The Totality
Posted: 15 March 2007 12:11 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello everyone.  I wonder if any of you have thought about eternity, infinity, a.k.a the totality?

Here are my thoughts on it:

The totality and its relationship to time and change is mind boggling to think about.

Let’s examine what empiricism tells us.

The earth, ever changing, is a large container, holding smaller constituents, ever changing.

But then again, the earth is also a small constituent, a small dot among many other small dots (planets, moons) being held in the solar system, which is kind of a large container that is ever changing.

But then again, our solar system is also a small constituent, just a small dot among many constituents, and all of these tiny star systems are held in a larger container, the galaxy, which is ever changing.

But then again, the galaxy is a small constituent, one among many, just little dots, being held in a larger container, the universe, which is ever changing.

That is what empiricism tells us.

Now, we can take this trend of ‘big being small’, ‘the container being the constituent’, which we have sensed empirically, and using rational thought, we can extrapolate this trend infinitely, suggesting that which is beyond imagination.

In other words, we can reason that the universe, despite it appears from our limited empirical vantage point as the ultimate container, may in fact be just a tiny consitutent among billions and billions of universes, all of which exist in another container, which turns out to be just a constituent, etc, etc., for infinity…. 

But [i:5815147fdf]should[/i:5815147fdf] we use reason to extrapolate our way into such a notion of ‘totality’? 

What logical reason do I have for believing in a totality that implies this Matryoshka doll type of logic?  This infinite Matryoshka doll never ends, and therefore is unfathomable to consciousness!

It would be nonesensical to try to apply concepts of time, change, and cause and effect to such a notion of ‘totality’.

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Posted: 15 March 2007 02:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Re: The Totality

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Hello everyone.  I wonder if any of you have thought about eternity, infinity, a.k.a the totality?

These are actually not synonyms. “Eternity” is a temporal property; or more exactly it is the property of lacking temporal properties. An eternal object is an object that exists outside of time.

“Infinity” is a mathematical property, the property of not being finite. There are many orders of infinity; the smallest infinity is that of the natural numbers (1, 2, 3 ...). For more on “infinity” look HERE .

“Totality” is a bit vaguer. Do you mean “everything”? What if everything isn’t either eternal or infinite?

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Let’s examine what empiricism tells us.

I don’t think that “empiricism” tells us these things. Perhaps “science” does. But science is not “empiricism”.

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]and using rational thought, we can extrapolate this trend infinitely, suggesting that which is beyond imagination.

Why is this rational to do? I can say that it is ten degrees cooler today than yesterday, and extrapolate that in several months we will be at absolute zero, but that wouldn’t be particularly rational, would it?

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]... we can reason that the universe, despite it appears from our limited empirical vantage point as the ultimate container, may in fact be just a tiny consitutent among billions and billions of universes, all of which exist in another container, which turns out to be just a constituent, etc, etc., for infinity…. 

It might be, but this is pure speculation, i.e. worth precisely nothing, without some evidence that it is so.

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]It would be nonesensical to try to apply concepts of time, change, and cause and effect to such a notion of ‘totality’.

Why? Perhaps “time” would be problematic, in that each universe might be an n-dimensional space-time manifold, so time would exist within each universe, not (necessarily) between universes. But that needs to be demonstrated. Causation between universes would perhaps be impossible, but that also needs to be demonstrated. As for “change”, clearly that would exist both within and between universes.

But at any rate, all these concepts would be quite “sensible” to apply, even within a multiverse hypothesis.

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Posted: 15 March 2007 03:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Re: The Totality

[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Hello everyone.  I wonder if any of you have thought about eternity, infinity, a.k.a the totality?

These are actually not synonyms. “Eternity” is a temporal property; or more exactly it is the property of lacking temporal properties. An eternal object is an object that exists outside of time.

Doug, old chap, why don’t we just go with the dictionary definition of eternity?

Eternity:

Infinite time; duration without beginning or end. 
eternal existence, esp. as contrasted with mortal life: the eternity of God. 
An endless or seemingly endless period of time: We had to wait an eternity for the check to arrive. 
Eternities, the truths or realities of life and thought that are regarded as timeless or eternal. 

“Infinity” is a mathematical property, the property of not being finite. There are many orders of infinity; the smallest infinity is that of the natural numbers (1, 2, 3 ...). For more on “infinity” look HERE .

But Doug, ‘eternity’, like numbers, and like infininity, is a non-empirical concept.  Furthermore, the concept of eternity implies infinity. 

“Totality” is a bit vaguer. Do you mean “everything”? What if everything isn’t either eternal or infinite?

First of all, yes, that was the question that I hoped would come up. 

Second, do you agree that enternity, as it is defined, implies infinity?  Infinite time and thus space?


[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Let’s examine what empiricism tells us.

I don’t think that “empiricism” tells us these things. Perhaps “science” does. But science is not “empiricism”.

Sorry, I should have said ‘empirical observation’.  Science is based on empirical observation. 

[quote author=“Doug”]
[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]and using rational thought, we can extrapolate this trend infinitely, suggesting that which is beyond imagination.

Why is this rational to do? I can say that it is ten degrees cooler today than yesterday, and extrapolate that in several months we will be at absolute zero, but that wouldn’t be particularly rational, would it?

I should have made more clear the way I’m using concepts. 

Are you familar with the philsophical debate between ‘empiricism vs. rational thought?’

Infinity is a concept that we arrive at via rational thought, NOT science(empirical observation). 

And so if I acknowledge a trend in nature via empirical observation but reach a point where my senses can’t tell if the trend continues, then imagining that the trend continues by extrapolating would be an example of ‘rational thought’.  The reason it’s rational thought is because you are logically extrapolating an apparent pattern to a further conclusion, much like the way we arrive at the mathematical concept of infinity.

[quote author=“Doug”]
[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]It would be nonesensical to try to apply concepts of time, change, and cause and effect to such a notion of ‘totality’.

Why? Perhaps “time” would be problematic, in that each universe might be an n-dimensional space-time manifold, so time would exist within each universe, not (necessarily) between universes. But that needs to be demonstrated. Causation between universes would perhaps be impossible, but that also needs to be demonstrated. As for “change”, clearly that would exist both within and between universes.

But at any rate, all these concepts would be quite “sensible” to apply, even within a multiverse hypothesis.

How do you know that time, change, causation and things are not mere constructs of consciousness?  In the absence of consciousness, then perhaps everything is one undivided infinite, happening spontaneously without cause?

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Posted: 16 March 2007 01:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Re: The Totality

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Doug, old chap, why don’t we just go with the dictionary definition of eternity?

Eternity:Eternities, the truths or realities of life and thought that are regarded as timeless or eternal. 

Precisely, Cory old bean.

But what I was saying is that this is not the same thing as “infinity” or “totality”.

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]But Doug, ‘eternity’, like numbers, and like infininity, is a non-empirical concept.  Furthermore, the concept of eternity implies infinity.

Timelessness does not imply infinity.

“Everlastingness” implies that something lasts as long as there is time to last. If I say that X is everlasting, that just means that X exists at all times. But if time is finite, then X is finite in existence as well.

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Sorry, I should have said ‘empirical observation’.  Science is based on empirical observation.

Science is based on more than just observation. It is also based on theorization, on induction and inference to the best explanation. It is based on logical reasoning. One cannot reduce science to mere observation.

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Infinity is a concept that we arrive at via rational thought, NOT science(empirical observation).

Do you think Newton was doing “science” when he invented the calculus? Calculus uses the concept of infinity, and Newton invented it to work out the true motions of the planets. It is essential to modern physics.

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]How do you know that time, change, causation and things are not mere constructs of consciousness?  In the absence of consciousness, then perhaps everything is one undivided infinite, happening spontaneously without cause?

:?:

First of all, time and change are allied concepts. Change occurs over time. Time is one dimension of the universe in which we live; it has nothing to do with consciousness. Time existed before there were conscious beings, and will exist even if all conscious life were destroyed.

Causation existed before consciousness. Indeed, causal processes brought conscious beings into existence. Every element in your body except for hydrogen was created in a star—changing by causal processes, over time.

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Posted: 16 March 2007 01:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Hey Doug,

[quote author=“DougSmith”]
[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]But Doug, ‘eternity’, like numbers, and like infininity, is a non-empirical concept.  Furthermore, the concept of eternity implies infinity.

Timelessness does not imply infinity.

“Everlastingness” implies that something lasts as long as there is time to last. 

No, actually, everlasting literally means ‘forever’ lasting.  And Forever means ‘without ever ending’.  In other words, not finite.

Timelessness means: without beginning or end; eternal; everlasting.  

In my view, it is not logical to think that ‘a thing’ could be without begining or end.  But maybe you can show me my error. 
 
[quote author=“Doug”]
If I say that X is everlasting, that just means that X exists at all times

Yes, to say that X is everlasting implies that X is not finite in it’s duration, but rather, infinite in duration. 

But if time is finite, then X is finite in existence as well.

But then it wouldn’t be everlasting!  It is not logical to regard something that is finite in existence as everlasting.

Again, let’s go to the dictionary:

Eternal:Without beginning or end; lasting forever; always existing

Everlasting: lasting forever; eternal: everlasting future life.

It seems to me Doug that you are trying to remove infinity out of the concept of eternity.  As far as I can tell, doing so is like trying to remove water out of the concept of ocean.  There doesnt seem to be any reason for doing so.

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Posted: 16 March 2007 01:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Cory: Sorry, I should have said ‘empirical observation’.  Science is based on empirical observation.

Doug: Science is based on more than just observation. It is also based on theorization, on induction and inference to the best explanation. It is based on logical reasoning. One cannot reduce science to mere observation.


&

Cory: Infinity is a concept that we arrive at via rational thought, NOT science(empirical observation).

Doug: Do you think Newton was doing “science” when he invented the calculus?

(I started a new thread for these)

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Posted: 17 March 2007 03:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Sorry, Cory, this has devolved into an argument about definitions. The classical philosophical definitions of these terms are as I have given them:

“Everlasting” means “existing at all times.”

“Eternal” means “existing without temporal properties.”

That’s it. If you want to use other terms, or decide you don’t like the classical definitions that is up to you. Make up your own terms.

At any rate, neither have any definitional relation to the infinite.

NB: philosophers use these terms in a technical, narrow sense because otherwise we get ourselves into trouble with vague usages.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]Sorry, Cory, this has devolved into an argument about definitions. The classical philosophical definitions of these terms are as I have given them:

“Everlasting” means “existing at all times.”

“Eternal” means “existing without temporal properties.”

Alright, so I’ll take your word for it that those are ‘the classical definitions’ - - which have apparently been specialized to make things easier, but not neccesarily more logical. 

My stance is that the finite our senses percieve is part of a totality that is without boundary, that is infinite, that includes within it everything that can possibly exist.  Such a totality by definition is beyond boundary, form.  It is not a thing.  Furthermore, such a totality is synonymous with eternity, in that it is of infinite time; it is without beginning or end.

[quote author=“dougsmith”] Philosophers use these terms in a technical, narrow sense because otherwise we get ourselves into trouble with vague usages.

What do you think of my definition of ‘totality’ above?  Do you find it vague?  Or does it seem reasonable?

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Posted: 18 March 2007 06:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]My stance is that the finite our senses percieve is part of a totality that is without boundary, that is infinite, that includes within it everything that can possibly exist.  Such a totality by definition is beyond boundary, form.  It is not a thing.  Furthermore, such a totality is synonymous with eternity, in that it is of infinite time; it is without beginning or end.

Our universe includes everything that can possibly exist? How could you know that? Isn’t it possible that there exist some state of affairs that is not instantiated in our universe? Isn’t it possible that there could be a universe with only one star in it? With two stars? Without life? With different physical laws? With different elementary particles? Etc.?

If so, then our universe does not contain everything that could possibly exist. It only includes a very limited subset of what could possibly exist. Further, even if our universe might include all the kinds of things that could exist, surely there are other possible universes where these kinds of things exist in different quantities, or are organized differently, etc.

I am not sure what you mean by “It is not a thing.” Why is it “not a thing”?

I also don’t see that such a totality would be “synonymous with eternity” (or with infinite temporal duration, to be more precise). Why couldn’t our universe be finite in duration? It’s certainly not part of the meaning of our universe that it is infinite in time.

Put another way, these are empirical and theoretical questions: whether our universe is spatially or temporally infinite, whether it contains all possible material kinds. These questions are, by their very nature, not the sort of questions one could possibly answer by sitting in an armchair and musing about metaphysics.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Doug said:

Our universe includes everything that can possibly exist? How could you know that? Isn’t it possible that there exist some state of affairs that is not instantiated in our universe? Isn’t it possible that there could be a universe with only one star in it? With two stars? Without life? With different physical laws? With different elementary particles? Etc.?

I wonder if there might be some confusion contributed by the different uses of the word “universe?” In common parlance, I think most people take the word to me everything that exists whteher we know about it or not (Merriam_Webster first definition is “the whole body of things and phenomena observed or postulated”). Obviously, physicists have a much more limited definition, which is why the concept of multiple universes takes a while to get one’s head around without a physics background. I’m not sure what classical philosophy means by the word. So perhaps CoryDuchesne is trying to use the word “totality” to apply to everything that exists/has existed/will exist/might exist throughout all time (again, “time” being used in the everyday sense, in which no beginning or ending makes sense, though physics sees this word differently as well)? 

I’m not entirely clear how useful such a concept as this might be, though I suppose if that’s what “totality” means, it might seem meaningless to talk about time with reference to something that encompasses all time, or change within a concept that includes everything with real or possible existence. I don’t know what philosophical or empirical investigations could be directed at something that is everything all at once throughout infinity, but at least the term is more concise than Douglas Adams’ “Life, the Universe, and Everything.”  :wink:

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Posted: 18 March 2007 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]I wonder if there might be some confusion contributed by the different uses of the word “universe?” In common parlance, I think most people take the word to me everything that exists whteher we know about it or not (Merriam_Webster first definition is “the whole body of things and phenomena observed or postulated”).

Yes, I did consider that possibility, and it is good to make it explicit. The problem with taking “universe” in this manner is that Cory said that it was “without boundary”, either spatial or temporal.

Now, metaphysicians do talk about the “space of all possible worlds”, by which they may be taken to speak of a sort of “totality” of all that could possibly be. However, getting into the logical/mathematical problems here is overwhelming. To wit, there is no such thing as “the largest possible order of infinity” (i.e. the order of infinity that includes all the other orders of infinity), and when you start reasoning about such a thing, your head begins to spin. Similar problems ensue when discussing the “space of all possible worlds” in anything more than the roughest possible manner. Logical problems arise with the use of the universal “all” in this context ... it’s been awhile since I studied this, but let’s just say things get odd pretty quickly.

That said, the bigger issue here is with the spatiotemporal boundaries. There are explicit spatial and temporal boundaries between different possible worlds. There is no sense to be made of saying that another possible world is X kilometers to the left of the actual world. There is no sense to be made of a particular time in one possible world being “the same” as a paticular time in our possible world. In the space of “all logically possible worlds” there is no spatiotemporal relation between each world. They only exist in an abstract logical space. The boundaries between them are complete.

So, to claim that everything that could possibly exist is in fact spatiotemporally related to stuff we see around us is a very strong metaphysical claim. And it is one that certainly appears to be false. (At any rate, it is not one that fits our ordinary conception of “possibility”).

NB: the sort of possible worlds semantics I’m talking about here is only tangentially related to the physicist’s notion of multiple universes. If we live in a multiverse, strictly speaking that entire multiverse would be considered a single “possible world” to the metaphysician.

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Posted: 18 March 2007 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”][quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]My stance is that the finite our senses percieve is part of a totality that is without boundary, that is infinite, that includes within it everything that can possibly exist.  Such a totality by definition is beyond boundary, form.  It is not a thing.  Furthermore, such a totality is synonymous with eternity, in that it is of infinite time; it is without beginning or end.

Our universe includes everything that can possibly exist? How could you know that? 

Ah!  Not so fast Doug!  :wink:  I was very deliberate in my not using the word ‘universe.’  I’m using the word totality, in contrast to universe.

The totality, unlike a universe, is not a ‘thing’ -  for a thing, by logical neccesity, must be caused.  The totality is not finite, it is beyond form, has no begining, no end, and includes within it everything that can possibly exist. 

Isn’t it possible that there exist some state of affairs that is not instantiated in our universe? Isn’t it possible that there could be a universe with only one star in it? With two stars? Without life? With different physical laws? With different elementary particles? Etc.?

To borrow from David Hume, our universe could be likened to a fruit growing in a vast field, a universe that starts as a seed and expands, and then finally withers, but not without releasing many seeds, which grow into many other universes, etc. 

If so, then our universe does not contain everything that could possibly exist. It only includes a very limited subset of what could possibly exist. Further, even if our universe might include all the kinds of things that could exist, surely there are other possible universes where these kinds of things exist in different quantities, or are organized differently, etc.

I agree, and I wasnt arguing against this sort of thing, in fact this sort of thing is what I was implying.

I am not sure what you mean by “It is not a thing.” Why is it “not a thing”?

Because a thing, by logical neccesity, must have a cause.  If the totality was a thing, then that would mean either:

a) A thing can exist without being caused (which is logically impossible)     

OR

b) The totality was the effect of causes.  And since the totality by definition includes everything within it, then it would be absurd to say the totality had causes.  What is causing the totality?  Things?  And what caused those?  And so you see, it is only logical to postulate a totality that is without begining and end, that is infinite. 

I also don’t see that such a totality would be “synonymous with eternity” (or with infinite temporal duration, to be more precise). Why couldn’t our universe be finite in duration?

I didn’t mean to imply that the universe is infinite in duration.  I meant to imply the totality, including all possible universes, has no beginging or end, and therefore, time really has no begining or end.

It’s certainly not part of the meaning of our universe that it is infinite in time.

No, and that’s because our perception of the universe indicates that it is a finite thing, with a begining and an end.

Put another way, these are empirical and theoretical questions: whether our universe is spatially or temporally infinite, whether it contains all possible material kinds. These questions are, by their very nature, not the sort of questions one could possibly answer by sitting in an armchair and musing about metaphysics.

These questions can only be resovled through philosphical thinking.  Science will never be able to prove or disprove the absolute truth that all things must have a cause.  David Hume, a radical empiricist, acknowledged that there was no thing that he could empirically percieve in our universe that didnt have a cause, but he also acknowledged that empirical perception and scientific testing was in no way capable of proving to him that a thing without cause was an impossibility. 

Somewhere in the universe beyond his perception, or somewhere outside of our universe beyond his perception, Hume speculated that a thing might possibly exist that was without cause.

He was wrong. All things must be caused.  It’s an abosolute truth that can only be realized through philosophical reasoning, as there is no scientific experiment that can be devised that is capable of proving this sort of thing.

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Posted: 19 March 2007 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Ah!  Not so fast Doug!  :wink:  I was very deliberate in my not using the word ‘universe.’  I’m using the word totality, in contrast to universe.

The totality, unlike a universe, is not a ‘thing’ -  for a thing, by logical neccesity, must be caused.  The totality is not finite, it is beyond form, has no begining, no end, and includes within it everything that can possibly exist. 

A few things:

(1) I’m not grasping the importance of using one word rather than the other. A “totality” sure sounds like a “thing” to me. Why isn’t it? The mere fact that it is spatiotemporally infinite doesn’t make it non-thing-like.

(2) Also, it isn’t logically necessary that a thing be caused. It is logically possible that a thing just came into existence randomly. Indeed, particle pairs are said to do this all the time, if you believe quantum mechanics. (See the websites linked to below). Or is QM logically impossible?

(3) What do you mean by saying that the universe or multiverse (or “totality” if you prefer to use that odd locution) is “beyond form”? What do you mean by saying that something is “beyond form”? Cosmologists who discuss the multiverse believe it has a complex topology. Our own universe has a complex topology as well. I expect that any space whatever would have to have some topological structure or other, even if it is infinite in size.

(4) How do you know that the universe/multiverse/totality is spatiotemporally infinite? How do you know it is “beyond form”?

(5) What argument do you have that this universe/multiverse/totality contains everything that could possibly exist? Or, put more pointedly, what argument do you have that everything that could possibly exist is spatiotemporally related to us?

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]Because a thing, by logical neccesity, must have a cause.  If the totality was a thing, then that would mean either:

a) A thing can exist without being caused (which is logically impossible)

But this is not logically impossible. Indeed, as I have said, if QM is true, it is not only logically possible, it is actually true.

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]OR

b) The totality was the effect of causes.  And since the totality by definition includes everything within it, then it would be absurd to say the totality had causes.  What is causing the totality?  Things?  And what caused those?  And so you see, it is only logical to postulate a totality that is without begining and end, that is infinite.

I am no expert in cosmology, but I do believe that Stephen Hawking has come up with a model for the universe that is finite but unbounded. In that case, the universe would be finite but without a beginning. As I say, I do not quite grasp the mathematics involved, but this is what I have been told. Now, clearly Hawking might well be wrong about his speculation. But the existence of such speculations at least tells us that we will not be able to solve such problems in our armchairs, without a pretty sophisticated understanding of physics and cosmology.

[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]All things must be caused.  It’s an abosolute truth that can only be realized through philosophical reasoning, as there is no scientific experiment that can be devised that is capable of proving this sort of thing.

Err ... see HERE or HERE . Not only is there a scientific experiment that could prove this sort of thing, there have been scientific experiments that actually have proven this sort of thing.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 01:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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There is lots that I would like to address above, but before doing so, I’d like to first focus on this:

[quote author=“dougsmith”]
[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]All things must be caused.  It’s an abosolute truth that can only be realized through philosophical reasoning, as there is no scientific experiment that can be devised that is capable of proving this sort of thing.

Err ... see HERE or HERE . Not only is there a scientific experiment that could prove this sort of thing, there have been scientific experiments that actually have proven this sort of thing.


Decided this deserved it’s own thread: Are all things caused? Or can there be acausal things?

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