REPLY #27f 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 sixth 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.
I've been presenting evidence in support of my
beliefs. Where is yours? Is there any?
(R) The theories of science and physical existence of the universe do not
indicate in any way whether or not God exists. What other evidence have you
(MB) Classic technique -- when you can't refute the evidence, just brush it
aside and demand something else. Oh, well... Perhaps you are now looking more
towards the philosophical arguments against the existence of God. I've offered
some already. If you want more, why not check out some of the writings of
Michael Martin or Farrell Till? Or, perhaps, this:
"The most ridiculous concept ever perpetrated by H.Sapiens is that the Lord God
of Creation, Shaper and Ruler of the Universes, wants the saccharine adoration
of his creations, that he can be persuaded by their prayers, and becomes
petulant if he does not receive this flattery. Yet this ridiculous notion,
without one real shred of evidence to bolster it, has gone on to found one of
the oldest, largest and least productive industries in history."
-- Robert A. Heinlein
(R) All you've done is claim that science and the working of the physical
universe support your beliefs, which is untrue. And no, there is no evidence to
support my belief. Neither is there any to support yours.
(MB) So now you retreat back to misrepresenting "God does not exist" as my major
claim instead of understanding or acknowledging that it is a conclusion reached
as a consequence of my core belief in the naturalistic origins of the universe
through the actions of a finite set of knowable physical laws. If you can
manage to understand my core belief, you will see why your argument that it has
"no support" is incorrect.
"I am an atheist because there is no evidence for the existence of God. That
should be all that needs to be said about it: no evidence, no belief."
-- Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI:
FFRF, 1992), p. 87.
Once again, you say that there is "no evidence" despite
everything that I have been presenting. How can you protest
any assertion that your beliefs are simply not subject to
change? How can you continue to deny that positive claims
bear a burden of proof? How can you continue to support
belief in God when you can't even suggest why it is better
than a religious belief in any other deity?
(R) You haven't presented any evidence which shows there is no God -- the
workings of the physical universe certainly don't.
(MB) You continually refuse to acknowledge what the evidence shows -- that the
universe did not require any supernatural element in order to come into
existence. Why is this?
(R) All my beliefs are subject to change if anyone can show them to be
(MB) And, of course, you will never admit to being shown to be wrong, so your
beliefs will never change. If you won't accept logic, reason, or evidence, how
is anybody supposed to change your mind?
(R) The burden of proof is inherent to no claim, regardless of how the claim is
(MB) That flies squarely in the face of the basic tenets of philosophy and just
reinforces the impression that your views are not subject to change.
"Negative existential hypotheses in natural language can be supported by the
failure of proofs of their contradictories, but positive existential hypotheses
are not made plausible by the failure of disproofs of their denials."
-- Michael Scriven, "God and Reason" Critiques of God (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus,
1997) p. 113.
(R) The concept of God includes all of the different ideas of Him postulated by
(MB) This can't be true because those ideas are contradictory and incompatible
with each other. You'll have more problems justifying that argument in and of
itself than you will in defending any notion of God against anything I might
offer as a counterclaim.
(R) If there is no conclusive evidence of any kind on a question of existence,
it is equally logical and rational to believe either way. Prior to about the
end of the 19th century, there was no physical evidence to show atoms existed,
yet it was generally accepted that they did. Until that evidence was developed,
it was just as logical and rational to assume they did not.
(MB) Atomic theory was not dreamed up out of the blue sky with nothing to
support it and was not arbitrarily declared to be valid. The theory was an
detailed explanation for the sum total of a set of observations and raw data
along with the requisite mathematics. The theory made predictions that could be
verified by experiment and further observations that were shown to be accurate.
When the clinching physical evidence was finally produced, it just added the
final brushstrokes to what was already a masterful painting.
If there had truly been no evidence to support the idea of atoms, it would have
been more logical and reasonable to conclude that they did not exist. Once good
evidence in favor of the positive existential claim began to accumulate, that
claim began to fulfill the requirement that it shoulder the burden of proof and
became the more logical view. Now that the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor
of atomic theory, any counterclaim will require solid evidence in order to be
The idea of "God" *was* dreamed up out of the blue sky with nothing to support
it (other than random ideas plagiarized from the stories of neighboring tribes)
and arbitrarily declared to be valid. It was designed to provide vague
explanations for the sum total of observations about Life, the Universe, and
Everything. Unfortunately, the idea makes no testable predictions and is not
verifiable by any type of experiment. Where it advances specifics, those
details are almost always wrong or seriously flawed. Its adherents refuse to
shoulder the requisite burden of proof and even admit that there is no evidence
with which to support it. Yet, they persist in positioning it as "equally
logical and reasonable" even though they can't even show where it is superior to
competing and contradictory ideas involving other deities. There is no reason
whatsoever to accept such an idea.
If you do so, and if there is truly "no evidence" on the
other side, then the scales will tip in your favor and your
beliefs will become the most credible ones. If not, then you're
just making much ado about nothing.
(R) There truly is no evidence on either side, and no possibility of the scales
tipping in either direction, but is it really much ado about nothing? I don't
(MB) If you have no evidence for your positive existential claim, then you have
nothing. Fruitless defenses of such claims are a waste of time and effort.
"Freethinkers reject faith as a valid tool of knowledge. Faith is the opposite
of reason because reason imposes very strict limits on what can be true, and
faith has no limits at all. A Great Escape into faith is no retreat to safety.
It is nothing less than surrender."
-- Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI:
FFRF, 1992), p. 103.
(R) On the contrary, that it is just as logical and reasonable to believe
in God as it is not to has very important implications.
(MB) Such as? How can illogic and unreason have any sort
If the Bible is inerrant and is the inspired Word of God,
there could be no problems in interpretation.
(R) Oh? Then the same should be true of any other work of literature or
philosophy. Or for that matter, any movie, play, or television show. If I read
"Das Kapital" I should be able to determine exactly what Marx meant in every
instance. There would be no personal interpretation involved whatsoever.
(MB) None of those examples are positioned as being the inspired Word of an
omnipotent and omniscient deity who is the central focus of a religious belief
system and none have ever been claimed to be inerrant. Therefore, they are
invalid as comparisons to a work that is positioned that way.
(R) Using this line of reasoning, there would only be a single interpretation
of the Bible regardless of whether it is inerrant or not. Once again, the
question of inerrancy is entirely irrelevant.
(MB) Because of the nature of the claimed inspiration for the Bible and the fact
that it is used as justification for the religious beliefs within, the question
of inerrancy is inevitable and of prime importance.
Why would God tell us what he wanted us to know and obey in terms that would be
open to misinterpretation?
(R) Because if we were told exactly what to do in every circumstance, there
could be no such thing as free will.
(MB) The Bible doesn't claim to tell us what to do "in every circumstance".
But, it does lay down what should be a clear set of laws that believers in God
and Jesus are supposed to follow. There are simply an inordinate number of
contradictory interpretations of what that set of laws actually is. There
should be no misinterpretations of them at all -- whether or not we have the
free will to choose whether or not to obey them.
If the Bible is not inerrant, it can't be the Word of God. If it's not the Word
of God, it can't be used to defend a belief in God.
(R) Why in the world can't it be the word of God unless it's inerrant?
(MB) Because that's a basic tenet of the religions which uphold the Bible as
their holy book. Can you give me an example of a church which teaches that the
Bible is full of errors or is not the inspired Word of God?
(R) Even if inerrant as originally written, what about the possibility of errors
in the copying and translation carried out over the last 25 centuries? There
are no original manuscripts of the Bible anywhere that I know of.
(MB) There's no way than any simple mistranslation can account for all of the
errors in the Bible. In any case, mistranslations are normally rather easy to
spot and are not considered to be real "errors" by scholars. They can, however,
become bones of contention if the mistranslations become part of established
dogma -- such as the supposed "Virgin" Mary.
There's no way that "mistranslation" can be invoked to account for such
egregious errors as the contradictory creation tales in Genesis -- neither of
which matches the actual evidence for the order of appearance of all things
supposedly created by God.
(R) I do agree, however, it is logically invalid to use the Bible as the sole
justification for a belief in God. Circular reasoning.
(MB) Absolutely. But, what else is there to use?
I'd say that the question of inerrancy is extremely relevant!
(R) I'd say you'd like the question to be relevant so you could attack Bible
inerrancy specifically, but it's still irrelevant.
(MB) What I'd personally "like" is the only thing that's irrelevant. One might
just as well say that you'd like the issue of Biblical inerrancy to be
irrelevant so you could avoid any difficult questions that would otherwise arise
The claim that "nothing can be proven" is incorrect and
we have already covered several examples of that. Once
again, one can easily prove that something exists by showing
an example of it or by presenting irrefutable evidence for it.
(R) Yeah, you're right, "nothing" is too strong a word. It would have been
better to say, "Some things are very difficult (or even impossible) to prove or
disprove absolutely." We've seen several examples of such things.
(MB) True, but meaningless. Claims do not have to be absolutely proven in order
to have credibility. But, if they have absolutely no evidence supporting them,
there is no chance for them to gain any such credibility and they become just
another breath of hot air.
(R) However, you've skipped over the fact that it is possible to prove something
does not exist -- by presenting irrefutable evidence that it cannot exist.
(MB) No, I haven't. I've mentioned that more than once in previous replies.
However, inability to prove that something doesn't exist does not lend
credibility to an unsupported positive existential claim in its favor. Such a
claim still bears the burden of proof and must support itself in order to be
considered anything other than meaningless.
"There are actually two ways to prove the non-existence of something. One way is
to prove that it cannot exist because it leads to contradictions (e.g., square
circles, married bachelors, etc.). The other way is, in the words of Keith
Parsons, "by carefully looking and seeing." This is how we can know that such
things as the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Abimonable Snowman, etc. do not
-- Jeffery Jay Lowder, "Is a Proof of the Non-Existence of a God Even
But, this isn't the point that was being made. When it comes
to issues where religion and science conflict, Creationists
refuse to accept scientific explanations without absolute
proof. They even go so far as to say that "no evidence exists"
if there is anything short of absolute proof.
(R) The only time I say anything like this is when I state there is no
conclusive evidence to prove or disprove the existence of God,...
(MB) Along with the not-so-subtle implication that you won't acknowledge that
there ever could be any. Which makes your statement essentially the same
argument that the Creationists use.
(R) ...which is entirely true.
(MB) True, and entirely meaningless. It is the conclusion you draw from this
meaningless point (that unsupported belief is just as valid as non-belief) that
is the major flaw in your arguments.
Of course. Once again, that's not the point. It's the
denigration of the word "theory" itself that is the problem.
"Only a theory" is used in their arguments as the equivalent of
"baseless conjecture" or "pure speculation". Certainly that's
not the case, but the impression lingers through force of
(R) I've never said anything was "only a theory" at any point in this
discussion. I have said a couple of things were personal opinions, though. But
that's because they are.
(MB) You've asked me what "theory" means to me and have alluded to a position
that anything short of absolute proof (like a theory) is unacceptable. So, again
we see an statement that is just a reworded version of the Creationist
And, if that theory supplants a religious belief....?
(R) Never has yet. Don't expect one to.
(MB) May I assume, therefore, that you still believe that a flat, stationary
Earth is at the center of the Universe despite the theories that long ago
supplanted that religious belief? Do you still believe that sneezing is caused
by demons? Do you believe that the Earth is only 6000 years old? Do you
believe that the Earth was devastated by a worldwide Flood which was only
survived by a 600-year old man and his family and a bunch of animals in a huge
So, what makes belief in God preferable to belief in
any other deity? There must be something specific in order to
hold up such a belief as the basis for one's morality, lifestyle
and view of the universe.
(R) Once again, the concept of God includes all of mankind's different ideas
of Him and arguments about God's exact nature are not pertinent until the
question of His existence is resolved.
(MB) Once again, since the various ideas of "God" are contradictory and
mutually-exclusive, one must sort out which of those ideas one will be supporting
before existence questions even become relevant. Your arguments have already
made it unmistakeably clear which idea you support.
You demand evidence to support
non-belief, but refuse to provide any to support belief. Those
are hardly the same standards.
(R) I don't demand evidence for non-belief, because I know there is none, --
just as I know there is no evidence for belief. I truly do submit both theories
to the same standards.
(MB) No, you don't. You say that you choose belief because non-belief can't be
proven and "because there isn't any reason not to". That is an implicit demand for evidence to support non-belief.
"The longer I have been an atheist, the more amazed I am that I ever
believed Christian notions."
-- Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI:
FFRF, 1992), p. 106.
(R) You, however, have said non-belief is intellectually superior to belief.
This requires you produce evidence in support of this alleged superiority. So
far, you've presented nothing which cannot be easily refuted.
(MB) I'm sure that the great philosophers of history -- from whom most of my
arguments have been drawn -- would be thoroughly impressed by that line of
reasoning. In any case, you've refuted nothing so far. You've merely continued
to repeat the old claims. They don't get any better with repetition.
"...if devotion to truth is the hallmark of morality, then there is no greater,
nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the
responsibility of thinking.... the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is
faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind."
-- Ayn Rand, "Atlas Shrugged"
"The Christian religion not only was at first attended with miracles, but
even at this day cannot be believed by any reasonable person without one."
-- David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748
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