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Author Topic: Do atheists really hold the observable universe came from nothing?  (Read 659 times)
pachomius
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« on: 14/12/10 @ 23:32 »

I am so glad to have received an email to identify the person in your caricature, and I thought that the email came from a philosophy forum in the US which has banned me for what the I will say despotic moderator-administrator judged to be my low-quality posting, but in my opinion he was annoyed with my pointing out the flaws in his words.

So I checked on my listing of forums and found out that this is not the forum that has banned me.

So here I am again, and I have things I want to discuss with people here even though I am not any philosopher but I can write about my thoughts and care to read reactions to them from people here.

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There must be atheists here, as they are found everywhere in the web and most eager to put forth their views of things.

Tell me, atheists, do you really hold that the observable universe came from nothing?



Pachomius
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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #1 on: 15/12/10 @ 09:35 »

No, you're not banned! You haven't done anything to be worthy of such an honour! As long as you share your opinions courteously, there's no problem.

I'm not an atheist, but I would think that you don't have to believe that the universe came from nothing to be one. It might have always been around.
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pachomius
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« Reply #2 on: 16/12/10 @ 04:02 »

You say, "It [the observable universe] might have always been around."


That is what I would consider already muddling up the issue.


Can we just keep to facts in philosophy, at least we can start a philosophy with the first reservation of not muddling up the facts, by just keeping to facts?



Am I correct to say that when you state that, "It [the observable universe] might have always been around," you are muddling up the issue?


Can we have any philosophy at all without prescinding from facts?




Pachomius
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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #3 on: 16/12/10 @ 10:04 »

And what are the facts? I'm assuming you mean here that Big Bang theory is proven. Well, you should know enough about the 'facts' to know that they often don't stay 'the facts' for long! If the history of science teaches us anything, it is humility.

The point of philosophy is to work with the (supposed) facts, but not to be enslaved by them. It is possible that the big bang was just one point of expansion amid an infinite series of expansions and contractions (which is the view of Hindu cosmology, I believe).  So, no, I'm not muddling up the issue, I'm simply keeping an open mind. It's not as if the beginning of the universe is something we know a great deal about, anyway!
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MoQingbird
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« Reply #4 on: 16/12/10 @ 15:40 »

This question always makes me think of two things.

The first is that humans absolutely hate not knowing the reasons for things.  They cannot accept the answer, 'we don't know,' and that's what's driven us forward as a civilized species since the Enlightenment.  Worse than 'we don't know', however, is the answer 'we cannot know', which leads me on to the other thing that this question always makes me think about...

I imagine I'm a Sim in the game Sims running on the PC in some kids bedroom.  He's gone off to school and left the game running.  So, in the game, I'm rushing around doing my job, bringing up a family, spending time with friends, and every now and then I think, where did all this come from?  Little do I know it, but the kid's mother is just about to pull the PC's plug out of the wall so that she can hoover his bedroom!


Like Gareth said, we have to work with the (supposed) facts before us.  There are things we don't know, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to figure them out from what we do know and what we can do with what we (supposedly) have before us.
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LostInAShaftOfSunlight
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« Reply #5 on: 22/04/11 @ 17:20 »

Can't we have a discussion of atheism that doesn't prescind from the facts? Sigh.  I mean haven't we all had enough - it really is insufferable.  Huff!

To be an atheist is to have a negative view of the theological claim that God exists, not to have a theory of the origin of the universe.  Perhaps we should defer to and leave it entirely to the cosmologists and physicists anyway?  Although that's not nearly as fun and dirty.  Plus, there's not really much else we should be doing.

An interesting video: A universe from nothing.  Lawrence Krauss.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ImvlS8PLIo

I'll have to watch this again and get someone competent to iron out the details a bit, but the few things I gleaned out of it are: 1) As theists stop with God, we can stop with this kind of original quantum mess that will spawn a visible universe.
2) The universe is headed for nothing
3) We live within the stretch of time where it is possible to know about the origins of the universe.  Eventually the evidence for the big bang will be gone and all the other galaxies will be so far away from us as to be unobservable.  Interestingly enough as Krauss points out: using falsifiable science, future cosmologists (if there are any) will come to a conclusion about the universe they live in which will be completely wrong!

Krauss is quite raw and funny.  I would love to get other reactions to this clip.
« Last Edit: 22/04/11 @ 17:27 by LostInAShaftOfSunlight » Logged

Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.
MoQingbird
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« Reply #6 on: 29/04/11 @ 15:44 »

Sorry I didn't spot your post a few days ago, but when I clicked on 'unread posts' the server came up with 'none'.

Ha, ha!  Yes, we atheists get suckered into debating the origin of the universe when debating with theists, when the only thing we should be saying to them is, 'show me'.

Krauss is excellent.  Haven't come across him before and I love his sense of humor (but then again, I'm not a biologist;)
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LostInAShaftOfSunlight
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but you are the music while the music lasts...


« Reply #7 on: 30/04/11 @ 07:53 »

(I like your other post, and will reply to it.  It requires a bit more focus than I have to give right now, but this is an easy one)

Krauss is great... "the Woody Allen of physics". Smiley  There's some more stuff on Youtube... a debate with William Lane Craig on the very topic, and another discussion with Dawkins.  I had no idea until recently how much good stuff there is on Youtube.

As an atheist, which theistic arguments do you find most compelling? 

This is one of those areas where I think a lot of converts are made, on the question of the origin of things.   A usual line of reasoning is that the idea of self causation doesn't work, i.e. for material or natural things, they never cause themselves, so their must be a Maker who is SUPERnatural and can therefore escape this limitation on self causation.  Now, I know what the words 'super' and 'natural' mean, but I have no idea what something 'supernatural' is (is it a 'something' anyway?).  I have a vague idea and can use it in sentences, but it's not a technical term from some area of knowledge or discourse that you can really hang things on. 

There are some other ones in this area that I enjoy, like: if there are an infinite series of causes, we wouldn't be here because it would take an infinite amount of time. Smiley 

The one that hit me hardest was this one I heard from Tim Keller, perhaps via Plantinga and Nagel in his book The Reason for God.  I'm pretty certain he mentions it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9fmKSwuoDE.  While I don't agree with him, this is a fine and intelligent and intelligible (!) talk. 

1.  Assume a naturalistic explanation for belief in God: there are evolutionary reasons for religion, direct (religions themselves are advantageous) or indirect (imposing narratives and causal reasoning on nature to explain things is advantageous).  It's part of our neurobiology.  It's just advantageous and not true.

2.  There are also evolutionary reasons for Reason and logic.  They are also with us due to their advantage and not their truth.

3.  Evolutionary skepticism about belief in God and the validity of Religion also undercut belief in the validity of rationality and belief in evolution itself.  "If our cognitive faculties only tell us what we need to survive, not what is true, why trust them about anything at all?"

"It comes down to this: If, as the evolutionary scientists say, what our brains tell us about morality, love, and beauty is not real -if it is merely a set of chemical reactions designed to pass on our genetic code- then so is what their brains tell them about the world.  Then why should they trust them?"
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Man, when I was young I shoved my ignorance in people's faces. They beat me with sticks. By the time I was forty my blunt instrument had been honed to a fine cutting point for me. If you hide your ignorance, no one will hit you and you'll never learn.
MoQingbird
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« Reply #8 on: 30/04/11 @ 09:41 »

As an atheist, which theistic arguments do you find most compelling? 

I think I'm constitutionally incapable of theistic belief.  I got all my moral values from Star Trek in the 70s.  Life is a journey of exploration.  When you hit problems, you discuss them, figure out what's really going on, and then the problems just melt away.  This approach only fails if the other parties are operating on the assumption that problems shouldn't be discussed - problems should be ignored and they'll go away.  These people invariably come from a religious upbringing, IME.

I have however wished that I could believe in God when in extremis.  It would be so much easier to hand problems over to some other agency and not have to deal with them.

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This is one of those areas where I think a lot of converts are made, on the question of the origin of things. 

Interesting.  I think a lot of converts to atheism are also made by the origin problem.  Cosmology was probably the first chink in the armor of religious explanation.  It broke the anthropocentric model of the universe and gradually we recognized how small and unimportant we were to the universe.  The message that everything was created just for us fell flat on its face.

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A usual line of reasoning is that the idea of self causation doesn't work, i.e. for material or natural things, they never cause themselves, so their must be a Maker who is SUPERnatural and can therefore escape this limitation on self causation.  Now, I know what the words 'super' and 'natural' mean, but I have no idea what something 'supernatural' is (is it a 'something' anyway?).  I have a vague idea and can use it in sentences, but it's not a technical term from some area of knowledge or discourse that you can really hang things on. 

Ah, but that's the beauty of it - because it's outside reality you can anything on it!  Smiley

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There are some other ones in this area that I enjoy, like: if there are an infinite series of causes, we wouldn't be here because it would take an infinite amount of time. Smiley 

Heh, Deutsch points out that no matter when you are, you're always at the beginning of infinity Cheesy

Quote
The one that hit me hardest was this one I heard from Tim Keller, perhaps via Plantinga and Nagel in his book The Reason for God.  I'm pretty certain he mentions it here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9fmKSwuoDE.  While I don't agree with him, this is a fine and intelligent and intelligible (!) talk. 

1.  Assume a naturalistic explanation for belief in God: there are evolutionary reasons for religion, direct (religions themselves are advantageous) or indirect (imposing narratives and causal reasoning on nature to explain things is advantageous).  It's part of our neurobiology.  It's just advantageous and not true.

This is one of the points where Dawkins, Hitchins and the other strident atheists really bug me.  Religion had to have some kind of utility for it to survive.  Otherwise, non-religious civilizations would have out competed the religious ones.  Social control and cohesion are two of the obvious benefits.  Historically it seems that the more prescriptive and ferocious a religion, the more it succeeds in spreading and then uniting people on scales way beyond the capabilities of kinship.  Karen Armstrong, in The Case for God, also points out its benefits as a kind of psychotherapy before psychotherapy was invented.

Dawkins and co tear down religion - quite rightly IMO - but they have nothing to put in its place.  This is why converts to atheism often find that they come to doubt all concepts of morality once they've renounced God.

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2.  There are also evolutionary reasons for Reason and logic.  They are also with us due to their advantage and not their truth.

3.  Evolutionary skepticism about belief in God and the validity of Religion also undercut belief in the validity of rationality and belief in evolution itself.  "If our cognitive faculties only tell us what we need to survive, not what is true, why trust them about anything at all?"

The short answer: because we have survived!  Smiley

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"It comes down to this: If, as the evolutionary scientists say, what our brains tell us about morality, love, and beauty is not real -if it is merely a set of chemical reactions designed to pass on our genetic code- then so is what their brains tell them about the world.  Then why should they trust them?"

Who cares if we're really information on the skin of a holographic universe?  If a 4D spacetime representation of ourselves and our universe was what our evolved brains came up with then we should go with it, because it works.  Morality, love and beauty feel real to me, but its interesting that the theistic apologists want to imply that atheists are discounting these 'good' things, in an attempt to undermine a rational perspective, while saying nothing about forensic science's ability to catch the immoral, psychotherapy's ability to help the suffering, and the polio vaccine's ability to prevent a whole lot of ugliness.


Looking forward to your reply on the other thread.
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