Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Problem of Evil, cross-posted from the Tweb message board

Over at the forums at theologyweb.com, I was asked:

//Anon. What's your query concerning the existence of God and the PoE?//

My response follows.

I don't have a query over it - I gave the POE as an argument that nearly swayed me to pos-atheism, before I realized that it was not a necessary conclusive logical argument after a quick brushup on informal logic. Some have presented an argument for evil (such as Dr. Craig's friend and sparring partner Raymond Bradley, who assumed the Biblical standard for good and attempted to prove the contrary), but the counterarguments given render the formal presentations of the POE inconclusive at various premises. However, given the existence of God and YHWH in specific, the POE has, in my views, always entailed answers from the part of the believer to merely raise the implausibility of formal premises in POE presentations, rather than render them defeated.

But the real weight of the POE is, admittedly, rooted in both emotion and logic. The gravity of natural disaster and the actions of evil men is a heavy burden everyone has to suffer at some point in their lives to some degree, and whatever you believe in, there's very likely something so horrible that will happen that will at least for a moment rattle whatever worldview you have right at the core.

My former pastor, Robert Jeffress, became a bit of an entertaining opponent for me during my years as a "Dawkins-prototype" Sagan-and-Randi atheist back in the late 90's. I'd write about him to the editor when he'd appear on the news doing something that chapped my political hide at the time (which was so sensitive then even Barker would cringe), and I'd even go back to his church on occasion to hear his sermons from a perfectly incorrect mindset. After I returned to studying theology with a more serious attitude and mature approach (my political wrath greatly diminished as well, but let's leave politics as the one topic of silence here anyway ), my old habit re-emerged and I began to wonder what he was up to far away in my old hometown, but I found he'd left to Dallas and left behind a massive controversy involving a new expensive church that admirers had given lots of money for, with specific thoughts to keeping him around. I browsed a few of his audio sermons and still found that old diametric opposition, albeit from the standpoint that his apologetics are about as strong as Ray Comfort's.

Near the point of giving up, I tuned in to a "stump the pastor" session found here http://prog.videorelay.com/fbdmedia/...34/20834DS.mp3. In general, it contained answers of mixed strength bolstered by his usual confident and talented voice, holding together especially when the current Southern Baptist atom bomb of Calvinism was tossed at him with accompanying loud "ohhhhhhh's" and hisses. But the most impressive moment by far in the clip, and in over a decade and a half of listening to his sermons off and on and judging his behavior mostly by the term "blowhard," is at the 5:30 mark. He's asked a question regarding how Romans 8:28is held in line with the tragedy a believer suffers, in this question specifically addressing Stephen Chapman's recent family tragedy.

Dr. Jeffress exegetes 8:28 in the context of 8:29 in a way that probably made the Calvinists tear up as if they took a bath in onion shavings, but before that, he gave five words that made my opinion of his honesty skyrocket, and not for reasons of finding a quote to take out of context, either. He said: "there are no easy answers."

Theological determinists like Gordon Clark do have easy answers, but they're terrible and would still send me running from this religion even if I end up unable to answer fully any of the apologetical arguments. Dr. Jeffress' quote, though, is what remains if TD is abandoned, and although not nearly the scarecrow that the "easy solution" is, it would still remain a strong epistemological and moral mountain even if granted that my metaphysical and historical skepticism is refuted to smithereens. Without significant thought or, most likely, a very tremendous leap of faith over the genuinely difficult pit I see from it, I'd have to go to Flew's Deism in such a hypothetical situation. But like anything else, it would be something to continuously study even as a nontheist, since it is a truly deep issue that itself (to me) does not formally logically necessitate the truth of either side of the debate - and since it is a problem needed to be studied by everyone regardless of belief.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

On Kalam

This is copied from a post I made on a message board regarding the Kalam Cosmological Argument. It's by no means definitive on my part, or even roughly edited, but it's a sound enough representation of what's been floating around in my head to put it up here.

Enjoy, if you can read it while still in its messy state. If so, all critiques welcome. ;)

Kalam goes like this:

1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause; **
2) The universe began to exist;
3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.
** - "begins to exist" def:= "x exists at t; there is no time immediately prior to t at which x exists; and the actual world contains no state of affairs involving x's timeless existence." Craig, "Must the Beginning of the Universe Have a Personal Cause? A Rejoinder," http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcrai ... iston.html definition A4.

This is a valid argument, i.e. if the premises (1) and (2) are established properly then (3) follows by deduction.

Premise (1) is an intuitive notion, argues the Theist. We don't observe things like tigers popping in our living room uncaused, for instance; nor do randomly appearing particles themselves have no cause - they are caused by antecedent quantum-mechanical states. Even the arch-skeptic David Hume did not believe that objects or events could happen without any cause whatsoever.

Premise (2) is established, the Theist would claim, by the finiteness of the Universe. Since the Universe has a particular age, and is not infinite temporally as was once supposed by philosophers (including, at times, Aquinas himself!) and by physicists (such as the proponents of the Steady-State model that failed in answer to the Big Bang) then the universe began to exist. Recent models of an infinitely oscillating universe fail due to the finiteness of entropy; furthermore (and this includes "multiverse" theorems and Brane cosmology) astrophysicist Alexander Vilenkin has mathematically proven that any model of the universe(s) must itself have a beginning in time.

Therefore, the conclusion (3) is established. Proponents of this argument, called the Kalam Cosmological Argument, argue that the cause must be personal; for, if it were an impersonal cause, it would have insufficient means to cause the Universe from a changeless state; therefore, this changeless state must include a freely-willed decision by an infinite Being to actually create. Craig in Reasonable Faith makes the case that this is so.

I have formulated two counterarguments, in brief:

(1) If motion is continuous (i.e., if time units shorter than the Plank Time can be experienced) then the Second Law of Thermodynamics dictates a tendency to infinite heat - and zero entropy - as we reverse the arrow of time. This implies that causal action relatively increased without bound with respect to the temporal distance between any particular action in a causal chain as we approach the Big Bang. Therefore, the Cosmic Singularity is a limit point, which did not actually exist, and the universe has always existed causally while itself existing temporally with respect to any constantly measured time-unit. The mathematics, which relies only on Calculus II procedures, demonstrates this, but I won't present the details here. This eradicates the need for a First Cause, and therefore a Creator, and represents a positive-atheistic argument against God.

(2) If motion is not continuous (a Unified Theory on Quantum Gravity may establish this) then the first state of the Universe was the Cosmic Singularity and the second state was the early condition at Plank Time following the "Bang." This would render the Kalam Cosmological Argument true, as the universe necessarily would contain finite causal chains by rule of physics.

However, in this case, science has shown (in a paper whose link I've lost) that the Big Bang singularity would be an actual existential state. In other words, all components of existence would have originated from a state where each component was superimposed upon one another - there existed no space (i.e. distance between these components), no motion, and so on.

But this implies that the Cosmic Singularity exists outside of time. As Einstein stated, time is relative. Relative to what? The placement and motion of separate objects! Therefore, the Initial Cosmic Singularity is literally eternal - it is not some pellet that sat there in "infinite space" for "forever" - both which imply a distance between objects and ongoing metaphysical motion, which both did not exist in this primary state of the universe - but it is literally outside of any concept of time whatsoever, since, once again, there was no motion and no distance between the primary building blocks of existence. Space was wrapped to zero (distance) and was "infinitely dense" by implication. We cannot imagine a timeless state - do NOT think of it as an "infinitely long" state! - but we can imagine the causal connection of the primary constituents of the universe: let {B} be the metaphysical set of primary constituents, which must be finite in number (by physics). Number them b1, b2, b3, ..., bn.

Each element b in {B} has its own particular identity. Among these elements were the indestructible building blocks of matter as we know it today - quanta that, as physics proves, cannot exist in the same space with the same quantum state for any period of time. In other words, matter can't occupy the same space. In other words, we have the following simultaneous causal chain in the (timeless!) state of the Big Bang Singularity for one particular element of {B} that is of this particular quanta, say, "b": since no space separates b from all other elements of {B}, it must affect the subset {B'} of likewise quanta that cannot be in the same place. Since no distance initially separates these elements, b will affect all other elements of {B'} (and likewise each other element effects b}, prompting motion, in accordance with the laws of Quantum Mechanics for these particles. As an easy illustration, imagine that there are only four such particles (there are in fact a tremendous, but ultimately finite, number of such particles):

b1< --> b <--> b3

Each arrow represents a necessary causation of one upon the other. Note the arrows go both ways. Not included here is the vast graph network that will result, for, b2 must also connect with b3 and b4 in the same manner, etc. Can you imagine such a causal network for an exponentially tremendous amount of these objects!?

Bang. As Quantum Mechanics dictates for {B'}, the vast, massive heat-releasing, rapid motion of these particles results from this vast networked chain of causation. From motion, we have that space and time unfurls. It is such a magnificent effect that the universe begins to expand so rapidly that modern physics can't comprehend it yet!

Therefore, we have that the Big Bang Singularity brought the motion-rich (and therefore time-rich), space-relationed Universe into existence from its "former" nontemporal, nonspacial state. The cause of the elements of {B'} upon each other lead to these present facts, and the initial state of causation at the Singularity wasn't "just like that 'unchanged' forever;" it had no motion, no referent, and therefore no time; no "forever" in the loose sense. It existed eternally - in the sense that it existed externally out of time. The causation of {B'} upon itself wasn't like that "forever," it simply was.

Therefore either presentation resultant from Quantum Gravity leads to a notion of the nonexistence of the Creator, as my case (1) demonstrates the necessity of an infinite causal chain described by "unboundedly faster" causation given Quantum Gravity's dictation of continuous motion, or, if not, my case (2) explains the necessary cause of the Universe from an atemporal, nonintelligent state.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The nature of the Trinity and of Mary

I was watching a Catholic show on early heresies last night, led by a theologian whose name I can't recall. The host dealt pretty harshly with heresies specific to the nature of Christ, and it drummed up some thoughts about when I was a believer - I didn't really understand what the Incarnation actually means.

Unfortunately, the only noted heresy I recall by name is "Arianism," due to its similarity (only by the sound of the word) to the racial policies picked up by the Nazis. The concept, banned as heresy by the First Council of Nicea, taught that God created Christ at the moment of His birth, if I recall correctly.

The Catholic theologian went on to explain that God is one essence and three persons - all of equivalent natures, not just similar ones. How can this be so? It is not entirely clear to me, especially in light of John 14:28, how they can be considered equivalent, but maybe I'm missing something here.

I simply can't understand what the doctrine of the Trinity means. When I was a believer, I thought of it as a corporation, the "God corporation," in which three separate Beings filled the necessary roles to comprise a coherent notion of God. Are these three Beings separate, or not? Are they equal, or not, or would the term "equal" be used in different senses here?

One last point, especially considering any believing audience of mine is a Protestant one: if Christ is equivalent to God, this makes Mary the literal mother of God. It seems she's due the veneration (but not the worship) that Catholics give - I actually agreed with the show's host on this point. When did such veneration fall away in Protestant thinking, and why?

Just some thoughts - looking forward to your responses!