6/5/09

On the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorns, et al., part 4 of 4

This segment of Atheism is Dead’s essay which considers natural theology, or natural revelation, will consider The God of the Bible.

The essay will be parsed thusly:
Part 1: Natural Theology / Natural Revelation
Part 2: The Flying Spaghetti Monster
Part 3: The Invisible Pink Unicorns
Part 4: The God of the Bible

The God of the Bible
Let us begin considering whether the God of the Bible passes the test of natural theology / natural revelation by reviewing the inferences drawn from nature. We will then consider monotheism, polytheism, henotheism, pantheism and deism.

The universe has a cause and the cause is:

1) Timeless / eternal.
2) Spaceless / unlimited by spatial dimensions / not restricted by locality / omnipresent.
3) Immaterial / non-physical / without extension in space / spirit.
4) Uncaused.
5) Necessary / non-contingent.
6) Volitional / self-conscious / personal.
7) Highly intelligent / omniscient / omnipotent.

All of the above characteristics are applicable to the God of the Bible as evidenced by one single verse. The characteristics are not solely found in one verse but the fact that they are found in one verse is very telling and in fact, more telling due to the fact that the verse is the very first one in the Bible:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth

Let us consider the verse thusly,

In the beginning [time] God created the heavens [space] and the earth [matter]

Let us further consider it thusly,

In the beginning [time] God [a preexistent being outside of time, space and matter] created [volitionally caused to come into being fine-tuned and infused with energy] the heavens and the earth




1) Timeless: since God preexisted time.

2) Spaceless: since God preexisted space.

3) Immaterial: since God preexisted matter.

4) Uncaused: since God existed before time which is a requirement for cause and effect relationships.

5) Necessary: since without God nothing would exist and since God is the first cause to which we regress in a finite regress of contingency.

6) Volitional: since God created.

7) Intelligent: since God created a rational, explorable, fine-tuned universe.

Now, let us consider which god belief, whether polytheism, henotheism, pantheism, deism or monotheism pass the test (I am considering these to be succinctly representative of various other god beliefs).

Polytheism: many gods, let us say two or more.
Henotheism: basically polytheism but hold that only one of the many gods should be worshipped.
Pantheism: God is everything, or is in everything.
Deism: a vague concept of god as a creator who created the universe and then let it run its course. This god does not interact with the universe, miraculously, nor does it have relationships with humans.
Monotheism: one theistic God (strict of Trinitarian).

Polytheism and henotheism are excluded because since there are many gods no one of them is the absolute, complete or ultimate creator god. Since they are separate beings they each must possess something that the others do not posses—each lacking.

Pantheism is excluded because god would be making itself subject to time, space and matter and would not be creating creatures but would end up having relationships with itself.

Deism is excluded because as far as we know God does interact with the universe and creatures. God interacts with the universe since, as far as we know based on a century and a half of experimentation, life does not come from non-life (abiogenesis).
God interacts with creatures since the history of humanity is saturated with reports of God performing miracles and having personal interactions. While some of these reports are surely erroneous the only way to exclude each and every one of them regardless of chronology, geography or theology, would be to presuppose deism or atheism and thus, that they must, by necessity, be erroneous. Yet, this is begging the question.

Monotheism seems to pass the test. It also seems reasonable to consider it as it is expressed by the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Judaism and Islam hold to strict monotheism while Christianity holds to Trinitarian monotheism.

Judaism’s and Islam’s theology may have at least two problems: their gods may lack something and there is a problem in the realm of morality. Being strictly monotheistic gods an argument that could be made against them is that they may have created humans (and angels and animals) because they lacked something, namely relationships.

Let us take a moment to state that the gods of Judaism and Christianity are the same God yet, fully revealed in Christian theology. Let us therefore focus on Islam’s god for a moment.
This particular god, being single and solitary from all eternity, is not a personal being or rather, not a personable being. Since it lacks eternal relationships it either created beings in order to have relationships with them or, as is more obvious in Islam’s theology, it is simply not interested in having personal relationships with humans.

Moreover, since it lacks eternal relations and does not seek personal relations its moral system amounts to arbitrary dogmatic assertions. This particular god is commonly referred to as “capricious.” Since relation is not intrinsic to its nature, neither is morality.

When we consider the God of the Bible—the God of Judaism as fully revealed in Christian theology—we find a being that is one God in three “persons” who are coeternal, coexisting and coequal, one what and three whos as it has been stated.[1] This God is not alone in eternity and is thus not lacking relation. Relation is intrinsic to this God and so is morality (or rather, ethics, the very ethos), it is a very aspect of God’s nature or character. Thus, this God’s ordained morality is neither arbitrary nor some external entity to which God is subject.


Let us consider various theologies and see which are excluded by natural theology: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Shinto, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and why not mention New Age, Wicca, Atheism as alternative worldview-style options.
Hinduism: ranges from pantheism to polytheism.
Buddhism: atheistic.
Taoism: atheistic or pantheistic.
Shinto: polytheistic.
Judaism: strict monotheism.
Christianity: Trinitarian monotheism.
Islam: strict monotheism.
New Age: pantheistic.
Wicca: pantheistic or polytheistic.
Atheism: speaks for itself.


Since natural theology points up toward a theistic creator the only options not excluded are the theistic theologies of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Of these, Judaism is, even by its own admission of expecting the future revelation of the Messiah, an incomplete theology. Islam built its theology by fallaciously borrowing from and theologically and historically contradicting Judaism and Christianity (see here, here, here, here and here for relevant issues). Thus, Christianity is the only viable option left.

…since the creation of the world His
invisible attributes are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that
are made, even His eternal
power and Godhead
—Romans 1:20

[1] Prof. Richard Lewontin wrote, “What seems absurd depends on one’s prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity ‘in deep trouble.’ Two’s company, but three’s a crowd”
From Billions and Billions of Demons, Prof. Lewontin’s review of Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. I posted his entire, very sobering, review here.

22 comments:

  1. 1) Timeless: since God preexisted time.
     
    Nothing can preexist time. There is no 'pre' anything without time.

    4) Uncaused: since God existed before time which is a requirement for cause and effect relationships.
     
    In the absence of time the word "before" is undefined which makes the statement absurd on its face.

    If time is necessary for cause and effect then by your own definition your hypothetical god can not cause anything, at least not until after it starts somehow else.

    And you're still ignoring physics and begging the question that everything must be caused.

    So, four lengthy posts down the road and a lot of hand-waving and special pleading later your proof is as rootless and feckless as it ever was.

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  2. He LOGICALLY pre-exists time.
    We can either go with that or with an uncaused universe kablooie.
    Or we can go with infinite regress.
    Or you can just accept that speaking of logical precedence is perfectly reasonable.

    So not all things must be caused? What must not be caused?

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  3. He LOGICALLY pre-exists time.
     
    No, he can't LOGICALLY pre-exist time. The possibility is excluded by the definitions of the prefix 'pre-' and the word 'time'. Its an absurd assertion. It is not logically possible.

    We can either go with that or with an uncaused universe kablooie.
     
    Bingo! An uncaused universe makes more sense than a "logical" proof that only works if you ignore the meanings of the words in it.

    Or we can go with infinite regress.
     
    Why not? Your dicta ex cathedra-style exclusion of the possibility is just another ad hoc assumption added for no apparent reason other than to force the conclusion you want to arrive at.

    This entire so-called proof is just a sort of stealth tautology where you pick and choose your a priori assumptions to force the conclusion you wanted in the first place.

    So not all things must be caused? What must not be caused?
     
    You're missing the point. Again. Its not whether everything is caused, its whether everything must be caused. Its the necessity of it that your argument rests on, not the banality of it.

    Try to remember that it is you who are claiming that causation is necessary for everything everywhere and everywhen. And it is also your pet argument that depends on the presupposed necessity of causation. So it is your responsibility to make the case.

    Considering that you guys routinely attack naturalism on the grounds that induction is a malign, treacherous and unreliable method, I can hardly wait to hear a defence of your key premise without it.

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  4. It's not logically impossible to logically precede, in the sense of being the causal agent, time.
    Logical does not equal CHRONOlogical. You need to make an argument for your assertion.

    An uncaused universe doesn't make any sense. Zero is not more than anything. What is your argument for the possibility of an uncaused universe?
    And remember, it's not I who thought of this. 'Twas Hume - "I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause." So why was Hume wrong here?

    Induction isn't a particularly unreliable method on Christianity. On naturalism it is. That distinction is important.

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  5. Human logic is fallible and is simply the best we can do in our current state. what is is and we can merely assume what is with a watered down version of it given our brain capacity.

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  6. MaskedMarauder,
    As you saw in the first part no one argued that, as you now state it, “everything must be caused.” Rather, that “Anything that begins to exist has a cause.”

    God’s causing creation was when time began; when the cause was initially followed by the effect.

    But I know that some prefer to believe that nothing caused nothing to explode for not reason and made everything.

    aDios,
    Mariano

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  7. Mariano: As you saw in the first part no one argued that, as you now state it, “everything must be caused.” Rather, that “Anything that begins to exist has a cause.”
     
    That's just a product of typing responses quickly. I respond to this here.

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  8. Rhology: An uncaused universe doesn't make any sense. Zero is not more than anything.
     
    Zero is greater than all negative numbers. Are you saying that there was negative time, some different kind of time before regular time began? Now, that makes no sense.

    I don't have a problem with an uncaused universe. Perhaps you're confounding the limits of your imagination with the limits of existence. As the late, great, and unquestionable authority David Hume once wrote: "Nothing is more usual than to apply to external bodies every internal sensation they occasion."

    What is your argument for the possibility of an uncaused universe?
     
    There is no reason to exclude it from consideration. Especially when 'cause' is so poorly defined.

    And remember, it's not I who thought of this. 'Twas Hume - "I never asserted so absurd a proposition as that anything might arise without a cause." So why was Hume wrong here?
     
    First, you beg the question that Hume was right in the first place.

    Second, the majority of what we know of the universe was discovered long after Hume died, so his opinion, however enlightened it was in the 18th century,is no longer a well informed opinion. Do you really think that everything that has been discovered since then is irrelevant to this discussion?

    But, if Hume said that it must be true, is that your argument? Thank the FSM that Hume knew absolutely everything! Or did he? What did David Hume actually mean by 'cause'?

    My recollection is that he argued that causation is a habit of thought born of experience. Which sort of makes the work product of the intervening two centuries more relevant.

    But then Immanual Kant said the laws of nature are really laws of understanding.

    And then again Judea Pearl, in a discussion of Adam & Eve's colloquy with God in the Garden of Eden, strangely enough, concludes that "causal explanation is a man-made concept."

    Oh dear! Who to trust! How to decide! What to believe!

    If you ever want to make a serious effort to bind your favored imaginary universe to this physical universe you will sooner or later have to confront raw experience and how physical brains process it. In a word, induction.

    Induction isn't a particularly unreliable method on Christianity. On naturalism it is. That distinction is important.
     
    Well, no special pleading here! LOL!!

    I'm framing this. Its a classic.

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  9. Rhology: It's not logically impossible to logically precede, in the sense of being the causal agent, time.
    Logical does not equal CHRONOlogical. You need to make an argument for your assertion.

     
    Nice pun. But this exposes the essence of the problem here. I am talking about this universe and you are talking about an imaginary universe.

    If it makes things easier, I'll gladly concede that there is at least one conceivable imaginary universe in which your imaginary friend is a necessary being, logically speaking.

    But logic compels nothing in this universe. What is logically possible or impossible is no reliable guide to what to expect from the world.

    To quote yet another venerable expert, in his ruminations on Zeno's paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, Borges said: "We (the undivided divinity that operates within us) have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it resistant, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and firm in time; but we have allowed into its architecture tenuous and eternal interstices of unreason to lest us understand that it is false."

    What's interesting to me about this, besides its content, is that although I read a lot of Borges when I took Spanish in College, I didn't encounter this particular passage until a physical chemistry class in graduate school. It appears in Moore's physical chemistry text book at the top of the first page of the first chapter "Physiochemical Systems."

    Despite the low opinion you have of science and scientists, curiosity about the nature of Nature is never far from our minds, and we take it at least as seriously as you guys do. But we prefer to look at the world around us for answers to our questions rather than dedicating ourselves to defending the opinions of long dead men who couldn't begin to imagine the things we know today, let alone explain them.r

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  10. -I don't have a problem with an uncaused universe. -

    So it just poofed into existence, uncaused, for no reason and by no action. Great. That's faith.


    -you beg the question that Hume was right in the first place.-

    That's not the correct usage of "beg the question". I quoted him b/c he made a great point. It's up to you to explain why he's wrong.


    -I'll gladly concede that there is at least one conceivable imaginary universe in which your imaginary friend is a necessary being, logically speaking.-

    Then you're not an atheist...


    -We (the undivided divinity that operates within us) have dreamed the world. -

    And that's what I meant about naturalism and induction.
    There's no evidence anyone could bring fwd to overturn this assertion. But on Christianity, there is - God's promise and God's revelation. You will scoff, but part of the proof is that the alternative you propose leads to absurdity.

    Mi esposa también estudió español. I just almost minored in it.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  11. Rhology: So it[the universe] just poofed into existence, uncaused, for no reason and by no action. Great. That's faith.
     
    I never said that it did. I just don't dismiss it out of hand a priori. If the evidence eventually shows that the universe was caused, that's OK with me. If it shows it wasn't caused, that's OK with me too. In my humble opinion our understanding is supposed to fit the facts, not the other way around as you have it.

    That's not the correct usage of "beg the question". I quoted him b/c he made a great point. It's up to you to explain why he's wrong.
     
    Challenging someone to prove the statement is wrong implies that you think Hume was right, which is begging the question. If I misconstrued your cryptic response then I apologize and agree with you that he is not right (or wrong). Since what you quote is Hume's personal opinion it is neither right nor wrong.

    To the extent that the quote asserts any fact at all it refers to his life history or writings and speech. I haven't read most of the former and have no access to any of the latter, so I won't contend that aspect of the claim. Hume may have been lying or telling the truth when he wrote that, I have no way of knowing. But I didn't address that because I don't see how Hume's integrity has anything to do with the origin of the universe.

    Then you're not an atheist...
     
    No, I am. Your favorite imaginary universe has no relation to this one we live in unless you can show that it is a valid model of it. You can't.



    You will scoff, but part of the proof is that the alternative you propose leads to absurdity.
     
    Put Achilles and a tortoise on a race track and see who wins. That would settle that. And it would show the absurdity of trying to solve empirical questions with a priori logical argument.

    As for considering our view of the world as a sort of dream, that's factually accurate, it is all mental, and so a sort of dream. But acknowledging that up front leads to healthy skepticism and an honest uncertainty, not absurdity. What's absurd is confusing your dream with concrete objective reality.

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  12. MM,

    OK. I'll just sit here quietly amused that you think it's possible that sthg could arise w/o a cause, and that you think evidence could someday appear to prove that. Very, very interesting. And you have more faith than many Christians I know, so congratulations on being very religious.

    You still don't understand what it means to beg the question. Maybe check the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy or something; quoting someone to support one's position is not begging the question.

    Anyway, I'm not sure why I'm responding here, since you haven't really said anythg of substance. Cheers.

    Peace,
    Rhology

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  13. Rhology:

    Begging the question is introducing a proposition requiring proof as an assumption without proof. And that's what you do when you assume Hume's opinion is correct without proof.

    Not to draw this out any longer than it needs to be, but you're the one evading substance. Rather than try to explain how one event can precede another when there is no time, you just try to change subjects with one specious diversion after another. Whether I think this universe may or may not have been caused in some sense is irrelevant to whether a putative cause coming before an effect, as required by this broken proof, is logically possible when 'before' is undefined.

    Its that simple. If you can't address that you might as well bug out.

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  14. Rhology wrote:

    I'll just sit here quietly amused that you think it's possible that sthg could arise w/o a cause

    Don't you believe God exits without a cause? Are you quietly amused at yourself?

    In addition, did not I give you a lesson about begging the question a few months ago? Yes, I did. I challenged you to justify induction without begging the question.

    You answered:

    induction is sound due to His promise of keeping the processes according to which the world operates



    So how do you know God will keep his promise? You say he always has? So what, that does not mean he always will. It does you no good to just assert that that is "his nature", as I could just assert that it is the "nature" of nature to remain uniform.

    You cannot use induction to justify induction. You are begging the question, as I predicted you would.

    The problem of induction remains.

    Nice try though!

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  15. Unicorns would be pink if they reflected pink electromagnetic radiation (i.e., light). However, in order to be invisible, the unicorns would reflect no electromagnetic radiation. The term "invisible pink unicorn" then is self contradictory. Therefore, we know absolutely that they could not exist.

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  16. Unicorns would be pink if they reflected pink electromagnetic radiation ...
    Actually, color is a subjective perception, not a physical property. Wavelength is physical and color is mental. So, somebody envisioning a non-physical thing might well attach the color pink to it. For example, synesthesia is an interesting cognitive condition where someone might attach different colors to numerals and so '3' might be blue, '1' might be green, etc.

    So the color of the invisible unicorn isn't a deal breaker here.

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  17. UnBeguiled,

    Remember, God didn't arise. That's a key distinction, and it's pretty elementary.


    -I challenged you to justify induction without begging the question.-

    I appeal to the promise of the God of the Bible, which is not viciously circular, since that presupposition is capable of explaining everything and justifying induction, knowledge, intelligibility, etc. A bare appeal to induction as presupp is not capable of that. Nor is the presupp of naturalism. That's the big difference.
    But most people just assume induction is valid, and I like to point that out to show the paucity of their thinking.


    -So how do you know God will keep his promise?-

    B/c if He doesn't, then the world is absurd and induction is useless; inferring from inductive judgments is no guide to truth (but of course, it's questionable whether we can know that inferring from inductive judgments is no guide to truth). In short, to deny this is to affirm that the universe is absurd and to refute one's own position.


    -It does you no good to just assert that that is "his nature", as I could just assert that it is the "nature" of nature to remain uniform.-

    But I know that b/c He told me. How did nature tell you that it's uniform?
    Here's the rub, and here's where you have either to say you don't know or to beg the question viciously.


    -You cannot use induction to justify induction.-

    Preaching to the choir. I don't do so, but thanks for the warning not to be an atheist.


    Peace,
    Rhology

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  18. Rhology,

    You know because God told you?

    You should be on a street corner with a cardboard sign selling pencils from a cup.

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  19. Gotta love substantive responses like UnBeguiled's!

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  20. Rhology,

    You have claimed that you "know" things because of the voices in your head. If you wish to be taken seriously, perhaps you should not reveal so openly that you are a babbling moon-bat. But it's too late now. Your comments have disqualified you from reasonable conversation.

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  21. Way to fail Unbeguiled.

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  22. No God or Gods can make that claim. Yahweh does not lift Himself up above anyone else. He does not need to. As Creator, He is already above all. He is by far Mightier, Wiser, more Loving, Kinder and Merciful than any being.

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