• Izat So
    88
    What puts monotheism in a rather incredulous spot for me is the context of the emergence of the belief historically, including the anthropomorphism of it, let alone the politically useful patriarchal tone of it and its coincidence with the origin of writing (The Word, scripture, holy books, etc.). Outside of those very culturally specific things, the whole idea of God means what? If there were no humans, would there be any need for an all knowing all loving all powerful perfectly good God? Add to this the mind boggling timeframe of events on earth and the universe compared with the duration of the species and the timespan of written history. Or our propensity for storytelling and the need for cultural narratives to justify everyday roles and sense of justice at different times in our technological economies is pretty obvious. Beliefs in a divine right of kings or mandate of heaven or a belief in a mechanistic-rational order of the universe each probably serve(d) a similar social narrative function (with ideology lagging behind technology). Why would we bother to counter theistic arguments with metaphysical themed arguments if history, anthropology and cosmology more than suffice?
  • fresco
    434
    As an atheist the concept of 'God' has no function for me but I acknowledge its functionality for others. The lay concept of 'existence' is based on the naive realism of 'an observer independent world' rather than a Pragmatist view of 'existence' implying 'contextual functionality'.
    (Your 'no God without humans point' touches on that but doesn't nail it to naive realism). From this pov, all rejection of ''existence of God' based on 'lack of evidence' or social history is futile, because 'God' remains psychologically and socially functional, and therefore 'exists' for many.

    IMO, the only worthwhile debate in this matter is to discuss the view that religion in general, and theism in particular tends to be historically socially pernicious, and hence 'dysfunctional'. It bears some similarity with a 'drugs'debate'..
  • Izat So
    88
    Certain beliefs are culturally functional given certain social organizations, which differ through history and with geography depending on the nature of technology. Religion tends to justify social hierarchies and certain family and reproductive arrangements. There’s usually a lag in history between changes in technology, social organization and ideology, a clash between those who would hang back and the progressive people who actively try to advance a new worldview. A worldview that presents human beings in the context of the larger planetary history would help us beyond these these times of retrenchment and backlash to cope with the outdated narratives- tribalism, misogyny, patriarchy, dominionism (God given entitlement to dominion over nature) - that serve us and the planet very badly.
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k


    What are you thinking "metaphysical" refers to?
  • Izat So
    88
    I was considering the typical cases made for the existence of God that involve a prime mover or intelligent cosmic design/governance. Extra-cosmic, if you like. There's no reason to assume or not assume anything extra-cosmic (although there might be good reason to think there is far more to the cosmos than our perceptual and cognitive systems are capable of grasping). But even if metaphysical objects exist, there would simply be no good reason to think of one as God, given the context of the origins of monotheism in human history. (Confess I can understand a respectful awe and reverence for the vastness of the cosmos and the mystery of existence, but I never really understood the idea of worship.)
  • Terrapin Station
    12.4k


    So you're using the colloquial "transcending the physical world" sense? In philosophy, the bulk of metaphysics is ontology, which is simply about "what exists," "what the nature of existent things/entities/etc. is" and so on.
  • tim wood
    3k
    "Objections to metaphysical arguments for the existence of God are otiose."

    But that's but half the argument: the other half is that metaphysical arguments for the existence of God are otiose as well and equally.

    And the uselessness - otiosity - of the questioning and answering is recognized and acknowledged by adults. The right questioning is, "what does it mean (do for me) to believe in a divine being?"
  • Frank Apisa
    896
    I suspect the process of "truly becoming aware" that differentiated us from the lesser animals (they seem "aware" on a different level) almost guaranteed that we would eventually try to answer questions about what are we; what is this; how did it come to be...and other complex questions of that sort.

    The notion that "a start by a prior existing something" certainly would be considered...and my guess would easily become the prevailing theory, because of the harshness of animal existence.

    Gods or a god may be the answer to Ultimate Questions...but if "gods or a god" had never been considered, we'd still just a blob of cells reacting as do the lesser animals.

    So, the notion that there are gods seems inevitable...and whether correct or incorrect, would be almost inevitable to any creatures evolving the way we humans have.

    To suppose that objections to metaphysical arguments for the existence of God are otiose...makes no sense. They are inevitable.
  • Izat So
    88
    Humans' cognitive capacity co-evolved with human culture, as it is culture that allows the brain to fully realize its capabilities. Culture is like the brain's software. (Laland, Tomasello, Donald, and others.) So I'm not sure it's perpetually inevitable that people will believe in God or something god-like, as we are becoming less religious as the mechanisms of social governance have moved from the religious domain to secular institutions of justice. Beliefs change with social organization and social organization changes with technological development. Currently I'm sure that a large portion of people still feel they live under the firmament, but more and more are starting to see we live on the planet, this "pale blue dot". What is available for us to embrace is largely an accident of where and when in history we live our short spans. If new beliefs emerge, they are built out of existing ones. (And the idea of the brain-in-a-box, the isolated mind is a product of history, discredited and soon to be discarded.)

    People do argue for and against the existence of God, invoking things like the problem of evil, the evidence of the work of intelligence in nature, the necessity or irrelevance of a prime mover, etc. All I'm saying is that the idea of monotheistic God is an accident of a very brief period of recent human history, which itself is extremely brief in the context of geologic history, and although the idea of God is meaningful to some of us, it has no sense without us. What would the monotheistic God be supposed to be without us? Another useful fiction for maintaining social order, now becoming increasingly useless and even counter-productive in terms of justice and human well-being.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    All I'm saying is that the idea of monotheistic God is an accident of a very brief period of recent human history, which itself is extremely brief in the context of geologic history, and although the idea of God is meaningful to some of us, it has no sense without usIzat So

    The idea of monotheism arose independently in different human cultures. It is quite a natural idea to look at creation and wonder who made it. I think that aliens will also believe in a monotheistic deity of some sort; it makes sense from metaphysical arguments like the argument from causation etc... These arguments are just logical and transcend any particular culture.
  • Izat So
    88
    I don't know how "independent" they are. Seem to be very closely related in geography and in time and in culture. How about the Aztecs, Taoism, Buddhism, various animisms, yadayadayada? As far as being logical or transcending any particular culture, you might want to consider the views of Daniel Everett - the summary and the first few pages available via the seller are worth a look, IMO.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    I don't know how "independent" they are. Seem to be very closely related in geography and in time and in cultureIzat So

    I think that monotheism grew out of polytheism but the roots of monotheism are clear in polytheism - there is usually some sort of chief god who was responsible for creation. This chief god morphs into the monotheistic God over time. So most forms of polytheism could be regarded as proto-monotheistic.

    I think that the argument from causality for a first cause is so obvious that it will have occurred to many people across the ages. Aristotle mentions it, St Thomas Aquinas goes to town on it; surely it will have occurred in other cultures too? A first cause for causality naturally leads to some sort of creator God, which leads eventually to monotheism.
  • Izat So
    88
    Here is a list of counter examples.
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    OK there are some nontheistic religions; but if you look across the globe and historically, I believe theistic religions are more common.

    There are no obvious metaphysical arguments to support a nontheistic viewpoint so I believe it would be a less common development.
  • Frank Apisa
    896
    I think that the argument from causality for a first cause is so obvious that it will have occurred to many people across the ages. Aristotle mentions it, St Thomas Aquinas goes to town on it; surely it will have occurred in other cultures too? A first cause for causality naturally leads to some sort of creator God, which leads eventually to monotheism.
    an hour ago
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    Devans99

    The idea of monotheism arose independently in different human cultures. It is quite a natural idea to look at creation and wonder who made it. I think that aliens will also believe in a monotheistic deity of some sort; it makes sense from metaphysical arguments like the argument from causation etc... These arguments are just logical and transcend any particular culture.Devans99

    The need for a "first cause" is an absurdity...used mostly by people devoted to showing that a "god" has to exist.

    The "first cause" can be everything...just as easily as it can be a creator being.

    (The creator being necessitated only by your insistence that "what is" is a creation.)
  • Devans99
    2.1k
    Causality absolutely requires a first cause.

    Take an example; the break off shot in pool is the first cause of the pack scattering around the table. Take away the break off (=first cause) and nothing happens.

    All instances of causality are inverted pyramids with the first cause being the pointy end and now being the ever growing base of the pyramid.

    To deny the above is to deny common sense and much of science.
  • bert1
    259
    Why would we bother to counter theistic arguments with metaphysical themed arguments if history, anthropology and cosmology more than suffice?Izat So

    Because religious claims are metaphysical, and you can't disprove metaphysics with anthropology. It would be analogous to a genetic fallacy "An idiot and Hitler said 2+2+4, therefore not 2+2=4". Similarly "Someone believes in God because of historical and psychological context, therefore there is no God." It just doesn't follow. A study of anthropology and psychology etc might undermine someone's motivation for believing in God and generating a metaphysic to rationalise their belief, but that rationalisation remains logically distinct and is true or false on its own merits.
  • Frank Apisa
    896
    Devans99
    1.8k
    ↪Frank Apisa
    Causality absolutely requires a first cause.

    Take an example; the break off shot in pool is the first cause of the pack scattering around the table. Take away the break off (=first cause) and nothing happens.

    All instances of causality are inverted pyramids with the first cause being the pointy end and now being the ever growing base of the pyramid.

    To deny the above is to deny common sense and much of science.
    Devans99

    Yet...you posit an uncaused cause to explain it.

    The position is untenable...although I doubt you will abandon it. You need it because your intentions all along have been to "prove" there is a GOD.

    There is denial of common sense here. But you are the one denying it.
  • Joshs
    716
    I'm wondering if you would apply your explanation of monotheism as an arbitrarily conditioned beilef system to the history of scientific theories, too. Foucault, for instance, presents a genealogical account of cultural history that ties the evolution of religious faith and the movement of science to the same underlying processes .
  • Izat So
    88
    Joshs, no. Not really. There may be various tribes in science - reductionists, emergentists, various schools of thought influenced by the ideologies of the times, but scientific researchers are indisputably successful overall at testing and applying what they discover and building on the discoveriess of previous generations of scientists. Nerds rule, IMO.

    Frank, I agree with your replies to Devans99. And Devans99 as I have been arguing, there is no reason to assume that if it turns out that there is an ultimate cause, it would be anything like the historically accidental concept of a monotheistic God.

    Rather a different case, Bert. One can look at the historical origins of myriad metaphysical claims but we don't because after some time passes we realize they are silly or ignorant. For example, do I need a metaphysical argument to disprove that if there is a God, he would be hungry for human sacrifice, as so many people believed for so long? No, because the all-too-human origins of that idea are obvious.
  • Joshs
    716
    scientific researchers are indisputably successful overall at testing and applying what they discover and building on the discoveries of previous generations of scientists.Izat So

    Scientists don't build on previous discoveries so much as upend previous accounts and the definitions that go with them. Empiricism is not a mirror of nature, it is a maker of worlds that allow us to do useful things.

    All your argument has accomplished is to replace the mythology of the metaphysical primacy of God with the mythology of the metaphysical primacy of science. I don't know if youre aware of how outdated your philosophy of scientific method sounds to a growing community of philosophers as well as scientists. Check out French physicist Bernard d'Espagnat and American physicist and philosopher Arthur Fine , for starters.
  • Izat So
    88
    Joshs, Yes we all know our Thomas Kuhn. But consider the history of culture is cumulative (recently read a fascinating piece on the precursory elements to the invention of the piston engine that spanned millennia - Scientific American I think, but not sure) and yes, there may be "punctuations" in evolution , as Gould says.

    For what it's worth, I'm not a proponent of naive realism and I find that archeologists and historians are far more interesting and informed about the history of culture than most philosophers who are busier grinding their axes.

    I'm aware that there are many views of scientists on their models and history. Quite a good series was done by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on their Ideas program called "How to Think about Science" if you're interested. Daston on the history of objectivity is very interesting, if I recall.

    Yes, there are some serious problems with science and scientism (especially reductionism), but the evidence that we're advancing scientific understanding year after year is simply undeniable. (Too bad culture is unable to keep up with the current pace. I fear we won't be able to reorganize ourselves in time. A bit like anthropogenic climate change. A singularity.)

    And I don't think I gave any account of "scientific method" so I don't know how you come to think my "philosophy of scientific method" sounds outdated.
  • Izat So
    88
    Yes, I've already read Thomas Kuhn, Joshs and I'm aware that no one operates in a cultural vacuum, in case you missed that.
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