Friday, December 21, 2012

Michael Ruse Defends the Cosmological Argument

Here's a video of Michael Ruse criticizing Richard Dawkins for being too simplistic in his attack on belief in god(s). What Ruse is saying is that theologians have a much more sophisticated view of religion than Dawkins admits. It goes without saying that really good philosophers, like Ruse, understand the sophisticated version of Christian apologetics so they would never write a book like The God Delusion.

Ruse gives us an example of the worst form of accomodationism. Beginning at 2:11, Ruse treats us to a defense of the cosmological argument for the existence of god. Here's his (Ruse's) brief description.

1. Everything has a cause.
2. The world is a thing therefore the world must have a cause.
3. Call it god.

This is somewhat simplistic (), a more sophisticated version can be found on Wikipedia (above) or at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Cosmological Argument.


In his book The God Delusion, Dawkins lumps together three similar arguments; "The Unmoved Mover," "The Uncaused Cause," and "The Cosmological Argument." He describes the Uncaused Cause argument as ..
Nothing is caused by itself. Every effect has a prior cause, and again we are pushed back into regress. This has to be terminated by a first cause, which we call God.
Dawkins argues that all these arguments for god's existence rely on a problem of infinite regress. God is required to get us out of the regress but it only works if we assume that God himself doesn't have to have a cause. Dawkins also points out that even if you are satisfied with inventing an infinite regress terminator, there's no reason why it has to have any of the properties normally associated with the Christian God.

I agree with Dawkins. Invoking a supernatural being that doesn't have to have a cause doesn't solve the problem. Furthermore, such a being could just as easily be the Q Continuum or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. The difference is that if anyone seriously tried to use a version of the cosmological argument as proof of the Q Continuum or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, their sanity would be questioned.

Ruse continues with his defense ...
Philosophy100 undergraduate response: 'What caused god?' ... It's a good question but it's not the end of the argument.
Ruse goes on to explain that sophisticated theologians have a number of answers to this question. What they do is "articulate a notion of God who would be "first cause." They also claim that god is a "necessary being," according to Ruse.

That's all fine and dandy but it's getting far beyond the essence of the cosmological argument. Imagine that I proposed a number of reasons why the Q Continuum is a first cause and why it is composed of necessary beings. Would anyone take me seriously? Of course not. The only reason the speculations seem to be significant in the case of the Christian God is because the theologians making those arguments already have convinced themselves that God exists.

It's a shame that nominal atheists like Michael Ruse have been bamboozled into thinking that these extensions of the cosmological argument are logical. In the 2000 years since this argument has been with us, there are very few nonbelievers who have been converted to Christianity because of the first cause argument or any other "pure reason" argument.

I'm willing to bet that if you took 1000 secular, nonbeliever, citizens of Holland and sat them down for a one day seminar on the cosmological argument, there would not be any convert to Christianity. That's the real measure of how good an argument really is—it's ability to convince opponents. We don't care whether devout Christians think the cosmological argument is convincing because they've already been convinced by other means (see confirmation bias").

Ruse says,
Let's have ... the intellectual integrity to look at these things and look at the responses that the Christian philosophers ... have made. ... The trouble with Dawkins is that he doesn't get to that point.
Let's be very clear about what Ruse is saying. He agrees that invoking a "first cause" that's immune to cause will immediately raise a question about the properties of that entity and why we should accept the premise. He admits that the theologians then have to bring in all sorts of additional baggage to "prove" that their kind of god must exist. None of those arguments make any sense to an atheist just as similar arguments about the properties of the Q Continuum would look silly to a Christian. None of those additional arguments about the properties of your favorite "first cause" have anything to do with the cosmological argument per se. Just look at how Ruse himself defines the argument above.

I think this is a case where Dawkins and Philosophy100 students have it right.

If you want to see an extended version of how a "sophisticated theologian" might defend the cosmological argument then read Edward Fessor's blog: So you think you understand the cosmological argument?. Here's the key passage ...
2. “What caused God?” is not a serious objection to the argument.

The cosmological argument in its historically most influential versions is not concerned to show that there is a cause of things which just happens not to have a cause. It is not interested in “brute facts” – if it were, then yes, positing the world as the ultimate brute fact might arguably be as defensible as taking God to be. On the contrary, the cosmological argument – again, at least as its most prominent defenders (Aristotle, Aquinas, Leibniz, et al.) present it – is concerned with trying to show that not everything can be a “brute fact.” What it seeks to show is that if there is to be an ultimate explanation of things, then there must be a cause of everything else which not only happens to exist, but which could not even in principle have failed to exist. And that is why it is said to be uncaused – not because it is an arbitrary exception to a general rule, not because it merely happens to be uncaused, but rather because it is not the sort of thing that can even in principle be said to have had a cause, precisely because it could not even in principle have failed to exist in the first place. And the argument doesn’t merely assume or stipulate that the first cause is like this; on the contrary, the whole point of the argument is to try to show that there must be something like this.
I can't imagine why Richard Dawkins decided not to deal with this kind of nonsense.

Fessor's article is part of a larger discussion about "sophisticated theology." If you want to read more, here are two posts by Jason Rosenhouse: Where Can I Find the Really Good Theology? Part One and Where Can I Find the Really Good Theology? Part Two.


[Image Credit: Q Continuum at Cafe Press.]

155 comments:

  1. Note that ratings and comments have been disabled for the Ruse video. So much for robust debate....

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  2. Given that the first premise is false (radioactive decay, virtual particles are two counter examples), the rest of the argument falls apart pretty quickly.

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    1. Exactly. The definition of a 'necessary' condition is that there's no other possible condition. Not that it happened the way it did, but there's zero probability that it *could* have happened another. The moment you concede that there *might* be an 'uncaused cause', you've conceded 'necessary', and the argument.

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  3. I would say that we do know though origin of the virtual particles/vacuum
    fluctuations. Basically, they are a consequence of the Heisenberg
    Uncertainty Relationship. The most basic form of this says that you can
    never measure the position and momentum of a particle at the same time.
    One implication of this is that a particle can never be completely at
    rest, because then we would know its position (where it was) and its
    momentum (it is at rest). So, in quantum mechanics, a particle always is
    moving around at least a little. This has different names, like zero-point
    energy. The basic idea applies to quantum fields, like the
    electromagnetic field. They can never have an exactly zero value, they
    always have to be fluctuating a little bit. This is the vacuum
    fluctuations. Since we know excitations of the EM field came as photons,
    we then interpret these vacuum fluctuations as the constant creation and
    annihilation of "virtual" photons.

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    1. You only get that through statistics, there is no cause.

      What is the First Law of Thermodynamics?
      What is the sum of energy and matter in the universe?

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    2. What is the sum of energy and matter in the universe?

      The answer is zero. When Abraham Pais, physicist and Einstein's scientific biographer, explained why this is so to Einstein on a walk back to Einstein's house from IAS, Einstein stopped dead in his tracks.

      They were crossing a road at the time and it temporarily disrupted traffic. It is a very important conclusion, the ultimate free lunch.

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  4. Then, dear anonymous, if law of physics in general are a "sufficient explanation" for virtual particles in general (you do not need special explanation for each individual particle in space and time),
    a "sufficient explanation" for the Universe is "it's simply there".

    Everything are consequences of "Universe is". And that's it. No need for more causes. Russell had a certain sense of logic.

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    1. I do not want to give the impression that I am a theist, I think the first cause argument is ridiculous, even chairs are made from preexisting materials, we've never seen anything actually caused

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    2. Yup. The argument relies on equivocations and somewhat hasty generalizations to begin with.

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  5. These arguments are treated with contempt throughout academia - everyone knows that, eh Larry.

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    1. If they are not, they should. But you are right. Philosophers seem to take theological bullshit seriously. Even atheist ones. Therefore at least in that part of academia these arguments are not treated with contempt. But they should. Not just contempt but also with nausea.

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    2. Who, other than a religious fanatic (ie, you), acting out of desperation, would regard a simple argument capturing one of the deep mysteries of existence with nausea?

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    3. Because the argument is self-righteously sold as if it captured one of the deep mysteries of existence, only to be a non-explanation consisting of philosophical and fallacious convolutions?

      Happy festivities Luther. May you get a few serious books on philosophy, logic, science, and perhaps evolution, rather than the creationist crap that you read and readily accept.

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    4. Fallacious! Lol. There you go again. Maybe you should get a book in fallacies - or find out what the word means, that would be a start.

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    5. Luther

      Is god a thing? If it is not, it cannot be the first cause as all things must have a cause. If god is not a thing it is nothing.

      A stupid pretentious argument I just presented. It the just as stupid and pretentious as the cosmological argument. However the position of some atheist philosophers of god as a category error are just as valid as the arguments of "sophisticated" theologians for god.

      Personally I am personally satisfied with "brute facts" or at any rate a past infinite eternal inflationary cosmology to abolish any first cause. I guess I must be a modal realist. LOL at "sophisticated" theologians.

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    6. Yeah, but the argument you just offered is rubbish. Invalid rubbish as it stands. Rewrite it properly then I'll deal with it. I can't be bothered constructing a valid version for you.

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    7. And here is why Ruse's version is so horrible.....


      Everything has causes is false...... everything that begins to exist is true

      The university is a thing therefore the universe had a cause is true.

      Call it god, says who, that does not follow......

      The cosmological argument does not establish who or what the cause is only that it had a cause. You can never infer that the cause is God, god or anything natural from that to assume so men's you've left logic in the toilet.

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    8. Apologies for the incorrect words, this auto correct on this tablet is driving me to drink!!!!

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    9. Luther, it's generally not very helpful to call fallacy without at least mentioning specific ones. Like above you seem to have meant to pull a tu quoque up there. In the case of the fallacy in cosmological arguments that would be equivocation, as was established before any of these silly comments, with references to how Dawkins wrote about it.

      If I had to guess at what you were calling a fallacy it would be in the second half of his comment, where he's treating you as if you haven't read anything but anti-science propaganda. Can't quite work out where you'd go with that without more information though.

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  6. Hi "Luther Flynt/djockovic". So you've haunting Sandwalk these days after your twice-banning over at WEIT? I am curious to know what 'sort' of creationist are you? Would deist creationist cover it?

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    1. Not a creationist at all. Just someone who understands the extent to which the theory of evolution is kept in place by religious rather than scientific considerations - thus the constant attempt to portray any reasonable doubts as religiously motivated. And since it's personal question time, I was wondering what kind of an arsehole you are? Would complete arsehole cover it?

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    2. luther, what is your detailed, scientific, alternative theory that explains the diversity of life, and what evidence do you have that supports your theory?

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    3. I don't have an alternative theory. I'm comfortable with not knowing. And I don't have such an urge to stamp out religion that I'll get behind any old rubbish that, construed in a certain way, seems to support that political agenda.

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    4. Luther Flynt/djockovic,

      If you are comfortable with "not knowing" then give "not pontificating" a try.

      And then try a bit of education, brute facts are a wonderful remedy for ignorance.

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    5. If not an alternative to evolution, then what shortcomings do you think evolution has, as an explanation of the type the whole truth just listed?

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  7. Back to the Cosmological Argument,
    The fault I find in it is one of an unsupported assumption. The assumption that an infinite regress is impossible seems to me unproven. Even if it were, then the argument's conclusion (that the first cause has existed from infinity) would be undercut. It doesn't work either way - which tells me there might be something wrong with the argument itself.

    I am comfortable not knowing ultimate causes. In fact, if there is anything I think we might never/ could never know, it is the ultimate cause of everything. Can an ant understand the cause of the earth? Then why should we expect to understand if there is a first cause. To quote Dawkins, "the universe doesn't owe us an explanation".

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    1. "The universe doesn't owe us an explanation" - sounds like a religiously motivated science/philosophy stopper to me. A sort of, 'don't go there because we're afraid of what we might find' response.

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    2. No, it's just an admission that there are things we don't know. Rather than make up an answer, like theology seems to do, I'm OK with the fact that none of us actually know if there was a first cause, or a God, at all.

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    3. sounds like a religiously motivated science/philosophy stopper to me

      Only because you are obsessed with the idea that there is a quasi-religion called scientism. Nobody says that we can't or shouldn't enquire about the origin of the Universe. The point is that, if the question turns out to be unanswerable, we'll have to live with our ignorance rather than fill the gap with imaginary super-beings.

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    4. Not at all. You only object to my comment because you're a follower of the same strange cult.

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  8. And the answers under discussion are not made up. They're arrived at using logic. Not that any of you seem able to tell the difference.

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    1. OK Luther,
      A. What is the logic supporting the premise that an infinite regress is impossible? and then B. How is it that an infinite existence is not subject to the same problems?

      Clearly now, so us simpletons can tell the difference.

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    2. The cosmological argument, at heart, runs 'any being that necessarily exists, exists'. Yes, the logic is sound, in the same way that 'the sea is wet' is sound, logically.

      The bit that's not sound is the leap Christians make, which is '... and the necessary being gets angry when people do sex up the bum'.

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  9. A. The universe having a beginning, duh! B. See A. Clear enough for ya?

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  10. Nope, I thought you had an actual logical argument for why the cause of the universe could not be an infinite regress.

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  11. Not needed - the UNIVERSE had a beginning and therefore is not itself an infinite regress, thus whatever caused it, call it God, can be an infinite regress - if you want to describe Him like that. Doesn't really matter though does it, because now we're just talking about the properties of the cause/God and not about its/His existence.

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  12. So you disagree with Aquinas then, and accept the possibility of an infinite regress... OK, then what is to prevent you from accepting the possibility of an infinite regression universes, each spawning the next? Given that we already have proof that a universe exists (but none yet for a god), isn't it more reasonable that the infinite regress might entail universes?

    Again, I believe neither you nor I have the answers to this. Only one of us is claiming they do. So please elucidate.

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  13. No, I don't accept an infinite regress, but the point was that we had moved beyond the question of existence and onto the nature of the cause. And even if we accept your claim, an infinite (infinite no less) number of universes, with all that that entails, seems a pretty good candidate for having a whole load of the attributes of God - supernatural (ie, having no natural cause), eternal, infinite, omnipotent in a fairly strong sense. Again though, as noted, we are just quibbling about God's nature, not His existence.

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  14. OK, so God's existence can't regress to infinity then ...Which brings us back to my original question, "A. What is the logic supporting the premise that an infinite regress is impossible?"

    Also, it seems to me that an unconscious universe (even an infinite # of them) is very different from an omniscient personal being. So, yes I think we are actually arguing God's existence after all.

    (Y'know, I used to be a pantheist, believing that "God" was the sum total of all existence(s). Then it occurred to me that I was applying an extra attribute that wasn't needed. Once I dropped my attachment to the label "God" I realized I'd been an atheist all along!)

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  15. Re your first sentence - lol, I just said the exact opposite. So I bring you back to my answer - no such thing is needed. Infinite regress or otherwise, we've already shown that the universe has a supernatural cause with many of the attributes of God. That'll do for one day. Your best argument now seeming to be that because nobody can compel you to say the word, you've somehow got rid of the actuality.

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    1. luther barfed:

      "...we've already shown that the universe has a supernatural cause with many of the attributes of God."

      You haven't SHOWN any such thing. The only thing you've shown is that you're an ignorant god pusher (and won't admit it) who argues just for the sake of arguing. And who's "we"? You and jesus?

      "...the UNIVERSE had a beginning and therefore is not itself an infinite regress..."

      What matters most to the argument is whether "the UNIVERSE" had an ultimate beginning and you don't know whether it did, and you obviously ignored what I brought up about the possibility of a big bang-big crunch, big bang-big crunch, big bang-big crunch universe, infinitely. You also ignored this from ej:

      "... the possibility of an infinite regression universes, each spawning the next?"

      You (luther) said:

      "I don't have an alternative theory."

      Yeah, I know. All you have is an arrogant, uneducated opinion and a religious and political agenda that you won't admit to. Just like IDiots you bash the ToE and other selected aspects of science but don't offer anything positive/constructive in their stead.

      Oh, and just because you say the word "God", it doesn't make "God" an actuality.

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    2. God is the name of whatever the supernatural actuality is. See below for proof the the universe is supernatural even if we grant the infinite regress. If we don't we reach much the same conclusion by other means - the universe has a supernatural cause.

      And you're lying about what I said. Tut tut. When I said I don't have an alternative theory it was about the diversity of life, nothing to do with the fact that the universe is supernatural/has a supernatural cause.

      And I'm not a God pusher, as you so desperately want to believe, I'm just showing you that despite your shrill claims to the contrary, you have no answer to the arguments for the existence of God.

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    3. Of course you are a godbot, you're just not honest enough to admit it.

      You accord special, non material mechanisms to explain homo sapiens that you deny to other closely related primate species.

      You use obfusticated, contradictory and incoherent meanings for commonly used terms like culture and pretend that there is some rational basis for your position that the rest of the world, if only they were to meet your vaunted levels of intelligence, might someday appreciate.

      The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

      Richard Feynman

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    4. I'm not a God bot. The reason arseholes like you keep insisting I am despite my constant, and obviously true, denials, is that you are obsessed with religion. Religion defines your very being. You cannot think about anything except in terms of it. And so what if you don't understand that about yourself. As Richard Feynman said, "the first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."

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    5. I asked:

      "luther, what is your detailed, scientific, alternative theory that explains the diversity of life, and what evidence do you have that supports your theory?"


      To which you responded with this:

      "I don't have an alternative theory. I'm comfortable with not knowing. And I don't have such an urge to stamp out religion that I'll get behind any old rubbish that, construed in a certain way, seems to support that political agenda."


      To which I responded with this:

      ""I don't have an alternative theory."

      Yeah, I know. All you have is an arrogant, uneducated opinion and a religious and political agenda that you won't admit to. Just like IDiots you bash the ToE and other selected aspects of science but don't offer anything positive/constructive in their stead."


      To which you responded with this:

      "And you're lying about what I said. Tut tut. When I said I don't have an alternative theory it was about the diversity of life, nothing to do with the fact that the universe is supernatural/has a supernatural cause."


      Where did I mention the universe and supernatural causes in this:

      "Yeah, I know. All you have is an arrogant, uneducated opinion and a religious and political agenda that you won't admit to. Just like IDiots you bash the ToE and other selected aspects of science but don't offer anything positive/constructive in their stead."


      You need to notice that my words are divided into paragraphs. Some of the paragraphs pertain to some things you've said and some paragraphs pertain to other things you've said. Some pertain to what you've said about the universe and supernatural stuff and others pertain to what you've said about evolution and/or the ToE, and some pertain to whatever you've said in a more general manner.

      So, where did I lie about what you said?

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    6. luther said:

      "God is the name of whatever the supernatural actuality is."

      What "supernatural actuality"? And if you're not religious, why are you so determined to call ANYthing "God"?

      "See below for proof the the universe is supernatural even if we grant the infinite regress."

      Proof? You call your assertions "proof"?

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  16. Luther, you are not being very clear.
    "...God, can be an infinite regress" and later "No, I don't accept an infinite regress..."

    Regardless, you have not answered question A or B, and have not "shown" anything that the universe has a supernatural cause (unless by supernatural you simply mean "outside the universe", which would kind of be a waste of breath). Heck, you haven't even bothered to defended your statement that an unintelligent universe has the attributes of a "god". Maybe you are a pantheist after all ;)

    In order to get anywhere in a discussion like this, you're going to have to provide actual arguments, not just statements of belief. But I can see we are both tired for bed, so goodnight, and dream of multiple universes mindlessly extending back into infinity!!

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  17. I don't accept X but even if we grant X there is no problem.

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  18. An infinite regress has no cause. If something has no cause then it has no natural cause. Supernatural means 'having no natural cause'. Thus, an infinite regress is itself supernatural.

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    1. Supernatural means means something I just made up or something that someone else made up and I am accepting on face value without engaging my critical faculties.

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    2. No, supernatural doesn't mean that. Supernatural means, roughly, something for which there is no natural explanation. And since in order to explain the universe we have to have recourse to something for which there is no natural explanation, we can't explain the universe without recourse to the supernatural.

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    3. What you mean by supernatural is, I don't understand it, therefore no one else can understand it, and furthermore no one will ever understand it.

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    4. No, I'm using something almost exactly like the dictionary definition, whereas you are using something you just made up five minutes ago and which bears almost no resemblance to the concept. And it has nothing to do with understanding, it has to do with fairly straightforward logic - if something has no cause then it has no natural cause. Or, if something is a GIVEN then it has no explanation, and if something has no explanation then it has no natural explanation. And something that has no natural explanation and/or has no natural cause is, by definition, supernatural.

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    5. Luther, you are the one with a penchant for assigning special, personal meanings to commonly used words.

      Your definitions for words are meant to be conversation stoppers.

      We don't have a complete understanding for the origin of the universe, then it's "supernatural"

      Can't explain human consciousness, then it's "transcendence".

      Can't discern between your fear of the dark and death and reality, let's call it "actuality", "infinite regress" and "god like".

      We are just poorly evolved (for modern society) primates Luther, and one of the things that you, I and monkeys share in common is that none of us has ever composed and are unlikely to compose, a Shakespearean play.

      Welcome to the club and learn to deal with it like an adult member of a global society.

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    6. No, you're the one assigning a special meaning to words.

      And no, you are completely missing the point about the universe. The question here is that if the universe is an infinite number of universes then there is no start to explain and therefore this infinity of universes becomes a given and, as such,lacks any natural explanation, thus making it, buy definition, supernatural.

      And no again, consciousness in some way transcends physics - we know that now, and this doesn't depend on what we don't understand but on what we do.

      Re your fear of dark, death etc, just pointless prattling from a pointless prat(tler).

      Re Shakespeare, more point-missing pointless prattling.

      Deal with it like you, you mean? That is, by cowering behind a demonstrably false (or empty, or meaningless) metaphysical ideology that has been spoon fed to you. Nah. I'd rather think for myself.

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    7. "Deal with it like you, you mean? That is, by cowering behind a demonstrably false (or empty, or meaningless) metaphysical ideology that has been spoon fed to you. Nah. I'd rather think for myself."

      luther, with what word(s) would you label the alleged "demonstrably false (or empty, or meaningless) metaphysical ideology"?





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    8. Materialism, naturalism, physicalism, scientism or some ungodly mix of the four.

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    9. No, actually, that's got very little to do with it. That's why I wrote what I did.

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  19. Rubbish. First, infinite regress is not an event, so it makes no sense to attribute a "cause" to it. Then, under your amateurish and idiosyncratic definition of "supernatural" lots of perfectly normal physical phenomena, happening all the time and obeying the laws of physics would have to be so characterised. The radioactive decay of a uranium-235 nucleus at a given point in time, for example.

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  20. @Piotr I love the way you provide a one word description of your post right at the start so we know what is to come.

    Nobody said anything about an event. It figured nowhere in the premises or the conclusion.

    Unclear that the decay of a U235 nucleus has no cause - let alone no natural cause. And if it does, that just shows the supernatural is everywhere. Anyway, if you don't like that definition, try this one: completely inexplicable by/according to any natural laws. So whichever way you want it, an infinite regress would be supernatural.

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    1. Causality makes sense when we talk of events, phenomena, states or processes. In what sense could infinite regress (which is not something that "happens", and therefore none of those things) have a cause, even a supernatural one (like, say, the resurrection of Jesus in Christian theology)?

      If something is part of the natural course of things as we know it, and is explained by our physical models, how can it be "supernatural"? If the decay of a nucleus has no particular cause whatsoever, it can well be natural (physicists do not demand that every event has to have an identifiable cause), but it can hardly be supernatural. Infinity, whether in a sequence/hierarchy of universes or in our own universe need not be supernatural either. It may be a feature of reality, just as it is a feature of our mathematical constructs. If there is no lowest or highest number in the complete set of integers {..., -3, -2, -1, 0, 1, 2, 3...}, will you say that the unboundedness of the set is "caused by the supernatural"? If our Universe is infinite in space (as it may well be, for all we know), infinity is just as natural as any other of its features.

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    2. But an infinite regress of universes is not explicable by our physical models. That's the point. There is no full explanation of the "thing". It just is. It is a given, with no natural explanation. Thus, on a very straightforward definition of supernatural, that would be supernatural. And who said the supernatural can't be a feature of reality. I just showed that it could be, and is if the infinity of universes is true.

      You also miss the point (surprise surprise). I'm not saying an infinity of universes has a supernatural cause - I'm saying an infinity of universes is supernatural. And thus if out universe is caused by an infinity of universes our universe has a supernatural cause. Alternatively, if we don't go for the infinity of universes then at the point we stop, the 'infinity of universes' objection fails exactly there, and we revert to the other argument.

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    3. But an infinite regress of universes is not explicable by our physical models.

      Why should it be? Physics is an empirical science. For the time being it deals with the only universe known to us. If other universe exist, and if we ever find a way to learn something about them, we shall extend our models. Infinity can be captured by formal models. After all, it's a formal concept, a pretty simple one and easy to handle mathematically.

      And who said the supernatural can't be a feature of reality.

      Congratulations. You have diluted the concepts of "the supernatural" and "God" so much that they no longer mean anything in your usage. If "supernatural" is a fancy synonym of "infinite", I fail to see what "attributes of God" it has. Is infinity intelligent? Is it omnipotent and/or omniscient? Does it answer your prayers? Does it love you? Is it jealous of other infinities? Your philosophy is as subtle as your sick anecdote about gassing the Jews.

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    4. Nobody is saying an infinity of universes need (or should) be explicable by natural means. But the fact that it isn't means that it is, by definition, supernatural -ie, inexplicable in natural terms. And many of the attributes of God can be ascribed to such an "entity" (being a supernatural entity is one for starters), but note we have now moved past the question of God's existence (which is the purpose of those arguments), and on to arguing about His properties. And that requires a whole other set of arguments.

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    5. "An infinity of universes" is an "entity" (supernatural by definition) to which "many of the attributes of God can be ascribed"? Do you ever read what you've written before you press "Publish"? So far you've mentioned only one attribute of God (his being -- wow! -- "a supernatural entity") which you would like to attribute to an infinite multiverse (given the strickly Pickwickian sense you give to the adjective "supernatural", I don't think many other people would share your opinion). You have already demonstrated that you are thoroughly ignorant in all areas of science, but it's very clear now that the same goes for logic, philosophy and even theology.

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    6. I gave a number of attributes that could be attributed to such an "entity", but I also said that these need other arguments. The point here was merely the existence of a supernatural cause. And worst case scenario we have that. And it's hardly Pickwickian to take the central defining characteristic of the supernatural, inexplicable by any natural means, and then call such a thing that has that characteristic supernatural. God alone knows what you take the term to mean. Some Gasiorowskian fantasy no doubt.

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    7. What you do is equivocation and then more equivocation. Inexplicable by any natural means (how do you know?), therefore supernatural, therefore God. I know of no demonstrably existing thing that could be called "supernatural", so the term simply means nothing real to me. Some fantasy, perhaps, but not mine.

      There was a time when lightning strokes and earthquakes were inexplicable (therefore supernatural, therefore divine). Even if some things are going to remain unexplained forever, it's just a matter of the extent of human knowledge or ignorance, not of what things out there are like.

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    8. I know you know of nothing supernatural, but all that tells us is that even when there is no possibility of a natural explanation you will still call something natural. And as for lightning and earthquakes, so what, they also used to say the universe must have been had a supernatural cause and in that respect they were right.

      And who cares what you know anyway?

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    9. No possibility of a "natural explanation"? Have you eliminated all possible natural explanations via your own scientific research? Has anyone else done so? If so, can you please point me to the scientific paper(s) you and/or others have written on the subject?

      I think that it might also be helpful if you would state your definition of "natural" and "supernatural".

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    10. No, I've demonstrated by a straightforward logical argument that it can have no natural explanation. Here's the gist of it. All natural explanations explain X in terms of Y. Given that the universe/multiverse is everything that exists there is no other Y to explain it in terms of. Thus the universe/multiverse cannot have a natural explanation.

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    11. Confusing epistemology with ontology is terribly bad philosophy. "Explanations" (including scientific ones) belong to the domain of human knowledge, they aren't part of reality; they evolve as we learn more, and give us more useful insights, but are inherently imperfect. The universe (and reality in general) needs no justification, no human licence to exist. It goes without saying that we can't know everything, but there's no reason to label anything "supernatural" just because we still can't account for it and perhaps never will.

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    12. Well if you're defining natural as anything that exists, then that would mean God, if He exists, is natural. And that's OK, He's just a different type of natural than all the other natural stuff. He's the type of "natural" that necessarily admits of no explanation or some such thing. The point being, twist the words anyway you like, the universe has no explanation the way the rest of the stuff does - and thus the difference (previously got at with the words natural/supernatural) simply resurfaces under some new definition which you use to try to help you sleep at night with your metaphysical fantasies seemingly (to you) intact.

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    13. If "natural" is to be some kind of objective label, it has little to do with our explanatory abilities. At present we can't account for some 84% of the matter in the universe, but nobody calls "dark matter" supernatural just because our best physical theories don't explain its existence. There may be some Gödelian limitations on what can be known even in principle, but they are epistemological (resulting from the way we "know" things), not ontological. Our knowledge is an abstract map of reality, not reality itself.

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    14. LOL - you just threw a tantrum about me tying supernatural to our explanatory capabilities and now you run straight there and tie natural to the exact same thing.

      And re dark matter - is dark matter necessarily inexplicable in natural terms or just at present inexplicable? That's the key, the universe itself CANNOT BE explained in natural terms because there's nothing else to explain it in terms of.

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    15. LOL - you just threw a tantrum about me tying supernatural to our explanatory capabilities and now you run straight there and tie natural to the exact same thing.

      Quite the opposite: I distinguish "being real/natural" from being explicable. You demand an explanation "in natural terms" to classify something as natural. This is circular to begin with, as well as vague (you have not defined "natural terms" yet), and it reduces the meaning of "supernatural" to "something that can't possibly be explained in the way we explain elements of the universe". Be my guest and use "supernatural" in this sense, but what for? What sort of cognitive gain do you get from it? You don't learn anything more about the origin of the universe than those who leave it as an open (and possibly unanswerable) question.

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    16. It's not circular at all - it's just an explanation of what the term means. And no I don't demand an explanation - I demand the possibility of explanation. I must have made this point about 10 times now. You, on the other hand, have no way of cashing out the terms natural/supernatural, and yet you still call everything natural, Thus your claim is empty because the point is that the universe is not susceptible to the kind of explanation that we call "a natural explanation". But as I already said, call it what you will, exactly the same considerations apply.

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    17. What sort of explanation is it susceptible to in your book, then? To say that "the universe has a supernatural cause" is a pseudo-explanation, being just a conclusion derived from two premises: "the universe has no natural cause" and "everything has to have a cause". Of these, the former is questionable and the second completely unfounded.

      By the way, this is the last comment from me in this thread. I too often forget that feeding a troll leads nowhere. Instead of littering Larry's place with paraphilosophical gibberish you should be playing these parlour games on your own blog.

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    18. It doesn't matter - the whole point is that what these types of arguments show is that a mystery lies at the heart of existence. We can have no fundamental explanation, and certainly no fundamental scientific or natural explanation. This is why you get things like, God is the ground of all being, because being cannot be grounded naturally, or is grounded in mystery, or is grounded in the supernatural. There's no way out of this, and this is the simple fact that explains the why and where theology starts.

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  21. How long must we tolerate this moronic troll?

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    1. I guess we'll have to tolerate you until you decide to leave.

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    2. Not to worry Anonymous,

      This is from someone who defin[es] God as a supernatural entity/thing that created the universe. An entity/thing explicable by natural means.

      And he is the cream of the crop as far as sophisticated theologians/godbots go. Usually he contradicts himself in the same sentence, it's a step up when there's punctuation between his ravings.

      As Dorothy Parker put it, You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.

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    3. If you have an argument Steve, feel free to offer it. The snide and abusive asides to your(self) chums only shows how empty your position is.

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  22. The cosmological bullshit starts with

    "Whatever begins to exist has a cause"

    Well, stop right there:
    1. Any knowledge we as humans might have about things that "begin to exist" is necessarily limited. Therefore, even if we had always observed that such events have a cause, the "whatever" in this premise is unwarranted. There could be instances where there's no cause. It just happens. (Modern physics seems to have found some exceptions, therefore annihilating the "whatever.")
    2. The "begin to exist"s that philosophers had observed when this was proposed are transformations. Not beginnings as the believers think of the universe. Therefore they have tried to build upon a fallacy of equivocation. "Begin to exist" as in whatever human experience is not the same as what they have in mind for the origin of the universe. (Actually this alone should stop them in their tracks, but do you think they even care? WL Craig was presented with this problem and all he does is claim that obviously he began to exist and such shit, expanding the fallacy into absurdity.)
    3. I suspect that this form was thought of so that they could propose their god as a thing that did not begin to exist, thus immunizing it from the problem of causation.
    4. Luther is an imbecilic troll.

    So they fail from the beginning ...

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  23. 1. You are of course free to doubt the first premise, but doubting something does not make it false. You also need a reason for your doubt. And "exceptions" - lol - if they were they'd be supernatural, ie, having no natural cause.

    2. If there's an argument anywhere in there you need to clarify it because as it stands it's just a jumbled mess. Re WLC, so he rejected the obvious nonsense. Yeah?

    3. Even if that was true, were they logically justified in doing so. If not, why not.

    4. You're so obsessed with religion, and so fanatical in your religious views, that you are unable to even discuss the issue in a rational manner.

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    1. You did not answer anything Luther:

      1. Not just the first premise, but the first word in the first premise (their assumed universality of the causation shit).
      2. It is no mess, it's your incapacity to understand something you have not thought before: begin to exist as per human experience with causation is transformations of matter and energy. Begin to exist as per the universe refers to from nothing to something. Got it imbecilic troll? You cannot apply experiences in transformations from something to something different to a situation that goes from nothing to something. WLC rejected on the basis of extending his fallacy of equivocation.
      3. Nothing logical about it, they just did so to avoid the question: "then what caused your god?" But it does not matter, they can't pass any of the first two problems in my list. The second being too obvious.
      4. You are an imbecilic troll. That's a fact. Nothing irrational about it. Otherwise you would find no need to say shit like "you're so obsessed with religion, and so fanatical in your religious views." Obvious wording from imbecilic trolls such as yourself. I predicted that you would do that, and you delivered. Therefore: imbecilic troll by your own implied admission.

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    2. 1. No, you didn't answer anything. You just suggested that you might doubt the first premise.
      2. It is a mess, you're inability to discuss God with foaming at the mouth is to blame.
      3. No, they arrived at the conclusion that there must be a necessary entity.
      4. I say you're obsessed with religious because you can't discuss it without foaming at the mouth and spewing bile. See (2) above virtually ever post you make. Go check it out.

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    3. @Luther

      but doubting something does not make it false.

      Likewise asserting something does not make it true.

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    4. Nobody said it did. Was there anything else?

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    5. See? Imbecilic troll by your own admission. I predicted that you wouldn't even bother to try and understand what I wrote, and that you would try harder on your trolling. You delivered again. Thanks for the further confirmation. ("Foaming at the mouth" was a tad more original than I predicted though.)

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    6. What you said made no sense - just more foaming at the mouth nonsense like all of your comments. You're incapable of reason when it comes to religion such are your fanatically held beliefs on the matter.

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    7. No Luther, that was lame. "Foaming at the mouth" was a bit original, "spewing bile" was pretty standard, but kinda works. But just insisting here that I made no sense on something that children would readily grasp makes you look like an idiot. In other words, you turned into self trolling. Not that I expect better from you. You had to rely on pretending that you are too stupid to avoid confronting the problems others explained to you above. Therefore I should not be surprised that you are using that tactic here. Unless, of course, you'd rather admit that your stupidity is not pretended, but authentic.

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    8. You haven't provided any problems, you've just stated the opposite of the premises without providing any reason why should accept such fanciful speculation. For example, claiming the beginning of the universe is a case of something coming from nothing would seem simply to be your conclusion disguised as a premise.

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    9. Aha! So it was pretended stupidity! Thanks for conforming that part.

      It's not my conclusion that it would have to be from nothing to something. That part is essential to build the religious argument. If the religious were to propose that the beginning of the universe that they are talking about was a transformation from one form to another they would be in trouble anyway. They would be admitting that they are not proposing a solution to an infinite regress. After all, the universe transforms all the time. So it becomes a matter of proposing a point that they'd like to call "the beginning." Maybe they would like to propose such beginning at a point of some mayor transformation. Up to them to define, but still it would seem like a rather arbitrary point. Then, we know that any transformations involving causation, as per the human experience, have internal causations relative to the universe (often also relative to the transformants). Therefore no need to call for something external to the universe, let alone a god. After all, if the universe "began" as a transformation then there was something to transform. therefore the causes, if any, for this transformation can be inferred to be as internal as those causes we witness in the universe transformations of today.

      So, if anybody was disguising their conclusion into their premises it was those proposing this argument, rather than me. I think that their equivocation has been an honest one. But today there's little excuse to keep at it.

      Are you going now into imbecilic troll mode again? Will you pretend to be too stupid to understand again? Up to you.

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    10. You've misunderstood. At no point in the religious argument is it suggested that something came from nothing. So that is far from essential to their argument. On the contrary, it the opposite that seems essential. And there's no point wheeling out the infinite regress because that, as shown above, can be used just as effectively to arrive at the supernatural/God conclusion.

      BTW, why are you unable to post without insults? What is it that doesn't allow you to just have a conversation/argument without constantly throwing out abuse every couple of sentences.

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    11. Luther,

      I can write without insults just as you have done in your most recent comments to me. But the ones above seemed to help you avoid the troll mode, didn't they? But if you can avoid troll mode and if you can avoid pretending that you're too stupid to understand, then I can avoid insulting you. Deal?

      Of course the cosmological argument depends on a universe that is not a transformation, but something coming from nothing, yet "caused" by their god. Otherwise it would be no argument at all. They only oppose the idea of a universe from nothing when physicists propose it because the physicists leave out their god.

      Yet, tell me, if the universe was proposed as a transformation by the religious themselves, and if it can therefore be used just as well to arrive at god(s) as to arrive without such god(s), as you suggest, then what for this argument? Aren't we left as we started? Wouldn't it become a useless argument? Do you see this problem as clearly as I see it? Arrive at god(s) if so you want, but pretending that the argument solves something about the existence of god(s) would be a bit of a stretch, wouldn't it? It would be just as valuable as "I see around me and I see god(s)!" Comforting and whatever else to the religious, but far from convincing. Why bother then with these further convolutions?

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    12. How could someone hundred/thousands of years ago have set up an argument just to avoid what physicists say now? That's really lapsing into paranoid fantasy.

      And you can't "arrive without such god(s)", that's what the argument shows. Cut it any way you like, you end up with the supernatural. Even if we granted something from nothing, we still end up with the supernatural. The problem is trying to give natural explanations for something that defies what we mean by natural explanation. So all we end up doing is quibbling about whether God is the right word or not. And, your ideological commitments notwithstanding, there seems no reason to avoid that word since it seems as good as any given the miraculous nature of where we end up.

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    13. How could someone hundred/thousands of years ago have set up an argument just to avoid what physicists say now?

      I did not say such thing. read again, please.

      Even if we granted something from nothing, we still end up with the supernatural.

      Maybe by semantic play, but then it's just as useless for the religious who try to validate their fantasies as if they were reasonable. It becomes something like: "I believe in god because by semantic play I can claim beginnings to be supernatural!" Hardly convincing. But suit yourself. Semantic play is equivocation. So whatever suits you Luther. I admit that this turn of meanings is creative, but nothing else.

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    14. given the miraculous nature of where we end up

      Well, I would think that it's too early to conclude that there's any miraculous nature to infer here. But, again, suit yourself. I never said you could not call it god, gods, God, or Odin. Whatever suits you. But again, hardly convincing otherwise. I need no ideological commitment to see the obvious. But if that makes you happy, then suit yourself yet again.

      Be warned though that you put yourself in a precarious position. You become nothing else but some empty handed guy claiming to have found "God." Others come to see and you can show nothing but your preference to call whatever is still to be understood, or whatever that might never be understood, who cares, "God." Again, and again, suit yourself.

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    15. So luther, you push a "supernatural/God conclusion" and "the miraculous nature of where we end up" but you say that you are not a religious godbot. Oh really?

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    16. We are talking about what arguments may or may not show. So, yes, really.

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  24. Luther,

    Further, the infinite regress is not something I propose, but a "problem" that the religious propose and then try and solve with their gods (with such things as the cosmological argument). What you said that an infinite regress would be "supernatural" is mere semantic play. So I won't go there because if you rely on that, then you would be suggesting that you are too stupid to understand that you are artificially validating your argument on the basis of loosely usage of terms. I would think that poor terminology is a poor way to validate gods. But it's your prerogative. Hardly convincing to better thinking persons. But suit yourself.

    (I know that this sounds insulting, but think about it before concluding that this is me insulting you, rather than your own standards for argumentation suggesting the adjectives.)

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    1. They do solve the infinite regress problem - not that that's necessary. And no, it's not mere semantic play to say it's supernatural other than in the sense that that (supernatural) is semantically exactly the right word for it. That is, completely inexplicable in natural terms.

      And you are insulting me. You insult me in every post. But that's another trait of psychos like you. You spend so much time abusing people (since it's pretty much all you've got) that you don't even know you're doing it. Indeed, you expect to be praised/rewarded when you manage to compose a sentence that isn't deliberately abusive.

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    2. Seems rather incoherent and ironic that you would insult everybody here, yet complain when anybody here insults you. You can call me a psycho, a religious fanatic, but oh, should I call you an imbecilic troll, and should you confirm of being so, then I am the one with the problem. What does this say about you?

      You need to be coherent also in your arguments. If the religious are proposing that the beginning they talk about in the cosmological bullshit is a transformation, then they are not solving their infinite regress. If they are proposing a universe from nothing then they are engaging in equivocation. There's no winning for them.

      There is everything about semantic play in your proposition. You say that if something has defied natural explanations then the explanation "is" supernatural. For one, it would be too early to think that the origin of the universe does not have a natural explanation. If the explanation were "that's the way it is" or "it just is" that's a natural explanation, yet you twist that into supernatural too. That's both semantic play and stupidity. Yet, to the point: if you propose that supernatural is the proper word to use, then you render the word useless for inferring god(s). Since anything that remains to be explained would be "supernatural," therefore far from meaning "divine" or "godly." You would put all kinds of natural phenomena into the category depending on how much you ignore, all along those fantasies that you call god. twisting it farther to mean "godly," would clearly be semantic play. So it;s equivocation and non-sequitur all in one.

      But suit yourself.

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    3. I insult people who insult me. Don't start and then you won't get it back. I don't mind, I find it quite funny that psychos like you resort to such stuff the instant anyone disagrees with you.

      Anyway, all this talk of transformation versus cause misses the main point. Any way you cut the universe cake you end up with the supernatural. And no, I don't propose to put all sorts of natural stuff in the supernatural category - I only propose to put things in there that are completely inexplicable by natural means - eg, infinite universes, universes from nothing, or universes with a beginning - things that admit of no explanation anything like what we call a "natural explanation". You, by contrast, just want to count everything as natural even when you have no possibility of anything remotely resembling the kind of explanation we call "natural". You do this because you are ideologically committed to that and so just put the label "natural" on whatever you like without any meaning being attached to the term at all.

      And no, many things can be unexplained at present without the slightest reason for thinking they are necessarily inexplicable in natural terms. That's the key difference here.

      All the rest of your post is just posturing with a few insults thrown in so there's not much else to respond to.

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    4. This discussion between NE and Luther is beginning to take on the trappings of an infinite regress.
      ;)

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    5. eg, infinite universes, universes from nothing, or universes with a beginning - things that admit of no explanation anything like what we call a "natural explanation"

      Oh right because, of course, there's nothing natural about the universe! I am sooooo convinced now! Yes, yes, the problem is huge! Larger than anything we have came close to finding natural explanations for! Therefore supernatural! Therefore gods!

      You do this because you are ideologically committed to that and so just put the label "natural" on whatever you like without any meaning being attached to the term at all.

      Oh shit the irony! You make it so hard not to insult you Luther. You left little else but disdain and mockery as the proper answers to your utter stupidity.

      As I said, whatever suits you Luther. Be it this stupidity or whatever else.

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    6. Sorry guys, but Luther is too much fun.

      Happy holidays everybody! (You too Luther.)

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    7. I like you both, so I'm staying well clear of this one! ;)

      May Santa, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, bring all Sandwalkers what they want this holiday season.

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    8. I only propose to put things in there that are completely inexplicable by natural means - eg, infinite universes, universes from nothing, or universes with a beginning - things that admit of no explanation anything like what we call a "natural explanation".

      Heck, Luther, this stuff is sufficiently natural that there are books with mathematical formulae about it. So unless you figure that 2+2=4 requires something supernatural.... It's just that it seems inexplicable to people who haven't devoted the time to studying the possible natural explanations.

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    9. Nobody can explain how an infinite amount of universes should come to be there in the first place. Likewise one universe. This is the fundamental question, and as yet nobody has an answer, and the is good reason to think there can be no natural answer. This is because all natural answers proceed from a "given X" starting point, which is precisely what the fundamental answer cannot do. That is, the instant you say the "gi" in "given", we can say, let me stop you there, it's the "gi" I was asking about.

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    10. Nobody can explain how an infinite amount of universes should come to be there in the first place. Likewise one universe. This is the fundamental question, and as yet nobody has an answer, and the is good reason to think there can be no natural answer. This is because all natural answers proceed from a "given X" starting point, which is precisely what the fundamental answer cannot do.

      Sorry but you are precisely wrong. Not only can people explain it, many have, and not just with imprecise words, but with quite precise mathematics. Your ignorance of the research is no excuse for continuing to pretend it doesn't exist now that you've been informed of it. If you'd like a few references to get you started, I'd be happy to provide them.

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    11. I am precisely right. Nobody has ever explained what you claim they have who has not simply assumed the existence of stuff to do it. The problem being that the question of how anything came to be in the first place is about the stuff assumed, not the stuff produced by the stuff assumed. The explanations therefore assume the very thing they would need to explain. If you have any examples where someone has not done this feel free to cite them rather than just pretend they exist.

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    12. "The explanations therefore assume the very thing they would need to explain."

      Doesn't that apply to every so-called "God" that anyone has ever invented?

      Science is looking for the existence of the stuff that explains and/or produces all the stuff. Religious people just make shit up. Trying to fit a "God" into 'gaps' (whether those gaps are real or imagined) doesn't 'explain' anything.

      You seem to think that scientists have found and explained all that they can ever find and explain and that they're done looking. Since science can't answer every conceivable question right this instant then "God" must be the answer. Actually, scientists are still looking and still finding many things, and will continue to do so. Believe whatever you like but don't assume that science will accept an imagined "God" as the answer to any questions.

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    13. No, because the God arguments/explanations are supposed to explain the universe, not God. This is where you misunderstand. The arguments look at the universe and note that it does not admit of a natural explanation, and thus must have a supernatural cause - a supernatural cause which they call God.

      And when you say they make shit up, no, that's exactly what they have not done in this case. In this case they have approached the matter via logic and have argued to the conclusion that a supernatural cause exists - which they then call God.

      And re your last point, absolutely not. This is not a case of saying whatever is beyond science at this very moment is supernatural, it is a case of saying that when logic shows something is impossible in principle to explain in natural terms then it can be said to have a supernatural cause. Current inexplicability being only a necessary, but not sufficient condition, to require a supernatural cause.

      These are the issues you have to confront to deal with the basic argument - no point just misrepresenting it and then throwing in a few grand statements of your own faith and of your hatred for religion.

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    14. Wow, you've got the god delusion real bad.

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    15. That'll be you having completely run out of anything to say, but still unable to contain the urge, and thus you just blurt out the usual nonsense.

      This is about what the arguments show logically. Something you are quite unable to appraise because of your fanatical religious views.

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  25. @Luther:
    "And there's no point wheeling out the infinite regress because that, as shown above, can be used just as effectively to arrive at the supernatural/God conclusion."

    This is where you lost me, Luther. If by "supernatural", you simply mean that it exists outside of/ prior to our own universe, then yawn, there could be any number of possible supernatural things that are NOT a being or a god. I don't see where you've shown a supernatural infinite regression to have any of the properties of a god, though you've stated this numerous times. Please explain.

    Second, you state "They [theologians] do solve the infinite regress problem", which of course is fundamental to the first cause (Cosmological) argument. But you have been unable or unwilling to explain HOW. This was my question "A." from 2 days ago, and you still haven't answered it! I think you don't understand how it's answered sufficiently - and I don't blame you, because frankly neither do I!

    All this back-n-forth could be avoided if you would please just explain (or admit ignorance of) the theologian's answer to the following questions:

    A. What is the logic supporting the premise that an infinite regress is impossible? and then
    B. How is it that an infinite existence is not subject to the same problems?

    Will you answer these, or confirm my suspicion that you don't actually know the arguments you are defending?

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    1. I don't really care about what the logic is which rejects an infinite regress because, to my mind, the infinite regress, as an escape route, is out of the one-egg frying-pan and into the world's largest wok with fire attachment. Nonetheless, people have addressed it, but whether they have addressed it successfully or not is irrelevant to me because we end up in the same supernatural place.

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  26. You all may find the article and comments interesting, at the link below:


    http://skepticink.com/leukhtam/2012/11/11/from-nothing-nothing-comes/

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  27. Luther,
    Just to be clear, the negation of an infinite regress is one of the key premises of "The Unmoved Mover," "The Uncaused Cause," and "The Cosmological Argument." - considered by Christian theologians to be among the best arguments for God's existence.

    So you may have some additional research to do... If you think it is irrelevant, then you cannot defend these arguments for God's existence.

    Instead, you've constructed your own argument by simply defining "God" as anything outside of our known universe, which is a much weaker position (really just an "argument from ignorance" or "god of the gaps") with no supporting logic to back it up.

    You can feel free to hold this position - and I hope it makes you feel happy - but now that it's clear, I'd be surprised if anyone here finds it worth discussing further.

    Thanks for the discussion and happy holidays to all!

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  28. @EJ
    I can defend them if we taken the rejection of the infinite regress as irrelevant, or by simply placing an "if" in front of them and then following through to alternative to the same conclusion. That is, we still end up with a fairly strong sense of unmoved mover or first cause either way. Thus I don't think those arguments actually depend on rejecting an infinite regress even though some claim they have managed it. If they have, happy days, if not, happy days.

    And no, I've not defined God as anything outside the universe, and I'm certainly not constructing a god of the gaps argument or an argument from ignorance.

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  29. "And no, I've not defined God as anything outside the universe, and I'm certainly not constructing a god of the gaps argument or an argument from ignorance."

    Actually, you have, and you are.

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    1. Actually no, I'm not, and I haven't. Quite specifically, I'm defining God as a supernatural entity/thing that created the universe. An entity/thing explicable by natural means. And, moreover, I'm only doing that as first step in the existence argument - there is still time to reject God as the right word if the properties don't match well enough. So let's say, X exists, X is supernatural, and X created the/our universe. The question then, is whether we should call X God. I think there's good reason to. And I think the people who came up with the arguments under discussion thought that too. I do, however, appreciate that the concept "God" has picked up a lot of cultural baggage and so we might need a new term. Nonetheless, I think they were getting at something of potential importance. Shall we discuss it like reasonable people or shall we call each other names?

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    2. Third sentence "inexplicable". One barley wine too many.

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    3. I'd say all your sentences are "inexplicable".

      Not to mention incomprehensible, inexcusable, incoherent, inconsistent, inflammable, indescribable and just plain indolent.

      With or without the wine (or whine).

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    4. No, that's just your gross ignorance and inability to think. As I said above, if you have any point to make, just make it, and spare us the empty insults.

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    5. Should a person of faith ever come to me, sharing the concern that although their faith provides them comfort and solace, they are nonetheless concerned that it may be stunting their intellectual growth; and that somehow by embracing a philosophy of atheism, their powers of reasoning, their ability to communicate intelligently, and perhaps even their moral compass would attain new and greater levels, I shall point them to one steve oberski, and lay all their fears to rest.

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    6. I extent my heartfelt condolences to anyone in such desperate straits that they would come to you for advice.

      I was listening to CBC radio this morning and the interviewee mentioned that he graduated with degree in philosophy which left him completely unqualified for any useful occupation and as a result he entered the workforce as a parking valet at a hotel.

      For some reason Luther Flint came to mind.

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    7. Why are you so obsessed with me Steve? All your posts are about me. And now it seems that even when you're at home listening to the radio, I am not far from your thoughts. In addition, even when someone else points out that you're a brainless dildo, you turn that into another excuse to talk about me. I won't say I'm not flattered, but you are a bit creepy.

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    8. If I were going to quantify creepy, I'd say that posting 30 out of 119 comments, most of which fall under the shite* slinging category, the remainder being puerile logic chopping, would top the list of creepy behaviours.

      * I forgot to mention incontinent in my previous list.

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    9. 1 in 4, with only 5 or 6 regular posters doesn't seem to me all that excessive. And given that almost all of those posts are about the topic under discussion (eg, arguments about the cosmological argument), it seems a reasonable thing to do. Moreover, since I am the only person here who has a stalker, and thus I have to occasionally respond to his obsessive posts, that further moves my behaviour into the reasonable category. You, on the other hand, post almost exclusively about me, and now confess that you think about me even when at home listening to the radio, and God alone knows what else. That's what's creepy. One positive thing being that the sheer amount of time you spend thinking obsessively about me probably makes things a bit safer for the children in your neighbourhood.

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    10. Quite the drama queen aren't you ?

      Enjoy your paranoid delusions, they comport quite well with the rest of your ravings.

      If ever there was proof that we humans share much in common with our primate cousins, it is the poo flinging screeds of that master of ontological onanism, and the pontificating, pretentious dumpster diver of philosophy.

      Transcendent my ass, look in a mirror and face reality.

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    11. Not at all. You're clearly obsessed with me by your own admission. Thinking about me while at home listening to the radio etc. Never posting about anything/anyone else. It's just me, me, me with you so to speak.

      And we are transcendent in the sense that we have, in certain respects, transcended physics, chemistry and biology in a way nothing else we know of in the universe has. That's what makes humanity special. Unclear why you hate that fact so much. Revel in it, even you are special.

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  30. My bet is that if one wrote a book going after the "sophisticated theology", the book would go as unread as books on "sophisticated theology". Maybe in an ideal world, it'll be Graham Oppy who makes the bestseller list. But in this world, where most believers have a far less sophisticated belief in God than Dawkins goes after in The God Delusion, books like Dawkins' are necessary and to the point.

    I always wonder why it is that it's Dawkins who is said to have failed in grasping theology when the beliefs and arguments supporting them that Dawkins failed to address remain arcane. Isn't that a failure for the theologians to have made their no doubt impressive insights on the concept of God more widespread?

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  31. I must admit, I haven't finished reading your article yet, but I do want to comment on one point. I think the difference between the Q continuum and G-d is that G-d has a history that the Q continuum doesn't have.

    No one ever claimed to have prophecy from the Q contiuum. No one ever claimed to be commanded by the Q contiuum. No one ever claimed that the Q continuum did miracles for them, redeemed them from slavery, led them through the desert, had a mass revelation with actual content followed by a 40 day/40 night revelation of an entire work.

    Also, billions of people from different walks of life and cultures have not been inspired and/or motivated by the Q continuum nor have they felt any sort of spiritual experience connected with it.

    So, in one part you are right - the proofs for G-d come after the belief. But, that just begs the question why people a) believed in G-d in the first place and b) were able to come up with sophisticated philosophical proofs to back up that belief.

    At the end of the day, though, I think the philosophical proof approach to G-d has limited value - it just as often leads to endless arguments back and forth about whether or not the proofs are real proofs or not real proofs. I do think it has inspired some people to look further and helped solidify the beliefs of others. My sense is that you underestimate it's historical effect, but that's just a hunch really.

    I compare this approach to logically proving that I should marry someone. If I tried to come up the perfect logical argument to that question I would still be single and probably would never have gotten married.

    At some point one just needs to make a commitment. Before that, one needs to invest the time and effort necessary to see if one wants to make a commitment. Without those two steps, a relationship is never possible.

    The same is true with G-d. Endless arguing leads to a lot of interesting and/or emotional conversation, but doesn't relate to the real-life issue involved which is whether or not one is going to make the commitment. G-d isn't just a philosophical or scientific question, G-d is also a question about how someone is going to actually live their life.

    Before one can make such a decision, they need to invest the time and effort necessary to see if they want to make that commitment. And that means actually engaging G-d, not just arguing about whether or not He exists. How to do that is a different question, but just thinking about the issue isn't the way to go.

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    1. Also, billions of people from different walks of life and cultures have not been inspired and/or motivated by the Q continuum nor have they felt any sort of spiritual experience connected with it.

      Only because the idea of the Q continuum is less than 1 generation old. Give it some time. L. Ron Hubbard's fiction is now a fully functional religion, >100 years after his birth ;-)

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    2. I doubt it. There have been many competing religious ideas over the last 4,000 years - none has caught on like G-d. Also, it's one thing for an idea to catch locally in a particular place at a particular time. It's quite anote to have mass universal appeal over countless centuries in different locals, cultures, etc.

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    3. The Abrianic religions were "an idea [that caught on] locally". Then the Roman (and their European Colonial descendents) and Islamic empires rose and spread their favored religion with them. And as their influence declines, so does their religion.

      The religion was just rode along with the selective sweep of other factors.

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    4. And why were the Romans and Islamic empires inspired by the religion of Abraham? And I'm not sure which decline you are referring to. True, in certain sections of Western society there is a decline, in others there is an increase - and I believe in the world over there is an increase. I don't have the stats in front of me, but that's what I remember them saying last time I checked.

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    5. If you have no evidence for why you think you should marry somebody, don't do it.

      Logical proofs are a fucking joke.

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  32. One more point.

    If you posited that the Q continuum had all the properties of the First Cause then you may very well be giving the Q Continuum the 'properties' of G-d and just using a different name. If you wanted to play the thought experiment out to the end, you'd have to see when you are done if the Q continuum could remain the Q continuum and meet all the philosophical requirements necessary.

    At the end of the day, you may find that you can't so easily substitute one for the other or that to do so you have to redefine them as we define G-d.

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  33. Which "G-d", of the thousands that have been named and the millions or even billions of variations that have been and are being imagined that are or are not named, are you referring to?

    No "G-d" has "universal appeal". Some, by name, have "mass appeal" (with varying "mass" and "appeal") but the individual people who would claim to be in a "mass" (e.g. all people who call themselves catholics) often have a different (sometimes slightly, sometimes greatly different) definition/description of their chosen "G-d" and its 'properties', such as its abilities, form, age, attitude, degree of involvement, etc. Something imagined can have any 'properties' the imaginer wants it to have, or not have.

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    1. The notion of a Creator G-d who is Providentially involved in the affairs of mankind. You are right, there are differences in understanding the nature of and/or will of G-d, but that basic idea has mass universal acceptance over a vast range of times, locations as well as political, economical, cultural and religious 'systems'.

      The various pagan gods of history and the imaginary gods like the Q continuum don't have that vast appeal.

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    2. Imaginary as opposed to non-imaginary? Buddhism, which is one of the world's most popular religions has no notion of a supreme omnipotent creator deity, and yet it has managed to win a lot support in demographic terms. Christianity overtook Buddhism as late as the mid-20th century.

      More than a thousand years elapsed from the first attestation of Yahweh's name in the 9th century BC till the edict of Thessalonica, which made Christianity the sole official religion of the Roman Empire. For most of that time Abrahamic monotheism was a stricly tribal faith Whatever its "vast" appeal was, its effect was not immediate. Do give Q-continuum a little time to take root ;)

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    3. Piotr, I would say that one of the reasons Buddhism reached so many people was precisely because it incorporated a supernatural, devotional, intercessional aspect to it, at least in how it was/ is practiced by the majority of people who call themselves Buddhists. In China, Japan, Indonesia, etc. you find (or would have found in the past) a very 'religious' form of Buddhist belief that is quite different from the early teachings.
      The longing for a god who is devoted to us is very strong, and I doubt whether the drier version of it would have caught on without incorporating some form of address to that human 'weakness'.

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    4. as one point of reference, the world's tallest statues, of which four are over 100 meters, are nearly all representations of Buddha.
      And being that the building of enormous statues of Buddha, such as Japan's Kamakura Daibutsu, from the 14th century, has a very long history, it is not unreasonable to assume that a worshipful aspect of the religion, similar to that found in Christianity and Islam, goes back very very far.
      Unless, of course, there are a lot of 100 meter statues of Socrates, Aristotle and Kant that I and nearly everyone else is unaware of. ;)
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_statues_by_height

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    5. You realise, of course, that those record-breaking statues of Buddha are government-sponsored exercises in national aggrandisement. Most of them have been erected out of political, rather than religious, motives. The Spring Temple Buddha, for example, was China's response to India's Maitreya Project -- now delayed because the Kushinagar farmers are not willing to sacrifice their land:

      http://www.indianexpress.com/news/farmers-protests-may-drive-away-maitreya-buddha-project-to-bihar/664116/0

      Of course in China the government can ignore such considerations (if anyone dare protest at all).

      If you look at the list, there are several statues in the 40+ m range built in Russia, including one giant monument of Peter the Great, surely a major local deity. Perhaps if Greece had a strong and able nationalist leader interested in securing his country a position of prominence in the Guiness World Records, Socrates would have a chance. For the time being, he must content himself with the literary monument Plato built for him.

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    6. Of course, Piotr, I realized that, and also anticipated that as a response from you, which is why I mentioned the Great Daibutsu of Kamakura, which was not a game of one upmanship between China and Japan to see who can erect the largest statue.

      So if you'd like me to concede to you all the 100 meter behemoths, I will content myself with the much smaller, but innumerable, versions, such as the dozen or so I can find within a good walk or bicycle ride from my home.

      Here is a quote from Songyal Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist, in a talk he gave about how Buddhists pray and whom they pray to.
      "Buddha is the wisdom that knows, the compassion that cares, and the power to benefit and liberate beings".
      I am pretty sure there are numerous Christians who would describe 'Christ' in nearly the same way.

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    7. No doubt they would, Andy. BTW, my country is also taking part in the International Biggest Jesus Statue Race and, at least, our rather kitschy giant Jesus was not erected by the government. It was a local parish project financed from private donations:

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1327239/Jesus-statue-Poland-Worlds-largest-rival-Rio-Janeiro.html

      I don't deny the human longing for a super-fatherly power that cares for us, protects us and may solve our problems if propitiated. Still, a longing is just a longing. It does not turn into reality even if a billion people feel it.

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    8. Happy New Year, Piotr!
      And let me know when the giant Jesus is finished! I hope it doesn't fall on anybody!

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    9. Oh, he's finished all right. A Happy New Year to you and everybody here!

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