A Conversation with @AADariusz

Twit longer has to be the most annoying things about Twitter. If you can’t say it in a few tweets, then you probably shouldn’t say it at all. But I guess some things are just difficult to say in 140 character, and really, that is why we started this blog in the first place, so let’s get started.

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@AADariusz (Darius from here on out) replied to a tweet I had made pointing out the logical contradiction in a popular internet atheist meme asking someone to prove that an [invisible pink unicorn] doesn’t exist and if someone can do that, they would then employ the same method to prove that God doesn’t exist. Now what was funny about the meme is that it would be impossible for a unicorn to be both pink and invisible at the same time. This would mean that the idea of a unicorn that is of the invisible pink kind would be self contradictory and thus could not possibly exist. The whole meme was self defeating, but what I found odd is that Darius attempted to defend it’s merit. In doing so, he made the claim that the properties of God are self contradictory, a claim he then tried to back up by linking me to the Internet Infidels library of over a dozen arguments. He chose not to defend this assertion himself and then claimed that if I had linked him the hundreds of theistic arguments that he wouldn’t mind knocking them all down. The guy who defended the credibility of a self defeating meme is going to “knock down” Alvin Plantinga’s Ontological argument? Professional philosophers haven’t been able to do it, so how does a layman hold any hope?       

Anyways, I wanted to see if he could put his money where his mouth is, so I brought up the [Kalam Cosmological] argument. His first attempt failed, but don’t take my word for it, it’s all in my timeline and his. So now we enter round two. His latest reply was far too long to spend answering on my phone. I don’t have the patience to respond via that tiny keyboard. So here we find ourselves. (His response will be italicized, mine will be in bold. I have taken the liberty to break it up into paragraphs for him as the original tweet was one solid chunk of text.)

“@PhilLOSTophy all traditional conceptions of god posit that he exists outside of the natural world we habit.”If he existed in the natural realm he would be subject to the physical laws of our realm, and since his qualities, such as being able to create out of nothing violate know physical laws, it therefore stands he exists elsewhere. I call this the supernatural realm.

This is poor theology at best, and a strawman at worst. Classical theism while claiming that God transcends creation also claims that God is Omnipresent, which means that God is in the natural universe and ‘outside’ of it. The problem is you assume that this means that God has His own little world your “supernatural realm”, but this doesn’t take the notion of God as an Immaterial Being seriously. It is just God, nothing else.

As for your claim that if God existed in the natural realm He would be subject to the physical laws, I see no reason why this would be the case. God created these physical laws and as such would not be subject to them. Can you give an argument to back up this assertion?

Now positing there is a god does nothing to explain the mechanics of this world; all those questions still remain and we still go through the same processes to solve those issues. Asserting there is a god does nothing to determine what the meaning and reason to us and the universe is, assuming there even is one. You can’t assume that a God would have motivations like ours, and he may have created the universe and us for no reason. Assuming a god that is a prime mover doesn’t necessitate that its a god that cares about us in any way, that sets a moral standard or that an afterlife actually exists. This is of course the deistic view of god. If you’re talking about a specific theistic interpretation of god, well an argument must be made why your god and not some other god or gods.

First off, what do you mean by mechanics? If you mean the physical laws and constants which are independent of the Big Bang, then yes it would. IT would explain the how, and the why; to evolve self aware creatures.

**Before I go further though, I should state that what this is in response to is that Darius made the claim that positing a God had no explanitory power and would not answer any questions we have and would only lead to more questions. The third part of this assertion by Darius I agreed with. Surely we would want to know who this God is, can He be known and has He already made Himself known, which seems right inline with our need to understand. The problem, however, is the first and second parts of this assertion.

To say that positing God as the Creator of all of material reality has no explanatory is an odd claim as the very reason you are doing so is to explain the absolute beginning of the universe. So at the least you have the cause of all existence as we know it, and what brought it into being. That’s kinda huge isn’t it? 

The second part of this assertion, that positing God as the cause of the universe would not answer any questions, is also very odd. He has noticeably left out some of the questions I said would be answered, like what brought the universe into being and does God exist, but then makes the claim that at best we could only infer the god of deism. But I don’t think that is the case at all. This God chose to create a universe which brought about us, life that is self aware. This self aware life form also has an intuitive moral obligation. I don’t know how (given morality) one could say that the god of deism is even possible being as how this omniscient being would have knowingly created a world of free creatures with the ability (and knowledge) to do right or wrong. So if one can show that God is more probably the cause of our universe, then it seems rather obvious that this God is also the cause of the beings within it that possess the knowledge of good and evil and the ability to chose between the two.

The fact is you would have some answers to some really big question in regards to the universe and the nature of reality. Big Bang Cosmology seeks to answer the question [what caused the universe]. If cosmologists answered this question, but still couldn’t answer the question of how the universe came into being (prior to Plank time, because we have a great idea of what happened during the early evolution of the universe), should we then reject that knowledge because it doesn’t give us a General Unified Theory? According to your reasoning, we would reject it. I suspect that the only problem you have is that it is God that is being posited which does not meet your naturalistic presuppositions. 

Why do I mention complexity; I’m a fan of occam’s razor. Its a far simpler explanation to just have the natural world than it is to have the natural + a potentially unknowable supernatural world that has to date no evidence to support it.

You may not like the evidence that is presented, but to say that there is no evidence is complete baloney. If a Creator God exists then we would expect to discover that the universe had a beginning. Modern cosmology has shown this to be true. There is your evidence. You also brought up the complexity of the universe. I am not arguing a teleological argument.

To say “god did it” is an easy answer but not a simpler one, and it raises a mountain of questions about the nature of this supernatural realm that weren’t present before; it therefore has poor explanatory power

This is a really bad argument from Stephen Hawking. There is no before sans creation, God is timeless; there was no realm, God is immaterial. Stop strawmanning the theistic position and try taking it seriously. I have already dealt with you “poor explanatory power” objection.

In terms of addressing the beginning of the universe I still hold that its a more honest and consistent view to hold that the universe came about through as yet not understood naturalistic means. We don’t know for certain how the universe came about, but just because we don’t know doesn’t mean god is a better explanation. Indeed we may never know how the universe came about, but that still doesn’t give the god explanation any more merit.

What does honesty have to do with any of this? That a pretty silly statement. So you think it’s OK to posit a naturalism of the gaps? To posit the causation of the universe through naturalistic processes is not a very good explanation. This would mean that you would have to posit a meta-time, an eternal traversing of infinite time, which would be impossible. What you need is some Being of enormous power, that is changeless (because time is change) to get the whole ball rolling. This simply cannot be done via naturalism. All you do is push the question back, which according to you just leads to more questions and fails your own criteria. That’s the absurdity of naturalism. God, does not suffer from such an absurdity.

In regards to the accusation of strawmanning, I concede the universe has a beginning, but whether it did or didn’t, in anyway the argument is phrased, it doesn’t increase the likelihood that it was a god that caused it. It very much sounds like your getting to the Kalam here; I’ll go through my old tweets and repost my objections to the Kalam later.

If you admit that the universe has a beginning then all you have to do is admit that the universe has a cause and then you are in full agreement with the Kalam. I will deal with your objections to it in another post.

If you want me to present a contradiction internal to gods prescribed qualities, fine. Admittedly it matters how one defines god, but typical qualities are that god is all knowing and inerrant, and that god has granted us free will.

It’s not qualities, it’s properties and God granting us free will is not a property of God, it is a property of mankind. So you are not presenting an argument to back up your assertion. But I really don’t care. In almost six thousand tweets this is the first time that any atheist has EVER brought up an argument in conversation. So I will entertain it. Just don’t think you are backing up your assertion, You are not.

Fairly certain one of the linked articles goes through this one, but its my favourite because its what made me an ex-catholic. God is said to be all knowing and inerrant, thus he knows what I will be doing, what choices I will make ahead of time. If so, it can not be said I have free will in any real sense; all I’m doing is going through a prewritten script that was set in stone from the moment of creation. While my choices may feel like my own and I have my own clear motivations for them, god knowing what I will do in advance only gives me the illusion of choice and free will. I could not choose to do something that was counter to what god thought I would; doing so would mean god is not inerrant. So either free will exists or one of the most common features of god is incorrect. Both can not be true at the same time. As I said it matters how one defines God and what attributes he’s given. If you have a different set of attributes feel free to list them

I think you are presenting this argument incorrectly, but I will deal with it how you presented it. To say that God knowing something somehow diminishes your free will is absurd. You are mixing [knowledge of] with [causation of]. You are saying that because God knows what will happen, that He is directly responsible, but I can’t see how that could possibly follow. Just because God knew that you freely choose to leave Catholisism doesn’t mean that God caused it, the fact is you still made that choice. 

As a matter of fact, I am a Molinist, and what that means is that I hold to the Doctrine of Divine Middle Knowledge which states that God has counterfactual knowledge (if/ then knowledge). This means that God can arrange the world based on the free decisions of free creatures. Heck, I could even posit compatabilism and it would still be completely inline with omniscience and creaturely freedom. I don’t agree with it for many reasons but that is an in-house discussion. 

The fact is, knowing something does not entail causation. I just don’t think you take the notion of free will seriously. 

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One thought on “A Conversation with @AADariusz

  1. AADariusz

    I have to say I’ve had me some fun researching and putting my response together. I at least have to thank you for that. Let’s get to business though…

    I still hold that your blatant refusal to read the arguments I linked shows far more weakness on your part than it does on mine. I recognise that there are people out there who argue these points far better than I do, and when situations arise where the point I’m arguing directly correlates with what they’ve written, I will reference them. Again its up to you if you want to read them or not, but my referencing them isn’t a weakness.

    Following that since you’ve now referenced a specific ontological argument by Plantinga, I thought I’d look it up and see if I could knock it down, especially since you claimed “Professional philosophers haven’t been able to”. For clarity here is the argument in full: 

    1. A being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and
    2. A being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.
    3. It is possible that there is a being that has maximal greatness. (Premise)
    4. Therefore, possibly, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being exists.
    5. Therefore, (by axiom S5) it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.
    6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being exists.

    Now reading that point 3 immediately jumps out at me as being rubbish. I’m sorry but you really can’t just declare that something is possible; it must be demonstrated to be possible. And it seems that I’m not the only one that thinks P3 has issues. Richard M. Gale, Professor Emeritus at Pittsburgh University argues that P3 is actually begging the question. I really don’t know enough about the operations within modal logic to explain his reasoning with confidence, but guess what, you can find references on the Wikipedia page http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontological_argument In case you’re thinking Wikipedia is a poor source, the reference to Gale’s book covering his issues with Plantinga’s is there, as is this little parody of Plantinga’s argument:

    1. A being has maximal excellence in a given possible world W if and only if it is omnipotent, omniscient and wholly good in W; and
    2. A being has maximal greatness if it has maximal excellence in every possible world.
    3. It is possible that there is not a being that has maximal greatness. (Premise)
    4. Therefore, possibly, it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent, and perfectly good being does not exist.
    5. Therefore, (by axiom S5) it is necessarily true that an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being does not exist.
    6. Therefore, an omniscient, omnipotent and perfectly good being does not exist.

    Same structure, but in this case arguing for the non-existence of god, and it works just as well, that is to say just as poorly.

    Additionally I found this little chestnut on the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy website http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ontological-arguments/#PlaOntArg

    Plantinga writes: “Our verdict on these reformulated versions of St. Anselm’s argument must be as follows. They cannot, perhaps, be said to prove or establish their conclusion. But since it is rational to accept their central premise, they do show that it is rational to accept that conclusion” (Plantinga 1974, 221).

    Now I disagree with one of the premises, but even if I did agree, we’ve established nothing as Plantinga admits. For the record you stated that “Professional philosophers haven’t been able to” knock down Plantinga’s argument… You should do more research in the future.

    Now that that’s out of they way I’ll address each of your responses in turn. In you blog post you gave 7 responses written in bold and since I don’t want to quote you over and over again, I’m just going to address them one after the other and number each.

    Response 1
    You state that while god is omnipresent within the universe he is not subject to the laws of the universe. What do you have to base this on? As far as we know everything within the universe is subject to laws of the universe; there are no exceptions. When we’ve observed new phenomena that haven’t fit in with our current understanding of the physical laws of the universe, we’ve studied them and discovered physical laws that we weren’t aware of, but never come to the conclusion that this phenomena while in the universe is exempt from the laws of the universe. Now saying that god is immaterial seems a nice way out of his problem, but like many theological answer it brings up more problems. If god doesn’t exist spatially, doesn’t exist temporally, and doesn’t exist materially, in what way can god be said to exist? You’ve ruled out all known forms of existence, so you have to come up with a new one and it has no be defined in positive terms.

    Response 2
    First up I just want to define what I mean by explanatory power. If an answer to a question then throws up 10 new questions, it has poor explanatory power. The more loose ends an answer gives, the stronger it’s explanatory power. It doesn’t matter how “huge” the question your answering is to begin with either.

    Now I have to quote you: “If you mean the physical laws and constants which are independent of the Big Bang, then yes it would. It would explain the how, and the why; to evolve self aware creatures”

    In regards to the know physical constants of the universe, how do you know that they could be anything other than what they are? This is always the answer I give when people bring up the fine tuning argument. The constants of the universe are the way they are, and we have no indication that they could be anything else other than what they are. We have no other universe to point to say “see that mess over there? That’s what happens when you change the charge on an electron!”. If we have no indication that the universal constants could be any different, then there’s no fine tuning to do, and no need to credit god for fine tuning it.

    Stating god did it doesn’t explain the “how” question of the universe, only the who. The how question just spreads into a quagmire of other questions: if god created the universe from nothing, what means did he use, how does an entity act on nothing, how does an immaterial being form material, how can you create a universe of laws and act within it but not be subject to those laws you created, if god just wills things into being what steps are involved between the will and the thing being materialised? As I said, poor explanatory power. Also, there being a god that created the universe doesn’t necessitate that he created it so that self aware creatures could evolve. That’s an additional argument you have to make. A prime mover god does not have to create the universe for our benefit. Life could exist purely as an accident of chemistry and biology with no divine intervention, and god could just see us as a curious accident. Saying that we are the answer to why the universe exists, has always sounded hysterically arrogant to me. That’s just a personal point though.

    The last paragraph you wrote in response just seems incoherent to me, and for someone so sensitive about about strawmanning you seem to really not have an issue declaring what knowledge I would and wouldn’t reject. I am entirely for increasing our collective knowledge and discovering more and more what is true about the universe. To the extent that if there is no existing theory that I wouldn’t scrap in a heartbeat if convincing evidence is presented. Hell, if evidence for god was presented I’d be a theist. So far there isn’t any.

    Response 3
    The universe had a beginning; we’re at least in agreement on that. You assume that beginning had to be an intelligent causal agent. I’ve been saying that the cause is more likely to be one or more natural processes that we don’t understand. Both explanations allow for the universe to have a beginning, but only one of us is invoking the supernatural. To say that the universes beginning fits within expectations of there being a god, isn’t evidence and it’s barely a decent argument. Assuming this isn’t the only expectation of a god created universe, I challenge you to come up with some kind of prediction that is testable that can’t be accounted for in a universe without a god. In science if we have a hypothesis that’s meant to give expected results, we test it to see if reality meets expectation. Go.

    Response 4
    I’ve already addressed this but what you’ve said raises an interesting point. If god is timeless and there is no “before sans creation” how do you differentiate effects from their causes?

    Response 5
    I have to say “naturalism of the gaps” is a new one. I’ve been debating theists a long time but I’ve not come across that particular gem. Do I think it’s ok to posit a “naturalism of the gaps” over lets say the god of the gaps? Yes I do. Lets look at the history of gaps in knowledge and what has filled them. Throughout history, god or gods or spirits or whatever supernatural label you want to use, have been use to answer certain questions about phenomena that occurred. Then a naturalistic explanation came along… I think you get my point. So yeah, if you want to accuse of preferring naturalism of the gaps, I’ll paint the scarlet letter on myself. You’re suggestion that I’m forced to posit a meta-time, is absurd. I’m really not. I’m quite happy to say that I don’t know what lies casually prior to the big bang and that it may be impossible to know, but that doesn’t force me suggest a meta-time. Feel free to explain how it does though.

    Response 6
    I tweeted my objections to the Kalam to you already, a few hours after we ended our conversation. My answers are there.

    Response 7 + 8
    I am not at all mixing up “knowledge of” with “causation of”. I’m not saying that God, through an act of his own volition caused me to leave Catholicism. I’m saying that he knew I would make the choice, over an above any other choice I could have made. If my choice is know in advance, it strips me of the freedom to make any alternative choice. I’ve taken a look at Molinism, and to be honest I find it a convoluted attempt to square a circle that need not be squared. It may retain free will, but it waters down the perfect knowledge that god is meant to have, at least in my reading of it. I’m sure you think otherwise though.

    I would like to add that your repeated accusations that I’m not taking certain aspects of our conversation seriously, is actually really offensive. My de-conversion to atheism took the better part of two years, and it was several years after that when I finally came to admit it to my Polish Roman Catholic parents. It’s something I treat with the utmost seriousness, so I don’t take kindly to you’re comments. If you don’t care that I’m offended, fine, but just be aware of how you may come across to others reading this.

    And I think that’s about it. On a final note I’d like to apologise for taking so long to reply. I did some damage to my neck on Sunday, the prospect of sitting down and typing this out really wasn’t one I could face. Usually I don’t let things sit so long, but life has a terrible habit of getting in the way of these things.

    Reply

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