REPLY #49b 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 two-part reply.
If the consequences can be shown to be invalid or non-existent, then the basic premise itself is invalidated.
(R) This is absolutely true, but the premise can involve either existence or non-existence..
(MB) Nope. It's only applicable to questions of existence. If you don't believe it, please demonstrate with an example of the meaningful consequences that are produced as a direct result of the non-existence of anything you might choose to bring up. To do so means you must assume that the non-existent thing has at least one specific quality. But, this is not possible since non-existent things don't have specific qualities.
There are a great many consequences that must be true if God exists, but none of them have been shown to have any evidence of reality. Because of this, the basic premise is invalid.
(R) You have to give an example of something that must be true if God exists, or that cannot be true if He exists before you can show the premise to be invalid. You can't do this.
(MB) All that's needed is to show where paradoxes or impossibilities are produced as a result of claims about the omnipotent, omniscient nature of God. I've already done this several times in previous replies.
(R) Because of this, the premise is potentially valid—exactly as in the case of the premise He doesn't exist. The two opposing premises are equally valid....or equally invalid.
(MB) Because of this, your argument is just as bad now as it was the first hundred or so times you've repeated it.
The fact that nothing yet discovered in the universe shows any indication of being created by anything other than natural causes.
(R) Natural causes that God made possible and which He established. This evidence supports my position just as well as yours.
(MB) No, it doesn't. All you have is an unsupported claim that provides no answers and just seeks to confuse the issue to no good purpose. What is your evidence that God created those natural causes? Without any supporting evidence, there is no reason to believe the claim and it becomes nothing more than jaw-jacking.
The fact that there are thousands of mutually-exclusive versions of "God" -- none of which have anything to support them.
(R) That there are differences in religious beliefs has nothing to do with the underlying question of whether or not God exists. It is irrelevant. This is not evidence which supports your premise.
(MB) Yes, it is. For God to exist, he must have at least one meaningful quality. You have advanced several such qualities for the God that you posit. Those qualities are not present in all Gods worshipped by all religious systems, nor are they a part of all conceivable Gods. You have stated that "God" means all conceivable Gods, but that is a paradoxical concept since that set of beings must have mutually-exclusive qualities. Since no explanation of God has any evidence to support it, since they can't all be correct, and since there is no reason to prefer any one explanation over any other, this strengthens the alternative position that there actually is no God at all.
The fact that the individual religions devoted to Yahveh are internally and externally inconsistent.
(R) You previously said Islam was internally consistent. I guess you've changed your mind?
(MB) Nope. I said that the belief system of Islam itself is internally consistent (which is why it is not as fractured as Christianity), not that the God it worships is consistent with the God worshipped by other forms of Yahvistic religion.
(R) Anyway, consistency (i.e. no contradictions) is a vital consideration in any system of beliefs.
(MB) That's correct and is one of the basics of fundamental logic and philosophy. This is why we can have and trust such systems.
(R) Since there is no (or at least conflicting) empirical evidence to support these beliefs and they are based on reason alone, consistency is the only arbitrator for choosing what is rational.
(MB) Then, you must agree that religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, have failed that test most dismally.
(R) But you have to realize one inconvertible fact: the basic premise of any system of beliefs can not be justified by facts, but must simply be accepted. This is true of your own beliefs.
(MB) Quite correct. However, that acceptance is based upon testing and observation within our reality. Even if we can't logically justify that we actually exist, the fact still remains that our realm does appear to have consistent properties that produce consistent results when interrogated in consistent ways. That alone is sufficient grounds upon which to base a trusted system of logic and philosophy.
(R) Furthermore, the inconsistencies of religion are irrelevant to the question of God's existence. That religion is inconsistant is not evidence which supports your position, either.
(MB) Technically, it is evidence that refutes your position. My position only becomes stronger as a consequence of the failure of yours to pass the consistency test. That is because your position is a question with only two possible answers. If one answer weakens, the other grows stronger.
The fact that even the believers have to admit that they have no evidence to support their own beliefs.
(R) I personally take a certain amount of pride in the faith I place in my beliefs.
(MB) You take pride that you have faith instead of real knowledge? To each his own, I guess. No wonder it doesn't seem to bother you that you can't come up with anything to support what you believe.
(R) You, in contrast, can't even admit to the faith you have in yours, because you realize it is in direct contradiction to everything else you believe.
(MB) Wrong. Your invalid logic and inability to understand what I hold as my core belief does not affect my position in the slightest. I can admit to the faith I have that the methodology used to arrive at my core belief is sound. It has been tested innumerable times and has passed every test. That's a pretty solid base upon which to build a belief.
(R) That religious believers believe through faith doesn't support your position, in fact, it is a point in their favor.
(MB) So, having faith instead of facts is supposed to be "a point in favor" of the claim that God exists? Oh, boy... In other words, you're saying that it is valid to believe that something exists just because you believe it exists? Isn't that one of the long-refuted arguments that we discussed in a previous reply? Isn't it also a classic case of the logical fallacy of circular reasoning?
What is so special about the "God" theory that removes it from the same fate?
(R) The God theory is no more special than your own…and vice versa.
(MB) Oh, really? My theory is based upon evidence and proven methodologies. Yours is not. Mine is freely subject to change. Yours is not. Mine could be reproduced by anybody versed in science without prior knowledge of the theory or its details. Yours can not. Mine makes logical sense. Yours does not.
I ask again...What makes the God theory so special that it can't be subjected to the same standards of acceptance or dismissal as any other theory?
You don't even understand what my claim *is*! My claim is not "God doesn't exist". My claim is that such a being is unnecessary because everything in the universe can be shown to be understandable and that it was created through the actions of a finite set of knowable laws of physics. There is abundant evidence to support my claim. Any statement that "God doesn't exist" is not my basic premise. It is a prediction that is derived from the consequences of that premise. Why can't you understand that? Probably because to admit it would be to admit that your belief is not equal.
If you want your beliefs to be equal, you will have to support them with evidence. If you can't, you'll have to withdraw them from serious consideration as legitimate alternatives.
(R) You're right, I've been trying to push you into the position of declaring "God does not exist" as your basic premise. You know what? I'm going to humbly and sincerely apologize for that. It was wrong.
(MB) Well, finally we're getting somewhere...
(R) I'm still having a trouble with your basic premise though. I'm going to analyze the statement you made above, in order to try to clearly understand it. I added some numbers to break the statement into three separate phrases.
"(1.) My claim is that such a being is unnecessary (2.) because everything in the universe can be shown to be understandable (3.) and that it was created through the actions of a finite set of knowable laws of physics."
As you say, the first phrase is a conclusion (God is not necessary) as is the second (the universe is understandable.) Now, conclusions from one syllogism can become premises for further deduction, but still, these are not your basic premise.
(MB) You're using the term "syllogism" incorrectly. A syllogism is a form of reasoning that combines a major and minor premise which have a term in common to formulate a conclusion which links the other terms, such as "(P1) All fish live in the water. (P2) Trout are fish. (C) Therefore, all trout live in the water". What is being done in the statement you've quoted is deduction -- the process of reasoning from stated premises (2) and (3) to a formal conclusion (1).
(R) They are conclusions drawn from your basic premise, which appears to be the third phrase: "…(the universe) was created through the actions of a finite set of knowable laws of physics."
(MB) Actually, the premise is in two parts. One is that there is a finite set of knowable laws of physics and the other (which derives from the first) is that everything in the universe can be shown to be understandable.
(R) Let's eliminate the extra words and simply say, "The universe arose through the laws of physics."
(MB) This leaves out the key elements that there are a finite set of those laws and that they are knowable.
(R) This could be restated as, "The universe created itself," or, "The universe arose by chance," but I think the best way of putting it is to say, "The universe arose spontaneously."
(MB) These are all individual conclusions that could be derived from the premise.
(R) (There is another position of course, which would be, "The universe has always existed," but I don't think you're saying that.)
(MB) That's another conclusion and is one that does not follow directly from the premise.
(R) Anyway, I read your basic premise as, "The universe arose spontaneously." If I'm wrong, I'm sure you'll correct me.
(MB) Again, that is a conclusion that could be drawn from the premise.
(R) I know it's very important to you to not depend on faith for any of your beliefs, because it is directly contrary to everything else you believe, but that doesn't change the fact that you do. Nothing you presented above showed anything different.
(MB) My faith is in the methodologies used to arrive at my conclusions and is based upon constant testing and observation. Yours is simply based upon your own unsupportable personal preferences and emotions. There is a considerable difference between the two.
(R) What I'm about to present below will show, that just like me, you believe what you believe though faith.
(MB) This ought to be..., um..., interesting considering that you seem to have a hard time understanding the difference between your version of faith and mine.
[RE: "Contradictions do not exist. When faced with an apparent contradiction, check your premises, because one or more are wrong."]
Rand is right. Because there are contradictions between our respective premises, they must be examined. The only way to examine the validity of a premise is to check the evidence which supports them. Because your premise is the only one which has nothing to support it, it must be the source of the contradiction and must either be supported, modified, or withdrawn.
(R) What you've done here is demonstrate you don't know what a contradiction is and don't understand what Ms. Rand is talking about. Incidentally, she was not the first to come up with this idea. Aristole's Law of Contradiction puts it best: "A statement and its denial cannot both be true."
(MB) Rand is speaking of an apparent internal contradiction within what should be a properly constructed single argument. If a statement appears to produce an internal contradiction, it must be examined for at least one faulty premise. This is where the religious arguments postulating omnipotence and omniscience for God fall apart.
There can also be contradictions between arguments, which is what Aristotle is covering. Since the conclusions to our respective arguments end up denying each other, only one can be true. Again, the way to resolve the external contradiction between those conclusions is to examine the internal premises that led to them. There must be at least one flaw. This is another reason why your argument that "God exists" and "God does not exist" are equally valid is illogical. Since they contradict each other, there must be at least one flaw in one of them. That makes them unequal.
(R) Contradictions are internal to belief systems. If you and I disagree on something, that is not truly a contradiction. The fact that I say "God exists" and you say "no He doesn't" is a difference of opinion, not a contradiction. Only if one of us says *both* statements are true is there a contradiction.
(MB) I see your confusion. What you are calling "contradiction" here is actually "paradox". Contradictions are merely opposites or denials of other statements. To claim that contradictory statements are both true would be to posit something paradoxical. This is another reason why it is invalid to claim that all religious systems are valid when some have mutually-exclusive beliefs and, therefore, they can't all be correct.
(R) Let me give you a really good example of a contradiction: someone who claims there are no moral absolutes, that all morality is relative, and then goes on to say it's wrong to use drugs because it damages one's health. To say drug use in wrong is to make a moral judgement which says health is a "greater good" than the physical pleasure derived from using drugs. This establishes a hierarchy of good which must inevitably lead to an absolutely highest good.
(MB) The question of whether or not there are real, tangible, and objective benefits to a person who is good physical health as opposed to a person who is in poor physical health is a matter of medicine and not of morality. From this, we can conclude that it is physically more beneficial for the person in question to be in good physical health than to be in poor physical health.
We know that there are certain activities that promote good physical health and some that significantly increase the risk of poor physical health. We know that taking drugs is one activity that greatly increases the risk of poor physical health while it can be claimed that there may be emotional or psychological benefits to be gained from doing so. However, we also know that the emotional benefits are only temporary and will require repeated use of the drugs to maintain and we know that such repeated use will permanently affect the physical health of the user. Since it can be safely assumed that a permanent condition will have greater impact in the long run than will a temporary condition, we can conclude that the net effect upon the user of taking drugs will be negative. From this, we can conclude from reasoning alone that one should not take drugs. Nothing in this line of reasoning requires an appeal to morality.
(R) A person who argues morality is relative but drug use is wrong is saying, "There are no moral absolutes and there are moral absolutes."
(MB) If you say that drug use is wrong without supporting that claim, then you have a moral statement. Since I have supported my statement without appeals to morality, I have not contradicted my own views on the nature of morality.
(R) This is a classic contradiction.
(MB) This is a classic failure to think a scenario all the way through due to a predisposed premise.
(R) If such a person continues to insist there are no moral absolutes, they must concede there are no wrong behaviors.
(MB) Only if one wishes to claim that any given behavior is always right (or always wrong, for that matter) regardless of the circumstances involved. That is the nature of a claim for the existence of moral absolutes. There can still be "right" and "wrong" without there being absolutes and the same action can alternate between "right" to "wrong" depending on circumstances and who is passing judgment.
(R) Of course one might argue a behavior is wrong only if it hurts others, but even that is a moral judgement.
(MB) That depends on the level of one's selfishness. Some may not care what happens to others as a result of their actions. For others, concern for their fellows is of primary importance. There is no absolute standard which declares that either of those two is "right" or "wrong" in what he chooses to do. Societies decide whose view is preferable when they enact laws to govern themselves.
(R) If morals are truly relative, a pedophile can argue that his physical pleasure is a "greater good" than any alleged harm he causes to his victims.
(MB) Yes, he could. Remember that morality is "right" or "wrong" from the viewpoint of the group making the determination. The pedophile would be a group of one and his decision would be his personal morality. The society of which he is a member may well have other ideas, however.
(R) Anyway, let's return to your basic premise, which is, "The universe arose spontaneously." I don't agree with your basic premise , so I'm going to deny it by saying, "The universe was created." We know, absolutely, that both of these statements cannot be true—to claim they were would be a contradiction. We now have two opposing claims.
(MB) For the sake of the argument that is to follow, I'll accept your abridgement of my basic premise, but will reserve the right to refer to the complete version.
(R) Since we now have a clear view of these opposing viewpoints, what support does either of our claims have? Let's look at yours first. Basically, you are saying the universe exists without cause. However, nothing else we know of in the universe exists without cause. Every facet of our experience, all the empirical evidence, shows us nothing exists without cause. You cannot claim the empirical evidence supports your premise, because in fact it contravenes it.
(MB) This is incorrect. Radioactive decay is an effect without cause and it most certainly exists in vast amounts. Quantum mechanics provides for many such uncaused effects, such as the quantum tunnelling and quantum leaps that permit the Sun to shine. Certainly, you won't deny that the Sun does, in fact, shine?
(R) However, I'll grant you your claim.
(MB) That would be a wise choice.
(R) It could be possible for something to exist without cause, even though we don't know of any such thing. But I'll also emphatically state your claim has no empirical support, whatsoever.
(MB) Fortunately, that "we" doesn't include scientists or any other educated person with a basic understanding of quantum mechanics. If you want empirical support for what I've told you, watch the Sun rise tomorrow morning. In the meantime, what you are emphatically stating is little more than that you are emphatically incorrect.
(R) If you believe the universe arose spontaneously, it is merely because you want to believe it.
(MB) Hardly. The pieces of the puzzle are there. We just have to prove how they all fit together and figure out how to verify it.
(R) What about my opposing claim? Does it have empirical support?
(MB) Not only does it not have empirical support, it doesn't have any support other than blind faith and emotional appeal -- neither of which qualifies as trusted or verifiable methodology.
(R) The immediate conclusion to be drawn from my denial is, "Something created the universe." If the universe was created, it was created by something. (I won't bother to define this "something" yet.) Now, is there any empirical evidence which supports this premise?
(MB) Nope, not a whit. Not only is there no support, it raises an additional unsolvable problem in the question "Who or what created the Creator?". To say that the Creator was uncreated while, at the same time, denying that there can be any effect without a cause is to argue both sides against the middle. To say that the Creator is not an uncreated entity just backs up the problem by one level and sets one on the road to infinite regress.
(R) Well, as we've said, everything else which occurs in the universe has a cause, so it seems reasonable to conclude the universe itself cannot exist without cause.
(MB) Of course, this is based on a faulty and refuted premise, but let's go on...
(R) However, as we've also said, there could possibly be something which exists without cause. The empirical evidence doesn't support my position, either. But that doesn't bother me, because I intuitively know that only faith, supported by reason, can provide the answers to the most fundamental questions about the universe.
(MB) Now, we have a conclusion that is produced from out of thin air rather than being the end of a line of connected reasoning. How and why do you "intuitively know" that faith is the only answer? On what is that based? It can't be based simply on faith itself, since that is to reason in a circle.
(R) Now, you might say that if this "something" really exists, it must exist without cause, and if *it* can exist without cause, why can't the universe?
(MB) Actually, my reasoning goes the other way. If the universe can exist without a definitive cause -- as the evidence suggests -- then it is highly likely that it arose by itself and there is no need to posit a separate Creator.
(R) But the answer to this is simple: the "something" is infinite, it has always existed, and it had no need of ever being created. It simply *is*.
(MB) On what are these claims based? How could they be independently derived by an objective tester who had no prior knowledge of your religion or your God? Yes, it's a simple answer, but most meaningless statements are simple.
(R) You can't claim the same thing for the universe because of all the theoretical and empirical evidence which clearly shows the universe had a definite beginning in that single instant we call the Big Bang.
(MB) That is one event in the creation of our universe. If you were properly versed in current theory, you'd know that the Big Bang that created our universe is one of innumerable such events that result from uncaused quantum fluctuations in an underlayer of prior spacetimes. Note that "prior" doesn't have much real meaning for us since our concept of time was created along with the rest of our universe and doesn't apply anywhere else.
(R) It should be clear at this point that the starting premise of *any* system of beliefs must be an unjustifiable assumption. This includes your own beliefs, which have no basis in empirical evidence whatsoever.
(MB) Hopefully, we've cleared up that misunderstanding by now.
(R) (Note: at this point I think we're going to discuss the theories of the eminent scientist, Stephen Hawking, but I'll wait until you bring them up before covering them.)
(MB) Since you're not familiar with any of them or with many of the concepts underlying them, how are you going to be able to discuss them properly or intelligently?
(R) Your basic premise, that the universe arose spontaneously, is insupportable.
(MB) I've shown the my basic premise is, indeed, supportable and have provided evidence in support of it.
(R) The immediate conclusions you draw from this premise are equally insupportable, and you can only accept them on faith.
(MB) We've cleared that up, as well. Your objections are based totally on your lack of knowledge of current theory and the evidence which backs it up.
(R) Yet you refuse to recognize the equally reasonable premises and immediate conclusions of others, because they are based on faith. You say, "Faith is rational and faith is irrational." The contradiction is obvious.
(MB) Not at all. I say, "Faith based on evidence and methodology is rational. Blind faith based on emotional appeal and personal preferences is irrational." No contradictions here.
Rand's philosophy changed considerably over the course of her developing fame. By the time she was at the height of her fame, her philosophy began to approach self-deification. Of course, if your followers are constantly telling you that you are the most intelligent and most important person in the world, it would be easy to start believing them before too long.
(R) Kind of like Hitler, eh? But wait, I thought you said earlier the deification of leaders was the sole domain of religion? Or did "I miss your point" again?
(MB) More than likely. Certainly you don't think that anybody seriously considers any human being, no matter how popular or charismatic, to be a real deity?
Over-simplification of an issue is as much of a problem as is over-complexification. Thorough examination helps solve the former, while Occam's razor can help cure the latter.
(R) The whole point of this is to show Ms. Rand is not infallible. Just because she personally thinks faith cannot be rational doesn't make it so.
(MB) Quite true. It is the nature of blind faith that leads us to the conclusion that it is irrational.
(R) In fact, at the foundation of our beliefs, it is the *only* rational source of knowledge.
(MB) Let's be careful to separate faith in the natural order of things from the blind faith of pure emotion. I have "faith" that the Sun will rise tomorrow even though I know that it's not absolutely certain. The evidence supports my faith to a high degree of probability.
(R) To deny faith is to deny knowledge….and that would be irrational.
(MB) To accept blind faith is to deny reality...and that is a tragedy.
(R) Oh, almost forgot. I need to say something about "something" don't I? Well, the one obvious and undeniable conclusion to be drawn about this "something" is it must be external to the universe.
(MB) Not necessarily. It is possible for the universe to be entirely self-contained -- to include the initial event of creation itself. In fact, prior to theories of the multiverse, this is what the Big Bang implied.
(R) If it is internal to the universe (i.e. spaceman, supercomputer, or the universe itself) it explains nothing and you are left with the original question of what created the universe.
(MB) Again, that is not so. All that is required is for the initial event to remain within the universe it produced.
(R) So, the "something" must be external.
(MB) I've already mentioned an external element of current theory.
(R) I will call this "something" God.
(MB) You can call it Fred or Joe Bob or Morticia or the Great Green Arkleseizure if you want to. In any case, without some sort of evidence for this "something" it must remain entirely within the realm of unsupported speculation.
(R) If you believe the universe was created (you don't have to) then you believe in a God who 1.) created the universe, and 2.) is external to the universe.
(MB) This isn't necessarily the case, either. Your "God has always existed" scenario has an analog in the case where the matter density of the universe is great enough that gravity will eventually cause the universe to quit expanding and cause it to collapse back in on itself. If this is so, we live in an oscillating universe that will always expand and contract and rebuild itself for all eternity -- and has done so for an eternity prior to its current incarnation. Since "before" and "after" have no meaning in our current universe's time stream, one can say that the universe was neither created nor will it ever be destroyed. It just *is*. Again, the universe is capable of bringing itself into each individual existence and there is no need for God to butt in.
(R) Nothing else about Him need be said just yet.
(MB) So far, nothing meaningful or compelling has been said about Him at all.
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