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Dec 29 2007

First cause argument and machine guns

Sometimes in apologetics, you get an argument that something (i.e., morality, the universe) cannot exist without a creator. But when you try to pin down the fallacies in these arguments, the person presenting them will often back off to a safer position, such as: “All I’m saying is that there COULD be a God who started everything, and that is at least as plausible as the foolish idea that the universe (or whatever) came into existence without intelligence behind it. Surely you must grant me that much.”

Case in point: a theist wrote to me:

Current observations indicate that order and consistency (e.g., “design”) can arise from intelligence or from undirected events (e.g., Mandelbrot patterns, chance).

Given those observations, is there any reason to assume that the design of the universe more likely arose from intelligence (theism/deism) or from undirected events (atheism)?

First of all, just because you have two possible events doesn’t mean that the two must be equally likely. Some people actually play the lottery this way. They reason: “I either win or I don’t. So my odds of winning are 50%.” Wrong. The odds of winning the Texas jackpot are about 3*10^-8, which is way WAY less than 50%. Likewise, even if we grant that the existence of God is “a possibility” that doesn’t necessarily mean that the probability is any more that 10^-googleplex. Just about anything that you make up off the top of your head COULD turn out to be true, but probably isn’t.

But explaining logical fallacies can be difficult when dealing with somebody who is convinced that he’s got an airtight case. So I responded with:

Current observations indicate that people can be killed by machine guns, or by things that are not machine guns.

Given those observations, is there any reason to assume that Julius Caesar was more likely killed by a machine gun, or by a non-machine gun event?

He wasn’t buying it:

We know with reasonable certainty that there were no machine guns during Caesar’s time, so the latter is best assumed.

So what is it that you know about the origin of the big bang that makes your analogy relevant?

But I said:

We certainly do not know that. All we know is that we don’t KNOW of any machine guns in Julius Caesar’s time. Yet we know that it is possible for machine guns to exist. So what is your proof that machine guns did not exist then?

Another thing we know is that it is much easier to kill someone with a machine gun than without one. Given the reasonable belief that Julius Caesar was killed (rather than dying of natural causes), isn’t it fair to say that if there is even a small chance that machine guns existed, then it is at least equally likely that they were used as that they were not?

Why is assuming the existence of something complex, like a machine gun, not plausible to you, when it can be used as a handy explanation for Julius Caesar’s death?

What’s wrong with this logic? As far as I can tell, nothing. Oh sure, it sounds stupid, but I think it’s just as solid as the first cause argument.

The problem with postulating “an intelligence” as the answer to “where did the universe come from?” is that as far as we know, there wasn’t any intelligence available at the time. Intelligence in the world we’re aware of universally requires some kind of brains, and the brains that we know didn’t just happen to exist; they are the end result of billions of years worth of painstaking evolutionary processes.

Could there have been a cosmic super-brain, long before the brains that we know of came into existence? Sure, anything’s possible. And Julius Caesar could have been killed by a machine gun.

But you know, I think he probably wasn’t anyway.

22 comments

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  1. 1
    Tommykey

    The truth is that Julius Caesar committed suicide. His colleagues in the Senate were comparing knives and the crazy son of a bitch kept running into them.

  2. 2
    Martin

    I had a similar argument with a friend of mine, though mostly this was that sort of argument where she was sounding me out to see what I would say and not necessarily defending her question tooth and nail. But the question was: why not consider the possibility that life on Earth arose from some extraterrestrial source? Isn’t that as good as God or evolution or whatever else? I responded that while it certainly was possible that was the way it happened, without any credible evidence to point to that explanation, then there’s no sensible reason to entertain it as plausible. This is a common error believers make: conflating the possible with the plausible. It’s not sensible to go ahead and take a claim for something seriously just because it can’t be completely disproved. To crib from Douglas Adams, the universe could have been sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure. But without evidence to point us to that as a plausible explanation, Occam’s Razor prompts us to look for more prosaic, naturalistic explanations.

  3. 3
    Tommykey

    I wrote about a similar thing on my blog recently. I have been critiquing Rodney Stark’s latest book “Discovering God”.He criticizes both “militant atheists” who dismiss the miracles and fantastical elements of the Bible as fairy tales and religious believers who try to explain them with possible natural causes (like the plagues of Egypt being caused by a volcanic eruption).Stark argues that all that one needs to do is to postulate a god that created the universe. “Surely a God who created the natural laws could suspend them at will.”Raising Lazarus from the dead? The virgin birth? Joshua making the sun stop in the sky? According to Stark, “some believe these things happened, some believe they didn’t-AND BOTH POSITIONS ARE BASED ON FAITH!”Like you write above, it is not a matter of either it happened or it didn’t. It is a matter of how plausible the event is. How plausible is it that a being that created a universe so vast takes such an inordinate interest in the affairs of a collection of tribes in a small strip of land in the Middle East? And how plausible is it that said deity is going to cause the sun to stand still in the sky for almost an entire day ONLY ONCE IN HISTORY just so that the Israelites could slaughter retreating enemy soldiers in a battle that was already won and in which most of the enemy soldiers were killed by god’s hailstones anyway?

  4. 4
    Rhology

    Can you, then, provide an explanation for the origin of matter, time, and energy?The biblical worldview can. One might say that a worldview that provides answers to such big questions is worth a look in lieu of one that doesn’t. Don’t you think?

  5. 5
    Tommykey

    Just because it purports to provide answers does not mean the answers are even remotely correct.Time is a human construct. It does not exist independently of us. It is a way of measuring the passage of existence using available frames of reference, such as the amount of time it takes for the Earth to rotate on its axis or to complete an orbit around the sun.As for the origin of matter and energy, I leave that task to the scientists.

  6. 6
    Rhology

    That’s a “no” if I’ve ever heard one.If time is a human construct, why appeal to it to prop up the idea of evolution? “Leaving it to the scientists” is a pitiful answer. William Lane Craig once asked that question to Peter W Atkins, Fellow and Prof of Chem at Oxford.Atkins’ answer was that, though the universe exploded out of nothing, there actually was something, kind of. Negatively-charged mathematical concepts and positively-charged mathematical concepts… and if you add up their net charge, it was neutral. So there was nothing. But there was something.Snicker. Any other ideas?

  7. 7
    Luis

    “That’s a “no” if I’ve ever heard one.”What I always find amusing but infuriating about religionists is how they think they’ve got it all down just because their holy book tells them so. They talk with smug superiority about matters they have little interest in actually looking into; instead, they wave some remaining mystery in science in front of the scientist or atheist’s face and say the equivalent of “Ah-huh! So YOU can’t answer this! See how superior my world view is?” But the minute the scientists do provide an answer, the religionist goes scurrying off, claiming the discovery as their own, or else trying to denigrate it by invoking “hatred of God” or some such thing.I think I agree with Dawkins: however inadequate these scientific hypotheses about the origins of matter and time may be, they are still many orders of magnitude better than the non-answers provided by religion. Religion posits a being or beings which must itself/themselves be more complex than any of the phenomena they purport to explain; one makes absolutely no headway by saying “God did it” as an ultimate explanation, not only because God is left unexplained (and why should the regression of causality terminate when the theist says so? And if we allow that not all events have to be caused – as quantum mechanics seems to indicate – why insist on something as fancy as an intelligent being?) but because that God is at least as improbable as any of the phenomena he is hauled in to explain. This is really just another variant of the “God of the gaps”. Many, many times has God been seen as the explanation for some natural phenomena or other, only to be overthrown in each instance by an explanation having nothing to do with the supernatural. What makes you so sure that THIS time round, the Biblical “explanation” has got it right? The Biblical explanation has failed everywhere else; perhaps you’re trying to salvage a scrap of dignity for it by invoking the greatest mysteries in science and having it that maybe these fall under the rubric of “God did it”. But even IF science brushes up against questions it can never satisfactorily answer, that doesn’t mean that religion is any better qualified to do so. Tommy’s “I leave that to the scientists” is in fact perfectly reasonable.

  8. 8
    Don

    Can you, then, provide an explanation for the origin of matter, time, and energy?I most certainly can. It came into being when a giant purple gila monster from another plane of reality ate some bad sushi and vomited out our universe.Gross, perhaps, but a just-so story is a just-so story, whether I made it up 5 seconds ago or some middle eastern farmer made it up milennia ago.Anybody can “answer” these questions as well as religion can. What matters is how well the answers are justified by evidence, not whether they are “complete” or somesuch nonsense. I’ll take no answer over some made-up claptrap non-answer any day.

  9. 9
    Rhology

    Hi Lui,they wave some remaining mystery in science in front of the scientist or atheist’s face and say the equivalent of “Ah-huh! So YOU can’t answer this! See how superior my world view is?”You act like there’s very little “mystery” to go. On the presupposition of naturalism, you CAN’T answer this and never will be able to. So it’s a little worse than you’re making it out to be.But the minute the scientists do provide an answer, the religionist goes scurrying off, claiming the discovery as their own, or else trying to denigrate it by invoking “hatred of God” or some such thing.Naked assertion which can be answered with such. What’s an example you have in mind?scientific hypotheses about the origins of matter and time may beThat’s all they can ever be – hypotheses – if you want to be scientific, which seems to be your buzzword meaning “true”. No scientist, no human, will ever be able to OBSERVE the origin of time, energy, and matter. You might reexamine how you use the word “scientific”.they are still many orders of magnitude better than the non-answers provided by religionLet’s compare: NATURALISM’S ANSWER = we don’t know and there’s not a way to know scientifically, which is our big thingBIBLE’S ANSWER = we DO know. And it explains quite a lot, really.I don’t know about calling answers “non-answers”, but it might be a matter of perspective and/or thick-headedness.Religion posits a being or beings which must itself/themselves be more complex than any of the phenomena they purport to explain1) The Bible doesn’t present a “complex” being. It presents a God Who is One. 2) There’s no reason to run away screaming from your bogeyman of “complex being”. Oh no, a complex entity! AAAAHHHH! It answers the question, which is more than your “simpler” “explanations” do.only because God is left unexplainedNot in Christianity. God is explained plenty; He has revealed quite a lot about Himself.why should the regression of causality terminate when the theist says so?B/c He is not contingent and not subject to time. If we DON’T terminate the causality, we’d end up in your predicament, where we have no idea. if we allow that not all events have to be caused – as quantum mechanics seems to indicate – why insist on something as fancy as an intelligent being?I love it – you think you can weasel out of the pickle by claiming that not all things have a cause.You want to make that bed, you’re welcome to lie in it. Just remember you said that when I appeal to it in later discussions.God is at least as improbable as any of the phenomena he is hauled in to explain. Naked assertion. Where’s the argument?What makes you so sure that THIS time round, the Biblical “explanation” has got it right?Well, let’s clarify. I’m sure that EVERY time around, the Biblical explanation has it right.In this case, the one option gives an answer. The other doesn’t even have one that is both logically possible and not subject to complete ad hoc conjecture. The Biblical explanation has failed everywhere else;Naked assertion.No it hasn’t.See how easy that was? but a just-so story is a just-so storyIt sure is.Now, what’s the evidence for this?Anybody can “answer” these questions as well as religion can.That must be why nobody has been able to answer them yet.Go ahead – I’ve been waiting. That was my 1st question, and what I’ve seen so far is a lot of hand-waving and coming after MY worldview, which I didn’t even state in this combox.All you seem to be able to do is attack – DEFEND YOUR POSITION for once.Peace,Rhology

  10. 10
    Martin

    I see we’re greeting the new year with a freshly squeezed glass of nonsense from Rho.You’re absolutely right that science does not have all the answers to everything that exists right now. So what? It never claimed to. Only religion makes that claim, and yours is no different than thousands of others that have come down the pike. As Lui pointed out quite correctly, filling gaps in your knowledge with religious beliefs is simply the God of the Gaps fallacy, and is the classic argument from ignorance. “Science can’t explain it, so it must be God.” Well, not necessarily.Also, that your God belief satisfies you in that it presents an easy answer in the form of a magic being that can obey whatever law you want it to obey whenever it needs to be called on to solve this or that or the other mystery means nothing more than that you find it satisfying. Automatically accepting a religious answer simply because it appears to give an answer is really a testament to nothing more than your intellectual laziness and lack of curiosity. Sure, anyone could criticize science simply by saying things like, “The naturalistic answer does not and cannot provide an answer to the cause of the universe, but the All Knowing Magical Book of Light can, and it’s Harvey the Invisible Cosmic Rabbit! See how much better that is?” Hey, it’s at least as good an answer as your God is, isn’t it?In any event, I like how you’re back to your usual habits of projecting your own behaviors onto the other commenters here, who have been answering you quite honestly and openly. (Mocking them for “naked assertions” when your entire position is nothing more than one big one, for instance.) Anyway, your comments have certainly shored up the points I was making in my post about the faux-intellectualism of religion, in that much of religion’s appeal is in convincing people who don’t want to have to work for their knowledge that they know all there is to know about everything.

  11. 11
    Rhology

    Martin,Happy New Year to you!It never claimed to.OK, fair enough.What I *do* hear a lot of is optimistic claims that science WILL figure it all out eventually. It’s a science-of-the-gaps argument.yours is no different than thousands of others that have come down the pike.Every religion is different. Do you mean that mine is like the others in that they’re all irrational. Up to you to prove mine is, though I’d argue with you that others are.filling gaps in your knowledge with religious beliefs is simply the God of the Gaps fallacyFilling gaps in your knowledge with beliefs that science will one day solve all these questions is simply the Science of the Gaps fallacy, Promissory Materialism. Why should anyone grant that more respect?“Science can’t explain it, so it must be God.”“Science can’t explain it, but I’m just SURE it’ll be able to in the future! No, really, promise!”a magic beingStrawman – God isn’t “magic”. can obey whatever law you want it to obey whenever it needs to be called on to solve this or that or the other mystery Strawman – my presentation of God is many 1000s of yrs old, not ad hoc at all.Rather, your presentation of “science”, bending the rules to encompass certain metaphysical claims that you want it to, shoehorning naturalism into it, and making inconsistent moral claims are much more ad hoc.Automatically accepting a religious answer simply because it appears to give an answer is really a testament to nothing more than your intellectual laziness and lack of curiosity.You can’t reasonably know any of that from some short blog interactions.I’m curious about a lot of things, sure. But not the things that are confirmed. But the Bible doesn’t give all knowledge, so there are tons of things outside that about which I’m curious. Just b/c you don’t like where I’m certain about things doesn’t mean it’s justifiable to call me names.All Knowing Magical Book of Light can, and it’s Harvey the Invisible Cosmic Rabbit!Do those exist? Can they be examined?No, b/c you just made them up. Give your readers more credit than that!Peace,Rhology

  12. 12
    Martin

    OK, fair enough.What I *do* hear a lot of is optimistic claims that science WILL figure it all out eventually. It’s a science-of-the-gaps argument.Well, I’m not sure who you’re hearing those incautious claims from. Probably not physicists or cosmologists. The most honest thing they could say would be that whatever we do find out, it will in all likelihood introduce a whole new slew of mysteries to examine. But that’s why science continues the study. There are always more new things to learn. We’ve learned more about the cosmos in the last 10 years than we ever knew before, mainly to find out that what we still didn’t know was staggering.The point is that the tools of science are the best and most reliable we have for learning what we can learn and do know, however incomplete it may be. Plugging in gaps in knowledge by making stuff up gets no one anywhere.Every religion is different. Do you mean that mine is like the others in that they’re all irrational. Up to you to prove mine is, though I’d argue with you that others are.Well, all theistic religions profess belief in unproven and apparently unprovable invisible magic deities. The difference is in the details and level of popularity, I suppose, but in the big picture I see little difference.“Science can’t explain it, but I’m just SURE it’ll be able to in the future! No, really, promise!”Again, since I haven’t said this, this is a straw man. In the future science will know more than it does now, and there will be more to discover. In any event, in your belittling of science I haven’t seen you introduce a method for obtaining knowledge whose methods are better. So this all just sounds like you’re compensating for ignorance with snark. Why you think that’s impressive is a mystery.Strawman – God isn’t “magic”….my presentation of God is many 1000s of yrs old, not ad hoc at all.Rather, your presentation of “science”, bending the rules to encompass certain metaphysical claims that you want it to, shoehorning naturalism into it, and making inconsistent moral claims are much more ad hoc.I’m trying to decipher this blather and am truly baffled. First off, why you think your “presentation of God” should be automatically accorded some degree of respect, or be taken seriously at all, because it is thousands of years old, is silly. The Egyptian gods were worshiped for many thousands of years before yours. What’s the point?Furthermore, this nonsense about “bending the rules to encompass certain metaphysical claims that you want it to, shoehorning naturalism into it, and making inconsistent moral claims,” seems to come from nowhere but your deeply confused lack of understanding. Science is a naturalistic process, period. It’s all about drawing conclusions about the natural world based on observation and experimentation, and it isn’t anything else. What rules do you think it’s bending to “encompass metaphysical claims,” especially when it’s already been made clear to you that questions of ultimate origins and the like are still very much open. When science pursues answers to these questions it doesn’t try to change the rules, it just applies the same methods it always has. Right now we can pretty much trace the history of the universe back to when it was around the size of a grapefruit. Whatever came before that is still in the realm of speculation. It’s exciting speculation, though, and much more intellectually rewarding, I’d think, then just settling on “Goddidit” and everyone going home.As for moral claims, that’s irrelevant to the topic at hand.Speaking of God: if my calling him “magic” gets your knickers in a twist, then tell me: your God is alleged to have created the universe by an act of will. If that isn’t magic, then please provide the detailed and scientifically testable explanation for the mechanisms your God employs to create universes. You might have a Nobel Prize in your future.>>Automatically accepting a religious answer simply because it appears to give an answer is really a testament to nothing more than your intellectual laziness and lack of curiosity.<<You can’t reasonably know any of that from some short blog interactions.Well, that’s what the interactions we’ve had here with you have indicated, so I don’t see it as an unreasonable opinion to reach. Anyway, you brought all of this up, and your motives weren’t based on an honest sense of inquiry by a long shot. You popped up to ask us to “provide an explanation for the origin of matter, time, and energy,” and immediately followed up with “The biblical worldview can.” You’re not offering anything of substance there into the ongoing inquiry humanity has been making all down the ages into the nature of life and the universe around us. This is just you going “nyah nyah” to a bunch of people who’ve rubbed you the wrong way for not believing in your invisible magic (oops, sorry) man of choice. I mean, you’re not exactly difficult to read, Rho. Those of us who’ve been debating theists for years and years have seen this sort of thing all too many times.>>All Knowing Magical Book of Light can, and it’s Harvey the Invisible Cosmic Rabbit!<<Do those exist? Can they be examined?No, b/c you just made them up.God’s no different, dude. That was my point.

  13. 13
    Luis

    ”You act like there’s very little “mystery” to go.” On the contrary: you do, because your holy book supposedly gives you more knowledge about the universe that a Hawking, Weinberg, Dawkins or a Gould. I entertain no such sick delusions (when you become someone’s professor, I might start taking you seriously, but your disdain for knowledge is apparent from your smug attempts to place yourself above it with unfalsifiable claims). One of the reasons I’m studying science is precisely because I think there is so much left to discover. >But the minute the scientists do provide an answer, the religionist goes scurrying off, claiming the discovery as their own, or else trying to denigrate it by invoking “hatred of God” or some such thing.<”Naked assertion which can be answered with such. What’s an example you have in mind?”The Big Bang, evolution (the “days” in Genesis standing in for geological periods, natural selection becomes “God’s method” for producing us; otherwise, “atheist communist conspiracy to teach children that they should behave like monkeys and abort their babies”), quantum mechanics being mirrored in the Trinity, ichneumon wasps “affirming” God’s benevolence. >scientific hypotheses about the origins of matter and time may be<”That’s all they can ever be – hypotheses – if you want to be scientific, which seems to be your buzzword meaning “true”.”Okay, let’s grant that. They’re still streets ahead of the OT, which doesn’t even have proper hypotheses, just archaic claims which are unfalsifiable but frankly also boringly parochial. ”No scientist, no human, will ever be able to OBSERVE the origin of time, energy, and matter.” So, how does this favour God as opposed to a quantum fluctuation? If no human will ever be able to observe these things (that includes you, by the way), they’ll never be able to do so whether it was God or otherwise. ”You might reexamine how you use the word “scientific”.”No, I got it right the first time. You might like to consult a dictionary. >they are still many orders of magnitude better than the non-answers provided by religion<”Let’s compare: NATURALISM’S ANSWER = we don’t know and there’s not a way to know scientifically, which is our big thingBIBLE’S ANSWER = we DO know. And it explains quite a lot, really.”This lurid, pathetic dichotomy displays all the arrogance typical of the dogmatic theist: the smugness of absolute certainty. Actually, a claim to knowledge doesn’t equate to possessing knowledge. I can claim to have an answer to absolutely anything (and act like an arrogant jerk to boot), and if that claim pertains to something that pushes at the very edge of knowledge, then I can hide (as you have) behind the excuse that I have an “answer” to a question that science hasn’t yet satisfactorily addressed. ”I don’t know about calling answers “non-answers”, but it might be a matter of perspective and/or thick-headedness.”It would be, if these so-called “answers” were in any way based upon concrete evidence. But of course, all we have going for them is your assertion that “God did it”, because the Bible says so – which is the inerrant word of God because it says so in the Bible. That might qualify as an “answer” to you, but it doesn’t quite cut it with those more familiar with the concept of evidence and who want a bit more to go by than Bronze Age myth (but to each his own). >Religion posits a being or beings which must itself/themselves be more complex than any of the phenomena they purport to explain<”1) The Bible doesn’t present a “complex” being.”Actually, this is exactly what it does (even if the nomads who wrote it had no technical conception of complexity). The Bible posits a being with the following attributes: emotional states, intentional states, the ability to intervene through the suspension of the laws of nature, omniscience, telepathy, and the ability to create a universe and its native fauna and flora (requiring a vast repertoire of knowledge, which must be either stored in some way or generated through some process). These are all truth claims, and in order for them to be true, they require a being that is the very antithesis of simplicity. How is God in any way a SIMPLE entity?“It presents a God Who is One.”Well, that took care of things in a jiffy! Naked assertion, though. Where’s the argument? You say that like as though it actually means something. It doesn’t mean squat. I doubt that you even think much of it. ”2) There’s no reason to run away screaming from your bogeyman of “complex being”. Oh no, a complex entity! AAAAHHHH!” Typical bonehead retort. There’s in fact an excellent reason: something so complex is almost impossible because it is overwhelmingly statistically unlikely to come about by pure chance. The only ultimate way to arrive at complex entities like beings capable of exhibiting features like sentience and intentional states is through cumulative evolution. They don’t just exist. Or maybe they do, in which case your explanation for the existence of matter is no better than mine, and in fact worse, since I don’t posit that the quantum fluctuation had intentionality or a myriad of other human attributes. I might say, if push came to shove, “It just was”, but you would say “It just was, and all this other stuff also just was.” That’s why God is a flabby explanation. ”It answers the question, which is more than your “simpler” “explanations” do.”So does Akusai’s Gila Monster. You can’t prove that it doesn’t exist (if you can, I’m waiting). I would also love to know how you would go about disqualifying Allah as an explanation. >only because God is left unexplained<”Not in Christianity. God is explained plenty; He has revealed quite a lot about Himself.”He failed to explain why or how he exists. He did, however, find the time to turn some poor woman into stone for looking at a crumbling city, and to order Moses to carry out his Nazi-like atrocities, and lots of other retarded, messed-up shit. But so far, zippo on the existential thing. >why should the regression of causality terminate when the theist says so?<”B/c He is not contingent and not subject to time.”I don’t suppose there’s the slightest chance that you’ll actually provide a smidgen of evidence for this utterly exotic construct? Even better, I don’t suppose that He will? “If we DON’T terminate the causality, we’d end up in your predicament, where we have no idea.”Actually, quantum mechanics is making inroads into this. I know, scientific progress isn’t to your liking when it cuts too close to the marrow, but really, that’s your problem and no one else’s. >if we allow that not all events have to be caused – as quantum mechanics seems to indicate – why insist on something as fancy as an intelligent being?<”I love it – you think you can weasel out of the pickle by claiming that not all things have a cause.”They don’t; I’ll say it again since you didn’t quite read that properly. Quantum mechanics seems to indicate that some events are uncaused. Sorry if that messes with your sensibilities (it messes with mine), but the evidence shows it. So are you say we shouldn’t look into it? If so, why not?”You want to make that bed, you’re welcome to lie in it. Just remember you said that when I appeal to it in later discussions.”I don’t mind. I’ll do the same. If anything, I look forward to it. >God is at least as improbable as any of the phenomena he is hauled in to explain.<”Naked assertion. Where’s the argument?”The complexity argument as specified earlier, which you tried to weasel your way out of by claiming that God is “One” (whatever t
    hat means; evidently, not much). >What makes you so sure that THIS time round, the Biblical “explanation” has got it right?<”Well, let’s clarify. I’m sure that EVERY time around, the Biblical explanation has it right.”Then I’m sorry, but you must be even dumber than I thought. ”In this case, the one option gives an answer. The other doesn’t even have one that is both logically possible and not subject to complete ad hoc conjecture.”Just like a being with all the mental states of humans, plus super high-speed broadband for reading people’s minds when they pray to him, just happening to exist (okay, so some accounts of the universe existing for no reason, uncaused, also seem slightly twitchy, but at least they don’t posit the initial state having a bunch of really cool stuff that humans have ON TOP OF being “just there”). >The Biblical explanation has failed everywhere else;<”Naked assertion.No it hasn’t.See how easy that was?”Genesis (contradicted by evolutionary biology, geology, cosmology), the Flood (contradicted by geology, biogeography, population genetics, aquatic engineering), Adam and Eve (contradicted by population genetics, fossil record), the Fall (contradicted by all of biology), talking bushes (bat-shit crazy, unless you’re on LSD), Jewish zombie (contradicted by modern medicine, physiology, biology). That wasn’t so hard. >but a just-so story is a just-so story<”It sure is.Now, what’s the evidence for this?”He doesn’t need evidence. You can’t disprove that his Gila Monster is a fiction, just as he can’t disprove that your Egyptian sun-god derivative Yahweh is a fiction. And he can write a book detailing this deity’s exploits, in which case people like you might be trying to pass it off as unquestionable truth 200 years from now. >Anybody can “answer” these questions as well as religion can.<”That must be why nobody has been able to answer them yet.”By your lights, anyone indeed can. The only difference is that their conjectures haven’t been written down in an archaic book that happens to be followed by millions of people (we call those ones that have been “religions”, and yours is no different). ”Go ahead – I’ve been waiting. That was my 1st question, and what I’ve seen so far is a lot of hand-waving and coming after MY worldview, which I didn’t even state in this combox.All you seem to be able to do is attack – DEFEND YOUR POSITION for once.”Here are your challenges:- Why does God exist instead of no God? (go on and ask him; Christians love to talk about how they are in regular communion with the Almighty. I guess that the only things you guys get to discuss with the sky-daddy is how much you love him)- Provide a criterion for God being a non-complex entity (not something circular like “the Bible says he is One”).- Why does consciousness have to come before matter, despite everything that science tells us to the contrary?- On what medium does this universal consciousness reside?- Why should one speculative hypothesis – God – be favoured over other speculative hypotheses – quantum fluctuations, multiverses, etc – when we have a very limited account for the mechanisms effected by either one (in the case of God, absolutely no account, since his ways are admittedly “mysterious”)?Let’s see if you can avoid bullshitting your way out of these ones (remember, no circular, automatically self-vindicating gibberish). “OK, fair enough.What I *do* hear a lot of is optimistic claims that science WILL figure it all out eventually.It’s a science-of-the-gaps argument.”Perhaps, but let us here concede that science won’t necessarily figure it all out. It still doesn’t mean religion has any legitimate claim to areas of inquiry that science has come up short in. “Every religion is different. Do you mean that mine is like the others in that they’re all irrational. Up to you to prove mine is, though I’d argue with you that others are.”Actually, it’s up to you to prove that your religion is rational, just as it’s up to the adherents of others faiths to prove that their religions are rational. I know, you think that your religion is the default reference point. JUST AS EVERYONE ELSE DOES (and why shouldn’t it? Those religions provide “answers”, too. Just ask the adherents). So far, you’ve given us no reason to suspect that yours does in fact differ markedly from the others, and pending evidence to the contrary, we will continue to view Christianity as just another species of archaic mythology writ large. Blabbing about science’s failure to account for time and matter in order to vindicate Christianity will be only be taken by us as just as good a reason to adopt Islam. “Filling gaps in your knowledge with beliefs that science will one day solve all these questions is simply the Science of the Gaps fallacy, Promissory Materialism. Why should anyone grant that more respect?”Because it doesn’t posit magical sky-daddies. “Strawman – God isn’t “magic”.Amazing how religion escapes absolutely ANY objection simply by stating “it ain’t so”. No, he isn’t magical; he just embodies Oneness and the Trinity. There is in fact no difference between “supernatural” and “magical”. >Automatically accepting a religious answer simply because it appears to give an answer is really a testament to nothing more than your intellectual laziness and lack of curiosity.<”You can’t reasonably know any of that from some short blog interactions.”One can reasonably suppose it if every one of your statements lends credence to that view. >All Knowing Magical Book of Light can, and it’s Harvey the Invisible Cosmic Rabbit!<”Do those exist? Can they be examined?No, b/c you just made them up. Give your readers more credit than that!”The Book of Mormon does, and apparently it’s no more intellectually respectable than a hypothetical All Knowing Magical Book of Light would be. It, too, gives “answers”.

  14. 14
    Rhology

    HI Martin,I’m not sure who you’re hearing those incautious claims from.Dr Peter Atkins, during his debate w/ William Lane Craig, for one.Various anti-Intelligent Design people.It’s all over the place. And I hear people making science the end-all, be-all for knowledge. “God can’t be examined scientifically, so His existence is obviously irrational.” Science becomes metaphysics! It’s naturalistic hubris.mainly to find out that what we still didn’t know was staggering.One might be pardoned for thinking that such should lead to MORE humility among atheist apologists, not less.The point is that the tools of science are the best and most reliable we have for learning what we can learn and do know, however incomplete it may be.See, that’s what I mean. You’re ranging too far and too wide for your worldview to support.This statement needs serious qualification. Learning and knowing about WHAT?Plugging in gaps in knowledge by making stuff up gets no one anywhere.I’m as much in favor of that as you are.That’s one reason I’m not very fond of the TOE.all theistic religions profess belief in unproven and apparently unprovable invisible magic deities. I don’t agree that God is unprovable or unproven. Not provable by naturalistic means, of course, but there’s no reason to restrict ourselves to solely naturalistic means.since I haven’t said this, this is a straw man.Since OTHERS have said it and since I’m talking about THEM it’s not a strawman.Just b/c you make them doesn’t mean everyone else does. Try to keep it on track.your belittling of science I am trying to help science understand the size of its britches. It can’t inform metaphysical questions. why you think your “presentation of God” should be automatically accorded some degree of respect, or be taken seriously at all, because it is thousands of years oldYour calling it “magic” implies that it is ad hoc. It is not. It is to be respected at minimum for not being ad hoc. Science is a naturalistic process, period. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, just remember not to try to make metaphysical claims and claim scientific backing.And it’s illegitimate to rule out things like Intelligent Design just b/c you assume at first that a non-naturalistic claim MUST be the answer.What rules do you think it’s bending to “encompass metaphysical claims,” I refer to the scientific establishment’s a priori ruling out of ID. we can pretty much trace the history of the universe back to when it was around the size of a grapefruit.Assuming that you know what happened at the beginning (ie, that it was the size of a grapefruit at some point) is part of what I mean as well. You don’t know that. your God is alleged to have created the universe by an act of will. If that isn’t magic, then please provide the detailed and scientifically testable explanation for the mechanisms your God employs to create universes.You are fond of classic fallacies. Here you present to us a false dilemma. I don’t know why anyone might accord a great deal of respect to a worldview that is only represented with the aid of large amounts of fallacious argumentation.You popped up to ask us to “provide an explanation for the origin of matter, time, and energy,” and immediately followed up with “The biblical worldview can.”Which it can.And which you haven’t even attempted. You’re just making excuses for why you can’t. Hi Lui,My, you’re more long-winded than I!disdain for knowledgeHaha. No, it’s just disdain for FALSE ASSURANCE and making category errors.Oh yeah, I forgot to point out that fallacy above – these applications of science to metaphysical claims are category errors, another classic fallacy. They’re stacking up on this blog!unfalsifiable claimsMy claims are certainly falsifiable! Strawman. Classic fallacy, the 4th kind in 2 comments! The Big Bang, …ichneumon wasps “affirming” God’s benevolence.I don’t hold to the Big Bang as normally stated and certainly not evolution or an old earth, so I don’t see why I’d care about these.Quantum mech and Trinity I’ve never heard of. That and the wasps are pretty sorry charges on your part anyway. Trying to explain things on an ad hoc basis is one thing but recognising cool parallels between God and His creation is quite another.boringly parochial. I’m sure that God is very hurt that He couldn’t entertain you sufficiently. He’s up there sobbing. how does this favour God as opposed to a quantum fluctuation?Haha, this is a signal of desperation, an example of what I mean by ad hoc propositions.”Ummmm, yeah, it’s a, um, quantum, ummmmm, fluctuation! Yeah, that’s the ticket!” You still encounter the same problems if you posit a quantum fluctuation. It is SOMETHING. Is it eternal? Is it necessary? Does it cause? You have to answer these questions.I got it right the first time. You might like to consult a dictionary.So you believe that something that’s not observed can be called “science”, eh? Cool, God is scientific. Boom! That was easy. all we have going for them is your assertion that “God did it”, because the Bible says soI of course dispute that.which is the inerrant word of God because it says so in the Bible.That is only one of the reasons why I think the Bible is infallible.the Bible posits a being with the following attributes: emotional states…OK fine, I don’t see a reason to dispute this point.Where’s the argument?That the Bible says God is one?You’re just being silly. Deut 6:4, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:8-10 and MANY more passages present monotheism. Just argue things that matter, please. There’s in fact an excellent reason: something so complex is almost impossible because it is overwhelmingly statistically unlikely to come about by pure chance.Of course, no one is claiming that God *came about* at all. So this is not even relevant. The only ultimate way to arrive at complex entities like beings capable of exhibiting features like sentience and intentional states is through cumulative evolution.What’s the argument for that?I would also love to know how you would go about disqualifying Allah as an explanation. The same way I examine any worldview – I take on its presupps for the sake of argument and then check it against itself to see if it’s internally consistent, first off.Neither atheism nor Islam make it past even that first stage. In the case of Islam, it bases all on the Qur’an. The Qur’an says the Bible must be believed. It also says Jesus did NOT die on the cross. Contradiction. He failed to explain why or how he exists. Sure He did. There are several biblical passages where He explains that He is eternal and infinite. He did, however, find the time to turn some poor woman into stone for looking at a crumbling city, and to order Moses to carry out his Nazi-like atrocities, and lots of other retarded, messed-up shitOn atheism, there’s no reason nor justification to assign ANY moral value to any of that stuff. And why would I care what you think about the things He found time to do? Give an argument.provide a smidgen of evidence for this utterly exotic construct?The impossibility of the contrary.
    If it weren’t the case, I’d be in your position, without any logical possibility for explaining the origin of the universe.quantum mechanics is making inroads into thisOh, it’s going to explain how either the universe could be infinite or could have popped into existence out of nothing, uncaused? I’ll be waiting with bated breath.Quantum mechanics seems to indicate that some events are uncaused. If you want to retreat to the pitiful explanation that “no, seriously, it wasn’t caused!”, be my guest. You’re welcome to that sack of poop.Genesis (contradicted by …medicine, physiology, biology).Quite a mix of question-begging and strawmen you assembled there. I’d be happy to take those on one at a time. Why don’tcha start a blog and go for it?Why does God exist instead of no God?B/c sthg exists.I don’t suppose you could say that sthg HAS TO exist, but it’s undeniable sthg exists. And God is therefore necessary.Provide a criterion for God being a non-complex entity Just b/c He may be complex, which I don’t care to argue, doesn’t mean there’s more than one God. What would be the argument?Why does consciousness have to come before matter, despite everything that science tells us to the contrary?Here you go again trying to make metaphysical judgments based on science.Consciousness CAME before matter b/c the universe is contingent; God is necessary. And He is not material.On what medium does this universal consciousness reside?Spiritual.Why should one speculative hypothesis – God – be favoured over other speculative hypotheses – quantum fluctuations, multiverses, etc1) God is logically necessary.2) The contrary is impossible.3) You admitted that quantum fluctuations allow you to appeal to “it’s uncaused.” Pitiful.4) Multiverses are completely speculative and ad hoc. There’s no evidence for it.Those religions provide “answers”, too. Not internally self-consistent answers.Because it doesn’t posit magical sky-daddies. That’s not an argument. Try answering the question – why is it not Science of the Gaps?There is in fact no difference between “supernatural” and “magical”. Except that one is pejorative and ad hoc (magical) and the other isn’t.Peace,Rhology

  15. 15
    Martin

    Dr Peter Atkins, during his debate w/ William Lane Craig, for one.Various anti-Intelligent Design people.It’s all over the place. And I hear people making science the end-all, be-all for knowledge. “God can’t be examined scientifically, so His existence is obviously irrational.” Science becomes metaphysics! It’s naturalistic hubris.Again, what other means of investigating the universe do you propose, that will lead to the kinds of verifiable results one gets from scientific inquiry? I see none. If we can’t examine God scientifically, how then are we supposed to distinguish God from any other mythical being humanity has invented?Like it or not, science is the method we use to acquire knowledge. And we just cannot say what will or will not be discovered. After all, many people like you in the religious, anti-science camp have very often, all down the years, boldly proclaimed that science will never figure out this, that, or the other thing. Scientific ignorance like yours is a dime a dozen. We may learn a great deal about our universe’s origins, or we may not, and we can’t say what we may learn when we do.But we can say this: whatever we learn, that is factual and verifiable, will almost certainly be learned through scientific study, and not through whatever nebulous and ill-defined “other ways of knowing” that religionists and mystics who attack science propose. (Or fail to propose, more accurately.) No one 25 years ago could have conceived of dark energy, but it was science that found it, not any religionist or mystic with his other ways of knowing.Anyway, a scientific illiterate who waves around a book of Bronze Age myths and legends and boldly declares himself to have all the answers science hasn’t provided us yet is in no position to criticize anyone for “hubris.”One might be pardoned for thinking that such should lead to MORE humility among atheist apologists, not less.“Atheist apologists…” Gosh, do you mean me? Well, apart from finding it sad that people like you in this day and age think rationalism requires an apologia, all I can say is I’m thrilled to change my mind about things and admit when I’m wrong. Thing is, it takes evidence for me to do that, and all through your comment you repeat that actual evidence for the theistic position is impossible, and that it requires some alternate, “non-naturalistic” process of examining truth claims, the details of which you then fail to provide. So if I’m not sufficiently humble for your tastes, perhaps it’s to do with you really sucking at supporting your position.But if you mean scientists, I think it can be said with complete confidence that they are a far more humble group than religionists who claim to know things they don’t know and believe they’re due for eternal paradise into the bargain.You’re ranging too far and too wide for your worldview to support.This statement needs serious qualification. Learning and knowing about WHAT?The natural world, that’s what. I leave realms of the imagination to mythicists like yourself. Of course, if your God is a real, tangible being, then he ought to be within the purview of the scientific method to examine. Is he or not? If not, how do I determine he isn’t simply a figment of your imagination?I’m as much in favor of that as you are.That’s one reason I’m not very fond of the TOE.The TOE is hardly a bedrock scientific theory, but just for shits and grins, explain why, even if it were, the notion of an invisible magic man in the sky which you already admit is something science cannot even examine is a better “theory”.I don’t agree that God is unprovable or unproven. Not provable by naturalistic means, of course, but there’s no reason to restrict ourselves to solely naturalistic means.Ah, here we are again with the appeal to “other ways of knowing.” Again, please explain these “non-naturalistic means” of examining evidence, testing and confirming falsifiable hypotheses, and establishing theories with predictive power, actually work. What precise “non-naturalistic” methodologies should we exercise, how do we use them to draw conclusions, and most importantly, how do we determine those conclusions are verifiably real and not merely figments of our imagination or the product of wishful thinking? Again, a Nobel Prize has your name on it if you can do this.I am trying to help science understand the size of its britches. It can’t inform metaphysical questions.But how do I confirm that your term “metaphysical questions” isn’t merely a $20 synonym for “imaginary stuff I’m willing to believe without proof”? Again, you constantly imply the existence of these other ways of knowing, further implying that their methodologies are superior to those of science, since they allow for evidence of concepts that science is suddenly “too big for its britches” if its methodologies are directed at those same concepts. As soon as you explain this “better-than-the-scientific-method method” for studying the universe, perhaps I’ll start taking it seriously. Otherwise, you sound like the kind of guy Darwin himself was all too familiar with in his day: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”Your calling it “magic” implies that it is ad hoc. It is not.It is to be respected at minimum for not being ad hoc.What on earth do you even mean by this? My calling your God “magic” implies that it is absurd, not “ad hoc.” Your explanation for the existence of the universe involves an unknowable (except by unexplained “non-naturalistic” means) being using unknowable powers in an unknowable way. Until you offer something more concrete, I think “magic” is a perfectly suitable term, along with “imaginary” and “silly.”I don’t necessarily have a problem with that, just remember not to try to make metaphysical claims and claim scientific backing.Uh, what metaphysical claims have I made? IIRC, you got the thread rolling on this bumpy track by making the claim your religion provided answers where science cannot. But you have not at any point laid out the methodologies for this “non-naturalistic” “other way” of knowing. You have merely asserted there is one and that it works where science does not. If anyone’s making unreasonable claims and getting too big for his britches here, it’s you.In contrast, all I have said about science vis-a-vis learning about the origins of the universe is that we don’t have the answers yet, and can’t say qith certainty when we may, or if we ever will. That’s about as humble and truthful a statement as can be made. And it throws cold water on your bizarre, continued insistence that I’m claiming the exact opposite.And it’s illegitimate to rule out things like Intelligent Design just b/c you assume at first that a non-naturalistic claim MUST be the answer.I think you meant “naturalistic” there. Well, again, Rho: ID is ruled out because, scientifically, it isn’t even a falsifiable premise. But if there is a valid, “non-naturalistic” “other way of knowing” that can confirm ID’s premises and validate it as a testable theory even better than science can, you have yet to explain it and lay out its rules. Otherwise, your continued insistence on “non-naturalistic” answers is just hand-waving. One could just as easily attribute the universe’s existence to good old Gus, the Invisible Flying Cosmic Bunny, and rebut scientific skepticism about his existence by berating science for its alleged inability to examine things “non-naturalistically,” by which means only can Gus’s reality be made known!Assuming that you know what happened at the beginning (ie, that it was the size of a grapefruit at some point) is part of what I mean as well. You don’t know th
    at.
    Actually, Rho, this is a pretty theoretically strong area of cosmology and physics. Sure, the findings could change. But that’s what’s cool about science.You are fond of classic fallacies. Here you present to us a false dilemma. I don’t know why anyone might accord a great deal of respect to a worldview that is only represented with the aid of large amounts of fallacious argumentation.Well, dang. Do excuse me for characterizing your imaginary magical friend in a “fallacious” way. Of course, your slippery dodge of my question with faux-indignant rhetorical gasbaggery is noted. Of course, I’m still hazy on how these “non-naturalistic means” you keep referring to actually work.>>You popped up to ask us to “provide an explanation for the origin of matter, time, and energy,” and immediately followed up with “The biblical worldview can.”<<Which it can.And which you haven’t even attempted. You’re just making excuses for why you can’t.Right on cue, after accusing me of fallacious arguments you make your own: shifting the burden. Rho, if you are the one claiming your ancient holy book can “provide an explanation for the origin of matter, time, and energy,” then that puts the ball in your court. It isn’t my job to validate your claims, Rho, it’s yours. Whenever you’re ready…Anyway, I’ve openly admitted science doesn’t have every answer to every question humanity has imagined, only that the search goes on. And I haven’t made excuses for this. Quite the contrary, I’ve been entirely honest about it. You, on the other hand, continue quite arrogantly to claim superior knowledge to that provided by science, by means of some “non-naturalistic” process you singly fail to explain. Who’s throwing around excuses here?

  16. 16
    Luis

    Rho, you offer the same retarted responses I was expecting. Like all Bible-thumpers, you know nothing next to nothing about science and you have even less interest in learning) yet you speak about it as though your religion gave you authroity to do so. For someone who doesn’t believe in evolution, the Big Bang or an old Earth, you sure know your scientific jargon! This, of course, is merely a ploy, typical of those who want to clothe themselves in the respectability of science but not play by its rules. It’s a ploy because it allows you to talk out of both sides of your mouth; while talking about rationality and consistency, you invent your own categories or use the bogus ones offered to you by your religion so that you can “spiritual” to be a medium (!). To paraphrase you: pitiful. Anyone who thinks that the Earth is younger than the domestication of the dog needs a major reality check, and pronto. Like all fundies, you bring out the tired, disgusting old “atheists have no basis for their morality”. Another lamo argument that’s been shot out of the water a million times; I suspect you know this but still use it because it still allows you to shift the onus onto others when asked to provide explanations for your extraordinary claims. I look forward to shredding your nonsense responses as soon as I get a chance; they sure as hell don’t look formidable. All you’ve provided so far are semi-fancy sounding lightweight arguments. A sample:”I don’t hold to the Big Bang as normally stated and certainly not evolution or an old earth, so I don’t see why I’d care about these.”In other words, you just ignore tha masses of evidence in their favour, and then stupidly declare “I don’t see why I’d care about these.” Yep, that’s an answer alright. If you’re a complete faith-head too deluded to know that there’s a clear difficulty with saying that the universe is younger than the domestication of the dog. Whenever you don’t like something science says, just say that you don’t hold to it, and the problem’s fixed up in a jiffy. Pathetic and contemptible. It’s a complete joke. Seriously though, is this what you expect us to take seriously even for a second? Does it ever bother you that the most powerful method ever devised for getting at the truth flies right smack into everyhting you believe about the age of the universe, how life arose and how the universe came to be? Does this ever never disturb you?

  17. 17
    Tommykey

    I’m jumping back in here a little late, as I have been busy lately.For questions about the origin of the universe, I leave it to the scientists because I lack the necessary educational background. I can of course read what scientists have to say about it, but since they are trying to describe an event that happened billions of years ago, I recognize that their explanations are based on interpretation of data that is probably incomplete. I have no doubt though that over time as we continue to study the cosmos that the picture will become clearer.Secondly, I don’t see how it is incumbent on me to even have to explain the origin of the universe. The big bang theory does not inform how I go about my daily life. That is why I am content to leave it to the scientists. Though the origin of the universe is interesting topic to me on a philosophical level, I have no stake in the answer to the question. I don’t need to get into a debate about the origins of the universe when the Bible makes claims about events that supposedly happened within recorded human history that can be tested. Since those claims don’t hold up, what the Bible says about the creation of the universe is meaningless to me.That being the case, it does not rule out the possibility that our universe was created by some intelligent and powerful entity. When you consider how vast the universe is, then it seems rather odd that any being that created it would take such an inordinate interest in the mundane affairs of human beings on a little blue speck circling a small star in just one of the tens of millions (or is it billions?) of galaxies.

  18. 18
    Luis

    ““So if I’m not sufficiently humble for your tastes, perhaps it’s to do with you really sucking at supporting your position.”And not to mention that he fails to exhibit even a semblance of humility himself, as he declares vast swathes of knowledge gleaned from the scientific method null and void just because they clash with the inerrant word of the Bible. Fundies are employed in an Orwell-esque charade when they presume that atheists have insufficient humility. They should keep their house in order before telling others to do the same. “But if you mean scientists, I think it can be said with complete confidence that they are a far more humble group than religionists who claim to know things they don’t know and believe they’re due for eternal paradise into the bargain.”This is ABSOLUTELY true; scientists expose themselves to the scrutiny of their peers and police each other through the process of article review, sharing of results, and demanding that results be repeatable. Mistakes are made, frauds sometimes get through the filter, but eventually they are weeded out. Bad ideas might stay around for a while because of the cultural inertia found in all human institutions (or because there is nothing better as yet to replace them), but paradigms collapse under the weight of their inconsistencies if too many contradictions and inadequacies are necessary to sustain them. The thing about science, as Michael Shermer has eloquently explained in his book “Why People Believe Weird Things”, is that it is progressive in the sense that it is cumulative. Rho’s ideology (and it’s nothing but ideology) is static. “I don’t agree that God is unprovable or unproven. Not provable by naturalistic means, of course, but there’s no reason to restrict ourselves to solely naturalistic means.”This ”other ways of knowing” is just intellectual wankery and cowardice. As a means of getting at the truth, it’s completely vacuous, because how do you corroborate that the truth claims you’re making are…the truth? Science provides a methodology for testing and interrogating nature; “other ways of knowing” is just wishy-washy pandering for answers that talk to you as a person. All religions use it, not just Christianity. All religions have had adherents who have felt great feelings of closeness with their gods, where one felt part of a “greater whole” or something. But I digress: we have to take only Christian fundamentalist mind-wanking seriously, and dismiss Muslim or Hindu mind-wankery for what it is. Otherwise we’re just God-haters, and wouldn’t that be terrible? “What precise “non-naturalistic” methodologies should we exercise, how do we use them to draw conclusions, and most importantly, how do we determine those conclusions are verifiably real and not merely figments of our imagination or the product of wishful thinking? Again, a Nobel Prize has your name on it if you can do this.”That’s easy; Rho will just whinge about the Nobel committee being “dominated by evolutionists and atheists”. I swear, Biblical literalists can rationalise absolutely ANYTHING. It’s incredible. Remember that shit Jon tried to pull with pseudogenes? Mind boggling. “But how do I confirm that your term “metaphysical questions” isn’t merely a $20 synonym for “imaginary stuff I’m willing to believe without proof”?”He can’t, it’s simply that he thinks he has exclusive rights to offer insights into it simply because his religion talks about it. That’s all. “One might be pardoned for thinking that such should lead to MORE humility among atheist apologists, not less.”And it might lead fundies and Biblical literalists to ponder whether the universe with all its majesty might just be a bit more interesting and awe-inspiring than their small-minded, petty God who stresses over the way consenting adults are having sex (perhaps it’s a truism that fundies downsize their God and drag him down to their level of bigotry and ignorance).”I’m as much in favor of that as you are.That’s one reason I’m not very fond of the TOE.”Funny how evolution deniers love to pick at deficiencies in evolutionary theory (and quote mine like there’s no tomorrow), whilst ignoring the masses of evidence that have been accumulated in its favour. They hope that, since the scientists don’t know EVERYTHING there is to know about biology (and since when was that a prerequisite for something to qualify as science?), then “therefore” evolution can’t explain ANY of it. Even though it can, with devastating elegance. Perhaps if you actually informed yourself, Rho, instead of focusing only on the shortcomings of others (and we admit shortcomings when we have them; that’s why science moves on, because we don’t pretend to know everything) you’d come to a richer understanding of what it is that scientists have actually uncovered. But I don’t suppose any of that interests you, because your as-yet-unexplained-non-naturalistic-methodology provides you with more precise answers than population genetics, developmental biology and mathematical modelling ever could (this must also be the reason that “creation science” – a complete oxymoron – has yielded not a SINGLE practical application to date). In any case, your motivation is ideological, pure and simple, not the advancement of knowledge. ”I am trying to help science understand the size of its britches. It can’t inform metaphysical questions.”Since you know nothing about science and since you have even less respect for it, we are hard pressed to believe that you could be trying to “help” it, especially since your worldview flatly contradicts almost everything that science has uncovered. You are at war not only with evolution, but also with astronomy, cosmology, botany, zoology, comparative anatomy, developmental biology, genetics, population genetics, palaeontology, archaeology, anthropology, chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. ”Haha. No, it’s just disdain for FALSE ASSURANCE and making category errors.”Ummmm, no. It’s disdain for knowledge. Anyone who thinks that the universe is younger than the domestication of the dog or that the “Noachian Deluge” was a global event, has already lost all rights to talk about knowledge. It’s ironic that creationists, of all people, should be so terrified of large numbers when their God is supposed to wield infinite power. Could this be part of the downsizing I alluded to earlier?. “My claims are certainly falsifiable!” No they’re not. Or if they are, provide details for the “other ways of knowing” methodology that you invoke by which those claims could potentially be refuted. ”Strawman. Classic fallacy, the 4th kind in 2 comments!”Declaring something to be a strawman doesn’t make it so. You still need to provide a reason for why it’s a strawman. You sure love your strawmen, though. ”Quantum mech and Trinity I’ve never heard of. That and the wasps are pretty sorry charges on your part anyway.”They’re not my fallacies; theists are the ones who draw conclusions from them to affirm their God. Perhaps you haven’t heard them used in this capacity, but you did ask me to provide examples. Perhaps I should also apologise for you being ignorant of them. >boringly parochial.<”I’m sure that God is very hurt that He couldn’t entertain you sufficiently. He’s up there sobbing.”That’s your answer? Not only is the comedy bad, you haven’t refuted it. >how does this favour God as opposed to a quantum fluctuation?<”Haha, this is a signal of desperation, an example of what I mean by ad hoc propositions.”Nope. I’m asking you an honest question: how does a big, fancy thing like an intelligent God – with many of the cognitive attributes of human beings, plus lots of other nifty stuff – provide a better explanation than something
    that would require LESS explanation? A quantum fluctuation doesn’t hold our interests at heart, it doesn’t have mental states, it doesn’t have intentions or plans. It might be devilishly difficult to come to a proper account of, and certain aspects of it might be forever beyond the consideration of human minds, but it’s still many, many orders of magnitude better than saying that God did it. “Ummmm, yeah, it’s a, um, quantum, ummmmm, fluctuation! Yeah, that’s the ticket!” You still encounter the same problems if you posit a quantum fluctuation.”Pathetic. And creepy… To an extent, you’re right, except that what I posit poses LESS of a problem than what you do. We BOTH have to make plausible something that was uncaused (if indeed the quantum mechanical approach is the best way to go for the naturalistic account), but whereas I only need to be make plausible something that is truly simple (ie. does not have mental states, etc) you need to make plausible something that DOES have has mental states and all the rest of it (you try to crawl your way out of this by saying some mumbo-jumbo about God being “One”, yet you provide no account for how we would, for example, legitimately claim to say this “oneness” should be addressed as “He”. Even more bizarre, you claim that the medium upon which God’s consciousness resides is “spiritual”, which is nothing but a rehashing of the original problem. What is “spiritual”? Is it composed of spiritons? Can its behave be modelled in any way? Can it be used to make predictions? Is there any empirical evidence for it? Do you have any model for how it interacts with matter? Is it anything at all?)“It is SOMETHING. Is it eternal? Is it necessary? Does it cause? You have to answer these questions.”So do you, except that you have your work cut out for you in a way that not even the most pessimistic cosmologists and physicists ever will. To get around this problem, though, you haul in fictitious constructs like “spiritual” (which mean absolutely nothing anyway, and unlike quantum mechanics – which has been devastatingly accurate in its predictions, and without which your computer wouldn’t exist – they have no evidence in their favour). ”So you believe that something that’s not observed can be called “science”, eh? Cool, God is scientific. Boom! That was easy.”Saying that God created the universe is a scientific hypothesis like any other. You either provide evidence for it, or shut up. “That is only one of the reasons why I think the Bible is infallible.”Dully noted; most of those statements are just naked assertions, though. They’re just what you believe (this, for example, is frankly pathetic, and presupposes that which you’re trying to argue for in the first place: “3) The Bible’s purpose is to reveal God, His commands, and His character and dealings with humanity.” So one of the reasons you believe that the Bible’s purpose is to reveal God’s commands to humanity is because..it reveals God’s commands to humanity. And you were only up to your third point!) ”That the Bible says God is one?You’re just being silly. Deut 6:4, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:8-10 and MANY more passages present monotheism. Just argue things that matter, please.”No, that’s CLEARLY not what I meant by an argument. I asked you to provide an argument FOR this “Oneness”, not for you to provide statements mentioning it. If I’m being “silly”, you’re just being a complete retard. Seriously though, it’s embarrassing. >There’s in fact an excellent reason: something so complex is almost impossible because it is overwhelmingly statistically unlikely to come about by pure chance.<”Of course, no one is claiming that God *came about* at all. So this is not even relevant.”In other words, he was already there. How do you account for this? How do you account for a being capable of exhibiting human-like cognition just existing? Mysteeeeeeeeeeerious waaaaaaays….This is merely another example of how the religious have constructed their God to be immune to any logical argument whatsoever (so much for being falsifiable); yet they hold this God up as the epitome of logic. The contradictions come thick and fast in the crazy world of fundamentalist certainty. >The only ultimate way to arrive at complex entities like beings capable of exhibiting features like sentience and intentional states is through cumulative evolution.<”What’s the argument for that?”Two things: you don’t care (even if I provided you with an exhaustive explanation, it would make absolutely no difference to you, because you’ll just say “Ahhh, but my God isn’t affected by that!” And a statistical argument. Go read. Oh, I forgot: “I don’t see why I’d care about these”.>I would also love to know how you would go about disqualifying Allah as an explanation.<”The same way I examine any worldview – I take on its presupps for the sake of argument and then check it against itself to see if it’s internally consistent, first off.”Internal consistency by itself isn’t nearly enough. If you had bothered to check it against reality, you’d know it’s complete bunk.”Neither atheism nor Islam make it past even that first stage. In the case of Islam, it bases all on the Qur’an. The Qur’an says the Bible must be believed. It also says Jesus did NOT die on the cross. Contradiction.”Who cares? Religions are ALL like that. Including yours. EVERYONE says their religion doesn’t have contradictions. Yet those contradictions could fill a truck. ”He did, however, find the time to turn some poor woman into stone for looking at a crumbling city, and to order Moses to carry out his Nazi-like atrocities, and lots of other retarded, messed-up shit”>On atheism, there’s no reason nor justification to assign ANY moral value to any of that stuff. <Naked assertion. ”And why would I care what you think about the things He found time to do? Give an argument.”What I just said. >provide a smidgen of evidence for this utterly exotic construct?<”The impossibility of the contrary.”Naked assertion. “If it weren’t the case, I’d be in your position, without any logical possibility for explaining the origin of the universe.”You fail to realise that you haven’t done so yourself; you’ve just provided a bunch of horseshit claims demonstrating your complete and utter contempt for modern science. >quantum mechanics is making inroads into this<”Oh, it’s going to explain how either the universe could be infinite or could have popped into existence out of nothing, uncaused? I’ll be waiting with bated breath.”Me too, but I won’t blame Hawking if he fails. Science is hard, unlike blind belief, which is easy for so many ignoramuses. By the way, you haven’t provided an explanation for how God could be infinite; you’ve just stated that the Bible says he is. God most certainly didn’t account for HOW this is so. >Quantum mechanics seems to indicate that some events are uncaused.<”If you want to retreat to the pitiful explanation that “no, seriously, it wasn’t caused!”, be my guest. You’re welcome to that sack of poop.”You forget one little thing: quantum mechanics has been extremely successful, so it’s not just some wild bunk. We have actual REASONS to take it seriously. But if you want to stupidly ignore that, you’re more than welcome to that sack of poop (that would at least be consistent with everything else you’ve been doing till now). “>Genesis (contradicted by …medicine, physiology, biology).<”Quite a mix of question-begging and strawmen you assembled there. “Nope, just facts. People don’t live for 900 years, people don’t rise from the dead, life has existed for
    at least 3.5 billion years. All well established, and all contradicted by you belief system. ”I’d be happy to take those on one at a time. Why don’tcha start a blog and go for it?”Why don’t you shut the fuck up and stop making yourself look like a complete retard? (and stop talking like a hick while you’re at it. It’s getting tiring) Read books, email professors, actually try to UNDERSTAND what science has uncovered. Disagree with them all you want, but AT LEAST get informed. None of this is beyond you; if you had even a smidgen of interest in science, you would do so. But of course, nothing I say will change your mind, because Gawd is your only guide to truth. Talking to creationists is like talking to a brick wall, and I’m not going to waste my time providing masses of evidence (which you could easily obtain if you were so inclined; just pick up the latest issue of Nature or Science, or American Scientist) just so that you can make fuckwitted comments demonstrating your lack of interest in anything other than Jeebus. ”I don’t suppose you could say that sthg HAS TO exist,” Actually, the physicist Victor Stenger does, to an extent. According to him, the problem would be if nothing existed. Nothingness would be better evidence for God for nothing, because in a sense, nothingness is more “unstable” than something. This can be expressed mathematically, so we’re both in the dark (I assume you’re not proficient with maths at that level, because that would necessitate exposure to actual thinking). But it’s not necessarily the case that the “default state” has to be something rather than nothing. “but it’s undeniable sthg exists. And God is therefore necessary.”Wow, that’s an argument? Restating what you’re being asked to defend isn’t the same thing as providing reasons for it. >Provide a criterion for God being a non-complex entity<”Just b/c He may be complex, which I don’t care to argue, doesn’t mean there’s more than one God. What would be the argument?”I wasn’t talking about more than one God. I was asking you to provide a criterion for how GOD (not gods) is both capable of doing complex, human-like things, and also to be “One”. Bible passages don’t count; I’m asking you to provide an explanation for it. Again, I see that you “don’t care”. Is indifference a fundie specialty?>Why does consciousness have to come before matter, despite everything that science tells us to the contrary?<”Here you go again trying to make metaphysical judgments based on science.Consciousness CAME before matter b/c the universe is contingent; God is necessary. And He is not material.”All of this is provided without a shred of evidence. And what apart from science are you going to use as a basis for an explanation? “Other ways of knowing”, I’d guess. So not much. ”Why should one speculative hypothesis – God – be favoured over other speculative hypotheses – quantum fluctuations, multiverses, etc””1) God is logically necessary.”Wrong. Nothing you’ve said demonstrates this even remotely. ”2) The contrary is impossible.”It might be unsatisfactory, but it’s still better than what you’re selling. ”3) You admitted that quantum fluctuations allow you to appeal to “it’s uncaused.” Pitiful.”You admitted that the ultimate ultimate is uncaused, AND that it has a host of human-like attributes. So you’re supposing more than I am, with no evidence. So, by your lights, pitiful. And hypocritical, too. ”4) Multiverses are completely speculative and ad hoc. There’s no evidence for it.”Actually, they’re implied by the equations and there is nothing in modern cosmology to rule them out. They are indeed almost completely speculative, but that doesn’t mean that God is therefore a better explanation. As yet, we have no direct evidence for their existence. But they would, if true, trivially solve the “fine-tuning” problem, because they would provide a genuinely simple explanation for it, unlike God. That they have no evidence for them is a feature they share with God, but they are still vastly preferable because the hypothesis is only complex in terms of the NUMBER of universes being proposed. >Those religions provide “answers”, too.<”Not internally self-consistent answers.”The clincher is that they’re not consistent with reality, just like Christian fundamentalism. They’re all equally worthless. Rest assured that next to any of a number of scientists I could name, you’re no more than a clown. >Because it doesn’t posit magical sky-daddies.<”That’s not an argument. Try answering the question – why is it not Science of the Gaps?”Haha, you’re fuming. Because we know what it would take to convince us of the validity of the claim: physical evidence. There’s nothing wrong with having hypotheses (that’s how science starts). >There is in fact no difference between “supernatural” and “magical”.<”Except that one is pejorative and ad hoc (magical) and the other isn’t.”Okay. Apart form that, though, there’s no difference.

  19. 19
    spajadigit

    I’m surprised you guys are still giving Rho the time of day.Clearly, he has no interest at all in what you guys are saying, evidenced by his dismissal of pretty much everything you DO say, claiming strawmen, ad hoc arguments or just saying “you’re wrong.”On the other hand, I’m glad you guys are doing it, cause I’m learning a LOT.Rho, the only answer you seem to have for every argument is “because it says so in the bible,” and your reasoning behind that is completely circular. I think you might say I’ve given you another strawman, but I haven’t. Not really.Your responses feel like the equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “la la la I can’t hear you!”

  20. 20
    Martin

    I’m surprised you guys are still giving Rho the time of day.Well, the merciless smacking down of wanton foolishness is fun, you know.

  21. 21
    Tommykey

    BTW, just imagine how Julius Caesar’s Gallic campaign would have turned out if the Gauls had machine guns!”So, JC, you thought we Gauls were just a bunch of long haired guys running around naked with painted blue faces, eh? Well eat this scumbag!” RAT-A-TAT-A-TAT-A-TAT!

  22. 22
    Luis

    I meant to say “But it’s not necessarily the case that the “default state”, in the absence of an outside force, has to be nothing rather than something.”

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