I might as well tear the argument apart while I’m at it. Here is the argument.
Everything which begins to exist has a cause
The universe began to exist
Therefore the universe has a cause
There must be a “first cause”, an “uncaused cause”
We call that uncaused cause God
That’s probably not exact, but it’s the way I’ve heard it. Fortunately the problems with this are very simple and the argument can be killed with the simplest of logic applied to the first and third premises together. Everything which begins to exist has a cause. Think of all the examples of that you can come up with. Take your time. Make the list as complete as possible. Once you’re done, go through that list and ask yourself, “How many of these things on my list are part of THIS universe?” That would be “all of them”. Because that first premise is based on our observation of the physical laws within our universe. But before our universe there is absolutely no reason to suspect those same physical laws apply. The first premise ignores the fact that the universe has to exist before that premise can be claimed as a “fact”. The third premise is jumping to a conclusion based on the flawed assumptions made by the first premise.
The second and fourth premises are actually true to the best of our knowledge. The universe did begin to exist, as far as we know. Of course, we don’t know that for certain. The idea that the universe has always existed, the big bang-big crunch pair, is not all that outdated. It wasn’t that long ago that the speeding of the expansion of the universe made the big crunch far less likely. But science doesn’t deal in absolutes, only probabilities. So the second premise is only true “to the best of our knowledge”. Scientists are the first to tell you that their understanding may be wrong, so you cannot apply scientific understanding as an absolute. The fourth premise is true, again, within our universe. Outside of our universe, we cannot say.
The fifth premise is just jumping straight to a conclusion. There is nothing in this argument which in any way proves that the big bang was not the first “uncaused cause”. It’s nothing more than a slimy way to work God into the equation. It’s like intelligent design. “We’re not claiming to know what this ‘God’ is, just that He’s an all powerful, all knowing deity who created everything and who I happen to worship as the Christian God of Abraham.” There is not one shred of evidence in this argument to link their version of a god to this “uncaused cause”. It could have been natural forces we don’t understand (which is the scientific claim). There is no reason whatsoever to jump to this conclusion. The creator of the argument just kind of ran out of ideas, got tired of thinking and jumped straight to the end on that premise.
Sherlock: “Science cannot be used to explain why we have science, you cannot use the laws of nature to explain why there are laws of nature or how laws of nature came to exist.”
TimB: Really? How did you come to be in charge of making that rule (some misused Latin words?)?
It is a serious misinterpretation and use of the circulus probando logic issue. I don’t say that science as a concept explains why we have science, or the “laws of nature” explain why we have “laws of nature”. But I can and do come up with explanation as to how “the laws of nature” came to exist by using concepts discovered by science, including some concepts embodied in the discovered “laws of nature”.
The religious, otoh, seem quite capable of explaining the existence of God by saying God always existed. Iow, God is, because God always was (explanation done). Circulus probando?
Oh my, don’t let me waste your time.
Indeed, I, personally, do not know the mechanisms by which the Big Bang, or whatever initiated the Universe, led to the existence of the “laws of nature”. I repeat, I don’t say that science as a concept explains why we have science, or the “laws of nature” explain why we have “laws of nature”. (Do I have time to repeat myself. I guess so.)
But I can give general explanations about how we became aware of the existence of the laws of nature. And by understanding the laws of nature, and using science we can make all kinds of effective predictions, keep discovering new things, and continue to build upon our learning.
What you seem to be doing is using the latin named logic truism as just another tactic for saying science cannot explain the ultimate beginning of the Universe, thus “God did it” is as good a possibility as any scientifically based hypothesis. But that conveniently ignores the fact that compared to the hypothesis “God did it”, science has led to amazing new knowledge. “God did it” – hasn’t led to much new knowledge, afaik.
All you have in your apparent quest, it seems, is to try to undermine “science” by going to the unknown and saying "See science is not adequate, therefore “God did it”. Science accepts that there are unknowns and tries to know them. The religious cannot accept the unknown. They MUST have an ultimate answer. “God did it” is that answer. It is a dead end. But I am sure it can feel quite satisfying to have a “sense” of knowing.
No you cannot. You cannot explain “how the laws of nature came to exist” by relying on “concepts discovered by science”.
That does sound like a circular argument when you put it that way, and circular arguments are fallacious. Also, you can't keep saying "well because" infinitely, you run out of explanations or out of time. But really science is a set of axioms, but even axioms don't prove anything if they are just assertions. Which is why scientific axioms are either testable, or properly basic, or they state that they are axioms and open to change as needed. In all cases, they can be shown to be the most effective way to determine what's true. What you are trying to do Sherlock is say that reason can't prove reason, but you are using reason to make your case. If reason wasn't a basic law of nature, then you couldn't do that. You would just say, blibble finger crump, and in the next second, A would not equal A anymore and I couldn't argue with you. But we have reason, we have laws that are consistent throughout time and space, and when we found they varied by tiny amounts, we figured out time is relative and there's this quantum chaos, and we know those still don't explain everything. What have you offered that improves on that?
First, “logically impossible” is not the same as “actually impossible”. Logic does not influence reality, it just helps us understand it. But logic alone is not enough. As a child, logic dictated that Santa Claus was real. I even had real, physical evidence. I saw his signature on packages which magically appeared overnight and everything.
And no, a scientific explanation for the presence of the universe is not logically impossible. There are several scientific explanations. The problem most people run into trying to understand these explanations is that they try to apply the laws of nature as we observe them, the laws of nature which were created with this universe, to a time before the creation of the universe. There are no laws of nature within the universe which allow for the creation of a universe, therefore it is pretty safe to say that the laws of nature as we know them in this universe are not the same laws which governed whatever was “before”. It is impossible to say what those laws might have been because we have no point of reference, so it would pure speculation. But there is no guarantee that even cause and effect would be a thing there.
Do you agree with me or not that a material, scientific explanation for the presence of the universe is a logical impossibility? I’ve been getting push back from many here yet this is as simple as it can be, it is a logical impossibility. -- SH
No, I don't agree with you. I've made that clear. I agree we can't be 100% certain, but "scientific explanation" doesn't mean "100% certain". It also doesn't mean we should stop following the evidence and logic that we have. There is more to know, let's keep exploring. Even if you could somehow prove that we will never know for sure, I would still say that we should continue seeking more knowledge and greater certainty. Do you think we've already reached the limits of human knowledge?
So you’ve been arguing something without agreeing on what you are arguing about.
Only an explanation that does not rely in material quantities will work and then that explanation would by definition not be a scientific explanation but a supernatural one.
Therefore the explanation for the presence of the universe has to supernatural, this is unavoidable, why all the fuss?
This is the most succinct statement I’ve seen from Sherlock. There is a strange logic to this. It’s circular logic disguised as a premise with a conclusion. I have to admire it. I tried to discuss “material quantities” and also “presence of the universe” with you but that went south with most of our discussions. But anyway, we tried.
Because they require a material system of some form to explain the presence of the material system
I think that would be "infinite regress", z because y, y because of x, x because of w, and on back, but we don't even know what letter we are at with the Big Bang and quantum bubbles because we don't know if there is something else that caused those things or how things work outside of our cause and effect universe.
Your’s is circular because you are saying that “an explanation that does not rely in material quantities” is a supernatural one, but you are defining “not relying on material quantities” as supernatural.
It’s how you define your words that makes it circular.
You can call mine circular if you want. I’ve already admitted I am trapped in the trilemma.
Holmes: Only an explanation that does not rely in material quantities will work
Holmes: Every scientific explanation leverages material processes.
Therefore the origin of the material processes themselves must leverage material processes
if the explanation for them is to be a scientific one.
So smug, so self-sure.
It’s like you think the universe has to fit itself into your biased perspective.
Science is about doing the best we can with what we have, it pretends no omnipotence. I say that because it sure seems like that’s what you keep demanding. You’re more about head games and philosophizing about science, when science is about observing, studying, learning, accepting we’ll never figure it all out.
Others have done a more eloquent job of explaining that simply because the first moment of this universe might be out of our reach, does not invalidate the material world that’s grown out of that moment and that created all we are made out of.
So smug, so self-sure.
This is an ad-hominem attack.
Holmes, it may have been an unnecessary insult, but Ad-hominem? Do you really understand what Ad-hominem is about?
Ad hominem (Latin for "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, typically refers to a fallacious argumentative strategy whereby genuine discussion of the topic at hand is avoided by instead attacking
Excuse my insult, I'll try to refrain, but your absolutism does distract from best intentions. As the above makes clear, motive is very important. I'm not trying to derail this discuss, I'm doing my best to keep them on track in a good faith manner.
I know that we aren’t supposed to repost comments, but in this case I ask for a dispensation because it is relevant to the flow of this discussion.
Holmes’ lets try to focus on substance. I’ve done my best, please a good faith response would be very cool.
November 10, 2019 at 2:56 pm
<blockquote>If by explanation you mean a purely physical, mechanistic explanation then you have to explain why you are insisting on that limitation, if Y can only be explained in terms of X yet I will only accept an explanation in terms of Z then clearly there’s going to some difficulties.</blockquote>
I get the impression you think science is about what your logical mind can construct.
I believe your utterances are a fail because you refuse to recognize the ultimate reality of physical matter as an independent thing outside of your “Logic” or the wheels turning inside our heads, producing the fog of consciousness, that is our supernatural mind. You can’t fit complex natural systems into if Y then X then only Z. We do it that way because it’s the best we have.
That stuff is tools, mathematical tools that help scientists understand aspects of material reality. But you are using it as an absolute as if it actually was reality – then to top it off you expect absolute proof, or you feel justified dismissing the entire scientific endeavor, if it can’t produce absolute proof of our creation. You then create those Just-So stories in your head and think that is reality. Thus you really seem to believe a simplistic logical chain is all you need to justify dismissing the efforts of tens of thousands of keen focused minds, over many generations.
<blockquote>For more on the Map v Territory dilemma,
<a href="https://confrontingsciencecontrarians.blogspot.com/2018/12/statistical-certainty-vs-geophysical.html">e) Map v Territory Problem, Statistical Certainty vs Geophysical Realities</a></blockquote>
Then you come up with this “supernatural” that of course can’t be defined or understood by science, because it’s hiding outside the domain of our technically enhanced senses. It’s outside of our dimension, but we’re supposed to pay attention to it. Is that what you are saying Holmes?
You know, every time I try to give your ideas the benefit of the doubt and follow your trains of logical, they end up in a chaotic mess.
What’s this supernatural you believe in?
If you don’t like that label, how would you describe it?
How were you convinced to recognize it*?
*What “it” you ask?
I don’t know – just trying to make sense of whatever point you are trying to make with this ID and supernatural bandwagon you are on.
What's wrong with recognizing Intelligent Design within the domain of philosophy and religion and leaving science to the material world that we can measure?
Please show a little good-faith here, try to explain these things.
I’ve given it my shot. Others around here have a deeper appreciation of these issues, your turn:
Holmes has written: If you can show that a scientific theory for some event can be defined that does not rely on scientific laws then I’ll admit error, until that time I consider my position logically sound.
Therefore the explanation for the presence of the universe has to supernatural, this is unavoidable, why all the fuss?
You are trying to logic this out in your head to make some deity necessary, but that's just not how reality works. Scientific explanations for the creation of the universe absolutely do
exist and, therefore, are not logically impossible. It's pretty straight forward.
Even if that were not true your claim would still be wild speculation as it leaves no room for future scientific understanding. When I was a kid it was scientifically impossible for hummingbirds to fly, but they still did. We didn’t have the scientific understanding to know why. But that didn’t mean it was “logically impossible” for hummingbirds to fly and, in fact, it absolutely was not because they did fly. You are conflating “I don’t understand it” with “Nobody can ever understand it”.
Even if that were not true your claim would still be wild speculation as it leaves no room for future scientific understanding.
When I was a kid it was scientifically impossible for hummingbirds to fly, but they still did.
We didn’t have the scientific understanding to know why.
But that didn’t mean it was “logically impossible” for hummingbirds to fly
and, in fact, it absolutely was not because they did fly.
You are conflating “I don’t understand it” with “Nobody can ever understand it”.
Nice Widdershins, to the rescue once again. Love that analogue and I’ll find plenty of use for it.
If I forget to tip my hat to you, I do so now!
I’ve thought about this some more and come to the conclusion that it’s actually logically impossible for it to be logically impossible to explain something scientifically. If observations can be made then a scientific explanation is always possible. If observations cannot be made it is either because that thing does not exist or scientific understanding is not sufficient to be able to observe it. A thing is “supernatural”, not when there is no scientific explanation, but when there is no observation on which to base scientific study. Currently there is nothing in the human imagination which is considered “supernatural” for which there is a shred of evidence to support its existence. The universe obviously exists and is “natural”. No evidence exists for deities, they are “supernatural”.
Because of this all “supernatural” explanations are completely useless. They serve absolutely no purpose except to make those choosing that explanation feel better about themselves. Since there is no observation on which to base a supernatural explanation the one giving the explanation simply makes up the explanation they like best and says, “This is THE explanation!” on no evidence whatsoever. Oh, they usually try to cobble together some evidence which amounts to, “Let’s see. What would be a good explanation? Oh! I have this belief right here! THIS would explain it nicely!” But invariably those giving a supernatural explanation jump to multiple conclusions. For instance, the Christian God as an explanation jumps to many conclusions with nothing but scant evidence they cobble together to back their claim or, sometimes, with no evidence whatsoever. They conclude not only “THIS, exact God did it”, they also conclude that their god is the first god, himself uncreated. They conclude he is the only god. They conclude he is the most powerful god. They conclude he was working alone when he did it. They conclude he knows everything, sees everything, is everything and is all powerful. None of these conclusions are born out by a scrap of evidence in the universe. Even if I accepted “some” god did it, you couldn’t name that god. That’s just an unsubstantiated conclusion.
And the reason that is not allowed in science is because once you come to a supernatural explanation, you’re done. Pack up your bags, clean out your desk and go get a job digging ditches because there’s nothing else you can do. A god is too powerful for you to examine and quantify, after all. So now your physics degree is completely useless and you have to go flip burgers at McDonald’s for a living because you’ve come to the last conclusion you can ever come to. God did it, the end. There’s nowhere to go from there. You need a theology degree to go further. Physics is useless.
I’m sure it’s comforting to believe that logic dictates that you are right. I can understand that. I’ve been there myself. But I was wrong then and you are wrong now. You can’t logic God into existence any more than I could logic him away. If it were that simple smarter people than both of us would have already done it.
To be honest I don’t know what it is, exactly, you are saying. Define “material quantities”. Do you mean measurements? Like, the brightness of light or the degree of curvature?
And there is one problem with a supernatural explanation that nobody has mentioned yet. We’ve all been working off a wrong definition for “supernatural”. The definition we are using for supernatural is essentially, “That which is unexplainable by natural science”. But that insinuates “Hey! Here is this thing! You cannot explain this thing, which is right in front of me, with science!”
But the reality is very different. You can’t show me the thing, you’re simply claiming there is a thing. A more accurate definition would be “Claimed, imagined or proposed phenomena which, if real, could not be explained by current natural science.” Notice the word “current” in there. Science is built on observation. No observation means no science. So I would argue that science doesn’t have a problem explaining the supernatural because it’s beyond science, but because no observations can be made on imaginary phenomena. Science is similarly stumped by childhood imaginary friends, but we don’t loudly proclaim that they are super special because science can’t explain how a talking dog can fly.