Change occurs, there are examples of this all around us. The coffee in your cup grows cooler. A leaf on the tree outside your window fells to the ground. A puddle grows larger as the rain continues. You swat a fly and it dies.
Go back to the coffee. It is true that while the coffee is hot, the coldness is not actually present. Still, it is there potentially in a way other qualities are not. The coffee does not, after all, have the potential to fuel a gasoline engine, or to turn itself into chicken soup, or for that matter to morph into a five chicken and begin squawking. But it does have the potential to grow cold, and it has various other potentials too— to make you more alert if you drink it, to stain the floor if you spill it, and so forth. That it has the potential to become cold while lacking certain other potentials shows that the coldness is not exactly nothing, even if it is not yet actual either. What change involves, then, is for Aristotle the actualization of a potential. The coffee has the potential to become cold, and after sitting out for a while that potential is made actual.
So, change occurs, and any change requires a cause; or to put it less colloquially but more precisely, some potentials are actualized, and when they are, there must be something already actual which actualizes them.
Notice that often what is true of the thing being changed is also true of the thing changing it. The coolness of the air in the room makes the coffee cold. But the coolness of the air was itself merely potential until the air conditioner actualized it. The flick of your wrist causes the flyswatter to come down hard, and its impact in turn kills the fly. But the flick of your wrist was itself merely potential until the firing of certain motor neurons actualized it. So, when something causes a change, that is sometimes because it is undergoing a change itself; and when that is the case, that change too requires a changer. Or, once again to put things less colloquially but more precisely, sometimes when a potential is being actualized, what actualizes it [the potential] is itself something which has gone from potential to actual; and when that is the case, there must have been some further thing which made that happen.
So, we sometimes have a series of changers and things changed. The coldness of the coffee was caused by the coolness in the surrounding air, which was caused by the air conditioner, which was caused to switch on when you pressed the appropriate button. The fly was killed by the impact of the flyswatter, which was caused by the flick of your wrist, which was caused by the firing of certain motor neurons, which was caused by your annoyance at the fly’s buzzing around the room. One potential was actualized by another, which was in turn actualized by another, which was actualized by yet another.
Consider next that series of changes of the sort we’ve described typically extend backward in time, in what we might think of as a linear fashion. The coffee is cold because the air in the room cooled it, the air was cold because of the air conditioner, the air conditioner went on because you pressed a certain button, and so forth. Now let’s suppose for the sake of argument that this series extends backward into the past to infinity, without a beginning. This linear type of series, in theory, could go back in time ad infinitum, but what about a different kind of series?
Even if such linear series of changes and changers might in theory extend backward to infinity, with no first member, there is another kind of series—let us call it the hierarchical kind—which must have a first member. Remember that we were thinking of a linear series as extending backward in time— the coffee got cold because the room was cool, the room was cool because the air conditioner had made it so, you had switched on the air conditioner because you didn’t like the heat, the heat had been generated by the sun, and so forth. To understand what a hierarchical series is, it will be useful, by contrast, to think instead of what might exist at a single moment of time. This is not in fact essential to a hierarchical series, but it is a useful way to introduce the idea. So, consider, once again, the coffee cup as it sits on your desk. It is, we may suppose, three feet above the floor. Why? Because the desk is holding it up, naturally. But what holds the desk up? The floor, of course. The floor, in turn, is held up by the foundation of the house, and the foundation of the house by the earth. Now, unlike the coffee being cooled by the surrounding air, which is in turn cooled by the air conditioner, and so forth, this is not a series which need be thought of as extending backward in time. O f course, the cup may in fact have been sitting there on the desk for hours. But the point is that even if we consider the cup as it sits there at some particular moment, it is sitting there at that moment only because the desk is holding it up at that moment, and the desk is holding it up at that moment only because it is in turn being held up, at that same moment, by the floor. Or consider the lamp above your head, which is held up by a chain, which is in turn held up by the fixture screwed into the ceiling, all at the same moment. In both cases we have what I have called a hierarchical series of causes, in the first case tracing downward to the ground and in the other case upward to the ceiling.
What makes a hierarchical series of causes hierarchical is this instrumental or derivative character of the later members of the series. The desk will hold the cup aloft only so long as it is itself being held up by the floor. If the floor collapses, the desk will go with it and the cup will fall as a result. The members of a linear series are not like that. The air conditioner is on because you turned it on. Still, once you’ve done so, the air conditioner will keep cooling the room even if you left the house or dropped dead.
The idea is rather this. Since the desk, the floor, and the foundation have no power of their own to hold the cup aloft, the series could not exist in the first place unless there were something that did have the power to hold up these intermediaries, and the cup through them, without having to be held up itself.
To take an example sometimes used to illustrate the point, a paintbrush has no power to move itself, and it would remain powerless to move itself even if its handle were infinitely long. Hence, even if there could be an infinitely long brush handle, if it is actually going to move, there will still have to be something outside it which does have the “built-in” power to cause it to move. Or to return to our own example, a desk has no power all on its own to hold up the cup, and thus an infinite series of desks, if there could be such a thing, would be as powerless to hold it up as a single desk would be. Hence, even if such a series existed, there would have to be something outside it which could impart to it the power to hold up the cup. When we say that a hierarchical series of causes has to have a first member, then, we don’t mean “first” in the sense of being the one that comes before the second, third, fourth, fifth, and so on. We mean it is the first cause in the sense that it has inherent or built-in causal power while the others have only derived causal power. It is their having only derivative causal power that makes the other members secondary rather than first or primary.
Now since what is being explained in this case is the actualization of a thing’s potential for existence, the sort of “first” cause we are talking about is one which can actualize the potential for other things to exist without having to have its own existence actualized by anything.
What this entails is that this cause doesn’t have any potential for existence that needs to be actualized in the first place. It just is pure actuality itself. It doesn’t merely happen not to have a cause of its own, but could not in principle have had or needed one.
Now whilst I am running out of a character count, I will introduce it in the next post but this gets us to the following. An immutable, eternal, immaterial, incorporeal, perfect, fully good, omnipotent, intelligent, and omniscient being. But for there to be such a cause of things is just what it is for God to exist. So, God exists.
Thanks for your time!
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Before I explain my reasoning, I first want to refute what was said in the first speech.
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My friend stated the following
"any mere potential can only be actualized by something that is already actual." Put simply, this asserts that God must be real because all change in the universe must have started from a single beginning, and that beginning was divine in nature.
Now, it is because of this difference that a hierarchical series of causes has to have a first member while a linear series does not. But it is crucial to understand what “first” means in this context. As has already been indicated, the idea of a hierarchical series is best introduced by thinking in terms of a sequence whose members exist all together at a single moment of time, such as the cup which is held up by the desk which is held up by the floor. So, when it is said that such a series must have a first member, the claim is not that the series has to be traced back to some beginning point in the past (at the Big Bang, say).(Five proofs of the existence of God, Feser, Pg., 23)
it is far more likely that the origins of the universe can be attributed to natural forces rather than to magic or the power of one's chosen deity.
In other words, what created all matter, energy, and space was in fact, matter, energy, and space. Intriguing, and utterly circular.
We also are not omniscient. You need to prove that God could not have morally sufficient reasons for permitting suffering, God, as you said omnipotent, has all the power in the world to bring about much greater goods then either you or I, with our feeble limited outlook, can possibly conceive of.
God also came to Earth to suffer. Christ came to Earth not as a worldly king born in a palace surrounded with servants, which would certainly be fitting for the most powerful entity in existence, but Christ came to Earth as a literal oxymoron. Christ proceeded to then suffer for us, was scourged, taunted, tortured, crucified, and on top of that took upon the sin of the world upon His shoulders. This alone gives suffering infinite meaning.
Furthermore, behaving virtuously is not possible without what you and I might perceive to be evils. Hercules could not have been called courageous, if the Nemean lion was actually just a cute little kitty. We fear things, and hope for things, we are afraid of things, and are brave for things, we are patient for things, and impatient for things. A coin necessarily has two sides.
At the cross a coin was flipped, on one side justice, the other side mercy and it was the only time in history the coin landed on its edge.
So it seems to me we have ample reasons to believe, certainly from a Christian perspective, that the Problem of Evil is nowhere near as much of a knockout argument as my friend believes and has in fact not met the burden of proof at all.
Furthermore, my opponent mistakenly thinks that God created the concept of sin. I find this surprising given that my opponent said he was an ex-catholic, this is completely contrary to any Catholic understanding of God. Sin is a privation of God, and sin is parasitic off of goodness, in the same way darkness is the absence of light, evil is the absence of good. This is made plain to see by the fact the existence, in and of itself, is good. Hence why death and murder and suicide are seen in a highly negative light. Therefore what would be pure evil would in fact have the attribute of non-existence, but then evil does not exist, and thus we are forced to conclude that evil is a privation of good. It is logically impossible to create things with a negative ontological status, what God created was free will, and alongside that, the potential for evil. God however did not create actual evil.
We also see the objection that Christian Theology states that prayers of rich white people get them new cars, and the cries of starving children are not heard. There is nothing more contrary to Christian theology, central to the theme of Christianity is to pick up one's cross, not to put it down and let God do all the work. It seemingly shows an extreme lack of catechisis (which is a fault of the Church) on the part of my opponent who is straw-manning Christian Theology, and indeed the very Catholic Theology he was presumably brought up in.
This goes into the idea of prayer not being scientifically verifiable. It betrays a complete ignorance of the theology, it would be like a scientist putting a Catholic Eucharistic Host under microscope, seeing that there is no flesh, and declaring transubstantiation wrong and Catholicism refuted. It is an utter strawman. Prayer is in no way shape or form primarily a petitionary action. Prayer is first and foremost communication with God. Prayer is deeply intimate and personal, and certainly from a Christian perspective we do not expect to see any scientific evidence for prayer, again a complete strawman of Christian theology. Prayer is primarily about aligning one's will with God's, "Thy will be done." It is not at all about asking for material things that it expressly states cannot fulfill oneself.
Thus so far we have no solid argument to believe that theism is false as of yet, and a very strong one to believe that theism is true.
Now ironically my opponent also seeks to defend a naturalistic position, namely scientism, the view that the scientific method is the best or only objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values.
First, scientism is self-defeating, and can
avoid being self-defeating only at the cost of becoming trivial and
uninteresting. Second, the scientific
method cannot even in principle provide us with a complete description of
reality. Third, the “laws of nature” in
terms of which science explains phenomena cannot in principle provide us with a
complete explanation of reality. Fourth,
what is probably the main argument in favour of scientism – the argument from
the predictive and technological successes of modern physics and the other
sciences – has no force.
As I am running out of space I will deal with the first point...
The claim that “the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything” (Rosenberg 2011, p. 6) is not itself a scientific claim, not something that can be established using scientific methods. Indeed, that science is even a rational form of inquiry (let alone the only rational form of inquiry) is not something that can be established scientifically. For scientific inquiry rests on a number of philosophical assumptions: the assumption that there is an objective world external to the minds of scientists; the assumption that this world is governed by regularities of the sort that might be captured in scientific laws; the assumption that the human intellect and perceptual apparatus can uncover and accurately describe these regularities; and so forth. Since scientific method presupposes these things, it cannot attempt to justify them without arguing in a circle. To break out of this circle requires “getting outside” of science altogether and discovering from that extra-scientific vantage point that science conveys an accurate picture of reality – and, if scientism is to be justified, that only science does so. But then the very existence of that extra scientific vantage point would falsify the claim that science alone gives us a rational means of investigating objective reality.
So it seems to me that far from it being impossible to say "Theism is true" with the scientific method and empirical evidence, and from a philosophical or practical lens, we must actually be committed to saying "Atheism is false and Theism IS true."
Ultimately there has been no arguments provided that hold any ground and my first proof still remains in play.
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