The Instigator
Rational_Thinker9119
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
philochristos
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points

If The Universe Has A Cause, That Cause Is A Personal Mind

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/7/2017 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,565 times Debate No: 98772
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
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Rational_Thinker9119

Con

I would like to debate Philochristos on this subject as I feel he is one of the most skilled Theists on this site.

In this debate we will assume that the universe began to exist, and has a cause. It will be Pro's job to show that this cause is a personal mind, and my job to show why Pro's reasoning doesn't stand up to critical scrutiny.

In Pro's last round he will simply put "no argument will be posted, as agreed."

My opponent's first arguments will be posted in round one; no acceptance round required.

I hope Philochristos takes me up on this offer, as I have a feeling it will be interesting.
philochristos

Pro

Thanks to RT for the challenge and for the kind words. May the odds be ever in your favour!

If we define the universe as all matter, energy, space, and time, then whatever the cause of the universe is, it must be spaceless, timeless, and immaterial.

We all agree that abstract objects fit the bill, but abstract objects aren't "things," so they can't cause anything. We can rule that out, then. I think RT will agree with me about that.

Another possibility is a spaceless, timeless, immaterial impersonal force or object. Although such a thing is foreign to our experience and even fiction, it's hard to say why we should rule out the possibility of something like that existing. After all, "there are more things in heaven and earth, RT, than are dreamt of in your philosophy." But we can rule this one out as the cause of the universe, too. The reason is because if we are talking about an impersonal force or object, then whatever conditions are sufficient to bring about the beginning of the universe are conditions this object has always had. Being in a state of timelessness, there could be no prior moment at which this object acquired these conditions. Whenever there are sufficient conditions for some effect, the effect occurs immediately--as soons as the sufficient conditions are met. That means it's impossible for the sufficient conditions to exist without their effect. If the conditions existed without their effect also existing, that would prove the conditions were not really sufficient. So it would be impossible for there to be a state of affairs in which this entity existed without the universe also existing. But since this is a timeless entity, and since the universe is temporal, then it must be the case that there is or was (or however you could say that without using temporal language) a state of affairs in which the entity existed timelessly without the universe. So it is impossible that the cause of the universe is a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, impersonal force or object even if it's possible that such an entity could exist.

Process of elimination leaves us with a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, personal entity. That would entail a mind that is spaceless, timeless, and immaterial. Many people think minds are material things and might not be on board with this possibility, but I don't think RT is one of those people. Unless he's changed his mind since I last talked to him about this, he is an idealist. He thinks an immaterial mind underlies everthing, and it's the material world we should be in doubt about, not immaterial minds. If minds are immaterial, as I think RT will grant, then they must be spaceless as well. That leaves only the question of whether a mind can be timeless.

Some people don't think timeless minds are possible because thought is a process and processes occur in time. If time stops, then so does thought. However, thought processes are not necessary for the existence of conscious minds. A mind could be timeless and possess conscious thoughts, desires, knowledge, and even emotion without there being any stream of consciousness, reasonings, etc. that occur in time. So, while a stream of thought or reasoning might require time, they are not necessary for consciousness.

One might wonder, though, whether a personal being presents the same problem about necessary and sufficient conditions that an impersonal being suffers from. After all, if we are to suppose that a personal being was the cause of the beginning of the unvierse, then we must assume the personal being has all the necessary and sufficient capacities to bring about the effect, and being timeless, must have those things eternally. But what personal beings have that impersonal beings don't is a faculty of volition. This makes a big difference, because whereas impersonal beings are always passive, personal beings are active.

Let me explain that. If we were merely passive agents in a deterministically causal chain, we would observe our arms and legs moving, but there would be no sense in which we willed them to move. It would be as if something outside of us were pulling our strings. That's what I mean by being passive. Our wills would not be engaged in the whole thing. We'd be passively acted upon by prior physical causes. But we can tell just by reflecting inwardly on our own conscious states that we ourselves are the ones behind the wheel. We are choosing and exerting our wills in order to move our body parts. That's what I mean by saying we are active rather than passive.

In the case of all impersonal beings and objects, they are passive. They don't will anything. They have no faculty of volition. In a passive causal chain, whenever you have all the necessary and sufficient conditions (or causes) to bring about an effect, the effect is immediate and simultaneous with the presence of those conditions.

It's different with volition, though. Volition arises out of mental states that include beliefs, desires, motives, preferences, etc. Some thoughts, plans, and desires we have include the wish to act, refrain, or delay. It is possible for there to be a timeless personal being who knows timelessly, "I am in a state of timelessness," and has the thought, "I wish to create the universe and intitiate time. . .now." Acts of volitions do not happen mechanistically. If they did, then even our acting on desires would be passive acts; yet we know by inward reflection that they are not.

So it's possible for a personal timeless being to exist and have the necessary and sufficient power and desire to initiate the beginning of the universe without the universe existing just as eternally as the timeless being. In fact, that seems to be the only way to make sense of a timeless entity being the cause of a temporal effect. In the case of an impersonal being, since the universe must exist as long as the impersonal being exists, the beginning of the universe would get pushed back infinitely in the past, and if you push it back infinitely in the past, then there can't really be a beginning of the universe. Follow this line of reasoning, and you end up in paradox because you'd have a timeless cause giving rise to a temporal effect when there is no beginning to the temporality.

So, a personal being seems to be the only thing that possibly could be the cause of the beginning of the universe.

There's one more argument I want to make that I won't have room to develope in too much detail, but I didn't want to completely leave it out. As active agents, it appears there is something about us that transcends the mechanistical physical causal nexus of the physical world. If we were merely physical beings and all of our parts behaved deterministically according to the laws of physics and chemistry, then we would be passive agents along a causal chain. The fact that we have mental states which are the reasons for why we act and which move our wills shows that we ourselves are actually immaterial beings who interact with the physical world. That has caused a great number of philosophers to scratch their heads wondering how it's even possible for an immaterial being to have causal influence over the material world.

There's a solution to the problem that gives us good reason to think the cause of the beginning of the universe is a person rather than an immaterial entity. The solution is the unique ability of personal beings to create energy out of nothing. When physical objects move, they have energy. When they are caused to move, it's because energy was transferred to them by something else that has energy. Energy is a physical thing, so immaterial beings are not composed of energy which they can transfer to other things. The only way, then, for an immaterial being to have causal influence over a physical thing is to create energy ex nihilo. That's what we do every time we exercise our volition. This gives us reason to suppose that the cause of the universe is a volitional being, which entails that it is a person.


Debate Round No. 1
Rational_Thinker9119

Con

-Introduction-

Philochristos is correct that I am an Idealist. However, with regards to this debate, I think it goes without saying that we will assume the universe is material for the sake of argument as to not complicate things. I would like to thank Philochristos for engaging in this debate with me. In this round, I am going to refute his arguments for the cause of the beginning of the universe, if there is one, being a personal mind.

-Refutation Of My Opponent's Argument Against A Spaceless, Timeless, Immaterial, Impersonal Force Or Object-

My opponent says that such a thing is foreign to our experience and even fiction. However, such a comment can also be said about a mind that does not engage in a thought process or in the act of experiencing (as Pro concedes would be impossible for a timeless mind). Either way, the cause of the universe being foreign to our experience and seeming like fiction is very plausibly the case. After all, we are talking about the cause of the only realm we have ever empirically experienced.

Pro presents a rather interesting argument against the existence of a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, impersonal force or object as the cause of the universe. If the necessary and sufficient conditions for the universe existed eternally, then the universe should be eternal as well. However, since the universe began a finite time ago then this option can be ruled out. I mean think about it, if the sufficient conditions were eternal, and the universe isn't, this would imply the sufficient conditions weren't actually sufficient conditions (which is clearly contradictory). So what is the problem with this line of reasoning? The problem is that it erroneously assumes that there must be sufficient conditions in the first place instead of just merely an impersonal set of necessary conditions. If there is only a set of impersonal necessary conditions in place, then there is still a way the universe could begin to exist along side time without sufficient conditions for it to occur; it would happen spontaneously. Since this has not been ruled out by Pro, then his argument against a spaceless, timeless, immaterial, impersonal force or object fails. It simply is not clear why this impersonal object would have to entail both necessary and sufficient conditions, when necessary causation is enough as long as the universe begins spontaneously due to the nature of the necessary conditions which allow such a thing.

So instead of Pro's scenario which involves:

(i) An eternally existing set of impersonal necessary and sufficient conditions for the universe to exist

Another possibility is:

(ii) An eternally existing set of impersonal necessary conditions for the universe to exist; with the universe beginning spontaneously

Pro might argue that even if this is possible, we still have no examples of something beginning to exist spontaneously due to an impersonal set of necessary conditions. Thus, a personal explanation would still be preferred. I would simply point out that this is false; we do have examples of such causal processes.

Quantum fluctuations occur spontaneously without sufficient causation, even though there are still necessary conditions that must be in place for them to occur (the quantum vacuum and the laws of physics that allow for the virtual particles to come into being). As Physicist Ted Edis notes:

"Quantum fluctuations have a way of just happening, without any cause, as when a radio active atom decays at a random time." - Ted Edis [1]

Of course, by "cause" he means a sufficient cause as there are self-evidently necessary conditions in place in order for these fluctuations to occur.

Now, in order for this not to be the case then a deterministic interpretation of Quantum Mechanics must be true. The problem is that the most plausible deterministic interpretations either require the existence of multiple worlds, or hidden variables (Many-Worlds, Bohm's interpretation etc.). Since neither can be verified, and, to my mind, seem ad hoc (created to avoid certain "quantum weirdness"), they are not desirable interpretations. Also, the Copenhagen interpretation enjoys more experimental support than its rivals despite previous assumptions that all interpretations of Quantum Mechanics are experimentally equivalent. In 2008, Physicist Alexander Klyachko and his team were able to show that:

"... If you repeatedly measured five different pairs of properties of a quantum particle that was in a superposition of three states, the results would differ for the quantum system compared with a classical system with hidden variables." [2]

Leading Physicist Anton Zeilinger concluded:

"This experiment lends more support to the Copenhagen interpretation." - Anton Zeilinger

Since Pro's argument fails to not only rule out the possibility of an impersonal force or object as the culprit of universal causation, but also leaves us with no reason to deem it implausible based on what we know about reality; the argument without a doubt fails to establish the resolution.

-Refuting Pro's Additional Argument For The Resolution-

This argument, if I'm not mistaken, is that the only immaterial entity we know of which can cause changes in a material world is a personal agent as it creates energy out of nothing via its volition. This not only solves the interaction problem plaguing Dualism according to Pro, but also provides us with a good reason to establish the resolution.

I would simply like to point out that this line of reasoning fails because it merely pushes the question back. If an immaterial being creates X energy in order to interact with physical object Y, then we are still left with the problem of how the immaterial being interacts with X energy it created in order to cause a change in Y in the first place (or how it could even create X energy from nothing in the first place). It would seem impossible since the immaterial being is, well, immaterial, and the X energy is material which means they don't share common properties which allow for this bridge of interaction as they are metaphysically distinct substances. If they tried to interact their properties would not cohere. However, this debate was not meant to argue over Dualism, and since something immaterial clearly has to interact with the material for this debate to get off the ground in context I will concede that this is possible for the sake of argument.

I am going to respond to this argument by simply appealing once more to the possibility of the spontaneous coming into being of the universe. We have evidence of energy being spontaneously created from a vacuum, and there is no reason to assume there couldn't be a timeless and spaceless vacuum which allowed for the universe to spontaneously begin to exist. So even if Pro has come up with a way for our immaterial human minds to interact with the material, it still would not follow that a mind is the best explanation for the universe.

Pro may argue that it is still the best explanation because whatever this alternative immaterial necessary cause is, is merely conjured up, while we know minds are immaterial. While it is true we know minds are immaterial, we don't know that minds can be timeless in the actual world even if it is logically possible. Whatever the cause of the universe is (which contains everything we have ever empirically verified), would almost certainly be very counter-intuitive and foreign. So appealing to what we know for explanations (like we do for things within the universe) may not even be valid with regards to whatever is outside the universe.

-In Conclusion-

My opponent has presented two arguments in favor of the resolution which have both been sufficiently undermined.

-Sources-

[1] http://www.azquotes.com...

[2] https://www.google.ca...
philochristos

Pro

Thanks to RT for keeping it interesting.

I made three arguments for the resolution. Two of them got conflated, so let me explain the distinction.

The first argument was an argument from process of elimination. After ruling out abstract objects and impersonal entities, we were left with personal beings. I further went on to show that a personal being could not be ruled out.

In the second argument, I showed why a personal being is not only possible but necessary. This was my argument from volition.

The third argument was the argument from the ability of personal beings to create energy ex nihilo.

If RT's suggestion that the universe had necessary conditions and began spontaneously, that would refute my first two arguments. It would show that volition was unnecessary, which refutes the second argument, and it would show that there is a fourth possibility, which would refute my first argument.

When I took this debate, I interpreted "cause" to mean "sufficient cause." Usually, when somebody says an event happens spontaneously, I take that to mean it happened without a cause. So when RT suggests the universe did not have a sufficient cause, I take that to be a rejection of the supposition of this debate.

But I don't want a cheap win, and I suppose RT would dispute my interpretation of the resolution. So I'll answer as if the antecedent of the resolution makes room for the universe having a necessary cause but not a sufficient cause.

RT's argument is that the Copenhagen interpretation, which ought to be preferred, entails that there are spontaneous events in the quantum world, so it's possible that the beginning of the universe was a spontaneous event, albeit with necessary conditions. I have a few responses to that.

First, Sean Carroll said in his debate with Bill Craig that "The Copenhagen interpretation is basically nonsense. No thoughtful person still holds to it. And yet we teach it to all of our undergraduates. That's kind of a scandal. And uh..you know and no one knows what the right answer is." [1]

Second, all interpretations of quantum physics are ad hoc in a sense. Nobody knows what's really going on down there, so they invent these models to explain it. Pilot wave theory can hardly be blamed for trying to be coherent! One reason many people have accepted the Copenhagen interpretation as opposed to the de Broglie-Bohm pilot wave theory is because it requires less math. Whereas both interpretations require the Schroedinger equation, the pilot wave theory adds the guiding equation that tells the particle how to move within the wave function. This difference may tell us which interpretation is easier to deal with on a practical level, but it doesn't tell us which theory is actually true. Another reason many reject the pilot wave theory is that it contains hidden variables, which means it's not a complete theory. It's precisely for this reason that I'm more inclined toward pilote wave (or something like it) than Copenhagen. Whichever theory you go with, or even if you go with no theory at all, there's still a lot of weirdness in quantum physics. That leads me to believe there's a lot going on down there that we don't know. I'm suspicious of any theory that says we do, especially when that theory is full of counter-intuitive results, like the Copenhagen interpretation.

Third, while the Copenhagen interpretation does give us instances of events without sufficient causes, it does not give us any instances of anything coming into existence without material causes. What I mean is that whereas the universe coming into existence does not entail one sort of physical thing being transformed into some other kind of physical thing, that is precisely what happens in pair production due to vacuum fluxuations. What physicists call "false vacuum" is actually full of energy, and particles emerge from it because some of that energy is converted to mass. If the whole universe had a beginning, then it could not have emerged from a false vacuum. Remember that we are talking about the beginning of all of physical reality. That's what we mean by "the universe."

Fourth, it would be quite the extrapolation to suppose that the beginning of the universe is like the beginning of a subatomic particle. When you consider the fact that all matter, energy, and time came into existence at the beginning of the universe, there's an obvious difference between that and a pair of subatomic particles emerging from a field of energy within the universe. They are not the same kind of event.

Fifth, it isn't clear that the beginning of the universe is a quantum event. So far, we have no theory that reconciles quantum physics with relativity. Both theories have extraordinary predictive value, which suggests that they are both true, but we have no theory that reconciles them or that allows us to predict one from the other. That's relevant because while relativity governs the universe on a large scale, if you extrapolate backward in time, big bang theory predicts that the universe gets shrunk down to atomic and subatomic size. Nobody knows which theory dominates at that point or if there's some undiscovered physics that takes over.

Now, I want to respond to RT's rebuttal of my last argument from the ability of minds to create ex-nihilo. While conceding that it's possible for immaterial minds to interact with the material world, he questions whether my proposed solution works on the basis that it only postpones the interaction problem. The energy that gets created ex-nihilo would still have to be manipulated somehow by the person who created it. I don’t think that’s the case, though. Let me give an illustration.

We know that two particles of the same charge will have an electrostatic force of repulsion between them. So all it would take to move one electron is for another electron to appear right beside it. If one could create an electron instantaneously at some precise location, they wouldn’t have to take any further step in moving that electron to get it to move some other electron. In the same way, when energy is created in just the right way, nature takes its course from there without requiring any further interference from an immaterial mind. So this is a viable solution.

My argument is stronger than suggesting a mere possibility, though. Rather, this is the only viable solution. If immaterial minds are to interact with the material world, which my argument from volition shows that they do, they must do so by creating energy ex-nihilo since (1) they cannot move matter without imparting energy to it, and (2) they have no energy of their own.

RT claims that even if this is how minds interact with the physical world, it still doesn't show that the universe was created that way since (1) it could've been spontaneous, and (2) we have no experience of timeless minds.

Regarding 1, RT's spontaneous explanation still includes a necessary cause. The only way that cause could play a roll in bringing about the beginning of the universe is if it has some kind of capacity, even if not sufficient by itself, to bring about energy from nothing. Unless it has some power to contribute to that end, it's not really a cause at all. So we are still stuck with a spaceless, timeless, immaterial entity that contributes somehow to bringing about the beginning of the universe ex nihilo. Right now, a mind is the only thing we know of that can do that.

Regarding 2, While it's true we have no experience of a timeless mind, I've already shown that it's possible. Also, while we might have experience of spontaneous events, assuming Copenhagen is correct, we have no experience of anything spontaneously coming into existence from nothing at all. If you agree with my solution to the interaction problem, then we DO have experience of things being caused by immaterial minds to come into existence out of nothing. So, an immaterial mind is still the best candidate for a cause.


NOTES:

1. https://www.youtube.com... Go to 2:13:30

Debate Round No. 2
Rational_Thinker9119

Con

I thank Philochristos for his response.

-What Is Meant By "Cause"?-

A necessary cause is still a cause by definition. Therefore, as long as I assume the universe has a necessary cause then, respectfully, I did not reject the supposition of the debate. I must only assume the universe has a cause ("a" means at the very least one type of cause).

-On The Copenhagen Interpretation-

Pro quotes Sean Carrol saying that this interpretation is nonsense and no thoughtful person still holds to it. However, Anton Zeilinger and his team have conducted break through experiments in the field of quantum mechanics (such as the "Quantum Erasure With Causally Disconnected Choice" experiment [1]). So he is clearly a thoughtful person, yet, adheres to the Copenhagen interpretation based on experimental results. Thus, Sean Carrol is wrong. I even cited an experiment lending support to the Copenhagen interpretation in my first round.

Secondly, my opponent argues that all interpretations of quantum mechanics are ad hoc in a sense, and that the Copenhagen interpretation being easier to deal with doesn't make it true. What makes the Copenhagen interpretation more likely than hidden variable theories is that we can determine how a quantum system would act if there were hidden variables in the mix, and experiments show that our results don't match up to such scenarios (like in the experiment I cited in my first round). Local hidden variables have been ruled out by violations of Bell's inequality [2]. Non-local hidden variable theories take a huge blow due to violations of the Leggett-Garg inequality [3]. Every time an experiment is done it seems to line up with Orthodox Quantum Mechanics perfectly while deterministic theories keep getting more difficult to justify. This is what separates a good interpretation from a weak one.

Pro states that while the Copenhagen gives us instances without sufficient causes they still have material causes. This is a red-herring I'm afraid as it is completely irrelevant. The point of mentioning quantum fluctuations was to show that we can have impersonal necessary conditions without sufficient conditions and a coming into being of something can still occur based on such a state of affairs; not to show that the universe could have a material cause or be a quantum event. Since Pro's argument about an eternal impersonal cause always having an eternal effect requires impersonal sufficient conditions as the only other option besides personal agency, and he has not shown sufficient conditions to be required; his argument does not succeed. I only referenced Quantum Mechanics to show that impersonal necessary conditions without sufficient causation likely occurs in the actual world. All I needed to do was point out that Pro hasn't ruled out impersonal spontaneity to undermine his reasoning; quantum mechanics was just the icing on the cake.

My opponent's first two arguments in favor of the resolution completely fail and I didn't even need to cite quantum mechanics to demonstrate this. All I had to do is point out that the universe beginning spontaneously due to an impersonal necessary cause which allows such a thing, has not been ruled out by Pro. He assumes in his arguments that sufficient conditions are required for an impersonal option which is why the arguments are not sound.

-On Philochristos' Third Argument-

Pro says that when energy is created in "just the right way" then nature takes its course. However, a problem arises. This energy wouldn't "know" (excuse the anthropomorphism) which way to be created in order to cause the desired physical effect without the immaterial mind causing it do so. There is no reason to think that willing your arm to move (the mental event) wouldn't cause a burst of energy out of nothing to cause a random particle on Jupiter to move instead of your arm to move. Thus, more interaction than what Pro is implying is actually needed. Also, how can something that is not spatially extended and which is metaphysically distinct from anything material cause anything to begin to exist in space? Since these two substances are metaphysically distinct there seems to be a complete causal disconnection due to lack of common properties.

Another problem with Pro's reasoning is that if mental events cause material energy to be created in our universe then it should be measurable by science just like any other energy in the universe. However, when an arm moves the chain of causation is traced back to energy that already exists in the brain. If there was energy being created out of nothing that was actually causing arms to move then it would have measurable effects in a laboratory just like any other energy; yet it doesn't. So an argument against Pro's reasoning can be formulated as such:

P1: If it is the case that mental states cause the creation of material energy from nothing in the universe, then this energy would have been detected by scientists

P2: This energy has not been detected by scientists

C: Therefore, it is not the case that mental states cause the creation of material energy from nothing in the universe

Either way, this debate was not meant to discuss the Interaction Problem. I am willing to grant for the sake of argument that not only does the immaterial mind interact with the material world, but that it does so via Pro's method.

-More On The Spontaneous Universe And A Timeless Mind-

Pro says a mind is the only thing we know of which is a timeless, immaterial, entity that can contribute somehow to the beginning of the universe ex nihilo. Thus, this explanation is preferred. However, the universe doesn't need to begin to exist ex nihilo; only from something that is not the universe. Also, we only know that temporal minds create energy ex nihilo (at least I am willing to grant that for this debate), not that timeless minds do. There are also countless conceivable ways a universe can begin to exist without personal agency so I don't see how Pro has proven his case. I'll give one example...If you added up the total energy of the universe it would likely equal zero (as the positive energy of matter is offset by the negative energy of gravity and is stored in space). Thus, all you need is a timeless, spaceless, immaterial zero energy geometry describable by a law allowing the spontaneous nucleation of the universe and there you go; no personal mind required and no initial energy input required. As Physicist Alexander Vilenkin states:

"The positive energy of matter is exactly compensated by the energy of gravity which is always negative. So the total energy of a closed universe is necessarily zero." - Alexander Vilenkin [4]

My opponent goes on to argue that since a mind is only thing we know that creates energy out of nothing this is the best candidate. However, like I stated, creation from nothing is not a prerequisite for candidacy here. The universe only needs to come from something that is not the universe; it doesn't have to come from nothing. Either way, Pro would have to show that known explanations (which do a great job explaining things within the universe) are preferred with regards to explanations outside the universe. This has not been accomplished.

-In Conclusion-

Pro has not ruled out the idea that the universe can begin to exist spontaneously with only a set of impersonal necessary conditions in place. He only appeals to a mind as it is the only thing he can think of which can do something similar to what would have to be done for the universe to exist. This is not a convincing line of reasoning because appealing to what we know for explanations with regards to what may be beyond the universe has not been shown to be valid form of justification.

-Sources-

[1] http://www2.mpq.mpg.de...

[2] https://plato.stanford.edu...

[3] http://m.pnas.org...

[4] http://m.youtube.com...
philochristos

Pro

This is going to be my conclusion. In the next round, I'll just say, "This space intentionally left blank."

I'm going to go ahead and concede the Copenhagen interpretation. What this gains RT is this: In the quantum world, there are spontaneous events with necessary but not sufficient conditions. From there, RT can infer that spontaneous events with necessary but not sufficient causes are possible. But here is where RT makes a big leap in logic. He goes on to say that it's possible that's what happened in the case of the beginning of the universe. Not only that, but it means the cause of the universe was impersonal. Moreover, this is supposedly a better explanation than that the universe had a sufficient personal cause.

Granting the mere possibility that there are spontaneous events with necessary but not sufficient causes does not justify you in arbitrarily saying that's what happened in any other event unless they are sufficiently analogous. Imagine you hear your car crank up in the garage, and your wife asks you to explain how that happened. If mere possibility were enough, you could justifiably reply, "Well, the car had gas, which is necessary for it to run, but not sufficient. Then it spontaneously started. After all, it's possible." Nobody would buy that explanation because it's not sufficiently analogous to a quantum event.

I gave a few reasons for why the beginning of the universe is not analogous to a quantum event. One of those reasons was that quantum events, like pair production, consist in creation ex-materia while the universe consists of creation ex-nihilo. RT claims this is an irrelevant observation because he was only trying to show that "we can have impersonal necessary conditions without sufficient conditions." As I explained above, that does not justify us in applying that scenario to just any other situation. If it did, you could explain just about anything that way. But in reality, hardly anything is ever explained that way. Quantum events are the only things we know of. So the distinction is quite relevant.

I also made the the point that whereas in pair production you have two particiles coming into existence within the universe, in the case of the universe you have all matter, space, time, and energy coming into existence at once, and not from within the universe. Clearly these are not analogous events. RT did not respond to this point.

Another disanalogy that I did not mention was that whereas the necessary cause of a quantum event is a physical state of affairs, the necessary cause of the universe could not have been a physical state of affairs. RT hasn't even given us a candidate for what the spaceless, timeless, immaterial, impersonal entity that served as the necessary cause of the universe could be. I at least have suggested a mind as the cause of the universe, and we all know what a mind is. RT essentially is saying, "I don't know what the cause of the universe is, but it wasn't a mind." On what grounds? It doesn't seem to me that RT carried his burden of proof in this debate. He spent the majority of his time trying to undermine my case without making much of a case of his own for the alternative.

My first argument from process of elimination assumed a sufficient cause of the universe. RT believes it is undermined by the possibility of an insufficient cause of the universe combined with spontenaeity. But all he has succeeded in doing was to remove the deductive force of the argument. The argument can still work inductively. Being left with a sufficient personal cause and an insufficient impersonal cause, we can then go on to say which is more viable or which is more likely. The fact that a personal cause is a sufficient explanation whereas RT's impersonal unnamed cause is not sufficient should, alone, be enough to favour my explanation over his. In what other context do we ever favor an insufficient cause over a sufficient cause when a sufficient cause is available for explanation? What reason has RT given us to prefer an insufficient impersonal cause to a sufficient personal cause? Mere possibility isn't enough.

My second argument also assumed a sufficient cause of the universe. RT's mere possibility weakens this argument, too, but does not refute it. To refute it, RT had to do better than assert mere possibility. Before asking whether the cause was personal or impersonal, we first have to ask whether the cause is more likely to be sufficient or insufficient. With all other things being equal, sufficient causes are inherently more likely than insufficient causes. It is only when we can rule out things like hidden variables that we that we favor insufficient causes. So, with a more likely sufficient cause, my second argument is sound. It may not rise to the level of certainty I originaly argued, but it does gives us a high level of probability.

RT spent some time trying to refute my solution to the interaction problem, and I was all fired anxious to defend it against his attempt, but then at the end he granted for the sake of this debate that my solution is how things actually work. So there's no need to defend it against his attack.

Having granted that minds create ex nihilo, RT gives two reasons for why this explanation should not be preferred. First, it's because the universe may not have begun ex nihilo; but ex materia. This explanation only works if RT disagrees with how I defined the universe earlier in this debate. I defined it as being all of physical reality, and RT did not dispute that. If the universe as we know it today is the result of being transformed from something prior, then whatever came before must also have been something with physical properties, describable by laws of physics (even if presently unknown). So it, too, would have been "the universe." All we can say is that the universe has undergone some sort of transformation, not that it began. But the supposition of this debate is that it began, which entails that it did not have a material cause.

RT's second reason for why a personal cause should not be preferred is because if you sum all the positive and negative energy in the universe, you get zero. I don't see how this amounts to an explanation at all, much less a better one. It's not as if there is zero energy in the universe. There's lot of energy in the universe. Some is positive and some is negative, but it's all real, and it came into existence. To say that the sum of the negative and positive energy in the universe is zeros is not to say that there is no energy in the universe (which would entail that the universe doesn't even exist). So this does not serve as an alternate explanation.

My argument remains unrefuted. A mind is the only thing we know of capable of creating ex nihilo, and since the universe was created ex nihilo, a mind is the best candidate for a cause.

In conclusion, let me say that we have two options before us as a candidate for the cause of the beignning of the universe. One is a sufficient personal mind, and the other is an insufficient impersonal I-know-not-what. I gave three reasons for why a personal rather than an impersonal cause should be perferred. RT managed to weaken the force of two of my reasons, but he did not refute them. I would submit that he did not even weaken my third argument. Also, besides trying to weaken my arguments for a personal cause, RT made no substantial case for an impersonal cause. His arguments, even if sound, gave us mere possibility.

Thank you reader, and thank you especially to RT. I have a lot of respect for RT's intellect, and he was a real challenge to debate. I find him not only to be one of the most brilliant people on this site, but also one of the most interesting. I've been tempted many times to debate him and only caved this time because he sent me a challenge directly. I couldn't resist.

Debate Round No. 3
Rational_Thinker9119

Con

-Introduction-

I thank Philochristos for his thoughtful responses; I knew this debate would be interesting. In this round I am going to show why my opponent's three arguments still do not justify the resolution.

-Response To My Opponent-

Just to make things clear, I have never once in this debate argued that an impersonal cause of the universe is to be preferred when compared to a personal cause. I have only argued that Pro's case doesn't stand up to critical scrutiny; which is all I needed to do according to the debate outline:

"It will be Pro's job to show that this cause is a personal mind, and my job to show why Pro's reasoning doesn't stand up to critical scrutiny."

Pro has the burden of proof in this debate according to the rules I erected. Ergo, I need not argue for an impersonal cause of the universe.

Philochristos provides an example with the car and gas to show the absurdity of accepting necessary causation without sufficient causation as an explanation just because it is merely possible. However, it is only absurd in such a situation because we are dealing with macroscopic things and events. Since the initial Big Bang state was of sub-atomic size (not a macroscopic thing) then the analogy my opponent provides simply misses the mark. What quantum mechanics shows is that things and events at the very small scale don't have a sufficient cause much of the time. Therefore, ironically, it is Pro's analogy that fails, not mine, because what we would expect macroscopically breaks down when discussing the extremely small.

My opponent says that quantum events entail creation ex-materia while the universe entails creation ex-nihilo. First off, quantum events do not necessarily entail creation ex-materia. The universe could have came from a timeless, spaceless, immaterial geometry (like in Alexander Vilenkin's quantum tunneling model [1]). Certain laws of physics only deal with what could potentially happen physically; not what is the case physically. This means that states describable by the laws of physics could exist without anything physical. Therefore, there is nothing about the laws of physics that makes it necessary that a quantum event like quantum tunneling needs prior space or energy (quantum fluctuations do require space however). Also, Pro has not shown that the universe didn't come from a field of proto-material (which is not yet material, but becomes energy and elementary particles). So the claim that the universe began ex-nihilo is unjustified. It is also claimed by my opponent that if we accept unnecessary conditions without sufficient conditions as likely explanations then we could explain anything like that. I already refuted this notion because looking for sufficient causes only seems valid at the macroscopic scale (the initial Big Bang state was not a macroscopic object).

It is the said by my opponent that the creation of virtual particles within the universe is not analogous to the creation of matter, space, time and energy as a whole; as it only pertains to within the universe. If Pro is to be consistent with his logic then he must also say that that the creation of energy he mentioned with regards to the interaction problem only happens within the universe, and is not analogous to the creation of matter, space, time and energy as a whole. His statement actually renders his third argument useless.

Philochristos then says that quantum events have physical necessary conditions while the beginning of the universe couldn't have, so, there are more disanalogies on my part. The problem is that quantum tunneling models of the universe don't require anything physical prior to creation. Pro also states that I have not given a candidate as to what the spaceless, timeless, immaterial, and impersonal necessary cause could be. This is false. Here is a section of my last round:

"...all you need is a timeless, spaceless, immaterial zero energy geometry describable by a law allowing the spontaneous nucleation of the universe and there you go; no personal mind required..."

Also, once more, I have only undermined Pro's case instead of arguing for an impersonal cause as that is all my job is with regards to this debate based on the outlined rules.

Now, Pro says we should already favour a personal cause because it entails sufficient conditions. Most causes entail sufficient conditions so this is a more likely explanation for a thing. However, once again, we only expect sufficient causes when it comes to macroscopic things, and the initial Big Bang condition was not a macroscopic object. Thus, this line of reasoning still fails. We know that things happen randomly and spontaneously at the sub-atomic scale (radioactive decay, quantum fluctuations, quantum tunneling etc.). The Big Bang was an extremely counter-intuitive event and it involved the coming into being of an initial state that was extremely small in size. Not even a probability argument can get off the ground in favour of sufficient causality here.

Additonally, my opponent seems to misrepresent my stance. I never claimed that the universe may have began to exist ex-materia instead of ex-nihilo. I said the universe may have came from something else that is not the universe; the two statements are not equivalent. Perhaps a field of proto-material is what the universe came from (we only know material things need material causes based on observation of material things already existing, this need not apply to the first material thing), or a zero energy geometry state like in Alexander Vilenkin's model.

With regards to a the zero energy universe I never implied the universe had zero energy, just that the universe could have came from a zero energy state as the total energy of the universe equals zero. All we need is a zero energy state which is unstable (which means it must "split" and start the universe) then the positive and negative energy comes into being. So this is an alternative explanation (one that many physicists adhere to, but one that could also be adhered to outside the scope of physics) contrary to what my opponent believes.

-Conclusion-

Pro concedes that I undermined his first two arguments enough to the point that he had to retreat into probabilistic arguments in order for them to work. His idea is that sufficient causation applies to almost everything so it is more likely. I showed this reasoning fails as we only expect sufficient causation pertaining to macroscopic things (the initial Big Bang state was not a macroscopic thing, as macroscopic objects only began after cosmic inflation).

Philochristos' third argument is that a mind is the only thing we know of that creates ex-nihilo, and since the universe began ex-nihilo, then a mind is the best explanation. This argument takes a huge blow based on his own reasoning. He claims something happening within the universe is not analogous to matter, space, time and energy coming into being as a whole. This means that just because minds can create bits of energy in within the universe, that doesn't mean such a thing is analogous to creating a whole universe. Also, his claim that the universe began ex nihilo hasn't been supported (I provided other alternatives) so, the third argument from my opponent doesn't succeed either.

Since my burden in this debate was to show why Pro's arguments do not stand up to critical scrutiny, and I accomplished that task; one must simply be compelled to vote Con.

-Additional Comments-

I am humbled by Philochristos' comments in his last round. The reason I wanted to debate him is because I knew he would be a formidable opponent and I have much respect for his intellect as well.

Philochristos, I would like to discuss certain subjects with you such as the interaction problem and Idealism. So I am asking if you would be willing to temporarily leave your inbox open so this can happen. Just let me know.

-Source-

[1] http://www.gravityresearchfoundation.org...
philochristos

Pro

[This space intentionally left blank.]
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Masterful 1 year ago
Masterful
There becomes a point where there is too much to bother to read.
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 1 year ago
Rational_Thinker9119
Oh damn nobody voted, was still a fun debate though!
Posted by philochristos 1 year ago
philochristos
Thanks RT!
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 1 year ago
Rational_Thinker9119
It is still broken and won't let me copy it....mmm. If you type this in google:

"Spontaneous creation of universes" Alexander Vilenkin

The second link is the pdf file I was attempting to use as a source.
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 1 year ago
Rational_Thinker9119
I accidentally posted a link to source last round that was broken, here is the actual link:

http://www.gravityresearchfoundation.org...
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 1 year ago
Rational_Thinker9119
I accidentally posted a link to source last round that was broken, here is the actual link:

http://www.gravityresearchfoundation.org...
Posted by KingDebater 1 year ago
KingDebater
Ah, thank you for clarifying
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 1 year ago
Rational_Thinker9119
The argument in that debate was merely the show the incoherncy of a timeless mind. I don't hold to that line of thinking anymore though, because of the reasons Philochristos mentioned in this debate. I don't actually view time as fundamental to empirical reality.
Posted by KingDebater 1 year ago
KingDebater
So what are the alternatives? The universe existed forever?
Posted by Rational_Thinker9119 1 year ago
Rational_Thinker9119
Of course, as a change with no time for it to occur will never happen. This seems like a self-evident proposition.
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