first

A) “Who or what made God?”

B) “The question assumes that God is the sort of being whose existence is contingent on something else.”

A) “Why couldn’t God be like that?”

B) “Well, one of the most basic ideas about God is that God is the First Cause.”

A) “…but what would have caused this ‘First Cause’…?”

B) “I said First, which means nothing before.”

62 thoughts on “first”

  1. In my opinion, it would be a more honest position to simply say “That question is unanswerable” than to state that which you have absolutely no knowledge of (that there was nothing before god).

  2. the semantic issues are inescapable with such conversations, but the ‘first’ point is thus: there cannot (by definition) be anything before the very first thing.

  3. You’re right, by definition nothing could come before the first thing. However, defining something as such doesn’t make it so, especially when the object of the definition is outside of the realms of observation and experimentation. The definition ends up coming down simply to theological speculation which is an enormous grey area.

  4. Science is pretty gray as well. Both theology and science are (as long as done by humans) unfinished disciplines. And I reckon it’s anything but wild, unreasonable speculation to posit a First Cause. Everything we observe (directly) is contingent on some cause outside of itself. One either believes in an infinite stack of turtles or that there is a final turtle (Cause).
    And as for observation, there is direct and indirect observation. We don’t observe God directly, but quite literally ‘everything’ (everything we observe directly) is evidence of a creator. What has been made points us to a maker. As Derek Webb wrote: “I’ve never seen my congressman, but I can’t deny that he exists …I’ve seen his legislation pass – I’ve seen his name on the ballot list.”

  5. If everything is evidence for a creator, then nothing is evidence for a creator. Our models of physical systems function without the god hypothesis. The assertion that a creator god is self-evident because things exist holds as much weight to me as saying that because lightening exists, therefore Thor exists, despite what we know about the origin of lightening. The redefinition of the creator god was a ‘necessary evil’ once we discovered that life in fact had not been created especially but rather had evolved, so much like the god of thunder, the argument from the existence of nature is a sort of post hoc fallacy.

  6. God is not the sort of being which would be a mere part of any physical concept, and not the sort of being which would be in competition with natural forces (i.e. that even the most robust explanations of how lightening [or evolution] works in any way begins to dent the notion of a creator or first cause). God is not a filler of gaps in natural causation/activity.

  7. It’s still a non-argument, if you inserted any other noun into what you said it makes absolutely no sense. For some reason though, when talking about deities it becomes acceptable to commandeer the most vague descriptions known to man. The god of the theologians is obviously not the god that I was brought up to believe in as a child, but instead of explaining what a god actually is, theologians seem to be more interested in creating ambiguity. An indefensible position can be made to seem viable by convoluting the issue and confusing the opposition.

  8. sorry, but I refuse to accept that it’s being ambiguous or vague to say that god is not physical? Or that a first cause would not have a cause before it.

    It terms of method, it’s helpful always track an idea back to it’s most general form (i.e. some kind of a god/cause/etc.), and deal with it at that level. Ruling out one specific form of the idea (i.e. a god whose existence hangs on having made the earth 6k years ago…) leave the other forms of it unengaged with. That’s not clouding the issue, that’s just the best way to consider it – general first, and then more and more specific.

  9. I would say it’s pretty ambiguous to say that “literally ‘everything’ (everything we observe directly) is evidence of a creator” while also claiming that god is non-physical and undetectable. The concept of god throughout the ages has gone through many drastic changes, in ancient times, gods seemed very real to them, and were an integral part of their lives. As human knowledge progressed further and further, the god concept retreated further and further until it reached the point where it was unassailable to the humans at the time. Before Newton’s time, God was responsible for holding the planets and stars in place, and after him, God was responsible for setting the laws of motion and gravity in place. Their god concept had retreated to an unassailable position once again.

    Before Darwin, God was responsible for creating life, and humankind along with it, and many Christians are still struggling to accept that this isn’t the case. The intelligent Christians have managed to grapple with this concept, and have retreated their god into an even more unassailable position. Now, instead of directly being responsible for things, God seems to have done everything by proxy, while still receiving credit as if he’d actually done something. Not only that, but God has now become undetectable and unknowable.

    So which is it, is God responsible for everything or is he responsible by proxy, thus making it impossible to tell the difference between a god-less universe and a god-filled universe? I don’t see how you can have it both ways, either everything is evidence for God, which would mean that the universe should point towards his existence, or god is an unknowable, unassailable concept that only works by proxy so that we can never detect his existence.

  10. “Ruling out one specific form of the idea (i.e. a god whose existence hangs on having made the earth 6k years ago…) leave the other forms of it unengaged with.”

    1. A bachelor is an unmarried man
    Therefore, a married man is not a bachelor

    “oh! that just rules out that specific form of the idea of a bachelor!”

    Okay, in all seriousness, would you please give an *unambiguous*, and *general* definition of god?

    If I say “I believe in a green pencil that will appear and talk to me when I clap my hands, jump up and down, and stomp my feet”, and then when i do this, a red pencil appears, i cannot say “I knew my belief was correct, it’s a green pencil!”. It’s fine changing your beliefs once you find a a logical inconsistency, or something just wrong with it. But this doesn’t change the fact that you’re no longer believing in the same thing. I mean, you’re no longer believing in the god as defined by the attributes XYZ. You are essentially conceding that god, as defined by those attributes does not exist.

    Do you agree with this? I mean, it appears to me that you think there can be an ambiguous god which can be further specialized to fit anyones views, and I think this is simply wrong. What I’m saying is that the ambiguous definition for which you *appear* to support does *not* fit with the definition a fundamentalist (or even a normal christian) would support.

    If a fundamentalist admits that he’s wrong, that the god as defined by the literal interpretation of the bible does not exist, it makes no sense for the this person to claim he still believes in the same god, just “it’s not defined by the literal interpretation of the bible anymore”, they are two distinct concepts, so he’s *changed* his beliefs.

    I had a point, I just forgot what it was…

  11. your last paragraph is your best one. The rest represents an understanding of the history of thought which is inaccurate (even a dualist like Plato, for example, didn’t conceive of ‘direct’, mechanistic [not to say micro-managerial] divine action – i.e. a little man in the clouds pouring little drops of rain out of a little bucket).

    But on your last paragraph. There are two (at least) ways of considering the question of whether or not our universe ‘points’ to a creator.
    1) If one assumes that natural causation does away with divine causation, then the first thing one looks for is ‘something nature can’t do’. This is where ID-ists point to irreducible complexity, etc. and various other ‘gaps’. For me, I don’t need to find a job too hard for nature, because I believe that God was well able to make a nature that can give things their intricate design.
    2) Which leads to the other way of considering the question. The first way looks for ‘something nature can’t do’, but the second way asks ‘why does anything exist at all?’ Call it nature, universe/multiverse, ‘nothing’/’something’, etc., etc. – the existence of anything/everything points beyond itself and begs the question(s): how/why?

    I’ve said before that there are only 3 categories of answers to the question, which are all logically possible (at least at first):
    a) everything is illusory (solipsism),
    b) everything is self-caused and self-existent (which is claimed of God, interestingly),
    c) everything is ‘other’-caused and ‘other’-existent.

    a) is logically possible, but at least our minds exist to consider this possibility.
    b) is logically possible, but makes an unassailable claim (to use your term) that the universe is able to self-exist, self-order, self-power, self-move, self-cause, self-direct, etc.
    c) is logically possible and (showing my bias here) coheres with what we see (i.e. universe characterised by layers of contingency) the most elegantly.

  12. Hi Cain,
    It’s not ‘either’/’or’, but ‘both/and’. In one sense, all who believe in any g(G)od(s) are all in agreement – the universe is not the Sagan-ish “I AM” (“…all there ever has been… is… will be…”). Muslims, Jews, Christians (and Sikhs) are all monotheists. There is absolutely nothing wrong (and quite a lot that is helpful) with considering the most general conception of “a g(G)od”.

  13. So basically the foundation of your belief in god is that ‘since something exists, god must have done it, therefore Christianity’?

    There is also a fourth option, agnosticism – “I don’t know”.
    This is the only honest position to take, and it’s the most empowering answer in my opinion, because it shows us plainly that we still have more to learn and understand, and that some day maybe we’ll have a better understanding of it.

  14. Christians (like all humans) are not omniscient (1 Cor 13:9a – “For we know in part…”), so in one sense everyone is ‘agnostic’ – we all have to say ‘i don’t know’. But this thread isn’t about epistemology is it? And obviously I’ve never pretended that the argument that god is a ‘necessary being’ points in a straight line to Christianity. Natural theology and Christian theology (or reason and revelation) are friends, but not the same thing.

  15. no – your wording “absolutely no knowledge of” is too strong. We don’t know everything (omniscience), but we don’t know nothing either.

    I’m not concerned with some kind of omniscient knowledge of God, and I’m inclined to think it would be blasphemous to claim such omnipotence. ;) I am, however, concerned with whether or not it is reasonable to believe in a God (which this post discusses in general terms of a ‘first cause’).

  16. I have yet to see anything that suggests humanity has any knowledge whatsoever of gods. The only things offered that I’ve seen are syllogisms like the Kalam Cosmological argument, which is mind-numbingly unconvincing.

  17. leaving the question of ‘having knowledge’ aside, would you be able to agree that belief in a (note the indefinite article) first cause is reasonable (i.e. not intellectual suicide)?

  18. I would agree that it is possible to make a reasonable case for Deism, but it still ends up being an argument from ignorance, i.e. “We don’t know everything about where the universe came from, so it might have been a god”. On the other hand I’m saying (along with other agnostic-atheists) “We don’t know everything about where the universe came from, therefore I am going to say I don’t know the answer, but I see no reason to attribute it to a god that I’ve seen no evidence of.”

    So I don’t think it’s intellectual suicide to have some belief in a first cause, but in my opinion is an intellectually inferior and inevitably a position based on ignorance rather than knowledge.

  19. You’re overly disparaging. It’s merely observing that (barring the unassailable claim that it’s self-existent, self-etc.) the universe must have been caused by something other than itself, and that (barring the notion of an infinite series of turtles) there must be a ‘first other’ (as opposed to just ‘another’ [and another… and another…] other).

    And again (re: “…a god that I’ve seen no evidence of.”), this is not an argument from silence, ignorance or non-observation. It is precisely because of the character and structure of what we do (continually) observe which points on to that which we cannot (nor should we expect to) observe.

  20. And again (re: “…a god that I’ve seen no evidence of.”), this is not an argument from silence, ignorance or non-observation. It is precisely because of the character and structure of what we do (continually) observe which points on to that which we cannot (nor should we expect to) observe.

    Would you mind rewording this/helping me understand what the heck you’re trying say?

    Thanks.

  21. Hi Cain,
    The point is that we are inferring a creator not from mere wishful thinking, but from our observations of the world. We observe that the world is structured in such a way that there are layers of contingency. Every single thing that we look at is explained by something that transcends it – some larger system. The original post (re First cause) is responding to the claim that a First-Cause would also be contingent on something that transcends it.

  22. You’re overly disparaging. It’s merely observing that (barring the unassailable claim that it’s self-existent, self-etc.) the universe must have been caused by something other than itself

    The self-existence/uncaused universe is a much more assailable position than a self-existing/uncaused god. The cosmological argument is not based on observation at all, in fact observation has shown that the premise of the argument to be wrong.

    1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
    2. The universe began to exist.
    3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    Neither premise 1 or 2 have actually been established, so the argument falls flat on its face. Quantum mechanics has shown us that our Newtonian conceptions of causality don’t apply within the parameters of the sub-atomic world. Premise 2 fails because the claim that the universe ‘began’ to exist has no basis in current physical and cosmological knowledge. The modern big bang theory does not rule out possibilities of prior universes. There are many functioning hypotheses for an uncaused origin to the universe, such as Quantum Tunnelling, the boundary model, string/M-theory etc. So while none of these can be “proved” to show precisely how the universe actually came into being, they serve as a strong indication that this is not the final frontier where the god-of-the-gaps is to be found. With plausible naturalistic explanations, the supernatural first-cause appears less and less likely.

  23. I’d have hoped it would be obvious that m-theory merely pushes the question back one level. What’s that turtle standing on!? And as for quantum activity, it goes wildly beyond observation to say that this overturns any of those premises! Whatever is happening at the quantum level (we only have tentative models) is happening within a relatively stable set of phenomena. It’s sloppy for some to say (as I’ve heard) that matter flicks in and out of *existence*. Far more correct to say that it flicks in and out of detectability (with current technology).

  24. I’d have hoped it would be obvious that m-theory merely pushes the question back one level.

    Let me rephrase that for you.

    I’d have hoped that it would be obvious that the god-hypothesis merely pushes the question back one level.

  25. …and of course, this is where i point back to the original post, which responds to that precise objection. First means first. Don’t hate the idea because it makes too much sense :)

  26. No I don’t hate it because it makes too much sense, I hate it because it’s completely unfounded.

    Person A: “Where did the universe come from?”
    Person B: “God created it”
    A: “That’s not an answer…”
    B: “Yes it is, because god is defined as the uncaused cause”
    A: “Defining something that you haven’t even shown to actually exist as such doesn’t magically make it exist”
    B: “God exists as the first cause by definition”

    A: *facepalm x10000000000*

  27. I agree that defining something (say an orbiting tea pot or FSM) doesnt imply it exists. But you’ll remember that the post isn’t an argument for gods existence, but rather shows how the “what caused the first cause?” question forgets the word “first”.

  28. And what I’ve been saying, is that there isn’t sufficient reason to accept that there is a first cause, let alone that cause is a god. The first cause argument is a bad argument from the get-go.

  29. “I don’t know” is my answer, as should everyone else’s.

    An ‘uncaused’ universe is more logically plausible than an uncaused first-cause to the universe, via. Ockham’s razor. If there is a plausible model for it (there are several) then I would to answer yes to your question.

    Like I said earlier though, a case could be made for a Deistic god, but if one was to accept that as an explanation, it’s still an enormous leap to go from that to a Theistic god who is concerned about what homo sapiens do in the bedroom. You’d still have all your work ahead of you.

    I think I’ll stick with “I don’t know the answer” though.

  30. It is worth noting that positing an uncreated, self-existent uni(multi)verse is to say that it is itself the first cause and the source of all existence, power, order, and motion. This broadly speaking is pantheism (for what it’s worth I classify atheism as a subset of pantheism).

    To me a self-existent nature/cosmos/multi-universe seems less plausible as it seems illogical for the causal chain (or “building” to add a metaphor) has simply one more link (or story-level in the house metaphor) as its origin/beginning. It seems more elegant (thus preferable via Ockham) to posit a non-chain (or ‘non-house’) entity which is not merely another link (or story-level), but an anchor (or foundation). Drawing the line at ‘this’ link in the chain seems arbitrary (why not one more?). What the first cause claim does is say, “Look, there is a causal chain here, and even though we cannot see the end of the chain, or what may be attached to it, we are going to say that the chain is not infinite and that – because the chain is a moving and functioning thing – we find it most reasonable to say that the chain is linked to something ‘other’ than the chain.”

    As for Deism to bedroom Theism, that is of course a different topic (God’s way of acting rather than God’s existence).

    And as for your blog title, based on this conversation I think you should change it to undeniably-agnostic. :) I’ve heard all the stuff about weak/strong atheism. But it just seems to me that better reflects your thought.

  31. I don’t really see how you can conflate atheism and pantheism, because pantheism states that the universe IS god (or vice-versa) whereas atheism is simply non-belief in any gods. How can a naturalistic self-caused or uncaused universe imply supernaturalism and religion? I just don’t see the connection.

    It seems more elegant (thus preferable via Ockham) to posit a non-chain (or ‘non-house’) entity which is not merely another link (or story-level), but an anchor (or foundation). Drawing the line at ‘this’ link in the chain seems arbitrary (why not one more?).

    That sounds uncanningly similar to what I was saying.. The god view is the one that adds extra floors, not the naturalistic self/uncaused universe.

    As for the agnostic/atheist thing..
    Agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive, since they refer to different kinds of things. I am both an agnostic and an atheist, and I prefer the term agnostic-atheist rather than weak atheist. Agnosticism pertains to my lack of knowledge relating to the existence of gods, and atheism pertains to my lack of active (or passive) belief in any gods.

  32. I didn’t conflate atheism/pantheism – I said I place atheism under the umbrella category of pantheism. Pantheism varies in how personal/god-like the Source is. Some pantheists actually talk about praying to the universe – atheists on the other hand deny any intelligence, intentions, person-hood to the universe. Then again, atheism could also be classified under Deism – minus the deity :) But I digress…

    As for the metaphor(s), hopefully you did not miss my key point? That ‘the god view’ (as you call it) doesn’t merely add another floor, but posits the first cause as the foundation (or the ground, to take it one step further – but the point is that it is a ‘non-house’ entity). The ‘un-caused/self-existent universe’ view says that the moving chain need not be attached to anything that moves it – or that the house needs no foundation/ground; it rests on itself. All metaphors break down, but I find this one helpful?

  33. ((to be picky, classifying atheism as one kind of pantheism does still ‘leave them as separate terms’)( :)

    We may be finished or close to it – but I am curious why you disagree ((logical reasons? if so, how is it unsatisfactory? scientific reasons? if so, which observed phenomena contradict it?)).

  34. I just see it as trying to redefine an unknown in an attempt to make it logically plausible, in the end it’s still an unknown.

    Scientifically? there are no observations that necessitate for there being a first cause outside the universe, and as I said before, Newtonian causality doesn’t apply at quantum levels, and quantum mechanics deals with a probabilistic kind of causality. Our Quantum models are by no means complete, but what we have worked out so far is extremely accurate and very useful.

    If you can see it from my perspective, it does seem like a last ditch god-of-the-gaps in an area of science that still has some ways to go.

  35. Hail!

    Well i supposed to write this on your page about abiogenesis, but the comments are 2 years old there, so I post it here.

    From your page I assume you are a Christian right? Yet I cannot understand why do you even care about abiogenesis, evolution and other sort of useless theories. I mean a true Christian does not even have to debate on those things (this is why I don’t consider creationists and IDs Christians), because if we accept that the Holy Bible is true (I assume you accept it too), than anything what contradicts the Holy Bible must not be true, and it is not true respectively. Your questions: “At what point can we officially say something is ‘living’? Just how would replicative things come about? Are things ‘alive’ before they can replicate? Can any of this happen today? If not, why not?” are blasphemous, you almost question the Holy Bible. When you could easily answer those questions: 1. when God makes it living, 2. God made them, 3. if God wants them to replicate, they will replicate (the bread and the fish were both dead), 4. if God wants it, yes, 5. because God didn’t wanted. You can’t debate about God, because God is perfect, I mean how do you know that the thoughts to debate about God, and other Godly things and the Holy Bible, don’t come from Satan? We both know that Satan can tempt us in any form, that is why our only chance is to accept God’s word in its given form and not to question it. That why cannot understand scientists, they are constantly trying to find more and more evidence that replaces God and the Holy Bible in our lives, but they are so dumb to not realize, that no matter what they find, how strong are their theories, they will never able to do that, even in infinite time, because we can only reach God, if we die, and our souls go to Haven. And they can say anything, my faith will and always be unshakeable. The only thing they gain is Hell, and all those who question God or debate about him, no matter they defend or offend God in the debate. We must not base our arguments on logic or cunning, but exclusively on faith. That is why I brotherly suggest to you, that when someone is trying to stagger you in your faith (shreddakj), simply answer to him/her this, “You cannot Question God!”, or “You cannot question the Holy Bible!”, after that “I warn you that your words, thoughts and actions through Satan’s impulse have led you to evil, in order to save your soul from Hell, repent your wrongdoings and turn to Christ and take him into yourself!”. Well not always that long, but I frequently use these sentences, when I encounter heretics or blasphemous people.

    I have read about your intentions and your journey, and I cannot say that you are not a Christian, but in order to become a true Christian I think you shouldn’t give into other beliefs, especially in these tough times, when Christianity is under attack from so many sides.

    God bless you!

  36. Frankson, I am a Christian and studying Bible and theology currently at Carey College in NZ and your statements really worry me.

    “You cannot Question God!”, or “You cannot question the Holy Bible!”

    I want to quote some words from Daniel L. Migliore who is a professor Emeritus at Princeton University from his book “Faith Seeking Understanding” (2004)

    P. 5 “the starting point of inquiry for the Christian is…awareness of the reality of God who is the creator and redeemer of all things… Second, for Christian faith and theology, inquiry is elicited by faith in God rather than being an attempt to arrive at certainty apart from God…If we believe in God we must expect that our old ways of thinking and living will be contiually shaken to the foundations…We will no longer be satifsifed with the unexamined beliefs and practices of our everyday lives…P. 6 RAther than having all the answers, believers often find that they have a new set of questions…The Bible is no easy answer book, although it is sometimes read that way…When faith no longer frees people to ask hard questions, it becomes inhuman and dangerous. Unquestioning faith soon slips into ideology, superstition, fanaticism…Human life ceases to be human not when we do not have all the answers, but when we no longer have the courage to ask the really important quesitons…While we may be accustomed to raising question in other areas of life, we are inclined to fear disturbance in matters of faith. We fear questions that might lead us down roads we have not traveled before. We fear the disruption in our thinking, believing and living that might come from inquiring too deeply into God and God’s purposes…P.8 While the church is indeed to stand under the authority of the biblical witness, it must avoid bibliolatry and read Scripture with sensitivity to its particular historical contexts and its diverse literary forms…Genuine faith does not suppress any questions; it may give people a lot more questions than they had before…The sort of thinking that Christian faith sets in motion does not replace trust in God but acts as a critical ingredient that helps to distinguish faith from mere illusion or pious evasion.”

    Our God is not small and although it is good to defend our faith we do not need to defend God. He is able to defend himself, and certainly able to cope with questions! We should not shrink from people who have genuine questions or label them as “Blasphemers”

  37. My writings were directed to the author of this website not for you! How dare you try to question my faith? And after that use my own word against me, I have clearly stated that we don’t have to debate about God’s existance, that means we don’t have to defend God, what I have said is to defend other Christians and to put heretics and blasphemers to right, and if they don’t want to be converted, then warn them that they will go to hell, after that we cannot do more about them.

    Why are you trying to shake my faith by implying that I believe God is small? Off with you Satan! I will never shrink, I will always believe in God, and the Holy Bible; they are the ones who shrink, because they refuse God!

    And I can only say to you, I don’t care about quotes from those people who doesn’t trust the Holy Bible, and thinks that it is no easy answer book, anyone can can find every answer in it if he/she seeks it persistently, and if cannot, than God wanted to hide that answer from us! So you cannot seek it!

    And in any case I know that God is perfect, so that these trivial questions don’t pose any threat to God. But if somebody is trying to burn down my church it is my duty to extinguish the fire, if you wouldn’t do that, than you should hide forever!

  38. Frankson,
    Welcome to the blog, and I’m sorry you found the other thread closed – I might have closed it because of numerous spam comments.
    Though I’d prefer this thread stay relatively on topic, my experience is the my faith is sharpened and strengthened through embracing/allowing real questions rather than pretending that asking questions = not trusting God. My understanding is that the Scriptures are chock-full of faithful people who questioned God quite directly (Abraham, Moses, heaps of prophets, heaps of psalmists, etc.).
    I don’t presume anything about the genuineness of your faith, and I’d appreciate you return the favor to me and others who engage with others about questions.

    Raewyn,
    I’m sure I’d know your face, and I’ve seen your name (do we have Romans or Culture together?), but I’m embarrassed that I can’t put them both together :) Probably will see you tomorrow :)

  39. oh, and shreddakj,
    For me, it’s a matter of a fundamental category distinction between nature and non-nature. Our explorations of both will always be partial and incomplete. However, even if we had the capacity to give a full account of the workings of nature at the macro (i.e. cosmological) and micro (i.e. quantum) level, this activity is still a part of ‘nature’, and thus leaves the question of nature’s origin (and I’m still waiting to be shown how the natural sciences could answer the question of nature’s origin). Simply adding another natural cause is to stay within the category of nature. A non-natural cause, however, would be quite another thing and even if one is not persuaded by it, it remains that a non-natural, first cause is a coherent notion and is reasonable to believe in. And quite simple, really.

  40. Why should we try to answer questions? Or why should we formulate questions? Isn’t the best way to live is to ignore the useless things what take away the time, what we could spend on Jesus? I think we should ignore all those who make up questions, and live as others lived since the creation of Man. The Holy Bible don’t say anything about, for instance telescopes, that we must look into them in order to understand the World. Common sense is enough to observe the wonder of creation, and to live peacefully with Jesus and our brothers and sisters. What remain hidden, should be remain hidden.

  41. Why shouldn’t we try to formulate/answer questions? Yes, let’s ignore useless things – certainly. And yes, I do agree that living a godly, human, Jesus-shaped life does not require one to be a walking science textbook. However, I’m convinced that, when done well (ie. when not used as a cheap god-proving/disproving trick) the scientific, question-asking endeavour enhances our lives, rather than hinders/distracts from them.

  42. …and of course, this is where i point back to the original post, which responds to that precise objection. First means first. Don’t hate the idea because it makes too much sense

    As it stands, your first post is fallacious, specifically, it’s special pleading.

    To remedy this, lets look at the equivalent “argument” and see how you make the difference…

    A) “Who or what made the universe?”

    B) “The question assumes that the universe is the sort of being whose existence is contingent on something else.”

    A) “Why couldn’t the universe be like that?”

    B) “Well, one of the most basic ideas about the universe is that the universe is the First Cause.”

    A) “…but what would have caused this ‘First Cause’…?”

    B) “I said First, which means nothing before.”

    What is it about god exactly that makes your objections to this not apply to your god?

  43. Cain,
    A First Cause is the only ‘thing’ that is by definition un-caused. To use ‘god’ language – a God is by definition not just another natural cause.

  44. Can you please explain just what a ‘non-natural’ cause is? Outside the universe yeah… No one has ever proved that non-natural causes even exist.

    On top of that, current scientific models show that a universe could form out of nothing.

  45. The semantic issues are many here. What is “nothing”, for example.

    The natural sciences study the natural phenomena which we can observe. They don’t study (and thus cannot adjudicate on) anything outside of observable phenomena. Science does not disprove (or, of course, prove) non-natural objects. ((the same goes for objects in a parallel universe, as in M-theory, that is, as long as we are making our scientific observations from within our universe)) All science qua science can do is shrug its shoulders at the notion of objects or causes external to nature.

    But to your question: For our conversation, the only thing we need know about a ‘non-natural’ cause is what the negation (explicit in the term itself) tells us. A non-natural cause is not natural. Call it super-natural or supra-natural or hyper-natural – whatever; it is not just one more link in the chain of natural causation.

    As for ‘proving’ that such a cause exists; again, we have indirect evidence of such a cause in the existence of a nature which is apparently contingent from top to bottom.
    **One can claim that nature itself is endowed with the omni-potency to self-cause/self-exist/self-sustain/self-direct. This claim is unassailable – and also contrary to the contingent/changeable structure of nature that we see with science.
    **Or… one can claim (not quite ‘prove’ though) that nature was (and continues to be) caused by a non-natural agency. This claim is reasonable, simple, avoids an infinite chain of causal turtles, and ‘fits’/coheres with the contingent structure of nature.

    As for ex nihilo universes, the language here (as in, from what I’ve seen, Hawking/Mlodinow’s latest popular-level book, ‘The Grand Design’ for example) is fraught with difficulty. Even if m-theory could be trusted as a complete explanation for our universe, it only pushes the question back one level – one more turtle.

    On QM: There is ‘nothing’ in the philosophical sense of no ontological qualities or non-being. no being, no act, no potency, no thing. There is also ‘nothing’ in the (linguistically questionable) sense that I think some theoretical physicists mean. This is not ‘nothing’ in the philosophical sense of non-being, but in the ‘can we call this phenomena matter or not?’ sense. What we don’t observe (and cannot) observe is being coming into being from non-being. act from non-act – potency from non-potency – things from no things…

    No matter how much the loose wording of theoretical physicists get used/abused in popular discourse, the origin of being is a philosophical question, not one that the natural sciences can even begin to explore. That’s not protecting non-natural causes from science. It’s just taking both science and philosophy seriously enough to keep them distinct.

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