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On God, the Universe and Everything

January 24, 2008

An Interesting Exchange Between Myself

and an Anti-Mormon Named Gerald Bostock

 

On Tue, 22 Jan 2008 16:28:18 -0800 (PST), Gerald Bostock

<gbostock@excite.com> wrote:

 

>The BoM is obviously a fiction (as are the rest of LDS scriptures).

>All the theology is irrelevant after that.

 

I’m not sure this follows logically. I agree that the Book of Mormon

is likely non-historical. The D&C is historical in the sense that all the

people and places mentioned in it are well attested to, and follow more

or less in well accepted chronological order.  In fact, in this sense,

it is probably the most historically well documented of all the worlds

scriptures.  The other various scriptures of Judaism, Christianity,

Islam and so forth fit somewhere between these two Mormon scriptures

in terms of external historical verifiability yet none of this makes

their theologies irrelevant.

 

From my point of view, Joseph Smith was a religious genius who solved

two major problems:

 

1) The problem of evil

2) A coherant explanation for the creation of humans and the Earth

 

I’m not sure that he’s right on either issue, but every reasonable and

well informed person, if they really know what he had to say, has to

take his theology seriously as possibilities. The fact that some of

his scriptures are likely unhistorical is what is irrelevant.

 

As I said, I reject the Book of Mormon. I also reject the New

Testament.  Neither one is really coherent logically

nor is either one historical (though the NT is slightly more likely

than the Book of Mormon in that a few – not many – of it’s external

details can be verified).  That said, Joseph Smith was a theological

force to be reckoned with.

 

It’s too bad for the Mormon Church that they cannot easily just dump

the Book of Mormon (and the Book of Abraham for that matter), and keep

the D&C. I think Mormon theology would be much more “marketable” that

way.

 

Moshe Akiva

 

On Tue, 22 Jan 2008 20:21:49 -0800 (PST), Gerald Bostock

<gbostock@excite.com> wrote:

 

 

>> From my point of view, Joseph Smith was a religious genius who solved

>> two major problems:

>>

>> 1) The problem of evil

>> 2) A coherant explanation for the creation of humans and the Earth

>

>Not at all, he doesn’t even address the issue of the Aristotalian

>Prime Mover, First Cause etc.

 

This is rather irrelevant in modern discourse since Aristotle (nor

Aquinas For that matter) does not really deal with infinite sets. He

just assumes that they are impossible in terms of cause and effect.

 

>>He seems to take the position that the

>universe always existed (which is impossible, an infinitely old

>universe would have died an entropy death)

 

Well _something_ always existed. There’s no question about that.

“Self existence” is a fact for both the theist and the atheist. It’s

just a question of what was self existing whether that be God,

“intelligences” or the primordial singularity (or whatever the  primordial

singularity came  from).

 

I don’t think that Mormonism precludes the Big-bang. Further, there

is no indication that the basic “intelligences” need follow the same

laws of physics we do. In fact, if the basic intelligences precede

the big-bang they would not since all agree that our laws of physics

were born in that event.

 

>and he doesn’t address the

>origin of the first of his gods.

 

You are more or less right on this. However, I read the Book of

Abraham to say that the “god” mentioned was simply the greatest of the

intelligences. This is later contradicted by the King Follet sermon

however. I think it is reasonable to believe that he ultimately would

have concluded that the first “gods” were simply those self-existent

intelligences who were “greatest” and started the ball rolling.

 

Please keep in mind that I’m not a Mormon and don’t believe any of

this literally. In actual practice, I lean toward process

philosophy/theology as formulated by Alfred North Whitehead and

Charles Hartshorne. I’m merely impressed that Jospeh Smith intuited a

form of process theology on his own without a theological education

(or any education at al for that matter).

 

Moshe

 

On Wed, 23 Jan 2008 08:04:52 -0800 (PST), Gerald Bostock

<gbostock@excite.com> wrote:

 

>> This is rather irrelevant in modern discourse since Aristotle (nor

>> Aquinas For that matter) does not really deal with infinte sets. He

>> just assumes that they are impossible in terms of cause and effect.

>

>We all have to assume that they are impossible in terms of cause and

>effect. That’s the rub.

 

No we don’t. You and I are talking past each other a bit. You are

primarily discussing physics with a philosophical twist and I am

primarily discussing philosophy with a physics twist. However, I’m

game either way.

 

Here is the problem using entropy to establish the cosmological

argument (Aristotle, Aquinas et al): It depends on “our” time and

therefore is a byproduct of post big-bang physics. Entropy “picks” a

direction in time. Without time, there is no entropy.

Pre-big bang physics depend on utterly un-established principles of

time, cause and effect (If, in fact, there are causes and effects pre

big bang). Hawking, for example, said that talking about “before” the

big-bang or the “cause” of the big bang is, from a physics point of

view, like asking what is north of the north pole. It’s the reference

point that establishes our basic principles such as time.

 

While entropy would be an issue in the post-big bang period, it’s

irrelevant to the pre-big bang period and any periods that may or may

not have proceeded that.

 

Get it?

 

>> Well _something_ always existed.

>

>No. Nothing can be infinite according to thermodynamics. Anything

>infinite would have died an entropy death. I was about to get into a

>physics lesson here but realized I don’t have the time. You should be

>able to do your own research on what entropy death means.

 

No. The singularity is a”thing” regardless of what entropy “says.”

Entropy is simply not relevant to this question. The question precedes

entropy.

 

>There’s the problem with the science which says that something can’t

>come from nothing, but in the origin something must have come from

>nothing.

 

Yes? And that is??

 

> You’re arguing that there must have been something that was

>eternal.

 

Not necessarily unless a pre-big bang, pre-entropy, cause and effect

process is regarded as a “thing” unto itself. That said, the

singularity is a “thing.” I’m not, BTW, arguing “for” anything except

possibilities.

 

>Nothing can be eternal.

 

Not impressed. Again, you are forgetting the whole issue of the

singularity or whatever may or may not have existed in some time

scheme and may or may not have existed prior to the big bang.

 

>Aristotle was the first guy we know

>of that said there must have been something that got it all started.

 

Yes but without any authority whatsoever. He doesn’t even argue for

this position. He merely assumes it.

 

>There’s no simple answer to any of this.

 

Agreed. There may be NO answer for us living, as we do in four

dimensions (one of which is “our” time). There is, however,

logically possible and logically impossible. You said certain things

were impossible and I don’t think you have made your case.

 

>> I don’t think that Mormonism precludes the Big-bang.

>

>I think the law of eternal progression precludes it.

 

How so? Do Mormons purport to know the physics and dimensions that

govern intelligences and Gods? I’m not sure they do…

 

> Further, there

>> is no indication that the basic “intelligences” need follow the same

>> laws of physics we do. In fact, if the basic intelligences preceed

>> the big-bang they would not since all gree that our laws of physics

>> were born in that event.

>

>I don’t think that all agree. If the intelligences precede the big

>bang then what is their origin?

 

Possibly they are self-existent pre-entropy extra-dimensional entities. If

they were you would have no way of proving nor disproving their

existence.

 

This is, for example, why string theory is so frustrating. The math

to unify all fields works out perfectly… But it required 11

dimensions. There is no way that we, as four dimensional beings can

prove or disprove their existence.

 

>> You are more or less right on this. However, I read the Book of

>> Abraham to say that the “god” mentioned was simply the greatest of the

>> intelligences. This is later contradicted by the King Follet sermon

>> however.

>

>Mormonism is full of contradictions. That’s how we know JSjr (and BY,

>et al.) was making it up as he went along.

 

Probably they were! However, I simply think that JS was intuiting

things beyond the typical con man.

 

To a certain degree I see all the great charismatic prophets of all

the world religions as “con men” or “psychos.I mean, to some degree you

would have to be to reject the socially constructed reality you were

raised with and that which your senses are a feeding you. Thus, I’m

not surprised when religions are internally self-contradictory. I

can’t think of one that isn’t. That does not preclude these folks

from producing interesting and creative ideas that deserve a second

look.

 

That’s the way I feel about, for example, Buddhism as well as

Mormonism. I’m neither Buddhist nor Mormon but I feel that they

contribute something to the great philosophical a religious discussion

we are all having across space and time.

 

> I think it is reasonable to belive that he ultimately would

>> have concluded that the first “gods” were simply those self-existent

>> intelligences who were “greatest” and started the ball rolling.

>

>There’s no telling what he would have “concluded” since he was making

>it up as he went along.

 

I only say that because the roots are there in the Book of Abraham and

I don’t think he really got to the problem. He died while his ideas

were still forming. But you are right. There’s “no telling.”

 

>> Please keep in mind that I’m not a Mormon and don’t believe any of

>> this literally. In actual practice, I lean toward process

>> philosophy/theology as formulated by Alfred North Whitehead and

>> Charles Hartshorne. I’m merely impressed that Jospeh Smith intuited a

>> form of process theology on his own without a theological education

>> (or any education at al for that matter).

>

>I think a lot of people had similar ideas before JSjr and will again

>without knowing about him. I’m not impressed with those who think this

>stuff up.

 

However, Whitehead and Heartshorne are not merely”a lot of people”

they are both great philosophers. Whitehead was also a great

mathematician who, along with Bertrand Russell, wrote “Principia

Mathematica” which establish modern post-Aristotelian formal logic as

well as set theory in mathematics.*

 

Moshe

 

*Not to be confused with Newton’s “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.”

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2 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing,
    I liked his parting response about not being impressed with people who “think this stuff up.”

    It reminds me of the movie, The Princess Bride, where in an effort to show his off his intelligence Vezzini states, “You ever hear of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?”
    “yes”
    “Morons.”


  2. Thanks for the comment. The above was a pretty free-flowing unedited and unproofread exchange in its original edition. I posted it and then immediately decided to edit it. To my amazement, your comment and eight views of the article came through just during the proofing process. If I had known there was that much interest, I would have edited the thing earlier!

    Moshe



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