Polytheistic Trinitarianism

(Text: “Debating an Atheist — Round Three“, Soli Deo Gloria, July 8, 2012)

My first order of business today has to be a correction. At the end of last week’s post, I said “…Pastor Feinstein is going to declare to us how this “necessary Person” also has to be a Trinity. Not a Quadrinity or a Quintinity, a Trinity.” I misspoke. Pastor Feinstein’s argument does not establish that his superstitiously-defined Necessary Being is necessarily a three-person deity. In fact, the terms of his argument lead much more directly to the conclusion that the Necessary Being is a race of deities composed of any number of divine persons, or in short, polytheism. Maybe that’s why Genesis 1:1, literally translated, says, “In the beginning, gods created the heavens and the earth.”

Let’s look first of all at Pastor Feinstein’s explanation of why he thinks God must be one being composed of many things. (Bear with me, it’s a longish paragraph.)

Furthermore, the fact that God is a Trinity is relevant too. This universe of many contingent objects is made of a plurality of atoms. In fact, the field of philosophy has struggled with the “one and many problem” for centuries. Is all reality one, or is it many? If all is one, then plurality is the illusion. I don’t truly exist, you don’t truly exist, but instead, only one thing exists (whether it is matter or something else). Yet, if all is many (plurality), then unity is the illusion, and instead the universe is nothing more than a whole bunch different objects completely unrelated to each other thus rendering all meaning as meaningless. Yet, if the universe is both one and many, then it is a unity of plurality. So I am one united person comprised of a plurality of atoms; the social world is one system comprised of plurality of people; the solar system is one system containing a star and plurality of planets; the galaxy is one galaxy containing a plurality of solar systems; and the universe is one universe made up of a plurality of galaxies. It seems clear that the way we think and live as intelligent sentient beings is under the assumption of both one and many. And yet the entire one and many arrangement of the universe is still contingent, and therefore it is caused, sustained, and determined. The transcendental precondition of all of this is a necessary being who is the foundation of one and many, or the foundation of a unity of plurality. Only the Christian position speaks of the God who is One God that is comprised of three persons. He is the original unity of plurality, just as He is the original person. We are all derivative unities of plurality and derivative persons. If you really think a magical tiara somehow is just as valid of an argument for the transcendental preconditions of the universe, then truly logic and reason is lost on you. Truly, you have traded rationality for absurdity.

We live in a world where bigger things are made up of smaller components. Molecules are bigger than atoms, and are composed of atoms. The atom is not the molecule, nor is the molecule any one atom; it is composed of atoms which combine to create the molecule. A person is made up of atoms and molecules, yet no one molecule or atom is the person; the atoms and molecules combine to make up the person. A race (as in “human race”) is made up of persons, no one of which is the race, etc. And so on.

This property of composition is one of the characteristics of material reality (the ultimate “necessary being”). The fact that things can be composed of other things is one of the types of order that material reality imposes upon real things. It’s also one of the preconditions upon which persons themselves are contingent. It should be obvious that no person can be the cause for this pattern of composition, since the person themselves would have to be composed of a mind and a memory and some kind of faculty for perception and a will and so on. The real source for this principle of composition is the nature of reality itself, uncaused, non-contingent, and unsustained by anything other than itself.

I say it should be obvious that no person is the cause for the property of composability. Sadly, superstition can make even obvious things obscure, as Pastor Feinstein demonstrates in his argument. Look again at this part:

It seems clear that the way we think and live as intelligent sentient beings is under the assumption of both one and many. And yet the entire one and many arrangement of the universe is still contingent, and therefore it is caused, sustained, and determined. The transcendental precondition of all of this is a necessary being who is the foundation of one and many, or the foundation of a unity of plurality. Only the Christian position speaks of the God who is One God that is comprised of three persons.

He’s so jazzed about finding something in the real world that he can compare to a Trinity, that he fails to notice that he has just defined God in a way that makes Him a contingent being. Look at what he is saying. It’s not just that the universe is contingent, it’s the one-and-many arrangement itself that is contingent. By saying that God must have the same arrangement, he is leading us to the conclusion that God Himself must be caused, sustained, and determined. Otherwise either He can’t have that arrangement, or else that arrangement is not contingent.

He wants to say that Creation is just reflecting the nature of its Creator, but he’s backed himself into a corner. The obvious way out is to appeal to the true origin for the property of composition: material reality itself. In order to say that God’s nature is composed of multiple persons without God being caused, sustained, or determined, we have to be able to say that composability is a property that is likewise not caused, sustained, or determined. That means that the compositions we see in the material world are derived, not from anything God has done, but from the nature of reality itself: real things are composable because reality itself says so. Trinity versus monotheism has nothing to do with it.

Pastor Feinstein also gets himself into trouble with this argument because persons are not composed of persons. A race (as in human race) is composed of persons, a family is composed of persons, and a company is composed of persons, but a person is not composed of persons. In making the superstitious argument that the Creator has to be a plurality of persons like the one-and-many compositions we see in the real world, the conclusion Pastor Feinstein is leading us to is that there must be a singular race of divine persons, whose character and intentions define the qualities of the visible universe. In other words, polytheism, not Trinitarianism.

Earlier in his third post, Pastor Feinstein promised (threatened?) that “by definition there cannot be more than one necessary being, but I will save any explanation of this for you if you should so choose to push the issue.” I assume he means to disqualify polytheism as an option, but the way he has framed his argument leaves him little room to maneuver. His argument for the Trinity is based on the way we see the one-and-many property manifested in the real world. If the argument “there cannot be more than one necessary being” means there cannot be more than one divine person, then the Trinity is disqualified due to being more than one person. If, on the other hand, multiple persons can be combined into some larger conglomerate, like, say, a godhead or a divine race, then a polytheistic divine race, as a singular necessary being, is no less logical than a Trinity.

In point of fact, though, the polytheistic divine race is far more consistent with the real-world one-and-many principle that Pastor Feinstein is appealing to, because it fits the one-and-many relationships we actually see. The Trinity does not. In the real world, when you have one thing composed of multiple components or elements, no one component is the whole thing, nor is the thing any one of the components. That corresponds exactly to the way humans compose the human race: no one human is the whole race, and the whole race is not any one human. Or substitute “god” and “divine race” for human and human race. It’s the same thing, an exact match.

Not so the Trinity. The Father is God, but God is not the Father, because the Son is also God, but the Son is not the Father. Yet they are one God. That’s not how the one-and-many principle works in real life. There’s a disconnect there that turns Pastor Feinstein’s argument on its head. He’s making the argument that the one-and-many pattern we see in the visible world must be a reflection of the nature of the necessary being, yet this pattern is explicitly not the pattern that defines the nature of the Trinity. A single, polytheistic race of gods would be a much better fit.

Of course, the best fit of all is to eliminate superstitious anthropomorphisms, and just acknowledge that composability is one of the forms of order that material reality itself imposes on the nature of real things. Composability isn’t something that some invisible, magical person thought up, because persons themselves cannot exist unless real things are composable. A person is composed of things like thought, perception, and will, that are not themselves complete persons, which is a circumstance that can’t arise unless the nature of reality is such that bigger things can be composed of smaller components.

Let’s close (for now) with this ironic tidbit:

We are all derivative unities of plurality and derivative persons. If you really think a magical tiara somehow is just as valid of an argument for the transcendental preconditions of the universe, then truly logic and reason is lost on you. Truly, you have traded rationality for absurdity.

What he means, of course, is that in his presuppositional script, he has the imaginary atheist trading rationality for absurdity, and grovelling in despair over how inexorably and irrefutably Pastor Feinstein has demonstrated that Christianity is the only possible truth. It’s no doubt an enjoyable fantasy for the believer, but I’m afraid it’s no more than that. A tiara is one tiara composed of many jewels and braided silver wires and so on, so even a magical tiara fits the real-world one-and-many pattern better than a Trinity does. Nor is it any great stretch of the imagination to attribute a mind and will and omniscient perception to a magical tiara, so if we’re going to be all superstitious about it, we can easily come up with a magic tiara who is responsible for creating us as “derivative unities of plurality and derivative persons.” The absurdity lies not in the choice of a tiara, but in the use of mere superstition as though it were a compelling philosophical argument. And that’s something Russell was doing hypothetically, to illustrate a point, but Pastor Feinstein really means it.

At this point in his third post, Pastor Feinstein introduces a new set of errors and false assumptions, so we’ll stop here and pick up again next week. Stay tuned.

42 Responses to “Polytheistic Trinitarianism”

  1. Owlmirror Says:

    A race (as in human race) is composed of persons, a family is composed of persons, and a company is composed of persons, but a person is not composed of persons.

    *cough*

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporation

    Despite not being actual human beings (‘Natural People’), corporations, as far as the law is concerned, as legal people have the same rights and responsibillities as natural people do.

  2. Owlmirror Says:

    Of course, that having been said, the law is often in the business of declaring X to be Y for legal purposes.

    ===

    It seems to me that a hierarchy of supernatural entities makes more sense. The universe operates in different ways at different scales; of course there should be different entities in charge of every different scale.

    This is hardly a new idea, of course. Originally, every nation had its god; every location had its genius loci; every object its anima. Under montheism, this was supposed to go away — but it was just rebranded and reintroduced with the concept of a hierarchy of angels taking the place of what were once called spirits or gods, and now people are claimed to even have a personal guardian angel.

    The more things change…

  3. Artor Says:

    I wish you had been able to find someone a little more sophisticated than Pastor Feinstein to deconstruct. I don’t have a black belt in philoso-fu, but I followed the “debate” as it unfolded, and I was embarrassed by Feinstein’s inability to follow a logical course. While I appreciate your analysis, it feels a little like kicking puppies. Feinstein is defenseless in the battle of wits; this series would be more powerful if you had a stronger opponent to discuss.

  4. Casey McCubbins Says:

    Hello,

    My name is Casey and I became a Born-Again Christian about 15 years ago at age 29. I dont know if you will allow me to talk about God on your site and I dont want to intrude if this is not the forum for such a thing. If I may, can I also add my input?

    I wont unless you give me permission.

    Sincerely,

    Casey

    • Owlmirror Says:

      me to talk about God

      Why are you talking about God instead of God talking about himself?

      • Casey McCubbins Says:

        Owl,

        What do you mean?

        Casey

      • Owlmirror Says:

        What do you mean?

        Well, one of the characteristics of people that exist is that they can speak for themselves. You want to talk about a invisible person with supernatural superpowers — but those powers would certainly include speaking for himself, if they, and he, actually existed.

        So if God existed, he should certainly be able to speak for himself.

        Hence my question.

      • Casey McCubbins Says:

        Owl,

        What if He has spoken? I mean if I give you reasonable evidences that God has spoken and can be believed, will you accept it on some level or just deny everything no matter what? The reason is, we can talk all day till the cows come home but in the end, one of us is right. I think you would agree with me that there is either, God that made everything and has always existed, or there is no such thing and we are all chance beings.

        The arguement that God should speak for Himself like all people was witness in the Old Testament of the Bible. For instance, God spoke directly to Moses and to Abraham directly and through a “burning bush” or “cloud”. He uses whatever means He desires.

        Casey

      • french engineer Says:

        “I think you would agree with me that there is either, God that made everything and has always existed, or there is no such thing and we are all chance beings.”

        That is a pretty limited choice you propose here, and you do nothing to demonstrate its validity. There are a lot of other options. Another God than yours, a first cause that was destroyed at the instant of creation (or at any moment since), a naturalistic “hyperverse” our universe is but a part of, that would be eternal…. So no, I don’t think I’d agree with you.

        Moreover, you’d do better to define “chance” beings. I often find this one used in a derogatory manner by theists, and Feinstein is doing it in the very series of posts that are being taken apart above.

        “The arguement that God should speak for Himself like all people was witness in the Old Testament of the Bible. For instance, God spoke directly to Moses and to Abraham directly and through a “burning bush” or “cloud”. He uses whatever means He desires.”

        So, several questions, then.
        - Why did God stop? Did He change His mind?
        - if you accept the witness of God talking directly to humans from the old testament, do you also accept the witness of God dictating the Coran to Mohammad? Do you also accept that Apollo spoke through the oracle of Delphi? The Wacko guy? If you don’t accept those, what criteria do you use to determine which happenstances of God or Gods talking to people are valid and which are not?
        - Which seems more likely, an entity that is able to break all known laws of physics, or a writer using metaphors and fiction?

      • Casey McCubbins Says:

        French,

        “I think you would agree with me that there is either, God that made everything and has always existed, or there is no such thing and we are all chance beings.”

        That is a pretty limited choice you propose here, and you do nothing to demonstrate its validity. There are a lot of other options. Another God than yours, a first cause that was destroyed at the instant of creation (or at any moment since), a naturalistic “hyperverse” our universe is but a part of, that would be eternal…. So no, I don’t think I’d agree with you.

        FRENCH- I believe in God and the Bible straight up and there is much evidence to why I believe it. I dont see evidence to any other “options”. Another God? Which one are you referring too? A “first cause”? Where is your proof of such a cause? A Naturalistic hyperverse? Again, I would love to hear how you could prove this.

        I believe in the Bible. I have read it and there are no contradictions yet it was written by over 30 people (2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” and again in Hebrews 1:1-2 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Jesus), whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”)

        I guess if I were you, I would want to know that the Bible were accurate. Did you know that the Bible wrote about Jesus before He came to earth? In Daniel, Isaiah and the Psalms (among others), they tell of how Jesus would come and how He would die in great detail, all of which, came true! That in itself should be enough for you to at least research what i am saying. The Bible was not written by anyone either, they were eyewitnesses – 2 Peter 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

        Did you also know that secular Historians (non Christ followers) wrote about Jesus as well? Jesus performed many miracles and the greatest of all was dieing on a cross and rising again 3 days later for you and me!

        How much more evidence do you want? How about this… there have been many archeological finds all which, prove the Bible to be accurate. In otherwards, there has not been any find or discovery from archeology that has disproven the bible. They found chariot wheels and horse skeleton remains in the Red Sea (Moses freeing the Israelites in Exodus). They found a coin with Josephs name on it from the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-46.

        I have more if you need it. My neighbor needs help so I must go. French, you have some good questions but dont take my word for it. Study it for yourself. In all of my debates, not one has taken the time to research what I am saying. I pray you are not like this but take the time to actually research them as I did. This is why coincidentally, I dont belief in anything else. I have studied many beliefs (including Evolution) and dont find much, if any evidence for any of them.

        I would like to know what you think however so let me know and yes, I am an Evangelist.

        Jesus loved you so much that He died for you!

        Casey
        PS- I may not be responding to any more requests tonight because I have a busy week ahead. I will try to but I it doesnt look promising. Hope you have a great week.

      • Owlmirror Says:

        What if He has spoken?

        Why are you trying to convince me of this, instead of God speaking for himself?

        I mean if I give you reasonable evidences that God has spoken and can be believed, will you accept it on some level or just deny everything no matter what?

        Why are you giving me evidence of something that maybe happened in the past, instead of God speaking now for himself?

        I think you would agree with me that there is either, God that made everything and has always existed, or there is no such thing and we are all chance beings.

        This is what’s called the fallacy of false dichotomy, as french engineer implies. The set of logical possibilities is larger than you offer. So, no, I don’t agree.

        What do you think “chance beings” means?

        The arguement that God should speak for Himself like all people was witness in the Old Testament of the Bible.

        So people say. But that isn’t God speaking for himself; it’s a story, told by people who aren’t God, about God speaking for himself. Not quite the same thing.

      • Naked Bunny with a Whip Says:

        Why are you talking about God instead of God talking about himself?

        Gossiping?

      • Owlmirror Says:

        I believe in God and the Bible straight up and there is much evidence to why I believe it.

        But none of that alleged evidence is actually God.

        I dont see evidence to any other “options”.

        Anymore than anyone sees God.

        Another God? Which one are you referring too?

        Open a book of mythology.

        I believe in the Bible. I have read it and there are no contradictions

        There are indeed contradictions, and even if there were not, that’s still not God speaking for himself.

        Your bible quotations are not convincing. Some human wrote those arrogant boasts. They are not God speaking for himself.

        I guess if I were you, I would want to know that the Bible were accurate.

        Since I have read the bible, I know that the bible is inaccurate in many places.

        Did you know that the Bible wrote about Jesus before He came to earth?

        No, it didn’t. Later readers cherry-picked vague verses, and claimed that they were about a supposed foretold person. But when you read the verses in context, you can see that Jesus and his life don’t really match what they say.

        The Bible was not written by anyone either, they were eyewitnesses

        Lovely. Again the bible makes an arrogant boast. But an arrogant boast by men is not God speaking for himself.

        - 2 Peter 1:16

        2 Peter is a fake letter (pseudoepigraph).

        The second epistle of Peter is very poorly attested by early Christian writers. No one earlier than Origen seems to have made use of it, and he expressed doubts about its acceptability. (Eusebius placed it among the ‘antilegomena’ and said that according to tradition — that of the Church in the East — it was not canonical.) Didymus of Alexandria (d. 399) wrote that it was a forgery (PG 39, 1774A). (source)

        Did you also know that secular Historians (non Christ followers) wrote about Jesus as well?

        No, they did not. They wrote about Christians; followers of Jesus, not Jesus himself.

        How much more evidence do you want?

        Nothing you cite is God speaking for himself.

        [breaking this here -- to be continued]

      • Owlmirror Says:

        there have been many archeological finds all which, prove the Bible to be accurate.

        You mean “inaccurate”.

        In otherwards, there has not been any find or discovery from archeology that has disproven the bible.

        Most of the bible has been disproven by archaeology.

        http://ebonmusings.org/atheism/otarch.html

        They found chariot wheels and horse skeleton remains in the Red Sea

        Ron Wyatt, the source of this claim, was a fraud.

        They found a coin with Josephs name on it from the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-46.

        This, too, appears to be a fraud. Amusingly enough, it was originally reported to support the Koran, not the bible.

      • french engineer Says:

        “FRENCH- I believe in God and the Bible straight up and there is much evidence to why I believe it. I dont see evidence to any other “options”. Another God? Which one are you referring too? A “first cause”? Where is your proof of such a cause? A Naturalistic hyperverse? Again, I would love to hear how you could prove this.”

        I was citing these examples to show you that your dichotomy “My God or no God” was a false dichotomy. It’s not one or the other, there’s a lot of other possibilities.

        “I believe in the Bible.”
        That is nice. It does not bring one iota of evidence to the table, and it is not informative at all, since I bet I can find people who claim to believe in the Bible too, that would disagree with you on the nature of God. Faith or Works is a well known example. Even the Muslims believe the Bible, they just believe the Koran is the newest version, just like you believe the new testament is canon while the Jews do not. Statements of belief are useless here.

        ” I have read it and there are no contradictions yet it was written by over 30 people (2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” and again in Hebrews 1:1-2 “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son (Jesus), whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.”)”

        OK, here’s a little rule : I’m an atheist. Quoting the bible at me does not bring any proof. I have no reason to believe the Bible is inerrant. To me it is a work of fiction like the Lord of the Rings, with maybe references to real places or events. Quoting me bible verse that tell me that the Bible is inerrant actually weakens your position. Because right now, when I point you to http://www.project-reason.org/bibleContra_big.pdf, you have not only to explain all the contradictions pointed out there away, you also have to explain why an omniscient being would let so many apparent contradictions in his magnum opus.

        “I guess if I were you, I would want to know that the Bible were accurate. Did you know that the Bible wrote about Jesus before He came to earth?”

        References please. If you want me to examine evidence, don’t allude to its existence. Present the evidence.

        ” In Daniel, Isaiah and the Psalms (among others), they tell of how Jesus would come and how He would die in great detail, all of which, came true! That in itself should be enough for you to at least research what i am saying.”

        And the Bible was later edited, and contradicting books were called non-canon. Easy to have predictions met in your work of fiction. For example, in “the wheel of time”, the heroes fulfill in book 12 the prophecies from book 1, even though the first author had died so the books 1 and 10 were not written by the same author.

        (reference : wikipedia says “A four gospel canon (the Tetramorph) was first asserted by Irenaeus, c. 180.[3] The many other gospels that then existed were eventually deemed non-canonical (see Biblical canon) and suppressed. In his Easter letter of 367, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, gave a list of exactly the same books as what would become the New Testament canon,[4] and he used the phrase “being canonized” (kanonizomena) in regards to them.[5] The Council of Rome in 382 under the authority of Pope Damasus I issued an identical canon,[4] and his decision to commission the Latin Vulgate edition of the Bible, c. 383, was instrumental in the fixation of the canon in the West.[6] See Development of the New Testament canon for details.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bible_and_history)

        ” The Bible was not written by anyone either, they were eyewitnesses – 2 Peter 1:16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”
        The Bible was not put to paper for several decades (see above). Moreover, eyewitnesses lie too. Not evidence for God, evidence for authors.

        “Did you also know that secular Historians (non Christ followers) wrote about Jesus as well?”

        References please. Again, if you want me to examine evidence, present it.

        ” Jesus performed many miracles and the greatest of all was dieing on a cross and rising again 3 days later for you and me!”

        Hercules did his 12 works and rose from the land of the dead too. Osiris rose from the dead (being torn apart, actually). Mithra rose from the dead. Mohammad went to heaven on a winged horse (before witnesses). Odin crucified himself (for three days, too) in order to acquire wisdom. Talk of miracles are not more convincing just because they are attributed to the deity you happen to believe in.

        “How much more evidence do you want? How about this… there have been many archeological finds all which, prove the Bible to be accurate. In otherwards, there has not been any find or discovery from archeology that has disproven the bible. ”

        Chicago exists. Does this prove the existence of Harry Dresden, Wizard/private investigator living there? Of course not.

        “They found chariot wheels and horse skeleton remains in the Red Sea (Moses freeing the Israelites in Exodus). They found a coin with Josephs name on it from the story of Joseph in Genesis 37-46.” References please

        “I have more if you need it. My neighbor needs help so I must go. French, you have some good questions but dont take my word for it. Study it for yourself. In all of my debates, not one has taken the time to research what I am saying. I pray you are not like this but take the time to actually research them as I did. This is why coincidentally, I dont belief in anything else. I have studied many beliefs (including Evolution) and dont find much, if any evidence for any of them.”

        We don’t have to do the research. You are the one claiming to have evidence. You are the one who has to present it. If it is as solid as you say, it should not be difficult. I don’t need more evidence alluded to, I need you to actually provide the evidence you already referred to.

        “I would like to know what you think however so let me know and yes, I am an Evangelist.

        OK, so some thoughts then.

        You started with the first common mistake – you consider your religion as exceptional. You believe you just have to bring arguments for your beliefs, that your belief itself lends credence to your opinions, in other words that you should be treated as exceptional because you are Christian. It does not work that way. If your religion had a special magical power that converted people with that little effort on your part, there would be one religion left on the globe only. Not only do you have to prove the existence of a God, you have to prove why yours is the one that exists, and that wold mean refuting all the others. I’m a rationalist. I believe in the things I have seen sufficient evidence for. Of course, my opinions are subject to change when new evidence is brought forward, but I have not sen any convincing evidence for the god of the bible presented here.

        “Jesus loved you so much that He died for you!”

        I know you believe this, honey, but you’re not helping your case here.

    • french engineer Says:

      Casey, I’m not the owner (I’m more of a newcomer myself, attracted by this thread, having followed the original exchange in real time) but I have seen no evidence of comments being moderated here, so you’re probably good to go (again, not the owner, just a fellow commenter).

      However, be warned : if you came here to evangelize, you’d better bring your a-game, because I do not see this audience accepting arguments without first taking them apart and putting them back together. this very series of posts is about deconstructing the arguments from a professional apologist, and showing how flawed they are.

      That said, contrary opinions are always interesting to think on.

      • Casey McCubbins Says:

        French Engineer,

        I will wait just to make sure. I appreciate your input however. I am not trained in debating. I became a Christian and moved by a Christian Biology Professor at the University of Denver. I no longer live by him but he went to other colleges in the area and debated often and explained to me the facts and what can be seen and proven to what can only be theorized. I dont have a lot of time either but thought I would shed some light if at all possible.

        Thanks again and hope to talk soon maybe?

        Casey

      • french engineer Says:

        If you’d prefer a series of mails, I’m sure we can arrange something. Might be fun

    • Naked Bunny with a Whip Says:

      I gotta tell you, Casey. If a stranger sent me an email telling me that they heard that another stranger had been talking to my mom about me, I still wouldn’t believe what he told me my mom said. (And that’s knowing my mom exists, having met her personally and all.)

    • Deacon Duncan Says:

      Hi Casey and welcome. We talk about God all the time here, and you are certainly welcome to participate. My goal here is to provide interesting reading for my readers, and a bit of honest debate is always interesting. I don’t ban people, though I have been known to put people on a moderation list if their comments turn into obvious trolling. And even that’s a pretty short list of people.

      This is my once-a-week blog, by the way. My daily blog is at http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/alethianworldview/ if you’re interested.

      • Anonymous Says:

        Deacon Duncan – Thanks, I appreciate it. There are a lot of interesting topics you are addressing. My time is limited and I will be in and out for the most part but I look forward to it.

        Sincerely,

        Casey

  5. David Evans Says:

    ” real things are composable because reality itself says so.”

    I’m sorry, that (along with similar things you say elsewhere) seems to me to be simply a tautology: real things are composable because real things are composable. It offers no explanation.

    Compare: real things are made of quarks (among other things) because reality itself is made of quarks (among other things). Does that explain anything? I think not.

    You regard “reality” as non-contingent, but I can’t see why. If all the contingent things ceased to exist, would “reality” still exist? Would it still include a principle of composability?

    • Owlmirror Says:

      I’m sorry, that (along with similar things you say elsewhere) seems to me to be simply a tautology: real things are composable because real things are composable.

      What’s wrong with it being a tautology?

      That real things are composable is a falsifiable conclusion from what we see when we study reality: things can be decomposed; therefore, reality is composable.

      If reality were not composable, reality would only contain one unique uniform essence, or a collection of things that did not interact with each other at all, or nothing at all (literally).

      You regard “reality” as non-contingent, but I can’t see why.

      If reality is contingent, what could it possibly be contingent on? Unreality?

      If all the contingent things ceased to exist, would “reality” still exist?

      Well, since you’ve wished away everything, it would be a different reality; one with nothing else contingent upon it.

      You’re basically asking that if only the basis of all contingent existence existed, would that basis of all contingent existence exist? Which answers itself.

      Would it still include a principle of composability?

      No — because you’ve counterfactually posited a reality where there’s nothing to compose.

      • David Evans Says:

        I think what I’m trying to say is that “reality” is simply a synonym for “what exists”. Therefore “reality” has only the same qualities as whatever exists. It has no independent existence, and therefore cannot be the cause of anything that exists, nor can it impose any order on what exists.

        It is of course true that real things are composable. But that’s a contingent truth – it might have been different. According to some models of physics it may cease to be true in the far future, when all the elementary particles have decayed.

      • Deacon Duncan Says:

        I think this is where you and I disagree, because I think reality is more than just the sum of all real things. It has to be, because how do you distinguish “all real things” from things that are not real? The criteria have to reside in the set itself, above and beyond the lesser things that the set may or may not contain. An empty set is still a set, so even if reality were “the (empty) set of all real things,” it would still be an entity with properties that define which objects are or are not legitimate members of the set.

        There’s a chicken-and-egg problem involved in saying that reality has only the same qualities as whatever exists, because how then do you decide whether or not reality has magical qualities? You can say it does not, because magic isn’t real, but that’s circular reasoning: you’re assuming that magic isn’t part of the definition of reality in order to apply this definition of reality in order to say that magic isn’t real. You could just as easily (and arbitrarily) decide to include magic in your list of all things that are real, and then reality would have magical qualities—reality has only the same qualities as whatever exists, so if you decide magic exists, then reality by definition would be magical. In the absence of some additional, independent entity that defines where the lines are between “real” and “not real,” you have no choice but to resort to such circular and arbitrary reasoning. This additional, independent entity, above and beyond individual objects which may or may not be real, is the reality I’m referring to.

      • phasespace Says:

        David,

        What does it mean to say that reality has no independent existence? I think that statement verges on incoherence. Essentially what you seem to be saying is that you have different definition of what “reality” (or the nature of reality is), but you’re not providing your definition. In that light, I can’t make head or tail of what you are trying to say.

        Basically, it seems that you are uncomfortable with the notion that reality is just a brute fact. I am too, sort of. However, I know enough physics to recognize that the general metaphysical conundrum isn’t nearly as problematic as you may think. The upshot is that while it may be the case that we can’t explain the specifics of reality as we experience it, that reality is what we see isn’t really a problem… and the latter seems to be what you are quibbling about.

    • Naked Bunny with a Whip Says:

      Once again, David, you attempt to poke a hole in Duncan’s argument by asking if his conclusion would be valid in a universe unlike our own. Weak.

      • David Evans Says:

        I disagree. I’m challenging Duncan’s view that “reality” imposes certain properties on what can exist. To do that I have to argue that a universe without those properties is possible. Of course it wouldn’t be our present universe.

        Let me add that I find this argument very frustrating because I think that in his argument with Feinstein, Duncan is definitely right, and that he could win the argument without giving “reality” the strange properties that he does. I suspect that he is influenced by Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, possibly via George H. Smith’s “Atheism: The Case Against God”. I had similar problems with that book.

  6. David Tyler Says:

    Thank you for the deconstruction. While religion has only superstition, unsupported assertions, and poorly defined terms going for it, it can be very confusing to try to unravel all the fallacies. Apologists have turned obfuscation into an art form. In the end the Emperor has no clothes, but with all the smoke that can be hard to see.

  7. Naked Bunny with a Whip Says:

    Does that explain anything? I think not.

    So?

    The belief that everything has to have an explanation — i.e. a cause, a reason — is how we get superstition in the first place.

    • Casey McCubbins Says:

      Naked Bunny,

      If I may, are you saying there is something that has not had a “cause”? Give me some examples of things that…just happened and it is reasonable to you.

      I am new and am not familiar with what your arguements have been so you dont need to answer this if you do not want to.

      Casey

      • phasespace Says:

        Casey,

        Quantum physics is full of instances of things happening without a cause. Nuclear decay is perhaps the one that is cited most often but there are others.

    • french engineer Says:

      I disagree, Bunny (can I call you bunny?)

      It’s not the belief that everything must have a cause. It’s the willingness to leap to instant supernatural explanations, rather than waiting for true explanations, that is the cause of superstitions.

      “Why to we have lightning?”
      “bored Zeus”
      “friction in the atoms of water that compose the clouds creates an electric charge that grounds iteslf violently through the ionisation of the air between the cloud and the ground”

      • cafeeine Says:

        IN a sense, it is the desire to not leave things unexplained. A natural explanation is always open-ended, as it is at base a description of the mechanisms of reality, and better and more detailed descriptions are always coming along.
        The superstitious explanation removes the need for all that by nominating a vague entity that a) is the final explanation by definition b) has inscrutable motivations that can be appealed to both to justify incongruities and to encourage the acceptance of ‘mysteries’ as a valid investigation stopper.
        This has the same effect a parental “Because I said so” has to a series’ of a child”s “why”s. It stops inquiry by enforcing authority, and once claims of authority become acceptable explanations, the world seems a lot simpler and easier to understand: There’s the stuff you are meant to understand, and the stuff that you are not, and cannot understand, so why worry about them?

      • Naked Bunny with a Whip Says:

        Sure. Most people call me Bunny.

        I see what you’re saying. But why did the lightning hit Bob? He was such a nice guy. There must be a reason.

        People want simple, pat answers to what goes on around them. They think that there are and should be simple answers. I think that’s why they’re so eager to jump to the supernatural explanation. It’s also why David Evans and Casey McCubbins up there immediately get their back-hairs up over the idea that maybe some things just are because they are.

      • french engineer Says:

        Well, lightning hit Bob because he was on the path of least resistance for the charge.

        I think we basically agree – superstition comes from people wanting answers “now” rather than waiting for answers that are true

  8. pboyfloyd Says:

    “I dont know if you will allow me to talk about God..”
    Casey is preaching to us. Why don’t you read Deacon Duncan’s stuff, Casey?
    It’s actually really good.

    • Anonymous Says:

      pboyfloyd – I am playing some major catchup and I guess will start with you. I will surely try to read some of his articles and have started some tonight. I may preach to you yes, but it should not be without reason.

      Any article you think I should start with?

  9. keithnoback Says:

    Your last two posts are outstanding illustrations of the problems with the contingency argument for those who seek to use it to support supernatural agency.
    Just as the rhetorical question asked above implies, “If all the contingent things ceased to exist, would “reality” still exist?”. Indeed, and so god would no longer be “necessary”, unless we are willing to say that the existence of the contingent objects is only apparent, or we are willing to say that god defies our understanding of causal relations. In either case then, why bother with the contingency argument, or any argument for that matter?
    Great posts, thanks much.


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