Night Owl Mk. II

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page

Please feel free to E-mail me with your own comments on this issue or on anything else included in my Philosophy of Life section. Debate is good!

Please report any problems with this page to the Webmaster!

Boulder Games
Entrance Page
Exit/Links Page
Night Owl Mk. II
Special Features
Personal Pages
Philosophy of Life
Site Map
What's New on this Site?

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 second of a three-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.

Better to apply Occam's razor and cut out the unnecessary dead wood.
(R) We have to determine which concept is simpler, that God exists or that He doesn't, before we can decide to eliminate one.
(MB) That's easy. It's always simpler to believe a concept that something doesn't exist when there is no evidence to support the concept that it does. This is because something that doesn't exist can have no effect on things that do exist and such things make no predictions about anything else. Therefore, there are no complications introduced into our overall picture of reality.

(R) Additionally, William of Occam's principle can lead to erroneous conclusions when applied indiscriminately. I've read it was used to argue against the existence of atoms at one point.
(MB) Any good tool can be used incorrectly. That doesn't invalidate the tool.

I'm not sure where you are going with this. It's beginning to sound like an endless series of "Why?" questions from a small child in response to any given answers -- whether or not those answers are understood.
(R) It is somewhat of an endless series of questions, because I know eventually we will run up against fundamental questions which can't be answered.
(MB) So, the purpose of your questions was to try to find something I couldn't answer -- at which point you would step in and claim "See, God did it"?

Electrons can only orbit a nucleus in one of a few specific orbits determined by the energy of that electron. Since energy is a quantized value, it can only be increased or decreased in specific increments. When an electron gains or loses quantums of energy, it moves to orbits which are correspondingly nearer or further from the nucleus. The location of the nucleus itself does not correspond to any of the possible orbits, so the electron cannot collide with it.
(R) As the atom moves about, even during its own inherent vibrational motion, the nucleus continuously changes locations. The electrons simultaneously change position by a relative amount. Why? What keeps these particles separate, in the same relative positions? Why don't they collide?
(MB) I just answered that. The answer is the same without regard to any motion of the atom. Consider that the Earth is in no danger of crashing into the Sun simply because the Sun is, itself, in orbit around the center of the galaxy. The same laws of gravity apply to either a moving or a stationary Sun and to the planets which orbit it.

As to the location of the hydrogen atom (in what appears to be a rather contrived question), it is impossible to say. There are simply too many possible interactions that it could experience over any given period of time.
(R) If you understood the universe perfectly, you could predict with certainty what would happen to this atom.
(MB) Yes, you could. It's not completely impossible -- in the same way that accurately predicting next week's weather is not completely impossible. In practical terms, however, when tremendous numbers of variables are involved, accurate predictions become more and more improbable the further into the future they are projected. In fact, at some point it would take longer to calculate all of the possibilities than it would for them to occur. What good would it do if we could predict a hurricane with complete accuracy, but only after a series of calculations that were so lengthy that they couldn't be completed until a month after the hurricane had come and gone?

Your lungs, however, could not and would not separate the hydrogen atom from the water molecule. To do so would require an input of energy to break the atomic bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms and your lungs simply don't function that way.
(R) The molecule could easily pass into your bloodstream and be absorbed by one of your body cells, or even be absorbed directly into a cell in your lungs. While in a cell, it could separated in one of a myriad of different chemical reactions which occur constantly in our bodies
(MB) If our bodies actually worked that way, they would soon be immolated by the release of energy produced in the breaking of the chemical bonds. Either that, or we would be continuously suffering from afflictions similar to the "bends".

Even if they did, it's highly likely that they would suffer severe damage due to the energy released from the breaking of those same bonds.
(R) If positive and negative electrodes connected to a source of electricity are placed in a container of water, even a very low voltage passing between the electrodes will result in an accumulation of hydrogen gas about one electrode and oxygen gas about the other. I think our lungs could stand a similar amount of energy.
(MB) People aren't electrocuted by voltage. It's the amperage of the electrical charge that does them in. You can easily handle 250,000 volts at near-zero amperage, but don't stick your finger into a live 10-amp circuit breaker socket if you want to see tomorrow.

If you understand general relativity, you know that space curves in the presence of matter and that matter and energy are equivalent.
(R) I can't pretend to understand either the general or special theory, although I can grasp a few of the concepts. I have to admit I have lots of trouble with the idea of space having a sort of essence, which can curve. After all, I thought it was Einstein himself who discredited the idea that is space made up of some type of "ether."
(MB) It was the Michelson-Morley experiment in the late 1800's that showed that there was no ether. Einstein showed that no such thing is necessary.

(R) To me, space is defined by the presence of energy or matter. If either is present, there is space. If not, there is....nothing. If space curves, its because what is in it curves.
(MB) What you're saying here is that space and energy/matter occupy the same locations at the same time. If so, what's the difference between them?

(R) Let's see if I have this correctly. Quarks (I'll ask about the different types later)and electrons are made up of highly curved space, which is curved because of the presence of small, tightly-concentrated points of matter (or energy). OK, what is the matter (or energy) in these small, tightly-concentrated points made of?
(MB) You don't have it correctly. The highly-curved space that makes up the superstrings is curved because of the collapse of the dimensions other than the four with which we are all familiar. Those strings combine to create the fundamental particles of matter and quantums of energy (which are actually different forms of the same thing). Enough matter concentrated in a small volume can cause the remaining dimensions to curve and, eventually, collapse.

All matter and energy are theorized to be the results of various vibrational properties of strings -- which themselves are theorized to be the results of quantum fluctuations in the otherwise perfectly-balanced energy state that is often incorrectly referred to as "nothing". There could never have been a state of true "nothing". Otherwise, we would not be here to discuss the question.
(R) What do you mean by perfectly balanced energy state? What, exactly, is this "nothing?"
(MB) "Perfectly balanced" means that there are equal amounts of positive and negative energy. They cancel out in a manner similar to how adding +1 and -1 will give you 0. Those two numbers are still there, it's just the combination of the two that gives you "nothing" as a result. Likewise, the various energies are still present even if their combination results in "nothing".

This also means that, if there truly is a God, he was created by the universe and not the other way around.
(R) Not at all. God has always existed and so has the universe, though perhaps not in its present form (it may have existed as part of the "nothing" you discuss above). Given an infinite past, it is not necessary for either God or the "nothing" to have been created. The disruption in the "nothing" which represents the universe as we know it could have been initiated by God, or it could have happened on its own.
(MB) That reasoning is faulty. If God exists, he, like the universe, is certainly not "nothing". That means, if he exists in physical reality in our universe, he must have been created either by or in conjunction with the universe. Nothing that is a part of our universe could have predated it. Also, the universe does not have an infinite past since "time" is a dimension that did not exist until the universe came to be. Therefore, it had a definite and defined beginning.

Certainly, believers do not support the notion that belief in God and non-belief (or belief in deities other than God) are co-equal positions.
(R) Of course not! Everyone thinks their belief is best, or they wouldn't hold it. You aren't willing to conceed your belief is co-equal to other beliefs -- why do you expect others to do so?
(MB) I would concede such a thing if another belief was shown to be better. I have done so in the past and will certainly do so in the future. That is the intellectual mindset. Is it wrong to ask the same of anybody else?
    Also, I can point to specific and demonstrable reasons why I hold my beliefs. They are not "personal preferences". I don't have them simply because somebody "can't prove them wrong". I don't have them because they are "easier". I have them because they have survived challenges and shown themselves to be valid. Religious preferences can't claim any of that. Nobody can show that "God" is "right" while any other deity is "wrong". Nobody can show any evidence that suggests the existence of any deity at all. Nobody can even show a reason why any one deity should be preferred over any other. How, then, can anybody possibly justify their own religious beliefs as being "best"?

(R) This doesn't change the simple fact that there is no resolution of the question of God's existence, and any belief or non-belief in God is merely a personal choice.
(MB) Logic and reason be damned, eh?

If they did, there would be no religious strife and no debates over the topic. They would not see any need to question or attack the theories of science. They would be willing to freely and easily discard or modify their beliefs in favor of something better. Because of this, it is not a mere "belief". God's existence is, for them, a fact.
(R) Once again, you are attributing the beliefs of a small number of people, those with narrow, fundamentalist religious beliefs, to everyone who believes in God.
(MB) Are you including yourself in that "small number"? You have explicitly stated that God's existence is, for you, a fact. Indeed, I doubt you can point to *any* believer who wouldn't state such a thing for himself. After all, why believe in God if you don't think that his existence is a fact? That "small number" isn't looking so small, is it?

(R) In the final analysis, any knowledge possessed by man, be it political, economic, religious, or scientific, can be twisted to evil purposes. Perverted science is just as harmful, dangerous and destructive as perverted religion. (ref. Nationalist Socialism)
(MB) As I said earlier, any good tool can be misused. Should we throw out or demean knowledge and scholarship because they might also be misused or because they might cause us to have to reevaluate cherished and long-held beliefs? Religion certainly seems to think along those lines.

(R) As far as the matter of religious strife goes, there's been plenty of that through the ages, but all of it put together is a church picnic compared to the non-religious strife of the 20th century. In fact, think of all the most dangerous hot spots in the world today. Religion plays a very minor role in any of them, except as a vehicle for evil men to whip up support for their causes. Political, economic, and racial demagoguery play a much larger role.
(MB) If you take even a cursory look at history, you'll see that religion has done more to harm the progress of Man than anything else. How advanced would our technology be today if not for the depredations of religion from the time between the twilight of the ancient Greek civilization and the dawning of the Renaissance?
    Even today's hot spots have a background in religious strife. Bosnia wouldn't have happened without Muslim/Christian friction. In Northern Ireland, it's Catholic vs. Protestant. In India, it's Hindu vs. Sikh. In Israel, it's Jew vs. Muslim. In the Middle East in general, it's Islam vs. "the Great Satan". And, need I mention Fundamentalist Christians vs. common sense?
    People may fight "for the King", but they do so because the King has gained his exalted position through divine providence. What is the basis for the mindless support given to such as Marshall Applewhite, Jim Jones, David Koresh, Rev. Moon, L. Ron Hubbard, and so many more? What is at the core of most of the opposition to abortion, sex education, evolution, homosexuality, and so many other issues? What is the basis for most arguments over morality?
    No, sir, saying that religion plays a "very minor role" in practically anything is a rather dubious claim, indeed.

That's true in the case where there truly is no evidence in support of either side. However, that is not the case here. Refusal to accept evidence or the conclusions drawn on the basis of that evidence does not mean that such evidence does not exist.
(R) It most certainly is the case. The physical evidence shows us what exists and how it came about, and that is all is shows. It provides no answers whatsoever about the ultimate origin of things which exist, or any reason (or lack of reason) for their existence.
(MB) That argument is internally inconsistent. If you are trying to argue in favor of the existence of God, say that the physical evidence shows us what exists, and still can't show any such evidence that points to the existence of God, then you are concluding, paradoxically, that God does not exist. You also say that the evidence shows how things came about and then turn around and say that it does not do so. Please sort this out and try again.

(R) I'm not refusing to accept anything, other than your unsubstantiated claim that the existence and workings of the physical universe proves there is no God.
(MB) I didn't say that and I have never said that. What I have said is that invoking God is unnecessary in order to explain the universe or anything in the universe. You disagree, but can't give me a single example that would suggest otherwise.

Any belief or theory is supportable only in proportion to the amount of evidence on its side.
(R) Agreed.
(MB) OK. I've been presenting evidence in support of my beliefs. Where is yours? Is there any?

Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 04 Jun 98

Earthlink Network Home Page

Go to next reply

Return to "Religion" essay

Back to Philosophy page