On God, the Universe and EverythingJanuary 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
>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
On Tue, 22 Jan 2008 20:21:49 -0800 (PST), Gerald Bostock
>> 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).
On Wed, 23 Jan 2008 08:04:52 -0800 (PST), Gerald Bostock
>> 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.
>> 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
>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
Yes? And that is??
> You’re arguing that there must have been something that was
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
>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
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
>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
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
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.*
*Not to be confused with Newton’s “Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.”