Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Aaeriele » Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:39 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I think you might be stretching the term past its boundaries. Special pleading involves appealing to a general rule while simultaneously denying that something which satisfies all the appropriate conditions should be subject to it. But there's no general rule being claimed here about everything having to come into being. The first cause argument is compatible with lots and lots of eternal entities (gods, angels, Platonic forms, and so on). On the flip side, it makes no general claim that everything comes into being. It's just an apparent fact that this is true of the universe.


That said, whether or not Azrael is using the particular term correctly, he still has a point - there's nothing special about any given conception of God that links it to being such a first cause (beyond certain people believing that's the case), relative to any other such conception of God.

So you could rationally say "I will define God to be whatever the first cause was," but you can't rationally say (at least, with the evidence presented thus far) "this instance of God is the first cause".
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Technical Ben » Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:56 am UTC

induction wrote:
Technical Ben wrote:Thank you Induction. It is to the following that I have yet to see the evidence for.
This complexity can arise from very simple initial conditions through physical interactions over large time spans. No designer is needed to explain the complexity.


Here's an example of repeated application of a single rule.
Here are some images and discussion of physical systems with emergent properties.


Thank you induction. This is where I ask. Can we see the difference between an "emergent system" and the same system when we include "people"? What differences do we see between the Mandlebrot picture, and one made by people (which I accept are using the same natural processes) who paint a portrait?

Griffin. Even if the set we have is finite and approaching infinity, currently it would be finite to me. This is where you either have to ask me to accept the evidence (which I can only have a finite set) or is there a reason I should assume an infinite set?

Azrael, a better explanation was given by TheGrammarBolshevik.

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I think the classical exposition of this is more that anything that happened had a cause. For example, beginning to exist. So since the universe apparently began to exist, it (allegedly) must have some cause. God, on the other hand, is timeless/eternal/I'm not a theologian, so no causal explanation is needed.


Yes. I'll use a spoiler, because I'm trying to break this down into a logical mathematical statement. As far as I can see, without one, we will still be unsure what each person means? But I'd need help in getting the above description defined mathmatically. Then we could say it is or is not contradictory?

Spoiler:
We could for instance set a variable. It has no cause, we just set it to whatever our detectors detect. Then perhaps the evidence we get is: "detect Y" then it is "detect Z". We could try to logically state:
"Y then Z"
But when we compare Y to Z, Y≠Z. An amount, operation or variable is mission between the two. We need an "X" to get from Y to Z. The "then" statement is incomplete. So we state:
"X + Y = Z".
Is this rational and correct? As X and Y came before Z, we can state "XY is first, then Z"? We have never detected X in the above. But, it's strongly inferred that X exists?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby morriswalters » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:29 am UTC

Soralin wrote:
morriswalters wrote:You can network through a church without attending. Gee ain't Christianity grand. All that required is to drop the right names. If you say you believe in God and are a member of the Uncle Hocums First Church of the Veil, nobody checks. You have acquired the benefits with almost no cost.

Well if you want to go that far, you can get those same benefits being an atheist, and just saying that you're a christian, and all the rest. Although saying that christianity is grand, because you can get benefits by lying to people isn't exactly very convincing.


That was written a little tongue in cheek, and I really don't care that it is not convincing, just that it is factual. Christianity is like that. It means whatever people want it to mean. You can justify anything and everything with it. One of the primary problems with language in an evolutionary sense is that it makes it easy to lie. However it is powerful enough as a problem solving tool not to be selected out. However it leads us to conversations like the ones in this thread. In a purely practical sense any behavior can be considered rational if it leaves the person expressing it capable of surviving and reproducing.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qetzal » Tue Apr 03, 2012 11:58 am UTC

Technical Ben,

Even if we agree that it's rational to believe in a first cause, that still doesn't rationally justify theism. Agreed, or not?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:07 pm UTC

Aaeriele wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I think you might be stretching the term past its boundaries. Special pleading involves appealing to a general rule while simultaneously denying that something which satisfies all the appropriate conditions should be subject to it. But there's no general rule being claimed here about everything having to come into being. The first cause argument is compatible with lots and lots of eternal entities (gods, angels, Platonic forms, and so on). On the flip side, it makes no general claim that everything comes into being. It's just an apparent fact that this is true of the universe.


That said, whether or not Azrael is using the particular term correctly, he still has a point - there's nothing special about any given conception of God that links it to being such a first cause (beyond certain people believing that's the case), relative to any other such conception of God.

So you could rationally say "I will define God to be whatever the first cause was," but you can't rationally say (at least, with the evidence presented thus far) "this instance of God is the first cause".

That's true, but I don't see what it has to do with what Azrael was saying.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Technical Ben » Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:10 pm UTC

qetzal wrote:Technical Ben,

Even if we agree that it's rational to believe in a first cause, that still doesn't rationally justify theism. Agreed, or not?


I agree it gives us a common starting point, but I'm not sure what else you are suggesting. As said, some subsets of Atheism and Theism believe the same things. Then there are places they both agree on. I'd much prefer to state which things are correct, then spend endless arguments over which majority of which group is what. As that would not be objective enough for me, would only comment on the people not the evidence, and would take forever. :P

Much better to not be theist, or atheist, but to accept whatever the evidence is.

So perhaps the answer to the thread is (in both cases) "only if you can provide a rational reason for that stance"? Or would the preferred answer be "only if you can provide evidence for your stance"?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Griffin » Tue Apr 03, 2012 3:15 pm UTC

Technical Ben, you just ignored the vast bulk of my post to respond, poorly to one of the least relevant points.

Griffin. Even if the set we have is finite and approaching infinity, currently it would be finite to me. This is where you either have to ask me to accept the evidence (which I can only have a finite set) or is there a reason I should assume an infinite set?


My point was that it doesn't matter. Finite doesn't even imply a cause (and I'm not sure what it would even mean for something to be finite, but only to you). You can have finite sequences that have no starting point. And you're still you're ignoring the fact that every bit of evidence we have about the beginning of the Universe implies weird shit goes on. You're doing the equivalent of arguing against the possibility of the probability cloud of electrons in an atom, or quantum entanglement.

You may, very well, be right. But you're not doing a very good job of being rational if you're going to declare some sort of god to be anything more than a possibility. (And "likely" is more than a possibility)

So, here, if you're going to respond to one thing, and only one thing, respond to this:

If the Universe can be reasoned to have a first cause, which we will call god, can we not reason it likely that god has a first cause of its own?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Bsob » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:09 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:
If the Universe can be reasoned to have a first cause, which we will call god, can we not reason it likely that god has a first cause of its own?


Uh, no.
You seem to be missing the definition of "first cause" if it was caused by something, it would not be the first cause.

Even still, if <whatever made the universe> has a cause, then you trace that back to its first cause, you should likely call that "god" instead of calling <the universe making machine god turn on> "god".
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Griffin » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:14 pm UTC

You seem to be missing the definition of "first cause" if it was caused by something, it would not be the first cause.


That is my point, yes. -_-

Even still, if <whatever made the universe> has a cause, then you trace that back to its first cause, you should likely call that "god" instead of calling <the universe making machine god turn on> "god".


So that thing that created the universe is no longer god. Instead, something else is god. Congratulations, you're... at exactly the same place you were before.

The point is that if the logic that requires a "cause" for the universe applies at all, it also applies to the "first cause" - implying that it, in itself, was in fact caused. That is the whole point of the argument.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Bsob » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:37 pm UTC

Griffin wrote:
You seem to be missing the definition of "first cause" if it was caused by something, it would not be the first cause.


That is my point, yes. -_-

Even still, if <whatever made the universe> has a cause, then you trace that back to its first cause, you should likely call that "god" instead of calling <the universe making machine god turn on> "god".


So that thing that created the universe is no longer god. Instead, something else is god. Congratulations, you're... at exactly the same place you were before.

The point is that if the logic that requires a "cause" for the universe applies at all, it also applies to the "first cause" - implying that it, in itself, was in fact caused. That is the whole point of the argument.


No the logic is, that there must be some first thing that had no cause.

It is a paradox. All things must have a cause; one thing must have no cause. These statements can't be true at the same time. However, the alternative is that causality does not exist as we know it.

It's like claiming that you built a building so tall it doesn't have a bottom floor. Maybe it's so tall that someone on the top floor can't conceive of the bottom floor, but logic tells us that there must be a bottom floor. Until that bottom floor every floor must have a floor underneath it.

A "first cause" theory posits that there is something that has no cause that started it all, because there must be. At the same time, it seem impossible that the first cause had no cause. This is why it is a paradox.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby DSenette » Tue Apr 03, 2012 6:54 pm UTC

Bsob wrote:
Griffin wrote:
You seem to be missing the definition of "first cause" if it was caused by something, it would not be the first cause.


That is my point, yes. -_-

Even still, if <whatever made the universe> has a cause, then you trace that back to its first cause, you should likely call that "god" instead of calling <the universe making machine god turn on> "god".


So that thing that created the universe is no longer god. Instead, something else is god. Congratulations, you're... at exactly the same place you were before.

The point is that if the logic that requires a "cause" for the universe applies at all, it also applies to the "first cause" - implying that it, in itself, was in fact caused. That is the whole point of the argument.


No the logic is, that there must be some first thing that had no cause.

It is a paradox. All things must have a cause; one thing must have no cause. These statements can't be true at the same time. However, the alternative is that causality does not exist as we know it.

It's like claiming that you built a building so tall it doesn't have a bottom floor. Maybe it's so tall that someone on the top floor can't conceive of the bottom floor, but logic tells us that there must be a bottom floor. Until that bottom floor every floor must have a floor underneath it.

A "first cause" theory posits that there is something that has no cause that started it all, because there must be. At the same time, it seem impossible that the first cause had no cause. This is why it is a paradox.

but the bottom floor still has something underneath it, it may not be a floor, but it's dirt, and then that dirt has something underneath that dirt. i know that's not what you're meaning by your analogy, but it's still the same problem.

you claim that there's nothing below the first floor "because there isn't", but that's a silly assumption to make when evidence suggests that all floors have something underneath them.

there's also the difference between claiming that there's a floor below the last floor that doesn't have a floor below it, and there being a floor below the last floor that doesn't have a floor below it but that last floor is the reason that the other floors are there and the reason that they're happy being there.

the irrational part isn't the idea that there could be a first cause. the irrational part is assuming that first cause is sentient or conscious, or makes decisions, or made decisions, or was anything more than a physical event.

if you only acknowledge that physical events have causes, then you have to assume that it's "causes all the way down", it's irrational to suggest that EVERYTHING has a cause and then just pick one thing out of thin air that doesn't (and shows no evidence for not having a cause mind you....any "god as first cause" hypothesis doesn't explain WHY they say god has no first cause, it just says he doesn't)

for you to even remotely entertain the idea of something that doesn't have a first cause, you have to acknowledge that some things don't have causes. and even then, it's STILL irrational to arbitrarily pick one thing out of thin air and say that it's the thing that has no first cause without first having evidence that it doesn't have a cause (like radio active decay.....we observe that it happens, and we have a big lack of evidence for a cause, so it's a safe assumption given the current data that there's no cause).
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qetzal » Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:37 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:
qetzal wrote:Technical Ben,

Even if we agree that it's rational to believe in a first cause, that still doesn't rationally justify theism. Agreed, or not?


I agree it gives us a common starting point, but I'm not sure what else you are suggesting. As said, some subsets of Atheism and Theism believe the same things. Then there are places they both agree on. I'd much prefer to state which things are correct, then spend endless arguments over which majority of which group is what. As that would not be objective enough for me, would only comment on the people not the evidence, and would take forever. :P

Much better to not be theist, or atheist, but to accept whatever the evidence is.

So perhaps the answer to the thread is (in both cases) "only if you can provide a rational reason for that stance"? Or would the preferred answer be "only if you can provide evidence for your stance"?


I'm suggesting that arguing over the rationality or likelihood of a first cause, as we've been doing for several pages now, is irrelevant to whether theism or atheism are rational (i.e. the supposed topic of this thread). And yes, the rationality of either stance depends on whether your reasoning is rational.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Griffin » Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:54 pm UTC

Bsob wrote:
Griffin wrote:The point is that if the logic that requires a "cause" for the universe applies at all, it also applies to the "first cause" - implying that it, in itself, was in fact caused. That is the whole point of the argument.


No the logic is, that there must be some first thing that had no cause.

And why can't this thing be the universe?

Bsob wrote:It is a paradox.

If you're getting a paradox, its a good sign your doing something wrong. If your logic is good, it means your assumptions aren't, or your conclusion is invalid, useless, or meaningless.


All things must have a cause; one thing must have no cause. These statements can't be true at the same time. However, the alternative is that causality does not exist as we know it.

OR that you are wrong about one of your many other assumptions.


Bsob wrote:A "first cause" theory posits that there is something that has no cause that started it all, because there must be. At the same time, it seem impossible that the first cause had no cause. This is why it is a paradox.

And that is why it is probably wrong.


And, again, finally,....

What the heck does any of this has to do with any god that 99.99% of the people on the earth might give a damn about?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Technical Ben » Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:42 pm UTC

Because that large percentage might agree with the statement of "God the creator". They are happy for that to be [a part of the]* definition of the god they worship, believe or see evidence for.
I know of "Dave the plumber", the scientific evidence or natural physical laws do not say he cannot exist. If someone sees evidence that "Dave the plumber" exists, then is it rational to think so?
The large percentage of those who are Atheist would reason that they see "the universe, existing", and leave it at that. Is my understanding of that correct? Thanks.


*Edited my statement for clarity. As qetzal mentioned, this is only one part of a definition.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Griffin » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:13 pm UTC

Because that large percentage might agree with the statement of "God the creator". They are happy for that to be the definition of the god they worship, believe or see evidence for.

You aren't arguing for God the creator. Your arguing for the existence of an uncaused cause. There is basically no one I've ever met, except for yourself, that would accept an uncaused cause as being God based on that property alone. In fact, I'm not even sure you would, since I didn't get a straight answer on that front earlier, and you keep on trying to imply additional properties to this first cause. So no, I don't know anyone who would be happy with that definition of god. And worshipping such a first cause would still be awfully irrational without further justification.

This is on top of the fact that you STILL haven't provided any reason the universe itself can't be the "first, uncaused, cause". I mean, considering the number of people who believe the universe itself is "god", that doesn't even seem to counter your point. So why do you require an additional step before you get to your own uncased cause?

I know of "Dave the plumber", the scientific evidence or natural physical laws do not say he cannot exist. If someone sees evidence that "Dave the plumber" exists, then is it rational to think so?

Okay, but you're looking at a rock, telling us all "look, it's dave!" because many people know Dave has rock hard abs. There is no rational reason to believe the thing you are pointing to is actually Dave the plumber, even if it shares a single quality often associated with him.

The large percentage of those who are Atheist would reason that they see "the universe, existing", and leave it at that. Is my understanding of that correct?

Most atheists I know are rarely content to "leave it at that", but they generally understand the evidence available can only take us so far and there are things we don't (yet, perhaps) know.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:43 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Because that large percentage might agree with the statement of "God the creator". They are happy for that to be the definition of the god they worship, believe or see evidence for.
I know of "Dave the plumber", the scientific evidence or natural physical laws do not say he cannot exist. If someone sees evidence that "Dave the plumber" exists, then is it rational to think so?
The large percentage of those who are Atheist would reason that they see "the universe, existing", and leave it at that. Is my understanding of that correct? Thanks.


So you are willing to accept a God who just started the Big Bang, and does not, and has not under any circumstances, interacted with the Universe at any point since then? A God who might not be capable of doing anything else? A God who may not even know we exist? A God who might not even still exist?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby yurell » Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:47 pm UTC

That's deism in a nutshell.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qetzal » Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:24 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Because that large percentage might agree with the statement of "God the creator". They are happy for that to be the definition of the god they worship, believe or see evidence for.


No they're not! That large percentage would agree that "God the Creator" is part of their defintion, but it's hardly the complete definition. The vast majority believe god is also sapient, personal, and continually active in the universe. That large majority would vehemently reject a definition in which god was merely the first cause, lacking any of those other properties.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:27 am UTC

Griffin wrote:
Because that large percentage might agree with the statement of "God the creator". They are happy for that to be the definition of the god they worship, believe or see evidence for.

You aren't arguing for God the creator. Your arguing for the existence of an uncaused cause.
Spoiler:
There is basically no one I've ever met, except for yourself, that would accept an uncaused cause as being God based on that property alone. In fact, I'm not even sure you would, since I didn't get a straight answer on that front earlier, and you keep on trying to imply additional properties to this first cause. So no, I don't know anyone who would be happy with that definition of god. And worshipping such a first cause would still be awfully irrational without further justification.

This is on top of the fact that you STILL haven't provided any reason the universe itself can't be the "first, uncaused, cause". I mean, considering the number of people who believe the universe itself is "god", that doesn't even seem to counter your point. So why do you require an additional step before you get to your own uncased cause?

I know of "Dave the plumber", the scientific evidence or natural physical laws do not say he cannot exist. If someone sees evidence that "Dave the plumber" exists, then is it rational to think so?

Okay, but you're looking at a rock, telling us all "look, it's dave!" because many people know Dave has rock hard abs. There is no rational reason to believe the thing you are pointing to is actually Dave the plumber, even if it shares a single quality often associated with him.

The large percentage of those who are Atheist would reason that they see "the universe, existing", and leave it at that. Is my understanding of that correct?

Most atheists I know are rarely content to "leave it at that", but they generally understand the evidence available can only take us so far and there are things we don't (yet, perhaps) know.


Thankyou. I too would only make that statement and be happy with it. However, I have yet to mention "God the creator" and not reach someone using the argument of "uncaused cause". I can happily accept "X, Then Y" statements. The "God, then universe" statement. In this statement, only "universe" needs a cause. I have not assumed a cause, or anything, I look at the statement. The statement has requirements to be complete. If I look at the universe and the evidence within, I can then see if the things were "X, then Y" (created) or "not X, then Y (not created)". I can see if I have a car, or a rock. If I have atomic decay or 15gb of Blue ray movies written in binary.

Your question "why do you expect a first cause" is the same as asking "why do you expect a first"? If I count down, do I expect to reach a first number? Is it rational to expect myself to reach a first number when counting down?

I'm not pointing at a rock saying "look it's Dave". I'm not even saying "Dave the plumber" made rocks. But, if I look at a car, or a rock, what differences do we use to know one from another? How do we know one has a "creator/cause" and one does not? This would be our method of reason, looking at that will help us.

LaserGuy, we are willing to accept what the evidence asks for, right? In this thread at this point I was just considering if evidence asks for a previous state, cause, mechanism or action to get it to the next state. Is this rational? Are not the greatest minds in science considering what steps the universe has to take in the moments of the "big bang"? Do they not need to consider what natural forces acted upon it? Do they consider it rational to look for the part of the that is missing? The rest I would discuss another time though.

Thanks qetzal. Sorry, I did not mean the only definition, but part of. I agree the definitions you included are extremely important to those people too! If we have an agreement on one part of the definition though, we have something to begin to discuss. Discussing everything at once is difficult, choosing one thing first is simpler. :)
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby yurell » Wed Apr 04, 2012 9:42 am UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Your question "why do you expect a first cause" is the same as asking "why do you expect a first"? If I count down, do I expect to reach a first number? Is it rational to expect myself to reach a first number when counting down?


It's not immediately obvious that there is a definition of time separate from the Universe — a 'first cause' may be the equivalent to the smallest positive real number (hint: there isn't one). Space-time starts behaving weird (as others have pointed out) when you get very small, very massive or very high energy, and the big bang was about as small, massive and high energy as it gets.

And there goes the bloody fire alarm >.> Off I go.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Griffin » Wed Apr 04, 2012 1:59 pm UTC

Yeah... if you're talking set of real numbers, even positive real numbers, there is no "first" number.

You can, quite literally, keep going smaller for ever.

Same for the set of all integers.

Thankyou. I too would only make that statement and be happy with it. However, I have yet to mention "God the creator" and not reach someone using the argument of "uncaused cause".

Most will agree that this is a necessary property of god. Pretty much none will agree that it is sufficient. I also have no idea what you mean by "reach someone".

I can happily accept "X, Then Y" statements. The "God, then universe" statement. In this statement, only "universe" needs a cause. I have not assumed a cause, or anything, I look at the statement. The statement has requirements to be complete. If I look at the universe and the evidence within, I can then see if the things were "X, then Y" (created) or "not X, then Y (not created)". I can see if I have a car, or a rock. If I have atomic decay or 15gb of Blue ray movies written in binary.

So why do you find it so hard to accept "If (universe begins) then (Universe)?"

You still haven't answered the most important question, which I bolded last time and will bold again:
So why do you require an additional step before you get to your own uncased cause? If God can be uncaused, why can't the universe be uncaused?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Technical Ben » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:05 pm UTC

Sorry Griffin. I think I mistyped that one sentence*. Whenever I mention a "creator" in this thread, the argument presented is "but that is an uncaused cause". I was pointing this out. You asked why I argued for a cause, well that is why. Because I was asked to put forth an argument for it. I assumed people were equating a creator to a cause?

You ask "If God can be uncaused, why can't the universe be uncaused?" It can be. I've yet to see evidence to say it is. This is why I used examples such as a car. We can see a car is not a spontaneous system. It has a "before" state. It has a "requirement" for it's production. It has "tool marks" or "inherited attributes" from the system of production.

Many theories have been put forward for an uncaused or infinite time wise universe. However the majority of the evidence I have seen suggests that is not the case. What does science ask us to believe based on rational thought? The current evidence, or theoretical imaginary evidence? The same goes for counting back to a "first". It might be an infinitely divisible system. But currently there is a first, and an end to count from.


PS. "If universe begins then universe" is not the correct statement for 2 sets of data is it? We have "X then X" in your example. I would be happy if this was the observed case. But with 2 sets of data or points we have "X then Y"? So we need another name or definition other than "universe" for both. Does that help?
*It was suppose to be "I have yet to reach a point where someone has not said "that is an uncaused cause"."
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Wed Apr 04, 2012 5:32 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:You ask "If God can be uncaused, why can't the universe be uncaused?" It can be. I've yet to see evidence to say it is. This is why I used examples such as a car. We can see a car is not a spontaneous system. It has a "before" state. It has a "requirement" for it's production. It has "tool marks" or "inherited attributes" from the system of production.


Does the Universe have a "before" state? Are there "tool marks" or "inherited attributes"? It's not obvious at all that any of these things apply to the Universe as a whole.

How do you know that God doesn't have a "before" state?

What about the fact that there are known events in the Universe that are uncaused? There is, in fact, no guarantee that any causal chain in the Universe can be traced all the way back to the Big Bang. Some will simply terminate with some spontaneous quantum process. There are many, many, first causes.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Greyarcher » Wed Apr 04, 2012 6:55 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:Thanks qetzal. Sorry, I did not mean the only definition, but part of. I agree the definitions you included are extremely important to those people too! If we have an agreement on one part of the definition though, we have something to begin to discuss. Discussing everything at once is difficult, choosing one thing first is simpler. :)
Pardon, Ben, but can you detail how we might get from the possibility of first cause(s) to any modern theism? Or, as a shorter step, to any sort of personal gods?

To use an analogy: if the structure won't fit on the foundation, then there's no need to keep working on establishing that foundation. We have the blueprint for the foundation--a first cause--so how would you start building your desired structure on it?

Because I can see far more problems cropping up in that move, some of which I've mentioned already.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Bsob » Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:15 am UTC

DSenette wrote:
Spoiler:
Bsob wrote:
Griffin wrote:
You seem to be missing the definition of "first cause" if it was caused by something, it would not be the first cause.


That is my point, yes. -_-

Even still, if <whatever made the universe> has a cause, then you trace that back to its first cause, you should likely call that "god" instead of calling <the universe making machine god turn on> "god".


So that thing that created the universe is no longer god. Instead, something else is god. Congratulations, you're... at exactly the same place you were before.

The point is that if the logic that requires a "cause" for the universe applies at all, it also applies to the "first cause" - implying that it, in itself, was in fact caused. That is the whole point of the argument.


No the logic is, that there must be some first thing that had no cause.

It is a paradox. All things must have a cause; one thing must have no cause. These statements can't be true at the same time. However, the alternative is that causality does not exist as we know it.

It's like claiming that you built a building so tall it doesn't have a bottom floor. Maybe it's so tall that someone on the top floor can't conceive of the bottom floor, but logic tells us that there must be a bottom floor. Until that bottom floor every floor must have a floor underneath it.

A "first cause" theory posits that there is something that has no cause that started it all, because there must be. At the same time, it seem impossible that the first cause had no cause. This is why it is a paradox.

but the bottom floor still has something underneath it, it may not be a floor, but it's dirt, and then that dirt has something underneath that dirt. i know that's not what you're meaning by your analogy, but it's still the same problem.

you claim that there's nothing below the first floor "because there isn't", but that's a silly assumption to make when evidence suggests that all floors have something underneath them.

there's also the difference between claiming that there's a floor below the last floor that doesn't have a floor below it, and there being a floor below the last floor that doesn't have a floor below it but that last floor is the reason that the other floors are there and the reason that they're happy being there.

the irrational part isn't the idea that there could be a first cause. the irrational part is assuming that first cause is sentient or conscious, or makes decisions, or made decisions, or was anything more than a physical event.

if you only acknowledge that physical events have causes, then you have to assume that it's "causes all the way down", it's irrational to suggest that EVERYTHING has a cause and then just pick one thing out of thin air that doesn't (and shows no evidence for not having a cause mind you....any "god as first cause" hypothesis doesn't explain WHY they say god has no first cause, it just says he doesn't)

for you to even remotely entertain the idea of something that doesn't have a first cause, you have to acknowledge that some things don't have causes. and even then, it's STILL irrational to arbitrarily pick one thing out of thin air and say that it's the thing that has no first cause without first having evidence that it doesn't have a cause (like radio active decay.....we observe that it happens, and we have a big lack of evidence for a cause, so it's a safe assumption given the current data that there's no cause).


Lets try this again.

Assume that time is infinite in both directions.(the present has an infinite past and an infinite future)
Assume that the universe exists and is something(not nothing)
This leads to two options

Option A.
There is something that always was(and always will be). We will call this thing 'T'.
T could not have been caused, because that implies there was a time in which it was not.
T is the un-caused event, or "the first cause".

To further expand, in option A the default state of this universe (and others) is to contain something. Matter, if you like. Matter can easily be T. In this option T has always existed in the universe, and the laws of the universe acting upon T(and T acting upon them) have been cause of all events.

Option B
From nothing without impetus came something, again called T.
T is again the un-caused event, or "the first cause".

This is harder to grasp. It means the default state is nothing, but somehow, something appeared. That something, by appearing, created the universe which until then was nothing, and could not have been said to exist.

For a biology example, we have life. All life comes from life, except the first life which didn't come from life.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby TranquilFury » Thu Apr 05, 2012 5:42 am UTC

Why are you people arguing about first cause? Causality is an assumption, a useful one in everyday life, but not necessarily a fundamental truth. whether it's "true" or not doesn't impact it's utility except in extreme circumstances. This is part of why physics is so confusing to us, the math says any particular interaction can go backwards, but when you scale it up thermodynamics says fat chance.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:39 am UTC

Bsob wrote:Lets try this again.

Assume that time is infinite in both directions.(the present has an infinite past and an infinite future)
Assume that the universe exists and is something(not nothing)
This leads to two options

Option A.
There is something that always was(and always will be). We will call this thing 'T'.
T could not have been caused, because that implies there was a time in which it was not.
T is the un-caused event, or "the first cause".


Not necessarily. If time extends infinitely in the negative direction, the causal chain may simply go on forever. Alternately, the first thing could have been caused by the last thing (ie. an infinite loop). In neither cause would in make sense to talk about any one event being "first", because there is always something before it. There is no reason that any one thing must always be and always will be in this case anyway. For example, suppose at some point in time there is a thing T, which has the property that after some amount of time, it can transform into some other thing U. The thing U has the property that, after some time, it can transform into T. Neither T nor U always exist, nor with either always continue to exist. Which is the first cause, T or U?

Bsob wrote:To further expand, in option A the default state of this universe (and others) is to contain something. Matter, if you like. Matter can easily be T. In this option T has always existed in the universe, and the laws of the universe acting upon T(and T acting upon them) have been cause of all events.


I'm not sure that it would be technically correct to say that matter existed at moments very near the Big Bang, actually. While it is true that, right now, there is matter in the Universe, there is no reason to believe that this must always be the case. Matter could be a transient state. We don't know enough about our Universe, let alone other Universes (if such things exist), to be even remotely able to make a claim like this.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Apr 05, 2012 8:28 am UTC

"the causal chain may simply go on forever." in which case in Bsob's example we would call it "T". It fits the description or definition. Bsob's suggest matter is infinite and asks "is matter T? Lets test for it". Then perhaps you can ask "is causality T? Lets test for it". Everyone is asking what the eternal point is, what the loop is, or what the first is. This has an effect on their worldview. Is this a rational question to ask, and a rational way to get the answer?

We are looking at a film in progress. Do we conclude the film had no beginning? That it always "was"? Or that is infinite in both directions? Are there clues and pointers as to what it's attributes are?

LaserGuy, you are correct when you say "there are many... causes". There are many causes and we can observe these even now. But by definition we only have one "first". Even 2 firsts is reduced to 1 first in our description. Say "I have one Job", but you also have many "jobs" within your single type of employment.

As to the question "Does the universe have a before" or "first", would I be able to know via scientific methods? Either way I still have 2 definitions, "X" and "Y". For ease of reference I define one as before, one after. If you like, we could consider them without time involved. However, we still have the 2 definitions, and not 1. What different type of distinction should we use here instead of "time"?

TranquilFury. If it is argued "we cannot have a first cause" then that seems to be the same as arguing "we cannot have theism". Is Theism the belief in a God who is also (among other things) a creator? If that is so, then the first cause argument has a massive impact on theist beliefs, right?

PS, LaserGuy. The difference in reasoning I am looking for personally is not "matter could be a transient state" but "what does the evidence currently show". I ask, is matter (and engery, that constructs is) shown to be transient? If not, why are you asking for such thinking? Are we being asked to believe in things non-existent?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby aydee » Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:56 am UTC

OK.. First, honesty.. I didn't read this entire thread.. So instead, I'll just answer the original question asked. I read the first post. Didn't really get what Original Poster was trying to get at, so just guessed.

...

Anyways.. There you go. My alcohol driven musings for this thread.

Didn't read the section rules either, it would seem.

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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Griffin » Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:16 pm UTC

Ben, you're model has a few basic flaws and unjustified assumptions. I'll start on them now. Though you have admitted yourself that your belief in this god is NOT based on the need for an uncaused cause, but rather signs that the universe is created (possibly in combination with the previous), so perhaps we should talk about that in a bit as well.

1) The assumption causation works outside the Universe. From what we understand of the universe, causation is a property of time and time is a mutable property of the universe itself. Thus we can conclude that if it exists at all, causation "outside" of the universe works quite differently. Furthermore, it is impossible to have something "before" the universe, because "before" is, gain, a property of time, which we don't have without the universe.
2) That causation implies creation. You still haven't provided any rational explanation for elevating the cause (anything that made the universe) to a creator (something that intentionally made the universe).
3) You still haven't explained why a first cause that created our universe is any more likely than one much further down the chain. And if there are, say, a million events between the birth of our universe and that first cause, why we should care about it.
4) Why does the first cause need to be a thing at all? Why not an event? In response to your comment about my equation being "X then X", replace it with "The beginning of the Universe then The Rest of the Universe", a clear "X, then Y". Because that's what I was bringing up there.

And finally:
We are looking at a film in progress. Do we conclude the film had no beginning? That it always "was"? Or that is infinite in both directions? Are there clues and pointers as to what it's attributes are?

And this brings up basically all my problems with your arguments. Who was the "creator" of the film, who caused it?
The guy who filmed it? The director? They guy who turns on the projector? The audience, by seeing it and recreating it in their own minds, are they all creating the film?

Did these people "come before" the first frame of the film - did they cause the first frame, and the first frame caused the rest? No, obviously not - such causation only exists within the film.

Now, instead of a film, let's talk about the universe I generated the other day, the sort of thing that generally informs my own belief. It was only a pocket universe, but I don't think it was too bad. Who "created" it? Me, who set its parameters and set the cogs in motion? The engineer who built the machine I used to piece it together and built the algorithms that let someone as stupid as me do so? The machine itself?

Or do we go all the way back to the beginning of our own universe? To the people in this universe, who is their "creator" here? Is it really the same as their first cause? Is it even one individual being?
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby LaserGuy » Thu Apr 05, 2012 3:53 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:"the causal chain may simply go on forever." in which case in Bsob's example we would call it "T". It fits the description or definition.


Call what T? The causal chain? That doesn't makes sense. The chain isn't a real thing, it's just an abstraction that we use to describe a bunch of real things that happened.

Technical Ben wrote:Bsob's suggest matter is infinite and asks "is matter T? Lets test for it". Then perhaps you can ask "is causality T? Lets test for it".


Causality is not a universal law. We already have observed ways in which it can be broken.

Technical Ben wrote:We are looking at a film in progress. Do we conclude the film had no beginning? That it always "was"? Or that is infinite in both directions? Are there clues and pointers as to what it's attributes are?


He was assuming that the universe had gone on forever infinitely backwards in time, not me. In such a situation, there cannot be a first cause.

Technical Ben wrote:LaserGuy, you are correct when you say "there are many... causes".


Thanks for completely missing the point of what I said. Let me reiterate. There are thing that we have detected, right now, that do not have causes. Therefore, if those things cause anything else to happen, they are a first cause. There are many first causes. Quantum mechanics killed this argument 100 years ago.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby DSenette » Thu Apr 05, 2012 4:23 pm UTC

LaserGuy wrote:
Technical Ben wrote:"the causal chain may simply go on forever." in which case in Bsob's example we would call it "T". It fits the description or definition.


Call what T? The causal chain? That doesn't makes sense. The chain isn't a real thing, it's just an abstraction that we use to describe a bunch of real things that happened.
i think this is actually the part that's sticking in ben's craw. that this is all an abstraction that describes events or things or what have you. where as he's trying to use the same terminology as if the things he's saying ARE the things, events, or what have yous.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Technical Ben » Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:56 pm UTC

I suppose DSenette. When someone is arguing about how a house is built, I'd not worry about arguing over little things. If I think "bob drove the crane" I'd be happy if we agree "a crane was used" at this point. If we both can see a crane is required, then deciding how it works is for another day.

All I can say is that I see Atheism (that is the types that do not believe in a first cause) as missing the one thing I see the evidence asking for. To me it's asking for one more step at least.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby qetzal » Thu Apr 05, 2012 11:45 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:All I can say is that I see Atheism (that is the types that do not believe in a first cause) as missing the one thing I see the evidence asking for. To me it's asking for one more step at least.


ARGH!

There's no such thing as 'a type of atheism that doesn't believe in a first cause.' For the nth time, a first cause is not equivalent to god!!! An atheist can believe or disbelieve in a first cause, aliens, bigfoot, democracy, even reincarnation. Not a single one of those is logically connected to his atheism.

Tell the truth. You're trolling us, right?

(@DSenette: Unless he is trolling us, I think Ben is still trying to convince himself that evidence for a first cause means theism is rational.)
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Technical Ben » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:38 am UTC

No. What is the first step in believing something exists? Is it seeing evidence? I thought it was, so I mentioned what I see to be evidence. Sorry if I chose a bad starting point.

There's no such thing as 'a type of atheism that doesn't believe in a first cause.' For the nth time, a first cause is not equivalent to god!!!

Yet, each time I mention "god" I am told "but you cannot have a god, because you cannot have a first cause (thus implying first cause == god)"?

I'll agree to leave the comments now. I admit I do not understand the reasoning given so far.

PS, showing the types of atheisms that believe in first causes might help your argument towards me. Showing those that believe in the other things you mentioned might not help your argument.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby zmic » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:54 am UTC

LaserGuy wrote:Thanks for completely missing the point of what I said. Let me reiterate. There are thing that we have detected, right now, that do not have causes. Therefore, if those things cause anything else to happen, they are a first cause. There are many first causes. Quantum mechanics killed this argument 100 years ago.


As a theist I would consider those "uncaused happenings" to be acts of God. So rather than one mysterious event 15 billion years ago, it seems that God is acting right under our noses all the time.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby yurell » Fri Apr 06, 2012 9:56 am UTC

There aren't 'types' of atheism in that regard. There are different theories as to the beginning of the Universe, but that's not a 'type' of atheism -- they're scientific theories separate from one's lack of belief in a deity just like believing that animals shouldn't be tortured to death isn't a 'type' of Christianity. Our understanding of these things are entirely unrelated of our beliefs (or lack thereof) of magical people.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Griffin » Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:36 pm UTC

Yet, each time I mention "god" I am told "but you cannot have a god, because you cannot have a first cause (thus implying first cause == god)"?

This is a lie - No one has done this. And YOU were the one that not only implied but explicitly stated that first cause = god.

What we've said is:
1. We don't know about first causes one way or another - there are other possibilities, and all the evidence points solely to us having no clue which is most likely, because or usual understanding and intuition breaks down in this situation (just like in interstellar physics and quantum physics, shit gets weird). So believing in a first cause as True instead of just one possibility among many is irrational. You CAN have a first cause, you can even believe it's the most likely explanation, but you can't say it's a thing with any degree of surety. This is only made all the worse by the fact that every piece of evidence you've provided could apply just as well to several other explanations.

2. As a completely different point - Assuming we have a first cause, you want to call it god/creator for pretty much nothing but personal and narrative reasons. While these are probably good for your own well-being, they aren't exactly rational. It's possible, but possibility doesn't seem to be the basis of your belief here so much as irrationality.

3. You don't need a first cause to have a creator, especially since I personally (and somewhat irrationally) believe in creators but do not believe in a first cause. So trying to argue, as you had done, that first=cause equals god is wrong on both levels - a first cause is neither required nor sufficient for your conclusion. Unless someone, as you have, uses a completely ass-backwards definition of god that the vast majority of the world wouldn't support simply to justify your conclusion, which is both dishonest and STILL irrational, since the fit is poor.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby DSenette » Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:46 pm UTC

Technical Ben wrote:No. What is the first step in believing something exists? Is it seeing evidence? I thought it was, so I mentioned what I see to be evidence. Sorry if I chose a bad starting point.

There's no such thing as 'a type of atheism that doesn't believe in a first cause.' For the nth time, a first cause is not equivalent to god!!!

Yet, each time I mention "god" I am told "but you cannot have a god, because you cannot have a first cause (thus implying first cause == god)"?

I'll agree to leave the comments now. I admit I do not understand the reasoning given so far.

PS, showing the types of atheisms that believe in first causes might help your argument towards me. Showing those that believe in the other things you mentioned might not help your argument.

NO NO NO! no one has said you can't have god because you can't have a first cause

everyone has said that it is COMPLETELY irrational to look at ANY quantifiable evidence that exists right now, and assume that anything that COULD be called a first cause COULD MATCH ANY DEFINITION OF ANY GOD that is used right now.

to make "first cause" as shown by any possibility of physical evidence match "god" in anything that counts as rational you have to change the definition of god SO WILDLY that it doesn't match ANY concept that ANYONE who claims to believe in god has about god.
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Re: Is Atheism a Rational Stance?

Postby Griffin » Fri Apr 06, 2012 1:11 pm UTC

Even, by your own admission, your own.
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