The Raving Theist

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Getting Nowhere

October 13, 2006 | 26 Comments

“You can’t get there from here.” So says Zeno’s paradox, which proves that you can never walk across the room because you have to pass halfway to the finish an infinite number of times. Supposedly the problem is solved by reference to calculus and the summing of infinitesimals (although that still doesn’t explain how people who don’t know higher math manage to walk all the way across the room).

The atheistic response to the First Cause Argument is usually “Who made God?” Bertrand Russell, in Why I Am Not a Christian, thought it was a good answer, and concluded that “[t]here is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all.”

Not that if you did get to a beginning what you’d find there would necessarily be God — a conclusion which requires additional arguments and inferences. But the force of “who made God” objection isn’t that. Rather, it’s closer to point made by Zeno, that infinity is too far to go. In other words, you can’t get there from here.

And on that level, I think it fails for the same reason the paradox fails. You simply can walk across the room, no matter how many infinities you have to traverse. However logical the paradox appears in theory, it’s simply ridiculous in practice.

Comments

26 Responses to “Getting Nowhere”

  1. bob barker
    October 13th, 2006 @ 5:37 pm

    Clearly in some cases an infinite number of steps is not “too far to go” and in those cases YES you can get there from here. We all can walk across the room which proves the point.

    But can we “walk” backward in time to the beginning of it all? Just like walking across the room, if there is a point to be reached (a beginning) then the answer is YES. If there isn’t a beginning then the answer is NO.

    It should be obvious that if there is no destination to be reached then there will be no way to get there. And if you can’t get there from here you certainly can’t get here from there.

    All this to say Russell’s response is lame.

  2. Los Pepes
    October 13th, 2006 @ 5:57 pm

    All this talk of “beginnings” and “ends” presupposes that these events occured in time as we humans experience it. Einstein does a pretty good job in Relativity (the book, not the theory), of showing how the very human construct of chronology is just that, a human construct. Concepts like “before” and “after” really aren’t as concrete as we’d like to think.

    I guess where I’m going with this is to say that questions like “how did we get here?” or “how did the universe begin?” are never going to be answered (in the philosophical sense), because the questions themselves are fundamentally flawed.

    Or maybe I’m full of shit. I’d be interested in hearing what Choob has to say, or if there are any others who can speak on this more completely.

  3. Choobus
    October 13th, 2006 @ 6:03 pm

    the paradox is bogus because it assumes space is infinitely divisible. We know that it aint, which is why even the stupidest no-calculus-knowing godidiot cunt can, for the most part, manage to walk across the room.

  4. atheist
    October 13th, 2006 @ 6:50 pm

    The main reason I’m suspicious of all First Cause arguments (including deities or not) is that I’ve never in all my life seen nor heard of a legitimate and demonstrable first cause of anything in nature.

    Nevertheless, I think the real power of the “who made god” argument is that it demonstrates that the god hypothesis really answers nothing. It postulates an entity to explain what we see today but assumes that this entity has always existed, uncreated. Why postulate such an entity at all, a being for which no evidence exists? Why not simply stick with what we know? I’m reasonably certain that the universe exists. Just because the question of its origin (if it hasn’t simply always existed) is shrouded in mystery doesn’t mean it’s legitimate reasoning to play the god card. It just means that we can’t yet understand or get our minds around these things–and perhaps we never will.

    I’m content to live with the mystery and all its associated unknowns. Some people need to play the god card so they can feel more sure about things. To each her own.

  5. Marcus
    October 13th, 2006 @ 7:24 pm

    My friend suggests the god hypothesis is a solution if you think that 1. The world hasn’t been around for ever, and 2. Something can’t come from nothing.

    Then the earth must have come from something which preceded it. At some point you need something eternal then, so that must have been god, since god, unlike physical things, could have existed for ever.

    Me, I don’t know whether the earth has been around forever or not, and I don’t know whether something can come from nothing or not either, so I guess that’s why I’m not convinced.

  6. Marcus
    October 13th, 2006 @ 7:35 pm

    By earth I meant the world, as in the all the stuff in the universe. I guess we’re pretty sure the earth hasn’t been around forever, though I guess really it was just something else…

  7. Abooga
    October 13th, 2006 @ 8:24 pm

    Hey choobus, why isn´t space infinitely divisible? Is it complicated quantum theory? i don´t understand

  8. Viole
    October 13th, 2006 @ 9:05 pm

    Hello, again, RA. Good to see your arguments are still degrading according to schedule. By the end of the year, you’ll be able to praise Jesus with the best of them.

  9. Choobus
    October 13th, 2006 @ 9:37 pm

    Abooga,

    well, it’s to do with quantum theory and relativity as well, but it’s not that complicated. I don’t have time to get into it right now, but if you do a wiki search on the planck length you can get the full SP. Basically though, QM says that things get fuzzy at very short lengths, and relativity says that light always has the same speed so that electromagnetic radiation at tiny length scales is fucked, because it has to follow two awkward laws, and ends up acting like a black hole (in a weird way) so that on this scale it’s almost as if reality isn’t defined. If you read the awesome chooblog I might post something about this, because it’s really very interesting.

    fuck jesus

  10. Godthorn
    October 13th, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

    The notion of a “beginning” of isness requires the assumption of something like a negative zero. Nothing can erupt from it because there is no “it.” If you try to explain the isness by postulating an immaterial Creator, you have not escaped the problem. If God is all, there is no “outside” of God, and no material stuff from which he can create the world. Contrarywise, there is nowhence to which the slightest iota of the stuffness can flee. The only conclusion must be that what “is” always was in some form, and mustl always be.

  11. ocmpoma
    October 13th, 2006 @ 10:08 pm

    Besides the fact that this most recent post amounts to nothing more than a false comparison, I think it’s noteworthy because the opening paragraph is by far the worst I’ve seen yet. Not only is the meaning of “proove” butchered, but it was actually asserted that someone needs knowledge of advanced mathematics in order to function in reality — as if the fact that the Road Runner’s ignorance of gravity enabling him to avoid falling from a cliff was how reality actually worked.

    The Raving Coyote, indeed.

  12. atheist
    October 13th, 2006 @ 10:14 pm

    I would say that a god only complicates the problem, because now–instead of having to explain the existence of the cosmos–you have to explain the existence of this vast intelligence, capable of creating an entire universe. Where does such an intelligence arise from? “It has always been” is the best answer I’ve seen, unless you want to get into the infinite regress of gods that some religions (such as the Mormon religion) subscribe to.

    Why get into such a regress? Why not simply admit that the universe is, and we don’t know why it is, and there may not be a ‘why’, and we can’t completely resolve its origins according to current science and understanding? Again, I’m content with the mystery. I don’t think the mystery is resolvable via appeals to causes or creators. I think it’s just something that’s simply beyond us.

  13. atheist
    October 13th, 2006 @ 10:26 pm

    To ocmpoma:

    False comparisons indeed. Add to that false assertions (like the still unsubstantiated claim that atheists wait until theists erect seasonal displays of their theism, then demand that atheistic symbols and slogans be inserted in the hopes that the theists will abandon their projects). Add to that a whole lot of smoke and mirrors.

    This is all that theists have. Lies, false comparisons, the butchering of ‘proof’… it’s a shame that it’s all currently coming from someone who calls him/herself the Raving Atheist. Raving, perhaps. Atheist, I don’t know. If it’s an atheist trying to prove some point via ingenious (see: deceptive) means, I’d say this is all unethical.

    I don’t need some atheist so high on himself as to initiate a deceptive campaign to get all us other atheists to rise to some higher plane of atheistic understanding, anymore than I need someone calling themself a ‘Raving Atheist’ who is actually a closet theist. I think that the Raving Atheist should either come clean as to his (or her) intent with recent posts, or admit his (or her) conversion to theism.

    All I see lately in this blog is an appalling lack of integrity, whether it’s a Raving Atheist or Timid Theist, or something else. If it’s a theist, it should own up to it and admit it and stop posting under the name “Raving Atheist”. If it’s still an atheist, it should admit as much and stop pandering to theists (or trying to challenge the rest of us atheists or whatever other motive it has for recent entries).

  14. Marcus
    October 14th, 2006 @ 12:21 am

    Would it be possible to prove the inverse of the paradox?

    Maybe with every step I could prove I’m traveling an infinite number of infinitely small spaces; thus, I must be going infinitely far, and I could be standing on the Sun right now.

    I don’t know the math, so I think I’ll say the reason you can walk across the room is that as the distance grows infinitely small, the amount of time it takes to travel grows infinitely small as well. So it doesn’t slow me down; it just creates a bunch of inifinitely delicate little finish lines that I keep crossing over, or something like that.

  15. Godthorn
    October 14th, 2006 @ 2:22 am

    Zeno’s paradox is essentially a word trick. He allows you to go half way to begin with, then says you must go half way again. How did you get half way? If you got half way in the first course, you can go the other half in the second. But we all know very well we can go all the way without being stopped. There are no paradoxes in nature, only in human confusion and emotion.

    Intellectual atheists vertually never revert to belief. It is exceedingly unlikely that RA has. He has simply become kinder and gentler–yes, and maybe pussy whipped, as some have suggested–though there’s no proof of that. But I get the impression from some that their own convictions are threatened by the suspicion that RA has succumbed to theism. If there are such, they need to grow a little more spine of their own instead of relying on someone else to do their thinking and stand as their shield.

  16. Choobus
    October 14th, 2006 @ 3:06 am

    godthorn, your refutation of Zeno is bogus. You just renormalized it; the essence of the “paradox” is unchanged. I do agree though that there are no paradoxes in nature.

  17. Godthorn
    October 14th, 2006 @ 3:21 am

    Well, I’m glad to meet you halfway. I’ll try to do better on the hare’s Zeno is still racing so profitably in the olive groves.

  18. Godthorn
    October 14th, 2006 @ 3:28 am

    The rabbits referred to above were supposed to be plural, not possessive–though whether Zeno possessed the hares or the hares Zeno is not altogether certain.

  19. a different tim
    October 14th, 2006 @ 3:55 am

    RA – Look up the difference between a convergent and a divergent series.

  20. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    October 14th, 2006 @ 7:27 am

    I’m with what ‘atheist’ says in #4,12, and 13.

    Although it can be fun and challenging to ponder all that metaphysical stuff — why is the Raving Anti-abortionist so compelled to post these whacky ramblings lately?

    There are so many more pragmatic arguments as to the non-existence of god (disparities between religions, ramblings of the likes of ‘Sinner Holland’ clearly showing religious schmuks are mentally ill … etc) that arguments like the first cause are practically a moot point.

    Raving Antiabortionist is clearly becoming one of those mentally ill schmuks. What a spineless dork.

    (thank goodness a few of us haven’t made a pledge to be so “nicey-nicey”)

  21. nix
    October 14th, 2006 @ 2:08 pm

    Infinity is not somewhere or something that can be achieved. It is only a concept. It exists only in our minds. Using infinity for real-world analogy will easily result in paradox. Similar in concept to Nothing (and is partly why I started the Church of Nix and the Church of the Whole Kit and Caboodle).

    From my perspective, anyone that believes in a supernatural god must believe the god is synonymous with infinity (though they may not have actively thought of this).

    It seems to me the “who made God” argument isn’t a “too far to go” agrument (though neither is zeno’s paradox which is more of a recursive infinite regression than about distance traveled). The “who made God” is only similar to zeno in that they are both paradox. There are infinite infinities which are still just infinity. It’s a set that includes itself. Nothing can be outside that set so God can not be outside that set yet God must be outside that set to have been the creator of everything, everything including infinity (i.e. the whole kit and caboodle).

    Basically, it seems the argument is just that God can’t be possible because of the paradox. Personally, I agree and God as a paradox implies God can only be conceptual. Though that doesn’t account for the thought that God may not be a paradox in whatever reality God exists which, to me, clearly can not be our reality.

  22. atheist
    October 14th, 2006 @ 11:00 pm

    I think one can play nice with theists simply by being honest and uncompromising. Yes, you could be unnecessarily rude and mocking. However, this isn’t nice. The best way to be nice with anyone is to be honest, and to be honest with theists is to state your views as clearly as possible. You don’t have to mock theism to do so.

    The problem is that theists are often frightened and offended by the least opposition. In fact, all too often theists label all opposition–especially rational and well supported opposition–as unfair and mocking. Some atheists are swayed by this and become confused. They begin interpreting ‘being nice’ as meaning to give way. They become fearful of arguing for their own views and begin giving undue sympathy to the arguments of theists.

    When such castrated atheists appear you see much that is similar to what’s been in this blog lately.

    I’ve known a LOT of theists, and I’ve known a few atheists. Almost all of the theists I’ve known take issue with atheistic objections to their views in a very vocal and emotional manner. A few atheists I’ve known are cowed by this and begin apologizing for the theists in the name of being ‘nice’ or ‘open-minded’.

    The problem is not within atheistic views, it lies within theistic manipulation of atheists and their natural human weaknesses and sympathies. You can be a nice, respectful atheist, never mocking or making a caricature of theists, without giving one inch of your atheist views or the arguments which give weight to your atheism. Too few atheists understand this, and theists prey on these ones. They feed on you.

  23. physics teacher
    October 16th, 2006 @ 9:31 am

    Abooga and Choob, Loop quantum Gravity as what your talking about when you speak of space not being infinitely divisable.
    there is a very good artical about it in scientific amerincan from dec 04 or 03
    it also talked about how time in not infinitely divisable too

  24. SteveA
    October 16th, 2006 @ 11:33 am

    According to string theory, time is just an aftermath of the multi-dimensionality of strings in the current universe. So the idea of “time before time” has no meaning, for before there was time, there was no such thing as time.

    So really, its a loaded question. If we accept that there is energy in the universe, then we accept that everything around us must exist. Therefore if string theory is correct in its assertion that time is a happenstance of the creation of the universe, then there is no such thing as a “before” time.

  25. Thorngod
    October 16th, 2006 @ 12:04 pm

    I say there was no such thing as “…the creation of the universe….”

  26. SteveC
    October 16th, 2006 @ 10:00 pm

    When has anyone ever seen ANYTHING begin to exist?

    And I don’t mean rearranging existing atoms. That is not “beginning to exist.”

    The times we _have_ seen things beginning to exist — electrons and anti-electrons popping into existence an anihilating each other everywhere, all the time — appear to be completely causeless.

    The ONLY TIME we have ever seen ANYTHING begin to exist, that beginning to exist has been, so far as we can tell, CAUSELESS.

    So, to say, “everything which begins to exist must have a cause,” is contradictory to EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE of observation of things beginning to exist.

    IN EVERY SINGLE INSTANCE of observation of things beginning to exist, there is NO APPARENT CAUSE. The only times we have observed things beginning to exist, THERE HAS BEEN NO APPARENT CAUSE.

    The first cause argument is worse than dead, it is contradicted by every shred of evidence we have.

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