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About Me

A fairly accurate, but incomplete INDEX of Posts & good overview of this blog READ SOME REASONS TO REJECT ORTHODOX JUDAISM my April 2014 post or click link above. Highlighted words lead to other posts almost all in my blog. Born into an Orthodox Jewish family (1950's) and went to Orthodox Yeshiva from kindergarten thru High School plus some Beis Medrash.Became an agnostic in my 20's and an atheist later on. My blog will discuss the arguments for god and Orthodox Judaism and will provide counter arguments. I no longer take comments. My blog uses academic sources, the Torah, Talmud and commentators to justify my assertions. The posts get updated. INDEX OF POSTS SEE MAY 2017 or click link above.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism with some notes on Maimonides Part 4

Updated thru 10/21/2015

This post is being devoted to my replies to various objections to my pagan posts, begun here Explanations of Pagan Customs in Judaism

By 'pagan' I intend the religions of non Israelite ancient near east people and the religions of other ancient peoples. 


Objection  #1 Ok,  there are  pagan rituals in the Torah. That does not disprove the divine authorship of the Torah. Yahweh could have placed them in there.

Is the Torah divine or a result of ancient near east thinking ? Since the Torah has many indications of being the result of ancient near east culture (including ane expressions, conceptions, rituals, laws)  it is more likely it was a man made text and not divine. Surely a divine text would have been more creative. Why would the Torah authors place this stumbling block before us ?

Not just are the Torah rituals similar to some pagan rituals, sometimes the reasons given for them are also similar and the likely reasons are similar. That is extremely problematic, because the pagan rituals are based on superstitions, incorrect reasoning and are not effective. Codification of even ONE falsehood  in a book is evidence of the book’s non divine origin or corruption.


Moreover, these kinds of similarities are strong evidence the Torah authors were similar to other ANE cultures and followed similar traditions and beliefs.


Some of the pagan like Torah rituals are potentially dangerous (for example circumcision) , unfair, scientifically unfounded, bizarre, and wasteful (for example certain Torah prescribed  sacrifices). It is almost inconceivable they have divine origins.


And what can possibly motivate Yahweh to codify  similar to pagan rituals and sometimes for similar reasons ?


It seems more likely they are in the Torah not because Yahweh  gave them, but because the Torah authors essentially shared similar ANE beliefs, but with devotion to Yahweh and not other gods.



{ETA 10/21/2015 Recall explanation E2) The  Israelites had been steeped in Idolatry. The Torah allowed some pagan practices to continue  as an 'accommodation' to human weakness, but they are rededicated to the worship of Yahweh. It is this sort of notion that Rambam advocates. It follows Rambam was all but saying  the pagan rituals found in the Torah were not truly the way G-d was intended to be worshipped, but are from the pagans. Hence he would reject the explanation found in Objection #1.}

Objection  #2  God  gave Adam and or Noach and or Abraham the ways to worship God. From these origins all ancient peoples tended to worship God the same way, more or less.

Claiming there was an Adam or Noach or Abraham is a form of circular reasoning. You cannot rely on a suspect text to assert something, but we shall ignore this problem.


Nevertheless, I would agree many of the rituals, laws and concepts could be from very ancient times  But lets not limit the origination of all rituals, laws and concepts to only that period. Cross pollination and change occur frequently.


Please read  my response to Objection  #1 - it is related to my response to Objection  #2.


There are many Torah rituals and laws that can not be accounted for by the theory of Objection #2.


For Example:


It can not account for  the prevalence of circumcision - since that was supposed to be a special operation as part of a covenant with Abraham. If so the pagan origin of that custom must be a different .


It can  not account for similarities in Tabernacle/Temple worship, which came much later than Abraham. For example Yom Kippur and Goat rituals. God gave Yom Kippur and Goat rituals to Abraham/Adam/Noach ? Moreover after Yahweh  gave it to one or more of them somehow the pagans learned about it ?


It cannot  account for similar magic rituals (bitter waters, red heifer to name two).


It can not account for why the Zukru festival compares with the spring festivals of Passover and Unleavened Bread, as well as other ritual festivals in west Semitic religion of  the second millennium BC. Was Passover given to Abraham or Adam or Noach. ? Moreover after Yahweh  gave it to one or more of them somehow the pagans learned about it ?


Read my  response to Objection  #1 and also note -  would God actually have given Adam or Noach or Abraham all kinds of pagan laws and rituals such as animal sacrifice and others ?


{ETA 10/21/2015 Recall explanation E2) The  Israelites had been steeped in Idolatry. The Torah allowed some pagan practices to continue  as an 'accommodation' to human weakness, but they are rededicated to the worship of Yahweh. It is this sort of notion that Rambam advocates. It follows Rambam was all but saying  the pagan rituals found in the Torah were not truly the way G-d was intended to be worshipped, but are from the pagans. Hence he would reject the explanation found in Objection #1. 2}

Objection # 3 Have you ever read books by Yehezkel Kaufmann ? (Implying  he would disagree with my posts.)


I have not read his books and therefore not sure he would object to anything I have written. From what I have seen he would not agree with the Orthodox Jewish narrative. 

From http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0012_0_10902.html"Although he [Kaufmann] accepted the Documentary Hypothesis of the sources of the Penateuch and the multiple authorship of Isaiah and Hosea, he resisted the tendency to analyze books into increasingly smaller units".  

Kaufmann's work is dated and given more recent discoveries I am not sure how he would react.


I have come across his name in some academic literature and his work has been disparaged. Kaufmann's opinions were apparently a minority view during his lifetime and would be more so today.


From the book Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan by Albright 1968


Page 173 "The unrealistic approach of the late Yehezkel Kaufmann  who held that there was no backsliding in Israel except possibly during the period of Ahab and Jezebel in the 9th century, is, in my opinion, quite untenable"


Page 179 "The latter [regarding  the influence of Canaanite culture on the Israelites] is an exceptionally complex problem, since the early Hebrews were influenced by their Canaanite neighbors,  there were beliefs and practices common to both, and there were later borrowings and adaptations from Canaanite culture during the period of the Judges as well as the subsequent Monarchy....we can state definitely that it does not support the extreme position of the late Yehezkel Kaufmann, who maintained in his great 'History of the Faith of Israel' that mosaic monotheism was a phenomenon entirely peculiar to Israel"


From Frank Moore Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic: Essays in the History of the Religion of Israel 1973 in the preface:




















From - Yehezkel Kaufmann's View of the Religion of Israel The Religion of Israel, From Its Beginnings to the Babylonian Exile by Yehezkel Kaufmann;Moshe Greenberg Review by: J. Philip HyattJournal of Bible and Religion, Vol. 29, No. 1 (Jan., 1961), pp. 52-57 Published by: Oxford University Press

"It is difficult to determine whether Kaufmann attributes monotheism basically to the intuition of Moses and the people, or to special revelation; or whether he considers these as two sides of the same process. He seems to put the emphasis on human intuition and in-sight, rather than on supernatural revelation."

Per Kaufmann -  "The patriarchs before the time of Moses were not monotheists. They were no more than links in the chain leading to monotheism." 

"He [Kaufmann] often declares statements in the Bible to be unhistorical or legendary; at several points he rejects the "historiosophy"-philosophy of history--of the biblical writers. He can say of the Torah that it embodies "divergent and at times mutually contradictory matter" 

"Kaufmann considers three conclusions of classical criticism as assured (pp. 156-157): (1) He accepts the analysis of the three primary sources, JE, P, and D, together with their laws and narrative framework; the author is especially insistent that there are three separate and mutually independent legal corpora. (2) The present Torah book was not in pre-exilic times canonical and binding on the nation. Before this book came into existence, there was a long period of literary creation by priests and religious writers. (3) Deuteronomy was promulgated in the reign of Josiah, and the Torah as a whole was promulgated in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah "

"Yet, I find myself asking many questions about Kaufmann's theories. In particular, his basic position respecting Israelite monotheism is not convincing. His view of what he calls paganism seems to me distorted, and hence his attempt to interpret the religion of Israel as utterly different and radically new fails. It appears to me to be erroneous history and inadequate theology to say that Hebrew religion was utterly new or unique. "

"Kaufmann does not deny that the pre-exilic literature contains traces of idolatry, magic, divination, mythology, etc., but these are to him merely vestigial remains of an earlier Hebrew paganism, linguistic fossils, poetic imagery, and the like."


{ETA 9/28/2014 The Evolution of God by Robert Wright 2009 beginning page 106 Kaufmann's view which substantially rejects the evolutionary growth of Israelite religion from the local milieu  now lacks foundation. Moreover the consensus is the Israelites who settled the highlands of Canaan came from somewhere within Canaanite society. "...[there] is no reason to doubt that the Israelite religion is  exactly the kind of organic outgrowth of the local culture that Kaufmann...said it wasn't."

He goes on to explain 

a) The discovery of the inscriptions:  Yahweh  and his Asherah

b) That some scholars argue Yahweh merged with Canaanite god El and inherited some of El's genes.

c) That Yahweh may have acquired genes from Baal. For example 

Baal smites the Lotan (Leviathan) dragon and so does Yahweh in Psalms 74. 

Page 504 "All told Psalm 74:12-17, in which  Yahweh overcomes Yam, Tannin, and Leviathan, seems to have a clear kinship to the Ugaritic tradition.."

Psalm 48 Baal and Yahweh have characteristics of storm gods- For example Psalm 29

Yahweh's holy mountain/home  as Mount Zion -Summit of Zaphon and Baals Mount Sapan which various scholars say is the same mountain. 

Yahweh rides upon the clouds in Psalms 68:5 and Baal's nickname was rider upon the clouds. 

Beginning on page 120 he lists many other similarities which may interest the reader. 

Page 129 "Full fledged monotheism did'nt, as Kaufmann has argued, emerge early in Israelite history 'as an insight, and original intuition'. Early Israelite religion grew out of earlier religions, 'pagan' religions, just as they had done. And out of it, eventually, grew the more modern god of late Israelite religion: a single transcendent all- powerful, all knowing god - the god of the Jews..." }


Objection  #4  God is the creator. There are deep meanings to the Torah. Orthodox (Rabbinic) Jews don't believe God needs worship in the same way as the ancient near east people did. 

This objection also relates to Objection #3 so read my response there.


Many ancient cultures also believed in creator god or gods, so the fact the Torah claims there was a creator or fashioner is a non starter. 


I am not sure where these deeper meanings come from, since the reasons for some of the rituals are written in the Torah text and sometimes those reasons parallel other ANE cultures. Scholars also try to deduce the most likely reasons for some of the other rituals by studying ancient comparative religion and myths. Some of my posts provide such documentation. 


The Torah does not provide a consistent monotheistic concept   nor a consistent lofty view of God.  Pagan magic, conceptions and rituals persist in the Torah. They still persist to this day within Orthodox Judaism. My posts have documented some of them. 

Just because a particular ritual or prayer is devoted to Yahweh does not make it any less magic or any less pagan in action or conception. 


{ETA 10/21/2015 Recall explanation E2) The  Israelites had been steeped in Idolatry. The Torah allowed some pagan practices to continue  as an 'accommodation' to human weakness, but they are rededicated to the worship of Yahweh. It is this sort of notion that Rambam advocates. It follows Rambam was all but saying  the pagan rituals found in the Torah were not truly the way G-d was intended to be worshipped, but are from the pagans. Hence he would reject the explanation found in Objection #1. }

Please see Cut Off in the BibleStatute Forever in the Bible

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kuzari Part 3

Updated Thru 8/23/2015

A Plausible Natural Explanation for the Eventual Acceptance by Some Jews of the Exodus-Sinai Story

This is a continuation of  my discussion of the Kuzari argument begun at Kuzari principle or argument part 1.

{ Kuzari proponents claim the Sinai revelation was unique therefore it is true. Besides other fallacies here are two that should be stressed 1) They draw a target around the Sinai conditions to exclude every other myth. But you can do the same for almost every other myth. (The Texas Sharpshooter fallacy). 2) A hypothesis is not accepted as true because we have failed to provide a counter example}

Through out all periods charismatic leaders or ruling parties (politicians, kings, and the clergy) can influence the public and even sometimes deliberately mislead the public. This is true today, but was easier in ancient times where the ruling party controlled the press (including holy books) and information was not as widespread or easily checked.  People would welcome stories about their history or stories explaining predicaments. They may not have been as skeptical especially if the official story was "encouraged" or sounded good.

A small ruling party  may believe a story or even utilize a  known false myth. And the ruling party has the ability to eventually gain wide acceptance of the myth.

The introduction above is self evident and hardly controversial.

I am going to apply similar reasoning to provide a plausible natural explanation for the evolution of the Exodus-Sinai stories and their eventual acceptance by many Jewish people. 

Contrary to what Kuzari proponents argue, there are an ample number of religion givers, law givers, leaders and or reformers in Israel's history including: Abraham, Moses, Aaron, King Hezekiah, King Josiah and Hilkiah (the scroll finder), Ezra the Scribe-Law giver, and Nehemiah (Governer). Ezra had the power backing of the powerful Persian empire to enforce a dogma.

Before proceeding lets establish a few relevant ancient near east Torah parallels (support is provided here and in Kuzari Part 2,  which should also be read).


1) "The various religions of ancient Israel, [ and some] of its neighbors: (1) knew of divine covenant partners; (2) used blood to
consolidate kinship groups; (3) engaged in bloodletting
curse rituals; and (4) knew of divine meals." From Covenant and Blood Rituals: Understanding Exodus 24:3–8 in Its
Ancient Near Eastern Context by Theodore J. Lewis, Department of Near Eastern Studies, The Johns Hopkins University

2) Split Sea Parallels 

2a) Roman Soldiers during the capture of  New Carthage saw their comrades wading through a lagoon believed the sea-god was opening a way for them thru the water. (Page 460 Folk Lore in the Old Testament Volume 2  by James Frazier 1919).


2b) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/479_BC  “In 479 BC, when Persian soldiers besieged the Greek city of Potidaea, the tide retreated much farther than usual, leaving a convenient invasion route. But this wasn't a stroke of luck. Before they had crossed halfway, the water returned in a wave higher than anyone had ever seen, drowning the attackers. The Potiidaeans believed they had been saved by the wrath of Poseidon. But what really saved them was likely the same phenomenon that has destroyed countless others: a tsunami.” ( I am relying on wiki for this and need to check sources).

3) The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament by Richard Clifford 1972 


[Exodus 24: 8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said: 'Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD hath made with you in agreement with all these words.' 9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; 10 and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet the like of a paved work of sapphire stone, and the like of the very heaven for clearness. 11 And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand; and they beheld God, and did eat and drink.]

Page 112 In Exodus Moses and the elders eat and drink - a feast on the mountain like those given by Baal and El. In Exodus beneath the feet of God is Lapis Lazuli. And we find Baals palace in Zaphon also has Lapis Lazuli. [Clifford uses Lapis Luzuli instead of sapphire in his translation.]

Page 125 A Hittite version of a Canaanite myth represents El as living in a tent; similarly "Israel's early tradition represents Yahweh manifesting himself in a miskan and ohel"

4) Gods and God theophanies were associated with mountains, storms and fire. For example in the Ras Shamra texts El the supreme god of the Canaanite and Ugaritic pantheon inhabited the mountain of the North. 

5) Other cultures had claims of  a divine sanctioned code. 

6) From the Bible and the Ancient Near East by Gordon and Rendsburg 4th edition page 144 Several Egyptian texts refer to Yhw in the land of the nomads in the same general region as Sinai, Edom... Yhw=Yahwe was a diety associated with the desert region separating Egypt and Canaan. There are Tenach verses that also support that notion. 

7) { Volcanoes may also be associated with Gods. For example "The Maasai people live near an active volcano 
called Oldoinyo Lengai (meaning ‘mountain of God’; cf. Exod. 3.1), and they worship a deity called Engai or Enkai. When the volcano erupts, the Maasai think their god is angry. In order to expiate Engai’s anger, the Maasai people dance and placate him with prayers" From A God of Volcanoes: Did Yahwism Take Root in Volcanic Ashes? Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 2014 38: 387  by Jacob E. Dunn}

{W. F. Albright suggests the Sinai  theophany could have been influenced by folk "memories of volcano
eruptions (preserved in myth or metaphor), combined with more
recent recollections of terrific thunderstorms in the mountains of
Northwestern Arabia or Syria."   From the Stone Age to Christianity, p. 262.}


{Numerous cultures associated volcanic mountains, volcanoes with supernatural beings/gods. For example here are just two. The volcanic Hawaiian goddess Pele has a mountain named after her. The Roman god Vulcan - a volcanic and fire god.}

{ETA 8/23/2015  We should not be surprised that ancient people would attribute thunder to be the voice of god. For example the Pygmies of Africa sometimes attribute thunder to be the voice of god. Page 202 Revisiting My Pygmy Hosts by Paul Schebesta 1936 translated by Gerald Griffin}


Now lets proceed with our task. For the Exodus - Sinai stories we solely have a story in the Bible and no witnesses to question. We are quite certain there were not 600000 plus people at a  revelation. (Overwhelming consensus of archaeologists and historians - there was no mass Exodus Kuzari Part 2 ). There may have been some Canaanite/Semetic and other peoples that over time were enslaved in Egypt.  Some of those people had kindred tribes, kin and tribal members that resided in Canaan and the surrounding regions.

Thus there may have been a small tribe and or small group of people that escaped Egypt even during plagues with the help of  the charismatic leaders Moses and Aaron. Moses may even have led them thru a desert trek with some narrow escapes.  Moses and the people were in a severe physical and psychological stressed desperate state.  A volcano and or a violent storm could convince these ancient distressed people it’s a revelation of  god. Moses could then claim a divine sanctioned code.  God has chosen them as his people and will protect them. Moses need not have been lying. He may have been in deep meditation which could have been associated with divine communication. Moreover, Moses was trying to literally save a rag tag group of unruly rebellious desperate people. It is not far fetched that out of desperation Moses came to believe or created a story that was given to the people. Given their condition it is not far fetched they would accept the hope being promised to them.  I am providing a plausible scenario fairly close to Torah text that results in a small group of people coming to accept the belief in a revelation with a divine text. Nothing miraculous or unreasonable so far.

Recall this small group of people had kin in Canaan.  They may then have settled peacefully or thru skirmish/minor wars into parts of Canaan. (Overwhelming consensus of archaeologists and historians - there was no mass conquest of Canaan see Kuzari Part 2 )The Exodus-Sinai  story may then have spread to other tribes - thru tribal skirmishes/minor wars  and or peacefully like the spread of urban myths.  Or the small tribe may have rose to power and dominated the ruling / priestly class of Canaan or perhaps just influenced it greatly. That class had the means to spread acceptance of the stories. Or perhaps the small tribe just increased in population over time. No doubt intermarriage was taking place that also help spread the stories. Threats of or actual  invasion by larger civilizations could have led people to believe in such stories (see Ghost Dance Kuzari Part 2). Myths could  unite the various tribes and denominations in ancient Canaan. Perhaps some combination above  gave rise to a wider acceptance of the stories. 

There were many ancient Israelites who worshiped other gods which lends support to the notion there may have been resistance to the myth acceptance (this is well documented in the Tenach). Over time the recalcitrants were eliminated or disappeared - and the Torah encourages just that.

There is nothing unreasonable in my outline. It is fairly consistent with the Tenach;  ancient near east culture; human societies. It provides a plausible scenario for the eventual acceptance of the Exodus- Sinai stories by some Jews. Given the choice between any reasonable natural explanation and a supernatural explanation, the former is to be preferred. 

And there are other plausible scenarios as well, perhaps to be discussed in future posts. 

{The scenario would also work if there were thousands of witnesses to the Volcano event. Ancient people, even thousands of them could ascribe a Volocanic event to a God.  Group think and 'encouragement' by the Leaders would reduce objectors.}

Some May Raise an Objection Why Hasn’t Another Revelation Story Happened  ? 

Even if the Exodus-Sinai story is unique and nothing like it has ever been recorded (in our very incomplete record of ancient myths), it does not mean the Exodus- Sinai story  is true or even likely true. But as has been previously documented and will be mentioned  later in this post there are actually some parallels to essential parts of the Torah story.  Also see Kuzari part 1 White Buffalo Calf Women and  Kuzari Part  2  Castor and Pollux for two examples of claimed supernatural revelations.

Moreover, every claimed revelation or miracle is unique in some fashion - that does not make them true or even likely true. It just means they are unique.

Nor is this a laboratory experiment with controlled similar conditions where we expect repetition of outcomes. It involved a small group of ancient superstitious escaped slaves; desperate in a desert; led by a charasmatic leader; having kin in a relatively small country; threatened by invasions, actual invasions, exiles.... How often do such situations occur that we can make meaningful calculations ? Nevertheless, some features of the Exodus-Sinai story can be found in other cultures. 

Myth acceptance happens but the myth details vary. Each culture is unique and develops its own mythology which may or may not include a revelation but has other false or miraculous features. Moreover, there was only a brief period in history when these kinds of myths could have developed and we are not aware of many of them. Many of myths were passed on orally and there are few ancient texts that are preserved. In short, our sample size may be too small to draw strong conclusions. Nevertheless, the Exodus - Sinai stories and the Torah share elements with other known myths and so are not as unusual as Kuzari proponents claim. 

Even more recently there have been phenomena that have been attributed to divine revelations, therefore we should be that much more suspect of the Torah claims when we can not question the witnesses. 

Our Lady of Zeitoun, Our Lady of Assiut, Our Lady of Warraq, Our Lady Fatima: include mass Marian apparitions, sick and blind claimed cured in one, and a prophecy that came true in another. Arguably these are superior claims to Sinai because they occurred in modern times and we also know the head counts. Also, some witnesses who were not Christian converted to Christianity as a result of at least one of the revelations.

Even in modern times people accept miracles even when scientific evidence is presented that no miracle has occurred ! See for example  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_milk_miracle. 

Humans can be misled, mistaken and gullible. An argument based on how humans may have reacted in ancient times when people were superstitious and lacked science does not provide a strong base for an argument.

{ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/23/statue-moves-in-its-own_n_3486794.html

A 2013 fact : A normally 4000 year old stationary statue that was an offering to the God Osiris  has been spinning without anybody moving it.

Imagine something like this happening a few thousand years ago. They would say we have never heard of something like this before. It is unusual, it is unnatural, so it must be supernatural. Let us worship Osiris. 

First, maybe in their limited experience it has never happened before, but if they possessed information over many  countries, many periods, many various sized statues on many types of pedestals maybe  it would not be so unusual. In short too limited sample size.  Second, they were ignorant and were unable to investigate  the matter scientifically. For example is there something special about the statues material such as high iron ore concentrations ? Was the Earth’s magnetic filed particularly strong at the location of the statute ? Were there very minor tremors causing the statue to spin on it’s smooth pedestal ? I am not offering magnetism or tremors as the explanation of the moving statue, but showing lack of knowledge can lead to incorrect conclusions. Third, they should not be plugging supernatural explanations for lack of knowledge - this is known as the fallacious argument from incredulity: ‘We  can't imagine how an occurrence could occur or be explained by natural causes. Hence the occurrence must be supernatural.'


The Kuzari argument suffer from similar flaws.}

Lets assume we have a sufficient sample size of myths and we accept the claim the Exodus Sinai story is in a class by itself. We can then calculate the actual probability of the Exodus Sinai story as  unity divided by some large number - this would be a very low figure.  The Kuzari then proceeds to argue since the Exodus-Sinai story has such a low calculated probability it is "unnatural" (meaning it is supernatural).  I will still argue we should not accept the Exodus-Sinai story as true !

This is because that calculated probability must be compared to the probability of supernatural intervention which for the sake of argument lets assume is unknown. Since it is unknown it may be higher or lower than the calculated probability of the Exodus Sinai story.  Therefore we are stuck and can not make a decision. Moreover, I would argue the probability of supernatural intervention is extremely low and lower than the calculated probability of the Exodus Sinai revelation because there is no scientific evidence for any supernatural beings or supernatural interventions. It's calculation is zero from an empiricaly verifiable standpoint. (Also no "philosophical" proof withstands scrutiny).  

In addition, "unique" events or low probability events do occur in history and it does not imply supernatural. We can split hairs over what unique means.

 Continued Kuzari Argument Part 4

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kalam Cosmological Proof of God - Premises and Conclusion repudiated

Updated Thru 1/23/2016  12/27/2016

A common formulation of the Argument:

Premise 1) Everything that began to exist has a cause for its existence

Premise 2) the universe began to exist

Conclusion 3) therefore, the universe had a cause for its existence.

This argument can be repudiated for theological reasons see Kalam Cosmological proof of God repudiated by Theology

However this post will focus on the legitimacy of the premises and conclusion. 

On The Reasonableness of  Premise 1

There are quantum events which are random so there does not seem to be causes for them. For example a particle may come into being out of a vacuum, and this process seems to be random. 
Another example is radioactive decay - when the energy level of a nucleus drops, it emits a photon. It is a probabilistic process.

Many things that began to exist do not seem to have a cause. For example, I weave a coat. The cause can be me, but who caused me ? My parents, But then who caused my parents ? And we have not even begun to ask about the material for the coat. The point is there are many things we observe that are in transition from one form into another or have no discernible cause. Arguably, is there really anything we observe that actually begins to exist ?

Even if our every day experience confirms Premise 1 it would only  apply to our everyday experiences which involves parts of the Universe. However, we have no experience with entire Universes to claim  such a system needs a cause. A bar of soap can be made from fats,sodium hydroxide and water. The behavior of soap differs greatly from its constituents. Thus 'Kalam's conclusion' does not follow from the premises. Stated another way, the word “Everything” in Premise 1 is too comprehensive.

On the Reasonableness of Kalam Premise 2  

There are many cosmologists that do not agree the Universe began to exist. Some  have offered models with our Universe not having a beginning. Examples include cyclic models, Caroll and Chen model and others.

Professor of Physics Sean Carroll - Beginning on page 50 of From Eternity to Here:  "It might be that the Universe did not exist before the Big Bang [BB], just as conventional general relativity seems to imply. Or it might very well be - as I tend to believe, for reasons that will become clear - that space and time did exist before the BB; what we call the BB is a kind of transition from one phase to another."   "The correct deduction is not that general relativity predicts a singularity, but that general relativity predicts that the universe evolves into a configuration where  general relativity itself breaks down."

Professor of Physics Victor Stenger is also of the opinion that the Universe need not have had a beginning. ( See for example page 73 of his book Quantum Gods 2009)

Also Stenger in his book God and the Folly of Faith 2012 - beginning on page 178  Regarding the oft cited Borde, Guth Vilenkin Theorem he explains as follows. "Again, this theorem is derived from general relativity and so is inapplicable to the issue of origins. Furthermore it is disputed by other authors [he cites Aguirre, Gratton as examples]." 
Stenger also explains - " I asked Vilenkin personally if his theorem requires a beginning. His email reply: "No. But it proves that the expansion of the Universe must have had a beginning. You can evade the theorem by postulating the the Universe was contracting prior to some time". This is exactly what a number of existing models for the uncreated origin of our Universe do." 

{ETA 1/3/2016 Page 143-148 in Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism Petto and Godfrey Editors 2007.  Physics Professor Victor Stenger - "Several cosmological scenarios have been published by established scholars in reputable scientific journals that allow for a universe to appear as an uncaused quantum event from an initial state of zero energy (Akatz and Pagels 1982;...).  "It is conventional to label the time of the Big Bang as t=0. However, nothing we know demands that this was the beginning of time..., or that no universe existed at earlier times."
"No scientific basis exists for assuming a universe did not exist before the Big Bang" }

{ETA 1/23/2016  http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/2012/04/28/a-universe-from-nothing/

April 28, 2012 by Sean Carroll -  A Universe from Nothing? "...the physical universe can perfectly well be self-contained; it doesn’t need anything or anyone from outside to get it started, even if it had a “beginning.”  " }


In short, our knowledge of the very early Universe is uncertain enough that Premise 2 is in doubt. 

The Kalam’s Conclusion

For discussion purposes 1,2,3 below accept the premises  and assume the logic of the Kalam is sound. There are the following objections to concluding that the Kalam proves a God.

1) We can only  infer the universe has a cause; a cause of the kind as found in Premise 1. And Premise 1 causes must occur within time and space, since we have no knowledge of causes external to time and space. This I think would preclude a Judaeo-Islamic-Christian god.

2) We can only  infer the universe has a cause, not that the cause is some version of a Judaeo-Islamic-Christian god. The cause may be a monster. Consider life on earth operates on the concept of mutual consumption, and in common parlance the survival of the fittest. Also the earth with all it’s natural disasters and difficult conditions is a very inhospitable and dangerous place for living things.

3) Even if we can not provide a cause for the Universe, claiming  God is the cause is called the God of the Gaps Fallacy. 

4) Finally, the cause need not be something supernatural. It may have been a quantum fluctuation or quantum tunneling or some other natural phenomenon. (See for example Hartle-Hawking or Krauss or Carroll-Chen or Aguirre-Gratton or Stenger or Vilenkin for natural explanations of the Universe). Perhaps as scientists resolve the science in the very early universe the cause may become apparent.

"Most modern cosmologists are convinced that conventional scientific progress will ultimately result in a self-contained understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe, without the need to invoke God or any other supernatural involvement." ( Does the Universe Need God? Professor Sean Carroll, California Institute of Technology)

{ETA 12/27/2016  From Seven Brief Lessons on Physics By Carlo Rovelli 2014, 2016. The Theoretical Physicist Carlo is one of the founders of Loop Quantum Gravity Theory (LQG). Beginning on page 39 - Einstein developed relativity  to resolve the conflict between the equations of electromagnetism and mechanics. Today there is a conflict between General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. A group of researchers are working on reconciling the conflict thru Loop Quantum Gravity (LQG). Consider a star as it begins to run out of fuel and starts to collapse. Per Loop Quantum Gravity infinitesimal points/singularities don’t exist, so the star’s matter will only condense up to a point (called a Planck Star) wherein  quantum fluctuations of space-time balance the weight of matter.  But a Planck star is not stable and it can then begin to expand again. When our Universe was extremely compressed, quantum theory generates a repulsive force and this can create a Big Bang. Thus our  Universe may have been born from a preceding Universe that compressed under it’s own weight into a tiny space before expanding into the Universe we observe.  

[LQG can provide a natural explanation why the BB occurred and what existed before the BB. So we need not posit a God to start the BB.]}


{ETA 6/15/2014 Why is there something rather than nothing ? Maybe the "something" (for example quantum fields) always existed.  Also, some Cosmologists are finding that our Universe may really be nothing because the energy and matter in the Universe is offset by gravity giving just about nothing.} 

{ETA 6/18/2014 There are so called “laws of nature”. Does not a law require a law giver ?

Scientists tell us the laws such as conservation of energy, mass, momentums are a consequence of certain symmetries. For example there is no privileged place regarding when and where physics experiments are performed. 

The human legal system was created by humans, this does not mean physical laws require a giver. It is a false analogy since we have experience concerning the origins legal  laws but not physic laws.

According to some Cosmologists the “laws of nature” could have been different. For example certain multiverse theories.

If there are laws of nature they just could have always just been.

Finally, saying God gave us the laws is the god of the gaps fallacy. }


Here are related posts Kalam Cosmological proof of God repudiated by Theology,  Proof of God From the Big BangGenesis and the Big Bang , Proof of God from Thermodynamics