• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Would God Create Perfect Creatures? – A Christian/Atheist Dialogue

perfectgatsby

EDITOR'S NOTE: Today we share a conversation between Randal Rauser and Justin Schieber. Randal is a Christian author, apologist, and professor of theology at Taylor Seminary (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada). Justin is the founder and host of Real Atheology, a popular atheist Youtube channel, and he's the former cohost of the Reasonable Doubts Radio Show and Podcast. Together, the two just released a book-length dialogue titled An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything (Prometheus Books, 2016). I've read the book and highly recommend it to the entire Strange Notions audience, theists and atheists alike. It's smart, funny, substantial, and covers many contentious issues in fair and interesting ways. So pick up your copy now! Today's post below captures the book's spirit and the kinds of arguments it contains.

 


 

Justin: Well, Randal, we’ve officially made it out alive.

It’s been an interesting year. 2016 saw the somber losses of some of the most beloved names in popular culture as well as the death of sensible political discourse culminating with the election of a buffoon to the White House.

Randal: At least we bucked the trend toward polarization that increasingly characterizes the public square by actually talking to each other.

Justin: And yet, even after all our conversations and the publication of an entire conversational book, your theism and my atheism are still alive and kicking.

Randal: Yeah, but it should hardly be surprising. People don’t change their perspectives overnight, especially about such weighty matters as religion … or politics.

Justin: Very true. Thankfully, we didn’t approach this book with the sole purpose of changing each other’s mind. We made a point to step out of the trenches of the atheist/theist battlefield for a chance to engage in some doxastic diplomacy.

Randal: Hard to believe that after a couple hundred pages we were only getting started. So how about we pursue the conversation a bit further now? Any ideas?

Justin: I’ve got one. So, theists believe that God is the terminus of all explanation - that God is seated causally and logically prior to everything we know and everything we don’t (with the possible exception of abstracta like universals or numbers). I think most would also agree that God didn’t need to create any of this. In other words, if he exists, any act of creation that followed was a free choice rather than an act of necessity.

Randal: Sure.

Justin: Moreover, God is, in every way, perfect. In that light, we can be confident that, if God exists, then prior to creating anything, all that existed was pure perfection. But at present, there exists a universe made up of finite constituents.

That fact is more surprising on theism than it is on a view which states that the natural world is an uncreated, causally-closed system. Why? Because nearly every reason that we might appeal to in order to explain why God has created such a universe would far better motivate God to either refrain from creation acts altogether or create something entirely different.

Randal: So you think that we should expect God to create an infinite universe? I’m not sure I follow your reasoning here.

Justin: Not quite. I think that if God is to have reasons to create at all, those reasons would lead him to create one or more of what philosopher Evan Fales calls perfect creatures. A perfect creature is a person just like God in every way but whereas God is uncreated, a perfect creature is created. A perfect creature is maximal in his power, his knowledge, and most importantly, his moral perfection.

Randal: Okay, so your claim is that if God existed, he would create only perfect creatures. Since non-perfect creatures exist, that counts as evidence against God. But why do you think God would be restricted to creating only those perfect creatures?

Justin: It’s not so much because non-perfect creatures exist, although that’s also true. It’s because finite things exist generally. If God is to be taken as the quality standard of all things moral and ontological, then creating perfect creatures is going to best scratch any creative itch God might have given that these creatures are infinite and perfect in every way like their creator, God, the ultimate standard.

Randal: So you say. But if I can identify a possible divine “itch” which could not be scratched by creating perfect creatures, then that would constitute a defeater to your argument. So here’s one: by creating imperfect creatures who grow into moral perfection (or what Christians call being sanctified), God actualizes particular goods not available by creatures that are perfect from the beginning. These goods include the sense of moral history, of personal growth, of dynamic discovery, of learning to love and serve the creator. There are a whole range of goods God can actualize only by creating non-perfect creatures who have the capacity to grow. So what basis do you have to think God wouldn’t desire to actualize this range of goods?

Justin: Great question. So, let’s focus on your first suggestion; God’s itch to create persons who can grow into moral perfection requires him to create imperfect creatures. First, I don’t think it’s possible for finite persons to grow into moral perfection. But, let’s assume this is possible. To see the problem with this general approach, let me ask you a simple question. What’s so good about moral growth?

Randal: What’s so good about acquiring moral virtue? That strikes me as a strange question. It’s like asking what’s the value of climbing a mountain when you can be dropped off at the top via a helicopter. There is intrinsic virtue in undertaking the journey up the mountain. And there is intrinsic value in acquiring moral virtue over time. Why would you think otherwise?

Justin: My point is simple. Reasons for valuing moral growth in imperfect creatures that already exist are not the same as reasons to create imperfect creatures in the first place. So, without imperfect creatures already existing, there is no reason to create them to be imperfect. Moreover, the introduction of imperfect creatures will bring with them failures of moral will and the evil that results.

Randal: So you just made two points. First you said that the reasons for creating imperfect creatures would not be the same as valuing imperfect creatures that were already created. But this isn’t correct: the same valuation could be operative in both cases. If God values courage, for example, that could lead him both to create beings who acquire courage and to value creatures that presently exist who have acquired courage.

On the second point, you’re correct to observe that creating imperfect creatures who grow brings with it some degree of moral failure. But so what? You haven’t shown that the degree of moral failure outweighs the value of having creatures with a moral history who acquire virtue over time. And that’s what you need to show if you’re to sustain an objection to God’s existence based on the existence of imperfect creatures.

Justin: You’ve argued God could value courage and yet, you’ve provided no good reason to think that God does indeed value courage. All the reasons you have provided were extracted from the fact that courage and moral growth are very good things to have if we already exist as finite, imperfect persons. Moreover, if things like courage and moral growth are such great things, then God utterly lacking in both of these abilities should be seen as a fault, rather than a feature.

I’m afraid that appealing merely to the possibility of reasons for creating such beings won’t cut it against my inference to the best explanation. Abductive inferences allow for these possibilities. At best, you’d be adding finite value to an already infinitely valuable state of affairs and at worst, as already discussed, you’d be introducing the plenitude of evils we see resulting from the choices of imperfect creatures. With the choice of worlds before an infinite God, it isn’t even close. This is a piece of evidence against theism.

Randal: No surprise, I disagree. In closing I’d like to make three points of rebuttal. First, you said I’ve given no reason to think God values virtues like courage. But unless and until you can defend a sweeping skepticism about our moral intuitions, I think we remain justified in thinking that God would value courage in his creatures.

You also suggested that if a virtue like courage is valuable then God ought to exemplify courage. That’s incorrect: God is by definition omniscient and omnipotent, and no being who is all-knowing and all-powerful can exhibit courage. Thus, God cannot exhibit courage.

I’ll close with the main point. Your argument rested on the claim that if God were to create, he would create perfect creatures. I provided a reason to reject that claim, namely the goods that arise from creating imperfect creatures who grow into perfection. This very real possibility is sufficient to undermine your claim that God would only create perfect creatures.

strangenotions-atheist-christian

Dr. Randal Rauser

Written by

Dr. Randal Rauser is Professor of Historical Theology at Taylor Seminary where he has taught since 2003. He is the author of many books including What on Earth do we Know About Heaven? (Baker, 2013); The Swedish Atheist, the Scuba Diver and Other Apologetic Rabbit Trails (InterVarsity, 2012); Is the Atheist My Neighbor? (Cascade, 2015); and his most recent book, An Atheist and a Christian Walk into a Bar: Talking about God, the Universe, and Everything (Prometheus Books, 2016). Randal also blogs and podcasts at RandalRauser.com and lectures widely on Christian worldview and apologetics.

Note: Our goal is to cultivate serious and respectful dialogue. While it's OK to disagree—even encouraged!—any snarky, offensive, or off-topic comments will be deleted. Before commenting please read the Commenting Rules and Tips. If you're having trouble commenting, read the Commenting Instructions.

  • Jim (hillclimber)

    Nice discussion.

    I take Randal to be arguing that growth itself is good. The journey of growth is not simply good because it arrives at some perfect static destination. The dynamism of the journey, the ongoing revelatory unfolding of the universe in time, that is good not just because the "gift" will eventually be fully unwrapped, but because the process of unwrapping itself has an exciting goodness to it.

    But in response to that, I take Justin to be arguing that if -- as must be the case -- God himself is not in time, and therefore is not himself on the journey of growth, and if the journey of growth is good, then God is lacking in some good. The goodness of the excitement of revelation is not available to That Which Is Beyond Time. I think that is a valid counter-argument.

    Randal's closing remark that God cannot exhibit courage seems correct, but leaves us (or leaves me, in any case) wondering why that doesn't amount to a deficiency in God.

    It seems to me that Justin's complaint can only be addressed, if at all, with the notion of a God who relinquishes His transcendence of time and enters into history, thereby emptying himself of perfection so that he himself can grow into perfection.

  • I find Justin's argument very persuasive, Randal's response fails for me because of the additional assumptions he imports, about what a god might value, about god's interests in general.

  • Skeptical Christian

    Both of you seem to miss the effect of the central claim of Christianity, the Incarnate God.
    The creation of man was good, though not perfect. But when Christ takes on our nature, as the ancient church has emphasized, he deifies it by grace. This single divine Person is both man and God, so yes God suffers, grows, shows courage. And man is brought to his perfection because he is joined to God, becoming what he was created to be. This is why Adam is not the supreme instance of creation or even humanity, Christ is. The intervening period, the dumpster fire of this imperfect life, is of course temporary and all things will finally be summed up in Christ.

    The only way this present situation makes any sense on theism is if Christ is recapitulating Adam, Israel, human nature, and creation itself. And Justin, yes Christ does this in bad-ass fashion, without asking permission as both perfect God and perfect man.

    • Lazarus

      I wish I could give you two upvotes for "the dumpster fire of this imperfect life". Wonderful.

      • neil_pogi

        God has given laws to the first couple. God has even instructed them of the consequences if they wishfully disobey His laws. and because they disobeyed Him, the consequences of it (sin) is too horrible to be imagined. Death. of course the precursor to death is suffering and diseases

        • Doug Shaver

          God has given laws to the first couple. God has even instructed them of the consequences if they wishfully disobey His laws. and because they disobeyed Him, the consequences of it (sin) is too horrible to be imagined. Death. of course the precursor to death is suffering and diseases

          That might be a good story, or it might not be so good. But whether it's good or bad, why should I believe any of it?

          • neil_pogi

            then why are you believing some stories in the Bible that seem so horrible to read? (eternal torment in hell, Massacre of children, etc) and then dismissed stories that are good (crucifixion and resurrection of Christ for our own good, the gift of eternal life, etc)..

          • Doug Shaver

            then why are you believing some stories in the Bible that seem so horrible to read?

            I never said I believed any of the stories in the Bible. With trivial exceptions, I don't think any of its alleged history actually happened.

          • neil_pogi

            and who are you trying yourself to debunk the claims of the Scripture?

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't claim to be anybody special, but I don't treat the Bible as special, either. I judge it the same way I judge any other book.

          • neil_pogi

            you just claim to yourself that you are so special. my concern is just how well you judge the bible as what you judge it is? who are you? do you have any theses to support your judgment against it? or because you just want it as nonsense because you are an atheist?

          • Doug Shaver

            you just claim to yourself that you are so special.

            I do not.

          • neil_pogi

            just examine word for word your posts and you'll examine that you are so important than the rest.

    • David Nickol

      The creation of man was good, though not perfect. But when Christ takes on our nature, as the ancient church has emphasized, he deifies it by grace. This single divine Person is both man and God, so yes God suffers, grows, shows courage.

      And yet, according to Genesis 6:5-7, God regretted making human beings. He decided to destroy his own creation:

      So the LORD said: I will wipe out from the earth the human beings I have created, and not only the human beings, but also the animals and the crawling things and the birds of the air, for I regret that I made them.

      It seems to me that according to the story, only a single individual, Noah—a man who might not have existed—was worth saving. That really does not speak well for the "goodness" of the initial creation. It is easy to imagine that Noah could have been corrupted by the entire rest of humanity, and God would have simply wiped out the whole human race.

      The Christian approach to the Old Testament is to read it as a preparation for the coming of Jesus. It is interesting, then, that God does not seem to think the human race will eventually redeemed by the coming of Jesus. He just wipes them all out.

      • neil_pogi

        that is why God is merciful, he just sent His only Son to save humanity from sin's ill effects. Well, if i would be a god, i can easily 'zap' these creatures out of my universe and i will create another one. But God's love is enormous, full of compassions and mercy, and He has given man another chance

        • David Nickol

          Why did a merciful God drown not only all the people on earth (except for Noah and his family) but all the animals, too. What had they done wrong? You call that mercy?

          Suppose aliens were to land on earth and decided human beings were unfit to live in the galaxy. But then they found one family they thought worthy. So they destroyed all of mankind and left that one family to start over. Would you call that merciful? The aliens gave mankind another chance. Wasn't that good of them?

          • Rob Abney

            It sounds as if you consider God's actions to be unjust rather than unmerciful.
            Mercy is only needed when a just judgement has been made and a change of consequences is deemed appropriate.
            Allowing Noah and family to survive was an act of justice based on what God determined he deserved.
            If Noah was as sinful as the rest of humanity but was spared anyway then that would have been mercy.

          • Doug Shaver

            If Noah was as sinful as the rest of humanity . . . .

            The story implies that he was less sinful, does it not?

          • Rob Abney

            Yes, it does.

          • neil_pogi

            God is merciful - if not, then He can always send them to 'everlasting' torment in hell, but He can't, instead He just drowned them, so that they won't experience the pain. what if God tells you that ''anyway, you consider yourself as merely chemicals, then why are you complaining?''

          • Doug Shaver

            what if God tells you that ''anyway, you consider yourself as merely chemicals, then why are you complaining?''

            If anyone were to ask me that question, then I would know if nothing else that it was not God talking to me.

          • neil_pogi

            aren't those scientists the ones who are making that claim? that life is just chemicals?

          • Doug Shaver

            If someone talking to me claims to be a scientist, there are ways I can verify whether they are who they say they are.

          • neil_pogi

            so how well you verify if a scientist really is a scientist?

          • Doug Shaver

            so how well you verify if a scientist really is a scientist?

            That would depend on my reasons for not just taking their word for it. I don't usually doubt what people tell me about themselves. When I do doubt, I have a reason, and that reason will determine the method I use to resolve the doubt.

          • neil_pogi

            what are you using to debunk what scientists are claiming?

          • Doug Shaver

            That depends on which claim I am trying to debunk. I don't have only one method that I use for every question that I want an answer to.

          • neil_pogi

            i am not a scientist. i am just using my logic and common sense in order to debunk the claims of atheists.

          • Doug Shaver

            The aliens gave mankind another chance. Wasn't that good of them?

            Sarcasm noted, but: I would have many questions for those aliens, and my appraisal of their actions would depend on their answers.

    • David Nickol

      This single divine Person is both man and God, so yes God suffers, grows, shows courage.

      This raises all kinds of (unanswerable) questions about how trinitarian beings (three persons in one God) experience reality, especially when one of the persons has two natures! It is complicated by past explanations of how Jesus knew, or did, or experienced something in his divine nature that he did not in his human nature. Few, for example, would argue that Jesus in his human nature was omniscient. So if Jesus experience dread or fear in his human nature, I think the common assumption is that he did not experience them in his divine nature. Consequently, the Father and the Holy Spirit did not experience dread in the "Agony in the Garden" nor did they experience pain during the crucifixion. God, being outside of time, can't experience anything that has duration.

      I suppose this is heresy, but I don't think it is meaningful to speak of Jesus as a perfect man. Nor did his existence transform imperfect humankind into perfect humankind. Aside from his allegedly sinless mother (whose sinlessness seems to be her own doing, not that of her son), all human beings both before and after the incarnation were sinners.

      I don't really even know what a perfect man would be like.

    • Yet if Christ existed and was God, he would have the same all-powerful, all-knowing attributes Randal noted. So how could he have courage? Of course this just stems from the problem of how such a being is also a man.

      • Skeptical Christian

        He has courage in his human nature which he assumed in the Incarnation. His humanity hungers, thirsts and relieves himself. His divinity does not. One Person operating two distinct natures.

        • Well as I said before, it seems to be contradictory. How can a perfect being be lesser and still remain the same?

          • Skeptical Christian

            Because each nature, with it properties and activities, is preserved in the union. Christian theology doesn't assert he is God and man blended together.

          • How is that preserved? It does not seem at all compatible.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I have to confess I always find it hard not to chuckle a bit at the Chalcedon language that the hypostatic union exists "inconfusedly".

            For another perspective, you might find the following worth a read:

            http://ntwrightpage.com/2016/07/12/jesus-and-the-identity-of-god/

            An excerpt: "Chalcedon, I think, always smelled a bit like a confidence trick, celebrating in Tertullian-like fashion the absurdity of what is believed, and gave hostages to fortune which post-Enlightenment fortune has been using well."

            My short & approximate version of Wright's essay: Chalcedon notwithstanding, the statement that "Jesus 'is' God" has always been nuanced using language like "Son of God", "Word of God", "Image / Icon of the Invisible God", "Tabernacled presence of God", etc, each of which is further nuanced by the literary environments that those expressions come from. It was never a statement that was intended to be applied in, say, a syllogistic analysis.

          • By this do you mean to say that God and Christ being the same is not the best view? I would agree logically it isn't.

          • Jim (hillclimber)

            I would rather express my opinion this way: I understand every linguistic expression to be a sort of pointer. I don't think any linguistic pointer perfectly expresses the truth that it is pointing to, but some expressions do a better job than others at moving you in the right direction. I find that expressions like "Jesus is the Christ of God", or "Jesus is Word of God", or "Jesus is fullness of the revelation of God", etc, were all better ways for me to understand what I think is the essence of the Incarnation. Whether the cruder expression "Jesus is God" is right or wrong "depends on what the mean of 'is' is" (to borrow a notorious expression), but I would say that it is my impression that "Jesus is God" moves many people in the wrong direction because they don't have the cultural context to interpret that expression in the right way.

          • There is something to that I think.

          • neil_pogi

            the concept of trinity really is hard to understand in our human understanding.

          • Doug Shaver

            Human understanding is all I have. Those who claim to have any other must tell me why I should believe them.

          • neil_pogi

            of course because you are a human. i can't comprehend what is the origin of God, as what dawkins said: who design the Designer? we can't say that a ''nothing'' created the Designer and this Designer designed the universe to be inhabited. do you think that a human wisdom is infinite?

          • Doug Shaver

            do you think that a human wisdom is infinite?

            No, I don't.

          • neil_pogi

            do you believe that the universe which is full of matter and energy just popped out of nothing?

          • Doug Shaver

            do you believe that the universe which is full of matter and energy just popped out of nothing?

            I've told you several times what I believe about the universe popping out of nothing.

          • neil_pogi

            what are they?

          • Doug Shaver

            I'm not keeping a record of my conversations here. But if you have to ask, it only confirms my suspicion that you aren't paying a lick of attention to anybody's posts here except your own.

          • neil_pogi

            what are those?

          • neil_pogi

            atheists will insist that there was once physics laws that are unknown. so why believe in such unknown physics laws? is it because most of atheistic hypotheses, including evolution, do not work well with the current physics laws?

  • I see this as a development of Justin's argument from non-god objects. The idea being, in a state prior to creation, there is only God, thus there is only perfection. (God is not imperfect or lacking anything prior to creation.)

    By creating finite beings, God introduces the possibility of evil, pain and so on. Thus God has acted unreasonably, by degrading his creation. In other words, all things being equal, in a cosmos created by a god with the omnis, we would not expect to find anything degraded... unless necessary for the ultimate good. By contrast on naturalism, there is nothing surprising about finite, imperfect beings, suffering, and so on.

    The response could be similar to Randall's here, that a good reason for creating these finite beings is that some goods can only be achieved by finite imperfect beings. It could very well be that the volume of moral growth and courage goods outweighs the potential or actual evils caused by the advent of finite beings.

    Part of Justin's response is to challenge this idea that courage and moral growth are goods in as of themselves in the first place on theism. Rather, that they are goods only in the context of evil or imperfection existing. This seems at odds with Christian views on goods and values and the nature of God. How can a state of affairs be considered perfect it there are goods that do not exist? How can courage be a good itself if it is alien God?

    Sorry I rambled on there!

    Great content by the way.

  • Steven Dillon

    Interesting exchange, thanks for sharing. I guess I've been on this schtick for a few years now, but if a God is perfectly simple and purely actual, then there is no real distinction between it and its creative act. As such, the creative act was no more a choice than the God was: its act is neither chosen nor necessitated, it just is actual.

    • Skeptical Christian

      Only under western Absolute Divine Simplicity. Not in the Christian east with it's clear distinction between God's essence and energies.

      • Steven Dillon

        I'm not sure if the Eastern distinction is posited as one in reality and not just in concept, but if it is, it's a distinction that could only be made on the part of what isn't divine.

        • Skeptical Christian

          They are both divine but energy is the activity of an essence. God is free to not create or redeem. He's not creator of necessity. The energies are also distinct or for example, foreknowledge and creative act become the same.

          The essence of the sun has distinct energies of heat and light. Iron particpates in the energies of fire without any change in its own substance. This is how both Christ's humanity and ours can be deified, not by a change in, or direct communication of divine nature but by participation and interpenetration of divine energies.

          • Steven Dillon

            "energy is the activity of an essence"

            But Gods don't have essences.

          • Rob Abney

            Steven, how do you support that statement? My understanding of essence is: a thing is what it is.

          • Steven Dillon

            "Essence" is what formally causes a thing to be what it is. And so we might shorthand the essence of man as "humanity"; of horses as "equinity"; or of cats as "felinity", and so forth.

            But, Gods are perfectly simple, and so do not have a divine nature or essence to instantiate, like how we instantiate a human nature or essence.

            Instead, each God is perfectly individual, so that everything about it is entirely its own. In other words, there's no "whatness" to any God, only "whoness."

          • Rob Abney

            That seems to only be true if you posit Gods instead of God, as each God then has individual traits. But, we've discussed this before I think, if God is perfect and simple then how can there be more than one God?

          • Steven Dillon

            We have discussed this before, and I think I can explain my position better. For you the question is how there could be more than one God, but for me, the question is just the opposite. The idea here is that there is no such thing as monotheism.

            "Monotheism" makes the claim that "there is only one God", which claim is understood to contradict polytheism. But, there is no way for the proposition to contradict polytheism.

            If it means that "God" is a kind of entity which has only one instance, then it fails to be a theistic proposition at all, let alone one which contradicts polytheism, because that which is deity instantiates nothing. But, if it doesn't mean that "God" is a kind of entity, it must mean that "God" is a particular deity. However, in that case, the claim "there is only one God" means little more than that "there is only one [YHWH, Poseidon, Odin, Zeus, etc.]", and this in no way contradicts polytheism.

            As it is widely understood then, there is no such thing as monotheism. Rather, it's either a non-theistic position which treats "God" like a kind of entity or it's a position that's trivially true on polytheism which treats "God" like a particular deity.

          • Doug Shaver

            They are both divine but energy is the activity of an essence.

            Essences are for Aristotelians. I'm not an Aristotelian.

    • Why can't the cosmos just be actual?

      • Rob Abney

        Because it has the potential to be different, it has the potential to not exist so it's potential had to be actualized. If it were just actual it could not be any different than it is.

        • George

          You can imagine it not existing.

          • Rob Abney

            Correct.

          • George

            I can imagine god not existing.

          • Michael Murray

            "Imagine there's no heaven,
            It's easy if you try ... "

          • neil_pogi

            imagining things is free.

            and atheists are fond of imagining even the most unimagining..

          • Michael Murray

            "You may say I'm a dreamer
            But I'm not the only one
            I hope someday you'll join us
            ...."

          • neil_pogi

            and why am i joining with you?

          • Michael Murray

            "And the world will be as one"

          • neil_pogi

            only atheists are dividing the world..

          • Michael Murray

            Yep because all the theists are in agreement with each other

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

            You been doing these comedy one-liners for long ?

          • neil_pogi

            atheists rely on their faith in order to believe that evolution is true, and not on scientific reasoning

          • Michael Murray

            What has that got to do with your statement that

            only atheists are dividing the world..

            which I refuted by showing a list of theists who are dividing the world. Not the old "oops I"m wrong again better move the goal posts again" gambit !

          • neil_pogi

            it's natural that people of all races, nationality, beliefs, religion (including atheism) are created not equal and they have no same beliefs and understanding. why can't one person has difficulty understanding simple geometry while the other one treat it as easy, and why one individual can't make it and the other one can?.. it is called free will, and atheists are forcing every one to believe their worldview..

            John Lennon, even himself, cut his ties with beatles a long time ago

          • Michael Murray

            So now you have two things to justify

            only atheists are dividing the world

            and

            and atheists are forcing every one to believe their worldview

            For clarification the words you need to justify are in bold: "only" and "forcing".

          • neil_pogi

            why not just elaborate ? that atheists are forcing theists to believe in their worldview? (the fact that atheists are ignoring the very scientific laws are basis that atheists are feed forcing them to believe that scientific laws arenot true (e.g. the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the law of causality, etc)

          • Michael Murray
          • Doug Shaver

            . . . the words you need to justify . . .

            He said it. He believes it. That justifies it.

          • neil_pogi

            you still have no ideas on why i used the word ónly' and 'forcing' !!

            science have laws on its own. atheists are attempting to show that, for example, 'life comes from non-life'..when science only teaches that 'life only comes from pre-existing life''..that is how they divided the world thru this wrong belief. so they are 'forcing' that belief into this world to be factual and accurate but they have no facts to support it. then they say that the effects of second law of entropy has little or no effects to evolution. they have no facts to support it. then from 'diorderly to ordely' of the universe. 'big bang' cosmology.

          • Sample1

            Flagged for promoting Fake News.

            Mike

          • neil_pogi

            explain why it is Fake News

          • Michael Murray

            It's OK if it's Faking for Jesus.

          • Sample1

            Boom.

          • Well I can imagine empty space, I don't think I can imagine nothing. I can imagine something causing it, but this cause, when I imagine it has material attributes of having dimension and temporal persistence, in some sense.

            What I can't do is imagine a non-spatial non-temporal existence. So actually my problem is I have a hard time imagining no universe and a hard time imagining a god actually existing.

            In any event, I don't see what our ability to imagine this has to do with necessity.

          • Rob Abney

            I didn't mean to imply that it is based on imagination, imagination requires images and images are sensory based. Instead it must be based on reasoning, the reasoning in this case is the distinction between actual and potential. If the cosmos COULD be different than it is (it can be according to the laws of fine tuning for instance) then it had to have something effect it to make it the way it actually is.
            The only question then is, what effected the cosmos to make it actual?

          • David Nickol

            I didn't mean to imply that it is based on imagination, imagination requires images and images are sensory based.

            How are we to understand images here? People who are blind from birth have no ability to form mental images, but that doesn't mean they must lack imagination.

          • Rob Abney

            Sensory input. Tactile, proprioceptive, stereognosis, kinesthetic...

          • David Nickol

            You are saying that images are sensory input?

          • Rob Abney

            Googled: Paul Gabias has never seen a table. He was born prematurely and went blind shortly thereafter, most likely because of overexposure to oxygen in his incubator. And yet, Gabias, 60, has no trouble perceiving the table next to him. "My image of the table is exactly the same as a table," he said. "It has height, depth, width, texture; I can picture the whole thing all at once. It just has no color."

          • David Nickol

            It is not clear to me what point you are trying to make. Again, you seem to be saying that images are sensory input. I might be willing to agree that sensory input is a necessary prerequisite for forming mental images, but the sensory input from looking at or feeling a table is not a mental image of the table. (Also, I have normal, 20/20 vision, and I would not claim that my image of a table (or any other object) is "exactly the same" as the table (or other object).

            In any case, how any of this is related to the OP is unclear to me. It was about whether the "God of philosophy" (with all his perfections) would create other "perfect" creatures (basically clones of himself) which differed only in that they were created perfect beings, not "uncreated" as God himself was not created.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't agree with the premise of the OP that God did not create perfect beings. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the best example of a perfect creature leading a perfect life and achieving the end that she was created for. But it should also be accepted that Man was created in perfection too. We have all the attributes needed to perfectly achieve the end that we were created for also.

            Each person is utterly unrepeatable, irreplaceable, and irreducible.
            Man alone is capable of rational and abstract thought, free will, self-consciousness, moral action, complex language and speech, technological progress, higher purpose, altruism, love, creativity, prayer and worship. Man is different in degree and in kind, because God makes each person from the infiniteness of himself (CCC 2258).

          • "If the cosmos COULD be different than it is (it can be according to the
            laws of fine tuning for instance) then it had to have something effect
            it to make it the way it actually is."

            Why? I don't know that the gravitational constant can be different than it is.

          • Rob Abney

            The fact that it is so precise that life is possible indicates that if it was changed even a very small amount then the cosmos as we know it would be very different. Can you explain why it couldn't possibly be a different amount?

          • I'm not saying it couldn't be, I have no way to tell. The theists here are saying they know that it is possible for them to be different. It is up to them to demonstrate this.

          • Rob Abney

            You don't accept that the cosmos/the universe has changed even in your own lifetime? If it has changed then that demonstrates that it has potential to change and that it needs something else to actualize it.

          • Sure once it exists it has changed. But the amount of matter and energy has not. Its existence vs non existence has not. What needs to be shown is that it had the potential to not exist.

          • Rob Abney

            If the cosmos is infinite, as you suggest, and it is not immutable, then during the infinite period preceding this present moment the cosmos would have changed in every way possible. One of those possibilities would be for it to go out of existence. But it exists now so it is not infinite.

          • I am not saying the or suggesting the cosmos is infinite or immutable.

            I am saying it has not been shown to be contingent on anything.

          • Rob Abney

            Could the cosmos be non-contingent and be finite? I don't think that's possible.

          • I don't think we have any way to place probabilities on these questions.

          • Rob Abney

            Yes we do, the probability is 100% or 0%; if the cosmos are non-contingent then the probability is 100% that it is also infinite; if the cosmos is contingent then it is 0% probable that it is infinite. It is the principle of non-contradiction.

          • "Yes we do, the probability is 100% or 0%"

            Ok... but you still don't know which. You have no way of determining this.

          • Rob Abney

            BGA: "I am not saying the or suggesting the cosmos is infinite or immutable"

            We established that the cosmos cannot be infinite based on the infinite possibilities that it would go out of existence, which has obviously not happened. So if it is not infinite then there is 100% probability that it is contingent.
            Truth is available through reasoning, and you and I have had a reasonable discussion to conclude that the cosmos cannot have always been actual.
            But something has to have always been actual, that's the next reasonable subject to determine.

          • " So if it is not infinite then there is 100% probability that it is contingent."

            I do not see how this follows. Nor do I concede the cosmos is finite.

            As far as I know the cosmos has existed for all time. Physicists say there was no time in which our universe did not exist.

          • Rob Abney

            Okay, I'll repeat my earlier point that, coincidentally, comes from Frederic Cobleston (who is featured in Brandon's latest post!)

            If the cosmos is infinite, as you suggest, and it is not immutable, then during the infinite period preceding this present moment the cosmos would have changed in every way possible. One of those possibilities would be for it to go out of existence. But it exists now so it is not infinite.

            And again, if the cosmos is not infinite then it is not contingent because if it is not infinite it required something other than itself to bring it into existence.

            I do not see how this follows

            I hope this helps.

            Physicists say there was no time in which our universe did not exist.

            Can you demonstrate that or support it in anyway?

          • "If the cosmos is infinite, as you suggest,"

            But I do not suggest it. I don't know whether it is infinite temporally, specially or in any direction or whether there are 11 dimensions or 4 or what.

            "then during the infinite period preceding this present moment the cosmos would have changed in every way possible."

            No this is not the case. If the existence is temporally infinite in the past it does not entail that all physical changes have occurred. You need to be careful with the concept of infinity. It does not work well with our intuitions, for example the infinite set of positive integers is equal to minus one twelfth, Xeno's paradox and so on. I do not invoke infinity for my understanding of cosmology.

            "if the cosmos is not infinite then it is not contingent because if it is
            not infinite it required something other than itself to bring it into
            existence."

            You can repeat this as much as you like, but you still have not established this.

            Big Bang cosmology traces the local universe to a singularity at which point the universal density becomes infinite. The density of the universe is space-time (the four dimensions). We can only speak of "time" in our intuitive sense "after" this singularity. But the universe existed at the singularity, but time did not. At all points in time, some aspect of the universe existed.

            Also, do not think because I may accept Big Bang cosmology that I am invoking infinity. This is why the singularity is called a singularity. It is beyond what we can understand. We don't know what this singularity is, it is a word we use to identify a state of affairs we cannot conceive of since our intuitions break down with the laws of physics.

            The point is, we cannot say what the singularity is, or whether it is dependent on anything else. It is pure speculation to, as far as I know.

          • Rob Abney

            I don't know whether it is infinite temporally, specially or in any direction or whether there are 11 dimensions or 4 or what.

            The density of the universe is space-time (the four dimensions).

            Can you clarify that point?

            But the universe existed at the singularity, but time did not.

            That is not possible.

          • Okay, we can leave it to the physicists.

          • Rob Abney

            These physicists? "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.” Borde-Guth-Vilenkin singularity theorem. The beginning includes the beginning of time.

          • Yes, but of course that beginning is one in which all matter is infinitely small space/time collapses in upon itself.

            Consider the rate at which time passes depends on relative velocity.

            In such a circumstance our intuitions of causation are of no use.

            While in some respects it makes sense to call this a "beginning" of time. This also means it makes no sense to speak of any prior state of affairs. Much less to guess at what or if there can be said to be a cause of such an arrangement.

          • bbrown

            Then why do you make this stuff up? It's really misleading to make definitive statements, if you really don't know or understand the issues involved.

          • I didn't make anything up or mislead anyone.

          • bbrown

            OK, I guess I have to get accustomed to the style of dialogue y'all use here (Socratic I think).

          • Peter

            You are assuming a cosmos which has no purpose for existing but just exists. For a cosmos which has no reason to exist but simply does so, one can imagine no reason for it not to exist. Such a cosmos would not have the potential not to exist.

            However, it is different when the cosmos has a purpose for existing. Such a purpose would be the creation of life. The cosmos exists because life is the intended outcome. If life were not the intended outcome, the cosmos would not exist. Such a cosmos has the potential not to exist.

          • Peter

            If the Hoyle state were higher, far less carbon would be produced and it would all go to synthesise the heavier elements. None would remain in the universe and there would be no life. Fred Hoyle called the regulation of carbon production a "put up job".

          • I am not saying life is possibly necessary, I am saying the cosmos is not demonstrated to be contingent.

            you are engaging a different argument.

          • Peter

            The Hoyle state is one of numerous possible excited states of the carbon nucleus. Why does fusion from helium take place at that energy level, which leads to life, instead of any other level, which would not? The nature of the cosmos, it appears, is contingent upon choice.

          • Again, not dispute that any given state of the cosmos is contingent on a previous state, the question here is, whether the existence of the cosmos itself is contingent, and if so upon what?

          • Peter

            That's what I'm trying to say. The existence of the cosmos is contingent upon the choice to create life. The latest research has found that the particular mass of the quarks which make up a proton causes the Hoyle state to be selected. The latent processes with the specific aim of producing life were built in at the very birth of the cosmos. Had there been no choice to create life, there would have been no cosmos.

          • Phil

            Hey Brian --

            I think so much of this contingency discussion comes down to the question of whether anything that is material in its nature can be non-contingent, i.e., completely explain itself. My guess is we have discussed this in the past.

            But that is the question that gets to the heart of the issue. The reason why we can say with reasonably certainty that the material cosmos cannot explain itself is a physical thing is always a combination of how it exists (actuality) and how it could possibly exist (potentiality). Therefore, anything that is not pure actuality cannot explain itself and be non-contingent.

            (If one wants to stay closer to the level of the empirical sciences, we could say that we would need evidence to the contrary of this.)

          • Peter

            If the Hoyle state - the discrete energy level at which helium nuclei fuse to form a carbon nucleus - were lower, carbon would be produced far more readily and at temperatures too low for the subsequent fusion of oxygen. The universe would end at carbon; there would be no heavier elements and no life. Somebody must have monkeyed with the physics, according to Fred Hoyle.

          • neil_pogi

            is something causing a 'nothing'?

          • Not that I know of.

          • neil_pogi

            you just say it, "I can imagine something causing it,"

          • I don't just say it. I don't know what it means to "cause" the universe to exist, I can't imagine it.

            Can you imagine something causing a god to exist?

          • neil_pogi

            god or God is uncaused. eternal.

            i ask several times on the origin of SRM (self replicating molecule), all i heard is that 'it's just there' -- no material explanations offered

          • Michael Murray

            Rubbish. Over and over again you have been pointed at articles on abiogenesis to read. You just come back and ask the same question.

          • neil_pogi

            of course i have to ask that question over and over again until atheists answer that in factual manner, and not merely on assumptions and conjectures... so on this issue alone, evolution is already dead in the water!

          • Michael Murray

            Oh dear. Still confusing evolution and abiogenesis. How many times has that been explained to you?

          • neil_pogi

            oh my! then how would evolution happened if life won't start from abiogenesis?

          • Michael Murray

            Not sure what you are trying to argue here. Evolution just needs life to happen somehow and it did.

          • neil_pogi

            abiogenesis - a (without, absense) bio (life), genesis (begin, origin)..

            so can you explain how the evolution of chemicals evolved into life?

            why no life is discovered on moon and the other remaining planets if life just happen naturally?

          • neil_pogi

            then how lifeless matter became full of life. that's what i am arguing with atheists.

          • Lazarus

            Well, if evolution is true, why do we still have creationists, huh?
            Think about that.

          • I didn't ask that, I asked if you can imaging something causing a god to exist?

            No, you have been told many times that there seems to be a chemical explanation and scientists have made significant progress on understanding how this likely happened. But, needless to say there will not likely ever be easy evidence on this. There is plausible theory of abiogenesis, there are no plausible alternatives.

          • neil_pogi

            then tell me how plausible the 'theory' of abiogenesis is? another day-dream claim?

          • I'd say abiogenesis by chemical process is more than likely the case for the following reasons. All human biology operates by way of chemical and mechanical processes. We have a great understanding of how these processes work, significant scientific progress has been made in understanding how a number of the elements required for a theory of chemical abiogenesis. Thus I believe it actually happened by way of chemical processes given the hundreds of millions of years it had to develop and that we know the essential materials were present.

            By contrast, there is no evidence for theistic design, indeed no good reason to accept any deities exist.

          • bbrown

            "no evidence for theistic design"?

            http://www.iep.utm.edu/design/

            BTW, there has been recent work by Doug Axe et al published in 'Nature' that suggest that macroevolution is impossible.

          • That's right no evidence. Ok, there are literally millions of articles published that say the opposite.

            What's the evidence that self replicating molecules are designed by a deity?

          • neil_pogi

            then how come scientists can't even produce even a single cell organism? despite the fact that they 'surely know' the complete chemical ingredients of a cell! millions of years? the fact is a cell's life span runs only in a couple of days or years? again, the claim about millions of years is absolutely a mere claim

          • Doug Shaver

            then how come scientists can't even produce even a single cell organism?

            Are you suggesting that because we haven't done it yet, it's certain that we'll never be able to do it?

          • neil_pogi

            scientists are to be respected for that! they use their intelligence to create a life. they don't gamble using chance as guide to create life, only inutile atheist scientists will likely do that.

            you have given billions of years to do that mr Shaver. or even trillion years

          • Doug Shaver

            Your response does not answer my question.

          • neil_pogi

            i already answered you, just read it carefully!

          • Doug Shaver

            Any answer other than yes or no is an evasion.

          • Lazarus

            A practitioner of the art of the science of the gaps need never even consider that theism is the best explanation for those pesky questions.

          • Doug Shaver
          • Lazarus

            Hi Doug

            I have seen the term a few times, I would be hard pressed to tell you where.
            It simply counters the well-known atheist accusation of "God of the gaps" with its own question : do some people not assign a similar perceived explanatory value to science and its ability to answer questions in future? Just like the theist is charged with using God as a stopgap for unanswered questions, are some atheists not also guilty of exactly that? In stead of getting to a stage where theism is the best answer for our scientific observations, or at least a live, viable option, the person waves this away with an ever-present "We do not know, but science will find the answer".

            There must come a time, in my view, when in certain instances these criticisms are equally valid.

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me that there is no scientific question to which the answer is "God" or "God exists." Science can't prove the existence—or the nonexistence—of God. I recollect an article by Stephen Barr on First Things a few years ago and the discussion thread that followed it. Dr. Barr answered one comment by saying (in part):

            That tuning could be explained by saying that God tuned the laws for the sake of life, or it could be explained by a multiverse scenario, I have no way of knowing which of those possibilities, if either, is correct. In the above piece, I was careful to say, "the only PHYSICS idea" that would be left in the event all the conventional ones failed would be a multiverse scenario. Divine fine-tuning, while I think it quite possibly the correct explanation, is not a "physics explanation".

            It seems to me that "god of the gaps" arguments have been quite common, and it is very wise for believers to be wary of them or to shun them altogether. I can't think of anything that I would call a "science of the gaps" argument. On the other hand, I certainly agree that "both sides" in the theist vs atheist debate can be guilty of the same intellectual shortcomings. Only we agnostics are above reproach. :p

          • Doug Shaver

            The link I posted was to the first article I found. After posting, I went back and checked a few more of the sites that Google turned up on the subject, just to make sure that the first one was truly representative. Apparently, it was.

            It simply counters the well-known atheist accusation of "God of the gaps" with its own question : do some people not assign a similar perceived explanatory value to science and its ability to answer questions in future?

            Yeah, some do, but to point that out is just to present a tu quoque counterargument, and that doesn’t work. If the form of an argument is invalid for one side, it’s invalid for both, in which case the atheist is guilty of nothing more than hypocrisy. If you prove only that an argument is invalid, you have not proved that its conclusion is false.

            Of course we skeptics have no business claiming that science will eventually answer every question that it has not yet answered, but I’m not aware of any skeptic who has actually made such a claim. At least, I know I never have. But I will emphatically claim that apologists cannot justify the inference of “not scientifically explicable” from “not yet scientifically explained,” and that is all I need to claim to rebut the assertion that God is the only possible explanation for whatever problem is currently on the table. I can admit that a transcendent creator God is, just possibly, the ultimate explanation for the existence of life in general and us humans in particular. But the mere possibility that a proposition is true is no reason by itself to think it actually is true, and the mere fact that naturalistic science has not so far found an explanation for life’s origin is hardly a reason, either.

            I am strongly confident that science will sooner or later develop a compelling theory of abiogenesis, but my naturalistic worldview is not hostage to that eventuality. My worldview neither claims nor depends on the ability of science to answer every question we can think of about how the universe works. Science is a purely human enterprise, and as such its achievements will be forever limited by our human capabilities. There are certain phenomena we will never be able to observe, certain experiments we will never be able to conduct, and so we will never gain whatever knowledge depends on those observations or experiments. And, for all we know at this point in our history, the origin of life could be an instance of that inaccessible knowledge.

            But there is a vital logical distinction between (A) “We cannot yet explain how it happened naturally” and (B) “It could not have happened naturally.” From (B), we perhaps may reasonably infer that God must have made it happen. From (A), no such inference is valid. We have no reason at all to suppose that nature is constrained in her capabilities by our cognitive limitations. Nature is, metaphorically speaking, way smarter than we are.

            In stead of getting to a stage where theism is the best answer for our scientific observations, or at least a live, viable option, the person waves this away with an ever-present "We do not know, but science will find the answer".

            Other atheists will have to speak for themselves. I do not claim with pure certainty that science will find the answer. All I insist on is maintaining the distinction between “Science hasn’t answered the question yet” and “Science cannot ever answer the question.” When an apologist gives me a good reason to think that the origin of life is actually inexplicable on a naturalistic worldview, then we can start discussing the credibility of a theistic alternative.

            There must come a time, in my view, when in certain instances these criticisms are equally valid.

            I think the theist can always validly object to any claim saying in effect, “Science will eventually answer all our questions.” But the atheist can object with equal validity to “If science hasn’t found the answer yet, then science will never find the answer.” Our present ignorance about the origin of life proves nothing whatsoever about what we will or will not be able to learn sometime in the future.

            I will concede that many skeptics may misapply their God-of-the-gaps objections, insofar as they use it as an argument against theism. The invalidity of any particular argument for a conclusion does nothing by itself to discredit that conclusion. But it is fair to note that many apologists seem to have no other argument for God’s existence, or to regard it as their best argument. Of course other apologists know better, and so do some of us atheists. In both our communities, there are plenty of fools using foolish arguments in defense of their worldviews. That doesn’t mean that nobody on either side has any good arguments.

          • Doug Shaver

            An answer would have been yes or no. Anything else is an evasion.

          • Who says they can't? They are making progress.

          • neil_pogi

            so where's that progress leading to? so they use their intelligence to at least create an artificial life, they don not let chance or throw dices to create life!

          • It is leading to the cure for cancer.

          • neil_pogi

            i thought it is leading to creation of artificial life!

          • Maybe. Arguably artificial life can already be done. But seriously the questions are how did abiogenesis occur by chemical means? What were the precursors to the more complex proteins, enzymes, organelles and membranes etc. to those we observe today.

          • neil_pogi

            well atheists say that they can recreate life, so we are waiting..

            so you knew well what are the precursors to life, then how come artificial life's not yet observed? i told you that chemicals alone are not the answer. those chemicals need a 'something' that scientists woulnd't think as reality, the 'soul'..

          • neil_pogi

            yes they are making progress! after million years!

          • neil_pogi

            in the beginning, there is no chemicals present.. so how your god, 'Nothing' creates a 'something'?

            there are plenty of design elements in the universe and in our bodies. you just ignore them because you are so blind in seeing them.

          • Doug Shaver

            then tell me how plausible the 'theory' of abiogenesis is?

            There is no such theory. Biologists have some hypotheses about abiogenesis, but no theories yet.

            Not that I'd expect you to know the difference. This is just a reminder for the lurkers.

          • neil_pogi

            whatever namecallings you say to me, i accept that because that's expected from staunch atheists when he can no longer give reasonable answers to questions that are hard for atheists to answer.

            so tell me the difference between evolution of chemicals and abiogenesis.

          • Doug Shaver

            when he can no longer give reasonable answers to questions that are hard for atheists to answer.

            Senseless questions don't have answers.

      • Steven Dillon

        To just be actual in the sense I have in mind here is not to exist inexplicably, or to exist by a necessity of one's own nature. Modes of existence like these specify the respect in which one has being.

        But, for what just is actual, its existence isn't something that it has or does: it is its own existence. So, it bears no relation to be specified as brute, necessary, or contingent etc. This helps to clarify that the cosmos could exist necessarily or even inexplicably, but that wouldn't mean it just is actual.

        So, the question becomes "why can't the cosmos just be its own existence?" But, put like this, the answer is a little more evident: existence is something the cosmos has or does, but it's not what the cosmos is. What the cosmos is is an aggregate of natural substances and relations or some such, and this aggregate exists necessarily, inexplicably, or whatever. But, its existence is not what it is, it's what it has or does.

        • I do not understand what you mean by "it is its own existence". This seems meaningless to me.

          I do not see existence as something anything "does" or "is". It is a word we use to distinguish the real from the imaginary.

          Of course if the cosmos can exist necessarily, there is no need of an entity that "is existence".

          Maybe this is what you are saying? Are you saying that what Catholics call God is existence itself and thus meaningless to call it a creative mind or god?

          • Steven Dillon

            The real and the imaginary have something in common: they both have a determinateness of being one thing instead of another; an identity. It's how we are able to conceive of and speak about them.

            But, if the real and the imaginary both have identity in common, then there must be more to what makes a thing real than its identity.

            In other words, there's a difference between what makes a thing to be (its principle of existence) and what makes a thing to be whatever or whoever it is (its principle of identity).

            Thus, what makes a thing to be a quark is not that it exists, else everything that exists would be a quark!

            To put this into a crass formula of sorts: a principle of existence + a principle of identity = a real being.

            In this sense, "real beings" only refer to compounds or unities of principles of existence and identity. But, the Gods are not unities of principles, they are units (or "henads" as the Platonists say). So, their existence and identities aren't distinct, as they are for "real beings": in reality, they're one and the same.

          • "But, if the real and the imaginary both have identity in common, then
            there must be more to what makes a thing real than its identity."

            No, the imaginary has no identity, it is non-existant. The concepts that beings have of imagined objects have identity. Whereas real objects have identity.

            "if the real and the imaginary both have identity in common, then there
            must be more to what makes a thing real than its identity."

            I don't see why.

          • Steven Dillon

            Imaginary objects exist, but only as concepts. They have identity, intelligibility, or content, which is how we are able to conceive of them. But, suppose we can intelligibly speak about imaginary objects even though they are distinct from our concepts of them and only these concepts have identity. Even in this case, these concepts and "real objects" would have identity in common, so what makes one existent and the other conceptual can't merely be identity: one also needs a principle of existence to be "real."

  • David Nickol

    Of course, there is a larger question, which is if there exists a perfect God, why did he create anything at all? Sticking to the language of the "God of Philosophy," it seems to me there is nothing to say on the question. It is necessary to anthropomorphize God (e.g., talk of an "itch" that needed scratching) to answer "why" questions.

    • neil_pogi

      only God can know exactly what is perfect. perfection. perfectionism. He is the only one who can know what is wrong and what is right because he is the author of all.

      as the Bible teaches that when sin enters the world (only God knows what sin is), eventually, curse enters too. and everything is under God's curse. Death becomes part of God's program for human. diseases and sufferings follow. if not for free will then sin is impossible.

  • Rob Abney

    The Blessed Virgin Mary is a creature created with perfection, She meets Aquinas' definition of perfection (Summa Theo. question 184) as She has no obstacles to the movement of Her love towards God. She cooperated with the fullness of grace provided to Her by God by using Her free will always toward the good rather than in a corrupt manner away from the good.

    • David Nickol

      It does not appear to me that what Justin and Randal have in mind is anything like the notion of perfection that Aquinas speaks of, since according to Aquinas, "religious and prelates" are in a state of perfection.

      Of course, Mary's exemption from original sin (Immaculate Conception) raises the question of why God could not have exempted others from original sin or, for that matter, absolved Adam and Eve after a period of penance so that their descendants would not "inherit" it.

      • Rob Abney

        "A thing is said to be perfect in so far as it attains its proper end, which is the ultimate perfection thereof"

        In what way is She not perfect?
        We don't know why God didn't create more like Her but we do know why He created Her the way He did, to give Her the grace to be His mother and our mother.
        edit: added definition

        • David Nickol

          Note the following from the OP:

          A perfect creature is a person just like God in every way but whereas God is uncreated, a perfect creature is created. A perfect creature is maximal in his power, his knowledge, and most importantly, his moral perfection.

          This in no way describes the Virgin Mary. Now, one might forget about perfect "creatures" and ask what a perfect human being would be like. I don't know that there is much to be gained in coming up with a concept of human perfection, but I would think that a perfect human being would never forget anything, would never make a mistake, would never trip or stumble, would have perfect pitch, and so on.

          • Rob Abney

            The Virgin Mary was perfected in attaining Her proper end, to bring Christ to the world and the world to Christ.
            It doesn't matter how she sings or how she walks.

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me you are off topic in that your idea of Mary as a perfect (or perfected) person has little or no connection to the idea of "perfect creatures" as described in the OP: "A perfect creature is a person just like God in every way but whereas God is uncreated, a perfect creature is created. A perfect creature is maximal in his power, his knowledge, and most importantly, his moral perfection."

            You might be on target if the topic were Mariology, but even then, it seems misguided to argue that Mary was a perfect person based on the Gospels. A perfect mother would not accidentally leave a 12-year-old boy behind in Jerusalem and discover it only on the way home. In any case, when a believer and an atheist want to have a dialogue about God, it is unhelpful for the believer to introduce Catholic doctrines about Mary which even many Christians do not believe, and which also excludes Jews, Muslims, and any other monotheists from the discussion.

            There is really not enough in the New Testament about Mary to call her a perfect person (whatever in the world a perfect person would be like). And aside from the definition of "perfect creature" above, I don't know how it is reasonable to ascribe perfection to any being (except God), known or imaginary. The idea that Mary (or anyone else) is a perfect person because she carried out her mission in life as expected (even if perfectly) makes little sense to me. A perfect human being would, it seems to me, have to have all human abilities and capacities to the highest degree possible.

          • Rob Abney

            What about a perfect rock? What size would it have to be, what color, would it need to be able to move on its own?
            No, a perfect rock is one that does what a rock is meant to do. All rocks are perfect as far as that definition goes. In fact all non-human animals are perfect based on that definition.
            Only humans have the ability to be less than perfect by choosing to do acts in violation of the good that we are created for.
            Some of the people here at SN support determinism and don't believe that we have free will so they would have to see humans as perfect too.
            I don't think the OP defines perfection very precisely, in the very least their criteria is univocal.
            Mary is a shining example of a perfect creature, if this is a dialogue between Catholics and atheists then Catholic truths should be a part of the conversation.

  • by creating imperfect creatures who grow into moral perfection (or what Christians call being sanctified), God actualizes particular goods not available by creatures that are perfect from the beginning.

    If there are particular goods that God does not possess, then on what basis can we claim that God is perfect? A perfect being lacks no good-making feature. Thus, if growth into moral perfection is both a particular good and a feature that God lacks, then God is not perfect.

    • You ask: "If there are particular goods that God does not possess, then on what basis can we claim that God is perfect?"

      Being perfect is not defined in perfect being theology as exemplifying every possible good. Rather, it is defined as exemplifying the maximal set of compossible great-making properties. Being courageous is inconsistent with being simultaneously omniscient and omnipotent. Thus God cannot be courageous. And to insist that he must be courageous to be perfect is to impose a foreign definition of perfection onto the theist.

      • Surely there must be some kind of ranking of great-making properties. For example, if moral goodness was incompatible with omnipotence, God would possess the former rather than the latter (I'm not saying this is the case, just that your account is has to be wrong; some properties (goodness, e.g.,) are non-negotiable).

        Thus perfection cannot simply be a matter of having the most compossible great-making properties, but of having the right great-making properties.

        • Indeed, there is a significant body of literature discussing the means by which one identifies a great-making property.

          But this much is clear: courage is not a great-making property. It is, rather, a virtue that one may exhibit when one lacks the great-making properties of omniscience and omnipotence.

          • But it would be reasonable to say the following: God does not possess the capacity to grow into moral perfection, thus that capacity, even on the assumption that it is a good-making feature, is less good than other good-making features that God does possess. Isn't that right?

          • Courage could certainly be called a good-making feature. But it doesn't follow that it is a great-making feature because a great-making feature is one that could be (or essentially is) exemplified by a perfect being and courage cannot be exemplified by a perfect being for the reasons already given.

          • I wrote a new comment on a different topic here:
            http://disq.us/p/1ezhk3s

      • Sample1

        Hi, I found the following reply (just posting the first three paragraphs) on a site (Outshine The Sun) created by Andrew G., a former contributor here, by yet another former contributor here, staircaseghost. I don't see a reason why you wouldn't appreciate the feedback; I hope you do, at any rate. Feel free to drop by over there for further discussion as many (around thirty) atheists are banned from participating here.

        In my 20 years of debating Christians and reading apologetics and studying philosophy at the graduate level, I have never once encountered an apologist who understood what he meant by "cause" or "explain".

        Never. Not once.

        If Yahweh creates by (libertarian) free choice and not by necessity, then trans-world Yahweh creates every possible world. There is no state of affairs that "explains" why he chose one over the other, so all Rauser's talk about what reasons Yahweh might have had is by his own admission nonsensical.

        Faith-free good wishes to you,

        Mike
        Edit: grammar

        • sg: In my 20 years of debating Christians and reading apologetics and studying philosophy at the graduate level, I have never once encountered an apologist who understood what he meant by "cause" or "explain".

          Such statements are hollow when not accompanied by what the claimant thinks are good understandings. Why not strike a deal with SN, whereby someone from OSTS whether banned or not from SN, writes a guest article dealing with the above matter. If the person is banned, @bvogt1:disqus would at least unban him/her for that article (with an agreement that [s]he will not post on other articles). The article would have to defend robust notions of 'cause' and 'explain' which are better than anything found among 'Christian apologists'. If the author wishes to argue that those who routinely interact with 'Christian apologists' do any better in understanding what these terms mean, evidence will be required.

          I would like to see more rigor on SN, and I think this is an excellent opportunity. If SN is not interested, especially if it is not interested in practicing the Christ-exemplified acts of mercy and forgiveness (my ignored request for clemency toward some OSTS regulars), it might be time for me to move on. I was honored to be listed as "[one of SN's] regular commenters, who have provided so many rich thoughts and insights over the years", but praise isn't enough to keep me around. I want excellence and rigor (the latter where appropriate), and I believe God does, too.

          • Steven Dillon

            Staircase is one of the smartest atheist contributors I've seen around here, but -- and I say this only knowing he'll come across it -- this is all just a sport to him. Which is why his philosophy is so burlesque :P

          • This is where the phrase "Put up or shut up!" is appropriate. If SN refuses to publish the article, OSTS can always do so. If it becomes clear that SN is refusing to publish appropriate, high-caliber material, then those who desire such things can decide whether SN is a good place to spend time.

            But if you're right to say "burlesque", then I'll be tempted to identify @staircaseghost:disqus in the same way that Dominic Erdozain characterizes many of the Enlightenment philosophes:

            The “secular” critique of Christianity was a burning product of the religion it dared to appraise. (The Soul of Doubt, 4)

            I can expand on request, but the basic argument is that a long history of Christianity powerfully shaped a conscience which then reacted in disgust to the persecution of Christians by each other, especially in the wake of the Reformation. If in fact this conscience is largely a product of Christianity—an obviously contentious claim—then "burlesque" criticisms will need to very carefully avoid stating much of a positive position which then has to be defended. Instead, it will be important to only go on the attack, to tear down and never construct. Maybe our world really does need more tearing down, but I take SN to want to also construct, and I deeply respect them for that.

      • How does one prove that "perfection" exists? That leads to metaphysical questions, including philosophy of language, and idealism compared with nominalism, and involves disputed questions related to "universals."

        What exactly is a "perfect being?"

        Maybe "perfection" is a word invented by humans that acts more like a metaphor when we are comparing things. "I am the perfect model of a modern major general... Her hair was perfect... He got a perfect score on his test (which might not be so impressive if say, it was just a test to tell your right hand from your left)."

        • neil_pogi

          perfect means error-free. because the universe operates in one law of nature (laws of entropy), you would expect no perfection at all. all is affected by this law, no excemptions

          • No. Evolution and entropy go hand in hand. Without entropy no directional chemical reactions, you couldn't even digest your food. All reactions would take place equally in all directions. Without entropy no friction, talk about a slippery world! And without countless failures, countless deaths of endless generations, and countless extinct species, genomes would not change over time. Nature in short appears jury-rigged, not perfect. Is the current homo species an end point? Our species arrived very late on the cosmic scene and might become extinct, or barbaric, or evolve into something more, or set some artificial intelligence or genetically altered non-human species on its own evolutionary trajectory.

          • Lazarus

            And how, and why, would entropy have seen the light?
            Is it just a brute fact, something that just arose from those "directional chemical reactions"?

          • neil_pogi

            how would evolution goes if it goes well with the laws of entropy? evolution must favor without entropy because evolution needs energy

  • But if I can identify a possible divine “itch” which could not be scratched by creating perfect creatures, then that would constitute a defeater to your argument.

    I think this is wrong. Given that God is morally perfect, he does only that which is morally required or morally permitted. Let us say that an action that is morally required or morally permitted is "morally justified."

    Given that, if he exists, God created the actual world, God created a world in which creatures suffer tremendous physical pain and emotional devastation. For his act of creation to be morally justified, God needs a morally sufficient reason to to create the actual world. But, given the amount of pain and suffering that occur in the actual world, this reason (or reasons) must be very weighty. Merely having a desire (which is what the word 'itch' conveys) is not sufficient. There must be a normative reason that would count in favor of God's creating this universe. I don't think that the existence of goods that are realizable only given the existence of imperfect creatures is a good enough reason.

    Here is a (very imperfect) analogy. Suppose that, given his existence outside of time, God cannot bake cinnamon rolls. Cinnamon rolls, then, are a good that can be realized via the creation of finite creatures. [I don't think much rides on whether this is actually true; this is only an analogy.] But the realization of such a good does not justify God's decision to create a universe in which, like the actual world, finite creatures are subjected to tremendous physical and emotional suffering.

    The important point here is that when we consider what reasons God might have to create an imperfect world, it is not sufficient to think of desires that God might have which an imperfect world might satisfy, nor to think of just any old good the realization of which an imperfect world would allow. We must think of reasons that morally justify God's creation of an imperfect world.

    • I think Randal will take exception to comparing the development of courage to the baking of cinnamon rolls. I would sooner put the question to Randal how one gets from an allegedly perfect God with all His perfection intact and needs fulfilled, without pain, without enemies, without even possible enemies, nothing to fear, hence, very little drama--but wind up with such a messy creation filled to the brim with drama (and I don't mean that in simply a good way) where souls are not only enobled by having to struggle with nature and each other's needs and wishes, but souls crushed by such a messy creation. With intellects, bodies and characters crippled or destroyed via physical and/or psychological blows. Humans being born with birth defects, or they suffer nutritional deficiencies (that can be just as chronic or deadly as genetic disorders, and which abounded in the past), post traumatic stress disorders, and all the fears we share, including women and children suffering high mortality rates for most of human history, including a host of diseases and infections that for most of human history wiped out half of all children before they reached the age of 8 or less, with half of all zygotes dying even today, not to mention the discovery of vanishing twin syndrome (in the womb, which we know via ultra-sound happens about 27% of the time). So if this world is a place of divine tutelage, the vast majority of the students die before or soon after school begins, and those who survive are often simply lucky that their particular souls didn't wind up as battered, disillusioned, traumatized or crushed as others have.

      And if Randal defends his calm pristine immutable God's creation of such a dramatic messy mutating world, he has to defend it's whole past history of horrendous epidemics and widespread disease, famine and death not only for human beings over the past 100K years, but for animals as well, prior to the appearance of humans.

      Personally, I don't think it is easy to get from A to B. From such a high philosophical God to such a messy dramatic creation with its soul-crushing phenomena, including boredom, illusions, misunderstandings and miscommunication.

  • I am not sure why such a being as God would have a reason for doing anything, including creating perfect (or imperfect) beings. Being perfect, he could want for nothing, surely.

    • neil_pogi

      we're here, that's the evidence God is doing anything like creating. it's just that we don't know exactly why he is creating

      • The fact of our existence does not itself tell us how we came to exist.

        • neil_pogi

          it is God who created us.

          make your case then.

          • My case for what? I already made one argument here, but if you mean more, you need to support your claim that God made us. However, this isn't the best forum to argue the entire issue on I don't think. I'm sure you can look up the arguments to see the atheists' reasoning.

          • neil_pogi

            you still don't know that scientists can't prove life's cause/origin can't be from natural causes? even if given time, it will only add problems. that's why they are trying to sort to ET's as the better explanations for life's origin on this planet. that ETs are the primemovers.

          • From what I understand, there are multiple possibilities. How will this add problems? A lack of knowledge does not prove that this was God in any case.

          • neil_pogi

            lack of logic and common sense make someone ignorant why they can't understand things! why they can't explain things, or solve problems.

            in our every single day experiences, we don't observe things that just happened without any causes. that's part of science.

          • I don't think this is going anywhere. Farewell.

          • neil_pogi

            are you saying that you'll not coming back here?

          • I just meant this conversation.

          • neil_pogi

            i gave you my personal answers to your questions. are you not satisified with it?

          • It's not your fault. We just think very differently. Good talking with you.

          • neil_pogi

            that's why there is SN. we can talk our differences.

          • Yeah, I know, but it has limits.

          • neil_pogi

            all of us has limitations on our own.

          • Of course.

  • Until god creates a universe with opportunities for pain and pleasure, gain and loss, etc,courage doesn't even exist because it relies on facts about our psychology and biology that are not necessary.

  • John

    I'm glad to have just found this site. Fascinating discussion.

    I have one comment about courage. Randal suggests that unless Justin can defend a "sweeping skepticism" about our normal intuitions, we are justified in thinking the presence of courage could justify the imperfection in God's creation. But if we're referring to our moral intuitions, I question whether this skepticism is necessary. Acts of courage make for great narratives, but wouldn't it be fair to note that, all else being equal, people don't prioritize courage if it leads to needless suffering and death for themselves, family members, or their countrymen.

    For example, imagine the kind of outrage that would ensue if, say, the US secretary of defense decided to stop supplying American soldiers with body armor and the most cutting edge military equipment in order to provide them more opportunities for courage by evening the odds and forcing them to fight more fairly against poorly equipped insurgent forces in the third world. It's not like it's truly a common belief that it's better for lives to be lost merely for the sake of courage.

  • Sgt Carver

    I don't understand modern apologetics.

    It seems to me like Scott explaining to his tent-mates that Oakes is just gone for a stroll and will be back in five minutes.

    • Rob Abney

      Were you able to understand pre-modern apologetics or is it just apologists that you don't understand?

  • Brian Cox

    Insulting half of your readers in the opening paragraph probably isn't the best way to engage others in an open-minded discussion.

    • neil_pogi

      why insulting??

  • neil_pogi

    so these 2 creatures are discussing on why God would create a universe full of 'not-so-perfect' living creatures.

    the christian's only explanation as to why there are imperfections is that because of entrance of sin in the universe, but prior to that, God's creation is beautiful and perfect. And because of sin, God introduced the laws of entropy to the universe and all things are under its laws. all falling apart. And because we have free will, we can choose whatever we like or want.

    but God has promised thru His Word, that the universe will be renewed, and that there is 'no more sorrows and death' (He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." Revelation 21:4)

    i think atheists are deliberately ignoring this very text/verse (Rev 21:4) that supports that God is perfect in all things.

    • neil_pogi

      any fruitful comments? Doug, Nichol and Rimmer? seems you are so silent on this issue!

      • neil_pogi

        why no comments from staunch atheists?

        how about you, Murray?

        been waiting!

        • neil_pogi

          VicqRuiz, you are invited to make a fruitful comment here

          • VicqRuiz

            I'm not so sure that I am a "staunch atheist". I could accept the possibility that the big bang had a transcendent cause. Where I draw the line is when theists anthropomorphize that cause.

            So many Christians talk about "God's desires" and "God loves" and "God hates" and then turn around and say that God is forever unchanging and unchangeable. I do not see how a tri-omni, eternal, unchanging First Cause can have anything that we humans would recognize as emotions.

            When everything that is, was or will be is created by God, and is known by God, it's simply impossible for God to be pleased in anything, or disappointed in anything.

          • neil_pogi

            God has emotions too. He got sad and jealous. and even curse the first couple because they committed sin. the concept about God is not that easy. christians say that He is an immaterial entity. but we can't say if immaterial is just opposite of material.. or it's just absence of material

          • VicqRuiz

            He got sad and jealous. and even curse the first couple because they committed sin

            Did God know in advance that that was going to happen?

          • neil_pogi

            maybe. (God is all-knowing) but doesnt mean that He is manipulating our actions and decisions.

    • Doug Shaver

      i think atheists are deliberately ignoring this very text/verse (Rev 21:4) that supports that God is perfect in all things.

      Atheists don't believe the Bible is inerrant. That doesn't mean we ignore the Bible.

      • neil_pogi

        it is not the issue of whether the Bible is inerrant or not, the Bible simply says that in the future, the earth and the universe is renewed. sufferings and death are no longer existing.

        • Doug Shaver

          it is not the issue of whether the Bible is inerrant or not,

          The issue is whether we should believe it.

          the Bible simply says that in the future, the earth and the universe is renewed.

          Yes, it says that. But why should we believe it? If we have no reason to believe it, the Bible is irrelevant except as an example of ancient literature.

          • neil_pogi

            since i am a theist, of course i believe in the inspiration of the Bible. and that all its claims can be trusted. But you believe only in the evil events mentioned in the Bible and not the good ones. why? if you totally believe that the bible is just a collections of tales and no historical accounts, then just say that it is just nonsense to believe on any parts or all of it. But atheists are quoting the Bible when it mentions the hell, the suffering and other 'evil' things.

  • VicqRuiz

    From two of Randal's comments:

    "There are a whole range of goods God can actualize only by creating non-perfect creatures who have the capacity to grow. So what basis do you have to think God wouldn’t desire to actualize this range of goods? .............................
    God is by definition omniscient and omnipotent, and no being who is all-knowing and all-powerful can exhibit courage."

    Can a being who is omniscient and omnipotent exhibit desire?? Desire implies a possibility that it may not be realized.

    • neil_pogi

      VicqRuiz, you are invited to make a fruitful comment to my post below