William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

God’s Gift To Molecular Biology: The Hydrogen Bond — Guest Post by Bob Kurland

Editor’s note: a version of this post originally appeared at Reflections of a Catholic Science.

It has been recognized that hydrogen bonds restrain protein molecules to their native configurations, and I believe that as the methods of structural chemistry are further applied to physiological problems it will be found that the significance of the hydrogen bond for physiology is greater than that of any other single structural feature. –Linus Pauling, The Nature of the Chemical Bond

Much has been said of anthropic coincidences, the special values of physical constants and force laws that enable a universe to support carbon-based life. Even more remarkable, I believe, are the wonderful physical-chemical processes that sustain the life of living things, from the simplest one-celled organisms to us, all of which are made possible by hydrogen bonding.

In The Theology of Water, I discussed the marvelous and unusual properties of water, properties that stemmed from the nature of the hydrogen bond, properties that enables an environment friendly to life as we know it on earth. Here I explore in more detail the nature of the hydrogen bond and its significance for molecular biology and physiology. Hydrogen bonding plays a role in biochemical reactions, in anti-body mechanisms, and in all of molecular biology and, most importantly, in how DNA acts as a blueprint for the synthesis of proteins. A book would be needed to explore all this in detail, so I’ll focus on the essentials–the basics of what a hydrogen bond is and its role in the structure of DNA.

Imagine God thinking about his design of nature. He might have said, “Now I want chemistry to have not only strong interactions between atoms, but also gentle ones: so that complicated structures can unfold and rewind easily, and so that big and small molecules can come together and join for reactions and go apart readily–Velcro or a zipper, not glue or nails. What should I use? I have it–a hydrogen bond.

Here’s the basic idea: H (hydrogen) bonded to O (oxygen) as in H-O-H (water) shows a slight positive electrical charge; :O, oxygen with a pair of unbonded (lone) electrons, shows a slight negative charge. Similarly, :N (nitrogen), with a pair of lone electrons shows a slight negative charge, and N-H, hydrogen bonded to nitrogen, show a slight positive charge. There is an electrical attraction between these small positive charges; there is also, as NMR experiments have recently shown, a contribution from chemical bonding (sharing of electrons) to hydrogen bonding, so that it is more than simple electrostatic interaction.

Hydrogen bonds energies are about 1/20 to 1/30 the value of ordinary covalent bonds, so the hydrogen bonds can be broken much more easily than covalent bonds; for example the O-H bond energy is about 430 kJoules/mole, whereas the O-H – – – :O hydrogen bond energy is 21 kJoules / mole (the “- – -” indicates a hydrogen bond).

Watson (or was it Crick?) in a moment of insight noticed that the bases (nitrogen containing molecules bound to sugar pieces in nucleotides such as DNA, RNA) matched each other by hydrogen bonding like pieces in a jig-saw puzzle. They could thus stabilize a helical structure, by links across the spiral. These bases are attached to sugar-type pieces, which in turn have phosphate groups on them that form the links between base units. The hydrogen bonds linking base pairs are strong enough to hold together the two DNA strands in the spiral helix, but weak enough that they can be “unzipped” by mild chemical action, an enzyme RNA polymerase, which yields messenger RNA.

Now the bases are like letters in a word, words which encode which amino acids used as building blocks in the protein. In this process, a linear combination of three bases is used to encode which amino acid is put into a protein. So we can regard the bases as letters and the combination of three bases as a three letter word; the three letter word is called a codon. There are four bases1 so there are 4^3 = 64 possible codons. There are 20 amino acids found in proteins, plus codons for beginning and ending protein synthesis, so that several codons may encode for incorporating the same amino acid, i.e. there is a redundancy. See here and here for tables showing specific codon / amino acid relations.

Here is a brief summary here of gene expression—transcription and translation. More detailed accounts are given in the links.

STEP 1: transcription—RNA polymerase unzips the double strand and attaches complementary bases to single strand RNA. See here and here. Note that the RNA polymerase is a large protein, much bigger than the DNA strand. Also note that one strand of the DNA serves as a “template”—bases complementary to bases in the template strand are linked, e.g. G to C, C to G, A to T, U to A, and as they’re linked they detach to yield mRNA (messenger RNA). See this flash animation for a more detailed description of this process.

STEP 2: translation—mRNA leaves the cell nucleus, goes into the cytoplasm where it attaches to a ribosome, where protein synthesis occurs. In the process transfer RNA molecules are sent by the ribosome to attach specific amino acids, coded by the m-RNA, to form a protein.

The description is extremely concise—a lot is left out and I urge the reader to look at the recommended links, animations and explanations and to explore this fascinating subject. What amazes me is that molecular biologists and those who deal with gene expression, and all the other wonders of molecular biology don’t paraphrase Psalm 19: “DNA declares the glory of God, and gene expression shows forth the work of His hands…” Certainly the hydrogen bond, which is a crucial element in these processes, neither too weak nor too strong, is a marvel in itself. God’s providence in molecular biology is as marvelous as it is in physics.

—————————————-

1Note: uracil replaces thymine in the RNA and is encoded by the complement of thymine, adenine. The presumed explanation for this replacement is greater chemical stability of uracil compared to thymine.

33 Comments

  1. What does God have to do with any of this? Why would God be necessary for the existence and nature of hydrogen? How can the universe allowing for carbon-based life forms be a coincidence? None of this makes sense. You are just arbitrarily applying “God” and “coincidence” where neither belongs.

    JMJ

  2. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 15, 2016 at 11:52 am

    Jersey sounds like Hamlet and Horatio debating whether “shakespeare” is necessary for the existence of Elsinore when the actions of Hamlet’s father, mother, uncle, et al. are sufficient explanation for the events that happen there.

  3. A reply to skeptics generally–the following quote is appropriate:

    “For those who believe, no proof is necessary;
    for those who don’t believe, no proof is sufficient.”
    –Stuart Chase

  4. No. That’s not appropriate at all. You can’t just throw around words, words like “God” and “coincidence” and “appropriate,” just any ol’ place in a sentence that pleases you. You sound like schizophrenics. Loons.

    JMJ

  5. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 15, 2016 at 11:35 pm

    Why would God be necessary for the existence and nature of hydrogen?

    If X has been demonstrated as the ground of all being, then X must be necessary for the existence and nature of hydrogen. That is a logical deduction, not arbitrary grammar.

  6. It is indeed a leap of faith since you can’t possibly know if the conditions are a requirement for life or if life evolved to take advantage of the conditions.

  7. Bob: This is a very nice post!
    My only, khm, I dare not say dismay, was the personalizing of God’s thinking – do we really know that? I know we are created as to His like, but still…

  8. YOS: “If X has been demonstrated as the ground of all …”
    Absolutely! And that nature of H is a quite enigmatic one – to date it still delivers surprises. Also a most peculiar of all known elements – the only one that looses all of its electrons when that one is gone. And so on.

  9. Matt, thank you for your kind words. Putting God’s thoughts down was–how shall I say–a rhetorical device, trying to imagine God’s teleology.

  10. Water had two lone pairs. Sp3 orbital hybridization that would ‘normally’ have a tetrahedral configuration (bond angle 120 degrees) is actually distorted due to the electrostatic repulsion of the two lone pairs (105 degrees).

  11. Oh, another thing, there are more than four bases and the encoding isn’t completely linear. It has some inherent error correcting features (relatively hydrophobic amino acids can substitute readily with variable effects in the protein folding that are mainly neutral) backed up by dedicated repair mechanisms.

    Oh yeah, water vapor isn’t necessarily monomeric water. The hydrogen bond is fascinating.

  12. @ JMJ, God is necessary because God is existence itself. No existence = no Creation and no life. Material existence requires existence. Existence, itself, does not require matter.

  13. Er, no material life, that is.

  14. cdq–thanks for your corrections, which are all valid. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible–horsies and duckies–to get the main ideas across and let people delve more deeply from the links.

  15. swordfishtrombone

    October 17, 2016 at 8:13 am

    @ YOS: “If X has been demonstrated as the ground of all being”

    It hasn’t.

  16. swordfishtrombone

    October 17, 2016 at 8:28 am

    @ cdquarles:

    “God is necessary because God is existence itself. No existence = no Creation and no life. Material existence requires existence. Existence, itself, does not require matter.”

    The fact that things exist proves nothing about the existence of god.

  17. swordfishtrombone

    October 17, 2016 at 8:49 am

    @ Bob Kurland:

    If you think the universe is ‘fine-tuned’ for life, do you think life arose naturally?

  18. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 17, 2016 at 8:56 am

    The fact that things exist proves nothing about the existence of god.

    But all the things that exist are contingent: they come into being and pass out of being. They cannot therefore account for their own being. Take clouds. To account for the existence of clouds, we must call upon other beings, such as “atmospheric conditions” (a catch-all obviously). But atmospheric conditions are themselves contingent and cannot bring themselves into being, so we must call upon the sun. But the sun itself is transient and cannot account for its own being, so we must call upon other beings, such as hydrogen and “gravity.” And so it goes. Either it goes on forever, in which case there is no accounting for the existence of clouds, or it must terminate in a being which carries within itself the explanation for its own being, one whose very nature is to exist, a “necessary being.” (This does not mean it is necessary for the explanation. It means its existence is necessary. Existence cannot not exist.)

    This being, Existence Itself, can by further reasoning (much of which Briggs has already explored in his “Summary” series) be shown to be that which all men call God.

  19. So illogical: “DNA declares the glory of God, and gene expression shows forth the work of His hands…” Certainly the hydrogen bond, which is a crucial element in these processes, neither too weak nor too strong, is a marvel in itself. God’s providence in molecular biology is as marvelous as it is in physics.”

    The tell is here:

    “Certainly the hydrogen bond, which is a crucial element in these processes, neither too weak nor too strong, is a marvel in itself.”

    To say the above, the author has to make an implicit assumption:

    That some designed, God, designed the hydrogen bond expressly so RNA an genes & so forth could function as we observe. The complexity observed as used as justification for a very particular initiating intent. Effect is used to presume and celebrated a very particular cause — with no supporting justification (other than, ‘its so complicated what else could it be?’).

    That’s circular reasoning.

    Equally plausible is that things are what they are, including complicated, as a natural progression of circumstances.

    YOS’ appeals (Oct 17, 8:56) reminds us of the ‘first mover’ argument concluding that God (and only one, or a trinity of one at that) is the explanation (earlier stating, “If X has been demonstrated as the ground of all being, then X must be necessary for the existence and nature of hydrogen.” — conflating “demonstrated” as a conceptual possibility with objectively proven, which is a much higher standard).

    But why much a God (and only one of those, in a curious trinity?) be the answer to the ‘first mover’ and not an inanimate reality that was eternally pre-existent?

    cdquarles mentioned, “God is necessary because God is existence itself.” and Bob Kurland (author of this post) agrees. But why must existence … God … be anthropomorphic vs inanimate?

    And what a curious God:

    – Jupiter — Supreme Ruler of the Heavens … re-dubbed “The Holy Spirit” associated with the only unforgivable sin in the Bible (Matt 12:31-332 & Luke 12:10)

    – Mars — god of military … re-dubbed “God” in the Bible (the one who cast out Satan, for example)

    – Quirinus — god of the people … re-dubbed “Jesus” who died for the people’s sins (recall history: Romulus, co-founder of Rome, disappears under mysterious circumstances and is said to have become the god Quirinus)

    The mapping of the deity triads is perfect — aligning with the the Roman Triads right down to the dying man/rising god [Romulus/Quirinus – Jesus/Christ] (specifically the Archaic Triad — its successor, the Capitoline Triad, had the supreme deity flanked by goddesses, which was not acceptable to the then emerging Christian religion that put women subordinate to men).

    Coincidence that the most recent iteration of deity aligns more or less perfectly with prior versions?

    No.

    Justin Martyr, apologist for the then emerging Christian faith establishes in his First Apology (Chapter 21, which makes comparisons to other dying & rising gods, even at least one older pagan figure arising from virgin birth) that Christianity wasn’t copied, a rehashing of older religions, it was the real religion and those older pagan religions with look-alike deity’s were preemptively made to look similar to confuse when the real deity came & went.

    To this day, that remains the official Catholic Church position on the coincidences.

    A story so compelling we can understand why, after assuming some power the Catholic Church purged, or tried to purge, so much look-alike pagan mythology (enough slipped thru, including in the quotes by other apologists who addressed similar coincidence). That, and why the Roman center was built on a Mithraic graveyard, and, why nearly every known Mithraic temple has/had a Catholic monastery built on top of it (another coincidence there– much of the themes within the Christian story align with what is known of the astrological doctrine/symbolism of the Roman cult of Mithras [and other religions] — 12 apostles/12 signs of the zodiac; death for 3-days & resurrection/winter solstice where the sun’s progress stops for three days after which it “resurrects” and days lengthen …. e.g. see: http://www.mysterium.com/mithras.html).

    Even if we conclude that a deity of some kind is the reason for the universe, for all practical purposes our only source of insight into that being is based on a 2000 year old set of stories that look, when considered relative to their antecedents, like the same ole deities mixed with the same atrological themes (much of which has significant relevance to farming) going back to the beginning of known history. Which is to say that if there is a deity out there, chances are we have no clue whatsoever about its nature, character, etc.

  20. swordfishtrombone: with respect to the origin of life, I think Francis Crick’s comment (and he is not a theist, or was not at the time of the comment) is appropriate:

    “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth’s surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.”

  21. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 17, 2016 at 11:16 am

    YOS’ appeals (Oct 17, 8:56) reminds us of the ‘first mover’ argument

    That was not the first mover argument, but rather the argument from contingency.

    conflating “demonstrated” as a conceptual possibility with objectively proven, which is a much higher standard).

    So high a standard that only mathematics can achieve it. Physical theory ain’t in it. However, a logical deduction via a valid syllogism from certain premises is generally acknowledged to lead to certain conclusions.

    But why must existence … God … be anthropomorphic vs inanimate?

    Because a thing cannot give what it does not have. So if anything can give life (anima) it must possess life either formally or eminently. Therefore, there is in Existence Itself something analogous to animation. (A being that is Existence Itself would, it it could talk, call itself “I AM”.) Since it is the source of all powers, it is full of all powers in either a formal or eminent manner (i.e., all power-full), and in particular, being their source, there is something in it that is analogous to intellect and will. Possessing something of which intellect and will is a reflection, it is therefore analogously a person.

    Of the two processions of reason, knowing and willing, Existence Itself is the subject of both processions and as such is called “the Father.” The object of knowing is the concept and conceptions being expressed in words, then this being as knowing itself is the “only-conceived” and is called the Word (or alternatively, the Son). Similarly, this being as desiring or willing itself is called the Spirit. But all three are one and the same being.

    Even if we conclude that a deity of some kind is the reason for the universe, for all practical purposes our only source of insight into that being is based on a 2000 year old set of stories

    It is not clear what stories are involved in the above comments. The Prior Analytics is actually older than 2000 years, contains no stories, and deductive syllogisms no doubt long-preceded the writing of the book.

  22. swordfishtrombone

    October 17, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    @ YOS:

    “But all the things that exist are contingent”

    That doesn’t mean the universe as a whole is contingent.

    “Either it goes on forever, in which case there is no accounting for the existence of clouds”

    Why shouldn’t it go on forever?

    “or it must terminate in a being which carries within itself the explanation for its own being”

    There is no reason why it should terminate in any “being”.

    “This being, Existence Itself, can by further reasoning be shown to be that which all men call God”

    “All men”? Religious believers disagree totally about the characteristics of god and there’s no reason to suppose that “existence itself” is a being.

  23. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 17, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    “But all the things that exist are contingent”
    That doesn’t mean the universe as a whole is contingent.

    The universe is simply the collection of all things that have material existence. It exists iff some thing exists. It is not itself a separate thing having being.

    Why shouldn’t it go on forever?

    Because then nothing has an explanation.

    There is no reason why it should terminate in any “being”.

    How can it terminate in something that has not being. From nothing comes no thing. “Nothing” cannot actually exist.

    Religious believers disagree totally about the characteristics of god

    The assertion is that that in which contingency must be grounded is something which all men would call divine. The characteristics that follow from this are fairly broad and can be found in Neoplatonic paganism, in Hinduism, et al. You may be thinking of anthropomorphic “gods,” like Zeus or Cerrunos.

    and there’s no reason to suppose that “existence itself” is a being.

    If Existence does not have existence (“have being”) then how can anything else — clouds, trees, people, hydrogen atoms, etc. — participate in it?

  24. @ swordfish “The fact that things exist proves nothing about the existence of god.”; well, sure it does. Existence exists. Contingent existence exists because ‘essential’ existence exists. Essential existence is He That Is, also called God.

    [“There are none so blind as he who will not see.”]

  25. swordfishtrombone

    October 18, 2016 at 10:02 am

    @ cdquarles:

    “@ swordfish “The fact that things exist proves nothing about the existence of god.”; well, sure it does. Existence exists. Contingent existence exists because ‘essential’ existence exists. Essential existence is He That Is, also called God.”

    Have you ever managed to convince anyone with this super-dumb argument? You’re essentially just renaming “existence” to “god”.

  26. swordfishtrombone

    October 18, 2016 at 10:47 am

    @ YOS:

    “The universe is simply the collection of all things that have material existence. It exists if some thing exists. It is not itself a separate thing having being.”

    How is this a refutation of my argument? If anything, you’re agreeing with me by defining the universe as being ‘the collection of all things’ – you argued that things need explanations outside themselves – by your own definition, the universe needs no such explanation because it has no separate existence.

    (Why shouldn’t it go on forever?)

    “Because then nothing has an explanation.”

    So what? There’s no reason why everything should have an explanation. You’re telling god how to do his own job!

    (There is no reason why it should terminate in any “being”.)

    “How can it terminate in something that has not being. From nothing comes no thing. “Nothing” cannot actually exist.”

    If the universe is finite, what is outside it? Nothing. It certainly doesn’t need a “being” to mark the edge.

    (Religious believers disagree totally about the characteristics of god)

    “The assertion is that that in which contingency must be grounded is something which all men would call divine. The characteristics that follow from this are fairly broad and can be found in Neoplatonic paganism, in Hinduism, et al. You may be thinking of anthropomorphic “gods,” like Zeus or Cerrunos.”

    No, I wasn’t thinking of Zeus. I’m not going to justify my observation that religions (even the same religion) differ markedly in the qualities they ascribe to god because it’s self-evident.

    (and there’s no reason to suppose that “existence itself” is a being.)

    “If Existence does not have existence (“have being”) then how can anything else — clouds, trees, people, hydrogen atoms, etc. — participate in it?”

    There’s a difference between “have being” and “is a being”. Existence exists. It is not “a being”.

  27. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 18, 2016 at 11:10 am

    It’s not “renaming.” There are a number of deductions that follow from necessary being. Cumulatively, they add up to something that anyone would call a source above natural. But they are deductions, not simply labeling.

    See discussions here
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2006/06/15/what-does-st-thomas-claim-all-call-god-in-his-five-ways/

    and here
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/01/17/the-which-all-call-deus-clause-in-the-five-ways/

    and a comment on the alleged quantifier shift here
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/07/08/16643/
    which notes that that which some think is an objection is actually what Thomas was trying to prove! (i.e., that physics is not incoherent.)

  28. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 18, 2016 at 12:15 pm

    If anything, you’re agreeing with me by defining the universe as being ‘the collection of all things’ … by your own definition, the universe needs no such explanation because it has no separate existence.

    The existence of the universe is explained by the existence of those things that comprise it.

    you argued that things need explanations outside themselves

    No. Only those things that come into existence. That is: things that at some time did not have being. Such beings as clouds or aspen groves or rocks do not contain within themselves the explanation for their own existence; so that explanation must lie elsewhere. Beings like the prime numbers or the laws of physics did not so far as we know come into being.

    There’s no reason why everything should have an explanation.

    I don’t subscribe to mysticism. Unless contingency is grounded in necessity, nothing has an explanation.

    You’re telling god how to do his own job!

    Oh my. That almost sounds like you’re offended. I am not sure, however, which job I am supposedly telling “god” how to perform. Am I telling Thor (or is it “thor”) how to forge thunderbolts?

    If the universe is finite, what is outside it? Nothing. It certainly doesn’t need a “being” to mark the edge.

    ???

    religions (even the same religion) differ markedly in the qualities they ascribe to god

    Heck, you should see the differences they ascribe to the quanta. But not everyone has the time, skill, or inclination to delve deeply into a subject. Many folks get along quite well with only an elementary understanding of quantum mechanics, or indeed without any understanding at all. But surely it is no objection to (say) the Copenhagen understanding to note that Bohm or Cramer have different understandings. Would not one have to show what is actually deficient in Copenhagen? Or at the very least that Cramer is more elegant and beautiful? (IOW, specifics.)

    There’s a difference between “have being” and “is a being”. Existence exists. It is not “a being”.

    Something that exists is a being. “Exist” is simply the Latinate form of the Saxon “be.” The present participle being (be + -ing) is “the condition, state, fact of existing.” Something possessing this condition or state is a being. Compare “building” (the participle) and “a building” (the noun). If Existence is not a being, then it does not possess “the condition, state, or fact of existing,” and this seems silly. Do you have some hidden requirement on existence or being that distinguishes them?

  29. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 19, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Postscript:
    This seems apropos the discussion:
    https://thomism.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/metaphysics-isnt-physics/

  30. swordfishtrombone

    October 19, 2016 at 5:48 pm

    @ YOS:

    “Cumulatively, they add up to something that anyone would call a source above natural.”

    Anyone? Not me. Not most people, I would suggest. If it were true that these deductions were sound, there would be no atheists(!) I’m not going to bother to refute this stuff as it has already been done many, many times. I’ll just say that the ‘unmoved mover’ argument is basically the same as the ‘existence itself’ argument, i.e., based on false assumptions, for instance, that there cannot be an infinite regress of causality, an obviously incorrect statement.

  31. swordfishtrombone

    October 19, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    @ YOS:

    “The existence of the universe is explained by the existence of those things that comprise it.”

    So… not god?

    “Beings like the prime numbers or the laws of physics did not so far as we know come into being.”

    (Stop calling things “beings”!) You’re heading in the right direction. Just extend your list to include the universe and we’re getting somewhere.

    “Unless contingency is grounded in necessity, nothing has an explanation.”

    Usually, we accept proximate explanations, like: it’s raining because there are rainclouds. There’s no need to extend an explanation back (or down) to the origin of the universe. There’s also no reason why you should expect to be able to ‘explain’ the universe with a series of arguments expressed in the english language.

    “I am not sure, however, which job I am supposedly telling “god” how to perform. Am I telling Thor (or is it “thor”) how to forge thunderbolts?”

    It’s “Thor” because Thor is the name of a specific god, “god” because god isn’t a specific god. You’re implying that ‘he’ has to create in a way which makes sense according to you.

    “???” (In response to my point that there’s nothing outside the universe.)

    I was responding to your ‘nothing can come from nothing’. Of course it’s possible for something to terminate in nothing (or ‘come from’ nothing). The universe can be finite but unbounded. What ‘terminates’ the edges of a triangle?

    “Do you have some hidden requirement on existence or being that distinguishes them?”

    Yes, existence is existence. “A being”, to quote your original comment, implies a creature – presumably god.

  32. Ye Olde Statistician

    October 19, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    If it were true that these deductions were sound, there would be no atheists(!)

    Not really, because:
    a) atheism is an emotional, not a reasoned conclusion; and
    b) not everyone, esp. in the Late Modern Age is able to reason cogently.

    I’ll just say that the ‘unmoved mover’ argument is basically the same as the ‘existence itself’ argument, i.e., based on false assumptions, for instance, that there cannot be an infinite regress of causality, an obviously incorrect statement.

    Who says there cannot be an infinite regress of causality? Certainly not Aquinas, who specifically allowed that it was possible per accidens. (Remember, he assumed secundum argumentum that the world was eternal in all his arguments.) Part of the reason Moderns believe these things to have been “refuted” when they have only been denied is that they have refuted terms and concepts whose very meaning has changed. What they meant by “cause,” for example, is not what the Moderns meant by “cause.”

    You probably think of causes as “events,” for example; and confuse the causes of accidents (as defined by Hume) with efficient causes.
    ++++

    “The existence of the universe is explained by the existence of those things that comprise it.”

    So… not god?

    The existence of any set is defined by the existence of the element(s) that make it up. The universe exists iff any one thing in it exists. Therefore, the existence of the universe reduces to the explanation of the existence of that thing.

    “Beings like the prime numbers or the laws of physics did not so far as we know come into being.”

    Stop calling things “beings”!

    Why? Don’t they have existence?

    “A being”, to quote your original comment, implies a creature – presumably god.

    A “creature, as the name implies, is something created. The God deduced by reason is not created, and so is not a creature. A god like Zeus, otoh, is created by generation, for example as from Chronos.

    “Unless contingency is grounded in necessity, nothing has an explanation.”

    Usually, we accept proximate explanations, like: it’s raining because there are rainclouds. There’s no need to extend an explanation back (or down) to the origin of the universe.

    Sure. The planets move because it is their nature to move. We can develop predictive formulae to account for them without any need for “gravity” to “explain” them. (Indeed, the Chinese datong was of this nature.) Let alone did folks need a theory of Ricci tensors altered by the presence of mass to create curvature in the space-time manifold in order to explain gravity. Nor a Gibbs boson to explain mass. Most people get along quite well without any of that stuff.

    There’s also no reason why you should expect to be able to ‘explain’ the universe with a series of arguments expressed in the english language.

    How about Attic Greek or Latin? (The term “english” with lower case means a spin put on a billiard ball, but we can deduce your meaning.)

    “god” because god isn’t a specific god. You’re implying that ‘he’ has to create in a way which makes sense according to you.

    Nah, it’s the natural scientists who do that. They deal with the “how” questions. The only thing that the arguments of Aristotle (pagan), Maimonides (Jewish), ibn Rushd (muslim), Aquinas (Christian), or Jayanta Bhatta (Hindu) (and others) conclude to is that the world of changeable (material) beings must be rooted in something unchangeable and hence immaterial and eternal.

    What ‘terminates’ the edges of a triangle?

    Three straight lines. (These lines, like the triangle itself, are ideal bodies: the lines have zero width, for example.)

  33. swordfishtrombone

    October 26, 2016 at 8:32 am

    (If it were true that these deductions were sound, there would be no atheists(!))

    “Not really, because:
    a) atheism is an emotional, not a reasoned conclusion.
    b) not everyone, esp. in the Late Modern Age is able to reason cogently.”

    The fact that I put an exclamation mark in parentheses after my sentence should have indicated that it wasn’t a serious argument, just a joke?

    a) Atheism is emotional and religion isn’t? Try telling that to ISIS. Realistically, most people believe in god for emotional reasons, not because of (false) logical argumentation by Thomas Aquinas or Aristotle. My disbelief in god isn’t due to emotional reasons.

    b) Is a subjective opinion and irrelevant to the facts. There are false arguments for the existence of god (all of them!) such as “look at how beautiful everything is!” put to me by a Jehovah’s Witness on a nice sunny day. Even assuming that your claim about the (so-called) “Late Modern Age” is correct (which I dispute), that doesn’t mean god exists.

    “Who says there cannot be an infinite regress of causality? Certainly not Aquinas, who specifically allowed that it was possible per accidens. (Remember, he assumed secundum argumentum that the world was eternal in all his arguments.)”

    First Way – The Argument From Motion:

    3. Movement cannot go on for infinity.

    http://www.scandalon.co.uk/philosophy/cosmological_aquinas.htm

    “Part of the reason Moderns believe these things to have been “refuted” when they have only been denied is that they have refuted terms and concepts whose very meaning has changed. What they meant by “cause,” for example, is not what the Moderns meant by “cause.””

    This is just obsfucation. When put in the simplest possible way (as they should be if they contain important information) the arguments used by Aquinas and others have been refuted. Try putting these arguments however you think they should be translated into modern language and concepts and I’ll refute them for you.

    “You probably think of causes as “events,” for example; and confuse the causes of accidents (as defined by Hume) with efficient causes.”

    But how does this materially affect the basic arguments? More obsfucation.

    “The existence of any set is defined by the existence of the element(s) that make it up. The universe exists if any one thing in it exists. Therefore, the existence of the universe reduces to the explanation of the existence of that thing.”

    Why is it that philosophical arguments continually veer from being too detailed to vastly over-generalised? An individual element can be in many sets: the number ‘4’ is in the set of positive integers, the set of integer powers of ‘2’ and the set of even integers – those sets aren’t defined by the number ‘4’. The universe can’t be explained by the existence of an individual thing.

    “A creature, as the name implies, is something created. The God deduced by reason is not created, and so is not a creature. A god like Zeus, otoh, is created by generation, for example as from Chronos.”

    Creatures aren’t created, the “God deduced by reason” has been created by people using faulty reasoning and you should reel in your blasphemous comments about Zeus, just in case there’s an “Olympic State” 🙂

    “Sure. The planets move because it is their nature to move. We can develop predictive formulae to account for them without any need for “gravity” to “explain” them. (Indeed, the Chinese datong was of this nature.) Let alone did folks need a theory of Ricci tensors altered by the presence of mass to create curvature in the space-time manifold in order to explain gravity. Nor a Gibbs boson to explain mass. Most people get along quite well without any of that stuff.”

    Now you’re being silly. By the way, please stop name-dropping abstruse scientific concepts in your arguments in order to give them a spurious sheen of authority. My point was that it’s not necessary to trace every explanation back to the origin of the universe – how does your reply refute that? Also, it’s “Higgs” boson.

    (In response to my suggestion that it’s unlikely that the universe can be explained using a series of *E*nglish language arguments.)

    “How about Attic Greek or Latin? (The term “english” with lower case means a spin put on a billiard ball, but we can deduce your meaning.)

    Now you’re back to nitpicking and consequently missing my point. Why don’t you try responding to my argument instead? Let me put it again: What makes you think that the existence of the universe should be explicable with a series of statements in the English (or any other written and/or spoken) language?

    “The only thing that the arguments of Aristotle (pagan), Maimonides (Jewish), ibn Rushd (muslim), Aquinas (Christian), or Jayanta Bhatta (Hindu) (and others) conclude to is that the world of changeable (material) beings must be rooted in something unchangeable and hence immaterial and eternal.”

    Quit name-dropping! These people had a lot more to say about god than you suggest – Aquinas’s seems to be able to ascribe a vast list of attributes to god and deduce detailed information about angels, for example.

    (What ‘terminates’ the edges of a triangle?)

    “Three straight lines. (These lines, like the triangle itself, are ideal bodies: the lines have zero width, for example.)”

    I could have sworn that I’ve seen triangles without lines at their edges. Why don’t you try refuting my previous example of the universe being ‘finite but unbounded’? In any case, this is all just a variation on “something can’t come from nothing”. My answer to that is: Why do you think there was a ‘nothing’ from which the ‘something’ came?

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  1. Outliers (#27)

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