Carroll vs Craig debate Posted on March 1, 2014 by Neil Rickert I missed the live stream, but it is now online.
Forgive me if this isn’t a humorous reference to my comment about use of “moot”, but I am compelled to point out that “moot” doesn’t mean “irrelevant” in the UK at all.
I don’t think any cosmologist believes this to be the case. It is an interesting philosophical argument. One of the following three propositions must be true:
(1) The chances that a species at our current level of development can avoid going extinct before having the computing power to simulate the human mind is negligibly small.
(2) Almost no civilisations that have the computing power to simulate the human mind are interested in running computer simulations of minds like ours.
(3) You are almost certainly in a simulation.
True. I am using ‘necessary cause’ to mean ‘necessarily existing cause’. Such a cause would exist in all possible worlds.
Ha ha! No, it’s Allan Miller who is the grumpy contrarian 🙂 , for insisting that the word ’cause’ excludes static equilibria.
I believe you when you say that ‘moot’ qua ‘irrelevant’ is an Americanism.
Here’s a video of Bostrom presenting the argument.
Evidently not, or you wouldn’t have asked me whether I thought that dark matter, dark energy and neutrinos were transcendent causes.
The same way you “certify” that an effect is due to a non-transcendent cause. You build a model, you derive distinct predictions from that model, and you see how well those predictions match observations, as compared to predictions derived from competing models.
What “notion”? Please be specific. He doesn’t contradict anything I said about his model.
He’s not concluding that, and neither am I. We are simply arguing that it is a legitimate question that may in fact be testable.
Science doesn’t give perfectly unambiguous answers. Whether the causes are transcendent or not, you build a model and see how well its predictions hold up. It’s science 101, Mike.
On what? Please be specific.
So? I haven’t claimed that there are such hints in those models. Nor has Savage. You’re not paying attention, Mike.
Do you have an argument to present on that point?
Of course, which is why no one is claiming that it’s “realistic”. It’s an interesting idea, and Savage has done a good job of figuring out how it might actually be testable.
What’s the point? It’s not like I haven’t thought about testability before.
On the other hand, if you could actually identify a specific statement of mine that you disagree with, quote it, and then explain why you think it is wrong, then we might be able to have a productive debate.
You can’t prove it, any more than you can prove that an effect comes from inside . You just build models and test them against observations. If your model holds up well, your belief that it corresponds to reality is strengthened (if you’re a scientific realist, anyway).
Exactly. So why panic when you hear the word “transcendent”?
Or to a scientist who hasn’t thought about them carefully enough.
P.S. Surely you can find one statement I’ve made in my argument, quote it, and explain why it’s wrong. Can’t you? If not, then who and what are you arguing against?
Harrumph! I call upon no lesser an authority than Professor Wikipedia:
The article is jam-packed with explicit and implicit language where cause/effect is a succession, dealing with events and change. It ain’t just me!
Yes, sorry, I somehow assumed that the topic was Lizzie’s follow-up to her own OP. That may have been the reason she made the OP, but she clearly didn’t intend to limit the discussion to her question.
However, Carroll’s comment does have a context, and the context is Kalam’s first premise.
By definition. Transcendent causes transcend the physical universe (here and elsewhere I do not pretend to know exactly what “transcendent” or “cause” mean – I infer their meaning from the way these words are used in the context of the particular debate). But what is a physical universe? I cannot speak for Carroll, but I think he would say that this is just what a physical model – a description of some “unbreakable pattern” – aims to represent. Anything that can be made part of the model is, by definition, part of the physical universe. And I think that even Craig would agree to this. He wants his personal or transcendent causes to be non-physical, not subject to modeling by unbreakable patterns.
Well, I’m only a physicist; and only a fairly successful experimental physicist at that. Perhaps you believe that experimental physicists are too far below the stratospheres of philosophical discourse and too lowbrow to appreciate the finer points of philosophy.
You are free to build any kind of models you like; and you are free to use any props or scaffolding that will aid in visualizing and building your models and theories. It’s a creative process. However, if you want to be a theorist who is taken seriously, you aren’t finished until you place those experimental handles on your theory.
Flashy theories are risky for neophytes starting out. Better to take on a few “mundane” tasks to cut one’s teeth on. And if one’s theories never pan out, one can always go to Wall Street and use one’s mathematical skills to beat the odds and get very rich.
You say you have thought about testability; yet you seem to want to avoid a specific exercise that would test your understanding. That is not an uncommon response for those who haven’t really thought things through.
I don’t really care; but I suspect it is not I who is in a “panic.” And I don’t feel a need to press the issue any further.
It’s your exclusion of static equilibria that is grumpily contrarian, not your inclusion of succession, events, and change.
I happily include the latter (as in my example of a firecracker with a lit fuse).
Carroll isn’t limiting his comment to that context. He’s speaking of transcendent causes generally, as this quote from the debate makes clear:
Yes, but “transcends the universe” doesn’t necessarily equate to “cannot be modeled”.
Here’s what you’re doing, in effect:
1. You draw a circle around the physical universe as you currently understand it, labeling it ‘U’.
2. If you discover a new cause T outside of U, you draw a bigger circle around both T and U.
3. Then you erase the inner circle and move the label U from the inner circle to the outer.
4. Since T is now inside U, you no longer consider it to be “transcendent”. You erase the T and replace it with a C.
But this is purely definitional. By that logic, even an immaterial God, if he existed, would be redefined as part of the physical universe.
In the end, it doesn’t matter how you draw the circles or label them. The circles and labels are just for our convenience. They don’t alter the underlying reality. You can’t define the questions away.
I don’t think Craig would agree at all. He wants his favorite transcendent cause to exhibit lots of unbreakable patterns: Always good, always wise, always loving, all-powerful,. etc. He wants a transcendent God who has intelligent life in mind when he creates the universe (hence the fine-tuning argument). He doesn’t want a God whose behavior is purely random.
Unfortunately for Craig, his model’s predictions run afoul of observation and land with an ignominious thud.
Your metaphysics is expanding.
Do potentially existing transcendent causes count against my metaphysical budget? 🙂
Heh. Mike, if you condescend to someone, don’t be surprised when they condescend back.
Who is this phantom you are arguing against? No one in this thread has suggested that we stop testing our theories.
I don’t blame you for wanting to change the subject. This must be embarrassing for you. You still haven’t found even one statement from my argument about which you can say “this is wrong, and here’s why.”
You sound like one of the denizens over at UD.
And you misread me completely.
Life is short. Try to make it interesting and fun while you can. 🙂
Don’t get me started on “potential”. Thomism, with its reification of pure concepts and Aristotleian understanding of physics, should have no philosophical adherents today.
I’m pretty sure that isn’t what you meant, but that word sets me off. Back on topic, do you have any ideas as to what might necessarily exist, if anything?
Yes, just like I said. But we do need to define our terms. We have agreed on a definition of a “transcendent cause” as a cause that transcends the physical universe. I have already made much about the concept of causation being controversial, but in our latest exchange I agreed to put those concerns aside and focused instead on the physical universe. Surely, we need to understand at least what that means? Otherwise the entire concept of transcendent cause is hanging free and you are just whistling in the wind.
I proposed to define the physical universe as that which is amenable to modeling by “unbreakable rules,” to use Carroll’s expression. This is not an arbitrary definition: I think it is consistent with how Carroll and many others use this concept. Moreover, I think it is consistent with how non-physicalists such as Craig think of the physical.
No, because anything that follows unbreakable rules would not be thought of as God. You are right that there are some properties that are usually attributed to God, and those properties can give rise to observable regularities. But God cannot be entirely regular; he must be able to escape our attempts at capturing him in some sort of a model. This is why God will always be transcendent. The same goes for other things that are thought to be non-physical, such as personal causes.
Not really. Anselm-style ontological arguments don’t work, in my opinion.
Here;s the only approach I can think of that is even remotely plausible:
1. If true philosophical nothingness somehow turns out to be logically incoherent, then it is necessarily true that something exists. However, this isn’t the same as saying that any particular thing necessarily exists.
2. If it is necessarily true that something exists, then at least one possible world is instantiated.
3. If all possible worlds are equally real, as David Lewis has argued, then the fact that one possible world is instantiated implies that all possible worlds are instantiated.
4. Thus, under those two premises (the incoherence of nothingness and the equal reality of all possible worlds), everything would necessarily exist.
No one has yet demonstrated the truth of those two premises, in my opinion, but if they could, then I think my argument would hold.
#4 should read:
4. Thus, under those two premises (the incoherence of nothingness and the equal reality of all possible worlds), everything that is possible would necessarily exist.
You can model something without modeling it completely. Otherwise science would never have gotten off the ground. Imagine if we dismissed all of psychology on the grounds that the human mind hasn’t been completely modeled!
Yes, and if you hold their feet to the fire, most non-physicalists would agree that their supposedly non-physical actors are partly regular. But the doctrinal point on which they will remain firm is that some core part of them is not amenable to modeling in principle. This is what even such radically different non-physicalists as Craig and Nagel will agree on. Otherwise I simply cannot see a meaningful distinction between physical and non-physical (transcendent). What would you propose as transcendent? Something that sounds weird and woo-ish?
Right, and regularity can be modeled.
There’s no rule that says we must model everything. Partial modeling is acceptable, and is in fact the norm. Our models are rarely complete.
As I’ve said throughout the thread, I take ‘transcendent’ to mean ‘transcending the universe’. Whether a particular cause qualifies as transcendent depends on how you define the universe — how you draw the circle that gets labeled ‘U’.
If you draw U to encompass all of physical reality, then transcendent causes, if they exist, must be non-physical by definition. If you draw U to encompass only the particular space-time bubble we inhabit that had its origin in the Big Bang, then transcendent causes could be either physical or non-physical. Other ways of drawing U are also possible.
My feeling is that the cause of the Big Bang (assuming that there is a cause) is probably physical, given that there are already some decent physical models of how it could happen.
The cause of the multiverse ensemble, if there is one? Probably physical, in my opinion.
I don’t expect us to find any God-like transcendent causes, and though I can’t rule it out, the gaps are shrinking.
But again, my point in this thread is not to promote any particular notion of a transcendent cause. I’m just disputing Carroll’s claim that the very idea is incoherent — “not even false”, as he puts it.
Well, at this point your attack doesn’t look like much. You are not trying to engage with Carroll’s argument, charitably interpreted. You jumped on the words “transcendent cause”, but having no fixed, meaningful concept of a transcendent cause, you are just whistling in the wind.
Not so. My argument applies to transcendent causes, broadly defined, and that includes God. Since God was the very topic of the debate, you can hardly accuse me of twisting Carroll’s meaning!
Yes, that’s the problem. You took the words out of context, and you don’t even ask yourself what might have been meant by them – you just define them as you wish. Which is why your attack misses the target. Anyway, I think this conversation has run its course.
Come on, SophistiCat. That’s pretty lame.
God obviously qualifies as a transcendent cause under my definition. My argument therefore applies to God, and God was the topic of the debate. My argument is right on target.
Perhaps it has. You seem to have run out of counterarguments.