REPLY #27g 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 seven-part reply.
By providing natural explanations for all phenomena in
the universe, it removes the necessity to accept anything
supernatural. Science would be able to support the existence
of God -- if such existence was actually a fact.
(R) Only if God has a physical presence, and uses physical means to control
the universe, could science have any hope of supporting His existence.
(MB) And, if there's nothing physical about God or his methods, there can be no
effect upon anything in the physical universe. Therefore, any entity whose
nature is similar to what you claim for God either does not exist or is entirely
superfluous to the physical universe. In either case, there is no reason to
take the idea seriously.
(R) If He is a supernatural being, only logic and reason can be used to show He
exists, but, as William of Occam deduced, it is impossible to prove the
existence of God through reason alone.
(MB) Logic and reason still require some sort of evidence in order to make their
conclusions valid. In the case of God, any time specific arguments are
introduced to support his existence, they always contain flaws of logic and
reason. Therefore, there is nothing with which to support the existence of God.
In addition to there being no evidence, neither logic nor reason succeed in
doing so. What's left? Since nothing succeeds in supporting the existence of
God, Occam's Razor leads us to cutting out the entire idea from the set of ideas
that seek to describe the origin and nature of the universe.
"If the atheist is 'dogmatic' for claiming that a god does not exist, is the
theist also dogmatic for claiming that a god does exist? Of course not. Even in
Rhodes' scenario, all that is necessary is that a particular god's existence
logically imply something that we know is false within the .1% of knowledge that
Rhodes says we have. It then logically follows -- we have a deductive proof --
that that particular god does not exist."
-- Jeffery Jay Lowder, "Is a Proof of the Non-Existence of a God Even
You do what Point #6 states when you support your
belief in God by stating that it can't be proven that he doesn't
exist. That shows disdain for logic, reason and the scientific
method of inquiry.
(R) Disdain in what way? Because there is no evidence, and no proof, either
for or against the existence of God, it is perfectly logical and reasonable to
believe either way. The scientific method of inquiry doesn't apply.
(MB) The scientific method of inquiry *always* applies. Evidence doesn't vanish
simply because you refuse to accept or acknowledge it.
You might be first in the "accept" line, but I doubt
you'd be so quick to jump into the other line. You have yet to
demonstrate the slightest inclination to be amenable towards
changing your beliefs under any circumstances.
(R) On the contrary, I've shown myself to be tolerant, open-minded, and open to
change on all we've discussed. Of course, I have said it is impossible for you
to prove God doesn't exist, and therefore, there can never be any reason for me
to doubt my beliefs.
(MB) These sentences contradict each other by announcing your final verdict even
before the case can be presented (as you did in your very first reply). This
refutes any claim to be either open-minded or open to change. The only support
you give for this mindset is to dispute centuries worth of basic philosophy
concerning the burden of proof for positive existential claims.
You parrot Point #8 any time you say that anything can
be explained in terms of "God did it" while offering not a
shred of support for the claim while also casting doubts on
the ability of science to explain "fundamental origins".
(R) I seldom parrot anything, and certainly not this point. Parroting means
to directly repeat something said by another. You've misused the word,
apparently for debate purposes, but you do that often, so I'm getting used to
(MB) May I assume that this diversionary attack on a word is meant to avoid
answering the point being made? Incidentally, the definition of "parrot" as
used here is "to repeat or imitate without understanding". That is what you
have been doing concerning the standard arguments used by Creationists.
(R) Adding the words "could have" to such a statement makes it less
absolute and displays a willingness to open-mindedly consider all
(MB) In science, a "could have" argument carries no weight unless there is some
evidence to support it. Since you have no such evidence, your "could have"
argument is nothing more than a waffle to justify maintaining an unsupportable
belief that is nothing more than a personal preference. There is no
open-mindedness involved here.
(R) The basic argument which supports my beliefs is as follows: It is
impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God, there is no evidence to
support either position, neither position has any inherent superiority to the
other, and it is equally reasonable and logical to believe in God as not to.
(MB) Basic philosophy concerning positive existential claims is sufficient to
demonstrate that your basic argument fails on all counts. Therefore, that
argument is worthless for any consideration other than pure emotion.
If you were the representative of your religion, how would
you convince Fred to choose your beliefs over any and all of
(R) I would tell Fred that each person has to make his own peace with God,
individually, as a matter of study, reflection, and a personal search for truth.
And I would tell him, that if he follows the great commandment of Christianity
-- to love God with all his heart, all his mind, all his strength, and all his
soul, and to love his fellow men as he loves himself, he will eventually reach
(MB) While this is admirable philosophy, it provides nothing to show any reason
to believe in God. In fact, its basis presupposes God with no reason for doing
so. How can one be convinced to "love God" if there is nothing to suggest that
God even exists? There are Eastern philosophies whose entire rationale is to
help one achieve inner peace and which do not encumber themselves with spurious
deities and silly ceremonies. If the goal is inner peace, why complicate
matters by adding God and all of the attendant nonsense?
"The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is
that he is beyond man's power to conceive- a definition that invalidates man's
consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence...Man's mind, say the
mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God... Man's standard of
value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are
beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith....The purpose
of man's life...is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not
know, for reasons he is not to question."
-- Ayn Rand, "For the New Intellectual"
"There is no religious experience which guarantees that our experience is an
experience of God. This can be asserted without for a moment doubting that some
people have religious experiences. The psychological reality of such experience
is one thing, that these experiences are actually experiences of God is
-- Kai Nielsen, Philosophy and Atheism (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus, 1985) p. 46.
How can anything non-physical possibly affect
anything in the physical universe? What non-physical
questions are there? What evidence is there for the existence
of anything non-physical? If there is none, why should we
concern ourselves with such things? If it's not a waste of time,
then there must be something definitive to suggest otherwise.
What is it?
(R) These questions have relatively simple answers after only a bit of
(MB) I've been asking for these "simple answers" for quite a while now, but none
have yet been presented. Perhaps they're not so "simple" after all?
(R) That you have to ask them displays, I'm sorry to say, the shallowness of
your personal philosophy. It shows you never look past the surface on issues
which are exceedingly complex, but merely make snap judgments based on a few
assumptions which are often incorrect. This is displayed throughout the essays
you publish on your site.
(MB) Once again, we see diversionary vitriol rather
than direct answers to questions. If you have problems with any of my other
essays, why not send in replies to them and point out where you think I'm wrong
rather than making meaningless blanket statements? If your philosophy is better
than mine, it will show in what you say. If it's not, that will also show up.
In neither case will mere insults refute anything.
(R) Everything which exists can be divided into two primary categories: the
material and the non-material. Material things are what make up the physical
universe, and the evidence of their existence is brought to us by our senses.
Non-material things, on the other hand, by their very nature have no
physical evidence of their existence. We can only draw conclusions about them
through reason. Many people have argued (most notably, Auguste Comte, the
founder of Positivism) that anything which is not physical doesn't truly exist.
This couldn't be more wrong.
(MB) One has to trivialize the meaning of "existence" into worthlessness in
order to dispute Comte. If that's all one has to go on to support "existence",
that support is very weak, indeed.
(R) The idea, "All men are created equal," has its own separate, non-physical
existence -- an existence which is vitally important to our daily lives.
(MB) Ideas are statements and not things. In the case of a spoken idea, all
that exists are the sound waves which carry the spoken words from speaker to
listener. "Importance" is a separate philosophical issue.
(R) If I write the words, "All men are created equal," on a piece of paper, then
the idea has a physical presence.
(MB) The idea doesn't have a physical presence. The writing on the paper is
what has a physical presence. If one doesn't read or understand English, the
writing is no different from random scribbles and has no more meaning than if
there was no writing there at all. Even if one can read and understand what is
written, that is still no indication that what is written is the truth or that
any reader will accept it.
(R) If I burn the paper, the physical evidence is gone, but the *idea* remains,
separate from any physical existence it had either then or at any other time.
(MB) Not true. If nobody ever again speaks or writes down the idea and there is
no other record of it, the result is identical to the case where the idea had
*never* been elucidated or even considered. There would then be no evidence to
support "existence" for it.
(R) The idea that all men are created equal has existed since the beginning of
(MB) Since men have not existed since the beginning of time, how could any of
Man's ideas have done so? That idea hasn't even been around for the entirety of
(R) It was just as true 10,000 years, ago at the dawn of civilization, as it is
(MB) The "truth" of the idea is not an indisputable absolute. You and I and
many others may certainly believe it, but that does not prove it. It's not even
a tenet of your religion or of your God (according to Genesis)!
(R) At some point in the past, someone first articulated the idea, but it was
true centuries before then, just as the laws of science have always been true,
even before we had knowledge of them.
(MB) Concepts are not "true" in the same way that the laws of science are true.
Concepts (like moral dictates) are "true" only by popular fiat. Einstein's
equations, for example, reflect truth whether or not anybody understands or
(R) The concept that ideas have a separate, non-material existence shows that
non-physical things do exist.
(MB) When the concept is flawed, so is any conclusion
drawn from it.
(R) Your consciousness is another example of something which has no physical
presence. It has no essence, you can't pour it out into a container and measure
it, but it never-the-less exists, as you can well attest. Perhaps it is nothing
more that the result of chemical reactions in your brain and body, but still, it
has no physical presence of its own. It has a non-material existence.
(MB) This demonstrates a flaw in your understanding of "consciousness", as any
reading of Freud will show. Consciousness is the selective attention and
learned reaction to thoughts or external stimuli. In other words, it is an
effect produced by the workings of the unconscious mind and is, therefore, not a
discrete "thing". If there's any doubt about this, ask yourself if your
consciousness will continue to "exist" after your death.
Incidentally, many people mistakenly think that "consciousness" is only found in
human beings and have used it as an argument for our being "special" in some
(R) So, now that we've covered some basic concepts on the nature of things,
which would be covered in any entry-level college course in philosophy, why
don't you go back and answer your own questions from the preceding paragraph.
(MB) Since we've covered the flaws in your arguments, we can conclude that my
questions have not been successfully answered. Your arguments invoke examples
which are each manifested by the operation of things in the physical realm which
can themselves be supported by evidence. If you wish to equate "God" with your
examples, you will need to show what things in the physical realm acted to bring
him into "existence". If you can't, then you must conclude that your examples
are irrelevant as answers to my questions and are no justification for any
belief in the existence of God.
Perhaps my question should have read: "If such explanations have nothing but
emotional appeal, why even bring them up?"
(R) Yes, that's more clear.
I don't feel supernatural explanations have only emotional appeal. They also
appeal to logic and reason, by helping make sense of life and the universe, and
they have a certain amount of pragmatic, practical appeal as well.
(MB) How can they "help make sense" of anything if they are fraught with errors
of reasoning and fact? It seems that their only "practical" appeal is to free
their adherents from having to make the effort to learn and understand
(R) Emotional appeals can be made in many ways. George Smoot, one of the
leaders of the COBE project, which found evidence for the birth of the universe
in the Big Bang, said, "It's like looking at God," and, "There is no doubt that
a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of
creation from nothing." Such statements, from a noted scientist, have a fairly
strong emotional appeal.
(MB) An emotional appeal is not a statement of fact and cannot be used to
justify anything. Smoot's analogy is just that. Notice that he did not say
that the COBE findings *verify* any Christian notion of creation. He said only
that there was a "parallel". The only things that the COBE findings helped
prove are the mathematics and theories which underlie the Big Bang cosmological
model -- which themselves are tied to other sets of theories and mathematics
that seek to describe the universe's ultimate origins. The evidence (which you
say doesn't exist) continues to mount.
"Still, some articles announced that scientists have viewed creation and seen
'the handwriting of God.' I've looked at the picture of the COBE results that
has been widely published and am afraid I can't make out the words 'I am, who I
am' spelled out in the sky."
-- Victor J. Stenger, "Big Bang Ripples No Message from God"
"Physicists use 'God' as a metaphor more often than other scientists---
especially in popular writing, but in the technical literature as well. Of
course, this is just a metaphor for order at the heart of confusion. A rational
or aesthetic pattern underlying reality is far from a theistic God."
-- Taner Edis, "Is Anybody Out There?"
I bring it up because I'm trying to elicit some sort of
explanation why a claim of "personal preference" -- a purely
emotional response -- should be used to support the
supernatural as being valid.
(R) I don't agree with your assessment that my statement (we each hold our
beliefs as a personal preference) is purely emotional. I view it as a statement
(MB) Earlier, you denied saying that God's existence is a fact. Here you say
that it is. Which way do you want it? You can't have both. And, that still
evades the question of why such statements should be used to support any notion
of the supernatural as being valid.
(R) We each hold our beliefs, despite the lack of evidence to support them, as a
matter of personal choice.
(MB) Incorrect. That applies only to your beliefs. Whether you choose to
accept it or not, I have a great deal of evidence to support mine. My beliefs
are an intellectual choice -- not a personal or emotional one.
"Religious experiences in one culture often conflict with those in another. One
cannot accept all of them as veridical, yet there does not seem to be any way to
separate the veridical experiences from the rest."
-- Michael Martin, Atheism: A Philosophical Justification, (Philadelphia: Temple
University Press, 1990), p. 159.
(R) You say there is no reason to believe in God. I say there is no reason not
to. What's the difference?
(MB) The difference is that basic logic and reason dispute your contention while
they support mine. This remains unchanged for any question involving positive
existential claims. If your reasoning is correct, then we must accept any claim
of existence that anybody can make for which there isn't 100% absolute disproof.
If my reasoning is correct, then claims of existence are believable in
proportion to the amount of evidence which supports them. If that amount is
"zero", then there is no reason to believe the claim. That's what we have here.
"If the answers to prayer are merely what God wills all along, then why
-- Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (Madison, WI:
FFRF, 1992), p. 108.
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