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[RD] Ask a Theologian V

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, Nov 17, 2013.

  1. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    I'm not sure why microbiology or mathematics should explore such phenomena, nor how that accounts for philosophy being dead.

    Perhaps I should clarify the argument with an example. Some time ago I was watching a televised discussion on evolution with, among others, Richard Dawkins (ethologist, evolutionary bioligist, writer) and an Anglican bishop (cleric) being present. At which occasion Dawkins was baffled by the apparent basic lack of understanding by the bishop of evolution. I believe the bishop (I forgot his name) mentioned humans descending from gorillas. At which point Dawkins of course asked: "Why gorillas?"

    So we see an theologically schooled person struggling with an over 150 year old scientific theory that is at present being taught at high school level.

    By the way, the quoted text is from the first chapter of Hawking/Mlodinov's The Grand Design (2010). Hawking being theoretical physicist and cosmologist and Mlodinov physicist.
     
  2. Arakhor

    Arakhor Dremora Courtier Moderator

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    At least being an Anglican meant that he probably accepted prevailing scientific theory.
     
  3. Mechanicalsalvation

    Mechanicalsalvation -

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    Psychology should be the main research field evidently. We have to have deaper knowledge of our mental sub(or supra)conscious states and dont treat everything at symptom/physical level like we are just a piece of machinery. In fact deeper understanding of our consciousness which is so far the most refined product of terrestrial evolution can throw light on many other subjects and can be very inviting for philosophy to share its position as well.
     
  4. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    It isn't remotely true.
     
  5. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    I'm not sure if you checked that article, but it doesn't mention a single philosopher. It does mention quite a few physicists. Which underlines the point made.

    It's kind of hard to accept a theory if you don't even comprehend the basics of it.
     
  6. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Super Moderator

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    Well, I wouldn't say he "found out" anything exactly! But he begins with the Dionysian claim that God transcends all comprehensible categories, and argues from that that since God therefore lacks location, size, number, etc., he must be perfectly simple. This perfect simplicity is, for Aquinas, God's prime characteristic, and all of the other divine properties derive from it. E.g. if God is perfectly simple then there is no distinction in him between essence and existence, which means that his essence is existence, which means not only that God necessarily exists but that he just is existence in some sense. And so on. Aquinas can maintain all of this despite holding that we don't know anything about God through his doctrine of analogical language: everything we say about God is applied analogically, that is, kind of metaphorically. So none of this is literally true, but it still is true.

    Who is "you" here? I don't think I would agree with this - I would not say that God, if he exists, must necessarily be undetectable or unprovable through reason. Does Eagleton say this? I doubt it, as it's not the Catholic position - the Catholic Church teaches that God's can be rationally proven.

    Still, there are people who argue that God's existence can't be proven, but it's still rational to believe in him. There are three ways to do this. One is the Swinburne way, which is to say that although we can't prove God's existence we can show that it's very probable, and it's rational to believe things that are very probable. The second is the alternate Swinburne way (although he combines it with the first), which is to say that it's rational to accept experience at face value unless you have good reason to doubt it, and it's therefore rational to accept that religious experiences are veridical. The third way is the Plantinga way, which is to accept that God's existence can't be proved or even shown through evidence to be probable, but to assert that it's nevertheless rational to believe it because "it is rational to believe X" is not equivalent to "there is good evidence for X".

    Well it's clearly not true, though of course Hawking has a track record of asserting that science has taken over everything that philosophy used to do - but then he's no philosopher! For one thing, there are areas of philosophy that aren't connected to scientific questions at all, notably ethics. For another, as soon as you start talking about what science is or how it works, you're really doing philosophy, even if you don't call it that. This is what philosophy of science is. And there are plenty of issues that are connected to scientific ones but which can't be resolved through the scientific method - such as, of course, whether there's a God. There are less airy-fairy ones too, and these are the domain of areas such as philosophy of physics. It's striking how some physicists have tried to draw philosophical implications from physics, without apparently realising that they're philosophy, and that they've done so in a rather amateur way. The best example I know is John Wheeler's "It From Bit" theory that information precedes medium, which the philosophers of physics who I know, at least, don't think very much of - and quite right too, as far as I can tell.

    He does argue from complexity, though - his point is that the universe is very complex, so its cause must be at least as complex. So if you say that God created the universe you've not explained where the complexity comes from. But I don't think it's a very good argument because it assumes that whatever property the effect has, the cause must have. Funnily enough Aquinas makes the same mistake. But it's obviously not true - e.g. you can make fire by rubbing two sticks together, even though fire is hot and the sticks aren't. And I see no reason why a simple cause couldn't have complex effects.
     
  7. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    The question was more why philosophy has stopped keeping up with advancement in physics, I think. And this would explain why we see the occasional physicist dabbling in philosophy - since the philosophers aren't there to do it.

    Quite. Obviously Dawkins isn't a cosmologist, but I reckon he should know about the Big Bang theory, even though it's not really his field of expertise. But even as a biologist I'm sure he's aware that things (especially life) didn't start out being complex, but rather the opposite. Which is why I questioned this 'arguing from complexity.'
     
  8. brennan

    brennan Argumentative Brit

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    I don't think it is the case that philosophy hasn't kept up with physics - and there's a simple reason for this. We've known our current understanding of physics isn't complete for a century and we still don't know what to replace it with. Other than stacking up more and more evidence that we cannot rely on common sense notions like the idea that something cannot be in two places at once, what exactly has physics come up with that philosophy hasn't thought about already?
     
  9. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    That's how I understood Paul Wallace and Terry Eagleton's argument:

    Did I miss the point?

    I can see Pascal's wager peeking through there, somewhere.
     
  10. brennan

    brennan Argumentative Brit

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    I wouldn't grace anything Eagleton has written with a descriptor as worthy as 'argument'.
     
  11. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    Hmmmn, I think you're misparaphrasing.

    I don't think Dawkins ever suggests the cause of the universe is complex. He's big into emergence. Simple things can run with simple rules and then end up with very complex outcomes.

    His 'arguments from complexity' usually are counter-points. To suggest that the current outcome was intentionally produced would require a being that is more complex than the current outcome. It's a counter-point to those who say that the universe is so complex that it couldn't have arisen without intentional design. So then, the God is more complex than the creation (which I find compelling, that the current universe is entirely within the Venn diagram of 'God'), so arguments from complexity replace a universe with something even more impressive.

    But Dawkins himself starts with the theory that the beginning were rather simple.
     
  12. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Escaped Lunatic

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    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_physics#History_of_the_philosophy_of_physics

    What explains it better is that philosophers don't get their work displayed thorough 'pop philosophy' the way physicists do. The subjects that philosophers discuss (time, space, or indeterminism) seem pretty relevant to physics.

    There's also this.

    But wouldn't it be a better answer to the argument from contingency than God? If you say that the only thing that really exists is mathematics (which basically asserts that the ultimate layer of our universe is a bunch of mathematical rules like in Conway's Game of Life; I don't know how similar it is to Wheeler's theory), than it doesn't need to be 'caused' by anything. They are Platonic objects.
     
  13. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Hanafubuki Retired Moderator Supporter

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    Pretty Hinduish as a foundation. Does Origen fit into any of his thinking?
     
  14. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    That actually confirms what I just said. I'm not sure why you are linking that yet again. (And Aristotelian physics was basically simply wrong. Which shouldn't surprise anyone as Greek philosophers didn't generally base their physics on observations.)

    Now you're talking. As per philosophy not spreading the word through popularization, that would be their own fault now, wouldn't it?

    So basically, if Hawking claims philosophy isn't keeping up with physics, he's overstating.

    Pretty much everything since Einstein came up with relativity, so basically modern physics as is. I know you're not a philosopher, but use some nuance please.
     
  15. Lohrenswald

    Lohrenswald 老仁森林

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    So, Plotinus, you've been calling out an argument a lot lately, but I'm not exactly sure what the problem is, or exactly which of these two arguments it is:

    1. The universe is complex, so the creator of the univers has to be equally complex. Therefore you can't use the complexity of the universe to argue for the existence of god.

    This one I get. Case in point, the solar system used to be a bunch of gas in a rotating disk. Now on earth we have living organisms, far more complex. So I see that this doesn't hold

    However, if the arguement is simply:
    2. If you say the univere needs to have been created, you have to accept that the creator of the universe has to have been created (and that creator's creator again and so forth). Therefore, there is no reason to assume that the universe isn't created "out of nothing"

    I'm not entierly sure about the flaw in this argument. Can you enlighten me?
     
  16. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    I'm not a theologian, but that just makes sense to me from "basic logic" principles.

    If you claim that "Everything requires a creator", then each creator also requires a creator.

    If you on the other claim that "Not everything requires a creator", then the universe itself doesn't necessarily require a creator.
     
  17. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

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    The more rigorous version of the argument is not that every thing requires a creator, but that every effect or change requires a cause.

    The universe in which we live is clearly constantly changing, and so requires a cause (or many causes) to explain how this mutable state came to be.

    The "God of the Philosophers" is posited to be completely immutable; he would not only not require a cause, but could not possibly have any cause.

    (This conception of God does not align particularly well with the biblical portrayal of the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob," however.)
     
  18. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    In physics the cause of the universe is the Big Bang. Before that nothing existed. It doesn't require the presupposition of a cause, creator. The problem is not so much 'what caused the universe?', but rather the human inability to accept that something came from nothing. However, before the universe, that is exactly what was there: nothing.

    Simply postulating that before the universe there was God ignores two problems:

    1) before the universe there no time and no space (i.e. there was no 'before' the universe).

    2) what is the cause of God? (Postulating in addition that 'God needs no cause' is basically ignoring the question by saying ' we don't ask that' c.q. 'we don't answer that question'. From a physical point of view it simple means: first God popped into existence, and next the universe. It doesn't provide any kind of explanation, but merely transposes the question as to the why or how to God.)

    But I'm very interested in Plotinus's response here, as this is basically the argument Hawking uses when trying to explain the physics of the Big Bang. (Or, to be more exact, the physics from right after the Big Bang, as it seems physical laws do not apply to the exact 'moment' of the Big Bang; they developed right after that.)

    The conclusion does not follow from the argument. (For instance, the creator could have created the universe out of nothing.) The argument only covers the question of what caused the universe, not the question of how exactly it was done.
     
  19. Cynovolans

    Cynovolans Not in my dimension.

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    I have taken a class on the New Testament and was surprised when the professor said the oldest manuscripts of Mark we have end at 16:8 with the women fleeing Jesus' tomb and telling no one of the angel or the resurrection. I thought that ending(and apparently so did later scribes) was disappointing. The professor and the textbook(Ehrman's New Testament) said this was fitting of Mark's theme of fear overpowering faith. But I don't understand how this ending would have won any converts. It leaves a lot of open questions. How did anyone know there was a resurrection if the women told no one? How does the author know any of this? Didn't Jesus have something really important to tell the disciples?

    I think I'm rambling but I guess my question is why would Mark end his gospel without any resolution?
     
  20. _random_

    _random_ Jewel Runner

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    It's implicit that they must have told someone, since their account was recorded. But ending it that way is a fairly clever literary device, as Mark frequently incorporates the "Messianic Secret." The basic formula there is that Jesus performs some miracle, tells any witnesses not to tell anyone, and is promptly disobeyed. The ending effectively reverses that, when the women are told to tell everyone, but are unable to obey initially. I agree it's odd, but it's worth considering in that light.
     

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