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REPLY #8 TO
"RELIGION"



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).


(R) Your responses, as i expected, are brilliant.
(MB) I do my best... :-)


How does being argumentative peg me as engaging in a "quest for God"?
(R) Simply because you would have someone prove 'intellectually' that God exists when you are surrounded by physical evidence you refuse to acknowledge due to your infinte wisdom.
(MB) If I was, indeed, "surrounded" by such physical evidence, it would not be possible to question God's existence -- "infinite wisdom" or not. It is the very fact that such evidence does not exist that leads to reasonable intellectual doubt.
    All that would be required to prove (or strongly compel) a belief in God would be a single demonstration of just one thing that could not possibly have resulted from anything other than divine intervention. Of course, one would also have to show that it was "God" and not some other religion's deity that was responsible.
    This should not be an overly-difficult task given the thousands of years since religion was invented and the billions of worshippers involved. Yet, it has not happened. The only reasonable conclusion is that the existence of any omnipotent, omniscient, supernatural deity is highly likely to be a myth.



(R) Although your responses flow from an obvious wealth of 'knowledge' i have one question for you. How did we get here? *BANG*? Please do not attempt to answer this, as without God, no explaination is adequate.
(MB) Don't you mean "no explanation is acceptable"? In any case, every bit of observational, experimental, and logical evidence we have shows that the Universe and everything within it could arise entirely as a consequence of the operation of a definable, knowable, and finite set of laws of nature. In no instances whatsoever do we find anything at all whose existence can only be explained as being supernatural in origin. We don't yet have all of the answers, but we are close enough to that goal to be able to state with confidence that nothing supernatural will be required to supply any missing pieces.
    Man's knowledge level hasn't always been so high, of course. It wasn't all that long ago that almost every physical phenomena was ascribed to the actions of one or more supernatural beings. Thunder and lightning, for example, were long thought of as the side-effects of wars being raged in the sky by those beings. Eclipses of the sun and moon would send our ancestors into fits of panic as they imagined that demons were consuming those important heavenly bodies. The shortening of the days as winter approached would fill them with fear as they worried fretfully about whether or not it would continue to get colder and the night would continue to get longer. These people would engage in ceremonies, dancing, prayers, human sacrifices and all sorts of things to drive off the demons or win favor with the gods in order to right wrongs or give thanks for being allowed to continue living.
    This eventually evolved into our formal religions. In order to continue to survive, those same religions must continue to perpetuate a general ignorance of reality. As knowledge increases, the need to praise (or blame) some supernatural being for everything decreases proportionately. Eventually, one realizes that there is no need for the fairy tales at all and becomes free to fully appreciate and revel in life and the universe for what they truly are.



(R) In reply #6 you write:
I can find nothing in the Universe that could not be as it is through the actions of understandable natural law and would, therefore, have to have brought about via supernatural means.
Are you in your right mind? i do not ask this to be insulting, but find myself seriously wondering...is not the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics a 'natural law'? i am certain you know the Dictionary was actually the product of an explosion in a printing factory.
(MB) The Second Law of Thermodynamics (hereafter, "SLT") is a natural law that is a fundamental principle of the universe. It is a very easy thing to understand. Unfortunately, one of the oldest and most wildly inaccurate claims of those who seek to denigrate science involves a dreadful misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the SLT. The SLT states that in any closed system (i.e., a system that is self-contained and receives no energy input from outside itself), the total entropy of that system will always increase. In other words, the total amount of disordered energy will always increase while the total amount of ordered energy will always decrease.
    The Creationists try to claim that life must be impossible without God because it represents an increase in ordered energy. However, a living organism is not a closed system. A living organism is continually receiving energy input from outside itself in the form of the food it consumes and the energy of the sun's rays. They grow and reproduce, of course, but the total local increase in ordered energy doesn't even come close to the increase in dis ordered energy produced by the organism's burning of food and the consequent production of heat. For example, the average person may consume upwards of 1000 pounds of food each year. Yet, that same person doesn't gain 1000 pounds of body mass (or anything even close) as a result. In fact, he may well lose weight.
    Local increases in order are perfectly permissible under the SLT, so long as it results in a corresponding and greater increase in total disorder. In short, there is nothing in the Universe that violates the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Any claims to the contrary are, at best, woefully uninformed.



(R) Back to our 'debunking' of God's inerrant and Holy scriptures. Since you so strongly disagree with the Genesis account of creation, perhaps Equidistant Letter Sequences contained in the same book will stimulate thought.
(MB) This is the same, old, tired and thoroughly debunked numerology that was most recently revived in Michael Drosnin's summer best-seller "The Bible Code". The original study was published in 1994 in the journal "Statistical Science" by Witztum, Rips, and Rosenberg and has (along with Drosnin's book) received no corroborative support and much well-deserved ridicule. In fact, Drosnin's book is so dreadful that Rips himself has disavowed it.
    The technique is a mixture of bogus mathematics, dubious programming techniques, convenient manipulation of Hebrew letters, and an expressed desire to find a small subset of specific words -- no matter how torturous or contrived the methodology.
    The basic claim is that the Book of Genesis contains numerous "hidden" code words (or pairs of related words) that can only be located if one arranges the Hebrew letters into various-sized square matrices and reads across, up/down, backwards, or diagonally at regularly-spaced intervals. These words are supposed to contain predictions of future events and would then support the claim that God must have inspired them. The claim could be proven if such words and predictions could only be found in Genesis and would not arise in any other printed work, or if the frequency of them within the text was outside the bounds of statistical random variation. Rips, et al, make this very claim. Unfortunately for them, both possible proofs are demonstrably and conclusively false.
    Referring to the Genesis "prediction" of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, Drosnin told Newsweek magazine, "When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I'll believe them." Well, the challenge was accepted by mathematician Brendan McKay of Australian National University. Using the same methods as Drosnin, not only was such a message found in Moby Dick (in fact, it was far more detailed than the one in Genesis), other messages were found "predicting" the assassinations of such famous people as Indira Gandhi, Rene Moawad, Leon Trotsky, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. No word yet on whether Drosnin has believed it, but the proof is posted on the Web at http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/moby.html for all to see. This site also contains links to sites with conclusive debunkings of other numerological nonsense claimed for the Bible (as well as for the Koran).
    Where the problem with the Bible "code" arises is in the failure of its proponents to understand mathematical probability. Depending on how you wish to interpret it, the Hebrew alphabet contains only about 20 different letters with no vowels. Also, it is common practice to drop letters when forming certain words. All in all, it is easy to take a few Hebrew letters and form several different possible words from there. A similar example in English would result from trying to find words in the short sequence of letters "hrs". Just off the top of my head, I can read that group as "horse", "house", "hairs", "heresy", "hires", and many others. If I was specifically looking for "heresy", I could claim that I found a "coded match". Now, arrange the 150,000 characters of Genesis into matrices of all possible dimensions, look in all possible directions, and apply liberal interpretations for pre-selected words formed from a small set of letters, and it should hardly be surprising that "miraculous" matches are found. Given the multiple billions of possibilities, it would be truly astounding if no such matches were found at all.
    Drosnin, Rips and the rest may have been well-intentioned, but their lack of mathematical understanding just ends up in proving that unusual things can occur if given enough time and trials to turn up. Anyone who takes their findings as "proof" of divine inspiration for Genesis must also try to claim that Moby Dick was equally inspired.



(R) i am through playing intellectual games.
(MB) Did you ever start? An intellectual approach says only that we wish to understand and appreciate things as they truly are -- not as we would want them to be.


(R) Why would the Almighty God seek to prove His existance to you?
(MB) How else would such a being expect a reasonable person to believe in him? I'm quite sure that he would prefer an honest worshipper to the self-serving, often-hypocritical, fair-weather type we so often encounter.


(R) i know He is there through a personal revelation, and answered prayer, but more-so because i seek Him in faith and truth, not by my own pitiful human understanding.
(MB) Just because understanding might be "pitiful", that does not mean that one should not attempt to try to improve it. Abandoning the attempt and subordinating one's mind to superstition may be easier, but it does render one more gullible to the next good story that comes along (like the Bible code). Even when the errors in such stories are blatant and obvious, one will never find them if he doesn't bother to look.
    Out of curiosity, what was the last prayer that you had answered and are you quite certain that the event would not or could not have come to pass without the prayer being offered?



(R) Heb 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
(MB) A common thread of unsupportable ideas is that one must just accept them through faith -- normally at the risk of some punishment for disbelief. At best, this would seem to make such faith very hollow. Sorry to say it, but it would seem that most of the faithful are basing their lives upon the unseen contents of a flimsy and empty bag.


(R) i am a God seeker.
(MB) I seek the truth...whatever the nature of that truth might be. I abhor nonsense...whatever the idea might be that such nonsense would seek to support or challenge. I place no limits on what I will or will not believe and subject all ideas to the same standards of evidence. I am not afraid to say "I don't know" rather than to blindly accept an easy answer to any given question. I am not afraid of the challenge of understanding.



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