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REPLY #21c 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 last of a three-part reply.

Such was the case with the Nazis. In an attempt to recover from the twin devastations and humiliations of the defeat in World War I and the economic disaster in the 1920's, Hitler forged a strong national identity in Germany at the expense of his scapegoats, the Jews.
(R) This is an extremely simplistic picture of events in Germany after WWI.
(MB) True enough, but since this is supposed to be a debate on religion, I wasn't inclined to include a lengthy history of Nazi Germany.


(R) The humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles played a much bigger role in fostering German resentment than anything in the defeat itself.
(MB) Yep. In fact, there was no real defeat in the field. The forced abdication of William II and the ensuing political turmoil required that Germany end the war effort and do so on unfavorable and humiliating terms.


(R) The German economy was a shambles immediately after the war, but recovered quickly, despite the massive reparations required by the treaty, and did well until world-wide depression struck in the 1930's. A multitude of other factors played roles in the rise of the Nazis as well.
(MB) True again. Hitler joined the Nazi party in 1919 and led the party in an attempt to overthrow the government in 1923. He rebuilt his power base beginning in 1925 and it grew until an electorate that was disillusioned by the Depression voted the Nazis into a position of power in 1930.


(R) The Jews were far more than simply Hitler's scapegoats. They were the victims of a peculiarly virulent brand of anti-Semitism which had been percolating in Germany for centuries. Hitler simply tapped into something which was already present.
(MB) Isn't that what "scapegoat" means? Hitler focused the attention of Germany upon the Jews as both the source of their problems and the scourge that had to be purged from Aryan lands and blood in order to achieve their true greatness.


His ideas were the survivors (i.e., they were the"fittest") until Germany was defeated again and they were replaced by what we now call "Western" ideas.
(R) These ideas weren't the fittest, in fact, they were what caused the rest of the civilized world to band together to defend themselves from the perverted science of Nazism.
(MB) Because they supplanted the existing government and national identity, Hitler's ideas became the "fittest" -- albeit temporarily. Whether or not they were morally reprehensible does not preclude their being the fittest at the time.


(R) The "master race" policies of the Germans caused a back-lash of guerrilla warfare in the conquered territories, and burdened the wartime economy with unnecessary demands on transportation, personnel and production resources, speeding the German defeat.
(MB) There's no way that any partisan activity against Germany shortened the war by any significant amount. The combined and overwhelming pressure of the two-front war against the Russians and the US/Britain did the trick.


(R) Also, what do you mean by Western ideas? Last time I checked, Germany was part of what is generally referred to as western civilization..
(MB) It is now. There was no such thing as our current concept of "Western" ideals until after the conclusion of WWII. Our victory in the war also brought the force of our ideals to the forefront in the area under our influence at the end of the war, i.e., the "Western world".


That makes "us" the "fittest" -- at least until we should be defeated and replaced in the future. Are we the "best suited" to lead the world? Maybe. Maybe not. We just happen to be at the top of the superpower food chain right now.
(R) It's not a question of fitness, its a question of what's right. As long as we promote what is right, we will be successful and supported in the world's affairs. If and when we stop, that will be the end of us.
(MB) We will only be "right" so long as we are still in charge. If we are defeated and replaced, then our conquerors will be the ones to determine what is "right" and they will become the fittest -- until they are, in turn, defeated and supplanted. That's the way of the world and it has been so ever since the first cave man picked up a rock and copped an attitude against his neighbor.


(R) There is no morality in nature, you know. Plants and animals don't succeed by doing what is morally right, they succeed by doing what enables them to survive and reproduce, even if such behavior would be considered reprehensible by humans. We can do the same, if we choose. The only question is, would survival under those terms be worth it?
(MB) Who says there's no morality in nature? Most species have some sort of rules of conduct for basic behavorial interactions. For example, territories and offspring are protected against intruders and any attempt by another to encroach upon them risks adverse consequences. Don't we do the same thing with our moralistic condemnations of stealing and trespassing? When animals fight, they often do so under "rules" that mean that a winner can be determined without either combatant being killed or severely wounded. Just because animals can't argue about their morals on the Internet or build churches doesn't mean they might not have any form of morality.
    Or, if you want to approach the question from the other side, don't the things that humans consider "morality" amount to behaviors that assist our ability to survive and reproduce. What might work for me might be considered reprehensible by somebody else. Again, what difference is there between us and our other cousins in nature?



BTW, the societal ills that might fall under the term "social Darwinism" have often been used by Creationists in an attempt to discredit Darwin's real theories. This is obvious nonsense.
(R) Not my purpose. I used Social Darwinism to illustrate the catastrophic consequences of the alternative to the principle that all men are created equal.
(MB) And, I've shown that you must engage in some fanciful extrapolations in order to do so.


Correct. But, that doesn't mean that they are "right" and that UFOs exist simply because non-existence can't be proven. To be taken seriously, the UFO geeks (or anybody else who espouses a positive position) must support their claim with evidence. Opinions don't become valid just because somebody voices them.
(R) You're original question was, do I think UFO advocates are out of line by stating their views. My answer to this question is, no, they have the right to say whatever they please.
(MB) Don't forget the rest of the question about expecting us to believe it without evidence to support it. If all they did was state a belief, there would be no issue to debate. But, like with your views on religion, when their view is supposed to be taken seriously despite nothing to support it and much to dispute it, it becomes a point where skepticism is the better position.


(R) As far as the other issues you've interjected go, I agree that it is incorrect to claim UFO's exist simply because no one can prove they do not, but it is equally incorrect to claim they do not exist simply because no one can prove they do.
(MB) And, you'd be just as wrong here as you are when you use the same illogic to support your belief in God -- for all of the same reasons I've been stating.


(R) In the specific case of UFOs, involving a physical manifestation supportable by physical evidence, it is reasonable to make an overall judgment based on such evidence as is available, but in cases in which there is no evidence, it is logical and reasonable, to an equal degree, to draw either conclusion.
(MB) Once again, you begin with a truthful statement followed by an invalid conclusion based on the incorrect assertion that neither side has any evidence to support it. If there truly was any question about anything where there was no evidence on either side, the question itself wouldn't even exist -- much less any debate about it.


OK, so what has changed? "Life as we know it on Earth" exists on Earth simply because it is amenable to conditions on Earth. If those conditions don't exist elsewhere, those life forms also will not exist elsewhere. That doesn't mean that life of any kind is impossible anywhere other than the Earth or that Earth-like conditions can't be found anywhere else.
(R) Your claim, in this particular instance, is that it is impossible to prove that something doesn't exist. If I say, "Bunny rabbits exist on the moon," any arguments that they do would not carry much weight. It is quite easy to prove bunny rabbits do not exist on the moon, because the conditions on the moon preclude such existence.
(MB) First, let's assume that when you say "bunny rabbits", you mean members of the genus Sylvilagus of the family Leporidae (commonly called "cottontails"). That will define a particular animal which requires a specific environment in which to survive. Even at that, the best we can say for certain is that such animals do not exist on the surface of the Moon. We cannot prove that suitable environments do not exist underneath the surface and that we might not discover them at some future time.
    It is also easy to envision a scenario under which "bunny rabbits" could have first been introduced to the Moon. Assume that an extraterrestrial civilization has established an underground base far beneath the Moon's surface. Assume they visited Earth in our past and brought "bunny rabbits" back with them to their base. Assume that they reproduced the proper environmental conditions to ensure the animals' survival -- much as humans might construct habitats at a zoo. Under this scenario, "bunny rabbits" might well exist on the Moon and your statement about how easy it is to disprove such a thing becomes invalid.



(R) Your claim, that it is impossible to prove something doesn't exist, is shown to be invalid by this example. To the contrary, there are definitely ways to prove things do not exist.
(MB) On the contrary, I have shown conclusively that you have not considered all possibilities before making your statement. Since my scenario is feasible, it shows your "proof" to be incorrect.


(R) Now, cases involving very broad claims, such as, "Life exists on the moon," or "God exists," can be more difficult to disprove, or in some cases, impossible, but one cannot say it is always impossible to prove something does not exist.
(MB) I guess you'll need to come up with another example to attempt to refute that. The bunnies have failed you.


(R) All that is necessary, in order to disprove such a claim, is to find something which precludes it from being true. If this cannot be done, the claim must be given consideration.
(MB) I guess you're a believer in alien bases and bunny rabbits inside the Moon now, eh?


We could do as you ask (in fact, it has already been done with the discovery of the bacterial kingdom known as Archaea), but that would only prove that such life *could* exist on the Moon -- not that it actually *does* exist. That proof would require actually finding it somewhere on the Moon.
(R) Did the bacteria survive? I'm interested.
(MB) Yep. The hypothesis could hardly have been supported if they had not.


(R) It may be theoretically possible for an unknown life form or a simple carbon-based life form to exist on the moon, and it may be theoretically possible that you have special powers and created the universe, but the possibilities of these contingencies, based on the available evidence, are so small as to be discountable. For all practical purposes, these claims have been disproved.
(MB) If you believe what you just said, then you must also admit that the God theory has, for all practical purposes, been disproved. Or, will you once again divorce the God theory from the same standards of evidence and proof as any other idea? You must admit that, without supporting evidence, no "theoretical possibility" can be taken seriously and that it is reasonable to discount such an idea. Or, will you change your tune and suddenly decide to accept anything and everything else just to preserve the only rationale for your belief in God?


(R) Additionally, the claim that there are bunny rabbits on the moon can be completely disproved. (I can hardly wait to hear you argue there may be bunny rabbits on the moon.) Your statement, that the positive position can never be disproven, is in error.
(MB) By now, you've certainly read my refutation of your "bunny rabbits on the moon" argument which was presented earlier in this reply. If you have done so, you will know that it is not an error to say that such a claim can not be disproven.


(R) Finding a living thing on the moon would not be easy. As has been said, it would involve going there and examining the entire planet, which presents considerable logistical difficulties. Of course, if such life were abundant, it would make the task easier. But if life were abundant on the moon, there would be other evidence of its existence which could be used to prove the case.
(MB) Perhaps, but if such life only existed deep within the Moon, there would likely be no evidence which could be found by any observer on the surface. The failure of an exhaustive examination of the surface to find any living thing would not prove that no form of life exists under the surface. In any case, the obvious fact that any such search wouldn't be "easy" is no argument either for or against the reality of life forms actually being present on the Moon.


(R) Inability or unwillingness to present evidence in support of a claim definitely casts doubt on it if any evidence is available.
(MB) That is the major failing of Creationism. Their entire case rests upon attempts to dispute science. Normally, they simply ignore the responsibility to present any evidence in favor of their own ideas. Of course, this is understandable since any specific evidence that has ever been advanced in support of their ideas has always been conclusively debunked.


(R) If there is none, well then, the claim is simply no better -- and no worse -- than any other similar claim.
(MB) Nope. If there's no evidence in support of a claim, the best that can be said about it is that it is nothing more than a "claim". Without evidence, no claim can be taken seriously and none has any reason whatsoever to justify its acceptance.
    To prove, for example, that life exists on the Moon requires only that a sample be found. To dispute the proof would require compelling evidence against the proof. In other words, the dissenters would now be holding the positive position "this evidence is fake". Now, the burden of proof is on them to support their positive position and demonstrate how or why they believe the evidence to be fake.



As another example, there are still those who claim that the Moon landings were faked despite all evidence to the contrary. To date, they have not supported their claims with anything credible. Are we to take their claims with equal seriousness simply because they have a strong belief in them?
(R) Funny you should bring the moon-landings up, because I was going to mention them myself to illustrate how difficult it can be to completely prove something -- thereby providing a futher rebuttal of your ridiculous claim that it is easy to prove something exists. The evidence showing men have walked on the moon is overwhelming: pictures, videos, recovered moon rocks, eye-witness accounts, etc. Yet there are still those who claim it was all staged, manufactured, or fabricated. Similarly, there are those who still claim the earth to be flat. Any reasonable person would obviously conclude these claims to be untrue, but it is impossible to entirely refute them.
(MB) No, it's not. All that must be done is to successfully debunk any and all evidence that is presented by supporters of such silly ideas. If they have no evidence to present, then their claims are just so much hot air. It is not enough merely to state a claim or a belief. Simply making such statements does not, in any way, shape or form, give them any validity or make them equally plausible with any ideas that they dispute. Ideas gain validity only in proportion with the amount of evidence which supports them.
    The flat-earthers and those who choose not to believe in the Moon landings are doing nothing more than trying to gain attention for their own brands of ignorance. They continue to believe as they do despite the crushing weight of the accumulated evidence against them and the complete disbunking of their ideas. This indicates that they must have something other (and larger) than their basic claims which motivates them.



(R) No, we do not take such claims seriously, because of the overwhelming evidence against them. But there is no such overwhelming evidence against the existence of God.
(MB) There doesn't have to be any such evidence. The idea that "God exists" must have evidence in support of itself in order to begin to gain any validity. The fact that there is a tremendous amount of evidence to show that there is no need for such an entity makes it even more necessary for positive evidence in support of such existence to be presented if the idea is to be taken seriously. Without such evidence, there is no reason to accept the idea and it can safely be discounted.


What I "think should be" makes no difference. There is a basic fundamental of logic and reason involved here. Some refer to it as the principle "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs". To say that something is so is an extraordinary claim unless and until one produces evidence to support that claim.
(R) To say extraordinary claims require extraordinary proofs is simply to say, if you want to prove an unusual claim you may have to find an unusual method of proving it.
(MB) Nope. It means that it is simply not good enough to make such a claim and hold that it is valid. It means that such a claim requires supporting evidence in order to be taken seriously.


(R) (At this point, let me simply exclaim, "Mwah-hah-hah!")
(MB) Well, that's the strongest evidence you've presented so far in support of how valid the God theory is.


(R) It in no way says, "Any claim that something exists bears the burden of proof."
(MB) That is, in fact, exactly what is being said. This doesn't change whether or not any particular individual chooses to agree with it. It is one of the most fundamental principles of logic and reason. To dispute it is to say that one discounts logic and reason while arguing in favor of his ideas.


Copernicus' heliocentric cosmology was an extraordinary claim when it was first made. But, the weight of evidence showed it to be superior to the prevailing Ptolemaic Earth-centered cosmology. In other words, it was a positive claim that shouldered the burden of proof and won its case. The existence of black holes was also an extraordinary claim that had to shoulder the burden of proof until the observational and mathematical evidence came down on its side.
The claim that "God exists" -- along with all of the qualities ascribed to such a deity -- is certainly extraordinary. Like any other extraordinary claim, it must also shoulder the burden of proof if it is to be acceptable. There is absolutely nothing about this claim that relieves it from adhering to the same fundamentals of logic and reason as any other positive claim. This is especially true considering the nature of this particular claim.

(R) I do not find anything extraordinary about a claim that God exists.
(MB) How unsurprising. You don't find it to be an extraordinary claim that all scientific evidence should be discarded in favor of a thoroughly unsupported, inherently contradictory, and internally inconsistent idea about a proposed supernatural entity for which it can't even be shown that there is any need for that entity to exist?
    If a claim that God exists in not extraordinary, that means it would arise naturally from the evidence available in the physical universe. Since this is not the case, the claim is, indeed, an extraordinary one.



(R) Nor do I find anything extraordinary about a claim He does not.
(MB) There can hardly be anything extraordinary about disbelief in the existence of something for which there is no supporting evidence.


(R) I do find claims that science proves He does not exist, or that it is intellectually inferior to believe He does, to be quite extraordinary.
(MB) This shows only that you are willing to distort the meaning of the word "extraordinary" or the motives of science in order to support a shaky argument. Science does not prove that God doesn't exist. However, it can cast serious doubt upon such existence by showing how such a thing is unnecessary to explain anything in the universe. Since this is so and since there is nothing to dispute such doubts, the continued belief in the existence of God must be intellectually inferior to disbelief.


(R) However, our differing opinions on what constitutes an extraordinary claim doesn't change the fact that all claims stand or fall on their own merits...
(MB) That is exactly correct. Your claim has no merits. Therefore, it must fall.


(R) ...and none bear the burden of proof more than any other.
(MB) This is exactly incorrect. All positive claims -- especially those which dispute the weight of evidence against them -- bear the burden of proof. To shirk this responsibility is to withdraw such claims from serious consideration.


So, where is the conclusive evidence (or, in fact, any evidence at all) for the positive claim "God exists"? If there is none, then there is no reason whatsoever to support it as being truthful.
(R) There is no conclusive evidence which proves God exists.
(MB) OK, then, I guess that the issue of whether or not it is an idea worthy of serious consideration can finally be put to rest.
    But, in the interest of fairness, I'll give you one more chance. Is there any evidence at all -- conclusive or not -- that even supports your idea? Proof, in this case, will not be required. If there is so much as one reasonable piece of evidence, you can save your beliefs from consignment to the intellectual dustbin. Are you up to it?




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