Friday, March 7, 2014

Of miracles and debates, Part III

When we last left off, my theist counterpart was about to try to prove god exists because I told her she couldn't do it. So here it is her effort to try to prove god exists by copying and pasting antiquated arguments.

HER: Thomas Aquinas - Anything that is in motion is put in motion by another. All motion is the reduction of something from its potentiality to its actuality. So, a matchbox car sitting on the table has the potential to move. If the car does move, it’s gone from its potentiality to its actuality. Nothing can go from its potentiality to its actuality except when moved by something in its state of actuality. A hand moves the car, which is already in the state of actuality. It is impossible for something to be both in the state of potentiality and actuality at the same time if you’re dealing with the same action. So, the car that’s moving cannot be actually moving and have the potential to be moving. Another example would be fire. Fire, which is actually hot, can’t at the same time be potentially hot. So, if that is the case, then it’s logically impossible for something to be both the mover and the moved.

St. Aquinas concludes, if there is any motion, it must be put in motion by another, and that by another, and that by another. All the way back to the beginning and when we reach the beginning, we ask how did the planets start to spin and how did the sun start to burn and the conclusion we reach is that there must have been some external agent an unmoved person that began the first movement. St. Thomas calls this anomaly the prime mover (God).

Why can’t that reaction go on to infinity? Reason demands that at some point you hit the first mover. If there is no first unmoved mover there can be no secondary movement. There are secondary movements therefore there must be an unmoved mover. If there were no first unmoved mover to move everything, there would be no movement from infinity before to infinity beyond. But there is movement so there must have been a first unmoved mover. The prime mover.

The Aristotelian principle: Whatever is changed is changed by another, or, in its more traditional form, Whatever is moved is moved by another.

Physicist Paul Davies said, “science takes as its starting point the assumption that life wasn’t made by a god or a supernatural being,” and acknowledges that, “partially out of fear of opening the door to religious fundamentalists… many investigators feel uneasy about stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they freely admit that they are baffled.”

And because I know you're going to ask me "who made god" Edward Feser answers it best. "Note that the notion of being self-explanatory is not to be confused with the notion of being self-caused, which is incoherent.  Causation is a metaphysical notion, having to do with the source from which a thing derives some aspect of its being.  But explanation is a logical notion, having to do with the way in which we understand or make sense of some aspect of a thing’s being.  We cannot coherently say that a thing derives its existence from itself or its nature, for that would entail, absurdly, that the thing or its nature exists prior to itself, in an ontological sense even if not a temporal sense.  But we can coherently say that a thing’s existence can be made sense of in terms of its nature, for that has to do, not with where a thing “gets” its existence from — an absolutely necessary being doesn’t get it from anywhere — but rather with how we can make intelligible or understand its existence.

The late 17th and early 18th century German philosopher, Gottfried Leibnitz developed a helpful principle that has come to be known as the principle of sufficient reason.  Leibnitz argued that everything, including God, does and must have an explanation for why it exists, but distinguished two kinds of explanations.  The existence of some things can be explained in terms of some external, transcendent cause, whereas the existence of other things can be explained in terms of the necessity of its own nature.  The first are regarded as “contingent beings,” while the latter are regarded as “necessary beings.”

Contingent beings—which include the universe, humans, rocks, etc.—derive their being from an external source.  They exist in virtue of something else that caused them to exist, and thus can be explained in terms of that causal agent.  Necessary beings, however, are not caused by any external agent.  They exist in virtue of the kind of thing they are; i.e. they must exist in virtue of the kind of things they are.  They are self-existing, and cannot not exist.  God is such a being.  He does not derive His being from some transcendent source, but has being in Himself in virtue of the kind of being He is.  God’s nature, then, provides the explanation for His existence.  Not only is no cause needed for God, but no cause is possible."

(She quite literally just grabbed a bunch of quotes from Wikipedia and never even presented an argument, just used other sources to make a house of cards. While I fully admit I would refute her efforts with other peoples' arguments, I've studied those arguments and responded almost entirely from memory.)

ME: Did you just try to prove the existence of god? LOL! Good to know you still cut and paste your arguments because it makes it that much easier to refute. I almost find it surprising you opened with the cosmological argument, especially Aquinas' archaic version, which has long been refuted by the work of numerous freethinkers and scientists, including theories from your favorites Newton and Einstein. I would think you'd look for refutations to these weak arguments before posting them in a public forum. At least make it a challenge and use William Lane Craig's Kalam Cosmological argument, which is also easily refuted, but at least it's "updated." And then the Ontological Argument? Really? That argument is literally a millennia old. But I'll start with Cosmological since you did.

Even if the Cosmological argument from first cause is accepted, your conclusion needs a god and infers an intelligent being, which carries with it a TON of baggage. If the "cause" of our universe turns out to be just some event, then according to Aquinas, that event is god, which is preposterous. What you (or at least Aquinas) are proposing/assuming is that a first cause needs attributes other than just being a first cause, and you're calling that god, which is a classic fallacious argument from incredulity, aka god of the gaps. Because everything is not known about how the universe came into existence you automatically rush to "god did it." We all know what that horse-and-buggy thinking gets you. Still think the world is flat and the sun rotates around us?

Because we observe cause and effect in spacetime, that doesn't mean the universe must've had a first cause. Quantum mechanics dispels this easily because virtual particles are created (and destroyed) all of the time, in a vacuum, out of nothing, with no prior cause. This refutes Aquinas’ premise. Before the Big Bang, these cause-and-effect properties may not even have existed, and assuming it did is just wishful speculation. Just because you can't imagine things happening without a cause doesn't mean it can't happen.

But let's put the heavy stuff to the side for a little bit and turn to the infinite regress. If people can't comprehend this dilemma that doesn't mean reality needs to change to make people feel better about something they don't understand. And if you insert god as the mover, then who made god? Another infinite regress. But even if this still makes you uncomfortable and we agree an infinite regress doesn't work, why does god have to be the prime mover? Or better yet, you will inevitably say god is infinite and exists outside time, etc. Why can't the universe be eternal?

Remember Occam's Razor? When you have two competing hypotheses, the one with the least amount of assumptions (or in your case, special pleading/circumstances) is the one that should be selected. Following your train of thought, you have to explain not only an infinite conscious being with no creator, but one that created everything, is omniscient and omnipotent, something far more complicated than a universe with infinite matter and energy. Look into Lawrence Krauss' A Universe from Nothing. Funny how theists will use cause and effect for their argument of god, but special plead their way out of it when the same argument is applied to their prime mover.

And finally, even if there were a god who was the prime mover, how do you know that god is interested in what you eat, in what position you have sex and what you believe? Or better yet, how do you know it's not Allah or Ganesh or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? After all, he boiled for your sins, R'amen. :-)

Now, in the ontological argument (which is what your contingency post was and has so much made-up nonsense and wishful thinking it's insulting to everyone's intelligence), existence is given as one of god's attributes as part of the definition (special pleading personified): If X is God, then X has the property of existence. This is logically equivalent to "If X does not exist, then X is not God." It does not prove there are any entities that match the definition. Existence can hardly ever be considered an attribute, as something nonexistent cannot have attributes. Therefore, making conclusions about existence of an entity based on its properties is not logically sound. In short, this argument boils down to "show me a god, and I'll show you an existing god." It's a form of circular reasoning because the existence is built into the assumptions.

Here's an example of this proof to show the fallacy.
Let's define a unicorn as a magical equine that has one horn and exists.
By that definition, such a being must necessarily exist.
Therefore unicorns exist.

You can literally insert any being (fictional and actual) into your "logic" and make that being exist. I can do this all day.

HER: Oh boy, you are so arrogant. Since I don't have time to address your whole "argument" right now, I'll just address the irrelevant insults. As far as copying and pasting, I believe it's called citing my sources. Unlike you, I am not trying to pass off my argument as my own original thoughts, which you are. I know this because I could probably find your argument verbatim if I googled it.

Telling people how to have sex. I guess you agree with Richard Dawkins when he says he was molested as a child and it really wasn't that bad. He sees no harm in it. I suppose you are ok with pedophilia. Or will you admit that it's ok to tell people how to have sex where that's concerned? What a hypocrite!!!

"Your argument" which is not "your argument" at all, has been addressed time and time again, very openly and if you would read anything other than what you choose to believe, you would know that.

Since I have a life, you will have to wait for my reply. A reply, which will have citations and will not lead people to believe that I am the smartest person on the face of the earth.

(You can see the wheels coming off now. Her insults to counter my "insults" are stacking up, and by the way, where were my insults? That I accused her of copying and pasting? That her arguments were archaic? That she did nothing to defend her argument other than enlist others to do it for her and she probably didn't even understand what she was posting? And spoiler alert, she won't ever send that reply because she either gets so frustrated she runs and hides or she just couldn't do it. Either way, I wanted to be really snarky and say, "Don't worry, no one would ever think you're the smartest person on earth, but you have to remember this is a family member, so I restrained myself. She also had edited this last comment and unbeknownst to her I received her first unedited comment via email from Facebook, in which she told me I had nothing better to do with my life than to go around picking fights, etc. So petty and defeated.)

ME: Did you pick up all those ad hominem attacks on wholesale at Costco? You didn't cite sources, you just lifted entire quotes verbatim from 17th century outdated philosophy. Sources are meant to enhance a point, not make your entire point for you. You can't prove god exists from philosophy and logic, you have to have the big guy make an appearance and prove it himself. Sure, I'm using arguments that have precedence, but I tailor it to what is tangible to our discussion. Why try to fix what isn't broken? Those arguments refute you quite nicely. In the end, your entire stance is based on faith and wishful thinking. You have no leg to stand on in the real world. And everyone can now see that when you are faced with logic and reason you resort to insults and misdirection (and as they can also see you edited your comment to erase some of the other insults you hurled at me, but I have the original emailed to me via Facebook). Remember, all I did was post another instance from history where a stack of paper on someone's person stopped a bullet. I wasn't picking a fight (as you posted in your unedited comment). You were the one who brought up miracles and divine intervention and accused me of being angry at your beliefs. Not angry, not arrogant, just clear thinking and factual.

(I will wrap this up with Part IV, when I bring up Santa Claus.)