Conventional logic vs. religious logic

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12 Responses to Conventional logic vs. religious logic

  1. Scott says:

    The title of your website (“religion poisons”) illustrates that you need to educate yourself about “religion”. “Religion” is a concept that does not have any intrinsic ( or trans-cultural and trans-historical) meaning. Please read the following essay:
    http://www.godevidence.com/2011/02/doesnt-religion-cause-killing/

    An excerpt:

    Religious scholar William T. Cavanaugh writes in The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict:

    “What would be necessary to prove the claim that religion has caused more violence than any other institutional force over the course of human history? One would first need a concept of religion that would be at least theoretically separable from other institutional forces over the course of human history. …The problem is that there was no category of religion separable from such political institutions until the modern era, and then it was primarily in the West. What meaning could we give to either the claim that Roman religion is to blame for the imperialist violence of ancient Rome, or the claim that it is Roman politics and not Roman religion that is to blame? Either claim would be nonsensical, because there was no neat division between religion and politics.”

    “It is not simply that religion and politics were jumbled together until the modern West got them properly sorted out. As Wilfred Cantwell Smith showed in his landmark book, The Meaning and End of Religion, religion as a discrete category of human activity separable from culture, politics, and other areas of life is an invention of the modern West.”

    “…The first conclusion is that there is no trans-historical or trans-cultural concept of religion. Religion has a history, and what counts as religion and what does not in any given context depends on different configurations of power and authority. The second conclusion is that the attempt to say that there is a trans-historical and trans-cultural concept of religion that is separable from secular phenomena is itself part of a particular configuration of power, that of the modern, liberal nation-state as it is developed in the West.”

    Thus, it is impossible to establish which conflicts were caused by “religion” and which conflicts were caused by “politics” or “culture” because such categories have no intrinsic meaning, but rather, are human inventions. Cavanaugh continues:

    “At first glance, this may seem like an academic exercise in quibbling over definitions, but much more is at stake. The religious-secular dichotomy in the arguments sanctions the condemnation of certain kinds of violence and the overlooking of other kinds of violence. …The myth of religious violence is so prevalent because, while it delegitimates certain kinds of violence, it is used to legitimate other kinds of violence, namely, violence done in the name of secular, Western ideals. The argument that religion causes violence sanctions a dichotomy between, on the one hand, non-Western, especially Muslim, forms of culture, which—having not yet learned to privatize matters of faith—are absolutist, divisive, irrational, and Western culture on the other, which is modest in its claims to truth, unitive and rational.”

    Indeed, religious scholars have been unable to reach anything even close to a consensus definition of “religion,” as this post demonstrates:

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/rel_defn.htm

    You start from the assumption that your apparent atheist beliefs do not constitute a “religion” and that only those who believe in God are “religious.” And this viewpoint certainly gets a lot of play in modern “secular” culture, but the problem is that the whole religious/secular dichotomy is an invention of modern western culture.

    Atheism is rooted in the belief that everything in our world will eventually be explainable in material terms. This belief system has been contemptuously termed “promissory materialism” by the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper.

  2. RP says:

    Dear Scott,

    That’s just a silly attempt to take the spotlight from specifics and instead try to direct it onto some definition of terms. I’m not taking that bait. This whole web site is dedicated to showing real-world examples of horrific statements and actions by religious people. I bet some of them come from followers of your particular interpretation of your particular faith. How about commenting on specifics instead of playing word games?

    Or how about presenting anything interesting at all that would merit any attention? For example, actual, real evidence of your god? We’ve been waiting for 3,000 years by now. I’ll make it easy for you: Your deity has clearly demonstrated that he doesn’t care to reveal himself. That, or he is nothing more than a figment of your imagination.

    Your source, godevidence, is frankly a laughable collection of quasi-science. The quote you give above says that criticism of religion “legitimizes […] violence done in the name of secular, Western ideals.” That’s the worst straw man I’ve seen in a while. Just plain, ugly dishonesty. Although I understand it fits rather nicely in the religious world-view of “we’re good, they’re evil”.

    PS. If you’re really interested in definition of terms, your last paragraph reveals some profound misunderstandings. First, atheism is not “rooted” in materialism (although one often leads to the other). Second, there are plenty of alternatives, like naturalism or animism. Third, none of the above is a “belief system”. (If you want an atheistic belief system, humanism would be it.) Fourth – and this is especially funny coming from a religious person – it is not necessary to have rigorous philosophical validation of one’s life-stance; we all just live our lives assuming the foundations are valid, and hopefully having the moral courage to change our ways if the consequences prove to be bad.

    • Scott says:

      Your use of strident rhetorical terms (“silly”, “laughable”, “quasi-science”, “ugly dishonesty”, etc) speaks volumes. Just as a nervous tick made by a poker player is a “tell” that he is holding a weak hand, the use of strident rhetoric by an atheist is a “tell” that he is trying to bolster an argument that cannot stand up on its own with logic. In other words, logical arguments are supported with logic, not with rhetoric. By making heavy use of rhetoric, you have advertised for all to see that you are trying to compensate for this lack of logic…with rhetoric. When you use a rhetorical term such as “laughable,” all that you have accomplished is a forceful re-statement of your views. Of course you think GodEvidence.com and belief in God are “laughable”…you are an atheist. Now please furnish us with a rationally constructed, fact-based argument for belief in God being false.

      In order to argue that “religion poisons,” it is first necessary to provide a coherent definition of “religion.” How could a statement such as “religion poisons” have any meaning if you don’t coherently define “religion”? Any intelligent third party viewer of this discussion can understand the necessity of first defining “religion.” But if religious scholars have been unable to do so, what makes you think that YOU can do so? In fact, you haven’t even tried. Rather, you have begun your argument with the apparent assumption that “religion” is a term that only encompasses belief systems that accept the existence of God.

      In the first paragraph of your above reply, you accuse me of trying to direct the discussion to a “definition of terms.” But YOU are transparently trying to manipulate terminology in your favor when you assert that atheism is not a “belief system.” If atheism is not a belief system, then what is it? Do you have KNOWLEDGE that there is no God? Is atheism a “knowledge system”?

      You fail to recognize that one can only disbelieve in God from the vantage point of SOME OTHER BELIEF…not from the vantage point of no belief whatsoever. For example, in order to disbelieve that the universe was created by God, one must have some other belief regarding the cause or source of the universe (and this includes an eternally existing universe). Even the atheist who says, “I don’t know how the universe came to be, but science will eventually figure it out” is doing so from the vantage point of the BELIEF that as-yet-undiscovered (and unintelligent) natural mechanisms are the cause of the universe. Further, such an atheist is disbelieving in God from the vantage point of the BELIEF that no explanation is needed as to where natural mechanisms come from.

      Lastly, you again try to manipulate terminology in your favor by calling the GodEvidence.com website “quasi-science.” SPECIFICALLY what science presented at that site is “quasi-science”? Would it be the science presented in the below essay?:

      http://www.godevidence.com/2012/02/what-is-the-chance-that-our-world-is-the-result-of-chance/

      …in which it is demonstrated that, “Astronomers who do not draw theistic or deistic conclusions are becoming rare, and even the few dissenters hint that the tide is against them” …as one astrophysicist put it?

      Are you suggesting that the vast majority of astronomers / astrophysicists are pseudo-scientists? Please clarify.

      Or is it the science presented in the below essay that you consider “pseudo-science”?

      http://www.godevidence.com/2010/12/ok-i-want-numbers-what-is-the-probability-the-universe-is-the-result-of-chance/

      Below is a copy and paste:

      “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

      –Cambridge University astrophysicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle

      .

      “Fred Hoyle and I differ on lots of questions, but on this we agree: a common sense and satisfying interpretation of our world suggests the designing hand of a superintelligence.”

      –Former Harvard University Research Professor of Astronomy and the History of Science Owen Gingerich, who is now the senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Gingerich is here reflecting on Fred Hoyle’s above comment.

      ——

      The reader of the essay entitled Is There A God (What is the Chance the World is the Result of Chance?) may be interested in knowing some hard numbers with regard to the probability that the universe occurred randomly (i.e. no conscious creator involved). Oxford University professor of mathematics John Lennox quotes renowned Oxford University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose:

      “Try to imagine phase space… of the entire universe. Each point in this phase space represents a different possible way that the universe might have started off. We are to picture the Creator, armed with a ‘pin’ — which is to be placed at some point in phase space… Each different positioning of the pin provides a different universe. Now the accuracy that is needed for the Creator’s aim depends on the entropy of the universe that is thereby created. It would be relatively ‘easy’ to produce a high entropy universe, since then there would be a large volume of the phase space available for the pin to hit. But in order to start off the universe in a state of low entropy — so that there will indeed be a second law of thermodynamics — the Creator must aim for a much tinier volume of the phase space. How tiny would this region be, in order that a universe closely resembling the one in which we actually live would be the result?”

      Lennox goes on to cite Penrose’s answer:

      “His calculations lead him to the remarkable conclusion that the ‘Creator’s aim’ must have been accurate to 1 part in 10 to the power of 10 to the power or 123, that is 1 followed by 10 to the 123rd power zeros.”

      As Penrose puts it, that is a “number which it would be impossible to write out in the usual decimal way, because even if you were able to put a zero on every particle in the universe, there would not even be enough particles to do the job.”

      And the only alternative to the universe arising from chance is for it to have arisen deliberately. Deliberate action requires a conscious creator (read: God).
      ————–
      Unless you can SPECIFY which of the science presented at GodEvidence.com is “quasi-science,” and why, what choice do we have but to assume that you are again trying to cover for your lack of logic with rhetoric and the manipulation of terminology?

      Once again, logical debates are won with cold and unemotional logic. They are not won with attempts to distract attention from the logically incoherence of an argument by using rhetoric.

      Scott

      • RP says:

        Dear Scott,

        Ah, good to see you’re prepared to engage, we usually get hit-and-run Christian debaters who just leave a pile of steaming creationist spam, never to be heard from again.

        You’re a funny guy, first accusing me of not being logical and in the next sentence demanding that the atheist should disprove god. Well, as I trust you are certainly aware, logic dictates that the burden of proof weighs on the person claiming that supernatural magical spirits exist, not on the disbeliever. End of story, and thanks for quickly killing that argument. 🙂

        This “Religion Poisons” site has a simple purpose: showing actual, real-life examples of horrific crimes committed by people under the influence of religion. No attempt at distracting the discussion into a game of word definitions can make those actual news reports go away. I don’t have to define flavors of religion more than I have to define flavors of ice cream.

        When you engaged, I got a bit energized, hoping for some challenging discussion points but I’m sorry to say I don’t really see much that merits serious consideration here… Your response is basically the usual air castle to suggest a deity might exist. Well, I can grant you that right away: As an atheist, I recognize the possibility that a deity might exist. So what? A unicorn might exist too. Could have, should have, would have. How about you show your hand and argue for your particular belief? I bet you’re not just a vague deist, you’re a Christian, right? God impregnated a virgin and had a son who promised that all non-believers shall be tortured forever, or something like that?

        You know what? You actually kind of won this debate. Because you succeeded in dragging me into a discussion of esoteric inanities. Fair game, I’ll respond to the specific questions you asked.

        Is atheism a belief system? No, it’s not. It is lack of belief in a god or gods. Very simple. I recognize though that this could be hard for a religious person to grasp. But hey, why not try it out for a week? 🙂

        Of course we all have beliefs, but atheism is not a belief system any way you turn it. Humanism would qualify as a belief system, as it includes not only a view of how the world works but also an ethical stance and hope and passion for humanity etc. Aside from that, I think your usage of the word “belief” is so wide that at best it becomes useless or at worst misleading. For example, I wouldn’t call materialism or naturalism a belief; rather a stance, an approach or even a benchmark, a useful guiding principle (until shown to be lacking in usefulness).

        Why is your “godevidence” source quasi-science? Well, it is quasi-science because it rests upon a presupposition. This is not science. This is the opposite of science. No amount of pseudo-scientific cherry-picking of quotes or dressed-up academic acrobatics can change this. Did you know, there’s an actual book analyzing the engineering feats needed for Santa Claus to be able to visit all chimneys on Christmas Eve without breaking the laws of physics. Does that book make Santa Claus real? No, it’s fairytale science. It’s for laughs. That’s why your source is laughable.

        The quotes about the origin of the universe are laid out to fit a classical either-or-fallacy, again based on a presupposition and really begging the question. Frankly I think it’s infantile to yield to wishful thinking like “deliberate creation”. As you say yourself in the same text, there could be all kinds of explanations that we have not yet thought of, and perhaps are incapable of ever envisioning. This does NOT mean “Jehova did it!” and a ten-year-old could understand that.

        (There might even be theological alternatives, like a sloppy, non-deliberate creation, or an evil god, etc. If you enjoy those kinds of thought experiments, google “Stephen Law Evil God”, not so easily refuted.)

        Frankly, if that’s the best “godevidence” can do, I have no time to read that kind of unimaginative slush. Anyone who takes this kind of stuff seriously has been lost in apologetics and white-wash. This I say sincerely and without irony: Wouldn’t it be more rewarding for a believer to spend that time in the company of like-minded believers and feel the love of Jesus? After all, isn’t that how the Christian God reveals himself…

        Or, give us a proper challenge, not just the old “a deity might exist” vapour.

        Thanks for the interchange.

      • Scott says:

        There you go again!! Once again, you are trying to fill in the holes in your logic with rhetorical flourishes and characterizations (“the usual air castle”, “esoteric inanities”, “pseudo-scientific cherry-picking”, “dressed-up academic acrobatics”, “fairytale science”, “infantile”, “unimaginative slush”, etc., etc.). Every time that you do this, you are just advertizing to all intelligent third-party viewers of this discussion that you DON”T HAVE an argument. A coherent logical argument is unemotional and straight-to-the-point, not stridently rhetorical. Once again, rhetoric and logic are two entirely different things. A person with logic does not need rhetoric.

        When Einstein was discussing his Theory of Relativity with his critics, how often do you suppose that he needed to attack his critics with rhetorical terms such as “dressed-up academic acrobatics” and “fairytale science”, “infantile”, etc.? Answer: Basically never…because he was fully confident in the logical force of his theory. If he started using such rhetorical terms, he would have advertized to everyone that he was not confident in the logical force of his theory, and therefore needed to compensate for logical weaknesses by using rhetoric.

        How can third-party viewers of this discussion be CONFIDENT that you lack a logically coherent argument? Here is one way: I demonstrated in my last reply that, as one astrophysicist put it, “Astronomers who do not draw theistic or deistic conclusions are becoming rare, and even the few dissenters hint that the tide is against them.” A link to that essay again:

        http://www.godevidence.com/2012/02/what-is-the-chance-that-our-world-is-the-result-of-chance/

        Your apparent reply to the points made in this essay is to CHARACTERIZE them rather than RESPOND to them. Worse still, not even your characterizations are coherent: Are the conclusions of the vast majority of astronomers/astrophysicists “quasi-science” or “pseudo-scientific cherry-picking”?? You are very transparently trying to evade responding to the points made in the above mentioned essay by trying to distract attention with strident rhetoric…much as a magician tries to distract attention with sleight-of-hand.

        How about the conclusions of the mathematicians and astrophysicists cited in the below essay (which I cited before)?:

        http://www.godevidence.com/2010/12/ok-i-want-numbers-what-is-the-probability-the-universe-is-the-result-of-chance/

        Are the conclusions of mathematics and cosmology “pseudo-science” or “quasi-science”? Absolutely any third party viewer of this discussion can perceive that you are trying to avoid making a logical reply to these arguments by instead furnishing rhetoric. This, very transparently, is because you DO NOT HAVE a logical reply.

        You write, “Logic dictates that the burden of proof weighs on the person claiming that supernatural magical spirits exist, not on the disbeliever.” Here, you are employing yet another tactic to avoid engaging in rational discussion: Specifically, you are trying to set the frame by denying that atheism is a belief system. But atheism IS a belief system…a belief system that makes a positive set of claims that do not escape any “burden of proof.” (As an aside, neither theism nor atheism can be proven. Rather, it is a matter of preponderance of evidence).

        If atheism is not a belief system, then what is it? Making the claim that the universe was not created by God implies, BY NECESSITY, that the universe came into existence by SOME OTHER cause than God (or exists eternally…without beginning). Once again, one cannot disbelieve in God from the vantage point of no belief whatsoever. Rather, one can only disbelieve in God from the vantage point of SOME OTHER BELIEF. Are you suggesting that you don’t believe that the universe came into existence as the result of some other cause than God, or that the universe exists eternally? If you are an atheist, it is clear that you DO hold such a belief. And the belief that the universe was caused by something other than God (or exists eternally) is a POSITIVE CLAIM and a POSITIVE BELIEF, not some absence of positive claim or belief. In fact you, above, you reveled your POSITIVE BELIEF in “explanations that we have not yet thought of, and perhaps are incapable of ever envisioning”. The idea that there is an explanation for the universe that we have not thought of yet (or can never envision) is a BELIEF, no matter how you slice it.

        By suggesting that atheism is not a belief system, you are trying to dodge the responsibility for providing logical support for your belief…because you know that you CANNOT provide logical support for your belief.

        Another tactic that you employ in your efforts to evade logical discussion is that of caricature. Comparing belief in God and belief in the supernatural to belief in Santa Claus or belief in unicorns is using the rhetorical device of caricature. But caricature does not belong in rational discussion. Moving back to Einstein and his Theory of Relativity: Do you suppose he ever felt it necessary to caricature belief in a competing theory as akin to believing in Santa Claus or unicorns? I’ll bet not. Using caricature is just another transparent attempt to distract attention from the logical incoherence of your views.

        You suggest that I am engaging in a “game of word definitions”. But what is the point of arguing that “religion poisons” if one does not define what “religion” is?! This is as meaningless as declaring that “zibots cause car accidents” without defining what “zibots” are. Once again, you ASSUME a definition of religion that only includes belief systems which acknowledge the existence of God…even though religious scholars have been completely unable to reach an agreed upon definition of “religion.”

        But let’s be generous and start from the (big) assumption that “religion” only includes belief systems that acknowledge the existence of God. This brings us back to the religious scholar William T. Cavanagh, writing in the context of “religious violence”:

        “What would be necessary to prove the claim that religion has caused more violence than any other institutional force over the course of human history? One would first need a concept of religion that would be at least theoretically separable from other institutional forces over the course of human history. …The problem is that there was no category of religion separable from such political institutions until the modern era, and then it was primarily in the West. What meaning could we give to either the claim that Roman religion is to blame for the imperialist violence of ancient Rome, or the claim that it is Roman politics and not Roman religion that is to blame? Either claim would be nonsensical, because there was no neat division between religion and politics.”

        Even if it is assumed that “religion” is a term that applies only to belief systems that acknowledge the existence of God, you are assuming that it is a person’s “religion” that causes them to do alleged bad things rather than their politics or culture. But this is an enormous assumption without any logical basis. When a Christian or Muslim does something bad, how could you possibly demonstrate that it was their “religion” that caused them to do it rather than their politics, culture, etc… Once again, there is no discreet category “religion” that is theoretically separable from other institutional forces.

        The entire premise of your website (“religion poisons”) is based upon what is known as a “spurious correlation.” Please read the below definition of “spurious correlation” from the Free Dictionary:

        http://www.thefreedictionary.com/spurious+correlation

        A copy and paste:

        Noun 1. spurious correlation – a correlation between two variables (e.g., between the number of electric motors in the home and grades at school) that does not result from any direct relation between them (buying electric motors will not raise grades) but from their relation to other variables.

        You write that your website provides “real-life examples of horrific crimes committed by people under the influence of religion.” But you have not demonstrated (and cannot demonstrate) that it was their “religion” that caused them to commit “horrific crimes.” Rather, you have just assumed it.

        Scott

  3. RP says:

    Dear Scott,

    Naturally, nobody likes to see their diligent writing called infantile. I’m actually sorry about this, but in this case, scornful ridicule is the only fair treatment, because the thoughts you have presented here really are quite inane, despite the obvious amount of work behind them. I would be most happy – and this is a promise – to treat your ideas and your essays with respect and serious consideration, if you presented something other than “a deity might exist” reasoning, old hat logical fallacies, or “god evidence” that a ten-year-old can see through.

    But I didn’t just ridicule, I did comment on your specific points, and I will do so again, but first… a small gift. Since you spend so much effort reviewing my rhetorical style, I’ll briefly return the favor and shine a flash light on your reasoning skills:

    Yes, I absolutely made the charge of quasi-science and cherry-picking. But here’s the news: my accusation wasn’t aimed at the renowned scientists that you quoted. It was aimed at you and your way of quoting them. WAIT, what’s that enormous object in the middle of the room?! Ah, it’s just Scott’s ego.

    It really takes the prize when you have the stomach to compare your reasoning skills with something Einstein might have engaged in… How about Bobo the Clown instead?

    Incidentally, this discomforting misunderstanding on your part means that the first half of what you wrote falls flat.

    On some specific points you made, here are quick responses:

    -> “caricature does not belong in rational discussion”

    I don’t think it’s a caricature at all to compare Yahweh or Jesus to Santa Claus. They are both something that a puerile mind can believe. You obviously won’t appreciate this, since you’re bound under a deeply-seated emotional presupposition, but I make the comparison in full earnestness. They are very comparable. (By the way, a child won’t at all enjoy the feeling of being told in a harsh way that Santa Claus is a lie.)

    -> “But atheism IS a belief system…a belief system that makes a positive set of claims”

    False, atheism is simply disbelief, end of story. As I explained in my first response, you’re mixing up atheism with something else like materialism. In case you missed it in all your fury, I actually laid out a half-decent starting point for a potential discussion about belief systems, and there could be an interesting discussion to be had about logical support for e.g. materialism, but you chose to leave that ball on the floor. I’m guessing, perhaps you don’t want to run the risk of yourself getting the challenge of presenting “logical support” for an invisible, magical space-daddy who impregnated a woman who gave birth to a son who once rose from the dead, will rise again, and cares deeply about you and your afterlife.

    -> “When a Christian or Muslim does something bad, how could you possibly demonstrate that it was their “religion” that caused them to do it”

    Umm, how about when they say “God told me to do it”? That’s close enough for me. And should be for you. No amount of quasi-academic acrobatics or name-dropping will make that go away.

    -> “What would be necessary to prove the claim that religion has caused more violence than any other institutional force over the course of human history?”

    Probably very difficult to demonstrate. Luckily for me, I never made such a claim. So again, your argument is a straw man that falls flat. But you know what? If there was only a single incident of a religiously motivated criminal act against one single person, I would still be right in criticizing it and scorning those who try to explain away such horrible acts. And you should too, if you’re a moral person. The fact that other motivations for criminal behavior exist doesn’t make this one one iota less evil.

    -> “Spurious correlation”

    Another sad attempt at turning one’s back on horrific deeds committed by minds under the terrible influence of religion. The vast majority of the perpetrators listed on this site do claim that God made them do it. If that’s not a sign of how people’s mind get poisoned by religion, you’re suffering from tunnel vision and compartmentalization so severe I would consider it harmful.

    To be frank, I think you’re wasting your time with the stuff you write. Let’s say your god does exist. From where did you get the idea that the Creator of the Universe needs your help with all this “a deity might exist” white-wash? From what we can see, he seems pretty damned disinterested in revealing himself or converting heretics in this manner. Evidently, a believer can find plenty of more enjoyable ways to exercise your faith. Here’s one, and this I present with respect and without irony:

    Anyway, thanks for engaging and good luck.

    • Scott says:

      RP:

      I just don’t think you’re getting this. You don’t seem to understand the basic distinction between a CHARACTERIZATION of an argument, on one hand, and a RATIONALLY CONSTRUCTED REPLY to an argument, on the other hand.

      Every time you respond to my argument for God based upon cosmology and astrophysics (which is accepted by the vast majority of astrophysicists/cosmologists) with CHARACTERIZATIONS such as “inane” and “a deity might exist reasoning” and “old hat logical fallacies”, you just dig yourself deeper in a hole.

      You seem to think, for example, that merely characterizing an argument as “inane” actually constitutes a logical argument for WHY it is “inane.” But you have skipped the most important step…namely, constructing a logical argument for WHY my argument for God is “inane” or “an old hat logical fallacy”, etc….

      Once again, any reasonably intelligent third party observer of this discussion can plainly see that you are just throwing out fancy words and terms without making any case whatsoever for why those words and terms can be applied.

      Do you REALLY think that third party observers of this discussion are going to be dissuaded from an argument for God that is accepted by the vast majority of astrophysicists/cosmologists just because you slap labels like “inane” and “old hat logical fallacy” on it? Don’t you think it would be nice to actually provide SOME SORT of argument for WHY these labels apply? Who do you think you are fooling?!

      You say that your accusation of “quasi-science” and “cherry picking” wasn’t aimed at the scientists I quoted, but rather at the “way I quoted them.” So here is what I will do: I will quote a few scientists and I will let you tell me SPECIFICALLY what it is about the “way I quoted them” (as if “way of quoting” them is coherent) that is “quasi-science” or “cherry picking”:
      ————
      “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

      –Cambridge University astrophysicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle

      .

      “Fred Hoyle and I differ on lots of questions, but on this we agree: a common sense and satisfying interpretation of our world suggests the designing hand of a superintelligence.”

      –Former Harvard University Research Professor of Astronomy and the History of Science Owen Gingerich, who is now the senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Gingerich is here reflecting on Fred Hoyle’s above comment.

      ——

      The reader of the essay entitled Is There A God (What is the Chance the World is the Result of Chance?) may be interested in knowing some hard numbers with regard to the probability that the universe occurred randomly (i.e. no conscious creator involved). Oxford University professor of mathematics John Lennox quotes renowned Oxford University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose:

      “Try to imagine phase space… of the entire universe. Each point in this phase space represents a different possible way that the universe might have started off. We are to picture the Creator, armed with a ‘pin’ — which is to be placed at some point in phase space… Each different positioning of the pin provides a different universe. Now the accuracy that is needed for the Creator’s aim depends on the entropy of the universe that is thereby created. It would be relatively ‘easy’ to produce a high entropy universe, since then there would be a large volume of the phase space available for the pin to hit. But in order to start off the universe in a state of low entropy — so that there will indeed be a second law of thermodynamics — the Creator must aim for a much tinier volume of the phase space. How tiny would this region be, in order that a universe closely resembling the one in which we actually live would be the result?”

      Lennox goes on to cite Penrose’s answer:

      “His calculations lead him to the remarkable conclusion that the ‘Creator’s aim’ must have been accurate to 1 part in 10 to the power of 10 to the power or 123, that is 1 followed by 10 to the 123rd power zeros.”

      As Penrose puts it, that is a “number which it would be impossible to write out in the usual decimal way, because even if you were able to put a zero on every particle in the universe, there would not even be enough particles to do the job.”
      ———-
      Now, RP, please tell us what it was about the “way I quoted” these scientists that is “quasi-science” or “cherry picking.” Was it that I used written text instead of an audio recording? Your accusation is not just wrong, it is utterly incoherent. Seriously, how could a “way of quoting” somebody be “quasi-scientific”?

      You say that you don’t think it is a caricature to compare Yahweh or Jesus to Santa Claus. But unless you actually RESPOND to the argument for God that I presented, why should we accept your assessments? The elephant in the room, here, is the fact that you have ASSERTED that belief in God is comparable to belief in Santa Claus, but you haven’t presented any logically constructed argument for WHY THIS IS SO. You don’t seem to understand the basic distinction between assertion and argument. You seem to think that merely throwing out fancy terms like “puerile” can substitute for actually making an argument for WHY belief in God is “puerile.”

      You say “atheism is simply a disbelief, end of story.” But I could just as easily say that “theism is merely a lack of belief in atheism.” You fail to recognize that the universe either resulted from an intelligent source, or it didn’t. Theists believe the first and atheists believe the second. Are you suggesting that, as an atheist, you don’t believe that the universe did not result from an intelligent source? It is obvious that you DO believe that the universe did not result from an intelligent source. And this is a POSITIVE belief, not merely some “lack of belief.” Why is the statement “atheism is merely a lack of belief in God” any more meaningful and coherent than the statement “theism is merely a lack of belief in an unintelligent source for the universe”?

      You write, “If there was only a single incident of a religiously motivated criminal act against one single person, I would still be right in criticizing it and scorning those who try to explain away such horrible acts.” Of course…all unnecessary violence should be condemned. But you are doing much more than just condemning “religious violence” at this website. You are making the argument that “religion poisons” and that “religion” causes violence.

      Your argument seems to be “religion poisons and causes violence, so we should abandon religion.” But, how is this any more coherent than the argument that “politics cause violence, so we should do away with politics”?

      Religious views cause violence, so we should do away with religious views. Political views cause violence, so we should do away with political views. Both of these preceding statements are equally absurd. The problem is that you are trying to frame your religion (or belief system) as a non-religion or non-belief system. But it is plainly obvious that everyone has beliefs. Once again, one can only disbelieve in God from the vantage point of SOME OTHER BELIEF, not from the vantage point of no beliefs whatsoever. Are you suggesting that you KNOW that there is no God, and that you don’t BELIEVE there is no God?! Not even Richard Dawkins makes such a bold assertion.

      In your second-to-last paragraph, you write: “Another sad attempt at turning one’s back on horrific deeds committed by minds under the terrible influence of religion. The vast majority of the perpetrators listed on this site do claim that God made them do it.”

      So, are you suggesting that if these people just didn’t believe in God, then they wouldn’t have committed these “horrific deeds”? If a person uses “God made me do it” as an excuse for killing, would taking away his belief in God prevent him from killing? Or would he just find some other excuse for killing? The simple historical fact is that people use a multitude of different excuses for killing…..some political, some money or greed-based, and some related belief systems.

      Should we argue that since people have so often used political and economic excuses for killing, we should do away with politics and economics?

      And perhaps the biggest problem that you have is that the worst killing sprees in all of human history were committed by atheists and people under the influence of atheist philosophy, as demonstrated by the following post:

      http://www.godevidence.com/2011/02/doesnt-religion-cause-killing/

      Scott

      P.S: You suggest that God is “disinterested in revealing himself.” Please read the following essay titled “Why Doesn’t God Show Himself?”

      http://www.godevidence.com/2010/07/why-doesnt-god-show-himself/

  4. RP says:

    Dear Scott,

    I think you’re absolutely correct on one thing. One of us is not getting it. 🙂

    I have lost interest in the meta-debate about your reviewing my rhetorical style so I won’t bother commenting on that. Enjoy the ride.

    Also I won’t bother with your, shall I say, playful attempts at shifting the burden of proof. If there really are any readers of this boring debate, as you seem to hope, I suggest they can simply scroll up to the comic picture at the top of this page and judge for themselves. Because you, my dear opponent, just admitted you’re the guy in the yellow shirt. I sincerely wish you the best of luck convincing people that yours is a reasonable position, LOL!

    Enough with the pleasantries. I’d like to make one thing perfectly clear. You keep saying that I never respond to your claims or explained my objections. This is false. For example, on your key proposition, I actually refuted it twice, and at some length. Apparently you somehow missed it, so here it comes again:

    Is there a possibility that a deity might exist? Sure! Mind you, I granted you that point right away: As an atheist, I accept the possibility that there MIGHT be a deity. So what? There might be unicorns. There might be a tea pot behind the planet Mars. There might be pink elephants farting out millions of universes at this very moment. Zeus and Ra and Odin and Shiva and Vishnu might exist. Could have, should have, would have. Your proposition that a deity might exist is not just trivial and meaningless, it’s devoid of any imagination and contributes absolutely nothing to advance anyone’s knowledge in any useful direction whatsoever.

    When I presented this rebuttal, your comment was one brief statement: you didn’t like it when people compared God to a unicorn. Well boo fucking hoo, so much for your “evidence for God”.

    Conclusion: Your proposition is still as inane as it was from the start. This is not just scornful rhetoric, I mean it literally, inane as in empty. Your proposition is hot air. It’s vapor. It’s nothing. It’s not even new or creative or imaginative.

    You have succeeded very well though, in wasting a half-hour of my time. Congratulations.

    -> “the universe either resulted from an intelligent source, or it didn’t”

    Sigh. This is such a basic either-or-fallacy and I’m afraid the only thing it demonstrates is that you’re not very imaginative. Same thing with the fine-tuning argument. There are endless possibilites more intriguing than an infantile belief in some magical Creator God who magically wielded the universe into existence using magic… and then had a son… who was born of a virgin… and did magic tricks… and arose from the dead. Note that I did lay out examples of those other possibilities, but apparently you somehow missed those too, and I don’t care to repeat them. (By the way, here I could challenge you to define “intelligence”, just like you demand that I define “religion”, but frankly I have more interesting things to do.)

    About your view on how belief and non-belief works: Again, I did explain this at length, twice. It’s becoming increasingly hard to believe that you somehow missed that too. For the last time: Atheism is not a belief, it’s disbelief. Simple as that. It doesn’t matter how hard you wish it to be something more. You’re fighting a windmill. Nobody is just an atheist and nothing else. Now, if you want to criticize beliefs you don’t like, there are hundreds to choose from: materialism, naturalism, animism, cynicism, nihilism, etc. For example, I would call myself an atheist and a materialist and a humanist (among other things). Feel perfectly free to attack that combination.

    Similarly, there is no such thing as an “atheist philosophy”. You could be doing the world a favor and fighting nazism or communism, but here you are, conjuring up the make-believe straw man of “atheist philosophy” and attacking it. It seems you’re doing this willfully, in which case I would go so far as to call it dishonest and undeserving of respect.

    (In the unlikely even that there are any third-party readers out there, you might wish to note that this is the second time I clearly expose my beliefs and open them up for challenge, while my opponent is working hard to conceal his apparent belief in Jesus-who-performs-voodoo-miracles.)

    Finally, about the way you quote these scientists. Sure, I’ll explain. Your way of quoting them is quasi-scientific because you are taking anecdotes and hypothetical thought experiments out of context, and you are trying to make it look like these people argue for the existence of God. You even spell it out: “my argument for God… is accepted by the vast majority of astrophycisists/cosmologists”.

    What the hell are you smoking?

    You are concocting a quite grotesque mix of quotes from people who are all kinds of flavors of Christians, atheists, humanists, pantheists, deists etc. Moreover, you are taking their quotes out of context, so you can make it look like they are all arguing for a creator god. For example, Penrose actually is a hard-necked atheist, and the quote you senselessly ripped out from its original context is obviously nothing more than an thought experiment, toying with the CONCEPT of a creating god. In a similar way, Einstein sometimes played with the word God, which have resulted in more Christians than I can count, including you, who mindlessly spread around those quotes just to make it look like he was a Christian. In reality, he was as far from a theist as one can get (and you can easily find proper references for that if you care).

    (A detail: If I remember correctly, Lennox is a believing Christian, but his quoting of Penrose here was made in an honest context, unlike your obscene brew.)

    So what you don’t seem to realize – or maybe you do realize it but choose to ignore it – is that a scientist can do thought experiments about the properties of a hypothetical creator god; or like Einstein sometimes did, whimsically substituting the word God for cosmos, without at all believing in anything resembling any deity. THIS DOESN’T IN ANY WAY MEAN THAT THEY SUPPORT YOUR PARTICULAR WORLD-VIEW.

    So no, you don’t have anything close to an “argument for god”, and no astrophysicists would accept it as such. (With the possible exception of firm believers like Lennox.) You just WISH TO THINK they do. This point may be very, very hard for a religious person to accept, but here’s the news flash: wishing something to be true does not make it so.

    The narcissism. The solipsism!

    Perhaps you’re not aware of the perverse way in which you’re warping serious thinkers’ honest ideas just so you can pretend they fit your particular, trivial, asinine world-view. If you are not aware, you have the possibility to repent and I’ll be happy to forgive you. 🙂 But if you are aware, then your entire “godevidence” project is utterly dishonest. Then, you are lying for Jesus. You wouldn’t be the first one. But I guess such dishonesty is permitted by Christian ethics.

    So what does all this show? Nothing. That would be my response: nothing. By name-dropping and cherry-picking anecdotes and out-of-context quotes and warping them to try to create the impression that great thinkers support Scott’s particular world-view, you have accomplished absolutely nothing. (Though it may accomplish one thing: boosting the wishful thinking of those who dearly want to believe in an invisible space daddy.)

    The real discussion, that you seem to take great care to avoid, is a discussion in which the whole argument about deism is completely irrelevant. Why? Because you’re not a deist. I bet you believe in some interpretation of the Christian God. Which means, even if you would have been able to demonstrate something reasonable about deism (which you haven’t), it means absolutely nothing. You still have ALL your work still ahead of you to demonstrate the validity of your particular God, his miracles, his morals, the afterlife, the sin, and all that bullcrap.

    I don’t blame you for avoiding it. As you are well aware, theologians have tried for 2,000 years with ZERO progress at validating theistic belief. Such tragic waste of human talent and intelligence. Imagine if all those theologians had spent their energy on science instead. All combined, it’s hundreds of thousands of man-years of research potential, all thrown in the toilet.

    And here you are, spending your valuable time running a site called “godevidence”. Which contains no evidence at all. Instead it contains trivial word games, smearing of non-believers, and dishonest references to proper scientists. Jesus would surely be proud.

    • Scott says:

      RP:
      You are continuing to characterize my argument for God from cosmology/astrophysics as nothing more than “a deity might exist.” But since this doesn’t seem to be getting through to you, I will AGAIN copy and paste an important excerpt below. Just what part of the following do you think constitutes a “God MIGHT exist” argument?:
      ————-
      “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

      –Cambridge University astrophysicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle

      .

      “Fred Hoyle and I differ on lots of questions, but on this we agree: a common sense and satisfying interpretation of our world suggests the designing hand of a superintelligence.”

      –Former Harvard University Research Professor of Astronomy and the History of Science Owen Gingerich, who is now the senior astronomer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Gingerich is here reflecting on Fred Hoyle’s above comment.

      ——

      The reader of the essay entitled Is There A God (What is the Chance the World is the Result of Chance?) may be interested in knowing some hard numbers with regard to the probability that the universe occurred randomly (i.e. no conscious creator involved). Oxford University professor of mathematics John Lennox quotes renowned Oxford University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose:

      “Try to imagine phase space… of the entire universe. Each point in this phase space represents a different possible way that the universe might have started off. We are to picture the Creator, armed with a ‘pin’ — which is to be placed at some point in phase space… Each different positioning of the pin provides a different universe. Now the accuracy that is needed for the Creator’s aim depends on the entropy of the universe that is thereby created. It would be relatively ‘easy’ to produce a high entropy universe, since then there would be a large volume of the phase space available for the pin to hit. But in order to start off the universe in a state of low entropy — so that there will indeed be a second law of thermodynamics — the Creator must aim for a much tinier volume of the phase space. How tiny would this region be, in order that a universe closely resembling the one in which we actually live would be the result?”

      Lennox goes on to cite Penrose’s answer:

      “His calculations lead him to the remarkable conclusion that the ‘Creator’s aim’ must have been accurate to 1 part in 10 to the power of 10 to the power or 123, that is 1 followed by 10 to the 123rd power zeros.”

      As Penrose puts it, that is a “number which it would be impossible to write out in the usual decimal way, because even if you were able to put a zero on every particle in the universe, there would not even be enough particles to do the job.”

      And the only alternative to the universe arising from chance is for it to have arisen deliberately. Deliberate action requires a conscious creator (read: God).
      ———–
      So, let me get this straight: When I cite Fred Hoyle (astrophysicist from Cambridge University) as saying:

      “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

      ….I am “taking anecdotes and hypothetical thought experiments out of context”? Do I have that right? You fail to realize that it is virtually impossible to take a CATEGORICAL statement, such as the above, out of context. You also overlook the fact that, when a person makes an allegation that a statement was “taken out of context,” the person making such an allegation is then responsible for describing what he thinks is the CORRECT CONTEXT.

      What SPECIFIC “anecdote” or “hypothetical thought experiment” was Hoyle conducting? If you cannot specify what the CORRECT CONTEXT for this statement was, then it is unavoidably clear that you are making an accusation that the statement was “taken out of context” without having any idea what you are talking about.

      Just so we are clear, here is an example of re-inserting an “out of context” statement back into the correct context: You could allege that Fred Hoyle was moonlighting as a stand-up comedian, and that I failed to mention that he made his above statement in the context of a stand-up comedy routine. So he really wasn’t serious, and I was just trying to deceive people by suggesting that he was serious, when he really wasn’t. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO RE-INSERT AN “OUT OF CONTEXT” STATEMENT BACK INTO THE CORRECT CONTEXT. Once again, if you cannot re-insert the allegedly “out of context” statements back into the correct contexts, it is transparently obvious that you are using allegations of “taking things out of context” in order avoid replying to a logical argument that you CANNOT RESPOND TO.

      Next, you write: “You are concocting a quite grotesque mix of quotes from people who are all kinds of flavors of Christians, atheists, humanists, pantheists, deists etc.”

      Yes, you are correct, I am quoting people from a mix of different worldviews…but that is almost the WHOLE POINT. For example, when a person with an ideological preference for atheism (such as Fred Hoyle) makes a statement endorsing the existence of a “superintellect,” as a result of a “common sense and satisfying interpretation of the facts,” is this more or less suggestive that the evidence supports theism than if the statement were made by a Christian?
      Answer: MUCH MORE suggestive.

      If such a statement were made by a Christian, it would be much easier to assume that it was his belief system causing him to perceive things in such a way. But when such a statement is made by someone DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE IS AN ATHEIST, it proves that it was the facts, and not his belief system, that led him to make such a statement. The facts so strongly suggest the existence of a “superintellect,” that Hoyle was compelled to make this statement despite that fact that his belief system/ideology compels him to NOT come to such a conclusion.

      Please recall that people select their belief system or ideology based upon more than just logic. Psychological and cultural preferences play a big role in the worldview that a person selects. So when a person makes statements supporting theism—despite the fact that they have psychological and cultural preferences against doing so—it is highly suggestive that such a person has been impressed by the logical basis for theism.

      OK, so you admit that you are a materialist and a humanist. And you compare my Christian beliefs to belief in magic. Well, when you write “Feel perfectly free to attack that combination,” you seem to have realized that I would be making an attack on materialism and humanism…because you understand the extremely weak logical basis for both of these belief systems. So you were correct in assuming that I would be making an attack:

      First of all, with regard to materialism, the following essay (titled “God Is Real…Why Modern Physics Has Discredited Atheism) demonstrates that materialism has been rendered every bit as dead as the flat-earth theory…by modern physics:

      http://www.godevidence.com/2012/02/god-is-real/

      An excerpt:

      Max Planck (the Nobel Prize winning physicist who founded quantum theory) says:

      “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clear headed science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”

      If I took this statement out of context, then what is the correct context? Was Plank moonlighting as a stand-up comedian? What SPECIFIC “anecdote” or “hypothetical thought experiment” was Plank referencing in the above comment? Once again, if you cannot re-insert an “out of context” statement back into a SPECIFIC context that you feel is correct, it is thoroughly clear that you are making a baseless allegation without having any idea what you are talking about.

      For further reading about why materialism is completely unsupportable in light of modern science, I recommend reading “The Matter Myth” by physicists Paul Davies and John Gribbin.

      Next, you mention that you are a humanist. Does the following definition of “humanism” seem agreeable to you:

      1. any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity are taken to be of primary importance, as in moral judgments.

      If so, there is a big problem: Even many atheist humanists admit that naturalism/materialism strips us of any reason to trust in human reason, as the following post demonstrates:

      http://www.godevidence.com/2012/07/atheism-vs-theism/

      An excerpt:

      David Wood writes in his essay The Explanatory Emptiness of Naturalism (as it appears in True Reason: Christian Responses to the Challenge of Atheism):

      “According to naturalists, our ability to reason is the product of natural selection acting on random mutation. Natural selection, of course, favors traits that help organisms survive and reproduce. So if human reasoning evolved naturally, it’s because it helped human beings survive and reproduce. Does this give us any basis for trusting our reasoning ability when it comes to questions of cosmology, or quantum mechanics, or neuroscience? Not at all. At best, our cognitive faculties would be reliable when it comes to finding berries, or using a spear against an enemy, or doing something to attract a mate. Interestingly, Darwin himself noticed this problem. He once admitted:

      ‘[W]ith me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would anyone trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?’

      In other words, our reasoning ability serves the same evolutionary purpose as the traits of other animals (e.g., the claws of a lion, the song of a canary, or the colorful buttocks of a baboon). We wouldn’t trust the traits of animals to lead us to the truth, because they weren’t developed for that purpose. Why, then, would we trust our own convictions, which are the result of the same evolutionary process? There’s no way around this problem for naturalists, for in order to escape the Problem of Reason, they would need to construct an argument. But this argument would presuppose the reliability of human reason, which is precisely the issue under investigation. Hence, if we take Naturalism seriously, we cannot take our reasoning ability seriously, and science falls apart.”

      Lastly, you write:

      “You still have ALL your work still ahead of you to demonstrate the validity of your particular God, his miracles, his morals, the afterlife, the sin, and all that bullcrap.”

      Regarding my particular God, the following post demonstrates that the Judeo/Christian God is an utterly trans-cultural and trans-historical concept (it has reappeared in a vast number of cultures throughout history):

      http://www.godevidence.com/2010/07/which-god-is-real/

      Regarding Christian morality and sin:

      http://www.godevidence.com/2012/02/why-do-i-have-to-believe-in-god-to-be-good/

      Regarding the afterlife:

      http://www.godevidence.com/2010/07/has-anyone-ever-met-god-and-returned-to-tell-about-it/

      and:

      http://www.godevidence.com/2010/07/death-is-not-the-end/

      Regarding miracles and the existence of the supernatural:

      http://www.godevidence.com/2013/01/why-calling-theism-primitive-superstition-shows-primitive-understanding/

      Anything else? 🙂

      Scott

      • RP says:

        Hi Scott,

        I’m almost starting to believe in supernatural forces now, because it seems to build up to a inexplicable mystery, the way you continue to somehow miss large chunks of my responses. So again you accuse me “YOU CANNOT RESPOND”, although that’s precisely what I did.

        In this case I didn’t just rebut the worthless “deities might exist” idea. I also did comment on the old hat fine-tuning argument that you seem to hold so dearly. Doesn’t matter much though, the consequence is the same: it’s still nothing more than a “might have, could have” argument. Completely useless and accomplishes nothing to advance anyone’s knowledge in any useful way. The only effect is perhaps an emotional boost of confirmation bias for people who really, really want to believe. (Which is not a good thing.)

        You can’t reasonably demand that I sit down and research a dozen or more quotes you cherry-picked. Luckily, one example would suffice: You make the mind-boggling claim that Hoyle’s quote is “evidence that supports theism”. This is not just outrageous, it’s tragically narcissistic on your part, and I’ll explain why: Because one could OBVIOUSLY imagine NUMEROUS other motives or interpretations of Hoyle’s thought. Dude, you need to seriously work with your inclination towards either/or fallacies. You CHOOSE to interpret this and all the other quotes in the one particular way that fits your particular world-view.

        Any moron can find a bunch of quotes from scientists for or against God (or for or against most things). This is not evidence or logic. It’s not even, as you now say, suggestive. It’s wishful thinking, of the most basic kind.

        And you still make the fantastic claim that “my argument for god is supported by astrophysicists”. Aside from being a plainly false statement, it is narcissistic, and worst of all dishonest because you try to make it sound like all these scientists confess that they believe in God while in reality most of them are outspoken disbelievers.

        And what is it with this perverse wish to appeal to authority and name-dropping? So Max Planck once had a thought that suggests deism. Does this mean that Scott’s particular world view is supported by Max Planck? Is it even suggestive? No. It brings nothing to your cause. Again, there are numerous possibilities, like for example that even a genius like Max Planck occasionally had ideas that were not so brilliant.

        On materialism: Meh, again you go for the least imaginative interpretation. Nope, I’m not that kind of materialist. But more to the point, even if my materialist view one day would become falsified (which I’m entirely open for), this WOULD OBVIOUSLY NOT be suggestive in any way that Jesus or Ra or Odin exists. Again, there are uncountable possibilities, more than you and I can grasp. The either/or fallacy strikes again.

        (If you’re, by chance, curious to learn about less-than-trivial materialism, a good start could be Hawking/Mlodinow: The Grand Design.)

        On humanism: Well, that was a pretty narrow definition of humanism. Much can be said, I’ll just touch on one component of humanism that you neglect to mention: hope. Even though humanity has an evidently bad track record, humanism expresses hope that we might be able to get our act together by using our capacities of reason, science, compassion and responsibility. Even though those capacities are flawed and even though evolution is not fully on our side in this quest, there are positive signs: Science demonstrably works quite well and has huge potential, our capacity for reason is the best tool we have to consider the ethical consequences of our actions, and there are some signs that our social track record is getting better thanks to reason, critical thinking and science and the rejection of harmful supernaturalist ideas.

        This hopeful side of humanism is obviously wide open for attack, but I think a decent challenge should be in the form of proposing a better alternative. One such example from the real-world is: Forget that kind of hope, humanity will be infinitely better off believing in the God of the Bible because Jesus will save everyone and the only thing you need to do is to disavow your faculties of reason and instead obey authority, and everyone else is doomed to hell, Amen! (Actually not as satirical as it may sound.)

        PS. By now you have sprinkled almost a dozen links to your “godevidence” articles here. I don’t mind, I think they’re funny! Some of the titles provoke a good belly laugh. I guess your writing may actually succeed in winning over some people. But what you’re probably getting most, I’m guessing, is weak-minded people who can’t be bothered to care about the difference between pseudo-science and real science. Well, I dunno, maybe that is your target audience…

      • Scott says:

        You write:
        ——————-
        In this case I didn’t just rebut the worthless “deities might exist” idea. I also did comment on the old hat fine-tuning argument that you seem to hold so dearly. Doesn’t matter much though, the consequence is the same: it’s still nothing more than a “might have, could have” argument.
        ——————
        OK, RP, go ahead and copy and paste for me where you “rebut” the anthropic fine tuning argument which you refer to as a “deities might exist idea” and a “might have could have” argument. Since you didn’t “rebut” this argument, you will also not be able to perform any such copy and paste.

        I will AGAIN copy and paste what the Cambridge University astrophysicist and mathematician Fred Hoyle said, DESPITE BEING IDEOLOGICALLY INCLINED TOWARDS ATHEISM:

        “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

        There is nothing in a categorical statement such as “so overwhelming as to put this conclusion beyond question” that can be reasonably characterized as a “deities MIGHT exist idea” or a “MIGHT have COULD have argument”. What is it about “so overwhelming as to put this conclusion beyond question” that sounds like he is saying a superintellect MIGHT exist?! Any REASONABLE person can see that he is saying that it is OVERWHELMINGLY CLEAR that a superintellect exists.

        Any reasonable and intelligent third-party viewer of this discussion can see that your obstinacy in the face of the facts, coupled with your continued reliance on rhetoric (such as calling me “narcissistic”), demonstrates that the psychological forces motivating your atheism are emotional in nature, rather than logical. Again, I seriously doubt that Einstein ever felt it necessary to call his detractors names like “narcissist” when he was discussing his Theory of Relativity. Why did he not? Because he was fully confident in the logical force of his theory, and did not need to compensate for weak logic with insults and rhetoric.

        You state that my insistence that my argument for God is supported by the majority of astronomers/astrophysicists is “plainly false” and nothing but “name-dropping” and “appeal to authority” and “a bunch of cherry-picked” quotes, etc. Again, this is your attempt to divert attention from your inability to logically respond to my argument by instead firing off a barrage of rhetorical characterizations.

        The logical fallacy of “appeal to authority” is committed when a person cites an authority without also citing the reasoning behind that authority’s views. The logical fallacy of “appeal to authority” is committed when a person argues something to the effect of: “So-and-so authority endorses such-and-such view, so it must be the right view because so-and-so authority is a really smart guy who knows what he is talking about.”

        When the reasoning behind the authority’s opinion is cited as well, no such logical fallacy of “appeal to authority” is committed. For example, is the following a “name dropping, cherry-picked quote” that commits the logical fallacy of “appeal to authority”?:

        SURGEON GENERAL WARNING: Smoking causes heart disease, lung cancer, and may complicate pregnancy.

        Well, what do you think, RP? If I were trying to present the argument that smoking is dangerous, could you reasonably dismiss my above citation of the Surgeon General as a “name-dropping, cherry-picked quote” that commits the logical fallacy of “appeal to authority? I am going to predict that you will not be able to coherently answer this question.

        Just as citing the Surgeon General’s reference to the health problems caused by smoking provides a reasonable argument that smoking is dangerous, citing an astrophysicist’s reference to anthropic fine tuning provides a reasonable argument for God.

        Here are another couple of “cherry-picked quotes” (as if the manner in which the quote was “picked” has any bearing whatsoever as to its veracity):

        “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover…. That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

        –Astronomer, physicist and founder of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies Robert Jastrow.
        .
        “I find it quite improbable that such order came out of chaos. There has to be some organizing principle. God to me is a mystery but is the explanation for the miracle of existence, why there is something instead of nothing.”

        –Astronomer Allan Sandage, winner of the Crafoord Prize in astronomy (which is equivalent to the Nobel Prize). Sandage is considered to be one of the founders of modern astronomy, and the greatest living cosmologist.
        .
        “It is relatively unusual that a physical scientist is truly an atheist. Why is this true? Some point to the anthropic constraints, the remarkable fine tuning of the universe. For example, Freeman Dyson, a Princeton faculty member, has said, ‘Nature has been kinder to us that we had any right to expect.’”

        –Physical scientist Henry F. Schaefer III, five-time nominee for the Nobel Prize, as quoted in his essay Stephen Hawking, the Big Bang, and God.

        Now, RP, does, for example, my citation of Schaefer’s comment about “remarkable fine tuning of the universe” constitute the logical fallacy of “appeal to authority”? Answer: No, because I am citing not just Schaefer’s views, but also his reasoning behind those views.

        Similarly, my citation of the Surgeon General as an argument that smoking is dangerous would only commit the logical fallacy of “appeal to authority” if I had said something like: “Smoking is dangerous because the Surgeon General says so, and he is a really smart guy and an expert who knows what he is talking about.”

        RP, before you go throwing around terms such as “appeal to authority,” you need to actually understand what this term means. Similarly, when you go around making accusations that a quote was “taken out of context” WITHOUT HAVING ANY IDEA WHAT THE CORRECT CONTEXT WAS, you are demonstrating that you don’t know what you are talking about.

        Your argument against theism appears to be “there are numerous other possibilities.” THEN GO AHEAD AND PRESENT ONE OF THESE “OTHER POSSIBILITIES”!! Please realize that “there are other possibilities” is a meaningless statement unless you actually provide one of those “possibilities” along with a logical argument to support it.

        You say that you are not “that kind of materialist.” Then what kind of materialist are you? You go around comparing theism and Christianity to belief in Santa Claus or unicorns. But you state that you are a materialist, despite the fact that, as I have demonstrated in my above posts, materialism is as dead as the flat-earth theory. What kind of materialist are you? Can you answer this question coherently?

        I am glad that you mentioned Hawking/Mlodinow and their book The Grand Design. Please read the following essay titled Who Is Playing Make Believe? (Atheists or Theists):

        http://www.godevidence.com/2012/01/who-is-playing-make-believe-atheists-or-theists/

        An excerpt:

        Oxford University mathematician John C. Lennox responds in his book God and Stephen Hawking:

        ” …His [Hawking’s] notion that a law of nature (gravity) explains the existence of the universe is also self-contradictory, since a law of nature, by definition, surely depends for its own existence on the prior existence of the nature it purports to describe. …Thus, the main conclusion of the book turns out not simply to be a self-contradiction, which would be disaster enough, but to be a triple self-contradiction. Philosophers just might be tempted to comment: so that is what comes of saying philosophy is dead! [Hawking says this in The Grand Design] In the above, Hawking is echoing the language of Oxford chemist Peter Atkins (also a well-known atheist), who believes that “space-time generates its own dust in the process of its own self-assembly”. Atkins dubs this the “Cosmic Bootstrap” principle, referring to the self-contradictory idea of a person lifting himself by pulling on his own bootlaces. His Oxford colleague, philosopher of religion Keith Ward, is surely right to say that Atkins’ view of the universe is as blatantly self-contradictory as the name he gives to it, pointing out that it is “logically impossible for a cause to bring about some effect without already being in existence”. Ward concludes: “Between the hypothesis of God and the hypothesis of a cosmic bootstrap, there is no competition. We were always right to think that persons, or universes, who seek to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps are forever doomed to failure.” What this all goes to show is that nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked by world-famous scientists. What serves to obscure the illogicality of statements is the fact that they are made by scientists; and the general public, not surprisingly, assumes that they are statements of science and takes them on authority. That is why it is important to point out that they are not statements of science, and any statement, whether made by a scientist or not, should be open to logical analysis. Immense prestige and authority does not compensate for faulty logic.”

        ” …In the world in which most of us live, the simple law of arithmetic by itself, 1+1=2, never brought anything into being. It certainly has never put any money into my bank account. If I put £1,000 into the bank, and later another £1,000, the laws of arithmetic will rationally explain how it is that I now have £2,000 in the bank. But if I never put any money into the bank myself, and simply leave it to the laws of arithmetic to bring money into being in my bank account, I shall remain permanently bankrupt.”

        The following video featuring Hawking’s Oxford University colleague Roger Penrose provides an excellent description of why Hawking and Mlodinow are playing make-believe:

        You write that “humanism expresses hope that we might be able to get our act together by using our capacities of reason, science, compassion and responsibility.” What is the logical basis for this hope? How many genocides will it take to convince you that mankind has a sinful nature, as the Bible teaches? There is a new genocide going on somewhere in the world at almost any time you look. A recent example is Darfur.

        Scott

  5. RP says:

    Hi Scott, here’s a comment on two details.

    First a brief response on the notion of hope in humanism. No, I don’t have a “logical basis” for hopefulness. Frankly I find the question remarkable to come from someone who wishes to view himself as a logical thinker; because first, that’s a pretty weird demand to put on a notion like hope. Second, again you seem to ignore large chunks of my text, as I went to some length in that very paragraph to reflect on precisely the rationale of hope in the face of humanity’s admittedly lousy track record. Third — and again I wrote it and you seem to have ignored it — rather than speaking of “logical basis” for hope, I mentioned _evidence_ that humanity is improving its chances, with violence declining etc, as we improve critical thinking and reject religion and superstition more and more. (Your Darfur example is thus not applicable.) Fourth, and this is quite damning, you speak of “logical”, and in the same breath you mention sin, which is NOTHING but a make-believe problem with a make-believe solution.

    Att this point, it can’t get much more obvious that your driving force is a religious presupposition. Or as I would put it, another brain poisoned by religion.

    The point of my mentioning the humanistic view of hope was just to suggest that the definition of humanism you first offered was much too narrow, and as a consequence, your critique of it, at least in that particular comment. Unfortunately, your next comment didn’t exactly widen the scope.

    Humanism is a world-view that is, in its foundation, VERY open to criticism and challenge, but frankly I don’t think your comments on humanism here deserve a serious response. So I’m not interested in discussing it more with you.

    On Hawking/Mlodinow: Thanks for the link with Penrose! Again I got my hopes up that yes, finally something really interesting could come out from our exchange, and maybe I could get my world-view properly challenged! But come on… is that they best you can do?

    Dude, Penrose doesn’t “debunk” anything. If you listen to what he says, he actually states the opposite: that M-theory could potentially get refuted. Meh. Then, Penrose’s objections — that M-theory shouldn’t really be called a theory, and that it’s not yet testable — are fully valid and can easily be conceded! Those objections are not only moot, they don’t say anything about the theory itself. I can reveal that I know of more solid objections to M-theory than semantics like this. (To Penrose’s credit, it seems he got leading questions and he knew he spoke to a lay audience.)

    I would go so far as to call Penrose a bit short-sighted on one point. The fact that we today don’t see any way to test hypotheses like M-theory and string theory, doesn’t mean much. We have plenty of evidence that science sometimes leaps ahead faster than we imagined. Therefore, as long as a hypothesis is testable in principle, it’s worth keeping on the table.

    So the only conclusion from the clip you provided with Penrose is that M-theory was not refuted nor debunked, nor does anyone offer anything better by way of explanation.

    So I’m afraid, again, that this added nothing, aside from, again, bolstering the egos of religious people who can feel safe in their confirmation bias and continue to have faith in some sort of god of the gaps, which, incidentally, they were already fully free to!

    What’s worse though is your quote from Lennox, objecting to Hawking/Mlodinow. I find his criticism about “logical impossibility” seriously lacking in imagination, and frankly I find it discomforting that you find such compartmentalization valuable. I’d venture to say that a term like “cosmic bootstrap” is actually constructive and honorable because already in its very name it reveals the obvious shallow objections one could have, so as to invite more imaginative, serious challenges in order to advance everyone’s thinking. Remember, the term “big bang” was equally ridiculed by unimaginative people who, just like Lennox here, were content with swallowing the obvious bait in order to avoid challenging their own world-view. History is full of exactly this type of resistance to new ideas, and almost always by the religious. (By the way, yes I know that the idea of big bang was conceived by a catholic scholar, which of course doesn’t give it any more nor less explanatory power.)

    “Between the hypothesis of God and the hypothesis of a cosmic bootstrap, there is no competition.”

    This is not a valid comparison. The idea of a cosmic bootstrap IS scientific, because it can be formulated as a scientific hypothesis that is possible to experimentally confirm or falsify. In stark contrast, the idea of a magical deity is unscientific by definition. Comparisons like this don’t help either side. A waste of time.

    My main point on M-theory would be that of course it might be wrong, it could be falsified, and serious objections that can advance our thinking are certainly welcome. But Scott, producing an objection to, or even a stringent refutation of A doesn’t mean that B suddenly becomes more valid.

    So nothing you say has given any more validity to any silly God hypothesis. Thus, your shallow objections to M-theory is completely irrelevant for your cause.

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