Intelligent Design

Fine-tuning of the constants AND equations of Nature?

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The Schrodinger partial differential equation of quantum mechanics is the heart of atomic physics. This elegant PDE governs the behavior of all particles under the fundamental forces, but, unlike other PDEs, it cannot be derived from simpler principles. Like time, space, matter and energy, it “just is”. To quote from one of my PDE books, “Schrodinger’s equation is most easily regarded as simply an axiom that leads to the correct physical conclusions, rather than as an equation that can be derived from simpler principles…In principle, elaborations of it explain the structure of all atoms and molecules and so all of chemistry.”

The Schrodinger equation contains a parameter, h, called Planck’s constant, which is one of the many constants of Nature that is very “fine-tuned”: change it a little bit and you get a universe that cannot support any imaginable forms of life. Now I know enough mathematics and physics to be sure that most changes to this equation itself would result in a universe that could not have supported life; the properties of the elements in the periodic table certainly depend sensitively on the properties of this magnificent PDE. There may be some ways to modify it without disasterous results (I doubt it); but there is no doubt that the Schrodinger equation itself is very fine-tuned for life.

So I think to explain our existence without design, we not only have to imagine some cosmic random-number generator which churns out values for Planck’s constant and the other constants, but also a cosmic random-equation generator. Are we to assume that in all these other universes imagined by man to explain our existence, the behavior of particles is still governed by the Schrodinger equation, but the forces, masses and charges, and Planck’s constant have random values? Or perhaps the behavior of particles is governed by random types of PDEs in different universes, but there are still many universes in which Schrodinger’s equation holds, with random values for Planck’s constant? No doubt there were some universes which couldn’t produce life because the governing equation looked just like the Schrodinger equation, but with first derivatives in space where there should be second derivatives, or a second derivative in time where there should be a first derivative, or the complex number i was missing, or the mass was in the numerator, or the probability of finding a system in a given state was proportional to |u| rather than |u|^2??

37 Replies to “Fine-tuning of the constants AND equations of Nature?

  1. 1
    GilDodgen says:

    There is something I’ve always wondered about concerning the multiverse thesis. Why would the random universe generator produce the same laws as ours but with different values and relationships, unless it was designed to do so? Why would it produce a version of gravity that follows something other than an inverse square law, rather than no gravity at all, or some other force we can’t even imagine? If the random universe generator was not designed to produce variations on our laws, but just about anything that can be imagined or not even imagined, then we’re talking about an even stronger infinity of universes that would be required to get things right.

    The prima facie evidence suggests that the universe was rigged. That should be the default conclusion until there is reasonable evidence to suggest otherwise.

  2. 2
    Patrick says:

    I think the real question is why should there be any universes with balanced laws instead of a chaotic mass of teeming energy that never collates into anything interesting?

  3. 3
    hazel says:

    I know I may be beating a dead horse here, but once again this topic comes up. We don’t know why our universe is as it is, or even why it exists at all.

    The conclusion that it must have been designed by a divine being – conscious, willful, intelligent, etc., with the power to make a universe – is what I argue against. Discussion of this is going on, slowly, on the multiverse thread (http://www.uncommondescent.com.....se-theory/) and on the thread about Beckwith (http://www.uncommondescent.com.....isowns-id/).

    If anyone wants to read the discussion there and chime in I’d be interested, but I won’t clutter up this site by starting the discussion all over here.

  4. 4
    qraal says:

    I would argue that both a Creator and a Multiverse require inexplicable levels of complexity to pre-exist our Cosmos. Why one is preferable to another would seem to be a religious choice and not scientific one bit.

  5. 5
    allanius says:

    This observation is an example of ID potentially fostering philosophy as well as something much better: wisdom.

    First, the equation just “is.” That is, it cannot be constructed. Now this has certain interesting implications for those who are familiar with the long story of philosophy; suffice it to say that the explanatory power of the equation is a mystery to man. It reflects the quality of resistance that is highly prized in philosophy and cannot be accounted for through positivism.

    Second, what keeps the constant constant? One could imagine such a constant coming into being—such tall tales are prevalent in modern science—but it is difficult to imagine how its being became constant. At what time did it stop becoming and why? And having obtained the status of a constant, why does it no longer change? Such a constant can be represented as a mean, a coming-together of opposing forces. New Thomases step forward to give the mean meaning—to invest it with method and meaningful terminology.

    If a mean exists and can be identified through Planck’s Constant, then the materialist notion that the universe is meaningless begins to lose its spell over the imagination. Some signs are not merely social constructs but may indeed have transcendent significance. New ways of understanding being present themselves. A new philosophy becomes possible based the principle of the constant as a mean—a new synthesis.

    The nothingness described in nihilism cannot function as a limit of this mean. The mean exists; it overturns nothingness with something. But what is this something? Philosophy has an opportunity to seek to describe this something vis-à-vis the mean. And since the mean is “good”—necessary to life—it also restores the good of happiness to philosophy. The dreary, tedious era of the will to power and postmodern play come to an end.

    More importantly, however, the explanatory power of the constant makes it possible to seek wisdom about the way. A story was told in the modern era in which being was a vagabond and man a clown who does not know his own clownishness. The observation of fine tuning in nature invests being with noble new robes. The scoffers are relegated to their rightful place, having been exposed through their own arrogance.

    The mean illuminates the value of life, the “light of men.” On this basis wisdom literature becomes possible again—as well as poetry and all art forms that reflect the longing for transcendence. The teacher comes full circle and finds wisdom in the simplest things. The vanity of the superman is exposed.

  6. 6
    Peter says:

    Granville,

    What I can’t understand is why the multiverse ‘theory’ is given any credance at all. It is impossible to test since these other universes lie outside of our own. They are therefore unobservable and outside of materialistic science. Opponents of ID complain that ID is not science since they claim we are saying ‘God done it.’ Now here they theorize something that is untestable and they get away with calling it science and we entertain their arguments instead of summarily dismissing them. Whatz up with this?

  7. 7
    jasondulle says:

    Given that we are talking about fine-tuning, does the term “anthropic principle” mean different things to Darwinists and IDers? Should IDers avoid the term?

  8. 8
    jasondulle says:

    Also, are there multiple multiverse theories? I know string theory proposes a multiverse in which there exists an indefinite, but expanding number of worlds (1 in 10 to the 500th power). Are there other multiverse theorists who postulate an infinite number of worlds?

  9. 9
    hazel says:

    Hi Jason. That’s a good and important question. I took a quick look at the Wikipedia article on multiverses, which is quite dense and would require considerable study on my part to fully understand, but it is clear that there a number of multiverse theories (which really should be called multiverse hypotheses – and then only if they are potentially testable and related to other known parts of physics.) Let me make it really clear that I am not advocating for any of these as true, and I’m not sure how much evidence, if any, could be marshalled for any of them. But there is enough known physics to make these hypotheses worth thinking about.

    So here, for the sake of discussion, is one layperson’s thoughts (mine) on three different multiverse ideas. I may be quite wrong about my interpretation of the first two, so hopefully people will chime in with better understanding if they can. The third is a philosophical speculation of my own that I know is untestable, so it doesn’t even count as a hypothesis scientifically.

    1. Quantum theory says that all states are actually probabilities, so at any moment certain probabilities are actualized as they become part of our universe. The multiverse idea is that the other possibilities happen also, but as they happen they spin off into other universes slightly different than the one we are in. According to this idea, every moment is branching into a very large number of universes that are originally quite similar but steadily diverge. Therefore, for instance, a universe that branched off 1000 years ago might be quite different politically than the one we are in, a universe that branched off 100 million years ago might have different life forms, a universe that branched off 10 billion years would have different galaxies and solar systems, and so on.

    All of these universes presumably would have the same basic physical elements, forces, principles, constants, laws, etc. They would be similar in their physics but have radically different histories.

    2. The second idea is more radical: in the beginning of a “parent universe”, potential universes with varying elements, forces, constants, etc. arise, some of which not containing enough energy to maintain existence but others expanding into universes radically different than other universes which arise at the same time. This is the hypotheses, I think, that people who are comparing multiverse theory to belief in a divine creator are usually referring to.

    3. The third idea is mine, although I’m sure many other people have similar thoughts. As a philosophical speculation (not a scientifically testable hypothesis), it seems to me quite possible that universes such as ours (including multiverses of the first two types) are products of some “higher” or “larger” existence. Such an “existence” may very well be of a type so unlike what we know that we can’t even begin to comprehend what it might be.

    But if we do try to imagine the nature of this “meta-verse”, it seems to me that we are tempted to use one of three metaphors, based on our own experience.

    The first is that of a being – conscious, willful, acting with intent, etc. This metaphor leads to ideas of God being the ground or source of our universe.

    A second idea is to think of the meta-verse as being like our physical universe, composed of things analogous to particles and forces, which interact to make universes much like galaxies, stars and planets form in our universe.

    The third idea is that the meta-verse is more like a set of abstract principles with creative powers: both non-material and impersonal, not intention-full like a being nor material like particles and forces. One could perhaps look at a purified version of Taoism, with an interplay of yin and ying, the receptive and the creative, as a metaphor for this idea. This idea perhaps synthesizes the first two, with yin giving rise to the material aspects of a universe and yang giving rise to the spiritual or conscious aspects.

    This view on the surface takes no position on whether our universe is the only one, or whether the meta-verse gives rise to may universes.

    My two cents. Perhaps this will lead to interesting discussion.

    Hazel

  10. 10
    Domoman says:

    I have at least one philosophical objection to the idea of a multiverse that has an infinite amount of universes.

    Think of this scenario: In a given multiverse of infinite universes there would be a universe that is just like ours. However there would also be a universe that’s own existence causes the destruction of our own. Yet this “destructive universe” would also, because of an infinite number of universes, also have a universe that necessarily means the destruction of the “destructive universe.” There would also have to be a universe thats existence necessarily maintains the existence of our universe and the “destructive universe.” But this “upholding universe” would also have a universe that necessarily causes its destruction. So as it turns out, every universe out of the infinite amount of them, must all be necessarily destroyed and upheld at the same time. But this creates contradictions, and therefore it is not possible for there to be an infinite amount of universes if they can effect each other in such a way. At least if the universes have the ability to effect one another, because then, given the infinite amount of universes, they all effect each other.

    Thus it follows that such a multiverse cannot literally exist. There could be nothing, but obviously our universe does exist, and so our universe could not come to rise due to the above mentioned possible multiverse.

    If every multiverse theory with an infinite amount of universes has this problem, then no such possible multiverse theory could exist. There could be that a multiverse exists with a finite amount of universes, but then this leaves wide open the question of: how many universes would exist, and also the problem of whether there is enough universes that we just got luck with ours.

    Hope that all made sense!

  11. 11
    hazel says:

    Hi Domoman.

    I at least never said anything about an infinite number of universes. I know the popular articles sometimes say “infinite”, but I don’t know whether any serious multiverse hypotheses propose an infinite number. I don’t believe either of the first two hypotheses I described above would include an infinite number of universes.

    But even if we entertain an infinite universe hypothesis of the third type, that doesn’t mean that therefore any and all possible universes exist. There might be limiting criteria or properties of the source of the universes that constrain the nature of those universes. Just because there were an infinite number of universes doesn’t mean that every possible condition of every and all sorts would eventually occur.

    And, as you note, your objection is relevant only if the universes could effect each other, and I think all the multiverse hypotheses propose that they can’t. If they could, they wouldn’t truly be universes in the sense of being self-contained.

  12. 12
    Domoman says:

    Hazel,

    Good point Hazel! That’s why I tried to specify that it would only be the case if universes could effect each other. And sorry if I gave the impression that I suggested you said something you didn’t, that wasn’t my intention. I was just wanting to raise my own objection to a possible multiverse theory.

    I also understand your point about there being an infinite amount of universes, yet they be limited in properties. I’m not sure of any problem with this, aside from the idea that an infinite amount of things would suggest that they would have to always exist, because you cannot get infinity by adding a number on top of another. Therefore the universes, at least as I imagine the scenario, would be timeless. Because for there to be an infinite amount they would always have to exist.

    However our universe does not exist timelessly, so that idea of a multiverse msut be false. It now appears then that a multiverse would have to have a limited amount of universes. Which again would bring up just how many universes, and then if there are enough to get one like ours from chance.

    Based on string theory, there is estimated to be 10^500th different universes. Yet in string theory, even with all those uinverses, one like ours is extremely unlikely. As the theory suggests that most universes would be much smaller than ours. In such a case we are extremely rare, suggesting that perhaps the theory is wrong in the first place.

  13. 13
    jasondulle says:

    Hazel,

    Actually, I think the first scenario you described is more radical than the second! Thinking that a new universe is spawned for every possible variant quantum action is absurd.

    As for your own theory, I think a combination of scientific and philosophical evidence highly suggests that our universe is the result of an intelligent agent, not an impersonal force or abstract objects. Why? Science has shown that our universe has a finite past. Even inflationary and multiverse models cannot escape the finitude of physical reality. In 2003 cosmologists, Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin developed the singularity theorem that bears their names, which demonstrated that any universe (even a multiverse) must have a beginning if it has been, on average, expanding throughout its history. If the universe or multiverse has a finite past, it is contingent, and contingent things require causes.

    Philosophy adds to this by telling us what kind of cause is necessary to bring the universe/multiverse into being a finite time ago. It cannot be an abstract object because abstract objections are, by definition, causally impotent. They don’t stand in causal relations to anything. Neither can it be an impersonal force because an impersonal force is not sufficient to produce a temporal effect. Here’s why:

    Whatever caused time to come into being cannot itself be temporal. It must be eternal. But an eternal cause, if it is impersonal, could not exist without its corresponding effect. So if the cause of the universe is an eternal, impersonal cause, the effect (the universe’s existence) must be eternal as well. But it isn’t. The universe began to exist a finite time ago, so the cause of the universe cannot be impersonal.

    It’s like lighting a match. To light a match requires a sufficient cause. As soon as the sufficient cause is instantiated (striking it against an abrasive surface), the effect of the match being lit immediately follows. There is no temporal gap between cause and effect. If the match was struck an eternity ago, it would also be lit an eternity ago. It would be impossible to strike the match an eternity ago, and yet the match to remain unlit until a finite time ago. The only way for a cause to be timeless [eternal], and the effect to have begun a finite time ago is for the cause to be a personal agent who chooses to create a new effect without any prior determining conditions. Only a personal agent has the power to “delay” the cause, so that its effect is temporal rather than eternal. It stands to reason, then, that the cause of the universe must be personal.

  14. 14
    StephenB says:

    —–jasondulle: “Philosophy adds to this by telling us what kind of cause is necessary to bring the universe/multiverse into being a finite time ago. It cannot be an abstract object because abstract objects are, by definition, causally impotent. They don’t stand in causal relations to anything. Neither can it be an impersonal force because an impersonal force is not sufficient to produce a temporal effect.”

    Exactly right. Here is the way I put it on another thread:

    A principle cannot be part of a causal chain any more than the products of our imagination could be part of a causal chain. Much less could they originate a causal chain. Only “being” can do that. That is why there is such a thing as cause and effect chain in the first place. Being cannot come from non-being.

  15. 15
    jasondulle says:

    Domoman,

    As Hazel alluded to, the nature of infinity is bizarre (I would argue that it leads to self-contradiction, and thus the actual infinite is impossible to instantiate in reality). The infinite is not predictable because it erases all probabilities. An infinite can generate an infinity of whatever it wants. It could generate an infinity of all logical possibilities, or just one.

    An actually infinite number of universes could result in any number of paradoxical outcomes. For example, it could result in an infinite number of logically possible worlds, all of which differ from each other. In fact, not only could every logically possible world be instantiated in an infinite multiverse, but each of those logically possible worlds could be instantiated an infinite number of times, so that infinities are being multiplied by infinities, infinitely. Or, it could also result in an infinite number of universes, all identical to our own.

    Atheists who adopt an infinite multiverse probably don’t recognize this problem. They think an infinite number of universes can explain away the fine tuning of our universe, but in reality, an infinite multiverse could just mean there are an infinite number of finely-tuned universes identical to ours, thus infinitely exacerbating their original problem!

  16. 16
    jasondulle says:

    Hazel wrote, “I at least never said anything about an infinite number of universes. I know the popular articles sometimes say ‘infinite’, but I don’t know whether any serious multiverse hypotheses propose an infinite number.” Whether any do was the question I originally posed. Does anyone else know if there are multiverse theorists who do put forth an actually infinite number of universes?

  17. 17
    jasondulle says:

    Domomon,

    You wrote, “[A]n infinite amount of things would suggest that they would have to always exist, because you cannot get infinity by adding a number on top of another. Therefore the universes, at least as I imagine the scenario, would be timeless. Because for there to be an infinite amount they would always have to exist. However our universe does not exist timelessly, so that idea of a multiverse msut be false.”

    Good argument. Remember, though, that while an actual infinite cannot be formed by successive addition (which requires finite time), it can be formed as a whole. One could accept the finitude of the multiverse, and yet still hold to an infinite multiverse by saying the infinite number of universes all sprung into being simultaneously from nothing. Of course, that is infinitely more hard to swallow than the Big Bang singularity itself, and does nothing to help him avoid the problem of fine-tuning! Now he would have to explain what could cause the generation of an infinite number of universes simultaneously from nothing, rather than just one. What kind of mechanism would be necessary to generate the multiverse? Surely, there must be one, and surely it must be fine-tuned itself–even more than the multiverse itself.

    As I understand it, though, multiverse theorists claim the universes in the multiverse came into being over time. Those who claim otherwise (such as Vilenkin) do so on the basis of adopting a B-theory of time in which past, present, and future are all equally real and equally present. So while one universe may come into being at a later point in time than another, since he considers all temporal points in space-time as equally present and equally real, they are said to arise simultaneously. But when we return to the real world of temporal becoming, the sequential formation of universes cannot be avoided, and thus your argument would stand.

  18. 18
    jasondulle says:

    StephenB,

    I like the way you said that. I do question, however, pitting “being” against “products of our imagination.” As I see it, products of our imagination have being in the mental/immaterial realm (they have properties, and thus they exist), just not the physical realm. It would seem, then, that you are restricting “being” to physical things. If being = physical reality, then the universe must be uncaused since it is impossible to have a physical cause prior to the existence of physical stuff.

    What I think you mean by “being” is something that both exists (whether it be material or immaterial) and can stand in causal relations with other things. While products of our imagination have being, they cannot stand in causal relations with other things, and thus they, like abstract objects/principles, cannot cause anything. Am I understanding you correctly?

  19. 19
    Domoman says:

    Jasondulle,

    You said: “Remember, though, that while an actual infinite cannot be formed by successive addition (which requires finite time), it can be formed as a whole. One could accept the finitude of the multiverse, and yet still hold to an infinite multiverse by saying the infinite number of universes all sprung into being simultaneously from nothing.”

    Very good point, yet, as you said, this infinite amount of universes would still have to be finite. This does seem a lot more crazy than just one universe being sprung out of nothing. However, I find the idea of one universe, or anything for that matter, springing into being from nothingness silly as well.

    I think theoretically speaking, if a cause created an infinite amount of universes then the cause must be necessarily infinite in nature. Otherwise it would not be powerful enough to create that many universes.

    And on a side note, I’m glad somebody talked about Arvin Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin’s theorem, as well as how the cause of the universe must be personal. I actually just did a speech using both of these points within my oral communications class on “The Kalam Cosmological Argument”. It was a lot of fun!

  20. 20
    StephenB says:

    —-“What I think you mean by “being” is something that both exists (whether it be material or immaterial) and can stand in causal relations with other things. While products of our imagination have being, they cannot stand in causal relations with other things, and thus they, like abstract objects/principles, cannot cause anything. Am I understanding you correctly?”

    Yes. The critical point is that being cannot come from non-being, or, to put it another way, the universe HAS being because the Self existent creator IS being. Does that seem consistent with your formulation?

  21. 21
    StephenB says:

    Sorry, @20 was for jasondulle.

  22. 22
    hazel says:

    A few comments:

    Jason writes, ” It cannot be an abstract object because abstract objections are, by definition, causally impotent.”

    We say the the law of gravity causes bodies to be attracted to each other. Is gravity causally impotent? No. Of course, one could say that it is gravity that is potent, not our abstract understanding of gravity, and that would be correct. That isn’t relevant to my argument, which is that there could be laws in a higher dimension which produce universes, and those laws would be no less impotent than gravity.

    Also, Stephen, you continue to say “being can not come from not-being.”

    Let me repeat what I said on the other thread:

    You are using two different forms of the word “being.” If you use “being” as meaning existing, then I’m willing to grant what you say for the sake of discussion.

    But I have made it clear that I am arguing against the source of the universe being “a Being: a conscious, willful, intentional entity, capable of foresight, etc. That is a different meaning. Just because existing things can’t come from something that doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that the source of existence has to be a BEING.

    You are conflating two uses of the word being and it is confusing the discussion. Perhaps we should use “existence” for the first meaning of being and “Being” for the second.

    That’s all I have time for this morning.

    ————————-
    It is confusing a bit that this discussion has come up on two different threads. It is even more difficult because my posts are held up for moderation, sometimes for hours, so I can’t respond in real time. I wish someone would explain this policy to me as it doesn’t seem to affect others here.

  23. 23
    jasondulle says:

    StephenB,

    Yes, it is. You are absolutely right. Being only comes from being, and nothing cannot become something. Why? Because nothing, as nothing, has no potentiality to become anything. Out of nothing, nothing comes. And yet there is something, so we know it had to come from something. But what is that something? This is where my additional point about causal relations comes in. Not only do we need to have a being from which the universe derives its own being, but we need a being that is able to stand in causal relations to other things. Because if the ultimate being does not stand in causal relations, the universe could not be derived from it. That’s why the ultimate being from which the universe is derived cannot be an abstract object. Abstract objects do not stand in causal relations.

  24. 24
    jasondulle says:

    Hazel,

    Gravity is not an abstract object, so it does not serve to undercut my point.

    Since you argue that the being from which the universe is derived does not need to be a personal being, what do you make of the argument I presented to you in comment 13? I argued that an eternal and impersonal cause is incapable of instantiating a temporal effect (the beginning of the universe). Only personal agents are capable of such. If the cause of the universe was an eternal and impersonal thing, then the effect—the universe—would necessarily be eternal as well. But it isn’t, so it stands to reason that the being from which the universe is derived is personal, not impersonal.

    Forgive me for speaking for Stephen, but philosophically speaking “being” does not imply personality. It simply means existence. There are personal beings, and impersonal beings. But I do understand how some might read personality into “being” because of the way it is commonly used.

  25. 25
    hazel says:

    Here’s something I wrote on the other thread. This has been interesting but it doesn’t work to have the moderation delay.

    “However, I am tired of the fact that my posts take hours to get past moderation – I don’t know whether that is because I hold a minority view here or what – but this doesn’t make dialog very user friendly, so I’m going to quit trying.”

  26. 26
    Patrick says:

    Sorry, since Dave quit I’m probably the only admin regularly checking in on here. So any delays can be blamed on me since I’m pretty busy and usually I only have time to log in briefly to clear the queue.

  27. 27
    Mapou says:

    jasondulle wrote “Out of nothing, nothing comes.”

    While I agree that nothing can create itself out of nothing, I am of the opinion that everything is made of nothing. An ex-nihilo universe is the only way to avoid an infinite regress. The reason is that if things are made of other things, one is forced to ask ad infinitum, what are those other things made of?

    The next question becomes, how can something be made of nothing? The answer is that, just as zero is the sum of all negative and positive numbers, nothing is the sum of all things negative and positive. The result is that every particle or property in nature must have a counterpart: anti-particle or anti-property. Thus the conservation of nothing becomes the mother of all conservation particles. In other words, the universe is ONE as its name implies.

    I further postulate that there must be two complementary types of nothing, the physical type and the spiritual or creator type. The former can be created and destroyed. The latter can neither be created nor destroyed; it is the creation force that creates physical matter out of nothing.

    An interesting consequence of an ex-nihilo physical universe is that there can only be one such universe because there is only one physical nothing. This effectively destroys the atheists’ multiverse religion.

    One man’s opinion, of course.

  28. 28
    Mapou says:

    Correction:

    I meant to write in the second paragraph above, “Thus the conservation of nothing becomes the mother of all conservation principles.

  29. 29
    hazel says:

    Patrick, perhaps you could just take me off of moderation?

  30. 30
    Patrick says:

    Already did.

  31. 31
    hazel says:

    Thank you – that will make continuing to discuss things here possible.

  32. 32
    StephenB says:

    hazel: I am glad that you are off moderation. You earned the privilege. Let’s continue:

    —–You write: “You are two different forms of the word “being.” If you use “being” as meaning existing, then I’m willing to grant what you say for the sake of discussion.

    —–“But I have made it clear that I am arguing against the source of the universe being “a Being: a conscious, willful, intentional entity, capable of foresight, etc. That is a different meaning. Just because existing things can’t come from something that doesn’t exist doesn’t mean that the source of existence has to be a BEING.”

    —-“You are conflating two uses of the word being and it is confusing the discussion. Perhaps we should use “existence” for the first meaning of being and “Being” for the second.”

    True enough. Being can be personal or impersonal. I use it in the generic sense as an effect, and in a personal sense as a cause.

    Obviously, things can participate in “being” in more than one way. While these many things “have” being, they come from that which “is” being. More to the point, this being, this uncaused cause, cannot be impersonal. The only way to have an eternal cause but a temporal effect would be if the cause is a personal agent who freely CHOOSES to create a temporal effect. Only personal agents can choose.

    Jasondulle makes a similar point @24 and uses admirable word economy in the process.

  33. 33
    jasondulle says:

    Mapou,

    No, one is not forced into an infinite regress if they accept that being only comes from being. In fact, it’s because we know that an infinite regress is impossible that there must be a necessary being from which all other things receive their being contingently.

    Regarding your claim that everything is made from nothing, this is logically and physically absurd. It is physically absurd because even if there is an equal amount of anti-matter and matter, so that the two cancel themselves out, neither is nothing. Both are something! Besides, the existence of equal opposites tells us nothing about where the two equal opposites came from. They would also need a cause.

    It is logically absurd because something cannot be made of nothing. Nothing, by definition, instantiates no properties. Something, by definition, instantiates at least one property. So how can something be made up of nothing? That’s like saying my tire is filled with 60 pounds of nothing. With that sort of reasoning, I’ll buy your car from you for $30,000 of nothing. Deal?

    Your math anology does not work because numbers are not real. Even if you are a Platonist and accept the reality of abstract objects like numbers, clearly negative numbers are not instantiated in physical reality. You cannot have a negative number of apples, for example. You can have no apples, one applie, or more apples, but you can’t have a negative number of apples. So it is false to reason that the sum of all negative numbers and positive numbers is zero, therefore physical reality is nothing. The ideal world has no causal relationship to the real world.

    Besides, the sum of all negative and positive numbers being zero is the result, not the cause. You begin with something, and then adding them together end up with nothing. You on the other hand, are claiming that something came from nothing. That’s like saying out of zero, all the negative and positive numbers emerged.

  34. 34
    hazel says:

    Stephan, you write, “More to the point, this being, this uncaused cause, cannot be impersonal. The only way to have an eternal cause but a temporal effect would be if the cause is a personal agent who freely CHOOSES to create a temporal effect. Only personal agents can choose.”

    No, there are other options. As I ponder the various responses I’m getting here in these threads, I’m thinking that most of you, and pardon me here if I am judging incorrectly, have little experience with the metaphysics of the world’s other great religions, especially those in the East.

    In the west, the ego and the conscious mind are central, and the god of Western monotheism is a god which reflects (and has done much to shape) this Western view. The eastern religions have a different view about such concepts as self, cause and effect, time, and so on, seeing our attachment to those concepts as illusions that keep us from realizing the true state of being that we are in.

    I am not arguing that the Eastern religions are right and Western monotheism is wrong (although my own personal inclinations lean towards the Eastern views), but I am arguing that both are valid enough possible views that one who understands how much we can’t know realizes how much neither can be the right view, or literally true.

    As I just wrote to Barb, and I repeat here in order to perhaps consolidate the discussion on one thread, my point is not that I am right and you are wrong, but rather that neither of us can know – positing a personal God as the ground and source of the universe is no more or less valid a speculation than positing an impersonal set of laws, or for that matter just accepting that the source and ground of the universe is just as likely to be something that is neither like beings nor laws as we know them.

    Metaphysical beliefs are not explanations. They are speculations that we adopt for the metaphorical power they have in helping structure our understanding of things that really cannot be understood literally. Trying to prove that one’s metaphorical understandings are “true” is where the mistake is made.

    So I could continue to argue the various points you all are making, such as Stephan’s statement that “The only way to have an eternal cause but a temporal effect would be if the cause is a personal agent who freely CHOOSES to create a temporal effect,” but I am seeing – and this has been instructive to me – that his sense that his way of seeing things is the only possible valid way is hindered greatly by the fact that he seems to have little inkling of what other perspectives even might look like.

  35. 35
    StephenB says:

    —–hazel writes: “Stephen, you write, ‘More to the point, this being, this uncaused cause, cannot be impersonal. The only way to have an eternal cause but a temporal effect would be if the cause is a personal agent who freely CHOOSES to create a temporal effect. Only personal agents can choose.’”

    —–“No, there are other options. As I ponder the various responses I’m getting here in these threads, I’m thinking that most of you, and pardon me here if I am judging incorrectly, have little experience with the metaphysics of the world’s other great religions, especially those in the East.

    If there is another logical option other than that of a self-existent being, no one has yet pointed it out. On other fronts, I do have a great deal of experience with pantheism, monism, and other types of eastern mysticism, which I will be happy to discuss with you. However, embarking on such a discussion at this time will not satisfactorily address the problem under discussion. If, at a later time, you would like for me to explain why pantheism or panetheism is problematic, I will be happy to do so. At the moment, however, I, and others on this thread are pointing out why atheism is an untenable position—not for the sake of giving you are hard time, but to console onlookers whose theistic faith has never been introduced to its rational foundations.

    —–“In the west, the ego and the conscious mind are central, and the god of Western monotheism is a god which reflects (and has done much to shape) this Western view. The eastern religions have a different view about such concepts as self, cause and effect, time, and so on, seeing our attachment to those concepts as illusions that keep us from realizing the true state of being that we are in.”

    This is true. They definitely see things differently.

    —–“I am not arguing that the Eastern religions are right and Western monotheism is wrong (although my own personal inclinations lean towards the Eastern views), but I am arguing that both are valid enough possible views that one who understands how much we can’t know realizes how much neither can be the right view, or literally true.”

    Yes, I understand that you are operating from a position of skepticism, which naturally prompts you to be suspicious of my arguments. However, skepticism is not always warranted. Clearly, you are not open to the idea of a transcendent creator, which would explain why you lean toward eastern religions. An immanent God that imposes no binding moral laws is much less threatening to an atheist than a transcendent God that judges his creatures

    —–“”As I just wrote to Barb, and I repeat here in order to perhaps consolidate the discussion on one thread, my point is not that I am right and you are wrong, but rather that neither of us can know – positing a personal God as the ground and source of the universe is no more or less valid a speculation than positing an impersonal set of laws, or for that matter just accepting that the source and ground of the universe is just as likely to be something that is neither like beings nor laws as we know them.

    It is not speculation. Reason makes it clear, as I have indicated elsewhere.

    —–“Metaphysical beliefs are not explanations. They are speculations that we adopt for the metaphorical power they have in helping structure our understanding of things that really cannot be understood literally. Trying to prove that one’s metaphorical understandings are “true” is where the mistake is made.”

    I have not offered metaphysical speculations. My arguments began with an assumption that something exists and I proceeded to show that, given that assumption, a personal creator is the only logical conclusion.

    —–“So I could continue to argue the various points you all are making, such as Stephan’s statement that “The only way to have an eternal cause but a temporal effect would be if the cause is a personal agent who freely CHOOSES to create a temporal effect,” but I am seeing – and this has been instructive to me – that his sense that his way of seeing things is the only possible valid way is hindered greatly by the fact that he seems to have little inkling of what other perspectives even might look like.”

    You have already suggested that I may not be aware of the other perspectives, and I have already indicated that such is not the case. In any event, you have not really addressed my arguments except to say in somewhat general terms that you don’t find them persuasive. But a subjective reaction is not the same as an objective refutation or even a serious challenge.

  36. 36
    Mapou says:

    jasondulle,

    I read your reply. I disagree with your position but I don’t think that adding anything to my previous comment regarding an ex-nihilo universe will improve the clarity of the point I set out to make. Thanks.

  37. 37
    jasondulle says:

    Mapou,

    I do not think you were unclear. I simply think your ideas are mistaken, and I gave you reasons for thinking so–to which you have chosen not to reply. Unless my rebuttal was based on a misunderstanding of your point, I’ll take your failure to rebut or undercut my rebuttal, as a concession that your claims have been rebutted.

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