Saturday, October 23, 2010

Questions for Atheists

OK, the Discovery Institute (those are the guys that are trying to push ID) posted a quiz, lets see what my answers are.

1) Why is there anything?

I don't know. However, I suspect that for there to be nothing, there would have had to be precisely nothing. Exactly zero anything. If there had been even 1x10^1000 of anything, effects would have accumulated. However, this is just a suspicion, and I claim no knowledge.

2) What caused the Universe?

The universe is it's own cause, I suspect. It is the only thing that makes sense, and it has the advantage of not falling to to the infinite regression problem. many people claim God did not need a cause outside of himself, but why did he not? The answer is usually something like "Because he is God!" which is not an answer. I can say that the universe did not need a first cause outside of itself, and defend it by saying 'Because it is the universe!" I think it is obvious that my response would not have been an answer.

3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

I suspect that if any universe had come into being without regularity of physical law, it would have not come to anything. We might be the billionth universe, but only the first to get it right. Remember, time may be a quality of the universe and may have come into being with the universe. If there was no time, or an infinite amount of time before the universe, there could have been billions of failed (or successful and now long dead) universes before this one.

4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?

I had to read up to see what this question meant.
a) Material causes exist. If you have a trombone, brass has to exist.
b) Efficient causes exist. For something to fall down, you need gravity.
c) Final causes do not exist, that is, things are not meant for anything except when a person makes them for that purpose. Even then, they are not meant for anything except in that person's mind. The intended purpose of a thing is not a quality of that thing. It is a quality of the mind that is thinking about that thing, and thoughts are extremely mutable. Thoughts do not create reality.
A butter-knife, which (we would assume) has the final cause of spreading butter, can turn a screw. I doubt anyone would assign to a butter-knife the final cause of "turning screws".
d) Formal causes only exist in that things happen to be suited for their tasks by how they are structured. A pile of rocks can serve as a landmark, even if it was not meant to be one. We would not use a butter knife to turn screws if it did not happen to work fairly well in a pinch.

5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?

Because we have brains that interpret sensory information imperfectly based on limited information.

6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?

I am not a philosopher, I am an accountant. I think this question is asking, "How can the mind have goals?" Well, if it did not have goals, it would never do anything. Other than that, ask a psychologist.

7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)

Absolute moral law does not exist. It is all situational. I have never seen a convincing example of absolute morality. "Killing is wrong" except sometimes it is OK, such as in self-defense or in punishments for certain crimes. "Theft is wrong" unless it is to feed the hungry (see Robin Hood). "Lying is wrong", unless you are hiding Jews from the Nazi's. This list is endless. Just read the Old Testament. "Thou shall not kill", except all the times God (or the priesthood How do you know the priests just aren't claiming God said something?) says it is OK.

8) Why is there evil?

Because people often want things that other people are not willing to give them. When their desire for the thing overpowers the desire to not hurt people, they commit evil. However, evil is not a substance, it is a adjective and it is subjective. What is evil to one is good to another. A better question is "Why is there good?" The answer is, without good, we would have all died out. Humans do not survive well in isolation. To survive in a society, people must treat each other with a certain amount of kindness. Any society without goodness dies out quickly. Hence all the societies that survived had some sort of goodness.

I am sure most folks without a philosophical education could do better. You don't get any points for answering "It is that way because I (or my invisible/absent friend) says so." I don't claim to know the answers to any of these questions. These are my suspicions about what might be the answers. Unlike some people, I do not make up an answer and then declare it THE TRUTH. Really, I don't know the answers, and neither do you.

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