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Brad Haggard

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« Reply #15 on: April 04, 2009, 05:45:59 pm »
Erin,

See, I think when we allow philosophy and parsimony to round out our scientific knowledge, we can get to more definite conclusions.  We can point out absurdities with infinite time in the past, and point to our contingent experience.  I just don't think we're in this epistemic black hole because the new hadron collider hasn't had enough time to produce anything.  Honestly, it seems like denying the contingent nature of the universe violates our common sense understanding of it.

I heard Vic Stenger say once in a panel that we can confidently say that "the universe arose out of frozen nothingness."  I don't think I need to illuminate the absurdities inherent in this statement.  I don't know what you think, but I don't think we have to be so tentative to draw conclusions.  Perhaps something new will come up, but for now that is the best we have.


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Erin

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« Reply #16 on: April 04, 2009, 08:06:03 pm »

bradhaggard wrote: Erin,

See, I think when we allow philosophy and parsimony to round out our scientific knowledge, we can get to more definite conclusions.  We can point out absurdities with infinite time in the past, and point to our contingent experience.  I just don't think we're in this epistemic black hole because the new hadron collider hasn't had enough time to produce anything.  Honestly, it seems like denying the contingent nature of the universe violates our common sense understanding of it.

I heard Vic Stenger say once in a panel that we can confidently say that "the universe arose out of frozen nothingness."  I don't think I need to illuminate the absurdities inherent in this statement.  I don't know what you think, but I don't think we have to be so tentative to draw conclusions.  Perhaps something new will come up, but for now that is the best we have.

I respectfully disagree with jumping to what I perceive to be rash conclusions on inconclusive empirical and metaphysical evidence. For instance, the "absurdities of infinite time in the past" you speak of likely largely ignore the advances in understanding of what time is over the past 50 years (philosophers are notorious for being way behind in the physics... as Roland Omnes, Lee Smolin and Bernard d'Espagnat have said, it's amazing how many deeply intellectual philosophers still don't understand the most basic nuances of even 20th century physics).

Our understanding of time is very different from the classical philosophical conceptions of time. For instance Julian Barbour points out that time is equivalent to permutations in a universal configuration space, in which classical time paradoxes (even those involving infinities) don't arise. The Wheeler-DeWitt equation, a quantum wave function equation of the universe, actually drops t out as a variable altogether.

Other research into time's nature suggests it has symmetry violations in a scheme known as CPT symmetry (charge-parity-time) in which backwards time is possible and in which classical philosophical time "problems" also disapear. It's also a possibility that since time's arrow is only defined by the entropic gradient that it can flow in different gradients on "either side" of an entropic absolute or relative minimum.

Quantum wave theory solutions to Schroedinger's Equation always produces two answers: one in forward time and one in backward time.

I could go on for a while because time is one of my interests in physics, but my point is that it would be far too naive to jump to such premature conclusions as declaring the universe contingent.

-Erin
"It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men." --Carl Sagan

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Erin

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« Reply #17 on: April 04, 2009, 08:50:22 pm »

Pumbelo wrote: If you replace "supreme" with Alexander Pruss' account of "omnipotence", the argument seems to work fine.

I can't find the post in which you originally posted it to look at it... I'm super sorry to ask, but can you please run Pruss's account by me one more time? I'm sorry

Pumbelo wrote: As for identity, how does that limit greatness? It seems like a necessary condition for greatness, not a limit. Being limited to itself doesn't put that much pressure on any being.


It limits greatness from being not-greatness, for instance.

-Erin
"It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men." --Carl Sagan

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Brad Haggard

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« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2009, 08:05:55 am »
Erin, I still think that our common sense in this matter counts, but I won't press it further because I have a sneaking suspicion that you are more familiar with the physics than I am.

Got a good recommendation on a primer, preferably non-polemical?


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Erin

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« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2009, 12:29:50 pm »

bradhaggard wrote: Erin, I still think that our common sense in this matter counts, but I won't press it further because I have a sneaking suspicion that you are more familiar with the physics than I am.

Got a good recommendation on a primer, preferably non-polemical?

Hmmmm, I'm not really sure depending on how much background you have. There aren't a lot of popular science books written on mechanics for instance. For books dealing with the nature of time though, and how classic philosophical concepts of time are gradually being falsified or reinterpreted, I'd recommend:

"The End of Time" Julian Barbour (Barbour concludes that time is an illusion, but that's just his personal metaphysical conclusion based on real science/mathematics that suggest time behaves like permutations in a universal configuration space)

"Three Roads to Quantum Gravity" Lee Smolin (Mostly about quantum gravity as you would guess but time plays a very important role and not a classical one)

"The Cosmic Landscape" Leonard Susskind (Susskind is a proponent of the anthropic principle in explaining cosmic fine tuning, which I disagree with, but most of the science in his book is valid. Like with all popular science books, just discern between the actual science and the author's opinion of the science)

"Quantum Philosophy" Roland Omnes (Omnes is a great philosopher of science and mathematics... an absolute thrill to read. I've probably gleaned more understanding of deep philosophical nuances in science from a single chapter of Omnes than I have from all of my classes combined)

"On Physics and Philosophy" Bernard d'Espagnat (Very thick book and very dry to begin with, Bernard lays out the relationship between science, mathematics and philosophy. It's like watching an elegant ballet as they interact through Bernard's keen wit!)

-Erin

"It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men." --Carl Sagan

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Nicholay

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« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2009, 01:58:24 pm »
ScarletD wrote:
I respectfully disagree with jumping to what I perceive to be rash conclusions on inconclusive empirical and metaphysical evidence. For instance, the "absurdities of infinite time in the past" you speak of likely largely ignore the advances in understanding of what time is over the past 50 years (philosophers are notorious for being way behind in the physics... as Roland Omnes, Lee Smolin and Bernard d'Espagnat have said, it's amazing how many deeply intellectual philosophers still don't understand the most basic nuances of even 20th century physics).

Our understanding of time is very different from the classical philosophical conceptions of time. For instance Julian Barbour points out that time is equivalent to permutations in a universal configuration space, in which classical time paradoxes (even those involving infinities) don't arise. The Wheeler-DeWitt equation, a quantum wave function equation of the universe, actually drops t out as a variable altogether.

Other research into time's nature suggests it has symmetry violations in a scheme known as CPT symmetry (charge-parity-time) in which backwards time is possible and in which classical philosophical time "problems" also disapear. It's also a possibility that since time's arrow is only defined by the entropic gradient that it can flow in different gradients on "either side" of an entropic absolute or relative minimum.

Quantum wave theory solutions to Schroedinger's Equation always produces two answers: one in forward time and one in backward time.

I could go on for a while because time is one of my interests in physics, but my point is that it would be far too naive to jump to such premature conclusions as declaring the universe contingent.

-Erin


Erin,

I myself am a grad student of electrical engineering (wireless comm.) and have not taken any pure physics since pretty much the first year of undergrad. I am therefore, quite unable to properly discuss these theories of time with you.

Dr. Craig, however, often points to a paper by Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth which apparently demonstrates that any universe which has on average been globally expanding at a positive rate has a past boundary and therefore cannot be infinite in the past. I know this isn't entirely on topic, but I was wondering if you know of this work, or if it has any implications on your discussion of a necessary or conginent universe.

(I do realize that your position is more that we cannot have sufficient knowledge of what happened on the small initial timescale and therefore cannot form arguments from any such theories, but I would still be interested in your take on this.)

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MorleyMcMorson

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« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2009, 02:08:33 pm »

ScarletD wrote: It makes sense to me that something like logic could have necessary existence because it's incorrigible -- its negation only proves its efficacy.

However, when arguments are made that God's existence is necessary it isn't so clear cut. It doesn't seem to involve a contradiction to me to suppose God's nonexistence, as even arguments geared towards establishing God's "necessity" usually only end up arguing that "something exists necessarily."

Well, "something exists necessarily" doesn't mean a personal creator-god. It could just as easily refer to the universe as a whole, or even to logic (which we already admit necessarily exists). What arguments are there that attempt to establish that a personal creator-god exists incorrigibly?

-Erin

I don't think incorrigibility matters nearly as much as you do as far as God's necessary existence is concerned, although this is an interesting topic.  There are necessary truths that can be doubted, such as that Hesperus is necessarily the same as Phosphorus.  There are necessary truths whose truths aren't even known by people, such as some truths of mathematics.  There are also incorrigible contingent truths, such as that I exist (thought by me).  So the fact that thoughts about God's existence aren't incorrigible doesn't seem all that pertinent to whether or not God exists (necessarily).  Or you could just say that God's existence can't be reasonably doubted, or something of that nature, since if we fully understood things, belief in God's existence would in fact be incorrigible (just as in the Hesperus-Phosphorus case).  Since God is a much more complicated subject than, say, identity statements, it shouldn't be shocking that something like this is the case.

People might all admit that logic "necessarily exists", but they would probably mean widey varying things by saying this.  A Platonist would think of them as necessarily true propositions, whereas a conceptualist would think of them as thoughts in God's mind and a fictionalist would think of them as the way that God necessarily thinks.

As for what you've written about different scientific ideas and their effect on our conceptions of time, have you ever considered anti-realism about certain theoretical science?  You can find a scientist with just about any wacky interpretation you can think of, so long as it's empirically adequate (and even sometimes not).

As for what it is that exists necessarily, I'd say that the only usual contenders for necessary existence are abstract objects, the universe, and God.  Unless Platonism can be successfully argued I'd say the first is questionable (if fictionalism can be successfully argued, then the first is defeated).  There are good reasons to think that neither space nor time can be necessary.  So I think some kind of personal creator, at least assuming time is tensed, is by far the best candidate for the necessary being, or at least a necessary being, since even if they exist abstract objects couldn't cause anything and therefore couldn't have caused the universe.

From what you've written, I take it you're a Platonist and a B-theorist.  Is this right?
"We have no past, we won't reach back..."
-Ardent A-theorist Cyndi Lauper in her song "All Through the Night", singing about the impossibility of time travel on her presentist metaphysic.

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Brad Haggard

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« Reply #22 on: April 08, 2009, 10:01:49 am »
Erin, thanks for the leads.  Hopefully I can get to them soon.

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Erin

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« Reply #23 on: April 08, 2009, 04:00:51 pm »

Nicholay wrote: Erin,

I myself am a grad student of electrical engineering (wireless comm.) and have not taken any pure physics since pretty much the first year of undergrad. I am therefore, quite unable to properly discuss these theories of time with you.

Dr. Craig, however, often points to a paper by Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth which apparently demonstrates that any universe which has on average been globally expanding at a positive rate has a past boundary and therefore cannot be infinite in the past. I know this isn't entirely on topic, but I was wondering if you know of this work, or if it has any implications on your discussion of a necessary or conginent universe.

(I do realize that your position is more that we cannot have sufficient knowledge of what happened on the small initial timescale and therefore cannot form arguments from any such theories, but I would still be interested in your take on this.)

Smolin, Markopoulou et al... I might have to dig through arxiv or elsewhere to find the names... but anyway, somebody(bodies) found that Loop Quantum Gravity enables a "rebounding universe" under some conditions that may be plausible. However, that's if LQG is true, and note that currently LQG is not a working theory of quantum gravity (working in the sense of "complete").

So about the rebounding universe concept -- it isn't completely ruled out as it had been before.

-Erin

---
EDIT
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The guy's name was Bojowald or something
"It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men." --Carl Sagan

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Erin

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« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2009, 04:16:22 pm »

MorleyMcMorson wrote: I don't think incorrigibility matters nearly as much as you do as far as God's necessary existence is concerned, although this is an interesting topic.  There are necessary truths that can be doubted, such as that Hesperus is necessarily the same as Phosphorus.  There are necessary truths whose truths aren't even known by people, such as some truths of mathematics.  There are also incorrigible contingent truths, such as that I exist (thought by me).  So the fact that thoughts about God's existence aren't incorrigible doesn't seem all that pertinent to whether or not God exists (necessarily).

True, but why would God make such an important bit of knowledge so unattainable to genuine seekers of truth, who might otherwise believe if He would but reveal himself through some means that isn't dubious to skeptics? This doesn't argue that God couldn't exist necessarily, it's more of a question about what God's motives (should He exist) could be to enable otherwise rational people to doubt His very existence -- not out of spite, or out of rebellion, but sheerly out of neutral, skeptical disbelief!

MorleyMcMorson wrote: As for what you've written about different scientific ideas and their effect on our conceptions of time, have you ever considered anti-realism about certain theoretical science?  You can find a scientist with just about any wacky interpretation you can think of, so long as it's empirically adequate (and even sometimes not).


Physicists aren't well-known for their metaphysical prowess seems to my experience the sorrowful admission by my favorite philosophers of science; and I tend to agree with them. Some seemed pretty keen on it though... like Einstein, who once asked his pal "Do you really believe the moon isn't there if you're not looking?"

Also Niels Bohr, who understood that "Anything beyond the prediction of the outcome of experiment is metaphysics," and of most quantum mechanisists that they should "Shut up and calculate." That seems to make his opinion on what metaphysical statements physicists were making pretty clear to me, haha.

There are good physicists who have otherwise kooky metaphysical ideas... among them Bohm, von Neumann, Wheeler, etc. Other times kooky metaphysical ideas are suggested but not meant to be taken as real but rather as a conceptual tool -- a prime example would be Feynman's "all-paths" approach to the wave function.

Even the most widespread quantum interpretation, the Copenhagen Interpretation, retains philosophical realism by abandoning scientific realism (i.e., realism is still true but the objects discussed in the science, such as wave functions themselves, aren't physically real -- they're simply conceptual tools in the same sense as a cartesian grid).

I guess what I'm saying is that yes, unfortunately some physicists have very bad metaphysical ideas. Others don't know how else to conceive of a problem so they just use conceptual tools. Others still (notably Roland Omnes) are working very hard at bringing both locality and realism to quantum interpretations.

MorleyMcMorson wrote: As for what it is that exists necessarily, I'd say that the only usual contenders for necessary existence are abstract objects, the universe, and God.  Unless Platonism can be successfully argued I'd say the first is questionable (if fictionalism can be successfully argued, then the first is defeated).  There are good reasons to think that neither space nor time can be necessary.  So I think some kind of personal creator, at least assuming time is tensed, is by far the best candidate for the necessary being, or at least a necessary being, since even if they exist abstract objects couldn't cause anything and therefore couldn't have caused the universe.

From what you've written, I take it you're a Platonist and a B-theorist.  Is this right?


I'm something of a Platonist, yeah. I'm not sure what I think about time. I'm still learning about it. It's one of my main interests in physics and I know enough to know how little I know about it, if that makes sense.

-Erin
"It is said that men may not be the dreams of the Gods, but rather that the Gods are the dreams of men." --Carl Sagan

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Harvey

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« Reply #25 on: April 08, 2009, 05:06:51 pm »

ScarletD wrote: . . .but anyway, somebody(bodies) found that Loop Quantum Gravity enables a "rebounding universe" under some conditions that may be plausible. However, that's if LQG is true, and note that currently LQG is not a working theory of quantum gravity (working in the sense of "complete"). So about the rebounding universe concept -- it isn't completely ruled out as it had been before. .  . The guy's name was Bojowald or something

That's right, Martin Bojowald's paper, "Absence of Singularity in Loop Quantum Cosmology."

The main problem with that model is that entropy does not increase with each bounce. Another problem is that dark energy can extend a particular  expansion into an infinite expansion, which makes the number of bounces in the past finite. (Cf. James Sinclair, "The Physical Substantiation of the Kalam Argument", Evangelical Philosophical Society New Orleans Meeting, Feb.7, 2007.) Bojowald and Tavakol recognize and are well aware of these issues.

However, I must add, this concept of oscillating universes do not address the problem of traversing a past infinite. Physicists aren't trying to address these issues, so that's no surprise. However, those who are interested in the metaphysical implications ought to put this at the forefront.

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MorleyMcMorson

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« Reply #26 on: April 09, 2009, 01:08:43 pm »

ScarletD wrote:

True, but why would God make such an important bit of knowledge so unattainable to genuine seekers of truth, who might otherwise believe if He would but reveal himself through some means that isn't dubious to skeptics? This doesn't argue that God couldn't exist necessarily, it's more of a question about what God's motives (should He exist) could be to enable otherwise rational people to doubt His very existence -- not out of spite, or out of rebellion, but sheerly out of neutral, skeptical disbelief!

I'm not sure what I think about time. I'm still learning about it. It's one of my main interests in physics and I know enough to know how little I know about it, if that makes sense.

-Erin


In reply to your question, my opinion is that if you thoroughly research a number of areas surrounding philosophical theology (that is, given its current state), you couldn't but come to the opinion that the current state of argumentation favors theism over atheism.  If one reads the reading lists from Craig's Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide, I'm confident that one would at least be favorably disposed towards theism.  I am probably in the minority when I say this, but I just don't think there are any good arguments for atheism, not that I'm aware of anyway.  Every major argument against theism I can think of is either against the coherence/meaningfulness of theism or some form of the problem of evil, whether explicitly or implicitly (the argument from dysteleology is really just the problem of evil in one guise, as is the problem of divine hiddenness, etc.).  Since I think the coherence of theism can be satisfactorily established (it only takes ONE coherent model, after all, even if the rest are all incoherent!) and the problem of evil can't be satisfactorily established due to our epistemic limitations, and since I think there are at least a few strong epistemic arguments in favor of theism (kalam, modal ontological, noological-axiological-reason) as well as some very strong prudential reasons to believe in theism so long as it's at least rationally tenable, I think that a thorough study of the current state of philosophy of religion would, minus some aversion to theism, lead to some form of theistic propositional belief.  Maybe not faith, but at least a step in that direction.  So I don't think such knowledge is unattainable.  Epistemic certainty based on argumentation is probably impossible, but the arguments out there for theism at the very least, in my opinion, strongly support theism and make theistic belief rational.  The fact that we can't be sure that "a maximally great being" is possible based on argumentation shouldn't be shocking, since if we were then we'd be sure based on that argument that God exists, since the modal ontological argument is clearly valid.  I still think that it's clearly at least rational (which is all Plantinga claimed in The Nature of Necessity) to believe in God based on the modal ontological argument (since it's at least rational to think such a being is possible, unless there's some good argument for the incoherence of such a being).

Even given all that, I think Plantinga has shown that, if theism is true, Christian belief could be warranted without any sort of arguments in its favor.  Also, again Plantinga, we shouldn't be shocked that we can't reach certainty based on argumentation, since philosophical argumentation rarely if ever leads to certainty.  A little epistemic parity is called for; some of the arguments for theism are at least as good as arguments usually considered to rather strongly establish certain positions.  What more could we ask for?  Even somebody as goofy as Peter van Inwagen has written that he thinks the cosmological and teleological arguments are at least as strong as any other philosophical arguments he can think of.  For once, I agree with van Inwagen (he's got a great Dutch name, but man oh man do I disagree with just about everything that he writes).

If you haven't read them, I strongly recommend Craig's books The Tensed Theory of Time and The Tenseless Theory of Time.  I've been recently working on reading the suggested reading list from Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, including the section on philosophy of time.  From what I've read (that whole list minus the Broad book and one about relativity), philosophers of time are largely both confusing and confused.  I would really recommend just reading those two Craig books, since I think they're both very clear, and they cover all the major arguments for both the A- and B-theories of time, and do so in a very persuasive way.  As soon as you get done with the linguistic argument for the A-theory, the rest of both books is pretty much gold.  The linguistic argument is kind of tough going, though.
"We have no past, we won't reach back..."
-Ardent A-theorist Cyndi Lauper in her song "All Through the Night", singing about the impossibility of time travel on her presentist metaphysic.