God vs The Multiverse

Click here for God vs The Multiverse: a rational argument for the Existence of One God who intelligently designed one universe.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

God vs The Multiverse (Part 19: Necessary Existence)

In this post, we will answer two age-old questions by showing that they are based upon premises which do not apply to Abraham's formulation of God as a Necessary Existence. We will show that a proper understanding of the concept of Necessary Existence undermines these questions.

1) Who caused God?  
2) If God has no cause, then why does He even exist? 

When studying the physical universe, we can causally trace back all the physical events we observe in space and time to prior physical events that caused them.  Ultimately, this chain of causation leads to the first physical event that began space and time, the first moment of the big bang.  This first physical event, like every physical event in space and time, must have a cause.

It is logically impossible to only have an infinite chain of beings that are contingent on other contingent beings.  At some point in the chain of causation, we must arrive at a cause which itself has no prior cause.  We call this first nonphysical cause a Necessary Existence because Its Existence is not contingent on any prior cause, in contrast to all other physical existences (including the first physical event in space-time) which are ultimately dependent on this Necessary Existence for their existence.  (See the first comment below, where we explain how this same reasoning applies to a model of an eternal universe with an infinite sequence of events in space-time.)

There is a qualitative ontological difference between Necessary Existence (where Existence is essential) and a contingent existence (where existence is accidental), and every model of reality must have at least one necessary existence.  For some multiverse scientists, the necessary existences are a group of nonphysical, eternal, unintelligent equations (in conjunction with an eternal random number generator).  Stephen Hawking writes at at the end of his article Why God Did Not Create the Universe:
"As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going."
For Hawking, this "nothing" is not truly nothing, but rather means nothing physical in space and time, (nothing which we call 'the universe'). The laws of gravity and quantum theory are nonphysical somethings which have necessary existence in this theory, and "allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing".  If we would ask Hawking who created these laws, presumably he would say that they have necessary existence and therefore have no prior cause.  The problem with these necessary existences is that they do not satisfactorily explain the universe and its fine tuning (see posts 2,3, and 4 for more details).

For Abraham, God is the One Simple Necessary Existence who intelligently designed the universe that He created from nothing.  The causal chain of contingent existences is ultimately dependent on God, who is a Necessary Existence that is independent of anything else.

With this in mind, we can answer the question of "Who caused God?" by undermining the very premise of the question.  The question is only legitimate regarding contingent existences (beings that have a cause for their existence), but makes no sense with regards to a Necessary Existence (which has no cause for its Existence).  The premise of the question assumes that the term 'God' represents a created contingent being, just like all other things in the chain of causation.  However, since God is that which Necessarily Exists and starts off the chain, it makes no sense to ask "Who created God?"

We can answer the related question of "Why does God exist?" in a similar manner. The question of why something exists, also presumes that this something is a contingent existence; since its existence is accidental, it could exist or it could not exist.  It is then sensible to ask, why it exists rather than not exist.  However, with regards to a Necessary Existence, a Being whose Existence is essential, we can no longer ask why It exists, because there are not two possibilities for Its Existence.

The situation would be analogous to asking "Why is a circle round?".  This is not a legitimate question.  We can ask why a particular lake is round, because the accident of roundness is not the essence of a lake, but is rather a quality of a particular lake.  We can therefore ask why the accident of roundness is present in this particular lake.  When it comes to the concept of a circle, however, roundness is part of the very essence of the concept of circle.  If it were not round, it would not be a circle, but rather some other shape.  It therefore makes no sense to ask why a circle is round.

This is an important point to understand.  It does not make sense to seek a teleological explanation for something that has no prior cause.  It only makes sense to ask "why something exists", if that something was caused by an intelligent agent who acts with a purpose.  Likewise, if something admits of a teleological explanation, it has a prior cause of an intelligent agent.  This is the basic reason why it no longer made any sense at all to say that the constants were necessary existences, after modern science discovered that they were fine tuned and therefore had a teleological explanation.

The idea of the God of Abraham is the One Simple Necessary Existence which is responsible for all other contingent existences. Therefore, there is simply no sensible meaning to the questions of "Who created God?" or "Why does God exist?".

68 comments:

  1. We want to show how the concept of a Necessary Existence (which has no cause for Its own Existence) is still required even if we were to posit an eternal universe. We are taking up this possibility of an eternal universe because we want to show that the idea of a Necessary Existence is not dependent on creation, even though we think that an eternal universe is no longer a reasonable belief given our current scientific knowledge. (See post 4 and 14 for the critical flaw with this possibility known as the problem of entropy.)

    Let us assume that the physical universe is eternal. What that means is that there is an infinite sequence of events in space-time, where each event is contingent upon a prior event. This results in an infinite chain of contingent existences. As all the causes are contingent, there must logically be some Necessary Existence upon which the infinite sequence of contingent beings itself depends.

    Even if we assume that somehow this chain forms a closed circle, and is therefore not infinite, the circular chain of contingent existences as a whole is contingent on a Necessary Existence which Itself has no cause.

    For a more in depth development on this age old argument see:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmological_argument

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    1. How is it logical to speak of a closed circle of causes? Wouldn't that undermine the idea of cause since everything would be its own cause?

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    2. Is your argument for God based on necessary vs. contingent causes or based on fine tuning? If it is based on fine tuning then this point is unnecessary since even an infinite chain of events would need the fine tuner who is outside the system.

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    3. For your first comment:

      A closed circle of contingent causes would be some sort of feedback loop where A causes B which causes C which causes A...

      We can logically imagine a Necessary Existence creating a contingent perpetual motion machine, where each cause is contingent upon the prior cause in a circle. The machine itself would not be a Necessary Existence (as that would undermine the sense in calling each being a contingent existence), but was created by a Necessary Existence.

      Do you see any logical problem with this?

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    4. For your second comment:

      You are correct. Our proof is based upon the fine tuning from stage one (and the rejection of every other possible theory that we established in stage two). We are not trying to prove the God of Abraham in this post.

      Rather, our main point is to show how every sensible model of reality must include at least one Necessary Existence; and explain why it does not make sense to ask what caused a Necessary Existence or why a Necessary Existence exists.

      In this stage, we are trying to explain what we mean by One Simple Necessary Existence, and answer all the attacks that scientists lodge against the concept of God by showing how they are inapplicable to the God of Abraham.

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    5. re: infinite cycle
      Logically if a causes b and b causes c a is a cause of c, hence in your case a causes b causes c causes a means a causes a which is a logical absurdity.
      While a perpetual motion machine is not logically impossible (only physically impossible) it isn't a closed circle of causes since each cycle of the machine is a new event (since it is at a different time). this would either have a beginning (which the necessary existence started it in) or be an infinite repeating sequence.
      To take the chicken example:
      either there was first a chicken (or an egg) and from then on it is cyclical or there is an infinite sequence of distinct chickens and eggs. but it is illogical to say a chicken laid an egg which hatched the original chicken.

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    6. re: second point
      I understand why you need to answer why it does not make sense to ask what caused a Necessary Existence or why a Necessary Existence exists.
      but hypothetically if there were a scientific model which did not demand a necessary cause (which I agree is impossible) why would that affect your proof?

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    7. re: infinite cycle

      You are right, Yaakov. A thing can not causes itself. Not only is it illogical, but we can't even imagine it.

      We made a mistake in thinking the perpetual motion machine was a closed circle. You are correct that it must start as some point, and then would only be a sequence of contingent causes that are all contingent on the first contingent cause (a.k.a. big bang theory).

      It is logically absurd for a chicken to lay an egg that hatches the original chicken.

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    8. re: second point

      The proof would be severely affected. The objective of the proof is to prove the God of Abraham which is the Foundation upon which to build the universe. He is the Fundamental of Fundamentals and the Base of all scientific knowledge.

      The concept of Necessary Existence is essential for the Foundation to be secure. You can not build a universe upon a contingent intelligent designer standing on contingent turtles all the way down...

      We would still have proven from that first two stages that the universe has a fine tuner who designed it. But we would not have proven the God of Abraham who is One Simple Necessary Existence.

      The Wise Men of Israel said it best: The God of Abraham is The Place of the universe, but the universe is not the place of Him.

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    9. I agree that the concept of necessary existence is essential for the proof.
      However you also seem to use the concept to prove that there must be a necessary existence. I agree with that argument, but it seems like it is a proof which stands separate from the finetuning argument.
      In other words I think a better formulation would be that you have 2 arguments showing that God must exist.
      1. From the fine tuning of constants (and problems with the alternative multiverse theory) there must be a intelligent cause. The only type of existence which would satisfy this requirement is an absolutely simple necessary existence (since otherwise it would need fine tuning itself)
      2. logically, from the phenomena of causes there must exist a necessary existence. Every system must have a noncontingent existence. But the only logically sound necessary existence is One, simple nonphysical etc.

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    10. In order for proof 2 to stand independent of proof 1, you would need to prove that a complex necessary existence is a priori illogical (without any observation and scientific knowledge of the contingent universe).

      You would need to prove this without making recourse to any argument from design and fine tuning. For example, the theory of Eternal Chaotic Inflation posits that a random complex chaos necessarily exists (along side with the necessarily existing laws of physics). How would you disprove this theory with logic alone?

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    11. The ideas of causation and natural law come from the observation of the world and scientific knowledge. The second proof is not independent of science, it is independent of the specific scientific observation of fine tuning etc.
      Once we recognize that there must be a necessary existence it cannot partake of potentiality (since qua potentiality it lacks existence) but anything material partakes of potentiality (since it could take another form) and is therefore contingent. Similarly any complex entity must be contingent since it is dependent on its parts, and on some framework which joins its parts. In other words, the only way to answer 'who created god' is to answer that God is not complex.


      On a side note, "the theory of Eternal Chaotic Inflation posits that a random complex chaos necessarily exists" What is "a random complex chaos" (is 'random complex chaos' an object)? I thought they held that 'random complex chao's is merely a description of the state of the multiverse, and that the laws of the multiverse are that which is an essential existence.

      Lastly,
      Linde apparently also 'holds' by an "intelligent designer"
      http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/egghead/2004/05/the_big_lab_experiment.single.html

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    12. re: main point

      We're each using the term 'necessary existence' to mean "an existence which has no prior cause". It would seem that you are right. Since the whole is contingent on the parts, the whole has a prior cause.

      For example: a complex essence like 'AB' with two parts A and B, could not be a necessary existence, as the entity AB as a whole only emerges from its two parts, and is therefore caused by 3 things: A, B, and the relationship between the two. It would not make sense to call AB a necessary existence as it has a prior cause.

      Do you think the argument is different for a complex existence 'Ab': a simple essence with an accident?

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    13. re: side note

      It seems like there are three possible positions:
      1) Hawking's position we quoted in the post, where the laws necessarily exist and create energy from nothing.
      2) Linde's position (we think) where not only do the laws necessarily exist, but also disordered energy (the primordial chaos) necessarily exists. This eternal chaos obeys the eternal laws of quantum mechanics and therefore randomly fluctuates bubble universe.
      3) A combination of Hawking and Linde, where necessarily existing laws create chaos from nothing which randomly fluctuates bubble universes.

      It would seem that Brian Greene understands Linde to be saying the third position, as he gives the analogy of an expanding block of swiss cheese. (See video referenced in post 12.) This would imply that the chaotic energy had a beginning and was created by the eternal laws.

      We're pretty sure we've seen Linde call the primordial chaos itself eternal, but perhaps we're wrong. In any event, whether he holds by theory 2 or 3, Linde has to hold by some necessary existence which is the main point of this post.

      In regards to the article, if we didn't know better we would think it was a joke, but unfortunately these scientists actually believe these stupidities. (See post 15.)

      It is interesting how all these scientists' gods have such a close resemblance to themselves. The transhuman physical gods of Nick Bostrom resemble his greatest fantasy of replacing his carbon brain with silicon, and Linde's god is a physicist working in a lab.

      Nothing changes with regards to the fantasy of idolatry. Xenophanes put it very well 2500 years ago:

      "But if cattle and horses and lions had hands
      or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,
      horses like horses and cattle like cattle
      also would depict the gods' shapes and make their bodies
      of such a sort as the form they themselves have."

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    14. I think Ab would fall for the same reason. Furthermore, I suspect that anything non-material is not subject to accidents (barring the accident of existence for contingent nonphysical creatures) but I think this issue goes beyond what is appropriate for a blog discussion.

      I noticed the xenophanes pattern as well. It leads to a greater appreciation for the wonder of the Torah which guides us away from Avodah Zarah of any sort. The ideas of the Torah are still advanced in a scientific culture 3500 yrs later.

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    15. הלכות עבודה זרה א:יח כיון שנתנבא משה רבנו, ובחר ה' בישראל לנחלה, הכתירן במצוותא והודיעם דרך עבודתו, ומה יהיה משפט עבודה זרה וכל הטועים אחריה.

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    16. Yaakov-
      On second thought, we don't really understand your argument from necessary existences. You say: "Similarly any complex entity must be contingent since it is dependent on its parts".

      Considering the example of AB, why cant AB be necessary? Who said A and B exist separately for AB to be contingent on them?

      For example, (fine tuning aside), maybe an electron is a necessary existence- energy in a form of electron. It is contingent on energy(substance) and the essence of electron(form)? But these dont actually exist independently. So is it really contingent on them? Why cant an electron (complex) be an eternal necessary existence?

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    17. The argument is based on the idea, that order/idea is not intrinsic to matter/energy hence any object always needs an explanation why does it take this form. similarly a physical concept does not exist except insofar as there is matter.

      Another way to think about it is that something which is necessary could not logically be other than it is. but only that which is absolutely simple fits this requirement.

      We have to be careful with our intuitions here, for example an electron can emerge from beta decay or can be destroyed through encountering a positron and is therefore certainly not necessary or even eternal.

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    18. We still don't understand. Lets take the case of AB. Now its true that logically we can conceive of it being BA (a different ordering of its parts), but the proponent of AB theory will simply answer, "AB necessarily exists and it doesn't make sense to say why it isn't a different way."

      We think this is a bad response if you can show that AB has design and order. Meaning AB produces our universe, BA produces chaotic nonsense. This teleological explanation means that AB is not a Necessary Existence, and therefore has a prior cause which intelligently made it the way it is. (We spell this thinking out more in the next post, and in post 3.)

      How are you going to answer this question without showing that AB has a special order and therefore is designed?

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    19. I don't understand your question, if A is matter and B form(idea) (like in your electron case) what does it mean to configure it differently? I am arguing that since nothing about energy demands partaking of the specific form and nothing about the form is specific to this energy it is not essential that this combination has existence and it is therefore contingent.

      I agree that if everything is chaotic, then this proof (and all knowledge) does not work, this is dependent on the existence of knowledge, but not on any specific scientific discovery (such as fine tuning).

      If you mean something else by A and B please clarify

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    20. We should have been more explicit. It doesn't seem legitimate to use the rules that matter must always have form, and that it can take on different forms, as your proof is only purporting to use the logic of causality (that have been derived from observation). Therefore, we thought it better to use symbols, which might be more abstract than a particular electron, but are more general.

      To try to formulate our objection in the specific case of an electron: If all that necessarily existed was one complex electron, you would not be able to say that the matter could have had another form. For all you know, this is the only thing that necessarily exists and there is nothing else it could have been.

      You can't just argue "nothing about energy demands partaking of the specific form and nothing about the form is specific to this energy." You are assuming your conclusion, viz. that this electron in this exact way is not a necessary existence, which is what you are trying to disprove.

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  2. I'm personally sympathetic to non-infinite universe, so this is a side point for me, but curious how you came up with

    >As all the causes are contingent, there must logically be some Necessary Existence upon which the infinite sequence of contingent beings itself depends.

    What logic is that?

    Also notably Maimonides did not offer this argument (while it has bee widely available), but offered the one from movement of the stars. I personally had conflicting intuitions on this issue, but never saw "logical necessity" for your conclusion.

    Dr_Manhattan

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    1. Our main point is that it doesn't make sense to ultimately justify the existence of a contingent being with another contingent being, as this simply begs the question. Taking the sequence of contingency to infinity does not help the issue. At some point, one of the contingent beings must be caused by a Necessary Existence.

      We think you are making a mistake about Maimonides. Nevertheless, it has nothing to do with this post as we are not relying on the authority of Maimonides for this point. It stands on its own.

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    2. > Our main point is that it doesn't make sense to ultimately justify the existence of a contingent being with another contingent being, as this simply begs the question. Taking the sequence of contingency to infinity does not help the issue. At some point, one of the contingent beings must be caused by a Necessary Existence.

      ...->C(-2)->C(-1)->C(0)->...
      In this chain of causes if you explain C(0) by C(-1), of course you still have the "need" for C(-2), and so on, if that's what you mean by "begging the question". OTOH the totality of causes, (if you imagine the infinity of them) does satisfy the "equation", to put it that way. That is why I never had the same conviction in this argument (and neither did Hume and any number of more modern philosophers). Like I said, I'm prone to agree with your conclusion, but I do not see the source of your convition.

      >We think you are making a mistake about Maimonides. Nevertheless, it has nothing to do with this post as we are not relying on the authority of Maimonides for this point. It stands on its own.

      Agreed, this is a side point, so feel free to disengage, I'm just curious why you think I'm wrong about Maimonides - 1) b/c you have evidence he did buy this argument 2) b/c you think the argument was not available to him.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    3. I think you need to reflect on this on the meta-level. In other words there is something which causes this infinite series to have the properties it does (e.g. a certain law). While there can (hypothetically) be an infinite chain of material events there cannot be an infinite chain of meta-causes (leading to meta-meta-causes ad infinitum) ultimately you must reach an absolutely simple existence (or it itself would need a cause).

      Furthermore, based on the fine tuning there must ultimately be an intelligent cause which a law of physics isn't.

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    4. We should also be careful with the term cause, since there are multiple types of causes (hence the way a law of nature causes an event is distinct from how a particle causes a complex object).

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  3. Another thing, so that we avoid semantic arguments down the line, what's your definition of "god"? How do you distinguish this "simplest necessary existence" from a fundamental particle or a simplest physical law?

    Dr_Manhattan

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    1. Please see the comment threads of the previous post (18) where we took up both those questions in depth with other readers. If there is something you don't understand, you can leave a question there.

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    2. I waded through the comments but do not see a definition.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    3. I believe one main point from the last post is that it is impossible to define God. However there are numerous aspects of fundamental particles and physical laws which differentiate them from God.
      a. Particles and laws are not intelligent, God designs intelligently
      b. Particles are not absolutely simple (energy and form, accidents such as position), God is absolutely simple
      c. Particles are physical God is not

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    4. Our "definition" for the God of Abraham is One Simple Necessary Existence.

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    5. Yaakov,

      I like this definition, at least there is something to talk about here. Here are some observations.

      > a. Particles and laws are not intelligent, God designs intelligently
      > b. Particles are not absolutely simple (energy and form, accidents such as position), God is absolutely simple

      These two properties (which seem close to Maimonide's opition) were always funny to me, because knowledge is in fact not simple. There is no definition of intelligence or knowledge that I know off that does not imply the "knower" having a representation of the "known", which, combined with omniscience implies that god is strictly more complex than the universe (crossing my fingers not to hear one of those brush-off answers of "we're covering that is future post #12389198").

      > c. Particles are physical God is not

      This is an interesting one. What is "physical"? Perhaps something like "cannot be causally affected by other things known to be physical". In some sense fundamental particles, assuming they exist, partake of this also, as they cannot be decomposed or changed in any way, other than location (location is not a property of the particle anyway - its a relation between a number of particles). So seems like it has to be something that cannot is not subject to a relation with a physical object... But "creation" is also a type of a relation. Anyway, I don't not have a good definition.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    6. Dr_Manhattan
      As I mentioned, this is not a definition of God, it is a description of some of the features of particles which do not apply to God.

      Your question about God's knowledge is a good one, but I think we first need to answer the second question. Since you are thinking of knowledge which is embedded in a physical system.

      I think the simplest meaning of not physical would be not being made of matter/energy. Do you have a problem with that meaning?

      Of course not being physical would include not partaking of the accidents of physicality like place and time(which, while relative to other bodies, only applies to physical things).

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    7. Yaakov -

      > As I mentioned, this is not a definition of God, it is a description of some of the features of particles which do not apply to God.

      Disclaimer understood, but you need some "distinction" to talk about god as different from a fundamental substance or law of nature. Which you gave. So we're good on that end as far as I'm concerned.

      > Your question about God's knowledge is a good one, but I think we first need to answer the second question. Since you are thinking of knowledge which is embedded in a physical system.

      Not necessarily. I'm open to any definition of knowledge that I can parse, it does not have to be physically embedded. Of course my initial ideas stem from a physical system, but the definition need not include a physical substrate.

      > I think the simplest meaning of not physical would be not being made of matter/energy. Do you have a problem with that meaning?

      Ok with it, though it would not define attributes of matter such as charge/spin as physical.

      > Of course not being physical would include not partaking of the accidents of physicality like place and time ( which, while relative to other bodies, only applies to physical things).

      I'm tentatively ok with the definition.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    8. " it would not define attributes of matter such as charge/spin as physical."
      That is because I do not understand charge/spin as beings actually separate from matter, their separation is in the mind. In reality there is a charged, spinning particle (for simplification I am ignoring wave/particle duality and uncertainty principle) which is physical. This point is not essential to our discussion so if you want to view properties of physical objects as things, then you may refine the definition recursively to include any property of a physical thing is also physical.

      I will try to address God's knowledge after Shabbat.

      Also since you might not have noticed, I responded to comments from you on posts 15 and 16

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    9. Yaakov, charge/spin was a side point, though an interesting one. On the surface I would agree with you about a spinning particle (with reservations due to poor knowledge of particle phys) but charge is seems harder to explain that way. Where I strongly agree with you is about "essences and accidents" - I believe they're all in the mind. There is no such existence as "whiteness of a wall", there are just particles with certain properties, etc. In a sense there is no essence either other than the fundamental particles, IMO.

      Dr_Manhattan


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    10. I disagree with you about essence. The essence of the wall is not the fundamental particles which make it up but rather the order which it has; otherwise it would be high entropy chaos (and not a wall). Similarly natural things are also subject to lawful order. This is what allows for knowledge; random chaotic motions of particles cannot be the basis of a scientific understanding. For example, when studying biology, we study the functional order of the animal (whose organizing principle is survival), which is made of organs, which are functioning organizations of cells... until you get to fundamental particles.

      Based on this, let us try and understand God's knowledge.

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    11. The issue of God’s knowledge is a difficult one, but I will try to explain it clearly. Hopefully through discussing it, the idea will become clear.
      The reason our knowledge is always complex is because we gain knowledge through observation. Our knowledge works through the imagination (e.g. prototypes of categories etc.) and the senses (experiment) and is therefore only an incomplete approximation of a fundamentally simple concept. To the degree that one has knowledge of the simple principle; one does not need to have a separate representation for each particular, but rather knows all the particulars as expressions of the simple concept. However, God knows things as their creator. A metaphor for this would be a programmer, who knows what his computer will do not via observation but rather because he knows the organizing principle of the program. Similarly God has knowledge of Himself, (which is absolutely simple, because He is simple) He then knows other things insofar as their existence is dependant upon and emerges from His wisdom. Therefore His knowledge does not imply any complexity of the particulars (since they are implicit in His knowledge)

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    12. Yaakov - few comments.

      1) First it sort of sounds like the law of gravity "knows that an apple falls".

      2) Probably not crucial to your point, but programmers "know" what their program is going to do by "playing" it in their head. It's similar to observation.

      3) Whatever you say about the "how" of knowledge, I do not have any definition of what knowledge is other than some sort of a model that connects/relates different "knowns".

      It seems to me to the degree that someone would claim the world is "inherently complex" (as in the fine-tuning argument, special laws + special initial conditions) they would claim that knowing our universe would require modeling that many special facts, defying claim of simplicity.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    13. Re: 2

      If you know the organizing principle of a program or some thing in existence you don't actually have to see it behave at all to know what it is and what it will do. Playing it out in your head can be done, but the concept itself can be held in the mind clearly without playing out its activity in a simulation. You might gain the knowledge first by observing the activity or playing it out in your head but once you gain the knowledge the activity itself is not necessary to know what the essence of the program or thing is.

      For instance the concept of gravity can be first acquired by observing the motion of massive objects, but once you possess the concept that mass attracts mass (or bends spacetime toward itself) you don't need to see mass do that to know that it is part of the essence of something massive. The equation states/defines the relationship in the absence of playing it out. It is perceiving the state of affairs regarding objects with mass, not observing mass attract in any specific instance or simulation.

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    14. 1. If the gravity has knowledge of itself then it knows in principle that material bodies fall (it may not know about specific apples or even hat an apple is) and 'acts' according to that knowledge, such knowledge would be very simple, but that assumes that gravity has knowledge. Does it?
      I have wondered about whether the laws of physics or subatomic particles are intelligent, specifically in the context of of the principle of least action. but I don't know how to answer that question convincingly.

      2. I was trying to think of an example which distinguishes between knowledge of an observer and of a designer (knowing a program through a finite list of outputs is more complex knowledge than knowing the program itself), to serve as a metaphor, but if it doesn't work you can drop it.

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    15. 3. Some knowledge is of relationships, but there is also knowledge of what a thing is.

      The complexity of fine tuning, comes from trying to explain it based on matter, teleologically it is not complex. It is the idea that the physical world should be such that complexity and intelligence could exist.

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    16. Yaakov -
      > The complexity of fine tuning, comes from trying to explain it based on matter, teleologically it is not complex. It is the idea that the physical world should be such that complexity and intelligence could exist.

      Even if you reduce the knowledge requirements down to basic teleology, it seems there are several objects involved - universe and intelligent life.

      But doing that seems very counterintuitive to me. Creating a fine-tuned universe seems to involve knowing several parameters+initial conditions to a very precise degree *before* the universe is created. These are separate and independent pieces of knowledge.

      Saying that only "idea that the physical world should be such that complexity and intelligence could exist" seems like wishing (as if communicating with a Genie) rather than knowing. I can't see a way around this.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    17. > 1. If the gravity has knowledge of itself then it knows in principle that material bodies fall (it may not know about specific apples or even hat an apple is) and 'acts' according to that knowledge, such knowledge would be very simple, but that assumes that gravity has knowledge.

      My intuition is that laws of nature are obviously not intelligent. The opposite intuition is sort of saying "gravity knows its formula, then applies it to all objects" - which seems awfully convoluted and anthropomorphic to me.

      Another way of putting it, saying that the laws are conscious seems outright ridiculous (it would require assuming all that extra consciousness machinery), saying that the laws are "unconsciously" intelligent (like computers or simple reflexive animals/plants) is not conveying any extra information beyond F= (G*m1*m2)/r^2.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    18. From all this you could sort of see where Spinoza/Einstein got their "pantheistic" ideas of equating god and the universe - they seemed to agree that god has to be at least as complex as the universe...

      Dr_Manhattan

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    19. Sorry, my point about gravity isn't clear. My intuition (whatever that is worth) is also that gravity is not intelligent, I was only responding to your statement that gravity knows an apple falls, and was saying that such a conclusion only makes sense if gravity is intelligent, but agreeing that in that hypothetical, the way gravity knows about the apple could serve as a metaphor for how God has knowledge.

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    20. Dr_M
      Is there separate fine tuning for intelligent life? (RAZ/REF do you know?)

      Also, do you have a problem with my suggestion that there is knowledge of what a thing is, which is a different kind of knowledge then relationships (and is at least potentially simple)

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    21. Yaakov -

      I believe the whole idea of fine-tuning is supposed to be "for intelligence", if you buy the teleology. Although given the facts you can ask whether it's for just life, intelligence being an unintended concequence; there would need to be extra tuned parameters shown to produce intelligence over and above just "life".

      > Also, do you have a problem with my suggestion that there is knowledge of what a thing is, which is a different kind of knowledge then relationships (and is at least potentially simple)

      If the thing is composite, understanding it *is* unserstanding the relationships (of the parts).

      Dr_Manhattan

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    22. The main fact that implies fine tuning for life, as opposed to rest of the ordered universe, is the fine tuning required to have the process of nucleosynthesis result in the carbon atom, which seems necessary to have life (because of carbon's unique ability to form long chains of molecules like DNA. See Dawkin's video on post 5). From Fred Hoyle's wiki page:

      "An early paper of Hoyle's made an interesting use of the anthropic principle. In trying to work out the routes of stellar nucleosynthesis, he observed that one particular nuclear reaction, the triple-alpha process, which generates carbon, would require the carbon nucleus to have a very specific resonance energy for it to work. The large amount of carbon in the universe, which makes it possible for carbon-based life-forms of any kind to exist, demonstrated that this nuclear reaction must work. Based on this notion, he made a prediction of the energy levels in the carbon nucleus that was later borne out by experiment.
      These energy levels, while needed to produce carbon in large quantities, were statistically very unlikely. Hoyle later wrote:

      Would you not say to yourself, "Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."
      —Fred Hoyle

      This is the one example of fine tuning that Steven Weinberg disputes where he thinks the energy level could vary by about 25% and still get carbon (which is still fine tuning, but not as astounding). Also, highly speculative arguments are made about hypothesized silicon based life.

      Nevertheless, the proof does not rely of saying that God created the universe for the exclusive purpose of life (as many religious people try to say). We'll discuss this in a later post, where we arrive at nearly the opposite conclusion.

      In regards to intelligent life, there is simply no way we can have knowledge of fine tuning for intelligent life, as we don't have any real understanding of what intelligence is or what is necessary to get intelligence. Fine tuning is based upon knowledge, and when we have ignorance in an area, we have no knowledge or proof of fine tuning.

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    23. > Nevertheless, the proof does not rely of saying that God created the universe for the exclusive purpose of life (as many religious people try to say). We'll discuss this in a later post, where we arrive at nearly the opposite conclusion.

      What do you mean by "does not rely ... exclusive purpose of life" - it seems the whole power of the fine-tuning argument rests on that; there is not much fine-tuning needed to produce rocks. Do you mean "definitely for life, but also some other things"? This would at least make sense.

      > In regards to intelligent life, there is simply no way we can have knowledge of fine tuning for intelligent life, as we don't have any real understanding of what intelligence is or what is necessary to get intelligence. Fine tuning is based upon knowledge, and when we have ignorance in an area, we have no knowledge or proof of fine tuning.

      We kind of do. We can build machines that do many intelligent things. True they're not as good at general everyday things as humans (yet) but they're quite intelligent in their "domain of expertise" - significantly better than humans: http://xkcd.com/1002/. Their circle of experise is noticably expanding in the last 20 years.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    24. We mean what we said. Fine tuning is not dependent on intelligent life. Reread post 3 if are your still unsure, specifically the paragraph that begins :

      "We want to make it clear that we are not saying that the constants of nature were set for human existence exclusively..."

      Perhaps you have not watched the videos of scientists we have embedded in post 3, 4, 7, 14, and 15.

      Your incredulous attitude stems from your fundamental misunderstanding of just how hard it is to get a simple rock. You need the cosmological constant fine tuned (that's the one with 120 decimal places), you need the initial conditions fine tuned (that's the one that is 1 out of 10^10^123). You need the fine structure constant fine tuned, as well as the ratio between the gravitational force and the electromagnetic force, in addition to the fine tuning of the ratio of the masses between an electron and proton. You also need all the fine tuning to get stars which last long enough to produce all the heavier elements that make up a rock.

      This attitude, which is based on ignorance, is presumably the cause of your other mistake from post 15 where you said you think it is easy to make a universe. That spawned your monkey god using rule 110 theory, which apparently is still competing in your mind with the God of Abraham for the title of Designer of the universe.

      While you seem to think that you partially understand human intelligence (at least the way a computer scientist thinks he does), scientists as a whole readily admit that we do not have a good theory of how the human mind works. Neuroscience is still baffled by the problem of consciousness, biologists have no clue what is necessary for evolution to produce intelligence, and the philosophical problem of mind/body has not been sufficiently resolved to this date.

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    25. "If the thing is composite, understanding it *is* unserstanding the relationships (of the parts)."
      right, but if the thing is simple then the knowledge is simple, so since God's knowledge is of Himself (and everything else is known only insofar as it results from His existence) the knowledge is simple

      Also, my impression is that fine tuning is almost entirely not specific to life but rather to complexity in the universe

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    26. > We mean what we said. Fine tuning is not dependent on intelligent life. Reread post 3 if are your still unsure, specifically the paragraph that begins :
      > "We want to make it clear that we are not saying that the constants of nature were set for human existence exclusively..."

      Did you consider the possibility that would be interpreted as an AND - “god meant to produce people AND bunch of other stuff”. This way the fine-tuning improbability will still be of the same order as is typically claimed by other fine-tuners. If you’re *not* claiming this, you have to state what you are in fact claiming so that proper calculations can be made. “Wonderous creations of all orders of magnitude” is too slippery claim for my taste.

      (Never mind the other part of post 3 “Barrow showed that if the constant was greater or smaller by 4%, the nuclear fusion in stars would not produce carbon, thereby making carbon-based life impossible.”, where you’re clearly using carbon-based life to pump up your claim.)

      > Your incredulous attitude stems from your fundamental misunderstanding of just how hard it is to get a simple rock.

      If you want to say universe is fine-tuned for rocks, say so. We can discuss then. But please make a statement that is falsifiable.

      > This attitude, which is based on ignorance, is presumably the cause of your other mistake from post 15 where you said you think it is easy to make a universe. That spawned your monkey god using rule 110 theory, which apparently is still competing in your mind with the God of Abraham for the title of Designer of the universe.

      Bhahaha. Monkeys. Infinite Chickens. God of Abraham. Love all the irrelevant phrases you get hung up on. Whatever rocks you boats, really.

      > While you seem to think that you partially understand human intelligence (at least the way a computer scientist thinks he does), scientists as a whole readily admit that we do not have a good theory of how the human mind works. Neuroscience is still baffled by the problem of consciousness, biologists have no clue what is necessary for evolution to produce intelligence, and the philosophical problem of mind/body has not been sufficiently resolved to this date.

      Consciousness, evolution of intelligence, mind/body have nothing to do with intelligence.
      Also not sure what “necessary for evolution to produce intelligence” is. Mutation, selection and inheritance, same things that are necessary to produce wings or fins? I suspect you mean something else, but not sure.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    27. Yaakov -

      > "If the thing is composite, understanding it *is* unserstanding the relationships (of the parts)."
      right, but if the thing is simple then the knowledge is simple, so since God's knowledge is of Himself (and everything else is known only insofar as it results from His existence) the knowledge is simple

      "knowing everything that results from himself" - one model for this is calculation, which implies change. the other model is observation, implying change caused by the observed on the observer. perhaps there is something else, but I don't know it.

      Another way of putting it is "if god knows only himself, and self is different from the universe, god cannot know universe".

      > Also, my impression is that fine tuning is almost entirely not specific to life but rather to complexity in the universe

      Yeah, apparently that's what R&R meant (though they did included the Probability of carbon-based life forms in the same post). But this is not the typical fine-tuning claim. And I'm insisting that they specify what exactly was fine-tuned, if we're going to be talking numbers.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    28. "By that definition people can start thinking that http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_GBwuYuOOs is also a sign of great intelligence!"

      A fractal is one thing with a certain order to it. The universe is one ordered system with many different branches of ordered systems within it that are different yet related to each other. It's not simply more fractals spawning, it's different systems entirely. It would be like a fractal spawning an entirely new pattern, like maybe argyle, and then that pattern spawning a polka dot pattern, etc.

      In other words, the interaction of fundamental particles and energy is itself a system, a very fundamental one. These interactions give rise to systems that operate on a more massive scale (solar systems, the formation of stars from gas, etc) which in turn give rise to different systems that operate on a smaller scale (the formation of the crust of the earth with its mountains, rivers, valleys, deserts, oceans) which then create the platform for still further systems of order to emerge (DNA/life, evolution, etc.). As RAZ/REF have repeated numerous times, everywhere humans look in the universe we see orderly systems that exist in a hierarchical, contingent fashion. Every corner we look, every rock we uncover always shows the signs of being a part of some particular sub-system of the universe. And it's not simply the same system repeating itself over and over and over again, like the fractal (which by the way I love to look at and have wondered what it means). You could say that somehow at the bottom it is the same system or formula repeating over and over, but it certainly does not appear that way to reason and experience because the principles of one system oftentimes do not carry to another system with the exception of referencing a more fundamental system in relation to a more complex one (like particle physics to physiology). And our experience shows that the formation of rocks is a separate, localized system of order, distinct from that of, say, psychology. So the evidence seems to indicate that the universe is very different than the video you reference.

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    29. Rafi - I pointed to the fractal video because we cannot rely on our emotional impressions to decide whether the system is complicated or not. I think a person who is (unlike you) unaware of fractals will think that the images must have been created by infinite painters. This is especially so it the claim is measurable (probabilistic), but it appears that R&R never claimed relying on probability (explicitly), and are deriving the power of their argument from the specificity of constants. I never bought this line of reasoning at all - see "Part 2".

      The other thing you might find interesting is what I pointed out re: scale of the universe animation being largely interesting because of all the biological stuff, which (thankfully) is being recognized on this blog as the product of the blind forces of evolution.

      Dr_Manhattan

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  4. Dr_M:

    1) It is clear that you do not comprehend how the term simple is being used. The idea of God may be more complex than the universe, but God's EXISTENCE is necessarily simple. Perhaps you may benefit from re-reading the posts.

    2) Everything in the universe is subject to causality. For example , just because a fundamental particle cannot be decomposed does not exclude it from the laws of causality. How did the particle come into existence? Obviously, it is not a necessary existence. We must attribute some cause to the fundamental particle coming into existence. The same cannot be said of God, the one simple necessary existence.

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    1. > The idea of God may be more complex than the universe, but God's EXISTENCE is necessarily simple.

      3 = 1?

      Seriously no, I don't mean "the idea of god is more complex than the universe". I mean actual god that supposedly knows everything is more complex than the universe. Which is the only way I understand knowledge.

      Dr_Manhattan

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    2. Jeff
      1. What do you mean that the idea of God may be more complex then the universe? How can the idea of God be anything other than absolutely simple?
      2. Causality of particles is a tricky issue.
      Even Dr. Schroeder rejected a simple argument from causes because of the idea of quantum fluctuations http://www.aish.com/ci/sam/Stephen_Hawking__God.html

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    3. 1. I mean that the idea of God may be more difficult to comprehend by the human mind than the laws of the universe.

      2. Ok, but what caused the quantum fluctuation that resulted in the particle coming into existence. It would seem that ultimately, everything in the physical world must be subject to causation because at one time it must have come into existence and there must have been something that caused that to occur.
      Despite this, I understand that being subject to causation alone may not be sufficient. For example, one may say that the laws of nature are subject to causation because they were brought into existence, yet one would not say that the laws themselves are physical. Unless one supposes that the laws are eternal, yet never found expression until the universe came into existence.

      Your thoughts, Yaakov?

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    4. Dr_M:

      Your question about God';s knowledge is not so simple. I think it hinges on the idea of God's knowledge not being separate from his essence, as opposed to the human condition in which man's knowledge is separate from his essence.

      Thoughts?

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  5. jeff
    1. I agree and misunderstood your original post to mean that the idea of God is complex( i.e. not simple), as opposed to you speaking about difficulty (not easy) to the human mind.
    For the sake of clarity, could we use complex=not (absolutely) simple and difficulty= not easy?
    2. Are you are assuming that all physical things (including the universe) came into existence because of the big bang? We have a principle of conservation of energy which indicates that at least in principle energy (which is physical) could be eternal. Also, causation of quantum fluctuations is a tricky concept, Are you assuming laws of quantum mechanics are some sort of platonic form?

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    1. 1. Yes, absolutely.

      2. I would assume that the building blocks of the universe had to be present to allow for the big bang to occur, no? And, yes, I am wondering if the laws of quantum have some sort of platonic form. What are your thoughts on the matter?

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    2. If the building blocks were present, are you assuming a plato like eternal matter? In general, thinking about pre-bigbang is tricky since time/change came into existence with the big bang.

      I agree that according to modern science it appears that everything physical has come into existence, however I prefer not basing my knowledge of God on any specific scientific paradigm, but rather basing it on the more general observation that everything physical is contingent (whether or not it came into existence at some point in time, or whether it is eternal).

      The issue of Platonic forms is fascinating but exceeds the scope of this blog post. If you would like to discuss it, you may email me at the email address on my blogger account

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  6. > With this in mind, we can answer the question of "Who caused God?" by undermining the very premise of the question. The question is only legitimate regarding contingent existences (beings that have a cause for their existence), but makes no sense with regards to a Necessary Existence (which has no cause for its Existence). The premise of the question assumes that the term 'God' represents a created contingent being, just like all other things in the chain of causation. However, since God is that which Necessarily Exists and starts off the chain, it makes no sense to ask "Who created God?"

    I was wondering something while I reviewed the proof in my head. We have shown:

    1) The universe has within it tremendous order and design;
    2) This design came from a Designer;
    3) The Simple Necessary Existence has no cause and must be Simple.

    But have we shown that the Designer of 2) is the Simple Necessary Existence of 3)?

    I'll illustrate my question: Men are creatures and have within them the capacity to create and B'chirah to go against G's system for them. It is therefore possible for them to create systems which are NOT part of G's Order.

    Why couldn't it be the case that there is a Prime Simple Necessary Existence upon which all other existences rely that created something that I will call (god) which then had the capacity to create any worlds or systems (he) saw fit to create totally for his own reasons (whether they be boredom, amusement, kindness, irony...)?

    And for strange reasons we do not know (god) created us and gave us strange laws.

    I'm wondering if you have considered this possibility, and if so, what your answer to it is.

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    1. Are you asking the following:

      Granted that there is One Simple Necessary Existence (God) who is ultimately responsible for our universe and is therefore the King of the Universe.

      However, maybe He did not create our universe directly, but created complex contingent existences (whatever kind of subgods you choose, i.e., Greek gods, supercomputers, transhumans, aliens,... ) and gave them power and they created our universe.

      Your question is then if we can disprove the existence of any or all of these subgods.

      Is this correct?

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    2. We do not think that we can disprove the existence of these subgods any more than we can disprove the existence of ghosts (which operate alongside of the laws of nature).

      All the evidence can be explained by the One Simple Necessary Existence which we know exists. The positing of these subgods seems to be a product of man's imagination and wishes. See post 22 for more details.

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