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Posted by Harvey on October 25, 2002 17:35:16 UTC

***H: "is the principle by which explanation of the universe is even possible. If we rid science of its ability to provide effective causes for phenomena, we would be left with definitions and not much more. However, if we assume that causation is a valid concept (which is, I think, more than reasonable), then we should ask what causes transitions from one material state to another material state." M: We can ask, but drawing genuine beliefs from such shoddy evidence is a silly thing to do. I love speculating and mulling issues like this over. However, in the end I pride myself on having very few actual beliefs, just a whole lot of ideas. Harv, speculating about what caused our universe to form is one thing, calling it sentient because it sounds nicer that way, and then calling people like me deluded and hopeless is irritating. Sentience is a LOT to ask from anything. It appears to be a very rare commodity.***

My response was referring to the assumption that the material universe is self-sustaining. I was attempting to show that there is reason to doubt the assumption of a self-sustaining universe. My argument was a mere attempt to show how the universe may not be self-sustaining and I think it is a valid argument, even good cause for one to believe that it is not self-sustaining.

***H: "If it is not the impact of material 'billiard balls' that provides persistent existence through time but it is principles of physics, then what keeps the principles from changing or ceasing altogether?" M: What keeps mathemetical laws valid? I don't know. Perhaps once the universe burst into existence, laws solidified and became immobile. However, does a constant universe require a sentient principle? I think not.***

Again, my response was only to show good cause for thinking the universe may not be self-sustaining. I wanted to show reasons for my belief that God sustains the universe, and I did this by showing that principles are often true because they are necessitated by other principles. This builds the case that God is the sustainer and not some inherent requirement of the material universe to self-sustain itself. I'm not trying to prove my case, only show that other explanations exist and might even be more compelling.

***H: "The story becomes even more complex in that principles are reducible to yet more general principles and so on. If the trend continues, it would seem that more and more general principles will be found, and either some unique general principle(s) will be seen as the Cause for all that exists, or the process is infinite (i.e., an infinite set of principles exist). I call these general set of principle(s) 'God'. " M: We know nothing about these general principles. The best we can hope for is to look at the universe as it is and figure that it must have some traits in common with its source, and this is risky as it is. Calling the unifying laws of reality "God" is fine. Calling it loving and caring and sentient is quite another.***

First, we have to build the case that there is a common set of principles that govern the universe's existence. I think that case is satisfactory built, at least in terms of thinking of it as a good possibility. Making the step to God being sentient, loving, and caring is quite a different argument. As I said, ultimately it depends on what you want to believe about the world, but the order in the universe also gives cause to believe that what many hope for is actually the case.

***H: "The universe has a great deal more meaning to me to believe that Sentience is not only aware but actually providing hope for the universe" M: Meaning isn't everything. The universe would mean more to me if Gods lived on Mount Olympus, directly intervening with human affairs. The universe would mean more to me if I interpreted lightning bolts as weapons of Zeus (and, based off this assumption, viewed lightning as absolute proof of divine existence).***

We have to balance the quest for meaning with the quest for truth. For example, if I seek only meaning, then I might be living in serious denial. On the other hand, if I seek only truth, then I might have to reject everything that I know, especially since 'truth' appears to be undefinable by even philosophers. Hence, there has to be a compromise. This compromise requires that we seek meaning but be prepared to sacrifice meaning whenever the acceptance of truth is at stake.

***If "It sounds pleasant to me" is the basis of anyone's belief system, they should reexamine it.***

This statement is very naive. Everyone is forced to believe based on the concept "it sounds pleasant to me". If not, then how is it that anyone can believe anything at all? We believe something because it does "sound pleasant" and that is how we come to our beliefs. The problem enters when we are unwilling to accept facts because it is not altogether pleasant. For example, Einstein had trouble accepting some principles of QM because it was not altogether pleasant. However, Einstein did come around on some issues that were not altogether pleasant simply because the scientific approach was what "sounded pleasant" and therefore he was willing to sacrifice some of his meaning of the world as he conceived it to accomplish this task.

***H: In addition, looking at the whole of what we see, I personally don't think one can realistically expect a random force or act to cause the world. There's absolutely millions of events that had to be 'just so' in order to bring about such wonderful events" M: I should point out that you're using the argument by complexity. "This universe is so vast and wonderful, it needs a God." Well, it follows that if the creation is wonderful and complex, the creator must be at least that complex, if not more so.***

Not necessarily. Simplicity might cause complexity which resolves itself in simplicity. For example, simple axioms of a theorem might create a whole lot of mathematics, but a theorem might be resolved which is very simple.

***If I ask "Well, then doesn't God require a creator?" you'll say "No, God is infinite, he's been around forever." Well, if that can be true of God, why not matter and energy? Is an infinite procession of inanimacy an impossibility to you?***

These are two different discussions. One is talking about how the complexity and special conditions of the universe require some kind of sentient order to be behind it all, and the other is whether the universe requires a God to explain its cause. The first discussion, God is required to explain order, in my view, is indisputable. The analogy of going to Vegas and gaining the wealth of the world is, I think, effective in saying that we should not expect such opportunistic events to happen with a random beginning (i.e., Mario with $1 once he turns 21 and heads to Las Vegas). The second discussion, God is required to explain a cause, is not one that I am willing to argue. I have no problem, in principle, with some primitive materialist concept as 'existing' which explains the universe. Everyone must have their 'axioms' to what exists, and you can propose that to be whatever you think it is as long as you are asking us to assume something reasonable. For example, if you asked that I assume the entire creation with me typing these words as having come into existence 5 minutes ago (complete with memories), then I think you are asking me to assume something that is unreasonable. Likewise, if you are asking me to assume a complex order to the material universe complete with 'just so' laws that just happen to make evolution of life and intelligence and consciousness possible along with the many other features of the universe, then you might as well be asking me to accept that everything coming to exist 5 minutes ago is also reasonable. I simply refuse to think that it is.

On the other hand, asking someone to believe that the very beginning was some holistic order which is approximated by logic and mathematics and that requires certain structures to also approximate this ultimate reality called 'God', then I think I am not asking so much. Afterall, logic and math both are dependent on simple axioms, why can't those axioms all be tied together to refer to some kind of holistic order? Even mathematics has a great deal of holism in its structures (called 'beauty' by many mathematicians). Look at structures such as pi, the golden ratio, fibonacci series, etc.

Warm regards, Harv

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