REPLY #25c 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 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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
(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
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
(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
(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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