# Need Help with Writing?

My wife has spent nearly a decade teaching people how to become better at writing.

If you are 16 years or older, and you need help learning how to write a good academic essay — no, she won't write it for you, that's plagiarism! — then please check out St. Nicole's online tutoring service.

She has a lot of experience with ESL students.  She also offers copyediting, if that's what you need.

She's got two masters degrees, and lots of teaching experience.

What is the connection between this and my usual science and religion fare?  Well that's simple.  THIS content (on my blog, anyway) is always going to be free.  But if you'd like to support us, you can always go over there and pay for THAT content.

I am a Lecturer in Theoretical Physics at the University of Cambridge. Before that, I read Great Books at St. John's College (Santa Fe), got my physics Ph.D. from U Maryland, and did my postdocs at UC Santa Barbara, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Stanford. The views expressed on this blog are my own, and should not be attributed to any of these fine institutions.
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### 103 Responses to Need Help with Writing?

Hello Aron! Thank you for this!

If you don't mind me asking a quick question (alas, about physics): you have previously talked about the Quantum Eternality theorem. Sean Carroll has said that if the total energy of the universe is 0, then time turns out to be not fundamental, in a very funny way.

What does it mean to say that time is not fundamental? Is it not fundamental in the sense that B-Theory of time is true, and there is no objective "passage of time," and we are instead in a "block universe"? Or in the sense that the holographic principle is true?

If this is true, do we have to throw all out conceptions of time out of the window? Are we forced to conclude there is no time at all? That there is really no objective way in which things are said to happen before other things? In B-Theory, we would usually say that some moments are indexed earlier than others in the eternalistic block universe. Would that also turn out to be wrong?

Thank you!

2. flavio says:

Hello, Aron, If you don´t mind, i too have a question:
Can the Cosmic microwave background serve as a preferred frame of reference in the context of relativity?
Because it´s astonishingly isotropic and it is at rest with the expansion of the universe. Can it be the "cosmic time''that philosophers of time talk about?

3. Luan says:

Hello Arron. I am a theist, and I have doubts about the creation of God, how God created space-time if there was no time before. the question before is meaningless without time

4. Aron Wall says:

flavio,
It's isotropic to a high degree of accuracy, but it isn't exactly isotropic, and therefore it can't serve as a metaphysical basis for an absolute frame of reference.

The photons in the CMB don't penetrate to the center of the Earth, but that doesn't mean that there is no time there! (Although, if Einstein was right, there is no absolute Newtonian time anywhere.)

5. Evie says:

Hi Aron,

I have a question I would really like for you to address. I have read several of your blogs and really respect your opinion. What is your stance on gay Christians? Should we affirm the LGBT community or not? It would mean so much to hear from you on this subject, as it has been something many Christians struggle with.

6. Mactoul says:

In Genesis when Lemech says that Cain is avenged sevenfold but he will be avenged seventyseven fold.
It sort of struck me that to make this kind of remark the author needed to have some idea of decimal base-10 arithmetic.
Even in the Gospels, when Jesus goes from seven to seventy times seven, isn't there a hint of decimal system?
Is it possible to link 7, 70 and 77 in arbitrary base arithmetic?

7. JamesH says:

In Genesis seven symbolised completeness and perfection. God's creation was complete and perfect and was completed in seven days. There are many similar references in, particularly, OT.

Jesus’ reference to seventy times seven is to be understood as an injunction to forgive a limitless number of times and is, perhaps, related to the consideration above. So I don’t think the reference has anything much to do with a decimal system.

8. Mactoul says:

I was perhaps unclear. It is claimed that the decimal system comes from the Hindus and appeared in the West only in post Arabic era.
So I wondered regarding the poetry of Lemech utterance that links 7 and 77.
This linkage is obvious to us thanks to the decimal numbering but presumably the Hebrews didn't have decimal numbers.

9. NWR says:

Merry Christmas, Aron!

10. Luan says:

do you think it defines a universe with no beginning?

11. Aron Wall says:

Luan
I don't personally know anyone in physics who takes the Ali and Das paper seriously as a plausible research direction, and it doesn't seem to me like the right way to introduce quantum effects into cosmology. In any case it seems highly speculative and not based on physics ideas whose validity has been clearly established. That's all I have to say as I have not studied these papers closely.

12. Luan says:

aron, many atheists use the first law of thermodynamics to claim that energy has always existed, so any cosmological argument (like kalam) breaks down, could you help me with that?

13. Aron Wall says:

Luan,
The notion of "energy" in cosmology is actually quite slippery, and depending on exactly how you define it the total energy of the universe can be either zero or undefined. Please see my discussion here:
Quantum Eternity Theorem

Also, the kalam argument is just one of several types of Cosmological Arguments. Most forms of the cosmological argument historically weren't based on things coming into existence, and hence would apply regardless of this issue.

14. Mactoul says:

I believe an even more fundamental rejoinder may be made to the objection based upon any law of physics -- the laws of physics describe an actually existing universe but are incapable of describing the creation of the universe.

15. Zsolt Nagy says:

I wouldn't say, that physical laws are incapable of describing the creation of the universe.
If there is a creation of the universe, then that should be subject to our descriptions and laws of physics.
Yet our observations and measurements don't give us any hints about any such mechanisms in nature of any creation of nature. On the other hand our observations might give us a hint of a creation being done once in the form of the big bang and the expansion of our universe. But without any proper theory of creation/mechanism of creation and direct observation and measurements of such an event the hypotheses of the creation of the universe is not much better than any other hypotheses without any proper description of mechanisms, observations or measurements.
Maybe one day this status of our knowledge and understanding might change, but till then the hypotheses of the creation of the universe stays to be highly speculative.

16. Aron Wall says:

Zsolt,
You are assuming here that "creation" means an origin in time. But I would say that God's creation of the universe is more analogous to St. J.R.R. Tolkein's creation of the Lord of the Rings. Tolkein's creation of Middle Earth is not limited to the first sentence of the book, or to the origin myth within the story, but extends to every single thing in the book.

You might, or might not, be able to see the evidence for God in creation. But I think you will probably look in somewhat different places, if you think of God in this way.

Obviously, there are clues about Tolkein's authorship on every single page of his book. Although the significance of those clues is not apparent to the characters in his story, who don't know they are living in a book.

In a different story, the author might write himself in as a character, claiming to be the author of the book. Then the other characters would have to decide if they believed him or not.

17. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: I wouldn't say, that physical laws are incapable of describing the creation of the universe. If there is a creation of the universe, then that should be subject to our descriptions and laws of physics.”

I have to disagree. Pertinent here is Aquinas’s distinction between producing (facere) and creating (creare). Science is concerned with producing something from something else, i.e. changes in the universe. Creation, however, is about creating something ex nihilo, which is *not* a change. Aquinas notes: “To create is, properly speaking, to cause or produce the being of things.” On this view God is not a Demiurge who takes pre-existing stuff and fashions it.

18. Aron Wall says:

JamesH,
That is correct, although I'd add that there is still an important analogy between production and creation; just as the metaphor of authorship provides a supplementary analogy for creation, illuminating one aspect of total dependence from a different angle, but which still does not quite rise to the level of creating "being" out of nothing. Since creare properly speaking is outside of our human experience, we can only distantly approximate it by means of analogy to human activities.

19. Mactoul says:

The laws of physics as we know are obtained and caliberated from observing the universe as it is running.

How could these laws or regularities have any bearing on how this universe came into being?

It needs to be borne in mind that creation is not an observable event even in principle and thus physics can not apply, strictly speaking.

20. Zsolt Nagy says:

Aron Wall,
I´m not quite sure, if I understand your analogy correctly.
Physics' whole purpose is to explain all gained and obtainable measurements and observations with theories and the laws of physics are the entailments of that - a summary of specified and categorized measurements, observations and explanations.

As an example we already discussed at a greater length the energy conservation law.
If suddenly a new letter, word, sentence or picture via ink or a whole new page out of paper would suddenly appear in any book of St. J.R.R. Tolkein's the Lord of the Rings and uniformity of nature would hold in combination with the energy conservation law, then all processes, that put the new letter, word, sentence or picture via ink or a whole new page out of paper in to the "creation" from St. J.R.R. Tolkein, are subject to physics. Further if there are specifiable and categorizable measurements, observations and explanations regarding those processes, then those processes entail physical laws.

It's bizarre to state, that any character would "live" in a book. I can't make any sense of that statement in regard to the ability of science one day or never falsifying the hypotheses of creation.
But be that way. Let's suppose, that characters "live" in a book/story. If uniformity of nature holds in combination with the energy conservation law, then the existence of any coherent statement, proposition and story and therefore characters of that story made by humans, such as St. J.R.R. Tolkein is/was, necessitate thoughts put into them and because any thought necessitate free energy - nobody has ever made any thoughts without breathing air and burning carbon and oxygen to carbon dioxide to obtain the needed free energy: $C+O_{2}\rightarrow CO_{2}+\text{free energy}$ - the mere existence of characters living in a book/story "created" by any human necessitates any free energy put into any thoughts.
So all in all the existence of characters, stories or books even as "creations" are subject to science and physics in that regard. The "creation" - forming free energy into thoughts books, stories and characters is subject to science and physics.

JamesH,

Science is concerned with producing something from something else, i.e. changes in the universe. Creation, however, is about creating something ex nihilo, which is *not* a change.

So if nothing would be something, then science would be concerned with anything created ex nihilo?
Would you say, that there are holes in some cheeses? Is there a whole?
Is a whole considerable as being something, somewhere, sometimes? If a whole is considerable being something, somewhere, sometimes, then couldn't nothing also be considerable being something, somewhere, sometimes?

Mactoul,

It [the universe] needs to be borne in mind that creation is not an observable event even in principle and thus physics can not apply, strictly speaking.

Einstein once doubted the existence of his own results of his general relativity theory - gravitational waves.
Also many have thought, that even if gravitational waves would exist, then they would be undetectable because of their weak effect. Yet today we are able and are detecting gravitational waves. So I guess, never say never.
Besides that we might have the option with that to look further into to cosmos and with that further back into the history of the universe .
It might not be the exact point of creation. But that observation would be very close to it.

21. Zsolt Nagy says:

PS: I meant "hole" instead of "whole". Hm, a weird mistake from me.

JamesH,

Science is concerned with producing something from something else, i.e. changes in the universe. Creation, however, is about creating something ex nihilo, which is *not* a change.

So if nothing would be something, then science would be concerned with anything created ex nihilo?
Would you say, that there are holes in some cheeses? Is there a hole?
Is a hole considerable as being something, somewhere, sometimes? If a hole is considerable being something, somewhere, sometimes, then why couldn't nothing also be considerable being something, somewhere, sometimes?

Creatio ex nihilo is a change from nothing into something. If such a thing is possible and has happened, then creatio ex nihilo should be concerned by science.

22. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: Creatio ex nihilo is a change from nothing into something. If such a thing is possible and has happened, then creatio ex nihilo should be concerned by science.”

I think that your analogy between a hole and nothing is faulty; a hole still has properties which qualifies it as something, whereas to say that nothing exists is to say that it’s not the case that anything falls under any description- nothing is not propertied state.

More importantly, creation doesn’t involve changing nothing into something, but rather bringing everything into existence. God did not use some stuff called “nihil” to make the universe. Creation is the causing of whatever exists- it isn’t a change at all.

23. JamesH says:

“Mactoul: Besides that we might have the option with that to look further into to cosmos and with that further back into the history of the universe .
It might not be the exact point of creation. But that observation would be very close to it.”

I think there is a conceptual error implicit here. Whilst the universe may have a timeline and a beginning, creation does not. The latter makes the beginning of the universe and a timeline possible, but it is not some event that happened way back “close” to Big Bang. It is the ongoing complete causing of all there is.

24. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,
Yes, my analogy with the hole is not a good one and it was not meant to be a good one.
I just wanted to make a tiny phylosophical tease with it. But I think, that it falls flat a bit.

Maybe I should have been more clear about, what I meant by "Creatio ex nihilo is a change from nothing into something. If such a thing is possible and has happened, then creatio ex nihilo should be concerned by science."
I'm not saying with it, that creatio ex nihilo is nothing changing into something, but it is a change from one state to another state - from nothing "not propertied state" into something "properied state/our universe".
And in a general sense physics challenge is to give an accurate explanation or at least a description of deterministic evolution of states at least according to the physics professor Leonard Susskind:
Lecture 1 | Modern Physics: Classical Mechanics (Stanford)
(The relevant part goes till the timemark 22:00 in that regard.)
So if creatio ex nihilo is supposed to be a change from nothing (not propertied state) into something (propertied state/universe) - an evolution of states and supposed to be possible and supposed to have happened, then why not at least try it to use physics to explain or to describe such a process?

25. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,
Now I think after reading your last response a second time, that I'm somewhat understanding, what you try to convey to me.
For you creation is not a process about creation coming into existence/change from nothing nor an evolution of states, but creation is for you an explanation of being something there rather than nothing - an ongoing causation of existence. If so, then I apologize for ever calling it creatio ex nihilo.
Creatio ex nihilo means "creation out of nothing" as far as my research is telling me about the meaning of those latin words. I don't know for myself any latin.
But you don't appear to refer to that notion, when you use the word "creation".
If so, then what is creation? What do you exactly mean by the word "creation"?
A more elaborate explanation than

More importantly, creation doesn’t involve changing nothing into something, but rather bringing everything into existence. God did not use some stuff called “nihil” to make the universe. Creation is the causing of whatever exists- it isn’t a change at all.

would help me, I guess. Tell me not, what creation isn't. But please, tell me rather, what creation is.

Now that I'm thinking further: Also Aron doesn't appear to have used the word "creation" as in creatio ex nihilo.
I guess then your analogy, Aron, makes a bit more sense to me now.
But if that's the case, then rather than explaining it with that kind of nonsensical analogy, what creation is supposed and meant to be, I would like to have a concrete and clear explanation of your notion of creation.

Zsolt, a different analogy would be that of a computer simulation. I wouldn't take it as seriously as some people do but it may shed some light on the issue. The inhabitants of the simulation observe the "world" around them and notice certain regularities. Things happen according to "laws of nature". They come to the conclusion that the laws are the ultimate reality which can explain everything. They assume that the very existence of their world is explained by these "laws". But the true reality is very different. Everything that happens is the result of what the simulation's creator has decided.

From a theistic perspective we are the inhabitants of the simulation and God is the Creator.

27. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: “so, then what is creation? What do you exactly mean by the word "creation"?
A more elaborate explanation...would help me, I guess. Tell me not, what creation isn't. But please, tell me rather, what creation is.”

First of all, the distinction between creare and facere-see my original post-belongs to Aquinas, rather than me. I don’t think it is possible to say anything about the actual mechanism of creation-that simply isn’t accessible to scientific enquiry since it is not a change from one state to another- the province of science. Here is Aquinas in his own words from the Summa:
“...we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation. Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from "not-man," and white from "not-white." Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the "not-being" which is "not-man," so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the "not-being" which is "nothing."”

An important point here is that, considered in this light, those who say that the work of cosmologists like Hawking “leaves God with nothing to do” are simply wrong.

28. Zsolt Nagy says:

David,
I think your analogy is better than from Aron with a book and story.
If you take one step away from the story and the book, then it's clear, that the story and the book themselves are pretty much fixed things. So it's bizarre to think, that a character of a story or of a book would ever live in a story or in a book. Life in itself is not that static. It's rather dynamic.
Sure, while the story is told and the book is read, then the characters appear to be alive, but again take a step away from it and you'll recognize, that they are not alive.
Your simulation analogy works in that regard way better than the book analogy.
If you take one step away from the simulation, then the simulation of itself still appears to be living, because the simulation is in itself a dynamical process like life is in itself a dynamical process.

I'm a naturalist. What I get from your analogy or these analogies is, that you are trying to explain to me with them, that nature is the creation of God embedded in supernature or in the supernatural realm.
It appears to me weird, that none of you here are capable of giving such a neat explanation of the notion "creation". I guess, that it's a theistic or philosophical thing to explain things in
convoluted analogies.

But then again I repeat my original point:

I wouldn't say, that physical laws are incapable of describing the creation of the universe.
If there is a creation of the universe, then that should be subject to our descriptions and laws of physics.
...
Maybe one day this status of our knowledge and understanding might change, but till then the hypotheses of the creation of the universe stays to be highly speculative.

From my point of view this still holds for both notions of "creation" - creatio ex nihilo and *creaturae sunt in supernature.
I'm not like Mactoul stating, that things are "in principle" not possible.
"In principle" humans are not meant to fly, because they have no wings. Yet humans regardless of that "principle" are flying.
Or that **"human sensations" are "in principle" not expressible in numbers. Yet (in a very amusing way) "human sensations" are expressible in numbers. Why would anybody say ever "never" in that regard.
As a naturalist I'm assuming nature to be true according to the shear amount of evidence for it. But also for myself I'm open to change my mind about that given the sufficient evidence for that change to happen and I would and never say, that "in principle" science or physics are not capable of giving those sufficient evidences for that change to happen in my mind regardless of which considered notions of "creation".

*Creaturae sunt in supernature is latin and translates according to google translator into "creation in supernature". Don't judge me using google translator! Again I don't know any latin.
**"human sensations'': The quotation marks are purposefully set here. It's an insider.

29. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,
Is emanation reversible?
If creation is the emanation of all being from the "not-being", which is "nothing", then wouldn't also "nothing" be the emanation of "not-being" from "all beings" or from "everything"?
If emanation is not reversible, then why is it not reversible?

If I could ask this Aquinas, then I would ask this Aquinas. But I obviously can't ask him.
But also you appear to have a good understanding of his ideas, so what are your answers to these questions?

Zsolt, you say that the weight of evidence has convinced you of naturalism but the order and regularity of the world, as revealed by science, is also what a theist would expect. The question we need to ask is what the ultimate basis of that regularity is. And I don't think that is a question which science itself can answer.

You also say that you would be open to revising your views in the light of further scientific evidence. The implication is that only scientific evidence would suffice. But by adopting that position you automatically rule out evidence that a theist would want to include. Let's go back to the computer simulation metaphor. Suppose that the Simulator wants to send a message to the inhabitants of the simulation. One way in which the Simulator could do that is by temporarily suspending the "laws" of the simulation - in other words, performing a miracle. I imagine that you probably don't take miracles seriously but perhaps this is shortsighted.

31. Aron Wall says:

Zsolt,
I think it is much too soon to talk about "evidence" in this conversation. Right now it is difficult enough, simply to explain clearly to you what Christians (and Jews and Muslims) mean by creation. We can have another conversation about evidence at some future time. In this conversation you should instead simply make an effort to try to understand the claim that is being made. Set aside belief/disbelief for a moment, you are a smart guy and you ought to be capable of understanding what is being asserted here, whether or not you agree with it.

Of course it is true that the characters in a book are not really alive. They don't actually have any experiences (apart from the experiences of real human beings who listen to their story). That is because we humans do not have the power to create in that sense. But imagine if there were an author who did have the power to make a story that was "real", and populated by real people living among solid physical objects. That is what "creation" means. The story metaphor captures the idea that the story is totally dependent on the author (in a way that has nothing to do with the causal timestream within the story), but it does not capture the idea that the people in the story are actually alive.

And of course it is quite true that St. Tolkein needed to breathe oxygen and metabolize and so on in order to do anything. But that is because he was himself a finite creature embedded within a larger cosmos. The originator of every cosmos, if such an entity exists, obviously could not be part of a dynamical system in the same sense as we are, but would have to exist in an entirely self-sufficient manner. So that is another way in which God is greater than a human author.

It is difficult to give a positive account of the idea of creation without metaphors, and for a pretty obvious reason. Nothing we do as humans is "creation" in the sense of actually producing an entire cosmos, that actually exists factually instead of fictionally. So if you want to compare it to anything found in human experience it's going to involve a metaphor! So you're just going to have to accept this feature of theological discourse, just as you accept that physics is done with equations and graphs.

(It is not as if scientific reasoning can be done without metaphors either. As soon as you depart from immediate human experience, in any subject, people start using metaphors in order to describe anything. Metaphors involving spatial reasoning, e.g. talking about abstract concepts using prepositions like "up", "down", "in", "out" etc. are especially common. Nothing could be more abstract than set theory, but we still talk about sets being "in" other sets as though they were shipping containers or envelopes. Or we talk about one equation coming "from" another equation, even though an equation is not an actual location in space.)

It's best not to conduct this conversation in Latin, if you are not familiar with that language. "Creation out of nothing" will do. As for the term "emanation", it just means "coming from" (where you have to look at the context to figure out what kind of "from" is meant.) Nothing much is gained by using a fancier word.

The basic grammatical point is the actually same regardless of whether you are speaking in English or Latin. And that is that a negative term such as "nothing" (even though grammatically it is a noun) isn't actually talking about any kind of thing, but rather asserts the absence of a thing. This point is humorously illustrated by this classic poem:

"Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there!
He wasn't there again today,
Oh how I wish he'd go away!"

Of course the poem is nonsense, precisely because it fails to make this basic distinction. If I say "Nobody was drinking in the pub", that does not mean that there was a person called Nobody who ordered a drink from the bartender. It is just a stand-in word to talk about how there were not any people doing that.

So when we say that God created "out of nothing", this is just a shorter way of saying "he did not create the universe out of any pre-existing material". (Or at least, not out of any material which existed independently of his act of creation.)

Compare to a sculpter who makes a statue, but did not make the rock out of which the statue was carved. Or a potter who makes a pot, but not the clay. All human acts of artistry actually make one thing out of another thing, which already exists, and therefore do not rise to the level of true creation. But as soon as you notice that this is a common feature of all human acts, you have the power to ask---what if there was an entity which brought our reality into being in a way that did not involve any pre-existing material?

In other words, if your mind has the power to see this common feature X of all human acts, then it also has the power to negate that feature and say "Not X". And if you do that, then you will understood what people mean when they say creation ex nihilo.

But nobody ever claimed that believing in God and creation would automatically provide "all the answers" regarding the nature of the universe. There are many possible worlds that God might have created, and thus there are lots of important questions about what our universe is like, that can only be answered by doing physics, not metaphysics.

32. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: Is emanation reversible?
If creation is the emanation of all being from the "not-being", which is "nothing", then wouldn't also "nothing" be the emanation of "not-being" from "all beings" or from "everything"?”

If being emanates from not-being, how does it logically follow that not-being emanates from being? It clearly does not.

“If emanation is not reversible, then why is it not reversible?”

Perhaps you should first explain why you think it is reversible. As I’ve said, I don’t see how that can be inferred logically.

I would argue that theism does indeed provide an explanation for the fact of there being something rather than nothing. So inference to best explanation favours theism over atheist non-explanation.

33. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: It appears to me weird, that none of you here are capable of giving such a neat explanation of the notion "creation". I guess, that it's a theistic or philosophical thing to explain things in
convoluted analogies.”

It’s rather ironical that you say this. In fact, the distinction between creare and facere of Aquinas resolves a contradiction which is found in the work of some atheist-minded scientists who say that laws, which only have meaning in the context of an existing universe, can generate that universe, including the laws of nature, by themselves before either exists-which is obviously logically contradictory. Aquinas’s distinction replaces this incoherence with a clear and correct statement of the relationship between the universe and how it came to be.

“But then again I repeat my original point: I wouldn't say, that physical laws are incapable of describing the creation of the universe.
If there is a creation of the universe, then that should be subject to our descriptions and laws of physics.”

But that’s just a statement of your opinion-really it is just a wish on your part. Highest level laws cannot explain the universe without recourse to circular explanation since the laws themselves are part of the universe in the broad sense, i.e. part of what needs to be explained.

34. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,
A relation $R$ is said to be reflexive, if and only if all members $x$ satisfy the formel: $x\; R\; x$.
I guess, that this is true for the relation $E_{\text{manates from}}$.
If $x\; E_{\text{manates from}}\; x$ for all $x$, then the relation $E_{\text{manates from}}$ is reflexive.
I think, that at least this is true for the members "being", "not-being", "humans", "ashes", "dust" and "nothing":
$\text{"being"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"being"}$,
$\text{"not-being"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"not-being"}$,
$\text{"humans"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"humans"}$,
$\text{"ashes"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"ashes"}$,
$\text{"dust"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"dust"}$ and
$\text{"nothing"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"nothing"}$.
I can't think of a counterexample, so I assume the relation $E_{\text{manates from}}$ to be reflexive.

A relation $R$ is said to be symmetric, if and only if all members $x$ and $y$ satisfy both formels: $x\; R\;y$ and $y\; R\;x$.
I guess, that this is true for the relation $E_{\text{manates from}}$.
If $x\; E_{\text{manates from}}\; y$ and $y\; E_{\text{manates from}}\; x$ for all $x$ and $y$, then the relation $E_{\text{manates from}}$ is symmetric.
I think, that at least this is true for the members "being", "not-being", "humans", "ashes", "dust" and "nothing":
$\text{"being"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"not-being"}$ and $\text{"not-being"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"being"}$ and
$\text{"humans"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"dust"}$ and $\text{"dust"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"humans"}$.
To be honest with you I think, that there might be counterexamples for this, so that the relation $E_{\text{manates from}}$ is not truly symmetric. But then again the question still remains, why does the relation $E_{\text{manates from}}$ faver one specific combination over the reversed one?
Sure, "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust." and "dust to humans" appear to anyone logical, but then why not "humans to dust"? It appears to me at least necessary in combination with "dust to humans" to obtain "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.".
So it's only logical to question if $\text{"being"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"not-being"}$ is the case, then why couldn't also be the case of $\text{"not-being"}\; E_{\text{manates from}}\;\text{"being"}$ in a similar fashion?

I would argue that theism does indeed provide an explanation for the fact of there being something rather than nothing. So inference to best explanation favours theism over atheist non-explanation.

Hm. I prefer honesty over ad hoc postulations and further I prefer inference to trueths instead to "best" explanation, which might be not true.

35. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,
Apparently you don't know any sceptical scientists.
There is nature entailing the laws of nature and there is the metaphysical entailing the laws of logic.
The laws of nature and the laws of logic appear to exist independently to each other like nature and metaphysics appear to exist independently to each other.
Each of them appear to have problems on their own. The laws of nature seem to be incomplete and there are many metaphysical contradictions like the liar's paradox "This sentence is false." and such.
What I don't get is the appeal to the supernatural to solve these problems without any evidence or good reason to do so.
Yes, it's my opinion, that nature would one day reveal its necessity and with that a natural law describing nature's necessity and my opinion might be wishful thinking. But how is the explanation of the necessity of nature through "creation" not also wishful thinking? Without any evidence to back that up, the postulation of creation appears to me still very ad hoc and highly speculative.

36. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: A relation is said to be reflexive, if and only if all members satisfy the formel: .
I guess, that this is true for the relation . If for all , then the relation is reflexive.”

I don’t see the relevance of this formalism here, since the term “emanates” has not been defined by you. And you , of course, I did not define it either. If you want claim that there is a reflexive relation that is essential that you provide such a definition.

“I can't think of a counterexample, so I assume the relation to be reflexive.”

That really isn’t enough. You need to provide definitions of “emanates”, “nothing” and “something” as well as an explanation for you to be able to plausibly claim that the relation is reflexive.

“But then again the question still remains, why does the relation faver one specific combination over the reversed one?”

I think you are simply trying to shift the burden of proof here. You have claimed, or at least suggested, that the relation is “reversible” so you need to provide the three definitions above and an explanation of how the relation obtains. All you have done at present is to assert that there is a relation.

‘James H:I would argue that theism does indeed provide an explanation for the fact of there being something rather than nothing. So inference to best explanation favours theism over atheist non-explanation”.

“Hm. I prefer honesty over ad hoc postulations and further I prefer inference to trueths instead to "best" explanation, which might be not true”.

The above is *not* an example of an ad hoc postulation since nothing is being postulated to solve a particular problem. And your “inference to truth” (unlike inference to best explanation) is not a way which scientists or philosophers use to evaluate competing explanations.

37. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: What I don't get is the appeal to the supernatural to solve these problems without any evidence or good reason to do so”

I don’t understand which problems you think the supernatural is being invoked to solve. I certainly do not invoke the supernatural in an attempt to resolve logical paradoxes or address scientific problems.

“Yes, it's my opinion, that nature would one day reveal its necessity “

Nature cannot be necessary in the modal sense. The universe changes. Whatever changes is contingent. Whatever is contingent cannot be necessary. It follows that the universe cannot be necessary.

“ But how is the explanation of the necessity of nature through "creation" not also wishful thinking? “

As I have already pointed out nature does not exist necessarily. And inference to best explanation favours a supernaturalist explanation for contingencies.

38. Zsolt Nagy says:

Aron,
First of I like to thank you for your elaborate response this time around.
It has given me certainly more insights, then your previous response.
Secondly, I agree and disagree with it about fifty-to-fifty.

Metaphors can be sufficient to describe or explain somethings, but the emphasis is on the words "can be" and not on the word "sufficient". Metaphors are not even necessary for that. On the other hand definitions are necessary for any explanations, descriptions and even indirectly for metaphors.
I can agree, that nothing could be more abstract than set theory and we still talk about sets being "in" other sets as though they were shipping containers or envelopes, but not because it's a good and sufficient metaphor, but because the relation "in" is a well defined relation in set theory. Also besides of saying that an equation is "coming from" another equation you could also say, that an equation is "following from" another equation or that an equation is "resulting from" another equation - to have a richer figurative language. But again sure, these are sufficient in the metaphorical sense, but at same time these are mathematically well defined relations and nothing is holding us back to use other words for those well defined relations.

I understand the appeal to the idea of creation:
"What if there was an entity which brought our reality into being in a way that did not involve any pre-existing material?"
The reasoning and justification behind that is, what I don't understand:
From (witnessing) common feature X of all human acts to (imagining) Not X. Therefore, creatio ex nihilo.

I just have a little more appeal to the question "What if there was not an entity which brought our reality into being in a way that did not involve any pre-existing material?", because I'm not witnessing the imagined "Not X", the imagined "pink elephant" suddenly appearing from nothing or the imagined perpetual motion machine of the first or second kind.

39. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,

That really isn’t enough. You need to provide definitions of “emanates”, “nothing” and “something” as well as an explanation for you to be able to plausibly claim that the relation is reflexive.

But "emanates from" or "emanation from" is your term. Well it is from Aquinas technically speaking in our diskussion. But I thought, that you would have a good understanding of his ideas. So you provide that needed definition.
And besides that if you make any statement with that term such as "being emanates from not-being", then that statement indicates at least a binary relation "emanates from" between the two entities "being" and "not-being".
You wanted to be logical, then again this is logic for you here in this case.
So it would be nice and fair according to "logic", if you could give a sufficient enough definition of the relation "emanates from" with its properties, which has been PROCLAIMED BY YOU in the first place and NOT BY ME.
If not, then I define the relation "emanates from" to be symmetric and reversible.
I guess then, that this case is closed.

40. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: But "emanates from" or "emanation from" is your term. Well it is from Aquinas technically speaking in our diskussion. But I thought, that you would have a good understanding of his ideas. “

If you read my reply you will see that I *explicitly stated* that I had not defined it either. My point is that if you introduce a mathematical term like reflexive relation and assert that it is applicable, then it is incumbent on you to define x and R and explain *how* the relationship is reflexive. You could certainly have used what you thought Aquinas had intended as a starting point, possibly providing what is termed a precising definition. All you have done however, is to merely assert that there is a mathematical relationship without defining your own terms or stating what your understanding of Aquinas’s use of them is.

“MSo you provide that needed definition.”

If you do not have an idea of the definition then on what basis did you claim that there was a reflexive relation in the first place?

41. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,
So if Aquinas started with "Creation is the emanation of being from non-being.", then I'm ending it with "Annihilation is the emanation of non-being from being.". Further there is no rational reason to assume one over the other one, because if energy could be created, then in similar way energy could be annihilated and if energy could be annihilated, then in a similar way energy could be created.

42. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: So if Aquinas started with "Creation is the emanation of being from non-being.", then I'm ending it with "Annihilation is the emanation of non-being from being.”

Aquinas certainly said nothing about annihilation being the “emanation of non-being from being,“ and nor have I. If it’s just your own supposition that “creation” and “annihilation” are in a sense symmetrical, then so what? Even if that were true, it wouldn’t follow that if creation occurs, annihilation must also occur- all that the formalism states is a relation; it doesn’t claim that creation or annihilation are instantiated.

“Further there is no rational reason to assume one over the other one, “

This is simply incorrect. The inference to best explanation, which I provided earlier, gives us one good reason to believe that creation occurred- recall that naturalists struggle to explain how something came from nothing without recourse to circular argument; they are left with brute fact non-explanation or some highly problematic form of Platonism. So theism has a clear advantage here.

Furthermore, you would have to show that all of the philosophical arguments for theism are false, as are it’s historical claims, to demonstrate that its claims about creation are not rational.

“because if energy could be created, then in similar way energy could be annihilated and if energy could be annihilated, then in a similar way energy could be created.”

No, recall that creation is *not* stated to be the “creation of energy” but is about the bringing into existence of being-a metaphysical claim. Your supposition here that creation is about the “creation of energy” is the very misapprehension that Aquinas corrects. Again: creation is not a process describable by science, which deals with change from one state to another; it does not provide us with a theory of physics.

43. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,
Now that I read your original citation on Aquines at April 12, 2021 at 5:26 AM:

Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation [of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation]; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from "not-man," and white from "not-white." Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the "not-being" which is "not-man," so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the "not-being" which is "nothing."

over and over (english is not my native language), I know, what my problem with that is:
That emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation by Aquines is still a preassumption - an unjustified and ad hoc postulation of creation.
I'm not going to do an argument for it. It's your job and not mine to do. I'm not an idiot doing your job for you and against my honest position.
Why would that emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation ever be the case?
It appears to me rather the emanation of all being from existence, which is necessary and this emanation we should designate by the name necessary existence is sufficent enough of an explanation - the simplest and therefore the best explanation according to Occam's Razor.

44. Zsolt Nagy says:

You also say that you would be open to revising your views in the light of further scientific evidence. The implication is that only scientific evidence would suffice. But by adopting that position you automatically rule out evidence that a theist would want to include. Let's go back to the computer simulation metaphor. Suppose that the Simulator wants to send a message to the inhabitants of the simulation. One way in which the Simulator could do that is by temporarily suspending the "laws" of the simulation - in other words, performing a miracle. I imagine that you probably don't take miracles seriously but perhaps this is shortsighted.

As far as I can tell, uniformity of nature holds, and at a current time the only justification for that, I can give, is from induction. I'm fully aware of the problem of induction, but again that's my current honest position not being capable of acquiring a better one at the moment.
So by the problem of induction miracles - processes and phenomenons contradicting currently known natural laws under the assumption of uniformity of nature - might be possible, but I'm not a fan of excluding these from our scientific analysis. If we were able to have a reliable access to such a phenomenon, then why the hack not "science the s**t out of" that phenomenon (a quote from the movie 'The Martian')?
On the other hand if we don't have reliable access to such a phenomenon, then there is still no reason for not trying to have an approach to that phenomenon with science.
In principle I reject any unjustified "In principle it's not possible." explanations.

Zsolt, suppose that one of the inhabitants of the simulation observes a miracle firsthand. He can't deny that it has happened, so he tries to come up with what he considers a "rational" explanation. He thinks to himself, "OK, perhaps there is some scientific explanation for this." Without realising it, he would be attributing the miracle to some subtlety of the simulation's programming that he was previously unaware of.

But he is on the wrong track. His mistake is to assume that reality consists of the program and nothing else. It doesn't occur to him that the program can be altered from outside.

46. Zsolt Nagy says:

David,

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, stated by Sherlock Holmes

If one of the inhabitants of the simulation observes a miracle firsthand incorrectly attributing the miracle to our currently known natural laws, then that inhabitant is making an error.
It might also happen, that an observed phenomenon already known to be natural or later to be found natural is incorrectly attributed to be a miracle. In that case an error has also been made.
Sure, those Wrong decision Type I Error and Wrong decision Type II Error are to be expected by these kinds of decisions. One interesting question might be, how to avoid them. But errors in decisions and in life are generally to be expected. The far better and interesting questions are, what is the ratio of those two Type I and Type II Errors, why is the ratio specifically that quantity and what does that imply?

47. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: I know, what my problem with that is:
That emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation by Aquines is still a preassumption - an unjustified and ad hoc postulation of creation.”

It’s nothing of the kind. As I explained before, Aquinas’s comments on creation are not some sort of stand-alone argument. Rather, in so far as we have good arguments for the existence of God, there is reason to suppose that the universe was created. I also pointed out that inference to best explanation favours theistic accounts of creation rather than naturalist non-explanation (“the universe is a brute fact” etc.).

“It appears to me rather the emanation of all being from existence, which is necessary and this emanation we should designate by the name necessary existence is sufficent enough of an explanation - the simplest and therefore the best explanation according to Occam's Razor.”

I have already addressed this. The universe cannot exist necessarily since it changes. Whatever changes is contingent. Whatever is contingent cannot be necessary. Therefore the universe cannot be a necessary entity.

The question of the simplicity of an explanation is highly complex and I don’t have time to go into at the moment. Suffice it to say that a) there are no universally agreed criteria for simplicity. In one sense, of course, theism is the simplest explanation since God can be described with a single logical predicate as a maximally perfect being, and b) simplicity has to be considered alongside other criteria such as parsimony, fit with existing knowledge, fruitfulness etc.. So I don’t think Occam’s razor does the job you want it to here. Furthermore, naturalism- as I have already pointed out -*doesn’t have an explanation* for the fact of there being a universe.

Zsolt, you certainly like to have things neatly wrapped up:) One problem with trying to estimate the rate at which miracles are correctly/incorrectly identified is that some people will refuse to accept that any miracle has ever occurred. To return one more time to the simulation metaphor, if you think that the simulation is all there is then violations of the program are ruled out in advance. Which means that you can't estimate how often violations are correctly/incorrectly identified.

But here is the bottom line. God wants to communicate with us. However, God doesn't want to communicate with those who are unwilling to listen. Christians can make their case up to a point, but people must choose whether or not they want to hear the message.

49. Zsolt Nagy says:

David,
It's not that violations had been ruled out in advance. But most of them had been examined and found to be natural phenomenons - part of the programm, code and simulation to stay in the metaphor.

If the administrator of the system wants to have a discussion with me, then I'm confident, that the administrator of the system will find a way to have that conversation with me, if the administrator has truly the supposed capabilities, that has been proclaimed about him.
Either that or I will be obsessed by Agent Smith. Or not. How knows truly, what the future might bring.

50. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,

Rather, in so far as we have good arguments for the existence of God, there is reason to suppose that the universe was created. I also pointed out that inference to best explanation favours theistic accounts of creation rather than naturalist non-explanation (“the universe is a brute fact” etc.).
...
The universe cannot exist necessarily since it changes. Whatever changes is contingent. Whatever is contingent cannot be necessary. Therefore the universe cannot be a necessary entity.

"But that’s just a statement of your opinion-really it is just a wish on your part."

The universe is not "changing" and if the universe would be "changing", then the universe would "change" into the universe, because did you know? The universe is the universe.

Besides that the unchanging universe is dynamical.
Any matter of the unchanging universe satisfies the dynamical Euler–Lagrange equation:
$\frac{\partial}{\partial q_i}L(t,\textbf{q}(t),\textbf{\.{q}}(t))-\frac{\mathrm{d}}{\mathrm{d}t}\frac{\partial}{\partial \.{q}_i}L(t,\textbf{q}(t),\textbf{\.{q}}(t))=0$ for $i=1,...,n$ particals.

So I guess then, the universe can exist necesseraly, because it is unchanging and dynamical. But not just that, it is actually existing necesseraly.

51. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: The universe is not "changing" and if the universe would be "changing", then the universe would "change" into the universe, because did you know.The universe is the universe.”

My point was that your suggestion that the universe was a necessary entity is untenable since a necessary entity cannot undergo change, since change is a transition from potentiality to actuality, and only an existence that is pure actuality can be ontologically necessary.

“Besides that the unchanging universe is dynamical.
Any matter of the unchanging universe satisfies”

You have misunderstood what I meant by change (see above).

Actually, Zsolt, miracles *are* often ruled out in advance. It is not as if miracle claims could all be exhaustively investigated. Some have been debunked but generally there is either a suspension of judgement or an a priori rejection.

The real issue, I think, is that you expect God to meet you on your terms. It is entirely your right to adopt that position. As I have said, Christians can make an effort to persuade you but in the end it is up to you.

53. Zsolt Nagy says:

David,
If any person can't undoubtedly neither show nor demonstrate nor explain any miracle claims, then do not expect any rational person to accept simply those claims.
Do the sufficient work for gaining the Nobel prize or the trust of those rational people.

The real issue, I think, is that you expect God to meet you on your terms. It is entirely your right to adopt that position. As I have said, Christians can make an effort to persuade you but in the end it is up to you.

In my eyes the situation is this: Theists proclaim the hypothesis of God and his Creation.
I as a naturalist therefore am looking at nature and trees, till that proclaimed revelation by the Creator supposed to happen.
Again if God has those supposed capabilities, then that revelation is going to happen no matter what really.
In that regard no further input of theist is needed or at least I don't see any rational reson for that.
Sure, they give reasons. But the best way is supposed to be imagining things. Come on, really?

54. Mactoul says:

Zsolt makes claims that are unjustified from purely physics point of view.
He ignores what the laws of physics are, how they are obtained and calibrated, and precise conditions and limitations inherent in these laws of physics.

In this he has been perhaps encouraged by the physicists that have been making exaggerated claims about their subject, claiming to know the mind of God and all the mysteries of creation and what not.

55. Mactoul says:

For instance Zsolt glibly speaks of creation as a change in the state from nothing to something.
And so physics applies. But the fallacy lies in the very term " state".
What is "nothing " a state of?
He persists in thinking of nothing as something -- a bad habit shared by a lot of physicist that venture in this area.

Zsolt, this is all about presuppositions. You want a miracle to be demonstrated in a way that will satisfy the Nobel committee. Effectively, that is the challenge which you are setting God. You will believe if that condition is met. That is what a "rational" person has the right to expect. Well, the Nobel committee wasn't around 2000 years ago and if it had been the Risen Jesus would not have wanted to appear before it - just as he chose not to be appear before the Sanhedrin.

57. Zsolt Nagy says:

Mactoul,
Please, tell me, how the trial and error approach is an illegitimate heuristic.
I'm tempted to argue, if the trial and error approach would be an illegitimate heuristic, then humans would never be capable of flying or expressing "human sensations" in numbers.
On the other hand if the trial and error approach is a legitimate heuristic, then who in their right mind would ever not give science and physics any chance to falsify or verify the hypothesis of creation?
Who in the right mind would do that?

You are correct. That's the challenge, which God has been set.
But come on. No one is challenging God to do the impossible like presenting a square-circle or a married bachelor. If God supposedly walked among us about 2000 years ago performing miracles before the digital age, then why isn’t he walking these days among us performing miracles, when falsifying or verifying the happening of a phenomenon at anywhere and at any time on this planet hasn’t been any easier than these days before?
Certainly it would help his goal to diminish the numbers of non-believers and save those people, who are willing and capable of believing by seeing.
Further I guess, that it would also help to decrease the occurrences of those Wrong decision Type I and Wrong decision Type II errors. That would be neat.

JamesH,

My point was that your suggestion that the universe was a necessary entity is untenable since a necessary entity cannot undergo change, since change is a transition from potentiality to actuality, and only an existence that is pure actuality can be ontologically necessary.

Yeah, I don't really understand, what you mean by the notion "change".
Further I also like to have an elaborate explanation on the notions "potentiality" and "actuality".
Which entities are potential? Which entities are actual?
Which conditions are necessary or sufficient to "change"/transition an entity from being potential to being actual? Or the other way around which conditions are necessary or sufficient to "change"/transition an entity from being actual to being potential?

It appears to me, that the universe has been actual all the time. It was actual in the past. It is currently actual and it will be actual.
I'm not sure, if I got my message across to you.
Why couldn't the universe exist necessarily?

You say, that anything, that is changing, can't exist necessarily.
The universe is changing. Therefore, the universe can't exist necessarily.

Okay. I can agree to the premise "Anything, that is changing, can't exist necessarily.".
Well, it depends on, what we understand under the words "changing" and "necessarily existing".
It always comes down to the definitions.
But first I'm more curious about the premise "The universe is changing.". Maybe then I understand, what you exactly mean by the word "changing".

58. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: Theists proclaim the hypothesis of God and his Creation. I as a naturalist therefore am looking at nature and trees, till that proclaimed revelation by the Creator supposed to happen.”

You seem to be conflating *nature* with *naturalism*. The fact that you observe trees, plants, nature etc.. does not provide support for naturalism. The existence of nature is obviously compatible with theism; theists don’t deny that nature exists.

I have argued in previous posts that theism is to be preferred to naturalism since it can provide an explanation for the fact of there being a universe whereas naturalism struggles to do this. Naturalism cannot really provide an explanation or, at best, has to resort to something like circular explanation, “brute fact” or some form of Platonism-all of which face serious philosophical problems. So inference to best explanation favours theism.

59. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: It always comes down to the definitions.
But first I'm more curious about the premise "The universe is changing.". Maybe then I understand, what you exactly mean by the word "changing".

I just meant that change occurred in the universe from one state to another.

“Necessarily existing” just means existing in every possible world.

60. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,

So inference to best explanation favours theism.

But I don't see that happening here, though.
Changes of the contents of the universe might be happening. The universe itself doesn't appear to be changing.
Again the universe seems to have been actual, seems to currently being actual and seems to be actual in the future.
Apparently you seem to fail giving that amazing "best" explanation of a "changing" universe from being potential to being actual.
Hm, so I wonder, what are we doing "actually" here, if not explaining things?
...
Hm, maybe it's all just speculation here from both of our ends.

61. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: Apparently you seem to fail giving that amazing "best" explanation of a "changing" universe from being potential to being actual.
Hm, so I wonder, what are we doing "actually" here, if not explaining things?
Hm, maybe it's all just speculation here from both of our ends”

I will try to explain more clearly what I am getting at. First, what we are trying to explain is the fact of there being a universe (or “why there is a universe rather than nothing”). We are looking for an explanation: explanans and explanandum. Theists have an explanation which is well -known: it was created by God. By contrast naturalists often resort to one of the following:
1. The universe is a “brute fact” (the approach of Russell). But this is not an explanation. It also, arguably, commits what has been termed the taxi -cab fallacy. There are several other problems with it too, which I won’t go into.
2. Platonism of some sort. But it isn’t easy to see how abstract platonic entities can act causally to create a universe. And there are other problems too.
3. Equivocation, where-and I am simplifying here; there are fairly sophisticated variants-the naturalist redefines “nothing” as a state of affairs, a propertied “something”. Ultimately, this is circular non-explanation as it leaves unexplained part of what is supposed to be explained (for example laws of physics, a space time void and suchlike).

So I argue that theism enjoys an advantage over the naturalist account: inference to best explanation favours theism. Now you may object that the three items above do not describe your own position, but in that case you will need to put your own naturalist explanation on the table; in other words, you will need to explain how the universe came about.

62. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,

1. The universe is a “brute fact” (the approach of Russell). But this is not an explanation. It also, arguably, commits what has been termed the taxi -cab fallacy. There are several other problems with it too, which I won’t go into.

Really, you won't go into that one? The most interesting one?
The hypothesis of the universe being a “brute fact” appears to me as an ad hoc postulation and explanation like the hypothesis of creation is an ad hoc postulation and explanation.
If there should be a problem with the hypothesis of the universe being a “brute fact”, then a similar problem should be found in the hypothesis of creation based upon, how both hypotheses are close to each other in their functionality. Both hypotheses are very similar to each other in their functionality (,if not they are technically the same thing - a hypothesis).

So what are those problems exactly of the hypothesis of the universe being a “brute fact”? Also I'm very curious about that taxi-cab fallacy. What is that exactly? Never heard of it and before I google it, I like to hear it from you. It might be, that I'll get that from a wrong place using the wrong words to explain it and I really don't want to equivocate here. That's the last thing I want to do. And yes that doesn’t mean, that I won’t do it.
At least I’m honest about it, not like you while using the word “change” really weirdly and not even explaining really, what you mean or meant by that even by requesting to do so:

My point was that your suggestion that the universe was a necessary entity is untenable since a necessary entity cannot undergo change, since change is a transition from potentiality to actuality, and only an existence that is pure actuality can be ontologically necessary.
April 14, 2021 at 12:50 AM from you JamesH

Yeah, I don't really understand, what you mean by the notion "change".
Further I also like to have an elaborate explanation on the notions "potentiality" and "actuality".
Which entities are potential? Which entities are actual?
Which conditions are necessary or sufficient to "change"/transition an entity from being potential to being actual? Or the other way around which conditions are necessary or sufficient to "change"/transition an entity from being actual to being potential?
April 14, 2021 at 6:53 AM my request

I just meant that change occurred in the universe from one state to another.
April 14, 2021 at 7:32 AM from you, JamesH

Not really the requested response and explanation, which I was expecting nor which I was hoping for.

63. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,
Also I'm not talking about what's "IN" the universe.
I'm talking ABOUT the universe ITSELF.
So would you be so kind and please adress my question accordingly:
Why couldn't the universe ITSELF exist necessarily?
Sure, changement IN the universe can, might and is happening, but to my eyes the universe itself regardless of the changement IN it is not changing ITSELF. In my opinion it's rather the case that the universe ITSELF is not changing. At all times the universe ITSELF stays to be the universe ITSELF.

64. Mactoul says:

Zsolt
There are several answers to the question of why the universe could not exist necessarily itself. I point out just one.

The laws of physics what are they?
They are certainly not physical.
So, the laws, more fundamental than the physical entities themselves are not physical themselves. It implies existence of non-physical entities but if universe is just collection of physical entities then there is something beyond the universe.

65. Mactoul says:

It is said (by Aquinas?) that in a debate either one must agree with opponent's premises or must kill him.

No argument can proceed to a conclusion if premises are not shared. Hence one must argue with a naturalist on his premises and not bring in God or Christ.

Naturalism can be shown to be lacking on its own ground.

66. Mactoul says:

Zsolt,
Physics investigates reproducible events and the laws of physics summarize the investigation.

But physics itself is silent about possible existence of non-reproducible singular events. Their existence must be ruled out on other grounds.
Now I submit that the creation of the universe such as by Big Bang singularly is a singular event in principle. Thus it is outside the purview of physics,

67. Mactoul says:

Zsolt,
"The universe itself doesn't appear to be changing."

An unchanging universe?
Universe is just a collection of things, the largest collection that is. If the things change--such as a thing going out of existence and a thing coming into existence--for instance a piece of paper burned into ashes, then the set that is universe changes.

68. Mactoul says:

Zsolt,
It is especially ironic that you propound an unchanging universe for what else is physics but a study of changes in material things.

69. Zsolt Nagy says:

Mactoul,

The laws of physics what are they?
They are certainly not physical.
So, the laws, more fundamental than the physical entities themselves are not physical themselves. It implies existence of non-physical entities but if universe is just collection of physical entities then there is something beyond the universe.

But it appears to me, that the laws of physics are entailed by nature - the physical. Otherwise we wouldn't call them natural/physical laws or the laws of physics. So the foundation is the physical nature at least for the laws of physics.
If you want to make the claim, that's not how it goes, but the other way around, then you can make that claim, but don't expect me to accept that claim without any evidence or explanation.
We get the law of gravity because of the phenomenon of gravity and NOT there is the phenomenon gravity, because of the law of gravity.
Ach, it's weird and bizarre even to type that. Almost like typing, that any character would ever live in a book.

I can agree to the "existence" of the metaphysical, but not to the existence of the supernatural.
The supernatural doesn't appear to me sufficient nor necessary for even for that "existence" of the metaphysics.

It is said (by Aquinas?) that in a debate either one must agree with the opponent's premises or must kill him.
No argument can proceed to a conclusion if premises are not shared. Hence one must argue with a naturalist on his premises and not bring in God or Christ.
Naturalism can be shown to be lacking on its own ground.

Sure, I can agree: Arguments of Indirect Skepticism can be effective.
I'm a naturalist defending naturalism with indirect skeptical arguments showing and demonstrating contradictions in theistical statements and claims.
You on the other hand are a theist defending theism, but sadly not with indirect skeptical arguments showing and demonstrating any contradictions in naturalism. You are only making claims upon claims without any tiny bit of demonstration.
Let me show you, how it's a demonstration is properly done:

My claim: Mactoul is cuckoo bananas.
Showing the claim to be true:
(P1) If Mactoul states, that "human sensations" are not expressible in numbers even though "human sensations" are demonstrably expressible in numbers, then Mactoul is cuckoo bananas.
(P2) Mactoul has stated, that "human sensations" are not expressible in numbers even though "human sensations" are demonstrably expressible in numbers. Here is a demostration.
(Conclusion from P1 and P2 via modus ponens)
Therefore, Mactoul is cuckoo bananas.

You see? It's not that hard to give a little demonstration of a particular claim to be true.
So you made the claim, that "Naturalism can be shown to be lacking on its own ground."
If so, then I also like to have a little bit of demonstration of that claim to be true besides the made claim.

Physics investigates reproducible events and the laws of physics summarize the investigation.
But physics itself is silent about the possible existence of non-reproducible singular events. Their existence must be ruled out on other grounds.
Now I submit that the creation of the universe such as by Big Bang singularly is a singular event in principle. Thus it is outside the purview of physics.

Hm. This doesn't appear to be sound.
Usually silence is indicating a retention of judgment.
If physics itself is silent about possible existence of non-reproducible singular events, so without any judgement upon such a phenomenon, then how are you exactly concluding that such a phenomenon is outside the purview of physics? It is a very weird conclusion.

An unchanging universe?
Universe is just a collection of things, the largest collection that is. If the things change--such as a thing going out of existence and a thing coming into existence--for instance a piece of paper burned into ashes, then the set that is the universe changes.
It is especially ironic that you propound an unchanging universe for what else is physics but a study of changes in material things.

Yeah, but then again somethings in the said universe doesn't appear to be changing such as the universe itself entailing the adjustable but apparently unchangeable laws of physics doesn't appear to be changing itself.
The energy conservation law is an indication of such an unchanging entity existing in our unchanging universe itself.
Sure, the process of burning a piece of paper into ashes might indicate a changement, but at the same time the total energy of the system is not changing in the process making it a prime example entailing the energy conservation law.
Wait a second! Didn't I already explain this to you with the exact same example of a piece of paper burning into ashes?
But who am I really talking to? A person who is satisfied making claims upon claims without giving a tiny bit of demonstrations of the said claims to be true.

70. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: But it appears to me, that the laws of physics are entailed by nature - the physical. Otherwise we wouldn't call them natural/physical laws or the laws of physics. So the foundation is the physical nature at least for the laws of physics.”

Fallacious reasoning. That we *call* laws “natural/physical laws or the laws of physics” does not deductively imply that the laws of physics *are* entailed by nature.

“but don't expect me to accept that claim without any evidence or explanation.”

“I'm a naturalist defending naturalism with indirect skeptical arguments showing and demonstrating contradictions in theistical statements and claims”

Your implicit argument here is logically fallacious too. Even if all of the arguments which we presented in favour of supernaturalism were invalid arguments, it wouldn’t follow that naturalism is true. At best you would be left with agnosticism on the question.

“You on the other hand are a theist defending theism, but sadly not with indirect skeptical arguments showing and demonstrating any contradictions in naturalism. “

I presented at some length some of the problems associated with naturalism, which you have not addressed. Again: naturalism is not able to provide a satisfactory explanation for the metaphysical fact of there being a universe. We have discussed a “brute fact” universe, which you agreed was not an explanation. I then discussed the problems associated with Platonism which you have not addressed. Do you wish to endorse Platonism or not? If so, please explain how abstract entities can act in a causal manner. The third option is circular non-explanation. Since the universe includes physical objects, abstract objects like numbers etc. ( if they exist), the laws of nature (if they exist), then to invoke laws of nature to explain the universe is a to present a circular argument which leaves unexplained part of what is supposed to be explained (the laws which are part of the universe as I define it).

71. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: So would you be so kind and please adress my question accordingly:
Why couldn't the universe ITSELF exist necessarily?”

I think I have already addressed this. Necessary existence cannot *undergo* change, as change is a transition from potentiality to actuality; only an existence that is pure actuality can be ontologically necessary.

72. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,

“Zsolt: But it appears to me, that the laws of physics are entailed by nature - the physical. Otherwise we wouldn't call them natural/physical laws or the laws of physics. So the foundation is the physical nature at least for the laws of physics.”
Fallacious reasoning. That we *call* laws “natural/physical laws or the laws of physics” does not deductively imply that the laws of physics *are* entailed by nature.
“but don't expect me to accept that claim without any evidence or explanation.”

First of all, what exactly are the laws of physics? They are again descriptions of specified and categorized observations, measurements and explanations of natural phenomenon.
Example the law of gravity: Two bodies with masses $m_1$ and $m_2$ with the distance $r$ between them are applying an equal and opposite force on each other - the gravitational force:
$|\vec{F_{1,2}}|= |\vec{F_{2,1}}|=G\frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2}$
with the gravitational constant $G=6.67408\times 10^{-11} m^3 kg^{-1} s^{-2}$
So this law of gravity necessitates the natural phenomenon gravity itself.
The law's existence is implying the natural phenomenon's existence, but not the other way around.
It appears to me, that even before Newton's description of gravity the natural phenomenon gravity has always been occuring. It would be bizarre to ever think, that Newton's description of gravity would ever cause the natural phenomenon of gravity.

So now that your request has been fulfilled by me and the "red herring" is out of the way. Would you be so kind fulfilling my request answering my question accordingly:
Why couldn't the universe ITSELF exist necessarily?
Sure, changement IN the universe can, might and is happening, but to my eyes the universe itself regardless of the changement IN it is not changing ITSELF. In my opinion it's rather the case that the universe ITSELF is not changing. At all times the universe ITSELF stays to be the universe ITSELF.

You see I can follow my own advice. How about you being capable of demonstrating some empathy and demonstrating to me to follow my good advice? I think, that would be only fair and helpful.

Your implicit argument here is logically fallacious too. Even if all of the arguments which we presented in favour of supernaturalism were invalid arguments, it wouldn’t follow that naturalism is true. At best you would be left with agnosticism on the question.

It's not my goal with this to demonstrate my case to be true. But my goal is with this to demonstrate, how preposterous the notion is to think, that one might have the "best" explanation based upon an ad hoc postulation and hypothesis, especially with YOUR KIND of reasoning.

Also I'm not saying, that an ad hoc hypothesis is not an explanation. If I have ever said that or hinted towards that, then I apologize for that, because that's not my conception of postulations or ad hoc postulations.
But I'm against your notion of having the "best" explanation or judgement upon saying, which ad hoc explanation is the "best" one to have - only claiming and mentioning problems jada jada, but not even providing any explanations of those mentioned "problems".
Oh and by the way, I googled the taxi-cab "fallacy".
Wow! Wow! Wow! Really?

PS: Sorry for the inconvinience again, Aron. Last time I missplaced the adress of the link. And now it's an eyesore and not functioning properly. I hoped, that it worked this time around.

73. Zsolt Nagy says:

Mactoul,
I found these two nice little demonstrations about conservation of mass.
First one is from Royal Society Of Chemistry and the second one is from FlinnScientific.
But these seem to contradict to your notion of science being only the study of changes in material things:

It is especially ironic that you propound an unchanging universe for what else is physics but a study of changes in material things.

Under the lights of those two videos, it doesn’t appear to be the case, that science, chemistry or even physics are only studying changes in material things.

Zsolt, let's try another analogy. Suppose that you know nothing about chess and you sit down to watch a game for the first time. You see how the pieces are moved and you work out what the rules of the game are. You know that a certain chess piece must move in a certain way. Because you understand how games in general work, you know that the rules are arbitrary.

Scientists are in a similar position. They have worked out what the rules of the game are, which they call "laws of nature". But how closely does the analogy hold? You could argue that the analogy doesn't hold if the rules (or laws) are not arbitrary. But how can that be demonstrated? If the laws of physics could have been different then there cannot be an appeal to necessity. That puts you, as a naturalist, in a difficult position. You may then have to concede that the laws have been laid down by a Lawmaker.

75. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: First of all, what exactly are the laws of physics? They are again descriptions of specified and categorized observations, measurements and explanations of natural phenomenon”

There is no consensus concerning the status of laws of nature amongst philosophers of science. I am happy to discuss these, but it remains the case that your earlier argument [“But it appears to me, that the laws of physics are entailed by nature - the physical. Otherwise we wouldn't call them natural/physical laws or the laws of physics. So the foundation is the physical nature at least for the laws of physics.”] is logically fallacious. That you *call* laws “natural/physical laws or the laws of physics” does not deductively imply that the laws of physics *are* entailed by nature’ as I said before.

“...It appears to me, that even before Newton's description of gravity the natural phenomenon gravity has always been occuring. It would be bizarre to ever think, that Newton's description of gravity would ever cause the natural phenomenon of gravity.”

I certainly haven’t presented such a conception of the laws of nature. What I did say -and you have not addressed this- is that on the understanding of “universe” that I am presenting, laws of nature, including highest level
probabilistic laws, are *themselves part of the universe*; science cannot explain its own highest level scientific laws since these are the means by which it explains other phenomena-it would be to resort to circular explanation.

“So now that your request has been fulfilled by me and the "red herring" is out of the way. Would you be so kind fulfilling my request answering my question accordingly:
Why couldn't the universe ITSELF exist necessarily?
Sure, changement IN the universe can, might and is happening, but to my eyes the universe itself regardless of the changement IN it is not changing ITSELF. “

I clarified this in my earlier reply. I said that “necessary existence cannot *undergo* change, as change is a transition from potentiality to actuality; only an existence that is pure actuality can be ontologically necessary.”
So I am referring to the universe *undergoing* change. That seems to me to be perfectly clear.

However, I will add that spacetime is contingent in its properties; different models of the universe have different spacetime structures, e.g. some have a beginning whilst others don’t etc. Hartle/Hawking, for example, allowed that their model was only one of many possible spacetimes. So spacetime is credibly not a necessary entity.

“It's not my goal with this to demonstrate my case to be true. But my goal is with this to demonstrate, how preposterous the notion is to think, that one might have the "best" explanation based upon an ad hoc postulation “

Mine is not ad hoc since it is not intended to solve a particular problem. And I have pointed out that inference to best explanation is commonly employed in science and philosophy. In the present case, theism plainly has an explanation whereas, arguably, naturalism has none, or no credible explanation (Platonism is not a credible explanation imo).

76. Aron Wall says:

Some quick comments as moderator of the blog:

Zsolt,
Please refrain from calling the other commenters "cuckoo bananas". That was unnecessary.

Also, I don't really have much time to answer your questions right now, but many of these topics were treated in other posts on my blog, including a long series about the cosmological argument where I explained why I don't think we can take the universe to be the ultimate reality.

Everyone involved here,
Thanks for your comments, however I don't think this conversation is generating very much insight. It seems to me that you guys are mostly talking past each other. While I'm not going to blow the whistle and end things quite yet, I would ask everyone here to slow down, and try to spend more time listening and understanding the other person's point of view, rather than type comment after comment, saying the same things over and over again. As the Bible says:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19)

I would really, strongly encourage everybody here to try to keep the focus of the conversation limited if you want it to be productive. In particular, people seem to be disregarding my hint that it would be better to focus in this conversation on the meaning of creation ex nihilo, and to save arguing about whether it is true for a future time. Or is everybody already here totally agreed about what it means?---in which case we really ought to stop, and celebrate that achievement, before moving on to the next challenge.

(Also, arguing about miracles in the abstract without considering the evidence for specific historical examples doesn't seem very likely to be useful.)

This whole conversation is off-topic for "Need Help with Writing?" anyway, so maybe I shouldn't have allowed it to start in the first place. (I would rather people ask their questions on topical blog posts, rather than whichever post happens to be the most recent.)

77. Zsolt Nagy says:

David,

If the laws of physics could have been different then there cannot be an appeal to necessity. That puts you, as a naturalist, in a difficult position. You may then have to concede that the laws have been laid down by a Lawmaker.

I would put a big emphasis on the little word "IF" in the sentence "If the laws of physics could have been different then there cannot be an appeal to necessity."
If the laws of physics couldn't have been different, then there can be an appeal to necessity.
What's so hard to understand about that?
It's either way a speculation: Either IF YES, then this and this and IF NO, then that and that.
Sure, if the natural laws couldn't have been different, then the natural laws are, what they are. Either way the existence of the natural laws indicate the existence of natural phenomenons and nature itself, but not a Lawmaker. Don't get me wrong. It might be, that there is a Lawmaker. But the existence of natural laws are not telling that either way (yet).

The sun is rising every morning.
Is the sun rising every morning, because of God?
Is there God, because the sun is rising every morning?
If one morning the sun would not rize or disappear, what would that then indicate?
Should God be accounted for the missing rising sun or something else should be accounted for the missing rising sun.
If one morning there would be more than one sun rising, what would that then indicate?
Should God be accounted for the suddenly appearing suns or something else should be accounted for the extra suns out from nowhere?

If you hold the first position "Yes, the sun is rising every morning, because of God.",
then my question is to you then, why couldn't the sun rise according to its nature. Why couldn't the sun have for itself the urge and capability to rize?
If you hold the position "Yes, there is God, because the sun is rising every morning.", then my question is to you then, how exactly were you capable from the given information of the rising sun in every morning alone to conclude that. It's like saying "Look at the trees! Therefore, God.". I only see trees and the sun rising every morning.
If you hold both positions, then I hope, that you know, what that means. In that case, I won't ask you any questions anymore.

78. Zsolt Nagy says:

Aron,
The "cuckoo bananas" thing is noted.
To my defense, at least I made a demonstration with that and not just a claim.

I sure have a lot of unanswered questions to JamesH. But I also see and understand your point, Aron.
It's your blog and I respect that. So declare my dissatisfaction closer on that part.

But I would have really like to know, which position is David holding onto and specifically why.
Well, ce la vie.

79. Mactoul says:

Zsolt,
Your demonstration does not demonstrate what you think it does. It is well-known that the sensations, qualia as they are technically called are not measurable. For the simple instance, the sensation of heat is not the same as a thermometer reading nor can be reduced to any number.
To take even a simpler example, the blue color or the sensation of bluishness is not reducible to the frequency of the electromagnetic radiation that corresponds to the blue color.

I am afraid you are entirely disinclined to make the necessary distinctions. Your dismissal of our hosts' analogy to Tolkien's creation was priceless and staggering in totally missing the point.

80. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: Sure, if the natural laws couldn't have been different, then the natural laws are, what they are. Either way the existence of the natural laws indicate the existence of natural phenomenons and nature itself, but not a Lawmaker. Don't get me wrong. It might be, that there is a Lawmaker. But the existence of natural laws are not telling that either way (yet).”

The idea of there being natural laws without a Lawmaker is problematic, since such laws would be causally effete, i.e. laws are abstract objects which do not determine which world is actual. Which world is actual is explanatorily prior to which laws are true/false.

Bearing in mind what Aron has said, and to move the discussion forward, it is worth pointing out that there are several considerations which point to a foundational mind. Rasmussen, for example, argues that we should prefer a foundational as follows:

1. P(C|M) is not low where (a) C=‘there are complex creatures,’ (b)M =‘there is a foundational mind,’ and (c) the probability is epistemic (i.e., reasonable degree of expectation).
2. P(C|~M) is very low.
3. Therefore, C supports M.

Likewise:
1. P(R|M) is high, where (a)R= “principles of reason exist and are apprehended” and (b) M=‘ there is a foundational mind.’
2. P(R|~M) is not high.
3. Therefore, R supports M.

Rasmussen has several other categories which I have not typed here, including consciousness and morality, but you can see that the claim is that the theistic account is preferable to the naturalist one on Bayesian grounds.

81. Zsolt Nagy says:

Mactoul,
(P1) If it would be well-known that the sensations, qualia as they are technically called, are not measurable, then I would know about it.
(P2) I don't know about it, because whenever I'm awake and open my eyes to see the outside world, my eyes make an optical measurement in the form of a picture similarly like a photo-camera is making a measurement in the form of a picture. In colloquial language it's called "taking" a picture. The results of these measurements are then taken to my brain in the form of signals, which are then interpreted by my brain.
(Conclusion from P1 and P2 via modus tollens)
Therefore, it is not well-known that the sensations, qualia as they are technically called, are not measurable.

Also that our perceptions come from measurements of the outside world is mentioned a couple of times in this Crash Course Philosophy video by the example of an apple.
Any perception is a measurement in the first place.
From where do you get your nonsensical ideas?

82. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,

The idea of there being natural laws without a Lawmaker is problematic, since such laws would be causally effete, i.e. laws are abstract objects which do not determine which world is actual. Which world is actual is explanatorily prior to which laws are true/false.

Natural laws are discriptions of Nature being causally effete.
Yes laws/discriptions are abstract objects, which do not determine, which world is actual. Which world is actual is explanatorily prior to which laws are true/false.
But I don't see any problem in there being natural laws without a Lawmaker, if Nature is capable of being causally effete or is actually causally effete on its own.

83. Mactoul says:

In what units do you measure redness?

Zsolt, I am no expert on the subject, so you will have to bear with me. As I understand it, some aspects of the laws of nature may be the result of logical necessity. But does that apply to everything? For example, do there have to be the fundamental forces that we observe and no other forces? Perhaps future research will show that all the forces are variations of some Superforce and that they split off in some way that is potentially predictable. This is all highly speculative and there would still be the question of why there should be that particular Superforce and not some other logically possible Superforce.

I don't think naturalism can really offer us anything here. At some point you have to concede that the physical reality which we observe is only one of an indefinite number of conceivable realities. As someone once put it, who breathes fire into the equations? A theist can answer that question and a naturalist must dodge it.

P.S. You are wrong about qualia.

85. Zsolt Nagy says:

Mactoul,
Redness is measured in the units of intensity and frequency.
Expectedly intensity and frequency are also good candidates to measure sound.
Why expectedly? Because fundamentally speaking light and sound are waves.
Light is an electromagnetic wave - waves of electric and magnetic fields.
Sound is a material wave - waves of pressure and density changes in a material.
Here is a Pitch-to-Color Calculator.
Here is a more sophisticated work on on the subject Color and Sound: Physical and Psychophysical Relations by Jose Luis Caivano.
Also it's no wonder, that there is a condition, where some people apparently see colors, when they are listening to music and sound: Chromesthesia
Sure, there might be problems with the interpretation of measurements. But to have those problems with the measurements measurements must be able to be done and must be done in the first place.
To have any kind of sensations measurements must be done in the first place.

86. Mactoul says:

Zsolt
But what is the unit of redness and it's dimensions.

87. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: I don’t understand what you mean by nature being causally effete. I referred to abstract laws as being causally effete which makes sense, but I don’t see how the term is applicable to nature.

88. Zsolt Nagy says:

Mactoul,
I don't know exactly, what you mean by the question "But what is the unit of redness and it's dimensions?", though. A clarification on that would be helpful. Also what do you exactly mean by the word "redness"? What is your definition of "redness"?
As for the question, in what units is "odor" supposed to be measured, I stumbled upon the second entry/wiki-article about "odor" while googling the term "odor":

Physiology of smell
- Sense of smell
...
Odor sensation usually depends on the concentration (number of molecules) available to the olfactory receptors. A single odorant is usually recognized by many receptors. Different odorants are recognized by combinations of receptors. The patterns of neuron signals help to identify the smell. The olfactory system does not interpret a single compound, but instead the whole odorous mix. This does not correspond to the concentration or intensity of any single constituent.
...

- Smell acuity compared to other animals
For most untrained individuals, the act of smelling acquires little information concerning the specific ingredients of an odor. Their smell perception primarily offers information that elicits an emotional response.[citation needed] Experienced individuals, however, such as flavorists and perfumers, can identify discrete chemicals in complex mixtures using only the sense of smell.

Odor perception is a primary evolutionary sense. The sense of smell can induce pleasure or subconsciously warn of danger, which may, for example, help to locate mates, find food, or detect predators. Humans have an unusually good sense of smell considering they have only 350 functional olfactory receptor genes compared to the 1,300 found in mice, for example. This is despite an apparent evolutionary decline in the sense of smell. The human sense of smell is comparable with many animals, able to distinguish between a diverse range of odors. Studies have reported that humans can distinguish in the region of one trillion unique aromas.

So I guess, then the measurement units of "odor" are pretty much similar to the measurement units of "color".
The measurement units of "odor" is also intensity, which is a mixture of concentration and frequency, but also the composition and mixture of the measured constitutes is relevant here. It's actually also relevant for the measurement units of "color", because there are only three distinct optical receptors for the colors red, green and blue - the RGB-color system: wiki-article about the RGB-color system and a very compact article about "How We See Color. The other perceived colors are specific mixtures and compositions of the three colors red, green and blue.

David,

This is all highly speculative and there would still be the question of why there should be that particular Superforce and not some other logically possible Superforce.

I don't think naturalism can really offer us anything here. At some point you have to concede that the physical reality which we observe is only one of an indefinite number of conceivable realities. As someone once put it, who breathes fire into the equations? A theist can answer that question and a naturalist must dodge it.

P.S. You are wrong about qualia.

Yes, that's my point: Without solidified knowledge everything is a speculation.
But just because naturalism can't provide the answer yet based upon the incompleteness of current knowledge about physics, as you have perfectly noted this out, you can't rule naturalism out based upon that.
If we would have that complete knowledge about physics or you could definitely state the knowledge about physics never to be completed or always to be incomplete, then you might have a justified reason based upon that to rule out naturalism.
Also just because one might have an answer to a question, it doesn't follow, that the given answer is necessarily correct:
I asked my parents as a child, who brought me the presents on christmas evening. The answer was for my question Christkind. Yet today without any evidence, I think, that I have a reasonable alternative answer to that question of mine as a child.
Also how did that "someone", who put it that way: "Who breathes fire into the equations?", ruled out the possibility of "something" breathing fire into the equations? Maybe that "someone" had so little imagination, that he could only imagine his "image" into the answer for his own rhetorical question.
I guess then, that I have a little too much imagination, because based upon that I just simply can't rule out the possibility of "something" breathing fire into the equations.
Hm. I think then, it's still all just a speculation, till we get the full picture of physics. It's rather unreasonable to jump to conclusions, before we got that full picture of reality.

I think, that sufficiently I demonstrated my case to be true. If you think otherwise, then please don't hold yourself back and make your case for your claim and not just the claim itself.

JamesH,
First, yes, I didn't know the meaning of the word "effete", so I translated the whole section. The word was sadly incorrectly translated as "effective" in the translation of that section of yours - stupid google-translator.

Secondly, I think, that I can finally narrow our problem of ours down to a single thing: definition of natural laws".
You consider the laws of physics being similar to the ten commandments of the bible. Yet they are very, very, very not the same things, at least not in my eyes.
All the ten commandments begin with an imperative "Thou shalt..."/"Remember..."/"Honour..."/"You shall...". Exception for the first one "I am the Lord thy God." - that's a declaration or a description in a very loose sense.
But none of the currently known laws of physics is an imperative. They are descriptive or they are at most a declaration of natural phenomenons.

Natural phenomenon of gravity:
Matter and masses attract each other. (old school description given by Newton)
But NOT matter and masses shall or ought to attract each other.
Or matter and masses follow the metric of space-time and the metric of space-time is set by masses, matter and energy-impulse density. (new school description given by Einstein)
But NOT matter and masses shall or ought to follow the metric of space-time and the metric of space-time shall or ought to be set by masses, matter and energy-impulse density.

Newton's law of gravity:
Two bodies with masses $m_1$ and $m_2$ with the distance $r$ between them are applying an equal and opposite force on each other - the gravitational force:
$|\vec{F_{1,2}}|= |\vec{F_{2,1}}|=G\frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2}$
with the gravitational constant $G=6.67408\times 10^{-11} m^3 kg^{-1} s^{-2}$.
Einstein's law of gravity:
- geodesic equation: $\frac{\mathrm{d}^2 x^\lambda}{\mathrm{d}t^2}+\Gamma^{\lambda}_{\mu\nu}\frac{\mathrm{d} x^\mu}{\mathrm{d}t}\frac{\mathrm{d} x^\nu}{\mathrm{d}t}$,
where $\Gamma^{\lambda}_{\mu\nu}$ are the Christoffel symbols of the metric.
(matter and masses following the metric of space-time)
- Einstein field equations: $G_{\mu\nu}+\Lambda g_{\mu\nu}=\kappa T_{\mu\nu}$,
with the Einstein tensor $G_{\mu\nu}=R_{\mu\nu}-\frac{1}{2} R g_{\mu\nu$,
with the Ricci curvature tensor $R_{\mu\nu}$ and the scalar curvature $R$
and the metric tensor $g_{\mu\nu}$,
with the cosmological constant $\Lambda$
and the stress–energy tensor $T_{\mu\nu}$.
The Einstein gravitational constant is defined to be $\kappa=\frac{8\pi G}{c^4}=2.077\times 10^{-43}N^{-1}$.
(the metric of space-time being set by masses, matter and energy-impulse density)

Sure, a description necessitates a Discriber, who makes that description. But natural phenomenons themselves don't require any "Lawmaker" in order to be "not-causally effete" based upon the currently known natural laws. Maybe one day it will be apparent in nature, that without a "Lawmaker" nature is not capable of being casually effective. Maybe, maybe not. But currently that is not apparent in nature or in the descriptions of the natural phenomenons themselves.
So how do you exactly conclude, that any currently known natural law - a description of natural phenomenons - would require a "Lawmaker"? As of today's incomplete description of physics it's suspect to me.

89. Zsolt Nagy says:

PS to Aron: A "\$"-sign is missing after "with the cosmological constant $\Lambda$"
and on the right side of Einstein's field equations it is supposed to be $\kappa T_{\mu\nu}$ and not the current term.

Thank you!
[Fixed--AW]

90. JamesH says:

“You consider the laws of physics being similar to the ten commandments of the bible. “

No I do not- I have neither stated nor implied anything of the sort. You are trying to put words into my mouth. What I said was that natural laws are part of the universe as I have defined it. Hence, they cannot be used to explain the fact of there being a universe- to invoke them in this way would involve circular reasoning, leaving part of what is supposed to be explained (the laws themselves) unexplained.

91. Mactoul says:

Zsolt,
A thing can have only one unit. You can't measure redness in both intensity and frequency.
Redness is primitive. It can't be defined.
Can you measure pain?

92. Zsolt Nagy says:

Mactoul,
Do you mean by any chance with "redness is primitive" this like in the section "2.1 Primitivism: The Simple Objectivist View of Colors"?
To be honest with you, I understood maybe a half of the general topic there about the philosophy of color. In my opinion, the simple objectivist view of colors - primitive colors - is the worst one of philosophies to have.
It pushes the questions about, what colors actually are, from where do they come and how they are perceived, quite far away. It doesn't pushes those questions entirely away, but I just can't imagine explaining myself or a person with a full understanding of that notion of color to a blind person such as Tommy Edison and expect, that the blind person would understand in any given way, what colors supposed to be.
Blind persons "see" the world with sound through their ears. So naturally I would explain a blind person in analogy with, what I'm seeing with my eyes - colors/electromagnetic waves/light - and with his "seeing"/hearing of sound waves. There are many similarities between sound and light waves based upon the physical fact, that both are some kind of a wave. Some similarities are tabled here in the section "How light travels".
If you can't provide an insightful explanation of color to a blind person, then in my opinion you don't know for yourself, what you are actually looking at.
"White light is a mixture of many different colours, each with a different frequency." - firts sentence from here.
"For a (sound) wave the frequency is the number of waves per second – the higher the frequency, the closer together the waves are and the higher the pitch." - under the section "Oscilloscope traces" from here.

Can you measure pain?

Hm, a perfect question to google it. So I did exactly that: I googled it.
First hit: Scientists Objectively Measure Pain for the First Time Using Brain Scans
Third hit: You can’t measure pain
Sixth hit: Researchers are closing in on objective ways to measure pain (basicly the first hit again)
Well, I'm not on the side of "nah"-sayers. Maybe one day we might objectively measure pain just like one day we might fly like birds or better. Oh, we are already doing that flying thing.

I would also like to guess your next question: "Can you measure love?"
In that case my answer would be, that we might currently not be able to measure pure love objectively or maybe never be able to. But on the other hand relationships are no biggies:
<A HREF="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2vN2QXZGnc&quot; TITLE=""Mathematics and *** | Clio Cresswell | TEDxSydney and The Relationship Equation - Numberphile and Hannah Fry: The mathematics of love.

JamesH,

No I do not- I have neither stated nor implied anything of the sort (the laws of physics being similar to the ten commandments of the bible). You are trying to put words into my mouth. What I said was that natural laws are part of the universe as I have defined it. Hence, they cannot be used to explain the fact of there being a universe- to invoke them in this way would involve circular reasoning, leaving part of what is supposed to be explained (the laws themselves) unexplained.

Fair enough of a point. I apologize, if it seemed that way. That wasn't my intention with my response. My intention was and still is with that response and not addressed by your last response, how the laws of physics would indicate in their current form as descriptions towards the existence of a "Lawmaker":

Sure, a description necessitates a Discriber, who makes that description. But natural phenomenons themselves don't require any "Lawmaker" in order to be "not-causally effete" based upon the currently known natural laws. Maybe one day it will be apparent in nature, that without a "Lawmaker" nature is not capable of being casually effective. Maybe, maybe not. But currently that is not apparent in nature or in the descriptions of the natural phenomenons themselves.
So how do you exactly conclude, that any currently known natural law - a description of natural phenomenons - would require a "Lawmaker"? As of today's incomplete description of physics it's suspect to me.

"Inference to the best explanation!" - your words.
So the "best" explanation for descriptions are the existence of discribers such as Newton and Einstein were/are for the law of gravity. - my words.
So what is that "best" explanation of yours for the laws of physics/discriptions of nature?

PS: Thanks for correction, Aron.
Have you and the other readers of this blog a good week ahead of you.

93. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: My intention was and still is with that response and not addressed by your last response, how the laws of physics would indicate in their current form as descriptions towards the existence of a "Lawmaker".

I am not arguing directly from there being laws to there being a lawmaker. I am arguing that theism is able to provide an explanation for there being a universe, whereas atheism can only provide circular non-explanation or Platonism (which is highly problematic). We can argue for a necessary causal state as follows:

1. Possibly a first contingent causal state (FCCS) is caused to exist.
2. In the possible case where an FCCS is caused to exist, it must be caused by a necessary causal state (NCS).
3 :. It’s possible that there is an NCS.
4. If an NCS is possible then it exists.
5. :. An NCS exists.

94. Zsolt Nagy says:

JamesH,

1. Possibly a first contingent causal state (FCCS) is caused to exist.
2. In the possible case where an FCCS is caused to exist, it must be caused by a necessary causal state (NCS).
3 :. It’s possible that there is an NCS.
4. If an NCS is possible then it exists.
5. :. An NCS exists.

1st problem/objection:
All necessities are also possibilities, but not all possibilities are necessities. Similarly to all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.
Or putting it very precisely the set of all squares is a subset of the set of all rectangles, but the set of all rectangles is not a subset of the set of all squares.
I think, that this is also true in the metaphysical sense for necessities and possibilities:
The set of all necessities is a subset of the set of all possibilities, but the set of all possibilities is not a subset of the set of all necessities.
So it naturally follows, that if a considered proposition is necessary, then that considered proposition is also possible (just like if a considered quadrilateral is a square, then that considered quadrilateral is also a rectangle).
BUT it's not strictly the case, that if a considered proposition is possible, then that considered proposition is necessary (just like it's irrational the constitute the premise "If a considered quadrilateral is a rectangle, then that considered quadrilateral is also a square.").
You are indirectly trying to state this with your premise "4. If an NCS is possible then it exists.".
I reject that premise, because there are some propositions, which might not be necessary.
I know what that "N" means in "NCS". But that "N”ecessary applies for the "C"ausal "S"tate itself and not strictly for the proposition of it's existence. So from the Possibility of the Existence of an NCS doesn't strictly follow the Necessity of the Existence of such an NCS. (But it should be clear, that from the Necessity of the Existence of an NCS the Possibility of the Existence of an NCS follows: "If an NCS exists, then an NCS is possible.")

Sidenote: What is a "possible necessity"? I know, what "possibility" and "necessity" on their own mean. But "possible necessity"? What is that exactly? A further elaboration on that notion might be helpful here.

2nd problem/objection:
Your first conclusion and the rest of your argument might be valid and sound:

1. Possibly a first contingent causal state (FCCS) is caused to exist.
2. In the possible case where an FCCS is caused to exist, it must be caused by a necessary causal state (NCS).
3 :. It’s possible that there is an NCS.

But how exactly is this argument of yours relevant?
It might be the case, that "possibly a first contingent causal state (FCCS) is caused to exist", and it might be the case, that "possibly a non-first contingent causal state (NonFCCS) is caused to exist".
It might be the case, that "if an FCCS is possibly caused to exist, then it must be caused by a necessary causal state (NCS)", and it might be the case, that "if an NonFCCS is possibly caused to exist, then it might have been caused by another NonFCCS".
It might then follow, that "it’s possible that there is an NCS", or it might follow, that "there might be another NonFCCS and there might be another NonFCCS and there might be another NonFCCS and there might be...".
Hm, that "other" explanation doesn't appear to me being circular, but it appears to me being linear.
So what do you think about that explanation? What's wrong with that? I can guess, that you might have some problems with that, but I just don't know exactly, what those problems of yours with that explanation are supposed to be.

95. Mactoul says:

Zsolt,
Please to give units and dimensions to these measures of sensations.

96. JamesH says:

“Zsolt: 1. Possibly a first contingent causal state (FCCS) is caused to exist.
2. In the possible case where an FCCS is caused to exist, it must be caused by a necessary causal state (NCS).3 :. It’s possible that there is an NCS.
4. If an NCS is possible then it exists.
5. :. An NCS exists. 1st problem/objection:
You are indirectly trying to state this with your premise "4. If an NCS is possible then it exists.". I reject that premise, because there are some propositions, which might not be necessary...from the Possibility of the Existence of an NCS doesn't strictly follow the Necessity of the Existence of such an NCS. “

No, this objection fails. In S5 if it’s possibly necessary that p, then it’s necessary that p. Here is the relevant theorem:
1. ~p->[]~p (5 axiom)
2. ~p->~~~p (def. of [])
3. ~~~~p->~~p (contraposition)
4. ~~p->~~p (double negation)
5. []p~>[]p (def. of [])

To explain this more intuitively: a proposition’s modal status doesn’t change from world to world. For example, if a proposition isn’t necessarily true, then there is no possible world in which it is necessarily true. This is equivalent, by contraposition, to : if there is a possible world in which it’s necessarily true, it’s necessarily true.

“2nd problem/objection:
But how exactly is this argument of yours relevant?
It might be the case, that "possibly a first contingent causal state (FCCS) is caused to exist", and it might be the case, that "possibly a non-first contingent causal state (NonFCCS) is caused to exist".

This objection also fails. When you say, “possibly a non-first contingent causal state is caused to exist,” you are quite right-indeed it might. But that is irrelevant, since it does not contradict any premise of the argument. “Possibly a first contingent causal state is caused to exist” is quite consistent with “possibly some other contingent causal state (which is not a first contingent causal state) is caused to exist”; for example, a first contingent causal state may cause other contingent causal states!

So I don’t think that either of your objections defeats the argument.

97. JamesH says:

Correction:
necessary that p. Here is the relevant theorem:
1 ~p->[]~p (5 axiom)
2 ~p->~~~p (def. of [])
3 ~~~~p->~~p (contra position)
4 ~~p->~~p (double negation)5
5 []p~>[]p (def. of [])

98. JamesH says:

Apologies: the theorem and its “correction” are both incorrect! For some reason on both occasions the pasted theorem -which was correct-has been mangled! I hesitate to post it for a third time!

99. Zsolt Nagy says:

Mactoul,
For your question of regarding measuring pain I provided you the link to Scientists Objectively Measure Pain for the First Time Using Brain Scans.
The first link in that article leads you to the original article An fMRI-Based Neurologic Signature of Physical Pain. I think, that all your questions regarding the measurement of pain might be answered there.
Or you could just simply state that question in google. I thought, that you would know the drill by now, but I guess then, that this is my own failure having too many expectations towards people to understand the simple concept of materialism and naturalism.
Apropos, vague and pertinent explanations, what do you mean by "...-- chakras ? (questionmark)"?
A full sentence/question there might be helpful.

Further I dislike any form of interrogations. I don't like to do an interrogation and I also dislike being interrogated. I think, that answered enough of your nonsensical questions. Now it's your turn to answer my nonsensical questions.

Do you know by any chance the debut single of the Italian Eurodance band Eiffel 65 from 1998 with the title Blue (Da Ba Dee)?
The lyrics of the single goes as follows:

Yo, listen up here's a story
That lives in a blue world
And all day and all night
And everything he sees is just blue
Like him inside and outside

Blue his house
With a blue little window
And a blue corvette
And everything is blue for him
And himself and everybody around
Cause he ain't got nobody to listen to

I'm blue
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
I'm blue
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di
Da ba dee da ba di

...

Blue are the people here
That walk around
Blue like my corvette its in and outside
Blue are the words I say
And what I think
Blue are the feelings
That live inside me

...

Yes, on the service level this is a ridiculous song. But if you give it a serious thought, then a really interesting philosophical and epistemological question arises:
How exactly does the first-person narrator of that song know, that everything in his world is "blue", if really everything in his world is "blue"?
If Everything in his world is Blue, then Nothing is not Blue in his world and if Nothing is not Blue and Everything is Blue in his world, then how can he differentiate between the two cases of "having the property of Blue" and "having not the property of Blue"/"having the property of Not-Blue"?
I would argue, that if Everything is Blue and Nothing is not Blue in his world, then he can't differentiate between those two cases, because there are no two things in his world, that he can tell apart in that regard of the property of being Blue or Not-Blue. And if you can't differentiate that, then that concept of "Blue" becomes meaningless to analyze.

PS to Aron: You might think, that my question and explanation there is irrelevant.
If Everything in our world is Created, then Nothing is not Created in our world and if Nothing is not Created and Everything is Created in our world, then how can we differentiate between the two cases of "having the property of Created" and "having not the property of Created"/"having the property of Not-Created"?
I would argue, that if Everything is Created and Nothing is not Created in our world, then we can't differentiate between those two cases, because there are no two things in our world, that we can tell apart in that regard of the property of being Created or Not-Created. And if we can't differentiate that, then that concept of "Created" becomes meaningless to analyze.

100. Mactoul says:

Zsolt
None of your links give any indication of what units pain is to be measured in and dimensions of the proposed unit.

101. Aron Wall says:

Mactoul, JamesH, and Zsolt Nagy:

All right, this seems to be going nowhere fast. If you wish to continue this discussion, I'm going to ask you all to take it to some other place on the internet. (Please email me if you wish me to forward your email address to one or both of the other participants in the conversation.)

Zsolt,
Since you addressed me directly with your question: your objection to "created" confates the distinction between extensional and intensional properties. It is well known in logic that two terms can have distinct intensional meanings, notwithstanding the fact that extensionally they pick out the same set of entities. For example, the phrases "the current President of the United States" and "the husband of Jill Biden" refer to the same person, but that doesn't not mean that these two phrases have the exact same meaning. For example, it is quite meaningful to say he has the constitutional power to give orders to the army because he is President, not because of his marriage.

There are also lots of logically necessary propositions which apply to literally every single entity in the Universe, but that does devoid such propositions of all intellectual content or interest.

102. Zsolt Nagy says:

Aron,
I agree. This goes nowhere.
I try to address people's concerns at the same time conveying my concerns, but if people are not addressing my concerns or not showing any interest in them, then I also don't feel to continue with this.

I can agree to your sentiment of lots of logically necessary propositions, which apply to literally every single entity in the Universe, being there devoiding all intellectual content or interest.
But I can't agree with your logic, because the fact of him (Joe Biden) having the constitutional power to give orders to the army could also be explained by the fact, that he (Joe Biden) is the husband of Jill Biden AND the husband of Jill Biden is the current President of the United States.

How does this address in any given way my concerns towards the epistemic justification of the proposition of Creation?
I still don't know, how we are supposed to differentiate between being "Created" and being "Not-Created" and identify properly, that Everything was and is Created.
I guess, then I just have to wait till it’s my turn to receive that precious revelation given by the Creator, that Everything was and is Created.
Till then I just have to be satisfied with the conclusion of the proposition of Creation by induction similarly to the induction of a watchmaker by a created watch lying on a supposedly Created natural beach.
Or similarly to the induction of the proposition of “All swans being White.” by only witnessing White swans in the supposedly Created nature.
Oh, wait I guess, there was something about actually existing Black swans, which can be witnessed in the actual world.
Never mind that last bit.

Best regards,
Zsolt

103. Aron Wall says:

Zsolt,
You have to understand that it is quite difficult for people to get on the same wavelength when arguing over the internet (which sometimes leads to acrimony).

It has something to do with the delay in responses, and the inability to see facial expressions, and the temptation to write long missives instead of quieting down and listening to what the other person is saying.

I understand your frustration that nobody seems to be really listening to you, but for what it's worth I also don't think the other people in this conversation felt that you were fully listening to them either. But it's a danger of the medium. You'd probably do better to head to a pub with some philosophically inclined Theist that you know in real life (once that becomes possible again in your area).