REPLY #21c TO|
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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
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
(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?
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
(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
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
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
(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
(R) I do not find anything extraordinary about a claim that God
(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
(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?
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