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[P]
Is There a God?

By TheophileEscargot in Op-Ed
Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:19:01 PM EST
Tags: You Know... (all tags)
You Know...

This article presents a philosophical framework for discussing the nature and existence of God.

There is a brief discussion of epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge), a review of the classical arguments for the existence of God, then a section on the so-called "problem of evil", the question of why God would permit suffering caused by either human nature or natural events.

The attached poll will decide, once and for all, the nature and existence of God. Join the ultimate debate now!


Epistemology
How can we know anything? How do we know that the desk in front of us is real, that bachelors are unmarried, that the capital of France is Paris? These are questions of epistemology. Unless we have a framework that lets us know that, say, desks exist, we can't really discuss whether God exists. There are various problems with knowing things, but a few examples are:
  • Gödel's incompleteness theorem, which shows that no non-trivial logic system can ever be shown to be consistent and complete. If logic itself isn't reliable, then we're in trouble.
  • The matrix. If we rely on our senses, how can we know we're not being systematically mislead? We might just be dreaming when we think that the sky is blue instead of pink.
  • Problems of induction. One problem is usually illustrated by the raven paradox. We're scientists. We want to prove experimentally that ravens are black. So we get ten ravens, they're black. But there might still be a white raven somewhere. So we get a thousand ravens. They're all black. But there might still be a white raven somewhere. So we get a million ravens... you get the picture. How ever many ravens we get, we can't show by induction that all ravens are black. Even if we try to get all the ravens in the Universe, we just end up in the same boat trying to prove we've got all the ravens. The problem of induction is the one that real people pay most attention to, only rather than ravens it's usually something like "but how can you prove power lines/ mobile phones/ GM crops aren't dangerous."
There are various ways to deal with epistemological problems. The most popular is to accept that there is no way of really knowing anything about the physical universe. This solution takes several forms. Postmodernists have largely abandoned the idea that philosophy can tell us anything about the real world, focussing instead on the analysis of language.

Idealism holds that ultimate reality consists of ideas. In its most common form, Platonic idealism, the physical world is compared to shadows on a cave wall, cast by the ideal Forms that compose ultimate reality. To Idealists, logic and reason are more important than sense-data.

Another approach is that of modern Empiricism. Empiricists accept that there is a degree of doubt in any statement of knowledge. If the word "knowledge" cannot in fact be applied to anything, it makes more sense to redefine the word so that it just means "overwhelmingly likely, given certain assumptions". Modern empiricists, such as Bertrand Russell in his book Human Knowledge simply add certain assumptions as axioms to their systems. These include the ideas that logic is consistent, and that the universe is not an illusion. Another axiom that is usually, though not universally, added is that things (such as white ravens) should be assumed not to exist, until there is evidence that they do. This will become important later.

It's notable that people who have had a chiefly scientific education tend to prefer some form of empiricism, so it's important not to overstate its popularity. Adding axioms and weakening definitions is philosophically inelegant. In academic philosophy departments, empiricism is not taken particularly seriously. In some cases scientific theories are generally believed to be just another cultural myth. Similarly, while idealism seems somewhat bizarre to scientists, with its emphasis on things that are unobservable, it is taken seriously by many theologians.

Finally, epistemology is a large and complicated subject, which I've barely touched upon here. I've ignored various systems here, either because they're not sufficiently different, or else are somewhat obsolete.

Definitions
There are several alternative definitions of the word "god". In the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is only one God, who is the immortal creator of the Universe. He is omnibenevolent: perfectly good and loving. He is also said to be omnipotent, but is limited by certain rules of logic and consistency.

In polytheistic religions, gods are immortal and powerful beings, but not necessarily omnipotent nor good.

In pantheism, which is associated with the philosopher Spinoza, God is identified with the physical universe itself. This can mean God is just the mystical level of the universe, or the universe seen spiritually.

Finally, there appears to be a modern belief among non-Church deists that God is either less than omnipotent, or less than perfect, but still the creator of the universe.

Some like to divide atheists into two categories "strong" atheists who "actively deny" the existence of God and "weak" atheists who just do not express a positive belief in God. It should be noted that from an Empiricist view these distinctions are meaningless: if there is insufficient evidence to believe in any entity, it is deemed not to exist.

Theists believe that God exists as part of the Universe, and can intervene within it. Deists believe that after creating the Universe, God does not intervene within it.

Arguments for the Existence of God
There are several "classical" arguments for the existence of God. It's unclear how significant these arguments actually are in terms of converting people to religious belief. Novelist John Sladek once described his first encounter with them thus:

...when I was twelve the Catholic school I attended made the mistake of teaching me apologetics. Up to this time, the religious arrangements of the universe had been taken for granted, like gravity or water. Now we were told that you could prove God's existence in four (count 'em) ways.

It took no time at all for me to realise that if you could prove God's existence it was a matter for disputation, not a fact... I struggled out of my bonds, leapt to the window, and with one bound I was free.

The Ontological Argument
Possibly the most significant argument, and certainly the most repeated on K5, is the Ontological Argument, originally formulated by Saint Anselm in 1078. Essentially this goes as follows, though there are many versions.
  1. Define X as the greatest being imaginable: that which no greater can be imagined.
  2. Consider for a moment that this being does not exist in reality, it's just an idea in the mind.
  3. D'oh! Then a greater being can be imagined: one that does exist in reality after all. The concept that X doesn't exist in reality leads to a contradiction.
  4. Therefore, X exists in reality.
  5. Let X=God.
In spite of its appearance, the ontological argument is not just a word trick: it is logically valid within certain frameworks. In particular, from a purely Idealist point of view it is uniquely convincing, since it doesn't rely on any observations or judgments of the physical universe.

However, more empirical philosophers tend to reject the ontological argument. If your epistemology is that reality is something that can only be known through sense-data, Anselm's link from idea to reality can be denied. The details of the refutations, counter-refutations, counter-counter-refutations and so on become rather complicated.

Kant's refutation seems the most popular, possibly because his framework includes both empirical and idealistic elements: he considers that both can give valid knowledge, but of different types. Kant's theories are therefore easier to swallow than those of hardcore empiricism or pragmaticism. Kant's view is that "existence is not a predicate". The step where you say X is greater if it exists in reality is meaningless, since existence is not an extra quality that you add to an idea, but something already present within that idea.

Kant's refutation is widely, but not universally accepted. The refutation of the refutation of his refutation is left as an exercise for the reader, because things are getting silly by this point and I don't totally understand it myself.

The Ontological argument is probably more important as a definition of God than a proof of the existence of God. Many who do not find it convincing as a proof, still believe it to provide the best definition of what God is.

Cosmological Argument (Prime Mover Unmoved)
This argument also has several forms. It was formulated as the "Kalam" argument by Islamic philosophers al-Kindi and al-Ghazali in the 9th and 11th centuries, and by Aquinas in the 13th century.

The Kalam version starts by arguing that infinities cannot exist in reality, and that everything that exists has a cause. Therefore, if you go back far enough in time, there must be a First Cause, which is identified with God. This is the easiest version to attack. Some criticisms are:

  1. The argument that infinities cannot exist originally came from mathematical paradoxes such as that infinity plus one equals infinity. Modern mathematics is much better at dealing with these.
  2. The First Cause is not necessarily the same thing as God.
  3. We may think that every event has a cause simply because we live through such a tiny part of the life of the Universe that this is true. It could be that time is circular, so that the Big Bang is the same moment as the Big Crunch. In this circle every effect has a cause, but there's no first cause.
  4. If the universe is defined as "everything", it must include God. If the First Cause is God, we're still left with the question of where God came from
Aquinas' version gets more metaphysical. Aquinas also argues that there is a hierarchy of different levels of cause. When a letter appears on a screen in front of me as I type, one level of cause is that my finger has pressed a key. Another level is that I'm writing an article for K5. Another level is that my vanity drives me to write articles. Eventually we'll get to the very highest level, which is the will of God. However, this version is still vulnerable to criticisms 2 and 4 above.

Argument from Design (Teleological Argument)
This argument is that the universe fits together so elegantly and efficiently that it must be a designed creation. This argument was hit badly by the theory of evolution, which gave an alternate explanation for the same observation.

However, philosophers had criticized this argument on theoretical grounds before Darwin. Hume asked "Have worlds ever been formed under your eye...?", pointing out that a lack of knowledge of how something formed does not entitle you to come to a particular explanation of how it was formed. Hume and Kant both pointed out that the impression of order might simply be a projection by the observer. Taking the view that God is perfect, Hume also argued that since the universe is limited and imperfect, its creation cannot be used to imply the existence of a perfect God.

This argument lives on in the form of "God of the Gaps" explanations. In these, gaps in scientific knowledge are taken as evidence for the intervention of God. For instance, Newton did not have the mathematics to prove that planetary orbits were stable, so he suspected that God intervened occasionally to keep them so.

More contemporary puzzles are those of the "cosmological constants", fundamental numbers in the universe that appear to be precisely set to certain values, which allow life to exist. Since there is a gap in our understanding of why these constants are just so, it is argued that God must have intervened to set them.

It seems that as long as there are gaps in scientific understanding, there will be "God of the gaps" explanations for them. Even if it is found that there are vast numbers of universes, and ours just happens to be ones where the constants are set right for life, it seems likely that there will be other gaps, from which divine intervention will be inferred. However, while popular with some evangelists, "God of the gaps" explanations are not taken seriously by most philosophers.

Moral Argument
The moral argument starts from the idea that people have an objective sense of morality, which implies that there is a moral aspect to the Universe, which must come from God.

The moral argument can be denied if you hold that morality is subjective, or the result of social conditioning, environmental or genetic influences. It can also be argued that there is a moral order to the universe that is independent of God.

Argument from Religious Experience, Arguments from Miracles
These two arguments are interesting because they are acceptable, within limits, even to a diehard empiricist.

It is fairly common for people to report religious experiences, in which they often claim to have experienced personal contact with God. These reports can be considered to be empirical evidence, in the same way as you might take a traveller's report from Timbuktu as evidence for the existence of Timbuktu, without having been there yourself. On the other hand, religious experiences are hard to replicate, and do not constitute undeniable evidence.

The argument from miracles is just that: miracles are reported, and may be taken as evidence that there is divine intervention breaking the natural laws of the universe. However, it is not universally accepted that miracles actually occur.

The Problem of Evil
The Problem of Evil is probably the greatest problem in religious philosophy. It has probably the greatest practical significance in influencing ordinary people's belief, or non-belief, in God. It is also probably the most controversial. While some religious educators tend to imply that is has been neatly solved, some textbooks imply that it is effectively insoluble. For instance, the principal book used for this article states that "from a rational point of view, assessing all the arguments, it would seem most unlikely that there can be a god who is literally both omnipotent and loving."

It is important that the Problem is understood clearly. The chief misunderstanding comes from the word "evil". The Problem is generally held to consist of two different types of evil: natural evil such as earthquakes, diseases and cancer; and human evil, such as murders and rapes. While these are often considered separately, the problem contains both. With that clear, we can say that the Problem is the question of why a loving, omnipotent God permits great suffering to happen to some people, but not others.

Pain
It is important to note that the problem of evil is not limited to the question of why the potential for pain exists. It is assumed that God is still bound by certain rules of logic. It can be argued that physical pain is a necessary warning mechanism for an organism to survive. It can also be argued that mental pain is necessary for spiritual development.

However, this does not address the issue of why suffering happens to some people but not others. It also does not address the question of whether the suffering could be reduced in scope or intensity.

Free Will
The "human evil" part of the problem is usually dealt with by referring to free will. It is argued that God has to allow people to make their own choices, which means they can choose to inflict death or suffering on others.

This solution excludes certain others. It is sometimes argued that the reason suffering occurs to some people but not others, is that God inflicts suffering either on those who deserve it, or those who can cope with it. The free-will explanation implies that much suffering is outside the control of God, and this therefore cannot be true.

The free will argument is widely but not universally accepted, since it depends on the definition of omnipotence. It could be argued that true omnipotence would mean God could arrange free will to exist without so much suffering: for instance God could give people a way to "switch off" pain in extreme circumstances.

Not omnipotent or omnibenevolent?
A solution to the Problem which has become popular with Deists and Theists who do not belong to a particular Church, is to assume that God is either not omnipotent, or not perfectly loving.

The idea that God is not omnipotent gives some problems if God is assumed to be the creator of the universe. The assumption that God does not have total control over his creation makes the role as a creator somewhat weak: merely pushing some kind of celestial button hardly seems to count. This assumption also greatly weakens the classical arguments given earlier. If God is not omnipotent or near-omnipotent, the Ontological, Cosmological and Teleological arguments all fall apart, giving us less reason to believe in God in the first place.

The idea that God is not perfectly good is easier to hold, though the Ontological argument is weakened, and the Moral argument voided.

In spite of these weaknesses, these theories are largely valid solutions to the Problem, providing that the holder has other reasons to believe in God, perhaps from religious experiences or a belief in miracles.

The main Christian churches, and mainstream Islamic and Jewish thought, maintain that God is both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Therefore they do not accept these solutions to the Problem of Evil.

However, polytheistic religions, or religions such as Buddhism that do not insist on an omnipotent, omnibenevolent creator, do not have a Problem of Evil.

Optimism and Candide
God is usually held to be omnibenevolent, infinitely loving. Such a God may permit necessary suffering, but never unnecessary suffering. This is a tricky proposition to defend. A single instance of unnecessary suffering would disprove it, so this belief depends on all suffering being the minimum necessary.

This theory is that of Optimism, usually summarized as the idea that "this is the best of all possible worlds". This theory is essentially that God has chosen to create the best possible universe that is logically consistent.

This idea was mercilessly lampooned in Voltaire's novel Candide. In this book, the Optimist Dr. Pangloss and the innocent Candide travel around seeing and experiencing terrible tragedies and great suffering, including the famous 1755 Lisbon earthquake that killed 60,000 people, each event being blithely explained away by Pangloss.

Without access to other possible Universes, the credibility of Optimism comes down to making a judgment call. Did God have to design geology in such a way that thousands would die in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions? Was it necessary to give us so many varieties of pain, and such intensity of pain? The answers can only be a matter of individual judgment.

Pascal's Wager
Pascal's Wager takes a more practical approach to the question of whether God exists, essentially applying a cost-benefit analysis to the issue. Consider four possibilities:

  1. No God, you don't believe: neutral outcome
  2. No God, you believe: small net cost due to wasted prayers and sinning
  3. God, you don't believe: high cost due to damnation
  4. God, you believe: infinite gain due to eternal bliss
Interestingly, Pascal did not consider damnation to be an infinite cost. He reasoned that since God is merciful, his rewards to the saved would be vastly greater than his punishments of the damned. Even so, the Wager appears to prove that you should believe in God. However, there are several possible objections to it.

  • An atheist may declare that the probability of God existing is zero. Therefore the benefits should not be considered.
  • Consider a new strategy: throw a coin and believe if it comes up heads. When you multiply the infinite benefits by the probability of heads, the net benefit is still infinite. The coin-tosser has exactly the same net benefit as the believer.

    This idea leads to two mutually exclusive possible objections. The first is to treat it as a argument from absurdity, and conclude that infinities are simply not valid in a cost-benefit analysis. The second is to assume that the best strategy is to choose an event with a remote possibility, such as winning the lottery jackpot twice in successive draws, and only believe if that happens.

  • The wager ignores the possibility of mutually exclusive religions. It's unclear why you should bet on Christianity rather than any other religion.
  • Finally, it's not certain that this self-interested solution is really acceptable to God. If it turns out that God values being true to your beliefs more than adherence to ritual, you might well find yourself out of luck.
Conclusions
The arguments for the existence of God have various merits and drawbacks. It should be noted that even among theists they are not always taken to be valid proofs.Many theists believe that logic is insufficient, and it is necessary to have faith apart from logic. Kierkegaard in particular argued that faith is essential.

Similarly, on the subject of the Problem of Evil, many theists believe that there is no rational solution: that it must be taken as another matter of faith that there is an explanation for human suffering, without actually knowing what that explanation is.

In particular, while some Idealists find the arguments to be convincing, for an Empiricist it is a matter of judgment whether there is sufficient evidence for the existence of God.

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Poll
Is there a God?
o Yes, omnipotent, omnibenevolent creator of the Universe 15%
o Yes, imperfect creator of the Universe 2%
o Yes, a powerful entity, but not the creator of the Universe 0%
o Yes, but a principle, force or source of strength; not an entity 5%
o Yes, but a way of looking at the Universe itself 7%
o Yes, there are multiple gods 1%
o No 37%
o Don't know / Impossible to know 29%

Votes: 881
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o epistemolo gy
o Idealism
o Human Knowledge
o pantheism
o Spinoza
o first encounter
o most repeated
o Ontologica l Argument
o refutation
o book
o lampooned
o Candide
o Lisbon earthquake
o Pascal's Wager
o Kierkegaar d
o Also by TheophileEscargot


Display: Sort:
Is There a God? | 1111 comments (1066 topical, 45 editorial, 0 hidden)
Argument from Outages (3.75 / 4) (#2)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:16:50 PM EST

God would not let K5 go down.

Play 囲碁
Maybe... (3.00 / 1) (#4)
by TheophileEscargot on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:19:32 PM EST

...the nature of The Creator is evil.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]
Unless... (3.50 / 2) (#6)
by Canthros on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:29:09 PM EST

Unless the outages brought about greater good than the evil inherent in unscheduled downtime.

--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
[ Parent ]
I don't know about you (4.60 / 5) (#7)
by DesiredUsername on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:35:51 PM EST

but I've been forced to do work. Enough said.

Play 囲碁
[ Parent ]
Touché [nt] (2.50 / 2) (#12)
by Canthros on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:56:28 PM EST



--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
[ Parent ]
He's "testing" Rusty (n/t) (none / 0) (#346)
by Quila on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:05:30 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Somebody ought to be testing [n/t] (5.00 / 3) (#351)
by Herring on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:52:08 AM EST



Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
[ Parent ]
Godel's Theorem (3.40 / 5) (#8)
by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:36:22 PM EST

Gödel's incompleteness theorem, which shows that no non-trivial logic system can ever be shown to be consistent and complete. If logic itself isn't reliable, then we're in trouble.
Tell me. If someone showed you a system of logic and a proof, using it, that it was consistent, would you trust it? Gödel's Theorem should have nothing whatsoever to do with whether you trust a system of logic and it's completely irrelevant here.

--
The Definite Article
You cannot trust it in all matters. (3.00 / 2) (#10)
by jjayson on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:53:54 PM EST

I think the point is that our system of logic cannot be applied to onmiscience: propositions may be true but not provable. Omniscience by its very definition is impossible for us to understand; you would need to be able to prove everything but Godel's incompleteness shows that impossible.
_______
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
I'm not sure that's what the author intends (4.33 / 6) (#18)
by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:12:03 PM EST

Actually my policy when anyone talks about Gödel's Theorem is to ignore them unless they are a logician, mathematician or maybe a smart computer scientist. Gödel's Theorem is a pretty technical result and unless you 100% understand what is meant by the word 'proof' it's completely meaningless. It's just an expression people like to throw into discussions to make themselves seem more erudite.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Elucidation for greater erudition! (3.50 / 4) (#20)
by Canthros on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:14:48 PM EST

It's just an expression people like to throw into discussions to make themselves seem more erudite.
Like the word 'erudite'.

--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
[ Parent ]
Well we are talking about Godel's Theorem here (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:25:23 PM EST

So it seems apposite that the very words I use are themselves an example of what I'm talking about.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Quite. (4.00 / 4) (#26)
by Canthros on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:47:14 PM EST

If you could work in some suitably fitting phrases from the British vernacular, you would probably enhance the overall efficacy of your witticism.

--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
[ Parent ]
Heh (5.00 / 1) (#348)
by crankie on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:26:57 AM EST

"...suitably fitting phrases from the British vernacular..."

Of course, seeing as how the vernacular is the everyday language spoken by a people as distinguished from the literary language, your comment is pretty much a contradiction.

~~~
"The great thing about hardcore socialists is the silence they emit once they start earning a decent wage." - tombuck
[ Parent ]
Paradoxical? You jest! (none / 0) (#361)
by Canthros on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:47:40 AM EST

I would assume that using, say, some variant of 'wanker' could very easily work out. As in 'pseudo-intellectual wankery', which would pretty much give the lie to whole thing.

--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
[ Parent ]
Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, too (none / 0) (#913)
by misanthrope112 on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 12:48:21 AM EST

People love throwing both of these around, usually right after their cherished beliefs have been shown to be illogical and/or unsupported by evidence. Funny how people should be willing to engage in rational conversation, using language, logic, evidence, the whole 9 yards, but then suddenly express the most conscientious doubt about the value of language, logic, and the very fabric of human thought as soon as they've been shown to be wrong.  It always cracks me up to see a conversation leap from religion, politics, whatever, straight to the deepest epistimelogical questions within about 30 seconds.  

Another ruse people use is, if they've taken a few philosophy courses, to deconstruct everything.  As soon as their beliefs are shown to be illogical, your use of logic becomes quaint, outdated, perhaps even colonialist.  Evidence is no longer about truth, but about power and oppression -- but only when they don't have the evidence they need to prove their point.  People crack me up.

[ Parent ]

ummm... no. (5.00 / 1) (#996)
by jjayson on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 03:01:38 PM EST

I am not somebody like that. I don't believe that God follows our logic. I do think that we can think about him and try to understand him, but we need to realize that in this lifetime we will never understand him completely. We need to realize that there is a boundry on what we can understand.
_______
Smile =)
* bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
<bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

[ Parent ]
-1 ... *yawn* (n/t) (1.25 / 12) (#9)
by dvchaos on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:45:55 PM EST



--
RAR.to - anonymous proxy server!
A solution to the problem of evil? (4.00 / 6) (#11)
by danmermel on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 12:56:15 PM EST

My dad used to tell a story that he claims came from the Kabbalists (I don't have time to cross-check this). They reckoned that in the days when the world was sparsely populated God could punish wrongdoing personally. So he personally punished Cain for slaying Abel, for example. As people multiplied and things got more complex he didn't have time to go around dispensing individual punishment any more. But, being omnipresent and perfectly just, every day He took all the punishment that was due, chucked it down on Earth and it just hit people at random. So justice is always being done in total, but it doesn't necessarily fall on the right people all the time. Perhaps in that sense, there is no evil, just divine retribution, slightly misderected at times. :-)

While that's an interesting thought, (4.00 / 3) (#14)
by Canthros on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:01:30 PM EST

How is that just?

--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
[ Parent ]
Justice (2.75 / 4) (#17)
by danmermel on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:09:57 PM EST

Well, because all the evildoing is being punished. It's a bit like the markets being rational in the long term, but capitalism doesn't look very rational at the coalface.

[ Parent ]
Well... no. (4.60 / 5) (#21)
by Canthros on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:23:24 PM EST

Justice is, pretty much by definition, punishing the person responsible for the action. Punishing someone for something that they didn't do is almost the definition of injustice. If you wanted to sum things up in this fashion (canceling justice for injustice), I suspect you'd be lucky to zero yourself out in that situation.

--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
[ Parent ]
Justice of the powerful (2.00 / 2) (#23)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:31:33 PM EST

Well, we are talking gods vs people, here. Many people would think it justice to destroy an anthill if a few ants bit them. Kings consider it justice to kill the commoners of opposing states if the leaders of the opposing states offend them. It's very easy to consider an alien group to be one entity, thus justifying random punishment.
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Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
That's not justice. (4.00 / 3) (#31)
by Canthros on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:05:06 PM EST

It's tyranny.

--
It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
RyoCokey
[ Parent ]
Sorta my point in a convoluted way... (none / 0) (#48)
by Happy Monkey on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:44:36 PM EST

In the mind of the tyrant, tyranny is often considered justice.
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Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
It's a randomized algorithm! (1.00 / 1) (#40)
by freebird on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:23:25 PM EST

And they work great in the limit!

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

No (none / 0) (#50)
by greenrd on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:47:24 PM EST

Some randomised algorithms work great in the limit. Not all.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

fer chissakes... (1.00 / 1) (#131)
by freebird on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:53:10 PM EST

...it's a funny. The idea of a randomized distribution of justice that only works out in the limit is funny, and the application of algorithmic theory to the story of Job and our everyday lives is more important than pedantry.

Granted, there's lots of room for pedantry in an argument about the existance of God...

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

A response to the problem of evil.. (none / 0) (#16)
by graal on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:05:46 PM EST

...or rather, a set of responses as formulated by Peter Kreeft can be found here. I'd recap them, but the original article does a fine job on its own.

--
For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
-- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
[ Parent ]

That is beautiful... (2.00 / 2) (#39)
by freebird on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:21:11 PM EST

...and it somehow reminds me of the stuff in Gravity's Rainbow about the random distribution of rocket hits in WW2 London, and how they coincide (sorta) with the protagonist's sexual encounters.

Anyhow, I really love the concept. It's like switching to randomized algorithms when the computation gets too big - which does in fact work, so I guess God's OK...

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

I take it then (none / 0) (#49)
by greenrd on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:46:41 PM EST

I take it then you'd like to live under the random justice of a tyrant, without any due process, trial or legal rights?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Divine She-Male Tyrants! Your logic rocks dude! (none / 0) (#184)
by freebird on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:11:44 PM EST

You clearly have seen right to the point.

Since I am also amused by metaphors where God is an Old Bearded Man, and those where he is a Nature Goddess, it must be the case that I would like to live under the heel of a hermaphroditic tyrant.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

The particular point (none / 0) (#444)
by greenrd on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:55:21 AM EST

The particular thing I was objecting to is "So I guess God's OK". How can randomised justice be "OK"? Since you wouldn't want to live under it, it seems that you both think it can and it can't be OK, or perhaps you were just joking.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

What does being 'OK' have to do with anything? (1.00 / 1) (#535)
by freebird on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:36:12 PM EST

The particular thing I was objecting to is "So I guess God's OK"

First of all, I believe careful perusal of my postings will reveal that I never said anything like that. I expressed admiration for the concept presented - this is very different. For example, there are some beautiful movies made about the Vietnam War and the Holocaust; this does not mean I consider these two things themselves to be beautiful. The concept of a randomized distribution of justice is poignant, and it is powerful.

Secondly, if there is a God I think it pretty much defines what it is to be 'OK'.

Thirdly, what the hell does whether it is 'OK' have to do with anything? Look, we're arguing about the Existance Of God here buddy, not who we should vote for. Either

  • There is a God, in which case most of this philosophical rambling is dead wrong, and it doesn't really matter what we think is 'OK', or
  • There is no God, in which case all this crap about 'distributing justice' is nothing more than metaphor for the vagaries and vissicitudes of the universe. Same deal.
That's the Law of the Excluded Middle. And I don't see where my feelings about how things should or shouldn't be fit into it at all. I don't see that a particular metaphor can be 'OK'. You can like or not like the metaphor, but there's 'no There There' for you to judge, so to speak.

All I can do essentially is critique the show, and the other critics versions of the same. Thus far, Randomized Justice is one of the nicer deconstructions of this production I've heard. What do I think? The characters are pretty good but I can't say much for the plot. Or maybe it's the other way round, ask me tomorrow.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

The problem (4.50 / 2) (#52)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:48:49 PM EST

God is no longer omnipotent if he has to resort to such a style of justice. Or, if he's still omnipotent, he's not omnibenevolent because it is within his omnipotence to punish only those who deserve it instead of randomly tossing down locusts...

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

that's great, we can test this! (5.00 / 2) (#252)
by martingale on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:40:30 AM EST

This particular idea can actually be tested statistically. Let's say that the total amount of punishment, p, due on earth each day is about the same each day. There are 6e9 people on earth, and if we assume that p is given in units of people (p <6e9), then each person's probability of getting punished that day is p * 6e-9, although only p persons get a unit of punishment each. Over time, the number of punishment units meted out over n days is binomial for each person individually, ie <p> Prob(person punished k times over n days) = \binom{n,k}(1-q)^{n-k}q^k, where q = p * 6e-9.

Now what everyone has to do is estimate individually their q probability over a large number of days, say a year. E.g., the maximum likelihood estimator for q is \Hat{q} = k/n, the fraction of days with punishment. After a sufficient number of individuals have computed their q value, they can be compared statistically. They should be deemed identical.

[ Parent ]

Ah yes (none / 0) (#290)
by xriso on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:40:55 AM EST

If I'm having a good day, somebody else must be having a bad day.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]
Empirical problems (none / 0) (#327)
by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:10:45 AM EST

Unfortunately, punishment is subjective and you'll have a hard time putting it into units that you can simply add up.

  • Do I count the fact that I caught a cold as one, or do I count each individual sneeze?
  • Do I have to count each hemorrhoid or can I estimate?
  • How many sneezes is the equivalent to getting laid off from work?
Good luck with all that!

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Not a problem. (none / 0) (#550)
by freebird on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:06:09 PM EST

Throw a prior distribution on the level of whininess in, and you're in business. This should be easily estimable.

Actually, not that I think about it, I disagree with your whole point, though I had the same thought. But what really matters is that people feel punished, right? So for really lame people, having a few sneezes is punishment. Thus, the variation in whininess is in fact part of the model, and we needn't regard it at all. If someone says they've been punished, then they have - as long as they're not lying.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Whininess? (none / 0) (#579)
by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:18:27 PM EST

So the people that whine all the time are bearing the sins of humanity? Ha!

Some people complain all the time about everyday problems that we all face. Just because they care to share their suffering doesn't make them more "punished", just more annoying.

I think "whininess" is the wrong word. If on a survey they reported honestly feeling punished by God, that would be enough. That's not whining; that's honestly responding to a survey.

However. I don't think a starving African child will rank an eighth day without food the same way I will. Suffering is subjective (which we've already agreed upon, I think), so if I feel really punished by every red traffic light, does that mean I have been punished as much as a starving child who contracts malaria? I have to disagree.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
A delicious if preposterous conclusion: (5.00 / 1) (#606)
by freebird on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:25:19 PM EST

My point, inasmuch as one exists, is that you simply can't do better than subjective perception of punishment. I agree that getting malaria is worse punishment than a red light - but that's my perception as well. If you rate the latter as punishment, and a starving child doesn't rate the former as such (which I doubt by the way - I think everyone dislikes malaria), then one is forced to say that yes, you've been punished and they haven't. It's ridiculous, but that's all you can do. Consider sado-masochism - I'd consider being whipped as an upleasant punishment, but someone who enjoys and seeks it out, clearly doesn't consider it 'pushiment' but 'pleasure' or 'reward'. So in the end, you're forced to base it on the respondant's perception.

And it brings us to a delicious conclusion:

Since people with pampered, easy lives will tend to have lower thresholds for 'punishment' (as you say: red lights, bad movies, and so forth), they will tend to 'absorb' a greater proportion of the random justice meted out by our hypothesized God. Thus, the wealthy privileged well-fed peoples of the Earth are in fact selflessly taking on the Sins of the World in a noble self-sacrafice. Those starving millions in the third world should thank us for our shouldering of the statistical divine retribution. In fact, we are all martyrs paying for everyone's sins with our suffering.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Comment Moderation: 5 (none / 0) (#614)
by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:45:19 PM EST

I decided to give your comment a rating of 5, because it was intelligent, insightful, and I agree.

However, I must say that if I thought you would be significantly more disappointed with a 1, I'd have given it to you, if only to take some suffering from someone that I consider to be suffering more.

Delicious!

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Statistical Independence and Christ's Martyrdom (none / 0) (#662)
by freebird on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:37:50 PM EST

[...] take some suffering from someone that I consider to be suffering more

Remember, the model is that punishment is distributed randomly. So no individual suffering more can reduce the suffering of any other individual (assuming independence). This has some interesting implications for the "Christ died for your sins" model, but I suppose you could argue that was early enough god had not yet switched over to an exponential spatial distribution, the global population being so much less....

hee hee

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Wait a second now... (none / 0) (#785)
by Rasman on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 05:13:02 AM EST

I'm not a statistician like our original poster martingale obviously is, but...

The way I understood it is that every day Humanity commits X sins, and they are given Y punishment as a population. X and Y are proportional. Since we're developing the system and get to make up the units, we'd probably create the units such that X=Y. (Gosh! I can't decide if I want the unit for sin or the unit for punishment named after me!) So anyway, we have:
N rasmanas of sin => N freebirdians of punishment.
For each given day, the amount of punishment received (by the entire population randomly) corresponds to the number of sins committed (by the entire population). But the punishment is not just given out by God, humans can punish each other too.

This raises and interesting and debatable point: whether or not we are puppets of God and he's randomly distributing his punishment through us or we have free will and any punishment that is left over that is still owed to society after we're done, he provides with earthquakes or disease. I personally prefer the latter, and with a nickname less than 3 characters away from "freewill", I'd think you would too.

Let's say for a given day there were 8e10 rasmanas worth of sins committed. Therefore there must be 8e10 freebirdians of punishment doled out, no? So if I, with my free will, punish you 4 rasmanas without committing a single freebirdian's worth sin (arguable point here), then the rest of the population in general is only going to receive 8e10 - 4 freebirdians of punishment. It will be random, but no doubt one of the recipients would evoke more sympathy from me if I saw him, so why not ease his suffering by slapping you in the face?

Or have I got it all wrong?

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Quanta of Sin and Punishment (none / 0) (#847)
by freebird on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:36:44 PM EST

with a nickname less than 3 characters away from "freewill", I'd think you would too

Noway dude, I don't like that freewill stuff, I just like Skynrd cuz they rock...

em, anyway. This is getting neat, but I think we have different models. In your model, N units of punishment must be meted out today. Humans have freewill, and God doesn't overpunish. So if you slap me a unit of punishment without incurring sin (yes, that is a tricky point isn't it...it might balance out. If you play Go, it reminds me of filling in conquered territory), then that's one less unit to be distributed randomly, probably to someone less deserving than my Bad Self. Am I interpreting you correctly?

In my model, God is the 'Primum Movum', and everything that happens comes from 'him', ultimately. I mean, that's what God is for right? So in that model, there are N units of punishment delivered daily, regardless of whether they are distributed by humans, nature, the media, whatever. The chance of any individual recieving one of these 'punishment quanta' is then N/M where M is the world's population, and this is IID (Independant, Identically Distributed) for all mortals. Thus, you slapping me is simply one of these quanta being delivered, and has no effect on anybody else's chances.

So in your model, Jesus has saved us all from some fairly big amount of punishment. In mine, I get to say 'punishment quanta'...take your pick.:)

In yours I guess there's a good explanation for self-flagellation, mortification of the flesh, and all that fun stuff: perhaps this allows the delivery of punishment without generating more sin units, since it's self-delivered. In fact, it might be seen as contrary to God's will, since it reduces the chance of punishment being delivered to actual sinners. And surely interfering with the will of God is a sin.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Free will (none / 0) (#918)
by Rasman on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 02:46:58 AM EST

"Am I interpreting you correctly?"
Yes, you got it.
"... Thus, you slapping me is simply one of these quanta being delivered, and has no effect on anybody else's chances."
Okay. I guess I'm down with the IID model. However, life seems pretty pointless without free will, but I guess if it's seamless and we can't tell that our free will is only an illusion, then I guess that's fine. I got no problem with life inside the Matrix; as long as my brain gets the stimulus about the juicy steak, who cares!
"So in your model, Jesus has saved us all from some fairly big amount of punishment. In mine, I get to say 'punishment quanta'...take your pick.:)"
Actually, I accidentally left out the implications of my model on Jesus. Jesus only died for peoples sins on that day! This is a daily cycle of sinning and punishments, remember... So Jesus didn't do squat for me and you. Not to mention that he didn't take much more punishment than the rest of the folks up there on the crosses, either.
"In yours I guess there's a good explanation for self-flagellation, mortification of the flesh, and all that fun stuff: perhaps this allows the delivery of punishment without generating more sin units, since it's self-delivered. In fact, it might be seen as contrary to God's will, since it reduces the chance of punishment being delivered to actual sinners. And surely interfering with the will of God is a sin."
I don't know about that. You keep bringing up Jesus, so I'll continue with Christian "logic". The Christian faith is all about "turn the other cheek", "bring on the punishment, cuz it'll get me closer to God", etc. Martyrdom is like a free ticket to heaven.

And... (I've gotcha here!) How can you interfere with the will of God if you don't have free will??? God is making me whip myself!

-----
P.S. Skynrd does rock!

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Free Willy (none / 0) (#943)
by freebird on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 01:54:59 PM EST

God is making me whip myself!

Amen to that, brother!

Yah, actually that kinda messes the whole thing up. If you accept my argument that God acts through people to deliver punishment quanta (gotta use that term at least once more, I love it so), and yours that God is making you whip yourself (so it's not interfering with His will), then really, why is any punishment beling handed out at all? If we're all little automata with no more than an illusion of free will, why should we be punished for anything we do - it's all God's fault?

Well, I think we hit the ontological corrollary of Godwin's Law. Once the Free Will stuff comes up, it's all over. It was fun while it lasted though!

I guess we have been pretty focused on the Christian models. Hardly surprising though, because they seem the most concerned with sin and punishment. You wouldn't really get to talk about quanta of sin in, say, a Buddhist context.

The statistical view does mesh nicely with my views on karma though. I tend to see it as a probabalistic effect - folks who beat up people are much more likely to get beat up themselves. Not due to any particular 'cosmic justice', but just due to the kinds of contexts they put themselves in. So I guess it's kinda like the Kabbalist random punishment idea that started this madness, but without God. And a good bit more accurate, since it's based on local distributions rather than global, in some sense.

...TAGGATC...(etc)
[ Parent ]

Willy (none / 0) (#977)
by Rasman on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 01:52:39 AM EST

Damn Disney for making us think of a whale when we see the words "free will"!

Karma, hellfire and damnation, reincarnation as a toad, ... However people want to motivate themselves to be nice to others is fine with me. As long as they're nice.

Thank you for the entertaining discussion. May you receive a standard deviation less than the mean of punishment quanta!

----
P.S. Okay, so it was WB that brought us Free Willy, but damn Disney anyway!

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Kierkegaard (4.00 / 1) (#15)
by KnightStalker on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:01:41 PM EST

It's my understanding, based on reading _An_Attack_Upon_Christendom_ years and years ago, that Kierkegaard did not place so much emphasis on faith as he did on experience of the divine. In fact, he was rather critical of faith based on logical arguments or (especially) tradition, but without any basis in experience.

It has been a long time though, so I may be on crack. :-)

my favorite (none / 0) (#197)
by speek on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:47:58 PM EST

For Kierkegaard, faith was the result of an individual relationship to the absolute (to God, if you like). It transcends the realm of the ethical (the universal), and is thus very dangerous; there is no way to distinguish a man of faith from a madman. One does not arrive at faith through logic or rationality, but instead through a personal relationship (you used the word experience). The important point is that ethical considerations are of secondary importance to matters of faith. If God tells you to kill someone, you do it. Kierkegaard wished to stress the perils of faith rather than the virtues because he thought people too easily thought of themselves as people of faith. He wasn't convinced.

--
Perhaps the State of Hawaii could countersue the woman that gave birth to and raised a
[
Parent ]

I can't find a reference (none / 0) (#213)
by KnightStalker on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:38:54 PM EST

I can't help thinking that a fairly large part of _Attack Upon Christendom_ was taken up by the argument that Christianity, to the individual, is meaningless (and not Christian at all) without some sort of personal epiphany, not necessarily an ongoing relationship. The relationship would come later, but it is the experience of the fact of the religious, within the context of Christianity, that validates one's faith. Sort of a parallel to James' "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.".

[ Parent ]
wouldn't disagree (5.00 / 1) (#221)
by speek on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:03:35 PM EST

I wasn't disagreeing with you so much as expanding on what you said with my own understanding. The important aspect, IMO, is the personal nature of the experience, epiphany, or relationship, as you like. No one else could intervene or even understand. No logical or ethical argument could change the understanding you gained from the experience. Faith thus becomes something that can't be imparted to others by sermonizing, but was necessarily a struggle for the individual alone. In different writings, he refers to this principle from different angles. Try Fear and Trembling to see the angle I'm referring to - it's a very easy and enjoyable read, unlike most philosophy.

--
Perhaps the State of Hawaii could countersue the woman that gave birth to and raised a
[
Parent ]

Pascal's Wager Revised (4.28 / 25) (#19)
by AzTex on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:14:20 PM EST

Consider four possibilities:

  1. No Gods, you don't believe: high gain--you spend your one and only life in pursuit of genuine happiness in a way that you see fit.
  2. No Gods, you believe: high cost--you have squandered your one and only chance at existence on ignorance, superstition and meaningless rituals. You are an easy target for exploitation by politicians and their ilk. People also think that you are a dork.
  3. Gods exist, you don't believe: Infinite gain--upon death you are elevated to god status as a reward for being intelligent enough to see through the stupidity of human-created religions and moronic dogma.
  4. Gods exist, you believe: Infinite cost--eternal damnation. The gods are not interested in sharing eternal life and bliss with bible thumpers or the gullible.
HA!



solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

Wow, you're right! (3.37 / 8) (#27)
by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:47:15 PM EST

I mean, we know that all God-believing people are bible-thumpers and/or gullible, right? And non-God-believing people are all masterful minds of rationality and infallibility!

And nobody who believes in God is happy -- instead they are dorky drones meaninglessly meandering about, following the first advice administered to them. People who don't believe have the most lovely lives that can be imagined!

Boy, I sure wish I were a nontheist so I could be unarrogant too! Sadly, my puny mind is not fit to be one of these great people.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

Well (4.00 / 2) (#45)
by greenrd on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:42:49 PM EST

I think we're just fed up with over 2,000 years of arrogance from theists. Two can play at that game.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Re: Wow (4.00 / 3) (#54)
by AzTex on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:49:50 PM EST

For the benefit of the humor impaired:

My motivation for posting, uh... Kevin's Wager... was to make it clear to the religious camp just how absurd Pascal's Wager seems to me.

People have certainly brought up Pascal's Wager in discussion with me before. But Pascal's Wager is only a good rationalization for people to believe in something, if they already believe in it.

You can make up anything you want about the gods or Santa or elves or faeries and make a Pascal's-style Wager out of it and get exactly the same sort of trash.

Kevin's Wager is trash (but funny). It is the same sort of trash as is Pascal's Wager (less funny). Any criticism you might want to level at Kevin's Wager, you may also level at Pascal's wager. Any criticism (or accusations of arrogance, he-hee-hee) you may wish to level at Kevin, you should first level at Pascal.



solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

[ Parent ]
Kevin's wager is a bit extreme (none / 0) (#107)
by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:07:20 PM EST

Pascal's statement of the no-god situation has only a small analysis of the lifestyles (that the theist's life is more wasted than the non-theist's), but Kevin's wager makes sweeping statements about the nature of the people simply based on their belief. That was what I was mainly trying to respond to.

The true problem, as you were saying, is that both wagers presume to know what determines whether an afterlife is good or bad.

(you can't make a similar wager about santa or faeries because they aren't heaven-providers) :-)
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

Re: Kevin's wager is a bit extreme (5.00 / 1) (#117)
by AzTex on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:25:28 PM EST

It sure is. And I see we agree about the inherent problem with both wagers.

The "sweeping statements" of Kevin's Wager are a part of the intended humor of my comment. Take them as you will. Perhaps the gods take them very seriously. Who can say? Not Kevin and not Pascal. We both just made this crap up!

(And yes, I certainly can make a similar wager involving Santa or faeries. They are reported to dole out rewards and punishments. I always heard that Santa brings toys or a bundle-of-switches depending on behaviour. Or I can define Santa or faeries any way I like and come up with any behaviour I like to suit my purposes and make the wager. Making things up to suit my purposes...isn't that the whole point of religion anyway?)



solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

[ Parent ]
Language (none / 0) (#287)
by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:22:22 AM EST

Hey Kevin, where the hell are you from, anyway? How can you use all of the following words: "behaviour", "humor", "faeries", and "trash" ??? I'm guessing Canada because it's kind of culturally in between England and the US.

Just curious. And I agree with your arguments. :-)

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
AzTex's Language (5.00 / 1) (#360)
by AzTex on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:45:06 AM EST

I'm from Kentucky. But I've been to Toronto a couple of times.

I'm not sure why I spell some things the British way and other things the American way. But I always have. I spell it "theatre" but I never spell it "labour".

As far as weights and measures go, I spell them "metre" and "litre". I do this because SI means International System and in languages other than English, the "r" comes before the vowel--not afterward.



solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

[ Parent ]
Metre vs. meter (none / 0) (#441)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:51:41 AM EST

I do this because SI means International System and in languages other than English, the "r" comes before the vowel--not afterward.

Only for Frogs and Limeys. The rest of us Yanks, Krauts and assorted bloody foreigners let the "r" come after the vowel.

[ Parent ]

Perhaps.... (none / 0) (#526)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:21:20 PM EST

...it's from reading Winnie the Pooh and Wind in the Willows as a child.

[ Parent ]
How, exactly? (none / 0) (#55)
by seebs on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:50:40 PM EST

Could you point to the part of my life that's being wasted?  I'm not seeing it.


[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#85)
by Jman1 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:22:19 PM EST

for example, many religious people feel that certain modes of pleasure are evil, particularly sex-related acts. So, although I don't know you, it's possible that you are abstaining from some forms of pleasure unnecessarily. You might like to spend your Sunday mornings not in church. If your religion is partially fear-based, you might like to live without fear. You might like to live with less guilt.

Of course, from my perspective, the real flaw in Pascal's wager is beleiving that you can choose to believe in anything. Try really really hard to believe in invisible elephants, and you still (I hope) won't be able to convince yourself.

[ Parent ]

I guess we mostly agree... (none / 0) (#101)
by seebs on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:57:51 PM EST

Personally, I think it's pretty silly to claim that it's a big cost to not do things you think are wrong... In general, we all do that, religious or not.

I do agree that fear seems like a bad thing in religion.

And yes, Pascal's Wager is nonsense, in no small part because belief is simply a response to experience, it's not generally something you choose.

I mostly just wanted to use that as a platform to point out that the "you're wasting your life and not having any fun" thing is nonsense.  I'm a Christian, and I'm having LOTS of fun.  Maybe I'm not doing drugs as much as some people, or fucking as much as some others... I'm still quite happy, and I seem to be avoiding a lot of the pitfalls of "living fast".  I'm not complaining.


[ Parent ]

Well, sort of. (5.00 / 1) (#108)
by Jman1 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:08:12 PM EST

"Personally, I think it's pretty silly to claim that it's a big cost to not do things you think are wrong... In general, we all do that, religious or not."

I actually grew up religious (Jewish) myself, and found that the set of things that *I* felt were wrong was not identical to the set of things that my religion told me were wrong. There were things which I felt were ok but religion said was wrong (dietary laws, various degrees of sex, masturbation, etc.) and things which I felt were wrong but religion said was right (say, I don't know, screwing over non-Jews or persecuting gay people.) If your beliefs and your religion's intersect perfectly, than you are right, there is no cost involved in not doing things you think are wrong.

[ Parent ]

I think it depends a lot on the specific religion. (none / 0) (#133)
by seebs on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:56:58 PM EST

There's a tendency to assume that all Christians feel they are obliged to live under the moral standards you see on TV (not the way they *act*, the way they *preach*.)


[ Parent ]
Just a small quibble... (none / 0) (#1069)
by dread ed on Wed Oct 23, 2002 at 07:30:25 PM EST

The Bible that this argument is predicated upon states clearly that fear should not be a part of a Christian's life. It is sinful. Furthermore, guilt is a sinful activity and shouild be shunned. Yes, guilt (even if you have done something wickedly evil and sinful and you really really really liked it, and you did it twice!) is wrong. God says you should not feel guilty. Furthermore, you don't even have to feel sorry that you did something to be forgiven! Sweet huh?

That probably gives the wrong idea but it is central to biblical hamartiology. Anyways, the Bible proscribes a method for extracting the ultimate pleasure from life. Develop CAPACITY for pleasure. Without CAPACITY for pleasure in life all pleasure becomes mere stimulation. Stimulation leads to a high/low vacilation that can cause someone to seek ever higher stimulation thereby precipitating and even lower low: rinse and repeat. This is not pleasure...Ask a heroin addict how they like being addicted. Ask a prostitute how much they like sex (most are frigid). Or, for an asignemnt, examine the Phallic cult in ancient civilizations...the worship of Isis, Ashtarte, etc. I think you get my point. The restrictions in the Bible are not there to deny pleasure. They are there to intensify it, but also to encourage the one who learns that pleasure is not the ultimate goal of life, and that even pleasurable things, when taken to extreme, can have devastating results.

As for Pascal, his calculations are off because of this: what if the real God is actually Odin, and because you believed in the God of Christianity, Odin gets to sodomize you every day for eternity with an elepahant...the WHOLE elephant...twice a day. Not listed as a possible outcome in his equation, and since there are infinitely many more Gods that *could* be the real one, the wager becomes trivial.
When the only tool you posess is a claw hammer, everything begins to look like the back of someone's skull.
[ Parent ]

And there's evidence for this one, too. (4.66 / 3) (#159)
by roystgnr on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:09:30 PM EST

Consider:

The theory, "God rewards the faithful, and His Religion is here to give us something to be faithful in", is sufficient to explain the existance of at most one religion; however a faithful Protestant may be at a loss to explain why a faithful Hindu or faithful Muslim is destined to a lousy afterlife for having enough faith but happening to put it the wrong place.  This is an especially disturbing problem given current world demographics: currently no matter which faith you think is true, mutual exclusion proves that a majority of the world has faith in something false.

The theory, "God rewards the skeptical, and Religions are here to give us something to be skeptical of", on the other hand, provides an explanation of every existing religion.

[ Parent ]

Except that.... (none / 0) (#537)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:37:58 PM EST

The theory, "God rewards the skeptical, and Religions are here to give us something to be skeptical of", on the other hand, provides an explanation of every existing religion.

But your theory would have to assume that those who aren't skeptical of a particular religion have nothing else to be skeptical of. Therefore your position is no more tenable than those you wish to refute. How can having faith in the wrong thing have consequences in the former and being skeptical of the wrong thing in the latter not?

[ Parent ]

Not quite (none / 0) (#717)
by roystgnr on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:55:12 PM EST

If two belief systems contradict each other, one cannot have faith in both but one can be skeptical of both.  Hence "have faith in every religion" is not possible but "be skeptical of every religion" is.

[ Parent ]
No. (4.00 / 1) (#244)
by martingale on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:01:42 AM EST

There's a reason there is a single infinite gain (or in other versions, a single infinite loss) for the wager: you can't subtract an infinite number from another infinite number. So your wager is ill-defined.

Of course, Pascal knew this, which is why he only introduced a single infinite quantity. However, by introducing this infinite quantity, he implicitly made a judgement call on the wager, invalidating his proof (more precisely, it becomes vacuous). A correct wager would have required finite quantities for all four possibilities (assuming those are the only ones), and consequently an exhaustive (and eminently debatable) accounting procedure for calculating each payoff.

[ Parent ]

You mentioned the matrix... (4.16 / 6) (#24)
by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 01:33:22 PM EST

But at least you got it over with quickly and as soon as possible, like ripping off a band-aid.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
relevant onion link (3.66 / 3) (#42)
by infinitera on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:32:22 PM EST

Is there a God?

re: relavent onion link (none / 0) (#1056)
by rtechie on Wed Oct 23, 2002 at 06:22:15 AM EST

And as always, Kirk gets the best quote:

The Onion: Is there a God?

William Shatner: There is, but we don't know where. Or who. And, indeed, why.

[ Parent ]

A Lost Cause... (4.40 / 10) (#43)
by DLWormwood on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:35:12 PM EST

While this article seems well written and thought out, this is simply rehashing a 7000+ year old topic. There's no way on God's Green EarthTM (assuming he/she actually exists) that the mere readership of k5 will have a meaningful debate over this topic.

Go ahead, vote me down, but what I say is true. "Amen."
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled

Re: A Lost Cause... (3.50 / 2) (#44)
by AzTex on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:40:26 PM EST

DLWormwood,
You are certainly correct. The mere readership of k5 will have no meaningful debate whatsoever over this topic.

But that doesn't mean we won't have a good time trying!



solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

[ Parent ]
Masochistic human nature? (4.00 / 1) (#76)
by DLWormwood on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:52:12 PM EST

But that doesn't mean we won't have a good time trying!

I've been in these kind of discussions in RL, and I've never enjoyed them. Then again, I am an asocial, "wall flower" type, so maybe any thrill or empathy I'm supposed to derive from such discussion escapes me.
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
[ Parent ]

Correction (4.00 / 4) (#53)
by greenrd on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 02:49:16 PM EST

Meaningful to those taking part - quite possibly. Original - probably not.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Nuance (4.00 / 1) (#73)
by DLWormwood on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:47:50 PM EST

Meaningful to those taking part - quite possibly

Good point. Though on the other hand, people who post here just to see themselves write are usually dismissed as trolls (even though they technically aren't.)

It's easy for me to forget, having read web discussion sites for so long, that some people still hope for enlightenment from them. I've pretty much fallen into viewing this (and that other site) as a news source more than anything.
--
Those who complain about affect & effect on k5 should be disemvoweled
[ Parent ]

What is God (4.00 / 2) (#57)
by RoOoBo on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:02:22 PM EST

Maybe rather than trying to find complex explanations to the problem of 'God' or 'Gods' we could try to look for the origin of the idea of 'God' or 'Gods'.

I think it is obvious that the idea of 'God', 'Gods' and 'Natural Forces' started when some cute primates with a bit more brain that their cousins started to recognize natural phenomenomes but they couldn't explain yet how or why they happenned. That idea origined the first 'natural forces' as explanation of those phenomenomes. Then they eventually evolved to anime like gods/entities or human like gods (just think about Egipcians or Greeks). Somewhat later those gods evolved to the idea of just one, omnipotent and omniscent God. Which became the Jew/Christian/Islam god. In fact from the little I know about Budhism they don't even necesarily believe in any kind of suprem god.

The idea of an omnipotent god was really useful because it was a way to enforce and explain that some people (Kings, Pope, nobility) had the rights to govern other people. Therefore the idea was prone for a lot of abuse (as the history has shown us, until 20th century atheist 'crimes' against 'religious' were very rare).

Eventually science overcome theology and phylosophy and we have now better explanations for reality, society and civilizations than the existence of God/Gods/Natural Forces.



Classic example of the genetic fallacy. (5.00 / 1) (#66)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:32:42 PM EST

This is a pretty well documented flaw in reasoning, see here for more information.

What it more or less comes down to is that while that may say something interesting to an antropologist or sociologist, it is of little interest to a philosopher. Yes, the original reasons to believing in the existence of god may be completely wrong, but it says nothing about other reasons to believe in the existence of god, or about the existence of god itself.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

So (none / 0) (#71)
by RoOoBo on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:46:08 PM EST

if somekind of animal had evolved to a kind of rational being who didn't need from a 'God' like idea to explain reality in their early times then the idea of God whole still be something to think about?

I don't think so.

And even about your argument that the wrong way to 'discover' something doesn't say anything about their existence it can be argued that it is a very strong point to the thesis that all the theories trying to prove the existence of God are just forced make ups to try to keep that idea alive.

The idea of the origin of the God concept says that now it doesn't provide any valid point or use for that idea anymore as better ideas or explanations already exist. And further attempts to artificially keep alive the concept are even less useful or interesting.

The idea of God exists only in the human mind and it is just that an idea, an old concept. However if you think that ideas in a mind exists and have power over the world (other than the actions of the people) then you can say that God exists.



[ Parent ]
Response (5.00 / 1) (#80)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:04:44 PM EST

if somekind of animal had evolved to a kind of rational being who didn't need from a 'God' like idea to explain reality in their early times then the idea of God whole still be something to think about?

A couple of thoughts. You seem to be implying here that there is no longer any place in the world for a god. I'm not sure this is true. This god could have created the world, and could be a window to understanding morality, for example. ie, we almost certainly don't fully understand the world, unless you happen to know something the rest of us don't. :-)

The idea of a god certainly can still be something interesting to think about. I can find things interesting that you find mind numbingly boring.

And even about your argument that the wrong way to 'discover' something doesn't say anything about their existence it can be argued that it is a very strong point to the thesis that all the theories trying to prove the existence of God are just forced make ups to try to keep that idea alive.

Again, several thoughts here. Firstly, my only point was that a false justification for a belief doesn't invalidate the belief. Anything else really is tangential to my original point.

Perhaps these ideas are just the justifications of people trying to retain a belief in god. However, I doubt it. I submit myself as evidence - I'm agnostic. I have been for quite some time. I'm interested (or, I suppose, at least claim to be interested) in this ideas because I want to know things about the world, and not because I particularly have a vested interest in showing that god exists. Furthermore, even if they were simply attempts to hang on to their beliefs, it again would say nothing about the truth or falseness about those beliefs. Their motivations have no baring on the validity of their arguments.

The idea of the origin of the God concept says that now it doesn't provide any valid point or use for that idea anymore as better ideas or explanations already exist. And further attempts to artificially keep alive the concept are even less useful or interesting.

As mentioned above (in my first response paragraph), I can't see where you're coming from here. There are lots of interesting questions that the existence of a god could provide enlightenment to. See above for further thoughts.

The idea of God exists only in the human mind and it is just that an idea, an old concept. However if you think that ideas in a mind exists and have power over the world (other than the actions of the people) then you can say that God exists.

You seem to be saying this without providing any evidence for it. I'm not sure blind assertion of your beliefs contributions much to the conversation.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

Other than facts? (none / 0) (#92)
by RoOoBo on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:40:53 PM EST

I could say: I like to argue about why blue blergh have wourths but they can deeek.

And you will obviously don't know what I'm talking about.

The same way we can start to argue about if somekind of idea or concept exists or have somekind of attributes. But if this discussion isn't based in any kind of observation or in the source or origin of the concept we will just be arguing about the void, an abstraction without any semantic value.

What I think is that try to argue about the existance of god without taking into account that we are human and the way we evolved, and how the god concept was created/is seen by us has no point.

And about if the idea of god is still useful perhaps can be discussed but I consider that there are a large number of facts that the idea of god doesn't provide us with anything we already have using better more developed concetps. Neither related with morale (which can be based in ethics, rationale and the knowledge about the human/animal behaviour) neither related with our current understanding of the world (which is the field of sciences). So I don't see anymore a place for the 'god concept' rather than an antropoly/historic curiosity.



[ Parent ]
Further explanation of the genetic fallacy (5.00 / 2) (#118)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:25:47 PM EST

The same way we can start to argue about if somekind of idea or concept exists or have somekind of attributes. But if this discussion isn't based in any kind of observation or in the source or origin of the concept we will just be arguing about the void, an abstraction without any semantic value.

I understand what you're saying here, and there is certainly truth in it. However, there is evidence supporting the existence of god. Examples of evidence follow:

  • The existence of the universe itself. God is one possible explanation for the existence of the universe and of the particular characteristics of the universe.
  • The reports of miracles. God is a possible explanation of miracle reports.
  • The existence of semi-constant morality. Some ethical ideas (against theft, pointless murder, etc) have existed in almost all cultures for a very long time. The existence of a true objective morality would seem to be supported by this. God is a good explanation (although not the only one) of a single objective morality.
There are others, but they don't seem to be needed.

What I think is that try to argue about the existance of god without taking into account that we are human and the way we evolved, and how the god concept was created/is seen by us has no point.

Again, then you disagree with the fallacious nature of the genetic fallacy - something no philosopher I know of has some in hundreds of years. It's really a pretty sound example of flawed reasoning. Perhaps an example will make it clearer:
Jack believes the chair is red because there's a peach on it. Sam sees a green chair with a peach on it. Therefore, the chair jack see isn't red.

This is flawed because Jack's chair might still be red - it was just his reason for believing it was red that was false. Any introductory philosophy or logic textbook should explain this further.

So again, from a philosophical point of view, people's reasons to believing in a god tell us nothing about whether a god actually exists.

And about if the idea of god is still useful perhaps can be discussed but I consider that there are a large number of facts that the idea of god doesn't provide us with anything we already have using better more developed concetps. Neither related with morale (which can be based in ethics, rationale and the knowledge about the human/animal behaviour) neither related with our current understanding of the world (which is the field of sciences). So I don't see anymore a place for the 'god concept' rather than an antropoly/historic curiosity.

Yes, it's true. The examples I sighted can be explained by other things. However, none of the explanations are particularly certain, or irrefutable. An example of the flaw in this reasoning follows:
Jack thinks a chair has four legs because chairs with four legs don't fall down. Sam thinks that chairs have four legs because chairs with four legs look pretty. Therefore jack is wrong.

Again, the existence of one explanation of a phenomina doesn't invalidate another explanation. God is still a possible explanation of many  debated issues.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

Evidences? (none / 0) (#409)
by RoOoBo on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:59:11 AM EST

Isn't the problem about the God discussion that there are no evidences?

About your 'evidences':

Miracles: first prove that miracles exist. Something that none has done yet. Prove that miracles are a better explanation than any other explanation.

Constant morality: are you joking? Of course we all share the same basic morality. We are all humans. In fact some of this basic morality is shared with other mammals. They either come from our nature of social beings or because they are needed to keep a social infraestructure.

And about the origin of the universe 'God' isn't a better explanation that a random origin because of a fluctuation in the quantum space. And in fact is less useful, so what is the point?



[ Parent ]
Blarg (none / 0) (#693)
by Ni on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:48:36 PM EST

Miracles: first prove that miracles exist. Something that none has done yet. Prove that miracles are a better explanation than any other explanation.

I don't need to prove that they exist. Personally, I don't believe that they do. However, they are reported, and the existence of god is a good reason for them being reported. As is mass dementia, but that's neither here nor there.

Constant morality: are you joking? Of course we all share the same basic morality. We are all humans. In fact some of this basic morality is shared with other mammals. They either come from our nature of social beings or because they are needed to keep a social infraestructure.

Any research will tell you that this is not at all an obvious, or even particularly well accepted theory. Which would explain why you're asserting it without providing any evidence for it. No, explanations for constant moral ideals are really pretty varied.

First, you seem to be suggesting by commenting that morality is shared with other mammals that there's something evolutionary about it. There's a great deal of evidence against this, as very, very few moral ideals are universial (one would expect a fair number of them to be if they were held in evolution), and many moral ideals that are nearly universial in humanity (ideals against rape, for example) are certainly not predominant in our closest evolutionary relatives.

And about the origin of the universe 'God' isn't a better explanation that a random origin because of a fluctuation in the quantum space. And in fact is less useful, so what is the point?

Where did the quantum space come from with no universe? How did a fluctuation occur with no time?


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

Good rule of thumb, though (none / 0) (#411)
by NoBeardPete on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:04:14 AM EST

It is not be logically neccessary that something be false just because the people that believe it have bad reasons to believe it. But it's generally a good rule of thumb, when making one's way through life, that if someone approaches you with an outlandish claim, and justifies it with some obviously flawed reasoning, that you not spend too much time or energy worrying about them being right.

When your child tells you that he knows there's a monster in the closet because he can feel its hunger, you don't worry about it too much, and rightfully so. If he told you that he saw it run into the closet, you might consider a little more seriously that something actually is there. In either case, it's very possible that, say, a racoon got into your house and is hiding in the closet. But most people wouldn't consider it to be worth checking in the first case.

Anyone who makes their way through life only ruling out possibilities that have been definitively proven false is not going to make their way very far.


Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

Errm.. (none / 0) (#689)
by Ni on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:42:32 PM EST

While I can see where you're coming from, I don't think I agree.

First of all, lots of people don't see a belief in god as being outlandish. I'm not sure I do, for example.

Second of all, the arguments being presented in this article were attempts at applying serious philosophical rigour to the question - "good rules of thumb" needn't apply. If nothing else, it's clearly out of place compared to the other attempts at logical reasoning. Remember, it's not that people's reasoning for beleiving something being bad  making it not true is not good reasoning, but rather that, from a logical point of view, it's completely invalid reasoning.

Well, the same could be said of lots of things. For example, anyone who dedicates their life to increasing scientific knowledge won't get very far. The point is, the non-existant-until-proven-existant idea is only an axiom, and we really have no reason to believe it other than convenience. Again, from a logical point of view, it's worthless. (Unless you explicitly state it as an axiom, and it'd be, and has been, a hell of a controvertial one)


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

Try this one on for size (none / 0) (#961)
by NoBeardPete on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 06:16:48 PM EST

I don't think anyone subscribes to an axiom that states that things should be considered non-existant until proven existant. Rather, many people will not seriously entertain that something exists without at least a little plausible evidence that it exists. There is a world of difference between these two rules.

If you don't have anything like the second rule, it's easy to be swamped under the tide of things you start to believe in, or at least seriously consider the existance of. Is there a magical invisible gnome hiding under my coffee cup? Does the Loch Ness monster fly into my apartment and take a shower every day while I am at work? Does Major League Baseball have a mind-reading, data-gathering satalite in orbit? Does Santa Claus' evil twin steal presents from people on June 25th? Maybe there's an evil demon who can possess me if I blink more than 10 times in 5 seconds. Maybe magic faeries will give me bad luck if I don't leave food out for them at night. Maybe there are angry ghosts who haunt my house, and will cause me to fall sick unless I burn incense for them.

I could go on literally forever, making up different stuff that could exist. Any reasonable person will tell me to shut up and leave them alone, unless I can provide some evidence that these things exist. No reasonable person will be seriously concerned that they can't disprove that these things exist. They will get on with their lives.

Now, if I could give them some evidence that one of these claims is true, perhaps by documenting that the last dozen or so people who were witnessed blinking 10 times in 5 seconds immediately flew into a murderous rampage, while screaming at everyone in some long dead language that they couldn't know (but which was, say, confirmed as being a real language by some anthropologist), and exhibiting powers of telekinesis, they might worry. _Then_ a reasonable man might be careful about how often he blinks. Until I have some shred of evidence, though, they rightly tell me to bugger of with my "demons" and my "gnomes".

This isn't some axiom that reasonable people might decline to accept. It's a simple rule of thumb for getting through life, and while many people may not apply it with perfect consistency, no competent, capable adult does completely without it. It doesn't even state that something does not exist until there is evidence for it, rather, this rule of thumb states that one should not bother worrying about the thing's existance until there is some evidence. And this makes perfect sense. While there may be a magical gnome under my coffee cup, if there's no way for me to come by any evidence that he exists, if the world
Arrr, it be the infamous pirate, No Beard Pete!
[ Parent ]

gah! don't misuse logical falacies! (none / 0) (#611)
by memfree on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:39:37 PM EST

Not ONCE in the original post did RoOoBo say because we started thinking of god(s) for reason X, god(s) do not exist. If that had been said, it would have been a false argument.

Instead, it was suggested that rather than perusing the original argument (God: y/n?), perhaps we could look at another theory (why do humans consider the question).

While it is not appropriate to a formal debate (and k5 is NOT a formal debate) there is nothing conversationally wrong with broaching a new subject -- and switching topics is certainly not a logical fallacy.



[ Parent ]

Right. (none / 0) (#686)
by Ni on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:32:20 PM EST

You know what he was implying. I know what he was implying. He knows what he was implying. He didn't object when I pointed out that what I thought he was implying was a fallacy.

Don't pointlessly confuse the issue by being pedantic.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

The "God idea" can cut both ways. . . (none / 0) (#69)
by Pop Top on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:43:52 PM EST

The idea of an omnipotent god was really useful because it was a way to enforce and explain that some people (Kings, Pope, nobility) had the rights to govern other people. Therefore the idea was prone for a lot of abuse (as the history has shown us, until 20th century atheist 'crimes' against 'religious' were very rare).

Eventually science overcome theology and phylosophy and we have now better explanations for reality, society and civilizations than the existence of God/Gods/Natural Forces.

True enough, but what about. . .

"We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. . ."

Try to justify the Declaration of Independence or re-write the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. without making any reference to God or the divine and lets see where you end up.

For me, the idea that "all souls stand equally before God" whether gay/straight -or- whether black/brown/white -or- whether male/female is a fairly succinct way to declare that prejudice and unfair discrimination are moral wrongs. The "God idea" is plainly a two edged sword - many atrocities have been committed supposedly in God's name, but it is a two edged sword not as easily discarded as some seem to believe.

As Freud writes in Future of an Illusion many/most people believe in God due to an infantile seeking of comfort or a father figure. Okay, I can more or less buy that.

But, how many vehement athiests deny God due to an adolesecent urge to slay Father God and claim mastery of their own souls. My English translations of Freud use male pronouns concerning God (he, him, his) and feminine pronouns (she, her) concerning Nature. Thus, Freud the atheist uses Reason/Science to slay Father God and thereafter possess Mother Nature.

Fun stuff, no? . . . and,

[ Parent ]

Freud (4.00 / 3) (#90)
by RoOoBo on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:33:09 PM EST

As Freud writes in Future of an Illusion many/most people believe in God due to an infantile seeking of comfort or a father figure. Okay, I can more or less buy that.

I think Freud is largely over rated in many aspect, his obsession with sexual affairs for example due to their victorian raising.

To the topic. Most people actually believes in God because their parents (and the other people around them) believe in God. A child without contact with the god idea isn't likely that will 'discover' it from nowhere or because it needs the comfort of a father (which he already has). This just another make up freudian theory that doesn't keep with facts. But Freud was born in a society were it was considered as obvious that the childs would have the idea of god so it made an argument to prove the origin of this idea based in false facts.

But, how many vehement athiests deny God due to an adolesecent urge to slay Father God and claim mastery of their own souls. My English translations of Freud use male pronouns concerning God (he, him, his) and feminine pronouns (she, her) concerning Nature. Thus, Freud the atheist uses Reason/Science to slay Father God and thereafter possess Mother Nature.

Plainly stupid I have never believed in god, no more than I could have believed in Santa Claus if in my country Santa was part of the folklore. BTW neither my parents believe in it. Another point that the 'God idea' is something that is learnt rather than inspired by a superior being or rational thought.



[ Parent ]
Hmmm.... (none / 0) (#418)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:19:37 AM EST

<I>Plainly stupid I have never believed in god, no more than I could have believed in Santa Claus if in my country Santa was part of the folklore. BTW neither my parents believe in it. Another point that the 'God idea' is something that is learnt rather than inspired by a superior being or rational thought. </I>

Just as you believe many of the things you have been taught (unless you expect us to believe that you worked out every aspect of your system of beliefs independently-including all scientific experimentation-and have travelled to every place you believe exists-including planets, galaxies, etc.). Does that invalidate everything you believe to be true?

[ Parent ]

Validity.... (none / 0) (#496)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:25:35 PM EST

The idea of an omnipotent god was really useful because it was a way to enforce and explain that some people (Kings, Pope, nobility) had the rights to govern other people. Therefore the idea was prone for a lot of abuse (as the history has shown us...

That a concept is open to abuse is not an argument for or against validity.

An interesting side note: historians are quick to point out the atrocities of the past but tend to overlook the fact that the reformers, dissenters and puritains all found those abuses abhorrent only after they were given opportunity to read scripture for themselves (as opposed to being told by the religious heirarchy what they were to believe). They also rejected such things as the divine right of kings and held to lex rex rather than the inverse.

[ Parent ]

Two questions for agnostics (4.00 / 3) (#58)
by greenrd on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:03:21 PM EST

In my opinion there are two key questions for those who are debating with themselves whether to be religious in the sense of believing in a God or gods (I'm not one of those people, I should note - I'm just looking at this as a hypothetical).

  • (1) Does there exist a God?
  • If there exists a God, then (2) What relevance does this have to my life?
I mean, perhaps there was a Creator but it no longer exists, or perhaps it still exists but it is no interested in us. Perhaps the Creator has no relevance whatsoever to my life! These are logical possibilities which must be considered!

The Argument From Design, for instance (which is the only argument for God that I have ever found even remotely approaching persuasiveness), might convince one that there is/was a Creator - but by itself it demonstrates little about the nature of this Creator, let alone about which religion(s) are the True Way, if any.

It seems to me that those who have only read or heard about the Christian God, without having had a "profound religious experience", don't have any good reason to believe in the Christian God. Even if the "some kind of God exists" question can be settled, which is hard enough, there is still the enormous logical gap implied by the second question. A proof that God exists does not imply that, for example, one should condemn homosexuality as Islam or fundamentalist Christians demand, or that one should follow any other of the doctrines of established religions.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes

Thoughts on the current existence of god (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:28:36 PM EST

Interesting thoughts, although I do have an objection - if god created "the world", it seems likely that god also created time. Therefore, the idea of god ceasing to exist (or ceasing to do anything, really) is sort of tricky.

Having said that, I'm not sure how much faith I place in this argument. Indeed, I'm not sure I (or possibly anyone) really understands what it means to create time, or create anything when time doesn't exist.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

no no (4.00 / 1) (#74)
by Goatmaster on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:48:26 PM EST

If there was truely a 'being' (if we dare call it that) that could create time and space, then would it also be bound by the rules it created? According to my instinct, I'd say no since obviously it existed outside these things before creating them. I'd say the rules it'd play by would be so completely alien that we would be hard pressed to even get an elementary grasp of them.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Indeed. (none / 0) (#81)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:07:52 PM EST

Knowing how much we could even grasp about the nature of god is a tricky issue. I believe we're in agreement here.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]
"Creating" time (none / 0) (#147)
by chemista on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:40:39 PM EST

There's a much more fundamental problem -- the concept of "creating time" is actually an oxymoron. Creation necessarily requires a "before" and an "after," and this sequencing is precisely what time is. Since it is a logical fallacy to be "before" time, it is also not possible to "create" time.
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]
and you are exactly what I was talking about (5.00 / 1) (#166)
by Goatmaster on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:15:35 PM EST

If my suppositions were true and there was a being that created time, we could never hope to truely understand its nature because everything we do is influenced by time itself. It is certainly possible to have an after without a before.

To illustrate this without the concept of a 'god' or whatnot, let's take the conventional 'Big Bang' theory. The big bang created space, and by implication time as well, so what happened before the big bang? We need to understand this before we can understand what caused the big bang. Except there is no before. Time did not exist. This is another example of an 'after' without a before.

I suppose it's counter to the prevailing attitude today, but it just goes to show that indeed we cannot hope to possibly understand everything. Try to wrap your mind around the concept of after without before. And yes, time was created according to most religions and scientific theories out there.


... and so the Goatmaster has spoken
[ Parent ]
Before and after (4.00 / 3) (#173)
by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:33:49 PM EST

Here's an example universe: an o bouncing back and forth in a 1-dimensional box. *Start* t=0
|o   | t=1
| o  | t=2
|  o | t=3
| o  | t=4
|o   | t=5
| o  | t=6
...

Now, I created that universe - its space and time - at a certain 'when' (a few seconds ago). There was certainly a 'before' -- for example, yesterday. However, there is no 'before' in the time of this mini-universe. I don't think we can really say that the creation happened inside the mini-universe at all.

By the way, I didn't write it out in order. Try extending that to our universe. :-)
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

Time and Language (4.00 / 1) (#300)
by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:05:44 AM EST

Good point. The problem is that the concept of Time is so inherent in our thoughts and being that trying to talk about it in a language created by temporal being such as ourselves becomes pretty much impossible. The poor fellow that wrote this book struggled with it quite a bit.

Arguing about the inherent temporal nature of English words quickly becomes silly. Although I like your "before and after were extra-universe" argument.

---
Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
[ Parent ]
Before and after redux (4.00 / 1) (#366)
by chemista on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:27:17 AM EST

Of course one can go from one temporal regime to make another. But in your creation of a model universe, there was a "before," before you made the model, and an "after," after you made the model. The equivalence of what you postulate is that a god, in an already existing universe (with at least one asymmetric dimension, which functionally is what "time" is) spawned off a new universe. Thus time must have existed (in "god's universe") before time was "created." Does this then imply there was another god that created the time (and possibly the god) in this once-removed universe, etc.? I posit therefore (in a bit more fine-grained logic) that creation is intrinsically impossible in the absence of time already.
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]
The nature of God as revealed by Science. (2.66 / 3) (#144)
by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:33:39 PM EST

The argument from design (if you believe it) indicates that the creator is going for an interesting kind of universe - one that contains stars and planets and life, rather than a soup of particles or a collection of black holes. That's what Intelligent Design gets you - a creator who wants life.

Actually, you can go a little bit further, if you believe that intelligent life is extremely rare (you might as well stop reading if you don't want to consider this). In that case, not only does the creator want life, but there is only one instance of smart life that resulted: humans. It's not unreasonable to say that the creator would be interested in these special humans.

So, we've got a creator who is interested in humans. There might be some other attributes of God that we can discover through scientific means, but I agree that it will still be a far call from the specific characteristics of the Christian God.

Now, allow me to present an idea, the validity of which I have not given much thought: the laws of physics are designed so that sinful activities result in bad physical consequences. This idea comes from Dr. Hugh Ross (PhD astrophysics), who likes to give the example of an employer beating his/her employees; the employees will be less productive, and thus the employer will suffer. Not a convincing argument because it seems like exceptions to this rule are easy to generate.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

Argument By Authority (none / 0) (#157)
by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:59:08 PM EST

This idea comes from Dr. Hugh Ross (PhD astrophysics)
So if this guy expresses an opinion on star formation (or whatever his area is) we should listen to him. Other topics -- like theology -- he has as much credibility as I (PhD computer science) do.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

That's not the point (none / 0) (#165)
by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:14:33 PM EST

If it came off like an argument from authority, then: Oops. :-)
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]
That's fortunate (none / 0) (#567)
by KnightStalker on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:52:59 PM EST

because Hugh Ross has some other rather odd beliefs :-)

[ Parent ]
More or less that's what he believes (none / 0) (#663)
by xriso on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:41:35 PM EST

Disclaimer: I might be wrong about his beliefs, but I'm pretty sure that these are them:

From what I've heard directly from him (on his web radio show), this is his belief about UFOs:

  • A very large majority of UFOs can be attributed to natural phenomena, or college students' pranks.
  • The Residual UFOs are always linked to a person involved in the occult, and most often these RUFOs exhibit seemingly impossible characteristics. He interprets this as meaning that these residual UFOs are due to demonic activity.
He says that all the evidence he has personally collected supports his belief.

And indeed he does believe that there are very likely no "space aliens", for two reasons (you may disagree with both):

  • Life-supporting planets are rare.
  • The origin of life is a very low-probability event, given a life-supporting planet.
Furthermore, he believes that if there are space aliens, they have no way to visit Earth, simply due to physical limitations.

He wrote a book about this whole alien/UFO thing, called Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men. I haven't looked at it, so I wouldn't suggest nor discourage buying it.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
[ Parent ]

The origin of morals and ethics (5.00 / 1) (#179)
by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:51:56 PM EST

the laws of physics are designed so that sinful activities result in bad physical consequences. ... the example of an employer beating his/her employees; the employees will be less productive, and thus the employer will suffer.
Not sure what you mean by "laws of physics" here -- not QM but social consequences, I assume. So why should I not beat up a stranger?

Could we not assume that our morals and ethics come from the necessity of living in a colony? If we decide to cooperate against saber-tooth tigers, we can watch each others' backs; however, we cannot do this if we need to worry about other citizens. We therefore decide that we are not allowed to arbitrarily harm another of the same tribe. The notion of the tribe then got extended to larger and larger groups.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Civilization as a Darwinian process (4.50 / 2) (#186)
by Dyolf Knip on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:17:17 PM EST

Very clever! Early human tribes that were unable to develop a system of codes, rules, laws, ethics, morals, what have you, were therefore unable to develop into larger societies and ended up conquered or wiped out by ones that could. The few such tribes remaining today exist only due to extreme isolation. Now here's the kicker. Such a system of rules could easily have started off as a blindly established set of beliefs in the proper way to live one's life, handed down from one generation to the next. Religion as the product of a social evolutionary process! Take that, Kansas Board of Education!

---
If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

Dyolf Knip
[ Parent ]

I don't understand your point (none / 0) (#216)
by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:50:40 PM EST

Early human tribes that were unable to develop a system of codes, rules, laws, ethics, morals, what have you, were therefore unable to develop into larger societies and ended up conquered or wiped out by ones that could.
Er... no, not exactly; my point is only that rules about cooperation among individuals naturally arise in social animals. This could be genetic -- "the rules exist so the colony must form" -- or learned -- "the colony will cease to exist if we don't follow these rules." It doesn't matter why the rules exist; in a social species they must. We humans communicate with language so I think it will be very hard to show either origin. At some point when the origins of fire, rain etc. became personal (human-like gods) the rules and intention could be ascribed to these gods.

(I am not an anthropologist, these are the opinions of an ordinary schmoe.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

The way I think of ingrained morals (none / 0) (#188)
by KnightStalker on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:21:20 PM EST

I can't say whether morals are genetic or cultural in origin, but I like to think of them from an evolutionary point of view. Say there are x number of groups, and occasionally members or ideas migrate between the groups. Assume the groups are attacked by sabertooth tigers on a regular basis. The groups that have the gene (or meme) for working together against the tigers will therefore be more likely to survive and reproduce, and will spread the gene (or meme) to other groups. This won't have to go on for very long for the idea or gene to become universal.

[ Parent ]
But what about..... (none / 0) (#437)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:43:34 AM EST

What about behavior that doesn't get our genes into the next generation? There are aspects of morality that include self-sacrifice (pushing grandma out of the way of a truck only to be struck yourself).

[ Parent ]
Memes spread both vertically and horizontally (none / 0) (#439)
by greenrd on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:49:19 AM EST

That's a problem for "selfish genes", but not a problem for memes, i.e. ideas, stories, attitudes, etc. In fact martyr stories can be very effective in changing people's behaviour and ideas - see Christianity for example.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Kin selection (none / 0) (#520)
by KnightStalker on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:10:54 PM EST

Even in the context of selfish genes, altruistic behavior can be reasonable. Look at it from the point of the gene.

Maybe grandma wouldn't apply to this (she's unlikely to reproduce) but say it's your sibling that you pushed out of the way. He or she contains half your genes. Therefore, if you risk your life to save your sibling, you're still contributing to the spread of your genes in the environment.

Most social insects have huge castes that never reproduce; instead, they dedicate themselves to supporting other castes that share their genes. See Dawkins' _The Selfish Gene_ for a better exposition.

[ Parent ]

Another argument from moral necessity (3.33 / 6) (#59)
by IHCOYC on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:04:12 PM EST

I cheerfully admit that I cannot prove, and cannot be sure, that there is a God.

But if there is none, then biological existence is the only existence we get. And that existence seems rather pointless: what, exactly, is so great about eating and drinking, of swinking and swiving, so that we can survive and reproduce our genes in another generation? Does it represent an agenda we would choose if we had a choice?

The whole business of biological life seems cyclical and pointless to me. Either there is some kind of meaning beyond it, or there isn't. I choose to believe that there is.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelćis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy

Errrm... (3.50 / 2) (#62)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:18:31 PM EST

I think you more or less agree with me, but just to make sure -

That isn't, of course, a particularly rigorous argument. It more or less says that it would be "really nice" if there was a god, but doesn't give us any reason to believe such a being exists. After all, it's entirely possible that life is "pointless".

For example, I'd like to think that we can travel faster than the speed of light. I think it would make the univerise a nice place if we could. However, my wanting to exceed the speed of light doesn't give me any particular reason to believe I can. ie, it doesn't actually tell me (or give me reason to believe) anything about the world.

Furthermore, many people are quite able to find "a point" to life without requiring a god. Examples of "purposes" or "points" they may find in life include experiencing happiness, the persuit of knowledge, and doing morally good things.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

Well then, what is yours? (2.00 / 2) (#94)
by kholmes on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:42:24 PM EST

"Furthermore, many people are quite able to find 'a point' to life without requiring a god. Examples of 'purposes' or 'points' they may find in life include experiencing happiness, the persuit of knowledge, and doing morally good things."

But you do realize that your purpose in life must also be logically consistant, don't you?

Such as you can't live your live to get laid, because then your life would suddenly become meaningless after you grow old. Whoever said "Life ain't nothing but bitches and money" is completely wrong, because of the above and that money can't be an end in itself.

I like how Aristotle put it:

"If in all our activities there is some end we seek for its own sake, and if everything else is a means to this same end, it obviously will be our highest and best end. Clearly there must be some such end since everything cannot be a means to something else since then there would be nothing for which we ultimately do anything and everything would be pointless...."

Of course, if you believe that everything is a means and there is no ultimate end, then you are a nihilist and are no better off alive or dead.

I think we should all make the question of what that ultimate end is, explicit rather than implicit since at least then we'd know better than to go insane.

If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
[ Parent ]

Well, personally... (3.00 / 2) (#121)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:31:35 PM EST

Although it doesn't seem terribly relevant, my personal "purpose" in life is to increase the happiness of myself and others. I hold happiness to be a "god-like" property, and an end worthy in itself. I think this is pretty defendable logically.

Having said that, that was simply a tangent to the original point, which is that the world being aesthetically pleasing if it had a certain property doesn't give us reason to believe it has that property.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

Who's to say god created the soul? (2.00 / 1) (#137)
by wedman on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:10:28 PM EST

"I cheerfully admit that I cannot prove, and cannot be sure, that there is a God. But if there is none, then biological existence is the only existence we get."

Really? Is the idea of life after biological death dependent on a god?



~
DELETE FROM comments WHERE uid=9524;
[ Parent ]
The "soul" (none / 0) (#176)
by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:41:44 PM EST

Is the idea of life after biological death dependent on a god?
My experience is that everyone who finds the notion of "life after biological death" to be plausible is a theist. Therefore I assume there must be a connection between belief in god(s) and belief in life after death. What they mean by "life after death" doesn't seem uniquely defined; it seems strongly connected to the brand of theism professed. In these circumstances I cannot say whether or not "life after death" logically depends on a god. (The theists I know are not just christians.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

It is definitely possible (4.00 / 1) (#187)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:20:52 PM EST

Life after death can be conceived without the existence of a god. For example, your "soul" (defined by me as the collected electric charges, chemical states, etc. in your brain) could somehow transfer to an undiscovered subatomic level, or something liek that. Very unlikely, but it doesn't need a god.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Life (none / 0) (#217)
by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:54:51 PM EST

I agree completely; my claim is not that consciousness can remain after biological, only that all the "life after death" myths I know are supernatural. That the soul is something that only exists outside physics (the empirical world of experience and experiment).


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Reincarnation (none / 0) (#228)
by naomi385 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:54:10 PM EST

Really? Is the idea of life after biological death dependent on a god?
Not at all. Many, many people believe and have faith in reincarnation of some sort, and not necessarily in a particular deity. To some, myself included, this really seems obvious, but you have to forget about Western ideas of soul and identity. Try reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead. To tie this in with the parent comment:
The whole business of biological life seems cyclical and pointless to me. Either there is some kind of meaning beyond it, or there isn't. I choose to believe that there is.
I absolutely agree that biological life, and possibly inert matter as well has some sort of cyclical, rhythmic or self-similar property that exerts forces on our existence. As for being pointless or meaningless, I'd rather say mundane. I personally try not to interpret the forces of the universe to be benevolent or malevolent. They just are. Or they are not. I choose to believe that they are.


Propaganda. Questionable Intelligence. The Visitations.


[ Parent ]
Souls without god(s) (3.00 / 1) (#240)
by IHCOYC on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:48:38 PM EST

The notion that a god exists does not become logically necessary from the existence of a soul or an afterlife.

It might be, of course, that the surviving souls are not judged; they just continue to accumulate and hang around in a wispy limbo unrelated to their just comeuppance. They might be judged by a less than divine judge, who would not be omniscient and could be bribed or lawyered into random decisions. The souls could have a shadow form of human society, continuing to bully, oppress, and seduce one another just as they did in life.

I'd have to suggest, though, that none of these afterlives, though, meet the moral objection I set out. In fact, they'd extend what was unsatisfactory about a merely earthly existence out to infinity.
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelćis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
--- Livy
[ Parent ]

labratory mice (3.00 / 2) (#154)
by smallstepforman on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:57:40 PM EST

Did you hear about the labratory mouse who claimed to have trained the scientists - every time he pressed a red button, the scientists would give him some cheese.

[ Parent ]
Right back @cha (5.00 / 5) (#155)
by 0xdeadbeef on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:57:46 PM EST

What, exactly, is so great about eating and drinking, of swinking and swiving, so that we can survive and reproduce our genes in another generation?
I dunno, what is so great about dicking around in this mundane, temporary existence, with the potential for joy but much greater potential for pain, when at the end we are either subjected to oblivion, either true nothingness or endless madness inflicted by constant suffering, or, if we are good boys and girls, either subsumed by something incomprehensible, or, if allowed independent existence, free to dick around in much the same way as before, but forever and with new arbitrary rules?

If you ask me, religion is the choice of pointless stupidity. I'm much happier directing my efforts toward feeding and fucking.

[ Parent ]

Eating and Drinking! (none / 0) (#160)
by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:09:52 PM EST

[Biological existence] seems rather pointless: what, exactly, is so great about eating and drinking ...
I really don't care that much what other people think of this biological existence. I only know (for suitable values of "know," I guess, since we're being epistemologically careful) my own experiences, and I'm having a blast. Eating, drinking, and lots of other stuff like interacting with other life-forms and experiencing the environment.

Is there "meaning" beyond it? Don't know and don't care. I don't know even know (or care) what "meaning" is, beyond the existence I know. What I know is that all the people making arguments for "higher powers" and "further meanings" are just saying a bunch of words that are poorly defined and implausible. What I know I have is this existence, and I'm making full use of it.

Deus ex machina is an extremely unsatisfying way to end a play.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Decide your own moral necessity (5.00 / 1) (#180)
by kcbrown on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:53:16 PM EST

But if there is none, then biological existence is the only existence we get. And that existence seems rather pointless: what, exactly, is so great about eating and drinking, of swinking and swiving, so that we can survive and reproduce our genes in another generation? Does it represent an agenda we would choose if we had a choice?
Does being the servant of some all-knowing, all-powerful being, only so that you can secure your place in "heaven", represent an agenda we would choose if we had a choice?

Christians (and Jews, and Muslims) essentially argue that you have as much choice about that as you do about paying your taxes (except that the penalty for not paying your taxes isn't nearly as bad as the penalty for not serving this all-knowing, all-powerful being). Of course, they couch their argument in terms of "free will" and all that, but the "free will" they speak of is the same sort as the "free will" you have about whether or not to pay your taxes.

You have more choice about whether or not to fulfill your genetic purpose than whether or not to "serve God", if you were to believe the religious types I speak of.

Your body may compel you to go through the motions of reproduction, but you now have a choice about the results. The very thing responsible for the evolutionary success of humans on the planet today (the human brain) has made it possible to separate the act of reproduction from the result of reproduction.

Bottom line: your purpose is whatever you decide it should be. The real world will dictate whether or not it is possible for you to serve that purpose.

[ Parent ]

One other thing... (none / 0) (#181)
by kcbrown on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:59:36 PM EST

"It could be that your purpose in life is only to serve as a warning to others" -- quote from one of the Despair, Inc. posters.

:-)

[ Parent ]

belief v. wanting (none / 0) (#270)
by ackbie on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:21:37 AM EST

I wonder if the results of the poll would have been different if it read "Do you _want_ there to be a God?" -- I have a suspicion that there would be very little difference. What does  that say about the distinction between "believing" and "wanting to believe" (or maybe "choosing to believe")?

I'll be the first to admit that there aren't too many things that I don't believe in that i wish i did (or do, that i wish i didn't). can you have faith in something against your will? if so, how common is it? are there a lot of people running around thinking to themselves "blast! i wish i wasn't a <insert religion>"?

does belief really even mean anything?

With regards to the point of life, i personally believe (want to believe?) that "meaning" is something that came after the inception of life, in fact was an invention of life. So, it seems bizarre to try to apply it to life.

[ Parent ]

You might see a difference. (none / 0) (#857)
by Boronx on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 02:44:27 PM EST

I, and probably other atheists, have wished in moments of weakness that there were gods. The simplicity of Religion has a certain attraction. And at other times are thankful that there aren't.
Subspace
[ Parent ]
what's wrong with what we've always done? (4.00 / 1) (#324)
by blisspix on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:05:01 AM EST

The whole business of biological life seems cyclical and pointless to me.

why? why are we as humans, any better than the millions of other creatures on this planet who do no more than be born, eat, reproduce, and die? why isn't that 'meaning' enough in itself?

All the bleating about meaning that was all over Oprah et al after September 11 makes me sick. Life isn't about pursuing some 'purpose' that will make you feel good. And it's wrong to make people who don't act that way feel bad.

People used to be happy with eating, reproducing, hunting, gathering, etc. I think we'd be better off if we were still that way, instead of deciding whether to bomb people from 100 storey buildings, allowing people to choose whether they want to clone themselves, and destroying the planet in the process.

[ Parent ]

The problem of evil... (4.33 / 3) (#60)
by opensorcerer on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:07:45 PM EST

.. was rather simply explained to me, within the context of the belief system I hold. The nature of a universe that permits free will must necessarily also provide consequences for freely-chosen actions. If everyone acted in accordance with universal love, no human evil would exist, except as a potential. Human existence is being used as a demonstration of the effects of evil on a large group of people. It's only usable as such because humans chose to sin, though, not because it was engineered that way. Simply put it's the evidence in the "why God's way causes no suffering" argument. You're welcome to flame, but please do so in private email, I'm not hard to reach. If you want to post responses, uphold the dubious K5 tradition and try to make them at least halfway constructive :)

Steve Arlo: There aren't evil guys and innocent guys. It's just... It's just... It's just a bunch of guys.
It's not the existence of evil itself (5.00 / 3) (#70)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:44:07 PM EST

it's the effects of the existence of evil, and the selective, often arbitrary nature of suffering that's the main problem. For instance, why are severely mentally handicapped children born? What is the point of an omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent God allowing that? Why should millions of Jews be gassed in concentration camps while millions of people live in prosperity and happiness elsewhere?

This is the conundrum: If God grants free will (because he is omnipotent he can do this), in the certain knowledge that suffering will result (because he is omniscient he knows this), he is exactly as responsible for the ensuing suffering as a parent who allows a child to play freely with fire. This wouldn't be a problem if God were not infinitely good. It is a problem, and a fundamentally unsolvable one, if you assume that God possesses the following properties: infinite goodness, infinite wisdom, and infinite power. Relax one of the requirements (God is capricious, God is stupid, or God is not omnipotent) and you have no problem. But the "free-will" cop-out you (and to be fair millions of other people ) use, is just that - a cop-out.

[ Parent ]

Foreknowledge vs. Free Will (3.50 / 2) (#113)
by opensorcerer on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:14:00 PM EST

I suppose it depends on how you define "free will" (which is a big can of worms) but to me, if you choose something, you become responsible for the consequences.  This is not to say that you are the only person to feel those consequences - murder is the simplest example I can think of that refutes such a claim.  But it does mean you can't just say "Soandso made me do it", when it was your finger on the trigger.

If God creates human beings with free will, KNOWING they will sin, AND he offers a way out (which is the case in the Christian model), then you're free to sin, and it's your problem if you make that choice.  You're also free to make the simple choice required to negate the consequences of that sin (in terms of salvation vs. death, I'm not talking about praying your way out of jail).
If a parent thoroughly teaches her child fire safety, and THEN the child plays with fire, would you argue the parent has been negligent?

Steve Arlo: There aren't evil guys and innocent guys. It's just... It's just... It's just a bunch of guys.
[ Parent ]

playing with fire (none / 0) (#134)
by mech9t8 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:59:25 PM EST

If a parent thoroughly teaches her child fire safety, and THEN the child plays with fire, would you argue the parent has been negligent?

Well, a more appropriate analogy would be teaching the child about fire safety, and then putting him in a room filled other children playing with fire, who may or may not be responsible enough to avoid playing with fire.

Also, I would argue against the whole appropriateness of the "thoroughly teaches" analogy; any messages from God to man have been confusing and vague at best.

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

Or... (none / 0) (#479)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:04:13 PM EST

<I>Well, a more appropriate analogy would be teaching the child about fire safety, and then putting him in a room filled other children playing with fire, who may or may not be responsible enough to avoid playing with fire.</I>

Or more likely put them in a room with other children who may not have been taught as they were. In that case anyone who puts their child in daycare or school is not being responsible.

<I> Also, I would argue against the whole appropriateness of the "thoroughly teaches" analogy; any messages from God to man have been confusing and vague at best.</I>

I would guess that many who fall on the other side of your arguments would not find scripture to be vague or confusing at all.

[ Parent ]

Rear read read study study study (none / 0) (#1066)
by dread ed on Wed Oct 23, 2002 at 05:23:07 PM EST

"any messages from God to man have been confusing and vague at best." By your statement you show that you have never studied the Bible from the original languages. It is quite clear. Please, just because YOU have not made the effort to understand the message of God, do not state that they have not been made and made clearly.
When the only tool you posess is a claw hammer, everything begins to look like the back of someone's skull.
[ Parent ]
Clear? (sorry, late reply) (none / 0) (#1107)
by mech9t8 on Fri Nov 01, 2002 at 04:02:19 PM EST

Empirical evidence suggests it is not clear, simply by sheer number of religions out there (including the thousands of sects of Christianity).  Just because you think your interpretation of a religious text is "quite clear" (and, presumably, think it's "quite clear" that the Bible is the work of God, not man, and that the Bible is the "correct" book and the other ones are not), the mere fact that so many people have misinterpreted it speaks for itself.

An omnipotent and omniscient entity would presumeably have the communication skills to write clearly enough to avoid such misinterpretations, unless he was deliberately not being as clear as possible - in which case, he deliberately messing with us for his own mysterious reasons, and it's impossible to tell which interpretation is correct - if any of them are.

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

suffering of children (2.00 / 1) (#189)
by speek on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:22:17 PM EST

None of this speaks to the existence of children suffering through horrible situations because of accident and/or sinning parents. The children have not yet had the opportunity to exercise any choice, yet they suffer horribly. And where's God? Sorry to offload some Dostoyevski on you, but since him, the answer to the problem of evil has to be, there is no Good and all-powerful God, IMO.

--
Perhaps the State of Hawaii could countersue the woman that gave birth to and raised a
[
Parent ]

What is it to suffer? (none / 0) (#543)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:51:27 PM EST

None of this speaks to the existence of children suffering through horrible situations because of accident and/or sinning parents.

Some people who are perceived as highly successful will attribute it to the fact that they had to overcome such suffering.

I have had to suffer through various surgical procedures. The alternative was a ruptured appendix and toxins killing my body or cancer taking over my body. Though these things were sufferings in and of themselves, they are preferable to what I would likely have suffered had I not endured them.

[ Parent ]

A more approrpiate question... (none / 0) (#1067)
by dread ed on Wed Oct 23, 2002 at 05:40:32 PM EST

is why do you attribute to God situations that are caused by things other than God?

It's like saying, my mother bought me into this world therefore it is her fault that I wrecked my car into this tree after I drank a half a keg of beer. Rediculous. Most human suffering can be attributed to OTHER HUMANS. Furethermore, those humans have made choices that led to this suffering. Therefore, they could have chosen to take a different course of action and avoided creating suffering for others. To blame God for the actions of man, or the results of the actions of man is the biggest cop out of them all. We don't want to take responsibility for our actions so, hmmm...LET'S BLAME GOD! Pathetic...

It's like peoplke want the 'ol Deus ex Machina to come and resolve all the problems that they have created, and when it dosen't happen they resent it. A mature response would be to reason that God created a great place for us to live, gave us wonderful resources, great imagination and intelligence, power over our creative abilities, and the ability to communicate wonderfully, and look what we let happen. Look what we have created. Before you go and blame God, make sure that you own hands aren't dirty, hmm?
When the only tool you posess is a claw hammer, everything begins to look like the back of someone's skull.
[ Parent ]

Your argument... (none / 0) (#517)
by cr8dle2grave on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:07:08 PM EST

...conflates suffering and evil. The two need not be understood as identical or even necessarily related.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
Simple refutation. (4.00 / 1) (#83)
by Jman1 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:15:40 PM EST

Earthquakes and other "acts of God" which kill hundreds or thousands of innocent people fall under my definition of evil, but aren't caused by human free will.

[ Parent ]
Why? (none / 0) (#86)
by BigZaphod on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:26:25 PM EST

I'm just curious why it is assumed things like natural disasters are evil.  I'm not saying you're wrong (because who knows, really?).  I'm just trying to understand because I don't see it that way.

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
Answer (none / 0) (#89)
by Jman1 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:29:18 PM EST

If innocent people being killed isn't evil, what is?

[ Parent ]
Nice. :-) (5.00 / 1) (#98)
by BigZaphod on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:53:58 PM EST

I guess I feel that in order for something to be evil, there needs to be intent.  And I just don't see the intent to inflict harm in an earthquake.  Maybe my concept of evil is just different from yours.  I admit that I've never lost anyone in an earthquake or any kind of natural disaster, so perhaps that has something to do with it.

But try this on, if you will (using an earthquake as an example since it came up).  There are at least two reasonable ways to view the deaths in an earthquake.  One is that it is a sure sign of evil because clearly not all those who died were in any way bad (aside from original sin if you are Christian).  Therefore it is unjust for God to allow the death of so many whose only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What if, however, the earthquake settled some part of the crust that, if left unchecked, would have caused many many more deaths in the future when the pressuse would have been forced to be released?  God need not work only in the present, right?  It could be that a judgement call had to be made.  Conditions developed that resulted in the build up of pressures beneath the earth and it had to be dealt with.  There are several ways for God to handle this.  One would have been to get every single person in the area to leave.  Not impossible for God, I admit, but it wouldn't be his style.  He hasn't been big on the up-front obvious stuff since the Old Testament.  Besides, he'd almost be forced to turn our free will off in order to get that to happen.  And if even one person got killed, his credibility would be damaged.

Another possibiliy is that he could have looked for it coming eons ago and simply solved it before humans moved in.  Once again, this is God we're talking about, so why not?  The only trouble with this is that, once again, free will comes back to haunt Him.  If free will is true and honest, then God can't actually know what we're going to do at any time.  He might have a good idea, but unless He's cheating, He can't know for sure.  This means He's not all-knowing, just vastly more experienced.  I imagine He's quite good at prediction, though.  Anyway, some aspect of human free will may have caused the earthquake anyway.  Perhaps the pressures of human civilization changed the balance God had previously arraigned (before we came along and invented cities and big heavy building).  In any case, God couldn't have saw it coming from infinatly far away.  Well, He might have seen it coming, but because of the nature of human free will, he didn't know exactly when.  Therefore, there wasn't a lot he could do about it.  So, making predictions about human activity, he nudged the rock a bit and caused an earthquake now instead of later (when, by His foresight, there is likely to be far far more people around to die or whatever His benchmark is for "badness").

At least, this is how I tend to think about stuff.  Maybe I'm just wierd.  :-)

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]

God's Spin Doctor (none / 0) (#109)
by greenrd on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:11:12 PM EST

And if even one person got killed, his credibility would be damaged.

I see now spin doctoring has even entered into theological discussions!


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Spin. (none / 0) (#112)
by BigZaphod on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:13:28 PM EST

It could be argued that any form of theological discussion is already spin...  :^)

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
Response: (none / 0) (#114)
by Jman1 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:17:05 PM EST

First of all, you seem to be postulating a God that is not all-powerful, since surely an all-powerful God could simply cause the earthquake not to happen in the first place and, I don't know, dissipate the pressure magically or something. Or at least gradually. That wouldn't be a problem with free will, since it has nothing to do with human choices. If God can stop it, but doesn't, that is the same to me as having evil intent. If, on the other hand, God is sitting up there weighing pros and cons of natural disasters and making a pragmatic compromise, he's clearly not all-powerful. If God is not all-powerful, then there really isn't a question of evil to begin with, since you can just argue that it's outside God's control.

Clearly your view of an imperfect God seems to fit better with human experience, since bad stuff happens all the time. It is a little strange, though to have a monotheistic religion without the all-powerful God, since monotheism requires that one Deity to have created the entire Universe, which to this admittedly ignorant observer seems much easier than harmlessly defusing pressure before the earthquake happens.

[ Parent ]

All-powerful (none / 0) (#127)
by BigZaphod on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:44:57 PM EST

I suppose I do tend to take on the opinion that God isn't all-powerful in the sense that most people believe Him to be.  In all honesty, my theology is somewhat home-brew and technically not monotheism in the usual sense.  By some people's standards, that means I'm going straight to hell, but I just have a hard time seeing it that way.  Maybe it is wishful thinking.  :-)

I tend to believe in one God, but not as a Diety outside of creation.  Instead He is the universe.  He is what makes life work.  Almost like a force in the same sense that gravity is a force.  I suppose that sounds rather mystical/spiritual.  Maybe it is.  As a result, he is constrained by the rules of the universe.  That is not to say he can't make up new rules (he wrote the book the first time around, after all).  It is just that new rules would affect all of creation (if even for a moment).  So, making a new rule to release the pressure of an earthquake is likely within his power, the consequences of that may be too great for us to comprehend because the rules would change for the entire universe.  Now imagine that there's more populated planets than earth and that there's more than just humans for him to watch out for and, in my mind, things start getting a bit hairy.  One little change has astronomical effects (most of which probably wouldn't be good).

It would easier for God to tweak and avert if He were outside the universe (which is the usual view) since he doesn't have to change the very mechanics of existence.  It just doesn't seem (to me, anyway) that human experience suggests that is going on.  Any situation, if viewed through a suffificantly small lens, will appear to be caused by some outside force.  Perhaps the will of God.  But drawing out to a bigger picture simply moves God's apparent intervention farther and farther from the original event.  Taken to the next logical step, that means that God had to have set everything in motion in the beginning and every spin of every quark of every electron was pre-planned so that the exact events we witness were set in stone.  Then there is no free will.

So anyway, that's more or less how I see things right now.  As is pretty normal for my beliefs, it is subject to change.  In a way, I'm breaking a lot of Christian rules by thinking like this, but God gave us free will and I'm not saying he doesn't exist.  I'm just thinking the usual definition is wrong.  But who am I to know for sure?

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]

Rules (none / 0) (#161)
by Jman1 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:12:55 PM EST

"I'm breaking a lot of Christian rules by thinking like this"

Seems pretty silly to have rules against thinking a certain way. :)

[ Parent ]

All-knowing (none / 0) (#128)
by Kintanon on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:45:02 PM EST

God set the universe in motion, at that time an infinite branch of possibilities was born, God knows all of these possibilities. In one possibility an earthquake happened in a populated area and people died. God set the earthquake up to happen, because it had to be a possibility, he didn't make us choose that path and populate the earthquake prone area. Free will enters into it. He knew that the possibility existed though.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

re: all-knowing (none / 0) (#132)
by BigZaphod on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:55:39 PM EST

If he set up all possible outcomes (which, Him being God and all, is perfectly possible), then is He evil because people died?  If He were to be truely good, wouldn't He had to have just prevented certain bad universes from being created?  Yeah, that causes problems with free will, but then do we have it or not?

I once pondered something like the infinate universe thing.  A possibility I came up with (hey, it is probably some common form of belief, but if it is, I have no idea what its called) is that we humans exist across all universes and all futures.  So, we are pan-dimensional beings (to borrow from Douglas Adams).  Dying in one is not the same thing as no longer being.  So perhaps God's view on this is that since all possible decisions have been made we have free will and yet He didn't have to cheat.  It is just that we got the wrong message:  we don't actually have free will in this life, but our being has free will and every single possible decision is being lived out in full in parallel.

I'm just imagining sitting in heaven with a hand-held device comparing my decision matrix with my friends'.  "Hey, you decided to eat lunch at McDonalds that thursday too, huh?  Wow!  And look over here, we actually sat together.  Too bad I missed you in the other 1,993,285 universes where we lived in the same town."

Or not.  I don't know.  :-)

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]

Evil and Death (none / 0) (#631)
by Kintanon on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:18:29 PM EST

I agree with everything you said and see the universe in much the same way EXCEPT for the idea that Death is automatically evil. There are tangible benefits to death in many situations. And sometimes benefits which aren't immediately visible to us, or never become visible.
If 10,000 people die in an earthquake today, maybe that means in 200 years 100,000,000 people don't starve to death because of excess population growth.
We can't know all ends, God does, so we possess incomplete information for judging events on a scale of absolute benefit. We can only judge benefit or cost in relation to our own situations.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

We're getting sidetracked (none / 0) (#93)
by greenrd on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:41:21 PM EST

The important question is not whether or not so-called "natural evils" such as earthquakes are in fact "evil" - that's just playing with words. The important question is, irrespective of how we define the word "evil", why does God allow earthquakes if He exists and is benevolent?


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

My answer.. (none / 0) (#99)
by BigZaphod on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:55:49 PM EST

Check out this post I just wrote in response to the other person (as of this writing). I think it helps give my opinion on the matter. Not like I'm right and you're wrong or anything, but there's my take, anyway. I'm probably missing something logcially.

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
[ Parent ]
Fear of Death (none / 0) (#125)
by Kintanon on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:41:55 PM EST

You automatically assume that 1. Suffering has no benefit, and 2. Death is always bad.

I do not believe that either of those things are true.

Kintanon

[ Parent ]

Well (none / 0) (#438)
by greenrd on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:45:28 AM EST

Then it seems like you are falling back on the position "You cannot judge God because he is beyond our ken." In which case the proposition that God is good is unfalsifiable. Which means that one is expected to take "God is good" on faith, without any rational argument.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

It's Axiomatic (1.00 / 1) (#527)
by farmgeek on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:23:32 PM EST

Good is by definition whatever God does.  So yes, there is no rational argument.

If God is omnipotent and omniscient then He is the final arbiter of good and evil, right and wrong.

From the book of Romans, Chapter 9, verses 10-23;
And not only [this]; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, [even] by our father Isaac;
(For [the children] being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.  As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? [Is there] unrighteousness with God? God forbid.  For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then [it is] not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.  For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will [have mercy], and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?  Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed [it], Why hast thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?  [What] if God, willing to shew [his] wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:  And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,


[ Parent ]

God being beyond our ken... (none / 0) (#552)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:07:33 PM EST

Then it seems like you are falling back on the position "You cannot judge God because he is beyond our ken." In which case the proposition that God is good is unfalsifiable. Which means that one is expected to take "God is good" on faith, without any rational argument.

If God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient the idea that those who are not all of those things (particularly with regard to omniscience) can't get a complete grasp of what sort of being that might be only seems logical to me. If we were able to explain every attribute of God from a rational standpoint then that would not be an infinite being at all. This proposition may be unfalsifiable but could that not be due to the fact that it comes from the perspective of a finite set of parameters?

[ Parent ]

One answer (none / 0) (#396)
by VanM on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:32:09 AM EST

As presented to me (and is dependent upon a belief of free will) is that once sin entered the world (aka after the Fall of man, especially in the denomination whose school I attend), man had made a choice for evil instead of good. Had man not sinned then, such natural disasters would not occur.

[ Parent ]
let's get this straight (none / 0) (#190)
by speek on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:29:33 PM EST

There is a good and all-powerful god. He created heaven, which is, well, heaven. He then created us. BUT, he won't let us all into heaven - we have to prove ourselves in the less-than perfect place called Earth before we're allowed into heaven. Explain to me how this isn't evil?

If I'm not good enough to make it to heaven, why did he create me? So I could go to hell and suffer horribly for eternity, to punish me for not measuring up?

And, if you are going to argue that our free-will is important and it's important that it be something not under god's control and that heaven's existence as heaven is only possible given free-will and independence from God's control, then you might as well admit that heaven is logically impossible and doesn't exist. God, in the highly unlikely event that it exists, has no heaven to offer us.

--
Perhaps the State of Hawaii could countersue the woman that gave birth to and raised a
[
Parent ]

What is god? (4.00 / 5) (#64)
by Anatta on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:21:43 PM EST

The problem with discussions on the existence of god is that there is no answer until "god" is fully defined. Only then can we examine whether god exists. Generally god has been defined as omnipotent and omnipresent and omniscient (and often "all good"), but these ideas constantly run into the Philosophy 101 questions such as "can god make an immovable object, and then move it?"

So often people run into the trap of defining god as "unimaginable", or "beyond our understanding", and then trying to imagine it and understand it. They recognize that there are limits to human understanding, but they fail to apply those limits to their own understanding.

I guess I tend to fall into the logic of: it is certain that man made god, but the interesting question is what made man (and everything else). And the answer, of course, is god. But that doesn't give us any information as to what god is, and it does not mean that man's idea of god is the same thing as what god actually is.


My Music

No (3.00 / 1) (#68)
by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:43:20 PM EST

Philosophers can argue forever about the definition of chair but we have no problem recognizing one when we see one. Humans were probably succesfully using language before anyone had even thought of the idea of a definition. So I'm quite confident we can answer questions about things without definitions. Now it might be the case that God is a special concept that needs defining before we can say anything about it. But it seems to me that that needs to be demonstrated.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Definitions (none / 0) (#104)
by chemista on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:04:00 PM EST

If I said "chemista is a god" how could you disprove it? If the definition is sufficiently flexible, you must agree I am one (!) and if not, it must be broad enough to admit all gods in history and all possible invented gods in the future while necessarily excluding "chemista" from the ranks. (Sometimes it's avoided by introducing another undefined concept like "worship," but it has the same ultimate flaw.)
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]
What does proof have to do with it? (none / 0) (#119)
by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:26:46 PM EST

If I said "chemista is a god" how could you disprove it?
It's not a question of proof. If you think "chemista is a god" is a correct statement you have a problem with the English language. I don't need to prove it to anyone just as I don't need to prove to a carpenter how to use a saw. If they don't know how to use a saw then they'll soon be replaced by someone who does. Even mathematicians don't even define what a set is - rather they give a bunch of rules that tells you how to manipulate sentences about sets - in other words how to use the language.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
How to use language (none / 0) (#151)
by chemista on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:51:44 PM EST

The problem is that definitions ARE the rules of the English language. If one cannot come to a logical definition for a word, what you say is meaningless, as if saying "Florgs bloof grozickly" -- it may meet the grammar rules, but it has no meaning at all.
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]
Woah! Where did you learn to speak English? (none / 0) (#158)
by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:03:43 PM EST

The problem is that definitions ARE the rules of the English language
I wasn't taught English through definitions. And those words I have learned through definitions (eg. by looking them up in a dictionary) I have felt uncomfortable about using before actually seeing them in context. Definitions are post hoc rationalizations about how we use words. Words are tools like hammers and saws. Sure, someone can explain to us how to use a saw, but we really get to grips with the technique by actually using it or seeing it in use. And the same goes for the little I know of other languages too. And for particularly subtle and complex words, like 'God', I'd expect a definition to be even less useful than usual.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]
Socialization of language (none / 0) (#408)
by chemista on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:58:04 AM EST

If a person had grown up without having ever heard of "God," could they ever figure out what it is then? For that matter, is there a difference between 'god' and theos or Gott or deus? If meaning is wholly constructed from context, and you've never personally been in Greece (or Germany or well, Vatican City?) how could you justify a yes or no response?

More to the point, if one were raised in an environment where the dominant religion was not Christianity or Islam, the idea of what "God" is expected to be will be different. For example, if one peruses the writing of the European (and, more recently, US) philosophers, there is a default idea of transcendence in the "god[s]" they describe. Without being able to define the word, one categorically cannot step back from one's own experience to rationally talk about "God."
Stop reminding people about the overvalued stock market! I'm depending on that overvalued stock market to retire some day! - porkchop_d_clown
[ Parent ]

Growing up without God (none / 0) (#466)
by the on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:41:52 AM EST

If a person had grown up without having ever heard of "God," could they ever figure out what it is then?
I think that is precisely the situation many people are in! But you don't learn meanings only in childhood - you can learn as an adult too. But

I think definitions can make you worse off. The God that you get from a definition is the "God of the Philosophers" which is quite different from the one that many Christians, say, claim to have direct and personal experience of.

Imagine defining 'blue' to a blind person. And yet put a bunch of sighted people together and they can explain the word to each other by pointing out samples of blue etc. Something similar may hold for God too. Once you've actually had a religious experience it might be that it's relatively easy to make it clear to another such person what is meant by God without having to define it.

--
The Definite Article
[ Parent ]

The best lies... (3.66 / 3) (#75)
by DeadBaby on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:51:21 PM EST

Are built on flexible foundations. It allows you to cover your tracks later. What is god? Well for the sake of this conversation he's X, Y and Z but if you ask a religious person a harder question maybe he's A, B and C. Oh bit if you cite a certian religious text he's only A & B.

It's pretty damn easy to lie about something when you've got such great religious arguments as "uh, just becuase" and "uh, it's too big to define" Using these 2 simple rules I can prove the button my shirt is the only true GOD.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
[ Parent ]

Buttons == God? (1.00 / 1) (#82)
by siobibble on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:15:03 PM EST

Using these 2 simple rules I can prove the button my shirt is the only true GOD.

Ah, but is it a Mao Button?

[ Parent ]

Strawman attack. (2.00 / 1) (#105)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:04:24 PM EST

It's pretty damn easy to lie about something when you've got such great religious arguments as "uh, just becuase" and "uh, it's too big to define" Using these 2 simple rules I can prove the button my shirt is the only true GOD.

Yes, the first argument "just because" doesn't tell you anything, and is invalid. This is obvious.

I'm not sure the second argument "Too big to define", is entirely worthless. There's a certain amount of sense that would make - ie, the inability to describe the creator of the universe when we've only got descriptions of the universe to work with. I think this one could probably be worked into something of philosophical value.

Having said that, I'm beginning to suspect I've been trolled.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]

Types of godhood (4.00 / 2) (#77)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:52:33 PM EST

"can god make an immovable object, and then move it?"

On Usenet some years ago, John Schilling proposed the following definitions:

    A Type I God can do anything within the framework of physical law. Although this sets strict limits to a god's powers, it's still a nifty level of ability to possess.
  • A Type II God can rewrite physical law at will. If you postulate a creator for our universe, or if you already worry about escaping the Big Crunch/Heat Death, this is what you are dealing with. The possible existence of such entities is speculative.
  • A Type III God would not be suject to the laws of mathematics and logic. It could maintain an irresistible force and an immovable object at the same time. Obviously, this kind of entity is highly speculative.


[ Parent ]
The framework of physical law... (none / 0) (#126)
by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:44:19 PM EST

There seem to be two interpretations for the type I God (which I might add is speculative as well):
  • (physical god) Contained within physical law, and thus necessarily operates within the laws.
  • (deist god) Initiates the universe and then does not interfere with it at all, for any interference would depart it from natural progress.

I would have to classify the Christian God as a Type II (trancendent and interactive), but I don't find any reason to claim he has rewritten physical law at any time during the last 14 billion years. Rather, all changes he makes are quick exceptions to natural law. Kind of like the distinction between changing a data set and changing an algorithm.
--
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[ Parent ]

I never understood... (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by DeadBaby on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:47:11 PM EST

Not exactly on the topic of the existance of GOD but why exactly do I have to be "saved" and from what? Yes, I know the fictional reason religious texts cite but I've never once in my life felt the ned to be saved. I don't even understand what *I* ever did personally to require salvation.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
If 'tis all sound and fury, signifying nothing, (3.50 / 2) (#78)
by Pop Top on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 03:54:22 PM EST

why bother?

"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan always struck me as someone raised by parents/grandparents who had deeply internalized the very best elements of the Jewish faith, whether or not any of them consciously believed a single word of it.

Okay, you all can now transform me into a pillar of salt for blasphemy against St. Carl, and,

[ Parent ]

Nothing. (3.60 / 5) (#102)
by kitten on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:58:24 PM EST

why exactly do I have to be "saved" and from what?

Nothing at all.

In general (note the careful wording there), most people will suddenly "find God" or "accept Jesus" at a particularly low point in their lives, when they're vulnerable. Suddenly, they find comfort from it in the form of religion.

That says a lot.

Seems to me that if someone is more or less well-balanced, happy, and overall content, that religion and "salvation" has very little to offer them.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Right. That's it. And all white people are trash. (none / 0) (#247)
by Shovas on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:13:55 AM EST

Care to backup these massive generalizations?

Truth to tell--and it does no better for Christianity than people converting at low points in their lives--I'm of the thought(althought most likely it's a generalization too) that most were born into it and have not considered why they do believe in their faith. It's entirely important to have a solid foundation and wide perspective, in any subject.
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[ Parent ]
That cuts both ways. (none / 0) (#556)
by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:24:53 PM EST

In general (note the careful wording there), most people will suddenly "find God" or "accept Jesus" at a particularly low point in their lives, when they're vulnerable.

I find the converse to be true. I've known many people who have 'lost faith' at a particularly low point in their life and have turned to naturalism, atheism, nihilism and various other 'isms'.

Does that also 'say a lot?'

I also find that people who are already well adjusted and happy turn to God.

Perhaps what you are observing is not related to religion at all but to the tendency of people who are miserable to try something different in hopes of achieving different results in their lives.

[ Parent ]

Adopting religion.... (none / 0) (#1078)
by rtechie on Fri Oct 25, 2002 at 05:40:51 AM EST

For the most part, people are born into a particular religion (ex. Judism) and rarely stray from it, for many reasons. Most simply fail to question any of the axioms behind their religion (like the Jesus is God, and he's the only God, and that he's quite real) because it doesn't occur to them. Many wish to avoid offending their families.

Indoctrination at a young age has very strong effects on people. Most of the major religions have a version of "sunday school" that teaches religious precepts from a very young age (as young as 4 or 5). Children are punished for questioning these precepts (if it even occurs to them to do so) so naturally they tend to stick with it.

Most people abandon their religion because it doesn't "work" for them. Either they have problems with the church/organization, or they find themselves questioning the precepts of the religion and are able to express these questions. Or a combination of both. Or their family/spouse/friends is converted and they're "swept along".

[ Parent ]

Well, (3.50 / 2) (#103)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:58:46 PM EST

an eternity in hell would seem to be the sort of thing one might be saved from.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]
nice god (5.00 / 1) (#106)
by zephc on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:06:41 PM EST

"praise me or be damned and burn forever." Real nice.

[ Parent ]
Hey, (none / 0) (#120)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:27:05 PM EST

I'm not defending this god. The question asked what he might want to be saved from. I simply answered it.


But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]
what God says about such things (3.00 / 2) (#272)
by tbc on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:31:43 AM EST

What you need to be saved from: "As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.' 'Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.' 'The poison of vipers is on their lips.' 'Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.' 'Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.' 'There is no fear of God before their eyes.' Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." (Rom 3:10-26 NIV)

Does God want to send people to hell? No! "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." (2 Pet 3:9 NIV)


[ Parent ]

Saved from Heaven (5.00 / 1) (#345)
by Quila on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:03:31 AM EST

Really, like Isaac Asimov, to me the Christian heaven doesn't sound like a good place to spend an eternity.

[ Parent ]
I read a short story (none / 0) (#609)
by Cro Magnon on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:33:54 PM EST

A man died and woke up in a beautiful pasture. He turned to the guy in charge and asked "Now that I'm here, what do I do?". "You don't have to do anything." "Is there any beer to drink?" "Oh no! There's no beer here." "Any good sex?" "No, there's no need for sex here" The man gets upset. "Are you saying there's nothing to do, no beer, no sex, NOTHING?! I thought Heaven was a paradise!" "Dear boy, what made you think this was heaven?"
Information wants to be beer.
[ Parent ]
Try this simple scientific experiment. (5.00 / 1) (#280)
by tkatchev on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:50:30 AM EST

Wait for 80 years and see if you become the first person to live forever.

Good luck in your excellent scientific endeavour.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Thank you ucblockhead (3.16 / 6) (#95)
by RyoCokey on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:46:20 PM EST

Your campaign against political stories has lead to this and "Irrational Atheism" stories being posted. Nothing says logical discussion like a debate on the existance of God. Thank you and -1.



The issue here is not the facts; Right - so how does this apply to Mr. Scott Ritter?
Eh... (none / 0) (#123)
by nustajeb on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:35:40 PM EST

People can vote this crap down, too. Indeed, I'm saddened I wasn't around to -1 such a pointless discussion.

[ Parent ]
Fair's Fair (2.62 / 8) (#96)
by Jesus Christ on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:46:46 PM EST

Please logically prove your own existence and that of others around you before tackling mine.

There's a reason I multiplied loaves and fishes, turned water into wine and walked on water instead of providing a logical proof of my own existence.

Your elder brother, JC

Hey Jesus (none / 0) (#100)
by AzTex on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 04:56:51 PM EST

Back in Sunday School, they told me that you never uttered a single word of profanity in your life. Is that true?

solipsism: I'm always here. But you sometimes go away.
** AzTex **

[ Parent ]
I think, therefore I am. /nt (4.00 / 1) (#129)
by Ni on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:45:16 PM EST




But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
[ Parent ]
Hence... (none / 0) (#600)
by TheophileEscargot on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:13:10 PM EST

...the long "Epistemology" section on how other facts can be known, or said to be unknowable.
----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
[ Parent ]
I invite you all (3.00 / 2) (#110)
by zephc on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:11:29 PM EST

to once again to come and <a href="http://jhuger.com/kisshank.mv">Kiss Hank's Ass</a>

(yes this is on topic)

im such a clod (5.00 / 1) (#111)
by zephc on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:13:17 PM EST

Let's try and Kiss Hank's Ass again.

[ Parent ]
something to think about, there. (none / 0) (#198)
by Shren on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:50:48 PM EST

If there is a God, why should he not be held to the human laws of behavior? The ultimate goal of law is to make all of us equal in the eyes of the law, and when some rich guy gets off with good lawyers and slick connections, we consider that injustice. There's this God guy in heaven who breaks an awful lot of laws. What gives him the right?

[ Parent ]

Probably because God isn't human. [nt] (none / 0) (#211)
by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:29:58 PM EST


--
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[ Parent ]
A Mormon would disagree with this [n/t] (5.00 / 1) (#232)
by WindyCity on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:04:15 PM EST



[ Parent ]
I don't care if he's human. (none / 0) (#555)
by Shren on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:24:03 PM EST

Space aliens, if they existed and were in the US publically, would be required to obey the law. If human households have non-human residents, like dogs, then the humans are responsible for making sure the non-humans obey the law.

If it's just for humans, space aliens, and dogs, then it's just enough for God. There's no statuete of limitations on murder, he turned Lot into a pillar of salt, and I want this dangerous criminal behind bars - or deported if we want to treat him as an alien (he doesn't seem to have been born here, we can see if he has ID when we bring him in), or put down if we want to treat him like a dog. I don't accept the concept of super-people who are above the law, even if they did create the universe.

[ Parent ]

Yes. There's evidence he exists. (2.22 / 9) (#130)
by Anonymous Hiro on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 05:48:04 PM EST

The God I know is a living person not an inanimate object/force. An inanimate god is an  idol.

The best evidence that someone is alive is that he/she responds like a living being. In character, not totally predictable, but not random either.

And God does hear when we pray to him.

A public recent example:
Does Prayer Influence the Success of in Vitro Fertilization-Embryo Transfer?
Report of a Masked, Randomized Trial
http://www.reproductivemedicine.com/Features/2001/2001Sep.htm

http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99991386

http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/01/09/in_vitro_prayer.html

Keep in mind God is our Heavenly Father. Good fathers don't always do what their children ask them to. e.g. "Do that trick one more time, daddy", "No, I already showed it to you twice, now time to do your chores - don't complain, it's good for you".

Dads do oblige their children from time to time.

Jesus's teaching on prayer:
http://bible.gospelcom.net/cgi-bin/bible?passage=LUKE+11&language=english&version=NIV&showfn=on&showxref=on

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Note that sometimes we foolishly ask for scorpions. And too often I ask, receive, and soon after I grieve him.

If after many responses you still don't believe, then you should be honest to yourself why - is it really the lack of good evidence, or is it something else.

Hope that helps.

Are you reading the same Bible I am? (4.16 / 6) (#141)
by kitten on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:29:08 PM EST

Keep in mind God is our Heavenly Father. Good fathers don't always do what their children ask them to.

Actually, that's the complete opposite of what is promised in the Bible.
"And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive." (Matt xxi, 22).
All things. All things whatsoever, as long as you're sincere. Not "sometimes", "some things", "if God feels like it".
Whatsoever you desire, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." (Matt xxi 21).
"If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done, And nothing will be impossible to you." (Matt xvii 20).
Up to and including the miraculous transportation of a mountain.

It would only take one prayer moving one mountain to convince me to fall to my knees and invite Christ into my heart. In fact, it would take substantially less impressive of a miracle - but it would take something that was definite.

Instead, we get vague, half-baked tests about in-vitro fertilization, a subject which we don't really know enough about under normal circumstances to say whether or not it's being influenced by some divine entity as a result of petition by prayer. That's the best they could come up with?

I'm not impressed.

mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Can you believe (1.50 / 2) (#245)
by Shovas on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:07:55 AM EST

I actually read this entire post before I noticed it was you? No I'm not virtually stalking you! To the point,

As I've told you before, you could think of a thousand excuses why the mountain in front of you(people in general, perhaps you would sincerely believe) just moved. However, as a general rule, since these phenomena can be explained away so easily, God has no need to continually and perpetually perform insane miracles. God has laid down his word and has even come to earth in bodily form and performed countless miracles(let's just assume so for the moment). If you can't read this, look at the world around you, ignore pop-thought for one moment, and reason believe that a god created all this, you'll excuse away the movement of a mountain and not think twice about it.

By the way, read the Bible in context. When read with a little more context, one begins to see the entire picture. One must not be mocking or testing. One must have faith or a sincere, [desperate] desire to believe. I won't presume to speak for God concerning his thoughts on when and when not to answer prayer. Although this opens a whole new can of worms, one must always remember that all things work together for the greater good. Your prayer may not be answered in your lifetime nor may it ever come to your knowledge.
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[ Parent ]
Eh? (none / 0) (#266)
by hstink on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:06:31 AM EST

There can be no intelligence without doubt.  Unless I test that which I perceive (through implied prior skepticism), I would believe any and all falsehoods that I was presented with.  By your method, I'd surely become a believer of whichever religion's text I read first.

-h

[ Parent ]

No dice. (5.00 / 3) (#397)
by kitten on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:32:21 AM EST

By the way, read the Bible in context.

This is such a tired line that I'm honestly surprised to hear it from you. A Christian is allowed to quote any bit of scripture, no matter how small or large, to support his case, but the millisecond a skeptic does so, even with a very self-explanatory and self-contained passage, it's "out of context!"

One must not be mocking or testing. One must have faith or a sincere, [desperate] desire to believe.

So you're arguing that God endowed us with the one thing that truly seperates us from animals - intelligence - and then expects us to not use it? To just turn it off? I'm sorry, I don't buy it. Nor do I think "don't ask, don't mock, don't test, just have faith" is a realistic or reliable method of gaining knowledge on this or any other subject.

mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Turn off intelligence? Not in the least (1.00 / 1) (#424)
by Shovas on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:31:30 AM EST

I bring about citations in the same vein I don't support quoting the Koran with one or two verses. It's quite possibly out of context. If you see a Christian arguing the nature of God with a single verse, you have the right to say they're out of context.

Don't use the "tired argument" cliche. I use it too much myself, probably. It is not tired in this instance because it is true. If you haven't read the surrounding scriptures from the verse your quoting from, you're not reading in context. You may need to read quite a bit of surrounding scripture as well. I'm confident that any problems you can find in the scriptures are explained when one reads the entirety. By the way, your own quotes support my statements,
"If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done, And nothing will be impossible to you." (Matt xvii 20).
As well,
Not "sometimes", "some things", "if God feels like it".
Your "sometimes", "some things", "if God feels like it" is using your incomplete knowledge to gauge response to your prayers. I said in the last post that prayer is answered in response to faith and earnestness. God may or may not choose to answer your prayer within your knowledge or time.

Thinking it over, if you're quite sincere in finding truth, perhaps you should try praying before making accusations. See if God answers yourself. Again, I'm not saying test God, nor to mock God, nor to pray in bad faith. If you're quite sincere, you may get an answer(all depends on the above stated).
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[ Parent ]
Heh. (none / 0) (#482)
by kitten on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:10:54 PM EST

If you haven't read the surrounding scriptures from the verse your quoting from, you're not reading in context.

Oftentimes, a passage is completely self-contained and needs no "context". Every time I hear a Christian use the 'out of context' line, I ask them to provide the surrounding passage, from Scripture, that would fundamentally alter the meaning of the quote I just used. (Okay, not every time. But I have done this quite often.)

I said in the last post that prayer is answered in response to faith and earnestness.

Bishops, deacons, ministers and priests have all been unable to obtain, by means of the most sincere prayer, the sort of results promised to them in the Bible. There is absolutely zero evidence that the physical world has been altered by God in response to a petition in the form of a prayer.

Though it is amusing to me to watch the examples people so desperately come up with to support their prayer arguments. I once spoke with a guy who claimed his friend was in the hospital, and he prayed for his friend, who recovered that same hour. I doubt the accuracy or validity of the story, but even assuming it's true, this gentleman was so unwilling to believe in a coincidence, that this must be the work of God. A plane crashes and 99 people are killed, and one survives. "It's a miracle", says the survivor. Ask the families of the 99 who died what they think of this miracle.

Thinking it over, if you're quite sincere in finding truth, perhaps you should try praying before making accusations.

You don't know me well enough to say something like that. For all you know, I used to be a most devout and sincere Christian with what I believed was an intimate relationship with God and Christ. (I'm not saying I was and I'm not saying I wasn't. Point is, you don't know.)

God may or may not choose to answer your prayer within your knowledge or time.

Then why should I bother? The things I want "may or may not" happen anyway.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
So...my job is done here... (1.00 / 1) (#523)
by Shovas on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:15:17 PM EST

Whereas you assumed that all prayer must be answered according to scripture, you now agree that prayer may or may not be answered, according to the all-piercing wisdom of God. That was my point. I just wanted to make sure everyone was clear on that. Prayer is talking to God. God is your Heavenly father. You can ask your earthly father for candy, but like a good father, he may not give it to you; or he may; or he may give it to you later, on your birthday, say.
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[ Parent ]
I think you missed the point. (none / 0) (#538)
by kitten on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:38:37 PM EST

Whereas you assumed that all prayer must be answered according to scripture, you now agree that prayer may or may not be answered

No, I was saying that assuming your "may or may not" statement is correct with regards to the answering of prayers, then it still makes no difference. I could pray to find ten dollars on the ground, and God "may or may not" make it happen. Or, I could not pray, and I "may or may not" to come across a ten dollar bill someone dropped.

Seriously, if you think God is just going to do whatever he wants anyway, why do you pray? I believe George Carlin said (this is from memory): "What's the point of God having a Divine Plan if any slob with a prayerbook can change it?" It's a valid question, and the answer most Christians give is the same one you just gave me: God "may or may not" answer your prayer. In other words, God's going to do whatever he wants, regardless, so your prayers really don't matter.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Created in His image, he expects us to act so (none / 0) (#545)
by Shovas on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:54:25 PM EST

God indeed may change his own "Divine Plan" based on the requests of his people. A static simulation is not one a perfect God would endure, I would think(why wasn't it setup perfect from the beginng?), as it allows for no changes to be made when free willed creatures mess things up. God wants us to come to him with our requests because it is an acknowledgement of God, himself. If the Christian does not acknowledge God, why would God acknowledge the "Christian?"

Your perspective on "may or may not" is complete chance. My perspective on "may or may not" is divine wisdom and God's choice to answer or not to answer or to answer in a way we might not expect.

God certainly is choosing what he wants to do. My representative in government is certainly choosing what they want to do. However, I can talk to them and ask them to consider something and they "may or may not" act on it.
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[ Parent ]
What a cop-out. (5.00 / 1) (#679)
by kitten on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:13:14 PM EST

A static simulation is not one a perfect God would endure,

But indeed, static it must be, from God's point of view. He knows with infallible certainty what's going to happen, doesn't he? Or is he unaware of the outcome and what each of us will do and think and say? You can't have it both ways. Either he knows, or he doesn't. If he knows, then to him, it must be static.

as it allows for no changes to be made when free willed creatures mess things up.

"Free will" is a term used very loosely when you connect it to threats (eternal torment) and bribery (miracles and prayer).

I also find it remarkable that you can talk about "free willed beings" in the same context you can discuss an "omniscient god". If God knows for certain what I'm going to do, then I just think I have free will - the outcome is already known in advance. I'm going through the motions, thinking I'm making my choices, but where I'll end up and how I'll get there is already know, infallably. What possible sense of the word "free" are you using to describe choices that are already known?

God wants us to come to him with our requests because it is an acknowledgement of God, himself.

Why would a perfect being want anything? To want something is to have desires that are unfulfilled.
Why would a perfect being care what puny, finite, flawed humans think of him? Does God have an ego that he needs stroked? I'm not asking this to be snotty, either. I cannot possibly understand what a divine and perfect being would care one way or another what we think of him or whether we pay attention to him.

And no, I'm not going to accept "because we're his children" or "he created us and loves us" or anything along those lines. "Perfect love", as God is rumored to have, would not demand return, and would not extract that return under duress and threat and bribery.

Going back to the "may or may not" thing, you still haven't answered the question. You've sort of skirted around it and offered a vague ambiguity to a direct question. The question is, if God is going to do God's Will, then why bother praying? Is God going to say to himself "Well, I had this really great plan, but I'm going to throw it out the Heavenly Window now because John Q Nobody down on some piddly nothing planet just asked me to change it all."

So again, if I pray, God "may or may not" do what I asked. I could get that those exact same odds and that exact same result by not praying in the first place.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Why won't you understand this? (2.00 / 1) (#691)
by Shovas on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:46:38 PM EST

Knowledge does not equal cause.

God knows how you or I will run through this life. Yes. That in no way belittles or reduces the free will I may exercise. It is knowledge of your choices. It is not a direction of your choices. He knows _your_ choices. He doesn't knows his choices for your life and thereby knows the choices you will make. He knows the choices _you_ will make.

If you don't understand this, please explain to me rationally how God's knowledge of the choices you will make absolutely negates your free will to choose the choices you will make.
Either he knows, or he doesn't. If he knows, then to him, it must be static.
Perhaps I didn't present my meaning as I had wished. God set things out perfect. His free willed creations changed that perfectness - and, yes, it was a perfect environment in that we had free will and were able to mess up a "perfect" environment; if we did not, it would certianly be pointless for God and us wouldn't it?

This "life" is dynamic in that we, as free willed beings, may change the environment and may in fact cause God to do something by our actions(in that if we hadn't acted a certain way, he would not have had to do that thing). In this way, it is all dynamic and God must act to provide for his creations.
Why would a perfect being want anything? To want something is to have desires that are unfulfilled. Why would a perfect being care what puny, finite, flawed humans think of him? Does God have an ego that he needs stroked?
We've been over this. If you don't want to accept or continue arguments regarding that discussion, please refrain from thinking to ask again in this context.
The question is, if God is going to do God's Will, then why bother praying? Is God going to say to himself "Well, I had this really great plan, but I'm going to throw it out the Heavenly Window now because John Q Nobody down on some piddly nothing planet just asked me to change it all."
This is almost on the note. I think I can say "yes" to the idea that God will do one thing where what might have happened would have been far better. The story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. They didn't have to do that. They could've gone quite immediately to the promised land, but they continually sinned against God and God punished them.
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[ Parent ]
What's to understand? (5.00 / 1) (#741)
by kitten on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:40:03 PM EST

please explain to me rationally how God's knowledge of the choices you will make absolutely negates your free will to choose the choices you will make.

I say the burden of proof is on you to explain to me how, if my every single move, thought, and action is known about with certainty, that what I'm doing is "free".

This isn't like me saying, "My wife comes home at 5pm every day and usually comes through the side door, so she'll probably come home at 5pm today and use the side door, as always." She may not; I'm making an educated guess there.

When you're talking about God, it is written in stone, so to speak. I think I'm deciding between options, but God knows exactly how I'll make the decision, what option I'll choose, and what will happen because of it. Because my every thought and deed is known in advance to a party other than myself, my actions have already been dictated.

Look at it this way. If God is omniscient, he could sit down and spell out my entire life. At this time I will be born, at that time I will do this. I will think such-and-such which will cause me to do [action], which will put me in situation X, where I will consider options A, B, and C, and eventually choose B, which will lead to...

So then I'm born, and of course I do all these things, exactly as God knew I would. Sure, I have the impression that I'm operating under my own volition, but am I really?

Keep in mind that under this scenario, I am not arguing that God is directing my actions. I'm not saying he's going, "Okay, now move your arm, pick up the phone. Now dial the numbers. Now say this, now say that, now you're in a real bind, aren't you? Go there, do this, and deal with that. That's right."

But still, if he knows I'm going to do all this, what difference does it make? You're arguing predestination, that my entire life is set out before I'm even born, simply by virtue of it all being known in advance. Very few but the most hardline Calvinists take this view anymore.

we had free will and were able to mess up a "perfect" environment; if we did not, it would certianly be pointless for God and us wouldn't it?

Perhaps. But I really don't understand what the "point" is for God in the first place. This goes back to the question I asked before: Why did he create us in the first place? A perfect being should have no unfulfilled desires or wants - the act of creation represents a need that was unfulfilled before creation, and that will be fulfilled afterwards.

I also asked why God would possibly care what a few finite, flawed, ridiculous mammals on some backwater planet in the far reaches of an unremarkable galaxy think of him. This is God we're talking about, right? Does a being potent enough to create the entire cosmos really need pithy little humans to care one way or the other about him?

(By the way, yes, I did follow the link back to a discussion we had a few weeks ago, but I'm not entirely certain what you're trying to point out.)

They could've gone quite immediately to the promised land, but they continually sinned against God and God punished them.

What can I say? You're telling me that God already knew they'd do that. It's really out of their hands at that point.

I mean, I'm really not certain where you're going with this. With the Isrealite thing, you're portraying God as sort of looking down from Heaven, nervously wringing his hands, hoping they'll do what he wants - sighing at those Isrealites for sinning and disobeying him, and being sad that he now has to punish them. On the other hand, you're also saying he knew that's exactly what they'd do, and that he'd have to punish them.

And to wrap it up, you still haven't answered my previous statement. How exactly do you call it "free will" when you connect it to threats and bribery? Here's how I define free will:

  • There must be two or more options available, which are 'genuinely open' to me, and I must make an active decision between them
  • I must not be forced or coerced into choosing a particular way.

    Under threats of eternal torment, coupled with bribery of miracles and heaven, I am being coerced.

    If I believe in the Christian God, then my choices are about as free as the clerk's "choice" to empty the cash register when the robber has the barrel of a 9mm pointed at his head.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
  • Good ammo for my Christian buddies (none / 0) (#755)
    by fmdude on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:59:49 AM EST

    Thanks Kitten - Your anti-Christian arguments will be good to remember when getting into drunken theology discussions. Really, it's the only time I think about religion.

    [ Parent ]
    Ignorant knave. (none / 0) (#802)
    by kitten on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 09:35:57 AM EST

    Begone, lest I grow wroth.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    The nature of God (none / 0) (#862)
    by Shovas on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:23:57 PM EST

    Keep in mind that under this scenario, I am not arguing that God is directing my actions. I'm not saying he's going, "Okay, now move your arm, pick up the phone. Now dial the numbers. Now say this, now say that, now you're in a real bind, aren't you? Go there, do this, and deal with that. That's right."

    But still, if he knows I'm going to do all this, what difference does it make? You're arguing predestination, that my entire life is set out before I'm even born, simply by virtue of it all being known in advance. Very few but the most hardline Calvinists take this view anymore.
    Ahh, I'm very glad you understand the issues spoken of in the first quoted paragraph. Your knowledge of this and your continuing strife with the subject matter, however, will lead to the bigger and better, as one of my old HS teachers used to say.

    It seems to me we have a mental block concerning someone knowing absolutely what our next decision will be and our ability to actually decide what we want to do as opposed to knowing we're choosing something we'd do anything. I think a highly important thing to realize in the nature of God is something 'grall' said in this comment,
    In any event, to ask "what came before God?" is to assume that God, creator of the the universe (and space-time) is Himself subject to time. There was no "before God", and God doesn't just know what you're going to do in five minutes, five months of five years - He is already there, seeing you do it. All of time is spread out to Him as one glorious Present.

    [emphasis added]
    God doesn't just have fore-knowledge of your actions, he is there watching you _make_ that decision. That is how he knows your actions. He is not a part of his creation, and all elements we can discover about our environment are part of his creation and are not (necessarily) available outside what God created. Following, God knows your actions because he is watching you act - in any given reference, no matter our human, current reference.

    In effect, God doesn't know your decisions because he is all-knowing, God knows your decisions because he is all-seeing.

    Now, you're going to argue that regardless of fore-knowledge or first-hand-knowledge, God knows my actions before I do. Agreed. You're then going to rest back on the "what difference does it make?" question. Consider, however, that God only knows what your actions will be because he's seen you act that way. The way you acted, which he saw which is the reason he knows, means the decisions you chose were an act of free will.
    Aside

    What an absolutely mind-bending, logic-disorienting, reason-dazzling concept. It boggles my mind and yet at the same time I realize that a god-figure, like one described as God is, that god must necessarily have all these facets to properly care for his creation. I am continually awe-struck at these realizations of the requirements of God.
    Forward,
    Perhaps. But I really don't understand what the "point" is for God in the first place. This goes back to the question I asked before: Why did he create us in the first place? A perfect being should have no unfulfilled desires or wants - the act of creation represents a need that was unfulfilled before creation, and that will be fulfilled afterwards.

    ...

    (By the way, yes, I did follow the link back to a discussion we had a few weeks ago, but I'm not entirely certain what you're trying to point out.
    The link I posted was to one of my comments in a past thread between us where, in the last post, I stated my perspective of the perfect god. What I was trying to get across was the idea of a loving, sad, emotional, desirous god is not detrimental to being perfect. God created us out of love because a loving being wants to share his love and create beautiful things, bless his creations and generally spread the joy. As God says in his own Word, he is saddened and glad at the actions of Man, his creations.
    I also asked why God would possibly care what a few finite, flawed, ridiculous mammals on some backwater planet in the far reaches of an unremarkable galaxy think of him. This is God we're talking about, right? Does a being potent enough to create the entire cosmos really need pithy little humans to care one way or the other about him?
    Again, this relates to that last section cited and my response. An infinitely loving god infinitely loves his creation. If you're going to ask this question(and other questions like it), you must already assume that God is who he says he is and behaves the way he says he behaves - as well as how his Word says he acts. Questions like this demand that you assume, at least for the moment, that God and his Word are true.
    What can I say? You're telling me that God already knew they'd do that. It's really out of their hands at that point.

    I mean, I'm really not certain where you're going with this. With the Isrealite thing, you're portraying God as sort of looking down from Heaven, nervously wringing his hands, hoping they'll do what he wants - sighing at those Isrealites for sinning and disobeying him, and being sad that he now has to punish them. On the other hand, you're also saying he knew that's exactly what they'd do, and that he'd have to punish them.
    I hope the previous sections of this post explained the knowledge of God as per your acts and mine, and the acts of the Israelites. God certainly knew he would have to go down that path with the Israelites. He didn't want to. If th Israelites had acted differently, he wouldn't have had to. It does not negate the fact that the Israelites acted of free will.
    And to wrap it up, you still haven't answered my previous statement. How exactly do you call it "free will" when you connect it to threats and bribery?
    This is getting into another discussion altogethe, but I'll try my best. You're saying what choice do we have when the one hand provides eternal happiness and the other hand provides eternal suffering? At this point, we must assert that the options do not affect your ability to choose between them. What God wishes is simply for Man to accept and respect him. Even if, as a non-believer, you couldn't love him, if you dealt with him personally you would easily learn to(as the logic goes). You certainly do have free will and many have exercised that freedom, either rightly or wrongly(according to Christianity).

    As to the analogy of a clerk with a gun to his head, that certainly isn't true. Most have a half century to deal with this and others, I'm sure, are dealt with by a merciful God(another debate; as per children not yet mature enough to understand). I will not be surprised if I see non-Christians in this life, who are in Heaven because their experience with Christianity was not suitable enough to warrant damnation. But that again is another huge discussion and a totally separate issue from this thread.
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    [ Parent ]
    boggle (4.00 / 1) (#500)
    by adequate nathan on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:33:37 PM EST

    A Christian is allowed to quote any bit of scripture, no matter how small or large, to support his case...

    Not where I come from. Do you live in the middle of a nest of snake-handlers, or something?

    Nathan
    "For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
    -Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

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    [ Parent ]

    Prayer in scripture. (none / 0) (#592)
    by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:46:06 PM EST

    All things. All things whatsoever, as long as you're sincere. Not "sometimes", "some things", "if God feels like it".

    I didn't see that sincerity played a role in those passages. Believing could be construed as such I suppose.

    There is a concept in the interpretation of scripture that the Bible must be taken as a whole in order to be correctly interpreted. There are Old Testament passages that indicate some requests stem from selfish desires and God resists granting them. There is also an indication that God sometimes grants these self-centered requests and the leanness of the soul accompanies the answer. Additionally, much of the teachings in the New Testament refer to asking "in my name" in order to receive. This seems to be more than a "Jesus sent me" addendum to one's petition as the passages regarding authority "in Christ" are pertinent to the position (authoritatively, not physically) of the petitioner.

    You seem to require a miraculous moving of a mountain even though the context of the passages does not require it. In one, Jesus has just cursed a fig tree which withered (a natural process although it was accelerated). He did so because it was not fruitful. The 'mountain' in this case could be metaphorical in that it could represent insurmountable obstacles that hinder fruitfulness in one's life. In the other passage, Jesus has just healed a young boy that the disciples could not. Using the metaphor again, this reference to a mountain could represent those things that are out of control in our lives (the boy was prone to throw himself into fires and the sea) or the lives of those we care about. Additionally, there is no promise of immediate action. Elijah's prayer for rain was not answered immediately and while he continued to pray and inquire of his servant seems to have been answered in stages (various sizes of the cloud that came up).

    That may seem all too convenient a way to 'worm' out of the passages language, but you indicated that you would settle for a substantially less impressive miracle. Would you consider the moving of a mountain (like Mt. St. Helens) through natural causes like the withering of the fig tree? Or does the mountain have to levitate and literally be cast into the sea?



    [ Parent ]

    Is your faith strong enough? (none / 0) (#810)
    by unknownlamer on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 10:09:40 AM EST

    It would only take one prayer moving one mountain to convince me to fall to my knees and invite Christ into my heart. In fact, it would take substantially less impressive of a miracle - but it would take something that was definite.

    But the scripture says you must have faith and believe that the mountain has been moved. Having faith like that is near impossible for almost everyone. I suspect that a lot of people (myself included) will pray for things and not really believe they will recieve them, thereby not recieving them. Faith is a difficult thing to possess; it requires ignoring what you see around you sometimes (e.g. moving the mountain. If you pray for the mountain to move and then look at it and it hasn't moved, do you still believe it has been thrown into the sea?)


    --
    <vladl> I am reading the making of the atomic bong - modern science
    [ Parent ]
    It's amazing that God helps in vitro fertilization (5.00 / 1) (#168)
    by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:22:38 PM EST

    Considering he couldn't give a damn about all of the countless people who've been killed tortured or maimed because they prayed to him. In fact Christians have been known to show off about the Christian martyrs who died for their religion. What you're trying to do is called "having your cake and eating it too".

    --
    The Definite Article
    [ Parent ]
    RE: Evidence (4.00 / 2) (#207)
    by siobibble on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:20:48 PM EST

    And God does hear when we pray to him.
    A public recent example...

    Saying that praying/wishing/willing something to happen works is a bit of a stretch, but to say that it's the CHRISTIAN God that does so is even more of a stretch. How do you know that it's not the people themselves that cause the increased odds in pregancies? It's like the people who say "I won't be here today if it weren't for God". They're not giving themselves enough credit.

    Here is an example of two Princeton research programs that are researching this topic. I believe that the evidence shows that it's not GOD who does this, but the people. The Global Consciousness Project is a research project that quantifies randomness in a random number generator during major events. The evidence shown here shows that human emotion or whatever affects things remotely. Another project is PEAR which doccuments the physical (ie weather) being affected by a person's wishes on a small scale. The evidence provided is just as questionable as your sources, so don't discount them. But assuming that the data is very real, then it is not one supreme God that is causing the increased chances of pregnancies, but the people themselves.

    If the studies are true, it's pretty damn interesting. So remember, when you have sex without a condom, pray/hope/will/whatnot that she/you won't get pregnant ^_^

    [ Parent ]

    Really? (5.00 / 1) (#303)
    by Caton on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:13:33 AM EST

    And God does hear when we pray to him
    Then do something for me. There's this kid I visited yesterday, he's 6 years old, and has cancer. It's terminal now, he'll be dead by Sunday. Get your god to cure him, or at least to stop the pain.



    ---
    As long as there's hope...
    [ Parent ]
    Prayer helps (4.66 / 3) (#344)
    by Quila on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:01:46 AM EST

    Of course, there's evidence throughout history for positive-thinking rituals or exercises helping in medicine. God isn't necessary. This relates to a more eastern philosophy of the body and mind being as one, and that a positive mind will help the medical issues.

    [ Parent ]
    Response to the intercessory prayer study (5.00 / 2) (#729)
    by KnightStalker on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:33:44 PM EST

    IANAScientist, or a doctor, but I do have some concerns about that study:
    • The NIP (no intercessory prayer) patients were on average, a year older. Age certainly affects pregnancy rates, although I don't have any idea what the in-vitro pregnancy rate is for 34 year olds as opposed to 33 year olds. I'm sure there is some difference. In any case, the study did not adjust for this.
    • The NIP patients had about 10% fewer eggs (oocytes) retrieved. I honestly don't know what effect this would have, but it seems to me it would reduce the pregnancy rate somewhat. This wasn't corrected for in the data, and the researchers called the difference insignificant, so I may be mistaken.
    • One of the researchers, Dr. Wirth, personally knew most of those doing the prayer. To their credit, this was disclosed in the study. But it still seems somewhat unprofessional to me.
    • If God is interceding as a result of prayer, why did only 50% of those being prayed for conceive? Why not 100%?
    • Pregnancy rates for women under 30 were higher in the NIP group (4/6 women) than in the IP group (10/19 women). However, these numbers are too low to be *really* significant.
    • Have these results been repeated anywhere else?
    • Other studies, such as this abstract which I found by searching for "prayer" on the JRM site, have not found a link between prayer and fertilization rates. This one seems to be personal prayer, though, not intercessory prayer.


    [ Parent ]
    Wow. (none / 0) (#832)
    by Anonymous Hiro on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:33:19 PM EST

    Wow! Someone actually read my post and the article!

    For the age thing, good point. But I doubt other medical studies become invalid because of things like this. The difference in pregnancy rates was 26% vs 50% so that could outweigh the 1 year diff thing.

    Oocytes - not sure. I am unclear whether the oocytes were retrieved before the prayer intercession or after/during. 10% is quite significant.

    That Dr Wirth knew the intercessors does not affect the study. See the assignment and masking sections of the article for explanation. Assuming the absence of fraud, I think the study was pretty well done. It could be a fluke but what are the chances?

    Why isn't 50% good enough? The prayers were for increased pregnancy rates. OK is 50% good enough for you to be worth investigating further? If it isn't, would even 100% be good enough?

    AFAIK 50% vs 26% is good enough for drug companies to start their bragging.

    Other studies? Looking at other replies to my post, it probably doesn't matter anyway. They're not interested in this study, why would they be interested in other studies or data? They just want to argue. I'll leave them to it.

    In 1997 the NIH said they won't review a study if prayer was mentioned anywhere in it.

    At least the NIH have changed their minds.

    [ Parent ]

    Sure (none / 0) (#909)
    by KnightStalker on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 10:02:44 PM EST

    Lots of lurkers who will never post anything probably read the article.

    I would really like to know more about this study. The paper cited doesn't really give me much to go on; there are too many variables that I don't understand.

    The reason I balk at the 50% figure is not because it's not impressive (it is) but because it seems inconsistent with the way the Christian God is described in the Bible. Gideon didn't get a "statistically significant increase over expected fleece dampness" when he tested God's will; he got exactly the opposite of what you would expect from naturalistic means only. Likewise, the story doesn't report that God ignited Elijah's sacrifice 50% of the time while Baal ignited the priest's sacrifice only 25% of the time. The Bible describes God as doing things in more of an all-or-nothing manner.

    Instead, assuming the study is accurate, the results seem much more consistent with some as-yet-unmeasured effect resulting from human consciousness. (See the Global Consciousness project posted elsewhere in this thread.) Yes, it's as much of a strain for me to believe in that as it is to believe in God, but these results seem to me to swing more that way. What if they had been Muslims, or Hindus, or Sikhs praying? I'd like to see a similar study that compares the result of multiple religions. (The atheist in me thinks this is so ludicrous I can't believe I'm seriously writing it. But I would like to believe there is a god. Meaninglessness sucks.)

    By the way, here is a different study of the effects of intercessory prayer, not as well controlled against the placebo effect, but with similar, albeit less spectacular results.

    [ Parent ]

    More studies (none / 0) (#920)
    by Anonymous Hiro on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 04:24:51 AM EST

    Yah I bet the sceptic in you is balking. I try to keep an open but sceptical mind myself (ain't easy being a Christian sceptic[1]), but most such studies just don't make the grade experimentally, the IVF study seemed to be the only one done to a reasonable standard (might be better than most general medical studies too). There seem to be a few others, but I only managed to find the study details for the IVF one, so the others could be badly flawed in some way.

    Yes I agree that it can be interpreted as a result from human consciousness.

    That's ok (you're probably choking enough as it is :) ), so far scientific studies on human consciousness have been rather lacking, which seems strange to me since I believe it's the first phenomena people observe. There is much to learn about consciousness, but lots of scientists just ignore or dismiss it. At least one purporting to study it even denied its relevance. Some say there's no need for consciousness, etc. That sounds like bad science at work.

    That study you cited has mild self selecting factors tho. The mitigating factor is that the "agreeable to prayer" group was split into two pseudorandomly[2]. Given that the group as a whole might more likely have friends/relatives/people praying for them as well, it's interesting to see a significant difference.

    For another study you can do a search on Mitchell Krucoff, prayer, duke (university). The study involved other religious groups as well, but all working together. I would be interested to see authoritative details on that one.

    So far I'm not aware of a recent study on whether different groups have different effectiveness.

    But one step at a time, that's how the scientific establishment works.

    Always seemed strange that there's billions of money going into particle accelerators but comparatively nothing into a scientific study of consciousness or God. Which is more life changing? Finding out there's a God or finding another quark? Even adjusting for a reasonable sceptic's probability/risk/benefit/return on investment it still seems strange. Unless it's not really scepticism.

    Imagine if there's really a God, it'll be funny/sad to be spending lots of time and resources examining an artist's work to the subatomic detail, while ignoring the artist totally. Sure it's good to examine the work, but...

    Sorry about the rant.

    Have a nice day.

    [1] Being a Christian sceptic is hard, given that faith is required. Most christians tend to be less sceptical, some to the point of being gullible. But hey they have great faith, and so far I've seen God respects that. There was a case where people were forwarding an email with a prayer request for someone. I would have thought it was one of those hoaxes - I mean look at it - it's written just like one of those silly chain letters!

    http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/cindyhogman.htm

    But it wasn't a hoax after all! AND seems the prayers worked. I found this while trying to confirm a chain letter hoax based on (spoofing?)this true case.

    Doh.

    [2] Computers don't do random numbers well. The study I cited also used computers for "random" selection too. But pseudorandomness may be fine for study purposes - especially since typically used pseudorandom generators are predictably more balanced.

    [ Parent ]

    It's dumb to argue about religion w/philosophy. (3.45 / 11) (#135)
    by wji on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:01:59 PM EST

    I've never, ever, found anything in the domain of philosophy to be at all compelling; I think it's just word games.

    But regardless of that, arguing for or against religious people with philosophy is silly.

    Even if you accept the philosophical arguments for God, you have proved at most that a "supreme being" exists, or even less, a "prime mover". Yet religious people (I'll use Christianity here, but it applies broadly) believe far more than just that an abstract supreme prime mover exists. They have whole volumes, literally, of the alleged being's history, personality, opinions, etc. Hell, almost everything in their volumes is *inconsistent* with their philosophical arguments! God makes mistakes! God acts with imperfect, temporary emotionalism! God *loses control* of a follower and expels him but can't destroy him! And god can't "save" a human unless they take some action (mostly giving money to priests, basically). A perfect god would never, ever, do any of these things.

    You can fall back, of course. You can say that our God is not, in fact, the prime mover, just a subordinate God to some massively hyper-powerful being. But religious people don't do this -- they continue professing that THE supreme being makes all these mistakes until someone asks them to prove God, when they promptly switch around to using philosophy.

    If arguments for the existence of God did not exist, the religious would invent them. They do not care about philosophy or logic. They are *only* interested in rationalizing their petty, irrational superstitions. So I don't see why we should argue with them logically, pretending they care about logic.

    In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.

    Saved me from writing that... (none / 0) (#200)
    by BerntB on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:02:33 PM EST

    That saved me from having to write that!

    I would have used more examples of how that point affects the arguments:
    e.g. Pascal's wager would be changed if you consider that there is not one possible god to choose to believe in -- but hundreds of contradictory sets of cults. (A logical extension of Pascal's wager would be to choose to believe in the religion with nicest heaven and/or worst hell.)

    Also, I enjoy the parallells with religious experiences (re:s) and "Son of Sam"'s messages from the neighbour's dog... not to mention that people have re:s that contradict other people's equally strong re:s.

    Etc, etc.

    [ Parent ]

    theophile == beloved by God (3.50 / 2) (#136)
    by bukvich on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:03:27 PM EST

    Is your handle sarcastic? How did you vote in the poll? If you voted "No", one has to wonder why you feel the subject is so interesting.

    (I voted "impossible to know", though what I really think is "it would take a miracle to figure out")

    Related to... (4.00 / 1) (#205)
    by Strick on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:14:01 PM EST

    ...Theophilus, to whom Luke the physician was apparently writing in the Gospel of Luke and Acts? NIV Study Bible's Introduction to Luke mentions that the name Theophilus means "one who loves God". That, in my mind, would make a "No" vote twice as interesting.

    [ Parent ]
    "Theophilus" was a title (none / 0) (#957)
    by artsygeek on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 04:55:35 PM EST

    Theophilus was a title that certain Roman dignitaries had. Luke was writing to one in particular to explain what these crazy political radicals who called themselves followers of Jesus Christ were all about.

    [ Parent ]
    folk rock (none / 0) (#1111)
    by petrov on Thu Feb 13, 2003 at 04:45:34 PM EST

    strick, I hope you get this. This is Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords. I saw your complaint about the CD - It isn't actually scratched, it is a factory fault that one run of the CD's had. You could either contact the website you got it from and ask them to replace it or send me and Bret your address at fotc@paradise.net.nz and we'll sort it out for you. Really sorry about that.

    [ Parent ]
    active, not passive (4.00 / 1) (#289)
    by Meatbomb on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:38:36 AM EST

    I'm not a Latin expert, but:

    bibliophile = lover of books
    pedophile = lover of children

    etc.

    I think "Theophile" means "lover of God", not "beloved"...

    _______________

    Good News for Liberal Democracy!

    [ Parent ]
    Name and poll (4.00 / 1) (#599)
    by TheophileEscargot on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:11:24 PM EST

    I chose the name years ago pretty randomly, from a character in some books by James Blaylock. Any significance is just coincidence: my previous stories aren't anything to do with religion.

    My vote in the poll: I might say when the commenting has died off, but I don't want to make it any easier for people to call me biased one way or the other.

    Poll results seem remarkably balanced right now (585 total votes) 33% Yes, 38% No, 29% Don't Know. Compare that with the poll in my last story where 76% were Liberal and 24% Conservative.
    ----
    Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
    [ Parent ]

    Ontological and Cosmological Arguments (4.00 / 1) (#139)
    by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:21:51 PM EST

    Both these are suspect in a logical sense, and they both fail in a similar way. The first statement of the ontological argument:
    1. Define X as the greatest being imaginable: that which no greater can be imagined.
    This is not well-defined. Under what system of logic are you making this assumption? Step 5 leads to a contradiction; why should that not indicate that it's this premise that is flawed? (By analogy, consider the statement Define N as the largest integer.)

    The cosmological argument begins:

    Infinities cannot exist in reality, and that everything that exists has a cause.
    First, we must agree on an acceptable definition of the terms "infinity" and "existence." (Can we apply the notion of "existence" to an integer? Does the number 1729 "exist"?) Since I don't see that infinities are ruled out, we can take this to mean that there is no first creator.

    The common element is the refusal to admit the notion of the infinite. It certainly may be a consistent and useful philosophy, but the theists give me no reason to believe that "infinities do not exist."


    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

    The Flatulence Argument (5.00 / 2) (#358)
    by slur on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:34:32 AM EST

    I just "created" the Worst Fart Imaginable. Or was it really "me" who created it? Perhaps my imagination is too limited, and a greater imagination than mine could conceive an even more heinous fart. Philosophy always gives me gas.

    |
    | slur was here
    |

    [ Parent ]
    Please don't do that in here! (5.00 / 1) (#363)
    by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:56:16 AM EST

    I'm gonna try and summon up the biggest wind possible to try clear the air in here, but I don't know if even that will do it.

    WHOOOOOSH!!

    ---
    Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
    [ Parent ]
    Unless you're God (none / 0) (#604)
    by Cro Magnon on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:21:08 PM EST

    there will always be a bigger fart!
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    Mormonism is my favourite religion. (3.75 / 4) (#140)
    by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:26:00 PM EST

    All religions promise rewards if you accept their creed(s). However, the Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, to give them their official name) is the one most suited to me: I can forsake false gods, accept the teachings of their prophet etc. after I die. That's my plan for eternal salvation.


    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

    I prefer to accept the fact that I'll burn in hell (none / 0) (#143)
    by wedman on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:32:27 PM EST

    That way, I feel better about being hateful and bitter and doing evil things to people like you.

    ~
    DELETE FROM comments WHERE uid=9524;
    [ Parent ]
    Morals, Hell, High Ground etc. (none / 0) (#169)
    by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:22:44 PM EST

    I feel better about being hateful and bitter and doing evil things to people like you.
    Interesting. I'm always told (by theists) that as an atheist I must be an immoral and corrupt person because all morals come from god(s). I'm not even worthy of US citizenship. (As Bush Sr. said on the 27th of August 1988, "I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.")

    Oddly enough, I don't hate anyone and I don't wish harm on anyone. I know that anger only drives a rift between me and people I care about, so I try not to be angry. It must be because I believe this existence is all I have, there is no post-mortem reckoning where I can make amends for my words and actions.


    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Morality (1.00 / 1) (#220)
    by Merk00 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:01:17 PM EST

    From a Christian perspective, because you are an athiest, you are immoral. The only way to be moral is to know God. Because you do not know God, you are de facto immoral. This does not mean that you are evil or that all your actions are evil. However, none of your actions will ever be moral because you do not know God. Unfortunantley, many Christians do not understand this part of Christian philosophy.

    ------
    "At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
    - FIRST Mission
    [ Parent ]

    Know god? (5.00 / 1) (#365)
    by priestess on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:27:14 AM EST

    Is that in the biblical sense? Becasue I really don't feel that way about beared old men. Heh.

             Pre...........

    ----
    My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
    Robots!
    [ Parent ]
    Also... (none / 0) (#150)
    by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:48:00 PM EST

    Mormonism comes with a monkey. How do you like them apples?
    --
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
    [ Parent ]
    Monkeys? No one told me about the monkeys! (none / 0) (#163)
    by phliar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:13:48 PM EST

    Mormonism comes with a monkey. How do you like them apples?
    Yow! I'm intrigued. Is this some LDS theology I was unaware of? Please elaborate.


    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Think it's a movie quote. (none / 0) (#357)
    by Marwin on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:30:41 AM EST

    I think i recognize that line from a movie. "Dogma" or "Good Will Hunting". Pretty sure it's Matt Damon who says it...

    But then again...i wouldn't bet on it...hate to loose money... =)

    [ Parent ]

    Mormonism might be okay (none / 0) (#603)
    by Cro Magnon on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:19:27 PM EST

    if you really DID get 7 wives!
    Information wants to be beer.
    [ Parent ]
    the idea of one God is a control mechanism (4.25 / 4) (#146)
    by tiger on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:35:58 PM EST

    My own belief is that there is an afterlife and rebirth, but no God and also no gods other than in the sense of a class of intelligent non-human beings that also occupy this solar system. I mention my own beliefs to serve as an example that one is not limited to choosing between a monotheist belief or a materialist belief. There are other non-God religions in this world, and other belief systems.

    I see all three monotheist (one God) religions as evil, with Islam as the most evil of the three. In my view, monotheism is a tool of imperialism. This view is presented in more detail in an article I wrote, Monotheism, Imperialism, and Genital Mutilation.

    As far as the argument that some people give, that they know God is real because they feel his presence in their lives, a better explanation is that what these people imagine as God is simply their own unconscious minds.

    --
    Americans :— Say no to male genital mutilation. In Memory of the Sexually Mutilated Child



    Interesting. Why Islam? NT (2.00 / 1) (#242)
    by Shovas on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:55:48 PM EST


    ---
    Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
    ---
    Disagree? Post. Don't mod.
    [ Parent ]
    Islam -- how? (2.00 / 1) (#248)
    by phliar on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:14:27 AM EST

    I see all three monotheist (one God) religions as evil, with Islam as the most evil of the three. I
    Do you mean the religions as "written in the book," or as currently practiced? (I assume by your genital mutilation links you mean current practice; as far as I know none of the books say anything for or against it.) Also, how do you rate the evilness factor? Genocide (or torture) vs. institutionalized repression, for instance.

    In passing, I know a few jews that would argue that their religion is not monotheistic, at least in a "person-like God" sense.


    Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
    [ Parent ]

    Trent Reznor said it quite well (3.50 / 4) (#148)
    by christianlavoie on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:43:25 PM EST

    God is dead
    And no one cares
    If there is a hell
    I'll see you there.


    Maybe Computer Science ought to be taught in the school of Philosophy
       -- Christian Lavoie [modified from RS Barton]
    no, no he didn't. (1.00 / 3) (#196)
    by Shren on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:44:23 PM EST

    but thank you for playing. go quote pop lyrics somewhere else.

    [ Parent ]
    He said: (3.50 / 2) (#227)
    by evilpenguin on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:50:35 PM EST

    "Your god is dead"

    No capital G. This changes the meaning a bit.

    On the other hand, the song ("Heresy") is bashing Christianity anyway. If you've ever seen Nine Inch Nails live (which is the closest thing to a religious experience I'll ever have), you'd know Trent isn't exactly shy on the matter:

    I'll heal your wounds, I'll set you free
    I'm Jesus Fuck on ecstacy


    (I love that quote)
    --
    # nohup cat /dev/dsp > /dev/hda & killall -9 getty
    [ Parent ]
    Actually (5.00 / 1) (#233)
    by christianlavoie on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:08:42 PM EST

    >"Your god is dead"

    Depends on which part of the song you're referring to. Sometimes he drops the 'Your' entirely, especially at the ending.

    > No capital G. This changes the meaning a bit.

    Just a bit. ;)

    My take is that he's referring to 'God money'.

    > On the other hand, the song ("Heresy") is bashing
    > Christianity anyway. If you've ever seen Nine Inch Nails
    > live (which is the closest thing to a religious experience
    > I'll ever have), you'd know Trent isn't exactly shy on the
    > matter:

    From the guy who yelled repeatedly "I wanna fuck you like an animal" on tour, what did you expect?

    ----

    In any case, my main point quoting Trent was that he has a pretty good idea of society's view of God. Religion is, for all purposes in G8 countries, a thing of the past. It's on decline, it's not blessing Kings anymore, and few people know the Pope's real full name. (I'd recognize it if someone mentionned it, but I'd be hard press to say it right now).

    Christianity used to be a very strong religion, with very deep commitments from the general population (even if those commitments were pretty much forced by society and done without real alternatives -- think of the Inquisition).

    For all practical purposes. God is dead and no one cares.

    Have fun,
    Chris


    Maybe Computer Science ought to be taught in the school of Philosophy
       -- Christian Lavoie [modified from RS Barton]
    [ Parent ]

    Pope's name.... (none / 0) (#620)
    by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:54:38 PM EST

    ...and few people know the Pope's real full name. I know! John Paul! No, wait! George Ringo! Aw, skip it....

    [ Parent ]
    Pope's name.... (none / 0) (#622)
    by benj on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:58:37 PM EST

    ...and few people know the Pope's real full name.

    I know! John Paul! No, wait! George Ringo! Aw, skip it....

    [ Parent ]

    Candide and Job (4.33 / 3) (#152)
    by arthurpsmith on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:54:20 PM EST

    I happened to read Candide around the time I was first investigating religion seriously (as a teenager - I had been brought up pretty much an agnostic by my parents). I loved the story; what I got from it was that a sense of humility in the face of our earthly existence is profoundly important. The condescension of the "best-of-all-possible worlds" Pangloss philosophy is one stemming from pride in believed knowledge of God's will and intent. As are most of the arguments from logic presented here. In fact, as one who has had what I consider a true religious experience, I can tell you understanding God's ways is far beyond our mortal capacities. But God doesn't expect us to understand everything, intellectually. What God wants, as far as I can tell, is an honest heart, a true desire to do what's right, and, simply, trust.

    A similar story, one that has been found profoundly revealing on the issue of "The Problem of Evil" over thousands of years, is the biblical Book of Job. Job has done what is right, has been a faithful follower of God, and yet is seemingly punished - suffering almost endlessly and excruciatingly. In similar circumstances, some would "curse God and die", but Job, as an example for us, confirms his faith and trust, while receiving chastisement from God for trying to understand too much. And in the end his trust is rewarded - yet he still suffered what seems needless pain. The central message of Christianity, which somehow never made it into the "definitions" and "arguments" of this story, is that we needed a perfect person, God's son, to suffer, innocently, to "pay a price" for our own failings. This suggests a universe governed by laws, and a God that, if omnipotent, is still constrained by some underlying 'law'. But do we fully comprehend what all that means? No - all we can really do is have faith in God's goodness and mercy.

    My personal belief, shaped by my membership in the LDS church, is in a Free Will where each of us is, in a small limited sense, a "prime mover" behind our own actions, with God the greatest among the "prime movers" (a combination of Cosmological and Ontological definitions) and among the other great "prime movers", the great exemplar Jesus Christ, who suffered, innocently, so that our own suffering would, in the long run, be lessened, that through faith in Him we can be sanctified in the end.

    Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


    At least you are not a troll. . . (none / 0) (#230)
    by WindyCity on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:59:02 PM EST

    Thank you for a sincere post.

    If Job interests you I suggest reading the chapter on Job in Jack Miles book God: A Biography. Its an eye opener.

    Anyway, if you are LDS, can you comment on the creatio ab initio issue?

    [ Parent ]

    Thanks (none / 0) (#250)
    by arthurpsmith on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:23:08 AM EST

    for the comment and reference to Jack Miles' book - interesting, though I'd probably find myself disagreeing with a lot. I'll try to look it up though (Amazon has quite a bit on it at least!) My view on this is the changes evident in the Bible are more a sign of evolution in human civilization and thought than a change in God's character, but it would be interesting to see it from the other perspective. Care to comment on what he specifically says about Job?

    Not sure what you mean by the creatio ab initio issue. Are you referring to the ex nihilo part? My personal belief on that, which I think conforms mostly to the general LDS view, is one of a certain dualism (although a "physical" dualism in some sense - I think Orson Scott Card has expressed it in some of his Ender books in a way I find plausible) I.e., God, and we, as these "prime movers" (spirits, whatever that may mean) have some existence apart from, and pre-existent to, the ordinary physical world. Somehow, participating in the universe as we are now, as conscious beings, but with an essence that is a separate (yet still physical) entity....

    What that means to me is, for the creation of this ordinary universe, it really doesn't matter how it was done, whether "ex nihilo", "ab initio", whatever. I don't believe it was done outside of physical laws (though it probably involved much outside the breadth of laws we currently know). Science certainly indicates a definite beginning to our universe, but even if it didn't, I don't think that would matter to me.

    But for the "prime mover" entities, our "spirits", my belief is these are pre-existent, or perhaps existent outside the ordinary time of our universe. There are various somewhat confusing statements on this in our church (Joseph Smith's comments on "intelligences" vs. "spirits" that I've never quite understood). But the essence is that, in addition to God, the rest of us were there also, at the creation. Or outside of it somehow. So, while the ordinary universe is a created entity, our spirits or intelligences are not. And then one can get into various theories about "so where did they come from actually" but really, the whole discussion is somewhat irrelevant in the context of the importance of trust and humility in our dealings with God...

    So I probably haven't really answered your question - feel free to point me to more on what you really meant to ask! :-)

    Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


    [ Parent ]
    I meant "ex nihilio" (duh!) (none / 0) (#257)
    by WindyCity on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:06:29 AM EST

    Most of my knowledge of the LDS comes from two books - Harold Bloom's The American Religion and Coke Newell's Latter Days. The idea of "pre-mortal" souls fascinates me.

    Anyway, let me make specific comment on the Miles translation of Job when I am more clear headed and less likely to mix up "ab initio" and "ex nihilio."

    Miles did win a Pulitzer for this book and he says that he only uses traditional translations - all except for Job's final speech - which Miles argues has been scandalously mistranslated.

    You need to read Miles case for yourself, to decide about the translation question. In his version the question of whether "might makes right" is pushed very very hard, setting up - IMHO - a nice parallel text with Thucydides Melian dialouge.

    [ Parent ]

    My problem with Job (none / 0) (#297)
    by epepke on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:53:35 AM EST

    It's not the usual. It's the fact that God doesn't even have the decency at the end to fess up to the fact that it was just some stupid wager all along.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Biblical authorship... (none / 0) (#485)
    by arthurpsmith on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:14:58 PM EST

    Well.... that's certainly a problem if you believe the entire book of Job was handed down by God and written exactly as He would have wanted it. Personally I believe the scriptures generally mix the editorial comments of their human authors with words that were in some way "inspired". At least that's the only way I can reconcile the mundane and somewhat ridiculous opening of that book with the profound truths that the rest of it offers. I suggest you read it again, skipping the first little section if you want; it's worth it.

    Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


    [ Parent ]
    On religion (3.42 / 7) (#153)
    by smallstepforman on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:55:35 PM EST

    It's amazing how many people are delusional.  I for one, can never trust a politician who is religious, for 2 reasons:
    - the politician doesn't believe in god, but he thinks that a majority of his potential voters do, so he is willing to 'act' in order to gain their support.  This is dangerous because this politician is capable of doing anything just to stay in power.
    - the politician is actually delusional and believes in god.  This is even more dangerous, because not only does he have invisible advisors who provide guidance, but he also believes in other delusions like patriotism and nationalism.

    Explaining the idea of God (3.50 / 4) (#156)
    by christianlavoie on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 06:57:51 PM EST

    There are quite a couple of good ways to provide an explanation for the existance of the Dilemma of the existance of God.

    Like it or not, the idea of God has been a definite requirement for the evolution of humanity. Humans tend to perform better under pressure and competition -- at least before they reach the point in their history where they can handle population-wide cooperation.

    Multiple religions and the pressure of 'not sinning' and all that kind of religious behavior edicts helped alot in both case.

    Moreover, God is a pretty handy explanation for everything the human mind cannot, at some point in time, explain. Greeks were baffled by thunder, so they explained it with Zeus. (Zeus, right?)

    Right now, we're still struggling with the non-uniform distribution of human suffering -- so God has some scheme that can't be be understood by the human mind that explains it. See!

    God is just too damn convenient not to exist.

    Think about it.


    Maybe Computer Science ought to be taught in the school of Philosophy
       -- Christian Lavoie [modified from RS Barton]

    Randy Newman (4.00 / 1) (#162)
    by jefu on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:13:48 PM EST

    ... says it all in his "Faust".

    My favorite bits are where Lucifer says to God :
    I don't believe I've ever heard such bullshit
    Even from You
    A master of bullshit
    You know it
    I know it
    Its bullshit
    Bullshit
    And the song "Relax, Enjoy Yourself" in which God offers an explanation for why a man who shot a little girl "...in that Burger King in Tucson..." would go immediately to heaven upon his death:
    Faith. Contrition.
    ...
    Predestination.


    Prove against God (4.00 / 2) (#164)
    by twanvl on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:14:13 PM EST

    So far the only proof of the existence God I have seen is an abstract one ('the greatest being'), why didn't you include a equally abstract proof of God not existing:
    1. Assume a omnipotent being exists, let's call Him/Her God
    2. God can create object X which is defined as "object X cannot be destroyed by God"
    3. God cannot destroy object X (definition of X), but God must be able to destroy object X, since He/She is omnipotent.
    4. This is a contradiction, therefore such a God cannot exist.
    Since both proofs seem valid to me, there can only be one conclusion:
    My reasoning is flawed, and I can never know if God exists.


    What if omnipotent means (3.50 / 2) (#167)
    by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:18:43 PM EST

    "Ability to do anything that is logically possible to do"? Such a God would be unable to make an undestroyable object but would still be pretty damn powerful. I'd worship such a God if it threatened me with hellfire if I didn't.

    --
    The Definite Article
    [ Parent ]
    I always saw this as a linguistic trick (2.50 / 2) (#195)
    by Shren on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:42:58 PM EST

    Look at it this way. Suppose God concieves of a rock that he can not lift, and he creates it. Since he can do anything, then the rock becomes liftable when it comes into existance. The split second it does, however, he can't lift it. If there is a omnipotent god, then his abilities expand as the set of everything expands.

    It's a stupid argument anyway. Give me 300,000 AD technology, and I would probably be able to rule over 2000 BC people as a God. Does that mean I can make a rock I can't lift? Sure. Linguistic problems don't quite belong in theology, IMO.

    [ Parent ]

    Does God follow Logic? (4.00 / 1) (#178)
    by benDOTc on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:51:03 PM EST

    This is an old one.  The basic problem with this is that you're asking whether God follows the rules of logic.  Can God make an object that's so red, it's green?  Can God make something so true that it's false?  Can God make A = ~A?  If God can change the rules of logic, then it's not terribly useful to reason about God with logic.  Otherwise, assuming that God is omnipotent, making an "object X that cannot be destroyed by God" isn't a logically meaningful idea, and as God can't do it because "it" is ill defined.

    Of course, an omnipotent God could always convince you that He did it, without doing it.  Does that qualify as changing logic?

    ben.c

    [ Parent ]

    Reason with logic? (4.00 / 1) (#192)
    by joto on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:35:39 PM EST

    The basic problem with this is that you're asking whether God follows the rules of logic.

    If God defies logic, there is no reason to have this discussion at all (which is probably true anyway...). What does it mean to have a discussion where the participants don't believe in logic? It would be completely meaningless. Logic is our only tool for understanding things that are not directly observable.

    Of course, that doesn't make it impossible that God doesn't follow the rules of logic. It just makes it impossible to use that as an argument of any kind, because by the time the argument comes up, the discussion is also automatically put out to an end. And much more effectively than by simply mentioning Hitler.

    [ Parent ]

    Hmm.. (none / 0) (#301)
    by Kwil on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:07:42 AM EST

    If God defies logic, there is no reason to have this discussion at all. Of course, that doesn't make it impossible that God doesn't follow the rules of logic. It just makes it impossible to use that as an argument of any kind, because by the time the argument comes up, the discussion is also automatically put out to an end.

    I believe that's what's known as "faith".

    That Jesus Christ guy is getting some terrible lag... it took him 3 days to respawn! -NJ CoolBreeze


    [ Parent ]
    Does God follow Logic? Yes (none / 0) (#917)
    by Logic First on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 01:49:38 AM EST

    *poof*

    [ Parent ]
    Nice Piece, some points (4.40 / 5) (#170)
    by HidingMyName on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:24:09 PM EST

    • The Matrix appears to be based on Pascal's dilemma where he considers the case that a demon is deceiving him in a simulated environment (i.e. life is but a dream). He claims "cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am), in effect stating that self awareness cannot be the result of dreaming, and that his existence is therefore genuine. However, I must say that I thinik the Matrix is a way cool movie, and did a good job at balancing philosophical undertones with great action.
    • The Ontological argument is not quite exact.
      • Anselm states that "God is that which none greater can be conceived.", not "God is the greatest thing that can be concieved". There is a subtle difference, in saying God is the greatest, that implies God's goodness, strength, knowledge, power, etc. are somehow less. Anselm very carefully followed Augustine in stating that nothing greater than god can be concieved to allow for such "ties".
      • The ontological argument is about goodness, and how real good is better than imaginary good.
    • Regarding logical consitency and Gödel's incompleteness theorem, some interesting self consistent logics are being explored by Dan Willard . He is probing the limits of the theorem, this could be interesting fundamental research. If you don't know him, Willard was the guy who beat the O(N logN) comparison sorting time without resorting to radix sort based methods (the constants are large, so it is not used in practice).


    That Dan Willard looks pretty iffy to me (4.00 / 3) (#177)
    by the on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:46:20 PM EST

    You certainly can't beat O(N log N) time unless you make some extra assumptions about the data. (Eg. radix sort works well if you're sorting real numbers that are uniformly distributed). What are those assumptions? I couldn't figure out which paper to read. I have access to the ACM digital library so maybe you can point to a paper there.

    And, incidentally, it's trivial to produce a system that can prove its own consistency and prove more theorems than Peano Arithmetic so he really needs to give a tighter description of what he's talking about here.

    --
    The Definite Article
    [ Parent ]

    Healthy Scepticism, but Willard's pretty good (4.00 / 1) (#236)
    by HidingMyName on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:38:05 PM EST

    You certainly can't beat O(N log N) time unless you make some extra assumptions about the data. (Eg. radix sort works well if you're sorting real numbers that are uniformly distributed). What are those assumptions? I couldn't figure out which paper to read. I have access to the ACM digital library so maybe you can point to a paper there.
    The paper you are referring to is the first one he cites (his home page is way out of date, but he's a theoretician and not a web developer):

    "Blasting Through The Information Theoretic Barrier with Fusion Trees" (with M. Fredman), in ACM Proceedings of the 22nd Symposium on Theory of Computing, (1990), pages 1-7. Also, article invited to appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Computer and System Sciences.

    The Invited paper did appear, it is:

    M.L. Fredman and D.E. Willard. Surpassing the information theoretic bound with fusion trees. Journal of Computer and System Sciences, 47:424--436, 1993.

    He does make some assumptions, I'm not entirely sure what they are (so I'm speculating here). I think (but I've not read the paper myself) that multiplication of keys is used to eliminate comparisons. I think the resulting algorithm is more like O(N log log N) instead of O(N log N) but with enormous constants (hence not practical).

    I know the Dept. of Computer Science at the University at Albany isn't a big name like Stanford or MIT, but they had a Turing Award winner (Stearns, did great work on the foundations of the big O notation and computational complexity), Rosenkrantz (major player in Theoretical foundations of Data Bases and Compiler design) and Willard is a big gun too (it is just that he is doing this Logic stuff these days and that doesn't appear in the normal C.S. forums). Harry Hunt hits STOC and J. of Algorithms pretty regularly, so he's pretty well known too. They have some decent guys in Logic and program verification (Narendran and Murray) an Ravi who does interesting stuff with Algorithms.

    [ Parent ]

    That bothers me (none / 0) (#448)
    by the on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:01:42 AM EST

    Titles like:
    Surpassing the information theoretic bound
    If it's a bound it's a bound. If you're surpassing it then you couldn't have been satisfying the premisses of the bound so you haven't actually surpassed it. So I don't doubt the quality of the work - but that title bothers me. And the same goes for Gödel's theorem. I'm sure he has some interesting logics but I'd like to know which premiss of Gödel's theorem isn't being satisfied.

    --
    The Definite Article
    [ Parent ]
    Or maybe Willard's just ingenious (none / 0) (#964)
    by HidingMyName on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 07:18:07 PM EST

    I think Willard's pretty smart in the sense that he has very original approaches to problem solving (he was doing blue sky research at Bell Labs back when they were much more research focused than they are today). However, I've not had a chance to read the papers closely, so I don't want to say things that mislead you. He must make some architectural assumptions, and as I said before I suspect he uses a novel data structure (Fusion Trees) to convert the problem into a form where he use algorithms with better asymptotic complexity than conventional techniques. The technique appears to be genuine (it passed rigorous review, it is well cited by good people and there is nobody calling for a retraction), however, I'd need to read the paper and think for a while before I'd have a good shot at understanding it.

    I'm not sure about his logic papers, they are less readily available (I'd probably have to ask him directly) and they are more involved. I'm reluctant to summarize those here.

    [ Parent ]

    The Matrix (4.66 / 3) (#199)
    by localroger on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:56:35 PM EST

    The Matrix appears to be based on Pascal's dilemma where he considers the case that a demon is deceiving him in a simulated environment

    The Matrix is based on Gnosticism, a stubbornly recurrent Christian heresy which answered the Problem of Evil by postulating that God is evil or insane. Major Gnostic heresies popped every century or two despite vicious oppression, until the Renaissance came along and provided an even better explanation.

    Besides the idea of being "deceived by a demon," Gnosticism involved several other specific ideas incorporated into The Matrix. One was that you could see past the deception (the "Black Iron Prison" in some sects, and in Philip K. Dick's writings), but you couldn't be told how to see past it; you had to receive the gnosis directly from the Holy Spirit.

    This is why "you cannot be told what the Matrix is." That seems silly in computer terms -- why can't you be told the Universe is a computer simulation of itself? It is in the source material for which the Matrix is a metaphor that you can't be told.

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    Silliness makes an interesting movie. [nt] (4.00 / 1) (#209)
    by xriso on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:25:41 PM EST


    --
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
    [ Parent ]
    You can tell but who will believe? (none / 0) (#568)
    by xenthar on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:57:07 PM EST

    You may be able to tell exactly what the Matrix is, but none will believe, and it cannot be proven unless you see through the illusion yourself.

    Same in our world.
    -- Conciousness is contagious. Work on improving yours, it will affect the world.
    [ Parent ]

    Matrix is a good example.. (4.25 / 4) (#208)
    by kitten on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:25:40 PM EST

    He claims "cogito ergo sum" (I think therefore I am), in effect stating that self awareness cannot be the result of dreaming, and that his existence is therefore genuine.

    His point was actually that even if all his experience was some sort of trick or dream, this means there is something to be tricked, or to be dreaming. Much like the Matrix - yes, the Matrix itself was a simulation, but the humans had to exist to experience it.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    What about the Agents? (none / 0) (#279)
    by kholmes on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:49:04 AM EST

    Can the agents be said to not exist? Or if they think, does it follow that they must exist? Or, as I speculate, is Descartes merely defining existance as the definition of thinking, thereby becoming synonyms?

    Damn, I'm scared now. I am now arguing that I don't exist.

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]

    Y'know, that's interesting. (none / 0) (#390)
    by kitten on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:26:23 AM EST

    And I hadn't thought about it. Hmm.

    Well, I say the Agents exist the same way Windows exists. As it stands, it's just a pile of 1s and 0s arranged in a certain way on a magnetic platter. It "exists" within the confines of the vessel bearing it. If every CD, hard drive, etc containing Windows were destroyed, Windows would no longer exist. So it's definitely there, and the fact that I'm typing this is evidence that it exists, but it's existence is dependant on specific conditions.

    Actually, I'd had a discussion with a friend before about Smith, who as you may recall wanted to destroy Zion so he would no longer have to be in the Matrix. But wouldn't that mean his death? Smith seems sentient to me. Yet without the Matrix, his universe and therefore his existence would vanish. However, I suppose they could copy his program and transfer it to a "real" machine, one that interacts with the physical world rather than the Matrix.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Heh, yeah (none / 0) (#588)
    by kholmes on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:38:16 PM EST

    I suppose this comes back to question if A.I. is really something we can develop. If we can, then it means our minds are material. However, there is also the possibility that A.I. is impossible and that characters such as Agent Smith are merely fiction. I suppose this would make "I think, therefore I am" easier to grok and it would make our minds less material and more idealistic or, perhaps, supernatural (using a somewhat knew mix of the term, something that isn't composed from the natural world).

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]
    Descartes (4.66 / 3) (#218)
    by Merk00 on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:54:58 PM EST

    "Cogito ergo sum" was proposed by Descartes, not Pascal. A better translation that "I think, therefore I am" is "I am thinking, therefore I am." The slight difference is that Descartes felt he couldn't prove that he existed when he wasn't thinking. Descartes used it as the basis of his philosophical system and used it as its only axiom.

    ------
    "At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
    - FIRST Mission
    [ Parent ]

    Shame on Me. (5.00 / 2) (#239)
    by HidingMyName on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:40:31 PM EST

    Cogito ergo sum" was proposed by Descartes, not Pascal.
    I had brain lock, I should have remembered who said that. Thanks for correcting the error.

    [ Parent ]
    Does God. . . (3.00 / 1) (#171)
    by kfg on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:29:16 PM EST

    get to vote? KFG

    Smullyan (3.80 / 5) (#172)
    by Repton on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:31:57 PM EST

    Raymond Smullyan wrote a book entitled 5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies. In it, he presents several axioms from which he can rigorously prove the existence of a unique god.

    Unfortunately, I don't have a copy here, so I can't repeat the argument. I do recall that it was easy to spot the axiom that you would disagree with if you were an atheist. But it is a useful way of pinpointing what it is necessary for you to believe in, if you wish to believe in God.


    --
    Repton.
    They say that only an experienced wizard can do the tengu shuffle..

    Is their a god ?!?!?!?! (3.25 / 4) (#174)
    by dvchaos on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:35:25 PM EST

    How dare you question the presence of my existance! I damn you to hell for that!

    --
    RAR.to - anonymous proxy server!
    imposter (3.00 / 2) (#175)
    by r1chard on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 07:41:24 PM EST

    damn you, I am the one and only god!

    [ Parent ]
    shit .. (3.00 / 2) (#185)
    by dvchaos on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:11:47 PM EST

    well I guess we just proved their is more than one god huh ?

    --
    RAR.to - anonymous proxy server!
    [ Parent ]
    Hmm... (4.20 / 5) (#193)
    by seanic on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:37:34 PM EST

    I'm still not convinced.  Does that make me diagnostic?

    --
    "The majority of the stupid is invincible and guaranteed for all time. The terror of their tyranny is, however, alleviated by their lack of consistency" -- Albert Einstein
    [ Parent ]
    Define "God" (4.33 / 3) (#182)
    by ryochiji on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:04:37 PM EST

    Whether or not the question "Is there a God" can be answered depends on how "God" is defined.  Notice how the question uses God-singular with a capitalized "G".  To me, this would indicate that the writer is referring to a monotheistic deity, and one seen from a Western point of view.

    In any case, if God is assumed to be a physical being (natural or super natural) it's existence could probably be proven, though not neccessarily disproven (absence of proof is not proof of absence).  If you define god as a "belief" or "symbol of a belief system" then you really can't prove or disprove it's existence and becomes a solely subjective question.  And if you ask me, it's nobody's business to question anyone elses' beliefs, regardless of whether they believe in god or not.

    Anyway, that's what I think about the question.

    ---
    IlohaMail: Webmail that works.

    What if... (none / 0) (#265)
    by etherdeath on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:40:57 AM EST

    ...you question their beliefs just to understand them?  Or are you talking about criticizing beliefs?

    [ Parent ]
    I meant... (none / 0) (#267)
    by ryochiji on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:07:30 AM EST

    >What if you question their beliefs just to understand them?

    I meant "question" as in "question the validity of their beliefs." By all means, I would encourage people to share their beliefs in a non-intrusive and inoffensive manner to further understanding. Although from my personal experience, quite realistically, once people start talking about religious beliefs, they tend to get offensive/defensive, even if it started off as an innocent exchange of ideas. Must be human nature or something, unfortunately...

    ---
    IlohaMail: Webmail that works.
    [ Parent ]

    Nice Summary (3.33 / 3) (#183)
    by Malaclypse the Younger on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:06:38 PM EST

    All in all, this is a pretty good summary of the classical arguments for and against the existence of a God. If one has the interest, a good place to go a few rounds in the theist/atheist confrontation is Internet Infidels.

    However, the question "Does God (or a god, or gods) exist?" isn't very precise; even the question, "do I exist?" or "does this chair exist?" are somewhat fuzzy, because we are not at all clear about what we mean by "exist".

    For instance: Do unicorns exist? If they do, do they exist in the same way that elephants exist? If they do not exist, do they not exist in the same way that a pink elephant that is not a pink elephant doesn't exist? And how many Apaches are hiding in this room?1

    The logic is valid on most arguments for the existence of a god. However, by definition, the axioms underlying those arguments are not logically deducible; if they were, they wouldn't be axioms. To refute the ontological argument, for instance, I need merely deny that actuality is necessary for perfection; the contrary axiom does not entail a contradiction.

    The most compelling argument to me (as an atheist) is that I'm simply unable to tell the difference between the existence and nonexistence of a god. If a god exists, it seems to be not only omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, but also omniinvisible.

    1As many as want to. It's an inside joke, sorry.

    Pascal's wager is a nonsense (3.50 / 2) (#191)
    by goonie on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:35:10 PM EST

    All Pascal's wager is, is an argument about whether it is advantageous to believe that God exists. It says SFA about whether God actually exists or not and is thus totally irrelevant. For an analogy, consider the following: during Stalin's reign it might have been advantageous for an apparatchik to believe that the sun shone out of Stalin's arse. Needless to say, that doesn't mean the sun actually shone out of Stalin's arse.

    pascal's wager breaks down anyway (3.00 / 1) (#194)
    by Shren on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 08:38:13 PM EST

    If you admit the possiblity of many equally likely gods.

    [ Parent ]
    not an argument... (5.00 / 1) (#201)
    by SocratesGhost on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:02:37 PM EST

    but we treat most epistemological matters as pragmatically as this. We assume the universe to be consistent, but the only thing we have to go on is past experience. As the economist will point out, future outcomes are not determined by past performance. Yet, we make an exception for the universe. Occasionally we are wrong and the universe doesn't operate the way we think, but it makes sense to accept the universe as being consistent as a practical concern since past experience bears this out consistently.

    So, if you are willing to allow pragmatism in the sciences, then you should begin considering the boundaries you place upon your own practicality. Pascal's threshold may be lower than yours, but it's a matter of where you place the limit, not whether you place it.

    -Soc
    I drank what?


    [ Parent ]
    No we don't (4.00 / 1) (#202)
    by godix on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:10:01 PM EST

    "We assume the universe to be consistent"

    The big bang theory assumes exactly the opposite actually....


    Love, like god, only exist at orgasm and agnoy


    [ Parent ]
    which is probably why most don't understand it n/t (none / 0) (#841)
    by SocratesGhost on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:11:08 PM EST


    -Soc
    I drank what?


    [ Parent ]
    Pascal's Wager isn't an argument. (4.00 / 2) (#206)
    by kitten on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:20:22 PM EST

    It's psychological intimidation. It is not an argument on the intellectual level; rather, it is an attempt at bribery and blackmail.

    Other objections could be made, of course. Such as the notion that Pascal's wager assumes a specific type of God, one that cares whether or not we worship. Or that such a God would reward that worship. For all Pascal knows (or we know, for that matter), a "believer" would be punished ("You believed in that crap?" laughs God) while the skeptic is rewarded for using the brains he was given.

    Pascal's Wager does not help us choose a specific religion, either, so you run into the problem of avoiding someone else's Hell. In other words, you may believe because of Pascal, but which God will you believe in? You believe in Jehovah - what if Allah doesn't like that? Or vice versa.

    Finally, Pascal does not ask that we believe in the name of logic or reason, but out of pure self-interest. A sort of cosmic game of Cover Your Ass. If I were God, I might not be too happy with someone who believed in me just to get rewarded.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    oh come on (1.00 / 1) (#499)
    by adequate nathan on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:31:11 PM EST

    You might as well say Heidegger's oncept of 'thrownness' is existential blackmail. Have you read Pascal as closely as you imply?

    nathan
    "For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
    -Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

    Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
    [ Parent ]

    hee! (1.00 / 1) (#838)
    by dnix on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:01:10 PM EST

    I think I see a truly craptacular undergraduate term paper topic there! We should collectively write it for grins. :)

    I can start, with a nice off-kilter opening paragraph:

    "Martin Heidegger was a terrible philosopher. This comes as no surprise, as he was also a heinous Nazi. Of course, he knew that he was wrong for being a Nazi, which is why he tells us that humans (i.e., Heidegger himself) are at heart a monstrous nothing. In this paper, we will discuss how Heidegger's baser motives are prevalent throughout his works, and attempt to reveal why we should just go ahead and use our copies of Being and Time for doorstops and blunt weapons, instead of reading material."

    Who wants to continue? We can collectively take misunderstanding Heidegger's philosophy to heretofore undreamed of levels!



    [ Parent ]
    uncountably many mistakes in this article (4.16 / 12) (#210)
    by acereks on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:29:49 PM EST

    just a few of the many, many, many mistakes in this article:

    Gödel's incompleteness theorem, which shows that no non-trivial logic system can ever be shown to be consistent and complete. If logic itself isn't reliable, then we're in trouble.

    Gödel's incompleteness theorems (note there are two) only shows that for any member of a certain class of formal systems, there is a setence formable in its language that it cannot prove (but that it would be desirable to prove). There is nothing to conclude here about the "reliability" of logic in general, whatever that's supposed to mean. the issue is rather about what is and isn't expressible in certain formal languages. i see no obviously interesting epistemological consequences of the theorems, and no argument presented for any such consequences above.

    There are various ways to deal with epistemological problems. The most popular is to accept that there is no way of really knowing anything about the physical universe. This solution takes several forms. Postmodernists have largely abandoned the idea that philosophy can tell us anything about the real world, focussing instead on the analysis of language.

    the "most popular" way of dealing with epistemological problems is to just abandon the idea that we have any knowledge of the world? oh really? according to what census?? certainly this is not the dominant view in contemporary academic philosophy. and i don't know where to begin with this "postmodernism" comment. suffice to say that most philosophers of language and semanticists (a) want nothing to do with postmodernism and (b) often do consider substantive metaphysical (read: reality-oriented) issues when formulating semantic theories.

    Idealism holds that ultimate reality consists of ideas. In its most common form, Platonic idealism, the physical world is compared to shadows on a cave wall, cast by the ideal Forms that compose ultimate reality.

    this is just patently false, all of this. it's clear the author has just sort of sat down and improvised where opening a book might have been inconvenient. idealism is (roughly) the view that reality is not independent of cognizing minds. this is very different from the more narrow view that reality consists only of ideas. on most interpretations plato was not an idealist--he was a HARDCORE REALIST, in particular a realist about properties. roughly, he argued (badly) that corresponding to every property a thing has (eg, being red) there exists a corresponding abstract object (a "form" or "idea"), and that it is in virtue of that object that things can have the property associated with it. anyway the point is, that's not idealism. plato thinks that these forms would exist whether or not people were around to contemplate them. he's a hardcore realist. i doubt the phrase "Platonic idealism" refers to anything at all.

    To Idealists, logic and reason are more important than sense-data.

    this is just not true. "important" in what sense? either way idealists have to give epistemological account of both types of knowledge.

    In academic philosophy departments, empiricism is not taken particularly seriously. In some cases scientific theories are generally believed to be just another cultural myth.

    this is just so incredibly false, i can't believe it. K5, this guy is just making stuff up. i would take up this claim about "empiricism", but its pretty clear that the author has no idea what empiricism means. in any event, scientific theories are absolutely not regarded as myths among philosophers. the sciences are widely esteemed in academic philosophy departments, many of which are full of scientific realists and philosophers who study the foundational issues associated with the sciences (eg, problems about the metaphysics and epistemology of space and time). remember too that it was only in the last few hundred years that the sciences as we know them today became clearly seperated from philosophy proper in the academy.

    ok enough, i think i've convinced myself that further editorializing is not worth the effort or time. note at least that my comments only criticize the very beginning of the article--there is much left that deserves to be teared apart.

    for the sake of socrates, i hope future article-writers will resist the narcissistic impulse to issue discourses on subjects in which they have only hopeless misinformation to offer.



    Gödel does show something shaky about God (4.75 / 4) (#224)
    by egerlach on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:20:36 PM EST

    Gödel's incompleteness theorems (note there are two) only shows that for any member of a certain class of formal systems, there is a setence formable in its language that it cannot prove (but that it would be desirable to prove).

    Bzzzt. Yes, his first incompletness theorem says that. But the corollory (his second incompleteness theorem, which is often mistaken for the whole deal), says that given a formal mathematical (logical) system, its consistency cannot be proved using that system. This has much more profound effects. (Reference)

    There is nothing to conclude here about the "reliability" of logic in general, whatever that's supposed to mean.

    What the author is talking about is the consistency of the system. Since it can't be proved, we can't know that anything that we are saying using logic is indeed true! (Except that which we choose to interperet within the system... but if the system isn't consistent... GOTO BeginningOfParagraph;)

    the issue is rather about what is and isn't expressible in certain formal languages. i see no obviously interesting epistemological consequences of the theorems, and no argument presented for any such consequences above.

    No, no, no, no, no. Gödel's incompleteness theorems have nothins to do with expressability. They have everything to do with provability. Since logic consistency isn't provable, that implies that the system on logic you are using could be flawed, which implies that any proposition asserted from that system could be false, which implies that a logical proof of God's existence (link to epistemology here, wink wink) could be false. Staggering, ne?

    "Free beer tends to lead to free speech"
    [ Parent ]
    reply (5.00 / 2) (#251)
    by acereks on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:32:13 AM EST

    Bzzzt. Yes, his first incompletness theorem says that. But the corollory (his second incompleteness theorem, which is often mistaken for the whole deal), says that given a formal mathematical (logical) system, its consistency cannot be proved using that system.

    right... as i said. look, the first theorem says that what cannot be proved is a true sentence of the language of the given theory. the second says that what cannot be proved is a true sentence of the theory that "expesses" its consistency. (this is what i meant by expressability.) i did leave out these details, but what i said could characterize both theorems.

    Since logic consistency isn't provable, that implies that the system on logic you are using could be flawed, which implies that any proposition asserted from that system could be false, which implies that a logical proof of God's existence (link to epistemology here, wink wink) could be false.

    ok, thats an interesting point. except that with all this winking i can barely make out the interesting link between incompleteness and knowledge of god. i guess i'm rusty.. do the classic proofs of require a language prone to the dangers of the theorems? aren't they beset with much more obvious problems anyway? isn't it a little weird to expect to derive substantive and controversial metaphysical conclusions from purely formal beginnings? i guess i think there are better reasons to doubt the soundness of proofs-o-god than incompleteness.



    [ Parent ]
    bingo! (3.50 / 2) (#372)
    by adequate nathan on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:39:18 AM EST

    isn't it a little weird to expect to derive substantive and controversial metaphysical conclusions from purely formal beginnings?

    Not if you're a kurobot.

    Nathan
    "For me -- ugghhh, arrgghh."
    -Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, in Frank magazine, Jan. 20th 2003

    Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
    [ Parent ]

    Absolutely! (5.00 / 2) (#532)
    by the on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:30:26 PM EST

    i guess i think there are better reasons to doubt the soundness of proofs-o-god than incompleteness.
    Absolutely. However watertight our formal system looks on paper we can only trust it to make deductions about the real world because it's worked so well in the past - ie. it rests on induction (unless you have some other metaphysical assumption I don't know about yet). Given this I can hardly see how Gödel's proof can make me doubt a proof of God's existence or non-existence any more than I did previously. The citing of Gödel's theorem here is a complete red herring.

    --
    The Definite Article
    [ Parent ]
    submit your own article then (n/t) (2.50 / 2) (#229)
    by arthurpsmith on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:56:37 PM EST


    Energy - our most critical problem; the solution may be in space.


    [ Parent ]
    Then take issue with my textbook author (5.00 / 1) (#276)
    by kholmes on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:38:15 AM EST

    In my hands I have Philosophy: A Text With Readings, Seventh Edition. The author is said to be Manual Velasqez. I quote:

    In fact, some philosophers have held that if we push our investigation of nature far enough, we end up with only a material world, a world of ideas, not matter. Such philosophers are called idealists.

    ...

    The belief that reality is ultimately idea is at least as old as the ancient Greek Pythagoras (about 600 b.c.). However, Plato first formalized this belief. He held that individual entities are merely shadows of reality, that behind each entity in our experience is a perfect form or ideal. This form or ideal is what makes the entity understandable to the human mind. Individual entities come and go, but the forms are immortal and indestructable.

    Not that I would invoke an appeal to authority, but tell us what your sources are and we'll compare notes. Or perhaps you are simply interpreting things differently somehow?

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]

    reply (4.33 / 3) (#468)
    by acereks on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:45:13 AM EST

    yes, i think now that my criticism of this article should have been less harsh, since it is very possible that the author did not manufacture all these mistakes him/herself but just inadvertently passed them on from people who did. the author you cite, Velasqez, for instance, is clearly full of terminological confusion.

    you asked for sources, which is perfectly reasonable. the cambridge dictionary of philosophy says that idealism is "the philosophical doctrine that reality is somehow mind-correlative or mind-coordinated - that the real objects constituting the "external world" are not independent of cognizing minds, but exist only in some way correlative to mental operations" (p355). in the course of my own (5+ years of) graduate and undergraduate education in philosophy, this is the only use i have ever seen of the term. (it seems like Velasqez conflates all things mental with "ideas". but idealists can make a metaphysical distinction between, eg, minds, and the ideas in them, and still be idealists.) the classic idealists are Berkeley and maybe Hegel, not Plato.

    with respect to Plato, "ideas" is a technical term synonymous with the eternal, changless, abstract "Forms". this is not the everyday sense of the word, and it is not the "idea" in "idealism". so for instance in the same dictionary mentioned above we find that "The term 'Ideas' should be used with caution, since these objects are not creations of a mind, but exist independently of thought" (p621). the platonic ideas are abstract, mind-independent objects. since they can exist without there being any minds to think about them, Plato is a realist with respect to them. since for Plato the observable world is just an imperfect image of such objects, in makes sense to call Plato a realist in general. (if you want a better reference for Plato, read the primary sources: the Phaedo, the Republic). if it matters, the dictionary i'm citing is endorsed (according to the quotes on the book jacket) by such contemporary philosophical luminaries as Donald Davidson, Hilary Putnam, and Roderick Chisholm. you can also find the same terminological facts i am talking about in A.C.Grayling's two volume philosophy primer and in any companion to metaphysics.

    the second quote you provide actually provides evidence for the view that Plato is not an idealist, since it says that individual entities (like people with minds) come and go, but the forms remain nonetheless. so there is no dependence relation between the forms and minds.

    [ Parent ]
    Some replies to some of your statements (5.00 / 1) (#503)
    by TheophileEscargot on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:42:39 PM EST

    i doubt the phrase "Platonic idealism" refers to anything at all.
    Note that an exact phrase google search returns a large number of results. Platonic Idealism is a very common phrase in the philosophy of religion.
    in the course of my own (5+ years of) graduate and undergraduate education in philosophy, this is the only use i have ever seen of the term
    I find it hard to believe you have the education you claim. This seems on a par with someone claiming to have 5+ years graduate education in Physics but never having heard of "Newton's Laws."
    scientific theories are absolutely not regarded as myths among philosophers.
    Someone else suggested (too late) that I use the phrase "cultural construct" instead of "cultural myth". Kuhn, and others to a lesser degree (such as Lakatos) clearly describe scientific theories as being essentially cultural constructs.

    Your points on Godel have already been addressed by here, and your comments on Idealism have already been addressed by kholmes here.

    Finally, from early drafts of this article I've found it's absolutely necessary to give a brief overview of epistemology. Without that, the appeal of the Ontological argument makes no sense. Without a discussion of empiricism it becomes impossible to explain why atheism is not identical to theism in terms of belief. Since you object so vehemently to my summary, why not write your own 600 word summary of the field of epistemology for the lay reader, and post it to the queue? I await the results with interest.
    ----
    Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
    [ Parent ]

    reply (none / 0) (#554)
    by acereks on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:19:52 PM EST

    Note that an exact phrase google search returns a large number of results[for the entry "Platonic Idealism". Platonic Idealism is a very common phrase in the philosophy of religion.

    look, google yields a few hundred results for "platonic realism" too, but i tend not to cite the internet as the ultimate arbiter of terminological standards. anyway, i will freely grant that 'platonic idealism' is a term of art in phil. religion, ok sure--then it is an incredibly misleading phrase, because it is not a kind of idealism. but my point, again, was that idealism (simpliciter) does not require that all there are are ideas, and that plato was not an idealist.

    Someone else suggested (too late) that I use the phrase "cultural construct" instead of "cultural myth". Kuhn, and others to a lesser degree (such as Lakatos) clearly describe scientific theories as being essentially cultural constructs.

    yes, that's far better than "myth". it would still be misleading, however, to claim that constructivism is a particularly dominant view in contemporary philosophy.

    Your points on Godel have already been addressed by here, and your comments on Idealism have already been addressed by kholmes here.

    yes, and i've replied to both already.

    oh, and your comparison of "platonic idealism" with newton's laws is just so wacky, i don't know what to say about it. go look up idealism on xrefer.com or something.

    [ Parent ]

    Hello, pot? This is kettle. You are black. (none / 0) (#833)
    by dnix on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:51:32 PM EST

    You realize, I hope, that dismissing the claim that science is a cultural contruct by saying that constructivism is not a particularly dominant view in philosophy is not actually any kind of counterargument. At any rate, I think that Theo's intended point was something pretty general and non-controversial, namely that science does is not an absolute reflection of a "true" reality, but is full of various biases and errors that a human perspective in variably brings with it. I would actually go a bit farther and say that, since we have no extra-human perspective, we can only judge science in terms of its relevance for humans, and its explanatory and predictive powers for humans. It is not necessary to fully buy in to any -ism to make that claim.

    [ Parent ]
    Quick note. (4.37 / 8) (#214)
    by kitten on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:45:33 PM EST

    ..in addition to the other discussions I'm having throughout the thread.

    The moral argument starts from the idea that people have an objective sense of morality, which implies that there is a moral aspect to the Universe, which must come from God.

    So the argument goes. The notion here being that we need God to tell us right from wrong, good from evil. Hence the Ten Commandments and all the instructions he's handed down to us in various incarnations and doctrines through just about every theistic religion.

    However, if we are unable to tell good from evil by ourselves, then how do we know this entity is good? If we can't tell the difference ourselves, then for anything we know to the contrary, God is evil, and we shouldn't listen to him.

    It seems to me the only way out of this is to admit that we can tell good from evil, and therefore we do not need a God to tell us.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    heh (2.00 / 1) (#219)
    by ebatsky on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:59:23 PM EST

    See the way it works is that 'good' is defined by humans, so that if you accept that god exists and he is good, then that is what you define 'good' to be (ie, what god is/you think he is). Thus god can't be evil because evil would have to be defined before god, and since god came first, that's impossible, right?

    Of course, god doesn't exist in the first place and good and evil is all relative to different people/societies so its a moot point anyway.

    [ Parent ]

    Moral Authority (4.00 / 1) (#237)
    by Shovas on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:38:33 PM EST

    And like I said in our previous thread--which you seem to have left suddenly--one can come up with all kinds of excuses, conundrums, logical paradoxes, and more to ensure we are self-righteous. Actually, I didn't say quite that; More along the lines of one can ignore and excuse away any phenomena one wishes.

    Moral authority, however, is an entire discussion on its own. If we can indeed tell good from evil, does that make it instinct(why instinct? How'd that get there?), or does it simply say that what is good and evil for you is such for you only and may differ for me? If so, who's to say your morality is better or worse than mine?
    ---
    Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
    ---
    Disagree? Post. Don't mod.
    [ Parent ]
    Evolution of Morality (5.00 / 1) (#362)
    by Tim Bates on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:54:21 AM EST

    If so, who's to say your morality is better or worse than mine?
    Well, nobody.

    I've heard of a good theory that will make the anti-evolutionists even more annoyed, and that is that our morals are created by evolution. Think about it - killing other people is generally accepted as bad, if they are within one's own society, because as we were evolving, those 'tribes' that had a morality that permitted killing soon killed themselves off. However, killing people outside one's tribe in order to protect one's own tribe is not considered as bad, just look at any war in history. This is because those tribes that protected themselves by killing others survived.
    On another note, incest is considered immoral because those tribes that practised it caused plenty of extreme mutations which killed off the evolutionary process, and eventually the tribe.

    This theory of morality seems to fit very well - can anyone point out holes in it? I love hearing holes in my theories, because they give me things to think about.

    I might also point out, in relation to the top-level comment, that I agree with the premise that we do not need a God to tell us what is good, and I want to add to that: it is not unlikely that these morals which were developed this way would be written down for the benefit of future generations, and because there was no one to ascribe them to, they were ascribed to a God figure which was conveniently able to explain a lot of other things as well... such as the existence of the universe. Nowadays, we have better explanations, but that doesn't necessarily make the morals any less valid.

    [ Parent ]

    Oh, that's been around for ages (none / 0) (#414)
    by Shovas on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:10:49 AM EST

    And well known to Christians for as long. If there's one thing Christianity has lots of experience in, it's controversy. The killing meme is obvious, as members of their own species tend not to outrightly go after one another to kill. The incest rule is not so apparent, though. People can still be incestuous in this day and age and in large part not have children with any obvious downfalls in their makeup. Man would have no idea incest was wrong back in the day, and I suspect cave-man couldn't care less anyway.

    This incest is a very good point to bring up. I mean, one could explain it away by saying that as man grew to become more introspective, they also decided that incest was wrong because there's was something inherently "gross" about copulating with one's childhood friend, or even procreating with your own next generation.

    All the same, I wonder how and why that disgustedness came about. Not simply the fact of incestuous behaviour, but the emotions behind it causing one to think of it as wrong.
    ---
    Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
    ---
    Disagree? Post. Don't mod.
    [ Parent ]
    Indeed (none / 0) (#292)
    by epepke on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:46:55 AM EST

    Furthermore, it's a common theistic dodge to claim that God is good by definition, and if He does something that we don't think is good, then we're wrong. Of course, it requires only the subtlest of perceptual shifts to conclude that some of those by-definition good God things, usually killing people, are perfectly OK for us, too.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Origin of morality (5.00 / 1) (#328)
    by Quila on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:11:50 AM EST

    My favorite question is that is something good because god said it is, or was it good and god simply identified it as so? If the former, then god could identify any evil as good and it would be defined so despite its evil nature (plenty of god-sanctioned evil in the Bible). If the latter, then good can be good anyway, and we have no need for a god.

    [ Parent ]
    An answered question. (none / 0) (#701)
    by Ni on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:22:16 PM EST

    This was answered by Socrates over 2000 years ago, and arguments against Socrates' are pretty rare. See The Euthyphro. (Sorry, there's a popup there, but it's the only link a quick googling revealed)


    But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
    [ Parent ]
    It wasn't so much a question for you (none / 0) (#773)
    by Quila on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 03:50:01 AM EST

    As one for those such as Dr. Laura who say you can't be moral without getting your morals from her god. I guess we just have to be better than Euthyphro or Dr. Laura.

    Thanks for the link, and popups aren't a problem with Mozilla.

    [ Parent ]

    God as identifier of morality (none / 0) (#1041)
    by Moebius on Mon Oct 21, 2002 at 02:20:01 PM EST

    If the latter, then good can be good anyway, and we have no need for a god.

    It does not follow that if God is not determiner of what is good, than he serves no purpose regarding morality.  Could not good exist independant of God, but be such that only God could accurately perceive what is good?

    Some rock is iron ore.  Geologists can identify iron ore, even though it is not by their own innate power that iron ore exists (or that certain rocks contain it).  But this does not mean geologists are useless, for I am not skilled in indentifying rocks myself.

    [ Parent ]

    Secular humanism (none / 0) (#364)
    by ggeens on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:03:22 AM EST

    It seems to me the only way out of this is to admit that we can tell good from evil, and therefore we do not need a God to tell us.

    That would be Secular Humanism. That doctrine rejects the idea of God, and implies that mankind is the source of morality.

    L'enfer, c'est les huîtres.


    [ Parent ]
    Trust me, there is a God. (1.25 / 4) (#215)
    by Orion Blastar on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 09:48:15 PM EST

    I can feel God's power, I can feel the Devil's power. I am a modern day Job, The Devil is testing me. Making me as sick as I can, causing me to lose my jobs, making it so that I cannot communicate, that I do things I don't want to, making my suicide and depression so bad that I look forward to death to end the suffering. many things have happened to me, I'll post more in my journal soon.
    *** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
    trust <i> you</i> ?? (none / 0) (#296)
    by Greyshade on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:50:36 AM EST

    I don't trust the word of God about there being a god, why should I trust you?

    On the other hand. I know how to live your life much better than you do. Perhaps you should enslave yourself to me rather than some being that wants to make you suffer needlessly. At least I can offer tangible rewards.

    [ Parent ]

    Trust me (none / 0) (#728)
    by Orion Blastar on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:33:37 PM EST

    because I have been suffering and I have learned many things. Life is about suffering, no matter what a person will suffer unless they are in a perfect world. This is not a perfect world, it is an imperfect one. What do you know about living my life better than I already have? You know almost nothing about my life. You apparently don't even have the same brain chemistry as me. I'll bet you don't even live in the same climate or conditions as I do. You don't even have the same medical problems, or mental health issues. Yet what makes you think that you can live your life better than me? I suffer, yes, but I also learn as I suffer. I am not fool enough to blame God for my suffering, as I know better. Read the book of "Job" again if you don't believe me. Chances are you didn't get it the first time you read it. The Devil caused the suffering of Job, and Job was being tested, as I am being tested now. Read further into the book of Job, and see what happened to Job after his suffering ended. Away with you Satan, you are am obsticle in my path. You still haven't gotten it. I will not enslave myself to you, and your false promises.
    *** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***
    [ Parent ]
    Missing Poll Option (4.33 / 3) (#222)
    by bugmaster on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:10:22 PM EST

    "Probably Not"

    (as distinct from "No", which is an assertion)
    >|<*:=

    Ignorance (4.33 / 3) (#223)
    by Cantara on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:19:31 PM EST

    We suffer from a lack of information on this topic. And the main problem isn't faith it's our shortsightedness and our laziness. It's the principal of first discovery or in this case first faith.

    The list of people who have shaped religions and how religions are perceived as well as how they are implemented is so long as to warrant a discussion unto it's self. As an example Christianity accepts very different methodologies and beliefs today as compared to the time when Nicolaus Copernicus espoused a belief in a heliostatic solar system.

    Our world is filled with religions too many to enumerate and strange and wonderful discoveries unfathomable to religion. We have much to learn and with each discovery we change our interpretation of religion.

    Hallelujah.

    Hegel's criticism of Kant's refutation (4.90 / 10) (#225)
    by TooTallForPony on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:36:51 PM EST

    Okay, I'll admit it, I actually struggled through the article about Hegel's criticism. IANAP (philosopher), but my housemate is, and we just had a good discussion on this topic. Here's my take on the issue, and I'll try to describe it in terms that make sense to everyone (not being a philosopher and all):

    Let's start with Kant's refutation. The simplest explanation in that regard comes from the article: "to conceive that S is P doesn't imply the necessary existence of S." For example, claiming that one billion Larry Ellisons (henceforth abbreviated GE, for giga-Ellisons) are richer than Bill Gates doesn't necessarily imply the existence of a GE - in fact, the statement only makes sense if you postulate the existence of a GE. Similarly, if you said that a hypothesized perfect God must have blue hair, that argument only makes sense when you postulate the existence of such a God - a nonexistent God can have any properties you care to attribute to it. Replace "blue hair" with "existence", and the logic is no more valid than it was before. However, the use of "existence" as both the predicate and the conclusion in this argument is the basis for all the confusion. Kant would argue that you can't use "existence" as the predicate for the argument, because the existence of the subject was implied when it was used as a subject.

    Now, on to Hegel's criticism. His argument, as I understand it, centers on Kant's claim that you have to postulate the existence of the subject of your argument in order for the argument to make sense. Hegel claims that Kant is unfairly extrapolating from the world of everyday existence to the infinite conception of God. In other words, just because arguments about a GE only make sense if you postulate the existence of a GE, the same may not be true of an infinite God. As I see it, Hegel's criticism has two flaws. The first, pointed out in the article, is that the burden lies on Hegel to prove that an infinite God should be treated differently than the everday world. The second, which I thought of myself but I'm sure someone's considered before, is that Hegel's presupposition of an infinite God affirms the consequent, and so is not logically valid. However, it sounds like Hegel is arguing that Kant doesn't distinguish between physical existence and existence as a concept, which seems to me to be a valid argument. Nonetheless, I can claim that a billion Larry Ellisons would spontaneously form into a giant robotic killing machine, and you can't disprove me!

    -- Evolution is a "theory", just like gravity. If you don't like it, go jump off a bridge.
    I'll Stop Believing... (2.00 / 3) (#226)
    by qhill on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 10:49:20 PM EST

    ...when He tells me personally that He doesn't exist.

    ---
    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he doesn't exist.
    I'll start beleiving (none / 0) (#291)
    by Greyshade on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:45:45 AM EST

    When he tells me he does exist.

    [ Parent ]
    HE (none / 0) (#355)
    by slur on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:09:50 AM EST

    If HE exists, HE must have an enormous schwanstucker!

    |
    | slur was here
    |

    [ Parent ]
    WOW (none / 0) (#404)
    by DeadBaby on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:49:15 AM EST

    Amazing becuase last night GOD came to me in a religious vision and told me to tell you he doesn't exist. Unfortunately for you, faith requires you to believe me. I am speaking the WORD OF GOD to you just like countless other humans have spoken the WORD OF GOD.

    Sorry.
    "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
    [ Parent ]

    WOW indeed (none / 0) (#668)
    by qhill on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:59:38 PM EST

    What really melts my brain is who told you that? It couldn't have been God, because how can someone nonexistent tell you anything?

    You've been duped.


    ---
    The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he doesn't exist.
    [ Parent ]
    That's a good question (none / 0) (#901)
    by DeadBaby on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 08:41:16 PM EST

    I guess I just made the whole thing up... just like all those other guys before me. Oh well, my short career as a prophet was fun.
    "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
    [ Parent ]
    Are you talking about god or Santa Clause? (n/t) (none / 0) (#475)
    by Veritech on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:57:58 AM EST



    [ Parent ]
    Wittgenstein (4.00 / 2) (#231)
    by IldarNuvo on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:03:14 PM EST

    'speculation on metaphysical entities is useless, because your experience does not reach beyond that which is physical'

    If you want to call god the totality of the universe, or everything that exists, that's cool. If you want to call him anything else, then I ask you if you are really sure what it is that you're talking about.

    Bummer dude (none / 0) (#275)
    by Wulfius on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:35:38 AM EST

    You cant talk about movies, coz like they are non physical you know?

    ---

    ---
    "We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
    http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
    [ Parent ]

    non-physical? (none / 0) (#908)
    by IldarNuvo on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 09:55:45 PM EST

    Movies are physical representations of physical things, how are they non-physical?

    And I should add that relations between physical things are okay too (like law of conservation of matter and energy).

    [ Parent ]

    Amassed Consciousness? (4.25 / 4) (#234)
    by dotderf on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:17:52 PM EST

    For starters, I'm an atheist, an empiricist if you will. Consciousness has long baffled me.

    Billions of indepent neurons releasing neuro-transmitters with each new action potential, thus potentiating another action potential, and so forth. From this wild broth of chemicals, where does consciousness arise? Now I don't know on what level a neuron is 'self-aware'. As a result of retrograde transportation, a neuron can cull off dead links, but does this point any sort of behavior indicative of conscious? From a cluster of cells possessing no intelligence of their own, how do we happen upon a conscious being? As an analogy, alone the transistor is little, but when you arrange them in a particular manner, "magic" can happen. [And by magic, I mean really damn cool stuff, and by that I mean I'm not up on my electrical engineering.]

    Furthermore, all neurons don't work together. Some inhibit others. Others cooperate and potentiate.

    Is the individual neruon aware of the greater consciousness that arises from its behavior? Is the muscarinic receptor aware of its role in the functioning of the neuron?

    All these questions have brought me to the puzzling conclusion that maybe, just maybe, there is a god that arises from the culimination of interaction. Why couldn't such a consciousness arise from human interaction?

    This is all one tremendous masturbation of conceit, but what if? I don't mean to suggest that there is a god, and I don't believe that there is one in the Judeo-Christian respect, but what precludes a higher consciousness? Furthermore, why should I care?

    My sig seems oddly appropriate for this thread.
    God is just a metaphor for everything that currently eludes science.

    A mass of consciousness (4.33 / 3) (#238)
    by TooTallForPony on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:39:45 PM EST

    Y'know, I wonder the same things when I'm riding my bike to work every day:
    * Does this woman even know that by not using a turn signal, she just almost killed me?
    * Does that guy know that by double-parking in the slow lane, he's caused a traffic jam that goes back a mile?
    * Do they all know they're heading in the same direction?
    * Are they aware that the money they spend for the gas they're burning is used to fund Al Queda terrorists?
    * Does any of them know that idling at traffic lights is destroying the atmosphere, so their children may die as a result of global warming?

    Never underestimate the power of a large number of uncoordinated agents to do something they didn't intend. It's hardly a proof of the existence of God.

    -- Evolution is a "theory", just like gravity. If you don't like it, go jump off a bridge.
    [ Parent ]
    Yet those same people (3.00 / 2) (#445)
    by Wah on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:57:16 AM EST

    • designed the bike you rode.
    • figured out how to turn the sap of a tree into useful tires.
    • designed the city you live in.
    • decided that killing each other for fun wasn't cool (even though it looks like it in the movies).
    • have a good idea on the biological processes needes to produce the petroleum that was later refined into  substance that can be channeled through an engine in a controlled explosion to expand their effective hunting grounds a thousandfold.
    • and did this internet thing.
    Hardly a proof of the non-exitence of God, eh?
    --
    Life is a strange state of matter.
    [ Parent ]
    Why did you get a 1 (none / 0) (#508)
    by Fon2d2 on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:54:47 PM EST

    but TooTallForPony got a 4.5?  What's the significant difference here?  He provides a particularly strong bias A and for the sake of balance you provide a counter-bias B.  And what is really different besides the bias behind the selection of the data points here?  Nothing really, so why do you get 3.5 less karma?  In fact, I would say your bias isn't even as strong, since although your bias shows in the selection of your data, the wording of the data are not as strongly opinionated.

    [ Parent ]
    look at the poll results on this story... (none / 0) (#516)
    by Wah on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:07:08 PM EST

    ...and your question will be answered.  And I didn't (but should have) use data points that mapped more precisely to the one's the previous posted used.  Maybe that's why..
    --
    Life is a strange state of matter.
    [ Parent ]
    Bafflement (3.66 / 3) (#243)
    by epepke on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:58:03 PM EST

    In the Middle Ages, nobody knew about plant hormones and light receptors and stuff like that. Therefore, the opening of flowers in the morning baffled people. They concluded that there must be a God who personally intervened and willed the opening of each individual flower.

    Why is consciousness any different? Only because it is still baffling. But if the opening of individual flowers wasn't good reason for concluding that there is a God, why is the fact that consciousness is baffling today necessarily a better reason?

    Personally, I hope that there will always be something that is baffling, because otherwise life would get pretty boring. But is the fact that something is baffling good evidence for a God?


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    You're misinterperating. (4.00 / 1) (#656)
    by dotderf on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:22:11 PM EST

    You're misinterperating my comment.

    A large number of seemingly uncoordinated agents, neurons, give rise to something incredible, my consciousness!
    My consciousness seems to arise from the interaction of neurons. My neurons are inarguably serpate entities (I believe Golgi and Cajal had a bit of an rift over this one.) Now the independent neurons interact with one another. This can be done through the utilization of catecholamine transmitters (like norepi or Ach), amine transmitters (like gaba and glu) and also through electrical synapses.
    In electrical synaptic transmission (it's been a while, my terminology might be off) the distance between neurons is something like a tenth of the normal distance. Still, the neurons are not continous.

    Furthermore, case studies have suggested that "human being" is rooted in the physical make up of the brain. Take for example, Phineas Gage ("http://www.deakin.edu.au/hbs/GAGEPAGE/" I still can't get URLs to work.)
    Thus, it has been argued that the mind is the culmination of the efforts of billions of indepent neurons.

    If a force, such as consciousness can arise from such a hodgepodge orgy of chemicals, what precludes the existence of some higher consciousness arising from the culmination of interaction of living things?

    Life forms interact and communicate. Neurons do likewise. Life forms are independent entities, as are neurons. Consciouness arises from the non-instantaneous communication and interaction of independent neurons.

    I don't mean to suggest that such a being does, or should exist, I'm merely contending that such a being may be physically possible. By many conventional definitions, such a force would not be "god," as it played no role in creation. Instead it is the result.

    Food for thought.
    God is just a metaphor for everything that currently eludes science.
    [ Parent ]

    Well (none / 0) (#674)
    by epepke on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:36:21 PM EST

    If a force, such as consciousness can arise from such a hodgepodge orgy of chemicals, what precludes the existence of some higher consciousness arising from the culmination of interaction of living things?

    None, really. In fact, I'd have to say that there are several kinds of entities that are known to posess a kind of intelligence that is the product of the interaction of living things. To wit: corporations, mobs, and democratic or oligarchic nations.

    You might enjoy looking for a book about the Omega Point. There's also a series of books by Frederik Pohl that uses this idea. Personally, I'm not terribly well convinced. Furthermore, as you yourself point out, why call such a thing a god?


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Quite interesting (5.00 / 1) (#288)
    by The Amazing Idiot on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:33:41 AM EST

    ---For starters, I'm an atheist, an empiricist if you will. Consciousness has long baffled me.

    You give your bias, as I will give mine. I'm Catholic.

    ---Billions of indepent neurons releasing neuro-transmitters with each new action potential, thus potentiating another action potential, and so forth. From this wild broth of chemicals, where does consciousness arise?

    That's almost as 'nasty' as a question as "Where does life begin?" (when reffered to sexual reproduction). Essentially, that question brings in the abortion issue.

    ---Now I don't know on what level a neuron is 'self-aware'.

    A cell has the blueprint for the re-creation of the whole body, or parts of it. Those cells can be anywhere from skin cells to bone cells. All of them have DNA. Since any cell has the capibility of becoming a neuron(to feel inputs), does a cell have "self cogniciense"?

    ---As a result of retrograde transportation, a neuron can cull off dead links, but does this point any sort of behavior indicative of conscious? From a cluster of cells possessing no intelligence of their own, how do we happen upon a conscious being?

    How can you say that a few cells have no intelligence on their own? We cant even define what life _IS_, let alone define knowlegde stored in a biological system(your brain). What's funny is biologists cant even tell what viruses are. It's evident they're floating pieces of RNA inside a semi-flimsy transport module. They latch on to a cell and then proceed to attach at the beginning of the DNA segment so it can be run first. The cannabalize/copy routines are run and the cell uses itself as a virus creation facility. All this happens, yet there's no authoritative yes or no that viruses are living. Do they die? They cant very well die if they aren't living.

    ---As an analogy, alone the transistor is little, but when you arrange them in a particular manner, "magic" can happen. [And by magic, I mean really damn cool stuff, and by that I mean I'm not up on my electrical engineering.]

    I somewhat like your analogy, but I believe the recent FPGA experiments on firmware that can rewrite its own gates is much closer to evolving/life systems. I still cannot see computers even closely approching us for a long time. The reason I say that is to how much data we collect per second. Every neuron takes data in/routes  and sends to processing centers. A neuron can only send binary-like signals (sodium-ion channels), so they cannot be coded for taste or smell or hearing. The brain 'connects' the neurons (somewhat like a switchboard) from 1 place to the correct de-coding sensory place in the brain. I'm guessing it's about 100 TB per second without the filters. The filters are what reduce that data set to a much more manageable number for our brains to handle. If I remember correctly, autism is when the brain doesn't have those filters, and the brain goes into an overload.

    ---Furthermore, all neurons don't work together. Some inhibit others. Others cooperate and potentiate.

    Many neurons work on the principle of double negatives (inhibit an inhibitor). A big example is the Nucleus Accubens, the place in your brain responsible for addiction. The more X inhibits this area, the more you are addicted to it.

    ---Is the individual neruon aware of the greater consciousness that arises from its behavior?

    Neurons are either input/output/routing devices. By themselves, the seem not to have consciousness (but I do not reject such ideas). Still, in clusters (nerves) they can handle reflexes and other extremly quick actions. They evidently do have some intelligence (still probably not in the same meaning of intelligence).

    ---Is the muscarinic receptor aware of its role in the functioning of the neuron?

    I'm not familiar with that.

    ---All these questions have brought me to the puzzling conclusion that maybe, just maybe, there is a god that arises from the culimination of interaction. Why couldn't such a consciousness arise from human interaction?

    Perhaps it is. I've heard of experiments where they had 2 cans of a yeast and they dropped poisions into both. 1 can had just a camera observer. The other had a "prayer" circle. It has roughly 10% less death than the other. This in't a  proof of God, but it was meant to spur more experiments where human non-interaction is present. Perhaps there ARE energy transmissions to and from every living thing. If there are, I'd like to see them.

    ---This is all one tremendous masturbation of conceit, but what if? I don't mean to suggest that there is a god,

    You mean to suggest there ISNT a god without proof either? You may not choose to acknologe a god-like figure, but that is partial with no evidence either way.

    ---and I don't believe that there is one in the Judeo-Christian respect, but what precludes a higher consciousness?

    Acceptable. There are many religions which dont hold the "Judeao/Islamic/Christan" God as true.

    ---Furthermore, why should I care?

    You've accidently stumbled on to the root of humanity's question. Why should we all care about anything at all?  Why did the author even bother writing this article? Why did you even care to post this response? There's something about humans that make us different in regard to all other species on this planet. It is the thirst for knowing all and controlling all. In the early 1900's, we thought we knew all about physics. But there was only that slight problem of how the sun burnt. Theory came after theory to explain. We first exhibited the control of nuclear reactions in the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were uncontrolled reactions, but the premise of how the sun works (fission and fusion - by nuclear rearrangement). We now have the idea of Quantum theory. The importance of that allows us semiconductors that have quantum-sized influence. If we go smaller, we'll have to re-adjust our chips so the wires themselves would be waveguides. We're also considering processing in other dimentions and pulling the data we want back out. Why did we do it? To prove that we could, and to make even better.

    Perhaps there is no reason to care. But what if our Souls could be proved to be there, and if we could see Heaven and Hell along with God and Satan? Still, what interests me is that the fact that people who believe in a religion seem to have the fate of that religion. Some near-death Christans see "The Light" along with the strange marks known as the Sigmata. There are also documented cases of Hindu being able to recall a different location hunderds of miles away, and being able to recall their death-date at that place.

    Almost seems that "God" gives the fate of what they believe in. Also, perhaps that God also took influecne in different parts of the world when It believed the people were civilised enough to understand.

    Maybe I'm totally off base, just like you might be. I do, however, seek for enlightenment of the truth.

    [ Parent ]

    Consciousness Explained (4.00 / 1) (#514)
    by vallee on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:04:07 PM EST

    Daniel C. Dennett, an eminently readable and enjoyable philosopher of science, has tackled this problem in Consciousness Explained, and I thought he provided a framework whereby enough of what consciousness is and how it came about was uncovered that I stopped losing much sleep over it.
    I also highly recommend his masterwork, Darwin's Dangerous Idea.

    [ Parent ]
    Philosophy in a nutshell (3.60 / 5) (#235)
    by epepke on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:18:48 PM EST

    In academic philosophy departments, empiricism is not taken particularly seriously. In some cases scientific theories are generally believed to be just another cultural myth.

    These people are just stupid and nuts. Fortunately, I've come up with a way to deal with them. Stop giving them any money. After all, the value of printed pieces of paper is certainly a cultural myth. Every two weeks, give them a handful of beans instead. Wax poetic about how they embody the spirit of holistic life itself. If that fails, jump up and down and accuse them of pandering to the oppresive hegemonical (don't worry if that isn't a word) capitalist baby-raping conspiracy. If that fails, strike them lightly with a rolled-up newspaper.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    Robust (1.50 / 2) (#273)
    by Wulfius on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:33:01 AM EST

    "These people are just stupid and nuts."

    Thats a robust philosophical argument.
    Im happy that being equiped with such a potent cogitatory apparatus your flipping burgers instead
    of being in charge of funding appropriations.

    Although I suspect you might have a bean farming kickback soiling your soul.

    ---


    ---
    "We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
    http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
    [ Parent ]

    Hah! (none / 0) (#283)
    by epepke on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:58:02 AM EST

    m happy that being equiped with such a potent cogitatory apparatus your flipping burgers instead of being in charge of funding appropriations.

    I don't have much contact with burger-flipping, but I'm glad that those in charge of it have enough sense to realize that the germ theory of disease and the resulting need to be sanitary are more than just another arbitrary cultural myth.

    And, I'm sure that those philosophers, when going to conferences to talk about how arbitrary empiricism and science are, don't mind boarding airplanes that have been made with the help of empirical science. I don't think too many of them expect cargo-cult planes to take them where they want to go.

    Although I suspect you might have a bean farming kickback soiling your soul.

    I'd sure like to be an evil tofu baron.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    I think it was a bad choice of words, nothing more (none / 0) (#472)
    by dnix on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:50:58 AM EST

    I think the term used in the article "cultural myth," would likely be (and in your case, I guess, is in fact) inflammatory for most scientists. On the other hand, how about the term "cultural construct?" The basic idea at the heart of either term is that science is a cultural artifact. It is a predictive and explanatory framework we use to help us understand and interact with the universe. As a cultural construct, it changes over time as we collectively improve it, adding bits here, changing out bits there, and even occasionally removing some bits entirely. Thus you get the slow progression of scientific knowledge as well as the occasional paradigm shift of the sort described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

    The concept that science and scientific facts are human constructs and are in large part dependent upon inductive assumptions in no way validate anything science tells us. Certainly no philosopher I know (myself included) would argue that science is bad, or a useless endeavor.



    [ Parent ]
    Discussion (5.00 / 1) (#671)
    by epepke on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:28:05 PM EST

    Your response is unusually thoughtful (not necessarily for you per se but for K5, so I'm going to drop the flippant comments and try for some more substantive discussion. For reference, here is an expanded recap of the quote I was referring to:

    In academic philosophy departments, empiricism is not taken particularly seriously. In some cases scientific theories are generally believed to be just another cultural myth.

    And now, to discussion.

    I think the term used in the article "cultural myth," would likely be (and in your case, I guess, is in fact) inflammatory for most scientists. On the other hand, how about the term "cultural construct?"

    No, that's not it. Although my training is primarily in mathematics and the physical sciences, I have also had enough training in anthropology to be comfortable with the technical meaning of "myth." The problem is the word "just." There is a difference which should not be necessary to explain between "a cultural myth" and "just a cultural myth." I'm hoping that you missed the "just" during reading and aren't trying to be disingenuous or weasley. "Just a cultural construct" would be similarly dismissive.

    Thus you get the slow progression of scientific knowledge as well as the occasional paradigm shift of the sort described by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

    I am not terribly impressed with Kuhn. The notion of a paradigm shift is certainly appealing. However, all the examples that Kuhn gave are bogus. For instance, he makes a big deal about relativistic mass being incommensurable with Newtonian mass. But relativistic mass was a matter of fashion and hasn't been popular since about 1950. Nowadays it is popular to use the term mass to describe the Newtonian mass. This changes the way relativity works not one whit. (Incidentally, special relativity did not contradict the Newtonian laws of motion at all; at issue were the Galilean transformations and some of the assumptions of the classical laws of motion that Newton didn't ever write down.)

    The most sensible statements made about the philosophy of science by a philosopher of science I know were made by a guy named Newton-Smith (which is a great name). The best statements were made by Richard Feynman, but he wasn't a philosopher of science and had some disdain for them.

    The concept that science and scientific facts are human constructs and are in large part dependent upon inductive assumptions in no way validate anything science tells us.

    Whoa! Where did this "inductive assumptions" come from? Can we have some warning if you're going to change the subject totally?

    Certainly no philosopher I know (myself included) would argue that science is bad, or a useless endeavor.

    Well, I have to call your attention to the statement, in the original article and quoted here, that empiricism is not taken particularly seriously in academic philosophy departments. Now, this may be true or false or partially true, but in any event, not taking something particularly seriously is awfully close to declaring it useless.

    Of course, it is hard to generalize about academic philosophy departments. Practically the definition of an academic department is a bunch of people who think differently from every other academic department on the planet. But, in my experience, there are philosophers who are this dismissive. I've had a number of ultimately pointless discussions with several of them, sometimes over beer, and I taught one how to speak German. So, they do exist.

    Most of what I've seen come out of the philosphy of science seems to be pretty naive. This is too bad, because the anthropology of science is a fascinating subject, but a work of fiction by Greg Bear has more of it than any philosophical paper or book I've seen. I cannot claim as original the best metaphor I've seen for this. It's as if a philosopher were to look at a fishing village, analyzing all the social structures in meticulous detail but leaving out the fact that the fish the fishermen bring home feed the village.

    In any event, while philosophers may value the products of science, I don't think that they really grok the connection between science and the products very well. This is not unique to philosophers; I think that almost nobody groks this. I think that people consider the products of science, such as consumer yummies, primarily to be economic entities. There may be a number of factors as to why this is true; I think it's something that has been happening over time. Corporate content producers want people to believe this way, of course. There was a hit during the 1980's, when production of many things moved to Pacific Rim nations and so the details were hidden from Western eyes. When I was a kid in the 1960's and 1970's, every drug store sold vacuum tubes and had a tube tester. When your tube radio broke, you opened up the back, took the tubes out, and went to get them tested. Albeit at a fairly low level of understanding, this was palpably a scientific endeavour that everyone with an electronic appliance had some constant reminder of. That's gone away, mostly, and I think that people have lost the feeling of connection with science.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Heh, oops (none / 0) (#796)
    by dnix on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 09:13:34 AM EST

    Amazing what a relatively simple typo can do to an otherwise more or less coherent statement. What I meant to say was

    "The concept that science and scientific facts are human constructs and are in large part dependent upon inductive assumptions in no way invalidate anything science tells us."

    I apologize for the sudden seeming shift in the direction of my comments. All I meant to indicate was that inductive reasoning, and some key assumptions based thereon, are in fact at the core of science, but that is never an argument against the relevance or usefulnes of science. I hope that clears the last part up.

    As for Kuhn, I am not married to his ideas, I was jsut raising him as an example. The important thing to take away from his arguments, in my opinion, is an understanding that science is not a foxed and immutable body of knowledge, but in fact changes all the time and, moreover, that is not its weakness, but its greatest strength - the ability to be self-critical and adaptive.



    [ Parent ]
    Hmmm... (none / 0) (#893)
    by epepke on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 06:57:46 PM EST

    All I meant to indicate was that inductive reasoning, and some key assumptions based thereon, are in fact at the core of science, but that is never an argument against the relevance or usefulnes of science. I hope that clears the last part up.

    I still see that as a different subject. But since you're adamant, I have to say that I don't think this is quite right. (It also provides a nice segue to my answer of your next paragraph.) It doesn't really matter so much whether inductive or deductive reasoning is used (or, as is more often the case, reasoning that is too informal to be described by words like this). However, it is true that all the reasoning is based on approximations. Nothing is ever absolutely certain; it is at best consistent with all observations within a certain error (if you're lucky, you have an estimate of the error). E.g. essentially all graphs in the hard sciences have error bars on them, but they're so rare outside science that it's difficult to find graphics packages that can do them. (When you can, they generally call them something dumb like "min-max" graphs.)

    This, I think, really freaks people out. I've gone through the process of being trained in science and during a stint of a decade and a half in academia helped others get trained, and I'd have to say that the hardest thing about it is learning how to be comfortable with uncertainty. Feynman called science a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance.

    The important thing to take away from his arguments, in my opinion, is an understanding that science is not a foxed and immutable body of knowledge, but in fact changes all the time and, moreover, that is not its weakness, but its greatest strength - the ability to be self-critical and adaptive.

    OK, well maybe that has some value in a popular work, but it seems to me a fairly trite observation. What do people think scientists do all day, sit around in their offices and repeat to themselves "My body of knowledge is immutable"? It'd get boring pretty quick. Scientists like to do things, and the quickest path to glory is to knock down some well-established idea. It's fun, too.

    Although I suppose it's possible that many people get that impression from the totally insipid way in which science is taught in the public schools. There is value in pointing out the bleeding obvious, but when you do, do it with style. I wish that Kuhn had been better with his examples.

    It also frustrates me that it should be necessary to point this out in the first place, and I think philosophers aren't entirely blameless. Philosophy has traditionally been backward-looking and authority-based, footnotes to Plato and all that. I remember one argument I had with a philosopher who insisted that scientists were good at what he called "linear" thinking but not good at creative or associative thinking. Now this guy had the PhD and the tenure position and all that. My experience has been quite the opposite, scientists don't like "linear" thinking all that much, and that's what grad students are for. His reasoning was that he didn't see descriptions of creativity in physics papers. I tried to explain that papers served a specific purpose--to give a recipe for trying out a result in the hopes that other people will be interested in trying to replicate the results. Furthermore, the department typically has to pay to get papers published, so physicists try to make them as short as possible to save money. I pointed out that many good scientists have written popular works, for which the purpose and economics are different, and in those you do find good descriptions of the creative process. He would have none of it. He got red in the face and said, "Why shouldn't papers be about describing creativity?" Now, I don't know enough about the anthropology of academic philosophy to be sure, but it certainly smelled as if he were projecting from his culture onto the culture of physics. And that's not only just plain stupid, it also negates any pretense one might have to produce halfway decent commentary on the culture of physics.

    Of course, scientists are partially to blame, too. Few of us are articulate enough to write compellingly to an outside audience. Furthermore, there are other factors. Back in the 1980's and early 1990's, I used to talk to groups of public schoolchildren on a volunteer basis all the time. But due to changes in the school system since then, most of which I consider fascist and destructive, it's practically very difficult to do this in the United States any more, at least where I live. School administrators simply won't allow it.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    The Problem of Evil - Resolution? (4.20 / 5) (#241)
    by TooTallForPony on Mon Oct 14, 2002 at 11:54:22 PM EST

    I have my own resolution about the "problem of evil". Other people may have made this same argument before - if they have, I'd love to hear about it - but here's my take:

    The solution to this problem, of course, depends on your religion. In many Eastern religions, the problem is easy because of reincarnation. Any difficulties you face in this life serve to make your soul stronger, so you're more likely to move up to a higher status (and therefore closer to nirvana) when you are reincarnated. The importance comes in how you deal with the evil - for a dog to react to being kicked by biting the person would be acceptable, but a priest who had the same reaction would seriously damage his karma.

    In Western religion, the problem is seemingly more complex, but from a logical standpoint has the same solution. If you are fundamentally good in this life, you will be rewarded by eternal bliss in heaven. Even the suffering of Job is negligible compared to eternal bliss. In other words, the suffering you feel in this mortal life is unimportant, because you will have infinite bliss for eternity once your short stay on this planet is over. Worrying about the suffering that happens to each of us for a limited time on this plane of existence is shortsighted from this standpoint. After all, infinity minus three is still infinity, right? When you're faced with the prospect of infinite bliss, what happens during the first hundred years doesn't really matter, does it?

    -- Evolution is a "theory", just like gravity. If you don't like it, go jump off a bridge.
    Except (none / 0) (#326)
    by Quila on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:06:23 AM EST

    A god of infinite good shouldn't be allowing even that suffering, even as a test for going to something better. And here people were chastising Machiavelli as immoral for using the same principles.

    [ Parent ]
    Slightly Off Topic... (none / 0) (#359)
    by Tim Bates on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:35:24 AM EST

    But in the possibility that this eternal bliss won't happen, all those poor believers have spent their limited years dreaming of an existance after this one in which they will be rewarded, only to find that they've been cheated (or not find that, since they're no longer around to experience it).

    And if there's no computers in heaven, I don't want to go.

    Slightly more seriously, I'm not sure I'd want an eternity of bliss. Without bad things happening to compare it with, bliss would quickly become stale and expected, which IMO destroys the blissfulness. Also, one person's ideal of bliss would be significantly different to another's - an atheist having to spend eternity with God would find that constant proof that they were wrong agony not bliss, (and maybe that's the point...) Even myself, as a (progressive, liberal) Christian wouldn't necessarily think of an eternity in the presence of whatever God is to be the ultimate in bliss.

    [ Parent ]

    Slightly more off topic ... (5.00 / 1) (#388)
    by Herring on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:21:02 AM EST

    As an atheist, I am offended by your statement that "an atheist having to spend eternity with God would find that constant proof that they were wrong agony". I would find it, initially, very surprising but not agony.


    Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
    [ Parent ]
    Meh? (none / 0) (#436)
    by jmzero on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:43:29 AM EST

    In order to say something like "Suffering helps us grow" is a way out of the evil problem, one has to also accept that God is not literally omnipotent.  If God was, then God could accomplish the same growth in you without the suffering - he could just instantly make you progress into whatever you were going to become after all that suffering.  

    Again, you have to give up omnipotence or benevolence.  If you've already given one of these up, then there's no paradox anymore.
    .
    "Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
    [ Parent ]

    Not really (none / 0) (#463)
    by Wah on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:38:37 AM EST

    If God was, then God could accomplish the same growth in you without the suffering - he could just instantly make you progress into whatever you were going to become after all that suffering.

    But what would be the point then? Surely someone as wise as God would realize that to simply warp  a contestant to the end of the race isn't as worthwhile as running the whole thing.  Nor are they the same thing.
    --
    Life is a strange state of matter.
    [ Parent ]

    But (none / 0) (#564)
    by hstink on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:48:41 PM EST

    God already knows the outcome of the race, so it seems his watching of it play out is solely for his own amusement.

    -h

    [ Parent ]

    possibly (none / 0) (#583)
    by Wah on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:25:49 PM EST

    God already knows the outcome of the race, so it seems his watching of it play out is solely for his own amusement.

    And no doubt, his own suffering.  Also, it is our race now, not his. (also, check this thread so you know where I'm coming from.)
    --
    Life is a strange state of matter.
    [ Parent ]

    OK, you don't get it. (none / 0) (#569)
    by jmzero on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:57:19 PM EST

    So what you're saying is that there's benefits in the journey.  That's fine.  However, a truly omnipotent God could realize all those benefits without the journey.

    Whatever the "point" is, an omnipotent God could get to that point without any bad stuff happening in between.  Go ahead and list off all the benefits of your hypothetical race.  Perhaps it would make you stronger, or more determined.  Each and every one of those could be accomplished instantaneously by an omnipotent, loving God without the pain of the run.  

    For example: If there's a great future for you involving eternity if heaven, why doesn't God just send you to that future now?  Heck, he could even give you the memories of a lifetime of pain  if somehow that makes things better while you're chugging ambrosia in eternal bliss.

    If you say he can't get to "the point" without "the run", then he's not omnipotent in any absolute sense.  

    Omnipotent God, benevolent God, and suffering.  You can only choose two.
    .
    "Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
    [ Parent ]

    Neither do you... (none / 0) (#581)
    by Wah on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:22:56 PM EST

    ..but that's because we are talking around each other.  To wit,

    If there's a great future for you involving eternity if heaven, why doesn't God just send you to that future now?  Heck, he could even give you the memories of a lifetime of pain  if somehow that makes things better while you're chugging ambrosia in eternal bliss.

    How is that not precisely what he is doing?  One must remember that the concept of time doesn't really apply to this type of being, only to us.

    And using "he" is generally a stretch for me.  Check this thread so we can at least have an idea how far our conceptions of "him" are apart.

    If you say he can't get to "the point" without "the run", then he's not omnipotent in any absolute sense.

    Yes, "he" still can be.  He just knows that to do so invalidates any purpose that might come from "the run".  You are prescribing a course of action that you would take, given that you were omnipotent and omnibenevolent.  To prescibe an action to god, in a sense saying that he would be forced to take that action because of your logical interpretation of his essense, is to not understand fully the word you are using so frequently, IMVHO.
    --
    Life is a strange state of matter.
    [ Parent ]

    Muh? (none / 0) (#587)
    by jmzero on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:36:57 PM EST

    Yes, "he" still can be.  He just knows that to do so invalidates any purpose that might come from "the run"

    I think you're missing it.  If he (and I'll say "he" because it simplifies typing) wants to get to the purpose, he's there.  What the Hell is his purpose that it's going to get invalidated?  And why would he have to invalidate any purpose in order to get "there"?  Can't he get there without invalidating anything (whatever the Hell that means)?  

    Again, I don't think you've come to grasp with the implications of absolute omnipotence.  Absolute omnipotence means being able to reach any and all your conceivable goals without compromising any other goal.  If you can't do that, you're not absolutely omnipotent.  

    Being omnipotent means all your goals are 100% realized.  Does the current world look like 100% of a benevolent God's goals have been realized?  I sure hope not.  And if that's your answer: "Things are perfect!", then you've got a very different view of benevolence than I do.

    And so what if "time has no meaning", or whatever other handwaving you might imagine?  All God's goals should be completely realized now, and at every other time/space/place in the whole mishmash.  Saying otherwise is to say that God is not omnipotent.
    .
    "Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
    [ Parent ]

    All righty then (none / 0) (#809)
    by Wah on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 10:07:19 AM EST

    We'll try and change tacks since this line of reasoning doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

    First let's address some stuff.

    And so what if "time has no meaning", or whatever other handwaving you might imagine?  

    The hand isn't waving, it's pointing to statements like this...

    Being omnipotent means all your goals are 100% realized.  Does the current world look like 100% of a benevolent God's goals have been realized?  

    Time it still moving for us so any goals that might be desired still have plenty of time to get there.  From his perspective, this isn't a problem (since he's a being for which time has no meaning).  

    Again, I don't think you've come to grasp with the implications of absolute omnipotence.  

    Hmm, "absolute omnipotence", is that like redundant redundancy?  :-)  The problem here is that the way you seem to think an omnipotent being would act, might not be as that same being does, especially if it is omniscient, since you aren't.  Perhaps it knows that freedom of action is more important than absolute protection from harm.

    For an example on why, let's take everyone favorite billionaire, Bill Gates, as an example.  This is certainly not meant to be a very literal metaphor, but Mr. Gates does serve as an example of relative omnipotence.

    So Mr. Gates has a child.  Would it be worthwhile for him to give this child every thing that it ever wants immediately?  Would that be wise?  Surely he would only want the best for the child and would want it to never have to experience great pain and suffering, so we have the "omnibenevolence" angle covered also, but that doesn't mean that all his goals for the child could be realized immediately.   This is especially true if he has the goal for that child to learn the game of life for itself, with the help of its peers.

    In this sense you are saying that he should, because of omni-b, want to give the child everything the child desires, even if the child wanted 200 loaded hand guns to play with.  Or any other number of dangerous things.  One cannot judge the child's creator lacking because it does not follow the logical processes and grant every wish of that child.

    So we have two points here for you to attack. The big one is the question you have yet to address, that is, why does your logical system, as a puny human, apply to a tri-omni being.  The second is the time "hand having", something that's terribly difficult to understand from the perspective of a being that is limited by this factor.  

    And I know the Gates metaphor is easy as hell to pull apart, there's no need to.  Just answer the part of the argument it tries to address, which is simply, that a tri-omni being should give its object of attention anything that object desires, immediately and without question.  

    I don't really expect to convince you of anything, you seem rather set in your convictions, but I rather like discussions like this, so by all means take it the next step.
    --
    Life is a strange state of matter.
    [ Parent ]

    You still don't see. (none / 0) (#814)
    by jmzero on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 10:39:41 AM EST

    Perhaps it knows that freedom of action is more important than absolute protection from harm.

    An omnipotent being doesn't have to choose.  As I said before, being omnipotent means realizing 100% of your goals - including protecting from harm and allowing freedom of action.  If you say that it's impossible to satisfy both, then you've put a limit on the power of God.  

    This is why I keep saying "absolute omnipotence".  I think you're imagining a God that's "practically omnipotent", one who can control time and space and whatever else.  

    However, things become harder to understand when that God can also change the laws of logic, make 2+2=7, and do - literally - everything else.   This kind of God doesn't have to do things "that will turn out good, but are bad now because that's how it has to be".  This kind of God skips straight to the very best, and can impose that perfect state on every situation throughout time and space.

    And if you're thinking "but to do that, he'd have to compromise free will" or something like that, then you're still missing it.  The truly omnipotent God could do all this without invalidating any purpose, having any uinintended consequence, violating any free will, or endangering anything whatsoever.  Even if it makes no logical sense, an omnipotent God could do it.
    .
    "Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
    [ Parent ]

    I got it (none / 0) (#822)
    by Wah on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 11:24:30 AM EST

    I understand what you are saying.  Now answer this question.

    Even if it makes no logical sense, an omnipotent God could do it.

    But why would he want to?  

    Just because one can do something, it doesn't mean one has to.  
    --
    Life is a strange state of matter.
    [ Parent ]

    Indeed (none / 0) (#826)
    by jmzero on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 11:53:31 AM EST

    But why would he want to?  

    Why would he want to make the universe a perfect representation of all that is good and is his will?  Because the God we're postulating is benevolent.  

    All I'm saying in talking about "doing things that make no sense" is that there's nothing standing in the way of him getting his benevolent goals accomplished - and he can accomplish them while satisfying any conditions he likes and not invalidating or harming any goal he has.  And if it takes breaking logical sense to do that, he can.  

    Alternatively, if he decides he wants to get it done without making a mockery of logic, then he can do it that way too.  That's another benefit of being absolutely omnipotent - not only can you do things that make no sense or are contradictory (like exist and not exist, or impose a perfect state while preserving free will), but you can make those ideas perfectly logical and conformant to any goal you'd like.

    The simplest, and most satisfying way out of this mess is to say "Even God has to follow some rules, such as avoiding contradictions."  From there, you can reason and have it make sense.  You can start saying things like "This is unpleasant, but it's for the best" or "God is doing this in the best way possible."

    With an absolutely omnipotent God, that last sentence doesn't make much sense - because there is no distinguishing between possible and impossible.
    .
    "Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
    [ Parent ]

    Sorry for taking so long to get back (none / 0) (#1059)
    by Wah on Wed Oct 23, 2002 at 09:16:32 AM EST

    but this general discussion is pretty much over.

    Because the God we're postulating is benevolent.  

    Yes, but as I tried to illustrate with the simple Gates metaphor was that our understanding of "benevolent" is not the same as his.

    You can start saying things like "This is unpleasant, but it's for the best" or "God is doing this in the best way possible."

    With an absolutely omnipotent God, that last sentence doesn't make much sense - because there is no distinguishing between possible and impossible.

    All you need to do is remove that last "possible" from the previous sentence.  Saying that "God is doing this the best way impossible" does not make sense, so there is a distinguishing characteristic.
    --
    Life is a strange state of matter.
    [ Parent ]

    Hmmm (none / 0) (#1061)
    by jmzero on Wed Oct 23, 2002 at 03:47:36 PM EST

    The Gates metaphor is completely invalid because Gates is not absolutely omnipotent (close though :), and thus he has to choose which of his goals he wants to fulfill.  It might give some insight into how a "practically omnipotent" God might operate, but none into discussion of an "absolutely omnipotent" one.  An omnipotent God, by definition, does not have to make this kind of choice.  I didn't bother responding to it before, because I thought I had made that distinction more clear.  

    And there's no analogy that's going to fix the problem - an omnipotent God can accomplish all his goals at once without invalidating any other.  He thus has a situation irrelevant to any that a human or "practically omnipotent" God might have.  He has no varying interests to balance and no concerns - all goals can simply be met.  It's not a choice between "do I make people 100% happy" or "do I help them become better people", it's both - and magnified to infinity instantly and across all time/whatever.

    All you need to do is remove that last "possible" from the previous sentence.  Saying that "God is doing this the best way impossible" does not make sense, so there is a distinguishing characteristic

    You're missing the distinction.

    "God is doing this the best way" and "God is doing this the best way possible" are very different things to say.

    There's lots of conceivable ways of doing things that are not possible - for example, ways that involve contradictions.  Imagine I had two apples in one basket and two apples in another, and that I wanted five apples.  If I was a truly omnipotent God, I could simply make it the case that I had 5 apples, while still only having two baskets with two apples in each.  There's lots of difference between "doing things in the best way" and "best way possible" and I specifically chose the latter for my conception of a reasonable, "practically omnipotent" God.

    Simply put, a truly omnipotent God has no "excuse" for the universe not to be a perpetual sea of perfection, from all angles and all times and all everything.  And if you think there "would have to be" some good characteristic (like free will, or whatever) missing from the perfect universe, then you've placed a limit on the power of that God (which I think is the only way to resolve this whole thing).
    .
    "Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
    [ Parent ]

    Kalam (3.60 / 5) (#246)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:11:17 AM EST

    The Kalam argument was not sufficiently explored in the article, but the proposed defeaters to the arugment are lacking.

    The Kalam cosomological arugment begins with the observation that things exist. Under the epistemology section of the article, definite knowledge of the universe is pictured as impossible, but a simple thought experiment can show that at least one thing can be known: you exist.

    Saddle up; here's how to proceed.

    Step 1: Try to doubt everything -- your sensory input, the completeness of your logic system, or the sufficiency of your experience. Doubt it all. Regardless of what you deny, there's one thing you can't.

    You exist. Maybe not the way you think you exist -- even if you're just a dreaming butterfly or something -- but there's a you that's just been busy tring to doubt everything. (If this sounds familiar, think Rene Descartes. Y'know, cogito, ergo sum: I think, therefore I am.)

    So, something actually exists. Namely, you. Whatever you are, you exist in some kind of universe (even if you're the only thing in it, but I think your friends wouldn't agree with that idea).

    Step 2: If the universe exists, is it eternal, or did it come into being?

    We've already established that the universe exists, so is it eternal? The article states that modern mathematics answers this first point in the Kalam argument, but that's simply false. You cannot have a universe that has existed from the infinite past because you'd never get to now. Here's why: just like you can't actualize an infinite count by simply adding 1 to some prior number (completing an incompletable series, which is mathematically and logically contradictory), you can't do it the other way (into the past) either. Now would be the completion of an incompletable series, and that's not possible. The 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy) also demonstrates this, because since the universe naturally dissipates energy over time, the universe would have suffered from universal heat death an eternity ago. So, the universe cannot be eternal -- it must have come into existence at some point in the past.

    Could the universe be circular, sidestepping the infinite regress problem? First, there is no evidence whatsoever that the circularity argument is true. Second, even if it was, the existence of the universe itself demands an explanation. For the same reasons outlined above, the universe cannot have been exploding and contracting into the infinite past.

    Step 3: If the universe came into existence, was its beginning caused, or uncaused?

    What does an "uncaused coming into being" look like? Well, people have described this as the universe popping into existence out of nowhere and caused by nothing, and that's simply impossible. What comes from nothing? (This isn't hard.) That's right. Nothing. If the universe exists, and it does (remember?), it can't have just popped into existence from nowhere without a cause. It must have been caused.

    Step 4: If the universe was caused, was that cause personal or impersonal?

    There are only two kinds of causes: event causes and personal causes. If one doesn't suffice, we always, always fall back to the other. If the universe was caused by a series of events (like one domino striking another, then another, then another, etc.), then you're back to an infinite regression, which we've already demonstrated to be impossible. The universe requires a personal cause.

    A personal cause that is independent of the universe, pre-existent of the universe, uncaused in itself (otherwise, infinite regress again!), eternal (otherwise it wouldn't exist)....

    Everything the Christian concept of "natural revelation" tells us about the Uncreated Creator.

    The article equivocates on the meaning of the "universe" in attempting to answer the Kalam argument, in that it states that God is part of the universe. Notice, though, that that's not part of the actual, classical Kalam argument. The universe is identified as the observable creation (both physical and metaphysical). God is separate from the universe in the argument, not part of it, so God does not fall under the argument Himself. As defined in the Judeo-Christian sense, God is self-existent and is not the kind of being that comes into being.

    Now, maybe I'm wrong. But if I am, you'd have to show me that the universe is eternal, which is mathematically and scientifically impossible, or that the universe popped into existence from nothing, fully-charged with energy, or that it came into existence through some series of prior events, which is also impossible.

    In your own words... (4.80 / 5) (#260)
    by GhostfacedFiddlah on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:11:00 AM EST

    As defined in the Judeo-Christian sense, God is self-existent and is not the kind of being that comes into being.

    This exact argument can be used in step 2, when you try to disprove circular universes, infinite regression, etc.

    "As defined in the Ghostfaced-Fiddlah sense, the universe is self-existent and is not the kind of universe that comes into being"

    How can you define one set (the universe) as *requiring* a cause and a pinched-off timeline, and not require another arbitrary set (let's call him "God") to be bound the same way? There's no logic leading up to the "god is not the kind of being that comes into being" argument.

    [ Parent ]

    ... and as this relates to Zeno's Paradox (4.60 / 5) (#261)
    by Majromax on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:11:19 AM EST

    We've already established that the universe exists, so is it eternal? The article states that modern mathematics answers this first point in the Kalam argument, but that's simply false. You cannot have a universe that has existed from the infinite past because you'd never get to now . Here's why: just like you can't actualize an infinite count by simply adding 1 to some prior number (completing an incompletable series, which is mathematically and logically contradictory), you can't do it the other way (into the past) either. Now would be the completion of an incompletable series, and that's not possible.
    Unfortinately for your argument, this is substantially similar to Zeno's Paradox, which is obviously absurd. To summarize:

    1. Presume a wolf is chasing a rabbit. The wolf, in this case, is faster than the rabbit.
    2. The rabbit runs away from the wolf; the wolf pursues. At time T, the wolf is at position x and the rabbit is at position y, y > x.
    3. The wolf will reach position y at time T2. However, at this point, the rabbit will have advanced some, so it will now be at position z, z > y > x.
    4. By induction, whenever the wolf reaches the rabbit's previous position, the rabbit will have advanced.
    5. Therefore, the wolf will never reach the rabbit.

    This argument is patently absurd, but it does serve as a good warning to anyone who carelessly thinks about infinites. As this relates to your agument, consider something more concrete:

    On your way to Alpha Centauri, you pass by a casket, moving at a fairly considerable clip through this side of intragalactic space. Posit, for the moment, that there are no net external forces on this body (and there never were nor would there ever be) -- by your argument, the casket could never be there because it wouldn't have had time to get there, but it's obviously there, and you can trace its position for arbitrary time forwards or backwards.

    This leads to an important conclusion: in reversible systems, only the system's current state needs to be known for complete knowledge of the system's future or past. In short: an infinite universe does not need a beginning -- any reversible system operating on an infinite grid can be traced into an arbitrary previous position, meaning that it has no beginning (as the definition of 'beginning' is formally the time for which there is no previous time).

    The standing questions, then, are whether the universe is reversible and whether it is infinite. To the first question, I point out our conservation laws (of Mass, Energy, Momentum) -- since material can be neither created nor destroyed, if the universe is deterministic it is reversible; whether the universe is deterministic is the new (and IMO far more interesting) question. I also have no real answer on the second point, but I'd also like to point out that the universe only needs infinite spatial precision with some finite size for it to satisfy the question of infinites.

    The 2nd law of thermodynamics (entropy) also demonstrates this, because since the universe naturally dissipates energy over time, the universe would have suffered from universal heat death an eternity ago. So, the universe cannot be eternal -- it must have come into existence at some point in the past.
    There are two general rebuttals to this point:

    First, the laws of thermodynamics are like any other law -- they are dependant on the fundamental constants and operations of the universe. If these constants aren't really constants, then all bets are off.

    Second, the laws of thermodynamics are also only statistical models, just like current Quantumn theory is -- for suitably infinite time, even a completely random system will generate an arbitrarially large number of monkeys typing up shakespeare while wearing Dole Bananas on their heads. In short, thermodynamic arguments don't apply to infinite-time arguments, unless you wish to argue statistics [which are completely invalid when trying for an absolute disproof].

    [ Parent ]

    Similar, but not equal (3.50 / 2) (#442)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:52:51 AM EST

    Unfortinately for your argument, this is substantially similar to Zeno's Paradox, which is obviously absurd.
    Yes, Zeno's Paradox is absurd because it does not take into account the fact that the distance between the wolf and the rabbit closes to zero at some time T(x), because the wolf's velocity is greater than the rabbit's.

    My argument is simply that you cannot actualize infinity because no matter what number x you reach in your count from 0, you will always have an infinite count ahead of you. For every x, there exists x+1. Infinity is an incompletable series, and by definition, you cannot complete an incompletable series. If that's a series of numbers in addition, a series of "moments" in time, or a series of peas on a conveyor belt, it's the same problem. And if you can't do it forward in time, you can't do it backward in time, either. Now, in this case, would be the completion of the infinite amount of time before now. Since an incompletable series cannot be completed, that cannot be true. In order for now to exist, there must be a finite amout of time before now.
    On your way to Alpha Centauri, you pass by a casket, moving at a fairly considerable clip through this side of intragalactic space. Posit, for the moment, that there are no net external forces on this body (and there never were nor would there ever be) -- by your argument, the casket could never be there because it wouldn't have had time to get there, but it's obviously there, and you can trace its position for arbitrary time forwards or backwards.
    This is not my argument, but a caricature of it. You are asking us to posit that this casket never began moving at a "fairly considerable clip," but did so eternally (because "there never were nor would there ever be" net external forces on it). How did it begin moving through space? It didn't. It just always has been. I'd posit that I wouldn't have the slightest problem with coming across this casket on my way to Alpha Centauri, but I'd know -- just as you know intuitively -- that it hasn't moved through space eternally. The problem isn't that the casket is where it is, but that it couldn't have been on its way forever. It must have started its journey if it ever got to where I found it.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: Re: Zeno (5.00 / 2) (#654)
    by Majromax on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:17:01 PM EST

    Now, in this case, would be the completion of the infinite amount of time before now. Since an incompletable series cannot be completed, that cannot be true. In order for now to exist, there must be a finite amout of time before now.
    Ah, but you presuppose a beginning at the beginning. :)

    The point I was (apparently unsuccessfully) trying to make was that an infinite universe does not necessarially (and in fact, by your argument) cannot begin at the beginning because it does not have one -- it only has a 'present', and the existance of the present does not necessarially mean that the past was ever the present (although it was always the past).

    Imagine this -- the Universe is really some cosmic grad student's thesis, and it came into being when he set up all the little subatomic particles in all of their little positons and let it run. The universe could have been set up 15 billion years ago (in our time), or it could have been set up yesterday, and there is no way to tell -- in either case, (presupposing, again, a reversible universe) the past is infinite.

    This is really one argument where the religious dogma is somewhere close to correct -- the First Cause[1], by its very nature, exists outside of our notion of time. In the thought experiment, the universe was set up at some q-time, which has absolutely no relation to time as we know it -- we have absolutely no way of knowing at what point in our time the First Cause happened, because time (again presumably) extends infinitely in both directions. Time can be both infinite and continuous with us still existing.

    The only thing implied by an infinite-time universe is that there is no beginning, but the interesting thing about dealing with infinite time is that it doesn't matter.

    [1] -- God can always be defined as First Cause, the (possibly collection of) event(s) that would violate causality to create the Universe As We Know It (generally the answer to the question 'where did the matter come from', although as I said above the noncausal events don't have to be at any particular moment in time). The only problem is that once you define God as something that invariably exists, you're still on no firmer ground defining the properties of such a God.

    [ Parent ]

    Its an interesting argument, but (none / 0) (#268)
    by kholmes on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:14:52 AM EST

    Since everything we know is about the universe, we could know nothing about anything before the universe. Since to create the universe, your "god" being would have to exist before its creation. Your personal/impersonal dichotomy depends upon our knowledge of the universe. Therefore, you do not know if your personal/impersonal dichotomy is true before the existance of the universe. I suppose this is also an argument for agnostism now that I think about it.

    And yeah, there's that whole universe = universe - God is a pain in the ass too.

    Besides, what point is there in arguing that God is defined as "whatever it is that got this whole shebang going"?

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]

    Subtraction (none / 0) (#320)
    by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:57:59 AM EST

    "And yeah, there's that whole universe = universe - God is a pain in the ass too."
    How dare you subtract the Almighty!!
    Hell += you;


    ---
    Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
    [ Parent ]
    Knowing what came before (none / 0) (#452)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:07:30 AM EST

    Since everything we know is about the universe, we could know nothing about anything before the universe.
    On the contrary: knowing what we know about the universe indicates that the universe itself requires an independent, transcendent personal cause. That's the point of the argument.
    Since to create the universe, your "god" being would have to exist before its creation.
    Yes. What's wrong with that?
    Your personal/impersonal dichotomy depends upon our knowledge of the universe. Therefore, you do not know if your personal/impersonal dichotomy is true before the existance of the universe.
    There's nothing in the knowledge that a cause is either personal or impersonal that is dependent upon one's knowledge of the universe. The personal/impersonal dichotomy is a simple observation that either the cause was personal or it wasn't. That's simple logic. I know that either the cause of the universe was personal or it wasn't. It wasn't kinda personal and kinda impersonal. It had to be one or the other. I argued that an impersonal cause is absurd, so the cause must be personal.
    I suppose this is also an argument for agnostism now that I think about it.

    Besides, what point is there in arguing that God is defined as "whatever it is that got this whole shebang going"?
    If the universe is real, finite, and created by a personal cause, that puts a demand on us to at least recognize who that personal cause is. If we admit that the universe is not an illusion, is not eternal in itself, didn't just pop into existence by itself all charged up with energy, and isn't the result of some series of prior events and still don't recognize the Creator, then there's no excuse for saying that we cannot know that the Creator exists (much less saying that we do know the Creator does not exist).

    [ Parent ]
    Simple logic (none / 0) (#765)
    by kholmes on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 02:23:40 AM EST

    "There's nothing in the knowledge that a cause is either personal or impersonal that is dependent upon one's knowledge of the universe. The personal/impersonal dichotomy is a simple observation that either the cause was personal or it wasn't. That's simple logic. I know that either the cause of the universe was personal or it wasn't. It wasn't kinda personal and kinda impersonal. It had to be one or the other. I argued that an impersonal cause is absurd, so the cause must be personal."

    Thats the thing. We don't know yet, as much as I know, if the rules of logic are part of the universe. I've been told that logic is based upon the law of non-contradiction. Indeed, you used it in your proof "either its personal or impersonal, both would be a contradiction". Yet how do we know that contradictions are impossible before there is a universe?

    I know I sound crazy; that is because philosophy is based upon logic. Yet we must question the basis upon which philosophy is built, and if what we know is based upon the universe I doubt we can say anything at all about what happened before its creation.

    If you treat people as most people treat things and treat things as most people treat people, you might be a Randian.
    [ Parent ]

    Careful there (none / 0) (#282)
    by xriso on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:56:18 AM EST

    Normally, we can say that having a Beginning (boundary of time) means that something is Caused. However, it's quite difficult to make this connection when you're dealing with the creation of time itself. I have heard things about some "space-time theorem of Hawking and Penrose" which states that there must be a cause (not just beginning) of space and time. I have no idea whether this is a true theorem or what.

    (Anyway we could still be boring and say that there is some mechanism trancendent of our universe that made it, so the space-time theorem doesn't help too much)

    The mathematical argument you presented against an infinite past doesn't really work. However, there is a scientific argument that works quite well (Big Bang), and all it requires is the law of general relativity. Also, as you noted, entropy does a good job of this too. :-) (Apparently there is good evidence that the universe will expand forever, which basically shuts the door on a cyclical universe). Still, "begins" isn't "caused".

    I agree with your point about popping into existence. "Popping" like this requires a time to operate in, but the time dimension of our universe will not suffice for this, thus there exists another time dimension if the universe has popped into existence. Of course, who says it has to pop into existence? Remember my note about beginning and causing above.

    Anyway, if you buy that the universe must be caused, then we can get into the whole stuff about infinite regression of cause. I'm currently thinking up a proof for a Prime Mover, but it's in the undeveloped stage right now.

    I'm kind of wary of your event-cause and person-cause thing, because there might be a third type of cause, and that blows Step 4 to smithereens.
    --
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
    [ Parent ]

    Thx (none / 0) (#420)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:23:14 AM EST

    Thanks for your reply, xriso. I appreciate the care you've taken in your response.
    The mathematical argument you presented against an infinite past doesn't really work. However, there is a scientific argument that works quite well (Big Bang), and all it requires is the law of general relativity. Also, as you noted, entropy does a good job of this too. :-) (Apparently there is good evidence that the universe will expand forever, which basically shuts the door on a cyclical universe). Still, "begins" isn't "caused".
    If the universe has existed from the infinite past, you could never get to now because now would be the completion of an infinite (by definition, incompletable) series of "moments" in time. I don't see how that's a flawed argument -- a little hard to get a brain around, granted, but I don't see the flaw. If you've completed the incompletable, that's absurd. The way I've formed the argument, either the universe is infinite or finite. If it can't be infinite, it must be finite, right?
    Still, "begins" isn't "caused".
    I agree. That's why there's a section of the arugment that distinguishes caused beginning from uncaused beginning. If the universe was uncaused, then it had to simply begin without any plan, purpose, prior event, or person to begin it. The universe would have to spontaneously come into existence out of nothing, and as I said, nothing comes from nothing. This particular beginning requires a cause.
    I'm kind of wary of your event-cause and person-cause thing, because there might be a third type of cause, and that blows Step 4 to smithereens.
    Fair enough. What other kinds of causes might there be? If the effect of the universe is neither the result of some previous series of events nor the result of a personal will, what else is there?

    [ Parent ]
    Infinite time. (none / 0) (#449)
    by zakalwe on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:03:05 AM EST

    If the universe has existed from the infinite past, you could never get to now
    I don't really think you can say this. The problem is that you're using terms that only make sense for finite quantitys. If time stretches infinitely in both directions then there is no "start" that we "get here" from, any more than "0" can't exist on a number line because you can never get there from negative infinity. If you talk about "getting here" then you're implicitely assuming a start point we got here from - which doesn't exist if there's infinite time.

    The universe would have to spontaneously come into existence out of nothing, and as I said, nothing comes from nothing. This particular beginning requires a cause.
    Doesn't this contradict yourself? If nothing is uncaused, then presumably the cause of the universe has a cause, and so does the cause of the cause, and so on, so you end up with infinite time after all. The only way out is if something is caused by nothing, or something along the line has infinite duration. You can indulge in special pleading and call the infinite entity God, but you have to say why the infinite duration couldn't apply to the universe instead, or you're just needlessly multiplying entitys.

    [ Parent ]
    Why not? (2.00 / 1) (#509)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:58:12 PM EST

    If time stretches infinitely in both directions then there is no "start" that we "get here" from, any more than "0" can't exist on a number line because you can never get there from negative infinity.
    Your number line example is flawed because you cannot have a number line with a real negative infinity, but only a theoretical or symbolic negative infinity. You cannot actualize an infinity because to do so requires the completion of an incompletable series. If the past is infinitely long, then the traversal of all the moments preceding now would be the completion of an incompletable series, which, again, is self-defeating.
    If nothing is uncaused, then presumably the cause of the universe has a cause, and so does the cause of the cause, and so on, so you end up with infinite time after all.
    That's true--if nothing is uncaused. But I didn't say that nothing is uncaused. I gave an argument that demonstrates that if the universe is real and has a beginning, then that beginning must be caused. This does not say that there are no things that are uncaused, nor does it require that all things that exist necessarily have a beginning. Rather, it requires that something exists that is eternal, uncaused, and personal.
    You can indulge in special pleading and call the infinite entity God,...
    From the argument I've presented, what else would you call it?
    ...but you have to say why the infinite duration couldn't apply to the universe instead, or you're just needlessly multiplying entitys.
    I've already given my argument for why the infinite duration cannot apply to the universe, and the argument also illustrates why the eternal, transcendent, uncaused, personal entity is necessary to explain effect of the universe. If my argument is sound, then my "multiplying of entities" is necessary, not "unnecessary."

    [ Parent ]
    Uncaused AND Eternal? (none / 0) (#789)
    by zakalwe on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 06:04:57 AM EST

    If the past is infinitely long, then the traversal of all the moments preceding now would be the completion of an incompletable series
    But the point is that there is no such traversal, anymore than there is a traversal from -inf to reach 0. Any given point you pick in the past will be a finite time ago. You can't pick the "start" of time to come from because there is no such thing - time stretches infinitely back.
    But I didn't say that nothing is uncaused. I gave an argument that demonstrates that if the universe is real and has a beginning, then that beginning must be caused.
    As far as I can see, your argument for the universe requiring a cause was that nothing is uncaused. You said:
    Well, people have described this as the universe popping into existence out of nowhere and caused by nothing, and that's simply impossible. What comes from nothing? (This isn't hard.) That's right. Nothing.
    If your reason that the universe having a cause is that nothing is uncaused, you can't take that back and throw in an uncaused God without some explanation as to how "God" can be uncaused but the universe can't.
    Rather, it requires that something exists that is eternal, uncaused, and personal.
    You're confusing me further. You've argued that nothing can be uncaused and that nothing can be eternal, and then say that something is both? As for what I would call an uncaused cause, or an eternal entity, "God" seems a rather bad name, since it has connotations of a being with some high order of sentience, whereas nothing about "uncaused cause" or "eternal entity" implies this - why couldn't the Big band be an uncaused cause, or the universe be eternal?

    [ Parent ]
    Eternal Now, Infinite Past & Future (none / 0) (#352)
    by slur on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:01:01 AM EST

    One way of solving the paradox of an infinite past is to posit that only the Now truly exists, and that we can project any amount of past and future as our imagination allows. Given the complete state of the present, including the conditioned contents of our brain matter and historical record, any past that fits is perfectly acceptable as true.

    If only the Now exists then Zeno's paradox is solved. The state of the present proves that the present state is possible. Extending this, we can manufacture any past we wish. The chain of material cause is simply the one we are habituated towards by our focus on the macroscopic level of sensory experience.

    I believe quantum physics somewhat supports this view. Sometimes an experimental outcome causes the wave interference pattern to go away in carefully designed "slit" experiments. The "past" seems to be deferential to ultimate actualities (i.e., observed outcomes).

    If, as many are coming to realize, all energy and matter is simply a field of pure awareness then time - in all directions - is just a projection emanating from the eternal present.

    The question of whether the Eternal Now emanates from God or from some other source becomes a bit meaningless in this context. Existence could be projected from any source, personal or impersonal, or both... or neither! It all depends on which level you look at. "Personal" beings like you and I are composite entities made up from an infinite number of "impersonal" entities (to use the convention of particles). If, as bubbles in an ocean of pure consciousness, our infinitesimal sub-parts collude to project this shared reality, perhaps those infinite impersonal entities simultaneously project an infinite number of co-existent realities, each with its own continuum and self-generating completeness.


    |
    | slur was here
    |

    [ Parent ]

    Huh? (none / 0) (#426)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:33:38 AM EST

    One way of solving the paradox of an infinite past is to posit that only the Now truly exists, and that we can project any amount of past and future as our imagination allows.
    So, only "now" exists, and "then" is just a figment of your imagination.
    I believe quantum physics somewhat supports this view.
    So, an experimental result that occurred in the imaginary "then" is used to defend the existence of only the "now"? I've read about the slit experiments that you cite, and they appear to be fundamentally flawed in the thought that the observed outcomes do not agree with the expected result if only a single photon is released from the energy source. The simplest explanation of those results is that their understanding of the photon is flawed, not that there are "an infinite number of co-existent realities".

    [ Parent ]
    Your arguments have some flaws (4.00 / 1) (#456)
    by dnix on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:23:46 AM EST

    Actually, your argument against a universe that has existed for an infinite amount of time fails because you are misusing the concept of infinity. Any two points have a finite distance between them, even if the line on which they lie is infinite in length. You seem to be saying that we can never get from the beginning of time to the present. Yes, it is true, it will take an infinite amount of time to travel an infinite distance, but this tautology has no bearing upon your argument. For, if you grant that the universe has been in existence forever, it in fact has no beginning. This of course in turn means that it has no need for a First Cause, as the concept of something coming first, i.e., before the beginning of something that has no beginning, is meaningless.

    Similarly, your second point, that a finite universe must necessarily have a cause (that through which the universe came to be) is somewhat flawed as well. You posit that an uncaused beginning is a beginning "caused by nothing," but this is slightly wrong-headed. You see, there is a difference between the idea that the universe simply came to be, with no cause, and the idea that the universe had was "caused by nothing." The latter presupposes that the doctrine of causation (every effect must have a prior cause) was in effect prior to the existence of the universe. However, what if causation only became a necessity when the universe began? That is, what if causation is a property of the universe and things in it, but no more than that? It is, as you say, tough to get your mind around, but, if we posit that this is the case, then certainly uncaused beginnings such as the generation of the universe are very possible.

    [ Parent ]

    To Clarify.... (4.00 / 1) (#529)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:27:21 PM EST

    You seem to be saying that we can never get from the beginning of time to the present.
    I'm saying that, if the universe is eternal, the traversal of all the moments up to the present is the completion of an incompletable series, which is self-contradictory.
    You see, there is a difference between the idea that the universe simply came to be, with no cause, and the idea that the universe had was "caused by nothing."
    Oh? If the universe came to be with no cause, then the universe was caused by nothing (lacking a cause). The meaning should be evident from the statement that the universe's beginning is either caused or uncaused (lacking a cause), but even if I grant you that the language I used there is problematic, the underlying concept -- that the universe would have had to come into being without cause -- is no less problematic.
    However, what if causation only became a necessity when the universe began? That is, what if causation is a property of the universe and things in it, but no more than that? It is, as you say, tough to get your mind around, but, if we posit that this is the case, then certainly uncaused beginnings such as the generation of the universe are very possible.
    What reason, what argument can you provide to demonstrate that is actually the case? That's a nice bedtime story, but what does it have to do with the facts as we actually encounter them? I'm not persuaded to simply say that the laws of causation only hold in the physical universe just because they are otherwise inconvenient to my theology. In other words, there's no reason to believe that the laws of causation did not hold with the creation of the universe without a compelling argument supporting that notion. Otherwise, it's perfectly sound to argue from analogy that all effects that we observe require a sufficient cause, to determine (as my argument attempts) that the universe cannot come into being without cause, and to question what cause could bring about an effect like the universe.

    [ Parent ]
    bedtime story, eh? (4.00 / 1) (#571)
    by dnix on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:06:25 PM EST

    I'm saying that, if the universe is eternal, the traversal of all the moments up to the present is the completion of an incompletable series, which is self-contradictory.

    And I am saying that does not make your point for you. Sure, it will take an infinite amount of time to complete an infinite series. That is the whole point of infinite time - it takes forever to transverse it! However, it does not actually help your argument. The only way there would be a problem would be if you tried to start at the beginning of time and move forward to the present. However (and this is where your analogy to a mathematical series falls apart), if the timeline for the universe is infinite, there is never any beginning to the series, just as there is no end. If you allow that the universe's timeline is infinite, you have disallowed any search for a beginning to the universe, and therefore your whole argument fails. Also, note that any two points within time have a finite distance between them, which can be traversed in a finite amount of time. The fact that the universal timeline is infinite does not mean time does not flow.

    What reason, what argument can you provide to demonstrate that is actually the case? That's a nice bedtime story, but what does it have to do with the facts as we actually encounter them? I'm not persuaded to simply say that the laws of causation only hold in the physical universe just because they are otherwise inconvenient to my theology. In other words, there's no reason to believe that the laws of causation did not hold with the creation of the universe without a compelling argument supporting that notion. Otherwise, it's perfectly sound to argue from analogy that all effects that we observe require a sufficient cause, to determine (as my argument attempts) that the universe cannot come into being without cause, and to question what cause could bring about an effect like the universe.

    The argument for my position is simply exactly what I stated: it is no more or less reasonable to assume that causation is a property of the universe (and therefore did not exist prior to the creation of the universe) than it is to assume that causation is universally true, independent of the existence of the universe. Any argument you make along those lines will basically be something like, "well, causation exists within the universe, so I can assume it exists without as well." You have no way to back this up, other than "well, it makes sense to me," which is something I could argue with respect to my suggestion as well: "Causation exists within the universe, so it must be a property of the universe and not exist independently of it. Yep, that makes sense to me!" Neither premise has any more merit to it than the other, and there is no way to prove that one or the other is the case. We are both free to pick whichever version we like, or come up with another, but there is no way to found a sound argument on an assumption that cannot be proven true.

    And let us be clear, since you made the claim that it is sound to make an argument from analogy: your argument is very specifically not logically sound, as a logical argument is sound if and only if it is valid and all its premises are true. Moreover, I also challenge your argument by analogy; arguments from analogy require that the two objects or events being compared be relatively similar. However, the universe and not-the-universe are in fact quite dissimilar, making yours claim a fallacy, that of argument by false analogy.



    [ Parent ]
    What's an infinity?? (4.00 / 1) (#626)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:02:07 PM EST

    And I am saying that does not make your point for you. Sure, it will take an infinite amount of time to complete an infinite series. That is the whole point of infinite time - it takes forever to transverse it!
    I'm not arguing that it doesn't take infinite time to completely traverse an incompletable series. What I'm saying is that it can't be done at all because it's impossible by definition (that is, completing that which cannot be completed). I don't know how else I can clarify that. I see where you're coming from, but I don't know how we can go any further without coming to agreement on the inherent contradiction that the notion of actualizing an infinity involves.

    Until then, it seems pointless to go on to the rest of your argument (including the suddenly-controversial idea that all effects have sufficient causes) without me clarifying or you conceding this point.

    [ Parent ]
    One last try... (4.00 / 1) (#629)
    by dnix on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:10:59 PM EST

    1. We agree on the issue of how long it takes to traverse an infinite length (infinitely long). Where we disagree is that I say that has nothing at all to do with your argument, because such a traversal is not necessary. Where would you be traversing from? There is no beginning. You can only make meaningful comparisons of distance between two finite points. I will say it again, if you allow for infinite time, then the universe has no beginning, so there is no place to "start," there are only sequences of actions happening one after another.

    2. Despite attempting to dismiss my second argument, where I take issue with your discussion of causation, with an deprecatory offhand insult, you have failed to present a counterargument. Moreover, please note that this argument is in no way related to the first. I am arguing a completely different point here, namely that your assumption that causation exists independently of the universe which is the entirety of our experience, is just that, an assumption, with no more or less merit than other assumptions.



    [ Parent ]
    Look.... (4.00 / 1) (#633)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:23:38 PM EST

    Dnix, I'm sorry you took my statement as an insult. That was not my intent, and if I inadvertently hurt your feelings, I apologize. I simply don't see the point in going into the latter argument unless and until we can come to an amicable resolution of the earlier argument. If we can't get past this, the other argument is simply immaterial.

    I do, however, think you may have offered us something to work with together here....
    I will say it again, if you allow for infinite time, then the universe has no beginning, so there is no place to "start," there are only sequences of actions happening one after another.

    Where we disagree is that I say that has nothing at all to do with your argument, because such a traversal is not necessary.
    If all that happens in our universe is a sequence of actions happening one after another, then you do have to traverse an infinite series (the sequence of actions) to arrive at the current events (now). That's not possible, and that's my point.

    [ Parent ]
    I am not offended (none / 0) (#649)
    by dnix on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:57:38 PM EST

    I was just pointing out that my two criticisms of your argument are not dependent on one another, so ignoring the second because we disagree on the first is rather silly.

    And, with respect to that:
    If all that happens in our universe is a sequence of actions happening one after another, then you do have to traverse an infinite series (the sequence of actions) to arrive at the current events (now). That's not possible, and that's my point.

    Your argument only holds if you pick a finite moment when the universe began, and posit an infinite distance between then and now. However, that is not what infinite time means. No offense, but you are completely thinking about this the wrong way. It makes no sense at all to talk about traversing an infinite series in the context of an infinite universal timeline. Why? Because the idea of traversing an infinite series entails the concept that you begin the series somewhere. If the timeline of the universe is indeed infinite, such is not the case.

    Maybe another analogy would help. I think a better analogy than an infinite series (which is likeable to a ray of infinite length, in that it has a discrete starting point but no end) is a number line, say the number line for the integers. Now, this line goes on infinitely from zero in a positive direction, and it goes on infinitely from zero in a negative direction as well. Now, say the present is zero. You are saying that it is impossible to ever reach zero because you have to traverse the entire distane of the negative integers to reach zero. However, you are presuming a starting place - where is that? Any point you pick will have events before it in time, and the distance from that point to zero will be a finite distance. So it is with time. You cannot pick the first moment in time and traverse all of the moments between then and now in order to reach the present. Why? Because there is no first moment in time.

    And if there is no first moment, there is no way to talk about traversing all of the moments from the beginning to now, as such a concept is using the wrong vocabulary. Moreover, once you admit to an infinite amount of time, you have already abandoned the concept of a first cause (and thus my second, independent, independent argument against your concept of how causality must work is not even needed, as your argument has already failed).



    [ Parent ]
    Good. (none / 0) (#658)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:26:07 PM EST

    I'm glad that you didn't take offense. That's one worry of my mind, at least. Thanks for understanding.
    I was just pointing out that my two criticisms of your argument are not dependent on one another, so ignoring the second because we disagree on the first is rather silly.
    Okay, but I'm choosing to postpone the second because I believe that it is immaterial if the first doesn't hold. If we can come to some resolution of the first, then we're on to the second. I just want us to be able to focus completely on one argument at a time, if it's all the same to you.
    Your argument only holds if you pick a finite moment when the universe began, and posit an infinite distance between then and now. However, that is not what infinite time means. No offense, but you are completely thinking about this the wrong way. It makes no sense at all to talk about traversing an infinite series in the context of an infinite universal timeline. Why? Because the idea of traversing an infinite series entails the concept that you begin the series somewhere.
    Point taken, and I think I now understand why we've been talking past each other.

    In an infinite universal timeline, if I establish an arbitrary fixed point (now, or zero) and traverse the events occurring at that time to their causes, and those causes to their causes, etc., I'd still have an infinite series: a ray, if you will, of events and their causes. That ray is infinite because, though it begins at zero (the most recent events), it has no end (in the infinite past). That ray is impossible to traverse because to do so would require actualizing that potentially infinite series of causes. But, actualizing that infinite series of causes is exactly what's required to have any actual event occurring at point 0 (now).

    Are we getting anywhere?

    dnix, thanks for being such a great sport about this. I appreciate your fervor in this discussion.

    [ Parent ]
    I now see where you are going with this (none / 0) (#670)
    by dnix on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:22:35 PM EST

    But I do not agree that it is a problem. Traversing such a ray ov causes backwards is not an activity that needs to happen, in the sense that you mean, unless you also posit that there must be a first cause. Certainly if you believe this is the case, you will always be unhappy with an infinite timeline, as you will never be able to reach the first cause.

    However, if you give that up, and instead posit that, for every cause, there is always going to be a prior cause, you no longer face this problem. You can allow that the moment at any point on the time axis can occur, and that it has behind it an infinite chain of causes, all of which have actually occurred. To speak about it in the terms you do above is, (no offense) a conceptual mistake on your part.

    Also, even if I grant you the finitude of time, you then face the problem of explaining why the universe cannot be self-causing but god can. You must either show why these two are fundamentally different in this way, or allow that the universe can be self-causing, or allow that god can also have a cause, which puts you back into an infinite regression. But we can discuss that after we finisht the other two arguments we have queued up, eh? :)



    [ Parent ]
    Light at the end of the (infinitely long) tunnel (none / 0) (#749)
    by JAZDaddy on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 12:20:31 AM EST

    Just a quick response for now -- it's way past my bedtime. =)
    Traversing such a ray ov causes backwards is not an activity that needs to happen, in the sense that you mean, unless you also posit that there must be a first cause.
    Since I'm accepting your infinite time position for the sake of argument, I'm necessarily laying any demand for a first cause (temporarily). After all, it'd be bad form to presume that which I'm attempting to prove....

    Since you see where I'm going with my argument, I'm simply saying that, in an infinite time system, reaching now, or time 0, constitutes the completion of an infinite (and by definition incompletable) series, which is both inescapable in that system and logically impossible to accomplish. I don't have to (nor did I) presume a first cause in making that statement, though the statement itself demands that there must be some first cause because it militates against an actual infinite regress. I'll see if I can formulate this a little more solidly for you tomorrow sometime.
    However, if you give that up, and instead posit that, for every cause, there is always going to be a prior cause, you no longer face this problem.
    On the contrary, when I accept that for the sake of argument, as above, I run smack into that problem. Again, more for us to deal with tomorrow.
    Also, even if I grant you the finitude of time, you then face the problem of explaining why the universe cannot be self-causing but god can. You must either show why these two are fundamentally different in this way, or allow that the universe can be self-causing, or allow that god can also have a cause, which puts you back into an infinite regression. But we can discuss that after we finisht the other two arguments we have queued up, eh? :)
    Yup, unless you can accept that I never said that the First Cause is self-causing (which is impossible, since it would have to exist before it existed in order to cause itself to exist), but rather self-existent and unbeginning. God doesn't fall prey to the universe's finitude because God isn't a series of historical events, like the universe is. Otherwise, enqueue it for later consumption.

    [ Parent ]
    good morning! (none / 0) (#799)
    by dnix on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 09:31:53 AM EST

    You said:

    Since you see where I'm going with my argument, I'm simply saying that, in an infinite time system, reaching now, or time 0, constitutes the completion of an infinite (and by definition incompletable) series, which is both inescapable in that system and logically impossible to accomplish. I don't have to (nor did I) presume a first cause in making that statement, though the statement itself demands that there must be some first cause because it militates against an actual infinite regress.

    I would like to point out that, if you do not make a prior demand that there must necessarily be a first cause, an infinite regress is not a problem. If the past is infinite, then of course there will never be a first cause, and indeed you cannot actually demand one. All you can demand is that each cause have a prior cause, which I think you have already allowed in making your infinite regress argument. In other words, once you allow for an infinite timeline in the direction of the past, you have by definition ruled out the possibility of a first cause. Indeed, a search for one makes nonsense in such a case.

    Also, although I am not really clear on what your problem is with "actualizing" the infinite, I must point out that infinite series can indeed be completed, in infinite time. Given that you have already granted the latter, your claim that we cannot traverse an infinite series fails. We cannot do so in finite time, certainly, but we are not talking about finite time.

    You also said:

    God doesn't fall prey to the universe's finitude because God isn't a series of historical events, like the universe is. Otherwise, enqueue it for later consumption.

    Of course, the problem here is the one I stated in my original second objection: If you view time as a property of the universe, and if you claim that the universe is finite in time (or at least, has a beginning), then there must be some pre-temporal point where the universe does not exist. Further, causality is itself by definition a temporal activity (for if you do not define causality as one event preceding another and having that other as its effect, you are not really talking about cause and effect), and therefore cannot exist before the universe does. There can be, then, by definition, no first cause that is external to the universe. So how did the universe come to be? It is hard to say, when we strip ourselves of the terminology of cause and effect. Did it spontaneously occur on its own? Did an external entity such as god (or gods) will it to be? Neither of those theories is better than the other, and any number of competing theories will work just as well.



    [ Parent ]
    Infinite regress (ie., this conversation) (none / 0) (#879)
    by JAZDaddy on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 05:35:38 PM EST

    (That's a joke, btw.)

    Let me see if I can restate my argument in a way that demonstrates that the following is not true:
    I would like to point out that, if you do not make a prior demand that there must necessarily be a first cause, an infinite regress is not a problem.
    1. Assume for this argument that the universe is infinitely old. Causality (the fact that all effects must have a sufficient preceding cause) is a given within this universe.
    2. Select any arbitrary point x in the infinite time system. This arbitrary point contains a likewise-arbitrary set of effects that are dependent upon their preceding causes.
    3. Since the universe in question is infinitely old, the chain of causes and events preceding arbtirary time point x is likewise assumed to infinite.
    4. To arrive at the set of effects observed at arbitrary time point x, the entire series of effects and their preceding causes necessarily must have been completely traversed (due to the given law of causality within the hypothetical universe). Otherwise, there must have been at least one effect without a preceding cause, a violation of the given law of causality.
    5. However, an infinite series (whether of numbers or steps in a cause-event chain) is, by definition, uncompletable.
    6. Therefore, the necessary completion of all events in the cause-event chain prior to arbitrary time point x in the hypothetically infinitely old universe is impossible due to the given law of causality and the impossibility of completing the traversal of an infinite series.
    7. Therefore, the universe in question must not be infinitely old.

    I believe this demonstrates that given a hypothetically infinitely old universe and the law of causality, an infinite regress is, indeed, a problem. Now, please demonstrate for me where in the formulation of this argument I have made a prior demand that there must necessarily be a first cause.
    Also, although I am not really clear on what your problem is with "actualizing" the infinite, I must point out that infinite series can indeed be completed, in infinite time.
    Therefore, it seems to me that you're saying that an uncompletable series can be completed given uncompletable series of moments in time. (If that's not what you're saying, please correct me.) If an uncompletable series can be completed, it's not uncompletable. If it's not uncompletable, it's finite.
    Given that you have already granted the latter, your claim that we cannot traverse an infinite series fails. We cannot do so in finite time, certainly, but we are not talking about finite time.
    If I granted that an infinite series can be completed in infinite time, please tell me where. The closest I can recall coming to that was the statement "I'm not arguing that it doesn't take infinite time to completely traverse an incompletable series. What I'm saying is that it can't be done at all because it's impossible by definition (that is, completing that which cannot be completed)." Not arguing the point is not the same granting it. Now, if I did actually grant that somewhere (which I may very well have), then I must retract it because it's not possible to complete the uncompletable. It's self-refuting.

    That's going to be it for me tonight -- too much other stuff going on to pursue this further this evening. Have a great evening!

    [ Parent ]
    This is the song that doesn't end... (none / 0) (#907)
    by Majromax on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 09:51:29 PM EST

    (Subject is joke, by the way).

    To jump into this part of the thread, I believe I understand your argument completely, but I don't think it applies. Specifically, you're arguing that an infinite universe cannot be mapped (by time) into the set of rational numbers -- that it is impossible to give time to an infinite universe. Using your form of counting, starting at an absolute beginning and continuing to whenever, you're absolutely correct.

    However, there is another form of counting time that allows all positions in time that can be specified to be reachable. I'll argue this method using a similar case of counting the set of ordered pairs (Z+,Z+) -- this set contains (1,1), (2,1), (19,304), and so on. It can, also, be counted -- with a proper counting scheme, there can be the 1st ordered pair, the 2nd order pair, and all ordered pairs that can be named have a number associated.

    The obvious way of counting this set, #1 is (1,1), #2 is (1,2), #3 is (1,3), etc. is not going to give an acceptable order -- the ordered pair (2,1), for example, does not have a number in this system.

    Instead, we use some form of diagonal counting, so that instead of extending infinitely in one direction we count in both dimensions at the same time -- the 1st ordered pair would be (1,1), 2nd (2,1), 3rd (1,2), 4th (3,1), followed by (2,2), (3,1), etc. With this counting scheme, which maps the same set of natural numbers onto the same set of ordered pairs, the mapping is complete -- any ordered pair has a number associated with it.

    In your arguments, you're starting from a hypothetical time 0, a "beginning" from which there is infinite time between then and now. Instead, I suggest you pick an arbitrary moment as 0 time (such as Oct 1, or something), and measure time as a displacement from 'then'.

    You probably won't like that this method doesn't give you a definable 'beginning', but in a reversible, deterministic universe it doesn't matter -- time can flow forwards, backwards, or both and it won't matter, since every time that can be named is derivable with either positive or negative displacement from the reference. This also has a mathematical and physical basis: we don't evaluate/graph functions from t=-infinity and say that they don't exist at (insert point of interest here), we measure them relative to an arbitrary reference.

    In a two-way infinite universe, causality is not only preserved, but completed -- every particular universal state has a predecessor that leads to it (and a successor). In a one-way infinite universe (that has a temporal First Cause), there is at least one moment for which causality is not preserved -- a state (such as t=0 in Big Bang theory) that could not have had a predecessing state. Although it's alien to think about a universe without cause, that's ironically the only way that causality can be preserved in total.

    [ Parent ]

    Just a quick comment (none / 0) (#914)
    by dnix on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 12:57:33 AM EST

    ...before I head to bed: I take issue with your point 5. An infinite series by definition cannot be completed in a finite amount of time. However, you have already granted (in point 1) that we have an infinite amount of time at our disposal for any historical moment you choose. Given an infinite amount of time, an infinite series will be completed, indeed it must be, by definition. Similar thinking is used all the time in mathematics to solve integrals, for example. OK off to bed. Have a nice night!

    [ Parent ]
    The Problem with Point 5 (none / 0) (#962)
    by JAZDaddy on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 06:55:44 PM EST

    I take issue with your point 5. An infinite series by definition cannot be completed in a finite amount of time. However, you have already granted (in point 1) that we have an infinite amount of time at our disposal for any historical moment you choose. Given an infinite amount of time, an infinite series will be completed, indeed it must be, by definition.
    5. However, an infinite series (whether of numbers or steps in a cause-event chain) is, by definition, uncompletable.

    dnix, I like you. I appreciate your tenacity in this discussion. You're truly a delightful sparring partner, and I hope I can win you over on this, because I really, really want you on my side.

    I think you're missing the crux of the argument on points 4 and 5. Your argument against it sounds good and even seems reasonable, but I don't think it stands up to a little bit of serious reflection. Here's why:

    Even given infinite time (which I accepted for the sake of argument), pick any arbitrary point in the infinite past. At that arbitrary point, the series of causes that precede the effects observed at that point is necessarily infinite. Therefore, there exists no point in time at which the series of causes has been completely traversed. If no such time exists, then it cannot be true that the series is completable.

    Combine that with #4, which you didn't (at least overtly) take issue with...

    4. To arrive at the set of effects observed at arbitrary time point x, the entire series of effects and their preceding causes necessarily must have been completely traversed (due to the given law of causality within the hypothetical universe). Otherwise, there must have been at least one effect without a preceding cause, a violation of the given law of causality.

    ...and you'd have to demand on the one hand that the series has been completely traversed while demanding on the other hand that the series can never be completely traversed. Infinite time to traverse it doesn't help, because at any given moment in the infinite past, there's always an infinite number of preceding causes left to traverse.

    See? The completability isn't a factor of how much time you throw at the problem; rather, it's a factor of the nature of the infinite series itself.
    Similar thinking is used all the time in mathematics to solve integrals, for example.
    Yes, but try integrating the function f(x) = (1/x)2 over the range -1 to 1 and lemme know how it goes. My calculus is so rusty it barely even budges anymore, but as I recall, you can't integrate a discontinuous function over a range containing its discontinuity, and the function is undefined (that is, it tends to a positive infinity) at x=0, even when you attempt to break down the area under the curve into an infinite number of polygons. This problem isn't solvable by throwing an infinite series after an infinite value.

    Gotta split for tonight. Have (another) great evening!

    [ Parent ]
    About the 2nd law... (none / 0) (#565)
    by El Tangas on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:50:00 PM EST

    So, to where does the Universe "dissipates" energy, if theres nothing outside it? I'm not convinced that the 2nd law of thermodinamics is valid for the Universe.

    [ Parent ]
    2nd law (none / 0) (#630)
    by JAZDaddy on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:11:07 PM EST

    The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (entropy) applies within the universe, and states that energy from areas of high energy to areas of low energy. If the universe has existed eternally, we should expect that the universe's energy would be evenly distributed throughout its volume by now, a state referred to by physicists as "universal heat death."

    [ Parent ]
    about 'time' (none / 0) (#932)
    by Chairman Kaga on Thu Oct 17, 2002 at 10:28:38 AM EST

    You are assuming that "Time" is something which flows from one point to another, or moves from past to present to future, which is by no means a forgone conclusions. *We* perceive that time is flowing forward. However that may just be a consequence of our 'illusion' of conciousness. I would also point out that by your own argument, "God" who allegedly created us is either eternal or had a beginning. If he is eternal, then he could never get to the point where he created the universe. It would take an infinite amount of time. Can you see the problem here?

    [ Parent ]
    Gods (3.50 / 2) (#249)
    by Eight Star on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:22:13 AM EST

    Since others are already ridiculing the appropriate arguments, I shall negelect to do so.

    I think that anything that performs a function that is traditionally ascribed to God, is worthy of the title. I believe in several Gods, most of which  have a variety of very strong proofs for their existence.

    The Sun.

    The Sun is always there. Without it, life on earth could not exist. It gives and gives, for all practical purposes eternally, and asks nothing in return. Not only does it provide energy, but it holds us close to it, so we don't fly off into space. The Sun is a loving God. In fact, when we're ready, the sun will also accept any of our waste that we want to throw at it, and go right on shining.

    There are other such Gods, I leave their identities as an excercise for the reader.

    But.. (2.50 / 2) (#258)
    by DranoK 420 on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:09:11 AM EST

    The sun also kills people to exposure. It tortures us while we labor under it. It evaporates precious water supplies. It causes blindness if you look at it. It releases bursts that disrupt our electronics. And some day it will kill everyone on earth before it dies. Anyhow its stupid to worship a ball of hydrogen. You're stupid. It's stupid. DranoK
    Poetry is simply a convenient excuse for incoherence.


    [ Parent ]
    That's the point (5.00 / 1) (#322)
    by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:01:43 AM EST

    "Anyhow its stupid to worship a ball of hydrogen. You're stupid. It's stupid. DranoK"
    Much less stupid than worshiping something that cannot be proved to exist, I imagine.

    ---
    Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
    [ Parent ]
    Just because... (none / 0) (#616)
    by Eight Star on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:46:58 PM EST

    Just because We can't always tolerate the presence of divinity doesn't make it less divine. Would you prefer the sun go away?

    I didn't say I worshiped the sun, but I'm not sure what that would mean.

    [ Parent ]

    For Heaven's Sake, (1.50 / 8) (#253)
    by mami on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:42:02 AM EST

    if you live in the Washington D.C. area, you know there is a GOD running around loose ... shooting people down on parking lots.

    Damn, couldn't you get another title on your article this night, at this time?

    about that... (none / 0) (#256)
    by Work on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:59:35 AM EST

    I think the tarot card was a prank. Doesn't fit the sniper's acts at all. The card was found on the middle school grounds, yet all the shootings have been conducted from afar with a high powered rifle. Clearly, the person knows enough to not actually be near the scene of death. Why return there with a tarot card? Why no other messages since?

    Personally I think thats the work of some childish prankster visiting the scene and leaving it there. That may explain also why theres no more details coming out about the card.

    [ Parent ]

    perhaps... (none / 0) (#263)
    by etherdeath on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:21:19 AM EST

    ...it was fabricated by the police.

    [ Parent ]
    (s)he wants to get caught? (none / 0) (#277)
    by Hast on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:39:31 AM EST

    From what i've heard the killings seem to be pretty random, so a possible motive may be to "prove" to the world that (s)he can kill and and get away with it. However, no-one knows who they are so they are beginning to leave clues to try and get caught which is at odd with the motive, but not an odd thing for a killer with that motive to do.

    [ Parent ]
    You know what I wish? (4.33 / 3) (#254)
    by Jman1 on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:50:10 AM EST

    I wish that some of the old great theoligians could be alive today so that I could see how mankind's updated knowledge would have altered their beliefs. After all, wasn't it Aquinas who became a Christian after realizing that his old religion didn't make sense with observed astronomical phenomena? What would he have done with Darwin?

    I imagine it would be like that scene in Annie Hall, when Woody Allen pulls aside the director of a movie to win an argument he's having with a girlfriend. "Oh, yeah, Christian, I've got Aquinas over here and he's saying, 'Ya know? Maybe Darwin was on to something...'"

    Maybe someone else, but not Aquinas. (none / 0) (#413)
    by graal on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:07:33 AM EST

    A few assorted links:

    I'm not sure that Darwin and Aquinas clash much at all.

    Darwin: Here's how it happened, and how it continues to happen

    Aquinas: Here's how it started.

    But that's just my take.

    --
    For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
    inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
    -- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
    [ Parent ]

    The Modern Argument from Design (3.33 / 3) (#255)
    by Captain Trips on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 12:52:09 AM EST

    This argument is briefly discussed here as a variant of the teleological argument, but really isn't given as much credit as it's due. It's an extension of the original design argument, which used God to fill in the gaps in biology, and it's still used often by theists whenever they argue about shortcomings in evolutionary theory. The modern version is what the author refers to here:
    More contemporary puzzles are those of the "cosmological constants", fundamental numbers in the universe that appear to be precisely set to certain values, which allow life to exist. Since there is a gap in our understanding of why these constants are just so, it is argued that God must have intervened to set them.
    It's not clear to me, though, that these "gaps" will ever be filled. Is there any reason to think (other than presupposing the non-existence of God) that we'll ever have a theory of physics without some sort of parameters whose values will effect possibility of intelligent life? Because if those parameters do exist, like in our modern theories of physics, then you have to account for why we're in the slim minority of possible universes that does have life.

    A popular rebuttal is often known as the Weak Anthropic Principle: If the conditions of the universe didn't allow for for the development of intelligent life, then there wouldn't be any intelligent beings in it asking questions about their existence. This seems like a reasonable argument, but consider the following analogy (by John Leslie):

    Suppose you are sentenced to death and put before a large firing squad. You are blindfolded, but still hear the command to fire and the sound of the rifles. Yet you find you are still alive. How do you explain this?
    Now you could you the weak anthropic principle here. You are still alive because if you weren't, you wouldn't be around to wonder why you were still alive. That's true, but that does nothing to explain the remarkable event of all the marksmen (markspersons?) in firing squad missing, which was more likely a plan than an accident. I would argue that it is likewise with the universe.

    That doesn't mean that God is the only explanation, however. If there were multiple universes (perhaps the Multiple Worlds interpretation of QM?) then the weak anthropic principle still allows us to explain why we're in a particular universe that supports life. Or there's the possibility, as I've heard about string theory, of collapsing all the cosmological constants into one constant that acts only as a scaling factor, so no alternative universes would be possible. And even if a universe creator does exist, we nothing about it other than that it chose to create the present universe, probably with some foreknowledge of its outcome. As wji said in an earlier post, there's no reason to believe in any specific religious interpretation based on a purely philosophical argument like this one.

    --
    The fact that cigarette advertising works, makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, Santa Claus is real.—Sloppy

    The weak anthropic principle (none / 0) (#269)
    by xriso on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:18:25 AM EST

    It seems that the result of the WAP is basically this: Any historical incident that is necessary for my existence at this very moment must have happened. This is logically a tautology, and frankly it is not quite useful: It does not say anything about an explanation. No "how" and no "why".

    Hmmm... jumping off that analogy of marksmen a bit, I suppose there are three explanations analogous to the universe:

    • It's a fluke - they all missed by chance.
    • They purposely missed.
    • There is an enormous number of other people who weren't so lucky. ;-)

    --
    *** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
    [ Parent ]
    Pretty bad argument (none / 0) (#311)
    by epepke on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:41:04 AM EST

    This seems like a reasonable argument, but consider the following analogy (by John Leslie):
    Suppose you are sentenced to death and put before a large firing squad. You are blindfolded, but still hear the command to fire and the sound of the rifles. Yet you find you are still alive. How do you explain this?

    That's a pretty bad argument, because it presumes knowledge of things like firing squads, which would have to be analogous to knowledge of the nature of things before the universe formed (if "before" even has any meaning, which it may not) and we don't have knowledge of that. (Standard scientific addendum: but we're working on it!) We only have one universe to look at, and you can't estimate probabilities from a sample of one. Certainly some of the basic properties of the universe (such as the fact that there's no optimal packing for sphreres in 3-space, and the fact that things can affect each other leading to chaotic complexity) that enable life seem to enable a lot of other aspects of the universe. It's hard for me to imagine a universe that couldn't have life that would look anything like a universe looks. Maybe a very different kind of life. I don't know what it would be like, except that some of them would probably argue that the universe was tweaked just for them.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Another analogy (5.00 / 1) (#333)
    by zakalwe on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:27:35 AM EST

    Sure theres more likely explanations for the firing squad than "the bullets all missed" but thats only because we read a special significance into it (the fact that we survived.) It would be equally improbable for one bullet to hit exactly 3 inches up your left arm, two in your heart, 5 at various exact spots on your chest etc., but unless you read anything significant into such a pattern of wounds, you wouldn't consider it remarkable. Virtually all the possibilitys will result in your death, but each individual occurrance is equally unlikely.

    That is the reasoning behind the weak anthropic principle - we consider the present universe to be special because we exist, but if it was different, and some different form of life ever became sentient enough to ask the question - they would think exactly the same thing about the laws that let them do so.

    A better analogy, and one much more unlikely than the firing squad events is the fact that you exist, exactly as you are. The chain of events that caused it are highly improbable: the coincidence of your parents meeting, and having a child at the exact hour of your birth, that one sperm out of millions of slightly different ones was the one to fertilise the egg. Repeat for your grandparents, great grandparents, and so on. Does this mean that God would have had to guide every step? Wouldn't any other event that resulted in a different person also be just as improbable (and seem just as significant to them)?

    [ Parent ]

    Why did you become Mormon?<n/t> (2.00 / 2) (#259)
    by Big Sexxy Joe on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:09:36 AM EST



    I'm like Jesus, only better.
    Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
    Damn it I did it again... (none / 0) (#262)
    by Big Sexxy Joe on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:19:52 AM EST

    That was suppossed to be a reply to somebody. I won't take offense if you bitch slap me.

    Interesting side note though, the Catholic Church has taken St. Christopher of saint roster. Why? Because there is no proof that he exists. Because there is no proof that he exists.


    I'm like Jesus, only better.
    Democracy Now! - your daily, uncensored, corporate-free grassroots news hour
    [ Parent ]

    If it can be proven, who needs faith (4.00 / 2) (#264)
    by dumbnose on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:23:23 AM EST

    Whenever a religious person tries to convince me that they can "prove" there is a god, I usually have one question for them:

    If you can prove there is a god, then why do religions require faith from their followers?

    After all, if something can be proven, there is no need for faith.

    My 2 cents.

    Faith? (2.50 / 4) (#271)
    by Wulfius on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:27:44 AM EST

    You mean the same way Dubbaya BELIEVES that
    the latest bombing in Bali has been carried out
    by Al Quada?

    In the same way that Brits, US and Aussies BELIEVE
    that Iraq is a threat to them?

    Faith without proof.

    ---
    "We must believe in free will, we have no choice."
    http://wulfspawprints.blogspot.com/ - Not a journal dammit!
    [ Parent ]

    You don't understand (3.50 / 4) (#274)
    by countach on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:34:46 AM EST

    You don't understand what faith is. It is not believing something without proof. Faith basically "trust". The reason you trust may be due to proof or due to other reasons. Faith is the _result_ of your enquiry, not the _cause_ of your belief. Think about why Thomas believed in Jesus resurrection. Not because of belief without proof, but belief WITH proof. "Then He said to Thomas, Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing."

    [ Parent ]
    The problem today (4.00 / 1) (#308)
    by Greyshade on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:36:44 AM EST

    Is there are few who are either willing or able (not sure which) to argue the point with reason. Most times bible quotes are not only thrown around out of context, but are used in a way that you must first subscribe to the bible for them to be relevent. In fact, yours is by far the best bible reference I've come across in this thread.

    What would a modern day skeptic use to have their faith affirmed in such a manner?

    [ Parent ]

    And yet... (3.00 / 1) (#347)
    by slur on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 06:11:17 AM EST

    Didn't JC say something to the effect that "Blessed is the one who has seen me and believed, but all the more he who has not seen, and yet believed." ?

    Does this not imply that faith is a more solid "rock" upon which to build one's "church" than the medium of logic and reason?


    |
    | slur was here
    |

    [ Parent ]

    Not at all. (5.00 / 1) (#430)
    by graal on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:39:32 AM EST

    The quote is from John 20:
    Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe."

    Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

    Jesus said to him, "Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
    As far as a conflict between faith and reason, Church teaching is pretty clear:
    159 Faith and science: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are."

    Catechism of the Catholic Church, #159

    --
    For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
    inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
    -- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
    [ Parent ]

    appropriate HHGTTG excerpt (4.00 / 5) (#319)
    by Quila on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:57:07 AM EST

    Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful [the babelfish] could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

    The argument goes something like this: "I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing."

    "But," says Man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn't it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don't. QED."

    "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly disappears in a puff of logic.

    "Oh, that was easy," says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

    [ Parent ]

    you misunderstand faith (4.50 / 2) (#321)
    by jjayson on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:58:13 AM EST

    Faith is not a synonym for belief; it encompasses belief and action. Many people may have heard of the ABCs of Faith:

    Action because of
    Belief reinforced by
    Confidence
    _______
    Smile =)
    * bt krav magas kitten THE FUCK UP
    <bt> Eat Kung Jew, bitch.

    [ Parent ]

    Historical Miracles (4.33 / 3) (#278)
    by coljac on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:43:39 AM EST

    Great article. I myself, an atheist, waver between a benevolent tolerance for religion and Mencken-like misanthropy, so I always like to see the topic discussed - in America it can be a taboo.

    A couple of things were glossed over, for example the concept of miracles. You wrote that "It is not universally accepted that miracles actually occur." But why? Consider the concept of an "historical miracle", i.e. a miracle that was witnessed by enough people and so well documented that you can accept it really happened. How much evidence do you need? Well, given what we know about the uniformity and seeming inviolability of the laws of physics, one finds that the concept of people being mistaken, lying, hallucinating, etc. is always within these laws, no matter how unlikely. This possibilty must always be given more weight than the laws of physics themselves being broken or suspended. So either the people witnessed something within the laws of physics - i.e. not a miracle - or they were somehow wrong. It doesn't make sense to ever give the benefit of the doubt to the impossible (a miracle) over the possible (human fallibilty).

    I also would have liked to see more discussion of the concept of faith, which I find a particularly atrocious and asinine one. But I'll leave that to other places, instead I recommend this book: Atheism: The Case Against God which is a great introduction to the subject and very thorough. Also, Bertrand Russell's Why I am Not a Christian is a great, light, short intro to freethought.

    Fight the power.



    ---
    Whether or not life is discovered there I think Jupiter should be declared an enemy planet. - Jack Handey

    Yes (none / 0) (#337)
    by Herring on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:33:02 AM EST

    I'm in much the same position. On one hand, I know people who believe and I don't want to upset them by insulting them or their faith. On the other hand, I see the intolerance and evil acts justified in the name of religions and I want to fight it.

    I'm not sure that you can effectively fight it though. Some people just don't seem to be able to cope with the idea of a random, unthinking, uncaring universe. It would be easy to label these people as weak-minded, but that's just name calling and doesn't achieve anything. There are others (like me) who just cannot see that the universe as it is observed could possibly be the result of intelligent (much less, benevolent) design. The idea that a god exists who could quite easily prove his/her existence but doesn't (for some reason) is just fucking nuts. I'm going to stop there before I start a rant about how ludicrous most religious stories are.

    Anyhow, it seems to me that no amount of logical arguments will change a believer into a non-believer or vice versa. It's fundamental to a person's mindset - which isn't to say that it doesn't change, just that it can't be changed by rational argument. This is why I don't participate in discussions - except with young-earth creationists who deserve a good kicking.


    Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
    [ Parent ]
    Historical miracles (5.00 / 2) (#401)
    by Jman1 on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:39:52 AM EST

    I find it more likely that someone came along and told the story, ten generations ago our ancestors witnessed a great miracle. And that that story was embellished by future generations before it got written down.

    Isn't it convenient that miracles stopped happening at right about the time that people started understanding the natural causes of things?

    [ Parent ]

    Can't agree (none / 0) (#706)
    by Ni on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:28:06 PM EST

    I found "Atheism: The Case Against God" to be a pretty bad book that had no problem providing arguments known to be weak without mentioning their weaknesses. It seemed to be more propaganda than anything. I wans't impressed.

    "Why I am Not a Christian", however, is a spectacular book.


    But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
    [ Parent ]

    What does the bible say about philosophy? (1.42 / 7) (#281)
    by countach on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 02:52:47 AM EST

    See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. ( Colossians 2:8 ) For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." ( 1 Corinthians 1:18 )

    That sounded like a canned response. (n/t) (none / 0) (#317)
    by Quila on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:53:03 AM EST



    [ Parent ]
    Set it all aside (none / 0) (#334)
    by slur on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:28:40 AM EST

    Philosophy generally amounts to a systematic belief, an intellectual framework, or a set of "truths" taken as absolute. Adherents are naturally disposed (even compelled) to take up certain practices in their everyday lives such as abstaining from stealing or eating fish on Friday. A philosopher could easily discover through careful investigation that repeating the Lord's Prayer produces desirable effects. Those not attuned to such subtleties might find that scuba diving is their cup of tea for getting in touch with the ineffable grace. My point is that there is a pragmatic element to all chosen belief systems.

    There is great wisdom in the words you quote, but of course we should not get hung up on the words. Philosophy, wise words, and religious beliefs all work similarly in our cerebra as a means to an end, which is to serve in the furtherance of life and the liberation of practitioners from illusions and negative emotions that lead to the suffering and destruction of themselves and others. Beliefs that we harbor in life are a temporary raiment that we should, like the world itself, be prepared to cast off in due time. Belief in God serves this end for some people and gives them comfort. Others find the idea of an omnipotent being that exists apart from "the all" repugnant and inelegant.

    It is unfortunate that many "religious" people are more concerned with imposing their beliefs on others than in practicing quiescence in their hearts and minds. (I am not referring to you, countach.) But it should be noted that a strong attachment to the "false idols" of fancy words and ideas is characteristic of our early evolutionary stage. I hope you can see the value in transcending them and finding the wordless comfort and strength which comes from the deepest part of yourself, which is united with the all (or "God" if you prefer).

    |
    | slur was here
    |

    [ Parent ]

    What does the Bibile say... (none / 0) (#377)
    by pistols on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:05:21 AM EST

    In distaining of philisophical discussion, you bring forth a philisophical argument. What does the Bible say about self righteous commentators?

    See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. ( Colossians 2:8 ) For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, "I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE." Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." ( 1 Corinthians 1:18 )

    [ Parent ]

    You keep making this mistake (none / 0) (#415)
    by dnix on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 10:12:26 AM EST

    Maybe I am misunderstanding you, but the quote, given as it is with that title but without any sort of explanation, seems to imply that you think having a philosophical discussion is wrong-headed. However, the passages you quote are themselves merely another kind of philosohical argument - ironically, they are an admonishment to be intellectually rigorous and yet to keep the faith. I think you are probably doing the latter, but I am not so sure about the former.

    What is at issue here are the ideas behind belief and whether you should or should not believe. Merely quoting the bible is not going to get you very far in this sort of discussion, as many here disagree with you about its authority (i.e., they are not willing to believe in god simply because a book says they should do so).



    [ Parent ]
    Order of creation implies a hierarchy (1.66 / 3) (#284)
    by nymia_g on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:15:08 AM EST

    The order of how elements are created within the set, known or unknown, reveals a hierarchy where the top most element is considered God.

    Although the hierarchy shows the order of creation, it doesn't say how the first element was created since the set was created in a certain fashion unknown to the element that existed later down the chain.

    Computer Analogy (none / 0) (#331)
    by Rasman on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:22:34 AM EST

    I'm sure there's an analogy to be made here with operating systems and bootstrapping, etc., but I didn't pay enough attention in my OS's class to make it. Anyone wanna help here? Who creates process with pid=1?

    I know the "universe as computer" idea is old, but...

    ---
    Brave. Daring. Fearless. Clippy - The Clothes Pin Stuntman
    [ Parent ]
    Philosophy is one thing... (2.50 / 4) (#285)
    by countach on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:16:35 AM EST

    But it is also useful to understand why other people believe in a certain thing. Here is a list of people and their reasons they believe in Christ. At least understand why others believe what they do before casting a decision one way or the other.

    Know God through Jesus; Know Jesus through Bible (1.50 / 12) (#286)
    by tbc on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:17:38 AM EST

    Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mat 11:28 NIV)

    He also said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (Jn 3:16)

    The Apostle Paul testified, "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Tim 1:15)

    The Apostle John wrote, "But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense--Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." (1 Jn 2:1-2)

    I already cited some other passages that touch on the topics of why we need to be saved and whether God wants to send people to Hell.


    Dont Thump (4.50 / 4) (#299)
    by The Amazing Idiot on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:01:54 AM EST

    Either quote the whole bible or shut up. I'm pretty sure that most of us have made up our minds on what religon we believe in. Your sputtering of incomplete  bible verses make you look like a fanatic idiot.

    Either add sonething to the conversation or just lurk. I could attempt to attack the Bible if you so wish to continue to quote it. Yes, I will play the Devil's advocate (in the truest sense of the word). You know, perhaps the translation is faulty. Secondly, why is the Gospel of Thomas NOT accepted into most Bibles? Thirdly, why was Q abolished in the 14'th century and then reassembled from 2 or 3 possible sources to create 1 of the 4 gospels? Fourth, how can the certainty of the stories of the Gospels be certained totally. There are logical fallacies and time logistics. As a fact, Matthew was wrote 70 years after the death of Jesus.

    Shall I go on? Nawwwww. My faith's strong. I understand and seek for answers. I'm guessing you're a weak minded bible-thumper.

    [ Parent ]

    Yes... (1.50 / 2) (#325)
    by pootle on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:05:50 AM EST

    How does this prove the existance of god?



    [ Parent ]
    Did you take in account, that... (none / 0) (#335)
    by rapha on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:30:48 AM EST

    ...it is not very nice to sacrifice any living being?

    Whenever you read a story where one living being
    sacrifices another living being (often his or her
    child or sibling), that first living being is
    considered the 'evil' (definition #2 from above)
    character in that story?

    I don't want to be blasphemic, but since the
    existance of god isn't exactly proven (makes
    me a weak atheist, probably) neither the existance
    of blasphemy is proven. But wouldn't this mean god
    was what many people like calling 'Satan' or 'Devil'?

    And wouldn't that explain suffering very nicely?


    ---
    NIETS IS ONMOGELIJK!

    [ Parent ]

    Did you take into account, that... (none / 0) (#338)
    by rapha on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:34:14 AM EST

    ...it is not very nice to sacrifice any living being?
    (Referring to "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, [...]" here)

    Whenever you read a story where one living being
    sacrifices another living being (often his or her
    child or sibling), that first living being is
    considered the 'evil' (definition #2 from above)
    character in that story?

    I don't want to be blasphemic, but since the
    existance of god isn't exactly proven (makes
    me a weak atheist, probably) neither the existance
    of blasphemy is proven. But wouldn't this mean god
    was what many people like calling 'Satan' or 'Devil'?

    And wouldn't that explain suffering very nicely?


    ---
    NIETS IS ONMOGELIJK!

    [ Parent ]

    Logic ? (none / 0) (#356)
    by Eivind on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 07:29:36 AM EST

    Did you ever sit down and think trough what Christianity actually teaches ? As opposed to quoting random bible-verses I mean ? It's one of those things that hardly anyone ever really does. You hear it too often, so you stop thinking about it. However there's a lot of very strange ethics in the bible. Try these items on for a start. Also please note that I'm here not talking of irrelevant details like the hundreds of inconsistencies where one bible-verse contradicts another, I'm talking about the very core of the faith.
    • Human beings are born sinners. It is just and ethically correct to punish a child for the acts of the parents.
    • Only trough human sacrifice can we gain salvation.
    • God is not infinitely good and forgive humans in spite of killing his son. No, it's the other way around he forgives us because of killing his son.
    There are many more such examples. However I feel that these are among the most horrible examples of "ethics" from the bible. I believe very few people living today actually agree with this ethic. (if you do, you should for example support capital punishment carried out on the children of a criminal if the criminal himself cannot be found.)

    [ Parent ]
    Yes, very confused idea (none / 0) (#531)
    by coljac on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 01:29:06 PM EST

    "Jesus died for our sins". The more one thinks about this assertion, the less sense it makes. How did Jesus dying help anything? I once read a question, to paraphrase: "So let me get this straight - God sacrificed himself to himself in order to make himself change the rules that he himself created?" That about sums it up. If God is all-powerful, he could and must have made things the way he wanted them and so there is obviously no need for this bizarre death-cult.

    ---
    Whether or not life is discovered there I think Jupiter should be declared an enemy planet. - Jack Handey
    [ Parent ]
    None of that means anything... (none / 0) (#402)
    by DeadBaby on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:40:46 AM EST

    GOD came to me last night in a religious vision and told me I should have lots of premarital sex, do a lot of drugs, drink too much and commit incest.

    You can't prove he didn't. Welcome to the wonderful world of faith.
    "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
    [ Parent ]

    Who wrote this crap? (none / 0) (#756)
    by fmdude on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 01:07:58 AM EST

    Does anyone know? It's kinda funny that all of these fools believe in a book written by annonymous authors who claim to have supernatural intution.

    [ Parent ]
    Random mutterings from a crazy Catholic (4.00 / 2) (#294)
    by The Amazing Idiot on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:48:38 AM EST

    1: Where did all this matter come from? Cosmic strings? THen where did the strings come from?

    2: If there is a God (in the Christian sense, as I am), why would He care if you suffered or not? Either way, He's gonna get you or the bad one's gonna collect in(Satan).

    3: The 10 Commandments says that there are to be no false Gods before Me. I'm sure that there's another religion that says the same type of doctrine. Wouldnt that guarantee a place in Hell for everybody?

    4: How many religions are alike in moral terms of Christians? Are the religions compatible or not?

    5: Is God making me write this?

    Random responses from another Catholic (none / 0) (#455)
    by graal on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 11:16:22 AM EST

    1: Where did all this matter come from? Cosmic strings? THen where did the strings come from?

    It was created by God, the Uncreated Creator. Aquinas addresses this in the Summa Theologica. There's a great layman-friendly version edited by Peter Kreeft called (appropriately enough) Summa of the Summa

    2: If there is a God (in the Christian sense, as I am), why would He care if you suffered or not? Either way, He's gonna get you or the bad one's gonna collect in(Satan).

    Does He want us to suffer? That's a tough one to answer. Is all suffering bad? Some of it certainly is. Is it the scale of suffering that's bad? How much suffering is too much? How much is acceptable?

    3: The 10 Commandments says that there are to be no false Gods before Me. I'm sure that there's another religion that says the same type of doctrine. Wouldnt that guarantee a place in Hell for everybody?

    I'm not sure which religion you're speaking of, so I can't really respond to this.

    4: How many religions are alike in moral terms of Christians? Are the religions compatible or not?

    What do you mean by compatible? There is certainly much we can learn from other faiths, but the final litmus test questions are:

    • Is it true?
    • Is it salvific?
    The answers to these questions should guide the extent to which a Christian should internalize aspects of other faiths.

    Having said that, however, we are called to reject nothing that is Holy or true, regardless of the source. That's straight from the Second Vatican Council: check out the Decree on Ecumenism

    5: Is God making me write this?

    Nah. God doesn't make us do anything. We were created in His image, which means we have a free will and the ability to love. The choice is always ultimately up to us.

    --
    For Thou hast commanded, and so it is, that every
    inordinate affection should be its own punishment.
    -- St. Augustine (Confessions, i)
    [ Parent ]

    Answers to random mutterings (none / 0) (#877)
    by Frank Wustner on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 05:20:45 PM EST

    1: Where did all this matter come from? Cosmic strings? THen where did the strings come from?

    Why did it have to come from anywhere? You believe in an un-caused god, why not an un-caused universe? Quantum physics currently points in that direction, in any case.

    2: If there is a God (in the Christian sense, as I am), why would He care if you suffered or not? Either way, He's gonna get you or the bad one's gonna collect in(Satan).

    If there is a god, and he/she/it is just, then he/she/it most certainly would care, and would not punish people simply because they use their brains. If there is a god, and he/she/it is not just, then he/she/it is not worthy of worship anyway.

    3: The 10 Commandments says that there are to be no false Gods before Me. I'm sure that there's another religion that says the same type of doctrine. Wouldnt that guarantee a place in Hell for everybody?

    Only if every religion is true.

    4: How many religions are alike in moral terms of Christians? Are the religions compatible or not?

    That depends on the followers. If the followers of different religions tolerate each other, then I would say that the religions are compatible.

    5: Is God making me write this?

    I say no. What is your opinion on the matter?



    [ Parent ]
    Opinion of an ordinary Joe (2.16 / 6) (#295)
    by Pawpaw on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:50:26 AM EST

    I do not presume to be as well educated as most of you who post here. Nor as well read, nor have the thinking ability that you all have. Allowing for all the aforementioned shortcomings, here are my thoughts on this article. 1. Before all of this (the universe) there HAD to be a First Cause. 2. A design presupposes a Designer. 3. The God of the Bible, IMO, best describes 1. and 2. 4. While I cannot rattle-off all the wonderful thoughts that others have written on why they believe as I do, I believe that the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics go a long way toward being, in part, scientific proof of 3. And yeah, I've read some nifty rebuttals. That doesn't change the fact that these two Laws have been proven thousands of times. What I'm trying to say is that my belief in the God of the Bible and my belief that Genesis is the way it happened is based on some good evidences AS WELL AS faith. My two cents. p.s. Please don't throw a lot of rebuttals at me. I simply don't have the time, energy or education to refute you. There are plenty of great web-sites on Christian apologetics, if your interested.

    But you assume a cognizent cause (none / 0) (#298)
    by Greyshade on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 03:56:23 AM EST

    What causes rain? What causes the sun to rise? What causes droughts?

    All of these things have a definate cause, but they do not require a setient being to cause them. Why should the begining of life, or the begining of the universe be any different than the begining of a rainstorm or a breeze?

    [ Parent ]

    Hi, Greyshade (2.50 / 2) (#304)
    by Pawpaw on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:13:40 AM EST

    I don't mean to be circular but before everything there had to be a First Cause. I submit that it is scientific to look for that First Cause of EVERYTHING. "In the beginning... ." fits the bill for me. I wish you well on your quest, whatever it is.

    [ Parent ]
    If life is a cycle (none / 0) (#307)
    by Greyshade on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:26:53 AM EST

    Then there is no great begining or end. Seasons begin and end. Noone 'creates' each one. I personally beleive that the universe could be the same way.

    Like you, it just 'feels right' for me. My quest if for enlightenment, and I doubt I will ever reach the end because I don't believe there is one. I also wish you well on your quest. I don't beleive that there is any exclusive path to enlightenment, and wish you well on yours. With luck, our paths will someday lead us to the same place. =)

    [ Parent ]

    Thanks, Greyshade (none / 0) (#316)
    by Pawpaw on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:47:48 AM EST

    If you are truly seeking, and I believe you are, then I will keep you in my prayers. I hope that doesn't offend you. I mean it only as an expression of my concern for you.==Tuesday calls==Have a gentle day.

    [ Parent ]
    I am not insulted at all (none / 0) (#323)
    by Greyshade on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:04:12 AM EST

    As a matter of fact, I thank you for it. Have a good day. Peace be with you.

    [ Parent ]
    Cause and Effect. (none / 0) (#332)
    by ajduk on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:25:48 AM EST

    These terms only have meaning within a pre existing framework of space and time; both imply movement and hence the existance of fairly linear time, and a space for things to happen in.

    Which kind of invalidates first caise arguments; they are based on the (incorrect) idea that space and time existed before the big bang; people naturally have difficulty with the concept of these things not existing.

    [ Parent ]

    Hrm. (none / 0) (#719)
    by Ni on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:56:13 PM EST

    Although I suspect this argument is reasonably powerful, it does have flaws. As someone already mentioned, if such a god exists and did create the world, it's difficult to imagine cause and effect without time. I'm pretty certain cause and effect don't exist without time.

    Furthermore, if everything has to have a cause, it begs the question of what the cause of god was. I imagine whatever answer you could give to this ("it caused itself", or "it was always there", or "it's beyond cause and effect") would seem to be also applicable to a universe without god in some way.

    Lastly, don't worry about lack of education or what have you. Many great philosophical arguments have been made by those with very little education - people who simply took some time out and thought about things for a bit. This is one playing field on which we're all more or less equal.


    But it's a sweet sadness, much better than the empty horrors of the world. --blixco
    [ Parent ]

    It's just like the Internet (4.80 / 5) (#306)
    by epepke on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:18:56 AM EST

    1. The Universe started
    2. There had to have been a first cause
    3. ????
    4. God!

    But seriously, even apart from the other problems with the argument, the First Cause==God bit, essential to the thing being argued, is just thrown out there. Furthermore, I think people who make the argument have some awareness of this, which is why they say "First Cause" instead of "God" and try to slip the concept of God with all its baggage. Even if it were a solid argument, the most appropriate response would be, "ok, so there was a First Cause, so what?" That's because the argument isn't that there's a First Cause, but that the First Cause is necessarily a particular character in a particular book who, depending on whom you listen to, may have a beard or care deeply about your sex life or really wants the Dallas Cowboys to win for a change or whatever.

    Seriously, what would it do to religion if we were to discover that

    1. There is a God!
    2. He's a graduate student, and this is his thesis project.
    3. He got an F, for obvious reasons.

    Because, if you're going to hand-wave about the mysterious nature of God, then this, too, fits all the arguments. The trouble is that almost everyone (and I'm not sure about the "almost," except for pantheists) has an idea about the nature of this god-thing they're trying to prove. They go through all these arguments and present them as if there were no hidden agenda, but there always are.

    For example, Pascal's Wager, besides its other flaws, presumes both that God needs his butt kissed or else he goes medieval on your ass and it's obvious that eternity spent with such a guy would be, like, the best fun ever!

    There's a similar problem with "Higher Power." Does walking under a high-tension line count? The Sun certainly does, at least half the day. But no, it's God! With a penis and a jealousy problem. Yeah, that's what I meant. It's so obvious.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Are you really serious or simply ranting a bit? (none / 0) (#312)
    by Pawpaw on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:41:49 AM EST

    I did not use the term First Cause as a synonym for God. I do believe that is the logical conclusion but I thought I keep them apart. I, in no way, was trying to sneak anything.

    [ Parent ]
    Half and half (4.00 / 1) (#318)
    by epepke on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:57:03 AM EST

    You did go from "First Cause" to "God of the Bible" without offering any connection. True, you said IMO, but it's still a bald assertion. There's nothing in your article to make your conclusion of the God of the Bible, who has a lot of interesting characteristics (he can walk, he gets pissed off a lot, he doesn't seem to know some things or at least pretends not to, and many others) more compelling than my hypothetical graduate student. And now you say you think it's logical but still don't describe any logic.

    So, I'm not sure in what sense you are "keeping them apart." You put the two in the same sequence, and you've presented no logic to connect them.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Ref: my post (none / 0) (#329)
    by Pawpaw on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:12:04 AM EST

    My post was not meant as a desertation. It is simply my opinion, from my heart. Nothing more AND nothing less. That's all.==Tuesday calls==I have got to get going. Have a gentle day.

    [ Parent ]
    That's just not true... (5.00 / 1) (#398)
    by DeadBaby on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 09:34:15 AM EST

    There doesn't have to be a designer. In fact, you could argue there doesn't even have to be a starting point. If GOD(!) can just exist, why can't the universe just exist? If GOD(!) had no designer, why does the universe need a designer?
    "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
    [ Parent ]
    A lot of rebuttals :-) (none / 0) (#988)
    by Hector Plasmic on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 11:11:49 AM EST

    1. Before all of this (the universe) there HAD to be a First Cause.

    But it doesn't look that way; in fact, it doesn't look like "before" has any meaning with relation to the universe, since space-time is part of the universe.  What does "before time" mean?  So, to me, it looks as though you are insisting upon an absurdity as trvth.

    2. A design presupposes a Designer.

    So snowflakes prove there's a snowflake fairy designing snowflakes?

    3. The God of the Bible, IMO, best describes 1. and 2.

    Since it's phrased as an opinion, you're welcome to it.  If I were to postulate gods as responsible for the universe, however, I'd postulate a committee; one which started with a common goal and fell into bickering disagreement.  Thus, the earlier the universe, the more unified the forces.

    I believe that the 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics go a long way toward being, in part, scientific proof of 3.

    Since you provide no support whatsoever for this statement, I'm going to assume you just don't understand the laws of thermodynamics.  I know of nothing in these laws that would hint at gods, much less Biblical gods, after all.

    Please don't throw a lot of rebuttals at me

    You make claims, we get to address them.  Hardly fair of you to insist you get to speak while others do not.

    [ Parent ]

    Some nice points (none / 0) (#1054)
    by Qbertino on Tue Oct 22, 2002 at 06:45:49 AM EST

    You've got some points. Allow me to retort. A 'first cause' implifies the concept and existance of linear time. Yet there is no such thing as time without space, physical bodys and their movement. I gather we agree in that God is a non-physical being, and as such exists beyond time and maybe, just as the hindus think, creates the universe over and over again at every moment.
    Bottom Line: The 'First Cause' thing hereby is rendered worthless as an argument (allong with all that creationist stuff).

    You're HO on the Bible is just that. I see no point in challenging them. Allthough I myself see the existence of God as an expierience-fact, I dought that we both have the same concept of her/him.

    [ Parent ]
    I don't understand the logic behind some of these (3.80 / 10) (#302)
    by Greyshade on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:11:11 AM EST

    <sarcasm>

    Here the bible says you need to beleive in the bible!

    Here the bible says to beleive in god because... well, because it says he exists!

    </sarcasm>

    Would it be possible for a few of you to meet us halfway for a discussion instead of just spouting off some quotes from what some of us are likely to take as a work of fiction?

    If your only reason for having faith in god is that someone else told you to, then fine. However, such an attitude does not make for good conversation. You might want to just wait and let some people who have a more well-reasoned stance defend your faith.

    Don't just mod me, countach (none / 0) (#305)
    by Greyshade on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 04:17:00 AM EST

    This is a discussion site, come discuss!

    Were you insulted by the fact that my faith does not take your holy scriptures as truth? Come win me over with reason!

    [ Parent ]

    Touche (1.00 / 2) (#340)
    by countach on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 05:44:04 AM EST

    Put forward an argument that can be refuted. There are plenty of rational christian arguments presented here. What did your post achieve?

    [ Parent ]
    To wit: (none / 0) (#374)
    by Skywise on Tue Oct 15, 2002 at 08:44:24 AM EST

    If your only reason for not having faith in God is that you decided that for yourself, then fine.  However, such an attitude does not make for good conversation.

    Oh wait, I'm sorry... did I step on your Dogma?

    [ Parent ]

    I would like to discuss the concept (4.00 / 1) (#777)
    by Greyshade on Wed Oct 16, 2002 at 04:11:45 AM EST

    It just gets difficult when

    A) the only references people want to use for discussion presuppose that you agree with the inherently unprovable factuality of their reference material

    B) are unwilling to give any ground in the discussion.

    It wouldnt be much of a discussion if I said I have my belief and refuse to be moved and you took the same stance. I am willing to accept the existance of a god for the sake of arguement. I am actually willing to give all kinds of concessions to get someone to have an actual discussion that might change the way I think. The problem is that a lot of people seem to want to just say 'You are wrong and I am right because the bibe says so'.

    I agree with you that there are people at the other end of the scale that don't beleive and will not be swayed either. That is their right, I just don't think closed minds from either end add much quality to the discussion.

    [ Parent ]