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Are all things caused?  Or can there be acausal things?
Posted: 20 March 2007 01:37 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Are all things caused?  Or can there be acausal things?

Has science resolved these questions with proof?

(the following excerpt has been taken from the totality thread)

[quote:c579049e41=“dougsmith”]

[quote:c579049e41=“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.[/quote:c579049e41]

Err ... see HERE or HERE. Not only is there a scientific experiment that [i:c579049e41]could[/i:c579049e41] prove this sort of thing, there have been scientific experiments that [i:c579049e41]actually have[/i:c579049e41] proven this sort of thing.[/quote:c579049e41]

The links you gave me to didn’t seem to lead to what I would call any sort of proof. 
The weirdness of quantum effects have many interpretations, and no scientists to my knowledge have been brazen enough to say that they have [i:c579049e41]proven[/i:c579049e41] anything in regards to the debate about whether or not a thing can be acausal, or if, by logical neccesity, a thing must always be caused.

Doug, maybe you, or anyone else here, could explain to me, in your own words, how the content in the links you provided, imply any sort of proof?

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Posted: 20 March 2007 02:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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“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.”


Exo Nihilo all over again :oops:
Is absolute truth even possible?
Just because there has yet to be a scientific empirical experiment devised is to argue ad ignorantium.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 03:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Cory,

I’m no philosopher, just an interested dilettante, but here’s my $0.02.

The following from theologian Jonathan Edwards, sounds a lot like what you’re arguing. Though I have no direct evidence that you have a theological agenda, I’ve noted before that your commitment to cuasality of anything other than “the infinite” sounds a lot like the classical First Cause/Prime Mover argument for the existence of God, and I have to wonder if this is part of your position. Not that it matters in terms of the merits of the argument, of course.

Having thus explained what I mean by Cause, I assert, that nothing ever comes to pass without a Cause. What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable: but as to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent, and therefore must have some foundation of their existence without themselves.—That whatsoever begins to be, which before was not, must have a Cause why it then begins to exist, seems to be the first dictate of the common and natural sense which God hath implanted in the minds of all mankind, and the main foundation of all our reasonings about the existence of things, past, present, or to come.

And this dictate of common sense equally respects substances and modes, or things and the manner and circumstances of things. Thus, if we see a body which has hitherto been at rest, start out of a state of rest, and begin to move, we do as naturally and necessarily suppose there is some Cause or reason of this new mode of existence, as of the existence of a body itself which had hitherto not existed. And so if a body, which had hitherto moved in a certain direction, should suddenly change the direction of its motion; or if it should put off its old figure, and take a new one; or change its color: the beginning of these new modes is a new Event, and the human mind necessarily supposes that there is some Cause or reason of them.

If this grand principle of common sense be taken away, all arguing from effects to causes ceaseth, and so all knowledge of any existence, besides what we have by the most direct and immediate intuition, particularly all our proof of the being of God, ceases: we argue His being from our own being, and the being of other things, which we are sensible once were not, but have begun to be; and from the being of the world, with all its constituent parts, and the manner of their existence; all which we see plainly are not necessary in their own nature, and so not self-existent, and therefore must have a Cause. But if things, not in themselves necessary, may begin to be without a Cause, all this arguing is vain.

 

http://www.qsmithwmu.com/can_everything_come_to_be_without_a_cause_(1994).htm#_ftn8

This link is to an article on one concept of the Big Bang which addresses from a theoretical point of view why an uncaused beginning ot the Universe makes sense. Doug may know, though I do not, of definite empirical proof that events can occur without a cause. I’m not sure one could prove beyond any argument that a cause is or is not necessary. But that does not mean your assertion that a thing without a cause is a illogical on the face of it. What QM does show, at the least, is that events on scales other than that with which we are familiar follow rules radically different from those we intuit from our everyday experience. So to say a cause is a logical necessity for a thing is to extrapolate from that experience to all possible reality, and I think the ice under that path is pretty thin.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“skepticdave”]

[quote author=“Cory”]
“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.”

Exo Nihilo all over again :oops:
Is absolute truth even possible?

This question deserves it’s own thread - link

[quote author=“dave”]
Just because there has yet to be a scientific empirical experiment devised is to argue ad ignorantium.

A scientific experiment can’t logically be devised to prove that a thing can exists without a cause. 

For example - from our limited empirical perspective, perhaps it looks like particles are randomly popping into existence, but surely this isnt proof!  The seemingly random particles are caused by underlying mechanics that we don’t see.  To argue from analogy - a good computer programmer, without much effort, could easily run a program on your computer screen, creating a black background where particles ‘seemingly’ pop into and out of existence on your screen.  Of course, there are underlying mechanics, a program, causing these seemingly random particles on your screen. 

And so, if scientists happen to stumble upon some particles that are behaving as if they have no cause, it would be wise of them to, rather than believe they have proved acausal phenomena, suspect that hidden variables may somehow be causing the behavior of the phenomena being observed.

The scope of science is always limited, and so, by sticking strictly to the scientific method, a person can never be sure that existence ends or extends outside of the limited scope of observation.  And it is an absolute truth that scope must always be finite.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 03:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Scientific experiments do not treat of “proofs” in the sense of logical or mathematical proofs. There have been any number of discussions of this matter in the past on the forum. All that scientific experiments do is give evidence which, when connected with the right theories, give reason to believe that certain things are true or false.

This is precisely the same method that Sherlock Holmes and real-world detectives use to solve crimes. They look for evidence, and tie them together theoretically to explain perceived phenomena.

Physicists in the early 20th century came up with quantum mechanics as the theoretical explanation for phenomena at the micro level. This theory tells us that there are things that occur by chance alone, without any wholly determinative antecedent causes. Doubtless this is a very surprising and—to some—disturbing feature of QM. It was the thing that left Einstein behind. He never was willing to accept that “god” could “play dice with the universe”. (NB: he didn’t literally mean a personal god, but rather a coherent framework of physical laws).

The people who developed QM were not particularly enamored of this feature either, but the experiments left no alternative theory. If you want to learn more about this, I suggest reading some material by Richard Feynman, and look around on the forum for past discussions. If you like I can point you to further expositions. But in the final analysis, to deny the basic statistical nature of reality is on a par with denying einsteinian relativity or darwinian evolution.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 03:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]Cory,

I’m no philosopher, just an interested dilettante, but here’s my $0.02.

The following from theologian Jonathan Edwards, sounds a lot like what you’re arguing. Though I have no direct evidence that you have a theological agenda, I’ve noted before that your commitment to cuasality of anything other than “the infinite” sounds a lot like the classical First Cause/Prime Mover argument for the existence of God, and I have to wonder if this is part of your position.

I can assure you it’s not. 

[quote author=“Jonathan Edwards”]Having thus explained what I mean by Cause, I assert, that nothing ever comes to pass without a Cause.
What is self-existent must be from eternity, and must be unchangeable

I’m not sure what he means by ‘self existent’.  It almost sounds like he is refering to more than one thing.  Souls maybe?  If so, he’s talking rubbish.

The totality is not self-existent.  It is beyond existence and non-existence, beyond self and other, cause and effect -  beyond duality.   

but as to all things that begin to be, they are not self-existent

It’s true that all things lack inherent existence.

And therefore must have some foundation of their existence without themselves

Things can only exist in contrast to other things.  A thing is both the effect & cause of all other things. 

—That whatsoever begins to be, which before was not, must have a cause why it then begins to exist, seems to be the first dictate of the common and natural sense which God hath implanted in the minds of all mankind, and the main foundation of all our reasonings about the existence of things, past, present, or to come.

If this fellow is talking literally, then he has no faith in reason, but faith in the supernatural.  There is a chance that he might be speaking metaphorically (if so, then he is not neccesarily illogical, but rather, just a bit artsy) but that is unlikely.

And this dictate of common sense equally respects substances and modes, or things and the manner and circumstances of things. Thus, if we see a body which has hitherto been at rest, start out of a state of rest, and begin to move, we do as naturally and necessarily suppose there is some cause or reason of this new mode of existence, as of the existence of a body itself which had hitherto not existed. And so if a body, which had hitherto moved in a certain direction, should suddenly change the direction of its motion; or if it should put off its old figure, and take a new one; or change its color: the beginning of these new modes is a new Event, and the human mind necessarily supposes that there is some Cause or reason of them.

If this grand principle of common sense be taken away, all arguing from effects to causes ceaseth, and so all knowledge of any existence, besides what we have by the most direct and immediate intuition, particularly all our proof of the being of God, ceases

You see, an infinite totality can logically be proven.  But an intelligent God cannot.  God can certainly be used as a metaphor for the totality, but I doubt that he is doing that.

This link is to an article on one concept of the Big Bang which addresses from a theoretical point of view why an uncaused beginning ot the Universe makes sense.

Why can’t you just explain it to me in your own words? 

Doug may know, though I do not, of definite empirical proof that events can occur without a cause. I’m not sure one could prove beyond any argument that a cause is or is not necessary.

Of course not.

But that does not mean your assertion that a thing without a cause is a illogical on the face of it.

Well, it really does depend on some basic logical premises.  If you agree to those, then a thing without a cause is indeed illogical.

What QM does show, at the least, is that events on scales other than that with which we are familiar follow rules radically different from those we intuit from our everyday experience.

That is certainly the way it appears.

So to say a cause is a logical necessity for a thing is to extrapolate from that experience to all possible reality, and I think the ice under that path is pretty thin.

Well, perhaps we can talk this over some more.  I still have to address your most recent reply on the other thread.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 05:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”][quote author=“skepticdave”]

[quote author=“Cory”]
“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.”

A scientific experiment can’t logically be devised to prove that a thing can exists without a cause.

And where does that reasoning come from?
Some scientific hypotheses may be incomplete. But incomplete is wholly different than “wrong”. 

For example - from our limited empirical perspective, perhaps it looks like particles are randomly popping into existence, but surely this isnt proof!  The seemingly random particles are caused by underlying mechanics that we don’t see.  To argue from analogy - a good computer programmer, without much effort, could easily run a program on your computer screen, creating a black background where particles ‘seemingly’ pop into and out of existence on your screen.  Of course, there are underlying mechanics, a program, causing these seemingly random particles on your screen. 

And so, if scientists happen to stumble upon some particles that are behaving as if they have no cause, it would be wise of them to, rather than believe they have proved acausal phenomena, suspect that hidden variables may somehow be causing the behavior of the phenomena being observed.

The scope of science is always limited, and so, by sticking strictly to the scientific method, a person can never be sure that existence ends or extends outside of the limited scope of observation.  And it is an absolute truth that scope must always be finite.

Very well. And to what do the ratioanalists add to science and/or QM?

Absolutely nothing…......just hand waving.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I’m not sure what he means by ‘self existent’

I think he means that which exists without a cause, which to him, of course, is God. I found the description similar to your description earlier of the 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. “

t’s true that all things lack inherent existence

Ok, this is too far out for me. I’m not sure what to do with it. Sounds like a dead end in terms of understanding anything.

A thing is both the effect & cause of all other things.

huh?  :?:


As for the article I linked to, the quote below sums up the relevant point. It merely supposes that the Big Bang originated in a singularity, a unidimensional p;oint containing all space/time and for which no physical laws were applicable. As such, the subsequent BB and Universe could be said to arise without an antecedant cause. I am not qualified to judge the theoretical logic of the model as the math is beyond me, I merely cited it as an example of a theoretical construct within fairly mainstream science that supports the possibility of acausal things. Again, this is not prove such things exist, only that your premise that acausal things are logically impossible contradicts fairly well-acdepted (though as yet empirically unproven) tents of theoretical physics. It seems useful heuristic work can be done presuming acausal things are possible.

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Posted: 20 March 2007 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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:oops:  Forgot to paste in the quote
from
Quentin Smith  

Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review in 1994 (Volume 33, pp. 313-323).

For illustrative purposes, we may take the notion of “the big-bang singularity” from classical or standard hot big-bang cosmology. A finite universe is here thought of as beginning with a physical singularity that is spatially pointlike (i.e., has zero spatial dimensions), that exists for one instant only and that is not governed by any physical laws. The cosmologist Michael Berry writes that at the first instant of time “there is a finite amount of matter and radiation packed into zero initial proper volume; this ‘point’, however, includes the whole of space—there is nothing ‘outside’.”[8] This point explodes in a “big bang,” but this explosion is not governed by any physical law. Paul Davies writes of this singularity: “Anything can come out of a naked singularity—in the case of the big bang the universe came out. Its creation represents the instantaneous suspension of physical laws, the sudden, abrupt flash of lawlessness that allowed something to come out of nothing.”[9] The big-bang singularity explodes and becomes a three-dimensional volume of space filled with interacting particles and the universe henceforth evolves in a causally sequential manner.[10]

The fact that the singularity gives rise to a three-dimensional space with matter does not imply that it is a physical law that the singularity give rise to something. There is no physical law in classical big-bang cosmology of the form “If there is a singularity, it must give rise to something at a later time.” The singularity in fact gives rise to something, but this fact is unpredictable given the nature of the singularity itself. For example, there is no dispositional property of the instantaneous spatial point that manifests a physical tendency to explode into something else; the singularity could just as well have been followed by nothingness (more precisely put, it could have been the case, consistently with all the laws of classical big-bang cosmology, that the only instant that exists is the instant of the singularity).

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Posted: 21 March 2007 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”][quote author=“skepticdave”]

[quote author=“Cory”]

A scientific experiment can’t logically be devised to prove that a thing can exists without a cause.

 
An experiment is done to confirm or falsify predictions of a hypothesis or theory. A scientific theory can never be proven, only falsified. Due to evidence and a lack of falsification, a certain factor of probability is given to the theory and that is as absolute as one can give credit to.

And so, if scientists happen to stumble upon some particles that are behaving as if they have no cause, it would be wise of them to, rather than believe they have proved acausal phenomena, suspect that hidden variables may somehow be causing the behavior of the phenomena being observed.

I’m fairly confident that most subatomic particle physicists would evaluate and test all conditions of possibilities and avoid assumptions.

The scope of science is always limited, and so, by sticking strictly to the scientific method, a person can never be sure that existence ends or extends outside of the limited scope of observation.  And it is an absolute truth that scope must always be finite.

It seems as if you are equivocating “scope” with “boundary”. If that is the case, then yes, everything with a boundary is finite. But that’s not saying much really, it is a bit of a tautology.

The scientific method does not employ or rest on observation alone. Although I do tend to argue for a Universal chain of causation, I dare not argue about what and what is not within the limits of science and epistemology. At least not in terms of any limit being an absolute truth.

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Posted: 21 March 2007 01:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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[quote author=“mckenzievmd”]

I’m not sure what he means by ‘self existent’

I think he means that which exists without a cause, which to him, of course, is God. I found the description similar to your description earlier of the 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. ”

Oh, there’s no doubt there is a strong similarity.  But I’m by no means advocating that the totality is conscious, loving, etc.  But the word God is certainly a great metaphor for regarding a blind totality of causation.

I’ll look further into this Jonathan Edwards fellow, as you’ve got me curious.

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Posted: 21 March 2007 01:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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[quote author=“skepticdave”]
The scientific method does not employ or rest on observation alone.

 

No, but if you remove the element of observation, then it ceases to be the scientific method.

Although I do tend to argue for a Universal chain of causation, I dare not argue about what and what is not within the limits of science

I think it’s fairly obvious.  Science is limited to observation, which by definition is finite.  It can only confirm the finite and has no way of proving whether or not there is always more variables lurking beyond the scope of observation.

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Posted: 21 March 2007 04:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”][quote author=“skepticdave”]
The scientific method does not employ or rest on observation alone.

 

No, but if you remove the element of observation, then it ceases to be the scientific method.

Not so fast. There is more than one pillar of scientific methodology besides observation.

Although I do tend to argue for a Universal chain of causation, I dare not argue about what and what is not within the limits of science

I think it’s fairly obvious.  Science is limited to observation, which by definition is finite.  It can only confirm the finite and has no way of proving whether or not there is always more variables lurking beyond the scope of observation.

Again, science is not limited to just observation. Give me an example of something that is beyond the boundary, “scope”, of “observation”.

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Posted: 22 March 2007 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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[quote author=“dougsmith”]
If you want to learn more about [Quantum Physics], I suggest reading some material by Richard Feynman, and look around on the forum for past discussions. If you like I can point you to further expositions.

I started a new thread on Quantum Physics .  Perhaps you’ll feel compelled to respond to my questions there.

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Posted: 22 March 2007 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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[quote author=“CoryDuchesne”]I started a new thread on Quantum Physics .  Perhaps you’ll feel compelled to respond to my questions there.

Have done. Thanks, we’ll see where that leads.

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Posted: 22 March 2007 07:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Dave: The scientific method does not employ or rest on observation alone. 

Cory: No, but if you remove the element of observation, then it ceases to be the scientific method.

Dave: Not so fast. There is more than one pillar of scientific methodology besides observation.

My point is that if you take observation out of the scientific method, then the 7 tenets of the scientific method that you are left with are rendered impotent. 

For instance:

Description. Information must be reliable, i.e., replicable (repeatable) as well as valid (relevant to the inquiry).

Description of what?

Prediction. Information must be valid for observations past, present, and future of given phenomena, i.e., purported “one shot” phenomena do not give rise to the capability to predict, nor to the ability to repeat an experiment.

Sorry, prediction of what?

Control Actively and fairly sampling the range of possible occurrences, whenever possible and proper, as opposed to the passive acceptance of opportunistic data, is the best way to control or counterbalance the risk of empirical bias.

Again, if you don’t have empirical observation, then the above is rendered meaningless.

Falsifiability or the elimination of plausible alternatives. This is a gradual process that requires repeated experiments

Again, without observation, this is out of the question

Causal explanation  Identification of causes. Identification of the causes of a particular phenomenon to the best achievable extent.

I don’t see how identification of causes can occur without observation.

Covariation of events. The hypothesized causes must correlate with observed effects.

What effects?

Time-order relationship. The hypothesized causes must precede the observed effects in time.

I’m sure you see what I’m getting at.

Dave: Although I do tend to argue for a Universal chain of causation, I dare not argue about what and what is not within the limits of science

Cory: I think it’s fairly obvious.  Science is limited to observation, which by definition is finite.  It can only confirm the finite and has no way of proving whether or not there is always more variables lurking beyond the scope of observation.

Dave: Again, science is not limited to just observation. Give me an example of something that is beyond the boundary, “scope”, of “observation”.

An infinite totality.

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