The Inside Assyria Discussion Forum #5

=> Re: cut to the chase...

Re: cut to the chase...
Posted by Arrow (Guest) - Wednesday, November 30 2011, 13:50:57 (UTC)
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If religion comes from god then prove that first before talking up the details

We can never prove God's existence, even through a priori reasoning. Think about it: if God exists then we can prove him only if he chose to be proven. If we proved him without his consent then this would mean that he's not in control, that we are able to outsmart him... and in this case, he wouldn't be God. Therefore, we are left with faith. In the subsequent chapters (which I haven't read yet) David Berlinski argues that faith pervades our lives. We say we reject faith-based beliefs but almost everything we do, including scientific research, is laden with faith.

The best attempts to argue (not prove) in favor of God's existence are Aristotle's Unmoved Mover, Thomas Aquinas's First Cause (Summa Theologica) and their Arabic version, “Kalam”. The following is an excerpt from the same book, “The Devil's Delusion” (Pages 63 – 69):


The cosmological argument emerges from a simple question and its answer.

The question:
What caused the universe?

The answer:

Aquinas addresses the cosmological argument in Article 3 of Question 2 of the first part of the Summa. Question 2 is called “The Existence of God,” and Article 3 asks the question whether God exists. Aquinas begins by offering a powerful and lucid defense of atheism.

“It is superfluous to suppose,” Aquinas argues, “that what can be accounted for by a few principles has been produced by many.” This constraint is now familiar as Occam’s Razor, even though William of Occam lived and wrote after Aquinas’s death.

“But it seems,” Aquinas at once adds, “that everything we see in the world can be accounted for by other principles, supposing that God did not exist.”

Other principles?

Just so. “All natural things can be reduced to one principle, which is nature, and all voluntary things can be reduced to one principle, which is human reason, or will.”

It follows, Aquinas concludes provisionally, that “[t]here is no reason to suppose God’s existence.”

This is a conclusion that Aquinas is prepared to reject with all the force of his faith and genius. The existence of God may be demonstrated; it is subject to proof, and if not proof, then to argument. It follows that not everything in nature can be accounted for by “other principles.”

The economies of thought offered by Occam’s Razor are an illusion.

We understand things in nature, Aquinas observes, by grasping as best we can causes and their effects: the match that lights the fire, the chill that sets one’s teeth to chattering, the water that slakes thirst. “In the world of sense,” as Aquinas says, “there is an order of efficient causes.” But just as no man can be his own father, no effect can be its own cause. A series of effects preceded by their causes forms a luminous metaphysical trail going backward into the past, because, as Aquinas argues, causes must precede their effects.

Can a series of this sort be infinitely continued, so that it simply disappears into the loom of time?

Aquinas argues that when it comes to causes, “it is not possible to go on to infinity, because in all . . . causes following in order, the first is the cause of the intermediate cause, and the intermediate is the cause of the ultimate cause.”

If a series of causes does not start, it cannot get going, and if it does not get going, then there will be no intermediate causes, and if there are no intermediate causes, then over here, where we have just noticed that a blow has caused a bruise, there is no explanation for what is before our eyes. Either there is a first cause or there is no cause at all, and since there are causes at work in nature, there must be a first. The first cause, Aquinas identified with God, because in at least one respect, a first cause exhibits an important property of the divine: It is uncaused.

This is a weak but not an absurd argument, and while Aquinas’s conclusion may not be true, objections to his argument are frequently inept. Thus Richard Dawkins writes that Aquinas “makes the entirely unwarranted assumption that God is immune to the regress.” It is a commonly made criticism. Lumbering dutifully in Dawkins’s turbulent wake, Victor Stenger makes it as well. But Aquinas makes no such assumption, and thus none that could be unwarranted. It is the conclusion of his argument that causes in nature cannot form an infinite series.

A far better objection has long been common in the philosophical literature: While an infinite series of causes has no first cause, it does not follow (does it?) that any specified effect is without a cause. Never mind the first cause. This blow has caused that bruise. The chain of causes starting with the blow may be chased into the past to any finite extent, but no matter how far back it is chased, effects will always have causes. Why, then, is that first cause so very important?

But this is a counterargument at which common sense is inclined to scruple. Seeing an endless row of dominoes toppling before our eyes, would we without pause say that no first domino set the other dominoes to toppling?


The give-and-take of these arguments is worthy of respect, but it no longer compels attention. In the eight hundred years following the publication of the Summa, the philosophers have had their say, but they have been overtaken by events. The argument that Aquinas wished to make on metaphysical grounds has been made in other terms and in other ways, and in particular a form of the cosmological argument has appeared in the very place one might least expect it to appear: contemporary physical cosmology.


(He then proceeds to talk about the Big Bang...)


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