most used to using in the west is God, as I said though you can use whatever name you choose.

          • It seems to be the case that when the reasoning is followed it only establishes something that's unmoved/uncaused. God is given many more attributes than that. It thus seems that it's really premature to say this is God even if one accepts these arguments.

          • Rob Abney

            We're in agreement, it is premature, but if you follow the progression of the arguments then you can get to the description of God that you are more familiar with.
            You are not unlike a lot of people who have a conception of God that they've learned about from a certain perspective but now having rejected that perspective also want to reject any perspectives associated with the name God.

          • All right.

            So far I'm not seeing how my concept is different from yours.

          • Rob Abney

            Here is a better response.
            https://disqus.com/by/jimhillclimber/

          • Yeah, well, God is defined as far more than just "the root mystery that gives rise to all things". It's also claimed to be all-good, eternal, infinite etc. That is a lot to justify.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Yes, but those are claims that are made about that root mystery.

            If everyone were to acknowledge the reality of that mystery and agree to refer to it in the traditional way then then we could move on from these silly debates about whether God exists and start debating issues like: "Is God all-good, eternal, infinite, etc?". Or better yet, we could ask questions that are actually interesting, like: "In what sense, and in what ways is that mystery (incompletely) revealed by the universe that we can taste and see?" and "What should our stance be with respect to that mystery?"

          • Phil

            If everyone were to acknowledge the reality of that mystery and agree to refer to it in the traditional way then then we could move on from these silly debates about whether God exists and start debating issues like: "Is God all-good, eternal, infinite, etc?". Or better yet, we could ask questions that are actually interesting, like: "In what sense, and in what ways is that mystery (incompletely) revealed by the universe that we can taste and see?" and "What should our stance be with respect to that mystery?"

            Aristotelian-Thomistic thinkers use reason alone to come to these properties about what we call "God".

            We can get to the point of using reason alone to come to what is called the "first cause", the "uncaused cause", the "unmoved mover", etc. This is what we mean when we say God. (It is being referred to above as the "mystery".)

            Once we have established the logical necessity of this entity. We can then use reason to establish if we can know anything about it. For example, if reason shows that this uncaused cause can't be material, then automatically this entity is immaterial. And magic, we have a property of God, immateriality, using reason alone.

            Anyway, then it just continues on like this for other properties. I can suggest many a good book that walks through the properties of God using reason alone. Just let me know.

          • Yes. Emphasis on "claims".

            Well, that's my point. This root mystery must be shown as being God. It can't be assumed if anyone disagrees. That involves the other attributes being shown.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            This root mystery must be shown as being God.

            I am saying that this request, in its very phrasing, betrays a basic misunderstanding of what "God" refers to in the central thread of Western philosophical and theological discourse.

            Forget God for a second and just think about other people. What you encounter in your conversations with me is, first of all, me. The "me" that you are conversing with is a reality to be described. Any properties you might ascribe to me are secondary. That descriptive and inferential phase comes after the encounter with the phenomenon of me, and after your naming of me (even if you don't name me as "Jim", you have to assign some label, e.g. "that guy" to me before you can begin describing me and making inferences about me).

            Likewise, we first encounter, at the level of phenomenology, a mystery at the root of existence. Before we set to describing that reality and inferring things about it, we need to name it. In our culture it has been named "God". To debate that would be like debating with my parents whether my name is James. James is the name they gave me, and that's that.

          • David Nickol

            Again, for the umpteenth time, I think when most believers speak of God, they are talking about a being who is difficult to reconcile with the God of philosophy. First, there is the God of the Bible, who bears no resemblance to the God of philosophy—angry, regretful, stubborn, loving, fatherly. And then there is the God of "everyday piety" who resembles a super human being much more than the ground of all existence who exists outside of time.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Well then, for the umpteenth time then, you are wrong! :-P

            First of all, if we are going to distinguish, let's slice it even further:

            1. The God of philosophy.
            2. The God of the Bible. What I have in mind here is the portrait of God that emerges from an informed reading the Bible within its long complex interpretive tradition, as opposed to flat fundamentalist readings.
            3. The God of popular piety. What I have in mind here are theological views that are informed by some mix of more or less sloppy philosophy, more or less philistine interpretation of scripture, and more or less inarticulate reflection on one's own mystical experiences.

            Let's leave aside the God of popular piety for the moment and just focus on the God of philosophy versus the God of the Bible. Where, exactly, is the big disconnect?

            1. The God of Genesis creates all that is: He is clearly the root mystery that gives rise to all that is.
            2. With regard to love, love just is gratuitous non-transactional charity. Whatever the root mystery is that gives rise to all things, it most certainly is, fundamentally that. Whatever gives rise to all things does not do so transactionally, as if expecting something in return.
            3. With regard to anger, stubbornness, and fatherliness, are you proposing that analogical understandings of God are not integral to the Biblical interpretive tradition?

            And now, returning the God of popular piety, I have no doubt that many people have only the most inchoate sense of that one reality that the philosophical and Biblical tradition are both pointing towards, but so what? We don't take popular understandings of gravity or natural selection as normative, so why would we do that with theology? And we also don't claim that popular understandings of gravity and natural selection are so far off as to not even be talking about the same thing that the scientists are. Inchoate understanding is still understanding, it's just not normative.

          • I have to disagree. Though it's hard to say as much since we've never met in person, you are intimately linked with your individual properties. I might even say that you are the sum of them. You are a human, male, English-speaking, etc.
            How do those become decoupled from you?

            See above. There is a big difference between you and the root mystery, so this is false.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I'm not saying I can be de-coupled from my properties. I am saying before you can say anything correct or incorrect about me, you have to recognize and name the reality of me. Otherwise what would you be being correct or incorrect about?

          • Well, let's say that I weren't sure if you were another human or a chatbot. In that situation I might still call you "Jim". Here now though, I'm not accepting that this "root mystery" must be God, without seeing that it holds the attributes by which we define that. So it's more analogous to calling you a human when I'm not clear that you are.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            By the way, there is a big part of me that really doesn't care whether you want to refer to that root mystery as "God" or not. We can just call it "the root mystery" or something like that. I think there are huge advantages to doing this, since it allows us to shed much of the accreted cultural baggage that often gets in the way of (what I see as) proper understanding.

            On the other hand: not all of that accreted cultural baggage is bad. If we stop using the word "God" we will cut ourselves off from a long rich tradition of reflection on that mystery (unless we go even further back, and start using a name like Elohim).

          • Okay, good.

            To me though it begs the question.

          • David Nickol

            these silly debates about whether God exists

            Ha!

          • BCE

            To be fair(to you) for the most part I am referring to ordinary matter, but I am not sure a boson or gluon are matter.
            I don't want to come across as the word police, thank you for your patience.
            I just simply wanted to acknowledge that science has examined every
            cosmic event for a "reason"

          • That's okay. I think scientists would agree that it must end somewhere, unless an infinite regress is sensible to them.

        • Phil

          I'm sure you know: the universe, matter, likely more. Why only God can be its own reason for existence is unclear.

          For something to be its own explanation or the cause of its own existence, it is the case as Aquinas noted that its existence must be its very essence. That would be the only thing that can be its own explanation and the cause of its own existence.

          With this being the case, it is clear that this is not the case with the universe, matter, etc. This is because the essence of the universe is not existence, nor could it be.

          In fact, in nothing that is material in any of its parts could existence be its very essence. This coming from the point that matter, in and of itself, is a state of potentiality and is actualized by form. That which essence is existence cannot have any potentiality contained within it, and therefore anything composed of matter is automatically not a candidate for the "uncaused cause" or "pure actuality" or "unmoved mover".

          • If one accepts Thomistic reasoning, then yes.

          • Phil

            Sure, and one can say this about anything. The key is that it is simply based upon reason and logic. If you follow reason and logic to it’s conclusions, one can derive the basic attributes of the “uncaused cause” or what is more traditionally called “God”.

          • I'm not convinced that's the case. The fact that so many people (including theists) don't reach the same conclusions makes it very far from obvious. Meaning no offense, but it seems to me Thomism is contradictory, and thus false.

          • Phil

            I'm not convinced that's the case. The fact that so many people (including theists) don't reach the same conclusions makes it very far from obvious. Meaning no offense, but it seems to me Thomism is contradictory, and thus false.

            Sure, and you're allowed to not be convinced. Someone being convinced or not being convinced doesn't make something true or not true. The truth is what it is apart from what we believe.

            Meaning no offense, but it seems to me Thomism is contradictory, and thus false.

            Can you give specific examples what where you've found A-T thought to be contradictory?

          • Well of course. I'm saying it doesn't seem to be true.

            Others have told me something cannot provide a feature which it lacks, on Thomism. However, as God lacks many features like our finitude and materiality as well, how could he provide us with these? Moreover, he is pure actuality. Yet to even create seems like actualizing potential.

          • Phil

            Others have told me something cannot provide a feature which it lacks, on Thomism. However, as God lacks many features like finitude and materiality as well, how could he provide us with these? Moreover, he is pure actuality. Yet creating seems like actualizing potential.

            It is absolutely true that something cannot give what it doesn't have the power to give. (This is the more precise statement of what you said above.) So there would be a real issue if God did not have the power to create material things.

            But of course, God can have the power to create material entities, even while he is not himself a material being.

            This is the same as an electric stove can have the power to bring about fire while itself not being on fire. So to it is with God creating matter.

          • Yet he lacks such features. Stove and fire are both material, finite things. Further, how is this not actualizing a potential when God creates, as I said.

          • Phil

            Yet he lacks such features. Stove and fire are both material, finite things. Further

            The point of the analogy was to show that something does not need to instantiate a certain feature to be able to have the power to give a certain feature.

            A hot stove is not on fire, but has the power to bring about fire in another thing. God is not material, but has the power to bring about materiality.

            Put another way, a stove has heat and not fire. God has all creative power and not materiality. The stove can bring about fire, God can bring about materiality.

          • So then why is only God able to bring about some things? Part of what I've been told too was that nothing else would do.

            Again, how is God creating not actualizing a potential then?

          • Phil

            So then why is only God able to bring about some things? Part of what I've been told too was that nothing else would do.

            To keep us more specific, what things are you speaking about here that only God can bring about?

            Again, how is God creating not actualizing a potential then?

            Are you asking about the creation of the entire physical cosmos being an actualization of a potential?

          • Well everything ultimately.

            Same answer, as God is the ultimate cause.

          • Phil

            Okay, I'll answer them in turn:

            So then why is only God able to bring about some things? Part of what I've been told too was that nothing else would do.

            We only assign properties to God that are necessary to explain the existence of what is.
            In the end, only that which is pure act of existence can create ex nihilo.

            Are you asking about the creation of the entire physical cosmos being an actualization of a potential?

            Only something that actually exists can have potential. So God in creating does not move the cosmos from potential to actual. He moves it from non-being to being. These are two infinitely different things.

            (And again, using the word "moving" is deceiving, because that makes it seem like God changes when he creates. Which that cannot be the case. He creates from all eternity timelessly. )

          • Why? How is creation ex nihilo even coherent? Things come from nothing?

            God exists though, according to you. I'm asking how his creative ability isn't a potential.

            How can creation occur without change?

          • Phil

            Why? How is creation ex nihilo even coherent? Things come from nothing?

            God exists though, according to you. I'm asking how his creative ability isn't a potential.

            How can creation occur without change?

            All of reality is a single instantaneous "now" for God.
            So all points are equally present in that single moment.

            So to think that there was a moment where God hadn't created and then created is positing that God is in some sort of time. But God is outside of all time. There can be no moving from a potential to an actual in God (which is what change is).

            Saying that past and future exist for God makes no sense because it places God in time, which would be what it would take for a potential to move to an actual.

          • Okay, well, that's just another problem then. I see no coherence of how creation can happen outside time. Nor why a perfect being would even create at all.

          • Phil

            I see no coherence of how creation can happen outside time. Nor why a perfect being would even create at all.

            Are you able to articulate why you have concerns with these things?

          • I thought that was articulated. More basically, on the first I'm just not sure what "creation" means when put this way. The second seems clear enough. I see no reason for God creating.

          • Phil

            I thought that was articulated. More basically, on the first I'm just not sure what "creation" means when put this way. The second seems clear enough. I see no reason for God creating.

            You had said that you saw no coherence of how creation can happen outside time, and I was just asking for exactly why you see this to be the case? That was the reason for asking for the articulation.

            The second seems clear enough. I see no reason for God creating.

            It depends what you mean by "reason".

            The only reason is out of pure gift, pure love.
            Since God is perfect in and of God's self, there is no need for God to create. Which is a good thing, because it means that God's creates not for any selfish reason, but purely for the good of creation.

          • The very meaning of the word seems to involve time. If something is created, then it didn't exist before. Outside time, I don't see how that can be said. It therefore must be eternal (like God). Yet we know not everything is.

            Love for what? Empty vacuum and black holes are apparently the most abundant things in the universe, aside from the elementary particles. God must love them very much. I do not see what "good" these things derive from existing.

          • Phil

            The very meaning of the word seems to involve time. If something is created, then it didn't exist before.

            Remember, before Creation there would have been no time. So speaking of a "before" creation makes no sense because "before" assumes that time existed before time existed (which is incoherent).

            And you are exactly correct if one is talking already existent beings and bringing about a change. (Creating a desk, creating a painting, etc. One is taking things that already existing.)

            But Creation ex nihilo is a completely different beast. Which is why we have a different name for it. There is no "before" Creation because time didn't even exist so it makes no sense to speak of a 'before' Creation.

          • Yes, that's my point. To speak of creation in that way makes no sense.

            I don't think that creation ex nihilo makes more sense of it. Nothing comes from nothing. I'm not sure this phrase is even meaningful. As for there not being "before" obviously this follows. It also supports my view that these things are eternal. Now the issue becomes simply "what is the best explanation of them"?

          • Phil

            It also supports my view that these things are eternal. Now the issue becomes simply "what is the best explanation of them"?

            Exactly, so the question that Aquinas asked was, why does the material cosmos exist right now at this very moment?

            (Aquinas admitted that rationally the material cosmos could exist eternally into the past. But that fact does nothing to explain why the material cosmos exists at this very moment right now.)

            I don't think that creation ex nihilo makes more sense of it. Nothing comes from nothing.

            To be more technical it is rather that non-being comes from non-being.

            But it should be obvious that when we speak of creation ex nihilo it is not non-being coming from non-being. Being (Creation) comes from Being (God).

            Creation ex nihilo simply means that there was no prior matter that God formed into the material cosmos as it exists.

          • Okay. How does that help to answer then? Assuming the cosmos is eternal, why just expect it would cease existing suddenly?

            Fine. To be clear, "being" means existence here?

            I think that creation ex nihilo then causes an unnecessary confusion. Matter out of non-matter is what you mean.

          • Phil

            Okay. How does that help to answer then? Assuming the cosmos is eternal, why just expect it would cease existing suddenly?

            If we assume that the universe exists eternally into the past, it is just as valid as to ask why does the universe exist at every single moment into the past?

            So why does the universe exist right now at this very moment, not in the past but right now? If there is no reason why the universe should exist right now, then the universe shouldn't exist right now. Something exists which shouldn't exist!

            Many times the answer is that the existence of the universe is a brute fact. But obviously, this doesn't answer any question whatsoever.
            (And obviously we don't accept the brute fact answer for anything. If you ask, why did that piece of wood burst into flames? And I say, it is just a brute fact that it burst into flames. You wouldn't say, ah that explains it!)
            A brute fact has no explanatory power.

          • I suppose that if it has always existed, then the cosmos cannot cease to exist along the way.

            That is a big "if". Perhaps it can cease to exist, but something necessarily remains since as we agree things cannot just come from nothing.

            True, we do not accept it for most things. At some point however explanations will come to an end. So it seems we may be left with at least one such brute fact. Or admit we do not know. I have no problem with admitting ignorance.

          • Phil

            I suppose that if it has always existed, then something cannot cease to exist along the way.

            Let's assumer the universe exists eternally.
            Why has the universe existed eternally? Just because it exists at one moment doesn't necessitate that it must exist at the next moment. That doesn't logically follow.

            Or we can focus on right now, is there any reason why the universe doesn't pop out of existence right now?

            In other words, something is keeping the universe in existence right now? And what would that be?

          • Because it must exist, presumably.

            I wouldn't claim the universe must exist. Yet that something must however seems to be clear. We disagree though that this has to be God.

          • Phil

            Because it must exist, presumably.

            I wouldn't claim the universe must exist. Yet that something must however seems to be clear. We disagree though that this has to be God.

            And that is the whole crux of it. If there is nothing about the universe itself that says it must exist right now, there must be something outside the universe itself keeping it in existence. This we call God. (This is a basic version of Aquinas' third way.)

          • Yes well I don't see that it must be God. He is ascribed more properties than just necessary existence. So to say this is premature.

          • Phil

            Yes well I don't see that it must be God. He is ascribed more properties than just necessary existence. So to say this is premature.

            All we have done thus far is say that there is necessary existence that holds all that does not necessarily exist in existence. And we call this necessary existence "God".

            So right now we only have one "property" we are ascribing to God. Sure we can move on to reason about other properties. But as of right now, we only have this single one.

          • I think you put in a quote from someone else here. Anyway, it seems to me God is more of a package deal so to speak. So you may call it God, but that seems like getting ahead of ourselves when only one property has been established here.

          • Phil

            Anyway, it seems to me God is more of a package deal so to speak. So you may call it God, but that seems like getting ahead of ourselves when only one property has been established here.

            I don't know exactly what you mean by God being a "package deal". But it is true that once we establish, through reason, one property about what we call "God" other properties will being to logically follow. If that is what you mean by "package deal", that is just what it means to follow reason and logic.

            For example, we have established that God is necessary existence/being. Logically it then follows that God must be pure actuality and perfectly simple.

            This is like discovering a property of an electron, and then concluding it can't be a proton because of that property. Reason and logic simply dictates that if God is necessary existence, God can't be composed of any "parts" (which is what is means to be perfectly simple).

            The key is not to get emotionally caught up on the word "God" and just follow reason and logic where it leads!

          • I mean that you can't have the concept without any of its properties. Until we have all of them, God is not shown.

            I'm not sure why divine simplicity and pure acreality logically follow. Anyway, It's not an issue of emotion but not yet having established the conclusion.

          • Phil

            I mean that you can't have the concept without any of its properties. Until we have all of them, God is not shown.

            And what something (a concept) is, is defined by its properties.

            So God is whatever can be attributed to God.

            I'm not sure why divine simplicity and pure acreality logically follow.

            I'm sure you aren't interested in a Philosophy of God and Natural Theology course right now (which is the place where one would go through and derive what can rationally be said about God).

            So here is one book at that does a decent job with deriving the "properties" what we call God:

            "New Proofs" By Spitzer is good overall, but Chapter 3 is what is most relevant to the philosophical topics here:
            -https://www.amazon.com/New-Proofs-Existence-God-Contributions/dp/0802863833

            Here is a digital copy of it: http://www.thedivineconspiracy.org/Z5259Z.pdf

          • Sure, but what I'm saying is it needs all of the properties. You won't say a necessary being is God if it's not also perfectly good, for instance.

            I might be interested actually, but don't have time for one. An excerpt from a book will do nicely however. Thanks for the link.

          • Phil

            Sure, but what I'm saying is it needs all of the properties. You won't say a necessary being is God if it's not also perfectly good, for instance.

            If perfect goodness cannot be reasonably ascribed to God then we should not ascribe perfect goodness to God.

            We don't "define God into existence". We rationally figure out what do we mean when we say "God".

            Sorry, I thought that original PDF was a full copy. But alas. I will have to scan in that chapter for you.

          • What is God without being perfectly good? How many properties must it have to be rightly called God then?

            It seems that we do mean far more than just a necessary existing thing by "God" though, which is my point.

            I wondered about that.

          • Phil

            What is God without being perfectly good? How many properties must it have to be rightly called God then?

            You may think that God to be "God" can only be "perfectly good" but that would be defining God into existence without actually figuring out how God exists. (And yes, eventually one gets to the point in natural theology of being able to assign perfect goodness to God.)

            It seems that we do mean far more than just a necessary existing thing by "God" though, which is my point.

            Sure, God has many more "properties" that logically follow. But we haven't gotten that far yet. All we've figured out is that God is necessary existence/being.

            That is why I suggested doing some reading up.
            Me doing a rough "natural theology/philosophy of God class" in a comment section would not be ideal!

          • What do you think is the sina qua non then? The things which the Five Ways get into?

            It's probably best for us to end this here, and I'll do more reading.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think you are swimming upstream on this one Michael. Phil is right. From the perspective of systematic theology, what God is fundamentally is necessary being. From the perspective of Biblical theology, what God is fundamentally is creator. From either of these fundamental designations, it may follow that God is omni-benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent, but those are all corollaries. If the corollaries were shown to be false, we would simply say, e.g., that God is not omni-benevolent.

            This is not just a theist thing. You will hear atheists frequently say things like "If there is a God, then he is not good." That is, they propose the possibility of a non-good God and do not see anything clearly oxymoronic in that.

          • I do like to swim against the current. Perhaps it was my ignorance, but I'm surprised that they would be satisfied with just those properties. How does that get you more than deism?

            Well first of all, other atheists have said it just missed the mark, since that is also an essential characteristic of God. Some arguments like this I've seen use it to argue that God does not exist, i.e. a creator must not be all-good.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            How does that get you more than deism?

            Partly because it doesn't end there. That's just the starting point. Once you acknowledge that "necessary being" aspect of reality and call it by its name, "God", you can go on to demonstrate various positive and negative assertions about that which we have named "God".

            ETA: you can think of it as just giving you a richer ontology to play around with. Once you have that expanded ontology, then you can develop an epistemology that refers to that new ontological furniture.

          • Okay, so the "bare minimum" would then be a necessary being and creator for this to qualify as God?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Pretty much. That's my reading of the Western theological tradition, in any case.

            The only caveat is you can get tripped up by talking about "a necessary being". God is, strictly speaking, just "necessary being". But, as long we understand that we are speaking analogically,"a necessary being" works just fine too.

          • Okay, then I'll remember that. I don't want to attack a strawman.

            I know, but it seems best to leave that open until monotheism is established.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            The whole monotheism / polytheism discussion is (I think) orthogonal to the point that I was trying to make.

            I'm not trying to advise against the phrase "a necessary being" in favor of the phrase "the necessary being". It's not a matter of whether God is one member among many in a genus or whether he is the sole member of a genus. The more pressing question is whether He can belong to any genus at all. The mainline Western theological tradition is that God does not in fact belong to any genus (not even a genus with only one member, nor the genus of "things that are not pluralities").

            Since both the indefinite article and the definite article connote belonging to a genus, my suggestion was to use neither:

            "a necessary being" nor
            "the necessary being"

            but rather just:

            "necessary being".

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Having claimed that the polytheism question is a side issue in this case, I certainly would still be interested to hear @steve_dillon 's take on this issue.

          • That was just my unconscious reason for saying a "necessary being". I don't quite know what "genus" means here, since I'm only really familiar with that term regarding biology. So if you mean that God is different from anything else, I get that.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            God must love [black holes] very much.

            No argument there.

            But ... are love and importance most abundantly conveyed by quantity and volume? Sometimes the piece de resistance is that which is delicate, intricate, precious, fragile.

          • Not necessarily, but the view that humanity holds such the greatest value to God is very implausible given we are so few. Most of the universe isn't just different, but actively fatal to our life.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            To me that just speaks again to fragility, not to importance.

            But also: while it is true that most of the universe is inhospitable for humans, it is also true that the universe seems to be exquisitely tuned to allow for life somewhere within it. (Please note that I am not putting forth "fine tuning" as an argument for God's existence, which I regard as a very silly move; I'm putting it forward only to suggest that some sort of predisposition toward life does seem to be "baked in" to the most fundamental structure of the universe).

            Obviously, none of this is meant to be a slam dunk argument. I merely want to argue that nothing about the universe makes God's love for humanity "implausible" (to use your word).

          • I think they are tied together when you posit a creator. After all, we could have been made far more abundant and hardy if our life were the most important part.

            Our universe can support some life clearly, but it doesn't seem fine-tuned for that given its mostly hostile nature. I'm also not sure how we could call this "fine-tuned" without a creator doing the "tuning" here.

            Understood. I still disagree however.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Others have told me something cannot provide a feature which it lacks, on Thomism.

            You know what they say: 3 Thomists and 4 opinions.

          • I haven't heard that.

  • ClayJames

    A non-sequitur for what?

  • Jim the Scott

    RIP Professor Hawking.

    Eternal Rest Grant Unto him O'Lord & Perpetual Light Shine upon him.

    • Paul Vinci

      Amen

  • David Nickol

    If the existence of God can be proven by reason alone, and then the attributes of God can be logically proven, then it seems to me the purpose os Strange Notions is to lure people (atheists and agnostics) into discussions so that they can be shown the error of their ways and converted to theists. There is no point, it seems to me, to engage in a "dialog" with people whom you know—for a fact—are demonstrably wrong. You don't engage in a "dialog" with such people. You educate them.

    I know it is a dogma of the Catholic Church that the existence of God can be known by reason alone, but of course dogmas are matters of faith. It has always seemed strange to me that it is an article of faith that God can be known by reason alone. If something is demonstrably true, it is not necessary to assert "infallibly" that it is true.

    It does seem that on Strange Notions (especially as of late) that if you don't find something Aquinas said to be convincing, you are regarded as, at best, simply wrong and at worst perhaps "stupid" or even malign. It seems to me that—if there is a God—there must be more than one route to belief. It also seems to me that the God of philosophy is far removed from the loving father preached by Jesus. Indeed, the word "Abba" Jesus used to refer to the Father had a meaning at the time (and still in Israel today) akin to that of "daddy." I am in great sympathy with those who find it a stumbling block that the God of philosophy can be equated with God as preached by Jesus or even the God they learned about in Sunday school or in their early religious education. If your eyes glaze over reading Thomist arguments about God and you still are uncertain about what to believe, my advice would be to look elsewhere unapologetically. (Some kind of pun intended.)

    • Dennis Bonnette

      You make some honestly excellent observations here, even though I might not agree fully with all of them.

      Regarding the first point, unless we are simply asking for explanations, isn’t every statement an attempt to convey what we conceive as the truth in our own mind into the mind of another and get him to see that same truth? Obviously, Catholics believe they have the true faith, or else, why would they be Catholics? But does not every strongly held position really make the same claim? If we did not hold that our own position, religion, or way of life constituted what we think to be most fulfilling (true?), why would we defend it or even explain it to others on this site? And is not every atheist or agnostic likewise trying to educate and convince the Catholics on this blog that the atheist or agnostic perspective really makes more sense than Catholic teaching? If people choose to converse on this site, I presume they do so because they find some value in doing so. Yes, we should try to be more charitable about it, but we all suffer from being human. It is always good to recall the admonition of apologists that it does no good to win an argument, but lose a soul. Does this sound like a Catholic perspective? Of course, it is.

      As to your second point, you write as one who has carefully read the wording of the dogma (Denz. 1806). It does say that God’s existence can be known by the light of unaided reason. It does not say that it can be proven to another. Why would the Church define this truth? One reason is that it shows even those who do not understand the proofs that the Faith is reasonable. And it reminds Catholics of the foundation for St. Paul’s admonition to the Romans for failing to see the power and nature of God in the things that he has made.

      “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20.

      As to your third point, unless one is a polytheist, it must be true that the God of reason is the same God as the loving Father who gave his only-begotten Son for our salvation. Just because one teaches that George Washington was the father of his country does not conflict with saying he was a loving father to his children. There ARE many ways for people to approach God. But it is the same loving Creator that all finally can find. If you do not think that the God of philosophy is a loving and personal God, then perhaps a deeper examination of the content of natural theology would alleviate your concerns.

      The Church has always insisted on the harmony of faith and reason, not their conflict. God is one. The God of reason is the same God as the God of revelation. He just isn’t always fully understood.

    • SpokenMind

      Hi David,

      [It seems to me that—if there is a God—there must be more than one route to belief.]

      I think this as well.

      My guess is, many people have some kind of personal experience with God (and there are many different kinds of experiences) that helps them come to believe.

    • Jim (hillclimber)

      I am in great sympathy with those who find it a stumbling block that the God of philosophy can be equated with God as preached by Jesus or even the God they learned about in Sunday school or in their early religious education.

      I am in great sympathy with such people as well, not least because I used to be one of them.

      I think a properly sympathetic response is to teach people the many and subtle ways that Biblical language works. And I would suggest that this begins with, or is at least facilitated by, encouraging people to articulate in their own language, the mystical experiences that they have. (At least, according to Abraham Maslow, most of us have such experiences if we pay attention.)

      When one has a mystical experience, how to describe it? Is it not as if the very root of reality has "spoken" to you? Then, go ahead, use the analogy of speech! Is it not as if you were embraced by a father that you never knew? Then, go ahead, use the analogy of fatherhood!

      Through such exercises, I think one can develop greater sympathy for the Biblical authors and editors, and can better appreciate what they were trying to communicate(*). Having done that, I think it becomes much clearer that what is often being communicated are precisely encounters with the root mystery of reality, a.k.a. the God of the Philosophers.

      However, none of this can happen if one stands completely askance of Biblical literature. What is required is sympathetic reading. Also, none of this can happen if one stands askance of any experience that cannot be scientifically quantified. As long as both of these things are treated with excessive suspicion, I think there is little hope of finding a correspondence between the God of the Bible and the God of Philosophy.

      (*) Not that the Bible consists only, or even primarily, of accounts of mystical experiences, but they are certainly in there. It is also true that Biblical mystical experiences have the distinctive flavor of being intimately connected with actual historical events, as opposed to the mostly kairotic events that one reads about in other traditions and perhaps experiences in one's own life. However, this contrast shouldn't foreclose on comparison.

    • Rob Abney

      This happens often, I read a SN comment and I ponder it, then as I am reading the daily readings I see that God has already provided a response.

      The LORD said to Moses,
      "I see how stiff-necked this people is. EX 32:7-14

      The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
      these works that I perform testify on my behalf
      that the Father has sent me.
      Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
      But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
      and you do not have his word remaining in you,
      because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
      You search the Scriptures,
      because you think you have eternal life through them;
      even they testify on my behalf.
      But you do not want to come to me to have life. JN 5:31-47

    • If the existence of God can be proven by reason alone, and then the attributes of God can be logically proven...

      And then God would be in the same category as any analytic proposition: True simply by definition and axiom/assumption. People need to learn that you cannot simply define and assume things into existence.

      • Jim (hillclimber)

        I think it is in fact the case the the analytic proposition "God exists" is ultimately true by definition. But that doesn't mean one is defining God into existence. We use definitions and tautologies to elucidate and clarify connections and relationships. For example, the tautology 1+1=2 is not useless. It elucidates the relationships between "1", "+", "=", and "2". It brings into fuller relief the nature of "two-ness".

        Similarly, "God exists" is (it seems to me) ultimately tautologically true. But when one understands the tautology, it brings into fuller relief new dimensions of reality. Most fundamentally I would say it brings into fuller relief the gratuitous charity of existence.

        • Does the phrase "begging the question" mean anything in this context, or is God exempt from that fallacy?

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I think proofs of God's existence can sometimes be question begging. But by the same token, mathematical proofs can be seen as a form of "question begging" in the sense that they all reduce to tautology at some level.

            So let's think about why mathematics is not in fact considered to be question-begging. Here is what seems to me to be a very insightful and well written perspective:

            In mathematics we don't deduce things from axioms. Rather we try to capture a certain idea by introducing axioms, check which theorems follow from the axioms and compare these results against the idea we are trying to capture. If the results agree we are happy. If the results disagree, we change the axioms. The ideas we try to capture transcend the deductive system.

            (from https://math.stackexchange.com/questions/384861/is-mathematics-one-big-tautology)

            I think something similar to that is going on with proofs of God's existence. For example, one has an intuition that being and agape / charity are, at root, the same thing (and this one same "thing" we happen to call "God"). And if you refine sufficiently what you mean by being and agape / charity, then you will find (or so I believe) that these can in fact be seen to be tautologically equivalent. That is not a useless exercise. That shows you some deep connection that you weren't previously aware of.

          • The "tautologicalness" of mathematics and logic only shows that the systems are consistent and valid, but it does not show soundness. To establish that something is sound you need to go out to the real world and make sure that the concept matches up with reality.

            On that note, existence is not something which can be proven with an analytic proposition, no matter how clever the argument is.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            No argument from me on any of those points.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            (But of course, arguments for God do not proceed on a purely analytic basis. They begin with premises that are generally accepted as being sound, e.g. "My dog exists".)

          • Generally accepted as being sound is really the key here. The premises may be sound, but may also have restrictions on when their use is sound. As an example, take Newtonian physics : It has a set of conditions under which we have good reason to believe that it will produce fairly accurate results, however, if you try to apply that same calculation to high velocity objects, you don't get good results. Until people starting trying to apply Newtonian physics to distant objects, nobody knew that there were limits.

            External world skepticism, a problem that philosophers have yet to find a way around, tells us that we cannot actually know what is really true about the external world, only how the world appears to be. Because of this, I would say that there is no synthetic proposition that we can know is actually true, rather there are only synthetic propositions which are supported by the weight of the evidence in their favor, and that can change with new information (like in the case of Newtonian physics.)

            This is why I conclude that if you use an argument to show that something is true about the external world then you still need to test that conclusion to see if it makes sense. This is particularly true if you're applying your assumptions to boundary areas, like the early cosmos would certainly be.

            Just because we accept that the premises of the arguments are generally sound doesn't mean that I'm compelled to believe that a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, mind with infinite power, and the ability to know everything, must necessarily exist and be the reason that reality is able to exist. Besides the fact that some of these properties don't appear coherent, our experience has never told us that such things can exist.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Because of this, I would say that there is no synthetic proposition that we can know is actually true, rather there are only synthetic propositions which are supported by the weight of the evidence in their favor, and that can change with new information

            That's setting a higher-than-normal bar for what it means "to know", but OK, no real objections there.

            This is particularly true if you're applying your assumptions to boundary areas, like the early cosmos would certainly be.

            OK, but this most certainly is not what the OP was doing. Not only does the argument not make assumptions about boundary conditions, it does not even assume one way or the other whether there is any sort of boundary. The argument applies whether the universe had a beginning in time or not. (Note that the title is not "How Cosmic Origins Reveals God’s Reality", but rather "How Cosmic Existence Reveals God’s Reality", and the spirit of the argument is consistent with that).

            still need to test that conclusion to see if it makes sense

            The test is right in front of us in every moment. If there were no fundamentally necessary context of possibility in which things could exist or not exist, then there could be no existing things. And yet: here I am, there you are, and there my dog is. Therefore, proof by contradiction, there is a fundamentally necessary context of possibility that exists. And that which is fundamentally necessary is, by convention, called "God". Therefore God exists. No assumptions about boundary conditions needed. It's just a matter of 1. Noting that things exist, even though they don't have to, and 2. Reflecting on what we mean when we talk about possibility and existence.

          • there is a fundamentally necessary context of possibility that exists. And that which is fundamentally necessary is, by convention, called "God".

            Existence is not a predicate. So therefore, nothing exists necessarily!

            Even if I do accept that there is a "fundamentally necessary context of possibility that exists", what you're describing is a very far cry from the God of Christianity.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            It's funny. Honestly, I came so close to not using the word "exist". Oh well ...

            Whether existence is a predicate or not is a tricky topic, and it depends on what you mean by "exist".

            If we work with the etymology, "to exist" is to be real in a way that "stands out" (ex-sistere). Things only "stand out" if they are finite: I notice my dog's existence because he is here and not everywhere. Whatever is everywhere cannot not "stand out" because there is no contrast to bring it into relief. So it is with being-itself, a.k.a. "God". Being-itself is everywhere, so it does not "exist" in the etymological sense. But being-itself is nonetheless real (it is more real than things that exist). If being-itself were not real, then my dog could not instantiate being.

            To summarize: I am happy to join Paul Tillich and others in saying that God does not technically exist. But then one has to distinguish between what is real and what exists, as I am attempting to do above.

            Even if I do accept that there is a "fundamentally necessary context of possibility that exists", what you're describing is a very far cry from the God of Christianity.

            I don't think that's true at all, but I'm happy to bracket that question for now and just discuss the "God of the philosophers".

          • Jim the Scott

            Tillich wasn't an original even Aquinas said in a certain sense we can say God does not exist.

            Tillich is interesting he a modernist liberal theologican who has re-discovered classic theism. So on that level I like him.

          • Jim,

            In your comment there is, "...Whatever is everywhere cannot not "stand out" because there is no contrast to bring it into relief...." a typo with the cannot / not ? In one sense it does not stand out, and in another sense it STANDS OUT as some refer to such as The Always and The Already, so to speak. Wasn't sure which of those two roads (if any) you were traveling down there. Thank you.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            Good catch. Yes, I meant to write simply, "cannot 'stand out'". Will fix for posterity.

  • Paul Vinci

    Well Tommy , speaking of indoctrination

    I am sure you would not be speaking to us in these terms had you yourself not been indoctrinated by the claims of Atheism

  • Paul Vinci

    What and the reasons for God are irrational are they .

    You give atheism far too much credence since Atheism doesn't rest on any certainty that God doesn't exist

  • Paul Vinci

    Tommy , I dont think the professor believes in a god ,as though there might be others to choose from . He belives in the one and only true God who created all things .

  • Paul Vinci

    Gee that's not a atheistically bias statement at
    all .

    I don't believe in Gods , I belive in God .

    Thats besides the point . You claim that your own belief is rational and scientific and yet science doesnt prove your claim anymore than it disproves mine . Therefore if you insist that God doesn't exist then do do so out of faith and nothing more .

  • The leading philosophers of ancient Greece showed no inkling of the concept of creation ex nihilo in time.

    According to Claude Tresmontant, neither did Spinoza:

        The idea of creation is a pseudo-concept to Spinoza, an idea which implies contradiction: “Demonstravi (vid. Coroll. Prop. 6 et Schol. 2 Prop. 8), nullam substantiam ab alio posse produci vel creari.”[1]

    “...si quis statuat, substantiam creari, simul statuit, ideam falsam factam esse veram, quo sane nihil absurdius concipi potest.”[2]"

    [1] Spinoza, Eth. 1, prop. 15, schol. I have demonstrated... (see Corol. Prop. 6 and Schol. 2, Prop. 8), that no substance can be produced or created by another being. (Prop. 15, Schol. translated in Spinoza Selections, John Wild, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.)
    [2] Spinoza, Eth. 1, prop. 8, schol. II. ... if anyone affirmed that substance is created, it would be the same as saying that a false idea was true — in short, the height of absurdity. (Prop. VII, Schol. II, transi. R.H.M. Elwes, loc. cit.)
    (A Study of Hebrew Thought, 9–10)

    In the final two sentences of his 1978 book, God and the Astronomers, Dr. Jastrow writes: “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance, he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”

    In general, I am highly skeptical about such things. However, in this case, I think Tresmontant and others have laid pretty convincing groundwork to suggest that the dogma of unitary time evolution might have been so strong as to resist even the falsification of steady state theory indicated by the CMBR. Furthermore, it is not entirely clear that the CMBR is necessarily incompatible with unitary time evolution. To really demonstrate this would require a great deal of boots-on-the-ground work and is susceptible to all the problems of historical counterfactuals. But so are claims that "without religion, history would have gone better". :-)

    Atheistic scientists, like physicist Stephen Hawking, seek to avoid any possible theological implications of the Big Bang by redefining the meaning of this absolute beginning in time in terms that would avoid any need for God. He posits an imaginary time in which there would be no boundaries to space-time just as there are no boundaries to earth’s surface, concluding: “Thus, the universe would be a completely self-contained system. It would not be determined by anything outside the physical universe that we observe.”

    Curiously enough, I have heard here and there that fundamental physics kinda-sorta does away with "time". I don't understand all the details of this, but I do find the following interesting:

    A time crystal or space-time crystal is a structure that repeats in time, as well as in space. Normal three-dimensional crystals have a repeating pattern in space, but remain unchanged as time passes. Time crystals repeat themselves in time as well, leading the crystal to change from moment to moment. A time crystal never reaches thermal equilibrium, as it is a type of non-equilibrium matter — a form of matter proposed in 2012, and first observed in 2017. This state of matter cannot be isolated from its environment – it is an open system in non-equilibrium. (WP: Time crystal)

    Time becomes "real" by an external drive. But Hawking's "self-contained system" permits no external drive! One possibility is that our reality is being driven externally in all sorts of interesting ways, but our insistence on causal closure (arguably the identifying property of physicalism) blinds us to this. It's not that we aren't the targets for causal chains which originate from "outside the system"; rather it is that we can misidentify them as coming from within the system. Augustine's incurvatus in se comes to mind. There is cognitive science which suggests that if there is a pattern on our perceptual neurons which does not well-match any patterns on our non-perceptual neurons, we may never become aware of that pattern for what it is: Grossberg 1999 The Link between Brain Learning, Attention, and Consciousness (partial tutorial).

    By the way, a sneaky way to violate causal closure is to provide for infinitely adaptable definitions, e.g. @jlowder:disqus's:

    First, let’s start with my definitions, which are almost entirely taken from the writings of Paul Draper.

    physical entity: an entity which is either (1) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists today; or (2) the kind of entity studied by physicists or chemists in the future, which has some sort of nomological or historical connection to the kinds of entities studied by physicists or chemists today. (The Nature of Naturalism)

    The italics make all the difference: "nomological or historical" has no firm definition. See what über-naturalist Penelope Maddy has to say:

        A deeper difficulty springs from the lesson won through decades of study in the philosophy of science: there is no hard and fast specification of what 'science' must be, no determinate criterion of the form 'x is science iff …'. It follows that there can be no straightforward definition of Second Philosophy along the lines 'trust only the methods of science'. Thus Second Philosophy, as I understand it, isn't a set of beliefs, a set of propositions to be affirmed; it has no theory. Since its contours can't be drawn by outright definition, I resort to the device of introducing a character, a particular sort of idealized inquirer called the Second Philosopher, and proceed by describing her thoughts and practices in a range of contexts; Second Philosophy is then to be understood as the product of her inquiries. (Second Philosophy: A Naturalistic Method, 1)

    If this is true—and I've seen nothing which comes close to refuting it plus plenty to corroborate it—then the term "causal closure" has become meaningless. Nothing is truly ruled out; any scientific law can be completely relativized:

    If scientific laws are inaccurate, then – presumably – there must be some other laws (statements, propositions, principles), doubtless more complex, which are accurate, which are not approximation to the truth but are literally true.

    When, for example, generations of philosophers have agonized over whether physical determinism precludes the existence of free will (for example, Honderich), they have been concerned with these latter laws, the laws of nature itself. (IEP: Laws of Nature vs. Laws of Science)

    If the scientific laws we have can be arbitrarily wrong (say by God jiggering some part of reality that is fully allowed to jigger with the slightest of pushes), then what is left is instrumentalism/​antirealism/​constructive empiricsm:

    Constructive empiricism is the version of scientific anti-realism promulgated by Bas van Fraassen in his famous book The Scientific Image (1980). Van Fraassen defines the view as follows:

    Science aims to give us theories which are empirically adequate; and acceptance of a theory involves as belief only that it is empirically adequate. (1980, 12)

    With his doctrine of constructive empiricism, van Fraassen is widely credited with rehabilitating scientific anti-realism. There has been a contentious debate within the philosophy of science community over whether constructive empiricism is true or false. There is also some unclarity regarding what van Fraassen’s arguments for the doctrine actually are. In addition, there are controversies about what the doctrine actually amounts to. While constructive empiricism has not gained a wide number of adherents, it continues to be a highly influential doctrine in philosophy of science. (SEP: Constructive Empiricism)

    Of course people don't want to believe in constructive empiricism: it would obviate the certainty they have—certainty like Sean Carroll's Seriously, The Laws Underlying The Physics of Everyday Life Really Are Completely Understood (update with nice visualization). Oh wait, I thought it was religion which is supposed to be infatuated with certainty? I thought it was religion which is supposed to not be open to things being other than they seem?

  • 10 days ago

    If there is absolutely no proof, evidence, or even demonstration that "immaterial" things exist, why shouldn't we deny it

    Because absence of proof of a proposition P does not constitute proof of ¬P. All we can say is that we don't believe it because we have no reason to believe it.

  • You've restated my point.

    If so, then you stated it in a logically sloppy manner.

  • Still, it is curious that these same minds that are so skeptical of any rational explanation of our incredible universe should so easily be intellectually satisfied with the “just so” explanation of a cosmos that has always “just happened to exist” without any real explanation either in itself or from an extrinsic cause.

    The Thomist of course just has a "just so" explanation because the traditional notion of god in classical theism is that of a timeless, changeless, immaterial mind, who also must be infinitely good, infinitely wise, and can do anything logically possible.
    All of god's will and desires must exist timelessly and eternally in an unchanging, frozen state. That would mean that god timelessly and eternally had the desire to create our particular universe, and not some other universe, or no universe. Since our universe is not logically necessary; it didn't have to exist, and god didn't have to create it. The theist would have to show that it was logically necessary for god to create our particular universe in order to avoid eventually coming to a brute fact. There is no way to answer this question, even in principle, with something logically necessary. Thus at least one brute fact must exist even if god exists.

    This site is just the same false antiquated arguments over and over again, told different ways.

    • Rob Abney

      I like your new avatar much better, change is real!

    • SpokenMind

      Hi Thinker,

      I am making the assumption that you fall somewhere on the atheist-agnostic spectrum. Please correct me if I am in error.

      If you don’t mind putting on your thinking cap for a moment . . .

      Is there any evidence and/or reason you can conceive of that might compel you to say there is a higher power?

      • You are correct that I'm an atheist, and the answer to your question is yes.

      • SpokenMind

        I am curious what evidence and/or reasons you can conceive of. Would you mind sharing one (or more)?

  • Jim the Scott

    Now to correct some stupidity.

    >All of god's will and desires must exist timelessly and eternally in an unchanging, frozen state.

    God is not material so how can He be “frozen”? Immutable yes but frozen no.

    > That would mean that god timelessly and eternally had the desire to create our particular universe, and not some other universe, or no universe. Since our universe is not logically necessary; it didn't have to exist, and god didn't have to create it.

    Our Universe has to exist in so far as God has too by necessity do His own will. God however did not have to will from all eternity to create it He is/was free to will from eternity not too. No passive potency in His nature compels Him to create and no external act compels him. He is moved solely by His Will and since His essence and being are not distinct we might say his Charity moved Him to create but His Charity is only notionally distinct from His will and is identical to His essence just as His Will is identical to His essence.

    > The theist would have to show that it was logically necessary for god to create our particular universe in order to avoid eventually coming to a brute fact.

    Thoughtless is going to waste everybody’s time equivocating yet again. If he read Feser (which we all know he hasn’t except in sound bites & as I recall last time he confused formal causes with efficient causes because he is an idiot) he would know we can have for example epistemological brute facts but not metaphysical ones(without incoherence) and he is going to spill a ton of verbiage pretending there is no difference or that the difference doesn’t matter. How tedious!
    It is not logically necessary for God to will from eternity to create our Universe prior to willing it. It is logically necessary for God to follow His own will and if God wills to create then logically He must create.

    >There is no way to answer this question, even in principle, with something logically necessary. Thus at least one brute fact must exist even if god exists.

    Except Thomists like Feser deny you can have metaphysical brute facts(because they are incoherent) they do not deny the existence of all brute facts. This is clearly outlined in SCHOLASTIC METAPHYSICS.

    >This site is just the same false antiquated arguments over and over again, told different ways.

    Says Mr. Fallacy of equivocation! You are an uninformed sophist and of all the atheists here you don’t have even one intelligent objection to Classic Theism. You are the one last time who confused formal causality with efficient causes. I think you even confused Passive Potency with Active Potency? You just make up your own straw men.

    PS:

    You also suck at Physics.

    http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/philtheo/temporal/temporal.htm

    Special Relativity proves B-theory time? HA!

    • Jim the Scott

      additional:

      Quote” Consider first that we can distinguish a metaphysical sense in which something might be claimed to be a “brute fact” from an epistemological sense in which it might be. Something would be a brute fact in the epistemological sense if, after exhaustive investigation, we did not and perhaps even could not come up with a remotely plausible explanation for it. Something would be a brute fact in the metaphysical sense if it did not, as a matter of objective fact, have any explanation or intelligibility in the first place. With a metaphysical brute fact, it’s not merely that we can’t discover any explanation, it’s that there isn‘t one there to be discovered.

      Now I do not deny that there could be epistemological “brute facts,” but only that there could be metaphysical brute facts. But it seems clear that whatever plausibility Oerter’s example has derives entirely from the possibility that a bolt of lightning of the sort he imagines might be an epistemological brute fact. For we can certainly imagine cases where a bolt of lightning strikes and causes a forest fire but where there was only clear blue sky and no storm clouds present, nor even some bizarre cause (a gigantic Tesla coil, say, or an angry Thor flying about). But that by itself is just to imagine unexplainedlightning appearing. It does not amount to imagining lightning that as a matter of objective fact has no explanation suddenly appearing. (And as I have argued in several places, and at greatest length inScholastic Metaphysics, in fact we cannot, contra Hume, coherently describe a case where this latter sort of thing happens.)”END QUOTE –Ed Feser

      http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/03/can-you-explain-something-by-appealing.html#more

  • The fact that such mental gymnastics are engaged in so as to evade precisely an absolute cosmic beginning bespeaks the massive problems it would present to atheistic materialism.

    What is there about the very thought of the cosmos suddenly popping into existence out of absolutely nothing that so instantly moves the mind of most sane men to say, “Then, God must exist!’? What is there about such instantaneous creation ex nihilo that bespeaks so unequivocally to the human mind the exclusive mark of true divinity?

    There isn't really any mental gymnastics involved. First, many physical theories on the origin of the universe do not have a beginning, and getting an absolute beginning in fact doesn't come naturally or easy; an infinite past does. So it's quit the opposite. Second, the universe having an absolute beginning, does not entail it "popped" into existence "from nothing" or ex nihilo. This is because almost everyone gets the big bang wrong. All it means is that the universe has a first moment. That's it. The universe was never created since it always existed in the sense of existing at every moment in time. That's why I created this infograph to educate people on this:

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5d151eb664d042cdd6162df26304aa1b901bb1b2a7dffbcb6ff9d5630e2bf473.png

    • Rob Abney

      Here's an easier answer, from the OP:
      What first stands out is the fact that absolutely no one claims that the cosmos actually appeared out of nowhere and from absolutely nothing. Atheists either claim it always existed in some physical form or other, or else, attempt the bait and switch of claiming it came from nothing – but the “nothing” turns out to be the actual something of the quantum vacuum as explained above. In proclaiming the Christian doctrine of true creation in time, theists do not hold that the cosmos arose from absolutely nothing either. Rather, they say the world was made by the power of the eternal God.

      • It's still claiming god created the universe ex nihilo, "Since immeasurable power is the same as unlimited or infinite power, it would take infinite power for God to create the cosmos ex nihilo." Hence it is assuming an infinite amount of power is required to get that something from nothing, while it also says something always existed. Is that something "God"? I'm saying that something is the universe.

        • Rob Abney

          Did you read the OP? Christians believe in ex nihilo creation based on revelation but this OP describes how that can be supported while assuming that the universe is eternal.

    • SpokenMind

      If our universe is a bubble blown from a multiverse (there is no evidence of this), then how did that multiverse begin?

      Science doesn’t know what happened at t=0 (or before). Science is face to face with a mystery.

      • Open the image link above and read the part that says "WHAT IF THERE'S A MULTIVERSE?"

      • Sample1

        Have you ever read the scientific idea derived from quantum mechanics that time may not exist? Events we perceive as change and therefore time, might better be explained as superpostions of events. Therefore, rather than saying events change over time, we might be more accurate saying how does the wave function of any given event correlate to its quantum superposition?

        The classical notion of time is obviously useful for our world but it might be wrong. I’m intrigued that time may not be a fundamental aspect of reality. Nobody really knows but scientists are the new philosopher kings, thinking hard about these mysteries and backing up their ideas with plausible models that, unlike other disciplines, could in principle be backed by empirical evidence.

        Mike
        Edit done. Spelling.

        • Sample1

          Or think of it from a dog’s “perspective.” Consider a dog who gets up and goes to the door at 5pm. His friend comes home from work at 5:05. Anyone with a strong, perceptive bond with their pets witnesses this.

          How does the dog reliably know to do this? Does she look at the kitchen clock? Is there a doggie cooperative across the town alerting each other through barks as all the workers come home? Of course not.

          The latest evidence points to scent decay. When an owner leaves home, his scent is strong. By 5pm the scent reaches a level of decay that the dog correlates with, “aha! the scent is almost gone that means my friend is going to be home in 5 minutes”. This was tested by leaving a heavily scented article of the owner’s clothing next to the dog’s sleeping area. That resulted in the dog not getting up at 5pm because, it is conjectured, the strong smelling clothes changed the accustomed rate of scent decay.

          In otherwords, there are many ways to think about what is meant by time. It would not surprise me if time was nothing more than a human invention that has evolutionary advantages and naturally selected. As we advance in our understanding of how nature works, we have been able to appeal to the better angels of our nature and construct an environment that won’t kill us for doing so.

          If anything is to be learned, it’s that our ancestors were good at breeding but not always good at thinking. That time may not exist seems very much akin to other past fundamentals we used to be so certain of but were mistaken.

          We can have clocks in our wavefunction but all events we currently think of as existing while time passes may simply be a superposition where time is not needed.

          Mike

          • Dennis Bonnette

            I strongly suggest you read this paper, entitled "On the reality of temporal succession."

            http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/philtheo/temporal/temporal.htm

          • Rob Abney

            When an owner leaves home, his scent is strong....the owner’s clothing next to the dog’s sleeping area

            Do you consider it to be morally reprehensible for a human to own an animal?

          • Sample1

            Good question. There are many examples in nature of symbiotic relationships (benefiting both species) such as anemones and clown fish and mutalalistic relationships like birds and rhinos or sharks and remoras. I don’t have a reason to think ethical dilemmas exist there where cries of slavery exist in those non-human animals’ minds.

            It is conjectured that wolves initiated their domestication with ancient humans and then we took over artificially selecting their evolution. Is it wrong to manipulate non human animals so they can no longer die in the wild? I don’t have a definitive answer.

            Zoos present problems for me and much of our medical knowledge comes from non human animal control studies which also presents problems. And then we have the industrial meat industry which many people abhor when they actually see how it is carried out.

            In a human relationship, whether via marriage or sibling bonds or friendships, mutualism occurs. I see those relationships positively and I think of companion animal ownership much the same way. This is a long discussion to explore and my views are often being challenged about it.

            What do you think?

            Mike
            Edit done.

          • Rob Abney

            We should consider the metaphysics and philosophical underpinnings of our purpose in this world especially including our relationship with the environment (people, animals, and everything else).
            But narrow it down initially to: Humans exist and animals (dogs) exist, they are both capable of taking in nutrition and independent mobility, humans have a capacity that dogs don't have, which we describe as intellect and free will. That is the basis for a universality that can be applied objectively.

            Mutualism seems like a utilitarian approach, each party only stays in the relationship if it is beneficial to him/her. But the dog really has no choice. The human "owner" has willed, based on his intellect, that he will care for the dog - walking for exercise and providing a healthy diet. The human can also end the relationship at any time, the dog cannot. Its an unequal relationship that can only continue based upon humans using their higher powers of intellect and will.

            But humans cannot own other humans because the relationship, considering the existence of intellect and will, is equal.

            This has nothing to do with who has more intelligence, only with the rational capacities for intellect and will.

            Back to our purpose in the world, we have intellect and will to be utilized that no other living beings have. We are naturally endowed to care for the world and to seek the ultimate truth that can only be discovered through our many interactions with the environment of everything and everyone.

            I'll be glad to discuss this more with you, if you are willing, especially because it seems to be a subject you care about passionately.

          • Sample1

            I can’t find a thesis sentence in your post. Maybe trim It down or beef it up and perhaps then we can find something specific to take a crack at.

            Mike

          • Rob Abney

            Here's my thesis sentence: you are practicing relativism in your approach to animals. Some you consider friends while others you consider food.

        • SpokenMind

          Thanks for sharing that concept. I had never heard of it.

          There’s something about a good mystery, in this case the question of how the universe began, that keeps us searching.

          • Sample1

            Incidentally, it’s more accurate to say the Big Bang is the end of our current knowledge than say, like many do, that it was the actual beginning of the universe. If the universe is eternal the Big Bang would just be a specific event along a spectrum of reality.

            Nobody knows!

            Mike

    • SpokenMind

      It seems very unlikely that option B (a multiverse has an infinite number of moments) is true since the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem says that universes – including multiverses - have a beginning.

      • The BGV theorem isn't a proof. It's a hypothesis/model that assumes GR and doesn't take into account quantum mechanics at that level.

        • SpokenMind

          [The BGV theorem isn't a proof. It's a hypothesis/model that assumes GR and doesn't take into account quantum mechanics at that level.]

          I think we would agree that BGV is a theorem and doesn’t prove God exists. That being said, BGV is applicable to practically all types of universes – multiverses, bouncing universes, even quantum cosmological universes.

          It seems very likely that the singularity is real.

          “Many people do not like the idea that time has a beginning, probably because it smacks of divine intervention.” Stephen Hawking

          • Michael Murray

            BGV's application to quantum cosmological universes is limited to ones that don't depart too much from classical space-time. There isn't a theory of quantum gravity which you would need to describe a quantum cosmological universe. It's the current Holy Grail of physics.

            Here is a quote from Vilenkin from William Lane Craig's site.

            The question of whether or not the universe had a beginning assumes a classical spacetime, in which the notions of time and causality can be defined. On very small time and length scales, quantum fluctuations in the structure of spacetime could be so large that these classical concepts become totally inapplicable. Then we do not really have a language to describe what is happening, because all our physics concepts are deeply rooted in the concepts of space and time. This is what I mean when I say that we do not even know what the right questions are.

            But if the fluctuations are not so wild as to invalidate classical spacetime, the BGV theorem is immune to any possible modifications of Einstein's equations which may be caused by quantum effects.

          • SpokenMind

            Thanks for the comment.

          • You misunderstood me. When I said "proof" I wasn't referring to god, I was referring to the BGV theorem's claim - that the universe has an absolute beginning. The BGV theorem doesn't offer a proof of that, because it takes general relativity as its starting assumption and does not take quantum mechanics into account. And we know GR doesn't apply to the singularity. The universe/multiverse may or may not have an finite past, the BGV just doesn't prove that. A finite past doesn't smack of divine intervention at all to me, because a singularity doesn't pop into existence. Furthermore, special and general relativity indicate the universe is 4 dimensional, and in a 4 dimensional universe, all moments of time exist. Hence the universe can be eternal even if it has a finite past.

          • SpokenMind

            Thank you for clarifying, I did misunderstand you.

            I would also agree with you that the BGV theorem does not prove the universe has an absolute beginning. I just think it's the most likely scenario given the evidence we have.

            All the best!

          • No problem! I'm personally agnostic on whether there is an absolute beginning in time. I really hope we will one day soon get a definitive answer from physics.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        BGV says nothing about multiverses. It says that inflationary models of this universe cannot go back forever.

        • SpokenMind

          [BGV says nothing about multiverses. It says that inflationary models of this universe cannot go back forever.]

          Respectfully, I disagree.

          BGV is applicable to all types of universes that are inflationary – including multiverses. For a multiverse to be stable enough to generate other universes it must be inflationary.

          If you have evidence to the contrary, I’d be happy to check it out.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            For a multiverse to be stable enough to generate other universes it must be inflationary.

            We have very little, honestly probably no evidence about a multiverse even existing, let alone the physical laws that would describe a multiverse. There is no evidence about multiverses. You are making the claim that multiverses must be stable. Burden of proof is on you.
            My opinion on multiverses is that I don't know, because there isn't any evidence. You are the one taking BGV and applying it way beyond its limits. Its like trying to use classical physics to describe quantum mechanics.

          • SpokenMind

            I would agree with you with you we have no evidence about a multiverse existing.

            Points taken thereafter. Beyond that are just opinions (shared by some experts).

          • Jim the Scott

            "Multiverse" is kind of a misnomer. It is just a theory of multiple space-time realms. It's just a theory the Universe is bigger then the mere edges of the Big Bang.

            So God made a bigger Universe then we thought? Big deal.

          • SpokenMind

            In my opinion, science needs to run its course.

            There seems to be another question after each breakthrough.

            If we’re part of a multiverse (however one chooses to envision that), what caused the multiverse? If it was a quantum “hiccup” that kicked everything off, where did the laws that govern it come from?

            If it does boil down to some eternal “thing”, how can you prove something is eternal with certainty? Seems like best science could say is it has been around for as long as we can tell.

            Back to the multiverse, I’m not sure how someone can prove there is another closed system somewhere else. The one idea I read (and I’m butchering the explanation) is that if there was a burst of universes, there be might evidence in the wavefront (outer edges) of our universe, otherwise if there is just a single universe this evidence wouldn’t be there. Not sure how solid a proof that is.

            I believe God created, and I’ll let science try and figure out the genius of his method.

            Happy Easter! Can’t keep a good man down.

          • Jim the Scott

            Briefly I also think some of the Multiverse crowd confuses hypothetical "alternate realities" or modal "possible worlds" with the Multiverse.

            Different regions of spacetime where another big bang took place is not the same as "imagining" (you can tells some people waste their lives believing in Hume) an alternate reality where a past eternal steady state universe exists or a reality where an alternate Earth is literally the center of the Cosmos..
            It can get goofy because the average joe confuses the popular misconception with the sophisticated position.

            Happy Easter to you too.

            Christ Has Risen!

          • Michael Murray

            There was a very recent Sam Harris "Waking Up" podcast where Max Tegmark claimed that we are approaching the point where we could do experiments that might test a multiverse. But he did't give any details of what he meant.

          • I think he was referring to experiments that can rule out or confirm different interpretations of quantum mechanics, like the ontic models vs the epistemic models. The many worlds interpretation is an ontic model, if it makes predictions that can be affirmed, it gives the MWI a higher credence of likelihood.

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks

  • Sample1

    Still, it is curious that these same minds that are so skeptical of any rational explanation of our incredible universe should so easily be intellectually satisfied with the “just so” explanation of a cosmos that has always “just happened to exist” without any real explanation either in itself or from an extrinsic cause.

    You can’t be allowed to say, “...so skeptical of any rational explanation...” without push back. I owe you that bluntness as a professional. That is straight up debate rhetoric, not an honest telling of the process of science. Rational explanations are welcome. Obviously what you consider rational is not rational to others. So at least make a distinction in your thinking and writing that real differences exist about rationality between you and I’ll just say me rather than the ambiguous lumping word, minds. Discussion aimed at understanding needs the problems highlighted not lazily lumped with rhetoric. Please stop doing that.

    No atheist polemicist/scientist that I read presents arguments in the way you describe. Doubtfully a lump of them which implies more than a few. What does get presented are probabilistic models, not proofs, and you know this. Proofs in this context are for theologians.

    You so favor exposing the argument from incredulity in your words. “Just happened” and “just so” well no, scientists don’t model that way. Science is always open to new data and revision unlike dogma (which being infallible is simply too bombastically arrogant to entertain without a model). This is said over and over again on SN and I am very disappointed that lurkers and religious regulars don’t defend against this error.

    There are things about origins that are not known. And there are competing hypotheses to figure out the origin of the cosmos. Maybe there is a “just so” model out there but I haven’t seen it unless it entails brute fact conjectures, but that at least is a model with competition not the shoulder shrug defeatist “just so” rhetoric you are so fond of.

    Off soapbox.

    Mike

    • Dennis Bonnette

      I certainly am aware of and respect the efforts of scientists to search for more truths about the origin and nature of the cosmos. What I was thinking of is the number of philosophers, such as Hospers and Flew, who deny there is any reason for the cosmos, and scientists, such as Sean Carroll who say "the universe simply is, without ultimate cause or explanation." https://evolutionnews.org/2018/02/sean-carrolls-preposterous-universe/

      Natural scientists should seek deeper and further back explanations of the cosmos. That is their job. I have something of a background in chemistry myself, so I really was not jabbing at scientists doing their proper job in searching out what might even have existed before the Big Bang.

      Recall that St. Thomas himself insisted that we cannot rationally prove that the world had a beginning in time. No, I intended no attack on science or scientists as such. When I referred to those not seeking any "rational explanation" of the universe, that was in the context of the entire OP, which argues to the need for an infinitely powerful Creator. Seeking "rational explanations" of the natural order is the proper role of natural science. I was referring to those who reject any reasoning leading to God, but then just take the existence of the cosmos itself for granted without seeking rational explanation in the philosophical sense.

      • Sample1

        Fair enough.

        Mike

  • Jim the Scott

    I see the silly Thoughtless person who doesn't know the difference between a formal cause and an efficient cause is repeating his old nonsense.

    >That's the whole point. God's eternal desire to create this specific world isn't logically necessary, and any explanation or reason as to why god eternally exists with the intent/desire of creating this specific universe must therefore be a contingent one, since that is your only other option given the PSR.

    Note Thoughtless doesn't bother to mention which version of the PSR he is channeling "PSR has been formulated in many ways by philosophers of diverse metaphysical commitments"(Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics page 118). Also does he even make the distinction between metaphysical vs epistemological brute facts?
    Tedious!

    God's only desire is His Will and God's will is not contingent in that if God wills X from all eternity He cannot will Not X from all eternity. Logically & notionally prior to willing X God could have willed Not X.
    God is free to choose either from all eternity and no passive potency in His divine essence d moves His will to choose X or Not X & nothing external to His essence can compel that same Will to choose. What He will from all eternity He must do. Thus His choice is both free and immutable.
    A Will by nature discriminates between choices. God has a Will thus He can discriminate between choices.
    God Wills in one Pure Act from eternity. I think somebody should explain Cambridge properties to Thoughtless & I think He thinks you have to exist in Time to will(also as an Atheist materialist does he even believe in Free Will in the first place? Because he reads his own incompatible presuppositions into our philosophy which we don’t presuppose “formal cause vs efficient” ).
    Correcting him is 90% of arguing with him and he refuses correction.
    God’s unknown reasons for choosing X or Not X are epistemological brute facts(i.e. we can’t know them unless He tells us & no amount of natural theology can figure it out) but not metaphysical ones.

    To be a metaphysical brute fact means God has no reason even known to Himself why he might choose X or Not X.

    It’s that simple and Thoughtless has to muddy the waters to avoid the simple. The rest of his blather we can ignore....

    • Oh look, it's Jim the Idiot keeping the stupidity of this combox down at the middle school level!

      Note Thoughtless doesn't bother to mention which version of the PSR he is channeling "PSR has been formulated in many ways by philosophers of diverse metaphysical commitments"(Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics page 118). Also does he even make the distinction between metaphysical vs epistemological brute facts?
      Tedious!

      The versions of the PSR that avoid the dilemma are the ones that effectively make the PSR pointless. Also, I'm reiterating the same version the theist claims is necessary to make sense of anything. The distinction between metaphysical vs epistemological brute facts here is irrelevant.

      God's only desire is His Will and God's will is not contingent in that if God wills X from all eternity He cannot will Not X from all eternity. Logically & notionally prior to willing X God could have willed Not X.

      First sentence makes little sense. It should be "God's only desire is His Will and God's will is not necessary in that if God wills X from all eternity He cannot will Not X from all eternity." The whole point is that god's will is not logically necessary, which is exactly where the problem lies.

      God is free to choose either from all eternity and no passive potency in His divine essence d moves His will to choose X or Not X & nothing external to His essence can compel that same Will to choose. What He will from all eternity He must do. Thus His choice is both free and immutable.

      "Free" to choose from all eternity is an oxymoron. God's will to choose X or not X must have a reason, and since god's divine essence doesn't logically necessitate X vs not X, the reason must be contingent as that is your only option given the PSR, which is the same dichotomy every theist has given an atheist when he tries to argue to the atheist that the universe is contingent and therefore "must" have a necessary god as its explanation. So this is more word salad with a really tasty dressing on top.

      A Will by nature discriminates between choices. God has a Will thus He can discriminate between choices.

      Not an eternal will. But again the main issue here is that the reason behind god's will can't be necessary, so contingency is your only option.

      God Wills in one Pure Act from eternity. I think somebody should explain Cambridge properties to Thoughtless & I think He thinks you have to exist in Time to will(also as an Atheist materialist does he even believe in Free Will in the first place? Because he reads his own incompatible presuppositions into our philosophy which we don’t presuppose “formal cause vs efficient” ).

      Cambridge properties are basically irrelevant here. I'm taking god's timeless eternal will as a given for the sake of argument, and just giving you the logical consequence of it. And since why god's eternal timeless will is what it is isn't necessary, it isn't explained in the thing itself, and it has to be contingent.

      Correcting him is 90% of arguing with him and he refuses correction.

      That's because you never correct me, you just assert your Thomistic dogma. Same thing happened in our lovely debate where I showed you to be incorrect in your claim that metaphysical claims can't be falsified by science.

      God’s unknown reasons for choosing X or Not X are epistemological brute facts(i.e. we can’t know them unless He tells us & no amount of natural theology can figure it out) but not metaphysical ones.

      To be a metaphysical brute fact means God has no reason even known to Himself why he might choose X or Not X.

      Which is irrelevant. The problem isn't on what is the exact reason for god's will of X, it is the fact that god's reason for willing X rather than not Xisn't logically necessary, and that means its reason (whatever the heck it may be) must be contingent. That's what throws you into the theist's dilemma.

      It’s that simple and Thoughtless has to muddy the waters to avoid the simple. The rest of his blather we can ignore....

      Once again, attacking a straw man is your most potent tool.

  • Jim the Scott

    The Thoughtless one seems to want to waste time arguing against views he wishes his opponents believed in instead of the ones they in fact do believe in.

    He can argue against the PSR view a Scholastic accepts or he can get lost.

    He can accept we don't have a problem with epistemological brute facts only metaphysical ones or get lost.

    He wants to define for us what our beliefs are and refute those straw men not ourt actual beliefs. What is the point in that? Why disprove views we don't hold?

    Like I said Tedious!

    >The versions of the PSR that avoid the dilemma are the ones that effectively make the PSR pointless.

    Don't care. Specify which version your are arguing against and if it is not the one a Scholastic accepts it a non-starter.

    >First sentence makes little sense. It should be "God's only desire is His Will and God's will is not necessary in that if God wills X from all eternity He cannot will Not X from all eternity."

    I wrote what I wrote & I did not write that. If it makes no sense to you I am not surprised. You are the person who confused formal causes with efficient ones.

    If you don't understand scholastic philosophy don't comment.

    > The distinction between metaphysical vs epistemological brute facts here is irrelevant.

    100% relevant since even Feser admits you can have the later even if you can't have the former and you need to confuse the two to support your fallacy of equivocation type objections.

    There is nothing more to say.

    • Jim the Idiot seems to want to waste time arguing against views he wishes his opponents believed in instead of the ones they in fact do believe in.

      He can argue against the PSR view a Scholastic accepts or he can get lost.

      Sure. But again, any attempt to effectively claim there isn't a dichotomy from the PSR in that all answers are either necessary or contingent makes the PSR meaningless. You can go this route if you want, but it's interesting that Thomists/theists have to water down the PSR to make god compliant with it. But of course when they throw the PSR in the atheist's face they make no such attempt to water it down ahead of time.

      He wants to define for us what our beliefs are and refute those straw men not ourt actual beliefs. What is the point in that? Why disprove views we don't hold?

      Oh no, what I do is I take your own views to their logical conclusion. You can't just define something into existence, as every Thomist does with god, and you can use word salads to hide leaps of logic, as every Thomist does with god. We will be noticing and we will call it out.

      Don't care. Specify which version your are arguing against and if it is not the one a Scholastic accepts it a non-starter.

      As I mentioned above, the Thomist never specifies which version they are using when they throw the PSR in the atheist's face. It's only after the atheist makes the theist aware that god can't even satisfy the PSR that the theist suddenly starts bringing up "versions".

      I wrote what I wrote & I did not write that. If it makes no sense to you I am not surprised. You are the person who confused formal causes with efficient ones.

      God's will to create this specific universe is not necessary, that's the whole point of the debate, and everyone, including the Aquinas acknowledged this. I am the one who pointed out that formal causes are not in any meaningful sense actual "causes".

      If you don't understand scholastic philosophy don't comment.

      Then you should stop commenting.

      100% relevant since even Feser admits you can have the later even if you can't have the former and you need to confuse the two to support your fallacy of equivocation type objections.

      Another idiotic claim by you. This has nothing to do with epistemological brute facts because the debate is not about finding the reason for why god's contingent will is what it is. You are sadly mistaken that this is what the debate is over. The debate is over the fact that the reason for why god's contingent will is what it is can't be a necessary reason, and so it must be contingent. And since contingent reasons need to have themselves another reason, you will necessarily get an infinite chain of contingent reasons, which makes god absurd. What those reasons will be are irrelevant.

      There is nothing more to say here other than you are utterly lost as usual. But keep strawmanning. You're the combox champ at it!

  • Jim the Scott

    Note the silliness we must deal with?

    > If you hold to the PSR, you believe there must be an answer.

    I have no reason to believe he is thinking of the Scholastic version of the PSR indeed given his profound ignorance on a wide range of subject matters & often dogmatic insistence on not making such distinctions (i.e epistemological vs metaphysical brute facts doesn't matter.) I would not be surprised he is equivocating yet again.

    >Whether or not we can know that answer is not the point.

    It pretty much is since there is a fundamental difference between not knowing what the reason is vs claiming there is no reason even in principle. Not all "brute facts" are the same by reason of substantially different definitions.

    > The point is that the reason can only be necessary or contingent, as the PSR demands, and since a necessary reason is not an option, you only have an infinite regress of contingent ones or a brute fact.

    Yeh this is a word salad at worst or a non-sequitur at best. I should get the bacon chipolte ranch I have in the fridge.

    What is an "infinite regress of contingent reasons"? Is that like saying "The tree bark kept me up all night as it was too loud" or "Spot's bark was rotten with termites"?

    Well Thoughtless is entertaining even if he is not at all profound....

    • Note the silliness we must deal with?

      Note the stupidity we must deal with?

      I have no reason to believe he is thinking of the Scholastic version of the PSR indeed given his profound ignorance on a wide range of subject matters & often dogmatic insistence on not making such distinctions (i.e epistemological vs metaphysical brute facts doesn't matter.) I would not be surprised he is equivocating yet again.

      As I mentioned, any watered down version of the PSR effectively makes it meaningless. So you solve one problem by creating another. Also, when Thomists use the PSR on the atheist, they never specify which version they use. And yes epistemological vs metaphysical brute facts here are not relevant. The issue does lie with finding exactly what are the reasons for god's eternal contingent will, it's that his will is contingent.

      It pretty much is since there is a fundamental difference between not knowing what the reason is vs claiming there is no reason even in principle. Not all "brute facts" are the same by reason of substantially different definitions.

      That's not the issue at all. I'm granting that there must be a reason for the sake of argument. The problem lies not with finding exactly what are the reasons for why god's eternal contingent will is what it is, it's that his will is contingent. So any reasons why it is what it is will necessarily have to be contingent; a necessary reason is not an option for you. That means you will have to resort to an infinite regress of contingent explanations, since the PSR doesn't allow for brute facts, and a necessary reason is not an option for you.

      Yeh this is a word salad at worst or a non-sequitur at best. I should get the bacon chipolte ranch I have in the fridge.

      What is an "infinite regress of contingent reasons"? Is that like saying "The tree bark kept me up all night as it was too loud" or "Spot's bark was rotten with termites"?

      Word salad? Non-sequitor? LOL. This is an utter failure of you to read or be a serious person. You have 3 options:

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e7421a9fa0355b67b2d1dd11b20309d3e04d29af045611d89a38135ede7b17e4.png

      Well Thoughtless is entertaining even if he is not at all profound....

      If you thought about things a bit more detailed instead of reiterating Thomistic dogma you'd see it all differently.

  • Jim the Scott

    Some simple Truth.

    Based on the presuppositions God is immutable, wills freely and is necessary.

    If God wills X then God must do X out of necessity.

    But it does not follow God must will X out of necessity vs willing Not X.

    We say God wills freely because logically and notionally prior to God willing X or not X from all eternity nothing external from the divine nature nor any passive potency in the divine nature compels God to will.

    God's choices (apart from willing His own Good) are not necessary.

    God is the same essence as His Will but what God wills is not the same essence as Him.

    You cannot refute the divine immutability & freedom of the divine will by pretending Classic Theism is Pantheism. Thought some moron might try.

    • Some simple Truth.

      Based on the presuppositions Thor is immutable, wills freely and is necessary.

      If Thor wills X then Thor must do X out of necessity.

      But it does not follow Thor must will X out of necessity vs willing Not X.

      We say Thor wills freely because logically and notionally prior to Thor willing X or not X from all eternity nothing external from the divine nature nor any passive potency in the divine nature compels Thor to will.

      Thor's choices (apart from willing His own Good) are not necessary.

      Thor is the same essence as His Will but what Thor wills is not the same essence as Him.

      You cannot refute the divine immutability & freedom of the divine will by pretending Paganism is Pantheism. Thought some moron might try.

      Damn morons who doubt Thor!

      • Rob Abney

        Why don't all men refer to Thor when discussing universal being?

        • Because they want to suppress their sinful behavior. That's why everyone doubts Thor.

          • Rob Abney

            Please explain, I'm not sure what youmean, especially because I doubt that you believe there is anything such as sinful behavior.

          • Sample1

            There once was a god named Thor
            Perhaps he was just part of lore
            But when he was drunk
            Mighty jokes he’d done thunk
            But some always wanted far more

            - - - - -

            Mike

          • Blasphemer!

        • Jim the Scott

          You know what is scary Rob? I think that post by Thoughtless is meant to be serious!

          He claims he understands Thomism well enough but it seems he knows as much about it as he does physics. Which is obviously not much.

          Like that comical claim of his SR proves Eternalism?

          This MIT graduate in physics begs to differ.
          On the Reality of Temporal Succession
          Past, Present and Future in Light of Relativity

          Daniel J. Castellano (2018)
          http://www.arcaneknowledge.org/philtheo/temporal/temporal.htm

          He is just faking it with a ton of verbiage.

          • This MIT graduate in physics begs to differ.
            On the Reality of Temporal Succession
            Past, Present and Future in Light of Relativity
            Daniel J. Castellano (2018)
            http://www.arcaneknowledge....

            Castellano is now every Thomists go-to reference for trying to understand SR. The thing is he's incoherent when he tries to avoid eternalism. He says presentism is false but then he implies eternalism is false too. If there isn't a single universal objective reference frame, that necessarily entails there is more than one, and that is exactly what eternalism is!

            So here we have another case of someone who doesn't know what he's talking about, but who has managed to sound smart enough to convince people who don't understand the subject matter he's correct.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Maybe because the myths of the Norse did not become the most widely believed mythology in Western Civilization.

          • Jim the Scott

            Except why then was the concept of divinity among Europeans expressed using the Germanic word "gott" (which we render "God" today in modern English) instead of "Thawr"?

            All men use "Gott" when discussing the metaphysically ultimate ground of all being not "Thawr".

            Theistic Personalism dude......

            Go Classic or go home.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Please stop being so facile. Gott is the modern German word for God. If you look up the etymology of the word Gott, you would see that it comes from the proto-Germanic word guda meaning a god or deity. The word God has etymological roots in Woden (i.e. Odin).

            The word God is of European origin and does not have root in the language of the scriptures.

            This has nothing to do with Theistic Personalism, but nice try. All I'm saying is that Classical theism could have been made to fit within Norse traditions, if those were the dominant traditions.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't think that you can use classical theism to make philosophical demonstrations of Thor, but if you can I'd be interested in reading your argument. But, again, I don't think you can do it!

          • Jim the Scott

            Hey Rob? This is beyond entertaining.

            >So here we have another case of someone who doesn't know what he's talking about, but who has managed to sound smart enough to convince people who don't understand the subject matter he's correct.

            An MIT graduate in physics does not know what he is talking about compared to an anonymous boob of dubious education?

            Well I'm convinced......;-)

            Aren't you? It's just Sooooooooooo convincing.

            ;-)

          • Oh I forgot that MIT graduates can never be wrong. Silly me!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That wasn't may argument. You asked why do we identify the first cause as God. My answer is cultural. Aristotle did not make the identification Aquinas made. Hell, he thought there were multiple first causes.

            You name the first cause God, because of a cultural attachment to God and the mythological tradition of Yahweh and Jesus.

          • Rob Abney

            he thought there were multiple first causes.

            Maybe he did or maybe he didn't, from wikipedia: Nonetheless, he concludes his Metaphysics, Book Λ, with a quotation from the Iliad: "The rule of many is not good; one ruler let there be."

            Yes, I agree that it is cultural, it is Catholic culture, built upon the Greeks natural reasoning toward God and the Jews revelation of God. The Catholics spread the good news as directed by Jesus Christ, the good news that God exists and He can be known. Thor was a popular god until you have to prove him philosophically or through miracles, then he can't exist. St Boniface put an end to Thor worship.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Maybe he did or maybe he didn't

            No, he did. Why are you obfuscating about what Aristotle thought? It is a well known fact that Aristotle thought there were multiple unmoved movers.

            SEP:

            Aristotle argues at the opening of Physics bk. 8 that motion and change in the universe can have no beginning, because the occurrence of change presupposes a previous process of change. With this argument Aristotle can establish an eternal chain of motions and refute those who hold that there could have been a previous stationary state of the universe. Such an eternal chain, Aristotle argues, needs to rely on a cause which guarantees its persistence: if each of the constitutive processes in the causally connected web were of finite duration, for every one of them it can be the case that it is not present in the world, indeed, at some later time it will not be present any longer. But then the whole causally connected series of events, Aristotle claims, would also be contingent.[34] Hence Aristotle postulates that the processes of the universe depend on an eternal motion (or on several eternal motions), the eternal revolution of the heavenly spheres, which in turn is dependent on one or several unmoved movers (Physics 8.6, 258b26–259a9).

            Thor was a popular god until you have to prove him philosophically or through miracles, then he can't exist.

            No God can be proven philosophically or otherwise. See Inwagen. It is certainly logically possible that Thor could exist yet could not be proven to exist. See Gödel.

          • Jim the Scott

            Um Iggy....here Aristotle is describing an accidental causal series & yes Aristotle didn't believe the world had a formal beginning and Aquinas in principle agreed with him that God could have caused the world to have always existed without a formal beginning.

            God is the first cause in an essential causal series and whoever this anonymous commentator is that you quote they did say "eternal motion (or on several eternal motions)......which in turn is dependent on one or several unmoved movers" so apparently the text is ambiguous but it is possible to interpret it to refer to only one unmoved mover(or not) so I don't see how you can definitively claim Aristotle believed in many unmoved movers?

            Of course logically there can be only one and one is all you need to keep a past eternal changing universe going for all eternity. Aristotle developed his arguments he wrote Physics first then moved on too Metaphysics and as we see he clearly concludes there is only one unmoved mover in metaphysics.

            >No God can be proven philosophically or otherwise. See Inwagen. It is certainly logically possible that Thor could exist yet could not be proven to exist. See Gödel..

            But Iggy you are not exactly familiar with philosophy in any detail to make that claim with any authority. The fact you are equivocating between Classic Theism and theistic personalistic polytheistic deities shows this is the case.....
            But Rob and I read actual Thomists and Essentialists you prooftext.......
            Do you really think that will convince?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Um Iggy....here Aristotle is describing an accidental causal series & yes Aristotle didn't believe the world had a formal beginning and Aquinas in principle agreed with him that God could have caused the world to have always existed without a formal beginning....

            Sigh. From Aristotle's Metaphysics:

            It is clear, then, why these things are as they are. But we must not ignore the question whether we have to suppose one such substanceor more than one, and if the latter, how many; we must also mention,regarding the opinions expressed by others, that they have said nothing
            about the number of the substances that can even be clearly stated. For the theory of Ideas has no special discussion of the subject;for those who speak of Ideas say the Ideas are numbers, and they speakof numbers now as unlimited, now as limited by the number 10; but
            as for the reason why there should be just so many numbers, nothingis said with any demonstrative exactness. We however must discussthe subject, starting from the presuppositions and distinctions we
            have mentioned. The first principle or primary being is not movableeither in itself or accidentally, but produces the primary eternaland single movement. But since that which is moved must be moved bysomething, and the first mover must be in itself unmovable, and eternalmovement must be produced by something eternal and a single movement
            by a single thing, and since we see that besides the simple spatialmovement of the universe, which we say the first and unmovable substanceproduces, there are other spatial movements-those of the planets-which are eternal (for a body which moves in a circle is eternal and unresting; we have proved these points in the physical treatises), each of these movements also must be caused by a substance both unmovable in itself and eternal.

            You really don't have a good grasp of Aristotle. Have you read Sir David Ross' Aristotle or Christopher Shields Aristotle? Have you read a commentary on Aristotle besides something Feser said.

            But Iggy you are not exactly familiar with philosophy in any detail to make that claim with any authority.

            Your lack of knowledge of the authors I have cited shows who really is unfamiliar with philosophy. What commentaries have you read? What courses have you taken. All you ever cite is Feser and Bonnette. Honestly, I've really grown tired of your routine.

            The fact you are equivocating between Classic Theism and theistic personalistic polytheistic deities shows this is the case.....

            Umm this isn't a conversation about philosophy. It is a conversation about cultural mythology. Why does Aquinas identify the first cause with God instead of Odin, Allah, or Brahman.

            Maybe if you would read carefully what was being said, you would know what we are talking about.
            Maybe if you would read something written by someone not named Feser or cited by Feser, you would be far less tedious.

          • Jim the Scott

            >You really don't have a good grasp of Aristotle. Have you read Sir David Ross' Aristotle or Christopher Shields Aristotle? Have you read a commentary on Aristotle besides something Feser said.

            Well that is a non-response proceeded by a large quote I don't know what to make of in light of your claim Aristotle taught many unmoved movers?

            Thought I note this bit"The first principle or primary being is not movableeither in itself or accidentally, but produces the primary eternaland single movement. But since that which is moved must be moved bysomething, and the first mover must be in itself unmovable, and eternalmovement must be produced by something eternal and a single movement."

            So far I am not getting your point other then kneejerk dissing Feser?

            >Your lack of knowledge of the authors I have cited shows who really is unfamiliar with philosophy. What commentaries have you read? What courses have you taken. All you ever cite is Feser and Bonnette. Honestly, I've really grown tired of your routine.

            Well Iggy if you are going to polemic or rationally criticize theistic Scholasticism then you need to read Feser and Dr B. The academic exegesis of Aristotle's writings while I am sure are facinating don't actually answer "the argument from motion" or the potency vs act distinction in metaphysics.

            BTW what courses have you taken?

            >Umm this isn't a conversation about philosophy. It is a conversation about cultural mythology. Why does Aquinas identify the first cause with God instead of Odin, Allah, or Brahman.

            You think by confusing a polytheistic theistic personalist deity with a Classic Theistic Deity with a Pantheistic Deity you can answer this question?

            >Maybe if you would read carefully what was being said, you would know what we are talking about.
            Maybe if you would read something written by someone not named Feser or cited by Feser, you would be far less tedious.

            Or maybe you should follow your own advice and expand your reading to relevant topics?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Well that is a non-response proceeded by a large quote I don't know what to make of in light of your claim Aristotle taught many unmoved movers?

            My point is that I am citing the opinion of experts on Aristotle, whose commentaries you have not read.

            So far I am not getting your point other then kneejerk dissing Feser?

            I'm not dismissing Feser. I am suggesting that you expand your sources.

            Well Iggy if you are going to polemic or rationally criticize theistic Scholasticism then you need to read Feser and Dr B.

            I have. I've also read a chunk of the Summa at Rob's suggestion and a commentary that Dr B suggested. I have also read parts of Aristotle and commentaries.

            BTW what courses have you taken?

            Into to phil. Intro to Ethics. A course on French philosophy. Philosophy of Mathematics. Mathematical Logic. This was all almost a decade ago now. Usually when I want to learn something (philosophical or otherwise) I try to read commentaries and books that are used in upper level courses.

            Or maybe you should follow your own advice and expand your reading to relevant topics?

            What relevant reading am I missing?

          • Jim the Scott

            >My point is that I am citing the opinion of experts on Aristotle, whose commentaries you have not read.

            Yet even that one you cited allowed for an interpretation there is only unmoved mover & doesn' t mandate many.

            >I'm not dismissing Feser. I am suggesting that you expand your sources.

            I am insisting the same for you.

            >I have. I've also read a chunk of the Summa at Rob's suggestion and a commentary that Dr B suggested. I have also read parts of Aristotle and commentaries.

            That is gratifying to know.

            >Into to phil. Intro to Ethics. A course on French philosophy. Philosophy of Mathematics. Mathematical Logic. This was all almost a decade ago now. Usually when I want to learn something (philosophical or otherwise) I try to read commentaries and books that are used in upper level courses.

            That is laudable.

            >What relevant reading am I missing?

            Well I am not getting how you can claim Aristotle doesn't believe in one un-mover? At best the commentary say "one or many".

            Be careful going out on a limb.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I am insisting the same for you.

            What am I supposed to read now?

            Well I am not getting how you can claim Aristotle doesn't believe in one un-mover? At best the commentary say "one or many".

            Interpreting Aristotle's philosophy is a difficult task. The commentary that I have read tends heavily in the direction of many unmoved movers.

            I'm not the one claiming that philosophy God leads to YahwehJesus. I'm pretty modest in my claims.

          • Jim the Scott

            >What am I supposed to read now?

            Talk to Dr. B I am relaxing this Sunday.

            >Interpreting Aristotle's philosophy is a difficult task. The commentary that I have read tends heavily in the direction of many unmoved movers.

            Which could have been his starting position or a position he held for sake of argument? Or it could be read as a reference to the same mover?
            Aquinas for sake of argument does in fact argue for or assume a past eternal universe which never had a formal beginning or creation event.
            We both know Aquinas believed God was a creator not merely a sustainer as Aristotle's God.

            >I'm not the one claiming that philosophy God leads to YahwehJesus. I'm pretty modest in my claims.

            Since when did I or Dr. B or any Catholics here make that claim? It leads in the general sense before you ask the question did God give any revelation vs which claiment you need to establish the existence of God in the first place and you need to do it by reason.

            Our claims are just as modest.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Which could have been his starting position or a position he held for sake of argument? Or it could be read as a reference to the same mover?

            He actually calculates how many unmoved movers there are.

            Our claims are just as modest.

            This whole conversation started because I objected to Aquinas via Rob calling the unmoved mover God. That is not a modest claim.

            Just the other day, Dr. B proclaimed a proper study of Fatima would lead to the RC Church. The conversation is done a disservice if we aren't honest about our motivations.

          • Jim the Scott

            >He actually calculates how many unmoved movers there are.

            He also talks of one un-moved mover. So there you go.

            >This whole conversation started because I objected to Aquinas via Rob calling the unmoved mover God.

            That is a goofy Atheist objection. Whatever is metaphysically ultimate is "God". We don't give a s*** about some Theistic personalist deity.

            It is that simple.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That is a goofy Atheist objection. Whatever is metaphysically ultimate
            is "God". We don't give a s*** about some Theistic personalist deity.

            What if the unmoved mover is physical? Would it be accurate to describe it as God?

            What if the unmoved mover lacks the tri-omni's? Would it be accurate to describe it as God?

          • Jim the Scott

            >What if the unmoved mover is physical? Would it be accurate to describe it as God?

            In principle it can't be physical or do you believe we can have a perpetual motion machine in defiance of physics?

            >What if the unmoved mover lacks the tri-omni's? Would it be accurate to describe it as God?

            No idea what that means? Is that a Star Trek reference? I read more Alastair Reynolds these days.

          • Rob Abney

            There is proof for God, have you read the first part of the Summa yet? Because I read Aquinas I don't read Aristotle, Aquinas developed Aristotle's arguments.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Aquinas didn't develop Aristotle. He was influenced by Aristotle. Just like he was influenced by Neo-Platonism. I've read the first 20Q. It is not a proof.

          • Rob Abney

            That’s an odd place to stop. Only Q2 addresses the proofs of existence. But it would be interesting to know if his answer to Q2 could make an impression on someone who was resistant to belief, especially if that person fully understood the terms.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It seemed like a perfectly fine place to pause. I thought I would continue to read to see how Aquinas developed his ideas.

          • Rob Abney

            I’m glad that you are reading it, it often requires several readings to understand it fully.
            I assume that you were previously a believer based on faith since you had not read the Summa at that time? But faith without reasoning can be lost, especially when there is such good scientific reasoning available about the world.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I hadn't read the Summa when I was confirmed. I read part of it in college though and was on board for a little while.

            I reject the notion of philosophical proofs. There are arguments. I we can hope to test the coherence of arguments, but I think proofs are beyond the grasp of philosophy.

          • Rob Abney

            Do you consider the principle of non-contradiction a philosophical proof? If not how do you classify it?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is an axiom. To prove it true you must assume it to be true.

            http://www.it.uu.se/edu/course/homepage/progteori/ht12/Axiom.pdf

          • Jim the Scott

            >Please stop being so facile.

            You first.

            >Gott is the modern German word for God. If you look up the etymology of the word Gott, you would see that it comes from the proto-Germanic word guda meaning a god or deity.

            If you say so.

            Then why then was the concept of divinity among Europeans expressed using the Germanic word "guda" and not "Thawr"?

            >the word God has etymological roots in Woden (i.e. Odin).

            So it is associated with the Supreme Divinity then?

            Good answer Iggy! It's better then morons who equate "Thor" with Supreme Divinity. That is stupid. Even Tolken in his fictional mythology (which borrowed heavily from Germanic myth) called God "All Father".

            >The word God is of European origin and does not have root in the language of the scriptures.

            100% correct and that might bother me if Scripture taught the Sola Scriptura concept invented by a European and a German(Luther). Good thing I can follow Scripture and Tradition and Natural Theology.

            >This has nothing to do with Theistic Personalism, but nice try.

            It pretty much does since by definition pagans are Theistic Personalists not Classic Theists or at least deities like Thor in their pantheons are clearly Theistic Personalist entities.

            (Some mono-henotheistic pseudo "Pagan" religions might have a view there is an ultimate God who is incomprehensible who is above all including the lesser spirits and demi-divinities. Olodumare comes to mind)

            > All I'm saying is that Classical theism could have been made to fit within Norse traditions, if those were the dominant traditions.

            Only if you equivocate. Replacing terms like "The Absolute" or "Being Itself" or "Ground of All Being" with words like "Thor" or "Odin" is well....trivial.

            What could you do other then use natural Theology & Philosophy to conclude the existence of Being Itself which is metaphysically ultimate which by definition would be over any pantheon you select?

            OTOH much of the literary evidence that represents Old Norse sources was recorded by Christians & we can see the influence on it.

            Like after Ragnarok one man and woman surviving and waiting for the coming of the one who would rule over all things......

            Yep!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Then why then was the concept of divinity among Europeans expressed using the Germanic word "guda" and not "Thawr"?

            Because Odin was the chief deity, so it made sense for Christian missionaries to associate their God with Odin.

            So it is associated with the Supreme Divinity then?

            Odin wasn't eternal. Yahweh wasn't always identified as the supreme deity.

            It pretty much does since by definition pagans are Theistic Personalists not Classic Theists or at least deities like Thor in their pantheons are clearly Theistic Personalist entities.

            Yahweh as described by the scripture is clearly a Theistic Personalist entity. You are completely missing my argument.

            Only if you equivocate. Replacing terms like "The Absolute" or "Being Itself" or "Ground of All Being" with words like "Thor" or "Odin" is well....trivial.

            Read carefully. If Norse mythology was the dominant mythology, Aquinas would have identified Being-Itself with Odin. My whole point in my reply to Rob was that the reason all men refer to the first cause as God is because of culture not philosophy.

            What could you do other then use natural Theology & Philosophy to conclude the existence of Being Itself which is metaphysically ultimate which by definition would be over any pantheon you select?

            That project is ultimately a failure. But if it was successful, your view of Being-Itself would be colored by your religious mythology. For instance, Aristotle thought there were multiple first movers and he did not think they were Divine.

            OTOH much of the literary evidence that represents Old Norse sources was recorded by Christians & we can see the influence on it.

            Like after Ragnarok one man and woman surviving and waiting for the coming of the one who would rule over all things......

            So exactly how much Norse mythology have you read? Have you even read Hamilton's basic mythology primer? I'm guessing none. Ragnarok is cyclical. To try and fit it into Christian mythology is a mistake.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Because Odin was the chief deity, so it made sense for Christian missionaries to associate their God with Odin.

            Which makes my point.

            >Odin wasn't eternal.

            Obviously and in other news water is wet.

            > Yahweh wasn't always identified as the supreme deity.

            Always in the OT. You are confusing the fact "El" who is the supreme deity in Canaanite mythology was sometimes identified with YHWH in the Northern Kingdom or you are trying to identify Yahu a Canaanite storm deity whom some scholars identify as YHWH based on the word similarity.

            But here you are begging the question.

            >Yahweh as described by the scripture is clearly a Theistic Personalist entity.

            An Atheist who believes in Martin Luther's doctrine of private interpretation and perspicuity! How cute you are when you kneejerk make this non-starter argument.

            Sorry Iggy but that is just your interpretation and even if there is no God there is still no reason to believe it.

            You are completely missing my argument.

            >Read carefully. If Norse mythology was the dominant mythology, Aquinas would have identified Being-Itself with Odin.

            That seems unlikely after all Aristotle didn't identify the Unmoved mover with Zeus or Chronos or Uranus but some Mythology books I read spoke of the God of all things some called Nature who came before the gods.

            > My whole point in my reply to Rob was that the reason all men refer to the first cause as God is because of culture not philosophy..

            All men have an intuition there is a first cause but the philosophy clearly points too it. Some are Atheists because they read Graham Oppy and find him convincing & some pray for a pony and don't get it and deny God. Well some people are rationally lead to Theism and some believe by habit.

            Feser was an Atheist and became a believe. William Murry was raised one and became a believer. Others like you go in another direction.

            This is all unremarkable.

            >That project is ultimately a failure. But if it was successful, your view of Being-Itself would be colored by your religious mythology. For instance, Aristotle thought there were multiple first movers and he did not think they were Divine.

            Obviously at best(as a nod to you because I am generous) by the time he wrote Metaphysics he reasoned there could only be one.

            >So exactly how much Norse mythology have you read? Have you even read Hamilton's basic mythology primer? I'm guessing none. Ragnarok is cyclical. To try and fit it into Christian mythology is a mistake.

            You are ignoring the fact what we know of Norse mythology was preserved by Christians and likely colored by them.
            I've seen secular shows on PBS and Descovery channel that make this point. We may never know what uncorrupted Norse mythology was like?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Always in the OT

            This is not true. See The Early History of God Mark Smith.

            Sorry Iggy but that is just your interpretation and even if there is no God there is still no reason to believe it.

            It is mine and other scholars interpretation. There are plenty of reasons to believe it. That doesn't mean that everyone will find those reasons convincing. Since you seem ignorant of basic scholarship on the subject I suggest you do a little reading or an internet search.

            You are ignoring the fact what we know of Norse mythology was preserved by Christians and likely colored by them.
            I've seen secular shows on PBS and Descovery channel that make this point. We may never know what uncorrupted Norse mythology was like?

            So, as expected, you haven't read anything related to Norse mythology. Just a couple of documentaries. Cool.

          • Jim the Scott

            >This is not true. See The Early History of God Mark Smith.

            Or I could counter with anything by Kenneth Kitchen.

            >It is mine and other scholars interpretation.

            Fair enough but there are other interpretations.

            >There are plenty of reasons to believe it. That doesn't mean that everyone will find those reasons convincing.

            There also are plenty of reasons not to I am sure. So in principle we agree.

            >Since you seem ignorant of basic scholarship on the subject I suggest you do a little reading or an internet search.

            I have read liberal biblical scholarship all my life and I don't find them as impressive as you do. I have done more research then you know.

            >So, as expected, you haven't read anything related to Norse mythology. Just a couple of documentaries. Cool.

            But isn't this you in terms of philosophy in general and scholasticism Aristotle in particular?

            I note you haven't said I was "wrong" to claim all we know from Norse mythology was reported too and filtered threw Christians? Cause I don't think that is in dispute but if have something I would find it fascinating to know about it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Or I could counter with anything by Kenneth Kitchen.

            Are you talking about On the Reliability of the Old Testament?

            I have read liberal biblical scholarship all my life and I don't find them as impressive as you do. I have done more research then you know.

            Personally, I don't find any biblical scholarship to be super impressive. The conclusions are always so tenuous.

            But isn't this you in terms of philosophy in general and scholasticism Aristotle in particular?

            I've read a decent amount of philosophy and a few of the classic primers. This is far different from not reading Mythology, something all westerners that consider themselves educated should be familiar with.

            I note you haven't said I was "wrong" to claim all we know from Norse mythology was reported too and filtered threw Christians?

            Of course. but if in the mythology you find elements that are distinctly non-Christian, you can assume that they probably have their roots in the actual Norse mythology.

          • Jim the Scott

            >Are you talking about On the Reliability of the Old Testament?

            Among others.

            >Personally, I don't find any biblical scholarship to be super impressive. The conclusions are always so tenuous.

            I OTOH find it impressive enough.

            >I've read a decent amount of philosophy and a few of the classic primers. This is far different from not reading Mythology, something all westerners that consider themselves educated should be familiar with.

            If you say so. I've read so much at this point I am surprised when I remember it out of the blue.

            >Of course. but if in the mythology you find elements that are distinctly non-Christian, you can assume that they probably have their roots in the actual Norse mythology.

            I agree. Thought I am skeptical the man and woman surviving the end times waiting for "the ruler of all things" isn't some type of Christian interpolation into the mythology to get the Northmen to move from paganism to Christianity? That seems likely....but it is tentitive.

            Cheers Iggy.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Among others.

            How do you feel about his arguments for the historicity of Moses and Exodus?

          • Jim the Scott

            I don't believe the numbers for the Exodus are "literal" and I think there is good reason for this.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Do you think Moses is historical?

          • Jim the Scott

            Yes. It seems more then likely.

  • Jim the Scott

    Watching Thoughtless melt down here is beyond entertaining.

    He knows more about physics then an MIT graduate and more about Scholastic Philosophy and metaphysics then a PhD.

    Who needs "Thor" with him around?:D

    • Rob Abney

      Hence the universe can be eternal even if it has a finite past.

      Principles of metaphysics need not apply!

      • Who said that?

        • Rob Abney

          Someone claiming to be a thinker.

          • Let me know when you find this person and be sure to give me a direct quote of theirs that states exactly what you think they said and I will get on it.

    • You don't know anything on physics and so you have no basis to tell who's right in that discussion. You just found the first thing on the internet that satisfies your confirmation bias. Also if you want people with PhDs in physics affirming my position, I can give you plenty.

      Watching Jim the Idiot melt down here is beyond entertaining.

  • Jim the Scott

    I love this!

    >So you solve one problem by creating another. Also, when Thomists use the PSR on the atheist, they never specify which version they use.

    Feser specifies which version of the PSR he uses starting on on page 152 of SCHOLASTIC METAPHYSICS.

    But ya know lying for Darwin.

    • Feser specifies which version of the PSR he uses starting on on page 152 of SCHOLASTIC METAPHYSICS.

      "when Thomists use the PSR on the atheist" meaning in conversation with the atheist, not in a book.

  • Jim the Scott

    This is beyond entertaining.

    >So here we have another case of someone who doesn't know what he's talking about, but who has managed to sound smart enough to convince people who don't understand the subject matter he's correct.

    An MIT graduate in physics does not know what he is talking about compared to an anonymous boob of dubious education?

    Well I'm convinced......;-)

    Aren't you all? It's just Sooooooooooo convincing.

    ;-)

    • I missed the notification that MIT graduates can never be wrong. Care to resend it?