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The Cosmological Argument: A Debate

Discussion in 'Philosophical Forum' started by Esponer, Jun 3, 2007.

After familiarising yourself with the argument, did you find it convincing?

  1. Yes.

    16.7%
  2. No.

    83.3%
  1. Esponer Brief Intermission

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    The Cosmological Argument: A Debate

    Preface: Philosophical debates regarding the existence of gods very often call upon the cosmological argument, but very rarely have the focus to directly analyse this argument's merits and failures. I would like to propose this thread for all discussion of the argument in all its forms.

    Introduction: The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a first cause or first mover. By extension, the argument is used to prove the existence of gods, but it is rarely claimed to be sufficient to prove one specific conception of a god (such as the Abrahamic god of classical theism in any form). A simple and naïve expression of the argument is, "Something must have caused the universe to exist, and so there must have been a first cause, which is God".

    There are many formulations of the cosmological argument, including Plato's, Aristotle's, three of St. Aquinas's Five Ways, Leibniz's and the Kalam argument. Equally, many philosophers have posed responses to the argument. Insofar as it is possible, I would like to keep Latin phrases and philosophers out of this discussion so that nobody is excluded from the discussion.

    _____________________________

    Rules of Discussion:
    There should be no appeals to popularity or authority, and no personal arguments. There should be no appeals to logical fallacies — if you notice a fallacy, explain the error in judgement and keep Latin phrases and even the word "fallacy" out of it.

    I would appreciate it if the discussion strictly kept on topic. This is not for the design argument, or the argument by beauty, nor for the ontological argument or discussion of miracles. Those who are theistic for reasons other than the cosmological argument should not feel the need to defend themselves here, nor should anyone provoke such.

    If the response to this thread is overwhelming support for one interpretation of the argument (that it succeeds or fails), I'll try to take the other stance, and others should feel free to do so. The poll exists to judge the demographics of readers. If this thread falls off the first page, I'd tentatively ask that everyone feel free to post in it anyway — especially if you have a new idea or want to defend an unpopular position.

    Don't feel the need to read about the cosmological argument deeply beforehand or to use the arguments of other philosophers. If you want to, then sure, but you can make your own arguments too. Make sure you know what the argument is, at least.

    Keep it civil, and try your best to include everyone — if you want to tackle Leibniz's theories of sufficient reason, summarise them for everyone first.

    Does anyone want to get this started with some introductory definitions and arguments, or shall I start in a few hours?
     
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  2. The Juggernaut Mini-Ichi

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    The Simple Cosmological Argument

    (1) Everything that exists has a cause of its existence.
    (2) The universe exists.
    Therefore:
    (3) The universe has a cause of its existence.
    (4) If the universe has a cause of its existence, then that cause is God.
    Therefore:
    (5) God exists.
     
  3. mislead it's just Che Guevara

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    So I assume this is an attempt to showcase the argument itself, and not an actual debate, right? I can go along with that.

    Let's see now...

    1. "Something must have caused the universe to exist" - As I understand it, an assumption of causality is made here; "Everything has a cause, and therefore, the universe coming into existence also has a cause.". However, one would have to prove causality before attempting to use it to construct an argument.

    2. "First cause" somehow presumes, that while causality applies to the universe itself, it doesn't apply to the "first cause", which, by definition, has nothing preceeding it. It's not that difficult to imagine an infinite string of cause -> effect relationships spanning backwards in time, or even a circular one. Furthermore, if we can stomach that a certain entity (God) has no cause, then why not have the Big Bang as the causeless event? Ockham's Razor would definitely dictate dropping the seemingly unnecessary God and stopping at the unavoidable Big Bang.

    3. Even if we can agree that there is a "first cause", we cannot really state anything about it's properties with any degree of certainity. Particularly, nothing suggests that the "first cause" would posess intelligence or self - consciousness, which appear necessary if one wants to equate it with the theistic God.

    Am I doin' it rite, Esponer? <3
     
  4. Juubi Active Member

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    The argument works, if both causality can be proven to be an absolute law of existence, and it can be shown that the universe is not a product of something natural.
     
  5. impersonal Banned

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    ^
    What he said
     
  6. T4R0K Searching for a custom title

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    Fixed.
    Point 4 is where the logical reasoning stops. I don't go to point 5 until I have tangible elements.
     
  7. Kyon .

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    I find Occam's Razor logical, but I'm not as intelligent as all of you guys, so...

    But really, can you say that logical reasoning stops once you accept the possiblity of a higher power? It is a possibility that should at least be explored.
     
  8. T4R0K Searching for a custom title

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    I don't say otherwise. My point is that immediately jumping to the "God" solution without more is rather unwise, thus the need of exploration and research. Maybe my reply was confusing because english is not my native language.
     
  9. Seelas on a Forums Break

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    The two major problems that I see with the cosmological argument:

    1) That the cause of the universe must necessarily be God. That is, frankly, a pretty crazy and unjustified step to take. All that the first three steps lead is to is the conclusion that there must have been some universe-causing element, but they say nothing about the nature of this element - whether or not it is sentient, to be worshipped, etc. It does seem to be the case that this universe-causing element is beyond our understanding, but "an as-of-yet made scientific discovery" fits that criterion just as well as God does.

    2) Viewing the succession of events of the universe in terms of a "first cause" may commit the fallacy of composition. For any particular event that happens, we can trace back a seemingly infinitely long chain events that led to its happening. But just because every one of those particular events needs a cause, does not imply that the chain of events as a whole (the whole of being) requires a cause. If I were to say that everyone in a classroom weighed less than 300 pounds, it would be an egregious leap to say that the classroom as a whole weighed less than 300 pounds. Likewise, just because particular pieces of the universe are viewed in terms of causality, that doesn't imply that causality applies to the universe as a whole.
     
  10. Marl Now with added S? Engine!

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    Forgive me if I commit a gross error in reasoning below. If I do, please, for God's sake (irony?) correct me.

    As I understand it, the cosmological argument is based on the premise that everything that exists was brought into existence (caused) by something else. Following from this, "something" must have created the Universe - God.

    If this is the case, what caused God? If God has a cause, then one could argue that he did not create the universe: Whatever preceded God did, because without this God could not have existed, thus implying there is something more fundamental to the universe's existence than God. If this is not the case, then why invoke God at all? Rather than saying "God created the big bang which created the universe", why not simply stop at "the big bang created the universe"?

    Upon further inspection, I've basically parroted what Mislead said in his second point, but in my own words. Go me.
     
  11. mislead it's just Che Guevara

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    *waits for Esponer to come, and argue in favor of the argument, just like he promised*
     
  12. Marl Now with added S? Engine!

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    I'll have a go.

    In defence of the argument:

    Presumably, something with the ability to create the universe would not be bound by the restrictions of the universe being created (because the universe didn't exist yet, and so could not restrict it. Whee, circular logic!). As such, could one not say that causality is a 'restriction' of the universe, and therefore would not apply to whatever force created it?

    Holes in my own argument: Excessive use of the words "presumably" and "could". I'll leave you to find the rest. ^^
     
  13. The Juggernaut Mini-Ichi

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    My only problem with this argument is the assumptions inherent in the 4th step of the proof. If The assumption of God was removed from the 4th step like T4ROC did then it allows for the Big Bang theory in conjunction with Quantum physics to be considered. This interestingly enough would eliminate the need for a first cause since at sub atomic levels (smaller than 1.6 × 10−35 meters) causality falls apart.
     
  14. IBU Hopsecutioner

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    I think another question that this proof ignores that Mislead mentioned is that of causality. Causality is a way of explaining the way certain actions lead to other actions. However, the way that we are made aware of these actions is not through reality and these actions in and of themselves, but through perception. So we can only see that causality occurs in the realm of human perception. If we try to enter the realm of objective reality, we must make a large assumption and say that people can perceive reality for what it is. If we can verify this assumption on a basis other than human evidence and thus provide evidence for perceiving reality objectively than a greater case for causality can be made.
     
  15. The Juggernaut Mini-Ichi

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    I think what your stating if im not mistaken is Kant's concept of the Noominal realm which is the realm that everything exist in before we experience it and the phenomenal which is the realm of experience. If this is what you mean than we can never perceive something in and of itself within the noominal realm because by perceiving something it is changed and becomes part of the phenomenal realm.
     
  16. IBU Hopsecutioner

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    Yes, I was. Even before I read Kant's metaphysics, I essentially thought the same thing as him. I did not try to steal his ideas, just something we have in common. Nuomena is a fun word to say.
     
  17. The Juggernaut Mini-Ichi

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    O okay, I wasn't implying you were stealing his ideas i just wasn't sure if thats what you meant. And i can never figure out how to spell that word lol.
     
  18. mislead it's just Che Guevara

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    Guys, Esponer is going to spank you for bringing up Kant when he comes back.

    On a related note, even if we assume that objective reality is directly observable, it's still impossible to prove causality empirically, because we'd have to use induction to do so, and to use induction we need to assume causality. There, I've just managed to rape Hume's argument and avoid mentioning his name. Yeah.
     
  19. Esponer Brief Intermission

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    As mislead wishes, I shall do what I can to support the cosmological argument. Note that I believe the argument is a failure, so this is at best simply requiring everyone else to be more careful with their criticisms, or to consider new ideas. I'll begin by expressing the argument in my own way, and then respond to the criticisms made so far.

    an intergallactic immortal penguin did it

    1. It is an innate truth that phenomena have causes.

    Every phenomenon we experience can be shown to be caused by an event or a series of events. This is an undeniable, innate truth which conscious minds inherently accept. It has never occurred that we have perceived some phenomenon whose properties are without cause: the sharp, arbitrary shards of an egg shell inherently suggest to us an event which led the egg shell to be in that form; a child's distress inherently suggests to us that some event caused distress to the child. While there may be a phenomenon whose cause is not immediately apparent, conscious minds accept that some system of causes does explain the state of affairs. This is a basic belief; it is a self-evident axiom.

    2. Phenomena are not discrete entities, and are instead combinations of other phenomena whose causes are explained by the cause of the entire group.

    However, phenomena we perceive are not discrete entities. We perceive a hairbrush as a phenomenon and so suspect causes explaining its properties, and yet a hairbrush is also the sum of its bristles and its handle. A body of water is a phenomenon, and so we are instinctively led to require appropriate causes, and yet every individual water molecule is a phenomenon itself. We therefore see that just as one small phenomenon has a cause, any grouping of itself and other phenomena also requires a cause. Further, the cause of the grouping contains within it the cause of the phenomenon in question ? the precise temperature at which some body of water rests in a road side is explained by some cause, and that cause necessarily also explains the precise temperature of one arbitrarily chosen water molecule within the body.

    3. The entire universe over all time is therefore a phenomenon whose cause explains the causes of all phenomena within, and requires a cause.

    Therefore, the entire universe can be considered a phenomenon, and its cause contains within it the cause for all other phenomena. Here the universe includes all phenomena we perceive or could perceive, and all causes which interlink these, over all time. Then, from innate conscious expectation, we should expect the universe to have been caused by an event which explains its properties. However, there can be no such event as we have already included every event and every phemonenon: there is no event remaining to cause the universe.

    4. This is satisfied only by a cause outside of the universe which cannot be perceived. It is outside of the universe, and so we have no empirical evidence requiring of it a cause.

    The only means to satisfy this difficulty is for there to be an event which is in itself not within the universe (and so not a phenomenon we perceive or could perceive over all time). This is free to be the cause explaining the phenomenon of the universe. Does this cause then require a cause itself? We have an innate idea that all phenomenon we experience can be shown to be caused by any event, yet this first cause is not perceivable by definition, and so we have no reason to require a cause of it as we have no empirical evidence suggesting such a transcendant phenomenon requires cause.

    There is, therefore, a transcendant first cause to the universe which explains its state of affairs. Further, the universe is a phenomenon defined for all time such that time is merely another measure of extent, and so the first cause explains the universe's state of affairs for all time.

    This transcendant first cause we choose to denote with the word god. This proof demonstrates its existence and that it caused the universe, but fails to require of god sentience. This is, as it should always be, not the realm of the cosmological argument. Rather, the teleological argument should now attempt to demonstrate that it is implausible that the first cause was not itself intelligent.

    There are several points of note, firstly that many properties assigned to God are satisfied, but require unusual thought. Omnipotence is irrelevant in the ordinary sense, as power suggests the ability to bring change in the universe, which in turn suggests that one is limited by time. God is not limited by time ? he is not within time ? and so is neither omnipotent nor has any power, but remains the cause of all states of affairs. Omniscience comes immediately once the teleological argument succeeds at requiring sentience, and transcendance comes from definition.

    Objections
    The first cause has been arrived at by reasoning, and it is certainly not synonymous with any specific gods of theology. The aim of the argument is to create one half of an omnipotent, omniscient deity ? the second half must be complete in a teleological argument. The step in this argument from "first cause" to "god" is flawless simply because the latter word is defined as the former: this argument does not even demand sentience. Therefore, Seelas's first criticism holds no weight.

    To deny that the universe is a phenomenon as described with respect to the innate truth of causation requires that all phenomena be discrete, which is clearly not true. It follows from induction that the largest grouping of phenomenon obeys the same empirical law as all other phenomena. Therefore, Seelas's second criticism holds no weight.

    No cause for god is required because god is not an element in the set for which we have empirical data suggesting, and an innate concept for, causation. An infinite chain of regression is irrelevant by how we composed the universe as a phenomenon, rather than attempting a journey backwards in time tracing causes. The Big Bang, or any other phenomenon which we suppose, is not adequate as a cause of the universe, as it is a sub-phenomenon of the universe, and so can no more cause the universe than I can lift myself into the air with the strength of my arms. (However, until we prove that god must be sentient with a teleological argument, there is little meaningful difference between the god we have arrived at and the Big Bang.) mislead's and Marl's criticisms therefore hold no weight.

    Points of Note
    Were I some theistic philosopher, I would present this as a companion argument to a formulation of the teleological argument. If both were successful, a final (fairly trivial) proof would take the necessary steps left to prove something similar to the god of classical theism. Some careful rhetoric would be required to give the appearance of requiring omnibenevolence. Also, were I some theistic philosopher, I would recognise that I need a few long books justifying the innate truth the entire argument hinges upon with copious rhetoric and appeals to experience. The journey would almost certainly require a lot of work in epistemology.

    The entire thing is bullshit. But have fun!
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2007
  20. IBU Hopsecutioner

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    Does Esponer just hate Kant? Or is it more of a matter of not bringing up ideas of other philosophers because Hume's argument is equally valid. So in that case I should not be spanked on the basis of hate for one philosopher over another. That would not be fair :p.
     
  21. The Juggernaut Mini-Ichi

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    yeah being spanked doesn't sound to fun, just like philosophy thats all.
     
  22. Esponer Brief Intermission

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    I was just hoping to keep philosophers out of this, so that nobody would be excluded. It's also a good idea because I come very close to worshipping the ground Hume walks on, and might just get incoherent if people start naming him and criticising him. Criticising his ideas is fine, but don't remind me they're his!
     
  23. mislead it's just Che Guevara

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    A truly beautiful application of false analogies and term bending. Deserves rep and a special place in my heart.

    Will deconstruct it later if nobody manages to do it up to that time. Must sleep now.
     
  24. Mintaka Well-Known Member

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    Sigh.....I have a book somewhere in here that completley and utterly destroys the first mover and first cause.....Now I just have to find it....
     
  25. AbnormallyNormal 1 + 2 + 3 = 1 * 2 * 3

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    i dont think you can really understand the idea of causation beyond a certain point and i would say before the origins of the physical universe qualifies as that point
     
  26. mislead it's just Che Guevara

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    Mkay, time to end this farce. Actually, I'm impressed by how well the real principle behind this argument is hidden. It's definitely better than anything I could've managed.

    Okay, I'll let this be, with one little comment. What has been shown here, is that each perceivable (to adopt the terminology of the proof) phenomenon also posesses a perceivable cause.

    Ok. This is an unnecessarily convoluted explanation of phenomena (why it needs to be so convoluted, becomes apparent in the next section), but I'll aceept it for now. Though I'd like to note that a phenomenon necessarily needs a starting point in time - the cause and effect relationship depends on the cause preceeding the effect, and therefore there must exist a moment when the phenomenon is still nonexistant. Of course, one could argue that we can extend the relationship beyond time, but that would be inconsistent with the first section of the proof.

    Mmm, and this is where the bullshit comes out of hiding. First off, there's a completely reasonable possibility that the universe is eternal, and stretches back in time infinitely. It would make no sense to attribute a cause to such a universe, because it's impossible for anything to preceed it.

    This is an unwarranted extension of the established principle of causality. While it's natural to expect a cause for every perceivable event, all the causes we can experience are also perceivable. The assertion that perceivable events can have unperceivable causes isn't obvious, and would require proof; furthermore, since the universe cannot have a perceivable cause, it seems equally reasonable that it has no cause at all. Since we cannot distinguish between "no cause at all" and "unperceivable cause", Ockham's Razor yet again dictates that we drop unperceivable causes altogether.


    There. Anything I've missed?
     
  27. Fulcata I don't recognize your names.

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    1. You don't need a reason to enjoy spaghetti.

    2. Everything (else) has a cause.

    3. Nothing can cause itself.

    4. Everything is caused by another thing.

    5. A casual chain cannot be of infinite length.

    6. There must be a first cause.

    7. The first cause had no cause.

    8. Spaghetti is the only thing that can have no cause, thus must be the first cause.
     
  28. impersonal Banned

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    rofl !
    I'll try to address that as completely as I can, anyway. But give me some time.

    Edit: I'll just add my comments to what mislead already wrote.
    Don't forget quantum mechanics. Many scientists believe that some aspects of the behavior of particles can be explained through probabilities. Saying that is the same as saying that their behavior is partially causeless.


    Mislead brought up induction. Induction consists in thinking that an effect is the result of a cause, after seeing repeatedly the same effect coming after from the same cause. As Mislead said, induction is the root of causality. However, the fact that two things always come one after the other doesn't mean that one is the consequence of the other. It could be that the two events were caused by a third one.

    Some could object that we understand what is the link between the cause and the consequence. "The friction and shock of the bullet made the apple explode". But let me ask, how do you know that friction and shock make things explode? By induction. In fact, we humans first establish what causes what through induction, and then we put big words on it - scientific laws, etc. In the end, we came up with a big system which became our natural way of thinking; we can't think outside the box anymore. That doesn't mean that there can't be another way of interpreting the world that works well. An interpretation which doesn't rely on causality at all...

    I'll try to show what is the limit of our box: imagine that all events were caused by a single cause. For example God. I don't mean that God is the first cause, and that afterwards there is a chain of causality. I mean that God sits up in heaven, and manipulates every single event that we see. He is like the animator of a 3-D movie: he is the one who makes the cigarette touch the oil tank, but he is also the one who creates the explosion. All the relations between the events are just illusions created by our habit of seeing them always going together; but if God had wanted to, perhaps oil would turn to water when it meets fire, and we would find it just as natural.

    Now we have eliminated all causes, except for one. Just go a bit further: go from "God causes everything" to "nothing causes anything else". By considering the idea from this angle, you can somewhat approach the idea of a world without causality.

    In the end, we only use the cause/consequence scheme because it is a good way to understand an infinitely complex world with a limited processing capacity (our brain). Did you notice something? Yes, I just wrote "because". I don't think the human intellect can really work without the notion of "cause" :(.


    [I wanted to discuss all the post, but seeing how it took me hours just to discuss causality, I'm going to stop here for today]
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2007
  29. Esponer Brief Intermission

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    We do indeed perceive that the cause of a phenomenon, that is the set of phenomena which completely explain all properties of it, if a set of phenomenon which precede it in our perception of time.

    However, an infinite universe does not exclude it from appearing to require a cause. Were we to trace phenomena and their causes forever, we would never be able to insist upon a first cause, but that's not what the argument is doing. There is no reason [!] that the universe itself cannot be treated as a phenomenon as we have described, and so irrespective of time a cause is still required to justify it.

    Time is an unique aspect of the universe. That causes precede consequences in time within the universe is irrelevant when we are asked what caused something in which time is wholly contained. I maintain that this cosmological argument is not threatened in this manner by an infinite causal chain, as a cause is still required.

    [!] indicates, for me, the flaw of the argument — obviously there is one! It is not valid logic to use the pseudo-proof by induction to treat the universe as a single phenomenon in this manner. Rules can appear to apply to all phenomena, only to prove false for phenomena of a certain type we previously did not consider. For instance, Newtonian mechanics fell apart when we considered phenomena moving at high speeds.

    It is unjustified to start talking about a phenomenon unlike any we know and expect it to behave just like all other phenomenon, even if we have some quantitative, inductive manner of scaling up from the ones we know to it (a physicist in Newton's time would seem to be being logical in doubling a particle's velocity and requiring of it four times the energy each time, but while it would seem that he had all ground for a proof by induction that would go on forever, in fact he would lose justification once the speed got fast enough).

    In response to Fulcata's cosmological argument for the existence of divine spaghetti, I shall betray my own suggestion that we not reference philosophers. Do forgive me, me.

    The problem, Fulcata, is that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, as a modern day Russell's teapot, is only useful if it is precisely as illogical as the argument it wishes to undermine with a reductio ad absurdum, and not more so. Your cosmological argument fails in this endeavour as it is more illogical than the original cosmological argument, as its first premise is particularly inane.
     
  30. mislead it's just Che Guevara

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    I still maintain that it's meaningless to consider timeless causality. You establish causality as a fact of our experience - and within our experience, it is naturally containted within the flow of time. We have never experienced a cause that would exist outside of time, and truly, it is a priori impossible for us to experience such causes. Therefore, extending causality in such a way doesn't correspond to your initial argument in favor of the principle, and needs to be established otherwise.

    This is where poor Ockham kicks in again. We cannot perceive a cause that is beyond time, and hence have no information whatsoever about the existence of such causes. Therefore it would be preferable to cut them away altogether.

    BTW. This argument rests on fishy redefinition of "phenomenon" and a fallacious extension of causality either way.
     
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