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Thread: KCA and choice

  1. #1
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    Lightbulb KCA and choice

    In this thread I intend to address a particular branch of apologetic extension of the KCA.

    During my many interactions with theist apologists I have often come across a curious version of the Kalam Cosmological Argument.


    Essentially the argument in its simplest form looks like this:


    1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.

    2. The universe has begun to exist.

    3. Therefore the universe has a cause.


    There are problems with the first and second premises but I will not go into them here. Rather I want to focus on something else. So, for our purposes, let is grant the above argument and (again just for our purposes) agree that there's a cause of the universe. We can call it UC (Universe's Cause).


    The obvious problem is that this doesn't prove a god. It only proves a cause of the universe. There's no proof here that UC is self-aware, intelligent or personal.


    This is where it gets curious. The theist extension of the above argument often goes like this:


    4. A backward infinity in time is logically impossible (ie time must have had a beginning)


    5. Therefore the event causing the Universe to exist (often referring to the trigger of the Big Bang) must have been non-temporal.


    6. The only conceivable non-temporal event is a CHOICE.


    7. Therefore UC made a choice.


    8. Therefore UC must have free will and be personal.


    9. Hence, UC is God.


    There are problems at many of the above steps but my issue here is with step 6. The apologists declare by fiat that the only conceivable non-temporal event is a choice.


    What leads them to consider a non-temporal event is their rejection of infinite regression. The triggering event had to have no cause itself as otherwise there would be an infinite number of backwards causes and if that were the case we would never get to THIS point in time (current point; today). That's because, the argument goes, there would be an infinite number of preceding points, placing us at the end of infinity which is impossible.


    Of course the above reasoning takes a shortcut. UC may have itself had a cause and may have been preceded by a sequence of 100000 causes that all follow a First Cause (the one and only UNCAUSED cause). But this shortcut is not the problem with the argument as, even if we avoid the shortcut (as I just did), we do end up with a First Cause. The apologist can turn around and call THAT cause "god".


    Whether the First Cause is in fact the one that caused the universe immediately is not important. If we are to avoid infinite regression, we still have to end up with an Uncaused Cause, no matter how far it is causally removed from the Big Bang.


    Thus the correct theist contention must be "the First Cause must have exercised a choice as there's no other conceivable uncaused action, except for a free-will-choice".


    Let us consider this proposition.



    A. Choice in the traditional sense


    Choices, as we know them, don't appear out of nowhere. They are not uncaused and they are not non-temporal. They follow deliberations. There's input (emotions, data), there's processing (consideration of consequences, options, competing interests and emotions) and there's the final result; a choice, a decision.


    If FC (First Cause) is said to make a choice in the sense that we know it (as in the above paragraph), then each step in that process must be preceded by another step. It's a causative sequence of events; each one leading to the next. This takes us back to infinite regression, unless the apologist can identify a first-ever event in the process.


    Short breather to handle an anticipated objection


    Note that it doesn't matter if we call this infinite regression "non-temporal". I say this because apologists are likely to pose that objection at this point. If the Law of Causality applies then we need a sequence of causes and effects. Each cause precedes its effect in SOME SENSE. Otherwise, there would be no telling between Effect "follows" (arises from) Cause and Cause follows (arises from) Effect. And if that were the case, we can't say the Law of Causality applies in the first place. In this sense, it must be possible to trace back Effects and their Causes to a first (sequentially, not temporally) Cause. Failing that, we are trapped in infinite regression (albeit in the causal and not in the temporal sense). Trying to escape that trap by saying "but all these Cause-Effects happen at the same instant as they're not temporal") might resolve that problem.


    However, in that case the Choice Argument fails.


    Once it's proposed that a reality can exist with an infinite sequence of Cause-Effects but in a non-temporal order, "choice" is no an attractive option even on the apologist's argument. For the claim would now amount to "Even though a non-temporal sequence of infinite Cause-Effects is possible, the creation of the Universe could only happen by choice". Such a statement of course makes no sense and, without its own support, would fail.


    It amounts to saying that a non-temporal infinite sequence of events have lead to the choice. In these circumstances, there's no merit in saying "choice is the only conceivable option". Once an infinite number of Cause-Effects has been involved, the "Infinity+1st event" might simply be a mechanical effect of its own cause.


    So, infinite number of steps in God's decision to make the Universe is out and there must be a first-ever step in this process.



    Back to the argument


    But how can there be a first-ever event in the process? What this would entail is a dormant entity (FC) who does absolutely nothing and then out of the blue, embarks on an uncaused process of deliberation. And what triggers THIS event? Apparently nothing. It's a random, uncaused event. But if we agree that the choice process was triggered by a random, uncaused event, what's the relevance of CHOICE in the process at all? How do we exclude the Big Bang itself being caused a random uncaused event (BBCE - Big Bang causing event)? Or how do we exclude some other event that CAUSED BBCE and itself was a random, uncaused event? Or how do we exclude a longer sequence of causes and effects all beginning with a random, uncaused event but NOT involving a choice? We can't exclude any of these propositions. And all of them are more economical (ie involve less unnecessary assumptions) than a random uncaused event in the so-far-dormant mind of a pre-existing self-aware entity. This makes God redundant.



    B. A special kind of choice - no processes


    What if the choice to create the Universe (or to cause the Big Bang as the case may be) was itself a special kind of choice? One that, unlike all the choices we have ever observed, is uncaused and is not preceded by deliberations/considerations/inputs?


    Such a "choice" is so unlike any choices we know of, that it's difficult to even call it a choice.


    But the problem gets worse. This event is itself random and uncaused. And again, once we propose a random and uncaused "choice", it would be more economical to consider a random uncaused trigger that does NOT involve a heretofore dormant and yet omniscient self-aware entity. Once again, God is redundant.



    C. What if making that uncaused choice was in God's special nature?


    Of course, that is special pleading.


    And of course, the same question arises. What caused God to have in his nature the inexplicable tendency to make this sudden choice to create the universe (or trigger the Big Bang as the case may be)?


    Of course the theist will answer that god's nature is uncaused. But if we are prepared to propose a special entity that has an uncaused nature leading it to make this sudden "choice" to create the Universe, it would be more economical to propose a non-sentient First Cause in whose inexplicable and uncaused nature it is to trigger the generation of the Universe.


    In short, consider the two propositions:


    1. An entity in whose nature it is to suddenly create the universe. We don't know how.


    2. An entity in whose nature it is to suddenly make a conscious decision to create the universe AND who is self-aware, personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, capable of emotions and of will. We don't know how.


    Both propositions are sufficient for a First Cause. But the second proposition is MORE than sufficient. It contains a number of unnecessary attributes. It is therefore erroneous to propose it.


    Occam's Razor shaves God away.
    "I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world" - Richard Dawkins

    "If you could rationalize with Religious people there would be no more Religious people" -Gregory House

  2. #2
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    Re: KCA and choice

    I often find this notion of choice presupposes notions of free will and the idea that intelligence = the ability to create uncased events.

    I find there is little evidence to support such notions and that choice is really a matter of causation and a product of uncertainty rather than free will. Choice and reason require sequential information and take into account the idea of action and reaction. You would never make a choice if there were no outcome and all outcome presumes sequence of action and reaction. Reasoning as we do it and understand it is temporal, aka sequential.

    To claim a choice could be a non-temporal action to me seems to be at odds with the very nature of what a choice is. It's like a squared circle.

    I don't think most believers in God can really accept that God is not like them. For God to be timeless it would have to operate wholly unlike humans do and not "think" or "reason" in the way we do. A non temporal being beyond causation is utterly unlike anything remotely human. While believers are happy to say that god's full nature is beyond our understanding, they often seem to insist that they however understand that he has will and thoughts like we do.
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  3. #3
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    Re: KCA and choice

    An interesting argument but isn't making a decision incompatible with being timeless in the first place? If something is timeless, it never changes, so how is it possible to have the two temporal states of before the choice and after the choice?

  4. #4
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    Re: KCA and choice

    Quote Originally Posted by ALLO
    There are problems at many of the above steps but my issue here is with step 6. The apologists declare by fiat that the only conceivable non-temporal event is a choice.
    I'm not sure this is how the argument goes. Do you have a source?

    The argument as I understand it is addressing "Mechanical" and "Mind" based causes.

    Quote Originally Posted by ALLO
    Choices, as we know them, don't appear out of nowhere. They are not uncaused and they are not non-temporal.
    The choice being addressed is one that has it's ultimate cause of a "mind".

    Quote Originally Posted by ALLO
    If FC (First Cause) is said to make a choice in the sense that we know it (as in the above paragraph), then each step in that process must be preceded by another step. It's a causative sequence of events; each one leading to the next. This takes us back to infinite regression, unless the apologist can identify a first-ever event in the process.
    Easy.. the first event is the existence of the "MIND" that causes the choices.


    Long story short, I think you may have set up a very complicated straw-man.

    Quote Originally Posted by ALLO
    But how can there be a first-ever event in the process? What this would entail is a dormant entity (FC) who does absolutely nothing and then out of the blue, embarks on an uncaused process of deliberation
    Actually .. no.
    The entity could have any number of other thoughts and actions, they would be unrelated
    (or non-cuasitive) of the decision to bang a whole world (.. that didn't come out right).


    Quote Originally Posted by ALLO
    But if we agree that the choice process was triggered by a random, uncaused event, what's the relevance of CHOICE in the process at all?
    The relevance is in the part of the argument you did not include, which is the comparison of Mechanical causes, vs the mind causes.
    A mind is the only kind of cause that CAN be dormant and then suddenly make it's effect.
    Mechanically speaking as long as the cause exists, so does the effect, especially in a non-temporal state.

    Quote Originally Posted by ALLO
    C. What if making that uncaused choice was in God's special nature?


    Of course, that is special pleading.
    See above Mechanical vs Mind.
    It is a conclusion given the attributes of a mind one of which is to cause choices.

    That you suppose a nonphysical mind would act like ours (as you and others suppose as mechanical) is to not understand the objection.



    Conclusion.
    Source of this version of the argument.
    Note on Mechanical Vs Mind Causes.
    Note on possible straw-man.
    To serve man.

  5. #5
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    Re: KCA and choice

    Allo, I'm working up a reply and should have it up this week. Sorry for the delay.


    Quote Originally Posted by JimJones8934 View Post
    If something is timeless, it never changes,
    This is incorrect, change simply means that something has two different states along some continuum. For example. The value of y in: y=x+v changes with respect to x, but that doesn't mean that y is temporal.
    "Suffering lies not with inequality, but with dependence." -Voltaire
    "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.” -G.K. Chesterton
    Also, if you think I've overlooked your post please shoot me a PM, I'm not intentionally ignoring you.


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    Re: KCA and choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    This is incorrect, change simply means that something has two different states along some continuum. For example. The value of y in: y=x+v changes with respect to x, but that doesn't mean that y is temporal.
    But X is the value changing in your example. Y changes as a result of X. The change in X is what you would need to address. If X is a number and changes from 1 to 2 then mustn't there be a moment when it is 1 and a moment when it is 2 that are distinct from one another and doesn't that sequencing mean that the change state is temporal? Or do you maintain that X can be both 1 and 2 contemporaneously? Wouldn't that violate the law of identity? Otherwise you have the vaunted squared circles. It is both a circle and a square because it has a non temporal state change implicit in its identity.
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    Re: KCA and choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Squatch347 View Post
    This is incorrect, change simply means that something has two different states along some continuum. For example. The value of y in: y=x+v changes with respect to x, but that doesn't mean that y is temporal.

    God would still have had a state A, before a decision (of which he has made many), that corresponding to a point in time on Earth. Then there would have had to have been post-decision, which would have corresponded to another point in time, which we would call B. Between A and B, some time must have passed so therefore, God could not be timeless. Plus, he would have had to have waited for certain circumstances on Earth, so he must have been following what was going on - again, he would have to be a temporal being in order to experience it.

    In addition, since he has interacted with humans, and has an aspect that is also human, then surely, that makes him temporal.

  8. #8
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    Re: KCA and choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Allo
    4. A backward infinity in time is logically impossible (ie time must have had a beginning)


    5. Therefore the event causing the Universe to exist (often referring to the trigger of the Big Bang) must have been non-temporal.
    Hmm, I’m not sure I’ve heard an apologist make this particular argument. Usually, the fact that the cause must not be present in the effect is offered as a reason to argue that he cause must be timeless (ie outside of the temporal dimension of our universe) in order to be considered a cause.


    Quote Originally Posted by Allo
    6. The only conceivable non-temporal event is a CHOICE.



    What leads them to consider a non-temporal event is their rejection of infinite regression. The triggering event had to have no cause itself as otherwise there would be an infinite number of backwards causes and if that were the case we would never get to THIS point in time (current point; today). That's because, the argument goes, there would be an infinite number of preceding points, placing us at the end of infinity which is impossible.
    Again, I’m not sure I’ve heard this argument from an apologist (and it is obviously an area with which I’m familiar). Usually the argument isn’t offered via fiat, but something like:
    The range of possible cause and effect relationships include: Mechanical (Deterministic), Probabilistic, Free-Will or Intent based.

    Mechanical and Probabilistic are insufficient to explain the observed universe (for reasons defended elsewhere), therefore an Intentional relationship is the best explanation for the observed universe.





    Quote Originally Posted by Allo
    If FC (First Cause) is said to make a choice in the sense that we know it (as in the above paragraph), then each step in that process must be preceded by another step. It's a causative sequence of events; each one leading to the next. This takes us back to infinite regression, unless the apologist can identify a first-ever event in the process.
    I’m not sure why the process you describe above would need to be an infinite regress. There seems to be an input state (the intent or will of the being, or concurrence with the being’s nature), a process (decision making) and an output (decision). That would appear to be one step that does not appeal to a necessary causal step before it. That is, unless you are considering the state of the being as temporal as I think you might be below:

    Quote Originally Posted by Allo
    But how can there be a first-ever event in the process? What this would entail is a dormant entity (FC) who does absolutely nothing and then out of the blue, embarks on an uncaused process of deliberation.
    Hmm, I think this makes an implicit assumption that the FC is temporal. “Idle” assumes a temporal aspect to the cause that we have ruled out for other reasons and therefore doesn’t apply here. In what sense would it be “idle?” Idle in relation to what?

    I think this conclusion arises from the odd formulation of the KCA (and whomever presented it to you thusly should definitely refine their position).


    Quote Originally Posted by JJ
    God would still have had a state A, before a decision (of which he has made many), that corresponding to a point in time on Earth.
    Why would that state need to correspond to a temporal point on Earth? (especially if the universe does not exist in that state). Why would the state change from A to B be temporal when neither A nor B are temporal?


    Quote Originally Posted by Sig
    But X is the value changing in your example.
    But my point was that a state change does not necessarily require a temporal dimension. JJ’s objection was to argue that God would need to have a temporal aspect in order to make a decision (state change). But that isn’t the case.

    Nor, in my example does X really change. It represents a continuum of numbers that all could exist simultaneously either temporally or atemporally. All the points along the line y=x+5 exist on the graph. Y only changes with regards to which X you are considering. If you consider y at x=0 you get a different value than y at x=5. But that doesn’t mean that x has changed, only that we are considering it a different position.

    Think of it this way. I am a father when we are considering me in relation to my son, but a son when considering me in relation to my father. That doesn’t mean I’ve changed, it simply means you are considering me in a different aspect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sig
    Or do you maintain that X can be both 1 and 2 contemporaneously? Wouldn't that violate the law of identity?
    Well the phrase “contemporaneously” doesn’t have much meaning in the context of a non-temporal item. However, this doesn’t violate the law of identity because x is not actually 5 or 1, it is a placeholder for all possible values that are present in this equation.
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  9. #9
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    Re: KCA and choice

    Quote Originally Posted by Allocutus View Post
    In this thread I intend to address a particular branch of apologetic extension of the KCA.


    In short, consider the two propositions:


    1. An entity in whose nature it is to suddenly create the universe. We don't know how.


    2. An entity in whose nature it is to suddenly make a conscious decision to create the universe AND who is self-aware, personal, all-powerful, all-knowing, capable of emotions and of will. We don't know how.


    Both propositions are sufficient for a First Cause. But the second proposition is MORE than sufficient. It contains a number of unnecessary attributes. It is therefore erroneous to propose it.

    .
    Welcome back Allo and thanks for posting another interesting OP. Are you planning on participating in your thread? I noticed with the last thread you posted on "The Sheep and Goats contradiction" a few months ago, which got an interesting debate going among some ODN members, you didn't respond to any comments on the thread you started. So that's why I'm asking the question.
    "The universe is immaterial-mental and spiritual.” --"The Mental Universe” | Nature
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