Three Types of Worldview, with Defenders for Each

by Luke Muehlhauser on December 10, 2009 in Resources

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A worldview consists of one’s beliefs about:

  • Ontology. What kinds of things exist? Rocks? Organisms? Persons? Neutrinos? Souls? Gods? Properties? Propositions? Numbers?
  • Explanation. How do the things that exist work? What are their causes and effects?
  • Values. What has value? What is good and bad? Do moral values exist? If so, what makes something morally good or morally bad? What should we do?
  • Epistemology. How do we know which things exist, how they work, and what has value? Do we know anything at all?

Below is one possible high-level taxonomy of worldviews. Note that each of the terms used below have several meanings, and I have chosen but one of them. Moreover, each of my divisions could have been made in a different way. For example, my first division could have concerned values instead of ontology.

The First Division

But as it is, the highest level of my taxonomy concerns a disagreement in ontology. Naturalism contends that nothing exists except “the natural things, forces, and causes of the kind that the natural sciences study… and which have mechanical properties amenable to mathematical modeling.”1 (This is an extreme oversimplification of a complex topic,2 as is always the case on this page.) Non-naturalism contends that there are some “extra” things whose existence the naturalist denies – for example, that there are moral properties that do not reduce to natural properties. But if a worldview defends the existence of non-natural minds, we will place it in a third category: Supernaturalism.

I. NaturalismMost philosophers are naturalists.3 Because naturalistic science has been more successful in a few centuries than the metaphysical speculations of philosophy have been over several millennia, most philosophers are eager to develop an understanding of all phenomena as natural phenomena, including things like human consciousness and ethics.

Naturalistic worldviews include:

  • Religious Naturalism. Some forms of Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism do not invoke the existence of non-natural or supernatural entities. So, too, for so-called ‘secular Jews’ and ‘secular Christians.’ [under construction]
  • Conservative Naturalism. [under construction]
  • Liberal Naturalism. [under construction]

II. Non-NaturalismSome people are non-naturalists without being supernaturalists. They posit that some non-physical things exist, but they do not posit non-natural minds. (That would be called supernaturalism.)

There are many things about which someone may be a non-naturalist:

  • Moral values. Some people think there are non-natural moral facts that are not grounded in supernaturalism and do not reduce to natural facts. Living defenders of this view include: Michael Huemer, Robert Audi, Russ Shafer-Landau, Colin McGinn.
  • Universals. Some people think that abstract objects, numbers, and properties (such as the property of ‘being more massive than the Statue of Liberty’) exist, but not physically or supernaturally. Living defenders of this view include: [under construction]

III. Supernaturalism

Most people are supernaturalists. They agree with non-naturalists that some things exist beyond the natural world, and in particular they assert that at least one mind exists beyond the natural world. Non-natural minds may include the mind of God, the minds of souls, or the minds of angels and demons and jinn and ghosts.

Supernaturalist worldviews include:

  • Abrahamic Religion. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all believe in the God of the ancient patriarch Abraham. Most of them also believe in an afterlife for supernatural souls. Living philosophical defenders include: Alvin Plantinga, Peter van Inwagen, William Lane Craig, [under construction]
  • Eastern Religion. [under construction]
  • Traditional Religion. [under construction]
  • Paranormalism. [under construction]

  1. See Wikipedia. []
  2. See the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on naturalism. []
  3. See here. []

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

james tower December 10, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Naturalism cannot explain its own existence. An unintelligent thing cannot make itself…because it does not yet exist. Therefore it is not beyond reason to assume that something supernatural made everything. Something outside of the system would explain why we even have a system. How do you account for the fact that there is something rather than nothing? Science has proved that the universe has a beginning, and is not eternal but has yet to come up with a reason why aside from something akin to “there was nothing, and then there was everything spinning in one place for no reason, and then it exploded…” If there is no God or intelligent Creator…how do you make the jump from nothing to something dead…and then from something dead to something alive? A flaming superheated blast of all the matter in the universe does not logically support the fact that anything would ever be alive does it? How does naturalism account for this?

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lukeprog December 10, 2009 at 11:38 pm

James Tower,

I suspect you think that something can’t come from nothing because we have no evidence that that can happen. (Actually, that’s false, but let’s pretend it’s true for the sake of argument.)

Now, I would like to know: What evidence do you have that something supernatural can come from nothing? I suspect you have even less reason to believe that than I have to believe that something natural came from nothing.

Or perhaps you will say something supernatural can exist eternally into the past, but something natural cannot. But what evidence do you have to suggest that is possible?

Or perhaps you will say that something supernatural can exist “outside” of time. But what evidence do you have for that? Is it even meaningful to say that something can exist and act outside of time?

You have turned a simple conundrum into an enigma wrapped in a conundrum drowned in an incoherent mess.

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Rhys Wilkins December 10, 2009 at 11:50 pm

I am interested in the dividing line between natural and supernatural. I.e. what criteria does a certain phenomena have to satisfy to be considered supernatural instead of natural?

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 12:03 am

Rhys,

Can’t you see? Naturalism is like a photograph. Non-naturalism is like a painting.

:)

The dividing line between natural and supernatural has always been difficult to characterize. Supernaturalists charge that this difficulty renders naturalism incoherent. But if so, then supernaturalism is doubly incoherent, as it is defined in terms of naturalism.

You can click the links I gave in the footnotes for a summary of attempts at the distinction. But I did give my distinction above (by ingeniously quoting The Wikipedia). Do you see a problem with it?

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Beelzebub December 11, 2009 at 2:09 am

Supernaturalism is the belief in events that break all natural law. In other words, they are impossible events that happen. When boiled down to their essence, that is what supernatural events must be. If they are not, then, no matter how outlandish, they are events of our realm, the natural world. Even if multi-universes exist, and events are somehow crossing over to our universe, they are still natural events. For instance, we can imagine Jesus occupying the 12th dimension of our universe and spending his days plotting various ways to intervene in the first 4 dimensions, which he apparently knows how to do. The only way Jesus could be called supernatural is if we could not possibly form a theory of him and begin investigating the 12th dimension, and I’m not sure if this is a very good distinction. Is a criterion for supernatural that we can’t gain knowledge of it? In that case there are aspects of physics and our world than can be correctly called supernatural now. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle clearly indicates that there is world knowledge that is unknowable.

There is an interesting consequence to my one concession for a possible supernatural: It seems to absolutely require the omniscience of God. (Bad news for people like Vox Day.) For, if lack of even the possibility of knowledge implies supernaturalism, then we would be as supernatural to God and he is to us.

On the other hand, let’s suppose that’s not a good criterion for the supernatural. Supernatural status is not automatically conferred just because we can’t know its workings. In many ways, this makes more sense, since there’s nothing stopping Jesus from sending us scientific dispatches from the 12th dimension, and we certainly don’t want to hinge our definition on the wager that Jesus will never blab. Perhaps it’s the fact, then, that Jesus can’t explain his own status relative to us? A super-supernatural?

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Robert Gressis December 11, 2009 at 2:14 am

Hi Luke,

You write, “Naturalism contends that nothing exists except ‘the natural things, forces, and causes of the kind that the natural sciences study… and which have mechanical properties amenable to mathematical modeling.’”

Is naturalism the view that the only things that exist are the things that contemporary physics, chemistry, and biology say exist? (If so, then naturalism is almost certainly false, unless you think we’ve found everything that exists).

On the other hand, is naturalism the view that the only things that exist are the things that ideal physics, chemistry, etc., say exist? (In that case, who know what that rules out?)

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Beelzebub December 11, 2009 at 2:29 am

Robert,
In order to imbue supernaturalism with any kind of coherence at all, one needs to (at a minimum) resort to a kind of meta-analysis. In order for an event to be deemed supernatural, not only does it have to break the rules that we know, it has to break all conceivable rules; it must become, in a word “impossible.”

Imagine a future world where our knowledge of multi-dimensions and even co-universes are commonplace. We cross from one to the other, as we might now commute to a job. That would not be supernaturalism. Supernatural is composed of events that don’t just seem to be impossible, but are impossible.

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Haukur December 11, 2009 at 3:17 am

Are ‘monism’ and ‘dualism’ useful words here?

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Bradm December 11, 2009 at 5:29 am

“Actually, that’s false, but let’s pretend it’s true for the sake of argument.”

How is that false?

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Edson December 11, 2009 at 7:32 am

“Now, I would like to know: What evidence do you have that something supernatural can come from nothing?”

In other words, it is just to ask how did God came about to be God? Or who created God?

This is kind of questions that every thinking individual must ask themselves. Yes, the question makes the philosophers heads spin round and worse still, when they have lacked a reasoned response to the origin of God, they resort to naturalism (in the sense of denying God), a hopeless response indeed and lacking enchantment, solving nothing really but to aggravate the problem.

The biblical response for the origin of God is that God is “I AM”, which means that God is that something that exist timelessly. Now if we cannot imagine, or comprehend, or believe that there is something capable of existing timelessly, then that is our problem.

I dont think supernaturalism vs naturalism is supposed to be a real debate here. I think the debate is not about natural vs supernatural, rather about physical (those things that are within our capacity to explore or discerned by physcal means vs spiritual (those things that are discerned by spiritual means only).

I am of the view that there is nothing that is supernatural. Even God is not supernatural but a natural one in the spiritual realm just as the physical world is natural in the physical realm. Now whether the spiritual is capable of influencing or affecting the physical, in what sense, and vice versa, is beyond the scope of this post.

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Kip December 11, 2009 at 7:55 am

Beelzebub: if your definition of “supernaturalism” is true, then it must be false. Something impossible, by definition, cannot be true. I’m not disagreeing with you, by the way… I do think that any definition of “supernatural” either makes supernaturalism false, or makes it within the realm of what is “natural”.

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Kip December 11, 2009 at 8:09 am

Edson: I am of the view that there is nothing that is supernatural. Even God is not supernatural but a natural one in the spiritual realm just as the physical world is natural in the physical realm. Now whether the spiritual is capable of influencing or affecting the physical, in what sense, and vice versa, is beyond the scope of this post.

I’m not a theist (you apparently are), but I really like this view. Of course, if it interacts with the physical world, then it is subject to scientific testing.

Luke: where does that fit in to the ontological categorization: physical vs. non-physical?

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Ryan December 11, 2009 at 9:17 am

Here’s something that might help:

http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/01/defining-supernatural.html

BTW, everytime I leave a comment here there is this thing below the comment box which is, like, showing me what I’m typing. Could you get rid of it? It seems to just slow down my computer and interfere with my typing.

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Robert Gressis December 11, 2009 at 9:57 am

I see no reason to accept the view of supernaturalism according to which anything supernatural is impossible. Perhaps “x is a supernatural event” can be rephrased as “x violates natural laws” or “x is a physically impossible event”, but if you mean to equate supernaturalism with whatever is metaphysically impossible, then I don’t see why I should accept that.

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ayer December 11, 2009 at 11:05 am

lukeprog: Or perhaps you will say something supernatural can exist eternally into the past, but something natural cannot. But what evidence do you have to suggest that is possible?

Or perhaps you will say that something supernatural can exist “outside” of time. But what evidence do you have for that? Is it even meaningful to say that something can exist and act outside of time?

The evidence is the very contingency and non-past-eternality of spacetime. Since spacetime began to exist in the finite past (Borde-Guth-Vilenkin theorem), and need not have existed (http://www.geneveith.com/adlers-proof-of-the-existence-of-god/_1052/), it is reasonable to believe that it is the result of a cause outside of spacetime (in accord with the principle of sufficient reason). The only alternative is to believe that spacetime popped into existence uncaused out of nothing. (And no, this does not happen at the quantum level, because a quantum vacuum is an energy field, not “nothing”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_Vacuum).

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Jason Finney December 11, 2009 at 11:54 am

Lukeprogrammed said: “You have turned a simple conundrum into an enigma wrapped in a conundrum drowned in an incoherent mess.” </

>

A-ha! That proves it! You been wolfing them magical mushrooms haven’t you? And you said there’s no such thing as magic, eh? Tell your to your mushrooms mate! roflmao

All giggles and grins aside though, you didn’t answer the Tower bloke’s question. All you did was speculate what his response would be to your nonsensical reply. Also I have to wonder why Tower hasn’t replied. It would seem he would come back to see if you had answered his question, yet he is nowhere to be found.

Oh well, who cares about anything of that drivel anyway right? Bottom line is that you believe unconditionally everything science teaches you EXCEPT one big pink elephant of a thing: that SOMETHING can not come from NOTHING. Fancy that! You, the believer in all things science, refuse to believe the fundamental science LAW that states something can not come from nothing. And you say THEISTS are the ones with selective beliefs. Bah.

Every RATIONAL man who ever walked this earth who didn’t think himself too important to be designed by something superior to him knows damn well this earth and everything in it is too complex to have “popped into existence” out of nothing. Every rational man observes the perfection of the seasons, of time, of space, and of matter and marvels at how they all fit together like a complex key fitted precisely for a complex lock.

“Intelligent design” is a blasphemous moniker and I do believe the reason so many fools can’t get their puffed up minds around creationism. God is not intelligent! MAN is intelligent. God is DIVINE! His mysteries surpass mere idiot “intelligence.” What do we know about this universe? What do we REALLY know? We can’t even figure out what is killing honey bee colonies! We are fools! We are cosmic wankers!

I say TRASH the INSULTING “intelligent design” moniker and call it what it is: DIVINE DESIGN. Maybe then the bloody fools of this earth might begin to understand they will NEVER, EVER figure out the mysteries of this cosmos no matter how much they try.

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Robert,

That’s a very difficult question, one discussed at great length by people much smarter than I am. I’m not really tackling that question with this post. The first option is not defended to my knowledge, but even the second option needs a lot of clarification. I think of naturalism as the idea that all things that exist are causally related in mechanistic ways. So I’m sure physics will discover some more stuff – whether it be strings or additional dimensions – but they will be mechanistic and causally interactive with what physics is currently aware of. They won’t be things ‘apart’ from the entire physical universe that we know of.

Does that make sense? I definitely don’t claim to have naturalism defined perfectly. Not my battle, for now.

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Haukur,

I could have started with a monism/dualism distinction from the start, but I went instead of naturalism/non-naturalism. Of course, there are monistic supernatural views and monistic naturalistic views, and the same goes for dualism.

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Bradm,

Virtual particles.

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Jake de Backer December 11, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Ok. It’s official. Jason = Summa.

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 1:06 pm

ayer,

Yup, that’s a nice summary of the relevant issues. Still, I’d like to understand why “The universe came into existence uncaused” is less plausible than “The universe came into existence caused by something supernatural” in your view. Since the supernatural is generally thought to be something which is causally distinct from the natural world, why would the notion of “being caused by the supernatural” be any more coherent than considering an uncaused event? I’ve never been able to wrap my head around what the theist is really asserting, and why he thinks it’s plausible.

Concerning the origin of the universe, I just say, “None of the options fit well with what we know, so I don’t know.”

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 1:08 pm

Jason,

Will you please stop using Anonymouse? It’s not like I’m able to track down your address if you stop using Anonymouse to browse my site. I’m just asking because we’ve had some problems with people pretending to be multiple people, and that could be covered up by Anonymouse.

Thanks.

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drj December 11, 2009 at 2:25 pm

Perhaps, Luke, as the proprietor of this blog you are hesitant to make a potentially false accusation against a poster… however slight.

But I think its pretty obvious that its all the same person there.

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Beelzebub December 11, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Robert Gressis: I see no reason to accept the view of supernaturalism according to which anything supernatural is impossible. Perhaps “x is a supernatural event” can be rephrased as “x violates natural laws” or “x is a physically impossible event”, but if you mean to equate supernaturalism with whatever is metaphysically impossible, then I don’t see why I should accept that.  

That would still be a pretty heavy restriction to place on supernatural phenomena, that they are within the set of metaphysical processes minus natural processes (which includes the physical). For one thing, I don’t see how they could be observable or even knowable (except as a theoretical inference). The most we could do in terms of perceiving them would be something akin to Craig’s spiritual witnessing, and whether this is free from naturalistic baggage hinges on the unsolved mind-body problem.

To be perceived by our traditional five senses, the supernatural must ultimately make the transition to the natural world. Otherwise it can’t be observed. For instance, if you see a ghost, photons must be impinging on your retina. The photons must have originated from a source. The source was intangible; there was no natural cause. Hence a natural law was just broken: the law of conservation of energy – because photons have energy, and they were just created from nothing. This at least means that the supernatural could be studied in terms of broken natural law. The one alternative to this kind of idea is that supernatural observation is illusory experience. This would be equivalent to collapsing all overt experience into Craig’s internal spiritual witnessing.

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Jeff H December 11, 2009 at 4:48 pm

What do we know about this universe? What do we REALLY know? We can’t even figure out what is killing honey bee colonies! We are fools! We are cosmic wankers!

Alright, so we don’t know anything about this universe. That implies that we don’t really know how the universe came into being, then, either. So let’s just settle it and say, “We don’t know!” But somehow I don’t think that’s the answer you’re going for. Somehow that “we don’t know” gets turned into “God did it” somewhere along the line.

I say TRASH the INSULTING “intelligent design” moniker and call it what it is: DIVINE DESIGN. Maybe then the bloody fools of this earth might begin to understand they will NEVER, EVER figure out the mysteries of this cosmos no matter how much they try.

Ahh, there we go. So we will NEVER EVER figure out the mysteries of the universe, but it’s definitely divine design. Mystery solved! Oh wait…so is your argument that we can figure it out or that we can’t? Try to be consistent.

Every RATIONAL man who ever walked this earth who didn’t think himself too important to be designed by something superior to him knows damn well this earth and everything in it is too complex to have “popped into existence” out of nothing. Every rational man observes the perfection of the seasons, of time, of space, and of matter and marvels at how they all fit together like a complex key fitted precisely for a complex lock.

This sounds a lot like “figuring things out”. I thought you said that was impossible?

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I’m still struggling with how to distinguish non-naturalism from supernaturalism. Perhaps we could say that supernaturalism involves MINDS that do not reduce to natural things, whereas non-naturalism involves some things that do not reduce to natural things (for example, irreducible moral properties) but never minds that don’t reduce to natural things.

What do y’all think?

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Well there, I tried it. But the emphasis on minds in the definition of supernaturalism still leaves me with a problem. Consider Star Wars. Let’s say in Star Wars there was no afterlife or gods or anything like that. No non-natural minds. But there was still the force, which could be manipulated by natural minds. Wouldn’t this still be considered a supernatural worldview by most people? I think I still need to tweak this a bit better…

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lukeprog December 11, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Also, as for how to next divide naturalism. I could go with ex-apologists three distinctions, but I only have his examples, he doesn’t actually delineate the categories. Or I could just go with Strawson’s “hard” and “soft” naturalisms. Or maybe there’s a better alternative…

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Robert Gressis December 11, 2009 at 10:38 pm

Hi Luke,

I have to admit, I was being a bit coy with my earlier comment about what naturalism is. I don’t expect you to solve it, because I think it’s insoluble. That said, my friend Steve Petersen has a very interesting go in his paper, Naturalism as a coherent ism here:

http://stevepetersen.net/professional/petersen-coherent-naturalism.pdf

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Haukur December 12, 2009 at 3:56 am

lukeprog: What do y’all think?

What to do with Jesus’ spittle? Earlier we seem to have decided that it was supernatural (and not magical) but it doesn’t seem to involve a mind.

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ayer December 12, 2009 at 10:52 am

lukeprog: Since the supernatural is generally thought to be something which is causally distinct from the natural world

I see no reason to accept that presupposition.

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Fortuna December 12, 2009 at 4:53 pm

ayer;

Having reviewed Adler’s argument, I’m having difficulty seeing how he establishes the third premise, that the universe is radically contingent. In particular;

The reason we can conceive the cosmos as being radically rather than superficially contingent is due to the fact that the cosmos which now exists is only one of many possible universes that might have in fact existed in the past, and might still exist in the future.

I don’t see how he knows that. He goes on to say;

We can infer it from the fact that the arrangement and disarray, the order and disorder, of the present cosmos might have been otherwise. That it might have been different from what it is.

Is that actually a fact? That strikes me as speculative. Additionally;

There is no compelling reason to think that the natural laws which govern the present cosmos are the only possible natural laws.

But I don’t see how that can establish the converse, which is what I think he’s reaching for, namely that there is a compelling reason to think that our natural laws are one of many possible sets. This particular argument only seems like it gets him as far as being able to say that we don’t know if our natural laws are the only ones possible.

The next step in the argument is the crucial one. It consists in saying that whatever might have been otherwise in shape or structure is something that also might not exist at all.

How does he know that?

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Fortuna December 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm

Also, Summa, you’ve given the game away entirely by this point. Just have the guts to comment under your original ‘nym.

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james tower December 13, 2009 at 10:20 pm

everything has a cause. If one could trace cause after cause all the way back to the beginning, there must be a first cause. If all that is considered to be “natural” did not exist, then the cause must come from outside of what is considered to be “nature.” As I said before something noexistant cannot be its own cause. Can someone tell me why it is somehow more rational to believe nothing caused everything? This is impossible…

Sherlock Homes said, “”When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Only a bad detective would say “the killer is not in the basement because I’m afraid to look there” It is more rational to believe there might be a Creator, than it is to say there can’t be one…

“Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.”
—Arno Penzias (Nobel prize winner in physics). In Margenau, H. and R.A. Varghese, ed., Cosmos, Bios, and Theos (La Salle, IL, Open Court, 1992), 83.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 5:06 am

Fortuna: The reason we can conceive the cosmos as being radically rather than superficially contingent is due to the fact that the cosmos which now exists is only one of many possible universes that might have in fact existed in the past, and might still exist in the future.

I don’t see how he knows that.

I don’t think this is really that controversial, since the constants built in to the initial conditions of the Big Bang (force of gravity, strong force/weak force, etc.) are not required by any law or theory; cosmologists recognize that they could have easily been different, which would have resulted in a different universe (a non-life-permitting one).

Fortuna: The next step in the argument is the crucial one. It consists in saying that whatever might have been otherwise in shape or structure is something that also might not exist at all.

How does he know that?

The argument is that something that there is no reason that something so radically contingent that it could exist in trillions of different forms must exist at all. It is difficult to say that such a thing (the universe) has “necessary existence” if it is so contingent.

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Fortuna December 14, 2009 at 10:50 am

ayer;

I don’t think this is really that controversial, since the constants built in to the initial conditions of the Big Bang (force of gravity, strong force/weak force, etc.) are not required by any law or theory; cosmologists recognize that they could have easily been different, which would have resulted in a different universe (a non-life-permitting one).

I understand that we can easily conceive of the constants being different, and so imagine different universes. However, I am not so sure that cosmologists have a handle on how exactly the constants came to be as they are, so to say that they could have easily been different is the part that I’m wondering about. Do we really know that they could have easily been different?

The argument is that something that there is no reason that something so radically contingent that it could exist in trillions of different forms must exist at all. It is difficult to say that such a thing (the universe) has “necessary existence” if it is so contingent.

I don’t see why, exactly. There seems to me no contradiction in saying that something that could exist in trillions of different ways nevertheless must exist in one of those ways.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 6:33 pm

Fortuna: Do we really know that they could have easily been different?

Fortuna: I don’t see why, exactly.

We’re not dealing in an area given to 100% certainty here. Adler’s goal is to show that the premises are more plausible than the alternative. I believe they are. (In fact, the arbitrariness of the constants is what drives so many atheists to embrace the multiverse concept, since the consensus in the cosmological community is that no grand theory is likely to be formulated which would show that the constants of our universe are necessary values.)

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Fortuna December 14, 2009 at 7:12 pm

We’re not dealing in an area given to 100% certainty here. Adler’s goal is to show that the premises are more plausible than the alternative. I believe they are.

Yes, I know, and I’m quite happy to go along with this particular word game and see where it goes. I was just wondering if Adler knows something I don’t, since some of the premises in his argument are phrased in terms of “given the fact that…”. I see lots of plausible speculation, not so many facts.

In fact, the arbitrariness of the constants is what drives so many atheists to embrace the multiverse concept, since the consensus in the cosmological community is that no grand theory is likely to be formulated which would show that the constants of our universe are necessary values.)

Again, do we know that they are arbitrary if we don’t know how they came to be? I’m willing to grant that you’re within your epistemic rights to entertain inferences to the best explanation that render them non-arbitrary, but I don’t see why I must grant you that they are otherwise known to be arbitrary.

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ayer December 14, 2009 at 7:40 pm

Fortuna: Again, do we know that they are arbitrary if we don’t know how they came to be?

I’m not a physicist or cosmologist; I can only go with what they (most of whom are atheists) say, which is that the constants could easily have been otherwise in the formulas they work with. See:

http://discovermagazine.com/2008/dec/10-sciences-alternative-to-an-intelligent-creator

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Fortuna December 15, 2009 at 10:56 am

Mmmmhmm, I get that. What I’m driving at is that there’s a distinction between being able to set the proverbial dials where you want them to go for the purposes of your calculations, and being certain that they were actually free to vary in the real world. The former doesn’t establish the latter.

I also object to Adler’s bluntly plowing ahead with phrases like “given the fact that…” when he is not referring to actual facts.

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Craig Duckett August 24, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Here is an excellent article discussing various issues with Supernaturalism (“Against the Supernatural as a Profound Idea”) that really should be read by all who consider a Supernatural realm/persona/dimension, etc

http://www.paul-almond.com/Supernatural.htm

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