Intelligent Design

What are the First Rules of Right Reason? Are They Negotiable? Do They Matter?

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About two weeks ago, I read a scientific report that challenged my perceptions about the relationship between philosophy and science. So much so, that it forced me to doubt some of my erstwhile convictions about the value of logic and prompted me to revise major elements of my global world view. As it turns out, an empirically-based study indicated, within a 1% margin of error, that there are more people in the city of Los Angeles than in the entire state of California. I would never have accepted this counter-intuitive claim had there been no evidence to support it.

At this point, my readers might wonder how I could be so pathologically gullible as to accept such an absurd proposition. Or, more likely, they will recognize my scenario as a playful exercise in misdirection that conveys an important point: No amount of evidence or appeal to the authority of science could ever invalidate a self-evident truth. The city of Los Angeles simply cannot have more people than the entire state of California. Any such claim would violate one of the first principles of right reason: A finite whole can never be less than any one of its parts. Drawing on that same principle, I can be equally certain that a man’s head cannot displace more water than his entire body or that our sun cannot weigh more than the solar system of which it is a part.

On reflection, we should be able to appreciate the significance of these examples and place them in the context of a broader principle: Evidence does not inform the rules of right reason; the rules of right reason inform evidence. That is because self-evident truths, the starting point from which all rational inquiry begins, provide the means by which all other truth claims, scientific or otherwise, must be evaluated. Accordingly, we don’t reason our way TO these principles; we reason our way FROM them. Evidence, at least of the scientific variety, cannot invalidate or pass judgment on them because evidence is the thing being validated and judged.

Among reason’s most authoritative judges, the Law of Identity, the Law of Non-Contradiction, and the Law of the Excluded middle reign supreme. Ontologically, a thing cannot be what it is and also be something else. Logically and psychologically, a proposition cannot be true and false at the same time and in the same sense. The thinking process begins with the understanding of what is and what cannot be. Without this constraint, that is, without the ability to rule things out, reasoned analysis and meaningful dialogue are impossible. One can say, “If A, then B”, only if everything except B is understood to be an impossible consequence of A.

Postmodernist skeptics often try to argue that these points apply only to our mental framework and the ways that we think about things. The careful reader will notice, though, that the aforementioned laws are both objectively and subjectively true. They apply to both the world as it is (ontology) and the world as we perceive it (epistemology). That is why we can differentiate between a sound argument, which is both internally consistent and consistent with truths found in the real world, and a valid argument, which may only meet the first condition. If one begins with a true premise about the real world and reasons perfectly, he will arrive at a true conclusion about the real world; if one begins with a false premise and reasons perfectly, he will arrive at a false conclusion. In terms of logic and causation, then, our mental models correspond with real world facts. There is no divide between them however passionately the skeptics might wish it to be so.

Among reason’s most pragmatic judges, the Law of Causality and the Principle of Sufficient Reason define the rational standards for all philosophical and scientific investigations. Everything must have a reason or cause for its existence and an explanation for why it undergoes change. Let’s consider a simple example of the former: Person A enters a room with person B and says, “Look, there is a red ball sitting on the table. I wonder how it got there.” Person B, amazed at the question, asks, “What do you mean, ‘how did it get there?’ Obviously, someone put it there.” This is, of course, the correct response. The red ball is, after all, contingent and finite; someone had to bring it into existence and put it in place. Now, let’s blow the ball up to the size of a house. Has the argument changed or lost any of its force? No. The only thing that has changed is the size of the ball. Now, blow the ball up to the size of the United States—now to the size of our Solar system—now to the size of the universe. Has the argument changed? No. Is the ball any less finite or less dependent on a cause? No. Only its size is different. Obviously, someone put it there.

Again, the careful reader will notice that the Law of Causality applies not only to those things that come into being but also those things that undergo change. In the latter context, the principle can be further simplified: A cause cannot give what it does not have to give. There is no reason, for example, to conduct an empirical investigation to negate or affirm the hypothesis that a gold bar could come from a gold sliver, or that a sand castle could come from a single grain. In either case, there is nothing in the cause that could produce the effect. Additional raw materials would have to be gathered by an outside agent and fashioned into a new product. No amount of evidence could override these metaphysical truths.

It often escapes the notice of professional cynics that reason’s rules also establish the rigorous standards for scientific methodology even before evidence enters the picture. Among the many questions which must be answered are the following: What is the difference between causation and correlation? When is it appropriate to use ordinal, nominal, or interval measurements? What is the most dependable way to isolate variables? Can variables be totally isolated at all? When should we apply mathematical principles? When should we apply statistical principles? What is science? What counts as evidence? What is an experiment? What is a theory? What constitutes a proof? What is the difference between probability, virtual certainty, and absolute certainty? In what ways does a philosophical investigation differ from a scientific investigation? Do they overlap? We cannot interpret evidence in a rational way until we answer these and many other questions.

Objective rational standards are, for want of a better term, epistemological safeguards. Under their jurisdiction, all parties must check their political motives and personal agendas at the door: Religious believers will not presume to use the book of Genesis as a scientific textbook, and secular doubters will not presume to disallow a “Divine foot in the door.” The role of scientists, after all, is to sit at the feet of nature and allow her to reveal her secrets. In that context, there is always an ethical component involved in their research: Either they will follow the evidence according to reason’s rules, or they will lead the evidence according to their own biases and prejudices. There is no middle ground for interpretation. One is either drawing information out of the data or injecting ideology into the data.

In this respect, the micro world is subject to the same metaphysical principles as the macro world. Quantum theorists, therefore, cannot reasonably challenge first principles on the grounds that quantum particles behave in strange and surprising ways. It was, after all, those same principles that brought attention to the strange and surprising behavior in the first place. In the absence of reason’s rules, we could not have known the difference between what is odd and what is normal or apprehend the counter-intuitive nature of quantum activity. Any scientist who presumes to negotiate away reason’s rules is, in effect, trying to put out of business the same principles that put him in business.

Meanwhile, the big questions remained unanswered. If one thing can come into existence without a cause, why cannot anything else do the same? Why not everything? Within such a “liberated” framework, how can the scientist know which events are caused and which ones are not? In any case, it appears that the special pleading of the quantum theorists has ended. At first, we were told that their claim on behalf of causeless events was a one-time deal. If, just this once, we would exempt their specialty from rational standards, there would be no more breaches—that is, until Lawrence Krauss exclaimed that the entire universe popped into existence without a cause. So much for special limits. But the development was entirely predictable. Irrationality knows no limits. That is why it is irrational.

That raises the prior question about why anyone in any specialty would question reason’s rules. In large part, the answer lies with members of the educational elite and their desire to take reason’s place as the final arbiter of right thinking. If reason has no rules, then power does the ruling. In order to facilitate that strategy, elitists promote the anti-intellectual doctrine that only empirical knowledge is real knowledge. If a concept or idea cannot be verified thought scientific means, then it doesn’t qualify as legitimate knowledge. Obviously, that philosophy refutes itself since it cannot pass its own test. It cannot be proven to be valid through empirical methods.

Wouldn’t it be easier to dispense with all this nonsense and simply acknowledge self-evident truths for what they are? What could be more reasonable than affirming with confidence that which we already know? It isn’t just the integrity of science that is at stake. Our ability to engage in any kind of rational discourse depends on it. Every long journey begins with a single step. Surely, we can all agree that there could never be more people in the city of Los Angeles than in the state of California without adding the words, —“yes, but”….” Or can we?

132 Replies to “What are the First Rules of Right Reason? Are They Negotiable? Do They Matter?

  1. 1
    Neil Rickert says:

    I have some problems with your post. I hope you will take this as friendly feedback, and not as an attempt to get into a dispute.

    The city of Los Angeles simply cannot have more people than the entire state of California. Any such claim would violate one of the first principles of right reason: A finite whole can never be less than any one of its parts.

    You are relying on an unstated premise: The city of Los Angeles is part of the state of California.

    Use of an unstated premise can lead to misunderstandings in logical arguments. It is better to carefully state all premises.

    While we are on that, notice that there would not be any logical problem in: “The debt of the city of Los Angeles is greater than the debt of the state of California.” Although the city of LA is part of the state of CA, the debt of the city does not count as part of the state debt. So how logic is used really depends a lot on how we form our descriptions, and that often involves unstated rules.

    Among reason’s most authoritative judges, the Law of Identity, the Law of Non-Contradiction, and the Law of the Excluded middle reign supreme.

    The intuitionist school of mathematics does not accept the excluded middle. And intuitionism is older than post-modernism, so it cannot be a case of post-modernism.

    One can say, “If A, then B”, only if everything except B is understood to be an impossible consequence of A.

    Hmm, no, in ordinary use there are no implications for “everything except B”.

    if one begins with a false premise and reasons perfectly, he will arrive at a false conclusion.

    That’s just wrong. I suggest you try looking for a simple counter-example.

  2. 2
    StephenB says:

    Neil

    I have some problems with your post. I hope you will take this as friendly feedback, and not as an attempt to get into a dispute.

    OK. I will take it in that spirit.

    SB: The city of Los Angeles simply cannot have more people than the entire state of California. Any such claim would violate one of the first principles of right reason: A finite whole can never be less than any one of its parts.

    You are relying on an unstated premise: The city of Los Angeles is part of the state of California.

    In a U. S. city, a city is part of a state by definition.

    While we are on that, notice that there would not be any logical problem in: “The debt of the city of Los Angeles is greater than the debt of the state of California.” Although the city of LA is part of the state of CA, the debt of the city does not count as part of the state debt. So how logic is used really depends a lot on how we form our descriptions, and that often involves unstated rules.

    If the debt of the city does not count as part of the state debt, then you do not have a whole/part relationship.

    The intuitionist school of mathematics does not accept the excluded middle. And intuitionism is older than post-modernism, so it cannot be a case of post-modernism.

    Mathematics is not synonymous with logic.
    SB: if one begins with a false premise and reasons perfectly, he will arrive at a false conclusion.

    That’s just wrong. I suggest you try looking for a simple counter-example.

    No, actually it’s true. If you begin with a single false premise, competent reasoning will take you progressively away from the truth with each new step. You are probably thinking of two false premises or one false premise and a true premise.

  3. 3

    Interesting post Stephen, but like Neil, I also have a couple of issues:

    A finite whole can never be less than any one of its parts.

    Depends on whether there’s a change in units! That’s not just a nitpick: I think the relationship between wholes and parts is extremely interesting, and they have non comparable properties. In fact very few things are sums of parts consisting of parts that are also sums of the same kinds of parts. Most things are much more interesting: a state consists of both cities and non-cities, and the properties of a state are different to the properties of either cities or non-cities. And of course a person has very different properties to any of her parts, as do her parts (which is why I don’t call myself a “reductionist).

    And it also depends on what you mean by “parts” – when you split an atom, or fuse two, you end up with less than the sum of the parts you started with. Sure, you get a lot of energy as well, but the ontology starts to get a bit wonky once you start converting between matter and energy.

  4. 4
    StephenB says:

    **In the United States, a city is part of a state by definition.

  5. 5

    Stephen:

    Mathematics is not synonymous with logic.

    No, indeed, but are you arguing that mathematics can be illogical, and still correct?

    One can say, “If A, then B”, only if everything except B is understood to be an impossible consequence of A.

    Wouldn’t that mean that you couldn’t say that “if it rains, the ground will get wet” if it was also true that “if it rains, the grass will grow”?

    if one begins with a false premise and reasons perfectly, he will arrive at a false conclusion.

    Premise 1: I am 3 feet tall (False)
    Premise 2: My son is taller than me (True)
    Conclusion My son is more than 3 feet tall (True).

    That seems like sound reasoning based on a false premise leading to a true conclusion. No?

  6. 6
    Neil Rickert says:

    If you begin with a single false premise, competent reasoning will take you progressively away from the truth with each new step.

    It’s hard to know what to make of that. With only one premise, there is no reasoning that can take place. However, you have been using unstated premises, and you disagreed when I said that all premises should be stated. So I don’t know how you are counting.

    Let’s try this argument:

    Premise: I was born in the USA;
    Conclusion: I am an American citizen.

    As it happens, the premise is false but the conclusion is true.

  7. 7
    Neil Rickert says:

    My analysis of a false premise would be this:

    Once you use a false premise, you have lost control of the reasoning. So you cannot be sure whether the conclusion reached will be true or false.

  8. 8
    tragic mishap says:

    Either they will follow the evidence according to reason’s rules, or they will lead the evidence according to their own biases and prejudices. There is no middle ground for interpretation. One is either drawing information out of the data or injecting ideology into the data.

    First of all, only truly insane people consistently fail to reason correctly according to the “right rules of reason”. Reason is a universal human property.

    Second, everyone has biases and prejudices and you have spent most of your post arguing that these biases and prejudices absolutely and necessarily affect the way we reason, do science, and even the way we observe and measure things. If I had read the entirety of your post without this single quote, it would have made sense. As it is, you are merely substituting negative connotation words for positive connotation words and then pretending like the meaning is different. Our biases and prejudices are just a nasty way of saying these are the things we have chosen as axioms upon which to base our rational faculties.

  9. 9
    StephenB says:

    Elizabeth

    No, indeed, but are you arguing that mathematics can be illogical, and still correct?

    Well, there are differences that can mislead. For example, in math you can have an infinite regress, but in causal relations you may not. Numbers do not have to be caused like objects do. So math offers possibilities (and paradoxes) that logic will not allow.
    SB: If one begins with a false premise and reasons perfectly, he will arrive at a false conclusion.

    Premise 1: I am 3 feet tall (False)
    Premise 2: My son is taller than me (True)
    Conclusion My son is more than 3 feet tall (True).

    I am referring to a single false premise. With two premises (True and False, True and True, False and False) you can have either a true of false outcome.

  10. 10
    Chris Doyle says:

    Good OP, StephenB.

    I agree with Neil Rickert in 7: when you draw a conclusion from an argument containing a false premise, the conclusion may still be true, but the argument itself is not sound.

    We often talk about following the evidence wherever it leads (and the obstacles to that process). This OP reminds us that we should also follow reason wherever it leads. I can’t count the number of times I have seen people jettison reason when they discover it is no longer on their side. They’d rather be irrational than admit they were wrong. And you literally cannot argue with someone when that happens because all the rules of reason go out of the window and then anything – no matter how ridiculous – goes.

  11. 11
    StephenB says:

    SB: If you begin with a single false premise, competent reasoning will take you progressively away from the truth with each new step.

    Neil

    It’s hard to know what to make of that.

    With only one premise, there is no reasoning that can take place.

    You could, for example, begin either with the premise that God exists or God doesn’t exist. Based on the first premise, you might conclude that you should worship Him. If, in fact, He didn’t exist, you would be getting farther away from the truth. Based on the second premise, you might reason that religion is a farce. If, in fact, He does exist, you would be getting farther away from the truth.

    However, you have been using unstated premises, and you disagreed when I said that all premises should be stated. So I don’t know how you are counting.

    I disagreed with your one example of an unstated premise. I didn’t say that one need never state his premise. I don’t think it is necessary to say that a city if part of a state. In my judgment, that should be understood.

    Let’s try this argument:

    OK

    Premise: I was born in the USA;
    Conclusion: I am an American citizen.
    As it happens, the premise is false but the conclusion is true.

    Your conclusion is not based on a false premise. A false premise would be the claim that you were NOT born in the USA. If you reason based on that false premise, then you will get farther away from the truth. In order to come closer to the truth, you must either make a mistake in reasoning or add another premise.

  12. 12
    StephenB says:

    Chris Doyle

    Good OP, StephenB.

    Thanks Chris.

    I agree with Neil Rickert in 7: when you draw a conclusion from an argument containing a false premise, the conclusion may still be true, but the argument itself is not sound.

    If we were talking about a syllogism with false premise with a true premise or a false premise with a false premise, I would agree. However, we are discussing the phenomenon of reasoning from a single false premise.

  13. 13

    StephenB

    Well, there are differences that can mislead. For example, in math you can have an infinite regress, but in causal relations you may not. Numbers do not have to be caused like objects do. So math offers possibilities (and paradoxes) that logic will not allow.

    How did you derive the premise that objects have to be caused?

    It seems to me that logic allows it just fine (hence the math) – its your premise that doesn’t.

    How do you know that premise is not false? (I’m not necessarily saying it isn’t, I’m just interested in your reasoning.)

    I am referring to a single false premise. With two premises (True and False, True and True, False and False) you can have either a true of false outcome.

    OK:

    Premise: All cats have tails (False)
    Conclusion: therefore my cat has a tail. (True)

  14. 14
    tragic mishap says:

    Also I feel compelled to mention that never once in my entire life have I ever heard a YEC refer to the Bible or Genesis as a science textbook. We believe the book of Genesis to be an accurate history, and we resent the common sentiment that only in this particular case are scientists not allowed to utilize documented historical observations to inform their inquiry.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    SB:

    Interesting job. One for my vaults and maybe this should go on the resources tab? [A new Weak Argument Corrective?]

    I suggest:

    (a) in implication logic as applied to modelling, false premises can imply true conclusions but notoriously models can be unreliable beyond zones that are validated. (This is one reason why scientific explanations strictly pursue empirical reliability rather than truth. Truth is a hope not a technical goal.)

    (b) the PSR is more fundamental than causality, which is a corollary, one of two outcomes on assessing contingency/non-contingency. That is, we look at actual or candidate beings and ask why/how? We may find clusters of attributes to be coherent/incoherent. The latter, e.g. square circles, are impossible. Of possible beings some may be contingent, others are necessary. I find that presence/absence of “necessary causal factors” [what I have called ON/OFF enabling factors to minimise confusion] is a good test point, on instructive analogy of a fire. For a contingent being, a sufficient cluster of causal factors at least enfolding all necessary factors must be present to start or sustain.

    (c] Necessary beings such as the number 2 and the truth asserted in 2 + 3 = 5, are independent of ON/OFF enabling factors. They will be possible, will have no beginning nor end, i.e. are not caused to begin.

    (d) A serious candidate to be a necessary being [obviously contingent entities such as flying spaghetti monsters . . . made up from materials and arranged parts or unicorns are not serious] will be impossible or actual. Cf S5.

    (e) I suggest also that the identity cluster arises as a corollary of the world partition imposed by a distinct entity, e.g. A our red ball on the table: W = {A | NOT-A}, where also fuzzy borders can be made crisp by Zadehan logic or the like.

    Hope these help.

    KF

    PS: Expressions of concern appreciated. Progress in travel is going well, main consultations leading to surgery are to follow. Details will not be publicly given. But my focus is now elsewhere for a good little while.

  16. 16
    StephenB says:

    Elizabeth

    How did you derive the premise that objects have to be caused?

    If an object is not brought into existence by something else (caused), then it must bring itself into existence, which would mean that it had to exist before it existed, which is impossible. So, since it is impossible that it brought itself into existence, its existence must have been caused by something else.

    Premise: All cats have tails (False)
    Conclusion: therefore my cat has a tail. (True)

    Good point. Point taken.

  17. 17

    Lots of people thinking of you and your son KF. Heartfelt blessings to your family.

  18. 18
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Implication logic [where warrant for implication has various grounds] is different from entailment of sets of syllogisms, which are about combined assertions regarding set membership, directly implicating meaning. For instance P: Socrates is a Man plus Q: men are mortal entails that R: Socrates is mortal. Interpreted on the implications side, it brings up that one or both of the members of {(P AND Q) => R}, which per De Morgan etc or a truth table, converts to ([P => R] OR [Q => R]). I was puzzled on this as a student and went looking for a Mathematician in that Dept at my Uni. The point was underscored that the meaning involved in each of P and Q does have that property. Socrates is a man involves the constitution of being human, i.e. mortality. That may help clarify a difference that seems to be under debate.

  19. 19
    StephenB says:

    KF @15. Good points all! On the current difficulty, keep hope alive.

  20. 20
  21. 21

    StephenB:

    If an object is not brought into existence by something else (caused), then it must bring itself into existence

    But this is yet another premise that may be false: the premise that all things are brought into existence by something.

    Most things that are “brought into existence” are brought into existence by a coming-together (sometimes by virtue of an intentional agent, sometimes by virtue of fundamental forces) of parts. But why should we assume that is true of the fundamental parts themselves? They are called “fundamental” because they are foundational, not “brought into existence” by rearrangement.

    So why must we assume that they need to be “brought into existence” by anything at all? Could “the capacity to exist” not be one of their intrinsic properties? At any rate, why is this not at least as defensible a premise as “all things must be brought into existence by something”?

    My point is not to assert that your premises are false, merely to draw attention to the fact (as I see it!) that there are more of them than you are perhaps acknowledging, and that some may not be as self-evidently true as you assume.

    I’d be wary of dismissing math as allowing things that would be illogical in reality. My temptation is to speculate the other way: that ultimate reality may boil down to math – and that if it works in math, perhaps it also works in reality. Perhaps that’s an even argument for a creative Logos 🙂

    Thanks for your acknowledgement of my false premise point, btw 🙂

    The sense in which I agree with keiths about uncertainty, is that I am aware that things that I think are necessarily certain (my own existence, for instance) sometimes turn out to be glitches in my own logic!

  22. 22
    Mark Frank says:

    A very interesting subject. It would be nice to discuss it without anyone being accused of being dishonest or stupid. Let’s see how far it goes before that happens.

    A few thoughts (I am sorry this is a bit long):

    Whatever the status of the rules of reason they need interpreting to apply to a specific situation. We know that the population of California must exceed the population of Los Angeles because we have background knowledge about California, Los Angeles and people. However, as Neil pointed out, the total private wealth of California could conceivably be less than the total private wealth of Los Angeles because you can have negative wealth. You have to know that the parts cannot be negative and that is something you have to empirically observe.

    It is not always clear what is a rule of right reason and what is not. Prior to about 1800 most people would have taken Euclid’s fifth postulate as self-evident. Prior to 1900 most people would take it as self-evident that if event A happened at the same time as event B for one observer then that would be true for all observers.

    StephenB raises a good point that we use the rules of right reason in order to come to these conclusions. So how can we question them? I think of them not as statements about the world but tools that help us discover the truth and like all tools they can be improved. The concept of absolute simultaneity was an extremely useful one (and still is) but Einstein showed that it could be improved by moving to relative simultaneity.

    This applies particularly to the hot topic of causality. StephenB writes:

    Everything must have a reason or cause for its existence and an explanation for why it undergoes change.

    But even what counts as a change (and therefore needs a cause) can be uncertain. Prior to Newton most people would think of motion as continuous change. It was part of his genius to conceive of motion as the unchanging state and acceleration as change. What causes the Sun to rise? You could say it is the rotation of the earth but there is no event causing it to rise – the earth just keeps on rolling along in the same old way. If one day the Sun does not rise we would certainly ask what caused it not to rise and with some urgency.

    It is easy to think of causation as a simple, objective relationship between one event and another – the billiard ball analogy. But any event is the result of many different things and the one we identify as the cause depends on our frame of reference. We walk into a room and are surprised to see a red ball and ask what caused that red ball to appear there? The answer might be someone put it there. But if we know that the chambermaid is in the habit of placing a free gift each morning then the answer might be – they had an excess of balls today. Or maybe the thing that surprises us is the colour (she usually places a ball but a red one is unusual) and the answer is because it matches the curtains. And so on.

    A clearer example might be a fungus appearing overnight. The answer to what caused that might be

    it is damp here
    a spore came through the window
    someone left the window open
    etc

    But also some aspects of an event might not be the result of anything. The answer to what caused that might be “nothing it just happened”. This is not the same as saying we don’t know what caused it. When it comes down to emission of a beta particle we can describe conditions that contribute to it. But to date no one has described an event which causes it to be emitted at that particular moment. More significantly scientist are quite happy to accept, as a hypothesis, that there is no such event the emission just happens and science does not fall apart.

    In summary – causation is a word for many different relationships between events, states and objects and it is quite difficult to know what it means to say that “every object that comes into being must have a cause” much less assess whether it is true.

  23. 23

    …reason’s rules also establish the rigorous standards for scientific methodology even before evidence enters the picture. Among the many questions which must be answered are the following: What is the difference between causation and correlation? When is it appropriate to use ordinal, nominal, or interval measurements? What is the most dependable way to isolate variables? Can variables be totally isolated at all? When should we apply mathematical principles? When should we apply statistical principles? What is science? What counts as evidence? What is an experiment? What is a theory? What constitutes a proof? What is the difference between probability, virtual certainty, and absolute certainty? In what ways does a philosophical investigation differ from a scientific investigation? Do they overlap? We cannot interpret evidence in a rational way until we answer these and many other questions.

    Although I agree that all these things are vital, Stephen, I somewhat dispute that they arise “even before evidence enters the picture”. Our data analytical techniques did not, historically, arise before we had data. I simply do not believe that it would have been possible for an armchair mathematician to figure out statistical principles without a prior empirical tradition. Indeed as human beings we made many big mistakes by thinking rather than testing (cf Aristotle vs Galileo). Logic is great stuff, but the idea that it somehow precedes experience is false, I think.

    Scientific methodology grew out of the empirical tradition, it did not precede it.

    Statistical concepts were developed in order to handle data, not the other way round.

  24. 24
    wallstreeter43 says:

    I like Peter Kreefts first cause argument. It’s reasonable, logical and rational as well as easy to understand. It postulates a first cause that must be a nesseccary cause.

    http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/first-cause.htm

    The argument is basically very simple, natural, intuitive, and commonsensical. We have to become complex and clever in order to doubt or dispute it. It is based on an instinct of mind that we all share: the instinct that says everything needs an explanation. Nothing just is without a reason why it is. Everything that is has some adequate or sufficient reason why it is.
    Philosophers call this the Principle of Sufficient Reason. We use it every day, in common sense and in science as well as in philosophy and theology. If we saw a rabbit suddenly appear on an empty table, we would not blandly say, “Hi, rabbit. You came from nowhere, didn’t you?” No, we would look for a cause, assuming there has to be one. Did the rabbit fall from the ceiling? Did a magician put it there when we weren’t looking? If there seems to be no physical cause, we look for a psychological cause: perhaps someone hypnotized us. As a last resort, we look for a supernatural cause, a miracle. But there must be some cause. We never deny the Principle of Sufficient Reason itself. No one believes the Pop Theory: that things just pop into existence for no reason at all. Perhaps we will never find the cause, but there must be a cause for everything that comes into existence.

    Now the whole universe is a vast, interlocking chain of things that come into existence. Each of these things must therefore have a cause. My parents caused me, my grandparents caused them, et cetera. But it is not that simple. I would not be here without billions of causes, from the Big Bang through the cooling of the galaxies and the evolution of the protein molecule to the marriages of my ancestors. The universe is a vast and complex chain of causes. But does the universe as a whole have a cause? Is there a first cause, an uncaused cause, a transcendent cause of the whole chain of causes? If not, then there is an infinite regress of causes, with no first link in the great cosmic chain. If so, then there is an eternal, necessary, independent, self-explanatory being with nothing above it, before it, or supporting it. It would have to explain itself as well as everything else, for if it needed something else as its explanation, its reason, its cause, then it would not be the first and uncaused cause. Such a being would have to be God, of course. If we can prove there is such a first cause, we will have proved there is a God.

    Why must there be a first cause? Because if there isn’t, then the whole universe is unexplained, and we have violated our Principle of Sufficient Reason for everything. If there is no first cause, each particular thing in the universe is explained in the short run, or proximately, by some other thing, but nothing is explained in the long run, or ultimately, and the universe as a whole is not explained. Everyone and everything says in turn, “Don’t look to me for the final explanation. I’m just an instrument. Something else caused me.” If that’s all there is, then we have an endless passing of the buck. God is the one who says, “The buck stops here.”
    If there is no first cause, then the universe is like a great chain with many links; each link is held up by the link above it, but the whole chain is held up by nothing. If there is no first cause, then the universe is like a railroad train moving without an engine. Each car’s motion is explained proximately by the motion of the car in front of it: the caboose moves because the boxcar pulls it, the boxcar moves because the cattle car pulls it, et cetera. But there is no engine to pull the first car and the whole train. That would be impossible, of course. But that is what the universe is like if there is no first cause: impossible.

  25. 25
    Neil Rickert says:

    StephenB:

    Your conclusion is not based on a false premise. A false premise would be the claim that you were NOT born in the USA.

    I am not understanding this at all. I was born and grew up in Australia. You are calling true what is false and you are calling false, what is true.

  26. 26
    Gregory says:

    @#25 – hmmm…so much for the ‘it doesn’t matter who a person is’ approach, claimed by many ‘neutralistic’ (quasi-objectivist) IDists like StephenB.

    A false premise to StephenB means “you were NOT born in the USA,” Waltzing Matilda! 😉

  27. 27

    Stephen:

    I think you have made a few errors with your extrapolations from the Law of Identity, the Law of Non-Contradiction, and the Law of the Excluded Middle, but I’m sure those can be sorted out.

    I think this is a more contentious claim:

    Among reason’s most pragmatic judges, the Law of Causality and the Principle of Sufficient Reason define the rational standards for all philosophical and scientific investigations.

    I think this claim requires support.

  28. 28
    Andre says:

    Dr Liddle

    The Law of Causality

    Hope this helps you!

    http://link.springer.com/artic.....722#page-1

    There is allot of information on that link, but here is the clincher… its foundational to science.

  29. 29

    Thanks, Andre.

    It doesn’t really help, though, because my point is that we cannot safely take it as a given. It’s controversial at best.

    See here for instance.

  30. 30
    Joe says:

    Elizabeth:

    Interesting post Stephen, but like Neil, I also have a couple of issues:

    You have more than a couple of issues, Lizzie. You don’t understand darwinian evolution. You don’t understand evolutionary and genetic algorithms and you don’t understand cladistics. That is three issues without even having to dig.

  31. 31
    franklin says:

    StephenB: **In the United States, a city is part of a state by definition.

    except of course when they aren’t……e.g., Washington, DC.

  32. 32
    StephenB says:

    Neil

    I am not understanding this at all. I was born and grew up in Australia.

    OK, I must have misread the premise as stated. In any case, I grant the principle that you arguing for. It is possible to begin with a single false premise and arrive at a true conclusion.

  33. 33
    StephenB says:

    Mark @22

    Elizabeth @29

    I hope you don’t mind if I answer your objections with one post, since you both are challenging causality as a law.

    1 a. I think the strongest justification for the Law of Causality (nothing can begin to exist without a cause) is the fact that it is inextricably tied to the Law of Non-Contradiction.

    From Norman Geisler:

    “The principle of causality is reducible to the principle of noncontradiction, for on inspection of the terms it would be a contradiction to affirm that a contingent (dependent) being is uncaused (independent)”.

    1 b. Also, it seems to me that my earlier point is still decisive. If something could bring itself into existence, then it would have to exist before it existed, which is obviously impossible.

    So, you must either deny the law of noncontradiction or else show why it is not tied to causality.

    2. Further, neither of you have attended to my relevant question. If one thing can begin to exist without a cause, why not anything–why not everything?

  34. 34
    Mark Frank says:

    #33 Stephen

    I am not sure how Norman Geisler makes his case but I can find no contradiction in saying “this event happened” or “this thing came into existence” without a cause. A proof is that quantum physicists work on this assumption and meet no contradiction.

    1b To come into existence without a cause is not the same as bringing itself into existence. To come into existence without a cause is just to be there one moment and not the next.

    2. That is in the end partly an empirical and partly a practical matter. As an empirical truth it appears that for every event we observe there are some conditions under which it will happen and others under which it will not. We call the first set of conditions “causes” and concentrate on the ones that are more unusual or interesting and often call them “the cause”. This makes it a practical assumption to assume every event has a cause. Although this assumption like so many appears not always to be useful.

  35. 35

    Thanks for the response, Stephen.

    As you know, I am in no way a philosopher, so this is just me trying to make sense of this from the (not entirely irrelevant!) PoV of an empirical scientist.

    But I have never been very persuaded that the Law of Causality is really a law (and at least a few philosphers seem to agree! Not that philosophers are always correct….) But we have brains and we have logic, so let me comment on your source:

    “The principle of causality is reducible to the principle of noncontradiction, for on inspection of the terms it would be a contradiction to affirm that a contingent (dependent) being is uncaused (independent)”.

    This seems to me to beg the question (literally – petitio principii) If we start from the premise that all things are caused, then something cannot be both caused and uncaused. But we aren’t deriving that from the LNC, we are simply saying, that, given the premise that a thing cannot be uncaused, then a causeless cause would be a contradiction in terms! And it’s that premise I am querying.

    1 b. Also, it seems to me that my earlier point is still decisive. If something could bring itself into existence, then it would have to exist before it existed, which is obviously impossible.

    Yes indeed, but that presupposes that a thing must be brought into existence by another thing, and that’s the very premise I am querying (see above :))

    So, you must either deny the law of noncontradiction or else show why it is not tied to causality.

    No, all I am querying is the assumption that all things are caused. If not all things are caused – if fundamental particles, for instance, are uncaused, then nothing is contradicted other than the premise that all things are caused.

    2. Further, neither of you have attended to my relevant question. If one thing can begin to exist without a cause, why not anything–why not everything?

    Well, I thought I had addressed it in my comment at 21 when I wrote:

    Most things that are “brought into existence” are brought into existence by a coming-together (sometimes by virtue of an intentional agent, sometimes by virtue of fundamental forces) of parts. But why should we assume that is true of the fundamental parts themselves? They are called “fundamental” because they are foundational, not “brought into existence” by rearrangement.

    In other words it looks as though, when we get low enough, things are not made of other things, they are basic bits – they do not come into existence as a result of more fundamental bits forming a system such as a proton, or an atom, or a molecule, or a cell, or a multicellular organism, none of which existed before the events that brought them together, and so can be said to have been caused by those events. And I don’t see that we can assume that “come into existence” or “brought into existence” necessarily applies to the fundamental bits themselves, at least not in the same sense as we, say, bring into existence a cake, or a carbon-dioxide molecule.

    So my suggested answer to your “why not everything?” question is: because everything above the level of fundamental particles exists by virtue of being a system of more fundamental bits, and was brought about by events that brought those fundamental bits into the configuration that we call a thing that exists. And these complex-things (what I tend to call “systems”) persist over substantial periods of time. But once we get down into the particle zoo, it’s not even clear what “existing” means, because persisting is statistical rather than solidly observable, and it’s certainly not clear what “makes” (literally) a fundamental particle whereas we can be much clearer about what makes a helium atom, say.

    I don’t think this is any threat to ID, by the way, indeed it opens the way for an ontology that Dembski hints at when he talks about information being at the bottom of existence – the way bits (literally and as in binary bits!) are arranged, rather than what they are, which may be probabilities of things – potentials for things – rather than caused things.

    But I’m no physicist (and I think Dembski’s argument has problems anyway) any more than I’m a philosopher, so I could be all out to lunch here.

    But what I am fairly certain of is that we cannot just import assumptions about the universality of causation from the macroscopic world of systems into the fundamental particle world of leptons and hadrons and photons without at least pausing to question whether we are extrapolating beyond the range of our data!

  36. 36
    bornagain77 says:

    Mark Frank you falsely claim:

    I can find no contradiction in saying “this event happened” or “this thing came into existence” without a cause. A proof is that quantum physicists work on this assumption and meet no contradiction.

    No they don’t! Although Quantum physicists may severely disagree as to what the cause is, no physicist in his right mind argues that quantum events happen without a cause.

    Does Quantum Physics Make it Easier to Believe in God? July 2012 – Stephen M. Barr – professor of physics at the University of Delaware.
    Excerpt: The upshot is this: If the mathematics of quantum mechanics is right (as most fundamental physicists believe), and if materialism is right, one is forced to accept the Many Worlds Interpretation of quantum mechanics. And that is awfully heavy baggage for materialism to carry.
    If, on the other hand, we accept the more traditional understanding of quantum mechanics that goes back to von Neumann, one is led by its logic (as Wigner and Peierls were) to the conclusion that not everything is just matter in motion, and that in particular there is something about the human mind that transcends matter and its laws. It then becomes possible to take seriously certain questions that materialism had ruled out of court: If the human mind transcends matter to some extent, could there not exist minds that transcend the physical universe altogether? And might there not even exist an ultimate Mind?
    http://www.bigquestionsonline......elieve-god

    Zeilinger Polls Quantum Physicists on Nature of Reality
    In the 1920’s, a group of physicists were at the center of a hot debate surrounding the nature of the quantum world. Over 90 years later, these debates continue.
    At a recent conference on “Quantum Physics and the Nature of Reality” the quantum physicist, Anton Zeilinger (see interview with Discover Mag. here), polled the 33 attendees – all quantum physicists, philosophers, and mathematicians – on 16 questions that are central to understanding the nature of the quantum world.
    http://physicsbuzz.physicscent.....ts-on.html

  37. 37
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    I am not sure how Norman Geisler makes his case but I can find no contradiction in saying “this event happened” or “this thing came into existence” without a cause. A proof is that quantum physicists work on this assumption and meet no contradiction.

    Are you saying that you don’t understand Geisler’s argument? Or are you saying that you do understand it but you don’t agree with it? If it is the latter, how does the argument fail in your judgment?

    The quantum physicists that you have in mind do not “assume” that things come into existence without a cause. They claim to CONCLUDE from evidence that things can come into existence without a cause, contradicting the scientific assumption that nothing comes into existence without a cause.

    1b To come into existence without a cause is not the same as bringing itself into existence. To come into existence without a cause is just to be there one moment and not the next.

    To not be there and then to be there is exactly the same thing as coming into existence. The verb “be” means to exist. You are arguing that some things can, without a cause “be there” when they were once not there.

    SB: If one thing can come into existence without a cause, why not anything or everything?

    2. That is in the end partly an empirical and partly a practical matter. As an empirical truth it appears that for every event we observe there are some conditions under which it will happen and others under which it will not. We call the first set of conditions “causes” and concentrate on the ones that are more unusual or interesting and often call them “the cause”.This makes it a practical assumption to assume every event has a cause. Although this assumption like so many appears not always to be useful.

    You are not really addressing my question. If some things can come into existence without a cause, why cannot anything come into existence without a cause? Why cannot a horse simply appear in your living room?

  38. 38
    Mark Frank says:

    #38 BA77

    I am confused. You write:

    no physicist in his right mind argues that quantum events happen without a cause

    But both the passages you link to appear to refute what you say.

    From passage 1:

    A familiar example of this is the idea of “half-life.” Radioactive nuclei are liable to “decay” into smaller nuclei and other particles. If a certain type of nucleus has a half-life of, say, an hour, it means that a nucleus of that type has a 50% chance of decaying within 1 hour, a 75% chance within two hours, and so on. The quantum mechanical equations do not (and cannot) tell you when a particular nucleus will decay, only the probability of it doing so as a function of time. This is not something peculiar to nuclei. The principles of quantum mechanics apply to all physical systems, and those principles are inherently and inescapably probabilistic.

    In passage 2 (can’t copy and paste) the poll of 33 such physicists show 64% believe that randomness is a fundamental concept in nature.

    (Just to be clear if an outcome is random or inherently probabilistic then there is no event which causes it to happen at a specific time.)

    Possibly I have misunderstood you or the significance of the links?

  39. 39
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen #37

    I didn’t understand Geisler’s argument but on closer inspection I think I do. He seems to equating contingent with dependent. I don’t accept that. An uncaused event is contingent in the sense that it could have been otherwise – the beta particle might have been emitted at a different time – but it is not dependent – there was nothing that meant it had to be emitted at that particular time.

    I don’t think it matters whether the quantum physicists assume or conclude things come into existence without a cause. The point is that they believe it to be true, work as though it were true, and physics carries on just fine. Thus proving that science does not have to assume that nothing comes into existence without a cause.

    To not be there and then to be there is exactly the same thing as coming into existence. The verb “be” means to exist. You are arguing that some things can, without a cause “be there” when they were once not there.

    Absolutely. That is my main point.

    If some things can come into existence without a cause, why cannot anything come into existence without a cause? Why cannot a horse simply appear in your living room?

    To answer that “why” question is to provide a cause. The whole point is that there some events such as the appearance of elementary particles for which there is no answer to the question “why”. There are probably some good physical reasons why something as large as a horse cannot appear in your living room – conservation of mass/energy perhaps – but if you were to ask why some elementary particles do not appear suddenly or why they do not appear at particular time – then again there is no answer. That is the whole meaning of “uncaused”. It is just that way.

  40. 40
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Frank,

    Randomness – Entropic and Quantum

    For something to be considered a ‘random chance’ event in the universe is generally regarded as something lacking predictability to its occurrence or lacking a pattern to it. i.e. Generally the cause of the event is held to be unknown no one in their right mind would say that ‘nothing’ caused the random event!. But how, in a general sense, when an atheist invokes randomness as if he has issued a statement of final causality is that any different from a Theist saying an event was ‘miraculous’ if the atheists says an event ‘just happened’ for no particular reason at all? Indeed it has been observed by no less than the noted physicist Wolfgang Pauli that the word ‘random chance’, as used by Biologists, is synonymous with the word ‘miracle’:

    Nobel Prize-Winning Physicist Wolfgang Pauli on the Empirical Problems with Neo-Darwinism – Casey Luskin – February 27, 2012
    Excerpt: While they (Darwinian Biologists) pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.’” Wolfgang Pauli (pp. 27-28) –
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....56771.html

    Talbott humorously reflects on the awkward situation between Atheists and Theists here:

    Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness – Talbott – Fall 2011
    Excerpt: In the case of evolution, I picture Dennett and Dawkins filling the blackboard with their vivid descriptions of living, highly regulated, coordinated, integrated, and intensely meaningful biological processes, and then inserting a small, mysterious gap in the middle, along with the words, “Here something random occurs.”
    This “something random” looks every bit as wishful as the appeal to a miracle. It is the central miracle in a gospel of meaninglessness, a “Randomness of the gaps,” demanding an extraordinarily blind faith. At the very least, we have a right to ask, “Can you be a little more explicit here?”
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....randomness

    Also of related interest, the atheists appeal to randomness as final cause for Darwinism prevents a rigid mathematical formulation for Darwinism from ever being formulated:

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.” Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    Basically, if the word random were left in this ‘fuzzy’, undefined, state one could very well argue as Theistic Evolutionists argue, and as Alvin Plantinga and other notable Theistic figures have argued, that each random event that occurs in the universe could be considered a ‘miracle’ and God could guide evolution through what seem to us to be ‘random’ events. And due to the synonymous nature between the two words, random and miracle, in this ‘fuzzy’, undefined, state, this argument that random events can be considered ‘miraculous’, while certainly true in the overall sense (see Quantum Non-Locality without entanglement Zeilinger), would none-the-less concede the intellectual high ground to the atheists since, by and large, the word random, as it is defined in the general public’s mind, is not associated with the word miraculous at all but the word random is most strongly associated with unpleasant ‘random’ events, ‘natural’ disasters, and such. Events that many people would prefer to distance God from in their mind, or that many people, even Theists, are unable to easily associate an all loving God with. Such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and other such catastrophes as that. Moreover, Darwinists, as Casey Luskin and Jay Richards pointed out in a disagreement with Alvin Plantinga, have taken full advantage of the popular definition of the word ‘random event’, (as in the general notion of unpredictable tragic events being separated from God’s will), in textbooks to mislead the public that a ‘random’ event is truly separated from God’s actions,,,

    Unguided or Not? How Do Darwinian Evolutionists Define Their Theory? – Casey Luskin – August 11, 2012
    Excerpt: While many new atheists undoubtedly make poor philosophers, the “unguided” nature of Darwinian evolution is not a mere metaphysical “add on.” Rather, it’s a core part of how the theory of Darwinian evolution has been defined by its leading proponents. Unfortunately, even some eminent theistic and intelligent design-friendly philosophers appear unaware of the history and scientific development of neo-Darwinian theory. (and its emphasis on ‘fuzzy’ randomness)
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....63191.html

    But, because of the advance of modern science, we need not be armchair philosophers that must forever, endlessly, wrangle over the precise meaning of the word random being synonymous with the word miraculous, (all the while conceding the public relations battle to the Darwinists over the meaning of the word random), we can now more precisely define exactly what the word random means, as to a causal chain, so as to see exactly what a Darwinist means when he claims a ‘random’ event has occurred! ,,
    In this endeavor, in order to bring clarity to the word random, it is first very important to note that when computer programmers/engineers want to build a better random number generator for a computer program then a better source of entropy is required to be found by them in order for them to achieve the increased randomness they desire:

    Cryptographically secure pseudorandom number generator
    Excerpt: From an information theoretic point of view, the amount of randomness, the entropy that can be generated is equal to the entropy provided by the system. But sometimes, in practical situations, more random numbers are needed than there is entropy available.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C....._generator

    And the maximum source for entropy (randomness) in the universe is now known to be black holes,,,

    Entropy of the Universe – Hugh Ross – May 2010
    Excerpt: Egan and Lineweaver found that supermassive black holes are the largest contributor to the observable universe’s entropy. They showed that these supermassive black holes contribute about 30 times more entropy than what the previous research teams estimated.
    http://www.reasons.org/entropy-universe

    In fact, it has been argued that Gravity arises as an ‘entropic force’,,

    Evolution is a Fact, Just Like Gravity is a Fact! UhOh! – January 2010
    Excerpt: The results of this paper suggest gravity arises as an entropic force, once space and time themselves have emerged.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....fact-uhoh/

    Indeed, Entropy is pervasive in its explanatory power,,

    Shining Light on Dark Energy – October 21, 2012
    Excerpt: It (Entropy) explains time; it explains every possible action in the universe;,,
    Even gravity, Vedral argued, can be expressed as a consequence of the law of entropy. ,,,
    The principles of thermodynamics are at their roots all to do with information theory. Information theory is simply an embodiment of how we interact with the universe —,,,
    http://crev.info/2012/10/shini.....rk-energy/

    In fact it was, in large measure, by studying the entropic considerations of black holes that Roger Penrose was able to derive the gargantuan 1 in 10^10^123 number as to the necessary initial entropic state for the universe:

    Roger Penrose – How Special Was The Big Bang?
    “But why was the big bang so precisely organized, whereas the big crunch (or the singularities in black holes) would be expected to be totally chaotic? It would appear that this question can be phrased in terms of the behaviour of the WEYL part of the space-time curvature at space-time singularities. What we appear to find is that there is a constraint WEYL = 0 (or something very like this) at initial space-time singularities-but not at final singularities-and this seems to be what confines the Creator’s choice to this very tiny region of phase space.”

    How special was the big bang? – Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123.
    (from the Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose, pp 339-345 – 1989)

    Roger Penrose discusses initial entropy of the universe. – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhGdVMBk6Zo

    The Physics of the Small and Large: What is the Bridge Between Them? Roger Penrose
    Excerpt: “The time-asymmetry is fundamentally connected to with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: indeed, the extraordinarily special nature (to a greater precision than about 1 in 10^10^123, in terms of phase-space volume) can be identified as the “source” of the Second Law (Entropy).”
    http://www.pul.it/irafs/CD%20I.....enrose.pdf

  41. 41
    bornagain77 says:

    Also of important note, as to the subject at hand as to more precisely defining the word random, as Darwinists would wish to use it as being separate from God’s will, it is interesting to note that Ludwig Boltzmann, an atheist, when he linked entropy and probability, did not, as Max Planck a Christian Theist points out in the following link, think to look for a constant to entropy:

    The Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann first linked entropy and probability in 1877. However, the equation as shown, involving a specific constant, was first written down by Max Planck, the father of quantum mechanics in 1900. In his 1918 Nobel Prize lecture, Planck said: “This constant is often referred to as Boltzmann’s constant, although, to my knowledge, Boltzmann himself never introduced it – a peculiar state of affairs, which can be explained by the fact that Boltzmann, as appears from his occasional utterances, never gave thought to the possibility of carrying out an exact measurement of the constant.”
    http://www.daviddarling.info/e.....ation.html

    I hold that the primary reason why Boltzmann, an atheist, never thought to carry out, or propose, a precise measurement for the constant on entropy is that he, as an atheist, had thought he had arrived at the ultimate explanation for how everything in the universe operates when he had link probability with entropy. i.e. In linking entropy with probability, Boltzmann, again an atheist, thought he had explained everything that happens in the universe to a ‘random’ chance basis. To him, as an atheist, it would simply be unfathomable that the ‘random chance’ (probabilistic) events of entropy in the universe should ever be constrained by a constant that would limit the effects of entropy in the universe. Whereas on the contrary, to a Christian Theist, it is expected that even the seemingly random chance events of entropy in the universe should be bounded by a constant, i.e. that ‘randomness’ would have its ultimate cause based in God!:

    ‘Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a Legislator. In most modern scientists this belief has died: it will be interesting to see how long their confidence in uniformity survives it. Two significant developments have already appeared—the hypothesis of a lawless sub-nature, and the surrender of the claim that science is true.’
    Lewis, C.S., Miracles: a preliminary study, Collins, London, p. 110, 1947.

    Romans 8:20-21
    For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

    Moreover, save for the ‘spooky action at a distance’ of quantum mechanics, for something to have motion in this universe requires energy,,

    The Universe in Motion – David L. Bergman
    Excerpt: When an exchange of energy occurs, there is motion and activity.,,,
    An exchange of energy between atoms controls both the observable actions that take place in nature and the rate of change, whether this process is a continuous action or a series of changes taking place in a definite manner.,,
    http://www.commonsensescience......rocess.pdf

    Yet, Quantum Mechanics has now been extended to falsify local realism (reductive materialism) for photons without even using quantum entanglement (spooky action at a distance) to do it:

    ‘Quantum Magic’ Without Any ‘Spooky Action at a Distance’ – June 2011
    Excerpt: A team of researchers led by Anton Zeilinger at the University of Vienna and the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information of the Austrian Academy of Sciences used a system which does not allow for entanglement, and still found results which cannot be interpreted classically.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....111942.htm

    Falsification of Local Realism without using Quantum Entanglement – Anton Zeilinger – video
    http://vimeo.com/34168474

    Thus a photon, the most basic unit of energy upon which all material motion in the universe is ultimately dependent, is shown not to be a self sustaining entity in the universe but a photon is now shown to be dependent on a ‘non-local’, beyond space-time, cause to explain its continued existence within space-time. Or as a theist would say, “God ‘sustains’ the universe!”,, The atheists simply has nothing, in the very real literal sense, to appeal to to explain the ’cause’ of photons. Thus it follows that all motion in the universe, even what we perceive to be random motion, is ultimately dependent on the permissive will of God in order for it to happen in this universe.

    So we have found that the initial randomness/entropy of the universe (1 in 10^10^123) is bounded at the creation of the universe, and we have also found that the ‘ordinary randomness’, as to how the universe ‘normally’ operates, is bounded by a constant in Boltzmann’s equation. And we have found that all motion, whether ‘random’ or not, is dependent on a ‘non-local’ cause

  42. 42
    bornagain77 says:

    There is more that could be hashed out towards clarifying randomness and its association with free will in quantum mechanics, but suffice it now to say, whenever you hear an atheist mention the word random as to an explanation of final causality, reach for your wallet because you are being had!

  43. 43

    The quantum physicists that you have in mind do not “assume” that things come into existence without a cause. They claim to CONCLUDE from evidence that things can come into existence without a cause, contradicting the scientific assumption that nothing comes into existence without a cause.

    I agree, Stephen, but I think that’s exactly the point Mark and I are making – that physicist haven’t imposed an a priori assumption on their data, but conclude it from the data.

    Prior to these discoveries, there was a general assumption that science would drill down until it found some fundamental law that explained everything (except itself of course :). Famously Einstein couldn’t accept that rather than solid necessity at the bottom, there were events that were only predictable in aggregate, statistically – not individually. We simply cannot tell from one click of a Geiger counter how likely the next one is to occur. They aren’t even like buses, where a long wait will tend to be followed by three at once.

  44. 44
    Joe says:

    The denizens of TSZ don’t know how to reason- all they do is erect strawman after strawman, tear them down and act all proud of themselves. Their drivel wrt a common design is most hilarious- it’s as if they have never designed anything in their lives which required them to adhere to existing standards.

    Linnean taxonomy is based on a common design. All evos did was steal his concept and change archetype with common ancestor.

    As I said, they cannot reason so this thread is another waste of time.

  45. 45
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Frank, One quick point I will bring out as to entropic randomness of the universe as it is differentiated from the randomness associated with the free will in quantum mechanics

    Quantum Zeno effect
    Excerpt: The quantum Zeno effect is,,, an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-445840

    But why should the random entropic events of this universe care if and when I decide to observe a particle if, as Darwinists hold, I, and all the rest of life on earth, is suppose to be the result of the random entropic events of the universe in the first place? The atheists simply has no coherent answer as to why consciously gazing upon a particle should prevent its ‘random’ decay from ever happening.

  46. 46
    vividbleau says:

    MF

    That is the whole meaning of “uncaused”. It is just that way.

    Its called the indeterminacy or uncertainty principle not the “uncaused” principle. To say we don’t know and are uncertain is not to say therefore it is uncaused.

    I think it is interesting to see how this thread has gravitated toward entertaining the possibility that things can pop into existence from nothing. I actually think that this is the root “cause” ( no pun intended) of the idea that absolute certainty is unattainable.

    I continue to assert that I am absolutely certain that I think I think I am typing this, I am absolutely certain that cognitive activity is present. If cognitive activity is not present, if there is not something existing what is the alternative?

    Nothing.

    Vivid

  47. 47
    Mung says:

    SB:

    Wouldn’t it be easier to dispense with all this nonsense and simply acknowledge self-evident truths for what they are?

    Sure. But then what would happen to sites like TSZ?

    Every truth is a nail in the coffin of skepticism.

  48. 48
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    That seems like sound reasoning based on a false premise leading to a true conclusion. No?

    *sigh*

    Why do you even bother, SB?

    Anyways, we appreciate the effort!

  49. 49
    computerist says:

    Rupert Sheldrake interview:

    Link To Youtube Video

  50. 50
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Premise: All cats have tails (False)

    Premise: All cats have tails (True)

    All cats do have tails. Some cats may not have their tail attached to their body though.

  51. 51
    Mung says:

    Neil Rickert:

    I was born and grew up in Australia.

    That was your doppelganger.

    Do you see now how a false premise can lead you so far astray of the truth?

    wallstreeter43,

    I love Peter Kreeft’s books.

  52. 52
    bornagain77 says:

    Thanks computerist for the Sheldrake link! Always fun to see what he is into.

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    Mung, if you have time, I would like to revisit this notion of a single false premise and you are just the person to discuss it with. It is evident to me that a false premise and a true premise or a false premise and a false premise can produce a true conclusion. We (my critics and me) all seem to agree on that.

    However, it also seemed to me that a single false premise would, if reasoned from properly, lead one farther and farther away from the truth. But Neil and Elizabeth seem to have found examples where a single false premise would lead to a true conclusion. You are good with puzzles, and you appear to have found a hole in their argument. How do you weigh in on the matter?

  54. 54
    StephenB says:

    Elizabeth @35

    Mark @39

    I hope to respond to your posts late tonight or early tomorrow.

  55. 55
    StephenB says:

    Bornagain77,

    thanks again for your always edifying and relevant contributions.

  56. 56
    computerist says:

    @52, no problem!

  57. 57
    bornagain77 says:

    No Problem StephenB, hopefully my terrible sentence structure was not too hard to decipher so as to see the main points I was hoping to make.

  58. 58
    Mark Frank says:

    Mung #50

    All cats do have tails. Some cats may not have their tail attached to their body though

    Have you never heard of a Manx cat?

  59. 59
    Mark Frank says:

    Vividbleau #46

    Its called the indeterminacy or uncertainty principle not the “uncaused” principle. To say we don’t know and are uncertain is not to say therefore it is uncaused.

    As I understand it the inability to predict when quantum events happen is not just a result of the uncertainty principle. But the important point is that many physicists conclude not only that they don’t know when these events are going to happen but that there is no cause and they carry on doing physics. They may be wrong. Maybe there is a cause to be discovered. However, it shows that is not necessary to assume a cause to do the science.

  60. 60
    Mark Frank says:

    #53 Stephen

    Mung has not found a hole of any significance in Lizzie’s counterexample. Here are some more of the same form:

    All cars are right-hand drive (false)
    Therefore, my car is right-hand drive (true)

    All swans are white (false)
    Therefore the swans in our village are white (true)

    All planets are habitable (false)
    Therefore Earth is habitable (true)

    Give in?

  61. 61
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    Mung has not found a hole of any significance in Lizzie’s counterexample. Here are some more of the same form:

    I am persuaded that a singular false premise can produce a true conclusion unless someone shows me that we are missing something.

  62. 62
    Mark Frank says:

    #61 Stephen – thanks

  63. 63
    StephenB says:

    Mark:

    I don’t think it matters whether the quantum physicists assume or conclude things come into existence without a cause.

    It matters a great deal. If they are claiming that evidence can prove acausality, then they are making false claims. Evidence cannot prove acausality. It can only prove uncertainty and unpredictability. If they assume causality, then their conclusions are tautological.

    The point is that they believe it to be true, work as though it were true, and physics carries on just fine. Thus proving that science does not have to assume that nothing comes into existence without a cause.

    The success of physics or quantum mechanics is, in no way, related to the assumption of acausality. Plenty of physicists agree that the events are caused. Quantum mechanics works just as well for them.

    Absolutely. That is my main point.

    Would you include the universe as one of those things that can just be there (appear) without a cause?

    There are probably some good physical reasons why something as large as a horse cannot appear in your living room – conservation of mass/energy perhaps – but if you were to ask why some elementary particles do not appear suddenly or why they do not appear at particular time – then again there is no answer.

    Are you saying that a horse can or cannot appear in your living room without a cause? Why do you think so in either case?

  64. 64
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    Absolutely. That is my main point.

    Would you include the universe as one of those things can can appear without a cause?

    To answer that “why” question is to provide a cause. The whole point is that there some events such as the appearance of elementary particles for which there is no answer to the question “why”. There are probably some good physical reasons why something as large as a horse cannot appear in your living room – conservation of mass/energy perhaps – but if you were to ask why some elementary particles do not appear suddenly or why they do not appear at particular time – then again there is no answer. That is the whole meaning of “uncaused”. It is just that way.

    Are you saying that a horse can or cannot appear in your living room without a cause? Why do you think so in either case?

  65. 65
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks:

    One of the problems with discussion threads is they easily go off on tangents and leave a false impression regarding the substantial matter. Here, status and significance of first principles of right reason.

    For the identity cluster (LOI, LNC, LEM) all that is required is that we have distinct entities in the world, such that we have a world partition, W = {A | NOT-A} from that he three laws are immediately present corollaries. Just start with the bright red ball on the table. And fuzziness of borders can be resolved, it does not make distinction go away.

    As for the rabbit trails on quantum physics, let it begin from the fact that physicists use symbols in their reasoning and calculating that require such world partitions to have any cogency. In short they cannot very well be sawing off the branch on which they too are sitting.

    And, uncertainty is just that, it is saying that there is a limit to the precision with which we can evaluate entangled quantities such as energy and time or position and momentum. This, because, in simple terms the attempt to ascertain the one disturbs the other. That does not have anything to do with either distinction or cause as such.

    Similar, that certain phenomena are superpositions, does not show a contradiction no more than that a plucked guitar string is similarly vibrating in a node-antinode pattern shaped by superposition.

    Next, I have pointed out that the principle of sufficient reason — if a thing is, we may ask and reasonably investigate why so — grounds our understanding of contingency/necessity of being, and so we have cause-effect as an explanation of contingent being. Yes, there are ever so many who have disputed cause and effect. Disputing something that is well founded does not make it dubious (what too many try to suggest when they say something is “controversial” . . . in large measure because they and ilk object to it).

    They need to do the match exercise: light one, watch it burn by half, then tilt the burned part up, and watch the flame go down then out. This reflects the enabling — strictly, “necessary” — causal factors, heat, fuel, oxidiser and chain reaction, and what happens when we reduce the effect of such a factor, by making the flame try to burn the already burned part of the stick.

    That is, we can see the reality of cause in action, and in particular the significance of necessary, enabling ON/OFF factors. If a contingent entity exists, it had a beginning, and for that to be so there was a sufficient cluster of causal factors at minimum including all necessary ones. Consult the fire tetrahedron, or more simply the fire triangle and a box of matches if this seems to complicated for you.

    Some that suggested causeless events in quantum mechanics.

    Not so, at trivial level there are ALWAYS obvious enabling factors present, sometimes so simple as that no radioactive atom, no decay. No photon of sufficient energy, no metal or the like surface, no photo effect. And the like.

    Of course phenomena such as the RA decay of a given atom at a given moment, we cannot predict. Just, we do not know — may not be able to know — the factors in toto at work. For example we know a quantum potential barrier is subject to tunnelling, and there is a stochastic side to that so say an alpha can sometimes break out of a nucleus, in simple terms. But there are obvious antecedent factors present with causal force.

    In particular, we have no good reason to accept that things or events may happen, may begin, without cause adequate for such. Specifically, nothing — NON BEING — can have no causal powers. Which points to there being a necessary being at the root of our contingent cosmos.

    So, the point is, once understood we see such principles are true and it can be shown that attempted rejection or denial ends up in affirming. As in such an event happens, and it has — always — a sufficient cause (a denier). Similarly, to object, one uses oral or written symbols that take effect in part from being world partitions.

    I find it incredible that such has to be belaboured for week after week, month after month. It speaks volumes on the roots of too many objections we see.

    There is one point where SB made an error, on effect of a false premise. I have joined others on correction, which has been acknowledged. As modelling theory highlights, a false (“simplified” is the usual euphemism) antecedent can entail true consequents. However, as the need for validation and accepting limits to models shows, such premises are inherently unreliable in universal terms. Empirical reliability of an explanatory model does not equate to universal truth.

    Let us pull together and think about what all this is pointing to. Cf. my thoughts here on in context.

    KF

    PS: In jet lag recovery.

  66. 66
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen

    It matters a great deal. If they are claiming that evidence can prove acausality, then they are making false claims. Evidence cannot prove acausality. It can only prove uncertainty and unpredictability. If they assume causality, then their conclusions are tautological.

    I suspect you are right and you could never prove there was no cause. But the point is not to find evidence for acausality one way or the other. The point is whether you have to accept the principle of sufficient reason a priori in order to do science.

    The success of physics or quantum mechanics is, in no way, related to the assumption of acausality. Plenty of physicists agree that the events are caused. Quantum mechanics works just as well for them.

    As I understand it, one of your main points is that as a rule of right reason the assumption of causality is necessary to do science.  Plenty of physicists agree that events are caused. Others don’t. The point is that both groups are able to carry on doing science.

    Would you include the universe as one of those things can can appear without a cause?

    Yes. It is a unique event which we know very little about. There is no reason to dismiss it happening without a cause.

    Are you saying that a horse can or cannot appear in your living room without a cause? Why do you think so in either case?

    I would say that a horse cannot appear in my living room whether it be caused or not! I am almost certain it would break some established laws of physics. I also have empirical evidence that objects of that kind of magnitude and complexity do not appear suddenly without or with cause. However, we have no idea what physical laws apply to the creation of universes and no empirical evidence of whether such unique events happen without cause. 

  67. 67
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    An uncaused event is contingent in the sense that it could have been otherwise – the beta particle might have been emitted at a different time – but it is not dependent – there was nothing that meant it had to be emitted at that particular time.

    We are discussing a contingent being. If A is contingent on the existence of B, it necessarily follows that A is also dependent on B.

  68. 68
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    I suspect you are right and you could never prove there was no cause. But the point is not to find evidence for acausality one way or the other. The point is whether you have to accept the principle of sufficient reason a priori in order to do science.

    One must assume and accept the principle of causality in order to detect the fact of uncertainty and unpredictability. On the one hand, If the physicist ASSUMES acausality, then there are no grounds for claiming uncertainty and unpredictability. On the other hand, if he CONCLUDES acausality, he is saying that the same principle of causality which he assumed and which allowed him to detect uncertainty and unpredictability in the first place, is no longer in force, which means that his observations are invalid.

    I would say that a horse cannot appear in my living room whether it be caused or not! I am almost certain it would break some established laws of physics.

    [a] If a quantum particle appearing in your living room without a cause does not violate the laws of physics, why does a horse [or a water molecule] appearing in your living room without a cause violate the laws of physics?

    [b] Even at that, what is to prevent the laws of physics from changing? If they came into existence without a cause, a possibility that you clearly allow for, why can’t they also change without a cause?

    I also have empirical evidence that objects of that kind of magnitude and complexity do not appear suddenly without or with cause.

    Well, you don’t really have evidence that they “do not appear,” which refers to logical possibilities, so much as you have evidence (sort of) that they “have not appeared,” which refers to what we have experienced. The question, though, is whether it can happen at all–in principle. Can a non-existent horse or a non-existent anything appear anywhere (your living room or anywhere else) without a cause? The “magnitude” of the object would seem to be irrelevant.

    However, we have no idea what physical laws apply to the creation of universes and no empirical evidence of whether such unique events happen without cause.

    We still have do address the question as to why a universe and the laws of physics could appear without a cause, if a horse (or a quantum particle or a water molecule) all of which are part of the universe and depend on those laws, could not appear without a cause.

  69. 69
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen

    We are discussing a contingent being. If A is contingent on the existence of B, it necessarily follows that A is also dependent on B.

    I don’t want to get into a dispute about the meaning of contingent. All I am saying is that something can be neither logically necessary not logically impossible, i.e. it might or might not happen, and yet not be dependent on some other event. The two things are distinct and Geisler’s argument seems to work by confusing the two.

  70. 70
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen #68

    One must assume and accept the principle of causality in order to detect the fact of uncertainty and unpredictability.

    I don’t understand why this is true. Can you show me the proof?

    [a] If a quantum particle appearing in your living room without a cause does not violate the laws of physics, why does a horse [or a water molecule] appearing in your living room without a cause violate the laws of physics?

    Because a horse is much bigger – but I am not sure of this particular claim. More important is that I simply have not observed objects of that size appearing without cause.

    [b] Even at that, what is to prevent the laws of physics from changing? If they came into existence without a cause, a possibility that you clearly allow for, why can’t they also change without a cause?

    Same reason – I (and mankind in general) have observed that the laws of physics remain constant.

    Well, you don’t really have evidence that they “do not appear,” which refers to logical possibilities, so much as you have evidence (sort of) that they “have not appeared,” which refers to what we have experienced. The question, though, is whether it can happen at all–in principle. Can a non-existent horse or a non-existent anything appear anywhere (your living room or anywhere else) without a cause? The “magnitude” of the object would seem to be irrelevant.

    In principle yes.  Of course we have never observed anything like it and it is utterly implausible – so if it did happen we would look for, even assume, a cause – causality has proved to me a most productive assumption – but it is logically possible that there is no cause.

    We still have do address the question as to why a universe and the laws of physics could appear without a cause, if a horse (or a quantum particle or a water molecule) all of which are part of the universe and depend on those laws, could not appear without a cause.

    Well I would argue that quantum particles can and do appear without a cause – so I don’t need to address that specific question.

  71. 71
    Mark Frank says:

    That should read:

    causality has proved to be a most productive assumption

  72. 72
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    I don’t want to get into a dispute about the meaning of contingent. All I am saying is that something can be neither logically necessary not logically impossible, i.e. it might or might not happen, and yet not be dependent on some other event. The two things are distinct and Geisler’s argument seems to work by confusing the two.

    I am not sure that you appreciate what is being said here. A contingent being is, by definition, something that does not exist in and of itself and, THEREFORE, depends for its existence upon some other being. Contingency cannot be separated from dependency. It is contingent not just because someone [a] had to bring it into existence but also because someone [b] has to sustain its existence. Being (like your existence) is an ongoing thing. It is not just something that happened once.

    What this indicates is that the law of non-contradiction is inextricably tied to the law of causality. To dismiss one is to dismiss the other. So, you cannot, as you appear to be doing, reasonably embrace the law of noncontradiction while dismissing the law of causality.

    SB: If a quantum particle appearing in your living room without a cause does not violate the laws of physics, why does a horse [or a water molecule] appearing in your living room without a cause violate the laws of physics?

    Because a horse is much bigger – but I am not sure of this particular claim.

    What about a deck of cards? What about computer? What about a water molecule? Would their spontaneous appearance violate the laws of physics? You seem to suggest that there is a size for objects beyond which they cannot spontaneously appear without violating the laws of physics. What size would that be? Where do you draw the line between those objects that can spontaneously appear without violating physical laws and those that cannot?

    More important is that I simply have not observed objects of that size appearing without cause.

    Have you observed objects of any size appearing without a cause? If not, then the size component would seem to be irrelevant.

    Can a non-existent horse or a non-existent anything appear anywhere (your living room or anywhere else) without a cause? The “magnitude” of the object would seem to be irrelevant.

    In principle yes.

    OK. So really, the door is open for anything at any time to come into existence without a cause. In effect, you are saying that there is no such thing as a contingent being. That all existent things can exist in and of themselves, which is a contradiction, since we know that all of empirical reality is finite.

    Of course we have never observed anything like it and it is utterly implausible – so if it did happen we would look for, even assume, a cause – causality has proved to me a most productive assumption – but it is logically possible that there is no cause.

    Well I would argue that quantum particles can and do appear without a cause – so I don’t need to address that specific question.

    Yes. that follows. Given your position that, in principle, anything at all could appear anywhere without a cause, how could you (or a scientist, for that matter) differentiate between those things that are caused and those which are not? Evidence cannot answer that question, of course. It can only tell us which things followed which other things in time.

  73. 73
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen – to avoid the discussion becoming bloated I have selected key sentences from your most recent comment. If you feel that I have omitted something significant feel free to reinsert it.

    A contingent being is, by definition, something that does not exist in and of itself and, THEREFORE, depends for its existence upon some other being. Contingency cannot be separated from dependency.

    As I said I don’t want to get into a dispute over the meaning of “contingent”. You are welcome to define “contingent” that way.  I am saying is that something may exist without depending on some other being e.g. certain kinds of quantum particle. Whether you want to call such an object contingent is not important.

    Have you observed objects of any size appearing without a cause? If not, then the size component would seem to be irrelevant.

    No. The objects that appear without cause are quantum particles – really hard for a lay person to observe! 

    In effect, you are saying that there is no such thing as a contingent being. That all existent things can exist in and of themselves, which is a contradiction, since we know that all of empirical reality is finite.

    All I am saying that some things can exist without a cause (I don’t understand the phrase “exist in and of themselves”). I am not saying all things are of this type. In fact the vast majority are not. I don’t understand why it is a contradiction.

    how could you (or a scientist, for that matter) differentiate between those things that are caused and those which are not? Evidence cannot answer that question, of course. It can only tell us which things followed which other things in time.

    To answer this properly requires an essay on causality.  Let me just say that on many (most?) occasions we find causes for events but on other occasions we fail to find a cause. While we can never be certain an event is not caused if we fail to find a cause and cannot conceive of a possible cause then we may over time decide there is no cause or we may decide it really doesn’t matter so let’s assume there is no cause and carry on doing science.
    The point I want to stress  is that quantum science continues quite successfully with the working assumption there are uncaused events including particles coming into being. Therefore the assumption that every that comes into being must have a cause is not essential for science.

  74. 74
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    StephenB: No, actually it’s true. If you begin with a single false premise, competent reasoning will take you progressively away from the truth with each new step.

    Neil is essentially right. Here’s an example:

    False premises:

    1. Santa Clause exists.

    2. Santa brings gifts on Christmas Eve to all good children and puts them under the Christmas tree while the children sleep.

    3. Santa does not bring gifts to bad children.

    Empirical Evidence:

    1. There were gifts under my Christmas tree when I woke up on Christmas morning

    Conclusion:

    Therefore I must be a good child.

    The “conclusion” may still be true by accident despite the premises being false.

    Neil: While we are on that, notice that there would not be any logical problem in: “The debt of the city of Los Angeles is greater than the debt of the state of California.” Although the city of LA is part of the state of CA, the debt of the city does not count as part of the state debt. So how logic is used really depends a lot on how we form our descriptions, and that often involves unstated rules.

    SB: If the debt of the city does not count as part of the state debt, then you do not have a whole/part relationship.

    Again, I would have to agree with Neil, because “state” can be used equivocally. It can refer to the geography or it can refer to the legal entity known as the “State of California.” Los Angeles obviously is located within the geographical boundaries of California. However, the legal entity knows as “The City of Los Angeles” is not a part of the legal entity known as the “State of California.” They are independent legal entities that have a different set of accounting books, with differing credits and debits.

  75. 75
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    EL #21: So why must we assume that they need to be “brought into existence” by anything at all? Could “the capacity to exist” not be one of their intrinsic properties? At any rate, why is this not at least as defensible a premise as “all things must be brought into existence by something”?

    Indeed. And this is the place where logic/reason hits the brick wall. “God” or the “multiverse generator” must necessarily transcend ontological causation of “itself.”

    IMO, it’s the mystery. (Besides my own consciousness.) This should be a clue that All Ain’t As It Seems, Virginia.

  76. 76
    StephenB says:

    Central Scrutinzer:

    Neil is essentially right. Here’s an example:

    We settled that issue a long time ago. A single false premise can, indeed, lead to a true conclusion.

    Again, I would have to agree with Neil, because “state” can be used equivocally.

    Neil (and you) are wrong about that point. The term wasn’t being used equivocally. It doesn’t matter if it “can” be used equivocally. The number of people in the city of Los Angeles cannot exceed the number of people in the state of California. There is nothing ambiguous about that formulation. The number of people is that which is being measured, the city of Los Angeles is the part, and the state of California is the whole. It is a legitimate whole/part relationship. Other cities and states or areas called by that name are irrelevant.

  77. 77
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Mark @34: A proof is that quantum physicists work on this assumption…

    Can you elaborate?

  78. 78
    bornagain77 says:

    Mark Frank claims that

    “The point I want to stress is that quantum science continues quite successfully with the working assumption there are uncaused events including particles coming into being. Therefore the assumption that every that comes into being must have a cause is not essential for science.”

    So you are saying that it is OK to have an effect without a cause? Okie Dokie, let’s try this out. I hear a knock on the door but I don’t answer the door because the knock was not caused, it just happened. ,,, Hmmm, Something tells me you are purposely being misleading again Mr. Frank!

  79. 79
    StephenB says:

    Mark:

    Stephen – to avoid the discussion becoming bloated I have selected key sentences from your most recent comment. If you feel that I have omitted something significant feel free to reinsert it.

    OK

    SB: A contingent being is, by definition, something that does not exist in and of itself and, THEREFORE, depends for its existence upon some other being. Contingency cannot be separated from dependency.

    As I said I don’t want to get into a dispute over the meaning of “contingent”. You are welcome to define “contingent” that way. I am saying is that something may exist without depending on some other being e.g. certain kinds of quantum particle. Whether you want to call such an object contingent is not important.

    You are confusing the argument for the law of causality with the argument that the law of causality is tied to the law of non-contradiction. When I present the second argument to you, you respond by saying that you disagree with the first argument, which is related but not identical.

    With respect to the second argument, Geisler’s point (and my point) is that the LNC and LoC are inextricably tied together because contingency is inseparable from dependency, according to any rational definitions of those two words. Thus, when you deny the LoC you are, by implication, denying LNC. If you don’t want to discuss that argument, no problem. However, you have presented no argument against it, except to say that you don’t think contingency implies dependency, which it clearly does.

    All I am saying that some things can exist without a cause (I don’t understand the phrase “exist in and of themselves”).

    If a thing exists in and of itself, it means that it is its own explanation, that it is dependent or contingent on nothing. In any case, what you have not explained is why some things need a cause and other things do not.

    I assume, for example, that you think a child’s existence is contingent and dependent on the existence of its parents. But do you think that it is a logical requirement or would you appeal to your standing argument such that we have no evidence that children can pop into existence without a cause, but there is no reason in principle to think that it couldn’t happen. Do you want to stay with that argument?

    You have already argued that a horse could, in principle, spontaneously pop into your living room, which means that the horse in question wouldn’t need to be born of parents. Is that your argument for humans as well. Or, if you think that babies, unlike horses, absolutely require causes, then you are saying that at least one thing must, no matter what, require a cause, which undermines you thesis that anything, in principle, can occur without a cause. So would you say that although we have no experience of babies appearing without being born, it could happen, or would you say, categorically, that a baby simply cannot come into existence without its parents and without being born.

    To answer this properly requires an essay on causality. Let me just say that on many (most?) occasions we find causes for events but on other occasions we fail to find a cause.

    How do you know that you found causes for these things? All you know is that one thing followed another.

    The point I want to stress is that quantum science continues quite successfully with the working assumption there are uncaused events including particles coming into being. Therefore the assumption that every that comes into being must have a cause is not essential for science.”

    So, it is not essential for the science of fetology or embryology to assume that babies must be brought into existence by their parents?

  80. 80
    bornagain77 says:

    Mr. Frank, I’m stuck on this claim of yours that

    “particles coming into being” (without a cause)

    Now Mr. Frank, I’m assuming you mean virtual particles coming into and out of being without a cause. If so, let’s look at virtual particles. Michael Strauss, PhD particle physics, in the following short clip, relates how the top quark, which is necessary for all atoms to exist, is in actuality a virtual particle:

    Virtual Particles, Anthropic Principle and Special Relativity – Michael Strauss PhD. Particle Physics – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4554674

    But Mr. Frank you hold that the reason why these virtual particles, the top quarks which are necessary for all atoms to exists in the universe, come into and out of being is for no reason at all. I would definitely call that being a science stopper Mr. Frank! But it gets worse for you Mr. Frank. There are also virtual photons which you hold also come into and out of being for no reason at all:

    Researchers create light from ‘almost nothing’ – June 2011
    Excerpt: A group of physicists,, have succeeded in proving what was until now, just theory; and that is, that visible photons could be produced from the virtual particles that have been thought to exist in a quantum vacuum.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....lmost.html

    Where this problem becomes acute for you Mr. Frank is that it even the ‘exotic’ virtual photons, which fleetingly pop into and out of existence, are tied to the anthropic principle through the 1 in 10^120 cosmological constant for dark energy:

    ELECTROMAGNETIC DARK ENERGY
    Abstract: We introduce a new model for dark energy in the Universe in which a small cosmological constant is generated by ordinary electromagnetic vacuum energy. The corresponding virtual photons exist at all frequencies but switch from a gravitationally active phase at low frequencies to a gravitationally inactive phase at higher frequencies via a Ginzburg–Landau type of phase transition. Only virtual photons in the gravitationally active state contribute to the cosmological constant. A small vacuum energy density, consistent with astronomical observations, is naturally generated in this model. We propose possible laboratory tests for such a scenario based on phase synchronization in superconductors.
    http://www.worldscinet.com/ijm.....11870.html

    It is also interesting to point out just how powerful this vacuum energy of virtual photons is:

    Vacuum energy:
    Excerpt: Vacuum energy is an underlying background energy that exists in space even when the space is devoid of matter (free space). (Vacuum energy has a postulated) value of 10^113 Joules per cubic meter.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vacuum_energy

    and:

    (10^113 joules) per (cubic meter) = 10 ^113 pascals (Pa)

    and:

    10^113 Pa approx = 4.6×10^113 Pa = 6.7×10^109 psi; Of note: The Planck pressure (4.63×10^108 bar), not reached except shortly after the Big Bang or in a black hole.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O.....ressure%29

    Related noted:

    How the Power of Intention Alters Matter – Dr. William A. Tiller
    Excerpt: “Most people think that the matter is empty, but for internal self consistency of quantum mechanics and relativity theory, there is required to be the equivalent of 10 to 94 grams of mass energy, each gram being E=MC2 kind of energy. Now, that’s a huge number, but what does it mean practically? Practically, if I can assume that the universe is flat, and more and more astronomical data is showing that it’s pretty darn flat, if I can assume that, then if I take the volume or take the vacuum within a single hydrogen atom, that’s about 10 to the minus 23 cubic centimeters. If I take that amount of vacuum and I take the latent energy in that, there is a trillion times more energy there than in all of the mass of all of the stars and all of the planets out to 20 billion light-years. That’s big, that’s big. And if consciousness allows you to control even a small fraction of that, creating a big bang is no problem.”
    – Dr. William Tiller – has been a professor at Stanford U. in the Department of materials science & Engineering
    http://www.beyondtheordinary.n.....ller.shtml

    Yet, according to you Mr. Frank, these virtual photons which are tied to the 1 in 10^120 expansion rate of the universe through Dark Energy, and which insure internal self consistency between quantum mechanics and relativity theory, just so happen to come into and out of being for no particular reason at all? Not a parsimonious position to put it mildly Mr. Frank! But Hey Mr. Frank let’s see if we can this little problem even worse for you shall we? It is now found that Dark Energy is a ‘true cosmological constant. First a little background,,,

    Hugh Ross PhD. – Scientific Evidence For Cosmological Constant (Dark Energy – 1 in 10^120 Expansion Of The Universe)
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347218/

    Here are the verses in the Bible Dr. Ross listed, which were written well over 2000 years before the discovery of the finely tuned expansion of the universe by ‘Dark Energy’, that speak of God ‘Stretching out the Heavens’; Job 9:8; Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 48:13; Zechariah 12:1; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 45:12; Isaiah 51:13; Jeremiah 51:15; Jeremiah 10:12. The following verse is my favorite out of the group of verses:

    Job 9:8
    He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

    Here is the paper from the atheistic astrophysicists, that Dr. Ross referenced in the preceding video, that speaks of the ‘disturbing implications’ of the finely tuned expanding universe (1 in 10^120 cosmological constant):

    Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant – Dyson, Kleban, Susskind (at least two are self proclaimed atheists) – 2002
    Excerpt: “Arranging the universe as we think it is arranged would have required a miracle.,,,”
    “A external agent [external to time and space] intervened in cosmic history for reasons of its own.,,,”
    Page 21 “The only reasonable conclusion is that we don’t live in a universe with a true cosmological constant”.
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/hep-th/0208013.pdf

    Mr. Frank, why didn’t those atheists, as you hold, just say that the Dark Energy effect could have no cause as to its effect instead of getting everybody worked up over a ‘external agent’ performing a ‘miracle’ for reasons of His own?,,, Moreover, all alternative theories that atheists have put forth trying to explain away the fine tuning of Dark energy have now been found to come up short:

    Dark energy alternatives to Einstein are running out of room – January 9, 2013
    Excerpt: Last month, a group of European astronomers, using a massive radio telescope in Germany, made the most accurate measurement of the proton-to-electron mass ratio ever accomplished and found that there has been no change in the ratio to one part in 10 million at a time when the universe was about half its current age, around 7 billion years ago. When Thompson put this new measurement into his calculations, he found that it excluded almost all of the dark energy models using the commonly expected values or parameters.
    If the parameter space or range of values is equated to a football field, then almost the whole field is out of bounds except for a single 2-inch by 2-inch patch at one corner of the field. In fact, most of the allowed values are not even on the field. “In effect, the dark energy theories have been playing on the wrong field,” Thompson said. “The 2-inch square does contain the area that corresponds to no change in the fundamental constants, (a ‘true cosmological constant’), and that is exactly where Einstein stands.”
    http://phys.org/news/2013-01-d.....-room.html

    Thus, atheistic astrophysicists are at a complete loss (once again) to explain why the universe expands in such a finely tuned way, whereas Theists are vindicated (once again) in their belief that God ‘alone stretches out the heavens’!

  81. 81
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    SB: Neil (and you) are wrong about that point. The term wasn’t being used equivocally. It doesn’t matter if it “can” be used equivocally. The number of people in the city of Los Angeles cannot exceed the number of people in the state of California. There is nothing ambiguous about that formulation. The number of people is that which is being measured, the city of Los Angeles is the part, and the state of California is the whole. It is a legitimate whole/part relationship. Other cities and states or areas called by that name are irrelevant.

    You are right. I was referring to your other statement about the debt of “Los Angeles” being greater than “the state of Califoria.” It depends on how “state” is being use.

  82. 82
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    Have you never heard of a Manx cat?

    Your point?

    The Manx cat, in earlier times often spelled Manks, is a breed of domestic cat originating on the Isle of Man in the British Isles, with a naturally occurring mutation that shortens the tail.

    How does one shorten something that does not exist?

  83. 83
    Mung says:

    kf:

    And, uncertainty is just that, it is saying that there is a limit to the precision with which we can evaluate entangled quantities such as energy and time or position and momentum. This, because, in simple terms the attempt to ascertain the one disturbs the other. That does not have anything to do with either distinction or cause as such.

    For those who are interested, Dr. Stanley L. Jaki is always a good read on what can be reasonably inferred from the so-called uncertainty principle.

  84. 84
    Mung says:

    So let’s let Wikipedia be our guide:

    A premise is a statement that an argument claims will induce or justify a conclusion. In other words: a premise is an assumption that something is true.

    Now if the conclusion merely restates the premise, then you have a circular argument, which is a logical fallacy.

    I find it immensely humorous that Mark Frank, after so many times and in so many ways accusing gpuccio of just this sort of faulty reasoning wrt dFSCI, so readily engages in it himself and then attempts to defend it.

    Perhaps his criticism of gpuccio were unjustified all along.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

  85. 85
    Mark Frank says:

    #84 Mung

    Now if the conclusion merely restates the premise, then you have a circular argument, which is a logical fallacy.

    I find it immensely humorous that Mark Frank, after so many times and in so many ways accusing gpuccio of just this sort of faulty reasoning wrt dFSCI, so readily engages in it himself and then attempts to defend it.

    I am confused. Can you give me an example of where I have given a circular argument.

    Thanks

  86. 86
    Mark Frank says:

    Mung #82

    There is some dispute as to whether a Manx cat has a shortened tail or no tail at all. However, it is not important. I provided some other examples of correct reasoning from a false premise to a true conclusion in #60:

    All cars are right-hand drive (false)
    Therefore, my car is right-hand drive (true)

    All swans are white (false)
    Therefore the swans in our village are white (true)

    All planets are habitable (false)
    Therefore Earth is habitable (true)

    Stephen graciously accepted he was wrong and that it is possible to reason correctly from a false premise to a true conclusion. Are you disputing this?

  87. 87
    StephenB says:

    As a footnote to my comments @79, I realize that some might argue that a child can be produced through artificial means and not through the normal reproductive channels. However, that would beg the question of causality. The point is that some cause, artificial or natural, is indicated and that the child did not simply appear from out of nowwhere.

  88. 88
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen

    SB: A contingent being is, by definition, something that does not exist in and of itself and, THEREFORE, depends for its existence upon some other being. Contingency cannot be separated from dependency.
    ……..
    the LNC and LoC are inextricably tied together because contingency is inseparable from dependency, according to any rational definitions of those two words. Thus, when you deny the LoC you are, by implication, denying LNC. If you don’t want to discuss that argument, no problem. However, you have presented no argument against it, except to say that you don’t think contingency implies dependency, which it clearly does.

    If you look up the meaning of contingent here you will see there are many definitions. You appear to be adopting definition 1:

    dependent for existence, occurrence, character, etc., on something not yet certain; conditional

    That’s fine – but don’t confuse it with definition 4:

    neither logically necessary nor logically impossible, so that its truth or falsity can be established only by sensory observation.

    My point is that logically something can be contingent in sense 4 without being contingent in sense 1.  You may disagree but you need to show why.

    If a thing exists in and of itself, it means that it is its own explanation, that it is dependent or contingent on nothing.

    This seems to imply that everything needs an explanation so that if there is no other explanation it has to explain itself. I am arguing that there are things that have no explanation.

    I assume, for example, that you think a child’s existence is contingent and dependent on the existence of its parents. But do you think that it is a logical requirement or would you appeal to your standing argument such that we have no evidence that children can pop into existence without a cause, but there is no reason in principle to think that it couldn’t happen. Do you want to stay with that argument?

    I don’t think it is a logical requirement. It is a requirement of the laws of biology and quite possibly of physics as well. Those laws are based on observation.

    How do you know that you found causes for these things? All you know is that one thing followed another.

    As I said, to answer this requires an essay on the nature of causality.  The fact is that we do establish that some things have causes and on other occasions we fail to do so. Would you disagree with that? It would be nice not to have to get into a lengthy discussion as to what causality is and how we establish it.

    So, it is not essential for the science of fetology or embryology to assume that babies must be brought into existence by their parents?

    Surely this is observed not assumed? Although it is such a common and well-established observation we hardly doubt it. But anyhow many sciences find it an extremely useful approach to assume every event has a cause (even if they can’t always discover it). Quantum mechanics has dispensed with that assumption and proceeds just fine.

  89. 89

    Hi, Stephen – there’s no hurry (I am busy too!) but were you going to respond to my post at 35?

    Or was your response subsumed into a response from Mark?

  90. 90

    Stephen:

    If a thing exists in and of itself, it means that it is its own explanation, that it is dependent or contingent on nothing. In any case, what you have not explained is why some things need a cause and other things do not.

    Let me have another shot at explaining how I see this (again, please bear in mind that this is NOT an argument against God, although it IS an argument against a certain argument for God).

    When we say that A causes B, we are making an implicit assumption about time – a thing can only “exist” at all in the classical sense if there is time over which it can persist. (This seems the obvious rebuttal btw to the atheist challenge “but what caused God?” – if God created time, then God “preceded” time, and therefore causality itself).

    So when we say A caused B we implicitly envisage A and B as events. Two objects doing nothing won’t affect each other, by definition.

    And as most things are rearrangements of other things, it makes sense to say that their appearance ex nihilo, as it were, is due to some event that caused that rearrangement, whether it is the rearrangement of atomic hydrogen and oxygen into water molecules, or the rearrangement of foodstuff into organisms.

    Scientifically, if we notice that whenever we observe A we tend also to observe B, we can hypothesise that A causes B, or that B causes A, or that some other variable, e.g. C, causes both.

    In other words, correlation implies causation, but it doesn’t tell us the direction.

    In order to ascertain the direction we have to manipulate one of the variables experimentally.

    So if we can show that, all other things being equal, B happens when A happens but not when A does not happen, we can infer that A is a necessary (but not that it is a sufficient) cause of B.

    And in the macroscopic world this works pretty well. However, when it comes to the subatomic world, it doesn’t.

    If we take two atoms of an unstable isotope, we simply cannot predict which one will decay first. There is no variable that correlates with time-to-decay.

    We simply have two identical atoms, persisting over time unchanged, and then one of them changes.

    In other words, once you are down to the level of fields, rather than “things”, the world seems to consist of “pure” probability distributions, in which some events are more likely than others, but where there is no explanation for why one of two equiprobable events did in fact occur.

    So that’s why I say that the assumption that all events have causes is not a safe assumption.

    It may be that only events that are statistically highly predictable (i.e. water if you light a match near a hydrogen vent in an oxygenated environment) can be explained in terms of causes, just as we can explain readily why, if you toss 500 coins, you will not get anything near to 500 heads, even though if you toss 10, you will quite often get 10 heads. A horse is astronomically more probable than not-a-horse, given the sequence of events that preceded the horse, each event of which was itself astronomically more probable than not-that-event, given those preceding events and so ad not-quite-infinitum, but until you get to the quantum probability fields themselves, which produce highly predictable macro effects in aggregate, but are no more predictable than a coin-toss singly.

  91. 91
    Mark Frank says:

    Lizzie

    You make a very good point. There is a distinct difference between coming into existence at our scale and coming into existence at the scale of elementary particles.

    At our scale “Coming into existence” is not even a clear cut concept. The examples of horses and people rather hides this because they are animals and presumably a theist believes there is more to them than the elements that make them up – at least for the person. But if you think about a river or a mountain then there is no precise moment when it comes into existence or even a very clear definition of where “it” ends and the rest of the world begins.

  92. 92
    StephenB says:

    Elizabeth @35

    You make several points, so my post will be more enumerative than thematic:

    On the question of causation as a law, we are not saying that everything that exists must be caused. If that was the case, then God would have had to be caused. That is why we say that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. God did not begin to exist.

    As I discussed with Mark, the logical link between LNC and Loc is different from the argument that the LoC is true. The point is that denying the latter violates former and leads to a contradiction. I am not clear on why you deny that affirmation.

    Again, there is also another way of approaching it. A thing either brings itself into existence or is brought into existence by another. Those are our only two choices. If we assume the former, we find that a thing would have had to exist before it existed in order to bring itself into existence, which is ridiculous. Therefore, we take the second option as the only logical alternative. We are not, as you suggested, presupposing the second option.

    On the question of why you think some things could be caused while others are not, I did study your answer. If I understand correctly, you are saying that [a] since quantum particles are exceedingly small and may come into existence in a decidedly different way than other things come into existence, [b] it follows that the uniqueness of that process renders it exempt from the law of causation. Your ultimate explanation appears to be that some things can, at the lowest level of existence, rearrange themselves. I hope that I have not oversimplified, but that seems to be the bottom line argument.

    I would agree that quantum particles may come into existence in a different way than other things, though I have no way of knowing. When you think about it, though, there are many different ways of coming into existence, and many different ways of causing it. A sand castle comes to be in a far different way than a baby. A universe would likely come to be in a different fashion than a thunderstorm. Nevertheless, all these things are caused, albeit in different ways.

    I suspect that quantum events come to be in a fashion analogous to that of a thunderstorm, though I am guessing of course. However, the example seems appropriate since, in both cases, we are referring to causal conditions as opposed to discrete causal factors that can easily be identified. To speak of atmospheric conditions may seem a little vague, just as it may seem a little vague to speak of causal conditions present in a quantum vacuum, but it is still true that these causal conditions are causes. In their absence, there will be no coming into existence.

    On the question of whether things in nature can rearrange themselves, I think a more fundamental question is in play. Can anything ever rearrange itself without being programmed in some way to do so? I would say no. That brings us back to the Law of Causality.

    On the matter of whether we are extrapolating beyond our range of data or importing assumptions about the universality of causation from the macro world to the micro world, I can only say that the appeal to a special exception for the quantum world seems more like special pleading to me. I would add that their “just this once” appeal didn’t last very long. Soon after Victor Stenger claimed that quantum events are uncaused, Lawrence Krauss claimed that the entire universe was uncaused. So much for special pleading.

  93. 93
    StephenB says:

    Elizabeth:

    Let me have another shot at explaining how I see this (again, please bear in mind that this is NOT an argument against God, although it IS an argument against a certain argument for God).

    OK. Fire away.

    When we say that A causes B, we are making an implicit assumption about time – a thing can only “exist” at all in the classical sense if there is time over which it can persist. (This seems the obvious rebuttal btw to the atheist challenge “but what caused God?” – if God created time, then God “preceded” time, and therefore causality itself).

    Actually, causation can be in play even when time is not a factor. A could uphold B for all eternity even if time didn’t exist. Under those circumstances, B would be dependent and contingent on [an effect of] A. A can be logically prior to B without being chronologically prior to B. That is why God can create and be logically prior to time/space/energy without being prior in time. Strictly speaking, we cannot say that God created the universe “before” time existed because there was no “before.” On the other hand, God did bring the universe along with its laws and the time/space/energy component. Also, God is sustaining the universe, which is another kind of cause that is distinct from the act of bringing the universe into existence.

    And as most things are rearrangements of other things, it makes sense to say that their appearance ex nihilo, as it were, is due to some event that caused that rearrangement, whether it is the rearrangement of atomic hydrogen and oxygen into water molecules, or the rearrangement of foodstuff into organisms.

    That seems to follow.

    Scientifically, if we notice that whenever we observe A we tend also to observe B, we can hypothesise that A causes B, or that B causes A, or that some other variable, e.g. C, causes both.
    In other words, correlation implies causation, but it doesn’t tell us the direction.

    Well, as I am sure you know, a correlative relationship between A and B does not necessarily imply a causative relationship between A and B. Something else may be causing both A and B.

    In order to ascertain the direction we have to manipulate one of the variables experimentally.
    So if we can show that, all other things being equal, B happens when A happens but not when A does not happen, we can infer that A is a necessary (but not that it is a sufficient) cause of B.

    Yes. One good way to identify a cause is to conduct an experiment and isolate variables.

    And in the macroscopic world this works pretty well. However, when it comes to the subatomic world, it doesn’t.

    At the moment, that seems to be the case. Still, our inability to identify discrete causes does not mean that those causes are not present. On the contrary, the causal conditions are present. A quantum vacuum is not nothing.

    If we take two atoms of an unstable isotope, we simply cannot predict which one will decay first. There is no variable that correlates with time-to-decay.
    We simply have two identical atoms, persisting over time unchanged, and then one of them changes.
    In other words, once you are down to the level of fields, rather than “things”, the world seems to consist of “pure” probability distributions, in which some events are more likely than others, but where there is no explanation for why one of two equiprobable events did in fact occur.

    Yes, however, unpredictability does not imply acausality.

    So that’s why I say that the assumption that all events have causes is not a safe assumption.

    It was the assumption of causation that led to all the counter-intuitive observations that you just made. If you withdraw the assumption of causation, then you must also withdraw your interpretation of those observations that was based on that assumption. Indeed, the theory of quantum mechanics was discovered by and is based on the unquestioned fact of causality. The misguided denial of causality came later in the process from philosophically naïve scientists who forgot where they came from.

    Remember, the denial of causality entails the denial of all possible causes (necessary, sufficient, material, formal, final, efficient—-all possible causes are dismissed. I would characterize this as a poof of the gaps argument. “I don’t know what caused it, so I will assume that it just went poof.” In my judgment, this is not an intellectually responsible position.

  94. 94

    Thanks for these thoughtful responses, Stephen! I’m a bit intermittent at the moment (I’m running lots of rather tedious bits of number-cruncing, the length of a short post, but not of a long one!) but I’ll try to get back to this maybe on Sunday if not before.

    Cheers

    Lizzie

  95. 95
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    I am confused. Can you give me an example of where I have given a circular argument.

    Do you deny you accused gpuccio of making a circular argument with respect to his definition of dFSCI?

    Can you give an example of where gpuccio made a circular argument with regard to dFSCI?

  96. 96
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    All planets are habitable (false)
    Therefore Earth is habitable (true)

    All planets are habitable (true). Earth is a planet (true). It follows that Earth is habitable as well.

  97. 97
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    All swans are white (false)
    Therefore the swans in our village are white (true)

    All swans are white (true)

    If it ain’t white it ain’t a swan (true).

    Therefore the swans in our village are white (true).

  98. 98
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    Stephen graciously accepted he was wrong and that it is possible to reason correctly from a false premise to a true conclusion. Are you disputing this?

    I’m saying you’re a complete and utter hypocrite to appeal to graciousness after the behavior you engaged in with gpuccio.

  99. 99
    Mung says:

    Mark Frank:

    There is a distinct difference between coming into existence at our scale and coming into existence at the scale of elementary particles.

    Why? Your body is not composed of elementary particles?

  100. 100
    Mung says:

    man oh man. really?

    All planets are habitable. Therefore Earth is habitable.

    Begs the question of whether all planets are habitable.

    Wikipedia:

    Begging the question (Latin petitio principii, “assuming the initial point”) is a type of informal fallacy in which an implicit premise basing a conclusion on an assumption that is as much in need of proof or demonstration as the conclusion itself.

    Begging the question is one of the classic informal fallacies in Aristotle’s Prior Analytics. Some modern authors consider begging the question to be a species of circulus in probando (Latin, “circle in proving”) or circular reasoning. Were it not begging the question, the missing premise would render the argument viciously circular

  101. 101
    Mark Frank says:

    Mung #97

    All swans are white (true)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Swan

  102. 102
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen #93

    Remember, the denial of causality entails the denial of all possible causes (necessary, sufficient, material, formal, final, efficient—-all possible causes are dismissed. I would characterize this as a poof of the gaps argument. “I don’t know what caused it, so I will assume that it just went poof.” In my judgment, this is not an intellectually responsible position.

    The word “denial” implies a rejection of the possibility that an event is caused. I don’t think that is what is going on. The scientists are just hypothesising that there is no cause. I don’t see why this is intellectually irresponsible. If the science continues under this assumption what is the problem?

  103. 103
    Mark Frank says:

    Mung #100

    All planets are habitable. Therefore Earth is habitable.

    Begs the question of whether all planets are habitable.

    It certainly does. Luckily I was not trying to prove all planets are habitable. All I was doing was giving an example of how a true proposition can be derived from a false premise using valid reasoning. If you want to dispute whether all planets are habitable there are plenty of similar examples. I already provided several. Another is:

    All planets are inhabited (false)
    Therefore earth is inhabited (true)

  104. 104
    Alan Fox says:

    I’m saying you’re a complete and utter hypocrite to appeal to graciousness after the behavior you engaged in with gpuccio.

    Mung world is truly bizarre! Even Davescot had the nous to distinguish between an argument and it’s advocate. To disagree with gpuccio’s argument (which was both circular and a default argument) is in no way ungracious. I like gpuccio and respect him immensely. On CSI and variants, he is utterly wrong.

  105. 105
    Joe says:

    And obvioulsy Alan is also ignorant of the word “circular”.

    On CSI and its variants Alan is always utterly wrong…

    Alan doesn’t have any arguments.

  106. 106
    Joe says:

    Mark Frank:

    The scientists are just hypothesising that there is no cause.

    So they hypothesize “poof”? How can that be tested?

  107. 107
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    If you look up the meaning of contingent here you will see there are many definitions. You appear to be adopting definition 1:
    dependent for existence, occurrence, character, etc., on something not yet certain; conditional

    Yes, that is the formal philosophical definition. It is the only one which speaks to the Necessary/Contingent issue and the only one that counts for our purposes. Philosophical definitions are more precise and relevant than dictionary definitions.

    My point is that logically something can be contingent in sense 4 without being contingent in sense 1. You may disagree but you need to show why.

    Definition #4 doesn’t apply to the formal meaning of contingency as the counterpoise to necessity. If we use the formal definition of the word, it follosw that the Law of Non-Contradiction is inextricably tied to the Law of Causality.

    This seems to imply that everything needs an explanation so that if there is no other explanation it has to explain itself. I am arguing that there are things that have no explanation.

    Logically, we have only two options: Either a thing brings itself into existence or something (someone) else brings it into existence. There is no third option. To say that something came into existence without a cause is exactly the same thing as saying that it brought itself into existence. There is no excluded middle or third category.

    I don’t think it is a logical requirement. It is a requirement of the laws of biology and quite possibly of physics as well. Those laws are based on observation.

    Don’t you hold that a thing can, in principle, come into existence even in the absence of a physical law? You do, after all, allow for the possibility that a universe with laws can come into existence in the absence of any previous law. So I gather that you also hold that a baby or a horse or anything at all could appear in your living room (unless its larger than your living room) without being the product of a law-like reproductive process.

    Also, you will recall that your earlier position was that small things could appear spontaneously, but you were not sure of a horse because of its size (on the grounds that the latter would violate a physical law). This would seem to contradict your other position that anything at all can come into existence without a cause and it also raises a question that you have not yet addressed, namely your belief that small things appearing spontaneously do not violate a law but big things do. Why would size make any difference? Why would big things appearing spontaneously violate a physical law when small things appearing spontaneously would not?

    More importantly, it would help if we could establish your position: Do you hold that anything can appear spontaneously with or without a law, as once indicated, or do you hold that some things can and some cannot. Do they need causes (such as a law) or not? You appear to be all over the map on this one.

    As I said, to answer this requires an essay on the nature of causality. The fact is that we do establish that some things have causes and on other occasions we fail to do so. Would you disagree with that? It would be nice not to have to get into a lengthy discussion as to what causality is and how we establish it.

    I think you will find that it doesn’t matter whether we have a lengthy discussion about causality or not. It is not possible to establish the presence or absence of causality at all if you don’t accept causality as a law and as a given. One can only assume, in the name of rationality, that causality is always present and then try to find out which is the most likely candidate as the cause. This is one of the points of my post. Evidence does not inform reason’s rules; reason’s rules inform evidence.
    You (nor any others) have no means or methods to discern which events were caused and which ones were not. Once you claim that any event was uncaused, you are then committed to the proposition that anything could have been uncaused and that there is no way to distinguish which things were caused and which ones were not.

    SB: So, it is not essential for the science of fetology or embryology to assume that babies must be brought into existence by their parents?

    Surely this is observed not assumed? Although it is such a common and well-established observation we hardly doubt it. But anyhow many sciences find it an extremely useful approach to assume every event has a cause (even if they can’t always discover it).

    This doesn’t really address the question, which is not how we come to know causality but rather whether or not the science of fetology could survive without the assumption of causality.

    Quantum mechanics has dispensed with that assumption and proceeds just fine.

    Quantum mechanics has not dispensed with the assumption of causality. Those paradigms are built on the assumption of causality. Certain physicists, naïve about philosophy, have tried to conclude from evidence that quantum events are not caused, but that is simply a breach in logic on their part. You might as well say that since Lawrence Krauss concluded that the universe came into existence without a cause, the the science of cosmology works very well without causes. That argument simply doesn’t hold.

  108. 108
    Mung says:

    I would think that one of the first rules of right reason is that one not engage in question begging.

  109. 109
    kairosfocus says:

    Folks:

    It seems we need to go back to a match. Strike it, let it burn, 1/2 way, tilt up, watch the fame die down. This illustrates how fuel is a necessary causal factor [I have described as ON/OFF enabling] for a fire. It can be shown that oxidiser, heat, chain reaction are also needed.

    Such experiences illustrate and help us understand necessary cause

    Similarly consider a ckt with switch and lamp:

    + ———/ ——-L—– –

    The lamp may only light if the switch is closed [ON].

    Once we recognise such factors, we may then see more precisely what contingency is about. The sufficient grounds for a fire is heat, fuel, oxidser, combustion chain reaction. Once something begins or may end, it must be sustained by a sufficient set of factors. This sufficient set must include at least all on/off enabling factors. And obviously, there must be possible circumstances for such a possible being not to be. (If you don’t understand this, talk to your friendly neighbourhood fireman.)

    Now, on/off enabling factors are causal factors.

    From this we can easily see that phenomena such as radioactive decay, quantum fluctuations and virtual particles etc are NOT a-causal, as there are enabling factors present. Indeed, the physical laws and models we deduce reflect that.

    That we do not and in some cases evidently may not know exactly the sufficient factors, makes no difference to that.

    So, let us exclude the ambiguity between causal factors and a set of such that is sufficient (and which must at least have in it all necessary factors).

    Now, too, the weak form principle of sufficient reason is patently self evident, once we are conscious and able to reflect: if a thing A is, we may ask (and seek) why it is.

    To be aware of asking oneself why A is, is incorrigible, as a state of self-aware, world aware mind. Similarly, to be aware of seeking an understanding as to why, is incorrigible. We may be mistaken as to the result and some of our perceptions, but that awareness is immediate and incorrigible.

    In reflecting, we immediately see that key world dichotomies obtain, which per massive and undeniable experience, we can communicate about. Such as { contingent| non-contingent (or, necessary)}, { possible |impossible}, {actual, not actual}, etc. The identity cluster cannot be severed from the PSR and its corollaries.

    A is, say our bright red cricket ball on the table.

    Why?

    1 –> It exists and has a distinct identity, it is actual and possible. It might not have existed or can go out of existence, and had a beginning, so we know it is contingent.

    2 –> To be possible, its attributes — unlike those of a suggested square circle — have to be mutually coherent. (Squareness and circularity are not.)

    3 –> To be actual, it had a beginning and certain on/off enabling factors had to be present, these must be present during its onward existence, and if withdrawn the entity will cease to be as a cricket ball and its remains may become rubbish [thanks to bowlers, cricket pitches and hard-hitting batsmen].

    4 –> It is contingent and caused.

    5 –> It did not and cannot cause itself, nor can it be caused by nothing, non-being. Non-being has no causal powers, and until the ball is existing it is in a state of non-being. It is possible but not yet existent. To cause itself it would have to have been actual before it is actual, which is a no-go. LNC is involved.

    6 –> thus we must distinguish between potential being or possible being and actual being.

    7 –> There are possible beings that do not have necessary causal factors. Such have no beginning, no end, and are eternal. The number 3 jumps out at me. You can start with the set that collects nothing, {} = 0, then collect it {0} = 1, then collect the two, {0, 1} = 2, then collect the three, {0, 1, 2} = 3 and so forth. 3 is a necessary being, having no cause.

    8 –> A serious candidate to be a necessary being, will have to be either possible or impossible. If possible, actual. (Cf S5.)

    9 –> So, we see the way PSR leads to cause and contingency, necessity, and implications of non-being etc.

    10 –> Of course the most interesting serious candidate to be a necessary being is God, and it is commonly held that necessary things like 3 and truths such as 3 + 2 = 5, are eternally contemplated by God.

    11 –> As a corollary, strictly, those who would assert that God — remember, eternal [no on/off enabling factors!], spiritual, held to be ground of being and goodness — is not, are implying that God is IMPOSSIBLE. A pretty hard thing to argue, especially now that Plantinga has knocked the former favourite argument from evil flat.

    12 –> To assert that one is ignorant of/ lacks belief in/ doubts God, of course, is consistent with God being. the issue here is whether that ignorance or lack of belief or presence of doubt is defensible in light of the evidence of the world around and the messages of heart, mind and conscience within.

    13 –> Where on evidence of recent months it is patent that many out there in the land of the design deniers are perfectly willing to dispute and dismiss even the most patent cases of self-evident truths that seem to point where they would not go.

    14 –> That is, where self evident truths are truths that are so, are known to be so on understanding them [2 + 3 = 5, the finite whole is more than any of its proper parts, if one is self aware, one cannot be in error concerning that basic fact even if one is regarding just what one is, error exists . . . ], and seen to lead to obvious absurdity on attempted denial. Such as that one is self-aware, and that error exists — that is, is both possible and actual.

    15 –> The sobering reality of selective hyperskepticism stands before us, and its consequences are patently absurd.

    $0.02,

    KF

    PS: Docs, X rays to cross check [things are getting worse, measurably so], MRIs, further consultations. De system moves like a snail, but has massive momentum, so to try to speed it up requires heavy duty clout . . .

  110. 110
    kairosfocus says:

    Mung:

    Like this?

    The formulators of quantum theory “are bogged down in an equivocation which is the result of their failure to distinguish between two propositions: one states the limited nature of man’s ability to measure exactly, either in theory or practice, a physical interaction; the other states that because exact measurement of an interaction is impossible, the interaction itself is inexact in the sense that the effect can contain more than what is contained in its cause; that is, the effect is not caused fully, and may not be caused at all. The first of these statements is purely operational, the second is radically ontological. To suggest that the first implies the second is sheer equivocation, the result of an elementary mishandling of the laws of logic. It would not be tolerated in any moderately good freshman course untainted with that modal or subjective logic which Hegel grafted on to modern thought. Yet this equivocation or logical fallacy has become part and parcel of our modern scientific culture. There the notion of chance has grown, soon after Heisenberg’s enunciation of the uncertainty principle, into the basic dogma of anti-ontology. In that culture the real is replaced by the unreal garbed in the cloak of chance. While for the unwary that garb means only the absence of exact measurement, for the “initiated” it is a specious cover-up for a situation in which the real becomes in the end a mere appearance, to the delight of phenomenologist, who forgot their initial resolve to make no utterance whatever about reality as such. Hence, the rise of the widespread belief, amounting to a climate of opinion, that anything can happen and that man therefore is not bound by anything specific such as natural law, which obviously presupposes a specific ontological order.” (Stanley L. Jaki; The Absolute Beneath the Relative and Other Essays)

    KF

  111. 111
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Jaki et al: “scientists cannot OBSERVE nothing.” (As in, non-being, presumably.) KF

  112. 112
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: Let’s try that ckt again:

    + _________/ _________L_________-

    Better . . .

  113. 113
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen
    I think this debate has run its course.  We have come to the point where we disagree and there are no arguments left. We just disagree. For example:

    Definition #4 doesn’t apply to the formal meaning of contingency as the counterpoise to necessity. If we use the formal definition of the word, it follosw that the Law of Non-Contradiction is inextricably tied to the Law of Causality.

    Surely it  doesn’t matter which is the formal definition? If the argument is sound it should be possible to make it without even using the word “contingent” or fussing about what is the correct definition. You should somehow be able to show that if something is neither logically necessary not logically impossible then it must be dependent on something else. I don’t see how you can do that without assuming exactly what we disagree on.

    Logically, we have only two options: Either a thing brings itself into existence or something (someone) else brings it into existence. There is no third option.

    Again that is exactly what we disagree about. I believe there is a third option – X might just come into existence without anything bringing it into existence.  I can describe it. One moment X does not exist. The next moment it does. There is nothing else to say about it. You can hypothesise that this does not happen in practice but you have not presented any sort of argument as to why it is logically impossible.

    Don’t you hold that a thing can, in principle, come into existence even in the absence of a physical law? You do, after all, allow for the possibility that a universe with laws can come into existence in the absence of any previous law. So I gather that you also hold that a baby or a horse or anything at all could appear in your living room (unless its larger than your living room) without being the product of a law-like reproductive process.

    There are different kinds if impossibility. Something can be logically possible but physically impossible. It is logically possible for me to run a 2 minute mile but physically impossible according the laws of biology. It is logically possible for a baby to appear in your living room but there are many empirical laws of biology that make it physically impossible. In the case of an elementary particle it is both logically and it would appear physically possible for it to come into existence. In the case of universes it is logically possible – no one knows if it physically possible.

    Why would size make any difference?

    Lizzie addressed this. Large objects coming into existence consists in a rearrangement of elementary particles. Some rearrangements are physically possible. Others are not. Elementary particles coming into existence is just that – a single particle which one moment was not there and the next moment is.

    More importantly, it would help if we could establish your position: Do you hold that anything can appear spontaneously with or without a law, as once indicated, or do you hold that some things can and some cannot. Do they need causes (such as a law) or not? You appear to be all over the map on this one.

    I am sorry if I am unclear. My position is that it is logically possible for anything to suddenly exist without cause . It is also  physically possible for elementary particles.  It is physically impossible for objects such as horses and babies. We don’t know what is physically possible for universes which are clearly a very different kind of existence event!

    It is not possible to establish the presence or absence of causality at all if you don’t accept causality as a law and as a given. One can only assume, in the name of rationality, that causality is always present and then try to find out which is the most likely candidate as the cause. This is one of the points of my post. Evidence does not inform reason’s rules; reason’s rules inform evidence.

    Well again this is something we will just have to agree to differ on. My belief is that while it is very useful methodologically to assume there is a cause it is not required to be rational. It is analogous to the belief that earth was the centre of the universe. At one time all cosmology was based on this assumption and increasingly complex solutions were devised as a result. Abandoning the assumptions of a cause was a Kuhnian revolution, not the end of rationality.

    Once you claim that any event was uncaused, you are then committed to the proposition that anything could have been uncaused and that there is no way to distinguish which things were caused and which ones were not.

    Why? I believe that logically any planet might be uninhabited. That doesn’t mean I have no way to distinguish which planets are uninhabited and which are inhabited.

    This doesn’t really address the question, which is not how we come to know causality but rather whether or not the science of fetology could survive without the assumption of causality.

    Well that is a different question. I imagine the  assumption of causality is pretty important for fetology. It has proven to be very important for many sciences. (However,  causes have in fact been found – so it is not necessary to assume they were there.) However, the assumption turns not to be essential for all sciences.

    Certain physicists, naïve about philosophy, have tried to conclude from evidence that quantum events are not caused, but that is simply a breach in logic on their part.

    They conclude no cause and continue to do science based on that conclusion. So in what sense are they wrong? It is only a breach of logic if you assume exactly what we are debating.   Which is where I came in.

  114. 114
    StephenB says:

    Mark

    Surely it doesn’t matter which is the formal definition?

    You don’t think that a precise definition of words is important in an argument? That is an unusual position to take.

    If the argument is sound it should be possible to make it without even using the word “contingent” or fussing about what is the correct definition. You should somehow be able to show that if something is neither logically necessary not logically impossible then it must be dependent on something else. I don’t see how you can do that without assuming exactly what we disagree on.

    You continue to confuse the two arguments. The law of causality cannot be demonstrated. It is a first principle. First principles cannot be demonstrated.
    What can be demonstrated is that the LoC and the LNC are inextricably tied together. Your only response is to say that the LoC cannot be proven, which is not exactly a newsflash and is not relevant to this present argument. Meanwhile, in order to avoid the force of the present argument about the connection between Loc and LNC, you go looking for an alternative definition of “contingent.”

    SB: Logically, we have only two options: Either a thing brings itself into existence or something (someone) else brings it into existence. There is no third option.

    Again that is exactly what we disagree about. I believe there is a third option – X might just come into existence without anything bringing it into existence. I can describe it. One moment X does not exist. The next moment it does. There is nothing else to say about it. You can hypothesise that this does not happen in practice but you have not presented any sort of argument as to why it is logically impossible.

    If you don’t like the term “brings itself into existence” as an alternative way of saying that a thing is uncaused, then throw it out. There are two possibilities: either [a] a thing comes into existence as a result of a cause or [b] it comes into existence without a cause. To just “not be” and then “be” is to come into existence without a cause. If you know of a third option, I will be happy to entertain it.

    It is logically possible for a baby to appear in your living room but there are many empirical laws of biology that make it physically impossible.

    If a baby cannot appear unless the laws of biology cause it to appear, then it cannot appear without a cause? So, which is your position?

    Is it your first position?

    [a] a baby and a horse can appear without any cause at all.

    or is it your second position?

    [b] a baby and a horse can appear only if they are physically caused to appear.

    In the case of an elementary particle it is both logically and it would appear physically possible for it to come into existence. In the case of universes it is logically possible – no one knows if it physically possible.

    Why would size make any difference?

    Lizzie addressed this.Large objects coming into existence consists in a rearrangement of elementary particles. Some rearrangements are physically possible. Others are not. Elementary particles coming into existence is just that – a single particle which one moment was not there and the next moment is.

    Lizzie didn’t address it and neither have you. I asked why it is possible for elementary particles to come into existence without a cause and not larger objects. Lizzie and you answer by saying that this is just is the case. My question persists. Why would size make any difference? I trust that you will not revert back to your argument that the evidence will tell us. Evidence cannot establish the presence or absence of causality.

    I am sorry if I am unclear. My position is that it is logically possible for anything to suddenly exist without cause . It is also physically possible for elementary particles. It is physically impossible for objects such as horses and babies. We don’t know what is physically possible for universes which are clearly a very different kind of existence event!

    I still don’t understand. You say that it is possible for a baby to come into existence without a cause, but you don’t think it is possible for a baby to come into existence in the absence of biological causes. On the one hand, you say that a baby can just not be one minute and just be the next minute–without any explanation. On the other hand, you say that it cannot just be unless it has a biological explanation. I hope you are not counting on the hope that logical and physical possibilities are mutually exclusive. Many, perhaps most things that are physically impossible are also logically impossible, and vice versa.

    Why? I believe that logically any planet might be uninhabited. That doesn’t mean I have no way to distinguish which planets are uninhabited and which are inhabited.

    Apples and oranges. Whether or not something is inhabited can, in principle and with sufficient technology, be established by observation. Causality cannot be established by observation. So, I return to my point. If anything can be uncaused, then everything can be uncaused. What is your argument against it? How can you distinguish between which things are caused and which ones are not? As I have pointed out several times, the presence or absence of causality cannot be proven.

    I imagine the assumption of causality is pretty important for fetology.

    You imagine correctly.

    It has proven to be very important for many sciences.

    Right you are.

    (However, causes have in fact been found – so it is not necessary to assume they were there.) However, the assumption turns not to be essential for all sciences.

    Causes are found because causes are assumed. If causes are not assumed, they are not found.

    Certain physicists, naïve about philosophy, have tried to conclude from evidence that quantum events are not caused, but that is simply a breach in logic on their part.

    They conclude no cause and continue to do science based on that conclusion. So in what sense are they wrong?

    Earlier, you stated that they “assumed” no cause and now you agree with me that they “conclude” no cause. It would be nice if you would acknowledge the point that you changed your position as a response to my corrective.

    It is only a breach of logic if you assume exactly what we are debating. Which is where I came in.

    It is a breach of logic if you draw an unwarranted conclusion. Read the quote from Stanley Jaki @110 (courtesy of kairosfocus).

  115. 115
    Mark Frank says:

    Stpehen

    You don’t think that a precise definition of words is important in an argument? That is an unusual position to take.

    Of course it is important. That is why I outlined four different definitions. It doesn’t matter which of those definitions is the formal one – as long as you are clear which one you are using.

    You continue to confuse the two arguments. The law of causality cannot be demonstrated. It is a first principle. First principles cannot be demonstrated.

    Here is the crux of the problem. I don’t think it is a first principle. So how do we decide if something really is a first principle or not?

    What can be demonstrated is that the LoC and the LNC are inextricably tied together. Your only response is to say that the LoC cannot be proven, which is not exactly a newsflash and is not relevant to this present argument. Meanwhile, in order to avoid the force of the present argument about the connection between Loc and LNC, you go looking for an alternative definition of “contingent.”

    I believe your “proof” relies on confusing two definitions of contingent. To try and avoid getting into disputes about the meaning of “contingent” I invite you to show the link between LoC and LNC without using the word.  You seem reluctant (unable?) to do this.

    If you don’t like the term “brings itself into existence” as an alternative way of saying that a thing is uncaused, then throw it out. There are two possibilities: either [a] a thing comes into existence as a result of a cause or [b] it comes into existence without a cause. To just “not be” and then “be” is to come into existence without a cause. If you know of a third option, I will be happy to entertain it.

    I am happy with this.  I guess you thought there was a third option where a thing caused itself to come into existence – which certainly would be odd.

    If a baby cannot appear unless the laws of biology cause it to appear, then it cannot appear without a cause? So, which is your position?

    Is it your first position?
    [a] a baby and a horse can appear without any cause at all.
    or is it your second position?
    [b] a baby and a horse can appear only if they are physically caused to appear.

    Whey you say “can” that is a statement about what is possible  – possibility can be logical or physical. So I repeat – logical possible (can) but physically impossible (can’t). Logically I can run a mile a 2 minutes. Physically I cannot.

    Many, perhaps most things that are physically impossible are also logically impossible, and vice versa.

    True. But also many things are logically possible but physically impossible. Do you deny this? I am saying the appearance of babies and horses falls into this category (I seem to have said this about 20 times and I cannot understand what the problem is).

    Lizzie didn’t address it and neither have you. I asked why it is possible for elementary particles to come into existence without a cause and not larger objects. Lizzie and you answer by saying that this is just is the case. My question persists. Why would size make any difference? I trust that you will not revert back to your argument that the evidence will tell us. Evidence cannot establish the presence or absence of causality.

    I am sorry I cannot see why observing a cause cannot be evidence for the presence of causality and failing to observe a cause cannot be evidence for the absence of causality. This seems a very odd position!  I think it is maybe because you believe causality is a first principle – but that of course is just what we are disputing.

    Causality cannot be established by observation.

    As I have pointed out several times, the presence or absence of causality cannot be proven.

    You have asserted it  – but you haven’t shown it to be true. Meanwhile people are busy observing that some things cause other things and some scientists are concluding some things are not caused.

    Causes are found because causes are assumed. If causes are not assumed, they are not found.

    If observe the white ball knock the red ball into the pocket do I have to make a metaphysical assumption of causality before finding that the white ball caused the red ball to go into the pocket? 

    Earlier, you stated that they “assumed” no cause and now you agree with me that they “conclude” no cause. It would be nice if you would acknowledge the point that you changed your position as a response to my corrective.

    I thought it did acknowledge it. But if I failed to do so I am happy to do so now. In fact I delighted to note that it is not necessary to make any assumptions about causality in order to conclude there is no cause in this case.

    It is a breach of logic if you draw an unwarranted conclusion.

    Yes – but the whole issue we are debating is whether it is warranted to conclude that something lacks a cause. So it is only a breach of logic if you assume your premise – the LoC must be true.

  116. 116
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen – on rereading #115 I find there are one or two places where it is unclear. Here is a second attempt:

    You don’t think that a precise definition of words is important in an argument? That is an unusual position to take.

    Of course it is important. That is why I outlined four different definitions. What I was trying to say was that it doesn’t matter which of those definitions is the formal one – as long as you are clear which one you are using.

    You continue to confuse the two arguments. The law of causality cannot be demonstrated. It is a first principle. First principles cannot be demonstrated.

    Here is the crux of the problem. I don’t think it is a first principle. So how do we decide if something really is a first principle or not?

    What can be demonstrated is that the LoC and the LNC are inextricably tied together. ….., in order to avoid the force of the present argument about the connection between Loc and LNC, you go looking for an alternative definition of “contingent.”

    I believe your demonstration relies on conflating two definitions of “contingent”. There are things which not contingent under definition 1 (dependent on something else) but are contingent under definition 4 (neither logically necessary nor logically impossible). To try and avoid getting into disputes about the meaning of “contingent” I invite you to show the link between LoC and LNC without using the word. You seem reluctant (unable?) to do this.

    If you don’t like the term “brings itself into existence” as an alternative way of saying that a thing is uncaused, then throw it out. There are two possibilities: either [a] a thing comes into existence as a result of a cause or [b] it comes into existence without a cause. To just “not be” and then “be” is to come into existence without a cause. If you know of a third option, I will be happy to entertain it.

    I am happy with this. I thought you thought there was a third option where a thing caused itself to come into existence – which certainly would be odd.

    If a baby cannot appear unless the laws of biology cause it to appear, then it cannot appear without a cause? So, which is your position?

    Is it your first position?

    [a] a baby and a horse can appear without any cause at all.

    or is it your second position?

    [b] a baby and a horse can appear only if they are physically caused to appear.

    Whey you say “can” that is a statement about what is possible – possibility can be logical or physical. So I repeat – appearing babies and horses are logically possible (can) but physically impossible (can’t). Logically I can run a mile a 2 minutes. Physically I cannot.

    Many, perhaps most things that are physically impossible are also logically impossible, and vice versa.

    True. But also many things are logically possible but physically impossible. Do you deny this? I am saying the appearance of babies and horses falls into this category (I seem to have said this about 20 times and I cannot understand what the problem is).

    Lizzie didn’t address it and neither have you. I asked why it is possible for elementary particles to come into existence without a cause and not larger objects. Lizzie and you answer by saying that this is just is the case. My question persists. Why would size make any difference? I trust that you will not revert back to your argument that the evidence will tell us. Evidence cannot establish the presence or absence of causality.

    I am sorry I cannot see why observing a cause cannot be evidence for the presence of causality and failing to observe a cause cannot be evidence for the absence of causality. This seems a very odd position! I think it is maybe because you believe causality is a first principle – but that of course is just what we are disputing.

    Causality cannot be established by observation.
    As I have pointed out several times, the presence or absence of causality cannot be proven.

    You have asserted it – but you haven’t shown it to be true. Meanwhile people are busy observing that some things cause other things and some scientists are concluding some things are not caused.

    Causes are found because causes are assumed. If causes are not assumed, they are not found.

    If I observe the white ball knock the red ball into the pocket do I have to make a metaphysical assumption of causality before finding that the white ball caused the red ball to go into the pocket?

    Earlier, you stated that they “assumed” no cause and now you agree with me that they “conclude” no cause. It would be nice if you would acknowledge the point that you changed your position as a response to my corrective.

    I thought it did acknowledge it. But if I failed to do so I am happy to do so now. In fact I delighted to note that it is not necessary to make any assumptions about causality in order to conclude there is no cause in this case. (Actually it is a bit more complicated than that because what they have done is hypothesise no causality and found that hypothesis fits the evidence.)

    It is a breach of logic if you draw an unwarranted conclusion.

    Yes – but the whole issue we are debating is whether it is warranted to conclude that something lacks a cause. So it is only a breach of logic if you assume your premise – the LoC must be true.

  117. 117
    Mark Frank says:

    And #116 lost all the HTML! Here is the third attempt:

    Stephen

    You don’t think that a precise definition of words is important in an argument? That is an unusual position to take.

    Of course it is important. That is why I outlined four different definitions. What I was trying to say was that it doesn’t matter which of those definitions is the formal one – as long as you are clear which one you are using.

    You continue to confuse the two arguments. The law of causality cannot be demonstrated. It is a first principle. First principles cannot be demonstrated.

    Here is the crux of the problem. I don’t think it is a first principle. So how do we decide if something really is a first principle or not?

    What can be demonstrated is that the LoC and the LNC are inextricably tied together.  ….., in order to avoid the force of the present argument about the connection between Loc and LNC, you go looking for an alternative definition of “contingent.”

    I believe your demonstration relies on conflating two definitions of “contingent”. There are things which not contingent under definition 1 (dependent on something else) but are contingent under definition 4 (neither logically necessary nor logically impossible). To try and avoid getting into disputes about the meaning of “contingent” I invite you to show the link between LoC and LNC without using the word.  You seem reluctant (unable?) to do this.

    If you don’t like the term “brings itself into existence” as an alternative way of saying that a thing is uncaused, then throw it out. There are two possibilities: either [a] a thing comes into existence as a result of a cause or [b] it comes into existence without a cause. To just “not be” and then “be” is to come into existence without a cause. If you know of a third option, I will be happy to entertain it.

    I am happy with this.  I thought you thought there was a third option where a thing caused itself to come into existence – which certainly would be odd.

    If a baby cannot appear unless the laws of biology cause it to appear, then it cannot appear without a cause? So, which is your position?

    Is it your first position?
    [a] a baby and a horse can appear without any cause at all.
    or is it your second position?
    [b] a baby and a horse can appear only if they are physically caused to appear.

    Whey you say “can” that is a statement about what is possible  – possibility can be logical or physical. So I repeat – appearing babies and horses are logically possible (can) but physically impossible (can’t). Logically I can run a mile a 2 minutes. Physically I cannot.

    Many, perhaps most things that are physically impossible are also logically impossible, and vice versa.

    True. But also many things are logically possible but physically impossible. Do you deny this? I am saying the appearance of babies and horses falls into this category (I seem to have said this about 20 times and I cannot understand what the problem is).

    Lizzie didn’t address it and neither have you. I asked why it is possible for elementary particles to come into existence without a cause and not larger objects. Lizzie and you answer by saying that this is just is the case. My question persists. Why would size make any difference? I trust that you will not revert back to your argument that the evidence will tell us. Evidence cannot establish the presence or absence of causality.

    I am sorry I cannot see why observing a cause cannot be evidence for the presence of causality and failing to observe a cause cannot be evidence for the absence of causality. This seems a very odd position!  I think it is maybe because you believe causality is a first principle – but that of course is just what we are disputing.

    Causality cannot be established by observation.

    As I have pointed out several times, the presence or absence of causality cannot be proven.

    You have asserted it  – but you haven’t shown it to be true. Meanwhile people are busy observing that some things cause other things and some scientists are concluding some things are not caused.

    Causes are found because causes are assumed. If causes are not assumed, they are not found.

    If I observe the white ball knock the red ball into the pocket do I have to make a metaphysical assumption of causality before finding that the white ball caused the red ball to go into the pocket? 

    Earlier, you stated that they “assumed” no cause and now you agree with me that they “conclude” no cause. It would be nice if you would acknowledge the point that you changed your position as a response to my corrective.

    I thought it did acknowledge it. But if I failed to do so I am happy to do so now. In fact I delighted to note that it is not necessary to make any assumptions about causality in order to conclude there is no cause in this case. (Actually it is a bit more complicated than that because what they have done is hypothesise no causality and found that hypothesis fits the evidence.)

    It is a breach of logic if you draw an unwarranted conclusion.

    Yes – but the whole issue we are debating is whether it is warranted to conclude that something lacks a cause. So it is only a breach of logic if you assume your premise – the LoC must be true.

  118. 118

    Hi, Stephen

    Apologies for the delay!

    You wrote:

    On the question of causation as a law, we are not saying that everything that exists must be caused. If that was the case, then God would have had to be caused. That is why we say that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. God did not begin to exist.
    As I discussed with Mark, the logical link between LNC and Loc is different from the argument that the LoC is true. The point is that denying the latter violates former and leads to a contradiction. I am not clear on why you deny that affirmation.
    Again, there is also another way of approaching it. A thing either brings itself into existence or is brought into existence by another. Those are our only two choices. If we assume the former, we find that a thing would have had to exist before it existed in order to bring itself into existence, which is ridiculous. Therefore, we take the second option as the only logical alternative. We are not, as you suggested, presupposing the second option.

    Where we are disagreeing, Stephen, is on whether “A thing either brings itself into existence or is brought into existence by another” are exhaustive. I’m saying that is not a safe assumption. I agree that given the premise that all things must be brought into existence by an agent, and that an action can only be done by an existing agent, clearly a thing cannot bring itself into existence. But I’m saying that that premise is not necessarily true. It does not violate the LNC to say: some things come spontaneously into existence with probability distribution X. It may not be true, but it does not violate the LNC.

    On the question of why you think some things could be caused while others are not, I did study your answer. If I understand correctly, you are saying that [a] since quantum particles are exceedingly small and may come into existence in a decidedly different way than other things come into existence, [b] it follows that the uniqueness of that process renders it exempt from the law of causation. Your ultimate explanation appears to be that some things can, at the lowest level of existence, rearrange themselves. I hope that I have not oversimplified, but that seems to be the bottom line argument.
    I would agree that quantum particles may come into existence in a different way than other things, though I have no way of knowing. When you think about it, though, there are many different ways of coming into existence, and many different ways of causing it. A sand castle comes to be in a far different way than a baby. A universe would likely come to be in a different fashion than a thunderstorm. Nevertheless, all these things are caused, albeit in different ways.
    I suspect that quantum events come to be in a fashion analogous to that of a thunderstorm, though I am guessing of course. However, the example seems appropriate since, in both cases, we are referring to causal conditions as opposed to discrete causal factors that can easily be identified. To speak of atmospheric conditions may seem a little vague, just as it may seem a little vague to speak of causal conditions present in a quantum vacuum, but it is still true that these causal conditions are causes. In their absence, there will be no coming into existence.

    I am not saying that quantum particles are different because they are tiny. I’m saying that they are different because they are elementary – they are not systems of more elementary things. And the interesting thing is that at that elementary level, the basic particles of stuff seem to be probability distributions rather than the kind of solid, reliable, slow-changing stuff that we call “things” in the macroscopic world, and which consist of systems of lower-level things, which in turn consist of systems of even lower-level things, and so on until we reach the bottom. The fascinating thing about quantum physics is that it revealed that instead of the bottom consisting of a Democratean set of irreducible solid, permanent objects, it is something far stranger – probability fields. Just as we can be absolutely sure that we will not toss 500 heads, but not at all sure that we will not toss one, so we can be absolutely sure that the horse/mountain/baby/even sandcastle we see now, will still be substantially there, insubstantially changed, half a second later, we have no such certainty about any one of the elementary particles of which they consist. So it makes perfectly good sense to talk of these macroscopic systems as being caused by traceable prior events (and there is no intrinsic problem in events having multiple causes, or, for that matter, including feedback loops whereby what the resulting system then affects future configurations), but it doesn’t make sense in the same way to talk of elementary particles being caused (which is why they are called elementary).

    On the question of whether things in nature can rearrange themselves, I think a more fundamental question is in play. Can anything ever rearrange itself without being programmed in some way to do so? I would say no. That brings us back to the Law of Causality.

    Depends what you mean by “programmed” – can you explain?

    On the matter of whether we are extrapolating beyond our range of data or importing assumptions about the universality of causation from the macro world to the micro world, I can only say that the appeal to a special exception for the quantum world seems more like special pleading to me. I would add that their “just this once” appeal didn’t last very long. Soon after Victor Stenger claimed that quantum events are uncaused, Lawrence Krauss claimed that the entire universe was uncaused. So much for special pleading.

    It’s no more “special pleading”, I suggest, any more than saying God is uncaused is “special pleading”. There seems to be no essential difference between saying that God is exempt because God did not “begin to exist” than between saying that a quantum field is exempt because a quantum field did not “begin to exist”. Both are attempts to say that something – God, a quantum vacuum – did not “begin to exist”, and that that something was such as to render possible the beginning of the existence of other things.
    The issue to me seems to be: how do we characterise that something? As Aquinas said, we can only say what it is not.

  119. 119

    KF:

    PS: Docs, X rays to cross check [things are getting worse, measurably so], MRIs, further consultations. De system moves like a snail, but has massive momentum, so to try to speed it up requires heavy duty clout . . .

    Oh, it does indeed! And you can feel like a mayfly being bulldozed by a juggernaut! My thoughts are with you all KF, for what they are worth. :hug:

  120. 120
    StephenB says:

    Mark,

    Here is the crux of the problem. I don’t think it is a first principle. So how do we decide if something really is a first principle or not?

    When you question causality as a first principle, I am not sure I understand. Are you saying that the LNC is the only first principle? Or are you saying that there are no first principles? If you accept LNC as a first principle without empirical proof, why do you not accept LoC without empirical proof?

    On the question of deciding on first principles, I think it is a question of appreciating the implications of denying them. I recognize, for example, that it is absurd to suggest that a baseball could, on its own, leap off a countertop and fly toward your head at sixty miles-per-hour without a cause. You do not seem to recognize the absurdity. Indeed, you seem to allow for the possibility.

    SB: What can be demonstrated is that the LoC and the LNC are inextricably tied together.

    To try and avoid getting into disputes about the meaning of “contingent” I invite you to show the link between LoC and LNC without using the word. You seem reluctant (unable?) to do this.

    Well, I have done it in other ways, showing, for example, that a thing either brings itself into existence or is brought into existence by something else. A thing would have to exist before it existed to do the former, which means that it must have been brought into existence. However, you claim that such a formulation leaves open a third option, namely coming into existence with no cause at all—as if that was something different from bringing itself into existence.
    Still, there are even other ways to prove the point. The LoC and the LNC are tied together such that the same cause (causation) cannot produce opposite effects (LNC). So, if I say that pouring potassium on water will cause an explosion, I am also making a statement about the law of non-contradiction. In other words, the cause/effect relationship (water and potassium explode) is inextricably tied to the LNC (it cannot both explode and not explode). The two principles cannot, as you would have it, be separated.

    I am saying the appearance of babies and horses falls into this [physical]category (I seem to have said this about 20 times and I cannot understand what the problem is).

    Repeating the same failed argument does not make it succeed. Putting these events into the category of physical possibilities does not, as you are trying to argue, exclude them from the category of logical possibilities. You just agreed that many, perhaps most, things that are physically impossible are also logically impossible and vice versa. Those things that are physically impossible, yet logically possible, are quite limited can easily be identified. (The sky could be green in a different universe). The appearance of babies or horses in your living room is not in that limited category. Such events are both physically and logically impossible.

    If I observe the white ball knock the red ball into the pocket do I have to make a metaphysical assumption of causality before finding that the white ball caused the red ball to go into the pocket?

    Yes. You do have to make that metaphysical assumption, though it is an assumption based on reason. In fact, the only thing that you really observed was that the red ball moved after it was touched by the white ball. You didn’t “observe” causality, because you can’t observe a concept; you can only grasp it as a principle with your intelligence. You “understood” that there must be a principle of causality involved–anything that moves must be moved by something else.

    Now, you want to deny that same principle that you once grasped and claim that sometimes things can move without being moved. So, you have to confront the obvious question: If some things can move without being moved, why cannot anything move without having being moved, even those pool balls that seem to have been moved but perhaps were not. How do you know that the white ball caused the red ball to go into the pocket when you can observe only the sequence and the movement—and not the causality? It is because you know that nothing at all can move without being moved, including the red ball in question.

  121. 121
    vividbleau says:

    MF and Liz

    Actually it is a bit more complicated than that because what they have done is hypothesise no causality and found that hypothesis fits the evidence.)

    What evidence could one possibly produce that would evidentially verify non causality? If there is no cause there is no evidence that cause is lacking, but I digress.

    My question for both you and Liz is this. Do either one of you think it is physically possible that these elementary particles appear, for lack of a better term since nothing is inconceivable, “from” nothing. For purposes of this discussion I define nothing as “that” which cannot be described?

    I have italicized from and that because nothing has neither a from or a that.

    Vivid

  122. 122
    vividbleau says:

    Correction.

    My question for both you and Liz is this. Do either one of you think it is physically possible that these elementary particles appear, for lack of a better term since nothing is inconceivable, “from” nothing? For purposes of this discussion I define nothing as “that” which cannot be described.

    Vivid

  123. 123

    I don’t know, vividbleau, and I’m a long way from being any kind of physicist!

    I think the problem is that when we drill down to elementary particles, and time-before-time, we simply don’t have the ordinary language to describe what the scientists observe – which is why, presumably they use math.

    But what I don’t think we can assume (however much we want to) that the reason there is something rather than nothing is a mind. It may be that the reason that we can’t conceive of nothing is that it is ultimately an incoherent concept – perhaps “nothing” is not possible. In which case, that’s why there’s something.

  124. 124
    vividbleau says:

    Liz

    I don’t know, vividbleau,

    If you don’t know then it seems to me it means you are at least open to the idea that it is physically possible. Am I wrong?

    and I’m a long way from being any kind of physicist!

    I am not a physicist either and fail to understand why one has to be one in order to answer my question. I assume physicists deal with the physical no?

    But what I don’t think we can assume (however much we want to) that the reason there is something rather than nothing is a mind.

    Hmmm… my question had nothing to do with assuming any kind of mind, why bring it up?

    Vivid

  125. 125
    Mark Frank says:

    #122 vividbleau

    Do either one of you think it is physically possible that these elementary particles appear, for lack of a better term since nothing is inconceivable, “from” nothing?

    From my limited understanding of quantum mechanics I understand they do not appear from nothing. Certain conditions have to be in place – energy levels or such like – and the creation of a particle involves changes elsewhere. What seems to be inherently unpredictable is when the creation takes place. There seems to be no other event that causes the change to take place at that time.

    Is it physically possible for something to appear from nothing? Like Lizzie I have no idea and I am not sure I know it means.

  126. 126
    Mark Frank says:

    Stephen

    I think maybe we have done this subject to death. I have enjoyed it and it has made me think a bit more deeply about causation although I remain utterly unconvinced of your main thesis.

    Thanks

    Mark

  127. 127

    vividbleau:

    Yes, I’m open to the possibility, although as I said, I don’t know if “nothing” is even a coherent concept.

    The reason I brought up mind is that in some parts of this discussion, the thing that causes things to come into existence is posited to be something with a mind.

    That’s why I brought it up.

  128. 128
    vividbleau says:

    Liz

    Yes, I’m open to the possibility,

    Hopefuly you realize that can never be a scientific or physical position it would be metaphysical.Nothing has no physical property. To postulate that it maybe physically possible is not science it is metaphysics disguised as science.

    Vivid

  129. 129

    That’s why I said:

    I don’t know if “nothing” is even a coherent concept.

  130. 130
    vividbleau says:

    Liz

    That’s why I said:I don’t know if “nothing” is even a coherent concept.

    Yet you are open to the idea that, what you think may be incoherent, is a physical possibility.

    There is a whole book just recently written that posits that the universe is from nothing. Like I said metaphysics disguised as science. The title itself is ludicrous as if there is a there there. The word from is itself incoherent when used with nothing since there is no from.

    Since nothing can not be physical how is it physically possible that something comes from it as the author contends? How can you be open to the idea that it is physically possible that non physicality be physical? It would have to be META physical.

    Vivid

  131. 131
    Mung says:

    kn @110. Precisely!

    I just love Jaki’s writings.

    When you finally get the other book I sent (assuming you do), let me know and I’ll send a copy of The Oxford Handbook of Causation to you.

    Some people talk about causation, some people read about it.

    🙂

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