REPLY #29b 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 second of a three-part reply. Select the "Go to next reply" link at the end of each part to read the next part of the reply.
For such a claim by Adams to move
his book into the realm of non-fiction and for a belief in the
factuality of any of his stories to be justifiable, there would
have to be independent and compelling evidence to support it.
He would then be making a positive claim for the existence of
the Great Green Arkleseizure and would have to support that
claim in the same way that any positive claim of existence
must be supported in order to be justifiable.
(R) What I said was exactly true. All he has to do to move from the realm of
fiction to non-fiction is claim his book as a true account of his experiences.
That's not to say anyone will believe him.
(MB) In fact, in the 4th book of the Hitchhiker's series ("So Long and Thanks
For All the Fish"), Adams does make the statement that his telling of the
adventures of Arthur Dent (the Hitchhiker's series protagonist) is "the truth
and nothing but the truth". By your own arguments, this would now move his
books from the realm of fiction into the realm of non-fiction? This would
invalidate your argument that the Great Green Arkleseizure is fiction (since it
is a part of the adventures of Arthur Dent) and places it on an equal footing
with equally unverifiable stories about God.
If there is nothing at all fictional about it, then everything
about it must be factual. If so, there must be evidence to
support it. Where is it?
(R) Now *this* is not true. A text on philosophy is non-fiction, but one can
hardly say is factual. You've argued at several points in this discussion that
not all support for a position need be factual. Have you changed your mind?
(MB) Not at all. You are merely inserting your own definition of "non-fiction"
into a discussion of what constitutes "support for a position". You also seem
to be implying that there is a third level of evidence in between fictional and
factual. If so, what is that level? No, it's not "logic". Since logic is
either valid or invalid, it can be classified as either factual or fictional.
Therefore, a text on philosophy which presents its case through logic can be
considered factual unless its arguments are refuted or shown to be in error.
BTW, you've also, once again, neatly avoided answering my direct question.
Let's try again -- if there's nothing at all fictional about God, then
everything about him must be factual. If so, there must be some evidence to
support it. Where and what is it?
(R) There is no factual evidence to either support or refute the existence of
God, as I've stated many times.
(MB) And, as I've also stated many times, since the positive existential claim
bears the burden of proof, the complete and admitted lack of evidence in support
of that claim is a severe blow against it and makes doubt the intellectually and
logically superior position.
(R) Only reason and logic can be used in arguing the question, however, it
cannot be resolved by reason alone.
(MB) It could if the reasoning was strong enough. Unfortunately for your
position, not only is the evidence non-existent, the reasoning in support of the
positive existential claim for God is very weak.
(R) Which is why I say our positions are exactly equal.
(MB) Which is why, yet again, that claim is wrong. Our positions are not only
unequal, they aren't even close to equal on any level.
Whatever the name of the first Jew was.
(R) It is generally considered to have been Abraham.
(MB) "Generally considered" by who? Certainly not by the Muslims. Not to
mention that the stories of God predated Abraham in Jewish tradition.
He took elements of other stories which were popular at that time,
added his own twists, and created God in his own image and
(R) You consider that an answer?
(MB) Yes, since it has been verified as being true by historical records. What
better answer can there be?
(R) Name a truly fictional character and I can
tell you what author developed the character, exactly what book or play they
appeared in, even the number of the page they were first introduced on. If all
you can give is fuzzy generalities, you've haven't showed God to be fictional.
(MB) So, the stories aren't fictional if the author's name isn't known? Would
"Romeo and Juliet" become non-fiction if Shakespeare's name became lost to
history? Your argument is weak.
Consider that there must have been a "first Jew" or, at least, a first small
group who adopted the stories and customs of Judaism. Whether we know their
exact names or not doesn't change that simple fact. Since we know that their
stories are etymologically derived from those of surrounding contemporary
tribes, their arbitrary nature becomes clear.
(R) Who made up the "other stories which were popular at the time?"
(MB) Sumerians, Mesopotamians, Assyrians, Babylonians, etc. The stories even
seem to contain elements of even more ancient Hindu myths.
(R) Wouldn't they have a part in the authorship of your fictional God? And why
does it have to be "the first Jew" who made up God?
(MB) The major Jewish contribution to the evolution of the stories was to reduce
the concept of God to a monotheistic belief and to position themselves as the
"chosen people". Prior to the Jews, the stories were always polytheistic. In
fact, some early Jewish documents (such as the P document which comprises parts
of Genesis) contain traces of the older polytheism. In addition to the tales of
God, other stories in Genesis were clearly derived from earlier sources. The
most famous of these is the story of Noah -- which is a retelling and
enhancement of the famous Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh.
(R) Are you considering only Jehovah? Because I'm not.
(MB) Yes, you are and you do so every time you make any specific claim about
God or call yourself a Christian. If you weren't, your case would be even
weaker since you would not only have no evidence to support a particular God,
you would have no evidence to support any potential God or to support a choice
between potential Gods.
(R) Finally, what was the motive of the person who you claim to have made up
God? Was it some sort of joke? Or an attempt to seize power? Or was it a
legitimate attempt to account for the physical reality he experienced? If it
was this latter reason, if this person actually believed what he was
postulating, then its not fictional. Wrong perhaps, but not fictional.
(MB) Remember that merely claiming something to be truthful or factual does not
make it so nor does it remove the story from the realm of fiction.
Religion, at the grass roots level, is a set of rules designed to control or
direct the course of people's lives. Judaism certainly has many such rules to
guide the behavior of its adherents. Religion may include ad hoc explanations
for experiences and observed phenomena, but the rules of behavior would remain
even if the religion attempted to explain little or nothing. There are no
religions that consist solely of explanation without rules for the flock.
If God is a fact, then he has a physical
existence of some sort and there would be physical evidence
that would lead us to him. If he's not a fact, if he's nothing
physical, and if there's no evidence for him, then belief is
unsupportable and arguments in his favor are a waste of time
(R) It is not possible to state God's existence (or non-existence) as a fact.
He does not have a physical existence and there is therefore no physical
evidence of His existence.
(MB) Nor, then, can he have any effect on the physical realm -- to include
creating the universe in the first place.
(R) Belief in God is equally as supportable as non-belief, and argument on the
question of His existence is anything *but* a waste of time.
(MB) I've already addressed the continuing illogic of the first statement. The
second is a conclusion drawn from an invalid premise. The question is a waste
of time unless there is something -- *anything* -- evidential upon which to
support God's existence -- and you already admit that there is nothing.
(R) On the contrary, it represents a crucially important moral argument, which
is at least as important as arguments on any other subject.
(MB) Why is it a "crucially important" moral argument? A morality based upon
the dictates of a belief in God doesn't have much importance if God can't be
shown to exist. On the other hand, a morality based upon the consequences of
our actions requires no belief in anything supernatural to support it. In any
case, no argument about a purely moral issue can be as important as an argument
about a factual issue. Moral issues are nothing more than a consensus of
opinion among the group which is considering them. Facts for one are facts for
So, then you agree that the God theory has no hope to
gain general acceptance as a legitimate explanation of how the
universe was created?
(R) The idea that the universe was created by a Supreme Being is wide-spread
and generally accepted by the vast majority of man-kind. This doesn't make it
correct, but as far as any hope of it gaining acceptance goes, it already has.
(MB) You left out the "legitimate explanation" part of my earlier statement,
which, of course, changes the entire meaning of the argument. Many beliefs
throughout the history of Man have been "generally accepted". However, when the
facts are considered, the vast majority of those beliefs have been overturned or
seriously modified. In most cases, this causes no real problems. However, in
the case of religion, there's more at stake than a simple collation of proper
interpretation of the facts. People aren't quite so willing to discard a belief
system that gives "meaning" to their lives. Thus, religion survives despite all
the nonsense used to support it.
One other consideration -- it's even difficult to argue that the God theory of
universal creation has gained "general acceptance" since there are so many
competing and mutually-exclusive versions of the story. The percentage of
people who believe in any specific version of the story is much smaller than
anything that could be trumpeted as constituting "general acceptance".
You completely ignored the point of my statement to address a different
(R) Well no, I didn't. The point of your statement was entirely unclear and I
answered it as best I could under the circumstances. I had said, "They
(religion and science) are irreconcilable to those who refuse to acknowledge the
validity of science, and to those who refuse to accept that not everything can
be proved scientifically."
At this point, you accused me of mental masturbation. I found this rather
insulting, but didn't have the faintest idea of what you were getting at. Still
(MB) That's because you stopped reading my statement at the point where you say
you were insulted. Had you continued, you would have seen an explanation of the
analogy. To wit, "It might make them feel good, but nothing of any non-trivial
consequence can be accomplished". This is the point where you decided to repeat
the meaningless old stuff about the "how" vs. the "why" of the universe.
The point was that you belittling science for not being able to answer the "why"
questions when it has already been pointed out to you that such questions only
have any meaning when a supernatural creator is presupposed. Maintaining such
presuppositions undoubtedly makes you feel good, but attempting to force them
upon science accomplishes nothing.
I was making a comment about those who claim equality for their beliefs
while always refusing to submit them to the same standards of evidence and proof
as any other theory.
(R) O.K., but I'm not doing this. I submit your theory and mine to exactly
the same standards: factual evidence (of which there is none) and logical
(MB) Since all of the facts and logic reside with my side, but you still
consider your side to be "equal", it is extremely obvious that you have no
interest in any standards of evidence or proof on this issue. The arguments for
God are internally inconsistent, incoherent, and illogical. This would be true
even if there were no scientific alternative theories. The God hypothesis
simply collapses under its own weight.
To address what you did bring up, if science's theories of
"how" is right, then the "why" of the universe is also answered
-- the universe exists because those same physical laws would
produce it exactly as we see it. It couldn't be any other way.
(R) So, the universe exists because it exists? Humm. You accused me at one
point of being like a parent who simply answers "because" to their child's
question, to avoid giving a real answer. Well, if I've ever seen a "because"
answer, this is it.
(MB) That's because you didn't read (or understand) what I wrote. Once again,
the universe exists because of the effects of the laws of physics. Our universe
is the way we see it because those same laws couldn't have produced anything
different. "Why" does not need to be a deep, philosophical issue. Instead, it
can be something of basic simplicity.
(R) These physical laws, which you say can only produce the universe the way it
is, where did they come from? They can't be part of the universe, because they
were required to produce it, eh?
(MB) They *are* a part of the universe and everything in it -- an integral,
fundamental, and inseparable part. That should be fairly obvious. If they were
not, they wouldn't work and couldn't have produced our universe and nothing in
it would work as it does.
(R) Your cryptic explanation seems to be a variation on the anthropic principle,
which simply put, states "The universe appears the way it is, because we exist
to see it that way." You take it quite a bit further, however. You say the
universe exists because it exists, and everything in it is the way it is because
that is the way it is. So don't worry about. Just shut up and color.
(MB) The last part about "taking it further" is your own addition and
misunderstanding of what I said. The anthropic principle is really little more
than a basic deduction. If the laws of physics were different, they would have
produced a universe that is different. Such a universe would almost certainly
not have produced a chain of events in which Homo sapiens would have evolved and
gone on to develop science or invent God. If intelligent creatures existed in
such a different universe, they would see it as it was because it couldn't be
any other way and still produce those same creatures.
While the anthropic principle may not seem very enlightening on the surface,
what we learn from it is that we are consequences of the nature of the universe.
We are not beings for whom the universe was specially created.
Only if we accept the supernatural must we worry about any philosophical
or theological "why" questions.
(R) And that, my friend, is the exact reason why philosophies which
concentrate simple-mindedly on only the physical aspects of the universe are
ultimately so barren -- because they refuses to even acknowledge such truly
momentous philosophical and theological questions.
(MB) Why bother considering such things if there's no evidence that they exist
and no reason why they should? This is hardly a simple-minded approach.
Indeed, doing so would seem to be a serious waste of one's time when he could
more profitably be examining what's really out there. It's more difficult to
examine the evidence thoroughly than to accept a "feel good" idea, but far too
many people take the easy way out. "Easy" ideas are not the equal of all
Your "statistical facts" are merely your own hunches
about what various groups believe and what sorts of people
belong to each group -- as you clearly admit.
(R) Oh, really? Well then, I'll repeat my statistics and reasoning, and let
you try to make a logical refutation of them instead of just spouting rhetoric
(MB) You'd be better off to defend your claims rather than just to repeat them
over and over. But, let's take another look...
(R) 85 percent of Americans are Christians, broken down as 18 percent
conservative, 19 percent liberal, and 47 percent middle-of the road.
(MB) 18+19+47=84 and not 85. There is also a slight coherency blunder here as
the breakdown can't be that of Christians (as stated), but must be that of all
Americans for the percentages to make any sense. Also, there are no definitions
of "conservative", "liberal", or "middle-of-the-road" here, nor any listing of
which denominations or sects fall into which groups, nor any explanation of why
there are only three classifications. Nor is there any citation of who is doing
the classifications. This is important since one person's "middle-of-the-road"
may well be another person's "conservative" or "liberal". Therefore, these
figures, as presented, are next to meaningless for the purposes of supporting
any of your arguments.
(R) It is reasonable to assume that most conservative Christians have narrow
religious views, probably not as extreme as what you claim to be indicative of
all religious beliefs, but similar.
(MB) Why is it "reasonable" to assume this? Since you have provided no
definition of "conservative", there is nothing upon which to judge how
reasonable any assumption about that classification might be. You've also
thrown in a label of "extreme" without defining it and used it to form a
non-sequitur comparison that muddles any point which may have been attempted.
(R) This leads me to conclude that about one quarter of American Christians have
narrow religious beliefs such as those you present.
(MB) Interesting math. Given your initial figures for the percentage of
conservative Christians and your statement that most of them (but not all) have
narrow views, the resulting percentage of conservatives with narrow views should
be lower than the overall percentage. Yet, your conclusion *raises* that
percentage from the initial 18% to, now, "about one-quarter"! How does that
(R) Now, the United States is one of the most fundamentalist, church-going
nations in the world,
(MB) Even more so than Islamic nations? What an
(R) ...and it is unlikely that Christians in other parts of the
world are any more conservative than those in the U.S.
(MB) How and why is that "unlikely"? A definition of "conservative" is sorely
needed here in order to support your argument.
(R) Probably, they are less conservative, but let's just assume they are about
(MB) Why should we assume this? With no definition of "conservative", there is
no basis upon which to justify such an assumption.
(R) It follows, then, that roughly one quarter of Christians, world-wide, have
narrow religious views.
(MB) If the rest of the world is less conservative than the US, how can the
worldwide percentage of conservative Christians be equal to that among American
Christians? The US can't be "one of the most fundamentalist, church-going
nations in the world" if we are also to assume that the rest of the world is
The logic and math behind your premises are off to very shaky starts. This will
make any further conclusions drawn from those premises increasingly weak. But,
let's go on...
(R) However, only 32 percent (about one third) of the world's population are
Christian. One quarter times one third gives a figure of those with the narrow
religious views you present which is somewhat under 10 percent, but I prefer to
err on the cautious side and will stick with one out of ten.
(MB) Without a definition of "conservative" or a reason to equate such a
definition with your own opinions, any number is just as good (or bad) as any
(R) So, that's what my figure is based on.
(MB) So, it's based upon bad math, undefined terms, unsupported opinion, and
misunderstandings of what I've been saying? That's not exactly the stuff from
which solid conclusions are based.
(R) You still haven't given a figure delineating your own estimate of the
prevalence of the narrow-minded beliefs you bigotedly try to foist on all
religious believers. Any time you're ready, I'd be interested in hearing it.
(MB) All along, I've been asking you to provide me with examples of which
Christian churches or sects teach things like "other religions or deities are
just as good/valid as ours" and, to date, you have been unable (or unwilling) to
come up with so much as a single example. You claim that not to teach or
believe such things is to exhibit narrow-minded behavior. You further claim
that only a small percentage of Christians exhibit such behavior. Yet, you
can't find even a single example of a church or sect which encompasses the "vast
majority" that would support your claims. Then, you go on to challenge the
validity of what I've said. How does that work?
I've asked you several questions about the beliefs of individuals and
organized religious sects and your own answers dispute your own "well grounded"
estimate as to how prevalent certain beliefs are.
(R) You'll have to refresh my memory as to what these several questions were,
because I haven't a clue what you're talking about. The only specific belief I
remember discussing (other than God's existence itself) is the Holy Trinity.
(MB) Nice try. You can't avoid the questions by claiming not to remember them.
They are all still posted here for you to review if you're really interested in
How many believers adhere to the "narrow belief" that God's existence is a real
(R) So, you're asking how many religious persons believe in God? Ummm, let me
think....100 percent? I don't think you could say they were religious believers
without believing in God, eh?
(MB) So, it's not such a "narrow belief" after all, eh? Now that we have
established that this is not a "bigoted and biased opinion", we can go on. What
reason(s) is/are used by these people to justify such a belief and are there any
circumstances under which such a belief can be changed or abandoned?
(R) You're not trying to say a simple belief in God
automatically means someone is narrow minded, are you?
(MB) No, that's your own definition. You are confusing a "narrow belief"
(a view held by few people) with "narrow minded" (an unwillingness to change a
Created with Allaire HomeSite 4.0 .......... Last Update: 04 Jun 98
Earthlink Network Home Page
Go to next reply
Return to "Religion" essay
Back to Philosophy page