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Author Topic:   Can Christians Believe That God Is Immanant In The Natural World?
anastasia
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 16 of 88 (409702)
07-10-2007 10:10 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Grizz
07-10-2007 9:19 PM


Grizz writes:

So yes - at this time I would say nature is immanant. Until further evidence points to a different conclusion I would divert to Laplace who stated "Sir, I simply have no need of that hypothesis".

Maybe you could explain to me how this differs from pantheism? I am sure it does, but maybe I could pick your brain for a minute?

The big question is why would nature as a whole not qualify as a self sufficient entity that is fundamental? In other words nature itself is not an effect but a fundamental cause which is not contingent. It needs no cause because it is not an effect of something ontologically prior. Nature itself is the fundamental generator of causation.

I guess you would say that you have no evidence for God, but the big question nowadays is whether anything can have no cause, including God. God is concluded as first cause, by Christians. There is no other possible scenerio in which He could be thought of as THE creator. Yet, the idea of God being only the first of many causes raises problems in theology. The alternative is to see God planning out all that would occur via evolution. ID. Now, even if ID could say all was designed by God, science could show that nature is only contingent upon itself. I guess roundaboutly I am asking 'what if nature IS God' because nature IS contingent upon itself? Is it 'safe' as a Christian, to believe this, and also believe in a trascendent God? Somehow, I doubt it, but from the strict Catholic definition I couldn't find anything which expressly ruled it out.

I am going to take a break and do some reading about it. It is common for me to get to a point where lines blur. If nature is the self-sufficient and principle cause of itself, then there is no need for a creator. God is becoming smaller and smaller.


This message is a reply to:
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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 17 of 88 (409706)
07-10-2007 10:21 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by ringo
07-10-2007 9:57 PM


Ringo writes:

As far as I know, evolution doesn't preclude "acts of God" - it just tries to explain them. As for doctrine, how can it preclude the truth?

I agree with your shrugs. I said it was a nonsense question to imagine if evolution could take in 'things' from outside of it. But if evolution can explain things without God, it sort of IS precluding God. Unless, God somehow is evolution itself. THAT is bad territory for a Christian, and doctrine DOES attempt to preclude the truth. It attempts to be the truth.

Let me ask you a hypothetical question. If you believed that God created everything, and you also believed in evolution, what part would you say God played in creation? When did his creating begin and end?


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ringo
Member
Posts: 16237
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 18 of 88 (409710)
07-10-2007 10:29 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Grizz
07-10-2007 10:07 PM


Grizz writes:

My point is any 'external' agent able to influence a system would itself be part of the system since it would be just another causal agent within a larger system. It would still be part of the 'Universe' because it is causally connected to it. There would be nothing 'external' about it.

Yeah, that's pretty much what I've been driving at.


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ringo
Member
Posts: 16237
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 19 of 88 (409712)
07-10-2007 10:33 PM
Reply to: Message 17 by anastasia
07-10-2007 10:21 PM


anastasia writes:

If you believed that God created everything, and you also believed in evolution, what part would you say God played in creation? When did his creating begin and end?

Hypothetically, the creation would consist of the finger-snap that created the machinery.


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Grizz
Member (Idle past 3550 days)
Posts: 318
Joined: 06-08-2007


Message 20 of 88 (409713)
07-10-2007 10:40 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by anastasia
07-10-2007 10:10 PM


Maybe you could explain to me how this differs from pantheism? I am sure it does, but maybe I could pick your brain for a minute?

In principle it doesn't as one would be free to define this non contingent fundamental generator of causality as 'God'. Why bother though? It won't add to or detract from anything by changing it's proper name from Nature to God.

I guess you would say that you have no evidence for God, but the big question nowadays is whether anything can have no cause, including God. God is concluded as first cause, by Christians. There is no other possible scenerio in which He could be thought of as THE creator. Yet, the idea of God being only the first of many causes raises problems in theology. The alternative is to see God planning out all that would occur via evolution. ID. Now, even if ID could say all was designed by God, science could show that nature is only contingent upon itself. I guess roundaboutly I am asking 'what if nature IS God' because nature IS contingent upon itself? Is it 'safe' as a Christian, to believe this, and also believe in a trascendent God? Somehow, I doubt it, but from the strict Catholic definition I couldn't find anything which expressly ruled it out.

I am going to take a break and do some reading about it. It is common for me to get to a point where lines blur. If nature is the self-sufficient and principle cause of itself, then there is no need for a creator. God is becoming smaller and smaller.

These are questions that you need to answer through your own reflection and understanding. These are my opinions. My opinions have changed throughout my life and perhaps they might change again. I could very well be entirely wrong. I am not an Atheist in the sense I deny the possibility of the existence of a first cause that supersedes nature on this scale of fundamental cuasation. I simply see no reason to require that a level of fundamental causality as seen in nature be backed up a notch.

The one thing that I have been convinced of is that in order to not revert to circular reasoning or infinite regress one needs to be able to resort to non contingent fundamental 'things' as primary.

Take the age-old questions like "Why is there something rather than nothing?". This question is absurd because it results in a circular argument. If there are 2 contingencies to be chosen from - "something" and "nothing" then the agent that does the choosing must be "something". Therefore "nothing" cannot exist. In other words "something" cannot be contingent.

Asking why nature is here I would currently reply that it simply "just is so". It needs no explanation as it is not an effect but a fundamental cause that is itself not an effect. This is hard to envision as our brain and experience has conditioned us to see effects everywhere. We have never seen a 'cause' that is not congingent so we conclude all 'things' must be effects with causes and ultimately must rely on something else for their own existence.


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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 21 of 88 (409715)
07-10-2007 10:55 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by Grizz
07-10-2007 10:07 PM


Grizz writes:

The topic at hand ultimately is an issue of casuation and what role casual agents play. Sending and recieving involve causal agents doing the sending or recieving. My point is any 'external' agent able to influence a system would itself be part of the system since it would be just another causal agent within a larger system. It would still be part of the 'Universe' because it is causally connected to it. There would be nothing 'external' about it.

Right, so if God were a causal agent, he would be immanant in creation, and not completely transcendent.

If you consider the Universe as a set of non-contingent fundamental causal agents there is no need for any other level of causal influence. There is no need to incorporate a larger level of causation. You are free to speculate on what those agents are but the Universe as such a whole is Immanent - it does not need to account for itself as the agents are fundamental. It is not an effect and does not require other agents to sustain it.

Whew, and you guys don't believe in God! What is astounding is that the inconceivable is now being conceived of very often. We have observed a fundamental uncaused agent. We have seen all that God is supposed to be. Does that prove that God exists, but that He is not what we thought He was? Ha, just kidding.

At least though, you have got the point of the topic. Now if only I can get some Christians to tell me if they believe God can be part of the 'system', or if their beliefs hold to utter and complete transcendence! Again, I am having no big melt down over it if I read the doctrine of God as creator and sustainer. I think that we usually say that God sustains the universe, as in, He could end it at any time if He chose. He allows it to be. I could also, within that doctrine, speculate that He keeps it going by His action within it.


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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 22 of 88 (409716)
07-10-2007 11:05 PM
Reply to: Message 20 by Grizz
07-10-2007 10:40 PM


Grizz writes:

Asking why nature is here I would currently reply that it simply "just is so". It needs no explanation as it is not an effect but a fundamental cause that is itself not an effect. This is hard to envision as our brain and experience has conditioned us to see effects everywhere. We have never seen a 'cause' that is not congingent so we conclude all 'things' must be effects with causes and ultimately must rely on something else for their own existence.

I understand, because that is precisely what theists claim about God.

The one thing that I have been convinced of is that in order to not revert to circular reasoning or infinite regress one needs to be able to resort to non contingent fundamental 'things' as primary.

Sure, but you aren't solving the problem of regress by moving nature up a notch to the position of primary 'thing'. You are just deifying nature.

Edited by anastasia, : No reason given.


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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 23 of 88 (409720)
07-10-2007 11:17 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by ringo
07-10-2007 10:33 PM


Ringo writes:

Hypothetically, the creation would consist of the finger-snap that created the machinery.

Can a machinery be created without a plan?

If we made a robot capable of checking itself for problems, and correcting them, that would be plan. What if the entire universe is capable of doing so? What if it does this by a series of random explorations? What if it does this through trial and error?


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ringo
Member
Posts: 16237
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 24 of 88 (409734)
07-11-2007 12:38 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by anastasia
07-10-2007 11:17 PM


anastasia writes:

What if the entire universe is capable of doing so? What if it does this by a series of random explorations? What if it does this through trial and error?

Isn't that the antithesis of a plan?


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This message is a reply to:
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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 25 of 88 (409735)
07-11-2007 1:05 AM
Reply to: Message 24 by ringo
07-11-2007 12:38 AM


Not necessarily. :)

Edited by anastasia, : No reason given.


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ReverendDG
Member (Idle past 2189 days)
Posts: 1119
From: Topeka,kansas
Joined: 06-06-2005


Message 26 of 88 (409747)
07-11-2007 3:54 AM
Reply to: Message 23 by anastasia
07-10-2007 11:17 PM


Can a machinery be created without a plan?

not that i know of,because man lacks the brain power to do something without a plan

If we made a robot capable of checking itself for problems, and correcting them, that would be plan. What if the entire universe is capable of doing so? What if it does this by a series of random explorations? What if it does this through trial and error?

see this is the problem, you are trying to argue too differing things, the universe has "laws" that affect it, you are talking about life, not the universe
i would argue that life shows no plan, other than the affects of NS on life, theres your designer, its not intelligent though
the universe on the other hand is framed by time and space and affected by QM

Edited by ReverendDG, : No reason given.


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Grizz
Member (Idle past 3550 days)
Posts: 318
Joined: 06-08-2007


Message 27 of 88 (410001)
07-12-2007 5:57 PM
Reply to: Message 21 by anastasia
07-10-2007 10:55 PM


Whew, and you guys don't believe in God! What is astounding is that the inconceivable is now being conceived of very often. We have observed a fundamental uncaused agent. We have seen all that God is supposed to be. Does that prove that God exists, but that He is not what we thought He was? Ha, just kidding.

Look at it this way - Our position that Causes must also be Effects is a direct result of our inquiry into nature proceeding from the top down rather than from the bottom up. We started at the top and have gradually unraveled deeper levels of causailty. The current goal of a TOE is basically to find a natural basis for all the causality we see around us. It would be the generator of causailty.

If such a fundamental causal agent that is described by this TOE were indeed established it would not need a cause. If it is by definition a fundamental generator of all causality then it need not be an effect of something ontologically ‘prior’. It is not an effect but a fundamental primary cause. Demanding that such a fundamental cause also have an explanation is the same as demanding that there must be something North of the North pole. The buck stops there.

This does not 'prove' that there is no deeper level of casusality. However, in order to establish a deeper level of causation you would need some observation or condition of logical necessity that dictates such a generator is contingent upon something else more fundamental. Other than guessing or taking as faith what do we observe that would indicate something deeper exists outside the causal structure of our existence that could not be accounted for by this generator?

Nothing we observe in nature makes it logically necessary that a fundamental agent would also exist as a contingent. There is no law that dictates all causes must also be effects.

This is my formed opinion based on common sense, inference, and what I see as necessity. The backbone of this argument is that an infinite regress of causes is implausible. The only way to avoid an infinite regress is by an appeal to fundamental entities that are not contingent upon any other entity for their existence.

To counter this argument one would need to show that all causes must also be effects.I do not consider this plausible in the physical sense. Without fundamentals as a categorical basis you will simply end up in an infinite causal regress - each level requiring deeper explanations. Whether you are thiest or a naturalist I would see this as unpalitable.

Causality has to have a home base otherwise it simply wanders forever without any firm basis to stand on. Ultimately what I am stating is that fundamental agents ‘simply are’. This is neither a copout or an argument from ignorance. It seems to me to be logically necessary that there must exist causal influences that exist in and of themselves.
......................................

Anna,

If youre interested here is a very nice read. The work covers the whole range of causal thought from conditionals to explanations, laws, and inferences. It really would go a long away in sorting out some of the ideas that surround your questions in the OP and helping you form your answers. You can probably find it at Amazon.

A Philosophical Guide to Conditionals - Jonathan Bennett;Oxford Press 2003.

Edited by Grizz, : Added Book reference


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anastasia
Member (Idle past 4031 days)
Posts: 1857
From: Bucks County, PA
Joined: 11-05-2006


Message 28 of 88 (410418)
07-15-2007 1:19 AM
Reply to: Message 27 by Grizz
07-12-2007 5:57 PM


Grizz writes:

This is my formed opinion based on common sense, inference, and what I see as necessity. The backbone of this argument is that an infinite regress of causes is implausible. The only way to avoid an infinite regress is by an appeal to fundamental entities that are not contingent upon any other entity for their existence.

Ah, but you don't understand how beautiful that may be to theists. We began with the principle of uncaused effects, and worked out a solution. Now science has offered a better solution to the effects of causes, and is still left with the original question.

Somtimes I feel that we ARE eating of the Tree of Life, working backwards, that Genesis was a premonition, and that as soon as we discover the mysteries of life, we shall die, figuratively. We shall be in the image and likeness of God, capable of creating life. With this, all things will be finalized.

That's a stretch, but again you have emphasized what I find strange in a evo/naturalist idealism: you have concluded your studies in the same manner that theists have started theirs. There must be an uncaused first cause. I remind you that you need not go into depth on that one, as it is a familiar concept.


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Grizz
Member (Idle past 3550 days)
Posts: 318
Joined: 06-08-2007


Message 29 of 88 (410463)
07-15-2007 8:52 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by anastasia
07-15-2007 1:19 AM


That's a stretch, but again you have emphasized what I find strange in a evo/naturalist idealism: you have concluded your studies in the same manner that theists have started theirs. There must be an uncaused first cause. I remind you that you need not go into depth on that one, as it is a familiar concept.

The whole jist of the argument is simply that there is no question of origin if a cause is fundamental and not an effect of something ontologically prior. There really is no final solution other than there exists a fundamental causal agent(s) that exists in and of themselves. They require no casual explanation and the only 'purpose' assigned to them is subjective.

Yes, Theists have used the same argument I have. Naturalists have generally found it unpalatable and 'taboo' since it gives ammunition to the theist to posit a creator without a cause. Reality is not a popularity contest however. It does not follow that non-contingent entities imply a deity. In fact they make it even less probable if they can account for what we see around us , which I believe they do.

I am an instrumentalist in that I see the laws of Nature as not really being 'laws' but rather patterns of regularity that are derived from primary causal agents. We never really see causes, we only see effects. For instance in a bubble chamber we are not viewing the particles under study, we are only seeing the tracks they leave behind. We see the final effect of an entity interacting with another system. Asking what the particles are in and of themselves is meaningless as we only see what things do - not what they are.

To take an example from General Relativity let's ask what 'gravity' is in and of itself(you might also do the same with the notion of God as you define it). One might ask how the presence of mass causes spacetime to become warped?. If you look closely at this question ,however , it might be easy to conclude we have the question backwards. It is the warping of space that defines what mass is and what casual properties it displays to our eyes.

Keep in mind here that we are not defining what 'matter' is but what mass is. Not all elementary particles of 'matter' have mass. Our everyday subjective perception of the world has caused us to equate matter with mass.

Mass in this context is a property of space, not of matter. To understand what mass is in and of itself we must understand space. You cannot define 'space' in a more fundamental context. It is as far as you can go while retaining any conceptual physical framework.

If Space was fundamental and not an effect of something ontologically prior then why would it need an explanation for it's own existence and properties? It is not an effect of something else but a fundamental cause. That's all we would be able to state with certainty. It simply 'is the way it is'.

Certainly gravity and spacetime would originate as a byproduct of the physical and conceptual framework of the fundamental TOE physicists are seeking. But this generator of causality we call the TOE would be the endpoint in causation, there would be nothing deeper. It would not require a cause at is not an effect. As with the particle in the bubble chamber it is fundamental to the system, we simply see the result of the interactions of the elements derived from the TOE.

If you had reason to believe there was something more fundamental you could certainly speculate that there is a prior causal agent responsible for the TOE. In the absence of evidence why would you? Something has to be fundamental and non-contingent without resorting to infinite casual regress. So why not keep going back further and further and stating the God has a more fundamental explanation? Because you would have no evidence to conclude as such.

Anyway, sorry for the book.


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Straggler
Member
Posts: 10284
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 30 of 88 (410468)
07-15-2007 9:51 AM
Reply to: Message 28 by anastasia
07-15-2007 1:19 AM


Layers of Causality
That's a stretch, but again you have emphasized what I find strange in a evo/naturalist idealism: you have concluded your studies in the same manner that theists have started theirs. There must be an uncaused first cause. I remind you that you need not go into depth on that one, as it is a familiar concept.

I suppose the question for rational theists is this - If you can accept an initial uncaused cause, and all the evidence points to this being possible of purely natural origins, then why do you feel the need to introduce an additional level of supernatural uncaused cause in the shape of god?
The introduction of god as the uncaused cause seems an unnecessary step and one for which there is less evidence than the natural and more direct alternative.

On a purely physical basis it doesn't make sense to bring god into the equation unless you have other ulterior reasons for wishing to involve him/her/it (i.e. a belief that there is a god and that they MUST have had a role in creating the physical universe somehow)

Edited by Straggler, : No reason given.


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