Thursday, March 16, 2006

Something/Nothing

Jazzy,

Below is a response by Gregg100 regarding your "why something rather than nothing" question. It does not precisely answer the question, but does deal with it somewhat obliquely.

"People who engage in this type of discussion have (1) rejected the primacy of existence, (2) have mentally required the need for some sort of "beginning" that can only result in an infinite regression of beginnings and (3) ignored the rational conclusion of starting with a universe that we know to exist. Discussions with such people can't come to any useful conclusion. Existence is the reality we deal with on a day-to-day basis. It is the reality that our sensory capability interfaces with and thus provides information on the effects of that reality and ultimately forms the basis of our knowledge. We currently have no way of knowing any information about events that occured beyond what we have estimated to be the earliest phases of the universe."

Again, I don't think that there is a definitive answer to your question. But Gregg does delineate a different perspective on the issue.

TLS

21 comments:

jazzycat said...

It does seem that Gregg basically wants to ignore or not consider cause and effect. If we through science know anything about the universe, it is that it is changing. The big bang theory traces, through cause and effect, a beginning from a single point of singularity. My favorite theologian R.C. Sproul has spoken briefly about his exchange of letters with the late Carl Sagen. I wish he (Sproul) would reveal more than he has about this exchange as it was a debate (at the top of the food chain if you will) about this very subject from the same points of view as ours.

I guess my point is that something must have always existed (have the power of being) and to attribute this to lifeless matter and or energy is hard to believe. Now this Supreme being may exist in a manner we cannot even imagine, but it would be understandable that he could have powers that inert matter could never have. This would give him a leg up if you will in a comparison with inert matter. I will list the order of this thinking.

1. If there ever were a time when there was nothing, there would be nothing now.
2. Since there is something now, there has always been something.
3. This something must have the power of being in and of itself and not require anything ‘to be’.
4. The choices are either matter/energy or a necessary intelligent supreme being.
5. It is inconceivable that unintelligent, powerless matter/energy has this power of being.
6. It seems to me that logic screams for a necessary intelligent being with awesome power to be the entity that has always been and has the power to be in and of himself.
7. This Supreme Being created the universe.

Terry S said...

I would take issue with your point #5. To state that matter & energy are "powerless" doesn't ring true. Energy, and consequently, matter are the essence and source of all power.

The overwhelming majority of people who believe in a god, any god, see "him" as ourselves owing to the notion that "god made man in his image." God is seen as an all powerful, sentient "being," essentially, "superman." They believe that he consciously involves himself in every aspect of our existence. They believe him to be omnipotent and omniscient. That he sees all and knows all. Perhaps you believe that, or not. Regardless, most people of virtually all faiths DO believe it. That is what is being taught from the pulpit. They are taught the incompatible duality of an all forgiving AND wrathful god. They are told that they have "free choice" to follow god or not. Yet, they also say that god already "knows" what choices will be made and by whom, ergo predestination. Wherein lay the choice? They are taught to accept that we cannot fathom the mind of god. That we cannot grasp his "plan."

If the state of the world is part of a "plan," then I think it needs some work. We puny humans could devise a better, more equitable "plan" than what god supposedly has wrought.

In any case, I wonder where your argument is intended to take us? What can we possible DO with the notion that some ever existing conscious force created all that is? From what was it created? Are we just a figment of this being's imagination? What possible purpose does all this have? To what end are we striving? Paradise? If so, where and what is it? What's in it for god?

To my mind, the whole of christian and most other religious doctrines are essentially, a "dumbing down" of any higher concept.

Frankly, it is my belief that it is us humans who carry the seed of intelligence. There may be other beings in the universe (it seems, given the numbers, that it is likely) who are also self aware and intelligent. But at this juncture, that is only speculation. As far as we know, we are the top of the intelligence chain. We actually come the closest to "being god" than anything else we know. We are not "playing" god. We may be becoming god. Now what that means, what "sort" of god we are becoming, I don't know. We may have to alter our definitions and our perspectives on what a god is. God ultimately just may not be all that he's cracked up to . . . uh . . . be.

Man may have a long road to hoe before any of this becomes apparent. We may not ever get to that point. There are no guarantees. Boom! We're dead.

TLS

jazzycat said...

Terry,
The thoughts you express are certainly some that many people even Christians ponder at times. We doubt and wonder about life and all of our observations such as the enoromous size of the universe. If we believe in the God of the Bible we wonder about the exact same things that you mentioned if we are honest with ourselves. One thing for sure the truth no matter what it may be is mind boggling. I think we can agree on that.

I am not trying to convert you to Christianity and I think we both understand that. We are just doing this for the debate and enjoyment of sharing ideas on a lot of things including a few we agree on.

I am not going to take those series of questions you asked that would lead us into Biblical doctrine unless you want to go there. Put another way, if you have any Biblical theological questions to ask, I will be glad to do my best to answer them, so just ask if you ever want.

My team (Miss. State) did not make the dance this year after being a 2 seed two years ago and going four straight years. We had a guard two years ago that was something and as yet he has not made a pro team. I don't watch pro ball but that tells me the talent level must be super.

Jazzycat

Terry S said...

I'll press on with just one question out of my litany of queries: What's in it for god? How could all this interest him? Is it ego? What possible motivation would such a god have in creating this universe? Is it just an idle entertainment?

I don't know if you ever watched Star Trek - The Next Generation. A recurring character was "Q." Q was a member of - well - "The Q." All "Q" were pretty much omnipotent. But to the character "Q" it was for the most part an amusement to be dealing with lowly humans. He loved to play with their minds. To confuse them, to humiliate them. Occasionally, it would get more serious. Lives of humans and others were sometimes put in danger owing to one of Qs games. Eventually, in the last episode of the series Q put all of humanity on trial (Actually, the trial began in the first season. It was taken to completion in the last episode.) Of course all our hopes rested on the shoulders of Jean-Luc Piccard, the captain of the Enterprise. And, of course, he pulls it off. This may be apropos of nothing, but it just makes me think of what an actual god's relationship to we humans could be.

I am an Indiana University grad. I have lived through the Bobby Knight era - the highs and the lows - and more recently, the Mike Davis era. This year IU was the only college team in the state to make it to the NCAA tournament. They barely eked out a win last nite against San Diego State. I doubt that they will go much farther into the tourney. They have to play Gonzaga tomorrow.

I am watching the Pacers play the Sacramento Kings as I type. It looks like they are going to win as they are up 98 to 91 with 9 seconds to play. Up here basketball carries about the same kind of stature as football does in the south and west. We haven't had much to get excited about lately, though at either the college or pro level. Just as with the Colts last season, the Pacers have never been more than also rans. They've never quite gotten to the top of the mountain.

I'm not a sports nut. I rarely watch baseball (now that could raise the ire of Homeland Security.) I have only attended one Colts' game and a handful of Pacers' games over the years. It is much too expensive. Anyhow, unless you get really great seats, which of course are VERY expensive, you can really see more of the games, more comfortably on TV sitting back in a recliner with a coke and chips that didn't cost $18. And there's no line for the john.

You know, I heard someone complaining about the cost of movie tickets earlier today at lunch. Admittedly movie tickets are much higher than they used to be. As I believe that you are more or less my contemporay in age, you also may remember a time when it cost about a quarter or thirty cents to see a double bill at a neighborhood theater. Now a ticket for a single first run film in Indy is around nine bucks. More in other cities.

But by comparison, it's still a fairly cheap nite's entertainment. Especially if you avoid the refreshment stand. As noted, pro sports tickets are out of sight, for me at least. The nose bleed seats for the Pacers cost about $12. The same kind of seats for the Colts are more like $20. Really good seats for either can go into the hundreds of dollars.

A ticket for a live music concert here can be $60 or $75. or more. A night at the symphony cost around $25 to $60 per ticket. Live theatre tickets are $35 to $75.

Those nine dollar movie tickets start looking pretty good.

I will say, though, that there is nothing like a live performance. Good music and good theatre are great live. Much more visceral than any film.

Enough prattle.

TLS

jazzycat said...

Terry,
Those are certainly good questions that I think about often. Many people use their imagination and "feelings" to answer such questions. The Bible is the only place that my denomination and I give any final authority to. However, we do have a statement of faith document that we subscribe to that gives the interpretation of key Biblical doctrines. It is the Westminster Confession of Faith and is about 500 years old. It is a very concise document with only 33 sections. The following is section 4 on creation:

CHAP. IV. - Of Creation.

1. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

2. After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image, having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it: and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God,and had dominion over the creatures.

The Bible does not give a lot of detail other than it being for his glory and I think we would both agree that the universe is indeed an awesome display of beauty as is the earth. I am so grateful to have seen the beauty that I have from my flying days. Most of it was at much lower altitudes than jets fly today which is really much better for sight-seeing. The following site takes you straight to the Westminster Confession if you want to read anything else:
http://www.pcanet.org/general/cof_contents.htm
It would certainly be a good research tool. My Bulldogs are now 14-0 in baseball.....
jazzycat

noell said...

I have contemplated whether or not to comment on Jazzy Cat's last comment above this one. I don't want to offend anyone directly about their religious belief. And yet he's here at the blog of an atheist, and he also started the subject.

So I decided to go ahead and say that I found Jazzy Cat's answers, referencing the Bible, to be highly disappointing. Perhaps that is why the discussion ended here. He shut it off by only allowing for the Bible to comment on God.

Jazzy Cat--When asked a question about God, you refused to give the answer any real thought. Instead you say that you and your church only refer to the Bible in answer to those questions. Is there no room for actually thinking it through?

You basically end the discussion by quoting the Bible and not allowing for any thought regarding its accuracy or whether it makes any sense. Ultimately it comes down to the circular argument: The Bible says God is true. The Bible is right because God said so.

When Terry asked if our creation was to prop up God's ego, you answered in part that it was for his glory and power. Since you didn't want to actually discuss the equity of the creation with its evils, I will take the biblical answer about God's glory to mean that if he exists, the creation of the Earth must have been for his ego.

jazzycat said...

Noell,
The only knowledge I have about God is what is revealed in the Bible that I believe. What point would it be for me to use my imagination to speculate on an answer with no basis in fact whatsoever.

I went to the site of someone who commented at your site and at their site they were talking about seeds coming up in the mind and watering the ones that have promise. This was pure nonsense based on imagination. At least basing one's opinion on the largest selling book in the history of the world is creditable.

noell said...

I understand your reasoning with the Bible. It just feels like the door gets slammed shut when you ask philosophical questions that naturally lead to other philosophical questions, which you suddenly refuse to discuss (except to quote a book the rest of us here do not respect).

It is your right to do so. In fact I sometimes did the same thing once upon a time. But now I see how it is to be on the other side of that door you are shutting.

Do you remember the seed-planting site? Sounds like Mormon stuff to me, but I am not aware of any commentors on my blog having Mormon sites.

jazzycat said...

Noell,
I believe it was a zen or buddha site.

I was wondering why all the burden of proof should be on me. Do you think the atheist view should offer proof on why there is no God?
Remember, as I mentioned to Terry (I think), I was an agnostic for about 50 years, so I have been on your side of the door. I watched Sagen and "Cosmos" and sought proof.

Jazzycat

Terry S said...

I would suggest that providing "proof" of the existence or non-existence of god is a fruitless endeavor. None of us can "prove" there is or isn't a god.

Theoretically, the existence of god could easily be established if god chose to reveal himself in some unambiguous way. As far as I know, no such revelation has been manifested. I require proof. I will not give up myself to faith in something so insubstantial as god.

On the other hand, it is much more difficult to prove a negative. By what means could anyone prove undeniably that god doesn't exist? I have read a handful of such "proofs" on the "Carnival of the Godless" site. More often than not the reasoning is at best convoluted and very difficult to follow - at least for me. All the verbiage in the world would be rendered moot if suddenly god materialized and caused all the world's toilets to back up.

As I have said repeatedly, I don't "know" that god doesn't exist. But if one simply looks over the expanse of human history, how events big and small have and continue to play out on a day to day basis, it seems both illogical and irrational to believe that there is any super intelligent force overseeing our existence. We can bandy words back and forth on this issue and come to no definitive conclusions. Each of us can only go on what we "believe" to be the truth.

As I do not believe in the existence of any god, I feel that it is counter productive to our welfare to believe. So much emphasis is placed on the hereafter that our earthly existence is relegated to secondary importance. It is looked upon almost as an annoying nuisance in the way of obtaining eternal life in heaven. Time and effort beseeching god for a place in paradise could better be spent on the here and now.

TLS

jazzycat said...

Terry,
I was wondering what you guys would do with that question and I must say you handled it very well.....
Jazzycat

noell said...

I agree with you, Jazzy Cat, and respect you for saying so!

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