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Is Atheism Rational?

Is atheism rational? That’s the question a religious friend asked me recently. He did it by emailing me a rather long and dreary document which purported to demonstrate that atheism actually isn’t rational. He asked me to post it here on my blog. My blog is intended for my own thoughts and commentary, not religious propaganda, but I will post it here (at least parts of it) but will also provide commentary on why most of it isn’t true or is at least misleading.

The document started with some quotes. The first one was this: “When a man ceases to believe in God he does not believe in nothing, he believes almost in anything. – G.K. Chesterton”.

Many quotes are very clever and often even true, but a quote by itself is worthless when trying to establish the truth of anything. I cannot imagine any way that this one could be justified. There is a strong link between atheism and skepticism and in my experience atheists tend to have far less belief in controversial topics than religious people. So the truth is the exact opposite of what the quote implies.

So that wasn’t a good start and the other quotes included weren’t much better, but lets move on to the real content of the document.

It started with this: “If there is a God, why are there atheists? Why do people call themselves atheists? What makes atheism so fashionable these days? There was a time when the numbers of atheists were few and fleeting but today atheism is massively popular in terms of media attention and book sales.”

Is this the most blatant case of “begging the question” ever? This treatise claims to show atheism is irrational and it’s first statement is that god exists. Yeah sure, if god exists I guess atheism is irrational but that’s just the point: does god exist? The evidence indicates the answer is “no”.

So starting with such a ridiculously obvious case of a logical fallacy did not bode well for the rest of the document but I did persist (as much to see what other fallacies would be forthcoming as anything else).

The next significant point was made like this: “Atheism is an interesting subject for study. Why are the atheists so passionate and obsessed with the non-being of God? Why do many of them devote a lifetime of religious zeal and commitment to the ideals of atheism?”.

I agree that atheists have become far more prominent recently but many of the passionate arguments are simply as a result of attacks by believers. Look at what I am writing now as an example. I didn’t start the debate, I simply responded to an ill considered attack by my religious opponent. Another point is that religious belief causes a huge amount of trouble in the modern world so many people (me included) feel it’s our obligation to fight against it. When I see the evil and stupidity that religion causes I feel quite justified in becoming passionate about opposing it.

So moving on, the next point was this: “Atheism does not rest on a proven belief but rather on the unsupported assumption that there is no God…”

It seems to me that this is a straw man argument (I knew I’d see more logical fallacies). There may be some atheists who just assume there is no god but I don’t know any. All the atheists I know and all those I have read about don’t think that at all. Instead, they require objective evidence to believe anything and see insufficient evidence to support god. There’s no objection to the actual idea of god, just the rejection of his existence based on current evidence.

Just to reinforce the incorrect assumption there is this: “Who is an atheist? An atheist is one who rejects any belief in God.”

If you are going to get something wrong I guess you might as well get it wrong over and over. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times believers’ false ideas are corrected they continue to use them. One characteristic I have noted in believers is the failure to learn from their mistakes. That is very evident here.

Next there’s a quote from Robert Blatchford, a British atheist: “I claim that the heavenly Father is a myth; that in the face of a knowledge of life and the world, we cannot reasonably believe in Him. There is no heavenly Father watching tenderly over us, His children. He is the baseless shadow of a wistful human dream. I do not believe in a God. The belief in a God is still generally accepted. … But, in the light of scientific discoveries and demonstrations, such a belief is unfounded and utterly untenable today.”

I think that statement actually sums up many atheists’ thoughts quite well. But notice that it doesn’t say the idea of god is rejected a priori, it says that the evidence isn’t there so the god story should be rejected. Implied but not stated is the additional idea that, should the evidence change in future, then the conclusion that god doesn’t exist might also change.

The next statement is also interesting: “Atheism as we know it in the West is not merely lack of belief in, but rather an attack on God; only where God has been seen as real and personal can much energy be generated in the cause of rebellion against Him.” (attributed to an American theologian).

Notice the disingenuous trick here where lack of belief is used as evidence for the existence of god? I’m afraid this is the level of debate many theologians resort to. The fact is that atheists don’t believe in a god but their rebellion is against religion, not god. Religion exists whether god does or not so again this line of reasoning is totally bogus.

Next comes this: “Another way of putting it is: an atheist is someone who, after studying Philosophy, Theology, History, Religion, Psychology, Biology, Archaeology, Anthropology, Sociology, etc., and searching every space of the universe, thinks he has found conclusive evidence that God does not exist. He has inspected the heavenly throne and found it to be empty!”

I’m sorry to have to have to say it again but this is a straw man argument. Atheists don’t think they have conclusive proof there is no god, they think there is insufficient evidence to believe that one exists. If a religious person didn’t believe in the tooth fairy would we criticise them because haven’t looked for her in every possible location? No. It’s up to the person making the claim of the existence of something to show the evidence, not for non-believers to prove the negative.

While we are on the subject of straw man arguments, what about the next section which tries to present the “dogma” of atheism…

The first claimed point of dogma is that “There is no God.” This is no more a point of dogma than claiming that there is no Loch Ness monster is a point of dogma. If I was shown evidence for either a god or the monster I would then believe. It’s not dogma, it’s just common sense.

The next is more interesting. It’s that “There is no objective Truth.” At this point we get into philosophical musings about the nature of reality and (importantly) the meanings of the words used in the question. What exactly is an objective Truth? (note the upper case letter on that word, usually a sign they mean anything but the truth!). I’m not going to attempt to answer the question here but it’s a separate philosophical point from the existence of god anyway.

The same criticism applies to the next point: “There is no ground for Reason.” What this means would depend on individual interpretations of the question in a similar way to the question above so further discussion is rather pointless.

The next three are more interesting: “There is no absolute Morals.” and “There is no ultimate Value.” and “There is no ultimate Meaning.”

Obviously the author is implying that a supernatural entity is required to provide these absolutes. That depends partly on your definitions but it’s also possible for them to arise through natural means. Humans do have common moral beliefs because these naturally arise in a social species. They aren’t technically absolute but they are universal (except in exceptional, generally psychologically disturbed individuals). A similar argument can apply to value and meaning.

But even if you don’t accept the argument about absolute morals it still doesn’t affect the validity of atheism because the possible lack of absolute morals in atheism is a value judgement and cannot be used as an argument for or against it’s inherent truth. Also it should be noted that absolute morals arising from god can only be supported if you think god exists. So an argument which requires a god to exist can hardly be used as an argument that a god exists. That’s real circular logic!

I have a bit more acceptance of the next point: “There is no eternal Hope.” (again note the use of capitals implying a particular variant of the word “hope”).

Sure, I agree, there is no eternal hope. I assume here that eternal hope means the wish for a permanent state of life after death. Atheists think we die and that’s the end. They also think the Universe itself will eventually run out of energy. There is no eternal hope and that’s a fact which arises from modern physics. But should we believe in a myth which does provide eternal hope when it’s clearly untrue?

Unfortunately after agreeing on that point I disagree with the next. It’s that: “Every religion has its apostles and prophets, and atheism is no exception. Its high priests, preachers, and prophets are all actively preaching the faith of atheism in every country around the world.” It then goes on to talk about the person every religious fanatic loves to hate: Richard Dawkins!

Since a religion (by the most widely accepted definition) is belief in a supernatural entity and atheism is the lack of belief in that same thing it’s bizarre that atheism should be labelled a religion. Still, it doesn’t matter how often you point this out, they still keep making the claim. It’s also odd that, since these people are religious themselves, they should use the idea of atheism as being a religion as a point against it!

There’s pages of more irrelevant philosophical discussion which really adds nothing to the argument so I’ll skip it here. Maybe the next interesting point is criticism of Richard Dawkins (again) because he criticises religion without (allegedly) understanding the subject. I think there is some validity in this argument but why not say specifically what Dawkins has said which they disagree with? That rarely seems to happen, maybe because, despite his lack of formal expertise in the area, Dawkins makes some very good points which are hard to refute.

The next points I want to discuss are where the author picks out some arguments which he attributes to atheists in general…

First: “The existence of God is incompatible with the existence of evil”. I don’t think this is a commonly held belief. It’s true that it’s difficult to reconcile an omnipotent, omniscient, good god with the existence of evil but the argument probably shouldn’t be taken any further. If any atheist has stated that it should then I think he’s wrong, but that doesn’t make atheism wrong.

Next: “God is a projection of man’s imagination (Feuerbach).” I would tend to agree, except I would change it to “the concept of god” because god himself probably doesn’t exist.

Then: “Since God cannot be scientifically demonstrated, God cannot exist (Flew).” This is an interesting one. In many ways I would agree because there’s really nothing else we claim the existence of yet cannot demonstrate scientifically. But the word “cannot” is probably ill advised. Maybe I would re-word this as “if god cannot be proven scientifically then its reasonable to conclude that he doesn’t exist.”

And: “People believe in God because they are culturally conditioned (Freud).” There’s no doubt that this is part of the explanation. After all, people believe in specific gods depending on the country they were born in. But I dont think it’s the whole story because there does seem to be a more innate tendency to believe in supernatural entities.

And: “The idea of God is nonsensical like the idea of square-circles (Matson).” This seems like a rather weak argument and I don’t know anyone who currently believes it. As I have said many times: the objection is that there is no credible evidence supporting god, not that god can’t exist based on any logical or philosophical argument.

And: “If God made the world who made God? (Russell)”. This does seem like a good point to me. The usual excuse is that god has existed forever. If he did then what was he doing before he created the universe? Another excuse is that god exists “outside time” but no one seems to be able to explain exactly what this means and most theologies seem to involve god acting in a way where he is constrained by time (7 day creation, etc).

Finally: “Since there is no evidence of God’s existence, God does not exist (Kaufmann).” I don’t know anyone who would put it quite like that. What I (and every other atheist I know) would say is that there is no evidence for god’s existence therefore we conclude that he doesn’t exists unless further evidence becomes available. Note that there’s nothing absolute about that but it’s the way almost all atheists think. Saying that atheism involves absolute rejection of god is a straw man.

The final section claims that atheism is an unsatisfying or even a painful belief. For some people that’s possibly true but all indicators of happiness and other factors indicate little difference between believers and non-believers. So even this last objection can be consigned to the rubbish bin along with all the rest.

So there is no case against atheism. If believers want to discredit atheism all they need to do is find evidence that their god exists. But that evidence doesn’t exist yet and I suspect it never will.

  1. July 30, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Interesting post. I would agree that there are many misconceptions about atheists out there, probably a few which I adhere to myself. I think what you would find among most theistic scholars today is that atheists have yet to give reasonable refutations to the theistic arguments grounded in science. To name a few of the prominent ones:

    1) How did the universe come into existence?

    2) How do we explain the fine tuning of the universe in order to sustain human life on this planet?

    3) How do we explain the idea of objective morality without the existence of God?

    4) How can we reconcile intangible concepts (such as morality and emotions like love and happiness) if all we have to go off of is biological and tangible existence?

    Ultimately, I think when a statement like this one in your post is made: “There’s no objection to the actual idea of god, just the rejection of his existence based on current evidence.” then you are ascribing to an agnostic, not atheistic perspective, because what you are actually saying is that you are withholding judgment based on current evidence, but you don’t really know that God doesn’t exist. To make a claim that you know God doesn’t exist means you would have to make positive arguments in the affirmative for atheism, which I saw a few in your blog but not many.

    Not really trying to start a fight here; just trying to give more perspective from the other side. :-)

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. ojb42
    July 31, 2010 at 5:32 am

    Yes thanks for that. One thing I will say is that at least you tried to give some positive reasons to believe in a god. I personally don’t find them very convincing though. Here’s why…

    1. How did the universe come into existence? Even if science doesn’t know this, it’s just a “god of the gaps” type argument. Science not knowing doesn’t make supernatural explanations valid. Also there are many tentative ideas in this area. I agree its a difficult one though and we have no good explanation so far.

    2. The fine tuning argument. This is about the only argument I find at all interesting. We don’t know why this universe is fine tuned the way it is. I like the idea that there are an infinite number of universes and this is just the one where life is possible purely by chance. But I admit this is far from well proven science!

    3. How do you explain objective morality? Why do I need to? What proof have we got there is objective morality? As I said in the blog post: I think there is an almost universal morality but that naturally arises as a consequence of social evolution.

    4. How can we reconcile intangible concepts? They are concepts. They arise as a result of thinking brains. There is no need for a supernatural explanation for any of them.

    So you see these “deep questions” aren’t that hard to answer at all. The claim that these theological questions haven’t been answered isn’t true. It’s just that the theologians don’t like the answers they get!

  3. ojb42
    July 31, 2010 at 5:46 am

    Also, this division between agnosticism and atheism is rather artificial, I think. Anyone who says they know 100% that god doesn’t exist is just wrong. If that’s what you think atheism is then I’m not an atheist. But an agnostic is someone who doesn’t think you can know, and I don’t think that’s true either.

    In my opinion (and in the opinion of all the atheists I know) we reject the idea of god (just like we reject the tooth fairy and the Loch Ness monster) but we are prepared to look at any new evidence which arises. I would call that atheism, not agnosticism.

  4. August 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you for your response, and for being respectful in doing so. That’s extremely important in this day in age. Now for my response to your response. :-)

    1. As to the existence of the universe, infinite regression would necessitate that the universe came into existence “ex nihilo,” or out of nothing, based on the expanding nature of the universe. We know the universe is not infinite, because science has explained a foreseeable end to its existence. So if it is a finite universe, then it must have a cause, for all finite things must have causes. So what is the cause that the naturalist can give? Keep in mind that in order for there not to be infinite regression, there must be a cause that is uncaused. So going another step down the rung, what is the “uncaused cause” to the naturalist or atheist? Theists have an answer; naturalists do not. I think most would agree that an answer is more plausible than not-an-answer.

    2. As to the fine tuning of the universe, I would question why you like the idea that we exist in a universe where life is possible purely by chance. Wouldn’t it be much more esteeming to the human to believe that we are here by purpose, and as a result our life can have meaning and purpose. If we got here by chance, doesn’t that limit our meaning for existing to only returning to a state of non-existence? I much rather like the idea that we were placed here by design for a specific purpose and can gain exponentially greater meaning from that idea. I’m not really in a position to justify fine tuning to someone who would rather exist by chance than by design, so if that is really your position then I guess more power to you.

    3. As to objective morality, if there is no such thing then wouldn’t morality be purely subjective? And if it’s purely subjective, then how can it really exist at all? For instance, raping a woman would not really be wrong if morality is subjective, because we have no way of knowing if this is actually wrong. But if raping a woman is “almost universally moral,” then under what circumstances would this type of morality be incorrect? Morality is one of those things that can’t be “sort of objective.” It’s either objective or it’s not. I believe that rape is wrong under all circumstances, has always been wrong, and will always be wrong. Explain to me how you disagree with that statement, and perhaps I can gain greater understanding of your position.

    4. As to intangible concepts, so your belief is that these concepts are caused by the brain. That would make them biological, correct? Isn’t the nature of biology that which is tangible? Doesn’t biology really discuss what we can see, touch, hear, taste and smell? So how does something tangible cause something intangible? Can you give me an example of where that occurs in our natural world? If you can’t, then you would have to be able to show me tangible evidence of love. You would show me a neuron in the brain. But any scientist would tell you that you cannot equate the two. What you can say at best is that the idea of love is interpreted by the neurons, but that would mean that it supersedes biology, and would have to come from somewhere else. Theists would explain this with the concept of soul; naturalists wouldn’t really have another place to look. So if we cannot arrive at this end result, my argument would have to break down by either being shown that emotions are tangible, that something tangible can cause something intangible, that biology isn’t limited only to the tangible realm, or that concepts are related to something other than biological processes. I’m open to explanation on this one.

    Finally, as to agnosticism vs. atheism, you stated that it is the idea of “rejecting the idea of God” that makes you an atheist. By comparative example, you would be a juror who had to reject the idea that a defendant is guilty because you don’t have enough evidence to find him guilty. Rather, you are withholding judgment until enough evidence is available. Doesn’t that mean you can’t know at this point? And if you think we can know, then what is your evidence in support of that claim? A claim such as that necessitates positive arguments for its position, instead of negative arguments against other positions. Otherwise, all we’re left with is agnosticism. And agnosticism is not a terrible place to be; I just want this boundary to be defined. There’s no issue on theism, so I’m just looking for equal boundaries for atheism. To me, non-belief is agnostic; dis-belief is atheistic. Where would you place yourself, and why?

    Hopefully we can continue with this type of candor and respect for each other. Appreciate your time and feedback! :-)

  5. ojb42
    August 2, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    OK, can we deal with these issues one at a time, because I think you are wrong on all of them! Let’s look at the origin of the universe first…

    A simplistic interpretation of the Big Bang makes it look like there is an absolute beginning 13.7 billion years ago but there are a number of subtleties and alternative interpretations which are relevant.

    1. If we take the simple interpretation then time and space were created in the BB therefore the question of what happened before is meaningless.

    2. We know through quantum physics that events do happen without a cause and matter can appear from nowhere if the total energy involved is small. The gravitational (negative) energy of the universe balances the other (positive) forms so this fits the phenomenon.

    3. The BB we see could be a smaller part of a bigger “multiverse” which is infinite in time and space making the event we observed as the BB not the true origin of the universe.

    4. Recent theories explain the BB observations through alternative phenomena but still allow a universe which is infinite in time.

    I have references for all of these if necessary.

    I freely admit that the true nature of the universe isn’t known (the BB itself was discovered less than 100 years ago) and we still have a long way to go to understand it better, but resorting to superstition just because the real answer is difficult is not the right approach!

    If you accept that god is not necessary in any way to explain the origin of the universe then we can move on to the more interesting philosophical points, otherwise what objections do you have to what I have explained here?

    BTW, I am always respectful to my opposition in debates as long as they deserve that respect. So far you seem to be extremely reasonable so I’m happy to continue with this style.

    • August 3, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      Excellent! I agree in your opinion of debates, so I hope the respect can continue. I most definitely respect your right to your opinion, even if we may be on different sides of the coin. Now let’s address what you said.

      1. The question of “what happened before” is posed in a finite sense, so if you believe that “time and space were created in the BB”, there was no “before.” This would have to be the Uncaused Cause, which you allude to in point #2. If there was a “before,” (which of course is realistic in the theist’s sense of a God transcendent of time and space), then that would necessitate that time didn’t begin with the Big Bang and would make what happened before extremely meaningful. It’s either got to be one way or the other. If it’s the second way, my argument wins. So let’s look at it the first way (your way? or not?) as we move to point #2.

      2. So in quantum physics events can happen without a cause if the total energy is small. Does this sound like the Big Bang to you? Is the total energy of the universe small? This type of logic doesn’t really hold up because you are trying to rationalize an explosion of immense proportions by saying something minute can happen. I don’t think the two can be grouped in the same bucket. If it was purely biological, then in theory you should be able to repeat a “Big Bang”-like uncaused explosion, but of course we haven’t seen one like it since.

      3. So if the multiverse is infinite, how do we explain our finite universe? If the Big Bang was the beginning of our universe and we know the universe has a definite end (something secular science puts forth), then how can it exist in an infinite biological entity, one which would also have to be governed by time and space (which would mean it’s really not infinite at all, because infinity suggest no concept of time or space)?

      4. See point #3. How can something infinite have a definite beginning (e.g. Big Bang) and a definite end (secular science)? Also, could you send me the reference to the “alternative phenomena”? Curious.

      I just think that a viewpoint that has been proffered for thousands of years (see Genesis) about the existence of the universe should be taken every bit as seriously as a viewpoint only in existence for a hundred years. Not to say you have to believe it; just that it deserves the credibility and possibility of a completely naturalistic position.

      I’ll let that digest and let you respond, and then we can move on. Thanks again!

  6. August 3, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    1. I don’t fully follow your argument in point one but let me just say that this is delving into the deepest levels of basic physics (and perhaps encroaching into philosophy). The fact is we really don’t know about the ultimate nature of the universe. However we are learning more all the time and as we progress the need for the supernatural becomes less and less.

    That’s why the “god of the gaps” argument is so conter-productive to the believer: it just means the need for their god grows less with time. At one time we attributed lightning to gods but not any more. Now you might attribute the beginning of the universe but doesn’t that make your god something less when we discover the true cause?

    2. As I pointed out physics has always measured gravitational energy as negative (it’s potential energy) and the gravitational energy (negative) exactly balances the positive forms giving a total energy of zero. Is this just coincidence or does it mean something more? Its difficult to tell. However I think I have noted a tendency more recently to take Multiverse theories more seriously.

    3. In multiverse theories our universe is just a local area of a much greater (infinite) multiverse. This avoids the origin (in time and space) issues of the Big Bang because the BB is just a local event (a “breaking off” of a universe from the multiverse). I do need to emphasise though that these theories are difficult to test. Its unlikely that much progress will be made until a “theory of everything” (incorporating gravitation into quantum theory) is accepted.

    4. Here’s a reference: http://www.physorg.com/news199591806.html

    5. So here’s where we differ. I think it’s a primitive, superstitious myth dreamed up by ignorant desert nomads and only deserves respect as a work of fiction (and even then not much). It has no place whatsoever in a discussion of modern reality. This is where the disrespect might creep in because, to be perfectly honest, anyone who takes the Christian creation myth as reality is a deluded idiot! (sorry, but that’s how I really feel about it)

  7. August 4, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    1. I think your “god of the gaps” theory is one that you will not find any theists making or agreeing with. The theistic belief is that God is both the Beginner and Sustainer of the universe. If you would like to know more, you can Google “horizontal cosmological argument” and “vertical cosmological argument” to explain the rationale behind these, because it’s way more than I can get into here.

    That said, you should also note that lightning, hurricanes, rainfall, creation of man, have always been attributed in their origin to God by the theists. That hasn’t changed over time. You are speaking from a purely secular perspective, so of course you would say that we’ve stopped believing in something attributed to gods. But the gods of the Greeks are not the God of the Bible, and it is the Christian God that has not changed, though we have learned more about the phenomena He created as part of our world.

    Finally on point #1, your last line amused me because you speak as if we will find a cause, meaning that the naturalist still does not have an answer. The theist’s position is that you will never find the answer in nature alone, so until you do the theist’s explanation is the most plausible, again because an answer is better than not-an-answer.

    2. The balance of gravitational energy in no way denotes creating something from nothing. What you have spoken of is this possibility assuming first that the amount of energy is small, which our universe is not. I suppose what you’re trying to say is that something of this proportion could happen, but if the universe is really 13.7 billion years old, why only once in that time has such an event happened, and how come modern science can “understand” it but not “repeat” it? Wouldn’t that mean it fails as a hypothesis and therefore as a valid theory under the scientific method?

    3. So how does something finite break off from something infinite? How can something that supposedly is absent of time and space give definite time and definite space to something, because it doesn’t possess these qualities? If the universe was created supernaturally, this is not a problem. If it was created naturally, then you have to explain naturally where these concepts came from. Also, does this mean that we’ll never be able to see the multiverse, because it is infinite in both time and space? I wonder if there’s anybody who rejects belief in something else that they can’t see or hear and the only evidence they feel they have is hearsay from some other group that they feel can’t be proven scientifically and therefore can’t exist.

    4. Thanks for the article. Some huge flaws in it though. First, it only says time and space can convert into one another, as with mass and length. It does nothing to explain their origins, so the feature of time having no beginning and end is a logical fallacy, because it doesn’t explain how it becomes infinite; all it does is state that the two can be interchangeable. So the only way that time can be described as infinite is if this is the initial assumption, and that is a pretty huge step to take without any evidence to support it.

    Second, this sentence in the second paragraph is particularly telling: “Since the universe is expanding, we speculate that the conversion factor somehow varies in accordance with the evolution of the universe, hence the speed of light varies with cosmic time.” What we are talking about here is pure speculation that somehow something happens, therefore we arrive at this logical conclusion that explains everything. So this guy’s entire model is based on something that can’t be verified and that he himself calls “speculation.” Forgive me for not placing my eggs in this basket.

    5. You have placed a burden of proof on yourself to prove the fictitious nature of a book that purports itself as a collection of historical documents. You also have to disregard its internal consistency as well as its external corroboration, as well as the work of modern historians who state that the Bible is the most historically accurate set of documents from this time period. That said, I think this is where we’d better leave off, because now we’re getting into ad hominem arguments (attacking the person rather than the position), and we can’t rationally discuss anything if these types of statements (calling someone a deluded idiot) are in play. Thank you for your time and for offering me insights and articles that come from a non-theistic perspective, because that broadens my horizons and allows me to make more intelligent and reasonable arguments in the future. My best to you in the future, and if you do ever decide that God is who I say He is, I hope you’ll remember our conversation if you jump to the other side. :-)

  8. ojb42
    August 4, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    1. Of course theists won’t agree with it. The idea is that god is an explanation for unexplained phenomena until the real explanation is discovered. Sure you can say that god is then responsible for the natural phenomenon that has just been discovered but that sort of logic is really just denial of the facts and can never be refuted.

    Science readily admits there are many things we don’t have an answer for, and no one denies that. Some people even suggest we will never know some answers. But it’s better to admit we don’t know instead of making up an answer based on superstition.

    2. Actually it does. Quantum theory states that energy can appear spontaneously if the total involved is very small. In fact any amount of energy can appear from nowhere but the chance of that happening is inversely proportional to the total energy involved.

    I’m not forwarding this necessarily as a serious explanation of the BB. I’m just pointing out that matter does appear from nothing and with no cause. That has been observed many times in the lab and natural world on a small scale.

    3. The metaverse theory simply states that universes break off from a larger (presumably infinite) structure. We have no way of testing this at this point. Again, I simply offer this as a potential explanation for observed phenomena. To be honest your objections just don’t make any sense.

    Actually having the universe created supernaturally doesn’t solve anything because whatever objections you have to the universe then applies to the supernatural entity. For example: I can ask where did the laws that govern the universe come from. Great question! But I can also ask: where did the laws that govern god come from? I’m no better off, in fact I’m worse off because we know nothing about god and at least something about nature.

    4. Well I’m sure the serious physicist who proposed that theory will be disappointed to hear you have found flaws! If you read it you will see the consequences of that time-space conversion are a universe infinite in time. That was why I offered it as a potential explanation of the origin problem. Again, highly speculative but at least a testable, serious hypothesis. Compare this with “god did it”.

    5. Few serious theologians treat the entire Bible as a true historical text. I know this because I have discussed it with serious theologians (I work at a university). The Bible is full of errors: we know Genesis is wrong, we know Exodus didn’t happen, we know the flood didn’t happen. These are fiction, sometimes loosely based on real events. Honestly anyone who still literally believes this stuff has deluded themselves.

    I apologise for the ad hominem. What I should have said is that the argument that the entire Bible is literally true is ridiculous, not that people who believe it are idiots. But really this is why organised religion is dying. Believers have to “get real”. You can’t defend the literal truth of the Bible any more. You need to move on and develop a modern theology which actually fits the real world.

    But can we move on to the other points (morality, etc). Can I summarise the universe question this way: Science has discovered a lot about the nature of the universe but the deepest questions are still unanswered. However it is discovering more all the time. Can I also point out one thing: in the entire history of the world there have been many times when what were previously thought to be supernatural phenomena have been explained by natural causes but never the reverse.

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