RD Extra: Etcetera debate: The Status of God in the 21st Century – Featuring Justin Schieber & Scott Smith

schiebervsmithLast month Justin Schieber was invited by Etcetera to Traverse City, Michigan to debate/discuss with Scott Smith (CApologetics.org) the ‘Status of God in the 21st Century‘.  The lively discussion touched on a wide range of topics from moral intuitions to the strength of positing a God as an explanation.


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  1. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Scott 36:35:

    You find a perfectly polished glass sphere. […] Merely increasing the size of the ball doesn’t make it any more plausible. […] I can’t imagine there were any people out here.

    Article: Wikipedia – Neutron Star

    the surface of a neutron star is composed of ordinary atomic nuclei crushed into a solid lattice
    This crust is extremely hard and very smooth (with maximum surface irregularities of ~5 mm), because of the extreme gravitational field.

    @Scott 41:50:

    In magic, at least you have a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. On atheism, you have no magician, no hat; just a rabbit. We have more explaining to do.

    When Scott walks through the woods and sees a rabbit, does he assert a supernatural magician must have left it? Then consider it a shortcoming that others would rather investigate first?
    Given that there is a rabbit known to exist now, we can extrapolate and confirm earlier states that would lead to its current state. There’s no requirement to prematurely accept any unsupported hypothetical origin to fill a gap, any more than assuming a hypothetical meal it had last week. We may never learn 100% of the rabbit’s history, and that’s okay.
    But if one wanted to try and fill gaps for edification, “A Wizard Did It” is the least interesting explanation imaginable (TvTropes warning). And it’s irrelevant that Zoroastrians, Christians, etc already offer their own stories if there’s no evidence to tie theirs to reality.
    @Scott 37:48:

    All evidence we’ve been able to ascertain: philosophical, scientific… It all points to the same conclusion: that there was a time when nothing existed. After that, the big bang…

    Citation needed.

  2. Fast Eddie B. says

    Just finished the episode – Justin did a good job!

    Three points sprang to mind…

    1) All the arguments about nothing happening/existing without a cause seem to have been refuted in the 1920’s as the weirdness of quantum uncertainty started rearing its ugly head. We now know that particle/anti-particle pairs DO jump into existence, unpredictably and without cause. See Feynman diagrams for how that may work. So there’s nothing that fundamentally requires that particles, or universes, have causes. Since that attacks a major premise of the argument presented, it seems worth bringing up.

    Similarly, the obvious rejoinder “Well, if nothing exists without a cause, and God exists, what caused God?” We all know the “special pleading” involved in the apologist’s answer to that, but its a question worth bringing up nonetheless.

    2) Justin seemed a bit flummoxed about the question about the “other side’s” best argument. I bet that doesn’t happen again!

    In my case, I’m definitely an atheist, but occasionally I do have to scratch my head. I am taking an online from Yale at iTunes U called “Astronomy – Frontiers and Controversies”. I’m enjoying it, but I’m frustrated by my lack of mathematics background.

    I mention this, because its puzzling to me how math describes the universe. “c” – the speed of light, and pi and other constants come up again and again in equation after equation, involving quite disparate phenomena. Maybe its my naiveté, but the way these constants and equations seem woven into the fabric of the universe seems to imply design. I dismiss it as an argument for God, as I dismiss the various anthropic principles, but it still make me go hmmmmm.

    I realize the design argument really did not come up in this debate, but its the one that does give me the most pause – but not enough to think “God did it” adds anything.

    3) As far a Scott Smith saying a dead Jesus would undermine his faith, I’ve often wondered if technology will ever permit us to look back in time with enough granularity to see events of the past. IOW, if we could ever “worm hole” to a point 2,013 light years away, the light from Jesus’ time on earth would only “now” be reaching there. As a germ of an idea for a science fiction story, I’ve wondered what effect on Christianity it would have if we had a video of Mary having sex with Joseph – or anyone other than God, for that matter. Or Scott Smith’s scenario of Jesus’s body being taken from the cross and simply disposed of, as I believe was the practice with Roman crucifixions. No tomb, no risen Jesus, no Christianity.

    Yet I must admit in my heart of hearts I don’t think even that would shake a believer’s faith. It reminds me of the scene in “The Last Temptation of Christ” where the very-much-not-dead Jesus encounters Paul. Like in the book and movie, the religion has moved way beyond what really may or may not have happened.

    Anyway guys, keep up the good work!

  3. Pat says

    Why do you assume that God must be “perfect”? If by God we mean whoever is supposed to have created the world, why can’t that Creator be jealous, capricious, whimsical, vengeful, and cruel? That’s how the Old Testament describes God. (See the Book of Job.)

    For that matter, why can’t God be a well-meaning bumbler, or downright evil? The early Christian Marcianites (not sure of the spelling) believed that the world was created by an evil God, and that a different, good God sent Jesus to Earth. Every week on the polyathiesm segment of your show you describe a different god “worthy of not believing in.”

    Any argument you make that begins with the assertion that God is “perfect” can only apply to the modern Christian God. If you wish to argue that there is no God, you must also address all the other gods of religions present and past. And in fact, the modern Christian God is the one least likely to be real, since the description of that God is logically contradictory.

    In fact, all you ever accomplish in your several debates with theists is to demonstrate that their specific conception of God is logically contradictory. You fail utterly to argue convincingly that there is no God at all.

    I believe quite firmly that there is no God, or any other entity, object, or stuff outside the material world. But I am not foolish enough to think that any argument can demonstrate that. If there is a God, it is probably wholly unlike anything anybody has ever imagined, and therefore we cannot construct an argument for or against it.

  4. Justin Schieber says

    Pat, you are correct – I utterly fail to argue convincingly that there is no god at all.

    This would be a criticism of my debates if that was what I was at all trying to do.

    I am not trying to prove there is no god at all – in fact I think that would be an impossible task. I aim specifically at the God that Christians believe in because that is one of the most culturally relevant belief system at the moment. As to your concerns about the moral character of the bible, I did use some of those in the debate.

    I hope that clears things up.

  5. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Fast Eddie B. #3:

    the speed of light, and pi and other constants come up again and again in equation after equation, involving quite disparate phenomena.

    Radiation and minimal volume packing occur a lot.
    As do cyclic phenomena (unit circle underlying trig funcs).
    Human preference for spherical coordinates introduces more pi.
    Were you referring so something more disperate, or remarking on the variety of interesting combinations that come from a limited set of unavoidable basic concepts?
    The latter’s amazing too, just not as mystifying.

    Or Scott Smith’s scenario of Jesus’s body being taken from the cross and simply disposed of, as I believe was the practice with Roman crucifixions. No tomb, no risen Jesus, no Christianity.

    Or the dominant Muslim view: Jesus had a stunt-double!

  6. AKMagpie says

    I don’t expect to have the non-existance of the Christian God proved in a scientific sense, but I can point out some responses to Scott first premise that the universe was created out of nothing. Scott is relying on 2,000 year old ideas that no one could envision what might have come before this universe therefore it came from “nothing”. Perhaps our universe came into existence when a black hole in another universe obtained critical mass and expelled all its contents through a wormhole into this universe. Perhaps the membranes of two multiverses collided and became entangled and the collision produced our universe.

    People thought the world was flat for many years because they truncated the world to fit their visual limits. Just because we don’t know how the universe was formed doesn’t mean it came from “nothing”, it just means we don’t know.

    Another point relates to the “virgin birth”. I read somewhere, I think it may have been in a Bart Ehrmann book, that the word that has been translated as “virgin” more probably meant a very young girl rather than a virgin.

    I do enjoy listening to the RD podcasts. Thanks for all the work you do.

  7. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @AKMagpie #8:

    Scott is relying on 2,000 year old ideas that no one could envision what might have come before this universe therefore it came from “nothing”.

    – An eternal universe that started as chaos, water, etc was a much earlier idea.
    – Eventually, Aristotle argued for a new spin on an eternal universe in the 300’s BCE.
    He thought a ‘substratum’ of matter always existed, since stuff comes from stuff. But things are seen to change and break down, so he needed an excuse for the celestial spheres to continue turning forever, without being pushed (Prime Mover: a platonic space ghost makes the stars want to move). And influence from that celestial motion trickles down to make everything on earth dynamic.
    – Then Philo of Alexandria (50 CE) did a mashup between Yahweh and Plato’s primum movens (First Cause of motion).
    – In the 300’s CE, Augustine argued for ex-nihilo creation of everything. No part of the universe should be pre-existing and thus independent of almighty Yahweh. And transforming matter the way humans do is just unseemly.
    Augustine’s god is immutable, and whatever he’s made of must be too, so he can’t cannibalize himself for raw material. Instead things get conjured from void. It’s different, allowing things to change, but also decay because deep down, they want to return to the void.
    * Late night google scavenger hunt. I’d cite links, but this was scattered across several pages. : /

  8. AKMagpie says

    Yes, you are quite correct that explanations of how the universe came to be were postulated by many people at many times before and after the Christian religion came into being. I was just referring to the way that Scott started his argument in this interview. It seems that he doesn’t know what came before the “big bang” so therefore is must be magic. Perhaps some leprechauns found the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow in another universe and pulled out this universe. equally as logical as that the Christian God created it.

    Thanks for the reply to my comment. You know so much more about history than I!

  9. AKMagpie says

    Oops: ..therefore IT must be magic… More coffee needed here. Thanks Sky Captain.

  10. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @AKMagpie #10:

    Yes, you are quite correct that explanations of how the universe came to be were postulated by many people at many times before and after the Christian religion came into being. I was just referring to the way that Scott started his argument in this interview.

    I guess I didn’t make the list look timeliney enough. Meant to say…
    The “dunno therefore nihilo” is easy to fall into today for folks like Scott because Church Father Augustine’s view became overwhelmingly popular. Though originally Augustine came up with nihilo, not out of ignorance but to make Yahweh more impressive. And he borrowed concepts from peers and predecessors who did have ideas of what the universe used to be like (never created: always there but previously playdough).

  11. AKMagpie says

    @Sky Captain #12:

    Great three word summary of thinking. I am just getting onto this subject. May I use the “dunno therefore nihilo” phrase? It is in common usage or your distillation? OT, watching the tornado destruction in Moore, OK. Back to nihilo there I am afraid. No help from the divine there no matter how many prayers were said.Utter devastation.

  12. EdB says

    I enjoyed the debate. But while I find Justin’s argument interesting, I wonder whether this would be compelling to the average believer. I would expect most Christians would have a less rigid definition of God, and might easily rationalise the reason for creation of a “non-god world” as something that they don’t understand, and may not even have the ability to understand or question. So while I think this argument would be reasonably effective against a Theologian, it may be a straw-man against most lay Christians’ beliefs.

  13. picool says

    This is a minor point, but the more I think about it, the angrier I get: When Scott Smith is talking about the witnesses to the resurrection, he states that it must be true because the recorded witnesses were unreliable; you know, WOMEN. If it weren’t true, they would have said that reliable men had seen it.

    It’s just…Dude, a big reason the women were considered unreliable witnesses has a lot to do with the teachings of the cited source of supposed objective morality. Smith was previously trying to say that morality has to come from Gawd, and then tries to pull this unreliable witness–>truth BS…arrgh. Maybe if your morality source had not painted women as lying temptress harpies, you would have reliable witnesses to the actual cornerstone of your religion.

    He’s trying to say that because the word of the source of ultimate morality in the universe said that this class of people cannot be trusted, we can trust them this one time when they say what he wants to hear.

  14. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @AKMagpie #13:

    I am just getting onto this subject. May I use the “dunno therefore nihilo” phrase? It is in common usage or your distillation?

    Knock yourself out. I just made it up.
    Taking an open question and saying goddidit is known as “God of the Gaps” which is a variety of the “Argument from Ignorance” fallacy (e.g., Has to be X. I can’t imagine what else it could be…).
    I’m not aware of a standard phrase for the obsession with ‘nothing’, a problem introduced by theology to be solved by a deity, somehow being a major issue for atheists (see the linked article’s image). It’s like complaining non-scientologists have no way to deal with body thetans.

  15. ForgotMyOrange says

    Justin, this was brilliant!

    I’ve been monitoring your debates & minor criticism of your arguments before (in regards to the length and understandability etc) – but to my mind, you’ve really nailed this. Were it not for a few “umms” & “aahs” in important places, where you just lost concentration a tiny bit, it was close to perfect.

    Importantly, this really meant something to me. I feel that I’ve just listened to a new horseman or, at least, a speech on this topic as good as any I’ve heard (and I’ve heard a few). I felt moved, even, by the power of your argument, especially knowing that you were in a room filled with people, some of whom probably never heard such a thing. I could almost feel the christian mindset, melt away with nothing but a response akin to “but… this Christianity goes to 11…”

    The way you built the argument with the problem of evil and itemized all the possible complaints, and how it lead directly to a complete destruction of the christian world-view is the most crushing argument I’ve heard. I sat up thinking about the way you put it. It’s crushing because it falls on itself, not on some philosophical or scientific fact. I’d sure be interested to hear someone tackle it, but I have my doubts I’ll see any logic in it.

    Not just that, but the way you got there, with a kind of socratic device to make it sound like you’ve finished… Then make the listener think “ah but what about…” and then you come in so politely and skilfully “well, you might think at this point, what about this…” It’s so important to do this to keep the listener interested & following. Obviously you’ve made a study of this and are well aware of what you’re doing!

    You sputted into your response to the most powerful argument “against your position”… ;-) however, it was superbly answered in the end. Really moved me again. Perhaps partly because I fantasize myself saying it to my own christian foes as well as you did. Crushing.

    Thank you so much

  16. Steve Seamans says

    Hey guys, I haven’t finished listening to this episode yet, but since I have the opportunity now, I just had to tell you how much I love your podcast. I think I’m subscribed to just about every atheist podcast out there and yours is by far the most respectful, even tempered, and just plain scholarly. This is my fist time checking out your website, but I’ve been listening on itunes for years. I think I’ve kept about every episode for reference. So anyway, without gushing all over, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU and please keep ’em coming.

  17. AKMagpie says

    @SkyCaptain # 16

    Yup, those pesky body thetans have to be dealt with. I went back and reread your initial comments, went to goddidit and then went back and ’embiggened’ the image. thanks for the information. Obviously my view is not unique and others have said it better. My thought was that if the underlying foundation of Christian faith (God as Creator) has no basis, the rest of the beliefs automatically fail also. If the truth of Genesis is invalidated, how does Christianity continue to accept it in 2013? Naturally, people who have been imprinted from the earliest age to believe, experience severe cognitive dissonance when asked to consider changing those beliefs. I continue to practice irrational behaviors even when I know better. We all find comfort in ritual of some kind, it seems to be hard-wired in. I do appreciate your patient responses to my rather naive comments.

  18. john32 says

    A very big deception of the devil is to get you to logically debate God, Christianity and other religions. This is one of the surest ways to ensure, that you will never experience real salvation and eternal life, and all the wonderful things God has predestined for you.

    Let us just suppose (for those who do not have faith), that even if you argue and debate, and finally, even if it is a long shot, and you finally are logically convinced (by the way, there are many books,eg by thomas equinas that logically prove the christian faith) that there is a God, and that He is the christian God. Does it mean you are going to heaven, just because you are mentally or intellectually convinced that Jesus is God??????

    Not at all. Not unless you have a spiritual experience called being born again.A logical belief in Christianity will prevent you from experiencing the Real Deal, that is a Spiritual Salvation in Christ in the following ways:

    The devil was once a mighty archangel, and presently with billions of demons, evil spirits, unclean spirits, etc with a far superior intelligence than humans.Each human being is assigned to tens, if not hundreds of evil spirits and demon hordes, that would love for you to deny their existence. For if you deny their existence, then surely you will deny God’s existence. It is extremely easy, 1,2,3 steps for Satan to deceive humans in more than a thousand ways.

    Don’t even think you can compete with satan intellectually. However, he has no control over your heart, and what you choose to believe.And that is the loophole, which God has opened up for you. The faith route is the only way you can bypass Satan,and his cronies who guard the intellectual gates of the human mind.

    When you get in to the logic debate about God, few important things to consider in SPIRITUAL WORLD which is what actually matters:

    1) You could be tempted to fall into the dungeon of SPIRITUAL PRIDE, as you are tricked into judging Almighty God, which is a fool’s folly.Spiritual pride was the reason, for satan’s downfall. Also for man’s downfall, in garden of eden, as eve sucumbed to the temptation about being as knowledgeable as God.

    This situation, could also result in the person who is logically convinced that Jesus is God, as an intellectual knowledge of the truth, will become a STUMBLING BLOCK for a real SPIRITUAL SALVATION experience.

    2) It could also lead to DECEPTION as the person, cannot find God in the intellectual domain, but only in the Spiritual domain. God’s thoughts are far higher than yours, mine and the devil’s, so you have to trust Him at His word. As it is written in the bible:
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.

    God is spirit, only a spiritual born again experience can save the person, and the first thing to do is to humble ourselves. Second, we need deliverance from demonic spirits of unbelief that hold people as captives. This can be done if the person humbles himself/herself and receives Jesus Christ into the heart. Deliverance can be done even online, and specific prayers can set the captives free.

    I speak from experience. Not here to argue with anyone.

    Simple challenge for those who are sincere: Ask God to open your eyes, and to reveal Himself to you.Ask in JESUS name.Simple. Try it. IT WORKS

  19. AKMagpie says

    @ Fast Eddie B #3

    I think it was most inconsiderate that the Big Bang did not include a Manual of Rules and Regulations for the mathematics, chemistry, and physics of this universe. However, the math and physics that have been developed over the centuries have been based by mankind on observed phenomena in this universe and tested against these observations so I don’t find it unexplainable that they share basic commonalities. Too bad we can’t test our math against that of another universe ; )

  20. Reasonable Doubts says

    John 32, I’ve never heard somebody put it quite like that before. I’m leaving the show to start a ministry.

  21. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @AKMagpie #19:

    If the truth of Genesis is invalidated, how does Christianity continue to accept it in 2013?

    For the most part, people believe that they are believing christians.
    Book Chapter: 50 Voices of Disbelief – Religious Belief and Self-Deception (pdf)

    “Most people who claim to have religious beliefs have scarcely ever analyzed the contents of their belief, and indeed are reluctant to do so even when prompted. Ask a theist questions about God, or about the concept of God, and you end up with non-answers: at the end of the line will invariably be things we really can’t understand, concepts that are not only beyond comprehension but essentially mysterious, and so on. The concepts making up their belief are essentially vacant.
    Religion is in more ways than the obvious like a country club: it is deeply about social identity, not one’s golf game. What matters is that you second-order believe – and that others second-order believe – that you believe, not that your first-order beliefs be true, or sensical enough for you to understand even what they are.
    Religion is all about believing that one’s beliefs are right, not about having right beliefs.”

    The holy book’s a prop whose content isn’t particularly important. Most’ve simply been convinced, by parents, peers, and preacher, that whatever-it-says must be somehow true, laudable, and an endorsement of their own opinions.
    Video: Non-StampCollector – Context!!!!!!
    His “Jesus and the Interpreter” video is relevant too.

  22. AKMagpie says

    @ Sky Captain #23:

    Thanks, great materials. I am going to join Reasonable Doubts’ new ministry if they have ice cream rituals and show Non-Stamp Collector’s movies at every service. Wanna come with?

  23. Fast Eddie B says

    @ AKMagpie #21:

    As I said, I am an atheist, so I’m not arguing for God.

    Being a bit ignorant of higher math and physics, the most I can say is that it’s just weird/interesting the way it all fits together.

    “Goddidit” does not inform me as to the apparent order of the universe. Yet I still find that order interesting.

    On a podcast, a science popularizer recently brought up the question: “Is math something we invented, or something we discovered?” For example, do the properties of right triangles exist for any intelligent life form to discover? Or are there no properties of right triangles, or even right triangles at all, until language and math create them “ex nihilo” as it were?

    Anyway, it’s just where my mind goes sometimes, and popped into my head as my answer to “What’s the other side’s best argument?” In no way do I put it forth as a convincing argument, but there you have it!

  24. Fast Eddie B says

    @ john32 #20:

    It’s hard sometimes to separate parody from honest expression.

    If that was a real reflection of your world view, it seems a bit convoluted, with all its evil spirits and demon hordes and unclean spirits and the like. It seems to harken back to earlier pagan religions with all their Gods and Demigods, and seems a long way from modern Christianity.

    Then again, if that was a real post reflecting how you see the world and your place in it, then I hope it works out for you and brings you comfort.

    While I accept the fact that there may be God, I think the possibility of your “truth” being an accurate representation of the way things really are is vanishingly small.

    If your post was, in fact, a parody of what some extreme believer might concoct, then all I can say is, “Well played, sir!”

  25. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Fast Eddie B #25:

    do the properties of right triangles exist for any intelligent life form to discover?

    Those properties are a consequence of following Euclid’s rules for flat space. A triangle drawn on a globe from a pole to two points on the equator can have three 90 degree angles. (See also: the book Flatterland for a tour through various spaces.)
    Which is to say if those axioms (parallel lines never intersect, etc) are discovered/invented again and applied consistently, aliens’ flat space triangles, squares, etc will match.
    Of course, this response skirts the underlying philosophical dilemma: what does ‘exist’ mean for abstract logic and how should a concept’s existence be assessed… without an infinite regress to determine the rules for determing the rules, or post-modern solipsism.
    Logical positivism imploded, but mathematicians have lots of schools to choose from. For other fields, there’s scientific realism.
    What was that podcast you mentioned?
    Rationally Speaking – 87 Sean Carroll on Naturalism?

  26. Joe says

    Do you know if there are any challenges to the Christan argument of creation out of nothing? It seems the Greek’s logic that “nothing comes from nothing” would even hold true for a theistic god. As we are often told that god cannot do things that are logically impossible. ( Like create a stone so big…….) Creating something from nothing is logically impossible so therefore god would have to create using something from his own divine existence. This would make the universe divine leading to pantheism or panentheism rather than theism. I have not heard an atheist use this argument and was wondering if you knew of any counter apologist who did? Thanks.

  27. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Joe #28:

    It seems the Greek’s logic that “nothing comes from nothing” would even hold true for a theistic god.

    Video: Youtube – Theologian says: God is not a thing
    If you try that, gods will slip into a category that, like ‘nothing’, conveniently involves the absence of all attributes one might possibly use to determine one exists.
    And those gods can’t be a subset of nothing because… arg from incredulity.
    Matt Dillahunty had a great line for this

    For the last time, I didn’t claim your god doesn’t exist.
    But I might if you’d frickin’ define him.

    -AETV 2013-05-19

  28. AKMagpie says

    @ Fast Eddie B:

    I can really understand why you find the maths perplexing. I had a hard time with math all along, and am not particularly intuitive with it now. The way I look at it, it is just a matter of trial and error over many centuries by many people with better minds than mine. The object of math is to allow consistent prediction of results by anyone who uses the same equations. On a lower level it is easy to test the math against personal observation: the apple will always fall down, not up. Then you expand on that by testing various other questions that come to mind. Do all apples fall to the ground in the same amount of time if dropped from the same height? Are there exceptions to the rule I am formulating? What about feathers and leaves? If they don’t seem to drop like apples do, why not? Over time many of the questions have been figured out so that people all over this world come to pretty much the same conclusions about how apples, feathers and leaves behave when dropped.

    Once you get into higher math, I kind of check out – I got through college algebra and no farther. It wasn’t my favorite subject. I see it as a game, I learn the rules and I can use the math even if I can’t reason through exactly why the formula works. I don’t really understand quantum mechanics but it seems to work and I will accept that it is correct until some proves it wrong and changes the rules of the game.. I would love to have someone solve the entanglement issue, which my mind finds hard to accept. I enjoy reading about math and mathematicians rather than than trying to do the calculations.

    Anyhow, i like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s quote: “The nice thing about science is that it is true whether you believe or not.”

    Questioning the accepted is how we got from the flat earth to space. Happy questioning; it is a feature, not a flaw.

  29. Joe says

    @compulsory # 29
    Thanks for that video. Sir Jonathan Miller did a fabulous job of getting the theologian to say nothing while saying something. Ha!

  30. Fast Eddie B. says


    Well, it very well may have been Sean Carroll, but being interviewed by the rogues at the Skeptics Guide To The Universe not too long ago. I think he was discussing his new book, “Answers For Aristotle”.

    I’ve thought about that question (Is math discovered or invented?) a bit, and it is an intriguing question.

  31. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @AKMagpie #30:

    I would love to have someone solve the entanglement issue

    Video: Susskind’s 2012 QM Course – Lecture 08 (16:04 or 22:49 – 50:18)
    *The wikipedia article for Leonard Susskind offers playlists for his courses.
    QM tells you often to expect to see certain measured results in a given situation.
    Entanglement is when you repeatedly collect randomly generated results and compare all your findings with someone else who collected their own, and you discover individual measurements were correlated as if your coin flips were synchronized.
    The probability distribution (expect 50% to be this outcome, 50% of that, etc) are known ahead of time, but you can’t specifically know what your next measurement will say. However, there are ways for a third-party to make pre-entangled coins and give them to both of you in the beginning, so you can know when you flip heads, the other person will get tails, and vice versa. No matter how far apart you are.
    You can’t force or recognize coerced flips for communication. Unless you were told your coin was specially prepared, there’s no way you could statistically determine your coin was weird (still comes up heads 50% of the time). Only in hindsight: after you meet up again with your counterpart to count an abnormally high number of coincidences – instead of what typical coins would have produced by accident.
    In other words…
    Comic: SMBC – Polish Hand Magic

  32. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    Skeptics Guide to the Universe not too long ago [2013-01-05].
    I think he was discussing his new book, “Answers For Aristotle”.

    Ah I was close. :P
    “Answers for Aristotle” was written by Massimo Pigliucci, who happens to also co-host Rationally Speaking. And his partner mentioned it to Sean in passing… oh. That came out today, 2013-05-22.

  33. AKMagpie says

    @Sky Captain #33:

    I was thinking more of the measurement of electrons, protons and small molecules in the measurement of things like position and spin when those items previously in physical contact are separated and upon measurement at a great distance are found to have changed to the same position, spin, etc virtually instantaneously, in any event faster than the speed of light. It has been a long time since I thought about this. The coin example is helpful. I’ll have to look at the video. Thanks!

  34. Dave Jones says

    we really enjoy it when you little whiners start calling the police, but they won’t save you from JUDGMENT DAY


    how we won the James Randi $1,000,000 Paranormal Challenge

  35. says

    I was rather surprised with Simon’s arguments.

    Do people really trot out the Kalam cosmological principle? It is so very undermining of the claim it’s used to support.

    And the magician and the rabbit? Who made the frigging rmagician?

    And consciousness? He claims it’s absurd to accept that consciousness is an effect of the material world, saying that there is no proof of this: how about we turn off his material processes and see what kind of consciousness he has?

    And then the megaleap from a creator of the universe to Jesus of N. I’ve not finished the podcast, but I look forward to this bit.

  36. Rob M says

    As always, a great job by Justin.

    I have a slight problem with the argument that:
    God is perfect.
    God created the universe
    A perfect being has no needs or wants
    Creator of the universe had a need
    Therefore, creator isn’t perfect
    Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

    I see that the “God is Perfect” has been addressed in previous posts, so I’ll not address it here. However, it almost seems like a non-sequitur to state that a perfect being would have no needs. I’m relatively inexperienced with debates, so I welcome any comments.

  37. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Rob M #39:

    it almost seems like a non-sequitur to state that a perfect being would have no needs.

    Article: Wikipedia – Perfection

    The oldest definition of “perfection”, fairly precise and distinguishing the shades of the concept, goes back to Aristotle. […]
    1. which is complete – which contains all the requisite parts;
    2. which is so good that nothing of the kind could be better;
    3. which has attained its purpose.
    Perfection has also been construed as that which is the best. In theology, when Descartes and Leibniz termed God “perfect,” they had in mind something other than [idealized] model; than that which lacks nothing; than that achieves its purpose; than that fulfills its functions; or than that is harmonious.

    For theology, no meaningful definition was provided: some trait(s) with a similarly desirable connotation, but without the context-dependence (always better at X than any other… er, noun, imaginary or otherwise).
    See also: Ontological Argument
    (When it’s better at existing independently)

  38. says

    @Rob, thanks for the comment. I urge you to re-listen to the audio or perhaps follow along with the video and slides. I think that, once you do this, you will realize that you are not characterizing my argument correctly.


  39. Rob M says

    Sky Captain – thanks for the clarification. That helps a lot!

    Justin – I’ll do that. I must admit that I usually listen to the podcast while at the gym, or cutting my lawn.

  40. Curt Cameron says

    AKMagpie wrote:

    Another point relates to the “virgin birth”. I read somewhere, I think it may have been in a Bart Ehrmann book, that the word that has been translated as “virgin” more probably meant a very young girl rather than a virgin.

    Close – the Gospels in the New Testament clearly refer to an actual virgin – not just with a word, but it’s part of the story. However, the writers of the Gospels were referring to what they believed to be prophesies in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament to us). That’s because the NT writers read Greek, not Hebrew, and the translation they were relying on was what’s called the Septuagint. The mistranslation was in the Septuagint, where they took the Hebrew word “almah” which means a young woman and translated it to the Greek word for “virgin.” Had the writers of the gospels been able to read Hebrew they would have avoided that error.

  41. Curt Cameron says

    john32 wrote:

    by the way, there are many books,eg by thomas equinas

    Thomas Equinas – wasn’t he a porn star? I think he was the one prophesied in Ezekiel 23:20.

  42. AKMagpie says

    Thank you, Curt.. I appreciate your help with this. Kind of puts things in a new light I would think. Like playing the telephone game over centuries.

  43. deltoidsmachiness says

    how we won the $1,000,000 James Randi Paranormal Challenge


  44. Josh K says

    Best argument in answer to ex nihilo: the book A Universe From Nothing: Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss, which postulates that not only can quantum theory account for how something can arise from nothing, it HAS to arise from nothing. Unfortunately, on my first pass I got lost by the second chapter [and I understand Bells Theorem, see entanglement above] so this is pretty dense stuff. Nevertheless, I think it is incumbent on all of us to understand it well enough to use it as a rejoinder to the ex nihilo argument, although that may be impractical. BTW, I do not consider myself an atheist, it’s just that my concept of God allows for many of the logical objections raised by Justin, and is far afield of Judeo-Christian-Muslim portraits.

  45. lol mahmood says

    I haven’t finished listening to the debate yet, but I was really struck by the paucity of Smith’s arguments. He’s just recycling William Lane Craig’s usual schtick, but without the intelligence to even present it properly. Seems a very poor opponent for JS.

  46. andrewviceroy says

    I didn’t realize that Justin was a desirism theorist. It does have a lot going for it and I’m glad he alluded to the caveats too.

    Overall, a really well laid out critique of the god of the 21st century and a wonderful display of increased fine tuning ;-) and progress of Justin’s fave argument. Good show!

  47. andrewviceroy says

    Smith took the Craig route with that five point plan. I can’t get around that the moral argument always feels like one giant appeal to desired consequence.

    Also, I know WHY they end with the case for Christianity (because the previous points are merely deistic), but it is always the weakest of the lot. Just about every point has been addressed on one or another Reasonable Doubts episode.

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