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

(R) But enough of this supposing, on to another point: What's this about other universes with different laws of physics? Is there any evidence, anything other than pure speculation, which might indicate such things exist?
(MB) Of course there is. Linde's theory of chaotic inflation shows that our universe is only one among many, i.e., a "multiverse". His equations, when plotted by computer, show the rise and fall of component universes and the variations of sets of different physical laws within each. It is truly fascinating!

(R) If not, what makes a belief there might be such other universes superior in any way to a belief in God?
(MB) Again, must we give credence to superstition in any supposed absence of evidence or lack of absolute proof of anything in reality? In other words, why is belief in God superior to an honest "I don't know" answer to any question about the universe?

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) No, this same problem is not applicable to God. God is infinite, He has always existed. Just as the numbers on a number line proceed to infinity in both the positive and negative directions, the future and the past are both infinite for God. God has always existed and there is no need for Him to have ever been created. He simply exists.
(MB) How do you know all this? What evidence is there that leads us to such conclusions? You say these things with no indication whatsoever that they are anything less than undeniable fact, so you must have something with which to support them. Are we ever going to hear what it is?
    Also, you have now clearly defined your "God" as the theistic version favored by Christianity as opposed to any other version or interpretation such as pantheistic, polytheistic, or deistic versions or as any non-infinite variety -- as if there was ever any doubt about who or what you have always been defending.
    Now, there will be no more confusion over what is meant when any statement about God -- either pro or con -- is made.

(R) If the supercomputer has always existed, that is, if it has the attributes of God, then it *is* God, not just a supercomputer. If it doesn't have these attributes, then it is not God and must have been created by someone.
(MB) But, a supercomputer, by definition, is something that had a creator. In the story, the final supercomputer was just the last in a long series of ever more powerful computers that had been designed and built by their predecessors. Yet, the story comes full circle as the final supercomputer recreates the universe and starts the whole process over from the beginning. This will, of course, result in the same sequence of events happening again and repeating endlessly. It also means that the same sequence has happened endlessly prior to the particular sequence recounted in the story. So, the supercomputer has always existed and will always exist, yet it was created. Therefore, by your definition, it both is and is not God. Once again, the idea of God leads us to an unresolvable paradox.

BTW, in the story, the computer existed in hyperspace.
(R) What, exactly, is hyperspace, other than a fudge used by science-fiction authors to allow their characters to get around the physical laws of the universe. What evidence is there that such a thing exists?
(MB) It may be a "fudge", but there is a mathematical basis for it to be found in the other physical dimensions which did not expand immediately after the Big Bang along with the four with which we are familiar. Those dimensions still exist, but we haven't yet learned how to take advantage of their properties -- or even what all of those properties might be.

I'd be careful about saying that. Much of the world's most influential literature is, and has always been, fictional.
(R) Actually, the most influential literature has always been history, philosophy and scientific texts, none of which are classified as fiction, but yes, fiction can be influential.
(MB) I guess what we really need is a definition of "fiction". Certainly, the distinction doesn't rest upon whether or not the author actually declares his work to be "fiction". Usually, fiction is considered to be a literary work whose major portions (plot, characters, events, etc.) are made up by the author and which has a story or moral to relate. Clearly, history and science texts are not fiction (so long as they stick to verifiable facts).
    Philosophy is a broad subject which can range across both fiction and non-fiction. Philosophical works which concentrate primarily upon methods of logic and reasoning are clearly non-fiction, while works that focus more upon ideas or morality which cannot be deduced from objective data would seem to fall more in the realm of fiction. Yet, it is those works detailing ideas and morality which have had the most profound influence upon the masses. The holy book(s) of nearly every religion certainly qualify here.

(R) "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is a superb example of a fictional story which influenced history.
(MB) Indeed, it can. I think you'd also agree that it is based the factual abuses of the institution of slavery. That is the source of its powerful influence. That non-fictional source material was enhanced and inflamed by the fictional events and characters depicted in the book.

(R) However, fictional works cannot be used as factual references in any sense. They are only useful for ideas and concepts.
(MB) That's not necessarily true. As you yourself have said previously, a work of fiction can be fleshed out with great amounts of factual information. That information could provide useful references even if many of the details of the plot or the characters can not. In any case, such references would have to be verifiable through independent sources. No single reference to anything can be held to be completely accurate or authoritative.

(R) If I wrote a book about naval warfare in the age of sail and tried to use the exploits of Horatio Hornblower as factual accounts of sea warfare during that period, well, let's just say, such a book would be looked upon with skepticism.
(MB) On the whole, that would be true. It all depends upon how much reality you wanted to employ in your story. Also, you would certainly use more than one source for your research on the subject and would likely be loathe to include details that were not verified in at least two other places.

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.
(R) Huh? This is a questionable statement. I would say the reverse is much more often true, that is, science inspires fiction. Like with Shelly, or Jules Verne, or H.G.Wells.
(MB) The main ingredient necessary for invention is imagination. One must conceive of something before it can be constructed. Writers of fiction are free to let their imaginations range far and wide when creating their stories. Many times, their fictional inventions are silly, but they might also have insights which can provide the spark needed to trigger a real-life invention. There were no real-life analogs to animation of the dead, rockets to the moon, or time machines prior to the great fiction of Shelley, Verne, or Wells.

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) Proponents of Objectivism and Scientology, respectively. As I've said previously, I'm quite familiar with Ms. Rand's work. The only thing of Hubbard's I've read is "Battlefield Earth," which I enjoyed, but it had nothing in it about Scientology. I think its safe to say in the cases of both authors that their philosophies are based on their non-fictional works (which are extensive) and not on their novels.
(MB) Agreed, although I'm not sure I would go so far as to classify the philosophies of either as "non-fiction".

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?
(R) You are wrong to say if something is not fictional it must be based on fact. Whether or not something is based on facts is not the determining factor as to whether it is classified as fiction or non-fiction.
(MB) Based on facts, no. Devoid of facts, yes. Since there are no facts to support any claims for the existence of God, any story which features him as the central character must be fictional.

(R) A fictional story is fabricated, that is to say, it is made up.
(MB) Exactly. Scholars have shown that the early Jews blended elements of many different pre-existing religious myths to assist in making up their tale of "God" and positioning themselves as the "chosen people". If that story doesn't qualify as "fiction", then I'm not sure what does.

(R) An author who writes historical fiction makes no claim whatsoever of it being accurate history, in fact, by classifying his work as fictional, he is frankly saying, "I'm making this up. It never really happened." This is not to say the story might not be based on facts, to a greater or lesser extent.
(MB) Agreed. The author also has no intention of convincing people that his story is anything but a story. His goal is his readers' entertainment.

(R) Conversely, many non-fiction works are not based strictly on facts. Most philosophical writings fall into this category. The philosopher makes certain basic assumptions, which are often open to considerable debate, then uses logic and reason to draw conclusions and build a system of beliefs. But the fact that a philosophical text is not based on facts doesn't cause it to be classified as fiction.
(MB) Depends on who's doing the classification and what sort of philosophy is the subject of the work. A treatise on the basis of inductive reasoning is not the same as a work on the tenets of Zen.

(R) God is not fictional because no one made Him up, at least not in the way an author makes up a fictional story. As such, He cannot be compared to fictional creations, at least not without it being a comparison of apples and oranges.
(MB) If no one made up God, then he exists. If he exists, then there will be some evidence to support that existence. If there is no evidence, no claim to existence has any meaning and no belief in that existence is rationally justifiable. If the belief is not rationally justifiable, then the subject of the belief can rightly be classified as being fictional.

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?
(R) Ever hear of free will? If everything was completely spelled out for us, so clearly that we had only obvious choices to make, we would be little different than robots doing exactly as programmed.
(MB) If God has the qualities that are ascribed to him, then there can be no such thing as free will or humans which act in ways contrary to God's wishes. If humans do possess free will, then God is not the omnipotent, omniscient entity that is described by theism.

(R) I'm expected to make my own choices, not because someone or something tells me what to choose, but because of honest and intense efforts on my part to know what is right.
(MB) If a theistic God exists, how could you "know" what is "right" unless that God has already preordained "right" and "wrong" and created your ability to "know" them? If this is so, it is impossible to argue that you made the decision on your own through any amount of personal effort.

(R) However, this is a personal effort, and what is right for me is not necessarily right for everyone else.
(MB) If a theistic God exists, "right" is the same thing for everybody since we were all created by that God. Not only this, but "right" is what such a God has already defined as being "right".

(R) It's not my place to judge the actions and beliefs of others, unless they somehow infringe upon my rights or the rights of others.
(MB) The actions of others can be judged against the society's laws and/or moral standards, but judgments will necessarily vary in their validity. The beliefs of others can be judged using the same standards of evidence and reasoning that are applicable to any belief and multiple judgments should normally produce the same verdicts.

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.
(R) Sorry to sound that way. I know little about you and haven't a clue what specific emotional needs your beliefs might fill, other than the ones I've already noted as generally applicable to other atheists.
(MB) In other words, I'm being stereotyped by an inherently biased view that has already been shown to be inaccurate.

(R) All I know is that human beings are highly emotional creatures, and that these emotions play a profound role in what they think, say, and do, even when repressed Your claim that your beliefs are purely intellectual is impossible.
(MB) If you don't know me, how can you make such a claim about me? Also, what emotions play a part in applying the same standards of evidence in order to attempt to determine the validity of any claim or belief?

(R) As far as any particular need that I might speculate about, I hesitate to do that, but will say I'm beginning to notice a need on your part to feel superior to others. We all have this need to a certain extent, but it seems rather pronounced in your case. I can't say if the following applies to you or not, because I don't know enough about you, but a pathological need to feel superior is often a result of feelings of inferiority and is generally manifested through belittling others.
(MB) Again, you can't make such a claim, but that apparently won't prevent your throwing it out for whatever value it may have. If you remember my previous statements about how I feel that I am one with the universe, you would have no basis upon which to accuse me of any need to feel superior. Do not make the logical error of projecting an argument about the relative superiority of arguments or beliefs onto the people who are making such arguments. A debate is not about which debater is the superior individual.

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