quote: For example, consider a heavy ball on a cushion. The ball causes a depression in the cushion. The ball is the cause, the depression is the effect. The cause and effect are simultaneous; as long as the ball is on the cushion, it continues to cause the depression. Time is not an issue in this situation.
You mean that the ball suddenly appears on the cushion simultaneously with the dent ? I've never seen that. Based on my experience the ball, when placed on the cushion would deform the cushion by it's weight over a period of time.
Look, you're talking about causation effecting a change, not maintaining an existing condition without considering at all how it came to be. So that example completely misses the point.
quote: I didn't answer this earlier because I though the answers were so obvious that it didn't need explaining. But perhaps it would be helpful to state the obvious.
It IS obvious, but an admission that your example was irrelevant and misleading would have been worthwhile. However, your "explanation simply does not address my point at all.
quote: he example of ball and cushion (or pillow) goes back to Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason. Obviously, the example does not consider how the ball came to be there, but only considers the state of the system after the ball is in place. In this static system, the deformed state is caused by the presence of the ball. If someone were to ask, "Why is there a deformation in the cushion?", the answer "Because there is a heavy ball on it" is perfectly accurate and acceptable. The ball can be said to cause the state of deformation, with no reference to time.
However this does not consider how the ball causes the dent to "begin to exist" which is the form of causation that we are interested in.
If we do consider it, it is obvious that the ball exists prior to the dent, and therefore we cannot conclude that the ball need not precede the dent. Even the state of the ball resting on the cushion would - in ordinary expectations at least - precede the dent.
Indeed, I must also point out that this whole line of argument is fruitless. If the alleged cause of our universe does not exist prior to our universe, how can we safely conclude both that our universe begins to exist and the alleged cause does not ?
quote: Better, but to avoid confusion I recommend completely eliminating the word "uncaused". How about, "The time of decay of any particular nucleus is stochastic"?
Which would mean that there is no causal explanation of why a nucleus decayed at any particular time.
quote: Here are some questions for those of you who still want to maintain that nuclear decay is "uncaused". How can a large collection of these "uncaused" events have extremely predictable, deterministic behavior? What causes this predictable and deterministic behavior, if the system is nothing more than a collection of "uncaused" events?!?
It's a virtually inevitable consequence of statistics, and the large number of atoms involved.
quote: If you give me 10^12 radioactive atoms (there are about this many atoms of C-14 in 20 g of modern carbon), I can predict extremely accurately how many will remain in one half-life (about 5730 years)--exactly half of the original amount, with an accuracy of about 1 ppm. If each decay is truly "uncaused", what causes a macroscopic collection to have such predictable, deterministic behavior?
But you cannot predict which will decay, nor, even with perfect information could you work out exactly how many will decay. You cannot even be absolutely certain of your result - if you choose the limits correctly you can get a very high probability, but it will still be less than one.
In short you are still dealing with a random process, but the large numbers involved make it appear to be (almost) deterministic. There is absolutely no reason to suggest that there is anything more at work.
quote: Classical problems, such as the frequency of calls into a call center, have probabilities which follow the same relations and are just as fundamental, with no "deeper truth".
While this is a side issue, I believe that you have misinterpreted the point. In the case of most classical problems a stochastic model is used for convenience, because it captures the important details without going into a huge amount of work. The underlying causes may be disconnected from the points of interest, or simply be unnecessary details. In the case of spontaneous nuclear decay there is no more detailed level at all.
In the case of the call centre it IS necessary to know that there is another level because there are situations where the calls may deviate from a simple stochastic model (a major outage in service, a new product, changes in contracts...)
Casinos didn't care about the physics of the roulette wheel - the physics affects the outcome of an individual spin, but overall the outcome of the many many spins a month was the same as chance. Until some people came up with a way to get computer assistance in betting, tilting the odds in their favour.
There is a difference between ignoring the underlying details and there being no underlying details TO ignore.
I note that you replied to the text of one message, but used the reply button on the other, confusing the threading. I have restored the title.
quote: Yes, I implied that there is something that causes the probabilities to be what they are.
No. As I said it looked very much as if you were implying an additional cause of the regularities. Simply arguing that the probabilities were determined would have better been done directly - and much better when considering a single atom than looking at the aggregate behaviour of large numbers.
quote: I would agree that the timing of any individual nuclear decay is non-deterministic and is stochastic.
You seem to be trying very hard to avoid the use of "uncaused" even when it is perfectly appropriate. Still, it is good that you agree that I was correct on this point.
quote: I don't quite follow what you are saying; can you please expand on your statement?
In trying to claim that the cause of our universe was a personal cause, Craig argues that impersonal causes always act immediately when the relevant conditions are present. THis is clearly not the case with spontaneous nuclear decay since we know that it can only be described probabilistically, with no causal element dictating the timing of the decay.
quote: 2) In both systems, something deeper is fundamentally driving the behavior. For the caller, it is the individual psychology and all external and internal influences on the individual. For the nuclear decay, it is the details and energy levels of the nucleus. Why does tritium decay so much faster than uranium? Why do they decay with different mechanisms? There are deeper causes for these things.
You seem to be missing the point, In the case of classical system there is a deeper causal explanation of the events, in the case of spontaneous nuclear decay the deeper model only affects the probabilities. This is a quite important difference.
quote: 3)In both systems, we cannot predict the behavior of the individual (nucleus or caller). In the nuclear case, I do not believe that this is possible in principle (no "hidden variables"). In the caller case, this would require knowing all of the details of every individual's psychology and all external and internal influences on each individual. Perhaps this is knowable in principle, but I strongly doubt it.
Essentially this comes down to practicality and convenience. I would also point out that in many systems modeled stochastically the individual elements are far simpler than people - and that in the call centre case statistical independence is an idealisation, that may not apply.
quote: No, I responded to the text of TWO of your messages using the reply button on ONE of them.
The one explicitly labelled as a side point in the title. That's pretty obviously the wrong thing to do if you're answering the main thread of discussion.
quote: I don't understand your objection.
Your statement did not imply that the probabilities were determined by physics, rather it implied that there was something more than probability affecting the aggregate results.
quote: The exact lifetime of any particular atom/nucleus is finite, stochastic, and non-deterministic. Does this mean that its decay and results are "uncaused"?
This is evasion. The point being made is that the timing of the decay is uncaused. Do you disagree with that ?
quote: I'm probably not as familiar with WLC's arguments as you are, and I don't know whether or not you are characterizing him accurately. But as should be obvious to anyone with scientific training, most physical processes are not immediate, but have short, finite (and probabilistic) timing. If nuclear decay is called "uncaused", then to be consistent most other physical processes must also be called "uncaused".
Defending arguments that you don't understand is probably a big mistake. Especially when you aren't even aware of the most important part of them.
quote: What about emission of a fluorescent photon? Emission of a photon from an LED? The molecular and solid state physics "only affects the probabilities" here, too.