William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Philosophic Issues in Cosmology: I. Introduction—Guest Post by Bob Kurland

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Bob Kurland is a retired, cranky, old physicist, and convert to Catholicism. He shows that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19A (KJV).

“The laws of nature themselves tells us that not only can the universe have popped into existence like a proton and have required nothing in terms of energy but also that it is possible that nothing caused the big bang,” Professor Steven Hawking (Discovery Channel broadcast).

“But contrary to what Hawking claims, physical laws can never provide a complete explanation of the universe. Laws themselves do not create anything, they are merely a description of what happens under certain conditions.” Professor John Lennox (Mathematics and Philosophy of Science, Oxford University).

“I think that only an idiot can be an atheist! We must admit that there exists and incomprehensible power or force with limitless foresight and knowledge that started the whole universe going in the first place.” Professor Christian Anfinsen (Nobel Prize for Chemistry), quoted in Cosmos, Bios and Theos.

There has been much heat, and only some light after the publication of Hawking’s and Mlodinow’s The Grand Design, a work that claimed the universe started from nothing because of gravity. I’m not going to recapitulate the excellent rebuttals of the Hawking/Mlodinow thesis (including a fine one by Stacy Trasancos), but rather expand on the proposition given in the quote by Professor Lennox above. What can science tell us about Creation, and what can it not?

Let’s first inquire what science is about. Fr. Stanley Jaki maintains in The Limits of a Limitless Science that science requires quantitative, empirical verification (or rejection) of predictions based on theory. Although this restricts true science to the so-called “hard” discipline (physics in particular, chemistry and other sciences insofar as they are quantitative), I concur. This quantitative verification requirement then puts assertions that cannot be empirically verified (or falsified) into the realm of metaphysics—thus M-theory, most interpretations of quantum mechanics, and many assertions about creation should be judged as propositions in philosophy/metaphysics.

This condition applies especially to cosmology—the scientific discipline that deals with our Universe as an entity. I’ll expand on this, taking material from an article previously posted on the Magis Facebook site,1 which in turn summarized a review article by George F.R. Ellis.

What are the conditions that require cosmology to have a philosophic base?

Intrinsic limitations on scientific cosmology studies:

  1. We can’t step outside the universe or duplicate it as an experimental object;
  2. We explore the universe by electromagnetic radiation (from radio to gamma rays), which limits the distance out and, correspondingly, the past time for which measurements can be made. This limitation is of two types.
    1. The first is a time horizon due to the coupling of matter and radiation at times before the universe was about 380,000 years old, giving an opaque barrier at distances/times corresponding to less than 380,000 years from the beginning. This means that there is a time horizon—we cannot see further back in time than 380,000 years after the origin.
    2. The second limitation is a distance horizon—if the universe expansion is uniform, such that the further a point is from us (and, correspondingly, the further back in time), the faster it is moving—then there will be a distance d, such a star at that distance d will be moving away from us at the speed of light, or faster. This means that we cannot communicate at distances greater than d, since communication can only take place at the speed of light.

An important consequence of the time horizon is that we have to infer what happened before the 380,000 years from the properties of the universe we determine after that time. So theories about singularities, quantum origins, inflation can only be tested (if at all) by predictions about the state of our universe at times greater than or equal to 380,000 years from the origin.

An important consequence of the distant horizon has to do with causality. Two events cannot influence each other (since interactions cannot travel faster than the speed of light) if they are further apart than the distance horizon. This is one of the reasons that “inflation” is invoked in the very early life of the universe. (See below.) The early universe was larger than the horizon distance d (speed of light times age of the universe), so the question is how was a causal relation retained between different parts of the early universe to give the same temperatures and densities (approximately) for parts of the universe that were not causally connected.

There is also a practical limitation, a physics horizon. The energies in the early stages of the Big Bang are so high that there is no way that these could be duplicated in the laboratory, despite occasional claims of popular science writers to the contrary.

Thus, as George Ellis emphasizes, “Testable Physics cannot explain the initial state and hence the specific nature of the universe” (Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology). Accordingly, cosmology rests on philosophy, on metaphysical assumptions. Two of the most important of these assumptions are, according to Ellis:

THESIS A1: The universe itself cannot be subjected to physical experimentation. We cannot re-run the universe with the same or altered conditions to see what would happen if they were different, so we cannot carry out scientific experiments on the universe itself.

THESIS A2: The universe cannot be observationally compared with other universes. We cannot compare the universe with any similar object, nor can we test our hypotheses about it by observations determining statistical properties of a known class of physically existing universes. George Ellis, Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology.

Read Part II.

————————————————————————————–

1This will be the first of seven posts, taken in part from previous posts on the Magis Facebook site.

67 Comments

  1. Sander van der Wal

    July 14, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Thesis A1 is one which plagues all of Astronomy. Even the most trivial of things we cannot do, like building a small dwarf star, or even a tiny Jupiter-like planet. But that is not an objection against Astronomy or against Astrophysics that is generally raised. What people do is look at all kinds of stars, and in the future, planets, compare them and try to figure out how they might work based on the differences, and based on the environments these stars appear to be in.

    Regarding A2, it is still possible to compare theories against the bit of the universe we can see.

  2. Sander, I think what Ellis was trying to say about Thesis A2 is that propositions about other universes/a meta-universe are not testable and so do not belong to the realm of science. Mathematical metaphysics maybe?

  3. “He shows that there is no contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith.”

    Seems to more to the agenda than just that…however, if that were the agenda…why not just direct the reader to the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, and let one read right from “the horse’s mouth” [so to say] what the Church has to say.

    Really, does the Roman Catholic Church need some amateur upstart to do its apologizing for it…

    No.

    Would the official Roman Catholic Church endorse this essay and where it’s going?

    Almost certainly not—and it would very probably reject it outright.

    What this essay is clearly doing (at least where it seems clearly headed) is toward a “proof” rejecting natural causes for the universe and thus a “proof” (or something approaching that) for the existence of divine origin. Thing is, the official Church position is that belief in God is a matter of Faith. Not proof.

  4. Ken,

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    Too much coffee, brother.

  5. Ken, thank you for your kind words. I do indeed in later posts direct the reader to summaries of conferences called by St. John Paul II … read and enjoy. And in these posts I’m also attempting to summarize the thoughts of George F.R. Ellis (with a few thoughts of my own), who is not Catholic, but a Quaker. But we do try to be ecumenical do we not? and finally, what is the substance of your beef?

  6. Ken, if you take the trouble to read any of the posts on my blogs, you’ll see that I do reject the notion of scientific “proof” for the existence of God and the Trinity. What I try to show is that nothing from the world of science can disprove the existence of God… you might see http://home.ptd.net/~rkurland and the beginning quote:
    “This course is to serve as an apologetic against scientific materialism, to show that Faith and Reason “are the two wings” that carry us to knowledge of God, and that there is no conflict between what science tells us and Catholic dogma. Science will not prove the existence of God, nor can it prove that God does not exist.”
    This was a course approved by the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.
    An apology would be nice, but I don’t really expect it.

  7. Sander van der Wal

    July 14, 2014 at 10:42 am

    @Bob Kurland

    These theories might be testable. There is one now that states that gravity permeates different universes. That part should be testable. It will a
    So be the case that theories about other universes must work in this one.

    But I don’t see that as a problem. People had theories that some nebulae were in fact outside the universe, i.e what we now call the Milky Way Galaxy. We had to wait for the Cepheid distance calibration and finding Cepheids in the Andromeda Nebula for proof that those nebula were indeed outside the universe, i.e our own Galaxy. They were called Island Universes for some time.

  8. Sander, I’d be interested in seeing how the notion of gravity permeating different universes might be testable. Do you have a reference? My prejudice is that when one says a “universe”, this is a self contained entity, or in fact everything. Fr. Jaki had a nice piece on the notion of “universe”, debunking multiple universes, but unfortunately I can’t find the reference. And of course, in talking about “Island Universes” , one should keep in mind what is meant by “universe”.

  9. Sander van der Wal

    July 14, 2014 at 11:22 am

    @Bob

    Here’s a link to the wiki, which should be a reasonable introduction: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brane_cosmology

    Regarding the term “universe”, I think that people start calling the new entities Universes, until somebody remembers that the Universe is everything, by definition. Then they try and think of a new term.

  10. @Sander,
    Thanks for the link Sander, but all I can find at that site is this subheading:
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brane_cosmology#Empirical_tests
    and the following two quotes:
    “As of now, no experimental or observational evidence of large extra dimensions, as required by the Randall–Sundrum models, has been reported. ”
    and
    “braneworld scenario. There is no experimental evidence for this hypothesis, nor is there any definite need for the brane multiverse in M-theory or string theory.”
    If you can give me a more specific link, I’ll try to look at it in an unbiased way, though I must admit that I have a prejudice against M-theory being testable physics after reading Peter Woit’s “Not Even Wrong”.

  11. Bob, suppose the distance horizon was not a barrier and communication could occur instantaneously through some kind of quantum teleconnection. How would that affect your argument?

  12. Gary, thanks for your comment. I’m not sure about “quantum teleconnection”. Ellis’s assumption is that communication is only via electromagnetic radiation. All the ‘action at a distance’ phenomena from spin-pairs–the EPR paradox stuff that violates Bell’s Theorem–supposedly can’t convey information even though it takes place “instantaneously”. And I suppose telepathy would also work… but again, that’s in the realm of science-fiction, at least for now. :>)

  13. Replace “universe” by “mathematics”. Then you immediately notice, that mathematics does not need God. In fact if you would need God that would be a God-of-the-gaps. You may postulate a “Cause for mathematics”. But that would be an uncaused Cause. You might as well postulate that mathematics itself is uncaused.

    Same for the universe.

  14. Ad A1 and A2 No historical science is testable, that goes for geology, biological evolution and climate models. We only have one historic run to test our hypotheses against. Are astrophysics, geophysics, biochemistry, and climate modeling science? Yes, call it scenario science.

  15. Sander van der Wal

    July 14, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    @Bob Kurland

    Ok, I am not aware of a claim that that brane theory has been tested. The proponents claim it is testable, they haven’t yet said they did test it.

  16. You guys are just chicken and egging this thing endlessly.

    We don’t know what “started” the universe, let alone what sort of thing could start a universe, let alone whether anything really has to be started at all. That said, and aside, it seems really, really, really unlikely that it is some God as described in some old books.

    There is no God.

    There is no scientific evidence suggesting the existence of God.

    There may be things out there in the universe that may resemble something you may want to call a God, but we have no evidence such a thing exists.

    Either you feel there is God, inside you, in your mind, in your “soul,” or you do not. If never exposed to it, though, it’s highly unlikely you’d ever think it up. You must be exposed to it first, and then you either believe it, or you don’t. It is a matter of “faith.” All religions all acknowledge this reality – you have to have faith to believe. There is no evidence. There never was. Ever.

    JMJ

  17. “If never exposed to it, though, it’s highly unlikely you’d ever think it up.”

    Never bet on what you think other people cannot do. It’s a good thing that you said highly unlikely rather than impossible because then you would have had your own version of unmoved mover to deal with.

  18. Fletcher Christian

    July 14, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    “If never exposed to it, though, it’s highly unlikely you’d ever think it up.” Disagree. It’s remarkable what a variety of things humans can think up, especially when there’s an economic incentive.

    Witness the huge amount of text in the Bible about the proper procedures for animal sacrifice. Convenient for the priests, eh, who thereby are relieved of the necessity of obtaining their own food by honest work?

    “When the first knave met the first fool, then was born the first priest.”

  19. Scotian, someone dreamed it up in the first place, but few have visions that stick. So, from the evidence, I’d say it’s highly unlikely, a once in a long while thing. From what we know about people truly separated from socialization, they do not seem capable of understanding religion at all. I would bet a huge sum, based just on lack of exposure as opposed to lack of socialization, that any person with no exposure would never bother to invent God. I’d bet everything on a person without socialization thinking it up, and that really gets to the point here – God is a very strong reflection of society. And He’s rather society-specific. In fact, I’d say the whole idea is simply off the wall loony.

    JMJ

  20. An excellent dialogue between two great men R. Dawkins and Father G. Coyne. Starting here – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=po0ZMfkSNxc

  21. Ken, Hans, JMJ…you’re setting up straw men… This particular post has nothing to do with establishing God as the creative agency. Read the post: it has to do with what science (lower-case) can legitimately say about creation, i.e. the initial stages of the universe. It’s about science and philosophy, not religion. The propositions (with which I agree) are those of George F.R. Ellis, who incidentally happens to be a Quaker and a writer on the philosophy of science as well as a respected cosmologist. If you disagree or question any of his propositions, then do that as Sander and Gary did.
    I will bring up a religious topic in the fourth of this series, but that will be my own, not Ellis’s ideas, which you can feel free to criticize if you want to defend your faith in Science (upper-case S) as opposed to God.
    These comments on religious faith are, for this particular post, irrelevant.

  22. JH, your link may give a great interview (I’d disagree that Dawkins is a great man–in my opinion, he’s just one more of evangelical atheists who use Science to war against religion), but how is it relevant to the topic of the post? Is there a conversation in that interview about the limits of what science can say about creation? If so, I’d be willing to spend time watching it; otherwise not.

  23. “From what we know about people truly separated from socialization, they do not seem capable of understanding religion at all.”

    Could you be more specific as to the examples you have in mind here? Who are these people and how did you determine their understanding?

  24. Hans, history isn’t a science. And in context of this post, testing means making measurements and seeing if they’re in agreement with theory. This is what Hubble did in looking at red shifts. This is what Eddington et al did looking at occultation for the 1917 eclipse to test a prediction of General Relativity. This is what Pound and Rebke did with the Mossbauer experiment to confirm gravitational effects on time. Do you want a catalog of astronomical tests to confirm hypotheses? I can supply them.
    Please don’t cloud the issue by confusing what testable means, in a scientific context, with other means of verification.

  25. Hans, pardon me for being snarky. It’s late at night here and I’m having computer problems….go ahead and propose as you will.

  26. Ken, Hans, JMJ…you’re setting up straw men

    There is a long tradition of this in Anglo-American philosophy, it began with Hume, was carried on by the two Mills, and reached maturity with Russell. See Feser here: http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/07/clarke-on-stock-caricature-of-first.html

  27. @dover_beach.
    Thanks for the reference to Feser’s article. It’s an enlightening exposition on “First Causes”.
    On the other hand, I’m not sure how this applies to the post. There’s nothing in that has to do with beginnings or causes–that’ll come in later posts.

  28. Cosmology for beginners:

    Theory A: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth………….

    Theory B: In the beginning there was nothing. At all.

    Then there was around 1.5e53 kg of ‘stuff’ and a universe to put it in. Plus another 3e54 kg of non-stuff that we can’t see or detect in any way, other than by how it makes the stuff that we CAN see behave. 14 billion years and a bunch of evolving later, here we are.

    One theory is just silly and is instantly rejected by sensible, thinking people; the other is all kinds of reasonable and invokes the immediate reaction of ‘Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?’ when explained to sensible, thinking people.

    The task is to decide which theory is which.

    This is when I always like to quote Fred (Not that it proves anything; I just think that he has a neat way of putting it.): “Evolution writ large is the belief that a cloud of hydrogen will spontaneously invent extreme-ultraviolet lithography, perform Swan Lake, and write all the books in the British Museum.”

  29. Sander van der Wal

    July 15, 2014 at 8:58 am

    @Bob Ludwick

    “God gave all my friends the ability to design extreme ultra-violet lithography, perform Swan lake, and write all the books in the British Library. All I got was an ability to make witty aphorisms.”

    That is one of the problems with the Bible, if everybody is made in the image of God, why are there so few people capable of inventing extreme-ultraviolet lithography, perform Swan Lake, and write all the books in the British Museum? All of humanity together is not that much brighter than a cloud of gas.

    They are however much better in self-delusion.

  30. @ Sander van der Wal

    “All of humanity together is not that much brighter than a cloud of gas.”

    Good point.

  31. On the other hand, I’m not sure how this applies to the post. There’s nothing in that has to do with beginnings or causes–that’ll come in later posts.

    Bob, it was only tendered in support of your claim in response to Ken, Hans, JMJ in the comments thread.

    I look forward to your subsequent posts.

  32. if everybody is made in the image of God, why are there so few people capable of inventing extreme-ultraviolet lithography, perform Swan Lake, and write all the books in the British Museum?

    At least this dim bulb understands the difference between the sun, for instance, and its image.

  33. Thank you, dover_beach for the kind words.

  34. I only see a redefinition of creation out of nothing.

    Bob Ludwick,
    http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=13055#comment-124415
    False dilemma. There is no “before” the big bang. There is no time, no mass, and no space. The third option is: “we don’t know yet”

  35. I only see a redefinition of creation out of nothing.

    Where? All that this post suggests in outline is that science involves presuppositions, presuppositions that it cannot justify on its own, but whose justifications can only arise from philosophical inquiry.

  36. Where? All that this post suggests in outline is that science involves presuppositions, presuppositions that it cannot justify on its own, but whose justifications can only arise from philosophical inquiry.
    I beg your pardon? It’s theology which makes the presuppositions. Science makes hypotheses based on observations. God is unverifiable by definition, in all other cases God is a God of the gaps.

    God is not necessary in science, if He is, then you are not doing your science properly.

  37. Hans said.
    “I beg your pardon? It’s theology which makes the presuppositions. Science makes hypotheses based on observations. God is unverifiable by definition, in all other cases God is a God of the gaps.

    God is not necessary in science, if He is, then you are not doing your science properly.”
    Excuse me, Hans can you point out where God is mentioned in this post? It is philosophy (“wijsbegeerte”) that enters in, not theology (“godgeleerdheid”). (The Dutch translation is as good as I can do with Google… :>) ).

  38. Hans, I see where you’re getting that notion–the quotes at the beginning. That’s my take, not that in the post proper. Ignore those quotes if you want to get the sense of the post.

  39. I beg your pardon? It’s theology which makes the presuppositions. Science makes hypotheses based on observations

    If science had no presuppositions you could not even put forward a scientific hypothesis. How would you know what counts as one? Or as a scientific observation or explanation?

    God is not necessary in science, if He is, then you are not doing your science properly.

    No one is arguing He is; the argument is that science involves presuppostions.

  40. BOb,

    Father George Coyne is an astronomer, so I though people would be interested in knowing his fascinating perspective on faith and science and other topics. His views may surprise you. If I remember correctly, I think he has responded, indirectly if not directly, to the question of whether there is contradiction between what science tells us about the world and our Catholic faith in one of the YouTube videos.

    Dawkins said that he respected Coyne tremendously. Watch the YouTube and see why! There are no argumentative moments, but calm exchange and disagreements. With my cultural background, I love the differences between Coyne and Dawkins.

  41. Not “our Catholic faith”, delete “our” as I am not a Catholic even though I’ve a Catholics educated American family!

  42. Bob, I got it. You really didn’t need to explain that to me. And what science tells us about “creation,” so far, does not indicate God at all. Period.

    JMJ

  43. So, from the evidence, I’d say it’s highly unlikely, a once in a long while thing. From what we know about people truly separated from socialization, they do not seem capable of understanding religion at all. I would bet a huge sum, based just on lack of exposure as opposed to lack of socialization, that any person with no exposure would never bother to invent God. I’d bet everything on a person without socialization thinking it up, and that really gets to the point here – God is a very strong reflection of society. And He’s rather society-specific. In fact, I’d say the whole idea is simply off the wall loony.

    What a strange collection of statements. You’d bet that anyone that was not educated about matters religious would never think upon matters religious, as if science or history, were excluded. Or that no one would think up an idea of God or gods aside from every culture known to Man. Or that science was not society-specific. Dear oh dear.

  44. JMJ,

    There is no God.

    I’ll go so far as to say that no God(s) are necessary, and parsimony suggests that lack of necessity entails their absence. Chicken and egging is going on here, certainly, but it’s your problem the same as everyone’s — we don’t know the ultimate cause of our existence. Plain and simple. The Big Bang is essentially magic. It’s folly to pretend otherwise.

  45. Sander van der Wal

    July 16, 2014 at 3:15 am

    @Brandon Gates

    Consider this in the context of the Thomist view of God. At some point Thomas is going to prove that God must be The Trinity.

    If you look carefully at the scientific theories, there is not a Trinity in sight. As you cannot have God without Trinity, obviously scientific theories do need God, because they do not need The Trinity.

    Same reasoning for non-Thomist Gods. They all have essential attributes. If a scientific theory doesn’t need any essential attributes of those Gods, those theories do not need those Gods.

  46. @Sander van der Wal..
    “Consider this in the context of the Thomist view of God. At some point Thomas is going to prove that God must be The Trinity.”

    Sander, I don’t believe that’s correct, but I can’t right now find the exact reference to show you not. St. Thomas believed that the existence of the Trinity was a matter of faith, could not be proved rationally. He also believed that the creation of the Universe in time, i.e. with a t=0 beginning, could not be proved rationally.

  47. darn html tags….
    here’s the quote:
    “For the will of God cannot be investigated by reason, except as regards those things which God must will of necessity; and what He wills about creatures is not among these, as was said above.” St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part I, Question 46.
    said pertaining to creation of the world (universe) at some definite point in time.

  48. Consider this in the context of the Thomist view of God. At some point Thomas is going to prove that God must be The Trinity.

    If you look carefully at the scientific theories, there is not a Trinity in sight. As you cannot have God without Trinity, obviously scientific theories do need God, because they do not need The Trinity.

    Wow. Just wow. Bob is right, Thomas admits one cannot provide a proof of the Trinity. But on the othe point, we have already admitted that scientific theories do need God as a term in their explanations but that is only because they deal in secondary causes.

  49. Correction:

    Consider this in the context of the Thomist view of God. At some point Thomas is going to prove that God must be The Trinity.

    If you look carefully at the scientific theories, there is not a Trinity in sight. As you cannot have God without Trinity, obviously scientific theories do need God, because they do not need The Trinity.

    Wow. Just wow. Bob is right, Thomas admits one cannot provide a proof of the Trinity. But on the othe point, we have already admitted that scientific theories do need God as a term in their explanations but that is only because they deal in secondary causes.

  50. Sander van der Wal

    July 16, 2014 at 9:02 am

    @Bob Kurland

    The Trinity is an example. You can substitute any essential attribute.

    Regarding the creation of the universe, it spacetime is created at that time, it is by definition created at t=0 inside that universe. Whether there’s an outside, and whether that outside also has time, is technically a different theory, but one that embeds the Big Bang Theory. Think of Newtonian Mechanics as being embedded in General relativity in the limit of slow speeds and a flat enough local spacetime.

  51. @Sander van der Wal
    “Regarding the creation of the universe, it spacetime is created at that time, it is by definition created at t=0 inside that universe.”

    Whether the universe is created in time, or time is created with the universe is a hard issue, both scientifically and theologically. You might want to see my post (the fourth in this series, and my own dredgings, not the thoughts of Ellis)
    Creatio ex nihilo: theology versus (?) physics
    http://rationalcatholic.blogspot.com/2014/07/philosophic-issues-in-cosmology-4.html
    (I’m done messing with the HTML tags–too complicated for this old geezer)
    and particularly references therein to Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature.
    (Matt may post this later, but if you want to peek ahead, be my guest.)

  52. @doverbeach
    Wow. Just wow. Bob is right, Thomas admits one cannot provide a proof of the Trinity. But on the othe point, we have already admitted that scientific theories do need God as a term in their explanations but that is only because they deal in secondary causes.
    Nope, scientists don’t consider God, only believers and theologists do.
    Scientist, say, “we don’t know yet”. Again, you are invoking the God of the gaps, just like when Aquinas states : ” and this is wat we call God”

  53. “Excuse me, Hans can you point out where God is mentioned in this post? “
    Lessee, the very first paragraph?. 😀
    “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19A (KJV).

    So you were putting your readers on the wrong foot from the onset?

  54. @Sander

    The Trinity is an example. You can substitute any essential attribute.

    That is rank nonsense. You can show that an Unmoved Mover must be purely actual, simple, timeless, omnipotent, and so on, given the argument of the First and Second Ways. These attributes just follow from the argument. It’s not as if Aquinas did not spend 100s of pages in the ‘Summa Theologica’ and in ‘Summa contra Gentiles’ setting this argument out. It simply is unbecoming that you can make such a statement without blushing.

    @Hans

    Wow. Just wow. Bob is right, Thomas admits one cannot provide a proof of the Trinity. But on the othe point, we have already admitted that scientific theories do need God as a term in their explanations but that is only because they deal in secondary causes.

    Nope, scientists don’t consider God, only believers and theologists do.
    Scientist, say, “we don’t know yet”. Again, you are invoking the God of the gaps, just like when Aquinas states : ” and this is wat we call God”

    Firstly, sorry, I inadvertently failed to include ‘not’ here, “we have already admitted that scientific theories do not need God as a term in their explanations but that is only because they deal in secondary causes”, which was implied by the reference to secondary causes that immediately followed. Secondly, no, Aquinas doesn’t invoke God as a gap at that point given that is the conclusion of the argument. That would be like saying that ‘4’ is a ‘gap’ of the sum of 2 + 2.

  55. Sander van der Wal

    July 17, 2014 at 4:00 am

    @dover_beach

    But if none of that 100-page proof or the concepts used in the proof is needed to create proper working scientific theories, then Science doesn’t need God.

    This gives you two situations:

    1) A scientific theory is using the same concepts as Thomas, but axiomatic, instead of being based on proving propositions on top of lower-level axioms.

    2) A scientific theory is using incompatible concepts, so either the scientific theory is true, Thomas is true, or both are false, and they cannot be both true as in 1). Substitution of Thomas is fine.

    Apparently philosophers all assume 1) is true, with the option that you can replace Thomas.

    Scientist assume 2) to be the case, and may the best theory win.

  56. “’Excuse me, Hans can you point out where God is mentioned in this post? “
    Lessee, the very first paragraph?. 😀
    “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” Psalm 19A (KJV).

    So you were putting your readers on the wrong foot from the onset?”
    Hans, you should know that when I put a quote at the beginning, as is my habit in posts, it’s to provoke thought. There’s a quote from Hawking also at the beginning that disagrees with the notion of a creator. Which of these are you going to take as what’s to be said in the post? You’re cherry-picking and being contentious to brush away the fact that criticizing something that wasn’t said in the post proper. Let’s try to understand rather than debate.

  57. But if none of that 100-page proof or the concepts used in the proof is needed to create proper working scientific theories, then Science doesn’t need God.

    And neither I, nor Bob K, nor YOS, nor Briggs, is saying that working scientific theories need God anymore than cookery requires chemistry.

    This gives you two situations:

    1) A scientific theory is using the same concepts as Thomas, but axiomatic, instead of being based on proving propositions on top of lower-level axioms.

    2) A scientific theory is using incompatible concepts, so either the scientific theory is true, Thomas is true, or both are false, and they cannot be both true as in 1). Substitution of Thomas is fine.

    Not at all. You’re asserting that either philosophy and science are the same, or they mutually exclude the other. These are not the only alternatives. In fact, scientific theories can be true along with Thomas’s Five Ways since the latter is not concerned with secondary causes.

  58. Correction to formatting:

    This gives you two situations:

    1) A scientific theory is using the same concepts as Thomas, but axiomatic, instead of being based on proving propositions on top of lower-level axioms.

    2) A scientific theory is using incompatible concepts, so either the scientific theory is true, Thomas is true, or both are false, and they cannot be both true as in 1). Substitution of Thomas is fine.

    Not at all. You’re asserting that either philosophy and science are the same, or they mutually exclude the other. These are not the only alternatives. In fact, scientific theories can be true along with Thomas’s Five Ways since the latter is not concerned with secondary causes.

  59. So you were putting your readers on the wrong foot from the onset?”
    Hans, you should know that when I put a quote at the beginning, as is my habit in posts, it’s to provoke thought. There’s a quote from Hawking also at the beginning that disagrees with the notion of a creator. Which of these are you going to take as what’s to be said in the post? You’re cherry-picking and being contentious to brush away the fact that criticizing something that wasn’t said in the post proper. Let’s try to understand rather than debate.

    never assume that your internet audience is familiar wth your habits that you have elsewhere, “i’m doing this all the time” is a weak excuse. I never read your blog, i only come here on brigg’s blog, so by praising the lord and then writing a philosophical treatise indeed puts the reader on the wrong foot.

    Now a scientific truth for you: it is fundamentally impossible to use the scientific method to prove the existence of God. Because God is neither logical, nor scientific. God is a narrative, and belongs to the arts. Why is there no theology of the greek Gods or the Edda?

    Either you believe, or you don’t. I’m looking forward to the theodicy.

  60. Hans, you did not respond to the point that there were two quotes up there–one a psalm, one from Hawking denying the presence of a creator. You cherry-pick one to make a debating point. I’m not here to win debates, I’m here to learn (which I do sometimes from people with opposite points of view–atheists, agnostics, warmists, scientismists). From now on you may say whatever you please–in the words of Sheri, you are now irrelevant to me.

  61. Now a scientific truth for you: it is fundamentally impossible to use the scientific method to prove the existence of God. Because God is neither logical, nor scientific.

    Since logic is not exhausted by science, your state is demonstrably false.

  62. Sander van der Wal

    July 18, 2014 at 4:11 am

    @dover_beach

    The only thing that makes a theory, any theory, scientific is that you can falsify it, which means that you can test the bits of that theory that say how reality must behave. So scientific theories are a proper subset of all theories, including philosophical and theological ones.

    It also means that you can check a scientific theory for logical inconsistencies, just like you can check philosophical and theological theories for logical inconsistencies.

    Hence science and philosophy are not the same, and they do not exclude each other. The part of philosophy that is about building and validating theories is used for theories that are scientific (General Relativity), or philosophical (like the Theory of Universal Human Rights, or Thomas’), or Theological (no example here, I’m afraid).

  63. Sander, what is the above exactly a response to?

  64. Sander, as I understand your comment above, you don’t believe science requires empirical (quantitative) validation for a theoretical prediction, where the theory is imbedded in a general framework of theoretical structures. If you do agree to that, then philosophy is different from science in that philosophy does not require empirical validation (or falsification). Or am I missing something in your argument?

  65. “Since logic is not exhausted by science, your state is demonstrably false”
    Logic is not applicable to the literary arts.

  66. “Since logic is not exhausted by science, your state is demonstrably false”
    Logic is not applicable to the literary arts.

    And?

  67. Who dares malign the literary arts as being illogical? Logos is the Word.

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