Friday, 25 May 2012

Hugh Ross vs Lewis Wolpert on Evidence for God

I had the great pleasure yesterday of attending the debate "Does the universe show evidence for a creator?" at Imperial College, London. Arguing in the affirmative was astrophysicist Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe,  a science-faith think tank from the USA; arguing the negative was Lewis Wolpert, Emeritus Professor of biology and British Humanist.

Before the debate, however, I had the privilege of meeting the participants. Hugh Ross and his wife Kathy were a delight. Kathy remarked that the weather was hotter here than in California! I made sure she appreciated how rare an occurrence this is (have to say, I've been loving it! I can walk down the streets of London in shorts and t-shirt at 9pm)!

Then Lewis Wolpert showed up! A really nice guy! Winsome and congenial. He seemed to get on very well with Hugh and Kathy. I discovered that his son Matthew appears three times a week on the comedy circuit in Leicester Square, so that's an act I definitely need to check out! We also had a great talk about the fascinating complexity of the cell, which Wolpert happily admits is truly mindboggling.

But, onto the debate itself! A good turn-out. The lecture theatre was packed. It was hosted by Imperial College's Christian Union, but a decent number of atheists and sceptics showed up too - which is quite something given that AC Grayling was giving a lecture in the next room (he passed by me earlier as I was editing my latest Dawkins-critical video on my laptop... I don't think he noticed)!

This is where it gets interesting. Hugh Ross went first, and outlined for 20 minutes his Creation Model, arguing that the Bible - and only the Bible - contains consistent, scientifically accurate predictions about the cosmos, the empirical data for which is only being discovered recently in the modern age. His case is essentially that the more we discover about the universe, the more the evidence for design and a transcendent creator piles up and confirms what the Bible has been telling us for the past thousands of years. Of particular note were passages from Jeremiah and Romans, which Hugh claims tell us about the expansion of the universe and the law of entropy. Alongside we have the opening of the Bible, that in the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth - the Big Bang is this beginning. When this was discovered, a great many scientists were reluctant to accept it, fearing that an absolute beginning of space and time gave too much leverage to those who believe in theistic creation.

It was fascinating also to hear Hugh cite an article written by atheist physicists called "Disturbing Implications of the Cosmological Constant". In this article, its atheist authors were forced to concede that this particular cosmological constant left them no choice but to invoke a transcendent causal agent. Their solution? To "do a Daniel Dennett": conclude that this cosmological constant must, therefore, surely be false (!)

Before moving on to Wolpert's response, I cannot help but also comment on the audience. Well, specifically, the students in front of me. They were clearly "sceptics"! Though not just sceptics, rather restless sceptics. The kind I can remember being while I was at university and convinced of my own immortality. There was an evident aggression and desire for peer-approval in the way they increasingly shot each other smirks and disapproving glances as Hugh spoke (one seemed to think it especially important that his lady friend understood unequivocally that this religious nutter wasn't going to sway his opinion one jot)!

It was a touch depressing how superficial some of their reactions were - one questioner claimed to "understand what it's like to be arrogant" before accusing Hugh Ross of being so for claiming that the universe was designed (I don't think that guy actually does understand arrogance). Another student was taking numerous notes while shaking his head. I've no problem with critical note-taking, but I found it curious that one of his bullet-points read "where the f*** did that graph come from". Why the expletive? Where does this extra infusion of hostile energy come from? Why not just write "where did that graph come from"?

Onto Lewis Wolpert's rebuttal. Now, I've seen and heard quite a bit of Wolpert in debates on the existence of God. Indeed, one of my earliest memories of discovering apologetics was watching his 2007 debate against William Lane Craig. His arguments back then were pretty weak, so I wondered what he'd produce this time, five years on...

Exactly the same arguments! Specifically:

1. "Who made God?"

2. "We believe in God because we evolved an over-active sense of cause and effect".

3. "Absence of evidence is evidence of absence"

4. "Why is your religion any better than the thousands of other religions out there"?

I was astonished! Craig had addressed and exposed all these arguments as completely fallacious during their debate in Westminster:

1. Asking "who made God?" has nothing to do with the question of whether the universe shows evidence for a creator (it's a secondary question, and makes the same anti-scientific demand Dawkins does: of "who designed the designer?" leading to the requirement of an infinite regress of explanations in one go, so no explanation could be accepted). This is not to speak of the fact that God is uncaused, which is precisely the position Lewis Wolpert would have to hold about the universe (i.e. his objection is special pleading).

2. The second argument commits the genetic fallacy: of trying to invalidate a view by explaining how someone comes to hold it. Imagine if I walked up to an atheist and said, "you deny God because you have a bad relationship with your father, so you can't stand the idea of a bigger authority figure behind the universe". Even if that were true, would it mean therefore that atheism is false and that God exists?! Clearly not. Why has Wolpert not come to terms with this fallacy, especially given that it has already been pointed out to him?

3. As for evidence of absence, this was something I took upon myself to point out to Lewis during audience Q&A: that it's logically fallacious to rely upon absence of evidence. Having no evidence, say, that there's a person lurking in the corridor outside the lecture theatre, does not mean that we therefore do have evidence there is nobody outside!

4. As for asking "what makes you think your religion is truer than any other"? I can understand this having rhetorical appeal to those who are already sceptical of the idea of God. However, at the end of the day, it's not even an argument. It's a question. And the answer to that question would be... in Hugh's opening speech!

Now, as for those specific arguments Hugh laid out, to show that there is evidence for the Christian God, Wolpert responded:

"There isn't any evidence for God, and you certainly can't get it from physics."

...wasn't that the very title of the debate? About whether or not the physical universe shows evidence for God? So, essentially, Wolpert used up his time recycling fallacious arguments, which had nothing to do with Hugh's presentation, and dismissed the presentation itself in a single sentence consisting of a mere question-begging assertion. In fact, the most telling moment was when he said "I'm not a physicist, I don't understand any of it, but I'm sure that even if I did... it would still not be evidence for God"!

What he did do, which I have to admit was quite a clever tactic, was to divert the audience's attention away from Hugh's astrophysics to biology. Evolution! "Do you think we evolved"? "Did Eve come from Adam's rib"? This manoeuvre set the tone for the lengthy cross-examination and Q&A which was to follow, as Ross's views here certainly aren't in line with the popularly accepted interpretations of evolutionary development (though one cannot be left in any doubt he's comfortable offering evidence for them).

There were no rebuttal rounds after those opening speeches. The rest was cross-examination and audience Q&A, which went on for quite a while and allowed many questions to be raised from the floor. I had to admire Hugh's stamina: he'd only recently come off the plane, must have been jet-lagged, but calmly carried on simply providing answers to the many questions which came his way (and kept doing so for two hours solid after the event had finished). Indeed the questions were very Hugh Ross-heavy. At one point it seemed to be simply a "grill Hugh" session, with Wolpert only becoming involved for the occasional extra point of view. You could almost forget he was there sometimes. He didn't seem to be trying. I wonder if Hugh Ross gave him something new to think about?

Much, much more could be said, but I reckon I can leave it here. Doubtless the recording will be released soon and you can go through it all in greater detail (I'll link it in this post when it's out). Some students appeared unimpressed with Hugh's case, expressing that it was too vague and vulnerable to differing biblical interpretations. Others were coming out with remarks of surprise and interest, admitting they'd not expected to encounter a Christian scientist who was prepared to answer all their questions in such depth. Only time can tell what ripples these events cause.

Speaking of which, you do know how God created different dimensions of time and exists in a time dimension all of his own, don't you? If not, you will soon!

40 comments:

  1. 1. It's a shame that you can't quite grasp the importance of the who designed the designer argument. The essential point of it is that it highlights the absurdity of the Ross et al position.

    You would know this if it wasn't for your need to prove the existence of God.

    If we accept that we don't know the initial cause - or even if there was an initial cause - creating a God with a whole load of properties is not exactly a small step but a whopping leap.

    The truth of the matter is that we don't know. Creating fanciful explanations is unsurprisingly the kind of thing children do.

    2. Isn't really a fallacy, it's an explanation of how someone can come to such a strongly held view that is also wrong. Hence once we know where the idea originates from it loses its credibility. For normal well adjusted people Occam's razor would have snipped off the idea of God right from the outset.

    3. You make a fundamental mistake, it's not a great leap to accept that there could be someone in the corridor, as we know both what a corridor is and what a person is. What makes your argument even weaker is that you are not just claiming that there is a person in the corridor, you're claiming to know 'who' they are.

    Next time you try that lame argument try saying that there could be a fairy in the corridor and see how many people go with you on that one!

    4. You're just being obtuse.

    "Speaking of which, you do know how God created different dimensions of time and exists in a time dimension all of his own, don't you? If not, you will soon!"

    So which part of the Bible specifically talks about such stuff? ... while we're at it I never noticed any equations, let alone complex astrophysical ones in the Bible, could you let me know which book etc they are in!

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  2. I'm sure Wolpert is a lovely guy - enough people have said so. But I find him to be a very frustrating person to listen to. In the debates I've listened to (see the radio programme Unbelievable? for more) his position boils down to the following -

    Wolpert: Where is the evidence?

    Opponent: Well, let us take a look at x, y and z and see what we can make of it all.

    Wolpert: That's not evidence.

    Opponent: But it is evidence if you don't a priori dismiss the possibility that there is a God.

    Wolpert: That's not evidence for God because there is no God and therefore no evidence for his existence.

    Atheistic propositionalism in action.


    @ Asno Mudo

    Do you think that in even allowing a possibility that there was no initial cause (and I assume you are referring to the universe here) you have undermined the "who designed the designer?" argument? God by definition is an uncaused cause. If you are talking about a created god then we aren't talking about the same thing at all.

    Also, why do you have to be so rude? I don't see how it helps the discussion.

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  3. @Asno Mudo:

    1) You are using the issue of "Who made God?" to distract from the point of what can be seen by studying the Universe. Since God's "supposed" actions were before the Universe, and outside of it, science can't touch the topic, and it is irrelevant. But this is no different than any other scientific explanations for what happened before the singularity of the Big Bang: What came before everything? And you're completely missing the big point: science is describing a creator... and it just so happens that the Christian Bible already mentioned one that matches.

    2) Sure, maybe that explains how someone can come to an erroneous conclusion, but that doesn't make it a valid scientific principle, hence, the error, and the fallacy. You are suggesting that the source of an idea is more important than its merits, which is not surprising, as all evolutionists hail mighty Darwin, but fail to judge "darwinism" on its true hard scientific merits. For centuries of scientific reform, Occam's razor was what kept the belief in God alive, as it was the simpler solution. Now, normal well-adjusted people know that some science is bad and lame, and God is still the better choice.

    3) You are criticizing the author's analogy, not his point, that Wolpert couldn't PROVE that there was NOBODY in the hall, and thus couldn't prove that God doesn't exist. "Who" was not mentioned in the analogy, and imagining there is someone, or not imagining that it's a fairy adds nothing to the concept of proof, except to inject absurdity to obscure the issue. Calling "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" lame is denying logic and common sense. Shame on you.

    4) That is an ad hominem attack - the last resort of a losing arguer - and one that contains absoutely no identifiable merit. I've heard many of Ross' speeches, and he very clearly addresses that question at the beginning of his talks, just as the author said. Wolpert still asking that question demonstrates that he didn't come to debate, because he wasn't prepared to listen.

    You obviously know that there are no equations in the Bible, because it isn't a book of science. If you're actually curious about where the evidence is in the Bible, or if you want the evidence from astrophyics, biochemistry, geology & anthroplogy, look at the resources on Ross' site: www.reasons.org.

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  5. I found Hugh Ross's presentation incredibly misleading when it came to citing scientific articles and so called "space time theorems" as enforcing the necessity of a causal agent.

    I cannot find a single mention of those "space time theorems" in any of my Cosmology or General Relativity text books. Nor do I find the term in reputable cosmology journals. Google "space time theorem and causal agent" and you just get propaganda from Hugh Ross. So Ross committed a horrendous blind-by-science in an attempt to mislead the public that it is a general scientific consensus amongst physicists that there is such a theorem and is accepted.

    Secondly I went and read some of the papers he quoted in the presentation. In particular by Guth et al. There is not a single mention in the paper of a causal agent or anything of the sort. Yet Ross clearly states that such authors advocated in the paper that their scientific work suggests a causal agent. Once again, misleading and on the verge of lying to the public.

    I must say that it does not take much work to find that the evidence presented is very vague and misleading.

    Another example is the so called "cooling curve" which appears to match the temperature evolution of the cosmic microwave background. What Ross does not tell you is that there are several such backgrounds (such as the neutrino background) which could be used to state the temperature of the universe. Now does the Bible specify which temperature to use (CMB, neutrinos, other relics from the hot big bang) which will have curves which do not fit the curve from Bible? It all appeared to be selectively matching particular pieces of evidence to passages which are easy to interpret to fit the data.

    As most of the general public are not well versed in physics and cosmology it is easy to see how such arguments may appear plausible.

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  6. Who made God is a question for an Elementary schooler. The problem is that it assumes God is part of existence like everything else instead of realizing His nature is existence. I think Hugh's answer is unfortunately inadequate. It is a metaphysical question and not a physical one. The question is akin to asking "What created existence?" Well if something did, it would have to exist itself but then it could not create itself. The answer is something eternally exists whose very nature is to exist.

    A childish objection and one new atheists need to drop. I can't take seriously any who ask it.

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  7. @Asno Mudo

    Just wondering, is not the Multiverse proposed by many also a fanciful (metaphysical and non testable) explanation of the fine tuning of the Universe? What is simpler, an intelligent mind or an infinite number of Universes, each with their own set of cosmological parameters?

    The bottom line of this 'who created god?' "argument" is that it fails to understand that God is posited as a necessary being to explain a contingent set of affairs: the Universe (with all its laws and every contingent thing that lives in it). Arguing to this by appealing to a supposedly much simpler, also uncaused "natural cause" which does not need explanation for its existence out of itself and that sets the Universe in motion at a finite time ago would make such cause necessary, eternal and personal. Well, we might as well call this thing God! This is sophomore philosophy.

    Also, "once we know where the idea comes from it loses its credibility"? Wow, so the Earth might not even rotate around the sun after all since my primary school teacher told me...

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    1. "is not the Multiverse proposed by many also a fanciful (metaphysical and non testable) explanation of the fine tuning of the Universe? "

      Incorrect. Tests for eternal inflation HAVE been proposed and preliminary findings are promising. So not as "fanciful" as you would like to think.

      The "who created god argument" is a reasonable one. It is actually more of a quick retort, than a serious argument. Why does god necessarily exist? Why is it uncreated?

      Religion, it seems, has always been a tool for producing quick "answers" to tough questions, which it achieves by invoking its favourite god. Answers which are satisfactory only to the lazy mind.

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  8. MR Pasta: "is not the Multiverse proposed by many also a fanciful (metaphysical and non testable) explanation of the fine tuning of the Universe? "

    Incorrect. Tests for eternal inflation HAVE been proposed and preliminary findings are promising. So not as "fanciful" as you would like to think.

    Reply: I'm fine with a multiverse. IT doesn't matter a bit to theism. God and a multiverse are perfectly compatible.

    Mr Pasta: The "who created god argument" is a reasonable one. It is actually more of a quick retort, than a serious argument. Why does god necessarily exist? Why is it uncreated?

    Reply: God necessarily exists because He is by definition a being of pure actuality. That which is purely actual depends on nothing beyond itself due to having no potential. Note also I would have no problem with a universe that necessarily exists as well.

    Mr Pasta: Religion, it seems, has always been a tool for producing quick "answers" to tough questions, which it achieves by invoking its favourite god. Answers which are satisfactory only to the lazy mind.

    Reply: This is a quick answer to religion for someone who has a lazy mind and is easily satisfied. ALl one has to do to disprove this is read the volumes of literature on systematic theology addressing hard questions, such as the massive Summa Theologica of Aquinas, who did not depend on quick answers.

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    1. @Nick

      "I'm fine with a multiverse. IT doesn't matter a bit to theism. God and a multiverse are perfectly compatible."

      Good- although most of the prominent theists I know of- actively oppose multiverse theories. Hugh Ross for example. God is imaginary, so of course you can make him compatible with anything you can think of.

      "God necessarily exists because He is by definition a being of pure actuality."

      Pink unicorns necessarily exist, because they are by definition - beings which exist. Do you see the problem here? Anyone can define anything into existence if they wished to do so. You should also define what you mean by this three letter word- what is it exactly? What properties does it have?

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  10. @Pasta Good- although most of the prominent theists I know of- actively oppose multiverse theories. Hugh Ross for example. God is imaginary, so of course you can make him compatible with anything you can think of.

    Reply: If Ross wishes to argue on scientific grounds, let him. That's fine. That's the way it should be argued. I am not a scientist, so I don't care either way. I just say that it's not an either/or. If you think it is, you will have to say that. Also, it's helpful to have more than assertions that God is imaginary. I tend to like these things the atheistic camp left out a long time ago called "arguments."



    Pasta: Pink unicorns necessarily exist, because they are by definition - beings which exist. Do you see the problem here?

    REply: Loud and clear. You're a neophyte in philosophical matters. You asked why does God necessarily exist. You did not ask if God necessarily exists. Those are two different questions. If God exists, God is a being of pure actuality. That is why it is impossible for Him to not be as it is His very nature to be. Pink unicorns on the other hand, can't meet this requirement. Why? Unicorns are by nature material creatures and all material creatures have potential. All that which has potential depends on something else for its existing. If something has no potential, it depends on nothing else for its existing.

    Pasta: Anyone can define anything into existence if they wished to do so.

    Reply: No they can't. Nothing can be defined into existence. It exists or it doesn't and after that it is described. It is also the case that you are under a false impression that I have given some kind of ontological argument. No such argument has been given. The ontological argument fails. The classical arguments do not.

    Pasta: You should also define what you mean by this three letter word- what is it exactly? What properties does it have?

    Reply: More signs of a neophyte. You can go here: http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1.htm

    Just look at the part where it talks about the One God and Aquinas goes into great detail on the attributes of God. Properties is not the term to have. God does not have properties in that sense. All the terms we have are descriptions of God but God is simply He who is. What it means to be is shown in God as He is being without any limitations.

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    1. @Nick
      >>"Also, it's helpful to have more than assertions that God is imaginary"

      -No. It is quite obvious that people have made up this "god" idea. That's why it is called imaginary. Unless of course, you can find evidence to justify a belief in its existence.

      >>"Loud and clear."

      - No. It is clear from your response that you haven't understood the issue in hand. To make my point clearer, here's another example:
      "The immaterial teapot exists because she is a being of pure actuality"

      >>"The classical arguments do not [fail]."

      -They fail epically. Did you have one in mind?

      "All the terms we have are descriptions of God ...."

      Attributes which are *prescriptive* (not descriptive) and without justification or evidence.

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  11. Pasta: No. It is quite obvious that people have made up this "god" idea. That's why it is called imaginary. Unless of course, you can find evidence to justify a belief in its existence.

    Reply: Beg questions much? It is not obvious at all, unless your mind has been numbed by reading new atheists.



    Pasta: - No. It is clear from your response that you haven't understood the issue in hand. To make my point clearer, here's another example:
    "The immaterial teapot exists because she is a being of pure actuality"

    Reply: Wow. Talk about ignorant. Teapots by definition are material. You're talking about a contradiction in terms. Do you even have a clue what pure actuality means? Do you know what potential is?



    Pasta: -They fail epically. Did you have one in mind?

    Reply: I love the old "I get to make an assertion about my beliefs and that counts as an argument." Okay. Let's start with the first way of Thomas Aquinas and see how badly you can botch the argument.



    Pasta: Attributes which are *prescriptive* (not descriptive) and without justification or evidence.

    Reply: No. Prescriptive refers to actions. You might as well say my cat is white is prescriptive. I have my evidence. Not my fault if you're too ignorant to realize it. Anyway, I'm starting with just the first way of Aquinas.

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    1. "It is not obvious at all, unless your mind has been numbed by reading new atheists."

      -At least I have a mind- unlike you mindless theists.

      "Teapots by definition are material. You're talking about a contradiction in terms."

      -Precisely!! Creators, by definition, are also material. As are: minds and "movers".

      The first way of Aquinas is hardly adequate as an argument for god. Why does the first cause have to be a god? I can help you overcome your difficulty in understanding the flaws in this, if you present your argument in full.

      "You might as well say my cat is white is prescriptive"

      -No, that's called descriptive.

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  13. Pasta: -At least I have a mind- unlike you mindless theists.

    Reply: An ad hominem without an argument. It's amusing that you're supposed to be someone with the mind and you show no basic understanding of philosophical concepts.



    Pasta: -Precisely!! Creators, by definition, are also material. As are: minds and "movers".

    Reply: This implies that all that exists must be material. This has not been shown. For instance, is triangularity material? Could you show me a picture of triangularity? I don't want to see a triangle. Just show me triangularity.

    Pasta: The first way of Aquinas is hardly adequate as an argument for god. Why does the first cause have to be a god? I can help you overcome your difficulty in understanding the flaws in this, if you present your argument in full.

    REply: A neophyte response. Do you know what motion is in Aristotlean/Thomistic thought? Do you know what potential is? Do you know what actuality is? Do you know the two kinds of infinite regress?

    After all, you have a mind! THis should be child's play!



    Pasta-No, that's called descriptive.

    Reply: Well you got something right. That's the point. Describing the way something is is not prescriptive but descriptive. Any description of God is descriptive.

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    1. "This implies that all that exists must be material."
      -No. I merely stated that creators and movers are material. Think again.

      "For instance, is triangularity material? "
      -Seriously? Triangularity is a property. It is a term which can be used to describe material things. Triangular creators for example.

      "Do you know what motion is in Aristotlean/Thomistic thought? Do you know what potential is? Do you know what actuality is? Do you know the two kinds of infinite regress?"

      -I know exactly what all of these things are. Again- if you would present the full argument, I can address it!

      "Describing the way something is is not prescriptive but descriptive. Any description of God is descriptive."

      -Describing "something" is descriptive. "Describing" a god isn't the same as describing an object or a feeling, which appeal to our senses. You can't point at a god and describe its features.

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  14. Pasta:
    -No. I merely stated that creators and movers are material. Think again.

    Reply: Wrong. The implication of your argument is that creators and movers are material. The problem is that this is an inductive argument so the conclusion could not be reached with certainty. Since there is no certainty, it would be a matter of faith. Meanwhile, the Thomistic arguments are deductive, which means they are reached with certainty and faith is not involved.

    Pasta: -Seriously? Triangularity is a property. It is a term which can be used to describe material things. Triangular creators for example.

    Reply: Triangularity is a property, but that does not tell us if it is material. It is expressed in material ways, but that does not mean it is material. The number "1" can be expressed materially, I just did so, but that does not mean the number "1" is material or that it even exists.



    Pasta: -I know exactly what all of these things are. Again- if you would present the full argument, I can address it!

    Reply: I seriously doubt you do, but let's see how you handle it since apparently you're too lazy to look it up yourself.

    The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.



    Pasta: -Describing "something" is descriptive. "Describing" a god isn't the same as describing an object or a feeling, which appeal to our senses. You can't point at a god and describe its features.

    Reply: This assumes that all that you describe must be material. Aristotle was ever to describe happiness. Is that material? Can you point to happiness itself? It also doesn't mean that what you describe has to exist. I can describe a unicorn, but that does not mean it has extramental reality.

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    2. "The implication of your argument is that creators and movers are material. The problem is that this is an inductive argument so the conclusion could not be reached with certainty. Since there is no certainty, it would be a matter of faith. "

      -Complete nonsense. The word "creator" has come about to label material beings which create things. This is its definition- no argument or faith involved. If anyone is making an "argument", it is the theists: who posit that immaterial creators can exist. This belief has no evidence whatsoever.

      "Triangularity is a property, but that does not tell us if it is material. It is expressed in material ways, but that does not mean it is material. The number "1" can be expressed materially, I just did so, but that does not mean the number "1" is material or that it even exists."

      -I have never stated that the word "triangularity" is material. It is a noun. What exactly are you trying to get at?


      Flaws with aquinas
      1)The conclusion is, that there is a "first mover". This "mover" is then labelled as "god". If the ultimate cause of our universe turns out to be a spontaneous quantum fluctuation, then that would be "God" by Aquinas's definition. To call this phenomenon "God" would be misleading- since god's other well-known properties, such as omnipotence and omniscience, have yet to be demonstrated.

      2) The argument assumes that causality can be extrapolated to a point "before" time began 13.7 billion years ago(if that is even logical).

      3)It is an argument from incredulity. Just because you cannot conceive of something happening without a cause, does not mean that you can assume everything needs a cause. The human mind is uncomfortable with the concept of infinity, but reality has no obligation to make us comfortable. Theists seem perfectly content with idea of an "uncaused" god, whilst being troubled with an "uncaused" multiverse.

      "Can you point to happiness itself? "

      Yes. A neuroscientist can happily point out happiness.

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  15. Part 1

    Pasta: -Complete nonsense. The word "creator" has come about to label material beings which create things. This is its definition- no argument or faith involved.

    Reply: You're certainly correct that no argument is involved since it's just an assumption that all creators must be ipso facto material. That can't be the case since you've used an inductive argument and you cannot reach certainty, but only probability. This means on the other hand that you have faith that you have certainty instead of probability.

    Pasta: If anyone is making an "argument", it is the theists: who posit that immaterial creators can exist. This belief has no evidence whatsoever.

    Reply: The Majority World disagrees so why should the minority position of the atheist be considered the default position? Why not make it that everyone making a claim has to have an argument?



    Pasta: -I have never stated that the word "triangularity" is material. It is a noun. What exactly are you trying to get at?

    Reply: I don't give a flip about the word itself but the concept it points to. Is triangularity itself material or is it something that is immaterial but is expressed materially?

    I don't expect a neophyte to really get it.


    Aquinas: Flaws with aquinas
    1)The conclusion is, that there is a "first mover". This "mover" is then labelled as "god". If the ultimate cause of our universe turns out to be a spontaneous quantum fluctuation, then that would be "God" by Aquinas's definition. To call this phenomenon "God" would be misleading- since "god" other well-known properties, such as omnipotence and omniscience, have yet to be demonstrated.

    Reply: I was hoping you'd come up with a real argument, but I'm not surprised you didn't. Your assumption involves the idea that motion is a physical motion in the argument. It can be but it is not limited to that. Aquinas believed in angels and said they were in motion. So you could say "I don't believe immaterial beings like angels exist." Fine for you. Aquinas doesn't agree with that and yet he says an immaterial being like an angel experiences motion which means for him, motion is not physical alone, so what would it mean?

    Second, this assumes that Aquinas is talking about a beginning of the universe. He is not. Aquinas does not assume the universe had a beginning from a philosophical perspective as is shown in Q. 46 and Art. 2 of the Prima Pars.

    Third, the quantum fluctuation would also require a cause seeing as it is a type of motion and since it has potential being actualized, it cannot be the primary cause.

    Fourth, the argument is not meant to demonstrate omnipotence and omniscience in itself. Aquinas does this later on throughout the Summa. He is just meant to establish a basic theism. If that is established, atheism is false.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Part 2

    Pasta: 2) The argument assumes that causality can be extrapolated to a point "before" time began 13.7 billion years ago(if that is even logical).

    Reply: The argument does believe that motion has causes. It's quite strange that you say all of our creators that we've seen are material, therefore all are material, and that's valid, but I say all instances of motion we see have a cause and therefore the motion of the universe has a cause and that is invalid. Personally, when looking at a field we're just starting to make advancements in like quantum, I would hold on to a tried and true principle like causality before I would quickly throw it out in favor of what we're just starting to understand.

    Pasta: 3)It is an argument from incredulity. Just because you cannot conceive of something happening without a cause, does not mean that you can assume everything needs a cause. The human mind is uncomfortable with the concept of infinity, but reality has no obligation to make us comfortable. Theists seem perfectly content with idea of an "uncaused" god, whilst being troubled with an "uncaused" multiverse.

    Reply: The reason God is uncaused is because He is a being of pure actuality. To speak of a cause of pure actuality is nonsense by definition. It doesn't mean that a being of pure actuality exists, but if it does, by definition, it is uncaused. A multiverse is undergoing motion constantly and thus, if it exists, and even if it exists eternally, it still needs a cause of its motion.

    It is also not incredulity. We have plenty of empirical evidence that events have causes so Aquinas is well within reason to think what He does. Furthermore, since he has an infinite regress per re instead of per accidens, one does not need to explain just past motion but present motion.


    Pasta: Yes. A neuroscientist can happily point out happiness.

    Reply: Really? Do you think you could find one then who could put some in a jar and take a picture of it?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. "You're certainly correct that no argument is involved since it's just an assumption that all creators must be ipso facto material."

      >>Precisely. I recall YOU making the "assumption" that all unicorns must be material.

      "you've used an inductive argument and you cannot reach certainty"

      >> In much the same way that you have declared all unicorns material (by "definition").

      "Why not make it that everyone making a claim has to have an argument?"

      >>I have never affirmed that all creators are necessarily material. I was attempting to parody your dismissal of "immaterial unicorns". If you can declare unicorns as "material by definition", then I can declare creators as such.

      "Is triangularity itself material or is it something that is immaterial but is expressed materially?"

      >>"Triangular(ity)" is not "some thing", therefore it cannot be material. If you wish to define certain adjectives as immaterial (since words do not take physical form) then so be it. I fail to see how this has any relevance to the discussion at hand.

      "Your assumption involves the idea that motion is a physical motion in the argument."

      >>No. Think again.

      "Second, this assumes that Aquinas is talking about a beginning of the universe."

      >>No. I know Aquinas wasn't talking about the beginning of a universe (he wouldn't have known anything about the big bang).
      He is referring to the beginning of existence- in its entirety. I am merely using a modern word, which amounts to the same thing.

      "It's quite strange that you say all of our creators that we've seen are material, therefore all are material"

      >>Again- I have never stated this. See above.

      "Third, the quantum fluctuation [..] is a type of motion"

      >>Incorrect.

      "The argument is not meant to demonstrate omnipotence and omniscience in itself. "

      >>Precisely. Which means that this argument, in itself, cannot be used as evidence for a god which has these characteristics. If the argument is accepted- it only concludes that there is a first cause.

      "We have plenty of empirical evidence that events have causes "

      >>Whatever happened to the shortcomings of inductive reasoning? You seem to be fine with it, only when it suits you.

      "Really? Do you think you could find one then who could put some [happiness] in a jar and take a picture of it?"

      >>Look up: neurons and neurotransmitters. Happiness is a product of our material brains.

      Delete
  17. >>Precisely. I recall YOU making the "assumption" that all unicorns must be material.

    Reply: That's because unicorns are animals and animals are those that by genus and species refers to animated matter. Within the definition of "animal" is "material being." Not so is the definition of "material being" within creator.

    Pasta: >> In much the same way that you have declared all unicorns material (by "definition").

    Reply: See above. THe definition includes material. Creator does not.



    Pasta:>>I have never affirmed that all creators are necessarily material.

    Reply: Mr. Pasta. November 12th, 2012 11:35. Precisely!! Creators, by definition, are also material. As are: minds and "movers".

    Oh how quickly they backpedal.

    Pasta: I was attempting to parody your dismissal of "immaterial unicorns". If you can declare unicorns as "material by definition", then I can declare creators as such.

    Reply: See above.



    Pasta: >>"Triangular(ity)" is not "some thing", therefore it cannot be material. If you wish to define certain adjectives as immaterial (since words do not take physical form) then so be it. I fail to see how this has any relevance to the discussion at hand.

    REply: Ah. So when you talk about triangularity, you are talking about nothing. If it is not something, it is nothing. So what do all triangles have in common that makes them triangles? Sounds like you'd have to say "nothing."



    Pasta: >>No. Think again.

    REply: Feel free to demonstrate otherwise.



    Pasta: >>No. I know Aquinas wasn't talking about the beginning of a universe (he wouldn't have known anything about the big bang).
    He is referring to the beginning of existence- in its entirety. I am merely using a modern word, which amounts to the same thing.

    Reply: No. He's not. For Aquinas, existence itself has no beginning, but certain things that exist have a beginning. This is fleshed out more in his book "On Being and Essence."



    Pasta: >>Again- I have never stated this. See above.

    Reply: I did, which is where I found you stating it.


    Pasta: >>Incorrect.

    REply: Feel free to show otherwise.



    Pasta: >>Precisely. Which means that this argument, in itself, cannot be used as evidence for a god which has these characteristics. If the argument is accepted- it only concludes that there is a first cause.

    Reply: It's not meant to get the full package so the argument is not to be faulted for not doing what it was not meant to do. It is meant to establish a first cause and that first cause is pure actuality.



    Pasta: >>Whatever happened to the shortcomings of inductive reasoning? You seem to be fine with it, only when it suits you.

    Reply: Inductive reasoning does not give certainty but increased probability. Changes are caused by things that have existence necessarily however. Non-existent things cannot act so if any change comes, it must come by that which exists.


    Pasta: >>Look up: neurons and neurotransmitters. Happiness is a product of our material brains.

    Reply: A false definition of happiness as Mortimer Adler points out in "Ten Philosophical Mistakes." Still, can you put happiness in a jar for me?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "That's because unicorns are animals and animals are those that by genus and species refers to animated matter"

      >>'' it's just an assumption that all animals must be material. That can't be the case since you've used an inductive argument and you cannot reach certainty, but only probability. This means on the other hand that you have faith that you have certainty instead of probability.''

      " The definition [of a unicorn] includes material. Creator does not."

      >> Could you cite a definition of the word unicorn which includes the word material?


      Arguing over definitions isn't getting us anywhere. Lets talk about EVIDENCE. What empirical evidence do you have for your your god?

      "Oh how quickly they backpedal."

      >> Again, I was parodying your dismissal of the immaterial unicorn. You are arguing with yourself- it amuses me that you fail to recognise this.

      "Feel free to show otherwise.[Re the quantum fluctuation [..] is a type of motion]"

      >> This would require a full lecture course on quantum physics. QF is not a "type of motion". You may look it up on the internet.

      "Ah. So when you talk about triangularity, you are talking about nothing."

      >>No.. I am talking about triangles. Where are you taking this?

      "It is meant to establish a first cause and that first cause is pure actuality."

      >> Why must the first cause necessarily be "pure actuality" ?


      " A false definition of happiness as Mortimer Adler points out in "Ten Philosophical Mistakes. Still, can you put happiness in a jar for me?"

      >>Since when was Alder an authority on matters of science? Happiness is a phenomenon which can be understood by chemistry and neuroscience. It is a label for a tangible process which occurs in our material brains.

      Delete
  18. Pasta: it's just an assumption that all animals must be material. That can't be the case since you've used an inductive argument and you cannot reach certainty, but only probability. This means on the other hand that you have faith that you have certainty instead of probability.''

    Reply: No. I haven't. I've used an argument based on the definition of the word. A unicorn is an animal. An animal refers to matter that has animation. Matter by definition is material.



    Pasta:>> Could you cite a definition of the word unicorn which includes the word material?

    Reply: See above.


    Pasta: Arguing over definitions isn't getting us anywhere. Lets talk about EVIDENCE. What empirical evidence do you have for your your god?

    Reply: The five ways, something you're way too ignorant to handle.


    Pasta: Again, I was parodying your dismissal of the immaterial unicorn. You are arguing with yourself- it amuses me that you fail to recognise this.

    Reply: Oh excuses excuses. If you think a creator can be immaterial, then you should have no problem with theism.



    Pasta: This would require a full lecture course on quantum physics. QF is not a "type of motion". You may look it up on the internet.

    Reply: In other words, you can't and you just want to snow as if you know something about QF. Got it!



    Pasta: >>No.. I am talking about triangles. Where are you taking this?

    Reply: And what do all triangles have in common that makes them triangles? Either triangularity, which you say is nothing, or something else, but then what?



    Pasta: >> Why must the first cause necessarily be "pure actuality" ?

    Reply: Because anything else is part of the very chain that needs to be explained. If something has potential, it depends on another for its existing and if it depends on another, it cannot be the first cause.


    Pasta: >>Since when was Alder an authority on matters of science? Happiness is a phenomenon which can be understood by chemistry and neuroscience. It is a label for a tangible process which occurs in our material brains.

    Reply: This is an assumption that it's material. That there can be a natural explanation of it does not mean that there is no immaterial aspect to it. If happiness is material, then feel free to put it in a jar for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "No. I haven't. I've used an argument based on the definition of the word. A unicorn is an animal. An animal refers to matter that has animation. Matter by definition is material."

      -Unicorns are not animals, because they don't exist.

      On the other hand, we have the ghost that never lies. She is immaterial and is a being of pure actuality. She created the universe and has revealed, through private revelation, that the god of abraham is a myth. We know her words to be true because, by definition: she is the ghost that never lies.

      "The five ways, something you're way too ignorant to handle."

      >>Still, you provide no evidence for your imaginary god. I am satisfied with the refutations to each of Aquinas arguments- you would do well to read up on them.

      " And what do all triangles have in common that makes them triangles?"

      >> Three sides. Please stop, before you embarrass yourself any further.

      "That there can be a natural explanation of it does not mean that there is no immaterial aspect to it. If happiness is material, then feel free to put it in a jar for me."

      >>And what immaterial aspect might that be? Like I said: happiness can be explained by chemistry and neuroscience. Allow me time to become a neurosurgeon and I will happily put the brain cells which correspond to happiness in a jar for you.

      Delete
  19. Pasta: -Unicorns are not animals, because they don't exist.

    REply: False. Unicorns are a variety of horse and horses are animals.

    Pasta: On the other hand, we have the ghost that never lies. She is immaterial and is a being of pure actuality. She created the universe and has revealed, through private revelation, that the god of abraham is a myth. We know her words to be true because, by definition: she is the ghost that never lies.

    Reply: Knowing a being is pure actuality does not tell us if that being has communicated with us or about any actions of that being in itself. Reason alone can never establish a particular religious belief of any one group, such as the Trinity or the five ways of Islam. Seriously, do you try to just think of pathetic straw men all day long or what?


    Pasta>>Still, you provide no evidence for your imaginary god. I am satisfied with the refutations to each of Aquinas arguments- you would do well to read up on them.

    Reply: I've done so and written replies to them. You can't even handle the first one and screw it up royally so why should I think you're any authority on the others?



    Pasta: >> Three sides. Please stop, before you embarrass yourself any further.

    Reply: Three sides and each side has a corresponding angle. That means "Triangularity." Again, nothing in common according to you.



    Pasta: >>And what immaterial aspect might that be? Like I said: happiness can be explained by chemistry and neuroscience. Allow me time to become a neurosurgeon and I will happily put the brain cells which correspond to happiness in a jar for you.

    Reply: I don't want the brain cells. I want the happiness itself. If it's something material, you can do that.

    And for happiness, just go read Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I don't want the brain cells. I want the happiness itself. If it's something material, you can do that."

      >>You are truly ignorant. The brain cells and neurotransmitters ARE the happiness.

      "Three sides and each side has a corresponding angle. That means "Triangularity." Again, nothing in common according to you."

      >>What triangles have in common, is that their interior angles add to 180 degrees. Please stop, before you embarrass yourself further.

      "unicorns don't exist"..."False. Unicorns are a variety of horse and horses are animals."

      >>Willingness to buy into stories of mythical creatures, doesn't help your credibility any. It just makes your willingness to buy into religion look more like a symptom of a larger problem of credulity on your part.

      Delete
  20. You are truly ignorant. The brain cells and neurotransmitters ARE the happiness.

    Reply: if that were the case, then people would not go in and out of the state of happiness today for if the neurotransmitters and brain cells were there, there would always be happiness. If they are there, then what is true about one is automatically true about the other, but if one can one without the other, then they are not identical.



    Pasta: >>What triangles have in common, is that their interior angles add to 180 degrees. Please stop, before you embarrass yourself further.

    Reply: Duh. That's also what is meant by triangularity. Equilaterals, isosceles, and scalenes all have this in common.



    Pasta: >>Willingness to buy into stories of mythical creatures, doesn't help your credibility any. It just makes your willingness to buy into religion look more like a symptom of a larger problem of credulity on your part.

    Reply: To say unicorns are horses and thus animals does not mean that unicorns exist. It would be like saying "To say Peter Parker is Spider-Man" is the same as saying that Spider-Man exists. There can be true statements made about non-existent beings. When I am saying God is immaterial, I am not arguing for His existence, but I am stating that if He does exist, which I hold He does, this is one of His properties.

    No reply to Aquinas still I see. Just the typical atheistic hubris.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. We agree that words exist(triangular). We agree that processes exist (happiness). We agree that words and processes are not themselves material things. What is it that still concerns you?

      I am not arguing against god's existence on the basis that "all that exists must be material". I am suggesting that you have provided no demonstrable evidence for the existence of a god
      - and that the belief in such an entity is irrational.

      Your attempts at providing evidence have been vacuous.And I have already refuted Aquinas. The first way, merely concludes that there is a "first mover". If you wish to label the first cause with 3 letters- so be it. "God" exists.

      If this "first mover" is revealed to be a quantum vacuum fluctuation- it is hardly appropriate to label it as Aquinas' god. To call this phenomenon "God" is misleading- since god's other well-known properties, such as omnipotence and omniscience, have yet to be demonstrated.

      So far, you have not presented an argument which proves that the first mover possesses these properties. I look forward to deconstructing your response.

      Delete
  21. Pasta: We agree that words exist(triangular). We agree that processes exist (happiness). We agree that words and processes are not themselves material things. What is it that still concerns you?

    Reply: Words are markers that point to realities beyond themselves. Triangularity is something, but is that something material or not? You're also assuming a process is the same as a result. This also relies on a modern subjective definition of happiness.

    Pasta: I am not arguing against god's existence on the basis that "all that exists must be material". I am suggesting that you have provided no demonstrable evidence for the existence of a god
    - and that the belief in such an entity is irrational.

    Reply; The Five Ways. I've dealt with your objections to them. You seem blissfully ignorant of how unequipped you are.

    Pasta: Your attempts at providing evidence have been vacuous.And I have already refuted Aquinas. The first way, merely concludes that there is a "first mover". If you wish to label the first cause with 3 letters- so be it. "God" exists.

    Reply: Oh good. Then it's time to abandon atheism and move to theism. The first way also says the being has pure actuality, and thus, would be immaterial since all matter has potential mixed with actuality.

    Pasta: If this "first mover" is revealed to be a quantum vacuum fluctuation- it is hardly appropriate to label it as Aquinas' god. To call this phenomenon "God" is misleading- since god's other well-known properties, such as omnipotence and omniscience, have yet to be demonstrated.

    Reply; Can't be that. All such things in a vacuum have potential and thus cannot be pure actuality.

    Pasta: So far, you have not presented an argument which proves that the first mover possesses these properties. I look forward to deconstructing your response.

    Reply: Nor am I going to bother to do so. I just show a being of pure actuality that is thus immaterial. You haven't dealt with that yet.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "The first way also says the being has pure actuality, and thus, would be immaterial since all matter has potential mixed with actuality."

      -I don't care whether you think the first cause is "material" or not. (Although knowing what it is, if there is a first cause, would be fascinating.) This not a significant point and informs no useful models of predictive capability.

      "Can't be that. All such things in a vacuum have potential"

      - I don't think so. Please explain why you think a spontaneous quantum fluctuation has "potential". I assume you have a thorough knowledge of physics to provide a convincing case.

      "Nor am I going to bother to do so. I just show a being of pure actuality that is thus immaterial. You haven't dealt with that yet."

      -Like I said, I don't care whether you think the first cause is "material" or not. A spontaneous quantum fluctuation is another valid contender for the first cause. How have you ruled this out?

      You must present an argument which proves that the first mover possesses the properties of a god: omniscience and omnipotence, otherwise you cannot distinguish it from a spontaneous quantum fluctuation. I look forward to deconstructing your response.

      Delete
  22. Pasta: -I don't care whether you think the first cause is "material" or not. (Although knowing what it is, if there is a first cause, would be fascinating.) This not a significant point and informs no useful models of predictive capability.

    REply: This assumes that it must be something scientific. No. Furthermore, you are ignoring if the case is true or not. It doesn't matter if I think the first cause is material or not. What matters is if that can be demonstrated.



    Pasta: - I don't think so. Please explain why you think a spontaneous quantum fluctuation has "potential". I assume you have a thorough knowledge of physics to provide a convincing case.

    Reply: A vacuum is part of space and time and is in a state of flux. That which is in a state of flux is changing. That which is changing has potential.



    Pasta: -Like I said, I don't care whether you think the first cause is "material" or not. A spontaneous quantum fluctuation is another valid contender for the first cause. How have you ruled this out?

    REply: Because it has potential and is thus, part of the chain.

    Pasta: You must present an argument which proves that the first mover possesses the properties of a god: omniscience and omnipotence, otherwise you cannot distinguish it from a spontaneous quantum fluctuation. I look forward to deconstructing your response.

    REply: No. I just have to demonstrate it's a being of pure actuality.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. "This assumes that it must be something scientific."

      -Incorrect. I do not assume anything of the sort.

      "What matters is if that [immaterial first cause] can be demonstrated."

      -I agree.

      "A vacuum is part of space and time and is in a state of flux. That which is in a state of flux is changing. That which is changing has potential."

      -It is quite clear that you have avoided the question. It is the spontaneous quantum fluctuation- which I have asked you to address. Please explain why it has potential.

      " No. I just have to demonstrate it's a being of pure actuality."

      -The spontaneous quantum fluctuation is another instance of pure actuality. How have you ruled it out?

      Delete
  23. Pasta: -Incorrect. I do not assume anything of the sort.

    Reply: The language of predictive capability is scientific. What is important in this is what is important in the study of history, and that's explanatory scope.





    Pasta: -It is quite clear that you have avoided the question. It is the spontaneous quantum fluctuation- which I have asked you to address. Please explain why it has potential.

    Reply: It has a change taking place that leads to a universe. Anything that changes has potential. That which has potential is not pure actuality.



    Pasta-The spontaneous quantum fluctuation is another instance of pure actuality. How have you ruled it out?

    Reply: Do you even know what pure actuality is? Do you know what potential is?

    ReplyDelete
  24. "The language of predictive capability is scientific."

    I agree. My point still holds: I assume nothing of the sort. Please move on.

    "It has a change taking place that leads to a universe. Anything that changes has potential. That which has potential is not pure actuality."

    -You must distinguish between a "change" and a "changer". The spontaneous quantum fluctuation is what causes the change. It is a first cause, which is without potential.

    "Do you even know what pure actuality is? Do you know what potential is?"

    - I do. The spontaneous quantum fluctuation is another instance of pure actuality. How have you ruled it out?

    ReplyDelete

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