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The ontological argument

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Propianotuner, Apr 10, 2019.

  1. Propianotuner

    Propianotuner Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    As a preface it's important to mention that I'm using material I composed while a theist in the past and I am interested in playing devil's advocate for both sides of this debate on modal logic (which addresses such things as necessity and contingency).

    My argument has two stages. The first stage establishes the principles of reasoning behind the rest of the argument. The second stage simply defines God by necessary inference from the principles.

    A) Being is. That is, something exists. This is the principle of existence. It is undeniable since the one who denies it must exist in order to deny it. Hence, while the source of first principles is a basic intuition about being, the test for their truth is undeniability. That is, they cannot be denied without affirming them (either directly or indirectly) in the very denial itself.

    B) Being is being. This is the principle of identity. Being is identical to being. A thing is identical to itself. Again, this is literally undeniable since it cannot be denied unless it is implied, for one must assume things to be identical to themselves even to deny that they are.

    C) Being is not non-being. This is the principle of non-contradiction. Opposites cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. This too is undeniable since the claim that opposites can both be true assumes that the opposite of this claim 'C' cannot be true.

    D) Either being or non-being. This is the principle of excluded middle. There is nothing between being and non-being. Hence, something must either be or not be. It can't both be and not be. This too is undeniable since the denial of it is a contradiction.

    E) Non-being cannot produce being. This is the principle of causality. Nothing cannot cause anything since nothing does not exist, and what does not exist cannot not cause anything. Only something can produce something. Deniable of this principle also entails a contradiction.

    F) Being causes being similar to itself. This is the principle of analogy. An effect resembles it's efficient cause. Like produces like. Being shares being, for this is all that it has to share. Being cannot give what it has not got. But what it gives (i.e., being) it must have had to give.

    From these six principles:

    A) A being can be either necessary or contingent but not both. This is based on the principle of excluded middle.

    B) A necessary being cannot produce another necessary being. The opposite of this is reducible to a contradiction because (a) a necessary being by it's nature cannot come or cease to be, and (b) the being that is caused by a necessary being comes to be.

    C) A contingent being cannot cause another contingent being. This is because a contingent being is one that could possibly not be, and if it caused another being, then non-being would be producing being.

    D) A necessary being is a being of pure actuality, with no potentiality. This is so since a necessary being has no potentiality to not exist. If a necessary being exists, then it must exist necessarily, with no possibility not to exist.

    E) A being of pure actuality cannot produce another being with pure actuality. The being that is produced by a being of pure actuality must have both actuality and potentiality, for this created being has the potentiality not to be, which pure actuality does not have.

    F) Every being caused by a being of pure actuality must be both like and unlike its cause. It must be like its cause in its actuality, and it must be unlike its cause in potentiality. And what is both like and unlike its cause is similar (or analogous) to it.

    G) I am a contingent being. This is so because I undeniably exist, and I am neither a necessary being nor an impossible being. I am not an impossible being since I do exist. And I am not a necessary being because I change or come to be, which a necessary being cannot do. Hence, I am a contingent being. But only a necessary being can cause a contingent being.

    H) Therefore, a necessary being exists that causes me to exist.

    I) This necessary being is a being of pure actuality and has certain necessary attributes:

    - It cannot change (i.e., immutable) since it has no potential for change.
    - It cannot be temporal (i.e., eternal) since that involves change.
    - It cannot be material (i.e., immaterial) since that involves change.
    - It cannot be finite (i.e., infinite) since it has no potentiality to limit it.
    - It cannot be divisible (i.e., simple) since it has no potential to be divided.
    - It must be an uncaused being since it is a necessary being, and a necessary being cannot be caused to come to be. So, it can't be caused. Nor can it be self-caused, since that would entail a contradiction.
    - It must only be one being since there can't be two or more infinite beings or two or more beings of pure actuality; there is no way they could differ in their being, for they are both the same kind of being. And beings cannot differ in the very respect in which they are the same.
    - It must be infinitely knowing (i.e., omniscient) since I am a knowing being that it caused to exist, and a cause cannot give what it does not have to give.
    - It must be all-powerful (i.e., omnipotent) since it is infinite, and it has the power to cause a finite being to exist.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
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  2. BK201

    BK201 Well-Known Member

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    I don't understand C2. Why can't a contingent being cause another contingent being? Being cannot exist and not exist at the same time but why is it considered nonbeing if hypothetically it causes a being while it's being? I mean, even though it can potentially not be, for the time being it is, and it is a being, not nonbeing.

    In other words, if you say that it's as if nonbeing produced being, you're saying that being is nonbeing, which contradicts the principle of noncontradiction.
     
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  3. Mia

    Mia Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    It seems you are confusing 'rules for thinking' with rules for physical reality. You state that the first set of rules are rules for thinking. Using 'necessary inference' to bridge to the next set of rules is somewhat flawed, in that you are assuming that physical reality is exactly the way we 'think' of it, NOT what it is. You are assuming the same rules apply to both.

    I am no expert but quantum mechanics seems to contradict some of the rules you mention in the first part which gave rise to Einstein's statement that 'God does not play dice with the universe'.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2019
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  4. Propianotuner

    Propianotuner Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    Depending on the metaphysical camp you're in, there are different kinds of causes. At the time that I composed the argument I would have agreed that a contingent being can be an efficient cause for another contingent being, something modern science assiduously agrees with.

    The problem here is a nuanced variation on the problem of infinite regression. In philosophy interlocutors use the problem of infinite regression to cry foul but the problem itself may be a false dilemma. Yes, posing situations where there is an infinite regression opens one to criticism because infinite propositions in general are invariably demonstrated to fall into numerous contradictions.

    However the false dilemma lies in those contradictions, e.g. "positing an infinite set of numbers leads one into the folly pointed out by the Hilbert's Hotel story, where you have an infinite number of hotel rooms but you can both say you're full yet you have vacancies, you can add and subtract and still have the same number of rooms", but that's not a real contradiction because all one is pointing out is that ideas like infinity may not be compatible with the tautological language we use. A tautology is merely a tautology, it has no impetus behind it. 2+2=4 because of the definitions for those symbols, not because they necessarily represent anything we self evidently know about the universe.

    Stacking an infinite set of contingents together is open to the same kinds of contradictions. Is there an infinite set of past contingents? Future contingents? What does it mean to add two infinite sets, are there any more contingents in this new twofold set than before? It's the same problem with different definitions, 'contingent', 'necessary'. A contingent being may cause another contingent being while it is being, but was every contingent cause before contingent as well? I would contend now that that's a false dilemma.

    Trust me, my observant friend, there is no confusion. If anything you're criticizing the scientific establishment, not me, when you point that out.

    Rationalism is inextricably bound up into all modern practices of science, whatever the general epistemological heritage of any one particular field is. It may surprise some to learn that different fields in science are either more or less empirical, and this isn't just a characterization of differences between applied and experimental physics, or a "hard science" like chemistry compared to a science like psychology which some thinkers are wont to classify as a pseudo-science and more of a humanity akin to art than a science, rather it is the case that the problem of methodology is pervasive to the field as a whole and philosophy of science looms large over the differences between each field.

    Yes. That's not exactly an indictment against them. While in epistemology (the study of knowledge) and philosophy of science (the study of scientific methodology as it relates to epistemology) so much of the tradition is devoted to hard lines in the sand stating that thought and perception are separate things, that one might exist and the other might not, one is more reliable or the only reliable source of knowledge, i.e. the whole range of the Rationalism vs Empiricism debate, the idea must also be entertained that thought and perception are parts of the same capacity we have for reasoning, and while we define them as different things they may be quite intimately linked.

    It's worth pointing out that in the present tense I'm something of a Pragmatist (similar to John Stuart Mill's Pragmatism), Nihilist, Absurdist, and Skeptic, and while I heartily intend to defend the ontological argument I'm perfectly ready to be critical of it myself and accept outside criticism with equal pleasure.

    I did assume that the same rules apply and continue to assume as much. Even though I'm profoundly skeptical and am open to the possibility that language is too self referential and thus our attempts at understanding the universe are too tautological, the pragmatist in me finds it acceptable to provisionally entertain different models proposed in epistemology. So, in the spirit of reasoning charitably (it can't be overstated how important chariness is in critical thinking, things can't be adequately assessed without granting points and allowing the advocates of propositions to speak for themselves on their own terms and as accurately as possible), I've come to err more on the side of Rationalism than Empiricism. If my defense of Rationalism doesn't present much of a convincing argument, I do hope that you and other participants and readers here at least enjoy and are stimulated by it.

    That first step in the direction of defending Rationalism is in response to your next portion here:

    Quantum mechanics is a fine example of what we're digging into here in terms of epistemology, me having to justify why anyone should practice or be interested in ontology in the first place, because quantum mechanics is such a popular but misleading example given to illustrate how the universe may be indeterminate and it may also challenge our understanding of the law of non-contradiction.

    Bell's Theorem is worth mentioning for our purposes, as it is one of the theories concerning quantum mechanics which has the broadest acceptance. In this case we have John Stewart Bell himself explaining that he viewed the theory as not only not necessarily being problematic for determinism but potentially supporting hard lined determinism:

    "There is a way to escape the inference of superluminal speeds and spooky action at a distance. But it involves absolute determinism in the universe, the complete absence of free will. Suppose the world is super-deterministic, with not just inanimate nature running on behind-the-scenes clockwork, but with our behavior, including our belief that we are free to choose to do one experiment rather than another, absolutely predetermined, including the 'decision' by the experimenter to carry out one set of measurements rather than another, the difficulty disappears. There is no need for a faster-than-light signal to tell particle A what measurement has been carried out on particle B, because the universe, including particle A, already 'knows' what that measurement, and its outcome, will be."

    But frankly there are much easier criticisms to come up with against the standpoint that this area of science presents a problem for Rationalism. The problem is that the science itself being practiced to come to this conclusions is heavily suffused with Rationalist ideas. After all, they are using math and deductive inferences, not just inductive inferences. They also accept indirect observation instead of direct observation alone, which is Empiricism at its purest.

    It's even arguable that David Hume himself, such a hardliner that he stated that one can't assume they have any predictive power at all because they have observed the same thing over and over as this line of thinking is simply a matter of custom, that David Hume let Rationalism creep into his thinking because after all he found language an acceptable medium for communicating his ideas.
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2019
  5. HidinginPlainSight

    HidinginPlainSight Well-Known Member

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    Interesting discussion, but I have to point out that QM are not actually interested in making grandiose statements about reality. It's a practical science based on observations that allow us to have this discussion. If the measurements didn't work, neither would your computer. The philosophical inferences of this applied science are largely quoted out of turn and without much of an understanding. QM are important because they are functional, not because they are true in any greater sense of the word.
     
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  6. Johann

    Johann New Member

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    Hello.

    "At least one contingent being exists. All contingent beings require creation by an eternal being. Therefore, an Eternal Being exists."

    See PM.
     
  7. Propianotuner

    Propianotuner Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    If you'd like, let me elucidate a bit more of my varied thoughts on this subject.

    I would propose the idea that there are different kinds/species of a creative act, and that the way in which a contingent being can create, perhaps a Demiurge like Plato described (a created Creator who is more of a personal intellect as opposed to 'The Good' which is more akin to an impersonal principle behind existence, an ultimate cause that creates the Forms and thus by extension reality), doesn't seem like it can be the same as the way a necessary being creates. If there are one or more contingent beings that make reality what it is, the fact that they are contingent (remember that we are positing they are contingent in the first place and only then drawing inferences from there) means that they are not the source of their own essence and furthermore not the source of essence in general. They may not even be the source of any given essence, only creative in the sense that they alter properties, not capable of creating essences.

    In Plato's version of metaphysics we see a Demiurge which is the primary contingent creator, manipulating matter which already exists. The Demiurge manipulates matter to make, for example, a giraffe, but the essence behind that giraffe, the very stuff that is reality, didn't come from the Demiurge. As the Demiurge creates it uses the Forms as a template, the Forms being universal concepts that try to explain that "there is a tallness, a Form that is tallness itself" in order for us to make sense of things possessing tallness to a degree and being categorized that way but those same things not being as tall as tall can be and often short when compared to other tall things. Those Forms come from something Plato calls 'The Good'.

    On contingency and necessity: a decent argument to be made for some points in the ontological argument here about contingency and necessity is that contingent beings may cause contingent beings, for example they may be the efficient cause (an efficient cause would be, say, the craftsman with his hammer and saw making a table, here the craftsman would be the efficient cause), but it's not clear that they could be every other kind of cause. Aristotelian metaphysics recognizes four causes and I'd warrant that Aristotle's Four Causes are at least a good introduction to the study of causality in metaphysics. If you had asked him "why is there that table" he would have said that the material cause was wood, the efficient cause was the craftsman, the formal cause was the table's design ("that is a table because that is how wood is arranged when there is a table"), and the final cause was for the purpose of dining ("the purpose of the table is for people to dine upon it").

    While the concept of a formal or final cause is quite hazy the idea of a material cause isn't too hard to accept as valid and that's where we run into trouble for contingent beings causing contingent beings. Can a contingent being really be a material cause?

    Another way of looking at the issue is asking whether any contingent being can cause contingent beings as a general class? Doesn't that beg the question, i.e. fall prey to the petitio principii fallacy? Surely if there are any contingent beings in the first place this requires a necessary being.

    But in summation we're standing on a house of cards. One of my most serious contentions against this kind of ontological argument is that the very concepts of necessity and contingency are not only ill defined but incoherent and tautological/truisms.

    Very true. This doesn't mean that the science being practiced in that area isn't done in a greater context, with its researchers often reasoning about questions outside of QM grounded in QM nevertheless. Hence my earlier reference to what Bell himself said about Bell's Theorem.

    We couldn't agree more. This particular area of science tends to place more emphasis on Mill's Pragmatist philosophy of science than Popper's Hypothetico-Deductive Method, a rationalist model in philosophy of science that holds sway in much of the rest of physics. Pragmatism is more concerned with functionality than some greater inquiry into truth.
     
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  8. Tesseract

    Tesseract Active Member

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    Yes.

    I'm a bit concerned about the word "intuition" here. Very little has been, or can be, established using intuition alone, if only because it is so unreliable. I really like this treatment of that particular topic:


    "Being is being" - Isn't this rather tautological and circular? A "thing" isn't identical to itself; it is itself. After all, what else could it be?

    "Being is not non-being". True. "Opposites cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense". Wave-particle duality according to the Copenhagen interpretation says otherwise, but I'll let that pass, because it's never a good idea to mention QM unless you are an actual physicist who works in that area (due to the fact you may end up looking silly).

    Yes, the word "nothing" within this context (and others) means "not anything as such, a complete absence of everything conceivable". People like L. Krauss need to keep this in mind when they pontificate about how our whole reality allegedly emerged from "nothing". Agree.

    "An effect resembles its efficient cause". Debatable. "Resembles" in what way? In terms of just physical characteristics?

    Wrong. Contingent beings (i.e. parents) produce offspring.

    Agree.

    That's assuming that beings of pure actuality exist in the first place, which you have thus far not established. Don't assume it.

    It must? Why? You haven't even yet established the validity of the concept of a "being of pure actuality". You seem to be assuming the existence of what you set out to prove the existence of.

    I'm sorry, but this argument just falls apart. It doesn't work. It's possible I missed something here, and that's why I don't believe it's very good, and if I made a mistake somewhere I expect others will point it out, but the Ontological Argument really needs to be ditched by theists. It assumes way too much (ex. that a necessary being of pure actuality actually exists to begin with). Even the Argument from Desire is better, as is the Moral Argument.
     
  9. Tesseract

    Tesseract Active Member

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    Good question. As I pointed out above, parents are contingent beings. They produce other contingent beings, called 'children'. The claim that contingent beings cannot produce other contingent beings is simply false.
     
  10. Tesseract

    Tesseract Active Member

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    How can anyone say for certain that physical reality itself isn't, in at least one sense, necessary? Yes, I know about the 'Big Bang' and all of that, plus the fact that it changes over time, but by "physical reality" I mean the total sum of all universes within which our own observable universe exists (i.e. the "multiverse"). If this greater reality is eternal, if it had no beginning in time (an entirely reasonable assumption to make when one considers the fact that time as we know it doesn't transcend our own little universe, but is an aspect of it), then it has always existed, and in that sense it transcends time (like 'God' allegedly does).
     
  11. HidinginPlainSight

    HidinginPlainSight Well-Known Member

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    From a scientific point of view this is all there is. There is reason to believe that all that is beyond it is simply more universe. As far as we can tell space is geometrically flat.

    The multi-universe, while popular, is no more than a thought experiment with no actual basis in observation. It is simply the implied consequence of infinities. These "universes" do not necessarily exist outside of our own like in those ridiculous Youtube videos where they (people who should know better) show little bubbles popping up and expanding.

    The Big Bang does not occur at a particular coordinate. It all depends on the point of view of the observer. Singularity is a mathematical concept and not something that can be defined by analogy. None of it implies eternal nor finite.
     
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  12. Tesseract

    Tesseract Active Member

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    Whilst it is certainly true that no other 'universes' have thus far been observed, there is nevertheless indirect evidence that points in that direction (ex. the 'fine-tuning' of the constants of our own, observable reality, the double-slit experiment). I agree that beyond what we can see there is almost certainly more of the same - stars, comets, planets, galaxies and so on, and yes, I also agree that there is a great deal of garbage on YouTube when it comes to topics like this. I do like this one though, because she addresses the (false) belief that consciousness plays some kind of central role in all of this.
     
  13. HidinginPlainSight

    HidinginPlainSight Well-Known Member

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    Not to get too far off topic, but none of these things are indirect evidence of a multi-universe. The "fine tuning" thing is simply a consequence of taking measurements, it isn't actually something that exists in any real sense. Remember, math is a descriptive tool and, despite the objections of Penrose, not something of its own reality.

    Observable reality is a consequence of obvious limitations.

    The double-slit experiment is a lot of things, but it does not imply reality is taking place in sequence where every possibility is realized at some undefined coordinate. The mystical (ontological) interpretations serve only to muddy the waters. The success of QT is only the relationship between experiment and observations. The ontological implications which have become so popular are, almost exclusively, without merit. One really does need to understand the equations of QT to understand what it is all about. It also helps to understand what is meant in physics by "observer". I would recommend Feynman or Lindley for a more sober analysis of the phenomenon. The Feynman Lectures on Physics Vol. III Ch. 1: Quantum Behavior (That is a good starting point if you have the basic mathematics) The opening statement is of paramount importance.

    As for the multiverse, the notion is born from geometry and the observations of the big bang radiation. It's an interesting curiosity but only grounded in speculation and not indirect evidence. It comes from the notion that the geometry of the universe is flat (think four 90 degree turns to get back to where you are). Assuming that a flat universe is an infinite universe, and yes this is a big assumption, then the multiverse is a logical consequence of such an observation. Infinity is a concept and not a number. It is much like t=0. When this concept is applied to physical reality then all things must happen and be happening (some take this to mean that in one place you're a sinner and another you're a saint, in one you're autistic and in another you're not. People have a lot of trouble with the definition of self); it is not really a concept we can grasp. The same is true for t=0. Our equations break down at both extremes. This is a thought experiment and not something grounded in any real evidence, indirect or otherwise.
     
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  14. Tesseract

    Tesseract Active Member

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    I should have said that "the results of the double-slit experiment, and the finely tuned constants, can be interpreted as being indirect evidence for the multiverse", because many people do this. I'm not sure myself whether the idea has any real validity, not being a cosmologist or anyone else who does this kind of thing for a living, but there are many who accept the multiverse hypothesis, for reasons both personal and professional.

    No, they're real, and not just an unintended consequence of "taking measurements".
    The Fine-Tuning of Nature’s Laws

    [​IMG]

    Hey, it worked! This is the very first time I pasted an image here at 'Aspies Central'. The last time it didn't work, for some unfathomable reason.
    Anyway, just from the diagramme above, you can clearly see why so many are so excited about all of this. Especially theists, because they, like you, don't really accept the multiverse idea and, it has to be admitted, even IF there really is a 'multiverse' (I'm willing to admit we do not know, and it may all turn out to be nothing worth bothering with) the need for something we might call 'God' is still there (what the creator of this discussion said about necessity, contingency and all of that).
    Personally, I haven't yet accepted this concept. I'm open to the idea, of course, but it all too often comes across as yet one more attempt to marginalise the theists, to exclude the possibility of God (I'm primarily thinking of Krauss here), even though it doesn't really work for that purpose.
     
  15. Tesseract

    Tesseract Active Member

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    Yes, an 'observer' is basically anything that is capable of disturbing or interacting with the system one has under consideration, and that is what N. Tyson goes into in that clip I linked. Unfortunately, too many people (especially on YouTube) equate 'observer' with 'consciousness', or a 'conscious observer'. They clearly don't understand the terminology.
     
  16. Tesseract

    Tesseract Active Member

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    Yes, this is basically right. Isn't it now accepted that our universe is 'flat' though? At the moment I don't have any particular references in mind, so I can't link to them, but that's what I've heard. In an infinite universe (or an infinite multiverse) everything that can happen not only happens, but happens an infinite number of times. It does seem kind of... excessive, to say the least.
     
  17. HidinginPlainSight

    HidinginPlainSight Well-Known Member

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    Let me say this is a simpler way. Looking at what is possible in our universe and then extrapolating that to say what a multi-universe can or can't be, is fundamentally flawed. Meaning that the notion in based on a logical fallacy.

    It's something like looking at a pyramid and saying, "Ancient Egypt due to pyramids, rather than pyramids due to Ancient Egypt." Or looking at the colour red and saying, "If it were any other colour then it couldn't be red."

    God is not part of a scientific discussion. Science is a discussion of the natural world and a God is supernatural by definition. There is never a reason to invoke the supernatural to explain natural states. There is no need to even marginalize the theists in a scientific discussion, their point of view is simply not wroth the space the margin provides. A serious discussion of the natural world makes absolutely no reference to pointless speculation.
     
  18. HidinginPlainSight

    HidinginPlainSight Well-Known Member

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    Not by anyone who wants to be taken seriously. Our best measurements show the observable universe to be essentially flat, but anyone who understands what this means knows that it falls far short of making a definitive statement.

    We have no idea just how large the universe may or may not be. It could be that the universe is so large that we simply can't detect the curve from the slice we can see. There is a large leap between saying the geometry of the observable universe, from what we can tell, is flat and saying that the universe is flat.

    That indeed would be the consequence of infinity.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2019
  19. Tesseract

    Tesseract Active Member

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    It isn't "pointless speculation" if a method can potentially be found to test whatever idea one has in mind. Falsifiability is key. That's the way it works. Observe a phenomenon, form a hypothesis, and develop a way to test and confirm it. If it turns out to be wrong, then so be it. At this point in time no one knows why nature has the constants it has, and why they are so fortuitous for life. That can't be just a "coincidence", there has to be a reason for it. One possible explanation is that there are other realities out there, beyond our current ability to reach, and then it would make sense why we are in the kind of universe we inhabit, because it will be one of the few within which conscious observers can arise, most of the others being barren.

    Yes, God isn't a scientific notion: it's a philosophical one, one that science cannot address, as is the question of the true nature of ultimate reality, whether or not we are just living in a 'simulation' (as some believe, but I do not), ethics, morality, finding the best way to live - all questions that people are interested in but which the scientific method is the wrong tool to use. Just because there are questions that science cannot address, that doesn't mean those types of queries are therefore pointless or of no value.
     
  20. HidinginPlainSight

    HidinginPlainSight Well-Known Member

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    There is an extreme fallacy for taking probabilities from actualities. That being that you can't do it. The issue is the one that I raised initially about the descriptive nature of mathematics. This fine tuning stuff attempts to fit different constants into the equations without asking the very obvious question: What if we changed the equations? The fact is that there is no basis for the fine tuning argument and it really shows nothing except the way we define our observations. Red is red because it's red. There is no more coincidence here than anywhere else.

    Sure, people can choose to discuss all sorts of things and will continue to do so. It just has no place in a scientific discussion and will always steer the conversation toward fallacy. Let the collective imagination run wild and you get tarot cards, tea leaves, virgin births, turtle stacking, future lives as slugs, carpenter Gods and cults of human sacrifice. One can argue the merits of such things, but I would rather look for logic in things I can test and understand.
     
    • Agree Agree x 1