Monday, June 22, 2009

~[(P => Q) => (Q => P)]

If jack drives into a brick wall at 90 MPH, it is highly likely that he will die. But if Jack dies, it his not at all likely that he drove into a brick wall at 90 MPH.

The fallacy of the above inference is obvious, but people make this mistake all the time. Kids often say things like, "Someone stole my pencil! I can't find it anywhere." I used to get nervous when my classmates would say that. If someone stole your pencil, it's likely that you won't be able to find it. But if you can't find your pencil, it is still rather unlikely that someone snuck into your cubbie, rummaged through your markers, tzedakah pennies, candy wrappers, and tickets, and stole your chewed-up pencil.

People say, "You know why they haven't developed feasible alternative fuels? Because the oil companies won't allow them. Big oil controls everything. They don't allow the scientists to make any progress." Ignoring the question of who exactly "they" are, there's a bigger issue. A Big-oil conspiracy makes alternative fuels unlikely, but lack of alternative fuels does not make a conspiracy likely.

My darling little nephew (who is picted in my Facebook profile picture) had bronchitis, poor thing. Said his mother on Shabbos, "Yankel is sick. Sarah is sick. It must be that Junior's disease is contagious." Thought I, as I sat at the table and contemplated writing this post, "Junior's disease being contagious makes it likely that Sarah and Yankel would be sick at the same time, but does their illnesses' coincidence mean that Junior's bronchitis is contagious?"

Now for the point of this whole exercise:

People say, "Do you know how unlikely our universe is? And then imagine how much unlikelier our beautiful planet is? And the human being is the most unlikely of all! Such magnificent coincidences cannot be the product of random chance. Obviously, G-d created the world and has plan for it. Certainly we human beings play a special role with cosmic significance.

Say I, certainly the existence of a G-d with human-centric plans makes our circumstances likely. But do our circumstances make G-d likely?


  1. Big oil controls everything? I thought the Jews did.

  2. good point. I think I'll go out and beat up some random Jews.

  3. e: If you beat up some Shomrim members then shmira will back you up, or vice-versa...could be quite the excitement!

  4. I don’t get it. I am not saying I like the argument or that I even believe its premise, but since you’re not attacking it from this angle but do accept (at least within the boundaries of your arguments) the assumption that our world is unlikely, then I don’t understand your argument.

    What does “likely” mean? This argument provides a basis why we should even consider the idea of G-d. Sorry, can’t write more now…

  5. I'd hate to agree with you, but yeah, that is a lame proof for the existence of G-d.

    However, there are better proofs.

  6. Pretty cool how you go about committing what you seemingly decry, as you present a false argument yourself.

    The the argument that you are trying to reject is actually comprised of two parts:

    1) In view of the extreme improbability of the world and life coming into existence by accident, it must be by design or with purpose.

    2) That purpose includes a specific role for humans.

    Your musings do not seem to address the second point at all and seem targeted at #1. But you do nothing to refute #1, either!

    There is clearly a difference between arguing that a consequence is a proof of a specific cause when there are numerous other possible causes (as in your examples of dead Jack, missing pencils, and sick children) on the one hand, and arguing that a consequence is proof that there is some cause, i.e. that there must be some design or purpose.

    BTW, besides offering a flawed and losing argument, you are actually losing the argument with a mere straw man!

    To the degree that your argument carries any weight at all, it does so only to the degree that an alternative possibility to God, however unlikely, exists. So, if the odds are 1:1,000,000 (which is being charitable to you, go figure it out) for random coming into existence, you are only 1:1,000,000 likely to be right, but it is your privilege to stake out that farfetched position. I think that even a straw man can beat you with odds of 999,999:1,000,000

    But, if the odds are 0:~ then you have no argument at all.

    Since it is impossible by any natural means, by purpose or by chance, for nothing to suddenly (or gradually) become existence, it is impossible for random chance to have brought existence about. So the chances for purposeless existence are 0.

    And, yes, when three kids in the same group have the same disease at the same time, it is probably being communicated somehow, if not from one to the other, than from some common source such as tainted food or water.


    u make good points but i am unqualified to refute them. I'll leave that up to E. hehe.

    now i shall get my ring side seat, and my popcorn, and enjoy the show! yay!

  8. Holy smokes anon. I'll be reading ensuing comments.

  9. It’s a classical fallacy with atheist reasoning. Which I, by the way, have never fallen into when I was an atheist. The fallacy is called: “There are other possible explanations”. OK, I agree, there are, but first, I want to see them, second, I want to see their probability in comparison to what I brought as a possible explanation.

    — My breaks squeel, I need to get them checked out.
    — Don’t bother; there are other reasons why breaks could squeel.

    — The biopsy showed that the growth you have is likely malignant, so we recommend an operation asap.
    — How likely?
    — I’d say 85%.
    — So, there is 15% chance that it is not?
    — Yes, but…
    — That’s enough. No surgery…

  10. It is the same mistake that folks that don’t believe in Theory of Evolution commit. To day, TE is the best explanation of the origin of species (within realm of science). Yes, there are other possible explanations, but this one is the best.

  11. (Well, origin of species’ complexity, to be more precise. Well, origin of species’ design’s complexity.)

  12. trs: that's exactly what I need to spice up my life.

    C: glad to have you on my team!

    CA: There's a difference between a squeaky brakes and the universe. Your intuitive guess of likely causes for a squeaky brake are worth looking into because you know about squeaks and brakes from experience. But intuition is much less trustworthy when discussing probable causes for the universe.

    Same with the surgery. You can assign a probability to the necessity of surgery, but you can't assign probabilities to where the universe came from.

  13. Anon: basically, you said that God creating the universe is the only likely cause for the universe's existence, so we can infer the cause (i.e. god) from the effect (the universe).

    Who said there aren't other possible causes? You think that stuff just happening without God pulling the strings is unlikely? Well, God--one who has the attributes that you ascribe to him--is also pretty damn unlikely. He's wise, loving, moral, powerful, listens to prayers, authors books, dictates them to prophets, picked out one nation to love more than all the others, wants you to do all sorts of weird things, etc. etc. Is that a parsimonious hypothesis?

    Unfortunately I can't offer a possible alternative cause (Sorry CA). I don't know anything about what's outside the universe, so my guesses of what's likely and unlikely are pretty worthless.

    If I'm allowed as much non-parsimony as you allow yourself, maybe I can come up with something...

  14. Here is your reponse in todays newpaper:

    Actually, you just repeated your original erroneous conflation of the two parts of the argument. And, then you repeat your argument which, as we have seen, the straw man will beat you at.

    You do not comment at all on the fact that the odds are not 1:1,000,000 but 0.

    To repeat myself again, in the hopes you will notice: The discussion of causes and outcomes and drawing the line from the latter to the former relates to part #1 of the argument (purpose/design vs. chance), and since there is nothing in our experience and nothing which can even be conceived of by any mathematical or scientific model which would allow for nothing to accidentally develop into an ordered universe, there is simply no alternative to accepting that there is a design. (correction: there is an alternative - it is called sticking your head in the sand.)

    The nature of the designer, if He/She/It has one, is not worth discussing if we haven't agreed with the simple fact that there is a design.

  15. "It is impossible to "prove" or "disprove" the existance or inexistance of a Deity using the scientific method..."

  16. Anon: you're wrong. Physicists have come up with models for the universe's coming into existence without anyone or anything designing it beforehand. I doubt you'd like any of these models, but don't say there are no models out there.

    You have this habit of writing long and fancy-sounding sentences which are hard to understand. Please try to be brief and to the point.

  17. I'm not on your team. I just agree that the proof is bring is not a proof. However, there are better proofs to the existence of G-d.

  18. Right. But in this specific situation we're on the same team.

  19. To be brief and to the point:

    How about a link to such a model which gets from nothing at all to the first something?

  20. If you are interested, you can read Alan Guth's book "The Inflationary Universe", page 271-276. You can also read Hawking's "A brief history of time: From the Big Bang to black holes" page 136.

  21. Anonymous: How do you arrive from your premise that their is zero chance that something can be created from nothing without designer to your conclusion that "G-d" created the universe? The latter is not a necessity of the former, rather, it is an answer imputed by humans as a definite (or at least probability) for what is essentially unknowable (albeit a possibility). This, I believe, is what Eliezer was getting at in the initial post.

    I think also that what distinguishes the various scientific models from the religious model is that scientific models are always given with the understanding that they may later be rebutted by new evidence and observations, and also that they do not purport to be unchanging truths. Religion, on the other hand, says that it is absolute truth, is not based on observation, and largely relies for its veracity on human inabilities to produce anything concrete and conclusive about the universe.

    The problem with making such absolute allegations is that science and our ability to observe natural phenomena is getting better and more precise, so that even if we cannot figure things out conclusively based on science, we can begin to rule some things out as, at least, improbable.

  22. Additionally, it should be pointed out that even if logic and probability would suggest a designer, that would be a vastly different argument than saying that this designer had a plan for the universe. There is no implication from mere existence that there is a purpose to existence.

  23. Meno: The big issue, in my opinion, is recognizing that there is a designer. Once that premise is established, the rest is all details, and can probably be emipirically or logically proven.

  24. Oops. That should have read "Nemo." Sorry, didn't mean to mangle your name.

  25. Anon: I disagree. Please suggest how divine expectations can be concretely derived out of the creation of the universe?

  26. I got tired of posting anonymously, so I got a name, I think. We'll see if it works.

    Nemo: I see that we disagree on this, but while you may not agree that creation proves divine expectations, you certainly agree, I assume, that if the world just happened then there are certainly no divine expectations. So, that needs to settled first.

  27. If the world just happened there may or may not be a "divine."

    If the world was created by something, there is no way to know a) what created it, b) why it was created, c) what relationship the creators have with the created, and etc. For all we know from first cause logic, the world might have been created by a bunch of supernal tech geeks in an experiment and we're being stored in some file in a harddrive which is never looked at. Or whatever.

  28. OK, e.

    Book report time

    I did my homework. I found Guth online and basically he explains that matter is created out of “vacuum fluctuations” and that there is a balance between positive energy in particles and negative energy in antiparticles or gravity. I can’t summarize all of it and still be brief and to the point. If you want more details go look it up yourself. The point is that the vacuum in which the world came and comes into existence (these particle/antiparticle pair keep flashing in and out of existence) is not really nothing. Which begs the question how did that non-nothing vacuum get there? This is such a good question that Guth ends the chapter, and the book, with the following:

    “If the creation of the universe can be described as a quantum process, we would be left with one deep mystery of existence: What is it that determined the laws of physics?”

    There is nothing that says that the appropriate first word for the last sentence is “what” more than “who.”

    At this point, I can rest my case. But since teacher e assigned two readings I will report on that too. I couldn’t find the whole text of the book online but I found a collection of excerpts. There was a substantial quote from p. 136, which basically says the same as Guth in his chapter. So, nothing new there.

    Scanning some other quotes from Hawkings:

    Speaks for itself:
    If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have recollapsed before it ever reached its present size.

    I think this commits the sin that got e started in the first place:
    According to this theory [strong anthropic principle], there are either many different universes or many different regions of a single universe, each with its own initial configuration and, perhaps, with its own set of laws of science. In most of these universes the conditions would not be right for the development of complicated organisms; only in the few universes that are like ours would intelligent beings develop and ask the question: "Why is the universe the way we see it?" The answer is then simple: If it had been different, we would not be here!

  29. re the first reading: nothing says it needs to be a what. and nothing says it needs to be a who. It can be anything. We don't know. Period. This doesn't give you the right to create god in your image.

    re: the second reading. Hmm. I think it speaks for itself too, but I think it says something different.

  30. re the first reading: nothing says it needs to be a what. and nothing says it needs to be a who. It can be anything. We don't know. Period. This doesn't give you the right to create god in your image.

    re: the second reading. Hmm. I think it speaks for itself too, but I think it says something different.

  31. The problem with brevity, is that the implicit becomes more significant. I should have written that I rest my case before my observation that "who" and "what" are interchangeable.

    What is does show is that my original assertion, that there is no model at all for nothing becoming something without a designer still stands. These guys start with the premise that there is a non-nothing vacuum before the big bang. And, what came before the non-nothing vacuum? Hmmm? The Laws of Physics? And what determined the Laws of Physics? A "Deep Mystery."

    Now, at this point, let us grant that every theory, supposition and projection is true. So, it all starts with "Deep Mystery." What do we know about "Deep Mystery?" So far, that he/she/it transcends the laws of physics. Ponder that for a while.

    When you have finished pondering that, you may then go on to ponder the following: DM did not generate the laws of physics out of either necessity or chance, because either of those could be described by the laws of physics.

    For the sake of brevity, I will stop here for the meanwhile, and leave you to ponder the implications of that.

  32. Agreed that something transcendent preceded the universe, but why label it a "designer"?

  33. As I stated briefly, succinctly and profoundly in my second ponderance, it wasn't necessity, it wasn't chance. So what's left other than on purpose?

  34. Just to start off, I want to say that brakes do only squeal when you need new ones, look it up.
    I had a professor once that said that if you cannot summerize or explain yourself in one page and using simple language, then you have no business saying it because you have no idea what you are talking about. so ridiculously stilted language only serves to show everyone your inability to have a decent conversation.
    on to the point. String theory! this is a secular theory which insinuates a designer. you can propose a designer oriented theory without a G-d person in it. but there are even more theories going around now (much more) which "scientifically" disprove creator theories. you have obiviously opened your...vocabulary up, why not try actually opening yourself up to the argument at hand and stop citing dilbert? oh and have you been to college?

  35. As I stated briefly, succinctly and profoundly in my second ponderance, it wasn't necesity, it wasn't chance. So what's left other than on purpose?

    Maybe it was necessity. Maybe it was chance. Maybe it was on purpose by some non-god.

  36. If the laws of physics were determined either by chance or, of necessity, needed to be that way, why would the explanation of that perforce remain a "deep mystery?" It ought to be as explainable by science as everything subsequent. Apparently, it is Mr. (or is it Dr.) Guth's understanding, that all of these theories (yes, including string theory) can explain things going way back to the big bang and beyond, to the non-nothing vacum which "fluctuates" particles and anti-particles into observable existence. But, and this is where he supports my original contention rather than disproves it as e thinks, these theories do not and cannot explain how this non-nothing vacuum got there in the first place. Recognizing that just attributing it to the laws of physics is a cop out, he concludes his book (on page 276, sebastion - I suppose for you and your professor 275 pages of the book are unnecessary) with the observation that even after all the theories are established as true that deep mystery will remain.

    This is not just about Guth or Hawking. I am only dwelling on this because brought it up, so I looked it up and what do you know? Guth agrees with me!

    There is no way in nature to get from nothing to something. You can call that First Cause what you like, and choose not to use any word you find offensive, but when you own up to the truth that Guth was man enough to, and recognize that FC is out there, it is inevitable that certain other conclusions can and must be drawn. So far I mentioned one - that he/she/it created the world by choice, not accident, necessity or chance - but there are many more, such as that there is purpose in it. And that is where I entered this conversation.

    And yes, it is possible logically to get from that, to the next point, that we are that purpose, and that Torah and Mitzvos are that purpose, etc. but there is no point in trying to build that case without the foundation, so I am not going there, at least for the meanwhile.

  37. IGAN: As I recall, I asked you to explain how to get from the FC logic to anything else. You ignored me.

    There are so many issues to resolve before you can reach the Torah and Mitzvos question. Why should you have to suppose that 1) it was "God" and no other 2) that it was on purpose 3) that it was designed 4) that it has a purpose? These cannot be empirically or logically deduced from a FC argument.

  38. Nemo: Sorry I did not ignore you. I simply declined to go all the way yet. I don't think we have a concensus on the FC which is the foundation.

    I have already noted that if there is a FC it means choosing to create the world, which in and of itself is a purposeful act. That is 2,3,4.

    As far as #1, it is interesting to note the properties ascribed to the "non-nothing vacuum" (especially by those who are not committed believing athiests like Dawking or Hitchens) and you will have at least half your answer to #1.

  39. IGAN: I'm getting sick of this conversation, which isn't getting anywhere.

    My final comment (which you probably won't understand): You consistently beg the question. You're taking for granted exactly what is in question, namely that only a designer could make a universe.

  40. IGAN: it is not impossible to imagine a world which was not created purposefully. What if the world's clumsy maker haplessly spilled a big vat of primordial ether, which evolved into our universe?

  41. e: I am not taking anything for granted. I read the references which YOU gave, and found that they (or at least he) concur(s) that there is no way in nature for a universe to just happen to be there out of nothing. I think I explained quite lucidly, and briefly, why what I am writing makes sense. I don't mean to be rude as a guest on your blog, but I think you are so bought into maintaining the question that you have not given any consideration to what I wrote.

    Nemo: If you accept the premise that there is a "maker" (who, according to Guth, makes the laws of physics) it is not possible that a situation should arise which is out of his control. Remember, he is the one making the rules.

  42. You're not understanding me. I'll try one more time.

    The only thing that can logically be deduced is that there was a first cause, as it were, to the universe, as we know it. There is nothing else that is knowable by necessity besides that something, somehow brought nothing into something -- again, as it were. We do not know from extrapolation whether there was a "maker" who consciously and purposefully designed the universe, or whether by some cosmic happenstance, assuming the right conditions existed prior to it, the world came into being.

    Now, there are a plethora of ways for this first cause to have happened, and as I've demonstrated, it only requires imagination to propose new ways of creation.

    Do you know how many scientific discoveries were made by accident? What about all these movie doomsday scenarios where a scientific creation goes out of control? Why is it impossible then to imagine a scientific laboratory in which this universe was just a failed or accidental experiment?

  43. can i step in for a moment?

    at the risk of sounding like an idiot,

    nemo- it is possible, just like anything is possible. so the world was an 'accident'. so wut? that doesnt make us any less here, or the world any less of a place then it is. wut r u trying to prove? that there is indeed no g-d? or that we cant tell either way? cuz i think u guys are exhausting the argument, and theres nothing more to say.

  44. "or that we cant tell either way?"

    This. And to bolster E's point that our circumstances (and the functioning of the universe) do not indicate, or even make probable, that a god-being exists.

    I speak only to the flawed logic of the creationism arguments and make no assertions about whether G-d exists or not. If you want to believe that G-d created the universe, don't believe it because you think it's deducible, because it is not.

  45. Nemo: I'll give it another try, too.

    Once there is a universe in place, yes, it is possible for accidents to happen within that universe. At that point, the likelihood of all of the circumstances being right for existence as we know it are small, very small, very very small, but posible. I think Crawling Axe addressed that a bit.

    But that is all possible once you have Guth's "non-nothing Vacuum" and the laws of physics. If you have a bottle of ink and you have a surface, then even an accidental spill may form a seemingly meaningful design. But if neither exists, then there is ZERO chance of an inkblot.

    That is the first foundation for us to recognize the existence of some entity who caused all of the universe as we know it to exist. This includes time and space, of course, and the laws of physics, and the non-nothing vacuum which precedes and underlies this universe.

    This entity precedes that entire list and exists outside and independently of them. If the term "god' bothers you, fine, call it something else. But this she/he/it clearly was not compelled to do it as there were no laws of physics yet, to compel it. It clearly did not happen by accident, accidents happen when there is stuff with certain potential and when forces act upon it. Ink can make stains; a cat can knock open a bottle of ink; ink can leak out of an opening in the bottle, and you have an inkblot. But, if you create the ink, the cat, the bottle, and the properties of each, and the laws which govern them (which do not bind yourself as you are above the laws) than it is hard to argue that the inkblot is an accident and unintended.

    Furthermore, since the natural state of nothing is to be nothing and not something, every distortion of that natural state must have a force which continually forces that distortion, and when should that force cease, the something would revert back to its natural state. (I think Guth had something about this, too, but a generation down the chain, with regard to the particles an anti-particles coming into existence and immediately flashing back out). Which means that s/h/i not only created the universe, time, space, physics, etc. but it creating them now. (This is a distinction which may be more meaningful to us than h/h/i, because s/h/i is beyond time and therefore arguably by definition is creating now.) This makes an "accidental" creation even more untenable, because it presumes not just a one-time spilling of a vat, but ongoing maintenance of the primordial puddle on the floor.

    This has nothing to do with whether one chooses to call s/h/i "god." But once you've gotten this far, that is small comfort.

  46. I said i wouldn't comment anymore, but I can't resist.July 1, 2009 at 2:21 PM

    "But this she/he/it clearly was not compelled to do it as there were no laws of physics yet, to compel it."

    Be a little creative. Maybe it wasn't the laws of physics. Maybe it was some other "laws" that operate outside of the universe. Forget it. You can't know what it was.

  47. It clearly did not happen by accident, accidents happen when there is stuff with certain potential and when forces act upon it.

    Again, if we look at this in terms of an earthly analogue, it is possible for this first cause to be accidental. All that the first cause would require is some sort of set rules or algorithms for creation. The material would only need to be "designed" to function in a certain way, and then it can adapt or evolve on its own. If the primordial materials guided by the algorithms was accidentally spilled, the conditions would exist for a world to be created from "nothing" into something, and it would be accidental and self-propelling/evolving. Picture a big science lab where all sorts of things are going on and lots of things get tossed around.

    Furthermore, since the natural state of nothing is to be nothing and not something, every distortion of that natural state must have a force which continually forces that distortion, and when should that force cease, the something would revert back to its natural state.

    How do you take this for granted? This conjecture is hardly presumed and is based on multiple questionable assumptions, which utterly defy empirical observations.

    We have self-standing structures in our world and can assume that absent opposing forces, structures can remain and do not revert to prior states of existence. Permanence, in our experience isn't dependent on external forces lending support.

    We also see that plants and trees grow and evolve and that the earth develops. We know this because we can see it and measure it. There are scientifically credible theories that attempt to go back and explain the evolutionary process.

    ONCE AGAIN, I am not arguing for whether this is a G-d or not, I am merely asserting that once cannot make logical deductions to anything besides a First Cause. We know this because, in our experience, everything has a preceding cause which brought its existence and therefore the world must have something which caused it.

  48. Putting in more words doesn't change the basic fact. By substituting "other 'laws"" or "algorithms" for laws of physics or supposing that they exist prior to the laws of physics, you have not addressed the real point. The first cause is by definition not bound or subject to any of them.

    Can you begin to count the multiple self contradictions and nonsequitors in this fragment: " is possible for this first cause to be accidental. All that the first cause would require is some sort of set rules or algorithms for creation. The material would only need to be "designed" to function in a certain way.."

    Come on! Think about this honestly for a moment. What does "first cause would require some set of rules" mean. Rules made by whom? The first cause?

    And has hard as you tried you could not escape using the word "design" and no, putting it in quotes does not suffice to lessen the import of it.

    And so it goes through the rest of your dissertation but as e wants us to stay brief I cannot even list them all, let alone dissect them. Here is just one (or maybe it is two): (paraphrasing) The primordial materials accidently spill creating the condition for "nothing" to evolve into something. Are you suggesting that the primordial materials existed when there was only nothing which subsequently, and as a result of the spill, evolve into something? Not to belabor the obvious point which has been made repeatedly, nothing in existence means the primordial materials have not yet been created. Even your chronology has a first cause before the materials, so of what relevance is the whole dicussion of the science lab? And why did you put the "nothing" in quotes? Do you really mean true nothing or something along the lines of Guth's non-nothing vacuum?

  49. Geez, talk about making straw men ... And also, I didn't read Guth, so stop referencing me to it.

    Let's talk "first cause" on two different levels - 1) a limited first cause, relative to the universe, 2) an expansive first cause, which caused all causes (parenthetically, this multi-tiered FC scheme might have something to do with Chassidus's ideas about seder histalshelus). It is my opinion that neither evidence a purposeful, perpetually involved and recreating, creator.

    1) First cause is the production of this universe - space, planets, earth, trees, people, etc. - to which we can know from observation that something HAD to cause it and initiate it from nothing (in human-conception) to something. But we don't know the details about that first cause and we cannot definitively extrapolate them from logic.

    We cannot assume just on the basis of our existence or of the evolving world that this evidences: 1) purposefulness - because previously existing conditions might have caused an accident 2) purposiveness - because of #1 and because you cannot presume to know what, if anything, the creator/cause had in mind, or 3) involvement - because of #'s 1-2 and because active supervision and re-creation are not mandated by human experience.

    2) First cause as the cause of causes. If we follow the causation logic to its furthest end, we have a problem: we, with our experience, can only assume that every cause has a cause that preceded it, and so on ad infinitum. Therefore, you end up with a perplexing conclusion that their must be an ultimate first cause, which exists just because it does. Although this un-caused cause is negated by our experience, we have to accept it logically because the alternative - that even the "first cause" must have a cause - is circular and cannot be true.

    But so is the notion that it was "G-d" who was the first cause circular. How can it be said with certainty that there is only one such cause that exists just because it does? If we conclude that something can exist "just because," how can we conclude that there is only one thing that exists? Maybe there are multiple "just becauses?" Furthermore, if we have already concluded that something can exist "just because," that can bring us full-circle into saying that the real first cause, existing "just because" is our universe. "Mother nature" might be the first cause! The God-conclusion, as a matter of logic, is arbitrary. Humans believe that there must be a G-d - perhaps because it is a convenient answer to a complex question - and then suddenly the first cause must be this monotheistic being of omnipotence.

  50. Oy! OK, forget about Guth.

    G-d is not a circular answer to the first cause conundrum.

    Go back through what you wrote and when you get to, “Although this un-caused cause is negated by our experience, we have to accept it logically because the alternative - that even the "first cause" must have a cause - is circular and cannot be true.” STOP.

    Before you name this logically necessary first cause and give it personality, etc. decide whether you are convinced by this or not.

    If not, do not waste re-reading anything you wrote after this because it is irrelevantly responding to a false premise. Also do not bother reading anything I wrote assuming this conclusion is true.

    If true, proceed with caution, but in a slightly different direction.

    What has been established? Only that there is an ultimate first cause, “negated by our experience,” yet of necessity, true.

    What can we know about this first cause? Initially, not much, other than that it is not bound or bounded by our experience or the laws which govern our existence. (For if it was bound by our experience or laws of physics etc. it would require a cause, and we then are back around the track.)

    I think that we are probably pretty much in agreement up until this point. It is at this point that I suggested the idea which I will get to again in a moment and which you have been arguing. As you made so clear in your recent post, there are two tiers of first cause, and for some reason in previous posts you kept tying what I was saying to your #1 type of first cause, while I was referring to this “cause of all causes” first cause.

    Now, at this point in the conversation and the causation process, I ask you to do the following thought experiment.

    (Remember, at this point there does not yet exist any lab in the sky with a floor on which to spill primordial matter, laws of physics, etc., just that first cause of all causes.)

    Now, this FC creates something, whether the universe as we know it, some primordial pre-beginnings of the possibility for a universe, or anything in between.

    Let us speculate on why.

    Can it be because it was compelled to? No, because nothing exists to compel it. (If something does exist, then this is not the first cause, and we need to move back up the chain to the real beginning and start over.)

    Can it be by chance or accident?

    Well, chance would imply that there are several possibilities and something comes along to actuate one of the several possibilities. Like your dreidel has four sides – chance may decide which of those existing faces will be up – provided someone spins it (and that there exists an ‘up’).Same with accident. “It could be anywhere; it was dropped on the floor.” Will work every time, provide there is a floor and a “dropper” such as wind, a schlemiel, etc. To put this slightly differently, chance or accident come into play when talking of the possible interaction of a number of objects, forces and possibilities.

    Absent any external causes as actuators or any possible forms of existence, as none have been created, any creation must be attributable wholly and exclusively to the first cause. Ergo, not an accident.

    Well, what’s left? It’s not necessity, and it’s not chance. What is that called? It’s called “volition.” As one dictionary defines it, “the ability to decide things for oneself.”

    Nothing in the discussion has given reason to assume that the first cause is lacking that ability. And, by elimination, there is no other imaginable cause.

    You can either follow this logical analysis, and acknowledge that the existence of the universe is a result of the volition of the first cause (or you can find the flaw in the analysis), or you can adhere with blind faith to some unfathomable fourth explanation (not compelled, not chance, not volition, but …) which is even less probable. The latter is also intellectually suspect, because the only reason to opt for the unfathomable in the face of an eminently logical explanation is because it is inconvenient.

  51. I just reread this thread, and am very impessed with the compelling argument advanced by IGAN.

    Actually, I was reminded of this discussion by this news story:

    It is as circular as some of the arguments raised here. Just because they can posit an "aeon" before this one does not eliminate the question of what came before it all.

    What it does do is challenge Guth's conclusion (sorry Nemo) that we can never know what came before the Big Bang.


Forth shall ye all hold.