Does Causality Apply Outside of Space and Time?

The-Law-of-Causality-JM2 During a radio debate I had with an atheist recently, I pointed out that the universe had a beginning and thus needs a cause.  He responded by claiming that since there was no space or time prior to the creation event we shouldn’t appeal to the law of causality to claim that the creation event was caused.

 

Dr. Lawrence Krauss cites a slightly different objection. When Dr. Krauss says that every physical thing requires a physical cause, he is talking about what Aristotle called “material” causality—namely, what the cause is made of.  But the objection my radio opponent made deals with what Aristotle called “efficient” causality.  An efficient cause is what most people think of when they think of a cause.  It is the primary source of the effect:  an author writes a book, a spider builds a web, a quarterback throws a pass.  They are efficient causes.

Atheists who make this claim are saying that there is no efficient cause of the universe because it didn’t take place in space or time. Let’s look at that argument in a syllogism.

  1. The law of causality only applies to physical things in space-time.
  2. The creation of the universe did not occur in space-time (it was the creation of space-time).
  3. Therefore the law of causality does not apply to the creation of the universe.

This argument doesn’t work because the first premise is false. Notice that there is no physical relationship between the premises and the conclusion of the argument above (or any argument).  Also notice that the premises are not objects in space-time.  Yet, there is a causal relationship between the premises and the conclusion.  In other words, true premises cause valid conclusions.

If this atheist argument were sound, then no argument could be sound.  Why?  Because if the law of causality only applied to physical things, then no argument would work because premises and conclusions are not physical things.  For any argument to work—including arguments against God—the law of causality must apply to the immaterial realm because the components of arguments are immaterial.

In other words, logic itself wouldn’t work if the first premise were true. But since logic works, the law of causality applies metaphysically not just physically.  In fact, to deny causality beyond space and time would be to deny logic, which would be self-defeating and would negate our ability to argue anything.

You can also see why it is self-defeating to deny the law of causality by simply asking anyone who doubts it, “What caused you to come to that conclusion?”  Or more precisely, “What reasons do you have for your position?”

If the person cites scientific experiments or observations as the source for his evidence, then point out that experiments and observations presuppose cause and effect.  You couldn’t make those observations or draw any conclusions without the law of causality.[i]  Likewise, any process of reasoning he uses would also use the very law of causality he would be denying.  In other words, it’s self-defeating rationally and scientifically to conclude that effects do not need causes. That’s because any denial of the law of causality uses the law of causality. 



[i] Some atheists will appeal to the quantum level to question the law of causality.  But just because we can’t predict cause and effect among subatomic particles, doesn’t mean that there is no cause and effect.  That could be a matter of unpredictability rather than uncausality.  In other words, the limits of our knowledge of the quantum level might be the issue. Moreover, any conclusion the atheist makes about the quantum level would use the very the law of causality he is questioning.  That’s because his observations of the quantum level and his reasoning about it use the law of causality!  While it is possible that causality does not apply at the quantum level, given the fact that the law seems universal everywhere else and the scientist uses it in all of his conclusions, why would anyone conclude it’s more plausible to believe that causality does not apply at the quantum level?  Could it be because it helps one avoid God?

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71 replies
  1. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    This is completely off topic, but I wonder if you would be interested in looking into this and giving us your thoughts.

    Much commentary here is about loss of faith during college and in fact that seems to be a major focus of your ministry.

    This juxtaposes itself in an interesting way with some data I just ran across from the census.

    I’ll quote the author of a brief write up on this:

    “What really stands out is that among college graduates, the traditional family is supreme.”

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2013/11/26/family_demographics_college_graduates_are_traditional.html

    The author posits a hypothesis, but I wonder what your take would be.

    Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy spending time with your family.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  2. Toby says:

    The problem with appealing to Aristotle’s efficient and material causes is that they are physical causes.

    The idea that ideas (the premises above) are not physical is not correct. Ideas form in brains—which we agree are physical—and are transmitted from one person to another via physical means. That means they are spatial and temporal. How can you say that ideas are not temporal? One minute they don’t exist, a person does some thinking, and then the idea forms. If they weren’t physical, then what would make them incapable of being transmitted directly from brain to brain? You’re starting at “the immaterial exists” and trying to rationalize it. The opposite should be the case. Everything we see is physical, everything around us. Physical is the default position and stuffing immaterial in where it’s convenient for your beliefs requires much more faith than that you attribute to atheists.

    So does causation exist outside of the universe? Since every cause we encounter is physical and happens in space and time the safest assumption is that our universe spawned from this type of cause. Now go ahead and object because of favorite pet arguments appealing to Borde, Guth, and Vilekin, and the like, but that doesn’t change the fact that all we know about causation is purely physical and what you’re arguing for is a supposition that, “Well, this once it wasn’t” and hence you’re justified in making the huge assumption that anything immaterial exists (if it could be said to exist at all).

    Reply
    • Carter says:

      An idea is temporal because it is WE are temporal and we are the origin of our ideas (not the other way around). We exist in time, and therefore we are confined by it. To suggest that the who or what (God, according to my belief system) that caused the universe to come into existence is not confined by time. This makes more sense if you view this from a dimensional perspective. The four dimensions with which we are most familiar are, the three spatial dimensions (x,y, and z) coupled with time. According to string theorists there are 10 (some say as many a 13) dimensions in the universe. God occupies, exists in, sees the universe, in all of these dimensions, while we are really only able to observe/perceive the four. So if I were to decide to paint a picture (two dimensions), I am not confined solely by the dimensions in which those “creations” (for all intents and purposes) exist. So to say that God (or whatever brought the universe into existence) has to be material simply because the universe is material, is to say that he is made of the thing that he is making, which is analogous to saying that a painter is made of canvas and paint, furthermore, it is like saying that the painter is painting the canvas from the canvas on which he paints. That just doesn’t make sense.

      Additionally the multiple dimensions posited by the string theory, allow an explanation for the omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence of God. I, as the painter, can see all aspects of the painting at any one point in time. I have the ability to “act” on multiple parts of the painting at any single point in time, and at any given point in time I can decide whether I want to finish a painting that I started, destroy that painting and start over from scratch, or whether I even want to start the painting in the first place. None of this would be possible for me if I were on the canvas (confined by the dimensions in which the canvas exists), nor would it be possible for the canvas itself to do any of the things described above. At least this is how I have come to understand it.

      Reply
  3. Frank Turek says:

    Thanks for your input Toby. I appreciate it. With regard to immateriality, don’t you agree that the laws of logic are immaterial? I mean, if they are not, how could we even communicate right now. We are both appealing to the same laws outside of our physical brains in order to make sense out of what each of us are saying. Thanks again.

    Reply
  4. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    You asked for a critique of this argument, and I’ll be glad to respect that request.

    To be honest, the reason that I didn’t comment on this before is that I don’t really understand what you are saying, because the claims seemed so foreign to the world I see around me. I’ll be glad though to go through why that is.

    It seems to me that the meat of your argument is this:

    This argument doesn’t work because the first premise [The law of causality only applies to physical things in space-time] is false. Notice that there is no physical relationship between the premises and the conclusion of the argument above (or any argument). Also notice that the premises are not objects in space-time. Yet, there is a causal relationship between the premises and the conclusion. In other words, true premises cause valid conclusions.

    Let’s take these claims one by one.

    You say that:there is no physical relationship between the premises and the conclusion“. I do however see a physical relationship. I find it perfectly valid to say that the premises are above the conclusions. This describes a a physical relationship in the way saying “the cloud is above the lake” describes a physical relationship. Just before writing this you asked us to “look at that argument in a syllogism Are you asking us to look at something immaterial? Can you see the immaterial Dr. Turek? I cannot.

    I’ll be glad to cut you some slack on this, but at the very least your language accepts the existence of the physical manifestation of the premises (in this case I’m simply granting you the assumption/i> that the premises themselves are immaterial). I’ll grant the further premise (which I’ll comment on below) that the premises cause the conclusion. Yet even while giving you so much ground, how do you then know that it’s the premises themselves which cause the conclusion and not the physical manifestations of the premises which cause the physical manifestation of the conclusion?

    Next you said:Also notice that the premises are not objects in space-time..” I commented on this a bit above, but to take it a bit further: I don’t notice this at all. Do those premises exist now? Or do they exist always? (Doesn’t always mean at every point in time?) Or do they not exist now?

    Let’s look at another syllogism:

    a. drunkenness strongly impairs vehicular driving ability
    b. due to the dangers of vehicle accidents, people should not drive impaired
    c. people should not drive drunk

    I certainly don’t notice that premise a does not exist in time. In fact, I’m quite confident that this premise could only appear after the point in time we commonly label as 1900 C.E. before the idea of driving a vehicle did not exist. I don’t see how it existed 27,000,000 years ago, before there were people to drink, or wine to be drank. This premise is very much a premise of its time. Is it not?

    To take this same point on from another angle, I think time is required for reasoning. In order to come to a valid conclusion I need to be able to think of things in order. In other words, I need to think of one thing first (time a) and then next thing later (time b). Without these ideas existing in time in some way, how would reasoning be possible?

    You finish with:Yet, there is a causal relationship between the premises and the conclusion. In other words, true premises cause valid conclusions.

    Is this really true? If we have a couple of correct premises, and no one thinks or reasons about them do the conclusions just sort of happen? I always thought we had to think to come up with conclusions, even when we have valid inputs.

    Is it really just me that has to go through this process?

    What you’re saying strikes me as analogous to saying “Yet, there is a causal relationship between the kool-aid packet, water and the kool-aid. In other words, kool-aid mix and water cause kool-aid.”

    Furthermore, I’d like to ask: if true premises cause true conclusions, what causes false conclusions?

    For example:

    1. All a are b.
    2. No c are a.
    3. No c are b.

    What caused that conclusion?

    I hope this helps you.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  5. Toby says:

    No, I don’t agree with you about logic. Why should they be immaterial? They are descriptions–that originated in a brain and shared to other brains–of the physical world (of which brains are a part of and made of). I’ve said in other posts on other columns that non-contradiction could be restated as H=H. Hydrogen is going to be hydrogen. Hydrogen does not follow some bit of logic to be what it is. It is what it is because the four fundamental forces of physics (of which their might be more). Our brains evolved in this universe and if a creature didn’t develop senses as stable as its surroundings it likely wouldn’t be here very long. If a little creature at one moment looks at a black puma standing in a field of snow, looks away, then looks back and for some reason the color black has changed to white in it’s mind, then it’s not a little creature anymore, it’s dinner. It’s a puma blue plate special on a blue plate that stays blue because of it’s physical properties not because of some definition we have of it.

    We categorize things around us with definitions and descriptions. Two apples sitting on a stool will always be two. Not because we define “two” or “apples”, but because of their physics. We can exchange words all we like, but it’s physics remains. Two could (and does) become dos or deux or zwei. We could go so far as to call it seven, but it would still be the quantity between one and three.

    Reply
    • Anne Townsend says:

      Dr. Turek,

      Like many others I have been looking at this question and I certainly get in a twist with all of the arguments so like things to be kept at a simple level. I recently read a short article re. studies from Bristol Uni on quantum inseparability which said ‘it was as if quantum particles live outside space time’. That was a revelation, to me it meant that God is all manifested and unmanifested matter and dimension with causality outside of our own space time construct in which God created us. Free will is a gift given so that we could ponder it all!

      Anne

      Reply
  6. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek said: I mean, if [laws of logic] are not [immaterial], how could we even communicate right now.

    So, I’ll admit to complete ignorance to me, but I honestly have no idea why the above is true. Feel free to make fun of me. I’m tough and probably deserve it. 🙂

    Can you provide me with the premises of this argument:

    1. ?
    2. ?
    3. Therefore communication is not possible unless the laws of logic are immaterial.

    Sorry if this is a dumb question and thanks!

    Luke

    Reply
  7. Charles says:

    Physical things begin as ideas that are formed in physical brains which happen to be material comprised of subatomic quanta that are not limited to the laws of physics. With that said; a physical effect doesn’t require a physical cause because at the quantum level observation exists before physical matter and observation requires an observer. So my question is this; can causality and observation be synonymous? I am asking because if this is true then the physical universe could be broken down to an initial observer, perhaps an uncaused first cause, by which causality would apply outside of space-time.

    Reply
  8. Toby says:

    “Physical things begin as ideas that are formed in physical brains which happen to be material comprised of subatomic quanta that are not limited to the laws of physics.”

    No. Physical things exist regardless of whether there is someone to think about them or not. It’s the object in objectivity.

    The rest sounds like a bunch of Deepak Chopra stuff. And by “stuff” I’m showing how generous and polite I can be.

    Reply
  9. Frank Turek says:

    Agree about Chopra Toby.

    My previous point about the immateriality of the laws of logic deals with the laws themselves, not that we are in time and space when we use them, Luke.

    Tobey, I guess another way of showing that they are brain independent would be to ask this: Before there were any human minds on the earth, was the statement “There are no human minds on the earth” true?

    Reply
    • Toby says:

      It’s an invalid question due to bad syntax. The proper statement should be, “Before there were human brains on earth, IS the statement ‘There WERE no human brains on Earth’ true?” Words are only as good as their definitions. True is a word—and all words—were created after the evolution of brains capable of forming them. Prior to that the universe cruised along obeying it’s physical laws. A lump of granite (though it had no defined name because there was no one around to name it and describe it) stayed a lump of granite. So because of physics: the rock is the rock and remains the rock. That’s true independent of minds because of its physical make up, not anything you or I say here about it.

      Your statement on the other hand is playing with definitions in an attempt to justify your belief that our minds are the crowning achievement of the universe, so much so that our minds are beyond the universe they reside in. In reality your question isn’t true or false it’s just wrong. You’re doing a grammatical equivalent of dividing by zero.

      Reply
  10. Charles says:

    “And by “stuff” I’m showing how generous and polite I can be.”

    “Agree about Chopra Toby.”

    Nonetheless; I thank God for you…

    Reply
  11. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    You said:My previous point about the immateriality of the laws of logic deals with the laws themselves, not that we are in time and space when we use them, Luke.

    Are you referring to my first, longer post from Dec 6 (the one providing the critique you asked for), or is this an answer to the question in my second, shorter post from that day?

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  12. Frank Turek says:

    Toby, the theological implications of the question should have nothing to do with how the question is answered. This is not a game of gotcha. I’m simply asking for your input on a question. There is certainly nothing wrong with asking an historical question, so I’m having trouble understanding your post. I mean, if you want a Darwinian question, I could have asked, “Before humans arrived on the earth, was this statement true: fish evolved into amphibians.” If Darwinism is true and was true then, the answer is of course “yes” regardless if a human mind knew it at the time.

    Luke, your second post.

    Thanks for your input Gentlemen.

    Reply
  13. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    Okay, perhaps we are miscommunicating somehow. Perhaps I am just confused or not informed enough to follow the discussion (sorry if that’s the case and feel free to recommend some introductory reading).

    You said, and I quoted: “[I]f [laws of logic] are not [immaterial], how could we even communicate right now[?]”

    I said, admitting ignorance on the topic, that I had no idea why this would be and asked for the arguments that lead to that conclusion. (i.e. the conclusion that communication is not possible unless the laws of logic are immaterial). I went on to apologize if that was a dumb question. That was all I said.

    You responded:My previous point about the immateriality of the laws of logic deals with the laws themselves, not that we are in time and space when we use them, Luke.

    Sorry, but I just don’t understand. Was that intended as an answer to my question? If so, can you give more detail, because I can’t even begin to understand at this point. I never mentioned us being in time and space, for example. Just as your point dealt with the immateriality of the laws of logic, my question dealt with the immateriality of the laws of logic.

    Sincerely confused,

    Luke

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Hi Luke, What I mean is this: if we all had nothing more than our own private conceptions of the laws of logic, how could communication be possible? In order for you to understand me and for me to understand you, we each must be accessing something unchanging and outside of us yet common to us. Those are the unchanging, immaterial laws of logic. Those laws provide the bridge between minds. They also provide a bridge to the outside world. Without that bridge, we’d be locked inside our own skulls unable to access or make sense of the external world. We use that bridge but we didn’t invent it.

      Reply
  14. Toby says:

    This might help clarify things.

    Do you believe that words are immaterial?
    I’m going to assume you say yes.

    Are words spaceless?
    Again, I assume yes.

    And are words timeless?
    Once again, for the purposes of this message, I’ll assume you’d say yes.

    If you say yes to these things, then what sounds uttered by anyone, aren’t? If you think words have these three attributes, then every line of “dialog” spoken by Chewbacca in Star Wars is an ever existent immaterial something. Sounds a little strange, but I’m sure you can clear that up.

    What I’m saying is that we’re living in a physical reality in which brains developed. Prior to brains, words didn’t exist. This indicates that they are temporal. As well as physical. Words exist in our brains in a biological version of a harddrive. We came up with these words to describe our physical surroundings and how things work. Why should we resort to placing them outside of our experienced reality? Because we developed tenses in our language? That we can make statements about the past? Theology plays hugely in this because you’re putting a capital ‘T’ on truth—saying that it comes from beyond—instead of realizing that our words are placeholders and descriptions of our physical existence—which has a temporal element. Would you agree that if there were no passage of time that we wouldn’t be able to ask questions about yesterday?

    So I don’t get how you think asking, “Before brains were on earth was is true that that there were no brains on earth” is supposed to indicate some immaterial reality.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Toby, I think the difference we are talking about is a difference between epistemology and ontology. Epistemology is how you know something– that obviously requires brain activity (but not only brain activity; because if everything was the result of blind material causes we would have no grounds to believe anything including your claim that everything is material). Ontology deals with the fact that something is there whether you know it or not. If “fish evolved from amphibians before humans existed” is really true, then it is true regardless of human brain activity. So yes, truth itself is immaterial.

      There also seems to be a confusion here between the existence of truth and how you express truth. You may use words to express the truth about, say, the laws of logic, but the words themselves are not the laws of logic. The laws of logic exist regardless if anyone describes them with words. Similarly, the truth that “no human beings are on the earth” 4 billion years ago was true regardless of the fact that no material brain was there to express it.

      The bottom line is this: materialism is self defeating because any attempt to defend materialism uses immaterial realities such as the laws of logic. And if materialism is true we cannot trust our thought that materialism is true (or any other thought) because all thoughts are the result of blind mindless processes. Reductive materialism makes reason impossible.

      Again, thanks for interacting on this.

      Reply
  15. Charles says:

    I may be ignorant to a lot of technical science so I say this with kid gloves; I find it difficult to understand how electrochemical reactions and pulses within physical brains can produced ordered and coherent thoughts.

    Reply
  16. Charles says:

    “Ignorance is not license to jump to the conclusion of invisible, untestable suppositions.”

    Right. So let me rephrase my last post into a question. How do electrochemical reactions and pulses produce ordered and coherent thoughts? How do objective, physical things influence subjective thoughts?

    I am asking this because it seems the Atheist worldview understands reality as being “hardwired”. So wouldn’t that leave little to no room for subjectivity? I mean; how could something as subjective as a lie exist physically?

    Reply
  17. Toby says:

    “How do electrochemical reactions and pulses produce ordered and coherent thoughts? How do objective, physical things influence subjective thoughts?”

    How do immaterial . . . (what would you even call it) . . . produce ordered and coherent thoughts? How do immaterial whatsis influence physical matter?

    “So wouldn’t that leave little to no room for subjectivity? I mean; how could something as subjective as a lie exist physically?”

    Why should it? With so many variables in the world why would you expect complete agreement? Lies could exist for the same reason. Variability. It’s not as if the universe were a jar with so many blue marbles, so many red, so many green. . . . so BLAM everything must be perfectly ordered, perfectly the same. Do you see that anywhere?

    Reply
  18. Toby says:

    “because if everything was the result of blind material causes we would have no grounds to believe anything including your claim that everything is material)”

    How do you so blithely discount this? I can almost hear you thinking the phrase “mere matter”. Could you explain how a world without an immaterial realm would look different from one that had an immaterial realm?

    Truth is a concept to describe the physical world. If there were no physical world then there would be nothing to be true or not true. In the event that the universe never existed the phrase, “some apples are red” would be nonsense. Not only would apples have never existed, no one would exist to propose the idea. Hence, thought is strictly restricted to a physical realm. By supposing an additional immaterial realm you’re violating Ockham’s rule of thumb.

    “Similarly, the truth that “no human beings are on the earth” 4 billion years ago was true regardless of the fact that no material brain was there to express it.”

    That there were no humans around is true because it was a physical reality. Strange how you’re not appealing to the future in your argument. “Tomorrow I will drive a tank.” Is that true? If the immaterial exists now, it must exist in the future right? “There will be no humans on Earth tomorrow morning at 6:30am Central Time.” Is that true? It might be, it might not be. How can a statement be neither true or not true at once?

    Perhaps I should ask this: why does the immaterial exist? How does the immaterial exist? And how do brains interact with it? Rocks? Grass?

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Toby, your position is self-defeating. Again, you are using immaterial realities, such as the laws of logic, to say that no immaterial realities exist.

      As I mentioned to Luke above: if we all had nothing more than our own private conceptions of the laws of logic, communication could not be possible. In order for you to understand me and for me to understand you, we each must be accessing something unchanging and outside of us yet common to us. Those are the unchanging, immaterial laws of logic. Those laws provide the bridge between minds. They also provide a bridge to the outside world. Without that bridge, we’d be locked inside our own skulls unable to access or make sense of the external world. We use that bridge but we didn’t invent it.

      You said truth is a concept. True. Your mind must exist to know truth, but your mind doesn’t have to exist for there to be truth. Again, 4 billion years ago it was true that no human minds existed, and the claim “no human minds exist” was true at the time. Ultimately, truth is grounded in a mind– the mind of God. No temporal, changeable human mind can be the source of all truth.

      You ask how does the immaterial interact with the material? There are many different dualistic theories of this. But just because one doesn’t know for sure HOW this happens, doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. We are not sure HOW the quantum world interacts with the macro world of General Relativity. But it still does. You are confusing epistemology and ontology. Knowing is a different question than being.

      Thanks again.

      Reply
      • Stephen B says:

        Frank: “but your mind doesn’t have to exist for there to be truth”

        Then why does God’s mind have to exist for there to be truth?

        Frank: “Ultimately, truth is grounded in a mind– the mind of God.”

        Then how can you say, effectively, “If there was no God, it would be true that no truth can exist”?

        THAT position is self-defeating.

        Reply
        • Frank Turek says:

          Thanks for the question Stephen. Sorry I’ve been off this site for a while.
          To answer your question, we need to distinguish between the order of being and the order of knowing. The unmoved mover, ground of all being and truth, must exist before one can know anything. That’s because nothing would be grounded without God. Human minds can’t ground truth because we are changeable and temporal beings. The reason we can know anything is because God exists– he grounds truth and the laws of logic. So it is self-defeating to say “If there was no God, it would be true no truth can exist” but only if God exists to establish the laws of logic that make it self-defeating. So we have to smuggle God in to support a statement that denies he exists. This makes my brain hurt. But that’s the nature of grounding. You can’t get behind it. It’s the bedrock of all being and then knowing about being.

          Sometimes this is put as the difference between ontology and epistemology (see a previous comment I made above). I agree with atheists that they can know objective truth while denying God exists. But that’s like saying you can know what a book says while denying there’s an author. Of course you can do that, but there would be no book to know unless there was an author. Likewise, although atheists can know objective truth while denying God exists, there would be no objective truth unless God exists.

          Thanks for participating and keeping the comments relevant.
          Blessings this new year!

          Reply
  19. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    I am going to respond at the end of the thread instead of directly under your comment, simply because it’s easier for everyone to see that there has been a dialog in the response. I hope that’s okay.

    I’ll include a more point by point response at the bottom of this post, simply because I don’t want to leave you feeling that I’ve ignored some of what you said in order to concentrate on what I wanted to talk about. (For this reason, this post is kind of lengthy, but I think it should read pretty quickly.)

    Let me start though with a couple of question, so I can better understand where you are coming from.

    1. My first question would be of your view of logic as it relates to G-d. Do you take the Aquinian view (G-d is omnipotent in that G-d can do anything that is logically consistent) or the Cartesian view (G-d is prior to the laws of logic and not bound by them)? (Feel free to describe any option. I don’t want to tie you to Aquinas, I just use that as a major branch of thought on the question.)

    2. When you talk about the laws of logic, you are referring to something like the Laws of Thoughs, correct? not necessarily all that is involved in predicate logic. So basically, the idea that a potato is a potato and isn’t an apple (no pomme de terre jokes, please), etc. Correct?

    3. Do you believe that if the world were only material, the above Law of Identity would still be true? In other words would a potato still be a potato, or do you think G-d is necessary to enforce that law? (Or do you see a better word than enforce? Don’t read too much into my use of that word. I am trying to get across a general idea, not something specific.)

    4. When you speak of non-material existences, do you see a place for these without G-d? For example properties and relations, which many ontologists argue ‘exist’ (though are contingent), but that doesn’t necessarily require G-d. For example the property of yellowness exists contingent upon matter we term yellow. In other words, could you see a world with no G-d, in which a door could still be yellow? (Therefore in your terms, a non-deistic world with an immaterial existence is perfectly logical.)

    I think those will help clear up some of where you are coming from: the core assumptions you are making, which haven’t been detailed yet. If you have any questions for me, I’ll be glad to answer.

    I’d like to ask two other questions about how you see the larger picture.

    1. I’m reminded of a story about an orphanage for the deaf in South America in which the kids basically invented their own form of sign language. Do you really think that they accessed some ever existing immaterial language and simply used it for their purposes? If so, wouldn’t it have been a million times easier to just grab ASL? It already works well, and it would enable communication with so many other people.

    2. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a dog. But if you have, you might be aware of the phenomenon of the dog wagging its tail like crazy, along with other physical manifestations, when you come home. I think we pretty commonly recognize this as “the dog is happy.” So the dog is happy, and you understand that the dog is happy. Therefore the dog communicated the message “I am happy” to you (otherwise, how would you know)? Do you think the dog is also accessing and comprehending the laws of logic?

    Now on to a more detailed answer to your post:

    Dr. Turek said:What I mean is this: if we all had nothing more than our own private conceptions of the laws of logic, how could communication be possible?

    So your claim is that it may well be possible, you just don’t understand how? Am I correct to say that you are not putting forth a positive claim? (And I was wrong before to assume you were?)

    Dr. Turek said:In order for you to understand me and for me to understand you, we each must be accessing something unchanging and outside of us yet common to us.

    I agree with part of this. We do have to both reference something. As humans though, we share a lot already — a lot of material things, for sure. But yes, we need a common understanding of symbols. The first thing that comes to mind is that we both access the English language. But this is an everchanging creation of man. Do you think that because language changes it must therefore be unnecessary for communication? Or do you simply say that underneath this changing element, we must have something unchanging as well? If so, why must it be unchanging? What if it changed and we both simply accepted the change (as happens with language)? It seems we would still be able to communicate perfectly. (For example, the double slit experiment has made some doubt these classical laws, as at least incomplete — I mean read Plato on the existence of properties and his worries about that, then think about an electron being in two places at once.) So let’s say the law changes (think of the law of exluded middle vs. negation as failure), but we simply agree to accept that premise. Why would that fail?

    Dr. Turek continued:Those are the unchanging, immaterial laws of logic.

    You are just asserting here. I am asking you, as I did in my original question to show us why. Why is that what we are accessing? How do you know? How do we access them?

    What if we just agreed on them, even if we were wrong? You asked earlier how we could communicate if we had our own conception of logic, but if our conceptions coincide, how would that be different than both of us accessing the same immaterial conception? How could you tell the difference?

    Dr. Turek went on:Those laws provide the bridge between minds. They also provide a bridge to the outside world.

    Again, you are simply asserting. If you can prove your other assertions, this may follow. (Again, to me language is the bridge. If you’ve ever ended up talking to someone with whom you didn’t share a language but needed to communicate, you may know the feeling of building this bridge, just as the deaf kids I mentioned had to build.)

    Let’s go back to the deaf children at the orphanage. What if we just presume that they agree: this means that hand (left); this means that hand (right); this sign means that guy; this sign means this guy. And on and on. This gives you the commonality we need. No? This sign can mean potato, or whatever. Can you show me why we need more?

    Why do we need to both know and acknowledge that, potato = potato and doesn’t = anything else? (And if we do, why can’t we both come to that conclusion separately? If we did, how would that be any different than somehow reaching for that idea immaterially?)

    For example, babies have been well shown to not recognize object permanence. This is a pretty big break from the laws of logic no? Potato = no potato = potato. Yet they seem to communicate just fine.

    Dr. Turek concluded:Without that bridge, we’d be locked inside our own skulls unable to access or make sense of the external world. We use that bridge but we didn’t invent it.

    I mean, let’s look at babies, when a tiny baby cries for it’s mother’s milk, do you honestly think to yourself: wow, what a developed understanding of the laws of logic that kid must have. Do you think that of the dog wagging it’s tail.

    Honestly…

    Do you really truly think that the baby has to access and understand an immaterial law of logic to cry, and to have it’s mother say “oh, maybe he’s hungry!”? (Again, we can pretty well show, given we accept the assumption that the law of identity is correct, that babies don’t grasp it. They have a more quantum view, if you like.)

    Dr. Turek said to Toby: if everything was the result of blind material causes we would have no grounds to believe anything including your claim that everything is material

    Dr. Turek, you’ve said this sort of thing many times. I’ve never honestly understood why it should be true. (Or at least how it is any more true for materialism than anything else.)

    I’ve actually found it a rather curious point for you to deploy, because I think this is literally your favorite point to argue against!

    What you are saying is: on materialism, we cannot trust our conclusions.

    Let me ask, roadrunner style: Can we trust that conclusion?!?

    (If you say, well the lack of materialism is what allows me to draw to that conclusion, then you are simply begging the question which doesn’t get you anywhere either.)

    Seriously, would you say that this is correct: on materialism, there is no truth?)

    What you seem to be saying, is that on materialism, there is no fullproof, logically valid reason to trust our conclusions. In other words we cannot prove that our reason should be trusted. (Can we prove that we can’t prove it? Sorry, I love me some roadrunner.)

    I actually agree with you on this. In a materialistic worldview, we could choose to trust our reason, but it can’t be self-evidently shown that we should. (Maybe I’m wrong about this, this is just my view.)

    That said, why should we conclude that reason is to be trusted if G-d exists and dualism is correct?

    Let’s just look at one possibility. We can’t know that the world didn’t just pop into existence with us just having an implanted memory of past events. Since we cannot prove that it didn’t ( and we can’t prove that, right?), then how could we trust all of those memories on which we base so much of our lives on? I don’t see how we can prove that, but I’m open to being convinced.

    This is just one example, there must be millions. How can we prove that G-d didn’t make us feel that wrong conclusions are indeed right? I don’t see how we can prove that, but I’m open to being convinced.

    How do we know, for another example, that G-d, in order to ensure free will, didn’t develop a fully material consciousness and reasoning system? (After all, if it’s dependent on Him, is it really “free?” Maybe G-d made it completely independent to ensure true freedom. He could certainly do that, couldn’t He? If that’s the case, then you believe it shouldn’t be trusted, because it leaves you in the same position as you critique in materialism!

    These are all reasons why we might be mistrustful of the immaterial (or rather dual) brain. So yes, while there may be reasons to doubt the material brain, it at least seems that there are fewer of them. I mean, it just becomes one among a multitude of reasons. Right?

    And with materialism, at least we can see some positive result of the reason — survival itself. Wouldn’t we expect bad reasoning to be “less fit”?

    (By the way, have you ever been wrong? If so, that would seem quite a good argument for a materialistic worldview if your criteria are right? If dualism means our reason should be trusted, how could then reason lead us astray? If what you say of materialism is true, we’d expect to be wrong from time to time! If what you say of dualism is true, we should never be wrong.)

    Thanks,

    Luke

    ps I’d be interested in the answers to my questions, not just in this post, but in the one which actually answered (at your request) your original article. Maybe we can get back to that one day.

    Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Luke, If you want to have a trackable conversation, please limit your posts to one or two points or questions. I’m sorry, but I hardly have the time to comment here at all, and I certainly don’t have the time or interest to respond to 47 questions per post. Thanks! Frank

      Reply
  20. Luke says:

    Dr. Turek,

    Yeah, I can understand that (and there’s no need to apologize), but I hope that you can also appreciate that some issues are complex enough that you can’t simply sum them up in a paragraph.

    I briefly mentioned this in the post, but if only one or two points get addressed in response than it can easily seem as though the responder simply chose to focus on his/her strongpoints and simply ignored the difficult points. I just wanted to avoid that, basically to be respectful (I’m sure it’s frustrating to feel that someone has ignored your strongest points).

    So perhaps I wasn’t clear enough of this, but a large majority of my post was written only for this purpose. Only the brief top part was really what I was hoping you’d respond to. Again, sorry if that wasn’t clear enough.

    Now, Let me try to do what you’ve asked.

    In short, you’ve simply asserted a lot of things, but haven’t provided any reason why they are true. Some of this is because I think you are making some underlying assumptions, which I’m not sure about. So let me ask some questions (basically the ones I asked originally), but simplified to allow one word answers (again, I’m not trying to challenge you here, just find out where you are coming from).

    1. My first question would be of your view of logic as it relates to G-d. Do you take the Aquinian view (G-d is omnipotent in that G-d can do anything that is logically consistent) or the Cartesian view (G-d is prior to the laws of logic and not bound by them. G-d can do anything, even if it seems illogical to us)? In other words is G-d prior to the laws of logic, or is He bound by them just as we are?

    2. When you talk about the laws of logic, you are referring to something like the Laws of Thought, correct? not necessarily all that is involved in predicate logic.

    3. Do you believe that if the world were material only, the Law of Identity would still be true? In other words would a potato still be a potato, or do you think G-d is necessary to enforce that law? (Don’t read too much into my use of that word: enforce. I am trying to get across a general idea, not something specific.)

    I’d like to ask two other questions about how you see the larger picture.

    1. I’m reminded of a story about an orphanage for the deaf in South America in which the kids basically invented their own form of sign language. Do you think that they accessed some ever existing immaterial language and simply used it for their purposes?

    2. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a dog. But if you have, you might be aware of the phenomenon of the dog wagging its tail like crazy, along with other physical manifestations, when you come home. I think we pretty commonly recognize this as “the dog is happy.” So the dog is happy, and you understand that the dog is happy. Therefore the dog communicated the message “I am happy” to you (otherwise, how would you know)? Do you think the dog is also accessing and comprehending the immaterial laws of logic?

    So sorry, that’s five questions, but they are all very simple questions, which you should be able to answer either in one word, or if you wish one sentence.

    If you have any clarifying questions for me. I’ll be glad to answer.

    Thanks,

    Luke

    Reply
  21. Toby says:

    “Toby, your position is self-defeating. Again, you are using immaterial realities, such as the laws of logic, to say that no immaterial realities exist.”

    That’s an assertion. You’ve not really established that the immaterial exists or is necessary for thought. If you’re correct, then you’re using the immaterial to say that the immaterial exists which would leave you in no better shape that a materialist saying that material begets material answers.

    “Those laws provide the bridge between minds. They also provide a bridge to the outside world. Without that bridge, we’d be locked inside our own skulls unable to access or make sense of the external world. We use that bridge but we didn’t invent it.”

    This is another assertion. Could not sight also be a bridge? As well as sound? And as we share so much DNA one can assume we operate in much the same way . . . why think that one person would comprehend something drastically differently from another person that shares 99% of there DNA.

    Luke hits on many things I would ask based on our previous exchanges. To edit him down:

    Is G-d prior to the laws of logic, or is He bound by them just as we are?

    Do you believe that if the world were material only, the Law of Identity would still be true? If not then you’re saying that nature wouldn’t be stable.

    Do you think a dog (or any animal) is also accessing and comprehending the immaterial laws of logic (when it physically shows signs of happiness, sadness, etc)? If you say that animals such as gorillas can access these things then you’re saying that animals have souls something that is generally poo-pooed by your side of the isle.

    Reply
  22. Stephen B says:

    Frank: “but your mind doesn’t have to exist for there to be truth”

    Then why does God’s mind have to exist for there to be truth?

    Frank: “Ultimately, truth is grounded in a mind– the mind of God.”

    Then how can you say, effectively, “If there was no God, it would be true that no truth can exist”?

    THAT position is self-defeating.

    Reply
    • Luke says:

      Stephen said:Then how can you say, effectively, “If there was no God, it would be true that no truth can exist”?

      THAT position is self-defeating.

      Maybe it’s not self-defeating, maybe it’s a win-win.

      I mean, because you are right, if</b? all of Dr. T's assumptions are correct, then If there is no G-d, then it’s NOT true that there is no G-d”

      Of course, if there is a G-d, then it’s true that there is a G-d.

      It’s hard to find a better example of heads I win, tails you lose.

      It does make one question the assumptions.

      Luke

      Reply
    • Frank Turek says:

      Thanks for the question Stephen. Sorry I’ve been off this site for a while.
      To answer your question, we need to distinguish between the order of being and the order of knowing. The unmoved mover, ground of all being and truth, must exist before one can know anything. That’s because nothing would be grounded without God. Human minds can’t ground truth because we are changeable and temporal beings. The reason we can know anything is because God exists– he grounds truth and the laws of logic. So it is self-defeating to say “If there was no God, it would be true no truth can exist” but only if God exists to establish the laws of logic that make it self-defeating. So we have to smuggle God in to support a statement that denies he exists. This makes my brain hurt. But that’s the nature of grounding. You can’t get behind it. It’s the bedrock of all being and then knowing about being.

      Sometimes this is put as the difference between ontology and epistemology (see a previous comment I made above). I agree with atheists that they can know objective truth while denying God exists. But that’s like saying you can know what a book says while denying there’s an author. Of course you can do that, but there would be no book to know unless there was an author. Likewise, although atheists can know objective truth while denying God exists, there would be no objective truth unless God exists.

      Thanks for participating and keeping the comments relevant.
      Blessings this new year!

      Reply
  23. Toby says:

    Mr. T.,

    “The unmoved mover, ground of all being and truth, must exist before one can know anything.”

    So what you’re saying is that you are a presuppositional apologist. Nothing anyone says will make you change your mind because you think that in order for you to be able to think there must be a god or . . . what? What happens in this scenario? 1+1 doesn’t equal 2 because we’d be completely unable to even come up with the concept of 1 and 2? But physically things would exist in quantities. You know of course that numbers are just placeholders for physical objects or other measurements of physical objects. That’s why in science classes it’s drilled into students heads very early to make sure they use the units of things being calculated. Even in a math class it’s an unspoken assumption that the numbers being added, subtracted, multiplied are representative of something. It seems that you’re saying we wouldn’t be able to hold a concept in our heads. Or are you saying that the physical world wouldn’t be stable? Or would the universe be unstable JUST BECAUSE we couldn’t think about it?

    This whole “ontology vs epistemology” has always seemed like a dodge to me when brought up in debates. Now it seems you’ve exposed that you and your fellow apologists like Craig and Licona and Habermas are presupposionalists and all of this “reasonable faith” stuff is just a smokescreen of rhetoric. Saying that what you’re speaking of is ontology now reveals itself to be a version of Anselm’s ontological argument except you’re applying it objective moral values. It could be stated as, “I can imagine there are objective moral values, so therefore they exist.”

    Reply
  24. Frank Turek says:

    Hi Toby,
    I’m no expert in what Christian presuppositionalists believe, except I know that many believe that you can’t know anything unless the Bible is true. I don’t believe that at all. My position is what is often described as Aristotlism, Thomism or realism. But I hesitate to put names on it because then one assumes you believe everything that, say, Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas believes.

    We start with the self-evident laws of logic and sense experience to reason back to foundation for all that exists. Something must exist (ontology) before you can know it (epistemology). Everyone has presuppositions. I presuppose that reason and sense experience can lead me to conclusions about ultimate reality. The laws of logic, reason and sense experience, interpreted by a mind, all have an immaterial aspect to them. And when we follow them to a foundation, we wind up at the unmoved mover of Aristotle, Aquinas and others. If you are interested in investigating this line of thinking in some depth, I highly recommend Dr. Edward Feser’s book “The Last Superstition.” Have you seen it? http://www.amazon.com/Last-Superstition-Refutation-New-Atheism-ebook/dp/B00D40EGCQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388677194&sr=8-1&keywords=the+last+superstition

    Blessings, Frank

    Reply
  25. Robert says:

    “So it is self-defeating to say “If there was no God, it would be true no truth can exist” but only if God exists to establish the laws of logic that make it self-defeating.”

    That is just about as silly and ridiculous as it gets! Laws are nothing more than human observations. For example creationists like Frank believe that physical laws actually control the way things occur in the universe. Physical laws are human descriptions of what we see going on around us. That’s all they are. For example we don’t know why things thrown skyward fall back to Earth or why large objects attract or distort space time. The creationists tell us it’s the Law of Gravity that causes these things. But laws don’t cause things to happen they just describe what it looks like when they do. It’s the same thing with the laws of logic. We don’t need some magical law-giver to explain anything. We humans are the law-givers.

    As far as all this truthiness, Christianity is the enemy of truth and the faculty by which we arrive at truth: reason.

    Reply
  26. Toby says:

    “I’m no expert in what Christian presuppositionalists believe, except I know that many believe that you can’t know anything unless the Bible is true. I don’t believe that at all.”

    Your views really aren’t all that different. You do believe that the bible is true. Aside from believing that the bible is true, you presuppose that the world makes no sense without the supernatural or immaterial if you prefer. So how does one come before the other? It’s a bit of a circle.

    We’ve already seen that we disagree on logic being immaterial. You say I’m defeating myself and I say you’re trying to put descriptive laws of the physical world into the realm of the supernatural to fit your presupposition of supernaturalism.

    “Something must exist (ontology) before you can know it (epistemology).”

    How do you prove this? If the laws of logic are immaterial how can you know that they exist? If you say it’s your reason and sense experience, these two things are subjective so why should I trust your senses? you’ll say I’m using your supernatural laws to formulate all of these questions, but I reject that they’re immaterial or supernatural. I don’t see a reason to posit an invisible realm in order to elevate descriptions of how our brains work.

    How do you explain inventions? A car didn’t exist before we knew what it was.

    I haven’t seen Feser’s book. I’ll check my library.

    Reply
  27. Luke says:

    I just want to return to this for a second, becuase Dr. Turek asked for some specific questions, which he was provided by three separate people, and either I am misunderstanding the reply, or he’s failed to answer the very questions he asked for. Either way, I’d like to understand. I think this is an interesting idea.

    For example, Stephen asked: How can you say, effectively “If there was no [deity], it would be true that no truth can exist?”

    Dr. Turek answered: “We need to distinguish between the order of being and the order of knowing. The unmoved mover, ground of all being and truth, must exist before one can know anything. That’s because nothing would be grounded without G-d. Human minds can’t ground truth because we are changeable and temporal beings. The reason we can know anything is because G-d exists he grounds truth and the laws of logic.”

    I will give some credit for attempting to answer. However, here Dr. Turek has confused ontology (the nature of being) with epistemology (the nature of knowing).

    Stephen clearly talked about what exists, where as Dr. Turek is talking about what we can know. Perhaps Dr. T simply misunderstood the question.

    So this one I think I’ve understood, but I think Dr. Turek has simply failed to answer the question (or rather mistakenly answered a different question).

    The three other questions which have been repeated in various forms several times and from several commentators (since Dr. Turek asked for short simple questions) are (in Toby’s formulation):

    1. Is G-d prior to the laws of logic, or is He bound by them just as we are?

    2. Do you believe that if the world were material only, the Law of Identity would still be true?

    3. Do you think a dog is also accessing and comprehending the immaterial laws of logic when it physically shows signs of happiness, sadness, etc.?

    Again, perhaps those last three have been answered and I’ve failed to understand, in which case I’d be glad if anyone can dumb-down the answers for me.

    Cheers,

    Luke

    Reply
  28. Charles says:

    “The laws of logic are human inventions just like the laws of physics are.”

    Toby,

    So how can anything be true? Aren’t laws consistent descriptions for what we observe?
    If the laws of physics are man-made, as you say, how do things exist? Numbers are real, they are consistent and yet have no true beginning or end. For numbers to be real then something, somewhere must be true.

    Reply
  29. Toby says:

    We make a big deal of circular arguments here, but as far as I can tell there is a very circular argument that you as well as Frank and others support.

    Identity: Hydrogen = Hydrogen—circular. H is H because its H. Also entirely physical and hence grounded in the physical universe.

    Numbers aren’t real. They are concepts. Quantities of things are real. Even in math class there is an unspoken assumption that the numbers represent something. In science classes we’re constantly told “you must use your units of measure!” If the universe had never existed there would not have been minds to come up with the concept of numbers (which is just another language).

    Reply
  30. Charles says:

    Toby,

    Understood. I guess what I was getting at was numbers are real in the sense that they are consistent descriptors of things. I know they aren’t “real” as in physical but they make accuracy possible. Being that they are consistent we can measure which means some things are true and some things aren’t true.

    So, I am still a bit confused by Robert’s post. Physics existed prior to humans. We “discovered” methods to measure natural phenomena and concepts that are proven by consistent patterns. (numbers, geometry, etc.) Patterns signify the order of things which is how we can justify things like the symmetry of the physical world that was here before us. Am I missing something?

    Reply
  31. Toby says:

    “Being that they are consistent we can measure which means some things are true and some things aren’t true.”

    But that doesn’t require the supernatural to explain truth. People on your side of the argument like to capitalize the “t” to Truth. It’s an attempt to elevate a concept, a definition of fact, to a mystical level. Truth is either true due to physical realities or definitionally.

    Reply
  32. Terry says:

    Numbers aren’t real. They are concepts.

    So the set of real numbers aren’t real?? 😉

    You’re saying what here? What do you mean by “aren’t real”?

    Numbers do not exist?

    Numbers exist, but are timeless, spaceless, and immaterial?

    Numbers exist only as a configuration of atoms in a human brain?

    Reply
  33. Terry says:

    >>Truth is either true due to physical realities or definitionally.

    So if no matter existed, the idea that no matter exists would be… what? In this case, there is no matter, so it’s not due to a physical reality. It’s also not a definition.

    And how is that statement true by either a physical reality or a definition? You can use that as a definition of truth, I suppose, but where is the evidence that it is a correct definition?

    Reply
  34. Terry says:

    >> But that doesn’t require the supernatural to explain truth.

    Where do you believe that “truth” exists in physical form?

    In the mind of the observer? In that case, no one could ever be “wrong”. You have your truth that says a tail-wagging dog is friendly, and I have mine that says the same dog is vicious. Someone else believes it’s not a dog at all, but a cat in heat! If “truth” is held in the mind of the observer, then none of these ideas can be incorrect… they’re just that observer’s version of “truth”. This seems insufficient.

    It seems there must be another component… the idea in my brain must be consistent with reality before it can be considered “true”. So (even maintaining a materialistic worldview for awhile), truth is not dependent only on the atoms in the observer’s brain, but on whether or not the idea in that brain matches with something external to it.

    So you could say, I suppose, that the relationship is also held in the atoms of the observer… but now you have an infinite regression, the entirety of which is held in the brain of the observer with no real dependence on any external condition. This is an absurdity; to say that truth exists only in a human brain is self-defeating, because if it is true, then you can’t truly know anything outside of your own brain. But, the statement asserts that the entire universe works according to this definition of truth.

    Reply
  35. Charles says:

    “People on your side of the argument like to capitalize the “t” to Truth.”

    Actually, we capitalize the word Truth, more so, because we believe the Truth is personified in Christ; so (to the Christian) its more like a pronoun. So its not so much to elevate a concept but to be grammatically correct. I know its anthropomorphic to do so but just consider it an endearment on our part but that is beside the point. I assume you believe Christ to be a concept as well.

    “But that doesn’t require the supernatural to explain truth.”

    You’re right; it doesn’t necessarily. I would agree; there is a natural explanation of things in the physical universe. The problem is Truth or “reality” consists of information and information requires intelligence. It should make sense that the intelligence that provided the information within the physical universe precedes the universe. What you might call supernatural.

    Mathematics, logic and science are, indeed, the best “tools” for measuring and describing information in the physical universe so isn’t it rational to believe we were “given” the right tools?

    Reply
  36. Terry says:

    Luke:

    I’m not really qualified to answer on Dr. Turek’s behalf, but let me take a shot at a few of your questions. The good Doctor can clean up any mess I make later, if he wishes! 😉

    1. Is G-d prior to the laws of logic, or is He bound by them just as we are?

    What do you mean by “prior to”?

    This seems to me to be a category error of a sort. God is not bound by the laws of logic, he defines the laws of logic.

    Now by “defines”, I don’t mean that he “decides” what the laws of logic will be. I mean that what we call the laws of logic describes the way that God’s mind works, to the best of our ability to comprehend such a thing. The laws of logic are co-eternal with God; because God is immutable, he cannot have “learned” these laws, nor can he change them.

    Morality works the same way, but instead of describing the mind of God, morality describes the nature of God. The moral law is co-eternal with God. He cannot arbitrarily change them, because that would mean that God Himself would have to change.

    Reply
  37. Toby says:

    Numbers exist only in minds. They are a language of quantification. As such that doesn’t mean there aren’t quantities of things in the universe, but that if minds didn’t exist then the language to describe those quantities wouldn’t exist.

    “So if no matter existed, the idea that no matter exists would be… what? In this case, there is no matter, so it’s not due to a physical reality. It’s also not a definition.”

    If we assume that matter never existed then your question is nonsense as we can’t have definitions without brains. Your side of the argument think in terms of spaceless, timeless, and immaterial, but there is no proof whatsoever that any thought can happen in the absence of brains. In light of that all thoughts and ideas and concepts are temporal. So asking, “If before matter is it true that there is no matter” works only in a temporal context. Prior to matter existing the question would be null as it wouldn’t even be able to be asked. Truth is a concept bound by our physical reality. If it’s not, if it’s timeless, then when you say the statement, “There is no matter” you have a paradox if there is a physical reality in which at one point there is matter and another when there isn’t. Unless your assuming the time when the question is ask.

    “Where do you believe that “truth” exists in physical form?”

    Truth exists as a concept in minds. Minds exist in brains. Brains exist in the universe. Something that exists in the universe is natural.

    “In the mind of the observer? In that case, no one could ever be “wrong”. You have your truth that says a tail-wagging dog is friendly, and I have mine that says the same dog is vicious.”

    There’s this tendency on your side of things to jump to this idea of insane relativism and free for all. It seems to be just a trick of debate. You’re not talking about “truth” here, you’re talking about knowledge which can vary from person to person based on genetic ability to learn and access to information. Also the example is awful. A tail-wagging dog can bite you just as quickly as a growling one.

    “So (even maintaining a materialistic worldview for awhile), truth is not dependent only on the atoms in the observer’s brain, but on whether or not the idea in that brain matches with something external to it.”

    Yep, and it’s all physical.

    “to say that truth exists only in a human brain is self-defeating, because if it is true, then you can’t truly know anything outside of your own brain.”

    If you have even ONE input coming into the brain then you have a transmittance of external information. If you just had a brain with no sensory inputs whatsoever I might agree, but that’s not the case (and in that case you wouldn’t have anything we’d even call life—what would you be thinking if you’d never, NEVER, learned anything, saw anything, heard anything, felt anything, etc? That brain would be a living chunk of nothingness).

    Reply
  38. Terry L says:

    Stephen:

    If he can’t change them then he is bound by them.

    The implication of the argument is that there is something greater than God. Even if your statement is true, then God is binding Himself… ergo there is nothing implicit in that statement that is greater than God. Either interpretation defeats the thrust of the argument.

    Reply
  39. Terry L says:

    Toby:

    Yep, and it’s all physical.

    That leads to a question I’ve asked you before, but I want to ask again in a different way.

    We have a sufficient knowledge of physics to be able to launch the Mars Spirit Rover 487 million kilometers (total distance travelled) and land it safely on Mars. We can do such a feat because physics works the same throughout our solar system. Similarly, we take measurements from far-reaching parts of the universe because of this same assumption.

    We can be assured the chemical fuels in the rocket will react the same way every time. We can know that a given amount of thrust from that rocket will be sufficient to launch the mass of the craft on a trajectory that will deliver it precisely where we want it to be.

    Would you agree then, that given enough knowledge about a) every physical particle in the universe at time T, and b) the physics equations governing the interactions the matter in the universe, that we could c) know with some semblance of accuracy what Mt. Rushmore will look like in T + 100 million years?

    Truth is a concept bound by our physical reality. If it’s not, if it’s timeless, then when you say the statement, “There is no matter” you have a paradox if there is a physical reality in which at one point there is matter and another when there isn’t. Unless your assuming the time when the question is ask.

    Your assumption is correct, but just to make it clear, look at it this way: It’s now Feb 11, 2014, at least in my time-zone. At this time in history, the phrase, “Matter exists” is definitely true. Assume then that tomorrow, every single particle of matter disappears from the universe. We have space, we have time, we have energy in the form of energy, but not in it’s material form. Two days from now, assuming the matter does not return, the phrase “matter exists” will NOT be true. Even if I grant you that there will be no minds around to perceive it, the concept is still true. To look at it another way…

    Truth exists as a concept in minds. Minds exist in brains.

    So before the first living organism appeared on Earth, was the concept, “There is no life on this planet” true or false?

    Numbers exist only in minds.

    Well, I’m glad to see that you’re no longer claiming that numbers are defined by physical objects!

    But what makes a “mind” special? In your view, the mind is matter… nothing more, nothing less. Why can numbers exist only in minds if the mind is nothing more than matter? Why are you special pleading for a mind to be a magical repository of numbers that you claim do not exist?

    As such that doesn’t mean there aren’t quantities of things in the universe, but that if minds didn’t exist then the language to describe those quantities wouldn’t exist.

    Bait and switch. Let’s hack off the dependent clauses. What you’re really claiming is: “if minds didn’t exist then the _language_ to describe those quantities wouldn’t exist.”

    The non-existence of language to describe something is not the same thing as that which it describes. Ancient man had no language to describe germs… that doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist. We invented language as we discovered more and more truths about the world around us… truths that are external to us, not simply “in our minds”.

    It’s obvious that, whether or not there were life on the planet, there could exist a rock with three cracks in it. There might not be anyone around to know about it, but the three cracks would still exist. If it gained another one, it would have four cracks. We didn’t “invent” the rules of mathematics… we discovered them. They are what they are, and you can’t just say, “I don’t like exponents growing so quickly! I’m going to say that x to the nth power can never be greater than x*n!” It’s odd that something that does not exist could exert such constraints over the minds that presumably invented them!

    You’re not talking about “truth” here, you’re talking about knowledge which can vary from person to person based on genetic ability to learn and access to information.

    I’m simply asking where truth exists. You say that “truth exists as a concept in minds.” I’m challenging that assumption.

    Your statement here indicates that the idea of the dog in the mind of the observer is not the actual, real dog… what the observer has is knowledge about the dog. The “true” dog is the actual, living, breathing canine. We discover our knowledge of the true dog as information about the dog comes into our mind.

    But why should this be true for dogs and not for numbers? Did we not similarly discover that the number 10 was the positive square root of 100? We can’t simply go out and “invent” the next-biggest-known-prime number… it must be discovered!

    And similarly, your knowledge of numbers may be vastly superior to mine, but would that not indicate a reality to which our knowledge either conforms or does not conform?

    Reply
  40. Toby says:

    “Would you agree then, that given enough knowledge about a) every physical particle in the universe at time T, and b) the physics equations governing the interactions the matter in the universe, that we could c) know with some semblance of accuracy what Mt. Rushmore will look like in T + 100 million years?”

    I don’t think you need to go that far to know what Mt. Rushmore will look like in 100 million years. It’ll likely be a big eroded, crumbly mess. What you’re proposing is having a computer greater than the universe that would take more time than the universe has existed to compute the events of the entire universe for one day. With the uncertainties that quantum mechanics seem to present I don’t think the future is predictable in any meaningful way. Look how poorly weathermen do it.

    “We have space, we have time, we have energy in the form of energy, but not in it’s material form. Two days from now, assuming the matter does not return, the phrase “matter exists” will NOT be true. Even if I grant you that there will be no minds around to perceive it, the concept is still true.”

    Kind of a messy mess with energy and mass being equivalent. The concept is true because of a physical reality. I’m not saying thought creates physical realities. I’m saying “truth” is a description of physical reality (which doesn’t need a brain around) or something is true by our definition. A square is a four sided object with equal sides and four right angles. It’s true because we define it that way. Right now there are three sweet gum balls (damned miserable things) laying on top of the snow and ice outside my window. If I weren’t here, if no one were here, there would still be three gum balls sitting on the snow. So what? That’s physical reality. I don’t see how you’re arriving at supernatural whatever because of physics.

    “Why are you special pleading for a mind to be a magical repository of numbers that you claim do not exist?”

    By what means do you propose they exist independently?

    “We didn’t “invent” the rules of mathematics… we discovered them. . . . It’s odd that something that does not exist could exert such constraints over the minds that presumably invented them!”

    Again, it’s a language to describe the physical world that constrains it. We could completely describe relativity with words rather than math. It’d be a long, tedious thing. Math is a concise language.

    “I’m simply asking where truth exists. You say that “truth exists as a concept in minds.” I’m challenging that assumption.”

    As I said, it exists as a physical reality (three gum balls outside my window) or by our definition (a square has equal sides and four right angles).

    Reply
  41. Nova says:

    I loved one of your arguments, namely this one.

    “If this atheist argument were sound, then no argument could be sound. Why? Because if the law of causality only applied to physical things, then no argument would work because premises and conclusions are not physical things. For any argument to work—including arguments against God—the law of causality must apply to the immaterial realm because the components of arguments are immaterial.”

    Especially the last part. “The law of causality must apply to the immaterial realm because the components of arguments are immaterial”.
    This statement implies that god too has to have a cause, which removes theists solution to the infinite regress problem. That solution being “god is an uncaused cause and this is possible because he is immaterial and timeless”.

    Reply
  42. Asharism says:

    your argument would be much more stronger if you looked at AL-Ghazzali’s Doctrine in causality and his Asharism Sunni School that Explains The space-time with the singularity called ( AL Jawharul Fard ) and then The whole (“Causality works only in physical field”) Argument will instantly debunked with Logic.

    Reply
  43. Jim says:

    You’ve created a straw man. The law of causality (by definition) only applies in space-time.

    Drop the deliberate diversion of “physical things” which is a distraction that diverts the claim into the rabbit hole of materialism.

    Reply
  44. Rob Steele says:

    The idea “outside of space and time” is not really thinkable. The very word “outside” is a space word. We live and move in space and time and our thinking is more or less stuck here. But there is such a thing as “outside” and it is God. He creates everything that is not himself from nothing and that means that everything is either God himself or something God makes. Neither space nor time is God therefore they are part of creation and he transcends them. Space and time have their being in God rather than vice versa. Thinking about “outside space and time” is probably about as close as atheists come to thinking a true thought about the living God.

    Reply
    • toby says:

      I think the apologists arguments about the nature of god (spaceless, timeless, immaterial) expose that their god is literally nothing. How could such a being do anything without time? Change requires time to go from one thing to another. The type of causation they use in there arguments is some old aristatelian notion of causation that has complete special pleading. A sort of causation that an efficient cause can take no preexisting material and then cause it to be something.

      He creates everything that is not himself from nothing and that means that everything is either God himself or something God makes. Neither space nor time is God therefore they are part of creation and he transcends them. Space and time have their being in God rather than vice versa.
      What do you have to do to yourself to make you believe this makes any kind of sense? You’re saying the universe is in god? so there is such a thing as positions where god is? Saying where doesn’t even make sense if there’s no space! If there’s position, then god has some sort of space which would mean that apologists are wrong.

      Reply
  45. Joshua says:

    If there is no God then where is lasting purpose and meaning in life? Is there none to be found? Are “thugs of hope” mere superficial or artificial self serving delusions? Is not everything futile and meaningless? Accident and chance? Everything you would work for and accomplish is undone and forgotten given a long enough timeline. Eventually the sun will burn out and no civilization will exist in the galaxy to remember or care about any of it. So how could anyone have meaning or purpose in their life without it just simply being them telling themselves that this has meaning and purpose when it ultimately does not? Even if they have a number of people who agree that this was important for this or that reason, what they’ve worked for will eventually become obsolete and useless and ultimately discarded and forgotten. Is all we have just a temporary self delusion to improve our sense of personal significance as we tumble toward the same fate of expiration with varying degrees of time and type as a no account reckless sociopath bludgeoning his way through rapturous selfishness and destruction to this very same state of cessation of existence?

    Reply
    • toby says:

      I feel sorry for your pets. Apparently they are meaningless since they don’t have free will and can’t think and have no purpose because they just die and that’s that, thhhhhhpt, see you later alligator, don’t forget to write.

      Wow, trees are useless because they have no eternal purpose. And rocks. Earth’s atmosphere. Our sun. All of these things are meaningless, purposeless drek!

      Reply
      • Joshua says:

        Pets are useful my caring for them make me feel better about myself but so what is my meaning and putpose for being here to make myself feel significant by housing and caring for pets? After I’m gone what have I really done with my ecistence? I didn’t say trees are useless. Do you find your meaning in the existence of trees? Yeah they’re useful to you temporarily and serve a purpose to the earth’s ecosystem. But so what? We’re basically here by accident and any meaning we superficially appropriate to our experiences are just that: superficial and self-serving. I’m just wondering what do you suppose the point is? What’s the point to toil for survivability and social cohesion and service to those less fortunate when we basically end up just the same way as the greedy sadistic barbarian. Everything I do even if I accomplish and establish much will be left to who knows what kind of people after me. In a few hundred years personally nothing I do will be left or remembered or cared about anyway. I gain approval in society by adherening to its agreed upon parameters but in the end what does that get me? Just asking if you can convince me it’s worth my while not to go on a self-serving destructive binge regardless of laws and what true meaning would I find there?

        Reply

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