What Explains the Changing of the Universe?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Everything around us is changing, moving from one state to another in time.  My son was less than 5 feet tall two years ago, and now he is greater than 5 feet tall.  The grass in my yard is growing every week so that I have to cut it.  The paint on my house is fading.

Now, all of these things that are changing are moving from one state to another.  What could move a thing from one state to another?  It doesn’t seem like the thing itself could do that, all by itself.

Food, air, and water contribute to my son’s changing height.  The sun and water grow the grass.  The environment acts on the paint to cause it to fade.  My son cannot be the sole explanation for his change, nor can the grass or paint change themselves.  These things all have the potential for change, but there is always something external that acts on that potential to make the change occur.

It doesn’t stop there, though, because food, air, water, the sun, and the environment also need an explanation for why they change.  They cannot actualize their own change either.

So, what we have is a universe full of changing things that each need an explanation for that change.  Said another way, we have a universe full of potentialities, all of which need things to actualize them.

The universe, though, is the sum total of all these changing things.  It is the sum total of all time, space, and matter.  If everything in the universe is changing, then logically the universe is also changing.  What, then, is the explanation for the universe changing?  It cannot change itself, as we’ve seen.  There must be something outside of it, and that something cannot be in time, in space, or material.  The theist responds that God is outside time, space, and matter, and is therefore a great candidate for the explanation of the changing of the universe.

One last thing, if the explanation for the changing of the universe is also changing, then it also needs an explanation.  But Christians have always held that God is unchanging Therefore, God is the immaterial, nonspatial, eternal, and unchanging Source of all change.

Here is the argument in a syllogism:

  1. Everything that changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.
  2. The universe is changing.
  3. The universe needs an explanation of its change outside of itself.

Note: Credit for this form of the argument goes to Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in their book, Handbook of Christian Apologetics.

  • Boz

    This is a fallacy of Composition

  • Boz,

    Not sure how you come to that conclusion Boz. The universe IS me, you, the earth, the sun, etc… those things change, and they ARE the universe. Therefore, the universe changes.

    You need to provide at least some justification for your claim.

    Darrell

  • Boz

    In this post by Bill Pratt, there are two ideas, which have been mixed together. The first is:

    All of the parts of the object O have the property P.
    Therefore, O has the property P.
    (O = universe ; P = changing)

    The second is:

    All of the parts of the object O have the property P.
    Therefore, O has the property P.
    (O = universe ; P = “caused by another thing”)

    Now, an argument from composition is either valid or a fallacy, depending on whether the property, P, is an “Expansive” property. A property which distributes from all of the parts to the whole an Expansive property. If the property, P, is Expansive, then this argument has a valid form. If the property, P, is not Expansive, then this argument is fallacious.

    For a property to be Expansive, it must be absolute (as opposed to relative), and structure-independent.

    Orange-coloured, metallic, and changing are examples of absolute properties, because they are not depending on or qualified by anything else. So the first argument is valid.

    Small, lightweight, and “caused by another thing” are examples of relative properties, because they depending on or are qualified by something else. So the second argument is a fallacy.

  • David Cobb

    How do the “well established” laws of thermodynamics play into this argument.

    1. Matter (energy) is niether created nor destroyed.
    2. A closed system will tend to greater and greater entropy.
    3. In a close system entropy approaches a limiting mimimum value.

    ?

  • Bill Pratt

    Boz,
    The argument says that whatever changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself. You concede that the universe is changing, but you then seem to be saying that the universe does not need an explanation outside of itself for its change. Why is the universe exempt from this principle? How can it change from one state to another, but have no explanation for this change outside of itself?

  • Bill Pratt

    David,
    Could you elaborate a little more? I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

  • David Cobb

    Bill,

    From the vantage point of science, the reason for “change” in the universe is the law of entropy. In your argument, I see you positing that the creator God is behind this, I completely agree, but I am not certain as to the logic of your premises and conclusion.

  • Bill Pratt,

    I am curious if you understand why this argument is unconvincing to non-believers. First, because as Boz pointed out, it commits a logical fallacy, but even if we could somehow tighten it up to avoid the logical fallacy (and I am not sure how,) it still fails on its own premises.

    You make the claim the force “outside” the universe (God) is unchanging, but then you immediately describe that force as changing! At the least it changed from a non-universe-creating-God to a universe-creating-God. (And subsequently from a universe-but-not-Earth-creating-God to an Earth-creating-God and so on.)

    This seems to be bait-and-switch. Claim God is unchanging; then explain how God changed. Same as claiming God is timeless or outside time; then claiming God acts within time (by “beginning” the universe. To “begin” requires time. If a God acted by making something “begin” it has to act within time, and therefore is not timeless.)

    As God is changing, we plug it into your argument:

    P1: Everything that changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.
    P2: God is changing.
    C: Therefore God needs an explanation for change outside of God.

    [I should note in addition to the composition fallacy, Dan Barker points out quite well (IMO) how Kalam’s begs the question and this argument would seem to do likewise for the same reason.]

    Again, you are free to give this snippet responses; I just wonder if you recognize why it is only convincing to other theists (and even then, not all) but unconvincing to non-believers.

  • Bill Pratt

    Dagoods,
    This argument may be unconvincing to you, as virtually all arguments that hint at the truth of Christianity are, but I don’t see how you can speak for all non-believers. Surely some non-believers have found this argument to be be persuasive. Besides, perfectly sound arguments will not convince a person who does not want to accept them. You can lead a horse to water….

    With regard to God changing, God, himself, does not change from one state of being to another. He is not becoming anything, as he already is all that he will ever be.

    His relationships to created things change (because those things are changing), but God himself is not changing. If I am standing on one side of a door, and then walk around to the other side of the door, has the door, itself, changed? Of course not. The door’s relationship to me has changed, but that is all. The act of God creating the universe does not change the essential nature of God.

    As for the alleged composition fallacy, nobody has shown me why the universe is exempt from the principle of needing an explanation of its change. If I am specially pleading for God’s changelessness, than you and Boz are specially pleading for the universe being exempt from a principle that everything inside of it is not exempt from.

  • Bill Pratt

    David,
    Entropy is one kind of change in the universe, and it needs an explanation. What explains the law of entropy? Surely it cannot explain itself. Entropy stands in the long chain of explanations, just as everything else in the universe does.

    There must be an unchanging Source of all change. We can posit God as this Source or we can posit something else that is unchanging, but to say that we can have an infinite regress of changing things explaining each other seems like madness.

  • Bill Pratt,

    I haven’t read a non-believer who subsequently became a theist because of a cosmological argument, while I have read non-believers who did become theists for other reasons. That tells me it can’t be very effectual. *shrug* Perhaps I’m just not reading in the right spots.

    Are you saying there is absolutely no difference between a God that creates a universe and a God that does not create a universe? Really?

    The composition fallacy (as I understand it) is the problem of sets. Once you have an entire “set,” simply because all the elements within that set have a characteristic, it does not mean the entire set must have that characteristic.

    I’ll try two (2) examples to clarify.

    P1. We cannot see atoms with the naked eye.
    P2. Cats are made up with atoms.
    C. Therefore we cannot see cats.

    Immediately we see the problem in that we DO see cats. Simply because individual atoms have the characteristic of being unseen, does not mean an entire “set” of atoms—here: a cat—must also be unseen. Or, if we talking about “sets,” let’s try a mathematic example:

    P1. When counting integers, to get to the next integer, you must add “1.”
    P2. The entire set of integers is infinity.
    C. Therefore, to get to the next integer beyond infinity, we must add “1.”

    (A classic problem, if one has children, a car, and a vacation!)

    Again, we see the problem, because we cannot add “1” to the entire set of integers to get to the next integer, because that would be an integer NOT in the entire set of integers, in logical violation of the second premise which already includes all the integers.

    Does that make sense? Once we have ALL the integers in a “set”—it is impossible to add “1” to get to an integer outside of the set, because we have already defined all the integers as being IN the set. Even though every integer within the set would have the characteristic of adding “1” to get to the next integer.

    While the universe is not infinite (as near as we can tell), I hope the examples explain the problem.

    Again, though, if we start to make claims there is something “outside” the universe causing changes “within” the universe, we are left with the same problem as to that thing “outside” and what is causing it to change, and what is causing it to change it to change it…a potentially infinite regression.

  • Bill Pratt

    Dagoods,
    I still don’t see how I have committed the fallacy of composition in my argument. You have explained the fallacy well, but I’m not seeing where I made this mistake.

    “Are you saying there is absolutely no difference between a God that creates a universe and a God that does not create a universe? Really?”

    Yes, I am saying that. The universe is dependent on God, but God is not dependent on the universe. The existence of the universe in no way changes the nature of God. His nature is the same with a universe or without it. This has always been the position of classical Christian theism.

  • Bill Pratt,

    Would you say God had a choice as to whether to create a universe?

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt said: “I still don’t see how I have committed the fallacy of composition in my argument. You have explained the fallacy well, but I’m not seeing where I made this mistake.”

    The argument is fallacious because it has the form:

    All of the parts of the object O have the property P.
    Therefore, O has the property P.
    (where P is relative (as opposed to absolute))

    DagoodS’ cat/atom example is another example of this fallacious form. The property, P, “seen with the naked eye’, is relative (not-absolute).

    Do you see how the argument has this form?

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt said: “The argument says that whatever changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself. You concede that the universe is changing, but you then seem to be saying that the universe does not need an explanation outside of itself for its change. Why is the universe exempt from this principle? How can it change from one state to another, but have no explanation for this change outside of itself?”

    Showing that the argument is fallacious does not show that the conclusion “the universe is caused by another thing” is false. Showing that the argument is fallacious does not show that the conclusion is true. THe conclusion is true or false for other reasons. Showing that the argument is fallacious merely demonstrates that the argument provides no support to the conclusion.

    It may be the case that the conclusion of a fallacious argument is true, or it may be the case that the conclusion of a fallacious argument is false. A fallacious argument says nothing about the truth-ness or false-ness of the conclusion. A fallacious argument has no persuading power.

    Here is an example.

    If A then B.
    B.
    Therefore, A.

    This is a fallacious argument (affirming the consequent).

    P1 If Elizabeth Blackburn is born in Tasmania, she is born in Australia.
    P2 she is born in Australia.
    C1 Therefore, she is born in Tasmania.

    P1, P2, and C1 are all true! However, this argument has no persuading power because it is fallacious. No one should accept that the conclusion is true due to this argument. The conclusion should be accepted or rejected for other reasons.

    P1 If Elizabeth Blackburn is born in Queensland, she is born in Australia.
    P2 she is born in Australia.
    C1 Therefore, she is born in Queensland.

    P1 and P2 are true and C1 is false.

    Bill Pratt said: “As for the alleged composition fallacy, nobody has shown me why the universe is exempt from the principle of needing an explanation of its change”

    Showing that the argument is fallacious does not show that the conclusion is false. The conclusion is true or false for other reasons.

    Bill Pratt said: “If I am specially pleading for God’s changelessness, than you and Boz are specially pleading for the universe being exempt from a principle that everything inside of it is not exempt from.”

    I’m not using special pleading because I am not making an argument. And I can’t see DagoodS arguing that the universe is uncaused, either.

  • David Cobb

    Bill,

    What I am not yet able to wrap my small brain around yet is P1.

    P1 Everything that changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.

    For the “total” naturalist, the law of entropy is simply a consequence of the “natural” initionalization of the physical laws and constants put into place at the “birthing” or “bubbling” of the universe we find ourselves in. Perhaps, I see the argument incorrectly, but the complete naturalist sees no presence, indeed no need, for an uncaused first cause.

  • Bill Pratt

    Boz,
    I don’t see how P (a thing changing from one state to another) is relative and not absolute, as you put it.

  • Bill Pratt

    “Would you say God had a choice as to whether to create a universe?”

    Yes

  • Bill Pratt

    Boz,
    So you agree that the universe needs an explanation for its change outside of itself, but you just don’t think the way I argued the case works?

  • Bill Pratt

    David,
    Where did those physical laws and constants come from? Does the naturalist not need to explain this?

  • Bill Pratt,

    Then describe something for me. Explain how this claimed God-concept of yours makes a choice.

    BUT….[here’s the insurmountable problem I cannot seem to overcome]… in your explanation you cannot use time (this God is timeless), cannot use material or space (this God is immaterial and non-spatial) and cannot use change (this God is unchanging.)

    This is why these arguments are never compelling to me (and to a number of other non-theists.) In order to argue for a God, I see theists claim this God has attributes such as being timeless, immaterial, unchanging, etc. But when we start getting specific about such a creature, the theists starts utilizing time, material, change, space, etc. when describing what this God does.

    Make it simple—without using time (because time is a measurement of change) how can you describe God initiating the universe? Even the terms “initiate” or “begin” or “cause” all have time elements contained within. (And, although you don’t agree with it, I would argue have change elements contained within as well.)

    You claim your God makes a choice, but cannot change. How can that be? How can there be choice with no change?

  • “Where did those physical laws and constants come from? Does the naturalist not need to explain this?”

    The naturalist would love to explain it, and much has been hypothesized that offers a purely natural and reasonable explaination. Someday these natural hypotheses will be codified into scientific law. Until that time there is no need to conjure an explanation beyond reason. It is simply acceptable to say “for now, we just don’t know, but we are working on it.”

  • David Cobb

    @Philistine Dog

    The naturalist runs into a severe “head wind” with infinite reduction and regression regarding first cause. The science (cosmology) is pretty well settled, though one CAN say, in general, science is always learning, always questioning, and should always be seeking absolute truth. The same should be said of skeptics and believers alike, if we desire to be intellectually honest. Cosmology has reasonably well defined that there was a “begiining” to this space and time we call a universe. No doubt, coutless and at times extravagant ideas have been posited in order to remove the need for a beginning, be it super string theory, infinite (bubble) universes etc, but they all by reduction come back to a necessary first cause. As a natural scientist, (not a particularly good one though) I wish to always seek the truth as absolutely as I possibly can. If I may, my biggest gripes with the naturalist is that they, at times, with great credulity will do anything to avoid even entertaining the possiblitiy (assigning a Probablity value of 0) of the metaphysical. In truth, however slight one might consider the possiblility of a creator and designer, to be intellectually honest, one should allow for that possibility. In the intellectual realm, what harm can come of the analysis and reason associated with such.

  • DoOrDoNot

    Bill Pratt,
    How are you defining “change” in this discussion? I, like DagoodS, am wondering how there can be choice with no change. I don’t even understand how God is changeless, in light of scriptures which seem to indicate that he does change His mind. Is it necessary for Him to be changeless?

    In response to DagoodS’ question about God’s changelessness, you said “The universe is dependent on God, but God is not dependent on the universe. The existence of the universe in no way changes the nature of God.” I don’t understand what God’s independence from the universe has to do with the idea of God changing. Those seem to be separate concepts to me.

    I am a believer, but the concept of God is starting to make less and less sense to me.

  • Matt Salmon

    DagoodS,
    God created time, matter, space, change and choice. We don’t have a word in our language to describe God’s creation without evoking a sense of time because we humans have never known timelessness. God caused time to exist and God exists without time and beyond time; He does exist only within the universe but also outside it.

    Concerning God’s choices, He does not choose within time as we humans do, but He chooses the time when he intervenes as a builder knows to let concrete set (according to plan) and exits from interaction with the building (as God exits from time). The builder then returns to work on the house in the same way that God enters time. The builder’s plans have not changed and he does everything according to plan. Neither are God’s choices a reaction to the world and certainly don’t change who He is, but God already made every choice before he set the foundations of the universe and carries them out when the universe is ready for him, rather than vice versa. God’s choices do not mean that he changed his mind, but that he revealed himself to the world.

    Bill Pratt,
    Isn’t each change in the natural world accompanied by its opposite (Newton’s third law, the laws of conservation of mass and energy)
    and if the universe is the sum of all its parts, then the universe isn’t changing.
    If the universe=10 because it is made of 2+5+3 then the parts of the universe could change to 1+3+4+2 and the universe=10 still.

  • David Cobb

    @Dagood

    Are you thus taking the position that everything in the universe is causally deterministic. In theological terms, everything is predestined? That sounds vaguely familiar to the God of John Calvin and most adherents to doctrines of grace, et al.

    With all due respect, I do not see and glean the same God from the pages of scripture and the experiences of life. I rather, see God as sovereign and man with at least some degree of freedom. I have not problem with a God who can be completely sovereign and yet allow his creation “freedom” of will. In fact, he is so sovereign as to be able to accomplish whatever he wishes within this context of creaturely freedom.

  • Matt Salmon: We don’t have a word in our language to describe God’s creation without evoking a sense of time because we humans have never known timelessness.
    .
    And that’s where the argument should end. You are correct we have absolutely no concept (let alone words) to understand how anything operates timelessly. Or being completely immaterial. Or incapable of change. Everything we know, observe, postulate, think about or discuss involves time, material and change. Everything. (Even “nothing” requires us to understand “something” to realize what “nothing” is!)

    Yet the problem is, once the theist says that, there really isn’t anything else to say about their God. They can’t comprehend how It/he/she operates. They cannot observe it (at best they can only observe effects.) They cannot understand it; they cannot articulate it.

    But theists so rarely stop there. After telling me we cannot understand timelessness….they describe the God operating in time! You do it yourself. (I’m not trying to pick on you personally—this is fairly standard.)

    The very next statement you make after this one is, “God caused time…” Notice that sentence requires time in order for God to go from God-and-no-time to God-and-time! You talk about God entering and exiting time; again this takes time! It takes time (even on the supernatural plane) to go from God being outside time to God being inside time.

    Or another example: you indicate God made choices “…before he set the foundations of the universe.” “Before.” “Before” requires time. (And still leaves us with the same problem with describing the choices themselves without using time, space, material, change, regardless when they occurred.)

    And to make choices (as near as I can tell) requires change.

    I am unconvinced when theists start off telling me of a place that is unobservable, unverifiable, and so incomprehensible we cannot remotely articulate what it is like. Immediately followed by the theist telling how that place has justice or love or morals because we have justice, love and morals. Convenient. And the theist telling me that place does NOT have time, material or changes. Because we…have…time, material…and…wait a minute…was there just a complete and contradictory change in method or was it just me? *wink*

    If we are completely unable to describe a God who makes a choice, while being timeless, immaterial and unchanging without contradicting ourselves…why should I possibly believe it exists?

  • David Cobb,

    No, I do not think everything within the universe is deterministic. Quantum mechanics (with the very, VERY little I understand it) provides enough indeterminate to provide possible non-determined results. All operating with the accepted laws of nature, of course.

  • Matt Salmon

    Are you saying, because you with your finite mind cannot comprehend an infinite god, that he does not exist? Why should infinity be comprehensible? Why would humans have a word to describe timelessness, when we cannot escape time? I let my words slip in the quote you used; what I meant was that God is independent of time and God IS not constrained by time. I do not pretend to comprehend (fully understand) these things, but I apprehend (partially understand) them based on the Bible and conclusions drawn from other premises. In reality, there is nothing finite which man can fully understand. That’s why quantum physics is researched, because comprehension includes knowing all the “why?” questions. Why then should you disbelieve in a god who is incomprehensible? That’s the only kind of god there can really be. A comprehensible god would be man-made.

    And where did you get this idea of “supernatural time”?

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt said: “Boz, I don’t see how P (a thing changing from one state to another) is relative and not absolute, as you put it.”

    There are two arguments that are made in the OP. They both have the same form:

    All of the parts of the object O have the property P.
    Therefore, O has the property P.
    argument 1:(O = universe ; P = changing)
    argument 2:(O = universe ; P = “caused by another thing”)

    I suspect that P=’changing’ is absolute(definition: not depending on or qualified by anything else)

    P=’caused by another thing’ is non-absolute(relative). because it depends on or is qualified by something else.

    so, argument 2 is fallacious, and I suspect that argument 1 not fallacious.

    Bill Pratt said: Boz, So you agree that the universe needs an explanation for its change outside of itself,

    The universe may be caused, or uncaused, or the idea of cause may not apply. I don’t know which one it is. I’m leaning towards the latter.

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt said: “but you just don’t think the way I argued the case works?”

    That’s right!

    Just as if I had argued that: XXXXperson was born in England, therefore they were born in London.

    The argument (argument 2) in the OP should not persuade anyone. It has no persuading power. Because it is a fallacy.

  • Boz

    Matt Salmon said: “Bill Pratt, Isn’t each change in the natural world accompanied by its opposite (Newton’s third law, the laws of conservation of mass and energy)
    and if the universe is the sum of all its parts, then the universe isn’t changing.
    If the universe=10 because it is made of 2+5+3 then the parts of the universe could change to 1+3+4+2 and the universe=10 still.”

    Matt, this is an interesting point, and one that I have been thinking about.

    If the universe reconfigured (from “ABCD” to “DCBA”), does that qualify as ‘change’?
    Or does ‘change’ require an addition or subtraction (“ABCD” to “ABCDE”) ?

    That depends on the definition of change that we agree to use.

    If our definition of ‘change’ accepts reconfiguration, then the argument in the OP that concludes that the universe is changing is sound.

  • Bill Pratt

    Boz,
    The only thing I apply to the whole (the universe) because of the parts is change, which you say is absolute. Therefore, the fallacy of composition is not applicable. My first premise stated that “Everything that changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.” Everything includes the universe. I have not said “everything inside the universe needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.” I said everything. Therefore I have not argued from the parts to the whole in that case.

    It seems that what you really don’t agree with is the first premise. You believe that the universe is exempt from the premise, but you have never explained that exemption. You just keep explaining the fallacy of composition. Again, I did not argue that everything inside the universe needs an explanation for change, therefore the universe needs an explanation for its change.”

    You said: “The universe may be caused, or uncaused, or the idea of cause may not apply. I don’t know which one it is. I’m leaning towards the latter.” I take this to mean: “I choose to forgo the very basic law of causality to avoid God.” That says a lot about how strongly you are trying to avoid the idea of a First Cause, doesn’t it?

  • Bill Pratt

    Dagoods,
    You said:
    “And that’s where the argument should end. You are correct we have absolutely no concept (let alone words) to understand how anything operates timelessly. Or being completely immaterial. Or incapable of change. Everything we know, observe, postulate, think about or discuss involves time, material and change. Everything. (Even “nothing” requires us to understand “something” to realize what “nothing” is!)”

    You seem to be hung up on how we use language to talk about God. Christian theology uses analogical language. We take positive concepts, such as goodness or existence (where there are no implied limitations or imperfections in the meaning of the concepts), and we apply those concepts to God without limit. Why? Because God is an infinite being, so any concepts applied to God in a positive sense must be applied to God in an infinite (unlimited) way.

    Concepts that carry limits or imperfections in them are applied to god negatively. That is why all of the metaphysical attributes of God are expressed negatively. God is infinite (not finite), eternal (not temporal), immutable (not changing), uncaused (not caused), and so forth. This is called the Via Negativa. Because God is a transcendent being, any term (such as temporality or materiality) that is applied to God which implies limits or imperfections must be negated. Without this negation, God becomes a finite and limited being who is nothing like what we find in Scripture.

    One last thing. You claim that we don’t know what these negative concepts mean, but I don’t think that’s correct. If I know what change means, then I know what not changing means. As you said, we know what something is, so we know what nothing is. Nothing is the absence of something. Eternal is the absence of temporality. Infinite is the absence of limits. So when you say these concepts don’t mean anything, I think you’re wrong. The very fact that you wrote a whole paragraph about how we don’t experience life eternally, immaterially, and changelessly necessarily implies that you know what is meant by these concepts! How can you even talk about these concepts if you don’t know what they mean?

  • David Cobb

    @ Dagoods

    I am in complete agreement with you with regards to quantum physics, mechanics and the uncertainty principle. In my estimation, being a theist, I view quantum mechanics as the mechanism by which God instituted a degree of “free will” into his creation. It provides the “wiggle room” for an element of indeterminancy. But being a theist, I also view God as being omniscient. I can only wish I could make these two positions consistent with one another, until then I will simply settle for them being juxtaposed. Non-theists, who often attempt with great travail to establish models of cosmology requiring no “first cause” (God) often ignore “Occhams Razor”.

  • Bill Pratt

    Doordonot,
    God does not change his mind because change implies time, imperfection, finitude, and complexity (among other things). These are all attributes of God that have been negated by theologians, because they all imply limitations/imperfections in God. God’s “choices” have always been made. There was not a time A where God did not choose and then a time B where God did choose. He exists outside of time and does not make sequential, moment by moment decisions like humans do. All of his choices are in one eternal Now. He stands above our timeline and looks down on all time as one moment.

    To us, the creation of the universe happened in time and seems to be a change in God’s mind. But from God’s perspective, He had always “made that choice” outside of time.

    Think about this. If God changes, then He cannot be perfect. Change implies acquiring something new, but if God acquires something new, then how could he be perfect before and after he acquired something new? If the change made him perfect, then he wasn’t perfect before. If he was perfect before, then the acquired thing would make him imperfect. Bottom line: perfection and change are incompatible in God.

    Here’s another one for you. If God changes his mind, then how can he be omniscient (all-knowing)? A person only changes their mind when they acquire new information. How does an all-knowing being acquire new information? Change and omniscience are incompatible in God.

    When I was talking about God being independent of creation, that was to show that change in creation does not imply a change in God. If God was somehow connected to creation – if it was a part of him that he depended on – then change in creation would necessitate change in God. Since he is independent of creation, then creation can change and not cause a change in God.

    Hope this helps.

  • Bill Pratt

    “Until that time there is no need to conjure an explanation beyond reason.”

    Infinite bubble universes are reasonable and the God hypothesis is not?? Wow! You have really been drinking the naturalist Kool Aid…. 🙂

  • Matt Salmon,

    No, simply because I do not understand a God with my finite mind does not mean it can’t exist. (Or, to rid myself of all the double negatives—An incomprehensible concept, including God, can exist despite it being incomprehensible.)

    But if it really IS incomprehensible—let’s leave it at that. Not try to contain it in phrases like “beyond time” or “outside time” or “independent of time” because words like “beyond” and “outside” and “independent” have meaning…meaning that is inapplicable because this is incomprehensible.

    No, the problem comes when we place this incomprehensible being as being unobservable and unverifiable as well. Not only can we not comprehend it; we can’t know what we don’t know! (To paraphrase Rumsfield.) At that point we can say everything and/or nothing about it.

    For example, because God operates “independent” of concepts we do know—such as time, space, and change—is there any reason it must operate within the constraints of logic? How could we argue against a theist who claims, “God is incomprehensible, and acts independent of logic?” As near as I can tell—we can’t. Due to our inability to observe, verify or confirm.

    And if God is “independent” of logic then using logical arguments–such as this blog entry– would fail as it is inapplicable to God. If I can’t use time when describing God (because this God is defined as incomprehensibly “independent” of time), how can I know to use logic because likewise this God could be incomprehensibly “independent” of logic!

  • Bill Pratt,

    As I suspected; we apparently cannot describe God making a choice without using concepts such as time, space, material and change.

    So doesn’t all this become speculative word-regurgitation where we make statements without any way to verify whether we are close, far off, or completely wrong?

    Yes, I am a bit hung up on language…I am unaware of any other way to communicate with other humans to learn about possible God-concepts. I haven’t mastered psychic abilities! *grin* And if people are going to use words about God, I would hope those words have meaning! Otherwise I could say, “God is a colorless green idea sleeping furiously” and we are left with an inability to determine the accuracy of the statement.

    And yes, I understand how we can have “no time” by virtue of having time. (Infinity of time is different than “timelessness” or “beyond time” or “independent of time.” Infinity still has time occurring.) What I DON’T understand is how one acts with “no time.” How can a God, without time, go from being just God to God-and-universe?

    This is why utilizing analogies (as you correctly indicate Christian theology often does) fails. The very idea of an analogy is that it corresponds to the point being made. We analogize plants growing to children growing because we understand plants and understand children. Once we indicate what we are analogizing to is incomprehensible, there is no way to determine whether the analogy is correct! Speaking of analogies, I may have written this to you before, but I think it is an analogy indicative of what I am talking about:

    Theist: God is square
    Non-theist: So God has four equal sides with four right angles?
    Theist: No! God’s “squareness” is not like our “squareness.”
    Non-theist: Then what is the point of claiming “God is square”?

    Bill Pratt: God does not change his mind because change implies time, imperfection, finitude, and complexity (among other things).
    .
    Yet likewise “choice” also implies time, and implies change which, according to you, would then imply imperfection, finitude and complexity. (Not sure I necessarily agree with those; but we certain agree with time being a requirement.)

    You indicated God made a choice to create the universe. That “choice” implies time you indicate God does not have. Either this is incompatible, OR we are stuck saying it is incomprehensible, meaning it could be completely wrong.

    Bill Pratt, it appears to this non-theist (and I could be completely wrong) that you want your cake and eat it too. You do not want change (which implies time) but want choice, which equally implies time.

  • “Infinite bubble universes are reasonable and the God hypothesis is not?? Wow! You have really been drinking the naturalist Kool Aid…. ”

    Who exactly offered “infinite bubble universes” as an explanation in this discussion. In fact I have done everything I can to keep our discussions centered on what is verifiable in nature. I have never once offered a theoretical solution to your far-fetched claims. Further I have repeatedly stated that I am secure in stating simply we don’t know yet, therefore there is no reason fill in the gaps with something unreasonable and supernatural.

    So I guess you are going to continue to dodge my objections?

  • Matt Salmon and Bill Pratt,

    You both referred to the God of the Bible (Scripture) as conforming to the descriptive God in this discussion. I hope this slight side-bar helps to describe the differing approaches being taken here.

    I was a Christian. I firmly believed in the God of the Bible; I found cosmological arguments philosophically sound. After involving myself in study over a period of time, I became convinced the Christian description of God must be inaccurate. I lost Christian belief.

    Understand I was still a theist—just not a Christian. At this point my perspective changed—if God wasn’t the God of Christianity, what WAS God like? Having been incorrect for so long, I wanted to be correct this time.

    I looked at the cosmological argument again. “If we have time; the creator must be timeless.” O.K.—that made sense at some intuitive level to me. “If we have a sense of morality; the creator must have a sense of morality.” Again, that made sense to me. But this time I realized something—the change in method. In the first instance, we were claiming because we have it, the creator doesn’t; in the second instance we were claiming because we have it, the creator does.

    This appeared inconsistent to me. So I started looking…not for what a God was like, but for a method to determine what a God was like.

    All we have is this physical plane to observe and make determinations. We cannot build a “supernatural plane observatory.” We can’t peek our face through the wardrobe to see “the other side.” We have this universe to make any determinations about some other universe or some other dimension or some supernatural being. Everything we can study about God(s) ends up here on this universe. God may “inspire” a writing—but the writing ends up with a physical pen on physical paper (or parchment) by a physical hand read by physical eyes and processed by physical minds. God may do a miracle—but the results are the physical cancer disappearing from the physical body, seen by physical x-rays, physical doctors.

    Everything we can know about God must start AND end with what we observe here.

    Which brought me to a significant problem; how do we know what corresponds here to the supernatural plane? We have time. Does the supernatural plane have time? No time? Different time? We have energy, space, matter. Does the supernatural plane have these? Different ones? None at all?

    We have physical constraints under natural laws—are their similar constraints under different laws in the supernatural? We have logic; does the supernatural? We have a sense of morality, justice, love, mercy, humor, surprise, horror, pain, empathy, sympathy, disgust, disdain, desire, envy, embarrassment, forgiveness, humility, pride, sports, government, culture, art, music, landscapes, barns, vacations, travel, mirrors, pets, tears, laughter, card games, beer, beauty, ugly, fear, history, knowledge acquired…

    Does the supernatural plane? Is the same, similar, completely different, not at all?

    The simple answer is this: we don’t know. Not only do we not know—there is no possible method to determine how much is alike or not alike.

    Look, I didn’t care if God found genocide immoral. Or if God required us to eat pink marshmallows once a day. Or if God didn’t care. All I was looking for was a way to determine what God…was. And there is no consistent method using the natural plane to make determinations about the supernatural plane. None.

    If one is starting with a “clean slate” (as it were) to search out what God is like, cosmological arguments are definitely unsatisfying. Not only do they beg the question, they make equivocal fallacies and end up telling us that God is (possibly) unlike anything we can understand. Or possibly not.

    I can understand how, if one starts with Christianity, cosmological arguments can be appealing as confirmation of God-belief. Can you understand how, absent any belief in God, these are not particularly persuasive, as there is no consistent method to determine how our universe corresponds to any God-universe? Whether it is similar, different or not at all the same? (And worse, a bit of bias creeps in that when it is convenient to be similar [justice, love, morality] it is claimed to be similar, but when it is not convenient to be similar [time, space, change] it is claimed to not be similar.)

  • DagoodS said:

    “As I suspected; we apparently cannot describe God making a choice without using concepts such as time, space, material and change. So doesn’t all this become speculative word-regurgitation where we make statements without any way to verify whether we are close, far off, or completely wrong?”

    I could not agree more. The God offered on this blog, if existing at all, is utterly unknowable.

  • DagoodS said:

    “The simple answer is this: we don’t know. Not only do we not know—there is no possible method to determine how much is alike or not alike.”

    Again, agreed!! All we are left with is to believe in spite of the natural world, or accept only what is within our natural world.

  • DoOrDoNot

    Bill Pratt,
    I aippreciate your responding to me. It sounds like Christians must start with the presupposition that God is perfect and then understand other aspects of God within that framework. I haven’t read much about it, but I believe open theology finds a way around the need for God to be changeless. I will have to study this some more.

    DagoodS,
    I’ve started asking similar questions about how to discern who God is and how to see evidence of Him. I’ve been wondering what evidence crosses cultural and religious barriers that shows evidence of some spiritual plane. I certainly see where your line of i nquiry led you to philosophical naturalism. So far, I keep coming back to this persistent longing I and many others have for something beyond ourselves, some depth of experience or meaning, and I wonder if that is an indication that there is something out there that meets that need. I also wonder about universal ethics, aesthetics, the transcendent experiences people world-wide have. What do you make of all that?

  • Bill Pratt

    PD,
    You said, “The God offered on this blog, if existing at all, is utterly unknowable.”

    This is a self-defeating statement. If the God on this blog is unknowable, then you can’t say anything about him, even that he is unknowable. Again, complete agnosticism is self-defeating.

    You may say that there are some specific attributes of God which you do not understand or that there are descriptions of God which you find confusing, but saying that God is utterly unknowable is self-contradictory.

  • DoOrDoNot

    Good questions. Some of it has to do with our expectations and perceptions from our environment. For example, we tend to look for common points (to relate and understand) so if we see ethics in another society, we correlate those ethics to our own, resulting in the perception of “universal ethics.” For example, if we read how an ancient society treated its dead, we compare it to how we do and come to the conclusion that ALL societies share an ethic regarding the dead. But when we compare the details, we often find marked differences. (Some fear dead relatives, some revere them, some ignore them, etc.)

    Along these lines, you may be interested in This blog entry where I tell of having a God moment as an atheist.

    Does it mean there is a God? *shrug* Not that I’ve found yet…

  • Bill said: “This is a self-defeating statement. If the God on this blog is unknowable, then you can’t say anything about him, even that he is unknowable. Again, complete agnosticism is self-defeating.”

    Bill, how long are you going to keep up the semantic gymnastics? If he is unknowable then I can’t say that he can’t be known??? And that’s all I get??? Agnosticism is self-defeating because since he is unknowable I can’t state that I can’t know him???

    I would really like to have a healthy discussion about your beliefs and why I’m skeptical about them. I think it could benefit both of us. You seem to be just waving me off and hoping I’ll go away. What gives?

  • Matt Salmon

    Dagoods, you said,
    “I looked at the cosmological argument again. “If we have time; the creator must be timeless.” O.K.—that made sense at some intuitive level to me. “If we have a sense of morality; the creator must have a sense of morality.” Again, that made sense to me. But this time I realized something—the change in method. In the first instance, we were claiming because we have it, the creator doesn’t; in the second instance we were claiming because we have it, the creator does.
    This appeared inconsistent to me. So I started looking…not for what a God was like, but for a method to determine what a God was like.”

    I would say that this makes sense that the methodology is different, since these two conclusions (God is timeless and God is moral) are from different arguments:
    God is timeless because everything that begins to exist has a cause outside itself. Most experts (including secular scientists) believe time is a one-way vector –> therefore it has point at its beginning (let’s leave the future end alone for this discussion). From this we can conclude that SOMETHING independent of time caused time to exist.
    God is morally good (perfect, in fact) as part of his nature. Morality didn’t begin to exist, because it is a part of God’s nature. Humans have a sense of morality (no longer perfect morals because of The Fall/ Sin) because we are created “Imago Dei” in the image of God; he has left his imprint on everyone in their conscience.

    You also said,
    For example, because God operates “independent” of concepts we do know—such as time, space, and change—is there any reason it must operate within the constraints of logic? How could we argue against a theist who claims, “God is incomprehensible, and acts independent of logic?” As near as I can tell—we can’t. Due to our inability to observe, verify or confirm.
    And if God is “independent” of logic then using logical arguments–such as this blog entry– would fail as it is inapplicable to God. If I can’t use time when describing God (because this God is defined as incomprehensibly “independent” of time), how can I know to use logic because likewise this God could be incomprehensibly “independent” of logic!”

    God may be incomprehensible, but he has revealed himself to us (in ways that are small for him but huge from our perspective). It’s as if the universe is a pool of water: God first filled the pool with water and everything in the water and from time to time he dips his fingers into the pool (i.e. interferes with worldly events). Does this mean we have not seen God because we have not seen his face or his whole self (comprehension)? absolutely not. If we have seen his fingers and heard his words and seen what he has made, then we have seen a piece of God (apprehension). please use these words as they have been defined here (from their Latin roots ap- comes from ad, “next to” and com- means “around”). of course you can’t wrap your head around God, but you see the small piece of him.
    You can only see God when He reveals himself to you; there is no way to “find” God on your own. but don’t think He’s madly in love with you; the reason He does anything is to extend His glory.

    I know this can be tough to understand, but please consider it for at least 24 hours before you respond.

  • Bill Pratt

    PD,
    I’m pointing out that you’re saying things that you don’t really mean. You do know things about God. You have to know something about God to claim he is unknowable (i.e., you know, about God, that he is the kind of being that would be unknowable).

    You are making extreme claims (God is utterly unknowable) instead of saying something like: “Bill, I don’t understand how God can be unchanging. Could you explain?”

    My agnostic and atheists friends on this blog constantly ask me to not be dogmatic, to not make claims I can’t back up, to be more humble in my conclusions, to not pretend I know things for certain that I don’t know for certain. I take all of that criticism and try to improve the way I write. I am merely returning the favor with you. Don’t make these extreme claims that just aren’t true. Say something helpful that moves us along our way (the same advice you gave me).

  • Bill Pratt

    PD,
    You said, “Who exactly offered “infinite bubble universes” as an explanation in this discussion.”

    David did and you replied to him in a way that I thought affirmed it as a naturalistic theory that might explain the origin of the universe. I apologize if I misunderstood you. Am I correct now in thinking that you reject these kinds of theories (unobservable universes) offered by astrophysicists?

  • Matt Salmon,

    1) When Mary’s face appeared on a Grilled Cheese Sandwich—was that your God “dipping his finger in the pool?”

    2) What method did you use to come up with your answer to Question #1?

  • Bill Pratt said: “I’m pointing out that you’re saying things that you don’t really mean. You do know things about God. You have to know something about God to claim he is unknowable (i.e., you know, about God, that he is the kind of being that would be unknowable).”

    Specifically I said: “The God offered on this blog, if existing at all, is utterly unknowable.” And yes, I do know something about the God being offered on this blog. But the only thing I know are the attributes that you and others here are assigning to him. I do not find them reasonable or faintly intellectually satisfying, as you have put it in the past. You continually present a supernatural, or perhaps a “supra” natural being that exists outside of time, space, nature and the bounds of the universe that somehow interjects himself into the natural without becoming natural himself to influence directly the natural world, yet we are not able to detect, measure, test, validate, falsify or “know” with our only available natural senses and reason.

    Does this kind of God exist? How can any of us know? That’s why I said “if he exists, he is utterly unknowable.” As I have said before on this blog, is it possible a God like this exists? Yes, it is possible. Neither I nor you can answer the question of ultimate origins (at least not yet).

    You offer me feedback that I shouldn’t be dogmatic in my statements stating that I shouldn’t “make extreme statements that just aren’t true.” I think you need to reword that to say “don’t make extreme statements that are in opposition to Bill Pratt’s point of view.” Because the only things I have challenged dogmatically are statements you have made that cannot be evidentially demonstrated to be true. I fully accept that you stand on positions based upon your faith. I am not here to tear down your faith. If that is what you want to base your life on then have at it. You however consistently across your blog are attempting to discredit and disparage the findings and hypotheses of science because they call your faith to task. I find this hard to swallow without speaking up and challenging. Then instead of answering my challenges you throw semantic gymastics and double-speak on me and just walk away. This is very disheartening.

    I continue to be hopeful that we can have a meaningful dialogue because from reading your bio and nearly every article on your blog I can tell that we have much background in common. The biggest difference is that I walked away, and you have remained. It intrigues me that my education has led me to one conclusion, and nearly the same education has left you entrenched in evangelicalism, and digging yourself deeper in. That is why I’m still here, still reading, still commenting.

  • David Cobb

    Consider the following (William Lane Craig)

    P1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
    P2. The universe began to exist.
    C Therefore the universe has a cause.

  • David Cobb

    “Why is the universe so close to the dividing line between collapsing again and expanding indefinitely? In order to be as close as we are now, the rate of expansion early on had to be chosen fantastically accurately. If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been less by one part on 1010, the universe would have collapsed after a few million years. If it had been greater by one part in 1010, the universe would have been essentially empty after a few million years. In neither case would it have lasted long enough for life to develop. Thus one either has to appeal to the anthropic principle or find some physical explanation of why the universe is the way it is.” The Nature of Space and Time, Stephen Hawking and R. Penrose, pg 89-90

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt said: “Boz, The only thing I apply to the whole (the universe) because of the parts is change, which you say is absolute. Therefore, the fallacy of composition is not applicable.
    My first premise stated that “Everything that changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.” Everything includes the universe. I have not said “everything inside the universe needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.” I said everything. Therefore I have not argued from the parts to the whole in that case.”

    Thanks for the clarification. ¿Would it be fair to rephrase your argument as:

    1.Everything that changes is caused by another thing.
    2.The universe is changing.
    3.The universe is caused by another thing.

    This is a valid-form argument.

    If this is a fair rephrase, Premise 1 can be split in to two parts, 1a and 1b. This divides the grouping ‘everything’. if 1a and 1b are true, then 1 is true.

    1a. The universe, if it changes, is caused by another thing.
    1b. everything in the universe, if it changes, is caused by another thing.

    so, how do you conclude that 1a is true?

  • Bill Pratt

    PD,
    You said, “That is why I’m still here, still reading, still commenting.” I’m glad you’re still here!

    I have never disparaged science, but merely pointed out that science stands on a foundation of non-material things that must be assumed as givens (this is where philosophy comes in). The argument from change is a philosophical argument, not a scientific argument.

    I absolutely agree with you that if all we can know is what we can directly test with scientific instruments, then there is no way to know God, who is not directly detectable by scientific instruments. If a person limits themselves to only what science can tell them, then they will never find God, nor moral laws, nor the human mind, nor mathematical laws, and so forth and so on (we’ve been here before, I think).

    Scientific knowledge is just a subset of all the knowledge that is possible. I don’t understand why a person would limit themselves to the slice of knowledge that science provides. There is so much more out there to know. This is such a fundamental difference between the way you and I see the world.

    Do you see how you have adopted a worldview which rules out knowledge of God a priori? I can never show you scientific experiments which directly detect God, but it seems this is all you will accept as evidence. Am I wrong?

  • David Cobb

    Bill

    “Scientific knowledge is just a subset of all the knowledge that is possible. I don’t understand why a person would limit themselves to the slice of knowledge that science provides. There is so much more out there to know. This is such a fundamental difference between the way you and I see the world.
    Do you see how you have adopted a worldview which rules out knowledge of God a priori? I can never show you scientific experiments which directly detect God, but it seems this is all you will accept as evidence. Am I wrong?”

    You have the proverbial “nail on the head”. To the committed naturalist, there can be no “reasonable” discussion about things which are non-quantifiable. This is primarily where the issue of faith becomes the “evidence of things unseen”. I myself, from a science and logic position prefer to posit the “possibility” for God’s existence based on the kalam cosmological argument and the Anthropic Principle. they are both extremely stable, coherent and intellectually articulate arguments for design and thus a designer.

  • Bill Pratt

    Boz,
    You said, “If this is a fair rephrase, Premise 1 can be split in to two parts, 1a and 1b. This divides the grouping ‘everything’. if 1a and 1b are true, then 1 is true.

    1a. The universe, if it changes, is caused by another thing.
    1b. everything in the universe, if it changes, is caused by another thing.

    so, how do you conclude that 1a is true?”

    I do not split premise 1 up at all. I just let everything stand to mean everything. If something changes, then it needs an explanation outside of itself for that change. The universe is included in the set of everything. I don’t see why I need to split out the universe from the set of everything in premise 1. Why do you think it should be split out?

  • Bill Pratt

    Dagoods,
    Your comments about what we know (and how we talk) about God inspired me to write a couple of posts about God-talk. The first one just posted 30 minutes ago and the next will come out Tuesday morning. I appreciate you broaching this topic, as it is important. Hopefully these two new posts will provoke more discussion on this issue.

    Thanks,
    Bill

  • Bill Pratt

    Dagoods,
    You said, “You do not want change (which implies time) but want choice, which equally implies time.”

    Choice does not entail time. If God has always chosen the same things and never changed those choices in time, then God can choose without time.

  • Bill Pratt

    Dagoods,
    You said, “How could we argue against a theist who claims, “God is incomprehensible, and acts independent of logic?”

    That argument has been made in comments on this blog many times, by well-meaning but misguided Christians. Here is how I reply:

    If God is independent of logic, then God is not independent of logic. If God can violate logic, then God cannot violate logic.

    Do you see the counter? Once logic is gone, every statement that a person makes about God becomes complete nonsense because the opposite is also true (the most fundamental law of logic is the law of noncontradiction). Without logic, God can both exist and not exist. God can be caused and uncaused. God can be logical and not logical. In other words, to say God is not logical is to make a self-refuting statement. Once I explain this to a person, they usually back down from that position or at least go off and think about it more.

  • Bill Pratt,

    This is exactly what I mean by my example of “God is a square.”

    Bill Pratt: Choice does not imply time.
    .
    “Choice” is making a determination between two (or more) PRE-EXISTING possibilities. If the possibilities don’t exist prior to the choice, you can’t choose them! You can’t “choose” something that isn’t already a choice! To demonstrate this, all we have to do is think about making a choice without using time. Can’t do it.

    So now we have:

    Theist: God chose to make the universe
    Atheist: So God made a decision between two pre-existing possibilities?
    Theist: No—God’s “choice” is not the same as our “choice.”
    Atheist: So how can we use the word “choice” if it doesn’t mean what we think it means?

    As to the logic question, I see you have no argument, no proof and no evidence that your God is “independent” of logic the same way He is “independent” of the other precepts we understand—time, space, change. Simply because other theists agree as a matter of convenience so you all can fight over what you think God is, doesn’t get around the question.

    You understand the theists having the problem discussing what they know/do not know about what they have alleged is a God is not…exactly…a problem for us atheists!

  • Boz

    P1.Everything that changes is caused by another thing.
    1a. The universe, if it changes, is caused by another thing.
    1b. everything in the universe, if it changes, is caused by another thing.
    P2.The universe is changing.
    P3.The universe is caused by another thing.

    Bill pratt said: “I do not split premise 1 up at all. I just let everything stand to mean everything. If something changes, then it needs an explanation outside of itself for that change. The universe is included in the set of everything. I don’t see why I need to split out the universe from the set of everything in premise 1. Why do you think it should be split out?”

    In P1, the word ‘everything’ contains a lot of things. Towels, girrafe, granite, etc, and also the universe.

    now, we agree that towels, girrafe, granite, etc are caused by another thing. What I am uncertain of, and you are convinced of, is whether the universe, if it changes, is caused by another thing. This is why I split it out, because it is our difference of opinion.

    Incedentally, we can remove towels, girrafe and granite from the set of ‘everything’ in P1, and the argument still has a valid form. The only thing that is needed in the set of ‘everything’ is ‘universe’.

    so, how do you conclude that 1a is true?

  • Bill Pratt

    Boz,
    I see no reason to exempt the universe from this premise. It is a given for me. I don’t see why the universe should be in a special class by itself where it is exempt from basic laws of thought such as P1. If you would like to exempt the universe from P1, I guess you can do that, but it seems completely arbitrary and ad hoc to me.

  • Bill Pratt

    Dagoods,
    You said, “Choice is making a determination between two (or more) PRE-EXISTING possibilities. If the possibilities don’t exist prior to the choice, you can’t choose them! You can’t “choose” something that isn’t already a choice! To demonstrate this, all we have to do is think about making a choice without using time. Can’t do it.”

    I looked up the definition of choosing on dictionary.com and it said: “to select from a number of possibilities.” You have smuggled in the word “pre-existing” into the definition. The choices for God exist within his unchanging mind and have always existed within his mind. When he chooses to create, he does so outside of time, but the effects of his choices are manifested to us in time. It’s analogous to a doctor telling you to take 1 pill on Monday, then 1 pill on Tuesday, then 1 pill on Wednesday. He told you this at one time (in a matter of a minute or so), but his instructions will be followed over a period of three days.

    It doesn’t seem that difficult to imagine God operating outside of time and having his unchanging choices worked out in time within our universe. Yes, I realize that humans don’t experience time and choices that way, but that is why God-talk tells us what He is like, not exactly what He is. Our language is analogous.

    If you are demanding that we only use language in a univocal fashion to describe God, meaning that every word we apply to God must be applied to him in exactly the same we apply it to ourselves, then you are demanding a finite and very limited God, hardly the one found in Scriptures or the one that reason demands.

  • Boz

    Bill Prat said: “Boz, I see no reason to exempt the universe from this premise. It is a given for me. I don’t see why the universe should be in a special class by itself where it is exempt from basic laws of thought such as P1. If you would like to exempt the universe from P1, I guess you can do that, but it seems completely arbitrary and ad hoc to me.”

    In that case, the argument is begging the question(circular). Let me demonstrate how. This is just like basic algebra!

    1. Everything that changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.
    2. The universe is changing.
    3. The universe needs an explanation of its change outside of itself.

    change some workding to make it more readable:

    1. Everything, if it changes, is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is changing.
    3. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    Add some superfluous conditions

    1. Everything, if it changes, and if it exists, and if 1=1, is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is changing.
    3. The universe exists
    4. 1=1
    5. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    Remove some conditions for which agreement exists.

    1. Everything, if it changes, and if 1=1, is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is changing.
    3. 1=1
    4. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    1. Everything, if 1=1, is caused by another thing.
    2. 1=1
    3. The universe is caused by anther thing.
    ***

    1. Everything is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    Expand the group named “everything”.

    1. (horses, and rocks, and protons, and the universe, and wood, and , … and, … …) is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    Remove horses. They are unrelated to the argument.

    1. (rocks, and protons, and the universe, and wood, and , … and, … …) is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    Remove other un-needed items

    1. (rocks, and protons, and the universe, and wood) is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    1. (rocks, and protons, and the universe) is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    1. (the universe) is caused by another thing.
    2. The universe is caused by anther thing.

    So it is demonstrated that the argument is begging the question(circular) and therefore non-persuasive.

    *** Now, we might suggest that everything(including the universe) is caused by another thing BECAUSE it changes. That the existence of change means that it is caused. However, earlier, we discovered that this is the fallacy of composition.

    Maybe we can find a way to reach the conclusion that doesn’t involve begging the question or composition?

  • Bill said: “I … pointed out that science stands on a foundation of non-material things that must be assumed as givens …. The argument from change is a philosophical argument, not a scientific argument.”

    As I have said to you elsewhere this is precisely why I am uninterested in your philosophical arguments. As a methodological/philosophical naturalist I reject your position of science standing “on a foundation of non-material… that must be assumed as givens.” I hold that all we know, and all we can know (the human mind, mathematical laws, logic, moral laws, etc.) are products of the natural world and in particular the natural workings of the natural brain. Further I would hold that you are the one who is making assumptions, gross assumptions in fact, because you begin your reasoning with a truth claim that the supernatural must exist. You are frustrated with me because I will not grant authority to your ad hoc philosophical position. In fact I reject your epistemology nearly in its entirety. You keep referring to “scientific knowledge” and I keep redirecting you to methodological naturalism, which in my opinion is much larger than base “scientific knowledge.” You claim knowledge that is outside the natural realm and I am simply asking you for evidence.

    As Boz has thoroughly demonstrated, the logic presented in your arguments is flawed. But as I have stated on our previous extended discussion, even if you correct the logic you are still only left with a valid syllogism, not necessarily a “true” premise. How exactly will you demonstrate that your beliefs are true? I would suggest that you cannot do so. You can only have faith that they are true. My position is that faith without evidence, or in spite of evidence, is unreasonable, and should be discarded.

  • Bill Pratt,

    I understand you and I are on two different sides regarding theism. And with that, it is expected we will be in opposition on many points. But it seems to me this discussion has reached the senseless point where disagreements are made because the “other side” is making a statement, regardless of how cognizable it is.

    Your doctor example again supports what I am saying—choice implies time because the choice made relies upon pre-existing conditions.

    Your doctor chose to administer pills (as an alternative to surgery, shots, bed-rest, etc.)—the knowledge of “Pills” for a cure (as well as the knowledge of surgery, shots, bed-rest being eliminated as the best alternative for a cure) existed prior to the doctor making the decision! When the pills were taken is irrelevant; the question is whether the alternatives at the time of choosing existed prior to the choice. The knowledge regarding the pills as compared to other cures existed prior to the choice.

    I liked your use of dictionary.com coupled with an argument from silence. (You seem to be arguing, “Because the first definition for ‘choose’ did not have ‘pre-existing,’ then the word cannot mean there are pre-existing alternatives.”) Are you sure this is what you want to use as our arbitrator of language? Will you stay consistent with this method?

    If you look up the word, “choice” in your dictionary.com, within the first definition is the phrase: “an instance of choosing.” Do you see that word “instance”? That requires time! Even your chosen source, dictionary.com, agrees with me!—“Choice” occurs in time.

    Bill Pratt—words have meaning. There is a reason a person picks the word “distraught” as compared to “sad.” “Furious” instead of “angry.” “Uninformed” instead of “dumber than a box of hammers.” We carefully pick and wend our way through life, choosing words. Even synonymous words are discarded to provide the correct symbolization. Try telling your wife (or significant other; I apologize, I don’t know if you are married) she is “luscious.” Then tell her she is “high in fat.”

    You tell me if words have meaning!

    If you are telling me the words you use to describe your God have no equivalent force of meaning; there is nothing left to talk about. When you say, “God is distraught,” if the word “distraught” could be 99% accurate, .00005% accurate, or 100% accurate, or not at all accurate. Any arguments about what God is like become meaningless.

    Is God Just? Who knows because to God “just” could be exactly like our word, or not at all like our word, or any possible range in-between.

    Does God operate in time? Yes, no, sometimes, partially, yes-but-no-however-maybe. To me, it looks like the theist wants a God who, when it is convenient for the theist’s argument, they can claim the same word means completely opposite things.

    If our words have lost meanings that we can agree upon, communication becomes useless.

  • Boz

    on an unrelated note, I have noticed that Bill Pratt is sticking quite rigidly to the phrase “Everything that changes needs an explanation for that change outside of itself.”. And Bill Pratt would agree that a bookcase needs an explanation for its change outside of itself.

    Now, lets think about this for a while. What does a bookcase actually NEED? Does a bookcase need food? shelter? friends? warmth? physical security? the respect of others? confidence? belonging? No, it doesn’t need any of these things. It is perfectly ‘happy’ to sit in a factory or in a library doing nothing. It doesn’t even need to stay ‘alive’. It can be ‘killed'(destroyed), and this it not against its needs. Similarly, it doesn’t need an explanation of itself.

    The same can be said of a bee or a star.

    Perhaps a more accurate statement would be “I feel that I need to explain how this bookcase got here.”

  • Bill Pratt

    Dagoods,
    See my posts on God-talk. It addresses everything you’ve raised in your comments.

  • Boz

    So, Bill Pratt, would you agree that the argument in the original blog post is fallacious?

  • Matt Salmon

    Boz,
    this argument is actually standard. A circular argument would mean the CONCLUSION defines one of the premises, but you have only shown that by reducing the premises you can find that the conclusion is what the two premises actually state.
    Mathematically, it could be written thus
    P1: (“the set of”) {everything that changes}= caused by another thing
    P2: the universe is in {everything that changes}
    C: the universe= caused by another thing

    if you still disagree, I’m done arguing

  • Bill Pratt

    Boz,
    I do not agree the argument is fallacious. It is a simple categorical syllogism that is entirely valid. The bottom line for you is that you disagree that premise 1 is true. That’s fine, but the argument is not invalid.

  • Boz,

    Have you read this article by Dan Barker who argues Kalam’s is question-begging as well? He presents the reasons in a very readable fashion.

  • David Cobb

    DagoodS;

    The Kalam Cosmological argument proposes to logically make the claim that the universe logically has a first cause and that it would thereby be reasonable to argue the existence of God. It is simply a ‘non-sequitur” to then require a first cause for God. That would be another logical argument altogether. All explanations do not require explanations in order for their truth to be established. Consider gravity, we have much understanding with respect to quantifying gravity and its relationship to mass etc., but as of yet, we have not discovered the existence (truth) of gravitons etc.

  • Boz

    Bill Pratt said: “Boz, I do not agree the argument is fallacious. It is a simple categorical syllogism that is entirely valid. The bottom line for you is that you disagree that premise 1 is true. That’s fine, but the argument is not invalid.”

    Bill Pratt, I agree that the argument does have a valid-form. I also agree that the problem is Premise 1.

    In this thread, the only reasons offered to accept Premise1 are the composition fallacy or an unsupported assertion. This is why the argument is fallacious.

    Bill Pratt, is there a way to demonstrate that Premise1 is true without composition or assertion?

    —————-

    Matt Salmon,

    An argument that is circular does have a valid form. And it is sound if the premises are true. So, what is the problem with a circular argument? It doesn’t get us anywhere. We don’t learn anything.

    It is easier to see that the argument is circular if we remove the superfluous idea of ‘change’, where we have agreement.

    P1: (“the set of”) {everything}= caused by another thing
    P2: the universe is in {everything}
    C: the universe= caused by another thing

    We can see now that the conclusion is a subset of P1.

  • Matt Salmon

    Boz,
    Now you have a fallacy in P1. What do you have in the beginning? nothing? a static universe? a perpetually dynamic, infinitely old universe? or a prime mover (an uncaused first cause) which could not exist IF “everything has a cause”?

  • Boz

    Matt Salmon, that is the same argument that is in the OP, and the same argument that you re-phrased earlier. I re-phrased it again to make the circular fallacy more noticable.

  • Matt Salmon

    Boz,
    I believe you provided a fallacious analysis 13 posts back.

    Do you have a legitimate disagreement with P1 as stated in the OP or do you just enjoy messing with me?

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  • Lawrentta odjegba

    its rubbish