A Logical Proof

Kavis
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A Logical Proof

Recently I've been reading up on the Baha'i faith.  I've been somewhat disappointed by the faith presented so far.  While they do seem to hold reason and even scientific inquiry as points of doctrine, their doctrine has, in other areas, not managed to escape the irrational failures of more-established monotheistic religions.  I did a little research into the authors of the linked book, and discovered that one of them formulated a tidy little proof of the existence of God. 

In summary, it goes like this:

1) Everything in the universe is either preceded by a cause or else contains within itself a sufficient reason for its existence.

2) For every system or composite phenomenon, any cause for the system is also a cause for every part of the system. (Every material thing, except possibly the elementary particles of quantum physics, is composite.)

3) The existence of a whole system cannot precede the existence of its components (or, he writes, "the constitution of a whole obviously supposes and depends upon the prior or simultaneous existence of its components.&quotEye-wink

For a more complete version, see here. I'll note that both of the last two links lead to what appears to be an official Baha'i site, which I'll be looking into in more depth when it isn't two thirty in the morning.

Considering the summary, my major complaint is that following the axioms* to the conclusion "God exists" is a non sequitur.  All these principles have demonstrated is that a complex entity cannot be self-caused.  Trying to apply this to the existence of the universe (ie, therefore God) isn't really a valid use of this conclusion.  The Big Bang model doesn't require, as far as I know, a self-caused universe in the absence of God.  The universe expanded from a singularity, it was not self-causing.  We might then ask what caused the singularity, but here we run into one of the fundamental disagreements between science and religion.  Science is content to explore the answer, whereas religion is content to declare "therefore, God." At least until the data comes in.

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Kavis
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Whoops

I forgot to add this note:
 

*- These axioms seem pretty reasonable to me.  Anyone want to take a whack at them?

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BobSpence
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1) "Sufficient reason within

1) "Sufficient reason within itself" really is one of those old meaningless metaphysical/philosophical phrases, so that should be tossed.

In fact the first proposition simply amounts to "some things have identifiable preceding causes, some don't". D'uh. Quantum mechanics suggests that even complex entities can just pop into existence, just with a far lower probability.

The idea that some property of an object can allow it to be 'self-creating" is nothing but an ancient meme associated with ideas of how existence came to exist.

The more plausible view is that the nature of the ultimate laws of reality make some things more likely to come into existence than others.

Such 'laws' have to be logically prior to any actual particle, object, or structured entity, including any conceivable 'God'.

EDIT: And don't confuse 'laws' of that kind with laws as the edicts of some authority. The laws of physics are our descriptions of the ultimate basic order, structure,  of reality.

Objects beyond the sub-atomic particle level are unlikely to have formed as they are from 'nothing', so we can usually trace their existence to some process, but the ultimate 'cause' for even major events is probably a combination of actually or effectively 'causeless' quantum events, and/or chaotic processes, where a tiny quantum-scale twitch, one way or another, can ultimately 'determine', along with many other states of the environment at the time, the timing or nature of some large-scale occurrence, such as a hurricane. This is popularly referred to as "The Butterfly Effect", where one of the low-level events potentially determining the course of the future is poetically imagined to be the flapping of a butterfly's wing.

So 1) is empty.

2) No. Because composite systems can also form by aggregation of pre-existing objects.

So 2) is invalid.

3) D'uh. So?

Doesn't even contain any profound insight, and does not constitute an argument for anything, let alone proving the existence of God.

Probably includes, unexpressed, at least in that list, some version of the fallacy of "sufficient reason", which assumes that causes must be greater than their effects.

Just another expression of the Cosmological Argument, which is empty, and covers up the giant non-sequitur "therefore the initial cause is God", as you observed.

Nowhere does it prove any of the qualities of a supposed initial event that would make it correspond to something worth calling God, unless it is something like Einstein's God, which is simply the order of the laws of Physics.

So it is not logical, and certainly not a proof of anything.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

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Kavis
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BobSpence1 wrote:So it is

BobSpence1 wrote:

So it is not logical, and certainly not a proof of anything.

Very nice.  I hadn't considered some of the points you discussed.

Also, Gene made me lol.

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Kavis wrote:BobSpence1

Kavis wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

So it is not logical, and certainly not a proof of anything.

Very nice.  I hadn't considered some of the points you discussed.

Also, Gene made me lol.

You have been lead astray by scientists intimidating you with quantum mechanics.  However, nowhere do real physicists claim that things come into existence with no sufficient reason.  What they claim is that models in quantum physics are explained better using a non-causal system.  This does not mean that there are no causes, nor does it preclude the possibility of a sufficient reason for the behavior of quantum particles.  It just means that quantum mechanics is chaotic and indeterminate, beyond anything that we are able to comprehend at this time.  As such, there are ten different interpretations, only one of which says something even resembling the claim that objects come into existence with no sufficient reason (the Copenhagen Interpretation).  Even that interpretation does not make the claim.  According to the Copenhagen Interpretation, virtual particles arise spontaneously out of a quantum vacuum, but it's not literally nothing.  It's a body of energy.


BobSpence
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OntologicalArgument

OntologicalArgument wrote:

Kavis wrote:

BobSpence1 wrote:

So it is not logical, and certainly not a proof of anything.

Very nice.  I hadn't considered some of the points you discussed.

Also, Gene made me lol.

You have been lead astray by scientists intimidating you with quantum mechanics.  However, nowhere do real physicists claim that things come into existence with no sufficient reason.  What they claim is that models in quantum physics are explained better using a non-causal system.  This does not mean that there are no causes, nor does it preclude the possibility of a sufficient reason for the behavior of quantum particles.  It just means that quantum mechanics is chaotic and indeterminate, beyond anything that we are able to comprehend at this time.  As such, there are ten different interpretations, only one of which says something even resembling the claim that objects come into existence with no sufficient reason (the Copenhagen Interpretation).  Even that interpretation does not make the claim.  According to the Copenhagen Interpretation, virtual particles arise spontaneously out of a quantum vacuum, but it's not literally nothing.  It's a body of energy.

"Sufficient reason" is an empty principle - it has no definition of what constitutes "sufficient".

It would appear that for many Quantum level phenomena, 'sufficient' is vanishingly small.

For macro-scale things, 'sufficient' may well be far less by whatever measure than what it is 'caused'.

This leaves 'arguments' like the 'first cause' totally misconceived - their task is to prove that whatever may have 'caused' the Universe necessarily has the attributes of their God, such as consciousness, goodness, and infinite scale and power.

You have been lead astray by obsolete medieval concepts.

 

 

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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What does "exists" mean?

Something I've been pondering for a bit.

 

What does the statement "X exists" really mean?  What are the sufficient and necessary conditions for the existence of X?

 

As far as I can tell, the best sufficient and necessary condition for existence is that X makes some observable difference.  Otherwise you can go on tacking the "exists" label to absolutely anything and it would never be possible to demonstrate that you were wrong, which is a problem (google "the problem of falsifiability" or similar.  It also just makes the term "exists" completely useless).

So if existence means making some observable difference, then any "hidden" causes behind quantum indeterminacy don't really exist, as they'd be too hidden to make an observable difference.  This idea of what exists means is pretty common among physicists, and a key driving force behind the Copenhagen Interpretation.

 

And I concur.  Stop using the philosophical terms like "sufficient reason" and such.  Philosophy in general is just too darned muddied at this point.  I prefer to use math terms like "sufficient and necessary conditions" because they actually have precise meanings and they often avoid connotative baggage.  See, your "sufficient reason" sounds like it might mean exactly the same thing as "sufficient condition," but the use of "reason" instead of "condition" carries connotative baggage that makes it feel like you need some sort of intellect when in fact you do not (assuming you do mean the same thing as "sufficient condition&quotEye-wink.  This is often used by theists to hide the gap between showing that there must be a first cause, and showing that there must be a first cause which is itself a conscious being.  If you say we need sufficient reason to get the universe going then it sounds like we need a reasoner, when in fact the argument demonstrates no such necessity.

Questions for Theists:
http://silverskeptic.blogspot.com/2011/03/consistent-standards.html

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BobSpence
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"Sufficient reason" is an

"Sufficient reason" is an empty, outmoded concept from before people really worked out how to think rigorously about reality, beyond the necessary but insufficient tools of Logic and Math.

Unless you supply a properly defined method for determining what "sufficient reason" for any give thing is, it doesn't tell us anything.

Chaos theory has shown that the ultimate reason for some specific event may be infinitesimally small, the well-known "butterfly effect".

Quantum theory goes a step further, indicating that particular events may be effectively causeless, purely random, if they are at the scale of elementary particles.

Philosophy long ago ceased to be a useful source of actual insights into reality. Science is where its at today, having long outgrown its origins as "Natural Philosophy".

Philosophy can on occasion suggest interesting new ways to think about all kinds of things, but they need to be tested against reality before being taken seriously.

Favorite oxymorons: Gospel Truth, Rational Supernaturalist, Business Ethics, Christian Morality

"Theology is now little more than a branch of human ignorance. Indeed, it is ignorance with wings." - Sam Harris

The path to Truth lies via careful study of reality, not the dreams of our fallible minds - me

From the sublime to the ridiculous: Science -> Philosophy -> Theology


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"faith" is nothing more than

"faith" is nothing more than intellectual laziness. Slap any religious label on it you want, it is still an ignorant naked assertion.

Good logic doesn't start with a naked assertion, nor is it rooted in a cultural tradition. Good logic leads us where the data and evidence takes us, even when it goes where we don't expect.

"Faith" requires you to ignore facts and sets one up to preclude themselves from changing their position as new evidence comes in.

Axioms are merely words strung together. The truth of a fact is determined, not by axioms, but real data and testing of that data and independent review of the methodology and data and testing. None of life is measured in absolutes, but when determined through good logic and good methodology, we can come to a reasonable certainty that we are spot on.

People also have "faith" in political systems too, which can lead to Hitler, Stalin and Iran.

Peppering a dogma with nice sounding pseudo philosophy doesn't make it true, much less pragmatically testable in a universal manner.

 

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