Reasons for Joy; In Gentleness, and Respect.

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Kalam Cosmological Argument / Loop quantum cosmology and the KCA.
« on: January 16, 2009, 01:31:38 am »
I'm not well versed in contemporary cosmology; most of what I know comes from reading Dr. Craig on the KCA.  Twice recently, however, I've heard about a theory called loop quantum cosmology.  This theory is like oscillating models of the universe in that it predicts that our universe continued to exist before what we usually call the Big Bang, and that there could have been and in the future could continue to be an infinite series of expansions and collapses of our universe.  Of course the explanation LQC gives is not exactly like the oscillating model's, being based rather on quantum physics.  I'm really not equipped to give any fuller explanation than that.

There is some excitement about LQC on the part of some scientists.  Here's an article about it:

There is a chance that LQC will become one of the main cosmologies appealed to by philosophers to refute the cosmological evidence related to the Big Bang which Dr. Craig uses to support the KCA.  Perhaps LQC is already appealed to for this purpose.

Because LQC is related to the KCA (sorry for the alphabet soup), I wanted to make you aware of it, and to ask if you have anything to add.  I recognize that LQC wouldn't address the mathematical arguments Dr. Craig uses to support the KCA, or more specifically the premise that the universe began to exist.  I'm less sure about the argument from the second law of thermodynamics.  One question I have is: does the second law square with an eternal universe?  Would it be possible for an eternal universe to never "run down"?  And if the universe were bound, by the second law, to run down at SOME point, then would the universe's having an eternal past mean that the universe ought to have run down already?

Kalam Cosmological Argument / Does a bullet speed up before slowing down?
« on: December 28, 2008, 10:09:37 pm »

Thank you all very much!

Kalam Cosmological Argument / Does a bullet speed up before slowing down?
« on: December 11, 2008, 01:27:35 am »
Recently I was telling someone how Dr. Craig uses the Standard Model of the Big Bang to argue that the universe must have had a beginning, and from there to argue that God is the cause of the universe's existence.


   But the person I told this to said the following: "Although we can know that the Big Bang happened, we cannot know that there was not a prior period of expansion and collapse."  Basically he was defending the possibility of an oscillating model of the universe, I believe; I know there are a few problems with such a model, but I only brought up one.  (My knowledge of cosmology is so rudimentary.)


   I said, "Well, my understanding is that at present the rate of the universe's expansion is in fact increasing, whereas if the universe were to ever collapse its rate of expansion would now have to be decreasing."  In hindsight I think I would have had to have added something like the following for what I said to be to the point: "Maybe you could think that every prior cycle of the universe has expanded and collapsed until our own, which is special in that it will only expand and never collapse in on itself."  (I do not know what the argument against accepting this view would be, except perhaps to say that there is no evidence for it, which I do not know to be the case.)


   But my real question has to do with what the person I was speaking to said next after I noted the increasing rate of the universe's expansion.  He said, "That doesn't prove anything.  A bullet moves faster before it starts to slow down."  He was implying that the universe's rate of expansion could be increasing right now and yet in the future that rate could slow down until finally it reversed and the universe collapsed in on itself.


   I was somewhat skeptical about the bullet example, specifically about whether a bullet DOES in fact begin to speed up before slowing down (assuming normal circumstances) as opposed to just beginning to slow down immediately after it is fired.  If anyone can answer this question for me, I would appreciate it.  I know this is a softball.

Choose Your Own Topic / Original sin and evolution.
« on: August 27, 2008, 11:01:13 pm »
One of the aspects of Christianity about which I find myself the most confused is the implication of the evolutionary history of mankind on the doctrine of original sin.

A common theological reading of the early chapters of Genesis maintains that man was created in an innocent or pristine state, free from sin, and that, through disobedience before God, certain hardships entered into the human situation, including the need to toil for food and the like.  In the light of man's evolutionary history, however, I find it difficult to formulate a plausible picture of how this could have taken place.

I understand the species of homo sapiens to have come on the scene around 200,000 years ago in Africa.  Would the first sin of mankind have had to have been committed by a member of our own species, or might it have been committed by an evolutionary ancestor on the evolutionary tree?  If a member of our own species committed the sin, was this member co-existing with many other homo sapiens, such that his sin would have caused the corruption of perhaps many thousands of people far removed from his sinful act?  And when is it most likely that this sin occurred?  Very near the 198,000BC mark, or closer to the dawn of civilization, such that, if the latter were the case, humanity would have enjoyed a pristine state for many thousands of years before coming under the influence of original sin?

And what about this state of original innocence and security commonly held to be a part of man's germinal condition upon being created by God?  Even if humans lived for only fifteen years or so in such a state after they came into being through a process of (God-assisted) evolution, would they for that time have been relieved of the need to forage for food, relieved of the pangs of hunger, been free of all mental strife and anguish, and never a single time have come into conflict with other organisms, large or small, which belonged to this pristine condition?

And what was the spiritual experience of these innocent people?  A common reading of the early chapters of Genesis holds that their connection to God was far more perfect than our own, since we suffer the effects of original sin whereas they did not.  But how are we to conceive of their awareness of God?  The earliest evidence we have of any homonoid awareness of supernatural realities is the practice of ritualistic burial of the dead practiced by pre-homo sapien species.  There are early signs of animal worship as well.  But would these forms of religious consciousness not be understood as inferior to the experience of outstanding Christians from the past twenty centuries?  Must the spiritual experience had by humans before the Fall thus be understood as inferior to what came later?  Or should the first human beings, those not yet affected by sin, be thought of as possessing a certain mystical awareness of God which surpasses anything experienced by Christians closer to our own day?  What level of intelligence need by posited to suppose such a strong mystical consciousness, and does such a level of intelligence cohere with what is known about the intellectual capacities of the earliest humans?

Lastly, a common reading of the early chapters of Genesis holds that individual human beings would not have died if original sin had not occurred.  At Romans 5:12 Paul writes, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned..."  If it took 500 years for humans to eventually sin, then did the first humans that evolved live for that entire period?  Moreover, at Genesis 3:22 God expresses concern over the possibility that humans might achieve immortality by eating of the tree of life: "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever."  If man's original condition involved immortality, then how could God be concerned over man attaining something man already enjoyed?  Or if death was a part of man's original condition before sin, which would explain God's comment that man would become achieve immortality by eating of the tree of life, then why does Paul say that death only entered the world after sin occurred?

I was wondering if anyone thought Dr. Craig's empty tomb argument would be relevant as a response to something the philosopher of science Philip Kitcher writes in his new book Living with Darwin (Oxford 2007).  Here is what he says on page 142:

"The trouble with supernaturalism is that it comes in so many incompatible forms, all of which are grounded in just the same way.  To label someone else's cultural history as 'primitive' or 'superstition' (or as both) is easy, until you realize that your basis for believing in the literal truth of the wonderful stories of your own tradition is completely analogous to the grounds of the supposedly unenlightened.  There are no marks by which one of these many inconsistent conceptions of the supernatural can be distinguished from the others.  Instead we have a condition of perfect symmetry."

What I am wondering is whether you think the traditions are as symmetrical as Kitcher says they are.  I'm asking this question here on this forum because I know Dr. Craig believes that Christianity, and not just theism, is the most rational world view to hold.  He argues against atheism, but also, as far as I can tell, against the viability of, for example, Islam.  It is Dr. Craig's position, isn't it, that there are arguments to be made in favor of Christianity which reveal it to be more plausible than other religious traditions?  If this were the case, then it would mean Kitcher is wrong that the traditions are perfectly symmetrical with regard to their rational foundation, right?

Moral Argument / What does 'wrong' mean in Dr. Craig's argument?
« on: July 24, 2008, 12:23:44 am »
It might seem surprising, but just as I said I don't know what 'wrong' means in the moral argument, I wouldn't know what 'ought' would mean if it were substituted in the place of 'wrong' in the argument.  Perhaps, as I mentioned in connection to G.E. Moore, these terms must be understood as being irreducible.  That is, to say something is wrong, or that you ought not do it, means just that and nothing else; to attempt to use other terms to define these would be a mistake.  This might be true, but I would still be unsure about what 'wrong' and 'ought' mean.  I would like to see them defined more fully.

The same goes for prohibitions.  What does it mean to prohibit an action?  What I do believe is that it's possible to use the term 'prohibition' to speak of a cause and effect relationship that exists between some action we commit and its outcome.  For example, to say an act is prohibited could be understood to mean that performing that act will result in one's being sent to hell.  If prohibition refers to something more than this cause and effect relationship, though, I don't know what that is.

Also, I do think it's possible to have objective moral values without believing that certain actions are prohibited or that they ought not be performed.  This is because, if we follow Plato and Aristotle and the eudaimonistic tradition of centering ethics on the attainment of happiness, it is possible to hold that a moral value is what promotes or detracts from happiness.  These values would be objective because, given the fixity of human nature, certain actions must produce happiness while other actions detract from it, regardless of human opinion about what actions produce and detract from happiness.

Perhaps I've just repeated what I said before, so I'll try to be clearer in light of your (so well put!) response.  First, there is a way of conceiving of ethics which doesn't involves ought-statements or prohibitions.  Second, this type of ethics can be objective.  Third, given the fact that this type of ethics can be formulated without reference to God, it is possible to have objective moral values without God.  But fourth, I generally agree with Dr. Craig that it is probably not possible to believe in objective moral values without believing in God, if one understands such values as prohibitions, or as true universal ought-statements, or as certain actions being wrong (assuming we are defining wrong in terms or prohibitions and ought-ness).

And finally, this was why I began by asking how Dr. Craig is defining 'wrong' in his moral argument.  If he is in fact defining wrong in terms of prohibitions and ought-ness, then I would object that this is not the only way of conceiving of an action as being wrong.  His conception of wrong makes no sense without God, while the conception of wrong in eudaimonistic ethics only has to do with actions which lead away from happiness, objectively speaking.  If all Dr. Craig's argument aims to show is that we cannot have objective moral laws without a super-human lawgiver (since if the lawgiver(s) involved are human, their laws will never be anything more than subjective), then this makes sense to me.  But it wouldn't follow that there might not be objective moral values without God, because there is a way of conceiving of moral values that has nothing to do with ought statements or prohibitions.

I know Dr. Craig often quotes Dostoevsky: "If there is no God, then everything is permitted."  And in fact I agree with this.  If we assume God doesn't exist, then yes, everything is permitted, in the sense that nothing would be prohibited.  But this doesn't at all mean that actions no longer have any objective moral value.  Remove God, and some actions will still promote or detract from happiness objectively, and herein lies their moral value.  We might add to Dostoevsky's saying: "If there is no God, then everything is permitted, but certain actions will still bring you (and everyone else) to or away from happiness.  You are not prohibited from choosing any action, but you must also accept that certain of your actions will objectively affect your happiness."

Moral Argument / What does 'wrong' mean in Dr. Craig's argument?
« on: July 23, 2008, 12:07:10 am »
Of Dr. Craig's five usual arguments for God's existence, I find the moral argument to be the least convincing (which isn't to say I find the others unconvincing at all).  This is because the argument rests on sheer intuition, as when Dr. Craig says "...and I think we all know it," referring to the fact that we "just know" objective moral values to exist.  I suppose he considers our belief in objective moral values to be basic and thus not something to be argued for, but objective moral values are not basic for me in this sense.  I appreciate that for those for whom objective moral values are basic, though, the argument will go more smoothly.

But mainly I wanted to mention that I'm always confused by Dr. Craig's presentation of the argument in debates because I cannot remember him ever having defined what it means for an action to be "wrong."  I've heard him define "objective."  Something is objective if it is so regardless of human opinion on the matter.  But what does it mean to say something is wrong?  Or right?

If calling some act wrong simply means it is forbidden, then it seems there would have to be some agent to do the forbidding, namely by enacting some law against the act.  If that is what it means for something to be wrong, then the moral argument becomes stronger, in my eyes, since perhaps only God would be able to hand down a moral law which would apply to all of humanity regardless of their opinion on it (so as to be an objective moral law).  But how do we know that an act's being forbidden is what makes it "wrong"?  Reasoning like this makes me able to see G.E. Moore's point in Principia Ethica, where he said that the terms good and bad (and perhaps he added right and wrong) cannot be defined, and that we must simply intuit which things are good and bad, right and wrong.

The definition of "wrong" is not apparent to me.  When Dr. Craig calls something wrong, is he using a standard philosophical definition of "wrong" that I do not know about?

I'd like to go on to make another point that's always bothered me about Dr. Craig's moral argument, though.  My point rests on a notion of "wrong" that would come close to equating "wrongness" with "viciousness," in the sense this term has in virtue theory.  The ethical systems of Plato and Aristotle are alike in that they are both eudaimonistic.  That is, they are primarily concerned with happiness, the Greek word for happiness being eudaimonia.  And while neither Plato nor Aristotle afford God a substantial place in their ethical theories, as I read them, they nevertheless believe that moral values are objective.  This is because they see a bad or wrong act as one which causes us to be unhappy, and they believe that the acts which cause us to be unhappy do so regardless of our opinion on what things are right and wrong.  This is because we possess a human nature which can only be fulfilled by certain acts, and which must be corrupted by certain other acts; thus such acts are right and wrong because they lead us to happiness or unhappiness, and these acts achieve this insofar as they allow us to fulfill, if you will, our human nature.

But if there is anything to such eudaimonistic systems of ethics, and indeed I tend to conceive of ethics in this way, then it is possible to have objective moral values without God.  To repeat, this is because moral values -- right and wrong, good and bad -- are to be defined in relation to our human nature, whether they corrupt or fulfill it.  Since human opinion does not affect which actions are good and which are bad (e.g. a thief can steal all he wants, believing this will bring him happiness, but he is mistaken; indeed, the whole world could believe sexual promiscuity leads to happiness, but the world would be mistaken, because an act is good, i.e. happiness-producing, irrespective of human opinion about it), and since these actions are good and bad (or right and wrong) whether or not God exists, it is possible to have objective moral values if God does not exist.

Of course it would follow that Dr. Craig's argument fails.

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