REPLY #27d 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 fourth of a seven-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
(R) Biochemical reactions are the mechanisms by which our bodies convert fuel,
i.e. oxygen and food, into energy. The breaking of chemical bonds, far from
immolating us with energy, are what keep us alive.
(MB) These reactions occur at the molecular level and not at the atomic level.
Therefore, the chemical bonds between atoms are not broken by these processes.
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.
(R) Of course. But the process described above, called electrolysis, requires
neither large currents or high voltages. Increasing these merely increases the
rate of reaction. Even very low currents and voltages will still separate the
hydrogen and oxygen atoms. Once again, our lungs could easily stand such a
small release of energy.
(MB) Once again, the body does not break water molecules down into their
component atoms. Also, pure water is an extremely poor electrical conductor, so
it must be combined with some solution of salts or acids in order to allow the
electrolysis process to work no matter how much electricity is available.
For what it's worth, to convert 18g of water into its component hydrogen and
oxygen atoms would require over 285,000 joules of electricity.
Out of curiosity, what does any of this have to do with whether or not God
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) Hey! I thought you said it was impossible to prove something doesn't
exist? But here, you've contradicted yourself by stating this experiment showed
there was no ether, in other words, it proved the ether didn't exist.
(MB) Remember when I said that you could show that something doesn't exist by
refuting the conditions necessary for its existence or by showing that its
predicted effects don't exist? That's what happened in the Michelson-Morley
experiment. If ether existed as hypothesized, the experiment would have
verified it. When the experiment failed, the ether hypothesis was refuted.
There's no logical conflict here.
(R) But anyway, the Michelson-Morley experiments didn't prove the ether didn't
(MB) Yes, it did. See above...
(R) These experiments yielded results which were contrary to what was
expected if the ether was stationary, but did not showing conclusively there was
(MB) Technically, what was shown is that the speed of light in a vacuum is the
same in all inertial reference systems (coordinate systems moving at constant
velocity relative to each other). Therefore, any absolute motion (or lack of
motion) of the ether was irrelevant.
(R) It was subsequently hypothesized that the earth and the ether moved
together, or that the ether was dragged around locally by the Earth, or some
other factor was involved, etc.. Einstein delivered the coup de grace which
finally put the theory of ether to rest.
(MB) Those alternate ether theories were never taken seriously as they all had
serious conceptual flaws. We see the same sorts of flaws in the attempts to
preserve the steady state theory or the flat Earth theory. Einstein finally put
an end to all the balderdash about ether.
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) I guess what I'm saying is that "space" is really just a concept, in the
same way that points (which are dimensionless) and lines (defined by two points)
are concepts. A point is difficult to define exactly and can not be said to
truly exist. Neither can a line or space.
(MB) This is incorrect. A point is one exact location in space-time. It has no
physical dimensions other than its location. A line connects two points and has
only one physical dimension -- length. There's no reason to say that neither
actually exists. Space is certainly a real thing. If it wasn't, none of us
would be around to argue the point.
(R) Consider this: a line which is one inch in length has an infinite number of
points on it. The entire 3-dimensional universe also contains an infinite
number of points. Are we to conclude, since the two have an equal number of
points in them, that they are the same size? Of course not. But this
illustrates the nebulous nature of points.
(MB) This is also incorrect. In mathematics, there are different levels of
infinities (often referred to as "Aleph-null, Aleph-one, and Aleph-two"). What
you have described is the difference between Aleph-null and Aleph-one.
(R) Overall, if there is no matter or energy present, if there is nothing, then
the concept of space is meaningless.
(MB) True, but obvious. But, in reality, there is no true total absence of
matter and/or energy anywhere in the universe.
(R) Well, here's what you said that confused me: "...according to superstring
theory, a string is infinitesimally small and must contain some amount of energy
(and, therefore, some amount of matter), the concentration is high enough that
the string actually consists of the aforementioned small point of highly-curved
This led me to conclude the intense, black hole-like gravity from the highly
concentrated matter (or energy) was what caused the collapse of the extra six
dimensions and the curvature of the space. Apparently I have mis-interpreted
what you said. If so, what does cause the collapse of the extra dimensions and
the space curvature?
(MB) This is what's referred to as the "compactification" question. An answer
is found in inflation theory which predicts that the universe underwent a phase
transition as it began to cool immediately after the Big Bang. Our four
familiar dimensions continued to expand while the other six did not. They still
exist on the quantum level.
(R) Also, I thought the reason they were called strings was because they were
not small, dimensionless points, but were extended in one dimension?
(MB) Space is particulate at the quantum level in much the same way that air is
at the atomic level. The sum total of this particulate is called "space-time
foam". It is the combinations of this particulate (or "strings") that produce
what we call "dimensions". So, it is meaningless to consider the strings
themselves to have any dimensionality.
Out of curiosity, what does any of this have to do with whether or not God
(R) I do agree that matter and energy are the same thing, though.
Simply put, matter *is* energy.
(MB) Right. Matter is actually "frozen" energy.
"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".
(R) You haven't told me the nature of these positive and negative
(MB) It depends on your frame of reference. There are several examples you
could consider. Matter (frozen energy) is counterbalanced by gravity.
Positive and negative electrical charges also counterbalance. So does all
angular momentum. Any way you look at it, all measurable quantities in the
universe add up to zero.
(R) Are they similar to matter and anti-matter? But those can't co-exist, they
instantaneously annihilate one another whenever they come in contact. Wouldn't
the positive and negative energy do the same? If so, how could they ever be
perfectly balanced? If not, then why not?
(MB) What do you think happens when matter and anti-matter annihilate one
another? They are simply converted completely back into energy. When matter
and anti-matter particle pairs are initially produced, they will normally
immediately annihilate each other unless quantum effects cause them to move out
of contact with each other. Similar things happen at the event horizons of
black holes. Nothing is gained or lost.
(R) Are the positive and negative energy both present in our current
(MB) Of course.
(R) Or does our universe contain only positive energy? If so, what happened to the
negative energy? Was it destroyed? Or does it still exist in an alternate
universe? Is this alternate universe made up of anti-matter and negative
(MB) It's all still here. The only reason we notice anything is that opposing
quantities are far enough apart to prevent them annihilating each other. In
other words, local imbalances of energy are what produces everything that exists
in the universe.
(R) Let me also ask some questions on the scope of this nothing you describe,
this perfectly balanced energy state. Is it infinite? Has it "always" been
present? Is it still out there, beyond the edge of our universe, even now? I am
eager to hear what you have to say on these questions.
(MB) Our universe is entirely self-contained. If there are additional
universes, they are separate and undetectable from our own. From our own frame
of reference in our universe, everything in it has always existed. Remember, of
course, that the concept of "always" only has any meaning if the dimension of
time is present and that dimension was created concurrently with our universe.
Any version of time that might exist in other universes would have no meaning in
Out of curiosity, what does any of this have to do with whether or not God
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.
(R) Something which is part of the physical universe, be it a supercomputer or
some sort of intergalactic traveler or whatever, is not God. If God exists, He
exists separately from the universe, He is infinite, and He was never created.
He simply is.
(MB) It's amazing how you can "know" this with such seeming certainty when the
dogma of your religion says that God is unknowable and when you admit that there
is no evidence with which to support God's existence or any claim about the
nature of God.
Consider one glaring flaw in your reasoning -- God can not be both separate from
the universe and infinite at the same time. Those are mutually-exclusive
concepts. Consider another flaw concerning the concept of an "infinite" entity
-- if God is infinite and omniscient, then there is no knowledge which he does
not possess. This includes the knowledge that there is no knowledge which he
does not possess. But, in order to know this with certainty, there can only be
a finite number of knowable things. But, if God is infinite, he would have an
infinite number of knowable things just about himself. This means that God can
not be simultaneously infinite and omniscient. Which quality should we discard
(R) This reasoning is no more faulty than that which supposes some sort of
nothing (which is actually something) that predates the universe and out of
which it came.
(MB) Nothing can "predate" the existence of the dimension of time. Are you
attempting to justify your own beliefs by attacking competing ideas with
admittedly faulty reasoning?
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.
(R) The universe as we know it appears to have had a definite and defined
beginning with the Big Bang, and time as we experience it also theoretically
began then. But does this mean that time in some form didn't exist before the
(MB) That is correct. Time could not have existed "before" it was created.
Once again, the concept of "before" has no meaning without the existence of the
dimension of time.
(R) Who knows what the extra dimensions of superstring theory represent,
and whether or not one of them is some sort of absolute dimension of time.
(MB) "Time" is a well-defined concept that is not one of
those extra dimensions.
(R) Our universe and time as we experience it may have a beginning, but before
that (and perhaps after their end as well) was Eternity.
(MB) If you want to offer that up as an idea worthy of any sort of
consideration, you'll need to back it up with more than empty words based on
inflexible faith. Feel free to use any scientific or mathematical models and
methods to do so.
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?
(R) Absolutely not. If you could ever conclusively demonstrate there is no
God, or even just show such a belief is superior in any way to the belief there
is, then I would expect nearly everyone to come over to your point of view. But
you can't do that, can you?
(MB) Once again you prove that your belief in God is based on nothing more than
"you can't prove it wrong". Remember when I told you about the person who told
me "I won't believe what you say even if you prove it to me"? That's a perfect
example of why religious beliefs perservere despite all evidence to the
contrary. Those who hold such beliefs don't want to change them and won't even
consider the possibility.
"I do not pretend to be able to prove that there is no God. I equally cannot
prove that Satan is a fiction. The Christian God may exist; so may the gods of
Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is
more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable
knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them. The fact
that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence that it is not utterly
absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread
belief is more often likely to be foolish than sensible."
-- Bertrand Russell, _A History of Western Philosophy_, 1945
Also, I can point to specific and demonstrable reasons why
I hold my beliefs.
(R) Such as? All you've presented so far is the workings of the physical
universe, which don't seem to require supernatural intervention, but which
certainly don't rule it out.
(MB) Don't those reasons qualify as specific and demonstrable? Of course, you
continue to say that "there is no evidence at all" for what I believe despite
this acknowledgement that I have, indeed, presented some.
Also, your logic is faulty once again. If a process is shown to occur
naturally, that means that there is no supernatural elements involved. If you
wish to claim otherwise, you will need to demonstrate how it would work and you
will need to provide evidence to support the claim. Merely saying so doesn't
make it so or give the claim any credibility whatsoever. Without credibility,
the claim is worthless.
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.
(R) You believe there is no God, even though there is no scientific evidence
to prove it, because you'd rather there not be one. That's it. That's all
there is to it.
(MB) Wrong. I believe that the universe and everything in it was created as a
result of the actions of a finite set of knowable physical laws. This means
that no supernatural element is required. Since "God" is defined as being a
supernatural entity, my beliefs about the origin of the universe lead to the
conclusion that it was not created by "God". I cannot go from this conclusion
to a larger claim that no "God" exists in any conceivable form or manifestation,
but I can show logic errors in specific claims supporting certain of Man's
depictions of "God" and can find nothing to support such claims. Therefore, I
am an agnostic rather than an atheist in regards to the aforementioned larger
claim, but I can safely say that I do not believe in the version of "God" that
your religion pushes. And that's what there is to it.
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) Let me reiterate that the concept of God, as far as this discussion is
concerned, includes all the different ideas of Him postulated by mankind,
including polytheistic ones, and that only after settling the question of
whether or not God exists is it relevant to turn to questions of His (or Their?)
(MB) This is waffling. Every single specific statement you've made so far about
"God" has coincided with the picture painted by your particular religion.
There's no way that you are going to accept any other definition of "God"
without admitting that your own religion might be wrong. You can't make any
viable arguments in favor of the existence of any "God" without making and
supporting at least one specific point about that entity's nature. Once you do
so, you begin to narrow the field of possibilities. You've already reduced the
potential field to one distinct and unmistakeable candidate. If you don't
accept that, then you have admitted that all of your previous arguments are
invalid and you'll have to start over. Not to mention that you'll have to
abandon your current religion in favor of something that more accurately depicts
any new outlook on "God".
"'God' as traditionally defined is a systematic contradiction of every valid
metaphysical principle. The point is wider than just the Judeo- Christian
concept of God. No argument will get you from this world to a supernatural
world. No reason will lead you to a world contradicting this one. No method of
inference will enable you to leap from existence to a "super-existence."
-- Leonard Peikoff, "The Philosophy of Objectivism"
(R) However, I will say it is a mistake to claim any particular interpretation
of God's nature is "best" except on a personal level.
(MB) It's only a mistake if there is no evidence upon which to base such an
interpretation. If any claim is made only on a personal level, it is invalid to
argue that such a claim is just as reasonable as theories based upon impersonal
and observable evidence.
(R) That is not to say one cannot share beliefs about God with others. That's
what denominations are all about -- different people who have similar ideas of
God sharing their beliefs with one another. But one should never condemn
someone with differing beliefs for that reason alone.
(MB) Simply having beliefs is no problem. Acting upon those beliefs in ways
that will affect others who don't share those beliefs or attempting to claim
that those beliefs are "just as good" or even better than other beliefs are very
Logic and reason be damned, eh?
(R) Well, no, not at all. It is perfectly reasonable and logical to believe in
God, because there is no reason not to.
(MB) Once again, you approach the question from the wrong direction. It is
indeed a weak belief if that argument is the best one (or the only one) that can
made to support such a belief.
"I am arguing that faith as such, faith as an alleged method of aquiring
knowledge, is totally invalid and as a consequence, all propositions of faith,
because they lack rational demonstration, must conflict with reason."
-- George Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1989),
(R) It is equally reasonable and logical to believe there is no God,
(MB) There is no "equally" about it. In the total absence of anything to
support any positive existential claims about God, the only reasonable and
logical position is non-belief.
"If it is to be established that there is a God, then we have to have good
grounds for believing that this is indeed so. Until and unless some such
grounds are produced we have literally no reason at all for believing; and in
that situation the only reasonable posture must be that of either the negative
atheist or the agnostic. So the onus of proof has to rest on the proposition
-- Antony Flew, "The Presumption of Atheism" God, Freedom, and Immortality,
(Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1984), p. 22.
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) I have never stated God's existence is a fact. All I've said on the subject
is that it is impossible to prove He doesn't exist, and so, there can never be a
reason for me not to believe He does.
(MB) There is no reason for your belief to be so strong if you don't consider
his existence to be a fact -- unless your belief is a delusion. In that case,
there's even less to support it.
"Faith is a cop-out. It is intellectual bankruptcy. If the only way you can
accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken
on its own merits."
-- Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist
(R) The "small number" (which you claim to be not so small) refers to the people
who are involved in religious strife, who attack science as anti-God, and who
are intolerable and inflexible in their beliefs. You've tried to present this
group, here and in many other places, as indicative of all believers. No, I am
not in this group, and neither are the vast majority of other religious
believers. This keeps the "small number" quite small.
(MB) All of your arguments so far dispute this claim for yourself -- despite
your attempt to redefine "believers". You have never answered the calls I've
made for you to name any religion whose dogma tolerates contrasting beliefs or
alternate versions of "God" espoused by other religions. You have said that
your own views "are not subject to change" and have labeled scientific theories
about the naturalistic origin of the universe as "atheistic". If you claim that
you are representative of the majority of believers, then it would seem that my
characterizations of them are correct.
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