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[Knobbyboy88] Monotheistic religions and Time

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sirocco
PostPosted: 2010-01-03 02:53pm 

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I have a weird question for you :

In the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), God created the whole world with life and light. I always understood it as Him creating the universe and the concept of Space-Time.

Hence such superior being would exist out of Time. He would certainly be Omnipresent and Omnipotent (the universe would be a gigantic Tivo to Him). Omniscience is what would make a difference between Him and other out-of-the-universe beings (angels, demons, very advanced aliens, ...)

All this makes me wonder if Lucifer/the Devil is subject to Time.
1/ Yes : how could he have been created before our Universe and its Time was created ? :banghead:
2/ No : then how could there be a "before rebellion towards God" and an "after rebellion towards God" ? :angelic:

That question applies also to any being that may exist out of our Universe and keep interacting with us.

Last edited by Edi on 2010-01-08 02:29am, edited 1 time in total.
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Darth Ruinus
PostPosted: 2010-01-03 04:35pm 

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I don't understand, how can something exist before time, and interact with the Universe if it is out of it?
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sirocco
PostPosted: 2010-01-03 05:16pm 

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Darth Ruinus wrote:
I don't understand, how can something exist before time, and interact with the Universe if it is out of it?


Technically speaking, God's and Demons' realms are not in our plane of existence. Yet their inhabitants are said to interact with us. Well their actions would look to us as miracles and supernatural events.

I don't know how that happens (or even if there are any actual supernatural events) but I'd say that a being out of the universe has sufficient power and knowledge to be able mold it. He would be some kind of external and independent factor interacting with a closed system.
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Surlethe
PostPosted: 2010-01-03 05:56pm 

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(Below, I am highlighting all undefined terms with quotation marks.)

What is a "plane of existence"? Why would a being out of the "universe" have sufficient power and knowledge to "mold" it? Since we are clearly not in God's "plane of existence", why do we not have sufficient power and knowledge to "mold" it, let alone detect it?

If we would like to indulge in a theological fantasy discussion, you might suppose that there is a different time dimension through which God moves, and our "universe" is a subspace embedded in it wherein all events occur simultaneously w. r. t. this second time dimension. But if that's the direction we're going, we may need to consider moving this discussion to Fantasy, since this sort of theo-speculation is neither science nor logic nor morality.
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sirocco
PostPosted: 2010-01-03 06:20pm 

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Surlethe wrote:
What is a "plane of existence"?

I'd say something like a Space-Time Continuum even though I'm not sure it's the right word for that. I'm simply assuming that there are multiple universes independent from each other and that they are contained in some kind of superverse (which is, depending on your belief, inside or outside of God)

Quote:
Why would a being out of the "universe" have sufficient power and knowledge to "mold" it?

because he would have the experience of manipulating universes and would not be affected by his modification.

Quote:
Since we are clearly not in God's "plane of existence", why do we not have sufficient power and knowledge to "mold" it, let alone detect it?

I don't have an answer for that. Maybe we are not advanced enough to make significant molding... And as you pointed it, what would be the definition of "molding the universe" or more simply "unnatural event"?

Quote:
If we would like to indulge in a theological fantasy discussion, you might suppose that there is a different time dimension through which God moves, and our "universe" is a subspace embedded in it wherein all events occur simultaneously w. r. t. this second time dimension. But if that's the direction we're going, we may need to consider moving this discussion to Fantasy, since this sort of theo-speculation is neither science nor logic nor morality.


Well I was expecting more knowledge on multiverse, time-space and having some scientific answers on theological matters. Because it really bugs me that according to monotheistic religions, after your death, you would have access to a different "plane of existence" where time would be different. The more I think about that, the more I wonder if a deceased person could then interact with our universe and more particularly on his own life when he was alive.
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Surlethe
PostPosted: 2010-01-03 06:41pm 

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sirocco wrote:
I'd say something like a Space-Time Continuum even though I'm not sure it's the right word for that. I'm simply assuming that there are multiple universes independent from each other and that they are contained in some kind of superverse (which is, depending on your belief, inside or outside of God)

What's a "space-time continuum"? Why would you assume there are multiple "universes" independent from each other contained in some sort of "superverse"?

Quote:
because he would have the experience of manipulating universes and would not be affected by his modification.

Why does that follow from being out of a "universe"?

Quote:
I don't have an answer for that. Maybe we are not advanced enough to make significant molding... And as you pointed it, what would be the definition of "molding the universe" or more simply "unnatural event"?

I don't know - I'm asking you.

Quote:
Well I was expecting more knowledge on multiverse, time-space and having some scientific answers on theological matters. Because it really bugs me that according to monotheistic religions, after your death, you would have access to a different "plane of existence" where time would be different. The more I think about that, the more I wonder if a deceased person could then interact with our universe and more particularly on his own life when he was alive.

Why would you expect a scientific answer to theological questions?

We have people knowledgeable on quantum mechanics and relativity, if that's what you mean by knowledge on multiverse and time-space. But anything having to do with super-universes and planes of existence, and especially ties to theology, are nothing more than unsubstantiated speculation. Let me ask you this: what reasons do you have to believe monotheistic religions at all, especially because they appear to lead to such absurd conclusions (when you mix them with pseudoscience)?
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Marcus Aurelius
PostPosted: 2010-01-03 07:30pm 

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sirocco wrote:
Well I was expecting more knowledge on multiverse, time-space and having some scientific answers on theological matters. Because it really bugs me that according to monotheistic religions, after your death, you would have access to a different "plane of existence" where time would be different. The more I think about that, the more I wonder if a deceased person could then interact with our universe and more particularly on his own life when he was alive.

Theological doctrines often are not empirically testable, which means that science can not say anything about them. Obviously that is not the case with many biblical (or Qur'an) literalist beliefs, which can and also have been thoroughly debunked by science, but claims about Heaven and other things beyond the empirically testable universe are not within the scope of science.

However, philosophy can still evaluate those doctrines and determine if they are reasonable and internally consistent. Considering Heaven specifically I suggest that you read Michael Martin's essay Problems with Heaven and also the further discussion with a theist philosopher found here.
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2010-01-03 07:44pm 

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To be fair, this is posed as a thought experiment. Unfortunately it's a thought experiment that has no safe place to go, because it runs right off the rails into the Great Unfalsifiable within a couple of paragraphs. Let me see if I can recast it with fewer undefined terms, as a logic puzzle... I don't really expect it to work, but I'd like to try.
________

Imagine a universe created by an omniscient and omnipresent* being- for certain practical purposes, a being that violates our concept of causality, because its perfect foreknowledge allows future events to affect its past actions. It can do something now because of its ability to observe the consequences of that action later.

To such a being, the evolution of the universe through time would not be as distinct from motion in spatial coordinates as it is to us, because it could see the future and the present at the same time, and retain perfect memory of the past. Thus, we can imagine the being "molding" the 4-dimensional structure of the universe, making changes to the initial conditions for the sake of the inevitable consequences in the final conditions- consequences it can perceive quite clearly long before they occur in a context where time makes sense.
______

Strictly speaking, this does not require a being that exists "outside time," but without the ability to move freely back and forth in time, the being would seem to need infinite computing power in order to predict all the possible consequences of its actions in an arbitrarily short time... without which it is not omniscient.

Functional omniscience would be simpler in a being that is not bound by one-directional causality in time: one that can send messages to its past self much as you or I can pass a ball from our right hand to our left. Then it would not need to predict all possible events in advance; it could simply observe them playing out through time, go back to the beginning, and adjust accordingly. From our perspective this would be identical to infinite computing power, because a time traveller has all the time they need from the point of view of anyone who isn't a time traveller.**
______

Now for the puzzle:

Imagine the Christian God as a being with functional omniscience because of his ability to violate causality, and to understand and sense events in microscopic detail. This raises logical problems with the Christian concept of the Devil, who was supposedly created "before" the Universe, in the same realm of noncausality, but who rebelled against his creator at some point.

If this Devil is a causal being, then he must be subject to one-directional time (denying him the form of omniscience and nigh-omnipotence that God would get by breaking causality). But in that case his creation would have to occupy some point on the time axis, and could not "predate" the Universe: a flaw in the traditional concept of the being. On the other hand, if the Devil is a noncausal being, then the very notion of a point in time at which the Devil had not rebelled is absurd, because the Devil could access all points in time with equal ease, both "before" and "after" his decision to rebel in his own proper-time frame of reference.***

Is there a way to resolve these problems other than throwing up our hands and saying the whole thing is an idiotic myth?****

The only way I can imagine is to throw out the concept of a non-causal God and go with a God of infinite computing power. That would allow one to anchor all divine interventions firmly on the timeline... with the catch that we need to do so, which would be very unappealing to the average Christian who would like to imagine that God is independent of everything, including the rules of logic and the concept of time. Thus, the absurdity raised by a noncausal God is replaced with the anathema of God operating in a context he did not create.

Which doesn't bother me at all, but might bother sirocco.
_______

*omnipotence is not required, and may even be counterproductive.
**If the traveler is immortal, at any rate...
***Assuming he even has one, which probably isn't a good assumption to make of noncausal beings.
****I understand, of course, that you may be disinclined to try, having already thrown up your hands in disgust years ago. This is a logic puzzle, not a question I think anyone is obliged to tackle for any reason other than amusement.
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Darth Wong
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 12:44am 

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sirocco wrote:
Surlethe wrote:
What is a "plane of existence"?

I'd say something like a Space-Time Continuum even though I'm not sure it's the right word for that. I'm simply assuming that there are multiple universes independent from each other and that they are contained in some kind of superverse (which is, depending on your belief, inside or outside of God)

I don't think you're understanding the objection. Your terminology is nothing more than sci-fi babble, dressed up as spirituality. It is not properly defined in any logical or scientific sense whatsoever. Surlethe is pointing out that your argument is utterly without any kind of logical argument because it consists of nothing more than throwing a bunch of undefined terms at the problem.

The problem is simple: you are attempting to define a creature which exists, but not in the universe which encompasses all of space and time. The obvious objection is that the very concept of existence denotes interaction with our universe; if something does not interact with our universe, how can we say it exists? And if something is interacting with our universe, how can we say it does not exist in our universe?

Understand this: existence itself is interaction with our universe. How do you know I exist? Simple: because I am interacting with the universe. As far as you know I am only doing so electronically right now, but if I were standing in front of you, you would see that I am interacting with air molecules, photons of light, etc. I even have a measurable gravitational attraction. Interaction with the universe IS existence.

So when you say that God or Satan or any other made-up imaginary being "exists" outside our universe, you are saying something that literally makes no sense. The use of meaningless terms like "plane of existence" doesn't change that. You are merely presenting a sloppy pastiche of New Age terminology, Bronze Age superstitions, and wishful thinking.

Quote:
Well I was expecting more knowledge on multiverse, time-space and having some scientific answers on theological matters. Because it really bugs me that according to monotheistic religions, after your death, you would have access to a different "plane of existence" where time would be different.

The scientific answers on theological matters and the multi-verse are simple:

1) Theology is a historical curiosity, not a source of scientific knowledge.
2) God is most likely a figment of the imagination.
3) The multi-verse is a useless and therefore worthless hypothesis.

Quote:
The more I think about that, the more I wonder if a deceased person could then interact with our universe and more particularly on his own life when he was alive.

A deceased person interacts with our universe by becoming worm food.
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Patrick Degan
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 01:17am 

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sirocco wrote:
I have a weird question for you :

In the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), God created the whole world with life and light. I always understood it as Him creating the universe and the concept of Space-Time.

Hence such superior being would exist out of Time. He would certainly be Omnipresent and Omnipotent (the universe would be a gigantic Tivo to Him). Omniscience is what would make a difference between Him and other out-of-the-universe beings (angels, demons, very advanced aliens, ...)

All this makes me wonder if Lucifer/the Devil is subject to Time.
1/ Yes : how could he have been created before our Universe and its Time was created ? :banghead:
2/ No : then how could there be a "before rebellion towards God" and an "after rebellion towards God" ? :angelic:

That question applies also to any being that may exist out of our Universe and keep interacting with us.


Which leads inevitably to the question "What created God?" and thence to Infinite Regress, which is logically meaningless. And if you try the dodge that God always existed, this leads to the inevitable counter that this is the same as saying the Universe always existed. A difference which makes no difference is no difference and also is logically meaningless. Either way, the very concept of God is logically meaningless.
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Knobbyboy88
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 12:52pm 

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Quote:
All this makes me wonder if Lucifer/the Devil is subject to Time.
1/ Yes : how could he have been created before our Universe and its Time was created ?
2/ No : then how could there be a "before rebellion towards God" and an "after rebellion towards God" ?

That question applies also to any being that may exist out of our Universe and keep interacting with us.


I think that you're going about this all the wrong way. The easiest way to think about the problem would be from an Aristotelian "Prime Mover" viewpoint. Assuming that he/she/it exists, "God (insert various other omnipotent deity here)" would be the causeless "first cause" whom exists outside of time and space but also acts as the point of origin for everything which exists or ever will exist. In short, everything flows outwards from that one point in a similar fashion to how all of time and space expands outwards from the big bang.

"Satan," "Angels," or what have you could very well be thought of as experiencing time differently than we do or inhabiting a different plane of existence from our own which (by some unknown and ultimately completely irrelevant non-physical mechanism) allows them to interact with our own, and which might therefore make them appear to be "omnipotent" or "omnipresent" from our own extremely limited vantage point, but they would ultimately only be effects of this same "first cause." They have a point of origin and therefore a begining. The "prime mover" would not.

Admittedly, this is all strictly theological/metaphysical and totally untestable in any empirical fashion, but it does help to reduce the "mind fuck" factor of the whole concept by a considerable margin.

Quote:
Which leads inevitably to the question "What created God?" and thence to Infinite Regress


Not necessarily. We are causal beings who inhabit a causal universe and experience time linearly. Obviously, the concept of a non-causal being is going to be rather difficult to fathom. However, the fact that something may be hard to wrap your head around does not necessarily mean that such a condition cannot necessarily exist.
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Knobbyboy88
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 12:59pm 

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Ghettor Edit:

Quote:
The only way I can imagine is to throw out the concept of a non-causal God and go with a God of infinite computing power. That would allow one to anchor all divine interventions firmly on the timeline... with the catch that we need to do so, which would be very unappealing to the average Christian who would like to imagine that God is independent of everything, including the rules of logic and the concept of time. Thus, the absurdity raised by a noncausal God is replaced with the anathema of God operating in a context he did not create.

Which doesn't bother me at all, but might bother sirocco.


The implications of this would basically be Gnosticism. :wink:
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Liberty
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 01:13pm 

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Huh. I never thought of questions like this back when I was a fundie. It sure would have screwed with my mind if I had, though.

I find it interesting that many religious beliefs that might be seen by many people as relatively rational (i.e., the existence of a God outside of time that can interact with the world at any point at any time and is omniscient and omnipresent) fall apart on the slightest mental investigation. If God is really outside of time, he does not experience time. What the hell does that mean? Everything is like a blink - all his interactions with the world, thoughts, etc, all happening to him at once? I mean, he can't choose to first interact with the Israelites, then interact with Paul, then cause a miracle in 15th century France, and then talk to Daniel, can he? That would mean he did one thing, and then another, and that's a function of being in time isn't it?

We're humans. We function within the universe and within time. There is no way for us to conceive of a being outside of time. Why is this? Either:
A: No such thing can exist, and it is therefore meaningless; or
B: Our human minds are just too small to understand the workings of God (common fundie response)

At the moment, I think I'll go with A.
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 01:44pm 

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Knobbyboy88 wrote:
Quote:
(some stuff I said)
The implications of this would basically be Gnosticism. :wink:
Care to expand on that? I'm not sure I follow.

Liberty Ferall wrote:
Huh. I never thought of questions like this back when I was a fundie. It sure would have screwed with my mind if I had, though.
American-style Protestant fundies do not have an active* theological tradition, and are often taught not to think of questions like this. Protestantism in general is somewhat better based on that note, but most of the really serious Christian thinkers who even try to answer this kind of question are Catholic, and most of those are hundreds of years dead.

This may not be a coincidence, because the most natural response to questions this weird and mind-screwing is to throw up your hands and dismiss the whole thing as a myth. It certainly doesn't sit well with a Biblical-literalist approach where your definition of God's abilities comes directly from whatever random hyperbole some Iron Age shepherd cooked up while trying to impress his kids.

*(in any other social context I would say "healthy," but I cannot defend that word choice against dedicated attackers)

Quote:
I find it interesting that many religious beliefs that might be seen by many people as relatively rational (i.e., the existence of a God outside of time that can interact with the world at any point at any time and is omniscient and omnipresent) fall apart on the slightest mental investigation. If God is really outside of time, he does not experience time. What the hell does that mean? Everything is like a blink - all his interactions with the world, thoughts, etc, all happening to him at once? I mean, he can't choose to first interact with the Israelites, then interact with Paul, then cause a miracle in 15th century France, and then talk to Daniel, can he? That would mean he did one thing, and then another, and that's a function of being in time isn't it?
If we actually try to answer the question, it could mean:

-All things happen simultaneously to him, which leads to the choices you describe below (A or B, you prefer A), or:
-We're dealing with a being whose personal timeline (their "proper time," to use a concept from relativity in the context of some imagined N-dimensional space) doesn't necessarily run parallel to ours, and which may even loop backwards. This need not be different from the way time would appear to a hypothetical time traveller, with the power to jump back and forth along the timeline to whatever moment they're interested in. Such a being may still experience time, but the amount of it they've experienced between two events doesn't correlate with the amount you would experience between those events.
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Marcus Aurelius
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 02:25pm 

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Knobbyboy88 wrote:
I think that you're going about this all the wrong way. The easiest way to think about the problem would be from an Aristotelian "Prime Mover" viewpoint. Assuming that he/she/it exists, "God (insert various other omnipotent deity here)" would be the causeless "first cause" whom exists outside of time and space but also acts as the point of origin for everything which exists or ever will exist. In short, everything flows outwards from that one point in a similar fashion to how all of time and space expands outwards from the big bang.

Since we're already getting to the deep end, thanks to you Knobbyboy88 :wink: , I think it is is appropriate to link a paper by Quentin Smith called Causation and the Logical Impossibility of a Divine Cause. It's a long philosophical paper, so I will quote just the introduction here:

Quote:
Some interesting light is thrown on the nature of causation, the origin of the universe, and arguments for atheism if we address the question: Is it logically possible that the universe has an originating divine cause?

I think that virtually all contemporary theists, agnostics and atheists believe this is logically possible. Indeed, the main philosophical tradition from Plato to the present has assumed that the sentence, "God is the originating cause of the universe", does not express a logical contradiction, even though many philosophers have argued that this sentence either is synthetic and meaningless (e.g., the logical positivists) or states a synthetic and a priori falsehood (e.g., Kant and Moore), or states a synthetic and a posteriori falsehood (e.g., contemporary defenders of the probabilistic argument from evil).

I believe the prevalence of this assumption is due to the fact that philosophers have not undertaken the requisite sort of metaphysical investigation into the nature of causation. This investigation is the purpose of this paper; specifically, I shall argue that the thesis that the universe has an originating divine cause is logically inconsistent with all extant definitions of causality and with a logical requirement upon these and all possible valid definitions or theories of causality. I will conclude that the cosmological and teleological arguments for a cause of the universe may have some force but that these arguments, traditionally understood as arguments for the existence of God, are in fact arguments for the nonexistence of God.


And the end of the conclusion:

Quote:
Since the cosmological and teleological arguments have standardly been thought to be the strongest arguments for God's existence, and since they support atheism rather than theism, it seems now that the case for theism is very weak indeed. It is hard to imagine how one could ever inductively or deductively establish, or find self-evident, that the big bang is the logical consequence of something standing in an R relation to being the big bang. Perhaps there are some fairly plausible arguments that the big bang has a cause, but there are no extant or plausible arguments that the big bang has a logically sufficient condition in an acausal mental state. This suggests that belief in the existence of God is considerably less reasonable than even the most cautious natural theologians have standardly supposed.
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Darth Wong
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 02:51pm 

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Personally, I think that "prime mover" stupidity gets far too lenient treatment by philosophers in general. At no point do any of its proponents ever explain how this argument makes any sense in the first place. Existence itself is not an event; it is a condition, and it can easily be an eternal one. At no point has anyone ever justified the idea that the existence of the universe is an event which requires a prior cause. They merely assume it.

The Big Bang is an event of course, but the Prime Mover argument assumes that the original mass/energy of the universe requires a cause, and it doesn't. If we accept that it can simply exist, then some nature of its existence may be responsible for the Big Bang event, and hence no divine intervention is required.
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Knobbyboy88
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 04:01pm 

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Quote:
Care to expand on that? I'm not sure I follow.


If I am understanding your point correctly, you were saying that the absence of "time" being an essential characteristic of the natures of both God and Satan would mean that God and Satan existed simultaneously and that, therefore, neither could have created the other because one technically could not predate the other.

This would basically make Satan a God unto himself as God would not be his creator. Such a view would more or less constitute Gnosticism.

Quote:
Since we're already getting to the deep end, thanks to you Knobbyboy88 , I think it is is appropriate to link a paper by Quentin Smith called Causation and the Logical Impossibility of a Divine Cause. It's a long philosophical paper, so I will quote just the introduction here:


I'm not really looking to get into any kind of extended debate here as I wouldn't be particularly qualified to finish it. :mrgreen: I was simply addressing the OP's question about the Judeo-Christian interpretation of time where it relates to the existence of God and Satan.

However, I think it is worth noting that philosophy can be a rather tricky subject. Refuting an argument is fairly easy, but actually disproving it is next to impossible where the theological is concerned.

Quote:
The Big Bang is an event of course, but the Prime Mover argument assumes that the original mass/energy of the universe requires a cause, and it doesn't. If we accept that it can simply exist, then some nature of its existence may be responsible for the Big Bang event, and hence no divine intervention is required.


The way I see the issue, we basically have two options.

A) The universe exists...well...just because it does, and we're willing to accept that it may need no cause, but we're not going to accept the notion of a God which needs no cause as the notion just plain strikes us as being silly.

or

B) The universe exists because a "God" which requires no cause created it and we're just going to accept this admittedly rather implausible fact on blind faith even though we can provide no real evidence to back this assumption.

Frankly, neither explanation is ideal and both are rather weak where available empirical evidence is concerned. We're basically left with a universe which either simply "poofed" itself into existence somehow or one which was created by a magical man in the sky.
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Cykeisme
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 05:45pm 

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Knobbyboy88 wrote:
The way I see the issue, we basically have two options.

A) The universe exists...well...just because it does, and we're willing to accept that it may need no cause, but we're not going to accept the notion of a God which needs no cause as the notion just plain strikes us as being silly.

or

B) The universe exists because a "God" which requires no cause created it and we're just going to accept this admittedly rather implausible fact on blind faith even though we can provide no real evidence to back this assumption.

Frankly, neither explanation is ideal and both are rather weak where available empirical evidence is concerned. We're basically left with a universe which either simply "poofed" itself into existence somehow or one which was created by a magical man in the sky.
Hmm, that can probably be simplified further.

A) The universe is present, though it has no creator.
OR
B) A divine being is present, though it has no creator.
The divine being created the universe.

If the existence of something (be it the divine being or the universe itself) requires no creator or cause, which of the two is less contrived?
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Knobbyboy88
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 06:07pm 

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Quote:
If the existence of something (be it the divine being or the universe itself) requires no creator or cause, which of the two is less contrived?


I never denied that the one was more contrived than the other. However, considering the fact we are dealing with what effectively constitutes a mind boggling logical impossibility either way, I wouldn't necessarily say that we can really say for sure either way. Which way any given individual swings on the matter is really just a matter of personal preference.

EDIT: Anything simply "existing" with no cause is a difficult concept to come to terms with.
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 06:57pm 

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Knobbyboy88 wrote:
I never denied that the one was more contrived than the other. However, considering the fact we are dealing with what effectively constitutes a mind boggling logical impossibility either way, I wouldn't necessarily say that we can really say for sure either way. Which way any given individual swings on the matter is really just a matter of personal preference.

EDIT: Anything simply "existing" with no cause is a difficult concept to come to terms with.
Doesn't bother me.

Knobbyboy88 wrote:
Quote:
Care to expand on that? I'm not sure I follow.


If I am understanding your point correctly, you were saying that the absence of "time" being an essential characteristic of the natures of both God and Satan would mean that God and Satan existed simultaneously and that, therefore, neither could have created the other because one technically could not predate the other.

This would basically make Satan a God unto himself as God would not be his creator. Such a view would more or less constitute Gnosticism.
You have not understood my point correctly. My point was far more restricted: if the absence of time were an essential characteristic of Satan, then the idea of some point in time at which Satan had not rebelled against God is meaningless. However, this does not mean that God could not possibly have created Satan, so far as I am concerned.

For instance, along with all other aspects of the instantaneous and simultaneous creation of and fiddling with spacetime, God could have thought "this universe I'm making needs the attentions of an annoying, malicious, ambitious, relatively powerful being that disagrees with me" and created one, which sprang into being opposed to God and which instantaneously interfered to the limits of its ability at all points in spacetime.

I cannot imagine why any quasi-sane God would have done so, but I can imagine a God doing it.
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On a side note, I think I agree with Darth Wong that the "prime mover" argument is not valid, and is indeed stupid.* The idea that the universe logically must have a prime mover to explain its existence is tempting if you start from the point "everything happens for a reason," and proceed naively. But it can't be proven true anywhere near well enough to justify the strength of its conclusions by any line of argument I've ever heard of.

*On a very strange and rarefied plane of stupidity.

=========

Marcus Aurelius wrote:
Since we're already getting to the deep end, thanks to you Knobbyboy88 :wink: , I think it is is appropriate to link a paper by Quentin Smith called Causation and the Logical Impossibility of a Divine Cause. It's a long philosophical paper, so I will quote just the introduction here:
I read the paper, and I'm rather disappointed in it. I do not think it adequately supports its conclusion.

I take exception to Smith's reasoning at a number of points, organized by the sections in which he makes those points:
______

Section 2, "Hume's Definition of a Cause," (c):
Smith argues that the nature of a supernatural being willing the universe into being makes it impossible to define cause-effect relations in terms of "nomological" conditions. He reasons as follows:

A cause C is nomologically related to an effect E if we can describe the cause as a set of conditions {C1, C2,...,Ci} that, assuming a set of laws {L1, L1,..., Lj}, we can logically deduce that E will occur, or that E might occur with some known probability. Smith argues that for an omnipotent being, there are no laws to put in set L, and this condition (necessary for Hume's definition of cause and effect, among others) cannot apply.

I contend that this is not true. One can suggest some laws L that derive from the very definition of the word 'omnipotent,' such as "what [insert omnipotent thing here] wants to happen happens, regardless of any interfering circumstances." That would certainly belong in the set L,.

Or one can suggest any number of conditions under which even an 'omnipotent' being is constrained by logical principles such as the need for self-consistency. Thomas Aquinas's argument that his idea of God would not be able to create a plane triangle with angles adding up to 180 degrees comes to mind. Again, this imposes laws on the situation and populates the set L.

Therefore, Smith is too quick to dismiss the nomological condition as being inapplicable. But since the later part of Section 2 depends heavily on the idea that any definition of causation that includes the nomological condition cannot be used to make a statement of the form "[Supernatural being X] caused the universe to come into existence," that undermines the rest of Section 2 of his paper.
______

Section 2, "The Transference Definition of Cause:"
Here, Smith argues that a nonphysical God could not have caused a physical event under a definition of "cause" in which the cause transfers some quality or substance to the effect. After all, Smith argues, a nonphysical being cannot have physical qualities or assets (such as energy) to transfer to an event; nor could a physical event be caused by nonphysical qualities or assets (which I don't have words for).

This seems to me to be making some heavy, unwarranted assumptions about the definition of "nonphysical" and the claim that a God would qualify as "nonphysical." In a sense Smith is assuming that which he wishes to prove: that it would be impossible for a God to effect* the observable universe without itself being observable to us.

*Yes, I meant effect and not affect. As far as I can determine, Smith does not attempt to prove that a God could not affect the observable universe without itself being observable to us, though this would follow equally well from his premises that a God would be nonphysical and that nonphysical entities cannot affect physical events.
______

Section 2, "Counterfactual Definitions of Causation:"
Here, Smith cites an earlier argument by David Lewis, involving the idea of 'counterfactual' definitions of causation: if C and E are events that occur, and if C had not occured, E would not have occured, then C caused E.

He argues that such a definition cannot apply to a divine willing of the big bang, arguing that if we place "divine willing" in as C and "the universe appears" as E, then if E had not occured, C would not have occured (I infer that Smith means we can deduce that C did not occur from the absence of E).

This is, so far as I understand it, a disagreement with Lewis's argument as Smith presents it. To use more normal examples, if we make C the act of me flipping a light switch and E the light bulb coming on, we can infer that I did not flip the switch if the light does not come on.

I very much doubt that, in the event that the light does come on, the above fact can be said to mean I did not cause the light to come on. At least, not for a reasonable definition of "cause" that would actually be useful enough to merit attention. Assuming Lewis's argument was reasonable,* Smith seems to have misunderstood it. If Smith is getting Lewis right, then Lewis's definition is utterly useless, because under it nothing can be said to have caused anything, because the absence of any effect can always be used to prove the absence of its cause.**

*Not having a copy of the 1983 Philosophical Papers at my fingertips, I cannot prove this, of course.
**If we define the cause of the effect broadly enough to catch everything: for the light bulb, the "cause" includes me flipping the switch and the power being on and the bulb working and so on.
______

Section 3:
Smith argues that there is a more damning argument against the consistency of "Divine volition caused the universe to exist" than his own inability to find a definition of "cause" under which the statement can be examined. Specifically, he contends that:

"For any two particular events or states x and y, if x is a logically sufficient condition of y, then x is not a cause of y."

Here, I may honestly be missing something, because this claim strikes me as completely absurd, pulled from nowhere without anything resembling adequate support. If anyone can offer insight into why Smith saw this is as so clearly true that he presented it in a published journal article without further justification, I'd appreciate it.

This unlikely-seeming claim is a cornerstone of Smith's argument that an omnipotent God cannot be said to have caused the big bang, as outlined in the rest of Section 3.
______

Most of the rest of his paper stands on the foundation laid by his (in my eyes, poor) arguments made in Sections 2 and 3; aside from that I have no relevant objections to them. Objections, yes, but not ones relevant to my disagreement with his conclusion.

But based on my reasons above, I contend that Smith's argument is inadequately reasoned, and does not support his conclusion that the statement "God caused the universe to come into existence" is logically inconsistent. That doesn't mean the statement is true, but 'logically possible' and 'true' are not the same thing.

Likewise, I think that Smith's argument does not support his conclusion that God could not have caused the universe to come into existence, and therefore that the "prime mover" and teleological arguments for the existence of God are logically inconsistent because they include the argument "therefore, God must have caused the universe to exist," which is impossible if Smith is right. While I think the "prime mover" and teleological arguments are stupid, and that they may well be logically inconsistent for a vast horde of other reasons, they aren't inconsistent for this reason.
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Patrick Degan
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 08:01pm 

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Knobbyboy88 wrote:
Quote:
Which leads inevitably to the question "What created God?" and thence to Infinite Regress


Not necessarily. We are causal beings who inhabit a causal universe and experience time linearly. Obviously, the concept of a non-causal being is going to be rather difficult to fathom. However, the fact that something may be hard to wrap your head around does not necessarily mean that such a condition cannot necessarily exist.


Really? Demonstrate a non-causal universe, please.
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Knobbyboy88
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 08:57pm 

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Joined: 2008-04-28 03:56pm
Posts: 311
Quote:
You have not understood my point correctly. My point was far more restricted: if the absence of time were an essential characteristic of Satan, then the idea of some point in time at which Satan had not rebelled against God is meaningless. However, this does not mean that God could not possibly have created Satan, so far as I am concerned.


Ah, my mistake.


Quote:
For instance, along with all other aspects of the instantaneous and simultaneous creation of and fiddling with spacetime, God could have thought "this universe I'm making needs the attentions of an annoying, malicious, ambitious, relatively powerful being that disagrees with me" and created one, which sprang into being opposed to God and which instantaneously interfered to the limits of its ability at all points in spacetime.

I cannot imagine why any quasi-sane God would have done so, but I can imagine a God doing it.


This is where things become tiresome, and concepts such as the nature of "free will" and its relation to God's knowledge of all events past, present, and future comes into play. I'd really rather not get into it. :roll: lol

Quote:
Really? Demonstrate a non-causal universe, please.


As we have been discussing all along, you are going to have to come to terms with some form of non-causal universe regardless of whether you choose to accept the existence of a "God" or not. You can only regress so far. Eventually you should come to some point of origin.
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Patrick Degan
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 08:58pm 

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Knobbyboy88 wrote:
Quote:
Really? Demonstrate a non-causal universe, please.


As we have been discussing all along, you are going to have to come to terms with some form of non-causal universe regardless of whether you choose to accept the existence of a "God" or not. You can only regress so far. Eventually you should come to some point of origin.


Which allows the existence of a non-causal universe... how, exactly?
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Knobbyboy88
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 09:08pm 

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Quote:
Which allows the existence of a non-causal universe... how, exactly?


Why is there a universe? If the universe simply created itself, or if an eternal cycle of "big bangs" and "big crunches" have simply been perpetuating themselves forever without a God as some string theorists propose (please correct me if my understanding of the subject matter is skewed), you are still left with the question of "why." Aside from a God, what could have "caused" such a universe?

If you accept what many atheists propose (simply that the universe is a sufficient condition in and of itself for its own existence and therefore needs no cause), you are going to have to accept the notion of a universe which is non-causal in origin.
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Darth Wong
PostPosted: 2010-01-04 09:15pm 

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Joined: 2002-07-03 12:25am
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Knobbyboy88 wrote:
Quote:
The Big Bang is an event of course, but the Prime Mover argument assumes that the original mass/energy of the universe requires a cause, and it doesn't. If we accept that it can simply exist, then some nature of its existence may be responsible for the Big Bang event, and hence no divine intervention is required.

The way I see the issue, we basically have two options.

A) The universe exists...well...just because it does, and we're willing to accept that it may need no cause, but we're not going to accept the notion of a God which needs no cause as the notion just plain strikes us as being silly.

You're a fucking idiot. You do not need to provide a reason for the universe to exist because it obviously exists. It is perfectly acceptable to say that we don't know why the universe exists, or that it even needs a reason to exist, because its existence is beyond question. The same obviously cannot be said of this childish cartoonland ill-defined "God" concept.

Quote:
B) The universe exists because a "God" which requires no cause created it and we're just going to accept this admittedly rather implausible fact on blind faith even though we can provide no real evidence to back this assumption.

If only Occam's Razor actually had real rather than metaphorical existence. If that were so, then it would slit your ignorant fucking throat for posting this garbage.

Quote:
Frankly, neither explanation is ideal and both are rather weak where available empirical evidence is concerned. We're basically left with a universe which either simply "poofed" itself into existence somehow or one which was created by a magical man in the sky.

You're a goddamned idiot. It did not need to "poof" itself into existence: it simply always existed. This has been pointed out again and again in this forum, but it's obviously over your mottled little head.

Your argument relies upon the assumption that there was a time when the universe did not exist. This is actually impossible, since time itself is a component of the universe. Ergo, you are simply and completely wrong, in every conceivable way.
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