The Instigator
Miles_Donahue
Con (against)
Losing
4 Points
The Contender
Sargon
Pro (for)
Winning
7 Points

General Relativity Implies that God does not Exist

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Sargon
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/20/2014 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,000 times Debate No: 56923
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (3)

 

Miles_Donahue

Con

For some time, Sargon has contended that general relativity supplies an argument for atheism; that is to say, implies that God does not exist. Him and I have debated this issue else where, and I am more convinced than ever that general relativity implies no such thing. But for the convenience of DDO users, a debate here would be helpful.

First round is for Sargon to present his argument as Pro.

For an equal number of rounds, Sargon will not be posting a reply on round four.

Plagiarism is of course not tolerable, though him or I may reproduce material from our previous writings.

All normal rules apply.
Sargon

Pro


Definitions




God--the uncaused, personal Creator of the universe who sans the universe is beginningless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, changeless, and enormously powerful.




Efficient cause--that which brings something into being. A chef is the efficient cause of the food he makes.




Logical soundness--all of the premises in the argument are true and the argument is logically valid




Logical validity--the truth of the premises necessarily entails the truth of the conclusion




Begins to exist--e comes into being at t if and only if (i) e exists at t, (ii) t is the first time at which e exists, (iii) there is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly, and (iv) e’s existing at t is a tensed fact.




Universe--the connected or contiguous space-time described by Einstein’s general theory of realativity





Introduction




In this debate, I will be arguing that general relativity allows us to construct an argument against the existence of god. Considering the technical nature of general relativity, the content of my opening argument will be fairly technical. However, I will explain all of the terms that I use and provide intuitive examples of these terms to make my argument easier to understand. If the reader truly attempts to follow the argument, then it will not be confusing. Finally, I thank the audience and Miles Donahue for taking the time to participate in this debate.




Argument




1: In order for god to cause* the universe, god must cause the universe at an instantaneous moment.


2: There is no instantaneous moment of the universe that god could cause. (Given that Einstein’s general theory of relativity is true)


3: God could not have caused the universe.




*By causation, I mean efficient causation, where something brings something else into being.




P1




I expect this premise to be the most controversial in the debate, because it based on philosophy rather than physical fact. However, I believe that an effective argument for this premise can be made based on the so-called “Problem of atemporal causation”. This problem asks us how god can create the universe if the beginning of the universe represents the beginning of time as well. If all of cause and effect takes place within time (we use words like “cause happens before effect”), then is it meaningless to talk about god causing time? In the words of physicist Paul Davies, “Perhaps the most serious objection, however, to the causal version of the cosmological argument is the fact that cause and effect are concepts that are firmly embedded in the notion of time. Yet, as we have seen, modern cosmology suggests that the appearance of the universe involved the appearance of time itself. It is usually accepted that cause always precedes effect in time: the target shatters after the gun is fired, for example. In that case it is clearly meaningless to talk about God creating the universe in the usual causal sense, if that act of creation involves the creation of time itself. If there was no ‘before’, there can be no cause (in the usual sense) of the big bang, either natural or supernatural.” [1]




The theist answer to this dilemma is to argue that cause and effect can happen at the same time. To get out of the dilemma, the theist states that god caused the universe simultaneous with the universe coming into being. In the words of the Christian philosopher William Lane Craig, “God's creating the universe is simultaneous with the universe's coming into being.” [2] God creates from a timeless realm, but the act of creation was in time, so the dilemma is avoided entirely.




I agree with this solution to the dilemma, and my point in mentioning the “Problem of atemporal causation” was not to argue against theism, but rather to point out that the theist has to commit themselves to god creating the universe at an instantaneous moment. The scenario I described obviously involves a universe which begins at an instantaneous moment, as all things which happen simultaneously also occur instantaneously (Indeed, the word simultaneously means “at the same time”, and the word instantaneously means “without delay” [3]). Therefore, in order for god to cause the universe, he has to cause the universe at an instantaneous moment. Otherwise, the theist faces the “Problem of atemporal causation”.




P2




This debate takes place in the context of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Because of this, the term “instantaneous moment” must be addressed in the context of Einstein’s general theory of relativity as well. In Einstein’s general theory of relativity, an instantaneous moment is represented by a plane referred to as a “Cauchy surface”, which is named after the French mathematician Augustin-Louis Cauchy [4]. In terms of topology, a Cauchy surface is a hypersurface, which means that given a Manifold, M, with the dimensions N, a Cauchy surface has n-1 dimensions [5].






An intuitive example of a hypersurface is a circle inside of a sphere. The two-dimensional circle is a hypersurface because it one less dimension than three-dimensional sphere. (Image belongs to CUNYMath Blog)




The meaning of the term “manifold” is a topological space that closely resembles Euclidean space (think of basic Euclidean geometry) near its points, but is not necessarily a Euclidean space as whole. Furthermore, a manifold has a neighborhood (a point in a set containing the point where one can move that point without leaving the set) which is homeomorphic (an equivalence relation and one-to-one correspondence between two shapes) to a Euclidean space dimension [6]. For example, a piece of paper is homeomorphic to a cylinder, but it is not homeomorphic to a sphere, because you cannot make a sphere out of a piece of paper.






An example of two topological shapes which are not homeomorphic. (Image belongs to Science4All)




The final and most important rule for Cauchy surfaces is that if S and S’ are Cauchy surfaces, then the conditions at S’ can be predicted based on the initial conditions at S [7]. The implication of this idea, in the words of the philosopher of science Tim Maudlin [8], is that , for every event you can find an earlier Cauchy surface such that the event follows from the physical state on the Cauchy surface. Every Cauchy surfaces (an instant of space-time S’) is caused by a previous Cauchy surface (an instant of space time S).






A Cauchy surface (Image taken from Kyoto University’s Webpage)




If Cauchy surfaces represent instantaneous moments, and each Cauchy surface is caused by another Cauchy surface, then it would follow that there is no instantaneous moment of the universe that god can cause, as any given moment is caused by a Cauchy surface rather than god. This is a justification of the second premise.




P3




Based on my reasoning under P1, we saw that the theist has to commit themselves to the proposition that god created the universe at an instantaneous moment. However, based on my reasoning under P2, we saw that there is no such instantaneous moment that god could cause. Therefore, it follows logically that god did not create the universe.




References




God and the New Physics, pg 38


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Private e-mail communication

Debate Round No. 1
Miles_Donahue

Con

I. Introduction

Well, this promises to be an interesting an engaging debate! I have no doubt we shall be treading deep waters (as if we haven’t already), so I thank our patient readers in advance for working through the arguments presented, and I thank Sargon for agreeing to this debate.

II. Implication of the Argument

  1. 1. In order for God to cause the universe, God must cause the universe at an instantaneous moment.
  2. 2. There is no instantaneous moment of the universe that God could cause.
  3. 3. Therefore, God could not have caused the universe.

So far as I can tell, the argument is logically valid, but two general remarks are in order. First, note-worthy is the fact that the conclusion of the argument is not “God does not exist”, but merely that God could not have caused the beginning of the universe. But it’s open to the theist to respond by saying, “Fine, God did not create the universe a finite time ago, but He may still be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, and so still deserves to be called 'God.'” I suspect that Sargon will reply the definition of “God” used in this debate is that of a Creator God. But this fails to understand that theologians have distinguished between creatio originans and creatio continuans. That is to say, God’s originating creation (which Sargon has in mind), and God’s continuous creation of the world (His conservation of the world moment by moment). All his argument shows is that creatio originans is implausible, but it says nothing about creatio continuans. And to my mind, one who engages in creatio continuans is still rightly called a Creator.

Second, the argument above is a philosophical argument, not a scientific argument. This can easily be seen from the fact that premise (1) is no part of the General Theory of Relativity; rather, it's a philosophical principle concerning the nature of causation. By itself, General Relativity implies nothing about God's creation of the universe, whether or not the above argument is sound. It's only when viewed through the lense of philosophy that atheistic implications may be drawn from GR. So, strictly speaking, Sargon has failed to show that General Relativity implies that God does not exist.

But leave all that aside. Must the theist even grant the argument shows God’s originating creation of the world to be problematic? I think not.

III. An Examination of Premise (1)

Sargon's defense of premise (1) may be summarized as follows:

  1. 1. If God created the universe, then either God’s creation of the universe was before the beginning of the universe, or simultaneous with it.
  2. 2. God’s creation of the universe cannot have been before the beginning of the universe.
  3. 3. Therefore, if God created the universe, then God’s creation of the universe simultaneous with the beginning of the universe.
  4. 4. If God’s creation of the universe was simultaneous with the beginning of the universe, then both occurred in an instant of time.
  5. 5. Therefore, If God created the universe, God’s creation of the universe occurred in a first instant of time.

Three objections may be raised to various premises.

First, turning to premise (2), why couldn’t God could have acted prior to the beginning of the universe to create it? It’s often said that according to the standard Big Bang model, time begins to exist with the universe, and so there can be no “before” the beginning. But a distinction needs to be made between physical time and metaphysical time. Physical time only concerns our empirical measurements of time, such as readings on a clock. Metaphysical time concerns time itself. Physical time, then, is only a more or less accurate measurement of metaphysical time; it's not identical with it. Physics only concerns itself with physical time; it makes no remarks concerning time as conceived as independent from physical measures. As such, even if the standard Big Bang model posits a beginning to time, all this implies is that physical time had a beginning, not that metaphysical time did.

On a reductionistic view, time is identified with our physical measurements, so one might ask what justification there is for such a differentiation of time. The answer is simply that time can exist in the absence of physical measurements, and as such the two cannot be identical. A series of mental events alone is sufficient for time. God could have led up to the Big Bang, mentally counting down, "Three, two, one. Let there be light!", and this wouldn't contradict any tenent of current cosmology. In short, it has not been shown that God could not have acted to create the universe prior to the Big Bang.

Second, I take is that premise (4) is obviously false. The fact that two things happen simultaneously does not imply that they happen instantaneously. Two baseball games may occur at the same time and so occur simultaneously, but of course the games do not happen instantaneously! Concerning the universe, God’s creation of the universe is simultaneous with the universe coming into being, whether the universe came into being at an instant or over a finite interval of time.I take this to be a knock-down objection, so on this count alone, the argument goes out the window.

Third, I might add premise (1) is not obviously true. It seems to me that (1) doesn’t present all the options for how God as cause might relate to the universe. Why couldn’t God cause the universe timelessly? Is it because all causes must be temporal? But why think that? It can’t be because all observed causes are temporal, because all that shows is that it's a general property of causes to be temporal, not that it’s an essential property. Indeed, there just doesn’t seem to be anything temporal about the causal relation. God could timelessly sustain an abstract object, or perhaps another mind, in existence, and even though neither entity exists in time, we still understand that God is the cause. At the very least, Sargon has presented no objections to atemporal causation.

In short, neither God’s timeless creation of the universe, His acting to create the universe prior to its beginning, or His simultaneous creation of the universe over an interval of time have been shown to be implausible.

IV. An Examination of Premise (2)

Is this premise any more plausible than premise (1)? I think not, and for two reasons. First, the theist could agree with the conditional statement, “if General Relativity is true, then there cannot be a first instant of time”, but deny that General Relativity is true. The reader needs to understand that Quantum Mechanics, the other pillar of modern day physics, is incompatible with General Relativity. But they’re equally successful theories, and thus we must seek a deeper theory of the world, a quantum theory of gravity which marries General Relativity with Quantum Mechanics. Indeed, General Relativity breaks down when used to describe phenomena below the Plank length, a size the universe possessed near the Big Bang.

Stephen Weinstein and Dean Rickles, both philosophers of science, expand on this problem,

“Some approaches [to a quantum theory of gravity] view general relativity as in need of correction and quantum field theory as generally applicable, while others view quantum field theory as problematic and general relativity as having a more universal status. Still others view the theories in a more even-handed manner, perhaps with both simply amounting to distinct limits of a deeper theory.” [1]

It seems to me that to try to argue that "because a theory we know to be incomplete, a theory we know will need changes, implies the truth of premise (2), therefore premise (2) is true" just isn't a successful argument. We have no idea if (2) will be implied by a quantum theory of gravity, and as such we are left with no reason to hold to its truth.

Second, much of what was said concerning metaphysical and physical time will be relevant here. At most, General Relativity implies that physical time began to exist without a first instant, not that metaphysical time has no first instant. General Relativity is only concerned with physical time, not time itself, and as such no conclusions concerning the former apply to the latter. There may still be a first instant in metaphysical time that God may cause.

V. Conclusion

To sum up, we've seen three objections to premise 1: (1) God could have created the universe in a moment of metaphysical time prior to the beginning of the universe, (2) simultaneity does not imply instantaneity, and (3) God may cause the universe timelessly. Two objections were given to premise 2: (1) General Relativity is an incomplete theory of the world, and (2) metaphysical time may have a first instant even if physical time does not. I conclude that Sargon's argument is not sound. Finally, we've seen that Sargon's argument is a philosophical argument that, even if sound, does not imply atheism.

On all of these counts, then, Sargon has failed to prove the resolution.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu......

Sargon

Pro

General statements

I will address some conceptual issues around the nature of science and philosophy before I begin. In his last round, Miles stated that general relativity can't show the non-existence of god because my first premise is a philosophical premise.However, numerous scientific conclusions are made with the use of philosophical premises. For example, the famous EPR experiment made a scientific conclusion about quantum mechanics using nothing but pure thought and conceptual thinking rather than empirical evidence. The practice of science itself clearly requires a large amount of deductive thinking, so to characterize science as nothing more than experimental results, and anything further beyond that as "philosophy", seems to be a mischaracterization. To draw an analogy to science, I am taking a hypothesis about the origins of the universe and checking with known physical facts to see if there is any contradiction between the two.

I would agree with the scientist Sam Harris in arguing that science should have a broad definition. Harris writes “I am, in essence, defending the unity of knowledge—the idea that the boundaries between disciplines are mere conventions and that we inhabit a single epistemic sphere in which to form true beliefs about the world…. Is there really a boundary between the truths of physics and those of biology? No. And yet it is practical, even necessary, to treat these disciplines separately most of the time. In this sense, the boundaries between disciplines are analogous to political borders drawn on maps. Is there really a difference between California and Arizona at their shared border? No, but we divide this stretch of desert as a matter of convention.” [1] In other words, distinctions between philosophy and science are mere convention, so this does not constitute a sound objection to my argument. In the words of Noam Chomsky, “The status of philosophy as distinct from the sciences or history is artificial. Until the nineteenth century there was no such distinction. You can't answer the question whether Hume or Kant were philosophers or scientists-they were both." [2]


P1


Suppose that god creates the universe from metaphysical time. According to the law of excluded middle, metaphysical time either has a beginning, or existed forever (I am ignoring potential infinities because Miles believes that potential infinities are not actual infinities). We can rule out the second option without argument because Miles believes that an actual infinite cannot exist in reality. From this, the only option we’re left with is that metaphysical time had a beginning. But if god exists within a finite metaphysical time, then wouldn’t god require a beginning as well, since god’s existence at the first instant of metaphysical time would represent the beginning of god? The idea of creation from metaphysical time would then contradict the definition of god as lacking a beginning. The metaphysical time scenario also contradicts the definition of god as being timeless as well, since god would exist in a form of time. Miles could instead argue that god exists outside of metaphysical time and causes metaphysical time, but then he’s just returned to the same dilemma he was trying to solve. Furthermore, this entails an impossible form of self-causation. If god exists within metaphysical time, then he exists at the first moment of metaphysical time, and this would represent the beginning of god. All of this, however, would entail that god causes himself, because god exists at the first moment of metaphysical time, and god causes this first moment of metaphysical time, leading god to cause his own beginning! (The reader is free to replace “instant” with “interval” if they prefer to deny that metaphysical time has a first instant.) The introduction of metaphysical time seems to be of no help to Miles’ argument.


Miles Donahue raises the issue of whether or not causation has to be temporal. As I clarified in my opening argument, the type of causality I’m talking about is efficient causality, where something brings something else into being. My assertion is that efficient causality is temporal, because if something comes into being, then the meaning of this statement is that it now exists when it did not exist before, which requires time. Otherwise, there is no meaningful sense in which the thing did not exist before. Miles offers examples of atemporal causation; For example, god sustaining an abstract object atemporally. However, in this causal relationship, we have an example where god is a sustaining cause (something which keeps something else in being) rather than an efficient cause (something which brings something else into being), so it is not detrimental to my argument. If efficient causality is necessarily temporal, then the “Problem of atemporal causation” still holds, and the theist still needs to assert that god caused the universe at the same time he created it in order to escape it, entailing that god would have created the universe at an instantaneous moment.


When I stated that two things which are simultaneous are also instantaneous, I was not being precise with my terms, and Miles rightly demonstrated that my phrasing leads to absurdity. What I meant to say was that in a given cause-and-effect relationship, if the cause is simultaneous with the effect, then the causal relationship happens at an instantaneous moment. I think that this principle is obviously true if one starts to think about it. If the cause is simultaneous with the effect, then there cannot be a temporal gap between the two by definition. If there were a temporal gap, then we are clearly not talking about simultaneous cause and effect. By the law of excluded middle, either the cause and effect happen at an instant, or there is a duration of moments (or an interval, if you so prefer) between them. Since we have already eliminated the possibility that there could be a duration of moments between the cause and the effect, then the only option we have left is that the cause and the effect happen at an instant. Therefore, in a given cause-and-effect relationship, if the cause is simultaneous with the effect, then the causal relationship happens at an instantaneous moment. This principle entails the truth of premise 4, as I will demonstrate below in order to avoid making bare assertions.


In a given cause-and-effect relationship, if the cause is simultaneous with the effect, then the causal relationship happens at an instantaneous moment.


If god causes the beginning of the universe (cause-and-effect relationship), and god’s causing the beginning of the universe (cause) happens simultaneously with the universe coming into being (effect), then the causal relationship happens at an instantaneous moment.


Thus, P1.4 is well-supported, and in my opinion, obviously true.


P2


This debate concerns the conditional proposition that “If general relativity is true, then god does not exist”. My entire argument is a defense of this conditional statement. At no point do I have to provide an argument that general relativity is true, only that if it were true, it would entail the non-existence of god. This allows me to sweep aside the entire problem of quantum gravity that Miles brought up. In private communication, Miles agreed with me that his attack on P2 was outside of the parameters of the debate, and stated that he would reformulate his argument in the next round to make it appropriate. Therefore, I can do nothing in regards to this premise but wait for the next round.

Conclusion

The following criticisms were made of Miles' arguments.

1: Metaphysical time leads to absurdities and fails to solve the dilemma.
2: Efficient causation has to be temporal, even if other forms of causation do not have to be, which is sufficient for my arguments to be sound.
3: In a given cause-and-effect relationship, if the cause is simultaneous with the effect, then the causal relationship happens at an instantaneous moment.
4: Arguments from quantum gravity are outside of the scope of the resolution.


Debate Round No. 2
Miles_Donahue

Con

I. Implications of the Argument

The reader will recall I made two general remarks about Sargon’s argument for atheism. First, I said the argument, even if true, does not prove atheism. This point went completely undiscussed, even though this is perhaps the most important point I’ve made. Sargon gave no response, so I will simply extend arguments here. General relativity at most shows the concept of a temporal creation to be problematic; it does not imply that God does not exist, and as such Sargon has failed to establish the resolution.

Second, I contended that Sargon’s argument was a philosophical argument, not a scientific one. But, Sargon replies, “Numerous scientific conclusions are made with the use of philosophical premises.” I agree; but how does this show Sargon’s argument is not philosophical in nature? To give an example, William Lane Craig has defended various philosophical arguments for the beginning of the universe [1], and clearly these arguments, if sound, have scientific implications (namely, that the universe began to exist!), but that does nothing to show that such arguments are not philosophical arguments. I hope the reader understands that nowhere did I characterize science “as nothing more than experimental results, and anything further beyond that as ‘philosophy’”. I make no pretensions on defining science and philosophy, but I do know that premise (1) is not a scientific principle. But this is all beside the point. The main point is really this: premise (1) is no part of the General Theory of Relativity, so whether or not it’s philosophical in nature, it’s still not relevant to the resolution of this debate, namely, that General Relativity implies that God does not exist.

II. An Examination of Premise (1)

I raised three objections were to premise (1). First, I remarked that it hasn’t been shown that God could not have caused the universe prior to its existence, for even if physical time begins with the universe, metaphysical time may still exist before it. Here, Sargon gives the curious response that “metaphysical time either has a beginning, or existed forever”. The second option is ruled out because, in his words, “Miles believes that an actual infinite cannot exist in reality”. To be sure, I do think that metric time had a beginning, but it seems to me that an amorphous time, where time literally has no intrinsic metric, is entirely possible. On this view, an amorphous time existed prior to metric time, so that metaphysical time can still be said to be without beginning.

Regarding the first alternative, that metaphysical time had a beginning, Sargon argues this option cannot be taken because then the theist faces the question, “if god exists within a finite metaphysical time, then wouldn’t god require a beginning as well…?” Hardly. Just look at the definition of “begins to exist” that Sargon himself gave:

e comes into being at t if and only if (i) e exists at t, (ii) t is the first time at which e exists, (iii) there is no state of affairs in the actual world in which e exists timelessly, and (iv) e’s existing at t is a tensed fact”

The key clause here is (iii). If there is a state of affairs in the actual world where “e” exists timelessly, then even if “e” has only existed for a finite time, it does not begin to exist. And the same applies to God. He has literally only existed for a finite amount of time (if time began to exist, that is). But causally or explanatorily prior to the beginning of time, He exists timelessly. And for that reason, He did not begin to exist.

Does God's creation of time imply that God causes Himself? No, so long as we see God, not as directly creating time, but indirectly creating it. In other words, time springs into being simply in viture of the fact that God, for the first time, changes (whether it be through an excersize of power or thinking a new thought). God does something, and time comes into being as a result, so that time may be said to be indirectly created by Him.

Second, I explained that from the fact that two things happen simultaneously, one cannot infer they happen instantaneously. Here Sargon agrees, but reformulates his point to mean “in a given cause-and-effect relationship, if the cause is simultaneous with the effect, then the causal relationship happens at an instantaneous moment.” But why think that’s true? Because, Sargon argues, either (1) “the cause and effect happen at an instant”, or (2) “there is a duration of moments…between them”. Clearly (2) is untenable, but does that imply we must accept (1)? No, because we can craft a third alternative, namely, (3) cause and effect overlap in an interval of time. That is to say, something causes something else over an interval of time. On this view, there’s no temporal gap between cause an effect, but there is a temporal overlap between them. With regard to the universe, the theist can coherently maintain that God created the universe over the interval of time at which the universe came into being (e.g., the first second, the first minute, etc.).

Third, I proposed that God could timelessly create the universe. I gave the example of God timelessly sustaining an abstract object in existence to illustrate the coherence of timeless causality. As Sargon rightly points out, in the case of the universe, it began to exist and so is temporal, whereas an abstract object is not. What’s needed for the universe is not mere timeless sustenance, but efficient causality. But, Sargon writes, “efficient causality is temporal, because if something comes into being, then…it now exists when it did not exist before, which requires time.” But it seems to me all that proves is that, in efficient causality, the effect must be temporal; it does nothing to suggest that the cause must be temporal as well. With regards to God, we would simply say that He does not create the universe at any time; He does so timelessly, even though the universe is temporal. I’ve yet to see any incoherence with this suggestion.

III. An Examination of Premise (2)

Two objections were given to premise 2. First, General Relativity is only a partial theory of the world, and so no arguments should be constructed from it. Sargon appropriately points out that this objection is outside the confines of this debate, and so I’ve reformulated it. General Relativity either entails its own destruction, or predicts the existence of a first instant of time. Stephen Hawking explains,

“All the Friedmann solutions [to the equations of General Relativity] have the feature that at some time in the past…the density of the universe and the curvature of space-time would have been infinite. Because mathematics cannot really handle infinite numbers, this means that the general theory of relativity…predicts that there is a point in the universe where the theory itself breaks down. Such a point is an example of what mathematicians call a singularity.” [2]

Sargon, I believe, is caught in a dilemma. He must either affirm (1) that General Relativity is true, but that it can’t be applied to the beginning of the universe (because it breaks down), or (2) it can be applied to the beginning, and there really is an initial singularity. If he opts for (1), he’s given away his entire argument. If he opts for (2), he’s also given away his argument, because the singularity just is the first instant of time. This revised objection, I believe, is within the confines of the debate.

Second, I alleged General Relativity can only show that physical time lacks a first instant, not that metaphysical time has no first instant. Sargon did not respond, presumably because his response to my first objection to premise (1) applies to this one as well. But I think his counter-response was shown to be clearly inadequate, so this second objection stands; time is not to be identified with the physical time discussed in physics. The implications? General Relativity, even if completely true, does not show that time had no first instant. As such, the warrant for premise (2) is removed.

IV. Conclusion

Sargon’s argument is multiply flawed. Premise (1) fails because:

  1. 1. God could create the universe prior to its existence.
  2. 2. He could simultaneously create the universe over the interval of time at which the universe comes into being.
  3. 3. He could create the universe timelessly.

Premise (2) fairs no better:

  1. 1. If Sargon is to use General Relativity as justification for premise (2), he must either affirm that it breaks down at the beginning of the universe, or that there exists an initial spacetime singularity.
  2. 2. Even if physical time has no first instant, metaphysical time may still have a first instant.

Finally, even if the argument were sound, it would not establish the resolution of this debate because, (1) it’s philosophical in nature (or at the very least, premise 1 is no part of the general theory of relativity), and (2) it doesn’t establish atheism.

Notes

[1] http://www.reasonablefaith.org...

[2] A Brief History of Time, 49.

Sargon

Pro

We defined god as "the uncaused, personal creator of the universe". The word creator, according to my search term of "creator definition" on google, means "a person or thing that brings something into existence" (http://tinyurl.com...). Clearly, then, we are talking about a god who brings the universe into being, which is the god addressed by my argument. We are not talking about a god who keeps the world in being as a continuous creator. Perhaps Miles and some theologians have a personal opinion that such a being is worthy of being called a creator, but according to the standard definition of creator used for this debate, it is not so. Therefore, my argument does address the "god" as set out in the resolution.

Now, imagine that you're in a debate about whether or not history shows that making abortion illegal only brings women to have "back alley abortions" rather than actually preventing abortions from being performed. Imagine that you spend hours of time collecting examples from history (perhaps you would use Romania under Ceausescu) to support your position that it does, only for your opponent to respond that it's not history which supports your conclusion, but history with a philosophical premise. Historical evidence on its own has no interpretation, you're told, and it requires some philosophy (deductive reasoning, intuition, and some axioms about realism) to reach the conclusion. Therefore, alleges your opponent, you've failed to support the resolution because it's not about what history and philosophy show, but only about what history shows. Obviously, we would see this person's argument as ludicrous, because a historical conclusion is just a conclusion based off of evidence from history. Almost any debate could be derailed with the method that Miles is utilizing: "Statistics don't prove that ObamaCare has been a failure, because statistics on their own are just numbers, and you need to make philosophical assumptions about meaning and interpretation to truly make your conclusion. Thus, strictly speaking, the resolution cannot be affirmed." Despite the clear absurdity, I find myself in the same exact situation with my opponent in this debate. At one point or another in a debate, there will be philosophical premises. Does this mean that our imagined debate on history is not making conclusions from history? Clearly not. Does this mean that our imagined debate on statistics is not making conclusions from statistics? Again, clearly not. So, does that mean our debate on general relativity is not making conclusions from general relativity?

Speaking on the matter of general relativity, Miles is offering a false dichotomy. There is a third solution, which is to affirm that "General relativity applies to the beginning of the universe and states that an initial singularity is physically unreal". This does not fit with option 1 because option 1 states that GR cannot be applied to the beginning of the universe, but it does not fit with option 2 because option 2 states that there really is a physical singularity. As long as this option is possible, then Miles' argument is a false dichotomy, but I will note that my third option is supported by the FLRW metrics, which suggest that a physical singularity is a fictional, mathematical abstraction (http://plato.stanford.edu...).

I argued that if metaphysical time had a beginning, then god would have a beginning as well. Miles objects to this argument by stating that god exists timelessly in metaphysical time, so even if metaphysical time is finite, it still wouldn't constitute a beginning of god, because a beginning requires the existence of something at a certain time to be a tensed fact. Miles has already introduced the concept of metaphysical time, and while I found this concept to be vague and ill-defined (it was defined by what it was not rather than what it is), I was fine with this, as I am not a verificationist who believes that only physical measurements are meaningful. However, his new objection amounts to stating that god exists timelessly in metaphysical time. How can god exists timelessly in metaphysical time? This is nothing but word salad, or a mix of semantically confused words that have no meaning to the listener. By trying to show my arguments to be implausible, Miles has made his own arguments more implausible and more speculative by bloating his ontology, introducing metaphysical time, a timeless metaphysical time, and some abstract-god stuff that god exists in sans the existence of metaphysical time, of which metaphysical time springs into being. The sheer amount of things Miles has to add to his ontology to get around the problem speaks for itself, and gives a rather ad hoc characterization to his answers.

I argued for the following principle: "in a given cause-and-effect relationship, if the cause is simultaneous with the effect, then the causal relationship happens at an instantaneous moment.". Miles refutes my argument for this principle by offering a third option, where something causes something else over an interval of time. An interval, however, is purely a mathematical concept with no ontology. An interval is nothing more than a series of instants that human beings assign an interval to; They have no reality themselves. One may ask if instants are mere mathematical entities as well, but since general relativity takes Cauchy surfaces to be real, and Cauchy surfaces represent an instant, such an objection cannot work in this debate. What we really have in the third option is actually just a cause and effect relationship happening at an instant, and then continuing over many more instants that we can group into an interval. Clearly, this is just the first option I presented happening multiple times. This means that Miles' third option is not actually an alternative to my two options, and is really just the first one occurring multiply.

Miles and I have two opposing positions about causality and time; Miles argues that efficient causation does not have to be temporal, while I am arguing that it does. My position is better supported on the grounds that all of the (efficient) causal propositions we experience in the world are temporal. I agree with Miles when he states that this shows temporality to be a general property of causality rather than an essential property, but nonetheless, this argument establishes the plausibility of my position over his. While Miles could object to this reasoning on the grounds that observations within space-time don"t relate to whether or not the cause of spacetime has to be temporal, this would conflict with an aspect of Miles' worldview. Miles believes that since we observe everything within space-time coming into being with a cause, then space-time itself probably has a cause as well. Miles couldn't object to this kind of probabilistic reasoning without contradicting his own world view.

I won't bother writing a large closing statement about why my arguments in the debate were better than Miles'. The readers of this debate are intelligent enough to come to their own conclusions about who won. Instead, I will close with some statements about the nature of debate and voting. First, there is a difference between reasoning and rationalizing. If you're going to choose the winner before the debate and rationalize a vote for that person, then don't waste your time. I do not want anybody voting for me out of pure bias towards my position, and I am guaranteed that Miles feels the same way. I want voters who use reason to make their decision, which is to take away as much bias as possible and vote on who truly won. Secondly, I want to call attention to remarks that a DDO user made in a forum thread. The simple fact that another user had more sources than another user does not mean that they deserve a sources vote. Sources are to be judged on their quality and how effectively they were utilized, not quantity alone. In addition to this, arguments should be weighted. The winner of the debate is not a tally of who responded to the most points and who ignored the most points. It's a tally of who won what arguments and how important they were. Debates are not mere mathematical quantification.

I thank Miles for participating in this wonderful debate with me, and I thank all of the readers for spending their time on our thoughts.
Debate Round No. 3
Miles_Donahue

Con

I. Introduction

This has truly been a wonderful debate, and I thank Sargon for his probing, respectful responses. He always keeps his discussions impersonal and focused on the arguments, not on the people behind those arguments. And for that, I thank him.

To review, his argument goes like this:

        1. 1. In order for god to cause the universe, He must do so at an instantaneous moment.
        1. 2. There is no instantaneous moment of the universe that god could cause.
        1. 3. God could not have caused the universe.

II. General Remarks

I gave two reasons to think that Sargon's argument, even if sound, does not establish the resolution of this debate.

First, I claimed the argument does not establish that God does not exist. Even given the definition of God as Creator set out by Sargon in his opening statement, God could still be a Creator in the sense of the continuous Creator of the world, even if He is not its originating Creator. Sargon objects that “[t]he word creator …means ‘a person or thing that brings something into existence,’”, the implication being that so long as his argument proves that God did not bring the universe into being, it establishes that He is not creator in the commonsense notion of the word. But let me say that Google and related sources are not contemplating the subtle theological distinctions between creatio continuansand creatio originans when they give the definition of “Creator”, and as such they are not authorities when it comes to a theological debate about God (and these distinctions are not from a small group of theologians, as Sargon insinuates; rather, they’re standard distinctions among the majority of theologians). [1]

Second, I contended that Sargon’s argument was a philosophical argument, not, strictly speaking, an argument from General Relativity. I have no desire to quibble about whether or not scientific arguments can utilize philosophical principles. As I began to emphasize in my last rebuttal, the real point is this: premise (1) is not part of the General Theory of Relativity, and so it’s inappropriate to say this argument shows that General Relativity disproves God, the resolution of this debate. To give an example, many philosophers have defended the following argument:

        1. 1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
        1. 2. The universe began to exist.
        1. 3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

And they will typically appeal to the standard Big Bang model as support for premise (2). Does it follow from this that the Big Bang theory demonstrates the universe has a cause? Not at all, for premise (1) is not part of the Big Bang theory. And what applies to this case applies in the case of Sargon’s argument.

For these two reasons then, Sargon’s argument does not establish General Relativity implies that God does not exist.

III. Criticisms of Premise (1)

But leave all that aside. For the argument, reguardless of what it proves, isn’t sound. Against premise (1) I lodged three objections.

First, God could act to create the universe prior to its existence, so long as we allow for the possibility of a metaphysical time prior to the beginning of the universe. Sargon replied that metaphysical time either had a beginning or was beginningless, but that each of these alternatives was unacceptable. He did not reply to my charge that metaphysical time may still be beginningless even if metric time had a beginning, so this first objection stands on that ground alone. The first alternative was said to be unacceptable because it would imply that God began to exist if He is temporal. But I pointed out that so long as God is timeless causally or explanatorily prior to the beginning of metaphysical time, then He cannot rightly be said to begin to exist. And this was using the very analysis of “begins to exist” that Sargon provided.

Sargon’s counter response is confused. Nowhere did I say that “god exists timelessly in metaphysical time.” That would indeed be “nothing but word salad, or a mix of semantically confused words that have no meaning.” Rather, what I’m saying is that God is now temporal in metaphysical time, but that without metaphysical time in existence (the state of affairs explanatorily prior to the beginning of metaphysical time), God is timeless. That is perfectly understandable and coherent. In sum, whether metaphysical time had a beginning or not, God may still be conceived to act to create the universe prior to its beginning.

Second, God could create the universe simultaneously with the universe coming into being, not in an instant, but over an interval of time. But, Sargon rejoins, “[a]n interval…is purely a mathematical concept with no ontology.” This, it seems to me, is just silly. An interval of time exists just in case things endure for more than an instant. Now, clearly the world has been around for more than one instant. As such, intervals of time exist. Intervals may be composed of instants, but that doesn’t mean they do not exist. To say anything else is just nonsense. It’s ironic that Sargon thinks I’ve made my position implausible by introducing metaphysical time, when he’s forced to deny that intervals of time exist. In any case, Sargon is the one making the claim and he needs to give some argument to think that intervals of time are a fiction. He has not done this, and so his claim hangs in thin air.

Third, God could create the world timelessly. He has a timeless intention to create a world with a beginning, and so the world comes into being. Sargon objected to this, saying that efficient causation is temporal. But I rejoined that all he’s shown is that, in efficient causation, the effect must be temporal, not its cause. His counter response is that our observations of causes being temporal suggests that the cause of the universe must be temporal. This is a very weak inductive argument for the cause of the universe’s temporality, one that I don’t find persuasive. Indeed, Sargon himself gave an objection to it, namely, that observations of causes within space-time don’t relate to the cause of space-time itself. His response to this objection won’t work, because he can’t use my views as justification for ignoring objections to his argument. He’s the one with the burden of proof here.

In short, premise (1) is vulnerable to at least three objections, so with its demise the whole argument goes out the window.

IV. Criticisms of Premise (2)

I presented two objections to premise (2).

First, if Sargon is to use General Relativity as justification for premise two, he must affirm either (1) that it breaks down at the beginning of the universe, or (2) that there exists an initial spacetime singularity. Sargon rejoins that there is a third option, namely, (3) “General relativity applies to the beginning of the universe and states that an initial singularity is physically unreal.” But upon reflection, (3) collapses into (1). Sargon has, elsewhere [2] presented independent reasons to think that the singularity should be taken as a mathematical idealization, not as a physical reality. I agree with these arguments. But our insistence of the fact that a singularity is physically impossible suggests that, at the end of the day, General Relativity cannot be applied to the beginning of the universe, because it does predict that a singularity exists.

Second, even if physical time has no first instant, metaphysical time may still have a first instant, and so the argument goes down the drain of this point alone. This point deserves underscoring, for it originiated from philosopher and atheist Quentin Smith, who, speaking of an argument similiar to Sargon's, objects,

"[One] could best state his case by supposing that there is a metaphysical time series in which God exists and that any physical time correlates to a metaphysical time [One] could then argue that, even though there is no t0, there is a metaphysical time T0 at which there is a divine creative act that causally originates the physical time series and all the universe states in this physical time series. In other words, [one] could plausibly claim that, even if the physical causal history of the universe has no first moment, it is possible that the complete (metaphysical and physical) causal history of the universe does." [3]

In short, all warrant for thinking premise (2) to be true has been removed.

V. Conclusion

My summation last round still stands, so I won’t repeat myself here. I can only endorse Sargon’s remarks about the nature of debate and voting. Might I only add that you not choose Sargon as winner simply because he’s never lost a debate before. Choose him as winner because he established the resolution. And in my opinion, he has not. But I’ll leave the final word up to you.


Notes

[1] Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 555.

[2] http://www.debate.org...

[3] http://infidels.org...

Sargon

Pro

No arguments will be posted here as agreed.
Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
The resolution in this debate is weather given general realtivity is true is if God is able to exist or indeed does not exist, but this debate seems to have derailed into weather general relativity implies weather God is able or unable to create the universe, Although the definition of God given in the first round includes that God must be the creator of the universe, this matters very little to the resolution which is if God can exist or not exist given that general relativity is true, The argument Sargon uses is that given general relativity there is no initial first instance or moment of time which God is able to create the universe, Miles grants that this is problamatic but gives good rebuttals to this proposition and further claims it is irrelavent seeing as God is also able to still exist, and I see no reason to object to this as it's evidently clear that we are existing given general relativity is true so also God can also exist. Thus Sargon has not defended his burden that God can not exist,
Posted by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
Sargon is now arguing weather God is able to create the universe under general relativity, which in this case he should have worded the resolution more carefully. As mentioned before, the debate heavily stems off into a discussion as to weahter God is able to create the universe under general relativity and both debaters offer thier arguments for this. Sargon argues that God can not be the efiicient cause of the universe because given that general relativity is true, then there is no instantaneous moment of the universe for God to cause it, therfore He can not have caused it, He must have to have simultaneously came into existence at the same time the universe came into being thus making God not timeless, Miles responds by arguing that God Himself is able to exist in metaphysical time, which is disticnt to the measument of physical time thus making God able to create the universe in physical time which can proceed from metaphysical time, and refuting the point

Cont
Posted by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
Sargon brought up about Miles dis-believing that actual infinites cannot exist in reality because Miles responds by saying, instead God can exist amorphously which has no intrinsic measurement therefore making God able to exist timelessly within metaphysical time, Miles then continues to claim that this does not mean God has to have came into being at an instaneous moment along with the creation of the universe within physical time. Further claiming that God caused physical time by some other process, by some type of other exercise of power or a thought, Therfore nullifying the premise that God must have began to exist at the same time the universe began to exist, Therfore God can indeed exist timelessly and therefore He is also able to create the universe using physical time which can be viewed as proceeding metaphysical time.
Sargon himself admits in round one that there may be controversy with the first premise of his argument as it may not be deemed as a physical fact but rather a premise based on philosophy, he then goes on to state that he believes an effective argument can be made by arguing for atemporal causation, but Miles effectly gave a rebuttal to the problem by claiming God is able to exist within metaphysical time. Thus although
Posted by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
Sargon uses physical time to strengthen his premise Miles continues to argue that the premise is still based on a philosophical assumption but nevertheless Miles efffectively uses metaphysical time as a rebuttal and further claim the effect can be in physical time but it is not necessary for the cause to be within physical time indeed the cause can be within metaphysical time, and althgough this may be a philosophical principle Miles uses, as Con he only has to poke holes in Sargons argument, whereas Sargon has to prove his point beyond any reasonable doubt.

Also for Sargon to introduce an argument for General Relativity he can not get around the problem that it breaks down at the prediction of a singularity he only argues that it is a mathmatical idealization, but this isn't good enough because General Realtivity does actually predict that a singularity exists.

Also in Sargons definiton of God he uses a capital G to address who he is speaking of and insists on a personal God, as Sargon took on the role of Pro in this debate, it is his burden to prove a personal God doesn't exist, I see very little effort, if any put into defending this argument, and if we address God as a personal character in any religious sense then it is correct grammar to use a capital G when addressing the character you are talking about, Also throughout the debate Sargon goes from capital G to small g numerous times, I think it is suffice to dock Sargon for spelling and grammar for this.

I would also like to commend both debaters for an excellent debate but I ultimately award the arguments and spelling and grammar points to Miles, everything else is tied.
Posted by Subutai 3 years ago
Subutai
Sorry, cut something out - I wasn't going to cast a vote, but I felt that after reading the arguments that I had a good enough understanding of the debate to make an educated vote.
Posted by Subutai 3 years ago
Subutai
This was a very good debate. I wasn't going to cast a vote

Con seemed to be very confused, both on definitions and arguments. On definitions, first, con assumes that philosophy and science are incompatible, when, as pro pointed out, they are really two sides of the same coin. It hardly seems appropriate to rule out a scientific argument against a philosophical position just because the argument is scientific. And second, the issue of physical versus metaphysical time, with pro explaining how his ontology makes sense by appealing to metaphysical time really didn't make much sense. Time is as inherently physical as space is.

As for arguments, con never really got to the root of pro's arguments. Con seemed to be confused more than once, not the least of which by arguing that GR is incomplete. He also forces pro to argue for the singularity. However, the singularity is not physically real; rather, it is a mathematical abstraction. With that considered, there is really no good objection that con has to pro's arguments. Con essentially commits the false dichotomy fallacy and reductio ad absurdum fallacy simultaneously with the singularity argument. Con's objections to pro's first argument were never really that on target either.

Overall, con never raised valid objections to pro's case, either raising ones that he eventually backs down from, or raising fallacious and off target arguments. Pro has a good clear win here.
Posted by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
Now I'm reminded why I love this site. :)
Posted by Miles_Donahue 3 years ago
Miles_Donahue
I forgot to mention in my final round that Sargon cannot post anything in round four, as I made clear in round one.
Posted by dylancatlow 3 years ago
dylancatlow
You really ought to read the CTMU, Sargon.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Subutai 3 years ago
Subutai
Miles_DonahueSargonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
Vote Placed by johnlubba 3 years ago
johnlubba
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD In Comments
Vote Placed by n7 3 years ago
n7
Miles_DonahueSargonTied
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments