Wednesday, January 02, 2008

God and Time part II: Loftus' comments on Helm

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back to the future

Debuncking Christianity John Loftus write:

An analysis of Paul Helm’s “God and Spacelessness,” Philosophy 55 (1980).

Lofuts says:


Helm begins with two authors who made similar claims against the timelessness of God. J. R. Lucas made this claim: “To say that God is outside time, as many theologians do, is to deny, in effect, that God is a person.” He reasons that to be a person is to have a mind, and to have a mind requires that it be in time (i.e., thoughts require a sequence of events, etc.). A.N. Prior claimed that a proposition such as “It is raining now” is not equivalent in meaning to “It is raining on Tuesday,” and that an omniscient God who knew the latter would not necessarily know the former, and would not know it if he were timeless, since he could not be present on the occasion on which it was raining.”


I really don't mean to critique my friend John in an insulting way. But I find so many atheists doing this. He will attack one person's understanding of something and then imply that he has somehow rendered all ideas of Go incoherent. Perhaps he doesn't mean to give the impression, but he does give it. As so many times i find, this is just a simple case of atheists focusing one idea and not doing their homework to learn that there are more ideas.

But these concepts are based upon the conventional understanding, the big room, God is the man int he big room. They assume that Time is real that it is a formidable barrier for God, rather than a conventional point of reference used for God for our benefit, and does not limit God. Thought requires sequential order, which requires time. God does not necessarily need to think. God's reality does not necessarily require time int he way that we do. The analysis about time and thinking assumes a world in which th laws of physics govern. But in God's world it is only God's imagination that rules. Moreover, it may be true that God would not understand "it is raining now" in the way that we would. That is only a problem if you have to have to have an omniscient God and if you define omniscience as the knowing of all sorts irrelevant crap.

Helm argues against both authors by merely showing that such a claim also entails the denial that God is spaceless, which in turn denies that God is infinite--something these authors want to maintain. Helm writes that “the arguments used to show that God is in time, in effect support the view that God is finite, and so anyone who wishes to maintain that God is infinite, as the traditional theist does, will either have to find other arguments for the view that God is in time, or eschew the idea of God being in time altogether”—this is the dilemma Helm presents to these authors.


Of course this also assumes the big room and the man in the room (scroll down to previous post--Part I). If what we call "reality" is just a thought in the mind of God then this is a meaningless non problem; God is not in time, but time is present to God because time is in God. God observes the unfolding of time as it runs on its arrow because God is the constantly observer whose observations cause reality to be. But God is not limited to just that, the temporal dimension. In fact even in the old conventional framework one of my major concepts was God's immanence and transcendence. Since God is both immanent and transcendent God is both in time and beyond it. Every once and a while some unimaginative person would ask "how can God be both in time and beyond it?" Well one way to do that is if the world is a just part of a mental construct generated by God. Loftus is so, like so many atheists, so content to allow the slightest problem stand as an impenetrable barrier to belief.


Helm does not try to show that God is in fact timeless, nor is his purpose to show that the logic of these two authors is wrong. He admits that he doesn’t even fully understand what it means to say God is both timeless and spaceless. He’s only claiming that a denial of God’s timelessness is also a denial of God’s spacelessness.


Which is a totally unnecessary concept. God doesn't have to be infinite in a spacial sense if the world is a thought in his mind. He would be infinite in relation to our world and our understanding because whatever infinite expanse our world contains in its unboundedness, God is bigger than any spacio-temporal void we might imagine, and thus is unbounded in relation to our boundaries. But of course Loftus is only too happy to end investigation on note of hopeless skepticism:

After making his arguments he leaves the reader with three alternative consequences to choose from:

1) The belief in God is even more incoherent than previously thought, in that it requires unintelligibilities such as a timeless and spaceless existence;
2) Recognize that since the belief in God requires an infinite and spaceless God there must be something wrong with the current arguments against the timelessness of God; or,
3) The burden of proof is on these authors to present an argument against God’s timelessness that does not also apply to God’s spacelessness.



Or of course the obvious, given the theory they are not willing to consider, that atheists are unimaginative, and too lazy to read theology. Well, ok too lazy to read
Berkeley anyway.

Loftus:

That is, one can either, a) Deny (or accept) the unintelligible existence of both a timeless and spaceless God, b) Accept the consequences of a God who is both in time and finite, or, c) Supply other arguments on behalf of a God who is in time which does not also deny God’s spacelessness. Not being able to do (c) presents the dilemma of choosing either (a) or (b).


Or we could expand our consciousness and take up some new ideas for a change. For some sources on Immanence and Transcendence of God we turn to "Christianity and the Supernatural," Eugene R. Fairweather New Theology NO.One (1964). But Fairweather doesn't tackle the Goswami ideas. For that we can turn to the Goswami himself.

"Scientific Proof for The Existence of God"
An Interview with Amit Goswami, by Craig Hamilton

What is Enlighement magazine.
Issue curret as of April 7, 05.


"Goswami is convinced, along with a number of others who subscribe to the same view, that the universe, in order to exist, requires a conscious sentient being to be aware of it. Without an observer, he claims, it only exists as a possibility. And as they say in the world of science, Goswami has done his math. Marshalling evidence from recent research in cognitive psychology, biology, parapsychology and quantum physics, and leaning heavily on the ancient mystical traditions of the world, Goswami is building a case for a new paradigm that he calls "monistic idealism," the view that consciousness, not matter, is the foundation of everything that is."

"A professor of physics at the University of Oregon and a member of its Institute of Theoretical Science, Dr. Goswami is part of a growing body of renegade scientists who in recent years have ventured into the domain of the spiritual in an attempt both to interpret the seemingly inexplicable findings of their experiments and to validate their intuitions about the existence of a spiritual dimension of life. The culmination of Goswami's own work is his book The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World. Rooted in an interpretation of the experimental data of quantum physics (the physics of elementary particles), the book weaves together a myriad of findings and theories in fields from artificial intelligence to astronomy to Hindu mysticism in an attempt to show that the discoveries of modern science are in perfect accord with the deepest mystical truths."

"Quantum physics, as well as a number of other modern sciences, he feels, is demonstrating that the essential unity underlying all of reality is a fact which can be experimentally verified. Because of the enormous implications he sees in this scientific confirmation of the spiritual, Goswami is ardently devoted to explaining his theory to as many people as possible in order to help bring about what he feels is a much needed paradigm shift. He feels that because science is now capable of validating mysticism, much that before required a leap of faith can now be empirically proven and, hence, the materialist paradigm which has dominated scientific and philosophical thought for over two hundred years can finally be called into question."



Notice that the latest theories about the state of universe beyond event horizon pot no space, no time, and dense mass in a state we cannot imagine.


Sten Odenwald, NASA

Astronomy Cafe, 2004.


If the pre-Big Bang state was timeless, what is the best guess as to what it was like?

We don't know.

All we can do is watch our best current theories predict what this could have been like.

Without including quantum mechanical effects, the Standard Big Bang model predicts an incomprehensible singularity state of infinite density and zero space and time. Physicists and cosmologists during the last 20 years have attempted to add quantum mechanical effects in various ways, and have come up with an initial state called the Planck Era when the scale of the universe was about 10^-33 centimeters at a time 10^-43 seconds after the Big Bang. This is an absolute horizon to cosmology because 'before' this era, all properties were determined by acausal, quantum fluctuations in some indeterminate quantum state. There was no time or space then, not at least in any intuitive way of thinking about the situation.

If we ever develop a true unified field theory that includes gravity, we may have more to say about what this state may have been like. But that seems to be a very far off goal, especially in so far as actually testing such a theory is concerned. If you can't test it, or in principle falsify it, then it is not science that you are doing, but philosophy!

Still, speculating about this initial state is fun, and very few of us in the Profession can avoid thinking and writing about this question.



two important points to be made here:

(1) they do not just attribute the universe to poping out of nothing. No one seems to think that is a viable idea.

(2) this uknown state that is no time and no space would be compatible with the mind of God. If our reality is a thought in some giant mind it's origin point might look like that, no time, no space, some indefinable state.

Loftus needs to realize for once that his argument is simply beaten!

6 comments:

Manifesting Mini Me (MMM) said...

Wow -- this is terrific -- are your legs alright?

John W. Loftus said...

Joe, Paul Helm is a Calvinist Christian. He's not an atheist. Who are your critiquing here?

You realize that there are philosophical problems with describing a "before" the universe, correct? To say God was "before" the universe is unintelligble on YOUR grounds. And if God decided to create this universe then "when" did he decide to do this? If the decision to create was eternal and not time-indexed, then there would never be a "time" when the universe was not created. In fact, one could argue that the universe always existed because there was never a "time" when God didn't will it into existence. He cannot will it into existence at a point in time since there was never any point in time to do so. All of the problems with the Kalam argument then apply to God's decision to create.

And I do find it unintelligble to say God can act in time, or become in time "after" he created the universe.

In order to act in time one must be a creature in time.

J.L. Hinman said...

hey Manifestnig; my legs themselves are ok but I am always strapped for cash to buy bandages. thanks for asking. glad you like the piece.

J.L. Hinman said...

Joe, Paul Helm is a Calvinist Christian. He's not an atheist. Who are your critiquing here?

Yes, I am not defending Helm. But see that's what you do. You go "here is X and he says this therefore, God is illogical as a concept." then someone says "that' one idea" you go "O I was talking about helm's idea not all ideas of God. But you didn't say that in your comments. you created the impression that defeatign Helm defeats all ideas of God.

If not, I may just be reading tht in in which case I apologize.

No before creation, no before time, yes, I agree. I usually speak in terms of "outside" time not before time. But point is with the Berkely-Goswami view all references to time are just metaphors.


You realize that there are philosophical problems with describing a "before" the universe, correct? To say God was "before" the universe is unintelligble on YOUR grounds.


from the conventional frame of reference yes. But not from the B-G view because from that view time is an idea that God begins to think about at a certain point. that means all temporal paradox becomes nothing but metaphor. But to avoid confusion I usually speak of "before time" did this time? It's just a mistake (no pun).



And if God decided to create this universe then "when" did he decide to do this?

meaningless question. Clearly I said God doesn't have to think in the conventional sense. The better way to think about this is through thinkign of transcendence rather than temporal states.

God is not outside of time but transcends time as it is nothing but a construct in the mind of God.




If the decision to create was eternal and not time-indexed, then there would never be a "time" when the universe was not created. In fact, one could argue that the universe always existed because there was never a "time" when God didn't will it into existence. He cannot will it into existence at a point in time since there was never any point in time to do so. All of the problems with the Kalam argument then apply to God's decision to create.


yes but that has no meaning in relation to a thouhgt in the mind. when do you think of an idea? can you pin down the very second an idea occurs to you?

the whole idea of saying "God would think about it eternally" assumes God thinks. If doesn't think (a = b = c) he just knows, then it's meaningless to say that. if we are outside our world and in God's world would it seem to us that there is even a meaningful use of the term "eternity" or "time?" we can't even speculate. we no idea. All such considerations beocme meaningless.


And I do find it unintelligble to say God can act in time, or become in time "after" he created the universe.

what if he's thinking the universe? Can't he think in the universe? God is not a little guy who needs to enter the universe since it's in his head. so all he has to do is think about it.

In order to act in time one must be a creature in time.

6:19 AM

John W. Loftus said...

so all he has to do is think about it.

What does it mean to say a being who does not experience a sequence of events "thinks"?

What does it mean to say your God exists "eternally," or, that he's always existed?

Doesn't language fail you at this point, and if that's the case can we understand such a being at all?

And if its the case that we cannot understand such a being then how do we know he even exists?

J.L. Hinman said...

so all he has to do is think about it.

What does it mean to say a being who does not experience a sequence of events "thinks"?

It's means "perceive," its a mataphor.

(1) I don't say he litterally has to think; its' metaphor.

(2) who says he doesn't have sequential experince? we don't know that. do you not get the point that time is a conventional concept in the God generated structure. We don't know that God is "outside" time or without time in time or has his own time or what.


What does it mean to say your God exists "eternally," or, that he's always existed?


He means he didn't come into being and it wont ever go out of being.

Doesn't language fail you at this point, and if that's the case can we understand such a being at all?


of course. that's why I fall back on mystical experince. that's why Is aid it's all a metaphor. but the experince is real. I'm pushing for you to have an experince.


And if its the case that we cannot understand such a being then how do we know he even exists?

2:33 AM

the experince exists, and the thing the experience co-determines exists.