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First-cause argument

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Shaper
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Troober wrote:

Ah, but then we're basing the definition of a "god" off of human stories smile Unfortunately everyone is capable of coming up with some kind of intriguing story surrounding a god, so religion boils down to what someone chooses to believe, or (usually) what they were brought up under, rather than what actually takes place. It's faith versus proof. But that doesn't mean there isn't some sort of god.


What other definitions of god are there other than the ones we've come up with? wink5

Here is the problem which I think extends to both ends of this argument; you could be very specific about what you think God is, like my Marduk example. Those gods are pretty easy to falsify, and even when they are falsified people might still believe in them on faith alone, but that's not the point. With these 'specific gods', it's a simple matter of checking to see if the universe actually operates according to the principles one would expect to see if Marduk, Odin, Zeus or Yahweh existed.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, is the really vague definition of god; the prime-mover, first-cause type of god that we're talking about here. The thing about this definition is that sometimes the description of this kind of god gets so vague that you could really call anything you wanted to 'god'. This is the sort of thing that you see in pantheism. Since god is so vague, you get to assign any qualities you need to it in order to explain something that you don't know; "We can't study god scientifically, that's because god is beyond science," for example.
But the problem is, like it's already been said, that these are simply ideas we invent to solve metaphysical problems; they probably have nothing to do with reality. Eventually you get so many vague and unprovable qualities assigned to this god, that he might as well not exist anyway since he's beyond all human understanding.


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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

I agree with Josh. In order for the word "God" to be meaningful I think that it has to be defined in some way. Some of the descriptions I've heard over the years would have allowed things like the electromagnetic force to be called God, and there's no real point in debating it if anything at all can be defined as God.

I would propose this basic definiton

1) Without God the universe would not be
2) God has some form of consciousness

1 includes the idea that God created the universe, or that God is the universe or any other permutation, and I think 2 is necessary because otherwise the universe could be called God - hence rendering the word useless.


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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Have the two of you ever stopped to think that the reason you're Atheists is related to you thinking that the idea of god is only meaningful if it has a definition? If god's not contingent nor finite, then they're obviously undefinable — they're beyond being, beyond existence, beyond, thus, comprehension or definition.

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The Big-K
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

I agree with Dreamer on this, some basic definition is required, else my chocolate bar could be God. but who knows, maybe it is? (random thought, nevermind that)

To go along with the first cause argument, but in a different manner, perhaps there is a first, ultimatley infinate cause, and God is not that cause, God may be our cause but perhaps a being which to it as it is to us-- created it, and then it created our universe as we would create a video game or other virtual universe. Perhaps God is a three year old boy (or girl. not specifying genders here) who dreamt us as all up. And individual could be woken up in a few minute (which could be 10,000,000,000 of our years, or even be an amount of time unmesureable to us) to go to pre-school, and all of this comes to a dead stop. Like troober's example.

Or perhaps (only one of my personal theories) The universe, as God is infinate, it was empty, God mereley pupulated it, after all, space is nothingness is it's purest form (Physicaly anyways) so why does something like that need to be "Created"? it's absolute nothingness. God is a higher being from some alternate plain that humans will never see. For intance, to any 3D modelers out there, when you make a 3D model, do you create the empty space in the program that acts as the canvase? or do you put the model inside that which is already there?
Now you can say "But someone had to create that program" yes, which goes along with my theory of God being from some higher plane in which existance takes place, and God is not the only being, and is only our ultimate creator, not THE ultimate creator.

Another theory of mine which can tie into that, is that life the otherworldy equivelant of what is one big MMO game to us, designed and created by what we call God, our souls are the "Players", and consciousness does not come from the brain, it's only relayed through it. We cannot comprehend nor remember what life our "souls" may have in their plain before entering the game, because we, with our minds and our bodies, are only the 3D models that they control inside the game, the brain is not where the contemplation of action occours, it is just what relays the message of action from the soul to our bodies, when we die, the game is over for us, and we continue our lives as the beings we were before we entered the game, which the closest definition of is "Soul". Or if you beleive in reincarnation as I do, that's simply the soul deciding to "play again" re-entering the game, and is a matter of choice. I beleive in Jesus as the christians do, but I'm not a full-blown christian. I think that as the christians say, Jesus was God wanting to experience human life. Or in another of my "Game" analogies, God iss the Global Admin, and decided to see what it would be like playing as a normal player, that would be Jesus... with a few Admin-Like abilities.

Just personal oppinions, sorry for going off topic


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Dreamer
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Bruno - How can someone say they believe in God if they have no definition for what the word means in their mind?

It's like me going round the streets and saying "I believe in ghjvxc" and when asked what that meant saying "wish I knew mate"


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Shaper
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Bruno wrote:
Have the two of you ever stopped to think that the reason you're Atheists is related to you thinking that the idea of god is only meaningful if it has a definition?


I can't speak for everyone else but I certainly have. In fact, the answers I give to people who ask me whether or not I'm an atheist depend on the definition of god that we're dealing with in our conversations. If a friend and I are talking about Yahweh or Zeus, and I'm asked what I believe, I say I'm a strong atheist. But if we're talking about an Aristotelian prime-mover, then I'm a weak atheist. If we define god in some Einsteinian way and say that god is the sum of all of the laws of nature, then I'm a believer. But as someone once said, "This God is emotionally unsatisfying...it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity."

On the other hand, if we have no meaningful definition for god in the first place, then there wouldn't be much of a point in talking about it at all until we had defined god in some way before beginning our conversation.


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PostPosted: Tue 11 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Well said Josh smile

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Troober
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Dreamer wrote:
Bruno - How can someone say they believe in God if they have no definition for what the word means in their mind?
I'm not Bruno, but hopefully you wont mind if I hazard an answer to that smile

If "God" is capable of creating the universe, and we've yet to understand the universe, how can we even attempt to understand a being that created it?

Scientific theory is constantly changing throughout the years. As our understanding of a subject improves, the theory changes to reflect that.

It's common to look at theories thought up in the past 300 years and chuckle at how they tried to explain the phenomena we now understand better (light, gravity, etc). With what information was available to them, they tried to come up with a plausible theory for whatever specific subject they were focussed on. In a couple hundred years from now people will look at today's theories and laugh the same way.

Really, this is the same situation surrounding religion. Religion is theory. It's why in the past the Catholic church has been against discoveries which go against it's teachings, such as Galileo's theories. What he discovered disproved a piece of their religious theory.

Today we understand a staggering amount more about the Earth and surrounding space than the people did 2000+ years ago. To take a definition of God provided by people living over 2000 years ago, it's not going to be vastly difficult to argue against what they suggested. These were people who didn't even understand why it rains, so felt that if there's a drought it's due to them offending God in some way. I think it would be a mistake to consider the possibility of the existence of God only by what these people defined it to be.

I don't believe it's possible to provide a definition of a limitless being capable of creating the universe and all that's in it, without inadvertently placing some sort of limitation in the definition. To restrict a god by morality, power, appearance, gender, name, or any other attempt at defining a part of it, that is a limit. Everything that isn't a part of that definition forms a border around what we are claiming god to be. Essentially we'd be taking a supposed infinite being and making it finite so that we can understand it.

I think it is possible to believe in the existence of a God without definition simply by believing that the universe was created by that God. With no attempt to claim how or why it was created by that god, there's no attempt to limit that God to a specific morality, personality, purpose, etc. God just is.

However... our minds are inherently curious, so we always want to know the who, what, when, how, and why? smile But we may never have those answers, unfortunately.


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PostPosted: Wed 12 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

i'm not exactly sure if people have already covered this, but i did read most of what was written here and i agree with Josh and Dreamer a lot.

i think pragmatism comes into play here when we're dealing with the definition of god. if god is defined, then there are all the ways that Josh and Dreamer said to put him in check, and if god isn't defined, and when it all boils down in the end, who really cares? if god can be everything and anything and he steps outside the bounds of all logical rules of argument like, "oh god just IS" or "god doesn't have to be defined" or, "god is the universe" then god really has no weight to him. some of you say he's there, but that he doesn't care to interact with us. if he doesn't care to interact with us and life would carry on just the same, then the existance of god doesn't really matter anyways.



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PostPosted: Wed 12 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Dreamer: consider the following theory of god, which is actually just a modern version of the theory of Plato's that James started this topic with (adapted by yours truly from an ancient Muslim theory of god which we're not getting into right now):
  1. Things that come to be, come to be for a reason.
    (This is reasonable to assume if we're playing Logic in the first place — if you don't believe things can be rationalised, then that whole "science" thing wouldn't mean much to you anyway.)

  2. Existence came to be.
    (After all, existence is our definition of being, before existence, there was no verb "to be").

  3. Therefore, existence came to be for a reason.

  4. Therefore, there is something beyond existence.
An aside: do notice that "d" doesn't necessarily follow from "c" — are we omitting a passage here? Yes: "d" is an enthymeme, whose expanded version would be "provided its reasonable to assume existence cannot be itself its own cause, there is something beyond existence." But what's that? A doxa — "it is reasonable that" — in the middle of the argument? How dirty!

Well, that's how it works with metaphysics: I'll make a bet with you, if you think you've found a completely logical argument from which the existence or non-existence of god follows, then there's an doxa in hiding somewhere. The only things that can make religion (that is, both theism and atheism) look undoubtedly true are a faith leap and rhetoric.


Lets call the reason for existence "god." It's just a name I'm giving to it. Now, if you accept that theory — for the sake of discussion, assume it, I've checked it and even pointed its flaws, so you know it is a valid theory and you know what its premises are, even the hidden one — if you accept it, then you'll have to agree the definition of god is impossible, for god is beyond existence and therefore beyond epistemology: even to metaphysics, according to this theory, a precise definition of god is impossible.

What we can do, according to it, in terms of defining god is just as much as saying "god is beyond understanding," since god is beyond all there is and therefore "is" not, themselves, anything. In other words, our model of god here states that god is beyond the verb "to be." So, see, I'm being rational, I'm using a theory whose premises I'm well aware of, and whose conclusions is that there "is" god and god "is" the reason for existence, but which also makes it clear that god cannot be defined.

There you go. Logical faith in god sans definition of god.


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Shaper
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

But Bruno, I could just as easily gather from everything you just said that God is "the reason for existence". That's a definition of sorts, isn't it?

I mean it just seems to me that by doing this, we're saying God cannot be defined as anything that is...but really, all we've done is define him as something that cannot be defined as something that is, which is really just another definition, albeit a not a precise one (but if god is so vague, who cares about being precise, since we can't be).


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PostPosted: Wed 12 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

In strictly formal terms, in formal logic, you're right, that's a definition of sorts for god. " 'God' if and only if 'beyond being'." But formal logic is not the best you can do, now, is it? In terms of epistemology, god can't be made into an episteme according to that theory. In terms of metaphysics, god is beyond understanding according to that theory. In terms of science, god is an irrelevant concept. Et cetera. For all schools of thought except for the strictest kind of formal logic, god's unreachable, and all formal logic can say about god is that they are beyond any inference other than that they are beyond any inference.

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PostPosted: Wed 12 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Bruno wrote:
For all schools of thought except for the strictest kind of formal logic, god's unreachable, and all formal logic can say about god is that they are beyond any inference other than that they are beyond any inference.


I agree, but as an atheist I'm not the one who's putting god within a strictly metaphysical framework, all I do is respond to the many definitions of god which people seem to arrive at despite the logic we've discussed here. After all most believers do not limit themselves to this strict formal logic at all; they reject the definition of god as something undefinable, and then give it a name, attribute to it certain characteristics, etc. And when someone (not me ) actually does this, it makes it a lot easier to actually check and see if such a god is or isn't real, since it entails claims about the universe that we could potentially falsify.

Hence my status as an atheist will differ depending on which god someone's asking me about. That's all I really mean to say.


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Dreamer
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PostPosted: Wed 12 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Troober - By definition of God I don't mean such things as you said, such as gender morality e.t.c. (even though most religions do claim to know these things). Rather what I meant was such definitions as you just posted. E.g.

"If "God" is capable of creating the universe"
"a being that created it"
"simply by believing that the universe was created by that God"
"a limitless being capable of creating the universe and all that's in it."

You have defined God here as a limitless being which created the universe. That's the sort of definition I was talking about.

Bruno - assuming that theory is logically true, it's not really saying much different from the first of the basic definitions of God I proposed.

"Lets call the reason for existence "god."" is surely the same as "Without God the universe would not be"

I do accept that the second of my definitions - that God is conscious - can't be drawn from that theory. So you know what, if the theory is true, I believe in God, if it is reasonable to assume that something outside the universe created God and we call that something God then I'd be foolish to not believe in it.

But equally I could say that it is reasonable to assume that somebody built that house across the road from me, and I call that something God. I could certainly say I was a theist then. But by this time the word has lost all meaning, and I don't really see the point of its use. Wouldn't it be better simply to say that you believe there is something outside of the universe rather than you believe in God.

I'm not really sure what you're trying to say here.

On an aside I don't think that theory follows logically through. For a start there's B - "Existence came to be" - how do we know existance hasn't been around for ever?

Then the bit you already pointed out about D. "provided its reasonable to assume existence cannot be itself its own cause, there is something beyond existence."
If you assume it's true, which I don't assume, nor do I assume it's false, I don't think we can know. But if you assume it's true then I also say it would be fair to apply the theory to the something outside of existance.

A) Things that come to be come to be for a reason
B) Something outside of existance came to be
C) Therefore, something outside of existance came to be for a reason.
D) Therefore, there is something beyond something beyond existance.

And you could go on.

This is going back to the origional first cause argument, and it's why I can't accept these types of theories. If the definition of God is that it caused existance because existance cannot have caused itself to exist then it doesn't logically follow on that God can have caused itself to exist.

Now, it may be true that God caused itself to exist and then caused the universe to exist, but if something can have caused itself to exist why add that extra step of God into a logical theory. It may be true but it doesn't neccessarily follow on,

In my mind the only logical explanation we can have is this.

A) The universe exists.


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PostPosted: Wed 12 Dec, 2007  Reply with quote

Dreamer wrote:
"Lets call the reason for existence "god."" is surely the same as "Without God the universe would not be"

Wrong! See, "if 'god' then 'universe exists' " being right doesn't mean "if 'fjdos' then 'universe exists' ". Without god, it might be that the universe would be — with another cause. What I'm saying is, the reason (or set of reasons) for our existence to exist, that I am calling 'god.' If the universe could go by with another set of reasons, I don't know and I can't make any inference about that.

Dreamer wrote:
I do accept that the second of my definitions - that God is conscious - can't be drawn from that theory. So you know what, if the theory is true, I believe in God, if it is reasonable to assume that something outside the universe created God and we call that something God then I'd be foolish to not believe in it.

Wait — the theory doesn't say god is conscious but it also doesn't say they're not. It doesn't even say it is possible to frame god in a "consciousness" concept, perhaps god is "beyond conscience": after all, they are beyond our existence, and therefore the rules that apply to them are not the same that apply to us. But no, my minimalistic theory of god only tries to prove the presence of a creator. It does not know about grand designs, or about god being present right now, or about god being a god of love or hatred, or if god themselves were created by a god god of sorts. The more complex you want your god to be, the less elegant your theory will look.

Dreamer wrote:
But equally I could say that it is reasonable to assume that somebody built that house across the road from me, and I call that something God. I could certainly say I was a theist then. But by this time the word has lost all meaning, and I don't really see the point of its use. Wouldn't it be better simply to say that you believe there is something outside of the universe rather than you believe in God.

I don't see the point here. What are you talking about? Guy across the road is not the "reason for existence to be," how can you call him god?

(Oh, and before you and Josh point out "reason for existence to be" is a definition of god: it isn't. "Reason...to be" expresses a logical relation of material implication, so when you say "god's the reason for existence to be," you're saying "god-->existence" and not "god=reason" which in fact would turn out to have contradictory consequences).

Dreamer wrote:
I'm not really sure what you're trying to say here.

That there are valid theories whose consequences is "god-->existence" without necessarily giving a definition for "god". Want the whole derivation in symbolic logic?

Dreamer wrote:
On an aside I don't think that theory follows logically through. For a start there's B - "Existence came to be" - how do we know existance hasn't been around for ever?

It's a premise. You don't have to agree with it. But! What makes you think time is beyond existence? I'm saying it came to be in the big picture: in the nothingness that would be much simpler than an existence to be. Have you stopped to think about it? Why is there a universe? Is it really of any decency to say it just happened that nothingness was easier but perchance an existence came to be? with time and space and whatnot? And that then a singularity, which came out of nowhere, exploded and now the universe came to be as well?

Hell. That's a contradiction — in fact, skepticism arrives at as much logical contradictions as science. Assuming the world we see is real, everything points towards there being something bigger and beyond our universe — beyond space, and beyond time even. I'm just saying the universe came to be in the bigger picture. This can't be proved (as nothing can, anyway) but it's the general commonsense among scientists nowadays: there is more.

Dreamer wrote:
Then the bit you already pointed out about D. "provided its reasonable to assume existence cannot be itself its own cause, there is something beyond existence."
If you assume it's true, which I don't assume, nor do I assume it's false, I don't think we can know. But if you assume it's true then I also say it would be fair to apply the theory to the something outside of existance.

A) Things that come to be come to be for a reason
B) Something outside of existance came to be
C) Therefore, something outside of existance came to be for a reason.
D) Therefore, there is something beyond something beyond existance.

And you could go on.

At no point we said the thing "beyond existence" "came to be," in fact, as our definition of "existence" is "things that are," anything "beyond existence" is also "beyond the verb 'to be' " which is the whole point I'm trying to make here: god doesn't need to have a reason, because he didn't "come to be," because he's "beyond existence," so saying "god is" in the sense of "god exists" is wrong according to that theory. God happens — or rather god happened, at least once. God might "exist" in a different sense than we exist, in his beyond-existence. You're not keeping to the theory, Dreamer.

Dreamer wrote:
This is going back to the origional first cause argument, and it's why I can't accept these types of theories. If the definition of God is that it caused existance because existance cannot have caused itself to exist then it doesn't logically follow on that God can have caused itself to exist.

Lets see the theory again, shall we? In symbolic logic this time (with due explanations), because you're not keeping to it:


(The second line might be a bit tougher to figure out if you don't know set theory, so short explanation: if a set exists, then it is a subset of itself, so proposing "existence exists" is the same as proposing "existence came to be").

Here. See the first rule, "things that come to be come to be for a reason"? Formalised, it says: "for all things that are Real, there is a reason." Now, see the conclusion: "if Real is not itself is own cause, then something Not Real is the cause to Real." So god does not belong to the "Real" set, and therefore the rule doesn't apply to them, so they might or might not have a cause, but as far as we can tell, it might be that god doesn't have any causes.

Dreamer wrote:
Now, it may be true that God caused itself to exist and then caused the universe to exist, but if something can have caused itself to exist why add that extra step of God into a logical theory. It may be true but it doesn't neccessarily follow on,

In my mind the only logical explanation we can have is this.

A) The universe exists.

Which is quite naïve, as you can't prove that more than you can prove a whole theory of god. See, Descartes tried to find some kind of truth that was incontestable, and came up with "I think therefore I am" which is a proof that "I exist" because "I think." Nietzsche pointed out that he couldn't possibly know he was the cause to thoughts ("I think") let alone that that thoughts were a proof of him ("thoughts exist-->I exist") and elegantly demonstrated after a long argumentation I'm not getting into that the only absolute truth, the only one men are able to prove, one which is besides science and philosophy and is the one big truth you can be sure about for ever is:

Some thoughts exist.


So unless you're defining your universe as "some thoughts," then no, you can't prove that it's there. It's commonsense that it is. It looks like it is, but perhaps... the universe is just "some thoughts" and is not really out there. Your skepticism strikes me as being just as dogmatic as the beliefs you attack. It's like contemporary political correctness: "people who think they're better than others are wrong; we, who don't think like that, are right, therefore we're better than them"... You're just as contradictory as the religions you attack!


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