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The cosmological argument


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Posted on 31 Jul 2012 18:49:28 BDT
T,

i think i agree with you that science might not be the sole arbiter of truth and meaning. i wonder if science can even touch on 'meaning' as that feels to be a human trait. i sometimes wonder if religion is not something that we as a species are predisposed to speculate on due to our ability to conceive meaning in our perceptions. and there's me having a go at theologians for being obtuse!

sorry to cut your, as usual thoughtful and insightful, post short but i have to cook dinner! but i can see contemplative theological thought as an adventure and as you say it's a very complex subject to tackle. catch you later.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Aug 2012 08:50:17 BDT
G. Heron says:
T. Woodman

I agree that there is much which lies outside the realm of science. I do note that however science does have in the scientific method an excellent tool for making progress. There seems to be no similar tool available in religion which may explain the vast number of religions.

Can you expand on what it is you think religion does, what questions it answers?

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Aug 2012 12:25:49 BDT
T,

getting back to your post; for the most part Scientific method has been applied to so many fields of study so when you mention .................I believe that we also have what some philosophers call a practical reason (which indeed has to function too in the empirical aspects of science-- although much of science is not empirical) which evaluates historical evidence, testimony, character, moral demands and so on.............

i wonder if this 'practical reason' tends to be arrived at through scientific methodology. for example with historical evidence we have a mixture of disciplines involved including archaeology which is very scientific in the way it goes about it's business of investigating sites and collecting samples. historical records and literature can often be cross referenced and compared to archaeological findings. we now have the ability to take DNA samples from old bones and this enables us to look at migration pattens and settlement. i believe that this practical reason has much scientific research within it and one might say that considerations that lie outside of the science to comment on owe at least part of their reasoning on the science that the considerations have been built upon.

Religious faith is something i'm not best placed to comment on as i lack it! however i wonder how many people become religious from a non religious background! i came from a fairly lax CoE family so couldn't become religious, as i already was by default, but only become non religious through choice.

i've had a look back into our ancient past and it looks to me that with the birth of civilisation (lets say the Sumerians and Babylonians) came attempts to provide larger masses of people with cohesive religion but these people moving towards the new cities/kingdoms already seem to have pagan beliefs so all they did was to either swap their original one for the new state one or to incorporate the two as appropriate (keep their own practices but also partake of the new ones). i think this continues with the Israelites and their pagan worship along with the emerging Abrahamic one. then Christianity and on to Islam and as they carve up the world between them we see that each generation grows up within a particular religion and religiously influenced culture.

well the point of the above is to suggest that when 'accessing religious faith' it is almost always done from a position of religious faith or at least from a position of religious understanding/knowledge/exposure. i wonder how many people gain faith from a non faith position rather than re-establish their faith or convert to another? i wonder then if there is a difference in the thought processes between someone looking towards religion from a non religious background, if that is still possible, and someone with existing exposure to religion. i wonder how much scientific rational is applied in trying to understand a new faith, how much of this 'practical reasoning' has scientific considerations behind it.

i feel that i'm putting this very badly and seem to be having trouble thinking clearly today but another way of putting this is whether religion is being looked at from a scientific perspective or science being looked at from a religious perspective. as most of the world seems to have religion so intertwined with it's culture, laws, family units etc i would say the latter is most usually the case.

maybe then for most people religious faith is there, in their bones so to speak, and the 'accessing' you speak of is further study rather than a new venture. people are accessing something to which they already have a predisposition. i have over the past few years heard the term 'bible study' used and have been quite disappointed to discover that it does not critique the bible so much as try to explain it at a deeper level. the purpose seems to be to reinforce an existing belief rather than to look at a wider picture. maybe this is what each religion seeks to do which might result in more fundamentalist beliefs. i would call this type of bible, or Koran/torah etc study to be introspective and subjective relying on it's own scriptures to explain and reinforce itself. this is i think different to a subjective experience of god which a number of people might experience and which must therefore gain some level of objectivity although i'd hesitate to say in a scientific sense of the word.

i'm really not convinced that i'm making much sense at the moment so i'll just stop here!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2012 19:23:06 BDT
Thanks for this Richard -- I always appreciate your posts too, and to be honest I was childishly pleased with you kind words!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2012 19:59:56 BDT
i tend to say it as i see it!

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2012 20:20:18 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 Aug 2012 20:23:10 BDT
Reverting to your ingenious proof, AJ, I have to say that you are failing to grasp that classic theism proclaims that God is simultaneously present to all time (not really 'out of time' in the sense that phrase is commonly taken, though out of punctual time). Anyway this means that both the present and the future are present to him, and so both open probabilities and closed ones in your terms coexist, and the open ones are not cancelled out. In the human time perspective open probabilities continue for people until the future event has occurred, and from the human perspective there is free will. Modern physics actually makes it much clearer that different time scales and perspectives of time coexist in the universe. One does not cancel out or even necessarily directly effect the other, although it is hard for time-bound human logic to see this. And one of the problems of assuming the existence of the God of classic theism in order to disprove his existence is that you pretty much have to accept what classic theism says about his relationship to time --or else your argument simply turns into a circular one. IE if the God of classic theism exists or is presumed to exist for the sake of the argument, then he must have the relationship to time that classic theism asserts.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2012 21:52:06 BDT
DB says:
Richard
Very interesting, but still contains the atheist premise that all religious people must be unthinking people led by others.
Your comment that when accessing religious faith it is almost always done from a position of religious understanding/knowledge/exposure, I find baffling. You seem to see this as a fault.
Wouldn't it be ridiculous to 'access religious faith' without making the effort to understand, gain knowledge, or in as many ways as possible learn everything about it first?

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Aug 2012 23:46:16 BDT
DB,

is there an Atheist premise that all religious people must be unthinking people led by others? have you read that somewhere or is it just an assumption you have made regarding Atheists? I am an atheist and i do not think that!

regarding .............Your comment that when accessing religious faith it is almost always done from a position of religious understanding/knowledge/exposure, I find baffling. You seem to see this as a fault..............................i wonder how, if you find it baffling you have managed to think i might see it as a fault. can you explain your thinking on this?

do you think it would be ridiculous to only try to access one faith when there are so many? should one seeking this access make an effort to understand, gain knowledge, or in as many ways as possible learn everything about every religion first?

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 00:12:24 BDT
DB says:
Richard

You can't be unaware that there are some atheists, especially on this site, who feel, and often state that theists are 'stupid' 'unthinking' etc etc for having religious beliefs. I accept your statement that you do not think that.

However
Much of your post is about theists being unable to choose religion without being already influenced by religion. The inference in your post is that 'almost always' people who have religious 'exposure' are the ones who become religious. I would argue that there are many life situations that bring people to look for God and then to go on to find him with the help of various religions.

When you discover an author you like, a band you like, a song you like, is it necessary for you to know every other author, band, song in the world, in order to decide that this one is right for you?
I accept that others have found different ways (other songs) . That's ok.

I find it 'baffling' that an atheist can't just feel like that too.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 04:49:11 BDT
"Very interesting, but still contains the atheist premise that all religious people must be unthinking people led by others."

In your, fanciful, dreams.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 07:23:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Aug 2012 07:24:27 BDT
Drew Jones says:
"When you discover an author you like, a band you like, a song you like, is it necessary for you to know every other author, band, song in the world, in order to decide that this one is right for you?
I accept that others have found different ways (other songs) . That's ok."
I don't think monotheists can say this. You have come to the conclusion that there is only one god, one *true* god to be found by everyone and there are some unsavoury things added to this belief for non-believers too. Theism is hardly ever a personal statement that assumes itself to be an internal and individual conclusion.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 09:26:42 BDT
Last edited by the author on 3 Aug 2012 09:27:58 BDT
AJ Murray says:
T. Woodman,

-"Reverting to your ingenious proof, AJ, I have to say that you are failing to grasp that classic theism proclaims that God is simultaneously present to all time (not really 'out of time' in the sense that phrase is commonly taken, though out of punctual time). Anyway this means that both the present and the future are present to him, and so both open probabilities and closed ones in your terms coexist, and the open ones are not cancelled out."

Open and closed probabilities co-existing is logically impossible.

-"In the human time perspective open probabilities continue for people until the future event has occurred, and from the human perspective there is free will."

Foreknowledge then does not exist.

-"Modern physics actually makes it much clearer that different time scales and perspectives of time coexist in the universe. One does not cancel out or even necessarily directly effect the other, although it is hard for time-bound human logic to see this."

I don't think you have the slightest clue of what physics tells us about time.

-"And one of the problems of assuming the existence of the God of classic theism in order to disprove his existence is that you pretty much have to accept what classic theism says about his relationship to time --or else your argument simply turns into a circular one."

No. I'm going state this one last time in the vain that this finally sinks in.

The logical argument takes two attributes - foreknowledge and free-will, defines both and demonstrates the logical contradiction that is entailed.

-"IE if the God of classic theism exists or is presumed to exist for the sake of the argument, then he must have the relationship to time that classic theism asserts."

The assertion simply doesn't resolve the contradiction because it is not dependent on location but knowledge. If, as you have now asserted, the probabilities 'co-exist' then knowledge - certain knowledge - of the choice event is unavailable to your deity.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 10:52:51 BDT
DB,

i am aware of comments on this forum by some people calling others such things as stupid and unthinking but as i recall these things have generally been said by Atheists and Theists about Theists and Atheists. i have also witnessed Atheists having a go at Atheists a bit and Theists having a go at Theists a bit more. i have no doubt that some people who are Atheists think at least some Theists are stupid, unthinking etc just as i have no doubt that some Theists feel the same way of at least some Theists. but i think it's dangerous to create a generalisation from this or go further to say 'all'. i expect that some people are being called stupid and/or unthinking as a basic characteristic rather than specifically due to their religious disposition!

i was increasingly aware that i was having trouble getting my thoughts into words which is why i stopped so i can understand some misunderstanding. i think i was trying to make a distinction between choosing religion from within a religious framework (family/cultural upbringing) and from outside of such. at some point a definition of 'religious' probably needs to be established but although some would say that a level of dedication to one's religion is required in order to be called religious for many there is a general vague concept of god and belief in him and if asked would call themselves Christian or Catholic or Muslim or whatever. these people have been influenced by religion and even if not particularly religious for a number of years will still maybe go to church once a year (Christmas) or come marriage want to do it in a church and come children will Christen them and start thinking about installing religious values in them. it might well be that some of these people will take more interest in 'their' religion as they get older or look at other religions and if they do so then i am saying that they are doing so from a position of having grown up with religious exposure.

i don't think i implied that Theists have to have had a religious background. i am however pretty sure that i have read from several independent sources (quite some time ago) that this is the case. if you have information that this is not the case i would be interested in it.

i would agree with you that there are many life situations that bring people to look for God and then to go on to find him with the help of various religions. i would also say that there are many life situations that did not cause people to take that path and i would once again question what the difference was between those that sought god due to life situations and those that did not! were those that choose to seek god already exposed to religion in their life history? if so was that the reason they found it more sensible to look in that direction?

i have never found one author i liked and rejected all the others or a band i liked or an artist, or any other one thing i liked and rejected all others and even gone so far as to call them wrong or bad or misguided. no i have never done that. to decide on one without experiencing at least some others seems very strange thinking but when the thing in question is how one will live one's life and their immortal soul then it seems nothing short of crazy! the only explanation i can see is predisposition to a particular religion or faith in another person and their conviction that a particular religion is the 'correct' one or the inability to think about theology in any depth.

since when has god been about what the individual feels right with? surely it's about god feeling right with the person rather than the other way round! it's not finding the brand of baked beans one like the best it's about finding god and most people seem to think there's only the one. if there is only one god then is the criteria for finding this god finding the one that feels is right for the individual? and if so how does that person find the one they feel right with unless they have have at least investigated a few and i would say if it's their soul in question take a good look at all of them.

As an atheist i am baffled that some theists don't feel that way!

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 16:05:25 BDT
DB says:
Richard

You say - "i don't think i implied that Theists have to have had a religious background. i am however pretty sure that i have read from several independent sources (quite some time ago) that this is the case. if you have information that this is not the case i would be interested in it."

Using the criteria for evidence that atheists insist that theists provide, I believe it is up to you as the person making this statement to provide the proof of it's accuracy. i would be interested in it.

Of course in a christian country, for example, everyone is aware of the christian religion. The same can be said of the religion of a muslim or any other faith country. Knowledge of the religion however,does not make someone a follower of the religion.
To be a follower of religion takes a positive action and decision.

i do agree that we are all formed by the influences in our lives, whether it be good or bad.

As children, we tend to follow our parents politics, hobbies, etc. But as adults, we are all responsible for our own decisions and life views.
The adolescent, usually about 13/14 rebels against all things to do with his/her parents and searches for what he believes in his own right. There is no reason to believe that this stage bypasses the child brought up in a religion.
The atheists on this site, who tell us they were once religious, are testament to this abillity to think. Religion did not stop them from using their intellect to choose atheism.
Why would they assume that religion would stop the theist from using his intellect to choose theism?

Theism and religion are not necessarily the same thing. A belief in God causes people to act, or not act upon it. I have no problem with people investigating different ways to God, and I accept other religious people as brothers and sisters finding their own way to God in their own way.
We have converts to my own church who have searched for a path that they felt was the right one, and eventually come to us. Some from religious backgrounds, some with no knowledge of religion at all.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 16:31:10 BDT
"The adolescent, usually about 13/14 rebels against all things to do with his/her parents and searches for what he believes in his own right. There is no reason to believe that this stage bypasses the child brought up in a religion."
There are several reasons to believe this stage is less effective at religious conversion. The first is the empirical, with ooer 3/4 of adolescents (11-20) being in the religion of their parents, and some of the 1/4 returning to it after.

The second appears through situational analysis. Religious beliefs are deep rooted founding beliefs, which fromthe stable background for the rebellion.

"Why would they assume that religion would stop the theist from using his intellect to choose theism?"
Because nobody has ever shown an intellectual case for theism that stands up to scrutiny.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2012 17:42:40 BDT
DB,

remind what the statement is that i made.

i don't believe i said that knowledge of a religion would make someone follow that religion.

we might need to define what constitutes a 'follower' of religion! i know a family that go to midnight mass on Christmas eve and had their children go through the confirmation business but otherwise never see the inside of a church and certainly never pray before meals or any other religious ritual/observances as far as i know. are they followers or Catholicism? they do take positive action in those few instances in deciding to do those things.

i think i was trying to say something a little different; even if a person is brought up within a fairly lax religious family and within a fairly relaxed culturally religious environment, should that person, later on, seek religion they might sell do so using that religious background as their starting point.

i agree that many adolescents go through a rebellious stage and i have heard of this with JW's who leave the faith for a few years but then almost always come back. so i do not believe that religious children bypass this stage.

Atheists on this site tell us that they were religious but had the ability to think and chose atheism! that sounds very sensible but i don't see what point you are trying to make regarding anything i have said? however your sentence...............Why would they assume that religion would stop the theist from using his intellect to choose theism?..........................................makes absolutely no sense to me at all! why would a theist need their intellect to choose something that they already are?

Theism and religion are not necessarily the same thing........................................is religion not always about belief in god?

you talk of god in the singular and people finding different ways to god but it looks to me that people are finding their way to different gods or at the very least each to a god that has particular requirements hence separate religions and theological beliefs. it's all very well assuming that as you believe there is only one god that every religious person must be finding/experiencing the same god but it looks like an assumption based on necessity to me rather than the evidence but if true then one has to consider why the various beliefs which brings us back to the question of finding the true belief in the one god rather than one of the not quite right or very mistaken beliefs. just to take a couple of issues..........was Jesus divine or just a man because the Jews, Christians and Muslims sure don't seem to be able to agree on that one and it hardy seems to be a minor point. even if they are all trying to worship the same god how can the Christians hope to be worshipping correctly if they are worshipping Jesus as god should he turn out to just have been a man and prophet? then again was Muhammad a prophet because if he was then it seems that God (the same god that the Jews and Christians worship) told Muhammad that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures were in error so how can Christians ignore this messenger of their god?

i'm sure you do have converts to your church from other religions and their churches/Mosques but then that means those people left their ones and i expect some leave yours for others or become Atheists! some with no religious backgrounds join your church and others join other churches!

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 21:20:03 BDT
No, because your whole argument is limited to a linear chronological human perspective. As soon as God enters into the equation then purely binary and human based logic cannot work, and so your argument amounts to no more than the assertion that the God of classic theism to whom all time is simultaneously present does not exist or is an illogical concept. And that of course is a paridigmatic circular argument on your part. Maverick Christian points out as well that you are confusing what he calls subjective but I would prefer to call mind-based probabilities with objective probabilities. EG a particle decays in an objective period of time whether a scientist estimates the probability of that correctly or otherwise. Of course a particle does not have human free will, but how could the scientist's correct and by the methods of science infallible knowledge of the probability increase by being correct or diminish if it was not infallible but wrong the process of the decay. Now go the analogy of the psychic -- if they are infallibly correct about a foreseen piece of human behaviour then they have removed human free will. If they are wrong although believing themselves correct then human beings are free. What causal factor is at work here? How are they able to remove free will in one instance but not in the other? What do they actually do to impact on the human beings?

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 21:23:56 BDT
PS on your last point -- for God simultaneously present to all time the present (with open probability) must coexist with the future time as present (and therefore in the divine mind closed probabllity), as that is what the God of classic theism is.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 21:30:18 BDT
Richard, You are, of course, right that most religious people are brought up in their faith of origin. I think you are neglecting the phenomenon of conversion, however, which is a surely a major religious topic. There are conversions from atheism to theism and from one world religion to another. many believers do have a passive and conformist belief. Others stay in their traditional faith but come to interpret it in radically different ways. I think it is incumbent on thoughtful believers to have a look at the arguments for unbelief -- thoughtful believers come up with them for themselves!-- and at other faiths. But as I have said before world faiths are not really in such competition as sometimes appears.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 21:35:52 BDT
How can your statistics be correct since so few people -- 6% or so-- practice their faith in this country? What proportion of those coming out of Catholic schools (both state and private) practice their faith when they leave school in this country? The brainwashing we always hear about is not very effective. And 'Because nobody has ever shown an intellectual case for theism that stands up to scrutiny' is not a statement that stand up to scrutiny. You would have to show that you have carefully examined all the main arguments yourself at the very least.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 21:58:39 BDT
Richard to my shame I have lost a couple of longer posts you sent me on one site just after you said some kind words to me. So I am not ignoring them rudely, but I have spent some time looking and will try again next time I look at the site, which won't be for a couple of days. If you remember where they are you can tell me or post them again, sorry.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 22:07:39 BDT
Ah, just found this now. Well, I don't think empiricism comes from science. I think it is the other way round! When people post that we can only find out things by scientific methodology I think they mean empirically (which would exclude a lot of more speculative science). And I personally think it is possible and indeed necessary to use that method in such areas as ethics. However, just to respond on another interesting thing you said: I think there is a confusion between 'bible study' which is essentially devotional and used in evangelical Protestant circles although there is a Catholic form too-- or apologetic as you imply in a fundamentalist sense-- and the study of the Bible academically -- by Christians, Jews, atheists or whoever. As in the famous new Bart Ehrman book, there is a lot that can be learned by a scientific and empirical and academic study of biblical materials. This will certainly discomfort fundamentalists, but as Ehrman points out, it will also discomfort those who think Jesus was a myth, that none of his words can ever be posited and that the whole thing is a farrago of nonesense.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 22:15:32 BDT
Thanks for your questions GH-- but they are big ones. As I have just posted to Richard I believe that science and the best religious thought has the empirical method in common. There are lots of religious fundamentalists in the world and lots of religious conservatives, but I believe despite that that religious progress is possible. There's actually a book -- not by a believer-- called The Evolution of Religion, which makes this point. Certainly, by and large, ;Christians do not hate and fight each other as they once did-- there has been vast progress in ecumenism as it is caused. As for the purpose of religion -- it is, to hazard a very general statement-- to get us in touch with the transcdent and so allow us to transcend ourselves. And I believe it is possible to access and assess the transcendent empirically by its effects in this ordinary world. But I am well aware that I am already late answering this post, and I will have to elaborate and clarify as best I can another time.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 22:37:48 BDT
T,

the number of posts that i loose track of is too high and the more i search the more confused i get as to the threads i thought associated with them! i normally type and run and when i come back and see tens of posts have been added i sometimes just give up.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Aug 2012 22:49:56 BDT
T,

i think i might also have been suggesting that exposure to faith through childhood and perhaps beyond might also account for some conversion where a person that may have lapsed from their original faith seek a replacement. a predisposition to faith through exposure to it in some form in one's formative years. we might need to be careful with a persons definition of themselves as an atheist as well. are they such through investigation or from lack of religious commitment? i would suggest an atheist that has thought long and hard about religion and god a very different case to someone that has just called themselves that without much thought just as some people call themselves eg Christian but don't seem to really have thought about it. sort of by default because that's what their parents are. it's a complex set of variables and i'm pretty much just shooting the breeze although i am thinking of getting a religion and psychology book to look into some matters further. stuck into 400 to 1000 CE at the moment though.
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