Tag Archives: Quora

Quora Answers 9/7/20: The Kalam Cosmological “Argument”

Today I am answering the following Quora question on the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

Is there a flaw in the Kalam cosmological argument?

My Answer

I assume you mean the form of the argument made popular by William Lane Craig. Which takes this essential form:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause
  4. Therefore God must have created it.

Let me show why this does not work.

  1. Yes, whatever begins to exist generally does have a cause. Which is to say that it did not always exist and did not come about by magic.

    However, the universe is not a thing. The concept of the universe refers to the totality of everything that exists. Regardless of what exists, we can lump everything that exists under the concept “universe”.

    But does the universe have a cause? Well, yes the concept of the universe has a cause. The need to refer to the totality of existence.

    But does existence have a cause? No, it does not. Existence has always existed. No matter how far “back in time” you go, you will always find that something has existed.

    There is no alternative to existence. There is no point at which nothing existed. And if there was, there would be nothing to cause existence to come into being.

    Therefore since existence has always existed and there is nothing that could cause the universe to come into existence, existence cannot have a cause.
  2. Since the universe refers to everything in existence, for the universe to have a cause, existence would have to have a cause. But we have shown that existence has no cause.
  3. Therefore since the existence has no cause, the universe has no cause.

I could go on and point out the Kalam Cosmological Argument has many flaws.

Firstly, the first premise applies to God. If God exists, then God must have a cause. According to Christians, God began to exist therefore god had to have a cause.

So what caused God? And if something caused God, then that thing must have existed and something must have caused that to exist.

And so on you, have an infinite series of creators that must have created each other.

Why does God get to be an uncaused entity? Logically he could not be. And if something created God, is that creator more powerful than God. If so, then that more powerful entity must be created by a yet more powerful entity.

So you have an infinite series of increasingly more powerful God-creating Creator gods.

Which is clearly logically absurd.

God, Kalam Cosmological argument
Hey God, who created you? And who created that God? Or do you get to be an arbitrary exception. If only there was a name for that logical fallacy…

It also greatly diminishes the importance of God as the ultimate creator. Since he is merely the last in the line of an endless line of more powerful creator Gods.

Which means that God cannot be omnipotent. Why? Because there is now a long series of entities far more powerful than God is.

That or all the other gods are just as powerful and God is part of an endless series of gods of equal power than created each other. It is Gods all the way down.

Which rather diminishes the uniqueness of God.

Or, God gets to be the exception to logic and was able to magically create himself.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument is of course an example of the special pleading fallacy.

What is the special pleading fallacy? That is when you establish a principle such as “everything must have a cause” and then make arbitrary exceptions to that principle for no reason.

In other words, you make a claim and then make exceptions to it for no reason. Everything is meant to adhere to the principle except for the things which you make exceptions for.

This creates a double standard where your opponents are expected to adhere to your principles but you get to make exceptions without providing any reason for why your exceptions are valid.

If we are allowed to make God immune to logic, why bother with logic at all? Why not just assume that the universe is magic?

Or, more logically, that the Kalam Cosmological argument is invalid.

But of course, the fact that this is entirely illogical is not going to bother Creationists such as Craig. Since they are perfectly willing to use logic as long as does not apply to God or anything in the Bible.

Which is why it is pointless to argue with them. As they will never listen to logic or reason when it clashes with what they have accepted on faith. For no reason and against all reason.

It is therefore rather pointless to point any of this out to them. As once you have closed your mind to logic and reason, you have closed your mind to reality. And such people cannot be reasoned with. It would be rather a waste of time to try….

Quora Answers 8/7/2015: Random Events and Causality

Why do you believe that random things do not follow cause and effect?

Let us think about this a little more, shall we?

What do you think it means for something to be random?

Let us take the roll of a die. What do we mean when we say that the outcome is random?

Do we mean that the die does not follow cause and effect? No, of course not. At least, not if we are being rational.

We know that if we roll the die, that cause and effect is in play. The die does not move around according to some magical forces. It moves around due to a complicated chain of interactions with the air, the surface it is being rolled across and so forth.

We do not say that the die lands on, say, six, for no reason. No, there is a cause for it showing a six. But the series of events that caused that to happen is a complicated one and we have no way to predict the outcome.

Or, let us suppose that we are an insurer. We have no way to predict if a particular client is going to have a car accident. We acknowledge that if a customer does experience a car crash, there is a reason. There is some chain of cause and effect.

We know that the car crash has a cause. There was one or more event that logically led to the car crash.

Maybe the driver was distracted and he did not see the car coming towards him. Or maybe his brakes failed or whatever. But there is some causal link between one or more event and the car crash.

As an insurer, we do not know what will cause these car crashes in advance. But we can estimate how often on average our customers may crash their car. We may figure that, say, 1/100 customers will experience a car crash.

If we know a bit more about particular crashes, such as their past driving history, we may be able to estimate that that particular customer may have a 5/100 chance of having a car crash at some point.

What does this have to do with random events? Notice that when rolling the die or trying to estimate how often people crash cars, we are trying to estimate how often to expect certain results.

dice, random
Unpredictable little things, but they are not magic..

We have situations where it is hard to predict the results, but we do have mathematical methods of estimating how common certain outcomes might be.

When we say that something is random, we are saying that “We are unable to predict with certainty what outcome to expect. But we know it will be one of these known possible outcomes”.

In other words, randomness is an epistemological issue. Randomness simply indicates that are unable to be certain what the results are and can only guess what the outcomes might be and possibly how frequent certain outcomes might be.

But our inability to predict outcomes does not mean that there is no causality. Just because we cannot predict outcomes does not mean causality does not apply.

Something is random when we have no means of predicting the outcome with any certainty.

Now, in the statistical sense, something is random when we cannot predict out outcomes but we know that every possible outcome has an equal chance of occurring.

But we know that something is going to happen. But how does it happen? Is there any cause and effect? Yes. Just because we cannot predict what will happen does not mean that cause and effect does not apply.

Whatever outcome does occur is because something happens and the nature of the relevant entities means that that outcome had to happen. That is, cause and effect.

That is what causality refers to. That if these entities do this, then the natures of the entities mean that this other thing must happen. There is no alternative, the nature of the entities involved requires that outcome. There was no alternative.

Our inability to know what the outcome is in advance is not an argument against cause and effect.

This applies in the quantum world. There are no truly random events. Everything that happens in the quantum world is because that outcome is what had to happen when the quantum entities do whatever they are doing, there was no alternative.

Take two particles that interact and particle A causes particle B to fire off at that angle. That is what had to happen due to the nature of the two particles.

There is no sense in which there was another possible result.

What about the fact that in quantum mechanics things can lack definite properties?

That has never been established and never will be. To exist is to exist as an entity with a specific nature, there is no alternative. Nothing that exists has an undetermined nature or a contradictory nature.

Therefore this does not provide a rational objection to causality. Everything that exists has a specific nature and will do a certain thing under certain conditions. What it will do will depend on its specific nature.

There is no way around this. Everything will do what its nature requires it do and nothing else.

The fact that we cannot always predict what it will do is not an argument that it will not do that thing. It just means we can only guess what it will do and we should try to use probability to predict how often certain outcomes might occur.

You can find out more about that here.

You can check out the Quora question and some of the other answers here.

zero

Quora Answers 18/5/2020: Is Zero a Number?

Today we are starting a new series where I share some of my more interesting Quora answers. Today we are talking about nothing. Well, the concept of zero anyway.

How will this work? I will go through Quora every once in a while and answer questions. And make one of these posts if I have enough interesting worth sharing here.

How often will I do this? I am not sure yet. I will try do this at least a few times a week, trying to answer more than one question at a time.

Today I answered this question:

Question

Is it possible that Zero is just a space and not a number in mathematics?

My Answer

What do you mean by a “space”? Without knowing what you think this means, it is hard to say that it is or is not a space. But, it does not fit any definition of “space” that I am aware of.

Zero is a number. It is that number which you can add to any number and get that number. When other people here say zero has “additive identity”, that is what they are talking about.

Granted, it is a somewhat interesting number, at least compared to the natural numbers. The natural numbers are the whole numbers, but not zero (although some people will include zero as a natural number).

The natural numbers are easy to grasp. They refer to easily observable quantities of things.

For instance, you can grasp the concept of “one” by seeing a singular entity. Two is that unit there and that other one. Three is those two entities and that other one over there. And so forth.

Perceptually, zero is a lack of entities, it corresponds to the absence of something. It means that there are not any of the perceptual entities we are talking about.

But, it is still a number. In this very perceptual, low-level sense, it refers to a lack of the entities being counted.

Of course, numbers are not just used to count concrete objects. They are used to measure things. Zero is a number on the number line. Although, you can say a few interesting things about it.

It lays between the negative and positive numbers. When measuring things, it can indicate“no units” of this. And/or act as an intermediate value between “positive units of this” and “negative units”.

Time for some more abstract mathematics, although nothing overly complicated.

Zero times any number is zero. Any number plus or minus zero is that same number.

Division is a little more complicated. You cannot divide by zero. It is easy to see why if you think about “x divided by y” as “taking x and cutting it into y pieces”.

Imagine trying to cut a pie into zero pieces? What does that even mean?

What then, does it mean to take x and divide it into zero pieces? Um, nothing, this is a contradiction in terms, it makes no sense. This is why we say that dividing by zero is undefined, as it makes no sense to talk about trying to do this.

Another way to see this is to see m / n as trying to see how many times n goes into m.

So what then is 5 / zero? How many times does zero go into 5? Does this even make any sense? No. Not really. Zero does not go into any number any number of times. It makes no sense to ask “how many zeroes are in a number?”

The number zero is an incredibly useful concept in mathematics. There is a lot to say about nothing…

Below is a simplified version of the more technical answer. Feel free to skip this, since I think it is already clear why division by zero makes no sense.

We are going to use the * symbol for multiplication. It is what I am used to having being trained in computer science and I find it adds readability.

Suppose you have m * n = p. Let us suppose we have 5 * 3 = 15.

We can view multiplication as having a certain number and adding it together a certain number of times.

For instance, 5 * 3 is equivalent to 3 lots of 5 and adding all those together to get 15.

In general if you have m * n = p, then m * n is the same as:

Take m and add it together n times to get p.

So, suppose we have 5 * 3 = 15

But we want to figure out to get that 3. In other words, we want to figure out how many times to add 5 to itself to get 15.

So, division is the inverse operation of multiplication. We want to find out for m * n = p, what is the value of n?

In other words, n = p / m, in this case 15 / 5

for 5 * n = 15, we know it is 3.

What then is 15 / zero? Well, in this case, m = 0 and p = 15.

So, this is equivalent to:

zero * n = 15

But, that makes no sense there are no values for n for which zero * n = 15.

Look at this way, zero * n = p is like saying, how many times do you add zero together to get p, where p is not zero?

This makes no sense. Zero of anythings is always zero, not some other number.

It does not matter what your values of p or m, you have a similar problem, division by zero is equivalent to

zero * n = p, where p not equal to zero.

But that is a contradiction, as zero times anything is zero. Therefore, division by zero makes no sense.

What about zero * zero = zero? Well, how many times do you add zero to zero to get zero? That is meaningless. You cannot add zero to zero any number of times. So, we say that division by zero is always undefined.

If you liked this, you can find out more about mathematics here.

Math concepts.

Episode Fifteen – Quora Questions on Mathematics

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Today we are going to answer some Quora questions on the topic of mathematics.

Click here to download the PDF transcript. This episode’s transcript has no illustrations.

Episode Transcript

[Please note that this may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Introduction

Metaphysics of Physics is the much needed and crucial voice of reason in the philosophy of science, rarely found anywhere else in the world today. We are equipped with the fundamental principles of a rational philosophy that gives us the edge, may make us misfits in the mainstream sciences but also attracts rational minds to our community.

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science. We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

You can find all the episodes, transcripts, subscription options and more on the website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

Hi everyone! This is episode fifteen of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast and I am Ashna, your host and guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science. Thanks for tuning in!

Today we are going to answer some Quora questions on the topic of mathematics.

As some of you will already know, this episode comes out while Dwayne and I are on our honeymoon in sunny Australia, so of course, this episode was recorded and scheduled for release well in advance. We will be sure to share some photos when we return from our adventures!

Gold Coast beach
We might be here when you listen to this.

As you listen to this, we are now husband and wife philosophers. Pretty neat huh?

Anyway, back to the show! As there has been a lot of wedding related stuff going on, this will be a shorter episode as we did not have time for a lot of questions. I hope you enjoy the questions we answered in the time available.

But, without further ado, let us start with our Quora questions.

Is it possible that an alien civilization has completely different mathematics than ours? Is mathematics absolute?

First of all, what is mathematics?

Let us define it as the science of method whereby we establish quantitative relationships between things for the purpose of measurement.

This makes sense, right? A great deal of mathematics is dedicated to the measurement of physical attributes such as size, volume, etc.

But mathematics does not only measure physical attributes. It can also be used to quantify abstract concepts, such as probabilities. These do not directly refer to the physical attributes of entities, but nonetheless refer to some measurable aspect of reality.

If performed properly and if it is measuring the same quantities, mathematics should be objective and get equivalent results. The units of measurement may well be different, but once you account for these differences, the results should be the same.

Why? Because the facts of reality being measured are the same no matter what the units are or which alien civilization is performing the measurements. Assuming the same things are being measured.

mathematics
The symbols might differ, but aliens probably have many of the same core mathematical concepts.

Does that mean that the mathematical methods must be the same? Not necessarily.

As mathematics is a science of method, there may be multiple valid methods which can be used to establish quantitative relationships and arrive at valid measurements.

For instance, if you want to measure the volume of an irregular solid, you can potentially use a number of different methods in calculus to find the volume. Or, you can use something other than calculus, although the results may not be quite as accurate.

Any mathematical method is valid, as long as it gets sufficiently reliable results. And what qualifies as “sufficiently reliable” really depends on the context and how accurate the results need to be.

So, it is entirely possible that alien civilizations have some mathematical methods we do not know of, which work fine in the proper context.

So, is mathematics absolute? Well, yes. If performed properly, different methods should arrive at equivalent results based on the same facts of reality. Even if the mathematical methods may differ in their details.

Creator God

Episode Eight – Quora Questions on Creationism

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Today we go over some Quora questions on the universe and Creationism and answer a question from one of our listeners.

We have been asked how to download episodes so that they can be downloaded onto portable devices. Please see the post here which explains how this can be done.

Episode Transcript

[Please note that this may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]

Hi everyone! This is episode eight of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast.

I am Ashna, your host and guide through the hallowed halls of the philosophy of science. Thanks for tuning in!

With this show, we are fighting for a more rational world, mostly by looking through the lens of the philosophy of science.  We raise awareness of issues within the philosophy of science and present alternative and rational approaches.

You can find all the episodes, transcripts and subscription options on the website at metaphysicsofphysics.com.

Today we will be doing a Q&A episode revolving around the theme of the universe and creationism. These are questions we found looking around the Quora platform where Dwayne has an account if you wish to follow. We will also be answering a question submitted by one of our listeners.

Ok so let’s begin.

What would a non-mathematical universe look like?

It would, ignoring parts of Earth (and possibly other worlds with intelligent life) look much the same as it does now.

Mathematics is a science of method invented by people to help them measure things. Without it, we would lack the ability to do much science and we would know almost nothing about the world or our universe.

Pythagoras
Go away Pythagoras, nobody asked you about your mathematical universe.

Without it, we would know nothing about engineering and we would be unable to build most of the technology that we have.

But, other than the fact that the universe would lack all those things people built, it would be much the same.

Despite what many physicists believe, mathematics is not fundamental to the universe. It is just something people use to measure things in the universe.

Some people cannot understand the “unreasonable success” of mathematics.

Well, it is not unreasonable at all, it is entirely predictable and obvious, if you understand what mathematics is: a method of quantifying relationships and performing measurements!

If you know that, then why should it be surprising that mathematics is able to … quantify and measure the universe?

How or why did the creator create the universe?

Firstly, who said the universe was created? The universe is simply “all that exists”. It presupposes some kind of existence.

There is no explaining existence, an explanation would require something to already exist. Any explanation would presuppose something to exist.

A creator would suppose that something existed. At least himself. But are we meant to suppose that he is the only thing that existed way back in time? That he is some kind of omnipotent being?

Sorry, everything that exists has a nature.  But, to have a specific nature means that there are some things you can do and somethings that you cannot.  That therefore limits and logically excludes omnipotence. Or even the kind of power that allows one to create a universe.

How is having a creator that can create a universe any kind of logical explanation?

And more obviously, once you decide that the universe has to be created, you need to invent a creator. But, then you need to explain that creator. You need another creator and then another one and another one. It is creators all the way down.

I suppose one could assume that the creator just magically appeared out of nothing. But, if we are going to accept that, is it not simply easier to assume the universe appeared out of nothing?

But, neither the universe nor a creator can appear out of nowhere. If nothing existed, then there is nothing that can cause a creator or a universe to come to exist.

No. The only possibility we are really left with is that the universe always existed. Which is the same as saying that something has always existed.

No creator, sorry.

Creator God
Sorry God, you still are not needed.

How are atheists so adamant that there’s no “god”? Isn’t that just as naive as believing there is one?

No, there is nothing “naive” about requiring evidence to believe that something exists. And there is absolutely no evidence that God exists. Just a bunch of claims that never match observable reality and never stand up to a moment of rational thought.

Why should we believe that there is a God? I guess if we ignore logic and reality and just accept nonsensical claims of faith, then we could find a so-called “reason”. But, I am not willing to do those things.

But, it is worse than that, the very nature of God is just impossible. The laws of nature and logic make it clear that no such being could ever exist. By definition, any god is supernatural and thus outside the bounds of nature.

There is nothing at all naive about not finding any reason to believe God is possible and indeed finding a thousand reasons why he could not possibly exist.

Let me deal with one objection some of you might raise: Isn’t this trying to prove a negative? I thought you could not prove a negative…

That does not apply here. If someone makes a claim that contradicts rational metaphysics, the laws of physics or other known aspects of reality, then you most certainly can prove that it is false.

Simply show that if it was true, it would contradict reality. This establishes that it is false.

So, let’s try to prove that there are no gods.