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January 06, 2013

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Good to see some activity on the old blog again. Thanks Skeptico.

yay!! You're still around! :D

Thanks Skeptico. I understand how difficult it must be, for each prize, to choose the real winner.
Good Work!

Nice to see you writing again!

An added point: The original (unpublished) accusation was, according to Dawkins, that he "could have inherited a gene for supporting slavery".

http://old.richarddawkins.net/articles/645002-the-sins-of-the-fathers

What else would you define as that which must exist?

Alastair:

Offhand, I can't think of anything.

@ Skeptico

Well, something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent.

Why not?

@ Yojimbo

Because if everything were contingent, then it would imply an infinite regress.

Hmmm! I'm not getting it - that sounds like a purely semantic argument.

If you want to know what exists you go look and see what's there. Determining that something that exists is "necessary" seems arbitrary, and fundimentally unprovable. While saying that something exists because it is necessary and for no other reason seems pretty meaningless - and also fundimentally unprovable.

Your argument seems akin to debating dancing angels on pinheads.

@ Yojimbo

Everything that you see is contingent (dependent on something else that is contingent). There must be something that is necessary (not contingent) in order to explain a world of contingencies. (By the way, this is the "argument from contingency," not the "ontological argument.")

@Alastair

I get the point. My problem is with "There must be something that is necessary (not contingent) in order to explain a world of contingencies." I asked why? So far you seem to be saying "because!" - which I gather was also Aquinas' argument.

Everything that you see is contingent (dependent on something else that is contingent).
There's your mistake - you're just assuming that. (Everything can't be contingent or by definition there wouldn't be anything.)

@ Yojimbo

If something is contingent, then its existence is not necessary (by definition). Therefore, its existence needs to be explain by something that is not contingent, by something that is necessary. So, this is why I asked the question: "What else would you define as that which must exist?"

@Alistair

Again I ask why? Why does the existence of something that is not necessary require an explanation? I can see wanting an explanation of whether something exists, but if it does, it does. Why is its contingency even a question?

This reminds me of the argument of the Prime Mover. That never made sense to me either.

@ Yojimbo

> There's your mistake - you're just assuming that. <

No, I am not assuming that. That's why I asked the question: "What else would you define as that which must exist?"

No, I am not assuming that. That's why I asked the question: "What else would you define as that which must exist?"
Ye you did. You said "Everything that you see is contingent."

You're playing semantics. I'm going to ask you this just one time:

What else would YOU define as that which must exist? And please tell us why.

@ Yojimbo

You first argued that my mistake was to assume that everything was contingent. Now, you're arguing that my mistake is to assume that something necessary is required to explain something contingent. Which one is it?

@ Yojimbo

You first argued that my mistake was to assume that everything was contingent. Now, you're arguing that my mistake is to assume that something necessary is required to explain something contingent. Which one is it?

@Alistair, are you confusing me with Skeptico? I'm honored, but honestly, I am not his Clark Kent :)

@ Skeptico

I first asked you: "What else would you define as that which must exist?"

To which you replied: "Offhand, I can't think of anything."

To which I replied: "Well, something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

That's the assumption (actually argument) that I made. "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

And based on your most recent post, it would appear that you now agree with me...that something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent. So, I ask the question again: "What else would you define as that which must exist?"

Of course, we could take another tack with this and say everything that exists is necessary, because otherwise it would be a different universe. But really, the argument about contingency strikes me as (to repeat myself) semantics. And not very interesting semantics, at that.

I'll side with Skeptico on this one and ask you to answer your own question - just to see if this goes where I suspect it will.

@ Yojimbo

Your different tack implies an infinite regress of causes. (That is, your argument now implies that the present state of the universe was caused by the previous state of the universe, which was caused by the previous state of the universe, which was caused by...ad infinitum.)

So? What's the problem?

Either the universe is infinite, in which case ad infinitum is not a problem, or it is finite and its initial conditions are inherently unknowable.

Anyway - what is YOUR answer?

@ Yojimbo

An infinite regress is a logical fallacy.

An infinite regress in a series of propositions... is a logical falacy. The universe is not a logical argument.

Anyway - what is YOUR answer?

I first asked you: "What else would you define as that which must exist?"

To which you replied: "Offhand, I can't think of anything."

To which I replied: "Well, something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

That's the assumption (actually argument) that I made. "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

Yes, you did just assume that. Thanks for admitting it. Although you denied it before. But it’s an assumption – you have no reason to suppose it is necessarily true.

And based on your most recent post, it would appear that you now agree with me...that something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent.

I agreed no such thing.

Don’t make up straw man positions that you think I must have and then get me to defend these made up positions.

So, I ask the question again: "What else would you define as that which must exist?"

And I repeat, I can’t think of anything. If you prefer, I don’t know the answer.

You, however, do think that something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent, because you wrote above, and I quote: "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent." So I am going to ask you for a second (and believe me this will be the last) time, What else would you define as that which must exist? This is your argument, stop playing games and answer the question.

@ Yojimbo

You're proposing an infinite series of temporal causes. That's clearly an infinite regress.

@ Skeptico

> You, however, do think that something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent, because you wrote above, and I quote: "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent." <

Yes, that was my counterargument. Are you disagreeing with that? Yes or no? (If you can't give me a clear response, then there is no point to continue this discussion.)

Counterargument to what? What point are you trying to make?

"You're proposing an infinite series of temporal causes. That's clearly an infinite regress."

No, it is not. That is an infinite process, which is entirely possible in an infinite universe. There is no regression unless you are positing some beginning to regress to. If there is a beginning then it is not an infinite universe, but we can't know anything about the initial condtions so we can't possibly know what was "necessary" - so why ask the question?

In any case, talk about not giving "a clear response" - you have been asked a number of times what your idea of an answer is, and you ignore the requests. As far as I can tell this is a pointless exercise in semantics.

@ Skeptico

The point that I am making is a point that I have already made - namely, that "something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

Either you believe that everything is contingent or you do not. If you do not, then you believe that something must be necessary (by default). So, what do you believe? (I have already stated what I believe. Nevertheless, for the sake of clarity, I will reiterate it. I believe that something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent. I believe that it is a logical impossibility that everything can be contingent.)

@ Yojimbo

> No, it is not. That is an infinite process, which is entirely possible in an infinite universe. <

An infinite process requires an infinite amount of time to process. So, it is a logically impossibility that an infinite amount of time has elapsed to reach the present moment. (You either grasp this or you don't. If you don't, then we cannot continue this discussion.)

> If there is a beginning then it is not an infinite universe, but we can't know anything about the initial condtions so we can't possibly know what was "necessary" - so why ask the question? <

We can ask logical questions and make logical deductions or inferences.

Question: Is it logically possible that everything can be contingent?

Answer: No

Question: If it is logically impossible that everything can be contingent, does this imply that something is necessary?

Answer: Yes

The point that I am making is a point that I have already made - namely, that "something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

So what?

@ Skeptico

> So what? <

You asked me what was my point. I explicitly stated it. Do you agree with it? Yes or no?

Alastair

I keep asking you to come to the point but you refuse, instead preferring to play games. So at this point I’m just going to explain why the point I think you are really trying to get me to agree to, is wrong.

1) Just because there may need to be something that is not caused by something else, that does not mean that that thing must be “god.” To insist that would be an argument from ignorance fallacy.
2) If you read the work of any modern physicists (Victor Stenger has some good writing on this) you would know that things do pop into existence all the time without being caused by anything else (look up “quantum vacuum fluctuation”). So “god” is still not required.

Unless you can now tell me what you think is the first cause (which is what you really mean by “necessary”) with evidence to support it, we are done.

@ Skeptico

> I keep asking you to come to the point but you refuse, instead preferring to play games. <

The only one playing games here is you. You continue to evade the question - a simple "yes or no" question.

> Just because there may need to be something that is not caused by something else, that does not mean that that thing must be “god.” <

There's really only one answer here: an "uncaused cause."

> If you read the work of any modern physicists (Victor Stenger has some good writing on this) you would know that things do pop into existence all the time without being caused by anything else (look up “quantum vacuum fluctuation”). So “god” is still not required <

I know I have won the argument whenever a skeptic has to resort to employing the term "uncaused" to explain observed phenomena. (By the way, everything (not some things) reduces to uncaused events - a.k.a. quantum events.)

"Since the Universe could, under different circumstances, conceivably not exist (contingency), its existence must have a cause – not merely another contingent thing, but something that exists by necessity (something that must exist in order for anything else to exist).[8] In other words, even if the Universe has always existed, it still owes its existence to an Uncaused Cause,[9] Aquinas further said: "...and this we understand to be God."[10]

(source: Wikipedia: Cosmological argument)

"The only one playing games here is you."

Au contraire Mr Paisley, it is you and you alone who play games; this is transparent which is why no one is playing along. Your game specifically being to - out of the blue - present a scripted play and have your interlocutor dutifully follow along the path you set, so as you may then present what you believe to be some kind of unassailable 'gotcha.' Of course when your interlocutors don't follow the imaginary script you laid out for them you obfuscate and evade, you keep trying to make them follow the script, demand they do so because your ultimate "victory" hinges on the other doing exactly what you imagined for them. If they still won't co-operate, well there's eventually some bafflegab and then...

"I know I have won the argument..."

[Yawn]

Yes, yes of course you won, after all you said you won and that's unimpeachable stuff right there.

Arguments rest on their own merits and not pointless cheer-leading by the person making those arguments. Resorting to this self-backslapping routine is suggestive that the individual is not really so convinced by their own press. So they have to tell themselves they won, convince themselves that yes, their argument won, they're right because they said so.

Here's the problem with that gussied up argument from ignorance you have there, if your interlocutor doesn't accept the self-serving premises you utilise to go from A to B, then you don't have much of a leg to stand on. In light of our hazy knowledge on what came prior to the Big Bang or what caused it to occur, an "I don't know" or "so what" is a perfectly reasonable answer. No one is obliged to enter into your either / or scenarios so you can pounce with god and think yourself a stunning intellect. Furthermore, if the universe must have had a cause one is entitled to ask from whence that first cause came, why that has a special exemption to always have existed but nothing else does, or why unknown = god?

It really is telling how desperate you folks get to somehow finagle your creator lordship in somewhere. Absent in every tangible way you resort to handwaving sophistry to stick it in somewhere, anywhere, just so long as you can reassure yourself that yes, there's the creator. It is obscure, ultimately meaningless and of no consequence to anyone or anything but importantly for you, it is there. Except that's not enough is it? You have to shore up the stark flimsiness of this position, the niggling doubt by randomly shoving it into gladiatorial combat because winning is taken to equal true. Of course that all falls apart when others won't respond correctly to the plays and you're left declaring victory by personal fiat for the god you think you managed to weasel into some unassailable, obscure nook.

@ Darth Cynic

My argument was clearly stated in the beginning of this thread: "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

I see nothing in your bloviated response that even begins to address it, let alone refutes it Until then, this debate is over.

There was a debate? Damn! I missed it.

"My argument was clearly stated..."

Oh come now, that's not an argument that was merely a lead in for the rest of the script your interlocutor was to follow to ha, HA! God!

"I see nothing..."

But of course you do not, that's why you pop up here trying so hard to convince yourself that He's there somewhere, very obscure but somewhere. Unfortunately the Cosmological argument is not new and not the coup-de-grâce you take it for. As I said, "if the universe must have had a cause one is entitled to ask from whence that first cause came, why that has a special exemption to always have existed but nothing else does, or why unknown = god?"

"Until then, this debate is over."

I'd imagine so, after all as you so proudly announced you did win.

@ Darth Cynic

> Oh come now, that's not an argument that was merely a lead in for the rest of the script your interlocutor was to follow to ha, HA! God! <

Translation: "I can't refute your argument."

"Translation: "I can't refute your argument.""

Yes..., ahh whatever.

Oh but then there's this, for the second time, "unfortunately the Cosmological argument is not new and not the coup-de-grâce you take it for. As I said, "if the universe must have had a cause one is entitled to ask from whence that first cause came, why that has a special exemption to always have existed but nothing else does, or why unknown = god?""

But you ignore that, handwave some and then declare you have won again. I'm sure that will soother everything over.

Alistair:

Well, Darth Cynic certainly has your number.

Let me try to explain the mistakes in your reasoning. Not that I expect you to listen – you dismissed Darth’s detailed post without considering it – but more of a summary for anyone else reading. Your first error is in what you say is a simple question – yes or no. Except it’s not as simple as your false dilemma would imply, because there is a third option you are not considering, namely “I don’t know.” You ignore this option despite my telling it to you at least twice. But “I don’t know” is a valid option. I don’t know, and the thing is, neither do you. I know you think you do, but you don’t; you’ve just decided you “know” something based on what seems correct logically. But you’re expecting too much from logic alone – for this kind of thing you need actual evidence, and you don’t have any.

The second mistake you make, is the argument from ignorance, which is to assume that the thing you are talking about must be “god.” This is just such a hilariously basic error I find it hard to believe that people still rely on it. Even if you are correct and something is “necessary” you still don’t know what it is and you don’t get to say, ‘and it’s god.’ If we don’t know then we just don’t know and that is true even if you quote Thomas Aquinas, which is an appeal to authority (that’s three logical fallacies now – you’re really racking them up).

So your argument fails spectacularly. Then I pointed out that modern physicists are saying that there is no “necessary” (as you insist on calling it) thing anyway. Now, I don’t know if that is true, and I’m not really qualified to evaluate the idea, but if you are going to ridicule what most current experts are saying on this subject, you had better have some good arguments to rebut their ideas, and (again) quoting Thomas Aquinas is not it. Also I did not “resort” to talking about uncaused anything, since (as you can see above) I had already refuted your arguments by exposing the three logical fallacies you are relying on. The modern physics contribution was just an additional reason you might like to consider that you could be wrong and can’t say for sure what is true, although please continue to tell your self you “won” the argument, if it makes you feel better. Yes, you “won” the argument when your opponent referenced what modern scientists are saying as opposed to what Thomas Aquinas thought. Very convincing victory. Anyway, you ignored my actual arguments and distorted one point (didn’t try to understand it but claimed I had “resorted” to it) and declared victory based on the distortion – so that would be a straw man argument – four logical fallacies now.

So you’re done. One more thing. Do you want to know what really translates to "I can't refute your argument”? It would be this:

I see nothing in your bloviated response that even begins to address it, let alone refutes it.

…in response to Darth Cynic’s detailed 500 word deconstruction of your fallacious and dishonest debating style. No actual reasons why any of what Darth wrote was wrong, just pompous hand waving.

@ Skeptico

Let's step through this one last time.

I first asked you: "What else would you define as that which must exist?"

To which you replied: "Offhand, I can't think of anything."

To which I replied: "Well, something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

That's my argument: "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

Responding "I don't know" is ONLY a valid option if you truly don't know whether my argument is logically valid. So, is that what you're saying...that you truly don't know whether my argument is logically valid? (Please note that I haven't even broached the topic of "God" at this point. So, don't attempt to evade the question by going on one of your antitheistic tantrums.)

1) Once again, I don't know. Neither do you. Logic cannot give definitive answers to questions like this, especially when modern scientists disagree with you.

2) You already admitted you think this thing is god, from your Aquinas quote "...and this we understand to be God" so who do you think you are kidding?

@ Skeptics

> Once again, I don't know. <

Well, if you don't truly know whether my argument is logically valid, then you obviously can't refute it. And if you can't refute it, then this debate is over. That's how it works. Duh!

> Neither do you. <

Speak for yourself. I'm not logically challenged like you. I do know. I know that my argument is logically valid in the same way I know that the mathematical statement "2 + 2 = 4" is logically valid. It's based on pure rationality, not empiricism.

I know that something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent. Everything can't be contingent because that would imply an infinite regress - a logical fallacy.

Well, if you don't truly know whether my argument is logically valid, then you obviously can't refute it. And if you can't refute it, then this debate is over. That's how it works. Duh!

No, that’s not how it works. You haven’t offered any evidence that what you say is true, so your saying that this means therefore you are correct, is an argument from ignorance fallacy. Duh yourself.

Speak for yourself. I'm not logically challenged like you. I do know. I know that my argument is logically valid in the same way I know that the mathematical statement "2 + 2 = 4" is logically valid. It's based on pure rationality, not empiricism.

I know that something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent. Everything can't be contingent because that would imply an infinite regress - a logical fallacy.


It may be logically valid but that doesn’t mean it is correct. You don’t know how the universe came into being and you can’t determine the universe came into being using logic alone. That is what you are missing.

This is getting tiresome so (against my better judgment) I am going to throw you a bone. For the sake of the discussion, let’s say you are correct and something must be “necessary” as you put it.

SO WHAT?

Last chance to make clear what your point is with respect to Plantinga’s argument, which is the topic in hand. Get to the point.

"then you obviously can't refute it. And if you can't refute it, then this debate is over. That's how it works."

You do make an awful lot of noise over proclaiming your own victory, methinks thou doth protest too much.

"Speak for yourself. I'm not logically challenged like you."

My, apparently refusing to stay on script makes you quite touchy. Say, you do realise that something can be internally logical, as in "logically valid" and yet still be objectively wrong yes? You know, if the initial premises are off.

As has been indicated, you're getting all hung up on 'logically valid' as though therein and only therein lies absolute truth as opposed to just being one of many tools. Of course you want it to be paramount, I get that because that's what you need to squirrel in a god; even if that last bit is arrived at through no logic at all.

Your "argument" is alas merely a question, a starting point, a step that means nothing in and of itself without going further; the further being god for you (as per the undisputed Aquinas quote). Which is odd for one who lionises logic so much, because leaping from an unknown to god is a logical fallacy, the argument from ignorance as has been mentioned more than once. But it gets worse, for if the answer is a 'yes' we end up with, for the fourth time, "if the universe must have had a cause one is entitled to ask, well from whence did that first cause come?" Or why this mooted 'necessary something' has a special exemption to always have just existed merely so as to make your argument be internally consistent. Wahey, back to the infinite regression you abhor. Then the thorny problem of why the universe itself or whatever it may be in cannot be this 'necessary something.' Or lastly how an unknown 'necessary something' is, by mere assertion, taken to mean god?

However, sans objective evidence, it is nought but unknowable navel gazing and given that painful lack of evidence, 'I don't know' is a perfectly viable position; possibly the only reasonable one. You cannot manifest your god here by mere force of will, you cannot win for you lack the required evidence to push beyond the insufficient abstractions which are already somewhat ambiguous.

@ Skeptico

> It may be logically valid but that doesn’t mean it is correct. <

There is no "may be" about it. It's correct because it's logically valid.

> This is getting tiresome so (against my better judgment) I am going to throw you a bone. <

You're not throwing me a bone; you're vainly attempting to "save face" because you KNOW that my argument is logically valid and therefore correct.

> SO WHAT? <

So, every contingent thing that comes into being owes its existence to something that causes it to come into being. But this cannot be merely another contingent thing. Ultimately it must be something that is necessary, something that is uncaused which causes all other contingent things to come into being.

You're not throwing me a bone; you're vainly attempting to "save face" because you KNOW that my argument is logically valid and therefore correct.

Boy, you are full of yourself. And also wrong. First, you need to stop telling me what I am thinking. I have stated clearly that just because your argument may be logically valid, that does not mean it is correct. The intellectually honest person tries to understand and respond to the other person's actual argument, not the made up one that you respond to. Second, I am trying to get you to state the point (assuming you have one) of all this verbiage.

So, every contingent thing that comes into being owes its existence to something that causes it to come into being. But this cannot be merely another contingent thing. Ultimately it must be something that is necessary, something that is uncaused which causes all other contingent things to come into being.

SO WHAT?

@ Skeptico

> The intellectually honest person tries to understand and respond to the other person's actual argument <

Well, it would appear that you're not an intellectually honest person because you are still not responding to my argument.

My argument is: "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

If you really don't believe it is a logically valid argument, then please state the logical flaw. Either state the logical flaw or acknowledge that it is logically valid. If you can't do that, then this debate is over.

Well, it would appear that you're not an intellectually honest person because you are still not responding to my argument.

Yes I have. Numerous times. You keep ignoring what I say.

My argument is: "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

And what I keep saying is, so what? And you keep ignoring the question. OK, something must be necessary. So what does that have to do with my post? What does it have to do with Plantinga's argument? What is your point?

This is absolutely your last chance. What does "Something must be necessary" have to do with my post? What is your point? Answer the fucking question.

And, to be crystal clear, if you reply by repeating again "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent" I will delete your comment and ban you.

'Over'

You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means. Anyhoo, moving along.

"It's correct because it's logically valid."

Ahhh, I see you're a close student of the School of Repetition where you hold 'if I say often enough it must therefore be true' to be a central tenet. The other being ignore everything anyone else says, cleave to the path and all that. Problem of course is, you are wrong, the false premise illustrates that merely being logically valid is no indicator on whether a statement is correct or not. But you studiously avoid this no matter who puts it to you, just another invocation of the hallowed mantra as though that stands as answer to everything. But who needs those other pesky addendums or ramifications to logic eh? Good folks only need the convenient bits, the ones that open that little crack to place the effigy in.

"Either state the logical flaw or acknowledge that it is logically valid."

Seen as this is nought but a step* in the Cosmological Argument to which you have inserted god, then circular reasoning and probably also false premise apply; never minding that 'logically valid' does not equate to objectively true. But feel free to repeat yourself..., well don't because that shtick has worn thin by now. You could declare everything is over again and victory etc., you've been nothing but disingenuous so far so why stop now. However, if it is to be more pablum, well I don't need to respond to those clearly piling up the sandbags.

* - the statement standing alone is meaningless in and of itself.

@ Skeptico

> OK, something must be necessary. <

Finally.

You: "SO WHAT?"

Me: "So, every contingent thing that comes into being owes its existence to something that causes it to come into being. But this cannot be merely another contingent thing. Ultimately it must be something that is necessary, something that is uncaused which causes all other contingent things to come into being."

You: "So what? What's your point"

So what do you call something that is necessary, something that is uncaused, something which causes all other contingent things to come into being?

No idea. What do you call it? (Although I think we all know what Alastair is going to call it.)

Of course we do - and we know that everything that is logically true is also objectively true, because the universe is completely logical.

Because I said so.

@ Skeptico

> No idea. What do you call it? (Although I think we all know what Alastair is going to call it.) <

Believers like myself understand the necessary, uncaused cause to be God. But skeptics like yourself now know that they owe their existence to a necessary, uncaused cause because it can be logically demonstrated to them.

Alastair, HOW do you know this alleged necessary uncaused cause is this thing you call a god?

To me, this is like saying it's "narf," by the way. I don't exactly see a consensus on what a "god" is or demonstrable examples on which to base a definition. It's ivory tower nonsense to me. Actually, it's more like one very specific echo chamber in the ivory tower.

It's really not that hard to make arguments that are logically valid and/or self-consistent. Good authors essentially do that for the sake of building fictional worlds that make sense to readers, even if they use magic or weird science that doesn't exist in real life. The author's definitions only carry weight because he's the one doing the worldbuilding. Readers will typically suspend disbelief for the sake of being entertained and accept strange premises. To keep that suspension of disbelief, the author tries to maintain a narrative with logical consequences based on those premises.

The tough issue in arguing about real life is cogency. Validity means that if your premises are true, your conclusion will be true. Cogency/soundness means that your premises are true. If any one of your premises is false, your logic fails to be compelling because it's effectively changing the venue to a fictional world where those premises are true. We'd rather argue about the real world.

Definitions are also a problem because the universe won't change to match our language. It's more realistic to observe the universe and sculpt our language to describe what we see. We can't discover or understand anything new by throwing around definitions as if they were inherently authoritative. Words are not magic.

Alastair:

Believers like myself understand the necessary, uncaused cause to be God.

Sorry to tell you this Mr. not-at-all-logically-challenged, but you understand nothing. You say you ‘understand’ it is god, but this is just a semantic diversion to cover up the reality, which is that you just choose to believe it is god. (Calling it an ‘understanding’ rather than just a belief does not make it any more credible and doesn’t make it true.) You believe it’s god because you started off believing it was god. But you have no facts evidence or logic to show it is god.

As I’ve explained at least twice, if we don’t know the explanation for something, you don’t get to say ‘it’s god’ – that is just the basic argument from ignorance fallacy. If we don’t know the explanation for something, then we just don’t know the explanation yet. But I note that you do now at least accept that this is just a belief, not based on anything more solid (such as facts, evidence or even logic). What a lot of unnecessary effort to get to that conclusion.

But skeptics like yourself now know that they owe their existence to a necessary, uncaused cause because it can be logically demonstrated to them.

Vacuous drivel.

All you are saying, all you have ever said, is that something must have caused all the things we observe because the universe couldn’t have just popped into existence by itself. All the tortured posts (26 by my rough count) where you were determined to steer the discussion towards the specific words “necessary,” “uncaused” and “causes all other contingent things” that you have learned somewhere will suit your conclusion, as though these words were magic talismans. And yet all it boils down to is ‘something must have caused all the things we observe.’ Doesn’t sound so convincing without the magic words now though does it? It sounds even less convincing when you realize you are just talking about the thing that made the things for which there is no known maker.

Your conclusion is mere sophistry, just like Alvin Plantinga’s articles that you came here to defend, (unsuccessfully). In fact, you have just confirmed that all you have is:

God is defined as that which must exist.
That which must exist exists.


Therefore, God exists!

And no, you cannot define anything else as that which must exist. You just can’t, that’s why not.


Which is where we started. But thanks for your interest.

All that insistence on 'logic' only to turf it aside when it no longer suits purposes. Well done.

AP: "But skeptics like yourself now know that they owe their existence to a necessary, uncaused cause because it can be logically demonstrated to them."

Oh this is just heroic, as I initially said above:

"Except that's not enough is it? You have to shore up the stark flimsiness of this position, the niggling doubt...."

You're so unconvinced in your own press that you can only make it seem real vicariously through unbelievers!? "Ahh you guys have to accept this because..., 'logic,' therefore god..., yes there is a god..., there is a god, there really is because skeptics had to acknowledge the logic, didn't they?"

And there is this pesky set of assumptions:

Everything has to have a direct, immediately preceding cause: The radioactive decay of an individual atom doesn't.
Except one: Except lots. See above.
So that uncaused cause has to be a supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, personal being: Even assuming the necessity of an uncaused cause (not proven) why should it not be Buddha? Why not Ahura Mazda? Why not Mithra? Why not Jove? Why not Odin? Why not Atem? Not all supernatural world-creation myths are monotheistic or involve omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, personal beings. Why are their staunch believers (just as smart and sincere as their Christian/Muslim/Judaic brethren) so absolutely and demonstrably wrong? Show your working.
That personal, omni-everything maker spends all his (its) time obsessing with the sexual and dietetic habits of a bunch of upright primates on one small planet, orbiting an average star, in a largish but otherwise unremarkable galaxy in a universe full of billions of galaxies and quadrillions of stars and trillions of planets, and very possibly quintillions of other universes in a multiverse: Enough said.

@ Bronze Dog

> Alastair, HOW do you know this alleged necessary uncaused cause is this thing you call a god? <

I don't believe I have ever employed the term "know" in this regards.

> The tough issue in arguing about real life is cogency. Validity means that if your premises are true, your conclusion will be true. Cogency/soundness means that your premises are true. If any one of your premises is false, your logic fails to be compelling because it's effectively changing the venue to a fictional world where those premises are true. <

I agree with this.

don't believe I have ever employed the term "know" in this regards.
Care to explain yourself and what your claims actually are, then?

@ Skeptico

> Sorry to tell you this Mr. not-at-all-logically-challenged, but you understand nothing. You say you ‘understand’ it is god, but this is just a semantic diversion to cover up the reality, which is that you just choose to believe it is god. (Calling it an ‘understanding’ rather than just a belief does not make it any more credible and doesn’t make it true.) You believe it’s god because you started off believing it was god. But you have no facts evidence or logic to show it is god. <

You will recall that I stated: "BELIEVERS like myself understand the necessary, uncaused cause to be God." The term "believer" means one who believes. (This doesn't reveal a cover up. It simply reveals that your reading comprehension skills leave something to be desired.)

> All you are saying, all you have ever said, is that something must have caused all the things we observe because the universe couldn’t have just popped into existence by itself. <

Correction! I argued that that is was an "UNCAUSED cause," not merely a "cause." (And I will remind you, that you agreed my argument was valid.)

> All you are saying, all you have ever said, is that something must have caused all the things we observe because the universe couldn’t have just popped into existence by itself. All the tortured posts (26 by my rough count) where you were determined to steer the discussion towards the specific words “necessary,” “uncaused” and “causes all other contingent things” that you have learned somewhere will suit your conclusion, as though these words were magic talismans. <

The explanation that "everything is popping into existence uncaused" does sound like a magical explanation to me. I don't know how else you would characterize that. Mystical, maybe?

@ Big Al

> Everything has to have a direct, immediately preceding cause: The radioactive decay of an individual atom doesn't. <

Sounds like you have evidence for an "uncaused cause" to me.

"The idea that an electron...by its own free decision chooses the moment and direction in which it wants to eject is intolerable to me. If that is so, I'd rather be a cobbler or a clerk in a gambling casino than a physicist." - Albert Einstein (source: pg. 574, "Albert Einstein" by Albrecht Fölsing, translated by Ewald Osers)

Merriam-Webster defines "indeterminism" as "a theory that the will is free and that deliberate choice and actions are not determined by or predictable from antecedent causes" or "a theory that holds that not every event has a cause."

> So that uncaused cause has to be a supernatural, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, personal being: <

Well, an "uncaused cause" is certainly not a physical explanation. So, unless your "naturalism" involves something nonphysical, then I guess an uncaused cause would qualify as supernaturalistic explanation. The uncaused cause would also qualify as omnipotent because it is the source of all potency.

You will recall that I stated: "BELIEVERS like myself understand the necessary, uncaused cause to be God." The term "believer" means one who believes.

Yes, believes – without evidence, yet you believe it anyway. I understood perfectly.

The other thing I understood is that you cover up this unjustified belief with the word “understand.” Now “understand” has several definitions:

1.To perceive and comprehend the nature and significance of; grasp.
2. To know thoroughly by close contact or long experience with: That teacher understands children. 


[snip]

7. To accept (something) as an agreed fact: It is understood that the fee will be 50 dollars.

To know, to accept as an agreed fact. These are the subtle meanings you are trying to sneak in and get accepted, without of course directly stating them (because then it would be clear what you are doing). You are trying to cover up the fact that this is just an unjustified belief, with your use of the word “understand.” This seems to be a favorite trick of yours. But it’s just sophistry. And quite transparent.

(This doesn't reveal a cover up. It simply reveals that your reading comprehension skills leave something to be desired.)

On the contrary, I have just shown that my reading comprehension is fine. I comprehended exactly what you were doing. Nice try.

Correction! I argued that that is was an "UNCAUSED cause," not merely a "cause." (And I will remind you, that you agreed my argument was valid.)

On the contrary, I agreed “for the sake of the discussion, let’s say you are correct…”  You see, I had grown tired of your continued refusal to get to the point and was agreeing to your point for the sake of argument, to see where you would go with it (although I already knew in reality, I wanted you to present your argument). That’s what “for the sake of the discussion” means. It seems you are the one with reading comprehension difficulties.

The explanation that "everything is popping into existence uncaused" does sound like a magical explanation to me. I don't know how else you would characterize that. Mystical, maybe?

Or just something we don’t understand yet. And won’t make up explanations the way you do.

"The idea that an electron...by its own free decision chooses the moment and direction in which it wants to eject is intolerable to me. If that is so, I'd rather be a cobbler or a clerk in a gambling casino than a physicist." - Albert Einstein (source: pg. 574, "Albert Einstein" by Albrecht Fölsing, translated by Ewald Osers)

Argument from authority now? For someone who thinks he is not logically challenged you sure do rely on logical fallacies a lot.

@ Skeptico

> Yes, believes – without evidence, yet you believe it anyway. I understood perfectly. <

Yes, the term "believer" means one who BELIEVES.

> The other thing I understood is that you cover up this unjustified belief with the word “understand.” Now “understand” has several definitions: <

Yes, the term "understand" does have several meanings.

Merriam-Webster's second definition of "understand" defines the term as "to accept as a fact or truth or regard as plausible without utter certainty."

I "accept as truth" that the uncaused cause is God.

I "regard as plausible without utter certainty" that the uncaused cause is God.

"Believers like myself understand the necessary, uncaused cause to be God."

(This is only difficult for someone who lacks reading comprehension skills and/or critical thinking skills.)

> On the contrary, I agreed “for the sake of the discussion, let’s say you are correct…” <

Me: "My argument is: "Something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent."

If you really don't believe it is a logically valid argument, then please state the logical flaw. Either state the logical flaw or acknowledge that it is logically valid. If you can't do that, then this debate is over."

You: "And what I keep saying is, so what? And you keep ignoring the question. OK, something must be necessary."

Now, you are backtracking and denying that you have acknowledged that "something must be necessary." And since you have also failed to identify any logical flaw with my argument, this debate is over.

Merriam-Webster's second definition of "understand" defines the term as "to accept as a fact or truth or regard as plausible without utter certainty."

Of course there are other definitions. But the one you want people to think of is "know" and and an "agreed fact." It's sneaky, but fortunately so transparent that anyone can see what you're doing.

The rest of your comment was the usual sophistry that we've dealt with before. You still can't prove the existence of god using logic alone and so yes the debate is over.

Something I feel I should note: We're not asking for "utter certainty," either. We're just asking for a reasonable level of confidence and plausibility, like we would for any science question under debate. Certainty is rarely possible outside of pure mathematics.

Edit to my above comment: I mean probability, not plausibility.

@ Bronze Dog

> Something I feel I should note: We're not asking for "utter certainty," either. We're just asking for a reasonable level of confidence and plausibility, like we would for any science question under debate. Certainty is rarely possible outside of pure mathematics. <

My original argument on this thread that "something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent" is most certainly true in the same sense that the mathematical statement "2 + 2 = 4" is most certainly true.

Even if we granted that, so what?

@ Bronze Dog

> Even if we granted that, so what? <

I'm not doing any "for sake of argument" here.
Either you agree that my argument is logically valid and sound or you do not. If you do not, them please identify the flaw.

"I'm not doing any "for sake of argument" here."

Oh enough already with your petulant attitude.

"Either you agree that my argument is logically valid and sound or you do not. If you do not, them please identify the flaw."

Just to be clear, 'logically valid' is not a synonym for true, an argument can be logically valid and still wrong as this example indicates.

If the streets are wet, it has rained recently.
The streets are wet.
Therefore it has rained recently.

Thus 'logically valid' cannot speak to the objective truth of an argument only its internal consistency.

You want a flaw so lets start with the very first premise, that whatever begins to exist had a cause for that. To demonstrate the applicability of this claim you must resort to looking at causal relationships within the universe, that one thing begets another and that seems to be the only source of proof for this. The error appears in progressing to the next steps of the argument when taking these causal relationships within the universe and applying the rule to that which contains those things, the universe itself; based on no supporting evidence what-so-ever I might add.

Those within a team may work together but that does not mean that the thing they are within, teams, work together.

The rules of causation might apply to the universe itself but then again they might not, we don't know. You, however, don't know either and without any proper evidence - sorry but your assertions otherwise don't count - on your part we are not obliged to grant you your convenient presuppositions and so it falls at the first premise.

There's one flaw.

Now a question for you, the position that everything begins to exist suggests that there are things that begin to exist and things that do not. The latter as per you own insistences cannot be void so what does 'things that do not begin to exist' encompass, what are these things specifically?

Alastair, are you being evasive because you know we know your game and won't play along?

---

Oh, and one thing that comes to mind, though I can't quite recall how it went: It's possible to think of causes and effects as dependent (contingent?) on each other, and it's our temporal bias that makes us privilege causes.

You want a flaw so lets start with the very first premise, that whatever begins to exist had a cause for that.
I just remembered a point that I think is worth bringing up: Most things we think about in everyday life don't "begin to exist" in the way that phrase tends to imply. All that matter and energy has been around since at least the Big Bang, and it's only changed forms. We just apply labels to certain forms when they are "created," though those changes do typically involve causes.

Of course, it's still highly questionable to assert that everything has a cause just because we're familiar with caused events, since, as has been mentioned, the radioactive decay of an individual atom and particle pairs that arise in a vacuum appear to be causeless events. I don't see any problem with the idea that the Big Bang was uncaused.

@ Bronze Dog

> Alastair, are you being evasive because you know we know your game and won't play along? <

I'm not being evasive; you are.

Me: "My original argument on this thread that "something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent" is most certainly true in the same sense that the mathematical statement "2 + 2 = 4" is most certainly true."

You: "Even if we granted that, so what?"

You're NOT granting me anything. Either you acknowledge that "something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent" or you don't. If you don't, then you are obligated to identify the logical flaw in my argument. Failure to do so ends this debate. That's how it works.

I make an argument. You either accept the
argument or furnish me with a counterargument. That's how the 'game' is played. (I'm not about to go through the same exercise in futility with you that I had to go through with Skeptico.)

You're NOT granting me anything. Either you acknowledge that "something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent" or you don't. If you don't, then you are obligated to identify the logical flaw in my argument. Failure to do so ends this debate. That's how it works.
Currently, I do not see a reason to accept your premise that everything can't be contingent.

Some additional clarification on the terms "necessary" and "contingent" as you're using them would also be nice. In my experience, the specialized definitions are most typically (mis)used to distort or manufacture meaning, rather than express ideas.

As for why I haven't been focusing on this point, well, why is it that important? It's the common leap from the idea of a first/necessary/whatever cause to anthropomorphic entities called "gods" that I'm most interested in. I generally don't see much point in breaking a chain of terminological nuance when I'm aware of weaker links.

I'm probably stating the same thing in different words, so forgive me.

Alistair, my problem with your argument is that you replace the correct term - "logically consistent" - with the subjective "most certainly true."

I have no problem at all with " "something must be necessary because everything can't be contingent" is most certainly true [logically consistent] in the same sense that the mathematical statement "2 + 2 = 4" is most certainly true [logically consistent]." "

The problem I have is with the leap of faith that "most certainly true" is equivalent to "objectively real". 2+2=4 may be simple and self evidently true (within is set of axioms) but, as Gödel shows, even within the real numbers there must either be logical inonsistency or incompleteness. The physics of Aristotle was logically derrived and is logically consistent, and much of it has nothing at all to do with how things actually work.

Proving a god (or its equivalent) through a logical argument says nothing about whether one actually exists - it only shows that the argument is internally consistent.

When I initially asked "what is the problem with everything being contingent?" you said it could not be because of infinite regress. I agree that would be illogical (at least in a finite universe - as I said, there is no logical difficulty with it if you accept an infinite universe). You need to show why the real world must obey logic. It is purely an assumption on your part that it does. Or a belief - in which case your agrument reduces to you believing what you believe because you believe it.

Sorry - that should say within its set of axioms

With the response made to Bronze Dog I think enough time has elapsed to consider that certainly what I put is being conveniently ignored. Especially as no mention was made of it what-so-ever, not even in passing.

Of course a lot more seems to be left unremarked on now.

AP "I'm not being evasive..."

Falsehood. Your complete failure to address what I put to you starkly gives the lie to your words, or are you really that oblivious to what has gone before? After all, you did erroneously accuse Skeptico of backtracking despite the fact he had clearly stated on the 27th that he only allowed the claim for the sake of moving your by the numbers sing-song along:

"This is getting tiresome so [...] I am going to throw you a bone. For the sake of the discussion, let’s say you are correct and something must be “necessary” as you put it."

Anyhoo.

Rather than deal with anything substantive, like the flaw you keep asking for, you seize on ephemeral minutiae for the express purpose of evasion. All whilst huffing and puffing about logic, debate and 'how the game is played' as though any of that breezy tripe adds validity to your position.

So enough of your willful obtuseness and petulant scrawk, counter the given flaw in the first premise and answer the damn question put to you. Or you might well be written off as just another god-bot imbecile, parroting a script.

@ Bronze Dog

> Currently, I do not see a reason to accept your premise that everything can't be contingent. <

You have to furnish me with a reason to reject it by specifically identifying where it is flawed.

> Some additional clarification on the terms "necessary" and "contingent" as you're using them would also be nice. In my experience, the specialized definitions are most typically (mis)used to distort or manufacture meaning, rather than express ideas. <

Merriam-Webster defines "necessary" as "logically unavoidable...that cannot be denied without contradiction."

Merriam-Webster defines "contingent" as "dependent on or conditioned by something else."

> As for why I haven't been focusing on this point, well, why is it that important? <

I have already stated why in a previous post.

@ Yojimbo

> You need to show why the real world must obey logic. It is purely an assumption on your part that it does. Or a belief - in which case your agrument reduces to you believing what you believe because you believe it. <

I don't believe everything has to have a logical explanation. (I believe some things may be irreducibly mysterious...what pseudoskeptics seem to refer to as "woo.") But we can't have a rational debate unless we agree to adhere to some kind of logical standards.

You have to furnish me with a reason to reject it by specifically identifying where it is flawed.
Now I think we're getting into burden of proof or something like it. I need an explanation of why it's impossible. The way I'm looking at it right now, a cause "needs" its effect to happen in order to be a cause, to be what it is, so a cause-effect relationship looks like a two-way contingency to me.
I have already stated why in a previous post.
Link, please? You can copy it from the post's timestamp.

@ Bronze Dog

> I need an explanation of why it's impossible. <

If you understood the meanings of the terms "necessary" and "contingent" (which apparently you did not), then you should have immediately grasped why it is impossible. That you're asking me to explain why it is impossible is tantamount to asking me to explain why 2 + 2 = 4. You either get it or you don't. If you don't, then we cannot continue. You clearly do not have intellectual capacity to engage in a rational debate.

> The way I'm looking at it right now, a cause "needs" its effect to happen in order to be a cause, to be what it is, so a cause-effect relationship looks like a two-way contingency to me. <

If a cause NEEDS its effect to happen in order to be a cause, then something must be necessary. <= See...I can play your sophistry game too.

Alastair, the burden of proof falls to you. You must provide evidence that this unknown cause is not only necessary but that it is also god/a god.

Your argument valid but not sound because your premise is an assertion. Until you can prove that a cause is necessary we have no reason to accept the truth of your argument. Two plus Two may equal Four but unless you know what real world value those twos are representing the four is meaningless. Furthermore without proof that those values should be two and not some other number (ie the difference between a cause being necessary or not) then the truth of your argument cannot be known.

The nature of our universe is not understood well enough at this point in time to come to a conclusion about the need for god or a cause. Since we can neither prove nor disprove your argument it becomes unfounded belief not empirical truth. In answer to your original question "What else would you define as that which must exist?", I don't know. You believe you have the answer but without proof you cannot convince anyone.

I believe it has been asked of you before, but I will ask again. Why must there be a cause? Why must the unknown cause be god? How are you defining god?

If you cannot answer those questions beyond saying that you "understand" that it must be true then your argument has nothing. Given how you've evaded so far I am not hopeful.

I think it clear that Alastair is nought but a god-bot with a script he demands everyone else follow to the letter as he alone prescribes it. Logic isn't a tool for him, it's a mere rhetorical device to be picked up or put down as and where suits; picked up for the uncaused cause, put down for the leap to god. It's all just a routine to lead doubters / unbelievers to the conclusion he wants to believe in because for some reason, our acknowledgment bolsters his faith. Which is why he cannot stand the otherwise trivial 'for the sake of argument' and sunk to lies when he was reminded a precious acknowledgment was merely for the sake of argument, "now, you are backtracking and denying that you have acknowledged...." Our failure to give his claim our blessing apparently discomfits him something terrible.

We have all put to him in one fashion or another this flaw he keeps asking for and he keeps studiously pretending nothing was said, instead choosing to vigorously handwave over irrelevant minutiae and mistaking dreary repetition for cogent argument. He simply won't acknowledge the existence of a flaw nor answer the simplest of question because in doing so he will undermine his seemingly gossamer thin faith. Hence the constant repetition of his demands, the ignorance and sundry hot air about debate, intellectual capacity etc. is a coping mechanism, a proxy for an actual rebuttal he apparently cannot render.

So at this juncture I reckon Alastair's paucity of reason in his position to be now manifestly obvious, his highly disingenuous discourse well exposed and is really all he has to offer. Thus he can now be easily ignored.

@ Osenefous

> Since we can neither prove nor disprove your argument it becomes unfounded belief not empirical truth. <

My argument is based on rationalism, not empiricism. Your argument that the only valid truth is empirical truth is itself not based on empiricism. As such, it is inherently self-refuting.

If a cause NEEDS its effect to happen in order to be a cause, then something must be necessary. <= See...I can play your sophistry game too.

Okay, so does this mean absolutely everything's necessary, now? If so, it kind of trivializes the use of the word.

And what's sophistry about describing the nature of causality?

Just to note: The only times I can recall anyone ever using words like "necessary" and "contingent" to describe causes were when religious apologetics were involved. They were much more direct about where they were taking it, though, since they weren't interested in giving lessons on the meaning of the jargon or used to being asked questions about it.

Their arguments that followed from their talk about the necessary first cause or whatever were complete non-sequiturs, so I never really had the need to look into this part of the argument. Since the dead field of religious apologetics was the only thing I knew of that used that language, I wasn't exactly motivated to learn the nuance when the rest of the package had more obvious flaws.

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