Skeptic Shermer Won’t Be Fooled Again; Gets Fooled Again

Skeptic Shermer Won’t Be Fooled Again; Gets Fooled Again

Let’s start by agreeing Shermer is right, as he opens this interview: Humans do seek out evidence that supports our beliefs. We do tend to cement our convictions more than we question them. He’s wrong, though, when he tells Stephen Colbert (at 1:40), “The only way to tell, really, the difference between these true patterns and false patterns is science.”

I’m happy to leave the most obvious flaws in that thinking for you to discuss in the comments. For starters, it’s a performative self-contradiction/self-defeating statement, and it’s over-optimistic with respect to the “debunking” human factor in science. I see these topics debated all the time. 

Under the surface, though, Shermer’s got another theme going on. Hardly anyone talks about this one — even though atheists and “skeptics” do it all the time.

(Update Jan. 12: Some readers are reporting they can’t access this video. The original is here, if that helps.)

That theme goes something like this: Never let yourself get fooled. Suspend judgment. On everything. Make certain it’s certain before you buy into it. Never believe anything that might not be true.

That’s a scientific attitude, in a way. Scientists are loath to say experiments prove anything; instead they “fail to confirm” or to “disconfirm.” No conclusion is anything more than a working conclusion, subject to later amendment.

I’m speaking in ideal terms here, for scientists are human beings, too. (I’m also excluding evolution, which for mysterious reasons gets exceptional treatment as “Fact, Fact, FACT!“)

Heuristics, Science, Art, and Morality

The history of science supports this tentative approach. We keep learning, and therefore unlearning. What once was “certain” is now rejected as false; therefore the safer route is never to say anything is certain. Working conclusions are good enough, anyway: They lead to new technologies or new theories; or if they prove not to work after all, they point away from themselves toward new ideas.

But not everything is science. Not every false conclusion has heuristic value. Some are just deadly. Not every branch of knowledge has the same learning-unlearning-new learning growth characteristic science has, either. Science has progressed by orders of magnitude over the past few years, much less centuries, but has music? Poetry? Drama? How much better was Tennessee Williams than Sophocles? Who today is orders of magnitude ahead of Shakespeare? (Is anyone even a match for Tennessee Williams?)

There is such a thing as heuristic science, so eternal skepticism has its usefulness there, but there is no such thing as heuristic music. Even less is there any such thing as heuristic morality; the very term contradicts itself. Moral truths have no scientific tests, though, so on Shermer’s line of thinking, one should never adopt any moral conclusions. The problem with that should be plain, however. Skepticism cannot be known to be a virtue unless one knows of such a thing as virtue. His position incinerates not only its own logic but also its own reason for being.

We Won’t Be Fooled Again!

He seeks to minimize false beliefs so “We don’t get fooled again!”  (I’ll bet he skips the “get on my knees and pray” part.) In some skeptics’ case, it sounds a lot like, “We won’t get embarrassed again!” Because there is that image to keep up, you know.

But a ship navigated by skepticism can only anchor outside random ports, then skitter off the next morning, just in case it’s the wrong place to be. Maybe one port is right, maybe not, so the safest bet is to stay out of them all. (We won’t get vulnerable again!)

Colbert asks (at 4:04), “What about religion?” Shermer says, “There are so many prophets and they conflict with each other…. <inaudible> What kind of experiment could we possibly run to tell the difference between whether this is the one true religion or this is the one true religion?”

What kind of experiment could the ship run to tell whether this is the right port or this other one is? None, obviously. Why would this even be the kind of knowledge someone would acquire by experiment? How would you know where to begin? Keep the ship at sea!

Likewise with religion. Shermer refuses to land, because he might land in the wrong place. No, it’s worse than that: He sees that there are wrong places to land — there must be, considering their contradictions — and concludes therefore that there is no right place to land.

The Skeptic Who Wasn’t

But at this point I must introduce one way besides science by which we can know a conclusion is untenable. If it doesn’t follow from its premises — if it’s irrational — then one ought not land on it. Yet Shermer does: When he will land on no religion, in view of the fact that they all might be wrong, he lands instead on a conclusion that is demonstrably irrational.

Let me replay it in case you missed it: Every religion has a chance of being false, therefore we should conclude that none of them is true. There’s another version: Our experimental methods, designed to give us  heuristic knowledge about the natural world, don’t give us certain knowledge in the extra-natural world; therefore we conclude that there is no knowledge of the extra-natural world.

Neither conclusion follows from the premises, but Shermer commits to both of them. He’s not such a good skeptic after all. He believes both of those conclusions, even though they might be false  — no, even though they certainly are.

In fact everyone, Shermer included, happily lives with truths not known through science. Christians like myself are convinced that history (including its documents, artifacts, archaeology, and more), philosophy, and even science point directly toward the reality of God in Jesus Christ.

Could I be wrong? Sure. But I have made it my business to maximize true beliefs in areas where truth matters as much as this does.  I am quite convinced there are good reasons to consider this a true belief. I won’t skitter away from it like a scaredy-cat, just because there’s a chance it might be wrong.

Image Credit(s): Dave Fayram/Flickr.

83 thoughts on “Skeptic Shermer Won’t Be Fooled Again; Gets Fooled Again

  1. Well put here Tom:

    “…..Moral truths have no scientific tests, though, so on Shermer’s line of thinking, one should never adopt any moral conclusions. The problem with that should be plain, however. Skepticism cannot be known to be a virtue unless one knows of such a thing as virtue. His position incinerates its not only its own logic but also its own reason for being……”

    Zooming in a bit….

    “…..not only its own logic but also its own reason for being……”

  2. Unfortunately, Tom, I am unable to access the video here from your link. Something about being “not available from your location. Can you tell me when it was broadcast & I might be able to access it on Youtube.

  3. “Under the surface, though, Shermer’s got another theme going on. Hardly anyone talks about this one — even though atheists and “skeptics” do it all the time.
    That theme goes something like this: Never let yourself get fooled. Suspend judgment. On everything. Make certain it’s certain before you buy into it. Never believe anything that might not be true.”

    That’s a strawman. Skeptics want good evidence to believe something. They do not claim to only believe things they are certain of. Most of them would claim you could never be certain of anything, ergo they would not believe anything, and no-one could function that way. Skeptics have beliefs. They just want the confidence in their beliefs to be on par with the evidence for those beliefs.

    Atheists only claim there is no good evidence to believe any god exists. They make no claim about needing to be certain of things before believing in them at all.

    “Likewise with religion. Shermer refuses to land, because he might land in the wrong place. No, it’s worse than that: He sees that there are wrong places to land — there must be, considering their contradictions — and concludes therefore that there is no right place to land.”

    No. It’s that he has no evidence that there is any place to land at all. So he with holds belief in a place to land, until good reasons for a belief can be demonstrated.

    “Let me replay it in case you missed it: Every religion has a chance of being false, therefore we should conclude that none of them is true.”

    No. It’s that we should not conclude that one of them is true, until we have good reason to believe that it is true. You quote him saying “What kind of experiment could we possibly run to tell the difference between whether this is the one true religion or this is the one true religion?”. He is looking for a demonstration that one of them is true. He is with holding a belief, not making a conclusion (which is a different type of belief).

    “There’s another version: Our experimental methods, designed to give us heuristic knowledge about the natural world, don’t give us certain knowledge in the extra-natural world; therefore we conclude that there is no knowledge of the extra-natural world.”

    This seems closer to accurate. But it’s more, “Our experimental methods which can only examine the natural world, do not give knowledge of an extra-natural world; therefore we have no knowledge of an extra-natural world.”

    I think you want to claim that knowledge of the extra-natural world can be gained through methods other than natural world experimentation, but then that would be on you to show. And as you say the words “Could I be wrong? Sure.” I have no idea how you could show that the reasons for your beliefs of an extra-natural world could demonstrate knowledge.

  4. Shane, did you listen to Shermer’s reason, as he spoke it here, for rejecting religion?

    It doesn’t sound like it.

    Maybe his approach isn’t yours, and I never said it fit all skeptics. but based on what he said, it’s his. It’s others’ as well. Not everyone’s and apparently not yours. But the fact that you don’t follow Shermer’s logic doesn’t falsify my criticism of his logic.

  5. Like Kim Beazley, I’m in Australia and can’t get access to the content. All I can respond to is your direct quotes of what he said. If you didn’t choose appropriate quotes that represent his position, then that is on you. Maybe your criticism about his actual position is valid, but all I can see is you arguing against something that you didn’t quote him saying. Hence, strawman.

  6. Now, that’s charitable. (Not.)

    Good grief. I didn’t know this would be inaccessible to some people. I didn’t create it to be inaccessible. The fact that some people cannot hear what I’m responding to does not make my response fallacious.

    That’s just outrageous, and I can’t believe you’d go there. Really, really unbelievable.

    You could have said, “I can’t tell what you’re responding to, and therefore I don’t know what the discussion is about. That’s frustrating.”

    Instead you said in effect, “I can’t tell what you’re responding to, therefore what you’ve said is a straw man.”

    That’s. Just. Wrong.

    Did you see comment 7? The original is at http://www.cc.com/video-clips/z2r2b0/the-colbert-report-michael-shermer. If you can’t access that, then there’s something going on of which I had no knowledge and over which I have no control. Are you going to call that a defect in my character or my rationality, too?

  7. “Good grief. I didn’t know this would be inaccessible to some people. I didn’t create it to be inaccessible. The fact that some people cannot hear what I’m responding to does not make my response fallacious.”

    I’m not saying it does make your response fallacious. Just that you haven’t represented what your responding to very well.

    “That’s just outrageous, and I can’t believe you’d go there. Really, really unbelievable.”

    I don’t know what’s so unbelievable or outrageous.

    “You could have said, “I can’t tell what you’re responding to, and therefore I don’t know what the discussion is about. That’s frustrating.”

    Instead you said in effect, “I can’t tell what you’re responding to, therefore what you’ve said is a straw man.”

    That’s. Just. Wrong.”

    You quoted Sherman. Than you made an argument against a position which is represented by the quote. Should I know that your quote isn’t actually representative of his position, or is taken out of context?

    “Did you see comment 7? The original is at http://www.cc.com/video-clips/z2r2b0/the-colbert-report-michael-shermer. If you can’t access that, then there’s something going on of which I had no knowledge and over which I have no control.”

    You’ll see that your comment 7 and my reply were posted at exactly the same minute, so no, I didn’t see it before I posted. But I cannot access it either.

    ” Are you going to call that a defect in my character or my rationality, too?”

    Where have I said you character or rationality is defective? I just don’t think the quotes you used of Sherman show that he has taken the position you are attacking.

  8. Umm, Shane, you did say it made my response fallacious: “Hence, strawman.”

    I’m sorry you can’t get to the conversation I’m responding to. I had no idea that would happen. I wrote this post as a response to all that he said in this short video, not just the few quotes I highlighted from it. You aren’t in a position to know what’s going on (for reasons out of my control), so in that case it would behoove you not to try to assess my response.

  9. “Umm, Shane, you did say it made my response fallacious: “Hence, strawman.””

    Yes. I don’t know what that line is supposed to be rebutting in my previous post. But I’ll quote you again,

    “Under the surface, though, Shermer’s got another theme going on. Hardly anyone talks about this one — even though atheists and “skeptics” do it all the time.

    That theme goes something like this: Never let yourself get fooled. Suspend judgment. On everything. Make certain it’s certain before you buy into it. Never believe anything that might not be true.”

    And as I said, skeptics don’t do it all the time. A skeptic that didn’t believe anything they weren’t certain of, when they acknowledge they can’t be certain of anything, would never believe anything at all, and would be unable to function. The claim that “skeptics do it all the time” is a strawman. I don’t need to see the video to see the falsity in your statement.

    If you quoted Shermer saying something along the lines of, “Suspend judgement on everything. Never believe anything that you are not certain is true.” then you could say something about Shermers beliefs. But it seems you can’t quote him saying that, and the best you can do is, “under the surface, Shermer’s got another theme going on.” It seems you are reaching, and unable to back up your theory with anything as concrete as a direct quote.

  10. Give it a break, Shane. I didn’t say all skeptics do it. I wrote it for people who could view the video, so I didn’t quote every word I was responding to. Quit ragging on me as if I haven’t already explained all this.

  11. No. It’s that we should not conclude that one of them is true, until we have good reason to believe that it is true.

    Yet atheists believe atheism is true and have no better evidence for it’s truth, if not quite a bit less, than those who believe in God.

  12. “That’s a strawman. Skeptics want good evidence to believe something.”

    No, they don’t. Not even close. Not even in the same galaxy cluster. Skeptics are not skeptical about their belief that they can trust their brain even though this brain evolved over 3.8 billion years of asexual and sexual inbreeding through a genetic code cobbled together by chance. They are not skeptical about their patently absurd belief that the universe and its laws popped into existence through unintelligent processes. They are not skeptical about their belief (not based on any evidence) that the genetic code and life arose unintelligently.

    “Atheists only claim there is no good evidence to believe any god exists.”

    That’s agnosticism. Atheism is the claim that there is no God.
    https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/atheism-agnosticism/

    “No. It’s that he has no evidence that there is any place to land at all. So he withholds belief in a place to land, until good reasons for a belief can be demonstrated.”

    Shermer has landed. Anyone who makes a claim about reality has reached a port, whether that port is a traditional religion, agnosticism, atheism, or other. No one can leave at sea forever. Everyone has a worldview.

    “He is looking for a demonstration that one of them is true. He is withholding a belief, not making a conclusion (which is a different type of belief).”

    Shermer is not withholding belief. He mocks religion on Twitter. He’s long reached a belief, along with all other atheists (?) who claim on paper that “they lack belief” (but see how Stanford’s encyclopedia of philosophy rips into the “lack of belief” nonsense) while mocking religion.

    “This seems closer to accurate. But it’s more, “Our experimental methods which can only examine the natural world, do not give knowledge of an extra-natural world; therefore we have no knowledge of an extra-natural world.”

    No, Tom’s definition is more accurate. Atheists really conclude that, since science can only study the natural world, there CANNOT BE knowledge of the extra-natural world since they really believe that science is the only appropriate tool to gain knowledge of the world, They are very adamant about this, which, of course, is the self-refuting fallacy of Scientism.

    “I think you want to claim that knowledge of the extra-natural world can be gained through methods other than natural world experimentation, but then that would be on you to show. And as you say the words “Could I be wrong? Sure.” I have no idea how you could show that the reasons for your beliefs of an extra-natural world could demonstrate knowledge.”

    The knowledge of the extra-natural world can be gained through BOTH from the insights on this world that we get from science AND from other fields of knowledge like logic and philosophy. We can learn from science how this world operates and insights on the qualities and characteristics required of the extranatural (supernatural) entity to be able to create this world. And from logic and philosophy, we can make hypotheses on what options we have as the posssible creative entities of this world, and we can exclude the ones that do not pass the test based on logic, philosophy, and science.

    We can use logic:
    https://www.quora.com/Religion-What-is-the-logical-evidence-for-God/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    Science and philosophy:
    https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-start-believing-in-God/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    And we can exclude those worldviews that don’t pass the self-consistency test.
    https://www.quora.com/Is-atheism-somewhat-irrational/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

  13. “Yet atheists believe atheism is true and have no better evidence for it’s truth, if not quite a bit less, than those who believe in God.”

    By definition, my atheism says, “I don’t believe in a god.” That is a true statement. It is self evidently true to me.

  14. “Give it a break, Shane. I didn’t say all skeptics do it.”

    And I didn’t say you did. Criticising my post by implying I said something I didn’t, is … oh what’s the word …

  15. “No, they don’t. Not even close. Not even in the same galaxy cluster. Skeptics are not skeptical about their belief that they can trust their brain even though this brain evolved over 3.8 billion years of asexual and sexual inbreeding through a genetic code cobbled together by chance.”

    The belief that you can trust your brain, is based on years of life experience. If the brain can be demonstrated to help you navigate through the world on a second by second basis, you end up with a lot of reasons to trust your brain. The history of how my brain evolved is irrelevant to how trustworthy it is right now.

    “They are not skeptical about their patently absurd belief that the universe and its laws popped into existence through unintelligent processes. They are not skeptical about their belief (not based on any evidence) that the genetic code and life arose unintelligently.”

    I think you’re generalising here, as you’re not quoting anything that is definitively part of a skeptics belief. Different skeptics believe different things.

    “That’s agnosticism. Atheism is the claim that there is no God.”

    Nope. Gnosticism is related to knowledge. Theism is related to beliefs. I am an agnostic atheist, in that I do not know if there is a god, and I do not believe in any gods. An agnostic theist, would say they do not know there is a god, but they believe in their god. Etc.

    “Shermer has landed. Anyone who makes a claim about reality has reached a port, whether that port is a traditional religion, agnosticism, atheism, or other. No one can leave at sea forever. Everyone has a worldview.”

    As I have said, I can’t watch the video, but Tom made the comparison of not choosing a religion, because it might be wrong, to not landing at a port, because it might be the wrong port. He then quoted Shermer asking how could you test to see if religion a is correct, or religion b? So my comment was clarifying, that it is not equivalent to not choosing a port to land at, because choosing a port means choosing a religion. And there are plenty of people that don’t do that.

    “Shermer is not withholding belief. He mocks religion on Twitter. He’s long reached a belief, along with all other atheists (?) who claim on paper that “they lack belief” (but see how Stanford’s encyclopedia of philosophy rips into the “lack of belief” nonsense) while mocking religion.”

    All I’m responding to is Tom’s post.

    “No, Tom’s definition is more accurate. Atheists really conclude that, since science can only study the natural world, there CANNOT BE knowledge of the extra-natural world since they really believe that science is the only appropriate tool to gain knowledge of the world, They are very adamant about this, which, of course, is the self-refuting fallacy of Scientism.”

    Well I’m an atheist, and I don’t conclude that, so it appears that you and Tom are mistaken.

    “The knowledge of the extra-natural world can be gained through BOTH from the insights on this world that we get from science AND from other fields of knowledge like logic and philosophy. We can learn from science how this world operates and insights on the qualities and characteristics required of the extranatural (supernatural) entity to be able to create this world. And from logic and philosophy, we can make hypotheses on what options we have as the posssible creative entities of this world, and we can exclude the ones that do not pass the test based on logic, philosophy, and science.”

    Can we make exhaustive hypotheses about the extra-natural world, based on our existence in the natural world? Even if we can make a list of things that we can exclude from the extra-natural world, which I’m not sure you can, is there anything you can say about the extra-natural world that is definitive fact?

    “We can use logic:
    https://www.quora.com/Religion-What-is-the-logical-evidence-for-God/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1
    To discuss your points here:
    6 – Time began with our Universe, so how could there be a “cause” for the beginnings of Time? There was no “before” for the cause to create the effect.
    7 – How do you know “from nothing, nothing comes”?
    9 – There cause of the universe could be contingent, but the cause of the cause could be necessary. Also, we don’t have an infinite past. Our past is 13.72 Billion years. To talk about an infinite past before time existed is illogical.
    11 – I couldn’t follow the link from this number, but why does “not intelligent” equal chance? Gravity is not intelligent, but it is a constant force and could in no way be described as “chance”.

    “Science and philosophy:
    https://www.quora.com/How-can-I-start-believing-in-God/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    Sorry, this was way too long for me to read at the moment.

    “And we can exclude those worldviews that don’t pass the self-consistency test.
    https://www.quora.com/Is-atheism-somewhat-irrational/answer/Francesco-Scinico-1

    Your conclusion doesn’t follow your premises at all. Premise 1 is about beliefs. Premise 2 is about evidence. And your conclusion is about “judgement” which appears to be a third thing.

    “If premise 2 is true, it follows that the human brain overwhelmingly selects the lie of religion over the truth of atheism because the lie offers an evolutionary advantage (survival trumps truth). Thus, our brain evolved to be unreliable on this matter,”

    Nope. That doesn’t follow. Anymore than it was an evolutionary advantage to belief the Earth was flat, or that Earth was the center of the Universe. We can be wrong about all sorts of things that don’t affect us at all.

    The rest of the post seems more of the same.

    But all three of them seem to be point to things in the natural world. So back to my question, what extra-natural world facts can you point to, based on our experience in the natural world?

  16. By definition, my atheism says, “I don’t believe in a god.” That is a true statement. It is self evidently true to me.

    And that self evidence makes your belief true no matter any other evidence.

  17. “The belief that you can trust your brain, is based on years of life experience. If the brain can be demonstrated to help you navigate through the world on a second by second basis, you end up with a lot of reasons to trust your brain. The history of how my brain evolved is irrelevant to how trustworthy it is right now.”

    Shane, this strikes me as being a bit circular. Your past experience somehow gives you reason to believe that your brain is reliable. But how could you know that you had reasoned correctly to this conclusion unless you ALREADY trusted the reliability of your brain? Moreover, if you’re relying on your memory to tell you that these past experiences actually happened, then wouldn’t you have to trust your brain in that regard, too?

  18. “The belief that you can trust your brain, is based on years of life experience. If the brain can be demonstrated to help you navigate through the world on a second by second basis, you end up with a lot of reasons to trust your brain. The history of how my brain evolved is irrelevant to how trustworthy it is right now.”

    That belief that you can trust your brain is provided by your brain. Your brain is providing you that life experience, the confirmation from the external world, everything. Everything is filtered by your brain. You could be a Boltzmann brain and never know it. See The Matrix for ideas. The problem with your worldview is that your brain is the product of 3.8 billion years of asexual and sexual inbreeding through a genetic code cobbled together by chance. Not a great foundation for trusting the reliability of your brain. Why are skeptics not skeptical about this?

    “I think you’re generalising here, as you’re not quoting anything that is definitively part of a skeptics belief. Different skeptics believe different things.”

    But all skeptics are apparently not skeptical about chance being able to cobble together a universe immediately governed by precise physical and chemical parameters, a sophisticated base-4 genetic code that can compile life forms from inorganic matter and start life from this code. Imagine that.

    “Nope. Gnosticism is related to knowledge. Theism is related to beliefs. I am an agnostic atheist, in that I do not know if there is a god, and I do not believe in any gods. An agnostic theist, would say they do not know there is a god, but they believe in their god. Etc.”

    No. Read Stanford’s article on atheism and agnosticism. It’s very clear. Theism is the proposition that there is a God. Atheism is the proposition that there is no God. Agnosticism is the proposition that we cannot know. That’s it. It’s simple. The rest is psychological states that cannot be argued and are thus dismissed without evidence.

    “As I have said, I can’t watch the video, but Tom made the comparison of not choosing a religion, because it might be wrong, to not landing at a port, because it might be the wrong port. He then quoted Shermer asking how could you test to see if religion a is correct, or religion b? So my comment was clarifying, that it is not equivalent to not choosing a port to land at, because choosing a port means choosing a religion. And there are plenty of people that don’t do that.”

    Everybody chooses a religion. A religion is a system of values that one holds sacred. Shermer has a religion (even though he may not call it that). And you do, too, or you wouldn’t be here arguing with theists. No one argues psychological states. Only propositions can be argued.

    “Can we make exhaustive hypotheses about the extra-natural world, based on our existence in the natural world? Even if we can make a list of things that we can exclude from the extra-natural world, which I’m not sure you can, is there anything you can say about the extra-natural world that is definitive fact?”

    Yes, we can. The supernatural entity that created nature (aka our universe or spacetime) is conscious, logical, free, mathematical, highly intelligent (see sophistication of the genetic code).

    “To discuss your points here:
    6 – Time began with our Universe, so how could there be a “cause” for the beginnings of Time? There was no “before” for the cause to create the effect.”

    The cause is ontological, not temporal.

    “7 – How do you know “from nothing, nothing comes”?”

    Because to believe otherwise is to believe in magic.

    “9 – There cause of the universe could be contingent, but the cause of the cause could be necessary.”

    Yes, it could be, but it violates Occam’s razor. And it doesn’t remove the eternal, immaterial God. It just pushes it back one or more stages.

    “Also, we don’t have an infinite past. Our past is 13.72 Billion years. To talk about an infinite past before time existed is illogical.”

    Agreed.

    “11 – I couldn’t follow the link from this number, but why does “not intelligent” equal chance? Gravity is not intelligent, but it is a constant force and could in no way be described as “chance”.

    I know. Gravity is not chance. Gravity is a law. Laws are descriptive, not prescriptive. The immaterial laws of phsysics are just our description of what’s going on within our spacetime. They don’t make anything do anything, and cannot create spacetime since they started with spacetime and are merely descriptions of how spacetime operates. If we said that the immaterial laws of physics created our spacetime, we would have immaterial, eternal laws able to create a spacetime continuum. They are basically God by another name.

    “Your conclusion doesn’t follow your premises at all. Premise 1 is about beliefs. Premise 2 is about evidence. And your conclusion is about “judgement” which appears to be a third thing.”

    Those beliefs in P1 are reached based on evidence. Great minds like Aristotle, Aquinas, Einstein did not conclude a First Cause based on random beliefs.

    “Nope. That doesn’t follow. Anymore than it was an evolutionary advantage to belief the Earth was flat, or that Earth was the center of the Universe. We can be wrong about all sorts of things that don’t affect us at all.”

    How many people in the world today believe the earth is flat? Not the same thing as belief in the supernatural at all.

    “The rest of the post seems more of the same.”

    Not at all. The rest of the post highlights the incoherence of atheists and agnostics debating theists on religion when it’s obvious that religion offers an evolutionary advantage. And it also argues the deeper incoherence of the adherents to atheistic materialism in debating theists since, according to the former, there is no free will anyway.

    Not more of the same at all.

    “But all three of them seem to be point to things in the natural world. So back to my question, what extra-natural world facts can you point to, based on our experience in the natural world?”

    Since Nature had a beginning, and this beginning coincides with the beginning of STEM (spacetime, energy, matter), we can conclude that the simplest explanation is that Nature is the creation of a supernatural entity that is NOT part of STEM and that is able to create STEM from immaterial concepts like logic, math, information. Since concepts are thoughts, this entity is an immaterial intellect. Since time had a beginning, this entity is eternal. Since Nature did not “have to” exist, this creative entity is free (free to choose whether to create Nature or not). Since life within spacetime is based on a highly sophisticated base-4 genetic code, this creative entity is intelligent. Since the original expansion of space time was exquisitely precise (one part in 10^24) to avoid a Big Crunch or failure to form matter, we know this creative entity is highly mathematical. Since the observable universe contains 10^82 atoms and the whole universe is potentially spatially infinite, and since the laws of physics are merely descriptive, we know this entity’s computational power to hold the universe in existence in real time is unfathomable.

    That’s why we call this entity GOD.

  19. “And that self evidence makes your belief true no matter any other evidence.”

    My belief about what I don’t believe? What other evidence could there? It must come from within me, and therefore must be self evident.

  20. Hi Sam,

    “Shane, this strikes me as being a bit circular. Your past experience somehow gives you reason to believe that your brain is reliable. But how could you know that you had reasoned correctly to this conclusion unless you ALREADY trusted the reliability of your brain? Moreover, if you’re relying on your memory to tell you that these past experiences actually happened, then wouldn’t you have to trust your brain in that regard, too?”

    It is circular. But it’s exactly how it works. As our brain forms, we cannot have memory of past experience, and no idea on how reliable our memory is. But during our formative years, we begin to remember, and use those memories to choose actions in the present. In this way, what was a helpless baby, becomes a toddler that learns to walk, talk and interact with it’s surroundings. These things happen because the brain remembers, and use those memories navigate the present. We can also witness people born with malfunctioning brains, that have trouble doing those things.

  21. I’m not going to have time for all this before works, but I’ll make a start.

    “That belief that you can trust your brain is provided by your brain. Your brain is providing you that life experience, the confirmation from the external world, everything. Everything is filtered by your brain. You could be a Boltzmann brain and never know it. See The Matrix for ideas. The problem with your worldview is that your brain is the product of 3.8 billion years of asexual and sexual inbreeding through a genetic code cobbled together by chance. Not a great foundation for trusting the reliability of your brain. Why are skeptics not skeptical about this?”

    I can make choices that lead to expected outcomes. Typing here is leading to words, that transfer the thoughts in my head into your head, so you can respond to them. So I know it works. Could I be a brain in a vat? Sure. But that wouldn’t change the fact that my actions lead to expected outcomes.

    “But all skeptics are apparently not skeptical about chance being able to cobble together a universe immediately governed by precise physical and chemical parameters, a sophisticated base-4 genetic code that can compile life forms from inorganic matter and start life from this code. Imagine that.”

    I know. Amazing.

    “No. Read Stanford’s article on atheism and agnosticism. It’s very clear. Theism is the proposition that there is a God. Atheism is the proposition that there is no God. Agnosticism is the proposition that we cannot know. That’s it. It’s simple. The rest is psychological states that cannot be argued and are thus dismissed without evidence.”

    Is it possible for someone to believe the proposition “that we cannot know” and simultaneously believe the proposition “there is a God”?

    “A religion is a system of values that one holds sacred.”

    You’ve just redefined religion there.

    “Yes, we can. The supernatural entity that created nature (aka our universe or spacetime) is conscious, logical, free, mathematical, highly intelligent (see sophistication of the genetic code).”

    I am asking about the extra-natural world.

    “Because to believe otherwise is to believe in magic.”

    And how do you know there is no such thing as magic in the extra-natural world?

  22. Shane,

    You stated:

    “….Atheists only claim there is no good evidence to believe any god exists. ….”

    That’s false. On why “Atheism is nothing but a lack of belief” isn’t a valid claim see https://metachristianity.blogspot.com/2019/01/faith-non-theism-fallacy-of-non-theism.html

    It’s not relevant which line or nuance of Matrix/Vats/Brain (or whatever) your explanatory terminus of “what reason is” happens to land in. All contingent A—Z’s fail wrt the self-explanatory. Lucidity mocks all such “cul-de-sacs” if they should claim closure. The very concept of an “ontological cul-de-sac” is a reductio

    Hence Metaphysical Naturalism’s treatment of Reason lands v. the same terminus as the proverbial Cartesian Demon.

  23. “My belief about what I don’t believe? What other evidence could there? It must come from within me, and therefore must be self evident.”

    Just to be clear Shane (I’m a bit confused by your statements) are you saying that there is no evidence for God outside outside of what is self evident to you? In other words, none of the arguments for the existence of God have any validity whatsoever because they didn’t come from within you.

  24. Shane,

    One cannot make sense of the two words “examine” and “evidence” in the little phrase of “examine the evidence” without bringing all sorts of concepts to the table. Such is definitely a worldview populated with all sorts of (often un-examined) assumptions. As per the link in my earlier comment to you etc. ;-}

  25. Shane,

    I just posted a comment but it’s in limbo so perhaps it’ll pop up :-}

    In case not…..Basically:

    When we say “examine evidence” those are two downstream words which are unintelligible but for all sorts of upstream premises, beliefs, and claims (Etc.).

    That’s just obvious. There is no such state of affairs as “nothing-but non-belief”.

    The first error is to ignore all upstream content in that fashion.

    A second error is to conflate a. Non-Belief for b. Non-Knowledge.

    This second error is where the entire “The Default Is Atheism” fallacy goes off the rails. The reason that is the case here at this second error is because the Christian God is not this or that “being” nor this or that bit of “reason” but is in fact Being Itself and is in fact Reason Itself and is in fact Goodness Itself and so on.

    To deny both Being and Reason, or to claim that the Default is that we are unaware of and/or somehow floating free of both Being and Reason is a move which forces a reductio.

    It’s the whole Zeus / Thor / Being-Itself thingamajigger :-}

    One could even rationally flip it 180 degrees…..as the Default is the undeniable…. as per Being & Reason.

    I mean…. just saying. See https://metachristianity.blogspot.com/2019/01/faith-non-theism-fallacy-of-non-theism.html

  26. “You stated:

    “….Atheists only claim there is no good evidence to believe any god exists. ….”

    That’s false. ”

    Your example of asking about which of the sun and the earth revolves around the other is not an apt comparison, because we can see that the sun and the earth exists, and tests can be done (evidence) to show which is actually the case. A better comparison would be, “Do you believe there is a man in the United States, born on the 17th of September, 1973, who has the name, Stanley Edward Johnson? I don’t believe there is because I don’t have any evidence to back up that claim. That doesn’t mean I believe there isn’t a U.S. citizen with that name and birthday.

  27. Hi BillT,

    “Just to be clear Shane (I’m a bit confused by your statements) are you saying that there is no evidence for God outside outside of what is self evident to you? In other words, none of the arguments for the existence of God have any validity whatsoever because they didn’t come from within you.”

    Yeah, we seem to have gotten off track here. I’ll recap. First I said …

    “By definition, my atheism says, “I don’t believe in a god.” That is a true statement. It is self evidently true to me.”

    I was only talking about my belief, here, not on the actuality of whether any god exists. I meant my unbelief is self evidently true. “I don’t believe in a god.” is a true statement, because I don’t believe in a god. And then you replied …

    “And that self evidence makes your belief true no matter any other evidence.”

    And here you asked about my belief, and if it was true, and because my previous statement was about an unbelief I had (which is different to a belief) and that it was true I held the unbelief, then I thought you were asking about my belief in my unbelief. I do believe, that I don’t believe in any god.

    This is the only belief I can have in something I don’t believe.

    Has that cleared things up?

  28. What do you believe, Shane? Do you think physical reality is all that exists? Do you think it’s all unknowable? Do you think it’s the wisest course to live on the assumption that physical reality is all that exists?

    Surely you have a worldview, even if it’s one you hold tentatively or functionally (in lieu of certainty).

    You call for tests to determine if there is a God. Then your worldview seems to hold that only A God whose existence is testable could be known to exist. That rules out any God who simply reveals himself in a manner he sovereignly chooses. This actually tells us something definite about your view of reality. What else can you tell us about what you believe?

  29. Comment 33 is clear enough, anyway. It is self-evidently true to you that you do not believe in any god. Fair enough. That’s is something you believe. I’ll be fascinated to find out what else you believe about reality beyond your opinions.

  30. “I know. Gravity is not chance. Gravity is a law. Laws are descriptive, not prescriptive. The immaterial laws of phsysics are just our description of what’s going on within our spacetime. ”

    And what’s going on, as described by the law of gravity, is a constant force, which is not variable. So my question remains. Why does a non intelligent constant force, that is being described by our law of gravity, equate to chance?

    “Those beliefs in P1 are reached based on evidence. Great minds like Aristotle, Aquinas, Einstein did not conclude a First Cause based on random beliefs.”

    Having to add an addendum like this, to explain why the beliefs of 98% are somewhat related to the “evidence” that other great minds used to form their beliefs, is exactly why your argument is not valid. P1 and P2 are talking about different things, belief and evidence.

    “How many people in the world today believe the earth is flat? Not the same thing as belief in the supernatural at all.”

    I don’t know why you think that is relevant. Evolutionary advantages would have occurred in our past, when the majority believed the world flat, so by your argument, at some point it must have been evolutionary beneficial to believe, incorrectly, the world was flat.

    “Not at all. The rest of the post highlights the incoherence of atheists and agnostics debating theists on religion when it’s obvious that religion offers an evolutionary advantage”

    Yeah, that unsubstantiated claim that religion offers an evolutionary advantage, was what I was referring to, when I said, “More of the same”.

    “Since Nature had a beginning, and this beginning coincides with the beginning of STEM (spacetime, energy, matter), we can conclude that the simplest explanation is that Nature is the creation of a supernatural entity”

    How did you conclude that the beginnings of Nature (and Space and Time) coincides with the beginnings of energy and matter?

  31. Having to add an addendum like this, to explain why the beliefs of 98% are somewhat related to the “evidence” that other great minds used to form their beliefs, is exactly why your argument is not valid. P1 and P2 are talking about different things, belief and evidence.

    Could you try again on that? I can’t figure out your point.

  32. How did you conclude that the beginnings of Nature (and Space and Time) coincides with the beginnings of energy and matter?

    Can you conceive of any definition of Nature for which this could possibly not be the case?

  33. “When, Shane,did the majority negligence the earth was flat, and what was the evolutionary advantage?”

    I’m not claiming that any belief is an evolutionary advantage. I’m trying to show that Franseco is mistaken by claiming that the majority of people believing something, indicates that the belief is an evolutionary advantage.

    “Could you try again on that? I can’t figure out your point.”

    Sure. From Franescos link …

    Premise 1: At least 98% of humans throughout history have believed in the supernatural
    Premise 2: Atheists claim there is no evidence of the supernatural.
    Conclusion: Therefore, human judgment on the supernatural is unreliable.

    P1 is about historical human beliefs.
    P2 is about evidence.
    Conclusion is about judgement.

    The argument is not valid, because the conclusion is not a necessary result of the two premises.

    “Can you conceive of any definition of Nature for which this could possibly not be the case?”

    Well you raise the point, that I might be misunderstanding Francescos definition of Nature. I took it to mean the Macro Universe, where Space and Time exist. Perhaps he was using it to mean everything. So I’ll answer both questions.

    According to the Big Bang Theory, immediately before the Macro Universe existed, everything that was the Universe existed at a Quantum Level. Therefore, the energy and matter that became the macro Universe existed before our Universe did. So, energy and matter existed before Space and Time did. That is a definition, whereby energy and matter predates Space and Time.

    If by Nature, he means Space, Time, Energy and Matter, than he is just repeating himself when he says “Since Nature had a beginning, and this beginning coincides with the beginning of STEM (spacetime, energy, matter),” and my question would be, “How do you know Nature had a beginning, just because we know that Space and Time had a beginning?”

  34. “What do you believe, Shane? Do you think physical reality is all that exists? Do you think it’s all unknowable? Do you think it’s the wisest course to live on the assumption that physical reality is all that exists?”

    I don’t know if something beyond physical reality exists, and I don’t know how to find out. I think the wisest course is to not believe in things that we don’t have evidence for. I don’t have to assume that physical reality is all there is, if we have no way of finding out if there is something beyond. But I think it would be unwise to assume there is something beyond physical reality, if we have no reasons to believe it.

    “Surely you have a worldview, even if it’s one you hold tentatively or functionally (in lieu of certainty).”

    My world view is that we get one shot at life, and we should make the most of it.

    “You call for tests to determine if there is a God. Then your worldview seems to hold that only A God whose existence is testable could be known to exist. That rules out any God who simply reveals himself in a manner he sovereignly chooses.”

    Doesn’t that seem reasonable, if God has not chosen to (or chosen not to?) reveal Himself to me? Doesn’t it seem that the wisest choice on my part is to not believe?

    “This actually tells us something definite about your view of reality. What else can you tell us about what you believe?”

    I believe it would be hard to confirm that God revealed Himself in a meaningful way. As opposed to being mistaken about God revealing Himself. Dr Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, is a classic example. After studying theology, he became a Christian after coming across a trifecta of frozen waterfalls when he was hiking. How can we know this was a revelation from God, as opposed to a mistaken interpretation on Dr Collins part?

    I am happy to hear any stories of God’s revelation, and how people determined it was actually from God.

  35. According to the Big Bang Theory, immediately before the Macro Universe existed, everything that was the Universe existed at a Quantum Level.

    This really doesn’t say much does it? In other words, if immediately before the Macro Universe existed, everything that was the Universe existed at a Quantum Level, what existed immediately before those things existed at a Quantum Level.

    (BTW, Shane, I now understand what you meant that I questioned earlier. Thanks.)

  36. Actually it doesn’t say anything at all.

    According to the Big Bang Theory, immediately before the Macro Universe existed, everything that was the Universe existed at a Quantum Level. Therefore, the energy and matter that became the macro Universe existed before our Universe did. So, energy and matter existed before Space and Time did. That is a definition, whereby energy and matter predates Space and Time.

    Standard Big Bang theory says space and time began with the Bang. No scientist, even those who think something existed before the Big Bang, has the slightest clue what that would have been. To say that anything existed then is to say that there was a “then,” which is hard to do when there is no time. It’s meaningless.

    To say that it existed at a Quantum Level is absolutely meaningless, too, Even If Capitalized. By “quantum level” today, scientists mean very small masses, very small energies (which is the same thing), very small distances. To apply that to Something which existed Before the Big Bang is absolute nonsense. The universe we see today, if it came from mere physical causes, didn’t come from very small energies.

    More than that, the term “Quantum Level” has absolutely no referent when applied to anything possibly preceding the Big Bang. Physicists don’t claim to know that anything before the Big Bang could be describable in terms we would recognize after it. Maybe, maybe not; it’s unknown and probably unknowable.

  37. “(BTW, Shane, I now understand what you meant that I questioned earlier. Thanks.)”

    You’re welcome. Sorry I wasn’t more clear as we went along.

    “This really doesn’t say much does it? In other words, if immediately before the Macro Universe existed, everything that was the Universe existed at a Quantum Level, what existed immediately before those things existed at a Quantum Level.”

    We don’t know. That is the point. It could have come into existence at the Quantum Level before it expanded into the Macro Universe. It could have been an ever shrinking Macro Universe that then rubber banded back out into our Universe. It may have existed at the Quantum Level for a long time before it expanded.

    We just don’t know.

  38. “… who think something existed before the Big Bang …”
    “… Something which existed Before the Big Bang …”
    “… anything possibly preceding the Big Bang …”
    “… to know that anything before the Big Bang …”

    I didn’t say before, nor preceding, the Big Bang. I said preceding the space and time of our Universe.

    “Scientists still don’t know what was going on in the first 10^-37 seconds. It’s opaque.”

    Yes. This is the very beginning of the Big Bang expansion, not before, nor preceding. The 10^-37 seconds that you are referencing, is the point at which the energy and matter of the universe is conjectured to be at a singularity. What it means, is that energy and matter existed, when space, time, the universe (and perhaps Francescos “Nature”) did not.

  39. You said “preceding the space and time of our universe.” How does that differ from the Big Bang?

    Why do you keep saying “existed at the Quantum Level”?

  40. Shane,

    It may be true we don’t know exactly what existed before the Big Bang but we do know that something must have existed. The problem is far greater than quantum this or macro that. We know that something existed and that something must be infinite. However, quantum things or macro things or any other things like those things cannot exist infinitely. Nor can absolutely nothing have existed. So we are left with the dilemma that neither things or nothings have existed that could have to led to that Big Bang. That leaves us to reason to the best possible inference. I think you know the rest.

  41. “What it means, is that energy and matter existed, when space, time, the universe (and perhaps Francescos “Nature”) did not.”

    This is a completely meaningless statement.

    And if anyone disagrees, they can show the textbook, any physics textbook, that even discusses matter or energy “outside” of space-time. There isn’t any and there cannot even be any, that much is obvious for anyone with some solid knowledge of physics.

    Matter or Energy outside of space-time, is not matter or energy, but something else outside our empirical reach or grasp which nobody knows what is. The absurd lengths people go, when they know nothing and they do not want to recognize the obvious.

  42. “It may be true we don’t know exactly what existed before the Big Bang but we do know that something must have existed.”
    How do we know that?
    “We know that something existed and that something must be infinite.”
    How do we know that?
    “However, quantum things or macro things or any other things like those things cannot exist infinitely.”
    How do we know that?
    “Nor can absolutely nothing have existed.”
    ‘Nothing’ & ‘Existing’ do seem to be contradictory terms.
    “So we are left with the dilemma that neither things or nothings have existed that could have to led to that Big Bang.”
    Well first you need to establish how we know these things.
    “That leaves us to reason to the best possible inference. I think you know the rest.”
    At this point, your inference seems to be, “Neither things, nor nothings, can have existed that led to the Big Bang, but I am going to infer that a thing did exist that led to the Big Bang.” That would be contradictory.

  43. The Big Bang was not the product of absolute nothingness. Nothingness doesn’t have the capacity to produce this kind of universe. Nothingness is nothing. It’s zero. With the rim kicked off.

    The inference is not that a thing existed that led to the Big Bang. Not that at all.

    But I’ve got a phone call due right now…

  44. In reference to the Big Bang, this just appeared on my Facebook feed:-

    “The Big-Bang actually creates a tremendous problem for the atheist. If nothing at all existed prior to the Big-Bang, then what exploded? Moreover, the atheistic view, that the universe is all there is, requires that the universe, for no reason, just came into existence out of nothing. But again, this seems absurd. If the Christian had postulated such a proposition, he or she would have been laughed out of court.

    The response of atheists to this dilemma has been silence. Atheist philosopher, Quentin Smith writes:

    The idea that the Big Bang theory allows us to infer that the universe began to exist about 15 billion years ago has attracted the attention of many theists. This theory seemed to confirm or at least lend support to the theological doctrine of creation ex nihilo. Indeed, the suggestion of a divine creation seemed so compelling that the notion that “God created the Big Bang” has taken a hold on popular consciousness and become a staple in the theistic component of ‘educated common sense’. By contrast, the response of atheists and agnostics to this development has been comparatively lame.

    Under the atheistic worldview, the Big-Bang is problematic. It requires the atheist to make an incredible “leap of faith,” a leap that goes against experience and common sense. By contrast, although some Christians have problems with the estimated age of the universe, the Big-Bang theory is at home within the Christian worldview. We observe that everything that begins to exist has a cause. The Big-Bang confirms that the universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe must have been caused.

    The skeptic may respond, “If an uncaused beginning is problematic for the universe, isn’t it problematic for God as well?” Not at all. Uncaused beginnings are problematic no matter what or Who you may be talking about. However, while we now know that the universe had a beginning, no one is claiming that God began to exist.”

    From https://www.bethinking.org/is-there-a-creator/ex-nihilo-nihil-fit-out-of-nothing-nothing-comes?utm_sq=fpdpif6fyv

  45. “You said “preceding the space and time of our universe.” How does that differ from the Big Bang?”
    Because the creation of space and time is part of the Big Bang. The creation of space and time occurred as the energy and matter at the singularity began to expand. Therefore there was energy and matter before there was a Universe.

    “Why do you keep saying “existed at the Quantum Level”?”
    I am misspeaking. I mean “at a quantum scale”.

  46. “The Big Bang was not the product of absolute nothingness. Nothingness doesn’t have the capacity to produce this kind of universe. Nothingness is nothing. It’s zero. With the rim kicked off.”

    ““The Big-Bang actually creates a tremendous problem for the atheist. If nothing at all existed prior to the Big-Bang, then what exploded? ”

    I agree. I mean, it’s very hard to grasp the concept of nothing, but it doesn’t make sense to me that the Universe could be created from nothing, by nothing.

    I’m much more interested in BillT’s answers to my other questions.

  47. Shane,

    You said,

    Your example of asking about which of the sun and the earth revolves around the other is not an apt comparison, because we can see that the sun and the earth exists, and tests can be done (evidence) to show which is actually the case.

    You there prove the point of the Non-Theist’s fixed, false belief that he is not affirming one body of premises in order to deny some other body of premises. You’re actually claiming that your own downstream [set] of claims there wrt to what counts as rational metrics and rational inquiry exists in a vacuum, void of all upstream content within your noetic frame.

    Those upstream beliefs about reality which give life to our downstream claims upon what counts for rational inquiry and what counts as rational metrics (…and whatever claims about brute fact or explanatory box or descriptive array or “X” or “Not-X” they happen to lead to…) are just that — beliefs about reality.

    Why do you believe that is NOT the case wrt to your own beliefs about what counts as rational metrics and rational inquiry? Please explain why you are denying that you can rationally arrive at any downstream series of Negative-Claims (to deny this or that belief) WITHOUT any INFLOW from other, earlier, upstream Positive-Claims (to affirm this or that belief).

    A quote of Newbigin for context:

    “..total skepticism about ultimate beliefs is… impossible… no belief can be doubted except on the basis of some other belief, [so] indifference is always in danger of giving place to …a fanaticism that can be as intolerant as any religion has ever been…” (..L. Newbigin..)

    You clearly did not read https://metachristianity.blogspot.com/2019/01/faith-non-theism-fallacy-of-non-theism.html as your downstream conclusion wrt empiricism didn’t pop into existence out of nothing.

    Now, so far in this thread it seems the Big-Bang has a sort of “Pre-Nothing-Ish” kind of “feel” within your own analytic, and, so, that “feel” is clearly what is fueling you’re replay of that absurdity here with respect to all upstream content in our own doxastic experience.

    Or perhaps you really do believe your own downstream claims about Rational Metrics / Inquiry all exist in a vacuum, void of all upstream content vis-à-vis more basic first principles such that we find the following:

    A. The array of upstream beliefs & positive affirmations about what counts as valid metrics which lead you to reject unicorns.

    B. The array of upstream beliefs & positive affirmations about what counts as valid metrics which lead two year olds to affirm unicorns.

    A = B

    But that’s absurd. Therefore, please explain why you are denying that you can rationally arrive at any downstream series of Negative-Claims (to deny this or that belief) WITHOUT any INFLOW from other, earlier, upstream Positive-Claims (to affirm this or that belief).

  48. Quote:

    “..total skepticism about ultimate beliefs is… impossible… no belief can be doubted except on the basis of some other belief, [so] indifference is always in danger of giving place to …a fanaticism that can be as intolerant as any religion has ever been…” (..L. Newbigin..)

    End quote.

  49. “The Big-Bang actually creates a tremendous problem for the atheist. If nothing at all existed prior to the Big-Bang, then what exploded? Moreover, the atheistic view, that the universe is all there is, requires that the universe, for no reason, just came into existence out of nothing. But again, this seems absurd. If the Christian had postulated such a proposition, he or she would have been laughed out of court.”

    I hate to play the Devil’s advocate, but this is a highly misleading description of the Big Bang. The Big Bang, if true, means that the universe has a spatio-temporal boundary in the past of a specific form (a singularity, but this is not really relevant). Nothing preceded the Big-Bang because Time itself was born with the Big-Bang. In particular, nothing whatsoever “exploded”, and to ask “what exploded?” is another meaningless question that betrays a complete misunderstanding of the Big Bang theory.

    The real, actual problem that the Big-Bang poses lies elsewhere (in my judgment, that is), and one that is NOT dealt with the usual atheist answers — it was not an actual boundary, but a follow-up to a big crunch, or our universe is simply one of a series universes that are born out of a vacuum state or some proxy, etc. What the Big-Bang shows is that the universe is contingent. And the only way to sidestep the inference to a necessary being (what everyone calls God) is to adopt some untestable, unverifiable hypothesis a la Max Tegmark that entails modal collapse. So the atheist is in a dead-end bind (sorry for the mixing of metaphors), but this has always been the case throughout the history of mankind and philosophy. It is only some special features of our modern culture that obscures this fact.

  50. “You there prove the point of the Non-Theist’s fixed, false belief that he is not affirming one body of premises in order to deny some other body of premises. ”

    I don’t understand how you can quote me saying that your analogy is not apt, and then point to me explaining why, as evidence that I believing something different. If your analogy is not apt, then nothing I say about it has anything to do with my beliefs.

    ““..total skepticism about ultimate beliefs is… impossible… no belief can be doubted except on the basis of some other belief, [so] indifference is always in danger of giving place to …a fanaticism that can be as intolerant as any religion has ever been…” (..L. Newbigin..)

    End quote.”

    I said as much earlier, when Tom claimed that skeptics don’t believe anything unless they are absolutely certain of it.

  51. Shane,

    “It may be true we don’t know exactly what existed before the Big Bang but we do know that something must have existed.”
    How do we know that?

    Didn’t you answer this yourself when you said:

    “Nor can absolutely nothing have existed.”
    ‘Nothing’ & ‘Existing’ do seem to be contradictory terms.

    Nothing can come from nothing so something must have existed. (Otherwise stated, if absolutely nothing had ever existed, absolutely nothing still would exist) Ok?

    “We know that something existed and that something must be infinite.”
    How do we know that?

    Since we know from the above that something must have existed then that thing must have always existed or else nothing would have existed and we’ve ruled that out. Ok?

    “However, quantum things or macro things or any other things like those things cannot exist infinitely.”
    How do we know that?

    I don’t want to get too far above my pay grade here but I do believe that science tells us that actual infinites are problematic. As far as we know things like quantum things or macro things have life spans and no matter how long they are they aren’t and can’t be infinite. As I understand it, nothing that exists in our universe or space time or however you want to define it can be infinite. (There are lots of explanations (above my pay grade) of why this is true on the internet. )

    “So we are left with the dilemma that neither things or nothings have existed that could have to led to that Big Bang.”

    Follows from the above.

    “Neither things, nor nothings, can have existed that led to the Big Bang, but I am going to infer that a thing did exist that led to the Big Bang.” That would be contradictory.

    No. It would be reasoning to the best inference. Nothing can’t have existed as a cause for the Big Bang. The kind of somethings we know of can’t have existed as a cause for the Big Bang. Thus, something that is both infinite but not the kind of something that is part of this universe must have existed. That kind of something perfectly fits the definition of God. And, this is a better inference (thus reasoning) than any alternative inference (thus the best inference) that can be drawn from this evidence.

  52. Shane,

    Isn’t it actually the case that you do in fact doubt and/or reject this or that belief(s) based on some other belief(s)? Or do you make such decisions based on No-Thing?

    Is it the case that you have No-Belief about what counts as rational metrics and rational inquiry?

    “..total skepticism about ultimate beliefs is… impossible… no belief can be doubted except on the basis of some other belief, [so] indifference is always in danger of giving place to …a fanaticism that can be as intolerant as any religion has ever been…” (..L. Newbigin..)

    You say you said as much in that you don’t believe X unless the evidence etc. convinces you.

    Yet you deny that your (upstream) beliefs about what counts as rational metrics are in fact beliefs, and you deny that your (upstream) beliefs about what counts as rational inquiry are in fact beliefs.

    Why?

    When you evaluate evidence, do you employ No-Thing in order to evaluate the evidence as you arrive at your conclusion? Or do you employ what you consider to be rational metrics and/or rational inquiry?

    If the latter, what is it that brought you to that place in which you came to consider [metrics a, b, c, and d etc.] to be rational metrics?

    Recall that you are denying the second half of this:

    …..no belief can be doubted except on the basis of some other belief….

    You are so far disagreeing with that in that you are so far claiming that you doubt and/or reject this or that belief(s) based on No-Thing.

    Why?

    Isn’t it actually the case that you do in fact doubt and/or reject this or that belief(s) based on some other belief(s)?

  53. Bill T,

    Some random thoughts on the whole Big-Bang thing-y (and by extension, on the other end, the whole 4D Block thing-y, as Physics leads us to both) Etc. here:

    (….recall that the links to “Disqus” links are to specific comments in threads, so if the page-pop-up stalls at the top of a page, try refreshing or just start scrolling down as that typically makes it jump to the target comment. The target comment usually has a yellow bar at its top….)

    Shane is reasoning “as-if” cosmology / physics is convertible with ontology. What that “looks like” is demonstrated by D. B. Hart here:

    Quote: “This is arguably the besetting mistake of all naturalist thinking, as it happens, in practically every sphere. In this context, the assumption at work is that if one could only reduce one’s picture of the original physical conditions of reality to the barest imaginable elements — say, the “quantum foam” and a handful of laws like the law of gravity, which all looks rather nothing-ish (relatively speaking) — then one will have succeeded in getting as near to nothing as makes no difference.

    In fact, one will be starting no nearer to non-being than if one were to begin with an infinitely realized multiverse: the difference from non-being remains infinite in either case.

    All quantum states are states within an existing quantum system, and all the laws governing that system merely describe its regularities and constraints. Any quantum fluctuation therein that produces, say, a universe is a new state within that system, but not a sudden emergence of reality from nonbeing. Cosmology simply cannot become ontology. The only intellectually consistent course for the metaphysical naturalist is to say that physical reality “just is” and then to leave off there, accepting that this “just is” remains a truth entirely in excess of all physical properties and causes: the single ineradicable “super-natural” fact within which all natural facts are forever contained, but about which we ought not to let ourselves think too much.” End quote. (…by D.B. Hart…)

    Another example of pretending that physics is convertible with ontology is looked at in the following by E. Feser:

    “The tendency of those beholden to scientism, including professional scientists who are beholden to scientism, is to dismiss such questions on the grounds that the only thing worth talking or thinking about is whether the predictions pan out – which entails positivism, or instrumentalism, or some other form of anti-realism. And yet, when pressed about this implication, or when presenting the findings of science to the layman, the same people will usually insist on a realist understanding of scientific theories – apparently blithely unaware of the contradiction. And this is an equal-opportunity form of cognitive dissonance, afflicting everyone from whip-smart Ph.D.’s down to the dumbest combox troll.” (…from http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2018/07/fallacies-physicists-fall-for.html ….)

    With respect to an infinite chain of causality: http://disq.us/p/1o5v88h

    Then, after that plays out, we begin to see that contingent-reason runs ends up chasing its own tail in the same manner: http://disq.us/p/1oejmm8

    Then we find Solipsism and Reason chasing that same proverbial tail: http://disq.us/p/1pn13tf

    The reason the Theist can take “Time” and just GRANT “The Eternal Past Universe” to the Non-Theist is simply because Time Itself is yet another contingent some-thing. That is why Sean Carroll and others dive into the 4D Block Universe because even Time too, along with everything else, is contingent. Now, that 4D Block terminus is called “Eternalism” and while the Christian has the wherewithal to first subsume and then out-distance that, the Non-Theist doesn’t. But the reason the Non-Theist STILL insists on going “there” is because our physics drives us there. And that’s fine, for the Christian, whereas the Non-Theist must there embrace a Totality of “the illusory” (…as in illusion etc.).

    The past eternal universe is of NO help to the Non-Theist.

    On the nature of Time as contingent itself, see the first half of http://disq.us/p/1xkc3tp

    With respect to Ex Nihilo & Proportionate Causality see the second half of that same http://disq.us/p/1xkc3tp

    Segue:

    An interesting question is how can God decree such things as irreducible being or intentionality and so on. With respect to the metaphysics of the creative act, that all brings us to the “principle of proportionate causality“. How can the Created X traverse the abyss of non-being and cross over into being?

    Quote:

    …..To be a tree or to be a stone is merely to participate in “treeness” or “stoneness.” But to be at all — which is the characteristic effect of an act of creation out of nothing – is to participate in Being Itself. Now the principle of proportionate causality tells us that whatever is in an effect must be in some way in its cause. And only that which just is Being Itself can, in this case, be a cause proportionate to the effect, since the effect is not merely to be a tree or to be a stone, but to be at all. [Only] pure actuality or Being Itself rather than a being among others – can cause a thing to exist ex nihilo….. (E. Feser)

    End quote. (…from http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html …)

    Quote:

    “Furthermore, what “allows us to speak the language of causes and effects” has nothing essentially to do with tracing series of events backwards in time. Here again Carroll is just begging the question. On the Aristotelian-Scholastic analysis, questions about causation are raised wherever we have potentialities that need actualization, or a thing’s being metaphysically composite and thus in need of a principle that accounts for the composition of its parts, or there being a distinction in a thing between its essence or nature on the one and its existence on the other, or a thing’s being contingent. The universe, however physics and scientific cosmology end up describing it — even if it turned out to be a universe without a temporal beginning, even if it is a four-dimensional block universe, even if Hawking’s closed universe model turned out to be correct, even if we should really think in terms of a multiverse rather than a single universe — will, the Aristotelian argues, necessarily exhibit just these features (potentialities needing actualization, composition, contingency, etc.). And thus it will, as a matter of metaphysical necessity, require a cause outside it. And only that which is pure actuality devoid of potentiality, only what is utterly simple or non-composite, only something whose essence or nature just is existence itself, only what is therefore in no way contingent but utterly necessary — only that, the classical theist maintains, could in principle be the ultimate terminus of explanation, whatever the specific scientific details turn out to be.”

    End quote. (From E. Feser at http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/07/carroll-on-laws-and-causation.html …)

  54. Shane,

    With Bill T. and the Big Bang thing-y, you’ve muddied waters on “No-Thing”. Physics drives us to the Big-Bang on the front end, just as Physics drives us to the 4D Block Universe on the back-end. There too your confusion as to “No-Thing” and “Some-Thing” are going to limit your progress.

    With me you’ve also muddied waters with respect to our noetic frame as you insert “No-Thing” where you cannot possibly do so, there in those upstream, earlier, more elementary beliefs v. first principles by which you make your later, downstream rejection/embrace of some other belief(s).

    With respect to No-Thing and the Universe, you can continue to equivocate and so fail to get to the point, a point which Sean Carroll and most physicists have passed long, long ago. At some point you’ll need to make a distinction, and with each distinction you attempt to make your underlying opaque-skepticism will be further unmasked.

    Eventually that dance will land in the arena of Mind/Reason and, there too, that mask will, bit by bit, cost you what your paradigm cannot afford.

    The fun but absurd parties hosted by the Three Stooges in the Town of Heavy-Meta, who go by the names of Solipsism, Scientism, & Positivism, just won’t do for more than a few hours of, well, that fun but absurd party.

    ….But the catch is that the causality of each intermediate is *not* fulfilled in its prior cause, since that cause, too, is dependent on yet a prior cause to fulfill its causality. Regression to infinity means that the causality never gets completely fulfilled, and thus, the chain fails for want of an uncaused first caused….

    Well stated.

    Physics-full-stop, rationally followed, leads one beyond physics-full-stop. What typically follows is a. various sorts of category errors related to some flavor of the fallacy of composition ↔ god-of-gaps, b. the pains of brute fact, and, c. at some ontological seam somewhere, the end of reason itself which lands not in the convertibility of the necessary transcendentals with respect to *being* but, rather, in the illusory shadows of non-being. Which is to say that *reason*, rationally followed, leads one beyond one’s own unavoidably contingent reason and into the Necessary & Irreducible vis-à-vis Reason Itself. The Divine Mind presses in. From there, well, the nature of the entire discussion immediately hits a hard “Y” in the road, wherein on one arm the Non-Theist is eager to abort lucidity’s necessary means and ends, while the Theist refuses such reductions to absurdity.

    (….from http://disq.us/p/1o5v88h and http://disq.us/p/1oejmm8 etc….)

  55. BillT

    “Didn’t you answer this yourself when you said:
    ‘Nothing’ & ‘Existing’ do seem to be contradictory terms.”

    Having what seems to be two contradictory terms, is different from knowing that they are, in fact, contradictory.

    “Nothing can come from nothing so something must have existed. (Otherwise stated, if absolutely nothing had ever existed, absolutely nothing still would exist) Ok?”

    No, not okay. How do you know nothing can come from nothing? What kind of experience do you have with nothing, that would allow you to make any sort of inferences about it?

    “Since we know from the above that something must have existed then that thing must have always existed or else nothing would have existed and we’ve ruled that out. Ok?”

    Well, we don’t know that something must have existed, but even if something existed, we don’t know it must have always existed. We believe the Universe didn’t always exist, so the idea that there are things before it that didn’t always exist is not without precedent.

    “I don’t want to get too far above my pay grade here but I do believe that science tells us that actual infinites are problematic. As far as we know things like quantum things or macro things have life spans and no matter how long they are they aren’t and can’t be infinite. As I understand it, nothing that exists in our universe or space time or however you want to define it can be infinite. (There are lots of explanations (above my pay grade) of why this is true on the internet. )”

    Science can tell us about things inside our Universe. But we are talking about things that are outside of our Universe; that are the possible cause of our Universe; and science tells us nothing about what those things might be, and what their life spans might be. Do you think our knowledge of our Universe can really by useful in inferring what things are like outside of our Universe?

    “Follows from the above.”

    With my current replies, do you still think it follows from above?

    “No. It would be reasoning to the best inference. Nothing can’t have existed as a cause for the Big Bang. The kind of somethings we know of can’t have existed as a cause for the Big Bang. Thus, something that is both infinite but not the kind of something that is part of this universe must have existed.”

    If we agree on “The kind of somethings we know of can’t have existed as a cause for the Big Bang.” does that actually tell us anything beyond, “Therefore, if the Big Bang had a cause, it was caused by something we don’t know of.” Because that seems correct to me.

    “That kind of something perfectly fits the definition of God. And, this is a better inference (thus reasoning) than any alternative inference (thus the best inference) that can be drawn from this evidence.””

    Don’t you think, that “Something we don’t know of” is an incredibly broad definition, of pretty much everything outside our Universe? Do you think, by definition, there could be anything outside our Universe, that isn’t “something we don’t know of”? Therefore, can’t I infer absolutely anything that we don’t know of, and it would be an equally good inference, as God?

  56. With my current replies, do you still think it follows from above?

    Yes.

    The reason I do Shane is because your replies fail to reason to the best possible inference and thus don’t provide an effective refutation to my proposition. Allow me to explain. I posited, to begin, the idea that “if absolutely nothing had ever existed, absolutely nothing still would exist”. You replied, “How do you know nothing can come from nothing? What kind of experience do you have with nothing, that would allow you to make any sort of inferences about it?” In order to refute my statement you need to offer as good or better inference. Not just any inference. I don’t believe you have.

    I would suggest the following analogy to explain my position. Let’s say a friend of yours came over to your house and put a small bucket with a lid on the floor. You look inside and see there is nothing but air (i.e., “nothing”) in the bucket. He asks you, “If I leave this bucket here for a minute; a millennia; a million billion years, (your choice) what would you expect to find when you open it?” The possible choices we have are what I proposed “nothing”, or what you proposed, “I don’t know” (“that allow you to make any sort of inferences about it”) or “something” (else besides air), (“How do you know nothing can come from nothing”).

    “Nothing” is what I believe is the answer that provides the best possible inference to this question given what we know. Your above reply to me either states or infers that “I don’t know” or “something.” are not just possible answers but to refute my claim as good or better possible inferences to this situation and answers his question. Putting yourself in the shoes of your friend what do you think his reaction would be to a reply of “I don’t know” or “something” as opposed to “nothing”. I would suggest stunned disbelief as reasonable. You see, we do know some things about nothing.

    So Shane, you deny either that there is a best possible inference to my initial statement “I don’t know” or that there is another possibly better inference “something”. I believe these replies fail to reason to the best possible inference as an alternative to my initial statement “if absolutely nothing had ever existed, absolutely nothing still would exist”. Therefore, it isn’t an effective counterargument to my proposition. If you want to refute my position, you have to provide at least as good if not a better argument not just any argument. As I said, I don’t believe you have.

    Shane if you really believe that “I don’t know” or “something” are as good or better inferences to the proposition I offered then you do. However, that doesn’t leave us much left to say to one another. If you believe that you can explain how “I don’t know” or “something” are as good or better inferences to the proposition I offered, please do.

  57. Hi BillT

    “In order to refute my statement you need to offer as good or better inference. Not just any inference. I don’t believe you have.”

    You infer based on zero evidence. Therefore I can refute it just as easily. That is offering exactly as good an inference as you have made. My questions are pointing out that you have zero evidence. If you think you have something beyond zero evidence, I am open to hear it.

    “You see, we do know some things about nothing.”

    Your analogy is not an apt one, because the bucket contains an infinite number of things beyond “nothing”. I am super positive that mold will grow in that bucket before too long, because it does not contain, nothing.

    Making an assertion about an empty bucket, or anything that exists in this Universe, and then trying to say that it can teach us about a “nothing” that might exist outside of our Universe is as mistaken as trying to describe what life is like sitting in your living room, and suggesting that it can teach you something about the extremophiles and the lives they lead at the volcanic vents at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, or what constitutes an average day for the bacteria on Europa. Except it’s actually far worse, because we cannot actually even guess what things are like outside of our Universe, and we cannot even comprehend what “nothing” is. Which is my point. You have no reference for nothing, and what might it result in.

    “So Shane, you deny either that there is a best possible inference to my initial statement “I don’t know” or that there is another possibly better inference “something”. I believe these replies fail to reason to the best possible inference as an alternative to my initial statement “if absolutely nothing had ever existed, absolutely nothing still would exist”. ”

    I think “I don’t know” is the absolutely the best possible answer to the question, “If absolutely nothing had ever existed, would absolutely nothing still exist?” You have put forward no evidence to sway a response towards the other two possible answers, of “Yes” or “No”. Your inability to examine nothing, and what it might cause, means you cannot reason to either of the other two answers.

    “If you want to refute my position, you have to provide at least as good if not a better argument not just any argument.”

    Your argument comes from zero evidence, as do all the others. All positions about “nothing” are therefore equally valid, and spurious. Except “I don’t know”, which is the only position backed by the lack of evidence.

    “If you believe that you can explain how “I don’t know” or “something” are as good or better inferences to the proposition I offered, please do.”

    Have I explained my position properly now?

  58. Hi scb,

    “Yet you deny that your (upstream) beliefs about what counts as rational metrics are in fact beliefs, and you deny that your (upstream) beliefs about what counts as rational inquiry are in fact beliefs.”

    I don’t deny that those things are beliefs. How could I deny that?

    “When you evaluate evidence, do you employ No-Thing in order to evaluate the evidence as you arrive at your conclusion? Or do you employ what you consider to be rational metrics and/or rational inquiry?”

    I don’t think it’s possible for anybody to employ “No-Thing”, in the same way that I don’t think “nothing” could “exist”. Everything is filtered through the life time experience of the individual.

    “You are so far disagreeing with that in that you are so far claiming that you doubt and/or reject this or that belief(s) based on No-Thing.”

    I don’t believe I’ve ever said I reject a belief based on No-Thing.

    “Isn’t it actually the case that you do in fact doubt and/or reject this or that belief(s) based on some other belief(s)?”

    Yes.

  59. Shane,

    Given that you agree that it is impossible to deny this or that downstream [belief(s)] without basing it on some other, earlier, upstream [belief(s)], then why are you denying that you affirm those earlier, upstream [belief(s)]?

    If you do NOT deny that you affirm those earlier, upstream [belief(s)], well then we arrive at the Non-Theist’s Twin Fallacies: https://metachristianity.blogspot.com/2019/01/faith-non-theism-fallacy-of-non-theism.html

    WRT Bill T.’s question: you hold open the “possibility” that being can come from non-being.

    Why? Are you aware that your “possibility” there is a logical impossibility? Perhaps you mean some sort of Magic there as your Non-Being. Perhaps you have a fixed, false belief that No-Thing is different from Non-Being?

    You’re clearly unaware of the reasons WHY it is true that Non-Theistic Physicists disagree with you about that Magic, and agree with Bill T, and therefore posit, first, the Past Eternal Universe v. Presentism, and, failing that, they posit Eternalism (4D Block Universe). There’s a reasons they do NOT, as you do, appeal to Nothing (No-Thing / Non-Being) as their explanatory terminus, or as their fountainhead for (known) reality. One of those reasons is called evidence. As in Physics. Another of those reasons is called Logic.

    Your rejection of both logic and evidence there is why earlier I had stated the following:

    Shane,

    With Bill T. and the Big Bang thing-y, you’ve muddied waters on “No-Thing”. Physics drives us to the Big-Bang on the front end, just as Physics drives us to the 4D Block Universe on the back-end. There too your confusion as to “No-Thing” and “Some-Thing” are going to limit your progress.

    With me you’ve also muddied waters with respect to our noetic frame as you insert “No-Thing” where you cannot possibly do so, there in those upstream, earlier, more elementary beliefs v. first principles by which you make your later, downstream rejection/embrace of some other belief(s).

    With respect to No-Thing and the Universe, you can continue to equivocate and so fail to get to the point, a point which Sean Carroll and most physicists have passed long, long ago. At some point you’ll need to make a distinction, and with each distinction you attempt to make your underlying opaque-skepticism will be further unmasked.

    As for our own discussion wrt perception, belief, mind, and reason, you’ve the same sort of (subtle now, but not for long) hedges when it comes to, again, logic and evidence. That is why, earlier, I had stated the eventually that dance will land in the arena of Mind/Reason and, there too, that mask will, bit by bit, cost you what your paradigm cannot afford.

    The Christian doesn’t mind if you end up embracing this or that reductio ad absurdum as, form there, his work is done and he need no longer defend Theism.

    Non-Theists do the Christian’s work for us here as they follow logic and reason into the various cousins of solipsism. From there logic forces our hand into either a reductio ad absurdum or else into a reductio ad deum. Diving into “Being Itself”, which is the question on the table, is too often avoided by too many Non-Theists as, based on standard replies, such discussions don’t follow upstream premises far enough downstream to address the actual question on the table with respect to the trio of [1] “Being Itself” and [2] Brute Fact and [3] the Self-Explanatory. (…from https://www.metachristianity.com/atheism-world-flat-none-non-non-theist/faith-non-theism-fallacy-of-non-theism …)

    The fun but absurd parties hosted by the Three Stooges in the Town of Heavy-Meta, who go by the names of Solipsism, Scientism, and Positivism, just won’t do for more than a few hours of, well, that fun but absurd party.

    ..….But the catch is that the causality of each intermediate is *not* fulfilled in its prior cause, since that cause, too, is dependent on yet a prior cause to fulfill its causality. Regression to infinity means that the causality never gets completely fulfilled, and thus, the chain fails for want of an uncaused first caused….

    Well stated.

    Physics-full-stop, rationally followed, leads one beyond physics-full-stop. What typically follows is a. various sorts of category errors related to some flavor of the fallacy of composition ↔ god-of-gaps, b. the pains of brute fact, and, c. at some ontological seam somewhere, the end of reason itself which lands not in the convertibility of the necessary transcendentals with respect to *being* but, rather, in the illusory shadows of non-being. Which is to say that *reason*, rationally followed, leads one beyond one’s own unavoidably contingent reason and into the Necessary & Irreducible vis-à-vis Reason Itself. The Divine Mind presses in. From there, well, the nature of the entire discussion immediately hits a hard “Y” in the road, wherein on one arm the Non-Theist is eager to abort lucidity’s necessary means and ends, while the Theist refuses such reductions to absurdity.

    (…from http://disq.us/p/1o5v88h and http://disq.us/p/1oejmm8 etc with a bit more in the following paragraph…)

    Of course, as we move past Physics-Full-Stop, we begin to see why it is that the Christian does not reject the concrete reality of abstract objects, logic, eternalism, presentism, actuality, and so on in the setting of the Divine Mind and all which sums to Logos with respect to the “…metaphysical wellspring of all ontological possibility….” But, to get “there” we have to arrive “at”, say, Intuition and/or Physics, and Etc., and then keep going to what is found beyond such vectors. The fun but absurd parties hosted by the Three Stooges in the Town of Heavy-Meta, who go by the names of Solipsism, Scientism, & Positivism, just won’t do for more than a few hours of, well, that fun but absurd party.

    “……..total skepticism about ultimate beliefs is… impossible… no belief can be doubted except on the basis of some other belief, [so] indifference is always in danger of giving place to …a fanaticism that can be as intolerant as any religion has ever been…….” (by L. Newbigin)

  60. No, not okay. How do you know nothing can come from nothing? What kind of experience do you have with nothing, that would allow you to make any sort of inferences about it?

    These are truly the rambling questions of a very confused man. It is impossible to have an “experience of nothing” because nothing is the absence-of-anything, not a spooky something about which we could have experiences of.

    As far as the principle of ex nihilo nihil fit goes, it is about as certain and self-evident a metaphysical principle as we will ever have, because it is a principle at the core of our conceptions of being and existence, the most basic, unanalysable (in the sense of irreducible) concepts we have. The principle is more certain than say, first order Peano axioms (a.k.a. elementary arithmetic). Doubt that and, as scbrownlhrm pointed it, you open the flood gates of extreme skepticism, a skepticism that refutes itself as any inference we make relies on it implicitly.

    Let us pause for a moment and ponder a little the consequences of the denial of ex nihilo nihil fit. Since it is a basic, self-evident principle no positive, direct proof of it can be given, since as I mentioned any proof would either rely on it (and thus be circular) or rely on something less certain and thus we would explain the more certain by the less certain, a useless exercise. The best we can is to give an indirect reasoning, by retorsion say, or plausibility arguments. Here is one retorsion: If possibly something can arise from nothing, literally something can come to existence with no cause, then since nothing is, well, nothing, the absence of any and everything, there are no potentialities that delimit the possible range of things coming out of nothing, therefore, possibly something, anything at all, can arise from nothing. And if possibly, anything at all, can arise from nothing, even those things that we presume to have had a cause could have arose uncaused, just with the appearance of being caused. And since this is an open possibility, if follows it is possible that even inferences or logical arguments, are not really logical chains of deduction, but merely seem so to our senses and intellect, and have arose out of nothing. And since their denials are possible, they are not necessary, or in other terms, and to give but one example, from p and p=>q, since modus ponens is not necessary but merely possible, we cannot deduce q. And since this is possible, it is also possible of any and every argument Shane gives, or equivalently, any argument Shane gives is invalid — it really is a “tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

  61. Shane,

    As per my last comment, Non-Theistic (or any) Physicists don’t land in Philosophical No-Thing as you are here. Sean Carroll describes No-Time as the REASON physicists say No-Thing. One has to be precise here.

    ….One question is, within some framework of physical laws that is flexible enough to allow for the possible existence of either “stuff” or “no stuff” (where “stuff” might include space and time itself), why does the actual manifestation of reality seem to feature all this stuff?

    The Framework is there and its Physical Laws describe the behavior of some as-of-yet unknown “Reality” which is flexible in that it manifests Time/Space in some ways and in some ways there is No-Time and No-Space. Well no kidding. Genesis told us that eons ago. (BTW, Time is not fundamental in his view….he resists the term illusory but he’s stuck with it on equivocation…)

    This kind of scenario is exactly what quantum cosmologists like James Hartle, Stephen Hawking, Alex Vilenkin, Andrei Linde and others have in mind when they are talking about the “creation of the universe from nothing.” In this kind of picture, there is literally a moment in the history of the universe prior to which there weren’t any other moments. There is a boundary of time (presumably at the Big Bang), prior to which there was … nothing. No stuff, not even a quantum wave function; there was no prior thing, because there is no sensible notion of “prior.” (… http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2012/04/28/a-universe-from-nothing/ …)

    He cannot speak of Timeless-Changeless-NASCAR-Races just as he cannot speak of Timeless-Changeless-Evolution. Catch the segue: There is “no prior stuff” BECAUSE there is no sensible notion of “prior.” But, that larger, wider Reality Framework is still there.

    That is all in the context of pontificating about which Hilbert Space to use and when and so on. It’s not at all the No-Thing (the philosophical no-thing) you are employing.

    Also, if we press into Carroll’s wider picture we hit favoritism leaning into the 4D Block Universe, which is another topic, but it isn’t the philosophical “nothing” you’re employing.

    Why don’t they employ that? Well because of evidence and logic.

  62. grodrigues,

    From http://disq.us/p/1jvp8fv

    Segue:

    An interesting question is how can God decree such things as irreducible being or intentionality and so on. With respect to the metaphysics of the creative act, that all brings us to the “principle of proportionate causality“. How can the Created X traverse the abyss of non-being and cross over into being?

    Quote:

    …..To be a tree or to be a stone is merely to participate in “treeness” or “stoneness.” But to be at all — which is the characteristic effect of an act of creation out of nothing – is to participate in Being Itself. Now the principle of proportionate causality tells us that whatever is in an effect must be in some way in its cause. And only that which just is Being Itself can, in this case, be a cause proportionate to the effect, since the effect is not merely to be a tree or to be a stone, but to be at all. [Only] pure actuality or Being Itself rather than a being among others – can cause a thing to exist ex nihilo….. (E. Feser)

    End quote. (… https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2011/07/first-without-second.html ….)

  63. Shane,

    WRT my last comment, Time is not fundamental / ontic per a growing majority of physicists. It is contingent. One of the reasons the Christian is happy to just GRANT the Non-Theist the past-eternal universe is that it solves nothing for the Non-Theist’s actual problem.

    Infinite Time sums to an Infinite Contingency. (… http://disq.us/p/1xkc3tp ….)

  64. Have I explained my position properly now?

    You have explained your position. Whether it’s “properly” explained depends. If you mean you’ve simply explained what you believe. Yes. If you mean you’ve made as case for the validity of your beliefs. Well, no, but I had no expectations that it would. The above two posts cover why far better than I could. Always nice to speak with you Shane.

  65. Hi BillT,

    Always a pleasure speaking with you.

    “If you mean you’ve made as case for the validity of your beliefs. Well, no, but I had no expectations that it would.”

    The only belief I have put forward, is “I believe that you haven’t shown, that outside of our universe, if absolutely nothing ever existed, then absolutely nothing would still exist.” And the reason I believe you haven’t shown that, as GRodrigues points out, is because it is impossible to have any experience with nothing. Do you disagree with my belief? Do you believe you have shown it?

  66. Shane what grodrigues said about my statement and your denial of it was:

    As far as the principle of ex nihilo nihil fit goes, it is about as certain and self-evident a metaphysical principle as we will ever have, because it is a principle at the core of our conceptions of being and existence, the most basic, unanalysable (in the sense of irreducible) concepts we have. The principle is more certain than say, first order Peano axioms (a.k.a. elementary arithmetic). Doubt that and, as scbrownlhrm pointed it, you open the flood gates of extreme skepticism, a skepticism that refutes itself as any inference we make relies on it implicitly.

    You denial of ex nihilo nihil fit (“if absolutely nothing had ever existed, absolutely nothing still would exist”) is utterly unsupportable as grodrigues made perfectly clear.

  67. Hi BillT,

    “You denial of ex nihilo nihil fit (“if absolutely nothing had ever existed, absolutely nothing still would exist”) is utterly unsupportable as grodrigues made perfectly clear.”

    Not accepting something, is not the same as denying it. Not believing something is true, is different to believing it is not true.

    The position I hold, is that you have no experience with “nothing”, and by definition, you never could have experience with it. Do you think a total lack of experience of anything (or nothing), can lead you to make a accurate prediction?

    To say my position is unsupportable, is to say that my questioning your assertion, despite your complete lack of evidence and experience with the subject is unsupportable. How can that possibly be true? How can a question be unsupportable? That doesn’t make any type of sense to me.

  68. Look, Shane. We’ve both made our points. I’m confident that the ones we’ve made (Thank you grodrigues and scb!!!) are logical, comprehensive and valid. I’m sure you think the same of yours.

  69. “Not accepting something, is not the same as denying it. Not believing something is true, is different to believing it is not true.”

    Ah the atheists’ favorite shell game. Play the agnostic trump card and put the burden of proof on the opposing party, while at the same time presenting no evidence (there could never be any) or any iota of an argument (there isn’t one) to doubt the principle. Or even specify what would count as a violation of the principle and thus count as evidence against it (crickets chirping).

    Maybe we should start playing the same game about say, the other party’s intellectual honesty and integrity. At any rate, BillT’s response is perfectly reasonable.

    “The position I hold, is that you have no experience with “nothing”, and by definition, you never could have experience with it. Do you think a total lack of experience of anything (or nothing), can lead you to make a accurate prediction?”

    More ignorant ramblings. As is de rigueur, scientism rears its ugly head (“make a accurate prediction”) as if genuine understanding is reducible to making “accurate prediction[s]”. Look, I do not have any experience with the category of Banach spaces — I have never seen it, smelled it, heard it making noises, weighed it, stub my toe on it, felt its shape, etc. — but I damn well know that necessarily, it is essentially small, complete and cocomplete, it is symmetric monoidal closed for the projective tensor product, has both a strong separator and a strong coseparator, that its w_1-compact objects are precisely the separable spaces and that it is w_1-compactly generated for w_1 the first uncountable ordinal.

  70. Hi BillT,

    “I’m confident that the ones we’ve made (Thank you grodrigues and scb!!!) are logical, comprehensive and valid.”

    Last question then … do you not think the phrase “if absolutely nothing ever existed” is expressing a contradiction?

  71. “Play the agnostic trump card and put the burden of proof on the opposing party”

    The opposing party is the one making the claim. Of course the burden of proof is on them.

    “while at the same time presenting no evidence (there could never be any) or any iota of an argument (there isn’t one) to doubt the principle.”

    I presented the same amount of evidence to question BillT’s assertion, that he presented in favour of it.

    “Look, I do not have any experience with the category of Banach spaces ”

    And then you go on to list a number of features of it, that tells me you do indeed have experience with them.

  72. @Shane:

    “The opposing party is the one making the claim.”

    You are also making claims.

    “I presented the same amount of evidence to question BillT’s assertion, that he presented in favour of it.”

    The evidence you presented was exactly none. So this must mean that BillT (and others like myself) have also presented zero evidence. Then my conclusion is that you cannot read.

    “And then you go on to list a number of features of it, that tells me you do indeed have experience with them.”

    Then my conclusion is that you are using the word “experience” equivocally and are even more confused than I thought. I can likewise present a list of (necessarily) true statements about the empty world — for one example, see one below.

    The question was directed at BillT, but I will give my answer:

    “Last question then … do you not think the phrase “if absolutely nothing ever existed” is expressing a contradiction?”

    First a logical quibble; the way you present the statement it could be interpreted as a conditional and without a consequent so it is impossible to answer your question. But assuming that is not the right interpretation, and that the “if” is not opening a conditional, then yes, it is a contradiction, but this is a non-trivial inference, so probably not what you have in mind (if I am reading you right).

  73. Last question then … do you not think the phrase “if absolutely nothing ever existed” is expressing a contradiction?

    No.

    In the context of the entire phrase in which it was offered (“if absolutely nothing had ever existed, absolutely nothing still would exist”) it expresses part of an metaphysical principal. That principalex nihilo nihil fit, as grodrigues explained, “is about as certain and self-evident a metaphysical principle as we will ever have, because it is a principle at the core of our conceptions of being and existence”

    You have offered nothing in rebuttal except the mistaken concept that we cant’t know about “nothing” because we have no experience with it. As grodrigues explained that isn’t a valid objection. It’s not a scientific question and “experience” isn’t a relevant issue. It’s a metaphysical principal for which arguments pertaining to metaphysical principals would be the appropriate response.

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