Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Was Bored, So I Decided to Pick On Craig (Again)


I've been dry lately for material to write about. Whenever I get like this I always find that criticizing William Lane Craig can be used as filler. I just love tearing apart his arguments. And it pays dividends: If you get into a debate with a theist over god, you are almost guaranteed to hear Craig's arguments get recycled over and over again. Often verbatim. I've been debating this retarded Jehovah's Witness over on the Friendly Atheist's blog and he literally copies Craig's arguments word for word by copying and pasting them because he knows nothing about actual science or philosophy. So it's good to have refutations of Craig's arguments already written so that they too can be copied and pasted in response to the lazy theist who is going to plagiarize someone else's argument. I mean hey, if they're too lazy to write their own argument themselves and resort to copying and pasting, then I'm justified in copying and pasting my response too.

So without further ado.....

I came across a piece Craig wrote in a Christianity Today article from 2008, in which he summarizes his repertoire of arguments for god, so I will use that article as my critique of his arguments.Craig lays out first, as he almost always does, the two versions of the cosmological argument. He's so predictable. Most of you already know the cosmological argument from contingency. I will just dive into my criticism of Craig's justification of its premises. The argument goes as follows:

1. Everything that exists has an explanation of its existence, either in the necessity of its own nature or in an external cause.
2. If the universe has an explanation of its existence, that explanation is God.
3. The universe exists.
4. Therefore, the explanation of the universe's existence is God.

Craig justifies premise 1 with an example:

Imagine that you're walking through the woods and come upon a translucent ball lying on the forest floor. You would find quite bizarre the claim that the ball just exists inexplicably. And increasing the size of the ball, even until it becomes co-extensive with the cosmos, would do nothing to eliminate the need for an explanation of its existence.

I've heard this story used many times to illustrate that the universe's existence needs an explanation. First of all, the analogy is flawed. upon seeing a translucent ball lying on the forest floor, of course we'd ask the question of how or why such a thing exists. But the difference with a translucent ball, and the universe is that we have no known experience with such a thing existing by natural means. All balls that we know of are man made. So we could ask, what is the ball made out of? Plastic? Well we know plastic is man made. But suppose it was made of some unknown substance. It would still have to be made up of atoms. Atoms are matter, and matter is just another form of energy, all of which would go back to the early universe. But now an interesting thought arises. If the translucent ball were shrunk, instead of expanded, to the size of a subatomic particle, like a virtual particle, then it is not at all hard to see how the ball could pop into existence with no apparent cause needed. And when you apply gravity to the laws of quantum mechanics, space and time can pop into existence and whole universes can be born from quantum fluctuations.

Now what's its explanation? The laws of physics make this possible. So the next step the apologist like Craig is going to go, is to ask where did the laws of physics come from. They might exist eternally of we might have a certain set of fundamental laws that we start with, that never truly "come into" existence, but that exist in every point in time. Or. the laws of physics come into existence as space time does. Or, as per the B-theory of time, the universe is eternal and there is no point in time where there aren't laws of physics and corresponding dynamics in which whole universes expand from quantum fluctuations.

Craig goes on to justify premise 2:

Premise (2) might at first appear controversial, but it is in fact synonymous with the usual atheist claim that if God does not exist, then the universe has no explanation of its existence. Besides, (2) is quite plausible in its own right. For an external cause of the universe must be beyond space and time and therefore cannot be physical or material. 

Craig is ignoring in this argument that an external cause of the universe could be natural (i.e. another universe) and that this natural cause could be past eternal. like in certain multiverse models or loop quantum gravity. The contingency argument also presupposes the principle of sufficient reason, but what reason do we have for adopting the principle of sufficient reason? Without a good reason to do so, the principle treads near self-defeation. Hence, the theist must logically prove that there can be no brute facts. 

Now there are only two kinds of things that fit that description: either abstract objects, like numbers, or else an intelligent mind. But abstract objects are causally impotent. The number 7, for example, can't cause anything. 

This is an argument Craig makes all the time. It is not established that the universe needs a cause in the first place. As physicist Alexander Vilenkin has said, “In quantum physics, events do not necessarily have a cause, just some probability. As such, there is some probability for the universe to pop out of “nothing.” You can find the relative probability for it to be this size or that size and have various properties, but there will not be a particular cause for any of it, just probabilities.”

Therefore, it follows that the explanation of the universe is an external, transcendent, personal mind that created the universe—which is what most people have traditionally meant by "God."

Existing beyond space and time to me does not make sense for a being that thinks. How can anything think without time, or a brain? We have no evidence that disembodied minds can exist within space and time let alone without it. This is where the "logic" here goes off the deep end into fantasy land. The theist like Craig here is simply resorting to supernatural shenanigans in which they posit something that is actually logically contradictory - a timeless disembodied mind that somehow can think and cause things to exist, without time.


So then Craig moves onto the kalam cosmological argument, his cornerstone argument for theism.

1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

Craig says:

Premise (1) certainly seems more plausibly true than its denial. The idea that things can pop into being without a cause is worse than magic. Nonetheless, it's remarkable how many nontheists, under the force of the evidence for premise (2), have denied (1) rather than acquiesce in the argument's conclusion.

What also seems more plausibly true than its denial is that things that have causes, have physical and temporal causes that precede their effects. But you cannot cause time prior to time existing, because that prerequisites time. And adopting the simultaneous causality idea opens up further problems for the theist like Craig who denies actual infinities. Hence, premise 1 is based on inductive logic, which is known to be problematic, and so its conclusion is naively based on our common sense observations that things we experience always seem to have causes. As I mentioned above, quantum mechanics violates this common sense notion.

Furthermore, the notion that everything that begins to exist requires a cause also has implications on the notion of traditional libertarian free will. For if a thought “begins to exist” in my mind, then it too must require a cause, otherwise it violates the first premise of the kalam. If my thought requires a cause, there must have been some kind of antecedent chain of events that lead to my thought being caused, like if for example, the atoms in my brain caused me to have that thought due to a regress of physical causes going back to the big bang. Such an idea would lead one to adopt determinism. But if my thought is not caused in such a manner, then it must begin to exist without a cause, and the first premise of the Kalam must therefore be false. And saying my “soul’ caused the thought only takes it one step back: What caused the soul to cause the thought?

What about premise 2? Since the steady state model died in the 1920s, the big bang model has been the dominant paradigm in cosmology. What does Craig have to write about this?

The Big Bang is so amazing because it represents the origin of the universe from literally nothing. For all matter and energy, even physical space and time themselves, came into being at the Big Bang.

Technically, the big bang model doesn't describe "the origin of the universe from literally nothing." Neither does inflationary theory. They both start with an infinitely small, infinitely dense singularity that undergoes a very rapid expansion. "Literally nothing" would include no god, no laws of physics, not even logic. The theist wants to keep a few of those things, so they must concede that absolute nothing cannot exist. For if there is no logic, one cannot appeal to the "logic" that says "something cannot come into being from nothing" regardless of whether it is true or not. That would be something. So I don't think the idea of absolute nothing is even possible. We're always going to have something - time, laws of logic, laws of physics - something. Think about it. If there's no time, then there's no time for "literally nothing" to exist. It wouldn't be a place that the universe comes "from" because it never existed. And if we truly could describe a universe or multiverse coming from literally nothing, there would be no requirement for a god.

Then Craig moves onto another one of his talking points:

In fact, in 2003 cosmologists Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin were able to prove that any universe that is, on average, in a state of cosmic expansion cannot be eternal in the past but must have had an absolute beginning.

Actual, no it doesn't say that "any" universe must have had an absolute beginning, it says "almost all" universes. See the theorem for yourself here. There was a recent skuffle between Craig and Krauss over the BVG theorem about how accurate it is and what the theorem assumes in it's formulation, which is classical spacetime. If classical spacetime breaks down at singularities, the BVG theorem might be incorrect. Aside from this, I don't have a problem with an absolute beginning in time. Both an absolute beginning and a past infinity of time both are hard to contemplate for any finite mind such as ours, but a past infinity is not logically impossible if one jettisons the presentist view on time and adopts an eternalist view whereby every moment is "now."

I could go on but I've gotten bored with this for now. But I will surely be critiquing more theistic arguments soon enough.


110 comments:

  1. You might find this interesting.
    After the Australian debates with Krauss, Craig apparently corresponded with Vilenkin to clarify his views re his bviews given Craig's confusion over what Vilenken has said elsewhere and what Krauss said and showed.
    Vilenkin: "The question of whether or not the universe had a beginning assumes a classical spacetime, in which the notions of time and causality can be defined. On very small time and length scales, quantum fluctuations in the structure of spacetime could be so large that these classical concepts become totally inapplicable. Then we do not really have a language to describe what is happening, because all our physics concepts are deeply rooted in the concepts of space and time. This is what I mean when I say that we do not even know what the right questions are."

    I found Craig's response to this statement to be less than satisfying - read for yourself :-)

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  2. Multiple issues in this article here, but I'll just pick on a few like you do with Craig. First, the idea that quantum mechanics can show how something comes into being from nothing for no reason is not sound because 1) the quantum vacuum is not what is known as literally nothing and 2) these fluctuations of particles are indeterministic (causeless) in only a few of the multiple different physical interpretations of quantum mechanics. I think there are around 9 or 10 different physical interpretations of quantum mechanics that are all empirically equivalent, and many are purely deterministic, so that these events are not without cause. To say the indeterministic interpretations are correct vs the deterministic ones is to make a claim that science has not answered yet. Second issue, the BGV theorem DOES say that ALL universes that are on average expanding cannot be past infinite. I'm not sure where you get this "almost all" idea, unless these exceptions are universes that are universes that are on average contracting (which seems improbable that ours is such a universe, given the unstable nature of contracting universes and the fact that our universe's rate of expansion is actually increasing). Also, it is independent of the physical description of the beginning (the singularity), so it applies regardless of whether spacetime "breaks down or not"

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    1. While the quantum vacuum is not "literally nothing", the strange behaviour ought to make us a little less certain of our pronouncements.

      Also, since everything we do see "begin to exist" in our common experience, is a relationship rather than new matter, applying this claim to the beginning of matter and time becomes even more suspect.

      Also note that the BGV theorem is classical, and needs to be quantized in order to apply it to the big bang event. Since we lack a theory of quantum gravity, and can't do this, we may take the BGV as suggestive. As Villenkin admits in the quote in my previous comment, without knowing the quantum gravitational details, we simply cannot make any confident statements.

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    2. I agree the quantum vacuum exhibits strange behavior, but the point is that it is not nothing and therefore can't be posited as the "nothing" from which the universe came.

      When we discuss a cause of something beginning to exist, we need to differentiate between what is known as a material cause (the matter of which stuff is made) and the efficient cause (what arranged the matter in the first place). I agree with you, applying the claim that everything needs a material cause to the beginning of matter and time is not only suspect but meaningless and absurd. But this is not what we mean when we say everything that begins to exist has a cause; we are talking about the efficient cause, or the force by which something comes into being.

      Yes the BVG is classical, and even if it is granted that it is merely suggestive, that still means it is more probable rather than not that the universe began to exist, and "following the evidence" will lead to the conclusion. I admit I haven't read many of the commentaries by Vilenkin on the theorem, however; I think you misunderstand Vilenkin's uncertainties by saying we cannot make any confident statements. Why would he have written the theorem in the first place if it doesn't actually mean anything in confidence? I think Vilenkin means that these uncertainties that would violate the BVG are inadequately backed up (currently) by science, and therefore we cannot know what to ask of these uncertainties. Vilenkin even states in his letter to Krauss "I suspect that the theorem can be extended to this case, maybe with some additional assumptions," wherein "this case" refers to a universe where the singularity is resolved by a quantum theory of gravity.

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    3. We have no experience with literal nothing, don't actually know if it was a possible state of being (if it were, wouldn't that constitute something?). What would stop something from coming from nothing?

      Yes the BVG is classical, and even if it is granted that it is merely suggestive, that still means it is more probable rather than not that the universe began to exist, and "following the evidence" will lead to the conclusion.
      Reread the Villenkin quote from above:
      "This is what I mean when I say that we do not even know what the right questions are."
      Claiming something is more likely than not would require a reasonable understanding of the alternatives. In the case of the beginning of our universe at the big bang event, we don't have that understanding. Where the evidence ought to lead you is not to "the universe had a beginning" but rather "we don't know", because we simply lack the understanding to make any sort of informed judgement about it.

      Regarding Villenkin's suspicions - given the grossly speculative nature of what he is talking about, let alone the far more speculative nature of this suspicion, why not simply accept that it's an interesting observation, but we are simply unable to say anything with any certainty.

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    4. Zach, I made it clear in my post that quantum particles do not appear out of literally nothing, and I said that the concept of literally nothing doesn't even exist. First, the two most popular interpretations of quantum mechanics is the Copenhagen interpretation and the many worlds interpretation. Neither of these two posit a fully determined cause for virtual particles. Second, if they did, you'd have to surrender to determinism and jettison any notion of libertarian free will. There would simply be no room for free will if every quantum particle was causally determined.

      Third the BGV theorem does indeed say that "almost all" spacetimes cannot be past infinite, not "any" or "all" as apologists like Craig often say. I gave a link right there to the theorem itself so go check. Whether the BGV theorem is correct or not, we don't know. But an absolute beginning of spacetime does not imply a transcendent creator and I outlined a few reasons why that would be problematic.

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    5. Pardon my belated response. As for both Rian and The Thinker, I agree that there can not be literally nothing! That's the exactly problem with atheism in terms of the BVG theorem. As you said, there has to be something, and I've heard no viable alternatives to God from atheists.

      More specifically,
      Rian, you seem to doubt the significance of the BGVT completely. It's almost like you think it is untrue or even if it is true there is no way to determine anything it might entail. It seems to me that you find the theorem purposeless.

      And The Thinker, please don't misunderstand the caveat when I say that the BGVT says that all universes began to exist. It does say that all universes THAT ARE ON AVERAGE EXPANDING cannot be past infinite. I don't mean to be rude with the caps, I just want to highlight the caveat. You're right, there are exceptions like I said if the universe was contracting prior to some time, but the problem with that is those universes are highly improbable versus an expanding one and we ought to have very different observations if our universe is such a universe.

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    6. "You're right, there are exceptions like I said if the universe was contracting prior to some time, but the problem with that is those universes are highly improbable versus an expanding one and we ought to have very different observations if our universe is such a universe."

      Even under a classical spacetime you've got another problem with the Kalam argument, and that is that it presumes the A-theory of time. But Minkowski spacetime leads to a 4D block universe that never comes into being in the ontological sense. A 4D universe can have a beginning and be eternal. How then is god needed under such a scenario?


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    7. And 4-D spacetime is strongly suggested by relativity theory - so if we want to stick with classical space-time, as we're forced to do with the BGVT, then we ought to favour a 4-D block universe.

      Unless we're playing apologetics instead of investigating reality :-)

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    8. I didn't even see these posts until just now, so again, pardon my belated response. I agree in one sense that Minkowkian spacetime leads to B-theory, but the Lorentzian interpretation leads to A-theory. And actually, I think it is your theory of time that leads you to accept your interpretation, not the other way around. Either way, both interpretations are empirically equivalent, but the Lorentzian version has the advantage of resolving the physical deformations suffered by objects in motion relative to the fundamental frame in a way Einstein's original interpretation couldn't. But even if B-theory is true, the question needs to be answered as why this 4D block universe exists rather than nothing at all

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  3. That's the exactly problem with atheism in terms of the BVG theorem. As you said, there has to be something, and I've heard no viable alternatives to God from atheists.
    There are probably an infinite number of viable alternatives to God, and the God hypothesis has it's own serious issues, not least of which there isn't actually a detailed explanation. Just think of the sort of detail a naturalistic explanation would need to provide in order to be accepted. There are no theistic explanation that even come close.
    And claiming the universe is evidence for a theistic God is to go WAY beyond the evidence. Far more parsimonious to hypothesis a being whose only power is to create the universe.

    Rian, you seem to doubt the significance of the BGVT completely.
    Not at all. It's an interesting result, and can be of use in directing research into areas which are possibly more fruitful. It's people drawing strict conclusions from it that bugs me.

    It's almost like you think it is untrue or even if it is true there is no way to determine anything it might entail. It seems to me that you find the theorem purposeless.
    It is untrue in the sense that it is mistaken, for the simple fact that it applies to a classical spacetime, and we do not live in a classical spacetime.

    I'd be interested if you could provide anything like a details God hypothesis as explanation for the universe, which wasn't terrible ad-hoc in nature, didn't suffer from fatal flaws, etc.

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    1. I'd be interested if you could provide any explanation at all that doesn't rely on there being something physical before everything that is physical came into existence. Instead all I just see is "there's a million different ways and it sure isn't God". Where do you get the idea that classical spacetime has been invalidated? Vilenkin doesn't think so, and as he says, "if the [quantum] fluctuations are not so wild as to invalidate classical spacetime, the BGV theorem is immune to any possible modifications of Einstein's equations which may be caused by quantum effects." We certainly don't have any good grounds as of yet to assume that classical spacetime will be invalidated, so why do you assume it will be? Why do you insist on denying the implications of the BGVT? It seems to me that it is the atheist that is now guilty of ignoring the advances in science.

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  4. I'd be interested if you could provide any explanation at all that doesn't rely on there being something physical before everything that is physical came into existence.
    That doesn't make any sense, and isn't the sort of explanation a naturalist/materialist would provide.
    Since we do not see matter/energy coming into or going out of existence, it makes sense to think that perhaps there has always been matter/energy (or whatever gives rise to it).

    Instead all I just see is "there's a million different ways and it sure isn't God".
    That's because, generally speaking, "God did it" is a nonstarter. It's devoid of any meaningful empirical content, and is, as generally presented, unfalsifiable. The God hypothesis can explain any configuration of universe(s).

    Where do you get the idea that classical spacetime has been invalidated?
    Quantum Mechanics, where else?
    We know that both Relativity (classical spacetime) and QM are incompatible, and that gravity needs to be quantized in order to "merge" them together. They're both incomplete as it stands.

    Vilenkin doesn't think so, and as he says, "if the [quantum] fluctuations are not so wild as to invalidate classical spacetime, the BGV theorem is immune to any possible modifications of Einstein's equations which may be caused by quantum effects."
    Which is merely stating that as long as we can assume something like classical spacetime holds in the quantum realm, then the BGV might hold.

    We certainly don't have any good grounds as of yet to assume that classical spacetime will be invalidated, so why do you assume it will be?
    I don't assume it will be. I don't know, and neither do you (and neither does Vilenkin).
    In fact it is you who is assuming that classical spacetime assumptions which the BGV relies upon will hold in the quantum realm.

    Why do you insist on denying the implications of the BGVT?
    I'm ignoring nothing. The BGVT is a classical theorem, and without a quantized variant we can't say what it means in the early universe - to quote Vilenkin once again - "we do not even know what the right questions are"
    It is you who is denying the reality of the situation, with your insistence that the BGVT applies in the quantum realm.
    I'm quite comfortable with uncertainty and acknowledging we simply don't know.
    You don't seem quite so at ease.

    It seems to me that it is the atheist that is now guilty of ignoring the advances in science.
    Standard dodge. I admit what the science is actually telling us, and refuse to make unwarranted assumptions, and somehow I'm the one who is ignoring the science.

    As I've noted, it is you who is going well beyond the evidence in claiming the God hypothesis as an adequate explanation. For crying out loud, you don't even have an actual hypothesis which we could look at, see what empirical observations would and wouldn't be expected were it true, and actually investigate to see if the predictions hold. Even String Theory has you beat, since it is in principle testable.

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    1. Still no alternative to God, except that everything has existed forever, which even if you throw out the BGVT completely is philosophically implausible. You seem to think that I am directly inferring "God exists" from the BGVT, which is not what I'm doing. All that I'm saying is that it provides evidence that the universe began to exist, and that needs sufficient explanation, which is an entirely different issue altogether. The issue at hand is whether the BGVT implies the universe began, you think it doesn't, contrary to Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin, and other cosmologists who agree that their theorem applies to our universe. You obviously aren't comfortable with uncertainty, or you wouldn't be arguing the negative on the issue. If it were as simple as "maybe it did, maybe it didn't", what's the point of this discussion? When Velinkin says we don't know what the right questions are, he means only if quantum fluctuations invalidate classical spacetime. The fact is that the theorem holds no matter what given "the [quantum] fluctuations are not so wild as to invalidate classical spacetime." Unless there are good grounds to think classical spacetime is already invalidated, I'm going to stand by the scientists and continue to affirm the universe began to exist.

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    2. Still no alternative to God, except that everything has existed forever, which even if you throw out the BGVT completely is philosophically implausible.
      Well, since the concept of God looks to be logically incoherent, the non-god hypothesis is looking pretty good.

      All that I'm saying is that it provides evidence that the universe began to exist, and that needs sufficient explanation, which is an entirely different issue altogether.
      Great. So we completely agree.
      Though to be more precise, we should note that it provides evidence that the universe began to exist if the universe has a certain geometry.

      The issue at hand is whether the BGVT implies the universe began, you think it doesn't, contrary to Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin, and other cosmologists who agree that their theorem applies to our universe.
      Rubbish.
      The BGVT implies the universe began, assuming a classical spacetime and other assumptions.

      You obviously aren't comfortable with uncertainty, or you wouldn't be arguing the negative on the issue.
      I'm simply arguing that those assumptions which the BGVT relies upon are assumptions, not certainties.

      If it were as simple as "maybe it did, maybe it didn't", what's the point of this discussion?
      People like Craig (and yourself) want to claim it as evidence that their specific God exists, a claim which is not supported by the scientific evidence.

      When Velinkin says we don't know what the right questions are, he means only if quantum fluctuations invalidate classical spacetime.
      And we don't know whether they do or not, since we don't understand gravity in a quantized form, only classical.

      Unless there are good grounds to think classical spacetime is already invalidated, I'm going to stand by the scientists and continue to affirm the universe began to exist.
      Ok, I think there's some misunderstanding going on.
      When you say here "the universe began" are you talking about all of material reality, or about our comoving patch or spacetime which "began" at the big bang event?
      Because it's highly unlikely that all of material reality began at the big bang event, as inflationary scenarios indicate "something" was there beforehand. The BGVT doesn't really apply to our comoving patch - we know it had it's "origins" in the big bang event. The BGVT applies to the overall geometry of all material reality.
      If you're going with cosmologists and what the evidence indicates, then you'll accept that.
      Then you just need to come up with an explanation as to why your God would create an inflationary space-time, or higher level branes, or whatever.

      Also, since you seem committed to accepting classical space-time, you'll be happy to accept the 4-D "block universe" which is strongly implied by it, and which undermines the "God Hypothesis", since it strongly implies a B-theory of time, while God Hypothesis tend to rely upon A-Theory. WLC attempted to recast relativity into A-theory specifically because he know he requires an A-theory of time to be true.

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    3. And Zach, I'll note that you still haven't even given an outline of your "God Hypothesis".

      There's no reason to take an hypothesis seriously when it doesn't exist.

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    4. Again, just asserting the God is logically incoherent without any reasons won't convince many people, not to mention, you still haven't identified what this non-God hypothesis is! Unless you mean to say that the alternative is an eternally existing universe which is, again, philosophically implausible given the absurdities that arrive from actual infinity. You could throw away the BGVT altogether and still have difficulty justifying a past eternal universe.

      "Rubbish."

      What's rubbish? The idea that Borde, Guth, and Vilenkin don't find their own theorem convincing? Find me one quote where they are uncertain of their theorem, and no, the article on Reasonable Faith does not show Vilenkin doubts the assumptions made in the theorem. Science operates on certain assumptions all the time! For example, science assumes the principle of induction. Science assumes laws of logic. Science assumes constant laws of nature. It could be in the mere seconds after I finish this post the law of gravity will dissociate altogether and we all die in the cataclysmic results, but we don't have any good grounds to doubt these assumptions, so (thank goodness) you and I are probably fine by the time you read this post. Like I said, until we have good grounds to doubt these assumptions you can't just say these implications are indefinite. So yes, we don't "certainly" know chemistry will work the same tomorrow as it does today, we just assume it will. We still carry out chemistry and physics nonetheless.

      "People like Craig (and yourself) want to claim the BGVT as evidence that their specific God exists"
      Nope. We claim it as evidence that the universe began to exist.

      Also, inflationary scenarios are HIGHLY speculative, but even then, Vilenkin himself has written about how inflationary models are actually past finite! Read Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universes [Hill and Wang, 2006], I believe it is there he does so. So no, they don't indicate there was something beforehand.

      As far as spacetime is concerned, a B-theory of time is one interpretation of spacetime (namely a Minkowskian one) and is by no means the definitive one. The Lorentzian interpretation does not imply the B-theory of time. And even if B-theory of time is true, the question remains why does this block of time exist rather than nothing at all?

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  5. As a qualifying statement to the second to last paragraph: they don't indicate there was something before hand that existed eternally

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  6. Again, just asserting the God is logically incoherent without any reasons won't convince many people,
    The arguments are out there. The most damning thing in my opinion, is the complete lack of a coherent definition from theists themselves.

    not to mention, you still haven't identified what this non-God hypothesis is!
    I don't have one, and I'm not pretending to have one.
    I'm not presenting one because there is no solid reason to support one of those we have over the others, nor to think that the real explanation isn't something yet to be investigated.

    Unless you mean to say that the alternative is an eternally existing universe which is, again, philosophically implausible given the absurdities that arrive from actual infinity.
    So it's a problem when I assert that God is incoherent, but not a problem when you assert something?
    The supposed absurdities of actual infinities are greatly over estimated (and misunderstood) by Craig and the like.

    You could throw away the BGVT altogether and still have difficulty justifying a past eternal universe.
    And yet God would still be incoherent. The Thinker has written concerning the absurdity of a timeless mind. There's also the problem of a limitless mind thinking at all (thoughts require limits and discrimination between things. A limitless being would have no limits and would lack discrimination).

    Find me one quote where they are uncertain of their theorem, and no, the article on Reasonable Faith does not show Vilenkin doubts the assumptions made in the theorem.
    Do I have to quote Vilenkin again on not knowing the right questions?

    For example, science assumes the principle of induction.
    Induction is supported by probability theory.

    Science assumes constant laws of nature.
    Rubbish! Scientists have looked for evidence of changes to the laws. Science looks at the symmetry breaking in the early universe which froze out the "laws" we have.
    If it was an unquestioned assumption, neither of those things would occur.

    Like I said, until we have good grounds to doubt these assumptions you can't just say these implications are indefinite.
    The inability to merge relativity and QM are grounds to doubt these assumptions.

    Also, inflationary scenarios are HIGHLY speculative,
    Inflation is strongly supported by the evidence from the early universe.

    but even then, Vilenkin himself has written about how inflationary models are actually past finite!
    Which I accept. But that doesn't mean that the big bang event was the beginning of everything. Such a conclusion is unwarranted, and inflationary scenarios tend to suggest otherwise.

    I believe it is there he does so. So no, they don't indicate there was something beforehand.
    you're confusing "the universe" meaning everything, including the possible inflationary background space-time "stuff", and "the universe" meaning our co-moving patch which has been evolving since the big bang event.

    As far as spacetime is concerned, a B-theory of time is one interpretation of spacetime (namely a Minkowskian one) and is by no means the definitive one.
    It's strongly suggested by relativity. If you want to stick with the assumptions of classical space-time, why don't you accept this?

    And even if B-theory of time is true, the question remains why does this block of time exist rather than nothing at all?
    Why does God exist rather than nothing at all?
    Why does God exists exactly as he does, rather than differently?

    Simply asserting that God is a necessary being, or eternal doesn't answer the question, since the same could be said of "the universe" (use in the all encompassing sense, rather than just to refer to our comoving patch).

    As a qualifying statement to the second to last paragraph: they don't indicate there was something before hand that existed eternally
    No, but they do indicate that the big bang event was not the beginning.

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    1. I didn't simply assert that past infinity is incoherent, I said absurdities arise from infinity. You're the one who asserted the absurdities are over exaggerated. A timeless mind is the only thing, save from an abstract object, that could exist outside of anything physical in order to exist before the big bang. If you have any evidence at all that the timeless mind is incoherent, please give it, and I will gladly consider it. Limitless is equivocated to mean "lacking distinction" instead of properly understood "having power to do all that is logically possible". The quote from Vilenkin you gave is only in the scenario that classical spacetime has been invalidated.

      This argument is just going in circles.

      Probability theory assumes that very law! That is circular reasoning.

      Just because scientists have looked for evidence their assumptions are wrong doesn't mean they haven't made their calculations based on the assumption. If you don't assume the laws of nature are constant, you can't do chemistry. Period.

      QM and classical ST are not irresolvable, Vilenkin himself thinks that classical ST could remain intact with a quantized theory of gravity. We just don't know how yet.

      "Inflation is strongly supported by the evidence from the early universe"
      Now you're just making things up. The Big Bang model is easily the most widely accepted completed model there is, and inflationary models are still under development, dealing with problems from, yet again, actual infinites.

      "But that doesn't mean that the big bang event was the beginning of everything."
      It doesn't need to be specifically the big bang, if something is past finite it means everything came into existence.

      B-theory strongly suggests by a Minkowskian interpretation, A-theory strongly suggests by a Lorentzian interpretation. Relativity itself suggests neither.

      By definition, if he exists, God is necessary. That's not an assertion, that's a definition. Saying the universe is necessary will require extra premises, since it is a physical object. I don't mean to be condescending, but that's something you would learn in an intro to philosophy class.

      As far as I'm concerned, when you're making up facts like inflation models being the standard supported by science, or B-theory being determined by relativity, the argument is over. I can't argue against facts that aren't true.

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    2. I said absurdities arise from infinity.
      Like?

      A timeless mind is the only thing, save from an abstract object, that could exist outside of anything physical in order to exist before the big bang.
      Minds think, and thoughts occur in time - a timeless mind cannot think, and a mind that doesn't think isn't a mind at all.

      Limitless is equivocated to mean "lacking distinction" instead of properly understood "having power to do all that is logically possible".
      Taken from "A REFUTATION OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD" by John Shand:
      "Suppose, in contrast to us, we contemplate the possibility of a being for whom no knowledge was beyond it, for whom nothing it wanted to do would be a difficulty and beyond its power, and for whom there was nowhere to go in time or space where it was not already. What we are looking at is a being for whom nothing is a problem, nothing is an obstacle, nothing that cannot be overcome; nothing would or could ever be bumped into in any sense whatsoever. Indeed, given the eternal nature of such a being, along with the other characteristics, logically everything would be known and done in less than an instant; in no time at all in fact. Such a being could not think about anything because it would not have any objects of thought. None would ever be, or need to be, generated or come into existence for it. Nothing would exist for such a being. For such a being the world would be at best an utterly ‘flat’ undifferentiated homogeneity, a great nebulous oneness – although even this would be going too far as it would involve the contradiction of contemplating everything against the background of something else. Such a being would not bump into anything either literally or metaphorically. Nothing would be out of reach. It would not have any cause or reason to generate the meanings and significances that would bring things into existence for it, so that they are discriminated from other things, so that they ‘stand out’, and so may be objects of thought. Such a being could not have interests, so that it cared about some things more than others. It could not engage in the world. But such an engagement is required for objects of thought to arise. There would be no motivation for such a being to start thinking about anything at all in fact, as nothing could matter more than anything else to it."

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    3. The quote from Vilenkin you gave is only in the scenario that classical spacetime has been invalidated.
      And since we don't know either way, it's as valid now as it was when I first quoted it.

      Probability theory assumes that very law!
      Rubbish. Bayesianism doesn't assume induction, though it can be used to support it.

      Just because scientists have looked for evidence their assumptions are wrong doesn't mean they haven't made their calculations based on the assumption.
      It does mean that those assumptions are taken as being provisional, though very well attested.

      If you don't assume the laws of nature are constant, you can't do chemistry. Period.
      But you could come to assume the laws of nature are constant by trying to do chemistry - uniformity is not something you need assume a priori, but rather something that can be confirmed by repeated observation.

      QM and classical ST are not irresolvable, Vilenkin himself thinks that classical ST could remain intact with a quantized theory of gravity. We just don't know how yet.
      Thanks for making my point for me. I'm glad we agree.

      The Big Bang model is easily the most widely accepted completed model there is,
      The current standard big bang model includes an inflationary period - inflation is a solid part of cosmology.

      and inflationary models are still under development, dealing with problems from, yet again, actual infinites.
      Which means what? That God must have done it, or that we simply don't know everything?

      It doesn't need to be specifically the big bang, if something is past finite it means everything came into existence.
      It doesn't mean that either. For something to come into existence, time is required (it needs to not be there, and then be there).

      By definition, if he exists, God is necessary.
      By definition, if the universe exists (in the all encompassing sense) then the universe is necessary.
      See how easy it is.

      That's not an assertion, that's a definition.
      You might need to talk to people like Richard Swinburne who appear to define God as contingent.

      Saying the universe is necessary will require extra premises, since it is a physical object.
      You'll need to justify that claim further - note that I'm not talking about our comoving patch, but rather whatever it might have been that could have given rise to our contingent seeming "universe".
      "Saying God is necessary will require extra premises, since he's an immaterial object" :-)

      As far as I'm concerned, when you're making up facts like inflation models being the standard supported by science,
      Eternal inflationary scenarios are not a part of the standard big bang model, but then again I never said they were.
      An inflationary period IS a part of standard big bang cosmology (and the extrapolation from this is what led to the creation of scenarios of eternal inflation).

      or B-theory being determined by relativity,
      I never said it was determined, merely that is was strongly suggested.

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    4. Still waiting for that God hypothesis you seem to have up your sleeve.

      When can I expect it?

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    5. Absurdities that arise from infinity: see Hilbert's Hotel thought experiment.

      Let's put your timeless mind argument into a logical form. Correct me if I misconstrue your argument.
      i) God is a mind
      ii) Minds think
      iii) Thoughts are in time
      iv) Therefore, God cannot exist out of time

      The problem with this is that the conclusion doesn't follow from the premises. iv) cannot be logically deduced from i), ii), and iii). What you need to do is alter iii) to state:

      iii) Thoughts cannot occur out of time

      Now we're getting somewhere! Premise iv) now follows. The only problem is that you have only offered support for the original iii). You need to focus on the revised iii) and offer support for that.

      As far as John Stand's paper, I'm really not sure what the objection even is. I don't see how a being's omniscience entails a lack of thought objects. Frankly, not only do those two things seem uncorrelated, they seem contradictory.

      The rest of your post is pretty much the same as all the others when it comes to science and the BGVT. If you want me to respond to something specifically, I will. I would however like to make a few remarks.

      "Which means what? That God must have done it, or that we simply don't know everything?"
      It's funny how if a theist doesn't have an answer for something it means his ideas are incoherent and invalid but when it comes to naturalists it's OK because "we'll get there eventually".

      "For something to come into existence, time is required"
      Please support that, but I thought you didn't believe in things coming into existence anyway?

      "By definition, if the universe exists (in the all encompassing sense) then the universe is necessary...Saying God is necessary will require extra premises, since he's an immaterial object :-)"
      It's almost like you didn't even read what I wrote. If you want to disagree with the modern philosophical definitions and standards dealing with necessary and contingent existence and how they play into the ideas of God and the universe (in whatever sense you want it to mean), be my guest. A semester in an intro to philosophy class will show your assertions to be false. Like I said, I can't argue with facts that aren't true.

      B-theory is not empirically suggested by General Relativity. Minkowskian and Lorentzian interpretations deal with that. Again, it's like you didn't even read my response. Your view of time will color your interpretation, but GR itself won't lead you to either.

      And finally, I don't really feel like I owe it to you to give a complete 'God hypothesis' considering you haven't given me an alternative. I'm also not entirely sure of what you want from this 'God hypothesis' but I'll give it my best shot. As derived from the kalam and contingency arguments, there exists a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of immense power. It is a mind, it desired to create. This is what we call God.

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    6. and a correction, I meant special relativity and not general relativity.

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    7. Hey Zach, can you describe how it is logically possible for a timeless spaceless god to find the time and space to impregnate an underage Palestinian virgin, so that she can give birth to himself, as an eventual human sacrifice to himself, the save us all – you guess it – from himself. A truly timeless god would be glaciated beyond all action. And god cannot be a mind, because a timeless mind is by definition, non functional. So please explain to me how it is logically possible for a timeless being to think or do anything.

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    8. I don't recall defending Christianity. But it's interesting to see that's where your real vendetta lies. Out of all the other monotheistic views, you singled out Christianity and attacked it instead of theism in general. But you also appear to have a poor understanding of the doctrines of Christianity and didn't really reply to any points I made about the coherency of theism in general.

      Firstly, I personally hold that God is timeless without creation (because there is no time) and entered into time at creation (because time was created). However, if you hold to a B-theory of time, which you seem to do, it's not hard to imagine a being existing outside the 4D block that can interact with it at all. Such a being could make equally real changes in multiple different moments of reality without any sort of problems arising from a flow of time, since time doesn't really flow. Anyway, as sort of a critique of your view of Christianity:

      "underage Palestinian virgin"
      Really? Underage? According to what? The modern legal age of consent? Like you said, this is ancient Palestine, and it was quite common for girls to be married at the ages of 14-15 and be pregnant at 15-16. Also, I hope you are being tongue-in-cheek when you use the word impregnate, but nowhere does Christianity affirm God had physical sex with Mary.

      "give birth to himself"
      This is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not 'God himself' in the idea that he is some exact genetic copy of this transcendent being.

      "to save us all – you guess it – from himself"
      This is another misunderstanding of the doctrine of salvation. God doesn't save us from himself. He saves us from ourselves. He saves humanity of sin that they themselves commit and are responsible for by themselves.

      In any case, I haven't been defending Christianity, because that isn't what this entire thing has been about. Your last part talks about a problem with timeless minds and just asserting them to be incoherent. You need to give some sort of argument against a timeless mind, which Rian has done, if you read two or three posts prior to yours. I also responded to that argument in the post directly prior to yours.

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  7. I don't recall defending Christianity. But it's interesting to see that's where your real vendetta lies. Out of all the other monotheistic views, you singled out Christianity and attacked it instead of theism in general.

    Didn't mean to tar you as a Christian. Will you forgive me? Just take out the references to Christianity and you've got essentially the same problem with theism, since god must reveal himself.

    "Firstly, I personally hold that God is timeless without creation (because there is no time) and entered into time at creation (because time was created). "

    How can god create time if there was no time? You're taking the WLC approach by the book it seems. When asked, "How did God decide to create the world if there was no time to make any decisions?" Craig responded:

    ""Deciding, isn't necessarily a temporal activity. One can have an intention that isn't the result of a previous state of indecision. So I would say that God exists timelessly with the intention that a physical world exist. And then there's an exercise of this causal power, um, that brings the universe into existence......So, I would say that God simply has a timeless, free intention of the will to do something, and then there's an exercise of causal power to bring the universe into being."

    Deciding IS a temporal activity. If god had the decision to create a world timelessly that means our world was determined in that there is no possibility that it wouldn't have been created. So to answer Einstein's hypothetical question, "Did god have a choice in creating the universe?" the answer is NO. In other words, god's intent to create our universe exists eternally and there was never a possibility of our universe not existing, since the intention of creating another universe, or no universe, would also have existed eternally.

    On top of that, how does god exercise causal power without time? Exercising causal power itself is a decision, the prerequisites time. How did god have a timeless intention to create the universe, but not a timeless intention to materialize that intention?

    All of this, I think, among other things, renders the cosmological argument from contingency impotent, since a timeless god could never have decided to not create our universe, and our universe would not technically be contingent. In other words, if A exists necessarily, and if A exists, B necessarily exists, then B exists necessarily too, because there is no possible way that B could not exist.


    "However, if you hold to a B-theory of time, which you seem to do, it's not hard to imagine a being existing outside the 4D block that can interact with it at all. Such a being could make equally real changes in multiple different moments of reality without any sort of problems arising from a flow of time, since time doesn't really flow."

    The problem with the B-theory is that the universe is technically frozen and static and eternal. So god cannot do anything to the universe or make any changes to it or else it wouldn't be the B-theory anymore. There is no role for god in the B-theory.

    "underage Palestinian virgin"
    Really? Underage? According to what? The modern legal age of consent?


    So you're saying morality is relative to time, place and people?

    "give birth to himself"
    This is a misunderstanding of the doctrine of the humanity and deity of Jesus Christ. Jesus is not 'God himself' in the idea that he is some exact genetic copy of this transcendent being.


    Never said he was.

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    1. Deciding is a temporal activity? How long does a decision take? A second? Nanoseconds? If it is temporal, it should be measurable. Note that deliberation and a decision itself are not the same thing. God could have a timeless intention to create the universe, so in one sense, yes, the intent to create was eternal. However, mere intention is not sufficient to create. What is further needed is an exercise of causal power. A free person, mind, etc. such as God can exercise such causal power without any preceding determining conditions. This exercise of power is what draws God into time and the creation of the universe occurs at this very first moment of time. When you ask "How did god have a timeless intention to create the universe, but not a timeless intention to materialize that intention?" those two intentions are the same thing. So yes, God could never have the intention to not create our world, but he could certainly have refrained from exercising causal power. Like I said, intention itself isn't enough to bring the universe into existence.

      "There is no role for god in the B-theory."
      The role of God in B-theory is to be the sufficient reason for the existence of the block rather than nothing. I have a question on something you said a while ago. You said "A 4D universe can have a beginning and be eternal." How can this be? Those are two mutually exclusive qualities. You can't begin to exist and be eternal.

      "Morality is relative"
      No, the laws that govern our countries are relative. The mere fact that a girl is pregnant at 16 is not immoral. What is immoral is when a man takes advantage of a girl who did not give consent to have sex. A girl is legally considered unable to give consent in our country until a specified age. This legality did not exist in ancient Palestine, and we have no record of Mary's objection to carrying the Son of God.

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    2. "Deciding is a temporal activity? How long does a decision take? A second? Nanoseconds? If it is temporal, it should be measurable."

      Yes it is temporal. There will always be a moment before and a moment after the decision was made, no matter how fast it is.

      "A free person, mind, etc. such as God can exercise such causal power without any preceding determining conditions."

      But how can you even say that god is a free person if his intention to create OUR universe always existed in him and no other possible intention ever existed? That doesn't sound free to me, that sounds preprogramed. It's kind of like a computer loaded with commands, but then executes those commands at "will". I wouldn't say that's free.

      "So yes, God could never have the intention to not create our world, but he could certainly have refrained from exercising causal power."

      In order for god's causal power to be executed he had to make a decision to execute it, in the same way that he would have had to decide whether to intend to create our universe or not. It's the same problem just a different area. Time is required to decide to create the universe just as it is required to decide whether or not to intend to create the universe..


      "The role of God in B-theory is to be the sufficient reason for the existence of the block rather than nothing. "

      But if the universe is eternal, as it is in the B-theory, then it is impossible that it could not have existed. You're assuming that the block was created by god, but that assumed the A theory of time. I think you're getting confused.


      "I have a question on something you said a while ago. You said "A 4D universe can have a beginning and be eternal." How can this be? Those are two mutually exclusive qualities. You can't begin to exist and be eternal."

      No they aren't. The universe can have an end point, just like a yard stick does. But it is not an ontological beginning that comes into existence. So you can say the yard stick "begins" at 0 and goes to 3 feet, but it doesn't pop into existence at 0; the whole yard stick already exists.

      "No, the laws that govern our countries are relative."

      So are you saying that everything that was allowed in biblical times, like slavery, stoning to death homosexuals, arranged marriages between older men and 13 year old girls, etc, are still morally good and it's only our man made laws have changed?

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    3. A free person, mind, etc. such as God can exercise such causal power without any preceding determining conditions.
      Wouldn't the claimed "timeless intention to create the universe" count as a preceding determining condition?
      Wouldn't an exercise of such causal power without regard for any preceding determining condition equate to an essentially random exercise of such power?

      This exercise of power is what draws God into time and the creation of the universe occurs at this very first moment of time.
      The arrow of time we are familiar with is strongly related to thermodynamics.
      God is envisaged to be free from thermodynamic concerns.
      So how can God be drawn into time? Was he free from thermodynamics prior to creation, but subject to it after?

      So yes, God could never have the intention to not create our world, but he could certainly have refrained from exercising causal power.
      How, since such refrain surely requires some consideration of the initial intention, which would surely require time?

      You can't begin to exist and be eternal.
      I suspect that The Thinker was describing the time-like dimension having a limit in 1 direction.

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    4. Thinker:
      "There will always be a moment before and a moment after the decision was made"
      This what I call the exercise of causal power. And like I said, this exercise of causal power is what will draw God into time, or be the moments of creation at which time exists.

      "But how can you even say that god is a free person if his intention to create OUR universe always existed in him and no other possible intention ever existed? ... It's kind of like a computer loaded with commands, but then executes those commands at 'will'"
      It is possible that God could not have intended to create. We can imagine a state of affairs where this is possible. This is not our state of affairs, but it is a logically possible one. Also your example of a computer executing commands at will illustrates freedom perfectly. One must be free if one exercises will. That's pretty much the definition of freedom.

      "In order for god's causal power to be executed he had to make a decision to execute it, in the same way that he would have had to decide whether to intend to create our universe or not."
      I agree that there must be time for the execution of causal power, and this is the first moment of time at creation. However, God never had to decide to have an intention. As I said before, this intention was eternal so there was no state of affairs "before" which God did not intend to create.

      "But if the universe is eternal, as it is in the B-theory, then it is impossible that it could not have existed."
      That isn't the definition of eternal, that is the definition of necessary. Eternality doesn't imply necessity, and B-theory only assumes eternality.

      "The universe can have an end point..."
      I understand what you mean now. I thought you meant beginning as in began to exist. My mistake.

      "So are you saying that everything that was allowed in biblical times, like slavery..."
      This doesn't have anything to do with the issue at hand but if you'd like check out the book "Is God A Moral Monster?" by Paul Copan I think that would make clear a few positions.

      Rian:
      "Wouldn't the claimed "timeless intention to create the universe" count as a preceding determining condition?"
      No, because it does not necessarily entail (determine in the hard sense) the action of creating. You could wake up with the intention to get out of bed during the day, but refrain from doing so.

      "Wouldn't an exercise of such causal power without regard for any preceding determining condition equate to an essentially random exercise of such power?"
      No, because the intent to create is the reason, but it is not determining in the sense God had no choice but to exercise causal power.

      "So how can God be drawn into time? Was he free from thermodynamics prior to creation, but subject to it after?"
      God subjected himself to time at the moment of creation, and God is immaterial and therefore free from laws of thermodynamics.

      "How, since such refrain surely requires some consideration of the initial intention, which would surely require time?"
      Refrain in this case simply means not exercising causal power. No time is required at all for that.

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    5. It is possible that God could not have intended to create. We can imagine a state of affairs where this is possible. This is not our state of affairs, but it is a logically possible one.
      If this intention is contingent and not necessary (as you seem to be saying), don't you now need to provide an explanation as to why God had this intention in the first place?

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    6. You could wake up with the intention to get out of bed during the day, but refrain from doing so.
      True, but if I do decide to get out of bed, my intention to do so is certainly a determining condition, correct?

      No, because the intent to create is the reason, but it is not determining in the sense God
      had no choice but to exercise causal power.

      I'm not sure I follow you.
      Are you saying that without the intent to create, God may still have created?
      Or that even with the intention to create it may never have been carried out?

      God subjected himself to time at the moment of creation, and God is immaterial and therefore free from laws of thermodynamics.
      But time is, as far as we can tell, intimately related to thermodynamics. How can something which is free from thermodynamic concerns be subjected to thermodynamic concerns (ie. time)?

      Refrain in this case simply means not exercising causal power. No time is required at all for that.
      Atemporality can be confusing :-)
      On your view, God never refrained from exercising causal power, since God's first act, apparently, was to create. God can't have deliberated whether to follow this intention (since that would seem to require time, which didn't exist), it just happened, correct?
      So, how did God decide to follow this intention? A decision doesn't seem to me to be instantaneous, since it generally involves deliberation (though perhaps God's omniscience gets him out of this, since he would just KNOW what to do, no deliberation required).

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    7. "This what I call the exercise of causal power. And like I said, this exercise of causal power is what will draw God into time, or be the moments of creation at which time exists."

      But the exercise of causal power is a decision itself just like a decision to create the universe. You've got the same problem. That is, before there exists time, how can decisions be made?

      "It is possible that God could not have intended to create. We can imagine a state of affairs where this is possible. This is not our state of affairs, but it is a logically possible one."

      Not if the intention to create existed from eternity.

      "Also your example of a computer executing commands at will illustrates freedom perfectly. One must be free if one exercises will. That's pretty much the definition of freedom."

      But why would god have an intention to create the universe, if he would decide never to create it? Why does the intention exist at all?

      "I agree that there must be time for the execution of causal power, and this is the first moment of time at creation."

      But any notion of time would need to exist anterior to the decision being made not posterior .Time is required before the decision is to be made at all, since decisions by definition are temporal.

      "As I said before, this intention was eternal so there was no state of affairs "before" which God did not intend to create."

      But was there a state of "before" god decided to cause the universe to exist? Since whether or not god would actually create the universe seems to be, even according to you, a decision god makes freely, and that necessitates time prior to actually executing the intention.

      "That isn't the definition of eternal, that is the definition of necessary. Eternality doesn't imply necessity, and B-theory only assumes eternality."

      How is it possible that an eternal universe could not have existed?

      "This doesn't have anything to do with the issue at hand but if you'd like check out the book "Is God A Moral Monster?" by Paul Copan I think that would make clear a few positions."

      Paul Copan has been hammered by the critics for his defense of biblical slavery, genocide and morality. I strongly urge you to read Thom Stark's Free book Is God a Moral
      Compromiser?
      It's an eye opening critique showing how fallacious Copan's arguments are.

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    8. Rian:
      "If this intention is contingent and not necessary (as you seem to be saying), don't you now need to provide an explanation as to why God had this intention in the first place?"
      Because he desired to create.

      "True, but if I do decide to get out of bed, my intention to do so is certainly a determining condition, correct?...
      I'm not sure I follow you.
      Are you saying that without the intent to create, God may still have created?
      Or that even with the intention to create it may never have been carried out?"
      This is kind of the same objection. When you say determining condition, it does not mean determining in the sense the exercise of causal power must occur. So yes, "even with the intention to create it may never have been carried out"

      "But time is, as far as we can tell, intimately related to thermodynamics. How can something which is free from thermodynamic concerns be subjected to thermodynamic concerns (ie. time)?"
      This assumes that time itself is a direct function of thermodynamics, and time is a bit more complicated than that, and the time-arrow and time itself are not the same thing.

      "So, how did God decide to follow this intention?"
      By exercising causal power.

      Thinker:
      "But the exercise of causal power is a decision itself just like a decision to create the universe."
      Those two are the same thing. These (this) decision occurs at the moment of creation, the first moment of time, so time exists.

      "But why would god have an intention to create the universe, if he would decide never to create it? Why does the intention exist at all?"
      Could, not would. Another possible state of affairs doesn't necessarily have any direct effect on ours. The intention exists because God wills to create.

      "But any notion of time would need to exist anterior to the decision being made not posterior. Time is required before the decision is to be made at all, since decisions by definition are temporal."
      I don't see why time needs to exist prior to a decision. It just needs to exist at the exercise of causal power itself.

      "How is it possible that an eternal universe could not have existed?"
      Because eternality doesn't entail necessity.

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    9. Those two are the same thing. These (this) decision occurs at the moment of creation, the first moment of time, so time exists.

      Let's look at it this way. Normally, if I want to do something, first the intention must be decided after a period of indecision, and then I must decide when to execute that intention. So there are two decisions being made: (1) whether or not to do something; and (2) when to do it. Both of these steps require time, as all the deciding and deliberation are temporal.

      In god's case the idea is that the intention exists intrinsically. That is, it was never the case that the intention wasn't there. But then, how does god "decide" to execute his will if no time exists? A fully static god can never execute a will, because the decision to do so must occur in time just as a decision whether or not to create a universe at all would. And also god has to decide, from all the possible worlds he can create, which one he will, unless you believe our world is the only possible world he could've created. In that case our world is completely determined, and god has no free will.

      "Could, not would. Another possible state of affairs doesn't necessarily have any direct effect on ours. The intention exists because God wills to create."

      But if god willed not to create, wouldn't the intention also exist? You seem to be playing it backwards.

      "I don't see why time needs to exist prior to a decision. It just needs to exist at the exercise of causal power itself."

      Ok, try making a decision without time. Imagine yourself completely frozen, and all of your thoughts and thinking stops. You are like a caveman frozen in a block of ice and your mind too is totally frozen. A timeless mind is by definition, non functional, since the only thing minds do is think, and thinking is a temporal process. Now while you're frozen in that block of ice, how do you execute a will? You can't tell me that you can just create time, that requires a decision that itself must be made in time.

      "Because eternality doesn't entail necessity."

      True, but if it is eternal, there was never a time that it did not exist. So we can imagine it not existing, but the reality would be that it always did, and therefore did not need a creator. God is completely irrelevant in such a scenario. Your only hope is to appeal to the principle of sufficient reason, but what reason do you have to ground the PSF? Do you just assume it? Then it becomes self defeating. In other words, can you logically prove that there cannot be any brute facts?

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    10. "In god's case the idea is that the intention exists intrinsically. That is, it was never the case that the intention wasn't there. But then, how does god "decide" to execute his will if no time exists?"
      As you said the intention is eternal, so God need not "decide to have the intention". And a decision to create the world and an exercise of causal power are essentially the same thing. I don't see any reason why they have to be separate.

      "And also god has to decide, from all the possible worlds he can create, which one he will, unless you believe our world is the only possible world he could've created. In that case our world is completely determined, and god has no free will."
      This decision only requires deliberation if God does not already know all possible results of the possible worlds that could be created, and this knowledge would be entailed by omniscience. And while our world may be the only one that God would desire to create, it certainly doesn't mean that God has no free will to choose any of the others.

      Again, decision can be equated with intention or exercise of causal power depending on your view of the decision to create. If it is equivalent with the intention, we have already said that this existed timelessly from eternity and therefore needs no time; if it is equivalent with exercise of causal power, this occurs at the very first moment of time at creation.

      "True, but if it is eternal, there was never a time that it did not exist. So we can imagine it not existing, but the reality would be that it always did, and therefore did not need a creator. God is completely irrelevant in such a scenario. Your only hope is to appeal to the principle of sufficient reason, but what reason do you have to ground the PSF? Do you just assume it?"
      What reason do you have to think the laws of logic are valid and useful in determining truth? Do you just assume they are?

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    11. "As you said the intention is eternal, so God need not "decide to have the intention". And a decision to create the world and an exercise of causal power are essentially the same thing. I don't see any reason why they have to be separate."

      But you seem to be saying that god;s intention to create and his will to create are both existing from eternity. If that is the case our universe is determined. I.E. there is no possibility that it could not have existed. So how does god have free will if no other possibility is possible? If you say, "God could have willed differently" then his intention couldn't have existed from eternally.

      "This decision only requires deliberation if God does not already know all possible results of the possible worlds that could be created, and this knowledge would be entailed by omniscience. And while our world may be the only one that God would desire to create, it certainly doesn't mean that God has no free will to choose any of the others."

      But free will requires time to change one's mind and to deliberate. An intention that existed eternally could never have been otherwise. To say god could have chosen another option is to imagine a different god.

      "Again, decision can be equated with intention or exercise of causal power depending on your view of the decision to create. If it is equivalent with the intention, we have already said that this existed timelessly from eternity and therefore needs no time; if it is equivalent with exercise of causal power, this occurs at the very first moment of time at creation."

      The idea that a cosmic mind exists with all of its intentions "from eternity" doesn't sound like a being with free will to me. It sounds like something made up to explain a force that created our world. Remember, up until time begins literally nothing can happen, god can't do anything, so how does he "cause" time to exist when he cannot do anything before time already exists.

      "What reason do you have to think the laws of logic are valid and useful in determining truth? Do you just assume they are?"

      The PSF is not a law of logic, it is a principle, just like Okham's Razor and is not absolute. Logic is demonstrably useful, it works. We can't say that for the PSF. You're just assuming it.

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    12. "If that is the case our universe is determined. I.E. there is no possibility that it could not have existed. So how does god have free will if no other possibility is possible? If you say, "God could have willed differently" then his intention couldn't have existed from eternally."
      The universe's existence is not determined, God could've refrained from exercising causal power at all.

      "But free will requires time to change one's mind and to deliberate. An intention that existed eternally could never have been otherwise. To say god could have chosen another option is to imagine a different god."
      I feel like a broken record, but maybe I'm just misunderstanding your objection. The choice is in God from which world he could create (which he does not need to deliberate about, given his omniscience) and it is in his decision to exercise causal power versus not at all. Just because God DIDN'T do things differently doesn't mean he COULDN'T have done things differently.

      And on sufficient reason, the only reason you gave to accept the laws of logic is that it is demonstrably useful, but that's only if you assume that logic works in the first place. If you don't, you can't demonstrate anything to be true because you don't know if the method you are using is true. The same can be said for sufficient reason. If you come home and the power is out, you don't assume that there is literally no reason whatsoever that your electricity is not working. Nor do you assume that the laws of electric currents have been suspended for only your house, or that hidden electric gnomes are playing some sort of prank on you because these reasons are not sufficient.

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    13. ”The universe's existence is not determined, God could've refrained from exercising causal power at all.”

      How could god have refrained given that his omniscience requires that he know everything he would do, and intending to create and actually creating our universe would be something he knew he would do?

      ”I feel like a broken record, but maybe I'm just misunderstanding your objection. The choice is in God from which world he could create (which he does not need to deliberate about, given his omniscience) and it is in his decision to exercise causal power versus not at all. Just because God DIDN'T do things differently doesn't mean he COULDN'T have done things differently.”

      I don’t think you’re hearing yourself. You’re referring to god as if he’s a regular person, who can choose A or choose B due to his free will. But god exists from eternity already intending to choose A and already knowing, as per his omniscience, that he will create A. Creating B never had a chance. Now you're telling me god COULD have chosen B. How? How could the same god that knows he will choose and create A because his omniscience requires that he know this, somehow decide something totally different and choose B? That would require a different god who knew he would choose to create B from eternity instead of A.

      ”And on sufficient reason, the only reason you gave to accept the laws of logic is that it is demonstrably useful, but that's only if you assume that logic works in the first place. If you don't, you can't demonstrate anything to be true because you don't know if the method you are using is true.”

      The thing is I can’t deny logic, if I did I’d have to grant it to deny it. And by the way, logic is determined by what is physically possible. No logician would ever be able to deduce the rules of relativity or quantum mechanics sitting in an armchair.

      ”The same can be said for sufficient reason. If you come home and the power is out, you don't assume that there is literally no reason whatsoever that your electricity is not working.”

      Denying the PSF doesn’t mean you must deny that anything has a reason. Of course some things have reasons. But does everything have a reason? Can you logically prove that there are no brute facts?

      ”Nor do you assume that the laws of electric currents have been suspended for only your house, or that hidden electric gnomes are playing some sort of prank on you because these reasons are not sufficient”

      Of course I don’t, that’s because I already know what causes electrical outages. But your example illustrates something profound about human nature. When we don’t know the answer, we tend to make things up, like gnomes or spirits doing things, and that is the basis of why people believe in the supernatural.

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  8. "to save us all – you guess it – from himself"
    This is another misunderstanding of the doctrine of salvation. God doesn't save us from himself. He saves us from ourselves. He saves humanity of sin that they themselves commit and are responsible for by themselves.


    No sorry, you're wrong here. Hell is not a natural consequence of anything. It is contingent upon god, who creates it for us. So if you believe in hell (as some theists don't) then god is creating us sick, commanding us to be perfect, and willing (for no logically necessary reason) to send us to hell for the very imperfections he built into our design. It's like an engineer blaming the robot for the very flaws he built into the robot, and then having his son sacrificed to save the robot from being sent to a torture chamber that the engineer also built, that he designed for the robot's inevitable imperfection.

    If an engineer actually did that, you would think he's insane and illogical. If god does it, same thing.

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    1. "So if you believe in hell (as some theists don't) then god is creating us sick, commanding us to be perfect..."
      Hell is contingent on man's free choice to sin against God. God did not build sin into man. God does not make man sin against him (unless you're a Calvinist I suppose) and it is perfectly possible to imagine God and man existing without hell given man freely chooses to obey God. Also, you make it seem as if hell is some torture chamber designed by God in anticipation of those that will reject him. Now this may be the picture painted by medieval art, but hell in the Bible deals with the idea of eternal separation from God, or eternal separation from the giver of life, so eternal death. Needless to say, this certainly doesn't sound like a pleasant experience, but it also doesn't sound like the idea of demons tormenting a soul with physical pain for forever. The "descriptions" of hell could be apocryphal language and metaphorical (like Jesus parables of heaven being a wedding feast) in order to describe the truly awful nature of being separated from God.

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    2. "Hell is contingent on man's free choice to sin against God. God did not build sin into man."

      So are you telling me that universalism and annihilationism are logically impossible for god?

      "God did not build sin into man.

      I'm not sure what kind of Christian you are and what you believe in, but if god used evolution to create man, as many Christians would now believe, then he would have intentionally used a method that embedded sexual lust into our very nature. So yes, god did build sin into us. See my post about it here: A Question To A Theistic Evolutionist On Lust

      And what about genetic predispositions for violent and/or aggressive behavior? What about schizophrenia? Psychopathy? Sociopathy? Brain tumors? Mind controlling parasites like Toxoplasma gondii? Or conditions that attack impulse control and cognitive rationality? These are all physical problems that affect the way we behave and think and our ability to make moral judgements.

      "... it is perfectly possible to imagine God and man existing without hell given man freely chooses to obey God."

      It's also perfectly possible for me to imagine there not being any hell at all, and it's also possible for me to imagine a possible world where anyone who would reject god is never allowed to be born by god's divine foreknowledge.

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    3. and it is perfectly possible to imagine God and man existing without hell given man freely chooses to obey God.
      So why didn't God create man such that he would always freely choose to obey?

      The "descriptions" of hell could be apocryphal language and metaphorical (like Jesus parables of heaven being a wedding feast) in order to describe the truly awful nature of being separated from God.
      Of course they "could be", but they don't seem to be. Of course we could claim them as being inventions of the gospel authors and not Jesus, or using metaphorical language when it doesn't seem to obviously be so (though I've not really looked deeply into this issue).

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    4. Thinker:
      "So are you telling me that universalism and annihilationism are logically impossible for god?"
      Yes, for a perfectly just God they are. Many people make the argument against God (ironically, against his justice) that he lets evil exist/go unpunished and then claim the doctrine of hell (punishment for evil) is unjust. Also, it could be that souls are annihilated after some time in hell, and that might be logically possible, and I'm open to the idea.

      "I'm not sure what kind of Christian you are and what you believe in, but if god used evolution to create man, as many Christians would now believe, then he would have intentionally used a method that embedded sexual lust into our very nature."
      Well, the short answer is I'm not a theistic evolutionist. But I would also say sexual desire in and of itself is not a sin, but when it consumes your thoughts and dominates your life it has gone too far. Believe it or not, Christians view sex as a good gift from God that should be exercised in a proper marriage relationship.

      "And what about genetic predispositions for violent and/or aggressive behavior? "
      These do not determine behavior definitively. I myself am genetically predisposed to depression and alcoholism, but any behaviors are still my own and my responsibility.

      "What about schizophrenia? Psychopathy? Sociopathy? Brain tumors? Mind controlling parasites..."
      I would say in the case of certain behaviors that man does not have a choice in the matter he is not held responsible before God. If a mind controlling parasite caused you to lose control and kill somebody (somehow), you could not have done otherwise. But as far as sociopathy and psychopathy go, those affected with this condition still make the choice to carry out actions they know are considered evil, even if they themselves feel no guilt for their actions.

      "It's also perfectly possible for me to imagine there not being any hell at all, and it's also possible for me to imagine a possible world where anyone who would reject god is never allowed to be born by god's divine foreknowledge."
      Not if God is perfectly just and sin exists. And certainly you might be able to imagine a world where those who would reject God are not born, but you can't imagine the effects that would have on the amount of people that could freely choose God. It could be possible that these worlds in which the only people born are those that would FREELY choose God are worlds in which fewer are saved than the actual world. For a more detailed explanation of this concept you could look at the work of Alvin Plantinga on possible worlds and the problem of evil.

      Rian:
      "So why didn't God create man such that he would always freely choose to obey?"
      That's a contradiction. You can't force someone to freely do something, which is in effect what you are proposing God should have done.

      "Of course they "could be", but they don't seem to be."
      Why not? These parables in which Jesus describes hell as fiery are the same as the parables in that Jesus describes heaven as a wedding banquet, but no one interprets heaven to be a literal eternal wedding feast.

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    5. That's a contradiction. You can't force someone to freely do something, which is in effect what you are proposing God should have done.
      God could create our nature such that we always choose rightly, and yet are still free to choose.
      God himself is supposed to be unable to do other than good, to be unable to go against his nature, and yet to be perfectly free. Surely and omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being could achieve this feat.

      Why not? These parables in which Jesus describes hell as fiery are the same as the parables in that Jesus describes heaven as a wedding banquet, but no one interprets heaven to be a literal eternal wedding feast.
      Mark. 9:43-48 "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
      Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
      And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched:
      Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.
      And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire:
      Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."

      That doesn't appear to be metaphorical language, nor a parable.

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    6. Yes, for a perfectly just God they are. Many people make the argument against God (ironically, against his justice) that he lets evil exist/go unpunished and then claim the doctrine of hell (punishment for evil) is unjust.
      Yet your supposed perfectly just God DOES let evil go unpunished - a Christian who is saved is not sent to hell (as far as I'm aware) and yet such a Christian must, given Christian Doctrine, have sinned and be deserving of punishment. Claiming that Jesus takes the punishment (the penal substitution theory of atonement) doesn't work, since the person who deserves the punishment doesn't receive it (ie. it's not in line with perfect justice). I'm not aware of other theories of the atonement which fare much better.

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    7. "Yes, for a perfectly just God they are."

      As Rian said, god punishes and rewards based on faith, not deeds. So I could kill 30 kids in a class room by slaughtering them with an AK 47, then I could rape the school teacher and torture her for the rest of the day, and as long as I convert to Christianity before I die, I will go to heaven. But if the teacher was a non-Christian, she goes to hell, possibly for eternity. Is that justice to you?

      And how do you determine what perfect justice is? What is your criteria for for evaluating it?

      "But I would also say sexual desire in and of itself is not a sin, but when it consumes your thoughts and dominates your life it has gone too far."

      You've obviously not read Matthew.

      "Believe it or not, Christians view sex as a good gift from God that should be exercised in a proper marriage relationship."

      I'm well aware of that. Would an arranged marriage between a 50 year old man and a 13 year old girl be a proper marriage?

      "But as far as sociopathy and psychopathy go, those affected with this condition still make the choice to carry out actions they know are considered evil, even if they themselves feel no guilt for their actions."

      But it is the guilt and remorse one can have for inflicting pain and death onto others that prevents people from harming others. If the whole purpose of life is for us to be moral agents, then why is it that over the years billions of people have been born mentally ill and psychopathic to the point where they can't even make moral decisions? It would seem to defeat the whole purpose of the plan. How could such a flaw be found if god designed it this way?


      "And certainly you might be able to imagine a world where those who would reject God are not born, but you can't imagine the effects that would have on the amount of people that could freely choose God."

      You can't either, but what does it matter? Think about how many trillions of sperm cells you'll make during your life that could result in someone being born who freely becomes Christian. They will never experience life. So what are you trying to say? A world with no non-Christians would diminish the number of Christians? Is 1 Christian being born worth 100 going to hell?

      " It could be possible that these worlds in which the only people born are those that would FREELY choose God are worlds in which fewer are saved than the actual world."

      But if those people also were never born, just like the non-believers weren't, and just like the trillions of sperm cells that you and I will create that will never see life, what is the big deal?


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    8. It could be possible that these worlds in which the only people born are those that would FREELY choose God are worlds in which fewer are saved than the actual world.
      So what is God's reasoning here?
      What is his preferred ration of suffering to salvation?
      Wouldn't an omnibenevolent being prefer there to be less suffering and evil, even if there are fewer saved?
      And how do we know if would be fewer? Claiming that sounds like you're putting limits on God's omnipotence.
      Surely God could make up the numbers with more who would be saved.
      Also, God would have an infinite future in which to save, and so in either case, the number of saved would approach infinity (or, if viewed as a complete sets, be of the same cardinality - infinite).

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    9. I'm starting to have a difficult time keeping up with which posts are which and which have and have not been responded to. If I leave one out let me know and I'll try to respond.

      Anyway, Rian:
      "God could create our nature such that we always choose rightly, and yet are still free to choose.
      God himself is supposed to be unable to do other than good, to be unable to go against his nature, and yet to be perfectly free. Surely and omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent being could achieve this feat."
      Saying that you can only choose good but still have a choice is incoherent. That makes no sense, a choice is only a choice if you can choose the other option.

      Your passage from Mark is probably one of the most frequently cited to prove the use of hyperbole and metaphor in the Bible ever.

      "Yet your supposed perfectly just God DOES let evil go unpunished..."
      Divine Penal Atonement is valid because the sin itself is transferred to Jesus when he was on the cross. So he had ownership of all the world's sin when he was killed, so justice was indeed carried out.

      "So what is God's reasoning here? What is his preferred ration of suffering to salvation? Wouldn't an omnibenevolent being prefer there to be less suffering and evil, even if there are fewer saved..."
      I would say God is largely unconcerned with suffering relative to the scale of salvation. Knowledge of God and eternal dwelling with him dwarfs human suffering infinitesimally. If you assume God is this celestial Santa Clause figure whose main purpose is take his human pets comfortable and happy, then yes suffering is incoherent, but that's not what God's goals are.

      "God would have an infinite future to save..."
      Man's lives aren't, however, infinite. Also, even given an infinite amount of time, given that humans are free, and salvation is contingent upon their own choice, there will always be people who freely reject him.

      Thinker:
      "So I could kill 30 kids in a class room by slaughtering them with an AK 47...is that justice to you?"
      Yes, if you accept that the death of Jesus is punishment for that sin. If Jesus was in ownership of the sin you committed, he died the death you deserved.

      "You've obviously not read Matthew."
      Sexual desire and lust are two different things.

      "Would an arranged marriage between a 50 year old man and a 13 year old girl be a proper marriage?"
      Probably not, but I'm not sure how that is relevant. God did not command arranged marriages between men and girls 40 years apart.

      "But it is the guilt and remorse one can have for inflicting pain and death onto others that prevents people from harming others."
      No, it is the knowledge that an act is wrong that makes someone responsible for what they do. I could probably take $5 from my roommates wallet and feel little to no guilt, but that isn't what prevents me from doing this. I have knowledge that this act of stealing is wrong.

      "If the whole purpose of life is for us to be moral agents..."
      That's not the purpose of life, the purpose of life is the knowledge of God and living in love with him and others.

      "You can't either, but what does it matter? Think about how many trillions of sperm cells you'll make during your life that could result in someone being born who freely becomes Christian. They will never experience life. So what are you trying to say? A world with no non-Christians would diminish the number of Christians? Is 1 Christian being born worth 100 going to hell?"
      Sperm cells aren't human and don't have any inherent human characteristics including free will and thought. We're talking in solely human scenarios here. As far as one Christian for 100 not, it probably isn't worth it, but there's no way we could ever determine that and it certainly isn't the world we live in. Such a world may be possible for God to create, but not feasible.

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    10. "Yes, if you accept that the death of Jesus is punishment for that sin. If Jesus was in ownership of the sin you committed, he died the death you deserved."

      So you'd admit that god does not really punish one's evil, he's designed it so that you can throw all your sins onto a scapegoat.

      "Sexual desire and lust are two different things."

      But humans are lustful by nature, as per our evolutionary origins. No matter how you think god created us, lust is an intrinsic part of being human. Why put the desire there if it is a sin?

      "God did not command arranged marriages between men and girls 40 years apart."

      But it's perfectly Ok according to him.

      "No, it is the knowledge that an act is wrong that makes someone responsible for what they do. I could probably take $5 from my roommates wallet and feel little to no guilt, but that isn't what prevents me from doing this. I have knowledge that this act of stealing is wrong."

      Here you make a good point. Perhaps I over generalized too much. The psychopath gets pleasure from inflicting harm on others, the sociopath just doesn't care. Without an ability to feel empathy, it is much harder for one to behave morally, but it is possible, provided that person was raised with proper moral values. But who's grand plan was it to include psychopaths and sociopaths into the blueprint for humanity in the first place? I don't see why a morally perfect and wise god would hinder people's moral senses, and then hold them accountable. Sounds sadistic.

      "That's not the purpose of life, the purpose of life is the knowledge of God and living in love with him and others."

      Then why is it that so man billions of people have died before being old enough to even know about god? And why is it true that millions of people who have been born and who are alive today have suffered from such levels of mental retardation that they are incapable of the cognitive functioning necessary to know anything truthful of the outside world, let alone that god exists? You cannot know god unless you’ve got a reasonably functioning brain. If the purpose of life is to know god, it would seem at odds with his plan that he’d build into the design the very impediments that prevent one from actualizing the whole purpose of the plan. In light of this fact, the purpose of all our lives we’re being told by Christians is fundamentally flawed.

      "Sperm cells aren't human and don't have any inherent human characteristics including free will and thought. We're talking in solely human scenarios here."

      You were complaining that a world in which no one is born who rejects god might also decrease the numbers of those born who would accept god, right? My point is, so what? If there were less people born who'd accept Christ, they would never have been born to experience that in the first place. You can't miss what you've never had.

      "As far as one Christian for 100 not, it probably isn't worth it, but there's no way we could ever determine that and it certainly isn't the world we live in. Such a world may be possible for God to create, but not feasible."

      If it is possible, why not make it actual? It seems in god's best interests: He can create a world in which EVERYONE freely chooses to worship him. Isn't that an ideal world for god?

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    11. "So you'd admit that god does not really punish one's evil, he's designed it so that you can throw all your sins onto a scapegoat."
      Yes, the evil is atoned for. It is punished. Yes, there was a "scapegoat" for the evil. I don't see what the issue is. Evil is still punished.

      "But humans are lustful by nature, as per our evolutionary origins. No matter how you think god created us, lust is an intrinsic part of being human. Why put the desire there if it is a sin?"
      Again, I'm not an theistic evolutionist. And lust is not an intrinsic part of human beings. Lust goes beyond desiring sex for the purpose of procreation. Lust is something that arises from a sinful nature, and God did not create us with a sinful nature. And again, sex is not wrong in and of itself.

      "But it's perfectly Ok according to him."
      Fifty year old men didn't get married to thirteen year old girls. Most men in ancient times probably didn't have much time to live after 50 anyway. They usually got married in their late teens or early twenties, and women were married between the ages of 14-15. I have an acquaintance whose grandparents were married at 16 and 23 and lived together until he died. It's not inherently immoral, just culturally unusual for us.

      "But who's grand plan was it to include psychopaths and sociopaths into the blueprint for humanity in the first place? I don't see why a morally perfect and wise god would hinder people's moral senses, and then hold them accountable. Sounds sadistic."
      You seem to think God is the direct source of all evil and suffering and sickness that occurs in the world. God doesn't build sin into us, God doesn't create evil, and God give people psychopathy and sociopathy. Such are the consequences of living in a world with sin.

      "Then why is it that so man billions of people have died before being old enough to even know about god? And why is it true that millions of people who have been born and who are alive today have suffered from such levels of mental retardation that they are incapable of the cognitive functioning necessary to know anything truthful of the outside world, let alone that god exists? You cannot know god unless you’ve got a reasonably functioning brain."
      If you hold the idea that those who are incapable of making moral decisions or coming to the knowledge of God (like infants and even children who die before becoming accountable) go to heaven, then this isn't an issue. Also, many of the mentally disabled who aren't so disabled as to not function generally DO inquire about deep questions like the existence of God and the purpose of life.

      "You were complaining that a world in which no one is born who rejects god might also decrease the numbers of those born who would accept god, right? My point is, so what? If there were less people born who'd accept Christ, they would never have been born to experience that in the first place. You can't miss what you've never had."
      Unless God desires that there be more people who come to the knowledge of him and worship and glorify him.

      "If it is possible, why not make it actual?"
      Because a world where one person accepts God and 100 don't would be silly to actualize.

      " It seems in god's best interests: He can create a world in which EVERYONE freely chooses to worship him. Isn't that an ideal world for god?"
      God can't make people choose him, that destroys free will. A world that is ideal for God is where a maximum amount of people come to him where everyone had a free choice to. I don't see how you can possibly show that there is a world where more people will come to God freely than in this one.

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    12. "Yes, the evil is atoned for. It is punished. Yes, there was a "scapegoat" for the evil. I don't see what the issue is. Evil is still punished."

      Vicariously. The people who do the evil get away scott free.So under your worldview, I can kill, steal and rape all I want, and STILL get into heaven. And let's face it, god didn't give his only son, he got him right back in 3 days. And besides, he'd god, he could just create another Jesus if wanted. It's more like he lent his son. And people have endured much worse than Jesus had.

      "And lust is not an intrinsic part of human beings. Lust goes beyond desiring sex for the purpose of procreation. Lust is something that arises from a sinful nature, and God did not create us with a sinful nature. And again, sex is not wrong in and of itself."

      So you actually think we all came from Adam and Eve? What evidence do you have for this? Lust is embedded into us as per our evolutionary origins. That's why we desire much more sex than we will ever have. No one chooses to have lust, it IS part of human nature.

      "Fifty year old men didn't get married to thirteen year old girls."

      But some did. The point is, is it objectively moral under any circumstance, to arrange a 13 year old girl to an older man who is ANY age, be it 20, 30, or 40? If it is, then you'd approve of this practice now.

      "You seem to think God is the direct source of all evil and suffering and sickness that occurs in the world."

      How do you explain this verse?

      I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Isaiah 45:7

      You simply don't know human nature and our evolutionary origins if you're going to say god made us perfect and we chose to sin and that brought psychopathy and illness into the world. Apparently you're a creationist. So did psychopathy just appear when we sinned? Who designed psychopathy and how it would hinder human moral cognition? .

      "If you hold the idea that those who are incapable of making moral decisions or coming to the knowledge of God (like infants and even children who die before becoming accountable) go to heaven, then this isn't an issue."

      So god created a world with beings so that they could freely come to know god, then also made it so that billions of those beings wouldn't even be able to know god. Sounds like god is either incompetent, indifferent or cruel. I simply don't see how that is logically unavoidable.

      "Unless God desires that there be more people who come to the knowledge of him and worship and glorify him."

      I don't see how he could still achieve that and prevent those who would reject him from being born. He could also give us better evidence he exists. That would increase the numbers of Christians.

      "Because a world where one person accepts God and 100 don't would be silly to actualize."

      You don't understand what I'm saying. I agree a world in which the ratio is 1/100 is stupid for god. I said god "can create a world in which EVERYONE freely chooses to worship him. Isn't that an ideal world for god?" Why wouldn't god create THAT world instead of ours?


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    13. "God can't make people choose him, that destroys free will. A world that is ideal for God is where a maximum amount of people come to him where everyone had a free choice to. I don't see how you can possibly show that there is a world where more people will come to God freely than in this one."

      Dude you are lost on understanding me, and you seem to purposely be equivocating. If god has an infinite number of worlds he can create, why wouldn't he choose the one which THE MOST number of people freely chose him? Surely there is another world where there are more Christians than the one we live in. God could give us better evidence, or he could make it so that unbelievers are never born. Can you show me that this is not logically possible?

      P.S. The Kalam argument also negates free will. See my blog above.

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    14. "Vicariously. The people who do the evil get away scott free.So under your worldview, I can kill, steal and rape all I want, and STILL get into heaven. And let's face it, god didn't give his only son, he got him right back in 3 days."
      The fact still remains that the evil itself does not go unpunished. And would it really be any consolation to you if you knew that you would return three days after being crucified? I know I still wouldn't do it.

      "That's why we desire much more sex than we will ever have. No one chooses to have lust, it IS part of human nature."
      I also believe in this thing called self control.

      "But some did. The point is, is it objectively moral under any circumstance, to arrange a 13 year old girl to an older man who is ANY age, be it 20, 30, or 40? If it is, then you'd approve of this practice now."
      I still don't see why this is a fault of God. And yes, I think if you force some 13 year old girl to marry a 50 year old man, there is something wrong. I don't think there's any evidence at all that God commanded this or encouraged this.

      "Isaiah 45:7"
      I think a look into the actual Hebrew and cultural context would benefit this discussion. The Hebrew word "רַע" is what is used here, and it was used talking to Cyrus the great of Persia. The ancient Persian religion Zoroastrianism viewed things in dual concepts "light and dark, peace and evil". This goes to show Cyrus in terms he was familiar with that God is sovereign over all things, not that he literally creates evil and punishes men for it. Cultural language is often used in the Bible, like when comparing and contrasting something, love and hate was often used. The ancient Israelites never took this to mean a literal hatred, like when Jesus says "if you love me, you must hate your father and mother". Jesus didn't mean we should literally have loathing for our parents, but that the relationship with him is infinitely more important than any earthly one we may have.

      "So god created a world with beings so that they could freely come to know god, then also made it so that billions of those beings wouldn't even be able to know god. "
      They come to know God at death and are brought into heaven with him.

      "I don't see how he could still achieve that and prevent those who would reject him from being born. He could also give us better evidence he exists. That would increase the numbers of Christians."
      That would increase the number of people who believe God exists as a fact. That doesn't mean people will desire to have a relationship with him and pursue him. I have atheist friends that tell me that even if God was real, they'd rather reject him to his face and be damned than submit to him.

      "If god has an infinite number of worlds he can create, why wouldn't he choose the one which THE MOST number of people freely chose him? Surely there is another world where there are more Christians than the one we live in."
      Really? How would you go about proving that? I don't see any reason to think that in a world with 7 billion free people with at least 2 billion currently identifying as Christians, there might be another with more. The key term being freedom. If you could direct me to your argument that the kalam negates free will I would appreciate it. I can't seem to find it.

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    15. ”The fact still remains that the evil itself does not go unpunished. And would it really be any consolation to you if you knew that you would return three days after being crucified? I know I still wouldn't do it.”

      The person goes unpunished. I think scapegoating is a ridiculous ancient judicial practice. There’s no incentive for me to even behave morally under such a system if I can do anything I want and go to heaven. I behave morally for reasons having nothing to do with heaven/hell or god. And Jesus’ punishment still pales in comparison to what millions of people had to go through.

      ”I also believe in this thing called self control.”

      What if you’re mentally ill and have no self control? Also, what argument do you have for us having free will? I think the case for it is pretty bad.

      ”I still don't see why this is a fault of God. And yes, I think if you force some 13 year old girl to marry a 50 year old man, there is something wrong. I don't think there's any evidence at all that God commanded this or encouraged this.”

      God permits this, just like slavery, and he’s supposed to be the source of moral perfection. I think not.
      ”I think a look into the actual Hebrew and cultural context would benefit this discussion.”

      So the KJV is wrong then? It’s funny that the Bible always means something else whenever it says something embarrassing. If god is the creator of all things, then he created evil too.
      ”They come to know God at death and are brought into heaven with him.”

      Then that defeats the purpose of life since you say the purpose of LIFE is to know god. So now god also made a loophole so that billions would only know god after death. It defeats the whole purpose and sounds ridiculous. God is either incompetent, indifferent or cruel.

      ”That would increase the number of people who believe God exists as a fact. That doesn't mean people will desire to have a relationship with him and pursue him. I have atheist friends that tell me that even if God was real, they'd rather reject him to his face and be damned than submit to him.”

      But think about all the Muslims who worship god and who are all going to hell because they’re doing it the wrong way. If god made it clear Christianity was true, that would increase the number of Christians by billions. Instead billions will go to hell for having the unfortunate luck of being born into the wrong religion.

      And are you telling me that believing in god is not enough, but you have to have “a relationship with him and pursue him”? That’s like saying I have to like strawberry icecream in order to get into heaven. I believe in it, but I can’t like it if I just don’t. You cannot choose what you like and what you love, that is not a free will position. If god wants me to pretend to like him even though I hate him, he will know the truth anyway.

      ”Really? How would you go about proving that? I don't see any reason to think that in a world with 7 billion free people with at least 2 billion currently identifying as Christians, there might be another with more. The key term being freedom. If you could direct me to your argument that the kalam negates free will I would appreciate it. I can't seem to find it.”

      I just gave you an example above that would increase the number of Christians by billions. All god would have to do is prove Christianity is true and billions who are worshiping him the wrong way would immediately start worshiping him the right way.

      To find what I wrote about the Kalam negating free will it is in the second half of my post, search for “free will”.

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    16. "The person goes unpunished."
      But the sin doesn't, and that's the point.

      "There’s no incentive for me to even behave morally under such a system if I can do anything I want and go to heaven."
      You can't just do anything you want, faith entails an attempt to behave in accordance to the life of Jesus.

      "I behave morally for reasons having nothing to do with heaven/hell or god."
      That's great, I never said you couldn't. You don't have to believe in God in order to behave morally, the real question is that if God does not exist, are there even any ground for morality at all, but that is a separate issue.

      "What if you’re mentally ill and have no self control?"
      I already addressed mental illness. You are not mentally ill and have no excuse.

      "God permits this, just like slavery, and he’s supposed to be the source of moral perfection. I think not."
      God permits a lot of bad things, but that doesn't mean he actively wills them to occur. Which inevitably leads to:

      "Also, what argument do you have for us having free will?"
      I think it's patently obvious that we do have free will, and it is common intuition. Determinism will always be less intuitive than free will, and needs arguments to support it. And to make things clear I mean by free will is not being caused to do something by causes other than oneself.

      "So the KJV is wrong then? It’s funny that the Bible always means something else whenever it says something embarrassing. If god is the creator of all things, then he created evil too."
      The KJV is older and contains older language that could be equivocated to new meanings in today's terms. Like Holy Ghost for example. We don't literally mean ghost in the sense of an undead force of someone who was alive but in the 17th century "ghost" would have the same connotation as "spirit". I would say God is not the creator of all things, and evil is a perfect example of something he didn't create.

      "Then that defeats the purpose of life since you say the purpose of LIFE is to know god."
      Perhaps I should be more specific and say the purpose of existence is to know God.

      "But think about all the Muslims who worship god and who are all going to hell because they’re doing it the wrong way. If god made it clear Christianity was true, that would increase the number of Christians by billions. Instead billions will go to hell for having the unfortunate luck of being born into the wrong religion."
      Or they could think it is a test of their faith and some could react violently against Christians in spite of this. And this goes into the relationship issue:

      "And are you telling me that believing in god is not enough, but you have to have “a relationship with him and pursue him”?"
      That's exactly what I'm telling you. Even the demons believe in God.

      "I believe in it, but I can’t like it if I just don’t. You cannot choose what you like and what you love, that is not a free will position. If god wants me to pretend to like him even though I hate him, he will know the truth anyway."
      I'm not talking about love in the romantic sense, you can choose to show love to someone without feeling in love at all. I'm not saying you have to literally "feel" love all the time, but you have to act in love out of faith.

      And on free will, just because a thought might be causally determined in no way means our actions are. You can't get to determinism from simply saying our thoughts have causes. I can see a package of Oreos and be caused to think "I'm hungry" but that doesn't mean I have no choice of whether I eat the cookies or not.

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    17. ”But the sin doesn't, and that's the point.”

      Vicarious redemption is the abdication of moral responsibility through being thrown onto Jesus' torture and death as a scapegoat and I’m sorry but I find it morally reprehensible and a sad relic of our superstitious past.

      ”You can't just do anything you want, faith entails an attempt to behave in accordance to the life of Jesus.”

      Yes I can. I can literally torture and kill 100 million people and convert to Christianity on my death bed and I can go to heaven, where I might eventually find myself bumping into some of the people I tortured and killed. Talk about an awkward situation.

      ” You don't have to believe in God in order to behave morally, the real question is that if God does not exist, are there even any ground for morality at all, but that is a separate issue.”
      There are perfectly good reasons for grounding morality bereft of a deity. If you want to have that debate I’m all for it.

      ”I already addressed mental illness. You are not mentally ill and have no excuse.”
      You basically said the mentally ill get a “Get out of hell free card.” Seems to me like they get a free ride into heaven. Doesn’t sound to me like the plan of an infinitely wise being. And I could become mentally ill, so perhaps if Christianity is true, it is in my best interest to become brain dead so I’ll have an excuse.

      ”God permits a lot of bad things, but that doesn't mean he actively wills them to occur.”
      Sure about that?

      “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

      Ephesians 6:5
      "Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear."
      1 Peter 2:18
      "Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh."
      Titus 2:9
      "Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them,"

      ”I think it's patently obvious that we do have free will, and it is common intuition. Determinism will always be less intuitive than free will, and needs arguments to support it. And to make things clear I mean by free will is not being caused to do something by causes other than oneself.”

      This is exactly the problem with theism – it relies entirely on intuition. Our intuition is demonstrably unreliable when it comes to assessing reality, that’s why we need science. Intuition told us the world was flat, the earth was the center of the universe, that time is constant and that matter is solid. All have been proven false. Sorry buddy. Saying “it's patently obvious” doesn’t cut it. You need arguments supporting it and you might want to do some research into it.

      You might want to read a series of posts I made refuting the arguments of free will here: J.P. Moreland's Attack On "Scientific Atheism" Part 3


      ”Perhaps I should be more specific and say the purpose of existence is to know God.”

      You still got the same problem.

      ”Or they could think it is a test of their faith and some could react violently against Christians in spite of this.”

      If they’re dimwitted presuppositionalists. The burden of proof is on you to show that not a single Muslim or anyone else would convert to Christianity if god gave us PROOF that Christianity is the one true faith.

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    18. ”That's exactly what I'm telling you. Even the demons believe in God.”

      What if I pretend to want to pursue god solely in order to avoid hell because I can't do it naturally? Does god care?

      ”I'm not saying you have to literally "feel" love all the time, but you have to act in love out of faith.”

      You mean I can fake it. Does god really want me faking it, and won't he know if I’m faking it? I cannot have anything but utter hatred towards the god of the Bible. Anything else from me would be a lie.

      ”And on free will, just because a thought might be causally determined in no way means our actions are.”

      You’re forgetting that EVERYTHING that begins to exist has a cause, as per the Kalam. That means the thought AND the action are causally determined. There is absolutely no room for free will in a world where everything is causally determined. You’re “choice” whether to not eat the cookies must also be causally determined by things out of your control. To say your soul causes your actions only takes the problem back one step: what caused the soul to cause the action? You simply can't have it both ways: either the Kalam is false or there is no free will.

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  9. Absurdities that arise from infinity: see Hilbert's Hotel thought experiment.
    Mathematically, operations on finite quantities are not well defined for transfinite quantities. HH shows how strange transfinite arithmatic is, not that an actual infinite is impossible.
    Craig seems to hold that A-theory commits one to presentism. On presentism, the past does not actually exist. On presentism, since only the present exists, the infinite series of past events doesn't actually exist, and therefore there is no actual infinite to be concerned with.
    Even if we accept that the eternal past would actually exist, the set of past events cannot be rearranged in the same way the HH guests are, so it's not obvious that the HH is applicable to an eternal past.
    Also, the arguments against an eternal past also apply to an eternal future. For example, suppose God wills that a certain eternal spirit recites Hallelujah on a regular basis from now until forever. This ensures that infinitely many hallelujahs will be said. These hallelujahs can be arranged, 1 to 1, with the natural numbers, and therefore would surely constitute an actual infinite set of events.

    Let's put your timeless mind argument into a logical form. Correct me if I misconstrue your argument.
    How about I reformulate your reconstruction of my argument?

    P1. Minds have thoughts
    P2. thoughts lead to other thoughts.
    P3. Thoughts can therefore be arranged into an ordered sequence.
    P4. This ordered sequence of thoughts is temporal in nature, meaning that thought A can be said to be before thoughts B, and thought B after thought A (this would be Craig's metaphysical time).
    P5. Therefore minds are temporal
    P6. God is a mind
    P7. God is atemporal (at least without creation, as per Craig's view)
    P8. Something which is temporal cannot also be atemporal.
    C. Therefore God does not exist.


    As far as John Stand's paper, I'm really not sure what the objection even is.
    As I understand Shand's paper, his argument runs something like this:

    P1. Minds have thoughts
    P2. Thoughts are only possible due to limitations of the minds they occur in.
    P3. Minds are therefore limited.
    P4. God is a mind
    P5. God is unlimited
    C1. A mind cannot be unlimited.
    C2. Therefore God does not exist.

    It's funny how if a theist doesn't have an answer for something it means his ideas are incoherent and invalid but when it comes to naturalists it's OK because "we'll get there eventually".
    A quote from you:
    "I've heard no viable alternatives to God from atheists. "
    Saying there are no alternatives to God implies an God is at least a potential explanation. You have presented no such potential explanation, therefore we can assume you don't actually have one unless and until you provide one. Therefore both of us are in the same boat.
    When a theist doesn't have an answer for something, he should admit he doesn't have an answer instead of pretending that he does.

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    Replies
    1. Please support that,
      Something like:

      P1. For something to come into existence it needs to not exist prior to that.
      P2. The sequence non-existence -> existence is temporally ordered. Non-existence preceeds existence. Existence follows non-existence.
      C2. If time does not exist, then there can be no preceeding non-existence.

      but I thought you didn't believe in things coming into existence anyway?
      We don't have any experience with anything material coming into existence. What we see coming into existence is arrangements of or relationships between material things.
      To extrapolate from the things we have experience with coming into existence, to something wholly unlike things we have experience with coming into existence seems to me to be inappropriate.

      A semester in an intro to philosophy class will show your assertions to be false.
      God does not have to be defined as a necessary being (Swinburne, as I mentioned, does not do so).
      There is no obvious inconsistency or incoherence in claiming that the universe is necessary, even if we accept that things in the universe are contingent.

      B-theory is not empirically suggested by General Relativity.
      There are other concerns we can have, such as ontological economy. Postulating an unobserved and unobservable "ether" doesn't seem to be very economical.

      And finally, I don't really feel like I owe it to you to give a complete 'God hypothesis' considering you haven't given me an alternative.
      For your hypothesis to be considered a possible explanation, you'd need to actually develop it, regardless of whether there are any alternatives.

      I'm also not entirely sure of what you want from this 'God hypothesis' but I'll give it my best shot.
      Something testable, with empirical content, would be a start.
      Something which goes some way toward satisfying the explanatory virtues set out for theistic hypothesis in Dawes' "Theism and Explanation" would be great.

      As derived from the kalam and contingency arguments, there exists a necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of immense power. It is a mind, it desired to create. This is what we call God.
      What does that explain and how could we test it, even theoretically?

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    2. "Hilbert's hotel shows how strange transfinite arithmatic is, not that an actual infinite is impossible."
      You don't seriously mean to tell me that the results in the thought experiment are actually possible in the physical world? That's what you have to believe to maintain that actual infinites can exist in the physical world. Hilbert's hotel is reductio ad absurdum. You have to show that these results are not in fact absurd to maintain the existence of actual infinity in the physical world.

      "Also, the arguments against an eternal past also apply to an eternal future."
      Yes, in the sense that future events will never be actually infinite. They can be potentially infinite. Even after a billion years, there will still be a definite (finite) number of praises uttered by the heavenly being. The number will approach infinity as a limit, but never actually reach infinity. This can be illustrated by doing calculus problems on a graphing calculator.

      First argument (your argument)
      P2 is unnecessary. Thoughts do not necessarily have to lead to other thoughts.
      P3 presupposes time existing in the first place. If we're talking about a state of affairs without time, you needn't assume there must be a stream of consciousness.
      I think the first formulation (with the revised premise) is the strongest, you just need to give support for iii).

      John Shand:
      I don't see why P2 is necessarily true. I think there need to be additional premises to support it, but I admit I still don't quite understand the premise as he intends it.
      I still think "limit" is equivocated between P2 and P5 from limits as borders to limits as potent restrictions.

      "You have presented no such potential explanation, therefore we can assume you don't actually have one unless and until you provide one. Therefore both of us are in the same boat."
      My explanation is God is the sufficient reason for what we observe in the premises of the kalam and contingency arguments, I don't know what else you want from me? And if we both are in the same boat of not having an answer, then at best you are left with agnosticism and not atheism, but you certainly haven't been arguing for such.

      "P1. For something to come into existence..."
      What I mean when I say something comes into existence is (in admittedly very technical terms):
      Entity e comes into being at time t iff i) e exists at time t, ii) t is the first time at which e exists, iii) there is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly, and iv) e’s existing at time t is a tensed fact.
      So as you can see there need not be any time before t at which e does not exist.

      "We don't have any experience with anything material coming into existence."
      That's what the good ole BGVT implies, but I think we've been over that.

      "God does not have to be defined as a necessary being (Swinburne, as I mentioned, does not do so).
      There is no obvious inconsistency or incoherence in claiming that the universe is necessary, even if we accept that things in the universe are contingent."
      I don't know how else to respond to this by saying you disagree with the majority of philosophers, secular and religious alike, and need to provide support for these positions. I think Swinburne is wrong. I'm not precluding you being wrong, I'm just saying you need to give support.

      "There are other concerns we can have, such as ontological economy. Postulating an unobserved and unobservable "ether" doesn't seem to be very economical."
      This has nothing to do with my point that B-theory is not directly implied from special relativity.

      "Something testable, with empirical content, would be a start."
      How would you empirically test the eternal existence of the universe? If you are unable to do this, I think this is somewhat of a double standard.

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    3. Zach,

      "You don't seriously mean to tell me that the results in the thought experiment are actually possible in the physical world? "

      Does god has knowledge of all things, including every number? So in god's mind does he have knowledge of an actual infinity of numbers? What if god removed all the even numbers from the infinite number set in his mind? Would god get a headache? How would that work?

      Also see my post here: Can An Actual Infinity Exist?

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    4. This would be a problem if you assume Platonism and that abstract objects actually exist. I don't think there are good grounds for thinking that these numbers actually exist as abstract objects, rather I think they just useful tools invented by humanity to order the world.

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    5. I don't think there are good grounds for thinking that these numbers actually exist as abstract objects, rather I think they just useful tools invented by humanity to order the world.
      It's good to know that we can agree on something :-)

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    6. "This would be a problem if you assume Platonism and that abstract objects actually exist. I don't think there are good grounds for thinking that these numbers actually exist as abstract objects, rather I think they just useful tools invented by humanity to order the world."

      I'm not exactly a Platonist like you, but suppose that for every number that exists, god could create a physical object corresponding to it. So for 1, god could create 1 physical object, for 2, god would create 2 physical objects, and so on to infinity. Now suppose god did this all simultaneously in that he created a corresponding number of physical objects to each number given an infinite set all at the same time. If god could create one object along side two objects, and three objects all at the same time, why couldn't he materialize objects corresponding to an infinite number set?

      Where would the limitation be for god? Remember he doesn't have to do one after the other, he can do them all at the same time. If you say an actual infinity can't exist, how would god not be able to achieve this? Where would you arbitrarily end the numbers if not at an actual infinity?

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    7. I think to claim that God could not actualize an actual infinity, you'd need to show that such a thing is logically impossible.
      Demonstrating your incredulity at the results of transfinite arithmetic is not a logical proof :-)

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    8. I would say these numbers actually don't exist as abstract objects, so there won't be "corresponding numbers" that God could create something correlation to.

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    9. But you didn't respond to my challenge above.

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    10. That is the response. If numbers don't actually exist God can't create objects in correspondence to "every number" because numbers aren't real things.

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    11. You don't have to be a Platonist to accept the scenario. God is aware of the concept of numbers, which I'm sure you do too. In that case you need not accept that numbers are entities. So since god is aware of the concept of every number, in the same way you are aware of a finite amount of numbers, could god then materialize physical objects corresponding to the concept of an actual infinity?

      You seem to be saying that god couldn't create a set of one object, a set of two objects and a set of three objects at the same time. If god could do that, which I think you would agree, why not an infinite set?

      Tell me what prevents god from doing this.

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    12. OK, I think I understand the objection. Then I would say it is logically impossible for an actually infinite number of objects to exist, as shown by the HH thought experiment, and God cannot do the logically impossible. Therefore, God cannot do what you proposed in the same way that God cannot create a round square.

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    13. But since god is consciously aware of every number (an infinite set) then why can't he actualize material objects for each number? Where would you arbitrarily stop it? At what number? I don't think HH makes an actual infinity impossible. He's applying the rules of finite arithmetic to transfinite arithmetic. That like applying the rules of classical physics to quantum physics and finding a contradiction and then declaring quantum physics doesn't exist.

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    14. I think it's more accurate to say that God knows that according to standard number theory there is an infinite amount of numbers, but not that these numbers actually exist and therefore he could not make things in correspondence with them. Also, it's important to distinguish between a mathematical infinite and an actual infinite in the real world. I think you probably can have an actual infinite mathematically, such as in a set of all natural numbers, but to try to extend this to reality is shown to be metaphysically impossible by HH. These rules of finite arithmetic already exist in the real world and if an actual infinite exists in the real world, finite arithmetic would have to apply. Forbidding finite arithmetic in the HH experiment would mean that there is no logical or metaphysical way that any guest could leave this infinitely full hotel, and if you believe such a hotel could exist, I think this further goes to show how absurd an actual infinite is.

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    15. But why can't the rules of finite arithmetic and transfinite arithmetic both apply, just like how classic logic and quantum logic both apply? If an actual infinite number of events is impossible as per the philosophical justifications of the Kalam Cosmological Argument (KCA) then isn't it problematic that the number future events is eternal and god has knowledge of all these events? If the number of future events is infinite, and god has knowledge of all these future events (as per his all-knowing property) then wouldn't god's knowledge of every future event consist of an actual infinity and not a potential infinity? And if so, why couldn’t god actualize all these events in his memory in different possible worlds? I don’t see why actual infinities are possible in god’s mind, but not in actual worlds. What’s the difference? The problem of HH would still apply to both.

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    16. Forbidding finite arithmetic in the HH experiment would mean that there is no logical or metaphysical way that any guest could leave this infinitely full hotel, and if you believe such a hotel could exist, I think this further goes to show how absurd an actual infinite is.
      I think the confusion about subtraction with regards to the HH is illustrative.
      If, instead of trying to apply the finite subtraction operator to an infinite cardinal number (where it is not defined) we applied the set difference operations to infinite set(s), the confusion goes away (at least, it seems so to me).

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    17. Then I would say it is logically impossible for an actually infinite number of objects to exist, as shown by the HH thought experiment, and God cannot do the logically impossible.
      HH doesn't show that an actual infinite is logically impossible.
      ALL if shows is that transfinite and finite arithmetic are different. To show that and then declare that this makes transfinite arithmetic absurd is ridiculous.

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    18. I think you probably can have an actual infinite mathematically, such as in a set of all natural numbers, but to try to extend this to reality is shown to be metaphysically impossible by HH.
      Due to his omniscience, God has an infinite set of logical propositions. Some of those are certainly of the form "X is in the set of natural numbers", and there must therefore be an infinite set of these propositions contained in God's mind.
      So what is preventing God from creating a "real" object for every one of the propositions of that particular form?

      These rules of finite arithmetic already exist in the real world and if an actual infinite exists in the real world, finite arithmetic would have to apply
      How do you know the rules of transfinite arithmetic, or of infinite sets, do not apply in the real world?
      You do not, and all you have to try to show that to be the case is the strange results you get when applying our intuitions from finite arithmetic to transfinite arithmetic.

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    19. Rian:
      "I think the confusion about subtraction with regards to the HH is illustrative.
      If, instead of trying to apply the finite subtraction operator to an infinite cardinal number (where it is not defined) we applied the set difference operations to infinite set(s), the confusion goes away (at least, it seems so to me)."
      We can get the same absurd results using infinite arithmetic as well. For example, remove all guests in odd numbered rooms (they themselves constitute an infinite set), and we're still left with the infinity of people in even numbered rooms, but now, the hotel can take infinitely more people because all odd rooms are vacant. This is still absurd. And infinite amount of people leave, an infinite amount of people are left still residing, and the hotel can still take infinitely more people.

      "HH doesn't show that an actual infinite is logically impossible.
      ALL if shows is that transfinite and finite arithmetic are different. To show that and then declare that this makes transfinite arithmetic absurd is ridiculous."
      It shows transfinite arithmetic as applied to the real world to be absurd. An actually infinite set in the mathematical realm is very different from an actually infinite amount of people.

      "Due to his omniscience, God has an infinite set of logical propositions. Some of those are certainly of the form "X is in the set of natural numbers", and there must therefore be an infinite set of these propositions contained in God's mind.
      So what is preventing God from creating a "real" object for every one of the propositions of that particular form?"
      This assumes God's knowledge is solely propositional. God can easily have what philosophers have called non-propositional knowledge, or knowledge not entirely expressed in propositional truths, often dealing with perspective on things.

      "How do you know the rules of transfinite arithmetic, or of infinite sets, do not apply in the real world?
      You do not, and all you have to try to show that to be the case is the strange results you get when applying our intuitions from finite arithmetic to transfinite arithmetic."
      Pretty much what you're saying here is that it is not absurd for an infinitely full hotel to accommodate infinitely more people by moving people around in their rooms. If you don't think this is absurd and it's just "kind of weird" I don't see how you could believe that

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    20. For example, remove all guests in odd numbered rooms (they themselves constitute an infinite set), and we're still left with the infinity of people in even numbered rooms, but now, the hotel can take infinitely more people because all odd rooms are vacant. This is still absurd.
      No, this is transfinite arithmetic.

      And infinite amount of people leave, an infinite amount of people are left still residing, and the hotel can still take infinitely more people.
      And you think it's absurd because you REQUIRE the real world to ONLY behave in accordance with finite arithmetic.

      It shows transfinite arithmetic as applied to the real world to be absurd.
      No, it shows that our intuitive understanding expectation that things work according to finite arithmetic doesn't work well when understanding transfinite arithmetic.

      An actually infinite set in the mathematical realm is very different from an actually infinite amount of people.
      True, since 1 is an abstraction and the other is real.
      But a finite set in the mathematical realm is also very different from an actually finite set amount of people.

      This assumes God's knowledge is solely propositional.
      No. It assumes that God has knowledge of all true propositions - it's not an exclusive claim.

      Pretty much what you're saying here is that it is not absurd for an infinitely full hotel to accommodate infinitely more people by moving people around in their rooms. If you don't think this is absurd and it's just "kind of weird" I don't see how you could believe that
      Transfinite arithmetic, operations on infinite sets, and numerous other areas of mathematics seem "aburd" do they not?
      Can you state that you didn't find transfinite arithmetic "absurd" when you first encountered it?
      I mean, can you say that the following are not "absurd" seeming?
      Set: (1,2,3,4,5...) - (4,5...) = (1,2,3)
      Magnitude: inf = inf = 3
      Set: (1,2,3,4,5...) - (1,3,5...) = (2,4...)
      Magnitude inf - inf = inf

      If we were to just look at the magnitude arithmatic, we get "absurd" results, do we not?
      And yet transfinite arithmetic is a well defined area of mathematics.

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    21. Zach, if you believe the HH scenario is absurd, then I don't know why you don't also think that infinite sets are not absurd, and that transfinite arithmetic is not absurd.
      And if you accept that infinite sets and transfinite arithmetic are not absurd, then I don't see why you believe the HH *must* be absurd.

      You seem to be arguing something like this:

      P1. The real world does not support transfinite arithmetic
      P2. HH is absurd without transfinite arithmetic.
      P3. From 1 & 2, Hilbert's hotel cannot exist in the real world
      P4. If transfinite arithmetic worked in the real world, then Hilbert's Hotel could exist
      C. The real world does not support transfinite arithmetic.

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    22. Thinker: See Rian and my discussion on HH below. As far as God knowing an actually infinite number of things, that would require future events to a) actually exist and be actually infinite and
      b) for God's knowledge to be solely propositional, which is a view traditionally denied by theists.

      Rian:
      "No, this is transfinite arithmetic."
      Yes. It is. I said infinite but meant transfinite, my bad. I meant to show you still get absurdities from applying it to the real world, namely "An infinite amount of people leave, an infinite amount of people are left still residing, and the hotel can still take infinitely more people" to which you say:

      "And you think it's absurd because you REQUIRE the real world to ONLY behave in accordance with finite arithmetic."
      No, I think the real world only behaves in accordance with finite arithmetic because of these absurdities that occur in transfinite arithmetic, not the other way around.

      "But a finite set in the mathematical realm is also very different from an actually finite set amount of people."
      Right, but the point is finite sets of people don't result in the absurdities that infinite sets do.

      "No. It assumes that God has knowledge of all true propositions - it's not an exclusive claim."
      Who's to say there are an infinite amount of true propositions?

      "Transfinite arithmetic, operations on infinite sets, and numerous other areas of mathematics seem "aburd" do they not?
      Can you state that you didn't find transfinite arithmetic "absurd" when you first encountered it?
      I mean, can you say that the following are not "absurd" seeming?
      Set: (1,2,3,4,5...) - (4,5...) = (1,2,3)
      Magnitude: inf = inf = 3
      Set: (1,2,3,4,5...) - (1,3,5...) = (2,4...)
      Magnitude inf - inf = inf

      If we were to just look at the magnitude arithmatic, we get "absurd" results, do we not?
      And yet transfinite arithmetic is a well defined area of mathematics."
      Those operations that you performed are prohibited in transfinite arithmetic for the very reason that you get the absurd answers that you do. You've illustrated my point. Transfinite arithmetic does not work with inverse operations.

      Furthermore, I don't think transfinite arithmetic is absurd because it does not correspond to reality. We can do calculations with unreal things, like imaginary numbers. I don't think imaginary numbers are absurd in mathematics, but I think it would be madness to say it is possible that somewhere there are 40i cars in a parking lot.

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    23. Thinker: See Rian and my discussion on HH below. As far as God knowing an actually infinite number of things, that would require future events to a) actually exist and be actually infinite and
      b) for God's knowledge to be solely propositional, which is a view traditionally denied by theists.


      A) No it wouldn't. The future events need not exist, just god's knowledge of them would need to exist, in the same way god's knowledge of the infinitude of numbers exists. The only way to get out of this is to deny god knows the future. If the the future is infinite and god knows the future then he must know an actual infinity of events.

      B) God needs only to be omniscient in that he knows everything logically possible. Are you telling me god's knowledge is finite and not infinite? E.g. god cannot know every number but only a very large amount of numbers.

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  10. You don't seriously mean to tell me that the results in the thought experiment are actually possible in the physical world?
    Why not? Sure the results are counter intuitive, but that doesn't make them impossible or absurd.
    You'll need to outline exactly what the problem you have is and why it is impossible/absurd.

    You have to show that these results are not in fact absurd to maintain the existence of actual infinity in the physical world.
    YOU have to show the results actually are absurd and/or impossible. Thus far all you've got (and all Craig appeals to) is the counter intuitive nature of transfinite arithmetic.

    Yes, in the sense that future events will never be actually infinite.
    Seen as a complete series, rather than looking at it at a particular point in that series, it can indeed be seen as infinite.

    Even after a billion years, there will still be a definite (finite) number of praises uttered by the heavenly being.
    And yet we're not talking about a series which ends in a billion years. We're talking about a series without end (just as the eternal past is a series without beginning).

    P2 is unnecessary. Thoughts do not necessarily have to lead to other thoughts.
    A mind which has a single thought is not a mind at all. That is not thinking, that a single frozen concept (or perhaps in the case of God, infinite frozen concepts - which sounds a lot like Platonism).

    P3 presupposes time existing in the first place.
    It does not presuppose it. It supposes that thoughts can be ordered, and observes that such an ordering is temporal in nature ("before" and "after" have meaning to the series).

    If we're talking about a state of affairs without time, you needn't assume there must be a stream of consciousness.
    Without time we have no consciousness, since a consciousness seems to be constituted by changing mental states (those "thoughts which lead to other thoughts, for instance). Minds appear to be dynamic, rather than static.

    I don't see why P2 is necessarily true.
    Shand goes into quite some detail arguing for that.

    I think there need to be additional premises to support it, but I admit I still don't quite understand the premise as he intends it.
    I'll see if I can reformulate it to be clearer and more detailed - my syllogism was rather quickly constructed :-)

    I still think "limit" is equivocated between P2 and P5 from limits as borders to limits as potent restrictions.
    God is conceived as being unlimited in both senses you're using here.
    I'll try to clear it up.

    I don't know what else you want from me?
    Why are there 6 quarks? Why are the physical constants what they are?
    You're presenting an explanation for the origin of the universe. You'd surely expect any successful non-theistic explanation to at least attempt to answer those sorts of questions, right?

    And if we both are in the same boat of not having an answer, then at best you are left with agnosticism and not atheism, but you certainly haven't been arguing for such.
    Agnostic atheism - I can find no reason to suppose God exists, and some reasons to suppose God cannot exist (some of which I've been trying to communicate here). I admit I could be wrong, but I can only go by the evidence and understanding I currently have :-)

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    Replies
    1. So as you can see there need not be any time before t at which e does not exist.
      I understand what you're saying. I don't see that you have reason to suppose that is possible. Our experience with things coming into existence does not fit that criteria (since there is a time prior to t when the thing does not exist).

      That's what the good ole BGVT implies, but I think we've been over that.
      I don't understand the BGVT to imply matter coming into existence. you'll need to explain why you think that is the case.

      I don't know how else to respond to this by saying you disagree with the majority of philosophers, secular and religious alike, and need to provide support for these positions.
      you'll need to direct me towards this majority and why they think that, as I don't see it. I also can't see how it could be a majority, since the majority of philosophers (according to the PhilPapers surveys) lean towards atheism, naturalism and physicalism.

      This has nothing to do with my point that B-theory is not directly implied from special relativity.
      And general relativity?

      How would you empirically test the eternal existence of the universe? If you are unable to do this, I think this is somewhat of a double standard.
      The same way we test everything that cannot be directly witnessed, reproduced, etc. We work out what we might expect if the hypothesis were true - what empirical observations we could expect, and we go out and see if those predictions are born out. The big bang model predicted the CMBR. The inflationary big bang model predicts the flatness and homogeneity of the universe.
      So, while we might not be able to directly test a past incomplete model of the universe, there may be (should be, I would say) empirical predictions such a model makes that can be tested. I'm sure you would also ask the same of any non-theistic model.
      Dawes' in "Theism and Explanation" mounts a convincing case for why a theistic explanation should meet criteria such as this.

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    2. "Why not? Sure the results are counter intuitive, but that doesn't make them impossible or absurd."
      We need to distinguish between what is logically impossible and metaphysically impossible. Sure the results from HH are logically possible given the existence of an actual infinite, it would fail (as all other reductio) as an argument if it wasn't. The deal is that these results are metaphysically impossible. It is absurd to think a hotel that is completely full can accommodate infinitely more people just by moving people around.

      "Seen as a complete series, rather than looking at it at a particular point in that series, it can indeed be seen as infinite."
      Future events will never be complete. They are increasing toward infinity as a limit, always potentially infinite.

      "A mind which has a single thought is not a mind at all. That is not thinking, that a single frozen concept (or perhaps in the case of God, infinite frozen concepts - which sounds a lot like Platonism)"
      Why not? Isn't that the definition of thinking? To think is to have a thought?

      "It does not presuppose it. It supposes that thoughts can be ordered, and observes that such an ordering is temporal in nature ("before" and "after" have meaning to the series)."
      Ordered only makes sense in a temporal context, so yes it does presuppose time already existing.

      "Without time we have no consciousness, since a consciousness seems to be constituted by changing mental states"
      God could have a single, changeless state of consciousness out of a context of time. Consciousness is not an inherently temporal notion. God could know all truth in a single intuition of truth without having to come by it through a process. As long as his consciousness is changeless, there is no reason make God temporal.

      "I understand what you're saying. I don't see that you have reason to suppose that is possible."
      The reason to suppose it is possible is that it is a coherent definition of "begin to exist". You'd have to show it to be fallacious to necessitate a time before e's existence at which e did not exist.

      "you'll need to direct me towards this majority and why they think that, as I don't see it. I also can't see how it could be a majority, since the majority of philosophers (according to the PhilPapers surveys) lean towards atheism, naturalism and physicalism."
      My philosophy professor in college believed it. The intro textbook by Lewis Vaughn teaches it as such. Note that you don't have to believe in God to hold that if God exists, he is necessary. That's why many can be atheists and still maintain God's necessity.

      "And general relativity?"
      Pretty much the same involving Minkowskian and Lorentzian interpretations.

      "The same way we test everything that cannot be directly witnessed, reproduced, etc. We work out what we might expect if the hypothesis were true - what empirical observations we could expect, and we go out and see if those predictions are born out. The big bang model predicted the CMBR. The inflationary big bang model predicts the flatness and homogeneity of the universe."
      God is the best explanation (predicts) the incredible specificity of the fine tuning of the physical constants and quantities. If an intelligence created the universe, it follows we could expect fine tuned constants and quantities that are life permitting.

      "So, while we might not be able to directly test a past incomplete model of the universe, there may be (should be, I would say) empirical predictions such a model makes that can be tested."
      Like the heat death we should be experiencing right now? If entropy has been increasing forever, the lightbulb should've burned out by now.

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    3. The deal is that these results are metaphysically impossible. It is absurd to think a hotel that is completely full can accommodate infinitely more people just by moving people around.
      It's only absurd if you require actual infinites to behave as finite collections do. We know that mathematically this is not the case, so why expect it to be the case from an "actual infinite"?

      Future events will never be complete. They are increasing toward infinity as a limit, always potentially infinite.
      And on a presentism view of time, past events are never complete (since they don't exist). The future is just as real as the past, and so if the future is not an actual infinite, then neither is the past.

      Why not? Isn't that the definition of thinking? To think is to have a thought?
      To "have a thought" is to have a change in mental state. Such a change is not possible for your static, non-temporal, pre-creation God, and so such a God could not be considered to have a mind.

      Ordered only makes sense in a temporal context, so yes it does presuppose time already existing.
      If thoughts lead to other thoughts, then I agree, it does presuppose it. But since I've already argued that such changes of mental states is a part of what makes something a mind, then to claim God is/has a mind is to presuppose time, even while asserting atemporality ie. it's nonsense.

      God could have a single, changeless state of consciousness out of a context of time.
      Which would preclude that exercise of causal power, since uch a thing is a change of conscious/mental state, and such a thing cannot happen without time.

      Consciousness is not an inherently temporal notion.
      Something which has a static mental state doesn't seem to match with the notion of consciousness.

      As long as his consciousness is changeless, there is no reason make God temporal.
      Yet holding all truth is not enough to make God conscious. He would need to be able to "think" about those truths, which implies a changing mental state - and there is where you have a problem.

      The reason to suppose it is possible is that it is a coherent definition of "begin to exist".
      A definition which doesn't match anything we're used to in our ordinary experience.
      I'm not sure what you'd appeal to in order to support this as not only coherent, but probable.

      You'd have to show it to be fallacious to necessitate a time before e's existence at which e did not exist.
      All I need to show is that our common sense experience with things beginning to exist assumes a prior time when it didn't exist.

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    4. That's why many can be atheists and still maintain God's necessity.
      I was referring to the universe being necessary.

      Pretty much the same involving Minkowskian and Lorentzian interpretations.
      Perhaps I'm mistaken, but the Minkowskian interpretation seems to be far more widely accepted in the field, and also seems to be far simpler (granted, both non-empirical concerns).

      God is the best explanation (predicts) the incredible specificity of the fine tuning of the physical constants and quantities.
      No it doesn't. Given God, how do you derive the ration between the different fundamental forces?
      This is what I meant about providing a detailed explanation.

      If an intelligence created the universe, it follows we could expect fine tuned constants and quantities that are life permitting.
      Rubbish. If God created the universe, why shouldn't we expect the constants to be non-life permitting, since God could certainty create life in such a universe?

      Like the heat death we should be experiencing right now?
      Which assumes our present co-moving patch is the state of the entire universe, as it has been since eternity.
      Since the big bang model shows this to be unlikely, then why the problem.
      There are other models which don't assume this.

      If entropy has been increasing forever, the lightbulb should've burned out by now.
      Absolute entropy has been increasing since the big bang event, but the ration of maximum to absolute entropy has been decreasing - the big bang "singularity" had minimal absolute entropy, but also had maximum entropy (since maximum entropy in a given region of space is equivalent to a black-hole).

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    5. "ration" above should read "ratio" both times I use the word. For some reason my fingers don't like stopping before the "n" :-)

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    6. Ordered only makes sense in a temporal context
      Just wanted to note that this is false.
      The natural numbers are ordered, and yet there is no need to presuppose a temporal ordering in order to do so.

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    7. "It's only absurd if you require actual infinites to behave as finite collections do."
      But you must allow finite arithmetic if you believe that actual infinites can exist in the real world. Otherwise, you must say it is metaphysically impossible for any person to leave this hotel. I don't see how you could possibly justify that claim. This would further lead to another HH absurdity. Actual infinites in mathematics simply just do not transfer over to the real world.

      "And on a presentism view of time, past events are never complete (since they don't exist). The future is just as real as the past, and so if the future is not an actual infinite, then neither is the past."
      Saying past events are unreal in the context of the present is very different from saying that past events never occurred. Especially if time began at sometime in the past.

      "To "have a thought" is to have a change in mental state."
      How would you support that? Why can't a mind have all knowledge (as defined by omniscience) from eternity and this be considered "having thoughts"?

      "But since I've already argued that such changes of mental states is a part of what makes something a mind"
      I still don't see why this must be true. What are your premises for this?

      And while I'm on the subject, I'll respond to a later statement here:
      "Just wanted to note that this is false.
      The natural numbers are ordered, and yet there is no need to presuppose a temporal ordering in order to do so."
      I think this statement defeats your own arguments. If you're right, then there is no need to suppose temporality of God's thoughts because they are ordered just like you don't need a temporal ordering of natural numbers. P4 doesn't work now unless you make a distinction between ordered thoughts and numbers.

      "Which would preclude that exercise of causal power, since such a thing is a change of conscious/mental state,"
      "Something which has a static mental state doesn't seem to match with the notion of consciousness."
      "Yet holding all truth is not enough to make God conscious. He would need to be able to "think" about those truths, which implies a changing mental state"
      These are all just assertions that you haven't offered any basis for. None of those things are inherently true.

      "A definition which doesn't match anything we're used to in our ordinary experience.
      I'm not sure what you'd appeal to in order to support this as not only coherent, but probable."
      What is wrong with that definition? What specifically is incoherent? Name something from the definition, attack it, and support your attack.

      "I was referring to the universe being necessary"
      So was I. The additional bit a about God being necessary is in addition to their belief that the universe is contingent. Even largely popular atheist scientists believe the universe to contingent, like Alex Rosenburg.

      "All I need to show is that our common sense experience with things beginning to exist assumes a prior time when it didn't exist."
      No, that doesn't work, because my definition applies to anything in our common experience.

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    8. "Perhaps I'm mistaken, but the Minkowskian interpretation seems to be far more widely accepted in the field, and also seems to be far simpler"
      It is more widely accepted, but almost solely because it is the only one taught. Back when these theories were developed, since both interpretations are empirically equivalent, they were both seen as the same thing regardless of the hugely different philosophical implications of both interpretations. Neither is simpler than the other, they are both the same math.

      "If God created the universe, why shouldn't we expect the constants to be non-life permitting, since God could certainty create life in such a universe?"
      Because that would involve a constant suspension of all laws. What reason would he have to suppose God's doing that? What would that accomplish? If not God, what is the best explanation for these constants?

      "Which assumes our present co-moving patch is the state of the entire universe, as it has been since eternity.
      Since the big bang model shows this to be unlikely, then why the problem.
      There are other models which don't assume this."
      "Which assumes our present co-moving patch is the state of the entire universe, as it has been since eternity.
      Since the big bang model shows this to be unlikely, then why the problem.
      There are other models which don't assume this."
      The universe includes everything that has ever existed. This co-moving patch you keep referring to makes it seem as if there is "other material" that existed besides our universe when it came into existence. The whole definition of a singularity is literally everything in an infintely dense point. There was nothing else besides this singularity, at least if you accept the classical big bang model.

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    9. But you must allow finite arithmetic if you believe that actual infinites can exist in the real world.
      If you assert this must be the case, then of course actual infinities are not possible in the real world.
      But this claim is exactly what we're discussing - no fair to simply assume it's true.

      Otherwise, you must say it is metaphysically impossible for any person to leave this hotel.
      You'll need to support this claim.
      For instance, if the person in room 1 leaves the hotel, then where is the problem? We still have an infinite number of guests, and person 1 has left - nothing "impossible" there that I can see.

      I don't see how you could possibly justify that claim.
      I don't see where I'm committed to that claim.

      This would further lead to another HH absurdity.
      Which is?

      Actual infinites in mathematics simply just do not transfer over to the real world.
      This statement seems to rely upon your claim that finite arithmetic and ONLY finite arithmetic apply in the real world.
      I don't see where you've justified that position, however.

      Saying past events are unreal in the context of the present is very different from saying that past events never occurred.
      "Saying that future events are unreal in the context of the present is very different from saying that future events will never occur".

      Especially if time began at sometime in the past.
      And if time didn't begin, as in the case we're discussing?

      How would you support that? Why can't a mind have all knowledge (as defined by omniscience) from eternity and this be considered "having thoughts"?
      I'm not sure why you would jusify calling such a thing a mind at all, when it would be so unlike our own as to be incomparable - I don't see a reason to treat such a "mind" as different to Platonism.

      I still don't see why this must be true. What are your premises for this?
      Perhaps it mustn't be true - I don't see how you can just assume that it isn't when what you're arguing for is so unlike our experience of minds (our own and others).

      If you're right, then there is no need to suppose temporality of God's thoughts because they are ordered just like you don't need a temporal ordering of natural numbers.
      A non-temporal ordering of "thoughts" would basically render them as some kind of logical deduction. That doesn't seem to be remotely analogous to the process of thinking that we, as minds, go through. I don't see any reason to suppose that such a thing is a mind at all.

      These are all just assertions that you haven't offered any basis for. None of those things are inherently true.
      As is your assertion that a mind can be atemporal.

      What is wrong with that definition?
      We have no experience with anything like that.

      What specifically is incoherent?
      Everything we have experience with which could be appealed to in support of the claim isn't actually comparable to the claim.

      Name something from the definition, attack it, and support your attack.
      We have no experience of anything coming in to existence without there being a prior time when it did not exist.
      We have no experience of anything material coming in to existence, rather than some pre-existing material being arranged into different relationships.
      So, on what basis, can you claim your definition is reasonable?

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    10. The additional bit a about God being necessary is in addition to their belief that the universe is contingent. Even largely popular atheist scientists believe the universe to contingent, like Alex Rosenburg.
      I accept that if God is necessary, and he exists, then he exists necessarily.
      Neither God being (logically) necessary nor God existing have been established - the former would require a successful ontological argument, the latter would likely require some reasonable empirical evidence.
      I'm not sure of Rosenburg's position, but I can accept that our co-moving patch is contingent, while also claiming that "matter/energy in some form or other" is necessary ie. our universe is contingent while something existing is necessary. Of course I'd need more than this assertion that the universe is necessary in order to make that claim strongly, but I'm not making the claim strongly, I'm simply observing that it is a live option, and something you'd need to rule out.

      No, that doesn't work, because my definition applies to anything in our common experience.
      But completely ignores salient features of our common experience - like their being a time prior to existence, or things being rearrangements of existing stuff rather than "new stuff".

      Back when these theories were developed, since both interpretations are empirically equivalent, they were both seen as the same thing regardless of the hugely different philosophical implications of both interpretations. Neither is simpler than the other, they are both the same math.
      That's concerning SR. For GR, I don't believe there actually is a generalised neo-Lorentzian theory.

      Because that would involve a constant suspension of all laws. What reason would he have to suppose God's doing that?
      What reason do you have to suppose God wouldn't do that?
      And since the number of possible sets of universal constants in which God could create life is far greater than the set in which life as we know it could exist naturalistically, that we happen to live in a universe where the constants ARE life permitting lends greater support to the naturalistic hypothesis :-)

      What would that accomplish?
      I don't know. God's ways are not our ways, after all. Perhaps you could derive some set of constants from your God concept to see what sort of universe or set of universes he would make, without assuming that he would make exactly what we find?

      If not God, what is the best explanation for these constants?
      Symmetry breaking seems to be the current best bet (possibly spontaneous, but not certainly).
      From what I understand, the actual "fine tuning" is vastly over stated by theists, and assumes a lot of things we simply don't know, like the constants being drawn from a uniform probability distribution, or the assumption that things could be different than what they are. Perhaps on a complete physics there are no "constants", or perhaps there are but they're not uniformly distributed, and favour values similar to what we find.
      Why on earth do you demand there be an explanation in the face of our obvious ignorance?

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    11. The universe includes everything that has ever existed.
      It's not always used in that fashion, so I find it's good to be more precise.

      This co-moving patch you keep referring to makes it seem as if there is "other material" that existed besides our universe when it came into existence.
      There might have been, we don't know. We don't know that our "universe" came into existence, since we don't have a theory which can explain what went on in the very early universe.

      The whole definition of a singularity is literally everything in an infintely dense point.
      And since classical physics breaks down, we need to use quantum physics. But we don't have a working theory which can be used, due to the effects of gravity.
      So, we can't actually say there was a singularity in the classical sense.
      I believe "quantum singularity" is the term used - a very dense, very small patch of space-time in which gravitational and quantum effects are at play, and which we need a quantum theory of gravity to have an understanding of what is going on.

      There was nothing else besides this singularity, at least if you accept the classical big bang model.
      Which has been superseded by the inflationary big bang model, which is only taken back to a very early point where gravity and quantum effects are important and where our best theories fail to offer explanations.
      I understand why Craig (and you) want to stick with the classic big band model, with it's true singularity, and everything coming into existence from literally nothing. I don't see any reason why anyone who isn't simply playing an apologetics game should accept it however.

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    12. This co-moving patch you keep referring to makes it seem as if there is "other material" that existed besides our universe when it came into existence.
      Further to this we have some models (eg. eternal inflation, eternal chaotic inflation) which would mean that there is other material besides our co-moving patch.
      These models are extensions of established physics.

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    13. "You'll need to support this claim.
      For instance, if the person in room 1 leaves the hotel, then where is the problem? We still have an infinite number of guests, and person 1 has left - nothing "impossible" there that I can see."
      This is patently impossible in transfinite arithmetic. That's the whole point. You aren't allowed to use inverse operations like subtraction and division because it results in these absurdities. In other words, if this hotel is full of an actually infinite amount of people, no one can ever leave because subtraction is prohibited with infinite quantities. This is the other absurdity I mentioned.

      ""Saying that future events are unreal in the context of the present is very different from saying that future events will never occur"."
      Okay? I agree with you.

      "And if time didn't begin, as in the case we're discussing?"
      I thought we were assuming A-theory and you were trying to show why it doesn't work. If it's B-theory then yes there can be actual infinites as there is no temporal becoming. But just saying "what if it's B-theory?" isn't really an objection that has been substantiated.

      "I'm not sure why you would jusify calling such a thing a mind at all, when it would be so unlike our own as to be incomparable"
      "Perhaps it mustn't be true - I don't see how you can just assume that it isn't when what you're arguing for is so unlike our experience of minds (our own and others)."
      You seem to think that the distinguishing feature of a mind is temporality. I don't see any reason to think this is the case. I think the defining property of a mind is the ability to have consciousness and thoughts, and this in no way requires time especially if said mind is omniscient. And to say thoughts must be "thought" in succession presupposes time's existence.

      "We have no experience of anything coming in to existence without there being a prior time when it did not exist.
      We have no experience of anything material coming in to existence, rather than some pre-existing material being arranged into different relationships.
      So, on what basis, can you claim your definition is reasonable?"
      Because it works for anything in our experience. If it weren't reasonable, it wouldn't work. I don't know what else to say.

      "But completely ignores salient features of our common experience - like their being a time prior to existence, or things being rearrangements of existing stuff rather than "new stuff"."
      The point is that time is not necessary for something to begin to exist. The definition I gave does not necessitate time, and you haven't said anything about the definition itself except to say that in common experience there is always time before. But that's just it, that's a common property and not a necessary one, as shown by the definition. If you couldn't define "begin to exist" without time, then I'd agree with you, but you can, so I don't. And about everything existing but being rearranged matter presupposes that only physical things exist, and that something is not different from the atoms from which it is composed. That, however, is another issue.

      "For GR, I don't believe there actually is a generalised neo-Lorentzian theory."
      GR doesn't imply a B-theory. Minkowskian SR does.

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    14. "What reason do you have to suppose God wouldn't do that?
      And since the number of possible sets of universal constants in which God could create life is far greater than the set in which life as we know it could exist naturalistically, that we happen to live in a universe where the constants ARE life permitting lends greater support to the naturalistic hypothesis :-)"
      I don't think I understand this objection. There's no point to even making laws that won't apply in the end. And think about it, if the constants were different we would just think those were the ones that were life permitting.

      "From what I understand, the actual "fine tuning" is vastly over stated by theists, and assumes a lot of things we simply don't know, like the constants being drawn from a uniform probability distribution, or the assumption that things could be different than what they are. Perhaps on a complete physics there are no "constants", or perhaps there are but they're not uniformly distributed, and favour values similar to what we find.
      Why on earth do you demand there be an explanation in the face of our obvious ignorance?"
      Because there's absolutely no good reason at all to think that these constants are either a) physically necessary (don't take my word for it, most atheists think this is true ie Steven Hawking) or b) our values are more probable than any other.

      "It's not always used in that fashion, so I find it's good to be more precise."
      OK. To be clear then, whenever I say universe, I mean literally everything.

      "And since classical physics breaks down, we need to use quantum physics. But we don't have a working theory which can be used, due to the effects of gravity.
      So, we can't actually say there was a singularity in the classical sense.
      I believe "quantum singularity" is the term used - a very dense, very small patch of space-time in which gravitational and quantum effects are at play, and which we need a quantum theory of gravity to have an understanding of what is going on."
      "Which has been superseded by the inflationary big bang model, which is only taken back to a very early point where gravity and quantum effects are important and where our best theories fail to offer explanations.
      I understand why Craig (and you) want to stick with the classic big band model, with it's true singularity, and everything coming into existence from literally nothing."
      One quick note, I do not think the Classical Big Bang model works without a "quantumization", I think that might be a misunderstanding. What I mean is that this revised Big Bang model will not be so drastically different as to invalidate every idea we had from the initial one.
      And the cool thing about the BGVT is that is applies regardless of the initial physical description of the universe so appealing to a quantum singularity makes no difference. I don't think there's any point in going back into the BGVT argument because we simply don't agree on what the theorem says. I think if someone were to ask Vilenkin, he would say these eternal inflation models could not extend to past infinity and are inaccurate.

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    15. This is patently impossible in transfinite arithmetic. That's the whole point.
      Subtraction isn't well defined, you're right. I don't agree that it's the whole point, however.

      You aren't allowed to use inverse operations like subtraction and division because it results in these absurdities.
      Not absurdities, but rather undefined results.

      In other words, if this hotel is full of an actually infinite amount of people, no one can ever leave because subtraction is prohibited with infinite quantities. This is the other absurdity I mentioned.
      Yet I showed examples where, using set difference, the results are completely comprehensible. And since the hotel is actually talking about sets of people (infinite sets), I don't see the problem.

      Okay? I agree with you.
      So, if both past and future events don't exist on a presentist view of time, then where is the problem? An "actual infinite" doesn't existin any sense.

      I thought we were assuming A-theory and you were trying to show why it doesn't work.
      We are talking about an A-Theory. We're also talking about whether an eternal past is reasonable. If the past is eternal, then there was no begining moment - regardless of how far you go back, there would be an earlier moment.

      You seem to think that the distinguishing feature of a mind is temporality.
      I see the ability to have thoughts which lead to other thoughts, have conscious experiences, different/changing mental states to be features of a mind.

      I think the defining property of a mind is the ability to have consciousness and thoughts, and this in no way requires time especially if said mind is omniscient.
      I don't see how you can call a completely static, unchanging mental state as a "mind".
      Perhaps the distinguishing characteristic is omniscience, but I don't see how that saves you, since an omniscient "thing" would be so different to our limited minds, as to be seemingly incomparable.

      And to say thoughts must be "thought" in succession presupposes time's existence.
      Then perhaps minds can only be temoporal in nature. Perhaps you need another term to istinguish this static, unchanging, omniscient "thing" you're referring to?

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    16. If it weren't reasonable, it wouldn't work. I don't know what else to say.
      I claimed it failed to include a feature which is common to every single experience we have of "coming into existence". I think you therefore need to argue for why you can just omit it. Claiming that "it works" isn't enough IMHO.

      The point is that time is not necessary for something to begin to exist. The definition I gave does not necessitate time, and you haven't said anything about the definition itself except to say that in common experience there is always time before. But that's just it, that's a common property and not a necessary one, as shown by the definition.
      You can't claim that is it not necessary. All you can claim is that the features you included in your definition can apply to all our experiences of something coming into existence. But in every one of those instances, we also have a time prior to that becoming where the thing did not exist. You've given no good reason to think that this other common feature is not necessary.

      If you couldn't define "begin to exist" without time, then I'd agree with you, but you can, so I don't.
      How do you know your definition is coherent?
      For a start it assumes there was a beginning to time - you're presupposing something you're trying to support with your argument(s).

      And about everything existing but being rearranged matter presupposes that only physical things exist,
      I haven't made the claim that "everything" is physical, though I think that is the only reasonable position to take.
      I've claimed that everything IN OUR COMMON EXPERIENCE is matter being rearranged. If you can think of something else, then I'm all ears.

      and that something is not different from the atoms from which it is composed. That, however, is another issue.
      I haven't said that the something is not different from the atoms of which it is composed. A "thing" is not just the atoms, but is also the relations between them. It is the relationship that we are talking about when we say a "chair" comes into existence, not the atoms.
      I'd rather not get too bogged down on this, especially if you're going to appeal to something like a Aristolian/Thomistic view of "substance", since I don't agree with the initial premises used to arrive at the Thomistic position, which would make discussion fairly difficult to carry out :-)

      GR doesn't imply a B-theory. Minkowskian SR does.
      But if we're talking about reality having a preferred reference fram, a neo-Lorentzian view of reality, then we'd need a formulation of GR which is compatible with this interpretation. As far as I understand it, the formulations of GR favours a space-time (minkowskian) interpretation, and that there is no General Lorenzian Ether Theory (GLET) formulated. The paper I linked to discusses this briefly:
      "Finally, before one obtains such a notion, one still starts with the four-dimensional space-time manifold, whose essential role is hard to square with the ontological requirements of presentism"

      There's no point to even making laws that won't apply in the end.
      Why not? Due to his omnipotence, making laws that will be suspended in an ad-hoc fashion is exactly the same "effort" (ie. none) as making laws that will never be suspended.

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    17. And think about it, if the constants were different we would just think those were the ones that were life permitting.
      If the laws were measured such that our form of life were impossible (ie. If the measured laws did not allow the formation of complex organic molecules such as those which are required for our form of life, and yet such molecules still existed, then surely we could not think the laws were life permitting).

      Because there's absolutely no good reason at all to think that these constants are either a) physically necessary (don't take my word for it, most atheists think this is true ie Steven Hawking) or b) our values are more probable than any other.
      There's no good reason to think they're NOT physically necessary, other than that our theories don't currently constrain the values taken (requiring us to establish them via measurement).
      There's no good reason to suppose that they must be drawn from a uniform distribution - we have no idea what sort of distribution is even possible.
      Note that the boiling point of water was at one time thought to be a constant, yet with the advance of science, we can derive this value from more basic laws of physics. The advanec of science has led to the steady decline in the number of parameters that need to be experimentally established rather than derived. If we were to follow from this, we have reason to think that at least some, if not most or all, of the current parameters are not free variables at all, but rather derived from a more complete model of physics.
      So, if we combine that observation, with the lack of any reason to prefer a uniform distribution over any other, and our ignorance as to whether any of them can take other values (ie. spontaneous symmetry breaking during the big bang), and the complete lack of any explanatory framework for the God hypothesis, I see no reason to think that the God Hypothesis is reasonable, let alone an adequate explanation for the apparent fine tuning of our co-moving patch towards life.

      OK. To be clear then, whenever I say universe, I mean literally everything.
      Ok, great. Please don't use the term "universe" to describe the visible universe which resulted from the the big bang event, since such a claim is not supported by the evidence :-)

      What I mean is that this revised Big Bang model will not be so drastically different as to invalidate every idea we had from the initial one.
      We don't know this.

      And the cool thing about the BGVT is that is applies regardless of the initial physical description of the universe so appealing to a quantum singularity makes no difference.
      As long as the assumptions it relies upon hold, which we don't know.

      I don't think there's any point in going back into the BGVT argument because we simply don't agree on what the theorem says.
      I think we do agree in large part. I just think you assume it proves too much - that it proves that the universe came from absolutely nothing, for example.

      I think if someone were to ask Vilenkin, he would say these eternal inflation models could not extend to past infinity and are inaccurate.
      I understand that. Most/all of the models of eternal inflation are shown by the BGVT to be past complete (ie. they have a "beginning" in time). I used the examples of eternal inflation models to show that the claim that our co-moving patch is not the same as the universe, or at least that we have some pretty good reasons to think that they're not the same thing.

      As far as God knowing an actually infinite number of things, that would require future events to a) actually exist and be actually infinite and
      Doesn't the fact that God has knowledge of them indicate that they exist in some sense (or at least, that they HAVE to exist at some point), and that God has an infinite number of items of knowledge?

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    18. No, I think the real world only behaves in accordance with finite arithmetic because of these absurdities that occur in transfinite arithmetic, not the other way around.
      How about we ignore transfinite arithmetic for the moment, and concentrate on using set theory, specifically using the set different operation when we talk about people leaving the hotel.
      If we do so, I don't see any absurdities arising, and since the hotel itself describes what seems to me to be sets of people checking in and checking out of the hotel, I don't see the problem.

      Right, but the point is finite sets of people don't result in the absurdities that infinite sets do.
      What absurdities arise from infinite sets of people? I've given examples which show, I believe, that the absurdities arise only because of the demand that subtraction be defined for transfinite arithmetic.

      Those operations that you performed are prohibited in transfinite arithmetic for the very reason that you get the absurd answers that you do. You've illustrated my point. Transfinite arithmetic does not work with inverse operations.
      And yet the operations on sets from which I derived the transfinite equations, and which more accurately reflect the situation in the HH, do not contain ANY absurdities of the sort you're concerned about.
      What you're arguing is akin to claiming that because anything divided by 0 results in "absurdities", you cannot have an actual natural number of things. Or that because you can't have 2/3 of a quark, you cannot have an actual rational number of things.

      Furthermore, I don't think transfinite arithmetic is absurd because it does not correspond to reality.
      Well, you seem to be arguing that reality must only conform to finite artihmetic, and therefore transfinite arithmetic cannot exist in reality.

      I don't think imaginary numbers are absurd in mathematics, but I think it would be madness to say it is possible that somewhere there are 40i cars in a parking lot.
      How about electrical impedance? Complex impedance is measured with imaginary numbers, and it certainly exists in reality does it not?

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  11. An interesting paper on Presentism and Relativity gives physical arguments to prefer a space-time view of reality, and argues against Craig's Neo-Lorentzian view.

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  12. Zach: Well, the short answer is I'm not a theistic evolutionist
    Zach, could you provide a brief outline of where you diverge from the scientific consensus on things like evolutionary biology, geology and cosmology (age of the earth, age of the universe, and the like).

    I find it can help a discussion (not to mention just being plain interesting) to understand these differences.

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    1. From my many debates with theists I find that they will pick and choose from science whatever suits their needs. So some of them are fine with the big bang because it seems to corroborate Genesis, but they'll reject evolution because it has too many naturalistic implications. And so they adopt an old earth creationism view.

      It's totally dishonest since both are adequately backed up with evidence. And it shows that much like with morality, Christians will simply pick and choose whatever suits their needs as they see fit.

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    2. I'm curious concerning Zach's position since he's tried to nail me for not accepting the science surround the big bang re BGVT.

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    3. This is a red herring and has nothing to do with the discussion, but if you must know I don't take a position on the evolution issue. Either view, creationism or evolution, are not at odds with God's existence. I certainly believe that species share common ancestors, that's not in debate, but I'm willing to accept or deny that all species developed from one life form. That itself is even in debate among evolutionary biologists. Anyway, both are compatible with theism. As far as the age of the universe and the earth, I accept the standard 13.7 billion for the universe and 5 something billion of the earth

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    4. Thanks for clarifying Zach. But evolution does have huge implications for theism that I think cancel it out. Can you please respond to this argument I made that the traditional omni-god and evolution are incompatible, either on this post or on the post of the argument?

      Link: http://www.atheismandthecity.com/2013/05/my-evolutionary-argument-against-god.html

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    5. Either view, creationism or evolution, are not at odds with God's existence.
      You might be able to formulate variants of theism that are not at odds with evolutionary biology as it is scientifically understood, but I don't think Christianity, of even a very liberal form, is one of them.
      - Christianity fairly explicitly claims that God has had a hand in the development of humanity.
      - Evolutionary biology fairly explicitly states that the process is unguided.
      - Therefore Christianity is not compatible with the scientific understanding of evolutionary biology.

      I certainly believe that species share common ancestors, that's not in debate, but I'm willing to accept or deny that all species developed from one life form. That itself is even in debate among evolutionary biologists.
      I'm glad you accept such well attested facts as common descent :-)

      Anyway, both are compatible with theism.
      As I pointed out above - theism yes/maybe, Christianity, no.
      Another reason is the non-existence of Adam and Eve. They're kind of a required part of the Christian story, without which the atoning sacrifice of Jesus becomes somewhat pointless, and yet when we investigate the population of homo sapiens and their ancestors, we find no real place to put an Adam and Eve, and all such attempts to meld the two tend toward being baseless and ridiculous (look at the attmpts the biologos institute promotes for examples of this).

      As far as the age of the universe and the earth, I accept the standard 13.7 billion for the universe and 5 something billion of the earth
      Great! I find it difficult to discuss things with YEC's since their entire basis for claims is based upon special pleading rather than rational investigation of reality.
      In your opinion was the flood of Noah global as the bible seem to imply quite strongly, or was it merely a local phenomena (and if it was local, what was the point)?
      Hopefully you go with the more reasonable option (it being a myth/legend which grew up around a localised flood, much like other flood myths from around the world), since geology and biogeography rule out a global variant (much to the displeasure of YEC's) :-)

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