BRING ON THE CRAZY!

Some emailer from “UK Isle of Wight” writes:

Subject: GOD Dose exist and the proof is everywere


Quite simply and so beautiful, GOD is nothing and nothing is the absolute of everything

Kazim:

“GOD is nothing”

I agree with that part. The rest seems to be pretty much gibberish.

Emailer:

nothing exist

hypothetically lets say the universe has a wall made of rubber if we take all the stuff out we get closer to nothing until were left with particles bouncing around at a colossal rate witch would form heat as energy this “energy” is now in theory in nothing so it has no forces to keep it in or to burn its fuel so it expands massively on a colossal scale until it spreads its energy out evenly then it would contract back in and technically repeat again and again.

so if nothing is something can we call it God in the sense of something of a creation or beginning rather then a higher being of consciousness?

Kazim:

The things you are saying at least superficially resemble sentences constructed in the English language. I imagine they make sense to you in some way.

Emailer:



v = HD and E=mc2


what don’t you understand ?



Kazim:


Flamingoes may journey smooshily up besides the curly hedges of knickers!

Emailer:

to write out the complete origins of the universe would lag the internet out for years in one single email. to be derogative of meaning i.e. talking gibberish is not only showing a complete bias approach to life and its existents but also completely missing my point of God cannot exist as nothing is impossible nothing is Zero witch is unachievable and infant but without zero nothing would exist at all.

It was a joke u numpty !

best wishes

Universes and the equivocation fallacy

I said I was going to comment on this in the Episode #692 thread, but the comment got way too long. So here’s a full post.

In the most recent episode, a caller named Peter from New Zealand tried to prove that there is no God. Side comment: I have to say, I get really impatient with this topic, almost as much as attempts to prove that God does exist. Both pro- and anti-God arguments usually hinge on the notion that you can “prove” or “disprove” the existence of physical things through pure reason, without respect to the things that you actually observe in the universe. Augustine was really into this concept, and it was a big deal sometime around the Renaissance. But basically the rise of science was based on a recognition of the fact that our model of the universe is always going to be tentative, so we should build up a system that recognizes facts as more or less likely to be true based on their support through observation. There is never, ever, going to be some kind of successful argument purely of the form “A is A, therefore Bigfoot exists / doesn’t exist.” Proving things in the real world requires that you look at things in the real world.

Look, guys, 200 generations of philosophers have tried and failed to both conclusively prove and disprove the existence of God. If you think you have solved the problem all by yourself, you are most likely not only wrong but sounding completely ridiculous. Learn to live with uncertainty.

Anyhow…

Peter in particular was making a fallacy which is extremely common in theistic arguments against scientific cosmology. Namely, he was making an equivocation fallacy on the word “universe.”Early in the call, he says: “My definition of the universe is ‘that which exists.'” That’s fine, and it’s certainly ONE legitimate definition of the word universe.

But as his argument unfolds, he wants to apply that same definition to the claim that “God created the universe.” Then, the argument goes, obviously that is logically contradictory since God cannot create the universe if he is part of the universe.

To quote another caller: No, no, no, no, no. You’re done.

The theistic claim that God created the universe applies to THIS, current, physical universe that we inhabit. That is a completely separate definition of the word “universe” from the one he started with. You cannot claim that you are using one meaning of a word, only to turn around and apply a different one. That’s what the equivocation fallacy means.

Here, let Dictionary.com make this more concrete. Peter was starting more or less from definition #4 of “universe”: “Logic: the aggregate of all the objects, attributes, and relations assumed or implied in a given discussion.” I.e., “Universe” = “Everything.” But “God created the universe” implies definition #1: “The totality of known or supposed objects and phenomena throughout space; the cosmos.” That’s not the same universe!

Let me put it another way. Science fiction and fantasy fans frequently refer to the “universe” that encapsulates a particular set of characters, history, and rules. For example, the universe of “Lord of the Rings” contains Middle Earth, Bilbo, Frodo, Gandalf, and all that deadly dull stuff in the Silmarillion. Fans of Joss Whedon’s work refer to “the Buffyverse” (or sometimes “the Whedonverse”) which contains the events of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series and comic books, as well as Angel, and possibly (depending on how liberal you get) Dollhouse as well. Fans of David Weber’s Honor Harrington character call his books the Honorverse. Etc.

Here’s the point: J.R.R. Tolkien simply does not exist inside the Hobbitverse. Joss Whedon does not exist inside the Buffyverse. David Weber does not exist in the Honorverse. Certainly it is relevant and appropriate to speak about Joss Whedon during a discussion of Buffy, but Joss still does not occupy the same universe that Buffy does. (There are apparent exceptions, of course. But even if an author writes a version of him or herself into a story universe, it’s still not really the author; merely a character who happens to bear the same name and some characteristics.)

In the 1977 movie “Oh God,” George Burns appears as an unassuming man who turns out to be God. It is fair to say that in the universe(4) of “Oh God,” God exists. It is also fair to say that within the context of that story, God created the universe(1). But you still can’t confuse the two definitions with each other, and that’s why Peter’s argument is not good.

Within the universe of the fictional story known as “The Bible,” there is a character called God. That character created the universe (i.e., the cosmos). I think we can all agree on this from a literary point of view. Christians only differ in the sense that they believe that the Bible is non-fiction, or in other words, we are living in a universe that is accurately portrayed by the Bible. If that were true, then God would exist within this universe(4) but not within this universe(1).

And now that I have beaten this topic to death, go forth and equivocate no more.

Open thread on episode #692

Matt, Don, “Sacred” as a buzzword of ignorance. Have at it.

I just finished listening and I have a comment about the New Zealand chap who attempted to disprove God. However, it wasn’t my episode so I’ll save it for the comments section.

On testable claims / Open thread on episode #691

Sorry I’m late with this, but I noticed some people wanting to comment on the recent show with me and Jeff, so I thought I ought to put up a thread. If you didn’t see the show, here’s what you missed:

(Thanks for the Photoshop job, Eik!)

I want to mention a point about one of the callers. This caller told us that he had experienced what some would consider to be “out of body experiences” or OBEs. However, rather than just assuming that he had experienced a supernatural event, he came up with the idea of hiding playing cards so he could look at them while projected. If this worked, he would have been able to predict what was value was on the cards and check them while awake. Much to his complete lack of surprise, it did not work.

We also discussed some other alternatives at dinner. I brought up an example I heard from Martin Gardner: you should keep a book of limericks handy in your house but not read it. It’s easy to recognize a limerick on sight, but it’s not easy for your brain, conscious or subconscious, to invent a unique limerick on the fly. So if you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing the real world, just open up to a random page and find a limerick you haven’t read yet.

Now, I noticed in my email that someone had written a comment on the blog, but later deleted it. I won’t quote the comment in full, or identify the poster, but I think the content is worth mentioning because it demonstrates a common method of dodging attempts to make supposedly supernatural events become testable. The commenter said that it would be foolish to try this sort of experiment, because all the experts on OBEs know that you cannot read text or see drawn images while you are out of your body. The page will show either random gibberish, or something completely different each time you look at it.

And I say, gosh, how amazingly convenient that is for somebody who wants to to believe in OBEs but doesn’t want it to be disproved by science. In the first place, how does anyone, in fact, know this? How did the researchers come to the conclusion that it was actually the text or pictures that were changing, and not (as most skeptics would suspect) simply the brain making shit up as it goes along? And in the second place, what is it about “text” and “drawn images” that make them prone to being changed randomly or become nonsensical scrawlings, while the rest of the physical world is not?

To his credit, the commenter proposed an alternative test, which is to have a friend place a random assortment of objects in a box so you can later identify what they are. But it seems pretty arbitrary to me to be separating drawn images from other real world objects. Writing doesn’t have mystical properties on its own; it’s ink that has soaked into paper, or it’s physically chipped out of a hard surface such as stone, metal, or plastic. If your experience can include this sort of physical stuff being scrambled around without any reason, how do you know you can trust any of your senses? You could be looking at, say, a rubber ball, and it would appear to be a fully grown cow. It’s all just a sensory perception of the real world anyway, so that doesn’t make any less sense than words in English changing into words in French, or a random string of ASCII, or Arabic characters.

There is, of course, something our brain does already which generates a proxy version of the world as we understand it without requiring any reliable sensory input. It’s called dreaming, or hallucinating.

And making an experience off-limits to testing by constantly introducing completely arbitrary reasons why the tests you propose are invalid… it’s the oldest trick in the book.

Talk amongst yourselves.

The professional victim squad is patrolling again

Okay, let me get this out of the way first:

Dude in the commercial totally looks like me. It’s uncanny, but it’s not me.

Pause the video at about 20 seconds to see the guy. (You can thank viewer Tommy for bringing the video to my attention, Tris from Facebook for setting the relevant images side by side, and Randy for bringing up the next video.)

Even though it’s not me, it’s an added bonus that this commercial totally pissed off Catholics.

Summary: The commercial was a result of a contest Doritos ran to make a Superbowl commercial. The guy who made the commercial is reportedly a Catholic, but the commercial itself takes a rather silly perspective on communion, with Doritos and Pepsi being the body and blood of Christ.

As is their wont, Catholics are OUTRAGED that people make fun of their beliefs. Fox Newsmodel Megyn Kelly listens respectfully to a typical angry Catholic who insists that Catholics are the only group that it’s okay to make fun of, and no one would ever tolerate jokes at the expense of Islam. (Quick, somebody notify Jeff Dunham that his act has been canceled!)

This quote is just priceless, though:

“I think it is mocking to say that the blood of Jesus Christ is Diet Pepsi.”



As everyone knows, the blood of Christ is made from fermented grapes, while his flesh is made from a mixture of wheat flour, yeast, water, and salt. That is respectful to the lord and savior of all mankind. But as any fool can plainly see, Jesus’ flesh clearly does not contain corn, vegetable oil, cheese powder, buttermilk powder, whey protein concentrate, tomato powder, flavour enhancer #621, or dextrose. And don’t even get me started on any speculation that his blood might contain any high fructose corn syrup or caramel color.



Because those things would just be silly.

Russell’s interview on Ask an Atheist

When I went to Seattle and joined the team of Ask an Atheist, I also stuck around for another half hour or so while Casey interviewed me. It was fun for me and we got to touch on topics that I don’t usually get to talk about on The Atheist Experience

As this clip contains some politics talk, I expect that many of our core audience will have some disagreement. Assume the disclaimer applies: My opinions are my own and do not represent those of either TV show.

On changing minds

In a previous thread, someone wrote: “While debating with a theist can be as invigorating as playing chess, one should bear in mind that it’s doing them harm. It’s driving them deeper into their psychosis.”

This is simply not true, and yet it’s unfortunately a very common meme among the “Don’t be a dick” crowd. As a counterpoint, I’d like to share a letter we received a few months ago. I don’t post stuff like this often, as it would come across as too self-congratulatory, but I do want to remind everyone that people sometimes change their minds.


For context: This guy originally wrote to us in January. He wrote that seeing the show was causing serious doubts in his own Christian beliefs. He then went on to say:

I was wondering, if there is no higher power, how you would justify morality in an atheist at all? Please don’t misunderstand, as a young person on the verge of apostasy, I’m not saying that atheists have no morals, although I have met ‘christians’ who have claimed as much. After all, if there is no higher power, then there is no objective truth, ergo no objective morality, meaning all morality is subjective. If that is the case, then to say that a murderer is immoral is surely a fallacy, as he no doubt acted as his morals saw fit. If morality is subjective, then he is as moral for acting out the murder he saw as moral as you are for not acting out a murder you saw as immoral.



I wrote back and we discussed the morality issue for a while. The angle I took on this was the Euthyphro Dilemma, though I usually don’t refer to it by name. I like to explore the concept that a God-given morality is somehow objective in a way that human consensus-derived morality is not. In the course of three more exchanges between us, and some messages from Tracie thrown in, we discussed slavery; we discussed the story of Jephthah; we talked about what kind of commands God could issue that would be considered by this person to be immoral.

After a while he said that they were hard questions but he still felt like there must be a god. The conversation petered out.

In September I received this:



Hi, Mr. Glasser,


I doubt you remember me, but we had a discussion about religion and so on just under a year ago. I have since become an atheist and I thought I’d drop you an e-mail to thank you. The video I e-mailed about in the first place was the first real faith-shaking material I had come into contact with, and from there I kept investigating my religion scientifically, historically and morally. Obviously, I found it wanting and, as I said earlier, have since renounced it. I thought I’d let you know a few of the final arguments in convincing me that the bible, at least, is wrong, not really in case you hadn’t heard them (I’m sure you have), but rather because, since our discussion must have been frustrating for you, I’d like you to know. One is that the God of the bible forced us into sin, and therefore knowingly and willingly condemned literally billions of people to hell by creating the Eden situation in the first place, for he knew what would happen but did nothing to change it. This is an act of incredible cruelty, and is unjustifiable, giving trouble even to my own father (a minister). That’s a moral argument, I suppose, but also shows a biblical contradiction (if God is all loving and unchanging then this act (among dozens of notable others) should be impossible). The second is the fallibility of the bible. I wonder if you knew that Luke, in his gospel, lists 28 generations between Joseph, Jesus’ father, and David, whereas Matthew gives 41. On top of that, the census Luke wrote about never happened, and the local census upon which it may have been based happened long after Herod’s death.

Those are just a few, but anyway, thanks again for showing me another way of thinking, and it’s thanks in part to you guys and what you’re doing that I am being fascinated and amazed every day by the way that the world works without resorting to the ‘Don’t ask questions, God did it’ train of thought.





So. I have been asked, on a few occasions, whether arguing with people about atheism ever changes people’s minds. My answer is always “Very rarely, and the changes are usually minor but positive.” This is what I would consider a happy exception.

How useful is faith for obtaining knowledge?

This is a typical conversation between a theist and an atheist, and in fact something very much like it occurred over a lengthy series of back-and-forth comments on this blog last week. Please excuse this paraphrase; I want to boil the conversation down to its most important features, and I hope I’ve portrayed the theist accurately.

Theist: “God must exist. Unless there is a god, many features of the universe are unexplainable.”

Atheist: “What’s your explanation for God?”

Theist: “Don’t be ridiculous! We can’t explain God. He is outside of time and space, and cannot be understood by mere human minds.”

Atheist: “But then how do you know that a god exists? Do you have evidence?”

Theist: “Of course I do! The universe is evidence for God.”

Atheist: “The universe definitely exists, but that’s got nothing to do with providing positive evidence for god. Your argument about having ‘no other explanation’ is just special pleading, granting yourself the authority to invent something that is also unexplained. Not only does it not solve the problem, it invents new ones. So again: Do you have evidence that there is any such thing as a god?”

Theist: “Don’t be absurd! Since God is beyond our understanding, we must rely on faith.”

Atheist: “That seems like a really bad strategy for actually finding out what is true.”

Theist: “Nonsense! Just think about all the other things that scientists accept without complete evidence.”

The theist then proceeds to list some of the usual suspects, starting with abstract concepts like “Love” and “Beauty,” and then including some of the vaguer outliers of speculative scientific theories such as aspects of quantum mechanics and string theory.

Let me set aside for a moment the issue of how some things are more or less firmly accepted within the scientific realm based on how good the evidence is; how there are “hard” sciences and “soft” sciences; and how the ideas that individual scientists hold to be true personally is often separate from what they claim as scientific knowledge. I just want to ask some stuff about applying faith to claim knowledge.

Is faith sufficient? If you hold a belief in something without evidence deeply, sincerely, and completely, then does it follow that it is true? Or do you require faith and some component of evidence in order to accept something as true? In what ratios do they apply?

If the answer is “Faith alone is sufficient to establish truth” then let me ask this. Suppose that a Muslim comes up to you and says the following:“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet. Allah has no son and there is no other god accompanying Him. All that we know of Him is revealed in the Qur’an. Believers in Christ are heretics and infidels who tell lies about the one true God. The reward for faith in Allah, Muhammad, and the Most Holy Qur’an is Jannah, an eternity of pleasure and sexual delights.”



Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that this fellow is sincere and earnest in his belief, and holds his faith every bit as strongly as you hold yours.


My question is: What is it that would compel an outside observer to accept your faith as correct and his as wrong?

Open thread on episode #687

Have at it!

In case you missed it, I was pre-announcing this to be the “worst episode ever.” Planned co-host couldn’t make it. No phones. No audio in the beginning.

Mega-kudos to Steve for hitting on the strategy of filtering chat comments and sending them to the phone screen line as if they were calls. What you hear in the end is me interviewing first-time cohost Erica about her plans to come out to her Christian family, followed by 40 minutes of me mostly monologuing on caller questions.

Considering what we were working with, I actually think it came out pretty well and not the disaster it could have been. Your thoughts!

We get email

Now, I’m not going to claim that this is the most unusual or interesting mail we’ve ever received; it’s actually a fairly mundane rehashing of common creationist cluelessness. But the final replay really makes the email exchange one for the ages.

My responses are embedded in his italicized message, but the original message was one huge block paragraph.

I would like to know how and why atheists can knowledgeably ignore the laws of physics when considering such things as creation?

It’s interesting that you would say that, because it turns out that physicists tend to be atheists far more than most people. According to fairly recent surveys, while around 85% of people in the world believe in some kind of God, somewhere around 60% of practicing physical scientists have doubts about the existence of God, and among members of the National Academy of Sciences — one of the most elite groups of scientists in the world — only about 7% are believers.

http://www.lhup.edu/~dsimanek/sci_relig.htm

It seems that more advanced a person is in scientific disciplines, the less likely they are to believe in God. Maybe you should take up your question with them.

all the laws of physics prove that nothing can come from nothing, so how did this universe come into exsistance, if not from nothing, where did that original “something”, most often referrred to as matter or ssome other form, come from?

Big Bang theory doesn’t attempt to address this question. The universe came to its present state around 14.5 billion years ago. Before that, everything in the universe was compressed into a small enough state that known laws of physics can’t be applied properly.

Therefore, the Big Bang is not an assertion that anything came “from nothing.” Could have always existed. Could have been generated out of matter from a meta-universe. Could have spontaneously come into existence through a matter/antimatter reaction. The responsible perspective is to accept that we don’t know, and won’t until a new way to collect evidence is worked out.

You, on the other hand, seem to believe that you do know. And your belief is that the universe was in fact created from nothing, by a being who either always existed or, in turn, came into existence from nothing itself. I think it’s remarkable that you don’t see the irony in that position.

more importantly, id like you to address cosmological singularity, which has been accepted by most, if not al physicists, concluding that there is, and always has been God,

I don’t know where you’re getting your information from, although my guess would be that it’s from within a certain part of your body. As I’ve already pointed out, you can get actual information from scientists about how much they believe in god, and it’s considerably less than the general public. Besides which, even scientists who believe in God would very rarely claim that this believe is in some way scientifically proven. Most of them hold to some form of Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of “non-overlapping magisteria,” claiming that faith in god and scientific evidence should be held as dealing with separate domains.

Almost no formal papers have been published in mainstream, peer reviewed scientific journals addressing the question of a god’s existence, and those that have slipped through are generally not cited as relevant by any other scientific works. This is so widely acknowledged that creationists routinely claim that the “scientific establishment” is involved in a massive conspiracy against their work. This is, of course, baseless paranoia, since the reason that their work doesn’t get published is that it’s a load of poorly supported, pseudoscientific quackery.

therefore disproving the core of atheist beliefs. in such a society today that is so scientifically based, it is ignorant to ignore such things as cosmological singularity, as well as other laws of physics, including einstiens relativity, and quantum mechanics, which even led einstien to believe in the exsistance of God.

Somebody’s been lying to you, dude.

http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/quotes_einstein.html
“It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”
– Albert Einstein, in a letter March 24, 1954; from Albert Einstein the Human Side, Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, eds., Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981, p. 43.

thank you for your time, tho you’ll be wasting your efforts trying to disprove the laws of the universe to justify your living in denial.

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Ta ta!

And here’s the reply. Wait for it….

lol you actually wasted youre time to rely to me ??? hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!!!1

THANK YO SO MUCH FOR MAKING MY DAY! hahahahaah! thank you! wow you really would waste youre time like this wouldnt you!!! hahahaha!

im glad to know that you “care” enough about your “public” to reply to this! hahahahahahaha!

YOU ARE A FOOL!!!!!

(by the way my email contained a virus)

have a “wonderful” life and then die!!!!!

Apart from being scientifically illiterate and knowing fuck-all about computers in the bargain, I’m kind of charmed to see that the victory which made his day was the recognition that he is wasting people’s time. If only all creationists could be so self-aware!