April 5th, 2013
The following argument is an abductive Thomistic cosmological argument from contingency, which I presented at my recent Ratio Christi debate.
- There are contingent constituents to the universe.
- Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe (U) is very, very unlikely under the hypothesis that these constituents are themselves uncaused or self-caused (~Cu): that is, P(U|~Cu & k) ≪ 1.
- Given the contingent constituents of the universe, the existence of the universe is not unlikely under the hypothesis of a first uncaused cause (Cu): that is, ~P(U|Cu & k) ≪ 1.
- Therefore, U strongly supports Cu over ~Cu.
The constituents of the universe include galaxies, planets, stars, cars, humans, leptons, bosons, and other particles. For the constituents of the universe to be uncaused that would mean it is metaphysically necessary. For something to be metaphysically necessary that means that it could not have failed to exist—it exists in every possible world.
For something to be self-caused it must be simultaneously antecedent to itself to produce itself as its own effect. But this contradictory. This would be akin to the ultimate bootstrapping trick.
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February 8th, 2013
The cumulative case uses the prime principle of confirmation: Whenever we are considering two competing hypotheses, an observation counts as evidence in favor of the hypothesis under which the observation has the highest probability. This principle is sound under all interpretations of probability. Each argument must be taken on its own grounds and one cannot arrive at “God” at the end of each argument. The conjunction of arguments is what is needed to make a cumulative case for the existence of God.
The Likelihood Principle of Confirmation theory states as follows. Let h1 and h2 be two be competing hypothesis (in this case the existence of X and ~X, with X being a first cause, fine-tuner, etc.). According to the Likelihood Principle, an observation e counts as evidence in favor of hypothesis h1 over h2 if the observation is more probable under h1 than h2. Thus, e counts in favor of h1 over h2 if P(e|h1) > P(e|h2), where P(e|h1) and P(e|h2) depict a conditional probability of e on h1 and h2, respectively. The degree to which the evidence counts in favor of one hypothesis over another is proportional to the degree to which e is more probable under h1 than h2: particularly, it is proportional to P(e|h1)/P(e|h2) . The Likelihood Principle seems to be sound under all interpretations of probability. This form is concerned with epistemic probability.
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July 9th, 2012
Inductive logic, generally speaking, takes elements of a set and applies this subset of elements to a broader set. More specifically, the principle of mathematical induction states that if zero has a property, P, and if whenever a number has the property its successor also has the property, then all numbers have the property:
Induction works by enumeration: as support for the conclusion that all p’s are q’s, one could list many examples of p’s that are q’s. It also includes ampliative argument in which the premises, while not entailing the truth of the conclusion, nevertheless purports good reason for accepting it.
Inductive probability in the sciences has been generally successful in the past. It has been used by Galileo, Kepler, and has even resulted in the discovery of Neptune. The English astronomer John Michell exemplified this discuss in a discussion of ‘probable parallax and magnitude of the fixed stars’ published by the Royal Society in 1767. Michell found that the incidence of apparently close pairings of stars was too great for them all to be effects of line of sight, and that next to a certainty such observed pairs of stars must actually be very close together, perhaps moving under mutual gravitation. Michell’s conclusion was not corroborated for forty years until William Herschel’s confirmatory observations.
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July 5th, 2012
In a correct deductive argument if the premises are true the conclusion is true regardless of whether or not further evidence is considered. There must be a reasonable connection or relationship between the conditions in a deductive argument (in the instance of implication). Consider the argument, as modus ponens, that if the moon’s core is made of cheese then my desk is made out of mahogany. What relationship do these two conditions have? The truth-value is valid (F-T-T). However, I recognize that this is merely a preference, which is, at times, convenient. When making a novel explanans and prediction the relationship between the conditions may not be epistemically evident.
There are generally three options, which are often considered as an explanation for the fine-tuning data: chance, necessity, a combination of chance and necessity, or a fine-tuner. One immediate problem in implementing explanatory options in a deductive manner is that the first premise may be false wherein it may be lacking in options and the argument still is valid. When these options are used in a [strict] deductive argument it may appear as:
- The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
- It is not due to physical necessity or chance.
- Therefore, it is due to design.
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May 23rd, 2012
Neill Shenton recently did a review/response to one of Doug Beaumont’s arguments for the existence of God. Doug’s argument is the ususal Thomastic cosmological argument from contingency. At this point I’ll assume that you’ve read the two posts so you’ve got a greater context for what follows.
This is an argument that keeps coming up & folk tweet responses but my thoughts don’t fit in a tweet so here’s my ramblings on the topic.
I see this as a rather futile attempt to “prove” there is a god by a logic that depends upon definitions of the terms. The key words here are ‘being’ and, not surprisingly, ‘god’. If we substitute these words the futility is exposed.
1. A widget exists
2. Widgets cannot spontaneously come into existence, they have to be “made” by something that came beforehand.
3. If our widget was made by or evolved from another, and so on, where did the first widget come from?
4. Some none-widget-like-process made the first widget
5. I’m calling that “f’narg”
6. What do we know about F’narg? Nothing except it isn’t a widget by definition. Is it god? You could call it that, I’ll stick to f’narg; it has NO connotations. So, we now know exactly what we already did, all this widgety universe started with something and now it has a name, f’narg
What Shenton is doing here is that he’s completely ignoring the modal status of the terms ‘contingent’ and ‘necessary’ in the original Thomistic argument. This isn’t that big of a deal but for him to completely dismiss it isn’t critiquing the argument on its own grounds. He’s changing the argument (straw man). P3 is obviously a misunderstanding of the argument.
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