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REPLY #13g TO
"RELIGION"



Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

This is the seventh of a seven-part reply.

Show me just one thing that could not be as I have stated. Show me where my facts are in error. Cast some reasonable doubt.
(R) No, you show me one thing in the universe which could not have been created by God. Show me anywhere that my facts or logic are in error.
(MB) Your facts are non-existent and your logic is in error because it consists only of a simple statement with no support. Substitute anything you want for "God" in your statement and it would make the same amount of sense and have just as little validity. That fact alone shows your claim to be unworthy of serious consideration. If "Shiva", "Ra", "Odin", "Zeus", "Coyote", "Ta'aroa", "Harvey", "the Great Green Arkleseizure", or "the old guy sleeping on the grate in the park" can all be substituted for "God" in your statement and give it the same validity, the statement becomes meaningless since all of those possibilities can't possibly be correct. If only one of them is correct, it must be shown which one and why it is. If this can't be done, then the statement is nothing more than a waste of time.
    Now, since I've answered your challenge, how about answering mine?



(R) Make a reasonable argument that God doesn't exist, instead of merely stating your opinion he does not.
(MB) I have -- he's not necessary. There is nothing in the universe that requires divine intervention. Is there something I've missed?


How? If I show how something could have arisen without supernatural intervention, I have presented evidence in support for a positive position that such things exist.
(R) You have described physical phenomena and then stated, "There is nothing....so unusual that we have no choice but to conclude that it could have only have been created through the intervention of supernatural force." This is a matter of opinion.
(MB) No, it's a theory supported by tremendous amounts of evidence. It is not an "opinion" -- personal or otherwise. To properly dispute it would require showing at least one thing whose creation would have required supernatural intervention.


(R) Another opinion might be that there is nothing which couldn't have been created by supernatural intervention.
(MB) Another opinion... but, without supporting evidence, not an equal one. It's no more of an explanation than a parent answering "Because" to a child's question "Why?".


Go for it! In fact, let me save you the trouble. Definition #1 is: "Belief without evidence". That's what you have. Definition #2 is: "Confidence; trust". That's what science has because it is based on having evidence to support it.
(R) We both meet the two definitions nicely. We both believe without evidence and we both have confidence in our belief.
(MB) We both have confidence, but the evidence resides solely with my side. To say otherwise is to display an extreme degree of closed-mindedness. That is detrimental no matter what beliefs a person might hold.


Why is this "a great deal more plausible"? Because you don't understand mathematical probabilities? Because you are unaware of the scientific theories (such as quantum mechanics, superstrings, and chaotic inflation) that describe how the same thing can occur in a natural and understandable way?
(R) Because I find it easier to believe the universe was created than to believe it happened by itself.
(MB) There's the key phrase! You "find it easier". In other words, who cares about facts, evidence, logic, reason or anything else other than an answer that is "easier", eh? "Ease of understanding" is not a factor in the physical laws that govern the universe. Because they are not easily understood, that does not mean that it is valid to substitute superstitious nonsense in place of them.


(R) I understand mathematical probabilities quite well, and know that if something is impossible, it will never happen, no matter how long you wait for it to.
(MB) You also seem to be a little hazy on the difference between "impossible" and "highly improbable". Some have argued "it would have taken too long for the universe to have been spontaneously created". Well, prior to the universe being around, there would have been no such thing as time and nobody to notice how much would have been passing. The fact that the universe exists is proof that "highly improbable" and "impossible" are not the same thing.


(R) And I understand that just because something occurs in a "natural and understandable way" doesn't mean God is not behind it.
(MB) Apparently, you don't understand it or you wouldn't infer that creation by God is a natural process. Something "supernatural" can not also be "natural". Those are mutually-exclusive terms.


By the way, Asimov also wrote a superb short story called "The Last Question" in which the stunning climax hints that God is actually an all-powerful supercomputer that is the sole survivor of a past incarnation of the universe.
(R) This is a fascinating concept. I particularly like the bit about the past incarnation of the universe. Scientists believe that the universe has been expanding ever since the Big Bang, and that (if it contains enough matter) it will eventually contract once again. Realizing that time is infinite, that in addition to an infinite future there has been an infinite past, this brings to mind an endless cycle of expansions and contractions.
(MB) Time in any one universe must be finite if it has a beginning and an ending. Time between different universes would have no meaning. That is a difficult concept as we tend to be fixated in our linear dimension of time. There's no reason that the same manifestation of the time dimension would exist in another universe where the laws of physics are different.


(R) However, there are several problems with believing in God as a supercomputer survivor. The supercomputer would have to have been "created" at some point, by someone. (Who? God? Then it's not God)
(MB) The same problem exists with the concept of God as an entity on its own. Actually, I'd find it easier to believe the "survivor" version. After all, what would have prevented God from himself having been created?


(R) The supercomputer would have to have a physical presence and exist somewhere. If it controlled the universe through physical means, its control would leave traces which could be used to prove its existence. If it instead controlled the universe through supernatural means, then it's not merely a supercomputer.
(MB) *grin* Right now, you're asking the same questions that I have been asking and trying to resolve the same paradoxes that have troubled thinkers for centuries.
    BTW, in the story, the computer existed in hyperspace.



Great story, but hardly a basis for a belief that becomes the focal point of one's life.
(R) I agree, great story, great fiction. Fiction can provide ideas and concepts which can be useful in the real world, but because it is, by definition, not real, it can't be used for much more.
(MB) I'd be careful about saying that. Much of the world's most influential literature is, and has always been, fictional. Fiction has often spurred science to invention and discovery that might otherwise not have been accomplished or might have otherwise taken much longer to have come about on their own. Also, there is much to be said for the power of philosophical fiction. Witness the popularity of the works of Ayn Rand or L. Ron Hubbard.


(R) However, belief in God is not fictional, no matter how many times you attempt to draw parallels claiming it to be. And a belief in God makes an excellent focal point for one's life.
(MB) If it's not fictional, then it must be based on fact. If it's based on fact, then there will be some evidence to support it. Otherwise, it can not be considered to be "fact" by any stretch of the imagination. What is some of the evidence to support a claim that God is not fictional?


So, are competing religious beliefs "right" or "wrong"? They certainly can't all be true.
(R) To put it simply, that's not for me to judge. I can only say that if God wanted us all to believe the same things, and think the same, and act the same, and look the same, then he wouldn't have made us different. There are many roads to the mountain top.
(MB) Why would he create so many incompatible, paradoxical, and mutually-exclusive systems of belief? Why would he create belief systems that are in direct contravention of his own Ten Commandments? Why doesn't he give you the ability to judge which is "right" or "wrong", yet still hold you responsible for the choices you make?


Such as?
(R) Only you can say for sure. I can only speculate based on my contact with other atheists.
(MB) You certainly sounded as though you had one or more specific examples in mind. So, let's hear them. Feel free to speculate if that's all you've got. It's pointless to make statements without being willing to follow through on them.


Surely you jest. The Bible certainly has no scientific validity in the creation stories it tells. In fact, it is full of contradictions and errors. Sorry, but if that fills your intellectual needs, they must be rather slim.
(R) I think I have adequately explained my intellectual position over the course of this discussion.
(MB) Your position seems to be that you have no position. You say that it "fills your needs", but can't say how. One might legitimately wonder if you really believe what you're saying or if you're just being the Devil's Advocate in this discussion.


(R) The creation stories in the Bible are allegorical, originally written for very primitive people, and are of limited value in the modern world. I don't consider my intellectual needs "slim," although in your biased view they must be, since I believe in God.
(MB) I'm only pursuing a point that you made to me by following up on a statement that your beliefs fulfill your intellectual needs. Was that statement in error? If not, then how are they fulfulled? (It doesn't have to be through Genesis or anything else in the Bible.)


(R) You know, I've never met an atheist who didn't bring up the contradictions and errors in the Bible as somehow proving that religion is bunk.
(MB) You haven't met one here, either. First, I'm not an atheist (again, you have labeled me that way several times within this current reply despite your own previous protestations that you haven't). Second, the Bible's problems prove only that it is not inerrant. It does not prove that the religion based upon it is bunk.


(R) That's like saying that because there are errors in a 17th century scientific text, science is bunk.
(MB) Even if that was true, science is a self-correcting discipline. Religion is fixed and does not permit questioning and correction. It will continue to magnify its own errors in the course of defending itself.


(R) I don't believe I've even mentioned the Bible during this discussion, but you have several times. What's up with this?
(MB) Don't Christianity and the Bible go hand-in-hand? If we were discussing Islam, wouldn't it be relevant to mention the Qu'ran? If we were discussing any other religion, wouldn't it be relevant to mention their holy books?


I submit that you would refuse even to participate in the experiment out of fear of his eventual and inevitable answer that he would believe the scientific person.
(R) Hah! The public forum of this discussion shows my lack of worry about the validity of my position.
(MB) Few who worry about their own position are concerned over whether or not their views are aired publically. They're not likely to change their minds no matter what the response might be. If the heat gets too high for them, they'll just move on to the next forum and start again.


(R) Hopefully, Joe is listening and will respond.
(MB) Joe has responded, my friend. This is part of the reason for my new "Kudos and Flames" section. Also, this is not the only forum in which these questions are being debated. The general verdicts don't seem to be too favorable for the religious side.


(R) Also, your attempt to wrap yourself solely in the banner of science is a failure.
(MB) Oh? How?


(R) I give full credit to all valid scientific theories and am a "scientific person," too.
(MB) If that was so, you would understand the scientific method of inquiry and would be more familiar with basic concepts. You also seem to define a "valid" scientific theory solely on the basis of whether or not it agrees with your belief in God. You've said that you don't support Creationism, but you've certainly sounded like a Creationist. Despite your protestations that my statements only reflect the views of a small minority of religious individuals, those protests aren't supported by facts. In 1991, a Gallup survey found that 87 percent of Americans believe that God is responsible for the creation of Man. However, 99 percent of scientists surveyed believe that Man evolved via the naturalistic processes I have been mentioning. There is no other issue where educated people are so overwhelmingly at odds with the general public.



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